Thursday, July 31, 2014

Biding Our Time in Bellingham, Washington

After getting our broken awning stowed and secured with duck tape, we left Castle Rock, Washington and drove north to Mount Vernon for repair. After a false start at the local Camping World, techs at Poulsbo RV in Mount Vernon  removed the awning apparatus and the insurance claim was begun.

Unfortunately, our Mount Vernon campground was fully booked and we had to leave after just two nights. Knowing the insurance claim and new awning order would take weeks, we decided to continue north to the Bellingham area where we hope to have more pleasant temperatures than the high 80s we had since we were in Eugene, Oregon.

The first few days in Bellingham were filled with angst over the repair schedule and we argued about how to handle the whole situation. I suppose we were feeling the pressure of having been forced to leave the area without a clear understanding about how the schedule will work out. Repairs while traveling can be a nightmare.

But Bellingham turned out to be a good base of operation for awhile. Early on, we had two days of mist and rain but they were followed by many days of sunshine and mild summer temperatures. With lots of our favorite retailers nearby, we took advantage of some summer sales. We do, after all, wear the same seasonal clothes year 'round.

Just 30 miles from the US/Canadian border, we've come to look upon Bellingham as a "little Canadian metropolis" as shopping is plentiful here and there are as many British Columbia license plates as Washington state ones.  We've seen dozens of Canadian license plated cars  filled to the brim with goods on their way back across the border.  I read a that prices in Bellingham are higher than the national average for that reason but I  never noticed anything being overpriced. One store clerk said 75% of the area sales are to international buyers.  Someone else said the Bellingham airport served more international than domestic flights. As we shopped, I heard as many foreign languages as English.

As it turns out, the insurance company requires an adjusters evaluation on both the broken awning and the coach so days turn into weeks before the replacement parts can even be ordered.  At this writing, we're into our second full week in Bellingham. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

When The Awning Collapses...

Some folks we know, Ray and Cindy, Jim and Diane, were camped at Castle Rock, Washington this week. We diverted our own travel to join them at Toutle River RV Resort for a couple of days. Ray and Cindy sold their home last week and are going to give the full-time RV life a whirl. It was nice to visit with them and to extend our best wishes on their new lifestyle. Hope they enjoy it.

We stayed a total of three nights at Toutle River RVR and planned to pull out Tuesday morning.  Wayne busied himself doing outside chores while I showered.  As I emerged from the shower, I heard a loud bang and wondered what happened. I called out but Wayne did not answer.  Anytime that happens, I fear he might be injured and unable to respond. 

But Wayne didn't hear me. He was still outside, standing with our neighbor, Gene, talking and gazing at our coach's collapsed patio awning.  As he attempted to retract it, the roller arm gave out, breaking a metal piece off the roller cuff and subsequently, allowing the entire 16 foot awning to fall lifelessly onto the curbside slide.

The broken awning
We weren't sure whether to try to remove the entire awning apparatus, hardware and all, or try to roll it back onto the limp, broken metal roller bar.  I was sure we'd have to take it all apart and wouldn't have given any chance to getting that flap of canvas to wind onto that bar.

Ladder extended and put into place for a major operation.
The ladder did manage to cut his finger, causing lots and lots of blood....
Wayne disagreed with me and felt certain we were better off to try to wind the canvas, then strap it down with Duck Tape.  The new Little Giant ladder was pulled out and we began a sort of strange dance with the awning.  Fortunately, the campground was sparsely filled and so we had plenty of space to begin our "trial and error" routine.

Successful completion of rewinding the canvas onto the broken arm.
After just a couple of tries we got the awning rolled back onto the arm. Wayne stood on the ladder and assisted the electrical retract motor that I operated from the entry.  I could hardly believe it was rolling but it did -- and it stayed up.  Now what to do about that hydraulic arm -- outstretched and unwilling to cooperate.  After a few unsuccessful attempts, I pull downward on the apparatus, using the awning wand, while Wayne pushed it back toward the coach. 

Securing everything with Duck Tape. Lots of Duck Tape.
The final touch of at least a half roll of Duck Tape secured the broken awning to the coach. We were about 150 miles north of Coburg / Junction City; too far to turn back.

The finished project.  The touch of blue Duck Tape is my contribution.
It took, in total, about two hours to wrap up the collapsed awning, apply all our duck tape and finish preparing the coach for travel.  We pulled away sometime after 11 a.m. heading north on Interstate 5.

More on the repair developments will be posted as they occur.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Electronics Tribulation Resolved... Maybe

Our big, mid-coach television set has never worked properly. As long as we've owned Endie, we've been plagued by the intermittent problem of having the picture go out while we're watching it. Anyone who's ever had an "intermittent" problem knows it can't be fixed 'till it's completely broken.

This electronic nightmare began when we bought the coach new from the dealer, The RV Shop in Baton Rouge and our complaint fell on deaf ears. We described the problem to personnel at the manufacturer's service centers in both Oregon and Indiana. They couldn't replicate the issue. Alliance Coach in Wildwood, Florida proudly announced they had "the best electronics guy in the business" but "the best electronics guy" didn't find the problem.

Wayne and I finally diagnosed the issue down as far as the HDMI cable as the set operated beautifully while it was receiving signal through the air antenna or campground cable.

Finally last winter, after a hefty service expense by an absolutely useless technician at North Trail RV in Fort Myers, Florida, Wayne announced that we'd take Endie to the folks we knew would find and resolve the problem: Matt Rossiter at Innovative Coachworks in Junction City, Oregon.

Drifting into and out of fog along U.S. 101

And so our appointment date came around and we left Crescent City, drove out of northern California and into Oregon along the coast to Florence and east into Junction City.

More unusual sightings along U.S. 101

A stop for coastal lunch along the way.

Pretty good lunch scenery.
At Innovative Coachworks, Matt found the problem in less than 15 minutes. The HDMI receptacle in the back of the television set was faulty. He installed a new 46"set in it's place. Problem solved. Thank goodness... Of course this would have been a warranty item two years ago....

Matt in his sock feet.
How many techs have removed their shoes?  Not many.  
We knew the quality of work done by Innovative Coachworks from previous trips to Junction City. They've done all this before.... Matt found that one of the previous attempts to fix the problem was to strap the HDMI cable down somehow... oh mercy, no wonder it didn't work.

Matt would be incomplete without Noah.

Hallelujah and away we go!


Within a week after the repair Matt (Innovative Coachworks) made, we came to see that our intermittent video problem had been exchanged for an intermittent audio problem as the TV sound clicks on and off which can be maddening!

Two requests were made before we were able to speak to Matt about the new development and he asked to have "a little time to think about the problem and it's solution" after which he would call us back. This he did not do.

A few more weeks went by and I began sending email requests through Matt's wife, Raianne, who manages the business at Innovative Coachworks.  Some FIVE weeks later I received an apologetic reply with an explanation that home schooling and football coaching had become the family priority over customer service.
The resolution to our problem has become a replacement for the new Blu-Ray device and a "booster" which Matt feels we are "fully capable" of wiring.  Gee now that seems strange since we are not electronically inclined and that's the reason we hired the work done in the first place.  Nevertheless, we agreed to accept and return the equipment. What other options were available at this point? We are now 2,600 miles from Junction City, Oregon, after all.

Another five weeks passed before the replacement equipment was delivered to us. At this point in time, we have arranged to pay another $70 for installation.  No, we didn't suddenly become electronics wizards. Adding insult to injury, the folks at Innovative Coachworks didn't think enough of our business to even include a prepaid shipping label for the equipment to be returned. This added expense brings our total repair cost to nearly $3,700 for these two pieces of equipment.

I hereby rescind the glowing recommendation for the service performed by Matt Rossiter and Innovative Coachworks in Junction City, Oregon.  Never again!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Preparing To Leave Crescent City

In the end, our stay at Village Camper Inn at Crescent City lasted five weeks. Finally on July 6, after suffering through an enormous Independence Day firework display sponsored by the City, we pulled away from our sweet campsite and the friends we'd made there.

While we were pretty much content staying around the campground many days, we did do a bit more exploring.  One day we drove north 20 miles on U.S. 101 to see what was going on around the seaside town of Brookings, Oregon. We had lunch at a marina restaurant and toured around, getting a photo of Oregon's largest Monterey Cypress Tree.  It was planted in 1857 by a fellow named Harrison Blake who was a member of Oregon's House of Representatives.  The tree was planted while Blake's house, which doubled as the Chetco post office, was being built.

Monty, Oregon's largest Monterey Cypress
34 foot in circumference -- 130 feet tall
The Brookings harbor and marina area were interesting, though the food in the restaurant (whose name I don't recall) was not worth mention, except for the scrumptious bread pudding. Several campgrounds are near the harbor but none held appeal for me.  

While I first thought this was a real lighthouse,
Wayne convinced me that it's part of a lodge and probably isn't a lighthouse at all.

Of course, we continue to enjoy the local and regional goodies we remember from previous trips into this region -- among them are baked goods from the Franz bakeries, Tillamook cream products and Rumiano Family cheese makers who have a fabulous retail store in Crescent City that we didn't know about until the last two days of our visit here.

California is a strange state with plenty of strange laws and notices, like the one below, posted on the drive-up window of the local McDonalds.

Scary stuff.
Still want to eat here?

Didn't keep me from enjoying my frappe. 
It was slightly overfilled... photo worthy to me.

While we've been stationery in Crescent City, we've watched the price of fuel soar, as usual, just in time for the holiday and summer vacations....

While the loop we're on in the campground was barely half full when we arrived, empty sites filled as the July 4th holiday weekend approached.  We met several neighbors and, as always is the case, some just seem to click.  This couple is a good example: Full-time RVers from Kansas (like our old friends Charlie and Joyce from Wichita), Pam and Dennis are traveling the country, headed north along the coast (like us) and enjoying life.  Dennis does woodcarving, as evidenced by the treasures he is holding. I insisted on getting this photograph.  Equally as talented, Pam works with fabrics and does some fine woodwork too.

Pam and Dennnis
(They drive Harleys)
On Independence Day we received an invitation to a rib dinner in the campground. I'd chatted with Bobby while he walked his schnauzer, Lucky. I met his wife, Jacqueline, too, on a few occasions.  We gathered at Bobby and Jacqueline's campsite in the early afternoon for cocktails and a fabulous dinner of dry rubbed pork ribs, fries, salads and peach cobbler.  We were joined by  Bobby's cousin, Joyce and her husband, Charlie (another Joyce and Charlie!) who have been full-timing for about twice as long as us. What a great treat.

Jacqueline (Bobby's wife) holding Lucky.
Charlie in the background.
Wayne and Joyce (Charlie's wife) share stories about full-timing.

Charlie isn't really doing a war dance.
He's tasting a pork rib. Yep, it's ready.

There's Bobby in his western hat on the left. As always, Wayne listens intently.
But then July 5th rolled around and we would be pulling out of Crescent City the next morning.  We threw a "farewell cookout" in the early afternoon, invited all the friends we'd gotten to know at Village Camper Inn RV Park, and enjoyed a few more stories, burgers, brats and accoutrements.

L to R: Jacqueline and Bobby, Pam and Dennis, Lucille and Don Chamberlain

I must include a sentence or two about our neighbors two doors down, Don and Lucille Chamberlain. While I just didn't get a good picture of the two of them together, they are such a remarkable couple, I don't suppose we'll ever forget them.  Married 74 years, he is 94 and she is 93. He fishes almost every day, is up by dawn, I think, and keeps a schedule that would challenge me easily.  Mr. Chamberlain introduced us to Ling Cod (which we'd never heard of), by cooking some for our dinner one evening. I must say it was among the very best fish I've ever eaten.

Mr and Mrs Chamberlain's daughter, Cathy is on the left (in black) and that's Mr. Chamberlain in process of sitting down for lunch (red cap).  I wish I had a better picture of them.
The morning of our cookout, Mr Chamberlain and his visiting daughter, Cathy, took his boat out for a half day of fishing.  Most days, Mr. Chamberlain catches his limit of fish easily before noon.  I guess today was not an exception.  The only difference today is that his daughter, Cathy, caught the two beautiful King Salmon in the photo below. I can't imagine how much each one weighs. 
Cathy, her mother, Lucille Chamberlain, and the two King Salmon in the wagon.

The following morning, we pulled up stakes and continued our trek along U.S. 101 into Oregon.

Dog Days In Crescent City

Unable to convince ourselves to leave the comfortable surroundings at Village Camp Inn RV Park in Crescent City, it was beginning to look like we'd spend all of June here -- and that's okay! We're retired!

I ordered a new stroller for Lexie and Ozzie as we whiled away the beautiful summer days. The old pink stroller was looking a bit ragged but it still functioned well. We took it to the city's animal shelter along with a few other dog items in hopes someone else could use them. The new one is exactly the same except for color. It folds to fit in the car.

Lexie on the left, Ozzie on the right. The stroller is their favorite ride.

After the recent loss of Ozzie's tooth and the subsequent vet visit and double doggie dental cleaning, I'm committed to starting a regular tooth brushing regimen for the dogs. Armed with all the necessary supplies, including an infant toothbrush, I began by familiarizing Lexie and Ozzie with the feel of my fingers in and around their mouths. First step was to rub my fingertips lightly around their mouths -- then their lips and finally along their gums. Brushing their teeth can't begin until two weeks after the dental because of the extractions. By that time, I should have mastered the art of getting my fingers and maybe a tiny toothbrush into those little mouths.

Ozzie looking on while Lexie gets her teeth brushed.

Dog tooth brushing success came easily in the two weeks while Lexie and Ozzie's gums healed. Always sitting in the same spot and using the same set-up, they became eager for "tooth brushing time" because they got a cooked carrot treat at the completion of every step -- each getting 6-8 tiny cooked carrot treats at a sitting. Turned out, teaching them to like having their teeth brushed wasn't difficult at all. We had it mastered by the time the gums were healed and now we brush every night after dinner. At long last I can add this to my list of dog accomplishments along with grooming, nail clipping, eye drop administration and the dreaded anal gland expression.

The picture of success!
Ready for treats and getting her teeth brushed!
And so we began feeling pretty smug about all the good dog health habits. But alas! it was not to be. A week or so after his dental cleaning, Ozzie began having exceptionally loud, long burps accompanied by lip licking and frequent swallowing.  I went directly to PetMD armed with the list of symptoms and came away convinced Ozzie had a digestive obstruction and surely was deathly ill. Seriously, Ozzie's symptoms caused enough concern that we made a return visit to Dr Wood's office.  After a thorough examination, a long discussion of Ozzie's overall health history and all the symptoms, Dr Wood suggested we try Ozzie on a low dose of Pepcid AC as he might be suffering from acid reflux, or GERD.  As of this writing, Dr. Wood's thoughts seem to be "right on target" as the burping has reduced as has the lip smacking and constant swallowing.

Lexie on the left; Ozzie on the right; carrots on the mouths.

But like everything else, little dog health issues seemed to come in threes for us.  Less than a week after Ozzie's visit, on a Sunday morning, we woke up to find Lexie unsteady on her feet.  She ate well, looked fine, and did her morning business but seemed to be having trouble walking.  I made an emergency call to Dr. Wood, who by now, probably thought we were dog hypochondriacs but I didn't care.  I was afraid Lexie had suffered a stroke.  After hearing her symptoms, Dr. Wood suggested we watch her for the rest of the day (Sunday) and call him back if she seemed to get worse.  His words were comforting, especially when he said Lexie wouldn't be alert or be able to focus if she'd had a stroke or seizure.  She didn't drool, lose focus or behave differently... she just didn't seem steady on her feet and she moved slowly. We waited, watched and worried.

By Monday morning, Lexie showed great signs of improvement. I called Dr. Wood's office and told him what we thought; that she had injured herself going up/down her foam steps or jumping into her bed, which is a few inches below the mattress on our bed.  By Tuesday, Lexie was nearly back to normal.  We held her carefully for several more days and I massaged her little body several times a day. We may never know what happened to our little girl, but we finally seem to be over it.

Near the end of June we called the Eugene, Oregon area for campground reservations so we could have the electronics updated in Endie (the coach). It's something we've had as a tentative plan since February. Our appointment with the electronics people was scheduled for Tuesday, July 1st. Well, that just wasn't happening as every campground was full for the long Independence Day holiday. Fortunately Village Camper Inn could keep us until after the holiday. 

Relieved, we stayed on another week.  Seems we might never leave.