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All posts for the month July, 2014

So you think good preparation saves you from working on your rig while on the road? Here’s what’s happened so far. (Some of the following is routine maintenance)

Chadron Nebraska – Hitch was bending and cracking. – Replaced hitch.

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Chewelah WA – Luckily my friend Peter had a compressor, impact gun, floor jack, some basic woodworking tools, scrap wood, and a place for me to work.

While we were there, I rotated the truck tires, changed the oil and oil filter, changed the air filter and checked the other fluids. (more on the fluids later)

For the trailer, I had to reinforce some supports on the closet shelves. (Pamala overloaded the shelves. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!)

I also noticed some bad cupping and uneven wear on the trailer tires and decided to replace them. The tires were original on the trailer and had 25,000+ miles on them. Most of the bad wear was on the inside halves of the tires. This tells me two things:

  1. The excessive wear on the inside half of the tires makes me think the axle is flexing. It is an 8,000lb axle and the trailer only weighs 4,000lbs, but with the added leverage of 35″ tires I may need to move up to a heavier axle or truss the one I have. It’s not visibly bent but may be flexing while going down the road.
  2. The cupping leads me to believe the shocks are not adequate. Watching the trailer as I tow it reinforces this belief. It bounces a bit too much. I may need to double shock it or have some custom shocks made.

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I also adjusted and greased the wheel bearings.

Clearwater B.C. – While climbing a steep, dirt, mountain road the truck overheated and nearly boiled the cooling system dry. Luckily we were towing the trailer at the time and were able to get a couple of gallons of water to top off the cooling system. Evidently while checking fluids in Chewelah, I didn’t fully tighten the radiator cap!

Vanderhoof B.C. – Coolant level was a little low again. Still not fully convinced it was my mistake, I bought a new radiator cap and some antifreeze to top off the system. No problems since so obviously it was a bad radiator cap. (yeah right)

Haines, AK – I was bending and cracking another hitch. I decided I may have three things going on. First, I thought I had too much tongue weight. I added a third battery to the tongue box before we left and have been carrying a nearly full (42 gallons) tank of water which is at the very front of the trailer inside.  I usually don’t carry more than a half a tank for long distances, but lack of services prompted me to top it off whenever possible. I still feel like I need to carry a nearly full tank, so I moved a few things to compensate.

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Second, I was running a 1″ riser ball which may have been acting as a lever, so I replaced it with a normal ball when I replaced the hitch.

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Third, the roads in rural B.C. and Alaska are beat to crap!  I can’t do anything about the roads and they seem to be getting worse, hopefully I’ve got it sorted out for now!

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Today I checked off one of the items that has been on my bucket list for at least a decade: whitewater rafting! When we arrived in Clearwater, British Columbia there were whitewater rafting ads on every corner. Since I had told Jim I wanted to whitewater raft during this trip, I decided this was the time. Plus the Clearwater River is so beautiful. It is part of the tributaries of the Fraser Water System and we had been parallel to it for miles before reaching Clearwater. Parenthetically, one can not escape seeing water in this area of Canada. It is EVERYWHERE!

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I wasn’t sure what to expect and asked a lot of questions as we were registering for the trip. When it was time to sign the waiver, I had to force myself not to comprehend the words I read: Whitewater rafting is dangerous and the said company is not responsible for injury or death, etc. I am not a strong swimmer under the best of circumstances and didn’t think I would last two seconds in the snow-melted, frigid rapids of the river.

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But soon after registering, I was able to contain my fear, yet I listened carefully as our guide gave us a tutorial on safety and paddling. Yes, if something went down, I intended to come out of it alive! But, as we began our four-hour descent down the river, I felt nothing but exhilaration. We navigated class II and III+ rapids, got soaked on more than a few occasions and even had a chance to float/swim in the calmer area of the river. I confess that I did not remain in that cold water very long, but Jim stayed in for the allotted time of about 15 minutes. I guess he is a mountain man after all!

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We prepared for our border crossing as best we could. Passports at the ready, paperwork for the shotgun, and the beer got moved from the truck fridge to the trailer fridge.

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The crossing was actually a non-event after we paid the $25 for the firearm permit and the agent did the obligatory inspection of a few bags, storage areas, and the fridge.

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A few things about British Columbia: It is rugged country, seriously rugged. When you see a highway on a map it’s not like a highway in the US. Most are narrow and not in as good a state of repair as we are used to. Drop offs, no markings, no shoulders, no guardrails, and narrow bridges are all quite normal. On top of that, rest areas generally consist of one or two pit toilets and a couple of bear-proof trash cans.

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Seems you can’t get away from water in one form or another.

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We had breakfast at this little spot where I had probably the best Eggs Benedict I’ve ever eaten. We also got some tour guide services from a local named Nico who was admiring the truck and trailer.

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Some time on backcountry dirt roads yielded even more water.

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This is for my daughter and son-in-law. (their last name is Sutherland)

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By the time we got to Kamloops, we thought we had been transported to New Mexico!

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Time to find somewhere to cool off…

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Our stop in the state of Washington was in a town in the northeastern region called Chewelah. This quaint town is surrounded by mountains, has really good locally-owned restaurants and best of all is the home of Peter and Kathy Roesler. We knew the Roeslers when the four of us lived in Arkansas. They returned to their home state of Washington and now own and operate a four-space RV park.  It had been 18 years since we last saw Peter and Kathy so we spent six days reminiscing and breaking bread.

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Before my visit to Chewelah, I had never had the privilege of having fresh cherries and raspberries at my disposal and enjoyed picking fruit from the Roesler’s raspberry bushes and cherry tree. I was not a fan of raspberries prior to experiencing them freshoff the bush. They taste soooo much better than the frozen or “store-fresh purchased varieties. I could not get enough of them.

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Kathy also has a wonderful flower garden which she allowed me to play in. I miss my garden at home and it felt good to deadhead flowers and pull weeds. Speaking of weeds, Jim and I prepared a meal for the Roeslers using dandelion greens that were growing wild in their yard. Now I am sure they will never view those noxious weeds the same way! Peter and Kathy had roles in a movie that was being filmed in Chewelah and were filming while we were there. It was interesting to hear about the details of movie making over homemade meals prepared by Kathy and Peter.

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Eating out with Peter and Kathy at the local restaurants was a real treat as well. We experienced homemade Italian food that was simply delicious at Mondo’s and a mahi fish dish prepared by a Polynesian-trained chef at Sporty’s. Excellent food at small-town prices!

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Exploring the area was visually satisfying. The mountains are punctuated by the rapidly-moving Columbia river.

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The architecture of some of the homes is very unique in that the exterior stairs are enclosed to preclude the need for snow removal. Practical, yes, but odd in appearance.

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Anthony and Becca arrived just in time to have a farewell breakfast with us and give us some travel tips for our next destination.

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So with the promise not to allow another 18 years to pass before visiting each other again, we departed for the Canadian border with high hopes of a smooth border crossing and loads of adventure with our northern neighbors.

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Montana, Big Sky Country they call it. I would add “Big Mountains, Big Rivers, Big Lakes, Big Waterfalls, and Big Snow” to the list. As I said of South Dakota, the winters would not be for me but I could happily roam about this state during the summers. Pictures and movies absolutely do not do this state justice.

Our first camp site on top of Mac Donald Pass west of Helena.

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The view on the other side of the trees.

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We spent three nights base-camped at Bowman Lake in Glacier National Park. If you ever get the chance to go to Glacier National Park, GO, it’s absolutely amazing!

Bowman Lake

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We hiked the Numa Ridge Lookout Trail which originates at the lake. 7100′ final altitude, 2936′ of gain in 5.9 miles.

The view from the top. The trail starts at the far end of the lake midpoint on the shore.

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The “Road to the Sun” had just opened July 3rd, and they still had to plow snow to open it!

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Pamala being Pamala

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A few critters in the park. (we realized we didn’t have a big enough lens and have since rectified that)

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I want one of these buses to make into a camper! They were built by the White Motor Company in the 1930’s and have been refurbished by Ford.

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Our travel northwest resulted in the night time temperatures dipping into the 50s, requiring us to pull out both quilts. I confess that I am a Florida girl and temperatures below 70 degrees result in jacket donning for me.  I am one of the those people who wears a neck scarf and gloves during the south Florida cold weather in January. But Jim, on the other hand, is the self-proclaimed rugged, mountain man who will tell anyone willing to listen how much he hates the heat and humidity of Florida. He much prefers the dry climate of the Southwest and the stimulating cold nights of the mountains, or so he says.

Why do I question his mountain man rhetoric?  Because I am not the one who followed the Montana Woolen Shop sign eight miles off the highway to purchase a wool blanket because the two quilts weren’t keeping me sufficiently warm at night. I was quite cozy with just one quilt! Yes, the mountain man succumbed to the falling temperatures of Montana…and I am rolling on the floor, laughing out loud. I tried to take a picture of him wrapped in his blanket but of course he wouldn’t cooperate. So just imagine my 6’3, 215 pound husband snuggled all nice and warm in his newly-purchased wool blanket!

In the spirit of full disclosure, while at the Montana Woolen Shop, I purchased a pair of wool gloves with Mylar liners for our trip above the Arctic Circle. But at least it will ACTUALLY be cold there…

When we crossed the border into Wyoming, I felt as if we had at last come to the closest I would get to the Wild West. The vast landscape was that of the southwestern corner of South Dakota but with a shot or two of very potent testosterone! (Jim says this analogy is very corny but who cares what he thinks…) The rolling hills of South Dakota evolved into verdant green mountains with box canyons scattered here and there. Large ponderosa pines and aspen trees peppered and oftentimes formed a blanket over the landscape.

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At times, it seemed we were the only two people inhabiting the region. We saw only fifteen vehicles as we drove 125 miles. Traffic was sparse on the interstate but when we weaved our way through the Black Hills National Forest on gravel roads, we were the lone ranger. Overall, while in Wyoming, we saw more horses, deer, sheep and free-roaming cows than we did people. To say that Wyoming is not a densely populated state is an understatement, but the paucity of people enhanced the ambiance of being in the open West. Before visiting Wyoming, the only references I had regarding it were the cinematic scenes in movies such as Flicka and Close Encounters of a Third Kind. The actual reality did not disappoint.

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To leave you with the impression that all of Wyoming is spectacular would not only be misleading, it would be just simply wrong. The region between the Black Hills National Forest and the Bighorn Mountains is similar to Nebraska. In fact, an area near Gilette was just plain ugly due to the pit mines that are clearly visible from the road. There are coal, uranium, trona and bentonite mines in Wyoming…who knew?

However, let me conclude by saying, between Yellowstone National Park (which we won’t visit until the fall), the Black Hills area and the Bighorn Mountains, there is so much natural beauty in this state that to complain about a relatively small area of unseemliness would be unfair. Overall, it is a nature lover’s haven. I was in seventh heaven!

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Actually, let me qualify that, I love the Southwestern corner of South Dakota. After Nebraska I was ecstatic to get to more rugged country and this corner of the state delivered. I could seriously spend my summers here, very happily roaming around the Black Hills and the Badlands. Beautiful lakes, rugged mountains, rolling prairie covered in Goldenrod, and lots of wildlife make this a truly enjoyable area!

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One fact I knew, one I did not.

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Pamala enjoying some “TJ recipe” available at Mount Rushmore, It really was very good!

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They look docile enough.

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I think he has the right of way!

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This one seems curious.

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The Goldenrod is so vivid it seems like a painting.

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The Badlands seem almost alien.

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Feeling small?

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Believe it or not, Pamala had never heard of Wall Drug!

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