Posted in Campgrounds, Parks, RV Living, Travels, Weather, Wildlife

First Look: South Lake Tahoe, California

This entire trip from Missouri west has had 2 main purposes:  Pack Expo in Las Vegas and to visit our son, Drew, in South Lake Tahoe.  Today we realized the visit with Drew!!!!  We headed southwest on U.S. 50 from Fallon early in the morning; it is labelled one of the “Loneliest Highways in America” and we could see why.  There is very little traffic on this road and not much to see…….until we got closer to Carson City and headed south toward Gardnerville.  This long lush valley is full of huge cattle ranches with green grass and herds of cattle along the eastern foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.  It was refreshing to be in so much green-ness for a change!

Along this trip, Barry & I have worried and planned the route carefully, to the point that we bought a Garmin RV 660 at Cabela’s and down-loaded the www.lowclearances.com product.  (Here is the link if you want to get it: http://www.lowclearances.com/amember/go.php?r=4611&i=l0 )  We have been specifically worried about a tunnel at Cave Rock just before South Lake Tahoe that may be less than 13’9″ (our RV is 12’9″ but we want to give ourselves as much room as possible).    So, our Garmin with the uploaded clearance info routed us south on U.S. 395 to Hwy. 88 in Gardnerville toward Carson Pass, then east on Hwy. 89 over Luther Pass to Myers and north on U.S. 50 (again) to our campground in Tahoe!  Whew!!!  Altogether it was not bad driving, but Barry is Super Nervous about mountain passes, both up and down, and his anxiety is obvious as I drive.  The RV handles both up and down hills just fine!

We arrived safely in Tahoe at Tahoe Valley RV Resort & Campground and found our site #109; it was a 30 amp site about 15′ from each neighbor with storage campers behind us.  That would not do.  I went back to the office and complained that I had paid for a Premium Site and expected such and we were moved to site #431 which was Not a Premium site, but had 50 amp FHU’s with lots of space.  I’m not sure about the “Resort” label here; they do have a pool, but closed it after Labor Day, tennis and basketball courts, a playground, and big shelters for group meetings, but everything looks tired and worn out.  The roads throughout are terrible, rough and poorly marked; the edges of the road were not well defined and, with the heavy  pine needles everywhere, everyone drove off the roads frequently.  The staff were worthless.  Sadly, it is one of the few FHU campgrounds in South Lake…..sigh….

Everything was unpacked and we jumped out to explore!  This is Barry’s first visit to Lake Tahoe and the route in did not bring us by the Lake; we headed toward the famous views of Emerald Bay.

Barry’s first look at Lake Tahoe

We met Drew for dinner with lots of hugs and kisses all around and made plans for our 2 week stay!  Fishing, hiking, sight-seeing, just hanging out together!!!  It is So Very Good to see our middle son; it’s been at least 2 years since we were together!

Lake Tahoe view from Stateline Road, the smokey haze persists…

We dropped Drew off for work and headed back to the coach to get some work done before dinner……..3 hours later, this happened:

HAIL!!!!!

It slowed and stopped, then began again……

YIKES!!!

It started up 3 times, with progressively larger sizes of hail each time…..pea-sized, dime-sized, then quarter-sized!  Our A/C shrouds on the roof were original to the coach and very brittle; the hail beat them up very badly.  RV Parts:  2 new shrouds = $400……

Hail came in 3 different bursts, this was the largest.

Tomorrow we are going to drive around the Lake and sight-see all along the way!  Hopefully the weather won’t repeat the hail!

 

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Posted in RV Living, Travels, Weather

Utah to Nevada

Driving from Flaming Gorge to Wasatch Mountain was not bad……high plains, mountains always nearby, wind farms, not many trees.  But driving from the Park City green mountains into Nevada was Crazy!  There are so many forest fires this year that the horizon is always smoky and driving into Salt Lake City was just odd with all that smoke hanging in the air.

That is all smoke on the horizon

Interstate 80 runs right through downtown Salt Lake City and winds and descends from 7000′ in Park City to 4226′ in Salt Lake.  While we drove it, the hazy smoke covered everything and prevented us from “seeing” the city.  Soon after you leave the city, the highway follows the southern border of the Great Salt Lake.  There is not much to see from the road; no trees or rocks or sandy shores, just water with the salt brine shore.  Then, just as quickly as it appeared, it is gone and the landscapes changes again.  We drove across the Salt Flats for what seemed like hours and hours (probably more like 1.5 hours!).

Great Salt Flats
There are frequent signs that warn against drowsy driving! I understand that!

After driving along it for so long, your eyes do start to play tricks on you…..

I cannot imagine traveling through this as a pioneer!
I don’t know if they need an exit for the Bonneville Salt Flats….couldn’t you just drive off the highway?

The smoke is obscuring the mountains in the distance and makes it feel like you are in another world without hills or mountains or trees or animals or ANYTHING!  But 4 miles further, we crossed into Nevada and saw our first casino of the trip and the salt flats were just a memory!

Nevada State Line … mobile homes and casinos!
The Carlin, Nevada Tunnel was our first of the this trip! Luckily, our Garmin knew the height and we were clear!

Further along, we got into a dust storm……lots of wind, not too much rain, just dust……

Dusty sun through the storm

Soon, we left I-80 and headed toward Fallon, Nevada to boondock at the local Walmart.  We met my cousin Roy & his wife, Linda, for dinner and good discussion.  Sometimes the company of family and friends is just what I need to fill my heart back up!

A rainbow at the end of a weird driving day! All is Right in the World!

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Posted in LIfestyle, RV Living, Travels, Weather

An Amazing Thing to See

By now, you have probably heard every possible story about the “Great American Eclipse of 2017”; but not mine!  We were parked about 20 miles outside the line of totality and felt that we just HAD to drive down to experience the eclipse in totality.  We were parked in Greenwood, Nebraska at Pine Grove RV Park, just off I-80, and in-between Lincoln & Omaha.

So, about 9:00 AM on Monday, August 21, we drove into the little town of Waverly to have breakfast at Honey Creek restaurant.  After a filling breakfast, we set our sights south and started driving.  I followed a line of cars down a country highway until we came to a gravel road with a Lutheran church sign pointing east.  I turned onto that little road, bumped about a mile and then came to South 162nd Street (out in the middle of nowhere and that’s the best name they could come up with?), turned and drove south another bumpy mile before pulling into the parking lot at Trinity Lutheran Church at 10:45.  No one else was there, except the lovely old cemetery souls behind the church.

Right in the middle of corn and soybean fields!

I parked the car for the best angle at the sun, opened the sunroof, laid our seats back, and tried out the eclipse glasses……

It was fun to just sit there, windows down, wind blowing steadily, talking and waiting.  About noon, we started to notice a change along the edge of the sun…..just like a little notch on the western edge…….another car pulled into the parking lot, a mom and three teenaged daughters.  They got out folding chairs, a small cooler, put on their eclipse glasses, and waited.  The girls decided they would throw frisbee around while they waited; the only sound now was a few birds and shrieking girls.  A look up showed that more of the sun was notched out now, but you really could not tell that something big was about to happen.  A third car pulled up and parked behind us, a man got out, leaned on the hood and donned his eclipse glasses and looked up.  By 12:56, the sun was now a definite crescent shape and we all kept our eyes toward the sky.


At precisely 13:03, the moon completely passed in front of the sun.  And the clouds tried to cover it, drat!!!!  But, noticeably, the birds had stopped singing (as well as the teenagers!)…….and the earth, though not dark as night, was definitely darker.


All too soon, it was over……..the sun returned to it’s shiny self, the new moon was invisible in the sky.   But, we had witnessed a Total Solar Eclipse!  It was not a life-changing moment; I think those are reserved for the birth of a child or something that certainly marks a moment in time that was not the same the moment before.    But this moment was such an unbelievable experience, it made me reflect on the glory of God.  And now the birds began to fly and sing again, the teenagers started the frisbee again, and Barry started looking at emails.  But for about 5 minutes in time, everyone joined together and just looked up……no fighting or arguing or working or playing…….just looking up at the sun…….magical.

Posted in Campgrounds, RV Living, Weather

Wow! It’s Hot!

Just north of Des Moines, Iowa is a Corps of Engineers lake and several campgrounds…….we stayed at one of them, Cherry Glen Campground  on Saylorville Lake.  Now, we have lived in the St. Louis, Missouri area for most of our lives and are familiar with the Iowa weather:  winds blow across most of the time, it is hot in the summer and cold in the winter, and winter ice and snow are frequent problems.  This week was no different; but we had good strong electrical hookups and our A/C’s work well.  They issued an Extreme Heat Warning for this part of Iowa as the temperatures were always in the 95º range for the week……at nights only cooling off to the upper 70º’s.  

But while we were here, we discovered the neighboring town…. well not really anything for us to discover but this:

That’s funny! I guess we own this town!

We also made time to visit with some of our eldest son’s friend and family while we were here.  They have 2 boys, one is 8 and the other is 2; it was fun to see them and meet the boys.  We haven’t seen them since the 8 year old was about 3 years old!  Sadly, I forgot to take a photo with them……too hot for my brain I guess!

This is a common site in Iowa! Farm equipment!
Posted in Campgrounds, RV Living, Weather

The West Coast (of FL)

As you may recall, I was having a fit about not having working windshield wipers in the RV and made an appointment at a Newmar dealer for service in Ft. Myers.  So let’s talk about that.  Every time we drive south on Int. 75 on the “West Coast” of Florida, we pass many signs for North Trail RV in Ft. Myers, a Newmar dealer and service center, one of the few such places in Florida.  The wipers have been a problem for many months and it seemed to me a dealer repair was in order.  I made an appointment about 10 days in advance and explained the needed repairs to the scheduler.  As I planned our trip from Ft. Lauderdale north, we built time in for this appointment, two days in a campground in Ft. Myers and a day for service.  I explained this to the scheduler when I spoke to her two days before the appointment and stressed that we did not have any time to wait for parts to be ordered; she suggested we priories our repairs.  Our priorities for repairs were as follows: 1) Wipers, 2) Front A/C, 3) Fresh Water pump, and 4) Awning bracket.

So we drove north and west from Markham Park along FL Hwy. 27 through the heart of the Everglades and along the edge of Lake Okeechobee.  I hoped to avoid the Turnpike and the tolls and the traffic and maybe see some sights along the way.  Sure enough, we could see the “River of Grass” that is the Everglades.  Birds of every type waded in the water or flew overhead.  Several alligators lay in the water alongside the highway; but more “gators” lay along the roadway……those parts of tires that come off big trucks.  Florida highways have more pieces of tires than any where else we have been.

We parked at Orange Harbor Mobile Home and RV Park on FL Hwy. 80.  A nice park with full hookups and good WiFi, but mostly row after row of mobile homes for SnowBirds.  The RV park was near the back of the community and we were the only people in the area; most of the other places were closed up for the summer.  The campground hosts came and lead us back to our site; we had a pull-through site that was all gravel with a concrete patio right on the end of the parking row.  This should have been the easiest parking ever; but it was a fiasco.  The hosts (a husband and wife in their 70’s) and Barry tried to direct me into the site by maneuvering around a palm tree on the passenger side.  They had parked their golf cart and our car on the end of the street on the driver’s side.  It was just too tight to get the coach to make that right hand turn and squeeze into the spot so we decided that I should back out, go around the block and return a street over and pull through another site and directly into our site.  As I tried to maneuver the coach around the golf cart and car, a street sign on the passenger side went unnoticed and I clipped it.  It left a scratch on the side of the coach, then caught on the back awning arm and the bracket on the arm broke apart.  The three of them were all standing on the driver’s side and could not warn me that it was there.  Add that to the list of repairs at the dealer…….

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See the wall cloud in front and the Virga behind?

Barry left after I got parked and headed north to Tampa for a sales call the next day and I settled down to clean the coach.  I got out the ladder (in the basement!) and washed the huge windshield and front of the coach.  Florida has love bugs that stick to everything as you drive and will leave a mark on the paint if not cleaned off soon.  I applied a thick coat of RainX to the windshield (again) and polished the nose of the coach also.  I washed the entire lower panel all the way around the coach and then cleaned the wheels and tires and the Newmar mud flap until the chrome shone.  All the while, it became more cloudy and thunder rolled in the distance.  I just had time to ride my bike over to the pool and back before it started to rain……again and continued for the next 24 hours with lots of distant lightning and rolling thunder.  The sun peeked out under the clouds the next evening for a pretty sunset.

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The next morning we got up early (6:45!!) and made our way to North Trail RV Service center.  Our appointment was a 9:00 am and we arrived by 8:30 but had to wait for our scheduler (Jonathan) to check us in after 9:00.  Hmmmm.  They had a nice waiting room with sofas and recliners and a big screen TV and free water and was dog-friendly.  We had a Cracker Barrel breakfast and returned to wait.         At 12:40 another customer approached the receptionist and inquired about his wait and she explained that all the service employees take an hour lunch at noon.  Hmmmmmm.        About 1:15 Jonathan came and went over the issues.  Wipers:  they do not carry the motor in stock and needed to order one, it could get there in 3 days.  WHAT???  We declined to wait — I had explained on all those previous phone calls that we needed that part to repair our wipers!!!  GRRRRR.    They could repair the water pump, it needed to be replaced, was in stock and could be completed this afternoon at a cost of $250….okay.  The dash A/C needed a tune-up and some parts and could also be completed this afternoon for about $900…..okay.  They had the broken awning bracket and could also repair it for about $100…..okay.  We settled back down to wait as a storm broke overhead and the rain began, again.        A little after 4:00, Jonathan came and was ready to check us out.  The total came to $1,566 and our first priority was not fixed…… GRRRRRR.  We paid and a porter brought the coach up to us.

As I got in, I noticed some bugs on the dash, lots of bugs on the dash, and also on the floor under the driver’s seat, lot of bugs, maybe ants?  I started whacking them with my hands as fast as I could.  The dogs got excited and started barking and barking at me.  After I killed about 50 ants, I wiped a handful into my hand and went back inside to the receptionist and asked for Jonathan.  He was already helping someone else and I would have to wait.  I handed the ants over to her and said, “He needs to come out to my coach IMMEDIATELY!!!”, and returned to the coach to kill more ants.  He did not come out soon and after 10 minutes I sent Barry in to bring him out which he did.  I had a dustpan full of ants and, of course, he could not imagine how that had happened.  I brushed all the ants into his hand as he offered to have a crew come vacuum the coach.  The slides were all in and vacuuming would have been wasted; I was not about to wait any longer and declined his apologetic offer.  I was fuming out my ears and wanted no more of this place.  My wipers were not fixed, I was out over $1,500, and now we had ants in the coach.     I drove off the lot and then noticed that the wipers were not in the down position but were stuck in the vertical position right in front of me on the windshield.  We continued to drive north and away, looking through the wipers like goalposts on the windshield.  Goodbye Florida!

Posted in Campgrounds, Parks, RV Living, Weather

Underwater 

In previous posts, I have told you about the rain that seems to follow us everywhere we go:  Kansas City, St. Louis, New Orleans, Mobile, and now, southern Florida.  If you follow the weather, most of Florida has been very dry for the last year or more and is classified as in some level of drought ( www.droughtmonitor.unl.edu ).  Fortunately, this does not include the Miami / South-Eastern Coast.  Unfortunately, we brought them rain.  

The rain just keeps on coming

About June 5, the rain started.  We are used to this southern Florida weather; sunny one minute, 2 minutes of rain, sun back out with humidity about 97%……repeat every afternoon….. this rain just seemed “normal”.  

When we returned from snorkeling, we moved to a different RV site, back in the back of Markham Park nearer the Gun Range, a site with shade.  We had a variety of Umbrella trees, Sea Grapes, Live Oak, and Palms growing around our site and had nice afternoon shade.  As the rain continued, these trees dropped lots of debris onto the roof, along with ants.  The sandy soil around the site became a watery mess.  The rain continued, constantly for several days; we ended up with over 12″ of rain in my old gauge in 6 days.


The water rose all around us in the park.  The park was closed to everyone, except campers.  We spoke to the park staff about moving to a site without trees and with pavement, but they were all “full” although no new campers moved in during the deluge. The roads to the campground were underwater, the canal behind the campgrounds and the lakes rose out of their banks.  I expected to see alligators at the RV site as the water rose.  Nearby shopping centers were closed as the water overflowed the drains and filled the parking lots.  Manufactured home communities became islands at each site.   It was a mess.  

Good weather for ducklings!

Finally after almost a week, the rain stopped, the clouds became lighter, and the humidity, well it is Southern Florida, so it became even more unbearable.  But the water did not subside for another week.  We continued to drive through water to get to the coach, wade through water to go to the store, and dry off the dogs every time they went out.  By the way, there is nothing like that wet dog smell to make an RV feel like home!  

Grilling needs two people: one to cook and one to hold the umbrella!