Monday, June 26, 2017

Day One of the Week of Maintenance

These are our house batteries.  What’s wrong with this picture?

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Those are Lifeline AGM batteries.  These piles of corrosion on the terminals should NEVER EVER EVER happen.  We’ll be calling the product support line in the next few days.

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Apparently in 2011 they had a manufacturing defect and the rings that seal the openings for the terminals failed.  Our batteries were installed in January 2012.  All four are bad.  To say that we are unhappy about this would be an understatement.  They were very expensive, but we bought them because they are maintenance free.  Until today.

This is Erik’s hand, grinding the green stuff off the end of the battery cable.

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It’s always something with the RV.

On a happy note, we thought the spring on the passenger side bedroom slide topper had failed.  When the slide was brought in, the topper didn’t roll up anymore.  It’s a logical assumption, no rolling up, dead spring – right?  Nope.  A rock got on top of the RV, wedged itself into the spring mechanism and prevented it from working.  Erik found it while walking on the roof.  So, if you think your slide topper spring has bitten the dust, go look for physical impediments to its operation.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Columbia River RV Park

While we were in Portland, we stayed at the Columbia River RV Park.  It’s located west of the end of the runway of the Portland International Airport.  The Oregon Air National Guard is based at PDX, flying F-15s (which are noisy airplanes).  Fortunately, it’s not a training wing, so they don’t fly as much as the F-16s in Tucson.  I think how one feels about this park will be largely affected by what time you like to wake up.  Commercial flight operations start at 6:00 am.  This is not when Jim and I like to wake up.  The F-15s generally leave mid morning.  We both have been feeling sleep deprived due to the early morning departures.

This is a C-17 on about two mile final.

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The RV park is on Marine Drive, which runs along the Columbia River.  It’s 13 miles to I84.  The on ramp to I205 is convenient.  The Max station we used was at the Expo Center.  If they’re running some sort of an event, you’ll have to pay for parking.  Pay it, it will just be easier for you.  Traffic in Portland has reached the levels of awfulness we observed in San Diego in 2015.  When we drove to the Expo Center to take Max to the zoo yesterday, I5 northbound and the roads leading to the on-ramps were gridlocked at 10:00 am.  I like Portland, but the dificulty of moving about sucks some of the fun out of the area.

The park is pretty good.  Sites are concrete with grass in between them.  We were on 113, which was level.  You are close to the neighbors, but not so much that you’ll have dueling awnings.  Interior streets are paved.  Power is good, water pressure is adequte.  We generally had 4 bars of Verizon 4G with decent response time.  The laundry room is good.  Small washers are $2.  Dryers are 50 cents for 10 minutes.  No data on the restrooms.

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The sewers are way far back on the sites.  Some of the towables are using 30 feet of sewer hose.  Park carefully!

There are many permanent residents.  If you want to stay here, reserve as soon as you know your dates.  They do not give refunds.  if you must cancel, there is a $35 charge for that.

These people were beside us for awhile.  They have a Hoby trimaran.  We wondered how they transported it.  This is how.  It goes in the back of a toy hauler travel trailer.  Given the length of the thing, it makes more sense than a 5th wheel.  They have to pack their furniture in around it when traveling.

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If Columbia River RV is full, there is the Sandy Riverfront RV Resort on historic highway 30 in Troutdale.  We drove by it, it looked ok from a distance.  I would link to their website, but it’s returning an internal server error at the moment.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

More Powell Butte and the Zoo

We’ve been out at Powell Butte twice since the last post.  It’s fairly close, and the trails have a lot of up down.  The mountain (Hood) has been out.  It’s fairly spectacular.  One day we could also see St. Helens and Adams, but the camera could not pick them up.

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This is the caretaker’s cottage at Powell Butte.  Isn’t that lovely?  It looks at the mountains and is very nicely situated in a meadow.

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This is one reason to keep going back to this trail system.  It’s steep.

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There is also shade.  This is the split between the Elderberry and Cedar Forest trails.  Names are approximate.  Many people ride these trails on cross-bikes.  The trail surface is very nice; no baby heads, very few roots and no really narrow sections.

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There are, however, giant slugs.  This is a Leopard slug.  That’s Jim’s foot, in one of his new hiking boots, for size comparison.  Those are Lowa Zephyrs.  Their sole is not stiff enough for Tucson, but for dirt or slickrock they’re fine.  The search for the ultimate stiff sole continues.  He did try the Oboz boots, but to get the really stiff sole they’re water proof.  Apparently there is a design idea that hard core mountaineering guys will want a waterproof shoe.  Men who do not want waterproofing clearly are not hard core, so they get a softer sole.  That’s what the lady at REI told us.  One thing we did remember is that the wonderful stiff sole on the Lowas that Jim can no longer wear came from Dave Page, Cobbler.  When we return to Issaquah, we will visit him to determine which boots can be resoled and go buy some of them.

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Yesterday we went to the Zoo.  We had planned to go there as well as the Japanese Garden, but it was too steenking hot.  After the Zoo we were cooked.  Children born in the GPNW don’t do well with really high heat.  There was a lot of whining and wanting to go home from the short people.

The elephant enclosure is huge.  I’ve never seen so much real estate dedicated to elephants.

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I love the Tamarin monkeys.  They always look like rock stars with big hair.  There was a female with two babies, but she was too far back in the enclosure for the camera.

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An Anaconda from the Amazon rain forest.

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I can’t remember his name.  White Faced something.  He has an interesting gate when he walks.  Sort of a hopping run.

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Ah the joy of simple pleasures.  What could be better than a bucket on the head.

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The bear spent a long time playing with the bucket.

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Kelp.

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We were fortunate enough to wander in to the Penguin enclosure at feeding time.  These are Humboldt Penguins.  They’re from South America.  The zoo originally had penguins from Antarctica, but they couldn’t keep them cool enough.  So, they switched to birds from a warmer environment.

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The zoo worker was wearing a headset so he could talk to us.  We could hear the penguins making their penguin sound as they gathered for food.  They’re fed three times a day, and they eat a lot.

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Did I mention it was hot?  It was hot.  This bear was spending time in the tub with a hose running water on his back.  He’d get out, shake off, and then get back in the water.

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As zoos go, Portland’s is nice.  We were especially impressed with the amount of space devoted to the elephants, and the seals and otters. 

This is our outdoor air temperature unit.  Notice that it’s 86 inside the RV.  We really could have used a third air conditioner.  They can be added to the bus, but that involves cutting a hole in the roof, which is something I would rather not do.

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Tomorrow we are up and out for Harrisburg, OR.  We’ll be seeing Elite RV, Peterson Caterpillar for fluids, and Country Coach for front end alignment.  Country Coach uses a pit, so there is no danger of being damaged like we were in March.  It will be hot there, but not as bad as it has been.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Out and About in the Portland Area

We’ve been moving about the area.  Here is a high level review of places we’ve been. 

This is The Grotto.  It’s a Catholic sanctuary and home of the Servite Friars.  We went there thinking that we would be able to walk to the top of the cliffs where the gardens are.  Unfortunately, one must take the elevator because there is no walking path to the top. 

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It’s moderately interesting, but it was ultimately sub-optimal due to lack of exercise potential.  The gardens are lovely, and it’s a nice place for a stroll.

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We went out to check out the Sandy River Delta off leash dog park.  It’s also open to biking.  A careful examination of several ill-behaved dogs convinced us that riding out there would be a terrible idea.  If you have a dog, it’s dog nirvana.  For non-dog hiking or biking, I’d give it a pass.

This irritates the crap out of me.  People pick the dog poop, but then leave the bags by the side of the trail.  Do they think the poop fairy is going to come and pick it up?

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There was a drive out to Troutdale.  It’s the gateway to the Gorge on historic Highway 30.  It’s a pretty drive.  This is a one lane bridge.  Troutdale itself is just determinedly cute.  Totally foo-foo.

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There are also opportunities for gourmet dining along the way.  Unfortunately I think Tad’s is not open any longer.

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However, there is Shirley’s Tippy Canoe.

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So, our first few forays were sub-optimal.  Today, however, exceeded expectations.

We visited the Powell Butte Nature Park.  It’s a stunning park developed on a cinder cone.  It’s also a huge part of the Portland water supply.  The Bull Run river is dammed at a higher elevation than the park.  There are two 50 million gallon reservoirs underground in the butte.  They are higher than Portland and lower than the dam.  So, water comes from the river, or from the Columbia South Shore Well Field.  Then gravity takes it into the city.

Remember “the hills are alive with the sound of music”?  That’s what the top of the butte reminds me of.  The flower fields are just amazing.

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This young man was with two other photographers who were lugging around a large format camera on a tripod.  I was intent on the flowers and didn’t see him in the frame.  It’s an interesting photo because he’s in it.  Notice the flowers, and how tall they are.  When they grow in the woods they are much shorter.

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See what I mean?  The hills are alive!

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I don’t know what these are.  They’re on a flat growing vine.

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So there are trails out in the open.  There are also wooded trails going down the backside of the butte.

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Portland has a rich aviation history.  In 1978 United Airlines 173 crashed in the area of 158th and Burnside.  The plane had a landing gear light illuminated.  The pilot became fixated on the light and started flying circles over PDX.  Because the pilot was fixated on the light, and because the pilot was not accepting input from the cockpit crew, the plane circled until it ran out of fuel.  This accident led to the institution of the crew concept, in which the pilot is no longer infallible, but is a team member who accepts input from the crew.  This is where the plane went down.

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This is the Troutdale Airport.  It’s tiny.  In 1962 a United Airlines plane landed there instead of PDX.  Despite the air traffic controllers telling the pilots they were heading for the wrong airport they pressed on.  They were able to get the plane down with no damage.  The next day United took all of the seats out of the plane to make it light enough to take off from the short runway, and the pilots flew it to PDX.  Then they were fired.

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There has also been shopping!  The Clackamas Town Center REI yielded two pair of hiking boots for Jim.  Today we went to the Columbia Sportswear Outlet Center at Historic Sellwood.  Sellwood is also just cuter than a bug.  It’s like a tiny village within Portland.  No sales tax!  Yay!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

A Trip into Portland

Yesterday we took Max (the light rail) into Portland.  It used to be that you could actually drive into the city and park, but those days are over!  Too many people, too many cars.  Thursday convinced us that one should never do that.  Ever!  Especially in a pickup truck on narrow streets, further narrowed by constuction barriers.

It takes a lot of optimism to open a swim wear boutique in the GPNW.  I do like their signage, however.

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There are a lot of construction cranes in the Pearl District. Pearl is part of the wave of gentrification and hipsterization of Portland.  W. Kamau Bell has a show on CNN.  I think it’s “The United Shades of America.”  He was interviewing African Americans who have been displaced by the changes in Portland.  Apparently it can be a difficult place to live for people who are non-white.

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This is what they’re building.  This particular unit is about $1.5M.  But wait, that’s only the start.

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Look at the taxes and HOA fees.  Those two charges are guaranteed to never go down, only up. 

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This is interesting.  See the floor joists?  They’re wood.  I did not think high rise structures were still built using wood due to concerns with fire.  Apparently I was wrong.

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So life in the Pearl district is very vibrant.  Foo-foo home decorating stores abound.  There are bars and restaurants with outdoor seating everywhere.  This dog did not look very happy.  He’s underneath his owner’s chair.  Just to the right is a walkway, when people would approach the walkway, he would back up.

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It’s a pleasant aspect.

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We walked down to Union Station.  The last time we were here it was being renovated.  We were surprised at how much rail service is still available to Portland.  The Amtrak Cascades, Empire Builder and Coast Starlight still come here.

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After walking through Union Station we made the mistake of sitting in front of the Greyhound station to wait for our Max light rail to arrive.  It’s a dystopian part of Portland where the poor and mentally challenged congregate on the sidewalk.  An older man in a wheelchair sat dozing.  Periodically something would bring him to attention and he would start stomping his feet, yelling and pulling at his clothing.  We could not understand what he was saying except for the phrase that starts with mother and ends with er.  He was alone, I wonder where he sleeps, how does he get there?  How does he deal with personal hygiene issues by himself.  The Greyhound station and the Pearl district really demonstrate the dichotomy that is developing in Portland.

Today there is a Gay Pride event in the Pearl District.  We thought about going, but have decided that we don’t want to be in crowds that large.  While the sun is not out, at least it isn’t raining on their parade.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Note to Future Self

It started raining last night about midnight.  It has rained virtually without stopping since then.  In most places it rains and then it stops.  In the GPNW it can do this for days.  In 1999, it rained for 93 days straight.  I forget what year it was, but there was also the “bummer summer” when it was overcast every single day.

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Who has an exit plan from the RV life?  We keep searching for the final resting place for when we are too old to do this, but every place has a significant drawback. 

  • Arizona.  Too hot in the summer for three months.  State income tax, high property taxes, high vehicle license fees.  Nutbag politicians.
  • Washington.  It rains 8 or 9 months a year.  No state income tax.  Property values are increasing at the highest rate in the country.  It may be moot, we’re probably priced out at this point.
  • Oregon. Same weather as Seattle, same issue with property values.  They do have state income tax, but no sales tax.
  • Texas.  Too hot in the summer.  No state income tax, but really high property taxes.  Nutbag politicians.
  • California.  Costs too much on all fronts.

I’m writing this post as a reminder to my future self about how much I hate this weather!  I really really hate it when it rains for days on end.  We keep telling ourselves it wouldn’t be so bad if we were in a house, but I have to wonder about that.  Or if we’re really old and rickety, we wouldn’t get out much anyway, so would incessant rain really be an issue? 

Looking at the list, the GPNW seems to take itself out of the running because it has three bad seasons, instead of one.  Arizona and Texas are sort of indistinguishable, except for Texas is more humid. 

If you don’t mind me asking, what are you all thinking about doing when the keys must be hung up?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Pendleton to Portland, OR

From Pendleton to Portland is a freeway drive on I84.  We took exit 17 off I84 and then drove down Marine Drive to the RV park.  It’s a 13 mile drive along the river and is a much more pleasant route than driving through Portland traffic. 

The drive down the Columbia River is so gorgeous.   It would be more gorgeous if the sun had been shining, but it was not.  We’re in the midst of June Gloom.  This is a grain terminal along the river.

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Water is being released at the John Day dam.

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A railroad bridge over the river.

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We’re in Portland until June 25.  Tomorrow we’re up and out to get the oil in the truck changed.  It’s supposed to rain tomorrow and Friday, so we’ll have to find something to do with ourselves.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Boise to Pendleton, OR

It was WINDY today.  We left anyway because we're schedule driven.  It wasn't so bad that it was dangerous, but it was definitely noticeable.  Jim had to steer a lot.  The whole drive is on I84.  It's very agricultural out there.

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This is an abandoned concrete plant.

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Just up the road is the new one.  Today I noticed that raw material is being removed from this hill side.  Then it is put in the pipe that feeds the new concrete plant.

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It's an enormous thing, complete with their own rail spur.

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There is some up and down, and a few curves, but it's not a torturous route.  Just before Pendleton there are a series of signs warning of the upcoming descent.

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It's impressive.  Here we are looking out into space.  I think I can see the curvature of the earth.

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More of the downhill.

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We're back at the Wild Horse Casino which I have previously reviewed.  Nothing much has changed in the interim.  Tomorrow we are moving on to Portland.  There are things to be accomplished there, such as a new windshield for the truck, and an oil change for the truck.  Every time we start the engine it displays the "please change oil soon" message.  It's time.

Did you know the North Sea oil fields are running out of oil?  There's a new business opportunity in dismantling the drilling platforms.  NYT did an interesting piece on the whole endeavor.  It's a lot of words, but it's worth a read.