Archive for the ‘RV Adventures’ Category

A Life Alternating Experience

Camping at Ike Kinswa State Park, what a blast!  On Monday we pulled our Fun Finder trailer to the park with 4 nights and 5 days of camping and geocaching in the plan. Our Trailer On the first night we found all of the caches that are in the park.  Tuesday we drove back to the freeway, leaving the trailer in the park, and found caches up and down the freeway exits.  We even went to Winlock and saw the world’s largest egg. Wow!

On Wednesday we left the trailer at camp and drove about 25 miles to Chehalis to cache the town.  Things were not going well, since it was raining and we don’t like to find caches in the rain.  We were running the windshield wipers, headlights, CD player, and heater fan to keep us nice and cozy while seeking the cache locations.  We found one, then passed up several others after seeing their poor choice of location.  Pulling into the parking lot of a mattress store we found a cache called “Cows, Cows, Cows.”  It was a very nice well planned cache and we found it easily.  Then our troubles began.

Mooo!!!We jumped back into the Jeep which we had left running and while glancing at the GPS on the dash to plan our next stop, I noticed that the BATTERY light on the dash was glowing bright red.  “That can’t be good.  Why didn’t I notice that before?”  I punched up my electronic gauges and was astounded to see that our battery voltage had dropped to 9.6.  We had to act quick.  The next minute or two strangely reminded us of playing Space Team.  “Check Battery Voltage!,” “Set Wipers to OFF!” “”Shut Down Entertainment System,” “Turn Fan to Zero,”  “Douse Headlights,” “Kill the Heater,” “Dim Dashlights,” “Unplug Gizmo Chargers,” “Astroid Shake!!!”  We were on the verge of a breakdown!

I did a quick search on the GPS for a NAPA auto parts store and found one just over a mile away.  We pulled into their parking lot where the Jeep promptly died.  We bought a new battery that was fully charged and a battery charger that was on sale.  After installing the new battery, we were able to start the Jeep and drive on battery power back to camp.  The battery light was glowing all the way.  At camp, we spent several hours recharging both batteries, ate lunch, hooked up the trailer and then headed for home early.  The park gave us a nice refund for our unused days and we arrived safely at home with a dead alternator.  I spent the next few days replacing the alternator.  It is supposed to be a 4 hour job but for me it took about 14 spread over 3 days with lots of interruptions.  In this model Jeep, the alternator is buried so deep that you can not even see it when you look into the engine bay.  Who says geocaching is boring?

No gas No cash No credit

Brrrr! It was cold!! Idaho always feels much colder than other places and this winter was no different.  It was the winter of 78 Thanksgiving with the folks in Idaho was the next adventure.  I was the pastor of a tiny rural church that afforded no pay, but did supply a nice parsonage.  Self-employed, business was a bit slow and money was tight.  We had no credit cards.  Sounds like a great time for a Thanksgiving trip.  We scraped together every cent we had and off we went in wild abandon.  There were 5 of us counting Susie’s brother who was living with us at the time.

The vacation was great and the food was superb and the snow that came along was beautiful.  Then it turned cold…. I mean really cold.  I don’t remember exactly but it was well below zero when we gassed up the VW at the farm pump and headed for home.  A count of all the coin showed that the trip home was going to be real tight.

The heater in an air cooled VW van was nothing to brag about, especially in the winter.  This time, it was so cold that even we in the front seat were freezing.  We had to stop and buy a real heater, so the first store we came to, we bought a 5,000 BTU Coleman catalytic heater, a can of gas and a few candy bars.  Ouch! that hurt, but it warmed us up.  We were now down to less than $2.00 total, but, “No Bother,”  “We can make this trip on one tank…right?”

The cold and the snow took its tole and soon I was driving with one eye on the road and the other on the gas gauge.  I noticed that the gauge was dropping a little faster than it should and I figured that we would be stranded somewhere in Portland if we didn’t do something.  We had to get some gas.

After descending the mountains in Pendleton, the snow cleared.  I slowed down to about 5 MPH and rode on the shoulder.  Carl, Susie and Lynnel watched out the side windows and hollered out every time they spotted a pop can or beer bottle.  Cans in Oregon had a 5 cent deposit and that can add up.  Gas that year was about $0.85 cents per gallon.  We must have idled along for 20 miles or more, sometimes with the side door open so Carl could hop out and snatch the cans.  They seemed to be everywhere.  The cold was gripping.

Brrr, a VW in winter

Brrr, a VW in winter

Rufus, Oregon was a welcome sight.  We found a warm shop, cashed in our bottles and cans and spent every penny for gas in the tank.  Warmed up again, we headed for home and pulled into the driveway, hours later, running one slim notch above fumes.

 

The Tent

1974! We had just completed a year at Florida Bible College in Hollywood Beach Florida. What a palace. The new campus was amazing. Right on the beach. I received my THb graduate degree and Susie got her 1 year Bible certificate. She was pregnant with Lynnel and sick most of the time.

We wanted to make a trip to Oregon to visit her folks. I would meet them for the 1st time, since they did not come to our wedding. Her mother came but not her Dad or “Mom.” We intended to make this a shoe-string trip since shoe strings was all we had. So we headed over to Wards department store and bought a 10×10 tent. I wanted a smaller one but Susie was planning ahead. We packed up the Volvo and headed out.

The trip lasted about 26 days including our week long stay with Susie’s folks. I was amazed at the north west…. the mountains, the huge trees, the cooler weather.

We hit all the sights that we could since we knew that it would be our last vacation trip alone for a very long time. Most memorable were: Dinosaur National Monument, High Bridge, My first view of Mt Hood,The Tent Oregon Caves, and Redwood Forest.

The tent served us well and we learned how to put it up pretty quickly. It was the type that had the exterior skeleton made of stiff aluminum pipe. You had to stake it all down first and then put up the frame and hang the tent from the frame. We could even put it up in the dark. Our only mishap was when we camped in Needles, CA, the sand at the park was so deep that the stakes would not hold and then tent sort of hung there like a limp rag and bunched up on us during the night….it was HOT in Needles.

On our way home, we were stopped for speeding at a speed trap near a small town in Texas. Funny thing was that I had been driving 80 and 85 all day long but when the officer pulled us over we were only going about 70 in a 65 zone. He made us follow him right to the Judge’s house. The Judge was a woman and she came out to see us in what looked like her Gardening gear….it was late in the day. I asked her if I could plead “Not guilty” and she said sure, if I wanted to stay in Jail for 3 days waiting for a trial. We paid the fine and she demanded CASH. It was like a scene right out of a bad movie. $85.00. We really needed that money for gas since we had no credit cards. Few people used them back then. Because of this, we had to cut our selves short on food the rest of the trip and barely made it home on our last pennies.

A Hitch in Time

I think that God can often be seen working in the minute timing of events.  Such was the case on the the day that we decided to take the family to the beach with our Scotty trailer in tow.  We loaded up with all the usual stuff the night before so that we could get an early start on a Saturday morning.  Water, food, clothes, beach stuff…we were packed out.  When morning came we all dove into the Suburban and took off…Mom, Dad, 4 kids and the dog….out for a day of fun.

Now you must understand that I was kind of new to towing and the Suburban was equipped with a bumper type hitch.  It was a U shaped piece of heavy steel with two holes in it that attached with two bolts to the underside of the thick steel bumper of the Sub.  I was naively proud of the installation having mounted it myself using bolts that I obtained from my drawer full of miscellaneous hardware.  The short tongue that held the hitch ball was welded to this U shaped piece of steel.  It looked pretty good and had worked fine for many miles of towing.  Today would be a different story.

We took the Washington route to Long Beach instead of crossing over to Oregon where the road is straighter and nicer.  When we went through the coastal mountain range, the road was rough and winding.  We zigged and zagged our way through the hills jerking and swaying as we went.  Finally we pulled into Long Beach, Wa. and headed North down the main road.  All seemed fine and we were having a nice good time.  The kids were eager to bail out of the Sub and head for the beach.

When we arrived at our destination in Ocean Park, we turned left off the main road and right down the next street over.  When we pulled up to the stop sign where we were going to turn left to head for the beach access, suddenly there was a loud BANG!! In the rear view mirror, I saw the front of the trailer crash downward.  There was no warning, no creaks or groans, just a sudden BANG! CRASH! as the tongue of the trailer hit the pavement.

Click HERE to view the location.

We all got out of the Sub and I looked down to see that the entire hitch was laying on the ground with the trailer still attached along with the safety chains.  The two bolts that held the hitch were laying in pieces on the ground, they both snapped in half at the same time.

If these bolts had broken when we were in the mountains we would have lost the trailer in a dramatic crash.  If only one bolt were to break, the hitch would have cause the Sub to swerve out of control.  The timing of this mishap was perfect.  We pulled up to the stop sign and came to a full stop, then the hitch let loose.  It could not have been better…. or could it.  What was I to do now?  I had to find a way to repair the hitch.  I walked around the corner to the right and discovered that we had broken down right next to a hardware store.  I took the old bolts into the store to get some replacements and the clerk wagged his head and said, “No wonder they broke, you used mild steel bolts, you can’t do that.”  He sold me two “grade 8” hardened steel bolts of the same size with nuts and washers.  I fixed the hitch and we continued with our adventure.

Moral of the story… NEVER, NEVER use a bumper type hitch to pull a trailer.  On our next trip, we pulled the trailer over to Dad’s ranch and told him the interesting story.  He said, “Well let me fix that hitch for you so that will never happen again.”  Out to the shop we went where he welded up the strongest hitch you have ever seen custom fit to the frame of the Sub.  He was a retired welder and heavy steel mechanic and well equipped with steel and skill to do the job.  He was right, it never happened again.

 

 

 

 

Olympic Peninsula

We took the Scotty on a trip around the Olympic Peninsula.  It was a fun trip and the Scotty delivered a safe experience.  While on the trip, the grandkids slept in the tent with Lynnel.  We also encountered this big bear.  If you crammed, the Scotty would hold two adults, four kids and a hound dog.

Scotty in the Olympic Peninsula.

Scotty in the Olympic Peninsula.

Kids sack out in the tent

Kids sack out in the tent

Not so friendly bear

Not so friendly bear

Trips to the Ranch

We took the Scotty on many trips.  Our favorite  destination was always “The Ranch” in Idaho.  We always pulled the Scotty with the “Ugly Truckling.”  It was a Chevy Suburban, 76 I think.  It was very ugly but it ran like a champ and got horrible gas mileage.  We sometimes called it “Old Reliable” because it was so dependable.  It never let us down and we used it to tow other cars home that did.

Pulled by Ugly Truckling

The Scotty at a park along the way.

The Ranch

The Ranch

Our first trailer

I think it was 1988, at least that is close enough.  I was working for Massie Glass and the boss told me that they needed some extra office space for about 3 months.  Struck with an idea, he purchased an old, well worn “Scotty” trailer and asked me to converted it to an office.  He said that if I did a nice job, I could have the trailer for free after he was done with it.  I set to work and soon the inside of the trailer looked like a nifty little office complete with desk and computer.  Three months later, I pulled it home and remodelled it again into a comfy little travel trailer.

It was small, with no bathroom.  The ice box was an “ICE box”….you had to put ice in it to keep things cool.  There was a three burner stove, a tiny closet and a little cabinet space.  A double bed graced one end and a fold down couch/bed was at the other end.  Since we had 4 kids, sleeping arrangements were tight.  The wife and I took the double bed.  The two girls slept on the couch and the two boys slept on the floor with their feet under the fold down bed.  When the weather was warm enough, the kids slept in the tent.  Hey it was free, and we had a great time using it.

Pretty Ugly

The Scotty.  Lynnel and Tyler

The hitch was just a simple hitch with no sway bar and no load leveler.  There were no trailer brakes.  Since it was a “Scotty,” it towed very well.  We pulled it behind our Chevy Suburban.  At the time, it was perfect.

Early Start

Our first experience with camping as a married couple began in 1972.  A friend loaned us a tiny camp trailer to use for our honeymoon.  We had two weeks paid leave.  That wasn’t saying much since I was a missionary to the wayward youth of San Antonio and only made $125 per month, plus a small housing allowance and a gas card.  At the time, I had a Volvo 122S and thought it was indestructible.  It had a bumper type hitch that I installed myself mounted on the chrome plated steel bumper and reinforced with a heavy steel backer bar on the backside of the bumper.

Armed with our gas card and the cash that we had received in wedding gifts, we packed the Volvo to the brim, hooked up the trailer and headed North for Carlsbad Caverns.  We took our time and hit several state parks along the way.  Whenever we could, we preferred the privacy of pulling off into the wild rather than camping in a busy state park.  It is cheaper too and we found that appealing.

The trailer was very humble.  I think it was a Scotty but I’m not sure about that now.  It was small, about 14 feet in length.  There was no bathroom so we kept a “Hub Tub” under the bed.  A “Hub Tub” was actually a green, plastic, five gallon, McDonald’s Pickle bucket.  We used to get them fifty at a time from Mc Donald’s for free.  We would remove the labels, clean them up and sell them for $5.00 each as a fund raiser for the San Antonio Youth Hub.  Nobody had anything like them back then and people bought them like crazy.

The trailer had a small three burner propane range with no oven.  There was a tiny sink with running water that fed from a small water tank.  It worked fine as long as you pumped the hand pump.  There was no hot water.

The Volvo 122S had the amazing B1800 engine and a 4 speed manual transmission.  Volvos were simple, sturdy, reliable, cars back then.  They were not fancy luxury cars as they are today.

The trailer had no brakes and this was my first experience with towing of any kind.  The hitch was very plain with no load levelers and no sway bar.  So it is a miracle that we were able to make the trip to Carlsbad and back with no mishaps and no breakdowns.  Obviously, the Lord was watching over us.  It was a great trip and a wonderful two weeks together.  The photo below shows us pretending to be lost.  Actually we were camped in the desert on a dirt road near Carlsbad.

Volvo with Small Scotty

Lost in the wilderness.

 

 

Coming Soon – RV Adventures

I am getting motivated to share all of our RV Adventures.  Stay tuned.  The story starts in 1972, but the most interesting things have happened in the last few years.