Sunday, September 1, 2013

Update to 1 Sep 2013 Update

Because I didn't all of my photos in proper order, I forgot to tell Y'All about one of the most impressive sights we've seen in the past couple of weeks:  Dry Falls, WA.  Somehow, I'd never heard of the geological phenomenon which sculpted much of the NW us.  This will tell you about it better than I can:

This shows only two of the five cliffs making up the Dry Falls.  3.5 miles long, 400 ft. high, it was 10 times the size of Niagra Falls!  VERY Impressive.  Mind-boggling.

Oh, and here we are in the campground at Eagle Hot Lake, Le Grande, OR.

Ken H.
Greetings, All.  Sorry this is so long coming.  I started an update a few days ago but couldn't post current photos.  Somehow that draft disappeared while I was downloading and reorganizing the photo database.  So this is a new start from when we were in Seattle at Sully's.  It's a long tale.

On Wednesday, 14 August,  SHE and I "saw the sights" in Seattle, primarily Chinatown and Pike Place market:

 SHE'd have bought all the flowers if we were at home!

 I couldn't catch the flying fish on film as well as the clerks caught them in their hands!

Kinda killed my appetite for King Crab!

Because SHE's not fond of high places, we skipped the Space Needle.  There are months worth of places to see and things to do in Seattle, but this was not the time for us to do all that.

As planned, Sully's muffler installer friend showed up at his place on Thursday, 15 August.  He installed the flexible couplings I've needed and welded some of the joints where I'd used band clamps.  The flexible couplings are shorter than any I'd been able to find.  Naturally, not all went well:  SHE started the engine 5 times during the installation to check for leaks.  The engine always started on the first rotation.  Until I tried to start it for the acceptance check -- then no startee!  Since the fuel pressure gauge on the dash registered 0, the problem was pretty obvious.  A trouble light attached to the fuel pump leads quickly showed that the EFI was calling for the pump to run and the absence of pump noise confirmed pump failure. Fortunately, I had a spare, so 15 minutes later the problem was corrected.  Darned pumps do that at times!  We'd wanted to take the Sullivans out to dinner that night, but Karen insisted on fixing us a wonderful dinner.  Can't beat these GMCer cooks!

On Friday, 16 August, we moved back to Lewis-McChord Joint Base to await our reservations for the Boeing Plant tour on Monday, 19 August, the earliest we could schedule.  That let us visit the commissary (military grocery store for those of you with no military knowledge), do several loads of laundry, and relax for a couple of days in a cheap, full hookup, campground.

Our Boeing reservations were for early afternoon, so we missed the heavy Tacoma and Seattle traffic.  The tour was very interesting, more for the plant itself than for the airplanes.  That 98 acre plant is the world's largest by volume -- 471 million cf!  <>
Since all the viewing is from glass-enclosed balconies, we really saw very little work in progress -- I have to presume there was activity inside the wings and fuselages because there were probably no more than a couple of hundred of the 47,000 employees visible to us.  Very clean, neat, complex facility -- but not many folks in evidence -- and a large percentage of those sitting at computers.  Since all electronic devices are prohibited on the tour, I only got one photo, a poor one, from the parking lot as we departed:

From there, we proceeded via the Deception Pass

which is the only bridge connecting Whidbey Island to the mainland, to NAS Whidbey Island, a favorite stop on our trip to Alaska in 2000.  Since that visit, they've reportedly spent $3.5 million refurbishing the campground.  A lot of that must have gone into the reportedly required studies because of the location inside the airfield's traffic pattern.  That field was in intensive use.  I'm guessing that the F-18's are about to deploy to sea because there was a LOT of high-noise traffic as they conducted "field carrier landing practice".  For us USAF types, that corresponds to "touch and goes in gear-down patterns".   It's a very nice campground set right on a cliff overlooking  the Strait of Juan de Fuca.   The prevailing wind is on-shore as the tree shows:
What a view!  Quite a bit of distant barge traffic and ferries between Port Angeles, WA and Victoria, Vancouver Island.  Walkers and fisherman well-populated the driftwood-strewn beach below the cliff behind the fence.  The paved walking path runs 3.5 miles from the base gymnasium through the campground to a wooded hill beyond.  Wonderful place to spend time.

On 22 August we reluctantly left the West Coast to move inland.  We found a nice, though old, campground, Alpine RV, just beyond Marblemount, WA, in the heart of the Cascades.  From there, we visited the little town of Concrete, WA, site of two big Portland Cement factories dating from the early 1900's until the 1960's.  Exploring some of the interesting byways in the area, plus lots of laziness, kept us "busy" for 2 nights there.

On the 24th, we headed on to Richland, WA, where my cousin Ray Pope lives.  The closest person I ever had to a brother, he and I get to spend too little time together since he moved to WA many years ago to work at Hansford.  We had a wonderful 3 days together before he had to have minor surgery.  I didn't want to disrupt his recuperation from that, so we left on the 27th.

After a short drive, we found Hot Lake RV park near Le Grande, WA.  It sits right beside a "lake" which is spring-fed with 180*F water.  The park has two hot tubs which are filled with water warmed from that lake.  The 104*F one provided a very relaxing evening after our arrival. After two nights there, we headed on toward Boise.  Unfortunately, the trip was not uneventful.  There are several long steep grades on I-84.   Near the tops of those grades, the GMC would begin to miss and die.  On one of them, I actually had to pull over and stop for about 30 minutes, only a couple of hundred yards from the crest.  After that event, I discovered that when I turned battery boost ON (the combiner failed right after I left GA), the fuel pressure -- and the engine -- would become erratic.  When I left the boost switch in Normal, no problem.   Hmmm...

On the north side of Boise, at the airport, lies Gowen Field, jointly occupied by the Idaho Army and Air National Guard.  There are 7 very nice full-hookup RV sites there, which cost us only $10 per night -- half of the cheapest we've seen since leaving GA.  Adding to the economy is a free laundry a couple of blocks away.  We signed up to stay through Labor Day, figuring we'll avoid problems finding a campsite.  On Friday, the 30th, I checked all the batteries, under load, carefully and found them all good.  So I replaced the fuel pump which I'd installed at Sully's. There are some strange voltage readings when the boost switch is operated and I suspect that the pump was failing, causing those indications.  A parked engine run seems OK, but I won't know whether I've corrected the problem until we hit another steep hot grade.

Since they allow vehicle washing here, yesterday I scrubbed the coach and the toad, which both of them needed very badly.  We've enjoyed some good restaurant meals and enjoyed a little sightseeing in Boise, but nothing worth recording.

We'll leave here on Tuesday, 3 Sep.  I haven't yet decided the route, but we'll probably steer clear of mountainous terrain as much as possible.  The GMC isn't running quite as well as when we left GA, but I can't do anything with the EFI because the computer that failed is the only one I have along with an RS-232 port.  I may try to find an RS-232 to USB adapter in Boise today.

Just to show I didn't forget, here are a few photos from our visit to Butchard Gardens in Victoria, Vancouver Island:

More later.  Hope we'll see lots of Y'All at Branson.

Ken H.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

11 days without posting!  Wow!  I'm sorry to have kept everyone in the dark for so long, but they've been very full days, filled with fun, computer failures, poor communications, an international border with all that entails, a GMC mechanical problem, etc., etc.  So, for now, I'm going to gloss over a lot of that and not even try to find and post photos.  Instead, I'll just try to present a synopsis of our adventures; perhaps I can later give more details and phots.

From Pacific Beach, we moved to Bogachiel State Park on Sunday, 4 August. <>  Then we moved on around the Olympic Peninsula to Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort <> on the 5th of August.    There we hiked 1.8 miles through the rain forest to a nice little waterfall.  I've been astounded by the amount of downed timber in the rain forests of the Olympic Peninsula.  The forest floor is littered with trees that were hundreds of years old laying across other hundreds of years old trees in every direction, all beneath a canopy of standing trees which are themselves hundreds of years old!  VERY impressive.  And frightening when I learned that Washington state had NO rainfall in July!  A forest fire in these jungles will be a roaring inferno to dwarf Hell on a hot day!  Pray that it doesn't happen.

After Sol Duc (sometimes seen as "Sole Duck"), we proceeded to Port Angeles, WA, where we met a "born GMCer", Greg Birch, grandson of the renowned GMC engineer Alex Birch.  Guess what GMC he has?  Yep, a Birchaven.  He and his lovely wife Lorraine welcomed us like family members and we parked the GMC in their yard.  Greg took us on a tour of the area, including the Hurricane Ridge, which gave us our first real view of the mountainous interior of the peninsula.  We also visited his beautiful dental office sitting on a bluff overlooking the Port Angeles harbor.  To cap the day, "Rainey" served us a wonderful dinner with steaks grilled by Greg.

The next day, we left the Honda CRV toad at the Birch's and took the ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC.  By pre-arrangement, we went straight to Courtenay, half way up the eastern coast of the island to visit with Richard and Allie Floyd (remember rgf from our Omnistor awning orders).  He took us on a tour of their area, and, again the Mrs. prepared us an outstanding dinner.  Can't beat these GMCers for good eatin'!  Their schedule was full for the next night, so we headed back toward Victoria.

Half way from Courtenay to Victoria is Nanaimo, home of Gordon and Lucie Seykora.  We spent two nights with them.  They took us on a thorough tour of the area with detailed descriptions of the sights and the history of the points along the way.  No one could have been better guides.  We even got down to the beach where we could have gathered star fish (and did examine one up close).  Gordon's experience as a logger, commercial fisherman and transporter, computer support specialist, and numerous other vocations, allowed him to give us a really in-depth understanding of the area and its history.

We planned our whole trip to Vancouver Island around visiting Butchart Gardens <>  in Victoria on Saturday night, when they have a spectacular fireworks show.  After checking into a nice RV park 10 miles away early on the 10th, we headed for the Gardens.  About half way there, the power steering pump began to howl.  Since I had a quart of PS fluid, we were soon on our way again -- for less than a mile.  That time when I got out, I checked underneath first:  PS fluid was dripping from the Pitman arm. :-(

Undaunted, I drove on to the Gardens without bothering with more fluid -- steering was stiff, to say the least, at low speeds; not too bad at 10-15+ mph.  With most of the day remaining, we toured the gardens, which are a MUST SEE.  No way words, or even photographs can do them justice.

After marking our selected fireworks viewing location with a blanket (per local custom), we retired to the coach for several hours before having a wonderful dinner (prime rib for me) in the Garden's cafeteria.  The 9:15 PM fireworks display may not have been the best I've seen, but it was the best in memory.  Very entertaining.  I wondered throughout how they managed to get permission for all the aerial pyrotechnics considering the very high fire hazard throughout the area.

The drive back to the RV park without power steering was surprisingly easy, so I formed a plan to drive to a ferry departure point for Seattle and to repair the problem at Todd Sullivan's place.  Since we wanted to tour more of Victoria, on Sunday, Dave Jarvis brought a car to the RV park and loaned it to us for the day!  Talk about GMC hospitality!

On Monday we caught the ferry back to Port Angeles.  Since we arrived at the port without reservations, we had to wait several hours before getting aboard.  That gave us free parking downtown so we could, as planned, see that area.  Most of the time we spent in the BC Museum, mostly studying the history of the Scott and Amundsen expeditions to the South Pole.  We did find some time for the First Peoples exibits also.  It's a VERY impressive museum which should not be missed.  As we've found in most cities on VI -- and WA -- there are a LOT of people out and about.  Many are tourists, but most are, as explained by one of our hosts, "locals taking advantage of our short summer".

When we got back to the coach, we found Jim Bratvold  about to leave us a note on the door.  We had a very pleasant "finally" introduction and conversation, which was cut too short by the beginning of our loading process; visitors have to leave the passenger area before loading begins.  Loading was a bit strenuous with having to muscle the steering wheel around, but nothing hazardous.

Back in Port Angeles a couple of hours later, we proceeded directly to Greg Birch's office, which is closer to the ferry terminal than his home, and with no hills.  He'd already shown us the beautiful, flat, parking area between his office and the cliff overlooking the strait.  Rainey showed up a short time later with the Honda, and Greg right after.  After a little visit, we said our goodbyes since we planned to leave at crack'o'dawn.

And so we did.  We arrived at Port Angeles via highways, but to get to Seattle, where a replacement steering box could be gotten readily, with as few hard-to-steer road miles as possible, I chose to take the ferry from Bainbridge Island directly to Seattle.  There was some concern about being able to load the low-slung GMC because of the very large tidal variation at BI; but, the tide tables show high tide at about the time we planned to catch a ferry.  Sure enough, we barely stopped to pay our fare before loading onto the ferry.  45 minutes or so later, we were driving to Todd Sullivan's shop, Seattle Collision Repair, only a couple of miles from the ferry terminal.  Which sounds a lot simpler than it was:  No one told me about the hills of Seattle.  Especially the one directly in front of us a block and a half off of the ferry!!!  I'm sure it's at least a 25% grade!  And traffic was heavy.  And it stopped 1/2 way up the hill.  And the GMC could go no farther -- sound and smoke proved that. :-(

MAN!  Was I ever glad I had my 10-wheel parking brake.  Flipping the dash switch turned on the little 100 psi compressor, which activated the 1.4 pneumatic cylinder which pulls the chain attached to the GMC brake pedal.  When I put the transmission in Park, I knew there was going to be no load on the parking pawl, so it would neither come disengaged nor break, and that I'd have no trouble taking the lever out of park later.  SHE got into the Honda while I disconnected the cables and tow bar.  It probably didn't take 2 minutes for us to be rolling again.  I'm sure we didn't miss (nor make the backed up traffic miss) more than one traffic light cycle.  Without the toad load, the GMC had no trouble at all with the grade, though I think I burped the front tires rushing out of people's way. :-)

At Sully's we set up to get right to work on the coach.  Within an hour or so I had the box out and the replacement, ordered the day before from Red-Head Steering Gears, here in Seattle, a rebuilder well known and thought of by GMCers in this area, had arrived.  Unfortunately, a glance in the box revealed that it was the WRONG box.  A too-small input shaft with a funny nipple on the end and probably metric threads had no chance of fitting the GMC.  Red-Head said they probably had the correct one on the shelf if I'd bring mine for them to check.  When I arrived there (15 miles or so away), they said "Nope, the internal stops make it unique.  We can rebuild yours in a hour or two."  So, I stood around and watched as closely as I could from outside the large open shop doors (insurance rules, you know).  Within an hour and a half or so, they had the box hooked to their dynamic test jig running it stop-to-stop to check operation and leakage.  The only thing obviously wrong with the box when I brought it in was that the internal circlip holding the Pitman shaft seal in the housing was no longer seated and the seal was therefore blown out.  But they found more than that:  some wear burrs which needed to be cleaned up, and worn bearings and grooves -- they installed "2nd oversize bearings" (whatever that means).

Back at the coach, I quickly installed the box and then began the arduous part of the job:  Installing the serpentine belts.  At Greg Birch's I'd cut off the PS+AC belt to keep from running the PS pump for the 80 mile trip to BI and in Seattle.  Now, I had to remove the Alternator+WP belt to install the new PS+AC belt.  That involved removing the lower half of the fan shroud (thank goodness I long ago made that possible), and the multiple bolts holding the PS pump and the Alternator.  I finally found all of them and loosened them, some from the bottom, some from the top.  One alternator bracket was broken, so Sully re-welded that for me.  That was probably the cause of the intermittent belt squeal SHE's complained about ever since she's been with me.

With everything back together, I tested it by maneuvering the coach into the fenced back yard at Sully's shop.  There we spent a peaceful night.

Today we visited the Seattle waterfront and all the shops there.  I'd intended to go to the top of the Space Needle, but SHE was having none of that after we drove by it.  Since I've been about 50,000 feet repeatedly, it didn't really matter that much to me.  So, after a little shopping, we returned to Sully's, where we've settled in for the night.  Tomorrow afternoon, Sully's exhaust expert friend is coming to cure my exhaust leaks, including installing the flexible couplings I've wanted for a long time.  Then we'll have dinner with the Sullivans before a final night here at the shop.

Sorry there are no pictures, but they'd just be more trees, mountains, flowers, and water anyway. :-)  Seriously, when I have a chance, I'll download them from the camera and post some.  Did I mention the other big problem?:  About 5 days ago, when I turned on the notebook/tablet I use to monitor the EFI/EBL, and do all my typing, the hard disc did not spin -- and hasn't since. :-(  This is being written, somewhat laboriously, on a bluetooth keyboard driving HER Nexus 10.  No way y'all would get all these words out of me on that on-screen keyboard!


Ken H.                        

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Greetings from Pacific Beach Resort and Conference Center.  This is a US Navy recreational facility on the WA coast at Pacific Beach, WA.  We moved here today after visiting our friends the Sims in Port Orchard, WA for 3 days.  What a great family!

While there, we visited Bremerton, WA where there are several WW-II aircraft carriers being dismantled.  Having been on more modern ones, we didn't bother to take the offered tours.  Instead, we visited Elandan Gardens <>, an internationally known Bonsai collection.  Even I was impressed with the 6 acres of dwarfed, contorted trees.  We were lucky as we were about to leave to encounter the owner, who's usually not on site.  He gave us a very interesting introduction to the art of bonsai (He persistently corrected HER pronunciation:  "It's 'bon sai' for 'tray plant', NOT 'bahn zai' for 'military attack'".)   Amazingly, some of the plants are over 1000 years old.  On the other hand, among the lessons we learned is that he devotes a LOT of time to making much younger plants LOOK that old -- he was using a Dremel tool to carve hollows in limbs when we met him -- he does that over decades to achieve the aged look he likes.  Here are a few photos for those few who may be interested -- don't miss it if you're nearby:

Yesterday, August 2nd, we went to Bainbridge Island, leaving Port Orange under dry but cloudy skies with comfortable temperatures.  By the time we reached our destination of Bloedel Reserve, a renowned 150 acre garden, the dry had become a steady drizzle and the temperature near 50*F.  Needless to say, I wasn't having any of that.  Maybe we'll try again as we pass the island after our loop of the Olympic Peninsula.

For now, I'm just relaxing while SHE prepares a steak dinner with corn-on-the-cob, baked potatoes, and portobello mushrooms.  Yummm!  NOW I remember why I've missed HER so much for the past few months! :-)



Monday, July 29, 2013

As planned, I moved to Tacoma, WA on the 20th.  I'd planned to stay at the Ft. Lewis Campground, but found they had only one site available, and that for only that night.  So I moved on to McChord AFB's FamCamp.  Since they don't take reservations, the vacant site I found would be available to me for at least 2 weeks.  Only a very small site was available when I arrived, but the next day a nice large, private site was vacated, so I moved.

The past week was a pretty quiet one for me.  I fixed a fresh water tank leak which had gone undetected for too long.  That occupied a LOT of time just chasing parts in a new-to-me location.  Most frustrating.  The leak was from one of the level sensors in the tank, a "well nut".  Would you believe, after visiting 3 hardware stores and four RV dealerships, I never found one person who knew what a well nut is?  The parts man at Camping World kept saying he'd never heard of them during 25 years' experience as an RV parts man.  I finally had to tell him that my GMC had 12 years more experience than he did.  I finally found them in a large hardware store, in their miscellaneous bins, clearly marked "Well Nuts".

After that, I sought out a large-enough DIY car wash to remove the 3 months worth of grime from the GMC; it looks a lot better now.

Finally, on Saturday, SHE arrived as scheduled.  What a delight to have HER in my arms again!

Yesterday we began sight seeing for this area with a visit to Lakewold Estate Garden <>, which was well worth the time; it's not Versailles, nor very large, but it's nicely done and "visitor friendly":

After that, we visited the Lemay Family Museum, which I'd probably have gone to before SHE arrived if I'd know that it was only a mile from the base.  It's a wonderful car, truck, wheeled equipment collection.  Harold Lemay (AFAIK, no relation to Gen, Curtis Lemay) was, according to the posted information, voted in his high school class as "Least Likely to Succeed".  Well, maybe so, but he went into the garbage collections business, and eventually several others, and succeeded well enough that when he died, he left behind 3000+ cars, scattered around the area in barns and other buildings he bought just to store them.  When he began to lose track of where he was storing them, he bought from the Catholic church what was originally Marymont Military Academy, run by Dominican Nuns.  Converting all of its buildings to a museum of his cars, and adding several other humongous buildings still allowed only a few hundred of his cars to be moved there -- the rest are still scattered. <>  It's a wonderful place to visit and the docents, as the guides call themselves, were wonderfully knowledgeable about the cars.  Here are just a FEW of the exhibits:

Now, for the "Rest of the Story":  Today we visited "America's Auto Museum"  <>.   After Harold Lemay's death, his family needed to do something with the collection.  In cooperation with other local (and national) citizens, they build the country's largest privately held auto museum,next to the Tacoma Dome near Tacoma's downtown and port.  There, more of the collection, and others on loan from other owners around the world, is exhibited in a beautiful, enormous, new building (2012).  This is a MUST SEE for anyone who likes automobiles.  It surpasses the old Harrah's Museum in Reno, and every other I've seen around the world.

Until next time,

Ken H.