Summer Travel Map

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Catching up - Photos from before the northbound trip

April 29, 2009
Phoenix and Yuma, AZ

Below is a link to a photo album of pictures taken before we started heading north toward Alaska. We had a chance to have dinner to catch up with our friends Ana & Larry (they live in Phoenix year-round) and Dorna & Paul (they have a coach similar to ours and we catch up with them when our paths cross). Before we left, we had a week of great blooms from all the flowers and cacti in the neighborhood, so Geri took a few pictures of those as we walked the pups.

When we left the "stick house" behind, our first stop was Yuma, where we had a great visit with Andy and Linda Clarkson at their "new-to-them" lot in the Foothills before having 4 new solar panels installed on the roof of the coach.

Click here to see the uploaded pictures. Enjoy!

On the road - and off the grid

April 29, 2009
Ehrenberg, AZ (I-10 W AZ Rest Area Mile Marker 4)

We're on the road again (yeah!) and have completed our first stop: getting solar panels installed. We had a great visit with Andy and Linda Clarkson at their place in Yuma on Monday, and had the panels installed over the last two days. They told me it would be about 5-6 hours, so I planned for a whole day. Ha! It was a little over a day-and-a-half all told, since Monday's appointment was still there when I arrived on Tuesday AM. In any event, it was all done, everything seems to work, and we're back on the road. We originally planned to stop in Laughlin tonight but it was too far (or we left too late, you get the idea). We then thought of staying in Quartzsite, but they've already rolled up the sidewalks for the summer there - there wasn't anyone visible in the short term (aka "free") BLM stay areas, and we didn't want to stay by ourselves, so we decided to push on to Ehrenberg (the last stop in AZ before crossing the Colorado into California), pulling into the last I-10 Rest Area. Tomorrow, we'll make up some of the lost time/lost ground, but we're not going to push it too hard.

I've got a lot more to update, and several more pictures to post, but I'm ready to hit the hay so that will have to wait. I realized tonight that the first thing we forgot to pack was the cord for Geri's Nikon S550 pocket camera, but fortunately our PCs have SD card slots so we'll be OK.

Anyway, here are before and after pictures (click to enlarge) of the roof solar setup.

Before (1 panel, 100 watts):

After (5 panels, 620 watts total):

Thursday, April 23, 2009

OK, Here's The Plan

April 23, 2009
Peoria, AZ

OK, I've finally finished an actionable version of our travel plan for the summer. Whew! I've updated the small map at the left, but still have problems with the sequencing of the stops on the display. ZeeMaps has had some upgrades since last year that I need to sort out (Get it? Sort out. Like the sequence is wrong. OK, I've been looking at this too long.) but, what the heck, it's free so how much can I complain?

Here's a version of the route from Streets & Trips:

As you can see, we're starting off in the wrong direction. Well, not really, as I've already reported that our first stop will be in Yuma. We'll catch up with the Clarksons and have some solar panels installed. From there, we head more or less due North. In Nevada, we'll explore "The Extraterrestial Highway", passing Area 51. Maybe we'll see Mulder and Scully on the road.

We'll spend a couple of days each in Twin Falls, Idaho, and Kalispel, Montana, before we cross into British Columbia where we'll "take the waters" at Fairmont Hot Springs. We'll do day trips to Banff and the general area before moving to Jasper in Alberta. We'll spend a week or so there before heading North again, aiming for Dawson Creek, where the Alaska Highway starts. From there, we'll meander all the way to the end of the Alaska Highway in Delta Junction, then make a loop of Fairbanks, Anchorage, The Kenai, and Valdez between mid-June and late-July. In August, we'll start heading South, with stops in Skagway, Stewart/Hyder, Whistler, and Vancouver before crossing back to the US. Our next stop (other than Junction City, OR, for coach tires) will be Lake Tahoe, the start of a 17-day caravan through portions of California Wine Country. Post-caravan, we'll spend some time in the Central Coast and Santa Barbara County wine areas (our teeth should be suitable purple by then) before heading to our last stop on the trip: Las Vegas (where I think I've scored some pretty good tickets for the U2 tour in late-October). From there, it'll be a quick hop back to the "stick house" in Arizona for a short while stop before the NASCAR races in Mid-November.

We'll hopefully catch up with quite a few family and friends on this trip. Streets & Trips maps this out at 9,421 miles, although we'll likely put on a few more miles due to side trips, and this route doesn't include day trips in the car. Here's hoping for reasonable fuel prices and stable exchange rates!

Final Packing

April 23, 2009
Peoria, AZ

Well, we're almost ready to hit the road. We've got most of the maintenance tasks done, packing and loading has started, and the house is almost ready to be closed up for summer.

The big-ticket items on the coach are behind us. The chassis is lubed, the oil and filters are changed, the fuel filters are changed, and the generator has had its 1,000 hour service. We were a little ahead of schedule on that (about 890 hours on the unit) but it was preferable to have the work done now as opposed to find a place and take the time (it's an all-day process) while we're on the road.

The Range Rover is serviced, although that turned out to be a challenge. Remember the $500 worth of parts? No email with a tracking number after almost a week, so a phone call brings the message "Oh, your credit card didn't go through". Really? And, when were you going to tell me this? Suffice it to say that order was canceled and the vendor black-flagged. Unfortunately, the same parts at the local Land Rover dealer were over 100% more, but I was in a bind of my own making, having waited too long on the Internet order to place another and have parts shipped in time. So, I've taken solace in the notion that I still saved myself over $1,000 by doing it myself and managed to get the job done in one day with minimal problems. The only issue was that I had to stop in mid-job and run to Sears for a floor jack, since none of my hydraulic bottle jacks have enough "throw" to get the Rover's wheels off the ground and the scissors jack that came with the thing gave up the ghost after one lift (stripped the threads right off the shaft). Of course, now I need to find a suitable replacement for that, not wanting to be caught without a jack (or to carry a floor jack around with us). Other than the brakes, it also got an oil and filter, air filter, pollen filter (can't have the passengers breathing unfiltered air!), tire rotation and fluid check. Not a bad day's work!

The coach also got a bath last week, starting with the roof. To economize, the manufacturer doesn't paint or clear-coat the roofs, and the fiberglass tends to get chalky over time. One solution would be to have the roof clear-coated. A cheaper option, albeit a temporary one, is to use household floor wax, applying it 2-4 times per year as needed. I was overdue, having last done the roof in July in Connecticut, and it showed (the "chalky" stuff tends to make white/gray streaks on the side of the coach when it needs treating). So, I was up on the roof by 7 AM giving it a good scrubbing with car wash, then back up with knee pads on applying good old Mop 'N Glo. It works well, but you don't want to get any on the sides of the coach (requires wax stripper to remove, and that's not cool for the paint), so hand application is best. Once I got the roof done, I decided to wash the rest of the exterior, and finished up around 7 PM. I still have to Rain-X the outside of the windows, and the interior still needs a good cleaning, but we can do those things on the road if need be.

Part of the reason for the early start is that we've had a bit of a heat wave this week, with our first 100° days of the year on Tuesday and Wednesday. Of course, it was 95°+ on Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday, but it's the "triple digit heat" that gets all the attention on the evening news. Coping strategies are pretty straight-forward: get outside stuff done before 10 AM, and walk the pups before 9 AM and after dark. It's cooling off to the lower 80s by the weekend, so we should have a good couple of days for loading up and shutting down.

I'm still working on our trip plan, and will post separately on that soon...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Good to go - almost...

April 16, 2009
Peoria, AZ

We're getting pretty close to being ready to move out for the summer. The most important part was completed this morning when Geri got the all clear from the urologist. Woo-hoo! Follow-up in the fall with MRIs (apparently better than CT scans for verifying the healing) at 3 and 6 months, but other than that, no restrictions. Now, she'll be able to get back on track with her Wii Fit!

We've already gotten most of the things we need to bring with us, with only 1 or 2 more UPS packages due in the next few days. We started loading things, but we're actually better off staging things at the house, because it seems like as soon as something goes into the coach, we need it back at home. That said, we're planning to bring another batch of stuff to the coach today and do some additional cleaning/maintenance. I want to work on the installation of the cell and WiFi boosters as well. Tomorrow will be devoted to the Range Rover for a change of pace. I need to change the oil, air filters, and brakes. It should be a full day.

That's it for today...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Counting down the days...

April 10, 2009
Peoria, AZ

Now that we're back on track for planning out summer travel, we're counting down the days - and wondering if there are enough days to fit in all the things we want/need to do before leaving! Actually, that's one of the things I'm working on: separating wants and needs. The to-do list always needs management.

On the house front, we're in pretty good shape, as the close-up procedures only take one day and will be done at the last minute. We've been staging stuff to be loaded in the coach, and I've started to work through the annual maintenance activities. Last week, I replaced the chassis starting batteries after finding a good deal at the local AutoZone, and started putting together a schedule for what I'll tackle before we leave. Last Sunday, I was able to replace the cracked muffler (I was never able to get a replacement under warranty for the old one - company is gone) and do the chassis lubrication. I try to tackle the lube early in the process since it's the most difficult to do, with over 30 fittings that need grease. In addition, the front axle needs to be jacked up to do it properly. I bought two 20-ton air-operated hydraulic jacks for the job, and that definitely was a wise move.

Yesterday, we brought the coach to the house to start the loading. I also used the opportunity to seal the new tile and grout, and to drain, flush and sanitize the fresh water system. I'll probably give it another flush before we head out, just to be safe. Over the weekend, I hope to get a few hours for an oil service and fuel filter change for both the engine and generator. I've made arrangements at the local Onan shop for the "1,000 hour service" on the generator for Monday. It's a 5-6 hour job involving adjusting the valve and injector height, and replacing the fan belt. It's tricky since the whole generator case needs to be removed to get access.

Beyond that, I've got a couple of other tasks to do before we leave. I want to add an under-sink water filter (eliminates the need to haul the Britta around) and add a shelf in one of the kitchen cabinets to increase the usable storage. We also need to work on the flip side of loading: pulling out all the stuff we have in there that we end up not using. And, no trip plan would be complete without me trying to rearrange stuff for better efficiency. Of course, Geri claims that I do that to ensure the she can't find anything.

One new element this year is that I have to do some maintenance on the Range Rover. I've been quite spoiled by the three-year "free" scheduled maintenance program. Well, that's all lover now, fella. I'll do an oil change, replace the air filters (there are two: one for the engine and one for the passengers), and rotate the tires. While I'm doing the latter, I'll replace the brake pads and rotors. I paid over $800 a couple of years ago to have the front brakes done while it was in for service. Fortunately, I found all the parts I needed online for both front and rear for under $500. All this will take a solid day of work, but it'll be good to get it done before we go.

Switching gears, Geri's doing pretty well. She had an appointment at the periodontist for a "special" cleaning this morning and that went well, although they detected a small pocket that needed some special care. Otherwise, she's gradually coming up to speed after the kidney procedure. It's all good...

Well, that's it for now!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

We're ho-o-ome!

April 2, 2009
Peoria, AZ

What a day! Bottom line, Geri's home and all is well, but it was definitely a process. She was ready to check out by 7:30 AM, but no. You have to wait for the doctor to discharge you. Which doctor, the radiologist who did the procedure, the urologist who referred you, or the one covering for the urologist? Who knows? Who cares??? In the end, it turned out to be the urologist who showed up around 2:00 PM. Oh, and you can pay your $950 co-pay on your way out. All major credit cards accepted.

So, other than a few days taking it easy with no heavy lifting, everything is all good. Amen.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Resting Comfortably - No Fooling

April 1, 2009
Peoria, AZ

I'm always suspicious when reading something dated April 1, but here goes...

Geri had her kidney procedure today, and the results were very good. We arrived at the local hospital around 10:30 this morning and she was quickly registered and prepared in the medical imaging area. We had a little delay while they tracked down the anesthesiologist, but everything was ready by 12:30 or so. By 1:15, the radiologist was in the waiting room telling me that everything went perfectly. By 1:30 she was back in recovery and a little after 2:00 she was resting comfortably in her room, a little woozy from the "happy juice" but none the worse for wear. There was no pain like she had with the biopsy a few weeks ago, and all she has is a regular-sized band-aid on her back where the probe went in.

Around 3:30, I went home to check on the pups (excited to see me, elated to get their Greenie, and then confused about Mom's whereabouts), and grab a bite to eat. After walking and feeding the pups, I headed back over to the hospital for a while, interrupting her while reading and listening to her iPod. She's feeling very good, all things considered, and is looking forward to coming home, as planned, tomorrow morning.

All in all a stressful day (well, a stressful few weeks actually) but a successful outcome. We continue to be very thankful that this was caught during a CT scan performed for a different procedure and could be addressed so expeditiously. That's it for now...