Whoops! (or F%@k!!!)

Well, Duwayne and Darla have made quite a few minor RV-ing mistakes, but nothing like this one! The day started out quite nicely. The Gumbos hitched up the rig at their Sawthooth campsite and took off for Black Canyon Campsite in the western part of Joshua Tree National Park. When they arrived at the campsite, the sign said that the place was “full”, but Darla Jean, using her expert social skills, convinced the campground official to give us a pull-through campsite. They pulled into the site, only to find that the ground was not nearly level. So Duwayne spent about 30 minutes digging trenches under one set of tires and pulling the rig up onto leveling devices on the other two tires. They then unhitched the truck. This is when they made their FIRST mistake: they didn’t look to see if there was room for their slide-outs.

For those of you who are not familiar with 5th-wheel terms (and there will be a few used during this post), slide-outs are the parts of an RV that extend out from the main unit, thus making the interior living space much larger.

These are 2 of Gumbo’s 3 slide-outs.

The problem on this day was that Duwayne and Darla Jean hadn’t noticed a large Joshua Tree that was right where one of the slide-outs needed to extend.

A typical Joshua Tree.

This meant that the Gumbos needed to re-hitch the truck to the 5th-wheel so that they could reposition the rig. Now you’ll need to know a few more 5th-wheel terms:





So, the way you hitch a truck to a 5th-wheel is by backing the truck until the KING PIN is engaged with the opened hitch jaws, at which point, the hitch jaws automaticly close around the king pin. You then lock the jaws and install a locking pin to keep the jaws from opening. Finally, you retract the landing gear (the legs that are supporting the front of the 5th wheel) until all of the weight is being supported by the hitch and truck.

Well . . . in this particular instance, Duwayne must have overlooked SOMETHING. He backed the truck up, saw that the hitch had moved to the closed position, installed the locking pin, retracted the landing gear and started to pull forward. That’s when brown stinky stuff hit the fan! Apparently, even though the hitch was locked, the jaws were NOT securing the king pin and, as the truck pulled forward, the entire front end of the 5th-wheel came crashing down onto one of the bed rails (fenders) of the truck, crushing it!


To make matters worse, the front of the fifth wheel was now down so low that the landing gear could not extend enough to raise the king pin high enough to re-hitch!! Thus entailed about an hour and a half of head-scratching, cursing, pacing around and cursing. Duwayne was FINALLY able to use a bottle jack on the bed of the pick-up to raise the king pin, little by little, until he could extend the landing gear far enough to re-hitch. Sheesh!! Needless to say that this event took more than the normal amount of beer to calm Duwayne down.

The only thing that worries the Gumbos is that, because they like to learn by their mistakes, they need to know how this happened. And it isn’t clear HOW this happened. After the front of the 5th-wheel fell, Duwayne looked at the hitch and the jaws WERE closed and locked. So how did the rig become detached? The only thing he can figure is that, when he had backed the truck, the king pin had tapped the jaws of the hitch, causing them to close. And, even though, he had locked the jaws, they must not have been gripping the king pin. At least that’s his story for now (and he’ll stick to it until he can think of something better!)

All in all, just another day in paradise!

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Boondocking . . . at last!

After bidding a fond farewell to Bob & Linal, the Gumbos hit the road – pointing their rig South. On their way to Southern California they paid a brief overnight visit to Janet (one of Darla Jean’s high school buddies) and her husband Kris in Fresno, CA. We had a great visit and were treated to a wonderful shrimp and asparagus risotto dinner followed by some really old port. Yum!

The next day, Duwayne and Darla Jean took off for their first free campsite on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. This campsite was about an hour East of Bakersfield and turned out to be pretty darn cool!

The place was called Lake Isabella Auxillary Dam campground and it was basically a big hunk of compressed sand on the edge of a man-made lake. RVs could park anywhere they wanted and we were one of only two rigs on the beach. It was a little windy due to the edge of the Santa Ana winds that were wreaking havoc in the Los Angeles area but, other than that, it was quite lovely. Darla, Duwayne and Princess took many long walks along the beach.

Hard to believe that places like this are free!

After spending a couple days at Lake Isabella, the Gumbos ventured further South – about 2.5 hours – to another free campsite just South of Barstow, CA. This campsite, Sawtooth Valley Campsite, was very interesting. There is no mention of it on the road that exits the highway (the Gumbos had to trust Google Maps that the campsite really existed at the end of a 1-mile washboarded road). But, just as they were starting to wonder if they had gotten themselves into a spot where there was no campground and no place to turn around, whammo!, the campsite appeared.

And what a campsite it was! All the sites were nestled amongst jagged rocks, favored by rock climbers in the Barstow area. The Gumbos snagged a choice spot that, while surrounded by rocks, still allowed the solar panels to capture sunlight during most of the day. Lotsa cool rocks were easily accessible during our afternoon walks.

The temps were in the mid-60’s during the day, which allowed for nice hikes and drum practice for Duwayne.

Next stop: Joshua Tree and the Salton Sea!


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And They’re On Their Way!

A short 2 days after Darla Jean retired from her job, the Gumbos hit the road. The first leg of their winter “snow bird” trip had them heading down I-5 to Sacramento, California. The plan was to do this leg with two overnite stops, one in Eugene, Oregon and one at Lake Shasta in California. Being the cheapskates that they are, they wanted to find FREE places to stay each night.

The first night was spent in the parking lot of the Valley River Shopping Center. While the idea of parking in a shopping center lot doesn’t sound particularly appealing, THIS spot is located right on the banks of the Willamette River and the shopping center welcomes RV-ers to spend the night, with their security patrol checking on things 24 hours a day. The Gumbos got into Eugene around 3pm and managed a nice walk along the river before dinner.


The next morning, the Gumbos took off for the next leg of their trip. The plan was to spend the night at a beautiful, somewhat isolated campsite called “McBride Springs Campground”. According to online info, this campground was easily accessible and had great views of both Mount Shasta and Black Butte. After leaving I-5 at Mount Shasta City and driving about 5 miles East, Duwayne and Darla Jean arrived at the campground, only to find a locked gate at the entrance. Darla Jean phoned the local camp ranger station and found out that ALL campsites in the area were closed for the season. This meant a quick search for a new place to spend the night. As they drove South on I-5, the Gumbos saw a billboard advertising free parking for RVs at the Rolling Hills Casino in Corning, California. So that’s where they spent their second night. While not exactly what they had in mind in terms of a beautiful camp setting, it WAS free, secure and relatively quiet.

The last leg of the trip to Sacramento was a short 2.5 hours and had the Gumbos arriving at Darla Jean’s brother’s house by noon. Bob and Linal had just had a new driveway poured and, with easy access to power, cable TV and water, it was just like being in a high-end RV park, minus any annoying neighbors.

We arrived in time to spend Thanksgiving with Bob, Linal, Darla Jean’s cousin Lura and her partner Mike and a few family friends. It turns out that Mike is an executive chef who also manufactures is own rubs. He showed Duwayne how to create a wonderful salmon dish using those rubs. YUM!!!



After T-Day, the Gumbos spent another week and a half visiting old friends in Sacramento and enjoying the relatively warm, dry and sunny fall weather. When they moved to the Northwest from Sacramento 29 years ago, they forgot that, despite the HOT summers and flat, dry environment, Sacramento has a lot of TREES! And, at this time of year, these trees, with their falling leaves, are beautiful. Duwayne and Princess really enjoyed their daily walks through the neigborhood.



The Gumbos had a blast visiting friends like Sharon Lunetta (who treated us to an incredible shrimpfest and tour of her late husband’s studio/museum).




Other friends that entertained us were sailing/music buddies Mike and Karin Hannickel, former co-worker Laurie Galbreath and her husband Ron, close friends Ken and Susan Horton, sailing/music buddies Jon and Diane Maloney (who shared not only their 54th wedding anniversary celebration but a WHOLE bunch of really good home-made wine) and, finally, Duwayne’s good buddies at The Printer in Davis (the company that he had spent his first 17 years of employment in the printing industry).

Jon and his wine collection.

The Printer in Davis.

Next stop: Fresno.


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Thank you, Litho Craft!

As they approach their imminent departure for Southern climates, Duwayne and Darla Jean would like to thank Duwayne’s recent employer, Litho Craft, for the wonderful retirement gifts they presented him with. While Gumbo has been modified and updated with lotsa new equipment and systems, there were still a few items that Duwayne wanted to install but had placed these items in the “luxury items” catagory. While its difficult to list a safety item as “luxury”, sometimes a line has to be drawn regarding how much stuff can actually be afforded. Luckily, Litho Craft came to the rescue!

First, Gumbo was given a back-up camera. This is kinda important because, since Gumbo is 34 feet long and not transparent, its impossible to see what is directly behind the rig when its being towed down the road. By mounting a camera on the tail end and a monitor above the dashboard in The Dude, Duwayne and Darla Jean can now see what’s directly behind them (cars on the road and trees in campsites).

The black thing in the middle is the camera.

And this is the dashboard display (in this case, showing the trees that are directly behind the rig in our driveway).

The other gift from Litho Craft was a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). While Duwayne and Darla’s Jean’s normal commuter car has one of these systems, The Dude (and Gumbo) did not. What places this system into the “safety” catagory is that Gumbo has 4 tires, all of which are not visible from the interior of the truck. This means that if a blow-out occured, there would be no prior notice and the only indication of this occurence might be a view in the rear view mirror showing the 5th wheel swerving back and forth down the highway. Luckily, third-party TPMS apparatus is manufactured with the RV-er in mind. The system that Duwayne and Darla Jean installed displays the pressure and temperature all 4 tires of the truck and all 4 tires of the 5th wheel and alerts the user with an alarm if any tire pressure is above or below a set limit.

These are the sensors that screw onto each valve stem.

And this is the dashboard display, showing the tire pressure and temperature of each tire on the truck and 5th wheel.

And finally, the management team at Litho Craft determined that, due to Duwayne’s political beliefs, appearance and demeanor, he would have no problem traveling through the “Blue” states of Washington, Oregon and California, but that he MAY experience some difficulties as he crosses into the Southwestern states. So they presented him with a “passport” or “get-out-of-jail-free” item. Unfortunately, the actual wording on this item cannot be displayed due to what little good taste Duwayne still possesses.

Departure date is set for November 20th — just 3 days after Darla Jean retires. Here we go!!!

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The Final Shakedown

When Darla Jean and Duwayne decided to take one final trip, prior to their imminent long winter escapade, they were happy to find out that their friends Beau and Blanche would be meeting them in the happy little town of Copalis Beach, on the Washington Coast, just North of Ocean Shores.

After researching the area online, they chose Driftwood RV Resort & Campground (http://driftwoodrvresort.com/) as their destination. A leisurely 3 hour drive from Poulsbo (through Shelton, McCleary and Aberdeen) brought them to the coast and, eventually, to Copalis Beach. What they DIDN’T know was that, contrary to their belief that Driftwood Resort was one of the only RV parks in the area, there are HEAPS of RV parks along this stretch of coastline (probably one every 1/4 mile). Luckily, the one they chose was quite nice. While it is obviously a work in progress (new campsites and facilities being added), the grounds were clean and quiet, the staff friendly and helpful and the firewood free.


Gumbo & The Dude at Driftwood RV Resort

The one down-side to the campground was that, despite assurances by the locals (and the website) of easy access to the Copalis River from the campsite, there really was no direct access. Sure, you could walk from the campsite to the marsh that was paralleling the river but all you could do was stand there and look at it — there were no trails or other means of enjoying the river.


Da River

But, all was not lost! Duwayne, Darla Jean, Beau and Blanche (and, of course, Princess and Yellow Dawg) piled into The Dude and drove down the highway for approximately 3 miles to the first possible beach access at Ocean City. And, not only could they drive TO the beach, they could drive ON the beach!

Dude on Beach_2

Boy, was THAT fun! Once on the beach, the happy travelers could drive as far as they wanted (all the way to Ocean Shores, if so desired). This made delivering the dogs to their running grounds very easy. For an eleven year old mutt, Princess was still able to kick up her heels and Yellow Dawg took off like a bolt of lightning!



Yellow Dawg particulary enjoyed chasing the wading shorebirds. And she would sometimes disappear about a quarter mile down the beach before returning with a happy smile (but no birds!)


The happy campers enjoyed 3 days of mostly splendicious weather and walks on the beach. Sand dollars were found. Greetings with other dogs were exchanged. Fun was had by all!

Darla & Apple.JPG

And, what’s more, The Gumbos experienced no major trailer issues. They even managed to pump the holding tank with out creating another smelly mess! Time for a long trip South!

Darla on Beach.JPG

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Ron Day Voo!

Every year (except when they were out sailing) Duwayne and Darla Jean have attended the “Perry Rendezvous”. This is a gathering of boats and boat owners whose boats have been designed by Robert Perry. Back in about 1997, when they had just returned from their first cruise, the Gumbos convinced Bob that the Rendezvous needed a band. And since their sons (who played bass and drums) were still living aboard, they had a built-in rhythm section. With the addition of Bob on guitar, Duwayne on keyboards and a few more musicians, they did a passable job of playing some Wilson Pickett, Bob Marley and even some damned Eagles!

Over the years, the kids moved out, leaving Bob to switch to bass and Duwayne to switch to drums. With the addition of Jeff, Frosty, Larry and others, they continued the tradition. This year the Rendezvous was held at the Port Ludlow Marina and, because Duwayne and Darla Jean are no longer boat-owners, they decided to attend in their “land yacht” Gumbo!

The Gumbos stayed at the beautiful and quiet Port Ludlow RV Park. It is definitely one of the nicest parks they’ve stayed at.


Most of the sites are “pull-through”, meaning that Duwayne was STILL able to avoid backing up this monstrous rig! The park manager told them about a nature hike and waterfall that was just minutes away from our site. So, of course they had to explore.


Da Trail


Beautiful trees on Da Trail.


Das Waterfall.

While waiting for the day of the Rendezvous, Darla Jean and Duwayne picked wild blackberries that were growing on the side of the road at the RV park entry.


And they quickly turned these berries into Blackberry Cobbler!


The evening of the Rendezvous, the Gumbos carted Duwayne’s new electronic drumset and some tasty food treats to the marina. After a tasty pot luck dinner, the band hit the stage!

The Band

The next day, while Duwayne and Darla Jean were sitting around sobering up, they heard the plangent sound of a Dodge Diesel pick-em up truck. They glanced up to see what size truck it was (Duwayne and Darla Jean look down their noses at anything less than a 3500!) and, low and behold, it was Gary and Sue Stephens. These were fellow cruisers who Duwayne and Darla Jean had parked their boat next to in Eagle Harbor and had spent a wonderful holiday season in Zihuatenejo, Mexico, prior to both boats heading off for the South Pacific. And as coincidence would have it, they, too are now RV’ers and are planning to head South during the cold winter months!


All in all, a great trip (with no fireworks to scare Princess!). The Gumbos will definitely  be back here again NEXT August for another round of music and food.


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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly!

Darla Jean, Duwayne and Princess went on their second trip this July and it was a mixed bag.

The Good.

We hitched up and hauled Gumbo all the way from Poulsbo to La Push, Washington without incident. New tires on the 5th wheel added to our sense of security and the dreaded drive around Lake Crescent turned out to be a piece of cake – we rarely had to decrease our speed to slower than the speed limit. When we arrived in La Push, we were more than happy to park in a long, wide pull-through site that made maneuvering quite easy.


And what made the trip special was the arrival of four long-time friends with their trailers. Doug & Sooz (along with “the boys” – Wally and Tyler) arrived shortly after us with their 21′ Escape “Toto”. And later in the evening Beau & Blanche (along with Cass) showed up with the 19′ Escape that they had just taken delivery of earlier that morning in British Columbia!


Beau and Doug checking out the new “19”.

A couple great dinners, more than a few wonderful beach-walks and some very pleasant campfires made for a memorable gathering with these fine folk.


Princess enjoying a beach run.

The Bad.

Well, it wasn’t THAT bad. But Duwayne is learning the hard way (by making constant mistakes) about dealing with 5th wheels. Just when he finally started to understand BOATS! The first mistake he made was when, after disconnecting the truck from the RV, he decided that the RV wasn’t level enough. So, rather than lifting the rear stabilizer pads ALL the way up before hitching back up and levelling the rig, he just lifted them a few inches. He then forgot that, when hitched to the truck, the rear of the RV tilts DOWN a few inches, meaning that, when he backed the rig up, it drove the pads into the ground and bent the brackets!


Notice the bent bracket on the right.

Luckily, a big vice, a big wrench and a big piece of pipe made straightening the brackets not too big of a problem.

The second, and more embarrasing screw-up was when Duwayne attempted his first ever pumping of the black water (sewage) tank. He methodically hooked up the drain hose to the RV and put the other end into the sewage dump hole. Then he confidentally pulled the handle that releases the contents of the tank into the hose, listening to the gurgling of flowing sewage. But, much to his surprise, nothing came out the other end of the hose! He KNEW that the hose was clear because he had used it to drain grey water once before. Then it dawned on him: he had put a plug in the end of the hose that attaches to the holding tank! That meant that, when he had pulled the drain handle, raw sewage had exited the tank, entered the pipe that attaches to the hose, but then couldn’t get into the hose! And the only way to rectify the situation was to unhook the hose to remove the plug. But, of course that meant that the raw sewage that was backed up would exit onto the ground (or Duwayne’s feet!). We’ll spare you the details by not posting any photos. We’ll leave it that a fresh water hose and some nitrile gloves (and no audience) made the chore a little stinky but not too messy.

The Ugly.

What we DIDN’T know, when scheduling this trip, was that La Push (usually a sleepy little First Nation fishing village) was going to be celebrating Quileute Days on the weekend that we were visiting. This is basically the Tribe’s version of July 4th, with all the celebrations, partying and FIREWORKS that that entails. Since the RV sites were situated about 100 yards from where the fireworks were being set off, this made our doggy pals VERY unhappy. Which, in turn, made their humans very unhappy! What is usually an almost deserted beach looked like this near sunset:



And the cars arriving at sunset to watch the fireworks.

Needless to say, a good night’s sleep was NOT had by all on Saturday night. (The Totos made the wise decision to pack up and leave earlier that afternoon).

But, to leave on a positive note, the trip was still deemed a success by Darla Jean and Princess. As always, the beach walks were incredible and we’ll be back – just not during Quileute Days!


A Wally (the dog) birthday meant treats for everyone!


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