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

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.

River.JPG

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!

Princess

Cass_1

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!)

Cass_2.JPG

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.

Gumbo

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.

Trail

Da Trail

Moss

Beautiful trees on Da Trail.

Waterfall

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.

Blackberries

And they quickly turned these berries into Blackberry Cobbler!

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!

Gary&Sue

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.

Nancy&Apple

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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.

Gumbo

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!

Escape_1

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.

Apple

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!

Stabilizer

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:

People

Cars

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!

Dogs

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

Gumbo_2

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The Need for Speed.

The Gumbos like the internet. We’d venture to say that the Gumbos NEED the internet. Darla Jean wouldn’t feel right without her daily (and sometimes HOURLY) FaceBook viewing. And Duwayne likes to stream Netflix videos and sometimes even needs to do consulting work that requires the upload and download of large files.

Because we plan on being off-grid and sometimes parked in places with spotty cellular reception, we decided to install a cellular signal booster. This is a device that amplifies incoming and outgoing cellular signals, thus enbabling faster internet access that wouldn’t be possible without the device. We chose a Weboost Drive 4G-X RV signal booster, which consists of an outside antenna, a signal booster amplifier and a internal antenna (to send the boosted signal to our iDevices). The system looks like this:

full package

We attached the external antenna to the ladder at the tail end of Gumbo and ran the coaxial cable through a new hole that was drilled in the wall and into a cabinet inside the living area.Outside Antenna
Then we ran the coax down the wall and into the amplifier. Finally we ran a second coax cable to the interior antenna.

Inside

Finally, we tested the system. And it worked! Apparently, cell signals are measured in decibels, with a lower decibel reading be better than a higher reading. Here’s a chart that came with our device:

Decibels

Before we turned on the booster, we got a reading on our iPhones of -114db. According to the chart above, that put us in the “POOR” bracket. After turning the device on, we got a reading of -101 (putting us in the “GOOD” bracket) and giving us a boost of over 10 times the power! Woo hoo!!! Here comes uninterrupted viewing of “Better Call Saul”!

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Here Comes the Sun!!!

We are now officially Boondock-ready! After installing new batteries, a battery monitor and a solar charge controller, it was time for the final steps — adding solar panels and an inverter. The solar panels proved to be the more involved installation. We had learned, from our experience with solar panels on a boat, that the panels are MUCH more efficient when angled directly toward the sun (as opposed to just lying flat). On the boat we had an articulating arch built that allowed the panels to tilt 45˚ in two directions. And, because we were close to the Equator and the tradewinds kept the boat pointing either East or West, it was easy to follow the sun during the day by tilting the panels. With the RV, we decided to build aluminum tilting brackets that allow that same 45˚ tilt. We’ll have to park the RV in a way that allows pointing the panels in the general direction of the sun but, once situated, the tilting mechanism should make the panels much more efficient.

flat

Solar panels in flat position,

tilted

and in tilted position.

We now have 4 165-watt panels, giving us a total of 660 watts of power — enough to power all of our onboard electrical equipment when we’re not connected to shore power (which will be most of the time).

The final piece of the solar upgrade project was the addition of a 2000-watt pure sine inverter. An inverter is a device that converts 12 volt DC power into 110 volt AC power, thus allowing devices like microwave ovens and TVs to run off our battery system.

Inverter

We ran some initial testing and everything seems to work well! We unplugged the RV from our 110 volt shore power, turned on the panels and the inverter and, voilà, we had power to the microwave, TV, lighting, computers and music recording equipment.

Can’t wait to get out there and start using this stuff!

wiring

The final (?) battery compartment wiring.

 

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Maiden Voyage!

Well, we thought it would never happen. But after removing a tree, re-grading the driveway, adding new gravel and repairing The Dude, we finally ventured out on our first RV trip. A whopping 1 hour away to Fort Flagler State Park on Marrowstone Island (just a long stone’s throw from Port Townsend). It turns out that getting out of our driveway was no big deal and the drive to Fort Flagler was uneventful. We had booked a “pull-through” site (meaning that we didn’t have to back in) and were able to park and set up everything with no problems.

the rig

The campsites at Fort Flager are situated right above a long beach that, at low tide, presents the happy camper with wonderful opportunities for beach-walking. What we didn’t know was that from April 16 to May 16, kelp harvesting season was open! That meant that, by about 1 hour before low tide, HUNDREDS of people would arrive to gather their alloted 10lbs/person/day bounty of seaweed. It was quite fun watching the activities:

kelp 1

kelp 3

kelp 4

kelp 2

While Thursday’s weather was relatively, nice and Friday’s was absolutely BEAUTIFUL, Saturday and Sunday got pretty windy.

princess in wind

Did we mention that it was WINDY?

Afternoons were spent beach-walking and sitting by the campfire. Oh, and a bunch of reading and napping was also accomplished.

darla glass hunting

Hunting for beach glass.

darla at campfire

We love us some campfire!

Saturday was Duwayne and Darla Jean’s 45th (!) wedding anniversary, so we drove into Port Hadlock for a tasty dinner at Scampi and Halibut. On Sunday, we drove home and, after spending about 30 minutes practicing backing the rig at a local gravel parking lot, we somehow managed to re-park Gumbo in the driveway without breaking the 5th-wheel, truck or HOUSE! All-in-all, a great first trip!

princess in door

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Gumbo feels the heat!

As we mentioned in an earlier post, Duwayne and Darla Jean don’t plan on spending much time in RV parks or campgrounds. Instead, they hope to park their rig on government land and other off-grid sites. This means that, for the most part, they won’t be plugged into 110 volt power. And THAT means that running the onboard furnace (which uses a TON of electric power to force the propane-generated heat throughout the rig) will not be an option. So, a separate Blue Flame ventless 20,000 btu propane heater has been added to the mix.

Heater

The new heater.

Of course, this meant MANY trips to the hardware store to get the correct fittings to enable the installation of a propane line T-ed into the exisitng stove/refrigerator line. After ordering far too many incorrect parts online we finally got this heater to plug into a quick-release adapter that’s located in a nice central location so that we can point the heater either toward the seating area or back toward the sleeping area.

Heater hook-up

The hook-up.

Now if we could only figure out how to run air-conditioning off of solar panels!

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