Repairs and Upgrades

After spending the winter bouncing down bumpy back roads, the Gumbos needed to spend some time (and money) repairing the damage they did to The Dude and Gumbo. So, the month of April was spent fixing stuff and upgrading items that didn’t work as well as originally planned.

First on the list was replacing the damaged front spoiler on The Dude. This piece of plastic was pretty well destroyed when Duwayne ran over the wooden post (also damaging the steering gear). Not only was the spoiler damaged by the post but, in order to get at the steering gear, Duwayne and Beau had to rip the spoiler off, making it impossible to re-attach. You’d think that this part would be expensive but Duwayne was able to find a new one on eBay for $44 (no tax and free shipping!). After the part arrived, it took about an hour to get it installed. The Dude is happy!

The new spoiler.

The spoiler installed (its the black thing below the license plate).

Next on the list was the propane regulator. The Gumbos had problems with this during the latter part of their winter trip. Sometimes there wasn’t enough propane pressure to run the heater (and when the temps were in the 20’s, this was a serious problem!). And the automatic change-over from one propane tank to another didn’t seem to work. So, this meant ordering a new unit.

The old faulty regulator.

The new unit – installed.

Then there was the faulty fresh water inlet. RVs have the option of pumping fresh water from the onboard water tank or, when parked in a site with fresh water available, hooking a hose up directly from the spigot to the RV’s water system. This second option didn’t work on Gumbo because the built-in check valve (that prevents water from coming out the inlet when using the onboard pump) leaked and couldn’t be replaced without replacing the entire water inlet. So, a new part was ordered and installed.

Where the old inlet was.

The old inlet on top, the new one on the bottom.

The new inlet – installed.

Next on the list was the ladder on the rear of the rig. One of the upright posts was bent when Duwayne managed to catch the seat of his bike (which was hanging on the ladder) on a road sign. It turns out that mounting the bikes on the ladder was a dumb idea – bouncing down rugged roads and going over unannounced speed bumps in Mexico caused the bikes to loosen the ladder fittings.

2 bikes mounted on the ladder.

Duwayne had planned on ordering a replacement section of tubing to repair the ladder but, when he climbed up the ladder to inspect the area, the entire bottom rung of the ladder broke off!

Notice the broken bottom rung of the ladder.

This meant that the ladder could no longer be repaired – it needed to be replaced. Unfortunately, Gumbo is an 18 year-old fifth wheel and the custom ladder (that has the unique bends that you see midway up the ladder) is no longer available. And having a custom one fabricated was not in the budget. So, Duwayne ordered a ladder that could be retro-fitted to any RV (or so the literature stated). This ladder has a hinge at the midpoint, allowing the ladder to fit RVs that have unique shapes.

The new ladder, installed.

Obviously, the Gumbos were NOT going to hang their bikes on THIS ladder! This meant figuring out a new way of carrying the bikes. Usually, you can attach a bike rack to the rear bumper or frame of the fifth wheel. Unfortunately, Gumbo HAS no rear bumper and the frame was not set up well for welding on a fitting for a bike rack.

So, Duwayne ordered a new bike rack and hitch receiver and then had the receiver modified (welded) to allow it to support the bike rack at a height that would clear the sides of the truck. He then attached the whole enchilada on the FRONT of the fifth wheel.

The new bike rack in folded-up mode.

The new bike rack – fully deployed.

This bike rack holds 2 bikes in a very secure fashion and it is BEEFY! Bumpy Mexican roads – the Gumbos are ready for you!

 

 

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The Gumbos are Home!!

After a relatively leisurely 5 hour trip (if you don’t count the CRAZY traffic around Portland, OR), the Gumbos arrived back at their summer home in Poulsbo, exactly 137 days after they left.

During that time Duwayne, Darla Jean and Princess traveled through 5 states (Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada and Arizona) and 1 foreign country (Mexico). They stayed at 32 different campsites – only 9 of which had a fee (and of those 9, only 2 cost more than $20/night). If Duwayne had remembered to check the odometer before leaving, he’d be able to tell you how many miles they traveled but it HAD to have been over 3000 miles.

Highlights of the trip were:

Spending Thanksgiving with the Brownings in Sacramento, visiting with the Zittels in Joshua Tree, boondocking in the Quartzsite area, camping along the Salton Sea, spending a month in San Carlos, Mexico, spending a week attending Spring Training with our grandson in the Phoenix area and camping in some some beautiful campsites with the Duncans on our way home.

You may notice in the photo above how well Gumbo is positioned in the Poulsbo driveway. Duwayne and Darla Jean thought that, after their relatively easy positioning of the 5th wheel the last time they returned from a trip, and after 4 months of maneuvering the rig, that this time would be a cinch. WRONG!!

For some reason, Duwayne couldn’t manage to properly back the rig into position. It didn’t help that the batteries in our walkie talkies died (which meant that there was plenty of Darla Jean arm-waving and yelling to make Duwayne understand how bad he was screwing up. At one point, he managed to get the truck and 5th wheel into a spot where he couldn’t move forward or backward! Somehow, after about an hour of screwing around, the rig was parked.

After a few gin and tonics, Duwayne walked around the driveway and tried to figure out what went wrong and how he could prevent this from happening again. What he finally realized was that the woodshed on one side of the driveway was preventing the truck from pulling forward far enough to change angles when backing. Since the Gumbos don’t plan on being in Poulsbo during the cold winter months (meaning there isn’t a HUGE demand for firewood), he decided to tear down the shed! What he didn’t remember was how WELL he had originally built this thing!

The shed was originally just to the right of the debris pile.

Next on the agenda is a trip to the dump and to the gravel dealer to get a yard of 3/4 minus gravel to finish grading the area where the shed previously existed. This should allow a MUCH bigger turning radius for future back-ins. Duwayne will let you know how this works out.

This brings to a close this season’s blog. There may be a few postings during the summer as the Gumbos take some short trips to nearby coastal campsites, but the constantly updated blog will start again late this November.

Thanks for viewing!!

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Sisters and another “Oh F@%k!”

After a couple days at the Casino just East of Crater Lake, the Gumbos and their traveling companions headed for Sisters, Oregon. Blanche (in the 19′ Escape trailer that was traveling with the Gumbos) found a nifty free campsite called Cold Spring Campground just outside of Sisters, Oregon.

This was a beautiful semi-deserted campground that featured a peaceful setting, easy dog-walking and easy access to the quaint town of Sisters.

But, as usual, the Gumbos found a way to make an easy back-in campsite become a near disaster! The problem was that Duwayne, while attempting to do a really nice parking job, didn’t notice this wooden post that marked the edge of an opposing campsite.

What he managed to do was to hang up the steering gear of the truck on this stoopid post! So, when Duwayne attempted to back the 5th wheel into the campsite, he realized that he could only turn the steering wheel to the left – the wheel would NOT turn the the right! Duwayne realized that he had seriously screwed up the steering gear.  With thoughts of calling a tow truck and an expensive repair bill filling his thoughts, he walked around pulling out what few hairs he has left. After managing to back Gumbo into the campsite with limited steering capabilities, he awaited the arrrival of his friend Beau (who knows a lot more about cars and trucks than HE does). Beau assessed the problem and determined that Duwayne had managed to screw up the steering stabilizer (a part of the steering mechanism that helps to control the steering but is NOT essential). So, Duwayne and Beau decided to detach the stabilizer (by loosening the U-bolts and sawing through the bolts that were frozen) so that the truck could be steered and driven (at least as far as to a mechanic). Duwayne contaced the Les Schwab in Sister and they said that they could probably fix the problem. So, the next day, Duwayne carefully drove the Dude to Les Schwab.

Derek, at Les Schwab, removed the old stabilizer and ordered a new one.

The broken stabilizer.

Amazingly, the next day at noon, the new part arrived and was installed. All for an amazing price of $104. Thank you, Les Schwab!!

Back at the campsite, much was to be enjoyed.

It was really cold (with night time temps dropping to 24˚.

But the Gumbos really enoyed the town of Sisters.

And they were happy to meet up with their old sailing friends, Jim and Alice, who now live in Sisters.

Afer spending a couple days in Sisters, the Gumbos and their traveling buds headed North to Champoeg, Oregon. The state park located here is REALLY nice, with lots of green space and good dog-walking potential.

So, you may be wondering: if Duwayne can’t manage to back his fifth wheel into a campsite, if he can’t keep from having his axles detach, if he can’t keep from dropping the front end of his fifth wheel onto his truck, how did he manage to sail a boat from Seattle to Australia without sinking it. Darla Jean sez: “I sure don’t know!”

If you’d like to find out how they actually DID this, and, if you live in the Northwest, you can find out! Duwayne and Darla Jean will giving a presentation about their two sailing trips (once through the Panama Canal to New Orleans and once from Mexico to the South Pacific and, finally, to Australia) at the Poulsbo Yacht Club on April 18th at 6pm. Come on down and the Gumbos will amaze you with their ability to survive multiple stoopid maneuvers!

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Heading North (and getting colder every day!)

The day after doing the March for Our Lives in Bishop, the Gumbos and their traveling buddies started North on Highway 395. It turns out that this road, as an alternative to I-5 on the other side of the Sierras, is absolutely stunning.

About 3 hours North of Bishop, the Gumbos pulled into Washoe Lake State Park, just outside of Carson City, Nevada. This was a wonderful campsite that was all but deserted (not many people camp in this area when the night time temperatures drop to 29˚).

This campground was really well-maintened and had picnic tables and shelters at each site as well as free hot showers!

After spending a couple days there, the happy campers moved another 3 hours North to a place called Rocky Point East on Eagle Lake, just outside of Susanville, California. This BLM campsite is a little off the beaten track (a 1.5 mile bumpy dirt road must be negotiated in order to get in) but, once the Gumbos arrived they found a stunning campsite that was virtually empty.

This spot had stunning views and an almost geographically-enclosed area where Precious and Yella Dawg could run off-leash without getting into any trouble. While Yella Dawg ran around like a banshee, Precious (being 11 years old) was content to sun herself on a rock!

Two days were spent at this spot and its definitely on the list of places the Gumbos plan to return to.

The next stop was a casino near Klamath Falls, Oregon. The Gumbos and their buddies decided to spend a couple nights at the Kla-Mo-Ya Casino because it had free parking and easy access to Crater Lake.

Of course, parking in the wide-open parking lot was not without the usual Gumbo drama. Duwayne managed to snag the seat of his bicycle (that was mounted on the rear ladder of the fith wheel) on a sign in the parking lot. He managed to bend the ladder and “alter” the sign.

This sign used to be straight and without a steel post jutting out at an angle.

While parked at the casino, the campers took a side trip to Crater Lake. The 36 mile drive started with a flat transit of some meadows and grazing land but quickly started climbing. Soon, The Dude was moving up a road with HUGE snow drifts on each side (it turns out that Crater Lake gets an average of 44 FEET of snow each year!)

After arriving at the rim of Crater Lake, the Gumbos were treated to an absolutely spectacular view!

Next stop: Sisters, Oregon!

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Oh Lord, Stuck in Bishop Again!

The drive through and out of Death Valley turned out to be quite an experience. The Gumbos were surprised at the stark beauty of the Valley and by the LONG uphill climbs and twisty downhill decsents required to cross the Valley. But The Dude was up to the challenge – the strong turbo diesel managed to haul the rig up the hills and the compression brakes made the long decsents less nerve-wracking. Eventually, the Gumbos exited the park and, after driving around the Owens Dry Lake area, got onto Highway 395, headed North toward home. As they approached Big Pine, where they were intending to boondock at a place called Taboose Creek, they became concerned when the weather forecast called for 2 days of HEAVY rain and the potential for flooding in the area. So, the Gumbos and their traveling buddies opted to stay in a campground that appeared to be safe from any nearby river or creek flooding.

They pulled into a small RV park just as the rain started. While there was no sewage dumpsite on the grounds, there WAS electricity and water (and HOT showers).

The place was a little funky with a few run-down permanent trailers around but, once the rain stopped it DID afford splendind views of the nearby mountains.

The problem next became the potential trip North. The Caltrans website kept showing that Highway 395 required chains and the online weather apps showed snow in the forecast for Carson City, Nevada – the next planned stop.

So, after checking out a couple of less-than-desireable boondocking sites in the Bishop area, the happy campers decided to move to the Paiute Palace Casino in Bishop. This casino offered a nice, clean lawn parking area (with no facilities) for $10 a night. The plan was to spend 2-3 days there waiting for the weather to the North to improve.

The Gumbos and their buddies ended up really enjoying the town of Bishop with its small town charm, stunning views and good shopping and dining opportunities. They were also lucky enough to be in town during the local March For Our Lives. It was great hearing the passionate speeches given by local high school students and the march down Main Street was inspiring.

It looks like the weather, and road conditions are due to improve in the next day or two so the Gumbos should be on their way North soon!

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Death (of the internet) Valley

After a few days at Kingman Wash on Lake Mead, The Gumbos and their traveling buddies pulled out early in the morning to make the nail-biting climb up the access road back to the highway. This was an exciting drive because it featured 10% grades, loose dirt and gravel, blind turns and no ability to pull over to allow oncoming traffic to pass. Duwayne LOVES the pulling power of The Dude! And, thankfully, Beau and Blanche were able to drive ahead and warn approaching vehicles that The Dude and Gumbo were right behind them! Once the highway was reached, the crew headed West through Las Vegas (another nail-biting drive) and Pahrump till they arrived at an odd free camping site called “The Pads”, just West of Death Valley Junction and just East of the National Park boundary.

Apparently this place was built as an RV park to support the local mining operations but was abandoned many years ago – leaving cement pads, fire rings and flat RV parking (but with no facilities). It was actually quite nice and quiet considering how close it was to the highway.

It also afforded more stunning sunrise and sunset views.

The only problem with the site (and the ENTIRE Death Valley National Park – from 10 miles East of the entrance t0 20 miles West of the exit) was that there was NO cellular service. Its not that the Gumbos need to check the news daily to be reminded what an idiot our President is, but it IS important to be able to find weather predictions for their next destination, potential campsite information, Google mapping info and the ability to make an emergency call, if needed.

While parked at “The Pads”, the Gumbos and their buddies took a day trip to nearby Zabriskie Point, inside the park. Duwayne and Darla Jean had no idea that Death Valley is such a stunningly beautiful place.

And, after a brief visit to the village of Furnace Creek, the Gumbos did a short exploration of the Golden Canyon Trailhead.

Finally, before leaving The Pads, the Gumbos took a look at an art installation that was being prepared for a Desert Art Show (that, unfortunately, was to occur after the Gumbos had departed the area).

Next on the agenda: driving through Death Valley to find Highway 395, the Gumbos’ intended route back to the Northwest.

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Take Me Out to the Ball Game!!

After the “interesting” trip from Tucson to Phoenix, the Gumbos were ready to spend a relaxing week at Mesa Spirit RV Park in Mesa, Arizona while they attended spring training games and enjoyed the company of their grandson Calder.

The RV resort was just one of many located in the area and all of them appeared to cater to the 55+ year old retiree. This facility featured stuff like 2 heated pools, 4 hot tubs, shuffleboard and pickleball courts, mini golf and scheduled activities like square dancing, bingo and water aerobics. You can imagine how excited Calder was to hang out with all these elderly RV-ers! On the other hand (or paw), Princess was ecstatic – just asphalt and gravel to walk on (no stickers!).

The first three days in Mesa were spent attending spring training games. Luckily, the first game was located at Hohokam Stadium, which was just 5 miles from the RV Park. Duwayne and Calder went there to watch the Oakland A’s play the Texas Rangers.

They got to see the legendary Bartolo Colon on the mound and Calder got some selfies.

The next two games were located at the Peoria Sports Complex which was, unfortunately, located over an hour away (during rush hour) from the RV Park.

But it was worth the drive to see the Mariners battle the A’s and the Giants in a beautiful setting. Although the M’s lost both games, Calder, Duwayne and Darla Jean got to sit on the lawn in the comfortable evening temperatures and enjoy the games.

After completing their spring training mission, the Gumbos spent a lot of time lazing around the pool (helping Calder to defrost after the long Northwest winter).

They also took a day trip to the nearby Superstition Mountains to visit the Goldfield Ghost Town (an old gold mining town that’s been turned into a tourist attraction. There was lotsa cool old mining equipment and a really nice model train exhibit that was big on detail.

Goldfield also offered some great walks amongst the Saguaro and Cholla cactus and some wonderful views of the Superstition Mountains.

Calder was not too excited to see this sign.

The visit to Goldfield was completed with a zipline ride!

While Calder and Darla Jean flew through the air, Duwayne (who’s not too fond of heights) and Precious wandered through town.

The final couple days in Mesa were spent taking care of some maintenance issues. Number one was to get Princess groomed. The first attempt was at the Mesa PetSmart. That didn’t work so well because, after about an hour after dropping her off, Darla Jean was called by the store to say that Princess was too “wound up” (she was trying to bite the groomer and was pooping on the grooming table!) and that she would need to be picked up. So Duwayne and Darla Jean bought some trimmers and attempted the job themselves. After some bit fingers and some scratched arms and legs (Duwayne’s), Princess is now a punk rock dog.

Before.

During.

After (don’t look too close).

Other “maintenance” items included giving Gumbo a good wash, stocking up the larder for the final 3 weeks of travel, doing laundry and installing a repacement cell booster antenna.

When the work was done, Duwayne, Darla Jean and Calder spent the remaing time in the pool and sitting by the fire.

Next: Calder heads back to the Northwest at 500mph. The Gumbos head back at 60mph.

 

 

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