"Wherever I go and wherever I am, I find I should be somewhere else."

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Broke down, and Busted

Odometer Mile 4484
Trip Mile 4254

Well here we are, parked at the Cummins Service Center parking lot in Avondale-Phoenix AZ with our second fuel pump issue in tn the last two weeks.  We have now camped over at our second Cummins location in the last 900 miles, and instead of getting mad, and I am starting to get mad...  let me give you the top ten list of why this is a good thing!  It really is!?...?

10.  We can watch the entire playoff game with the Dodgers-Brewers today and we don't have to pay for the camping fees or worry about a tree in the way

9.  I could not decide which way we should go today, up 17 to Flagstaff, a brutal climb in the snow today (had 4 inches this morning), OR drive up 87 to Payson, only rain, and still a good climb, or go out 60 to Globe, on a suicidal decent and climb out of the Salt River I don't have to decide. 

8.  I am getting to know all the Cummins locations.  I can rate the camping. This one needs better garbage pickup, the one in Sacramento needs picnic tables.  I am beginning to think I may never pass by a Cummins shop I don't need.  I did get past LA and San Diego,  so that is good.

We got to meet some nice Cummins service specialists:
Gerry in Phoenix
Josette in Mesa
Miguel in Sacramento

Can I make it to Albuquerque without blowing a third fuel pump actuator?  Where is Cummins in Kansas?
we need to map out trips from Cummnis dealer to dealer apparently

7. Josette gave us some quality pointers in what to buy the next time we buy an RV
like maybe a side radiator.....and she tells us we got 95,500 miles left on our warranty and 58 months to do fact, I beginning to think that maybe at least buying this Tiffin was a mistake. Silja as starting to look at 5th wheels more closely, and I'm wondering if that Ford Diesel F250 can come in yellow..........

6.  We saved 112,000 in not buying a Newmar RV, good ...right?

5.  If this was a used rig, we might have had to pay for all of this.  It is going to get expensive if I had to pay for these.  At least the warning lights waited for us to cross the Sonoran desert before they came back on.

4.  I get to bird the ole' Thrasher Spot in Buckeye now, and rack up a couple of year birds as I've only tallied Brown, Bendire's, Long-billed and curve-billed thrasher's this year.  I could also get a couple of sparrows, maybe I've even get to show Silja Lovebirds at the park, 8 miles east of cool is that!??  Can you put a price on that?

3.  We get to eat at my favorite birding restaurant,  The Angry Crab in Goodyear AZ tonight.  You know, angry crab fits a little what I'm feeling.

2.  We can devote more energy to making sure our closing in St.Martin actually goes right today.  They don;t want to pay us now, well at a least to a US bank.  It turns our Josette is the name of both a service specialist AND the buyer's wife of our villa in St. Martin, what are the odds?
What are the odds of something 16 months in escrow closing on the same day I'm stranded in a diesel repair camping lot.  Then again what are the odds a hurricane would come through four days before closing on September 6, 2017?

1.  I get more quality time with the wife to enjoy our RV experience.  Nothing says togetherness like being stranded together.  We will start by going shopping for groceries....that wasn't on the agenda today...and now...we got the whole day, and maybe tomorrow, and maybe...juts maybe Thursday.  They pave the parking lot on Friday so we are going to have to go by then.

Broke down and busted, that is the RV life, at least our RV life apparently ...and maybe the Cummins and Tiffin way, too.  I'm beginning to is a fluke...two...?
I'm not sure I will put up for a third.  Bob Tiffin is going to get a call.

All this and only 4000 miles on a new rig.   Oh the fun we are going to have in the future!!!!
How the heck do OTR trucks get stuff delivered?

Good thing I don't write a newspaper column or a blog to share what RV and engine brands possibly NOT to buy oh..wait....I do.


for those of you on my blog a few birds that seeing pictures of makes me happy.  I need to get happy

Black-legged kittiwake out with Debi Shearwater CA bird #299

picturesque Great horned owl

Heermann's gull in San Diego

Long eared owl

whimbrel in San Diego

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Pinnacle of our California trip

In the last 48 hours, we have gone from the highest pinnacle to the lowest canyons.  We have gone from the dreaded Priest Grade (luckily we didn't follow Google Maps on the "Old" Priest grade, it told us to go), to the parking lot of the Cummins Pacific center in West Sacramento.  I was yelled at for photographing a bird where I wasn't supposed to have a camera, things broke, and snowed....but we had some great views.

So let's get started

We left Wilton on Tuesday and two miles down the  road, I drew engine warning lights.  Afraid to head into the Sierras, we made for the nearest  diesel repair spot which backtracked us to West Sacramento.  3886 miles on Big Bird and we had blown a Fuel Pump Accentuator or something like that...a three inch red part that had stuck open.  It was a tense moment with the Bird helpless or seemingly so.

It could have been two days or four hours.  Luckily for us, they had the part and Miguel was awesome and four hours later after a tour of the Yolo Bypass birding area a few miles away, we were back on the road.  Of course I had the chip in my camera backwards.  The map function said 120 miles to Groveland, so we headed off.

Groveland used to be known as Garrote, after hanging some troublesome Mexican banditos back in the gold rush.  In my opinion, it is famous for being on the upper end of the nastiest startch of road on earth--the Old Priest grade, set at 18-20%, and possible the steepest in the golden state, it is famous for unsuspecting people following it from map functions, like our friends.  They weren't driving Big Bird, we took the "new" road (as opposed to an old stage coach road), it was bad enough.


I have never been here before.

I tried to do my Ansel Adams imitations

We hiked and found another grove of Sequoia, the Merced Grove, one of three groves they have in the park

and then....we found snow

It was wet walking out, after having found a large flock of Townsend warblers the thunder snow was no fun.

We also found a park full of people.  I have never seen so many tents

but we had some nice looks at a one of a kind park

and then there was this crazy sign, not the sign itself well that too but the chain and lock to the post


Okay, rain snow and more snow so we headed west to Hollister, CA

the engine held but I broke a mirror and it looks like we also broke an awning....sheez, more warranty work upcoming but that is why we are having sea trials of the yacht.

We went to Pinnacles to see condors and we were not disappointed 

A first for my wife, Silja. I was last here during my big year with my son, Allwin....then we both got a first....

A tarantula....I guess it is mating season for the large buggers...this one was just walking up the trail....lifer beer for a tarantula?.....not sure, will have to think about that.

I presented my case to the local arbitrators and they it was a split decision as it always seems to be with these guys.
what do I expect asking a group of acorn woodpeckers?

The Pinnacles rule

well we are still alive and still moving on......


Monday, October 1, 2018

Big wood

Wilton CA, and the Western Sierras  Mile 2844

Back in 1852 as Augustus Dowd was hiking along in the western Sierras SE of Sutter's Creek where the gold rush began, he stumbled upon a bear, as he moved along either afteror being chased by the bear he stopped,  before him was a great tree, what became the first giant sequoia tree documented by the western world, the largest things ever grown in the world.  Although, as could be guessed, the "discovery tree" was cut down 2 years later and became the "big Stump", and other atrocities happened but after public outcries, a tour of the forest in 1903 by John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt, the 1000-2000 year old  trees were, in general, spared and placed in park lands.

It has been over 40 years since I last saw the great trees going up to Sequoia National park as a kid.  Those were a little larger but that should not diminish the impressive nature of the north grove of Calaveras Big Tree State Park below  Ebbets Pass near Arnold, California.

We went hiking with friends and I even took the time to give one of the old giants a great big hug.

Again, the best bird was a pileated woodpecker,a state first for me, lucky to have seen it for the trails were full of loud children.   Unfortunately, it came in too close and got behind leaves.

I spotted a California tortoiseshell butterfly perched on a large sugar pine

Which the effort left my shows covered in sticky pitch.  There is a downside of the big wood, and that is getting sticky feet.   Nothing gives off sap like the huge sugar pines of the Sierras.

We have enjoyed 4 days of sun and nice weather, luckily parked safely north of southern California and Tropical Storm Rosa  where we will go next weekend.  We are visiting with friends from Minneapolis who flew out here and local friends from St Martin Alan and Susan. I'm lounging watching sat TV, we have finally figured that out.  I'm doing some birding and in general, missing photo opportunities of the local flora and fauna, best photo was this juvenile black crowned night heron.

California was such a beacon to everyone back in the day, from Augustus Dowd to Leland Stanford, and the Donners.... everyone that is except a man named Matthew Stephenson.  This man a person who worked at the US Mint in Dahlonega Georgia and when most of the miners around left for California in 1849 believing the gold had played out in the Georgia hills addressed 200 men who remained and said "There is gold in them thar hills!"  He exclaimed this meaning in Georgia not California, which the phrase got corrupted to mean California in later years. 

California was a land of opportunity that has been largely lost over the years.  We could never afford to live here, especially in the Bay area, but like Stephenson the "gold" can be found elsewhere....

Big trees, big wood, big adventures, and big is all California and while we will never live here, we will still enjoy the Golden State for the days we have here this fall.  Big Bird is keeping us warm and dry,and we survived the pass into the state.  Tomorrow we head to Yosemite and then off to Hollister where next weekend, we go to sea with the queen of the seabirds, the great Debi Shearwater in the hope, hope of my ABA number 800, as in this game, it is hope that keeps one looking.  I hear Anna's hummers outside fighting so I need to go.



Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Foots and footwashes

Miles 1459 to 2498
Fort Robinson NE to Rawlins WY to Fernley NV

It has been said that Olaf never passes up a footwash. that is true.  I also would say that I do not particularly like Utah. They hate dogs...yes they hate dogs, banning them from the Wasatch Valley, and Utah's motto"Life Elevated" really bugs me as they seem smug about it.  As such, I prefer never to spend any money there, and this footwash at the Bonneville Salt Flats served to wash the stench of it off me.

Do people only wash ONE foot in these things?  I had a foot, another foot, some dog "foots" and as they had a wash, I washed.  I was thinking, why don't they call it a feetwash? If you have a lot of foots, isn't that a lot of feet?  I don't know.

Well we are a thousand miles farther down the road and we learned a lot in Wyoming, valuable RV teaching points.

1) Avoid the wind.  

It blew, and after being pushed around by 40mph winds we holed up in Rawlins and it passed.
to avoid this we learned to keep birder hours, on the road before dawn and tucked in by early afternoon before the wind gets bad

Rawlins was so windy, it was hard to bird,harder to photograph and even deer were hiding behind hedges.  It knew to hunker down in the wind too.  This one was on the front lawn of the hospital.It hissed at my dog.

I was too pooped to go and tour the old prison.

2) DEF is a strange deal.

We have a diesel.  We need to buy DEF (Diesel emission fluid).  My last diesel was a 2004, it didn't need this stuff.  DEF is urea plus water.  It crystalizes and makes a mess. It is hard to actually put in the rig.  It varies in price from about 2.79/ gallon to 10.00 a gallon.  It is all over the board.  No truck stop we've been to has a pump....that would be nice.  I'd pay more for gas just to have a pump

3) It seems there are a myriad of buttons and eventually you figure out everything...eventually

Our TV works!  
It took us 14 days to get the TV to work, thankfully tonight.  We have got the Sat TV to work, but not since Nebraska, more work needs to be done.
I just figured out the bright lights
We still are perplexed by two cable hook ups, which one?  There is a button and a fan in the bedroom near the TV which we have no clue what it is for.

Back to Utah......It is a pretty state as we followed the Donner's path into the state near the ill-fated decision to follow the Hastings Cutoff rather than the normal northward loop of the California trail.  It would be the first of many mistakes.

My dog and me enjoying the salt flats, sorry Utah, she will be gone straight away.  I was minding my own business when I saw something.

then a story I shared yesterday on Facebook...

I'm not even sure if this is the strangest thing I saw today as we see some very very strange crap. back 300 miles in Wyoming, three empty car carriers zip past us on I-80, then we see them acting strange at a rest area. Flash forward to the Bonneville Salt Flats.where I walking the dog.....the car carriers pull off the freeway onto the salt. They stop. A guy in the third rig pulls out and they line up and then, they race. Green takes the prize. have you ever seen car carriers race?

Then they pull onto the freeway and away they go....

So we ended up in West Wendover....a place that has been trying to unite Wendover Utah for years.  They used to have split time zones, Wendover Utah has tried to succeed from Utah but it hasn't happened yet.  They did put West Wendover into Mountain Tine, however.  I was hear during my big year and got a good picture of the east side of Will, this year, I'm on the west side

So I walk across the crosswalk and this RV just slams on the brakes in the middle of the road in the wrong lane. I watch as the woman in the front takes a picture of Will through the windshield, impervious to the traffic. Traffic stopped, they took pictures and then pulled out in front of that SUV and off they went..

4.  RVs are big, people will try to get out of your way. If you need to block traffic, just do it.  I'm a road hazard going up and down mountain passes and I go down as slow as I go up, I put on my flashers and I don't care.  I'm like the tractor blocking the road, if you want to go faster, just go around.  From Captain Ron.  "I learned driving the Saratoga that people will just get out of your way.
I passed 4 trucks today and one car.  That was a pretty good day. Yesterday, it was only two.

The other big goings on was a strange collection of car carriers parked in Wendover carrying Teslas, they looked to be just parked there indefinitely.  Hum...makes one wonder why?

Well tomorrow we drive near Donner Pass (I80 is not on the pass as the old highway was)  Hopefully we will fare better then they did all those years ago,  We stalked up with groceries just in case.

At least my feet are clean.



Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Toadstools of Nebraska

Voyage of the Land yacht
Miles 729-1459
East Bethel MN to Brookings SD to Fort Robinson Nebraska

It is exactly 9 dead racoons from Brookings SD to Fort Robinson Nebraska, 461 miles.  Add in two dead cats, a dead coyote and something dead that my wife and I could not agree with, add in a very lackluster Vikings game on the radio and it made for a long day in the RV. a bit too moch as the cats started howling when we drove through Chadron, the Magic city (which has nothing to do with magic) and we still had 30 miles to go.

I did a book festival in Brookings, which was poorly laid out and as such, I won't waste my time there again.  It is a mystery of why they moved the biennial east river event from Sioux Falls to Brookings, maybe it was money or maybe just that the organizers don't want to have to drive to the largest city in the state.  It was a forlorned two days for everyone.

But enough of that, now we are in Nebraska, heading west.  Fort Robinson is a cool old Army base steeped in history.

Largely intact, the 140 year old fort served as an internment spot to subdue plains native Americans and then as headquarters of the 9th military and then as the largest quartermaster redoubt in the world from 1919-World War II breeding Army horses and mules.  In World War II it served as a housing for 2,000 German POWs from Rommel's North Afrika Corps.  The only trouble these prisoners of war caused was in another Nebraska camp when they ran our of beer, they rioted.  They accepted 3.2 beer ...reluctantly..

It has been largely restored since closing in 1947 and wirth the USDA pulling out in 1971.  It is a large and generally cool base, they have a nice campground and fairly healthy prairie steppe.

There is also an unsolved mystery of who killed a hobo on the Chicago Northwestern RR line to Lander WY right at this spot in 1940.

This was 63 years after Crazy Horse was killed a few hundred yards north.  It was pretty clear what happened there.

North of here is the Toadstool Geologic Park, it is basically badlands with a two foot layer of sandstone on top of the mud.  The mud erodes quicker.  Much of them have fallen down since being named.

I saw a common checkered skipper, a new butterfly

7 McCown's longspurs and a few odds and ends sparrows

Plus a last look at the sandridge prairie as tomorrow we climb the Pine Ridge before getting into Wyoming.  We will make the Rocky's tomorrow by noon.

I'm camped next to an military doctor buddy from Chuck Probst, an accomplished world lister and Hawaii birding guru who I birded with during my big year in Maui, small world.  Chuck's old Vietnam pal doesn't understand birders much like those at the Brookings Book Festival, we are a misunderstood lot, but oh works for me.


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Of Ties and Tailgating

Chapter 4:  Of Ties and Tailgating

Excerpts from “Project X”
Miles 234-728, East Bethel. MN to Madison, WI
            It had been a very warm September week in East Bethel, MN for the first two weeks of our self-imposed exile from the world and slowly but surely we began to figure out what we needed and what we didn’t need in “Big Bird” our 34 foot land-yacht.  We didn’t need three cats.  We need individual storage buckets for underneath and we needed a longer sewage hose.  We need to lock a very friendly cat in the bathroom in the middle of night or that would be the end of sleep.  We need to move our rig the next time we come here to try to get satellite television due to a misplaced tree.  I also need an eastern screech owl but I didn’t need a barred owl, which, it seemed was almost as bad as Snowball the cat at night.
            Our last week in paradise we went to a baseball game in Minneapolis and I started to think, we needed a better team.  In 31 baseball games since 1977, I had never seen the Twins beat the hated (or loved) Yankees at home.  I was 0-31.  It was a painful, three stadiums of memories.  I had seen Reggie Jackson smack a monster homerun off the red scoreboard in right back in 1977 and then take a curtain call from the Twins faithful late in a game when I was 11 and then later, I saw Roger Clemons make one of his many “last starts” to beat up the Twinks and this year, my boys lost 7-2 in a very uninspired game.  The Twins fielded a team in September that consisted of 9 players that combined had hit 32 homeruns, one less than Giancarlo Stanton, the newest Yankee slugger that had hit 33 by himself.  Even the umps wanted to go home. In the seventh inning, he called a Twin batter out after a called second strike.  That is not something you see every day.  Even the Yankee catcher stood and patted the ump on the shoulder, after the batter looked confused at his early retirement.  The ump reversed his call and two pitches later, a soft line drive made the out “official.”
            The next night, we went to Hamilton.  In some sort of technical problem, the doors remained closed for almost an hour while we felt like cattle stuck in a slaughterhouse.  Then we were let in to a performance by understudies and fill in talent.  It wasn’t a bad performance, but for $200, I expected more.  Alexander Hamilton was a self-righteous man who traded moving the capital to the South for nothing.  He claimed the moral high ground except that he was more immoral than most, having affairs and leading to his son’s death by dual, before his own.  Aaron Burr was not any better and in some respects, both should have never left that New Jersey field alive back in the day.  The dual should have been a tie where both lost.  I guess, it was something to do and oddly, the night we were at the play a few blocks from Target Field, the Twins beat up on the Yankees and the night before our night at the Orpheum, Hamilton was played by their main cast….oh well, the story of my life.
            Our final weekend in camp featured a deck party hosted by us on our new "deck", that featured 50 guests and then on Sunday we sat on a neighbor’s deck to root for our side of the battle of the North, Packers versus Vikings.  

The rest of my family was in Lambeau rooting for Gang Green.  My wife brought purple and yellow chips to the deck party.  The game, never really ended as no one lost, or no one won.  Ties are like that.  In the end, the biggest loser was the Vikings rookie kicker named Daniel Carlson.  He kicked himself out of a job and two misses in overtime cost the Vikings a win.    He might have a “Viking” sounding name but the rookie was most recently at Auburn, Alabama and was from Colorado Springs, Colorado so in the end,  he wasn’t up to being a real Viking. 
            Much like the football game, the rest of what happened that weekend could not be properly described in writing, you just had to be there, so I will spare you the prose.
            On September 17th, we drove down to Madison to see our son, Allwin.  Silja had never visited him in Madison, now in his second year of PhD studies at UW as it always seemed difficult for her to leave our daughter for a few days.  I stopped off at Necedah NWR to look for cranes and find a red headed woodpecker for “Project X” and we saw two cranes 10 miles west of the refuge out in a field, so not able to get them for my project, but found cooperative woodpeckers in the usual area.  Necedah is the easiest place to get this somewhat elusive woodpecker, I’ve ever found.  

There were trumpeter swans everywhere but there were also mosquitoes everywhere, even  mid-day in heat.  Brighid the dog was looking for any water she could find, and if it meant her falling off rip-rap, that was okay for her.

 Madison was still the same place I worked at back in the day as a Capitol page, but I never went to school here.  I was accepted to Medical School but I got such a recruitment to be an MD/PhD researcher here that it turned me off and I instead went to Minnesota.  This time, we walked around the campus and ate at the Terraces. 

I touched “Abe’s toe” on Bascam Hill for luck like I last did in 1984 before the Wisconsin State Forensics Championships.  That worked when I was a high school senior and my Demo speech on Ice fishing completed an undefeated year.  I guess it also worked this time, as we had a great visit with Allwin.  We miss him and he seemed to miss us, too.  We have thousands upon thousands of miles to go, so we need all the "luck" we can get.  We haven’t seen as much of him since he went to Europe to study in college and now, here.  Nine hours seems close but we never end up driving this way. 

We hiked around Lake Mendota, saw his lab, and then in between meals, while he went to an engineering class, we hung out at Barnes and Noble.  Maybe I’m writing about the wrong topics?

The weather is changing, and so after an all-too-brief visit we headed up the road to our next point of call.  We sort of left feeling like the football game, we hadn't won, nor lost.  It felt like a tie.  It was nice to be here, but sad to leave.  Allwin agreed to take the dog in February when we take this journey south to Uruguay on our way to points even farther south, so that was good.  It will be best to know that the family’s best friend is in good hands when we are off the grid in the South Atlantic. 

We love you Allwin!

Project X  9/17/2018
39.  Wild Turkey
40.  Red-headed woodpecker