Monday, May 30, 2016

RV Repair Update One - The Good News, 5/27/2016

The good news is that the problem with our RV (that was towed on Thursday to a shop in Eureka, CA, because the engine would not start, even after a mobile mechanic replaced the starter and verified that the battery was fine) is related to the air conditioner! {Okay, I know that is a run-on sentence! My high school English teacher would give me an automatic F for that...) 

What the heck??

We heard from Leon's Car Care Friday night that they had cut the belt for the air conditioner and the engineer cranked. They were able to pull into a bay in their garage. Yay!! The work to repair the air conditioning (and anything else they may find) will not begin until Tuesday or Wednesday due to the holiday weekend. 

We were very happy to hear that there is not an engine problem (but then again, how could there be on an engine with only 18,000 miles that had routine maintenance?)

Nonetheless, we are enjoying the northern coast of California and the incredible Redwoods National Park. The rental unit we are staying in at Azalea Glen RV Park is working out very nicely for us. Tomorrow we hope to learn more details. 

Thanks for the sympathetic comments from fellow full-timers!

First Visit to Redwood National Park, 5/27/2016

Determined to continue our normal lifestyle (while we wait to find out what the problem is with the engine of our Class A motor coach), we decided to head to Redwoods National Park. This is the primary reason we included Trinidad, CA, on our itinerary. We were enchanted by the giant sequoia trees, the largest living thing on the planet, that we saw at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. We knew that the coastal redwoods are the tallest trees on earth and loved seeing them at Muir's Woods. 

The park is about 20 miles north of Trinidad on CA 101. Before we entered the park we were lucky enough to see this herd of Roosevelt Elk at the Little Red Schoolhouse. This herd is frequently seen at this location. 

The Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center was our first stop in the national park. As always, the park rangers provided us with good information about the sights to see in the park, dog-friendly locations, and maps of the state parks, too. There are displays about the fascinating coastal redwood trees and Native Americans that made this area their home for thousands of years.

Behind the Visitor Center is a trail that leads to the Pacific coastline

Fun facts about Coastal Redwoods (sequoia sempervirens):
  • 160,000,000 - years ago redwoods thrived in the Jurassic Era
  • 379 - feet tall (the tallest living thing on earth)
  • 95 - percent of the world's old growth redwoods are in Northern California
  • 80 - percent of the remaining old growth trees are protected in parks and reserves
  • 29 - feet in diameter of largest redwood
We continued north to the Lady Bird Johnson Grove

This is a loop trail through a stand of ancient redwood trees. Lady Bird Johnson came to this site in 1968 for the dedication of the Redwood National Park. She returned in 1969 when the grove was named for her in recognition of her efforts to preserve this area for future generations to enjoy. The plaque at a clearing in the grove commemorates the occasion.

Redwoods can sprout from the roots of parent trees, from dormant buds in the burls at the base of the tree, or from fallen trees. If a tree is cut or burned, a family circle of trees (also known as a fairy ring) may sprout from the stump. Subsequent generations of the sprouts are really clones of the original tree. 

While the trunk of this redwood has been destroyed by fire, it continues to thrive. Two of the photos were taken while standing in the center of the hollow trunk of a huge tree. Note the healthy grow at the top of this redwood.

Many pink rhododendrons were in bloom along the trail. Also, this parasitic plant reminded us of Spanish moss (aka French Beard) found in the southeastern part of the US.

Hiking this path provides the opportunity to soak in the beauty and serenity of this ancient grove. It is, indeed, a spiritual experience to be among these giants. 

Ferns cover much of the forest floor in the grove. A pedestrian bridge provides access to the grove from the parking lot. 

Our next stop was Gold Bluffs, a dog-friendly beach where we knew we could walk with our doggy, Sadie. There is a day-use fee of $8 to access this area. Our National Park senior pass got us in for free. The beach was deserted and the surf is very rough here. Be sure to wear layers of clothes as the beaches are windy and quite chilly even in sunny weather.

These are the plants we saw in the different from the Atlantic coastal regions from New Jersey to Florida. 

We continued north on CA 101 to the Klamath River Overlook accessed via Requa Road. The Klamath River reaches the Pacific Ocean here. 

Native Americans, the Yurok People, have lived in this area for thousands of years fishing the Klamath for salmon and trout and building dugout canoes from the huge redwood trees. The views from the overlook are spectacular. 

This is a great location for whale watching. I thought I saw one and snapped multiple photos of the wake far out to sea. But when I downloaded the photos and took a closer look, it was a ship!

This was the final stop of the day for us. We were exhausted from the drama of our RV being towed in for service and not knowing what the problem is. But spending time in this beautiful park was very therapeutic and soothing for us. We will be returning to do some hiking and see other parts of the park in the next few days.

For information about Redwoods National Park, check out their website.


Sunday, May 29, 2016

Breakdown, 5/25-26/2016

Forewarned about the road construction along our route from Redding to Trinidad, CA, we left Mountain Gate RV Park around 9:15 am looking forward to our stay on the northern coast of California. We had reservations at Azalea Glen RV Park near Patrick's Point State Park. 

As always, I checked in at the RV office, paid for our planned week's stay, etc., while John waited in the motor coach. He restated the engine and drove the short distance around the loop to our drive-through site. Just as he was making the turn to pull in, the engine of the RV stalled. He tried again, again, again, and yet again to start it, to no avail.

This is our site and this is where the motor coach was broken down. (in the middle of the road in the RV park)

What the heck?? We purchased our Monaco Monarch in 2013 and it has only 18,000 miles on it. We have been full-time RVing since February, 2014, and have spent every day and night in it since. 

And the phone calls began. First I called our extended warranty service, and promptly learned that out three-year warranty expired anuary, 2016 (three years after we purchased our new RV). Are you kidding me? I cannot tell you how diligent I am about maintaining all of our records. I asked if they even sent us notification about extended warranty options...oh well, does not matter at this point! Nonetheless, they were very helpful in making phone calls to locate roadside mechanical services in this somewhat remote area.

They found only one mobile mechanic that was willing to come check it out. I agreed to the rate of $150/hour. At this point, we were hoping for a simple fix. He arrived about 4 hours later. He was not sure why the engine would not start but thought that it could be the starter (as the battery appeared to be okay). He left for about 1.5 hours to find a starter for the engine (Ford V10 6.2 liter), replaced it, same result. The engine would not start. With no resolution in sight, we paid him (fortunately he only charged us $100 for labor plus the cost of the part $138). 

Meanwhile, I had checked the insurance policy on our RV. Yes, we have a roadside emergency benefit that will cover a towing expense of $1,500. But we needed to find a place that could work on the engine. This was not an easy task here in Trinidad. 

Leon's Care Center (in Eureka, 30 miles south of out location) agreed to accept the vehicle and could look at it in a week (June 1). Another place only worked on Diesel engines, but they recommended Pro Pacific The guy at there was very knowledge, but we could not have it towed there until June 8 (2 weeks). We decided to have it towed to Leon's. What else could we do?

There is only one tow company in the area, Humboldt's Towing, that has the equipment to tow a 25,000 pound vehicle. Our insurance company made the arrangements at around 9:15 am the next day and after lots of delays (caused by payment from our insurance company plus their job towing a fire truck from the highway) arrived around 3:30 pm. 

John was a huge help in getting the RV hooked up to the tow truck (LOL). Yes, we are trying to maintain a sense of humor. 

Throughout the day, John was doing research and discussing our problem with lots of different sources, including our brother-in-law, John, on-line, mechanically-inclined folks at the RV park who knew our predicament, and the guy at Pro Pacific. 

I started researching where we could stay. Because we had fully stocked our RV with food knowing we would be in somewhat remote areas for the next few weeks, I wanted to find a cabin where we would stay. Of course, being Memorial Day Weekend, everything was sold out in this coastal town. The folks at Azalea Glen came to the rescue! They had a park unit that had been recently purchased and was not in use. The owners promptly did a thorough cleaning of the place, and we made arrangements to stay here. The PERFECT solution for us! It has a full kitchen (I was able to move our food to it while waiting for the tow truck) and they are dog-friendly. Staying in a hotel room would have been sooooo difficult for us! Again, our full-timer insurance policy pays covers emergency lodging expenses, but not meal expenses. At this point, I must say if you ever break down, Azalea Glen is the best possible place for it to happen. 

After Humboldt's got the motor coach ready to tow, we drove to Leon's (as we knew they were closing at 5 pm) but didn't get there until about 5:15. They were still open and we had a chance to talk to them. They assured us they would look at it the earliest opportunity. The tow truck arrived 30 minutes later and parked the motor coach on the street. Yikes! This was very disconcerting to us, but what could we do (other than lock the bays, Windows, and door)!? 

I asked the tow truck drivers (who were professional and nice guys!) if they could recommend a good, casual place to grab a bite to eat. The driver immediately suggested Gallagher's. So that's where we went.

It was a delightful Irish pub/restaurant with great food and two guys performing Irish tunes. We had a really good dinner, I had a glass of wine, and we drove back to the rental unit at Azalea Glen for the night. Wow, that was a stressful 24+ hours. 

An status update on the root cause of our engine problems will be provided shortly. We are homeless but doing just fine. We've had other RV problems (steps, door lock, etc.) but nothing that required a tow of our 25,000 pound vehicle. At least we have a lot of flexibility in our schedule! 

Mountain Gate RV Park, May 18 to May 25, 2016

Overall rating: 4.5 on a scale of 5

Location: This location worked out very nicely for us to see the sights in the area. Close enough to Redding to do shopping, etc., it is also convenient to Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity Recreation Area, Lassen Volcanic National Park (60 miles away) and the Sundial Bridge/Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding. The park is only about a mile (or less) off of I-5, but it is in a lovely wooded area and there is virtually no noise from traffic. 

Lot size: We had a beautiful drive-through end site (#122). There are concrete pads to park your RV, a grassy area, and nice, sturdy picnic tables at each site. We had plenty of room to park our tow dolly and car, although additional parking spots are available throughout the park for those whose vehicles did not fit on their sites. 

Lots are nicely spaced throughout the park. 

Amenities: There are 120 full hook-up sites; many of them pull-throughs. Cable TV, free wifi (sometimes slow, but sometimes usable), a convenience store/gift shop, club room, and propane is sold on-site. 

A pool (a little cold for me) and hot tub (divine!) are open from 9 am to 9 pm

The laundry room was very nice, although when we went to use it someone had left loads unattended in all 5 washers. There are signs stating that you can take out loads that are done, but I do not like to do that if I can avoid it. 

Several cabins are available for rent at the park. 

There are multiple bathroom buildings available at the park. Trash disposal is also located at the there.

Cost: $249/week (7th night free)

Management: The folks here are very nice and checked us in right away. When I made the reservation they were able to assign a specific site. There's lots of information about local attractions at the office as well. 

General Comments: This park was so very nice after staying at some less desirable places for the last few weeks. We loved it and would definitely stay here again if we are in the area.