Lakes and Lumberjacks . . .

After getting up way too early (7 am) and Nick and I going down to the park office to settle up, we both headed out a little after 10 am, pointing our coaches towards the Lake Minden Thousand Trails RV Resort in Nicolaus, CA, about 25 miles north of Sacramento and about 200 miles from here.

When I went to bed last night, Nick and Terry, and Jan and I, were going our separate ways for about 3 weeks before meeting up at the Pacific City Thousand Trails in Oregon for a couple of weeks.

But apparently sometime during the night Nick got cold feet, or maybe he was afraid he’d break something else in the meantime, so by this morning he and Terry were also going to Lake Minden.

We pulled out a little after 10, hooked up our toads in front of the park office, and hit the road, heading first south, and then west to meet up with SR99 which took us another 170 miles thru Sacramento to the small (almost nonexistent) town of Nicolaus, CA.

Nick and Terry did stop for diesel in Ripon at a Flying J, while Jan and I just stayed out on the highway, pulled over on the wide paved shoulder. A lot better than going through all that traffic at the Flying J when I don’t have to.

We did have a small blip in trying to actually get to the park. It turned out that a new 4 lane road had opened, replacing the old two lane. And also removing the turnoff where we were supposed to exit. But luckily our GPS systems finally figured it out and got us to the park, although from the other direction.

We were quickly checked in, given our paper work, and found our way to our side by side sites. We had picked up some rain on the way in, but it had slacked off by the time we parked, and was just a light sprinkling.

In getting set up, Nick did have to jockey his rig around so that his rooftop satellite antenna could get a lock, while my portable dish was set up with no problems. So there, Nick!

Our daughter Brandi called while we were getting parked to give us the latest Landon news. Apparently since he got his first two teeth he want’s to tried them out on new foods, especially anything that Mommy and Daddy are eating. Whatever it is, he want’s some.

Around 4:30 we headed out to get something to eat for us. We were unsure whether to drive north to Yuba City, or south to Sacramento, as they were both about 25 miles away. But the nice young lady at the gate said we would find plenty of places to eat in Yuba City without the rush hour traffic of Sacramento. She also mentioned Lumberjack’s Restaurant, where they had really big platters of really good food.

I said “Say no more. You had us at ‘really big platters’”, and after thanking her, off we went.

I took us about 45 minutes to get there due to all the traffic in Yuba City. Who knew Yuba City had a rush hour too? But when we pulled into the parking lot, Nick and I knew we were home.


The sign out front said “Lumberjack’s Restaurant – Where the BIG boys eat!

Hey, what can I say? Our kind of place.

And the platters were really big, and the food was really good. Jan and Terry had Roast Turkey and Cornbread Dressing, Nick had a Ribeye Steak, and I had the Chicken Fried Steak.

We all raved over how every thing was perfectly seasoned and perfectly cooked. The salad bar was great, the dressings homemade and delicious.

Of course, Nick wouldn’t know. He doesn’t DO salad bars. He had two menus – Meat and Potatoes, or Potatoes and Meat. That’s it.

We finally got home a little before 7, and Nick immediately broke his crank-up rooftop TV antenna.

See I told you there was a reason he followed me up here.

I’ve repost some more of our Washington State trip last year.


Thought for the Day:

Why isn’t there mouse-flavored cat food?


Bloody Marys and Northern Exposures

Originally posted on May 22, 2010

Also forget to mention in yesterday’s post about the Bloody Marys that Al and I had at The Half Moon Bay restaurant last night

First off, they use peppered Stoli Vodka so it’s really hot and spicy. And they also include all the 5 basic food groups. In addition to the normal stalk of celery, we got a piece of Slim Jim, a piece of cheese, two steamed green beans, a pearl onion, a green olive, a cherry tomato, a boiled shrimp, and a lemon slice. By the time you finish the drink, you’re almost too full for supper.


We left the American Sunset RV in Westport, WA about 9 am after saying our goodbyes to our good friends, Al and Adrienne Cox. We first met them in Fairbanks, AK two years ago and have kept in touch ever since.

We only went about a quarter mile down the road where we stopped and got diesel at a local Chevron station. The station canopy said the height was 12’ 4”. Since the coach is 12’ high, I didn’t want to take a chance on scrapping it, so I dumped the air bags which dropped the coach height about 6”.

The only real problem I had is one I’ve had before. Slow fuel pumps. It took about 20 minutes to take on 115 gallons.

Finally we got back on the road and headed toward Cle Elum, WA, 195 miles away, our stop for the night.

About 11:30 am we stopped for lunch at the Super Buffet Chinese Buffet in Du Pont, WA, about 15 miles west of Tacoma. We saw their sign along the Interstate and decided to give it a try. We were just hoping we would be able find a place to park the rig. And we lucked up. We found a place right beside the restaurant.

And the buffet was really good. Maybe the best one since Yuma.

About 40 miles before Cle Elum we started seeing the mountains of Snoqualmie Pass, complete with a lot of snow.


We got into Whispering Pines RV Park in Cle Elum about 2:30 pm and got set up.

Well, everything got set up, except the satellite dish. There were a lot of trees and I just couldn’t get a good sight line.

So I gave up for a while, and about 3:45 pm we headed about 5 miles away to Roslyn, WA. .

Roslyn’s claim to fame is that it was the town of Cicely, AK in TV’s Northern Exposure.

And it’s all still there.

Ruth Anne’s store is still a store.


Dr. Joel Fleischman’s office is now a gift shop. We came here because Jan wanted to replace some of her Northern Exposure T-shirts that she wore out since we were here two years ago


And the iconic Roslyn Cafe is…still a cafe.


And of course, Chris’ KBHR studio, which still seems to be a TV show set.


And the Brick is still the Brick, although it looks completely different inside from what it did on the show.


We got back to the site about 4:45 and I started working on the satellite again. Finally I found a place about 50 feet out in front of the coach where I could get a signal through the trees.

Now Jan’s happy, so all’s right with the world.

Tomorrow we will head out for Coeur d” Alene, ID for a couple of days.

More then…


Happy Memorial Day . . .


Our heartfelt thanks go out to all our service men and women who gave their time, and in many cases their lives, to protect our country.


Our last day here at Park of the Sierras started about 10 am with coffee and some of Miss Terry’s warm banana nut muffins, and more work on our trip schedule for the next couple of months. It looks like things are falling into place and we have a pretty good idea where we’ll be until about 21st of July. After that things become a little more foggy. But it’ll all work out. It always does.

Going outside I was able to successfully bypass the tail light converter and get the lights working. I’ll replace the converter while we’re at the Lake Minden Thousand Trails Resort north of Sacramento starting tomorrow.

About 12:45, Nick, Terry, Jan, and I drove over to the Chukchansi Casino to meet Rick Phillips for lunch at the buffet.

We first met Rick last Thursday when we visited the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad.

Rick Phillips - YMSPRR

Rick is the conductor on the railway and we enjoyed meeting and getting to know him.

Rick and his wife Laurie have a lot here at Park of the Sierras, and have known Nick and Terry for a number of years. We met Rick’s wife Laurie at the railroad where she works in the Railroad Museum. She was suppose to meet us for lunch today, but she was feeling under the weather, so it was just Rick today.

I was looking forward to talking more with Rick about the YMSPRR’s equipment, since most readers know how much I like trains, both big and little.

Lunch took a little longer than we had planned since it was so busy due to the holiday, but it did give us more time to talk.

After a really good meal at the Casino buffet and Jan losing $20 in the slots, we said our goodbyes and drove into Oakhurst to drop off a Gypsy Journal for Terry Nevins at the Taste of China restaurant where we ate last night, and then Terry wanted to stop back by Von’s to pick up some more of the blueberries they had on sale.

Getting home, I went over to Nick’s and finished putting his water bay back together after working on his black valve leakage problem. Finishing that up I got out my air compressor and added some air to one of my tires that always seems to lose some when when we’re parked. Then it was in for the night.

Later in the evening, Jan served some of the Miss Terry’s Kringle from last night.

The perfect end to a great day.

I’ve reposted some more train stuff from our visit to Pennsylvania in July of 2009.


Thought for the Day:

Why are they called apartments when they are all stuck together?


Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and more trains…

Originally posted on July 14, 2009

The indoor part of the Railroad Museum resembles a large railroad station, with multiple tracks full of trains.

Museum 1

This is the John Bull. It’s a replica of the first locomotive to run on a railroad in America.

In 1831 the first railroad was built between Philadelphia and New York and the John Bull was the engine. It’s hard to think now of how this revolutionized travel in the US.

It cut the travel time from Philadelphia to New York from 2 days by coach to 5 HOURS!. It’s hard to do that by car now.

I saw this same locomotive last week in the Smithsonian, but wasn’t able to get close enough to read the display due to the crowds. I was surprised to learn here that the one I had seen in the Smithsonian was the REAL John Bull, from 1831.

It ran a regular route until 1866, then traveled around the US on exhibitions until it was donated to the Smithsonian in 1884.

This beautiful example of a 2-6-0 Mogul locomotive carried silver ore on the Virginian & Truckee railroad in Nevada from 1875 to 1944.

2-6-0 Mogul

The ’2-6-0′ type of nomenclature describes the layout of a locomotive’s wheels, and only applies to steam type locomotives.

The Mogul above has 2 small wheels up front, 6 drive wheels in the middle, and no small wheels in the rear. Thus, it is a 2-6-0.

This locomotive #7002, dates from 1902 and was the first one in regular service to exceed 100 mph.

Loco 7002

Note that this one is a 4-4-2, although you can just barely see the 2 wheels under the tender at the far right of the photo.

Arguably the largest locomotive ever built was the ‘Big Boy’ built for the Union Pacific to pull large coal trains up and down the Rockies out West.

Big Boy 4-8-8-4

Note that this one is a 4-8-8-4. That’s a lot of wheels.

Below is a type of locomotive I’d never heard of.

Fireless Loco

This one is unusual in that it doesn’t have a boiler or generate its own steam. It’s basically just a big thermos bottle. It’s filled up with live steam from a stationary boiler and then operated, usually in the rail yard, until it needed to be refilled.

Outside was even better.

Rail Yard

It was a rail yard full of more trains. And it has a real operating roundtable, used to move locomotives in and out of the yard.

Round Table

Even more locomotives…


And a rail crane used to lift derailed engines and cars back on the track.

Rail Crane

I’ve always been fascinated by the big steam engines and this was a great chance to see them up close.

Today was our last full day in Pennsylvania so we headed into Philadelphia to see some sights.

We started off with another duck tour with Ride The Ducks. Here we are hitting the Delaware River on our trip.

Philly Duck 1

We saw Betsy Ross’ house, the site where William Penn first landed in Pennsylvania, and more.

After our tour, we had a Philly Cheesesteak from a street vendor before visiting Independence Hall,

Independance Hall

And the Liberty Bell.

Liberty Bell

Finally, we headed home, stopping by Wal-mart on the way.

For dinner we did the smorgasbord at Miller’s again.

And then home to get ready to leave for NY tomorrow.

Chinese and Kringle . . .

Today got off to a great start with more Landon pics from our daughter Brandi. He’s pulling himself up with no problems, and even bending over to pick something up without losing his balance.

This kid’s going to be walking in a few weeks. And then it’s look out!

Landon Almost Walking

And here he is putting on his best ‘tough guy’ face. Either that, or he REALLY doesn’t like that hat.

Landon Tough Guy

Breakfast was the obligatory coffee, along with blueberry bagels and cream cheese. Really good.

After that, Jan and I worked on trying to figure out our trip schedule for the next couple months. We’ve had to shuffle some things around to be sure we’re back in Vernon IL around the 10th of August for our family reunion.

Around 1 Jan heated up the leftover pizza from last night’s visit to the Pizza Factory. Then I went out to work on MY tail light problem. A little checking found that my tail light converter was working on tail lights and brake lights, but not on turn signals or flashers.

Some calling around told me that no one in the area that was open today or tomorrow had one in stock. So I guess I’ll have to wait until we’re in the Sacramento area starting on Tuesday. We’ll be there for 4 days so I should be able to find one and get it installed.

In the meantime I should be able to wire around the converter box to power the turn signals directly. We’ll see.

Around 4 Nick showed up bearing gifts. . . a plateful of Miss Terry’s delicious Banana Nut Muffins. The hits just keep on coming.

Bagels for breakfast?  What bagels?

After working on the trip schedule some more we all headed out about 5pm to check out the Taste of China restaurant in Oakhurst. The reviews were pretty much 4 & 5 stars, and boy, were they right. And this was for sit-down Chinese, not our usual buffet.

We all agreed that this was some of the best Chinese food we’ve ever had. And just like last night, we regretted that we didn’t try it earlier, since we’re leaving on Tuesday. And the portions were so large we had plenty of leftovers.

But it does leaves us something to look forward to next year.

Even though he’s not much of a soup person, we got Nick to try the Hot & Sour Soup and now he’s hooked. Between Cappuccino and Hot & Sour that’s two new foods we’ve added to Nick’s menu. Since pretty much the only other two things he’ll eat are meat and potatoes, we’ve actually doubled his choices in food.

One thing kind of interesting about Taste of China is that we found out about it from the owner, Terry Nevins, who is also an RV’er. I saw a post from him on offering to send anyone his file of 160 recipes for camp cooking. When I responded, I noticed he was here in Oakhurst, and it turned out that he and his beautiful wife owned the place.

I just wish his recipe file had his recipe for Hot & Sour Soup. Bummer!

After a great meal we went next door to Von’s so Terry get some milk before heading home, but of course, stopping for cappuccinos on the way.

Beside the Banana Nut Muffins, Terry had also been baking another treat, Caramel Pecan Kringle with Butter Rum icing, and she invited us over after we got home.

OMG!  How does Terry keep coming up with these treats?

I had never heard of kringle (except as in ‘Kris’) but it’s apparently a popular Scandinavian pastry,

How often can you learn something new and get to eat something delicious at the same time?

And she gave us some to take home. Thanks, Terry!

That’s about it for today. I reposted some more of our visit to the Washington coast last year.


Thought for the Day:

Why don’t you ever see the headline "Psychic Wins Lottery"?


Crabs, Pelicans, and Deer…Oh My!

Originally posted on May 21, 2010

Before heading out to lunch we stopped by the dumpsters to drop off our garbage. About 50 yards away we saw 3 of the 4 deer that hang out around the park.

AmSunSet Deer

Then we drove over to The One-Eyed Crab for lunch. This place is so good it’s the 3rd time we’ve eaten there in 3 days. My shrimp salad sandwich on ciabatta bread was fantastic. And of course the obligatory clam chowder.

After lunch we perused a couple of gift shops and then went back down to pier 21 to check out the pelicans again.

And I’ve never seen pelicans in a close swarm like this.


Getting back home, Jan sat out with Mister. While he explored the area, I worked on my on-going tire problem.


I installed the 2nd valve stem extension, put on the remote pressure sensor, and monitored the pressure for a while. Unlike the other day, this time I didn’t show any loss. After checking for a couple of hours I decided it was safe to top off the tire pressure, so I fired up the coach engine so I could air up the tire using the on-board air compressor.

Then about 5:30 we drove to Half Moon Bay restaurant for our last dinner with our friends Al and Adrienne. We leave tomorrow morning so this will be our last get-together for a while.

Tomorrow we head for Cle Elum, WA, about 195 miles away. Cle Elum is right down the road from Roslyn, WA, where Northern Exposure was filmed. We stayed here two years ago on our way to Alaska, and it’s a really nice area.

More tomorrow.


Bring on the Steak . . .

Landon Teeth1

Our daughter Brandi emailed us a picture of Landon she took this morning, showing he woke up sporting two new teeth, his first.

Bring on the steak.

We started out with coffee and the last of Terry’s Lemon Braid Bread.  Sniff!

Then about 12:45 Nick and I headed into Coarsegold to get a new battery for his Ford Explorer. He’s tired of coming out in the morning and finding his battery dead. We ( I ) changed out the battery in the NAPA parking lot, got the core charge back, and we were good to go.

A few minutes after Nick and I left the park, Jan and Terry also headed into Coarsegold to have another go at the Peddler’s Fair and Flea Market going on this weekend.

While Jan and Terry were off playing, Nick and I ( I ) were back at work finishing up on his tail lights. I discovered two more bad crimp splices done by the company that installed the tow base plate and lights. That makes a total of 3 total.

I also found that the round 6 wire connector had been wired up in a very sloppy 6 Wire Connectorway with bare wires sticking up out of the pins. They also hadn’t hooked up the charge wire to the battery. All in all, not a good job.

I corrected all the problems and got the Explorer checked out and buttoned up with no further trouble.

Now it was time to finish up with Nick’s rig. I first had to move the charge wire on the rig end to the correct pin in the 6 wire connector,  and then zip tie everything back in place.

The last thing we had to do was to check the brake light signal on the rig connector. But to do this we had to crank up the coach and get the air system pressured up, otherwise the brake lights won’t work. But our luck held and everything worked fine. Job finished.

The only thing left to do in the next couple of days is put the panels back on in his water bay that we removed when we were looking at his leaking black tank valve. Since we lubricated the valve, it’s not leaking much at all, so Nick has decided to wait and see if it gets worse.

Jan and Terry got home about 3:15 just as Nick and I were finishing up, so about 4 we all headed into Oakhurst to have dinner at the Pizza Factory.

We had a very bad experience at the Pizza Factory in Show Low, AZ about a month ago, and along with our recent so-so experience at Di Cicco’s, we were reluctant to try it. But several people told us it was really good, and the best in the area. We also found out that the Oakhurst location is the original restaurant in the chain of over 120 units.

And boy was everyone right. It was delicious, as good as Da Boyz in Yuma and Crusty’s in Camp Verde. We all said we wished we had tried it earlier, so we would have had a chance to eat here more than once. But since we leaving here Tuesday morning we probably won’t get another chance.

Coming home we stopped off at Von’s for some groceries and the Taste of China restaurant to be sure they’re open tomorrow since we plan to eat there.

And of course, how else can we end the day, but with a cappuccino. At least that’s what Nick said.

I’ve reposted our visit to Westport WA last May.


Thought for the Day:

A people that values its privileges above its principles will soon lose both.


Pelicans and One-Eyed Crabs…

Originally posted on May 20, 2010

We picked up Al and Adrienne about 9 am and headed out for breakfast at The Fogcutter restaurant down near the beach.

After breakfast we walked across the street to check out the Gray’s Harbor Light Station, the tallest lighthouse in the state of Washington. Very picturesque.

Grays Harbor Lighthouse

Next we walked down to the end of the road to check out the ocean. Certainly a lot calmer than yesterday.

Ocean 1

Ocean 2

Then it was on to the marina area to look for pelicans and sea lions. And boy did we find them.

But this picture is just the beginning.

Pelicans 1

When we got to the marina itself, specifically pier 21, they were everywhere.

Marina 1

The whole end of the pier had about 300 pelicans all lined up.

Pelicans 2

And some sea lions too.

SeaLions 1

And more pelicans.

Pelicans 3

It looked like a pelican convention.

Pelicans 4

Pelicans 5

And more sea lions. They kind of sound like dogs barking.

SeaLions 2

These guys look like they’re doing some serious thinking.

Pelicans 6

And this old guy is just catching some rays.

SeaLionBig 1

I think he knew we were talking about him. Note the one eye open now.

SeaLionBig 2

I think this one’s kind of old too. He was the last one to fly away when we came down on the pier.

Pelican 7

They had some really nice boats here, like this trimaran.


But this one looks like something you’d take a “3 hour tour” on.


Next we drove over to Grayland to check out the clam beach. Here’s Al, Adrienne and Jan walking out to the waterline.

BeachWalk 1

The sandpipers were running around too.


The surf was still pretty rough, Note all the sand still stirred up in the waves.

BeachWalk 2

This is a razor clam which is what everyone goes clamming here for. They’re called razor clams for a reason. The edge of the shells are razor sharp and it’s very easy to cut your hand just picking one up. Don’t ask Jan how she knows.


We didn’t realize how far we had walked until we looked around for the truck.

BeachWalk 3

On the other side of the main road from the beach there are cranberry bogs everywhere.


After getting back to the rig, about 2 pm we headed over to Aberdeen for the 3 pm showing of Robin Hood starring Russell Crowe. Although it changed the story up from the conventional telling, it was really good.

After getting back from the movie, we headed over to have dinner at The One-Eyed Crab again. And it was worth the 2nd trip. Just as good as last night.

We got home about 8:30 pm, just in time to watch the season finale of “Fringe”

More tomorrow…


Flat Irons and Ribeyes . . .

My day started about 10:30 with hot coffee and some of Miss Terry’s warm lemon braid bread. A great start, let me tell you.

A little after noon, our daughter Brandi called to say hi. She had gotten off early and was on her way home to start the long holiday weekend. She said that our grandson Landon who just turned 9 months a week ago, is now wearing 18 month clothes because he’s so tall.

My grandson, the NBA star!

About 1 Jan and Terry headed into Coarsegold to the Peddler’s Fair and Flea Market at the Coarsegold Historic Village, after making a stop at the bank and the Radio Shack in Oakhurst.

While they were gone Nick and I got back to work on his tail light problem. Picking up where we left off yesterday, we found that the problem of intermittent lights from his coach was caused by a defective Scotch Blox3M Scotchlok inline splice that supplies 12 volts to the 5 wire to 4 wire converter box. The splice had come apart inside so that it looked OK, but caused the power to come and go. I replaced it with a new one and now we were good to go on the coach end.

To do a final test and check the brake light signal requires the coach to be running so the brake system is aired up and working. We decided to wait until tomorrow to do this and concentrate now on checking out the tow lights on his Explorer.

A little further inspection quickly found us two problems. A loose screw connection in the plug that connects the rig and the toad, and a bad crimp splice inside the left tail light housing.

Both of these were quickly repaired, but before we could do anything further, we found the battery had died in the Explorer, and since Jan and Terry were off in our truck, we had to wait until they got back to jump it.

Nick has had a running problem with this battery, and he says he’s ready to just buy a new one, so we’ll do that tomorrow at the NAPA Auto Parks in Coarsegold.

By this time Jan and Terry were back and everyone was hungry, so about 4:30 we all headed into Oakhurst, and, after a lot of discussion, ended up at the Sweetwater Steakhouse.

We had passed by this place a number of times and it was always busy. And now we know why.

Jan and Terry had Flat Iron steaks and Nick and I had our usual Ribeyes. And we all agreed they were great. I know mine was the best steak I’ve had in a long time. The place is not cheap, but it’s highly recommended.

And what would a great meal be, without a good cappuccino to top it off. So we did that too.

I’ve reposted some more of our travels up the Oregon and Washington coast last year.


Thought for the Day:

Being a terrorist these days is like being a Chinook salmon. Your longevity depends on keeping away from Seals.


Pig N Pancake…

Originally posted on May 19, 2010

We spent last night at Circle Creek RV Park just south of Seaside, OR.


It rained pretty much all day yesterday, but when we first got up this morning it was clear. But that didn’t last long.

Since we had a short 105 mile trip today, we decided to have breakfast in Seaside before we left, so about 9:15 am we headed over to the Pig N Pancake.


Jan had the Blueberry Pancakes with Bacon, and I had the Banana Pancakes with Orange/Pineapple sauce, and both were really good.

After breakfast we drove down to the end of Broadway on the beachfront. Seaside is a very popular tourist destination on the Oregon Coast and the town shows it.

Seaside 1

Even the streetlights reflect the Seaside theme.


Seaside’s other claim to fame is that it was the end of the trail for Lewis and Clark in 1805. They stayed for almost a year before heading back east.

LewisNClark 1

LewisNClark 2

We left Circle Creek RV Park about 11:30 and headed north on US 101, and of course by then it was pouring down rain again.

But lucky for us it stopped right before we got to American Sunset RV Park in Westport, WA about 3 pm.


We were glad to find our good friends, Al and Adrianne Cox parked right across from us. We first met them two years ago in Fairbanks, AK and then got to see them again this past February in Tucson. They are workamping here this summer and it’ll be good to spend a few days with them.


They came over as soon as we got parked and we talked for about two hours. We also watched a crow trying to steal suet out of one of their bird feeders. Hey, crows gotta eat too.

Crow Suet

They already had a park get-together scheduled for tonight so about 5:30 we went to down to the marina area to eat at The One-Eyed Crab, a recommended seafood place. Jan had the Wild Mexican Prawns and I had the Fish (Cod). The platters came with twice-baked potatoes which was also good.

After dinner we drove over to the seawall to watch the waves come over it. There is a storm off the coast which is causing all the rain and bringing a lot of really high winds with it. When I got out to take these pictures, I told Jan the winds were about 60-70 mph.

There was a TV camera crew there taping the storm, and when we watched them later on TV, they confirmed winds in excess of 60 mph. And on Mt Rainer, they recorded a wind gust of 118 mph.

Seawall 1

Seawall 2

By the time we got back to the park, the rain had slacked off and left us this.


But the wind hasn’t let up. I didn’t even try to put out the Satellite dish. It would have been hopeless. But the park cable works pretty good, so we have some TV.

More tomorrow…


Sugar Pine Choo Choo . . .

We were up early this morning (well, 9 am is early for me) because I was going to get to play choo choo.

Well, they probably won’t let me play with it, so I’ll just have to settle for riding on it.

We headed out with Nick and Terry about 10 am to ride the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad located about 25 miles north of the park, on the way to Yosemite National Park.

The YMSP railroad is laid out on some of the old routes of the Madera Sugar Pine Lumber Company that ran from 1899 to 1931. When the company closed down, they pulled up all the track and sold off the rolling stock.

But then in 1961 Rudy Stauffer started rebuilding the railroad, laying down some of the old track along a 4 mile loop following the old roadbed, to create an excursion railroad.

The reconstituted railroad began service with the purchase of a Shay locomotive from the West Side Lumber Company railway of Tuolumne, California. Built in 1928, No. 10 is recognized as the largest ‘narrow gauge’ Shay locomotive ever constructed.

Sugar Pine Shay 0

Narrow gauge means that the tracks are closer together than on a standard gauge railroad, in this case 3 feet vs. 4 feet, 8 1/2 inches. Narrow gauge track was used in locations like this because it was cheaper to build where the clearances and the curves are tighter.

Shays were known for their pulling power and were used in many logging and mining situations. What gave them their strength was their unique way of getting power to the driving wheels.

Unlike conventional steam locomotives like this 4-8-4 below that uses side rods that only power the large center wheels,

Nashville Train

the Shays have gears and drive shafts that power all 12 wheels giving superior traction and power

Shay Drivers

They also had on display this center cab yard switcher that I think is a GE 50 or 55 ton model from the late 1950’s, but I’m not sure. It is apparently not operational.

GE Center Cab Switcher

In the engine house I also found Shay No. 15, the second engine on the railroad, though it looks like it’s under repair.

Shay 15

The rolling stock consists of two types of cars, a covered coach,

Sugar Pine Train

and these open-air versions, made from very large logs.

Log Cars

About 11:15 the conductor called “All Aboard” and we headed out on our 1 hour trip.

Sugar Pine Train 2

Here’s Nick and Terry enjoying the fresh air.

Sugar Pine Nick and Terry

Sugar Pine Train 1

At the half-way point the train stopped to take on water and give the passengers a chance to stretch their legs.

Sugar Pine RR Water Tank

It also gave Nick and I a chance to check out the cab of the locomotive. That mess looks worse than working on Nick’s RV.

Shay Controls

Here you can see the firebox that makes the 200 psi of superheated steam that powers No. 10. The locomotive originally burned wood, but was later converted to burn fuel oil, also known as bunker oil. However now, they burn used motor oil, which doesn’t give them as much power, but is much cheaper.

Sugar Pine Firebox

Finishing up our ride, we checked out the museum, bookstore and gift shop, along with their gold panning instruction and demonstration.

Sugar Pine Gold Panning

After a great day on the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad, we headed back into Oakhurst about 1:15 pm. We had a really good time and highly recommend this to anyone in the area.

In the summertime they even have a Moonlight Special on Wednesday and Saturday nights complete with a BBQ steak dinner, entertainment, and a moonlight train ride (well, if the moon is out, otherwise it’s just a train ride in the dark, which can be fun too.)

Heading back into Oakhurst we decided to have a late lunch at Todd’s Cookhouse BBQ, our favorite local BBQ joint. It seems like this place just gets better and better every time we go.

Coming back to the park, we stopped off at the PO for our mail and some stamps, and then the NAPA Auto Parts store in Coarsegold for diesel antifreeze for Nick’s rig.

Our final stop was of course, for cappuccinos. I think we’re all hooked now.

That’s about it for today. I had planned to work some more on Nick’s light problem when we got home but a nap got in the way. Sorry Nick.

There’s always tomorrow.


Thought for the Day:

‘Remember, if you can’t fix it with a hammer, you’ve got an electrical problem.”


Tail lights and Lemon Bread . . .

Today was looking to be another “Fix things that Nick broke” day, so I knew I had to have a big pot of coffee to get the day started.

Then a little later Jan fixed a great lunch of her egg and cheese sandwiches on Miss Terry’s bread. After I did some Internet stuff I went next door to Nick’s to finish up on his entertainment center problems.

My main task was to try and find which of a dozen or so unmarked cables was the one for the roof antenna. I had already traced the cable back to the antenna amplifier, so I shorted the cable end at the amplifier and then started checking all the other cables with an ohmmeter. And, luckily for me, it turned out to be the second cable I checked. So I was able to put the amplifier box back together and finish wiring up the system.

Since we’re located down in a valley, we still couldn’t get a good picture, but we did see enough signal noise to be pretty sure it was now working. The only thing left is to ziptie some of the cables back out of the way, but I’ll do that in the next couple of days. But before stopping I gave Nick an in-service on his DISH DVR. I did find that some of his confusion is understandable.

Compared to my DirecTV system, Nick’s DISH DVR is much harder to use. Things that I can do in one button push take 3 or 4 on Nick’s, but I think I finally got him on the straight and narrow. Or at least as straight and narrow as Nick’s ever gonna get.

Next I wanted to get started on his tail light problem. I noticed coming here from Las Vegas last week that none of the lights on his Explorer toad were working, except for when it started raining. And then only the left side started working.

And as soon as we were out of the rain and things dried up, the lights slowly stopped working again. Based on this alone, my first thought was that the problem had to be in the toad, since only a single wire feeds the tail light signal itself back to the toad. So if the left tail light is working, and if the right one isn’t, it means the problem is in the toad where the signal splits between the right and left lights.

And it also means that there is probably a loose or intermittent connection that can be affected by getting wet.

But before I started to look at the Explorer I wanted to confirm that I was getting signals at the plug coming from the coach. And I found out I had a problem there too.

Like many coaches, Nick’s Winnebago has separate lights for brakes and turn signals. But many toads don’t. They use the same light for both brakes and turn signals.

So to interface the two different systems, you use a converter box, and this converter box requires a 12 volt line to power it. And it looks like there’s a problem with the 12 volts feeding the box, in that it seems to come and go. But that’s about as far as we got today since we ran out of time.

It’s not unusual when troubleshooting a system, any system, to find more than one problem causing the trouble, and if you’re not on the lookout for it, it can give you fits.

And for what it’s worth, it’s also not that unusual to replace a bad part with a new one, and then find that the new part was bad out of the box.

After troubleshooting systems for over 40 years now, it’s a wonder I still have any hair at all.

The reason we had to quit working on the lights is that it was time for dinner. So we headed out about 5:45 to give El Cid, a local Mexican place another try. We had really liked it last year, but our first visit this year was a disappointment.

We hoped the 2nd time was the charm, and in this case everything was much better. Maybe we just hit them on a bad night.

After dinner we drove a couple of miles up the road to check out the RV parking at the Oakhurst Elk’s lodge. They advertise 30 amps and water for $10 a night.

Nick and I both agreed we wouldn’t want to try and get our rigs in there. Especially in the upper section where we might not be able to get them back out.

The whole park is very hilly, with bad roads, and the $10 is not that cheap when at Park of the Sierras, where we are now, we get 50 amp full hookups for $13.75 a night plus electricity.

And if you’re using one of their First Week Half Price coupons, you’re looking at $6.85 a night.

Heading home, I stopped to get gas. Only $3.93 a gallon, and it was $4.09 about 10 days ago. Nice!

Then we had to stop and feed Nick’s cappuccino addiction. He starts to get surly and cranky, or maybe that’s snivelly and whiney in his case, when he doesn’t get his fix.

We’ve created a monster.

Getting back to the rigs we went over to Nick and Terry’s to watch Big Bang Theory and try some of Miss Terry’s lemon dessert bread. I already knew it would be delicious since I smelled it baking earlier in the afternoon when I was working on the lights.

And it was!

Tomorrow we’re taking a logging train ride.

More about that later.


Thought for the Day:

“A nation that forgets its past has no future.” – Winston Churchill



HDMI and DVR . . .

Today was kind of a rest-up day from our 235 mile round trip down to King’s Canyon and Sequoia National Parks and back. So everyone slept in this morning.

When I got up at 10:30 I fixed us coffee and had the last of our muffins from the Sam’s Club in Las Vegas. I guess it’s time to stock up again.

We’ll have to check out Von’s in Oakhurst and see what they have in the bakery.

About 2 I went over to Nick and Terry’s to take a look at their entertainment center hookup. Between replacing three TV’s and a satellite system, then a burglary, and a cabinet remodeling, there was a problem with how everything had been wired and rewired.

As usual nothing was labeled and there were a lot of extra cables connected to nothing. But with some some cable-tracing and diagram-drawing, I finally had a handle on how it was wired.

The only thing that was presently working was the satellite system feeding directly into the TV on an HDMI cable. And the Wii system was also hooked up directly to the TV using the 3 wire AV input.

However the DVD player was not hooked up, nor was the over-the-air roof antenna. Or rather there was a cable connected, but it wasn’t the right one.

It looked like the best way to hook up the DVD was to use another HDMI cable and feed it directly into the TV on the 2nd HDMI input. And neither Nick nor I had one. But I figured the Radio Shack in Oakhurst would.

As far as the roof antenna, I decided to wait to trace that cable until we took the LCD TV off the cabinet mount to install the 2nd HDMI cable.

It was getting close to 4 so we decided to head out to Oakhurst to get the cable and then have dinner at the Chukchansi Casino.

While we were at Radio Shack I also had Nick pick up an AC plug strip. I wanted to wire things up so he could turn everything off with a single switch, especially the DVR system.

These units all have a computer hard drive in them. That’s how they record your TV shows. And if the unit is plugged in, the hard drive is spinning, even if the box is turned off. And unlike laptop hard drives, the ones in DVR’s are not really made to move around, like when you’re bouncing down the road in the RV. Plus these units all generate some heat which is not a good thing in a closed cabinet.

So unplug your DVR when you travel!

After a great meal at the Casino we got back about 6:30 and I went over to Nick’s to install the cable.

Of course the first thing I discovered that there wasn’t a large enough hole, between the left section that held the DVD and the center section where the TV is mounted, to run the HDMI cable thru. So out comes the drill.

More fun.

After Terry and I took down the TV, we finally got the DVD’s HDMI cable hooked up and tested. Finally.

At this point we also found out that we had no idea what had happened to the cable from the roof antenna. The one that was hooked to the ANT input on the TV didn’t go anywhere. A little searching found us the control panel for the roof antenna amplifier, so I decided to try and trace it back from there.

But first I just wired it up directly to see what I had. And discovered another problem. As I thought, we’re down in a valley with mountains between us and the nearest TV stations in Fresno 35 miles away. All we could get was a flicker of a station on channel 27, but turning off the amplifier made the very fuzzy picture go away, so I’ll have to assume it’s working. We just don’t have a signal.

By this time it was after 9 pm so we decided to call it a day and finish up tomorrow.

More tomorrow. I’ve reposted some of our trip through Oregon last year.


Thought for the Day:

“Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wanted to make a million dollars, the best way to do it would be start his own religion.” – L. Ron Hubbard, the science fiction writer who later founded Scientology


Sea Lions and Sea Food…

Originally posted on May 18, 2010

Just what I wanted to see when I got up this morning – Rain.

Few things are more fun than trying to get ready to roll while you’re getting soaking wet.

But I guess it’s about time we saw some actual northwestern rainy weather. We’ve actually have very little rain since we hit the west coast.

Into every life, and all that.

We left Midway RV Park about 8 am, earlier than normal, because we wanted to stop and see the Sea Lion Cave just north of Florence, OR.

We got there about 10 am and found easy parking for our rig. But then we had a mad dash across the street to the entrance, trying to dodge cars zooming by on US101.

But it was all worth the trip. The cave was really great!

The Sea Lion Cave was discovered in 1880 and opened as a tourist attraction in 1932 when US101 was still only a gravel road.


And by the mid 50’s it was still going strong. Don’t you just love those car colors.


This photo from the observation deck shows you the kind of weather we had today.


We had about a 100 yard walk along the trail leading to the elevator.

SeaLionView 1

We took the 200 foot elevator down to the sea lion cave and looked out into what is billed as the largest sea cave in the world.

And there were sea lions everywhere. Along the walls, on the rocks, in the water, all over.

SeaLionCave 1

SeaLionCave 2


SeaLionCave 3

The other end of the cave looks out over the cormorant rookery, and what is called “The Most Photographed Lighthouse in the World", the Heceta Lighthouse.

SeaLionCave 4

Cormorant Rookery


Back on the surface we looked out over the other side of the cave.

SeaLionCave 5

We arrived at Circle Creek RV Park just south of Seaside OR about 2:15 pm.

Around 3:30, after we got set up, we headed back down the road about 7 miles to eat at Mo’s Seafood, a place that Nick Russell had recommended.

And, as usual, Nick’s recommendation was dead on. It was great. Jan had a Seafood Platter with Clam Chowder, and I had a bowl of Oyster Stew and a Blackened Cod Fish Sandwich. Hmmm, Hmmm, Good.

Tomorrow, we only have a 105 mile run to Westport, WA, so we’ll probably go out to breakfast and drive around a little before we leave.

We’ll be in Westport for 3 nights catching up with our friends, Al and Adrianne Cox, who we first met in Fairbanks, AK in 2008.


King’s Canyon and Sequoia Too . . .

We had to get early this morning at 7:30, but it was for a good cause: Our trip down south to King’s Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.

But before we left, Jan put some food out for the birds and squirrels. And it turns out we have a another visitor to the food, a resident gopher.

Gopher 1

Gopher 2

Jan didn’t realize she was dumping the food almost on top of his hole, but he was happy.

We finally headed out about 9 for the 100 mile trip down to the two National Parks.

Our first stop was at a convenience store in Squaw Valley, the same place we stopped last year, for a bathroom stop and a cappuccino.

Then we started the long climb up into the parks, from about 300 ft. in the valley to almost 8000 ft. At about 6000 ft. we started seeing snow again, although not near as much as last year.

The big problem was the fog. It steadily got worse the higher we went. In some places we could only see 20-30 ft. in front of the truck, so it made for really slow going.

Sequoia 1

We took a bathroom break at the Lodgepole Visitor’s Center and got our National Park Passports stamped for Sequoia, and then head down the road a couple of miles to the General Sherman Tree, by volume the biggest tree in the world

Lodgepole 1

Sherman Tree Trail

It’s about a half mile walk down the hill to the tree itself

Sherman Tree Trail 2

At 275 ft. high, it’s about 2500 years old, and it’s a monster. We didn’t get see the General Sherman last year because the road was snowed in, so we felt lucky this time.

Sherman Tree Trail 3

Coming back up to the parking lot we found the fog had really rolled in. And it made the drive back to the King’s Canyon area really dicey. The 26 mile trip took over an hour and fifteen minutes.

Sherman Tree Trail 4

We got to the King’s Canyon area about 10 til 3, just in time to get lunch at the café before closed at 3 pm.

Then after lunch, and getting our Passports stamped for King’s Canyon, we headed a couple of miles down the road to see the General Grant Tree, the second biggest tree in the world.

General Grant Tree

What’s unusual is that, although the General Grant is second in volume to the General Sherman, at 40 ft. in diameter, it has the biggest base. 40 ft. is the length of our motorcoach.

General Grant Tree 2

The Gamlin Cabin, shown here, and built in 1872, has served as everything from living quarters for the Gamlin brothers who built it, to a US Calvary storehouse, and then the home of the first park ranger stationed here. And it looks as strong as the day it was built.

Gamlin Cabin

Finally leaving the park and heading home, we did see some deer along the way. We had also seen a bear earlier disappearing into the fog, but otherwise it wasn’t a good day for animals.

Sequoia Deer

Except for the gopher, of course.

We finally got home about 7:30 after stopping and getting Nick his cappuccino fix.

Man, he’s really hooked.


Thought for the Day:

‘Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd’ – Voltaire


Fresno and Landon . . .

I got up a little early this morning, about 9:45, because we weren’t sure exactly what time we’d be Landon Skyping.

While we were waiting I fixed coffee and had a muffin for breakfast, then about 11:30 Nick and I went down to the office to re-up here at the park until the 31st.

I got back just in time to answer our Landon Skype call.

Landon was his usual rambunctious self, showing how he could pull himself upright with no problems. The way he’s going he’ll be walking soon.

Video call snapshot 93

Video call snapshot 92

Video call snapshot 95

Video call snapshot 96

Video call snapshot 100

Video call snapshot 101

Video call snapshot 104

Video call snapshot 107

Video call snapshot 115

Video call snapshot 116

Video call snapshot 118

Brandi said Landon said “Mama” yesterday, but this morning he mostly just squealed and laughed a lot. He always seemed to react to us on the screen when we talked to him, so hopefully he’ll know us when we see him in August at our family reunion in Illinois.

We spent about 20 minutes online with Landon, Brandi, and Lowell before setting up our next call in two weeks and saying our goodbyes.

A little later Jan fixed us a lunch of cheese toast using Miss Terry’s great bread, and Salt & Cracked Pepper potato chips. Really good.

About 2 pm we all headed down to Fresno about 35 miles away for some shopping. Our first stop was Sam’s Club for some staples. Next up was World Market where Jan and Terry did some shopping, before repeating the thing at a Bed, Bath, & Beyond right done the road.

By this time it was about 4:30 and everyone was getting hungry so we decided to try the New China Buffet, listed as one of the best Chinese buffets in Fresno. It turned out to be very good . . . and also very busy.

Leaving the buffet, our last stop was at a nearby Wal-Mart before heading back to the Park of the Sierras. But after Nick whined, we did stop off and get cappuccinos before getting home about 7:30.

Since we plan on visiting Sequoia National Park tomorrow, I thought I’d repost our visit there last year to give you a taste of what we’ll see.


Thought for the Day:

"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." – Martin Luther King, Jr.


Some Really Big Trees…

Originally posted on April 30, 2010

Today we headed out to visit Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park. Leaving about 9 am we drove 70 miles south thru Fresno to the entrance to Sequoia National Park.

But before we left we set the crockpot on a timer so that when we came home we’d have a big pot of Tuscan Chicken Spaghetti waiting for us. Then we hit the road, heading toward Fresno, about 30 miles south.

Leaving Fresno, which is at 300 ft. elevation, we starting the climb up into the Sierras, with some great views along the way. Click to enlarge the pictures!


And just like yesterday we ran into snow. We started encountering it about 4500 feet, and it just got deeper the further up we went.



SnowPile 2

When we got to the Ranger Station at Grants Grove at almost 7000 feet, we really saw the snow in deep drifts.


There was a lot more snow here in Sequoia than in Yosemite yesterday.


After checking in at the Ranger Station and checking out the Gift Shop, we had to change our travel plans. We had planned to drive the big 60 mile loop thru the park and come out down south near Visalia. But we found that loop was closed due to the heavy snowfall and would not be open anytime soon. That meant we would not be able to see the General Sherman Tree, the largest tree in the world. Bummer!

But we would be able to see the 2nd largest tree, the General Grant tree, so we headed over to Grant’s Grove a couple of miles away to take a look.

This is the first big tree we saw right in front of our truck when we parked. It’s hard to convey how really big these trees are. The pictures really don’t do them justice.


And across the parking lot were these twins.


And here is the General Grant tree. It’s 267 feet tall and about 35 feet in diameter. It is estimated to be over 1600 years old.

Grant Tree 3

And here is an internet picture of the General Sherman that we didn’t get to see. It’s about 275 feet tall and about 40 feet in diameter at the base. That’s bigger than our RV ! It’s between 2300 and 2700 years old. The spread of the branches at the top is almost 110 feet wide.

Sherman Tree

After viewing the trees, we went back to the lodge for a really good lunch at the restaurant, much better than the one at Yosemite yesterday.

Then after lunch, we drove out into the forest for about 10 miles just taking in all great scenery along the way.


SnowRoad 2

Then it was time to head home. Coming back down thru the mountains, we went thru several cloud layers, but by the time we got down to the bottom, it was clear and sunny again. And going from almost 7000 feet to 300 feet really makes the ears pop.

We got back about 3:30 to a coach filled with wonderful smell of our dinner cooking away.

We ate about 6 pm and it was great. It’s the first time Jan’s fixed this Tuscan Chicken Spaghetti, but we’ll definitely have it again.

Tomorrow is a take-it-easy day. We’re going to get together with some friends, George and Sandy, who we’ve corresponded with for awhile, but didn’t actually meet until the Nick Russell’s Gypsy Journal Rally in Yuma this past March. We discovered yesterday that we’re both in the same park here.