Manufacturer recommends to change the oil every 10,000 miles, but Dave changes it on an as needed basis. Need is determined by how much we have traveled, the wear on Abby, and if we are towing. We put approximately ~7500 miles on Abby since her last oil change (move to California, northern California vacation, move to Colorado). The majority of these miles were done while towing our small cargo trailer; it is best to increase the frequency of all maintenance when additional stress is present.
The fuel filter should be changed every 20,000 miles (manufacturer) but there is not consensus on the Winnebago View forums. Some people change it every 10,000 miles, others 40,000 miles. We (Dave) changes it more frequently. Why? If the fuel filter fails, the injectors could get clogged and the injection system would need replacing. Might as well spend the few extra dollars to save thousands.
Follow the manufacturer’s specifications for the oil, and all other fluids with the exception of the windshield washer fluid. Don’t cheap out.
The fuel system needs to be bled of air when the filter is replaced. The filter replacement is easier done with two people. One person turns the ignition to the point where the glow plugs are turned on and the fuel system is pressurized (do not turn over the engine). The other person watches for the air to bleed out and for fuel to flow. They then holler at person one to turn the key to the ‘off’ position.
The fuel pump runs for a few seconds even after the key is off. Consider getting a fuel overflow container larger than a beer bottle. There may have been some swearing. Eau de Diesel is not sexy.
Experience level: If you can change your car’s oil, you can change the oil in the RV. The fuel filter is more difficult to do and requires bleeding the system. Increases the routine maintenance skill level to intermediate.
Symptoms: Partially downpassenger side window dropped completely down when Jess’ arm was rested on the window.
An open window in June may not be a problem, but we were camping in the Sierras and had witnessed snow flurries the night before. Having an open window would result in a rather chilly night. We were also in bear country. Top Gear may not be the most educational show, but the one thing we did learn from watching the Botswana special (go to minute 34), is when you are in an area with predators, you best animal proof your car. An open window is not animal proof. Thus it was decided we (Dave) would fix the window.
Problem: The window likely came off the track within the door.
Solution: The door paneling had to be removed to access the window. Close investigation showed that the arm of the the opening mechanism was bowed. This allowed the glass to slip off the track during a certain point of window travel and fall into the door cavity.
To straighten the arm, Dave employed a lever in order to apply sufficient force. Jess was concerned with the lever slipping and breaking the glass, so the glass was removed while Dave worked on the arm. With the arm straightened, the glass was returned to the track and the window was tested to ensure smooth motion.
The final step was putting the door back together; make sure all the tabs are lined up correctly.
The hardest parts of removing the plastic door paneling was figuring out where the two screws were hidden and which way to lift the panel to remove it without breaking the plastic tabs. This also required unplugging the electric window control so the wires could be threaded through a hole for easier removal of the panel.
The glass was not broken and the window motor was still functional. If the motor had been broken, we would have likely had to figure out a way to block the window in the up position.
Dave has restored cars before, so he was familiar with this repair. Otherwise, it may be higher on the challenge scale. Go slow and take the time to thoroughly look over the problem.
We decided to squeeze a trip to Acadia National Park before we left the East Coast and moved west. As any good trip planners would, we visited with good friends who live in New England. It was also a fantastic way to burn up the remainder of Jess’ vacation time before she quit.
We were pulled over by police two times on the trip up to Acadia. Ticket free both times – out of state plates and Alex’s red wagon made for a sympathetic combination. The first was entering the GW, where contrary to what the Canadian border crossing agent told us, we are required to adhere to all truck restrictions. Thus we were not allowed on the lower level of the GW bridge. Apparently others have made this error before and there was a special ramp for us to us to get to the upper level. The second was driving through Connecticut – we were not allowed on parkways due to size restrictions. The signage informing us of this restriction was not observed. We had to exit the parkway three miles short of our target destination (the interstate) and got to explore small town Connecticut as we worked an alternate route to the interstate.
We arrived in Acton, Massachusetts and spent a couple nights with Jess’ good friend from high school. As always, we added class to the neighborhood with our RV parked near her house. We also met up with some of the New England motorcycle group. After good times catching up and exploring Acton, we pushed on to Acadia National Park.
We camped a Blackwoods Campground, which was heavily wooded. This was a problem for the time of year with limited daylight hours combined with the fact that it was overcast and raining the majority of the time we were there. We had to be very conservative with our batteries since our main way of recharging them was not functioning due to the lack of sun. We could have run the generator, but that gulps propane and we had a limited supply. An important note – when traveling to an area at the end of the season make sure your key amenities are full. We could not find an open propane station and needed to have enough for the furnace. We did not do our pre-trip preparation well at all. We could not recharge the coach batteries while driving because the solenoid was disconnected (did not discover that until after the trip).
Despite the rainy weather, we were able to get a few hikes in. We were very please to discover Acadia is dog-friendly and allows dogs on most trails. Penny, Chewie, and Buster enjoyed the opportunity to hike with us.
On the way back to Delaware, our overnight stop was at the house of friend’s from Dave’s motorcycle group. It was great catching up and great to be able to enjoy a real shower. We pushed on home the next day, and 15 miles shy of our goal, the great transmission failure occurred. Such things happen, we managed to get home in a friend’s truck.
We took Abby and Alex on their first international border crossing. Well, at least Abby’s first border crossing with us. We went to Canada with the motorcycle group that Dave is a member of; this trip is biannual tradition for at least 20 years. Unfortunately, we did not take Dave’s motorcycle on this trip. The logistics were rather complex and we decided it would be easier if everyone was in Abby.
The drive from Delaware to Saint-Alphonse Rodriguez, Quebec took two days. Our first day’s destination was the Lake George Battlefield Park, in Lake George, NY. We arrived literally right behind another member of the group. Following tradition, we ate at Adirondack Brewery, a short walk away from the campground. The next morning, we ate breakfast at the Hot Biscuit Diner in Ticonderoga, NY. Despite having his own breakfast, Alex decided Jess’ biscuits and sausage gravy looked tasty and needed two spoons to get it into his mouth fast enough. Another bonus of the route that we took from Lake George to Canada was the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream stop.
We crossed into Canada at the I-89 border crossing. As we approached the crossing we realized we didn’t know what lane to chose. Looking at the pictures on the signs (since all the writing was in French. Quebec, perhaps you are ignoring Canada’s dual language law?), we determined we were not a bus and not a car. But what were we? We selected the lane that looked the most like us, which had a truck shaped picture above it.
We pulled up to the booth and the border agent started speaking to us in French. Dave inquired if he spoke English, which the agent responded in the affirmative. He asked for our passports and Dave did not hear what he said. When Dave asked the agent to repeat himself, the agent inquired if we spoke English. Things were off to a good start.
The agent asked us if we were carrying any weapons (knives, guns, pepper spray). We had the bear spray in the RV from our Western trip and we declared that because the agent seemed like he would classify that as a weapon. The agent inquired, ‘For the spraying of bears?’. We bit our tongues and refrained from replying ‘Bears and snarky border crossing agents.’ Satisfied that bear spray was for protection from bears, the agent then asked us what our commercial load was. When we declared none, we received a lecture that we had used the commercial truck lane and were actually classified as a ‘minivan-camper’ and should always use the car lane. Well. Lesson learned. After a few more minutes of our tongue lashing, a real commercial truck pulled in behind us and the agent directed us on our way.
We arrived at Saint Alphonse-Rodriguez and set up camp at a children’s camp. This camp is traditional in the sense that all campers are exposed to a wide variety of activities – canoeing, archery, art, and a ropes course. What really surprised us is the area, which was not experiencing the best fortunes two years ago, is booming. The group found out that the children’s camp will be in operation for one more year, and then it will be sold to condo developers. It was rather fitting that the weekend was gray and rainy.
With the weather, we did not have the opportunity to paddle the lake and critique Canadian lake houses. There is always, however, Staner’s. We purchased some smoked meats, cheese, and bread. We walked down the street to the gas station for the wine. It was a relaxing afternoon as Alex napped. Later in the evening we participated in a beer tasting arranged by one of the members and got to enjoy some beers we normally wouldn’t have chose for ourselves. Alex enjoyed running around and visiting with all the different people. There were a couple of parrots and a dog that he enjoyed playing with.
Returning to the United States was much less eventful than Canada. We chose the proper lane. The border agent did board Abby to obtain a visual of Alex. The agent was slightly incredulous that we were only bringing back a sticker, but accepted the explanation that we ate and drank all our other purchases while in Canada.
Our 2015 trip out west was ambitious. We were always on the move and didn’t have many rest days to explore. However, we did manage to include a few fun side trips into our itinerary.
Little Devil’s Tower; Custer State Park, SD:
The trail head for this hike in Custer State Park (see trail map) originates at Sylvan Lake. We did not finish this hike because of time constraints – we had to make sure we got back to our campsite before dark. We really enjoyed the hike and wish we had planned our time better. Multiple trails leave the confines of Custer State Park and enter the Black Elk Wilderness. What was really unusual compared to other parks is that pets were allowed on the trails, but had to be leashed. It was a nice experience being able to take Penny and Chewie with us. We also had Ergo as Alex’s carrier; he was getting to heavy to be able to hike long distances comfortably in this carrier.
Conceived by South Dakota historian Doane Robinson, carving likenesses of famous people in the Black Hills region was done to increase tourism. The sculptures were done by Danish-American Gutzon Borglum and his son, Lincoln Borglum. The elder Borglum was instrumental in the selection of Mount Rushmore (the original site, the Needles, had poor quality granite and was opposed by Native Americans) as well as selecting the presidents (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln) to be carved in the mountain.
Initially, the presidents were supposed to be depicted from head to waist, but poor quality rock and a lack of funding resulted in the monument we are familiar with today. Construction began in 1927 and ended in 1941, notably with no fatalities.
We walked the trail with Alex, starting down the Presidential Trail towards the Sculptor’s studio. This path wound around and took us under the sculptures. This route had numerous steps, which tired Alex out quite nicely. We completed our loop and returned to the Avenue of Flags; the remainder of the trail after the sculptures was handicap accessible. We ended our visit with vanilla ice cream made following Thomas Jefferson’s recipe.
Built starting in the fall of 1881, the line was constructed to haul silver and gold ore from the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado by the Denver & Rio Grande Railway. The line was completed by July of 1882 and began to haul passengers and freight. The narrow gauge was selected by William Jackson Palmer, a former Union General and experienced railroad man, as it would be well suited to the mountainous country and would have lower construction costs.
We took the bus from Durango to Silverton and rode the train back. We kenneled the dogs at Durango Pet Resort. Parking the RV was a bit tricky and we were very lucky to make the bus up to Silverton. Our tour guide was knowledgeable and the bus ride flew by. We ate lunch at Handlebars Restaurant & Saloon; their burgers were pretty good. If our memory serves, they brewed their own beer and it was meh.
The ride back became more of an adventure than we expected. One of the engines broke down bringing a train up to Silverton and the 12:30 train was delayed so the engine could take the 2:30 train back to Durango as well. Needless to say, the double length train did not move very quickly (train ride back took 5 hours). We were not prepared for the extended trip and had not packed enough diapers or food for Alex. Additionally, the train still made all the stops at various trail heads to drop off and pick people up. A really neat option, but it was frustrating after a long day. We didn’t get back to Durango until after the kennel closed, but they had an after hours pick up option and we were able to retrieve Penny, Chewie, and Buster.
It was a beautiful trip.
Garden of the Gods; Colorado Springs, CO
Our timing for this visit was poor. We arrived soon after Alex fell asleep. He was not in the mood to go on a long walk through the Garden of the Gods. It was also a hot, sunny day, so we took the dogs with us (allowed); they did not make the circus easier to manage.
We took a short hike and then returned to Abby for lunch and to push on North.
Carousel of Happiness; Nederland, CO
The Carousel of Happiness was built by a Marine Vietnam veteran, Scott Harrison. The frame was from the Saltair Park carousel that had its animals removed. Over the course of 26 years, Mr. Harrison hand carved 50 animals for the carousel, of which, 35 can be ridden.
Alex seemed a bit uncertain about his first ride on the carousel. The carousel is beautiful and is worth the visit.
We had the pleasure of traveling through Yellowstone on the Fourth of July weekend, 2o15. This was one of the most disappointing stops of the trip. Being a holiday weekend, the park was extremely crowded. We would visit Yellowstone again, but during the shoulder season when crowds would be less teeming.
We had a reservation for a single night, July 3, at the Bridge Bay campground. This campground is essentially and open field with tightly spaced spots and no hook-ups. Most spots are relatively level. Firewood was available for purchase at check-in. As state in our summary post, the bathrooms were atrocious. Overall, the vendor running the campgrounds and amenities was less than impressive.
Perhaps the single most frustrating things were the tourists. What do we mean by tourists? People who ignore the signs and rules stated to protect them (selfies with bison, straying from boardwalks around the hot springs) and generally oblivious behavior. A prime example, we
stopped to stopped at Dragon’s Mouth Spring as we were driving across the park. There was a bison laying next to the restroom building. People were walking within feet of the animal to take a selfie. The bison eventually had enough of the paparazzi, got up, and ran through the parking lot. The panic was capped by a woman screaming (imagine this in a New Jersey accent), ‘Larry, LAARRRYYY!! The bison! Look out for the bison!!”. Larry, clearly no where near the bison’s path of travel, waved at his hysterical wife. Panicking and further startling a wild animal, not the wisest plan.
Traveling across the park was also slow going. The speed limit is 35 and in some of the more popular areas it drops to 25 mph. This is made even worse by the people ignoring posted signs and stopping in the middle of the road (rather than pulling off on a pull out as advised) to take a picture of some animal that caught their attention. Again, a fantastic example of oblivious tourist behavior.
The negatives were frustrating and took away from the beauty of Yellowstone. There were some very nice handicap accessible paths to a variety of features that we were able to take Alex to in either his wagon or stroller. As with most national parks, dogs were not allowed on trails. Which is frustrating and limits what we can see. However, these are limitations we accept when traveling with Penny, Chewie, and Buster. And seeing how most people can’t follow simple rules, allowing dogs on trails would be an utter disaster.
We couldn’t move without trying breweries along the way. Unfortunately, we had to abort a couple of breweries as well. Alibi Ale Works in Incline Village, Nevada doesn’t like Alex’s type coming through their doors, which we respect. We had heard good things about Alibi, so we were disappointed that the logistics didn’t work out.
Due to the trials and tribulations of our journey, we only visited two breweries.
How did we end up in Berkeley on our move to Colorado from Davis, CA? Our geography and map reading skills are not that atrocious, really and truly. Dave’s cousin and her family, who live in New Zealand, were in the area on a college visit. It has been several years since we last saw them, so we took the opportunity to visit (Wonder why it took us 2 days to drive a net of eight miles? A side trip that was a lot of fun). They told us to chose a place for lunch, and of course we selected a brewery.
We tried the IPAX Ale and the Black Rock Porter and were pleased with both. The actual appearance, aroma, and taste were in-line with the menu descriptions of the beers. The Reuben and pulled pork sandwiches were also executed well.
We arrived in Park City, UT around lunch time. Fortunately for us, Wasatch Brewery was nearby. After parking Abby and the trailer in a free public lot (we used up 6 spaces, thankfully it wasn’t busy), we drove the car down to the main street of Park City and parked near Wasatch. We were able to get a shaded seat on the patio and got to relax while Alex enjoyed train videos.
We tried the Polygamy Porter which had a clever tag line of ‘take some home to the wives’. The color was excellent and the aroma was robust with chocolate and roasted notes. The flavor was disappointing. Grainy at best, it was surprisingly thin, especially after the aromas were the perfect set up for a thick bodied porter. The Evolution Amber Ale was the second beer we tried. It was an improvement over the Polygamy Porter, but we have brewed better at home. Overall, beer was meh. Food was very well done and the pickled tomatoes on the steak salad were a surprise highlight.
No trip would be complete with out some mechanical issues. Especially on a holiday weekend traveling the loneliest road. Fortunately, the check engine light and the flat tire were not as serious as the failed turbo resonator or transmission breaking.
Check engine light:
The check engine light came on coming into Carson City, Nevada after dropping down the Sierras. Dave used an OBDII reader to obtain the error codes associated with the check engine light.
Error codes: Cam position sensor, O2 sensor error
Fortunately, where we pulled over in Carson City was not far from the Dodge dealer. The shop manager reviewed the codes and said that the cam position sensor can ‘hiccup’ especially when traveling from high to low altitudes. This results in a cascade effect that causes the O2 sensor to error as well. He was happy to report that as long as the check engine light wasn’t flashing, we could continue to drive Abby. If we wanted peace of mind, we could have it checked out, but the soonest he could get to it would be Tuesday. As much fun as a two night minimum in Carson City sounded, we decided to push onward. We bought a Good Sam towing membership.
Total time lost: 1 hour
Repair difficulty: Easy, it was simply getting advice from a shop guy. Google indicated that replacing the sensors was not difficult and could be done in a parking lot or campsite. No auto part stores had the parts in stock. Abby is due for a thorough tune-up, including a transmission flush, at the end of this trip. We are going to pay the money and let a Dodge dealer give Abby some TLC.
Our flat tire occurred approximately 40 miles west of Austin, NV. We were losing approximately 2 lbs of pressure every mile. How did we know? Dave purchased and installed EEZTire Monitoring system that reports the pressure in each tire via RFID. Fortunately, the Edwards Creek historic marker was close by and we were able to pull over in a safe place to change the tire. As Dave changed the tire, Jess wrangled the dogs and Alex, with marginal success. The dogs had to be returned to Abby. Alex ran around with tools key for changing the tire and found every bit of dirt on the Abby and transferred it to himself. Inspection showed that the valve stem had failed. To add to the fun, the spare tire and the other dualie tire needed to have their pressures increased. Our 12V electric pump burned out; fortunately, we had a bike pump with the appropriate fitting in the trailer.
After completing the tire change, we stopped in Austin, NV to fill Abby up. Dave inquired about tire repair and was directed to Wayne, the tire guy. He provides 24/7 service for this isolated area and was able to fix the tire.
Total time lost: 2 hours
Repair difficulty: Easy. If you know how to change a tire on a car, you can change a tire on an RV. Parts are just bigger and heavier, technology and theory are the same. This is a key skill otherwise you will be waiting for several hours in the sun for assistance. And there may be no cell service.
Our Colorado move has been rather light on state park/national park/national forest campgrounds. We quickly discovered that the holiday weekend results in spike in usage and you have to be in extremely early to get a walk-up spot, and there may not be one since most spots are booked for the entire weekend. 75% our nights on this trip were spent in commercial campgrounds. This was not bad, just different. And truth be told, not entirely unwelcome. We had full hook-ups and were able to run the A/C, which made sleeping bearable with days in the mid-nineties and above.
Great Basin National Park was the jewel of our trip. Found on multiple hidden gem lists, the rangers said that the secret is getting out. This national park is just a representative piece of the Great Basin, which covers the majority of Nevada, half of Utah, and parts of eastern California, and south eastern Oregon. The region was named the Great Basin because it has no hydro-graphic connection to the ocean. Elevation greatly influences the flora, as temperature decreases and precipitation increases. These conditions result in forests composed primarily of piñon and juniper varietals with stands of limber pine, Great Basin bristlecone pine, cottonwoods, and quaking aspen interspersed. Similar to Chisos Basin in Big Bend National Park, fauna are rare species isolated after the last ice age. Great Basin is also a gold-tier international dark sky park.
The Great Basin region was inhabited by the Shoshone, Ute, Mono, and Northern Paiute tribes. Europeans first explored the region during the Spanish colonization during the 18th century.
Activities: Lehman Cave tours, hiking, caving, star gazing
Lehman Caves is part of Great Basin National Park and can be seen on a guided tour only. We went on the 60 minute Lodge Room Tour (allowed children under 5). While not as majestic as Carlsbad Caverns, it is an extremely intimate and educational tour. This cave has features actively forming, so one must be extremely cautious and not touch any of the formations. Also, they are very concerned with protecting their bats from White Nose Syndrome, so be aware that items worn in other caves that are unlikely to be washed, need to be sanitized. Review all the tour guidelines in advance to ensure that you don’t bring any contraband material with you.
Our campsite (number 26) at Wheeler Peak Campground was idyllic. Over a rise behind our campsite was a creek with a meadow nearby. Next to our campsite was another alpine meadow. We observed a deer grabbing its evening meal in the meadow by the creek. There were several trail heads available at the Wheeler Creek Campground – Lehman Creek, Bristlecone, Glacier, Mountain View Nature (accessible), Alpine Lakes Loop trails. Other hikes are accessible at different points in the park. We were hiking the Bristlecone trail when Jess fell and lacerated her knee. This resulted in us breaking camp and driving to Delta, UT (100 miles!) to the nearest hospital with decent service. For more serious injuries, it is a Medivac flight to Salt Lake City ($40,000), so be aware that this is an isolated area. We did not finish our hike, but for more detailed information regarding the Bristlecone pines, check out this article and video from Atlas Obscura. And, the best part of all, there were rocks.
Overall: We really enjoyed this park. The scenery is picturesque and while it is becoming more popular, the usage is light. We look forward to going back and making Jess wear knee pads during hikes.