The Great Motorhome Story, Part 5

Back to Part 4

To recap, my Motorhome is broken down in Ogden, Utah. I live in Portland, Oregon. It’s roughly 1000 miles between the two. I already went down to help see about repairing it, but we found a bent rod and the piston is busted and burned. That was my second trip to Ogden.

A few weeks later I’m starting to think about this again. My mother starts calling around and finds that my Uncle has a truck powerful enough to two the motorhome on a trailer my Cousin owns. The kicker is that it had to be done THAT weekend as he was going to be busy for the next month.

I contact the guy who’s place it’s at and let him know we’re coming down. He’s out of town, but lets his wife know. The plan is that I drive down to Klamath Falls, spend the night, drive to Ogden. Spend the night in the motorhome, load it up and drive back to Klamath Falls where the Motorhome will be dropped off at my Cousins who will put the new engine in it.

So I leave Portland at about 9pm. I’m using the IM app on my cell phone to update my location via Ping.FM and keep everyone in the know. Now, I absolutely love the drive between Portland and Klamath Falls via Bend. I don’t know why, but I feel it’s a great little trip. The scenery is awesome, high desert, mountains, cities, small cities, old barns and buildings, rivers, canyons, and LOTS of deer.

So many deer that at about 2am and 75 miles north of Klamath Falls I simply didn’t feel safe driving on the road any more. They were jumping out in front of me and I did come fairly close to a wreck once. So I pulled over in either someone’s driveway, a country road, or maybe just a wide spot in the road and took a nap. I was woken up about 5am by a truck, but felt well enough to drive in to Klamath Falls again.

I stopped at the same bakery again, then my Aunt and Uncles house. Being as it was 6:30 and he’s retired, the bum wasn’t up quite yet. When he did get up, we changed the oil in the truck just in case. Got the trailer, found that the heavy duty winch was missing and the spare tire had a huge gash in it so it wouldn’t take air anymore.

Whatever, we’re off. We stop in Bly, Oregon to pick up a bigger and more powerful winch from a friend. And we’re off! I’m enjoying the road between Klamath Falls and Lakeview due to the scenery. And then from Lakeview to Winnemucca. And then Winnemucca to Elko. Elko to Salt Lake City, and then to Ogden, where we arrived about 1am.

Now, the motorhome was parked in an alley. But the road it butted up on is a two lane each direction with turning lane in the middle type road. And the motorhome is locked. I start banging on the door to the house to get the keys to it and apologizing up and down once his wife opens the door. She was friendly about it, but obviously hurried back to bed.

My Uncle is looking at this, and thinking about it. He decides that we’ll just load the motorhome up now before traffic gets too bad. So we unhook the trailer in the parking lot across the street. Throw a tow chain on the motorhome, and pull it out of the alley up into the same parking lot. This parking lot has an angle on it, so we put the motorhome at the top side, and the trailer at the down side.

Pop the break on the motorhome and suddenly is going towards the trailer, UP and over the hump. But… the trailer hitch drags on the ground and sticks the motorhome halfway on to the trailer. Not a problem, we get out the winch only to find out that neither one quite has the power to pull the motorhome the rest of the way on to the trailer.

Much cussing and swearing happens. We have to keep the truck hooked to the trailer so that it doesn’t slide. So I go back to the house and attempt to knock on the door to see if we could borrow their early 90’s Chevy Suburban to get the motorhome the rest of the way up. They’re not answering the door.

We find a come-along in the box on the trailer. Hook it up and start jacking on it. It tightens, but the motorhome doesn’t move an inch. So I dig into the Triple A for motorhome info and call them to see if they could get a tow truck out to help us. They work on doing so and just as we’re about to get someone, the motorhome starts moving.

Apparently my walking around inside and shaking the motorhome caused it to loosen just enough for the come along to start working. At this point I’m a bit scared. I’m in an 8000 pound vehicle being winched on to a trailer that only has six inches of clearance on one side and about a foot on the other. And, is only about 8 inches longer then the motorhome itself. PLUS no power steering. If this thing falls off the trailer, it’s done and I’m probably seriously injured.

Some how it gets on safely. And is tied down. We head down the truck stop to fill up and take a nap in the motorhome. My Uncle decides as we get down there that he wants to go ahead and get out of town before rush hour hits Salt Lake City. It’s coming up on 5:30 am at this point so I agree as it’s going to take 60-90 minutes to drive from Ogden to Salt Lake.

We start driving. And driving. And after getting through Salt Lake, another stop at a truck stop for some food and gas top off. Then we KEEP going. Some where along the line here we get a call from my Cousin. He doesn’t have a place to put the motorhome, nor the time to work on it due to his new job. I’m soon taking 15 minute cat naps in the passenger seat. We stop for lunch and gas in Winnemucca, Nevada.

This was taken outside of the Flying Pig BBQ in Winnemucca. The food was pretty mediocre, but I can’t really expect anything better when in the middle of the Nevada desert.

The next leg of the trip was Winnemucca to Lakeview. This is 240 miles. With one very small gas station in the middle at Denio Junction. Luckily the gas station is ran by the bartender inside so you can get gas pretty late. But trucks like us coming through and loaded down need that gas there. And the locals of course.

As we were pulling in to get gas there, we found another guy hauling cars doing the same thing. He only topped off a couple of gas cans. This guy was crazy though. One of the tires on his trailer had some sort of bubble coming out of it. And he was driving fast. The hills along highway 140 to Lakeview are dangerous if you’re going to fast.

We caught up with this guy in Lakeview and I noticed that he had severely damaged the cab of his pickup truck when backing his trailer up. Add in the tire problem and the way he’d been driving before and I’m surprised we didn’t have to stop to help him out of a ditch.

Anyways, made it into Klamath Falls about 9pm. After a quick bite to eat, bed came calling. I was up again at 6am and snuck out of the house so as to not wake anyone up. As it was early still, I took the opportunity to check out a couple of locations I had seen from the train. Nothing to special was seen, until I got back up to LaPine. I found this old house in a pasture. It was obviously being used as a storage shed/horse barn in the recent past.

Another stop further up the road was Petersen Rock Garden.

But finally, I got home again. My Aunt and Uncle decided to bring the motorhome up to Portland a couple of days later. I was going to have them put it into my yard, but decided to send to my brother’s house instead.

Unfortunately, I still needed to get the engine. So…. a fourth trip to Klamath Falls with my dad, my father in law, and my dad’s pickup truck to get it.

This little adventure touched every member of my family it seems. I’m sorry that the original trip didn’t go through, I was really looking forward to visiting Roswell, San Antonio, and maybe Hollywood/LA a little bit too. I didn’t always enjoy the next three trips, and was cursing quite a bit at times.

But it was an adventure!

The Great Motorhome Story, Part 2

Back to Part One

So my motorhome is broken down about 80 miles north of Ogden, Utah. This is what I see:

That’s where I came from.

This is the way I wanted to go. Yes, that sign says Elko, and means Elko, Nevada.

And this is what I saw to the West. The East was the highway and a hill blocking my view of anything useful. I am literally in the middle of nowhere.

So after taking the dog for a bit of a walk again, I check for cell phone reception. Hurrah! I have some on BOTH phones. The bad part, due to the constant transfer from one cell tower to another, both are down to two bars of battery. I call the AAA for Motorhome people (the name escapes me at this point) and start talking to them. I’m trying to explain where I am, but they can not find Snowville Utah in their system, because there are no towing companies there. They can’t find the corner of the two highways I’m on. They’re asking me to describe where I am and if there are any landmarks nearby. (See above)

After a few minutes of this, I get them GPS coordinates which finally work. I had to translate them myself so that they could insert into their system. The lady says “OK, We’ll find a Tow Company and get them out too you.” After an hour, she calls back and tells me “The repair shop in Snowville is not answering their phone, they must be closed for the weekend.”

I was like “Ok, I’m trying to head to Ogden Utah. Is there anybody there?” They lady starts getting really excited, she says “Oh! I didn’t realize you were near Ogden.” Well, I’m not, but I mentioned Ogden at least three times in our original conversation as the maps I had showed nothing between Snowville and Ogden.

Two hours later a tow truck shows up. He drove 80 miles from North Ogden. He hooks the motorhome up, disconnects the drive line, we get the dog into the cab of the tow truck and start heading into town. We chat about all kinds of things, how Triple AAA is trying to screw their company over and wants them to paint ALL their trucks Yellow. About the Winter Olympics held in Ogden and how their company was the official Tow Trucks. His time in Iraq, and the fact that he did 85 combat (parachute) jumps as an Army Engineer. Anything to pass the time.

As it’s Saturday, the odds of any shops being open is extremely low. He decides to take me by the house of a guy he works with who can repair the motorhome. We get there, and the guy is a grizzled old biker dude. Sober for ten years, telling his kid to watch the drinking, ticked off at the guy who “stole” his old pickup truck.

We get the motorhome half apart, and get a new belt on. This takes about three hours. I finally get back on the road, but just as I hit the highway and start getting up to speed, smoke starts pouring out the back. It’s mostly white, but there is some black. There is no shoulder on the highway for me to pull over so I nurse it to another exit. The engine dies as I’m coasting down it, luckily it’s empty of cars but I honk the horn as I run a red stop sign and pull into a Village Inn Parking lot.

At this time the motorhome is still smoking and I’m afraid that it’s on fire. I bail out, grab the dog, grab the checkbook, laptop and camera and start walking to attempt to find a place to either get it towed too or repaired. Again, Saturday. Nobody is open except for Midas Muffler and they want nothing to do with it.

I contact the RV Triple A people again, they send another tow truck from a different company with the thought of towing me to a campground. As I was able to keep the family in the loop, I find that my cousin had a friend who had just moved to Ogden two weeks before. The tow truck driver drops me off in front of his house.

Now, I’m sure Ogden is a nice town if you live there. But as a visitor, on foot, it is hideous. There is a grocery store across the street, Dominos pizza, and a Chinese place. The “downtown” area is about 1/2 mile away. But at least I was able to piggy back on someone’s Wi-Fi access, and I was able to run an electric cable from the house so that I could keep the fridge going (too late for the food in it,) and charge the laptop and cell phones.

The next day, Sunday, I get a bit restless and decide to explore what I can. By this time I’m thinking I’m going to buy a used car as I couldn’t find a car rental place that would allow me to drive to Portland. I find the Ogden Dinosaur Park, which is not open on Saturday OR Sunday. I find a single history sign telling about how this road used to be a toll road.

(Take through the fence of the park since it was closed)

I start walking and find that Ogden is a dead town on the weekend. Even McDonalds is closed on Saturday. I manage to find a small hole in the wall Mexican place advertising that they’ve been in business for 14 years. I figure if they’ve been around that long the food must be good. So with three tacos and a drink in hand, I keep walking down the road. I end up throwing away full taco and they are the nastiest things I’ve ever tasted.

I end up walking miles, from twentieth street down to sixtieth. Not a single used car dealership is open. Not a single fast food place it open. The auto parts store I found was closing at 3pm. I walk back to the motorhome and start searching the Internet again.

Finally, I find a Hertz rental place in Ogden. Apparently I was in “North Ogden” which is a TOTALLY different town which was why I didn’t find anything when looking before. I reserve a Chevy Impala for the next day, and make arrangements to leave the motorhome where it is for later.

Picking up the car, I find they’ve given me a Jeep Comanche instead of the Impala I wanted. I was a tiny bit mad about that, as the Impala got better gas mileage. But the Jeep had more cargo room which I exploited to the fullest.

During this time, one of my high school friends that I had not talked to in years let me know via Facebook that he was in Ogden! Woo Hoo! So I went down the road to Hill Aerospace Museum, before meeting up with him for lunch. The museum is OK. It had a few planes (and helicopters) that I’d never seen in person before. But compared to Boeing Field Museum of Flight in Seattle and the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville, it wasn’t that impressive to me.

On to part 3

The Great Motorhome Story, Part 1

In early May of this year, my dear mother had a simple proposal for me. “Would you like my old motorhome? I’m getting a new one.”

A bit leery, I said sure. It’s older, but in pretty good shape. She’s driven it all over Oregon with few to no problems. As I was unemployed at the time, I suddenly had visions of simply driving around Oregon, taking pictures for my Photoblog. I’d stay within 400 or so miles of home so as to be quickly available for any jobs.

I got the motorhome, did a few small maintenance jobs on it. A couple of weeks later the subject of a family reunion in Texas came up. As I now had the motorhome, and was still unemployed, I figured I’d drive down. Even doubling my estimate for gas usage based on mileage, doing so was cheaper then airplane tickets, car rental, dog sitter, and hotel rooms.

So a plan was born. I’d drive the motorhome down to Texas. My wife would fly in and then we’d swing through LA for a trip to Disney Land. I’d get to see large portions of the country I’ve never seen, she’d get to go to Disney Land and we’d have a great trip.

Itineraries were created, maps were procured. Food and necessities packed. CB Radio to talk to truckers. Maps to grocery stores and Free Wi-Fi hot spots were printed out and organized in a 3 Ring Binder. Lists of Camp Grounds along each stop, and a secondary list of Walmarts, Targets and KMarts that allowed RV over nighters. Oh, and Triple A like insurance for the Motorhome purchased just in case. The day of the trip rolls around and I’m off along I-84.

The route was roughly, Portland to Boise. Boise to Salt Lake, Salt Lake to Roswell (with a 30 mile side trip to a cemetery where some of my ancestors are buried,) and then across the state of Texas to San Antonio. I would drive back to Del Rio Texas, pick up my wife and mother there, go to the reunion, then go Phoenix, LA, San Francisco, Portland. Had 14 whole days scheduled for the trip with 300-400 miles each day.

It’s been a few years since I’d drive I-84. The weather was awesome. Saw two bald eagles sitting on an island in the Columbia River. Viewed the Maryhill Museum of Art and the replica of Stonehenge. Counted windmills and trains. Stopped at every single “Oregon History Sign” I saw.

I enjoyed the drive so much that I totally blew by my first scheduled stop in La Grande Oregon. Took the back road to Union, Oregon, a place I had stayed a couple of days several years ago and thoroughly enjoyed. Took lots of pictures at every stop. Took the dog for a couple of walks to get her calmed down from the all the noises in the motorhome.

Ended up crossing visting the Ghost Town of Lime, Oregon. Drove across the Idaho Border, got caught in traffic in Nampa Idaho, and finally drove into Twin Falls, Idaho about 9PM. I decided to stay at the truck stop, but off a road so that my much smaller motorhome didn’t get run over by an 18 Wheeler.

At this time the radiator belt had been squeaking pretty hard. The Chevy dealer in Boise was closed when I had gone through. So I hoped that I could find one in Twin Falls, or any kind of repair shop. At the truck stop I asked several different people about options in town. Two just didn’t know, and two had both recently moved into town and had no clue where anything was. They also did not seem to have a local phone book, and I couldn’t bring myself to pay $9.99 for a 30 second Google Search.

So, not worrying about it, I went to sleep.

Only to be woken up at 4:30 am as Truckers started their engines up and got ready to hit the road. I reluctantly got up, and got ready myself. Not thinking much of it, I didn’t notice at the time that the Motorhome didn’t start up with it’s customary squealing, but I was still mindful of the need to get the belt looked at and replaced. I drove through Twin Falls, generally heading East. Found very, very little in the way of garages or repair shops so decided to keep driving until I saw something.

A couple of hours down the road, the only thing I saw were small gas stations with quick stores. The one I stopped at said that the nearest repair place they new of was in Pocatello which was the wrong direction for Salt Lake City. I kept going, took the southern road to Salt Lake City. About this time the motorhome started stuttering a bit. Again, I didn’t think much of it, even though I’ve experienced this exact problem before.

About 100 miles north of Ogden I know that I’m in trouble. The batteries are both wearing down, and I had turned the radio and fridge off to save electricity. Right outside the bump in the road town of Snowville, Utah the motorhome engine dies. I’ve got just enough momentum to get it stopped on the highway exit.

Part Two