grandson mason

grandson mason

grandson jaxson

grandson jaxson

Friday, August 31, 2007

29-31AUG07 - Kittitas, WA (on the road again)

Today, Friday, 31AUG, we arrived in Kittitas, WA, at Dan’s cousin Steve and wife Bonnie Kiesel after three days hard driving. The first day drive from Minot to Miles City, MT, was uneventful and the RV ran great. We even started to relax that evening and visited one of the hundreds of casinos that now are in ever town in Montana (ie video poker parlors). They are actually not a bad way to spend a few hours, as long as you stick to the nickel machines. Dan won enough that we were three dollars ahead for the night, and with free drinks and snacks it was definitely lagniappe as they say in Louisiana.

The second day was not so smooth. When we hit the first of the mountain passes at Livingston, MT, the RV began to overheat! By slowing way down, turning the heat on, and down shifting, we were able to keep the radiator temperature out of the red zone. But we were forced to transit the passes at 20 miles an hour or slower. We tried to find another truck service facility to check the cooling system out, but once again everyone was back logged and we were facing Labor Day weekend.

After talking to a Freightliner facility and an Allison transmission facility we decided to press on after spending the night in Deer Lodge, MT. The consensus opinion was that Cummins engines and Allison transmissions are fairly indestructible as long as you watch the temperature gauge and all other gauges and alarms are normal.

So on the third day we hit Lookout Pass, 4th of July Pass, and the infamous Columbia River Gorge all on I-90. Guess what? No problems! We hit the Gorge at the hottest part of the day (basically low 90s) and downshifted to 4th and motored up the entire way at 40mph. And to top it all off, as we were driving the US Fish and Wildlife called Corrie to discuss her criminal activity in trying to bring Canadian Walleye into the good ol' USA! Bottom line is that if her brother faxes a copy of his and his wife's Canadian fishing license to the Fish and Wildlife in Virginia, Corrie's fines will be significantly reduced!!! Turns out we are talking multiple violations here - not having Canadian license, trying to cross border, not having two filets per bag, no "skin patch" on filets, no transport permit, and the list goes on. Remember - you can get anything you want at Alice's Restuarant (except common sense)!
So we now sit at the Kiesels outside of the small town of Kittitas just in time for the world famous Kittitas County Fair and Ellensburg Rodeo.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

23-28AUG07 - Minot, ND (fingers crossed)

We won’t bore with you with all the details (and we mean very boring), but after almost two weeks the truck repair facility has finished repairing all known damage to the RV. Tomorrow the last little thing should be repaired at local RV dealer.

The first week was spent in playing middle man between our after market warranty and repair facility. Warranty company insisted that everything would be done “their” way and only after “their” approval! Repair facility has a policy of not dealing with after market warranty companies at all! Talk about the proverbial rock and the hard place! After our dealing with the warranty company, we think that HMOs aren’t so bad after all. We won’t bother recounting the angry phone calls, the tears shed or the sense of helplessness we dealt with, the end result is that we met some of the warranty company’s conditions but had to pay the service facility out of pocket because our claim won’t be acted on any time soon (and we have no idea if warranty company is going to pay anything). Since we are talking big bucks here, there may not be any presents under the tree this Xmas or for the next few years.

While the RV was being repaired we resided in a small motel room. The room seemed to defy the laws of physics by getting smaller every day even though the walls did not move. Our routine consisted of Dan going to truck stop every morning to check on progress, take pictures and just hang around; meanwhile Corrie would stay at motel with Gumbo. Dan would return to motel for lunch and then return to truck facility at end of work day to check progress one last time. The hi-lite of the day was dinner when we would both get out of the motel room together. But even dinner was complicated because we had to take Gumbo with us and find a shaded spot to leave him in the toad. We would have left him in motel, but he has been known to tear things up when left in a strange location. The next day (and the next and the next) were a repeat of this routine.

Hopefully the next blog entry will be from back on the road!!!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

18-22AUG07 - Minot, ND (saga continues)

As we sit in the parking lot of Westlie Truck, we are receiving a crash course on “Dry Camping 101”. Dry Camping in the RV world is camping in a location that does not have “utilities” (electricity, water, sewage, or access to fuel or LPG). This can be as simple and short as spending the night in a parking lot or rest stop; or weeks or months in remote areas like Bureau of Land Management wilderness areas.

Whether short or long, when RV’ers dry camp it is a planned event, and they insure they have the necessary supplies like full fuel and water, and empty sewage tanks! In addition, people who dry camp have a means to replenish; such as driving into town once a week to resupply, or in more popular areas there are mobile service providers who bring you supplies and take your sewage. Unfortunately, we did not plan on this and have had to scramble to stay in our RV in the middle a dirt parking lot. We were able to obtain a full tank of water (normally we travel with very little water onboard) from the repair shop. By talking to various RV dealers in the area, we have also located businesses that will deliver fuel, and one that removes sewage ($40 per visit!). We next need find a place to stay with dog, when the rig goes in for repair tomorrow, 23AUG. We have burned up the phone lines (or rather our excess cell phone minutes) "negotiating" between our after market warranty insurance and the repair facility. This has not been a smooth or easy process, and hopefully tomorrow we will see real progress on getting the damage fixed!!!

While waiting for an estimate on the extent of damage and cost of repairs, we have done some sightseeing that we couldn’t do during our last stay in Minot. For example, we checked out the Scandinavian Heritage Park. It is a small park built entirely with volunteer efforts and donations to display some of the heritage of Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Denmark; as well as a research center for Scandinavians who immigrated to the northern plains area of the USA.

We found it a very enjoyable morning and informative. Dan asked one of the docents where one could sample any type of Scandinavian food in Minot? Turns out there is not one restaurant that has anything Scandinavian. Such food is usually cooked at home for the families. The one time such food is available for the public is during Norsk Hostfest in October. Hostfest is the largest Scandinavian festival in the country.

Friday, August 17, 2007

15-17AUG07 - Minot, ND (busted! & really stranded!!)

This morning, after saying good-bye to Ed and Elaine and their daughter, Kim, we headed back to the states enroute to the Seattle/Everett area where we have an undeveloped piece of property. Our first indication that things were not going to go well was at the USA Customs station on highway 83 near Westhope, North Dakota. When we were asked what foods we were bringing back from Canada? We mentioned the frozen fish filets given to us by Corrie’s brother. Big mistake!!!

Turns out you can only bring back frozen fish that was caught in Canada if and only if:

---someone in the vehicle has a valid Canadian fish license. It does not matter if the fish were actually caught by a Canadian with a license and given to you as a gift.

---the filets are frozen in such a way that each filet is flat and clearly visible (ie two in each plastic bag, not several mushed up like ours were).

---and one square inch of skin is left on each filet so that a fish expert can tell the species by examining the scales (we are not making this up!)!

And it turns out that this is a US Fish and Wildlife violation, so the Customs agents felt they had no discretion (ie we couldn’t throw the fish away). So the violation forms were filled out, the evidence was tagged, and we departed after an one hour delay. Apparently we will hear from US Fish and Wildlife some time in the future to find out what our fine will be. We were given a choice of whose name the violation would be entered in the big DHS computer for future scrutiny when entering the USA, Dan immediately volunteered Corrie, since he travels more and doesn’t need anymore hassles! The whole situation reminded us of the Arlo Guthrie song about the Alice’s Restaurant Massacree, all that was missing was the photos with circles and arrows!

As we were bypassing Minot en route to US Highway 2 we heard a loud noise and felt a shudder from the RV’s drive train. Up until that point the rig had been running fine, with all gauges normal. Even after the noise there were no alarms. Dan immediately pulled over and got out to investigate. He was back in the rig within 2 seconds and shut the engine down. What he had seen was a large trail of fluid extending from the rear of the rig and extending down the highway. It appears to our untrained eyes that the drive shaft coupling had broken and taken with it one hydraulic leveler, several transmission lines, the transmission fluid pump, and holed the bottom of the transmission. As well bending the mud flap, dinging up the front bumper of the toad, and coating the front of the toad with tranny fluid.

We won’t bore you with the details of the four hour wait for a tow truck. We will tell you the first one our insurance sent couldn’t do the job. The next one could do the job, but wasn’t covered by our insurance (can you say $200 per hour?). Anyway we now sit in the parking lot of the only Allison transmission shop in Minot, vowing never to come near this town again (if not the state)!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

08-14AUG07 Brandon, Manitoba

We have had a great time with family and friends in Brandon, Manitoba, but it is time to move on. For the first time since leaving Houma, Louisiana, Corrie and Dan were separated for several days. For those that don’t know, Dan is not fully retired, he does some part time consulting for a small list of clients. One of them is the National Center for Biomedical Research and Training (NCBRT) a part of LSU. We won’t bother to try and explain it to you, for those who want to know more, check out:

Dan consults for them in the areas of maritime industry, and port security. NCBRT requested Dan attend a one day conference on Friday, 10AUG, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This meant he had to leave on the 8th to catch a flight out of Winnipeg on the morning of the 9th! This allowed Dan to spend Saturday and Sunday in Houma checking on their empty house, and more importantly visit with our daughter, Rebecca, and her new “baby” Gracy, a Weimaraner puppy. Although a short visit, it was great to have dinner with Rebecca and her beau Raymond. Since Dan had to fly out of Baton Rouge early Monday morning, he had less than 24 hours in Houma.

Meanwhile back in Canada (EH?), Corrie traveled further north than ever with Ed and Elaine to observe a spear fishing tournament in Childs Lake in the Duck Mountain Provincial Park. Of course watching bubbles on a lake gives new meaning to watching the grass grow. Turns out that a large group of scuba divers gather every year to spear fish a fish they call “Maria”, otherwise known as Burbot (and also known as “lush” and “lawyer”?). It is an eel like fish that is apparently a freshwater cod. Since it is very slimy to the touch and smells, it was considered a trash fish. Turns out that once fillet it makes excellent eating. Dan wouldn’t know because no one bothered to bring any back for him to sample. The Burbot liver oil has four times more Vitamin D and seven times more Vitamin A than Cod liver oil!

Dan made it back to base camp Monday night, and Tuesday was spent getting the RV and the toad ready for a Wednesday departure.

Trivia: What is unique about the Burbot’s sex life?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

01-07AUG07 Brandon, Manitoba (happy birthday)

Corrie spent Wednesday and Thursday visiting family and old friends in and around Brandon. Dan used the time to install a spare car stereo of his into one of the outside storage compartments of the RV, so that we can have tunes while enjoying the great outdoors. Since the heat wave continued in Manitoba, we also made frequent us of the C&L Scuba indoor pool.

On Friday evening we all (Ed, Elaine, Corrie, Dan and Gumbo) headed to downtown Brandon to view the annual muscle car and hot rod gathering. About six hundred cars from all of Canada and several USA states were lined up on both sides of Rosser Ave for about twelve blocks. The gathering of cars had a family connection because Corrie and Ed’s youngest brother, Rob, had his car on display, a fire engine red, 1934 five window Chevy coupe. Since Rob was a volunteer for the event, we only got short chance to visit with him; so the next morning Corrie, Dan and Gumbo headed to the Keystone fair grounds to see the “official” gathering of all the cars. While there we had a nice visit with Rob and his wife Yvonne, and their car club buddies. The cars on display ranged from late twenties Mercedes Benz Gazelle(?), to street rods and Honda “rice rockets”.

We then headed back to Clear Lake and Riding Mountain National Park for another relaxing weekend with Ed and Elaine at their cabin. Although the weather was much cooler this weekend, we still had a good time. First we walked around the town of Clear Lake and the park headquarters; which are one and the same, since the town is inside the park. Ed made two attempts to lower the pickerel population but only succeeded in catching two fish. But as any fisherman knows – a bad day on the water is always better than a good day at work! Sunday was another return trip to the local market for fresh veggies and homemade pies. We spent the rest of the day drifting on Ed and Elaine’s pontoon boat, while bar-b-que’ing and enjoying the sun.

Tuesday was a Riesmeyer family gathering at Ed and Elaine’s place in Shilo. All the Riesmeyer’s were there, including Corrie’s older sister Alie, except for middle brother John. Included in the gathering were several nieces, nephews and grand kids (fortunately none belonging to us). Although Dan tried to ignore it, Corrie had let everyone know it was also his birthday. Dan received cards, kisses, hugs, and very nice original art work from Alie’s husband, Janek, whose is very accomplished artist. Dan smoked a pork roast for pulled pork sandwiches; Ed bar-b-que’d burgers and dogs; and several side dishes were brought by the family. It was a great day visiting with Canadian relatives and swimming in the pool! The only low point was when a bee stung Dan on the neck in exact spot where he already had stiff neck. Every time he moved in bed that night the pain woke him up.

Trivia – 1) On Saturday, 04AUG, what sea going service was 217 years old (see 2) What is Brandon’s nickname?