Good Sam Club Open Roads Forum: Trip Report: Across country delivering Sleepy's camper
Open Roads Forum Already a member? Login here.   If not, Register Today!  |  Help

Newest  |  Active  |  Popular  |  RVing FAQ Forum Rules  |  Forum Help and Support  |  Contact  

Search:   Advanced Search

Search only in Truck Campers

Open Roads Forum  >  Truck Campers

 > Trip Report: Across country delivering Sleepy's camper

Reply to Topic  |  Subscribe  |  Print Topic  |  Post New Topic  | 
Page of 7  
Next
sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

Senior Member

Joined: 10/10/2010

View Profile


Offline
Posted: 08/12/17 02:34pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

So, it is time for another trip report from me. I don’t think I’ve done one since Norway last year, so I am overdue. This one however will be a bit different. It will involve Sally and I travelling internationally as usual, and will also involve a truck camper as usual, just not the usual combination.

Background

To understand this trip, let’s wind back a few years. I’ve known many of you on RV.net for a number of years and we’ve met up in various places. Amongst my Truck Camper friends I am happy to count Sleepy – otherwise known as Chet. As you undoubtedly know, Chet has spent more than a thousand nights in his current camper (he built his own before that). Chet and I have communicated for several years independently from RV.net too.

[image]

Camper failures

Many of us have suffered from that feeling of disappointment and dread when we suddenly find horrendous rot, delamination or structural failure in our campers. Chet, whose 13-year old Lance 1161 has been used very extensively, unfortunately joined this club.

So what do you do? It is obvious when a camper is nearly new and worth a lot of money – you repair it. It is obvious when the camper is a worthless pile of junk with no historic value, abandoned in someone’s front yard – you send it to the junk yard. But many of us fall into that intermediate grey area where there are arguments in favour of both sides and we have to weigh it all up and make that difficult decision.

This was Chet’s dilemma and he had to weigh up all the variables to work out the optimum answer. No-one can do that for you, we can all provide our advice and opinions, but in the end it was down to Chet and his wife Janet. Their preferred choice was to have the camper they knew, in a layout they liked (which is no longer available) with all their years of customisations for their travel preferences, rebuilt.

In Chet’s case the culprit was structural damage – the structure around the slide was cracking and collapsing, and the floor of the bed area was cracking away from the cabover side, pus a number of other problems. The interior was still like new though.

A plan forms

After some dead ends, and thanks to Captain PJ locating a shop in Tacoma that were able to rebuild his 1161 (the same model as Chet’s), with excellent results, Chet has a potential solution.

But Tacoma is a long way from Oak Ridge and Chet doesn’t feel like making the journey both ways.
So in our email conversations, Chet starts dropping hints. Would we like to ferry his camper across country in the spring / summer of 2016? We would love to. A favour to a friend of course, but also a great opportunity for us. But we are already committed, having purchased ferry tickets for Norway and I don’t get enough time out from my job to do two major trips in a year. The only real solution is to leave it a year and have the camper rebuilt in 2017.

How would this work?

Chet generously says we can take as long as we liked to get the camper across country, but in reality, I can take at most 3 weeks off work (and I’ve never done that before, so this is testing the limits).
I book the flights – American Airlines outbound (flying to Knoxville via Chicago) and British Airways return from SeaTac direct to London.

There is a 5-hour timezone difference between London and Oak Ridge. However, business requires that I be in Bangalore, India for 2 weeks leading up to the cross-country trip, so I have an extra 4.5 hours of timezone change to get used to as well.

The opportunity to take this trip also coincided with the need to replace the soft top on my Jeep. They are expensive in Britain, but I can save a lot of money by bringing one back home with me. The soft-top is ordered and quickly delivered to Captain PJ’s house in Tacoma for safe keeping until we arrive. I get a good deal on one of those big bright yellow rubberised hold-alls you see circling the baggage carousel at airports – the type that implies the owners are heading for a mountain, yacht or white water raft. Getting the size right is critical – it has to be large enough to take the Jeep soft-top, but still comply with the size limitations of two different airlines, including a regional jet. When we planned the flight I had gold status with British Airways – this afforded me a ridiculous amount of hold baggage. By the time we come to fly though, a year of doing local projects had eroded that status and we are now restricted to one 23kg bag each. Given one of those bags will need to be full of Jeep soft top on the return journey, that meant almost all our gear for the trip needs to fit into one bag! We will be travelling light, despite being in a huge camper. Chet makes our lives easier though by arranging to loan us various things we will need, such as a tripod, trekking poles, etc.


'07 Ford Ranger XLT Supercab diesel + '91 Shadow Cruiser - Sky Cruiser 1
'98 Jeep TJ 4.0
'15 Ford Fiesta ST
'09 Fiat Panda 1.2


sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

Senior Member

Joined: 10/10/2010

View Profile


Offline
Posted: 08/12/17 02:35pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Day 1 – Saturday : London to Oak Ridge

I use the same taxi company I use for business, but today they are late – I chase the head office a number of times – 20 minutes late the driver turns up saying he had to fix a puncture. But he hadn’t notified head office who could have sent another car, probably because he didn’t want to lose the fare. I am annoyed and let him know it.

No status with the airline meant no lounge access, so no free champagne. The flight is a new Boeing 787, but Sally finds herself sat next to a young woman with a baby, which predictably screams for much of the flight. Enjoyment of the flight isn’t enhanced by the mother deciding the change the baby’s diaper while sat in her economy seat, rather than using the rest room.

Still, we land in Chicago on time and clear immigration and customs without too much delay.
You could choose various themes for this journey. During much of it we will follow the path of the Lewis and Clark expedition. We will also hit three of the locations that were significant in the development of the Atomic bomb in WWII. Although we don’t leave the airport in Chicago, it is at in theory the first of those three locations – the location of the Chicago Pile 1 – the world’s first nuclear reactor.

After a snack we find ourselves on a small regional jet for a short and pleasant flight down to Knoxville. On landing we head in the direction of the luggage carousel, and before we knew it are in a public area – land-side. I look ahead and spot a couple waiting on a bench in the corridor – hang on – I recognise those two – yes, it’s Chet and Janet, sat waiting for us. We have finally arrived.
It is so nice to see friendly faces when you land at an unknown airport – a luxury I never have. A short drive in Chet’s Prius and we are in Oak Ridge. I guess we should head to bed straight away, but it is so lovely to be with Chet and Janet that the talk flows until midnight. My body clock is still somewhere between here and India, where it is 9:30 AM already.

The camper is all set-up ready to go to bed, so we can just climb straight in and get to sleep.

sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

Senior Member

Joined: 10/10/2010

View Profile


Offline
Posted: 08/12/17 02:36pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Day 2 – Sunday : Oak Ridge (139 km)

Well, the Lance 1161 is certainly a comfortable camper – it’s like a small apartment compared to our ’91 Shadow Cruiser. We sleep pretty well, but of course wake early – not a surprise given Sally’s body clock is 5 hours ahead of Oak Ridge time and who knows where mine is.
I didn’t want to disturb Chet and Janet so spent the early morning packing what little stuff we brought in the camper, plus the food Chet and Janet have generously supplied. I also familiarise myself with some of the camper and truck features, without making too much noise.

[image]

Once everyone is up Sally spends time with Janet, and Chet and I go through camper and truck features – you know, all those things that are slightly different on your camper to everyone else’s. The generator is faulty, but I didn’t think that will be a problem – whenever I’ve had a built-in one available I’ve found it too noisy, and Chet has quite a lot of solar, plus we will be driving nearly every day, so battery power is unlikely to be a problem.

It makes sense to do a test drive, so Chet elects to visit Obed – the climbing area near Oak Ridge.

[image]

This involves some narrow and twisty roads (though compared to what we drive back in England they are good – a lane for each direction – what luxury ?? ). But it is a really good chance to try out the truck and camper. My first impression is summed up by my question to Chet “Is the diesel usually this loud?”. I am really worried about it, but over the course of the journey I am told that the Ford 6.0 was even noisier than its larger GMC cousin. Chet also points out that I am driving quite slowly on the changing grades and bumps. It takes me a while to feel confident with the extra stability the dually gives compared to my RV at home, which I need to nurse over such obstacles to avoid throwing the camper around too much.

[image]

The scenery around Oak Ridge is very nice and the climbing looks great. We have to split into two for the drive since Chet has already loaded most of the contents of the camper into the space where the double-cab’s rear seats used to be. All that stuff we usually carry in our campers – well, that needs to come out if having the camper rebuilt. Adding to that, if you are taking a multi-month return journey, you will want it all back in again, so it is no good just throwing it into your garage – it needs to be packed up so you can unpack it the other side of the country when you collect it again in fall, ready for your cross-country journey.

We share a very pleasant day with Chet and Janet, and once again chat late into the evening.

* This post was edited 08/14/17 02:42am by sabconsulting *

sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

Senior Member

Joined: 10/10/2010

View Profile


Offline
Posted: 08/12/17 02:37pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Day 3 – Monday : Oak Ridge to Carbondale (610 km)

It is with mixed feelings we leave Chet and Janet. I feel for them – taking their pride and joy away on a cross-country trip. Anything could go wrong. We have also enjoyed a lovely time with them; but it is time to start this journey properly.

[image]

My plan is to push hard for the first 3 days of driving to get us out to the ‘West’. If we had a couple of months we would have the luxury of exploring the states in between, but we are on a tight schedule. Hence, we can’t hang around too long in the morning since we have to hit the road and get some miles under our belt today, ideally aiming to camp near St Louis tonight.

I had organised my trip planning the way I usually do – that is to locate things we would like to see along the route, then find a range of suitable campgrounds along that route, and program both into my GPS. Hence on any given day we could set the GPS to point us at a pre-determined location, and we could then see whether we made that location, got further, or stopped short, but either way we had somewhere to aim at avoiding the need to waste valuable travel or sight-seeing time working out where to go during the vacation.

The great thing about travelling in the US is State Parks – they are my favourite thing and I had already programmed a load of them into my GPS. However, we won’t need the planned one tonight.
On the way out of Oak Ridge we pass the site of the Oak Ridge X-10 reactor – the second reactor created after Chicago Pile 1 – continuing on our Manhattan Project tour.

[image]

Sally watches the TV series “Nashville” on cable (its not my kind of thing, but that is probably because it doesn’t involve guys welding together extreme automobiles). So as a surprise we pull into the Grand Ole Opry car park. I don’t tell her until we got here.

[image]

We don’t have time to take a tour, or do anything other than buy some souvenirs and take a photo. However, we do get a chance to stuff our faces with fatty food in the nearby mall, and best of all visit an Outdoor World – now that’s an impressive store.

[image]

[image]

After lunch we cross into Kentucky and head for Kentucky Dam.

[image]

It is really just a chance to stop and stretch our legs after a few more miles. It is impressive seeing a tug slowly manoeuvre a long string of barges accurately into a giant lock to be lifted to the level of the lake beyond the dam.

[image]

I find the truck seems happiest cruising at 60 mph. If on quiet back-roads I revert to 55mph which is an even more pleasant speed.

I mentioned the intention to get to St Louis, but we get a much better offer. D and Jane (67 Avion) had contacted us and invited us to stay with them in Carbondale. This is an invitation not to be missed – partly because they are exceptionally interesting and wonderfully hospitable, but also because we have failed to meet up in the past on either side of the Atlantic, so now is a chance not to be missed. Soon after crossing the Ohio River into Illinois we turn west off of I-57 towards Carbondale.

[image]

We squeeze onto their driveway in a leafy street and are treated to some wonderful local cooking along with stories of D’s time as White House photographer for the NY Times, the civil rights marches of the ‘60s and of course Avion campers.

After plenty of wine and home cooking we retire to the camper.

* This post was edited 08/14/17 02:43am by sabconsulting *

sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

Senior Member

Joined: 10/10/2010

View Profile


Offline
Posted: 08/12/17 02:38pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Day 4 – Tuesday : Carbondale to Big Lake State Park (717 km)

Carbondale is well south of St Louis, so we are slightly behind schedule already. In theory we should rush out of Carbondale early in the morning to make up time. But the journey is about spending time with people, not just rushing from one tourist site to another. We spend a few precious hours extra in the morning enjoying a traditional breakfast with D and Jane before heading north.

[image]

D asks where we plan to camp tonight. Optimistically I suggest Omaha. D points out that this is one heck of a drive – he is undoubtedly right.

The other bonus of our detour to Carbondale is getting off the freeway and instead following the Mississippi north to St Louis on local roads – a much more pleasant experience. Plus, on the way we pass through Chester Illinois – the home of Popeye (or at least his creator).

[image]

Suddenly a nasty vibrating sound pierces the cab – coming from the top of the windshield. We have been driving into a headwind and something seems to have given way. Stopping at a mall we discover that Chet’s carefully designed aerofoil that deflects air from building up in the gap between the cab and camper, is now suffering from its thousands of miles of use. The lower edge has started to separate from the body of the aerofoil and is vibrating against the cab clearance lights. It is time to reach for the Duck tape Chet thoughtfully left in the camper.

[image]

We cross the Mississippi on I-255, on the southernmost edge of St Louis. The gateway arch is just about visible out of the side window, but only in profile.

Now in Missouri we head west on I-70, sitting at 60 mph in cruise control in the afternoon heat. Sally asks what all the strips of truck tire rubber are on the freeway shoulder. Five minutes after explaining, driving through Warrenton on I-70, there comes a thump, thump, bang and I see something fly off behind the truck. I assume something has come off the roof of the camper. We can’t investigate as it happened as the highway divides and by the time we can pull in we are in the no-man’s-land between the exit and entrance ramps – and I’m sure not going to cross the two exit lanes on foot to search for missing camper parts.

I walk around the truck, conscious of the big rigs passing us at 75 mph. I don’t initially spot anything and am about to assume we had simply driven over something when Sally points to the passenger-side inside rear tyre. All the tread has delaminated in one big strip, but the tyre is still at 80 PSI.

[image]

Chet has On-Star, but I don’t really want to sit around on the shoulder waiting for road service (or waiting to get hit by an 18-wheeler). I turn on the hazard lights and limp back onto the freeway, keeping the speed to 40 mph – a compromise between being so slow we risk being hit from behind, and being too fast that the remains of the tire explode. We limp onto the next junction, which seems half a continent away, and pull into a Flying J parking lot.

A quick tour on foot around the service area reveals no tyre shop, despite a large truck park. The lady in the gas station confirms this; pointing to the frame of a commercial building currently being erected – this is to be the tyre shop, but we are several months too early. However, across the freeway I can see another commercial building with a sign saying “Truck Tires” – so maybe I am in luck after all. I return to the camper and we crawl across the bridge and pull into the tyre shop. We are the only customers. I feel sorry for them. They will likely be out of business soon given the franchised competition across the freeway.

[image]

The guys in the tyre shop are very helpful. They check the spare tire, but it is starting to look past its best. Chet runs standard sized pickup truck tyres – nothing special, but they don’t have a new one in stock. They do however have a part warn available. $50 has that fitted, balanced and the old carcase disposed of. This also involves extra work because one of the supports for the fender had been torn away and need removing and a tailpipe bracket needs fixing. The fender itself is cracked, but the damage is superficial.

[image]

While there I ask them to tighten the tie-downs since we hadn’t checked them since Chet had recently re-mounted the camper and they have been rattling. I give them an extra $10 for a beer for their efforts.

This has lost us another 90 minutes, but it could easily have taken a lot longer. We definitely aren’t going to hit Omaha now.

We cruise on through the outskirts of Kansas City, now slightly worried about the state of the other tires. We refill with diesel on I-29. The GPS is clear that the campground I had selected in the morning will now be reached too late in the evening for comfort. I don’t like trying to find campgrounds and set-up camp after sunset. Time to drag out the Rand McNally road atlas and look for somewhere to camp. I look for a state park to our north, one with a tent symbol indicating camping is available. My intention is to put it into the GPS and then keep a look out for a boondocking spot along the way – we can use the campground as a backup if we don’t find somewhere free to camp. I see something that might be possible, but Sally doesn’t like the idea of camping right next to a railroad line. I like the sound of the train horn, but I would probably change my mind when woken for the third time in the middle of the night.

I needn’t have worried – as we home in on the state park – Big Lake State Park – it turns out to be a gem: Spacious, quiet, reasonably priced with a site available right next to the water and good showers close by. This is our first time dumping the tanks in Chet’s camper – not that we need to yet, but since there is water and dump facilities included in the price it makes sense to take advantage. The black tank knife valve apparently leaks a bit, so Chet has an extra screw-cap to drain it before removing the whole cover. My first time doing this I still manage to get my hands soaked. Later in the trip, after a couple more dumps, the knife valve seems to seat back further and I have less trouble with leakage. This first time using the dump station we find it takes a bit of practice to get the truck in position due to a shorter sewer hose than I am used to.

[image]

We deploy the slide and Sally gets the portable propane stove out to cook with on the provided picnic bench. In this case cooking al-fresco is the thing to do.

[image]

Chet and Janet found they no longer used their oven, so replaced it with an electric toaster oven which they do use. We on the other hand use our propane stove a lot, so Chet had kindly supplied a portable camping stove we could use inside or out.

[image]

On the site next to ours a couple camp in their car. This is one of the things I love about camping – the accessibility. You can camp in a triple-slide three-axle diesel pusher coach or in the back of your old Toyota – either way you are camping – if you can’t afford an RV, or even a decent tent, just throw some stuff from home into your car and go camping (I’ve camped in the back of a short wheelbase ex-army Land Rover, a Ford station wagon, an East German military pod on the back of a Soviet Ural truck and a curtain-side trailer from a big-rig).

* This post was edited 08/14/17 02:44am by sabconsulting *

sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

Senior Member

Joined: 10/10/2010

View Profile


Offline
Posted: 08/12/17 02:39pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Day 5 – Wednesday : Big Lake State Park to Badlands (905 km)

I have a copy of Lewis and Clark’s journal at home. I can’t profess to recalling much of it, but I do recall one episode. The flogging of a soldier who had fallen asleep on watch. When we pulled into this state part I saw a sign indicating a historic marker. While Sally gets ready in the morning I go for a little walk around the campground, and find the historic marker. I am amazed to find that this site we were camping in is the very place that the one episode from their journal I remember occurred.
Back to I-29 to follow the Missouri north. Before our trip I did ask you guys on RV.net for interesting things to stop by, and one of those suggestions is about to pay off. We don’t have time to visit the Lauritzen Gardens, but we do have time to cross the river and visit the little ornaments on show outside.

[image]

[image]

[image]

[image]

Carrying on up I-29 we swap seats to allow Sally to drive for a while through Iowa. It has been a while since she has driven an automatic transmission car any distance. She used to have a Jeep Cherokee, but that was right at the start of the century. Since then she has driven a mile in an E350 van and a few miles back to Silversand’s house outside Montreal in a small Ford class C camper. But with a few reminders about the column gear change, she is perfect. She also manages all the road construction on I-29 through Sioux City – busy merging traffic, narrow lanes, road cones and varying cambers.

[image]

Now in South Dakota we turn west at Sioux Falls onto I-90. People had said that South Dakota was boring, but with its spring flowers and gently undulating plains I find it a lovely drive.

[image]

The next little stop of the day is to visit Wayne Porter’s sculpture gallery. Wayne’s tremendous welded steel sculptures are clearly visible from I-90, but not actually sign-posted. Off an exit, down a dirt track, and there is Wayne greeting you and talking through his life history.

[image]

[image]

Tens of tons of steel; many years of construction and a location better than any art gallery – This collection is well worth a visit.

[image]

Rather more biological than Wayne’s scuptures:

[image]

Chet’s aerofoil claims another victim:

[image]

Back on I-90 we cross the Missouri again and head for our first ‘big ticket’ destination – Badlands National Park.

[image]

We pick up an America The Beautiful pass (Didn’t they used to be called Golden Eagle passes?) at the entrance gate - $80, but lasts a year for the whole vehicle and occupants – we will more than make our money back on this. I’m thankful to Bryan Appleby (BKA0721) who reminded me to get this pass. It starts saving us money straight away, since we want to stay at the park campground, and we get a 50% discount.

The Badlands Cedar Pass Campground is in a great location, but it doesn’t have nice level individual sites – at least on the loop we are on – just slight pull-outs from the loop road, and in the case of the one we were allocated it sloped in two directions. I keep having to remember to level the camper since it is something I don’t need to worry about much at home, having a compressor fridge.

[image]

[image]

However, Chet’s absorption fridge works very well through the whole trip, so I must be getting the level right. The laptop computer table he has built between the front seats of the truck is very useful – it is level if the camper is level, so a level placed on there while manoeuvring is a useful guide.

[image]

* This post was edited 08/14/17 02:46am by sabconsulting *

sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

Senior Member

Joined: 10/10/2010

View Profile


Offline
Posted: 08/12/17 02:40pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Day 6 – Thursday : Badlands to Crazy Horse (200 km)

Despite being quite a closely packed campground with no barriers to noise, we have no problem with noise or smoke which you might worry about in such a place. A load of the people camping went over to the other side of the campground in the evening for some Ranger talks.

Walking around the campground early morning it is nice knowing the days of big miles are pretty much behind us as we have crossed roughly half the country in 3 days.

Having not been camping in the US for a couple of years, this campground reveals a noticeable change in RVs – the demise of the American base vehicles. In the past you could feel you were in America because of the American vans. Now, apart from Chet’s distinctively American 3500 DRW + Lance, the campground seems to be dominated by European-designed vans. Ford Transits, Ford Transit Connect (the little ones), Mercedes Sprinters, Fiat Ducato, Fiat Doblo (the little ones). The last two have Dodge RAM badges, but make no mistake, they are Fiats. These vans all have diesel engines in Europe, but I imagine to reduce costs they are probably offered with gasoline engines in the US. I do notice a Mercedes Sprinter with a 3.0 diesel.

[image]

However, this Transit is definitely not a US-sourced one. The plates are German:

[image]

This does underline one major difference I noticed between my own little Ford 2.5 TDCi Diesel truck at home and Chet’s 6.6 Duratec GMC – the noise. We had become used to this over the last thousand or so miles, but it is still incredibly noisy when you apply much throttle. Inspecting under the hood shows very little sound insulation on the GMC – it clearly wasn’t a major design concern. But for a vehicle with heated leather seats, cruise control, climate, etc. having such an agriculturally noisy engine just doesn’t seem to match. In fact, during the trip I notice how incredibly noisy US vehicles are in general. When you stand by the side of the road so many are so noisy. At home we live a few hundred yards from a 6-lane highway – I can hear the tire noise from the heavy traffic doing 70 mph on the asphalt, but no engine or exhaust noise. In the US this seems very different. I had also considered this while sat in my little Ford Fiesta on a 12-lane section of the M25 London orbital motorway. Next to me big rigs purred along and were hardly audible through the window glass. Why a 450 HP rig in the US seems to produce twice as much noise as a 450 HP rig in Europe must be purely down to having to comply with noise regulations in one market and not in another.
We leave the campground early to go for a hike in the Badlands. The temperature is rising, so we are keen to get going before it gets too sweaty. We don’t see many people on the hike.

[image]

[image]

[image]

[image]

[image]

The colours are wonderful driving around the Badlands, and not least the colours of the grass – still being spring it is every shade imaginable. Having the plateau and planes below in ranges of greens and yellows really makes the rock stand out and gives everywhere a fresh look which I suspect will make way to more of a dusty parched look by August.

[image]

[image]

Ahead I can see a dirt road. I had not expected to take this because I did not know the state of it, but on closer inspection I can see it is wide and flat and both regular family cars and motorbikes are using it. Again, the contrast between the colour of the road, sky and grass is striking.

[image]

Most tourists head north from this dirt road, or simply turn around back to the asphalt, but we are heading on to the west, so stick with it, allowing us to experience some of the wildlife in the park.

[image]

[image]

These (swallows?) have nested under the bridge, and they continuously circle the bridge, performing a vertical loop.

[image]

Now, many of you know I like 4-wheeling and am really interested in vehicles (a vehicle-geek I guess), so I was keen to learn what the 4x4 system was on the Duratec / Allison GMC 3500. Chet’s response had been “you won’t need it, there is so much weight over the rear wheels”. Of course, Chet has seen my trip reports from Africa and my 4-wheeling pictures from back home, Australia and the Middle East. I suspect he was slightly worried I would try to emulate Jefe4x4 and Whazoo and do some 4x4 trails. I wouldn’t do that though. But Chet was definitely concerned that he had never used the 4x4 system and something might go wrong if engaged. I guess it is a part-time system, and since it is warm and dry and I am on a gravel road, I decide to test it – it engages and disengages perfectly and I run in it for a couple of miles – it all seems fine.

We can’t do this area without stopping in at Mount Rushmore. It is very developed as a tourist destination with the toll-booth entry stations, multi-storey car park, etc. We are directed to an area for small RVs. Chet’s camper certainly wouldn’t fall into that category in Europe.

[image]

It is really just a short stop – take the required photographs, have a quick look around the museum, buy a fridge magnet, consider buying an ice-cream, then see the queue and give up.

[image]

From there it is a short hop down to Crazy Horse. Wow, that’s a big project. I am amazed by the size of the whole complex. I wasn’t aware of the plans to develop a large educational institute there.

[image]

We take one of their old school buses for a tour around the bottom of the memorial.

[image]

When you see the machines working on Crazy Horse’s hand you can better appreciate the scale of the work.

[image]

Heading for Crazy Horse we had passed the Oreville campground in the Black Hills National Forest. So I take the easy option and head back there. I thought it would be cheap, but it is $20 (without hook-up and fairly close to a noisy highway). But I guess it is in between two major tourist attractions. We get a great site though.

[image]

[image]

Back at Oak Ridge Chet had pointed out to me where the floor of the cabover was starting to split away from the side wall. He had taped it with aluminium tape and had thrown a roll of the same into the camper for further repairs. Inspection shows the cracking is spreading, so I do some more taping.

* This post was edited 08/14/17 02:48am by sabconsulting *

sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

Senior Member

Joined: 10/10/2010

View Profile


Offline
Posted: 08/12/17 02:42pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Day 7 – Friday : Crazy Horse to Bighorn National Forest (449 km)

It’s Friday so it must be Wyoming – we head west on US-16.

[image]

We stop briefly in Newcastle to find a hardware store to buy some more of the mini camping propane cylinders that fuel Chet’s camping stove. It seems to go through these cylinders at quite a rate, probably in the cause of servicing Sally’s tea habit.

[image]

[image]

[image]

From Newcastle we head north on US-85 towards Devil’s tower. I play my usual game of not telling Sally where we are going until it looms into the windshield, eliciting a “Wow – is that what I think it is?” response.

[image]

The road heading for the tower runs along a ridge with several opportunities to get a great view of the monument.

We head past the KOA – if you watch Close Encounters of the Third Kind you will recognise that as the spot where the army base was located. We carry on to the entrance station, using our America the Beautiful pass again to get in at no extra cost.

The road winds up the lower slopes of the tower. The park is quite busy and we circle around the car park twice looking for a level spot, of which there are none due to the slope the car parks were built on – then we spot that they have marked the parking along the edge of the entrance road as “RV Parking” – and it is level! I shouldn’t have been surprised. Where-as in Britain there isn’t really any thought about places to park sizeable RVs, let alone being level so your fridge works – in the US this is pretty well thought out.

There are two hikes you can do around the tower. We do the nice short tourist hike first, which stays pretty level on a paved trail running just below the boulders at the base of the rock that forms the main part of the tower. The only difficulty is that you are a bit too close to the tower to get a nice view – you are always straining to look up at the rock rising above you.

[image]

After that we take the much longer lower level hike. This trail is on uneven ground and drops down near to the KOA / entrance station before circling around the red cliffs on that side, then climbs up again and circles around the other side of the tower. In contrast to the tourist trail, we see hardly anyone on this one and enjoy a picnic on a breezy ridge in the early afternoon heat.

[image]

[image]

[image]

It is now 2:30 in the afternoon, and we have pretty much exhausted the things I planned to do at Devils Tower. Plus it is hot. We take a drive around the park campground (not the KOA). It is more expensive, hot, quite crowded and doesn’t seem particularly attractive as a campground, even though the countryside surrounding it is fantastic. It doesn’t look like somewhere we want to spend the night, especially given it is still early afternoon. My plan had been to camp in this area Friday night, and on Saturday travel west to the Bighorn Mountains. We decide to simply head in that direction and see how far we get. Sally is keen to make progress and not just stop anywhere along I-90. We do stop briefly at the Powder River, but again it is hot and there is time to spare; Sally prefers to head for the mountains.

We turn off I-90 onto US-16 heading west through Buffalo into the Bighorn National Forest. On the way out of Buffalo there are a couple of offices – for forest and park service, so I pull in to find out about camping. The offices are closed and I find the notice board confusing. There are envelopes you can fill out and put money in for back country permits, but I’m not really sure whether that is for us, or for people hiking into the back country, or what. So we head on into the forest. I had already put a waypoint into the GPS for Tie Hack campground. However, we turn up to find it is quite small, and since we have turned up late in the day, completely full. ****, I hadn’t considered that. It is of course the weekend, so suddenly there are a lot more campers around.

We return to US-16 and head a few hundred yards to check out the next campground, and that too is full. This is getting desperate. As we head further along the highway we pass a turnoff on the right – maybe there is something down there. We do a U-turn and take the turn off: a gravel road heading south-west into the mountains. I can see someone with a touring trailer has pulled just off the road by a creek and is setting up camp. A couple of hundred yards along we find a side turning down to the creek with a small turnaround area. An off-highway-vehicle trail leads past this and fords the river before heading up into the forest. After some manoeuvring and applying levelling timbers I am satisfied with our location. A couple of cars came past on the main track, and some motorbikes on the OHV trail, but other than that we are alone.

[image]

Sally temporarily repurposes Chet’s plastic trash bin to wash some of our clothes in, which she hangs on the ladder and elsewhere around the camper. She then goes down to the creek and washes her hair. She pretends it is not extremely cold and uncomfortable, but there is no hiding it really. I point out that we have a heated shower in the camper, so grateful as I am to her for saving propane and water, I won’t be joining her in the creek.

[image]

We may have been keen to get out of the heat for the night, but now we are in much colder weather.

I try to start the Platcat heater, but it won’t fire up. Chet had shown me the process, and I ensure the propane valve is open and the thermostat is set, and the reset button depressed. Still, despite trying several attempts, it will not fire up. We resorted to running the furnace for a short while, which heats the camper quickly. Unfortunately, we can’t find the blankets – they are there in the camper, but we don’t discover them until we get to Tacoma. Instead we cuddle up together and make a note to buy a comforter when we get to the next major town.

We could run the furnace overnight, but I am conscious of the battery drain. Remember that Chet’s generator is not working and I am not entirely sure if the batteries are being charged off the alternator. When I checked the charging amps coming from the solar panels I had noticed they were very low. I only discover later, after reading the manual for Chet’s solar controller, that it deliberately ramps down the charging current to a trickle once the battery exceeds 90% capacity. So I at this stage I am mistakenly assuming the low charging rate might signal a problem with the solar panel. Hence I am very careful about how much battery power I use, worried I will have difficulty recharging it.

* This post was edited 08/14/17 02:49am by sabconsulting *

sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

Senior Member

Joined: 10/10/2010

View Profile


Offline
Posted: 08/12/17 02:44pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Day 8 – Saturday : Bighorn National Forest to Dubois (423 km)

I start the morning by climbing onto the roof to clean the solar panels, since we are pretty reliant upon them. The roof feels a bit crunchy under foot in places, a sign that it is time for this rebuild.

[image]

We carry on along US-16 and down Ten Sleep Canyon.

We stop briefly in Ten Sleep itself and buy Sally a T-shirt from the Dirty Sally General Store. If we had more time I’d let her go into the Crazy Woman Café too, but that would probably involve yet more T-shirt purchases. I like the way the stabling for the rodeo ground here is marked as a “Horse Hotel”.

[image]

[image]

We will be spending more time in the mountains from now on, and the cold of last night has given us a warning. At Worland we pull into Shopko and find a comforter marked down to $18 in the sale – that will help. In our own camper we let it get cool overnight and rely on a thick duvet on the bed to keep us warm, although in the cold and wet months we pay for campgrounds with hook-up so we can run the dehumidifier overnight, which also heats the camper.

While in their car park I power up my computer and 4G mobile cell hotspot, and have internet for the first time since TN. It is useful to be able to catch up with friends to confirm travel arrangements for the rest of the journey. We are not generally city people. When travelling we consuming sandwiches in the hills rather than a restaurant and eat our evening meal where we are camped, which is also away from cities. Hence getting internet connection is a real challenge, since we never stop for any length of time where there is a cell signal, or at least where there is a cell signal my mobile hotspot has a roaming deal with.

I notice the solar charge controller shows only 2.5 amps in the midday sun, despite the battery not being full. I finally resort to reading the manual for the controller and realise there is nothing wrong with the system, it is just looking after the batteries.

[image]

[image]

[image]

We turn onto US-20 and head south to Thermopolis Hot Springs State Park for lunch and to look at the strange coloured algae.

[image]

The river is high and flooding some of the nicely set-out lawns and picnic benches.

[image]

The road going under the railroad in town doesn’t have much clearance – just 12 ft. I get Sally to stand in the road and watch as I drive under very slowly. The aircon unit gets pretty close to the bridge. We will find another road when leaving – one that goes over the railroad instead of under it.

[image]

[image]

[image]

We carry on south down Wind River Canyon. I start to look out for state parks and campgrounds. There is a campground by Boysen Reservoir, near the dam, but it looks really hot – anyway, it is still too early in the day to stop.

The plan is to turn NW onto US-26, and we take a short-cut along WY-134 cutting the corner. However, when on arriving at the junction of US-26 we find it closed due to flooding and have to take a big detour via Ethete and Fort Washakle almost to Lander, and then back up US-287 before re-joining the Wind River.

Now it is time to start looking for camping. Looking at the road map I can see National Forest to the north east. Approaching Dubois I spot a gravel road to the right showing camping some miles along. The road is clearly a dead-end, so as it heads miles away from US-26 I just hope we find some suitable camping. About 9 miles along we find a corralled area set out for hunters to camp in, with a long drop toilet. No fee and no other campers – this is perfect.

[image]

Time to go for a walk. The weather is looking ominous in the mountains to the west; heading in the direction of Jackson.

[image]

I’m slightly worried about the amount of water emptying down the creeks in this valley. The water level in them is very high and I don’t want to wake up with them having broken their banks and flooding the only road out. To add to my concerns, the weather we could see earlier arrives in the night bringing with it a lot of heavy rain.

At about 3 AM the fridge alarm sounds. The propane should have switched over to the other cylinder but that clearly wasn’t working. With a flashlight in my mouth I venture out in the wind and rain to investigate. It turns out the valve to the second cylinder is closed. Once I open it and recycle the fridge power all was well again. The low propane pressure may explain why the platcat heater didn’t start up.

* This post was edited 08/14/17 02:51am by sabconsulting *

sabconsulting

High Wycombe, UK

Senior Member

Joined: 10/10/2010

View Profile


Offline
Posted: 08/12/17 02:47pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Day 9 – Sunday : Dubois to Grand Teton National Park (257 km)

The possibilities of the water rising in the valley had played on my mind for much of the night, so we decide to leave early in case the waters rise following the heavy rain, trapping us. The previously warm and dry gravel road is now muddy.

We stop for breakfast just up the road in Dubois; at Coyote Blue, a nice café with friendly locals. One of them suggests we check out their local music venue: www.dennisonlodge.org.

We also top up with diesel while in town. We have been surprised by the lack of diesel in some gas stations since you won’t find one in Europe that doesn’t stock it. A gas station owner in South Dakota told us he would love to stock diesel, but there are too many hoops to jump through and associated costs these days – he had pointed me another 10 miles down the freeway to where I could find diesel. After that I was more careful about filling up the tank while I still had plenty to spare, or at least I was for now.

I ask the attendant to fill the empty propane tank. He is very helpful and removes the cylinder for us, though it is a struggle and he has to find an appropriate wrench since the plastic screw-on part has jammed. Once removed he shows us the problem – a piece of the plastic - something attached to the cylinder, had got caught in the thread when previously refilled and someone had done it really tight with a wrench in an attempt to stop it leaking. With the plastic removed it does up hand tight. We thank him profusely, but he says that heck, he has nothing else to do; it isn’t like there are many customers stopping by early this Sunday morning.

We stop for the obligatory picture at the continental divide.

[image]

We will be crossing this several times in the coming days in various places. The weather, hot and sunny until now, has changed with last night’s storm. People are saying it will blow through in a few days, but we are only in the Jackson / GTNP / Yellowstone area for a few days – so this is not good timing.

As we drop down into the valley on US-26 it becomes evident the Tetons are completely obscured by low cloud. I had previously marvelled at photos of the Tetons looking stunning with their white caps against the blue sky, including photos Bryan Appleby (bka0721 on rv.net) has taken.

We are due to meet up with Bryan later today, together with LaDawn and Brian Towell from Golden CO (btggraphix on rv.net). But since we are earlier than expected Sally wants to see Jackson. We stop at the visitor centre and I try to get a cell connection to get internet, but to no avail. The visitor centre staff point me to an area where I can sit and use their wifi, which is slow, but allows me to catch up with messages.

I had voted in advance for the general election in Britain, but now was the first time seeing the result. It is strange when you are away because the news always assumes you were aware of the happenings during the last week, so only talks about the ongoing developments, from which you get a tantalising feel for what you missed without seeing the whole story.

To our relief the weather has now improved.

Sally wants to see the Jackson Hole ski resort, since we are close by, and because she is always looking for ways to entice me to try skiing in the future.

[image]

Arriving at the village the parking guy points us to an empty lot, so I park at a strange angle necessary to get the camper level. Unknown to me at this time, a couple of hours later when we return the parking lot will be almost full, so our randomly angled camper will look like it was parked by idiots.

We take the Swiss built cable car to top. It is a very smooth ride, but I’m surprised by the $80 cost for 2 tickets.

[image]

[image]

Sally talks about walking back down, but I point out that we don’t have the time and all the trails are still closed due to snow.

[image]

[image]

I set the GPS and it directs us left out of Jackson Hole, rather than back through Jackson – this is good in my books since I prefer to try a new road than retrace my steps. This leads us to the entry station at the south end of GTNP. We pull up to the ranger hut and flash the America the Beautiful card once more. I have to take a slightly wide line approaching to ensure we don’t hit the overhanging roof of the ranger’s hut. She notices this and looks up – “Wow, you are pretty much on the size limit – just keep well to the right please” and waves us through. Actually, I suspect we are well over the size limit. This is not a problem for us since no-one else with similar sized vehicles is coming in the other direction. Compared to the roads that run through British parks, often dropping to 7 or 8 ft wide, this gravel road is a veritable highway. However, that doesn’t stop our appearance from panicking oncoming drivers who clearly have difficulty judging their vehicle’s widths. I guess many are used to city driving with nice wide lanes separated by painted lanes. Pretty much the only vehicle that doesn’t need to slow down or stop as it approaches us is a flatbed dually truck used for park maintenance. He is longer and wider than all the other traffic by a large margin, but the difference is, he is used to driving that truck in narrow roads and can see there is plenty of room for him to pass, where Ford Focus drivers struggle.

We make it unscathed back to the highway, with only one oncoming driver looking disapproving and wagging his finger at us.

[image]

Now it is time to find our friends. We pull into the ranger station where Bryan Appleby is working – or rather isn’t – he has gone for a kayak trip (OK, I guess it is a ranger-lead kayak trip, so still technically work). We walk down to the boat dock and as we approach I spot Brian and LaDawn with their rental kayak. I am going to play it cool and sneak up on them and ask directions, pretending to be a stranger, but they spot me before I can trick them. It is lovely to meet up again. After only a few seconds our favourite ranger, Bryan Appleby, appears, fresh from kayaking. The day is getting better and better.

[image]

All three, together with their mutual friend Liz, have just returned from kayaking. The weather is perfect and the mountains look amazing across the lake. “Fancy renting a kayak and going out on the lake?” comes the suggestion. Why not? I have been looking forward to some group kayaking with our friends on Jackson Lake for many months. It would have been easy to say “Oh, we can do that tomorrow, let’s get ourselves settled first…”, but given the variability of the weather there is no time to lose. Remember, I live in England, and you don’t turn down the opportunity of making the most of the rare sunny day back there.

Bryan Appleby has to return to the visitor’s centre to man the information desk, so Sally and I rent a tandem kayak ($42 for 2 hours) and us, Brian, LaDawn and Liz take off onto the lake. I am a bit worried because I have left the camper in the short-term parking area near reception; “Well, you would need to talk to a Ranger about that” Bryan winked – so I guess it won’t be a problem.

[image]

There is some confusion and struggling initially, at least in our kayak. Liz calls out “Are you sure you don’t have left-handed paddles?”. Well, she is right – they are adjustable, and are set to left-handed. I didn’t even know there was such a thing and certainly can’t believe how much of a difference it makes. The store we bought our own kayak from had figured out the best paddles for us, so I guess we didn’t appreciate the options available. A bit of adjustment and paddling is so much easier – we are now going in a straight line and can stop arguing about whose fault it is that we are paddling around in circles.

[image]

We enjoy a marvellous couple of hours on the lake, but as we head towards the boat dock we are racing against a storm that is heading in the same direction. We get back just in time.

We finish the evening sharing pizzas and stories washed down with beer at one of the restaurants.
Bryan Appleby is doing us a big favour and letting us camp with him. Squeezed in next to Bud’s big bus.

[image]

Bud scours the huge amount of storage under his coach to find a relevant adaptor so we can hook-up to the 120v mains supply. Collectively we manage to couple together enough connectors and extension leads to reach. I’ve learned from French campgrounds to always carry a huge amount of mains cable in my own camper.

LaDawn has bought her Toyota Four Runner and a tent – quite a departure from their regular Kodiak + Lance 1191, but they are in the middle of a truck change, so tenting it is. Unfortunately bringing a tent to an RV party has clearly tempted the rain gods.

* This post was last edited 08/14/17 10:59pm by sabconsulting *   View edit history

Reply to Topic  |  Subscribe  |  Print Topic  |  Post New Topic  | 
Page of 7  
Next

Open Roads Forum  >  Truck Campers

 > Trip Report: Across country delivering Sleepy's camper
Search:   Advanced Search

Search only in Truck Campers


New posts No new posts
Closed, new posts Closed, no new posts
Moved, new posts Moved, no new posts

Adjust text size:

© 2017 CWI, Inc. © 2017 Good Sam Enterprises, LLC. All Rights Reserved. | Terms of Use | PRIVACY POLICY | YOUR PRIVACY RIGHTS