Friday, August 26, 2016


One of the most worrying aspects of full-timing in a RV is having a major component like the rangetop, refrigerator, propane system or toilet-black tank go down in a place far from your "home base" where you don't know who you can trust to fix it.  Recently the refrigerator in the Tank was no longer cooling efficiently to the point where it no longer was able to make ice in it's tiny freezer compartment.

The Tanks "dorm room style' refrigerator.
At the time this problem raised it's head I was boondocking on some BLM land just north of the Western Slope city of Grand Junction.  The problem wasn't something I could "live with" if only because I'd just shopped for $70 worth of meat and groceries which I didn't want to throw out.  Grand Junction is a pretty good sized city so it figured to have more than one RV dealer which presumably had a service department so I Googled "RV dealers near Grand Junction" and got three entries returned.  Unfortunately, times are great in the RV repair industry in Grand Junction because the earliest anyone could squeeze the Tank in was two weeks into the future, I couldn't wait that long.  So I Googled "RV repair near Grand Junction" and along with the three dealers I got from my first search was "Larry's Mobile RV Repair", I assumed the "Mobile" part meant that Larry would come to me so, even so I was thinking this was too lucky to be true, I called Larry, who personally answered on the first ring.

I explained my refrigerator's symptoms to Larry over the phone and asked him if this was something he might be able to look at and he said yes.  We arranged to meet in a city park in one hour!  Larry actually showed up early and got right down to diagnosing my problem.  I had a sinking feeling of needing a new $1100 refrigerator but I kept it to myself.  Larry checked my propane system's pressure and found that it was testing at a 8 when it should have been 11,  about a 25% shortfall.  Within a few more minutes Larry suspected my propane system's actuator was partially clogged and he pulled it out of the propane compartment.

The Tank's propane actuator.
Larry put a couple paper towels on the ground and shook the actuator over them and what looked to be oil dripped out of the actuator (it's supposed to be dry inside).  There are different theories about how oil gets into actuators.  Larry's was that over time a small amount of propane reverts back to the oil phase and collects in the actuator.  Another view is that the propane leaches oil out of the rubber propane hose you see in the above picture and that oil deposits in the actuator.  Either way, the propane then has to bubble up through the oil to get to the refrigerator, making it run inefficiently.  YAY!  No $1100 refrigerator purchase!  Most RV owners know this already but NEVER try to work on a propane system by yourself.  Larry had 26 years of experience and he used soapy water on all the joints and connections in the Tank's propane system to see if there was any gas leaks after he replaced the actuator (he actually did the soapy water twice).  Having expert attention being directed towards your propane system repairs can prevent a seriously bad day occurring.

If you are on the Western Slope and need someone to work on your RV call Larry.  You won't regret it!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Campground Review: Railroad Bridge Camp Area Buena Vista, CO

It seemed like it took me forever to enter Colorado and I guess if I hadn't camped my way from Michigan I could have made it a lot faster but I thought "What's the rush?".  The plan was to work out at Anytime Fitness in Ft. Collins, stock-up at the Walmart there and then head back up for a long stay at Antero Reservoir which I fell in love with last time and that I reviewed here:  Antero Reservoir Review .  The discerning reader will notice that this post is a review of a different campground....hmmm....I wonder what happened?  Well, this is going to be a little embarrassing, I dutifully drove from Ft. Collins to Antero Reservoir only it was no longer there!  They drained it to work on the dam that creates it.  Been drained for over 18 months....who knew?  Not me obviously, but pretty much everyone else in Colorado!  When I read the "Reservoir Closed" sign on the entrance road it was getting towards dusk so I did a Google Maps search for nearby RV Resorts and ended up at a fairly nice one in Buena Vista, for $50 a night!  Any port in a storm I guess so I signed up for one night intending to find another boondocking spot nearby in the morning no way another $50 night was happening!

So I found what sounded like a pretty good spot on some BLM land along the Arkansas River about seven miles north of Buena Vista called Railroad Bridge Camp Area. 

Weird but I never saw a Railroad Bridge the whole time there.
My first night along the Arkansas I didn't get the greatest campsite but the very next day on my walk I found one that some tent campers had left and hurried back to the Tank to get it to the better site before someone else nailed it.

The Tank tucked into a more preferable campsite.
What was so preferable about the above site?  Well my previous one was about 50 feet above the river, this was my new backdoor view:

The biggest "white noise" generator in the world!
Here's the data sheet for Railroad Bridge:

Hookups:                                             None                                                                          
Fire ring:                                              Yes (area is under strict no fire policy currently)       
Water Access:                                     Yes                                                                 
Fresh Water:                                        No                                                      
Trash Service:                                      No, pack in, pack out                                                 
Toilets:                                                No                                          
Showers:                                             No                                                      
Dump station:                                      No                                                      
WiFi:                                                   No                                                      
Level sites:                                          Yes                                                     
Laundry:                                              No                                                                  
Store:                                                  No                                                                              
Pool:                                                   No                                                      
Shade:                                                Yes                                                     
Verizon reception:                                4G, 2 bars                                           
Internet reception:                                2 bars              
Cost:                                                 Free for up to 14 days

The portion of the Arkansas River I was camped along is a destination white water rafting and kayaking experience.  One of the biggest industries in the Buena Vista area is companies providing white water tours, and definitely the biggest employers in the area.

Rafters on the Arkansas River zip past my campsite.
 County Road 371 parallels the river so it ends up being the road that the tour company buses take to retrieve the white water rafters at the end of their runs.  As the BLM area is a narrow strip of land BETWEEN CR 371 and the Arkansas River you do get some traffic noise during the day.

CR 371.  Did someone say "washboard"?
The bus traffic is a small price to pay for this though:

About a mile south along CR 371 is a tent only camping area that's a little more organized than the one I was in.

Sign at the entrance to the tent area.

Tent campsites came with a fire ring and table.
I looked around for a railroad bridge during my daily walks to try to discern a reason for the name of the camp area but the closest thing I found was this:

This was right next to the car bridge over the river -- someone was living in it!
I lasted ten days at Railroad Bridge Camp Area.  Or I should say my food did, I could have stayed way longer!  The noise the white water threw off made for some of the best nightly sleep I've had in years.  This area was a worthy alternative to my planned return to Antero Reservoir and camping along the Arkansas might just become an annual event for me.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Campground Review: Gotte Park Kimball, NE

I made one more camp stop prior to reaching Colorado and spent a weekend camping in Kimball, Nebraska's Gotte Park.  The park is huge for such a small town and houses the municipal swimming pool, picnic shelters, clean bathrooms with flush toilets, several fresh water outlets, tennis courts, basketball courts, sand volley ball courts and children's play equipment.

The park is on NE 30 which becomes 3rd Street within Kimball's city limits.
Kimball allows up to three nights of camping in two areas of the park.  The most obvious is a road just inside the park that parallels Highway 30 where there are four or five water hookups (there are no electrical hookups).  I noticed street noise was pretty heavy along these spots so I went to the center of the park near the volley ball courts where it was perfectly quiet.

I was the only camper the weekend I stayed there.
Before finalizing my choice of camping spots I asked a local 10 year old if it was OK to park where I was and he assured me "lots of RV's camp there all the time" so that was good enough for me.  While it was completely sunny the weekend I spent at Gotte Park so the Tank's solar setup supplied all the electricity I needed, it was also pretty hot inside.  I noticed that the picnic shelters had electrical outlets which, almost always, are disabled or outright broken at the other parks I've visited but these worked so I enjoyed plugging my laptop into them and spending mornings doing my normal surfing outdoors in the shade.

Free electricity and shade!
Here's Gotte Park's data sheet:

Hookups:                                             Water only                                                                 
Fire ring:                                              No                                                                              
Water Access:                                     Yes                                                                 
Fresh Water:                                        Yes                                                     
Trash Service:                                      Yes                                                     
Toilets:                                                Yes                                                     
Showers:                                             No                                                                  
Dump station:                                      No                                                                              
WiFi:                                                   No                                                      
Level sites:                                          Yes                                                     
Laundry:                                              No                                                                  
Store:                                                  Across the street                                                        
Pool:                                                   Yes                                                     
Shade:                                                Yes                                                     
Verizon reception:                                4G, 3 bars                               
Internet reception:                                3 out of 4 bars                        
Cost:                                                 Free for up to 3 nights

Gotte Park DOES have one rather unusual component that set it apart from absolutely every other park I've ever stayed at:

That's a Titan 1 nuclear missile!
I guess the missile is to commemorate the many Missile Command silos that once dotted Nebraska.

For folks traveling east or west along I-80 Gotte Park makes a convenient overnight or even weekend camping experience.  Kimball is just a few miles north of I-80 and the park is just across the street from a full service grocery store with decent prices if you're in need of resupplying.  I enjoyed my stay there and would stop there again.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Campground Review: Hieb Memorial Park Marion, SD

A smartphone app I really find useful in my wanderings is RadarNow!  What it does is link you to regional airport radar not in real time, but in six minute delayed bursts.  So if it's 3pm RadarNow! shows you radar shots from 2:30, 2:36, 2:42, 2:48 up to 2:54.  The display looks just like the radar shots the TV weather guys show you when there's a storm coming in.  The app uses your phone's GPS to put a little blue dot in the middle of the screen which is you so you can see where nasty weather is (and is going to) relative to your current position.  RadarNow! also sends weather alerts like severe thunderstorms or severe heat to your smartphone.  Best of all it's free!  Anyway that was a long-winded way of explaining why I ended up at Hieb Park in the tiny town of Marion, South Dakota.   The RadarNow! app had sent an alert to my smartphone warning of a severe heat wave in the area lasting for at least four days, I realized I needed to find a campsite with electricity to run the Tank's AC (the Tank's solar power can't generate the huge initial draw air-conditioners require at start).  Using my favorite free campsite website,   I found that not only did nearby Marion's park allow for free camping for up to seven days, it also provided FREE electrical hookups!  I headed towards Hieb Park.

Home of free electricity!

Marion is a small town that's seen better economic times judging by the many closed businesses I saw as I drove down their main street but Hieb Park is a really nicely maintained park boasting of two ball fields with lights and stands and an outdoor swimming pool.

The pool complex had an adult pool and a kids wading pool.
There were three RV areas with hookups, totally seven sites in all and I got the last one which was fortunate for me as it was a Friday afternoon when I got there.

No worries about sun hitting the Tank's solar panels with electric hookups.

 Here's Hieb Memorial Park's data sheet:

Hookups:                                             30 amp Electric, water                                               
Fire ring:                                              No                                                                              
Water Access:                                     Yes                                                                 
Fresh Water:                                        Yes                                                     
Trash Service:                                      Yes                                                                 
Toilets:                                                Yes                                                                 
Showers:                                             Yes (at the pool)                                                        
Dump station:                                      Yes                                                     
WiFi:                                                   No                                                                  
Level sites:                                          Yes                                                     
Laundry:                                              No                                                                  
Store:                                                  No                                          
Pool:                                                   Yes                                                     
Shade:                                                Yes                                                                 
Verizon reception:                                4G, 4 bars                                           
Internet reception:                                4 bars                                      
Cost:                                                  Free for up to 7 days

In addition to the swimming pool there's a small stream that feeds a large pond on one side of the park.

Hieb Park's fishing pond.
There was even a neat little foot bridge that crossed the pond that I guess you could fish off of.

This foot bridge gets you back to your RV without walking around the pond.
Whenever I stay at a park that supplies free hookups I try to spend money at the town's businesses to show my appreciation, after all the townsfolk are footing the electric bill at the end of the month.  I ate breakfast at a traditional little diner only a block from the park and the Country Breakfast on the menu there (I can't remember the diner's name but there's only one in town) is highly recommended!  I also stopped at the hardware store and bought some stuff I needed to do some minor repairs on the Tank.

RadarNow! predicted high temperatures and for my three day stay in Marion it was spot on, the Tank's AC ran all day long it seemed.  I was grateful for the electricity, it would have been really uncomfortable without it.  Hieb Memorial Park is a really nice city park that I would recommend to anyone passing through Marion's part of South Dakota!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Campground Review: Lake Byre Recreational Area Kennebec, South Dakota

Continuing my trek out to Colorado I paused for three days at a really nice public campground a few miles off I-90 and northeast of the tiny town of Kennebec, South Dakota - Byre Lake.

The word "recreational" JUST made it into it's space!
Kennebec is a tiny rural town of 300 folks located on I-90.  Byre Lake is a couple miles northeast of the town which is good because there's virtually no highway noise from I-90.  The camping area is on the north side of the lake and is a sloping field that you just pick out a spot and there you are!  As I had the place entirely to myself during the three middle of the weekdays I stayed I chose a spot pretty near the water.

The Tank's site....right by the water.
Here's the data sheet for Lake Byre:

Hookups:                                             None                                                                          
Fire ring:                                              No                                                                              
Water Access:                                     Yes                                                                 
Fresh Water:                                        No                                                      
Trash Service:                                      Yes                                                     
Toilets:                                                Yes (vault)                                                     
Showers:                                             No                                                                              
Dump station:                                      No                                                      
WiFi:                                                   No                                                      
Level sites:                                          No                                                      
Laundry:                                              No                                                                  
Store:                                                  No                                                                              
Pool:                                                   No                                                      
Shade:                                                No                                                      
Verizon reception:                               4G, 3 bars                                           
Internet reception:                               3 bars              
Cost:                                                 Free for 4 days

From the brown grass in the recreational area it was obvious that this part of South Dakota had suffered under a prolonged drought but Mother Nature remedied that the second night I was there with a massive thunderstorm with extremely high winds that had the Tank a-rockin' but fortunately there wasn't any hail to speak of so no damage to the Tank.

The boat launch and fishing pier --nobody used them the whole time!
There were so many fish jumping in Lake Byre in the mornings I almost wished I'd paid for a South Dakota fishing stamp but states really tend to nail the out-of-stater with the stamp costs and unless I was going to stay somewhere for a month or so it's just to costly to own stamps from states that I'm just passing through.

A little peninsula that goes out into the lake that you could easily fish from.
The day after the storm it was still pretty dark and cloudy but I didn't have to worry about whether or not I could charge all my electronics by solar because there's one covered picnic area at the park that had a single working electrical outlet that I worked under while my stuff charged up.

It is REALLY quiet at the rec area, which I loved, almost as much as having a nice sized lake all to  myself!  I'm pretty sure that if I had come there on a weekend there would have been other campers and locals but if you go there on a week day don't be surprised if you get a little lonely!  The Lake Byre Recreational Area definitely goes on my "Will Return" list.

Thanks for reading!