Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Back in Colorado

The Slow Return Trip has ended.

A week to drive UMA the URRV (Ural Recovery RV) from Everett, WA to Centennial, CO.

One last view of the campsite as I left....

 A couple of bucks were flushed out as I drove by....
managed to capture one who paused for a second.

 A rusted water tank made, I thought, a nice composition
with the distant wind turbines

 Looks like a power plant using water from the 
North Platte river for cooling.

Expenses besides gas (8 mpg, baby!) were $35 for food cooked in the RV; and $21.50 for camping fees: ($11.50 for the one day Discover Pass in WA and $10 donation for the camping in Columbus, MT.)

Only one issue involving Scarlett, a check engine light which pointed to a failed o2 Sensor on the left side header pipe. 

Short driving day, less than 210 miles I think.

I stopped by Unique Rides and Randy had one in stock for a mere $55 and some change.  Had a heck of a time removing the old sensor, the nut portion of it had been rounded off by previous ham-fisted efforts on my part.  A little PB Blaster, lots of heat, and it finally came off.

New part is in place, no more "check engine" light!  :)

It's good to be home.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Boondocking near Glenrock, WY

Day 7 and last camping day of the Slow Return Trip

Left the campground in Columbus, MT shortly after 8AM and by 8:35 I had gassed up Uma and we were headed down the highway towards Wyoming via eventually the I-25 Superslab.

Not much to tell, boring highway driving all day, got to the campsite I'd picked out by me from allstays.com's app.  The Bixby Road/Tank Farm Rd River Access BLM site.  Tiny spot, rated as three sites.  Since there was no one there before me, I grabbed the best spot under the trees.

At first, the spot I parked Uma at seemed to have good signal, 3 bars LTE with Verizon but it was "lacking" when tested.

So I deployed the weBoost system and that seemed to fix things, I was a happy camper as I spent the rest of the afternoon catching up on work stuff.

Then, around 6PM, I lost internet access.  No changes on my part but no data. 

I tried moving the weBoost antenna around, but no joy. 

Ended up just moving the iphone6 about 12 feet to the left of the URRV, closer to the small river and voila, got good signal again.  I tethered my laptop back onto the phone, which is sitting by itself outside the RV and typing this.  If I wasn't just overnighting here, I'd work on it some more, possibly moving the RV but since it's just one night.....

Weird, how cell signals sometimes don't follow expected behavior eh?

A clear skies yet hazy sunset here in middle Wyoming.

A view of the river I am camped nearby

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sunday Ride to Stemple Pass and boondocking at Itch-ke-pe Park

Jul 29

Day 6 of the Slow Return.

Craig H. and I rode out of his ranch a little after 8:30 AM, headed to Stemple Pass and to ride the dirt road to Lincoln.

We got to Stemple Pass just fine, Craig let me go first so he was left with riding in the dust trail that I generated.  This would cause issues later.

At the pass, we took a minute for a break and a pic:

The rigs at Stemple Pass

Not any more pics, we were mostly within the treeline so no scenic views to be had for the parts of the Stemple Pass Road that we covered.

We rode on, this time with Craig in the lead, enjoying a pretty good dirt road with many twists and turns, climbs and dips....and then we ran out of road.  Hmmmm.

No maps, so we turned around and retraced our steps.

We'd stopped earlier because Craig's rig was acting like it was running rich and losing power.  Scarlett, on the other hand, had a lit "check engine" light.  Oh oh.

The code I got from the system was 143, which the manual says there's an issue with the heater in the left side O2 Sensor.  Not ride impacting apparently but will probably have to replace it.  Oh well, as long as I can still ride.

As we retraced our route, Craig's rig got worse and worse.  Finally he stopped and after some diagnostics, confirmed that the air filter was clogged with dust.  A short time later, he'd cleaned it with some gas and after waiting for it to evaporate, put it back in.  His engine fired up just fine and ran well after that!

We rode on home, getting there by Noon.

Craig then helped me out in prepping the rig for travel and getting UMA the URRV ready for the road.  Some short goodbyes ensued:

 Craig and I found Julie mowing the grass in the "back 40".
Just kidding about the 40, all they have is 20 acres....just 20....
I'm jealous of course.

 My thanks to Julie and Craig for letting me
moochdock these last couple of days and nights!

I left their place at 1PM but after getting gas in the town of Helena, didn't hit the highway towards I-90 till 1:45 PM!

By 5:30 PM I was in the town of Columbus, MT, at a free campsite provided by the city for dry camping.  The park's name is hard to say: Itch-Ke-Pe but it's nice and basic.  There's room between the sites and I found a nice site near the river.

Tonight's sunset was pretty mild, nice colors but nothing very dramatic....

All photos done with my iphone 6.  Have to find a camera shop to see if they can fix my 16-50mm lens.

Tomorrow, Wyoming!

Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Slow Return - Day 5: A Sunrise, Brunch with a Friend, and camera troubles.

Saturday, Jul 28.

Woke before my alarm and had the opportunity to capture what turned out to be a pretty good sunrise.  Note: these are the last pictures taken with the stock 16-50 mm stock lens for my Sony A5000.

The zoom mechanism, which was damaged during an accidental drop from the motorcycle's tank bag, is not working anymore and the camera doesn't recognize the lens.

Montana Sunrise

After the sunrise pics, I geared up and rode the 65 miles or so to the settlement of Three Forks, at the junction of the I-90 Super Slab and US 287.  Scarlett did great, and traffic was light which was good since I was keeping her speed at 55 mph as usual.

I was meeting with a friend from college ROTC, James Peet, who lives in Washington state.  He was passing through, coming from Denver where he'd been attending/exhibiting his invention at a trade show.  He's patented a portable shower gadget which allows the use of regular water bottles as a field shower device.  Pretty cool and he believes he may have made some great contacts at the trade show.

We met for a late breakfast at the Wheat Montana Bakery Shop located at the aforementioned junction.  We talked, reminisced, compared notes on life and basically passed a couple of very enjoyable hours.  Too soon, it was time for James to be on his way to his home state.

James and yours truly

James showed me the interior of his camper van, which he's in the process of fitting out himself.  Good stuff, no pics though, it's still a work in progress.

As I went to take the above picture, I discovered the 16-50mm zoom lens that came stock with my Sony A5000 camera wasn't working.  So now, it's toast and I was limited to using the 55-210 Telephoto lens for the above shot.  Sigh.

Now debating whether to upgrade to something newer or just replace the broken stock lens, it's only around $150 (less if I buy used) from Amazon.

Martha, my loving wife and chief enabler says to upgrade.  I'll give it some thought as I drive home.

Friday, July 27, 2018

The Slow Return - Days 3 & 4: From West of Spokane to Helena, MT

Jul 26, Thursday.

I rolled out of the nice boondocking spot in the Robinson Canyon State Park in Washington before 8AM, looking to drive east and find another boondocking spot perhaps in Idaho near Coeur D'Alene.

The day started very promising with a short visit to the Wild Horse Monument aka "Grandfather lets loose the ponies", near Vantage, WA.

The view from the monument's parking lot
of the I-90 bridge over the Columbia River

Tried three spots, none would work either due to no signal for work or full as was the case for the Beauty Creek National Forest Campground, it was also pricey at $31.

Gave up on Idaho, the state's people give off bad vibes anyways IMO.  Continued driving and after clearing a late arrival with Craig H, drove on through the day/evening.  I got there just before 10PM Thursday night, dead tired.  Craig had told me he'd probably be asleep as he has early working hours.  So I crashed after eating a sandwich, long day.

Jul 27: Friday.

Sunny and temperatures in the 70s.

It was Martha's birthday today so I made sure to give her a birthday call in the morning.

After doing some work, I went riding during lunch.  Found a National Forest access road really close to Craig's home.  It was called Austin Road and is also labeled FR 1805.  It led to a small settlement called Austin, located alongside a railroad track which I would ride across three times.

Kept going past Austin and then several private properties of seemingly large size, finally reaching the top of a hill overlooking the valleys near Helena, MT.  Very scenic in spite of the lack of nearby mountains.  This was also on the path of the Continental Divide Trail, markers for which I saw there.

I detoured onto FR1854 at this location, and after perhaps half a mile or more, came upon the site of the first Masonic Meet in Montana; at least, according to the plaque I found there:

Plaque conmemorating first Montana Masonic Meet
in September 15, 1862
(Looks like some idiot shot it with a shotgun)

 Scarlett at the Masonic Meet Site

 If the meet site was picked because of the views from there,
I would say they picked well.

 A view of distant mountains from along FR 1854

I checked out the conditions of the Continental Divide Trail west of FR 1805, nicely wooded and shady, leading to more views of the valleys.

 View of the railroad track's bridge from atop the 
Continental Divide Trail.

I didn't hike very long, I had my motorcycle boots on; not conducive to a lot of walking.  I returned back the way I came, stopping at the bottom of the railroad track I'd seen from above to take pictures.

I rode on back to Craig's home and spent the rest of the afternoon finishing up some work tasks and some chores around Uma; while I waited for Craig to finish up work.

I did chat for a bit with Julie, Craig's lovely wife and her mom who's visiting with them.

Things got a bit cooler in the late afternoon, early evening.  Might need an extra blanket tonight in the URRV, but still, no need for the heater.  Summer in Montana, it's nice.

Full Moon tonight, warning....warning...warning....following picture is a photoshop composite of two pictures.  Not the actual view tonight.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Slow Return - Day 1 & 2: Mount Baker National Forest and Robinson Canyon State Park

No more great escape in the title.  That trip was officially over as soon as we left Alaska and reached Seattle via plane.

Jul 24, Tuesday

After Martha left to catch her plane back to Denver at the Sea-Tac airport, I arranged for a Lyft ride to Everett where our friends the Wolffs' live to retrieve Uma and Scarlett.

Got delayed a bit troubleshooting what turned out to be a broken connector for the backup camera, but with Jerry's help, it's all good now.

Headed, at Jerry's suggestion, north along I-5 to the Mount Baker Scenic Highway (State Highway 542) and took it all the way till it ends just past the Mt. Baker Ski Resort at a parking lot at Artists' Point.

I sought and found a boondocking spot in a large parking area across from a National Forest Service campground: Silver Fir Campground.  I checked with the camp host and there's a fee in the Silver Fir, but no fee when across the street!  FTW!

I set up camp in the one spot that had voice phone capability, but sadly no data, even with weboost showing 2 bars LTE!  But, there was 4G LTE just six miles away, closer to the ski resort so in case of an emergency I could get on the Internet.  I asked a co-worker to call my cell if something came up, explaining my situation and off I went riding.

I rode all the way to the end of WA 542 as I mentioned.  Beautifully forested with pine trees mostly.  The views of surrounding mountains and peaks were outstanding, they give some of the mountains in Colorado a run for the money in terms of beauty.

See what you think:

 Mount Shuksan according to Peakfinder app

 Mount Baker still covered in snow

 At the Artists Point Parking lot and end of 
WA Hwy 542

 Mt Shuksan again, it's the most imposing mountain
along this section of the road.

 Reflection of Mt Shuksan in a lake near the 
Mt Baker Ski Resort

 Views as Scarlett and I made our way
down from the top and back to the

Back at camp, with no cell data, it had to wait till today to send up the processed pictures of that night.

Discovered that the onboard fridge wasn't working right, the error code being blinked out by the power status light said "call the dealer".  Dang.  Enter Martha to the rescue since I had no internet access.  She sent me info links ( to be read later ) on how to do resets but we both agreed to take it to a dealer she found along the route for today.

Jul 25, Wednesday.

Woke up at 6:30 AM and broke camp, eager to get to the RV repair shop.

I got to JR RV Repair in Sedro-Woolley soon after calling them and the owner himself came out to check out the fridge.  The problem, it turned out, was that my parking the rig on the steep incline at Jerry's place had caused a safety mechanism to kick in.

The control board to to be "reset".  So he called in his tech and with a small piece of what looks like 12 gauge wire, the tech connected the slot below with the propane tubing, to ground the circuit board and cause a reset.  Note: this procedure is specific to a model N811 Norcold Fridge, YMMV.

Red arrow points to slot in connector that
provides grounding point for a suitable wire.

JR put everything back together once things were working again and didn't charge me anything!  I tried to pay for his time but he wouldn't hear of it!  He knew I was on a trip and wanted me to be able to continue!  Now that's service!

I tried the following BLM and State Parks with annotated results for a place to boondock.

Liberty Area: no cellular data signal and no spots readily visible
Elk Heights Sno-Park: Good data signal but no spots visible to me.

Third try was the charm, a wildlife area in Robinson Canyon.  The fee was $11.50 for dry camping via the Dept of Fish and Wildlife's 800 line.  You get a transaction number for the day and post it on your rear view mirror.

There was logging operations in the area apparently, even spotted two crews as they drove out at the end of their day at 3:45PM.  Otherwise, I think I had the place to myself.

After some work on Scarlett (muffler coming loose), fastening one of the RV curtains (it fell off its mounting screws again)...it was time for some riding after work.

There's this trail going up towards the logging areas, and handily, it takes one to the top of the hill in a nicely steep and twisty rock pile of a trail.  Made it to the top as the sun was getting ready to set but no real scenery up on top.

Made my way slowly down the hilly trail and got these two pics.  The sunset itself, with a clear blue sky, was nothing to write home about.

 I like the way the colors came out on this one.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Great Escape - Day 34: University of Alaska's Museum of the North

Jul 23

We fly out of Alaska this evening, landing in Seattle's SeaTac airport sometime after 10:20PM PST.

We had time in the morning and after a sumptuous breakfast of fried rice by RichardM (yummy), we headed to the Museum of the North on the University of Alaska's Campus.

It's a very nice museum, had visited it before back in 2013:  LINK

 Otto the Bear and the Girls

RichardM helped me zero in first thing on the only motorcycle on display:

 Blue Babe
Reproduction of a Steppe Bison

 I bet this one won a lot of fights with that 
center mounted antler!


 Polar Bear and its prey


 Front view of the Museum of the North
it's supposed to depict a breaching whale:

breaching whale
source: google

 From the museum's art collection:
updated version of American Gothic

 Replicating a pic I took back in 2013
this time including the girls

Leaving the university I spotted, too late an interesting exhibit of the rockets used by the university to launch instrumentations into the Ionosphere for studies.  I went back later on RichardM's eBike and got the pic:

Once I got home, Martha got some final pics of Bridget's dogs:

 Artie and Leinen

We got taken to the airport soon after the above pics arriving ahead of planned times.  We were early enough that we cleared baggage checkin and TSA security in record times!  Life was good then.

With a bit over two overs to spare before the plane boarded, we relaxed.

Alaskan Peaks and Glaciers

Flying into Seattle, it actually got dark as the sun set, unlike in Alaska!   :)

Didn't get any sunset shots but did get some nice city lights with my iphone6....my "real" camera failed to able to do this.

The Alaska Airlines flight was flawless.  Kudos!

Tomorrow, Martha flies back to Denver and I go to retrieve Umarang and Scarlett at Everett.