Friday, November 23, 2012

What do you do when you have six days off in a row? Go on a camping trip to California of course. We started our journey on a Wednesday evening in Portland to eventually end up in San Jose. Our first night began in the dark so we stayed at a simple rest stop along the I-5. Nothing exciting and no pictures but it was comfortable and free. With the extra time and decent weather, we decided to head down the coast for part of the trip. After hitting Grants Pass we headed to the coast and down HWY 101 but it eventually went back inland due to the mountains. We wanted to spend the night by the ocean so took an extremely curvy road onto HWY 1 and stayed at the Westport beach KOA. We wouldn't normally stay at a KOA but it was getting dark and it was right by the beach.
We also managed to drop by to see our buddies Paul and Babe again along the way
This marks the first time we slept in the upper bunk which worked out great. We usually store our luggage and other things upstairs and sleep on the lower bunk but decided to try it out for this trip and it was surprisingly comfortable. Here's a shot of the new (and messy) master suite
This turned out to be quite a nice KOA mainly due to it's proximity to the ocean and we were fortunate that they only charged us a tent rate of $25 for the night which is quite a bit less than the $50 rates they wanted for a full RV site.

Time to hit the road and make way for our next pit stop in San Francisco.
A shot of some of the curvy roads we encountered
But then the skies turned gloomy and this is what we encountered by the time we hit San Fran. Our plan was to stop at the Golden Gate bridge but decided to wait until our trip home.
Eventually we hit our destination and of course the niece and nephew wanted to check out the camper

After a great visit with the in-laws it was time to head back home - we had some luck with great weather so stopped by for some sightseeing

I discovered the new Hankook tires emitted much less road noise than the old ones which allowed us to talk at highway speeds without yelling. I'll have to look into if there is anything that might be causing our poor fuel economy as one tank averaged only 14.2 mpg - I thought my normal 16-17 mpg was bad enough. The camper ran perfectly otherwise and overall this was a very successful trip.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The weather forecast for northern Oregon and southern Washington called for some heavy rain so we decided to head a bit south for our next camping instalment. We knew we couldn't avoid the rain completely but were hopeful to at least experience some sunshine.  Detroit Lake State recreation area is a man-made lake created in 1953 by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and is located in the Cascade Mountains.  In the summer the lake has 400ft depths, is 9 miles long with over 32 miles of shoreline.  Once again we arrived in darkness so had to wait till the next morning to see this beautiful park.

It rained for most of the first night so the top was down, above are some shots of our site. While waiting for the sun to arrive, it was time to go exploring! I discovered that they lower the lake level in September to compensate for the extra rain in the fall/winter. It was an eerie site to walk on what is normally the lake bottom with 60 year old tree stumps looking as tho they had just been cut down
Here are some more shots we took while exploring the area

Another cool close up shot of some stagnant water
Of course the sun did make a few appearances and we were able to lift the top for a while

We will definitely be visiting this park again next summer as we soon realized that boating and water activities are the major attractions when the lake is at a higher level. Only one of the camping loops were open in November and there were only two other campers which made for a peaceful weekend of fun.

We are planning a big camping trip next week to San Jose so we performed some basic upgrades in anticipation of the 1,500 mile round trip. Here are some shots of our new headlights and brand new Hankook RA08 tires. Stay tuned for more updates when we get back!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Yet another impromptu camping outing - this time at Viento state park. About 1.5 hours East of Portland so we were able to arrive before 8pm and cook our dinner. We had two concerns being the cold temperature and the rain. We had been extremely lucky this past summer with the lack of rain but our luck ended for this trip. Here she is getting some last minute groceries before our trip
After looking into different heating options between propane or electric, I decided to purchase a small ceramic heater from HomeDepot for only $23
Although this limits us to visiting sites with electric hook-up this winter, it kept us very warm and we can use it in the apt as well. I might go the propane route next year depending on how much we like cooler (winter) camping. Viento was a nice campsite with clean(ish) bathrooms and warm showers, $16 per night was the discounted discovery season rate. After a night of heavy rain with the pop-top down, we were eventually treated to some sunshine.

Of course the rain did come again and because it is still the original canvas top, we spent most of the weekend with the top down to avoid it getting wet. Below is the day's entertainment, I don't encourage anyone to get this beer tho - it was crazy strong
Viento park is right by the gorge with close river access which was great but the bad side of that being the proximity to the noisy train tracks. Excellent short hikes netted us a great view as well as some fancy new coins courtesy of the passing trains.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Our next camping installment (and maybe our last for the season) was at Cape Lookout State park. October is considered "Discovery Season" with the Oregon State parks which means the camping rates are discounted. We decided to really test out our new house battery set-up this time and utilize the tents sites offered at this park. We arrived after dark so took the first site available. Here is a shot in the morning of our initial set-up
We chose this park due to it's proximity to the ocean as well as the sunny forecast for the next 2 days. You might notice the steam on the windshield due to the outside temperature dropping to the 40's overnight. After biking around the park we discovered a perfect site that was literally 20ft from the ocean so we moved off to our second camping day.
Our site was on a corner and only $13 with the beach right on the other side of the bluff!

There were a few hiking trails to the end of the cape and although we originally thought we could bring our mountain bikes we soon found out that they weren't allowed (not to mention impossible to navigate). Here are some shots we took along the way

10 miles round trip and 5 hours later it was time for some frisbee and a beautiful sunset to end another awesome camping experience

After 2 days, I did find that the house battery did not have enough power to charge my laptop for the second full movie and had to start the camper for a while for it to re-charge. I might look into adding a second or larger battery in the future. Interior mods for this month are the new front door speakers and a new Shur-flo water faucet which worked great!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

We're not too sure how much we will enjoy cold/wet winter camping so it was off to yet another Oregon State park while the weather is still nice. L.L. Stub Stewart state park is only 35 miles west of Portland so we decided to check it out

The park is only 5 years old and everything was clean with plenty of features. There were 2 main camp sites, a few walk-in tent sites, a separate camping area for people with horses and a new cabin site as well. The mountain biking and hiking trails were plentiful with varying levels of difficulty. We also managed to take advantage of the very scenic paved biking trail that went through the entire park property.

Here are some pics of our site and the delicious dinner we cooked up. Steak, corn, mushrooms and onions!

The most exciting part of this trip was that we were able to test out the new Auxiliary battery install. I went with the Kinetik high current power cell which was expensive $130 but should be great for years of worry free camping.
The battery isn't the most powerful (950 amps, 36 Ah) but is very compact and lightweight. As you can see - it fit perfectly under the driver's seat with plenty of room. Completely isolated from the main battery and charges off the alternator, it is now powering the radio, all interior LED lighting, sink pump, and the new power inverter!
Above is the fuse box and below is the new power inverter. It's only a 400W inverter but is more than enough to power our laptop/iPad etc. I couldn't pass up the price of this inverter - $23 on sale at Harbor Freight Tools. It has an internal fan but did not even get warm after several hours of generous testing.
We ran all the LED lights, watched movies on the laptop, charged our phones and iPad, generous use of the sink pump and several hours of radio use. So we're very happy with the end result and are looking forward to more "self sufficient" camping in the future.
Here are some night time shots with the LED's working their magic.