Thursday, November 7, 2013

More LED madness

After being inspired by a fellow Vanagon e-mail list member Jarrett, I decided it was time to add some more LED lighting to the camper. I previously installed LED light strips in the upper shelf but found it to be more of a mood light rather than useful for reading.
I have had pretty good luck buying LED lighting off eBay but at $39 for the swivel base LED spotlight from IKEA I decided to give it a try
Removing the metal cover under the upper bunk provided the perfect spot to mount all four lights as well as plenty of room to hide the wires. After spray painting it metallic silver, here's the mock-up.
Drilling the holes...
Almost ready for mounting
Installed and ready to hook up the wiring

I think this will be one of the best upgrades so far, bright warm reading light with minimal power usage.

Super happy with the results and looking forward to using it on our next camping excursion. Here's a final shot of my pretty wifey reading up on her Vanagon literature

Buckhorn Campground

As we are still relatively new to the LA area we are always looking for feedback on places to visit and of course camp. After being told about the close proximity to the Angeles forest, we decided to give it a try. Part of the US Forest Service, Buckhorn Campground sits at 6300 feet with 38 sites among tall pines and cedars. With the camper packed for a day and night full of fun we were ready to go.
We left early in the morning so we could enjoy the scenic trip up the mountain. Here are some shots during our climb

We were worried about the engine overheating but the camper ran beautifully and never got over 230 degrees on the steepest parts of the climb. I believe the cooler weather and more gradual grade enabled us to climb without any issues. Shortly before arriving at the campground we hit a new altitude record in the camper of over 7,000ft!!!

 Only 1.5 hours drive from our home, we arrived at our destination and picked a nice site.

Of course my wife managed to take a shot of me taking a shot of the camper

We are still surprised at the amazing beauty and peaceful atmosphere you can visit while being so close to the second largest city in the US. I read that this is normally a very busy campground during the summer but there were only 2 other campers during our stay and at only $12 per night we were very happy. With everything set up it was time to see what the surrounding area had to offer.

Our fun filled day came to an end with the earlier sunset and it was time for a fire followed by a movie in our VW then off to sleep.

We saw ice the next morning where there was water so we knew temps dipped below freezing overnight. Although it was cold, we remained warm under lots of blankets and wearing quite a few layers. This was a short camping excursion but well worth it and we look forward to returning to the Angeles forest next year (although our next site will be at a lower elevation). With a busy day ahead of us planned back at home we packed up and got everything ready for our drive back. Exiting the campground, I decided to take a shot of some of the snow we experienced
And some more shots of our trip back down the mountain.

One of our prior camping experiences at 5,600ft left me extremely dizzy and nauseous so this was also a test whether that was a one-time event. I can now confirm that I do not handle altitude well and was glad that we only spent one day at over 6,000ft. I woke up with a fairly bad headache as well as felt somewhat dizzy so as much as I love the views, we will probably be keeping our future camping trips at lower levels.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Lake Ming

With so many camping options to explore near the LA area we have tried to pick a different location for each of our excursions. Having heard good reviews of Kern River we decided to check it out and picked a spot at the Kern county campground near Lake Ming.

We arrived on a Monday and were surprised to have the entire campground to ourselves. We didn't see any park employees or even a way to pay so picked a nice spot by the river.
Plenty of space and shade with a picnic table, fire ring, and grill.
Our site was right beside the river with serene views of a farm. We watched cows and horses grazing and there was also a rooster and donkey performing their vocals in the background.
With everything set up, it was time to check out the surrounding area and Lake Ming which was right beside the campground

A man-made recreational lake that allowed motor and sailboats as well as fishing and water-skiing. We were a bit disappointed that this was yet another lake that didn't allow swimming. Although we could swim in the river, we decided against it after watching the farm animals do their business in it. Here is a panoramic shot of the lake and surrounding hills
Another gratuitous camper shot as well as the night's entertainment

A few hours before we departed, the park Ranger finally drove by and charged us $20 for the night even though we were there for two. We also found out that they have a winter rate of $10 per night starting mid-October so we may find ourselves back to take advantage of that. Overall a fun trip with great views, well kept facilities and more good memories

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Dogwood Campground

This week's camping location was Dogwood campground near Lake Arrowhead. We were looking for an escape from the heat of Woodland Hills and this campground didn't disappoint. At 5,600 feet, it was no small "feat" for the camper to make that elevation. Most of the steep and scenic climb was in 2nd gear at approx. 25mph with engine temps spiking at 250 degrees at one point but we eventually made it in one piece. Arriving after dark to a pretty much full campground, we took the only empty site we could find. Here she is the following morning
This campground was renovated in 2004 with modern and clean facilities that were nicely maintained. Waking up early the next day we were able to choose practically any site as the weekend campers left. We were very impressed with not only the size but the privacy level as well between each site. Here are some shots showing just how much space we had during the second day at our new location.

Plenty of trees provided both shade and a nice place to hang our hammock.
The campground is very close to Lake Arrowhead which is often referred to as "The Alps of Southern California". It was surreal to travel under 2 hours from Los Angeles and reach such a beautiful area that has over 300 days of sunshine with a natural peacefulness and stunning beauty. Here are a few shots we took during our day trip into town.

I did find out that I most likely will not be pursuing a career in mountain climbing as the altitude had some negative effects on me. Although it was only 5,600 ft, spending 2 days at that elevation caused some ill-effects on my body. So with our weekend over it was time to depart and enjoy the beautiful scenery on the much easier decent down the mountain.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

East Shore RV park

Preparing the camper for our excursions has always been a lengthy process but our latest trip involved a little extra work. Living in the LA area brings with it much hotter weather than what we experienced in Portland so I wanted to try a different oil in the camper to better handle the heat. I had been using straight 30 weight oil which was working fine and after many hours reading differing opinions I decided to try Valvoline's 20w50 oil. The initial findings that I have noticed are less metallic knocking right after start up. Previously I had noticed 2-3 seconds of "knocking" when starting a cold engine but this has all but disappeared after switching to 20w50 - I'll take that as a definite improvement. The last time I filled the propane tank was also in Portland (over 5 months prior) and thinking that it was almost empty I tried to find a location that would fill the tank. After visiting and calling several gas stations I discovered that they all had a 5 gallon minimum filling/service charge which would have cost almost $20. I eventually located a tool rental place that also sold propane and $6.35 later I had a full tank! I also discovered that the tank was only half empty so my worries of a near empty tank were unwarranted. In addition to our full tank of gas and water, along with a fridge full of food, we were ready for our next camping trip

One of the advantages of living on the West coast is the abundance of older VW's still on the road and with that also comes a greater number of related car clubs and shows. I read that Dubfest was occurring this past Sunday and decided to find a camping spot nearby so we could attend. An annual even held at Irwindale Speedway, I discovered East Short RV park was a 20 minute drive away. Our weekends usually start late so we didn't want to pay the $50 nightly charge and camped for free at a Park & Ride lot. We normally wouldn't do this but wanted to be close to the car show and surprisingly, there were 3 other campers staying so we figured it was a safe choice. Here is a shot of our "free" camping site for the night, nothing special but the sun was already down so we didn't mind.
An early start on Sunday got us to the show while they were still arriving and setting things up. If we had the entire day to spare I certainly would have "shown" our camper as I think it could have done well against the "competition". Although this was mainly a water-cooled VW show, there was also a nice assortment of air-cooled examples as well.

Overall it was a nice show to attend but don't think it was worth the $20 per person admission fee. We also saw all the show cars in under an hour and left shortly after due to the 100+ degree temperatures.
East Shore RV park is a huge resort located by Puddingstone lake. We generally don't go to large RV parks but decided to give this one a try as they had many features and it was close to the car show. Driving into the park we soon discovered that we were the smallest camper by far and quite a few of the campers are permanent residents. This certainly didn't stop the many people that came over to compliment our camper after we set things up.

After a full day of swimming at the resort pool, reading and general relaxation it was time get ready for bed
Although the campsite was very scenic and had terrific amenities, it's not our idea of "roughing it", that and the $50 per night fee is on par with some motel rates. Here are some great shots my wife took of the surrounding mountains.

Even though our site had full hook-up including cable TV, my shore power cord wasn't long enough if we wanted to keep in the shade under our tree so we opted to rely on our free battery/solar power as well as run the fridge off of propane which of course worked great. Our final shot of the trip shows the camper all packed up with the beautiful mountains in the background.
Overall a fun and busy trip but we will attempt a more primitive camping experience next time