Sunday, September 6, 2015

August 2015 - Forest Fires

This is going to be a very long post so I hope you like photos.  It's been a busy month.  We had planned on taking the U-Haul camper on a long trip this fall and got busy preparing it.  I installed an outlet so that we could plug it into grid power from the outside using a regular extension cord.  Susan made some changes inside so that we could install a refrigerator as well.  We'd planned on installing more solar panels to handle the extra load but that's been postponed a bit.

One of the problems it had was the clutch.  It took a couple of tries to get the right clutch but when I got it apart I found out that the clutch was okay.  The pivot for the release bearing arm was at fault. That at least saved us a couple hundred dollars on parts since I just reused the old clutch (it was in almost new condition).

The vacuum brake booster was not working well so we replaced that when we got home.  Another $150.00 down the drain but worth every penny to have good brakes again.

The problem came when I tried replacing a rear seal on the transmission.  The yoke on the output shaft was loose which was causing the fluid leak I sought to fix.  The front input shaft seal was brittle and needed replaced so I did that while I had everything apart.  The rear seal was not too bad but I put a new one on anyway.  The problem was that prior to our purchase of the vehicle the rear yoke assembly had come loose and worn a groove in the bearing surface.  Some one had put a new bushing in the transmission and the bushing was still okay.  I don't trust it for long distance travel though so we parked it until we decide what to do next.  I suspect we'll either put a new motor and transmission in it or just use it for short trips up in the mountains.  Like I said, we're still deciding.

The Expedition was having issues as well and we were looking at putting out a few thousand more dollars to fix it.  So we traded it in for a new (2015) Hyundai Accent.  We opted for a new car because I'm tired of worrying about what's going to break while we're on a road trip.  This one has a 10 year/100,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty.  (We paid for the extended warranty.)  At least if it breaks it will be someone else's responsibility to fix it!

It gets almost three times as many miles per gallon as our Expedition did and it's great to fill the tank up for $25.00 instead of the $75.00 when we filled the Expedition.  We've had to adapt to the small space but so far we love it.

I'm installing an outlet so that we can plug into grid power when visiting people or when using a generator for power.

After this photo was taken we drove down to Kalispell and stayed at our son's house to do the rest of the work using his shop and tools.

There was a lot of smoke in the air due to numerous forest fires in Montana and Idaho.

While we were in Kalispell our daughter and SIL were in the middle of evicting some renters who had decided to stop making rent payments.  When the deputy sheriff came to evict them so that we could change the locks on the door he found them hiding under the bed.  They were hoping to open the door from the inside since they'd no longer have a key to the door.  I spent the first night inside the house in case they showed up and tried to break in.  About 1:30 am I heard them on the front porch.  I had Odie (our dog) with me and when they tried pushing in the door she growled and began barking.  All I heard then was the sound of fast running feet as they vacated the area.

Since Susan and Scott were alone in the camper that night Scott lined up his robots by the door to keep out any bad guys.  He told grandma that they would keep them safe.  Once she took the picture he turned them back around to face the door.

This is one of Scott's new costumes.  He's now a "fire dog."  It goes with some cartoon character he likes.

Scott loves playing in the water and took full advantage of the wading pool set up at my son's home.

He even got out his face mask and snorkel.

And he put on his "duck feet" too.

Scott and a couple of his cousins at my birthday party.

Scott being funny in the Expedition just before we traded it in.

We like swimming at a small lake near Kalsipell when we're down there in the summer.  These are some of our grandchildren.

Susan cheated by wearing her dry suit!

This is our new car.  We've had it about a month now and have over 5,000 miles on it already.

The smoke never let up all the time we were in the Flathead Valley.  The temperatures stayed high as well!

We drove back home once I got finished with the U-Haul.  This is part of the Mount Marsten fire.  The fire tower lookout at the top of the mountain is one of our favorite places to take visitors.  They managed to save the lookout when the fire rolled over the top.

A truck went off the road and dumped it's load of sawdust.  It took two wreckers to get it upright again.

Scott is holding a small bird that was on the ground after it's nest broke loose from the barn rafter.  There were two small birds in it and both were flying within about fifteen minutes of becoming homeless.

We took a day off to go to the hot springs.  They have four pools.  The hottest will nearly cook you!  The next hottest is will allow you to stay in it for about 15 minutes until you get too hot.  The third pool is like a hot bath and the fourth is a swimming pool that's about the temperature of cool bath water.  Scott can play in that one for hours!

This is the sky on our trip back home in the U-Haul.  As we got closer the smoke got so heavy that we could not see the sun.

The day after our arrival we got a short rain which cleared the air and slowed down the fire.  There were a couple of helicopters from the National Guard that worked tirelessly dumping water on the blazes. After the rain they (and an army of firefighters) got the fire contained but there was still a lot of stuff inside the burned area that was on fire.

These were still burning and putting out a lot of smoke.  The front to this fire is several miles long in extremely rugged, road-less terrain.  Within a couple of days the smoke was thick again at our house.  It was bad enough to cause our eyes to burn and made breathing difficult too so we decided to hit the road and go south for a bit.

A gas stop near Flathead Lake.

This is between Kalispell and Missoula on Highway 93.  You should be able to see several mountain ranges in the photo.  Our son who is a firefighter in Fortine (where we live) reported that the smoke was heavy and ash was accumulating on vehicles back at home.

Our first destination was Overton, Nevada.  We immediately went to Roger's Spring at Lake Mead to cool off.  In the winter the water feels warm.  In the summer it feels cold!

Our first night in the tent was hot.  We were at the Overton Wildlife camp ground and it was in the nineties at night.  We moved on to here for the second night.  It's a little higher and the temperature was cooler. 

Now were camping near friends up in the mountains east of Cedar City, Utah.

There was a knob near where we were camped and we wanted to climb it.  The next few photos were taken from the top of it.  That little speck in the lower center of the photo is our car and camp.

Susan and Scott goofing off at the top of the mountain.

One of the locals.

Another of the locals.

Okay, we started a long downhill coast right after filling the tank so we didn't get 81.6 mpg as an average but we did average around 40 mpg overall which is much better than the 14 mpg the Expedition got.  Note also that the temperature is 105 degrees.

Near Prescott, Arizona.

We brought one RAV 15 portable solar charger on the trip.  Next time we'll have all three of them.  It worked better than using the power ports in the vehicle while driving.  We had two notebook computers, three tablets, two cell phones and three digital cameras to keep charged.  More solar would have helped when we were stopped at a campsite.


Same campsite from a different angle.

It had rained most of the night so no one thought I'd get a fire going but I did.  I found dry pine needles under some trees then used them to keep a small fire going while I slowly fed in small dry twigs.  As the fire gained momentum I added larger wood.

I bought a C02 powered air pistol (a S&W clone) and Scott and I were giving it a workout.  We are shooting at the aluminum can ... not his plastic fox!

We ended up in Overton three times during our travels.  One time we had breakfast there at McDonalds and the manager came out with a bag full of toys from previous promotions that they hadn't given away.  She gave them all to Scott which kept him busy for quite awhile.  Odie doesn't know quite how to handle the array of "warriors" before her.

I guess in a dog's world if it isn't a threat and if you can't eat it the next best action is to take a nap.

At one campsite Scott wanted a fire.  This was an established campground and nearly all of the wood had been burned already but we managed to scour the woods and come up with enough for a short fire.

It was getting late and this was the only camping site available so we took it.  It had electricity so Susan hooked up the power strip and we charged up every electrical gadget we had with us during the night.

This is the view from the mountain top where we were camped.

One of the small towns (Jerome, AZ) we drove through.  Some of the garages literally opened on the street without even a sidewalk between the door and the road.

We stopped to do laundry and parked near the only available shade.

Montezuma's Castle in AZ.

Scott is pounding in tent stakes at an AZ campground.  We camped in free places every chance we got.  AZ had a lot of national forest but most access roads were gated off.  This was one of their "undeveloped" camp grounds.  The outhouse was so filthy it was not even usable. 

The tent is up.

A view from farther away showing the back drop to the campground.

More cliff dwellings in the Tonto National Forest.  Even though you can walk up to see these we decided not to.  The temperature was around 110 degrees.

Tonto National forest.

Saguaro cactus in Southeastern AZ.

Our trip continues in the next blog as we go through parts of New Mexico then back through AZ to Nevada (Overton again!) and then home to Montana.  There are a lot of absolutely beautiful places we've been to so far.  We're looking forward to even more trips this winter using Overton as our "base."

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