Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The first leg of our journey eastward from Oregon

August 24-September 3, 2013
Astoria to Missoula
Camping: Various locations along I-84 and I-90, 
including a Best Western in Cheney, Washington


We pulled up our jacks at Lewis and Clark Golf and RV Resort in Astoria at our typical departure time—about 10 a.m. This day marked the beginning of our three month-long trek back to Florida AND the second anniversary of our life as full-time RVers (MHers?) Vic promises to write the year in review post after I catch us up with the many adventures we have had the past week.

As we are beginning our third year on the road, I am starting to realize we are falling into a pattern. (I recall from my science classes: one is chance, two is coincidence, three is a pattern.)  In our steadfast quest for ideal weather with temps between 50-85 and low humidity, we have locked onto winters in Florida, and summers in the Northwest. This plan may seem a little unreasonable in terms of geography (read: diesel fuel bill), but it does give us the great opportunity to use spring and fall for checking off travel destinations on our bucket list. Since we have no clue how many years we will be on the road full-time, we are ambitious about seeing everything we want to see while we can. And, we both agree that we should do what we like best while we are doing this—hence, Florida and Oregon so far trump all the options we considered for long-term stays.

Having said all this, our fall travels are fairly ambitious. A few posts ago, I included this map which is still our basic plan. Keep in mind we are doing this itinerary with no advance reservations so we can be spontaneous as the need or desire arises.

From Astoria, we were going to travel to a Boardman Marina and RV Park, a lovely city park in Boardman, Oregon, as we enjoyed this campground as the first stop on our travels two years ago.  The distance from Astoria to Boardman is 250 miles which fits perfectly with our general plans for 3-5 hour travel days; however, I discovered a Corp of Engineer park that looked really great, Plymouth Campground, which would only cost $11.00 per night for 30 amp and water with our senior pass for national parks. We decided to use the COE park as home base for two days allowing us to eliminate our next planned overnight stop in Walla Walla, an important stopover for me at a world class wine-tasting mecca. (Yes, the soil is good for growing more than onions!) Since Walla Walla was only an hour away, and with Vic as my trusty designated driver, we spent about five hours there the next day visiting the following wineries:

L’Ecole: The tasting rolecoleom is housed in an old schoolhouse that used to be one of my all-time favorite Washington wines. We visited here about seven years ago and splurged on some of their library wines. No more. I was a little worried I would be tempted again, but sadly (or fortunately, according to Vic) their wines did not taste as good as I remembered them.

Waterbrook: I diwaterbrookscovered this winery a few years ago in Corvallis and always seek out their Melange Red as a great “house” wine. The tasting room we visited was new since we had last been here but Waterbrook has been making wine in the Columbia Valley for almost thirty years. (That’s a long time in this area as it was just granted appellation status in 1984.)  As luck would have it, Vic and I liked ever single wine we tasted. ( I tasted—he confirmed my nods of approval).  The only problem was we planned to visit at least three more Go To wineries on my list, so it was hard to make decisions about what to buy.

Dunham Cthree legged redellars:  Mike and BJ, if you are reading this—stop.  I don’t want you to know how much Three Legged Red I consumed or bought. This was my first visit here and I already knew that their low end Three Legged Blend was a favorite, so I was in real trouble. The wine tasting host explained it like this: Three Legged Red is your Monday-Thursday vino and the rest of the wines are for the weekend or special occasions. Okay then, but what if all seven days of the week are the same to me now?  What a problem to have. . . .

Russell Creek: Truthfully, this winery wasn’t on my list, but it should have been. Thanks to the wine steward at Dunham, we made a beeline for this place before it closed at 4 p.m.  The winemaker, Larry Krivoshein, is one of the guys who put Walla Walla on the map for world class wines. As luck would have it, he was our “sommelier.”  What a character. He only offers tastings of wines that are four or five years old. Krivoshein has won three gold medals or “best in show” out of over 400 other Northwest wines since 2000.  It was a good stop.

By now we were getting hungry and headed into downtown Walla Walla for some sustenance. I had hoped to make it in time to one more tasting room that had high marks in the reviews I had read: Forgeron Cellars. The winemaker, Marie Eve is from France, and her wine has the reputation of being quite refined. She earned this reputation as, once again, all the tastings were outstanding. This is a small winery that only makes about 5000 cases a year, so it is not a wine that I am likely to find in Florida.

dogs looking out the window

The dogs were quite happy to see us finally return to the motorhome. The plan for the next day was to head to Spokane where Vic hoped to see a college roommate and get an assessment from Freightliner (Freedom Truck Center) about our low coolant warning issue, something I have not taken the time to write about until now.

The quick story is that we have had the low coolant warning light go on at least four or five times recently, mostly when traveling up a steep grade. Vic has to pull over and top it off for the sensor to turn off or else the red check engine light goes on and the engine shuts down in 45 seconds—which has happened twice. We had McCoy Freightliner in Salem pressure test our radiator a few weeks ago and they determined it was fine, but the problem continued.  Fast forward to Spokane. We had the low coolant light come on twice on way there from the Plymouth COE, so Freightliner was our first stop around 2 p.m. in the afternoon. They determined that we had a problem with the EGR cooler and said it was still under warranty, so we made an appointment for the next morning to have it replaced.  We found an “okay” place to stay nearby at Ponderosa Falls RV Resort in nearby Cheney, a private Coast to Coast campground that allows non-members to stay there based on availability. 

cheney cg

It turned out Vic’s friend was busy with a big trial and we were not able to see him. While the motorhome cooling system was being repaired the next day, we took the opportunity to explore downtown Spokane, something neither of us had ever done. The riverfront park area was quite pleasant and we enjoyed taking a long walk around downtown to get a sense of the city.  It was pretty apparent that the city has taken an economic downturn recently as many storefronts or office buildings were for sale or lease. 

We also took a drive around the Gonzaga University campus, as my basketball fan husband was interested in seeing their sports facilities. 


The bad news was that the motorhome was not ready to go in a few hours like they had promised. Apparently replacing this part was way more involved than they thought. They admitted they are not experts in dealing with the nuances of motorhomes; as a result, we had to stay in a motel overnight at our own expense. We found a Best Western nearby that allowed dogs and made the best of it, knowing that we really needed to solve this coolant problem before continuing on.


Fast forward to morning—we checked out at noon and still had not heard from Freightliner. We drove there and discovered they were waiting on a delivery of a new hose as someone had sent them the wrong one earlier in the day.  More waiting. Finally around 5:30 p.m., they said The Big EZ was ready to go. 
Okay, then. Our plan was to stay overnight in Missoula at a Harvest Hosts site, Big Sky Brewing Company before heading north to Flathead Lake. The drive was going to be about three hours and the one hour time change meant we would be arriving after dusk. Plan B was to dry camp overnight at the Silver Dollar Bar and Casino near St. Regis, about a two hour drive. However, before we drove even 30 miles out of Spokane, the low coolant light came on again.  Bummer. We called Freightliner and they said there might just be an air bubble in the lines. Vic had stocked up on coolant just in case, so he topped it off again and away we went.  About 30 miles later, the same thing happened. By now it was almost dusk and we happened to be directly in front of a sweet little campground, Kahnderosa, just off I-90, so we pulled in and spent the night. At 7 a.m. we called the Freightliner in Spokane and requested they send someone out to see what was going on with our cooling system. They agreed, so we had a leisurely breakfast and enjoyed the view of the Coeur d’Alene River from our picnic table. Not having to be anywhere by a certain day or time sure helps lighten the burden of this type of challenge. I tend to be the one who gets impatient; rock steady Victor helps me relax and see the big picture.

The same mechanic who worked on our motorhome arrived about a two hours later to see if he could diagnose and fix the problem. We could see that coolant had been leaking out the overflow pipe and spraying the guard on our toad.  He could not find any other leak and thought maybe the problem was just a series of air bubbles in the radiator. In any event, he thought it would be just fine. I never had confidence in this kid as it took him about two hours to open the panel to the engine on the bedroom floor, but what do I know?

We drove on to Missoula and had at least two more incidences with the same low coolant warning.  I neglected to mention that we had called the 24-7 Freightliner hotline  (1-800-FTL-HELP) in Gaffney, So. Carolina to compare notes with them.They backed their mechanics and said everything sounded like the right things were done. Regardless, we called Freightliner in Missoula for another evaluation and the foreman suspected we might have a leaking radiator cap.  Are you kidding me? My suspicion is that this was our only problem all along. Sure enough. They tested the cap, replaced it, and suggested we take it for a test ride up a small pass about 15 miles to the north. We did and no more problems! The funny part was the Brewery was just across the street from Freightliner and they had a great big parking lot where we felt comfortable spending the night.



After putting down the jacks and extending the slides, I suggested we go roam around downtown Missoula, my old college town. After a visit to one of the more famous bars in Missoula, Charlie B’s, and a bit to eat at the brewery next door,  I felt brave and called a friend whom I had not seen for decades and she said, “Come on over.”  We originally met after college in a natural childbirth class 35 years ago!  It was incredibly sweet to see her again. 

nancy mciver and me

The next morning we were off to spend a week at Flathead Lake, something I have not done since my boys were in grade school.  Yippee ki-yay! 



  1. Lovely header photo!

    Oh like that wine-tasting mecca for sure. sorry you had so many problems. So glad that FINALLY someone knew what they were doing. Safe travels east.

  2. Wine tasting always sounds like so much fun. And, there are a ton of wineries in this country. But...I am very allergic to sulfites and get quite sick. So I am afraid to even try wine without sulfites. I have to taste through all the bloggers:)

    So glad you were finally able to get someone who knew what your problem was!

    1. Too bad about the sulfites. I would sure save some money if I had that problem!

  3. Happily the coolant issue finally got solved...a test in patience for sure! Now you can concentrate on the business of having fun!!!

  4. It is a relief to actually find the right person to get the work done right.

  5. What a gorgeous header picture! AND OH BOY you are finally coming back my way!! But don't you hate it when no one will admit they don't know what the problem really is and can't actually fix it? Sure am glad you didn't get the bill for this. You handled it so well. I need to understudy you. I would have been furious. Just another example of why having reservations is a real pain. Safe travels.

    1. Really? You seem much more circumspect and zen-like than me.

  6. I agree...we rarely have reservations just to ease the stress of having to be somewhere or cancel.....
    I am so glad your MH is all fixed. That was some story.

    We loved our time at Flathead Lake. It's a beautiful area. Relax and enjoy the view!

    1. The reservation vs. winging issue is a delicate balance.

      We are at the Polson KOA/Motorcoach Resort. The owner, Paul, spoke fondly of you and the pups. He even told me how you took to "Monkey," one of the employees.

  7. Wow, glad you're coolant problem is fixed but it blows me away that nobody checked the radiator cap. That should have been a no-brainer! :c)

    At least you have enough wine to chill out with. ;c)

    1. Yes, we thought Freightliner would be way more savvy about these issues.

      Okay, I admit taking a couple bottles to the hotel to ease the pain.

  8. You headed back to Seminole CG in Fort Myers for the winter? Connie and I will be back there in site 101 again on Nov 1 for the duration of the winter weather before heading out again in the spring.

    1. Hi, Neil. We are not returning to Seminole this winter as we want to be closer to the beach. We will be in Cortez for two months, the Keys for one, and plan to spend some time in various places on the east coast of Florida. We enjoyed our two winter stays at Seminole and may discover that we really miss it.


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