Sunday, April 28, 2013

April 28th - Alaska Highway - when the days plan goes to shit!

I am a planner and like to have my day all planned out, when I will start, where I will end and where I will stop for lunch or fuel or both....well, it didn't work today!

Last night before I ate dinner, I had today all planned. I was in Grande Prairie having driven further than planned yesterday, since where I intended to stop looked like a meth lab, so I drove on. Had plenty of time so made a longer day. I was determined to not make that mistake again, so planned a shorter day. didn't work again!

The original plan for today was a short drive to Dawson Creek and mile 0 (zero) of the Alaska Highway. Take some time to get a couple pictures of the start then drive on to Sikanni, looked like there was a decent campgound there who emailed I could have power only as no water or sewer available...not a problem. So I left at about 8:00 am had a nice drive to Dawson Creek, stopped at McDonald's for a coffee refill for the road, found mile zero, took some pics and even though I only had used about a quarter tank, stopped and filled up. Figuring that according to plan, there was fuel where I intended to stop.

Nice drive with fairly good weather and road conditions toward Sikanni. Made the planned long steep downhill to the Sikanni River and right past the bridge was my planned stop. Pulled in only to see a sign that said, Sorry No Gas!! And nobody at the campground...not a soul to be found. Still had almost a quarter tank so I pressed on...I didn't know it at the time, but fuel was much closer going back the other way. But trusty Milepost said there was another fuel stop about 15 miles North. And there was....same sign, sorry, diesel only, no gas! At this point I am beginning to worry, a little. Check the Milepost again and there is another supposed fuel stop about 40 miles away, (you see where this is going) so I press on. GPS assures me the place I am headed is in range, barely.

Driving with one eye on the gas gauge and the other on the road...I press on. What is that yellow light...oh just the low fuel warning...No problem, GPS says 17 miles, I can make that!! There ahead - that big sign with the Shell on it, you know the yellow one....right in front of a closed down station! Sorry - Out of business!! Across the street is another place that was in even worse shape. So I pulled in stopped and started contemplating my alternatives. Generator has about 4 gallons in it, which ain't enough to get me to Fort Nelson, which several people had told me was the closest gas - about 60 miles.

So I pulled out by the entrance to the "Gas Station" and shut down...wondering just how much I was going to have to spend to call and have someone bring me 10 gallons of gas....checked, no cell service!! WTF!!! Now I was even more perplexed!

Figuring my next step was to lay down in the road and stop the next vehicle that passed by and hitch a ride, as I was contemplating old beat-up Ford pulled in next to me and rolls down his window and says, you look perplexed! I say, you wouldn't happen to have 10 gallons of gas...and he said, I have 5 gallons in the back of the truck and another 8 gallons in a can back at the house about a kilometer from here! We negotiate a fair (very fair) price and I dump in the first tank! After that he says, just follow me and I'll get you the other can.

So off we go, he turns down a dirt road and stops...gets out and says, you have 4 wheel drive don't you! I say yes and down the road we go, which becomes steep, muddy and snow packed! He makes a right turn in what can only be described as a mud path, comes to a stop in front of a small pond which is covering the road...gets out, walks back to me and says, it's not deep just stay to the left! So off we go...

As i go through the puddle, I look in my mirror and see the water being pushed by the trailer, it is well above the bottom of the trailer. We press on about another 300 yards or so to his "house", now this guy is living "off the grid", has a home, two story, built out of log ends, he tells me the walls (logs ends) are 3 feet long for insulation. Generator, outhouse all the conveniences of home, big wood pile and a warm wood stove, he has to show me around.

Back outside another 8 gallons or so of gas and I am trying to figure out how I am going to turn the rig around and get on my way....I had asked if there was room to turn around when he told me about the huge puddle, he assured me there was! Well there was, just barely with the front of the truck buried hood high in a snow bank! And at that it was about a 25 point turn around with a trailer, in deep mud and snow! Many thanks to David Engle of Prophet River, BC!! He relieved me of most of my Canadian currency and took away all my stress!!!

Then it started snowing and got cold and I drove on to Fort Nelson and here I am!! Tomorrow I buy 2 - 5 gallon gas cans and fill them up and put them in the bed of the truck and KEEP them filled!!

Now a few pictures!

Last nights stop in Grande Prairie!

Mile Zero!

My View for most of the day!

The Driveway!!

So, I arrived in Fort Nelson with plenty of fuel, found a campground and I am settled in for the night, tomorrow I need to repair the trailer plug on the back of the truck which got broken while making the tight turn-around in the driveway. Also, Half the wire got cut on the bed of the truck as I jack-knifed the trailer in tight quarters...and buy some gas cans and make a better plan for the next leg. Since I made a 2 day drive, I may spend tomorrow making some phone calls to confirm fuel stops!

Great fun!! Stay tuned for more adventures!

Capt. Jim - "The Gypsy"

Traveling and photographing the Southwest

Friday, April 26, 2013

Update April 26th - from Red Deer Alberta Canada

My departure from Kalispell was uneventful, although I am always a little sad to leave as the Flinchbaugh's have become like family. Which brings me to some personal news, Wednesday the 24th of April my Mother passed away. It was not a surprise she had been battling cancer since I left there in December and we knew it would not be long. So all is well on that front.

The drive from Kalispell was pleasant with blue skies and sunshine and warm weather, border crossing went extremely smooth with no inspection...I was happy about that. Hit rush hour traffic in Calgary and have now confirmed where all the lousy Canadian drivers came from that I hated so much in Florida!!
Planned stop for the night was at the Moose Lodge in Red Deer, Alberta. I was assured there was plenty of room to stop for the night and electric...but about 10 miles out the battery light on the truck lit up and I pulled over to check the belt which was fine, so I drove on losing voltage as I went. By the time I got backed in near and outlet and shut the truck down the truck was having trouble running. Knew it was the alternator so just left things until morning.

Up early - Moose Lodge having a huge garage sale, so plenty of people around with a ton of solutions, several calls made and found an alternator at a parts store and also found a place that was less expensive and told me to drive right over they had a bay open and would fix it in short order. So removed a battery from the camper, put it in the truck, unhitched and headed there by 9:30 am - back at the Moose by 11:30 all fixed and installed for less than the alternator alone.

Now another night in Red Deer, I am out at McDonald's for internet and a late lunch and fill the truck with gas. Plan to leave in the morning towards Edmonton then west towards Grande Prairie. Not sure yet where I will stop as the next leg from Grande Prairie to Dawson City is pretty short and may spend some time there as it is mile 0 Zero for the Alaska Highway and some interesting things to see there - pictures from there!!

Sorry no pictures this post!

Capt. Jim - "The Gypsy"

Traveling and photographing the Southwest

Sunday, April 21, 2013

April 20-21, 2013 - More Truck work and more snow!

Friday the 19th, my original planned day of departure I took my truck to the alignment shop to get the front end aligned after all the work we had done....well, after closer inspection, it seems the tie-rod ends, inside and outside on both sides were pretty worn and would more than likely not hold a good alignment. The upper and lower ball joints on the drivers side were also a little more worn than we had previously determined, so it was back to the shop for more repairs.

Saturday the 20th of April - tore into the front end again and replaced the upper and lower ball joints on the drivers side as well as the outer and inner tie rod ends on both sides. Took most of the day but we were lucky all the parts were in stock, so we were able to get it all done in one day, before the scheduled weather change.

Hopefully one of the last cold fronts came through last night, we woke to a couple inches of snow on the vallery floor here in Kalispell.

Took a few pictures this morning!

And the above in Black and White!

So the plan is to get the alignment done on Monday or Tuesday and depart when the predicted weather warms on Wednesday or Thursday of this week!

Stay tuned the adventure begins soon!

Capt. Jim - "The Gypsy"

Traveling and photographing the Southwest

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Luck was with me!! Truck Maintenance April 16, 2013

I have been lucky with problems with the truck, they have been few and far between and when there was an issue I have been fortunate that it has happened in a convenient location.

Yesterday's and Today's discoveries proved I had good fortune on my side!

Monday April 15th

I have been having a growling sound at around 40-50 MPH in the front end, sounded like a wheel bearing on the drivers side, so my goal was to check it here in Montana where I have a great friend who is a great mechanic with a shop and all the needed tools! So yesterday we went for a test drive and both agreed that it sounded like a wheel bearing, although we could not agree on which side and my buddy Jim even considered it may be a rear bearing. Well we pulled the right wheel, dropped the brake caliper and the hub spun freely. So we put the truck on jack stands and pulled the left wheel and brake and sure enough we had a noisy hub and bearing. We also took note that the shock absorber had broken the top bolt and during it's demise had worn a large slot in the mounting hole. So now we figured the broken shock probably contributed to the bad wheel bearing. So parts ordered, hub and bearing and two new front shocks. We both felt confident we had found the problem and would quickly remedy the situation when the new parts arrived in the morning.

Tuesday April 16th - Pat's Birthday! Happy Birthday Pat Millhoff!

Of to the parts store first thing, everything we ordered was in and back to the shop we went. Installed the new shock on the left ((Drivers) side first since that was all that needed to be done on that side. Moved to the right side and while checking to make sure the new hub and bearing would fit, we discovered the bottom ball joint was toast, like destroyed toast! Like disintegrated toast! Upper was still in one piece but pretty loose, so called around town and found a new lower ball joint and an upper control arm and ball joint. More money and another trip to the parts store.

Back to the shop and started the assembly it was turning into a bigger job. But never fear we were not through breaking things. Control arm and upper ball joint went in easy, getting the bottom one pressed into the control arm was a little more difficult, but it went in. New hub and bearing was a piece of cake, slid right in. Now nothing left but the shock. Went to put the lower mount on and the mounting flange broke right off! Grind it clean, drag out the welder and welded it back in place, needed the welder out anyway to fix the upper mounting hole which had a 3/4 inch slot cut in from the old shock. Found the perfect washer to weld over the hole and we were ready to finish assembly.

Here is the old lower ball joint and the new one, note the new one is in one piece where the other on is in multiple pieces!

Here is the whole mess!

My great friend Jim Flinchbaugh hard at work!

Almost complete the hub and bearing is installed, rotated the tires while we had it off the ground.

Thank Goodness for great friends who have a whole workshop and the tools to get a job like this done!

We have both determined that I was one good chuckhole and maybe 20 miles away from having the passenger side front wheel break loose and fold under the car, destroying the whole front end and possible ending up in a ditch somewhere with the trailer and truck on it's side! Someone was watching out for me for sure....

Delaying my trip North to Alaska by about 5 or 6 days to hopefully get to some warmer weather up there! News and updates on the blog when I leave next week sometime. Plan to arrive there on the 4th or 5th of May instead of the 1st! I hope Spring HAS Sprung by then!!

Capt. Jim - "The Gypsy"

Traveling and photographing the Southwest

Sunday, April 14, 2013

April 14th - Trip North Travel Day 4 and 5

I left my friend Steve's in Salt Lake City Friday morning the 5th of April and made a wonderful drive up to Dillon, Montana. Great day of driving with beautiful blue skies and sunshine and warm weather. Pulled into the Southside RV Park, my favorite place to camp in Dillon, with great people and nice sites! Left them some fish on my way South last fall and they remembered and gave me a special rate for the night! Nice dinner of good prime rib at Sparky's Garage...then back to the camper to check the weather as it was supposed to get bad. And it did! Wind blew all night really hard as another cold front passed by. Early morning up and at em, of course as soon as I started hitching up the rain started and lasted exactly the amount of time for me to get hitched up and things stowed away....of to Micky D's for an egg McMuffin and a cup of joe for the road.

Wind came up again and it was slow going and tedious driving up I-15 to I-90. With weather deteriorating, I decided to skip the Bison Range, even though I was driving right by. As it turns out as I went by it was snowing and blowing and ark grey skies and not very inviting. So I stayed with my day's plan and headed right on to Kalispell, pulled into to Jimbo's, dropped the camper, plenty early for dinner.

And last night it snowed some more and when we got up the ground was covered. Wish winter would go away. Checked the weather in Cantwell, my ultimate destination and it was negative 20 degrees!! OUCH. May have to stick around here and wait for spring to hit in Alaska!

Have some truck work to do, oil change, filter and check the front wheel bearings, so I will be here for the week at least. Right now plans call for me to leave here next weekend, weather dependent!

Took a couple pics over the last couple days!

No time for a Therapy session at the Clark Canyon Clinic this trip, be back in the fall!

Some snow this morning...

Stay tuned for updates, gonna be a busy week!

Capt. Jim - "The Gypsy"

Traveling and photographing the Southwest

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Long Trip North - Day 1 and 2! April 9th and 10th

I delayed my departure from Kingman Arizona by one day due to Mother Nature, the weather report called for a severe wind warning and I decided that a one or two day delay was worthwhile. I am glad I did, the wind blew 60 mph in Kingman and even worse in sections of Nevada and Utah with some dust storms and generally bad weather.

So, I screwed up and decided to stay with my same route even though I had lost a day. So I left Kingman, past Las Vegas to RT 93 and made a left and headed North through Eastern Nevada....MISTAKE!! It was still very windy, and a head wind for the most part so gas mileage went to shit. Plus when I got to my proposed destination, Great Basin National Park, it was freezing cold wind blowing at about 40 mph and driving snow! Only to find out the only campground in the park that was open was the lower campground and quite frankly after a drive through it did not seem appealing. Not to be deterred, I headed to the little town outside of the park gate - Baker! Campground and bar and restaurant there was closed as well as everything else. So a little disappointed, I continued East to Delta Utah for a quick dinner then decided that I may as well just head to I-15, which I should have stayed on 7 hours before. So I drove another 23 miles to Scipio and a real nice Flying J truck stop, pulled around back with a few other RV's and went to sleep.

Woke up Wednesday morning realizing I had driven 732 miles on Tuesday and also realized it was extremely cold out, but the wind had died down and it was clear and sunny! Easy 110 mile drive from Scipio to my friends house in Salt Lake, no wind, beautiful drive...

Tuesdays drive through Eastern Nevada was just about the most bring drive I had ever been on, Kansas had more scenery!

There was a very interesting Railroad station in Caliente NV worth a couple shots.

Then as I approached Great Basin - I came across this miserable sight!

I am currently in Salt Lake City until tomorrow and take a couple day drive to Kalispell, will be there until next Friday the 19th then on towards Alaska!

Capt. Jim - "The Gypsy"

Traveling and photographing the Southwest

Monday, April 1, 2013

The "Hangy Thing" - Oatman Trip 2 - March 30,2013

I received orders from the boss that she had her heart set on a "Hangy Thing" which later turned into a wind chime from Oatman, the old Mining town near Kingman. We had planned to visit there when she came out, but life got in the way of her trip, but the "Hangy Thing" was still a requirement. So after cleaning the trailer on Saturday Morning, I planned a short 24 mile road trip from Kingman to Oatman on a quest to discover a "Hangy Thing" of my choosing that would satisfy Ms. Patricia.

If you are ever in the area around Kingman a trip to Oatman should be on your MUST DO list. It was and in some respects still is an old mining town that has refused to die. There is still a mine operating in the area, but the town now lives for the tourists and the wild burros! There are a ton of gift shops and ice cream parlor a couple small restaurants and bars and a bunch of wild burros roaming the streets. A worthwhile adventure for sure.

While on my "Hangy Thing" Quest I snapped a few pictures!

Plus the wildflowers are starting to bloom along the road to and from!

An old "Cafe" along Old Route 66 on the way to Oatman!

Browsing the "Hangy Things"

My Choice!

One other quest for me was to replace my pint glass - the one from the Cowboy Bar in Meeteetse WY broke!

The WORTHY Replacement

If you go to Oatman buy a bag of carrots at the grocery store before you head there for the Burros they will love you!

Capt. Jim - "The Gypsy"

Traveling and photographing the Southwest