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Our Camper Van




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Leaving Baker City, OR on 7/29/05

August 8, 2005 (A)

Salt Lake City , Utah .

On Friday, we drove up to visit my sis in Salt Lake and to help drop off a few final things that she had left at the parents', in her haste to move.

Then weather was grand, very hot and sunny. Jessica's condo was very nice. It was, as advertised, a "luxury" condo. Jessica was a gracious host, providing plenty of WATER, POWER, and WIRELESS CONNECTIVITY! Things highly prized by a gyspy-bum such as myself.

Oh yeah, and her pantry was full of liberal amounts of yummy Dried Mango, Candied Ginger, Chips, Salsa, other miscellaneous snackies and even my FAVORITE CEREAL. What a way to my heart!

My b'day we celebrated a day early (on Sunday), because on Monday, Jessica was to work a full day plus be on-call in the evening(as in sleeping in the hospital if given the chance to). Our day was spent at the local Aviary, saw many exotic species, and got to feed the parrot-birdies! Jessica even went into the feeding enclosure with me, despite her repeated mutterings of "getting-my-eyes-gouged-out" and "tastiest-soft-tissue-is-the-eyes-you-know". And wonders upon wonders - she didn't get her eyes gouged out! She even got friendly enough with the birds to feed them.

One very cool aspect of the visit, besides having lovely digs to hang out at, and a chance to really get to know Salt Lake , was that Jess had commissioned me to create painting for her. So Monday through Thursday, time was divided up between visits to the local coffee house, readings of my new Harry Potter book (birthday present from the parents), and painting! I was vaguely inspired by some of Gustav Klimt's works, very vaguely.

I also had a chance to try out a yoga class at a local studio. With any luck, I'll be sampling various types of yoga and yoga studios, with enough interesting stuff to keep a Yoga Journal.

Anyhow, on our Last Day in Salt Lake , we went on a moderate hike on the Desolation Trail in Mill Creek Canyon off the side the Mount Olympus . The sites were spectacular and the company was lovely. We had fun spotting lizards, scrambling around on the rocks, and getting peed on by the Rain Gods.

We finished off our day with a yummy spread with Summer Sausage (which we were dreaming about and drooling over, on the hike down), Fresh picked corn on the cob, Smoked Moz (Mozzarella), Cheddar Cheese, Juice, and Cotton Candy. Just like Christmas at the parents, minus the Choccie, and Dried Fruit, and with a few summer things like corn thrown in.

August 9, 2005 (E)

We just spent our first night in the van in the middle of nowhere, and it was quite an interesting experience. We left Salt Lake City around 8 in the morning, and headed north into Idaho . As we passed by Craters of The Moon National Recreation Area we began to pass near some very pretty mountains, and after a bit of this decided to drive up some of the BLM access roads and see what there was to see, and determine if there was a nice place to camp.

We got to use the 4x4 to essentially say "Hey. Lets camp on THAT mountain", and followed a light Jeep-track up the side of a steep foot-hill. After arriving at a nice clearing and relatively flat gully about ¾ of the way up, I took off the motorcycle and scouted further up the jeep-track to see if there was a better camping spot (there wasn't without having to trim low branches on some trees in the way (which I didn't want to do). Upon returning we setup camp (around 4pm), and pointed the dish so that we could get online and I could put in some hours at work.

Setting up the dish was a race against time, as a small thunder-storm passed over with a bit of rain before I went out scouting, and a very LARGE one was looking to follow it soon. No more than 5 minutes after the dish was up and locked onto the signal we were assaulted with huge rain-drops, gusty wind, and lightening all around, including some very close ground-strikes. The storm lasted about 45 minutes, and then everything cleared and was picture-perfect once again.

While I was working, Amy fired up the cook-top to make some Mac & Cheese. The stove went out after a minute or two, and we were concerned that the altitude might be too much (we were at 8000' according to the GPS, and the stove is only designed for sea-level according to the manual). A bit of reading through the manual indicated that perhaps the error it was flashing on the lights might be due to the excess heat safety cutoff, and since it had been a pretty hot day this made sense. We opened the cabinet below the stove for more ventilation, fired it up again and all was well. We will probably put in more ventilation holes for the stove, and perhaps a muffin-fan to force some cooling ventilation of that compartment when the stove is on.

As the sun got lower, we went for a hike up to the top of the jeep trail, where the view became even more spectacular (right up to below the peaks themselves) with lots of opportunities for lovely photos of the valley, distant storm clouds, and the peaks, some with snow still hiding on the north facing slopes.

The following morning afforded an opportunity to try out the furnace since it got quite cold overnight. The heater comes with a switch for high-low altitude operation (it just switches which fuel-pump is used), so we set it at the high-altitude setting and fired it up. No problems so far, and my feet are nice and toasty as I write this.

August 13, 2005 (A)

Tuesday morning (the 8 th ), we left our middle of nowhere paradise and took Spar Canyon Road off of highway 26, in Idaho and headed towards Baker City, Oregon. The road meandered its way down a fairly narrow canyon. There was some neat geology along the road, including some sheer, hypnotically craggy red rock faces, and some cozy little pull offs for camping. One draw back to the road was that may be host to more traffic than would be desirable for night of peace and tranquility.

We spent Tuesday night in a campsite in Bear Valley . The first part of the drive into Bear Valley rattled our teeth, our cupboards, and sent anything that wasn't bolted down, bouncing around all over the cab. Needless to say, it put our suspension to the test!

That evening, we set up camp at a prime location, right next to the Bear Valley Creek. After a dinner, and a liberal dosing of bug spray, we took a walk along creek, gave chase to a momma duck and her babies. (Gosh, why is she all flapping about like she has an injured wing? Hmmm, could it be that we got a little too close??? Naw.) We were a bit surprised that we didn't run across many other occupied campsites. And of course, we topped the night off by watching "Harry Potter, the Sorcerers Stone", because we'd just finished listening to the audio book on the drive over.

That night we slept on a nice LEVEL bed. Oh, did Erik fail to mention that our lovely night previous, although charmingly situated in the middle of nowhere, limited our choice parking spot to one that was somewhere about 12 degrees off of level? This resulted in an entire night spent with me being on the downhill side and Erik being on the uphill side of the bed. The only thing between me and rolling off the top of the van was some flimsy plastic and two bars of steel. Joy. At least Erik was sweet enough, to try and hold me to keep me from rolling up to the plastic barrier.

In the morning, we broke camp and after breakfast and some quick-yoga, we continued our drive over through Idaho. There were some pretty cushy RV sites along the Brownlee Reservoir, all beautifully terraced into the hill, descending to a boat launch. Across the water was some beautiful geology, the steep rock face of the other side of the canyon. We paused long enough to enjoy the scenery and made a note to return at a later date. Late in the afternoon, we drove into Baker City to BadgerTrek HQ for some more work on the van. And boy was there WORK to be done.

Saturday, we took a break from our troubles and went to the "Wings Over Baker" airplane fly-in. Erik really enjoyed the sights. It was windy.

August 14, 2005 (A)

Having gone into town on Saturday, (Yes out here in the boonies, where the Badger seniors live, going into town is quite an affair and takes upwards of a 45 minute drive - yes even for groceries, post office, gas, or *gasp* a latte!). Anyway, as I was saying, having gone into town on Saturday, I was finally able to purchase the last bit of wool staples (WOOL STAPLES -definition- washed uncarted wool, which in my case, I was seeking in fancy colors) in order to complete my fleecing project. Kirsten, my mother-in-law had given me a lovely wool fleecing kit for my birthday. It's just the kind of project that's perfect for wiling away free hours, whilst mindlessly jabbing at a bit of fluff against foam backing, with a sharp pointy instrument. Doesn't that sound like fun? Anyhoo, I've finally finished my first wool fleecing project, a lovely little Ballerina Gnome. You like her thong-tutu, do you?

My second Gnome is almost finished, I have just to put finishing touches on it. Haven't decided on its' gender yet, though.

I also spent a bit of time contributing to home improvement today. A lot of sunlight hits our front windshield. As a result, it is a great source of heat absorption, and loss. For the past week, we've been getting by with shading the windshield with some foil backed bubble insulation. However the problem with this type of insulation is it doesn't tend to hold up very long. So to make it more durable, I backed the bubble insulation with upholstery cloth, tacked it on with spray adhesive and sewed the edges (with a little help from Kirsten and her lovely Husquavarna sewing machine). I essentially made what the folks at Sportsmobile term an Arctic Shade. Only, they don't provide "Arctic Shades" for the windshield or front driver-side and passenger-side windows.

I also helped Erik out with some MAJOR work that he was doing on the van as well, but, I'll let him give the details on that.

August 18, 2005 (E)

I've spent the past week and a half working on the van. It started as just a task to move the potable-water heater inside the van for protection from freezing, and turned into a complete tear-down of half the interior and exterior in order to move all the plumbing to the inside of the insulation and seal numerous holes in the walls where outside air could just blow in.

Since all that was going on we decided to take the opportunity to also drop the fuel tank and extend the accessory pickup down to the bottom of the tank so that we could have heat below 1/3 tank, and move the furnace fuel pumps from their vulnerable location under the van to a more secure place inside the cup of a frame rail.

A bunch of other minor tasks were done as well (Scotchguarding the upholstery, additional shelves in some cabinets, squaring up some cabinets that were built crooked and wouldn't stay latched, insulation where there were gaps or none at all, etc).

I have also updated the plumbing page with more specific details of much of the work involved in all of this.

August 21, 2005 (E)

We have spent the last couple days in Cashmere , WA at Ariel Paragliding brushing up on our skills flying our paragliders. We haven't flown for a couple years, and figured it was high-time to update our abilities and make sure everything was up-to-date. With the trip we hope to be able to spend more time flying and exploring more flying sites than those local to western Washington.

Last year when we were planning to come out and brush up at that time there was a large fire in the area that ended up scorching about ½ of the flight-park. Following that we have been so busy with the preparations for the trip that we didn't make it back out till now.

August 23, 2005 (A)

We went flying off of a site near Bellingham, WA, called Chuckanut Mountain (Blanchard). The view from the top of launch was spectacular, beautiful blue water, and islands off in the distance. One can even see Anacortes from there.

First day of our stay at Blanchard was highlighted by a few nice evening flights, colored with a visit from (what one of the local pilots dubbed) the "Garden Gnome" of Blanchard. He was certainly short like a Gnome, but no where near as cheerful. I would describe him as more of a yappy little rat-dog/man than a Garden Gnome. But whatever the case, he was there to meet us and he was there on a mission to be Senor-Asshol-io. It appears that this particular Gnome (purported paraglider pilot) was rather tetchy about sharing what (in his 10-foot-tall opinion) was his flying site. "I was here first, all you rest need to talk to the DNR." Rant, Rant, blah, rant, blah.

Anyhoo, my self and a few other fellow student pilots can now attest to the existence of the Blanchard Garden Gnome. Oh, happy day.

August 29, 2005 (A)

Tuesday night we camped on top of launch, technically a no-no, but it was thought that the ranger rarely made rounds there so we chanced it. It was a fat chance, as we found out the unpleasant and groggy way. It was 2:30 in the AM when the ranger showed up with a search light and a loud boomy voice "Ladies and Gentlemen from Washington and Oregon , you are camping is a day use-only area. Please vacate. I expect you to be down by the gate in 15 minutes."

Wow. My very first run-in with the DNR! I didn't know that we could pack so fast! Fortunately, down past the gate there was a more-legal-less-panoramic campsite where we stopped and caught up on the remainder of our beauty sleep.

On Wednesday (24 th ) we got a good round of flying in, before the "Gnome" (see below) showed up. Everyone had at least 3 flights off of Blanchard (forgot to mention elevation was 1200 ft MSL).

To start off with the morning looked as if we might not be flying at all. The visibility from launch was nil, as it was swathed in clouds, and as we sipped coffee and munched in our THIRD trip to the coffee house, it started to sprinkle.

But being the faithful paragliders that we were, we kept our hopes up for the promised forecast of winds from the SW. Sure enough, we were eventually rewarded late into the morning with clearing skies and light launchable winds.

Erik had the lovely privilege of running into the troll (excuse me, I mean Gnome) at the LZ (landing Zone). The Gnome was evidently in the mood to tell Erik that he heard from his friend in the DNR, that he had kicked us out of the park last night for camping. And didn't we see the signs? Erik said, "Well, apparently. We didn't, did we?" And that seemed to shut him up after a while.

A local pilot mentioned that he thought that the Gnome had a sight or telescope and could see the launch from where he lived. Hmmm. Could that have explained our rude awakening earlier that morning?

Thursday, we hopped over to Redmond, did laundry, and had a REAL shower, courtesy of my parents.

Friday, we were back at the ranch, looking for launchable conditions. The morning was pretty off, for the usual peaks which are all east facing. The wind was pretty much blowing up over the back. So, we got the rare treat of launching off of Independence one of the more west facing launches.

It was to be my first launch off of Independence. It was light-wind launches for all. Everyone launched off successfully. Erik did a nice reverse launch. I was a bit apprehensive of the steepness of the drop off from launch and ended up doing my first forward launch (assisted by Doug, many thanks!)! I was stoked, I had a smooth take off after the second attempt and a nice flight and landing. Great note to end our flight trip on.

We skipped the afternoon flight session to pack up and head off to Liberty (1/2 hr drive away), where we met up with our motorcycle friends to go dirt bike camping for the weekend.

We were the second group to show up, RBP and Dana had been the first to show and we had good times hanging out and catching up.

I decided that afternoon, to give the Porta-Shower a try. It was, well. Okay. Erik had read from other folks that an average Porta-Shower took about 5-10 gallons. He was sure that I would not need THAT much water! Keep in mind, we carry 16 gallons max in our tank, so 5 to 10 is a lot.

Anyhoo, I got the whole thing set up inside the van, with the curtains hanging from the ceiling (tapering down to a small tub), plugged in the shower wand attachment and turned on the water. First thing I noticed, if I have the wand set to off, the attachment point was LEAKING so much water that it was enough to fill a liter bottle of per 1.5 minutes! Not good. Next thing, boy! It does take a lot of water to shower.

In the end, I had used up 4.5 gallons, and that was just shampoo, rinse, condition, rinse. Forget about lathering up the rest of me. Erik's eye's were starting to pop out of his head at the sight of the water accumulating in the tub! "Wow, that's like 5 gallons of water! Gosh, that's a lot of water."

Saturday morning (27 th ), the rest of the gang showed up! Most of the guys took off to conquer some pretty steep and slippery (in terms of dry dust) terrain. I, being with no dirt bike myself, hung out, did Yoga, and went on a hike up the trail (why bike when you can hike??) to take in the view. The top of the trail had about 1000 ft elevation gain from camp (as measured by Erik's mad-GPS-skills), and this had me contemplating the possibilities for this being a potential PG launch site. Erik and I later discussed it and agreed that we needed to look into it further, maybe look at the surrounding area on a topo map.

And oh yes, we had a most interesting "Visitor" in the form of a very strange looking Y-shaped bug. He seemed to really fancy the inside of our van.

Erik headed out on a ride with a few of the guys and came back exhausted, yucky (grubby), and well-worn after a 20+ mile trail ride.

We were back at our Redmond HQ, by Sunday, for a week or so, to chew through some regular check-ups and other miscellaneous stuff (best done in the city).

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