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Our Camper Van




Amy's Cakes

Outboard Hydroplane Racing

Radio Controlled Toys

Glacier National Park

June 9, 2006 (E)

Back on the road again. Sitting in the van by a small creek in a valley about 50 miles north of Boise ID. Amy is cooking some dinner, a couple bunnies are hopping around outside our doors, and the birds have been singing since we stopped a few hours ago. It is nice to be "home".

I've finished putting up Amy's notes and some pictures on our 2 week vacation in Southern France here. I will be doing some more photo editing and touch up for posterity, but its all there in first draft form.

After returning from France we spent a week in Seattle running errands, catching up with the time-zone, and going to work. Then last weekend we headed to Oregon to pick up the van, do a few bits of fix-up, stocking-up, and maintenance before heading out on Tuesday.

The van now sports some more stickers (some of which were to go on originally, but didn't survive the application process), some aluminum braces for the corners of the penthouse ceiling (where the wood was pulling away from the fiberglass), and a fresh batch of oil for the engine.
Ceiling Braces

July 5, 2006 (E)

Been a while since working on this log, but we have been busy.

After the last entry we visited our college friend Nat, and his new wife Tammy in Mountain Home, Idaho. They hosted us in their driveway for a couple days, and took us out to a 3d bow-shoot (where I managed to get the bulls-eye on the bonus target). Amy had never done much bow shooting, and I had to help her pull past the peak on Tammy's bow, but she is hooked now.
Bow Shoot bonus steel target

Following the bow-shoot we went fishing in a local lake where we got lots of sun, but no fishies.
Fishing w/o fish

We took our leave of Nat and Tammy after the weekend and spent a couple days heading back towards my parents' house to pay a visit to a number of relatives who were dropping by: My grandmother, aunt, half-sister, and her family whom we had never met.

A few days of familial socializing and we retreated up Hell's canyon, taking a switch-backy dirt track up the side of the canyon to the Idaho side. We were heading towards Kalispell, MT where we had mad made friends last year who also have a Sportsmobile. We camped the first night a ways into Idaho.
Hell's Canyon

The next night found us most of the way through Lolo pass just prior to the ID/MT border where we ended up in an empty forest service campground. We got to experience some interesting neighbors who picked the camp-site right next to us (even though the rest of the campground was empty). They proceeded to lock themselves out with the motor running, spent a few hours trying to figure out how to get back in, and ended up smashing in a window with a rock. The next morning they left early without even cleaning up the glass they left all over the camp spot.

The next day we traveled up to Kalispell and met our friends. We prepared and headed out the next day to Glacier National Park to setup camp and do some hiking over the weekend. The weekend culminated with a hike up the just opened up Avalanche Creek trail to some awe-inspiring views of Avalanche Lake.
Avalanch Lake

On Monday we began heading east in order to see the other side of Glacier National Park, seeing a few mountain goats on the way. We found a secluded dirt track along a ridge on the east side that led us within a few hundred feet of the park boundary where we had an awesome view and solitude till we were booted a couple days later by a tribal police officer (guess we were visible from a nearby hill or something).
180 deg panorama shot of the Tripple Divide mountains in Glacier National Park

We entered Glacier National Park at the Many Glacier entrance and grabbed a spot in the campground there (why do campgrounds never have a view?). The next morning we hiked up the Ptarmigan Tunnel trail and returned in the afternoon to begin heading back towards the Seattle area (preparation for Amy's Yoga retreat in BC).
Ptarmigon Tunnel Trail

Over the next few days we traveled a couple hundred miles a day, found a camping spot in the forest somewhere, and slowly made our way across northern MT, ID, and WA. We stopped for small hikes and sight seeing at Kootenai falls in Montana.
Kootenai Falls Bridge

And all the while we encountered butterflies warming up after the cool nights.
Butterfly Convention

Once back in Seattle we visited REI to try to condense our wardrobes. We had tried out some of the new synthetic "microfiber" clothing and it seemed to be comfortable, fast drying, holding up, and took MUCH less space than comparable cotton jeans or t-shirts. A few paris of pants and shirts on clearance and we greatly reduced our clothing pile in size. I also picked up a new saddle for my bicycle since the old one, which was well-worn and crashed, had started to soak up rain water and expel it back upon me when riding.

While on the road we had ordered a CB/WX radio in order to better participate in 4x4 trail runs with other vehicles as well as providing us with another way to communicate in the case of trouble. It was waiting for us in Seattle when we arrived and I began the installation.

I also picked up a large muffin-fan and a DC/DC voltage regulator to build up a variable speed ventilation fan for the cabin as it can get quite toasty in the sun. I also grabbed a 30 amp switch to put on the solar system so that it can be disconnect from charging when we are plugged in, driving, or the batteries are otherwise full and we don't want to over charge (the only draw-back to the Solar Boost 2000E charge controller we have is that it does not have a float mode when the batteries are full).

On the 30th of June we headed north early to cross the border into BC and catch a ferry to Salt Spring Island where the Yoga retreat was located. Once on the ferry we got to see a pod of Orca whales jumping and frolicking just off the shore.

We hit the island in the early afternoon, located the Yoga compound, and then headed to a provincial park on the shore with camping spots for the night. The next morning we walked out to the water and spent some time crawling among the rocks and watching the boats sail by. Prior to noon we packed-up and returned to the yoga center to check-in and get a camping spot on their facility. We ended up all-by-ourselves parked in a grassy meadow with a field of daisies just outside our door.
Salt Spring Island Shore

The Salt Spring Yoga Center is an interesting place. Its on a fairly large plot of land in a valley, with a huge garden, some fields and meadows. Students paying for classes can camp or pay more to live in a bunk-house. Other people (like me) who are not paying must contribute by working. Everyone is fed and the whole place is vegetarian. I have been doing brunch preparation, brunch dishes, and dinner dishes along with a few odd jobs most every day. Cooking and cleaning for 40 some odd people is an interesting endeavor, and I am learning many useful skills in peeling and chopping beats.
Parking Spot at the Yoga Center

Since getting established the first day we have settled into the routine. Amy gets up at 5am to take class, I get up a bit later, check my email, and head up to help prepare brunch. After brunch dishes are finished (about 1) I head back to the van to do software work and tinker on pending issues with the van. Dinner is at 6 and I am doing dishes till about 8:30. I return and get the van ready for bed so that Amy can crash when she gets back about 9:30 to 10.

Van work so far:

  • Installed solar-panel disconnect switch
  • Installed CB & antenna
  • Installed bungee cords across overhead-storage slots to keep thing from falling out on bumpy roads
  • Repaired the hand soap dispenser (sitting for 3 months the soap in the nozzle had dried out and plugged it up).

July 21, 2006 (E)

No more peeling of beets for another couple of weeks!!! Amy's yoga class finished the first half a week ago, and a three week intermission began. We left the yoga center after showing a few people the van, and took a small ferry back to the mainland in the afternoon.
Ferry Ride

We hit the border around 7, and after waiting in line for half an hour, were selected to be inspected (yay.). Amy and I were directed to sit in a room with no view of the van while it was ransacked. They returned about 45 minutes later and let us go. Inside we found a lot of things tossed about, put back in other cabinets, and someone had decided to turn the (half full) porta-potty upside down for some reason. Lovely.

We got to Amy's parents' in Redmond, WA around 10pm, and went to bed soon after arriving. We spent a couple days in the driveway there while I went into the office, and we did some maintenance on the van (transfer case & differential oil changes, sticker maintenance, and a washing).

On Monday morning we began our trip towards Silverton, CO for the annual Sportsmobile 4x4 rally After stocking up on groceries we headed out and ended the day near the OR/ID border at a rest area. The next morning we headed into Idaho, spent a few hours at a coffee shop in Boise while I caught up on work. In the afternoon we dropped by our friends' house in Mountain Home and hung out for the evening.

Wednesday we drove on down to Salt Lake City and stopped for an evening with Amy's sister. The next morning we headed south-east and ended up camped in the Grand Mesa National Forest just outside of Grand Junction, CO. There was not much view that evening as thunder storms and rain were pounding down all around, with the nearest ground-strike only a few hundred yards away, but the next morning we were treated to a lovely view of the valley containing Grand Junction and the surrounding area.

This leads to today were we headed back into Grand Mesa, found a nice glade near a lake with a dirt track into a nice campable space. No neighbors, cool weather compared to the 100+ we have been in the last few days (current elevation 10850'), and lots of wildlife running around.
Camping Spot Grand Mesa

We went for a hike around the nearby lake, watched a few marmots and ducks who were carefully watching us, and enjoyed the colorful flowers that are in season.

July 22, 2006 (E)

Well, we got a very interesting wake-up this morning. About 5am we woke up to a snuffling and slight shaking of the van. I peeked out a window, saw nothing, and figured it was nothing more than wind and started to fall back asleep when it happened again. Realizing (slowly) that wind doesn't usually snuffle, I grabbed my glasses and looked out another window, again seeing nothing. Figuring it was probably one of the cows we had seen yesterday using the front bumper as a scratching post I unzipped the front penthouse window to see what was out front. A few yards away, looking up at me, was a mid-sized black bear. It looked at me for a moment, walked to some trees to sniff around, then jogged off towards the lake. I was a bit too asleep to adjust the film speed on the camera quick enough, or unzip the screen, so the photos I got are all a bit blurry (the sun was not yet up).
Bear walking off

After a bit more sleep we got out and looked around the van and found that the two bumps had been from the bear putting its muddy front paws up on both the driver's side door and the other time the passenger side door.
Muddy Paw Prints

July 23, 2006 (E)

Now sitting in the campground where the Sportsmobile rally is to be held starting tomorrow. Beautiful 13-14000' peaks, and lightning, all around.
Camping Spot Lake Molas

We started the day on Grand Mesa near Grand Junction, CO. No new night time bear encounters to wake us up early, but we did rise a bit after the sun to take a nice bike ride out to a couple of the other lakes located on the top of the mesa.

Around 11 we returned to the van and headed towards Silverton. On the road up into the mountains (the "million dollar highway") we saw a few other Sportsmobiles driving the other way or parked in the little tourist trap towns on the road. Just before we arrived at Silverton there was a tremendously loud bang and I saw a golf-ball sized rock bounce across our windshield, thrown up by a truck hauling a trailer with muddy Jeeps. Amy pointed out the large hole where it had hit and picked some glass up that had fallen to the dash. So a new windshield is needed, hopefully we can get one on our way out at Grand Junction or Salt Lake City (before it rains while we are driving and we get wet).

We paused in Silverton to fuel up for 3.40 :( a gallon, inspect the windshield, make arrangements for a replacement when we hit a large town again, and then continued on down the highway to the campground. We figured arriving a day early would allow us to find a nicer spot to camp, relax on Monday, and let us meet some of the other early arrivals. We had seen about 6 Sportsmobiles in Silverton itself, and the campground held about 25 more. We were still able to find a nice and relatively obscure spot in a meadow a bit away from the lake, and setup camp.

A walk around the campground (once the rain let up for a bit) let us see some of the other vans, and meet a few people (some of whom had even seen this web-site).
Other Vans

We have been considering some of the nice Aluminess bumpers that are on many Sportsmobiles, but with a few custom changes. We have put off ordering them till we got to see the various configurations and uses they are put to at the rally, and have already seen a few uses that may change out mind on how to have them configured.

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