Friday, December 10, 2021

Bebop on Beignets

We are in my dad hooman's old hometown. Today we had some fun adventures. I got to ride a ferry across the Mississippi River to the old part of New Orleans. I had easy access to the life jackets which were under the seats.

Me on the ferry - need a life jacket?
 
We walked around some old streets and there were street performers, artists, and a lot of "authentic" voodoo places - whatever that is. I could barely find a patch of grass or dirt to pee on. Also the water in the edge of the street was not very clean - muddy, oily, and smelled of alcohol. My hoomans brought some clean water for me to drink.

Then we went to this magic place that made these things called beignets. They are fried squares of dough covered in powdered sugar. They were delicious. 

I am VERY interested in that delicious smelling beignet

Mmmm . . . beignets
 
Later we rode the ferry back across and drove down to a place my dad hooman called his high school. It apparently closed in the late 80's, but the big oak tress and the gymnasium building were still visible.

Me and hooman dad at his old high school site

Then we had some delicious fried shrimp. I'm eating well here. We walked around my dad's old neighborhood and all the children wanted to pet and play with me. Time for bed now.

-Bebop

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

The Gulf Coast

The last couple of days we traveled along the Texas and Louisiana coast. We started with a camping night on the beach, just a few feet from the high tide line. The Brazoria County beach near Sufside is hard packed and easy to drive on - even a large camper van. We enjoyed walks on the beach and the sound of the surf all night. The weather for our coast days was around 57ºF - 61ºF and mostly cloudy. 

Our seaside camping spot on the beach

The second night was at Sea Rim State Park at the far SE corner of Texas. Our van got its first ferry ride across to the Bolivar peninsula. There were quite a variety of birds there and many signs warning of alligators. It was cool, so we didn't see any gators, but apparently there was a large one in the adjacent campsite. Our adjacent campers showed us the photos. There were many mosquitoes. 

Bebop on the striped beach

After we left the park, we drove past a large oil refinery. The parking lot looked like a pickup truck dealer. Almost every brand, type, and size were represented - hundreds of pickup trucks. Before we crossed into Louisiana, we made a short detour into Port Arthur for a quick van cleaning and gas fill. It was only four miles each way, but it took forever. We caught every red light - and they were all really long cycle lights - even when no one was coming on the cross streets. It was so bad, it seemed they were intentionally programmed to make you stop at every one. At least the car wash and vacuum were inexpensive.

Elena contemplating the Gulf of Mexico

Then we crossed into Louisiana and took Hwy 82 across the coast. There were hardly any vehicles along the entire road. Marsh, swamp, and water birds dominated. We took another ferry and passed through Cameron, which has been hit by many hurricanes, including one in Aug of 2020. There were numerous destroyed or damaged structures for many miles. Finally, we turned a bit inland to our evening destination of Palmetto Island State Park. It was easy to tell when we got close - palmettos appeared everywhere along the road.

Bebop checking the Palmettos

Here are a few birds along the coast.


Paul





Monday, December 6, 2021

Central Texas Adventures

We've been busy visiting hooman friends, so there hasn't been much blogging - just adventures. After we left the dinosaur place, we stopped at Colorado Bend State Park and hiked to Gorman Falls. It was a rocky hike, and some rain just before we arrived made the rocks extra slippery. I had no problem with my four legs and paws, but it was a little dicey for the hoomans. At the end there is a steep rocky descent to the falls viewing area. I was like a mountain goat, and my hoomans made it safely with the help of the cable rail some park rangers had built. The falls were scenic, and I looked at the Colorado River. This is the Texas version of the Colorado River. 

My hoomans by the waterfall

Bebop at the Colorado River in Texas
 
We then set up camp at a ranch very close to our next day's adventure. The ranch owner only took cash so "Biden wouldn't track me." He had two funny looking creatures that waddled around the campsites. His dog had emphysema, which he blamed on his wife's smoking. That guy made me really appreciate my hoomans. 

These animals were right outside our camper door

The next morning we visited a big granite rock called Enchanted Rock. Dogs can't hike on the rock, so I napped in the van while the hoomans went. Then they returned and took me on the loop trail where dogs were allowed. It was a warm December day, and I often stopped to drink and splash in the adjacent stream.

I'm going to lick Mom on the face at Enchanted Rock

Next we visited Pedernales Falls. It was really rocky, and I could show off my mountain goat skills again. The water was fairly low, but it was pretty.

Bebop pondering the waterfall

Then we visited some hooman friends and stayed in their driveway. I saw some deer and miniature donkeys. One donkey was quite loud. I met a friendly dog who lived next door too. We sniffed each other and wagged tails. His name was Muttley.  

The next day we visited Hamilton Pool and Reimer's Ranch State Park. The pool was closed to swimming and walking up under the ledge because the Feb freeze loosened a lot of rock, and we didn't want to be flattened. The incoming water flow was very low. We went to the other park and I got to splash and wade in the Pedernales River. It was fun.

The hoomans at the Pedernales River

Hamilton Pool

We just arrived at the Texas coast and are parked right on the beach just 100 feet from the water. I liked running on the beach, but that water tasted yucky. We get to sleep at the beachfront spot.

On the Texas Gulf Coast   
- Bebop


Thursday, December 2, 2021

Walking with Dinosaurs

We are on day 2 of our December trip. Fairly modest miles planned for this trip before we take a longer trip in Feb/Mar. For this trip we'll head down through central Texas all the way to the Gulf Coast. Then we'll run along the coast all the way to my hometown of New Orleans, LA (unincorporated Gretna, LA to be exact). 

Our first stop is Dinosaur Valley State Park near Glen Rose, TX. Just a mere ~105 million years ago, some sauropods (big vegetarians) and theropods (the bitey kind) strolled along an ancient shoreline, leaving their footprints in the mud. The footprints became buried, compressed, and fossilized. Then, the Paluxy River exposed those long buried footprints. Yesterday we arrived and did a nice 5.4-mile hike in the amazing 75 degree December 1st weather. 

Today, I began with a 3-mile run/walk to find Elena's phone. Last night she couldn't find it, so we used the "find my phone" feature, and the last known location was on the trail we had hiked. I got up early and found it on the bench where we had taken a break at a scenic overlook. Later, we went searching for the dinosaur footprints. There are several sites in the river with distinct footprint tracks. We even put on our water shoes and waded knee-deep in the very cold, but clear water. 

Both saurapod and therapod tracks

My shoe in a theropod track

Those vegetarian sauropods had large feet

Bebop studying the dino footprints

Sitting on the rocks in the Paluxy river
 
I'll close with this Far Side dinosaur classic.

- Paul



Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Bebop is Traveling Again

I saw my hoomans packing the Bebopabago and kept jumping in to make sure they didn't forget me. My plan worked and we are traveling together. Today we drove through the slow DFW traffic for what seemed like forever, until we arrived at Dinosaur Valley State Park. 

My hoomans took me on a nice 5.4 mile hike. I got to splash in a river a couple of times. We haven't seen any actual dinosaurs, but we'll go to the river tomorrow and find their footprints. I modeled next to a dinosaur footprint replica.

Dinosaur footprint and Bebop

Bebop crossing the Paluxy River

Scenic overlook

Our big hike today


I missed a couple of naps today, so I'm going to sleep now.

- Bebop

Friday, November 5, 2021

The RV Downside - Service

When we are on the road it's a fun time and having a camper van is great. The downside is the maintenance issues between those fun trips. The industry can't keep up with demand and the dealers are overloaded. After our summer trip, I had a list of 7 warranty items I wanted to have repaired. Most were fairly minor, but the Pioneer radio was defective from day one. I called the dealer and the first appointment was over a month away. I was offered October 7th, and I took it. They told me 10AM on the phone, then a 9AM time in the email. I battled traffic and arrived at the earlier time and waited in the waiting room. 

Of the 7 items on the list, they addressed 3 that day (back door adjusted, MaxAir fan sticky opening fixed, and small floor hatch gasket re-attached). They attempted a fix on another, but that was a total fail. The slider that connects the beds together doesn't seem to have a latching mechanism, and it would slide out while driving - often with our dog on it. They attached a latch under the frame - they screwed it into the bed base and into the metal frame (I had to clean up all the metal shavings left on the floor). At first glance, it appeared to be a good solution. After I was back home, I lifted the bed frame to access the storage underneath. They failed to account for the fact that the frame is hinged. The latch ripped apart and out shot the spring. Now I have holes in the van where the faulty solution used to sit. I am using a Velcro strap to hold the frame in place while driving. 

The latch ripped open after I lifted the bed to access the storage underneath.

They confirmed the radio was faulty and said they would order a replacement. While I was there I asked to set up a date for my return trip for the ordered parts as you can never reach them by phone or their web form. We agreed on Nov 3rd at 10AM. A week later I hadn't seen any confirmation and called. They didn't log it and told me it would now be December. I reminded the tech that he told me Nov 3rd. He knew he didn't log it, so he said to come on Nov 3rd at 11AM, and they would fit me in. The day before the appointment, the confirmation email came and said 10AM.

I made the 40-mile drive up and arrive before 10AM. Two of the 3 parts had arrived, but he told me one of them was the wrong part. The main issue that needed to be repaired was the demon possessed radio, and the replacement had arrived. From the day we picked up the van, the in-dash radio (Pioneer DMH-1500NEX) would randomly change functions and lock in on a screen and not allow you to change anything. Pressing any physical button or screen button resulted in random changes. If I removed the 12V power supply for several minutes and rebooted everything, I could get it to work perfectly for about 5 minutes before it reverted to possessed mode. The new radio had arrived, and they were to replace that. Despite my appointment being for 10AM, they didn't start on it until mid-afternoon - while I sat in the waiting room.

Side story: While I was in the waiting room another couple came in and in a few minutes someone came to get them for their new trailer walk through. They returned in about 15 minutes - turns out the dealership had prepped the wrong trailer. They had taken off work and driven 50 miles to pick up their new trailer, but now it wouldn't be ready until the next week. They had a bad experience at this same dealership in another town and came to this location instead - and had a bad experience again. My experience with bad service is not isolated, but almost appears to be the norm now.

Late afternoon, the service tech asked me if the backup camera worked on the other one. I confirmed that it was one of the few things that did work. He said they didn't think it would work with the radio (the same exact Pioneer 1500 model that it did work on before) but would check. They finally figured it out and pulled it around for me just after 5PM. I got in, and the radio was working with a functioning touchscreen. The backup camera was working, but . . . the interface to the vehicle was not. The steering wheel controls didn't work and none of the vehicle screens (tire pressure, clock, etc.) were accessible. The service manager said it was late and could I come back at 8AM the next day, and they would pull me right into the bay.

I pulled in before 8AM the next morning (Thu, Nov 4) and went back to my new home - the waiting room. I walked out to check at 10AM, and they hadn't even started on the radio. Ironically, the other part he thought was a wrong part, was actually an improved part, so they had fixed the broken plastic handle on the Lagun table with the new metal one. One small win. 

I went back at 11AM and still nothing was happening on the radio. The service advisor told me they didn't have anyone available. I reminded them that it was supposed to be done yesterday, and they needed to get someone on it now. He went to talk to his manager. The manager and tech came to visit me about 30 minutes later and said they had someone on it now. Hours went by and at about 2PM (remember this was a radio swap out - Best Buy could have done the job in about 30 minutes) the service manager came out and said now the radio wasn't working at all. He asked if I could leave the vehicle as they would need to make some calls with Winnebago. Fortunately, they arranged for someone to drive me the 40 miles home - though I had to wait another hour for someone to be available to do that.

The next day (Fri, Nov 5) I heard nothing all day, so I emailed late afternoon. The service tech did respond, but said they were waiting for a call back from Winnebago. On Monday (Nov 8) I called Winnebago Customer Care to see if they could assist. I asked them to authorize a car stereo installation store to get my car stereo operating properly. They said to give the dealer a chance to make it right. Shortly after I hung up, the dealer sent an email that said they ordered a new unit, but they were back-ordered, and it would probably take 6-8 weeks to arrive. The hits just keep coming.

I emailed the dealer general manager and asked if they would be willing to sub out the work to a car audio place that does that full time, so we can get this resolved. He said he would get an update from his service manager. I heard nothing the rest of the day. 

On Monday (Nov 8) I got an email from the dealer that a radio had been ordered, but I needed to come pick up my van, since it would take a while to get the unit. Winnebago had mentioned that the radio supplier was RiverPark. I called them and a very nice and helpful tech support guy looked it up and said they had the radio in stock and could ship immediately. I emailed my dealer and asked if they could overnight a radio and fix it right away. They agreed on Tuesday and ordered it.

It arrived on Wednesday (Nov 10) and was installed and ready on Thursday (Nov 11). I asked them to please double check all the functions and I would pick up on Friday (Nov 12). When I picked it up, I clicked through all the functions I could think of, and it seemed to be working. They installed a new head unit and a new Maestro interface box. 

When I got home that evening I was finally digging into all the functions of the unit - I could set the clock, change the EQ, see the tire pressure, connect my phone, . . . things were looking up. Then I tried to connect to the mic for voice input. It acted like it wasn't hearing me. I held the small mic closer and still nothing. Then I noticed the plug end of the mic laying on the floor. It had not been reconnected to the radio. I decided I'll just take it to a local car audio shop and have them open it up for me so I can plug it in.  

I went to a local car audio shop on Nov 24, and he pulled it to get things working again. He had to fish the cable back up behind the radio, and asked if he could run the cable around and mount the mic up by the rearview mirror while I was there - no extra charge. Service at last! He did that, plugged it in the back, and reassembled everything. I tested the functions and all was working until . . . I plugged in my phone through the USB dash connection. Nothing. He pulled the radio and we began checking connections. When I plugged a USB directly into the unit, it worked with my phone. There is apparently a short in the USB A to mini USB cable that goes to a connector that drops down to the dash port. Something in there was shorted, as we got a brief connection at one point for a few seconds while wiggling wires. I bought a long USB A to C cable, plugged it into the back of the unit, fished it down to the passenger side floor, and wrapped it up in the cup holders. My USB phone connection now works. The dash connector is dead, but for the first time in over 4 months, all radio functions are finally working. The audio shop charged me $45 to pull the radio and connect it all back up. The dealer kindly reimbursed me for the charge.

Paul

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Trip End Summary

What did we learn from 5 weeks in our new Winnebago Travato 2022 KL camper van? I learned that I could probably live in a tiny home (or at least a much smaller home) without much problem. Two adults and a dog lived comfortably in 135 square feet for 34 nights. I'm now wondering why I need all the rest of that stuff sitting at home. There is a balance, of course. Some things are needed to maintain a house, that aren't needed on the road. There are also some things, such as musical instruments, that bring joy at home, but we chose not to bring on the trip. But overall, I could live happily in much less space. Elena is not as certain as I am.

It was nice to get home, but I certainly could have gone longer. Elena said five weeks was about the right maximum. Bebop seemed ready to go again. As I was unloading items from the van this morning, she jumped into her seat and looked disappointed when we didn't drive away. She was a delight on the trip - perfectly well-adjusted to travel. Prioritizing experiences over stuff is very enjoyable and relaxing. Here was our route:

Road trip route (#'s are POI, not days)

Let's get to the data. Anyone who knows me will not be surprised by my data and analysis of our 5-week road trip.

Miles Driven: 5,336.6 miles (only about 200 on the interstates; about 100 on gravel and dirt roads)
Average miles/day: 152
Average miles/day minus four days and 1,200 round trip miles in and out of Texas: 133
States outside of Texas: (6) NM, CO, UT, WY, MT, ID 
Time Driving: 130 hours
Avg Speed: 41 mph
MPG: 16.2 (many mountains and hills)
Gas Used: 327.8 gallons
Gas Cost: $1,114.52 ($32/day)
Highest temperature: 99ºF in Vernal, UT
Lowest temperature: 36ºF in old Snowmass, CO, and Creede, CO

Best MPG was on the downhill coming home

Highest elevation driven: 11,530 feet (Slumgulllion Pass, CO). Times across the continental divide: 12

Continental Divide Crossings
  • Cuba, NM 6,900 (W)
  • Yellowstone NP 8,200 (E)
  • Glacier NP 7,400 (W)
  • Butte, MT 6,400 (E)
  • Henry Lake - Reynolds Pass 6,800 (W)
  • Henry Lake - Targhee Pass 7,100 (E)
  • Yellowstone 8,300 (W)
  • Yellowstone 8.300 (E)
  • Yellowstone 8.200 (W)
  • Sslumgullion Pass 11,530 (E)
  • Wolf Creek Pass 10,900 (W)
  • North of Abiquiu 7,700 (E)
Sleeping locations - cost avg ~$21/night
  • State Parks (10)
  • National Parks (7)
  • Private Campgrounds (6)
  • Boondocked in the forest - not in any parking lots (4)
  • Moochdocked in driveways of relatives and friends (6)
  • Hotel (had points for one free night) (1)

Food - Cooked most meals in the van. Stopped for groceries about 7 times. Ate out a few times with friends. Avg cost per day = to what we would have spent at home. We ate very well, but increased activity (hiking) helped me shed a few pounds on the trip.

Glitches
  • Flat Tire: (1) fortunately, just the mountain bike on the bike rack, not the van. The 31-year-old weathered bike tire blew out while on the bike rack during our drive through Glacier NP.
  • Sewer hose popped out of the hole during one black water dump. Yuck.
  • Grey tank valve was still open once when we removed the cap. Oops.
  • Awning deployed in grocery parking lot when the switch was bumped putting away groceries. It hit a light fixture pole, but both survived.
  • An accident happened on a rural road just before we topped a hill. We were greeted with big guardrail pieces strewn across the narrow road (no shoulders). Hit one piece and missed two. No apparent damage.
Highlights
The smoke and haze obscured some mountain views for much of the trip, but we had a few nice days, and we focused on wildlife, waterfalls, and up close things.
  • The petroglyphs and bighorn sheep in Nine Mile Canyon (blog link)
  • Mom and young moose and bear with two cubs in the same day at the Tetons NP (blog link)
  • Bison and scenery in Yellowstone, and the Beartooth Highway drive (blog link
  • The hike to No Name Lake in Glacier NP (blog link)
  • Sheep Creek Geological Loop (blog link)
  • The smoke clearing the day we arrived at the Maroon Bells (blog link)
  • A nice soak in a clothing optional hot spring (blog link)
  • Numerous bighorn sheep along the La Verde Vista trail along the Rio Grande (blog link)
  • And though I didn't write a blog about our hike at the Ghost Ranch near Abiquiu or our camp site at Abiquiu Lake, they resulted in a few of the best photos of the trip.
Coming into the Ghost Ranch

Hike into the box canyon at the Ghost Ranch

Overlooking Abiquiu Lake

- Paul