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  1. One of our early expeditions involved working on a family project. Our son is building a house in Bow, NH, and had rented a house near the Merrimack River in Hookset, NH, to live in while building. Grandma and I took the MH to New Hampshire so she could live in it for two weeks while painting interior rooms in our son's new house. Because I still work about 3/4 time, I traveled to the New Hampshire project on weekends. It was dark when we arrived in Hookset. I knew that there were overhanging oak and maple trees at the driveway to the Hookset house, and along the street there. I stopped while brushing some smaller branches, fortunately before getting into the heavier ones. One of the neighbors came rushing out to warn me about them. My son is now 39 years old and is a good driver and equipment operator. He wanted to back the MH into the driveway while I watched the tree branches. This was due to the fact that there were mailboxes and other obstructions and he had planned how he was going to get it in there. We made out fine, with respect to ground level obstructions and the tree branches, avoiding the larger ones. He had the coach almost to his chosen spot, when all of a sudden we heard a CRAACKKK!! He and I had not realized that the utility wires leading in to the house were lower than the height of the Air Conditioners on the roof of the MH. My son stopped before tearing the wires off the house or the utility pole, but one corner of my rear AC shell was in pieces. Perhaps it was a good thing that this AC shell was already cracked and brittle. Considering its already poor condition, I was pleased that it was the point of failure. I had already priced new shells online at Camping World. My son felt really bad about doing the damage, and he patched the pieces together with the very sticky wide tape that was being used to seal around the doors and windows of his new house. When I got home, I checked again online and found the MAXair AC shells for Coleman air conditioners were on sale. I ordered a pair of them. Lessons Learned: Always be careful to watch out for overhead obstructions, but be doubly careful at night, especially in an unfamiliar location. We should have looked harder at the overhead situation before backing in!
  2. The Quinault Valley of the Olympic Peninsula was our last stop visiting the peninsula. Arriving at the Rain Forest Village Resort RV Park, we located an open site. We arrived on the Thursday before Labor Day weekend so we were glad to get a site at this first come, first served RV Park. They do not take reservations. The park is more like a state park campground than the usual commercial RV Park. Upon arrival we were given several brochures detailing local attractions, most of these were related to the trails and trees in the area. On the south side of Lake Quinault where we were there is a web of trails through the forest. Most of the trails are in the Olympic National Forest. Trails are well maintained and marked. Some of the trails have interpretive signs to explain what you are seeing. We hiked many of the shorter trails near the resort during this visit. One of the surprises for us was the amazing abundance of champion trees in this valley. Champion trees are trees which have been identified by the Forestry Association as the largest tree of a species. For each species a single tree somewhere is designated as the champion tree. In our campground the champion Sitka Spruce was located just east of our campsite. Of all the Sitka spruce trees in the world, this one has been identified as the largest. The criteria involves a formula, Trunk Circumference (inches) + Height (feet) + ¼ Average Crown Spread (feet) = Total Points, which is used to assess the relative status of a tree. The champion Sitka spruce tree is 55.7 feet in circumference and 191 feet tall and is estimated to be over 1000 years old. Across Lake Quinault on the northern side of the lake stands the champion western red cedar. This tree is a grizzled old tree. It stands 174 feet tall and is 63.5 feet in circumference with a diameter of 19.5 feet. The center of the tree has decayed away leaving it open like a chimney. The top of the tree has been broken off, perhaps more than one time. You can stand in the center of the tree and look up through the trunk to see the sky. Given all this, the tree still has numerous live branches. Getting to this tree is a short 1/2 mile trail up steps and across boardwalks. Standing at the base of this majestic old tree trying to imagine what it has been through and how it survived is a experience in humility. This tree is the largest tree in the state of Washington and other than the redwoods and Sequoias in California this tree is the largest tree in the world. It is really amazing to find two champion trees of such large size located together. The rest of the story is that there are four more champion trees in the Quinault Valley. Not far from these two giants stands the largest Douglas fir tree in the world. It is located in Quinault Research Natural area and is not accessible to the public. This tree stands 302 feet tall, has a circumference of 40 feet 10 inches and is 13 feet in diameter. Further up the valley stands the largest yellow cedar tree in the United States. Seven miles up the skyline trail you will find this tree standing 129 feet tall, 37 feet 7 inches in circumference and 11.96 feet in diameter. The largest western hemlock in the United States is 14 miles up the Enchanted Valley trail. Its height is 172 feet, circumference is 27 feet 11 inches and its diameter is 8.89 feet. Finally, the champion mountain hemlock is 13 miles up the Enchanted Valley trail. At 152 feet tall and over 6 feet in diameter it is the largest mountain hemlock in the world. We didn't visit the last four trees but were able to see two very spectacular trees with just a short walk. The trails here are interesting and scenic. If you would like to know more about champion trees check out this web site. There are champion trees all over the US and world. You might be surprised to learn there is one near you. I know that in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas where we winter there are several champion trees. I drive past one of them on my way to the bowling alley where we bowl each Friday during the winter.
  3. Leaving the midwest in late June we battled temperatures near or above 100 degrees on a regular basis. Even as we traveled to Montana we were still enountering temperatures in the high 90s. When we got into eastern Washington we began to notice some cooler temperatures. Now, after crossing the Cascade Mountains we have arrived at Chehalis, Washington. We are about 90 miles south of Seattle on I-5. Temperatures here are in the 50's and 60's at night and highs have been in the upper 70's or lower 80's. We've had some rain and plenty of clouds. This is more like what we expected when we decided to travel in this direction. Our ultimate goal is the Olympic Peninsula and Olympic National Park. The weather will be even cooler, cloudier, and wetter than it is here. We'll see how long we can stand the cool weather! We are having some repair work done at Cummins Northwest here in Chehalis. The parts should all be waiting for us now and we have an appointment on Monday morning. If all goes well, we should be on our way to the Olympic Peninsula by Monday afternoon. We have had a great time in central Washington. This was our second visit to the Grand Coulee area and we learn more each time. The tour at Grand Coulee Dam has changed as they are now remodeling the powerhouse which used to be the tour area. This time we toured the pumping facility for filling Banks Lake which serves as the reservoir for irrigating this part of the state. Banks Lake fills the Grand Coulee from near Grand Coulee Dam on to Coulee City where a small dam across the coulee blocks its flow. The town of Coulee City has a wonderful community park there with a beach on the lake. The RV sites have full hookups with 30A for some and 50A for others. The pull through sites are not real level but we managed to find a spot where we could level the coach. We fell in love with the town. Everyone was friendly and helpful including the people at city hall where we had a package shipped. Just below Coulee City is one of the truly amazing features of the area, Dry Falls is a waterfall that was active for only 48 hours as the glacial lake, Lake Missoula, emptied when its ice dam failed. Lake Missoula was larger than any of the Great Lakes today and was as much as 2000 feet deep. Imagine pulling the plug on that and the ensuing havoc that occurred. The Grand Coulee and other coulees in the area were formed by this sudden flush of water over the land. Dry Falls is 3 1/2 miles long and 900 feet tall. When the water was flowing over the falls it would have been 300 feet deep and reached speeds of 60+ miles per hour. This ripping force tore away the columnar lava flows in the area easily forming these great gashes, called coulees, in the landscape. It is a wet year in the northwest and all the dams in the area show this. The spillways are running at or near capacity to keep the level of the lakes from becoming higher than dam design. This makes for a very dramatic scene and the sound is nothing but pure power. Of course the Corps of Engineers sees this as a tremendous loss of resouces, energy and irrigation that will be needed someday. On our tour of Grand Coulee Dam where we got a ride across the dam in a bus and a stop to look over the dam to the spillway with its flowing water. Several days later we toured the Chief Joseph Dam, about 30 miles from Coulee City at the town of Bridgeport. This turned out to be a hidden gem. We pulled up to the security gate and called the security office. It indicated tours were available so we asked for a tour. We were checked through security, ID's, car inspection, under the hood, opening doors and hatch, and finally using a mirror to check under the car. Then we were given our visitors badge and directed to park in an area where the tour guide would meet us. After a wait of about 10 minutes our tour guide arrived. She loaded us into a golf cart, just Louise and I, no one else. Hard hats were brought along, this was going to be good. We drove past the power house with its 28 generators all in a row, right up to the base of the dam. Unlock the door and we were inside the base of the dam. An elevator took us to the top where we were able to look over the side of the dam above and get the layout of the flow of the Columbia River up to the dam. This dam is a "flow of the river" dam, designed to allow all the rivers flow through the dam. As a result there is only a small lake above the dam. Even with 28 generators, there was still water going over the spillway here. We walked down several flights of stairs to the trunion bridge. This is a walkway along the front of the dam at the level of the trunions or bearings on which the flood gates pivot up and down. Just below and in front of us we were looking at the water spewing from below the gates which were all lifted except for four and an additional one under repair. The roaring water on the spillway was below our feet about 20 feet. We made a pass through the visitors center which has exhibits that are only seen on tour now. In the good old days before September 11, 2001 people could drive across the dam, park on top of the structure and then walk into the visitors center and take a tour. Now the tours are on-demand and no one staffs the visitors center. We viewed a short film on construction of the dam and its operation then put on our hard hats. We were escorted into the power house to walk along the top of the generators. One was being rebuilt, new bearings, new turbine, etc. This gave us a chance to see the equipment disassembled. There was the monsterous rotor, sitting on the floor. Its massive magnets visible as were the windings of the stator past which the magnets spin to generate the 60 cycle current we all desire. Our guide points out an assembly on the floor next to the rotor and gives a Jeopardy clue then asks what those blocks look like. She mentioned automobile work and I correctly identified the brake pads which are used to stop the generator when it is shut down. Easy, they were 2 feet by 3 feet and looked about 4 inches thick. An arrangment of eight were spaced around a huge brake shoe which had a hole for the shaft, they had to be brake pads! We stand atop one of the operating generators and feel the vibrations in our feet. Then it is down a long flight of stairs to the operating floor. We walk past several generators in operation to go down a short stairway and walk right up to the spinning shaft that connects the turbine to the generator above. We are encouraged to reach out a hand a touch the shaft. For a science teacher, this is a cool as it gets! Then we go down two more flights of stairs and now we are looking a the top of the turbine assembly. This one is operating and water is flowing through the turbine just below us. We can see the actuators which move the gates that direct the water into the turbine. On our way our of the power plant we pass two small generators which provide the electrical power to operate the power plant and dam itself. I laughed and pointed out to Louise the cover of the "in-service" light atop one of the generators was off and there in all its glory was a twisty flourescent light bulb. Here we are in the middle of a facility that is generating more than 2000 megawatts and they are using a flourescent light bulb to save electricity. We were touring the dam for almost two hours. It was without a doubt the best dam tour we have ever had. The only downside was that cameras were prohibited so we have no pictures of all this great stuff. Back to the car and into Bridgeport for lunch. Surprise, this little town is larger than we expected. We are welcomed into town by a series of creative sentinals. Trees that once lined the street had died and their stumps were carved into figures of people, animals and other art forms. Wow, another unexpected find. There was an advertisement for Nel's Cafe and Bait Shop so we had to eat there! We enjoyed a nice lunch then drove around town to see what else this town offered. We found a nice RV park right along the Columbia River. As we exited the town we drove across the bridge over the Columbia River which gave us our best views of the Chief Joseph Dam. Louise snapped pictures as I drove across the bridge. Then it was back to Coulee City for a BBQ and rest watching the sun set over Banks Lake.
  4. I've been up on the roof washing and cleaning for the last few days. The experience brings to the fore one of the conflicts that plagues me. At heart, I'm a big advocate of trees. They are essential to our existence. Trees are beautiful and useful. Trees are also a nuisance. On the good side, trees provide shade and keep our motor home cool. We're in San Andreas, California, and the forecast for the next two days are temperatures in the 100s, so I'll really appreciate the trees around us. I have many favorite memories of trees, but one of the best was in 2003 in northern California, riding my bicycle on the Redwood Highway. To ride along through a forest of these giants was inspiring. It was early morning, there was little traffic, so most of the time it was me and the trees. I've stood in awe looking up at limbs on a Sequoia that are the size of other large trees. Trees anchor the riverbanks on streams I've canoed. Trees and other plants made coal that provides much of our electricity. So what could possibly be wrong with trees? A year ago we were parked under the tree from h*ll. It was early spring and the leaves were popping out. With each leaf came a few fragments of the bud packing a very sticky sap. They covered the ground, stuck to our shoes and showed up on the carpet in the motor home. Unfortunately, they also fell on the toad and on the roof of the motor home. A year later, I'm still trying to get the sap off the roof. There are a few spots that won't come off. Fortunately, a year of sunshine had dried most of the sap and it's chipping off a little at a time. I know that the trees contributed only a small amount of the dirt on the roof, but still, I hate to park under trees. We stayed at a park in Golden, Colorado, recently. It was a park without trees. I really enjoyed the stay. The sites were side-by-side sites with about 6 feet between us and the neighboring RVs. We had large 5th wheels on either side, so they provided good shade for the morning and afternoon sun. It was life without trees and I enjoyed not worrying about what was dropping on the motor home. One afternoon I helped my brother-in-law clean the leaves and maple seeds out of his gutters. At our current park, we cut tree branches to get into our site without scraping the paint off the motor home. Once in place we carefully located so we could put our slides out without having branches in contact with the sides and roof of the motor home. Today on the roof, removing dirt and sap, I'm ducking branches. There are two large oak trees to our west that give us some great shade in the late afternoon. We didn't park under them because we listened to the acorns dropping on the roof of RVs in those spaces last year. Tomorrow I'll tackle the air conditioners. I need to blow the leaves out of the cooling fins. I love trees.
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