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Old 03-07-2013, 06:53 AM   #1
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The Great Northern Redneck Adventure - The Trip Report

Well, it's been far too long since this trip actually happened to me finally getting some writing done and publishing it somewhere .

So, I've started this thread to reshare my tale for all of you on the forums .

As I go along, I'll add new entries to this thread as each new chapter is written up.

So, here goes, starting with the Prologue to this Great Adventure .

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Project–Readying the Express for it’s return to the Road

For the past year, I’ve been planning what is to be my greatest cross country adventure with my RV I’ve ever done.

Part of that plan is readying my twenty year old pickup and camper for the rigors of close to 10,000 miles of travel, covering Interstates, US Highways, and in a couple cases, dirt and gravel roads.

One of the big things that needs readying for this trip is the replacement of the exhaust and the replacement of the truck’s engine and transmission cooling system, all of which are factory original, and worn beyond their expected lifespans.

Sadly, like a great many projects on a limited timeline, I didn’t photograph

them, so I’ll narrate what I didn’t photograph and present what I did .

Cooling System Upgrades

This really started presenting itself clear back in 2009 as being well worn, when the engine was having trouble staying cool during my Eastern Oregon Ramblin’ Journey (at the time of this post, I still haven’t gotten off my lazy butt and typed that adventure up yet).

We managed to limp through on that trip, shifting into 1st gear when not really necessary to boost the air flow through the worn radiator, but the radiator ended up hanging around for three more years, as travel during the warmer months of the year hadn’t presented itself again until the Great Northern Redneck Adventure.

So, after some shopping around, I finally located a local dealer who sold solid Aluminum radiators. At the same time, I also shopped around and decided to replace my tiny factory transmission cooler with a Tru-Cool MAX transmission cooler that is made by Long Industries and normally used in the newer Ford F550 pickup trucks.

The transmission cooler was rated for a vehicle with a 45,000lb GVWR, so I figured it would be more than enough to help keep the transmission temp down.

Once all my parts were obtained, I set about removing the old radiator and transmission cooler, the condition of which once removed confirmed my belief that I’d have been a damned fool to have taken a long trip with the existing hardware.

The final nail in the coffin came when I unbolted the transmission cooler from the old radiator and it promptly fell apart, the cross bars for the transmission cooler the only thing holding the radiator together.

It took roughly a day to modify and assemble my new cooler and radiator. I had wanted to move the cooler up to the front of the grill stack under the hood, but the design of the truck’s front mount area prevented this from being feasible and the new transmission cooler sadly had to go back into the sandwich (A/C Evaporator, Transmission Cooler, then Radiator) where the old one had originally been.

After adding all the new transmission fluid hose and the below freezing bypass valve (allows the fluid to warm up to running temp before opening to allow fluid through the cooler when the fluid’s temp is at or below 32 degrees F), I reinstalled the new radiator under the hood.

Deep Transmission Pan

Next up was changing the transmission fluid. I decided that when I upgraded the cooling capacity, I’d also upgrade the transmission fluid capacity as well. After posting a few threads on the subject earlier in the year, I researched a few different options and ended up with the DeRale Deep Transmission pan and pickup extension.

I decided to go with a steel pan vs aluminum mainly for the extra capacity and for the durability. The new pan also had a sensor bung for a transmission temperature sensor, so I also added a GlowShift transmission temp gauge.

The other big reason I went with a steel pan was that the factory pan magnet would adhere to it just like it had to the factory original pan, not to mention having a drain plug puts an end to the nightmare messes of doing a fluid change of the past.

The pan on the left above is the factory original transmission pan, the pan on the right is the new pan, just a hair deeper .

I did have to cut a section of my truck’s exhaust off to get the new pan in place, but given the near rusted out condition of the majority of the exhaust, I wasn’t sad to see it go, the factory exhaust system was a joke.

When I added the temperature sensor assembly, there was a fairly decent debate on location of where one should measure the temperature. After a lot of back and forth between various peoples on various boards, I decided to go with the position that it was better to make sure the fluid was sufficiently cooled down before it went through the transmission.

Since my pickup is right above the sensor, I’m fairly assured of the temperature of the fluid going into the transmission is the temperature being displayed by the gauge.

New Exhaust
Now, this I had a shop do. The overall diameter was upgraded on the pipes, all heavy duty stainless steel, high flow twin cats (Can’t get rid of them in Portland, sadly) and a massive high flow twin in and out muffler (about the size of a big beer keg, this thing is massive!).

I had the new twin out exhaust exit just ahead of the passenger side rear tires and the exhaust was rerouted from the driver’s side manifold so that it no longer crossed near the transmission pan.

A ball reservoir had to be relocated off a cross member and onto the inside of a frame rail, but that was the only modification needed to be done to the truck to fit the new custom welded exhaust.

Out of everything, the exhaust replacement made the most noticeable difference in the truck’s performance as the original single cat was pretty much plugged.

One thing also done during the exhaust repairs was to have the hinged flapper valve on the passenger side exhaust manifold welded into the open position as these have a bad habit of eventually rusting to the point where they get stuck closed.

Other things fixed

Other things that were done were replacing the driver’s side air bag, changing the oil, and fixing, hopefully for the last time, the lights on the forward cargo basket.

On the camper, the furnace vent was removed so that a new steel backing plate could be installed to prevent the new eye bolt from being pulled out of the camper’s wing like it’s predecessor had.

The propane compartment was removed and the floor jacked up into position it was supposed to be in and reattached to the camper’s walls, then the compartment was repaired and reinstalled so that it actually sealed the propane compartment air tight to the outside.

The two 20lb horizontal bottles were removed and taken to a local shop to have their valves replaced to solve fill issues and the floor anchors were reinstalled to fit the newer bottles so that they would remain secured in position.

The factory original rubber line for the regulator to the compartment wall was also replaced as the original was discovered to be badly dry rotted.
The driver’s side rear jack was removed and a hole drilled in the bottom to facilitate the application of gear oil to unbind the jack’s inner bearings that had rusted over the previous winter.

The water pump was adjusted to improve it’s cycling characteristics and more of the old polybutylene cold water line was removed and replaced with Pex and brass sharkbite fittings. The output line from the hot water heater to the hot water backbone pipe was also replaced from the under-sized flex line I had used to a true 1/2” inner diameter pex line to give hot and cold water even water pump cycling characteristics.

Dedicated mount for Generator

In the past, my little champion generator was carried wrapped in a tarp on the front basket of the truck. While out of the way, it also was a pain to make use of the generator regularly, as it would need to be unpacked and unwrapped then set somewhere and chained in place and a cord run.

Since my plan for this great adventure was to make use of Walmarts and Truck Stops for a lot of my overnight sleep stops, having the generator setup in a permanent mount so I could start it as needed was necessary to save time on having to pack and unpack the generator and it’s security overnight.

So, I had a custom hinged basket made to mount the generator to. The basket is hinged so that when I’m home, I can simply remove the generator and store it in the garage and fold the basket up so that the camper can back up to the deck.

Now, all I had to do to use the generator was loosen the cargo strap and start it up. An extension cord installed to the camper carried the power from the generator to the onboard systems. When I wanted to use shore power, all I had to do was unplug the cord coming from the generator at the camper’s main outlet and plug in my loose cord.

I did have to be careful of the wind when I parked as it needed to be such that it was calm or blowing away from the camper so that I didn’t end up with exhaust being blown back up into the camper when the generator was used, even though the exhaust was directed away from the vehicle.

In the future, I think an extended exhaust pipe will need to be made to help direct the exhaust.

Mounting the 30 gallon portable waste tank for travel

Back in 2009, I obtained a nice 30 gallon barker rolling portable waste tank when I was still doing my full timing at places where there wasn’t sewer hookups for the toilet waste.

Since I moved to the island, the tank hasn’t been used for trips as I didn’t have any place to carry it setup on the camper or truck. If I had had a ladder, this would have been easily solved, but my camper had no ladder and the location where one would have been was now occupied by my air conditioner.

The tank was too big to hang off the back wall without it being the way and too awkward to carry on the forward basket, so I had to come up with an alternative solution.

In the end, I simply mounted six heavy eye screws into the structural timbers along the underside of the camper’s rear overhang so that the waste tank could be strapped upside down against the underside of the camper’s onboard waste tank.

Why upside down? So that it could sit flush, if installed right side up, the connection point for the waste hose and the vent would have been in the way.

The tank was secured in place using three ratcheting cargo straps and stayed put by being wedged there by the hitch extension, the camper’s own overhanging surround and the truck’s bumper, keeping it from being able to shift in any direction.

The fit was fairly tight, very little wiggle room existed, but the tank was successfully mounted in place.

Between the blue rolling waste tank that could be towed behind the truck and the white fresh water tank on the front, it was possible to now stay an extended period of time where full hookups was not available, while using the camper’s faculties as if it was on full hookups.

Other added cargo changes

Again, another thing completed without pictures, eye hooks were added to the truck bed side walls so that other tools and supplies, like my oil changing pan, could be secured along side the camper in the truck’s bed.

In the end, I carried along spare soda, scrub brushes for cleaning the truck and camper, my big steel fire poker for camp fires, my oil changing pan and a spare folding camp chair were all stored in the spare spaces in the truck’s bed. This was all in addition to the three pairs of stackable jacks, 4 12x12x4” cedar blocks and spare 4’ 2x6 that were already being stored in these spaces.

Things like the oil change pan and the scrub brushes were stored in the aft dead space behind the wheel well on the driver’s side as they wouldn’t be used while the camper was mounted.

The soda, chair and firepoker were all stored in the forward areas so they could easily be reached by the bed access doors in the camper.

Every square inch of extra storage space was utilized for this two month odyssey. Since the camper was planned to only be removed once during the trip for the extended stay near Kankakee, IL, there was no worry about the security of items stored in the truck’s bed.

'92 Dodge W250 "Dually" Power Wagon
KIT 1106 Kamper Slide-in Truck Camper
'06 Heartland Bighorn 3400RL Fifth wheel
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Old 03-07-2013, 07:07 AM   #2
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The Great Northern Redneck Adventure–Chapter 1–Finally on the Road

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Great Northern Redneck Adventure–Chapter 1–Finally on the Road

So, why “The Great Northern Adventure” when we really went east and then back west versus going north up toward Alaska?
I guess that can be explained, easy enough.

This adventure takes me on and off I-90 as I wended my way east across the U.S., going through a number of the northern states in the union, e.g. Washington, Montana, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan….. Easy, right?

Next question, why now, why go so late in the year that you risk hitting winter snows on the way back? Why go when most of the campgrounds are closed for the winter by the time you reach the middle of the US?

Well, mainly, that’s simply a requirement of my work schedule. For most people, taking 2-3 months off from work is not possible, for me, I’m forced into 6 months off after every contract at Intel ends, regardless of if I want to take it or not, just the nature of the rules of the job, nothing new to me, been doing it for four years now.

So, when I took my latest contract back in 2011, I decided it was high past time I planned a return to my family’s home state of Illinois. We’ve had a number of family members pass away over the past four years and plenty more getting older every day, some already up in their 90s, increasing the odds that with every year I don’t go, the greater the chances I might never see them again.

My contract was ending at the beginning of September, early enough in the fall that I’d still have warm enjoyable weather for at least half of the journey and the added benefit of entering into the end of the Summer fuel prices and a steady decline in fuel prices as time marched further and further away from the warm days of summer.

Another plus was by the time I left, school would be back in session and the droves of….. special snowflakes…. for lack of another polite word for them, on the road would be drastically reduced, taking more of the stress out of my long range trip.
Thus, September 2012 became my month of departure when I started planning and budgeting this trip back in September 2011.

Hopefully, you’ve read my previous post about preparing my rig for the return to the road, this pretty much details all the prep work it took to get ready to pull out of my driveway and start driving east.

If you haven’t, well, best to go to the bottom of the page and click the “Older Post” button to go back and read the previous blog entry first to get up to speed . If you’re reading this from a forum, well, look up my posts and there should be a Prologue or Chapter Zero or something (I don’t know what I’ll call it yet) for the trip report that will bring you up to speed.
At one time, I’d had this fantasy about actually hitting the road on September 6th, reality was late evening September 13th, fortunately a Thursday , became the actual day that we departed.

View GNRA - Chapter 1 - Finally on the Road Map

It was around 8pm or so when we finally left that Thursday, the very last ounces of daylight fading away before I’d even had a chance to finish my shower, leaving the road ahead cloaked in that inky darkness common to most rural areas where urbanites haven’t soiled it.

As per standard operating procedure, I slowly made my way down the road from home, watching both sides of the road at the same time for the familiar suicide attempts of our local deer population, until we finally cleared the last of the denser wooded area of the northern island and onto the straight run of Giliham road, allowing us to gradually creep up to the 55mph speed limit.

Another advantage of this time of the year, most of the damn fool tourists that come out to the beaches (both clothed and clothing optional) up the road during the summer months are gone. No worries about being crashed into by a fool who doesn’t understand a 35mph speed limit sign and double solid yellow lines down the center of the road.

After about 20 minutes, we pulled off and I made a brief stop at the Park N’ Ride lot at the base of the bridge onto the island to retighten the camper’s tiedowns and recheck the cargo loads.

From there it was first a short and sweet drive west down U.S. 30 to the Cornelius Pass Road intersection, then a slow climb up the windy and blind cornered Cornelius Pass Road itself.

I had hoped that the lateness of the hour would reduce the number of “Cling-Ons”1 behind the truck, but by the time we reached the pull out at the top of the pass, there was more than twenty odd vehicles that had lined up behind us.
So, we sat for a while to clear out any backlog on the road, then merged back onto the road and started the decent down the other side, once again accumulating another vast following of cling-ons in about 30 seconds.

Roughly an hour and a half later, we pulled into the parking lot of the Cornelius Pass Road house. The cigars were extracted from the humidor for the evening and we proceeded in to the white shed to relax and ready ourselves for the road.
Perhaps, I should stop for a moment and explain what I mean by readying in context of this trip .

Readying, for me means getting psyched up to stare at yellow stripes and long ribbons of pitch black asphalt for hours on end.
Readying for Mason means, getting ready to fall asleep when the vehicle was in motion for more than ten minutes, or less, regardless of the time of day .

It was a fairly busy night at the White Shed, of all reasons, because there was a convention of Mercedes Benz Car Salesmen going on. Came to the conclusion really quick that the only thing scarier than a car salesman is a drunk car salesman…..

This fact actually was to our benefit as we wound up being the only two in there as it got on towards closing time when this one lone female salesman came in who wanted a beer, but didn’t want to, and I quote “Be that woman who puts a single beer on her credit card.”

Her solution to her dilemma? Buy us two cigars so she wouldn’t feel bad!
In the end, we left for our grocery stop with two new, rather nice, cigars tucked in the humidor to enjoy further on down the road.

Another hour was spent at the local WinCo Grocery store in Hillsboro, before we truly got on the road, making it really the 13th of September by the time our tires kissed U.S. 26 east bound.

We drove for roughly two hours that night, till we reached Biggs Junction, Oregon, our planned rest stop for the days drive.

Why stop so soon after departing?

Well, several reasons:
A.) I wanted to get a few hours sleep in the dark and do the rest of my driving in the day when I could actually see something.
B.) Mason had never seen the Stonehenge Memorial in Maryhill, WA just across the river from Biggs, if he’d had, I would have likely just fueled up and kept on driving till I got closer to Kennewick, WA before stopping for some shut eye.
C.) I had just drove for two hours with forty mile an hour winds in the mix, after having already spent the whole day laboring at getting the last of the logistics of loading worked out (figuring out how to secure the big blue rolling waste tote under the floor had ended up taking several hours as the camper had to be partially unloaded again to get the anchors finally installed in the correct location).
D.) Out of reasons, just felt like adding a D, for symmetry .

My original plan had been to stop at the Pilot Truck Stop for the night. This plan crashed and burned with no survivors after an inquiry inside revealed that they did not allow any overnight parking for RVs, only trucks, something that I found to be unique to that one Pilot.

So, we decided to try Plan B, stay at Maryhill State Park across the river.
Park was full and overpriced compared to when I had visited there last in 2009.

Plan C, shoulder of the road where I had seen some other trucks parked.

Road had a massive slope to one side, didn’t have enough blocks for a 12” height adjustment to get the camper level enough to sleep in, had I been able to nose in, I could have done it, but there wasn’t enough room.

Plan D, park at the other truck stop across the street from the Pilot.
Truck Lot was full.

Finally, I noticed there was a motorhome parked in the auto spots of the restaurant out in front of the truck stop.

Figured, if there’s an RV there, a second one won’t seem out of place, so found a spot and pulled in nose first and leveled up as needed.

Swung the bike rack so that the bikes were off set to one side instead of being perpendicular to the door (narrow driveway) and took a kitchen sink shower. This consisted of using the sprayer attachment on the sink to wash my hair and the primary areas of stink.

Since I’d showered just before we left, I didn’t need a full shower, just enough of a scrub to remove the smell of the cigars from me so that my pillow wouldn’t retain it for several days afterwards.

After that, it took about five minutes till oblivion hit, from which I didn’t return until my alarm went off eight hours later.

'92 Dodge W250 "Dually" Power Wagon
KIT 1106 Kamper Slide-in Truck Camper
'06 Heartland Bighorn 3400RL Fifth wheel
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Old 03-07-2013, 07:19 AM   #3
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The Great Northern Redneck Adventure–Chapter 2– We’re still in Oregon?!!

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Great Northern Redneck Adventure–Chapter 2– We’re still in Oregon?!! Onward to Spokane, the East awaits!

View GNRA - Chapter 2 – We’re still in Oregon?!! Onward to Spokane, the East awaits! map
Well, luck was with us, and the night was uninterrupted by anyone banging on our door to inform us that we couldn’t park where we were and needed to move, or anyone managing to collide with the bicycles on the rack next to the camper.

I think it was somewhere around 9-9:30am by the time I managed to pry my crusted-shut eyes open and stick my head under the sprayer attachment for the sink to rinse away the last of the urge to climb back into the bed and pull a pillow over my head.

It was 10am and the morning sun was already toasting things up by the time we stepped outside the camper cocoon and I got a chance to swivel my head around and get a good gander at the area.

This wasn’t my first time through Biggs, but it was the first time I’d spent more time there than it took to get gas or take the off ramp onto US 97 South or North.

The hills have become forested with Wind Turbines over the past ten years, I can recall when there was none here at one time, now there are quietly moving trees of white steel that have synchronized blinking red lights atop them at night for the purpose of befuddling drivers along I-84 who wonder at the surreal view far ahead of them.

Mason wandered over to the gas station to buy a bag of ice so we could chill the little red ice chest of water and soft drinks that we carried in the cab of the truck for the day while I packed in and battened down everything to get the camper back on the road.

Our first sight-seeing stop was right across the river from us, the Maryhill Stonehenge Memorial!

A quick trip across the Biggs bridge, and a gradual creep up the mountain and we were there . Sadly, the little souvenir and ice cream stand that’s near the memorial has closed it’s doors .

We meandered around a while, snapping photos here, snapping photos there, Mason posing for photos for what I later started calling his “fan girls” on facebook.

After meandering around the memorial for a while, we clambered back into the pickup and made our way down the hill from the memorial into the small town of Maryhill below.

There really isn’t a whole lot left to the town of Maryhill, mostly a few homes, the Church, the fruit orchards, a winery, the state park, and an RV Park.
Our main reason for visiting was to stop by Gunkel Orchards to acquire some fresh peaches for our journey. I’d visited here once before in 2009 during the Eastern Oregon Ramblin’ Journey (as of the time of this post, still backlogged for posting) and had gotten a good bounty of fresh peaches.

This time, the peach bounty wasn’t as… well bountiful, but it was a month later than when I had been there last, and three years later, so that doesn’t surprise me as much.

Since we hadn’t had our breakfast yet, we parked the truck across the road in as much shade as I could get it in and we had cereal and attempted to each some peaches.

I really should have paid a bit more attention to their ripeness, as they were definitely not ripe yet, and kind of ruined the enjoyment I had been looking forward to.
The remaining peaches were stowed in a sack and tucked in the cabover to ripen as we continued on east before anymore were eaten.

A sadly, less than satisfying breakfast down, we battened everything down and got back across the river and onto I-84 heading east again.
Along the way, we passed the numerous hydroelectric dams that generate the bulk majority of Oregon’s electrical power, like the Dalles Dam below:

And had a laugh at the fact that there was a tiny town named “Arlington” in Oregon cut out of the rugged cliffs lining the gorge.

Of course, since we motored along at 55mph in the right lane, everything, including a number of other RVs passed us :

Eventually, after a slight pucker moment with my timing of our fuel stop, we made it onto I-82 and were crossing the Columbia River out of Oregon for the last time.

At last, we were truly on our way!

For me, this wasn’t my first time traveling I-82, however, it was my first time driving my own RV along it and crossing it in the daylight.

First thing that caught my attention not long after we had crossed into eastern Washington was what looks like an abandoned mine shaft right along side the interstate. I doubt it is one, from what I’ve read, but the placement makes it certainly look like one.

You can see it yourself if you drive I-82, it’s right at Milepost 116 northbound on the east side of the interstate.

View Map Image of our "Abandoned Mine"

We made a supply stop at the Walmart Supercenter in Kennewick, WA to pick up some stuff we still needed, including the super handy LED headlamps that were originally bought to ride the route of the Hiawatha trail, but ended up getting used to a lot more.

Then a brief rest stop a little further north to contact TC Life to take up his offer of an overnight stay:

Truck Campers unite!
'92 Dodge W250 "Dually" Power Wagon
KIT 1106 Kamper Slide-in Truck Camper
'06 Heartland Bighorn 3400RL Fifth wheel
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Old 03-07-2013, 07:22 AM   #4
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The Great Northern Redneck Adventure–Chapter 3– The Road thru Idaho

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Great Northern Redneck Adventure–Chapter 3– The Road thru Idaho, Getting off the Beaten Track

View GNRA - Chapter 3 & 4 map

Sadly, we were too tired to be up as early as our host, TC Life, so we weren’t able to wish him a proper goodbye today , but, we still greatly appreciated the stay over night though .

This morning proved to be a test of digestive fortitude, one which both Mason and I lost.

Good thing the camper has it’s own toilet, as TC Life was gone and no one was home, otherwise, we’d have never made the drive back down Hwy 395 in time to find a bathroom before disaster would have hit.

We did discover that because of the tiny”ness” of the camper’s bathroom, that for one of us to be able to relax enough to use it in the seated position, we had to boot the other out of the camper so that the bathroom door could be left open, allowing the occupant enough room, but without putting on a show .

Once the great bathroom adventure was over, we finally got everything packed up and started back through town, stopping at our selective fast food choices so that we could make time for Enaville, ID.

Now, in the past, I’ve driven through Spokane before, but never along any road besides I-90. Traveling along the US 395 during the day back towards I-90 provided me with a greater view of some of the actual characteristics of Spokane.

From what I can tell, old town Spokane is mostly along the old alignment of US 395, at the time of our visit, WADOT was already undertaking a new free-way style alignment of US 395 to improve traffic from the northern suburbs into town and to I-90.

Most of town made me think of some older industrial cities of Oregon, like Albany, however, I have never seen a hotel quite like this one in Albany .

Anywhere in Oregon, they would have simply bulldozed the big hill before building the hotel, here, they built it on top of it .

From the looks of the Google Drive by footage, the hotel didn’t always look like it does now.
Here’s the same hill from just a few years ago.

When I originally saw the hotel, I thought it might be somewhat historic, but now looking back at the Google Drive by footage, one can tell it’s been there only a short time.

The ironic and humorous bit is, when the Google Drive By photo was taken and when I drove by were apparently both election years .

From Spokane, we drove for roughly two hours before we finally reached Coeur D’Alene, ID, which for some reason I didn’t take any photos of…..

We drove through town, following the old I-90/Hwy 10 Alignment that passes through the downtown area before migrating out of town along the old US 10/I-90 alignment along the shores of Lake Coeur D'Alene.

At the time I was oddly wondering why a city road would show signs of old passing lanes and four lane travel, later I learned that at one time this had been the original main east-west highway through the area.

Shame it’s been retired, it was a drastically more attractive road than the higher up route of the current I-90 alignment.

The view from the bridge above does make up a bit for it though .

While we were still in town, before heading on further east, I attempted to get ahold of Jammingalong, another Truck Camper enthusiast, but sadly, we never were able to reach one another in time before I journeyed east over the pass.

Before finally leaving Coeur D’Alene behind, we attempted to get information from one of Mason’s roommates regarding some castle that stands along the shore of the lake, but the chucklehead, whom lived for several years in the area, couldn’t provide any useful information regarding it, and given the smoke that was clouding our view at times, we were never able to locate it or any information pertaining to it.

If any of you readers out there know what “Castle” he was talking about, I’d greatly appreciate information on it, as it would be nice to try and find on a future visit.

Since we had the majority of the day still ahead of us and the panhandle of Idaho being as narrow as it was, and that we needed to stay close to the area to do the “Route of the Hiawatha” Trail Ride the next day, we took our time and did a little driving along the shore of Lake Coeur D’Alene and a little visiting of the towns of Kellogg, Smelterville, and Wallace, ID, before heading towards our dinner destination of the Snakepit over in Enaville.

Taking the exit for State Highway 97, we turned south and west and wended our way down the shore line of the lake, stopping here and there for a couple photos and only turning back north when we hit the end of Powderhorn Bay.

Unfortunately, our view wasn’t as good as I had remembered it being, due to the forest fires burning all around the Northwest at the time of our visit.

We eventually made our way back onto I-90 and made our climb over Fourth of July Pass and descended down to the town of Pinehurst, ID, one of several towns I’d visited back in 2005 with my parents and siblings.

Sadly, the Pinehurst KOA no longer exists, as it was one of the better RV parks in the area, however, had it existed, we would have never found the RV Park we ultimately ended up staying at later that night.

Exiting off of I-90, we drove along through the towns using the old US Hwy 10 alignment, stopping periodically to grab photos of the little signs that dot the Coeur D’Alene Trail, a bike path that goes from one end of the panhandle of Idaho all the way to the other side, along the long abandoned Union Pacific right of way.

First town we reached after leaving Pinehurst behind us was the town of Smelterville. Remnants of the long gone Bunkerhill Lead & Zinc mines and their associated smelters still dot the area even though their traces are slowly disappeared during the ongoing clean up process.

From Smelterville, we rolled into Kellogg, ID, a town filled with some rather neat architecture, when I was a boy scout, I could only wish we had a hall quite as neat as the one they have in Kellogg.

Sadly, the town’s commercial district was looking like it was hurting pretty badly.

One thing I’ve always found fascinating are the junk sculptures around the center of town, mainly up and down Division Street, near the freeway. Whoever made them put some good effort into their design .

Each one of the sculptures is made of scrap iron, ranging from oil barrels, to car mufflers.

We swung by the local Ski lodge in town as we were making ready to climb back onto I-90 and continue onto Wallace. While there wasn’t any snow in the area at the time, the Lodge keeps the gondola-style ski lift running all year round, taking mountain bikers up to the top of the hill so that they can trail ride back down again.

Sadly, another Museum that I still haven’t gotten to visit. One of these years…..

Last couple trail side signs about the long closed Lead and Zinc mine before we get back on the interstate.

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The Great Northern Redneck Adventure–Chapter 4– The Historic Town of Wallace

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Great Northern Redneck Adventure–Chapter 4– The Historic Town of Wallace

After a short trip on I-90 (had I looked closer at my map, we could have instead taken Silver Valley Rd instead), we popped back off in the historic town of Wallace.

The town of Wallace is rather unique compared to it’s neighbors. For one, it actually has a population limit, two, it was used in the movie “Dante’s Peak” as the town below the volcano, and three the whole downtown is on the national historic places register.

Other interesting little historical tidbits about the town is that until the viaduct was built, Wallace was the last stoplight on an major US Interstate in the country.

Also, on September 25, 2004, Mayor Ron Garitone proclaimed Wallace to be the center of the Universe .
As seen here in this photo:

Downtown Wallace is chock-a-block full of historic buildings from the 1950s and earlier, a good number being Antique stores, intermixed with some other businesses (one did antique radios and components), and restaurants.

I visited more than a few of the antique stores myself, one of my favorite items I discovered was the old hotel calendars .

One thing you’ll find more than one of in the town of Wallace are museums. The one that caught my attention the most and made me laugh a bit was the Oasis Bordello Museum.

Sadly, while open daily, they weren’t open when we were visiting town.

Even with the smorgasbord of museums, neat shops, and various knickknacks, my favorite destination was the historic and beautiful old Wallace Railroad Depot .

The station is a remnant of when the Union Pacific Railroad and it’s predecessors used to run rail service through town. The Train Station itself, is now a museum, and actually isn’t even in it’s original spot.

It was moved 200ft from it’s original location when the final portion of I-90 was built during the early 90s to prevent it’s demolition as the viaduct was constructed.

In it’s hayday, the station served as the hub of two railroads, the UP (then known as the Oregon-Washington Railway & Navigation Co) and the Northern Pacific. Rail service in the area ceased in 1992 and the tracks were torn up, ironically, roughly a year after I-90’s construction was finally completed.

Two dollars gets you inside the door if you’re an adult, and shy of the winter, they’re open most of the year.

The building is crammed to the rafters full of railroad nostalgia, every room has another hunk of history of railroading in the area and railroading itself.

One of the first things you encounter when you enter the museum is an HO scale model of some of the town of Wallace and the railroad grades through the area.

As you continue to move, each room or area of a room will be a scene or artifact from the long bygone era of rail travel.

The history of the moving of the Depot is even on display here:

Sadly, before too long the day was beginning to grow short and the shops and the museums were all closing up and we found it was time to say our goodbyes to the little town of Wallace and turn back west to Enaville, to revisit my all-time favorite place to dine, the Snakepit.
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Old 03-07-2013, 07:59 AM   #6
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Great read please keep it coming.
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Old 03-07-2013, 01:39 PM   #7
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Wow! Looks like a great adventure for sure! Your transmission upgrade is great, well worth the $$. Glad to see that ol' girl getting love. Your set up rocks. Keep the adventures coming!
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Old 03-07-2013, 10:16 PM   #8
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Thanks all, just realized that Live Writer had broken the images for Chapter 4. Normally, I'd just edit the post and fix it, but it's been too long, but not to fret. If you got to the top of Chapter four and click the link you can view the blog version of it, which has the fixed images that you can click and see in higher detail. .
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Old 03-08-2013, 12:42 AM   #9
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The Great Northern Redneck Adventure–Chapter 5– Dining at the Snakepit

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Great Northern Redneck Adventure–Chapter 5– Dining at the Snakepit and visiting the Mission

A fairly short drive back west along I-90 brought us back to Kingston, ID once more, this time, turn turn north towards our dinner destination , the Enaville Resort / The Snakepit.

Opened originally in 1879, it’s real name being “The Enaville Resort”, it has served the area for roughly 130 years, as a train layover, brothel, loggers bar, and a great many other things.

The name “Snakepit” comes from it’s time when it served as a bordello, before the days of indoor plumbing, sitting on the confluence of two local rivers, water snakes were a common visitor into the bar from the out buildings behind.

During our visit with TC Life the previous evening in Spokane, we’d learned that The Snakepit’s days were sadly numbered. The owner, Joe Peak, a man whom I’d met several years prior in 2005 while bicycling the Trail of the Coeur D’Alenes, was dying of cancer and that for the first time in it’s history the Snakepit was looking at a possible long term or permanent closure.

I was rather saddened by this, as I had fond memories of Joe when he rescued me from a very soggy ride back to the Pinehurst KOA when a big storm broke out while I was visiting.

Fortunately, we got lucky when we came by on our visit and that one of the managers had taken over running things to wrap up the rest of the year.

For those that have never been here before, you’d find the interior filled with various historic photos and objects from over the course of the building’s history.

Aside from the cornucopia of historical objects that fill the interior of the Snakepit, the main attraction for me has always been their Buffalo burgers .

Even before the time of this trip, I personally thought them the best in the West, and this would be later be confirmed as we tried Buffalo burgers from various other restaurants as we journeyed east, never again finding one as juicy or as tasty as the ones at the Snakepit.

This visit was no different, but I decided that this was also a now or never experience, and added one more thing to my dinner menu, real Rocky Mountain Oysters, straight from the bull .

This was actually my first experience with them, and had always been curious exactly what one would taste like….. , it ends up they taste exactly as how a fellow RV.net member described them, like fried meat.

They’re no more chewy than eating a pork sandwich, and don’t leave any kind of a funny after taste in your mouth .

They were served with what the Snakepit serves as French Fries, a thin sliced potato that’s similar to what some places used to call JoJo Potatoes, except here, they call them “Buffalo Chips” .

Happy Matt after Rocky Mountain Oysters photo!

My first attempt at taking my photo using the front camera on my cell phone . A reminder that touch screens work better when your fingers aren’t greasy .

We lounged around for a while, me attempting to make a Facebook post with the app from hell (The Android Facebook app needs to have the entire development team beaten repeatedly), and then we said what may have been our last goodbyes and made our way out into the parking lot.

As we exited to the parking lot, I noticed we still had a bit more daylight left than I thought we were going to have, so as an after dinner workout, I took us over to the oldest building in Idaho, “The Old Mission of the Sacred Heart”.

In the early 19th Century the local Coeur D’Alene Indians had begun to hear tale of “powerful ‘medicine men’ in black robes with a book” and wanted some of these men for their own tribe. So, they sent messengers to St. Louis to make a request for some of the Jesuit missionaries to come to their area.

In 1842, Father Pierre-Jean De Smet, who became a major player in the history of Idaho and Montana, responded to their request and came to the area to help the creation of the Mission.

The current Mission buildings themselves were built by the local Coeur D’Alene Indians under the direction of Antonio Ravalli in 1850, who’d by then taken over the Sacred Heart Mission from De Smet.

Because of the remoteness of the area, the mission was constructed using large beam timbers harvested from the surrounding forests, and filled the walls in using what is known as the “wattle and daub method”.
Wattle and daub is a composite building material used for making walls, in which a woven lattice of wooden strips called wattle is daubed with a sticky material usually made of some combination of wet soil, clay, sand, animal dung and straw. Wattle and daub has been used for at least 6000 years, and is still an important construction material in many parts of the world.
----- From Wikipedia
The Mission was later moved to Desmet, Idaho in 1877, but Mass is still celebrated at the old Mission site.

The old wooden confessionals.

Displays from the Parish House.

Outside the Old Mission and the Parish House, there is a couple of trails that take you around to various view points and also talk about the history of Mining in the area.

By the time all the displays had been viewed and the trails walked, it became obvious that we had no choice but to find a place for the night and get settled in.

A quick search of the AllStays RV & Campground App revealed that there were several campgrounds just north of the Snakepit, so we made an about face and headed back towards the Snakepit and then on to the Country Lane RV Resort & B’n’B.
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Old 03-08-2013, 01:37 AM   #10
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The Great Northern Redneck Adventure–Chapter 6– The Best little Redneck RV Park

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Great Northern Redneck Adventure–Chapter 6– Staying at the “Best little Redneck RV Park”

As the day’s last light continued to fade, we continued northward along Coeur D’Alene River Road, going deeper into the forest and farther from a dependable cellular signal, hoping that the Google Maps GPS Navigator would lead us to the RV Park.

Along the way we saw at least two other RV Parks, nice affairs, mostly converted farms, the barns still standing as part of the whimsy of the properties and wondered if the one we were being taken to by the GPS would be as nice.

Would it be aside the river like the ones we’d passed? What were we going to find?

The Allstays App didn’t really have much in the way of photographs of the Park and RVParkReviews.com wasn’t much better, though it did give more positive reviews of this park than the other two we’d passed.

More than once, we thought we’d reached our destination when we started seeing TTs parked out along the river’s shore, only to find that it was privately owned land where someone had setup a permanent fishing camp .

Soon, we crossed over Coeur D’Alene River on a narrow one lane bridge and found ourselves plowing yet deeper into the forest along the old River Road, along the west shore, still having not found the RV Park…. Was it lost much like the city of Atlantis?

Finally, when we thought the GPS had taken us to yet another incorrectly placed marker on Google’s Maps, we found the “Country Lane RV Resort & B’n’B.

The Farm-based campgrounds we’d passed before gave us a false expectation of what we’d find when we finally located Country Lane. An RV Park with a Bar and Grill was definitely not something we’d expected, though there were subtle hints dropped in the reviews .

After circling the main amalgamation of structures that made up the main building, which I think consisted of a pole barn, a mobile home, and several trailers that had been mated together in a permanent fashion to make a rather clean and tidy business, I finally found the main entrance in and parked the truck to inquire as to getting a space for the night.

After walking up to the bar, and chatting with the proprietor for a bit, I learned that there was actually two sections to the park.

The main full hook up loop, which needed some TLC, circled the main bar/office/b’n’b/grill/store/bathroom building. The second section was across the road from the Bar & Grill (which was serving Prime Rib that night, sadly, we were still full), was laid out along side the river, but only had water and electric hook ups.

We opted for the partial hookups and basically had our pick of the sites, aside from one that a regular had put a reservation on that was supposed to show up sometime that weekend.

Picking the one closest to the bridge across the pond that separated the tent camping area from the river-side RV sites, we settled in and borrowed one of the steel patio tables and chairs, along with a firepit to setup for the evening relaxations.

Given how close the sites were together in this section of the park, it wouldn’t have been as enjoyable had we arrived during the peak of fishing season or tourist season, but it was perfect for that time of September when the only folks there were a few seasonal residents and one couple that bought a hookup site to tent camp in a few sites down from us.

Not long after we finished getting settled in, night fell in a thick blanket upon us. As deep in the woods as we were, the only light came from the park’s lighting and the camper itself. The woods were a dense and impenetrable black, the only hint of how close we were to the river coming from the gurgling of the water as it traveled over and through the rocks ten feet below the invisible sheer edge across from us.

Undaunted, mainly because our neighbors were still setting up camp with the common sounds of kids waiting for their parents, air mattress pumps, and the very faint melodies of country music drifting from their pickup, we through on our sweats and jackets and light up the evening blazed and a couple of Pinar Del Rio Cigars.

We were having such a good time, listening to the raucous camp outing going on across the pond from us and to the family with kids that I decided to make a little “Fireside chat” video to mark the evening.

Redneck Fireside Chat

Eventually, sleepiness began to set in on the both of us and soon it became time to douse the fire, hit the showers and call it a night.
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Old 03-08-2013, 02:33 AM   #11
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Joe, thanks a lot for the posting of your Great Northern Redneck Adventure! It is awesome and wish I were right there with you especially to enjoy a Pinar Del Rio with you. Please keep your stories coming!
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The Great Northern Redneck Adventure–Chapter 7– Riding the old Milwaukee Road

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Great Northern Redneck Adventure–Chapter 7– Riding the old Milwaukee Road

View GNRA - Chapter 7 - Riding the old Milwaukee Road Map

Bright and early the following morning, we dug ourselves out of bed, packed up our gear and started back down the old River Road back towards I-90, because today was the day we were going to make use of those bikes hanging off the back of the truck and ride the Route of the Hiawatha Trail!

Not wanting to waste an opportunity, we drove back along old River Road till it finally came to an end and a bridge further south along the road, closer to the Snakepit, giving us a chance to take a closer look at those other RV parks we’d seen on the way in the night before.

Before long, we were at last back on I-90 and saying our goodbyes to Idaho, well, at least until we rode back into it via the Taft tunnel at the beginning of the Hiawatha Trail .

Eventually, we found our way from Exit 5, along the dirt and gravel roads till we reached the trail head for the trail.

Trail inspectors were out and about, making certain people had their helmets and headlights, after changing into our riding clothes and unloading the bikes, we made our way over to the little EZ Up Canopy to purchase our trail passes and tickets for the shuttle, a mystical vehicle that in my two times on this trail, have yet to actually manage to get a ride on….

Once the ticketing was done, toilets used, the only thing left was the mouth of Taft Tunnel, looming ahead of us.

Over a mile long, the tunnel is a frosty 45 degrees inside, lined with deep concrete culverts along each side to channel the ever seeping water dripping out of the mountain’s rock away from the road bed.

The tunnel has no lights of it’s own, one must provide lighting on their bicycle. When I had ridden this trail back in 2005, I still had batteries for my mountain bike’s two big onboard headlights. Sadly, by 2012, the rechargeable 6 volts were long gone and I forgot to bring the bag that the batteries ride in with me on the trip!

So, our solution was two LED high power Head lamps that we jury-rigged to mount through the vent opening on our bike helmets. In hindsight, I should have forgone the elastic strap and just duct taped the damned thing in place, as it fell loose by the time I was a quarter of the way through the tunnel.

For the remainder of the tunnel, I ended up holding it in one hand to illuminate the way while using the other to actuate only one of the brake controls instead of both.

Did I mention that the trail is downhill it’s entire 15 mile length?

Eventually, we made it out to the other side, and took a few moments rest along side the stream running near the western entrance to the tunnel.

While we rested and recounted our adventures through the tunnel, at which time I learned Mason nearly ended up in one of the culverts, a little flying visitor came to join us.

Soon, we were once again blazing down the trail, passing through a continuing series of tunnels as we went.

Along the way, shortly after exiting one of the tunnels, we came across another couple stopped in the same area asking for someone to take their picture in front of the tunnel’s mouth. In exchange, they took our picture for us .

Along the route of the trail there are signboards on which details of the construction of the grade and the history of the Milwaukee Road Railroad can be read .

As you ride the grade down, you skirt along the edges of the Bitterroot Mountains, with vistas of the mountains and valleys still far below. There are no guard rails along this ride, so be certain to keep your bike under control, going off the edge here is one hell of a drop .

When we stopped a little while later for a rest brake, Mason had a close call when he had difficulty actuating the brakes on the bike he was using and clipped one of the rocks lining the edge of a view point clearing and took a biff.

Not long after this incident, we crossed our first trestle on the grade.
This one was soon followed by several more, interspersed with more tunnels , providing ongoing entertainment as we fought with trying to use our little, rather unhelpful head lamps.

A number of people, when they think of a railroad tunnel, think of a smooth, concrete lined thing, much like a good number of highway tunnels.

For most tunnels on a railroad, especially old ones that haven’t since been enlarged to accommodate ever growing stack container trains and other freight, they’re rough hewn rock, broken lose through the use of hand drills and black powder or nitroglycerin.

From a number of view points as you make your way down the grade you can even seen the grade ahead far below as it zigs and zags back and forth through the mountains, slowly descending in elevation.
The view far below one of the trestles…

One tunnel caught my attention in particular on the ride, as it was the only one that was closed to riding due to having been built across a fault line.

As the mountain shifted, the tunnel’s cracked and began to collapse in. I did my best to get a shot though the chain link fencing on the gates keeping riders safely outside the failing tunnel.

It was around this point that we ran into one of the Trail Rangers making his way down to the bottom of the trail at speed. He pulled off and spoke with us as we were stopped outside one of the tunnels, and informed us that we were only half way through and told us the time.

We thanked him and decided at this point that Mason and I would split up. Mason would start from where we were and ride back to the top of the trail and I was going to go on ahead, having ridden the trail from end to end before, and see if I could catch the bus, and if not, turn around if I hadn’t made it when our deadline for the bus hit.

Not too long after Mason and I parted ways, I came around a bend and found this grave marker.

The marker is from when the trains rescued a great many from the 1910 blaze that destroyed over three million acres of forest in the area, and of a man who was on one of those trains racing through the blaze who panicked and jumped from the moving train to his death.

The train and the remaining passengers continued on and survived. After the fires had died, they came back and found his body and buried him beside the track, figuring to him to be a railroad laborer, also known as a “Gandy Dancer”.

I continued along from here a good place before stopping once again at the remains of the old track side village of Adair. Only a few rotting old buildings stand testament to a settlement long gone.

Eventually, as I rode on, I too, ran out of time, several miles past where Mason I separated, but no where close to the bus or the end of the trail.

So, I started back and realized that perhaps I should have taken some time before the trip to actually ride my bike, especially up-hill…..

I discovered that a 1.5% downgrade is great for coasting, but a royal pain in the butt if you’re out of shape and haven’t ridden your bike at all during the prior part of the year before going on this trip.

Fortunately, for me, there were still people coming down the trail behind me, and as I huffed and puffed my way back up the hill, I inquired of passersby if they were heading back towards the top of the trail and if they had room for one more man and a bike.

For a while, there, I didn’t think I was going to find one, figuring I’d used up that last little nugget of luck back in 2007 when Peter and I had hiked the Ten Falls Trail at Silvercreek Falls in Oregon, but just as I thought I was stuck with hiking all the way back up on foot, I came across this wonderful group of people .

Sadly, I cannot remember anyone’s names anymore, but I still thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

Having procured a ride, I turned around and joined them to finish the ride to the bottom of the trail. Let me tell you, this was the first time that by the finish of a bike ride, I was exhausted from coasting!
I was ever so glad when the end of the line appeared just below us on the grade .

Sadly, I didn’t have means of communicating to Mason that I had procured a ride back, so he worried and waited by the mouth of Taft tunnel until I arrived in their pickup truck back at the parking lot.

A quick wipe down with wet naps and a change into warmer clothes and heartfelt goodbyes, I loaded my bike back onto the track and climbed into the cab of the truck--

--And discovered when I turned on the headlights that the running lights would no longer come on when you pulled the knob…………
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Old 03-08-2013, 11:21 AM   #13
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Is it just me, or does everyone have to scroll back and forth across the page to read this? Is there anyone who can help fix this so it is readable. I would love to read about Rednecks adventures, but it's way to irratating to try.

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Old 03-08-2013, 11:46 AM   #14
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looks like fun, I hope I too can go on a great adventure like you some day,
and if anyone can shorten the width of the page up, that would be great, i too had to scroll back and forth and up and down to read it..

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