Campground Report: Hat Creek Hereford Ranch RV Park & Campground, Hat Creek CA near Lassen Volcanic National Park

 

Camped in the field at Hat Creek Hereford RV Park & Campground
Because there were no camp sites available for the time slot we wished to stay we camped in “The Field” at Hat Creek Hereford RV Park & Campground which serves as overflow camping for a rig or two. We were told the field would flood when the neighboring farmer flooded his field. Oh, great… Nevertheless we took our chances based on reassurances from the campground host that wasn’t likely to happen during our stay.

Hat Creek Hereford Ranch RV Park & Campground is what I would call a rural, family oriented park. This park is situated north of Lassen Volcanic National Park which is why we came to the area. Although there are other camping options nearby including another independent park and some Forest Service campgrounds, this is the only place we could find a spot in which we could fit, and as you will see it wasn’t really a spot.

Often, it seems to me rural parks are a little less formally run, and a little less spic and span. They seem to lag a little bit in terms of maintenance and upkeep, the showers may need refurbishing, the trash need may lag in being emptied… As a child of the 60’s/70’s the word “funky” comes to mind, although that could also describe a genre of rock music. READ MORE...

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Photo Post: McArthur-Burney Falls, Burney, CA

McArthur-Burney Falls
Situated just outside Burney CA is the lovely McArthur-Burney Falls. It is a worthwhile but often over-busy sight to see if you’re in the area. We visited when camped at Hat Creek Hereford Ranch & RV Park north of Lassen Volcanic National Park which is about 20 miles from the falls.

Diane & I set out on a cross-country RV trip on June 29, 2018. The first destination of note was Lassen Volcanic Park in CA. We camped to the north of the park at Hat Creek Hereford Ranch & RV Park which is situated about midway between the park and the waterfall. The latter is lovely to see, of course, but it also offers a cooling respite on hot summer days as the canyon below the falls remains naturally chilled. Despite some trail closures in McArthur-Burney State Park we were able to enjoy a short hike that encircled the falls. Note that parking at the falls is limited and it can be difficult or impossible to get in to see them. Choosing your arrival time can make all the difference. Admission was $10 per car when we were there, $9 for seniors. See their web page formore information.

DIY 1000 Watt Inverter Installation

110 volt outlet and remote on/off switch installed.
The red 110 volt outlet dedicated to the inverter and inverter remote on/off switch installed.

In my previous RV I only had 110 volt household current when I was plugged into shore power at a campground, when I ran my disturbingly noisy generator, or when I turned on my inverter to power the single, dedicated outlet I had installed along with it. This last method involved running extension cords from that outlet to other points inside (or outside) the RV where I wanted or needed household current–inconvenient and a tripping hazard.

Upon getting a new RV my plan had always been to have an inverter installed that would supply power to all of the RV’s existing 110 volt outlets so that power would be available throughout it without needing to run extension cords–a more convenient and aesthetically pleasing arrangement that would also eliminate the hazard of tripping over extension cords.

When I started looking at all that was involved in wiring an inverter into the RV’s electrical system it soon became apparent to me that it was outside my wheelhouse of skills. So, I decided to have that done professionally later on, but until I could hire it done I was comfortable doing a more simple trip-over-the-extension-cord style hookup that would at least provide us with some AC until the professional installation could be performed. [READ MORE…]

Toast on a Cloudy Day

Sunset: Imperial Dam LTVA, Feb. 2018
Another gorgeous sunset at the BLM’s Imperial Dam Long Term Visitor Area. I grabbed this shot with my iPhone.

In my most recent post I promised an upcoming article about a DIY inverter installation. I haven’t gotten around to that yet and I apologize to everyone who has been breathlessly waiting for it… both of you!

As for an explanation as to why that post has been delayed, well, I have been working on something of a larger project that has demanded my attention and kept me away from my writing desk: a DIY solar install on the RV. That job, now largely complete, shall be the subject of this post, or series of posts.

My interest in solar power for RVing has its wellspring in my love of nature which by extension means camping more closely to it in more natural and off-the-grid locations where it becomes necessary to be self-reliant for services such as electricity. Back in the old days when I had my first RV (named Charlene, a 30′ Coachmen Class C) I traveled the country with a 120 watt GoPower portable solar panel I would set up then pack up as I moved from location to location. Although “Sunny” (as my panel became known to me) could not supply all the power to meet my electrical demand, he served me well once I replaced the cheap controller with which he was equipped from the mfr., and he is still part of my solar arsenal today. (Previously I wrote a User Report about the GoPower 120 watt portable kit.)

Over the past weeks and months I have been working on designing and installing a more complete and robust solar installation on my current RV. This system, now fully operational, includes four, rooftop mounted and tilt-able 190 watt solar panels, a 60 amp TriStar MPPT solar charge controller, 4 LifeLine 6 volt AGM batteries (wired in series/parallel to make 12 volts), and a Bogart Engineering TM-2030 battery monitor along with a remote control for the TriStar controller. Of course, there are a number of minor components such as circuit breakers, busbars, terminal blocks, etc., but the components I listed above are the major players of the system.

As a first step in planning an RV solar installation many people write about figuring out what your electrical demands will be and then planning the system size and components accordingly. Personally, I think, that while this may sometimes be valuable it isn’t always practicable. It involves cataloging all the devices and appliances you will be using, how much current they draw and how long you will use these devices every day. In other words, this means figuring out how much electricity you will need. It seemed to me that, for me, calculating this might be something marginally more possible than guessing the next winning lottery numbers. If you have an established RVing routine and the ability to measure all these things then this sort of assessment may be more useful, but even then electrical demands and the ability to generate power will change from season to season with the varying number of daylight hours as well as one’s current latitude to say nothing of the weather.

In my case I didn’t see how I could undertake a truly valuable assessment. I had no history in this RV. I should say “we” instead of “I” because I now have Diane as my partner in crime. Nor do we have too much of an idea of what our camping style will be. So, I took another tack which was to put as much solar on the roof of my RV as I could because, as they say, you can never have too much. However, I’m not so sure about that either.

I used the Draw modue of Open Office to construct this diagram of the rooftop of my RV. Then I tried placing different solar panels I drew to scale in various places. This is the final layout I made.

My first step in doing all this was to get up on the rooftop, measure and diagram where everything was in order to know how much space I had into which I could place solar panels while (and this was a critical component of my planning) still being able to move safely from front to back of the roof in order to carry out routine maintenance as well as get to all the corners of each panel so as to be able to operate the planned tilting hardware. Another important aspect of planning the solar panel positioning was avoiding, as much as possible, any shadowing that might occur from objects on the roof such as the air conditioner and TV antenna and even one panel casting shadows on another. I am including one version of the roof diagrams I made. It shows the panels and placement that were ultimately chosen

Once I figured out which panels I thought would work best—part of this was the operating voltage which I will discuss below—I made a cardboard cutout the size of one of them, took it up to the roof to check the fit in the planned mounting positions. It would have been better to make four cutouts, but who has that much cardboard? I used some painter’s tape to mark the corners of the planned panel mounting positions. Then I walked from the back of the RV to the front, to see if I would be able to comfortably and safely step over and around everything as well as being able to access the corners of each panel in order to tilt them. It was a rehearsal, a pantomime.

In picking out which panels to get one consideration of course was their physical size. Another was their voltage. My lay understanding is that RVs have 12 volt systems and solar panels that can operate with RV systems can be 12 volt panels, 24 volt panels, 36 volts or perhaps even 48 volt panels but that 24 volt panels and above must be used with a solar controller that can reduce the voltage to the 12 volts used by RV systems. The advantages of using solar panels that produce higher voltages include they are both more efficient and that smaller wires (less expensive and easier to work with) can be used to carry the electricity from the rooftop to the solar controller wherever it is located (usually somewhere inside the RV). My choice of the Solarland 190 watt, 24 volt panels was made because they offered the advantages of a higher voltage (above 12) while fitting the spaces I had on the RV roof.

BigAss & Blossom: our truck and RV respectivley, with Blossom sporting her new do of four rooftop solar panels. Sunny, our little 120 watt portable on the ground is facing east and the first to ctch the morning rays.

I chose a Tristar 60 amp MPPT solar controller from Morningstar. They have an excellent reputation and the MPPT style controller can transform excess voltage into usable amperage. This is where toast comes in… Our panels are rated at about 41 amps combined output for the four of them. When using our toaster the other day which puts a high demand on the system the TriStar remote panel we installed indicated 54 amps being sent to the batteries, 13 amps more than our panels can produce—it converted excess voltage to amperage thereby sending to the batteries more amps than the panels actually produce. Again, that’s my lay understanding of things, anyway. With all the wattage we have on the roof and the storage capacity of our battery bank we can make toast on a cloudy day. That may not seem like much when you live in a stIcks and bricks home, are plugged into shore power at a campground or running a generator, but when you are living off-the-grid on solar power alone it’s a pretty big deal.


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Good Sam. Bad Actor?

This is the reimbursement check I received from Good Sam in its original envelope showing a postmark date more than 2 weeks after I was told it was mailed. My address has been redacted.

This is a short saga (the oxymoron is intentional) of my recent experience with Good Sam Roadside Assistance.

I have Good Sam Roadside Assistance for my 5th wheel. Recently while backing my RV into my parking spot where I store the rig I got myself into a jam and couldn’t move forward or backward without a high probability of damaging my RV or the one next to mine. Don’t ask…

I called Good Sam for some suggestions or help. The agent I spoke with asked me some questions, one of which may have been key to deciding whether or not they would help me. He asked if there was any risk of damaging my vehicle or another and I said yes. After all, that is why I called them. When I answered that question I was thinking about towing it forward or backward with my pickup truck, not having it dragged sideways by a tow truck with a winch. I’m not used to thinking in those terms. Why would I be? I didn’t know that could be done.

I was told there was nothing they could do if there was risk to my vehicle or another. The conversation ended. Flustered and frustrated, dead in the water so to speak, blocking traffic at the storage facility, in desperation I called an independent tow company. A tow truck was dispatched and about 10 minutes after it arrived my RV had been dragged sideways, without risk of damage to neighboring vehicles and I was able to move again. I was handed a bill for $281.

After thinking about it over the next few days it seemed to me Good Sam should have dispatched a tow truck and handled this on their dime. After all, wasn’t that what I was paying them for? I called them and asked if the kind of tow operation used to rescue my rig (something called a “winch out” I learned by reading the invoice) was covered under my policy. I was told yes, it was and that the agent I spoke with on the night of the problem didn’t ask enough questions to properly determine the correct course of action.

I was informed I could file a request for reimbursement online and I did. After doing so an email arrived  on Nov. 28 saying I would hear from Good Sam in 5 days. I didn’t.

On Dec. 23 I called Good Sam to follow up on the situation. I was told that a reimbursement check had been mailed on Dec. 4 and that it could take 3 weeks to arrive. 3 weeks? I asked. Why would it take 3 weeks. I was told it was sent 4th class mail. What? How much money could they save sending a letter to me with something less than 1st class postage? How much is a stamp nowadays? 50¢?

I’d never heard of 4th class mail so I decided to do a little checking. What I found is that there is such a thing for items over 8 ounces, but not for a letter. Was the agent with whom I spoke misinformed? Lying to me?

The check arrived a couple days after I spoke with the agent and it was postmarked Dec. 22, not Dec. 4, although it was dated Dec. 4. It was sent first class mail not 4th class as I had been told.

I was originally denied service to which I was entitled. Had I not had the wherewithal to look further into the situation I would have been stuck with a bill for $281. How many people I wonder are told by Good Sam they aren’t covered for something when they should be and wind up paying out of their own pockets for something they shouldn’t have to?

Next, I was promised a response in 5 days which I didn’t get. After that I was misinformed about when my check had been sent and the mail service used.

In my estimation, nothing about my experience with Good Sam in this instance except for the eventual reimbursement went right–Good Sam fumbled the ball at every possible opportunity. That’s my opinion anyway. What do you think? Is Good Sam a bad actor?


Coming soon, a report of my DIY installation of an AIMS 1000 Watt Pure Sine Wave Power Inverter.


This blog takes an enormous amount of time and energy to build and maintain . If you have found something useful or entertaining please use this Amazon.com link when you shop at Amazon. Doing so will cost you no more and in some cases I may receive a small commission. Your support in the form of using my Amazon.com link or making a PayPal Donation will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.


The Adventure Continues

Japanese Garden, Lithia Park, Ashland, OR.
Japanese Garden, Lithia Park, Ashland, OR.

After a brief pause of something a little less less than 2 years–well, that’s brief in geological terms, anyway–my 18 month adventure of traveling the USA in a motorhome that concluded in October 2015 has resumed. It will be different this time: rather than traveling by motorhome I’ll be towing a 5th wheel RV with my new pickup truck. (Those of you who follow my blog may have caught my four part series How to Get the Best Deal on a New Car or Truck Without Ever Talking to a Salesman.) I also hope to take more time traveling the USA this time around, more than the 18 months I spent the first time. However, the biggest, most important difference of my trip this time will be that it won’t be my trip, it will be our trip, as I will be traveling with my lovely companion Diane whom I met back east on my earlier excursion. (Previously, in A Single RVer’s Guide to Finding Romance on the Road I wrote about my methods for pursuing love while RVing the country. I was extremely fortunate in my pursuit.)

Bowling Ball Beach, CA.

A few days more than a month ago Diane and I loaded up our pickup truck with things we wanted to have in our new 5th wheel and we set off from Berkeley toward Portland to pick up the new trailer. We traveled mostly along the California and Oregon coastal route because Diane is a coast lover and hadn’t yet seen much of the CA coast and none of Oregon’s.

Mt St. Helens. When she last blew in 1980 she took out something like 232 square miles of terrain. Holy cow!

On Oct. 10 after loading the RV with things from the truck we hitched the two together “officially” launching this new chapter in both of our lives. From the Portland area where we camped in beautiful Milo McIver State Park we headed north toward Seattle to visit Diane’s family. We stayed one night at a Walmart along the way in Yelm, WA, so Diane could see what “Walmarting” is like. The next day we found ourselves at the Washington State Fairgrounds RV Park in Puyallup where we parked while visiting Diane’s family. After that it was down toward the Johnston Ridge Observatory at Mt. St Helens which is highly worth a visit. There we stayed in Silver Lake at the new and sparkly Silver Cove RV Resort. This was followed by a couple days in Ashland and a couple nights in CA before arriving back in the bay area where we are now tasked with readying the rig and our lives for full-timing beginning sometime in the spring. Before then we plan to head south for a month or so to enjoy some desert warmth and sunsets at the Imperial Dam LTVA about which I penned a five post series and separate boondocking report when I stayed there back in 2014-15.

A view along the Oregon coast.

Our new fifth wheel, BTW, is an Arctic Fox 29-5T. We settled on it after many months during which we compared more than a few. Things that influenced our decision included: warranted even for full-time use; floor plan; lots of windows; large enough to live in and as small as we could get to feel that way; custom made frame; large net carrying capacity, nearly 4,000#; reputation for being well insulated; we can navigate the entire rig when the slides are closed and access most cabinets, the fridge and bathroom. The trailer is about 34′ long.

Windows abound in the 29-5T which lets in lots of light and provides ample opportunity to see the sights outside while camped.

How to Get the Best Deal on a New Car or Truck Without Ever Talking to a Salesman, Part IV

Mr. BigAss B. Blizzard (don’t ask me what the B. stands for–I forgot), my 2017 Ford F350, 6.7 liter Powerstroke diesel, dual rear wheel, 4×4, pickup truck.
Part Four

In the first three parts of this article my energies were focused on providing readers with information about finding the best deal possible on a new vehicle, in particular when ordering one from the factory. Part One was on the basic principles. In Part Two I wrote about helpful web sites, collecting price information and going or not going to dealerships. Part Three addresses the right and wrong people to talk to–who to deal with and who will waste your time–and how to request a price bid. There are better and worse ways of doing these things and I gave voice to my thoughts about them.

Here in Part Four, the final installment of this article, I expand on my previous remarks about titles given to dealership personnel, I’ll have some things to say about the dealers with whom I interacted along the way, relating my experiences with each (negative and positive alike, mostly negative–surprise, surprise). I will also write about my final moments at the dealership where I made my purchase and how things almost fell apart, hoping that by doing so it will help equip you toward avoiding similar scenarios. For good measure I’ll toss in something counterintuitive about how financing may in some cases actually save you money, if handled properly. READ MORE…

 

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