78 Months Full Time RVing: June 2021 Report

The Distance: 1,333 miles as we worked our way north into Washington. While hardly as aggressive as our 2,400 mile run from North Carolina to California in May, over thirteen hundred miles is a good chunk of RV driving, and we expect to slow things down in July. Our 2021 distance is up to 5,091.

The Places:  Four national parks and two family visits during a busy month. We started with four days near Sequoia National Park before heading to Travis Air Force Base while visiting Dolores, Josh, and Tamiry. Then it was three more national parks, Lassen Volcanic, Crater Lake, and Mount Rainier, broken up by a couple of stops in Oregon. We closed out the month with a couple of days at Joint Base Lewis McChord and nearly a week in Enumclaw while Rosemarie was in New York City for sister Melissa’s baby shower.

Cooling off in the lake at Horse Creek COE campground near Sequoia National Park.

Another month with a wide variety of campground types: 10 days at military parks, 17 at public spots (4 Corps of Engineers, 2 national forest, 9 county, 2 public utilities) and 3 at private places. We had 21 days with full hook ups, 7 with power and water, and 2 days dry camping.

Slushies for all my friends! (And nieces.)

The Money: 107% over budget. Yeah, a bad month, money-wise. The main problem was Loki. While the rebuilt engine is running great, the rest of the 24 year old little truck was due for significant work (brakes, shocks, leaks) which we got done while near Travis AFB. It was also another month of tire drama, with two new front ones for the motorhome in addition to the plugged flat on one of the rear dualies. Our 1300 miles of motorhome driving translates to a good amount of gas money as well, and our average nightly camping fee was higher than we like at $28 despite six free nights. Unfortunately, we have had additional mechanic related expenditures since then, and we are really hoping that September marks a turn around in this area.

Fumaroles at Lassen Volcanic National Park.

The Drama & Improvements:  A flat tire on the motorhome while camping near Crater Lake necessitated a plug and some backtracking, and two new front tires on the big rig have significantly improved our ride and reduced road noise.

Crater Lake National Park.

Next up: Sequim, Washington, on the Olympic Peninsula.

Joint Base Lewis McChord, NYC, and Enumclaw

It’s baby season. Not for hunting, mind you; the liberals put an end to that years ago, but for birthing, rather. We have a new niece back in Asheville, and Rosemarie’s youngest sister, Melissa, was quite far along, with friends and family planning an elaborate baby shower in New York. Context for future readers: this would have been after wide spread COVID vaccine availability, but before the Delta variant wave ramped up, so this would be an in-person affair. Rosemarie had no intention of missing it, and Melissa was kind enough to share an unused JetBlue voucher for a flight from Seattle-Tacoma airport to JFK.

Melissa and Hamed

In support of that we secured two nights at Joint Base Lewis McCord’s travel camp south of Tacoma. There were options closer to the airport, but nothing nearly as affordable, and JBLM worked out quite nicely. The JBLM Travel Park is not to be confused with the other two local military parks, Camp Murray Beach and Holiday Family Camp, both just a few miles away on the same expansive base. All three have mixed reviews with lots of complaints about how they are managed and maintained, but other than some delay in getting hold of an actual person on the phone, we found the travel park quite nice, but at $29 a night just a little pricier than the typical military park.

Tamiry, Dolores, Melissa, and Rosemarie

I dropped Rosemarie at Sea-Tac the morning of our second day. While she was in NYC, the Pacific Northwest was preparing for a massive heat wave expected to break all kinds of records. With the military and state parks full for the coming weekend, I expanded the search west, and found a full week open at the Enumclaw Expo Center, which is like an overpriced county fairgrounds, but with a nicer than usual RV section. It was nothing special, but the sites were level, well maintained, and had 50 amp service for $40 a night on their mid-tier rate.

Before heading their, however, I spent part of the morning at GCR Tires. Serenity had developed a quite annoying cyclical vibration and “wah-wah-wah” noise as a result of significant cupping wear on the front left tire. After consulting with the specialists there, I opted to replace both front tires; the right one, while not as bad, had noticeable wear as well. The final tally was $565 all in, which is not bad at all for motorhome tires, and the ride is vastly improved.

The heat wave was no joke; its not simply that every town in the region set a new record, its that these record breaking triple digit temps were sustained through multiple days. To put it into perspective, during the last 76 years of tracking SeaTac had recorded temperatures of 100 degrees or higher only twice before, and yet they did so three days in a row this June. It was a good time to have uninterrupted power and fully working ACs.

Not even sure this was peak heat.

While wandering about the campground I met a surprisingly high parentage of very new full time RVers. Next door a family with young children had recently begun the adventure in a fifth wheel, directly across from me a retired couple was new to it as well, and next to them a single retired gentleman in a motorhome was in his second week of full time RVing. I enjoyed talking to them, hearing their enthusiasm and reasons for making the jump, and shared a bunch of lessons Rosemarie and I had learned during our nearly seven years on the road. The solo traveler, Don, even signed up for Passport America on my recommendation, and gave me us credit for the referral, resulting in a few months added on to our membership.

Heavily discounted sea scallops from the last commissary run. Experimenting while Rosemarie was in NYC. Fantastic.

Meanwhile, Rosemarie had a busy time staying with Melissa in the city. Born and raised in NYC, Rosemarie still has a lot of family in the area. She was able to reconnect with a good number of them at the baby shower and other events, some of whom she had not seen in many years.

Rosemarie with Cousin Junior (Jose) at the shower. It has been decades since she had seen him.

Rosemarie was not the only one to fly in, Dolores and Tamiry came in from California as well. They stayed in the city for three weeks (Dolores doesn’t believe in short visits or doing anything half way: “if you’re gonna go, make it worth the trip” seems to be her travel motto.) One of the highlights was a family trip to Coney Island with the sisters and niece. With such vivid and nostalgic memories of the place, Rosemarie took particular pleasure in experiencing it through Tamiry’s eyes; a child’s first time visit to this iconic New York venue.

And of course, their was the baby shower and all the associated perpetrations. The sisters coordinated a photoshoot for Melissa and Hamed at Coney Island. The shower was a big affair at a lovely downtown venue, and professionally catered within COVID limitations.

That’s it for New York City, the Seattle-Tacoma region, and June of 2021. Next up: the June Full Time RVing Report and then our visit with friends on the Olympic Peninsula.

Two stops in Oregon, then Mount Rainier National Park in Washington

Having visited our 34th US National Park we made plans for the 35th, but first a couple of stops in Oregon along the way. As mentioned last post, we had to backtrack at low speed into Klamath Falls to deal with a flat tire on the motorhome, and though it was taken care of rather quickly at Basin Tire, the delay put is into the afternoon before we even began our journey north. We could have pushed on all the way to Salem, but with leeway in our schedule we felt no urgency, and thus sought one night accommodations just a couple of hours down the road.

Forgot to take a picture during our one night stay at Hoodoo’s Crescent Junction, so enjoy this pic of Mount Rainier and the White River, our destination for this week’s travels.

There were a variety of low cost dry camping options at national forest spots along the route, but coming off of two nights without hook ups and headed into higher temperatures, we sought a full service park for the night, and found nice and affordable accommodations at Hoodoo’s Crescent Junction RV Park. With a modest veterans discount we had full hook ups for $33, which is certainly better than the top tier price we paid near Lassen Volcanic National Park, but noticeably higher than we had become used to during our month long streak of military, Corps of Engineers, Passport America, and free sites. We did not make down the road to Crescent Lake, an excellent fishing destination according to our two neighbors staying the entire month here specifically for the local angling. In fact, we barely left our campsite other than for laundry and an evening walk.

A gorgeous, vibrant rose flourishing in this crisp northwest air. The flowers are nice too.

The next day we continued north and west, stopping at Polk County Fairgrounds outside of Salem. The region and route left us with few discount options: no military bases or Passport America participants, and coming into a warm weather weekend most of the affordable state and county options had quite limited availability. The fairgrounds, however, were wide open. They let us pick our spot among the many still available, and we set up in the back corner under one of the few trees, looking out at the fields.

There is not a lot that the campground or the region had to entice us; the former was a gravel lot surrounded by pasture, the latter a nice but typical midsized city, so its a little odd that we chose to stay for three days. But after five days in the mountains with limited cell phone connectivity much less wifi, full civilization at $25 a night during a hot weekend just sucked us in. We caught up with some TV shows, did a bit of shopping in preparation for Rosemarie’s upcoming trip to New York, enjoyed couple of local restaurants in the “Diner’s, Drive-ins and Dives” category, and geocached, of course.

Not bad for an otherwise forgettable spot at a county fairgrounds!

After our longer than expected weekend stay, we continued north into Washington, bound for the Mt Rainier National Park area. Budget RVers are always going to have a dicey time finding affordable campgrounds near any of our national parks; they are high demand destinations for campers of all types. Sometimes you get lucky like we did near Sequoia, sometimes you rough it a bit like we did near Crater Lake, and sometimes you pay out the nose, like we did near Lassen Volcanic. Near Mt Rainier, we found Rocky Point Campground, one of four associated with Alder Lake Park four miles down the lake shore. They are operated by Tacoma Public Utility, and after nearly seven years of full time RVing this is our first utility owned campground.

I initially erred by turning into the day use area rather than the campground, which was quite tight as far as maneuvering room goes, and we had to disconnect the Tracker and make a multi-point turn around at the boat ramp to get back out. Though we were inside the reservation window there were a few first come sites available. We selected the first large one, but after pulling in but before setting up, we noted the near constant dog barking next door (with multiple adults present, none making the slightest effort to quite the beasts.) We repositioned to another, quieter spot.

Alder Lake

The Alder Lake campgrounds are not exactly cheap, but at $39 a night for power and water, they are far from the priciest we have experienced this close to other national parks. Our only concern was the ambiguous wording on the information board regarding a $15 per day fee for an extra vehicle. This would push our daily rate up to $54 a night, brought back memories of both the Texas and Michigan State Park “gotcha” charges (the former charging a day use fee in addition to the camping fee, the latter requiring a purchased access pass for each motorized vehicle, also in addition to the camping fee.)

Savvy readers will recognize the home page.

Honestly, I thought the clearest interpretation was that we would indeed have to pay the additional money for our Tracker, but decided to wait until the camp host or an employee brought it up, which they did not do during our two day stay. We did not “get away” with anything: as I prepped this post, I found the actual rule on the TPU website, which does not mandate the fee for towed vehicles, which seems quite reasonable.

Not to pat ourselves on the back too much, but we have done a pretty good job of finding short notice and affordable sites even in high demand area. While Alder Lake is not our best deal, it was an attractive, serviced site just a dozen miles from the southwest entrance to Mt Rainier National Park. Our free veterans annual pass acquired back in Petrified Forest once again saved us the $30 vehicle fee, so we highly recommend that any of you who have served go get your free pass!

The park itself has many of the standard accessibility features found in US national parks, including a well maintained perimeter road with numerous pull offs and parking areas for trail heads and look out spots. We spent the majority of our time looking for waterfalls, of which Rainier has an abundance. We particularly enjoyed the mile hike along the White River up to Carter Falls.

When we first developed our west coast plans we had high hopes of visiting several Central California national parks, but competing demands, weather, time and distance limited us to just Sequoia. During this run through Northern California (Lassen) and Oregon (Crater Lake,) and into Washington (Mount Rainier) we have made it to all three on our list, though the might have gotten a bit of short shrift with only two day stays each. Ah, well, nevertheless, often these initial visits to such locations serve as scouting runs for future, more expansive stays, and I can easily see us returning to each of these three wonderful parks, equipped with a bit more first hand knowledge about where to stay and what to see.

There’s a geocache on this train.

Next up: Rosemarie flies to NYC while Jack seeks shelter during a record shattering heat wave.