Friday, October 15, 2010

The Northern Cascades Fall Colors Caravan - Day 2, Visiting Seattle and Reaching Sauk Campground

Evening folks, sorry for the delay in the continuation of tale of this trip, but needed a good Friday and a nice Perdomo - Lot 23 Churchill cigar to really dig into this undertaking and wrap it up (Well, that and the far better equipped wifi at my local favorite Cigar Bar, Greater Trumps, didn't hurt either.....)

For those that don't know it already, I'm a cigar Connoisseur, I enjoy cigars in the way that folks would enjoy a good Scotch, with a deliberate slowness of pace and copious rumination.

And no, I don't normally wear my hat backwards like a boob.

I only do that when I'm smoking indoors to keep the smoke out of my eyes and the heat from the infrared heaters above my head from baking my bald spot.

One of my favorite places to relax on the weekends (Aside from my Camper of course :p) is at a good Cigar bar. Greater Trumps generally fits that bill and happens to be my favorite.

Some of the more important reasons I find to call my favorite are:

One because it's a little side bar in the historic Bagdad Theater in Portland, Oregon.

Two, because unlike the other couple Cigar Bars that I know of, it stays open the latest; Midnight Sunday - Thursday, and One AM on Friday and Saturdays.

Three, they serve a nice menu of food and the happy hour grub is actually edible (Plus they have my favorite drink a good hand made beer milkshake, Yum!)

Four, my friends and I have been coming with enough frequency that we now qualify as "regulars" and the two lovely female bartenders know exactly what we want and have it coming round to our table of choice for the evening the moment we set foot in the door (or window, the front windows trundle out of the way allowing patrons open space and still retain the warmth and comfort of being inside at the same time.

So, now you know, the tales of the Redneck Express come to from time to time from my nicotine stained fingers amongst many of my fellow cigar enthusiasts.

But, enough about my Friday evening libations, let me continue with my tale of my journey in the big Northwest Fall Colors Caravan.

Day 2's Journey

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I slept well that evening at the Seattle-Tacoma KOA, but then with the 9" thick foam mattress I installed in the cabover, I sleep pretty soundly just about anywhere so long as the noise outside isn't too bad.

Moby did well sharing the bed with me, establishing that all evening spent sleeping in the master bed will involve him either snuggling up as close to my rear-end as possible or my big pot belly.

I have no complaints, he makes a good bed warmer :p.

Our departure from camp didn't quite go off as planned. Once again, the old Redneck Express decided to be as stubborn as a mule with constipation and proved that no amount of pre-flight checking will keep it from having one electrical problem or another.

Long story short, the running lights on the camper failed again.

Have I mentioned this is about the fourth time this has happened and I've finally reached my limit. Several minutes of cussing under my breath, I break out the multimeter and begin checking all the connections in the camper.

No power.... Hrm... Damn.

"Well, I'll be taking another shower later tonight..." drifts through my mind as I get out my wire cutters, strippers, and electrical tape.

I've discovered that you cannot take a truck through enough car washes with under body sprayers to actually make the underside clean. No matter how clean it looks, the moment you grab a frame member or spring or anything, two-hundred pounds of dirt will manifest out of thin air just to fall in your face.

I'm still finding large quantities of eastern Oregon dust every time I climb under my rig, I'm beginning to wonder if there's any left in eastern Oregon.....

So, I trace down the tail light wires I tapped into feed the running wires off of. Being the wizard of wiring that I was back when I bought this camper and wired up the plug, I decided to use those nifty little plastic wire taps. You know the kind, they open up so you can slide one side over an existing wire and the other over the wire you want to connect in, then you squeeze it shut with a pair of pliers to press this little metal blade into both wires to join them.

I can only ascertain that these connectors were designed by a engineer that was possessed by a minor demon from the pit at the time. Regardless of how well your do the join, they will always fail, usually in ways that defy logic and sometimes physics.

So, anyway, here I am under my truck with its infinite supply of mystery dirt soiling the shirt that had started out the day clean, trying to unwrap the twenty feet of electrical tape I had wrapped the running lights connection with four years ago.

For anyone that's not familiar with the process, it goes something like this:

Step 1 - Grab the end of the tape and start peeling it loose.

Step 2 - Tape breaks after a 1/4 inch. Repeat Step 1, usually harder to get started the second time.

Step 3 - After repeating steps 1 and 2 roughly twenty-seven times, tape will break off in a fashion that renders it impossible to grasp again. Reach for utility knife to cut tape off and discover that you left it on the seat in the truck.

Step 4 - Climb out from under the truck and obtain knife, climb back under truck, get fresh dirt bath.

Step 5 - No matter how sharp and new the utility knife blade is, tape will not cut all the way through, repeat cutting till you either succeed or the blade slips and cuts a wire or cuts half the insulation off the wire for roughly three inches.

After the fight with the tape, it takes roughly twenty seconds to stick the positive lead from the multimeter into the little wire join and touch the negative wire lead to the truck's frame.

Big surprise, no power. Mystery solved, five minutes of cutting the worthless join out of the equation and permanently twisting all the wires together and rewrapping them in another twenty feet of electrical tape, the running lights now shine brightly and the camper has been defeated in its attempt to thwart my continued northern journey once again.

Change clothes, wash face in campground bathroom and finally set out.

Now, normally, most sane folks with truck camper's don't stop into downtown Seattle with them in tow. Given my track record, I think its safe to say that I left some of my sanity behind me long ago.

So, after many detours around Sea-Tac Washington, I finally blunder my way onto Highway 99 and make my way into Seattle proper to make a shopping stop at Pike's Place Market. Those of you who've been following my tales from beginning to now know that if I ever go through Seattle, at least one stop at Pike's is mandatory, if for no other reason than for me to spend far too much money on cheese.

Unlike most of Seattle, which is a constantly shifting enigma of streets that are never in the same place twice, I've got the area around Pike's down to a science and know where the few Pay-to-Park lots are that I can cram my thirty-plus-foot behemoth into.

I'd be willing to wager that I didn't make a whole lot of friends that friday in Seattle as I pulled into this tiny lot on 1st avenue and got myself parked. But, I was level and the walk wasn't too far from there to the market.

Unlike all my previous trips with our family dogs, never once before I had brought one with me up to Washington, let alone Seattle.

This time around, Moby tagged along with me as we hiked to the market and made our way to Beecher's Cheeses. Like myself, Moby is a great fan of cheese and loves any he can get his muzzle on.

As I sampled my way through their case that busy day, Moby did them the favor of vacuuming ever possible scrap of cheese off their floor while I sampled various Goudas and Havarties.

After I picked out my cheeses, Moby got an extra reward of a nice big hunk of Beecher's Flagship cheese before we stepped out to try and hunt down Fruit Logs and Spicy Dill Pickles for Dawn's mother, Joyce.

Eventually, we escaped from downtown Seattle, but not before those roads could do their worst and get me lost out in the Fremont area of town as I wandered around trying to locate signs that directed me back to north bound I-5.

Several hours of bumper tag through the nightmare that is Northbound I-5 from Seattle all the way to Arlington, we finally pulled off onto Highway 531 and began gradually making our way east.

The time lost to horrid rush hour traffic plus Seattle's engima streets, cost me meeting up with the rest of the group to Caravan to the first stop of the evening, Sauk Campground in Skagit County, WA.

So, after a brief fueling stop in Arlington, WA, I continued on solo making my way north and east along the ever quieting Highway 531.

As we drifted ever eastward, the open valleys and plains gave way to the craggy peaks that are part of the majesty that attracts ever growing numbers of Truck Camper owners to flock together and wind their way amongst these silent peaks.

One very important thing to know about the Sauk Campground, its a bloody pain in the back-end to find unless you know what you're looking for. Had I not been supplied with the GPS coordinates (Which really didn't help me too much as I didn't have any GPS with me in the cab) and had been already on the look out for a poorly marked side road, I would have easily missed and it and ended up wandering around the better part of the night trying to find it.

My last picture from this evening is of the little one-lane bridge that takes you over the Sauk River and to campground and that evening's rest.

After wandering through the campground loops twice trying to figure out where everyone was, I pulled in next to the big campfire, spent a considerably large amount of time trying to get level and then joined everyone at the campfire.

By this time, I was exhausted from dealing with the usual crowd of maniacs that make up the driving populous of Washington and settled in next to the campfire to get reacquainted with folks I hadn't seen since the Silver Creek Falls Rally, a few years before.

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