Friday, April 29, 2011

Northwest Campers, Hoodstock Jamboree—Part 2, Settling in at the Hood River Fairgrounds

Sorry for the delay in getting around to part two of the tale, this is perhaps the slowest I’ve posted one of these multiple part entries in quite sometime. But, I do have a good excuse, Friday April 29th was my birthday and I’ve been busy ever since!

First the Royal Wedding, then, Osama Bin Laden was introduced to the “BAM!!HEADSHOT”, plus all the running around I’ve been doing lately putting all the pieces together to finally do my dually conversion on my truck, my poor blog has been rather neglected.

So, on with the story Smile.

After a little delay in stopping at the dump station at Memaloose, I wasn’t able to use the sewer hookups due to the old design of the part where the sewer hook is actually horizontal vs vertical, Moby and I made the short drive back to Hood River and turned up onto Highway 35 to join the rest of our fellow Northwest Campers up at the fairgrounds.

The weather hadn’t really improved, so I was a bit anxious to see the camping area at the fairgrounds. In the past, the Northwest Campers had rallied together out in the big field out at the fairgrounds. The last thing I had heard before setting out was that the group had been relocated to another area as the field was far too wet for RVs to park in it.

In my mind, I pictured perhaps an area with gravel and a road of some kind, another parking lot somewhere else on the fairgrounds property.

When I pulled into the area where the campers were at, I at first saw gravel, however, the gravel quickly ended. I could see several other campers already out there, so I’m thinking it can’t be too bad. But, experience has taught me that if you have four-wheel-drive, you ALWAYS engage it before you leave the asphalt. I at first engaged 4 high, but as I got close, my opinion of the ground changed quite a bit, so, before my front wheels touched off the gravel, I stopped and engaged four-low and crept on into the grass.

I was glad I did, the Redneck Express is HEAVY. She weighs in at around 10,000lbs fully laden, and that ground was like driving in a field filled with chocolate mousse. Right off the bat, the tires sank in about four inches into the mud, but, thanks to the wider high flotation mud and snow tires on the truck plus the low range on the transfer case, we drove on like it was bare pavement, squishy, squelching pavement.

I stopped briefly by Les’ Winnebago, Wilbur, to find out where I should park, then plowed on through the mud till I found a site that was still somewhat virgin ground and turned the truck around to back her in.

At first, I thought I’d just drive in straight, given the uphill slope of the ground and the fact that I tend to run a little high in the rear end (mostly to keep the hitch extension step from hitting ground when I go in and out of gas stations on highly crowned roads), but, changed my mind when the thought dawned on me that I’d be stepping right out into the muddy thoroughfare whenever I wanted to enter or exit the camper and went in reverse instead.

Leveling out the camper turned out to be a bit more of a challenge. Side to side, we weren’t bad off, but the slope of the hill required that the rig needed a couple 2x6’s under the front wheels to level us out. So, I put down a couple 2x6s, and drove up on the them.


I’m still at the same height, as both blocks neatly sank down into the soft ground.

Okay, going to need another block or two…

So, put her in reverse and give the throttle a little juice, truck backs up like normal a little ways and then bogs down a bit. Give her a little more throttle the rear end drives out of the tire shaped dent sitting still long enough to look at the blocks had created.

Throw another board onto the sunken two that had gone in first and drive drive forward once again.


The boards sink in some more, but the top board manages to stay above the grass. By themselves, the sunken boards wouldn’t have been enough to level us out, but the repeated forward and back movement had created long, sunken furrows in the ground, they were all that was needed to level the camper out.

As a precaution to help spread the weight of the camper across multiple ground contact points, I pulled out my plywood squares for the jack feet and ran the jacks down till they were just loaded enough to stabilize the camper and help control any further sinking. Unlike the truck tires, the jacks didn’t press the 12x12 plywood squares into the ground like the leveling boards.

Once the camper was plugged in, I unloaded Moby and we did a quick hike over to the bathroom facilities provided at the fairgrounds. The rain was still coming down lightly, and the ground even in the virgin areas where no vehicle had traveled was something that could only be described by the sound it made, squelch.

By the time we’d made it to the bathroom facilities, my shoes and socks were soaked clean through. Add into the mix a headache that had started when I woke that morning and festered all morning and into the afternoon, fending off the aspirin I’d taken earlier in the morning, I was glad to enjoy a brief respite from the constant damp in the air and the soggy ground for the firm concrete sidewalk and warm bathroom.

A quick inspection of the showers, after figuring out that they were behind a closed door with one of those infamous push button locks (Code for which was written on the door itself with sharpie), revealed a nice warm shower room with large shower stalls and adjustable temperature knobs.

For those that have had the experience of the many campgrounds with the pressure-washer spray heads and the pre-set lukewarm temperatures knows just how nice having a shower with adjustable temperatures and regular shower heads are.

After our walk, or slog, Moby and I returned to the camper, where Moby got his feet cleaned and his coat dried and then he curled up in his bed to nap while I wandered over to Jeff’s classic Winnebago Indian to visit for a while.

While over at Jeff’s motorhome, my eyes caught notice of a rather peculiar truck camper parked over at the very limited gravel sites. It was mounted on top of railroad ties bolted to the bare frame of an old Chevy Chassis/Cab rig.

A quick inspection revealed that strapped under the sides of the rig were three 40lb propane tanks (Held securely with bungee cords!) an old 10,000 watt generator, several welded on craftsman tool boxes and a barbeque.

Several windows on the camper that had been broken had been patched from inside using plywood.

We debated what the three folks living in the rig might do for a living for an hour or two, while sipping a Pepsi and taking another aspirin to try and kill off my throbbing headache. While we watched, the father (as I was informed by Jeff it was Father, Mother and Daughter living in the camper) went out to get something from the tarped overloaded flat bed trailer parked next to them.

When he pulled the tarp back, he revealed that the rear section of the trailer was filled with another dozen of those 40lb propane cylinders!

Adding together all the propane and the overloaded trailer, it was obvious that they were likely vendors for the Blossom Festival. However, given the rather prodigious quantity of propane in rather dangerous locations, and the red paint job on the camper, we nicked the rig the “Fireball Express”.

After a little while, we resumed chatting and participating in one of the evenings activities, seeing who would get stuck in the mud next. The fairgrounds did have a tow truck of sorts helping out with folks who got caught by the insidious fields. A small jeep with a tow strap would come around each time and pull the victim to safety, much like a lifeguard.

That’s pretty much how that first afternoon at the fairgrounds went, the rain fell without fail until nearly 11pm when it finally stopped. Around 7-8pm, we all gathered over at the Sheep and Hogs pen building across from us and had what our little group calls “Happy Hour”, which consists of small finger foods and small talk Smile.

The food was definitely enjoyable, as was the company and my headache was finally beginning to succumb to the third (or was it fourth?) aspirin of the day. One thing that I did find enjoyably amusing, giving our weather, was that this years Hoodstock had a Hawaiian theme Smile!

Afterwards, we all retired to our respective RVs, wishing each other a good night. Around 10pm, I changed into my cycling shorts, pulled on my coat and squelched my way through the field with Moby to the bath house. Why did I bring the dog, do you ask? Because, I had no intentions of walking through that field any more time than necessary, so I combined taking Moby on his before bed walk with my need to take a shower.

Having read the misadventures of one of our fellow campers involving the coin-operated showers at the Fairgrounds, I came prepared with a fresh roll of quarters.

I carefully followed the instructions on the wall for the showers, put my first two quarters in, noting that the sign said nothing about shower length for the fifty cents, then once those were in, put in two more.

The shower was pure ambrosia.

Hot water, in temperatures hot enough to make tea, and two shower heads! One was even on a hose!

I finished my ablutions quick enough, and figured I’d just wait out the quarters.

I gave up after thirty minutes.

The Lesson? At the fairgrounds, a fifty cent shower means, your shower, however long, is fifty cents.

Another slog back to camp, clean Moby again, and then we crashed.

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