14-17 May 2015; Astoria to Junction City and Back to the Coast

We loved our time in Astoria, and had all day Thursday to explore some more of the area and the coast…so we did.  We headed into Astoria first thing to take a stroll along the waterway and see if the trolley was running.  We heard this was a good way to learn about the local history, and there was a cruise ship arriving, so we thought the trolley would be running…nope.  Oh well, we’d take it as we saw it.  We strolled along the water way and got a better shot of one of the sea lions than we got the night before:

The seals love to hang out and rest on the board between the pilings under the old canneries.

The sea lions love to hang out and rest on the boards between the pilings under the old canneries.

As we strolled further along the boardwalk, we walked out on one of the public access piers to the water.  They have done a good job in Astoria, placing historical signs and markers of this place along the way.  We were reading some of those, when we heard a guy say, “Hey, you look familiar.”  We turned and met a guy named “Big John.”  I then noted we were next to the “Bar and River Pilot” house.  This is where the pilots that have to take non-U.S. Flagged ships from the ocean into the Columbia, or from the Columbia into the ocean…or, River Pilots that take non U.S. flagged ships from the Columbia side of the bar to Portland or back down.  That is how treacherous this area of the Columbia is.  Big John said that there are only 80 U.S. flagged ocean-going cargo vessels, so do the math…these guys are very busy.  Big John is really a taxi driver, and said that so himself.  He takes the Pilots from the Pilot House to the ships and transfers bar or river pilots between ships.  We had a great time talking to him and learned a lot about the ways of the river here in Astoria.  And, even though we looked familiar to him, we could make no connection.  He’s lived here his whole life.  We were able to see him take some Pilots out too…did not get any good shots of that, but here are some others:

A ship coming in.  This is one that anchored just a bit up stream, and we saw Big John go out and get the Bar Pilot and replace him with a river Pilot.

A ship coming in. This is one that anchored just a bit up-stream, and we saw Big John go out and get the Bar Pilot off and replace him with a river Pilot.

Just a great shot of the Columbia.

Just a great shot of the Columbia.

We spent most of the morning there, and took care of some mail and other housekeeping issues, then headed back to the Coach for lunch.  After that, we decided to head south along the coast to see what we could see.  We saw a lot…these pictures do not do justice to the scenery in this state…

You can drive on the beach here...but make sure you know the tide schedule!!!

You can drive on the beach here…but make sure you know the tide schedule!!!

While we were here, we saw a touching ceremony of an elderly lady and her family spreading the ashes of what we can only imagine was her husband.

We then headed further down the coast:

Just outside of Canon Beach, OR where Haystack Rock is located.  It is apparently the most photographed rock in the U.S.  I liked this one better.

Just outside of Canon Beach, OR where Haystack Rock is located. It is apparently the most photographed rock in the U.S. I liked this one better.  A mini-non geometrically correct haystack.

If you are following along on a map, we trekked from Astoria to Tillamook.  This is what we saw along the way:

More kewl rocks in the water.

More kewl rocks in the water.

Awesome seascapes.

Awesome seascapes.

The highest point along the Oregon Coast to watch for whales...we looked for along time and didn't see any...I don't think???

The highest point along the Oregon Coast to watch for whales…we looked for a long time and didn’t see any…I don’t think???

Breathtaking views along this stretch of the coast.

Breathtaking views along this stretch of the coast.

And wild flowers in bloom everywhere.

And wild flowers in bloom everywhere.

We finally made it to Tillamook…what’s so important about this place you may ask?  Well, Tillamook produces a great amount of cheese, milk and ice cream.  Look in your local dairy section the next time you are in the store, and it is likely that you will see some Tillamook dairy products.  We took a tour of the cheese/ice cream factory…it is huge! We also bought some cheese and had some ice cream…well priced too!

The inside of the Tillamook cheese factory.

The inside of the Tillamook cheese factory.

We slowly made our way back north and enjoyed the sun going down as we drove.  It was supposed to be rainy this day, but as you can tell, we had blue skies and great views.

We were up early on Friday, as we were headed to Junction City, OR to take our Coach to visit the place of her birth and get a few things checked out.  What a great ride, even though it was rainy most of the way.  We took Highway 26 from Seaside to just outside of Portland, then took the I-5 south to highway 99E, which led us into Junction City.

Tech Info Galore:  OK…if you don’t give rip about RV maintenance or repairs, I suggest you skip this next section, which is quite long, as it deals with everything that was on our punch list, plus some.

When we bought our Country Coach last July, I posted on the Country Coach Owners Forum that we had done just so.  Shortly after that, I received a call from a guy named Kevin Waite, who used to work at the original Country Coach in Junction City.  After the original Country Coach closed its doors in 2008 or so (as many RV manufacturers did) Kevin and many others had to start over, and went into business for themselves.  I’ve stayed in touch with Kevin over the months since, and he has provided advice and parts when I’ve  needed them.  I told him a while back we were headed his way, and he invited me to his place so we could meet.  I took advantage of this, and sent him a punch list of items we were concerned about, and wanted an overall eval of the Coach.  He told me where to come to, and he would have 50 AMP and water available for us, and would make sure we could stay in the Coach at night.

We pulled in about 1:30, and for a lot of folks, they may have been disappointed, but for us it looked like paradise…a small hobby farm, a 40×60 pole shed, golden retrievers, Jersey cows, and folks that are salt of the earth types.  Mostly double wides for houses.  The folk here have big hearts, strong minds and skilled hands.  Just like the people are where we grew up, and the folks we got to know real well in Florida.

OK…what all happened tech wise?  Well, I’ll recap my list here, and tell you what took place.  Here is my punch list and the fix, recommendation, or show and tell after each.  Pictures will follow in some cases:

I asked Kevin for an overall eval and suggestions.  But let me back up.  Kevin has put together a class A team of folks that can handle anything, and he knows anyone in the area that has ever dealt with our Coach.  The team consisted of Kevin (former Country Coach employee…he handles mostly exterior Coach issues), Bob Vinson (former Country Coach employee and specializes in electrical issues), and Brian Schack (all around maintenance guy that specializes in chassis and mechanics…and the local hobby farmer.)

First up was Brian.  I backed the Coach into the first bay (with Terri doing an awesome job as usual guiding me in.)  Kevin had me raise the Coach as high as it would go…neat having this air system…makes it easy to inspect.  Brian then got on his crawler and spent about an hour going over everything under the Coach…air bags, shocks, brackets, arms, air systems, you name it.  After he came out from under (with me chasing him all the way!) he said everything looked great!  Awesome for a 13-year-old Coach!!  He did mention that the air dryer looked like it had never been replaced, and the hydraulic system also looked like it was never serviced.  What?  I was at the Cummins shop in October and they said they checked everything.  Kevin and Brian then explained that most engine service shops know nothing about the CC (Country Coach) air dryer and hydraulic systems.  The book says each should be serviced and replaced every 35-40,000 miles.  I’m pushing 80,000…guess I should do this, huh?  They had the parts on hand, and went to work.

The great things about this place is that I was able to be with them the whole time and glean as much info as I could for the future.  No “stay behind this line” or anything like that.  So…I was under the Coach with Brian, and he showed me where the air dryer was and how to remove it.  We got it out, and were able to determine it was the original part.  This is a critical part of the air systems on these coaches.  It keeps the air pure if you will for the suspension, brakes and leveling systems.  After we removed the old part, we noted that the inner “O” ring was split in two…not good….only one half was with the canister.  Brian said that these things are tricky to install, and the original install was done incorrectly, as the inner “O” ring had fallen off part way when it was put in.  He was able to use a dental tool to fish the second half of the “O” ring out of the air system.  Thank goodness, as if that had gotten into the rest of the systems it would have wreaked havoc.  Here is a shot of the old air dryer:

Note that only half of the inner ring is there.

Note that only half of the inner ring is there.

After that was replaced, Brian and Kevin also said it appeared that my hydraulic system had never been serviced….OK, off we go.  Three filters and over 4 quarts of Dextron later, we are done.

So…what does this all cost you may ask?  All three of these guys charge $85 per hour…which is cheap for Coach work.  The labor was the easy part, but the parts were expensive.  Here is a breakdown of day #1:

Labor (Hydraulic system, air dryer, chassis inspection) $255

Air Dryer:  $223

3 Hydraulic filters at $95 each:  $285

Dextron ATF:  4 @ $26: $104

Supplies: $25

Total for day one:  $892…hey, Coaches are like houses but they move…there are expenses.

One other thing…I had read on one of the forums that on diesels with air systems, you need to bleed the air tanks very often.  This makes sense if you think about it like your air compressor at home.  I drained my after every use.  However, I knew not where or how to drain this system.  Brian showed me…and what a mess:

The aftermath of draining the first air tank...the others were in better shape.

The aftermath of draining the first air tank…the others were in better shape.

There was so much water in the first tank, Brian could not believe it.  He said it must have been years since it had been done.  He showed me where the valves for draining are, and said I should do it before each trip!  I did it this morning before we left!!  Easy if you know what to look for and what to do!!!!

Kevin, Terri and I spent the later part of the afternoon discussing the rest of the punch list and what to do.  But before I get into all of that, I must say we had an awesome night.  Brian has two Jersey cows that he milks on the property, and sells the milk to the locals (unless you are staying there…then you get it for free!)  We also had a great time talking with Brian and his wife, and learning about their history and their hobby farm…plus we were treated to a great rainbow and sunset:

Brian checking the level of the hydraulic fluid after the drain and re-fill.

Brian checking the level of the hydraulic fluid after the drain and re-fill.

Most awesome rainbow we have seen in a long time!!

Most awesome rainbow we have seen in a long time!!

The two Jersey’s that produce 16 gallons a day.  The milk is awesome, and the local folks come each day to get their milk.

Bob Vinson checking our Brian's girls.

Bob Vinson checking out Brian’s girls.

We were greeted to an awesome sunset too!!

We were greeted to an awesome sunset too!!

OK…back to the punch list…I will go line by line now, and let you know what happened on Saturday:

1.  Awnings have tears and rips.  Kevin knew we plan to attend the FMCA rally in Madison, WI in July.  He said wait until then.  The producers of  your awnings will be there, and they will not charge labor, but only parts and will get you what you need.  Check.

2.  Back up Camera.  Mine is what most people say is foggy and not real good.  Bob took a look and said it is one of the better one’s he’s seen of late!  He told me how I can improve the clarity with the replacement of a cable and how to do that.  Check.

3.  Rot behind the refrigerator…I’ve covered this many times.  Kevin inspected, and said the repairs Jason and I did were fine now.  Wait until the fridge goes out and replace it when you replace the fridge, which will happen at some point in time.   Check…love these guys…they could have taken us to the bank, but for most things they said, not a problem, or wait, or this is how you fix it yourself.

4.  Slide Rubber…I was worried about this the most.  The rubbers seem to be cracking in some areas, and the slide rubbers keep the moisture, rain and debris out of the Coach when the slides are out.  Kevin said they are in great shape, and showed me where I need to caulk here and there, but otherwise, no worry at this point in time!!

5.  Water pump switch…I covered this before as well.  There is a relay that I can install that will keep us from having to cycle the switches when we turn the water pump off, but Bob said if we don’t mind doing that, it is not an issue, so no worries!

6.  Caulking.  There are seams all over this Coach, and the original caulk is starting to deteriorate.  Kevin said to just wipe it down with warm water and caulk over the top of the old stuff if it is not peeling away, and if so, remove that before calking.  Do it yourself he said…I will!!

7.  AC Covers…they are cracked and are getting weathered in places.  I’ve repaired what I can, but wanted an eval.  Kevin said what I’ve done is perfect, and to keep doing it.  I have two AC’s and each new cover is $125.  He said he’d be happy to get me new ones, but said to wait until I really needed them!

8.  Closet leak…we’ve covered this to the point of nausea on this blog before…I just wanted another opinion.  Kevin said what I’d done was perfect…don’t worry!

9. Tile repair…we have several tiles that are loose.  Kevin is checking to see if our original tile is still available, and if so, he will shoot us a price.  Until that time, he gave us some tips on how to secure what we have.

10.  The passenger chair was loose and the leg extension barely works.  Kevin was able to get the chair tight in short order, and also called the folks he knows in Junction City that made and repair these chairs.  They said that the model we have just has issues reclining and retracting…deal with it, or they would be happy to install a new one for $1,200…thanks for the advice!!  Fine as is!!

11.  The hurricane hydronic heater flamed out on me a few times recently.  Bob checked it out, and said I’m fine, and showed me how to clean the thing and what to avoid from most repair services that will surely save me mucho bucks in the future.  Most of what I need to service this thing can be had at NAPA.  There are a few parts that cannot, and I have Bob on speed dial for that.  Catching a theme here?  These guys could have soaked us for a mint, but in MHO…honest as the day is long.

12.  The living room slide delamination.  This is the issue I discovered in Colorado Springs.  I told Kevin what I did to fix it, and he said he would have done the same thing.  He did mention that it was the worst job of caulking after the epoxy repair he had seen.  I then asked him if he’d ever repaired one of these in 20 MPH winds while it was combo snowing and hailing at the same time!  He said “no…awesome job in that case.”  I was glad to hear this was all good, as this was another area I was really concerned about.  Besides, you can’t see how bad my caulk job is unless you look for it:)

13.  Mirror restoration:  The chrome on my mirrors is coming all apart.  Kevin told me how to fix this myself.

14.  Weep hole covers.  There are slots below each window where the rain and moisture can weep out when it gets around the frames.  Several of mine were missing, and I’ve tried to find parts everywhere, but no one has them.  Kevin had them…he got me what I needed and provided me about ten spares, as you do lose them from time to time.  Rather than charging labor, he showed me how to install them, and I did the rest.

15.  Wash machine leak.  Our Splendide seeps water into the drum every now and then.  Kevin shot me a price for a new one….over $1,200!!  He said to stay with what I have.  They don’t make parts for it anymore, but he said he has three complete units of my type in storage that he can pull parts from if I need them.  He said to run it until it dies!  I also have some spare timers and such in a bin in the bays below from the previous owner.

16.  Roof delamination.  I’ve noted when walking on the roof that in some spots the rubber type surface has released itself from the wood underneath.  Kevin did a thorough inspection and said that I’m in good shape.  He said it was one of the best roofs he’s seen of late, and that there are no soft spots or indication of leaks…good news.  He also said, “It appears you keep your roof real clean…keep doing that, but I just got foot prints all over it, sorry:)”

17.  Shower Drain.  We noted the other day that one of the screws would not hold our shower drain cover in place, and further noted that where it was supposed to screw in was cracked.  Kevin said this is not problem and showed us how to secure the drain cover ourselves.  He also explained how to completely replace the drain if needed.  For a time he assembled and built the floors and appliance installs on these things.  Great to have first hand knowledge!!

18.  Hot water tank inspection.  Terri and I have both taken care of household systems before, but never on an RV.  Kevin showed us how to service the system.  After we did that, he said he’d never seen one so clean…no calcium buildup at all!  More good news.  He also told me to pick up one of these gadgets at Camping World to flush the system:

This little guy fits in the drain and when hooked up to a water hose will make sure you can spray every area of your hot water tank.  Do this one per month please!

This little guy fits in the drain and when hooked up to a water hose will make sure you can spray every area of your hot water tank. Do this one per month please!

19.  Wipers.  I was really concerned about this as we had the issues traveling from Maryhill to Portland.  I was afraid the fix had not been done on this Coach to adequately ground the wiper motors.  Bob disassembled the dash (and showed us how to do that for the future in case we need to) and said the fix had been done.  He said the motor was likely having an issue with the speed and wind.  He said to run them until failure rather than spending the money to repair now.  They have worked fine for the last two trips.

20.  Silverleaf Computer Maintenance System.  I have a screen up front that I can use to monitor all of my engine and chassis systems when I’m on the road.  Digital read out of all systems.  The problem is I have a major pixilation issue.  Bob said to go to the original manufacturer in Albany, OR and they have a software program they will run that will fix the issue!!

21.  Coach Armor.  I have a cover over the front of the Coach that is called Coach Armor.  It keeps stones, bugs, etc. off of the front of the Coach.  However, all of the rubber grommets have rotted.  I got a bunch from Kevin and will replace them myself.

22.  Kevin noted that two of my bay doors were hanging by a thread.  It was apparent after I looked that he was right (Kevin also worked as the pre-delivery inspection guy for CC, so knows what to look for)…the rivets that they used back in the day had either rusted or broken, and need to be replaced.  Kevin and I replaced the ones that were bad, and he left me with a box of rivets for the next ones that go bad.

23.  50 AMP shore power cord.  The head of the cord where the four prongs are were cracked.  Bob said this needed to be fixed, so Terri ran to the nearest local RV dealer and got a new 50 AMP head.  Bob showed me how to replace it.  Apparently these things are finicky, as after he’d replaced the head and I plugged back in, it worked fine.  I had to move the Coach again to get some other work done, so had to unplug and re-plug, and after that, I had no power…wutz up??  I checked the power at the pole, checked my energy management system, and all seemed good, but the Coach was blocking the power.  Kevin said to call Bob back and have him fix it.  Bob returned, and he checked all the power sources, and eventually did what I was going to do and took the head apart, and realized that one of the hot wires and the neutral wire had come loose.  They really don’t give you the space you need to put these huge wires in these small receptacles.

24.  Screen door handle.  I replaced the handle in Sumpter when we were there with a cheap plastic one.  Kevin had a metal one that will last the life if the Coach.

25.  Spare ride height valves.  I blew one of these last July in TN.  It is wise to have two on hand.  There are three on this Coach.  One in front and two in the rear.  I now have two new spares just in case.

26. LED lights!  Bob specializes in this as well.  We had the main galley overhead light converted to LED.  Normally there were 6 bulbs, and now we have four and it is brighter than before, and uses 1/3 the energy, and will last three times longer.  He showed us how to do the replacements, and we have his number to order any parts we need.  He said to check Amazon if we want, but he could likely get them to us cheaper.

I gave you Brian’s total cost, so here is the rest of it:

Kevin, for all of the coordination, service, parts and advice:  $665

Bob, service, parts and advice:  $234

Trust me if you will…this was $$ well spent.  I know for a fact that they could have taken us for a mint more, and they were up front and honest IMHO.  We learned so much, they showed us so much, and deferred many things that they could have charged us for in order to allow us to do them ourselves.  Class acts all around.

Well…that’s the list!  I hope this provided some value to some of you, I know it was likely boring for most.

OK…we were up fairly early today, but not early enough to say good-bye to Brian.  He milked early this morning then headed off to Cabelas…what a guy!!  We got to say good bye to his wife, and headed for the coast once again.  We landed at Jessie Honeyman State Park on the Central Coast.  We are just North of the Oregon Dunes, and are in a good place to explore both north and south.

As we were pulling onto Florence, which is just north of here, we noted they were getting ready for a parade.  As soon as we landed a spot at the park, Terri was off on her bike, and learned they were having their annual “Rhody Festival.”  This is a festival of the Rhododendron’s that are prolific in this area, and awesome…you know, most of the flowers we’ve been taking pictures of that we didn’t know what they were!  She had a blast:

The Oregon Hunters Association Float.

The Oregon Hunters Association Float.

 

Our site at the park.  Nice place!

Our site at the park. Nice place!

Dumb Ron:  How about we end with this, huh??  Remember all of the sage advice I’ve given about making reservations well in advance of major holiday weekends?  Well, I didn’t take my own advice.  We didn’t know how long we’d be in Junction City for service, so I have no reservations for this weekend.  We are good here until Friday, and have ample openings for next Monday, but nadda, zippo, zero for Friday, Saturday or Sunday night.  The office has our info, and we will be bugging them for cancellation notices.  Otherwise, we may be staying in Wal-Mart parking lots for the weekend…duh…dummy!!

With that, as always, we hope this finds you Happy, Healthy and Living Your Dreams!!!!

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