Idaho Sand Dunes at St Anthony, Idaho, 8/3-8/ 9/2015

Our Foretravel friends, Brad and Phyllis from Virginia, have been telling us about this place since we met them last winter in Parker, AZ. Well mostly Brad, for an old guy (78) he likes to play. It was very close to our way to Oregon so we planned a few days to visit and play in the St Anthony Sand Dunes.  This 35 mile x 5 mile area is sand deposited from white quartz sand that made up the bottoms of two giant lakes more than 10,000 years ago. As the climate warmed and the lakes shrank the wind has blown this sand and sand from the river basins of the Snake and Teton Rivers eastward to form the St Anthiny Sand Dunes.  

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages this area and has a campground at Egin Lakes near St Anthony. This campground is very nice with 50 amp electrical hookups, covered concrete pads, water and a dump station.  The Egin Lakes are a chain of fairly large lakes that hold water for irrigation. Every day we could see the lake levels rise and fall more than a foot as water was added or removed.  They are only about 3 ft deep in the middle so they are a great family recreation resource too.  There is access to the dunes here for off highway vehicles of every type.  There were jeeps, motocycles, ATVs, side by side and four seat ATVs and sand rails (custom built high powered sand machines.  The park has two former Army Hummers which were quite capable.  We also saw many people on horseback.
The sand dunes are up to 600 ft high.  The wind blows from many different directions which changes the shape and slopes of the dunes.  It also scours huge bowls swirling round and round throwing sand up and over the edges.  The biggest of these is Deadhorse Bowl, more than 400 ft deep and 1/3 of a mile across.
Brad saved us a spot right next to him.  The sites backed up to a wooded area.  There are moose in there, I didn’t see any but Brad said he saw two.
The first time out in the dunes I just rode along with Brad.  His 4 seat Can-Am Maverick has lots of power and paddle tires in the back for sand.  It really goes.
Barney always likes to ride along.
The dunes are very big and steep. Hard to get the scale across.

We met these nice folks from Colorado. The guy in the red hat really knew his way around the dunes so it was just fun following him. We were out for more than two hours, pretty much non-stop roller coaster of our own making.  Way, way fun!

Barney is such a nice dog.

Here are some video clips I posted on youtube.  Pretty neat. Never done these before. One was from our dash cam and the others are just hand held iPhone video.  I’d have more but the internet speed has been unfriendly.
We ran into a gang of sand rails, mostly guys our age having loads of fun.

This one was a big V8 with stuff on it I don’t know how to spell.  It sounded like a drag racer and flew off across the sand like one. These guys were lots of fun to talk to.  They would tell you about their thises and thats.  Gear heads.  Honda, Subaru, VW, Chevy and Ford , 4, 6 and 8 cyl engines, 4 to 8 speed  manual transmissions, some had the engines oriented front to back, others back end in front, they used symetric transaxles to change the direction of rotation of the drive wheels to be correct no matter how the engine was oriented.  

Standing start right up a 45° face of a dune, 400 ft high and right over the top and down a slope almost as steep.  Power, traction, momentum, a healthy respect for the sand and about 50% crazy is all it takes, well lots of money too. 
There is the Jeep with Brad’s 4 seat Maverick.

So that’s about it from the dunes.  Next we are off to the Snake River in Idaho and the Columbia River in Oregon.

More later.
Roger and Susan

Summer and Fall, 2015. Following Lewis and Clark

We departed Hastings on Wednesday July 29th, 2015 for a trip out west.  

Our general plan is to go through North Dakota so that we can see Teddy Roosevelt National Park. Then through Montana over the top and down the west side of Yellowstone National Park to St Anthony, ID where there are huge sand dunes to meet up with other Foretrvel friends. Then through ID and up the Snake River to the Columbia River and west to Portland for a couple of days. Then out to the Oregon coast for about three weeks. My sister, Judy and her husband, Bruce have a beach house only a mile or so from where we will be on the coast.  They will be there most of the time we are there.  Fun!  

And then down to Crater Lake National Park for a day or two and then back to Grand Tetons National Park and Yellowstone National Park where we will be for two weeks.  Then we will wander towards home stopping at Devil’s Tower in WY and the Buffalo Roundup at Custer State Park in SD.  We will be in Hastings for about a week to pick apples and then off again to Indiana to a big Foretravel event and back via Michigan’s UP.  Home by the end of October.

Wednesday morning, July 28, 2015. The wagon is loaded, horses hitched, trailer connected and we are ready to hit the trail. Most of the way through North Dakota and Montana we are following the trail of Lewis and Clark. Neither of us can ever remember being in ND before but I must have as a youngster on a family trip to Glacier National Park.

We are ready to go.
Heading West
From Hastings, the only way NW is all around the Twin Cities to I94.  That takes more than an hour.  As we approached Rogers, MN traffic slowed and then came to a stop.  A sign proclaimed a roadway incident ahead, expect delays.  So it was stop and the a very little go and stop for about thirty miles which took more than two hours. It was a section of pavement that failed. Lots of construction folk standing around looking at a hole. These are always patience testing events but there was no good way around and nothing to do but work through it. Good thing we didn’t have any hard itinerary to meet.
We got to Fargo, bought fuel because it was cheaper and headed to the State Fairgrounds campground. Nothing very fancy but for overnight just fine. We met some folks there who were staying for the summer. Not sure why but for $420 they got a shady spot with a paved parking pad, electricity, water and sewer connection. Very inexpensive. They spent the winter in TX. 
To be honest we were dreading the drive across North Dakota.  We expected it to be worse than SD which was sooo boring.  But we were surprised. There is quite a variety of things to look at.  The terrain varies.  Not boring at all.
There miles of sun flowere.  Nice. We got to Mandan and then started following the Lewis and Clark Trail.  It follows the Misouri River westward and later in Montana picks up the Yellowstone River.
We got to Medora, ND only 25 miles from the Montana state line. We stayed at the Red Trails Campground.  On the way there we saw John and Kathy Juelfs heading east in their 2003 Foretravel. They had just been at the same campground for three days. Their coach has teal and cream colors and we remember it from last January when we were in Nacogdoches. They were there shopping for a FT and we (and others) spent quite a bit of time answering questions.  They bought it while we were there.
Medora is a very small town with lots of history.  And it is the entry to the southern part of the Teddy Roosevelt National Park. Virtually everything in this town is devoted to tourism. We wandered through town and checked out all of the shops, eating places, threaters, museums and everything else. They have a big musical theater production about the history of Medora.  There is a theater that has a play every day about Teddy Roosevelt. There is an all you can eat buffet sort of place. A place that serves steaks skewered on a pitch fork and deep fried. I hope they cleaned the pitch fork. We had supper at a small local place called the Cowboy Cafe.  Susan had Chicken Fried Steak, apparently a standard menu offering almost everywhere but Minnesota. She won’t be ordering that again. 
The next morning we got up and drove to the TRNP visitor’s center for a map and some history.  TR came to this area hunting in the 1880’s.  After his wife and mother died on the same day in about 1884 he moved back here to immerse himself in a ranch life, one of hard work and character building.  He lived near Medora for a year and then moved 70 miles north to his Elkhorn Ranch. Some very severe winters and bad luck left his ranching  invetments in shambles, the lessons he learned here, the people and their devotion to the land and honesty and upright character of the people formed the foundation for his future role in the US especially the formation of the National Parks. This park is dedicated to his legacy.

The TRNP is surrounded by the Little Missouri National Grassland. It is a huge are of original prairie grass land.  Where the Little Missouri river has cut through it has that SD badlands look.

We drove on into the park stopping at a couple of overlooks heading for the campground to check it out.  We didn’t quite make it. At one stop the Jeep wouldn’t start. Turn the key, nothing.  Tried jumping it but the battery was OK.  So we got a tow back to the campground and made arrangements for a service stop in Bozeman at the Jeep dealer.  We got there Sunday evening and dropped the Jeep off in front of the service entrance, went to get fuel (everywhere west of here diesel was close to or over $3/gal) and then back for an overnight at the Jeep dealer.
The Jeep was done about noon. Our next stop is St Anthony ID where there are huge sand dunes, places to play. Our frienda Brad and Phyllis Metzger are there along with Barney the wonder dog.  We met then in Parker AZ last winter.
More later,
Roger and Susan.

Hastings, A Mini Foretravel Event, 7/21- 7/29/2015

We were scurrying around trying to get last minute projects done at home and on the coach for our late July departure for “out west.”  Our Foretravel (FT) friends Amanda and Douglas who we met this winter called and said they were going to be our way and wanted to stop by. We knew they were going to try to get here this summer so here they came. They were arriving on the 21st. Then more FT friends Rudy and Carolyn called. They were going to be in Iowa at some event and wondered if they could stop by. They were here last summer too. Of course! They were arriving on the 25th.
So for a 7 days we had a mini get together, three Foretavels and great friends.
Our coach is around the other side of the shop.
Rudy and Carolyn on the left, Amanda and Douglas on the right.  They are all full timers, living all year round in their coaches.  Rudy and Carolyn have a home base near Houston, TX. Amanda and Douglas near Austin, TX.  
We ate well. S’mores several evenings cooked on our gas fire ring..  Rudy had never had them.  He ate several. Actually, we all did.

We ate at the American Legion. Always tasty. 
There was a Car Show in Downtown Hastings that Saturday night.  So we went.
A clown car from Italy, two cylinder motor, think we would fit?  Maybe Rudy.
Lots of restored WWII trucks.  And 1940’s ladies.  They were cute.
And a big V12 diesel hot rod.
And a 1937 camper, very nice.

And more treats.
One evening we went up to Schaar’s Bluff for an evening stroll.  It was beautiful up there looking out over the river as the sun was setting.
And we helped each other out with coach projects.  I helped Rudy put on his air deflector.

Just like mine.  It doesn’t look like much but it helps keep dust and rain away from the air inlet.  I had an air leak in an air regulator under the front end.  We took it off, cleaned it, reinstalled it and no leak. Amanda very carefully washed their coach.  Rudy showed them how to use WashWaxAll (a cleaning, polishing, waxing product) to shine everything up. I helped Rudy tidy up his incoming water manifold and install a new water filter and showed him a 3M dry silicon spray that made his windows much easier to open and close.

Just like on-line, there is a never ending exchange of ideas and help when we need it.  It is a great community of people most of whom we have never met and many really nice ones we have.

And then every one was on their way.  Amanda and Douglas to Madison WI and Rudy and Carolyn to Davenport, IA and Susan and I off to North Dakota.

So for an unplanned, unscheduled impromptu get together we had a great time.  Those kind always seem to be the best.
Next, we depart following Lewis and Clark’s trail to the west coast.
Roger and Susan

Coach Service at Cummins, July, 2015

I took the coach up to Cummins in Shoreview at the end of June for regular maintenance, oil and filters and a transmission service and to have them check a few other things.

This is an exerpt of what I posted on the Foretravel Owners Forum.  This is a story that could have turned out much worse than it did. 
Last fall we had out coach serviced at Cummins. They did all the normal coach service including checking the air filter.  It was OK.  A couple trips after service and then in the barn for the early part of the winter. Early January had us heading to Houston to visit Rudy and then to NAC for work at Xtreme.  Three weeks there and a few more days in NAC and then west to Arizona and New Mexico.  We were on the road for four months.
Somewhere along the way we got a significant amount of water into the air intake, down the snorkel and into the air filter canister where the air filter got wet.
In four months we only drove in the rain one day, from Prescott to Parker, AZ on Feb 28.  There was a really big storm, lots of rain and wind heading south from Prescott, same heading west towards Parker.  The other way, north, west and then south had lots of snow, 20″ at the Grand Canyon. 
Well, the result of this was that the wet air filter failed and air filtration to the engine was compromised.  After leaving Parker we went to the Grand Canyon.  I noticed for the first time ever that there was some oil spatter on the  Jeep and the back end of the coach.  There was oil coming out of the breather tube hanging down on the right side of the Engine. I checked on the Forum, no hints about checking the air filter.  No reason for me to check it but even if I had I think the damage had been done.
Another two thousand miles before we got home.  No performance or mileage  issues.  I did have to add some oil.  This concerned me because the coach has never used any oil at all.
The verdict at Cummins was abnormal engine wear.  
So they started tearing the engine down to see how far the damage extended.  Turbo, charge air cooler (CAC, this is after the turbocharger and cools the high pressure air going into the engine), valves, cam, head, pistons, cylinder sleeves, crank shaft bearings and air compressor all had some damage.  Cummins  recommended a high level in-frame overhaul.  That means they could do the work without removing the engine. I said do it.
The Service Manager at Cummins suggested I check with my insurance company since the damage was caused by rain and water intrusion which caused the air filter to fail and all of the collateral damage.  Good suggestion.
My insurance company agreed after seeing weather reports from that area on that date and the damage reports and pictures from Cummins.  Comprehensive covered it as flood damage, minus my deductible.  And the oil change, coolant change and transmission service were required as part of the rebuild.
So it took Cummins about three weeks to get the parts and do the work.  They even replaced the engine computer (ECM) because it had water damage and was intermittently misbehaving and the fuel pump. They reused the block, the valve cover, the oil pan and the crank shaft and the injectors. Pretty much everything else is new. They ran it on their break in program on the dynomometer (about 30 min). Steam cleaned everything and painted it to look like new.
I picked it up about 10 days before we were leaving on this current trip. The ECM reported to the VMSpc 0.9 hours and 2.7 miles.  35 miles to home, 9.5 mpg on an esentially brand new motor.  Amazing.
So my out of pocket will be my deductable, about what I would have paid for the service anyway.  I bought a spare air filter and I will check the installed one frequently, especially after rain.  I got a deflector for the air intake from John Haygarth.  I had several chats with the engine tech, Arvie, who has more than 30 years with Cummins. He was very deliberate about this job, he was the only one who worked on it.  He saved every part to show me the wear.  He was very careful inside the coach.  Susan says it was very clean, even the outside of the coach.  He commented every time I talked to him that the Foretravel engine access was great to work on.  He showed me a couple other coaches that were not. He was especially impressed with how nice the coach looked after 15 years.  They just don’t see that level of care, pride of ownership and quality on other brands.
The bottom line is check your air filter more often than you are doing now especially after a rain event or a wash down. Get an air deflector.  Reports are that they extend air filter life. And make sure your insurance coverage is adequate for catastrophic events.  
More than 40 forum members reported that they went out to check and then changed their air filters.  At last count more than 25 had ordered John Haygarth’s air deflector.  One of the great things about the forum is that we share our successes and our difficulties. This problem has not happened to any other FT owner that we know of.  It really was an extraordinary event.  If folks are aware, maybe it never will again.
I learned a lot about diesel engines.
Now confidence building starts over with our new engine.  
I now have 27.5 hours on the engine. All is working well. 
We are in Bozeman today, 8/3, getting the starter replaced on the Jeep.  Another something.  Better here than 20 miles off road.