Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Staying dry-side

We are at La Pine State Park, on the Deschutes river (map).

After looking again at the agenda for Bus'n'USA, and a last glance at the weather forecast, we decided to stay on the east side of the Cascades, AKA "the dry side," and forgo the few hours we would have had at the rally. Really, we were just hoping to catch up with old friends over cocktails and maybe dinner tonight, but with temps in the high 90s, we're guessing folks won't be sitting around the campfire, as it were, until sometime past 8ish. Also, I'm guessing that several of the folks we'd like to reconnect with won't even come in until sometime tomorrow (one person we heard from won't arrive until Friday). And the only items on the agenda tomorrow morning are exhibit hours and coffee -- we'd have to leave before the first seminar starts.

So my apologies to anyone who was hoping to catch up with us in Rickreall -- perhaps we will see you elsewhere on the road.

That decision took a lot of time pressure off our travel plan to Tahoe (if we left Rickreall tomorrow afternoon, we'd have just two days -- faster than we like to travel, with no safety margin). Instead, we headed directly south on US97, with our first waypoint at a fuel stop in Bend. You may recall I was lamenting having to bypass Troutdale, where our price for diesel at the Flying-J would have been $2.709. However, one of my on-line resources indicated $2.699 diesel at a no-name station in Bend (Space Age Fuel), so that's where we went.

This is, of course, a "normal" gas station, with no truck island, and so, after jockeying around to even get in the joint (one of the two driveways was too highly inflected for Odyssey), we pulled under the canopy to the lone diesel dispenser. The attendant (you do know that there is no self-service in Oregon, right?) was dumbfounded when, after confirming that cash and credit were the same price, I said "I'll take $700 worth, please." It took nearly an hour to put 260 gallons in through the little automotive-sized nozzle, and, since their system could only handle a maximum of $300 per transaction, we had to split it into three chunks and I had to pay three times (prompting a fraud-alert call from Discover Card). But we were less than an eighth of a tank from empty, and $2.699 is not only the cheapest diesel in all of Oregon, but also the cheapest we will see anywhere west of Louisiana, at least at the moment.

Fortunately, their diesel dispenser was double-sided, so others could fuel while we sat there for an hour, but the line on that side was always three or four deep. Most folks waiting were pleasant, and curious about the bus, but I think we got a couple of dirty looks as well.

Our thought had been to head into the hills after Bend, spending the night in the Cascade Lakes region where the combination of heavy forest, lake surface, and another few hundred feet of elevation would have the temperatures in the more comfortable low 80s. By the time we were done fueling, though, the mercury was already falling, and we decided to come here, where there would be (so we thought) power to run our air conditioning if needed.

This is a really nice park, with a lovely trail along the Deschutes that we walked this morning. The river is both swift and deep here, and it looks like nice swimming if you stay close to the shore on the inside bend, in relatively slack water. But the river is cold, and it wasn't nearly hot enough this morning to want to dunk in water that cool. But back to the power: we drove around both the "electric/water only" and "full hookup" (same price: $17) loops, and discovered that all the power here is 20-amp -- barely enough to run one air conditioner, but that was plenty by the time we pulled in around 7pm. So we parked in the more primitive non-sewer loop, which has much more widely-space and private sites.

I hauled out the 10-gauge cord (the one with the 5-15P household plug on it), dialed the inverter down to a maximum 18-amp draw, and got us plugged in. We turned the water heater off to avoid using the batteries while the A/C was running, and all seemed normal. After dinner, temps had dropped into the 70s and we turned the A/C off, opened the windows and vents, and turned the water heater back on. So far, so good. In the meantime, the batteries had been charging slowly from whatever headroom was available in our 18-amp service.

I watched a little TV while the water got hot, and sometime after midnight got up to wash the dishes and head to bed (Louise had already turned in, as she seldom stays up past midnight). And then I noticed that the inverter was inverting, and claiming no input power. Must have tripped the outside breaker, I thought -- odd, considering I had just checked on load and draw around 10:30 and all was fine, and had been since we hooked up around 7. Oh well -- head outside to reset it.

On reaching the pedestal I immediately noticed that the breaker was not tripped. However, no power at the outlet, and now I see why: the molded rubber plug on our cord is melted, and the outlet where it is connected is scorched. Harumph. So there I am in the pitch black, at 1:something in the morning with a flashlight in my mouth, disassembling the park outlet.

Unsurprisingly, given the general condition of the pedestals and the massive code violations I had already noted before we even plugged in, I found improper workmanship on the connections inside the box. While the ground and neutral wires were solid, the hot wire was stranded, and completely fried off at the receptacle end, while partly fried and loose at the breaker end. The neutral was not properly looped around the terminal screw, either -- just tucked, and I surmised that the hot wire had been hanging on to its terminal by only a few strands. This, of course, resulted in ohmic heating of that side of the outlet, so much so that it fried the outlet and melted our plug. (To boot, the outlet itself was a 15-amp model, while the breaker was a 20, which really calls for either a 20-amp or a combination 15/20 amp receptacle.)

At that hour of the morning I was not about to rummage around in the bus for some fresh wire and an outlet (although we carry both). Instead I cut the worst 3/4" off both ends of the already short hot wire, tightly twisted both ends, took a full wrap around the one remaining good terminal screw on the duplex receptacle, tightly clamped the other end into the breaker, reassembled the pedestal, cleaned the carbon off our plug, and plugged back in to the unscorched half of the receptacle. I also dialed our power draw down to 15 amps, and so far no further problems. I really should send the park a bill.

In a few minutes we will head out. We'll either continue down 97 to Klamath falls, then angle in towards the sierras, or we'll cut across on Oregon 31 to US395.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Share your comments on this post! We currently allow anyone to comment without registering. If you choose to use the "anonymous" option, please add your name or nickname to the bottom of your comment, within the main comment box. Getting feedback signed simply "anonymous" is kind of like having strangers shout things at us on the street: a bit disconcerting. Thanks!