Adventures in Yellowstone: Spring 2021

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it seems you are a magnet for adventure, and a marvellous storyteller indeed. we are loving every episode!
 

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Thanks a lot for all the feedback on our trip. I am glad that so many are following the story.

It is amazing just how many things happened on this trip. Rest assured that this is a real anomaly. We have made many, many trips and have never before had such a collection of problems.

It was a challenge to work through them all. As I think I said before, if Lori and I knew about these issues before the trip, we never would have gone. We are so glad that we did not know about the issues beforehand, because we really experienced some pretty wonderful things on the trip.

And now, back to the story.

When I left off in the last post, we had arrived at the Headwaters campground in Flagg Ranch. That is located between Yellowstone and the Grand Teton national parks.

Our campsite had full hookups (electric, water, and sewer), so we had no worries about being able to run the heater (it worked OK on shore power). It was a miserable campsite, but we really enjoyed being able to relax a bit.

The next morning, we packed up and headed to the Colter Bay campground in the Tetons. It is a nice campground we have stayed at before, but the last time was 25 years ago.

We had a really wonderful campsite at Colter Bay. We had a wonderful view of the top of Mount Moran from the front widow of the motorhome. We had an electrical hookup, but no water or sewer hookup. So, once again, we had no worries about running the heater.

There are many trails in the Tetons, and some of them can be done in a wheelchair. We started off walking on the Lakeshore trail, which goes along the shoreline of Jackson Lake near Colter Bay campground. Parts of it are certainly an adventure in a wheelchair, though. I did it in the Magic Mobility X4 wheelchair, (4 wheel drive with small ATV tires and pretty good ground clearance). We just barely made it through several stretches of the trail. But, we did make it and the views across the lake were fantastic.

On another day, we did the bike path that runs along the foot of the Tetons. This is a fairly new bike path that is wonderful in a wheelchair. There is no adventure involved, just a beautiful asphalt path that is mostly flat. The bike path starts in Jackson, Wyoming and runs for about 30 miles or so. I only did the portion in the park, which is about 8 miles long.

We did that path late in the day and the wildflowers were just magnificent. I will include a few pictures from that trip.

There are also some wonderful trails up into the Tetons that the wheelchair cannot do. For two days, my wife hiked some of those trails while I was left to my own devices. On both of those days, I rode my wheelchair on the bike path along the foot of the Tetons. I never get tired of it. The lighting was not as good as on our first walk, but the views were still magnificent.

We really enjoyed our stay, and the time just seemed to fly by. The weather was very nice, with only 1 day providing a threat of precipitation. Before we knew it, the trip was coming to an end.

I will save stories about our final full day in the Tetons for the next post. Until then, here are some pictures from the Tetons.

Steve
 

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lisa g

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Steve, I'm having a wonderful journey through your story. Watch out for your next trip,you might find some stowaways in your motor home looking for an adventure 😉
 

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I’m sounding like a broken record, Steve, but thanks so much for the lovely descriptions and inspiring, beautiful photos. The memories of our trips to the Tetons have come flooding back, and the pics of the inside of your coach almost gets me emotional thinking of our adventures.

We also stayed at Colter Bay CG on one of our trips, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Best, Kevin
 

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We stayed at the nearby Jackson Lake Lodge with a great view of the mountains. We've found the northeast side of a range is the best location. Like Stanley for the Sawtooths in Idaho. Even our Sierras are amazing seen from the east side in the morning.

Have really enjoyed revisiting the Yellowstone/Tetons with you. Thanks. Betty
 

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bhg, funny you mention the Jackson Lake Lodge. It factors into our story!

Kevin, I am so glad you have been able to follow our tale and to interject your insights and recollections. They have added tremendously to it.

And now, back to our story.

As I have said previously, it really was a great trip, despite the obstacles we had to overcome. Our time in the Tetons was really wonderful, with generally good weather and amazing scenery. I am sure anyone who has been to the Tetons can relate to the amazing views available there.

As our trip wound down, we found ourselves at our last day in the Tetons. That evening we would need to pack the motorhome (no small task), and prepare for our trip home the following day.

But, we still had that last day to enjoy the Tetons. While my wife was puttering around the Motorhome, I decided to take a short, solo wheelchair ride. There was a trail from the campground that allegedly led to Jackson lake. I wanted to try it to see if the wheelchair could do it.

I set off solo in the Magic Mobility X4 four wheel drive wheelchair and found that I could indeed make it all the way to the lake, where there was a wonderful picnic area. Turning south there, I was able to follow the edge of the lake along the swimming beach to a parking area. From there, I made a loop on various sidewalks back to our campsite.

After my wife was finished at the motorhome, we decided to do this path together. It joins up with the Lakeshore trail, and I thought hiking that trail would be a wonderful way to wrap up our trip. We planned to spend most of the rest of the day doing this (perhaps 5 to 10 miles of hiking).

We took the trail to the lake as I had earlier in the day. We then turned south and enjoyed seeing the wonderful views from the trail.

Unfortunately, the views were a bit too good! As my wife was walking along, she was looking at the view instead of the trail and managed to trip over a tree root! She fell hard and had obviously hurt herself. The question was, how badly?

After she did a self assessment, she was a bit concerned about a broken collar bone (Lori is a physical therapist, so knows about these kinds of things). She decided that the best course of action was to continue on our hike. Apparently she shares the same lack of common sense that I am cursed with:).

We hiked for about another mile or so and stopped for lunch. She walked down by the lake, while I had to stay on the trail in my wheelchair. After lunch, she said things were worse, not better. I was not surprised!

We turned around there and headed back to the campsite.

When we got there, we agreed that she should go to an urgent care clinic and get checked out. Of course, by now, it was late on Saturday afternoon. We had no cell phone coverage at the campground and decided we would have to drive toward the closest town (Jackson, Wyoming), to get cell phone coverage and then find out the best place to take her. At this point, her health condition seemed more of an annoyance than being serious. Spoiler alert, it was serious.

When we had driven far enough to get cell phone coverage, we found that all the urgent care clinics in Jackson would be closed by they time we could get to them, not reopening until Monday morning. But, we did find there was a small urgent care clinic at the Lake Jackson Lodge area we had passed a half hour ago. So, we turned around and headed to the Lake Jackson Lodge area..

We arrived there shortly before they closed and Lori was able to be X Rayed and assessed. The opinion was that she had not broken anything and she would be uncomfortable, but OK to drive home over the next 2 days.

My wife knows her body pretty well, and based on her complaints, I was a bit suspicious of this opinion. Jumping ahead, we found after we returned home that she had broken her first rib, which has the potential to be a very serious (even fatal) injury. If you google it, you will find that breaks of the first rib are typically associated with accidents involving severe trauma!

We returned to our campsite and started packing the motorhome. I did what I could, but really I cannot do very much. I really had to rely on her to do the work. I think that was hard on both of us:)!

She was uncomfortable sleeping that night and the next morning neither she nor I were not at all convinced she could drive. This was a problem, as we had 2 vehicles (motorhome and wheelchair van) and we absolutely had to vacate the campsite by 11:00 AM. What to do?

After much deliberation, she finally decided she would be able to drive and we departed the campground for our drive to Craig, Colorado.

The drive to Craig was quite eventful! I have not yet mentioned it, but I had been tracking the oil consumption of our motorhome and it was using a LOT of oil. In fact, we were going through about 1 quart every 50 miles. Whether it was some catastrophic failure, an issue due to the bad fuel we had on our way to Yellowstone, or operator error, we could not know at the time. But, it meant we had to stop about every 100 miles to check the oil and add oil as necessary. That made for an even longer drive.

And, there was an oil shortage. We carry spare oil with us when travelling, but we did not have enough to make it to Craig, Colorado. We stopped at many places on the drive to Craig looking for oil, but did not find any until we got to the Walmart at Rock Springs, Wyoming. My wife, injury and all, went into Walmart and bought 3 gallons of oil (all they had), which turned out to be enough to get us home.

And, there was still a many-miles-long stretch of road construction (reduced to 1 lane of soft dirt road) on the drive between Baggs, Wyoming and Craig, Colorado. It was awful. We made it through, though, and eventually pulled into the Walmart parking lot in Craig to spend the night. I was absolutely spent! We had called ahead and received permission to park there overnight, so long as we only spent 1 night there.

The adventure was not quite over, though. Craig is much lower than were we had been on the trip and was downright hot. It was 90 degrees in the motorhome. Our bed sits right on top of the engine compartment, which was close to 200 degrees (F) when we pulled into the Walmart parking lot. It seemed like a good idea to fire up the generator and start the 2 air conditioners.

We started the generator, it ran for 20 seconds, and then shut down (a problem we had experienced at the beginning of the trip). Without the generator running, we could not run the air conditioners to cool down the motorhome. At that point, I did not have the capacity to investigate the generator further, so we spent the night in an uncomfortably warm motorhome.

It was a long, hard day full of challenges, but in the end, we made it to Craig, Colorado and only had about 3 hours of driving the next day to make it home. I can't say enough about how well my wife handled all this while injured. She was a real trooper.

It was also a wakeup call about just how much I depend on her to be able to do the things I simply cannot do!

Our adventures were not yet over, though. I will cover the events of the next day in my next post.

Here is a picture of Lori eating lunch after her injury!

Steve
 

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KevinM

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I’m exhausted, Steve, and so glad Lori (and of course you) made it home safely and is mending.

After your final trip post, I would love to hear about the list of repairs to the coach And the current status. Even if this was really the first real shakedown trip, I have never heard of so many problems. Knowing you, I have no doubt you tested and retested everything before buying, but it’s hard for me to get my head around so many failures.

All I can say is your adventure featured more joy and misery than most folks have in a year. Best, Kevin
 

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Kevin, I plan to have a post in this thread with a summary of the motorhome issues and an update on where we stand with the repairs.

For now, I will say that we packed a lot of "motorhome shakedown" into this trip. We thought we did that in our fall 2019 trip, but found that we had some improperly repaired items, repaired items that allowed other issues to reveal themselves, and some new issues. And, yes, we did have the motorhome thoroughly inspected before we purchased it. But, some things are hard to find in an inspection (our particular problem with the heater, the leaking slide, the intermittent water pump issue, etc.).

I am getting near the end of our story. We woke up on Sunday morning in the Walmart parking lot in Craig, Colorado. By car, that is about 2.5 hours home. By motorhome, that should be about 3 hours. It took us a lot longer:).

As we were preparing the motorhome for departure, my wife raised her arm a bit and heard a crack. She knew it was not good. There was a lot of pain and her ability to move her arms was impaired.

In hindsight, we discovered that she had probably rearranged or further broken her first rib. At the time, we did not yet know she had a broken rib. But, she seemed unable to drive. At all.

We had been allowed to stay in the Walmart parking lot under the condition that we were only there for 1 night. That night was behind us. What to do now?

We looked around for nearby campgrounds, thinking I could drive the motorhome there and perhaps catch an uber back to Walmart to fetch the van. The closest campground with space was 100 miles away!

It was time to formulate a plan B. I had been thinking about why the generator would not stay running the night before and decided to give my wife some time to recover while I worked on the generator. So, I went to the generator, turned off the circuit breaker (that would put a load on the generator to provide power to the motorhome) and started the generator. I let it run for about 20 minutes, hoping that it cleared some bad fuel out of the fuel lines and fuel filter. This seemed to work, as the generator continued running when I turned the circuit breaker back on.

After that, we reassessed my wife's condition. She thought that maybe she could drive. I was a bit skeptical, but we finished packing up the motorhome and headed for home.

It was a very hot day (temperature records were broken all along our path from Craig, Colorado to our home). The motorhome's engine was getting warm everytime we went up a significant hill. There were many significant hills. I drove the motorhome very slowly and in a low gear to keep it from overheating on these hills. After awhile, I had to pull over and let it cool down.

We continued on and finally came to the biggest hill. There were no pullouts on this hill and it was a narrow two-lane road. As we were about half way up the hill, the engine was getting alarmingly hot. It was just a few degrees away from what I had previously decided was the maximum temperature I was willing reach. Fortunately, we passed the ranch entrance that was barely (and I do mean barely) big enough to pull the motorhome into. We were very fortunate to find that spot.

We stayed there for about 20 minutes to let it cool down. We were around a blind curve and the end of the motorhome was not off the road by very much at all. I was pretty nervous the whole time.

We continued on and I was able to keep the motorhome's temperature low enough to prevent damage. We had to stop at a dump station and dump the black and gray water tanks on our way home.

We finally made it to our home at about 4:30 pm. The outside temperature was 94 degrees (F). That broke a record. We would normally expect it to be in the 70s (F) that time of year).

What a drive. By the time we arrived home both my wife and I were absolutely spent. But, against all odds, we had completed the trip. With all that happened, I was kind of surprised we actually made it home.

Steve
 

KevinM

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Thanks so much for this post, Steve. Can‘t wait for the after-trip summary. Kevin
 

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just totally fantastic WOW!
 

swalker

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I am glad that folks have been able to follow along on the adventure that was our trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks!

As I have said before, if my wife and I had known what was going to happen on that trip, we would have never left home. It is remarkable how things just kept cropping up!

We arrived home late in the afternoon on Monday. We collapsed and recovered the best we could.

The next day, my wife was able to be seen by her local doctor and specialists about her rib injury. They found that she had indeed broken a rib and that it was her first rib on her left side. My wife is a physical therapist and so she knew the significance of that injury. I, of course, was clueless:).

So, she was pretty much out of action for awhile. Now, 6 weeks later, she is doing much better. She has been able to go on some long hikes and is planning on climbing Mt Sopris in a couple of weeks.

Obviously, we needed to arrange for some repairs to be done to our motorhome. Many people have bought motorhomes and other RVs during Covid. That has driven up the demand placed on RV repair shops beyond their capacity. It turns out getting an appointment to get a motorhome worked on is a challenge all in itself.

Anticipating this, we had called during our trip and scheduled an appointment for the Friday after we got home to have the leaking slide worked on. So, we had Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday to recover a bit before we had to drive the motorhome 3 hours to Grand Junction, Colorado for service.

In the meantime, there were some things we thought we could take care of ourselves. A significant one was to replace the combustion fan motor on our heater. I had concluded this was the likely cause of the heater problems we had. We had ordered a part during the trip and it was waiting for us when we returned home. We did manage to get that installed, but were only able to run a brief test. Fortunately, that did seem to fix the problem. We will know more when the weather turns cold (probably on our Fall trip to Yellowstone:)).

On that Friday, we drove the motorhome to Grand Junction to get the leaking slideout repaired. By the time we drove there, discussed the slide out issue with the repair shop, and returned home, it was a 7 hour day. I was once again exhausted.

It took them 2.5 weeks to do that work. Once they had finished the work, we again drove to Grand Junction to pick up the motorhome. When we arrived to pick up the motorhome, they informed us the slideout still leaked, but in a different place! A brief look at it allowed me to figure out a likely reason why it is leaking. We will need to take it back to them to complete the work. Frustrating!

We had arranged to have the chassis stuff (engine, etc.) done by another shop, so we needed to drive the motorhome over there. It was about a 3 mile drive from the first shop. It took half an our because of a malfunctioning traffic light. We called to report it and the authorities warned us not to violate the light. There were barriers that prevented us from leaving the lane we were in and traffic cameras were aimed right at the motorhome, so I followed their orders. The traffic behind us became nasty and people's tempers flared. I was concerned about things turning violent (numerous irate folks left their vehicles to come yell at me). After waiting at the light for over 20 minutes it finally turned green and I was able to proceed.

We dropped the motorhome off at the other repair shop to have the engine, transmission, etc. looked at and returned home.

That trip to Grand Junction was interesting. There was a large forest fire in the summer of 2020 that burned through Glenwood Canyon, Colorado. The interstate (I 70) that we take on our trips to Grand Junction runs through that canyon. Going around that canyon adds about 3 hours (each direction) to the trip.

This summer, there have been some thunderstorms that have caused mudflows in the burn scar from the 2020 fire. These mud flows have been large enough to inundate the interstate and leave mud up to 9 feet deep, blocking the interstate through Glenwood Canyon. That has caused the Glenwood Canyon portion of the interstate highway to be closed numerous times this summer, including for several days before that second trip to Grand Junction.

As we drove through Glenwood Canyon on our way back home, there was a flash flood watch. We were concerned they were going to close the stretch through Glenwood Canyon, forcing us to take the very long detour. I was thinking my body just would not be happy with that! Fortunately, we were able to make it through the canyon without issue. We were concerned, though.

We knew that when we dropped the motorhome off at the second shop there were 42 vehicles ahead of us! They were only taking drop offs and looking at them on a first come first served basis. Yesterday, 3 weeks to the day since we dropped it off, we received a call saying that it was finally our turn. We still have not heard anything about what the potential engine problems might be.

Each time I think I might be getting to the end of our story, it seems like there is more to tell. And, there is more to tell, so I will continue the story in my next post.

Steve
 

KevinM

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I’m so glad Lori has mended and is getting back to full strength.

When the RV repair shop called to let you know the slide work had been completed, did they mention that it still leaked? If not, that is unconscionable.

It is a shame there aren’t more RV repair places closer, Steve. As with many businesses now, there is probably a shortage of experienced techs and they have limited staff. Kevin
 

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We have not yet heard back from the shop looking into the engine issues, but I thought it would be interesting to give you an idea of where we are on the various issues we ran into on our trip. It is currently in the shop to have the engine, transmission, and generator evaluated.

1. The kitchen sink drain. It is functional, but we need to redo the plumbing to address what initially caused it to fail. It appears that a previous owner had shortened the flexible pipe by an inch or so, which is the root cause of the failure we experienced. We need to replace that with one of the appropriate length and use the correct cement to secure it in place. This is not an urgent issue and will probably not be addressed until next year.

2. The leaking galley slide out. After arriving home we had the slide out seals replaced again (under warranty). The shop told us the slide does not leak when it is out, but does leak in one (new) place when it is in. I have not been at the coach long enough to verify this or to understand the problem. However, I looked at it quickly and it seems pretty obvious to me why it is leaking. I will need to verify this and take it back to that shop to be repaired.

3. The Hurricane hydronic heater. We replaced the heater's combustion fan motor and initial testing showed this probably fixed the problem. We did not have time to test it thoroughly, so will have to do that when we get the motorhome back from the shop. Hopefully, that issue is really fixed!

4. The shower only producing scalding water. We tried to replace the balancing spool in the shower's mixing valve, but the old balancing spool was seized and could not be removed. We will have to pursue this further when we get the motorhome back.

5. The water pump failure. The water pump failure is intermittent and hard to reproduce. We don't know what to do at this point except to simply replace the pump. We may have the shop try to diagnose this when take the motorhome in to have the galley slide out leak repaired (again).

6. The generator shutting down after being on for about 20 seconds. I am pretty sure this is due to bad fuel, but that has not yet been confirmed by the shop. It should simply need a complete service (oil, oil filter, fuel filter, air filter, etc.). We hope to know more soon.

7. The engine using oil. We don't have any update on this yet, but should hear something soon.

8. The engine coolant is low. We don't have any update on this yet, but should hear something soon.

9. The engine getting hot. We don't have any update on this yet, but it seems likely the root cause is the low engine coolant. We hope to hear something about this soon.

10. The transmission getting hot. We don't have any update on this yet, but should hear something soon.

I will update this with new information as it arrives. Obviously, the scary items are the ones involving the engine and transmission. Those can get very expensive very quickly.

Steve
 
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KevinM

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Thanks Steve. Hell of a list...
 

swalker

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It has been over 7 weeks since we dropped our motorhome off at the diesel shop to have the engine looked at. The symptoms were that we were using excessive oil (50 to 200 miles per quart), the engine was getting hot, and the transmission was getting hot.

Due to covid the diesel shop has been overwhelmed. Eventually, they were able to start diagnosing the engine problems. Initial diagnosis was not looking too good and they decided they needed to pull the head to look at the pistons and cylinders.

Testing indicated that there was significant blow by. When they removed the head they found evidence the engine was "dusted". That means unclean air (with fine particles of abrasive dirt) was ingested via the air intake and turbo. Those abrasives damaged the turbo and abraded the cylinders so that oil blows by the piston rings.

The shop said it appears this is old damage which occurred long before we bought the motorhome used. We had it thoroughly inspected before we bought it, but apparently the inspection was not thorough enough!

The solution is to either do an in frame rebuild (that is, rebuild the engine while it is still in the motorhome) or to replace the engine with a factory rebuilt one. We will need a new head and a new turbo as well. Everything about a large diesel engine is expensive, and this project will be no exception.

The shop is still finalizing the estimates for these alternatives and we have an estimate coming in from another shop as well.

As all this has unfolded, I have been very torn about which way to go. "Camping" is only possible with something like this motorhome. I want to camp as long as I can. But, I considered deeply whether or not this is the time to throw in the towel and sell the motorhome as is (revealing the issues to the future owner).

After a lot of hard thought, I decided that it is not yet time to give up "camping". My wife and I discussed it in depth and have decided we will move forward with the repair once we have final estimates and can decide whether to do an in frame rebuild or go with a replacement engine.

In the meantime, this has dragged out long enough that it is causing us to at least postpone and likely cancel our planned fall trip to Yellowstone.

As many who read this will have already figured out, I enjoy overcoming challenges. I don't seek out challenges like this, but seem to have the ability to persevere and overcome them. I find it very rewarding to overcome such obstacles. It will be expensive, but we had put aside a reserve when we purchased the motorhome so we could cover this kind of an unexpected expense.

I will keep you updated as we find out more.

Steve
 
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