Last month we returned from our 3 month, 11,000 mile journey west. The trip was a combination of revisiting some or our favorite places as well as exploring new locations.
We spent more time in Oregon than in any other state on this trip as we really enjoy the variety the state offers. Our favorite new places were Mt. Rainier National Park and Eastern California, especially the area around Bishop and Lee Vining.
Our preference has always been to use public campgrounds (Federal, State, County, City) and not make reservations ahead of time. However, since we had a fixed date to be in Springfield, Oregon, I chose to make reservations for most of our stops in the first month of traveling. It was good that I did as every park we stayed in was fully booked during the times we were there. From mid-September on, we did not reserve ahead and did not get turned away anyplace. It helped that we always arrived mid-day as many of the campgrounds did fill up by the end of the day.
While traveling 11,000 miles through 14 states and 1 province, we only saw two Escapes. A 5.0TA in the parking lot at the Best Western in Chilliwack and Jon V's Escape in the Valley of Fires BLM campground. Seeing Jon parked next to us when we returned from a day trip was a real treat. Jon's was the first Escape we had seen when he gave us a tour in 2013 and it was great to see him again.
I lost track of how many tours we gave though. People followed us to roadside overlooks, followed us into campgrounds, and knocked on our door in campgrounds and parking lots wanting to know more about our little house on wheels.
One objective of this trip was stopping at AM Solar in Springfield, Oregon to have two, 100 watt panels installed; the factory 95 watt panel just wasn't meeting our needs. Once they were installed, I was obsessed (Cheryl's word) with monitoring the daily amps used and amps replaced. My "perfect world" calculations indicated I wouldn't have any problem keeping the batteries fully charged every day. But, in the real world of cloudy days, cold nights, sometimes shaded solar panels, and the reduced efficiency of flat panels in the fall, that didn't happen. Most days, the solar charge did not fully replace what was used.
But, what really counted was the end result. We were off the grid for sixteen consecutive days and didn't make any attempt to reduce our normal power use. At the end of the period, the batteries were only 35% discharged, safely above the goal of not going below 50% discharge.
For comparison with the 95 watt panel; at the end of five days off grid on the sunny Outer Banks this past June, the batteries were 34% discharged. I'm satisfied the upgrade to our solar charging capability was successful.
Not really. Our unmodified RM8551 refrigerator performed quite well on setting 4, even on those few days with temperatures above 90. We always traveled with the refrigerator on propane and didn't have any trouble maintaining the temperatures. We should have defrosted it a couple of months into the trip as the frost buildup on the fins for the refrigerator and freezer was substantial but we waited until we got home.
No problems with the furnace, air conditioner, or hot water heater. I did have to repair the dead bolt part of the door lock mechanism but it was easy to do. The dead bolt is more secure now than it has since we picked up the trailer so I suspect the screws that I found loose inside the lock had never been fully tightened.
There were a couple of "face palm" moments, one while dumping the tanks and one while hitching up, that have become part of our personal traveling memories, and hopefully won't be repeated.
We are "travelers" more than "campers" as we generally use our Escape as a base for exploring and photographing what is in the area rather than staying in one location for a long time. Like many new trailer owners, the things I worried about before actually having the trailer quickly become non-events once we started using the Escape. After spending 11 of the 22 months we have had the trailer traveling around the country, we've figured out what works best for us. As one of our friends said when we told him about our most recent journey, "Boy, you two must really like each other!" Yep, we do.
As always, Cheryl's trip photos, trip statistics, and more information about where we stayed, etc. are on the website in the gallery Escapin #4. The slide show on the home page contains several of our favorite photos from the trip. I've also added a Trip Route link that opens an interactive map of this adventure, clicking on a marker provides more detail about that particular spot (at least it's supposed to).