Jun 292010

We left the Oceano, Elks campground a little after 9 a.m. and headed north on U.S. Highway 101. Morning fog was lingering over the coast, and according to the dashboard thermometer in my Winnebago motorhome, the outside temperature was 60 degrees.

As we moved further inland, the fog dissipated and the temperature began to climb. 45 miles north, in Paso Robles, it was 75 degrees, and it continued to climb all day long.

Before long we were in the Salinas Valley, known as the Salad Bowl of the World due to the huge amounts of produce grown here. The climate is perfect for growing everything from strawberries, lettuce, tomatoes, and spinach to broccoli, cauliflower, and celery.

Produce fields 3

Produce fields 2 

And grapes. Lots and lots of grapes. The entire central coast region of California seems to be one massive grape arbor, and wineries abound.


This is Steinbeck country, made famous by the author of such American classics as Of Mice And Men, The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden, and Cannery Row. I cut my reading teeth on John Steinbeck’s works, and I believe his road odyssey Travels With Charley is responsible for the wanderlust that I have carried all of my life. While we’re in the area we plan to tour the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, and I’m really looking forward to it.

Near Salinas we saw a heavy curtain of fog and low clouds, the result of rising inland temperatures drawing the marine layer in off Monterey Bay. 

Traffic picked up considerably in Salinas, and continued all the way into Morgan Hill, where we left the highway and drove about five miles on local roads to the Morgan Hill Thousand Trails preserve. When we arrived at the ranger check-in station, it was 97 degrees. We had traveled 180 miles, but it was like we were in a different world altogether. A very hot, different world.

We have never been to this Thousand Trails campground before, but it is typical of most of the Thousand Trails we have been in – gravel roads and RV sites, 30 amp water and electric, a dump station, and quite a few electrical pedestals covered up because they don’t work. At too many of the preserves we have been in, upkeep and maintenance seems to be a low priority.

RVs Morgan Hill TTN

We noted a sign at the campground’s entrance saying that Thousand Trails is now open to the general public, making me question why we continue to pay our annual dues. And to wonder even more, why do people continue to shell out big bucks for new memberships. We got our used nationwide Thousand Trails/NACO membership for $100, so if we ever decide to walk away from it, we won’t lose anything. It’s a subject we have to do some thinking about in the not too distant future.

This campground has a lot of trees, but a large open area as well, so we had our choice of either a shaded site or one in the open. With the holiday weekend coming, a lot of families with kids will be here, and they tend to gravitate toward the shaded areas. I’ll trade a little bit of shade for a quiet spot and a good view of the sky for TV reception any day. That’s why Winnebago includes awnings and air conditioners with their motorhomes.

The campground was pretty full, but we had no problem finding a level, pull-thru site with a good view of the sky for our roof mounted automatic Winegard TV dish. As soon as we were plugged in, we fired up our basement air conditioner to cool the interior of the motorhome down.

Winnie at Morgan Hill TTN

But first, we made a stop at the dump station. You know that old saying “sh!% happens?” Well, It happens to even the most experienced RVers. I don’t know what went wrong, but when I opened the plastic cap on our sewer connection to put the hose on, a big gush of nasty flew out. I jumped back in time to get out of the way, and quickly slapped the cap back on and secured it.

Could I have left the valve open? I doubted it, since I had dumped a week ago when we left Williams, Arizona, and I had seen no indication of a problem since then. A quick check showed the valves to both the black and gray tank were closed securely, so all I can guess is that we may have a seal leaking. I carefully removed the cap again, ready to get the sewer hose in place in a hurry, but whatever was in the short section of pipe had already spilled out. I finished dumping, cleaned up the mess, and made a note to watch the valve and see if this was a one time oddball occurrence, or a problem that must be dealt with soon.

We’ll be here a few days, maybe as much as two weeks. Definitely until after the Independence Day holiday, because we learned early in our fulltiming life that we want to be off the road and in a campsite well before any summer holiday. There are a few things we want to see and do in this area, before we head on down the road to our next adventure.

Thought For The Day – A father is a banker provided by nature.

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Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  14 Responses to “180 Miles And 37 Degrees”

  1. Good Morning
    Sounds like RV the movie. nothing like an emergency to make us move like a ‘Vette in reverse. On our Silver Eagle when I pull the cap off about 1/4 cup of semi filtered liquid is there. I also have made the note to be both watchful and carefull knowing a task is in the future.
    Continue enjoying your ‘vacation’. We are in SD becoming residents today is drivers license day.

  2. Hi Nick,
    We had the same thing happen to us concerning the “sewer mishap”, but only ONCE. Take a look at one of those clear sewer connections which attach before your sewer hose. It won’t solve the leaking valve problem (if that’s the case), but at least you’ll be able to see that you’re about to be dumped on.

  3. That’s why I added one of those twist on gate valves to my sewer outlet. I can than attatch my sewer hose to it, open that valve, than the other valves. It saves a lot of clean up just in case…

  4. That’s the nice thing about macerators, but you know that.

  5. Oops, glad it was just a small spill. Mike has had that happen to him once and that was the only time thank heavens. It seems that more and more membership parks are opening up to the public. We are CRA members and the park in Yuma did the same thing but they did it for KOA they also charge $65 a night. We have our membership up for sale since we will not be spending the summers in AZ any longer. We know we are going to take a big hit as far as money goes. With these companies charging $5,000 or so if you do not go thru a resale agent and they still charge a very high maintenance fee yearly. I guess they must make money some how with the economy as iffy as it is right now. Have safe travels

  6. Nick with the macerator system you can put the end of the hose near the inlet to the dump site, turn it upright, take off the little cap and place the end in the receptacle. no mess and no fuss. I feel that it was one of my better investments. Ron

  7. Nick, you might want to check the Thousand Trails website to see how they have just changed. $499 a year for a “zone” and 30 days free camping in the zone per year or $3 per night after the 30 days…at least that’s how I read it. Some people are saying it’s a great deal – others are saying the parks are very run down.

  8. Yeah, TTN is having problems, and that’s a shame, ’cause we bought our membership when the price was higher than at any time since, and we bought into all the upgrades, etc. But we never ever considered in an investment to get out of someday. It was an investment in our retirement. Now it’s going to have to be dumping the membership for a trifle and save ourselves the dues.

    Had that little gusher event one time only. Don’t ever want it again!

  9. If ya haven’t had that happen to you at least once (or more) you just ain’t RVing. Such is life. Flush out the valve when you flush the tank by opening and closing. Most likely a piece of TP is in there.

    Bet you didn’t know you could move that quickly.


  10. Nick: This past spring at the Slabs, I opened up the sewer storage compartment one day and for some reason wanted to move the hose that I always leave connected. Upps, it was full something. Assuming that it was the black valve seals, we did some checking. The replacement assembly was well over a hundred dollars. Winnebago or their dealers do not stock the seals alone.

    Online, Valteria seals are about $6 a pair. We found an RV dealer in Brawley (CA) that had some, so we made a quick trip and acquired two sets of seals .

    Assuming your Ultimate is similar to our Meridian 36G, the two tanks drain downward into an elbow. Each elbow is connected to the valve assembly via a rubber coupling (only available from Winnebago).

    After a good dump, we parked so that the dump assembly was on the shady side and used the jacks to tilt the rig so that there was not residual drainage out the valve. We then loosened the rubber coupling clamps and moved both coupling towards the elbow and away from the valves. With a little pull, the valve assembly clears the coupling and you have the entire assembly in your hands.

    Replace the seals and reassemble the parts. We coated all seals with silicon grease (Ace Hardware, 2 inch tub of white grease, $5) prior to assembly. The tank side of the gate valve was as rough as sand paper and ate the seal. We used Lime Away to remove the lime and now our valves have never worked so well.

    The idea of working on anything in the black tank area is revolting, but as long as you have water to rinse it all down, it was less than a 30 minute job for this first timer.

    I’d suggest that you put a garden hose fitting on it so that you can remove the small cap first. Have fun.


  11. The Thousand Trails issue is causing me to also question why I keep paying annual dues to what was supposed to be a private membership park system. If not for the fact that we use the system 50-100 nights a year, keeping our per night cost between $6-12 per night, and much more affordable than most other options, we would be out of this membership in a heartbeat. This problem just elevated another notch when we checked into the Little Diamond T.T. in eastern WA. KOA is now the primary face of this park, and lots of construction (new electric, water, and gravel roads) was taking place in the premier section of the park. After talking to Mike, the park manager, this particular park, due to low occupancy, was due to be closed, so the parent company of T.T., Equity Lifestyle Properties, is dumping a bunch of money into Little Diamond, in order to upgrade to KOA’s standards. Here’s the kicker……part of all T.T. members dues are being used to upgrade this park, and not for the benefit of T.T. members, but for the benefit of the general public, via KOA! I understand bottom line and cash flow, but, if this trend continues, it will be increasingly difficult to find suitable parking places, as KOA, annual site programs, parks open to the public, etc are taking a huge chunk out of the campsite pool. Everyone’s T.T. membership has been devalued considerably over the last few years.

  12. Nick,

    We took your advice before starting to full-time to avoid buying into ANY membership plans.

    Thanks for saving us a bunch of money.

  13. Oh boy! The sewer dance happened to me in Rapid City a few years ago. Now I’m still on the lookout ……. the fear never leaves.

    We’re in Cannon Beach, Oregon …….. yesterday I watched a doofus across the street unhooking and at the finish he proceded to wash out his sewer hose with his white water hose. All the “juice” went on the ground. Then he wound everything up and stowed it in the basement. All this bare handed. Oh yeah, he turned off the water faucet with those pretty little hands too.
    Some people think I’m obsessive because I use rubber gloves and bleach when I hook/unhook. Annnnd I don’t wash out the hose at the campground.

  14. OH JIM. . .I am soooo with you. . .I also use gloves, and bleach. . .I keep a bottle of Clorox Cleanup in the compartment where all the valves are. . .everything gets a spray down before, and after I touch it. . .germs are nasty little buggers. . .

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