Travel Day – from Coos Bay to Newport

Monday (June 7): It was time to pack up and advance to my next destination: South Beach SP near Newport. I left Sunset Bay campground a little after noon; the drive was estimated at two hours, but with some planned stops I guessed it would be late afternoon before I finished the day,

My first side trip was to check out the Umpqua Lighthouse, just a few miles off Highway 101 near Reedsport. The lighthouse was located among some older buildings and was surrounded by a fence. Signs in the area indicated that no tours were available. A nearby museum and gift shop were both open and a few visitors roamed the grounds.

Umpqua Lighthouse
Umpqua Lighthouse
Museum at Umpqua Lighthouse
Museum at Umpqua Lighthouse

I didn’t spend much time in the area and noticed I was getting hungry for some lunch. I planned to stop in Florence for a meal so I continued north. I rolled in to Florence around 1:30 in the afternoon, found a large parking space near the waterfront and began exploring. The waterfront has several streets of stores, restaurants, art galleries and coffee shops. A few restaurants with water views were also open. Before eating I walked around the spectacular bridge that spans the Siuslaw River. It is one of the several bridges designed by Conde McCullough, a bridge engineer for the Oregon State Highway Department in the 1930’s.

The bridge over the Siuslaw River at Florence Oregon
The bridge over the Siuslaw River at Florence Oregon
Bridge on the Siuslaw River at Florence Oregon
Walking under the bridge on the Siuslaw River at Florence Oregon
Walking on the bridge over the Siuslaw River at Florence Oregon
Walking on the bridge over the Siuslaw River at Florence Oregon
Florence Oregon's waterfront on the Siuslaw River
Florence Oregon’s waterfront on the Siuslaw River

I took the above photo of the waterfront from the middle span of the bridge. I don’t tolerate high locations with wide open spaces, so walking along the bridge’s narrow walkway next to speeding cars was a test of nerves. Thankfully, nobody got the impulse to lay on their horn while passing me.

That was enough excitement for one day, so I sat down at an outdoor table at the International C-Food restaurant overlooking the harbor. It was a pleasant day and the large restaurant building blocked most of the strong breeze. I ordered fish and chips and chowder for lunch (my third tasting of this combination for this trip.) I think this restaurant’s chowder was just as good as the Brookings Hungry Clam’s chowder. I still give a nod to the Hungry Clam for their more generous serving, though.

Harbor at Florence Oregon
My view during lunch of the harbor in Florence

After finishing lunch I planned my next diversion. I knew the Haceda Head lighthouse was just a few miles north of Florence and I had read that some great views of the lighthouse were available at turnouts along the edge of the highway. I scoped out the area on Google satellite maps and strategized my attack: I would drive past the turnouts to identify the best ones and then turn around at the lighthouse parking lot and return on HWY 101 to the turnouts. As I drove near the area, I could see the incredible views of the coastline and lighthouse and picked out the best turnout.

I continued up to the parking lot to excitedly begin my return trip. However, I managed to end up in the part of the parking lot that had a sign posted (much too late to be useful) that there was no trailer turnaround. The parking lot was one driveway with right-angle parking spaces on each side and a dead end at the far end. Several cars and people were actively moving about and I knew this was going to be very interesting. Trying to remain calm, I scoped out a couple of open parking spaces on my left and an open one on the right and decided I was going to turn my trailer around in spite of that damn sign’s opinion. Immediately I noticed several cars waiting behind me, so the pressure was on.

After a couple of the back and forth maneuvers I got the hang of it and got the heck out of there in a hurry. That was enough excitement for one day, so I took a deep breath and aimed my car for the highway turnout. It was open when I arrived and the view was better than I could have imagined. The sky was clear blue with puffy white clouds, the water below was blue with terrific waves crashing on the beach, and the lighthouse stood out sharply against the rocky terrain. After the mundane view of the Umpqua Lighthouse, the Haceda Head Lighthouse overachieved. Not satisfied to show you just one photo, I’ve included four images from wide to up close.

Haceda Head Lighthouse
The Haceda Head Lighthouse from afar
The Haceda Head Lighthouse
The Haceda Head Lighthouse
The Haceda Head Lighthouse
The Haceda Head Lighthouse
The Haceda Head Lighthouse
The Haceda Head Lighthouse up close

I was satisfied with all the effort it took to get to this point and capture these images. Now I had just one more u-turn to make to get back on the path to Newport. Rather than drive farther south to find a suitable place to turn around, I quickly flipped the u-turn right out of the turnout when traffic was clear and drove north again. I should have layed some rubber just for effect. I continued on leisurely and enjoyed the remainder of the drive.

Another interesting bridge along the shoreline
The Alsea Bay Bridge
The Alsea Bay bridge at Waldport.

I reached South Beach State Park and parked in my campsite around 7:00pm. After the lengthy time in the car, I was ready to set up and wind down. However, when I opened up my trailer I was greeted at the door by a jar of salsa. Looking up I noticed the refrigerator door slightly ajar and several other food items strewn across the floor. Annoyed but not dismayed, I started to gather the items and then I noticed something awful. A large plastic jug was laying on it side on the floor near the rear of the trailer. This was the jug that had a block of ice in it to help keep the fridge cold during the drive. But the block of ice was very small and the puddle of water (previously know as ice) on the floor was very large. I knew water damage was serious and began quickly emptying out my trailer. I located the places where the water had reached inside some of the compartments and dried it up as much as possible. I opened all the affected hatches and emptied them to make room for ventilation. This was not how I wanted to set up for the evening!

All compartments were emptied and dried out.

I stashed most of the trailer items in the car and repaired the refrigerator door. I noticed a small threaded hinge pin had worked itself loose, allowing the door to sag and render the latch useless. I tightened that screw down super-tight, got the door back together and called it a night.

That was enough excitement for one day.

– + –

Polycarbonate windows + new curtains

These old dome windows were dark, scuffed and not installed very well.

This trailer has unusual dome windows on the roof panels. Rather than the typical style, where the plexiglass dome windows are glued directly to the roof surface, my dome windows are mounted to a frame that opens, similar to a skylight or casement window. It’s a great option because it allows for additional ventilation.

It looked like someone in the past had replaced the plastic dome pieces with ones that almost fit, but not very well. The dome windows had rounded corners that did not fit well over the right-angle corners of the frame. By looking at the installation of the dome pieces, it was obvious that this had been hacked. I researched replacements, and found no options for direct replacements. I knew I would have to make my own.

The corners were cracking, due to the mismatched corner shapes.
Not a good installation job
The dome pieces were easy to remove. They are about 2′ x 5′ in size.

I decided to replace the dome pieces with pieces of flat, 1/4″ tinted polycarbonate. TAP Plastics was able to cut two pieces for me at the exact dimensions I needed. I cleaned up the frames to prepare them for the adhesive. I used E6800 adhesive – it’s permanent, waterproof and has UV protection.

With the dome piece removed, I had access to the frame to prep it for the adhesive
In order to pre-position the polycarbonate panel, I created this suspension frame to hold the panel directly above the adhesive. (The protective sheet on the underside was removed.) I did not want to move the panel once I set it down on adhesive. I removed one of the long supporting strips of wood and carefully placed the panel down on the adhesive, then lowered the other end. This method worked out well.
Once the polycarbonate panel was in place, I added some weight to the edges to help the adhesive seal over night.
I did both windows at the same time.

After letting the adhesive set up for 24 hours, I made frame pieces from 1 1/4″ aluminum angle stock. I used the same adhesive to attach the aluminum frame as well as some stainless steel screws around the edges. I then used silicone caulk to seal all the edges.

The finished window
The windows open to provide ventilation.

After replacing the windows, I wanted to also clean up the inside of the window area. The old trim piece was plastic that had cracked over the years. The curtains were difficult to open and close.

These curtains were difficult to open and close, and did not block out much of the light at night.
The plastic trim around the inside of the window frame was brittle.

I decided to build new inside frames out of wood and make new curtains. The curtain project took on a life of its own, since I made curtains for every window in the trailer. This was a total of 11 curtain panels. I bought 100% blackout curtain panels and used them as raw materials.

The finished curtains and wooden frames
The curtains open and close on suspended cable
I sewed new curtains for all the windows in the trailer.
For comparison, these are the old curtains

I was happy with all parts of this project. The old dome windows needed to go and I’ve been wanting to put a different color scheme on the inside of the trailer.

Now I’m ready to travel!

– + –

Heat pump extraction

This was a major project I’ve been wanting to tackle. My trailer had a Dometic Coolcat heat pump installed under the rear bed. This unit is a combination air conditioner and heater. It weighs about 75 lbs. By design, the heater component does not provide heat once the outside temperature drops below 35° or so.

The heat pump has an external ventilation grill and the air movement inside the trailer was ducted. I wanted to remove the heat pump and make use of the space for storage. I’m not a big user of air conditioning and the trailer also has a propane furnace that I can use when it gets cold.

The grill is the external part of the heat pump.
This is the location of the heat pump, under the rear bed.
I ordered a custom made hatch door to fit the dimensions of the opening for the heat pump.

The removal was pretty straightforward. I disconnected the electrical supply and the wiring for the thermostat. The unit was anchored to the floor in a few places and the external grill was easy to remove.

The heat pump is a beast. It weighs about 75 lbs.
The new hatch door fit perfectly and provides easy access to the new storage space.
This storage space will be very functional for storing larger items

I also converted the “sofa” design into a more permanent bed platform. I cut a plywood sheet to fit and installed a piano hinge to make it easy access the space from inside, if needed. This is especially important for working on the water utilities to the right of the space. This platform will hold a twinXL mattress and also give room for some storage bins to hold clothes and linens.

By removing the heat pump and converting the space for storage, I can stash larger heavier items at the rear of the trailer. This will take some weight off the trailer tongue, providing better balance to the trailer.

– + –

Reefer Madness

After a few road trips, it became apparent that the Dometic 3-way refrigerator was not working. To measure its performance, I used a remote thermometer with two temperature sensors – one located in the freezer compartment and the other located in refrigerator compartment. The unit would usually cool down initially and act like it was fine, but after about a day, it would warm up rather quickly. It would get even warmer than the surrounding temperatures. On the trip to Truckee, one night the temperature outside was 34°, inside the trailer it was 44°, and the freezer compartment was 56°!

I spent a couple of weeks troubleshooting the refrigerator, trying various fixes suggested by YouTube University. I removed the refrigerator from the cabinet to give me better access to it. One of these fixes (I dubbed the “Shake and Bake” method) involved turning on the refrigerator, once it warmed up, I shut it off, then layed it on one side and lifted it up and shook it several times. Then I turned it completely upside down and let it cool down. The next day, I did the same method, with the refrigerator laying on its other side for the “shake” action. The theory behind this fix was to loosen some of the internal chemicals in the tubing, assuming it had crystalized and hardened over the years. It was an interesting idea and it was fun the shake and bake the refrigerator, but it didn’t fix it.

I located a new refrigerator at Camping World in Vacaville and drove there one morning in early February to buy it.

The new refrigerator is on the left, the old one is on the right

Before installing the new refrigerator, I wanted to add some insulation to the cabinet space around the refrigerator opening. This should help the refrigerator operate more efficiently, especially in warmer weather. I also replaced a couple of the computer fans inside the rear part of the opening.

Before – no insulation inside the cabinet space
After – 1 1/2″ insulation installed on the side walls and inner ceiling of the compartment

I quickly learned that the refrigerator is larger than the doorway of my trailer. I assume the trailer was built around the refrigerator. I had dismantled the old refrigerator, allowing me to remove it through the doorway. I knew I would not be able to do that to the new one. Fortunately, the folding design of my trailer provided a solution. I left one wall folded down and placed a “gangplank” across the opening. This allowed me (with help from Bruce) to lift the refrigerator onto the gangplank, slide it across the trailer, and lift it down to the floor.

The gangplank was supported on the far side by some wood blocks to keep the weight off the folded wall

Before installing the new refrigerator into the cabinet, I tested it for several days and it performed flawlessly. I tested both the electric and propane settings. The new refrigerator was an exact replacement – it fit snugly in the opening and the propane fitting aligned perfectly. I am hopeful that I can count on it to work the way it’s supposed to work for many road trips.

– + –

Before hitting the road, a few fixes and upgrades

Old anode rod on the left, new one on the right

One thing is certain, this trailer will satisfy my need to tinker with stuff. 

Before I was ready to test out the trailer on the road, I wanted to do some important maintenance tasks as well as start to make it “my own.” 

Some of the maintenance tasks I performed first:

  • Tested all the components: electrical, water systems, propane appliances.
  • Serviced the wheel bearings.
  • Disinfected the fresh water storage tank.
  • Replaced the water pump (the bypass valve was malfuntioning and allowing “city water” to fill the water storage tank)
  • Replaced the anode rod in the water heater (see above, it needed it!).

In order to make the trailer more functional and comfortable, I also:

Replaced the dinette table with a smaller and lighter folding table. The original table was very heavy and also served as a bed platform that would span the dinette benches, making the dinette into a twin bed. I don’t have a need for a twin bed at this time. The new folding table easily folds down for travel and can be used outdoors if desired.

The original dinette table was large and heavy.
This folding table is much lighter and takes up less space.
Directly behind the table, I built a small shelf to hold some of the plastic storage bins I use for organizing all the various tools and supplies.

Installed two closet rods that mount between the folding side walls. These rods provide more stability to the walls, taking stress off the locking latches during strong winds. The rods also give me a place to hang small towels. I built two lightweight shelf pieces that rest on the closet rods. These shelves provide easy access to light items, such as coffee-making supplies, first aid kit and snacks. I installed small LED puck lights on the underside of the shelves to provide additional task lighting.

Removed this small microwave oven and finished out the cabinet space it used to occupy, giving me additional storage space. 

Cut an access opening and made a new compartment door to gain easier access to the storage area under the bed. After making the new compartment door, I decided to replace all the cabinet doors with new matching ones.

This new opening allows access to the storage space under the rear bed.
New cabinet door under the bed.
New cabinet doors, including a new door made to cover the former microwave oven opening.
New cabinet doors for the kitchen storage and commode.

Purchased a folding solar panel and created several connecting cables for keeping the trailer battery charged while dry-camping.

This was enough work to get the trailer ready for its maiden voyage. 

– + –