THIS is Snowbirding!

As promised earlier, here is the saga of our 2011/12 Snowbird endurance run, from Beautiful Downtown Kingston WA to Key West FL and return, and the myriad disasters which it entailed. It’s adapted mostly intact from an article I wrote for the WA State BMW Riders Monthly, “The Shaft”, where yours truly serves as Editor-in-Chief. Hope you like the story!
Regular readers will know that yours truly and his faithful Co-Pilot Susan have realized that our 14-day moto-touring endurance limit doesn’t suit the exploration of this great country of ours. (Much of which we have yet to see – because the US Navy and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization kept us overseas for most of the last 40 years). Our new K1600GTL, the SuperSonic Helga III, is well suited to long-distance sightseeing adventures. But she won’t carry enough baggage to keep either of us comfortable for more than a couple of weeks at a stretch. And no – we do NOT camp, at least not in a tent, since a weekend deluge decades ago which is burned in our psyches still.

Don, Helga III and The Hutch

So in 2010 we acquired “The Hutch” (photo right). She’s what’s commonly called a Toy-Hauler; a 5th wheel trailer with a garage and a loading ramp. She lets us tour at leisure and in comfort, with the SS Helga on board and ready to roll. What a deal! Or so we once believed. In 2011 we did a “proof of concept” cross-country tour with the beast, which confirmed those optimistic ideas. From Seattle to California, to Charlotte NC, South to Key West and back home again, we escaped the worst of the NW winter, visited friends and family in lots of cool places, and generally had a ball. But we only managed a few days in Key West – which called out to us “Come back – there’s loads more to see and do here – and it’s 80 degrees every day…”! The masochists among you can read about that trip in the earlier post below.
Having once heard the Siren sing, we again pointed Bertha (the F250 Diesel) and The Hutch South on New Year’s Eve 2011, rolling toward the sun for a second-annual escape from NW Winter. What a feeling! What glorious optimism! How wrong could we be?!? A quick stop in Chico CA got a 50 gal aux tank grafted into Bertha’s bed – giving us a new 600 mile range between fuel stops. Heaven! And on we went, bound for the Mojave Desert and High Adventure. Yeee haaaaa…

Notice it bending down over the hinges…

Until we opened the cargo ramp to off-load Helga in 29 Palms CA. As I unstrapped the bike, I heard Susan say “Hey! – the Cargo door is breaking!” “No way…”, thinks I. Until I cast an eye at the non-skid covering the door, and see it tearing apart at the hinges, exposing splintering plywood core below (photo left). Uh oh! This is NOT a good sign! The break was just starting, the door was still plenty sturdy, so we rolled Helga out and had a fabulous day exploring Joshua Tree National Park. Got her successfully stowed away and door sealed up next day, and decided that Helga’s outings on this trip would be minimized, ‘til we somehow got the door situation sorted. And off went disgruntled e-mail to the manufacturers of the trailer and the door. I knew that RV makers are quick to foist warranty claims off on their component suppliers. No way they would touch this, I figured. And rightly so; they fired back that I should “contact the door manufacturer”. Uh huh. I know. Thank you so very much. I already did…
The door manufacturer was just as quick to point out that a three year old door was waaaayyyy out of its 1-year warranty, so they were sorry but couldn’t help me. You can imagine I wasted no time replying, pointing out that structural failure in normal use is NOT a warranty issue, but evidence of faulty design, and a major safety hazard, etc, etc. Use of the term “safety hazard” always gets the attention of the legal department, and sure enough, a week later came the offer to provide a new door “as a gesture of goodwill”, if I would pay shipping and installation costs. I agreed, rather than spend half a lifetime arguing the subject, and advised them to stand-by till we got home where my local shop could do the install. So off we went to Key West.
The Keys are a little bit of the Caribbean that you happen to be able to drive to. Once ensconced in the Naval Station Key West RV Park, down came the faulty door (VERY gently), and out came Helga. She would stay outside through our 5+ week stay in the Keys. While the weather is great for riding, the roads and scenery leave a LOT to be desired. Picture a place with ONE road, 100 miles long and straight as a die, with a 35 mph speed limit and loads of traffic. Helga was worked out very rarely on this leg of the trip. But she did a fair amount of low-speed, boring beach exploration and cruising between islands. Not too bad for North-Westerners biking in January and February!
Came time to leave, down came the door again (the cracks alarmingly larger than before), and a thorough inspection concluded that Helga could go back into the garage. But it seemed clear that the number of opening/closing cycles available to this door was going to be VERY limited. Ouch! We were 4200 miles from home, and had planned several Moto excursions on-route. Hmmmmm…. Time to modify the plan!

The ceremony – in the Green Dragon Tavern at Gulf Wars

The next Port of Call for the good ship The Hutch was the metropolis of Lumberton, Mississippi – a tiny burg in the piney woods, a very long way from anywhere. But also the location of a week-long Medieval Recreationist fair (photo) at which our Daughter was going to renew her marriage vows on the 10th anniversary of her wedding. In other words: a mandatory stop-over. Helga’s garage had to morph into a sewing room to make costumes for the big event, so there was no choice but one more sortie into the open air. The plan was just one-time in-and-out, then we’d button her up for the duration of the trip home. Helga came out, with some trepidation but little complaint. We passed a very pleasant and exciting week in the 15th Century with our Daughter, her husband and 4000 of their close friends, then it came time to hit the road for home.
When the door came down to re-admit Helga to her lair, it all but fell off the hinges! There was NO WAY we were going to get Helga’s 780 lb up that rickety piece of rotting cardboard. We just barely managed to hoist the wreckage into the air and pound the sprung frame into the door jamb far enough to lock it in place for the road. But then what?? Contemplating the options, it seemed the only viable ones were to spend several days (or maybe a LOT more) in the MS woods, trying to get a new door manufactured, delivered and installed; or to leave Helga behind in MS for her Pilot to return later in the Spring to drive her home. Hmmmm… A forced, 3000 mile tour of the Rockies and Cascades on the SuperSonic Helga? What’s to decide? Done! Helga ducked into a friend’s shed alongside his garden equipment, and The Hutch was on the road home without her usual loaded garage.
Most of the return trip was a great pleasure. We turned North in Flagstaff, visited the Grand Canyon, had a fantastic day’s drive North of the Canyon into Utah, and spent a marvelous day in Bryce Canyon NP. Oh, we were wishing we had Helga with us! But oh well… It was a great drive anyway. That is, until we reached Idaho and the Colombia Gorge toward Portland. First – the water pump blew it’s fuse. When I replaced it, it promptly blew another! OK – no potable water pump. Not a problem unless you’re dry-camping, which for the moment we were not. But an item for the annual maintenance list for sure. The next day I noticed the coolant reservoir spitting fluid. I topped it off a couple of times, then headed for the local Ford Truck dealer the next morning. They gave me the bad news that the spitting cap was almost certainly due to a blown head gasket, which would be a major repair job. Much more ugly news!
Figuring the engine wouldn’t fail catastrophically in the next couple hundred miles, we opted to limp home at a reduced cruising speed. The next day, I noticed a misalignment of the rear-most of the three axles. An under-carriage inspection revealed that one of the leaf-spring hanger brackets had self-destructed, and the leaf spring was bearing on the underside of the I-Beam trailer frame. (RV suspension failures are not uncommon, and beefed up aftermarket parts are plentiful). At least the misalignment was slight enough that she rolled fine, so we could still head for home.
Then Susan noticed that one of the trailer tires was pretty low (they carry 80 lb of air). Out came the compressor, and I aired it up. It seemed to be holding for the moment, but when we stopped at Ft. Lewis for our last night on the road, it was almost flat. Pulling it off revealed a split carcass! They call these OEM RV tires “China Bombs” after their country of manufacture and their known propensity for self-destruction. I swapped that one for the spare, but knew full well that where one goes, the rest will follow. At 7 (including the spare) times $300 per tire, the replacement set was going to be a very painful hit. Needless to say: the final leg home was made at the slowest cruise speed of the entire 8500 mile trip!
We made it home safely enough, but the series of repairs has been painful. I won’t go into details of Bertha’s engine overhaul, except to say that she came home just short of a five-figure invoice. Yikes!! I’m happy to warn Ford Truck owners of what to expect from their 6.0 lt Diesels, if they don’t already know…

The original door…

The door manufacturer was as good as their word, and provided the new ramp/door – which I had significantly reinforced both in and out before we installed it (before & after photos at right). The suspension components and water pump were hardly a blip among all the other items, and there are now 7 shiny-new Michelens in place of the China Bombs. I could hardly believe the difference in weight between the OEMs and the Michelens. The new tires are EACH about 20 lb heavier than the bubble-gum balloons they replaced. I guess I should be happy about that!?

And the much improved “Hutch Mod” version

As for my “Dream tour of the Rockies” with Helga – once I figured out the cost of flying back to MS, food and lodging and gas on the way home, and the time needed to do all that, and bounced those things against the calendar and budget availability, it was just WAY cheaper and smarter to have Allied Van Lines bring her home. (Crap)! She was SO embarrassed to arrive here in the back of a moving van! But at least she’s home, and we’re back to riding local loops.

As I write this, The Hutch is having her axles aligned (by laser, no less) and will be back in the storage shed next week. She’ll load up Helga and we’ll give her a post-hospitalization physical therapy session at the Menlo Rally. Then there’ll be an annual Family Weekend outing to the Colombia River in August. But I’m gonna be pretty busy this year with my local Rotary Club, so long trips are not in the cards till at least winter ’13. By that time, I’m hoping we’ll have paid off the bills from this one…
You may know that we don’t have a boat. That’s not because I don’t love them (Oh – I do, I do!). It’s because we’ve learned that a boat is a hole in the water into which you have to pour LOTS of money. After this last trip, I’m afraid that Susan may be right when she describes The Hutch to me. She’s taken to saying: “… but Sweetheart, it really IS a boat!…”

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Don & Sue get a new Helga!

The summer of 2011 was unkind to our old buddy the SS (Stealth Starship) Helga II.  She broke a tie-down restraint in the back of The Hutch on our way over the North Cascade Highway to the WA State BMW Riders annual Cascade Country Rendevous.  She was still ridable, but pretty badly dinged up after we found her bouncing around in the garage.  And the insurance folks decided she was a total loss.

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Happy Pilot & Co-Pilot on the new Helga

Happily, we had already ordered a replacement, a new BMW K1600 GTL, which was delivered shortly afterward and quickly got christened the SS (SuperSonic) Helga III.  She’s a true Helga – the biggest and baddest of BMW’s line-up.  But at six cylinders, 160 hp and bags of torque all the way around the tach, she’s no Stealth machine.  Ergo the slight name change.

The new Helga’s been showing us around the PACNW for the best part of a year now, and is an absolutely fantastic ride.  This new BMW literally redefines the term Motorcycle.  But if you’re interested in bikes, you’ll already know that!

She’s also earned her chops as primo passenger in The Hutch’s garage.  But that story is a bit less happy.  Having had a great winter trip in ’10-11, we took to the road again in December 11 with Key West as the “escape to the sun” destination.  It was a great trip, but not without it’s significant trials and tribulations.  The story will be the subject of the very next post – which is coming very shortly!

See you then!                                                              Don

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The Hutch goes on its first REALLY BIG adventure

You’ll have seen the early Adventures of The Hutch in previous blogs. But we didn’t buy this big rig to wander around WA and OR.  This Beast is designed for serious travel. And after all, do DO live in the soggy, dark Pacific NW where winter is intended to be dodged in part if not skipped altogether.  Combine our weather with our youngest daughter Ellen and her family living in Charlotte NC, and 2010 being their year for Grammy Sue and Grampa Don to visit there for Christmas, it was obvious what the first big trip had to be: Christmas in Charlotte, of course!

Planning began in early November, and a couple things became immediately obvious:  It’s a LONG way from Seattle to Charlotte by road. Especially if you want to avoid snow-covered mountain passes by going South for a thousand miles before turning East.  And a LONG way in a car becomes a VERY LONG way in a 12-ton truck/trailer combination.  We figured 19 days Seattle-Charlotte, counting stopovers!  If we were to be there for Christmas, an early escape from Kingston was going to be needed.  December 1st became the target D-(for Departure)-day, and preparations got serious.

Bertha and The Hutch hit the road!

We pulled out on schedule on Dec. 1st, and got to Eugene OR on day 1 without incident.  At 289 miles, this turned out to be just about the right distance for The Hutch to take on in one day. The next morning, we checked the Siskiyou Summit traffic cams and were a bit dismayed to see there was a foot of snow on the sides of the (dry) I-5, with more forecast for the afternoon and snow levels projected to come right down to the 4300′ pass height.  But having a schedule to keep and reservations in Redding CA, we pressed on.  This time, we got lucky.  Weather forecasting is NOT a science, and we hit the blizzard about 50 mi. and 1500′ or so below the summit.  Getting up and over and then out of the snow took another 80 miles or more, driven through near-whiteout conditions with 1-3″ of fresh snow on the roadway.  Needless to say, some seat-cushion puckering was in order that afternoon.  In a Four Wheel Drive car, I would have been very comfortable.  With 10 wheels and 12 Tons of rig, I was VERY focused on my driving, and was pretty well whipped by the time we hit lowlands again.  For our next blizzard event towing the Hutch, we’ll sit it out in a comfortable RV Park, thank you very much!

Getty's villa is a trip in itself!

Onward from Redding it was a cake-walk to Simi Valley CA, where we took our first break to visit Don’s Aunt Gail and her extended family.  We hadn’t seen these guys in a LOT of years, and enjoyed a great if brief reunion over the next couple days.  The highlight may have a visit to the Getty Villa Museum at Santa Monica.  J Paul built this replica of a Roman Villa to house his incredible Antiquities collections, and since his death it’s been turned into a really world-class museum.  Don’t miss it if you are in the LA area!

The Grand Canyon is way too big to see in one photo!

From LA we took a bit of a detour to show Ms Sue Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, both of which she’d never had a chance to see.  So we put down temporary roots at an RV Park/Casino just off the Strip and played tourist for a couple days.  We not only did Vegas (including dinner in the Bellagio, with a dancing fountain display to go with each course)! but walked the SkyWalk at the new Grand Canyon West Center, toured Hoover Dam, and got treated to a free display of Vegas SWAT Team capabilities and tactics as they surrounded a guy in an RV near ours in a movie-style 3 hour standoff.  What a show! To cap the visit we had dinner with Brussels friends who’ve retired to a Golf Course community in nearby Henderson.  Overall a super stop!

Our favorite glass artist, Dale Chihuly, in the Bellagio

After Vegas we got down to business!  That turns out to mean three days of 300 miles or so, followed by a day off to breath deeply and get the kinks out.  Then repeat…  I-10 is a very long road.  Among the lessons learned on that crossing were; don’t try to ride much more than 300 mi/day, (the one 400 mi+ day we did was WAY too long); check your gas VERY carefully each morning, no matter what you had when you turned in (combine a missing 5-gals of diesel with 125 miles between filling stations and you end up sitting alongside the highway at some point!); fellow RV’ers and West Texans are VERY friendly, helpful folks who will pull your posterior out of a bad place without a thought (see fuel lesson); and despite all the Fed Funds poured into them, the Interstate Highway system is OLD and in some places in lousy shape!  With a big heavy trailer, that converts to some pretty bumpy riding days.  But we kept to our schedule without problems, and arrived in Charlotte NC the week before Christmas.

A really great stop was Las Cruces, NM. Super RV Park in a fantastic little city!

The plan was to park The Hutch in a storage yard and bunk with Ellen.  But there was a hitch: we hadn’t seen a single night with temps above freezing in the entire cross-country trip!  Unless we winterized its systems, The Hutch was going to need heating for the duration.  So: we found a nice RV Park about 20 mi. from Ellens and “camped” there (though sleeping most of the time at Ellens) through the Holidays.  Occasional visits ensured the rig was OK, and we had a terrific Christmas and New Year’s with Ellen, Darren and their girls Madison and Vanessa.

Xmas in Charlotte

We took a day off from Charlotte to jump up to Ashville NC, and had a nice visit with more Brussels friends, Kathy and John.  Then right after New Year’s we pulled out of Charlotte heading South.  The first stop was Savannah GA, where Niece Anne lives.  We had a terrific evening with Anne, explored the area a bit, and the next day were on the road again.  One day further South was Daytona, where we stopped a couple of days to visit with Susan’s sister Patty and her family – another wing of our extended families that we don’t see often enough, so it was great to spend a little time with them. After Daytona we stopped for a day outside Miami, to visit the Everglades National Park.  Susan had seen it once almost 50 years ago.  Don had never been there.  We were both really impressed, and just blown away by the wildlife! The American Alligator is NOT endangered any more!  And who knew we also have Crocodiles?!  We sure do now.  BIG buggers, these guys are!

There is NO lack of 'gators

After the Everglades, there is only one place further South unless you want to try floating your RV to Cuba – and that’s Key West.  Because long-time buds and in-laws Rick and Cookie keep their sailboat there, and old friends from Naples Steve and Jane have retired there, we had plenty of reasons to head off over the 100 mile causeway.  And what a miraculous transformation that road creates.  By the time you hit Key West, you just KNOW you’re in another country and on another Continent.  This despite the fact that it’s American through and through.  What a superb little paradise this is.  We decided in the week we were there that KW is a combination of equal parts New Orleans French Quarter, Saint Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, and Honolulu HI.  And we’ve already plotted our return for next winter.  But next year we’ll leave plenty of time to STAY for a while, once we get there.  🙂

January in Key West. Not bad!

With us having to be home for a medical appointment in early Feb, we reluctantly pulled up stakes in the US Navy RV Park on Key West (the only one on the island), and headed back up the Florida peninsula.  Happily, we only had one day to Pam and Bill, our closest friends for many years in Brussels.  They’ve retired to a gorgeous Golf Club community in Naples FL, with a nice RV Park just down the road.  We had a great reunion dinner with those guys, visited Thomas Edison and Henry Ford’s vacation homes in nearby Ft. Myers and then went to see Bill Cosby on our second night there.  We’ve loved The Cos for decades, but this was our first chance to see him live.  He hasn’t lost any of his talent or drive and put on a fantastic evening!

Naples was great!

Leaving Naples, we quickly got back in the “On the Road” mode.  Three days and a sleep-in, then repeat.  But there was one remarkable episode on the way home.  We over-nighted in Fort Stockton TX, which can only be described as the geographic center of NOWHERE!  It is literally over 100 miles from there to the nearest sign of life, in the center of West Texas.  While chatting with fellow RV’ers in the park cafe, we found that another couple there were from Bremerton, WA.  In fact, live very near our old house in Central Kitsap, where we lived in the early 80’s.  AND she had taught at the same school Susan worked at, and with Sue from Poulsbo, who we are still close to today.  The woman had arrived at the school the year after we moved away.  Proving once again that the planet is truly a very, very small place!

Crossing paths in Fresno

The Road Show continued from Texas through AZ and NM, then up the East side of CA’s Central Valley (just for variety – though we didn’t like EITHER of those roads) to Fresno, where friends from Adak, AK Vern and Pauletta were in town to see her Mom, who was very sick in hospital.  They managed to break away for breakfast with us, which was a real treat, and her Mom recovered quickly afterward, which was great to hear.  Moving up the (bad) road North to just outside Sacramento, we had one more reunion, this with High School and College buds Jim and Laurie, who we’ve managed to touch base with every few years.  They came and met us in the little village of Plymouth, were we had the best meal of the trip in a little restaurant called, appropriately enough, “Taste”.  If you’re near there – DO NOT miss this place!

When we hit Redding the following day, it was decision time:  To Summit Siskiyou again, or detour to the Oregon Coast?  Somehow the Coast won out, and we were off the Interstate and winding (and winding, and climbing, and climbing) over CA 299 out to route 101.  Up the coast into Oregon, we stopped for a couple days breather in Gold Beach, at the mouth of the Rogue River.  This is gorgeous country and almost unimaginable coastline, so it’s another don’t miss place!

The OR Coast is truly amazing!

After the Oregon Coast, it was back inland to Eugene, then North on I-5 to home in a couple of days.  All told we were on the road 68 days and covered a bit over 11,000 miles on the first BIG Adventure.  And we loved it!  Right up to the end, we never felt tired of traveling or wished we were home instead of on the road.  Though we were VERY happy to see our little log cabin when we finally arrived back home.  We will certainly do this again and again, and I suspect our durations will increase.

There's no place like home...

With this trip we’ve touched down in a lot of the US, but of course we only skimmed the surface of most of the places we stopped.  Future trips will hopefully be more in depth, and will stop in lots of very interesting places.  We hope you’ll be there to share the Adventures with us!

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The first big RV/moto trip

July 2010; having broken in “The Hutch” and introduced Helga and the Kitty Girls to the mobile mansion with a couple of local weekend trips, we set off for a two-week moto-adventure, to the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America annual rally in Redmond (central OR), and the WA State BMW Riders rally the following weekend in Menlo, on the WA coast.  It was a real adventure and a great test of the RV/moto concept, for sure.

Himself and Penelope muscle the RV hitch into the bed of Bertha the Pick-em-up truck.

Before we even moved from home, Don was happy to have Penelope’s help around the place.  The 5th-wheel hitch weighs a couple hundred lbs.  Since he’s using the truck to haul stuff when not travelling, it’s nice to be able to pull the thing out and put it back in when needed.

Bertha did a great job hauling The Hutch over Mt. Baker pass and onto the Central OR plateau, after which it was an easy ride downhill to Redmond on day 1.

Great RV site at the County Fairgrounds - Helga alongside and full utilities included! 🙂

Trailering a BMW motorcycle is considered a cardinal sin by most of the faithful.  You’re expected to ride it – to the ends of the earth, if that’s where you’re going!  Still: we’ve decided to risk the inevitable criticism in order to have our home with us on the road.  This first expedition did not disappoint!  The County Fairgrounds in Redmond had super RV sites, and camping with other sinners, the motorcycle purity police left us well enough alone.  We won’t mention the advantages of having an air-conditioned RV vs. a tent when the temp is in the 100’s in the afternoon!!

 

The Navigator relaxes near McKenzie Pass, OR Coastal range

The rally was our first, and was an interesting experience.  In addition to food, beer, hundreds of vendors selling everything imaginable and great entertainment in the evenings, there were GREAT rides out of Redmond in all directions.  The highlights included a fantastic loop West through the Coastal range and back to Redmond, over McKenzie pass.  Certainly one of the most scenic and twisted (i.e. great) motorcycle roads we’ve seen in the US.

 

Doug & Meg pause at the General Store in Post, OR, population 19!

The other “best ride” was in the opposite direction, 70 or 80 miles East of Redmond, on totally unoccupied, very fast roads to a fly speck on the map (literally) called Post, OR.  The combined populations of Post and the ONE village we passed through on-route there couldn’t have exceeded 50 souls.  Talk about having the road to yourself!  What a ball…

 

 

The Hutch is not an easy fit in most State and Nat'l Park campgrounds. But we find a way. 🙂

When the rally ended, we had a few daysfree before our State Riders Rally in WA, so we headed South  to La Pine, OR, where old friends Pete and Cindy have a cabin on the Deschutes River.  We didn’t risk the 7 mi dirt road into the cabin (don’t know what the overhead clearances might be), so we set up camp in La Pine State Park – one of many great State Park campgrounds in OR.

 

 

Helga's Pilot and Navigator take a well-deserved break at one of the viewpoints over Crater Lake.

Pete & Cindy’s schedule was crosswise with ours, and we ended up just seeing them one evening for dinner.  But we had a ball in La Pine and the area anyway.  A fantastic day trip from there was Crater Lake National Park.  We’d been there before, but not on the bike, and LOVED seeing it again from Helga’s open-air accommodations.

 

 

Susan takes in the incredible view of Mt. St. Helens from near the visitor center

Our WA State BMW Rally is nothing near the extravaganza that the National puts on.  And the County Fairgrounds in Menlo were nothing like the deluxe venue in Redmond.  But for that reasons, it’s probably mellower and nicer to do our little rally than the big National.

 

 

 

Helga poses at the shore - sunny but NOT warm!

We really enjoyed the intimate crowd at Menlo (a few hundred vs. several thousand bikes) and rode with friends to Mt. St. Helens (still an incredible sight even now, 30 years after it blew its top) and to visit the beautiful beaches of WA State. We were suitably impressed when the temp dropped 10F in the last 5 miles as we approached the beaches!

 

We did a little “cross-country wander” back home from Menlo, and learned one important lesson: The Hutch isn’t a happy camper (no pun intended) on tiny, twisty two-lane roads.  At 16,000 lb loaded, she’s prone to kick her tow vehicle around like a cow swatting a gnat.  We made it home fine, but have decided that highways are the way to go TO the places we want to visit, then the motorcycle will come out to let us explore the little, twisty back roads where the best sights are.  But after all – isn’t that what a motorcycle is for?

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Helga gets a new Buddy…

Don, Sue and Bertha the Ford P/U welcome The Hutch to the family

The Hutch watches the desert sun set in Las Cruces NM, December 2010

Aside from renovating our little ol’ log cabin on the bluff here in Kingston (see header pic above for the view from the deck at sunrise) and ongoing improvements to the acre+ of garden, the biggest event here since our coming home in ’08 has been the acquisition last spring of a 36′ 5th-wheel RV with a garage in the back (known as a toy-hauler).

Named “The Hutch”, the new RV has already demonstrated her mettle in fine fashion, as we have spent over 60 days in her this past year, and traveled as far as Key West FL.  The Hutch gives us the capability of spending weeks or months on the road, with Helga always along and ready to go to explore the nooks and crannies of this fabulous country by motorcycle – the ONLY way to really see it, we think.

This blog will let us share our doings here in Kingston, but more so on the road with Helga and the Hutch, as we discover (and rediscover) the US of A in the coming years. We hope you’ll come along for the ride! 🙂

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The NEW Adventures of Helga and Co.

Don, Sue & Helga in LaGarde FR, on the last great Alps tour, August 2008

Some of you may remember the Belgian Adventures website, where yours truly documented the European adventures of the Stealth Starship Helga II, and her Pilot and Navigator, Don and Sue, as they took advantage of Don’s second career at NATO HQ in Brussels to travel Europe by Motorcycle.

Having returned to the US, and specifically to Kingston, WA in the gorgeous Puget Sound area, we’ve now embarked on a new adventure: discovering the US of A with all it’s fantastic places, that we’ve managed to miss during 37 years of coastal and overseas living.  Facebook status updates are OK, but this blog may serve to better document Helga’s adventures.  So if you’re interested: read on!

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