FMCA Convention Redmond, OR August 2001

Hi all,

This is a report of our trip to Redmond, OR to attend an FMCA (Family Motor Coach Assn.) convention.  They hold 2 major conventions each year, a Summer one and a Winter one.  We really enjoyed the last one we attended in Pomona last year, so signed up for this one.  We have also attended a regional rally in Indio the last couple of years, around January.

I am very late in sending this (I'm sorry!), but I was having problems sending and receiving email in the few locations where I even had a connection.  I figured I would send it as soon as I got home, but you know how that can go!  I did just one report for the whole trip, and it is only going to you who are on my "short list".

The overall plan was to leave home on Wednesday, Aug. 8, spend 3 days getting to within an hour of Redmond, then drive into the fairgrounds on Saturday between 8:00 and noon, our assigned entry time.  The convention was from Tuesday through Thursday.  As we had a family wedding about 500 miles to the south on Friday, we planned to leave a day early and head down on Thursday AM, camping about 100 miles from the wedding, then making the last 100 miles on the morning of the wedding.

After the wedding, we planned to "kidnap" our oldest granddaughter, Kylie, and spend several days camping with her, working her way home.  We then would head home ourselves.

Wednesday, August 8

We got all packed and left on schedule, heading north with a daily destination of Kettlemen City, a little north of Bakersfield, except on I-5.  Enroute, we stopped at one of our favorite fueling stops at the Flying J in Frasier Park, near the top of the Ridge Route.

I now need to back up several days and relate some happenings before we left home:

Several days prior to leaving we smelled a septic tank type smell in our yard.  I checked around and initially decided it was coming from our next door neighbor's yard.  Maybe his septic system was failing.  Some time later, I concluded the smell was coming from our motorhome!  The tanks were empty and clean (a relative term), and the smell was stronger at the front of the motorhome, not where the tanks are located.  I finally decided that we would rinse the tanks and dump the first night, and hope that took care of the problem.

Now, back to Frasier Park, we pulled into the RV fuel bay and I opened the compartment door that houses the left side fuel filler (and also the house batteries).  The top of one of my huge gel cell house batteries was literally blown off!  There was a piece about 6 x 8 inches lying upside down on the top of the other battery.  I was looking directly into the battery plates and granular looking gelled acid.  There was also a terrible stench!  I found the source of the smell!  It was the blown gel cell.

I made many, many calls on my cell phone from the local Jack-in-the-Box, about a block from Flying J.  Talking to Foretravel, MK Batteries, and a distributor for MK batteries we developed a plan.  We continued on to Kettlemen City and got a campsite for the night.

I disconnected the bad battery and took a number of voltage and temperature measurements.  (It was 107 at about 5:30 when we arrived.  By 10:30 it was down to a cool 91!)

Thursday, Aug 9

I called Foretravel, Nacogdoches, TX and discussed my measurements with Mark, an expert on the electrical systems.  He said the numbers were way too high!  Among other things, he said that possibly the temperature sensor on the battery was bad and the charger was not compensating for the high temperatures.  As I was walking back to the motorhome from making that call, I recalled seeing the technician crimping a new telephone type plug on one of the wires that plugs into the inverter.  I immediately checked the temperature probe wire, and it looked like the wiring was wrong.  (The 6 pin plug fit into a 4 pin socket, but the 4 wires did not line up with the 4 active pins.)  I called Mark back and he confirmed the wiring was wrong.  OK, this is now a Foretravel created problem, and I need to deal with them, not the battery manufacturer.

A few more phone calls and all parties agree to having a new battery waiting for me when I get back to Escondido.  Meanwhile, for my first long dry camping experience with the Foretravel, I am at 1/2 battery capacity!  Oh well, it may be 1/2 for the Foretravel, but it is the same as I had upgraded the Gulfstream to.

Enough of the "disaster de jour".

We got a fairly late start after all my phone calls and additional measurements, but still made it to Redding by around 5:00.  We have been driving about 320 miles a day - a little less yesterday, a little more today.

Friday, Aug 10

We drove the last major leg to La Pine, OR today.  Our parking spot was very tight, with only a few feet between us and our neighbors.  The maneuvering in and out of the space, as well as just driving around the park was very tight.  Now that we needed to dump for the first time this trip, we had a water/electric only site.  We had to go to the dump station on our way out.  It turned out to be fairly simple, as the coaches on both sides of us left before we did.  Now I could just turn left out of my space (with a jog or two) and drive to the dump.  I had been looking at either snaking my way through the tree lined narrow campground roads, or backing out into the street.

Saturday, Aug 11

We drove the last 60 miles to the convention, arriving around 9:30.  As we went in, they kept directing us well away from the center of the fairgrounds.  I asked if this was really the way to the handicapped parking and was told on a couple of occasions "Yes, the guy up there will take care of you."  We were directed into a spot which was very tight to the other coaches, on a cinder like surface (very dusty).  I got out and asked the head of the parking crew if this was REALLY the handicapped area.  He said "Oh, are you supposed to be in the handicapped area?"  I pointed to the large yellow sign I had attached to the inside of our windshield, per their mailed out instructions.  He backed us out of the spot and directed me to another lot where I waited to be led to the correct spot.  Finally, we were taken to the other side of the fairgrounds to a very nice (almost) area on the lawn in front of one of the activity buildings.  We were very close to all the action, and not nearly as tightly packed in!  The "almost" I referred to was due to our parking heading into a low wall.  It didn't take long to figure what the steel rings every few feet along the wall were for.  This was the equestrian area and they had lots of horses tied up here recently.  We were warned to watch out for the "road apples".  There were plenty to watch out for!  Fortunately, this was not really a problem at all.  It only smelled somewhat the first night, and we didn't need to walk in front of the coach very much.  The electrical connections they promised us for charging scooters was strung out along the wall, but had no power yet.

From our spot, it is an easy walk to the commercial exhibit areas, just past the 2 pairs of walls, of which ours is a part.  The motorhome displays are all over the fairgrounds, so are much farther.  I rode my bike around and found all the locations of the seminars I plan to attend.  I also found where the morning coffee and donuts and the Wednesday Ice Cream Social will be.

Sunday, Aug 12

Today was a totally free day.  Except for a few committee meetings today, and several seminars tomorrow, the activities don't start until Tuesday morning.

We packed up and headed out in the Saturn, going back through Bend toward La Pine.  We stopped at the Lava Lands visitor center.  Nearby is Lave Butte.

We looked at the displays in the visitor's center and watched a video.  There was then an announcement of a ranger talk on the patio, so we went out.

The young ranger said she was a grad student at OSU, after graduating from the Colorado School of Mines.  She gave us the history of Lave Butte, which looks like a flat topped small volcano.  In reality it is a cinder cone.  This formed from a volcanic eruption from Newbury Caldera, one of the world's largest volcanoes, located about 30 miles away.  This volcano is not very spectacular, as it is very flat, but it covers many square miles.  

A cinder cone erupts only once, deriving the molten lave through an underground tube that is destroyed by the eruption.  Generally cinder cones develop rather quickly.  Lava Butte was probably developed initially in several days, first forming a "bump" on the earths surface then actually erupting.  For about 10 years various volcanic activity completed forming it and changing the surrounding area.  Once completed, it will never be active again.  As the ranger pointed out, there could certainly be another similar one nearby, but not this one!

After we finished seeing the visitor's center, we drove to the top of Lava Butte.  The view was spectacular!  Unfortunately it was somewhat hazy, but you could still see for many, many miles.

Next we headed a few miles down Hwy 97 to the High Desert Museum.  We had no idea what to expect.  When we arrived, we found a beautiful, modern open building with interior displays in a number of separate galleries.  

Outside there were various other areas.  We saw the porcupine enclosure.  They were giving a talk there, but when the lady started the mic didn't work.  Also there was a wall totally around the enclosure, so Betty could not see in.  Without being able to either see or hear, we headed on.  Next we went to the Birds of Prey exhibit.  This opened less than a month ago. 

We were concerned as we saw the different birds on display, as they were in very small enclosures.  We saw a Red Tail Hawk, a Great Horned Owl, a Golden Eagle, and several other birds.  When we got to the area of the talk, there was a Peregrine Falcon chained to the top of the lectern.

The lady there explained that all the birds in their collection are "end of the road" birds.  These have all been rehabilitated at other facilities, and for one reason or another were deemed to not be suitable for release.  Some have broken or deformed bones, others have more subtle problems.  The Peregrine Falcon was raised by an individual for Falconry, but was found to have an asthmatic condition, rendering it unsuitable for any but very short flights, certainly not for hunting.

After we finished going through all the displays, we headed back to Redmond.  We passed the exit to the fairgrounds, and explored the city.  We found a restaurant called Mrs. Beasleys.  The food was very good, and extremely generously portioned!

Monday, Aug 13

I attended 2 seminars today.  The first one was talking about auto-starting generator systems.  As ours is an autostart, I thought I might learn something.  I probably learned more as they talked about peripheral items, such as inverters and the way they are integrated into overall systems.

The other one was An RVers Guide to the Internet.  It wasn't what I expected.  It was a discussion of various web sites of use to the RVer.  I had hoped they would have a spectacular new way to access the Internet while traveling.  Although it wasn't what I expected, it was very interesting and I have a whole list of new sites to try when we get home.  One I really need to explore is  This has been designated as an official site of the FMCA and of Cummins/Onan.  

At 5:00 PM, the motorhome exhibits opened.  The other commercial exhibits will open tomorrow at 8:30 AM.  We went to the Foretravel display and saw Brad, the salesman from whom we bought our motorhome.  Upon telling him our experiences with the blown up battery, he introduced us to a lead tech.  I spent quite a bit of time talking to him, getting some good advice, and venting in general.  Steve suggested I sign up at the service trailer first thing tomorrow and have them check the alternator setting.

We passed fairly quickly through the other motorhome displays, having no real incentive to look.

We spent some time planning our remaining time at the convention.  I selected another half dozen seminars to attend, and we scheduled the times we would tour the exhibits.

Tuesday, Aug 14

Today it's official.  The convention is on!

I was going to do the exhibits right at 8:30, but went up to the Foretravel service trailer first.  I signed up for the techs to come to the motorhome, but could not get any estimate of when they would be there.

I then hit the exhibits.  The first tent contained most of the vendors I had on my list to see.  These were the engine, transmission, generator people, along with lots of accessories.

The second building (of four) was largely junk! (my definition).  This is where a lot of the jewelry, resort vendors, insurance companies, and lots of dumb products that have absolutely nothing to do with RVing are located.  (Do I seem prejudiced?)

I just barely made it through 3 of the 4 exhibit areas before it was time to attend a seminar on Electrical Systems and Battery Management.  This was the best seminar I attended.  The presenter knew his facts and pointed out many  problems with typical motorhome (and other RV) wiring, along with the ideal solutions, and practical approaches that didn't quite make it to the ideal.

Betty and I then went to the exhibits.  We started in the area I had not done yet.  We spent a couple of hours doing all but the first tent which was more of the technical items that didn't interest Betty.

These rallys and conventions are really great as far as vendor support!  I had Foretravel and Power Technology (the maker of our diesel generator) come out to the motorhome and check things out - all for free.  I stopped at the Roadmaster booth and told them of a problem I was having with my 2 1/2 year old towbar sticking when it was folded up.  They told me to take it up to their service trailer and they would fix it.  I pulled it off the back of the motorhome and took it to the trailer.  A young man took it and slid it into a receiver welded on the side of their truck.  He then pulled on the end to extend it.  The whole bar pulled out of the receiver and almost hit his feet.  He threw my bar on the ground, went to the truck, opened a box, and handed me a BRAND NEW TOWBAR!  (New cost about $450)  He said mine would be too hard to fix.  Now that is service!  He gave me a couple of the clips and pins from my old bar, so now I have spares of a couple of items.  All this, and he never asked my name or when I bought the bar.

As if that were not enough, the following day we were in the motorhome and I heard a noise in the back of the motorhome.  I went out and it was a Roadmaster tech with his service golfcart.  He told me he had just cleaned and lubricated my towbar for me.  He was going around doing that for all the Roadmaster towbars he found.  (He had no idea mine was only 1 day old!)

I had planned to go to another seminar this afternoon, but I skipped it.  I cannot do everything!

Wednesday, Aug 15

Today I did 3 of the 4 seminars I had planned.  I started at 8:00 with one on Cummins diesel engines (very good), then went to one on Monitoring and Protecting your Electrical System. (OK).  I then went to an Inverter Roundtable.  This was excellent, but did center on the Heart and the Trace brands of inverters.  Mine is a ProSine.  All three of these companies are now owned by the same company Zantrex.  So much for competition!  I did learn a lot from the seminar, even thought they did not say much about the ProSine, except to list a number of problems that it solves, and that it is the better solution for a lot of system.  They then talked about the ones that are in most of the motorhomes.

I was not able to attend a seminar on Driving with the Allison Transmission due to a time conflict.  I did make a final pass at some of the exhibits, and purchased a 12 volt electrical monitoring system after studying it and several others carefully.  They were out of them, so will ship it at no charge.  Oregon has no sales tax, so that helps too.

I went back to the motorhome and started packing up Betty's scooter, our camp chairs and several other items.  After getting pretty well ready for tomorrow's departure, we went into town, bought a couple of items, and had dinner out.

It has been quite hot here, reaching the mid 90's every day.  I have been running the generator and air conditioning several hours a day.  This has also helped our reduced battery capacity by fully charging it each day.

Thursday, Aug 16

We finished battening down for travel, backed out of our space, hooked up the Saturn with our brand new towbar, and pulled out of the fairgrounds by several minutes past 8:00.  We need a decent start today as we have almost 400 miles to make.  Most of it is on highway 97, which is largely 2 lane road.  We then transition to I-5 and should make somewhat better time the rest of the way.

We made it to our campground in Williams, CA around 4:30.  We had picked up a lot of bugs today.  I waited until it got down to 95 outside then set up my ladder and started attacking the bugs.  I had received a sample of a product called Bug B Gone.  It is supposed to easily remove splatted bugs.  Beleive it or not, it seems to work pretty well.  In general I would spray the buggy area, wait 45 to 60 seconds, and in one or two wipes with a wet rag, remove the bugs.  A few still take scrubbing, but in general it works.  I tried doing one half of the area below the windshield with and the other half without.  The "with" half was definitely easier.  The only problem is that even by the owner's estimate, an $8 bottle would do the front of a motorhome 4 or 5 times.  $2.00 a time seems awfully steep to me!  They have a kit with a refill bottle of concentrate, but it is $32, and refills the bottle only 4 times.  I guess I'll have to buy some next time I run across the fellow, because it really seemed to make the job easier.

In the morning we drive about 100 miles to near Geyserville where the wedding is tomorrow at 4:00.  Part of the road is VERY curvy on the map.  It will be interesting.

Well, I am now writing this just a week after getting home.  I am afraid that my work of writing the previous entries has just been sitting on my laptop.  The balance of this is written well after the fact.

We should have been warned by the curvy road on the map!  We drove around the top of Clear Lake and a few miles south to catch highway 175, the curvy one, to get over to hwy 101.  Shortly AFTER getting on the road, there was a sign saying that the maximum legal overall length of vehicles on the road was 39 feet.  We are 36 feet plus about 3 feet for the towbar, plus the length of the Saturn.  Now what?  We continued several miles along the road looking for a place to turn around.  We finally found a rock quarry where we were able to drive in, turn around, and head back out.  Whew!  We then drove about 25 miles to the north and rejoined highway 20, taking it west to hwy 101.  We still arrived in Geyserville before noon even after the extra 50 miles or so it took.

This afternoon, Friday, my cousin's daughter, Dana, was getting married to Josh.  The wedding was very nice.  It was outdoors at a winery, and was held in front of a huge wall of a white flowering vine that extended 20 or 30 feet high, across the whole front of the lawn where the wedding took place.  We were sitting in the shady half.  The shade was increasing fairly rapidly, so even the sunny half got relief before too long.  We stayed and celebrated, caught up with family members, and had a good time until mid evening, at which time we, along with our oldest granddaughter, Kylie, age 9 1/2 headed back to camp, about 5 miles away.

The following morning, we met the family and several of my cousin's close friends at the Geyserville Inn for a much more relaxed continental breakfast.  Here we could talk without competing with the each-number-louder-than-the-last DJ.  Afterwards, Dave, Carolyn, Kylie, and Rebecca and we went out to Lake Sonoma to see the fish hatchery.  There was nothing happening there, as it is the wrong time of the year.  We picked up sandwiches at the local general store, and had a picnic.  It was fun.

Sunday, Kylie, Betty and I headed to Willits, about an hour to the north to catch the Skunk Train, as David and family headed home.  We had reservations for the 1/2 day train to Northspur and back.  That is about 1/2 way to Fort Bragg, where the full day round trip goes.  The train consisted of a passenger car, an open observation car, and another passenger car being pulled by a diesel locomotive.  It turned out that we had "Black Bart and his gang" on board, robbing the train and passengers, and generally providing good entertainment.

At Northspur, everyone got off the train.  We were treated to a ride up and down on a hand cranked mini-elevator that is wheeled up to the train to load and unload wheelchair passengers.

Shortly after arriving at Northspur, the train from Fort Bragg arrived.  It is the steam locomotive, and had several more cars.  Each train, in turn, used a "Y" track to turn around and head back toward its departure point.  Passengers would then board the appropriate train depending upon whether they were on a 1/2 day or a full day tour, and which end they started from.

It was a very enjoyable ride, even though we didn't get the steam train.  We knew in advance that the steam train only operated on the Fort Bragg end of the line.

Monday, we broke camp in Geyserville, and moved to Vallejo.  After getting settled in we headed a few miles away to the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield.  We toured the factory and spent some time in their store.  I think Kylie really enjoyed both the train ride and the Jelly Belly tour.

Tuesday we headed for Atascadero to return Kylie and see the kids again.  We were going to only spend the night, then head home on Wednesday morning, but they were having problems with an unexplained dead electrical circuit, and we decided to stay an extra day to help them get it fixed.  This also gave Reba the opportunity to sleep in the motorhome, something she had been promised the previous night, until the electrical troubleshooting lasted far too late for that.

Thursday we had a very smooth drive home.

Dick and Betty