Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Almost Frog Lake (Part 2)

Today's post is a continuation of Part 1, but this time I actually get to the ill-fated trip up Mount Hood, vagabonding, and Boo's saving the day. In the last post, I had packed the bus mid-week for our weekend camping trip. We usually do this the evening before, but one of my old friends was getting married that Thursday, so we went a different route. In summary, we had a yard sale over the weekend, then the purchasing / flush fill of the coolant on Monday/Tuesday, packing Wednesday and a wedding on Thursday leading up to the departure on Friday. Timing was tight. Now, on to the adventure-

Up Hill, Up Temps
We hit the road for what was to be a weekend of camping lake-side in the Oregon Cascades. With visions of hiking and floating in a paddle-boat driving us on, we headed west out of Beaverton shortly after 6. We knew we had at least 3 hours before darkness hit, so we drove at a relatively easy pace over the Sellwood Bridge, over OR224 to OR212 to US26. We came upon another bus on the OR224: a nice blue and white 2-tone which the driver had just purchased. He had a flat, and AAA on the way to help, so after exchanging pleasantries, he waved us on. Along the way, the bus temps were staying around 185*, the point where the thermostat opens. But, as we climbed more hills, the temps started rising. We stopped at the Subway for a quick dinner in Sandy and to let the bus cool off before returning to US26. By the time we hit ZigZag, I was genuinely concerned, pulling over periodically to let things cool off. As we passed through Rhododendron our temp was approaching critical, so I pulled into the breakdown / chain-up lane between forest service roads (FR) 24 and 26. With the engine idling, the fans blowing, heat fans on, the temp kept climbing. We passed 206* for the first time, and before I could kill the engine, steam started venting out through the overflow bottle. I turned off the key, the engine stopped and steam eventually stopped venting, but not before a large puddle had appeared under the passenger side rear-end of the bus. We were stuck: never add coolant to a hot motor; the engine needs to cool to ambient temperature or you could crack your block.

WildWood Recreation Area
I was in a form of shock, self-loathing for not doing the job "right", maybe using the wrong coolant or not getting the coolant-to-water concentration right.... but Boo leaped into action. The sun was dropping, and we needed to get off the road or deal with authorities. She scouted FR26, about 100 feet ahead of us, and spotted a clearing just off the road. With an apology to Hapy, I started him up and crept to the turn-out and nosed him into the clearing. While off the road, we were still very visible, so Boo started off down FR26, and returned with a big smile on her face. She found a driveway off to the left, leading to a private property which had been triple padlocked with a barrier, but the barrier was 20 feet off the road into the forest. The entryway was flat, and the locks were well-rusted, telling us that not only was no one home, no one was probably coming tonight either. We moved Hapy, noting an "if you see suspicious activity call the sheriff at..." sign, and while darkness closed in, we put up our curtains... only to discover that when we let K2 use the bus as a tent the night before the yardsale, he had left the cabin lights on, draining the auxiliary battery dead. The day had cratered. Boo, though, was incredible. She pulled out a couple of camping chairs, a couple of beers from the cooler and our leftover Subway sandwiches and served a picnic in the dark. Day saved. No sooner did we put everything away than we saw headlights on FR26.

Solving and Slipping Out
WildWood Recreation Area
Fortunately, the headlights turned to the right and went to a different cabin. We chose to settle down and get as much sleep as we could, expecting to hear a tap-tap-tap of a Sheriff's flashlight on the side of the bus to awaken us before dawn. That didn't happen. In fact, we slept for 9 hours and awoke to birds chirping at a post-dawn sun. I peeked out the window and saw a man walking his dog, and he had a "what's that?" look on his face. Recognizing the man would probably call the Sheriff, we started moving rather quickly. I had a full liter of 100% G12 under the bed, so I pushed the bedding out of the way of my self-cut engine hatch and poured it into the overflow bottle. Luck was on our side as the coolant filled the overflow bottle to the "full" mark, telling me also that we didn't lose that much coolant in the prior evenings debacle. With the bottle full, we packed up for travel and fired Hapy's engine. He started without delay and hummed like nothing ever happened. Recognizing that were were still literally in the woods, we quickly checked that the space looked as we found it and drove to US26. As soon as we were on the public road, we headed for the chain-up area about 100' downhill. With Boo's foot on the brake, I went around back and checked everything. The coolant level had dropped a little bit, but it was still closer to full than fill.

ZigZag and WildWood
Rather than continue to drive away from civilization up to Frog Lake, we chose, instead to lollygag our way back out of the mountains, stopping first at the ZigZag Cafe. Boo and I had driven past the ZigZag Cafe for years before first stopping in a couple of years ago. Since then, we try to include a meal there when we're up at the mountain. It is a mom and pop place where the owners cook and serve some great food. You just need to wait for it. We whiled away our morning, sipping coffee, watching the trickle of the ZigZag River out the window and enjoying an easy brunch. Deciding that we still didn't have great confidence in the cooling system, we continued downhill. Just west of Welches, there is another spot we've driven past for years, but never visited: WildWood Recreation Area. Wildwood sits on the Sandy river with many riverside picnic areas, a group shelter and, apparently, very few visitors.

We turned a weekend camp into a day at the river, selecting food, drinks, and materials for a riverside hang out. We sat in the river and talked, snacked, and relaxed. We encountered only the camp hosts, a young family (who also had a VW bus in their yard) and a tourist from Singapore. The tourist was looking for natural sights so we talked about some of the wonders of Oregon, encouraged a visit to the coast and learned about Singapore. All in, we visited for about 20 minutes, but it really resonated for us.

We had decided that driving up to the camp site was probably a lost cause; someone else probably found the reserved, but unclaimed spot and nabbed it. Besides, we still weren't 100% sure our cooling issues were behind us. So, as the afternoon shifted to evening, we packed up into the bus and nosed towards home. Now, the drive "down" from Mount Hood isn't all downhill. Most of it is, but there is a stretch between Brightwood and Sandy just past the Ivy Bear Restaurant where there is a long uphill pull. That was our first real test. By the time we got there, we were running at 185* (our Normal Operating Temp with the thermostat we have). As we started climbing the hill, the temp didn't really move, so I pushed the speed a little bit, trying to stress the system. That did it. A little bit. The temp rose into the low 190's, but stabilized at 194 the rest of the way up. Once we crested the hill and leveled off, the temp dropped right back down to 185 and then 183 (thermostat closed). Hazah!

There are 2 more meaningful hill-climbs on the way home after that one. The first is leaving Boring heading west towards Clackamas and the other is on I-205 between Oregon City and West Linn. The first, we took from a dead stop at the intersection across the street from the Timber Pub and Grub. We stayed in the slower-traffic lane, but held at speed the whole way and didn't see our temp get above the new high-point of 194*. For the second, we were at highway speed (60mph in the bus) and would have maintained speed except for a slow moving heavily-laden semi-truck in the right lane. Regardless, our temp wasn't a factor, and it appears that our cooling issue has been solved.

Since this ill-fated trip, the bus hasn't seen much action. I have been focused on getting the little convertible MGB into road-ready shape before the nice weather ends. My next few posts will probably be focused on that work. I hope to isolate another weekend day for a day at a park with the family in Hapy. We have plenty of water-side parks here, so it's just a matter of circling the day on the calendar and doing it.

That's it for today. Thanks again for following along-

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