Settling Into Oregon

I thought Lister could be possessive, but these dogs have claimed me as theirs. I don’t think I can ever leave. In fact I don’t think I can ever get out of this chair. And this isn’t even all of the dogs, never mind the cats.

Anyway. I’ve been settling in a bit. In typical Oregon fashion, the weather shifts randomly between bright and sunny to pouring rain, anywhere in between, and both at the same time. It kind of reminds me of New England, except it rains a whole lot more here. The plus side is that everything is brilliant shades of green, which I missed in the Arizona desert. Unless it’s currently pouring or I’m going into the house for a while, I’m leaving the side door of the van open and letting Lister roam freely. He’s been getting to know Jerry, Laurel’s elderly orange fluff ball. They’ve done the posturing thing that cats do, but now they’ll just hang out at a distance. Maybe over the next few days they’ll become friends.

I spent Friday working, and not doing much more than that. I was burning out on traveling every day in a van life unfriendly environment, and I enjoyed not having to do much of anything for a little while.

I’ve been given the run of the barn, and today I pulled my bike inside for a bit of maintenance I’ve been needing to catch up on. It’s very convenient to just bring my entire KLR parts bin inside with the bike and literally set up shop. I cleaned and lubed the chain, getting the desert dust off it. I also installed the air filter I bought on the way out of Pahrump. If I had any idea that the old filter was filthy and falling apart, I would’ve done this a lot sooner. This may explain why people with a sense of smell have been telling me it’s been running rich. Not enough air means there’s more gas in the air/fuel mixture than there should be. Now it seems to run more smoothly (for a KLR’s single-cylinder, at least), without the popping noise in the exhaust. It even seems to have a bit more power (again, for a KLR). It’s a good improvement.

An oil change is next on the agenda. I plan to take a loop around nearby Dorena Lake, both to warm up the oil first, as well as just for a short scenic ride. Then I’ll pull back into the barn and change the oil and filter. Keith doesn’t seem to have a drain pan, so I bought one (as well as license plate bolts for the trailer), and I’ll leave it here for him. Also, I ordered the radiator fan switch I need to replace. Once it arrives next week I’ll drop the coolant and swap that out. I have no idea how old the coolant is, but I’ve ridden the bike 12,000 miles since I bought it, so I figure I’ll just put new coolant in afterward instead of reusing the old stuff.

What I haven’t ordered is the third solar panel for the roof. I took some more measurements, and much to my dismay I found that the panel will overhang the front of the roof by about six inches. I don’t know how I didn’t catch this before. What makes me feel a little better, though, is that the roof is simply too short for it. I could’ve put my existing solar panels an inch or two farther back, but that wouldn’t have been enough. They’re almost up against the Maxxair roof vent as it is, which itself is as far back as possible on the roof. So my mistake didn’t cause the third panel to not fit. It’s not good to mix and match solar panels of different sizes and types, so I won’t be putting any more solar panels on the roof.

I’m thinking about figuring out a way to temporarily mount a third solar panel on the side of the van while I’m parked, specifically during the winter in Quartzsite. That way I can use a matching panel, but not have it on the roof. The sun is so low in the sky during the winter that a vertical panel will work as well, or maybe even better, than the panels mounted flat on my roof. I can add an independent pair of wires to plug it in when I’m using it, and simply hang the third panel up on the inside trailer wall when I’m not using it. I’d just need to figure out how to mount it to the side of the van so that the strong desert wind doesn’t rip the panel off the van and destroy it. I won’t need this until winter, though, so I have time to figure this out.

This also opens the possibility of installing a second roof vent instead. Running both of them, one sucking air in and the other blowing air out, would let me leave all the windows closed but still have good ventilation with screens throughout the entire van. But I got through last summer fine with just the one vent, so it’s not a necessity. There are also different types of fans I could install that cost less. Although I have the barn to work inside, I’m not going to worry about this right now.


It hasn’t been all work and no play. Catching up with Keith and Laurel has been great. Their daughter loves playing frisbee with me. We need to get one of the dogs to go find it in the tall grass it’s currently lost in. Keith has been feeding me yummy food (he’s a professional cook) and IPA beers that I actually like. I don’t think I can honestly say “I don’t like IPAs” anymore. I don’t like the ones that assault you with the taste of a pine tree, but I’ve sampled some local ones that are even better than the Alchemist’s Heady Topper back in Vermont.

I need to figure out what’s next on this adventure. I’m welcome to stay here as long as I’d like, so I’m in no rush and can take my time to form a good plan. I’ll watch the weather before heading farther north. I’ll at least visit Washington state to properly hit all four corners of the lower 48 states. I’m still thinking about Canada. More research is required. But I’m in a good place to do it.

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