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Anacortes, WA

Time seems to be passing very slowly in the northwet, um, I mean “northwest”. Has it been two days? Three? Is this a mild winter or a cold fall? I’ve lost track of time and season. The visual and climatological cues I’m accustomed to don’t seem to apply. Is the rain stopping or starting? Both, it seems, and at any time of day.

A friend asked me today if we were going to attempt to flee the rainy weather. Unfortunately we really can’t. The northwest rain extends down to northern California at present, and east to Montana. If we wanted to race 500 miles south we could but we’d miss all the great coastal camping along Washington and Oregon. Even in the winter, the state parks along that route have a great reputation.


We are taking an intermediate stop in the San Juan Islands before going to the Olympic Peninsula tomorrow. There are a lot of state parks in the islands worth visiting, but for convenience we chose a city park, Washington Park in Anacortes for a one-night stop (full water/electric hookup, $21). In the summer this place is reportedly very busy, but after Labor Day nobody seems to come here despite the mild weather. We are one of only four families camped here, so we had our pick of spots.

The park is heavily forested with what appear to be cedars and Ponderosa pines. It’s mossy, damp, dark, and it smells of aromatic trees and decaying vegetation. Within a minute of arriving Emma found a large green slug moving slowly across the forest floor, which is orange from the decaying cedar. That entertained her for quite a while.

A short walk from our campsite is a short stretch of shore and a dock looking out toward a cluster of other islands to the northwest. The water is calm, clear and cold, with only the occasional ferry meandering by. I can imagine how nice this place must be in the summer with all the shade. Even now it has a sort of rugged grandeur and peacefulness. If this were summer, we’d spend a week exploring the islands.

Although the campground has full hookups, I’ve learned that one can’t take voltage for granted. Not all 30-amp outlets are created equal. Last summer I bought a digital voltage monitor, which is plugged into an outlet in the bedroom, specifically so I could identify marginal campground electrical systems before they had a chance to cause us problems.

The air conditioner in our Airstream is also a heat pump, and we use it as our primary heat source when the temperatures are above freezing and we have 30-amp electric. But it doesn’t like low voltage, and Dometic specifically warns against using it below 103.5 volts. At that level, we’d risk burning out the motor. Without the voltmeter, there’s no way to know.

As it turns out, this is the first campground we’ve hit since we left Vermont that has serious problems with voltage. With nothing turned on, the meter shows the voltage at an acceptable 118 volts. When the heat pump kicks on, it drops to 106 and then stabilizes at 111. A strong electrical system wouldn’t do that. It’s marginal enough that we have to be careful to turn the heat pump off before using the microwave, otherwise the heat pump might try to start and drive the voltage below 104, which neither appliance likes.

hitch-ball-1.jpgMaintenance has been on my mind lately. The Hensley hitch has been squeaking lately. That means the hitch ball needs lubrication. Normally you never see the hitch ball with a Hensley because it is permanently covered by the hitch head. To get to the ball, I leave the truck hitched up, loosen the weight bars and strut bars, and raise the trailer off the hitch head using the power jack.

This reveals the ball enough to lube it. I use Reese “On The Ball” hitch ball lubricant, which works well and doesn’t seem to attract dirt like grease does. Back down goes the hitch jack and the job is done for another year or so.

We were also overdue for an oil change for the Armada, which I got done at the local quick-oil place in Anacortes, and a pair of new wiper blades. The Armada will soon need its 60K major service interval and a set of tires, so I’m thinking ahead to cities in California where we may want to park for a few days and get all that done too.

Tomorrow’s plan is to ride the ferry to Port Townsend and eventually end up at Olympic National Park. It’s only 83 miles, so we’ll take our time and stop in a few towns. I don’t expect much cellular coverage once we get to the park, so the blog may drop out of sight over the weekend.

2 Responses to “Anacortes, WA”

  1. Bobby Says:

    Our hitch was creaky – and after only 6 months. I dropped it off the ball in the manner you described and slathered on bearing grease. It’s better, but I’ll need to grab some of the Reese stuff and do it again in 6 months. And I need a good voltmeter and better pressure gauge (I’m using one of the dial ones). Where’d you find yours (both items)?


    P.S. There’s an old Far Side with a boy looking out window at a sidewalk full of slugs and gleefully shouting, “The slugs are back! The slugs are back!”

  2. Rich Says:

    I think I bought the Reese hitch lube at the Airstream factory store during one of the major rallies we’ve attended. I bet you can find it in RV stores like Camping World or maybe local RV dealers, but I’m not sure of that since I’m still on my first bottle, two years later.

    The voltmeter I bought was the “Good Governor” which I bought online from With shipping it came to $77. There are lots of similar products that you can take your pick from. Make sure you get a good digital unit, not an analog one. Only the digitals are accurate enough in my opinion.

    Pressure gauge … I use digital there too. I have a fancy LED pressure gauge that my parents gave me for Christmas years ago. It weighs about half a pound and feels like it will last forever, like a Mag-lite. Then I have the $5 Wal-Mart mini LCD digital gauge that seems to work just as well. Take your pick!