Upgrade: Macerator Pump

One of my lessons learned this summer has been that I need to make peace with water/electric only camping. As Thousand Trails members we’ve had to decide between sites we liked for one reason or another and sites that offer sewer hookups and not much else. Of course, beyond that we’ve been in several campgrounds (Thousand Trails and others) where full hookups are simply not available. My earlier feeling was that not having full hookups was going to be fairly unusual and it wasn’t necessary to make any special plans for that possibility. These days, I’m thinking it’s more common, especially in the west, and that I need to have an approach for dealing with partial hookups on a somewhat regular basis.

Our stays are generally 10-14 days. Our black water tank is plenty big enough for that, but our gray water tanks tend to fill quicker and need to be emptied during our stay. One could tow a blueboy through the campground to the dump station, but in some parks the dump station is unreasonably far from the campsites. Some campgrounds offer honey wagon service but it can be rather expensive.

Here’s a quick update on the macerator/blueboy approach…we’re now on the road with our 40 gallon blueboy aboard. I was pleased that I could stand it up on it’s side and have room for it in the 5th wheel bay. We’re in a CoE campground with water but no sewer hookup so we’re using the macerator/blueboy combo (and likely will be for our next few stops). It’s working exactly as I hoped. When we arrived we ran our R/O machine to make some drinking water. It creates a lot of “brine” water. We filled our kitchen tank doing that, so I dumped it using the macerator. Then, since we’ve been in this campground we’ve done three small loads of laundry (“small” is the watchword using the washer/dryer combo we have). The three loads plus bathroom sink usage filled the front grey water tank to 3/4 so I dumped again. I ended up making two trips to the nearby dump station to empty the two grey water tanks. I’m quite satisfied with this approach. It saves dragging the blueboy through the campground and is easy enough to do. One thing I like is that when I pull the dump valve the waste water stops at the pump until I turn it on. Then, when the blueboy is full, I can just turn off the pump and the water stops. This works great for multiple trips.

Let me add that I’m not planning on using this approach for black water unless it is absolutely necessary. Since the macerator does it’s thing for solids I think it would work, but the idea of holding the water hose as it pumps the “stuff” into the blueboy sounds rather yucky to me. I’ll stick with pumping shower/kitchen water.

2014 – California Gold Country

Nearby Placerville has a nice historic downtown with a variety of shops and eating places. We enjoyed going through the oldest hardware west of the Mississippi which has been open in the same location for 160 years. It has wooden floors, rolling ladders and something for everyone from appliances to plumbing supplies and paint. This street provides an idea of what early Placerville looked like.

We enjoyed the area and took advantage of having a nice camp spot to relax and appreciate the natural beauty.

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Campground review: Ponderosa Thousand Trails, Lotus, CA


I think Ponderosa Thousand Trails is one of the most scenic campgrounds we’ve been in on our 2014 adventure. The campground is right on the American River and “Old Scary” rapids is right in front of our camper. It’s been fun watching rafters and kayakers navigate this (fairly easy) rapid. We’re also about a mile downriver from Sutter’s Mill – the place where the initial gold find took place, sparking the historic California gold rush.

In addition to watching the rafters we’ve been entertained by paragliders who launched from the mountain just across the river from us and glided on the air currents for nearly an hour and also by hardy fellow campers panning for gold in the cold water. One fellow showed me a small vial with several flecks of gold he had found that day. Others fished for trout and reported some limited success on that front.

Satellite TV was reasonably easy to get and my Verizon 4G has a decent 3 bars of signal strength. We’ve really enjoyed our relaxing spot on the river and hope to return someday.

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2014 – California State Railroad Museum – Sacramento

I was away several days during this stop on our 2014 adventure, but we did get to visit the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento.  We concluded that it is well worth the $10 price of admission.

The second floor is dedicated to miniature railroading.  There are model trains that are well over 100 years old and a really nice model railroad with hundreds of interesting details and model trains running through tunnels and over bridges.

Just outside the door is Old Town with beautiful restored buildings now used for restaurants, shops and businesses.

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Campground Review: Lake Minden Thousand Trails, Nicolaus, CA

I have to admit that Lake Minden Thousand Trails, just north of Sacramento, CA was a bit of a letdown for me. After months along the beautiful Washington, Oregon, and northern California coast the flat lands of this portion of California doesn’t quite measure up. In fairness, not many places would.

Not wanting to deal with electrical problems in the dry, 90+ degree heat, we headed straight to “D” section and picked a site right in the middle of the campground, adjacent to the restrooms. That happens to also be the spot where the dump station is located. After one night we concluded that not only were we having problems getting our satellite TV signal but that, even worse, we could smell the dump station from our campsite (I know, I know – we could have guessed that). We relocated to one of the perimeter sites and settled in for the remainder of our stay, away from the odor and getting a satellite signal with no problems too.  Also, I’ll mention that I enjoyed a very strong Verizon 4G cell and data signal.

The campground is surrounded by walnut groves and farmland and for years the lake has been a draw to folks wanting to get out of the city. I certainly wouldn’t rank Lake Minden at the top of the Thousand Trails we’ve visited but it served our purposes and, while I wouldn’t consider it to be a destination for us, I’d return for another stay.

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2014 – Along the southern Oregon/northern California coast

Then, as we moved into northern California we were amazed by the majesty of the old growth redwood trees in Redwood National Park. One memorable drive was up Howland Hill Road at Crescent City into the state/national park. At one point we stopped to walk the easy loop through Stouts Grove; the trees there are stunning.

We enjoyed our time at Smith River. The river flows into the Pacific right at our campground. We walked along the water, enjoying the sea lions, harbor seals and one eagle.

The drive down 101 was beautiful yet challenging with steep grades and sharp turns. In several places there are Redwoods right by the highway. Along one stretch we drove through Richardson Grove. The hills are steep but the views are beautiful. There were many small towns along the way and several looked like a nice place to spend some time. At one point for abut an hour we drove through increasing smoke from a forest fire. We never saw the actual fire but we actually drove past the firefighter’s base camp.

Our trip down the coast of the Pacific Northwest was terrific and we were a bit sad to move south and inland. We now understand better why people flock to this area and hope to return in days to come.

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Shortstop: Shoreline RV Park – Eureka, CA

Our two day stay in Eureka, CA was just one of three stops we made to break up our repositioning move from the Oregon coast to the Sacramento area. Shoreline RV Park gets decent internet reviews and happens to be in the right place for us. The park has easy access from 101 – although entry is a bit strange. Highway 101 is split here, so if you are traveling south you have to pass the place, turn at a light, and then return to the park. However, the turn isn’t into the park, rather, it’s for a Circle K gas station or a Harley dealer. You drive between the two right into the park. Leaving and continuing north is easy enough, but it includes driving a different street to get back to a place where you can get back to the southbound side of 101.

The RV park is all paved and boasts very long but narrow pull through sites with narrow strips of grass between sites. The WiFi is good and the restrooms and laundry room are modern and clean. The sewer hookup is at the very back of the sites so you’ll need a longer hose to reach it. There’s no pool or any other amenities. We paid around $37 a night which makes this one of the more expensive stays we’ve had.

This RV park is no vacation destination, but if you need a spot in Eureka and are willing to pay the price this is a good place to stop.

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Shortstop: Salmon Harbor Resort, Smith River, CA

The draw here is that the Smith River pours into the Pacific right at the campground. Apparently, this is a great place for fishing – if “Resort” in the name doesn’t apply, “Salmon” does! We enjoyed the water very much, watching harbor seals, sea lions, and birds in abundance; all viewed just a few steps from our campsite.

The campground offers WiFi for a price. We opted to use our Verizon service which has an acceptable 3G connect. Cable TV is provided and there’s a laundry and some worn bathrooms. The staff is friendly and accommodating.

I’d say that the campground is a bit below average, but the location is very good.

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