Posts tagged: Yellowstone National Park

Goodbye Yellowstone, Hello Repair Shop!

By , June 7, 2010 9:21 pm

My previous post pretty much wrapped up our trip to Yellowstone National Park.


On Saturday morning, I said goodbye Dasy, Rob and Lara and they headed off to Jackson Hole to catch a flight back to Washington, DC.  Dasy was going to visit family and friends for a couple weeks and Rob and Lara were going back to “normal life”. 

I finished packing up the RV and talked with our host for a bit (by the way, Wagon Wheel RV Park in West Yellowstone gets our seal of approval).  Then I started heading for Bozeman, MT to get some work done on the Star.  Here’s the short version of the issue (trust me, the long version would be several pages)…

Note: Some people I’ve discussed this with aren’t clear on what is meant by “chassis”.  In most cases, the chassis is the frame of a vehicle and all the bits attached to it that make it go or stop.  This normally includes axles, brakes, the steering components and wheels, but in some instances can also include the engine, transmission and any electrical bits associated with any of the above.  For RV’ers, we generally use the following rule of thumb for determining if something is chassis-related:  If the part in question is also found on a delivery truck or a semi (tractor-trailer), it’s probably a chassis part.  Things specific to an RV, like a refrigerator, a roof fan, or a 50 amp electrical transfer box, are not considered part of the chassis.

When we were in Texas, we noticed that the driver’s side front wheel was leaking some fluid.  We have air brakes, so I knew it wasn’t brake fluid.  It turned out to be axle fluid (gear oil).  The axle fluid keeps the wheel bearing lubricated, which is kind of important.  We stopped on the way out of Texas to get that fixed.  It’s my belief that we were completely scammed.  The shop that did the work tried to bill me for the brakes and seals for both front wheels.  It was obvious they’d only done one.  The mechanic refused to talk to me when I complained about it and the owner was “unavailable”.  I managed to get the cashier to bill me for only one wheel, so we chalked it up to “lesson learned” and moved on.  I checked the wheel several times on our way to Yellowstone and noticed that it started leaking again (almost as soon as we left the shop in Texas).  In my opinion, the mechanic did a lousy job and botched the new seal.  The lack of fluid then ate up the wheel bearings.  So, I found a shop just outside of Bozeman that was certified by Freightliner to work on RV chassis’ in order to get the seal done again.

Another problem that popped up on the way from Moab to Yellowstone was the ABS light.  It came on and never went off.  I’ve had ABS computers fry in other vehicles before, so I wasn’t worried about it, but I wanted it fixed.  I don’t think our ABS system has ever kicked in, but when I’m driving a 30,000 pound vehicle, with a 5000 pound Jeep and a motorcycle attached to it, I want the ABS to work if it’s ever needed!

We also have had an ongoing but intermittent problem with the air pressure gauges on the Star.  There are two air tanks that hold the air used to operate the brakes.  They generally stay at about 120 psi.  When we would drive the Star, one or both guages would regularly drop to zero.  This would cause alarms to sound (which I disconnected fairly quickly) and a warning light on the dash.  I  checked the actual pressure on the tanks and I checked the operation of the compressors and all was well.  So, the air system was working, but the sensor system wasn’t.  I have no idea what else relies on those sensors and I don’t what the long term effects would be, so I wanted that fixed as well. 

I ended up going to Rocky Mountain Truck Center in Belgrade, MT (about 7 miles west of Bozeman).  Out of all the shops we’ve been to for just about anything, this is probably the place I’d try to come back to if I needed more chassis work done.  They diagnosed everything fairly quickly, spent most of a day trying to get the replacement computer needed for the air system and dealt with my Good Sam service insurance (although it wasn’t quite enough of a bill to meet my quite high deductible).  The best part is that they pulled the Star out of the shop at night and they let me sleep in it in the back lot.  They even let me run an extension cord out to get power at night!  They also took care of a Freightliner recall and reprogrammed the engine and transmission controllers.  They were quite tolerant of my being around all the time and they treated me and the Star with consideration and respect (including making efforts to avoid getting my home dirty).  I can’t recommend them enough!  It would be nice if they had a better wifi antenna though, as I couldn’t get a reliable connection when in the back lot. 😉

It took about a week for everything to get done…  Most of that was waiting for the new control module for the air system.  Apparently even Freightliner had a hard time figuring out what it was and where they had one…  The parts guy spent most of a day on the phone with them trying to track it down.  I wouldn’t want his job! :S

At the end of it, all was done to satisfaction and I now have a safe and drivable RV that I can trust again.  The Star made it all the way from Belgrade to Glacier NP with no issues at all!

While I was stuck in Belgrade, I didn’t do much other than arrange things on the RV at night.  I did have one outing to Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, which I will write about next time.

I’ll leave you with a picture of the old air system control module (the new one looks exactly the same, just less dirty)…  I’ll be pulling it apart soon. 😉


I really don’t want to tell you how much it costs to have one of these replaced. :S

Hot and Cold

By , June 3, 2010 10:22 pm

Our third outing in Yellowstone was a cold and dreary morning.  We might have also made an unwise choice in where to go and when.  It wasn’t snowing or raining regularly, but there were flurries and it was far colder than any other morning so far.

IMG_1107We headed to Yellowstone Falls and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, which is on the east side of the park.  We stopped at a point near the falls and planned to do a little hiking to get to a couple of viewpoints.  Due to the recent rain/snow, the ground was absolute mush.  My boots were caked with clay and mud within minutes.  But, we did get some decent views of the falls and the canyon.  I’ve included both a zoomed in shot and a zoomed out one so you can get an idea of just how big the canyon is. 

Even though the views were worth it and we’re glad we decided to come, we were getting pretty miserable and we were less than halfway to the point we were trying to get to.  Luckily, I brought along a GPS (no cell service) and did some occasional checks as we went.  It looked a lot like there was a road that eventually ran out to the point we were trying to get to. IMG_1106 I mentioned it and almost immediately got a “Great idea, let’s go!”.  I guess I wasn’t the only one who was cold. 😉

We hiked back to the Jeep and drove right up to the point we were about to hike to.  I guess I should have checked a couple more maps before heading out. ;)  We were rewarded with another great view, but the distance was quite a bit further to the falls.  We did get a much better view of the canyon from there, but it was still cold. We decided we needed some heat!

So, we went to the Dragon’s Mouth!

IMG_1146The Dragon’s Mouth is so named due to the steam that constantly bellows forth and the roaring that accompanies it.  The water at the entrance is constantly churning and bursting out.  If not for the steam and muddy color of the water, it would be very much like a sea cave with waves crashing in it.  It’s rather strange.

IMG_1157There are a whole lot of active features at the same location, including bubbling mud pots, boiling pools and a mud volcano.  We weren’t up to exploring too much, but we did the normal picture taking and eyeballing.  If we did want to explore some more, we would have been out of luck due to the sign.  The sign was an “Area closed – there be bear abouts”.  We have decided it was all a publicity stunt and there aren’t actually any bear.  We ran into bear closure areas all over the place but didn’t see a single one the entire time.  There was one area with a ton of traffic where people said there was a bear, but we didn’t really believe that would be our only chance to see one, so we didn’t stop.  Oops.  We even went looking for bear, but that’s a story for another post later.


By the way…  I’m not sure how long this area (Dragon’s Mouth) will be open.  It’s pretty active and the parking lot is now starting to get eaten.  There are several holes in the asphalt with hot sulfuric steam coming out.  At some point the park service will have to re-arrange that parking lot.  From my perspective, it was neat to see the change in only a couple years time.  The whole park really is an active area.  I guess it’s possible than any of the features could change radically at any time.

After the Dragon’s Mouth, we headed to Yellowstone Lake.  To our surprise, it was still covered in ice!

IMG_1164It’s probably thawed out by now, but it was neat to see it at least partially in it’s winter attire. 

After that, we went to the West Thumb Geyser Basin.  West Thumb is probably one of the most visited areas of Yellowstone, with good reason.  It has some really neat geysers, but it’s very restricted and can be quite crowded at times.  It’s best to visit this spot in the early morning or later in the evening if you don’t want to be squeezing past people on boardwalks.  It’s good if you can take some time and just wander here, as some of the pools are quite beautiful. The different water temperatures coming out of the ground (all of which are close to boiling) are home to many different algaes and other biologic stuff that I don’t remember the names of.  Different colored things grow in the different temperatures, some of which can show some incredible colors!

 IMG_1176 IMG_1181 IMG_1185 IMG_1190 IMG_1195  IMG_1207

It was also kind of cool to see the elk just hanging out amongst the features.  Some of them were getting a nice little steam bath.  They don’t have to adhere to park regulations about staying on boardwalks.  😉

Luckily it warmed up and the sun came out while we were at the West Thumb area.

That was pretty much a full day’s activity for us.  I think we were all getting fairly tired from the constant activity, as we’d pretty much been going non-stop since we arrived.  The remaining few days would change that.

Note: I’m still at a repair shop and can get power at night to pull pictures.  I’ll try to finish off the Yellowstone posts tonight or tomorrow (offline) and post them up when I can get a connection.  

Walking Around A Volcano

By , May 28, 2010 4:19 pm

West Yellowstone, MT and Yellowstone National Park, WY


We arrived in West Yellowstone, Montana about a week ago and got the RV set up while waiting for friends from Virginia to join us.  The first day was a nice chance for Dasy and I to run around West Yellowstone and do some basic exploring before hitting Yellowstone itself.  To make it less confusing, let me define West Yellowstone and Yellowstone.

West Yellowstone is the town in Montana that is just outside of Yellowstone National Park.  It’s one of the closest areas you can stay in outside the park.  It’s located in Gallatin National Forest and serves as the “gateway” to the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park.  We’re staying at Wagon Wheel RV park while we’re here.

Yellowstone National Park is located mostly in Wyoming, although small parts of it are also in Montana and Idaho.  I’ll refer to Yellowstone National Park as YNP from here on.

IMG_0706West Yellowstone is a neat little frontier town.  It’s not hard to imagine someone pulling up with a wagon full of skins at a traders store.  There are even bison wandering around!

The next morning, our friends (Rob and Lara) and us headed into YNP itself.  There were a number of road closures, due both to weather and bear activity.  We were in the park a little before the prime tourist season and it was still quite cold and weather was somewhat unpredictable (most people would definitely describe it as winter).

IMG_0710We saw a number of wild animals in the park, which for some reason generally makes us happier than scenery.  One of the first we spotted was a pair of golden eagles nesting near the road.  We stopped briefly and watched from a distance and took a few pictures.  There was a 1/4 mile “quarantine” zone that people weren’t supposed to stop in, so we were still a fair distance away.

We were also lucky enough to spot a wolf, presumably looking for food, near the Gibbon River.  Unfortunately, my camera lens appears to be getting worse and I only got one shot that was anywhere close to being in focus.  I think the sand in Moab did a number on the lens and it doesn’t like to focus any more.  I’ll clean it and see how it does over the next week or so.IMG_0725

One of the notable things that happened would turn out to be a recurring theme.  Even though it wasn’t really tourist season yet, we’d have to deal with traffic jams in the park.  But, unlike most traffic jams, these were usually caused by bison. 😉


We also were lucky enough to spot some elk when we stopped for lunch at Mammoth Hot Springs in the park.  It would turn out that the bison and elk were pretty common and were generally found all over the place, but it was nice that we spotted some on the first day in the park.

IMG_0826After lunch, we checked out the springs and then headed back out for West Yellowstone.

It’s really easy to forget that Yellowstone is the largest active volcanic system in the world.  It’s such a beautiful place and really good example of how big this country is.  But then, you find some geologic feature that’s spouting steam and smells like sulfur and it sinks in a bit…

IMG_0859 IMG_0888

…we’re walking on a volcano… a really BIG one! 


Panorama Theme by Themocracy