Scotch at Costco

For some reason I woke up at 4:30am Tuesday morning. I couldn’t get back to sleep, so I read a book for a while. Then I dozed for a bit and finally got out of bed at 7am. I played pickleball at the Pacific Beach Recreation Center, but didn’t play all that well. The courts were busy and I had a lot of down time between games, so I gave it up by noon.

After lunch and a shower, I rode the Spyder over to Costco. By the way, a few people have asked me if we shower in the facilities here at Mission Bay RV Resort since we’re parked right next to them. The answer is no – we prefer to use our own shower and toilet. I went to Costco to pick up some bottled water and see if they still had the great deal on Glenmorangie Single Malt Scotch Whiskey. They did.

I love single malt Scotch – mostly. Here’s the thing – you need to know a few things about Scotch whisky and single malt in particular. First of all it’s whisky – no “e”. In Great Britain and Japan, whisky doesn’t have the “e” in whiskey unlike the rest of the world. To qualify as single malt Scotch whisky there are a few requirements. It must be made from malted barley and no other grain. It must be aged in oak barrels for a minimum of three years. It must be distilled and bottled in Scotland. And all of the distilled spirit must come from the same distillery.

The last statement creates a bit of confusion. Single malt Scotch isn’t made from a single cask of whisky. Several casks can be blended together to form the flavor profile, but they must all be made from malted barley from the same distillery – the casks aren’t necessarily filled from the same batch. The age statement on the label – if provided – must state the age of the youngest whisky used. If the label says 12-year-old, then all of the casks blended in the bottle must be at least 12 years old.

Blended Scotch whisky is something else altogether. Blended Scotch whisky can have spirits distilled from rye or corn added to the blend – like American whiskey. Blended Scotch whisky has the same label age requirements as single malts.

Anyway, to get back to Costco, I was wanting to see if they still had 1.75 liter bottles of Glenmorangie. I discovered these at a trip to the Costco on Morena Boulevard (more about that store here) a few weeks ago. Usually you will find whisky in 750ml bottles – what we used to call a fifth. The 1.75-liter bottle is 2.33 times the “normal” bottle size. Costco has Glenmorangie here for $49.99 in the 1.75-liter bottle. That works out to $21.45 for a 750ml bottle – which I usually find in liquor stores for $36-$44 a bottle. What a deal.

Something else I should mention is about the regions of Scotland that produce whisky. When someone tells me they don’t like Scotch, I always wonder what they tried. Each region has its own character of Scotch they produce. Nowadays there are six recognized regions although there were fewer in the past. The Highlands are the largest region. You’ll find a variety of flavors in Highland Scotch – most are very clean and easy on the palate. The northern parts are more spicy in nature while the southern tends to be more fruity.

The Lowland Scotches – of which I think there are only three distilleries – produce a lighter Scotch although Auchentoshan makes a peaty, smoky whisky.

Speyside – which is really a sub-region of the Highlands – has the highest concentration of distilleries and they are known to be sweeter, flavorful and easy to drink. Speysides were my favorite and my introduction to Scotch.

Campbeltown only has few distilleries remaining although it was once a great producer. The single malts here are peaty and even salty. I don’t have much experience with them.

Islay – pronounced “eye-luh” by the Scottish – is the strongest flavor profile and usually very smoky and peaty. Islay Scotch malt is almost always dried by burning peat under the malt floor. James Bond’s favorite, Laphroaig, is a smoky monster. I bought it a few times but I just can’t come to terms with it.

Then there are the Island Scotches – some say it’s really not a region of its own. These tend to be milder versions of Islay Scotch.

So, there I was at Costco. Glenfiddich 12-year-old was my go to Scotch – a Speyside favorite that can be found in most bars. But after experimenting with a few different single malts in the last year, I’ve come to find Glenmorangie Original 10-year-old has a very nice flavor profile that’s a little more complex and oakey than the Glenfiddich.

An interesting note about Glenmorangie – they own and operate a cooperage in Missouri. They cut American oak staves and make barrels there. The barrels are leased to Jack Daniels for four years and Jack Daniels ages their bourbon in them. At the end of the lease, the barrels are shipped to Scotland and Glenmorangie ages their whisky in them.

I was happy to find Costco still had some 1.75 liter bottles of Glenmorangie on display and I bought one. I also found something that I’d discovered a couple of years ago. Costco – or maybe it’s particular to certain Costco scores – sells really high-end liquor at this time of year. They had a 41-year-old Glenmorangie on display for $6,999.00!

41-year-old Glenmorangie

I wrote about the high-end liquor here in this post. But I wasn’t ready for what I saw next. Wait for it…50-year-old Bowmore Islay Scotch whisky for $18,999.00!

Bowmore Islay for just shy of $19,000!

When I checked out, I mentioned what a great deal the Glenmorangie 1.75 liter bottle was. Then I commented about the $19,000 Bowmore and asked if anyone buys something like that. The cashier said every year they sell the high-end bottles of liquor at unbelievable prices and she thought it would sell. Wow.

The temperature reached the upper 70s Tuesday. I made my usual Tuesday afternoon happy hour run to Offshore Tavern and Grill and then Donna walked over to meet there by 5pm. We had the Taco Tuesday specials for dinner. The next few days we should see temperatures in the low 80s. We’re looking forward to a Thanksgiving visit with my youngest daughter, Shauna, from Washington, DC. Have a happy Thanksgiving wherever you are!

 

 

Stub Hub Bus

Sini let us use her car on Saturday morning to start a fun-filled weekend. Donna and I drove up to San Diego State University and picked up Lainey, our granddaughter. The next stop was in the Little Italy district downtown where we hit the farmers’ market. We browsed through the vendor stalls and made a couple of purchases. We ran into our friends, Hans and Lisa there (Metamorphosis Road).

Then we drove down the waterfront to Seaport Village. There are a number of shops, restaurants and a fresh seafood market there. We walked out on the G Street pier to check out the fresh caught fish. We found a burned wreck of a fishing vessel. I remembered reading something about a fishing boat that burned near downtown – it produced so much smoke that some businesses had to close.

The blaze started on Friday, September 30th. The 120-foot fishing boat, Norton Sound, was docked at the G Street pier when it caught fire. The boat burned for a couple of days before the fire was under control, despite the efforts of the San Diego Firefighters and Harbor Police which involved pumping 2,000 gallons of water per minute onto the boat and pier. The blaze reached a temperature of 2,500 degrees and the steel superstructure melted.

Burned and melted Norton Sound

No one was on board at the time and the cause of the fire is undetermined. The ship once belonged to the Norton Sound Seafood Company, but is now owned by three residents of Mexico. It took three days to bring the temperature on board down to 100 degrees. The boat remains docked at the G Street pier and I don’t know what the final disposition of it will be.

View of the USS Midway from the G Street pier

We had lunch at the San Diego Pier Cafe – it’s a nice cafe built on pilings right on the water.

Lainey, me and Donna at Seaport Village

We drove Lainey back to the campus and had a tour of her dormitory. It’s an interesting set-up. She shares a room with two roommates and the common area – bathroom and kitchen – is shared with five others in the suite of rooms.

On Sunday morning, I was up early. My friend, Gary Stemple, is a Chargers season ticket holder although the team has left San Diego. He invited me to join him for the game against Buffalo at the Stub Hub Center. This stadium is located on the California State University Dominguez Hills campus in Carson, California – up in Los Angeles County about 100 miles from San Diego. There are multiple facilities at the center including a velodrome, tennis arena and soccer stadium. The Chargers play in the soccer stadium.

Sunday morning sunrise behind the mesa over De Anza Cove

We met up before 7am at the Old Town Transit Center. It was a nine dollar Lyft ride from the RV park. At the transit center, we boarded a bus chartered by the 5 North Bolt company – they are a tour bus company that provides transportation to Chargers home games and they also host a tailgate party. The bus we were on was one of two buses leaving Old Town at 7:30am. There were only 15 people on our bus which could accommodate more than 50 people. We made a stop in Oceanside and picked up more passengers.

They served drinks – cocktails like Bloody Marys and mimosas and craft beer from Mike Hess Brewing in San Diego. It seemed like most of the people on the bus were season ticket holders and were regulars on the tour bus. It was fun meeting and talking to people.

Young Chargers fan on the bus

We made another stop in Costa Mesa where we picked up more people and they loaded food for the tailgate party from Hooters. The bus ride including drinks, food and a bathroom on board costs 80 dollars. We also had a fun raffle for Chargers gear in Costa Mesa.

The atmosphere at the tailgate area of Stub Hub Center was different from what I’d experienced in San Diego. At Stub Hub, they confine all of the tailgating to one fairly small area. Everyone is packed together and there were competing sound systems. Parking in the tailgate section costs $100 per event! Some of the people had elaborate bar set-ups they brought in pick-up trucks.

Thunder Alley tail gate area

5 North Bolt had a canopy and tables set with food and drinks. Everyone on the bus was given wrist bands to show for food and drink.

Sliders from Hooters

It was a fun time and everyone was really friendly. I met a guy from up in the San Fernando Valley. I asked him how a guy from the valley became a Chargers fan. He told me his family were Raiders fans. He went to one game in Oakland and said it was scary. Then he went to a Raiders game when they played in San Diego. He said it was so much fun, the people were friendly and there were pretty women all over the stadium. That won him over as a Chargers fan.

Gary and I walked to the tennis arena where another tailgate session was in progress. To be honest, I don’t know how we got in to this party. Gary checked us in at a table near the entrance and we were given another wristband.

Gary heading down to another tailgate party

They had a group of drummers performing and of course, more beer.

Group of drummers

We met some people where we shared a table. One guy was there for his first NFL football game.

Gary with new friends from San Fernando

We finally made our way to our seats in the south end zone just before kick-off. Stub Hub Center is a relatively small venue – it seats about 27,000 people in the stadium. We were seated close to the field next to the tunnel from the locker rooms.

View from our seats at the stadium

Inexplicably, the Buffalo Bills benched their regular quarterback and started a rookie with only about 4 minutes of previous regular season playing time. The Chargers defense stymied him and intercepted five of his 14 first-half passes. At half time, the Chargers were up 37-7. The final score was a blowout – Chargers 54, Buffalo 24.

I snoozed on most of the bus ride back to Old Town. Gary and I shared a Lyft ride and I was dropped off at the Mission Bay RV Resort. I had more than my fill of fun and beer and plan to lie low today.

Mystery Achievement

The US Postal Service came through and delivered my new pickleball paddle Monday afternoon. I used it on Tuesday and Wednesday and I’m happy with it. The grip is very comfortable. The performance difference between this paddle and my old one is subtle – I expected a greater change. It gives good power and I feel like I have a little more control, but it’s not a night-and-day difference.

New Head pickleball paddle

I crossed a couple more chores off my “to do” list this week. The first thing was addressing our vent fans. After studying the wiring schematic, I saw the power source ran from the fuse box behind the kick panel in front of the passenger seat all the way to the switch on the bathroom wall. It’s a 14-gauge wire with yellow insulation.

Vent fan switch on the right

At one pole of the switch, another yellow wire is crimped to the connector with the power wire and runs back through the wall into the ceiling and goes to the kitchen vent fan switch. The other pole of the switch completes the circuit to the vent fan motor. This explains why both fans quit working at the same time. If current doesn’t reach the bathroom wall switch, then there’s no current going to the kitchen fan switch either.

Looking at the wall switch plate, I couldn’t see any fasteners. I carefully pried the plastic surround cover with a plastic wedge tool and popped the surround off. The surround cover was held to the actual switch plate with four tabs snapped into square holes on the switch plate.

Switch plate screws revealed

With the surround cover off, I saw the screws holding the switch plate to the wall. With these screws removed, I accessed the wiring. I checked the yellow wires on the vent fan switch and found some interesting readings with my multimeter. At first I found about six to eight volts at the switch – meaning I had a large voltage drop from the 13.4 volts at the battery bank. I wiggled the wires and then read zero volts. I pulled the connector off the switch and checked the crimp and wire ends. I followed the wiring and found it coming out of the wall behind the clothes washer in the utility closet. I looked for breaks or abrasions in the wire and found none. I wiggled the wire where it enters the utility closet and pushed it into the wall opening to provide more slack. When I checked with the meter again, I read 13.4 volts.

Yellow vent fan wires on the right

Aha! Something was amiss with the wiring – there must be a break in the strands of wire and I had pushed them back together. The bad news is – the break must be in the section of wire inside the wall. I can’t just pull the wire out of the wall in the utility closet because the bundle of wires runs through plastic support loops every foot or so – including the portion inside the wall. They must have run the wires and secured the loops before the wall panel inside the closet was closed out.

Wiring coming out of the wall in the back of the utility closet

I was stumped. I gave the wires another wiggle test and lost voltage. My thought was to splice into the wires for the bathroom lighting. I could make a short jumper wire and have a power source for the vent fans without running wires the length of the coach. To do this, I needed some 14-gauge wire and piggyback connectors. I put this project on hold to think it over before I bought the supplies and started splicing. I left it with the switch plate off and reconnected the wiring. Later, the fans came on – I had left the switches in the “on” position. I wiggled the wires again. The fans kept running. I left the fans on all day and they worked fine.

Before pickleball on Wednesday, I stopped at the auto parts store in Pacific Beach. I picked up some yellow 14-gauge wire and splice connectors. I also bought brake fluid for the Spyder. When I came home, I wiggled the wires again and the fans still worked. I decided to hold off on splicing into the other power supply wire and I put the switchplate and surround back together. I don’t like mystery fixes – I’m thinking some time down the road the wire will open again and the fans will lose power. I’ll wait until this happens before I splice the wires – I have what need to do it when the time comes.

Next on my list was the brake fluid level on the Spyder. Can-Am did some weird things when they designed the Spyder. The brake fluid is contained in a two-chamber reservoir with tubing supplying fluid to the master cylinder and hydraulic system. Vehicle master cylinders are dual acting mechanisms. There are separate circuits – in this case one circuit operates the rear brake and a second circuit operates the front brakes. Separating the hydraulics into two circuits adds a margin of safety. This is common practice on cars. Some cars – mostly European – take this approach to the next level by separating the circuits into a right front – left rear and left front – right rear  to give greater braking control in the event of failure of one of the circuits.

Having separate front and rear circuits is all well and good on the Spyder design. The Spyder also has a fluid level sensor in the brake fluid reservoir. But the thing is, the sensor is way too sensitive. The slightest drop in fluid level triggers a brake warning light and the message “Brake Failure” flashes on the dash panel. It’s normal for the fluid level to drop slightly as the brake pads wear. The wear of the pads is taken up by the pistons in the caliper extending further in their bores. This creates more fluid volume in the caliper and it’s drawn out of the reservoir. On the Spyder, the brake fluid reservoir must be periodically topped up to avoid the dire “Brake Failure” warnings.

To make matters worse, they put the brake fluid reservoirs under the seat. The seat can be raised to access the reservoirs and battery, but it only raises a short distance – maybe a 30 degree angle – before it hits the stop.

This is the fully raised seat angle

The geniuses that designed the Spyder put the reservoirs at the back of the seat near the pivot point. There’s no way to get even the smallest brake fluid container in there to fill the reservoir. I poured a small amount of fluid into the bottle cap and added fluid one capfull at a time.

Nice place to put the reservoir

Last time I did this, I used a small syringe, but I didn’t have a clean syringe to use this time. Anyway, it’s job done. No more warning messages.

It’s time to head out and use my new paddle at the Pacific Beach Recreation Center. Earlier this week the forecast called for rain on Friday. Now the weather guessers say there’s only a 10 percent chance of rain through the weekend. Maybe we’ll play pickleball in Ocean Beach tomorrow.

 

Not So Prime Time

We had visitors Friday morning. Tom and Kris Downey came by. They live in Indio now, near Palm Springs. They were on the road for about three years, but sold their rig and bought a small house. We visited for a while and took a walk around the point to see the bay and De Anza Cove. Kris was happy to see the water and seemed to miss their time spent here.

We piled into their car and drove to Ocean Beach for fish tacos at South Beach Bar and Grill on Newport Avenue near the pier. They have some of the best fish tacos around. We forgot about the long weekend due to Veteran’s Day – the beach area was crowded, traffic moved slowly, and we were lucky to find a parking spot. We all ordered the mahi-mahi tacos and had an enjoyable lunch before they had to head for home.

I crossed off another item on my “to do” list on Friday afternoon. The rear brake on the Spyder was noisy and the parking brake release was hanging up – making it difficult to release the parking brake. It’s hard to see the inner brake pad, but it appeared to be worn thin. I ordered replacement pads and picked them up on Thursday. On Friday afternoon, I got started on the job. The new pads came with new caliper mounting bolts and circlips – a nice touch. The caliper mounting bolts double as pins holding the brake pads in place and need to be secured on the back side with the circlips.

Brake pad kit

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ll say it again. I really dislike working on the Spyder. It was designed for ease of manufacturing without much regard for serviceability. I’d really like to get my hands on the engineer that came up with the rear brake caliper set up. To replace the pads without completely removing the caliper and putting it on a bench requires a lot of patience. In hindsight, I should have removed the rear wheel first, but I wanted to avoid doing that because that would entail setting up the belt drive adjustment when I put it back on. I got it done, but it wasn’t as easy as it could have been and involved a few choice words along the way.

After that job, I was ready for a cold one so I hit the Offshore Tavern and Grill. At this time of year, we often have overcast mornings which clear up before thin clouds return in the late afternoon. The thin clouds make fiery sunsets.

Sunset from the Offshore Tavern and Grill

Friday night Donna prepared fennel-crusted porterhouse pork loin chop, acorn squash and roasted brussel sprouts for dinner. She’s sticking to her plan of high protein, low fat and low carb diet. My weight seems to be pretty steady – I might be slowly losing a few pounds. She feeds me larger portions than she’s eating. She actually skipped the squash.

Fennel-crusted pork chop with roasted brussel sprouts and acorn squash

On Saturday evening, we had another visitor. Our friend Mona came by and she brought goodies. She brought along ceviche from the Blue Water Seafood Grill and Market which we snacked on with tortilla chips. It was delicious. She also brought a steelhead filet which I grilled. Mona is allergic to cats, so she and Donna spent the evening outside chatting, huddled under blankets. We met Mona here at Mission Bay RV Park the first year we were here and have been fast friends ever since.

Steelhead filet

Over the weekend, I tried to trace the electrical fault in our vent fans. The Fantastic Fans quit working. It seems like I have a poor connection at the toilet fan switch. The circuit runs power to that switch and from there goes to the kitchen fan switch. I need to remove the switch plate and look at the wiring. The problem is, the switch plate appears to be glued to the wall. There aren’t any visible fasteners. I’ll have to carefully separate the plate from the wallpaper to avoid unsightly damage. I’ll try to get to that today.

I’m heading to Ocean Beach for pickleball this morning. I’m a little irritated with Amazon. Last Wednesday, November 8th, I ordered a new pickleball paddle. With my Prime account it was supposed to arrive in two days. I received the order confirmation and tracking info. The tracking info has been erratic. First it showed the item due to arrive on Saturday. Then on Saturday it said it was delayed. Then it said it would arrive on Sunday – it showed it shipped on Saturday. Now it says it will arrive today – Monday, November 13th. What happened to Prime two-day shipping? I’ll chalk it up to Amazon relying on the US Postal Service for delivering the paddle.

The weather has been holding steady and it looks like we can expect more of the same in the coming week. Daily highs are around 70 degrees with night time lows around 60. That’s winter in San Diego.

 

*Just so you know, if you follow one of my links to Amazon and decide to purchase anything, you pay the same price as usual and  I’ll earn a few pennies for the referral. It’ll go into the beer fund. Thanks!

Lazing on a Sunny Afternoon

Here we are at the end of another week already. The time just flies by here at Mission Bay RV Resort. Donna is staying busy with her early morning workouts and putting in time at her computer getting writing assignments done. I spend about two or three hours a day on the pickleball courts at Pacific Beach Recreation Center or Ocean Beach Recreation Center. This usually wears me out and I come home and relax with a book and maybe take a short nap after lunch.

We started the week with Donna grilling a pork tenderloin on the Weber Q. Donna likes grilling on the Weber Q2200 – it used to be strictly my domain. She put together a nice presentation with a medley of pork medallions and yam slices, served with spaghetti squash on the side.

Pork tenderloin medallions and sliced yam

She also picked up a nice IPA bomber bottle for me made by Mission Brewery here in San Diego. Mission is a well established brewery near Petco Park. New breweries keep popping up in the county – I read an article that stated there are now about 150 breweries in San Diego county. There are a lot of people in California, but I have to wonder how many breweries are sustainable.

Mission Brewery IPA

Tuesday evening we rode with Sini to our friend Mona’s house for dinner. We met Mona’s friend, Dan. Dan made a big spaghetti dinner. He’s also a pickleball player and we talked about the game. It was an enjoyable evening and dinner. He made it to OBRC on Wednesday and we played a couple of games together. Donna played on Wednesday as well.

Donna and Sini preparing a salad at Mona’s house

With all this playing and lazing around, my “to do” list is growing.  Wednesday I knocked one item off the list.  Donna mentioned that the dryer seemed to be taking a long time to dry clothes. I pulled everything out of the utility closet and cleaned the dryer vent hose. Over time, lint builds up and impedes the flow of air through the dryer.

Dryer vent hose

Next on the list is to fix the Fantastic Fans. Both vent fans quit working. They are on a common circuit so I’ll start by going to the fuse panel. I also need to replace the rear brake pads on the Spyder. I ordered new brake pads and picked them up at Fun Bike Center in Kearny Mesa yesterday.

On the way back from Kearny Mesa, I made the usual Thursday afternoon happy hour stop at Dan Diego’s. Here’s another colorful sunset photo from the parking lot at Dan Diego’s.

Sunset over the bay

The weather has been pleasant – partly cloudy with highs in the low to mid 70s. The week ahead is forecast to be slightly cooler with upper 60s to low 70s. I’m not complaining though.

 

Another Day in Paradise

Thursday was another day in paradise – nothing unusual to report. In the evening, we had a breeze blowing from the west. The onshore flow held a line of cloud cover right at the coastline. Donna and I walked to the west end of Mission Bay RV Resort to watch a spectacular sunset.

Thursday’s sunset

The setting sun reflected off the dark clouds and revealed many colors. Donna topped off the evening by preparing a new dish – tarragon and lemon roast chicken with fennel. Delicious!

Tarragon roast chicken with lemon and fennel – green beans, acorn squash and quinoa on the side

I don’t play pickleball on Friday usually, but since I took Tuesday off, Donna and I headed over to the Ocean Beach Recreation Center (OBRC) Friday morning. They have pickleball scheduled at OBRC Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings starting at 10am. Donna hasn’t been on the court since we were in Santa Fe but she played well and we had fun.

Speaking of fun, we met up with our friends from Arizona, Keith and Suzanne Gallaway at Offshore Tavern and Grill for happy hour and dinner. We enjoyed visiting over a beer and ordered food from their appetizer menu. The appetizers at Offshore are large portions and easily make a meal. Keith and I each had the poke plate while Donna went for the seared yellowfin tuna over salad and Suzanne had the housemade Offshore mac and cheese. The Gallaways treated us to dinner – thanks again!

We made arrangements to meet again Saturday morning. They’re here looking at an RV for sale – a 2004 Alpine Coach 36MDDS. Since I know a thing or two about Alpine Coaches, they asked me if I would look it over. We met at 10am at Campland by the Bay where the coach is being stored. This particular coach was built late in the 2004 model year run and has many 2005 features. After going through the systems and kicking the tires, Keith took it out for a test drive. In my opinion, it’s a solid coach. I think they’ll negotiate with the seller. I wish I’d taken a few pictures, but I was busy looking at things and thinking about it.

I came home around 11:30am. While I was out, Donna borrowed Sini’s car and went up to San Diego State University and picked up our granddaughter, Lainey. They were in the coach when I returned. Keith and Suzanne stopped by for a short visit, then I rode the Spyder to Lanna Thai to pick up take-out for lunch. We enjoyed the Thai food at our picnic table. It was a beautiful day with the temperature in the low 70s and nice to be visiting with Lainey.

Donna and Lainey took the Spyder to the beach and kicked around while I stayed home and read a book. We had pizza from Mountain Mike’s for dinner before Donna used Sini’s car again to drop Lainey off back at the campus.

I did one other thing this weekend. On Thursday night, Sini stopped by to chat over a glass of wine. She mentioned that she wanted get a pair of western boots and had been looking at the Tecovas site. She and Donna had a conversation about women’s styles and boots. I got to thinking – always a dangerous thing. It’s been a few years since I’ve bought something really special for Donna.

I quizzed her a bit about her thoughts on women’s boots and had her look at the Tecovas site. She didn’t want a short boot or one with tall heels and that’s all they had for women. So, I directed her to the Lucchese site. She found a couple she really liked. The next day she was looking at them again and decided she would really like to have a pair of Lucchese Women’s Tall Riding boots. They are high-quality hand-made full-grain calfskin boots. The heels are roper type – only one inch high while the riding shafts are 16 inches tall.

Picture taken from Lucchese.com

I can’t surprise her with them as a Christmas gift – these boots are made to order and I needed to get on it if I wanted them by Christmas. That meant I had to trace her foot and take measurements. So, she knows I’ve ordered the boots and I hope they are finished and shipped by Christmas.

The skies are mostly cloudy this morning, but I think it’s going to burn off and we’ll have a mostly sunny afternoon. Another day in paradise!

Dieting by Default

We’ve been at Mission Bay RV Resort in San Diego for two weeks now and are settling into our routines. Due to Halloween activities, the recreation center in Ocean Beach was closed on Friday and Monday, so I had a break from pickleball. Donna has been working out with an early morning boot camp near here on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday and with a personal trainer on Thursday.

With no pickleball action on Monday, I made myself useful and changed the engine oil and filter, transmission filter and the air filter element on the Spyder. It was due for service and I’m happy to put that behind me. This is always a tougher chore and takes longer than expected because I have to remove so much body work to access the engine area. The high on Monday was only 68 degrees.

Tuesday was another cool day and it rained in the morning. The roads were very wet all morning, so I decided not to ride the Spyder to the Pacific Beach Recreation Center for pickleball. I stayed inside and had a lazy day reading a book. I got out in the late afternoon though. Part of my San Diego routine is to join the Bay Park guys at Offshore Tavern and Grill or Dan Diego’s for happy hour. We hit Dan Diego’s on Monday and Thursday, Offshore on Tuesday and Friday.

I received another delivery from Tecovas – I had taken my Ariat boots to Buffalo Exchange and sold them. Buffalo Exchange is a used clothing outlet that buys apparel that’s trendy and in good condition. The boots were like new. Now that I made room in my closet, I replaced them with a pair of boots from Tecovas – I wrote about that company in an earlier post.

The new boots are made from exotic leather – they’re lizard skin. The vamps (the part that covers your foot) are made from Varanus salvator – water monitor lizard skin. The water monitor – sometimes called a ring lizard – is the second largest lizard on the planet. Only the Komodo dragon – another monitor – is larger. The water monitor is from Asia and the average length of the reptile is about five feet although there are records of water monitors twice that size.

Most lizard skin boots are made from teju lizards. These lizards are smaller and the vamp usually requires more than one skin to be sewn together. Tecovas uses the water monitor skin so they can create one-piece vamps. The shafts – the vertical portion around your ankle and calf – are made from hand-stitched calfskin.

Tecovas Nolan lizard skin boots

Donna asked how many pair of boots I need – the answer is always just one more! I’m through buying boots for now though – five pairs is my limit due to space requirements.

Donna is following a diet recommended by her personal trainer that’s high in protein, and low in carbohydrates and fats. Although I may stray from her diet a bit at lunch time, I’m pretty much eating what she serves, so I’m kind of on the program as well. This doesn’t mean we don’t eat well.

Monday she prepared tortilla crusted tilapia with baked acorn squash and green beans. A dollop of salsa enhanced the flavor of the fish.

Tortilla crusted tilapia with salsa

Our friend Sini Schmitt got back in town Monday evening. Her coach has been here in a site down the way from us, but she was off on an adventure in Key West followed by another in northern California. She joined us for dinner on Wednesday night. Donna served spice chicken with Moroccan herb dressing with sides of spaghetti squash and roasted tomatoes.

Spice chicken with Moroccan herb dressing

We had a sudden rain shower last night. The sound of rain drops drumming on the roof woke me. I don’t think it lasted very long – I’m not sure because I drifted off back to sleep. Rain during the night time hours is okay – the forecast looks dry today. I’ll head over to Pacific Beach and drop Donna off at the gym while I play pickleball this morning. The weather looks to remain cool for next several days with overnight lows around 60 degrees and daytime highs of about 70.

 

Ould Sod and the Beachcomber

We had a fun-filled weekend, but I don’t think it would be fair to say we were busy.

While Donna finished up an article Friday morning, I ran a few errands. Then we headed out to Pacific Beach for a walk on the boardwalk and lunch. We dined alfresco at Tacos El Gordo, then took a walk out to the end of Crystal Pier and back to Reed Street where we parked the Spyder. The weather was pleasant – it was about 80 degrees with clear skies. A weekday at the beach at this time of year isn’t too crowded.

Donna at the boardwalk – Crystal Pier in the background

On Saturday morning, Donna went to her bootcamp workout. After lunch we rode the Spyder over to the Normal Heights district and found Ould Sod – it’s an Irish pub. Finding an open parking space around there can be problematic, but we eventually found a space about a block away.

We were there for a going away party for a friend from my high school days. Kevin Barry is retiring in a few days and he and his wife Monica are moving to Hilo, Hawaii. We had a table on the open air patio in back of the pub – it was shaded and comfortable there. Carole Bringas organized the party and it was fun to visit with some old friends.

We left around 4:30pm and came back to Mission Bay RV Resort. It was Halloween night at the RV park. When I was a kid, Halloween was always observed on Halloween – the last day of October. Nowadays I guess everyone goes out on the last Saturday of October. Kids in the RV park went from site to site. People put an orange card in their front window if they had treats for the kids – rigs without a card were to be skipped.

Donna’s altering her diet while she’s on her two-month workout schedule – which means I’m pretty much eating an altered diet of high protein and low carbohydrates. Donna has become proficient with the Weber Q grill and has taken over some of my grilling duties. On Saturday night, she grilled wild Alaskan salmon along with a baby squash medley with garlic and herbs, topped with a mixture of feta, sundried tomatoes, and pesto. It was a delicious dinner, but I think I might lose a few pounds while we’re in San Diego. After the excesses of the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta and two weeks of eating out while we were hotel bound, this is a good thing.

Grilled salmon and assorted squash

We had more fun in store for Sunday. I watched TV in the morning and caught the Moto GP race from Sepang, Malaysia, the Formula One race from Mexico City and the early NFL game. Then Carole Bringas picked us up at 2:30pm and drove us to Dana Landing where we met up with Gary Stemple and Howard Brutschy. Carole, Gary, Howard and I are charter members of the Cadman bunch. When we were in high school, we all hung out at Cadman Park.

Gary has a membership in the Freedom Boat Club – I wrote about that here last year. Gary took us on a boat ride around Mission Bay, then we beached the boat at the bay side near San Gabriel Place in Mission Beach. Our destination was the Beachcomber where the Siers Brothers band was setting up.

Boat ride on the bay – Gary, Carole , Howard and Donna

The Barefoot Bar at Paradise Point

We claimed a table at the Beachcomber and the Siers Brothers put on a great show playing classic rock tunes.

Siers Brothers Band

I checked the tide tables earlier and knew we were safe beaching the boat. The tide was near high and would be slack when we left. Gary had to return the boat before dark, so we left the Beachcomber around 6pm. I think I’d had enough adult beverages by then.

Back to the boat

This morning we have overcast skies. The forecast calls for clouds and a high of only 68 degrees. I need to do some maintenance service on the Spyder. Today seems like a good day for it since we don’t have pickleball at the Ocean Beach Recreation Center.

 

 

Tecovas

Donna and I have increased our activity levels since we came to San Diego. Donna signed up for a boot camp and personal training. She does the boot camp workout at 6:30am on Monday and Wednesday and 8am on Saturday. She works out with a personal trainer on Thursday. I’ve been hitting the pickleball courts – I played two hours a day for four days straight this week and I’m feeling it. The Ocean Beach Recreation Center is closed today and Monday for set-up and tear-down of their Halloween activities, so I’ll take some time off.

If you’ve been reading my posts, you know I have an affinity – alright, it’s an obsession – with Western boots. I’ve been reading about a boot brand for about a year called Tecovas. I think it’s an interesting story.

There’s a guy from Texas by the name of Paul Hedrick who graduated with an MBA from Harvard in 2010. He worked as an analyst for McKinsey then entered finance in New York at Catterton. He made good money and saved it for a chance to do something on his own. He was a cowboy boot kind of guy and thought he found a niche he could exploit. In 2014, he quit his job, moved back to Texas and began his journey into the boot business. He wasn’t even 30 years old but he knew what he wanted to do.

He spent a year traveling to the shoe making capital of the Western Hemisphere – Leon, Mexico. He met with boot makers to learn about their different operations. He met with tanneries and learned about the types of leathers available. He created a business model where he would contract with a tannery for raw materials and with a boot factory to hand make the leathers into cowboy boots. His monthly order would be shipped to Austin, Texas where he stocked the boots and made them available direct through online sales – no distribution network or retail stores.

He’s totally transparent about his business model and although I don’t know the actual numbers, an example might be something like this. When he contracts for an all-leather handmade boot of his design, the cost when it arrives in Austin might be $110. He offers this boot with free shipping and 30-day exchanges for say $220. He has his margin and the buyer gets a high-quality boot at an affordable price. The usual model for cowboy boots would take a boot that has a manufacturing cost of $110 and sell it to a distributor for $220. The distributor would mark it up and sell it to a retailer for $340. The retailer would mark it up and sell it to the consumer for $500. So a boot of similar quality that you pay $500 for can be bought directly from Tecovas for $220. Here are a few excerpts from several media interviews with Paul Hedrick:

“I was wearing a pair I had bought for $500-$600 and I realized that cowboy boots were one of the few industries that didn’t have a brand I really liked or one focused on quality and online, direct-to-consumer value.”

“There have been lots of surprises, ups, and downs, but I think the one aspect of designing and manufacturing cowboy boots that will never cease to amaze me is how difficult they are to make. The number of materials to choose from, the number of steps in the process – essentially all handmade steps – all of that took a lot of time.”

“I wouldn’t have been able to build and run this company without the exposure to business at all of the other places I worked prior to launching Tecovas. I was a management consultant before working for a private equity firm. The entrepreneurial spirit was always deep inside, so when the timing felt right, I jumped. I love being able to exercise my creative muscles. I wanted to be an artist, actually a cartoonist, as a kid, then an architect when I was in high school, so it feels good to be able to create.”

“We design our boots to be very wearable for first time boot buyers. They’re simple and made of super high-quality, mostly unadorned leather.”

Paul spent about a year doing his research. He launched the company and fulfilled his first orders in October of 2015 – in fact, I think I read somewhere it was October 27th – two years ago today. In his first year of operation, he reportedly sold over a million dollars’ worth of boots. I’ve read that they are on track to exceed three million in sales this year – his second year of operation.

When I first started looking at the Tecovas website, they only had four styles of boot – two for men and two for women. They still have limited offerings with various leathers, each offered in two styles for men. One is a roper style boot – a boot with a shorter shaft and lower heel than the traditional Western boot – and a more traditional style. The ropers have plain shafts – the same calfskin shaft is used regardless of the vamp leather. The traditional boots also share the same shaft leather with a little fancier decoration than the roper. By the way, the shaft of a Western boot is the vertical part that surrounds your calf. The vamp is the part that covers your foot.

I wasn’t too interested in a plain calfskin boot in the $200 price range. I didn’t think it would have the quality I wanted in a cowboy boot. Then they added a full quill ostrich boot for $355 and it really looked good. This year they added two more boots – the flagship model made from caiman crocodile and a lizard skin. The crocodile goes for $455 and the lizard is just $295 and these boots looked good.

They have about 1,800 reviews on their website and more on their Facebook page. From what I’ve read, more than 90% are very positive. Lots of the reviews are written by long-time boot buyers coming from higher end brands.

Over time, I wasn’t too happy with the Ariat leather boots I had which were my first pair of Western boots. After becoming accustomed to hand-made all-leather Lucchese boots, the machine-made Ariats with synthetic materials just didn’t have the level of comfort for me. I decided to risk $235 and give the plain calfskin Tecovas boot a try. The thing is, buying boots online means guessing to get the right size. Proper boot fit is essential.

Tecovas advertises that their boots fit true to US sizing – and they offer free exchanges with no shipping costs. The best thing to do is have your foot sized with a Brannock device at a shoe store. I didn’t want to have a shoe salesman measure my foot when I had no intention of buying from him. I wish I would have had my foot actually measured at the Lucchese store in Santa Fe when I bought my crocodile boots there, but I just tried them on for size. The thing is, boot makers use their own lasts to shape the boot and different makers may have size variations. Just because I wear a size 10-1/2 D Lucchese doesn’t mean that size will be right in a Tecovas Boot.

So, I traced my foot with a boot sock on while standing on a sheet of paper. I did this in the afternoon when my feet are largest. Your foot size will vary throughout the day and generally they are slightly smaller in the morning than they are in the afternoon.

Foot trace

The dimensions of my foot correspond to a standard US size 11 D. My left foot is about 1/16″ shorter than the right, so I used the longer foot as my size. I ordered a pair of Tecovas Cartwright calfskin boots last weekend. Cartwright – does that name ring a bell? Remember the old Western TV series Bonanza?

I was kept informed via e-mail of the shipping and projected delivery time of the boots – they arrived yesterday. They were well-packed and came with a return shipping label. I tried them on and walked carefully on our runner carpet to check the fit. They were perfect. I inspected the leather and stitching. It’s flawless. The quality of the leather is unbelievable – they feel like expensive driving gloves and not to be cliche, they fit my feet like a glove. I went out to happy hour with the guys at Dan Diego’s and kept the boots on for about four hours. They are the equal of my full quill ostrich Lucchese boots as far as comfort goes – and that says a lot.

Tecovas Cartwright calfskin boots

I’m so impressed with these boots, I ordered another pair from Tecovas – the Nolan lizard skin boots. It must have taken a lot of determination from Paul Hedrick to quit his high-paying job and launch his own business. It seems like his vision was well-founded and I wish him continued success with his business.

Meanwhile I’ll take the Ariat boots, which are in like new condition, to a consignment store. And I’m working on a boot storage solution. Donna has our closets pretty well organized, but I have to do something other than spread my boots on the floor of the closet. Donna recently wrote a blog post about closet organization here. She’s of the opinion that my obsession with cowboy boots is taking up too much valuable closet space in our home on wheels. I’ll let you know what we come up with.

It’s another beautiful day in San Diego with abundant sunshine. Donna and I are planning to hit the beach as the temperature is forecast to reach 80 degrees.

 

 

If I Had a Hammer

A woman driving a fairly new Dodge Ram 3500 dually pick up pulled into Mission Bay RV Resort with an Airstream travel trailer a couple of days ago. She drove slowly past our site. Her trailer was about 25 feet long. It didn’t take long for me to realize she was new to this and didn’t understand how to maneuver a trailer while reversing.

If you’ve never backed a trailer into a space, it would be a good idea to practice first. The best way I can think of is to find a large parking lot with an empty area. You can back the trailer into a marked parking stall and practice putting it between the lines without fear of hitting something. Here are a few tips before I get back to the woman’s story.

First, go slowly. When I worked as a deputy with the sheriff’s office I attended the emergency vehicle operators course (EVOC). The EVOC instructors had a mantra – always travel in reverse as if you’re about to hit something. What they meant was, if you have the mindset that you may back into something, you’ll always be vigilant and probably won’t hit anything. When you are backing a trailer, you have to be mindful of two vehicles – the trailer and the tow vehicle. If you’re cutting the wheel sharply to position the trailer, the front of the tow vehicle will swing to the side.

When you are backing up a trailer, think about the direction that the bottom of your steering wheel is moving. When you turn the steering wheel to crank the front wheels to the left, the bottom of the steering wheel moves to the right – towards the passenger side. This is the direction the back of the trailer will go.

Once the trailer starts to turn behind the tow vehicle, it will continue to turn in that direction until you correct it. For example, if we turned the front tires to the left as in the example above, the bottom of the steering wheel moved to the right and the rear of the trailer starts turning to the right. If we keep moving backwards the front of the trailer will continue to pivot around the hitch ball and the trailer will turn at an increasingly sharp angle. This will happen even if we straighten the front wheels. To stop the turn of the trailer and get the vehicle and trailer back in line, we need to turn the wheel in the opposite direction and move back slowly until the tow vehicle and trailer align, then straighten the wheels.

If we don’t apply a correction, the trailer will turn at such an acute angle that it’s possible for the front corner of the trailer to make contact with the rear corner of the tow vehicle – this is called jack knifing. A jack knifed trailer is not a good thing – damage occurs to both vehicles.

Be patient. Sometimes it might take a few attempts to get things lined up the way you want them. So be it. Don’t get flustered or concerned that others may think you are inept – everyone had to learn at some point – and some circumstances make it difficult to position the trailer the way you want it. Practicing in an empty lot will help you understand the dynamics and you’ll be able to back your trailer into a space with confidence.

The woman with the Airstream drove past our site. Several minutes later she stopped in front of us again, facing the opposite direction. She had her window down and a man was standing next to her truck talking to her. Donna noticed damage on the right front of her trailer which looked new otherwise. After a few minutes, she starting backing into her site across from us and down a couple of spaces. The man was directing her, but I could see he wasn’t giving her very good instructions. She was all over the place. I was hesitant at first, but then I couldn’t stand by and watch any longer.

I went out to her truck and asked the man to watch the rear so she wouldn’t hit the picnic table. Then I started telling her which way to turn her wheels. Once we had the Airstream in her site, I had her pull forward then back in slowly so we could get it lined up straight. She got out of her truck and said she wished she would’ve stopped and asked for help before trying to back in. What I didn’t know was she first attempted to enter her site from the east before she pulled down to the end of the row and turned around. She jack knifed the trailer and damaged her Airstream and new Dodge dually. This was her second time out – someone helped her get into a site at Campland before she came here.

I came back to our coach and set about doing what I was doing before she came along. About half an hour later, I was getting ready to go to the store. Donna told me the woman hadn’t disconnected her trailer from the truck and seemed to be having a problem. I saw another neighbor go over there with a large hammer. This didn’t look good to me.

I walked over and asked what was up. The guy with the hammer was beating on the release lever for the coupler lock on the trailer tongue. I asked him to stop before he did any more damage so we could figure out what was hanging it up. First of all, I could see she had put the trailer jack down and the tongue of the trailer was actually lifting the rear of her truck. This put a lot of pressure on the coupler lock. While I was explaining how this works to her, the other guy knocked the retaining pin out of the lock lever, removed the lever and started pounding on the linkage.

Example of a trailer tongue with coupler lock lever

I stopped him and explained that beating the linkage down will damage it, the lever lifts the linkage so he was doing the opposite of what needed to be done. With the trailer jack lowered, I was able to grab the linkage with pliers and pull it up, releasing the coupler lock. We put the lever back on. The woman insisted something was wrong with the coupler lock. I explained again how it operates and showed her how to release it. I released it several times, demonstrating that it worked fine.

I wanted to take photos to illustrate what I’m talking about, but it didn’t seem appropriate at the time. I hope this post makes sense to those reading it. The lessons learned are – practice with your trailer – ask for assistance – and beware of a neighbor offering help with a hammer.

We’ve had very warm weather – temperatures have reached the mid 90s. The Santa Ana winds have stayed well north of us though, it’s been fairly calm here in San Diego. The hot spell will continue tomorrow before we cool down to the low 80s by the weekend. Good times in San Diego.

Edit to post – I added a photo of the jack knife damaged Airstream.

Jack knife damage