The Genuine Article

Donna and I usually don’t make a big deal about or keep secrets regarding Christmas presents. This year we both splurged a bit though – but it wasn’t secret. I had  pair of western equestrian style boots from Lucchese made to order for Donna. To do this, I had to trace her feet and take measurements – more about that later. Donna bought a new Euro-recliner chair and ottoman for me. Both of these items are leather, so I want to start this post with some information about leather.

I’m going to talk about cowhide or calfskin leather. The tanned hide of a cow is thick – in some areas it can be half an inch or more. The thick hide isn’t homogeneous – the properties vary. The area on the outside where the hair was removed is smooth and has the tightest grain structure and the greatest strength. The part that is closest to the muscle tissue is rough  and has a more horizontal grain structure that is the weaker. Tanneries split the thick hide – they run it through a machine that cuts the outer, stronger layer from the inner, weaker layer.

When asked what type of leather is most desirable – full grain, top grain or genuine leather – many people pick genuine leather. That’s a marketing ploy – genuine leather sounds like it’s the genuine article. But when we’re discussing the types of leather, full grain is the most desirable for most items like furniture, foot wear or upholstery. Full grain is the outermost layer of the hide and is the strongest, most durable and takes dye well. The downside for some people is the fact that cow hide comes from an animal that may have had scars from rubbing against various objects or branding and of course it’s costly.

Top grain is similar to full grain, except it has been sanded to remove any imperfections, removing a millimeter or two of the strongest surface. Usually a coating is applied to top grain leather. It’s commonly found in furniture and handbags and some lower quality footwear.

Genuine leather comes from the bottom half of the hide – the weakest part closest to the muscle tissue. This is also where suede comes from. It’s not a very desirable leather if durability is important. There’s another type called bonded leather – this is low grade leather mixed with a synthetic binder and leather scraps that have been ground. It’s the leather equivalent of particle board.

Okay, enough about leather. Wednesday a package arrived at Mission Bay RV Resort for us. It was the boots I had made for Donna. They were beautiful full grain calfskin. I had Donna try them on. Uh-oh. Either I messed up when I made the tracings of her foot or Lucchese made them too big. They didn’t fit her feet – they were too loose in the vamp and heel.

I repackaged them and sent them back after talking to Lucchese customer service. It was as hassle-free as something like this can be. I dropped them at the Fed Ex store in Pacific Beach. Meanwhile, Lucchese is making another pair for Donna, but it’ll be weeks before she can have them.

Another delivery was dropped off at our site. It was large box containing the Euro-recliner chair and ottoman she bought for me. Some assembly was required. The parts were well-packed and all of the hardware was present. I unpacked everything, then decided to get our old chair out of the coach and assemble the new one inside so I wouldn’t have to wrestle a fully assembled 70-pound chair through the door and up the steps.

Assembly wasn’t that difficult, but the instruction manual would have been useless without exploded drawings. The written instructions were nonsense. Here’s a quote from the instruction manual:

Attach the back cushion to the left & right the aggregation of arm wood frame base with seat cushion...”

The chair is made of top grain cow hide on all of the contact surfaces – the seat cushion top surface, the backrest front surface and arm rests. The bottom of the seat cushion and rear portion of the backrest are bonded leather to keep costs down. I think this is a reasonable compromise to provide quality leather on the contact areas.

New Euro-recliner and ottoman – color isn’t true to life in the photo

I also received another pair of Tecovas boots. I ordered another pair of Cartwright calfskin boots in desert tan. I know, it’s getting a little out of control. I have six pair of boots now – three Lucchese and three Tecovas. Two of the Lucchese boots are ostrich and one is crocodile. Two of the Tecovas are calfskin and one is lizard.

Tecovas desert tan Cartwright boots

Tuesday night Donna made another new dish for me. She knows that I often cook Marie Callendar pot pies when she’s away. So, she made a chicken pot pie from scratch in a skillet. She said she’s sure it’s much more nutritious and healthy than a pre-made one. It was great – and it was large enough to have leftovers for lunch the next day.

Chicken pot pie baked in a skillet

We’re into our last week here in San Diego. Two months flew by, but I’m ready to roll. We’ll spend the remainder of the winter in Mesa, Arizona. It’s been fantastic as usual. We won’t be back in San Diego again until next September.


Party in the Park

The wind diminished over the weekend here at Mission Bay. The mountains east of San Diego and areas of the north county still had high winds though. The north county fire – called the Lilac fire –  near Bonsall destroyed homes and swept through the San Luis Downs horse-training facility killing at least 35 thoroughbred horses. The wind drove the fire westward causing more evacuations around Oceanside. The fire is 75% contained now and the evacuation order has been lifted.

Someone at the RV park stores their kayaks under a canopy on the beach at De Anza Cove. They have the kayaks locked with a cable to secure them. The canopy didn’t fare too well with the high winds though.

Canopies don’t hold up to Santa Ana winds

I was at a gas station on Morena Boulevard Friday when I heard the unmistakable sound of a radical V8 engine. An old school ’55 Chevy pulled up to the pumps. It was a bit ratty looking, but I knew it had a hot motor. It was old school down to the straight front axle, Halibrand magnesium wheels and cheater slicks. I shot a photo of it.

’55 Chevy Bel Air

The owner of the car saw me taking the picture and asked me if I wanted a look under the hood. Of course I did. It had a supercharged small block with dual Carter carburetors and fender well headers.

Small block Chevy

There wasn’t anything ratty about the engine. Then he opened the driver’s door so I could take a look inside. It was upholstered in diamond stitched naugahyde including the headliner and had a roll bar. You wouldn’t guess that by looking at the paint job!

Diamond stitched naugahyde

Headliner and roll bar

The guy told me he had owned the car for about 30 years. He said he also had a ’32 Ford Coupe and a ’39 Willys. He said they were set up similar to the ’55 Chevy – no fancy paint but killer drive trains and nice interiors.

On Friday night Sini joined Donna and I to listen to live music at Fast Times Bar and Grill up the hill on Clairemont Drive. John January is the brother of my friend, Joe. John is a very talented guitarist and was performing with his girlfriend, Linda Berry. John is an inductee of the San Diego Blues Hall of Fame. They were performing as a duet – they also front a complete band sometimes. John has the skills to fill out the sound with his sense of timing, bass lines, chord inversions and riffs. It was almost hard to believe that just two people and one guitar could sound that good.

John January and Linda Berry

By the way – the name of the bar was taken from the title of the 1982 movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High starring Jennifer Jason Leigh and Sean Penn. The screenplay was written by Cameron Crowe after he supposedly spent a semester posing as a student at Clairemont High School – my alma mater – to develop the characters.

On Saturday, I took the Traeger wood pellet fired smoker grill out of the trailer. I was about to drag it through the lot to our site when our neighbor called out to me. Larry is from Louisiana and his rig is in the site behind us. He was at the overflow lot retrieving something from his van. He said, “How about we put that grill in the van and drive to your site?” Good idea! Thanks, Larry!

I needed the Traeger to smoke a couple of racks of baby back ribs I bought at Costco on Friday. The ribs weren’t the pre-packaged Swift Premium they sell – they were cut right there at the Morena store. The butchers there did a really nice job trimming the ribs. I prepped the ribs with dry rub and cooked them Memphis-style.

We had a potluck dinner planned for Saturday night at Sini’s site. Donna planned to grill chicken drumsticks and make a beer and bourbon cheese fondue. To marinate the chicken drumsticks she needed liquid smoke. I told her I saw liquid smoke at Siesel’s meat market. I rode the Spyder over to Siesel’s to get it. I looked through the aisle where I thought I saw it before, but couldn’t find it. A woman asked me if I needed help. I told her what I was looking for and she said, “It’s right here…oh, I guess we’re out of it.” Then she called out to one of the butchers behind the meat counter and asked if they had any liquid smoke. He said he had a gallon of hickory liquid smoke. I said I only needed a couple of ounces. He disappeared for a couple of minutes, then returned and gave me a small plastic container with about half a cup of liquid smoke and said “You’re all set.” Nice!

Everyone gathered at Sini’s place around 5pm. We had an extra picnic table the park provided plus a couple of folding tables for the food buffet. Five couples from inside the RV park were there plus a few of our friends that live in the area. Gary Stemple and Mona Sojot came along with Mona’s friend, Berdine.

Potluck food and drink time

Everyone enjoyed the food and drink and we talked the night away. Before I knew it, it was 10pm.

We only have 10 more days here at Mission Bay RV Resort before we leave San Diego. The time has flown by. The weather forecast for the next 10 days looks good – daily highs in the 70s with no rain. We’ll be heading east to Arizona to spend the rest of winter in a warm climate.



Moon Turn the Tides

Every blog post needs a title. Sometimes I struggle with that. You may have noticed that I’ll steal the name of a song or partial lyrics for my title from time to time. Today’s title comes from Jimi Hendrix’s third album, Electric Ladyland, released in 1968. I chose it because the full moon last weekend was a super moon.

Super moons occur when the full moon coincides with the moon’s closest distance to the earth as it travels on its elliptical apogee in the sky above. This makes the full moon appear larger than normal. The gravitational forces of the moon’s proximity were very apparent in the tides on Mission Bay. I shot a photo of low tide in the morning at De Anza Cove, then took another photo at high tide in the afternoon. Notice the dock resting in the mud at low tide, then it’s floating nearly horizontal in the afternoon.

Low tide at De Anza Cove

The same dock at high tide

Mother Nature unleashed another southern California phenomenon this week – Santa Ana winds. Santa Ana winds originate from high pressure over the inland desert basin. Hot, dry wind blows over the coastal range and offshore. These dry winds bring warmer than usual temperatures and low humidity – often less than 10%. They increase the risk of wildfires and the strong winds can fan the fires which move quickly and grow in size.

The Santa Ana hit areas to the north on Monday – up near Ventura. Wildfires burned along the coast up there. The winds really picked up in San Diego County on Thursday. Wind speed was clocked at 61 mph at Crestwood on I-8 in east county Thursday morning. A 38-foot fifth-wheel RV trailer was blown over on I-8, then they closed high-profile vehicle travel on the interstate. San Diego Gas and Electric shut down power in portions of east county to prevent sparks starting fires from any power lines that might blow down.

Fires raged all over southern California. Homes were destroyed in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. San Diego County had wildfires in the north county near I-15. The winds whipped the fires and they jumped the interstate in some areas. We heard that some neighborhoods near Temecula were evacuated. The fire danger warnings are in effect here until Saturday afternoon. When fire warnings are issued, no outdoor fires such as campfires or brush burning, are allowed.

We didn’t have any issues with fire here at Mission Bay RV Resort, but a few people had damage from the wind. There were two unoccupied travel trailers in the row across from us that had their awnings out. The people had left in the morning and didn’t retract their awnings. I knocked on the door of one of the trailers and looked to see if I could put their awning away. No one was there and the awning was an electric power unit – I couldn’t do anything. Later someone strapped the extended awning to the picnic table to keep it from flapping in the wind. We heard that others weren’t so lucky – a couple of rigs suffered damage when their awnings were torn away by the gusty wind. I don’t leave our awning out when we are away from the coach. Wind gusts can come up unexpectedly at any time.

On Wednesday evening, Donna grilled chicken thighs and served it with a new-to-me side of butternut squash brown rice pilaf with dried cranberries and toasted pepitas.

Grilled chicken with butternut squash brown rice pilaf

Tomorrow we’re planning to have a potluck gathering at Sini’s site. Donna made up flyers to invite some of our neighbors. She plans to grill chicken and I’ll smoke baby back ribs on the Traeger wood pellet-fired smoker grill.

The winds have calmed down along the coast but are still strong in the mountains. We should have a few clouds with the temperature reaching the upper 70s tomorrow.


Boating and the Barefoot Bar

We were blessed with another fine weekend in San Diego. We’d made plans to meet up with friends and go out on a pontoon boat that Gary Stemple had reserved at Freedom Boat Club. Gary is a club member and has taken us out on a variety of boats.

Donna prepared for the boat ride by taking the Spyder over to Pacific Beach where she bought bagels and cream cheese and Bloody Mary fixings. We planned to meet Gary here in De Anza Cove at the boat dock near the RV park overflow parking lot. Donna and I carried our gear to the dock and saw Gary approaching around 10am. We found a gate on the dock which was locked – we hadn’t noticed this before – we’ve used the dock in the past. It appears the city decided to block access rather than maintain the dock.

Gary beached the boat next to the dock and we boarded. We expected to have seven or eight people, but a couple of people bailed out due to other activities. The three of us crossed Mission Bay and went back to Dana Landing where the boat club is located. We picked up Howard and Johnna Brutschy there. Along the way we cruised past a small island that we always referred to as Horsehoe Island back when we were growing up here – I see on Google maps the official name is West Ski Island. We reminisced about keg parties on the island back in the day. I saw a group with traditional Hawaiian style outrigger canoes beached there.

Horseshoe Island – look closely for a group with canoes (click to enlarge)

We picked up Howard and Johnna and began a leisurely cruise around the bay. The day was warming up nicely. As you can see from the photos, the ski was clear and the slight haze cleared by afternoon. The temperature reached the mid-70s – warmer than expected.

We cruised past Perez Cove to the southeast part of the bay, on the south side of Fiesta Island. There’s an area there called Hidden Anchorage. This inlet is restricted for use by the San Diego Ski Team members. To enter the inlet you need to obtain a permit from the San Diego Lifeguard Station. The permits are free, but you need to prove you’re a member of the club. The club practices for slalom competitions and ski jumping there. We drifted outside of the restricted area and since it was nearly noon, we made Bloody Marys.

Ski Club area at Hidden Anchorage

We slowly cruised past Sea World. Gary commented how his dad used to bring the family down there on his boat when he was young. They could watch the Shamu and dolphin shows from the bay near the water stadium.

Sea World

From there we picked up speed and circled around Fiesta Island and made our way to the dock behind the Hilton Hotel on East Mission Bay.

Gary, Howard, Johnna and Donna cruising the bay

We docked briefly for a comfort break there, then headed back out. We were just cruising and seeing the sights while we enjoyed the weather. We cruised out the Entrance Channel along the jetty and into the Pacific Ocean. We didn’t venture far from the Entrance Channel – the pontoon boat wasn’t really an ocean-going vessel. We spun around in lazy circles and took in the sights.

View to the north from the Entrance Channel. The jetty on the right is the north side of the channel and the boundary of Mission Beach. That’s La Jolla to the north in the distance.

Looking east toward the bay and Quivera Basin. The Hyatt Hotel can be seen on the left

We came back through the channel – the San Diego River and Dog Beach (Ocean Beach) were on the other side of the jetty on our right. We cruised past Quivera Basin, under the West Mission Bay bridge, then docked across from Ventura Cove at the Barefoot Bar and Grill. We ordered appetizers for lunch there and enjoyed the ambiance and view.

View from our table at the Barefoot Bar and Grill

There’s a pond – actually more like a moat – surrounding the seating area at the Barefoot Bar. They pump bay water into it and local fish swim around in it – including leopard sharks. The sharks we saw in the water were only about three feet long, but the average length of an adult leopard shark is close to five feet long and yes, they are found in Mission Bay.

Gary and Donna at our table – waterfall into the pond in the background.

That sums up an enjoyable, relaxing day on the bay. We returned the boat to Dana Landing around 3pm and Gary dropped us off back at Mission Bay RV Resort.

Sunday was overcast and cooler – the temperature only reached the high 60s. Hans Kohls had invited us to join him and Lisa at an event near Balboa Park – it was the SoNo Fest and Chili Cook-Off. We didn’t go though. Donna wanted to pick up some groceries and take a bike ride and I wanted to watch the Chargers game and see if their playoff hopes were real. They are at this point!

It was a great day for chili though. So Donna made her white chicken chili recipe – it’s delicious.

White chicken chili topped with crumbled tortilla chips, shredded Monterey jack cheese, avocado cubes and cilantro

The forecast for today is partly cloudy with a high in the upper 60s. We should have sunny weather and temperatures in the 70s for the week ahead. Donna hit her boot camp workout early this morning. I’ll head over to Ocean Beach Recreation Center to play pickleball and work off some of the beer and chili.



The Neighborhood Mom

Yesterday I put on a suit and tie for the first time in about five years – with good reason. Donna and I borrowed Sini’s car and went to a memorial service at the Pacific Beach Chapel. The service was a celebration of life for someone that was very dear to me and important to me during my teenage years and beyond. Donna M. Brutschy passed away November 5, 2017 at the age of 90. I wore a suit out of respect for her.

I can clearly remember meeting Donna when I was 14 years old. It was 1970 and I had become best buddies with her son, Howard. Howard and I had just spent the night camping out near Miramar. We had ridden dirt bikes there. At that time, we could ride dirt bikes a couple of blocks on the street from their house in Clairemont and get to Geddes Canyon. From there we could reach Rose Canyon, then ride to San Clemente Canyon which would take us to the mesa near Miramar. In those days there were no houses out there, just sage brush on the mesa with small canyons here and there all the way to Poway. The Miramesa neighborhood didn’t exist.

After our night out, we returned to the Brutschy’s house in the morning. Donna Brutschy immediately asked us if we were hungry. Howard answered in the affirmative. Donna asked me if I liked scrambled eggs. I said, “Yes.” Then she asked, “Do you like them wet or dry?” I was 14 years old and didn’t know how to answer – no one had ever asked me that question before. I just mumbled, “I guess I’ll just have them regular, ma’am.” That was my introduction to the nurturing character that was Donna Brustchy.

Howard and I were tight and we were almost always doing things together through our high school years and beyond. His sister Vicki, Donna’s youngest daughter, was my high school sweetheart for a couple of years. The Brutschy’s door was always open and Donna was the neighborhood mom. A few of my friends had known her for years as she was their Cub Scout den mother.

Donna had a way with words. In 1986, I took a promotion and moved my family to the company headquarters in Michigan for a few years – a move I would repeat more than 20 years later.  Before we moved away, I was an avid bicyclist and stayed in good physical condition. After a year of driving a desk and getting through a Michigan winter, I had gained about 20 pounds. I came back to southern California on a business trip and stopped at the Brustchy’s house. Donna looked at my ample proportions and said, “You’re looking…prosperous.” That was her way of telling me I was fat! When I went back to Michigan, I joined a gym and started working out and got myself back in shape.

The memorial service was well attended. Donna had touched many lives and several people were compelled to speak and tell their stories of times with Donna. I wasn’t prepared so I didn’t share any stories there.

Respectfully dressed

After the service we went to the Brustchy house off of Moraga Avenue in Clairemont. The Brutschys have owned this house since it was built in the 1950s. It’s been remodeled several times and the landscaping is nothing like it was back in the ’70s. We had food and drink and milled about telling each other stories about our connections to the family. Donna’s extended family including her three children – Christine, Howard and Vicki – and her nine grandchildren and seven great-grand children were there. Many of my old buddies from our high school years were there as well. It was a nice tribute to a lady who was the neighborhood mom.

It looks like the weather will remain relatively cool over the weekend – highs in the upper 60s. We’ve been invited to go boating on the bay with Gary Stemple and a few friends tomorrow.

Humphrey’s Backstage Live

Our big event for the weekend was a night out at Humphrey’s Backstage Live. Backstage Live is a restaurant and bar connected with Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn on Shelter Island. It’s a bar and restaurant that features live music – mostly by local bands. The property also has the Humphrey’s outdoor stage where Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay performances occur. The outdoor venue has a large stage set in an intimate grassy outdoor garden next to the marina between the hotel and restaurant.

Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay feature big-name artists. In 2017, performers like Sheryl Crow, The Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan, Willie Nelson, Chris Isaac and Steve Winwood, to name a few were there. We saw a local band called The Reflectors at the Backstage Live. It’s a comfortable place for live music. The band plugs directly into a mixing board so the sound level is completely controlled by an operator at the board – no amplifiers on on stage. This allows the music to maintain a reasonable sound level, but removes some control from the individual musicians. I found the lead guitar licks to be a little muddy and lost in the mix, but the band sounded good overall. They played a lot of 80s and 90s hits.

Our view out the window of Backstage Live.

A poorly exposed photo of the Reflectors performing

The Reflectors performed during Happy Hour from 5pm to 7pm. Another band was scheduled to perform beginning at 9pm. I like the opportunity to enjoy live music without staying up half the night. We found out about the show from our friend Hans Kohls. We met up with Hans and Lisa at the bar and enjoyed a couple of drinks and conversation at our shared table.

One thing they did at Backstage Live that was cool was they way they arranged the tables. We sat at the back of the room at a high-top table for four. The next tables and chairs in front of us were slightly lower. The tables and chairs in front of them were even lower. This went on all the way to front, giving everyone a chance to see the stage over the tables in front.

Sunday morning Donna went hiking with Hans and Lisa. They climbed Cowles Mountain in Mission Trails Regional Park on the east trail. This trail takes you to the Cowles Mountain summit – the highest point within the San Diego City limits at 1,592 feet above sea level. It was a little over five miles round trip.

I didn’t hike, I stayed back in the park. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, the park was nearly full with only a handful of open sites. The sites were filled by families spending the long weekend here by the bay. On Saturday afternoon the exodus began. Sunday morning, the weekend warriors were packing up and leaving in droves. By Sunday afternoon, the park had more open sites than ever.

Lots of empty sites

More empty sites

The weekend weather was great – highs in the upper 70s on Saturday and a cooler 70 degrees on Sunday. This morning is overcast, but the expected rain didn’t fall. We should reach the upper 60s here at Mission Bay RV Resort. The next few days will remain cool before the highs are expected to reach the low 70s again. Donna took a day off from her boot camp workout, so we’re off to pickleball this morning at the Ocean Beach Recreation Center.


Non-Traditional Thanksgiving

The Mission Bay RV Resort filled up for the Thanksgiving weekend by Wednesday afternoon. We’ve experienced this every year – Thanksgiving is always a busy time here. When I came home from playing pickleball, I saw a mobile tire service truck across from our site. I thought it was a little odd for someone to be buying new tires while they’re at the RV park, but I could see a set of tires in the back of the truck.

After lunch I saw why they were getting new tires. The guy had changed out a couple of the tires by then and one of them was blown out. The tread was separated from the casing. I was curious about this and walked over to look at the failed tire. Tread separation can be caused by many things, such as underinflation, road hazards, overloading, excessive speed and so on. It’s hard to say what caused this but I checked the date code on the tire – it was 2207. These tires were made calendar week 22 of 2007 – they were more than 10 years old!

Tire failure

Complete tread separation

I didn’t get a chance to talk to the owner of the coach – he wasn’t around at the time. Apparently he doesn’t pay much attention to date codes – I saw the tires that were being installed had date codes of 3015 – the new tires were more than two years old! Tires on RVs rarely wear out. They usually age out. The components of the tire deteriorate with age, especially if they have lots of exposure to UV rays from sunlight or are exposed to ozone. I’ve seen a lot of opinions on how long to run tires. My personal tolerance is about seven years provided there are no visual signs of deterioration. I look for sidewall cracks, bulges, uneven wear or lumps in the treads.

Donna spent most of Thursday preparing our Thanksgiving dinner while I hung out and watched football. My youngest daughter, Shauna, flew out from Washington D.C. and was at her friend’s house. Cat was Shauna’s roommate while she was at law school. They graduated at the same time with law degrees and Shauna went to work in DC while Cat got a job with a firm here in San Diego. Shauna just started a new job – she was offered a position as a second-year Associate at Dentons – she accepted it and left Mayer-Brown. Dentons is the world’s largest law firm with offices worldwide.

Dinner with the girls at our picnic table

They joined us for dinner – we had our Thanksgiving dinner a little later than usual. Shauna and Cat came over around 5pm and we had drink and some of Donna’s guacamole before we ate. It was a warm day – the temperature reached 90 degrees in the afternoon but the evening was pleasant. Donna prepared a non-traditional dinner. She made a turkey breast roulade stuffed with pancetta and shallots and served it with acorn squash, roasted brussel sprouts and smashed red potatoes with porcini gravy. The roulade was labor intensive and she was cooking all afternoon.

Thanksgiving dinner plate

Shauna and Cat were eager to do some Black Friday shopping and planned to start at Fashion Valley Mall Thursday night. Fashion Valley had stores open from 6pm to 1am for early shoppers. They left around 8pm and took an Uber ride to the mall. They shopped again on Friday. Shauna flew back to DC this morning, so we only got to spend a few hours together.

Friday morning after I had a slice of homemade pumpkin pie for breakfast – with real whipped cream Donna made – we headed over to Ocean Beach for pickleball. It was time to work off some of the excess calories. We played practically non-stop for two hours. That was about it for me – I spent the rest of the day reading a book and napping.

Today we expect the weather to be a more normal day – blue skies and 75 degrees. Not bad for the last weekend of November! Donna’s off to boot camp for her morning workout. She’s riding her bicycle there and back. I have no plans for the day.

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.