Pine Cone and a Sleepy Squirrel

Donna hiked and found Coarsegold Creek on Saturday morning. Coarsegold Creek runs along the west side of the Escapees Park of the Sierras property. In addition to the developed RV sites, they have an additional 40 acres undeveloped that is left in its natural state. When Donna was coming back to our site from her hike, she found what appeared to be an odd looking fruit that fell from a tree. After some research, we agreed that it was an immature Ponderosa pine cone.

Immature Ponderosa pine cone

Ponderosa pines are sometimes called yellow pine. The seeds are in the cones and take about 16 months to mature. The trees flower from April to June and the cones mature and fall from the tree in August or September of the following year. When they’re immature, they look like a solid mass. Once mature and ready to shed seeds, they have the familiar woody petal shape that’s somewhat prickly.

After lunch on Saturday, we took the Spyder for a ride up to Oakhurst. Oakhurst is a small town with around 3,000 residents about 13 miles from the RV park – it’s about halfway to the entrance to Yosemite National Park. We rode up a grade to an elevation of about 3,000 feet before we dropped a few hundred feet into the small valley where Oakhurst is located. This area was once known as Fresno Flats. The Fresno River runs through it.

We stopped at the Southgate Brewing Company for a cold one. Donna had a pecan brown ale that she thought was amazing – she said it tasted like a pecan pie! I tried a pale ale and it was quite good. We’ll go back and try out their menu sometime.

Saturday evening Donna prepared lemon-butter chicken for dinner. She pounded chicken breasts flat, then lined them with prosciutto and rolled them. She sautéed them in butter and they were very tasty.

Lemon-butter chicken

Sunday morning we went down to the temporary pickleball court here in the park. We met Joe and Melinda there and played several games. It was a fun time, but nothing here in the park is flat – including the pickleball court. The court is lined out on a parking area near the dry camping zone where we parked our trailer. It slopes from one end to the other and has a slight dip in the center. This made it interesting to say the least.

When we came back to our site, we found a squirrel on the deck railing eating the Ponderosa pine cone.

Who knew squirrels like immature Ponderosa pine cones?

Sunday evening I grilled a simple meal. I roasted two ears of corn in the husks and also grilled Aidell’s chicken-apple sausages. Donna sauteed apple slices and onions with fresh garlic and rosemary to serve over the sausage. Simple but delicious.

Chicken-apple sausage with corn-on-the-cob

Melinda told me about pickleball in Fresno. She was going with Joe Monday morning and sent me directions. I rode the Spyder there – about 30 miles and arrived around 8:45am. I played for a few hours. They had four pickleball courts set up on a couple tennis courts at Rotary East Park. Donna stayed home to work on a project.

Pickleball at Rotary East Park

By the time I left around noon, it was hot – in the 90s. I stopped for a plate of rolled tacos before I headed home. The ride back was hot and dry and I felt overheated. By the time I got home, I was a little shaky and nauseous – I think I was dehydrated. Sitting in the shade with a couple of bottles of water helped. Then we came inside and Donna fired up the air conditioners. I read for a while and took a short nap. I’m feeling better now.

The squirrel that ate the pine cone likes to hang out on our deck. He laid out spread eagle on the railing and napped for half an hour or so. It was comical. I couldn’t get a sharp photo – I had to shoot through a window so I wouldn’t scare him away.

Napping squirrel

I saw sad news on the internet today. Nicky Haden succumbed to injuries sustained when he was hit by a car while bicycling with a group near Rimini, Italy – I wrote about it in my last post. Nicky was 35 years old. I followed his motorcylce road racing career since he was in his teens. I unexpectedly ran into him once back in 2004 in Barcelona, Spain. He was known as the Kentucky Kid and always maintained a positive attitude and a quick smile. He will be missed. I extend my condolences to his family and fiance, Jackie.

Tomorrow we plan to play pickleball here in the morning. Wednesday we’ll leave here early and ride up to Yosemite National Park to see the sights. The weather will remain very warm this week – I’ll be sure to bring plenty of water.






Mistakes and a Mishap

Before we pulled out of Golden Village Palms in Hemet, I realized I made a mistake when I booked our time at Park of the Sierras in Coarsegold. Donna had a coupon for $50 off the weekly rate for first time visitors. So, I booked a week beginning Friday, May 19th. This would mean we would leave on Friday, May 26th. I should have consulted a calendar before I made that reservation. Leaving on Friday, May 26th means we would be hitting the road at the start of Memorial Day weekend. Not a good time to be on the road.

I called the Escapees Park of the Sierras to see if I could extend our stay through the weekend. The first woman I spoke to wasn’t sure if it was possible. She put me on hold, then the woman I originally booked the site with came on the line. Her name is Melinda and she reads this blog. Melinda fixed me up by blocking our site through the end of the month. Thanks, Melinda!

We left Golden Village Palms just after 11am. We had a short drive ahead and I figured it would take about two hours. I thought about going up CA79 to Beaumont, then hitting I-10 and looping through Highland to I-215. Our GPS suggested taking CA74 west directly to I-215 north until it merged with I-15. This was a simple route and GPS said it would be faster, so I went with it.

We hit a snag just 12 miles down the road. The on-ramp from CA74 to I-15 north was closed for construction. No detour signs. I should have just got onto I-215 south and turned around at the McCall exit only a mile or so down the road. Instead I went west and looked for a way to get back on I-215 north. I made a mistake and ended up on a dead-end road. Luckily there was a large parking lot by a train depot where I turned around. We ended up taking a drive through old downtown Perris (it’s doubtful they see many big rigs passing through!) before we found I-215.  So much for a simple drive.

Although it was midday, I-215 was bumper-to-bumper stop-and-go traffic past March Air Reserve Base and through Moreno Valley. Once we were past I-10, the traffic thinned out as the freeway was up to seven lanes wide in places.

Light traffic on I-215 north of San Bernardino

At Tejon Junction, we took CA138 west all the way to Palmdale. We found the Elks Lodge without any trouble despite the inability of our GPS to locate the address. There were only a few rigs in the RV area and we had many sites to choose from. We tried a few of them but our length was a bit much for most of the pull-through sites. We finally settled on a site on the west side of the RV area. We had 30-amp electrical service. We didn’t need sewer or water for the overnight stay, so we were good.

Palmdale Elks Lodge

We entered the Elks Lodge through a driveway on the west side of the property. When we pulled out on Friday morning, I looped around the RV area and headed for the driveway on the east side of the property. This turned out to be a mistake. This driveway slopes at a steep angle and the there’s a sharp dip where it meets the road. The jack on the front of our cargo trailer dragged heavily on the tarmac with a loud screeching sound. It stopped us dead in our tracks for a moment – I was afraid we might be stuck, high-centered on the jack – but we carried on.

Down the block, I pulled over to survey the damage. It wasn’t pretty. The jack was bent and we’ll need to have it replaced soon.

We followed CA138 to CA14 north and then got on CA58 which took us over Tehachapi Summit. Tehachapi Summit is 4,064 feet above sea level. Once we were over the summit, it was a downhill run to CA99 and Bakersfield in the California Central Valley. The Central Valley is less than 300 feet above sea level.

Outside of Fresno, we topped up the fuel tank at a truck stop. I made a wrong turn but once again I found a large parking lot so I could get us turned around to enter the truck stop. One thing I noticed on the drive up CA99  – our transmission fluid temperature was unusually high. I monitor the ATF temperature on our ScanGauge-D. It reads a sensor that sends data to the Transmission Control Module. It usually runs around 180 degrees. I was seeing 206 degrees. This isn’t dangerously high, but I wondered why it was hotter than I normally see. The engine coolant temperature stayed in a more normal range of 180 to 195 degrees – depending on whether we were going uphill or not.

When we merged onto CA41 north toward Yosemite, I figured out why we had higher ATF temperature. When we were on CA99, we were heading in a northwesterly direction. CA41 took us due north. The wind was quartering from the northwest. All the time we were driving up CA99, we were in a direct headwind. It was blowing steadily and I didn’t really take any note of it. The added drag of the headwind put a higher load on the powertrain. The Transmission Control Module communicates with the Engine Control Module and monitors the load. With higher loads, it increases the line pressure in the transmission. Higher fluid pressures results in increased temperature.

Once we were on CA41 and no longer driving directly into the wind, the transmission temperature dropped to 188 degrees. Mystery solved. CA41 brought us into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada range.

We checked in at Park of the Sierras around 2:30pm and we got to meet Melinda face-to-face. We’ll have to get together for pickleball at some point. The check-in process is rather involved. They spend a lot of time going over park information. It took about 20 minutes. They had us drop the trailer in a dry camping area – no charge for the trailer.

Damaged trailer jack in the dry camping area

Then two guys in golf carts led us to our site. They directed me into the site which would have been pretty tricky without them – they obviously do this often – and we were set up in no time at all. The park is hilly – our site sits at an elevation of 1,886 feet above sea level.

Park of the Sierras site 303

Our site is quiet and we feel like we’re nestled in the woods. Donna made fish tacos for dinner and we enjoyed them al fresco on our deck.

Dinner on the deck

The trees have my satellite dish blocked. I won’t be able to watch this weekend’s Moto GP race from Le Mans, France unless I download coverage. We have cable here, but it doesn’t include BEIN Sports channel which covers the race. Next weekend, I can use the cable for the Formula One race at Monaco.

Speaking of Moto GP…in 2006, the championship was won in the last race of the season by an American rider, Nicky Hayden. Nicky currently rides in World Superbike for the Ten Kate Honda team. I first saw Hayden at Laguna Seca in the ’90s when he rode in the AMA series. Nicky was on a group bicycle ride near San Marino, Italy last Friday. Many motorcycle racers train on bicycles – it takes a high level of fitness and endurance to race at the world championship level. Nicky was hit by a car and is in critical condition at Cesena hospital. He has a brain injury and is on life support. My thoughts are with Nicky and his family.

Today we plan to explore the area. We might head into town – maybe go all the way to Oakhurst which is about 12 miles away. The weather forecast for the next 10 days calls for upper 80s and 90-degree temperatures with no rain expected.

A Chance Encounter

Our three-night stay in Hemet passed quickly. Tuesday morning I went outside around 9:30am and was surprised to hear people on the pickleball courts.I didn’t think enough people were in the park to play pickleball. When we stayed here before, most of the snowbirds pulled out in April and the pickleball activity was finished. We planned on heading down to Sun City (Menifee) around 11:30am to visit my step-dad, Ken, so I didn’t go to the pickleball courts.

Also, it was pretty windy and cool. The temperature never went above 65 degrees for our entire stay here – about 20 degrees below average for this time of year. We rode the Spyder to Sun City and arrived at Ken’s place around noon. His cleaning lady was there, so we sat in his TV room and talked until she finished her deep cleaning of the house. She had been at it since 7:15am and spent five and half hours cleaning.

We drove in Ken’s car to a Chinese restaurant for lunch. Ken generously bought our lunches and we enjoyed talking while we dined. We headed back to Hemet around 2pm. On the way back, we made a stop at WinCo foods to pick up a few items. When we stayed here before, we always shopped at Stater Brothers – I didn’t know at the time what a great supermarket WinCo is. I found a 22-ounce bomber bottle of Stone Tangerine Express IPA for $4.12 – bargain!

Donna planned to have her friend, Connie Kippycash, join us for dinner on Tuesday evening. Unfortunately Connie was suffering from a sinus infection and had to cancel. So we just relaxed and had leftovers for dinner. It looked like rain was imminent, so maybe it was best to relax indoors.

Wednesday morning Donna and I hit the pickleball courts. There was only one other player so we played a couple of games where we rotated through a two-on-one game. After about an hour, another player arrived and we played a couple of doubles games. They were older and the level of play had me holding back. It was fun nonetheless.

Wednesday evening I grilled herbed boneless, skinless chicken thighs on the Weber Q.  When I was younger, I always preferred the white breast meat. Nowadays I find the dark thigh meat to be juicier, tender and more appealing. Donna served it with a medley of roasted baby squash with feta cheese and quinoa.

Grilled chicken thighs with baby squash and quinoa

This morning I need to pack a few things in the trailer – the grill and grill stand, a few chairs and the Spyder. We’re not in any hurry. Our drive will take us north through San Bernardino and over Cajon Pass. We plan to stop at the Elks Lodge in Palmdale – about 100 miles from here. Tomorrow morning we’ll continue north to Coarsegold in the Sierra Nevada foothills near Yosemite National Park.

I don’t want to delay our departure here too long – the Elks Lodge is first come – first served. I made a reservation at the Escapees Park of the Sierras campground yesterday. We’ll stay for one week. At first, the woman on the phone told me they didn’t have any sites available for a rig of our size. Then she had me hold for a couple of minutes and told me she had one site, but we would have to drop the trailer away from the site. She asked me if I wanted to do that. I told her it wasn’t ideal, but we’d take it.

After I gave her my check-in information, she asked me if I write a blog. I said yes. She said you just went to Hemet, right? And you’re an avid pickleball player and your wife is Donna. I was stunned. I laughed out loud when she told me she had been following this blog for quite a while. We plan to get together for pickleball after we arrive. I was so surprised at the chance encounter that I failed to ask her what her name is!

After three cool, cloudy days, today we have abundant sunshine. The temperature should reach 80 degrees today and the next week in Coarsegold should be in the upper 80s. Sounds good to me!



Cool and Quiet in Hemet

Monday morning we finished prepping for the road. I had removed the tire covers and checked tire pressure on Sunday. When I broke out my Porter-Cable portable compressor to add air, I found an air leak in the hose. I’ve had the 20-foot air hose for about 15 years – not bad for a cheap Chinese-made pneumatic hose that I bought at Harbor Freight.

It was time to kick the tires and light the fires at 11am. Donna rode the Spyder over to the overflow lot and I followed in the coach. I hooked up our trailer and loaded the Spyder. By the time we were ready to pull out, it was already 11:40am. We weren’t in any hurry – we were only going 90 miles up to Hemet, California.

I drove south on East Mission Bay Drive to Clairemont Drive where I got onto I-5 north. Going to Clairemont Drive added a couple of miles, but it’s a much better route to maneuver. I could have taken Mission Bay Drive north and got onto I-5, but there’s always a tie-up where merging traffic comes off I-5 and many cars want to get in the left lane to hit Grand Avenue. There are also five stoplights before you reach the freeway. I think the extra distance we drove is quicker and it’s definitely a lot easier in a big rig.

We followed a familiar route – I-5 to CA52 to I-15. North of Temecula we forked right onto I-215. We stopped at a small travel center on Ethenac Road. It’s a truck stop but the parking lot and entrance are fairly tight. I filled up at the far right pump. This would allow me to make a 180-degree turn in the small lot and come out past the far left pump. I topped up the tank and we were able to exit without any issues.

From there it was a short drive to Golden Village Palms RV Resort. At check-in, I asked if we could extend our stay until Thursday – we booked two nights originally but decided to stay for three nights. We got the Passport America rate – 50% off – for all three nights.

Our site is a 70′ long pull-through, so setting up was quick and easy. The park is very quiet at this time of year and we have empty sites on either side of us.

Roomy site 821

All of the plants are blooming in the park – including the beautiful purple flowers on the Jacaranda trees. I hope my pollen allergies don’t flare up too badly.

Donna has really taken to the new Weber Q grill. She made up some pork tenderloin kabobs and did the grilling as well. The grill is usually my domain but Donna is enjoying cooking on it.

Pork kabobs hot off the grill

She also grilled baby bok choy to serve with kabobs and rice. It was an excellent meal and we have leftovers!

Pork kabobs and rice with baby bok choy

It was chilly in the evening as we had a stiff breeze blowing from the south. This gave us a nice tailwind on the drive up, but made it a little too chilly to dine outside. Rain clouds formed to the east and north of us and I expected us to have a shower during the night.

This morning Donna was up early – she was out of bed before 6am. We didn’t have any overnight rain. Donna watched rabbits around our site after sunrise. We saw a black rabbit the night before. He was back along with a cottontail. I think the black rabbit is a domestic variety that’s gone feral.

Black rabbit and cottontail

Today we’ll ride the Spyder down to Sun City (Menifee) to visit my step-dad, Ken. It’s about a 15-mile ride. We plan to go to lunch with him at noon. It’s cloudy this morning and the high temperature is only supposed to reach 64 degrees. This is about 20 degrees cooler than average for mid-May here in Hemet. We’re at an elevation of about 1,600 feet above sea level. The forecast calls for another cool day tomorrow before it warms up to a more normal temperature in the low 80s.


*Just so you know, if you follow one of my links to Amazon and decide to make a purchase, 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!

Last Dance in San Diego

Our last week in San Diego was filled with the usual activities and then some. I hit the pickleball courts and happy hours at Offshore Tavern and Grill and Dan Diego’s. In addition to getting some writing done, Donna got in some cycling and also attended a beach workout sponsored by San Diego Magazine.

In my last post, I described the dead end I hit trying to change out Sini’s kitchen faucet. After discussing the issue with my friends Mark and Paul – both have earned their living as plumbers their entire adult lifetimes – they came to the same conclusion. I would have to cut the frozen brass nut off of the old faucet with a sawzall reciprocating saw to remove it. I had two problems with this. First – I don’t have a sawzall. Second, I would most likely damage Sini’s sink if I used a sawzall on the faucet nut. I hated to do it, but I had to tell Sini I wouldn’t be able to complete the job.

On Friday night, Donna, Sini and I went to Offshore Tavern and Grill. We were joined by Sini’s friends, Larry and Cindy, who were visiting from Washington. We ordered dinner from the happy hour menu – Sini and Donna went for the poke plate while Larry and Cindy had carne asada tacos. I went for the seared yellowfin tuna – delicious.

Seared yellowfin tuna

We left Offshore around 7pm and headed over to Tio Leo’s – a Mexican restaurant and bar a few miles south of Offshore. We met up with our friends, Carole Sue and Mona, there. It was my night out with the girls.

Carole Sue, Donna, Sini, Mona and me

The Siers Brothers Band was playing at Tio Leo’s. This was the second time we saw this band – we saw them at the end of April at the Beachcomber. This time they had another member – a singer fronting the band – he did a smooth rendition of the Righteous Brothers’ You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling. They were as good as before – we really enjoyed their performance and I even hit the dance floor with Donna for a couple of songs.

Siers Brothers Band

Steve Siers

Steve Siers and his brother Mark play guitar in the band. They trade off lead and rhythm parts. It was interesting to see their different approach and style of playing. Mark tended to be true to the original recordings and played the lead parts pretty much note for note. Steve was a little more free-form and put his own twist on the solos. It was really evident when they covered Tom Petty’s Last Dance with Mary Jane. Mark also plays hot slide guitar and really cooked on the Allman Brothers One Way Out.

On Saturday, the kitchen faucet saga came to a close. Sini’s current faucet works fine – no leaks or problems – she just wanted to upgrade it. Since I couldn’t get the job done, she decided to wait on replacing it rather than hiring a plumber to do it. Meanwhile, Donna really liked the faucet Sini bought so she decided to buy it from Sini so I could install it in our coach.

I replaced our faucet two years ago but Donna wasn’t entirely happy with the one I put in. There wasn’t anything wrong with it, but it was too low and she didn’t like the way the sprayer functioned. The faucet Sini bought was a Delta high-rise pull-down kitchen and bar faucet. I figured it wouldn’t be too difficult to remove our faucet since it was only two years old and not corroded.

Our “old” kitchen faucet

Of course I had to deal with a cramped work space, but there was more room than I had in Sini’s cabinet.

Cramped workspace

As I suspected, the threads on the hold down nut weren’t corroded at all and removal was easy.

Clean threads and easy removal

Installing the new faucet was straight forward and I had the job done in less than an hour.

New high-rise pull-down faucet

Donna is happy with her new faucet. She likes the way the sprayer works and the high-rise design gives her more room in the sink. A happy ending to the faucet story. Sini will probably have her faucet changed when she returns here in the fall – she’s spending the summer up in Washington and her coach will be in storage.

The weather has been a mixed bag this week. We had a few showers at the beginning of the week. The pattern has been cloudy mornings with sunshine in the afternoon. The temperature has reached the upper 60s everyday. Today may be a little cooler.

I have a few things to accomplish today. We’re pulling out of here tomorrow so I’ll need to pack the trailer, check tire pressures and put away the tire covers and windshield cover. Tomorrow we’ll drive 90 miles up to Hemet where we’ll check in at Golden Village Palms RV Resort. I got a great rate on a 70′ pull-through site there with our Passport America discount – under $30/night.


I Know When I’m Beat

Last weekend’s weather was more like Seattle than San Diego. Saturday morning was cool and cloudy with a mist in the air and a few light rain showers. On the first weekend in May, the Ho’alaule’a festival is held here at De Anza cove on Mission Bay in San Diego. Ho’alaule’a is a Hawaiian cultural festival with free entertainment, boutique vendors and traditional islander workshops.

Donna, Sini and I walked over to the park to check out the festival and also get lunch from the food vendors there. We dodged a few showers and watched some of the performers.

Small stage with musicians and dancers

Large stage with many performers including youngsters dancing

We browsed through the vendor tents and bought lunch at a Guamanian barbeque. We found a concrete picnic table under cover to dine without fear of getting wet.

Sini wanted to change the faucet in her kitchen sink. I had tackled this task in our coach a few years ago and posted about it here. I told Sini I would change out her faucet for her. She ordered a bar type Delta faucet – it’s a high looping faucet. Her current faucet is a Moen.

Moen kitchen faucet

Removing the Moen from our coach was a major pain. While I was visiting with the Bay Park guys at Offshore Tavern and Grill, I mentioned how hard a time I had removing a Moen faucet. One of the guys, Paul, is a plumber. He told me a Moen is a piece of cake if you have the right tool. The thing is, you get the right tool in the box a new Moen faucet comes in – you can’t go to the hardware store and buy one. I told him that was the problem, we weren’t replacing the Moen with a new Moen, we were using a Delta faucet. He said he would loan me the tool and it would be an easy job!

Moen faucet tool

I could see how this tool would make a faucet change easier – it would fit over the hollow stud that held our old faucet in place. Around 1:30pm, I walked over to Sini’s coach to get started. I would be working in a confined space – her sink sits over a small cabinet. The cabinet door opening was barely wide enough for me to get my shoulders through.

Confined work space

As soon as I got under there, I knew I was in trouble. Her Moen faucet is an older model – it isn’t fastened with the small diameter hollow stud. It has a large conduit that houses the water supply lines. This conduit is threaded and has a large brass nut on it to hold the faucet in place. The nut was 1-7/16″ and it’s between the double sink basins.

I tried various pliers and wrenches and couldn’t get a good enough grip on the nut. After an hour and half of struggling, I called my friend, Mark Fredin. Mark has a plumbing business. I told him what I was up against. He said he had a tool that might work. I drove to his place in Clairemont and picked up a couple of tools.

He loaned me a big basin wrench and also some plumbing sockets called tub sockets. They aren’t set up for use with a ratchet, they’re made to slip over a pipe and be turned with a bar or wrench.

Basin wrench

Tub sockets

I thought I was good to go. I was able to get the basin wrench on the nut but couldn’t get enough leverage to break the nut loose. I tried the socket. I got it in place and was able to put a large channel lock plier over the end. I put everything I had into it. I felt the nut move ever so slightly. It turned out that I had moved the entire faucet base escutcheon – the nut was frozen in place. Over the years, it had developed enough corrosion to lock it in place.

Around 4:30pm, I threw in the towel. I hate to admit defeat, but I was done in. All the time I was under the sink with my upper body in the cabinet, I had my left lat (latissimus dorsi) lying across the toe kick of the cabinet. This square edged wood trim was tenderizing the muscle. After reconnecting the water supply lines and walking home, I realized how sore I was. I think it will take heat to get the nut off or maybe it’ll have to be cut off. Cutting risks damaging the sink though and I’m not sure if I’m up to the task.

At 6pm, we walked down to Dave and Shannon’s site for a sunset happy hour. It wasn’t raining but it was windy with a chill in the air. We sat at their picnic table and had snacks. I brought a bottle of Chimay Grand Reserve Belgian Trappist ale. John and Becky were there when Donna, Sini and I arrived. We braved the weather for about an hour before we decided it would be better to relocate to John and Becky’s coach and continue visiting indoors. They have a Newmar Ventana with a roomy floor plan.

Shannon, Dave, Sini, Donna, John and Becky

On Sunday, I woke up sore and bruised on my left side. I watched the Moto GP race from Barcelona, Spain and didn’t accomplish much. I spent the rest of the day reading a book. It was raining all day, so there wasn’t much else to do anyway.

Monday I passed on playing pickleball as I felt like I needed to rest my shoulders. On Monday evening, Mona and Vanessa came by to visit with Donna and Sini. They planned to take a sunset kayak ride on the cove. Mona brought sushi and they sat at our picnic table to snack and visit.

It was cool out – the high on Monday was only 66 degrees – 10 degrees warmer than Sunday was. They ended up having such a good time visiting they were still at the table at sunset – so much for the kayaking.

Donna, Mona, Vanessa and Sini

I’m running late this morning, but I plan to head over to the Pacific Beach Recreation Center for pickleball. It’s cloudy and the forecast calls for another cool day with the temperature in the low 60s.

Is Three Enough?

I made my usual stop at Dan Diego’s Thursday for a cold one with the Bay Park guys. When I was leaving through the alley in back, I saw a medium size bird with a bright red tail land on a utility cable over the alley. It was an African grey parrot! I stopped to shoot a photo but I only got one back lit shot before it flew away.

African grey parrot

African grey parrots are native to equatorial Africa – and they’re grey in color with red tails. They are popular as pets because they have an uncanny ability to mimic human speech. This bird must have been an escapee or released from captivity.

There are a few neighborhoods in San Diego that have flocks of parrots – mostly conures. These birds are also medium size and are mostly green – some have red heads. They’re native to Mexico and Central America. No one knows for sure how they got here, but they’ve been around for decades. Some say they’ve seen wild parrots here since the 1960s.

Donna and Sini went grocery shopping Thursday morning. I arrived back at the coach from the rec center just after they got back. They told me about a fifth-wheel trailer that pulled in ahead of them and they said it looked like it had wood siding – like a wood cabin.

After dinner, we took a walk through the park and found it. It was actually aluminum siding that had been air brushed to look like wood. The person that painted it was definitely an artist – the visual effect was unbelievable. We talked briefly with the owner and asked if I could take pictures.

Air brushed fifth-wheel

The painter put his initials here

MagikShop is the name of the place that painted it

On another subject, I think I have a collector bug. At one time, I collected watches. When Donna bought me a pair of cowboy boots last summer, I soon ended up with three pairs. A couple of months ago, while we were at ViewPoint RV and Golf Resort in Arizona, I decided to buy a folding pocket knife with a locking blade. We were receiving a lot of packages and I had to cut the boxes into smaller pieces to put them in a recycle bin. I was tired of retrieving a box cutter from the trailer every time I had to do it.

A folding pocket knife seemed like the answer. I did a little research online. I didn’t want anything too fancy, just a reasonably priced knife from a reputable company that would hold a decent edge. Pocket knives come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Further, it’s important to know and understand the materials they’re made from. The blade steel type is important as it determines how sharp the edge can be, how easy it is to sharpen the knife and how well it will hold an edge. The other consideration is the material used for the scales – the gripping surface on the handle of the knife.

I looked around a little and found a Spyderco Tenacious on Amazon that fit my wants. It was reasonably priced around $40. The blade steel was 8Cr13MoV – a Chinese steel that sharpens easily and has decent edge retention. The scales were G10 – a synthetic material that’s durable and provides good grip. I ordered it and put it to good use in the following months.

Then I started reading more about knife steel and the Spyderco range of pocket folders. I wanted something a little lighter with better edge retention that would fit in my pocket. I found another folding pocket knife with a locking blade called a Spyderco Delica 4. This one cost twice as much as the first knife I bought due to the quality of the materials. The blade is made from VG-10 steel. This is a Japanese steel formulated for knife blades. The scales are fiberglass reinforced nylon (FRN) for lightness. It’s very light and disappears when clipped in my pocket.

That led me to another one – a Spyderco Chaparral. This is the most expensive of the three and has a blade made from CTS-XHP steel. This steel was developed and is made by an American company – Carpenter Technology Corporation. Many high end knife makers consider CTS-XHP to be the best blade steel currently available. The scales on this knife are carbon fiber. It’s ultra lightweight and thin. The build quality is obvious.

Top to bottom Spyderco Tenacious, Delica 4 and Chaparral

A knife collection doesn’t take much space. But, where does it stop? What’s the point of having a drawer full of pocket knives? I can only use one at a time and I really don’t need a lot of specialty knives. I don’t know – all I needed was something convenient to cut cardboard but now I have three.

Yesterday was Cinco de Mayo – a Mexican holiday commemorating the battle of Puebla in 1862 during the Mexican-Franco war. It also happens to be the anniversary of our marriage. Donna and I were married on the fifth day of May in 2006. We always go out to a nice restaurant for dinner on our anniversary.

While we were getting ready to go out, I saw another unusual sight. Someone had put out two small bowls in a vacant RV site. One had some kind of food in it and the other had water. A pair of mallards were dining and drinking there. They seemed very tame.

Mallards dining and drinking

The weather was much cooler. We decided to take an Uber ride to the Cafe Bella Italia in Pacific Beach where I had dinner reservations. As we were in front of the RV park, our Uber driver cancelled and Donna received a message telling her to order another ride. Right about then, Sini drove into the park. She pulled over and got her dog, Ziggy, out of the car and told us to take her car and forget about Uber. Thanks, Sini!

Today we expect a high temperature of 63 degrees – matching yesterday’s high. There’s a 50% chance of rain showers today. Tomorrow’s forecast calls for a 90% chance of rain and a high of only 61 degrees.


*Just so you know, if you follow one of my links to Amazon and decide to make a purchase, 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!



We’re On for RAGBRAI

Donna returned from her speaking engagement in Gillette, Wyoming late Tuesday night. While she was away she received an email notification that her entry in the Des Moines Register Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) was accepted. As the name implies, this is an annual event that’s taken place since 1973. The routes vary and this year’s route goes from west to east across northern Iowa.

The bike ride takes place July 23rd to July 29th. There are seven overnight stops – the first day begins in Orange City and ends with an overnight stop in Spencer. The total mileage of the ride is 411 miles, ending in Lansing, Iowa on the banks of the Mississippi River. Each day’s stage will be 50 to 73 miles. Most of us think of Iowa as flat land – it’s really rolling plains and this year’s bike route has plenty of climbs – the total climb is 13,078 feet. Of course Donna won’t gain 13,000+ feet in elevation – the rolling terrain means it’s mostly short climbs followed by a descent.

Our plan is to make our way to Iowa after our granddaughter’s high school graduation in June. We’ll meet up with our friend’s, Jeff and Deb Spencer (Rolling Recess) and a few other RV couples that make up the team. Our plan is for me to caravan with the other RVs to the overnight stop towns while Donna rides.

Last weekend, before Donna rode her bike to Cabrillo National Monument, I outfitted it with lights. She doesn’t ride after dark, but these lights help make her more visible to cars. I bought a set of Blitzu Gator 390 rechargable LED lights. These lights can be set up to vary the brightness and also have a setting to flash on and off. I set up her headlight and tail light to flash. We’ve seen a lot of bicyclists in the area with blinking lights and they definitely stand out.

When Donna and I first met, it was through a bicycle club. We would go on the Saturday morning club ride – along with about 100 other people – and ride together. Usually the riders would break up into smaller groups with similar pace and abilities. We often rode 40 or 50 miles. Nowadays, I’m feeling the effects of the toll my body has taken over the years. I’ve had three shoulder surgeries, a neck dissection and a fractured C7 vertebrae along with a steel plate in my right collarbone. Riding 50 miles a day is no longer in the cards for me. I get neck cramps and sore shoulders.

It’s been a while since I’ve been out on my carbon fiber Orbea road bike. When I ride I usually keep it down to an hour or so on my Specialized Crave mountain bike. Maybe I should consider selling my road bike.

Last night Donna made a new dish. It was a Korean Beef dish made with grass fed ground beef that our friend Sara Graff gave us a while back. Served over rice with steamed broccoli, it was delicious!

Korean beef

The temperatures have been in the mid to upper 70s this week. Today will be partly cloudy and cooler – around 70 degrees. The weekend forecast calls for clouds and cooler weather with a chance of rain on Sunday. I’m going to the rec center for pickleball this morning. Donna is busy at her laptop working on project that’s due tomorrow.


*Just so you know, if you follow one of my links to Amazon and decide to make a purchase, 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!


Beachcomber Bar

Sunday was another beach weather day as the temperature reached 84 degrees with clear blue skies. So, that’s what we did – we went to the beach. A little after 2pm, Donna and I went to Sini’s site and all three of us piled into her car for a short drive to Dana Landing. We met Gary Stemple at the Freedom Boat Club ( I posted about the club here).

This time, instead of a wake boarding boat, we took out a center console fishing boat with a 250 horsepower Suzuki outboard motor. Another friend from my school days, Rosemary Neff, joined us and we cruised the bay.

Donna and Sini – Gary at the helm, Rosemary partially hidden

We headed over to Mariner’s Point and picked up another passenger, Lance. Lance is a friend that grew up with Gary’s son. From there, Gary piloted the boat across Quivera Basin and out past the jetty to the Pacific Ocean. We took it easy and just puttered around.

Along the way we saw an impressive boat – a 60 Sunreef Power Meow. It’s a dual engine catamaran design with a length of 60 feet and a beam of more than 27 feet. It has a range of 3,000 nautical miles!

Sunreef Power Meow

Catamaran hull design

We cruised back across Mariner’s Basin and beached the boat near the Bayside Walk at San Gabriel Place. We set the anchor in the sandy beach and disembarked. It was a short walk to the Beachcomber Bar on Mission Boulevard. We snagged the last remaining table and ordered a round of drinks and talked while we waited for the Stiers Brothers band to set up.

While they were setting up, I talked to one of the guitar players – there are two guitarists – they’re brothers and both play excellent rhythm and lead guitar. I asked him if it was the same band that played in the area in the ’70s. He said it was more like the ’80s. Then he said unless you mean playing at backyard parties and keggers – we did that in ’70s and moved on to clubs and bars in the ’80s. Yep, that was what I meant and they were still at it.

Stiers Bros

They played a wide variety of music – you can imagine the repertoire they’ve acquired over the years. They still attract a younger crowd – the bar was full of people of all ages.

A younger crowd

Donna and me enjoying the music

Just before the music started, I asked Gary if he had checked the tide tables. He hadn’t. I looked it up on my smartphone. The tide was receding and low tide would be at 6:50pm. It was a little after 4pm. Gary and I went back to the beach and the boat was stuck in the sand. We were able to reset the anchor and push the boat into a little deeper water. I think if we had left it where it was, by the time we left the Beachcomber it would’ve been high and dry and difficult if not impossible to get it off of the beach.

A couple of interesting shirts at the Beachcomber

We left around 6:30pm after the band’s long first set. We had to get the boat gassed up and back to the boat club by 7:30pm. It was a good time on the bay and the band at the Beachcomber was great.

Today Donna is flying to Gillette, Wyoming where she’ll be the keynote speaker at a women’s expo tomorrow. She should be back home late tomorrow night. The forecast calls for clear, sunny skies but cooler weather with the high in the low 70s. I don’t think Donna will enjoy 70 degrees and sunny skies in Gillette. Apparently, they had a foot of snowfall just a few days ago!



April Beach Weather

I started the weekend in the usual manner – happy hour at Offshore Tavern and Grill. As I was about to leave on the Spyder, a garage door across the alley from me opened and a guy wheeled an old motorcycle out. I pulled into the alley and shot a photo and spoke to him briefly. The bike was a 1952 Triumph Thunderbird in excellent condition. He told me he bought it 50 years ago. The 65-year-old bike looked to be in original condition right down to the canvas saddlebags.

1952 Triumph Thunderbird 650

The weekend brought beach weather. Donna went for a bike ride Saturday morning with our friend, Johanna. They rode out to the Cabrillo National Monument at the end of Point Loma. The round trip was 26 miles.  I took my Specialized Crave mountain bike for a ride to the beach. I saw another interesting vehicle while I was out. I don’t know the story behind it – it was a Cadillac limo with shark fins on top and  teeth and gills painted on the front.

Shark Cadillac limo

The waterfront at Pacific Beach was nearly as crowded as it would be on a summer afternoon. The foot traffic on the boardwalk made bicycling difficult. I shot a couple of photos and headed back along Mission Bay. The bay was also busy but the Bayside Walk path had fewer people and was a nice ride.

Pacific Beach looking northwest toward Crystal Pier

Pacific Beach looking south by the lifeguard tower at the foot of Thomas Street

When I returned, I watched the Formula One qualifying from Sochi, Russia. Later Sini joined us and we had cocktail hour outside.

Sini and Donna enjoying Moscow Mules and snacks

Donna was up early this morning. Her sister, Sheila, picked her up at 7am and they went to Torrey Pines to hike and run on the trails there. I watched the Formula One race while she was out.

The temperature reached 80 degrees Saturday afternoon. Today we’re expecting upper 70s. Our plan is to meet Gary Stemple at the Freedom Boat Club this afternoon and take a boat out on the bay. In the late afternoon, we’ll take the boat to Mariner’s Basin and anchor, then wade ashore to the Beachcomber where the Siers Brothers Band is playing.