Another Chico Farmers’ Market

Saturday we were out and about on the Spyder again. We rode to Chico in the morning for the farmers’ market. The Saturday farmers’ market is held in downtown Chico at the municipal parking lot located at 2nd and Wall Streets. This is the old downtown district a few blocks away from the California State University, Chico campus – also known as Chico State.

Chico has a population of close to 90,000 people. The local economy is driven by Chico State and the many retail establishments. It’s a popular shopping destination for many of the residents in the small towns of the northern Sacramento Valley.

The Saturday farmers’ market is much larger than the one we went to on Wednesday. It has more than 100 vendor booths. Once again we found an abundance of locally grown produce with prices that can’t be beat.

Huge broccoli heads

Huge broccoli heads

We saw the lady from Guzzetti’s Catering and Indian Food. We bought garden bread and dipping sauce from her at the Wednesday market and couldn’t resist buying more. The bread is soft but dense and no thicker than a flour tortilla with a thin layer of filling inside. The sauces are incredibly flavorful.

We ended up with quite a haul. I had packed a small cooler with ice packs to keep the produce fresh in the Spyder trunk. We had lunch at the market – huge burritos filled with pork chili verde, rice and beans. Neither of us could eat the whole thing, so we packed the leftovers home with us.

I took a different route home – we blasted up US99 to South Avenue. I soon regretted the choice. We were riding into a stiff headwind – about 20 mph sustained wind with higher gusts. As we cruised at 65 mph, the gusts would buffet my helmet, snapping my neck back and forth. I didn’t enjoy that 20-mile stretch.

We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing. The lunch was so filling that we just had appetizer snacks for happy hour and called it dinner. I opened a bottle of beer from The Bruery called Humulus Terreux. It’s a hoppy, slightly sour concoction. The Bruery comes out with some beers that are really out there and this is one of them. I enjoyed it though.

Hoppy, funky and a little bit sour

Hoppy, funky and a little bit sour

I had a message from RVillage – a couple had pulled into the park two sites away from us and were members of RVillage. Their names were Mike and Donna! We chatted with them for a while and I learned that Donna has a group on RVillage that’s for Elks members. The group shares information about Elks lodges that can accommodate RVs. I joined the group – it looks like it’ll be a great resource.

On Sunday morning, Donna went for a bike ride on the quiet farm roads around here. The wind was calm for a change, making it a good time for a ride. I watched the Formula One race at Monaco. Memorial Day weekend is a big weekend for race fans. The Indianapolis 500, the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 and the Monaco Grand Prix all happened on Sunday. For me, the Monaco Grand Prix was the race to watch.

We stayed home and had a relaxing day. I cleaned the Spyder – that was about as ambitious as I got all day. The temperature reached the 90s. With the wind calm, I had the awning out and sat underneath reading a book.

I broke out the Weber Q. This gave me the opportunity to try another product the people at Weber gave me at the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas. It’s called Citrusafe BBQ Grill Cleaner. It’s a non-toxic citrus-based cleaner that cuts grease and is easy to use.

Citrusafe BBQ grill cleaner

Citrusafe BBQ grill cleaner

Donna marinated a pork tenderloin with her mojo marinade. I grilled it and it was tasty!

Grilled mojo marinade pork tenderloin

Grilled mojo marinade pork tenderloin

Donna served it with sweet potato hash – a perfect side dish complementing the pork. I paired it with a more traditional west coast IPA from Wildcard Brewing in Redding, California.

Mojo marinade pork tenderloin with XXX hash

Mojo marinade pork tenderloin with sweet potato hash

West coast IPA

West coast IPA

Today I’ll take time to remember those who’ve fallen while serving their country. I’m also thinking about those who’ll continue to risk their lives while protecting our nation from acts of terror.

We’re heading for a hot spell here. The predicted high for today will be 99 degrees. It’s supposed to exceed 100 degrees in the next few days. Tomorrow we’ll go back to Chico to tour the Sierra Nevada Brewery. We’ll pull out of here on Thursday.

 

*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!

Wine, Cheese and Nuts

Friday was Donna’s birthday, which coincides with my youngest daughter Shauna’s birthday. We had a full day planned. Donna had a couple of phone calls with family and friends before she went out for a walk in the morning. After lunch, we rode the Spyder from our location at the Rolling Hills RV Park to Orland – a small town about 10 miles away. Our destination was Pedrozo Dairy and Cheese Company.

We had an appointment to meet owner Tim Pedrozo and take a tour. We arrived at 1:30pm and were invited to come inside while Tim was turning cheese wheels. I’ve never watched cheese making in progress before. Tim had large wheels of cheese wrapped in cheesecloth that were being pressed in a circular plastic form. This shapes the cheese wheel while moisture is driven out. We arrived at the time Tim needed to turn the cheese wheels over and re-wrap them.

We learned that the cheese he was working with had been raw (unpasteurized) milk that morning. The milk comes from a herd of 30 dairy cows that Tim keeps on the property. These cows are all grass fed in a pasture behind the cheese making building. After the cows are milked – twice daily – the milk is chilled to 45 degrees. This keeps the milk stable until it’s pumped into a large stainless steel vat.

The milk is warmed in stages. First the temperature is brought up to 96 degrees. Then it’s warmed to 102 degrees and a bacteria starter culture is added. The culture converts sugars in the milk to lactic acid. Rennet is added to coagulate the milk and curd forms. A special knife called a harp is used in the vat to cut the curd.

Vat where milk is coagulated

Vat where milk is coagulated

Harps for cutting the curd

Harps for cutting the curd

The moisture (whey) is separated from the curd and the curds are formed into wheels in the plastic forms.

Cheese wheels pressed in forms

Cheese wheels pressed in forms

Close up of cheese wheels in cheese cloth being pressed

Close-up of cheese wheels in cheese cloth being pressed

Tim turning the cheese wheel over

Tim turning over the cheese wheel

Tim’s equipment includes pneumatic presses that apply light pressure to the cheese wheel in the forms. The cheese wheels he was working with were large – about 11 pounds each. Next the cheese wheel is soaked in a brine.

Cheese wheel soaking in brine

Cheese wheel soaking in brine

Tim soaks them for about two hours per pound of cheese so the large wheels soak for up to 24 hours. The brine creates the tough outer skin of the cheese wheel. Next the wheels are marked and put onto aging racks in a temperature-controlled room. The cheese is aged for a minimum of 60 days. He had some cheese wheels that were more than six months old and still aging. As it ages, the character of the cheese changes. It becomes harder and dryer and the flavor profile is affected.

Large cheese wheels aging

Large cheese wheels aging

A rack of smaller cheese wheels

A rack of smaller 2-pound cheese wheels

Tim is a third-generation dairy farmer. His grandfather emigrated from the Azores – an island region of Portugal – where he was dairy farmer. Tim originally lived in Merced in the San Joaquin valley but found that running a fluid milk dairy with a small herd of cows wouldn’t sustain the farm. So he bought a farm in Orland and moved the cows in 1996 and started making cheese.

Northern Gold is Pedrozo’s main product and it has variations including peppercorn, sweet Italian red pepper, garlic and herb and tartufello (truffle). He also has a specialty cheese called Tipsy Cow – it’s washed in Mount Tehama’s petite syrah giving it a purple rind – and a couple of other specialty cheeses made in two-pound wheels.

Tim cut samples of his cheeses which we enjoyed while we talked. We left there after purchasing six wedges of different cheeses. Tim told us about another place across town that we should visit. It’s called Walnut Avenue Ranch. It’s a small store selling a wide variety of locally grown nuts.

Almonds on a tree in front of Pedroza Dairy and Cheese Co.

Almonds on a tree in front of Pedrozo Dairy and Cheese Co.

We found the Walnut Avenue Ranch and sampled a few offerings. We ended up buying almond brittle with dark chocolate, dark chocolate covered almonds, cinnamon almonds and coconut macaroon almonds.

Next up was a 30-mile ride to New Clairvaux Vineyard in Vina, California. This is a working monastery with Trappist monks. The property was the location of a small one-acre vineyard started by Peter Lassen in 1846. In 1852, a businessman and winemaker named Henry Gerke bought the property and expanded the vineyard to 100 acres. He established the small town of Vina and his wine business prospered. In 1881, California governor Leland Stanford purchased the land and expanded the operation to 55,000 acres. It became the largest wine making operation in the world with an annual production of more than two million gallons and 4,000 acres of vineyard. The land was sold off in 1919, just before Prohibition. In 1955, the heart of “The Great Vina Ranch,” some six-hundred acres, was purchased by Trappist-Cistercian monks and became the Abbey of New Clairvaux.

The abbey grows walnuts, almonds and of course grapes. Aimee Sunseri, a fifth-generation winemaker is the winemaker for New Clairvaux. We arrived there at about 3:30pm and tasted five wines.

New Clairvaux wine tasting room

New Clairvaux wine tasting room

We saw a bouquet of flowers with a Happy Birthday card. We joked about them putting it out for Donna! It was actually for one of the employees.

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday

The Barbera was outstanding and we left with two bottles – more birthday plunder for Donna.

We were back home from our 70-mile loop on the Spyder before 5pm. We had time to shower and dress for dinner. We had a reservation at Timbers Steakhouse in the Rolling Hills Casino at 6pm. The Timbers Steakhouse is probably the nicest dinner restaurant in the area. It’s small – eight booths and eight free-standing tables.

I ordered a 14-ounce cut of prime rib while Donna had artichoke-crusted Alaskan halibut. We split a bottle of cabernet with our dinner.

We ended the day enjoying the evening outside – sipping more wine, talking and watching the sunset.

Donna at the end of a long day

Donna at the end of a long day

We had plans again for Saturday, but I’ll put that in another post as this is getting too long.

 

Olive City

We headed out around 11:15am yesterday. Our first stop was at the Lucero olive oil mill and store about two miles from our current home at Rolling Hills Casino RV Park. I had called ahead and was told they would give us a tour when we arrived. Our tour guide was a young man named Eddie. He was very knowledgeable about the Lucero company, olives and olive oil in general.

The Lucero company was founded by H.R. Crane and has been growing olives in the Corning area since 1947. In 2009, two of H.R. Crane’s grandsons purchased an olive mill with the intention of producing high-quality extra virgin olive oil. Today, the two grandsons and two great-grandsons run the company along with 25 employees.

They have more than 500 acres of olive orchards. Some of the orchards are old-time table olive orchards while most of their holdings are high-density or medium-density plantings. They grow 16 varieties of olives. The term density in olive orchards refers to how close the trees are planted. Some modern varieties are more like bushes and high-density plantings are close enough to touch each other. These can be harvested by machine using an implement originally designed to harvest grapes. The older, low-density orchards must be harvested by hand.

Extra virgin olive oil is made from a single pressing of the olives and must meet a standard for acidity and taste. I’ve read that nearly 70% of the extra virgin olive oil sold in America doesn’t meet the standards – in fact some of it is cut with cheaper vegetable oils and isn’t even 100% olive oil! You can read about it here.

I took photos of a series of posters showing the olive oil milling process.

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This poster shows the olive flowers and a young olive on top. High-density olive plants are being machine harvested in the bottom pictures.

5_26olv2

The olives are rinsed and stems, leaves or any other debris is removed. Then they travel via conveyor to a crusher. The crusher turns the olives into a paste. Lucero makes some olive oils with citrus added. They add Meyer lemons or Mandarin oranges and crush them with the olives to make agrumato olive oil. They also have infused olive oils. We found the lemon agrumato was more flavorful when taste-tested alongside lemon infused olive oil. It should be great for cooking any lemon-flavored recipes and as a salad dressing.

5_26olv3

The paste goes into a malaxer which stirs the paste for up 90 minutes. The malaxer is double-walled and the temperature is controlled with a water jacket between the inner and outer stainless steel walls.

After the malaxer, the paste is strained with a horizontal centrifuge. The one used at Lucero spins the paste at 3,500 rpm and strains the oil from the paste.

5_26olv4

A second stage is used at Lucero where the oil is run through a vertical centrifuge that spins at 6,000 rpm separating more sediment from the oil.

5_26olv5

The oil is poured into large plastic containers and stored in a temperature-controlled room. Any remaining sediment drops to the bottom of the container. The oil is then siphoned from the top down in the final bottling process.

Since Lucero owns their own orchards, all of their olives are transported less than 25 miles before processing. They place a big emphasis on freshness.

Young olives on a Sevillano olive tree in front of the Lucero mill

Donna examines young olives on a Sevillano olive tree in front of the Lucero mill

After our tour, we went into the Lucero retail store and had tastings of oil, tapenades and balsamic vinegar. We bought lemon agrumato olive oil, garlic-infused olive oil and white (blanco) balsamic vinegar along with a lemon artichoke tapenade. It was a fun tour and I learned a lot things about olives in general and olive oils.

After the tour, we rode the Spyder into town and stopped at The Olive Pit. We hit their tasting room where Donna had red wine samples and I had local beer. We had a plate of crackers with salami, white cheddar cheese and olives to go with the tasting. The server lived in Corning her entire life and was talkative. She convinced us to go to the New Clairvaux Vineyard and Abbey. It’s a Trappist monastery in nearby Vina – they make wine and have daily tastings. I asked about the signs referring to Corning as the Olive City. I remember signs here in the past that claimed Corning was the Olive Capital of the World. We were told they can no longer make that claim as a town in Italy now produces more olives than Corning.

I bought a bottle of wine for Donna and also picked up four cans of the Key Lime Gose beer that we liked so much. They have a limit of two cans per customer, so Donna bought two and I bought two.

Last night, I tried another beer I found at The Olive Pit that’s unusual. It was brewed by Six Rivers Brewery. It’s called Weatherman Kettle Sour Wheat Ale. Sour beer isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I like it for a change of pace every now and then.

Weatherman Kettle Sour Wheat Ale

Weatherman Kettle Sour Wheat Ale

Donna tried a new recipe for dinner – turmeric chicken with artichokes, green olives, chick peas and lemon. It turned out to be a complex process but the results were good. She probably won’t make it again as it was too labor intensive and used a lot of dishes to make. She keeps saying she has to start making simpler meals! She served the chicken with steamed green beans, fresh from the farmers’ market.

Boneless turmeric chicken thighs with artichoke and lemon

Boneless turmeric chicken thighs with artichoke and lemon

Today’s forecast calls for temperatures in the mid 80s and breezy winds out of the northwest. We plan to go to the Pedrozo Dairy and Cheese company for a tour then we’ll hit the Clairvaux wine tasting. Tonight we have a dinner reservation at Timbers Steakhouse to celebrate Donna’s birthday – it’s also my youngest daughter Shauna’s birthday. Happy birthday, girls!

Things to do Around Corning

If you’ve been following our travels, you might remember that we attended the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas a few weeks ago. I met a few vendors and received a few product samples, but I haven’t had the opportunity to try them out – until Tuesday. Donna’s dining table chair was coming apart. The horizontal wood back rest is attached to vertical uprights that extend from the rear legs with dowel pins. The glue had failed and the pins were loose.

I had a sample of a product called Wonderlok ‘Em Tite Chairs. It’s a cyanoacrylate adhesive. The liquid glue has very low viscosity and is as thin as water. To use it, you hold the parts you want to join together and apply a bead of adhesive. It runs into the joint and sets up in a few seconds. It’s that simple.

Tite Chairs adhesive

Tite Chairs adhesive

The small bottle of adhesive came with reusable applicator nozzles, making it very easy to use. It worked like a champ.

On Tuesday, Donna worked on an article she had to submit by the end of the week. I rode the Spyder to town and had a look around. I picked up a few items at Safeway, then rode over to the Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center to see what’s happening in the area. This area is mostly agricultural – olives, walnuts and almonds are the main crops along with cattle ranches.

Our location, outside of Corning, is in the northern end of California’s central valley. The central valley extends north-northwest to south-southeast around 450 miles. It’s 40 to 60 miles wide for the most part. The coastal mountain ranges border the west while the Sierra Nevada range is on the east. It’s one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world.

North of Sacramento is the Sacramento River watershed. This area is sometimes referred to as the Sacramento Valley – a subset of the central valley. South of Sacramento the valley is the San Joaquin River watershed. The southern central valley is likewise called the San Joaquin Valley.

The Sacramento River flows from north to south down to Sacramento while the San Joaquin River flows from south to north. They meet in the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta and empty into the San Francisco Bay. These watersheds are the reason for such fertile land.

It turned out there wasn’t much in the way of special events happening in the area for the Memorial Day weekend. But I did find information for some things to see and do. We’ve found that no matter where we are, there’s always something interesting. I also stopped at The Olive Pit – a local point of interest that sells olives of every type imaginable and also has a good selection of wine and craft beer. I bought a jar of anchovy stuffed olives for Donna – she loves them as a snack. I found a few interesting beers as well.

After I came home, I poured a couple of glasses of Key Lime Gose from New Glory Brewing for Donna and me. We sat outside and enjoyed the refreshing beer. It’s a sour wheat ale flavored with coriander, sea salt and fresh squeezed key limes. It’s almost like lemonade but not as sweet and it has a slightly salty aftertaste. We both loved it. I’ll buy more – The Olive Pit limits each customer to only two 16-ounce cans. Apparently it’s in short supply.

Key Lime Gose

Key Lime Gose

We took a stroll and watched the sunset. There were clouds to the west making a colorful sky at sunset.

Colorful clouds at sunset

Colorful clouds at sunset

Clouds moved in overhead and we had rain falling by the time we went to bed.

On Wednesday morning, the clouds were gone and the ground was dry. After breakfast, we hopped on the Spyder and rode east to US99 and followed it south to Chico (map). I had mapped out a couple of routes to a shopping center in Chico where they have an open air farmers’ market on Wednesday. We love shopping for local foods at farmers’ markets.

Chico Wednesday farmers' market

Chico Wednesday farmers’ market

The produce at this market was so fresh and Donna said the prices were the best she’s ever seen anywhere.

Colorful table of produce

Colorful table of produce

Another table of fresh produce

Another table of fresh produce

We bought a few items and checked out just about every display. They have another farmers’ market in downtown Chico on Saturday. We plan to go to that one as well.

While we were at the shopping center, we went into Sportsman’s Warehouse. I like this store! It’s kind of a poor man’s Cabela’s. I found a bag of fruitwood wood pellets for the Traeger and Donna bought a pair of shorts. I also bought a couple of shirts.

We had lunch nearby at Mekkala Thai restaurant. I’ve had a hankering for Thai food lately. It was good but very spicy! Great service, I’d eat there again for sure.

We also made plans to do some touristy things. Donna made a reservation for a tour at a farm that makes cheese – we’ll go there on Friday. We also have a reservation for a tour next Tuesday at the Sierra Nevada brewery. Speaking of beer, I opened another interesting bottle last night. It’s from Mad River Brewing in Humboldt County. It was a double brown ale called Humboldt Brownie. It’s flavored with chocolate nibs and has a very balanced blend that belies the high alcohol content at 9% ABV.

Humboldt Brownie

Humboldt Brownie

Last evening we took another walk around the park. We met a couple that have been on the road for 25 years! Their rig was even longer than ours – their coach and trailer were about 70 feet long. We also saw what I believe is the shortest class A motorhome I’ve ever seen. It was an Itasca Reyo built on a Mercedes Benz Sprinter F50 chassis. It’s about 25 feet long and powered by a 3.0 liter diesel engine.

Short class A motorhome

Short class A motorhome

The weather forecast for the coming week calls for warmer temperatures – upwards of 90 degrees – with zero percent chance of rain. Today we plan to go to the Lucero olive oil mill for a tour. It’s located less than two miles away from us.

Day Full of Twists

After breakfast on Sunday, I wrote my post and watched the Moto GP race from Mugello, Italy. It looked to be an exciting battle between hometown favorite Valentino Rossi and his team mate Jorge Lorenzo. Unfortunately for Rossi, he suffered a rare engine failure and did not finish the race.

I then got started on preparations for travel. I moved our Sea Eagle kayak to the right rear of the trailer and installed a D-ring to secure it in its canvas duffel bag. This is much better than leaving it on the floor, plus I wanted to redistribute some of the weight in the trailer. I did the usual tire pressure checks and lug nut torque on the trailer.

I made a run to Safeway – the Safeway store in Susanville has a good selection of craft beer. I picked an old favorite – a bottle of Lagunitas Equinox oat pale ale. Then I found something that looked interesting. It was a bottle of beer from Sudwerk Brewing in Davis, California. Sudwerk only brews lagers, not ale. This brew was called Rye of the Lager. The label claimed it was brewed with heirloom rye from Germany and hopped with simcoe and amarillo hops to give it a west coast kick.

Rye of the Tiger

Rye of the Lager

At 7.0% ABV, they call it an Imperial pale lager. It was over-hopped in my opinion. The lager doesn’t have enough malt body to carry 70 IBUs of hoppiness. I was disappointed.

Meanwhile, Donna prepared a stir-fry with flank steak and assorted veggies with a spicy sauce. It was very tasty.

Flank steak stir-fry

Spicy beef stir-fry with sesame seeds

On Monday morning, I loaded the Spyder in the trailer, dumped and flushed our holding tanks and made final road preparations. We left Susanville a little past 10am and headed west on CA36 (map). Our route took us on the same road we took to Westwood on the Spyder. It climbs immediately outside of town and tops out at Fredonyer pass at over 5,700 feet above sea level.

We dropped elevation and hit a few rain showers as we passed through the Lake Almanor basin to Chester. West of Chester it got interesting. The road winds through the Lassen National Forest. It climbs with sharp curves and no shoulder through pine forests. We topped out at 5,750 feet at Morgan Summit, then began to descend. Some of the downhill grades were steep – 7% or more. The road twisted with many speed advisories for turns marked 30mph and a couple at 20mph.

Ozark the cat wasn’t enjoying the twisty ride and ended up losing her breakfast in her crate. Donna cleaned up the mess as best as she could and then placed Ozark in her lap where she stayed for the remainder of the ride. That was a first. In the past, when Ozark was out of her crate, she would become over-stimulated by all of the motion of travel and run around in the coach. That’s why we started putting her in a cat carrier for travel. But she is almost a year and a half old now – maybe she’s settling down.

It was a downhill run all the way to Red Bluff where we hit I-5. We were about 500 feet above sea level at that point. We took I-5 south about 15 miles to Corning. I knew there was a Blue Beacon truck wash off South Boulevard in Corning and I saw it from the Interstate. We pulled off so I could have the coach and trailer washed – it was so dirty from the rain in Susanville and the drive here. I’ve had mixed results at Blue Beacon truck washes, but I have to say the crew in Corning did a great job. The coach and trailer are all shiny again.

We pulled into the Rolling Hills RV park at the Rolling Hills Casino a few miles south of town. I had checked out the entry to the park on Google Earth to find the best way in. Their signage is good, but the entry is a little different. We entered through a truck stop and found the casino’s travelers’ center at the back of the truck stop parking area. I checked in and paid for 10 nights. They told me the sites were 70 feet long and to drive into the park and take my pick.

We drove through the park and could see the sites weren’t all 70 feet long. They were all pull-throughs, but some were longer than others. We thought we would just take a lap or two around the park before we chose a site. The park host caught up with us in a golf cart. I stopped and he told me which sites were the longest. He suggested site 71, right next to where we stopped. Donna liked the view and it’s at the western end of the park – farthest from the road.

The park host advised me to drive out of the park and turn around in the truck stop so I could re-enter and be oriented in the right direction for site 71. This was good advice and we pulled into the site without any difficulty. We were set up in no time.

The weather forecast for Corning showed 0% chance of rain when I checked on Monday morning. By the afternoon, it was showing 15% chance of rain. While I was out putting on the windshield cover, the camp host stopped by and said they were now calling for rain for sure before nightfall. Great, I just had the coach washed.

Windshield view - rain in the hills to the west

Windshield view – rain in the hills to the west

Donna went out for walk to explore the area. Later we sat in chairs outside and read while enjoying a cold one. It’s surprisingly quiet here given the proximity to I-5.

Clean coach and trailer in site 71

Clean coach and trailer in site 71

The rain passed to the west of us and we didn’t get a drop. This morning it’s cloudy. The weather guessers are calling for a high temperature in the mid-70s today with a 15% chance of rain. We’ll see how that works out. Corning is about 300 feet above sea level, located in the northern end of California’s central valley. It’s billed as The Olive Capital. Olive, walnut and almond orchards surround the area. Northern California is also home to many large cattle ranches. Corning has a population of around 7,500 people.

We plan to make a few trips to Corning and also over to Chico. That will be fodder for another post.

The sign says Olive City

The sign says The Olive City

*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!

Spyder Wire

It was chilly Saturday morning – 39 degrees. This is the coldest temperature we’ve seen in a long time. Donna found a free boot camp type workout group at a nearby school. She walked to the school while I wrote yesterday’s post. We had cloudy skies and rain showers off and on, broken up by brief periods of sunshine. We see fresh snow on all of the hilltops around us.

Snow on the hills

Snow on the hills

While Donna was at her workout, I watched the Moto GP qualifying for the race in Mugello, Italy. The Italians were cheering as their hero, Valentino Rossi, took pole position for today’s race.

After the qualifying, I walked over to the office to see if my package was delivered. They told me the mail had come, but all they got was junk mail, no packages. This wasn’t what I expected to hear. I e-mailed the shipper and he sent me the tracking number. The USPS tracking site showed the package delivered at 10am. I went back to the office and was told it wasn’t there and I should go to the post office down the street. It was a short walk.

I gave the tracking number to the clerk at the post office and told them the package wasn’t delivered as shown. They looked up the record and said their carrier scanned the package at 10am and left it in the mailbox. They tried to phone the mail carrier, but she was probably driving and didn’t answer. They took my cell number and said they would call me once they talked to her.

I walked back to the RV park office and told them what I was told at the post office. The guy in the office told me he walked out to the mailbox when the mail carrier arrived and she handed him their mail – it never went into the mailbox. He took his key and went out to the mailbox and opened it. The package was in there. Apparently after the mail carrier handed him the junk mail she realized there was another piece of mail. She put the package in the mailbox while he thought he already had all of the mail for the day.

By noon, the sun was shining and it was dry out. I’d had enough of sitting indoors and decided to work on the Spyder. The package I received was a set of custom made MSD 8.5mm Super Conductor spark plug wires for the Spyder along with two NGK iridium spark plugs. The original spark plug wires were causing an intermittent misfire on the front cylinder.

As soon as I had the tupperware removed from the Spyder, it began to rain. I covered the Spyder and went inside. Five minutes later the sun was shining again. The fickle weather continued as I worked – I would have 15 minutes of sunshine then a cloud would pass over dropping rain on everything for a few minutes before it cleared up again. I covered the Spyder and went inside five or six times while trying to do the work.

Spark plug wires – which are sometimes called high tension leads – are more complicated than you might think. Wire is wire, right? Well, not so in this case. Spark plug wires can carry more than 40,000 volts. This voltage is delivered to the spark plug every other revolution of the crankshaft in a four-stroke engine. The rise and drop of voltage can create electromagnetic interference (EMI) through induction or contact with the insulation of the wire.

The insulation on the Spyder’s original wire was breaking down. That’s why it would misfire – the voltage would leak past the insulation and arc to the engine case. Original equipment spark plug wires are usually a carbon conductor over a substrate of fiberglass or kevlar fibers wrapped in rubber insulation. This type of construction has high resistance and prevents EMI. It’s also cheap to manufacture. The down side is that the high resistance causes a voltage drop and can weaken the spark in the spark plug gap.

Low resistance gives a hotter spark but will create EMI. A solid copper core wire would give the hottest spark but the EMI that results would wreak havoc on electronic control modules and sensors. Modern engines have lots of electronic controls and need to be shielded. The answer is a spiral wound cable with a magnetic center core. This creates a choke that prevents the EMI, while high quality alloy in the spiral wound conductor provides lower resistance. Of course this type of ignition wire is much more costly to produce. The MSD 8.5mm wires I ordered are this type.

Spark plug wires with plastic heat shielding

Spark plug wires with plastic heat shielding

The spark plug wires on the Spyder run from an ignition coil for each cylinder to the spark plug at the cylinder head. Some modern engines do away with spark plug wires by mounting ignition coils directly on top of the spark plug. These systems have their faults, but you don’t have to worry about a length of high voltage wire.

This is the spark plug wire that was arcing - shorting to ground and causing a misfire

This is the spark plug wire that was arcing – shorting to ground and causing a misfire

It took some time to get to the plug wires – I had to remove the tupperware and the airbox assembly first. My efforts were broken up by the showers passing through. It took about an hour to get the old wires off. The original wires were housed with a corrugated plastic cover to shield them from heat.

Old wire and new wire - heat shielding removed

Old wire and new wire – heat shielding removed

I removed the heat shielding from the old wires and put it on the new MSD wires. I measured the resistance of the wires – I expected the original carbon core wires to have 1,000 to 3,000 ohms of resistance. The wire to the front cylinder is longer than the one to the rear, so naturally it would have higher resistance. Remember, lower resistance is desirable as long as EMI can be controlled. The original front wire measured 6,000 ohms of resistance! This is not good. The shorter rear wire measured 3,700 ohms. By comparison the new MSD wire for the front cylinder measured 113 ohms. Huge difference!

With the old wires off, I replaced the original copper electrode spark plugs with NGK iridium electrode plugs. These plugs provide a fat, hot spark and will last at least twice as long as the originals.

Spark plugs

Spark plugs

I coated the threads on the spark plugs with a special heat transferring anti-seize compound. This will make them much easier to remove next time without risk of pulling the threads out of the aluminum cylinder heads. I also put a thin coating of dielectric grease in the plug connector on the end of the spark plug wires to seal them and make them easier to remove as well.

New wires with heavy duty insulators at the coil end

New wires with heavy duty insulators at the coil end

I test fired the engine – it started immediately and ran smoothly. So I buttoned everything back up and put all the body work back on and took a little test ride. The difference is unbelievable. The engine runs so much smoother. It has to be felt to be understood, I can’t put into words how big the difference in the character of the engine is. Who would’ve thought something as simple as plug wires could make this much difference? With better combustion, I’m guessing fuel economy will improve as well. Job done.

This morning, Donna and I went out for breakfast. We walked down the road to the Lumberjack Restaurant. It was a treat – I had eggs Benedict and Donna had a veggie omelet with a home-style biscuit.

We may have a few more showers this afternoon. I’ll begin prepping for travel. Tomorrow we’ll pull out of here and head to Corning, California – the olive capital.

Registration Blocked by DMV

The registration for our coach and Spyder expire at the end of June. I wanted to renew early as it takes about 10 days for the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to issue the license plate tabs which are then mailed to our service (MyDakotaAddress) in Madison, South Dakota. From there, they’ll have to be forwarded to us. I thought if I renewed online now, I could have the tabs in hand while we’re in Portland at the end of June.

I went to the website to renew. I kept getting an error message when I tried to renew the coach registration. I tried to renew the Spyder and it went to the shopping cart with no problem. I tried the coach again for the umpteenth time and got the error message telling me to contact the DMV. When I clicked on the contact link, I got another error telling me the page couldn’t be opened!

I phoned Terri Lund at MyDakotaAddress and asked her to help me. She asked for the title number of the coach and said she would contact the DMV on my behalf. A few minutes later, she called me back. She said the reason I was getting the error is because the DMV had the coach registration blocked! On the South Dakota DMV website, there is a message center which is accessible after you login. I had a message in my inbox dating back from 2014 saying I needed to provide documentation of the gross vehicle weight. The message was more than two years old – I never looked at my inbox on this site and I had no trouble renewing last year.

I asked Terri what I needed to do. She told me to take a photo of the weight label behind one of the kitchen cabinet doors and e-mail it to her. I found the label and sent it – she printed it and took it to the DMV for me. She said I should be able to renew once the system is updated in a few days. She provides such a great service – not only with our mail but anytime we need help with things like this.

Weight label

Weight label

I was hoping to receive the new ignition wires for the Spyder Thursday morning. With rain in the forecast, I wanted to replace them while it was dry out. No such luck – the Priority Mail package didn’t arrive.

Spyder ready for rain

Spyder ready for rain

On Thursday night, we watched a movie on our hard drive – The Revenant. I think my expectations were a little too high – I’d heard so much hype about this movie. I was a little disappointed but Donna really enjoyed it.

Donna made roasted chicken thighs with lemon, tarragon and fennel. She served it with risotto and green beans. Delicious.

Roasted chicken thighs with lemon, terragon and fennel

Roasted chicken thighs with lemon, tarragon and fennel

The rain came earlier than forecast and it was raining shortly after dinner. The outside temperature also dropped considerably. We had the heat pumps running. When it gets cold, Ozark likes nothing better than to snuggle up.

Ozark snuggling with Donna and staying warm

Ozark snuggling with Donna and staying warm

It rained all night with the temperature dropping down to 40 degrees. The rain and cooler temperatures continued on Friday. We had a few breaks in the rain, but more often than not, it was raining. The snow level dropped to about 5,000 feet and we could see fresh snow on the hilltops around us – we’re at about 4,200 feet.

Once again, the mail delivery Friday didn’t include a Priority Mail package for me. This is worrisome. We will pull out of here on Monday. If it doesn’t come today, I can hang around here Monday morning until the mail arrives – which is usually between 9 and 11am. Then we’ll have to move on. I e-mailed the shipper and he said the tracking shows it out for delivery – but he didn’t provide a tracking number for me to use.

We spent the entire day indoors. I read a book while Donna wrote an article. I changed the strings on my guitar and practiced a bit. I watched two motorcycle races that I had on the DVR. Donna had a sausage with white bean and spinach stew in the slow cooker all day. Nothing like the aroma of a stew cooking on a rainy day.

Sausage and white bean with spinach stew covered with fresh grated parmesan cheese

Sausage and white bean with spinach stew covered with fresh grated parmesan cheese

I paired it with a local brew – Fall River Pittville porter. The porter was very good with hints of chocolate and coffee.

Fall River porter

Fall River Pittville porter

Donna received a package from a PR firm she writes for. They sent a device called Force of Nature, a new approach to cleaning that takes salt, vinegar and water and electrolyzes it, turning it into a cleaning solution containing sodium hydroxide (0.2%) – this is a common cleaning compound called lye – and hypochloric acid, a disinfectant. They claim it will kill 99.99% of germs. You put the pre-measured packet of salt and vinegar into the device and add water. Plug it in and turn it on – five minutes later you have the cleaning product. The kit included a heavy-duty sprayer. The solution is good for up to 14 days. Donna will try it out in the coach.

Force of Nature

Force of Nature

Last night, we watched another highly acclaimed movie – The Martian. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I know we’re a little behind the times on movie releases. We rarely go to the theater and don’t see many first runs of movies. A good film is still good later though, right?

I mentioned  that the rain came earlier than forecast and it appears to have stopped earlier too. We have cloudy skies, but it’s cool and dry. The temperature will only reach the low 50s today but the weather guessers say there’s only a 15 to 20% chance of rain.

Lake Almanor

On Wednesday morning after I posted, I got Donna’s bicycle out of the trailer and pumped up the tires. We mapped out a route that would take her on the paved bike path up Skyline Road, then down into town on Paul Bunyan Road to Ash where she could pick up the Susan River Trail. The ride involved some climbing but it wasn’t as long as she anticipated – the total distance was only 11 miles and that included exploring some streets in a development across from Diamond Mountain Casino. Here are a couple of photos from her ride.

Paved path on Skyline

Paved path on Skyline

Waterfall on Susan River

Waterfall on Susan River

After her ride, we had a snack and prepared to head out on the Spyder. We wanted to check out Westwood, an old mill town about 20 miles west of here. We also wanted to get a look at Lake Almanor. We thought we could have a proper lunch near the lake.

We headed west out of Susanville on CA36, which immediately climbs for two miles outside of town. The road surface is great. It becomes a two-lane highway with passing lanes on the inclines. It cuts through the Lassen National Forest. We topped out at Fredonyer Pass over 5,700 feet above sea level, then descended a few hundred feet into Westwood.

We went to the visitor center there and found it’s only open on Friday and Saturday at this time of year. We didn’t find any suitable eateries in the small town – the population is about 1,700.

We rode out of town through pine forest on the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway. This took us to Lake Almanor – which is actually a reservoir created when Canyon Dam was built on the north fork of the Feather River in 1914. The lake is surrounded by private properties – rustic cabins, huge summer homes and resort cottages. There’s very little public access.

The area reminded me of Big Bear Lake in southern California near San Bernadino with the mountains and pine trees. The difference is the amount of tourism. Big Bear feeds off the huge southern California population and also has a winter ski area, so it’s always bustling with activity. Lake Almanor, not so much. The biggest draw is fishing on the lake for rainbow trout, brown trout and small mouth bass.

We found a couple of RV parks on the lake. One was gated and we couldn’t enter but the second one was open so we rode in and parked. The sites were laid out in such a way that I couldn’t figure out how they even got their rigs in there. Most of the sites had fifth-wheel trailers that looked to be permanent or semi-permanent set-ups.

Cove on Lake Almanor

Cove on Lake Almanor

Another view of the lake from the RV park

Another view of the lake from Big Cove RV park

The little villages on the north shore of the lake were sleepy. I guess the season doesn’t really start here until after Memorial Day. Most of the restaurants were closed. With so little of the lake shore accessible, we decided to head back to Susanville for a late lunch.

We stopped at the Pioneer Cafe – home of Lassen Ale Works where we had the fried mushrooms the day before. I had fish and chips while Donna went for a bowl of chicken noodle florentine soup with a small pub salad. The food at this place is excellent. The batter on the cod I had was perfect – paper thin with a toughness that held the fish together without being crunchy. Donna’s soup was loaded with chunks of chicken, carrots, celery and spinach noodles and she said it was terrific. She asked for blue cheese dressing on her salad – all of the dressings and sauces are made fresh in the kitchen. Her dressing seemed to be laced with fennel while the tartar sauce that came with my fish and chips featured capers.

I had the Lassen Ale Works ESB (Extra Special Bitter) – a British-style ale – that was tapped with nitrogen. The nitrogen gives it a creamy head and it was a delight.

Lassen Ale Works ESB

Lassen Ale Works ESB

Those who read this blog regularly know I try to keep it up to date at least four or five days a week. One blog I follow (What’s Newell) written by Clarke Hochwald is updated every day. It’s rare for Clarke to miss a post. I’ve only met Clarke once briefly in a Walmart parking lot in Yreka, California. But after following his blog for over three years, I feel like I know him. That’s how the RV community is among bloggers – we know what our fellow travelers are up to and enjoy following them.

I noticed Clarke didn’t post yesterday. Last night, I checked his site again and no update. This was odd. I sent him an e-mail asking if he was okay. He responded and said he wrote his post but somehow forgot to post it! I didn’t mean to be nosy or be a blog stalker – RVers tend to watch out for each other and I wanted to make sure he was alright.

We’re expecting another fine day today with the temperature reaching 70 and a slight chance of a shower this afternoon. I’m hoping the new spark plug wires for the Spyder show up. The forecast says rain will come overnight and it’ll be rainy for a couple of days. I’d like to get the work done on the Spyder before the rain hits.

Bizz Johnson Trail

The weather here in Susanville, California was near perfect yesterday. The afternoon temperature reached the low 70s with light winds and a nearly cloudless sky. Susanville is located in a basin between the Cascade Mountains and the Sierra Nevada Mountains at an elevation of about 4,200 feet. It’s the Lassen County seat and has a population of around 17,500 people. Susanville was named after Susan Roop – the daughter of an early settler by the name of Isaac Roop – in 1857.

The town was served by the Southern Pacific Railroad on the Fernley and Lassen line. In 1978, Southern Pacific received permission to abandon the line. Former Congressman Harold T. “Bizz” Johnson was instrumental in transforming the Fernley and Lassen branch into a rails-to-trails conversion. The trail is called the Bizz Johnson Trail and runs 30 miles between Susanville and Westwood.

The trail starts at around 4,200 feet above sea level and climbs to about 5,500 feet at Westwood. Donna and I went out to hike a few miles on the trail yesterday. It was an easy and enjoyable hike in the afternoon sunshine. Over its full length, the trail crosses the Susan River 12 times over bridges and trestles. We crossed it three times. It’s very scenic.

The trail follows the Susan River canyon with steep, rocky cliffs to the north and pine forest hills to the south. The only wildlife we encountered were lizards in the rocks, ground squirrels and a variety of birds – including a bright orange and black Bullock’s Oriole.

Bizz Johnson Trail

Bizz Johnson Trail

Susan River below the trail grade

Susan River below the trail grade

Rocky bluff on the north side

Rocky bluff on the north side

Pine trees and alpine meadow

Pine trees and sub-alpine meadow

After our hike, we rode the Spyder to the old downtown area. We wanted to check out the local brewery – Lassen Ale Works at the old Pioneer Saloon. First we stopped next door at Maggie’s Book Nook. This is a book store selling new and used books. There were books of every genre stacked on shelves along the wall, on tables and even stacked on the floor. It could take hours of searching, but I’m sure there are a few gems to be found. I picked up two fictional thrillers and Chris Kyle’s autobiography – American Sniper. Donna found a couple of books as well. Five books cost a grand total of $21.50!

In the saloon, Donna ordered an Devil’s Corral Imperial stout and I had the Volcanic Double IPA. These are tasty albeit strong beers. Much better than the local brew at Mt. Diamond brewery. We ordered Bizz Johnson beer-battered deep-fried mushrooms which I paired with a Belgian style dubbel while Donna went for the Thompson Peak Pilsner. The mushrooms were outstanding.

We came home and had a quiet evening. Donna made blackedned fish tacos for dinner. Then we watched an episode of The Night Manager. Next week will be the finale of this six-episode mini-series.

Today the forecast calls for warmer weather with the temperature reaching the 80s. We want to take advantage of the nice weather and ride the Spyder up to Westwood and Lake Almanor today. The weather can take sudden turns in the mountains and now the weather guessers are calling for much cooler temperatures and rain over the weekend. We can chase the sun, but there are no guarantees!

Plan A, Plan B, Plan C

Donna was back for our last weekend in Sparks. On Saturday morning, she went for a run around the Marina Park Lake. She said she struggled and afterwards, she felt whipped – no doubt from a full day of air travel on Friday. Traveling on airlines always leaves you a bit dehydrated and jet lag doesn’t help. Of course, with Donna back I was treated to a much better dining experience – not just the company, but the great meals she prepares.

On Saturday night, she made tortilla crusted tilapia with pico de gallo and sauteed veggies on the side. Absolutely delicious. We buy only fresh tilapia farmed in Mexico or Central America, not the Chinese or Indonesian frozen fish as farming practices there are a bit scary based on what we’ve read.

Tortilla crusted tilapia with pico de gallo and sauteed veggies

Tortilla crusted tilapia with pico de gallo and sauteed veggies

I started Sunday by watching the Formula 1 race from Barcelona, Spain. It turned out to be one of the most entertaining F1 races in recent memory. The odds-on favorites from the Mercedes team, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, collided going into turn four and were out of the race. In my opinion, Nico took a defensive line, which is expected, but Hamilton thought he could barge past since he had greater speed on the exit of turn three. He should have backed off. Instead he went into the grass, got sideways and took both cars out. From there it was all about young Max Verstappen. The 18-year-old became the youngest Formula 1 winner – his father Jos Verstappen was a Formula one racer as well.

I also recorded a few motorcycle races  – World Superbike and Moto-America races. I’m loving the coverage of motorcycle racing on BeIn Sports. They show the races without commercial interruption.

I didn’t watch the motorcycle races right away, I had to figure out our next move. I thought I had a plan. We ditched our initial thought of heading to Lake Tahoe due to the wet and cold forecast for the coming week. Then I found what looks to be a great RV park at the Expo grounds in Sacramento, located on the Sacramento River with long pull-through, full hook-up sites and miles of paved bike trails right outside the park. I sent an e-mail inquiry. Unfortunately, due to the dirt track mile motorcycle races next weekend and the county fair over Memorial Day weekend, they only had a couple of nights open.

So, plan A and plan B fell through. After some searching, we decided to head up to Susanville for a week, then on to Corning, California for 10 days. The weather forecast looks favorable and Susanville has an RV park that looked good. In Corning, we thought the RV park at Rolling Hills Casino would work – long pull-through sites and not likely to be booked over Memorial Day. I made phone calls and we’re set. This will position us nicely for our reservation in Bend, Oregon beginning June 4th.

Donna made a spiced pork tenderloin with maple-chipotle sauce. She served it with smashed garlic red potatoes and steamed broccoli. Once again, I’m feasting like a king.

Pork tenderloin with maple-chipolte sauce

Pork tenderloin with maple-chipolte sauce

We finished the day by watching a movie recorded on our hard drive. It was Bridge of Spies starring Tom Hanks. The pace of the movie was slow and it was less than we expected – Donna said she had all she could do to keep her eyes open as the movie dragged on.

On Monday morning, we prepared to leave Sparks Marina RV Park. We had everything done and were rolling by 9:30am. On the way out, Donna remarked how much she liked the place and how they do things right here. The park has wide lanes making it easy to maneuver. It’s exceptionally clean and well-maintained. The picnic tables are well constructed and set up with a metal plate to have a small barbeque like a Weber Q on one end. We’ll remember this place next time we come through the area.

Our Route took us up US395. US395 starts out sharing the I-580 designation in Reno and is three or four lanes wide through the metro Reno/Sparks area. It climbs out of the valley immediately with fairly steep grades. Traffic quickly thins out and it becomes a divided highway with two lanes in each direction, then merges into a two-lane highway. It rolls up and down hills with passing lanes on the steeper grades. Before long we crossed the state line and we’re back in California.

It was an easy drive – very scenic with the eastern Sierra Nevada range on our left and a wide valley on our right. We stopped at the Honey Lake rest area (map). It’s a relatively small rest area, but has a nice view and several information kiosks describing the geology, flora and fauna of the area.

View of Honey Lake from the rest area

View of Honey Lake from the rest area

After walking around the rest area, we continued on to Susanville, California and the Susanville RV Park. When I made the reservation, I was told we would have a 65′ pull-through site. At check-in, the woman at the counter looked at our rig out the window and said,”You know you have a 65′ site.” I told her as long it was really 65′ we should be fine. She went on to say it was not permissible to overhang the site into the street due to it being a fire lane.

I was wondering if this would be like the “65-foot” site in Sparks that was too short for our 64′ 9″ length. We pulled into site 63 and Donna directed me. After a couple of adjustments back and forth, I had us in – barely.

Mirror technically extends past site boundary - but we're in

Mirror technically extends past site boundary – but we’re in

Back of trailer right on the line

Back of trailer right on the line

Our 65' site

Our 65′ site

After settling in, we took a ride through town to have a look. We stopped at the Lassen Brewery to wet our whistle, but they don’t open until 4pm on Mondays and it was only 2:30pm. We rode around some more and then headed over to the new Mt. Diamond Brew Pub in the Mt. Diamond Casino. I had an IPA and Donna ordered the Kolsch. We were both disappointed in the quality of the brews and being in a casino means cigarette smoke. We won’t bother stopping there again.

We hit the sack around 10pm. It’s very quiet here and I slept soundly – the best night’s sleep I’ve had in a while. The forecast for the next few days looks good – we’re expecting high temperatures in the 70s and 80s. We plan to take advantage of the weather and the area by hiking some of the trails nearby.

 

*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!