Monthly Archives: November 2014

Kindred Spirits

I mentioned how Thanksgiving is a time for reflection. I’ve been thinking that although our life on the road has taken us to many beautiful and interesting places, it’s the people we meet that make it special.

When I researched this lifestyle and thought about the possibility of living on the road, I found RV forums and blogs. Some of the blogs gave me insight into how it’s done and how rewarding it can be. There are some blogs that I really felt a connection with and I follow them to this day. There are others that I check from time to time. I read a couple of forums almost daily, such as IRV2 and RV.Net. The forums keep me up to date on things and happenings. The blogs keep me in touch with people.

Many of the friendships we’ve made on the road have been lasting. We met Charlie and Sheila Pennington in South Dakota. We stay connected via Facebook and I’m sure our paths will cross again. Likewise, we met Bob and Sini here in San Diego last year and we stay in touch.

Brett Miller and Cheri Alguire visited us in San Diego last year. Donna already knew them from her SendOutCards business. They were inspired to live the nomadic life and are on the road now. We stay connected with them through Facebook and we’ll surely meet up on the road somewhere.

Following someone’s blog creates a connection of sorts, even if you haven’t met the person face-to-face. We’ve had a few instances where we found ourselves in the same place as the people I’ve been reading about, like the time we stopped in Cape Blanco. We met two couples that have some of the best RV blog material. I learned so much by reading Chris and Cherie’s blog, Technomadia, and Nina Fussing’s blog, Wheeling It. It was fun to actually meet them and spend a little time together.

We met another couple that we became friends with while we were here last year. When we moved on to Arizona, we camped with Mark and Emily Fagan and we stay in touch.

We met fellow Alpine Coach owners and Escapees members, Dave and Lynda Campbell in Arizona. We stay connected via Facebook and met up with them again in Oregon.

In Coeur d’Alene we met another blogger who happens to follow our blog, Esta Gardberg. It was great to meet someone that we had conversed with through comments on the blog.

At the Alpine Coach Association Rally in Oregon, we made many new friends. We enjoyed spending time with Dave and Stilla Hobden. We also met Scott and Marcia Hicks who graciously offered to have us stay at their beautiful property on the Row River.

While we were traveling in northern California, I was at a stoplight heading to Walmart for the night when I saw a something that blew my mind. A 1982 Newell coach pulling a long cargo trailer drove by. I immediately recognized the coach as the traveling home of Clarke and Elaine Hockwald. I’d never met them or seen their coach before, but I’ve been following their blog since I first started thinking about going out on the road. We were both heading to the same Walmart for the night. It was great to actually meet up.

Another way we’ve connected with like-minded people is through a website called RVillage. We met John and Sharon here in the Mission Bay RV Resort after seeing they were here on the website. RVillage is like a Facebook page for RVers.

When we stayed overnight at the Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve last week, we met up with another RV blogger. Hans and Lisa Kohl were there. Hans follows our blog and we are also Facebook and RVillage friends. We talked briefly and we hope to see them again soon on the road.

We met another interesting couple here, Phillip and Cara. We were drawn to them because they have a Kymco Downtown 300i scooter, identical to ours. They still have a sticks-and-bricks home in Florida, but spend most of their time traveling. Phillip is from Perth, Australia originally. They’ve sailed across the Atlantic and lived aboard their sailboat in the Mediterranean. They are currently traveling in a 27′ motorhome. They headed south a few weeks ago. They planned to head all the way down the Baja peninsula to Cabo San Lucas for the winter.

Last Sunday, they stopped by our coach. Not only were we surprised to see them back here, we were doubly surprised to see Cara in a wheelchair with her right leg in a cast. They told us the sad tale. They made their way to Loreto, Mexico, about 850 miles from here. They were out sightseeing on the scooter. The road had a few water crossings. At one of the crossings, they entered at walking speed. The concrete surface below the water was covered with moss and slime. The front wheel slid out and they fell from the scooter. Phillip landed on Cara’s leg, badly breaking her knee. She was air-lifted back to San Diego. Phillip drove the motorhome back to Mission Bay. Their plans are up in the air now.

We had them over for cocktails and dinner on Friday night. Phillip and I have common interests in motor racing and motorcycles. We both grew up riding dirt bikes and still love being on two wheels.

We’ve met many other people on our travels and we’ll surely meet more like-minded souls in the future. That’s the real treat of this lifestyle. Meeting and enjoying time with new found friends.

Thanksgiving Twice Over

We made our way back to Mission Bay RV Resort on Wednesday afternoon. When we checked in, we were told the park would be filled to capacity for the Thanksgiving weekend. The park was busy at this time last year, but not full. All afternoon and into the evening, rigs were pulling in and setting up.

There’s a big group next to us – a group of sheriff’s deputies and their families here to celebrate the holiday. One of the first to arrive was waiting on a rental RV to be delivered. There are a few of them here this weekend.

Around 5:30pm, Donna and I headed over to her sister, Sheila’s house. Sheila was serving Thanksgiving dinner on the eve of Thanksgiving. We still have Linda’s car while Linda is celebrating Thanksgiving in Vermont with her husband, Tom.

My daughter, Shauna, and her roommate,Kat, joined us there. We had seven people in total at the dinner table – Sheila, her son Connor, Jeff Sandler, Shauna, Kat, Donna and me. Dinner started off with a curried butternut squash soup that Donna made, followed by a traditional turkey dinner with  mashed potatoes, stuffing, and all the usual fixings.

We had a good time with lively discussions at the table. We came home around 9pm. The park was indeed nearly full by then, with people sitting around campfires and enjoying themselves. The group next to us was a bit rowdy and got a couple of visits from security reminding them about quiet hours after 10pm.

On Thursday morning, Shauna picked us up at 10:30am for our second Thanksgiving dinner. We drove up to Sun City (Menifee) to spend Thanksgiving with my stepdad, Ken. We made the dinner logistics simple by ordering out. If we cooked a turkey at Ken’s place, we would have had to leave here at dark-thirty for the 90-mile drive to his place or we wouldn’t be able to eat until late in the day.

There are 13 Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises in southern California that are owned by Polly’s Pies Restaurant. These locations offered seasoned, deep fried turkeys (14-15 lbs) and side dishes. All turkeys had to be pre-ordered. Last week, I called in our order. The KFC manager told me orders had to be pre-paid in person. I explained our situation to him – driving a 180-mile round trip to pre-pay was out of the question. He made an exception for us and put us on the order list.

At noon, we picked up the turkey at the KFC near Ken’s house. Our Thanksgiving dinner included stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans and bread pudding. Shauna bought Ken’s favorite cranberry relish at Trader Joe’s, but forgot to bring it. We stopped at Von’s and found cranberry-orange salad in the deli. Donna bought a cherry-apple crumb pie from Julian Pie Company for dessert. Ken’s neighbors, Ray and Helen, joined us. Helen brought biscuits she made from scratch. It was a good time and nice for Ken to have friends and family over for Thanksgiving. Ken lives alone since my mother passed away in September 2012. I don’t think he’s had the good china out since then.

Donna, Shauna, Hen, Helen and Ray at the dinner table

Donna, Shauna, Ken, Helen and Ray at the dinner table

Ray is Ken’s best friend. They both served in the Marine Corps in the Korean war. We ate, watched some of the football game and talked for a few hours. We left around 3:30pm and were back home just after sunset.

Donna and I have much to be thankful for. I think all of us at both dinners were thankful for our health. You can’t take your state of health for granted. We also have great families that give us love and support. We’ve caught up and connected with old friends and made new friends over the past 16 months since we hit the road. Neither of us can imagine being tied down in one spot for more than a few months at a time at this point in our lives. We’re thankful we made the decision to hit the road and expect we’ll be out here for some time to come.

One Day in Santee

I haven’t found the time to post over the past couple of days. On Sunday, Jim Birditt came over and we watched the Chargers versus Rams game. We enjoyed snacks and beer and a very entertaining game. It was a seesaw affair with the Chargers pulling off the win with an interception in the end zone with just a minute left in the game.

On Monday morning I had a doctor appointment in Point Loma. By the time I was finished with that, it was noon and the day was getting away from me.

Today was a move day. We had to leave Mission Bay RV Resort as our second month there came to an end. Rather than go to the Sycuan Casino again, we thought we’d do something different. We’ve been wanting to check out the RV park at Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve.

This park is laid out on a long, narrow property owned and operated by Padre Dam Municipal Water District. There are seven small man-made lakes on the property along with about 300 RV sites and some rental cabins on the lakes.

The roads in the park are paved but the sites are all dirt. Our site is a 60′ long pull-through. It’s not exactly level, but not too bad. There’s adequate space in our area, which is the West Oak Loop. Some of the other loops with smaller back-in sites seem a little tighter. They have several wifi towers and the internet accessibility is very good.

Even though the park is surrounded by residential areas, it feels secluded. The hills that make up the views from the park are barren and it’s quiet.

Site 232 at Santee Lakes

Site 232 at Santee Lakes

We’re only here for the night before we return to Mission Bay RV Resort tomorrow. I explained the one-month rule at Mission Bay in this post. After we get set up tomorrow, we’ll be going to Donna’s sister, Sheila’s house to celebrate Thanksgiving early. On Thursday, we’ll drive up to Menifee with my daughter, Shauna to spend Thanksgiving Day with my step-dad, Ken. I probably won’t post again until Friday.

By the way, I sampled an unusual brew from Stone Brewing. It’s part of their Stochasticity line called Master of Disguise. This is a golden ale brewed to a high ABV of 9.7% with cocoa and coffee beans added. It tastes like a chocolate-covered roasted espresso bean. Loved it!

Chocolate covered roasted espresso bean in liquid form

Chocolate-covered roasted espresso bean in liquid form

Loco Moco

In 2008, Donna and I vacationed in Maui. We snorkeled the reefs daily. Our usual routine was to be up early, have coffee and biscotti, then head out to a secluded cove to snorkel before the crowds arrived.

We stayed in Kaanapali at the Westin Hotel. There were places to snorkel right by the hotel. Black Rock is a popular snorkeling spot there. We usually ventured out though. We would drive up to Honolua on Highway 30. There were a couple of spots that locals told us about, like Makulei’a Bay at mile marker 32.

We would spend an hour or so in the ocean, snorkeling among the reefs, checking out tropical fish and sea turtles. By the time were ready to head back to Kaanapali, we had worked up a mighty appetite.

Our favorite thing to do was to stop at a little cafe where we would order loco moco and sit outside and eat our breakfast. Loco moco is a ubiquitous Hawaiian breakfast. It consists of a hamburger patty on white rice with two fried eggs over medium on top. Brown gravy covers everything. It is delicious and very filling.

I mention this because on Friday evening, I stopped in at the Offshore Grill and Tavern and somehow, loco moco found its way into our conversation at the bar. Lauren, the bartender, told me about a cafe on Cass Street in north Pacific Beach that serves loco moco. I’d never seen loco moco on a menu outside of Hawaii.

So on Saturday morning, Donna and I drove over to Leilani’s Cafe for loco moco. You order at the counter, then seat yourself. The girl at the counter asked if we wanted the Hilo-style loco moco. This was a new twist I hadn’t heard of before. Hilo-style comes with spicy fried rice with Portuguese sausage instead of plain white rice. We went for the Hilo-style and found a table outside on the deck. They bring the food to your table on paper plates. It was outstanding. The coffee was excellent as well.

Loco moco

Loco moco Hilo-style

After the hearty breakfast, we drove up to Del Mar to check out the RV park by the fairgrounds and race track. We were thinking that we might head up there next Tuesday when we have to leave Mission Bay RV Park for the night. If we liked it, we might consider a month-long stay there in the future. The park is just minutes from shops and restaurants on Pacific Coast Highway with easy access to some terrific bicycling routes. It turned out not to be a suitable place for us – all gravel, tight sites and no sewer hook-up. We decided there’s no point in paying $50 for the night if we aren’t interested in coming back for a longer stay.

We will be returning to San Diego in April. My youngest daughter, Shauna, will be graduating from Cal Western School of Law on May 1st. We might come back to Mission Bay and stay for the graduation, but we want to look at a couple of other places.

Jim Birditt, my best friend from my high school days, is in town for the weekend. Donna and I met up with him at the Offshore Grill and Tavern in the afternoon. We had a couple of beers and chatted. After about an hour, Carole Bringas, another friend going back to our school days, joined us. We ended up ordering a table full of appetizers and hanging out for a few hours there.

Carole, Jim and Donna at the Offshore Grill and Tavern

Carole, Jim and Donna at the Offshore Grill and Tavern

Today is NFL football day. I’ll don my number 14 Dan Fouts Chargers throwback jersey for the game against St. Louis. Jim is planning to come over for the game.


Rude Walkers

Yesterday was Thursday, but it felt like Friday to me. I think it was due to all of the activity here at Mission Bay RV Resort. Rigs were pulling in and setting up all afternoon – we usually see this on Fridays, especially if it’s a holiday weekend.

Later, as I took a walk, I remembered why there was so much activity. This weekend is the Susan G. Komen three-day walk to raise money for breast cancer. At this time last year, the RV park filled up with participants and supporters. The parking lot at Crown Point Shores is closed to the public this weekend. Large tents were erected there. Participants, family and friends are allowed to camp there for the weekend.

A motorhome pulled into the site behind us in the afternoon. They had a Susan G. Komen banner in the windshield. I should have remembered them from last year – more on that later.

Our new neighbors - that's our rig on the left

Our new neighbors – that’s our rig on the left

Donna’s sister, Linda, flew home to Vermont for Thanksgiving. Donna drove her to the airport. We’ll have her car until she returns on the 29th.

Later, I drove over to Dan Diego’s to turn in my football picks for the week and collect a free drink. This week’s winner was the bartender at Dan Diego’s. I’m really having a hard time picking winners this season. It’s been crazy. Teams that look invincible one week are beat by teams that seem inferior the next week.

Part of my problem may be that I’m a fan. Specifically, I’m a San Diego Chargers fan. I try to be logical and use my head, not my heart when I fill out the football pool. Deep down, I have scenarios that I would like to see play out that work in favor of the Chargers. This can lead to negative cheering – what I mean is, if I’m watching a divisional rival’s game, I’m hoping they lose. I’ve gotten better at leaving the negativity out of it and just enjoying good games, but when you’re a fan, you want things to go a certain way.

Every week I study the injury reports, I look at the Las Vegas odds, then I use my gut feelings and make my picks. Last Thursday, when I turned in my football sheet, I saw Courtney – the bartender at Dan Diego’s – fill out her sheet. It took her a few minutes. She asked a couple of questions about some of the teams – what’s their record, what did they do last week, etc. She doesn’t follow the NFL too closely. She won the pool.

Courtney behind the bar at Dan Diego's

Courtney behind the bar at Dan Diego’s

I came home to watch the Thursday Night Football game on the NFL network. The Oakland Raiders were hosting the Kansas City Chiefs. As a Charger fan, I’m a Raider hater. It’s a bitter rivalry between the Chargers and Raiders that dates back to 1960. But since the Raiders were playing against the Chiefs, I had to root for the Raiders. The Chiefs were tied for first in the division with the Broncos – San Diego is one game behind. The Raiders pulled off an improbable win last night after losing 16 straight games, dropping the Chiefs’ record to 7-4.

Donna was out during the game. She was invited to be a guest speaker at a the monthly meeting of a minimalists group. When she returned, we watched TV for a while, then turned in.

I’ve been leaving the awning out most nights. It keeps the dew off things outside and we usually have very little wind at night. I should have checked the forecast. The wind picked up in the night and I was awakened by the sound of the awning bouncing in the wind. I got up and retracted the awning.

I had trouble getting back to sleep, but eventually I drifted off. Then I was jolted awake again by loud voices. It was 5am. Someone called out, “Hey, there you are!” Loud conversation was taking place in the dark outside our bedroom. Apparently, the motorhome with the Susan G. Komen banner behind us is the meet-up spot for the walkers staying here in the RV park. I should have remembered this rig. They did the same thing last year.

Last year, one of our neighbors complained to them, but they were noisy every morning. I think I’ll talk to the security guys today. I don’t want two more mornings of this behavior.

What’s the Story?

A couple of weeks ago when Donna  came back from a bike ride, she told me that the railing on the Rose Creek bridge had been damaged. She wondered what could have bent the railing upward over the pedestrian/bicycle bridge. A few days later, as I rode my bicycle over the bridge, I stopped to investigate.

The railing was indeed bent upward on the north side of the bridge, near the crest. There were black tire marks on the curb, beginning several feet to the east of the bent rail. It was apparent to me that a westbound vehicle had hit the curb, then climbed up the curb and struck the railing from below. There was black paint scraped onto the rail.

Rail damage on the Rose Creek pedestrian/bicycle bridge

Rail damage on the Rose Creek pedestrian/bicycle bridge

Why would someone drive a motor vehicle over this narrow bridge, which is clearly marked No Motor Vehicles? The bridge is arced fairly steeply. A vehicle moving at speed wouldn’t see a pedestrian coming up from the other side.

Workers repairing the damage

Workers repairing the damage

Yesterday, I crossed the bridge on my bicycle. Workers had the north side of the bridge closed as they made repairs.

When I returned to the Mission Bay RV Resort, I stopped to snap a quick photo of some neighbors who had moved in a few days ago. It’s a trio of Prevost (say PRE-voh, the st is silent) conversions that appear to be traveling together.

L-R Prevost Marathon, Featherlite and Millenium coaches

L-R Prevost Marathon, Featherlite and Millenium coaches

These coaches, built on 45-foot Prevost chassis, fascinate me. They are the creme de la creme of motorhomes. In my opinion, they are rivaled only by Newell. These three were completed by different manufacturers. The Marathon Coach and the Millenium Coach were built from a Prevost H series while the Featherlite Vantare started with a Prevost X series. The differences are detailed on the Prevost site.

Just for grins, I looked up current Millenium Coach pricing. Donna and I toured one of their coaches at the FMCA Converntion. The one we looked at retailed for $2.3 million. You can see the specs for a new X series here. The retail price is $2,039,025!

This new H series quad slide may be the one we toured in Redmond, OR. Retail price is $2,364,032! So, our neighborhood has gone upscale.

I’m not impressed by someone’s celebrity stature, but I often wonder how people made their fortunes. It’s interesting for me to meet successful people on the road and hear their stories. So far, what I’ve heard most often is a combination of hard work and luck. Being in the right place at the right time. Having the skillset to take advantage of opportunities. And having a willingness to take risks and overcome failures. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to hear our new neighbors’ stories.

I’m sure that driving over pedestrian bridges and crashing into the handrail doesn’t figure into anyone’s success story.


Who Buys This?

We’ve had cooler weather over the past few days. The daytime highs reach the lower 70s while the overnight low is in the mid 50s. The cool nighttime temperatures prompted Donna to add a comforter to our bed. We sleep with the windows open – the cool night air feels good. In the morning, it’s usually about 60 degrees in our coach, but it quickly warms up as the sun streams through the windows.

On Saturday, my daughter, Shauna, and her roommate, Kat, came over to enjoy the nice weather on the bay. They wanted to take our Sea Eagle SE370 inflatable kayak out. One of the removable seats had been losing air. I suspected a leak around the fill valve. I unscrewed the plastic valve and sealed the threads with Teflon tape before they arrived. This seemed to do the trick, it’s holding air fine now.

Shauna and Kat paddling in

Shauna and Kat paddling in

I went to Costco to pick up a couple of things the other day. In some states, Costco sells liquor – California is one of them. While I was walking down the liquor aisle, I saw a few cabinets with bottles locked up inside. Out of curiosity, I walked over to see what was there.

What I saw boggled my mind. When I think about shopping at Costco, I usually expect to find common goods sold in quantity at discount prices. These liquor bottles were anything but common. The quantity was the usual 750ml. I don’t know if these prices reflect a deep discount or not – they’re way out of my league.

How about a bottle of Chivas Regal 62 Gun Salute  Scotch for $2,999.99? Well, they kept it under three thousand, right?

Chivas Regal 62 Gun

Chivas Regal 62 Gun Salute

Then I saw a bottle of Remy Martin Louis XIII cognac on offer for $2,999.00!

Remy Martin Louis XIII

Remy Martin Louis XIII

The icing on the cake was a bottle of L’Or de Jean Martell cognac priced at $3,399.00. They didn’t bother with the 99 cents.

L'Or De Jean Martell cognac

L’Or de Jean Martell cognac

I don’t recall seeing these bottles before. I wonder if it’s something special for the holidays? I appreciate fine whiskey and cognac, but I have to ask – do people really buy liquor at this price point? There must be someone willing to pay that price or they wouldn’t have it in the store.

Maybe someday, when I order a million-dollar-plus Newell coach, I’ll celebrate with a bottle of L’Or de Jean Martell.

Something’s Brewing

Donna went shopping with her sister, Linda, on Thursday afternoon. While they were out, I rode my mountain bike up the Rose Creek Trail to Santa Fe Street. I planned on riding San Clemente Canyon. The wind was gusty and made the ride north on Santa Fe tough going.

I deviated from my plan at one point and crossed the railroad track and entered the flood control channel. This channel is a wide, concrete bed with concrete walls angling up on each side. The channel is about 60 feet wide and the side walls are about 15 feet high. Its purpose is to channel storm water runoff from canyons in the area to Rose Creek, then into Mission Bay.

Above the channel on the east side is Morena Boulevard. On the west side is Santa Fe Street. There is an access road from Morena Boulevard on the north end of the channel. The access road is closed to traffic with a locked gate.

I rode around in the channel and reminisced about the days when we would drive into this channel to party. Back in my high school days, someone had cut the lock on the gate. We would drive our cars down into the channel.

Flood control channel access road - in poor repair today

Flood control channel access road – in poor repair today

High above on the east side, Morena Boulevard had very little traffic in those days. The only business I remember on that stretch of road was the Price Club. I posted about the Price Club here. On the west side, across the railroad track, Santa Fe Street was strictly a commercial district with no traffic at night.

Flood control channel - a little overgrown today

Flood control channel – a little overgrown today

Down in the channel we could play loud music and drink beer without being discovered. The sound was contained by the walls of the channel – and there wasn’t anyone around there to complain about the noise anyway.

I rode back to Santa Fe Street and stopped at the Karl Strauss Brewery and Tasting Room. This is the last business on Santa Fe Street before the road ends and the paved Rose Canyon bike path begins.

Karl Strauss Brewery and Tasting Room

Karl Strauss Brewery and Tasting Room

Karl Strauss Brewery is the cornerstone of craft brewing in San Diego. They opened their brewery in downtown San Diego on February 2, 1989. This was the start of the craft brew scene in San Diego. Chris Kramer and Matt Rattner were young entrepreneurs with a dream of bringing local, high-quality beer to San Diego. Chris’s cousin happened to be Karl Strauss – a master brewer trained at Weihenstephen in Munich, Germany. With Karl’s help, they were able to start brewing.

When we lived in Arizona, I was a member of the Arizona Society of Homebrewers. This is a beer club dedicated to crafting beer at home. I learned by reading books and talking to other members of the club and began brewing my own beer. It takes attention to detail and patience to brew good beer.

I bought the necessary implements, such as a large propane burner to boil the wort, copper chilling coils, five-gallon glass carboys for fermentation and so on. I kept vacuum-sealed hops in our freezer. I bought yeast at a local homebrew store. I would prepare a yeast starter in a one-liter Erhlenmeyer flask the night before I would start a brew. The yeast starter gave the yeast a jump start and allowed fermentation to begin more quickly once it was added to the chilled wort versus just adding a small packet of yeast to the wort. I believe getting a quick and vigorous start to the fermentation process improves the quality of the beer. One of the challenges of brewing in Arizona was temperature control. I would carry out the fermentation process in a glass carboy placed in the bathtub of our guest bathroom. A small amount of water in the tub and wet towels wrapped around the carboy provided evaporative cooling.

Once I learned how to properly brew and started coming up with tasty brews, I expanded my capabilities by brewing different styles of beer. I brewed pale ale, India pale ale, red ale, Belgian-style wheat beer, stout and so on. Donna bought a three-tap kegerator for me for my birthday. I could have three styles of beer on tap in five-gallon Pepsi kegs (the correct term is Cornelius keg) while another batch was fermenting. I kept a rotation going so I would never be out of beer. My friends would come over on Sunday afternoons to watch motorcycle races on TV and we would enjoy fresh, home-brewed beer.

When we moved to Michigan and I began working 50+ hours per week, I never got back into homebrewing. Eventually I sold my brew equipment. It was great hobby for a few years though and I learned a lot about beers and different styles of beer.

Today, the craft beer scene has exploded. According to the Brewers Association, there are more than 3,000 craft breweries in the country. Craft beer sales continue to climb while light lager sales fall. People have fallen for quality beers brewed in various styles.

The craft brew business continues to evolve. I read an article this morning about a small brewery in Bend, Oregon – 10 Barrel Brewing – selling out to Anheuser Busch In-Bev Corporation. This has stirred a lot of emotion among brewers and the fans of 10 Barrel beers. They aren’t the first craft brewery to be bought out by a corporate beer giant. It makes me wonder what the definition of craft brewery will be in the future as these breweries become parts of huge corporations and integrate corporate policies and mass production techniques.

Last evening, Donna and I walked to the west end of the park to view the sunset. I had a glass of Ninkasi oatmeal stout in hand. Our neighbors, John and Sharon, came to the same spot. We talked and watched the sunset, then we came back and sat together outside our coach. I found out that John and Sharon are craft beer drinkers. Sharon loves the stouts and John likes IPA. I had Stone IPA in the cooler and we enjoyed a couple of beers together before dinner.

Sunset on the bay - Friday night

Sunset on the bay – Friday night

I have something brewing, but I’m not ready to reveal it yet.

Are We on Vacation?

A few weeks ago while Donna was waiting at the finish line to see her nephew, Connor, finish a 5k run, a vendor made her an offer she couldn’t refuse. He offered her a $150 American Express gift card, valid anywhere American Express is accepted, in return for having the  two of us sit through a two-hour presentation.

The presentation was from Wyndham Vacation Ownership. We knew we would be subjected to the usual high-pressure sales tactics. We also knew we wouldn’t get sucked into anything that wasn’t right for us. We figured what the heck? Take a few hours out of the day and walk away with $150. Why not?

Our appointment was set for 11:30am, Wednesday. We rode the scooter out to the Hazard Center in Mission Valley and found the Wyndham office. We checked in at 11:25am. Then we sat and waited while other people arrived. It was more than 20 minutes later before we were introduced to our salesperson, Hernando, and escorted back to a large room with open cubicles and desks. Each couple was assigned to their own salesperson.

Before we sat in Hernando’s cubicle, we were given plastic plates and napkins and had our choice of various sandwich wraps delivered from a nearby deli. We also had a variety of chips and drinks to go with the wrap. It was interesting. For the next 20 minutes we sat and ate while we talked about our backgrounds. Hernando told us about his family and how he ended up with Wyndham. My cynical take was this was designed to put us at ease and make us feel like Hernando is our friend.

Next, we were all herded into a conference room. A sales guy named Cory took over and all of the other salespeople left the room. Cory started by introducing himself, then had each of us say where we were from, where was our best vacation and if money was no object, where would we go on our next vacation.

Then he launched into his presentation, starting out by telling us there would be no pressure. They just wanted us to understand the benefits of Wyndham Vacation Ownership. He was pretty lively through most of his presentation and everyone participated as he asked the group questions. We sat through a couple of videos that were designed to make you feel like you were really missing the boat if you didn’t join.

We learned that Wyndham Vacation Ownership isn’t your typical timeshare arrangement. You buy in and become an owner of shares. This is somewhat like the Escapees program I described when we were in Jojoba Hills. The Wyndham Worldwide Corporation has a number of resorts, hotels and other vacation properties. They also have exchange programs through RCI, that allow trades with other resort properties around the world. There are more than 900,000 owners of shares in the Wyndham Vacation Ownership program, making it by far the largest in the country.

Ownership allows you to buy credits, which is how you pay for your stay at a property. They have standard plans with various amounts of credits, beginning with 5,000 credits. It takes about 4,000 credits to stay for a week at most properties. It could be more or less, depending on the location and size of the condo you’re staying in and whether it’s a peak or off-peak stay.

We returned to Hernando’s desk. I think Hernando knew he was facing an uphill battle to get us onboard, since he knew we were full-time RVers and don’t need a condo at resort locations. We can move our home anywhere we want. He was a little offstride as he went through his workbook, which was designed to show us how affordable the program is, compared to typical vacations.

Filling in the blanks on his workbook didn’t give the normal results. When he asked us how much we spend on hotel rooms, we said “zero.” We pay for hook-ups though. We figured our costs for full hook-ups average about $35/night. This didn’t fit the formula in his workbook.

Then Cory came over to lend his support. He mentioned an affiliation with Thousand Trails. That got my attention. Thousand Trails is a campground and RV resort membership with sites all across the country. Cory said he would have someone come over to explain the Thousand Trails program. Shortly, another salesperson came over to help. Her name was Christine. It turned out the Thousand Trails affiliation only entitles Wyndham members to get a discount off the Thousand Trails non-member rates, which are typically quite high.

At this point, Hernando went through the cost of ownership at various credit levels. I could tell his heart was no longer in it though as he could see this wasn’t a fit for our lifestyle. Their whole presentation was based on getting away from it all and lowering your level of stress by having the availability of going to a resort wherever you want, whenever you want. Well, that’s what we do already.

Finally, Cory came back to take one more swing at us. He offered us a special one-time chance at a bare bones membership, available only if we signed up right now. Then he had us sign a document stating that we didn’t want to accept the offer and would not be offered it again. No pressure tactics, right?

By then, it was after 2pm. Our two-hour, no-pressure presentation had stretched to about two and a half hours. The other participants were still stuck at their salesperson’s desks as we left.

On the way out, Donna collected her $150 American Express card. We found out the reward for sitting through the presentation wasn’t the same for everyone. Some people received only a $50 card. I don’t know how they decide which amount to offer, but they obviously offered us too much. Their program wasn’t for us.

It did get us talking a bit about what a vacation might look like for us. When we made the decision to live the full-time RV lifestyle, I told Donna that it was a lifestyle, not a vacation. She said, “Oh, good. So we’ll still go on vacation?” She had me there.

Because we can travel anywhere, any time and there still so many places we’d like to visit in our motorhome, we have yet to make any “real” vacation plans. Often we find ourselves on vacation by default like the time we spent a few days in Winthrop, WA. Donna was so enamored with our location, she declared herself on vacation. We walked around town, shopped, and ate out at least once every day. We did the same when we stayed just outside Yellowstone National Park. And then there was the long weekend we spent on a friend’s property in Montana with no cell phones, Internet, or television.

The more we thought about our “vacations” over the past 15 months, the more we realized that while we are not on vacation 365 days a year, doing all the touristy things, we can be on vacation whenever we choose. So yeah. Thanks but no thanks, Wyndham.

We have overcast skies this morning. The temperature is in the lower 60s and will top out at 68 degrees. I want to go out on my mountain bike today.

What Do You Want to Know?

The temperature reached 69 degrees yesterday. The predicted high over the next three days is 68 degrees, then we’ll see the 70s again over the weekend. Although this is cooler than usual weather around here, it’s nothing compared to the arctic blast hitting the Rockies, the midwest and southern portion of the country. We’re so happy to be able to spend the fall months in a place where the sun shines with clear skies and warm temperatures most days.

There’s truth to the adage: “If you don’t have much to say, you can always talk about the weather.” When I started this blog, the intention was to chronicle our preparations for a lifestyle change and adventures on the road. I thought family and friends might find it interesting. I also wanted to honestly portray the full-time RV lifestyle as we live it.

I’ve written more than 350 posts since then and our site has been visited nearly 53,000 times. At first, it was pretty easy to come up material to write about. We were constantly on the move and exploring new places. We made stops in places that were interesting for us and most likely interesting for others to read about.

Now that we’re back in San Diego for another three-month stint, I’m having a harder time coming up with new material to post. Last fall, I found many interesting sights in the area and posted a little history. I don’t want to rehash that, although I’m sure I could find other interesting places here.

What do you want to know? If you have any suggestions for topics I should write about, please post a comment.