Monthly Archives: December 2014

Looking Back at 2014

The last day of 2014! How can that be? I’m growing accustomed to the time warp that accompanies our nomadic way of life. When I think about today being December 31st, it seems like the year flew by. But when I reflect on all the places we’ve been, the things we’ve seen and the people we met in 2014, I wonder how it all happened in just 365 days.

We’ve come full circle – last year we spent New Year’s Eve right here at Hidden Shores with Bruce and Debbie Bednarski and Pat and Kim Chapman. We left Hidden Shores Village on January 2nd last year and drove up US95 to Quartzsite. We parked the coach in a big, empty parking lot, unloaded the scooter and took off to explore a few RV sales lots. We were on a mission to find a new (to us) coach.

The time we spent on the road in 2013 had taught us a lot about full-time RVing. We had a better idea of our wants and needs in a coach. Donna had certain requirements for the floor plan and interior while I had my powertrain preferences. Donna knew I really wanted Cummins ISL power with a side radiator and two-stage Jacobs Engineering compression brake. So we didn’t waste time looking at anything without it.

We rolled on to Mesa, Arizona and visited RV sales lots there. I had my eye on a few coaches for sale that I’d been watching on the Internet. We finally ended up with our Alpine Coach and have been very happy with our choice.

After we bought our coach and completed the transaction in Blythe, California (for tax purposes) we went back to Quartzsite for the big RV show. It was our first time at the show and we learned a lot there. We also spent a lot of money! That’s where we bought our induction cooktop and the new pots and pans to go with it.

We returned to Mesa, Arizona for a long stint. We stayed until mid-April, enjoying time with friends in the area and doing a lot of cycling. When we left, we didn’t go far. We spent some time at Lake Pleasant, boondocked up on a hill with a spectacular view of the lake. Then we moved on to Congress, Arizona where we became members of the Escapees. We made new friends there and had a blast hiking and exploring the desert. We met fellow Alpine Coach owners, Dave and Lynda Campbell there.

When we left Congress, we found another cool boondocking spot near Sedona before we moved on to Flagstaff where we spent a week. Donna had to fly to New York City for a satellite media tour. But she was only gone for one day. We had a rental car for the entire week and visited the Grand Canyon National Park and also found the Beaver Street Brewery in Flagstaff. Donna did a lot of hiking on the trails near the RV park.

Our next stop was at Lake Powell, north of Page, Arizona. We boondocked on the sand next to the lake at Lone Rock for a couple of days. From there we headed east through the Navajo Nation in northern Arizona and up to Bluff, Utah before we continued on to Moab.

Our timing was poor – Moab had a big off-road event scheduled and the RV parks were sold out. We managed to find a site for one night only before we headed off to Fruita, Colorado (near Grand Junction). We enjoyed our time there. Donna did lots of bicycling and we explored the Colorado National Monument. And Big Al got a transmission service.

Our travels took us west, back into Utah. We stayed at the fairgrounds in Heber, which was a really cool little town, before moving on to Salt Lake City. In Salt Lake City, we stayed at the KOA near downtown with easy airport access via light rail. This worked out great as Donna needed to fly to Phoenix for a conference. We also took the light rail to go out to dinner to celebrate our 8th anniversary.

After Salt Lake City, we spent one night in Idaho Falls before we settled in at West Yellowstone, a few hundred yards from the park entrance. We had a blast there. Donna had bicycling adventures and wild animal encounters in the national park.

In Montana, we spent a few nights off the grid on a friend’s property near White Sulphur Springs. Our next stop was Great Falls where Donna competed in the Montana State Senior Olympics bike race. The race turned out to be a disaster when she did not finish due to tire failure.

We continued westward and found a great free campsite off I-90 near the Idaho border. After a night there, we continued west to Coeur d’Alene where we spent two weeks and were able to cheer on our friend, Allen Hutchinson, who was there to compete in the Ironman Triathlon.

We moved on to the North Cascades and enjoyed time at the Pine Near RV Park in Winthrop, Washington – one of our favorite RV parks. From there we moved on to the west side of the mountains and stayed at Lake Goodwin RV Resort where we spent two weeks and enjoyed many visits with my daughter, Alana, and our grandchildren, Lainey and Gabi.

We worked our way south and found more cool places, like South Bend, Washington – another of our new favorites. Eventually we wound up in Portland, Oregon for an Alpine Coach Association rally. This rally was a precursor to the FMCA rally in Bend, Oregon. We made many new friends at the rallies and caravaned with Dave and Stilla Hobden.

We went back to Portland before we headed south. Our new friends, Scott and Marcia Hicks, invited us to stay at their property on the Row River. It was a beautiful site with full RV hook-ups! Thanks again, Scott and Marcia.

When we entered California, we had a chance encounter with Clarke and Elaine Hockwald. They are fellow full-timers and bloggers. Clarke’s blog was one I’d followed since we first thought about RVing.

Our travels took us to central California where Donna rode in a challenging bike race in Tehachapi before we moved south to another Escapees park near Temecula. This is another favorite place.

We settled in at Mission Bay RV Resort in September and spent three months in San Diego. Whew! That was our year in a nutshell. We covered about 6,200 miles.

Yesterday, I rode my mountain bike through the Hidden Shores RV Resort. I saw trails on a hillside to the north and found a trail head.

Trails on the hill

Trails on the hill

The trail led into a sandy wash – I thought it would take me to the hillside.

Trail head into a sandy wash

Trailhead into a sandy wash

Before I rode down into the wash, I heard a motorized vehicle. A side-by-side four wheeler came around the corner.

Side-by-side ATV

Side-by-side ATV

Good thing I wasn’t blasting down the trail on my bike! The driver stopped and told me there were more vehicles coming. He suggested riding my mountain bike on the narrow trail to the east, where I’d be less likely to encounter vehicles.

Nice, old school sand rail

Nice, old school sand rail

As I was leaving, I saw a throwback sand rail. This type of dune buggy was popular back in the day – it was powered by a Volkswagen air-cooled flat four-cylinder engine and had VW torsion bar front suspension. The driver went down through the wash. This thing looked like it would be a lot of fun.

Bruce and Debbie arrived last evening. Debbie came down to visit and take a tour of our coach. We’ll be joining them for dinner and New Year’s Eve celebrations tonight.


Green Eggs and Ham

Funny things happen sometimes when you’re boondocking in the desert. As I was doing my walkaround outside the coach in preparation of the day’s travel, a small, single-engine airplane buzzed by directly overhead. What are the odds? Here we were in a remote spot surrounded by miles of desert with no airport nearby and this plane comes right over us at low altitude. I’m not sure what make of plane it was, but it sounded different. As it passed overhead, I realized it was a single-engine turbo-prop airplane. You don’t see that everyday.

Single engine turbo-prop airplane overhead

Single engine turbo-prop airplane overhead

It was cold in the coach when we woke up – about 52 degrees. We prefer not to have the furnace run overnight. Donna was up first. She started the generator and turned on the heat pumps and the coach warmed up quickly. We pulled out of our little slice of desert around 11am.

Our destination for the day was the Hidden Shores RV Resort on the Arizona side of the Colorado River at the Imperial Dam. When we drove there last year, Nally, our Rand-McNally RVND 7720 GPS, routed us through Winterhaven, then north along the California side of the river. We meandered through several turns along agricultural areas on narrow roads before we finally crossed the river at the dam. This was the shortest route, which I had set in the GPS preferences.

This time, I had a couple of stops planned in Yuma. First we stopped at Walmart for some groceries. We also ate lunch at Subway. From there, I continued east on I-8 to Fortuna Road. I stopped at the Flying J truck stop. Diesel fuel was $2.85/gallon. This is the cheapest fuel we’ve bought since we hit the road nearly a year and a half ago. I topped up our tank and added Biobor JF biocide treatment. This treatment eliminates and prevents hydrocarbon utilizing micro-organisms (Biobor refers to them as Hum-bugs). These micro-organisms are commonly referred to as algae in diesel fuel. They flourish when water is present in the fuel tank and they feed on the diesel fuel. This can cause plugged filters or even engine damage. I’m often skeptical about additives and their claims, but after much research, I’m sold on Biobor. The aviation and marine industries use it as well as the military.

The other thing I wanted to do at the Flying J was weigh our coach. They had a certified Cat Scale that would give us our individual axle weights. I wanted to weigh the coach while I had a full fuel tank and more than 100 gallons of water on board. This would give me our axle weights in the heaviest condition.

I was happy to find we were under the rated axle weights in our worst case scenario. Our front axle is rated at 12,000 lbs – we weighed in at 11,140 lbs. The rear axle is rated at 19,000 lbs – we had a rear axle weight of 18,840. The trailer tongue weight contributed to the rear axle weight – this was troublesome on our last coach. The Dexter axle on our cargo trailer is rated at 3,500 lbs – our trailer axle weight was 3,080 lbs. So, our Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW), which is the sum of the front and rear axle weights, is rated at 31,000 lbs. Our actual GVW is 29,980 lbs. Our Gross Combination Weight (GCW) is rated at 41,000 lbs. Our actual GCW is 33,060. I’m happy to see our weights are within acceptable limits.

The rule of thumb often used for RV horsepower requirement is one horsepower per one hundred pounds. This rule of thumb would put our horsepower requirement at 331hp. I don’t know how this rule of thumb came about or the validity of it, but we are well over this horsepower requirement with our Cummins ISL 400 hp diesel engine.

After getting our weights, we proceeded north on US95, then west on Imperial Dam Road through the military proving ground. This route was fast and easy with no narrow roads or tight turns.

We dropped the trailer in our site (C20), which was bit tricky. Then we jockeyed the coach back and forth as we changed our mind a few times over how we would orient our steps relative to the concrete pad. The pad is raised a couple of inches above the grade of the gravel lot. At first, I had the step behind the pad. Donna was concerned about the pad creating a trip hazard when entering or exiting the coach. I repositioned the coach with the step over the pad. I usually dump the air from the suspension to lower the coach before leveling. But doing this wouldn’t allow enough clearance over the pad to extend the steps.

After a couple of attempts to raise the coach on the jacks for step clearance, I fired up the engine again and pressurized the air suspension. With the airbags at full ride height, I extended the jacks and put some pressure on them to stabilize the coach. Now the steps have clearance and hopefully no one trips on the edge of the concrete pad. Job done!

Step clearance and pad trip hazard

Step clearance and pad trip hazard

This morning Donna fixed scrambled eggs with diced green chile peppers and cilantro and served them with sliced kumatoes (brown tomatoes) and ham. So I had green eggs and ham for breakfast!

The Internet connectivity is spotty at best here. I hope to have a good enough connection to continue posting. If not, let me wish everyone a happy new year a day early!

BLM Rock Garden

I woke up in the middle of the night. I was stunned at the silence. I didn’t hear anything – no cars, no planes or helicopters, no sirens. Absolute silence. It was just as quiet when I got out of bed at 7:30am yesterday morning.

The desert cooled considerably overnight. The outside temperature had dropped to the high 30s and it was 52 degrees in the coach when we got up. We broke the silence by running our generator to operate the heat pumps, coffeemaker and microwave.

I went out and walked toward our nearest neighbor, at least 200 yards away. I could barely hear our Onan Quiet Diesel generator as I approached his site. I don’t think the generator is bothersome.

Dispersed camping

Dispersed camping

Donna went for a hike while I watched a disappointing end to the Chargers season. When she returned, she told me she found a site with “improvements.” I didn’t understand what she meant, so I put on my hiking shoes and she led me to the site. There were a couple of motorhomes set up above a dry wash. I could see the ground around the coaches was different. This area of the desert is generally flat and mostly covered with small rocks and decomposed granite. These sites were mostly free of rocks and the ground had a much lighter color.

The occupant of one of the coaches greeted us and invited us to tour his site. It had been built several years ago by his friend, who has since passed away. His friend, Sonny, spent the last four years of his life here hauling in large rocks, raking and leveling the area and then hauling in sand from the wash. After Sonny passed, his ashes were scattered in the rock garden.

He made rock gardens, planted cactus and created rock steps down into the wash. The guy who comes here now with his wife (we never learned his name) has been coming to this site for the past eight years. He told us that a few years ago, a group of visitors tore up the rock garden and piled the heavy rocks in the center of the site. They strung beads and other things in the trees. It was senseless. He rebuilt Sonny’s garden as it was.

Walkway around the rock garden

Walkway around the rock garden

Barrel cactus, water pan and bird feeders

Barrel cactus, water pan and bird feeders

Cactus and sandy surface

Cacti and sandy surface

The garden also features bird feeders and hummingbird feeders. A hummingbird landed on a feeder just a few feet away from Donna as we were talking.

This area is public land, managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The BLM frowns on these types of “improvements.” They want the desert to remain in its natural state. I can understand this, but I have to admit the site was nice. With so much area of BLM land, I doubt if they would find or ever do anything about the rock garden.

Later in the afternoon, I heard a loud engine revving nearby. I went outside and saw an ultralight aircraft fly past our rig, no more than 100 feet above the ground. He flew over the hills to the east of us. Later, I heard him returning. He didn’t fly by as close to us this time, but I snapped a picture as he went by.

Ultralight aircraft flying by

Ultralight aircraft flying by

He flew off to the southwest, heading for the sand dune area. Presumably, he’s camping there and takes his aircraft out to explore the desert.

We had a fiery sunset, then the desert quickly cooled again. This morning, I heard a train off in the distance, other than that I heard nothing but total silence. We’ll head out later this morning. I plan to make a couple of stops in Yuma for groceries and fuel. Then we’ll drive to Hidden Shores where we’ve booked a site for the next week.

Desert sunset

Desert sunset

Trash to Art

I got busy on Friday. We needed to have things ready to roll, or nearly ready to roll on Saturday morning. I moved our bicycles into the trailer and changed the way I hung them. It may seem like a small thing, but it made a big difference. I hung our road bikes with the chain side toward the trailer wall instead of toward the center. I did this mainly to avoid getting chain oil on my shirt when I’m loading/unloading the trailer. This made me rethink the way I had a few other things stored as well – all for the better.

A little past 1pm, Carole Sue, Mona and Shauna arrived for lunch al fresco at our picnic table. Donna had prepared tea sandwiches and split pea soup (and also heated up some leftover curried butternut squash soup for Mona – she’s allergic to ham which was in the split pea soup). I took a break from my chores and enjoyed lunch in the company of beautiful women.

Lunch with Donna, Shauna, Carole and Mona

Lunch with Donna, Shauna, Carole and Mona

Our neighbors, Mike and Linda, were away but I showed Carole and Mona the art he creates with beverage containers. He calls it trash to art. He takes aluminum soda cans and cuts them, then folds them into cool wind ornaments. He also takes plastic soda bottles and makes them into fish ornaments. I didn’t notice before he left for the day, but he gifted us with a cool wind ornament that looks like a gear set spinning when the wind blows, which he hung from our mirror.

Aluminum can wind ornament

Aluminum can wind ornament

This one looks like a gear set turning

This one looks like a gear set spinning

Two liter soda bottle repurposed

Two-liter soda bottle re-purposed

Another soda bottle fish

Another soda bottle fish

After lunch, I continued to move things to the trailer and prepare for the road ahead. At Mission Bay RV Resort, we have to leave our cargo trailer in a separate lot. I spent much of the day walking back and forth from our site to the trailer. I have an app on my Samsung Galaxy S5 called S Health. One of the things this app does is count the number of steps I’ve taken. I walked over 7,700 steps back and forth to the trailer! It wasn’t all about taking things to pack in the trailer, I also brought the ladder from the trailer to clean the windows on the coach and, of course, carried it back to the trailer.

On Saturday morning, we continued our preparations for a travel day. This was more routine, but since we’ve been stationary for a while, we had to think our way through it. Donna made a point of clearing up expectations. She wanted to know when I thought we should have jacks up and the coach ready to leave our site. She’s good at this stuff – clear communication and setting expectations makes life together so much easier.

We rolled out of site 114 a little past 11am. We went to the lot where our trailer was stored and had it hitched and were on our way by 11:45am. This was later than I hoped for, but again not a big deal.

I told myself not to sweat the little stuff. If we were a few minutes behind my expected schedule – it’s small stuff. Really, our problems are first-world problems, there are so many people with bigger issues even to the point of lives being at stake.

Another thing I did differently was how I warmed up the engine. In the past I always started the engine at low idle, ~525 rpm, then slowly raised the idle speed to 700 rpm once the oil pressure came up. After a lot of reading and conflicting advice, I’ve concluded that it’s better to go to a high idle of ~1,000 rpm once proper oil pressure is reached. So, I started the engine at 525 rpm, then raised the idle to 700 rpm. With the idle speed at 700 rpm, I pressed the cruise control on and set buttons simultaneously which is programmed to raise the idle to ~1,000 RPM. This should help mitigate the cool combustion temperature and concomitant cylinder wall washing and crankcase oil dilution.

The drive through east San Diego County and up over the Tecate Divide was a piece of cake. The Cummins ISL pulled us up and over the mountain passes without an issue. The fluid temperatures were well within the normal ranges and we maintained 55mph all the way. Like last year, we stopped at the rest area at Buckman Springs near the summit.

At the summit, we had a tough quartering headwind from the northeast. At times it would really push us to the right. I can’t complain though. Our Alpine Coach Peak chassis handled it fine. All the way down the east side of the mountain pass was easy. I used the two-stage Jake brake and never even touched the brake pedal. This was a huge difference from driving the same stretch of road last year in our Gulfstream Sun Voyager.

Once we hit the desert at Ocotillo, I set the cruise control at 59mph, right at 1,500 rpm. This was a reasonable speed and also fuel-efficient. We found the same boondocking area near Imperial Dunes and Buttercup Station as last year. We drove slowly off-road and discussed view preferences before we claimed a spot. Presently we’re boondocking on BLM land in the Picacho Recreation Area with no neighbors within 200 yards. I checked out the Dish satellite reception. I’ve got San Diego broadcasting on Dish Network and I’m looking forward to the Chargers vs Chiefs game. If the Chargers win, they’re in the NFL playoffs!

Boondocking at Picacho

Boondocking at Picacho

We have great Verizon 4G coverage here in the middle of nowhere. Last year it wasn’t so great at Hidden Shores. We’ll move there on Monday. Hopefully I’ll have internet access and can post from there.

By the way, I ended my last post with a question. Sadly, no one answered. Tumbleweed Connection was the title of Elton John’s album released late in 1971.





Tumbleweed Connection

Let me start off by wishing a Merry Christmas to all on Boxing Day. I hope you had a wonderful holiday and were able to connect with family and friends.

I need to catch up on the happenings this week as I haven’t posted since Tuesday. After publishing Tuesday’s post, I headed to the beach on my mountain bike. I wanted to check out the surf, which was supposed to be big during the King Tide.

I rode into a light wind along Mission Bay. The bay seemed unusually calm. The sun was shining, the skies were blue and people were enjoying time on and around the water. I saw a strange looking boat. It had a low, flat deck and a small outboard motor. From my viewpoint, I couldn’t tell if it was a pontoon boat. In any case, it wasn’t what I’m accustomed to seeing on the bay. I snapped a quick photo.

Unusual boat on the bay

Unusual boat on the bay

I made my way to Pacific Beach. By the time I got there, it was after 1pm and the tide was receding. The biggest swells came earlier in the day on the rising tide. City workers made huge berms in the sand around the main Pacific Beach lifeguard station to prevent it from being flooded by the high tide and big surf.

Sand piled high in front of the lifeguard station

Sand piled high in front of the lifeguard station

I took a photo of the big waves crashing into Crystal Pier, but I accidentally deleted the file this morning. Doh!

Later, I took a photo of De Anza Cove at low tide. The King Tide creates very high tides and extreme low tides. The dock in the photo is usually floating with very little angle on the walkway. At this time, the dock is grounded and the walkway drops steeply.

Extreme low tide at De Anza

Extreme low tide at De Anza

On Christmas Eve last year, we joined my daughter, Shauna, for a sushi dinner downtown at Ra Sushi. We continued the tradition this year, but instead of going to Ra, we made a reservation at Sushi Ota on Mission Bay Drive. Donna and I enjoy Japanese lager with our sushi. She always orders Asahi beer while I prefer Kirin Ichiban. The sushi at Sushi Ota is superior – they serve some of the best I’ve ever had. If you’re a sushi lover, you must try Sushi Ota next time you’re in San Diego. The yellowtail (hamachi) was the freshest, best-tasting nigiri ever!

Sushi platter at Sushi Ota

Sushi platter at Sushi Ota

A toast with Japanese lager

A toast with Japanese lager

After dinner, Donna went to work in our kitchen preparing the side dishes for Christmas dinner. On Thursday morning, she was up early and had the spiral cut ham in the oven. Shauna picked us up at 10:30am and we drove up to my step-dad’s house in Menifee. Donna and Shauna finished the meal preparations there and we were seated at the table at 1:30pm with our first course. It was curry-butternut squash soup that Donna made from scratch. We had homemade corn muffins with it.

First course curry-butternut squash soup

First course – curry-butternut squash soup

The main course was the glazed spiral cut ham served with mashed sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts with marjoram and walnuts. Yummy!

Donna, Ken and Shauna ready for Christmas dinner

Donna, Ken and Shauna ready for Christmas dinner

We sat in the living room and talked for a while after dinner, then it was pie time. We had apple pie from the Julian Bakery, a local San Diego favorite. We lingered at the table after dessert and told stories. Well, I think I was the main story teller.

Eventually the time came to head back home. We really enjoyed the day together and look forward to spending time with Ken and Shauna again in the spring.

Our drive up to Menifee and back had a couple of moments of craziness on the road. On the way up, once we were north of Temecula, the wind picked up. It was blowing out of the north, I would guess at 20-25mph with higher gusts. On I-215, the traffic was moving along at 75mph when all of sudden everyone ahead of us was braking hard. We were almost stopped when I saw what caused the panic stops. The driver of a Chevy Silverado pick-up truck in the left lane slammed on his brakes and came to a stop on the interstate because a tumbleweed blew into his lane! This was one of the dumbest moves I’ve ever seen. Tumbleweeds are dry and light – that’s why they’re tumbling along. Hitting one with a car at speed blows it into a million pieces. There’s no reason to stop and endanger everyone else on the interstate.

After we left Ken’s place and were driving south on I-215, once again traffic went from a smooth 75mph to a screeching halt. This time it was really necessary to stop. A car was driving northbound in the left southbound lane of the interstate! Luckily, everyone was able to stop without a head-on collision. Like all interstate highways, the lanes for each direction of travel on I-215 are divided and completely separate from each other. I have no idea how this guy was driving north in the southbound lanes. Shauna immediately dialed 911 and I reported the location of the wrong way driver.

After we returned home, Donna took Shauna’s car to visit her sister, Sheila. Shauna and I hung out and had a cocktail while we collaborated on a couple of crossword puzzles from the San Diego Reader. We completed two puzzles. All in all, it a very enjoyable holiday.

Now, for today’s holiday trivia question – do you know where the title Tumbleweed Connection comes from?


King Tide

In yesterday’s post, I said we’ve managed to avoid the holiday shopping crowd. I spoke too soon. We had to buy some supplies for Christmas dinner, which we’ll prepare at my step-dad’s house in Menifee.

Our first stop was Costco – I wrote a little history of the Costco #401 on Morena Boulevard in this post. We pulled into the parking lot at 11am. I thought that 11am on a Monday should avoid the worst of it. I thought wrong – the parking lot was an absolute zoo.

Gridlock in the Costco parking lot

Gridlock in the Costco parking lot

I didn’t try to park close to the store. I pulled into the row closest to the boulevard. After a couple of slow laps, I found a car pulling out and snagged a spot. We only needed a few items, most important of which was the spiral cut ham. I also picked up a bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne for Donna in anticipation of New Year’s dinner at Hidden Shores. We were in and out in a reasonable amount of time despite the crowd.

From there, we drove north to the shopping center at Nobel Drive. Again, the parking area had a lot of traffic, but there were plenty of spaces if you didn’t try to get too close to the stores. Donna went to Trader Joe’s while I walked to Cost Plus World Market. I replenished my supply of Tomolives there – they have them for $2.99 for an eight-ounce jar. This price is as good as anything I’ve seen online and there’s no shipping expense.

Donna had a coffee date with the author of The Homeless Hero, Lee Silber. Lee ended up cancelling – he couldn’t miss out on the high surf. We’re having a condition known as King Tide in San Diego. King Tide occurs when the sun and moon are in a certain alignment. The additional gravitational pull this creates results in very high and extreme low tides. This is accompanied by large waves. Yesterday, the swell was six to eight feet out of the southwest. This made great surfing conditions for experienced surfers.

The King Tide was made even more enjoyable for the surfers with clear, sunny skies and air temperatures in the 70s. Pretty hard to beat, right?

I spent some time working in the trailer. I deflated and packed up our Sea Eagle 370 inflatable kayak. I cleaned the trailer up a bit, but I still have much to do before it’s ready for travel.

I took a walk through the park after I left the trailer. I saw a rig that I don’t believe I’ve seen before. It was a camper on a pick-up truck with a driver’s side slide-out! I don’t think I’ve seen a camper with a slide-out before. These days everything has to have a slide-out I guess.

Truck camper wide slide-out

Truck camper with slide-out

Last night Donna prepared a simple dish of spicy Italian chicken sausage with a red wine sauce over whole wheat spaghetti. I enjoyed the plate with a bottle of Stone IPA while I watched Monday Night Football. The Cincinnati Bengals secured a playoff spot by intercepting Peyton Manning four times en route to a 37-28 victory.

Simple dish with IPA for Monday Night Football

Simple dish with IPA for Monday Night Football

We have beautiful weather in store once again today. The King Tide continues. I might take a ride to the beach and check out the surfers before I get to it in the trailer.

Snow in San Diego

I’m having a hard time believing that today is December 22nd. Only a few more shopping days until Christmas! I’ve managed to avoid the holiday shopping crowds – we did most of our shopping electronically.

Christmas in southern California seems artificial to me. We have nice weather, though the locals do bundle up when the temperature is in the 60s. When I was growing up in the area, we would head up to Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains. We would rent a cabin and ski or play in the snow. Other times, we would just head to the Laguna Mountains in east San Diego County if there was snow there. Snow and Christmas just go together.

Here at the Mission Bay RV Resort, they celebrated the season with free hot dogs, hot chocolate, hot apple cider and holiday cookies and candy last weekend. They also trucked in snow! The kids in the park really had fun.

Kids playing in the snow at Mission Bay RV Resort

Kids playing in the snow at Mission Bay RV Resort

We’ll spend Christmas day with my daughter, Shauna, and my step-dad, Ken, up in Menifee. That leaves me with four days to get things road ready. We’ll pull out of here on Saturday.

We’re planning to spend two nights out in the desert. With the San Diego Chargers come-from- behind overtime win against San Francisco Saturday night, the Chargers are in the playoffs if they beat the Chiefs in Kansas City on Sunday. I’m hoping I can receive local broadcasting over the Dish satellite in the Imperial Dunes area.

I know it seems incongruous to head out into the desert, then tune in the TV. But when you’re a fan, that’s what you do.

Hearing Voices

There’s a thread on the IRV2 Forum titled “Liberties People Take.” People post their RV Park pet peeves and give examples of clueless or inconsiderate acts they’ve witnessed.

For the most part, RVers are a friendly bunch. We tend to look out for each other and we often connect with our neighbors. Every once in a while, a bad apple turns up. Here’s an example.

On Thursday night, Donna picked up Shauna at the airport and Shauna dropped her off back at the RV park around 11pm. I was already in bed by then. When Donna walked to our coach from the entrance, the site directly behind us was empty.

I thought I was dreaming. I kept hearing voices, but I couldn’t understand what they were saying. The voices got progressively louder. I woke up and realized I wasn’t dreaming. A loud conversation was taking place outside near our bedroom window, but it wasn’t in English. It sounded like Chinese.

I tried to go back to sleep, but the people talking would get very loud at times. After a while, I looked at the clock – it was 1:08am. I got out of bed, pulled on my pants and went outside. A Class C rental RV had been allowed to pull in after hours into the site behind us. Three people were sitting at the picnic table with a bright lantern yukking it up – a man, a woman and a third person who was hard to identify in the glare of the lantern. I think it was a girl. I said, “It’s after 1am, you should take your conversation inside – people are trying to sleep.”

They went inside and I went back to bed. It took me about half an hour to get back to sleep. Then I heard it again. This time I was jolted awake by someone shouting unintelligibly. It was the people behind us again. I heard the man shouting, but couldn’t understand what he was saying. The woman responded without shouting, but he would cut her off and shout over her words. They weren’t speaking English. I listened for a couple of minutes and it seemed to be an argument that was escalating.

I looked at the clock – it was a little before 7am. I got up and dressed quickly. I went outside to see what was going on. It sounded like a case of domestic violence was erupting. I saw the woman standing outside their coach with two suitcases and what appeared to be several bags of trash. The man was a few feet away berating her. I told them I was going to get security.

I went to the security guard shack and told the guard on duty what was happening. He radioed the security guard patrolling in a car. When I came back to our site, the man was no longer in sight and the woman was still standing by the suitcases. I went inside our coach and left it up to security to figure out what the issue was.

Shortly after breakfast, Donna saw the rental RV pull out. I had to go to the office to pick up a package that had arrived there for us. As I walked past the site where the rental RV was parked, I couldn’t believe the amount of trash they left behind. I saw the park clean-up crew empty the nearby trash barrel earlier, but now it was overflowing. Plus there was a large plastic garbage bag that was full and a few smaller bags on the ground and there was some trash under the picnic table. I wondered how three people traveling in a small class C RV could have that much trash!

It was a very unusual encounter, not the norm for RV parks. The story is too long for to post in the “Liberties People Take” thread, so I thought I would tell it here.

I’m really looking forward to spending a couple of quiet nights boondocking in the desert!

The trash can was empty that morning. Three people in a small RV left this much trash (and more) in about 9 hours in the park.

Three people, nine hours and a pile of trash.

I should mention another strange incident. On Thursday evening, I met the group of guys from Bay Park at Dan Diego’s. I hooked up with this group last year at Offshore Tavern and Grill. On Thursdays, they are at Dan Diego’s. They have a regular rotation of watering holes where they stop for a beer or two and talk sports and enter the weekly football pool.

We had a few beers together. When someone buys a round, Courtney, the bartender, puts a poker chip in front of the people who have a free one coming. She’s really good at making sure you get the same drinks you had in front of you when the round was bought, so the person buying the round knows what they are paying for. I had a few chips in front of me, but I didn’t want to stay and drink. I gave the chips to one of the guys, then I went to the restroom. When I came out, I said my goodbyes – it was my last Thursday night beer at Dan Diego’s for the year –  and then I left.

When I got out of the car back at our coach, it hit me. I left without paying my bill! How embarrassing! I phoned Courtney. She told me not to worry – one of the guys (Dan) had paid my tab.

I needed to find the guys and pay up on Friday. We were car-less for about half a day, then Donna took her sister, Sheila, to the airport and brought Sheila’s car here. Sheila is away for the weekend, so we have a car again.

I drove over to the Silver Spigot – that’s their Friday night spot – I don’t go there usually. Anyway, I found the guys there and paid up.

My old high school friend, Carole Sue Bringas, picked us up at 6pm. We went to our favorite Thai food restaurant – Lanna Thai. We started with an appetizer plate that included shrimp summer rolls, spring rolls, chicken sa-tay, curry cups, and triangular pastry filled with minced chicken and potato – I don’t remember what it’s called – and a trio of sauces.

Thai appetizers for three

Thai appetizers for three

Honestly, it was enough food to call it dinner. But, we didn’t let that stop us from ordering entrees. Carole ordered shrimp pad thai, I had chicken pad thai and Donna was adventurous and ordered a dish called spicilicious sea food. It was a sea food medley bowl with a garlic chili sauce. I managed to finish my entree while the girls brought home leftovers.

Shrimp pad thai

Shrimp pad thai

Spicilicious sea food

Spicilicious sea food

The weather guessers are calling for clear skies and temperatures reaching the mid 60s to 70 degrees over the next few days. Christmas in paradise.

The Road Beckons

I’m a little frustrated with my laptop right now. I had written about half of today’s post when suddenly a window popped up asking if I wanted to leave the page. The next thing I knew, I was back at the WordPress dashboard and my draft was gone. Oh well, I just have to start over.

I haven’t posted dinner photos for a while. Donna still feeds me like a king. Tuesday was wet and blustery, so Donna cooked indoors. She prepared pan-fried pork tenderloin medallions with a dijon mustard-butter sauce on the induction cooktop.

Pork tenderloin medallions in a Lodge cast iron skillet on the induction cooktop

Pork tenderloin medallions in a Lodge cast iron skillet on the induction cooktop

She served it with steamed broccolini and baked sweet potato.

Meal fit for a king

Meal fit for a king

It rained heavily at times overnight on Tuesday. The last of the showers passed through Mission Bay around 8am Wednesday morning. Donna drove Shauna’s car to the medical center – she had a 9am appointment for blood work. Afterwards she stopped and stocked up at Trader Joe’s.

When she returned, it was my turn to head out. I had an 11am appointment for follow up with Dr. Ryan. As expected, he upped my dosage of Lisinopril to 40mg/day to control my blood pressure.

On the way home, I stopped at Subway® sandwich shop. They had a special – I bought two six-inch subs for two dollars each. I brought them home and Donna and I enjoyed them for lunch. It’s not all gourmet meals at chez Koop. Lunch for two for four bucks is hard to beat though, right?

I put a lot of time into our plans for the first quarter of 2015. We’ll be back here in early April through early May for Shauna’s graduation from Cal Western School of Law. Between now and then, we’ll spend time in the desert.

Our plan is to leave here on Saturday, December 27th. We’ll spend two nights boondocking near the Imperial Dunes area. It’ll be a nice change of pace to get away from civilization where we can listen to the coyotes and see countless stars in the sky at night.

We’ll arrive at Hidden Shores Village on the 29th. Hidden Shores is on the Arizona side of the Colorado River, north of Yuma near the Imperial Dam. When I was a kid, it was known as Imperial Oasis. We plan to spend a week there and join Bruce and Debbie Bednarski for a New Year’s Eve celebration.

From there, I’ve booked a week at the Casa Grande RV Resort. I want to have our coach serviced at Speedco® while we’re there. Then we’ll move on to Mesa, Arizona.

Finding a place in Mesa turned into a challenge. There are a lot of happenings in the greater Phoenix area over the next few months – the Superbowl, Barrett-Jackson auction, major league baseball spring training (Cactus League) and of course, the Phoenix Open golf tournament.

This schedule of events has almost every RV park booked full. It’s been a logistical nightmare. After many phone calls and time spent looking at options on the web, I found a place in Mesa called Orangewood Shadows that can accommodate us for two months. Donna has book signings and a speaking engagement scheduled in Phoenix in late January, so we needed to be there. I still have time open between our departure from Mesa and our return to San Diego. We’ll wait and see what we feel like doing in March when the time comes. Places should be opening up by then. We might want to spend some time in the Tucson area.

Last evening, one of our neighbors, Joel, organized a potluck dinner at his site. More than half a dozen couples attended, mostly younger (under 60) full-timers. We had a happy hour (more like three hours) with lots of food. We enjoyed socializing with like-minded folks and it was a nice change of pace. With only nine days left before we head out, we wish we would have met some of the people earlier.

Fire pit, cocktails and lots of food and conversation

Fire pit, cocktails and lots of food and conversation

At some point over the next few days, I need to clean out the trailer and begin re-organizing it for travel. The road beckons and I’m getting excited to find new places, new friends and new adventures.


I’ve been fairly healthy most of my life, except for the time I was dealing with cancer and a few broken bones here and there. I’ve always been a fast healer. Things can change as you get older.

I had surgery to correct a trigger finger condition on my right hand back in October. Although the incision healed nicely, there’s scar tissue along the tendon that’s giving me trouble. When I saw Dr. Leek a few weeks ago, he wasn’t too concerned. He said I should continue to work my fingers and he thought it would loosen up. He also told me to come back if it didn’t improve.

Well, I haven’t seen much improvement. My hand goes through stages during the day. In the morning, I can’t fully close my hand. My ring finger feels swollen and stiff and so does the middle (long) finger, but to a lesser degree. By the afternoon, it loosens up and I can use my hand normally, but I feel occasional clicking from the tendon catching. By nighttime, my hand begins to stiffen up again and causes pain in the night.

I saw Dr. Leek again yesterday. He thought my hand looked better, but he could feel the scar tissue around the tendon and the tendons were catching. He was concerned about the middle (long) finger. We agreed it was time for a cortisone injection to reduce the inflammation around the tendon.

While I waited for the injections to be prepared, I enjoyed the view from his 7th floor office in Mission Hills. I could see all the way to Mission Bay to the northwest and all of Point Loma and San Diego Bay to the southwest.

Looking northwest to Mission Bay

Looking northwest to Mission Bay

Looking southwest across San Diego Bay to Point Loma

Looking southwest across San Diego Bay to Point Loma

Dr. Leek injected cortisone into the tendons of both affected fingers. These injections are no fun at all. My fingers swelled up like bratwurst on a grill and were completely numb.

I had driven Shauna’s car to the doctor’s office, where I parked in the underground parking lot. The exit from the underground parking requires a sharp 90-degree turn to the right before you drive up a short ramp to pay the attendant. As I was leaving, two vehicles in front of me were stopped at the 90-degree turning point. I queued up behind them and waited. It was unusual – I never had to wait like this before.

After a couple of minutes, the first vehicle proceeded to make the turn and drive up the ramp. The second vehicle pulled forward and stopped. I figured something was going on around the corner that I couldn’t see. Meanwhile, another car was waiting behind me.

The woman driving the car behind me became impatient and pulled around us on the left. Just as she came alongside the car in front of me, she came head on with a car entering the parking lot. She was in the wrong lane and had to back up. She put her car in reverse and hit the gas – crash! The front end of her car swung out and either caught a support post or the bumper of a parked car, I couldn’t tell what she hit. It ripped the plastic front bumper cover and front grill completely off her car. The entire front body work fell to the ground! By then, another car was sitting behind me. She was trying to maneuver her car back into the right lane while incoming traffic was blocked by the pieces of her car in their lane. What a mess, caused by a moment of impatience and bad decision making.

The car in front of me moved on around the corner and I pulled forward. Now I could see what the holdup was. There’s an upper parking lot for tenants of the building. Apparently many of them were getting off work and exiting the lot. They had to use the same driveway as us and traffic was backing up. The people ahead were being sensible and gave each other room. I was out of there after a few minutes.

We have another storm moving into the area today and tomorrow. They are calling for heavy rain at times and snow advisory in the mountains in east San Diego County. Donna has a lunch appointment in Del Mar. I think I’ll hang out and practice guitar – I have feeling in my fingers again and the swelling has gone down.