Monthly Archives: October 2016

Not Gourmet

With Donna away, my dinner menu is different. It isn’t a matter of me being unable to cook – it’s more a matter of me doing what’s convenient. Pizza delivery from Mountain Mike’s in Clairemont took care of a few meals.

Donna’s nephew’s wedding in Akron, Ohio was blessed with great weather on Saturday and I hear everyone had a great time. Congratulations to Mark Anthony and his bride Jamie.

I rode the Spyder over to the self-serve car wash in Pacific Beach Saturday and gave it a good cleaning. Then I rode up the coast to La Jolla. One thing I miss about our scooter is the ease of parking. The Spyder needs nearly the same space as a compact car.

I found a parking place right by the main life guard station at La Jolla Shores. The beach wasn’t especially crowded, but there was a surfing contest sponsored by WindanSea going on.

View to the north toward Scripps Pier from La Jolla Shores

View to the north toward Scripps Pier from La Jolla Shores

Surfing contest

Surfing contest

On Saturday night, I cooked an old standby – a Marie Callenders pot pie. Cooking in our convection oven is a little different than a conventional oven – it cooks faster. I foil wrapped the perimeter of the pot pie and cooked at 400 degrees for 50 minutes. A quick-read thermometer showed an internal temperature of 168 degrees. Just right.

Not so gourmet

Not so gourmet

On Sunday morning, I wheeled the Traeger wood pellet-fired smoker/grill from our trailer in the storage yard to our site. It might be more accurate to say I dragged it here. The wheels are small, the unit is fairly heavy and the pavement is rough.

I had the cover on it and left it in our site as the NFL football games were about to start. I was surprised during the Chargers game in the afternoon when I realized it was raining! It was a light shower, but I had the door open and our door panel was wet. I’m glad I had the Traeger covered.

I prepped the babyback ribs for tomorrow’s guys’ night. I was surprised to find the membrane on the bone side of the ribs had been removed by the butchers at Siesel’s Meats. Removing the membrane is something I always do. It’s not that hard, but this is the first time I’ve bought babyback ribs with the membrane already removed. Siesel’s has a reputation for quality meat and they obviously pay attention to the small details. I applied the dry rub and let them rest overnight in the refrigerator.

Two racks of babybacks dry rubbed and ready for the Traeger

Two racks of babybacks dry rubbed,stacked and ready for the Traeger

Donna will be home in the early afternoon. I’ll have everything ship shape. The weather forecast looks great – low-70s and sunny.



Grocery Stores

Donna was up early and her Uber driver picked her up at 5am Thursday for her flight to Akron, Ohio. I managed to fall back asleep after she left and had a series of dreams (pardon me, Bob Dylan).

Thursday turned out to be another typical day. I started with a couple of hours of pickleball at the Pacific Beach Recreation Center – which was exhausting as the games ran non-stop with little down time.

On Thursdays, the guys all meet up at Dan Diego’s for happy hour. My friend, Dan Cullen, an attorney and alumni of Cal Western – the law school where my daughter Shauna earned her law degree – made plans for a Monday Night Football gathering at his place in Bay Park. I’m planning to smoke a couple of racks of babyback ribs for the occasion.

Dan invited me to join him and his wife for dinner, but I’d already ordered pizza delivery. I stopped at his place and checked out his “Irish Room.” What a man cave set-up! Pictures will follow after our Monday guys’ night.

Friday I was on a mission. I made a list of things I needed to have on hand the night before. I thought the Walmart in Kearny Mesa would have what I desired. After taking care of domestic chores – with Donna away I’m doing dishes, vacuuming, dumping and flushing tanks and cleaning Ozark’s litter box – and oh yeah, watering planter boxes. Not complaining, this life beats most anything I can imagine.

When I arrived at Walmart I remembered this is not the usual Super Walmart. It has a limited number of groceries – no fresh vegetables or meats. I found a few things I wanted, including Kiwi polish for my boots. Then I went to Von’s at Clairemont Square.

I needed babyback ribs for the get-together at Dan’s place on Monday. I was disappointed at Von’s. They had pre-packaged babyback ribs, but they were priced at $5.49/lb. I’ve bought these pre-packaged ribs for $3.99 or less many times. I passed on the ribs but bought some produce.

The next store on the way home way was Kiel’s. I’ve always liked this family-owned grocery store. But, this is their last week of operation. Due to lease issues, they’re closing at the end of the month after 26 years of serving the neighborhood. They had some good deals – including a good price on babyback ribs. But they were cut very small and I was wary of cooking them.

I decided to bite the bullet and go to Siesel’s – a San Diego icon for meats. I paid a higher price, but I got very good looking babyback ribs that were over three pounds per rack. I don’t know if there’s much difference in the quality of pork loin ribs, but I’ll find out on Monday.

It hit me then. Clairemont used to have neighborhood grocers. Some were small – like the place on old Morena Boulevard, others were medium-size like the Mayfair store on Moraga Avenue. Nowadays, it’s not so easy to run to the store. You have convenience stores with limited choices or you deal with traffic to travel several miles to find a bona fide grocery outlet.

This strikes me as I think about our travels over the last year. It seemed like no matter where we were, we could find a local brewery. This is good. But why can’t you find a good local grocery store?

Half an hour before sunset looking west at Crown Point

Half an hour before sunset looking west at Crown Point

Donna’s Packing

The days are flying by. We’ve been here in San Diego for two weeks already. Donna’s been busy working to meet her book deadline while also completing side assignments for articles and doing her usual media interviews. I’ve been playing pickleball four days a week. Two and half hours of pickleball pretty much wipe me out, but my game is really improving again.

Donna has taken time every day to either run or bicycle – or a combination of both. She’s training to run a 10k race in December.

The Mission Bay RV Resort doesn’t seem to be as busy as usual. The first weekend we were here, there were few empty spaces. As usual, many people pulled out on Sunday and Monday. During the week, the park was about 2/3 occupied. Last weekend, we didn’t have the usual influx of campers. A few arrived, but just as many pulled out. With Halloween coming this weekend, maybe the place will fill up again.

On Monday evening, Donna made steelhead trout with dijon sauce. It was cooked perfectly and so tasty. As usual, she serves me meals fit for a king.

Steelhead trout with dijon sauce

Steelhead trout with dijon sauce

Tuesday night she followed up with more seafood. She made shrimp with artichoke, sun dried tomatoes, garlic, asparagus and feta cheese and served it over thin spaghetti. It was a pantry concoction as she is clearing out food. She hasn’t done a major grocery buy since we got here and is using up food before it goes bad. The meal was a departure from her normal method of following a recipe as she just winged it and it was good eats!

Winging a shrimp stir-fry

Winging a shrimp stir-fry

Tomorrow the routine will be broken. Donna has an early morning flight to Akron, Ohio for her nephew’s wedding. I’ll stay here and hold down the fort. I’ll be living the bachelor life until Monday. I haven’t set foot in an airport since I retired over three years ago.

That will change a week from Saturday. After 1,210 consecutive nights sleeping in my own bed in our RV, I’ll take a flight to Seattle. I expect to be gone for four nights, but I’ll fill in the details of that trip in a later post.

The days have been pleasant with the high temperature reaching the low 70s. We can expect more of the same in the coming week. I’ll head over to the Ocean Beach Recreation Center for today’s dose of pickleball and leave Donna distraction-free while she works.


I Am Just a Cowboy

Saturday was another warm day. The temperature reached the low 80s. Donna went out for a run before it got too warm. I puttered around. We planned on going to Donna’s sister’s house for a Halloween party in the evening. This has been an annual event for us over the last four years.

We were going to do western themed cowboy-cowgirl outfits since we both had the boots and would only need a couple of accessories. Donna changed her mind and made a creative outfit. She used cotton balls to create clouds on a blue shirt. She had a water bottle that sprayed a fine mist. When she was asked what her outfit was, she said, “I’m your up-to-the-minute weather forecast – partly cloudy with 100% chance of showers.” Then she would spray her water bottle. Fun.

I went ahead with the cowboy look. I rode the Spyder over to the Boot Barn in Kearny Mesa. I bought a Roper cowboy shirt with mother-of-pearl snaps and a bolo tie. I have a Stetson cowboy hat and I wore cowboy boots. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos from the party.

We decided to take a Lyft ride to Point Loma for the party at Sheila’s house. When I tried to schedule the pick-up, there was something wrong with the Lyft app on my phone. It located our pick-up point and I input the destination. When I tapped the “Request Lyft” button, it said “Busy” and went back to the previous screen. I tried it a couple of times with the same result. It never showed a car or driver or the wait time.

Donna opened the app on her phone and it worked fine. It showed a driver available with an ETA of four minutes. The driver picked us up and we were on our way. About half way to Sheila’s house, my phone rang. It was a Lyft driver telling me he was looking for us. I told him my app malfunctioned and didn’t confirm him coming, so we took another ride. A few minutes later, I received a text from Lyft saying they charged my credit card five dollars for a no show. How about that – a no show message as I was riding in a Lyft car. I sent an explanation to their customer service – we’ll see how that works out.

Sheila’s Halloween party is two parties at once. There are a number school kids – friends of her 12-year-old son Connor making up half of the party. Then there are the adults – parents of the kids and friends that make up the other half. We had an enjoyable evening with good food, drinks and lots of interesting conversations.

A little past 9pm, I tried to schedule another Lyft ride. My app had the same result – it said “Busy” next to the pick-up address and never showed a car or driver in the area. This time I waited to see what would happen.

After touching the "Schedule" button it shows "Busy"

After touching the “Request Lyft” button it shows “Busy”

After several minutes, my phone rang. It was a Lyft driver telling me he was in front of the house to pick us up. I had to break Donna away from a conversation she was having. We left in such a hurry we forgot to bring home leftover food and a package of pulled pork that one of the guests had smoked and given to us.

Sunday morning we woke up to a passing rain shower. It passed, leaving a thin overcast sky behind. Things quickly dried. Donna went out for a run – she ran along the Bayshore Walk path around Crown Point. Her plan was to pick up a City DecoBike near the Catamaran Hotel at the end of her run and ride the bike back to the RV park. There’s a City Bike station right in front of the RV park. She didn’t find the station she expected to find near the Catamaran. She had to walk past Mission Boulevard where she eventually found a bike station at Mission Beach.

Meanwhile I was absorbed in NFL games. The Chargers won a thriller in overtime. They came back from a second-half 17-point deficit to win 33-30 over the Falcons in Atlanta.

Today we have overcast skies this morning – it’s supposed to clear up by the afternoon and reach a high temperature in the low 70s. Sounds good to me.

San Diego Routine

Donna has been busy writing while I’ve been getting out to play pickleball. She has a mid-December book deadline and also has couple of articles to complete. I played pickleball four days in a row – about two and half hours per day. With the shorter waiting times between games at the Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach Recreation Centers, I’ve been getting a good daily workout.

My days are already falling into a familiar San Diego routine. Get out of bed around 7:30am. Mess around on the Internet for a while. Breakfast. Pickleball. Read. Happy hour with the guys at Offshore Tavern and Grill or Dan Diego’s. Watch a show or movie. Bed time.

The Internet continues to feed my latest obsession. Last weekend I ordered another pair of Lucchese cowboy boots. This time I went a little overboard and bought full quill ostrich boots with calfskin shafts. They arrived from Amazon on Wednesday. I was really disappointed when I opened the box. The stitching on the shafts – the part that comes up around your calf – was supposed to have a gold hue contrasting with the brown calfskin shaft. These boots looked like someone had smeared brown shoe polish over the stitching and the shafts were uniformly brown with no contrast – you could hardly see the stitching.

I called Lucchese customer service and told them the boots don’t match the images I saw online. They were very helpful and told me something was amiss. They stitch the shafts after the leather is dyed and polished. I don’t think it was a factory defect – something happened to these boots. They offered to repair or replace the boots if I sent them to the factory in El Paso. I opted to return them to Amazon since I had free returns with my Prime membership. I boxed them up and rode the Spyder to the UPS store in Pacific Beach. It was super easy – the UPS guy scanned the return label and gave me a tracking number.

When I came home, I ordered another pair of the same boots. I received an email from Amazon telling me they had already processed reimbursement to my credit card – they must get a notification when the return label is processed by UPS.

While I was at the Pacific Beach Recreation Center playing pickleball on Thursday, I got a notification on my phone telling me the replacement boots had been delivered! Wow! I ordered the replacements around 4pm on Wednesday and they came before noon the next day!

Lucchese full quill ostrich boots with calfskin shafts

Lucchese full quill ostrich boots with calfskin shafts

We had another minor issue this week. Last weekend the Mission Bay RV Resort office lent me a converter box for our TV since trees were blocking my Dish satellite reception. It worked fine on Sunday – I watched NFL football all day. On Monday night I wanted to watch football but the reception kept cutting out. Monday was a cloudy, overcast day. I assumed the clouds caused the RV park’s Direct TV antenna to lose the signal.

On Wednesday we tried to watch the presidential race debate, but the TV signal was cutting out again. There weren’t any clouds on Wednesday. The RV park sent a guy out on Thursday and he gave me another converter box. When I hooked up the new box, it couldn’t acquire any signal at all. I found it hard to believe that I had two defective boxes. I suspected a problem with our coaxial cable. The 50-foot cable I used to hook up to the park’s TV system was given to me three years ago by my brother-in-law, Tommy. It’s been knocking around in a container in our trailer since then. I went to Home Depot and bought a new cable. Problem solved – the TV reception is great and I was able to watch the game last night.

Donna made a pot of pork chile Thursday with the chicos she bought in Santa Fe. She had it in the slow cooker all afternoon. Our friend Mona visited with her while I watched the game and enjoyed the chile with a Racer 5 IPA. The chicos were coarser than I expected. Maybe that’s the way it is with ancient foods. I’m sure I got plenty of fiber.

Pork chile with chicos

Pork chile with chicos

Racer 5 IPA from Petaluma, California

Racer 5 IPA from Cloverdale, California

As the sun was setting, I walked over to the cove and shot a different sunset view. De Anza Cove is east of the RV park. Looking across the cove you see the Bay Park neighborhood terraced on the Clairemont Mesa. The sun lit up the neighborhood as it dipped below the horizon. I missed the dramatic lighting by a minute or two, but this photo gives a sense of what it looked like.

Last rays of sun on Bay Park

Last rays of sun on Bay Park

We had an unseasonably warm day yesterday – the high was 89 degrees. The weather guessers are calling for low to mid-80s for the weekend before the temperature falls to a more normal high of around 70 degrees. Tomorrow we’ll go to Donna’s sister’s annual Halloween party. I’m taking a break from pickleball until Monday.

San Diego Spring Tides

I have an affinity for mechanical wristwatches. There’s nothing wrong with a quartz movement – in fact, the most accurate time keepers are probably quartz. But there’s a certain romance with a purely mechanical watch movement powered by a mainspring and meticulously assembled from tiny plates, gears and jewel bearings. Automatic watches have self-winding mechanical movements.

I had quite a collection of watches at one time. I kept my automatic wrist watches on watch winders – a special case that rotated the watch periodically to allow the rotor to wind the mainspring and keep the watch running. Like everything else, I pared my collection down and now I have five wristwatches and one railroad pocket watch. I’ve been favoring my GMT Master II for several years and it’s overdue for a service.

Monday I rode the Spyder to Ben Bridge Jeweler at Fashion Valley Mall. About a year and half ago the watchmaker there, Israel, serviced Donna’s watch. It takes about five weeks for a service – the watch is completely disassembled, all parts are inspected and any worn parts are replaced. Special lubricants are put on the bearings. Then it’s reassembled and regulated. It’s not an inexpensive job – in fact, the service costs more than the average wristwatch costs new.

Meanwhile, I’m wearing a watch that I bought several years ago when I had a Moto Guzzi motorcycle. One of the guys at the loosely organized Moto Guzzi Club commissioned a limited number of watches built with an ETA automatic movement and iron magnetic shield dial. The ETA 2824 movement is a common workhorse built by the Swatch Group and is used in many watches.

Moto Guzzi watch on my hairy wrist

Moto Guzzi watch on my hairy wrist

When I came back from Fashion Valley, Donna was back in bed. She had tummy trouble – we think it may have been a case of food poisoning. She spent the entire day in bed. Fortunately, she was better the next day.

She didn’t need me to do anything for her, so I went to Ocean Beach to the recreation center and played pickleball. I found out that the times listed on the USAPA site were wrong. The site showed pickleball from noon to 2pm – which is what I remembered from last year. Now they play from 10am to 2pm on Monday and Wednesday. I was able to get several games in and had a good workout.

It was overcast when I rode the Spyder to Ocean Beach. I thought it was the typical morning marine layer which would burn off. I was surprised when I left the rec center to find a low overcast still hanging around. I rode to Pacific Beach where I stopped for tacos and a mist was falling lightly. On the way back to Mission Bay, I hit a rain shower. It was brief though and the sun finally broke through by 4pm.

Tuesday morning I had to retrieve some things from the trailer. While I was at the storage lot, I noticed the tide was very high in the bay and the morning sunlight was beautiful.

Morning sunshine on De Anza Cove

Morning sunshine on De Anza Cove

Tuesday and Thursday pickleball is played at the Pacific Beach Recreation Center. Again, their hours have changed. It used to be noon to 4pm. Now it’s 10am to 4pm. The longer hours of open play makes it less crowded as people come and go after playing for a couple of hours. I barely had break time inbetween games. I played from noon to 2:30pm.

Later, I went to the Offshore Tavern and Grill to collect the spoils of my second-place football pool result. I got a free drink and five dollars. Winning is better, but I can’t complain. A funny thing happened when I left the RV park for the tavern. Just as I pulled out of our site, Donna saw my cell phone on the counter. She knows I don’t like to be without my cell phone. She grabbed the phone and ran after me. A car went through the automatic gate ahead of me, so I didn’t need to wait for the gate to open. I rolled out before Donna could catch me.

I was about to exit the Mission Bay RV Resort property when two women from the office came out and waved their arms to flag me down. I stopped and they said, “You forgot your phone.”  I thanked them and turned around. I assumed Donna had phoned the office and I had to go back to our coach to get my phone. About then, Thomas, the security supervisor rolled up in his cart and handed me my phone. I was surprised and a little confused.

Later Donna told me that Thomas saw her running after me. He pulled up beside her in his golf cart and took the phone and came after me. He must have radioed the office girls and told them to stop me. What an effort – just because I don’t like to go out without my phone!

After I returned, Donna and I took a walk around the Mission Bay RV Resort at sunset. The phase of the moon is creating spring tides. Spring tides don’t have anything to do with the season – it’s about the water level springing up and down. Spring tides occur when the gravitational pull of the sun and moon combine, causing higher than average high tides and lower than average low tides. At sunset, the tide was lower than I ever remember seeing in Mission Bay.

Low tide at sunset

Low tide at sunset

Boater paddling in the low water

Boater paddling in the low water

Donna made panko crusted rockfish filets for dinner. She served it with a kale salad with dried cranberries, pine nuts and parmigiano reggiano cheese. It was a delicious meal.

Panko crusted cod

Panko crusted rockfish

Today we’re in for another beautiful weather day. The forecast high is in the low 80s with abundant sunshine. Donna volunteered to do more data entry for the Girls on the Run organization. I think I’ll head over to Ocean Beach for more pickleball.


Run, Donna, Run

We had a fairly quiet weekend as we settled in at Mission Bay RV Resort.

Donna went to an office in Mission Valley Friday morning. She volunteered to do some data entry for an organization called Girls on the Run. I took a couple of walks around the RV park and mostly read a book on my Kindle. I retrieved the Weber Q grill and stand from our trailer in the storage lot so we could grill steak for dinner. Then I went to the Offshore Tavern and Grill for happy hour and met up with my pals there – Bob, Tye and Tim. We caught up and of course I entered the football pool.

On Saturday morning, Donna and I rode the Spyder downtown to the Little Italy District for the farmers’ market. We always enjoy farmers’ markets and the San Diego Saturday market is a good one.

Farmers' market on Cedar Street

Farmers’ market on Cedar Street

We strolled through the four-block section of Cedar Street and had food samples. We weren’t really shopping for anything, but we ended up buying a Greek-style eggplant and yogurt dip, baguette, smoked gouda cheese, uncured salami and two kinds of sausages from The Meatmen, a bomber bottle of Modern Times blood orange gose beer (brewed in Point Loma), plus pomegranates and kale. We like the smaller Tuesday farmers’ market in Pacific Beach too.

Ozark the cat has really taken to her window mounted bed. She slept Saturday afternoon in it, but the sunshine must have bothered her eyes.

Ozark the cat shielding her eyes

Ozark the cat shielding her eyes

Donna had volunteered to work from 2-4pm at the Girls on the Run booth that was set up for the Esprit de She race on Sunday so she rode her bike over there. While she was out, I made a run to the store. One of things I like about the west coast is the availability and large selection of craft beer in 22-ounce bomber bottles. We found plenty of craft beer in New Mexico, Colorado and even Wyoming but you had to look for it and generally it was only available in six-packs of 12-ounce bottles. In California, Oregon and Washington you’ll find good selections in just about every grocery store.

Islander IPA from Coronado Brewing Company.

Islander IPA from Coronado Brewing Company.

We snacked on the food we bought at the farmers’ market for happy hour, then Donna made turmeric chicken with bone-in chicken thighs. She served it with Israeli couscous and steamed green beans.

Turmeric chicken thighs

Turmeric chicken thighs

Donna had her alarm set for 5:30am Sunday morning. She was entered in a 5k race at South Shores Park on the south side of Mission Bay, just east of Sea World. Her plan was to use a City Bike to ride to South Shores Park – the race was scheduled to start at 7:15am. City Bikes are rental bicycles found in various locations in San Diego. The bikes are electronically locked in bike racks. You pay five dollars for half an hour – the machine will release the bike and record the time. When you return the bike at any City Bike rack, it locks in the rack and records the return time. There’s a rack of bikes just outside Mission Bay RV Resort, about a quarter mile from our site.

It had rained overnight, but no rain was falling when Donna left just after 6am. She had to take a towel along to wipe down the City Bike seat – and my headlamp as it was still dark. She was able to ride a bike path all the way to the bike drop-off, then walked another 1/2 mile or so to South Shores Park.

The start of the race was delayed until 7:45am. Donna ran a good pace – 9:48/mile and nearly met her goal of finishing in under 30 minutes. She finished in 30:25 and won the woman’s 50-59 age group.

I spent most of the day watching football. I was getting excited about my chances in the football pool. I picked winners in 10 out of 13 games played on Sunday. I ended up in second place though – the winner also picked 10 out of 13 but he ended up with 84 points to my 80. Oh well, there’s always next week.

Wipe Out IPA from Port Brewing Company

Wipe Out IPA from Port Brewing Company

On Sunday evening, Donna made a marinara sauce from scratch and served sweet Italian sausage with marinara over goat cheese ravioli – we bought the sausage and the ravioli at the farmers’ market.

Swwet Italian sausage with marinara over goat cheese raviola

Sweet Italian sausage with marinara over goat cheese ravioli

I have a few errands to run today and I need to get cracking on next year’s health insurance plan. This afternoon I’ll probably play pickleball at the Pacific Beach Recreation Center. Donna is working on a new book project that will occupy much of her time as she needs to meet a mid-December deadline.


*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!

Three Summits to the Coast

After a quiet night in the desert, we pulled out of Ogilby Road around 9:30am. Interstate 8 has a huge construction project that spans miles and miles of road – nearly from the Arizona border to the Holtville exit – about 50 miles of freeway. I was amazed to find us on a temporary asphalt road running parallel to the interstate for several miles. It boggles my mind to think of how much it must have cost to pave this temporary road.

The traffic was fairly light and we made good time despite the construction. West of El Centro we crossed a desert basin with a sign post stating we were at sea level. There was a huge array of solar panels on both sides of the road. Then we started a gradual climb for a few miles before we began climbing in earnest. The next sign I saw said we were 1,000 feet above sea level, then 2,000 feet. The climb from 2,000 to 3,000 was short and steep. We crossed the Tecate Divide at 4,140 feet above sea level then dropped into a valley before we climbed again to the Crestwood Summit – the highest point on I-8 at 4,181 feet above sea level.

We dropped into another valley and made a familiar stop at the Buckman Springs rest area. I parked our rig in the truck parking and Donna made salads with roasted chicken. We sat at a picnic table in the rest area and enjoyed our lunch outdoors. The temperature at this elevation was a pleasant 70 degrees.

Dining al fresco at Buckman Springs

Dining al fresco at Buckman Springs

After we hit the road again we immediately ran into a Border Patrol check point. The Border Patrol agent waved us through – no questions asked. I believe they already know who they want to question and search – they probably know which vehicles came across the border or had their trip originate near the Mexico border.

We climbed once again out of the valley to the third summit on our route – Laguna Summit at 4,055 feet above sea level. From there we began a 13-mile descent with some steep downgrades. It’s mostly downhill all the way to the city of Lakeside, east of El Cajon, California. I had to get back into the city driving mode and be on the defensive. I choose the lane I want to be in well before I need to be there.

We pulled into Mission Bay RV Resort just before 1pm. We were checked in quickly and dropped the trailer in the storage lot across from the security shack. Thomas, the security supervisor, welcomed us and told us where to put the trailer. Maneuvering the trailer into place was a study in patience, but we got it done without any issues. We haven’t been charged for trailer storage since those Dirty, Rotten Thieves stole our trailer here in 2013.

Backing the coach into site 120 was another test of patience as I had to maneuver past parked cars and trees. I was feeling good about being back in San Diego. If any city is a homecoming for me, San Diego is it. Then I met our new neighbor.

I had positioned the coach in our site when the guy in site 119 on the driver’s side of our coach came out. He told me I was too far to the left and my slide out would encroach on his space. What? At Mission Bay RV Resort they have lines painted on the paved sites. There are two parallel lines about three feet apart bordering each side of the site. On the driver’s side, the sewer hook up is in between these lines. My understanding has always been that the three-foot zone between the lines on the driver’s side of the coach is a buffer zone for hook ups and slide outs.

Lines for a buffer zone with sewer hook up

Lines for a buffer zone with sewer hook up

This guy told me he’s been coming here for 10 years and I was encroaching on his “patio space.” I looked at the rig on the right side of us, site 121. He was parked with his slide out in this buffer zone. I pointed it out to him – in fact just about every site was parked like this. Rather than fight with the guy, I moved our coach over about a foot. Later I asked Thomas what the site boundary rules were. He told me I was right – my wheels shouldn’t be over the line but the slide out could extend over the closest line. The second line defines the boundary for the next site.

Then it got worse. My Dish satellite receiver couldn’t acquire a signal due to trees. We’re going to be here for two months! No TV for two months was not acceptable. Before setting up I went to the office to see if we could move to another site – one that would solve the satellite issue and get me away from the jerk in 119. There wasn’t anything available unless I wanted to switch sites every week or two. Oh, no!

Then the woman in the office said, “Why don’t you hook up to the park cable TV?” I told her my TV was on an HDMI cable, I didn’t have a coaxial cable set up. She said she would lend me a converter box with an HDMI port. I brought the box back to the site and it worked! I don’t get all of the channels I have with satellite, but at least I can watch the football games.

Home for the next two months

Home for the next two months

We’re required to leave the park for 24 hours after two months, then we can check in again. We plan to stay for a total of three months here. We haven’t decided where we’ll spend our 24-hour exile, but we have plenty of time to get to that.

The five-day forecast looks great – some clouds with daily highs in the low 70s. It’s great to be back.

Did You Hear That?

I woke up well before dawn at the Mazatzal Casino parking lot in Payson, Arizona Tuesday morning. Lying in bed with my eyes closed I heard Donna whisper, “Did you hear that?” “Uh-huh.” “Was that an elk?” “Yeah, it’s a bull elk bugling.” Of all the places we’ve been, a casino parking lot was the last place I’d expected to hear a bull elk bugling in the pre-dawn hours. I heard it two more times in the next 30 or 40 minutes confirming it was real, not a dream.

We were packed up and on the road a little after 9am. We drove down AZ87 – also known as the Beeline Highway – southwest toward Fountain Hills and the greater Phoenix area. Payson is 5,000 feet above sea level. The Beeline Highway descends rapidly and has a series of steep uphill grades – the net result is a loss of elevation. We arrived in Mesa at an elevation of around 1,200 feet above sea level and pulled into the RV Renovators lot on Main Street.

RV Renovators is the outfit I’ve chosen to repair the damage on the coach from the encounter with a large buck in Idaho. I wanted to stop there and go over the insurance estimate and discuss the repair work before we return in January to have the work done. The job will entail some complicated fiberglass repairs on the living room slide-out.

We had a short meeting and they have us on the calendar to return and start work on January 15th. Although the insurance estimate only shows 40 hours of labor, they told me two weeks of work was more realistic. The goal is to start work on January 15th and finish by the end of the month. They also told me we can stay in the coach at their shop – they have hook ups. Staying in the coach helps – we won’t have to find a place to stay for an indefinite period of time and have to deal with our personal belongings in the coach. We’ll also be onsite every day to oversee progress. This is good news. Now I just need to figure out what to do with our 20-foot car carrier trailer while we’re at the shop.

From there we moved on to Casa Grande where I stopped at the Speedco service center to have maintenance done on the coach. I do an annual preventive maintenance (PM) which includes an engine oil and filter change and a fuel filter change, chassis lube and inspection. Our Cummins ISL diesel engine falls under their medium duty PM schedule. In the past, I paid $179.99 for this service plus any upgrades or additional work found upon inspection. I usually upgrade the oil filter to a Fleetguard instead of the standard Baldwin and use Chevron Delo 400 LE 15-40 oil. This time I was told they had a price increase – the medium duty PM base price went from $179.99 to $249.99 – a 39% jump in price! I also have the used oil analysis done. This too had an increase – it was $17.99 now it’s $24.99.

I went ahead with it. When I looked at the used oil analysis I could see something was wrong. Everything looked good until I saw the viscosity at 100C – it was listed as less than 3 cSt.  The specification is 12.5 to 16.3 cSt. If my engine oil was really less than 3 cSt, I wouldn’t be holding any oil pressure when the oil was at full operating temperature. When I asked about how this could be, I heard a lot of mumbling and the girl at the counter highlighted the specification. I told her I was well aware of the spec and what it means – but I didn’t believe the results because it didn’t make sense. She took it to the manager. After a few minutes he admitted that he didn’t even know what the measurement meant – it’s just a number their machine spits out – he refunded the $24.99. I might have to rethink how I’m having used oil analysis performed.

Later, I looked at the Speedco corporate website. Their price sheet which was updated in September still shows medium duty PM at $179.99. I sent an inquiry to their customer service asking if I’d been overcharged.

From there we had the coach washed at Blue Beacon, then found the Elks Lodge near the courthouse downtown. Parking was easy and as always, the people at the lodge were friendly. Unfortunately this is a lodge that allows smoking at the bar.  Overnight dry camping cost $10.

On Wednesday morning, Donna went for a run, then we prepared to move on. The lodge lot was empty – we were the only RV there and all of the cars from the night before were gone. This made it easy to exit the parking area.

When we pulled out, our fuel gauge registered less than 1/4 tank. I wondered how this could be – where had all our fuel gone? We had several hours of generator run time, but that only accounts for half to three quarters of a gallon per hour. My plan was to fuel up in Yuma at the Pilot/Flying J at exit 12 where we’ve stopped several times before. I was pretty sure we could cover the 160 miles, but I don’t like running below a quarter tank.

About an hour later, I figured something was up with the fuel gauge. Now it was reading a quarter tank – higher than when we left 60 miles before. We made it to Yuma and I topped off the tank with only 65 gallons of fuel – there was more than a quarter of tank left. The fuel price of $2.26/gallon with my Pilot/Flying J RV Rewards card was nice too!

While we were in Yuma we made a Walmart run and stocked the pantry. I also bought a quart of Delo 400 oil to top up the generator. We’ve run it over 50 hours since I changed the oil at Eagle Nest Lake. It only took about 12 ounces to top it off – but with a sump capacity of only three quarts, I don’t like to run it low on oil. With the generator oil topped off, I fired it up to run the roof air conditioners. It was 95 degrees in Yuma!

I thought about stopping at a couple of other RV stores in Yuma for a few supplies I need, but blew it off as I can get them from Amazon when we’re settled in at Mission Bay RV Resort. We continued west on I-8 past Winterhaven, California and found our little stopping spot in the desert at Ogilby Road. We’ve stayed here several times on BLM land that’s part of the Picacho State Recreation Area (SRA). The SRA borders the Picacho Wilderness and the area we stay in has a fairly level, hard-packed gravel surface. It’s a popular if somewhat secluded area for snowbirds that don’t mind boondocking. This part of the desert sits at an elevation of about 400 feet above sea level. It’s much warmer than we’ve become accustomed to after months in the mountains.

The rock garden area we usually stay in was occupied by the only other RV in sight. We found a nice, level spot that had a site marked by rocks over a quarter mile away – leaving plenty of space. People that spend most of the winter here arrange rocks around their rigs. It’s against BLM regulations, but no one seems to mind.

Our "site" in the open desert

Our “site” in the open desert

Path from our door step

Path from our door step

Many people would view this area as a barren wasteland, but I enjoy staying here. I love the views, the quiet and the seclusion.

Our windshield view

Our windshield view

Desert sunset and sunrise is always spectacular.

Desert sunset

Desert sunset

After dark I walked outside and looked at the sky expecting to see it filled with stars but the 3/4 moon was so bright, it washed out many of the stars.

I slept soundly. The overnight low temperature was in the 60s and we had all of the windows open. I woke up just before sunrise.

Our rig is dwarfed by the open desert

Our rig is dwarfed by the open desert

The sunrise was every bit as spectacular as the sunset the evening before.

Desert sunrise

Desert sunrise

The balloon fiesta in Albuquerque is a memory now and the days spent there seem like a blur. This morning we’ll move on to San Diego. We look forward to our time there every year – this will be our fourth winter visit. There’s always so much to do and it’s great to reconnect with old friends there.

I think we’ll make our usual stop for lunch at the Buckman Springs rest area and check in at Mission Bay around 1pm. The weather forecast for the next week in San Diego looks great – highs in the low 70s with partly cloudy skies.


2016 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta – Final Flight

I ended my last post by saying the final day of the 2016 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta may be a bust. It was raining when I went to bed Saturday night and looking at the forecast, I fully expected to hear raindrops on the roof when my 4:30am alarm sounded. I was surprised to find it wasn’t raining and dragged myself out of bed.

Brad picked me up at the Fiesta Park entrance. I had a nice chat with Johnny, the security guy there, while I was waiting. Hanging out with Johnny for 15-20 minutes every morning for nine days straight gave us a chance to get to know each other.

Breakfast burritos and excellent locally roasted coffee from Piñon coffee was served to pilots and crew at the pavilion. A great start to the day. They do a great job of feeding about 1700 pilots and crew on weekdays and up to 2200 on the weekends.

The pilot’s briefing had weather info that caught me by surprise. It seemed like a nice morning with favorable winds, however there was some ground fog to the east and the possibility of more fog in the river bottom as the dew point and temperature were close.

After sunrise, Brad gave the go-ahead to unload and assemble the Heart’s A’Fire hot air balloon. We had it cold inflated and I expected Brad to fire the burners at any moment when we were given the command to stand down. I didn’t know what was up but soon found out that the field had been closed due to the fog bank to the east. Ground fog can be very dangerous for flight as it makes it impossible to see and identify obstacles for landing.

We were soon back at it, inflating the balloon. I really like manning the throat of the balloon and watching it inflate. It can be taxing at times as wind or the weight of the sponsor banner makes the balloon want to roll on the ground. It’s important to keep the envelope properly oriented with the basket so the lines don’t twist and tangle. The lines connecting the basket to the envelope are numbered and we strive to keep number 10 and 11 centered on top as the basket lies on its side. I had some muscle soreness every day for the first week of the Fiesta but now I’ve worked myself into shape – just as we’re finishing up.

Brad’s passengers for the day were a special pair of siblings – brother and sister. They are the children of a good friend of Brad’s that’s an avid extreme hiker – more of a rock/mountain climber than hiker from what I understand. About three weeks ago, he disappeared while hiking 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado. Search and rescue operations searched for eight days before they were suspended. The kids haven’t been out of the house since his disappearance. Brad thought it would be good for them to get out, have a flight in the balloon and enjoy a day. He contacted their mother and invited them to go up.

We were given the thumbs up by the launch director and they were off!

Final launch of the 2016 Fiesta

Final launch of the 2016 Fiesta

We chased the balloon over to 2nd Street, west of the field. Brad had it working as he flew high and went north over the Sandia Pueblo Reservation, then dropped altitude and came back south down low. In fact he went low enough to dip the basket in the Rio Grande River – what they call a splash and dash! He did this a couple of times.

After more than an hour of flight time, he landed near the water diversion channel – about 150 yards from his landing the day before. This time he was on the west side of the channel and the access road had a locked gate. Lucky for us, a Sandia Tribal Police Officer had a key and unlocked the gate for us. Last year I heard horror stories of how the tribe treated balloonists and crews that landed on the reservation. This year there seems to be much more understanding and cooperation – I haven’t heard any bad stories, only good news.

After packing up the balloon, we had our usual tailgate party. Donna and our friend, Kris Downey, joined us. One of the crew members, Darren, thoughtfully lent us his Ford F150 truck so I could transport the Traeger grill, table, chairs and a few odds and ends from our site in the RV park to our trailer. Thanks, Darren! It would have been a real hassle to walk the stuff all the way to where we dropped the trailer.

I napped and watched football for the remainder of the day. At 4pm, Donna took a Lyft ride to an after-Fiesta party. She had a good time and was glad she opted for Lyft instead of riding the Spyder. We had another thunderstorm pass through. Besides, she could enjoy a couple of glasses of wine without worry. Brad and Jessica drove her back to the coach.

This morning I woke up a little before 6am. It felt luxurious to lie in bed for 15 minutes, then get up. I felt like I’d slept in. After a regular breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast with raspberry-ginger jam, I started packing up for the road. I had a few things I needed to take to the trailer. On my way walking back after the first trip, I saw Jim McManus with his head inside the battery compartment of a motorhome belonging to a solo woman RVer. I stopped to see what was going on. She had a problem with her house batteries not charging. The generator had tripped the breaker. When I checked it, the breaker didn’t feel right, the switch didn’t snap into place like it should. I worked it a few times and snapped it vigorously and it closed like it should. We checked it with a meter and it was charging.

On my next trip to the trailer, I saw Jim messing with a compartment door on the same coach. The door wouldn’t latch and they were trying to come up with a temporary solution. I checked the latch and it worked. The problem was that the squared-off U-bolt that it latches to wasn’t adjusted properly. The woman who owns the coach said she just had that compartment door replaced. It appears as though the shop didn’t lock down the adjustment nuts and they worked loose. Easy fix.

I like to help people out when I can, especially if I know what the answer to the problem is. Helping out here put me about 15 minutes behind schedule – but hey, what schedule? So I thought we could leave by 9am. What’s the big deal? I didn’t have to be anywhere at any special time. By the time I hooked up the trailer and loaded the Spyder, we pulled out at 9:30am.

We didn’t have any special destination in mind. I was thinking if we could make it to Holbrook, Arizona we could find a place to boondock for the night.

We're not in New Mexico anymore

We’re not in New Mexico anymore

On the road, we thought about what we needed to do in the next three days. Tomorrow I want to stop in Mesa, Arizona at the RV Renovators to go over the work we need to have done to repair the damage caused by the suicidal deer in Idaho. Then I’d like to continue on to Casa Grande where I’ll have service work done at Speedco and a wash job at the Blue Beacon there. This had me thinking I should try to get closer to Mesa than Holbrook.

We ended up driving about 340 miles – a lot longer than we usually do – and are dry camped at a casino in Payson, Arizona. We started the day at an elevation of 5,000 feet above sea level in Albuquerque. Our route across I-40 took us to the Mogollon Rim in Northern Arizona – there’s some disagreement on how to pronounce Mogollon. This is probably due to various tribal dialects, Spanish speakers and settlers in the area. Most seem to agree it’s muggy-on. The Mogollon Rim brought us to an elevation of more than 7,700 feet. Now we’re right back where we started sitting at 5,000 feet above sea level.

Tomorrow night we can find another boondock spot – maybe the Elks Lodge in Casa Grande. Then we’ll move on to our little piece of desert in California west of Yuma/Winterhaven for the night.

It will be nice to have a quiet, secluded night before we move on to city life for the next three months in San Diego. I don’t think I’ll be posting for a couple of days as we take care of business.