Monthly Archives: January 2017

RV Renovators – Day 14 – Coming Together

When the owner and president of Germaine’s RV Sales and RV Renovators, Monte Germaine, came to our coach on Monday morning, he explained why he changed the repair plan. He told me the original thought of installing wood studs was made by the crew before they understood the construction of our Alpine Coach. They were thinking of some entry level trailers and coaches that come from the factory with wood construction. He knew an Alpine and other coaches that have all metal framing should be repaired with metal, not wood.

The guys spent Monday morning cleaning up remnants of plywood and grinding the surface of the aluminum structure. They inlaid more rectangular aluminum tubing to support the seams of the new exterior skin.

All cleaned up

Additional tubing in place

At noon another worker named James came over to TIG weld the new sections of tubing. He first disconnected the power supply and batteries to avoid damage to electrical components from the arc welder.

New tubing welded

Izzy then ground the welds flat.

Welds ground flat

The heat from the welder melted some of the foam insulation blocks, creating voids. Izzy filled these voids with urethane.

Voids filled

Clean and ready for the next step

After some more cleaning of the aluminum and the channels in the trim, it was time to add adhesive. They used black urethane adhesive made by Dow called Betaseal U-418HV. This urethane is commonly used to bond windshields on automobiles. It creates a high-strength waterproof bond that remains flexible.

Urethane adhesive for the first panel

Getting the first panel in place was problematic. They got it inside the lower trim without too much trouble, but had issues trying to seat it under the front edge trim. They decided to remove the front edge trim so they could ensure the panel was properly aligned.

Once they had the panel placed properly, they installed temporary screws and added aluminum angle channels in places to apply pressure against the underlying framework. These temporary screws and lengths of channel were mostly placed in areas where the fiberglass skin will either be cut out – such as the window openings – or ground along seams before the seams are filled.

Inside the living room they placed a 3/4″ x 1-1/4″ hardwood beam across the window opening and used long screws to pull the fiberglass against the window opening. They added aluminum angle across the bottom of the window opening to hold it tight against the lower opening.

Pulling the skin tight against the living room window opening

They added a second section of fiberglass composite skin above the window opening. At the end of the day, the front half of the slide-out had fiberglass skin. They used a forklift against a 4″ x 4″ beam and a section of plywood to apply additional pressure against the skin overnight.

First half of the new skin in place

The fiberglass has a thin plastic protective sheet over the outer surface. The black smears and hand prints will disappear once this sheet is peeled off and paint prep begins.

I had a visitor in the morning, Jim Haxby. He’s a fellow Alpine Coach owner and saw my posts about the work being performed. He lives here in Mesa and came by to see how the work is progressing. We talked for a while as I observed the work.

Later, Donna and I rode the Spyder over to Mike Hall’s place and I got her bicycle out of our trailer. She went for a ride while I went to Lucky Lou’s for a cold one with the guys. It was a beautiful day for a ride – the temperature was in the upper 70s and there wasn’t any wind to speak of. Today we expect another cloudless, sunny day with the temperature reaching the mid-70s. Perfect for bonding the new skin on the coach.



RV Renovators – Days 11-12-13 – Changes

On Friday, they accomplished pretty much what I expected at RV Renovators – then they did something I didn’t expect. After a meeting with Izzy, Levi and the owner and president of RV Renovators and Germaine RV sales, Monty Germaine, Monty revised the plan for the new siding.

Monty didn’t want them to use wood studs in the reconstruction, he wanted rectangular aluminum tubing instead. He also came up with a new layout for the panels. Instead of orienting them vertically and cutting the excess height, he wants to lay them horizontally. This will result in fewer seams and a much more efficient use of panels.

They finished cleaning up the framing and removing all traces of plywood – except for one square in the upper right corner of the slide out which is necessary as it backs the microwave/convection oven. Then they made a trench in the foam block insulation and put 2-1/2″ x 1-1/2″ rectangular aluminum tubing studs place.

Aluminum stud in place

This took all day to accomplish, then they knocked off for the weekend.

Saturday I had to send a FedEx letter. Donna and I walked to the FedEx store about one mile west of here on Main Street. On the way there, we saw a temporary race track for electric-powered radio-controlled (RC) cars in the lot of a business. On the way back, we stopped there to watch.

They were practicing for the afternoon’s races. It was chilly out – in the mid-60s but windy. We hung out for about 15 minutes and watched the quick RC cars lapping the track. We could clearly see some of the cars had better set-ups than others. Some of them cornered like they were on rails while others over-steered with the rear end sliding out through the turns. Obviously the skill of the driver comes into play as well.

RC cars on the track

Guys working on their set-up in the pits

We wanted to stop at a fish and chips place for lunch on our way back. When we crossed main street at the restaurant, we found it was out of business! We back-tracked to a Vietnamese Pho place and found it was closed as well. I guess times have been tough for small restaurants in this area. We ended up having lunch at home – I cooked some ramen noodle with leftover chicken.

Our friends Howard and Sara Graff picked us up Saturday evening. They live a few miles away off Gilbert Road. We had dinner reservations at Baja Joe’s. I had made the reservation for four not knowing their 14 year-old daughter Jenna was coming along. The restaurant accommodated us by giving Jenna a table next to the four-top they had held for us.

We enjoyed our meals and sipped large, excellent margaritas with it. Afterwards we stopped at their house and continued to visit until about 9pm when they dropped us back at RV Renovators.

Sunday was a nice, sunny day. The temperature reached the 70s in the afternoon and I had the coach door open. It was still breezy, but comfortable. Sara and Donna went shopping at the Tempe Marketplace. I hung out and read a book.

When she returned, Donna made guacamole with pomegranate seeds and later cooked a new dish – One Pot Shrimp with Herby White Beans and Tomatoes. She served it with slices of baguette to dip in the sauce and it was excellent – definitely a keeper though Donna will add garlic to the recipe next time.

One pot shrimp

Our stay here at RV Renovators is giving us good practice at ultra water conservation – Donna made our dinner using far fewer cooking utensils than usual.

A pan, colander, bowl and utensils is all it took to make a delicious dinner

On Saturday I hooked up our fresh water hose and filters and filled our fresh water tank. It took about 40 gallons to fill – it’s been 14 days since I last filled it. We’re averaging less than four gallons per day, plus a few gallons of fresh water from jugs we used for coffee.

This morning we woke to sounds of workers back at the shop and music on the radio outside. Monte came by and examined the work performed so far. He told me he expects them to have the aluminum studs welded in place by noon and they’ll start installing the new fiberglass this afternoon.

We expect clear sunny skies all week with daily highs in the mid-70s. The rough southwest winter may be over!

RV Renovators – Days 9-10 – The Beat Goes On

The work continues on our coach here at RV Renovators. We have dry weather now and that’s a plus. It’s been relatively cold still – although the skies are clear and sunny, we haven’t hit 60 degrees since Monday.

Removing the old fiberglass composite skin has been a time-consuming endeavor. Levi told me Western RV did an admirable job of bonding the skin to the framing of the slide-out and also bonded it securely to the trim molding. This solid construction makes the removal harder.

To remove the skin, they had to use a bit of ingenuity. The plan was to leave the lower molding and front edge molding in place, only removing the top and rear moldings. Removal of the bottom molding is complicated by the fact that the slide-out mechanism – the rams – bolt through the molding.

They made a cut through the skin about a foot above the bottom molding. Then they attached a bar which held four vise-grip type locking pliers. These were locked onto the strip of fiberglass, then they applied heat to the adhesive while pulling up on the fiberglass by attaching the tool to the arm of a fork lift.

Pulling a section of fiberglass from the molding

This was a slow and tedious process. Then they did the same thing along the front edge molding. The new fiberglass composite panels will slide into the gap under the front and bottom moldings.

Front edge molding clear

This took all of Wednesday and part of Thursday morning to do. Izzy told me he wanted me to move the coach to another work stall after lunch. He wanted to position the driver’s side of the coach in direct sunlight. Having the slide-out in the sun would warm it and facilitate the removal of the rest of the skin and the installation of the new fiberglass composite material.

After lunch, I pulled the slides in. I couldn’t pull the living room slide all the way in – I had to leave it out about six inches so they could secure the slide topper since it was no longer connected to the wall.

We took advantage of the move by stopping at the dump station first. It had been 12 days since I dumped the tanks. We’ve been really good at conserving water and the tanks weren’t even close to full. I don’t know how long we’ll be here, but we’ll continue to go easy on water. I plan to refill our fresh water tank on Saturday.

After we moved to the new work stall, the next step was to pull the windows from the living room and kitchen.

Removing windows

I had to remove Ozark’s bed which was suspended from the living room window. She still favors it for sleeping although it was no longer suspended – Donna set it on the sofa.

Ozark still likes her bed

With the windows out, the rest of the fiberglass composite skin was removed. A worker covered the window openings with cardboard. The cardboard outside combined with plastic sheeting inside gives us some insulation, but it blocks the sunlight.

Skin off

The painter is using the old skin to match the colors and design he will paint once the new siding is completed.

Old skin

After a little more clean-up of the insulation and frame work, the next step is to inlay vertical wood framing. The new fiberglass composite panels come in five-foot sections. So they are going to install three wood uprights at five-foot intervals in the 16-foot-long slide. These uprights will allow Izzy to screw the panels in place while the adhesive cures. The screws will be countersunk down to the plywood backing layer of the composite.

Then he will fill the gaps and cover the screws with a milled fiberglass/resin mixture and sand everything smooth. In effect, it should make the wall into a one-piece structure. I don’t think they’ll be ready to begin this process until Monday and it will be another slow, painstaking job.

I’m pretty happy with the progress made and the attention to detail on this job. I’m confident we’ll end up with a proper repair job.

We’re looking forward to a warming trend, beginning this weekend. Next week is forecast to be dry and sunny with daily highs in the 70s.

RV Renovators Days 7 – 8 – Get This Party Started

The pace is picking up here at RV Renovators. On Monday, I received a phone call from James, the adjuster from Nationwide insurance. He said he reviewed the supplemental claim and went over it with Jim at RV Renovators. It was approved with one minor change.

I returned the rental car to Enterprise in the afternoon. They gave me a ride to Red, White and Brew where I nursed a couple of cold ones. I tried to get an Uber ride home, but I had trouble scheduling a ride with the app on my phone. I switched to Lyft and found a ride quickly. When I tracked the driver, he was going the wrong way and ended up on the 202 westbound and would have to make a loop to come back to my location.

Lyft sent me a text saying they reassigned the ride to another driver. A few minutes later, I saw a Lyft car pull in. I got in and we headed out. But something was wrong. He didn’t have my destination showing on his app. I told him where I wanted to go. Then my phone rang – it was another Lyft driver saying she was there to pick me up.

I had gotten in with the first driver – he wasn’t notified to cancel and now the second driver was there to pick me up. Then I got a another message telling me I would be charged a five dollar cancellation fee for the second driver. I was going to call their service center on Tuesday and protest the fee, but I see they only charged the cancellation – I wasn’t charged for the ride home. I’ll keep an eye on my credit card account – if no other charges come through, five dollars is a cheap ride home.

On Monday, the window awning, slide topper and a few other accoutrements were removed from the living room slide. On Tuesday, they started on the edge moldings. I thought these moldings were mostly decorative – they hide the seam when the slide is pulled in. The moldings are about an inch and a half wide.

There are two guys performing the work. The lead guy is Izzy and he has an assistant. Izzy directs the assistant who is working full-time on our coach. Izzy bounces between a couple of projects and is at our coach maybe 50% of the time. He showed me how the molding is actually an extrusion that wraps around the edge of the fiberglass and extends behind the wall of the slide. The molding is more than two and a half inches deep and it’s a complex shape.

They’re concerned about breaking a molding as they’re unsure if a replacement is even available. Many of the screws on the edge of the molding snapped when they tried to remove them. This complicates the removal of the fiberglass skin. The outer fiberglass shell is actually a composite made up of a fiberglass surface which is about 1/8″ thick and it’s bonded to a plywood backing that’s another 1/8″ thick.

Behind the composite skin, there’s a moisture barrier, then a two and a half inch thick foam insulation block and finally the interior wall. Through a combination of cutting away sections of the skin and pulling the skin from underneath the molding, they got the rear edge molding off.

Rear edge molding removed

This is a very slow process, but progress is being made. We think they will be ready to pull the windows out tomorrow and then the entire fiberglass composite skin will come off.

Meanwhile it’s been cold here. The highs only reached 60 on Monday and 57 on Tuesday. Last night the thermometer dipped to 36 degrees outside and it was 54 degrees in the coach when I woke up. The forecast says it will remain cold until the weekend. By next week, we should have temperatures reaching the low to mid 70s. When they take out the windows and cover the openings with plastic sheet, I expect it to get chilly in here.

With the rain last week and cold temperatures this week, we’ve been cooped up in the coach. This is beginning to wear on Donna and she’s making plans to head out to a warm, sunny beach. I’ll stay here until the job is done. We’ve heard too many stories of work grinding to halt when the owner isn’t on site. I don’t want any more delays.

I’ve been killing time reading books and playing a little guitar. Since we’ve been here, I’ve been playing my acoustic guitar which I hadn’t touched in a while. It’s a 2001 Gibson L-130 and I’m really enjoying it.

Gibson L-130

It has a mahogany neck with rosewood fretboard and abalone rosettes. The top is spruce and the sides and back are bubinga. It’s a lovely instrument and sounds great – my playing needs improvement – I’m talking about the tone of the guitar.

I’ll tell you more about Donna’s trip plans in a future post.

RV Renovators – Days 5 – 6 – A Night Out

As I expected, no work on the coach happened on Friday. The shop closes over the weekend so we had nothing in particular to do here. Friday was a rainy day. Donna planned to have a rental car for the weekend and Enterprise was scheduled to pick us up between 3 and 4pm.

A guy from the shop knocked on our door and asked us if we needed to use the dump station. He mentioned that no one would be here over the weekend and if we wanted use it, now was the time. I didn’t know they had a dump station on site. It had only been four days so we told him we were good for the weekend.

They marked the areas of concern on our coach where structural damage was evident from the deer strike. The huge mule deer buck leaped at full speed into the living room slide right behind the driver’s seat. You can see in the photo the large area on the left marked where the initial impact was. Further down to the right you can see where a hoof struck the fiberglass and cracked it as the buck spun and whipped around against the side of the coach. There’s another area of damage farther back that I couldn’t fit into the frame. This was the extent of the work done in our first four days here.

Damaged areas identified

Photos like this one were sent to the insurance adjuster. Hopefully he’ll comprehend the extent of the damage this time.

The woman from Enterprise phoned us at 3pm and said she was on her way. We waited about 15 minutes before we walked out in front of the sales office. A light rain was falling. She drove us to the Enterprise office on McKellips Road – I gave her directions for the best way to get back there. It was her first day at that location and she hadn’t figured out the best routes yet.

While we were handling the paperwork, the rain started pouring down. We inspected the rental car in driving rain with deep puddles around the car. From there we drove to Red, White and Brew – a couple of miles away.

We met our friends Lana and Joel there for happy hour and an early dinner. We had lots of fun conversation and good food. Donna and Lana both went for Donna’s favorite dish there – Mussels vin Blanc – which are green lip mussels sauteed with white wine, butter, garlic and lemon. Joel and I split a pizza. As always, the food was great.

The rain moved out Saturday, but it was a windy and relatively cold day. I spent most of the day reading a book while Donna went for a walk and did a little writing. I mentioned our water conservation efforts. In the afternoon, Donna did about a day and half’s worth of dishes. She used an expandable dish tub on one side of the sink and a dish drying rack on the other. In the photo, you can see how little water it takes if you’re careful.

Conserving water while doing the dishes

There’s less than an inch and half of water in the dish tub – this the amount she used to wash and rinse the dishes. I dumped the dish water outside in a gravel area of the lot.

Donna went to Sprouts later in the afternoon and did some shopping while we had the rental car. She joked that when she left the store, she hated to claim such a hideous looking car. It’s a bright green Kia Soul and I’ll have to admit it’s not the prettiest car on the market. It’s new though with only 230 miles on the odometer and it drives fine.

Saturday night we drove the car to D’vine, a wine bar and restaurant on Power Road near Red, White and Brew. We met our friends Ron and Dara there. Donna and Dara met years ago when we lived here and they bicycled together. We last saw them about three years ago when we were camped at Phon D Sutton on the Salt River. Since then they moved away to Denver, Colorado. By chance, they were here in Mesa because Ron had a conference to attend and Dara tagged along to see old friends. We had  a wonderful time talking and enjoying happy hour for about an hour and a half. Ron generously picked up the tab – thanks, Ron!

On Sunday, we planned to head over to the Mesa Mezona Inn a few miles from RV Renovators on Main Street near Country Club. Donna snagged a half-price deal on I wanted to check in by 2pm so I could watch the game which I thought was kicking off around 2:30pm. Donna was out for walk when I looked online and realized I had the time wrong. The game would kick off at 1:30pm!

After Donna came back from her walk, we quickly loaded up the car and headed out. It was only going to be one night, so we didn’t need much and Donna had already packed most of her things.

By the time we checked in, the game had already started. Atlanta had already scored on their opening drive as I carried our things up to the room. I swiped the room card through the door lock and nothing happened. I tried the second card and got the same result.

I went back to the front desk and the guy ran the cards through the programmer again. Back at the room, I had the same result – no action from the door lock. At the front desk once again, the guy told me he would send a maintenance guy to the room.

He was able to unlock the door with his master key, but our keys still didn’t work. He said he had to reprogram the lock again. By then the first quarter of the game was nearly over. I turned on the TV while we waited for the lock to be repaired.

When I turned the TV so I could see the screen from an easy chair, I lost the signal. I turned the TV back so it faced the bed again and it started working. I figured I’d have to sit on the bed and watch the game. Oh, well.

After the guy fixed the door lock, Donna told him I was having trouble with the TV signal. He said, “It’s probably a loose cable” and proceeded to start tugging on the cables and I lost the signal in middle of a play! I went over and carefully manipulated the cable box until it started working again and I told the guy I was okay with it as it was.

But after he left, the signal started cutting out intermittently. I looked at the cables and could see the coaxial cable from the wall to the box had a bad connector at the box. I lined it up carefully and it started working again. Meanwhile Donna had unpacked our stuff. I phoned the front desk and asked if they could send someone up with a new coax cable.

A few minutes later the phone rang. It was the guy at the front desk telling me he would have to move us to another room as they didn’t have any replacement cables! I told him I had it working now and didn’t want to pack up and move.

The football games weren’t that interesting at the end of the day. The Atlanta Falcons’ offensive juggernaut continued as they put up 44 points and handily beat the Packers. The next game was another blowout as New England beat Pittsburgh 36-17.

Sleeping on the hotel mattress made me appreciate our Leesa foam mattress – it’s much more comfortable. After a complimentary breakfast at the hotel and long, hot showers, we came back to RV Renovators around 10am. I was surprised to find a scissor-lift next to the coach and a couple of guys starting work. They planned to pull the window awnings and slide topper and start removing trim today. Rain is in the forecast this afternoon, so they won’t start work in earnest until tomorrow.


RV Renovators – Day 2 – 4 – Treading Water

We’re treading water here at RV Renovators in Mesa, Arizona. They sent paperwork to our insurance carrier – Nationwide – for a supplement to Nationwide’s original estimate. I knew the original estimate was low but the adjuster, Jacob, wasn’t concerned. He said he expected a supplement. Jim at RV Renovators expected to write a supplement. So, I thought it was business as usual.

Meanwhile, Jacob at Nationwide transferred to a different position. He no longer works in claims. Our claim file and the supplemental estimate was assigned to another adjuster on Thursday. I received a phone call from the new adjuster, James, this morning. He said he’s waiting for additional photos to justify the supplement.

Nationwide sent an independent appraiser to document the damage when we were in Colorado in September. This appraiser took notes and photos and told me he thought the damage we extensive – a bigger job than it looked. Nationwide’s adjuster wrote the estimate based on photos and notes from the independent appraiser. Now they want more photos and explanations.

The original estimate written by Jacob was for $8,366. I was sure this wasn’t enough. The estimate written by RV Renovators comes up to $20,000. The new adjuster, James, says he needs to work on the claim details and probably won’t give the “go ahead” until next Tuesday. At that point we’ll have wasted a week sitting next to the shop at RV Renovators.

Donna’s staying busy writing articles. I’ve been doing a lot of reading. Yesterday, rain moved into the area. We had sporadic showers for the last 24 hours and it’s expected to continue with periods of heavier rain through the weekend. During a break in the showers, Donna and I took a walk along the Consolidated Canal – about a mile and a half. Other than that there hasn’t been much to do.

This afternoon, Enterprise will deliver a rental car for the weekend. We plan to go out tonight for dinner and also meet up with friends tomorrow night.

We booked a hotel room for Sunday. We’ll drive over to the hotel where we can get laundry done and I can watch the football games. I originally thought I should be here at the coach when the shop opens on Monday morning, but now after talking to James I don’t see the urgency.

RV Renovators – Day 1

After writing my last post Monday morning, Donna and I visited with Jeff and Deb Spencer over a cup of coffee and enjoyed the desert morning. Our time with them was too short, but I finally had to say we needed to pack up and go – Jeff also had work to do.

It was nearly 11:30am by the time we rolled out of Ogilby Road. I looked at the GPS and saw our predicted arrival time in Mesa was 4:40pm. Doh! I forgot about the time change and loss of an hour when we crossed into Arizona.

We had to drop the trailer at Mike Hall’s house before we could go to our destination which was RV Renovators on Main Street in Mesa. RV Renovators is the outfit that will repair the fiberglass damage on our coach from the deer that hit us in Idaho. They said they have hook-ups so we planned to stay on site at their shop.

I was afraid they would be closed and have the lot gates locked before we could get there. Donna phoned them and was told they close at 5pm. We made arrangements to stop there and pick up a gate key before we went to Mike Hall’s place to drop the trailer. We made it there a little after 5pm but the gates were still open and many of the employees were still there. They showed me where I would park the coach and gave me a key to the gate.

I should have inquired more about the hook-ups when we were here last October. They told me it was no problem for us to remain on site – many customers that are full-timers do it. It turns out that “hook-ups” means they have a 50-amp power cord on electrical fittings at various places around the lot and shop. No sewer or water hook-ups.

At Mike’s house, I unloaded the Spyder before I dropped the trailer. Donna rode the Spyder back to RV Renovators and opened the gate before I arrived in the coach. We got set up in our designated area. It turned out to be quieter than we thought it would be. We’re situated between two shop structures that block most of the road noise.

The shop on the south side of us is a tall building and it also blocks us from direct sunlight. The temperatures have been colder than usual here – it only reached 64 degrees yesterday. Without direct sunlight, we needed to run the heat pumps most of the day. I’m thankful for the 50-amp power! But we’re in full water conservation mode.

Our site at RV Renovators

The tall shop next to us also blocks our satellite antenna – so no TV programs for the duration.

Jim, our service advisor, compared the damage on the coach to the estimate provided by our insurance adjuster. He had an expert in fiberglass repair named Levi look at the areas of damage. We all agreed that the insurance estimate was inadequate and a supplement will need to filed. Levi says the only way to correctly repair the damage on the living room slide is to remove the old fiberglass laminate and completely replace the entire wall.

This is a lot of work. It will take time. One of the reasons I chose RV Renovators for the repair is their experience with extensive fiberglass work. They have the panels needed to make the repair in stock, so we won’t have to wait for parts to be ordered. The insurance supplement is the hang-up at this point.

Our insurance is through Nationwide. Their offices are located in Dublin, Ohio. I’m hoping they are on the ball and don’t leave us hanging for too long. The insurance adjuster thought we needed a week to get the work done. Jim at RV Renovators thought it would take two weeks. Now Levi says it will more likely take three weeks.

I anticipated this and held off on making any reservations for a place for us to stay until I’m certain of how long we’ll be sitting here. Finding a site in the Phoenix area in February can be a challenge, but we’ll worry about that when the time comes.

Donna spent the day writing articles – she has several assignments to keep her busy for a while. She did get out for a walk on the nearby Consolidated Canal Trail. Though her foot is still bruised from her fall playing pickleball last week, the swelling is going down and she managed to walk nearly 3 miles without any discomfort. While she was out walking, I rode the Spyder over to Lucky Lou’s and found my friends Leendert, John and Stan there. I’ll probably head over there again this afternoon and likely find Mike Hall and his wife Jodi there.

The weather forecast is not promising. We’ll hit the mid-60s today but if the weather guessers are right, we won’t see 60 again in the next seven days. It will be cold and wet over the weekend.


Dinner in the Desert

After 94 days in San Diego, it was time to move on. I began preparations Saturday morning. The rainy weather finally abated, giving me an opportunity to pack everything in dry conditions. Our neighbors, Hans and Lisa, helped me out. We loaded the Traeger smoker/grill and Weber Q in the back of their truck and they dropped me off at the trailer on their way out of the park. This was a great help as dragging the grills out to the overflow lot isn’t fun.

I watched the NFL divisional playoff games in the afternoon. During halftime and between games I was able to get the rest of our outdoor gear packed and stowed the windshield cover.

Sunday morning I filled our freshwater tank and dumped and flushed the holding tanks – that’s how I like to roll. You never know what might happen out on the road, so having plenty of fresh water and empty holding tanks gives me peace of mind. We had the trailer hooked up and hit the road around 9:45am.

We made the familiar run on I-8 east over the Laguna Summit. There are three summits on this route – all of them over 4,000 feet above sea level. This is a significant climb – we started out only a few feet above sea level at Mission Bay. When we drove over passes in the Rocky Mountains that exceeded 9,000 feet above sea level, the elevation change was about the same because the high plains around the Rockies are about 5,000 feet or more above sea level. So, if you start at 5,000 feet and climb to 9,000 feet, you’ve achieved about 4,000 feet of elevation change.

The main difference is the thinner air at those high elevations – engines produce less power in the thin atmosphere. When we stopped at the Buckman Springs rest area near the Laguna Summit, Donna found the elevation change had an effect on her new pantry containers. The lids were sealed when we were at sea level. On top of the mountains, the pressure differential in the sealed containers versus the atmosphere caused the lids to pop off.

As we proceeded east in the desert past El Centro I noticed a column of smoke rising to the south of us. I was puzzled by it. This area, southwest of the Imperial Dunes, is barren desert. The smoke column was huge – it would take a fire bigger than a football field to create such a column of smoke. Donna shot a picture of it through the windshield.

Puzzling smoke column

Later I looked online for any news of a fire or explosion or anything that would have created this and found nothing. Distances over the flat desert can be deceiving – it may have originated in Mexico as we were near the border.

Our destination for the day was near our usual stop on BLM land east of Imperial Dunes. We usually go to a place that has free dispersed camping and set up by a rock garden that someone created in the desert. This time were going to a different spot. We planned to meet up with Jeff and Deb Spencer (Rolling Recess). They were camped on the BLM land a few miles from our usual spot and we were able to find their rig.

I usually park at least a quarter of mile away from other RVers when we’re in this area. However, this time our plan was to join Jeff and Deb for dinner so we parked near their fifth-wheel trailer. They were out when we arrived – they had spent the day in Algodones, Mexico.

This is a very quiet spot with nice desert views. The sunsets and sunrises in the desert can be spectacular.

View from our doorstep

We set up around 1pm and I tuned in the satellite dish to watch two more NFL playoff games. The games on Saturday were a bit lopsided. Sunday’s games were the opposite with close battles decided on the final plays.

Jeff and Deb came over to our coach for dinner. Deb brought a flavorful bean and chicken soup. Donna made a spinach salad with a horseradish dressing. It was excellent fare and we enjoyed the conversation – although I was somewhat distracted at times by the football game on TV.

I usually rave about the beers brewed in San Diego – particularly the IPAs. I had one called Mongo from Port Brewing and have to admit it disappointed me. The balance was off, it was too bitter and piney. I guess they can’t all be winners on my palate.

Piney IPA

Jeff told us the story behind a little memorial monument under the desert scrub trees by our site.


It was made by a guy that had camped here with his 15-year-old dog. The dog ran off into the desert chasing deer and never came back.

Jeff and Deb had recently camped near Ajo, Arizona. Jeff told us about memorials found in the desert there – they marked places where illegal immigrants perished in harsh desert. While they were there they saw illegals and drug smugglers in the early morning hours crossing the desert.

The camp host at one place they stayed at would leave bottled water out overnight for the illegals. But she also notified the Border Patrol when they took the water. There’s more activity along the Mexican border than many people realize.

Today we’ll move on to Mesa, Arizona. I plan to drop our trailer at our friend, Mike Hall’s house. Then we’ll take the coach to RV Renovators on Main Street. Hopefully they can repair the damage caused the by the encounter with the suicidal buck in Idaho without too much of a delay. They estimated about two weeks to get the work done. We’ll see how that works out.


Unlucky Day

Today is Friday the 13th. Superstition says this is an unlucky day and bad things happen. Well, Donna jumped the gun on that. Yesterday we went to Pacific Beach Recreation Center to play pickleball. We played for a couple of hours. In our last game, Donna was playing on the court next to the one I was on. I heard her fall as she scrambled to get a ball that went deep in the corner of the court.

She stayed down, holding her right ankle. She said she heard a pop as her foot rolled under, hyper-extending the lateral joint. Her partner in the game went to the office immediately and retrieved cold packs. One of her opponents in the game happened to be a medical doctor – his name is Gresham. His thought there was ligament damage, not a break.

Luckily we had Sini’s car since she had the left the RV park the day before and wasn’t due to return until the afternoon. Another guy helped me get Donna to the car. We came home and she stretched out on the sofa with her knee elevated above her heart and her ankle above the knee – we accomplished this with a stack of pillows. She spent the rest of the day icing the ankle – 20 minutes on ice, then twenty minutes off. She also took ibuprofen. This is what Gresham recommended.

I’m happy to report she’s doing much better this morning and can walk, albeit gingerly. Yesterday she couldn’t bear any weight on her ankle at all.

I mentioned Sini leaving the park for a day. She drove up to Temecula with her son, Beau. They stayed overnight at the Pechanga Casino. She encountered heavy rain and wind on the trip – about 60 miles each way – but came through fine. It was her first solo experience driving her motorhome.

The rain had us hunkered down for the past two days. It looks like we should be in for dry weather through the weekend although there is still a 20% chance of rain. I’m keeping my fingers crossed as I need to get ready for the road and I’d like to have everything dry before I pack it up.

Our plan is to drive I-8 east almost to Yuma on Sunday. We’ll boondock overnight in the desert with our friends, Jeff and Deb Spencer (Rolling Recess) – they’re already there. We last saw them in Las Vegas last spring.

That’s one of the great things about the full-time RV community. We make new friends and keep up with each other via Facebook or blogs and then we meet up whenever we find ourselves in the same area.

I’m hoping to get a fairly early start on Sunday so I can be set up in time to watch the Green Bay vs Dallas NFL playoff game.


Enormous Pot Pie

The weather remains a topic of discussion as we’ve had more wet days again this week. Three quarters of an inch of rain fell in the last seven days. On average, January is the second wettest month in San Diego with a total of two inches of rain. We’re well on our way to exceed that average. February is the wettest month with an average rainfall of two and half inches.

We had some rain Monday morning, but it cleared up in the afternoon. I borrowed Sini’s car and drove over to Dan Diego’s for a cold one with the guys around 4pm. The parking lot at Dan Diego’s was empty and the sign by the door said “Closed.” I knew they changed their hours after the New Year, but I didn’t remember them closing on Mondays.

I went down the street to the Offshore Tavern and Grill and saw the guys at the bar there. I mentioned Dan Diego’s being closed and they told me that was news to them, they were about to go there. I looked up Dan Diego’s hours on my phone and it showed it open at 3:30pm on Mondays. I called Dan Diego’s and the owner, Ryan, answered. I asked him if he was open – he said, “Yeah, but the place is empty.” I told him he should check his sign! We went to Dan Diego’s for a cold one before the Alabama vs Clemson NCAA National Championship game.

I came home and tuned in the game at 5pm. Donna went out for dinner with her sister, Sheila and her nephew Connor. They went to Sushi Ota – where they serve the best sushi I’ve ever had. Donna brought home a spicy tuna roll and some nigiri for me – yummy!

As our time here is winding down, I’m looking forward to dry, sunny days in the forecast ahead, beginning Friday. I’ll need to organize the trailer and move things like our folding chairs, Weber grill and Traeger smoker/grill over to the trailer. Here at Mission Bay RV Resort, we have to leave our trailer in the overflow lot outside of the RV park.

Donna reorganized an overhead bin in the coach where she stores snacks. She used to have opaque plastic containers with lids that snap on and off. She labeled the containers so we would know what’s inside. The thing is, the labels are pretty generic and we would often forget about a particular snack inside.

Old container with generic label

She found a set of Oxo clear plastic containers with pop-up lids at Costco. She moved the snacks into these containers and now we can see at a glance what we have on hand. She’s planning to go back and get two more sets for other pantry items!

Clear Oxo containers

I repurposed the old opaque containers and used them to organize some odds and ends in one of the basement compartments. I had a few loose bicycle tools and lubes. Now instead of digging around in the compartment to find things, I can just pull out the container.

Tuesday, Donna and I went to Pacific Beach Recreation Center and played pickleball for a couple of hours. I’m going to miss the pickleball and the people we’ve made friends with at the rec center over the last three winters. We’ll find pickleball courts in Mesa, Arizona – our next destination.

On Tuesday evening, Donna cooked a chicken pot pie that she bought at Costco. Like almost everything at Costco, this was the biggest pot pie I’ve ever seen – it was over five pounds! We invited Tom and Kris Downey over to join us for dinner – they were the ones who told us about the pot pies made fresh at Costco. The four of us ate about two thirds of the pot pie – we have about two servings left over. It was tasty and I’m looking forward to reheating the leftovers for lunch!

Sini has to leave the RV park today. She’ll head up to Temecula with her son Beau. They plan to spend the night at a casino there and also visit an RV shop to get a quote on new flooring. She’ll be back tomorrow. This will be her first solo run. Although Beau is with her, he doesn’t have experience driving their 37-foot National Tradewinds motorhome. I’m sure she’ll be fine.

Speaking of returning, I posted earlier about the neighbor who left her bike in our site before Christmas. Her bike is still here. Yesterday I went to the office and asked if they could look up the person that was in site 114 and left on December 22nd. I told them about the bike and said I was leaving on Sunday and needed to figure out what to do with the bike. I only knew the woman’s first name, Lindis. They remembered her and looked up her info. We learned that she came back to the RV park two days ago. I’ll clean and lube the chain on the bike – it’s rusty – and return it to her today.