Author Archives: Mike Kuper

Boat Club

We had a fun day on the bay Sunday. My friend from my high school days, Gary Stemple, invited me to go boating. He also said I could bring someone along, so I invited Sini to join us. Sini and I left Mission Bay RV Resort around 12:30pm and drove her car to the Dana Landing Marina which is centrally located on Mission Bay.

We went to the Freedom Boat Club where Gary has a membership. Freedom Boat Club is a boat sharing concept. To join, you pay a one-time membership fee and then pay monthly dues. They have a number of boats – fishing boats, ski boats, pleasure craft, etc. Members have unlimited access to their home fleet of boats – just reserve a boat and go. They have over a hundred locations in  24 states and British Columbia.

Gary and his friend Kirk, who is also a member of the boat club, met us there along with another friend, Howard. We took a boat designed for wake boarding and wake surfing out. Gary and Kirk are both experienced at wake surfing. The boat was an inboard design with a specially shaped hull and ballast tanks to enhance the wake it makes. There were two tanks, one on the starboard side and one on the port side.

Surfers use either a conventional stance with their left foot forward or what’s called a goofy foot stance with the right foot forward. Conventional surfers prefer to ride the wake on the left side of the boat. To enhance the left side wake, Kirk filled the left ballast tank with water as we cruised out on the bay. A pump filled the tank with bay water. This made the boat list to the left and created a wave-like wake on the left side. He also had us shift our positions in the boat to get the wake shape right.

The speed of the boat is a critical factor and the driver has to be precise with the speed. Kirk piloted the boat while Gary surfed and Gary drove while Kirk surfed. They set their speed to the tenth of a mile per hour – we usually ran around 10.5 to 10.9 mph.

Gary went first and started with the board on the fan tail of the boat. As we got up to speed, he put his weight to the rear of the board and slid off into the wake holding a short ski rope.

Gary getting started

Once the wake developed its shape, Gary shifted his weight on the board until he found the sweet spot, riding the wake and putting slack in the rope. Then he tossed the rope to me at the back of the boat and surfed the wake.

Surfing the wake

The water on the bay between Fiesta Island and Ski Island was choppy from all of the watercraft in the area. Gary was working hard to stay up on the board. After a while, we decided to move to another spot. We went to the area called Sail Bay and the water was smoother there. However, there were many sailboats, some participating in a race and we had to stay clear of them. The sailboats had the right of way.

Sailboats on the bay

They had an easier time wake surfing there and had some good rides. Sini and I passed on the opportunity to try out wake surfing – maybe if it was warmer and the water smoother we would give it a go. As it was, I was sure I would be cold and barely able to stay up on the board.

Kirk getting a good ride

Around 3:30pm, we quit wake surfing and took a leisurely cruise back to the marina. Boating is always a good time even if we’re just cruising the bay.

Sea World viewed from the water

Sini enjoying the sun and the boat ride

When I arrived back at home, I realized I was hungry. I ordered a pizza from Woodstock’s Pizza in Pacific Beach and it was delivered about half an hour later. I had an early dinner. I paired the pizza with an IPA from Stone that’s brewed with crushed tangerines and a touch of pineapple. It was tasty.

Stone Tangerine Express IPA

Yesterday’s high temperature only reached 71 degrees. The forecast calls for the upper 60s today. I’ll head over to the Ocean Beach Recreation Center and get some exercise on the pickleball courts.

Cadman Park Gang

I took a break from pickleball on Friday and took care of a few domestic chores. First of all, I dumped and flushed our holding tanks. I usually do this once a week when we’re on full hook-ups. Then I took care of house cleaning. Donna often says that when you live in 300 square feet of space, everywhere is a high traffic area. High traffic areas require frequent cleaning. I also cleaned out the shower drain and had the place ship-shape by noon.

My next task was adjusting the parking brake on the Spyder. As the brake pads wear and the parking brake cable stretches, it goes out of adjustment. With too much slack in the cable, it becomes difficult to get the brake to release once it’s applied. The procedure calls for tightening the adjusters until the brake applies, then backing off the adjustment lock nut four and a half turns. Sounds precise but it’s really only a guideline. It’s more of a trial and error process until you get it right.

Friday afternoon was warm – the temperature reached 84 degrees. Around 3pm, I rode the Spyder to CVS in Pacific Beach to pick up a couple of items. Although CVS is only a few miles from Mission Bay RV Resort, it was a tough ride. Traffic was backed up on Mission Bay Drive and barely moving. Grand Avenue wasn’t much better. It took me about 20 minutes to get to CVS. I planned to go to Offshore Tavern and Grill around 4pm for a cold one with the guys. I could see that getting out of Pacific Beach on Grand Avenue or Garnet Avenue would be slow going.

I took an alternate route that was much longer mileage-wise but ultimately I think it was quicker. I rode south on Ingraham Street to Sea World Drive, then hit Morena Boulevard and continued onward to Offshore Tavern and Grill. With Donna away visiting her parents in Vermont, I decided to take advantage of the happy hour pricing and ordered a poke plate for dinner. Poke (po-KEY) is cubes of sushi grade ahi tuna over chopped cabbage with green onions and Asian dressing. Fried wonton chips and avocado complete the dish. It’s delicious.

Poke plate

Saturday was another warm day with the temperature reaching the mid-80s. As I was getting ready to head over to Cadman Park for a get-together with old friends from my school days, Ozark was taking her usual mid-day nap on her bed attached to the living room window. With abundant sunshine, she needed to shield her eyes while she slept. She does this when it’s bright outside.

Ozark shielding her eyes while she naps

We had about a dozen people show up at Cadman Park. Someone was grilling burgers and we had snacks out. We stood around and talked over a couple of beers.

Some of the gang at Cadman Park

There were some people I haven’t seen in a few years and there were some I haven’t seen in decades – Mike McMahon, J D Mincey and John Drake. A little after 3pm, we moved the venue to the patio at Offshore Tavern and Grill and a few more people showed up. It was a fun time.

Party on at Offshore

I left before 5pm and came home to watch the Moto GP qualifying and Moto America races from Austin, Texas.

Today we have cooler weather. We may see 70 degrees, but it won’t be any warmer than that. I’m meeting up with Gary Stemple and a few friends at Dana Point around 1pm to go out on his boat for some wake boarding. Sounds like it’ll be another fun afternoon.

 

 

 

Indoor Pickleball

Donna took an Uber ride to the airport early Tuesday morning. She flew to Albany to spend a week with her parents in Bennington, Vermont. I’ve been going to the recreation centers in Ocean Beach (OB) and Pacific Beach (PB) to play pickleball. They play pickleball in OB on Monday, Wednesday and Friday starting at 10am. At the PB rec center they have pickleball on Tuesday and Thursday – again starting at 10am.

I love the game – if you want to learn more about pickleball you can find all of the rules at USAPA.org. Their website also has listings of places to play. While we were at ViewPoint RV and Golf Resort in Mesa, Arizona, I played three days a week in a round robin series for players that are 3.0 level and higher. Most of the players in the matches were 3.5 to 4.0 players. Pickleball has a rating system that sets criteria for skill levels ranging from 1.0 – beginner to 5.0 – expert.

Playing with and against higher level players really improved my game. My tactics and shot selection improved and team strategy developed. We played on outdoor courts. Here in San Diego, I play on indoor courts at the recreation centers.

As my skills have improved, I see a bigger difference in the outdoor game versus the indoor game. Outdoors you play with a ball designed for outdoor use. It has smaller holes than an indoor ball to minimize the effect of wind. It’s made of a harder material to cope with a paved court surface and it bounces higher than an indoor ball. Maybe it’s just a matter of the players’ skill I was playing with in Arizona, but it seems to me that the outdoor game is played with more finesse.

The usual strategy is to hit the serve deep, the returning player hits a deep return and immediately moves forward. The first two hits must bounce before they can be returned – then the ball can be struck in the air before it bounces as long as the player hitting the ball is at least seven feet back from the net. So, the best third shot is usually a drop shot that hits the opposing court less than seven feet past the net. What often follows is a “dink” game where each team hits the ball softly trying to keep it low and within seven feet of the net. Sooner or later someone makes a mistake and hits the ball too high or hard and the opponent pounces on the mistake.

Here in San Diego playing on indoor courts I find the game is played differently. The indoor balls have larger holes in them and are softer. They can be hit much harder without flying out of control. There’s also no wind to to adjust for. Most games feature very little dinking, it’s more of a slam fest. I’ve had to adjust my style of play, but I have to say I prefer the finesse of the outdoor game to the slam and jam style played here.

When I went to the PB rec center on Tuesday morning, I noticed a difference. It was brighter inside. They had sanded and refinished the flooring – the new finish was much lighter than the color of the previous finish. The old darker flooring contributed to the poor lighting making it difficult to see the ball – especially on the court on the north end of the floor. The new floor color reflects much more light – this is good and bad. The additional light makes it easier to see the ball when it’s in flight or coming off your opponent’s paddle – this is good. However, sometimes you can lose sight of the ball when it bounces or passes low over glare spots on the shiny floor.

New lighter, shiny floor – notice the glare spots

At the end of the game, it’s the same for everyone – the glare is hard for both sides. Outdoors you have to contend with the sun and wind and sometimes it’s worse on one side of the court.

Other than playing two and half hours of pickleball daily, I haven’t done anything too exciting this week. Tuesday morning, I was checking our batteries. For some reason our chassis batteries don’t receive a maintenance charge from the Echo Charger intermittently. I haven’t been able to pinpoint the cause – it happens every now and then. I put a trickle charger on the two 12-volt chassis batteries when the Echo Charger isn’t keeping them fully charged.

After I hooked up the trickle charger, I straightened up and did it again – bang. I hit my head on the bedroom slide out. Donna keeps saying I need to put foam protector over the sharp slide edge. I tried using a foam tube that’s made for pipe insulation, but I couldn’t keep it in place when the wind picked up. I need to figure out a way. I don’t want to tape it on, the adhesive wouldn’t be good for the paint.

Bang – I did it again

The weather has been beautiful – high temperatures around 70 with partly cloudy skies. The humidity over the past couple of days has been higher than usual. It’s gotten up to 60 or 70 percent. After months of dry desert climate with humidity levels around 15 percent, this feels extremely humid to me.

Easter Sunday on the Bay

Friday went pretty much as planned. We pulled out of our boondocking site near the Imperial Sand Dunes around 9:30am and headed west on I-8. There’s construction in progress on the interstate between Yuma and El Centro, but traffic was light and it didn’t slow us down much. I usually cruise at 60-62mph and we were able to maintain this speed most of the time.

We had a headwind as we crossed the desert. West of El Centro the elevation was zero – mean sea level. There’s a huge array of solar panels covering hundreds of acres with a huge transformer station on both sides of I-8 in the desert there. Near Ocotillo, there are wind generators on both sides of the interstate. This is where the climb up to Laguna Summit begins. There are three summits along the route – Tecate Divide, Crestwood Summit and Laguna Summit. All are over 4,000 feet above sea level.

Although we had a headwind, we were able to maintain a minimum speed of 50mph up the grade and the engine coolant temperature never exceeded 197 degrees. I was happy about that. We stopped and had lunch at the Buckman Springs Rest Area. This is located in a valley between the Crestwood Summit and the Laguna Summit and is a favorite stopping place for us. The exit to the rest area on the westbound side is poorly marked. There’s a sign advising “Rest Area one mile ahead” but the exit at Buckman Springs doesn’t have a Rest Area sign and you can’t see the rest area until you’ve passed it. If you are looking for a rest stop and aren’t familiar with the area, you could easily miss this one.

Getting back on the interstate, we had to merge into bumper-to-bumper traffic. There’s a Border Patrol checkpoint about a mile from the on ramp at Buckman Springs. Once again, we were waved through with no questions asked and got up to speed again.

We checked in at Mission Bay RV Resort in San Diego around 1pm. I had reserved our site here last November and paid a deposit. That locked in the price at $925/month. They’ve raised their rates since then – it’s now $1,085/month – it was $875/month when we started coming here four years ago. While I was checking in, the girl at he counter mentioned our trailer and overflow parking rent of $150/month. I told her we haven’t been charged for trailer parking here since those Dirty, Rotten Thieves stole our trailer from their lot. She looked up our account records and verified the information, but then she told me this will be our last free parking pass. So, next time we come here we will be paying a much higher price.

Although parking our coach at ViewPoint RV and Golf Resort in Mesa, AZ was difficult, the overall dimensions of the site were generous. We dropped our trailer on the concrete pad and had ample space between our coach and trailer to set up our awning mat, chairs and grills. Here at Mission Bay RV Resort, it’s a little more cozy. Our neighbor’s rig is closer to us than our trailer was at ViewPoint.

Neighbor close by

Our friend Sini Schmitt is three sites away from us. Sini came over and visited with Donna while I got us set up. Sini had friends coming down from Seattle and they planned to sightsee on Saturday. They used her friends’ rental car and Sini gave Donna the keys to her Saturn Vue. Donna took advantage of the car to get to her hair appointment, stock up on groceries and also visit her sister Sheila in Point Loma.

On Saturday evening, I grilled a pork tenderloin that Donna marinated in her mojo marinade for 36 hours. Twenty-two minutes on the grill had the internal temperature of the loin at 140 degrees – perfect.

Pork tenderloin with smashed potatoes and green beans

The RV park is nearly full with lots of young families and kids here for the Easter weekend. This is a big change from ViewPoint in Mesa, Arizona which is a 55+ park. Not many youngsters racing around on bikes and skateboards there. The weather all weekend was beautiful with highs around 70 degrees – it hit 74 on Sunday. The Easter crowds around Mission Bay Park were at summertime levels – lots of canopies, grills and volleyball games on the grass.

Donna is still trying to overcome a respiratory ailment but wanted to get some exercise on Sunday, so she walked to Trader Joe’s in Pacific Beach. It was about a five-mile round trip and she came home with a heavy load as she also stopped at Petco and bought a six-pound bag of cat food. I spent the morning watching the Formula One race from Bahrain.

Around noon, I got ambitious and pumped up the tires on my Specialized Crave mountain bike. It was breezy – I rode toward the ocean on the Bayside Walk right into a headwind. It was slow going. I kept at it and rode all the way to the boardwalk at the end of Pacific Beach Drive.

Easter Sunday and the boardwalk at the beach was crowded!

People on the boardwalk near the Surfer Hotel

Surfers in the water

The wind pushed me along on the ride back and I made good time. I stopped to shoot a couple of photos and still made it back in just 20 minutes.

A nice day to be on the bay

View from the pedestrian bridge over Rose Inlet looking toward Fiesta Island

For our Easter dinner on Sunday evening, I grilled salmon. I tried a different technique. Donna coated the salmon with olive oil on both sides and sprinkled it with salt and pepper. I also oiled the grill grates. I put the salmon skin side up on the hot grill for a few minutes, then turned it skin side down for a few more minutes on medium heat. It worked great! The fish doesn’t stick or flake when it it’s skin side up because it isn’t fully cooked yet.

Grilled salmon with orzo, spinach & feta salad

This morning I plan to head over to the Ocean Beach Recreation Center to play pickleball. Donna’s working on a article. Tomorrow Donna is flying to Albany, New York to visit her parents in Bennington, Vermont. Once again, I’ll be a bachelor for a week.

 

A Familiar Route

The final few days at ViewPoint RV and Golf Resort in Mesa, Arizona seemed to fly by. Actually, our two-month stay here seems to have gone by quickly – even more so for Donna since she was away for a girl’s week in Sedona. Our first month of the winter stay in Arizona dragged slowly – that’s because I was stranded in the parking lot of RV Renovators having repairs made. Donna was able to escape for week from there when she made a trip to Vieques.

On Monday, Donna joined me on the pickleball courts in the morning. This turned out to be not the best decision for her. Although she played fine, afterwards the congestion from the cold she’s been fighting returned big time. She took it easy and stayed home on Tuesday. I played for two and half hours that morning and again on Wednesday.

On Tuesday afternoon I started packing the trailer. I reorganized a few things and had it looking good. By Wednesday afternoon, I had most of the stuff stowed in the trailer, leaving only a few items for Thursday morning before we pulled out.  We went out for dinner at Roma Cafe Wednesday evening on Main Street in Mesa. Donna loves Italian food and she says it’s great to feed a cold.

I ran across one of my pet peeves when we arrived at Roma Cafe. Someone decided they were entitled to take two parking stalls – right at the entrance to the restaurant! What? I don’t understand behavior like this.

Nice parking job – but we got the Spyder in there

On Thursday morning, I put the windshield cover, awning mat and chairs away. Then I dumped and flushed the holding tanks. Then it was time to kick the tires and light the fires – we were pulling out. I thought I had a plan to get us out of the tight spot we were parked in. I wanted to pull straight across the street, then angle back and work my way to the left around the light post.

After a couple of moves, I could see this wasn’t going to work. Time for a new plan. I reversed the operation and worked the coach around the orange tree and irrigation line on the right side of the coach and pulled into the street in the opposite direction of my original intent. This was a time-consuming and painstaking process. When I finally got the coach safely into the street, I had to back into the pad to hook up the trailer – this wasn’t so easy either.

After nearly an hour of manueuvering to get out of our site and hooking up the trailer, I loaded the Spyder in it. We hit the road at 10:50am. The trip was a familiar one as we took the Loop 202 south and followed it west on the San Tan Freeway to I-10. I got off of I-10 at exit 164 and followed AZ347 through the town of Maricopa. Although Maricopa has grown and is beginning to sprawl, it cuts several miles off the drive to I-8 versus staying on I-10 and is a quicker route. We took AZ347 to AZ84 and merged onto I-8 west a few miles later.

We made our first stop around 12:30pm at exit 119 – the Butterfield Trail at Gila Bend. We often stop there for lunch at the Subway sandwich shop. It’s next to a truck stop that has ample parking in the rear and also has a free dump station and even RV hook-up sites in back – for a fee of course.

Great parking space behind Subway

We split the daily special foot-long sub and got back on the road. Droning along on I-8 isn’t the most exciting or scenic drive, but I don’t mind. It was getting warm – Donna had me turn on the generator and crank up the air conditioners. It was over 90 degrees out. Also, the wind was increasing – it was mostly a headwind but I had a few cross wind gusts to contend with. Our next stop was another familiar one – the Pilot/Flying J Travel Center at exit 12 – Fortuna Road in Yuma. I always top off the tank there before I enter California. I paid $2.54/gallon there for diesel fuel while the TruckMiles.com site shows the average diesel fuel cost in California is currently $2.93/gallon. Plus I have a harder time finding convenient truck stop locations in California.

A few miles after we crossed the Colorado River and were in California, we hit another familiar sight – the inspection station. This is where they usually question us about fresh fruits and vegetables onboard and ask us where we came from and where we are going. This time they just waved us through, no questions asked.

About 12 miles later we pulled off of I-8 and found our little piece of desert on BLM land in the Picacho Recreation Area. I think this is the eighth or ninth time we’ve stopped here for an overnight stay. We stop here when we’re east bound from San Diego and when we’re west bound from the Phoenix area. It’s a nice change of pace to boondock in a remote site without the distractions from sirens or helicopters and traffic racing through the streets of the city. Ironically, as I’m typing this, a formation of four helicopters – I think they were military MH6 Little Birds  – flew by!

Our little piece of the desert

The view from our doorstep

We don’t have another rig in sight. Donna spotted a large American flag to the northeast of us and took a walk toward it before dinner. It turned out to be just a flag pole and flag – no people or RV there. She also found a stack of pallets where someone had a bonfire but the site was empty.

The gusty winds continued through the night. It didn’t bother me but Donna said it kept her awake all night. This morning we have calm air here and clear skies. We’ll head out around 9am. Our only planned stop for the trip to Mission Bay will be at the Buckman Springs rest area in the Laguna Mountains – about 115 miles from here. It’s another place we always stop at – we’ll have lunch at one of the picnic tables there.

The weather forecast for San Diego looks great for next couple of weeks – high temperatures around 70 degrees and mostly sunny skies.

Ribs and Racing

Last week I played pickleball five days straight – I played for about two and half hours per day. Donna laid low getting over the cold she picked up while she was in Sedona. On Saturday, Donna borrowed a car from our friend Lana so she could take Ozark the cat to the vet. We suspected that she might have a tapeworm.

Before I dropped Donna off at Lana’s house we made a stop at Seńor Taco for an early lunch. This was our favorite taco shop when we lived in Mesa. They had a two fish taco plate on special for five bucks, including a 20-ounce drink.

Chipotle fish tacos

The tacos were huge and smothered with a chipotle sauce – tasty.

While Donna was out and about, I made a run to a well-known local butcher shop called Midwestern Meats on Main Street. They have high quality meats that are processed on site. We were having company for dinner on Sunday and I wanted to have another go at babyback ribs. The ribs at Midwestern Meats are not like the babybacks I typically find at the grocery store.

Most grocery stores have their babyback ribs delivered from a processing plant where they’re vacuum sealed. Midwestern cuts their own ribs fresh daily. They cut them differently from the mass production butchers. The ribs are meatier and most of the fat is carefully trimmed away.

Babyback ribs from Midwestern Meats

All I had to do was remove the membrane from the bone side of the rack of ribs.

Membrane on bone side

I dusted them with my rib rub which is three parts Pappy’s Choice seasoning and two parts Lambert’s Sweet Rub O’Mine.

Dry-rubbed racks of ribs

I wrapped them and put them in the refrigerator overnight and relaxed with a bottle of IPA Donna bought for me. It was one I hadn’t tried before called DFRNT IPA from Sonoran Brew Company – and it was different alright. Somehow they’ve managed to make a well-balanced brew at 6.2% ABV and only 42 IBUs. This seems like a low number of bittering units and suggests a lack of hops. However, the brew balances nicely and has adequate hoppiness without being over-the-top hoppy.

DFRNT IPA

Sunday was race day for me – I was a couch potato as I watched racing on TV most of the day. I started with the Formula One Grand Prix from Shanghai. It was an interesting race that started on a wet track that quickly dried. Then I watched the Moto GP race in Argentina. Another good one. Then in the afternoon I finished with the Indy Car race at Long Beach, California.

The Long Beach Grand Prix is run on a street course in downtown Long Beach. The first race there was in 1975. An Englishman named Chris Pook, who was running a travel agency in Long Beach, came up with the idea as the city was trying to gentrify and rebuild their image. He envisioned a Grand Prix featuring the best cars and racers in the world – Formula One – racing on the streets as they do in Monaco. The course would take the cars down Shoreline Drive past the iconic Queen Mary cruise ship.

Before the FIA would sanction a Formula One race, the city had to demonstrate its ability to actually operate as a race track. In September of 1975, they held a Formula 5000 race as the inaugural event. I went to that race with my friends Jim Birditt and Steve Drake.

Formula 5000 was chosen as it was a popular class in the USA – as well as in Britain and Australia – at the time. In the USA, the class was sanctioned by the SCCA and USAC. The rules called for an open wheel chassis powered by a stock block V8 engine of no more than 5000cc – five liters. The most popular engine for the class was the Chevy 302 cu. in. V8. The engines utilized mechanical fuel injection and produced plenty of torque and about 500 horsepower. In the lightweight chassis – about 1200 lbs total weight – they were beasts to drive as the tire technology back in the day could barely provide enough grip.

The race was fierce with many top drivers competing. Mario Andretti and Brian Redmond had quite the battle. Brian Redmond was the race winner after Mario Andretti retired with transmission problems. I was looking through a packet of old photos on Saturday when I found a program I had saved from that race in 1975.

Race program from 1975

In March of 1976, the first Formula One race was held at Long Beach. I was there for that one too. Clay Reggazoni won in a Ferrari 312T2 and his team mate Niki Lauda was second. I attended several of the eight Formula One races held there – I saw Gilles Villeneuve win in 1979. The final Formula One race at Long Beach was held in 1983 and I saw John Watson take the checkered flag after starting 22nd on the grid.

I put the babyback ribs on the Traeger wood pellet fired smoker/grill while the race was on TV. With the racks of ribs trimmed the way they were, I was little unsure of the cooking time. After about 140 minutes, I wrapped the ribs in foil and let them cook for another 40 minutes. They came out fine – I probably should have wrapped about 10 or 15 minutes earlier to retain more moisture.

Our friends Howard and Sara Graff joined us for cocktails and dinner along with their daughter, Kenna. Kenna enjoyed playing with Ozark the cat – thanks Kenna for wearing Ozark out – it made for a nice quiet night’s sleep for me! Sara brought home made cornbread and Donna served up green beans and garlic smashed potatoes with the ribs. I got so wrapped up in conversation and story telling that I neglected to take any photos of the group or dinner plate. I had a bottle of Sculpin IPA with the dinner and I have a photo of that though.

Sculpin IPA from Ballast Point in San Diego

This morning, Donna joined me on the pickleball courts and we played for two and half hours. Today was the first time I played without a bandaid on my left finger that I injured last week. It’s mending nicely.

Finger on the mend

We’re expecting a high temperature of 82 today and it will warm up to near 90 over the next two days. I’ll be busy getting the trailer squared away and preparing for our departure on Thursday.

And, oh, by the way, we’re not sure if Ozark had a tapeworm or not, but the vet treated her anyway as it wouldn’t hurt. She also got a rabies vaccination booster shot.

 

Prescription Runaround

In a previous post, I wrote about changes to our health care plan this year. My former employer quit offering group health insurance to retirees. Instead they funded a healthcare reimbursement account and I was on my own to find a plan on the healthcare exchange. The result was a plan that costs triple what I paid in 2016 and essentially leaves us self-insured for the first $13,100 – we’re really only covered for a catastrophic event.

Our previous health care coverage also included prescription medications under a plan through CVS-Caremark mail-order pharmacy. When I looked at the healthcare exchange, I wasn’t too thrilled with the prescription coverage and cost. I called CVS-Caremark to inquire about retaining the plan. I have a few medications that I take on a daily basis. CVS-Caremark told me there were no changes in my prescription plan, prescriptions would continue to be mailed every 90 days. Now that was good news.

In February, they mailed me my prescriptions. Then in March, they sent me an e-mail telling me that I was no longer enrolled in their plan, my previous employer had terminated the coverage. Now I had a problem. I already enrolled through the healthcare exchange and adding prescription coverage would be problematic.

After looking at a few options, I decided to buy my medications out-of-pocket through the AARP discount mail-order plan. I spoke with their customer service and was told I needed to download a form from their web site and send it in along with written prescriptions from my doctor to start the service.

I obtained the written prescriptions and completed the form – including credit card payment information and mailed it to them about 10 days ago. Yesterday I checked my account on their web site and no prescription order was showing. So, I called their customer service again. After the usual automated phone system runaround, I spoke to a representative.

When she found my information, she told me they had the paperwork and prescriptions but I hadn’t asked them to actually fill the prescriptions – what!? I had filled out their form completely and followed all of their instructions. Maybe it’s just me, but I figure that when I drop off a prescription at a drug store, it’s understood that I want the prescription filled. When I sent in the form including billing information it should be de facto evidence of me ordering the prescriptions. After more than 30 minutes of runaround, giving them all of the information that was on the form I sent in, she finally told me the order would be filled. I should expect the meds by April 13th. Whew!

A couple of hours later, my phone rang. I picked up the call and it was a recorded message from OptumRx – the supplier for the AARP discount plan – telling me there was a problem and I need to stay on the line for a representative. I was on the phone listening to their music and recorded messages for 20 minutes before a representative came on the line. She looked up my account and said she needed to verify some information.

We went over all of the same information that was on the form I sent in and also gave to the representative a couple of hours earlier. She put me on hold several times – once for 15 minutes. After 41 minutes on the phone, she told me she had everything she needed to fulfill my order – I hadn’t given her any new information at all, we just repeated everything they already had. After this call, I got a confirmation e-mail, so maybe that’s a good sign and things are moving along as they should. They also sent a link to complete a satisfaction survey. Oh boy – this will give an opportunity to tell them what I really think.

On Wednesday evening, Donna prepared some chicken breasts she bought at WinCo Foods. She spiced them with a green chile BBQ rub that she bought when we were in Taos, New Mexico. I cooked the chicken on the Traeger. About 15 minutes before I took them off the grill, I basted them with Pomegranate and Mango Chipotle Sauce. The combination was excellent, giving the chicken a spicy-sweet flavor.

Green Chile Spicy BBQ Rub

Pomegranate & Mango Chipotle Sauce

Chicken breasts hot off the Traeger

Donna served it with steamed asparagus and garlic smashed potatoes. Once again, I’m dining like a king! We sat outside and enjoyed the meal al fresco.

A meal fit for a king

Yesterday Donna joined me for pickleball in the morning. She took a fall in her first game and scraped her knee and shin. But she hung in there and we played several games. This morning I played again for the fourth straight day, but Donna woke up feeling a little punky with a sore throat, so she passed.

The temperature should reach the upper 80s today and tomorrow, so it looks like we’ll be running the air conditioners again.

Two-Digit Damage

I managed to check one item off of my “to do” list while Donna was away. I cleaned and treated the kitchen cabinets with Kramer’s Best Antique Improver. I love this product – it’s simple to use and provides a great looking finish that preserves the wood and and enhances the beauty. I just wipe it on with a clean cloth – it may take a few swipes on areas that are dirty – then wipe off the excess. Couldn’t be simpler and it makes our solid wood cabinetry look great.

I’ve been a little hard on my fingers lately. Last Friday I injured my ring finger on my right hand playing pickleball. I mishit a shot that came fast and hard and the ball struck my finger tip, cracking the finger nail down the right side. I put super glue on it to keep the finger nail intact until the damage grows out.

Cracked nail glued together

Monday morning I was surprised to find a dozen 3.0-3.5 players on the pickleball courts. We had some great games and I got my 10,000 steps in before lunch! We made plans to play again on Tuesday – a lot of the guys are leaving by the end of the week so I want to get as much playing time as I can get.

Monday evening I was watching the NCAA Basketball Championship on TV. I had a cold one on the counter behind the passenger seat. Ozark the cat jumped up on the counter and I saw my beer toppling off it. I reached out quickly with my left hand to catch it and I missed. I ended up jamming my left ring finger into the corner of the Karadon counter top and damaged my finger. The left side on my finger split and tore away from the nail. Super glue won’t help this time – it was a bloody mess.

You don’t want to see what’s under the bandaid

After the game, I was getting ready for bed. I saw lightning flashes to the north of us and a strong wind suddenly kicked up. Then when I climbed into bed I heard the sound of rain drumming on the roof. We had an unexpected squall and it rained hard for a few minutes. The wind was strong enough to rock the coach a few times. We didn’t have any warning of a strong storm.

Tuesday morning I played pickleball again. I left the courts by 9:30am – I wanted to get back to the coach and straighten things out a bit before Donna returned. On the way back, I saw a maintenance crew cleaning up some storm damage. The sheet metal roof on a canopy next to the maintenance building had blown off. The sheet metal traveled to a park model where part of it ended up on the park model roof. Another piece of the sheet metal went through a window on the home and another piece damaged a car. Like I said – there was some strong wind!

Maintenance crew cleaning up storm damage

As I was walking down our lane, I saw Donna drive up in her rental car. She came home from her trip to Sedona earlier than I expected. Oh well, our coach wasn’t too messy – I’ve kept up on dishes and cleaning. I wanted to clean out the cat litter box and do a little straightening before she got back though.

It’s still breezy this morning – the forecast calls for the wind to diminish this afternoon. The temperature should hit the upper-70s today and tomorrow, then it’ll warm up to the upper 80s.

 

*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!

Canadians Heading Home

Friday was the last day of March – hard to believe we are already into the fourth month of 2017. It was also a milestone for ViewPoint RV and Golf Resort. The majority of the people spending the winter months here are from Canada. As Canadian citizens, they’re limited to a total of 182 days in the USA during a 12-month period. A lot of the Canadians leave at the end of March and go back to Canada to avoid issues regarding taxation also maintain their health insurance coverage.

On Wednesday we had 22 players in the 3.0-3.5 level round robin pickleball match. On Friday we only had six players! I’m wondering if there will be enough players left in the park to play this week.

Our stay is coming to an end here. Looking at my reservations, I see I made a mistake. I had us booked here until Friday, April 14th. I also have a reservation to return to Mission Bay RV Resort in San Diego on Friday, April 14th. Although the distance is about 380 miles, it takes over six hours in the coach. I don’t like to make the drive in one day and enter the park and set up after a long, tiring day behind the wheel. We usually make a stop overnight in the desert west of Yuma, then we have a leisurely three-hour drive to San Diego and can set up after lunch. So, I think we’ll check out of here a day early and hit the road on Thursday, April 13th.

I’ve been meaning to cook babyback ribs in the Traeger and have friends over. Although Donna is away right now, we only have a couple of weekends left here. I decided to invite Mike and Jodi Hall and a couple of others over on Saturday to try my ribs. We’ll do it again with other friends when Donna’s here.

Mike and Jodi showed up with their granddaughter Swayzie around 5pm. Ray Laehu wasn’t feeling well and backed out, so we had a small party. Mike and Jodi brought a macaroni salad and slaw to go with the ribs. I dry-rubbed the ribs Memphis style – that’s the way I always prepare babyback ribs. I know I’ve covered the preparation of ribs before but I’ll go over what I did again. First, I removed the membrane on the bone side of the babybacks. This membrane is tough and also prevents the salts in the dry rub from penetrating the meat.

To remove the membrane, I start in the middle of the rack and use a regular table knife to separate it from the bone – you don’t want use a sharp knife, it’ll just cut through the membrane. Then I grab the membrane with a paper towel and pull it away from the rack. Then I’m ready to spice it with my dry rub mix. I did this Friday night and wrapped the ribs and refrigerated them. On Saturday afternoon, I cooked the ribs bone side down on the Traeger with the temperature set at 300 degrees – this results in an average pit temperature of about 265 degrees. After cooking for two hours, I wrapped the ribs in aluminum foil and put them back in the Traeger with the temperature set to 180 degrees. About 45 or 50 minutes later I took the ribs out and let them rest for a while before I removed the foil.

Babyback ribs ready to serve

Mike brought a couple of interesting beers to go with the barbeque. He brought a couple of limited releases from Lagunitas Brewing in Petaluma, California. One was a strong ale called Undercover Investigation Shut Down – a long name for a 9.6% ABV strong ale. It was obviously a high gravity ale and little heavy on the palette but worked well with the ribs. The other beer was called Aunt Sally – it’s described as a dry hopped, sweet tart, sour mash ale. I loved it – it tasted like a bourbon barrel- aged ale and was very drinkable at 5.6% ABV.

Interesting ales from Lagunitas

Although the thermometer read 70 degrees, it was breezy and felt much cooler in the late afternoon. We all put on sweatshirts or jackets and little Swayzie needed a blanket.

Swayzie bundled up

We’ll be pulling out of here in about 10 days. I’m starting to think about how I’ll get us out of our site. It’s going to be a challenge and I expect it to take a lot of maneuvering. We have obstacles – on the driver’s side there’s a lamp post only 26 inches from the side of the coach. On the passenger side there’s an orange tree with a sprinkler head 21 inches from the coach.

It’s a tight maneuver to get out of here

Additionally we have a permanent park model dwelling across the street from us. The street is only 27 feet wide – our coach is 40 feet long.

The street in front of the coach

I’ll take my time and hopefully come up with a good exit plan over the next week and a half.

The weather forecast looks good with high temperatures in the upper-70s and low-80s over the next few days before it warms up by the weekend. Donna will return from her girls week in Sedona on Tuesday.

 

Girl’s Week in Sedona

I haven’t posted for a few days – mainly because nothing remarkable has happened since we went to the Arizona Renaissance Festival. It’s been pretty routine around here. This tends to happen when we spend two or more months in one location.

Yesterday the routine was broken. I took Donna on the Spyder to the Budget Rent-A-Car location at Superstition Springs Mall. She picked up a car and drove it back to our site where she loaded up her bags. She was off for a girls week-long adventure. Her friend from her college days, Lynne Ogren, flew in from Albany, New York. Donna picked her up at Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix and they drove up to Sedona.

They booked a room in Sedona and plan to explore the area and spend a day sightseeing at the Grand Canyon National Park.  Sedona is a small city of about 10,000 people located south of Flagstaff, Arizona. The area is known for it’s natural beauty with red sandstone rock formations – it’s called the Schnebly Hill Formation. The elevation there is 4,326 feet above sea level and the temperatures are generally about 10 to 15 degrees cooler than here in the Phoenix area. I’m sure they’ll have a great time.

Meanwhile, I’m a bachelor once again – this time for one week. Donna will return next Tuesday. I’ll probably stick to my routine of pickleball in the mornings and happy hour meet-ups with friends. I don’t cook like Donna, so I can see pot pies and pizza on the dinner menu.

We’ll be hitting the road in about two and half weeks, so I need to start straightening up and organizing the trailer. I’m starting to feel the hitch itch and I’ll be ready to hit the road again. Although we were surprised with an overnight rain shower Monday night, there’s no rain the forecast for next couple of weeks. A cold front will move through on Friday dropping the high for the day into the upper-60s. The rest of the days look to be in the 80s.