Category Archives: Beer

Snow Birds

We have a variety of birds visiting our site at Viewpoint Golf and RV Resort in Mesa, Arizona. Snowbirds aren’t just people from the north wintering here – a lot of real birds also come to the southwest for the nice winter weather. We set up a hummingbird feeder with a suction cup on our living room window. It soon attracted a number of hummingbirds that visit throughout the day.

Before long we noticed other birds also came to the feeder. I’m guessing they’re attracted to the smell of the sweet nectar. We had finches perching on the feeder and I even saw a woodpecker – I’m pretty sure it was a gila woodpecker – drinking the nectar from the feeder. This prompted Donna to suggest setting up our finch feeder.

The finch feeder is a wooden tube with a mesh sock hanging from the bottom. I filled it with nyger seed. Nyger is also spelled niger and sometimes it’s called thistle. It doesn’t come from a thistle plant though, it’s the seed of the African yellow daisy. It’s grown in Africa and parts of India and is also used in local cuisine there. The name niger comes from it’s origin in Nigeria. In 1998 the wild bird food industry trademarked the name nyger. It’s a favorite food for finches and other birds feed on it too. Finches can live on it exclusively and the high fat and protein content help them get through cold winter nights.

Finch feeder

Now we have finches and sparrows in the orange tree on our site flitting back and forth from the feeder and tree. Some of nyger seed falls to the ground and in the late afternoon quail come to our site and pick at it. It’s fun to watch the birds.

Wednesday evening our friends Joel and Lana picked us for happy hour and dinner at The Hub Grill and Bar down on Baseline Road at Sossaman – a few miles from here. The food is good and they have a wide variety of beers on tap. We came here once before with our friends, Hans and Lisa. I had the pot roast sandwich – it’s a mid-western take on a French dip. It has sliced pot roast beef on a hoagie roll with mozarella and is served with a bowl of brown gravy for dipping instead of aus jus. It was tasty and I brought half of it home.

We came home early. Donna had already packed for her trip to Florida but had to be up early for her flight. She was heading to Miami to meet up with her brother and his family. He rented a place in Miami to celebrate his birthday and get away from the cold weather in Philadelphia for a month. It turns out Donna had to pack some cool weather clothing – they’re having unseasonably cold weather there, but it should warm up over the weekend. Meanwhile, we’re having great weather here in Mesa.

I didn’t sleep well Wednesday night and Donna was up at 4:30am. I got out of bed to see her off – I’ll be fending for myself for the next six days. I didn’t take much advantage of the nice weather on Thursday – I mostly read and napped, then met the guys for a happy hour beer at Lucky Lou’s. The temperature reached 77 degrees.

This morning I played pickleball for a couple of hours and I’m looking forward to another day of abundant sunshine and mid-70s temperatures.

The Social Side of RVing

We’re down to the last few days of this stay in San Diego. I was reflecting on our time here and thinking about how social the RV lifestyle is for us. Here at Mission Bay RV Resort, we’ve made several friends over the past four years and we enjoy meeting up with them again when our stays here coincide.

This year we made new friends with our neighbor from Louisiana, Larry and his wife Brenda. Last week Brenda made a big pot of shrimp gumbo and rice. Donna made up a loaf of garlic bread. They invited us along with neighbors from Canada, Brad and Karen, for drinks and dinner. Sini and Bill came too. We sat outside by Larry’s propane fire pit and dined. Then we had a few cocktails and told each other stories until 10pm. It was a fun time.

The other social aspect of this lifestyle comes from playing pickleball. We meet the some of the nicest people on the pickleball courts and make friends. Here in San Diego I’ve played for several months every year at the Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach recreation centers. Year after year, I see many of the same people on the courts and they remember us from our last stay.

Since I grew up here, I also have some friends in the area from my school days. It’s always fun to get together with some of the old gang for a few laughs. Then, there are the Bay Park guys that I meet for a happy hour beer or two at Offshore Tavern and Grill or Dan Diego’s a few times a week.

I’m more socially active as a full-timer than ever. When we leave here, our next extended stay will be in Mesa, Arizona. Donna and I used to live there and we have friends in the area. We’ll stay at Viewpoint RV & Golf Resort again and I’m sure we’ll meet up with some the same people that were there last winter. We also play pickleball there – they have five courts in the park.

In Mesa, I also have a group of friends that I often meet up with for a happy hour beer or two at Lucky Lou’s or Red, White and Brew. Although we enjoy exploring new places, it’s sometimes nice to have happy hour where people know your name.

We borrowed Sini’s car on Saturday and drove up to see my stepdad in Menifee. After lunch at his local Chinese restaurant, we headed back. I wanted to be back in plenty of time for the Saturday night football game.

On Sunday, Donna again borrowed Sini’s car to meet our granddaughter, Lainey, at San Diego State University. As much as she’s loved being in school here, she’s decided to change her major and won’t be able to do so at SDSU. She’s planning to take some community college classes this next semester and figure out her next move. She asked Donna if she had any ideas about how to get her stuff home to Washington. Donna found Busfreighter, a service that uses Greyhound to get boxes from point A to B for a lot less than it would cost to ship them. After dropping off Lainey’s boxes, the girls headed out to Coronado Island to have lunch at the Hotel Del Coronado and go ice skating.

Lainey – in the gray sweater – skating at the Hotel Del Coronado

Our plan is to pull out of Mission Bay RV Resort before noon Wednesday. We’ll head east and boondock for a night in the quiet desert near the Arizona border, then reach Mesa on Thursday. We reserved three months there – it’s great place to be in the winter!

Tomorrow I’ll get the trailer ready for travel, pack the tire covers and windshield covers. Then I’ll check and adjust tire pressures on the coach and trailer. The forecast looks good tomorrow – upper 60s. Wednesday is supposed to be cooler with a chance of rain. With any luck, we’ll pull out here ahead of the rain.

Stub Hub Bus

Sini let us use her car on Saturday morning to start a fun-filled weekend. Donna and I drove up to San Diego State University and picked up Lainey, our granddaughter. The next stop was in the Little Italy district downtown where we hit the farmers’ market. We browsed through the vendor stalls and made a couple of purchases. We ran into our friends, Hans and Lisa there (Metamorphosis Road).

Then we drove down the waterfront to Seaport Village. There are a number of shops, restaurants and a fresh seafood market there. We walked out on the G Street pier to check out the fresh caught fish. We found a burned wreck of a fishing vessel. I remembered reading something about a fishing boat that burned near downtown – it produced so much smoke that some businesses had to close.

The blaze started on Friday, September 30th. The 120-foot fishing boat, Norton Sound, was docked at the G Street pier when it caught fire. The boat burned for a couple of days before the fire was under control, despite the efforts of the San Diego Firefighters and Harbor Police which involved pumping 2,000 gallons of water per minute onto the boat and pier. The blaze reached a temperature of 2,500 degrees and the steel superstructure melted.

Burned and melted Norton Sound

No one was on board at the time and the cause of the fire is undetermined. The ship once belonged to the Norton Sound Seafood Company, but is now owned by three residents of Mexico. It took three days to bring the temperature on board down to 100 degrees. The boat remains docked at the G Street pier and I don’t know what the final disposition of it will be.

View of the USS Midway from the G Street pier

We had lunch at the San Diego Pier Cafe – it’s a nice cafe built on pilings right on the water.

Lainey, me and Donna at Seaport Village

We drove Lainey back to the campus and had a tour of her dormitory. It’s an interesting set-up. She shares a room with two roommates and the common area – bathroom and kitchen – is shared with five others in the suite of rooms.

On Sunday morning, I was up early. My friend, Gary Stemple, is a Chargers season ticket holder although the team has left San Diego. He invited me to join him for the game against Buffalo at the Stub Hub Center. This stadium is located on the California State University Dominguez Hills campus in Carson, California – up in Los Angeles County about 100 miles from San Diego. There are multiple facilities at the center including a velodrome, tennis arena and soccer stadium. The Chargers play in the soccer stadium.

Sunday morning sunrise behind the mesa over De Anza Cove

We met up before 7am at the Old Town Transit Center. It was a nine dollar Lyft ride from the RV park. At the transit center, we boarded a bus chartered by the 5 North Bolt company – they are a tour bus company that provides transportation to Chargers home games and they also host a tailgate party. The bus we were on was one of two buses leaving Old Town at 7:30am. There were only 15 people on our bus which could accommodate more than 50 people. We made a stop in Oceanside and picked up more passengers.

They served drinks – cocktails like Bloody Marys and mimosas and craft beer from Mike Hess Brewing in San Diego. It seemed like most of the people on the bus were season ticket holders and were regulars on the tour bus. It was fun meeting and talking to people.

Young Chargers fan on the bus

We made another stop in Costa Mesa where we picked up more people and they loaded food for the tailgate party from Hooters. The bus ride including drinks, food and a bathroom on board costs 80 dollars. We also had a fun raffle for Chargers gear in Costa Mesa.

The atmosphere at the tailgate area of Stub Hub Center was different from what I’d experienced in San Diego. At Stub Hub, they confine all of the tailgating to one fairly small area. Everyone is packed together and there were competing sound systems. Parking in the tailgate section costs $100 per event! Some of the people had elaborate bar set-ups they brought in pick-up trucks.

Thunder Alley tail gate area

5 North Bolt had a canopy and tables set with food and drinks. Everyone on the bus was given wrist bands to show for food and drink.

Sliders from Hooters

It was a fun time and everyone was really friendly. I met a guy from up in the San Fernando Valley. I asked him how a guy from the valley became a Chargers fan. He told me his family were Raiders fans. He went to one game in Oakland and said it was scary. Then he went to a Raiders game when they played in San Diego. He said it was so much fun, the people were friendly and there were pretty women all over the stadium. That won him over as a Chargers fan.

Gary and I walked to the tennis arena where another tailgate session was in progress. To be honest, I don’t know how we got in to this party. Gary checked us in at a table near the entrance and we were given another wristband.

Gary heading down to another tailgate party

They had a group of drummers performing and of course, more beer.

Group of drummers

We met some people where we shared a table. One guy was there for his first NFL football game.

Gary with new friends from San Fernando

We finally made our way to our seats in the south end zone just before kick-off. Stub Hub Center is a relatively small venue – it seats about 27,000 people in the stadium. We were seated close to the field next to the tunnel from the locker rooms.

View from our seats at the stadium

Inexplicably, the Buffalo Bills benched their regular quarterback and started a rookie with only about 4 minutes of previous regular season playing time. The Chargers defense stymied him and intercepted five of his 14 first-half passes. At half time, the Chargers were up 37-7. The final score was a blowout – Chargers 54, Buffalo 24.

I snoozed on most of the bus ride back to Old Town. Gary and I shared a Lyft ride and I was dropped off at the Mission Bay RV Resort. I had more than my fill of fun and beer and plan to lie low today.

Lazing on a Sunny Afternoon

Here we are at the end of another week already. The time just flies by here at Mission Bay RV Resort. Donna is staying busy with her early morning workouts and putting in time at her computer getting writing assignments done. I spend about two or three hours a day on the pickleball courts at Pacific Beach Recreation Center or Ocean Beach Recreation Center. This usually wears me out and I come home and relax with a book and maybe take a short nap after lunch.

We started the week with Donna grilling a pork tenderloin on the Weber Q. Donna likes grilling on the Weber Q2200 – it used to be strictly my domain. She put together a nice presentation with a medley of pork medallions and yam slices, served with spaghetti squash on the side.

Pork tenderloin medallions and sliced yam

She also picked up a nice IPA bomber bottle for me made by Mission Brewery here in San Diego. Mission is a well established brewery near Petco Park. New breweries keep popping up in the county – I read an article that stated there are now about 150 breweries in San Diego county. There are a lot of people in California, but I have to wonder how many breweries are sustainable.

Mission Brewery IPA

Tuesday evening we rode with Sini to our friend Mona’s house for dinner. We met Mona’s friend, Dan. Dan made a big spaghetti dinner. He’s also a pickleball player and we talked about the game. It was an enjoyable evening and dinner. He made it to OBRC on Wednesday and we played a couple of games together. Donna played on Wednesday as well.

Donna and Sini preparing a salad at Mona’s house

With all this playing and lazing around, my “to do” list is growing.  Wednesday I knocked one item off the list.  Donna mentioned that the dryer seemed to be taking a long time to dry clothes. I pulled everything out of the utility closet and cleaned the dryer vent hose. Over time, lint builds up and impedes the flow of air through the dryer.

Dryer vent hose

Next on the list is to fix the Fantastic Fans. Both vent fans quit working. They are on a common circuit so I’ll start by going to the fuse panel. I also need to replace the rear brake pads on the Spyder. I ordered new brake pads and picked them up at Fun Bike Center in Kearny Mesa yesterday.

On the way back from Kearny Mesa, I made the usual Thursday afternoon happy hour stop at Dan Diego’s. Here’s another colorful sunset photo from the parking lot at Dan Diego’s.

Sunset over the bay

The weather has been pleasant – partly cloudy with highs in the low to mid 70s. The week ahead is forecast to be slightly cooler with upper 60s to low 70s. I’m not complaining though.

 

A Great Find at the Mercado

We’ve settled in quickly here at Mission Bay RV Resort. We had a few San Diego favorites on our list to hit and we started in right away.

On Friday evening, Donna and I headed over to Offshore Tavern and Grill for happy hour. But our real reason for going there was to have their poke plate for dinner. Poke (poh-key) is diced sushi grade tuna over a cabbage salad served with fried won-ton chips. Donna had poke on her mind for a while and couldn’t wait to get it at Offshore where they make an excellent version of this Hawaiian dish.

Poke plate

On Saturday morning, we rode the Spyder downtown to the mercado (farmers’ market) on Cedar Street in Little Italy. This farmers’ market is a favorite of ours.

The mercado

The street market covers about four blocks and has a great selection of local produce, meats and crafts. Donna was on a mission and bought several items including a dry mole salami that wasn’t local – it came from Salumi Artisan Cured Meats – a Seattle market founded by Armandino Batali, father of famed chef Mario Batali. The mole salami is amazing. Sliced thin, it’s somewhat chewy and the flavors morph from chocolate to cinnamon to clove and other flavors that I can’t adequately describe.

After we returned from the market, I took the Spyder to Pacific Beach for a much-needed wash. There’s a self-serve car wash on Garnet Avenue that I like and the Spyder is shining once again. I also ordered air and oil filters so I can service the Spyder – it’s due. We both spent a lot of time online ordering things we’ve been wanting but haven’t had to opportunity to get. We haven’t been in one place long enough over the past few months to get deliveries – the shop in Albuquerque and the balloon fiesta don’t count – we couldn’t receive deliveries there.

Donna also spent a lot of time online searching for a strength training class to join while we’re here. Tomorrow I’ll get back on the pickleball courts – I plan to play four days a week while we’re here. Hopefully I’ll get my game back up to a level where I can play with the 3.5 group when we get to Mesa, Arizona in late December.

While I was walking through the RV park, a high-end coach caught my eye – they always do. It was a 2007 quad-slide Newell. I’ve described Newell coaches before. These are top-of-the-line motorhomes that are mostly made to order in Oklahoma. Newell builds the entire coach from the ground up. They make a few coaches on speculation every year for use at RV shows before they’re sold. Being mostly custom-made, the prices vary, but bought new you need to bring something in the neighborhood of 1.5 million dollars to get onboard.

I met the owners of this Newell. They sold a ranch in Arkansas and bought the Newell. They got on the road with the intention of spending a year or so traveling the country before deciding where to settle down and enjoy retirement. That was one and half years ago and they’re still enjoying the travel.

2007 quad-slide Newell

I saw a similar Newell online for sale listed at $550,000 – probably a third of what it cost new. That’s the reality of RVs – they depreciate.

Last night I had a seasonal special from Alesmith – a local San Diego brewery. It was a Halloween release called Evil Dead Red. It’s a malty red ale that was tasty with a creamy mouth feel. It was very easy to drink despite it’s 6.6% ABV.

Halloween ale

We had cool weather on Friday – the high was about 70 degrees and a few rain drops fell. Saturday was clear and warmer with the temperature reaching 75 degrees. The forecast calls for a hot spell beginning today. Santa Ana winds should develop. Santa Ana is a condition affecting southern California coastal areas when high pressure develops over the desert basin. This pushes hot, dry air through the coastal mountain ranges and offshore along the coast. We should see upper 80s today and into the 90s over the next couple of days. Time to hit the beach!

But Wait, There’s More

The level of communication between Albuquerque Rocky Mountain Cummins and me has been poor at best. With that in mind, I decided to pay the shop a visit on Thursday afternoon to check on progress and see if they had confirmation of shipment of the new Charge Air Cooler (CAC).

I asked the Service Coordinator, Philip, about it. He picked up the phone on his desk and called the radiator shop. Then he told me the CAC had shipped and they expected it no later than Friday. I took this as good news. We walked out to the shop so I could retrieve a couple more items from the coach.

Before I left, Philip said, “Of course, if they have the CAC tomorrow, it doesn’t mean we’ll able to have the coach ready then.” I told him I understood – the radiator shop had to assemble the radiator stack and get it back to the shop. The mechanic had to finish putting the turbo assembly on the engine and install the cooling stack. I asked him if he thought Tuesday was realistic. He said he thought it was, but then he dropped a bomb. He told me they hadn’t received the replacement turbocharger yet.

I kept my mouth shut but thought, “What?” Last Monday they told me they would have the part by the next day. This potentially complicates matters. The mechanic will want to install the exhaust manifold and turbocharger before he installs the radiator stack. If he installs the stack – engine coolant radiator, CAC, hydraulic fluid cooler and AC condenser – he will limit the accessibility to the engine and exhaust system.

Yesterday I stopped by the shop in the afternoon again. As I said, communication isn’t their strong point – I figure if I want an update, I’d better stop in and ask. Philip confirmed the CAC had been delivered but then told me they should have the replacement radiator core on Monday! What? Again I bit my tongue – this was the first time any mention was made of needing to order the core and any delay with it.

The radiator core is the center portion of the radiator. It consists of tubes running from the radiator inlet tank to the outlet tank. Coolant passes through these tubes from one tank to the other. Thin aluminum or copper fins are attached to the tubes to transfer heat from the coolant to the air passing through the fins. Our radiator core had corrosion and the radiator shop was replacing the core, reusing the original tanks and end plates.

But wait, there’s more – Philip lobbed the final bomb. There was a problem getting the turbocharger. He said one had been located by Cummins, but it was in a warehouse in New Jersey that wasn’t operational at this time. Apparently, the warehouse is unmanned but it holds the only turbocharger in the country to fit our coach. He said the Cummins Holset turbochargers used on motorhomes have unique fittings and linkages.

He went into the service manager’s office to talk to the manager, Alvaro. He came out a minute later and told me their parts manager was working on a solution with Cummins, but wasn’t present at the moment. He said I should come back Monday morning to learn the disposition of the part in the warehouse. I think we’re in real trouble here.

The hotel has already informed me that we’ll be kicked to the curb on Wednesday. All the rooms in the area are booked for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. It’s the largest hot air balloon event in the world and it’s impossible to find a vacancy from a few days before the fiesta until the end two weeks later.

All I can do at this point is wait until Monday and hope for the best. Donna will return Tuesday night. I’m holding on to some hope they’ll be working on the coach by then.

We’ve had a series of thunderstorms passing through since Wednesday and that has hampered my activities. Yesterday, after I left the shop, I went to Rio Bravo Brewing. I looked for the owner, Randy, but he wasn’t in. He’d promised a brewery tour. The bar manager took me back to the brewhouse. When I mentioned I had experience with home brewing, he was relieved not to have go through the brewing 101 spiel about how beer was made and cut right to their equipment and processes. The brew master, Ty Levis, was there and he gave me a one-on-one tour and talked about some advanced techniques he uses and some experimental brews he’s working on. It was one of the best brewery tours I’ve had. I didn’t take any photos because they all start looking the same – stainless steel fermenters and mash tuns, etc.

An interesting thing I learned at Rio Bravo had to do with the canned beer they distribute. The four-packs are held together with what looks like plastic rings, just like you find on most six-packs. But they’re not. They are biodegradable, I think he said they’re made from corn starch. Don’t get the four-pack wet – it might disintegrate into loose cans!

I don’t have any big plans for the weekend – I’ll just wait and see what comes next.

One Thing Leads to Another

We made it through the weekend in our temporary quarters at the Hotel Elegante in Albuquerque. The weekend was just a waiting period until we could see what comes next in our engine repair saga. Although the square footage of our hotel room isn’t much different than that of our coach, the layout is very different. The hotel room is made for sleeping and the small desk and storage areas are afterthoughts. The coach is much more comfortable and organized – long hot showers notwithstanding.

On Saturday afternoon, we headed over to Marble Brewing to take the 2pm tour. They were having a fundraiser for the Albuquerque Mountain Rescue Council and that packed the house. The brewery tour had to be broken up into two groups and the groups were still too large. It was interesting nonetheless. The thing I found most interesting was part of their process – they boil the wort in a 30-barrel brew kettle. This isn’t unusual – what’s different is that the wort is transferred to 150-barrel fermentation vessels. It takes five batches to fill the fermenter! It must be quite a task to keep things consistent when you have to brew five batches before you begin the fermentation.

150-barrel fermenters

We also viewed a temperature-controlled storage room filled with wooden casks where beer was being barrel-aged.

A portion of their barrel-aging storage

The bottling line

We sampled a few ounces of brew, then decided to leave the crowded brew pub and head over to Rio Bravo Brewery. They have a large brew pub and it’s really laid back. They also serve food – Marble and Tractor brewing rely on food trucks.

Donna had a quinoa and arugula salad to go with her porter while I ordered a New Mexico treat. In Michigan, you’ll find cafes that specialize in what they call Coney Dogs. These are hot dogs covered in a type of beef chili (no beans) and various other condiments. In New Mexico, they serve hot dogs with cheese and diced green chilies. It was tasty.

Green chili cheese dog

On Sunday morning, Donna wanted to get out and get some exercise in the fresh air. So she rode the Spyder to the east end of Menaul Boulevard to the Menaul Trailhead to hike. I stayed at the hotel and watched a very entertaining Moto GP race from Aragon, Spain. Valentino Rossi showed his talent as well as his toughness as he held on to second place for much of the race before fading to fifth place near the end – this was just 24 days after he broke his leg! He broke his tibia and fibula in a training accident and could barely walk a few days ago.

On Sunday evening, Donna took an Uber ride to the Old Town area to meet up with her friend Hazel. They walked from Hazel’s house to the Range Cafe restaurant where they met up with more friends. I stayed home and watched the Oakland Raiders struggle against the Washington Redskins.

On Monday morning, it was time to get back to business. I was getting ready to go over to Rocky Mountain Cummins when they phoned and told me they had the turbocharger removed and I should come and look at it. The original estimate called for a turbo replacement due to oil leaking past the seals. I didn’t believe this was the case. The oil in the intake and turbo housing was coming from the auxiliary compressor on the engine. This compressor supplies air for the suspension system and air-operated parking brake.

With the turbo removed, I could see there wasn’t anything wrong with the shaft bearings or seals, however it did have a problem. The blades on the intake compressor wheel were damaged. They had small nicks in the leading edges of the blades. This is usually the result of foreign objects ingested through the intake system. That could be really bad news as any foreign material would pass through the engine and most likely damage pistons and cylinders or at least piston rings. Close inspection revealed the nicks only to be on the leading edges – dirt or other abrasives show themselves across the blade. Also, there was oil in the turbo and no sign of dust or dirt in the oil.

In talking it over with the mechanic doing the work, Josh, we came to the conclusion that the nicks in the leading edges of the blades were likely caused by droplets of oil being struck by the spinning compressor blades. The turbine wheel on the exhaust side, the shaft and the compressor wheel and blades are constructed from lightweight materials. This allows the wheels to quickly spool up to high operating RPM – over 100,000 RPM at times. The compressor is designed to operate in a clean air environment.

The integrity of the blade material is important. Anything that weakens the structure could lead to a failure such as blade separation. That would be bad, very bad. A blade failure would send pieces of the blade through the engine with catastrophic results. I decided to have the turbocharger replaced.

Turbocharger on bench

Close-up of compressor blade damage

I saw the exhaust manifold on a cart. It wasn’t just cracked – it was completely broken into two pieces! This is likely due to the leak in the charge air cooler. A pressure leak in the CAC can lead to excessively high exhaust gas temperature. One thing leads to another.

Broken exhaust manifold

Now we’re back in a waiting pattern. The CAC and engine coolant radiator are at the radiator shop to be re-cored. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they can repair the CAC. If all goes well there, the shop may have everything back together by Thursday – we’ll see. One good thing about being here in Albuquerque is the availability and concentration of qualified shops. There’s a lot of heavy-duty truck traffic due to I-25 and I-40 intersecting here without much else within a few hundred miles. The Albuquerque Rocky Mountain Cummins is one of 32 Cummins Coach Care Centers in the USA. They do a lot of RV work.

Tomorrow morning, Donna flies back to Albany, New York. She’s visiting her parents for a week in Bennington, Vermont. It’s pretty good timing for her – she can get out of this hotel. Meanwhile it presents a logistical dilemma for me. If the coach is ready to roll on Thursday, I need to figure out how to get all of our stuff and Ozark the cat from our hotel to the coach. I’ll come up with something and try to remain optimistic about having the work completed by then.

A Can of Worms

I mentioned in an earlier post an engine problem we began to experience in Colorado. We had an intermittent loss of boost pressure causing a reduction of power. When this happened, it set a fault code in the Engine Control Module (ECM) and the engine maintenance light in the instrument panel illuminated. I interrogated the ECM with our ScanGauge D and found a Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC) telling me that the intake manifold pressure wasn’t at the expected level. Due to the intermittent nature of the issue, I assumed it was a poor electrical connection or a problem with the pressure sensor.

While we were in Abiquiu, New Mexico I investigated the problem and found a crack in the exhaust manifold. This can cause a boost pressure problem. Our Cummins ISL diesel engine is turbocharged. A turbocharger is a device with two chambers in a steel housing – one chamber is fitted to the exhaust system while the other chamber is connected to the engine intake system. Each chamber has a wheel – think of it as a windmill although its shape is more complex than that.

The exhaust side is called the turbine. Hot exhaust is expelled from the combustion chamber and flows through the exhaust manifold and the turbine side of the turbocharger. This spins the turbine wheel. This wheel is mounted to a shaft that passes through the housing and is connected to the wheel on the intake side. This is the compressor wheel. The spinning turbine wheel turns the compressor wheel and the energy transferred compresses the air flowing into the engine through the intake system.

In order to burn fuel in an internal combustion engine, you need fuel and enough oxygen to combine with the fuel. The more oxygen you can pack into the combustion chamber, the more fuel you can efficiently burn and the more power you can extract from the fuel. The compressor side of the turbocharger packs more air into the engine. But there’s a catch. Compressing the air heats it and the turbocharger housing is also very hot. Hotter air is less dense than cooler air, thus negating some of the advantage of pressurizing the intake system. To counter this, most turbochargers use a type of radiator in the intake system – the hot pressurized air is directed through a cooler to reduce the air temperature and increase air density. These coolers are usually an air-to-air radiator called an intercooler or Charge Air Cooler (CAC).

The exhaust leak in our manifold was allowing the hot exhaust gasses to escape before they entered the turbine of the turbocharger. This imparted less energy to the turbine wheel and it couldn’t spin the compressor wheel at the proper speed.

Cracked exhaust manifold

I knew this had to be repaired immediately. In our case, immediately meant when we arrived in Albuquerque. Northern New Mexico is fairly remote and there wasn’t a shop closer than Albuquerque that I trusted. I was still bothered by the intermittent nature of the problem. The exhaust leak was a constant mechanical defect so why was I losing boost intermittently?

We left Los Suenos de Santa Fe RV Park around 11am on Wednesday and stopped for lunch across the street. Then we took US 14 south through the small towns of Madrid, Golden and Antonito avoiding I-25. It was a scenic and leisurely drive – there’s very little traffic and I could cruise without pushing the engine too hard.

We arrived at Rocky Mountain Cummins around 1:30pm and I checked in with their service department. I had an appointment for 7am Thursday morning. We talked about the repair and the time frame. Completing the exhaust manifold replacement in one day was doubtful. They told me I could park the coach and trailer on the street in front and hook up to their 50-amp electrical pedestal.

Donna packed a bag – she would spend the night in a nearby hotel with Ozark the cat. We walked with her suitcase, laptop bag and a couple of plastic bags with cat supplies to the Comfort Inn on 4th Avenue a few blocks away. We walked past a small park with many homeless people sleeping in the shade. We must have looked like upscale vagabonds carrying our stuff past the park. Ozark wasn’t comfortable in the hotel room – she spent most of the time hiding under the bed – she’s so accustomed to her home in the coach.

I stayed overnight in the coach – it wasn’t the best neighborhood and I didn’t want to leave the coach unattended. The Rocky Mountain Cummins shop is fully fenced in with standard chain-link and barbed wire fencing backed up with a 7,000-volt electric fence. On Thursday morning, I dropped the trailer in their fenced lot and checked in for my appointment at 7am – the coach and trailer would be secure in their fenced lot from that point. That’s when things started on a downhill spin.

They weren’t very organized at the service counter. I had talked to the woman there, Barbara, twice in the last week to make sure they had parts and were ready to do the work. She acted like she didn’t know who I was or why I was there. She wrote up the work order and I sat in the waiting area to see how things would progress. At 9am, our coach was still sitting where I parked it.

The service manager, Alvaro, was in a meeting. I asked for him and he left his meeting to talk to me. I explained the situation beginning with the appointment I made a week ago and the estimate they e-mailed me at that time. I also explained the need to get the work done so we weren’t stuck in a hotel. He apologized for the issue and told me the guy that scheduled the work and made the estimate was out of the office. He put someone on the job and work commenced.

I hung around until noon, then went to the hotel to take Donna out to lunch. Wouldn’t you know it, while I was at lunch, Barbara phoned and said Alvaro wanted to show me some issues they found with the engine. I went back to the shop. It was bad news. The charge air cooler had a leak. They pressurized the CAC and showed me where it was leaking. The CAC would have to be removed to see if the leak was repairable. Hopefully a radiator shop can repair it. If it needs to be replaced, it’s not a common part and might be difficult to find. Motorhomes use CACs designed to fit their layout, unlike a heavy duty truck that would use a common part.

The CAC is sandwiched between the coolant radiator and air conditioning condenser. It’s a big job to remove it. They also found oil in the turbocharger and thought it was damaged. I wasn’t convinced it needed replacement. Turbocharger oil seals aren’t like the rubber seals on a crankshaft for example. The shaft is sealed with steel rings, like a piston ring. Seal failure on a turbo is usually the result of a lubrication system problem – I didn’t have an issue there.

Further inspection revealed the source of the oil was the accessory air compressor on the engine. The compressor draws fresh air from the filtered intake air upstream from the turbocharger. The compressor was leaking and some oil was entering the intake system from it. The compressor would have to be replaced.

This was quickly turning into a can of worms. An expensive can of worms. I gathered a few things and spent the night at the hotel with Donna. On Friday, we checked out at noon and moved to the Hotel Elegante on Menaul – a better neighborhood. They had a special rate for Cummins employees and customers. Donna called Uber to transport herself and Ozark while I drove the Spyder. Ozark isn’t sure what to make of our new digs and mode of travel.

After checking in, we went back to the shop to get more clothes and necessities. We will be out of the coach for an undetermined amount of time at this point. While we were at the shop, I looked things over and had another nasty find.

This is where the coolant radiator and CAC normally reside at the left rear of the coach

AC condenser, CAC and coolant radiator behind the CAC

The coolant radiator had corrosion on about a quarter of the fins and the core was about to rust through. It needs to be re-cored. This is the part of the radiator closest to the rear wheels – it can’t be seen without crawling into the engine compartment from underneath and removing the fan shroud. Send more money!

Lower right corner of radiator core corroded

I’m hoping there aren’t any more bad surprises. As my friend and fellow motorhome owner, John Hinton, reminded me – I should be thankful to be getting the repairs made here in Albuquerque rather than being stuck on the side of the highway in some remote area.

Meanwhile, Donna and I are making the best of it, staying at a hotel and taking advantage of the amenities. We’ve also found a few breweries in the area – Rio Bravo, Marble and Tractor. They have great brews that are only found here in New Mexico.

I found a sign on 4th Avenue near downtown – Donna will set me free! I wish she could bail our coach out of the shop.

Better call Donna!

I’ll update our situation when I know more on Monday.

Sometimes I’m Crazy Like That

We pulled out of White Rock, New Mexico a little past 10am Wednesday morning. It was a surprisingly quiet night there – the Visitor Center is right on the main drag near the geographic center of the small town. However, the traffic heading out of town to the southwest past the Visitor Center is almost all going to Bandelier National Monument. There’s no real reason to head out that way after dark, so traffic falls off to next to nothing.

We made the 40-mile drive to Santa Fe and arrived in familiar surroundings by 11:30am. We pulled into the Los Suenos de Santa Fe RV park on Cerrillos Road where we’ve stayed the previous two years. We were assigned to site 93 on the south end of the small RV park. This puts us about as far from the road and traffic noise as we can get, so it’s a good site. We’ve learned through experience not to enter the pull-through sites in the “normal’ fashion – that is, entering from the rear and pulling through. The sites here are relatively narrow and the management has placed bright yellow concrete barriers shaped like barrels at the back of the sites. These barriers can be difficult to maneuver past, especially if you’re pulling a trailer or vehicle behind the coach.

We made the loop around to the front of the site and backed in. It’s much easier as the front of the sites have no barriers and plenty of room to maneuver. Then we found a new twist that affects the sites on the south end of the park. The fresh water spigot and sewer connector are located at the far back end of the site. With our trailer, our water and sewer lines had to extend about 45 feet to reach the hook-ups. This wasn’t a problem for the fresh water – I have plenty of hose. But the sewer line was a different story. In four years on the road, I’ve never needed more than 30 feet of sewer hose. I had to go to Walmart and buy hose extensions to hook up.

Meanwhile Donna was at her computer working on some proposals. She finished up and we went out around 4pm to stop in at Duel Brewery. Duel is a unique experience – they specialize in Belgian-inspired beers and a European style food experience. We haven’t eaten there, only tried a few of their brews. The Santa Fe location has a fairly small bar and is served by a small 10-barrel brewing system. They don’t distribute their beers – if you want Duel, you’ll have to visit Santa Fe or their Albuquerque location. Their beers are fairly strong for the most part and all of them have unique flavors. I’ve found all of the beers I’ve tried there to be very good. Donna and I each ordered a sampler flight and enjoyed them.

Thursday morning we rode the Spyder downtown to walk around the plaza area. This is where most tourists end up in Santa Fe. The plaza often has events and entertainment and the surrounding area is full of upscale boutique shops and a few historical buildings.

We window shopped, then I suggested we go into the Lucchese Bootmaker shop for a look around. I knew it was dangerous thing for me to do. I’ve been wanting to get a pair of crocodile western boots for about a year. And wouldn’t you know it, I found a pair black cherry boots with crocodile belly vamps (the part that covers the top of your foot) and ostrich heel counters and shafts (the part that goes up your calf). They had my size and I tried them on. I couldn’t resist and bought them. As my friend Keith Burk would say – sometimes I’m crazy like that.

Lucchese crocodile boots

I figure I’ll be 61 years old in a few weeks. I deserve a splurge every now and then. Life’s short, enjoy the ride, right?

While we were at Duel the day before, we inquired about the best green chile cheeseburger in town. We were directed to Cowgirl, a bar and grill on Guadalupe Street about a half mile from the plaza. It was overcast and few rain drops began to fall, so we decided to leave the plaza and stop for lunch at Cowgirl.

They bill themselves as serving “New Style Comfort Food.” We found an item on the menu called “The Mother of All Green Chile Cheeseburgers.” Here’s the description from their menu:

Our secret blend of all-natural beef, local buffalo and applewood smoked bacon, grilled to your liking and served in a cheddar/green chile bun with melted brie, truffled green chile, a slice of heirloom tomato and some hand cut truffle fries – Just ask for “Mother!”

It was obviously a large burger and priced at $15. Donna and I split one – it wasn’t an unusual request to split the order apparently. It was the best burger I’ve ever tasted. The blend of beef and buffalo ground with bacon made a tasty blend that wasn’t the slightest bit greasy yet wasn’t as dry as buffalo burgers can sometimes be. The brie and green chile with truffle oil was out of this world good!

The Mother of All Green Chile Cheeseburgers

We beat the rain home. Donna later walked to Sprouts and picked up a few groceries. If the market is less than two miles away, she often likes to walk and shop. I started the break-in process on my new boots after treating them with Bick’s leather conditioner. Crocodile leather isn’t as supple as ostrich and the break-in takes some time.

I watched the Thursday Night Football game then went to bed for a quiet night’s rest. This morning we headed out at 8am to the Genoveva Chavez Community Center for pickleball. We spent about three hours there. I haven’t played since we were in Coarsegold – about three months ago. It was good to be back on the court and knock some of the rust off. We’ll go back on Monday.

Tomorrow we plan to head over to the Farmers’ Market down by the Santa Fe Railroad Park. We always enjoy our visits to Santa Fe. Donna wants to get some bicycle riding in over the weekend. I don’t have any plans other than the market and of course watching the Formula One race from Singapore and some NFL action.

High Passes and Quiet Night

With the rest of the Hearts A’Fire team heading for home Monday, Donna and I decided to spend one more night at the Hotel Elegante in Colorado Springs. Donna was able to get some laundry done in the hotel while I walked over to the convenience store and bought some drinking water.

On my way to the store, I saw a couple of interesting coaches in the hotel parking lot. They were Prevost custom conversions. I could tell they were entertainer buses – presumably a band traveling through the area had stopped for the night at the hotel. I could tell these were entertainer tour buses by the small lettering on the side indicating they were leased from Roberts Brothers in Springfield, Tennessee – a well-known provider of entertainer buses.

Entertainer tour bus

I wondered who it was, but wasn’t curious enough to find out. At the store, the local newspaper caught my eye. On the front page was a photo from the Labor Day Lift Off balloon event featuring Hearts A’Fire taking off from the park.

Front page of the Gazette

On Tuesday morning, we packed up and headed a few miles north to the Elks Lodge. Our plan was to spend one night dry camping at the lodge so we could use their dump station to flush out our holding tanks and refill the fresh water tank before leaving town. We also used the opportunity to do some grocery shopping and pick up some items Donna had delivered to the Sierra Trading Post store.

While we were at it, we decided to visit Bristol Brewing, a local brewery with an interesting location. They’re in an old schoolhouse. One half of the schoolhouse has boutique shops and a coffee shop/bakery while the other wing houses the brewery and pub.

Shops on the left, Bristol Brewing in the right wing

Red Rocket ale

Donna and I returned to the coach to plan our next move. We enjoyed a stay at Eagle Nest Lake in northern New Mexico last year but decided we wanted to explore new territory this year. Donna wanted to go to Abiquiu (Abbi-cue). We decided to head to Alamosa, Colorado across the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, then south into New Mexico.

Our trip down I-25 started off with a bang. We were driving along and went through an underpass. Just as we went through, a high-cube rental truck passed us on the left. I heard a loud boom – almost like a gun shot. I checked my mirrors and saw gray smoke on the left side of the trailer. I pulled off on the exit ramp and stopped on the shoulder – I thought we had blown a trailer tire. I went to investigate but didn’t find anything amiss. I guess the sound and smoke came from the truck overtaking us.

The turbocharger on our engine was still giving me problems. The engine control module (ECM) was intermittently losing the signal from the manifold pressure sensor. When this would happen, the turbo no longer provided boost pressure and there was a power loss. Also, the Jake brake would quit working whenever we lost the boost. I knew the problem was in the wiring harness at the ECM. I had taped up the harness for better support while we were at the Elks lodge. I checked the harness and repositioned it while we were stopped. This issue would continue to plague us on the trip to New Mexico.

We left I-25 near Walsenburg and headed west on US160. This took us through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains over La Veta Pass at an elevation of 9,426 feet above sea level. Wouldn’t you know it – I lost boost pressure on the climb up the pass and had to gear down to third to pull the grade. There was a Newmar Dutch Star motorhome traveling the same route that must have had engine trouble too – we overtook him on the climb.

We stopped in Alamosa and had a Subway sandwich for lunch. Donna looked up a couple of boondocking opportunities on the route to Abiquiu. Apparently we hadn’t communicated clearly on the route. I intended to head south on US285 from Alamosa into New Mexico. Donna had us heading west on US17 which curves south into New Mexico.

We punched the first boondocking possibility into the GPS and I happily followed the directions. It was near Manassa, Colorado and I felt like it was a bit early to stop and wanted to continue on. The next place Donna had identified was in New Mexico – about five miles across the border near Chama. We programmed that stop and I didn’t give it another thought. When we came through Antonito, I followed SR17 instead of US285 without thinking about it.

This took us over the San Juan Mountains into New Mexico. We had to climb up to La Manga Pass – this was the steepest grade we have ever encountered. Luckily our turbocharger was cooperating and I had the power needed for the climb. La Manga Pass tops out at 10,230 feet above sea level. We wouldn’t have made it without turbo boost. After a short descent we climbed Cumbres Pass at an elevation of 10,022 feet above sea level.

From there, it was downhill into New Mexico and we found a paved pull-out that was level and stopped there. It’s a mile and half from the small town of Chama across from a paved landing strip. It’s in beautiful surroundings and there’s very little traffic on SR17. We’re at an elevation of 7,966 feet above sea level.

Donna went out for a walk. She didn’t to go far, but she heard a train whistle and saw a sign for the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad indicating it was one mile away so she kept walking. She took a few photos along the way – they’re at the bottom of this post. The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad runs on narrow gauge tracks between Chama and Antonito. This historic railroad still uses coal-fired steam-powered engines. The track runs just to the west of our boondocking spot. We heard the train pass by, but it doesn’t run at night. This place is so peaceful and quiet – a welcome respite from the time recently spent in cities. I took a couple of photos before sunset – I stood on our door steps for these shots.

Door step view

I watched the US Open Tennis tournament on TV – I’ve been following it – while Donna prepared cod in parchment paper with asparagus, butter, tarragon and fresh squeezed orange juice. Just because were boondocking doesn’t mean we can’t eat well!

Cod cooked in parchment paper with asparagus, tarragon, butter and fresh squeezed orange juice

Today we’ll move on down to Abiquiu. The weather forecast looks good with highs in the 80s and cool nights in the upper 50s. We may have a stray thunder shower or two, but no big storms expected.

Here are photos from Donna’s walk…

Rio Chama River

Check out the sign!

Chama train station

Narrow gauge railroad track