Category Archives: Bicycle

Mishaps and Miscommunication

I haven’t posted for a few days as I haven’t had much to say. Sunday was a cloudy day with periods of rain. My middle daughter, Jamie, along with her significant other, Francisco and family hit the road. They planned to go back to Texas via California so they could visit Francisco’s cousin along the way. It was great having some time together and hanging with her family.

Monday was another gloomy day. There was a thick, low overcast ceiling. Although some sunlight penetrated the cloud cover, it was diffuse light and the clouds were so thick you really couldn’t pinpoint the position of the sun. A light mist fell most of the day punctuated by occasional large rain drops.

In the evening, we went over to my ex-wife’s house for dinner. LuAnn grilled fish burgers and also had hot dogs for the kids. We had a send-off for my youngest daughter, Shauna, as she had a red-eye flight back to Washington D.C.

Tuesday’s weather was more of the same. The daily high temperature only hit 64 degrees – a few degrees cooler than the previous days. With the damp mist it feels colder than recorded. My oldest daughter, Alana, had to report back to work after having six days off. She was back to 12-hour shifts in the emergency room at Providence Hospital in Everett.

I spent most of my time indoors reading books. I don’t get on very well with the sunless, wet weather. Donna managed to get in a couple of bike rides when the rain stopped for a couple of hours.

Donna had another laptop mishap Sunday night when her wine glass toppled right into the keyboard of her laptop. It was up and running at the time but shut itself down. We let it sit and dry out for a couple of days but couldn’t get it to work. It sounded like the hard drive was spinning and we could see the power indicator light up, but the screen remained dark. On Tuesday afternoon when we had a break in the rain – it was still misty out – we rode the Spyder to a computer repair place in Marysville. The guy there was able to get the laptop to boot up using a remote keyboard and monitor.

We took this as a good sign. He said oftentimes when liquid is spilled into the keyboard it remains there as the bottom of the keyboard has a plastic liner. If that was the case, he could replace the keyboard and check everything out and she would be back in business. We crossed out fingers and left the laptop with him for an assessment.

Wednesday morning the cloud cover persisted. The computer repair guy called with bad news. Liquid had damaged the motherboard and fried a cable for the display. It wouldn’t be cost effective to repair the laptop.

Meanwhile I was having a couple of customer service challenges. I needed to replace the jack on our cargo trailer. If you’ve been reading my posts you might remember how I mis-judged the severity of a dip at the Elks lodge driveway in Palmdale and damaged our jack when it dragged on the pavement.

I called the TrailersPlus outfit in Marysville Tuesday to see if they had a replacement jack. When I asked the person on the phone for the parts department, I was put on hold for a minute. When they came back on the line they said there was no answer in Marysville as everyone was tied up with customers. They took my number and said someone would call me back shortly. I realized I wasn’t talking to someone in Marysville, I was talking to the TrailersPlus call center, wherever that may be.

A few hours later, I hadn’t received a call back so I phoned again. This time I was told the Marysville store is extremely busy and they’re operating on reduced hours. Really? When the store is extremely busy you shorten the hours of operation? He said it was necessary so they could handle paperwork and not be serving customers all the time. Wow! What kind of business model is that?

After lunch on Wednesday, I borrowed our granddaughter Lainey’s car. I had to pick up Donna’s laptop and I also wanted to see if I could find a jack for the trailer. I stopped at an RV and trailer supply store nearby in Arlington. They had jacks but not the one I needed. I was told they would have it on Thursday if I wanted to come back. The price was $61.

After I picked up Donna’s laptop, I stopped at TrailersPlus since I was nearby. I went in the front entrance and found an empty lobby area. I looked around and found a couple of empty offices. I walked through a door into the shop area. Outside the shop, I saw a couple of guys shooting the breeze and smoking. They asked me if I needed something. I told them what I was looking for and one of the guys said he would get someone to help me.

A couple of minutes later, he came back with another guy that motioned for me to follow him. We went back into the front lobby area. I told him what I was looking for. He hit a few keys on a computer and told me he had the jack and it was $29. Deal. I bought the jack and a new sand pad – the old pad was bent when the jack dragged. While he was entering the sale, I heard the phone ringing on three occasions. It was ignored by everyone. A few employees walked in and out of the lobby area but as far as I could tell no one was doing anything useful. This store is definitely in need of competent management.

Damaged jack on top, new replacement below

When I came home, I was able to change out the jack in short order. I was a little leery of the threads tapped into the frame for the jack mount. The mounting bolts took a mighty whack when the jack was pulled across the pavement. I used thread locking compound and was careful not to over tighten the jack mounts.

Job done!

The other customer service story was totally unexpected. On Monday, I ordered a new set of tires for Donna’s bike with my Amazon Prime account. At checkout, before I proceeded to finalize the order, I confirmed the shipping info. It said “Delivery Guaranteed Friday June 23.” I placed the order.

I received an e-mail Wednesday from Amazon telling me the order had shipped and it had tracking information. When I tracked it, the arrival date was Monday, June 26th! We are booked at the Pine Near RV Park in Winthrop on Monday. I called Amazon customer service. The representative I talked to definitely wasn’t a native English speaker. I was pretty sure I was talking to someone in India and his accent was so heavy, I had to ask him to repeat his question a few times. He couldn’t get the address I gave him or the order number right – he kept transposing the numbers and I had to repeat the info several times. It made me think of the times I was in Germany and tried to communicate with my rudimentary language skills – I think the phrase I most often used was “nochmal langsam bitte” or “repeat slowly please.”

After we got through my account information – which took about 15 minutes – I explained the problem with the order and the delivery guarantee. He put me on hold a couple of times saying  “Please on hold” and returning with the phrase “Thank you for on hold.” He said I would receive the items on Monday. I explained again how that wouldn’t work for me and they had guaranteed Friday delivery. He said it was “in shipment” and nothing could be done. I hung up frustrated.

To Amazon’s credit, I later received and e-mail giving me return options. I think I’ll wait until Friday to see if the items miraculously deliver before I choose a return and refund option.

On Wednesday afternoon, the skies cleared and we had bright sunshine. Donna rode south on the Centennial Trail and got 26 miles in. The forecast calls for much warmer temperatures with highs in the 80s by the weekend. This is more like the weather we’re used too – just in time for us to prepare to leave.

June in Washington

Our plan for Donna to take advantage of the bicycling opportunity in Vancouver, Washington didn’t pan out. It rained off and on while we were there. That’s June west of the Cascades in Washington!

We pulled out of the Vancouver Elks lodge before 10 am and headed up I-5. We planned on a short drive of about 105 miles, stopping at Cabela’s in Lacey. I didn’t want to drive through Seattle on Friday afternoon. We thought it would be better to stay overnight in Lacey, then head up to my daughter Alana’s house on Saturday morning.

We’ve made overnight stops at this Cabela’s store in the past. They have a large lot and allow overnight parking in the west lot. They also have a dump station. Nally – our Rand McNally RVND 7720 GPS – directed us to exit at Martin Way and follow it west to Carpenter Road NE. This wasn’t a familiar route and I wondered how it would work out. It was a different way to Cabela’s because Britton Parkway had been extended to join Draham Street. In the past, we couldn’t get to Cabela’s from the west side, we had to continue east to the Marvin Road exit and backtrack west to find Cabela’s.

We found a few other RVs and a couple of 18-wheeler trucks in the west lot and claimed a space. Donna and I went into Cabela’s and had lunch in the restaurant there. We shopped for a bit then I headed back to the coach while Donna continued shopping. It was pouring rain when I went back to the coach.

When we stayed here before, later in the season, Donna picked blackberries in the woods to the west of the Cabela’s lot. Not this time – we were here too early for the blackberry crop. Saturday morning Donna went back to the Cabela’s store and bought sandals. Her receipt showing her purchase entitled us to a code for the use of their dump station. If you aren’t a Cabela’s credit card holder or haven’t made a purchase during your stay there, it costs five bucks to dump your holding tanks.

I dumped our tanks and we were out of Cabela’s lot before 10am. We had another 110 miles to go before we reached Alana’s place in Arlington. It was a good choice to avoid Friday afternoon traffic in Seattle. Saturday traffic was bad enough. On the south side of town where I-90 meets I-5, there’s always a traffic tie-up. It’s one of the most poorly designed stretches of interstate highway I’ve ever encountered. There are four lanes of northbound traffic plus a carpool lane. The carpool lane ends, forcing that traffic into the left lane of northbound traffic right where the left lane becomes an exit only lane to downtown Seattle. At the same point, the far right lane becomes and exit only as well, forcing all northbound through traffic into two lanes. This is followed by traffic exiting I-90 coming into I-5. What a nightmare.

There’s a similarly flawed design north of Everett where the trestle from US2 joins I-5. Left lane must exit followed by right lane must exit while traffic is merging from US2.

We pulled off I-5 at WA530 and I took a right turn at 59th Avenue. This is the back way into Alana’s neighborhood and I found it easier to navigate in our big rig than the usual way of coming in from 211th to Ronning Road. What I didn’t think about was the direction we would be facing when I backed our rig into her driveway. I had to get us turned around to get the trailer into the driveway. This isn’t easily done here as all of the side streets are dead ends. I was able to pull into a side street and make a three-point turn to get us oriented in the proper direction.

Alana’s driveway is long enough to accommodate our 64′ length. We were set up by 12:30pm.

Our moochdocking spot in Alana’s driveway

When we stayed here last year, I wired up a 50amp electric service plug to her panel in the garage, so we have electricity and don’t need to run the generator. The four nights of boondocking to get here resulted in about 20 hours of generator run-time.

We’ll be moochdocking here for a couple of weeks. Our granddaughter, Lainey, graduates from high school this Thursday. Alana has a graduation party planned for Saturday at her mother’s house which is only a couple of blocks away from here.

As soon as we were set up, Donna and I rode the Spyder over to the Boys and Girls Club where our other granddaughter, Gabi, had a softball game. We sat with Alana’s mother and step-dad, Luann and Jerry, and watched Gabi’s last game.

Gabi getting her game ball signed by the coaches

Alana is an ER nurse at Providence Hospital in Everett. She got off of work early and came home around 5pm. Donna made crispy tarragon bread crumb cod for dinner and served it with a side of black rice and sauteed spinach with lemon. We all sat outside and ate around a card table in lawn chairs.

Crispy tarragon bread crumb cod, spinach with lemon and black rice

It was cool outside – the high was only 62 degrees. Sunday was a warmer day – the high hit 70 degrees and we had sunshine. I watched the Moto GP race from Catalunya, Spain and the Formula One race from Montreal, Canada. Meanwhile Donna rode her bicycle up the Centennial Trail and got 25 miles in.

For dinner I grilled Argentina pink shrimp that Donna marinated in a jerk sauce for dinner and served with mango salsa, brown rice and broccoli for dinner.

I had a nice IPA from Pelican Brewery in Tillamook, Oregon. This IPA is made with a single hop type – Mosaic. It’s unusual to brew IPA with only one type of hops and I think they made a winner here.

Mosaic IPA

Donna had an American Blonde Ale, a farm-to-can ale brewed with local lemons that she bought in Corning, California when we stopped at The Olive Pit. It was Lemon Meringue Pie ale from Old Glory Brewing in Sacramento, California. She loved it.

Old Glory Lemon Meringue Pie ale

This morning we have a light misty rain falling. There’s rain likely in the forecast for the next week – it’s western Washington in June, right? My other two daughters, Jamie and Shauna, will be coming here in the next couple of days. It will be the first time we’ve all been together since Shauna’s graduation from law school in May of 2015.

 

The Road North

When we pulled out of Lake Shastina Tuesday morning, we vowed to return for longer stay in the future. It’s such a beautiful and quiet setting. Our route took us north on Big Springs Road to County Road A12 – also called the 97-99 Cutoff. This took us west to I-5. We were surprised at the number of large houses we passed along the way. I wondered aloud where the money was coming from and whether these were primary residences or vacation homes. It’s a pretty remote area.

We drove north through Yreka and crossed the border into Oregon. A few miles past the border, we reached the Siskiyou Mountain Summit – this is the highest point on I-5 at 4,310 feet. Once we were over the pass, we hit a seven-mile 7% downgrade. We dropped over 2,300 feet of elevation. I was thanking Jacobs Engineering for their marvelous engine compression brake – affectionately known as a Jake brake. The Jake brake on our Cummins ISL engine has two settings – low and high. By toggling back and forth between the two, I was able to control our downhill speed without using the regular service brakes – I only stabbed at the brake pedal a couple of times when we approached tight curves in the road.

We passed through Ashland and Medford. The interstate has a series of summits as it undulates through the mountains. We would quickly climb a thousand feet or so, then immediately drop back down only to repeat the process time and again. We crossed both the south and north Umqua River. North of Roseburg, we pulled off at Sutherlin – a small town on the North Umpqua River. Our destination was the SKP Timber Valley RV Park. As Escapees members, we were able to dry camp in the park for a five-dollar fee.

We found a site long enough to back into without dropping the trailer and set up.

Our site at SKP Timber Valley

Donna had a Skype call as a guest speaker for an online organizing course. She set up shop outside to take the call.

Donna’s office Tuesday afternoon

A park member served as the welcome wagon and stopped by to drop off gifts. She gave us a cat toy made by someone in the park and Ozark the cat loves it. The toy has a wild turkey feather sewn in. We saw a couple of turkeys as we entered the park.

We had a quiet night but after sunrise, I woke up several times to the sound of turkeys gobbling. After slumbering for a while longer, I got out of bed. I saw wild turkeys strutting in the street in front of our coach. I went outside as they were moving away from us and tried to get closer to them. Wild turkeys are usually very wary creatures and it’s not often that you can approach them. These turkeys were obviously used to people in the park and came out of the woods to forage around – they didn’t seem too afraid of people.

A couple of them were strutting with their tails fanned out and feathers puffed up. I managed to get close enough to take a couple of photos.

Wild turkeys struttin’ their stuff

 

Walking back to the coach, I saw a jackrabbit slinking through a site.

Jack rabbit slinking away

There’s no shortage of wildlife in the area!

We hit the road just before 10am and continued our journey northward. We were still in hilly country but the climbs were short followed by short descents until we reached Eugene and then the terrain was flatter through the Willamette Valley.

Cruising along on the flat terrain, I noticed our transmission temperature seemed abnormally high. It was running around 210 degrees. The engine coolant temperature stayed normal – ranging from 180 to 195 on climbs and staying around 182-184 on the flat stretch of road. I thought it was odd. After a while, the transmission temperature started to increase again. When it reach 220 degrees, I became concerned. There was a rest stop a few miles away. By the time we pulled off at the rest stop it was at 224 degrees – much higher than I’ve ever seen in the past.

With the engine idling and the transmission in neutral, the temperature quickly dropped to 184 degrees. I used the Allison transmission key pad to check the fluid level and interrogate the control unit for trouble codes. The fluid level was fine and no diagnostic trouble codes were recorded. I found my Allison manual and read through it. It said high temperature is worrisome when the sump temperature exceeds 250 degrees, so we were still in safe territory. However, it wasn’t making sense to me. Why was the transmission running that hot when the engine temperature remained normal and there wasn’t any reason for the drive train to be under more stress than normal?

We got back on I-5 and continued on our way. The transmission temperature remained normal for several miles, then started climbing again. When it reached 211 degrees, I shifted down from sixth gear to fifth gear. The temperature dropped to 204 degrees. I still can’t make sense of this. As we approached Portland, I shifted back into drive and the transmission temperature stayed in the 190s.

Driving through Portland, Oregon is one of my least favorite drives – it ranks right up there with Seattle. We hit I-84 on the south side of the Columbia River and followed it to I-205. This took us over the Columbia River and into Washington. We pulled into the Vancouver Washington Elks lodge around 2:30pm.

Our dry camping spot at the Vancouver Elks Lodge

We plan to boondock here for two nights. Our thinking was Donna could get some bicycle mileage in here – she bicycled when we stayed here last year. While we were driving, Donna had a beef stew in the crock pot. The aroma was wonderful! After we set up and paid for two nights, we took a walk to the Fred Meyer Supermarket about a half mile from here. The crock pot stew continued to simmer.

Then we went into the lodge for a cold one. When we came back to the coach, I was reading a book when I thought to check the battery condition. Oh no! The inverter was powering the crock pot from the house batteries and I had run them below 12 volts! I went to start the generator but it was dead. Hitting the start button did nothing.

I started our engine to put some juice back into the batteries from the alternator. I still couldn’t get anything from the generator start button. It didn’t make sense to me, we had run the generator that morning without any issues. I went out checked the connections at the battery bank. Sure enough, the cable that runs up to generator had corroded and pulled out of the connector.

I made a temporary fix by clamping the cable to the terminal with Vise-Grip pliers. Today I’ll have to clean the cable and connector, strip the insulation back and reconnect the cable.

MacGuyver temporary solution.

With the temporary fix in place, the generator fired up and recharged the batteries.

Meanwhile, Donna dished out the stew and it was excellent!

Crock pot beef stew

This morning we woke up to rain. I hope it clears up so Donna can get her ride in and I can work on the generator/battery cable.

Fifty Years Later

While Donna was out bicycling on the Jedediah Smith Memorial trail on Friday, I took the Spyder over to my old neighborhood. My family lived here in Sacramento when I was a kid, from second grade through fifth grade. We moved into a newly constructed house in the second phase of a development called Glenbrook. My paternal grandparents lived nearby in North Highlands near McClelland Air Base.

When we first moved in, our street (Midfield Way) was more or less at the end of the development. To the east, behind our backyard, hop fields filled the landscape all the way to the American River. When I was in third grade, the developers acquired the farmland and the hops were taken out. A new elementary school, Hubert H. Bancroft Elementary, was built behind our house. Our back fence bordered the school ball field and playground. The school opened in time for my fourth grade year.

Our house fifty years later

Bancroft Elementary

When I was in fourth and fifth grades, I would walk home from school at lunch time and sit at the dining table where my mom had lunch ready for me. I’d watch the news on TV, then hop the backyard fence and join my pals on the playground. I don’t think kids in elementary school are allowed to leave the campus at lunch time anymore.

On the way back to the Cal Expo RV Park, I stopped at the Raley’s Supermarket on Folsom Boulevard. I wrote about entering and winning a pie eating contest at this store when I was a kid in an earlier post. The last time I was in this store was 1967 – wow, fifty years ago!

Donna’s bike ride took her on the trail toward downtown Sacramento on Thursday afternoon. Although it was scenic, she wasn’t too impressed by the number of homeless encampments in that direction. On Friday, she followed the trail upriver and liked it better. Later we took the Spyder down Howe Avenue to Fair Oaks Boulevard. I was looking for the Capitol Beer and Tap Room. I pulled into the strip mall lot where I thought it was, but couldn’t find it. There was a building surrounded by scaffolding and obvious construction work. Donna pointed out a sign that said Open During Construction and another smaller sign with an arrow pointing to the back of the building that said Capitol Beer. We found it!

Sudwerks Bourbonator

They had a large selection of beers on tap. I tried an IPA and then I had their special – Sudwerks Bourbonator. This is a bourbon barrel aged ale. It wasn’t bad, not too heavy although it was 9% ABV, but it was a little sweet for my taste. Donna had a a stout from Abnormal called Mocha Mostra. She liked it at first but it left a heavy aftertaste. So she followed up with a five-ounce pour of Bike Party Pils.

Donna headed out on her bicycle for a longer ride on Saturday. The previous two days she rode 20 miles each day. Her plan was to ride the trail all the way to Folsom – about 23 miles from here. She left at 9:40am. I hung around and watched the Moto GP qualifying from Misano, Italy. Around 10:40am, I hopped on the Spyder and headed out. My destination was the Sutter Street Grill in Folsom. With an hour head start, I figured my half hour ride would put me there about the time Donna would arrive.

Sutter Street is in an historic neighborhood. The area around Folsom was called Rancho Rios de los Americanos (American River Ranch) when it was settled by William Alexander Leidesdorff in 1844. Joeseph Libby Folsom purchased the land from Leidesdorff’s heirs when he died. Folsom laid out a town he called Granite City. It was during the California Gold Rush era and the town was mostly filled with miners and mining services. Joseph died in 1855 and the town was renamed Folsom in his honor.

Folsom is probably best known as the location of Folsom Prison. Folsom Dam was built in 1956 and created Folsom Lake.

Sutter Street, Folsom

Sutter Street Grill

Donna and I met up after a bit of confusion over where she was. I spoke to her on the phone and told her she was only two blocks away from the grill, but I sent her in the wrong direction. We hooked up soon enough and had large breakfast plates for lunch in the Sutter Street Grill. Donna had a home made corned beef hash and eggs while I had a Texas omelette – chili with beef and beans and cheddar cheese in a three-egg omelette. The plates were huge – we each brought home half of our food.

Across the street from the Sutter Street Grill, the Saturday farmers’ market was going on. We took a walk through it and Donna bought raspberries and garlic. She also bought tamales.

Farmers’ market

Donna got back on her bicycle to make the ride home while I stowed her purchases in the Spyder and headed out. She took a few photos along the way on the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail. Jedediah Smith was a mountain man who led a party of fur trappers through the area in 1827.

Bridge on the trail over the American River

View in the other direction from the bridge about nine miles from here – people on the sandy beach on the right

Wild turkeys crossing the trail

Rafters floating the rapids

On Saturday evening, I grilled chicken and apple sausage and had a beer from American River Brewing called Hop Canyon IPA. The label says the brewer tips his hat to the hop growing heritage of the Sacramento area – remember when I said hop fields stretched from our back yard fence to the American River? I don’t think there are many, if any hop fields here now.

Today Donna will make a shorter bike ride – maybe 25 miles. I have a few chores to do before we hit the road again tomorrow. Donna has mapped out a few boondocking opportunities as we head to the northwest. The temperature should reach the upper 80s today with no rain in the forecast. Tomorrow will be warmer – we may be driving with the generator running to power our roof air conditioner.

 

 

The Land of Fruits and Nuts

It remained cloudy but the rain stopped falling Wednesday afternoon. Our friend and neighbor, Joe Milligan, lent me his golf cart so I could transport our grill, chairs and table down to the trailer which was parked near the clubhouse in the dry camping area. I straightened up the trailer and made it ready for travel. Meanwhile, Donna washed two loads of laundry in the Park of the Sierras laundry room.

They have a policy of no onboard laundry when you’re in the park. I’m told there is an issue with lint build-up in their septic system. I have a hard time believing this, but maybe their system is undersized for the number of hook-ups. I don’t know, but I’ve lived in three houses that were on septic systems and we did laundry daily. They have a separate waste water system for their laundry room and we abided by the rules.

For our final dinner in Coarsegold, Donna prepared fish with crispy tarragon bread crumbs, spinach and sweet onions with tilapia filets we had in the freezer.

I paired it with an IPA called Aurora Hoppyalis from Karl Strauss Brewery in San Diego.

As we prepared to leave Thursday morning, Ozark the cat did her disappearing act. She doesn’t like travel days and lately, when she knows we getting ready to hit the road, she hides. I don’t get too worried about it because pulling the bedroom slides in expands the space behind the slide if that’s where she’s hiding. If she’s behind the sofa, it moves with the slide so she’s okay there too. Once we stop and shut off the engine, she’ll come from her hiding place. She’s done this at fuel stops before and Donna puts her in her crate then. When we reach our destination, I won’t put the slides out until I know where Ozark the cat is. If she’s in the wrong place, she could be crushed by the movement of the powerful hydraulic slide.

We hooked up the trailer, loaded the Spyder and left around 10am. Our route took us back toward Fresno on CA41. About 14 miles down the road, we turned west on CA145 and followed it to Madera. This took us through large cattle ranches and pistachio groves. In Madera, we found CA99 and headed north through the San Joaquin Valley.

Most people think of California as the land of beaches and Hollywood or maybe the Sierra Nevada mountains and Lake Tahoe. But the central valley is mostly agricultural. It’s roughly centered in the state and lies slightly diagonal from north-northwest to south-southeast. The southern portion is called the San Joaquin Valley and the northern end is the Sacramento Valley.

This is mostly flat land in a valley that’s approximately 60 miles wide – bordered on the east by the Sierra Nevada foothills and on the west by the Coastal Range. The valley is about 450 miles long. It’s prime farming land and California is the main source in the USA for crops such as lettuce, grapes, tomatoes, sugar beets, peaches, asparagus, artichokes and avocado. California is nearly the exclusive source in the USA for almonds, apricots, walnuts, prunes, broccoli, pistachios, kiwifruit, dates, figs, olives and nectarines.

North of Madera, the pistachio groves gave way to almonds and walnuts. We stopped at a rest area near Turlock. Rest areas are few and far between on CA99 – this was the only one we saw between Fresno and Sacramento. The scarcity of rest areas made this one a popular stop.

Busy rest area near Turlock

Traffic was stop and go from Atwater to Stockton due to road work. Once we reached Sacramento, we followed the I-80 Business Loop across the American River to Exposition Boulevard. After one false turn, we found the Cal Expo RV Park at the end of Ethan Way.

This park is nothing fancy – it’s basically a gravel lot with hook-ups and not much in the way of amenities. We have a 50 amp full hook-up site that accommodates our length without dropping the trailer. The draw here is the location. We are a couple hundred yards away from the American River and the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail runs right outside the park. This is a paved multi-use trail with no motorized traffic. At $40/night, it’s pricey for what it is, but we’ll spend four nights here giving Donna a chance to take some long bicycle rides in preparation for her ride across Iowa in late July and we’ll explore a bit. For comparison, in San Diego at Mission Bay, we paid a monthly rate of $925 – just under $30/day including utilities. In Coarsegold, our first week was $62 with a special discount for first-time visitors plus we paid $28 for electricity. After the first week, we paid a daily rate of $26 including electricity. Our total campground costs for May were $708 – just under $23/day.

Our site at Cal Expo

I lived a few miles from here when I was a kid – from second grade through fifth grade. Cal Expo is the site of the California State Fair and we always came here for the event. It might be fun to take a look at the old neighborhood.

Last night, Donna’s friend Lisa Montanaro drove down from Davis and they went out to dinner at Seasons 52. I stayed home and dialed in the satellite dish and had leftovers for dinner.

The weather forecast is calling for upper 80s and low 90s for the highs over the next five days with little chance of precipitation. The 50 amp service here will be useful – we’re sure to be running the air conditioners.

 

We’re On for RAGBRAI

Donna returned from her speaking engagement in Gillette, Wyoming late Tuesday night. While she was away she received an email notification that her entry in the Des Moines Register Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) was accepted. As the name implies, this is an annual event that’s taken place since 1973. The routes vary and this year’s route goes from west to east across northern Iowa.

The bike ride takes place July 23rd to July 29th. There are seven overnight stops – the first day begins in Orange City and ends with an overnight stop in Spencer. The total mileage of the ride is 411 miles, ending in Lansing, Iowa on the banks of the Mississippi River. Each day’s stage will be 50 to 73 miles. Most of us think of Iowa as flat land – it’s really rolling plains and this year’s bike route has plenty of climbs – the total climb is 13,078 feet. Of course Donna won’t gain 13,000+ feet in elevation – the rolling terrain means it’s mostly short climbs followed by a descent.

Our plan is to make our way to Iowa after our granddaughter’s high school graduation in June. We’ll meet up with our friend’s, Jeff and Deb Spencer (Rolling Recess) and a few other RV couples that make up the team. Our plan is for me to caravan with the other RVs to the overnight stop towns while Donna rides.

Last weekend, before Donna rode her bike to Cabrillo National Monument, I outfitted it with lights. She doesn’t ride after dark, but these lights help make her more visible to cars. I bought a set of Blitzu Gator 390 rechargable LED lights. These lights can be set up to vary the brightness and also have a setting to flash on and off. I set up her headlight and tail light to flash. We’ve seen a lot of bicyclists in the area with blinking lights and they definitely stand out.

When Donna and I first met, it was through a bicycle club. We would go on the Saturday morning club ride – along with about 100 other people – and ride together. Usually the riders would break up into smaller groups with similar pace and abilities. We often rode 40 or 50 miles. Nowadays, I’m feeling the effects of the toll my body has taken over the years. I’ve had three shoulder surgeries, a neck dissection and a fractured C7 vertebrae along with a steel plate in my right collarbone. Riding 50 miles a day is no longer in the cards for me. I get neck cramps and sore shoulders.

It’s been a while since I’ve been out on my carbon fiber Orbea road bike. When I ride I usually keep it down to an hour or so on my Specialized Crave mountain bike. Maybe I should consider selling my road bike.

Last night Donna made a new dish. It was a Korean Beef dish made with grass fed ground beef that our friend Sara Graff gave us a while back. Served over rice with steamed broccoli, it was delicious!

Korean beef

The temperatures have been in the mid to upper 70s this week. Today will be partly cloudy and cooler – around 70 degrees. The weekend forecast calls for clouds and cooler weather with a chance of rain on Sunday. I’m going to the rec center for pickleball this morning. Donna is busy at her laptop working on project that’s due tomorrow.

 

*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!

 

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.

 

Whiskey or Whisky

Donna had an appointment at the hair salon in Tempe on Tuesday. We rode the Spyder there – about a 20-minute ride from ViewPoint RV Resort. I dropped her off at 11am and continued on to the Total Wine store at Tempe Marketplace. Total Wine is a big box discount liquor store. They have a huge selection and good prices.

I was looking for a bottle of Scotch whisky. I like to sip single malt Scotch occasionally. There’s a difference between American whiskey and Scotch whisky – beyond the spelling and geographic origin – they are made from different ingredients. Scotch is malted barley that’s been distilled twice and aged in oak barrels. American whiskey is distilled primarily from corn.

The aging process for Scotch whisky takes place in oak barrels – usually in barrels obtained from American distilleries after they’ve been used to age whiskey. Some Scotch distillers will then transfer the whisky to used European wine casks – like sherry casks. The aging process takes place while it’s in the barrels or casks. Once it’s bottled, the aging process stops. So, if you have a bottle of 10-year-old Scotch and put it on the shelf for five years, you still have a bottle of 10-year-old Scotch.

Scotch whisky also has distinct flavors depending the region it’s distilled in. The largest region is Highland which is known for a warm, smooth product. A sub-region is called Speyside and it’s similar to Highland Scotch but also produces fruitier flavors. Scotch produced off the coast in the islands (Islay) is often peaty and/or smokey.

My preference is Speyside or Highland Scotch that’s been aged a minimum of 12 years. Scotch that’s aged 18 or more years is usually far superior but the price jumps exponentially. A lot of people will say not to waste your money or taste buds on inexpensive Scotch. I disagree – to a point. I look at it like shopping for red wine. Anyone can spend $30 or more and come home with a decent bottle of red wine. To me, the trick is finding a decent, affordable daily glass of wine for about a third of that cost. I shop for Scotch in this manner also.

My fallback position on single malt Scotch is Glenfiddich or The Glenlivet 12-year-old Scotch. These are very popular and affordable. I like to try out different offerings from time to time. When we’re in California, Trader Joe’s carries their house brand of Scotch which they obtain from a brokerage called Alexander Murray. Alexander Murray buys from various distilleries and bottles under private labels. They carry 750ml bottles ranging from cheap 8-year-old Scotch to very expensive 25-year-old Scotch. I’ve had their 13-year-old and 15-year-old and it’s quite good.

At Total Wine, I found a bottle called Glen Ness 12-year-old Highland Scotch. It’s their house brand and I thought I’d give it a try. It was a couple of dollars less than Glenfiddich and I found it to be fairly comparable – although I think Glenfiddich has a little more complexity. That was probably more than you ever wanted to read about Scotch.

After we returned home, I took it easy for the rest of the day. The temperature reached the upper 70s and things are blooming all over the desert. Tree and grass pollen counts are high and I’m suffering from pollen allergies. Donna rode her bicycle to her physical therapy session and afterward continued on to complete a 16-mile loop.

Donna prepared one of our favorite fish recipes for dinner. She wrapped individual servings of cod with asparagus, orange juice, butter and fresh tarragon in parchment paper.  She put the parchment wraps on a baking sheet and cooked it in the convection oven.  It’s very easy. She makes four servings and we enjoy the leftovers for lunch the next day.

Parchment wrapped cod filet

Perfectly cooked

Here’s Donna’s recipe…

Fish in Parchment with Asparagus

4  15×15-inch squares parchment paper
4  5-to 6-ounce fish fillets (such as halibut or cod; each about 1 inch thick)
12 fresh tarragon leaves
2  tablespoons butter, cut into 4 pieces plus extra for buttering parchment paper
1  pound slender asparagus spears, trimmed (and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces if desired)
4  tablespoons orange juice

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place parchment squares on work surface. Generously butter half of each parchment square (I rub the parchment with one end of a stick of butter). Top buttered half of each with 1 fish fillet. Dry fish with a paper towel and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top each fillet with 3 tarragon leaves, then 1 piece of butter. Arrange asparagus around each fish fillet; pour 1 tablespoon orange juice over each. Fold parchment over fish and asparagus, folding and crimping edges tightly to seal and enclose filling completely. Place on 2 rimmed baking sheets, spacing apart. Bake fish packets 17 minutes. Slide packets onto plates and serve.  NOTE: Can be made 4 hours ahead and chilled, making it a great dinner for company.

On Wednesday morning, I played in the round robin pickleball matches. In the cool morning hours, my allergies seem to be a little more subdued. By the afternoon, I was going for eye drops every four hours or so. I took it easy for the rest of the day. Yesterday the temperature reached 86 degrees and we should see upper 80s through the weekend.

Desert Biking and Hiking

We’ve settled in to a weekday routine here at ViewPoint RV and Golf Resort. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, I play pickleball in the 3.0-3.5 round robin matches. After about two and half hours on the courts, I come home hungry and tired. This usually means I spend the afternoon lazing around and reading a book.

Of course I have a few small chores to attend to, but haven’t had any really big projects lately. My focus is on getting back into better physical condition. Donna plays pickleball a couple of times per week, and then walks, runs, hikes, or cycles on other days.

Friday went according to plan. I played pickleball in windy conditions Friday morning. Donna went out for a run. There were a few clouds, but the temperature reached 80 degrees. After reading in the afternoon, I went to happy hour at Lucky Lou’s and met up with the crew.

Donna prepared a chipotle chili crusted pork tenderloin for dinner and I grilled it on the Weber Q. I’m really liking our new Weber grill. She served it with sweet potato and spinach hash.

Chipotle-chili crusted pork tenderloin with sweet potato and spinach hash

I got ambitious Saturday morning and got my mountain bike out of the trailer. I haven’t ridden my Specialized Crave 29er in months. I had a notion to ride up Spook Hill. Spook Hill is a popular local hiking spot. It’s a few miles from ViewPoint and less than a mile from our old neighborhood. The last time I hiked up it was eight or nine years ago. I’d never ridden a bike up the steep climb.

The trail up is steep and much more rocky and rutted than I remembered. There were a number of people hiking up the hill – most of them looked at me on my bike like I was nuts. The trail gains over 300 feet of elevation in less than half a mile. Donna said she can hike up it in about ten minutes.

Several sections were too rutted, rocky or full of deep decomposed granite (DG). The DG caused loss of traction on my bike and I stalled in a few places. I ended up walking about 60% of the time going up. It took me 15 minutes to get up the hill – I lost time dismounting and mounting the bike and also pushing the bike up the rutted or rocky areas.

Once you reach the top, you have a commanding 360-degree view of the area.

Looking southwest – that’s the north end of ViewPoint RV and Golf Resort in the center – where we’re currently located

Looking south you can see the rest of ViewPoint, the Loop 202 freeway and the San Tan Mountains in the distance

Looking east – our old neighborhood is toward the small mountain on the left – Superstition Mountains in the background

Looking northeast toward Pass Mountain – most of the homes in the foreground didn’t exist when we lived here in 2009

Looking northwest – Red Mountain in the center – McDowell Mountain and Fountain Hills in the background

Going back down the trail, I reversed the walk/ride ratio. I rode more than 60% of the way and only walked the most treacherous sections.

This was fun but a little slippery

I went very slowly through here

I walked this rocky section to avoid hitting any hikers

While I was mountain biking, Donna was out on her road bike. I came home about five minutes ahead of her. I was whipped and done for the day.

As you can see in the photos, we had some high, thin cloud cover but the thermometer hit 81 degrees. For dinner I spatchcocked a whole chicken. Donna marinated it in lemon, olive oil and garlic. I cooked it on the Traeger smoker/grill while Donna cooked chopped bok choy on the Weber Q.

Traeger smoking away

Bok choy on the Weber Q

Spatchcocked chicken hot off the Traeger

It was an enjoyable end another day well-lived.

On Sunday morning, Donna met up with our friends, Hans Kohls and Lisa McGuire and they hiked near Lost Dutchman. Meanwhile, my friend Mike Hall picked me up and we drove his truck out to the desert near Sycamore Creek (dry) to shoot. We had a good time setting up targets against a hillside backstop and trying out a few firearms. I nearly knocked myself out trying Mike’s Thompson/Center 45-70 Government hand cannon!

Thompson/Center 45-70 – what a cannon!

That pretty much sums up the weekend. The forecast calls for cooler temperatures over the next two days, then we’ll warm up to mid-to-upper-80s.

 

Face Down Under the Sink

I usually write my posts first thing in the morning. Not this time – I’m writing at 4:30pm on Friday afternoon. If you read on, you’ll understand why.

We’re really enjoying our time here at Viewpoint RV & Golf Resort. The people here are so friendly and it seems like everyone is active. They have two golf courses, tennis courts, swimming pools and five pickleball courts. On Thursday, I walked up to our mailbox which is next to a baseball field and saw a ladies softball team practicing. The coach was hitting balls as they did infield drills. They were looking good – most of these women put my arm to shame as they threw to first base.

Ladies softball practice

Donna rode her bicycle over to our friend Lana’s house to help her with organizing some stuff stored in a guest room. While she was away, I took care of a couple of maintenance items. One thing that was overdue was replacement of the filter on our purified water spout on the sink.

Rick at the RV Water Filter Store told me I should be good for two to three years on this filter since we have two-stage filtration for all of the water coming into the coach. This additional filter adds bacteriostatic filtration and is supposed to be good for 1500 gallons of water. We only use the purified water spout for the coffee maker and cooking, so we don’t run much water through it. I’ve been putting off the replacement because I remember what a chore it was last time I did it.

The filter is mounted under our kitchen sink. It has quick release fittings attaching it inline to the PEX lines plumbing the spout. The quick release fittings make removal a snap – but installing the replacement wasn’t so easy.

Purified water filter – that’s the sink drain pipe in the foreground

Removing the filter is a one-handed affair. I just pull the collar back on the fitting and pull the PEX away from the filter. The replacement filter I had didn’t come with the fittings. You can get it with or without the fittings. I figure it’s simple to remove the fittings from the old filter and install them in the new one and save a few bucks.

Old filter on top, new below

A 9/16″ wrench was all it takes – plus some teflon tape to seal the threads.

The issue with getting the new filter attached is the sink drain pipe. It prevents me from being able to reach in with both hands – one to hold the filter and one to pull the collar back on the quick release fitting to attach it to the PEX plumbing.

Instead of beating my head against the sink pipe and stretching arms to limit, I tried another approach. I took off my glasses and put my head – face down – under the sink drain pipe. Then I visualized the task with my eyes closed and tactiley worked the quick disconnect fittings. It took a couple of attempts, but I got it done!

After that my only maintenance chore for the day was to dump and flush our tanks. I dumped the tanks when we arrived last Wednesday. On Saturday I was surprised when I heard a gurgling sound coming from the kitchen sink while the clothes washer was running. This sound is an indicator of a full holding tank. I immediately dumped the gray water tank.

The tank was nearly full judging by the time it took to drain. What I didn’t know at the time was Donna had done at least seven loads of laundry – catching up from our time at RV Renovators. This alone accounts for 70+ gallons of gray water. So, I’m keeping a close eye on the gray water tank.

Friday morning I headed out early for the 3.0 to 3.5 round robin pickleball match at 8am. Donna came to the courts around 9:15 for open play. Once again I was a glutton for punishment and played 11 games over three hours on the courts. I’m feeling it now.

Pickleball courts

It was noon by the time we came home. After lunch, Donna headed out for another grocery shopping run. After she returned, I rode the Spyder to Lucky Lou’s for happy hour with the guys. We firmed up our plans for the NHRA drag races at Wildhorse Pass raceway – formerly Firebird Raceway. I’ll be up early again tomorrow as Mike Hall and Ray Laehu will pick me up at 7am. So that makes two early mornings in a row without a chance to write a post. We’ll spend the day at the races.

A cold front is stalled in the area. It got cold overnight – it was 39 outside when we woke up this morning and 51 in the coach. Today we had clear sunny skies, but the temperature only reached the low 60s. The same is forecast for tomorrow. I’m looking forward to the middle of next week when the forecast calls for upper 70s!