Category Archives: California

Winter Solstice

Our friend Sini left Mission Bay RV Resort on Monday and flew from San Diego to Seattle to spend Christmas with friends and family. She left the keys for her Saturn Vue with us so we could use her car – we had a plan for her to retrieve her keys when she returned. The car was a big help when I started packing our gear on Tuesday. I was able to load our chairs, ladder, Weber Q grill and a few odds and ends, then drive over to the lot where our cargo trailer was stored. Thanks, Sini!

On Tuesday evening, I rode the Spyder over to Offshore Tavern and Grill and Donna walked up to meet me for a final happy hour and taco Tuesday dinner. We said our farewells to the guys and to Leann, the bartender. We’ll be back in September – I’ve booked three months beginning September 25th.

I only had a few things left to pack on Wednesday morning. Donna went to her early morning boot camp for her final workout. Once again, our neighbor from Louisiana, Larry, loaded the Traeger smoker grill into his van and we drove it over to the trailer. Pulling the Traeger on its small plastic wheels is a chore, driving it over in the van was nice. Thanks, Larry! And thanks, Brenda (Larry’s wife) for the yummy homemade pralines!

I checked all of our tire pressures and added air all the way around. The trailer tires needed air as well. It’s common for tires to lose a pound or two of pressure per month and we’d been sitting for two months. Plus the ambient temperature was cooler which also affects the air pressure in the tires. I’m a real stickler on proper tire pressures. Underinflation is the number one cause of tire failure and a blowout is no joke.

Over the past eight months or so, when we’re packing up, Ozark the cat senses something is up. Before we know it she’ll hide behind the sofa and remain there until we reach our destination. I don’t know if being stationary for two months relieved her travel anxiety, but she didn’t hide. She ended up riding quietly in her crate.

We pulled out of our site at 11:30 am and hitched the trailer. Over by the boat dock at the overflow lot, an osprey perched on a lamp post watched us. Ospreys are sometimes called fish hawks as fish is their main source of food. They excel at plucking fish from a body of water and are often seen around Mission Bay.

Osprey on a lamp post

We were rolling down the road shortly before noon, making the familiar drive out I-8 east. We made the usual stop east of Laguna summit at the Buckman Springs rest area for lunch. Donna made ham sandwiches and we sat outdoors at a picnic table to enjoy a little sunshine with our lunch.

It was an uneventful drive to the Imperial Dunes where we exited I-8 at Ogilby Road. Road construction is ongoing on I-8 and the westbound ramps for Ogilby are closed, but the exit and entry ramps on the eastbound side are open.

We missed the turnoff for our usual spot in the desert, but it didn’t matter. We turned off on the east side of Ogilby at the next obvious trail into the desert – it’s BLM land and dispersed camping is allowed in this area for up to 14 days. I was ready for a break from driving and we were set up in no time – not much to it when we’re boondocking. We had a nice, level spot and I didn’t even put the jacks down. I just popped out the slides and got comfortable.

Quiet sunset in the desert

We remarked how quiet it was out in the desert. There were other RVs there, but no one was within a quarter mile of us. To the west, we saw only open desert out the windshield. I was looking forward to a good night’s sleep as I didn’t sleep well the night before.

It wasn’t to be though. Shortly after we retired for the night, the wind kicked up. We had howling gusts of wind that rocked the coach and had the slide toppers flapping. I slept fitfully. We wanted an early start Thursday morning, so I was a little short on sleep again.

We were only about 10 miles from the Arizona border. Once we crossed the border, we continued for another 12 miles to Fortuna Road. We stopped there so I could pick up water filter elements at Al’s RV Store. This shop is well-stocked and has just anything you might need for your RV. And the parking lot is big enough to park a big rig with easy entry and exit. From there, we crossed over I-8 to the Pilot-Flying J on the north side. I topped up the tank with 63 gallons of fuel at $2.70/gallon – about 75 cents less per gallon than diesel fuel costs in California!

We bypassed the usual shortcut through Maricopa and continued on I-8 until we hit I-10. I wanted to stop at the Blue Beacon truck wash in Eloy, near Casa Grande. The coach was badly in need of a wash, but it was too expensive to get a wash in San Diego. Mission Bay RV Resort doesn’t allow you to wash your coach. You need to hire a mobile detailer to get a wash job there and they charge exorbitant prices.

We pulled into Viewpoint RV Resort in Mesa, Arizona around 3:30 pm – we lost an hour when we crossed into Arizona. Arizona is on Mountain Standard Time year ’round. So at this time of year, it’s an hour later than Pacific Time. When everyone else changes to daylight time, Arizona is the same as Pacific Time.

Backing the trailer into our site took a few attempts. The narrow roads here make it tough, but we got it done without any problems. We’ll complete our set-up today. I need to wash the windshield cover before I put it on and then we can set up our mat, table and chairs. This will be home for the next three months.

The wind I mentioned in the desert was due to a cold front moving in from the north. It was chilly when we arrived – about 60 degrees. Overnight, the temperature dropped below freezing! Yesterday was the winter solstice – the shortest amount of daylight for the year. This morning it was only 49 degrees in the coach – we don’t run the heater at night. We have the heat pumps running now and our plans to play pickleball at 8 am were dashed – we play on outdoor courts here. Maybe we can play later or wait for warmer weather which should come over the weekend.


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.

The Genuine Article

Donna and I usually don’t make a big deal about or keep secrets regarding Christmas presents. This year we both splurged a bit though – but it wasn’t secret. I had  pair of western equestrian style boots from Lucchese made to order for Donna. To do this, I had to trace her feet and take measurements – more about that later. Donna bought a new Euro-recliner chair and ottoman for me. Both of these items are leather, so I want to start this post with some information about leather.

I’m going to talk about cowhide or calfskin leather. The tanned hide of a cow is thick – in some areas it can be half an inch or more. The thick hide isn’t homogeneous – the properties vary. The area on the outside where the hair was removed is smooth and has the tightest grain structure and the greatest strength. The part that is closest to the muscle tissue is rough  and has a more horizontal grain structure that is the weaker. Tanneries split the thick hide – they run it through a machine that cuts the outer, stronger layer from the inner, weaker layer.

When asked what type of leather is most desirable – full grain, top grain or genuine leather – many people pick genuine leather. That’s a marketing ploy – genuine leather sounds like it’s the genuine article. But when we’re discussing the types of leather, full grain is the most desirable for most items like furniture, foot wear or upholstery. Full grain is the outermost layer of the hide and is the strongest, most durable and takes dye well. The downside for some people is the fact that cow hide comes from an animal that may have had scars from rubbing against various objects or branding and of course it’s costly.

Top grain is similar to full grain, except it has been sanded to remove any imperfections, removing a millimeter or two of the strongest surface. Usually a coating is applied to top grain leather. It’s commonly found in furniture and handbags and some lower quality footwear.

Genuine leather comes from the bottom half of the hide – the weakest part closest to the muscle tissue. This is also where suede comes from. It’s not a very desirable leather if durability is important. There’s another type called bonded leather – this is low grade leather mixed with a synthetic binder and leather scraps that have been ground. It’s the leather equivalent of particle board.

Okay, enough about leather. Wednesday a package arrived at Mission Bay RV Resort for us. It was the boots I had made for Donna. They were beautiful full grain calfskin. I had Donna try them on. Uh-oh. Either I messed up when I made the tracings of her foot or Lucchese made them too big. They didn’t fit her feet – they were too loose in the vamp and heel.

I repackaged them and sent them back after talking to Lucchese customer service. It was as hassle-free as something like this can be. I dropped them at the Fed Ex store in Pacific Beach. Meanwhile, Lucchese is making another pair for Donna, but it’ll be weeks before she can have them.

Another delivery was dropped off at our site. It was large box containing the Euro-recliner chair and ottoman she bought for me. Some assembly was required. The parts were well-packed and all of the hardware was present. I unpacked everything, then decided to get our old chair out of the coach and assemble the new one inside so I wouldn’t have to wrestle a fully assembled 70-pound chair through the door and up the steps.

Assembly wasn’t that difficult, but the instruction manual would have been useless without exploded drawings. The written instructions were nonsense. Here’s a quote from the instruction manual:

Attach the back cushion to the left & right the aggregation of arm wood frame base with seat cushion...”

The chair is made of top grain cow hide on all of the contact surfaces – the seat cushion top surface, the backrest front surface and arm rests. The bottom of the seat cushion and rear portion of the backrest are bonded leather to keep costs down. I think this is a reasonable compromise to provide quality leather on the contact areas.

New Euro-recliner and ottoman – color isn’t true to life in the photo

I also received another pair of Tecovas boots. I ordered another pair of Cartwright calfskin boots in desert tan. I know, it’s getting a little out of control. I have six pair of boots now – three Lucchese and three Tecovas. Two of the Lucchese boots are ostrich and one is crocodile. Two of the Tecovas are calfskin and one is lizard.

Tecovas desert tan Cartwright boots

Tuesday night Donna made another new dish for me. She knows that I often cook Marie Callendar pot pies when she’s away. So, she made a chicken pot pie from scratch in a skillet. She said she’s sure it’s much more nutritious and healthy than a pre-made one. It was great – and it was large enough to have leftovers for lunch the next day.

Chicken pot pie baked in a skillet

We’re into our last week here in San Diego. Two months flew by, but I’m ready to roll. We’ll spend the remainder of the winter in Mesa, Arizona. It’s been fantastic as usual. We won’t be back in San Diego again until next September.


Party in the Park

The wind diminished over the weekend here at Mission Bay. The mountains east of San Diego and areas of the north county still had high winds though. The north county fire – called the Lilac fire –  near Bonsall destroyed homes and swept through the San Luis Downs horse-training facility killing at least 35 thoroughbred horses. The wind drove the fire westward causing more evacuations around Oceanside. The fire is 75% contained now and the evacuation order has been lifted.

Someone at the RV park stores their kayaks under a canopy on the beach at De Anza Cove. They have the kayaks locked with a cable to secure them. The canopy didn’t fare too well with the high winds though.

Canopies don’t hold up to Santa Ana winds

I was at a gas station on Morena Boulevard Friday when I heard the unmistakable sound of a radical V8 engine. An old school ’55 Chevy pulled up to the pumps. It was a bit ratty looking, but I knew it had a hot motor. It was old school down to the straight front axle, Halibrand magnesium wheels and cheater slicks. I shot a photo of it.

’55 Chevy Bel Air

The owner of the car saw me taking the picture and asked me if I wanted a look under the hood. Of course I did. It had a supercharged small block with dual Carter carburetors and fender well headers.

Small block Chevy

There wasn’t anything ratty about the engine. Then he opened the driver’s door so I could take a look inside. It was upholstered in diamond stitched naugahyde including the headliner and had a roll bar. You wouldn’t guess that by looking at the paint job!

Diamond stitched naugahyde

Headliner and roll bar

The guy told me he had owned the car for about 30 years. He said he also had a ’32 Ford Coupe and a ’39 Willys. He said they were set up similar to the ’55 Chevy – no fancy paint but killer drive trains and nice interiors.

On Friday night Sini joined Donna and I to listen to live music at Fast Times Bar and Grill up the hill on Clairemont Drive. John January is the brother of my friend, Joe. John is a very talented guitarist and was performing with his girlfriend, Linda Berry. John is an inductee of the San Diego Blues Hall of Fame. They were performing as a duet – they also front a complete band sometimes. John has the skills to fill out the sound with his sense of timing, bass lines, chord inversions and riffs. It was almost hard to believe that just two people and one guitar could sound that good.

John January and Linda Berry

By the way – the name of the bar was taken from the title of the 1982 movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High starring Jennifer Jason Leigh and Sean Penn. The screenplay was written by Cameron Crowe after he supposedly spent a semester posing as a student at Clairemont High School – my alma mater – to develop the characters.

On Saturday, I took the Traeger wood pellet fired smoker grill out of the trailer. I was about to drag it through the lot to our site when our neighbor called out to me. Larry is from Louisiana and his rig is in the site behind us. He was at the overflow lot retrieving something from his van. He said, “How about we put that grill in the van and drive to your site?” Good idea! Thanks, Larry!

I needed the Traeger to smoke a couple of racks of baby back ribs I bought at Costco on Friday. The ribs weren’t the pre-packaged Swift Premium they sell – they were cut right there at the Morena store. The butchers there did a really nice job trimming the ribs. I prepped the ribs with dry rub and cooked them Memphis-style.

We had a potluck dinner planned for Saturday night at Sini’s site. Donna planned to grill chicken drumsticks and make a beer and bourbon cheese fondue. To marinate the chicken drumsticks she needed liquid smoke. I told her I saw liquid smoke at Siesel’s meat market. I rode the Spyder over to Siesel’s to get it. I looked through the aisle where I thought I saw it before, but couldn’t find it. A woman asked me if I needed help. I told her what I was looking for and she said, “It’s right here…oh, I guess we’re out of it.” Then she called out to one of the butchers behind the meat counter and asked if they had any liquid smoke. He said he had a gallon of hickory liquid smoke. I said I only needed a couple of ounces. He disappeared for a couple of minutes, then returned and gave me a small plastic container with about half a cup of liquid smoke and said “You’re all set.” Nice!

Everyone gathered at Sini’s place around 5pm. We had an extra picnic table the park provided plus a couple of folding tables for the food buffet. Five couples from inside the RV park were there plus a few of our friends that live in the area. Gary Stemple and Mona Sojot came along with Mona’s friend, Berdine.

Potluck food and drink time

Everyone enjoyed the food and drink and we talked the night away. Before I knew it, it was 10pm.

We only have 10 more days here at Mission Bay RV Resort before we leave San Diego. The time has flown by. The weather forecast for the next 10 days looks good – daily highs in the 70s with no rain. We’ll be heading east to Arizona to spend the rest of winter in a warm climate.



Moon Turn the Tides

Every blog post needs a title. Sometimes I struggle with that. You may have noticed that I’ll steal the name of a song or partial lyrics for my title from time to time. Today’s title comes from Jimi Hendrix’s third album, Electric Ladyland, released in 1968. I chose it because the full moon last weekend was a super moon.

Super moons occur when the full moon coincides with the moon’s closest distance to the earth as it travels on its elliptical apogee in the sky above. This makes the full moon appear larger than normal. The gravitational forces of the moon’s proximity were very apparent in the tides on Mission Bay. I shot a photo of low tide in the morning at De Anza Cove, then took another photo at high tide in the afternoon. Notice the dock resting in the mud at low tide, then it’s floating nearly horizontal in the afternoon.

Low tide at De Anza Cove

The same dock at high tide

Mother Nature unleashed another southern California phenomenon this week – Santa Ana winds. Santa Ana winds originate from high pressure over the inland desert basin. Hot, dry wind blows over the coastal range and offshore. These dry winds bring warmer than usual temperatures and low humidity – often less than 10%. They increase the risk of wildfires and the strong winds can fan the fires which move quickly and grow in size.

The Santa Ana hit areas to the north on Monday – up near Ventura. Wildfires burned along the coast up there. The winds really picked up in San Diego County on Thursday. Wind speed was clocked at 61 mph at Crestwood on I-8 in east county Thursday morning. A 38-foot fifth-wheel RV trailer was blown over on I-8, then they closed high-profile vehicle travel on the interstate. San Diego Gas and Electric shut down power in portions of east county to prevent sparks starting fires from any power lines that might blow down.

Fires raged all over southern California. Homes were destroyed in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. San Diego County had wildfires in the north county near I-15. The winds whipped the fires and they jumped the interstate in some areas. We heard that some neighborhoods near Temecula were evacuated. The fire danger warnings are in effect here until Saturday afternoon. When fire warnings are issued, no outdoor fires such as campfires or brush burning, are allowed.

We didn’t have any issues with fire here at Mission Bay RV Resort, but a few people had damage from the wind. There were two unoccupied travel trailers in the row across from us that had their awnings out. The people had left in the morning and didn’t retract their awnings. I knocked on the door of one of the trailers and looked to see if I could put their awning away. No one was there and the awning was an electric power unit – I couldn’t do anything. Later someone strapped the extended awning to the picnic table to keep it from flapping in the wind. We heard that others weren’t so lucky – a couple of rigs suffered damage when their awnings were torn away by the gusty wind. I don’t leave our awning out when we are away from the coach. Wind gusts can come up unexpectedly at any time.

On Wednesday evening, Donna grilled chicken thighs and served it with a new-to-me side of butternut squash brown rice pilaf with dried cranberries and toasted pepitas.

Grilled chicken with butternut squash brown rice pilaf

Tomorrow we’re planning to have a potluck gathering at Sini’s site. Donna made up flyers to invite some of our neighbors. She plans to grill chicken and I’ll smoke baby back ribs on the Traeger wood pellet-fired smoker grill.

The winds have calmed down along the coast but are still strong in the mountains. We should have a few clouds with the temperature reaching the upper 70s tomorrow.


Boating and the Barefoot Bar

We were blessed with another fine weekend in San Diego. We’d made plans to meet up with friends and go out on a pontoon boat that Gary Stemple had reserved at Freedom Boat Club. Gary is a club member and has taken us out on a variety of boats.

Donna prepared for the boat ride by taking the Spyder over to Pacific Beach where she bought bagels and cream cheese and Bloody Mary fixings. We planned to meet Gary here in De Anza Cove at the boat dock near the RV park overflow parking lot. Donna and I carried our gear to the dock and saw Gary approaching around 10am. We found a gate on the dock which was locked – we hadn’t noticed this before – we’ve used the dock in the past. It appears the city decided to block access rather than maintain the dock.

Gary beached the boat next to the dock and we boarded. We expected to have seven or eight people, but a couple of people bailed out due to other activities. The three of us crossed Mission Bay and went back to Dana Landing where the boat club is located. We picked up Howard and Johnna Brutschy there. Along the way we cruised past a small island that we always referred to as Horsehoe Island back when we were growing up here – I see on Google maps the official name is West Ski Island. We reminisced about keg parties on the island back in the day. I saw a group with traditional Hawaiian style outrigger canoes beached there.

Horseshoe Island – look closely for a group with canoes (click to enlarge)

We picked up Howard and Johnna and began a leisurely cruise around the bay. The day was warming up nicely. As you can see from the photos, the ski was clear and the slight haze cleared by afternoon. The temperature reached the mid-70s – warmer than expected.

We cruised past Perez Cove to the southeast part of the bay, on the south side of Fiesta Island. There’s an area there called Hidden Anchorage. This inlet is restricted for use by the San Diego Ski Team members. To enter the inlet you need to obtain a permit from the San Diego Lifeguard Station. The permits are free, but you need to prove you’re a member of the club. The club practices for slalom competitions and ski jumping there. We drifted outside of the restricted area and since it was nearly noon, we made Bloody Marys.

Ski Club area at Hidden Anchorage

We slowly cruised past Sea World. Gary commented how his dad used to bring the family down there on his boat when he was young. They could watch the Shamu and dolphin shows from the bay near the water stadium.

Sea World

From there we picked up speed and circled around Fiesta Island and made our way to the dock behind the Hilton Hotel on East Mission Bay.

Gary, Howard, Johnna and Donna cruising the bay

We docked briefly for a comfort break there, then headed back out. We were just cruising and seeing the sights while we enjoyed the weather. We cruised out the Entrance Channel along the jetty and into the Pacific Ocean. We didn’t venture far from the Entrance Channel – the pontoon boat wasn’t really an ocean-going vessel. We spun around in lazy circles and took in the sights.

View to the north from the Entrance Channel. The jetty on the right is the north side of the channel and the boundary of Mission Beach. That’s La Jolla to the north in the distance.

Looking east toward the bay and Quivera Basin. The Hyatt Hotel can be seen on the left

We came back through the channel – the San Diego River and Dog Beach (Ocean Beach) were on the other side of the jetty on our right. We cruised past Quivera Basin, under the West Mission Bay bridge, then docked across from Ventura Cove at the Barefoot Bar and Grill. We ordered appetizers for lunch there and enjoyed the ambiance and view.

View from our table at the Barefoot Bar and Grill

There’s a pond – actually more like a moat – surrounding the seating area at the Barefoot Bar. They pump bay water into it and local fish swim around in it – including leopard sharks. The sharks we saw in the water were only about three feet long, but the average length of an adult leopard shark is close to five feet long and yes, they are found in Mission Bay.

Gary and Donna at our table – waterfall into the pond in the background.

That sums up an enjoyable, relaxing day on the bay. We returned the boat to Dana Landing around 3pm and Gary dropped us off back at Mission Bay RV Resort.

Sunday was overcast and cooler – the temperature only reached the high 60s. Hans Kohls had invited us to join him and Lisa at an event near Balboa Park – it was the SoNo Fest and Chili Cook-Off. We didn’t go though. Donna wanted to pick up some groceries and take a bike ride and I wanted to watch the Chargers game and see if their playoff hopes were real. They are at this point!

It was a great day for chili though. So Donna made her white chicken chili recipe – it’s delicious.

White chicken chili topped with crumbled tortilla chips, shredded Monterey jack cheese, avocado cubes and cilantro

The forecast for today is partly cloudy with a high in the upper 60s. We should have sunny weather and temperatures in the 70s for the week ahead. Donna hit her boot camp workout early this morning. I’ll head over to Ocean Beach Recreation Center to play pickleball and work off some of the beer and chili.



The Neighborhood Mom

Yesterday I put on a suit and tie for the first time in about five years – with good reason. Donna and I borrowed Sini’s car and went to a memorial service at the Pacific Beach Chapel. The service was a celebration of life for someone that was very dear to me and important to me during my teenage years and beyond. Donna M. Brutschy passed away November 5, 2017 at the age of 90. I wore a suit out of respect for her.

I can clearly remember meeting Donna when I was 14 years old. It was 1970 and I had become best buddies with her son, Howard. Howard and I had just spent the night camping out near Miramar. We had ridden dirt bikes there. At that time, we could ride dirt bikes a couple of blocks on the street from their house in Clairemont and get to Geddes Canyon. From there we could reach Rose Canyon, then ride to San Clemente Canyon which would take us to the mesa near Miramar. In those days there were no houses out there, just sage brush on the mesa with small canyons here and there all the way to Poway. The Miramesa neighborhood didn’t exist.

After our night out, we returned to the Brutschy’s house in the morning. Donna Brutschy immediately asked us if we were hungry. Howard answered in the affirmative. Donna asked me if I liked scrambled eggs. I said, “Yes.” Then she asked, “Do you like them wet or dry?” I was 14 years old and didn’t know how to answer – no one had ever asked me that question before. I just mumbled, “I guess I’ll just have them regular, ma’am.” That was my introduction to the nurturing character that was Donna Brustchy.

Howard and I were tight and we were almost always doing things together through our high school years and beyond. His sister Vicki, Donna’s youngest daughter, was my high school sweetheart for a couple of years. The Brutschy’s door was always open and Donna was the neighborhood mom. A few of my friends had known her for years as she was their Cub Scout den mother.

Donna had a way with words. In 1986, I took a promotion and moved my family to the company headquarters in Michigan for a few years – a move I would repeat more than 20 years later.  Before we moved away, I was an avid bicyclist and stayed in good physical condition. After a year of driving a desk and getting through a Michigan winter, I had gained about 20 pounds. I came back to southern California on a business trip and stopped at the Brustchy’s house. Donna looked at my ample proportions and said, “You’re looking…prosperous.” That was her way of telling me I was fat! When I went back to Michigan, I joined a gym and started working out and got myself back in shape.

The memorial service was well attended. Donna had touched many lives and several people were compelled to speak and tell their stories of times with Donna. I wasn’t prepared so I didn’t share any stories there.

Respectfully dressed

After the service we went to the Brustchy house off of Moraga Avenue in Clairemont. The Brutschys have owned this house since it was built in the 1950s. It’s been remodeled several times and the landscaping is nothing like it was back in the ’70s. We had food and drink and milled about telling each other stories about our connections to the family. Donna’s extended family including her three children – Christine, Howard and Vicki – and her nine grandchildren and seven great-grand children were there. Many of my old buddies from our high school years were there as well. It was a nice tribute to a lady who was the neighborhood mom.

It looks like the weather will remain relatively cool over the weekend – highs in the upper 60s. We’ve been invited to go boating on the bay with Gary Stemple and a few friends tomorrow.

Humphrey’s Backstage Live

Our big event for the weekend was a night out at Humphrey’s Backstage Live. Backstage Live is a restaurant and bar connected with Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn on Shelter Island. It’s a bar and restaurant that features live music – mostly by local bands. The property also has the Humphrey’s outdoor stage where Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay performances occur. The outdoor venue has a large stage set in an intimate grassy outdoor garden next to the marina between the hotel and restaurant.

Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay feature big-name artists. In 2017, performers like Sheryl Crow, The Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan, Willie Nelson, Chris Isaac and Steve Winwood, to name a few were there. We saw a local band called The Reflectors at the Backstage Live. It’s a comfortable place for live music. The band plugs directly into a mixing board so the sound level is completely controlled by an operator at the board – no amplifiers on on stage. This allows the music to maintain a reasonable sound level, but removes some control from the individual musicians. I found the lead guitar licks to be a little muddy and lost in the mix, but the band sounded good overall. They played a lot of 80s and 90s hits.

Our view out the window of Backstage Live.

A poorly exposed photo of the Reflectors performing

The Reflectors performed during Happy Hour from 5pm to 7pm. Another band was scheduled to perform beginning at 9pm. I like the opportunity to enjoy live music without staying up half the night. We found out about the show from our friend Hans Kohls. We met up with Hans and Lisa at the bar and enjoyed a couple of drinks and conversation at our shared table.

One thing they did at Backstage Live that was cool was they way they arranged the tables. We sat at the back of the room at a high-top table for four. The next tables and chairs in front of us were slightly lower. The tables and chairs in front of them were even lower. This went on all the way to front, giving everyone a chance to see the stage over the tables in front.

Sunday morning Donna went hiking with Hans and Lisa. They climbed Cowles Mountain in Mission Trails Regional Park on the east trail. This trail takes you to the Cowles Mountain summit – the highest point within the San Diego City limits at 1,592 feet above sea level. It was a little over five miles round trip.

I didn’t hike, I stayed back in the park. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, the park was nearly full with only a handful of open sites. The sites were filled by families spending the long weekend here by the bay. On Saturday afternoon the exodus began. Sunday morning, the weekend warriors were packing up and leaving in droves. By Sunday afternoon, the park had more open sites than ever.

Lots of empty sites

More empty sites

The weekend weather was great – highs in the upper 70s on Saturday and a cooler 70 degrees on Sunday. This morning is overcast, but the expected rain didn’t fall. We should reach the upper 60s here at Mission Bay RV Resort. The next few days will remain cool before the highs are expected to reach the low 70s again. Donna took a day off from her boot camp workout, so we’re off to pickleball this morning at the Ocean Beach Recreation Center.


Non-Traditional Thanksgiving

The Mission Bay RV Resort filled up for the Thanksgiving weekend by Wednesday afternoon. We’ve experienced this every year – Thanksgiving is always a busy time here. When I came home from playing pickleball, I saw a mobile tire service truck across from our site. I thought it was a little odd for someone to be buying new tires while they’re at the RV park, but I could see a set of tires in the back of the truck.

After lunch I saw why they were getting new tires. The guy had changed out a couple of the tires by then and one of them was blown out. The tread was separated from the casing. I was curious about this and walked over to look at the failed tire. Tread separation can be caused by many things, such as underinflation, road hazards, overloading, excessive speed and so on. It’s hard to say what caused this but I checked the date code on the tire – it was 2207. These tires were made calendar week 22 of 2007 – they were more than 10 years old!

Tire failure

Complete tread separation

I didn’t get a chance to talk to the owner of the coach – he wasn’t around at the time. Apparently he doesn’t pay much attention to date codes – I saw the tires that were being installed had date codes of 3015 – the new tires were more than two years old! Tires on RVs rarely wear out. They usually age out. The components of the tire deteriorate with age, especially if they have lots of exposure to UV rays from sunlight or are exposed to ozone. I’ve seen a lot of opinions on how long to run tires. My personal tolerance is about seven years provided there are no visual signs of deterioration. I look for sidewall cracks, bulges, uneven wear or lumps in the treads.

Donna spent most of Thursday preparing our Thanksgiving dinner while I hung out and watched football. My youngest daughter, Shauna, flew out from Washington D.C. and was at her friend’s house. Cat was Shauna’s roommate while she was at law school. They graduated at the same time with law degrees and Shauna went to work in DC while Cat got a job with a firm here in San Diego. Shauna just started a new job – she was offered a position as a second-year Associate at Dentons – she accepted it and left Mayer-Brown. Dentons is the world’s largest law firm with offices worldwide.

Dinner with the girls at our picnic table

They joined us for dinner – we had our Thanksgiving dinner a little later than usual. Shauna and Cat came over around 5pm and we had drink and some of Donna’s guacamole before we ate. It was a warm day – the temperature reached 90 degrees in the afternoon but the evening was pleasant. Donna prepared a non-traditional dinner. She made a turkey breast roulade stuffed with pancetta and shallots and served it with acorn squash, roasted brussel sprouts and smashed red potatoes with porcini gravy. The roulade was labor intensive and she was cooking all afternoon.

Thanksgiving dinner plate

Shauna and Cat were eager to do some Black Friday shopping and planned to start at Fashion Valley Mall Thursday night. Fashion Valley had stores open from 6pm to 1am for early shoppers. They left around 8pm and took an Uber ride to the mall. They shopped again on Friday. Shauna flew back to DC this morning, so we only got to spend a few hours together.

Friday morning after I had a slice of homemade pumpkin pie for breakfast – with real whipped cream Donna made – we headed over to Ocean Beach for pickleball. It was time to work off some of the excess calories. We played practically non-stop for two hours. That was about it for me – I spent the rest of the day reading a book and napping.

Today we expect the weather to be a more normal day – blue skies and 75 degrees. Not bad for the last weekend of November! Donna’s off to boot camp for her morning workout. She’s riding her bicycle there and back. I have no plans for the day.

Scotch at Costco

For some reason I woke up at 4:30am Tuesday morning. I couldn’t get back to sleep, so I read a book for a while. Then I dozed for a bit and finally got out of bed at 7am. I played pickleball at the Pacific Beach Recreation Center, but didn’t play all that well. The courts were busy and I had a lot of down time between games, so I gave it up by noon.

After lunch and a shower, I rode the Spyder over to Costco. By the way, a few people have asked me if we shower in the facilities here at Mission Bay RV Resort since we’re parked right next to them. The answer is no – we prefer to use our own shower and toilet. I went to Costco to pick up some bottled water and see if they still had the great deal on Glenmorangie Single Malt Scotch Whiskey. They did.

I love single malt Scotch – mostly. Here’s the thing – you need to know a few things about Scotch whisky and single malt in particular. First of all it’s whisky – no “e”. In Great Britain and Japan, whisky doesn’t have the “e” in whiskey unlike the rest of the world. To qualify as single malt Scotch whisky there are a few requirements. It must be made from malted barley and no other grain. It must be aged in oak barrels for a minimum of three years. It must be distilled and bottled in Scotland. And all of the distilled spirit must come from the same distillery.

The last statement creates a bit of confusion. Single malt Scotch isn’t made from a single cask of whisky. Several casks can be blended together to form the flavor profile, but they must all be made from malted barley from the same distillery – the casks aren’t necessarily filled from the same batch. The age statement on the label – if provided – must state the age of the youngest whisky used. If the label says 12-year-old, then all of the casks blended in the bottle must be at least 12 years old.

Blended Scotch whisky is something else altogether. Blended Scotch whisky can have spirits distilled from rye or corn added to the blend – like American whiskey. Blended Scotch whisky has the same label age requirements as single malts.

Anyway, to get back to Costco, I was wanting to see if they still had 1.75 liter bottles of Glenmorangie. I discovered these at a trip to the Costco on Morena Boulevard (more about that store here) a few weeks ago. Usually you will find whisky in 750ml bottles – what we used to call a fifth. The 1.75-liter bottle is 2.33 times the “normal” bottle size. Costco has Glenmorangie here for $49.99 in the 1.75-liter bottle. That works out to $21.45 for a 750ml bottle – which I usually find in liquor stores for $36-$44 a bottle. What a deal.

Something else I should mention is about the regions of Scotland that produce whisky. When someone tells me they don’t like Scotch, I always wonder what they tried. Each region has its own character of Scotch they produce. Nowadays there are six recognized regions although there were fewer in the past. The Highlands are the largest region. You’ll find a variety of flavors in Highland Scotch – most are very clean and easy on the palate. The northern parts are more spicy in nature while the southern tends to be more fruity.

The Lowland Scotches – of which I think there are only three distilleries – produce a lighter Scotch although Auchentoshan makes a peaty, smoky whisky.

Speyside – which is really a sub-region of the Highlands – has the highest concentration of distilleries and they are known to be sweeter, flavorful and easy to drink. Speysides were my favorite and my introduction to Scotch.

Campbeltown only has few distilleries remaining although it was once a great producer. The single malts here are peaty and even salty. I don’t have much experience with them.

Islay – pronounced “eye-luh” by the Scottish – is the strongest flavor profile and usually very smoky and peaty. Islay Scotch malt is almost always dried by burning peat under the malt floor. James Bond’s favorite, Laphroaig, is a smoky monster. I bought it a few times but I just can’t come to terms with it.

Then there are the Island Scotches – some say it’s really not a region of its own. These tend to be milder versions of Islay Scotch.

So, there I was at Costco. Glenfiddich 12-year-old was my go to Scotch – a Speyside favorite that can be found in most bars. But after experimenting with a few different single malts in the last year, I’ve come to find Glenmorangie Original 10-year-old has a very nice flavor profile that’s a little more complex and oakey than the Glenfiddich.

An interesting note about Glenmorangie – they own and operate a cooperage in Missouri. They cut American oak staves and make barrels there. The barrels are leased to Jack Daniels for four years and Jack Daniels ages their bourbon in them. At the end of the lease, the barrels are shipped to Scotland and Glenmorangie ages their whisky in them.

I was happy to find Costco still had some 1.75 liter bottles of Glenmorangie on display and I bought one. I also found something that I’d discovered a couple of years ago. Costco – or maybe it’s particular to certain Costco scores – sells really high-end liquor at this time of year. They had a 41-year-old Glenmorangie on display for $6,999.00!

41-year-old Glenmorangie

I wrote about the high-end liquor here in this post. But I wasn’t ready for what I saw next. Wait for it…50-year-old Bowmore Islay Scotch whisky for $18,999.00!

Bowmore Islay for just shy of $19,000!

When I checked out, I mentioned what a great deal the Glenmorangie 1.75 liter bottle was. Then I commented about the $19,000 Bowmore and asked if anyone buys something like that. The cashier said every year they sell the high-end bottles of liquor at unbelievable prices and she thought it would sell. Wow.

The temperature reached the upper 70s Tuesday. I made my usual Tuesday afternoon happy hour run to Offshore Tavern and Grill and then Donna walked over to meet there by 5pm. We had the Taco Tuesday specials for dinner. The next few days we should see temperatures in the low 80s. We’re looking forward to a Thanksgiving visit with my youngest daughter, Shauna, from Washington, DC. Have a happy Thanksgiving wherever you are!