Category Archives: Cat

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.

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.

 

Cadman Park Gang

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

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

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

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

Poke plate

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

Ozark shielding her eyes while she naps

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

Some of the gang at Cadman Park

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

Party on at Offshore

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

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

 

 

 

Ribs and Racing

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

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

Chipotle fish tacos

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

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

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

Babyback ribs from Midwestern Meats

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

Membrane on bone side

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

Dry-rubbed racks of ribs

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

DFRNT IPA

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

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

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

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

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

Race program from 1975

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

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

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

Sculpin IPA from Ballast Point in San Diego

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

Finger on the mend

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

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

 

Two-Digit Damage

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

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

Cracked nail glued together

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

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

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

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

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

Maintenance crew cleaning up storm damage

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

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

 

*Just so you know, if you follow one of my links to Amazon and decide to make a purchase, you pay the same price as usual and  I’ll earn a few pennies for the referral. It’ll go into the beer fund. Thanks!

St. Patrick’s Day Gathering

I went out and ran a few errands Thursday afternoon. Before I left on the Spyder, I dropped Donna off at the nail salon here at Viewpoint RV and Golf Resort. You gotta love an RV park that has its own nail salon! Earlier I had stopped at the main office and booked some time here next season. I reserved a site starting December 21st for a three-month stay.

While I was out and about, I made a stop at Lucky Lou’s where I found my friends John and Stan. We had a few laughs and a cold one on the patio. Before I left, another Can-Am Spyder parked next to ours. This one was a newer touring model called a Spyder RT. The touring models are more luxurious with more comfortable passenger accommodations and we tend to see these more often than the other models.

Can-AM Spyder RT – built for comfort

They also include more storage space with built-in saddlebags. This one was even equipped with a trailer hitch!

Our Spyder is the RS model – more nimble and sporty. We find adequate space in the frunk – the name Spyder enthusiasts use for the forward trunk space. Donna also carries a backpack for groceries if she’s making a big grocery run. The passenger seating isn’t as comfortable on an RS.

Our Spyder RS – nimble and sporty

Of course, the RT models with all of the creature comforts and accessories are priced several thousand dollars higher than the RS model.

I hit the pickleball courts on Friday morning. The pollen count remains high and I suffered a bit, but felt better overall than I did earlier in the week. I played eight games and got in a couple of hours of activity. I wrote about the hawk’s nest by the courts in an earlier post and stated that I hadn’t seen the adult hawks in a while. I surmised that they moved on – well, I was wrong. On Friday morning, I saw both adults and one of them flew to the nest with a mouse in its talons. So, they are apparently still feeding the juveniles in the nest.

Red Tailed Hawk perched above its nest in a power line tower

On Friday evening, we went to a St. Patrick’s Day happy hour and dinner at the Northpoint Gathering Room in the RV park. One of our neighbors, Dave and Molly MacFarland, organized the event. For a cost of just five bucks per person, they supplied liquor and food. Others pitched in to help and Donna made her famous Irish soda bread from scratch and brought it along. Dave clued me in to the hiding place for the good IPA beer and told me to help myself – which I did.

They had all of the traditional fixings served buffet-style. The corned beef brisket was some of the best I’ve ever tasted. They served it with a mustard gravy – a first for me – and it was delicious. They had scalloped potatoes, garlic mashed potatoes with green onion, cabbage, carrots and boiled onions. They ran a 50-50 raffle to help offset the cost of all the food and drink. Donna snapped a couple of photos.

Back of my bald head on the left at the St. Patrick’s Day gathering

Lots of green in the Gathering Room

The pickleball tournament scheduled for Saturday morning wasn’t what I expected at all. It turned out to be a “fun tournament” where we had to play some silly games. Our first match had to be played with your weak hand. I never hit a ball with my left hand and it showed. Things were a bit chaotic but I had fun.

The temperature has reached the mid 90s for past few days and we can expect the hot weather to continue for a couple more days. The past two nights were a little rough for me as my allergies interrupted my sleep and I feel like I may have a sinus infection coming on. I’m planning to have a mostly quiet day today.

Ozark the cat spends most of the mid-day hours napping in her window bed. That leaves her with plenty of energy to get up and tear around the place at 4am!

Another mid-day nap

I’m going to have to find a way to change her sleep pattern.

RV Renovators – Day 20 – Gelcoat

A big repair job like the one we’re going through on our coach requires patience. The guys performing the work have to patiently work through several steps to get the body work right. The owner of the coach (me) needs to remain patient as the work is done – pushing to rush the job is not a good plan. I want it done right – I can see they are very detailed in what they’re doing and I’m giving them space and time to get it done.

I mentioned before that the body guys – Izzy and his assistant Armando – speak English as a second language. Izzy speaks pretty good English, Armando not so much. Technical terminology gets lost in translation though.

Last week I described the process to ‘glass and prime the seams. Izzy called it primer. When they applied a catalyst over the “primer” I was surprised. I’m not up on the latest techniques, but I never heard of a two-part catalyzed primer before. Yesterday Levi Germaine was checking the work and discussing the next steps with the guys. I asked him a few questions. It turns out the material Izzy was calling primer was actually gelcoat resin. This made sense. They use gelcoat to seal the seams and flatten the surface before the final finish is applied.

Gelcoat provides a high quality , smooth finish. However, it’s harder to sand than a traditional primer coat. Levi told me they only use a primer for small repairs – large fiberglass repairs are always sealed with gelcoat.

Yesterday they finished installing the edge moldings and put the windows back in. I set up the suspended bed for Ozark the cat with suction cups on the large living room window.

Ozark the cat’s window bed

At this point the painter, Steve, is taking over the job. He looked the surface over and said it wasn’t flat and smooth enough. He sprayed it with black guide paint. This morning he’s block sanding the surface by hand.

Windows are in and more sanding to be done

At some point I’ll have to move the coach. Steve doesn’t want to paint it in the paint booth. He would rather paint it outside in natural light to better match the original finish.

Yesterday the clouds remained all day – I thought it might even rain at one point. But it stayed dry out and the temperature reached the upper-60s. We should be in the 70s today and will hit 80 degrees by Thursday.

I’m trying to remain patient, but I wonder how much longer I’ll be here at the RV Renovators shop.

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

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

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

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

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

Pulling a section of fiberglass from the molding

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

Front edge molding clear

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

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

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

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

Removing windows

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

Ozark still likes her bed

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

Skin off

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

Old skin

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

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

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

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

Epic Fail in the Closet

I decided it was time to get busy on Wednesday. We’ve been here at Mission Bay RV Resort for about six weeks and I had a number of projects on my list that I hadn’t tackled yet.

First up was a repair to the closet hanger rod. The hanger rod is a 1-1/4 inch wooden dowel six and half feet long. It has a support in the center made from wood that the rod passes through. The support is suspended from the ceiling where it’s attached with wood screws.

The weight of the clothing on hangers puts a heavy load on the rod. When we’re driving down the road, bumps can put a lot of strain on it. The hanger support broke once before and I repaired it. It broke again, but this time the hanger rod support pulled free of the ceiling. The wood screws securing it had stripped from the wood.

Hangar rod support pulled from ceiling

Hangar rod support pulled from ceiling

I thought I could use inserts in the ceiling and re-attach the support with screws. I envisioned a plastic insert with large, coarse threads that would bite into the wood in the ceiling and provide a sturdy material for the screws to attach to.

I went to the Ace Hardware store in Pacific Beach where the friendly hardware man helped me out. When I told him what I had in mind, he said he didn’t think the type of insert I was talking about would work. He said they’re designed for drywall and he didn’t think they were strong enough to thread into wood. He suggested a steel insert and machine screws to make the repair.

Threaded steel insert and machine screws - original wood screw on bottom

Threaded steel insert and machine screws – original wood screw on bottom

I removed the support and installed the inserts. This took longer than I thought it would – getting the inserts to thread into the wood was a real pain. I could see that the drywall type wouldn’t have worked. When I screwed the support back in place with the machine screws I gave it a tug. The inserts pulled out of the wood. Failure!

By then it was 2:30pm and I had to get cracking on the Traeger. The night before I had purchased babyback ribs from Siesel’s Market and prepped them. We planned on having company for dinner and I needed to cook the ribs on the Traeger wood pellet fired smoker/grill. We invited Sini and her son Beau, John and Sharon Hinton (On the Road of Retirement) and their daughter, Katie, who is visiting.

I had the ribs ready a little after 5pm – I’m fine tuning my rib preparation and think they’re coming out pretty darn good. Donna made cornbread and Asian coleslaw, Sini brought a tossed salad and John and Sharon brought green beans with sesame seeds. Sini’s son Beau had to take a rain check due to a meeting that came up.

It gets dark early so we had electric candles and a lantern on the table. We enjoyed the food and conversation – and beer. Not only does it get dark early, it really cools off after the sun sets. It was probably about 60 degrees, but it felt cooler. Around 7:30pm everyone was ready to move inside and retreated to their respective coaches. I neglected to take any photos.

On Thursday, I came up with plan “B” for the closet. I made a drawing and a list of goods. I rode the Spyder to Home Depot where I found lengths of 3/4″ x 1-1/2″ oak boards. I had them cut to the lengths I needed. I also bought some 2″ #6 wood screws.

Instead of suspending the center support for the hanger rod from the ceiling, I was building a post that would support it from the closet floor like a crutch. I drilled pilot holes where needed in the wood, then fastened it together with the wood screws. I like to scrape the screw threads across a bar of soap before I screw them into the pilot holes. This provides dry lubrication and makes the screw thread into the wood easier.

The crutch type support was made with two 47″ lengths of oak board attached together with six-inch lengths of oak board. The original support is 3/4″ wide, so putting the six-inch pieces of 3/4″ oak between the two 47″-long boards spaced them apart perfectly to fit the support. It’s not the most elegant solution, but it’s sturdy as a rock now.

Not the most elegant

Not the most elegant

Rock steady

Rock steady

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With that job done, I showered and headed over to Dan Diego’s for a cold one with the guys. Dan Diego’s features local brews on tap but they also have a large selection of imported bottled beer. They have a lot of Belgian beer made in monasteries – these beers tend to be strong, flavorful and expensive. Some of them run $10 for an 11.2 ounce bottle. They aren’t big sellers for them – probably due to the price. The management decided it was time to move some of the inventory, so they put together special pricing on about a dozen bottled beers.

One of the specials was Duvel Tripel Hop. This is a tasty, strong ale and they had it priced at $3/bottle. I couldn’t pass it up.

Duvel tripel hop

Duvel tripel hop

After a couple of cold ones, I came home to watch Dallas versus Minnesota on Thursday Night Football. After the game Donna relaxed with a couple of mindless TV programs. She’s been pushing hard to meet her book deadline and had a few other assignments as well. She laid back and Ozark the cat joined her.

Donna and Ozark kicking back

Donna and Ozark kicking back

Ozark gets closer

Ozark gets closer

Today we have sunny, blue skies and the temperature should reach the low 70s. I have a couple of chores to attend to, but nothing too heavy. Life is good.

Turkey Day

Shortly after we arrived in San Diego, I took my favorite watch to Ben Bridge Jewelers in Fashion Valley to have have it serviced. The watchmaker there, Israel Coughlin, had serviced Donna’s watch a couple of years ago.  I have an affinity for mechanical self-winding watches. Their intricate design and precise workmanship fascinates me. They have their drawbacks though. A mechanical watch will never be as accurate as a quartz movement. It also needs to be disassembled, cleaned and lubricated periodically. On the plus side, it doesn’t need a battery.

The heart of a mechanical watch is the balance wheel. Different designs oscillate at different frequencies, ranging from 2.5 hertz to 5 hertz. The balance wheel swings back and forth – for example it rotates clockwise to a certain point, then stops and rotates back counter-clockwise. The full back and forth motion is called an oscillation. The movement in one direction (half an oscillation) is called a vibration.

Bear with me here. A watch with a balance wheel frequency of 2.5 hertz ticks five times per second or 18,000 vibrations per hour (vph). The most common frequency is 4 hertz – 28,800 vph. Some watches are 5 hertz which tick 10 times per second or 36,000 vph. The reason I’m going through all of this is to illustrate how even a slight discrepancy in the oscillation of the balance wheel can add up quickly. A fine mechanical watch may have an error of a couple of minutes per month. When you realize that over 690,000 timing events (ticks) of the watch occur every 24 hours, it’s an amazing feat to keep the total timing error down to a couple of minutes per month.

Israel didn’t service my watch due to the heavy workload he had scheduled. Instead he sent it to the Rolex Factory Service Center. They disassembled the watch completely, put the components through an ultrasonic cleaning process and inspected all of the parts. They polished the case and bracelet, reassembled it with special lubricants and calibrated the balance wheel.

Israel called me Tuesday evening and told me my watch was ready for pick-up. They’d had it for five weeks. So on Wednesday, Donna and I drove to Fashion Valley Mall and picked up the watch. It looks like brand new! The only part they replaced was the bezel – it had a couple of fine scratches and was starting to fade a bit. The polishing of the case and bracelet looks fantastic. I’m glad to have my Rolex GMT Master II back again!

Looks new after the service

Looks new after the service

I had another phone call Tuesday evening. I had reserved a rental car from Enterprise in Pacific Beach a little over a mile away from here. They told me they expected to be extremely busy Wednesday morning – San Diego is one of the nation’s most popular Thanksgiving destinations – and advised me to come early. They were closing at noon on Wednesday and I originally set my pick-up time as 11:30am.

Donna dropped me off at 10am and took the Spyder to pick up some last-minute items at Trader Joe’s. She commented on how empty the Enterprise lot looked. When I went into the office, the manager pulled up my reservation and then said there would be a short wait as they didn’t have any cars but were expecting some soon.

After about 20 minutes of waiting, she asked if I would be willing to take a ride with one of their employees to another location to get the car. They had a car at the Little Italy location just south of the airport. By the time we went there and I got a car and drove back to Mission Bay, I’d been out for over an hour! So much for the advice to come early. I think I would have been better off coming at the original time – maybe they would have had cars by then.

Thursday morning I spatchcocked our Thanksgiving turkey. Spatchcocking is a method of cooking whole fowl by removing the backbone and flattening the breast. This puts the breast, thighs and legs along the same plane and about the same thickness. It cooks more evenly and also takes less time to roast.

Back bone removed

Back bone removed

I spiced the turkey and put it on the Traeger smoker/grill. I set it to the smoke setting which is a cool temperature for 30 minutes.

Seasoned and ready for the Traeger

Seasoned and ready for the Traeger

Then I turned it up to 325 degrees. It took about 15 minutes to reach the cooking temperature and I thought it would take about two hours from there. An hour and a half later, I checked the temperature of the breast with a quick read thermometer and was surprised to find it was 160 degrees.

I took the turkey off of the grill and wrapped it in foil. Then I wrapped the foil package in a towel and put it all in a foil bag designed to keep hot foods hot. The plan was to drive up to Menifee for Thanksgiving dinner with my step-dad Ken and his neighbors Ray and Helen. I was so absorbed in the task, I didn’t stop to take a photo of the turkey – it looked marvelous.

Meanwhile, Sini had brought her golden-doodle dog, Ziggy, over to our place. Our plan was to be dog sitters while Sini went with her sons to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends in Pasadena. We would have Ziggy Thursday and Friday until she returned. Ziggy and Ozark the cat get along fine.

Ziggy - our guest

Ziggy – our guest

I expected to take about 90 minutes to get to Menifee. I didn’t count on stop-and-go traffic on I-15 from south of Escondido all the way to Temecula. This 30-mile stretch took over an hour to cover. It took more than two hours to get to Menifee.

When I unwrapped the turkey, I was disappointed to see the skin, which looked nice and crispy when it came off the grill, had become somewhat rubbery – no doubt from being held in foil for so long. The meat was still plenty warm and I carved the turkey.

No so crispy now

No so crispy now

Donna heated up side dishes in Ken’s kitchen and we all ate together. Ziggy stayed in Ken’s backyard and Donna took her for a couple walks. We had a good time and headed back home around 4:30pm. The ride home was quick – traffic was moving at 75 miles per hour all the way and we made it back in just over an hour.

This morning I have to return the rental car. The weather forecast looks good today – sunny with clear skies and a high in the mid-70s. This weekend’s weather is not so fine looking. The forecast calls for a cold front bringing rain and highs in the 60s.