Category Archives: Grilling

Easter Sunday on the Bay

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neighbor close by

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

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

Pork tenderloin with smashed potatoes and green beans

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

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

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

Easter Sunday and the boardwalk at the beach was crowded!

People on the boardwalk near the Surfer Hotel

Surfers in the water

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

A nice day to be on the bay

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

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

Grilled salmon with orzo, spinach & feta salad

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

 

Ribs and Racing

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

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

Chipotle fish tacos

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

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

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

Babyback ribs from Midwestern Meats

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

Membrane on bone side

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

Dry-rubbed racks of ribs

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

DFRNT IPA

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

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

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

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

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

Race program from 1975

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

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

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

Sculpin IPA from Ballast Point in San Diego

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

Finger on the mend

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

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

 

Prescription Runaround

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Green Chile Spicy BBQ Rub

Pomegranate & Mango Chipotle Sauce

Chicken breasts hot off the Traeger

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

A meal fit for a king

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

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

Canadians Heading Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

Babyback ribs ready to serve

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

Interesting ales from Lagunitas

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

Swayzie bundled up

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

It’s a tight maneuver to get out of here

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

The street in front of the coach

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

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

 

Arizona Renaissance Festival

The rain moved out on Thursday morning but the day remained cloudy. The temperature was cooler than normal and we had a high temperature of 70 degrees. A few light showers fell in the afternoon – very brief and not enough to wet the street. It was dry enough for me to put chicken on the Traeger. Spiced with Pappy’s Choice rub, it made a nice dinner. I had the Traeger set to 350 degrees – next time I’ll increase the temperature for the final minutes of cooking to make the skin crisper.

Chicken cooked on the Traeger smoker/grill

Friday was a clear, sunny day. As usual, we started the day with pickleball in the morning – I play in the 3.0-3.5 round robin on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. After the round robin play, I got a couple of pick-up games in with Donna.

Our friends Mike and Jodi Hall have several African Spurred Tortoises in their yard. These are native to the southern Sahara desert on the African continent. They can reach a size of 33 inches and weigh up to 200 pounds. Mike and Jodi have a few large ones and some smaller young ones. They are two or three inches long when they hatch but grow quickly, doubling in size each year for the first few years.

Donna saves vegetable scraps when she cooks and we feed the tortoises with them a couple of times per week. They are voracious feeders and eat mostly grasses and vegetables. They require high fiber diets with little protein or sugars. It’s a good way for us to utilize vegetable scraps or produce that is past its prime.

Large African Spurred tortoise in the foreground, medium size in the background

They love the vegetable scraps from our kitchen

After we fed the tortoises, we rode the Spyder back to ViewPoint RV and Golf Resort and stopped at Fat Willy’s at the park entrance.

Donna saw a Facebook post from Lori Gardner – someone she knew when she was growing up in upstate New York. Turns out Lori and her husband Jeff live less than a mile away from here.

We met them at Fat Willy’s and took a table out on the patio. Friday’s weather was very nice with a more normal high temperature of 80 degrees. We sat outside and talked over a couple of beers and appetizers. It was a good time.

On Saturday morning, our friends Howard and Sara Graff picked us up at the park. We piled into Sara’s Ford Flex along with their daughters Allison and Kenna and Allison’s friend Lauren. We headed east on US60 past Gold Canyon to the Arizona Renaissance Festival. The festival is located on 30 acres of desert with permanent structures. It’s open on Saturdays and Sundays from mid-February to the first weekend of April.

It’s a fun time – part circus, part costume party with a fair-like atmosphere. It opens at 10am and we arrived about twenty minutes early. Getting an early start is a good idea – the festival generates a lot of traffic bringing US60 to a standstill later in the morning. As we stood in line waiting for the gates to open we had entertainment from a few of the festival’s actors.

Donna made a new friend while we waited to enter the festival

The royal family arriving

There’s so much going on inside the festival that I doubt you could take it all in during a one-day visit. We wandered around and watched a few performances. There’s no shortage of good food inside – I enjoyed a curry chicken pastie plate. The cost to enter the festival was $22/person. Parking was free and the food was reasonable – my pastie with a side of peas and carrots and mashed potatoes with gravy was seven dollars. And they have beer!

Old fashioned open-air kitchen

Blacksmith’s shop

I probably wasn’t the best company for a day at the festival – my allergies were getting to me. My eyes were itchy and I had a sinus headache. After about four hours, we’d had all the fun we could stand and headed out.

Today we have clear, blue skies and the temperature should reach 80 degrees again. The forecast for the week ahead looks sunny with highs from the mid-70s to the mid-80s. I can’t complain about that!

 

Heat Wave

Wednesday was pretty low key for me. Donna went to the pickleball courts in the morning while I stayed home and nursed my hay fever. I ended up spending most of the day indoors – just as I thought I would. The thermometer hit 92 degrees in the afternoon. This heat wave may be a blessing in disguise – it seems like the hot daytime temperatures are causing the orange blossoms to drop from the trees prematurely. The pollen counts are still quite high, but I slept well last night and I’m feeling a little better this morning.

Donna and I had a conference call with our tax accountant in the afternoon. I always dread these things. We uncovered a mistake in last year’s filing and it looks like we overpaid, so that may be a good thing for us this year.

On Wednesdays and Fridays, there’s live entertainment from 3 to 5pm here at ViewPoint RV & Golf Resort. Donna walked down with her hula hoops and hoop danced to the music. She always takes two hoops in case someone wants to join her. Yesterday, she offered a hoop to a young girl who was visiting her grandparents and the two of them had a lot of fun. I only got out once all day and that was just to make a run on the Spyder to the store.

Donna defrosted the last of the lamb rib chops we bought from the farm in Portland near the Columbia River RV Park. She put them on the grill along with some sliced zucchini, peppers and onions for dinner.

Grilled lamb chops with zucchini, peppers and onions

Lamb chops are very flavorful but a little fatty in my opinion. I guess it’s an acquired taste – I didn’t like lamb when I was younger but I find it a pleasant change now. I paired the lamb with an IPA from Elysian. Although Elysian is located in Seattle and typically brews West Coast style IPA, this bottle called The Immortal is more of an English style IPA with pronounced malt flavor and a sharp bitter finish. I liked it but wasn’t crazy about it.

The Immortal

High, thin clouds formed in the late afternoon sky. This always brings a colorful, fiery sunset here in the desert.

Fiery sunset

I’d like to get out and about today – hopefully my allergy symptoms will continue to abate. I plan to hit the pickleball courts tomorrow morning and we’re both signed up to play in a tournament on Saturday. The heat wave is expected to linger through the weekend with daily highs in the mid-90s.

Down for the Count

Before I could go out to the pickleball courts for the Monday morning round robin play, I had to take a Benadryl allergy tablet. The orange trees here are in full bloom. For most people this brings a pleasant aroma to the area. For me, it’s misery. When I was tested for allergies back in the late 90s, the allergist told me he had good news and bad news.

The good news was I didn’t have to get rid of any pets because I had no allergic reactions to dog or cat dander. The bad news was I had moderate to severe reactions to all of the tree and grass pollens they tested on me – I can’t get rid of trees and grass. The pollen will be in the air at various times of the year no matter where I am. Since we tend to follow the sun, I’m more likely to be in areas that will affect me.

Most of the time it’s tolerable. I take a daily dose of fluticasone nasal spray and Opcon eye drops. When the pollen counts get very high – like they are here right now, I suffer. There’s so much pollen in the air that the Spyder looks like it’s covered in yellow dust. Last year it wasn’t so bad – I’m hoping this is a temporary condition and the pollen count will subside soon.

Taking Benadryl before pickleball wasn’t the best idea. It made my throat dry and I felt a little woozy a couple of times after playing long rallies.

Pickleball courts at ViewPoint RV Resort

I mentioned in an earlier post the hawk’s nest near the courts. I haven’t seen the adult hawks for a while. Monday morning I saw an immature hawk fly to the nest. My guess is the adults have moved on and the new generation has taken over the nest for now. I’ve read that Red-tailed hawks are monogamous and often return to refurbish the same nest every year. If so, I think junior can count on being kicked out.

Hawk’s nest in a high-voltage power line tower

Donna has really taken to our new Weber Q. She didn’t grill much on the old one. The feature she loves most on the Weber Q 2200 is the built in thermometer. She can set it to the temperature she desires without having to guess if it’s hot enough or too hot. Monday night she rubbed chicken thighs with a green chili rub she bought in Taos, New Mexico and cooked it on the grill. I usually do all of the grilling, but she wanted to do it and it came out great. Along with the chicken, she roasted a mixed baby squash medley with garlic and herbs and and served it with crumbled feta cheese on top.

Green chili rubbed chicken and baby squash

Tuesday morning I woke up with burning eyes and stuffy sinuses. It was time to break out the Neti pot. I’m hoping this is the peak of the pollen issue. I stayed indoors with the air conditioners running all day and read a book.

The outside temperature was in the low-90s in the afternoon for the last two days. This heat wave is supposed to last through the weekend with temperatures in the mid-90s. This is well above the average high temperature of 77 degrees for March here in Mesa, Arizona. I passed on the pickleball round robin this morning and will probably have another lazy day indoors.

 

*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!

 

Desert Biking and Hiking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was fun but a little slippery

I went very slowly through here

I walked this rocky section to avoid hitting any hikers

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

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

Traeger smoking away

Bok choy on the Weber Q

Spatchcocked chicken hot off the Traeger

It was an enjoyable end another day well-lived.

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

Thompson/Center 45-70 – what a cannon!

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

 

36 Hours of Rain

We sat out another wet weekend. The rain was falling when we woke up Saturday morning. It was a wet, cool day. After lunch, my friend Howard picked me up at the Viewpoint RV Resort and drove me to his place. We hung out in his garage and he taught me all about AR style rifles. It was the full armorer’s course. It was a good time. I came back home around 4pm and it was still raining off and on.

Sunday was more of the same – steady, light rain with occasional cloud bursts and short dry periods. More than an inch of rainfall was recorded over 36 hours. It felt more like Seattle than Mesa – the temperature only reached a high of 59 on Sunday. It was nothing compared to the rainfall on the California coast – I read that four to six inches fell in some areas.

Mostly dark clouds at sunset on Sunday

Donna prepared a pork tenderloin – she seasoned it with adobo seasoning and glazed it with pomegranate and mango chipotle sauce. Then she roasted it in the convection oven – no grilling in this weather.

Roasted pork tenderloin

For side dishes she served mashed acorn squash topped with pomegranate seeds and steamed green beans with sliced almonds. A nice meal to end a cold, wet weekend.

Monday morning was bright and cheery. The ground was drying quickly. I went to the pickleball courts at 8am for the level 3 to 3.5 round robin session. Over the following two hours, I played six games. It was a lot of fun and I plan to continue playing with this group on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I should be able to play my way back into shape in a week or two. Donna came to the courts for open play around 9:30am. He ankle held up fine and she plans to work her way back into it.

I failed to mention our upgrade to the Weber Q grill we made when we were in San Diego. A fellow Alpine Coach owner – I can’t come up with his name at the moment – had a Weber Q 2200 for sale. It was in immaculate condition. I bought it for about half the cost of a new one. Our old one was a Weber Q 1000. The new one has built-in folding shelves on each side and a thermometer. It also features a larger grilling area – 280 square inches versus 189 square inches. He included a grill cover and an adapter hose for hooking up to a large propane tank.

Weber Q 2200

On Monday evening, I grilled Italian sausages on it. Donna served it with roasted cauliflower and cheese mezzelune pasta and her homemade marinara sauce. It was a delicious meal.

I snapped another photo at sunset on Monday night. What a difference 24 hours can make.

Clear skies at sunset on Monday

The temperature should reach the mid- to upper 70s today. The forecast for the rest of the week looks good.

 

*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!

Soggy Year End

The weather guessers do a pretty good job most of the time in San Diego. I have to wonder how hard it could be – if you forecast clear skies and warm temperatures, you’d be right more often than not. Wednesday they had it right as we had beautiful weather. The skies were mostly clear and the temperature topped out at 73 degrees here at Mission Bay.

Donna and I went to the Ocean Beach Recreation Center in the morning to play pickleball. There was a crowd there – we had more than 20 people show up – only 12 can play at a time so we had long waiting periods between games. It took an hour and a half to get four games in. That was too much waiting around for me – we left after the fourth game.

Donna had a whole chicken marinating in a Peruvian chicken marinade. I spatchcocked it before I put it on the Traeger wood pellet fired smoker/grill. I started it breast side down at 350 degrees for 35 minutes – it was a small four-pound chicken. Then I flipped it over and set the temperature control to high – 450 degrees to finish it and crisp the skin.

Whole chicken hot off the Traeger

Donna served it with roasted Brussel sprouts and garlic smashed potatoes.

Roasted chicken, Brussel sprouts and smashed potatoes

Just before I put the chicken on the grill I walked to the west end of the RV park to catch the sunset. I’ll never get tired of watching the sunset over the bay.

Sunset on the bay

Thursday we were in for another gorgeous day. Clear, sunny skies and the afternoon high reached 83 degrees! I played pickleball at the Pacific Beach Recreation Center while Donna worked on an article that was due on Friday. There were only 12-14 people there so we had very little break time between games on the three courts.

I played for about two hours. In my last game, I was getting tired and starting to make too many mistakes. At one point, the ball was lobbed over my head. I turned to run to the back of the court to return it when my feet got tangled together and I went down hard. I landed on my right shoulder and hip and I’m feeling it today. I’m usually good at rolling with a fall to minimize the impact, but I was tired and maybe I’m not quite as quick as I once was.

In the afternoon, I broke out our Porter-Cable air compressor and plugged it in at our site. Once the reservoir was filled to 150psi, I disconnected it and drove in Sini’s car to the outer lot where our trailer is. The trailer had been sitting there for two and half months and I knew the tires would need to be pumped up to the proper pressure. It’s not unusual for tires to lose pressure over time. Smaller tires lose pressure more quickly due to the small volume of air.

I found the tires to be low by about seven psi. The air hose on my compressor leaks slightly when the hose bends in a certain direction. By the time I got to the trailer, the air compressor dropped from 150 psi to 125 psi. Pumping up the first tire dropped the pressure to about 70 psi. Electricity isn’t available in the outer lot so I had to return to the park to plug the compressor in and fill it again. It took four trips to fill all four tires. I’ll check the tires again before we leave here on January 15th, but I think we’ll be good to go.

The weather guessers said rain would move into the area today. We woke up to the sound of raindrops on the roof of the coach. They get the rain forecast right most of the time too. I imagine it’s pretty easy to see what’s heading this way off the coast. Sometimes weather anomalies occur like when the jet stream dips south or moisture moves up from the Sea of Cortez – but these are pretty easy to detect also.

The forecast calls for rain through Saturday night. We’ll ring in a wet New Year. It’s also supposed to be windy on New Year’s Eve. I hope the New Year’s revelers take care on the road – heavy rain and wind could make it treacherous.

Southern California will close out the year with a wet December. We are well over the average rainfall for the month here in San Diego. I read this morning that the water level of Lake Elsinore is rising for the first time since 2011. This is a good thing.

We don’t have any grand plans for New Year’s Eve. We’ll probably stay in. Donna just brought home some lobster tails and other goodies. Have a safe and happy new year!

 

*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!