Category Archives: Maintenance

Indoor Pickleball

Donna took an Uber ride to the airport early Tuesday morning. She flew to Albany to spend a week with her parents in Bennington, Vermont. I’ve been going to the recreation centers in Ocean Beach (OB) and Pacific Beach (PB) to play pickleball. They play pickleball in OB on Monday, Wednesday and Friday starting at 10am. At the PB rec center they have pickleball on Tuesday and Thursday – again starting at 10am.

I love the game – if you want to learn more about pickleball you can find all of the rules at Their website also has listings of places to play. While we were at ViewPoint RV and Golf Resort in Mesa, Arizona, I played three days a week in a round robin series for players that are 3.0 level and higher. Most of the players in the matches were 3.5 to 4.0 players. Pickleball has a rating system that sets criteria for skill levels ranging from 1.0 – beginner to 5.0 – expert.

Playing with and against higher level players really improved my game. My tactics and shot selection improved and team strategy developed. We played on outdoor courts. Here in San Diego, I play on indoor courts at the recreation centers.

As my skills have improved, I see a bigger difference in the outdoor game versus the indoor game. Outdoors you play with a ball designed for outdoor use. It has smaller holes than an indoor ball to minimize the effect of wind. It’s made of a harder material to cope with a paved court surface and it bounces higher than an indoor ball. Maybe it’s just a matter of the players’ skill I was playing with in Arizona, but it seems to me that the outdoor game is played with more finesse.

The usual strategy is to hit the serve deep, the returning player hits a deep return and immediately moves forward. The first two hits must bounce before they can be returned – then the ball can be struck in the air before it bounces as long as the player hitting the ball is at least seven feet back from the net. So, the best third shot is usually a drop shot that hits the opposing court less than seven feet past the net. What often follows is a “dink” game where each team hits the ball softly trying to keep it low and within seven feet of the net. Sooner or later someone makes a mistake and hits the ball too high or hard and the opponent pounces on the mistake.

Here in San Diego playing on indoor courts I find the game is played differently. The indoor balls have larger holes in them and are softer. They can be hit much harder without flying out of control. There’s also no wind to to adjust for. Most games feature very little dinking, it’s more of a slam fest. I’ve had to adjust my style of play, but I have to say I prefer the finesse of the outdoor game to the slam and jam style played here.

When I went to the PB rec center on Tuesday morning, I noticed a difference. It was brighter inside. They had sanded and refinished the flooring – the new finish was much lighter than the color of the previous finish. The old darker flooring contributed to the poor lighting making it difficult to see the ball – especially on the court on the north end of the floor. The new floor color reflects much more light – this is good and bad. The additional light makes it easier to see the ball when it’s in flight or coming off your opponent’s paddle – this is good. However, sometimes you can lose sight of the ball when it bounces or passes low over glare spots on the shiny floor.

New lighter, shiny floor – notice the glare spots

At the end of the game, it’s the same for everyone – the glare is hard for both sides. Outdoors you have to contend with the sun and wind and sometimes it’s worse on one side of the court.

Other than playing two and half hours of pickleball daily, I haven’t done anything too exciting this week. Tuesday morning, I was checking our batteries. For some reason our chassis batteries don’t receive a maintenance charge from the Echo Charger intermittently. I haven’t been able to pinpoint the cause – it happens every now and then. I put a trickle charger on the two 12-volt chassis batteries when the Echo Charger isn’t keeping them fully charged.

After I hooked up the trickle charger, I straightened up and did it again – bang. I hit my head on the bedroom slide out. Donna keeps saying I need to put foam protector over the sharp slide edge. I tried using a foam tube that’s made for pipe insulation, but I couldn’t keep it in place when the wind picked up. I need to figure out a way. I don’t want to tape it on, the adhesive wouldn’t be good for the paint.

Bang – I did it again

The weather has been beautiful – high temperatures around 70 with partly cloudy skies. The humidity over the past couple of days has been higher than usual. It’s gotten up to 60 or 70 percent. After months of dry desert climate with humidity levels around 15 percent, this feels extremely humid to me.

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!

Face Down Under the Sink

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

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

Ladies softball practice

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

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

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

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

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

Old filter on top, new below

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pickleball courts

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

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


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!

A Better Site

Donna’s left shoulder has been giving her trouble since she took a fall at the ice skating rink in Santa Fe, New Mexico in mid-September. She hadn’t fallen on the ice in years, but some kids on the rink distracted her and she caught an edge and fell. Donna’s sister, Sheila, is a physical therapist. Wednesday morning Donna had an appointment to see her to have her shoulder worked on. Meanwhile, I continued preparation to move from our site for one night.

We were in no hurry – I planned to move only about 20 miles away to the Elks Lodge in Chula Vista. I tried to contact the lodge to confirm site availability, but they didn’t open until 1:30pm. I wasn’t too worried about it – their web site said they had plenty of room and had never turned an RV away. I thought about the lodge in El Cajon, but when I phoned them I was unpleasantly surprised by the rude person on the phone. She told me she couldn’t guarantee space for us and they don’t take reservations – I would have to show up and take my chances there. This is common practice at most Elks Lodges, but they’re usually quite friendly and tell me if they think they can accommodate us.

I parked the Spyder in our trailer which we left in the overflow lot at Mission Bay RV Resort. The drive to Chula Vista was easy and the midday traffic was light. The Elks Lodge is located on a terraced bluff on the south side of Telegraph Canyon Road. They have 27 sites with hook-ups and also provide dry camping. I wanted a dry camping spot – no need to hook up for an overnight stay. The camp host directed me to a level area of the lot and said I would be fine there. We had a nice view of trees and shrubs on the hillside but also had road noise from Telegraph Canyon Road which is a busy thoroughfare.

Door step view at the Chula Vista Elks Lodge

After putting the jacks down and slides out, we walked to a shopping center about half a mile away. We found a Chinese restaurant there and had lunch. The portions were large and we both brought half of our meals home in box containers.

Later we went into the lodge for a cold one. As usual, the lodge bought a second round for us since we were first-time visitors there. Back at the coach, I opened a bottle of beer Donna bought for me. It was an interesting IPA from Modern Times – a local San Diego brewery. The beer was pale and obviously unfiltered. It was tasty but the mouth feel is what set it apart more than anything.

I read the label and saw it was made with Simcoe, Oregon Horizon and Amarillo hops. Oregon Horizon was a new hop to me. But then I saw what made this IPA different. The grain bill was pale malt (barley), white wheat and oats. Wheat and oats in an IPA is different for sure. I like this beer.

Modern Times IPA

Ozark the cat liked the change in surroundings. She spent a lot of time looking out the screen door at whatever was in the shrubbery. She also spends a lot of time in her window mounted shelf-bed.

Ozark in her favorite place

We pulled out of the Elks Lodge around 11:30 am. I made a detour on the way back to Mission Bay to stop at the Chevron station on East Balboa Avenue on the west side of highway 163. They have diesel at a reasonable – for California – price and I know I can get our rig in and out of there. There aren’t many places to get fuel for a big rig in the San Diego area.

It only took 35 gallons to fill the tank, but I knew I would want to boondock on our way to Arizona next month and we would need plenty of fuel for the generator – it won’t deliver fuel from the tank to the generator if we’re below 1/4 tank. It was also a good idea to do this while I didn’t have the trailer behind us.

Back at Mission Bay RV Resort, we were assigned to site 115. This is a much better site than 120 where we spent the last two months. In 120, we had trees that dropped foliage into our site, not to mention the birds that roosted in the trees every night and left their calling cards. The trees also blocked my Dish satellite reception. Site 115 is open with only one small tree.

I reactivated the Dish Network service and have great reception once again. I also replaced the filter elements in our water filtration when I set up. We have a two-canister filtration system. The first canister has a 10″ spun polypropylene sediment filter that filters down to five microns. This removes any sediment like sand or rust particles. The second canister has a fiber block carbon element that removes cysts and chemicals.

The sediment filter lasts about four months of full-time use. You can visually see the filter loading up with sediment. The second filter lasts six to 12 months. It can’t be visually inspected so I replace it after two sediment filter changes or every eight months or so.

We have a third anti-bacterial filter on the water dispenser at our kitchen sink. I need to replace this one as well. It lasts two to three years. It’s a bit of a chore to change, so I haven’t been too anxious to get after it, but it’s on my “to do” list before we leave here.

Spun polypropylene sediment element – old on the left, new on the right

Fiber block carbon elements

Since it was Thursday, I made the usual stop at Dan Diego’s for a cold one with the guys. Mike, the bartender, had special pricing on bottled beer again. This time I tried a Belgian Blonde Ale that was outstanding and priced at $3/bottle. What a bargain!

Maredsous Belgian blonde ale

I watched the Thursday Night Football game back at the coach. Rain moved into the area before the game ended. The rain continued through the night and it’s raining off and on as I type this. The weather guessers say the rain will move out of here this afternoon.

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.




Did You Hear That?

I woke up well before dawn at the Mazatzal Casino parking lot in Payson, Arizona Tuesday morning. Lying in bed with my eyes closed I heard Donna whisper, “Did you hear that?” “Uh-huh.” “Was that an elk?” “Yeah, it’s a bull elk bugling.” Of all the places we’ve been, a casino parking lot was the last place I’d expected to hear a bull elk bugling in the pre-dawn hours. I heard it two more times in the next 30 or 40 minutes confirming it was real, not a dream.

We were packed up and on the road a little after 9am. We drove down AZ87 – also known as the Beeline Highway – southwest toward Fountain Hills and the greater Phoenix area. Payson is 5,000 feet above sea level. The Beeline Highway descends rapidly and has a series of steep uphill grades – the net result is a loss of elevation. We arrived in Mesa at an elevation of around 1,200 feet above sea level and pulled into the RV Renovators lot on Main Street.

RV Renovators is the outfit I’ve chosen to repair the damage on the coach from the encounter with a large buck in Idaho. I wanted to stop there and go over the insurance estimate and discuss the repair work before we return in January to have the work done. The job will entail some complicated fiberglass repairs on the living room slide-out.

We had a short meeting and they have us on the calendar to return and start work on January 15th. Although the insurance estimate only shows 40 hours of labor, they told me two weeks of work was more realistic. The goal is to start work on January 15th and finish by the end of the month. They also told me we can stay in the coach at their shop – they have hook ups. Staying in the coach helps – we won’t have to find a place to stay for an indefinite period of time and have to deal with our personal belongings in the coach. We’ll also be onsite every day to oversee progress. This is good news. Now I just need to figure out what to do with our 20-foot car carrier trailer while we’re at the shop.

From there we moved on to Casa Grande where I stopped at the Speedco service center to have maintenance done on the coach. I do an annual preventive maintenance (PM) which includes an engine oil and filter change and a fuel filter change, chassis lube and inspection. Our Cummins ISL diesel engine falls under their medium duty PM schedule. In the past, I paid $179.99 for this service plus any upgrades or additional work found upon inspection. I usually upgrade the oil filter to a Fleetguard instead of the standard Baldwin and use Chevron Delo 400 LE 15-40 oil. This time I was told they had a price increase – the medium duty PM base price went from $179.99 to $249.99 – a 39% jump in price! I also have the used oil analysis done. This too had an increase – it was $17.99 now it’s $24.99.

I went ahead with it. When I looked at the used oil analysis I could see something was wrong. Everything looked good until I saw the viscosity at 100C – it was listed as less than 3 cSt.  The specification is 12.5 to 16.3 cSt. If my engine oil was really less than 3 cSt, I wouldn’t be holding any oil pressure when the oil was at full operating temperature. When I asked about how this could be, I heard a lot of mumbling and the girl at the counter highlighted the specification. I told her I was well aware of the spec and what it means – but I didn’t believe the results because it didn’t make sense. She took it to the manager. After a few minutes he admitted that he didn’t even know what the measurement meant – it’s just a number their machine spits out – he refunded the $24.99. I might have to rethink how I’m having used oil analysis performed.

Later, I looked at the Speedco corporate website. Their price sheet which was updated in September still shows medium duty PM at $179.99. I sent an inquiry to their customer service asking if I’d been overcharged.

From there we had the coach washed at Blue Beacon, then found the Elks Lodge near the courthouse downtown. Parking was easy and as always, the people at the lodge were friendly. Unfortunately this is a lodge that allows smoking at the bar.  Overnight dry camping cost $10.

On Wednesday morning, Donna went for a run, then we prepared to move on. The lodge lot was empty – we were the only RV there and all of the cars from the night before were gone. This made it easy to exit the parking area.

When we pulled out, our fuel gauge registered less than 1/4 tank. I wondered how this could be – where had all our fuel gone? We had several hours of generator run time, but that only accounts for half to three quarters of a gallon per hour. My plan was to fuel up in Yuma at the Pilot/Flying J at exit 12 where we’ve stopped several times before. I was pretty sure we could cover the 160 miles, but I don’t like running below a quarter tank.

About an hour later, I figured something was up with the fuel gauge. Now it was reading a quarter tank – higher than when we left 60 miles before. We made it to Yuma and I topped off the tank with only 65 gallons of fuel – there was more than a quarter of tank left. The fuel price of $2.26/gallon with my Pilot/Flying J RV Rewards card was nice too!

While we were in Yuma we made a Walmart run and stocked the pantry. I also bought a quart of Delo 400 oil to top up the generator. We’ve run it over 50 hours since I changed the oil at Eagle Nest Lake. It only took about 12 ounces to top it off – but with a sump capacity of only three quarts, I don’t like to run it low on oil. With the generator oil topped off, I fired it up to run the roof air conditioners. It was 95 degrees in Yuma!

I thought about stopping at a couple of other RV stores in Yuma for a few supplies I need, but blew it off as I can get them from Amazon when we’re settled in at Mission Bay RV Resort. We continued west on I-8 past Winterhaven, California and found our little stopping spot in the desert at Ogilby Road. We’ve stayed here several times on BLM land that’s part of the Picacho State Recreation Area (SRA). The SRA borders the Picacho Wilderness and the area we stay in has a fairly level, hard-packed gravel surface. It’s a popular if somewhat secluded area for snowbirds that don’t mind boondocking. This part of the desert sits at an elevation of about 400 feet above sea level. It’s much warmer than we’ve become accustomed to after months in the mountains.

The rock garden area we usually stay in was occupied by the only other RV in sight. We found a nice, level spot that had a site marked by rocks over a quarter mile away – leaving plenty of space. People that spend most of the winter here arrange rocks around their rigs. It’s against BLM regulations, but no one seems to mind.

Our "site" in the open desert

Our “site” in the open desert

Path from our door step

Path from our door step

Many people would view this area as a barren wasteland, but I enjoy staying here. I love the views, the quiet and the seclusion.

Our windshield view

Our windshield view

Desert sunset and sunrise is always spectacular.

Desert sunset

Desert sunset

After dark I walked outside and looked at the sky expecting to see it filled with stars but the 3/4 moon was so bright, it washed out many of the stars.

I slept soundly. The overnight low temperature was in the 60s and we had all of the windows open. I woke up just before sunrise.

Our rig is dwarfed by the open desert

Our rig is dwarfed by the open desert

The sunrise was every bit as spectacular as the sunset the evening before.

Desert sunrise

Desert sunrise

The balloon fiesta in Albuquerque is a memory now and the days spent there seem like a blur. This morning we’ll move on to San Diego. We look forward to our time there every year – this will be our fourth winter visit. There’s always so much to do and it’s great to reconnect with old friends there.

I think we’ll make our usual stop for lunch at the Buckman Springs rest area and check in at Mission Bay around 1pm. The weather forecast for the next week in San Diego looks great – highs in the low 70s with partly cloudy skies.


Eagle Nest Lake Trail

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that Donna hiked to the bakery at Eagle Nest village. She had an interesting early morning hike. The water in the lake was glassy. She took several pictures – I like this one from a high vantage point on the trail looking north toward the village.

Glassy water with reflections of the mountains

Glassy water with reflections of the mountains

Looking at this photo of the trail, you can see the variety of terrain in the area. There’s sage covered flatland favored by the prairie dogs, large meadows with rolling hills, pine covered mountainsides and bare peaks above the tree line.

Terrain varies

Terrain varies

Our neighbor told me he spotted elk in the meadow across the lake from us. I’m guessing they are bedded down in the shade of the trees on the mountainside in the afternoon and come out into the meadow in the evening. I haven’t heard any bulls bugling though.

On Donna’s hike she encountered deer – a young buck and a couple of does. She also saw a flock of white pelicans on the lake, but they were too far away to capture a good photo.

Deer by the trail

Deer by the trail

After breakfast, I had work to do. The night before, while I was watching the Broncos-Panthers NFL game, our generator hour meter turned over 1,000 hours.

Generator panel inside the coach

Generator panel inside the coach

That meant it was time for service. I like to perform preventive maintenance on a regular schedule. Onan recommends oil and filter changes every 150 hours and air and fuel filter changes every 500 hours. I had a gallon jug of Chevron Delo 400LE 15w-40 oil in the trailer and I had oil, air and fuel filters as well.

I figured it would be best to get the job done here in the park where there aren’t any rules against it. Many private RV parks prohibit working on your rig in the park. Draining the oil is easy, but removing the oil filter is always a chore. It’s hidden behind a trap door, mounted horizontally behind the generator shroud. I can’t see the filter – I have to remove it by feel. Of course, it was too tight to remove by hand. Every time I do this, I tell myself I need to buy a new oil filter wrench. The strap wrench I have is a real pain to fit into the small area where the filter is.

Onan doesn’t make it any easier with their filter design. Most oil filters are dimpled around the cap of the filter housing. This allows a cap-type filter wrench to grip it. The Onan filter is smooth – no dimples for a wrench to grip.

Cummins - Onan oil filter

Cummins – Onan oil filter

I wrestled with the oil filter for half an hour before I got it off. Installing the new filter was fairly easy – again I was working blind and had to screw it on by feel. After re-installing the drain plug though, I discovered a problem. The gallon jug of oil I had in the trailer was only half full. I’d forgotten that I used it to top off the oil in our Cummins ISL diesel engine. I needed three quarts of oil for the generator, but I only had two. I carried on and changed the air filter element. The old element did its job well – the intake tract was clean as a whistle.

Old and new air filter elements

Old and new air filter elements

I poured the two quarts of oil into the generator, then filled the empty jug with the waste oil. After a quick clean-up, I took the waste oil to recycle and rode the Spyder to the NAPA store in Angel Fire. They didn’t have Delo 400 oil in quart containers, only gallon jugs. I thought I would be paying too much for the oil, but I didn’t have a choice. I got lucky – the gallon of Delo 400LE 15w-40 was on sale and I bought it for $14.00 including tax!

After I returned, I topped off the oil level and fired the generator to check for leaks. Job done and now we’re good for another 150 hours of run time. I didn’t change the fuel filter – I made the mistake of trying that once before and ended up with diesel fuel running down my arms all the way to my shoulders. I’ll have it done next time we have the engine serviced at Speedco.

After cleaning up, I rode my mountain bike over the same trail Donna hiked. I took a picture of the lake from the same high vantage point, but I was looking east across the lake.

View from the trail

View from the trail

I rode to the far side of the village and back – about four miles. The trail was fairly treacherous on a mountain bike – I had to keep a constant watch for prairie dog holes. Some of them were up to a foot in diameter – dropping a front wheel into one of these wouldn’t be fun.

I’ll end this post on a sad note. On September 6th, I lost another friend. Andy Sigler died suddenly and unexpectedly. Andy was the bass player in my friend Gerhard Rauch’s band, Backtrack. I spent many hours in Gerhard’s basement learning songs with Andy, Gerhard and the rest of the band. Andy was truly a kind and gentle person. I can’t recall one instance of him losing his temper or even getting the slightest bit angry at all. I’m glad I had the chance to meet and get to know Andy. I learned about Parrot Heads from him – he was an active member and attended many Parrot Head events. He’ll be missed by many for sure.

I need to get out and do my usual pre-road checks. We’ll kick the tires and light the fires later this morning and head over to Taos, New Mexico for a few nights.

By the way – there’s glitch in the latest WordPress update that’s not allowing e-mail notifications to go through. I’m hoping we can get it fixed soon.


Idaho’s First Capital

I asked Bob, the camp host at the Coeur D’Alene Elks Lodge, where the best place was to get propane in the area. He told me there was a place a few miles south on Appleway Avenue that had the best price. Later I rode the Spyder down there to check it out. It turned out to be an RV store that had propane for $1.99/gallon. I talked to the guy  there and he said he would open a second gate for me so I could drive in and circle behind the shop to pull up to the propane tank. Easy!

While I was out, I ran a few errands and stopped at Del Taco for lunch. I rarely buy from fast food chains, but it wasn’t bad. When I got home, Donna walked to Bed, Bath and Beyond, then hit a couple of other stores nearby. She ended up buying a smaller tomato cage at a local feed store, so I won’t modify the one I bought at Home Depot. We actually gave the one I bought to Bob and told him he could return if he wanted and use the refund to buy a drink on us.

Donna's heirloom cherry tomato plant - look closely and you'll see she already has a tomato

Donna’s heirloom cherry tomato plant – look closely and you’ll see she already has a tomato

On Wednesday night, Donna tried a new recipe for black bean soup with braised chicken and chorizo. She wanted to use the dry beans she bought in Quincy (one of many agricultural crops there) and read that she could do it without soaking the beans first, but it would take longer to cook. It ended up taking even longer than expected and came out much thicker than she wanted – more like a stew or pot of chili than soup. But, served with a dollop of sour cream, avocado cubes, green onions and cilantro it was very tasty.

Donna in her element

Donna in her element

Black bean soup

Black bean soup

I was hoping to roll out of the Elks Lodge by 9:30am Thursday morning. We loaded up and picked up the trailer, then I loaded the Spyder in the parking lot. We pulled out at 9:32am. We went directly to Bobby Combs RV Center on Appleway Avenue where I checked out the propane the day before.

The last time I bought propane was in Coeur D’Alene in July of 2014 – we went more than two years on one tank. The weight placard for our coach says the tank holds 42 gallons or about 189 pounds of propane. I’m not sure if it’s a 42-gallon tank – which would really only hold about 34 gallons of propane or a 53-gallon tank which would hold about 42 gallons. Propane tanks can only be filled to 80% of their actual capacity.

Our tank level sensor display fell below a quarter tank a few months ago and has been showing empty. It took 30.1 gallons to fill it. So, I’m assuming we have a 42-gallon tank with about 33 gallons of usable propane. The only time we use propane is driving down the road to run the refrigerator – very low consumption – or when we’re boondocking to run the refrigerator and water heater. We’ve rarely used the propane furnace – we usually stay in warm areas or run the heat pumps if needed. I hope it’ll be another two years before I have to fill it again.

After filling the tank, we drove south on US95 past Lake Coeur D’Alene and climbed into forested mountains. We would make several climbs and a few descents along the way. After a while, as we neared Potlatch, the forest gave way to farmland – mostly rolling hills with wheat fields. We continued on through Moscow – home of the University of Idaho and eventually hit the steep downgrade into Lewiston.

The grade is long and very steep with several runaway truck ramps along the way. The runaway truck ramps are lanes off to the side of the road filled with deep gravel to slow a truck that’s lost its braking power. Some of the runaway truck ramps were built into steep hillsides to further slow a truck without brakes. There were advisory signs for trucks indicating a speed of 35mph.

I thought this seemed like a reasonable speed down the long grade with a few switchback turns. I kept the Jake brake on high and only stabbed the brake pedal a few times on the way down. About a third of the way down, I pulled off at a scenic overlook. The view was incredible. Looking down into the valley toward Hell’s Canyon, we could see where the Clearwater River joins the Snake River. The Snake River flows north out of Hell’s Canyon. Lewiston is on the east bank while Clarkston, Washington is on the west bank. The Snake River continues through Washington and joins the Columbia River.

Clearwater River from left to right joins the Snake river, separating Lewiston, Idaho from Clarkston, Washington.

Clearwater River from left to right joins the Snake River flowing up from the south, separating Lewiston, Idaho from Clarkston, Washington.

A little known factoid is that Lewiston was the original capital of the Idaho Territory.

Click to enlarge and read about the first capital of Idaho

Click to enlarge and read about the first capital of Idaho

US95 took us across the Clearwater River at an elevation of about 750 feet above sea level. We began a long, steady, uphill grind out of the valley. It wasn’t too steep, but it was a constant uphill pull with a headwind component. And it was about 90 degrees out. With the engine running full turbocharger boost pressure, our coolant temperature started to climb. When it hit 200 degrees, I downshifted the six-speed Allison  3000MH transmission to fifth gear. This kept the temperature stable at 198 – 200 until we hit a steeper grade.I went to fourth gear and slowed to 50mph. Then the grade got steeper again. I watched the coolant temperature rise to 207 degrees and saw it flicker up to 210 a couple of times on the Scan Gauge D digital readout. The Scan Gauge operates off the feed from engine sensors to the Engine Control Module (ECM). For our CAPS Cummins ISL, 210 is the maximum coolant temperature I want to see. Later models with the common rail fuel system can tolerate higher temperatures.

I finally downshifted to third gear and slowed again. This kept the engine RPM up to 1,900-2,000 RPM to circulate coolant and run the radiator cooling fan at high speed. This dropped the temperature again and we finally crested the plateau.

For the previous hundred miles or so, we drove through farmland mostly growing wheat. On the plateau, the wheat fields were replaced by miles of barley – the grain most often used to make beer. Being rural farmland, we had to watch for farm machinery driving on the highway. We came upon a couple in the road and also drove through a few construction zones. All-in-all it wasn’t a hard day of driving though.

Slow tractor on the highway

Slow tractor on the highway

We pulled into Bear Den RV Park just outside of Grangeville around 2pm. We have a long pull-through site with full hook-ups and 50 amp power. We set up quickly and started the air conditioners. The park is surprisingly nice considering the relatively remote location. Nice, level, long pull-throughs and good wifi!

Donna took a walk to town – about a four-mile round trip. Driving through all those barley fields left me with beer on my mind. So I opened one!

The park was quiet overnight and the temperature dropped to a low of 55 degrees. We slept comfortably with the bedroom window open. The elevation here is around 3,400 feet above sea level.

We’ve changed up our plan. Instead of making it a two-day stop here, we’ll pull out today so we can drive down ID55 and hook up with our friends, Mark and Emily Fagan (Roadslesstraveled) near McCall, Idaho before moving on to Boise.


Contingency Plans

It was nearly 2pm by the time we pulled out of Celilo Park on the bank of the Columbia River on Friday. While Donna worked on a project, I changed our fuel filter before we packed up and left. I change the fuel filter annually and always mark the month/year with a permanent marker so I know when it was changed.

Diesel fuel filter

Diesel fuel filter

Before I changed the filter, a COE employee stopped at our rig. He asked how long we planned to stay. I told him we would be leaving in an hour or two. He said he expected a lot of wind surfers to arrive for the weekend and said we were taking up too many parking spaces to stay over the weekend. Good to know for future reference.

We planned a short drive of about 35 miles to the Walmart in Hood River. I had looked at it on Google Earth, the lot looked large and I could see a few RVs in the image. When we got there, the lot was large enough, but it was posted “No Truck or RV Parking.”

The thing is, you never know when the Google image was taken and things can change. We had a plan “B”. We would continue west on I-84 to Troutdale, a suburb east of Portland. We stayed at the Fairview RV Park on Sandy Boulevard there two years ago and saw RVs overnighting at the Walmart. It was another 45 miles away.

The parking lot at this Walmart was a nightmare. It was busy and I had drivers in cars cutting me off, other drivers stopping and waving me through when I couldn’t possibly get by them – I even had a car pass on my right when I had my right turn indicator on and swung wide to make the turn. It’s a good thing I checked my mirror or I would have pinched the car.

Then we saw that the lot was posted – no overnight parking. Donna called the store and was told a city ordinance had been passed prohibiting overnight parking in public areas. I could go on a rant about politicians taking control of corporate business decisions. On the other hand I’ve seen too many people taking advantage of Walmart by setting up long-term, not just overnight. Bottom line: we needed to find an overnight spot.

Donna phoned the Columbia River RV Park to see if we could move our reservation up one day. No dice, they didn’t have any open sites. Next, I called the Elks Lodge across the river from Portland in Vancouver, Washington. They very friendly as always and told me they had one back-in site with electric and water open or I could dry camp in their lot. The lodge was about 15 miles away.

It was 4pm by then and the rush hour traffic was building. I was already feeling tired from maneuvering through Walmart lots. The bumper-to-bumper traffic getting on I-205 didn’t help. The 15-mile drive took about 40 minutes. I missed the entrance to the Elks Lodge – it’s hidden in what appears to be a residential street. I made a loop through a residential area and found the lodge. We went inside and were welcomed to stay in their lot. I paid a dry camping fee of $10.

When we’re traveling and winging it, looking for cheap or free overnight stays, it pays to be flexible and have contingency plans. If the Elks hadn’t worked out, I’m not sure what our next move would have been, but we would have come up with something. There are a number of state parks along the Columbia River, but we’re too large for most of them. Sometimes a smaller rig can be advantageous.

We had dinner in the Elks Lodge – it was a busy Friday night there. The lodge is next to I-205 so we had traffic noise throughout the night, but other than that, we had no complaints.

Ozark the cat has been acting strange the past few days. When we were at Celilo Park, the passing trains with their loud horns frightened her. She took to hiding behind the vanity in the bedroom slide or hiding behind the sofa. We had to entice her out before I could pull the slides in. I won’t move the slides until I know where the cat is. The slides are powerful and trapping the cat in the mechanism would not be good.

Donna went out for a quick bike ride in the morning and then we left the Vancouver Elks Lodge a little past 11am and arrived at the Columbia River RV Park just past noon. It’s off Marine Drive, right on the river west of the airport. We’re looking forward to biking on the paved paths in the area. Checking in gave me a moment of concern. The guy behind the counter asked for my last name and said, “Mike, right?” Then a cloudy look came over his face and he said, “Uh-oh.” The sign on the door said no vacancy – I wondered if they overbooked and our confirmed reservation maybe wasn’t so confirmed. Then the woman at the counter said we may have to wait as check-out time is noon and they had to see if our site was available.

It turned out the people had already left site 109 and we had a choice of taking either 109 or 101. We looked the sites over and decided to take 109 – it had more space for the trailer. The site is a 50-foot pull-through. The concrete pad for our coach is level, but it’s narrow. There’s a shorter pad beside it for the trailer.

I pulled all the way through, then Donna directed me as I backed the trailer in place and dropped it. Then I backed the coach into the site. We had a few obstacles to overcome. There’s a four-inch steel pole protecting the electrical box that extends at least 12 feet high. Our first position would have the bedroom slide hit the pole, so I moved back. Now the slide was clear, but I couldn’t open the wet-bay door. I need to open this door to hook up water and sewer and access it when I dump.

I ended up parking the coach at an angle that gave me clearance for the slide and wet-bay. Then I moved the trailer slightly by hand to allow us access to the large basement compartment on the passenger side. It’s tight but it all worked out. Our neighbor was impressed by the way we dropped the trailer and got everything positioned.

Steel pole on utility box

Steel pole at utility box

Not much room

Not much room

Trailer and coach staggered to allow basement access

Trailer and coach staggered to allow basement access

The skies were overcast all morning and wouldn’t you know it, as soon as we started to back the trailer in, the skies began pouring rain. By the time I had the coach positioned, it stopped raining. Donna was drenched from directing me and I was wet from disconnecting the trailer.

After we set up, I went for a walk in the park. I couldn’t believe it when I saw a coach that was painted black with spray paint. I thought it was the Black Coach Guy from Mission Bay that I wrote about two years ago. I also saw a rig I recognized two sites down from us. It belongs to Eric and Brittany Highland (RvWanderlust). Eric has a Facebook group called Full-time Diesel RVers. I met them at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta last October. Their car was gone, so they must have been out for the day. I’m sure we’ll get a chance to visit before they leave.

Could it be the Black Coach Guy?

Could it be the Black Coach Guy?

Later, when I took out trash to the dumpster, I met a long term park resident. He told me the black coach had been there for two years and was occupied by two women. So, it wasn’t Black Coach Guy, but it had a similar paint job.

Today the weather forecast looks good. Partly cloudy with zero percent chance of rain and a high in the upper 70s. Donna plans to write an article this morning, then ride her bike to meet up with her friend Marlo at a coffee shop. I’ll start with the Formula One race from Baku, Azerbaijan. Then I’ll get my bike out or explore on the Spyder.