Category Archives: Nevada

Plan A, Plan B, Plan C

Donna was back for our last weekend in Sparks. On Saturday morning, she went for a run around the Marina Park Lake. She said she struggled and afterwards, she felt whipped – no doubt from a full day of air travel on Friday. Traveling on airlines always leaves you a bit dehydrated and jet lag doesn’t help. Of course, with Donna back I was treated to a much better dining experience – not just the company, but the great meals she prepares.

On Saturday night, she made tortilla crusted tilapia with pico de gallo and sauteed veggies on the side. Absolutely delicious. We buy only fresh tilapia farmed in Mexico or Central America, not the Chinese or Indonesian frozen fish as farming practices there are a bit scary based on what we’ve read.

Tortilla crusted tilapia with pico de gallo and sauteed veggies

Tortilla crusted tilapia with pico de gallo and sauteed veggies

I started Sunday by watching the Formula 1 race from Barcelona, Spain. It turned out to be one of the most entertaining F1 races in recent memory. The odds-on favorites from the Mercedes team, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, collided going into turn four and were out of the race. In my opinion, Nico took a defensive line, which is expected, but Hamilton thought he could barge past since he had greater speed on the exit of turn three. He should have backed off. Instead he went into the grass, got sideways and took both cars out. From there it was all about young Max Verstappen. The 18-year-old became the youngest Formula 1 winner – his father Jos Verstappen was a Formula one racer as well.

I also recorded a few motorcycle races  – World Superbike and Moto-America races. I’m loving the coverage of motorcycle racing on BeIn Sports. They show the races without commercial interruption.

I didn’t watch the motorcycle races right away, I had to figure out our next move. I thought I had a plan. We ditched our initial thought of heading to Lake Tahoe due to the wet and cold forecast for the coming week. Then I found what looks to be a great RV park at the Expo grounds in Sacramento, located on the Sacramento River with long pull-through, full hook-up sites and miles of paved bike trails right outside the park. I sent an e-mail inquiry. Unfortunately, due to the dirt track mile motorcycle races next weekend and the county fair over Memorial Day weekend, they only had a couple of nights open.

So, plan A and plan B fell through. After some searching, we decided to head up to Susanville for a week, then on to Corning, California for 10 days. The weather forecast looks favorable and Susanville has an RV park that looked good. In Corning, we thought the RV park at Rolling Hills Casino would work – long pull-through sites and not likely to be booked over Memorial Day. I made phone calls and we’re set. This will position us nicely for our reservation in Bend, Oregon beginning June 4th.

Donna made a spiced pork tenderloin with maple-chipotle sauce. She served it with smashed garlic red potatoes and steamed broccoli. Once again, I’m feasting like a king.

Pork tenderloin with maple-chipolte sauce

Pork tenderloin with maple-chipolte sauce

We finished the day by watching a movie recorded on our hard drive. It was Bridge of Spies starring Tom Hanks. The pace of the movie was slow and it was less than we expected – Donna said she had all she could do to keep her eyes open as the movie dragged on.

On Monday morning, we prepared to leave Sparks Marina RV Park. We had everything done and were rolling by 9:30am. On the way out, Donna remarked how much she liked the place and how they do things right here. The park has wide lanes making it easy to maneuver. It’s exceptionally clean and well-maintained. The picnic tables are well constructed and set up with a metal plate to have a small barbeque like a Weber Q on one end. We’ll remember this place next time we come through the area.

Our Route took us up US395. US395 starts out sharing the I-580 designation in Reno and is three or four lanes wide through the metro Reno/Sparks area. It climbs out of the valley immediately with fairly steep grades. Traffic quickly thins out and it becomes a divided highway with two lanes in each direction, then merges into a two-lane highway. It rolls up and down hills with passing lanes on the steeper grades. Before long we crossed the state line and we’re back in California.

It was an easy drive – very scenic with the eastern Sierra Nevada range on our left and a wide valley on our right. We stopped at the Honey Lake rest area (map). It’s a relatively small rest area, but has a nice view and several information kiosks describing the geology, flora and fauna of the area.

View of Honey Lake from the rest area

View of Honey Lake from the rest area

After walking around the rest area, we continued on to Susanville, California and the Susanville RV Park. When I made the reservation, I was told we would have a 65′ pull-through site. At check-in, the woman at the counter looked at our rig out the window and said,”You know you have a 65′ site.” I told her as long it was really 65′ we should be fine. She went on to say it was not permissible to overhang the site into the street due to it being a fire lane.

I was wondering if this would be like the “65-foot” site in Sparks that was too short for our 64′ 9″ length. We pulled into site 63 and Donna directed me. After a couple of adjustments back and forth, I had us in – barely.

Mirror technically extends past site boundary - but we're in

Mirror technically extends past site boundary – but we’re in

Back of trailer right on the line

Back of trailer right on the line

Our 65' site

Our 65′ site

After settling in, we took a ride through town to have a look. We stopped at the Lassen Brewery to wet our whistle, but they don’t open until 4pm on Mondays and it was only 2:30pm. We rode around some more and then headed over to the new Mt. Diamond Brew Pub in the Mt. Diamond Casino. I had an IPA and Donna ordered the Kolsch. We were both disappointed in the quality of the brews and being in a casino means cigarette smoke. We won’t bother stopping there again.

We hit the sack around 10pm. It’s very quiet here and I slept soundly – the best night’s sleep I’ve had in a while. The forecast for the next few days looks good – we’re expecting high temperatures in the 70s and 80s. We plan to take advantage of the weather and the area by hiking some of the trails nearby.


*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!

Sparks in Sparks

After writing yesterday’s post I set to work on the Spyder. I pulled the center side panels and the top body panel off. With the tupperware out of the way, I removed the two-piece airbox assembly. This gave me an unobstructed view of the throttle body and all vacuum hoses, the idle air control valve (IACV) and the spark plug leads.

Airbox assembly removed

Airbox assembly removed

I started the engine and checked the IACV operation. It worked fine and I didn’t find any vacuum leaks. As the engine warmed up to temperature, I realized it wasn’t misfiring. This puzzled me as I hadn’t fixed anything. I let the engine run for several minutes and it was perfect.

I shut the engine off and reinstalled the lower half of the airbox. Then I started the engine again. After a minute or so, it began to misfire. I turned it off and looked things over. What changed when I installed the lower airbox? I saw two things – the fuel line to the injectors was pushed against the cylinder block and likewise, the front spark plug high voltage lead was pushed to the block.

I started the engine again and put my head down near the front cylinder. When it misfired, I could hear the snapping sound of a spark arcing. I shut the engine off and re-positioned the front spark plug lead. I started the engine again it didn’t misfire. Apparently when the high voltage spark plug lead was pushed against the cylinder block, a voltage leak developed and it would jump to ground on the block, thus the spark plug wouldn’t spark when this happened. Positioning the lead away from the block made it too big of a gap for the voltage to jump – it was easier to bridge the gap at the spark plug. Electricity, like water, will follow the path of least resistance.

So the guys on the Spyder Lovers forum who pointed to the high voltage spark plug wires as the issue were correct. I still don’t understand why the lead would short to ground only at idle and initial throttle opening. In theory, the problem should worsen as the throttle is opened. Sometimes hands-on experience with a certain issue beats all the book knowledge and theory. When we get to a place where I can receive packages I’ll order a new set of plug wires.

After I put all of the tupperware back in place, I went for a test ride. The engine ran smooth and never missed a beat. I rode over to Smith’s grocery where I found a beer that I hadn’t tried before last weekend. It’s Innis and Gunn Scottish beer aged in oak barrels.

Innis and Gunn oak aged beer

Innis and Gunn oak aged beer

The label on calls it Scottish beer, not ale. Looking at their website, I found very little information. I don’t know if it’s fermented with ale yeast or lager yeast. I discovered on their website that some of their beers are oak flavored with a process they call an oakerator. This unit forces the beer through a vessel filled with oak chips. The beer I bought says it’s aged in an oak barrel for 77 days.

This beer has a unique flavor and I found subtle differences among bottles with the same label. I really liked it and I wanted to buy a few more bottles. I don’t recall ever seeing this beer before – I’ll probably stock up with a few more bottles before we leave on Monday.

Donna’s flight home from Albany, New York left on time. She had a short layover in Las Vegas before making the final hop to Reno/Tahoe airport. She sent me a text when she was in a cab leaving the airport. I went online and ordered a pizza from Roundtable Pizza right away. The pizza was delivered shortly after she got home.

We sat at the table and talked while we ate. I have to admit I’d ordered a pizza last weekend as well. When Donna is away, pizza is a good option. We watched an episode of The Night Manager, then we had a brief discussion on where we’re going when we leave here. We’re still undecided.

We’ve ruled out Lake Tahoe as the night time temperatures are forecast to be below freezing. We’d rather be somewhere warmer. We aren’t booked anywhere until we reach Bend, Oregon on June 4th, giving us nearly three weeks to fill.

Today we plan to go grocery shopping to restock the larders and look at places to stay when we leave here.

Lean Condition

My week as a bachelor while Donna is visiting family and friends in upstate New York has been relatively boring. I hit the pickleball courts at the Neil Road Recreation Center on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. It’s been my only social activity. Other than a couple of trips to the grocery store, I’ve just been catching up on a few chores.

On Wednesday morning, I pulled the body work off the Spyder and looked for an intake leak. It’s been misfiring at idle and stumbles on initial acceleration. It seems to me that it’s a lean fuel mixture condition causing one cylinder to misfire. Some guys on the Spyder Lovers forum are trying to convince me it’s spark plug wires or ignition coils causing the misfire.

I don’t think this is the case. Ignition breakdown usually occurs under load. The Spyder misfires at idle and once underway, it runs fine. At wide open throttle, it produces full power and takes off like a rocket. There’s no misfire once the engine gets to 2,500 rpm or so. I’m still convinced it a lean fuel mixture condition.

Another reason I believe it’s fuel mixture is that the problem only occurs once the engine is up to running temperature. On a cold start, it idles fine and there’s no evidence of a misfire. On a cold start, the engine runs in open loop – meaning the signal from the oxygen sensor in the exhaust pipe is ignored and the fuel mixture is richer than the optimum (stoichiometric) value. A cold engine needs a rich fuel mixture. Once the engine has been running for a few minutes, it goes into closed loop – the oxygen sensor signal tells the engine control module if the fuel mixture is correct and the control module adjusts the fuel mixture accordingly.

When I looked at the throttle body on Wednesday, I concentrated on vacuum hoses. I looked for cracks or loose hoses. With the engine running, I sprayed the vacuum lines and fittings with carb cleaner. If there was an intake leak, the vacuum would have sucked the spray cleaner into the intake and the engine would immediately run differently. I didn’t detect any change in the running of the engine. I gave up and reinstalled the body panels and went to play pickleball.

Vacuum hoses on the throttle body

Vacuum hoses on the throttle body

When I played pickleball Thursday afternoon, I felt a twinge in my left leg. It was high in the hamstring – where the muscle inserts below the gluteus. I continued to play and it didn’t bother me too much. After I came home, I really stiffened up and had pain in the upper hamstring area.

I won’t play pickleball today. I’ll rest my leg and see if I can get to the bottom of the misfire issue on the Spyder. Thinking it over, I’m going to take a look at the idle air control valve (IACV) and the associated hoses. When the throttle plates are closed at idle, the IACV controls the air going into the engine and thus the idle speed. If there’s a leak in the system past the IACV, then it cannot properly control the air and fuel mixture. I still have one item to check off Donna’s honey-do list, but I’m going to make the Spyder issue my priority today.

Donna will return tonight – I can’t wait. I hope her flights are on time. She’ll fly from Albany, New York to Las Vegas then on to Reno. We’re booked here at the Sparks Marina RV Park until Monday. The weather this week has been fabulous. Yesterday and today will be the warmest with the temperature reaching the mid 80s. The rest of the week was mid 70s and that’s what the weekend forecast calls for.

We thought about heading up to Lake Tahoe on Monday, but I think it’s still too cold there. The forecast for next week predicts highs in the 50s and 60s with the temperature dropping to freezing overnight. We’ll figure out our next move this weekend.

Spyder Work

I rode the Spyder to Michael’s Reno Powersports on Monday. I needed to replace the caps on the master cylinder reservoir for the brakes. The diaphragms in the caps were leaking fluid. I’ve heard this is a common problem on Can Am Spyders. The fluid reservoir has sensors in each of the two chambers. If the fluid level drops by as little as a teaspoon, it triggers a warning light and the words “Brake Failure” scroll across the display screen. I looked up the warning light and written warning in the manual – it indicated that both warnings at the same time was triggered by the fluid level sensor. This seems like a dire warning but the brakes work fine.

I added fluid before and the warning stopped. After a while it came back on and then I saw where the fluid was going – it leaked past the caps and ran down the rear shock mount. I added about a teaspoon of fluid to each chamber and installed new caps. Job done!

From Michael’s I took a ride up Geiger Grade Road. This is a two-lane mountain road that twists and turns and climbs over Geiger Summit at 6,700 feet above sea level. Once over the summit, it’s a short ride to Virginia City. Virginia City sprang up in 1859 after the discovery of the Comstock Lode, the first major silver deposit discovered in the US. It’s estimated that as many as 25,000 people lived in Virginia City in the 1870s. Today Virginia City is the county seat of Storey County and about 850 people live there. Storey County has a population of about 4,000. Virginia City is another old mining town tourist trap today.

I took a walk along the wooden sidewalks and looked around. One of Virginia City’s claims to fame is it’s where Samuel Clemens – who was a local reporter for the Territorial Enterprise newspaper – first used the pen name Mark Twain.

Virginia City Mercantile

Virginia City Mercantile

Wooden sidewalks

Wooden sidewalks

Bucket of Blood Sallon

Bucket of Blood Saloon

Most of the historic buildings in town date back to 1876. The original town was destroyed by fire in 1875. Many of the buildings are saloons.

Click to enlarge and read the window signs

Click to enlarge and read the window signs

The Red Dog Saloon had interesting signs on a few windows – one third-story window says “Law Offices – Acquittals in Most Cases.” Another says “Bath House $1 with attendant.”

I didn’t stay long and didn’t go inside the saloons. If Donna were along we probably would’ve poked around in some of the shops, but she won’t be back from her trip to visit family in New York until Friday.

The ride back down Geiger Grade had spectacular views. I pulled off at a turn-out and snapped a couple of photos.

Snow covered mountains to the west

Snow covered mountains across the valley to the west

Reno/Sparks to the north

Reno/Sparks to the north

Tuesday morning I rode the Spyder to the Neil Road Recreation Center to play pickleball. To get there I went out McCarran Boulevard. McCarran Boulevard is a loop circling Reno and Sparks. Some of the cross streets intersect it twice. This can make directions a bit confusing. When I left the Sparks Marina RV Park, I went north on McCarran. I saw a couple of cross streets I recognized, but several miles later I realized I went the wrong way.

I turned around and followed the loop south, then west. I passed the intersection of Rock Road, then saw it again a few miles later. That’s when it dawned on me how I got turned around. I eventually found the recreation center in a seedy part of town on the west side of Reno-Tahoe airport. I played for a couple of hours on the indoor courts and had fun. The level of play wasn’t as high as Towerpoint in Mesa, Arizona, but there were some fairly good players.

The Spyder has been acting up lately. Once it’s fully warmed up to operating temperature, it develops a misfire at idle. Initial acceleration is rough until the engine gets to 2,500 – 3,000 rpm, then it smooths out. I haven’t seen a check engine light or any indication of a fault code. I thought maybe it was a tank of bad gasoline. But, I’ve burned through a couple of tanks of gas and the problem is still there.

Today I’ll pull the body work off of it and have a look. I’m thinking there’s a vacuum leak in the intake system somewhere. Hopefully I can find it and fix it.

The weather has been really nice – Monday and Tuesday we had high temperatures around 70 degrees. Today may be a couple of degrees warmer but still very comfortable. I’ll head over to the recreation center this afternoon for pickleball.

Honey-Do List

It rained on and off all weekend here in Sparks, Nevada. Donna had a long travel day on Saturday. Her flight to Albany, New York had two connections. One in Denver and one in Washington, DC. Her flight left Reno on time and her connection in Denver was fine. Shortly after landing in Washington, DC, she learned that her flight was delayed due to a late incoming plane.

She utilized the extra hour by finding food and a glass of wine. Then her departure was delayed a further half hour with no explanation. Then the flight was pushed back again due to a maintenance issue. It seems the airline was buying time in one hour increments – she finally departed Washington, DC after sitting around for four hours. Back in my workaday life, I was in an airport monthly. I don’t miss airline travel at all – I haven’t set foot in an airport since I retired nearly three years ago.

I spent the day staying dry indoors reading and watching TV. Sunday was more of the same. I watched three motorcycle races and two car races – that filled much of my time. Donna left me a honey-do list – something she’s never done before. I am the great procrastinator though and the list will keep me moving on a few things that need doing.

On Saturday, I re-glued the trim around a vanity mirror in the bedroom. The trim came off a while ago, but since the mirror is inside a cabinet door, it was one of those “out of sight, out of mind” things. Donna uses the mirror frequently though, so the missing trim bothered her. Next up, I started to clean and condition the wood cabinets in our kitchen.

I used a product I mentioned before called Kramer’s Best Antique Improver. I don’t have any affiliation with this company, but I mention the product because it is something I really like. You wipe it on the wood with a clean cloth, then rub it dry with a cloth. Couldn’t be easier and the results are great!

Kramer's Best

Kramer’s Best

Looking good

Looking good

Ozark the cat seems to have separation anxiety with Donna gone. She’s very vocal and needy. She rubs against my legs, clings to me and wants to be held and petted all the time. I guess Donna gives her a lot of attention and talks to her a lot. I don’t talk all that much most of time and when I’m alone, I talk even less.

We’ve had cats in our family in the past, but I was never much of a cat person. I always preferred dogs. It’s not that I dislike cats. I love our little Ozark. But when I think about it, it comes down to a basic difference between the two. Dogs aim to please. Cats aim to be pleased. In other words, dogs naturally want to do things that please their humans. Cats want their humans to do things that please them. It’s this attitude of indifference and independence that many people find attractive in cats.

I once had a Weimaraner named AJ. He was the greatest dog that ever lived. I trained him and he competed in North America Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA) events. He was a natural hunter and we went bird hunting together regularly. He liked nothing better than to freeze a game bird on point and retrieve the bird after I made the shot. We enjoyed lots of pheasant, quail, chukar and partridge on the dinner table.

AJ was very disciplined and rarely barked – he would only bark when he had good reason to. He could run and hunt all day. In our current lifestyle, we don’t have room for a dog. It wouldn’t be fair to the dog. I wouldn’t want to leave one in the coach while we went out. I know lots of RVers – even full-timers – travel with dogs. It works for them and that’s fine with me. I didn’t intend to have a cat in our coach, but Ozark found her way into our lives and we like having her along.

The weather forecast looks good for the coming week. Daily highs will be in the mid 70s to low 80s with no rain expected. Today I might ride the Spyder to a recreation center in Reno for pickleball. Then I’ll tackle cleaning and conditioning the rest of the kitchen cabinets.


56 is the new 65

A few truckers had joined us in our boondocking area in Mina, Nevada, but they were back on the road early and were gone before we departed. As I mentioned in my previous post, a storm came through and the outside temperature got down to 45 degrees. We had a little water come past the driver’s side bedroom slide seal. I’ll have to check it out, but it’s not too surprising considering the high winds and heavy rains overnight.

Ozark the cat kept warm by snuggling into the crook of Donna’s knees.

Ozark staying warm

Ozark staying warm

We were on our way continuing up US95 a little before 9am. Traffic was light and the wind was from the south – tailwinds make for easy driving! The storm dropped fresh snow on the mountains around us. It was scenic and the terrain changed as we went north. There was more vegetation and it was a lot greener.

Snowy peak in the distance

Snowy peak in the distance

A closer view showing snow and low clouds

A closer view showing snow and foggy peak

We traveled about 400 miles on US95 – it was mostly good, smooth pavement and, in fact, it’s one of the best stretches of highway we’ve been on with regard to road condition.

Our route took us through Hawthorne, Nevada. Before we reached town I saw numerous dirt covered concrete bunkers. It was the Hawthorne Army Depot – the world’s largest ammunition storage facility. It covers about 226 square miles and has 2,427 storage bunkers – about 600,000 square feet of storage.

We followed the truck route which bypassed the main drag through town and continued on past Walker Lake. This is a very scenic area and we saw several places along the lake that were open for camping. One or two areas looked like you could get a big rig in and out – I saw one large motorhome and several smaller RVs. We’ll file that information away for future reference.

View of Walker Lake out Donna's window

View of Walker Lake out Donna’s window

By the time we reached Fallon, Nevada, (map) we were in farmland. There were hay fields and horse farms. The area receives irrigation from the Truckee River. Fallon used to be the home of a Marine Air Station. When the Navy moved their air station here from Miramar, California, I think there was a trade made. The Marines now occupy Miramar and the Navy is in Fallon.

In Fallon, we turned west at the junction of US50. This took us to I-80 where I stopped at the Pilot/Flying J Travel Center. I topped off our tank with 60 gallons of diesel fuel at $2.42/gallon. Not the lowest we’ve paid, but still not bad! While we were at the travel center I weighed our rig on the CAT scale. I wondered why they called them CAT scales and found out it means Certified Automated Truck Scale. I wanted to check our weight and weight distribution with the larger trailer – I weighed our coach before with the old trailer.

I’ve read questions from RVers on forums about using a scale at a truck stop. Some guys are intimidated by it. There’s a protocol to follow, but it’s easy. Follow the signage to make sure you enter the scale platform in the proper direction. Pull up to the speaker box and press the call button. The attendant will ask if it’s the first weigh – say yes. Then they’ll ask for a truck number. Don’t try to explain you’re in an RV, give them a number. I always use 42 since those digits are on my license plate. They will tell you when the weighing is complete and tell you to pull through and go to the cashier and give your number to get your certified weight receipt. Make sure you have your license plate and trailer plate numbers also – you’ll need them. When the cashier asks what company you’re from, say it’s a private vehicle. At that point, I give them the plate numbers and they print out my weight ticket. The price varies – it was $10.50 at this center.

The weight ticket gives a gross weight – this is the certified weight using the full length platform scale. Then it breaks down the weight by axles. In my case I had a steer axle weight, drive axle weight, trailer axle(s) weight and gross weight. As expected, the larger trailer and the Spyder in it increased our gross weight over what it was with the 12-foot trailer and scooter.

Our coach weighs 30,700 lbs (combined weight of steer and drive axles) with full fuel and fresh water tanks. This is approaching our gross vehicle weight rating of 31,000 lbs. Our trailer axle weight is 4,400 lbs – well under the 7,000-lbs rating. Our combined weight is 35,100 lbs – again well under the coach’s combined weight rating of 41,000 lbs. Our weight is biased more to the rear than before due to the higher trailer tongue weight at the rear of the coach. I think I’ll move a few things toward the back of the trailer to put more weight on the trailer axles and relieve some tongue weight.

It was a short drive west on I-80 to Sparks, Nevada. We pulled in to the Sparks Marina RV Resort where I had reserved a 65′ pull-through site. The check-in process was efficient and the office was clean and tidy and staffed by pleasant people. They had an escort in a golf cart lead us to the site.

I don’t know how they figured it was a 65′ long site. Out total length is a few inches under 65′ and we don’t fit. They had me pull forward so the front of the coach extends past the site boundary a couple of feet. The rear of the trailer extends past the rear boundary and is a few feet into the street. The attendant that led us to site said not to worry and he placed orange plastic posts on either end of our rig to warn other drivers. I’m thinking it’s a 56′ site that the person read as 65′.

Front of coach overhangs site

Front of coach overhangs site

Rear of trailer extends into street

Rear of trailer extends into street

The park is very clean and nice. The sites are paved and level. There’s fake turf between the sites over dirt with trees and picnic tables. It’s a nice place. The downside to the way we’re parked is the distance to the sewer hook-up. We’re about 25 feet from the hook-up and I have about 21 feet of sewer hose. I had to make a trip to Walmart for another hose extension.

The reason we came to Sparks was so Donna could fly from the Reno airport to Albany, New York. She wanted to spend Mother’s Day with her parents and spend time with friends and family there. Donna packed her bag and prepared for her trip while I made the run to Walmart. Then we watched TV and sacked out early. She had a cab pick her up at 4:30am to drive to the airport for her 5:45am departure. After she left, Ozark kept me up for a while, then I drifted off to sleep a bit. I was up by 6:30 am.

It’s raining as I type this and it’s expected to rain on and off through the weekend. I’ll be a bachelor for the coming week. I’m so spoiled by Donna, I can hardly stand it, but I’ll get by until she returns Friday night.


Leaving Las Vegas

Wednesday was our last full day in Las Vegas. We had plans, but first we had to take care of a few things. Donna was hard at work putting the final touches on an article and also working on a press release for her piano teacher back in Mesa. I had the usual pre-road chores – checking tire pressures, lug nuts on the trailer and getting things squared away in the trailer.

We finally made it over to the Las Vegas Convention Center a little before 3pm – later than we planned. We hit the usual traffic tie-ups as we approached Las Vegas Boulevard and turned off onto Paradise Road. We both had press credentials to enter the National Hardware Show at the center – we were identified as editorial media.

Once inside, we split up as Donna headed to the housewares area and I went to the tools and hardware section. Coming in as late as we were, we couldn’t possibly see all that we wished to see before the 5pm closing. Also, photography inside the show was forbidden, so I don’t have photos to share. I found a few items of interest that I think will be useful for RVers and I’ll write about them in a future post once I try them out. Donna also found a few products and made some contacts.

In front of the entrance, I shot a couple of photos of the baddest Ford Super Duty truck I’ve ever seen. I think it’s an F-550 belonging to Jack Link of jerky fame. It has six doors and could probably seat at least eight people. This would pull a fifth-wheel or Airstream nicely.

Jack Links truck - look at the fuel tanks!

Jack Link’s truck – look at the fuel tanks!

Six doors

Six doors

Just before closing, we made our way to the outside display area and found our friend Jeff Spencer (Rolling Recess) at the Dometic display. In my last post, I said Jeff was a rep for Dometic, I should clarify that and identify him properly – he’s the national marketing manager. Dometic supplies a number of RV products – our Penguin air conditioners, our refrigerator and our A & E power awning are a few examples.

Jeff and Deb at the Dometic display

Jeff and Deb at the Dometic display ( photo courtesy of Jeff Spencer)

Donna snagged a deal for dinner for four at a highly rated restaurant called El Sombrero in the arts district of Las Vegas. It’s supposed to be the oldest Mexican restaurant in town. Donna and I usually go out for dinner on our anniversary, which coincides with the Cinco de Mayo celebration. This year we knew we would be traveling on May 5th, so we thought dinner with friends at a Mexican restaurant on May 4th would be a fine substitute.

We rolled up to EL Sombrero right at 5:45pm, the time of our reservation, with Jeff and Deb right behind us. I have to admit, it didn’t look like the nicest of neighborhoods. The street had buildings with graffiti and bail bond offices. The restaurant itself and the adjoining building though were freshly painted and looked well-kept.

El Sombrero entrance = bail bond office in the background

El Sombrero entrance – bail bond office in the background

The sign on the facade called it the El Sombrero Mexican Bistro while the overhead neon sign was little less pretentious calling it El Sombrero Mexican Food Cafe..

We enjoyed conversation and looked the menu over. Things got a little confusing when the server, Jose, told us the menu items for the special deal Donna purchased online were limited. He pointed out the areas of the menu we could select from. Jeff asked about getting the fajitas plate and paying extra, which Jose agreed to. We had some difficulty with drink orders – apparently if you order a margarita, you’re gold. I ordered a margarita and it showed up in no time. Jeff and Deb wanted tea and was told they didn’t have it. Later he asked again for iced tea and was told no problemo. Then he asked for it again. And again before it finally showed up. Donna ordered sangria which is a house specialty. And asked for it again. It took a while to get everyone something to drink.

We ordered appetizers, which were part of the deal. Donna and Deb got the salads which were huge and very good and I ordered the guacamole to go with the excellent chips. Jeff ordered the bacon-wrapped cheese-stuffed jalapenos. About 10 minutes later, Jose came to our table and told Jeff they didn’t have any bacon, but not to worry – the cheese and the sauce are what make the dish and it would be fine without bacon. What!?

Then it was entree time. Donna ordered the pollo tamal (chicken tamale) and was told they didn’t have any tamales. Jose explained that with Cinco de Mayo happening the following day, the kitchen was fully stocked with the popular items for the celebration (mostly street tacos), leaving no room for bacon or tamales. Anyway, the food we ended up with was good and we had some laughs and a great time.

Good times at El Sombrero

Good times at El Sombrero (Jeff Spencer photo)

Thursday morning we were up early and prepping for the road. I wanted to get a reasonably early start as the wind was forecast to pick up late morning. As I was outside making preparations to leave, our neighbor stopped by and said I should put out chairs and sell tickets – everyone wanted to see how I was going to get our coach and trailer out of our site. I have to admit, getting out without hitting anything or losing my patience weighed on my mind. Looking down the lane from our site, I could see we would be running the gauntlet.

Luckily our neighbor moved the silver Dodge on the left and the blue Toyota on the right pulled out

Luckily our neighbor moved the silver Dodge on the left and the blue Toyota on the right pulled out

I parked the Spyder by the office, planning to load it on the way out. I had no way to get it to the back of the trailer while we were still in our site. Our neighbor kindly moved his truck, allowing me a little more room. I walked through my planned maneuver and explained to Donna what I intended to do. I made sure she understood what my concerns were and what I needed her to watch and advise me on.

In the end, it was anti-climactic. Preparation and patient maneuvering did the trick. We backed up to the trailer hitch in one shot and pulled it out with no drama at all for the peanut gallery.

The traffic getting away from Las Vegas was the usual jungle, but US95 quickly thinned out once we were past the construction and madness on I-515. We settled in for a long haul northbound through the desert. The wind was from the south – southwest meaning we had a tailwind component most of the time.

People often imagine the desert is a flat, barren terrain. This isn’t the reality. The desert is made up of a series of basins. We were constantly on a slight descent into the bowl of a basin, then gradually climbing out of it only to begin another barely perceptible downhill run. The terrain may look all brown at first glance, but on closer observation, there are many colors and a variety of plants. The mountains are always there in the background.

As we headed north, the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada range was off our left. We saw snow-covered peaks in the distance. The tailwind made the drive relatively easy. At one point, I passed a Toyota Prius traveling at about 55 mph while we were going 61 mph. Then I noticed he was right behind us – a few feet from the back of our trailer. Apparently he wanted to take every aerodynamic advantage and stay in our draft like a NASCAR racer. The driver did this for about 30 miles before he exited. I didn’t like it.

At another point along the lightly traveled road, a tractor-trailer rig was behind us. I could tell the driver wanted to overtake, but his speed was probably governed and he could only go a few miles per hour faster than us. We came to a section where I could see well down the empty highway. I picked up the CB radio, switched to channel 19 and said, “Make your move now, I’ll slow down so you can get past.” He immediately responded with a thank you and went by us. For a trucker trying make a living, going four or five miles per hour faster makes a difference at the end of the day. Slowing down and letting him by didn’t affect my day at all.

Windshield view of US95

Windshield view of US95

I was surprised to find us 6,000 feet above sea level as we passed through Tonopah. All the gradual up and down through the desert basins netted us an elevation gain of more than 4,000 feet.

Donna looked through the Escapees Days End Directory and found a few places where we could stop for the night. We pulled off in a tiny desert community called Mina at 4pm. Donna went for  a walk and found that more than half the properties are deserted – the other half is inhabited by collectors apparently.

This property is full of military stuff

This block-long property is full of military stuff

Old cars at this place - a couple of VW Beetles and a Ford Pinto Pony

Old cars at this place

This one was offering his old wooden boxes for sale

This one was offering his old wooden boxes for sale – and had an old Ford Econoline and Pinto Pony

We spent the night in a large pullout area across from town on the east side of US95, a two-lane highway.

Our big rig is dawrfed by the scale of the area

Our big rig is dwarfed by the scale of the area

After dinner, we watched a recorded episode of The Americans. It was very windy and a thunderstorm rolled in at 8:30pm. The thundershowers continued intermittently throughout the night. I woke up several times as lightning and thunder accompanied rain driven by the wind. At one point, I heard hail stones lashed by the wind. We’re at an elevation of 4,700 feet and the temperature dropped to 45 degrees overnight.

I’ll check everything over for damage this morning, then we’ll be on our way to Sparks, Nevada. We have less than 200 miles to go after traveling nearly 300 miles yesterday.

Spyder on the Loose

I made good on my intention to clean the coach yesterday. The dust and rain over the past week had it looking pretty shabby. I used a California Duster first to remove the abrasive dust, then I cleaned the coach with a waterless product called The Solution. I love this stuff, you just spray a small amount with a fine mist from a pump bottle and wipe. I work on small areas at a time and the results are great.

I didn’t think a mobile RV wash company would work out here in Thousand Trails Las Vegas RV Resort because the sites are so cramped. I was wrong. A mobile RV washer came to the site next to us and managed to wash their trailer without spraying our coach. The lack of wind helped.

After I cleaned the coach, I had another project to work on. I used the same aluminum tie-down anchors for the rear wheel of the Spyder that were originally used for the scooter in our old trailer. The aluminum plates hold adjustable tie-down rings and are mounted with countersunk head screws. On the trip from Kingman to Las Vegas, the countersunk holes in the aluminum plates pulled through and the anchors came loose. Good thing I had a wheel chock along with the tie-downs or the Spyder could have rolled into the rear door.



I don’t remember what the maximum load for these plates was, but I must have exceeded it. I installed new stainless steel anchors rated for 1,200 lbs.

Rated for 1,200 lbs

New anchors rated for 1,200 lbs

When I load the Spyder on Thursday, I’ll attach the rear wheel tie-downs to these plates and run a second tie-down to anchors in the side walls and use a wheel chock. I won’t have any worries of the Spyder breaking loose with this belt-and-suspenders approach.

While I was working, Donna had Mongolian beef cooking in the slow cooker. Crock pot meals are so handy. I neglected to take a photo of my dinner plate – it was a scrumptious meal. After dinner, we watched two more episodes of Homeland that our friend, Joel Myaer, recorded on our hard drive for us.

We went to bed around 10pm and I was out like a light. Ozark the cat usually sleeps with us through the night, but occasionally she’ll get wild in the night. Around 4:30am, she woke us up running around the coach and scratching the bed pedestal. Cats are supposed to sleep up to 17 hours a day. She gets plenty of sleep in the afternoons. Maybe I should interrupt her afternoon naps so she sleeps at night.

Ozark always finds a comfy spot

Ozark always finds a comfy spot to nap

One of the reasons we booked a full week in Las Vegas is to attend the National Hardware Show that starts Wednesday. The show isn’t open to the public, but Donna managed to get us press credentials to attend. The credential is legitimate for her, maybe not so much for me – although I’ll be sure to include information on products I find useful there in this blog. It also gives us the opportunity to meet up with our friends, Jeff and Deb Spencer (Rolling Recess). They’re here for the show as Jeff is a rep for Dometic and has a booth. Dometic makes many RV products – we have a Dometic refrigerator and our A&E power awning is a Dometic product.

Our plan for today is to do some shopping to restock the refrigerator and pantry. Tomorrow we’ll hit the National Hardware Show, then we’ll pull out of here on Thursday. Our next destination is Sparks/Reno. We have two days to get there and will probably boondock for one night on the way to break up the 400-mile trip. We expect warm to hot temperatures here in Las Vegas over the next couple of days – into the 90s tomorrow. Reno will be cooler with highs in the upper 60s and low 70s.


*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!

Window Shopping on the Strip

Donna and I decided to go for a walk on “The Strip” Sunday morning. I studied a map of the area, looking for suitable parking. If you’ve ever driven on the strip, you know what a maddening experience it can be. Traffic moves at a crawl, if it moves at all. Stoplights are long and a steady stream of pedestrians make turning in or out of a side street or driveway an exercise of patience.

We rode the Spyder about six miles to the parking garage at the Flamingo Hotel and Casino, next to Cromwell’s on Flamingo Road and Las Vegas Boulevard – about a block east of Las Vegas Boulevard. Almost all of the hotels and casinos on the strip have free parking structures. We left the Spyder on the third floor of their guest garage.

We walked past the Cromwell Resort and Casino – where Giada De Laurentis has her restaurant and climbed the stairs to the pedestrian overpass to Caesar’s Palace. The escalators weren’t working – we ended up doing a lot of stair climbing. We wandered through the shops at Caesar’s – I had to stop and look at each of the watch shops. I have a fascination with high-end mechanical watches. We stopped at Blancpain, then Officini Panerai, Breguet and Rolex. Most of the watches I looked at were in the $10,000 to $50,000 range. Of course I was only window shopping.

We also looked at a few menus at the restaurants we passed. Around 11:30am we decided to try the brunch at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago restaurant. The restaurant was empty with only one person seated at the bar. Donna had a Bloody Mary as we made our selection. Donna went for an egg white frittata with fingerling potatoes and I had the carnitas hash skillet.

Egg white fritatta

Egg white frittata

Carnitas hash skillet

Carnitas hash skillet

As expected in a Wolfgang Puck restaurant, the food was delicious with a fusion of unexpected flavors. The service was excellent. By the time we were served, the restaurant had completely filled.

After our meal, we climbed up and over another overpass to the Bellagio. There are a number of high-end shops in the Bellagio rivaling Ceasar’s Palace. We went outside to see the water show at the Fountains of Bellagio. They have a large array of water jets that shoot water high into the air. Some of the jets move, spraying the water in arcs and swirls. Speakers are located every 20 feet or so around the large pond with the fountains. Music can be heard all around the pond and the water display is timed to the music.

Us at the Fountains of Ballagio - Eiffel Tower reaturant in the background

Us at the Fountains of Bellagio – Eiffel Tower Resturant in the background

We walked south on Las Vegas Boulevard and then crossed over to the east side of the street. We made our way past the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino and the Miracle Mile shops. We did a little more window shopping and stood under the Eiffel Tower. Then we continued on to the Grand Bazaar shops and back over another pedestrian overpass.

By then we had enough of the window shopping and people watching – and it was getting warm out. We found our parking garage and headed east, away from the strip on the Spyder. We made a stop for groceries at Smith’s then came home. I had motorcycle races to watch.

Last evening, Donna prepared chicken satay and I grilled the skewers on the Weber Q. She served it with baby bok choy sauteed with garlic and shirataki noodles with peanut sauce. Two very tasty meals in one day!

Chicken satay with peanut sauce

Chicken satay with peanut sauce

The threat of rain seems to have passed. Today I’ll get the ladder out of the trailer and start cleaning the coach. I was hoping to have it washed by a mobile service here in Las Vegas, but the Thousand Trails Las Vegas RV Resort has us packed in so tightly I don’t think it’s feasible.

The forecast calls for a high in the upper 70s today with a warming trend through the week. We plan to leave here on Thursday and head north.


*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!

Red Rock Canyon

Donna spent most of Friday morning finishing another article that was due. I took some time to clean the Spyder after being caught out in the rain on Thursday. The forecast for Friday looked good. Once again there was supposed to be a 0% chance of rain.

Just before noon, we rode the Spyder across town to west side of Las Vegas. As we approached I-215, rain drops started hitting my face shield. By the time we stopped in a plaza at the intersection of Charleston and Desert Foothills the front of my shirt was soaked. Sitting behind me, Donna was shielded from most of the rain. Another 0% chance of rain day in Vegas.

We waited the shower out in a Subway sandwich shop where we ate lunch. Then we walked to the Albertson’s grocery store and picked up a few things. By then the shower had passed. We continued our ride west to our destination – the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

Red Rock Canyon is about 17 miles due west from the Las Vegas strip. It was designated a National Conservation Area in 1990 – Nevada’s first. It’s a place of natural beauty and a popular destination for hikers, rock climbers, bicyclists – both road and mountain bikers – and tourists. We rode the 13-mile scenic loop. This loop is a one-way road with several parking areas and turnouts.

We made a couple of stops as we slowly made our way through the loop. The sandstone rock formations are etched by the wind and have interesting textures. I tried to capture some shots, but the midday light didn’t produce the best images. Click on the photos to enlarge.

Iron minerals give the sandstone a red hue

Iron minerals give the sandstone a red hue

A steep, craggy wall

A steep, craggy wall

Etched by rain and wind

Etched by rain and wind

Turtle Head Mountain in the background

Turtlehead Peak in the background

Deep gulch with shale on nearside and sandstone on the far side

Deep gulch with shale on the nearside and sandstone on the far side

More red rock

More red rock

We decided to take the freeway home instead of cutting across town. I rode I-215 to Summerlin Parkway and then down I-515. The freeways around Las Vegas are a little scary. People drive too fast and follow too closely. Sudden lane changes and wild maneuvers are the norm.

After spending the last week in Verde Valley and the quiet Kingman Elks Lodge, the fast pace and noise of Las Vegas is a sharp contrast. While we were out, we saw two car accidents on the road. Emergency vehicles with sirens blasting can be heard throughout the day. The Thousand Trails Las Vegas RV Resort is located due east of McCarran Airport. Business and private jets typically depart from runway 1L/19R putting their flight path just north of the RV park. It seems like business travel begins early in the morning and small business jets are actually louder than large commercial aircraft. We hear them taking off before 6am.

We had new neighbors pull in to the sites on either side of us. I was asked by a few people how we got our trailer into the site. I wrote about it in my last post. This picture shows how crowded the lane we’re located in is. The narrow road filled with parked cars made backing the trailer in with our 40-foot motorhome quite the chore.

Packed in tight with a narrow road

Packed in tight with a narrow road

After we returned home, I watched the Formula one practice session from Sochi, Russia. While I was watching TV, I saw our neighbor cleaning his truck. He spent hours doing a detail cleaning job. I told Donna I wondered if he looked at the weather forecast – not that it’s been anywhere near right since we arrived. But rain was coming.

The rain came overnight and continues to fall as I type this. Heavy rain is expected within the next couple of hours. I’m hoping it lets up this afternoon as I have an appointment for a mobile glass company to come out and fix a stone ding in our windshield. Other than that, I have no plans today and I’ll probably read a book until the rain stops.