Category Archives: Other Coaches

Enormous Pot Pie

The weather remains a topic of discussion as we’ve had more wet days again this week. Three quarters of an inch of rain fell in the last seven days. On average, January is the second wettest month in San Diego with a total of two inches of rain. We’re well on our way to exceed that average. February is the wettest month with an average rainfall of two and half inches.

We had some rain Monday morning, but it cleared up in the afternoon. I borrowed Sini’s car and drove over to Dan Diego’s for a cold one with the guys around 4pm. The parking lot at Dan Diego’s was empty and the sign by the door said “Closed.” I knew they changed their hours after the New Year, but I didn’t remember them closing on Mondays.

I went down the street to the Offshore Tavern and Grill and saw the guys at the bar there. I mentioned Dan Diego’s being closed and they told me that was news to them, they were about to go there. I looked up Dan Diego’s hours on my phone and it showed it open at 3:30pm on Mondays. I called Dan Diego’s and the owner, Ryan, answered. I asked him if he was open – he said, “Yeah, but the place is empty.” I told him he should check his sign! We went to Dan Diego’s for a cold one before the Alabama vs Clemson NCAA National Championship game.

I came home and tuned in the game at 5pm. Donna went out for dinner with her sister, Sheila and her nephew Connor. They went to Sushi Ota – where they serve the best sushi I’ve ever had. Donna brought home a spicy tuna roll and some nigiri for me – yummy!

As our time here is winding down, I’m looking forward to dry, sunny days in the forecast ahead, beginning Friday. I’ll need to organize the trailer and move things like our folding chairs, Weber grill and Traeger smoker/grill over to the trailer. Here at Mission Bay RV Resort, we have to leave our trailer in the overflow lot outside of the RV park.

Donna reorganized an overhead bin in the coach where she stores snacks. She used to have opaque plastic containers with lids that snap on and off. She labeled the containers so we would know what’s inside. The thing is, the labels are pretty generic and we would often forget about a particular snack inside.

Old container with generic label

She found a set of Oxo clear plastic containers with pop-up lids at Costco. She moved the snacks into these containers and now we can see at a glance what we have on hand. She’s planning to go back and get two more sets for other pantry items!

Clear Oxo containers

I repurposed the old opaque containers and used them to organize some odds and ends in one of the basement compartments. I had a few loose bicycle tools and lubes. Now instead of digging around in the compartment to find things, I can just pull out the container.

Tuesday, Donna and I went to Pacific Beach Recreation Center and played pickleball for a couple of hours. I’m going to miss the pickleball and the people we’ve made friends with at the rec center over the last three winters. We’ll find pickleball courts in Mesa, Arizona – our next destination.

On Tuesday evening, Donna cooked a chicken pot pie that she bought at Costco. Like almost everything at Costco, this was the biggest pot pie I’ve ever seen – it was over five pounds! We invited Tom and Kris Downey over to join us for dinner – they were the ones who told us about the pot pies made fresh at Costco. The four of us ate about two thirds of the pot pie – we have about two servings left over. It was tasty and I’m looking forward to reheating the leftovers for lunch!

Sini has to leave the RV park today. She’ll head up to Temecula with her son Beau. They plan to spend the night at a casino there and also visit an RV shop to get a quote on new flooring. She’ll be back tomorrow. This will be her first solo run. Although Beau is with her, he doesn’t have experience driving their 37-foot National Tradewinds motorhome. I’m sure she’ll be fine.

Speaking of returning, I posted earlier about the neighbor who left her bike in our site before Christmas. Her bike is still here. Yesterday I went to the office and asked if they could look up the person that was in site 114 and left on December 22nd. I told them about the bike and said I was leaving on Sunday and needed to figure out what to do with the bike. I only knew the woman’s first name, Lindis. They remembered her and looked up her info. We learned that she came back to the RV park two days ago. I’ll clean and lube the chain on the bike – it’s rusty – and return it to her today.

A Ride on the Coaster

It seems odd to have to plan our daily activities according to the weather for the day. We’re in San Diego where usually there’s very little variation in the weather. Of course, the rainy season comes in mid-December and runs to the end of February, but that usually means a few rainy days here and there. Lately, we’ve had a series of storms in the Pacific that bring a day or two of rain, then a nice sunny day followed by another rainy day.

Wednesday was one of the nice, sunny days. I started the day with pickleball at Ocean Beach Recreation Center. On my way home I needed to stop at a grocery store for bananas and tomatoes. I remembered a grocery store in Ocean Beach (OB) on Santa Monica Avenue and went there, but I found it was replaced by a CVS pharmacy. Then I found the Abbot Market on Google maps a few blocks away. The Abbott Market turned out to be a liquor store.

If you live in OB and want groceries, you have to go to Point Loma or Midway Drive or Pacific Beach to shop. There’s a definite lack of grocery stores in many San Diego neighborhoods. I put it down to over-regulation making it difficult to operate a small grocery store. The real estate footprint of a large store makes it very costly. I ended up stopping at Vons in Pacific Beach.

The dry weather on Wednesday was fortuitous as we had a happy hour gathering planned. Hans and Lisa (Metamorphosis Road), Tom and Kris (Open Road 365), Don and Cheryl and Sini all came over to our site. We had cocktails and everyone brought food. We met Don and Cheryl here two years ago – they’re fellow Alpine Coach owners. We sat outside and visited for a couple of hours before everyone was chilled as the evening temperature dropped. I neglected to take any photos (again).

Thursday was a dreary, rainy day. We had plans to travel up to Oceanside in the afternoon to meet up with our friends Bruce and Debbie Bednarski. The wet weather made travel a little difficult for us, but we had a plan. First of all, Kris Downey rescued us by driving us to the Metro Transit Station about four miles away in Old Town. The Metro Transit Station is operated by the San Diego Metro Transit System (MTS).

MTS has been in operation in San Diego since July, 1886 – more than 130 years ago! MTS offers mass transit through 93 bus routes and three daily light rail lines (trolley). There’s a fourth trolley line that operates on a limited basis. They have 53 light rail stations and serve about 250,000 customers every weekday. The light rail stations are also linked with a commuter rail service operated by the North County Transit District. This is a train called the Coaster – it runs between downtown San Diego and Oceanside with six stops in-between.

The Coaster runs on tracks that were originally installed by the Achison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad. These tracks are also used by Amtrak and a train called the Surfliner runs from San Diego to Los Angeles – it also makes some of the same stops as the Coaster.

The Coaster has double deck cabin cars pulled by an EMD F59PHI 3,200 horsepower locomotive. It’s capable of speeds over 100 mph, but doesn’t go that fast on the Coaster route.

Coaster locomotive

Bi-level cabin car

We bought tickets at the automated kiosk. The round trip to Oceanside and back costs $5.50 for people aged 60 or older – I qualified. Donna’s fare was the regular adult price of $11.00. Total cost of $16.50 for a round trip for two to Oceanside was not bad – and we didn’t have to deal with the traffic or rain.

Usually this would be a very scenic ride but the weather made it not so scenic. I took a few photos through the window, but the ocean views were mostly foggy.

Rainy view of De Anza Cove from the Coaster

View across the Los Penasquitos lagoon north of Torrey Pines – the ocean is obscured by fog

San Elijo lagoon

View of the Ocean near Swami’s

The trip takes a little under an hour and it was a pleasant ride. We planned to meet Bruce and Debbie at a restaurant called 333 Pacific. Specifically, we were to meet at the Vodka Bar there. They serve 100 different vodkas from around the world.

We arrived a bit early, so we stopped at the Breakwater Brewing Company for a local brew before we went to 333 Pacific. We were still a few minutes early – 333 doesn’t open until 4pm. Bruce and Debbie arrived a few minutes after us and we sat at their favorite table. We enjoyed a couple of cocktails – martinis for Bruce and me, Moscow Mules for Debbie and Donna – along with a couple of calamari platters. It was good to get together again with them – it’s been over a year since we were last with them.

The last Coaster train back to Old Town leaves Oceanside at 5:41pm. This would cut our time short. The alternative was to catch the Surfliner – our Coaster tickets would be valid on Amtrak – at 7pm. The catch was a problem with the Amtrak Surfliner schedule. There was an accident on the rail near San Clemente – apparently someone was struck by a train – which threw the Surfliner schedule off. I couldn’t be sure of when the Surfliner would actually depart. We had to say a hurried goodbye after only an hour and a half. The walk back to the station was surreal as the fog had thickened. You would think we were in London, England not southern California.

On another topic, readers of this blog know how I love high-end coaches built on Prevost chassis or built by Newell. The neighborhood here at Mission Bay RV Resort went upscale as there are four Prevosts and a Newell here now. The Newell and a Liberty Coach built on a Prevost H3 chassis are side by side in the park. I’m not 100% sure, but I think the Newell is a 2011 quad-slide. I found one similar to it online offered for $999,000. The Liberty Coach is a double slide model and I’m unsure of the model year, but I would guess it’s also in the million dollar ballpark.

Liberty Coach on the left, Newell on the right

We have a nice, sunny day again today. The weather forecast looks good for the weekend. Donna has a 15k race to run tomorrow morning. We’re planning to go to a party in La Mesa later in the day and see Hans Kohls’ band, The Sand Devils, play there.



Christmas Dinner with Friends

With Christmas falling on Sunday this year, most of the weekend’s NFL action was played on Saturday. It was was a relatively cold day here in San Diego – the high temperature on Saturday was only 59 degrees. It was windy with rain showers – a good day to be indoors and watch football.

The first game was set to kick off at 10am. I tuned in the satellite around 9:30am and had a problem. The Dish Network satellite signal was lost or interrupted every 10 seconds or so – I couldn’t stay locked on a channel. This puzzled me as the satellite was fine the last time I used it.

I thought about what had changed since Thursday night. I remembered seeing a rig with an exposed Dish satellite on the roof in the RV park and was surprised to see how high it was aimed in the sky. I assumed the satellites were lower in the southern sky, but at this latitude the dish points up at a high angle. Our actual antenna dish is hidden under a plastic dome so I don’t see where it’s pointed. I knew the Dish Network satellites here are at an azimuth of 158 and 171 degrees – almost due south.

Then I thought about the weather. On Thursday it was cloudy and raining – so no change there. But Saturday we had wind – a 20-25mph wind with gusts to 40mph. The tree at the front of our site was whipping around. I thought maybe a tree branch was blowing across the line of sight to the satellite. I hadn’t thought of this before because I didn’t think the line of sight was a high as it is.

I pulled the jacks up, fed about three feet of our power cable and water hose out then fired up the engine. I moved the coach forward about two feet to see if this would take the tree branches out of the path to the satellite. Bingo! Now I had great reception on all HD channels.

So, I was a couch potato all day Saturday. I watched football and read a book inbetween games.

Christmas morning we opened presents. The weather was much nicer – clear blue skies and the wind had abated. It was still cool out, but felt much warmer in sun. Donna went out for a long training run – she has less than two weeks until her 15k race. She ran a loop around east Mission Bay taking the path to Sea World then crossing the Ingraham Street bridges before coming back along Crown Point and over Rose Creek. It was a nine-mile loop and I was able to track her progress via the Garmin connect app that was synched with her Garmin GPS watch.

Later we joined Kris and Tom Downey and their daughter Meg in their Tiffin Allegro Bus. Tom mixed up Bloody Mary’s and we watched the Pittsburgh Steelers vs Baltimore Ravens game. It was an entertaining game. Tom had cooked prime rib on his Traeger grill and it was cooked to perfection. Donna made a side dish of maple-chile roasted Brussel sprouts with butternut squash and Kris had a side of mashed red potatoes with sweet potato.

Christmas dinner plate

I managed to snap a photo of the dinner plate but was so engrossed in the football games and conversation with Tom I neglected to take any other photos. We also had a mid-western dessert dish called seafoam salad – it was very good. It’s a tangy lime jello mixed with whipped cream over canned pears.

Tom and I sipped Woodford Reserve bourbon after dinner. It was an enjoyable evening.

Today we expect a few high, thin clouds but no rain. So far we’ve had more than two inches of rain here in December – much more than the average of 1.53 inches. I don’t have any plans for the day – we’ll see what pans out.

Pre-Christmas Cocktail Party

It rained most of the morning yesterday. We had dry periods in the afternoon and the temperature reached 72 degrees. On the weather radar it appeared as though the storm tracked to the north of us in the afternoon. This looked good as our friends Sheldon and Jen had invited several people to their place for cocktails and hors d’ouvres at 6pm.

Donna made asparagus spears wrapped with boursin cheese spread on prosciutto to take with us. Several people huddled under the awnings on Sheldon and Jen’s Tiffin Allegro Bus. I commented on the lack of wind being a plus.

Party under the awning

The quality of my photos is poor – the lighting wasn’t ideal. About 10 minutes after we arrived, it started to rain. Then the wind picked up.

After a few minutes, Sheldon decided enough was enough and he started moving food into his coach and herded everyone inside. Their coach is 45 feet long and has four slide-outs. I was surprised to find enough room for everyone to comfortably party – someone said they counted 23 people in the coach.

Our friends Sini Schmitt, Tom and Kris Downey and Iain and Kate Gilbert were there. We had a good time with multiple conversations going on all evening.

Our hosts Jen and Sheldon

Lots of laughs in here

I bugged out when the music got louder and people began dancing. Donna stayed for another hour and came home around 9pm.

It rained off and on all night and the rain continues to fall this morning. Donna was up early to drive Sini to the airport. They had to go downtown first and pick up Sini’s son, Beau. Sini and Beau are spending Christmas in Seattle with her other two sons and daughter-in-law. Sini left her car with us – we’ll pick her up when she returns a week from tomorrow.

I found a new email in my inbox this morning. It was from It told me I needed to finish enrolling. In bold red letters it said “Action Required!” It said I needed to pay my first premium by December 31st and had a link to the site.

This is the third time this week I’ve received this email. The thing is, I paid my premium and already received a confirmation from the insurer – Avera. I looked up Avera’s number and called to see if there was a problem. After a few minutes on hold, an agent was able to look up my account in less than thirty seconds and confirm the payment was made. She said the email I received was from the government, not the insurer.

Apparently the people send this email to everyone that applied for insurance without bothering to check if they already paid. They call it a reminder. I don’t consider an email with bold red letters telling me action is required a friendly reminder. This is government bureaucracy at work. Enough said.

Today will remain cloudy and cooler with the high in the mid-60s. It looks like it should dry out this afternoon. There are flooded roads this morning, but with the rain tapering off the roads should clear soon.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter

I mentioned in my last post an electrical issue Sini was having with her coach. On Sunday morning before we left for the Chargers game, she told me most of her outlets weren’t working. I took a quick look and checked for tripped circuit breakers on the 120-volt panel, but didn’t find any. I checked the breaker at the pedestal and it was fine. Then I noticed her microwave/convection oven had power. She told me at least one outlet had power as well. This led me to suspect the ground fault circuit interrupter, but I didn’t have time to deal with it.

Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) are required anytime a 120-volt electrical outlet is placed near a water source such as a wall in the bathroom or kitchen near a faucet and sink. The GFCI senses the amount of current running through the two legs of the outlet. Modern outlets have two different size openings that match the blades of the plug on the end of a power cord. One blade is larger – that’s the neutral side. The other is the hot side. There’s a third opening that’s round and it’s the ground lug.

The alternating current running through the neutral and hot leads should match. If there’s a discrepancy in the amount of current between the two sides, it means current is finding another path to ground. This could be a very dangerous situation. If you are using an electrical appliance and it gets wet, it’s possible for the water to conduct electricity from an un-insulated connection to your body and then ground through your feet. This could electrocute you and result in death. The GFCI senses the discrepancy in current and acts as a breaker to shut off the power supply.

Many GFCI’s are wired to receive the incoming power and pass it along down the circuit to other outlets and appliances. Since all of the power running through that circuit runs through the GFCI first, it provides protection for all of the outlets and appliances connected downstream of it.

When your RV has 120-volt power to some outlets or appliances but not others, the GFCI is suspect. I tried to reset Sini’s GFCI with the reset button on the face of the outlet. It wouldn’t reset. This could mean there’s a short to ground somewhere along the line or it could be a bad GCFI. A new GCFI costs under $20, so I made a run to Ace Hardware in Pacific Beach and picked up a new one.

I shut off the power supply at the pedestal and removed the old GFCI – it only takes four screws to remove the cover plate and GFCI. Then I loosened the wire receptacle screws on the sides of the GFCI and pulled the wires out. The wires are very stiff solid copper. Sini’s GFCI provides power to the bathroom outlet and two additional circuits. So, it had three neutral wires with white insulation and three hot wires with black insulation. Additionally there was a bare copper ground wire screwed to a lug on the bottom of the GFCI.

I wired up the new GFCI and closed the breaker at the pedestal to restore power. It didn’t work. This had me scratching my head. I spent the better part of an hour trying to trace the circuit – without a schematic – to find the problem. Nothing made sense to me. It should’ve worked.

Finally, I decided to start over. I shut off the power again and removed the new GFCI. I carefully separated the wires and had Sini restore the power. With my Fluke multimeter, I measured voltage on the neutral and hot wires. Then I realized what the problem was. Sini shut off the power again. When I removed the original GFCI, the wires were very stiff and I thought they remained in the same position. I wired them to the new GFCI and didn’t give it much thought. But here’s the thing. The GFCI has two silver screws with stab-in receptacles on one side for the neutral wires and two brass screws with stab-in receptacles on the other side for the hot wires. One set of neutral and hot receptacles is marked “Line” the other set is marked “Load.” One neutral wire and one hot wire has the incoming 120-volts from the power pedestal. These wires must be connected to the line receptacles. The other two neutral and hot wires going to the rest of the circuit must be connected to the load receptacles.

I must have inadvertently switched the line and load neutral wires when I wired the GFCI. This won’t work. The strange thing is the new GFCI has an indicator lamp. When it’s green, it means there’s voltage available and all is good. If it’s mis-wired, it should show up red. I had a green light all the time. Anyway, I rewired the GFCI and turned on the power at the pedestal.

GFCI wiring

GFCI wiring

I hit the reset button on the GFCI and it clicked like it should and we had power down the circuit to all receptacles. Yay! It should have been a 15-20 minute job, but I spent over an hour because of a careless wiring mistake.

Later, when I turned on the Monday Night Football game Sini brought over a six-pack of brew from Mother Earth Brewing called Cali Creamin’ ale. It tastes like cream soda. I sipped one at the start of the game, but I’m not a big soda drinker and I think one is my limit for this style of ale.

Cali Creamin' Ale

Cali Creamin’ Ale

We had cool weather yesterday with the temperature in the low 60s. There was a chance of rain, but it never appeared here at Mission Bay. Today the forecast calls for more of the same before it warms up again. I plan to play pickleball this morning and do some Spyder maintenance in the afternoon.

Donna has a busy day working and preparing for a trip to Atlanta tomorrow. She’ll be up early tomorrow for her flight and she’ll return Thursday night.


*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!

Preparing for Thanksgiving

Monday was a cool, cloudy day. Showers passed through off and on until well after noon. Donna had an annual check-up appointment in Hillcrest so she decided to take an Uber ride rather than ride the Spyder. I took advantage of the wet weather and rinsed the dirt that had accumulated on our batteries. Washing isn’t allowed here, but with everything wet I figured I could away with a quick rinse job.

I spent most of the day reading. When we had a break in the weather around 2pm, I rode the Spyder to Sprouts Market and bought an 11.5 lb turkey. Our plan is to go to Menifee and have Thanksgiving dinner with my step-dad Ken and his neighbors Helen and Ray.

I’ll spatchcock the turkey and cook it on the Traeger Thursday morning. I think it’ll fit on the grill once I flatten it. Then I’ll wrap it and we’ll make the drive up there. Ken is getting the side dishes.

Donna made a new dinner recipe Monday. She had a pork tenderloin cooking in the slow cooker all afternoon in adobo sauce with chipotle peppers and onion. The result was New Mexico style pulled-pork adobada. She served it over a fried tortilla with a fried egg on top.

Adobada with fried egg

Adobada with fried egg

I enjoyed a Blood Red Orange IPA from Latitude 33 Brewing with it.

Blood Red Orange IPA

Blood Red Orange IPA

Later, during the Monday Night Football game, we snacked on the salami and cheese I bought at the farmers’ market.

Meatmen Flagrant Seed and Ooh Mama spicy salami

Meatmen Flagrant Seed and Ooh Mama spicy salami

Great with pricey French hard cheese

Great with pricey French hard cheese

On Tuesday, the clouds and rain were just a memory as we had clear blue skies and the temperature reached 70 degrees.

When I was up on Sini’s roof to seal the vent pipe last week, I noticed the shrouds that cover her Dometic DuoTherm air conditioners were cracked. This is fairly common. The plastic shrouds become brittle over time from exposure to the sun and the way they’re mounted places undue stress on the mounting points. When you’re driving down the road and hit bumps, the shrouds can flex. I wrote about the poor mounting of the shrouds when I replaced ours in the summer of 2015 in this post.

Sini ordered replacements from Amazon and had a quick delivery. I think she ordered them Friday night and they were delivered on Monday. After pickleball Tuesday morning, I went over to Sini’s rig to replace the A/C shrouds.

Shroud cracked around the mounting point

Shroud cracked around the mounting point

I put the tools I would need and a bottle of rubbing alcohol in a backpack and we climbed up the ladder. Halfway up the ladder, Sini handed me the big boxes containing the new covers and foam seals and I placed them on the roof.

Foam seals are used to block airflow from coming through the space between the shroud and the condenser. You want all of the airflow drawn by the electric fan to go through the condenser coil, not around it.

Old foam seal

Old foam seal

The foam seals deteriorate over time and should be replaced when you install new shrouds. I peeled the old seals off and cleaned the surfaces with rubbing alcohol before installing the new self-adhesive foam seals.

Old seals removed

Old seals removed

Then it was just a matter of mounting the new shrouds. I used the double fender washer method I came up with on our A/Cs. I put one 1″ fender washer with a 1/4″ opening on the mounting screw. I put a second matching fender washer between the shroud and the mounting point on the A/C chassis. This created a clamping surface the distributes the stress of the mounting point over a much larger area. I think this will help to prevent the cracks.

New covers installed.

New covers installed.

That’s all there was to it – job done. Sini stayed up on the roof while I installed the new covers. She wants to see how things work and learn what I do to make repairs so she knows what to look for in the future.

Today I’ll go to Enterprise and pick up a rental car for our trip to Menifee. Enterprise closes at noon today. They called me last evening and advised me to come early as they expect to be very busy today.

Today’s weather should be much like yesterday. I’m expecting sunny skies and warmer weather for Thanksgiving. I hope wherever you are, you’ll enjoy a great Thanksgiving with family and friends, regardless of the temperature.

A Well Fed Weekend

I can’t complain about wintering in San Diego. However, we had a little bit of everything over the weekend. Friday was a gorgeous day – fair, sunny skies and a high temperature of 76 degrees.

Sini found signs of water seeping through the roof of her rig and took a look up on the roof. She asked me if I would look at it too and give my opinion. I found two areas of concern – the caulking around a vent pipe deteriorated and had cracks in it and it also had shrunk away from the pipe. Also, her air conditioner shrouds were cracked. I replaced our shrouds about a year and a half ago and posted about it here. The plastic shrouds get brittle from constant exposure to sunlight.

I told Sini she should get some Dicor self-leveling lap sealant to re-caulk the vent pipe. She picked up a couple of tubes at the RV Solutions store in Kearny Mesa. We climbed up on the roof and I showed her how to apply it. The first step is to remove the old caulk. I like to use plastic or nylon instruments for this – a metal putty knife may damage a fiberglass or rubber roof.

These are the tools I used to scrape the old caulk out

These are the tools I used to scrape the old caulk out

Removing the old caulk is the most time consuming part of the job. Then I cleaned the area with rubbing alcohol before putting down a new layer of caulk. The dicor sealant is thick and hard to apply. It takes a lot of hand strength to squeeze it out of the tube with a caulk gun. On a horizontal surface the sealant will spread and flatten out. It makes a good water barrier.

Donna spiced boneless chicken breasts with jerk marinade and I grilled kabobs for dinner Friday night. Another simple, delicious meal.

Grilled chicken kabobs

Grilled chicken kabobs with mashed sweet potato

Donna and Sini planned to go to the farmers’ market in the Little Italy district downtown on Saturday morning. Donna had to back out as she had fallen behind a bit on her book deadline and had too many things on her plate for Saturday. I accompanied Sini instead.

We left early and dropped off Ziggy, her golden-doodle dog, at Petsmart for a bath and grooming on the way at 8am. At the market, we found a vendor selling breakfast crepes. The girl making the crepes had two round hot plates. She would put a scoop of crepe batter – basically eggs, milk and flour – on one hot plate. She used a flat wooden stick half the diameter of the hot plate to spread the batter. She held one end of the stick in the center of the hot plate and swept the other end of the stick in a circular motion around the outer circumference of the hot plate. This perfectly spread the batter in a thin layer over the entire hot plate.

Making breakfast crepes

Making breakfast crepes

After a couple of minutes, she flipped the crepe. Then she folded the crepe in half and transferred it to the second hot plate where she had the filling cooking. I had ham, mushrooms and cheese in my crepe. Sini went for a veggie filling. After adding the filling, she folded the crepes into a triangle shape and put them in tapered cup like the ones used for snow-cones. They were absolutely delicious and very filling. Well worth the eight bucks!

I ended buying some hard salami locally made along with sweet Italian sausage. I also bought some pricey cheese – an herbed brie and a hard French cheese.

Later, Donna made cream of celery soup. Instead of celery stalks, she used celeriac. Celeriac is a root crop that comes from a celery variant. She planned to take the soup to her sister’s house Saturday evening where we were invited for an early Thanksgiving dinner.

Cream of celery soup with a dollop of creme fraiche, chopped chives and pomegranate seeds

Cream of celery soup with a dollop of creme fraiche, chopped chives and pomegranate seeds

Donna’s sister, Sheila, made traditional Thanksgiving fixings including a large stuffed turkey.

Stuffed turkey

Stuffed turkey

Unfortunately most of the dinner conversation was focused on politics after the recent election. Since I’m on the opposite side of the aisle from most of the other guests, I found it uncomfortable. We took an Uber ride home at 9:30pm.

Sunday was a typical NFL football day for me with the exception of not watching the Chargers play – they had a bye this weekend. I enjoyed the Dallas versus Baltimore game and also the Seahawks win over Philadelphia.

Donna made fresh marinara and added the sweet Italian sausage from the farmers’ market to serve with porcini mushroom ravioli. I continue to eat well!

Porcini mushroom ravioli with sausage marinara

Porcini mushroom ravioli with sausage marinara

I started this post with a comment about the weekend weather. After a beautiful Friday, Saturday was another nice, sunny day with slightly cooler temperatures. Sunday was breezy and rain showers moved into the area in the afternoon. The high was only 67 degrees and by nightfall we had steady rain. The rain continued well into the night and this morning we have a few clouds lingering with a forecast high of only 65 degrees. Such is winter in San Diego – I shouldn’t complain.

Toads and Toilets

My previous two posts were about my trip to Seattle to help Sini Schmitt drive her coach down to San Diego. There was a learning experience along the way that I should share.

Hitching a car with four wheels down via a tow bar was new to me. We pull a cargo trailer which is very straight forward – it connects via a 2 5/16″ ball on a conventional trailer hitch. Sini’s car was connected to the coach with a Roadmaster Falcon tow bar. The tow bar was pretty easy to understand.

Her tow vehicle (toad) is a Saturn SUV with a V6 engine and automatic transmission. When you tow this vehicle with the wheels down, rolling on road, it requires a certain procedure to ensure adequate lubrication of the transmission.

Sini had a page printed out that listed the procedure. First you set the parking brake, then with your foot on the brake pedal you start the engine. With the engine running, shift the transmission lever to reverse. After a few seconds – I waited 10 seconds – shift to neutral and wait. Continue shifting until it has run through all of the gears ending in low gear. Then shift back to drive, then neutral. Let the engine run for three minutes in neutral before turning off the engine. This will have circulated transmission fluid throughout the gears, clutch packs and bearings. Leave the key in the accessory position so the steering wheel doesn’t lock. Release the brakes. Then remove the 30 amp ignition fuse from the fuse panel in the engine compartment to prevent the battery from draining.

When we hooked up the toad in Edmonds, we ran through this procedure. When I got in the coach to drive away, I released the parking brake on the coach and put it into drive. Normally the coach would roll forward as soon as I released the brake pedal. It didn’t move. Something wasn’t right. Then I realized, I didn’t release the parking brake in the toad. I put the coach back in neutral and set the parking brake. I went out to the toad and sure enough, the parking brake was still set. The procedure for preparing the toad transmission for towing was so simple, I didn’t follow the step-by-step checklist and made a mistake. This procedure needs to be followed before towing every day or every 7 hours of towing time.

Four days later, Sini did the pre-travel procedure on the toad and drove the coach as we pulled out of the Palmdale Elks Lodge. We were driving down the road when she suddenly said, ” I left the parking brake on.” I told her to pull over immediately. We stopped and I got out of the coach and could smell hot brakes. The parking brake on the toad was still set. Luckily it wasn’t powerful enough to lock the wheels, the rear brake drums rotated and the shoes and drums were hot from the friction, but no real harm was done.

The lesson is to actually go step-by-step down the instruction sheet and use it as a checklist.

Sini’s coach is in a site almost directly across from our coach in site 120. Our windshields are facing each other. On Friday while we were visiting, Sini said the floor was wet around her toilet. Water damage is always a concern in an RV. I checked it out and it seemed like the water may have been coming from the inlet valve. Water is plumbed to a valve that’s operated by a foot lever. When you step on the lever, it rotates a ball valve in the toilet, opening the toilet so it can drain into the black tank. Simultaneously, it opens the water inlet valve to flush the toilet and refill the bowl with fresh water.

I removed the trim around the bottom of the toilet bowl and the cover from the foot lever. I found a loose cap on the bottom of the valve and tightened it. I hoped that was the extent of the problem.

Water inlet valve

Water inlet valve

I left the trim off so the area could dry. Saturday morning Sini stopped by with her dog, Ziggy. Ziggy is a big dog, a golden doodle. After Ziggy and Ozark the cat checked each other out at the screen door, we let Ziggy enter our coach. The cat and dog got along fine. Ozark was curious at first, then she just hung out while Ziggy laid on the floor.

Ziggy and Ozark

Ziggy and Ozark

Sini told me the floor was still wet behind the toilet. I figured the seal between the bottom of the toilet and the drain pipe to the black tank was bad. Sini and her friend Linda were planning to take a drive through the wine country up by Temecula. On her way she could stop at the RV Solutions store in Kearny Mesa to see if they had a replacement seal. I told her the toilet was a SeaLand Traveler. Later, she phoned me and then put the guy at RV Solutions on the phone. He needed a model number for the toilet to find the proper seal. Luckily, Sini had a left a key to her coach so I could go in and check out the model number – it was 511. He had the replacement seal.

Once I knew Sini had the replacement part, I started working on the toilet. I shut off the incoming water to the coach and removed the water lines at the toilet. Then I removed the four nuts holding the toilet down on the studs with a 7/16″ wrench. I retrieved a small fan from the our trailer and set it up to dry the area.

Toilet mounts on four studs

Toilet mounts on four studs

Later, when Sini came home, all I needed to do was lift the toilet off of the mounting studs and set it aside. The old bottom seal was clearly in bad shape. It had crushed down and was paper thin. It also shrunk in diameter. The new seal was about half an inch thick and about an inch wide in cross section. I was so absorbed in the task at hand, I neglected to take photos.

I scraped the old seal out and reinstalled the toilet with the new seal. Sini turned on the water supply and I checked for leaks. I had a drip at the inlet connection. I had her shut the water off, I tightened the connection and she turned the water on again. Job done! I left the fan in the bathroom to continue drying the area. With that job done, it was time for happy hour. I opened a bottle of IPA from San Diego’s Saint Archer Brewing called Citra 7. Good stuff!

India Pale Ale

India Pale Ale

Sunday morning Sini confirmed all was good with the toilet. The four of us, along with Ziggy, climbed into Sini’s SUV and drove over to Leilani’s Hawaiian Cafe in north Pacific Beach near the corner of Cass Street and Tourmaline Street. It was loco moco time! Loco moco is a Hawaiian breakfast dish consisting of two scoops of rice topped with a hamburger patty, two eggs over medium and brown gravy. I’d be a real fat man if I had it every day, but it’s a treat to have every now and then.

Loco moco

Loco moco

After breakfast we drove up to the Veteran’s Memorial on top of Mount Soledad. I wrote about Mount Soledad in this post. I pointed out various land marks to Linda. It was her first time up Mount Soledad.

Linda, Sini and Donna on top of Mount Soledad

Linda, Sini and Donna on top of Mount Soledad

It turned out to be a very warm day – the temperature reached the 80s. I spent the rest of the day indoors with the air conditioners on and watched NFL football. After the Chargers game I opened an IPA from Mission Brewery. This is a more traditional IPA and very well-balanced.

Mission Brewing IPA

Mission Brewery IPA

Today’s forecast calls for more warm weather. I’ll head over to the Ocean Beach Recreation Center for pickleball as I get back into my normal routine.

There and Back Again – Part Two

The last post ended with us finishing a 400-mile day at the Seven Feathers Casino. Seven Feathers is located between Roseburg and Grants Pass, Oregon. The casino is very RV friendly – they have a full service RV park on the west side of I-5 and a dry camping RV lot on the east side adjacent to the casino. We stayed overnight in the free dry camping lot.

Monday morning, as we approached Grants Pass, the terrain became hilly. I drove about 40 miles to the Manzanita Rest Area at milepost 61 and stopped there. After letting Sini’s golden-doodle dog, Ziggy out for a break, she took over driving.

The hilly terrain became mountainous as we crossed the Siskiyou Range and topped out at Siskiyou Summit more than 4,300 feet above sea level. This gave Sini a chance to experience driving up steep grades and once over the summit, she had to control the coach on a long descent.

When you’re climbing a grade in a motorhome, you want to maintain momentum. This requires a vigilant watch of the rearview mirrors so you’re aware of faster car traffic overtaking. When you have a slow moving tractor-trailer rig ahead, it’s good to time your move to the left lane to pass the slow moving truck with a break in the left lane traffic. If you slow down and stay behind the slow truck, you’re stuck. You probably won’t be able to overtake once you’ve slowed down too much. I explained this to Sini before she took the wheel. She did a great job of staying aware of the traffic situation and maintained our speed over the pass.

On the long downgrade to Medford, Sini made good use of the exhaust brake (sometimes called a PacBrake) and used good braking technique to avoid overheating the brakes. The exhaust brake helps to slow the coach. It’s not as effective as the Jacobs Engineering two-stage engine compression brake on our Alpine Coach, but it works well enough.

A little over ten miles into California, we hit the rest area at mile post 786. Sini had over an hour at the wheel and gained valuable experience handling the coach in the mountains.

Sini is all smiles at the wheel

Sini is all smiles at the wheel

I took over driving again when we left the rest area. It was familiar terrain as we drove through the mountains past Mount Shasta. Before we left on this trip, I wondered how the National RV Tradewinds coach would handle. It’s built on a Freightliner chassis and it’s powered by a Caterpillar 3126B six-cylinder diesel. The 3126B has a displacement of 7.3 liters (439 cu. in.) – smaller than the 8.9 liter (543 cu. in.) Cummins ISL in our Alpine Coach. The turbocharged 3126B provides 300 horsepower and 860 lb-ft of torque versus the 400 horsepower and 1200 lb-ft of our ISL. However, the Tradewinds is a lighter coach than ours by about 5,000 pounds. I found the power of the 3126B to be adequate and the handling of the Freightliner chassis was better than I expected.

One of the things that helps make the Tradewinds easy to drive is the shorter wheelbase compared to our Alpine Coach. The Tradewinds is about 36 or 37 feet long overall and has a wheelbase of 208 inches. Our Alpine coach is 40 feet overall and has a wheel base of 278 inches. The extra five plus feet between the axles is noticeable – the shorter wheelbase makes it easier to maneuver.

Our next stop was at the Olive Pit in Corning, California. This is a favorite stopping point for Donna and I – we always stop there when we pass through the area. We stretched our legs and shopped – I bought a couple of jars of bleu cheese stuffed olives. Sini and Linda made purchases as well.

I thought about stopping at the Rolling Hills Casino where Donna and I stayed last spring, but we wanted to get a few more miles under our wheels. Sini took over driving again when we left the Olive Pit and had the opportunity to drive through town and down a two-lane road. While she was driving, I was looking ahead on my smart phone. We wanted to stop somewhere with a sports bar so we could have a cold one and watch the Seahawks on Monday Night Football – Sini is a Seahawks fan.

I found the Colusa Casino about 60 miles down the road. I phoned ahead and found they offer free overnight RV parking and they had a sports bar. Bingo! Sini pulled into their parking area and we found a large, level gravel lot with striped pull-through RV spaces. Perfect! We put in about 330 miles for the day.

I was back at the wheel Tuesday morning and drove through Sacramento where we hit US99. This took us through Stockton, Modesto, Fresno and eventually Bakersfield. I told Sini I thought we could make it to Tehachapi and stay at the Mountain Valley RV Park where Donna and I stayed two years ago. We had a plan – but it was soon dashed. Sini found out the Mountain Valley RV Park was closed for the winter. Tehachapi  is nearly 4,000 feet above sea level and it gets cold in the winter.

Sini continued searching for a place to stay for the night. She found an Elks Lodge in Mojave, but no one answered the phone or returned her call. Then she found an Elks Lodge in Palmdale. The original plan was for Sini to get more driving time on Tuesday. However, once we decided to press on to Palmdale, I stayed at the wheel and kept our speed over 65mph. I wanted to get there before dark – remember the electrical problem with the taillights?

We didn’t make it before sundown and I drove the last 20 minutes with the lights on. The Elks Lodge in Palmdale had electric and water hook-ups in pull-through sites for $20. When we parked, Sini saw the taillights on the toad were working. It must have been a poor connection at the plug that worked itself out as we drove. We went into the lodge and had a drink while we watched the election returns. I had put in 400 miles and nine hours at the wheel. I was whipped. We had covered nearly 1,200 miles altogether and were less than 180 miles away from Mission Bay.

Wednesday morning Sini drove out of the Elks Lodge. She had the opportunity to drive through city streets then we hit highway 138. There was construction on this highway and Sini had to run the gauntlet. Concrete barriers were on the right side of the lane with no shoulder – only inches to spare on the right while she hugged the center line on the left. Oncoming trucks created pucker factor at times. This went on for a dozen miles or so.

Then we hit I-15 south and drove into heavy traffic in San Bernadino. We took the I-215 route – Sini was driving 60mph on an Interstate seven lanes wide. The right lane was filled with tractor trailer rigs. We were in the number two lane with cars flying past at 80 mph. At times she had tractor-trailers on both sides. We stopped for fuel in Menifee after a couple of hours of high stress driving. Sini had earned her wings – after that stretch, I thought she could drive the coach anywhere.

I drove the final leg to Mission Bay RV Resort. After she checked in, I told Sini she was driving – it was time for her to learn how to back in to an RV site. She had already looked a the site location and had a plan. She wanted to circle the park so the site entrance would be on the driver’s side. She felt more comfortable backing in from that direction. I went over hand signals with her and got out to direct her. She backed in and positioned the coach in one shot! No more driving lessons needed for this gal!

Sini, Linda and Ziggy at Mission Bay

Sini, Linda and Ziggy at Mission Bay.

You might be curious about sleeping arrangements on our road trip. Sini and Linda shared the bedroom in the back of the coach. I slept on a blow-up mattress in the living room with Ziggy on her dog bed. Ziggy is the mellowest creature – she never barked on the trip and slept quietly through the nights.

It was an exhausting road trip, but we accomplished what we set out to do.

Sini and me at Mission Bay

Sini and me at Mission Bay

There and Back Again – Part One

I didn’t have an opportunity to post to this blog since last Friday – I think it’s the longest lapse in three and a half years of blogging. I’ll catch up over a couple of installments.

On Saturday morning, my alarm had me up at 5:40am. Donna fixed breakfast for me while I went through my things to see what I might have forgotten. I’d scheduled an Uber ride to the airport and the driver showed up on time at 6:25am.

I used to go to the airport frequently during my working life. When we lived in Michigan I would usually arrive at the airport well ahead of my flight time and sit in the Delta lounge. I had Platinum Medallion status due to frequent travel. I don’t have any frequent flyer benefits anymore since I haven’t been in an airport since May of 2013. I haven’t missed it either.

It took about 25 minutes to get through the TSA security farce. I had liquids such as eyeglass cleaner and flonase in a clear plastic ziplock bag as required but I forgot to take it out of my carry-on bag. No problem, my bag went through the X-ray device and no one noticed.

The Boeing 737-900 jet was nearly full, only a couple of the 181 seats were unoccupied. My row was full – luckily I had an aisle seat. There were two young guys in the seats next to me. They had ear buds and were busy with their laptops or smartphones for the entire flight. This was fine with me as I had a book to read on my Kindle. The only words I uttered on the two-and-a-half hour flight were “orange juice, please” when the flight attendant asked me if I wanted something to drink.

My daughter, Alana, picked me up at the airport along with my granddaughter, Gabi. Of course it was raining in Seattle. Gabi had just come from a volleyball match – she’s in fifth grade and is developing into quite a volleyball competitor. We were all hungry and stopped in Lynnwood at a Thai restaurant for lunch. Then we went to Alana’s house in Arlington to relax and visit for a while. My other granddaughter, Lainey, came home around 2pm and joined us. Lainey is 17 years old and was at work when I arrived.

Alana and me

Alana and me

Gabi, me and Lainey

Gabi, me and Lainey

Around 4pm, Alana drove me to Edmonds to meet up with Sini. Sini has been staying at her friend’s home since she sold her house. Her motorhome was parked in the yard at Alan and Julie’s place. After introductions to everyone, I started a pre-flight check on Sini’s National Tradewinds motorhome.

First, I looked at the date codes on the tires. The tires looked fine and they were about five years old. I checked the tire pressures and also the fluid levels. I familiarized myself with the cockpit layout and controls. Then I looked at the Roadmaster Falcon tow bar and thumbed through the manual for it. We decided to do a dry run and hook up her Saturn SUV tow vehicle (toad). The Saturn was new to Sini and the tow bar had just been installed on her coach by Poulsbo RV.

The tow bar has a quick link attachment that’s easy to lock in place. Then there are safety break-away cables, an electrical connector and an air line to activate the brakes.

Roadmaster Falcon tow bar

Roadmaster Falcon tow bar

Electrical and air line connectors

Electrical and air line connectors

Hitch at rear of coach

Hitch at rear of coach

We had a problem. The electrical connection wasn’t working – we didn’t have taillights or turn signals for the toad. The brakes have an actuator on the driver’s floorboard that applies the brake with a plunger attached to the brake pedal. When the brakes on the coach are applied, air pressure is sent to the actuator. This means the brakes are applied as if you had your foot on the brake pedal and the brakes lights are operated by the usual car system. We had brake lights, which I figured was the most important component.

Roadmaster brake actuator

Roadmaster brake actuator

It was about 5pm on Saturday afternoon, so a call to Poulsbo RV to see if they would look at the electrical connector they installed didn’t yield any results. The turn signals and taillights at the back of the coach are mounted high enough to be seen over the Saturn toad. We called it good enough since we didn’t intend to drive after dark.

Alana said her goodbye for now – we’ll be back up there in June for Lainey’s high school graduation. Sini ordered pizza and we settled in to Alan and Julie’s family room to watch college football. I was tired from the early start and flight. Sini told me she would pick up her friend, Linda, in the morning and they would be back at the house by 8am. I went to bed in a spare bedroom and crashed out before 10pm.

On Sunday morning I was up early and showered. I put my things in the coach and we packed a few final things Sini had in Alan’s garage. Alan backed the coach out of the yard through the RV gate into the driveway. We hooked up the toad and were ready to roll. I did another walk around and checked everything over. I pulled out of the driveway and drove a short distance down the street before stopping to give the tow bar and car a final check. All was good and we were on the road!

As I drove, Sini sat in the co-pilot’s seat and Linda was in the back. I started in with driving lessons for Sini right away. As I maneuvered the coach through turns, I told Sini what I was doing and why. I explained how driving a coach with the steer wheels behind the driver’s seat is different than driving a car with the steer wheels well in front of you. I gave her tips such as using your body as a benchmark for initiating turns. I wait until my hips are past my turning point before I start to turn in. For example, when making a right turn, I drive straight into the intersection until my butt is past the curb on the right, then I crank the steering wheel to make a tight turn. This positions the wheels to properly execute the turn without cutting the corner and clipping the curb.

The toad was easier to maneuver through turns than my cargo trailer. But, you cannot reverse with a tow vehicle. It’s important to always know how you are going to exit any place before you enter – things like parking lots or fuel stations need to be reconnoitered and a plan made before you pull in.

The plan was for me to drive through the busy metro areas of Seattle, Olympia and Portland. I would talk about what I was doing, watching and thinking about while driving. Sini could take the wheel once we got past Portland. We had a few rain drops but overall the weather was fine for driving.

When we stopped at the Pilot/Flying J Travel Center for fuel past Portland, Sini made sandwiches for lunch. We carried on and I drove since we didn’t want to sit and eat – we wanted to cover more miles. Sini wasn’t keen on eating and driving on her first stint. We were pushing a bit to get to the Seven Feathers Casino before dark for our first leg of the journey.

Sini brought up the Chargers game on an NFL app she has on her iPhone. She read the play-by-play description to me so I could follow an exciting win for the Chargers. We pulled into the lot at Seven Feathers right at sunset. I had driven 400 miles for our first leg of the trip. Sini would start driving on Monday. To be continued…