Category Archives: Other Coaches

Moon Turn the Tides

Every blog post needs a title. Sometimes I struggle with that. You may have noticed that I’ll steal the name of a song or partial lyrics for my title from time to time. Today’s title comes from Jimi Hendrix’s third album, Electric Ladyland, released in 1968. I chose it because the full moon last weekend was a super moon.

Super moons occur when the full moon coincides with the moon’s closest distance to the earth as it travels on its elliptical apogee in the sky above. This makes the full moon appear larger than normal. The gravitational forces of the moon’s proximity were very apparent in the tides on Mission Bay. I shot a photo of low tide in the morning at De Anza Cove, then took another photo at high tide in the afternoon. Notice the dock resting in the mud at low tide, then it’s floating nearly horizontal in the afternoon.

Low tide at De Anza Cove

The same dock at high tide

Mother Nature unleashed another southern California phenomenon this week – Santa Ana winds. Santa Ana winds originate from high pressure over the inland desert basin. Hot, dry wind blows over the coastal range and offshore. These dry winds bring warmer than usual temperatures and low humidity – often less than 10%. They increase the risk of wildfires and the strong winds can fan the fires which move quickly and grow in size.

The Santa Ana hit areas to the north on Monday – up near Ventura. Wildfires burned along the coast up there. The winds really picked up in San Diego County on Thursday. Wind speed was clocked at 61 mph at Crestwood on I-8 in east county Thursday morning. A 38-foot fifth-wheel RV trailer was blown over on I-8, then they closed high-profile vehicle travel on the interstate. San Diego Gas and Electric shut down power in portions of east county to prevent sparks starting fires from any power lines that might blow down.

Fires raged all over southern California. Homes were destroyed in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. San Diego County had wildfires in the north county near I-15. The winds whipped the fires and they jumped the interstate in some areas. We heard that some neighborhoods near Temecula were evacuated. The fire danger warnings are in effect here until Saturday afternoon. When fire warnings are issued, no outdoor fires such as campfires or brush burning, are allowed.

We didn’t have any issues with fire here at Mission Bay RV Resort, but a few people had damage from the wind. There were two unoccupied travel trailers in the row across from us that had their awnings out. The people had left in the morning and didn’t retract their awnings. I knocked on the door of one of the trailers and looked to see if I could put their awning away. No one was there and the awning was an electric power unit – I couldn’t do anything. Later someone strapped the extended awning to the picnic table to keep it from flapping in the wind. We heard that others weren’t so lucky – a couple of rigs suffered damage when their awnings were torn away by the gusty wind. I don’t leave our awning out when we are away from the coach. Wind gusts can come up unexpectedly at any time.

On Wednesday evening, Donna grilled chicken thighs and served it with a new-to-me side of butternut squash brown rice pilaf with dried cranberries and toasted pepitas.

Grilled chicken with butternut squash brown rice pilaf

Tomorrow we’re planning to have a potluck gathering at Sini’s site. Donna made up flyers to invite some of our neighbors. She plans to grill chicken and I’ll smoke baby back ribs on the Traeger wood pellet-fired smoker grill.

The winds have calmed down along the coast but are still strong in the mountains. We should have a few clouds with the temperature reaching the upper 70s tomorrow.

 

Non-Traditional Thanksgiving

The Mission Bay RV Resort filled up for the Thanksgiving weekend by Wednesday afternoon. We’ve experienced this every year – Thanksgiving is always a busy time here. When I came home from playing pickleball, I saw a mobile tire service truck across from our site. I thought it was a little odd for someone to be buying new tires while they’re at the RV park, but I could see a set of tires in the back of the truck.

After lunch I saw why they were getting new tires. The guy had changed out a couple of the tires by then and one of them was blown out. The tread was separated from the casing. I was curious about this and walked over to look at the failed tire. Tread separation can be caused by many things, such as underinflation, road hazards, overloading, excessive speed and so on. It’s hard to say what caused this but I checked the date code on the tire – it was 2207. These tires were made calendar week 22 of 2007 – they were more than 10 years old!

Tire failure

Complete tread separation

I didn’t get a chance to talk to the owner of the coach – he wasn’t around at the time. Apparently he doesn’t pay much attention to date codes – I saw the tires that were being installed had date codes of 3015 – the new tires were more than two years old! Tires on RVs rarely wear out. They usually age out. The components of the tire deteriorate with age, especially if they have lots of exposure to UV rays from sunlight or are exposed to ozone. I’ve seen a lot of opinions on how long to run tires. My personal tolerance is about seven years provided there are no visual signs of deterioration. I look for sidewall cracks, bulges, uneven wear or lumps in the treads.

Donna spent most of Thursday preparing our Thanksgiving dinner while I hung out and watched football. My youngest daughter, Shauna, flew out from Washington D.C. and was at her friend’s house. Cat was Shauna’s roommate while she was at law school. They graduated at the same time with law degrees and Shauna went to work in DC while Cat got a job with a firm here in San Diego. Shauna just started a new job – she was offered a position as a second-year Associate at Dentons – she accepted it and left Mayer-Brown. Dentons is the world’s largest law firm with offices worldwide.

Dinner with the girls at our picnic table

They joined us for dinner – we had our Thanksgiving dinner a little later than usual. Shauna and Cat came over around 5pm and we had drink and some of Donna’s guacamole before we ate. It was a warm day – the temperature reached 90 degrees in the afternoon but the evening was pleasant. Donna prepared a non-traditional dinner. She made a turkey breast roulade stuffed with pancetta and shallots and served it with acorn squash, roasted brussel sprouts and smashed red potatoes with porcini gravy. The roulade was labor intensive and she was cooking all afternoon.

Thanksgiving dinner plate

Shauna and Cat were eager to do some Black Friday shopping and planned to start at Fashion Valley Mall Thursday night. Fashion Valley had stores open from 6pm to 1am for early shoppers. They left around 8pm and took an Uber ride to the mall. They shopped again on Friday. Shauna flew back to DC this morning, so we only got to spend a few hours together.

Friday morning after I had a slice of homemade pumpkin pie for breakfast – with real whipped cream Donna made – we headed over to Ocean Beach for pickleball. It was time to work off some of the excess calories. We played practically non-stop for two hours. That was about it for me – I spent the rest of the day reading a book and napping.

Today we expect the weather to be a more normal day – blue skies and 75 degrees. Not bad for the last weekend of November! Donna’s off to boot camp for her morning workout. She’s riding her bicycle there and back. I have no plans for the day.

Another Day in Paradise

Thursday was another day in paradise – nothing unusual to report. In the evening, we had a breeze blowing from the west. The onshore flow held a line of cloud cover right at the coastline. Donna and I walked to the west end of Mission Bay RV Resort to watch a spectacular sunset.

Thursday’s sunset

The setting sun reflected off the dark clouds and revealed many colors. Donna topped off the evening by preparing a new dish – tarragon and lemon roast chicken with fennel. Delicious!

Tarragon roast chicken with lemon and fennel – green beans, acorn squash and quinoa on the side

I don’t play pickleball on Friday usually, but since I took Tuesday off, Donna and I headed over to the Ocean Beach Recreation Center (OBRC) Friday morning. They have pickleball scheduled at OBRC Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings starting at 10am. Donna hasn’t been on the court since we were in Santa Fe but she played well and we had fun.

Speaking of fun, we met up with our friends from Arizona, Keith and Suzanne Gallaway at Offshore Tavern and Grill for happy hour and dinner. We enjoyed visiting over a beer and ordered food from their appetizer menu. The appetizers at Offshore are large portions and easily make a meal. Keith and I each had the poke plate while Donna went for the seared yellowfin tuna over salad and Suzanne had the housemade Offshore mac and cheese. The Gallaways treated us to dinner – thanks again!

We made arrangements to meet again Saturday morning. They’re here looking at an RV for sale – a 2004 Alpine Coach 36MDDS. Since I know a thing or two about Alpine Coaches, they asked me if I would look it over. We met at 10am at Campland by the Bay where the coach is being stored. This particular coach was built late in the 2004 model year run and has many 2005 features. After going through the systems and kicking the tires, Keith took it out for a test drive. In my opinion, it’s a solid coach. I think they’ll negotiate with the seller. I wish I’d taken a few pictures, but I was busy looking at things and thinking about it.

I came home around 11:30am. While I was out, Donna borrowed Sini’s car and went up to San Diego State University and picked up our granddaughter, Lainey. They were in the coach when I returned. Keith and Suzanne stopped by for a short visit, then I rode the Spyder to Lanna Thai to pick up take-out for lunch. We enjoyed the Thai food at our picnic table. It was a beautiful day with the temperature in the low 70s and nice to be visiting with Lainey.

Donna and Lainey took the Spyder to the beach and kicked around while I stayed home and read a book. We had pizza from Mountain Mike’s for dinner before Donna used Sini’s car again to drop Lainey off back at the campus.

I did one other thing this weekend. On Thursday night, Sini stopped by to chat over a glass of wine. She mentioned that she wanted get a pair of western boots and had been looking at the Tecovas site. She and Donna had a conversation about women’s styles and boots. I got to thinking – always a dangerous thing. It’s been a few years since I’ve bought something really special for Donna.

I quizzed her a bit about her thoughts on women’s boots and had her look at the Tecovas site. She didn’t want a short boot or one with tall heels and that’s all they had for women. So, I directed her to the Lucchese site. She found a couple she really liked. The next day she was looking at them again and decided she would really like to have a pair of Lucchese Women’s Tall Riding boots. They are high-quality hand-made full-grain calfskin boots. The heels are roper type – only one inch high while the riding shafts are 16 inches tall.

Picture taken from Lucchese.com

I can’t surprise her with them as a Christmas gift – these boots are made to order and I needed to get on it if I wanted them by Christmas. That meant I had to trace her foot and take measurements. So, she knows I’ve ordered the boots and I hope they are finished and shipped by Christmas.

The skies are mostly cloudy this morning, but I think it’s going to burn off and we’ll have a mostly sunny afternoon. Another day in paradise!

If I Had a Hammer

A woman driving a fairly new Dodge Ram 3500 dually pick up pulled into Mission Bay RV Resort with an Airstream travel trailer a couple of days ago. She drove slowly past our site. Her trailer was about 25 feet long. It didn’t take long for me to realize she was new to this and didn’t understand how to maneuver a trailer while reversing.

If you’ve never backed a trailer into a space, it would be a good idea to practice first. The best way I can think of is to find a large parking lot with an empty area. You can back the trailer into a marked parking stall and practice putting it between the lines without fear of hitting something. Here are a few tips before I get back to the woman’s story.

First, go slowly. When I worked as a deputy with the sheriff’s office I attended the emergency vehicle operators course (EVOC). The EVOC instructors had a mantra – always travel in reverse as if you’re about to hit something. What they meant was, if you have the mindset that you may back into something, you’ll always be vigilant and probably won’t hit anything. When you are backing a trailer, you have to be mindful of two vehicles – the trailer and the tow vehicle. If you’re cutting the wheel sharply to position the trailer, the front of the tow vehicle will swing to the side.

When you are backing up a trailer, think about the direction that the bottom of your steering wheel is moving. When you turn the steering wheel to crank the front wheels to the left, the bottom of the steering wheel moves to the right – towards the passenger side. This is the direction the back of the trailer will go.

Once the trailer starts to turn behind the tow vehicle, it will continue to turn in that direction until you correct it. For example, if we turned the front tires to the left as in the example above, the bottom of the steering wheel moved to the right and the rear of the trailer starts turning to the right. If we keep moving backwards the front of the trailer will continue to pivot around the hitch ball and the trailer will turn at an increasingly sharp angle. This will happen even if we straighten the front wheels. To stop the turn of the trailer and get the vehicle and trailer back in line, we need to turn the wheel in the opposite direction and move back slowly until the tow vehicle and trailer align, then straighten the wheels.

If we don’t apply a correction, the trailer will turn at such an acute angle that it’s possible for the front corner of the trailer to make contact with the rear corner of the tow vehicle – this is called jack knifing. A jack knifed trailer is not a good thing – damage occurs to both vehicles.

Be patient. Sometimes it might take a few attempts to get things lined up the way you want them. So be it. Don’t get flustered or concerned that others may think you are inept – everyone had to learn at some point – and some circumstances make it difficult to position the trailer the way you want it. Practicing in an empty lot will help you understand the dynamics and you’ll be able to back your trailer into a space with confidence.

The woman with the Airstream drove past our site. Several minutes later she stopped in front of us again, facing the opposite direction. She had her window down and a man was standing next to her truck talking to her. Donna noticed damage on the right front of her trailer which looked new otherwise. After a few minutes, she starting backing into her site across from us and down a couple of spaces. The man was directing her, but I could see he wasn’t giving her very good instructions. She was all over the place. I was hesitant at first, but then I couldn’t stand by and watch any longer.

I went out to her truck and asked the man to watch the rear so she wouldn’t hit the picnic table. Then I started telling her which way to turn her wheels. Once we had the Airstream in her site, I had her pull forward then back in slowly so we could get it lined up straight. She got out of her truck and said she wished she would’ve stopped and asked for help before trying to back in. What I didn’t know was she first attempted to enter her site from the east before she pulled down to the end of the row and turned around. She jack knifed the trailer and damaged her Airstream and new Dodge dually. This was her second time out – someone helped her get into a site at Campland before she came here.

I came back to our coach and set about doing what I was doing before she came along. About half an hour later, I was getting ready to go to the store. Donna told me the woman hadn’t disconnected her trailer from the truck and seemed to be having a problem. I saw another neighbor go over there with a large hammer. This didn’t look good to me.

I walked over and asked what was up. The guy with the hammer was beating on the release lever for the coupler lock on the trailer tongue. I asked him to stop before he did any more damage so we could figure out what was hanging it up. First of all, I could see she had put the trailer jack down and the tongue of the trailer was actually lifting the rear of her truck. This put a lot of pressure on the coupler lock. While I was explaining how this works to her, the other guy knocked the retaining pin out of the lock lever, removed the lever and started pounding on the linkage.

Example of a trailer tongue with coupler lock lever

I stopped him and explained that beating the linkage down will damage it, the lever lifts the linkage so he was doing the opposite of what needed to be done. With the trailer jack lowered, I was able to grab the linkage with pliers and pull it up, releasing the coupler lock. We put the lever back on. The woman insisted something was wrong with the coupler lock. I explained again how it operates and showed her how to release it. I released it several times, demonstrating that it worked fine.

I wanted to take photos to illustrate what I’m talking about, but it didn’t seem appropriate at the time. I hope this post makes sense to those reading it. The lessons learned are – practice with your trailer – ask for assistance – and beware of a neighbor offering help with a hammer.

We’ve had very warm weather – temperatures have reached the mid 90s. The Santa Ana winds have stayed well north of us though, it’s been fairly calm here in San Diego. The hot spell will continue tomorrow before we cool down to the low 80s by the weekend. Good times in San Diego.

Edit to post – I added a photo of the jack knife damaged Airstream.

Jack knife damage

A Great Find at the Mercado

We’ve settled in quickly here at Mission Bay RV Resort. We had a few San Diego favorites on our list to hit and we started in right away.

On Friday evening, Donna and I headed over to Offshore Tavern and Grill for happy hour. But our real reason for going there was to have their poke plate for dinner. Poke (poh-key) is diced sushi grade tuna over a cabbage salad served with fried won-ton chips. Donna had poke on her mind for a while and couldn’t wait to get it at Offshore where they make an excellent version of this Hawaiian dish.

Poke plate

On Saturday morning, we rode the Spyder downtown to the mercado (farmers’ market) on Cedar Street in Little Italy. This farmers’ market is a favorite of ours.

The mercado

The street market covers about four blocks and has a great selection of local produce, meats and crafts. Donna was on a mission and bought several items including a dry mole salami that wasn’t local – it came from Salumi Artisan Cured Meats – a Seattle market founded by Armandino Batali, father of famed chef Mario Batali. The mole salami is amazing. Sliced thin, it’s somewhat chewy and the flavors morph from chocolate to cinnamon to clove and other flavors that I can’t adequately describe.

After we returned from the market, I took the Spyder to Pacific Beach for a much-needed wash. There’s a self-serve car wash on Garnet Avenue that I like and the Spyder is shining once again. I also ordered air and oil filters so I can service the Spyder – it’s due. We both spent a lot of time online ordering things we’ve been wanting but haven’t had to opportunity to get. We haven’t been in one place long enough over the past few months to get deliveries – the shop in Albuquerque and the balloon fiesta don’t count – we couldn’t receive deliveries there.

Donna also spent a lot of time online searching for a strength training class to join while we’re here. Tomorrow I’ll get back on the pickleball courts – I plan to play four days a week while we’re here. Hopefully I’ll get my game back up to a level where I can play with the 3.5 group when we get to Mesa, Arizona in late December.

While I was walking through the RV park, a high-end coach caught my eye – they always do. It was a 2007 quad-slide Newell. I’ve described Newell coaches before. These are top-of-the-line motorhomes that are mostly made to order in Oklahoma. Newell builds the entire coach from the ground up. They make a few coaches on speculation every year for use at RV shows before they’re sold. Being mostly custom-made, the prices vary, but bought new you need to bring something in the neighborhood of 1.5 million dollars to get onboard.

I met the owners of this Newell. They sold a ranch in Arkansas and bought the Newell. They got on the road with the intention of spending a year or so traveling the country before deciding where to settle down and enjoy retirement. That was one and half years ago and they’re still enjoying the travel.

2007 quad-slide Newell

I saw a similar Newell online for sale listed at $550,000 – probably a third of what it cost new. That’s the reality of RVs – they depreciate.

Last night I had a seasonal special from Alesmith – a local San Diego brewery. It was a Halloween release called Evil Dead Red. It’s a malty red ale that was tasty with a creamy mouth feel. It was very easy to drink despite it’s 6.6% ABV.

Halloween ale

We had cool weather on Friday – the high was about 70 degrees and a few rain drops fell. Saturday was clear and warmer with the temperature reaching 75 degrees. The forecast calls for a hot spell beginning today. Santa Ana winds should develop. Santa Ana is a condition affecting southern California coastal areas when high pressure develops over the desert basin. This pushes hot, dry air through the coastal mountain ranges and offshore along the coast. We should see upper 80s today and into the 90s over the next couple of days. Time to hit the beach!

High Passes and Quiet Night

With the rest of the Hearts A’Fire team heading for home Monday, Donna and I decided to spend one more night at the Hotel Elegante in Colorado Springs. Donna was able to get some laundry done in the hotel while I walked over to the convenience store and bought some drinking water.

On my way to the store, I saw a couple of interesting coaches in the hotel parking lot. They were Prevost custom conversions. I could tell they were entertainer buses – presumably a band traveling through the area had stopped for the night at the hotel. I could tell these were entertainer tour buses by the small lettering on the side indicating they were leased from Roberts Brothers in Springfield, Tennessee – a well-known provider of entertainer buses.

Entertainer tour bus

I wondered who it was, but wasn’t curious enough to find out. At the store, the local newspaper caught my eye. On the front page was a photo from the Labor Day Lift Off balloon event featuring Hearts A’Fire taking off from the park.

Front page of the Gazette

On Tuesday morning, we packed up and headed a few miles north to the Elks Lodge. Our plan was to spend one night dry camping at the lodge so we could use their dump station to flush out our holding tanks and refill the fresh water tank before leaving town. We also used the opportunity to do some grocery shopping and pick up some items Donna had delivered to the Sierra Trading Post store.

While we were at it, we decided to visit Bristol Brewing, a local brewery with an interesting location. They’re in an old schoolhouse. One half of the schoolhouse has boutique shops and a coffee shop/bakery while the other wing houses the brewery and pub.

Shops on the left, Bristol Brewing in the right wing

Red Rocket ale

Donna and I returned to the coach to plan our next move. We enjoyed a stay at Eagle Nest Lake in northern New Mexico last year but decided we wanted to explore new territory this year. Donna wanted to go to Abiquiu (Abbi-cue). We decided to head to Alamosa, Colorado across the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, then south into New Mexico.

Our trip down I-25 started off with a bang. We were driving along and went through an underpass. Just as we went through, a high-cube rental truck passed us on the left. I heard a loud boom – almost like a gun shot. I checked my mirrors and saw gray smoke on the left side of the trailer. I pulled off on the exit ramp and stopped on the shoulder – I thought we had blown a trailer tire. I went to investigate but didn’t find anything amiss. I guess the sound and smoke came from the truck overtaking us.

The turbocharger on our engine was still giving me problems. The engine control module (ECM) was intermittently losing the signal from the manifold pressure sensor. When this would happen, the turbo no longer provided boost pressure and there was a power loss. Also, the Jake brake would quit working whenever we lost the boost. I knew the problem was in the wiring harness at the ECM. I had taped up the harness for better support while we were at the Elks lodge. I checked the harness and repositioned it while we were stopped. This issue would continue to plague us on the trip to New Mexico.

We left I-25 near Walsenburg and headed west on US160. This took us through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains over La Veta Pass at an elevation of 9,426 feet above sea level. Wouldn’t you know it – I lost boost pressure on the climb up the pass and had to gear down to third to pull the grade. There was a Newmar Dutch Star motorhome traveling the same route that must have had engine trouble too – we overtook him on the climb.

We stopped in Alamosa and had a Subway sandwich for lunch. Donna looked up a couple of boondocking opportunities on the route to Abiquiu. Apparently we hadn’t communicated clearly on the route. I intended to head south on US285 from Alamosa into New Mexico. Donna had us heading west on US17 which curves south into New Mexico.

We punched the first boondocking possibility into the GPS and I happily followed the directions. It was near Manassa, Colorado and I felt like it was a bit early to stop and wanted to continue on. The next place Donna had identified was in New Mexico – about five miles across the border near Chama. We programmed that stop and I didn’t give it another thought. When we came through Antonito, I followed SR17 instead of US285 without thinking about it.

This took us over the San Juan Mountains into New Mexico. We had to climb up to La Manga Pass – this was the steepest grade we have ever encountered. Luckily our turbocharger was cooperating and I had the power needed for the climb. La Manga Pass tops out at 10,230 feet above sea level. We wouldn’t have made it without turbo boost. After a short descent we climbed Cumbres Pass at an elevation of 10,022 feet above sea level.

From there, it was downhill into New Mexico and we found a paved pull-out that was level and stopped there. It’s a mile and half from the small town of Chama across from a paved landing strip. It’s in beautiful surroundings and there’s very little traffic on SR17. We’re at an elevation of 7,966 feet above sea level.

Donna went out for a walk. She didn’t to go far, but she heard a train whistle and saw a sign for the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad indicating it was one mile away so she kept walking. She took a few photos along the way – they’re at the bottom of this post. The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad runs on narrow gauge tracks between Chama and Antonito. This historic railroad still uses coal-fired steam-powered engines. The track runs just to the west of our boondocking spot. We heard the train pass by, but it doesn’t run at night. This place is so peaceful and quiet – a welcome respite from the time recently spent in cities. I took a couple of photos before sunset – I stood on our door steps for these shots.

Door step view

I watched the US Open Tennis tournament on TV – I’ve been following it – while Donna prepared cod in parchment paper with asparagus, butter, tarragon and fresh squeezed orange juice. Just because were boondocking doesn’t mean we can’t eat well!

Cod cooked in parchment paper with asparagus, tarragon, butter and fresh squeezed orange juice

Today we’ll move on down to Abiquiu. The weather forecast looks good with highs in the 80s and cool nights in the upper 50s. We may have a stray thunder shower or two, but no big storms expected.

Here are photos from Donna’s walk…

Rio Chama River

Check out the sign!

Chama train station

Narrow gauge railroad track

RAGBRAI – Days 4,5 & 6

I haven’t had a good internet connection for a couple of days, so I’m catching up on the ride now. The day four weather forecast Wednesday morning was not promising. It called for thunderstorms – possibly severe. Looking at the Radar Express app on my smartphone, I could see a line of heavy thunderstorms just west of us and it was moving east. Donna and Jeff Spencer decided to take a day off and not chance riding in what could turn out to be dangerous conditions. Geoff Harrison and Tom decided to go for it. They took off before 6am and hammered eastward to try and outrun the storm. So, team RV There Yet? was split up on Wednesday.

We headed out from Clear Lake before 7am and made a 46-mile drive to Charles City. The bike route for the day was 57.5 miles. We went to a high school that was identified as the main campground. When we arrived there it was chaotic as RVs were trying to exit and enter at the same time while other RVs stopped in the parking area. It turned out the organizers wanted to only have tent campers there. We were told we should go to the KMart parking lot.

Up to this point, the RV camping had been organized pretty well. Trying to accommodate the number of riders and support vehicles of this event in small towns is a logistical nightmare. The crew at KMart wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of RVs. It was every man for himself. We found a level spot that would allow us to exit without too much hassle and had our three rigs lined up.

A fifth-wheel trailer parked next to me and the woman driving it said she was worried about being able to get out in the morning. I told her we planned to leave before 7am and she should have plenty of room to maneuver once we were out. Then she told me one of the crew directing the parking said he might have to put someone lengthwise across our respective bows. This would block us all in. When she told him we needed to able to leave in the morning he said, “Yeah, everyone will leave in the morning.”

What he didn’t seem to understand was not everyone leaves at the same time. That’s why he was still trying to find space for people two hours after we arrived. We put our chairs out in the area in front of our rigs to keep the area clear.

Geoff and Tom rode hard and they made it to Charles City ahead of the storm. I think Donna made the right choice to take the day off though, I don’t think she could safely ride the pace they rode and would have ended up exhausted and possibly caught by high winds, lightning and heavy rain. The number of riders out was way down from the previous days. Where we were parked we only caught the edge of the storm cells. I could see the severe weather around us on the weather radar.

Charles City is called the “Hump Before the Hills.” It was hump day and eastern Iowa gets hilly from there to the Mississippi River. Fred had flank steak marinating in his special sauce and Jeff grilled it – we had corn on the cob to go along with it and enjoyed another great meal together.

Storm moving off to the east

Deb Spencer and I looked at the route laid out for vehicles to get from Charles City to Cresco on Thursday. The route looked fine if you were leaving from the high school, but we were across town at KMart. It would require us to go through the center of town with heavy traffic and cross the bike route which can be difficult as a line of bikes are streaming down the road. We mapped an alternate route which worked out great. We looped around town on US218 and found IA9 that took us all the way to Cresco.

Heading out for day five

We went to the county fairgrounds. When we pulled up at the entrance, the girl directing traffic in the street asked me if I had a reservation. Uh-oh. When I told her “No,” she said I would have to go to the dry camping area. Whew! That’s what we were planning to do anyway.

We’ve figured out that if we leave in the vehicles before 7am, we can reach the day’s destination early enough to be ahead of most of the support vehicles and snag choice camping spots. This worked out great at the fairgrounds as we found a nice level grassy area and parked together. Vehicles kept arriving after us and within 45 minutes, the place was packed and people were pulling in then turning around to find another place for the night.

I got my mountain bike out of the trailer and then pulled out my Orbea road bike. Our plan was to ride to the Iowa Craft Beer tent later and meet up with the rest of the team. I haven’t had my road bike out in a while and I had to change the tube in the front tire – the presta valve was leaking. Deb was going to ride my mountain bike and I would ride my road bike. Then we found out the beer tent was a lot farther away than we thought. We bagged the plan.

When I saw a text from Jeff saying they were about seven miles from town, I rode my mountain bike downtown. I saw Geoff and Tom come by and shortly after that I found Jeff and Donna. I led them to our site – the fairgrounds are fairly large and by then RVs were scattered all over the place. The volunteers were directing riders to the south end of the fairgrounds – we were on the north end.

One of Thursday’s highlights was Lance Armstrong riding the course. A couple of NASCAR racers were on the ride as well – Jimmie Johnson and another that I can’t remember now. I saw a Featherlite Coach built on a Prevost XLII chassis in the fairgrounds. It was decorated with University of Iowa Hawkeye logos and the license plate was Coach1. I thought it was maybe an Iowa Hawkeyes football coach, so I introduced myself and inquired. It turns out he was a fan, not a coach. His license plate was a reference to his number one coach.

When I mentioned his XLII double slide chassis, he asked if I was a Prevost owner – he said only a Prevost guy would recognize the difference between an XL and an XLII. I told him I was an RV geek – I knew the XLII didn’t have the visible rivets of an XL.

Featherlite Vantare on an Prevost XLII chassis

There are more school buses converted to bicycle support vehicles than I ever imagined. We seem to have gotten into a rhythm with other RV support vehicles that make an early start and arrive at the next destination around the same time as us. But I still see a schoolie here and there that I haven’t seen before.

Colorful schoolie from Georgia

The temperature was cooler on Thursday and everyone enjoyed a great ride. Well, almost everyone. Jeff and Donna witnessed a crash involving three riders just ahead of them. The riders were down and police on site called for an an ambulance. We’ve seen a few crashes – it can happen in a heartbeat when riders are in a pack and someone gets distracted.

This morning we were up and ready to roll at the usual time.

Team RV There Yet? day six

We’ve been driving on two-lane highways through rural farmland all week and today was no different. We encountered some rolling hills, but when we arrived at the fairgrounds in Waukon our elevation was about the same as when were in Cresco and Charles City before that – about 1,300 feet above sea level. Once again we snagged primo parking with an easy exit plan for tomorrow.

Primo parking spot

We were able to track the progress of the riders through instant messaging. When Donna and Jeff left Postville – the last town before Waukon – Deb, Fred and I headed out on our bicycles. Our plan was to meet them at the craft beer tent – we figured it was about 5-7 miles away and we should arrive around the same time a Jeff and Donna. Tom and Geoff were ahead of them.

I rode my Orbea road bike, Deb took my Specialized mountain bike and Fred rode his Trek hybrid. Our route shortcutted the final leg of the riders course and had rolling hills. It was also longer than we expected – about eight miles. We made it there and managed to meet up with everyone.

It was warm out and everyone wanted a spot in the shade.

Shade tree

Tom, Fred, Jeff, Deb and Donna in our shady spot

I had a cup of Des Moines IPA,Donna had a hefeweizen – she also had a bacon and blue cheese bratwurst. The ride back was a little harder – it had more uphill sections than downhill and we were riding into a headwind.

Tomorrow is the final day of RAGBRAI XLV – it’s also has the most hills on this year’s course. I have a couple more pictures to upload, but my internet connection is so poor I’m giving up and hoping I can get this post published. After Donna completes the course tomorrow we’ll be on the road – so I won’t post again until Sunday at the earliest.

 

 

Clark Fork

In my last post, I mentioned a rig that pulled in at the Coeur d’Alene Elks lodge that caught my eye. I should explain why I took interest. First of all, Donna told me I should see the stacker trailer that someone dropped next to our trailer. I had to retrieve her bike from the trailer so I walked down and took a look and a photo.

Our trailer in the foreground – and people think WE have a big trailer!

That’s a tall stacker – our lengths are about the same

Walking down to the trailer, I saw an unusual looking coach. The rear cap had the words “Motor Coach Industries” (MCI). MCI is a well-known brand among tour bus companies and transportation companies. The only MCI motorhomes I’ve seen were conversions of seated buses that had the interior gutted and reconfigured as a motorhome.

This one was different. It appeared to be a purpose-built motorhome with two slide outs. The slides had radiused corners like you would find on high-end coaches such as Newell, Foretravel or Prevost based coaches. It looked to be about 40′ long and had two axles – no tag axle. I’d never seen anything like it.

Custom coach with an MCI chassis and shell

Two sides with radiused corners and pneumatic seals

Eventually I met the owners – first Lisa then her husband Tom. They are from the San Francisco Bay area of California. Tom was an entrepreneur with a business that built entry doors and security doors for hospitals and commercial buildings. He still owns the company but is no longer involved in the day-to-day operation. I’ve heard similar career stories from most of the folks I meet with these super high-end coaches.

This particular coach came from Florida where a dealer – I think the name was Amadas – acquired several MCI chassis and shells back in 2004. They planned to convert three or four per year into custom motorhomes. The financial crisis put their plan on hold from about 2006 to 2010 – that’s when this one was built, in 2010. It checked off most of the boxes on Tom’s wish list – 40′ long so he could stay under California’s 65′ overall length requirement which was a biggie for him. I was surprised to find it powered by a Cummins ISL – like ours – but this one is chipped to produce 500 horsepower – we have 400 horsepower. The challenge with chipping to this power level is keeping the engine operating temperature within a safe range. This bus chassis has a large radiator with a huge belt-driven fan. It also has super access to the engine – something often found on bus type conversions and an area where many motorhomes are lacking.

MCI engine compartment with super access

The bus shell is all aluminum – no fiberglass. The trailer holds their boat on the upper rails and their Cadillac SVR below. The front six feet are a workshop with power tools and a generator on the tongue. I really enjoyed talking to Tom and Lisa and learning about their unique coach.

Thursday morning we packed up and got ready to travel. Donna had ridden over 50 miles on the Centennial Trail to Spokane Valley and back on Wednesday and oddly had a hard time sleeping Wednesday night. I thought she would be out like a light after that endeavor, especially since she put in 35 miles the day before.

Donna snapped this photo of the Spokane River along the Centennial Trail

Tom and Lisa hooked up their trailer and pulled out just ahead of us, leaving us with plenty of room to maneuver and hook up our trailer.

Maybe we’ll see them down the road

We headed east on I-90 and enjoyed several great views of Lake Coeur d’Alene. Then we climbed Fourth of July Pass – a little over 3,000 feet above sea level and crossed the Idaho panhandle into Montana.

We entered Montana at the Lookout Pass summit in the Bitterroot mountain range a little over 4,700 feet above sea level – and lost an hour as we entered the Mountain Time Zone. From there we had a steep down grade to St. Regis. At St. Regis, I-90 follows the Clark Fork River. The river meanders through a long valley that took us roughly south east toward Missoula. The interesting thing is although it often felt like we were descending, we were actually gaining elevation. The Clark Fork runs to the northwest and of course it’s always going downhill.

The way the river meanders through the valley means I-90 crosses it several times. From St. Regis to Deer Lodge – a distance of about 150 miles – it crosses the Clark Fork 16 times. It’s hard for me to imagine, but the Clark Fork flows northwest through a series of valleys and eventually reaches Lake Pend Oreille, a watershed that empties into the Columbia River!

After a long day on the road with several construction slow downs on I-90, we found Indian Creek Campground in Deer Lodge, Montana at the headwaters of the Clark Fork. I didn’t bother to dump our tanks before we left Coeur d’Alene knowing we would have full hook-ups here. We’ll stay one night and push on toward South Dakota. We’re thinking we’ll be in Billings, Montana tomorrow, Then Gillette, Wyoming. We’ll leave here with a full fresh water tank and empty holding tanks – I see a couple of dry  camping nights ahead.

I Know When I’m Beat

Last weekend’s weather was more like Seattle than San Diego. Saturday morning was cool and cloudy with a mist in the air and a few light rain showers. On the first weekend in May, the Ho’alaule’a festival is held here at De Anza cove on Mission Bay in San Diego. Ho’alaule’a is a Hawaiian cultural festival with free entertainment, boutique vendors and traditional islander workshops.

Donna, Sini and I walked over to the park to check out the festival and also get lunch from the food vendors there. We dodged a few showers and watched some of the performers.

Small stage with musicians and dancers

Large stage with many performers including youngsters dancing

We browsed through the vendor tents and bought lunch at a Guamanian barbeque. We found a concrete picnic table under cover to dine without fear of getting wet.

Sini wanted to change the faucet in her kitchen sink. I had tackled this task in our coach a few years ago and posted about it here. I told Sini I would change out her faucet for her. She ordered a bar type Delta faucet – it’s a high looping faucet. Her current faucet is a Moen.

Moen kitchen faucet

Removing the Moen from our coach was a major pain. While I was visiting with the Bay Park guys at Offshore Tavern and Grill, I mentioned how hard a time I had removing a Moen faucet. One of the guys, Paul, is a plumber. He told me a Moen is a piece of cake if you have the right tool. The thing is, you get the right tool in the box a new Moen faucet comes in – you can’t go to the hardware store and buy one. I told him that was the problem, we weren’t replacing the Moen with a new Moen, we were using a Delta faucet. He said he would loan me the tool and it would be an easy job!

Moen faucet tool

I could see how this tool would make a faucet change easier – it would fit over the hollow stud that held our old faucet in place. Around 1:30pm, I walked over to Sini’s coach to get started. I would be working in a confined space – her sink sits over a small cabinet. The cabinet door opening was barely wide enough for me to get my shoulders through.

Confined work space

As soon as I got under there, I knew I was in trouble. Her Moen faucet is an older model – it isn’t fastened with the small diameter hollow stud. It has a large conduit that houses the water supply lines. This conduit is threaded and has a large brass nut on it to hold the faucet in place. The nut was 1-7/16″ and it’s between the double sink basins.

I tried various pliers and wrenches and couldn’t get a good enough grip on the nut. After an hour and half of struggling, I called my friend, Mark Fredin. Mark has a plumbing business. I told him what I was up against. He said he had a tool that might work. I drove to his place in Clairemont and picked up a couple of tools.

He loaned me a big basin wrench and also some plumbing sockets called tub sockets. They aren’t set up for use with a ratchet, they’re made to slip over a pipe and be turned with a bar or wrench.

Basin wrench

Tub sockets

I thought I was good to go. I was able to get the basin wrench on the nut but couldn’t get enough leverage to break the nut loose. I tried the socket. I got it in place and was able to put a large channel lock plier over the end. I put everything I had into it. I felt the nut move ever so slightly. It turned out that I had moved the entire faucet base escutcheon – the nut was frozen in place. Over the years, it had developed enough corrosion to lock it in place.

Around 4:30pm, I threw in the towel. I hate to admit defeat, but I was done in. All the time I was under the sink with my upper body in the cabinet, I had my left lat (latissimus dorsi) lying across the toe kick of the cabinet. This square edged wood trim was tenderizing the muscle. After reconnecting the water supply lines and walking home, I realized how sore I was. I think it will take heat to get the nut off or maybe it’ll have to be cut off. Cutting risks damaging the sink though and I’m not sure if I’m up to the task.

At 6pm, we walked down to Dave and Shannon’s site for a sunset happy hour. It wasn’t raining but it was windy with a chill in the air. We sat at their picnic table and had snacks. I brought a bottle of Chimay Grand Reserve Belgian Trappist ale. John and Becky were there when Donna, Sini and I arrived. We braved the weather for about an hour before we decided it would be better to relocate to John and Becky’s coach and continue visiting indoors. They have a Newmar Ventana with a roomy floor plan.

Shannon, Dave, Sini, Donna, John and Becky

On Sunday, I woke up sore and bruised on my left side. I watched the Moto GP race from Barcelona, Spain and didn’t accomplish much. I spent the rest of the day reading a book. It was raining all day, so there wasn’t much else to do anyway.

Monday I passed on playing pickleball as I felt like I needed to rest my shoulders. On Monday evening, Mona and Vanessa came by to visit with Donna and Sini. They planned to take a sunset kayak ride on the cove. Mona brought sushi and they sat at our picnic table to snack and visit.

It was cool out – the high on Monday was only 66 degrees – 10 degrees warmer than Sunday was. They ended up having such a good time visiting they were still at the table at sunset – so much for the kayaking.

Donna, Mona, Vanessa and Sini

I’m running late this morning, but I plan to head over to the Pacific Beach Recreation Center for pickleball. It’s cloudy and the forecast calls for another cool day with the temperature in the low 60s.

California Gas

I’ve become less prolific when it comes to posting to this blog. It isn’t a matter of laziness – well, maybe that’s part of it – it’s because we’ve settled into a routine here in San Diego. It gets monotonous to post about daily activities without variety. Over the last four years, we’ve spent three or four months a year here at Mission Bay RV Resort. The big news this week is Donna’s back! She came home Tuesday night from her visit with her parents in Vermont.

One of the things I’ve noticed when we’re in California is the difference in the gasoline here. Not only is it more expensive than the rest of the country, it’s also a different formulation. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has its own regulations for gasoline formulation. I’ve noticed an increase of fuel consumption of about 15% when we’re in California. This was true with the 300cc four-stroke engine in our Kymco scooter and also holds true with the 998cc four-stroke engine in our Can-Am Spyder.

The CARB regulations are supposed to reduce air pollution. It seems counter-intuitive to me to think burning more fuel reduces pollution. If every vehicle in the state burns 15% more gasoline due to the formulation, that’s a lot of extra fuel being burned. I understand how oxygenate additives can result in more complete combustion thus reducing the amount of unburned hydrocarbon in the exhaust. But I have to wonder about the additional resources required, the additional refining steps for one market only – while the rest of the country utilizes fuel made to federal standards – plus the need for transportation of 15% more fuel and so on. What’s the real overall impact?

About 10 days ago, I made reservations for us to return here in October. I wanted a site for two months. Karen in the office couldn’t find a site I wanted that would be open for two months. I refused to take a couple of the sites available – one would put our bedroom window next to the entrance to rest rooms and another had a large tree that I knew would block satellite TV reception and also results in a large quantity of bird droppings. I settled on site 112 for five weeks then a move to site 117 for the remainder of our stay.

I received an e-mail confirmation for site 112, but I didn’t get one for site 117. The next day I stopped by the office to see if the reservation was made. Karen told me she was having a problem getting the reservation into the system but would continue to work on it. I still didn’t have a confirmation so yesterday I inquired at the office and found out that she had done a lot of work to make site 112 available for us for the entire two-month stay. Yay – no move required. I got the confirmation e-mail in the afternoon.

We usually stay here in the fall and leave in mid-January. We stayed here in May a couple of years ago to attend my daughter’s graduation from Cal-Western School of Law. On Wednesday evening, I shot a photo of the sunset reflected on clouds. As I watched the sunset from the western end of Mission Bay RV Resort, I noticed how far north the sun was compared to the sunset shots I took in the winter months.

The first photo below was taken on December 20th. Notice how the sun is nearly directly over the boat dock at the Campland Marina. Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Sunset in December – see the boat dock

The sunset on Wednesday evening, March 26th was far to the north – the boat dock isn’t visible as it’s out of the frame on the left.

Sunset April 26th

The occupancy here at the Mission Bay RV Resort is about as low as we’ve ever seen it. During the Easter week, the park was nearly full. Now about two-thirds of the sites are vacant. Donna met one of our neighbors yesterday. There are two women here in a small Fleetwood Flair – a class A motorhome less than 30 feet long. They have a pet pig onboard! It’s a large potbellied pig.

Zoey the RV Pig

She’s called Zoey the RV Pig and you can find her on Instagram.

Last night Donna made roasted garlic and lemon chicken thighs and served it with sauteed peppers, asparagus, zucchini and onions. Sini joined us for dinner. No frozen pot pies for this guy while Donna’s cooking!

Roasted garlic and lemon chicken and sauteed veggies

I played pickleball four days this week. Donna joined me on Wednesday. Today I’ll pass on the pickleball and run a few errands this morning. The temperatures have been a little cooler this week and humidity unusually high. The forecast calls for low 70s today and the humidity will be near 60%. Tomorrow’s forecast says we’ll see the upper 70s with humidity at a more normal level for the area – less than 40%.