Category Archives: Other Coaches

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%.

 

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 Healthcare.gov. 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 Healthcare.gov 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 Healthcare.gov 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.