Category Archives: Restaurants

Sometimes I’m Crazy Like That

We pulled out of White Rock, New Mexico a little past 10am Wednesday morning. It was a surprisingly quiet night there – the Visitor Center is right on the main drag near the geographic center of the small town. However, the traffic heading out of town to the southwest past the Visitor Center is almost all going to Bandelier National Monument. There’s no real reason to head out that way after dark, so traffic falls off to next to nothing.

We made the 40-mile drive to Santa Fe and arrived in familiar surroundings by 11:30am. We pulled into the Los Suenos de Santa Fe RV park on Cerrillos Road where we’ve stayed the previous two years. We were assigned to site 93 on the south end of the small RV park. This puts us about as far from the road and traffic noise as we can get, so it’s a good site. We’ve learned through experience not to enter the pull-through sites in the “normal’ fashion – that is, entering from the rear and pulling through. The sites here are relatively narrow and the management has placed bright yellow concrete barriers shaped like barrels at the back of the sites. These barriers can be difficult to maneuver past, especially if you’re pulling a trailer or vehicle behind the coach.

We made the loop around to the front of the site and backed in. It’s much easier as the front of the sites have no barriers and plenty of room to maneuver. Then we found a new twist that affects the sites on the south end of the park. The fresh water spigot and sewer connector are located at the far back end of the site. With our trailer, our water and sewer lines had to extend about 45 feet to reach the hook-ups. This wasn’t a problem for the fresh water – I have plenty of hose. But the sewer line was a different story. In four years on the road, I’ve never needed more than 30 feet of sewer hose. I had to go to Walmart and buy hose extensions to hook up.

Meanwhile Donna was at her computer working on some proposals. She finished up and we went out around 4pm to stop in at Duel Brewery. Duel is a unique experience – they specialize in Belgian-inspired beers and a European style food experience. We haven’t eaten there, only tried a few of their brews. The Santa Fe location has a fairly small bar and is served by a small 10-barrel brewing system. They don’t distribute their beers – if you want Duel, you’ll have to visit Santa Fe or their Albuquerque location. Their beers are fairly strong for the most part and all of them have unique flavors. I’ve found all of the beers I’ve tried there to be very good. Donna and I each ordered a sampler flight and enjoyed them.

Thursday morning we rode the Spyder downtown to walk around the plaza area. This is where most tourists end up in Santa Fe. The plaza often has events and entertainment and the surrounding area is full of upscale boutique shops and a few historical buildings.

We window shopped, then I suggested we go into the Lucchese Bootmaker shop for a look around. I knew it was dangerous thing for me to do. I’ve been wanting to get a pair of crocodile western boots for about a year. And wouldn’t you know it, I found a pair black cherry boots with crocodile belly vamps (the part that covers the top of your foot) and ostrich heel counters and shafts (the part that goes up your calf). They had my size and I tried them on. I couldn’t resist and bought them. As my friend Keith Burk would say – sometimes I’m crazy like that.

Lucchese crocodile boots

I figure I’ll be 61 years old in a few weeks. I deserve a splurge every now and then. Life’s short, enjoy the ride, right?

While we were at Duel the day before, we inquired about the best green chile cheeseburger in town. We were directed to Cowgirl, a bar and grill on Guadalupe Street about a half mile from the plaza. It was overcast and few rain drops began to fall, so we decided to leave the plaza and stop for lunch at Cowgirl.

They bill themselves as serving “New Style Comfort Food.” We found an item on the menu called “The Mother of All Green Chile Cheeseburgers.” Here’s the description from their menu:

Our secret blend of all-natural beef, local buffalo and applewood smoked bacon, grilled to your liking and served in a cheddar/green chile bun with melted brie, truffled green chile, a slice of heirloom tomato and some hand cut truffle fries – Just ask for “Mother!”

It was obviously a large burger and priced at $15. Donna and I split one – it wasn’t an unusual request to split the order apparently. It was the best burger I’ve ever tasted. The blend of beef and buffalo ground with bacon made a tasty blend that wasn’t the slightest bit greasy yet wasn’t as dry as buffalo burgers can sometimes be. The brie and green chile with truffle oil was out of this world good!

The Mother of All Green Chile Cheeseburgers

We beat the rain home. Donna later walked to Sprouts and picked up a few groceries. If the market is less than two miles away, she often likes to walk and shop. I started the break-in process on my new boots after treating them with Bick’s leather conditioner. Crocodile leather isn’t as supple as ostrich and the break-in takes some time.

I watched the Thursday Night Football game then went to bed for a quiet night’s rest. This morning we headed out at 8am to the Genoveva Chavez Community Center for pickleball. We spent about three hours there. I haven’t played since we were in Coarsegold – about three months ago. It was good to be back on the court and knock some of the rust off. We’ll go back on Monday.

Tomorrow we plan to head over to the Farmers’ Market down by the Santa Fe Railroad Park. We always enjoy our visits to Santa Fe. Donna wants to get some bicycle riding in over the weekend. I don’t have any plans other than the market and of course watching the Formula One race from Singapore and some NFL action.

RAGBRAI – Day Three

We finished the day Monday with a group dinner. Jeff grilled pork steaks and everyone brought a side dish. We had a great time telling stories as we sat in the shade next to Jeff and Deb’s rig. We called it a day around 9pm, but Donna was still keyed up and watched an episode of House of Cards before hitting the sack.

Tuesday morning was another early riser day. The RV There Yet? riders were on their way around 6:40am and our three support RVs hit the road only a few minutes later.

Ready for day three

Once again Deb led the way out of Algona, Iowa followed by me and then Fred. We had an easy route – we hit US18 and went east. Fred needed to fuel up. We had a little over 50 miles to cover and figured we would stop when we saw a convenient gas station. About halfway along our route Deb spied a gas station and pulled to the side of the highway just before a four-way stop sign. I went across the intersection and stopped on the other side.

When I saw Fred pulling back onto the highway, I accelerated away from the side of the road with him right behind me. I thought Deb was a few cars behind him. The route I mapped had us turn south before we entered the destination town of Clear Lake, Iowa. We ran around the west end of the lake, then followed South Shore Drive to the Clear Lake State Park where Deb and I had reservations.

When I pulled into the park and stopped at the registration kiosk, Deb was right behind me and Fred was behind her. This was puzzling to me, but I didn’t ask how that happened as I was preoccupied with asking the park ranger what I needed to do to claim our site. The reservation website said check-in was at 4pm – we were there at 8am. A 4pm check-in doesn’t make any sense to me – who wants to check-in that late and then hit the road with a 3pm check-out? Anyway, he just told me to proceed to our reserved site.

Since we were there so early, Fred was able to snag a site – they keep about 1/3 of the sites open for drop-ins – not all of the sites are reservable. It turns out that Deb ran a different route – she came through town on the east side of the lake and our entry to the park coincided. Our first stop was at the dump station. It had only been four days for us, but my thinking is dump when convenient and be prepared to dry camp with empty holding tanks and full fresh water – you never know what might come up.

There were two dump stations – I took one and Deb occupied the other. She had a problem with the electric dump valve on their trailer. She knew how to access the problematic valve for the gray water, but didn’t know how to remedy the problem. I came over to help. She phoned Jeff and asked what needed to be done. I could see a manual screw to operate the valve – we just needed to find the correct Allen wrench to turn the mechanism. We got it to work. Meanwhile a couple of other rigs were lined up at the dump station. I did my best to finish up quickly and move to our site.

We had site 153 – this is not a level site. In fact, I don’t think there’s a level site to be found in this park. I jockeyed our coach back and forth through the 70′ pull-through site trying to find the best approximation of level and finally resigned myself to using blocks under the jacks to get us there.

Meanwhile our riders were on the course. It was a windy day with 15-20 mph wind from the southeast gusting higher at times. They were riding a mostly easterly course making for a headwind component. Donna was feeling pretty strong at the start and kept a good pace. They stopped at Wesley about 14 miles from Algona for breakfast.

Biscuits and gravy in Wesley

They continued on battling the wind and split up as Geoff and Tom wanted to hammer through the ride. Jeff and Donna took a break 24 miles in at Britt. Donna went to the Hobo Museum and paid $5  to check it out. She watched a documentary film there and became so engrossed in the story that she stayed for the entire 75-minute production!

Britt also had a Mayberry RFD theme going on – come on now, you remember Mayberry, right?

Aunt Bea and Donna

Jeff and Otis sample a little moonshine in the klink

By the time we’d dumped our tanks and set up, we weren’t too sure about heading back to the meet-up town of Garner. It turned out that Deb had to take care of some business that entailed several lengthy phone calls, so we bagged it. Fred and I took a walk to check out the campground. There is a beach area on the lake that looks nice – we saw some kids swimming but I have to wonder about the water temperature. Later I heard the lake depths are only around 10′, so maybe the water isn’t that cold.

Clear Lake Campground lake access

Deb gave Fred the keys to their GMC Denali truck and we drove into town to see what’s happening. We made a stop at the grocery store then found a bar and grill on the lake for lunch. We dined in the shade just inside the deck overlooking the lake.

View west from The Landing Bar and Grill patio

View north from the patio toward town

Clear Lake, Iowa is a town of about 7,500 residents. The lake is beautiful and the parks are nice. The one thing that probably put this place on the map for anyone over 60 is the Surf Ballroom. On February 2nd, 1959, Buddy Holly played a concert at the packed Surf Ballroom. It was his last.

The story goes that their tour was plagued with mechanical problems on the tour bus and an inadequate heating system in the cold winter weather. When they got to Clear Lake, Buddy Holly had enough. He hired a plane and pilot to fly to their next venue in North Dakota. The plane departed after midnight in the early hours of February 3rd. Fellow band members Tommy Allsup and Waylon Jennings were supposed to fly with him on the three available seats. Allsup lost his seat on a bet with Richie Valens and Waylon gave up his seat to an ailing Big Bopper. The plane crashed five miles north of US18 killing all aboard. That was the day the music died.

After a difficult day battling wind, Donna rode up to our motorhome around 3pm. Tomorrow’s forecast doesn’t have high winds, but it calls for thunderstorms. We’ll see how that pans out in the morning – will they ride or not?

Back to South Dakota

We pulled out of the Broadus, Montana city park around 10am Sunday. Our route had us continue down US212 where we traversed the northeast corner of Wyoming before we reached South Dakota. We saw several antelope in the fields along the roadside this time – I expected to see them the day before but didn’t.

We drove through the town of Belle Fourche, South Dakota which has the distinction of being near the designated geographic center of the United States of America. This designation was  bestowed by the US Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1959 – after Alaska and Hawaii were admitted to the union. The geographic center of the 48 contiguous states is Lebanon, Kansas.

We drove through town on US 85 next to a truck pulling a fifth-wheel trailer which had a cargo trailer attached to it – you don’t see that very often! We turned southeast at SD34 while the trailer pulling a trailer went straight down US85. We hit I-90 at Whitewood west of Sturgis. A little while later, the trailer pulling a trailer passed us at about 70mph. He must have taken US85 due south and got on I-90 west of Spearfish. Ours was definitely the shorter, faster route.

We pulled into the Elks Lodge in Rapid City around 1:30pm. I parked in the front lot while we figured out how to set up. This is a very nice lodge – one of the largest and cleanest lodges we’ve visited. This is the first lodge we’ve been to where the bar is open to the public. This is due to the golf course on the lodge property which is also open to the public. The RV lot is for Elks members only.

We dropped the trailer in the main parking lot and backed the coach into site four. We have 50amp electric service and fresh water, no sewer hook up. We paid for four nights and shouldn’t have any worries about sewer. The 50 amp electric service was needed – we had to run the generator on the road to power the front roof air conditioner. Once hooked up, we ran both roof A/Cs – it was 100 degrees outside! The average high temperature in July for Rapid City is 85 degrees – we were in for a few days with highs above average.

We had a problem with one of the basement compartment doors over the last couple of days on the road. The door popped open a few times. I adjusted the plate the latch attaches to, but it still wasn’t very secure. On Monday, I found an Ace Hardware store and bought a flat brass bar one-inch wide. I had them cut a three-inch section. I glued this flat bar to the latch plate effectively extending the height of the plate. The door latches securely now and shouldn’t be a problem down the road. While I was out, I picked up a few groceries.

Meanwhile, Donna was out for a bike ride in the 90 degree heat. She planned a route looking at a map and headed out for a 24-mile ride. Little did she know her route included some steep climbs! She got through it though.

I went online Monday and found the local Department of Public Safety (DPS) licensing office. I found out they take appointments for driver’s license exams and renewals. Donna lost her driver’s license back in November in San Diego – she figures it must have slipped out of the slot in her purse when she pulled her cell phone out. I scheduled an appointment at the DPS office a few miles from the lodge for 10am Tuesday morning. They advise arriving 10 minutes prior to the appointment time.

We walked into the DPS office 12 minutes before 10am. They had a sign telling us to take a number after we completed the application paperwork. Donna had already completed the application so she took a number. Then I saw another sign telling us to notify a clerk if we had an appointment. Donna told a woman at the counter she had an appointment and gave her name. She was told that she would be next in line.

We sat down to wait and within two minutes Donna’s name was called. The woman at the counter entered Donna’s application in her computer terminal, took her photograph and printed her new driver’s license in less than ten minutes! I’ve never experienced such efficiency at a government agency.

We were back on the Spyder and on the road a couple of minutes past 10am. We headed up US16 and turned off at 16A. We were headed to Mount Rushmore. We visited the monument in 2013 when we first hit the road as full-timers (post).

Once we got through the tourist town of Keystone, we hit a traffic jam trying to enter the monument. There was a crew painting new road lettering and arrows and they had a lane closed. This confused the traffic as it was forced to converge into two lanes from three – the two lanes that are for entry to the monument. Through traffic had to go around the crew, then get out of the entry lane at the entrance and get back on the highway. We baked in the sun for 20 minutes trying to enter.

When we were here before, we paid the $10 fee to park and were planning to show our National Parks pass inside but there was no entrance fee. This time I showed my National Parks pass and was told the pass doesn’t do anything for me at the monument – everyone has to pay for a parking permit to enter the monument. So I paid $10 again. We walked through the monument viewing area. We both thought the famous sculptures looked like they had been cleaned since our last visit.

Donna in front of the state flags display

At the viewing pavillion

We didn’t stay long. We went back to Keystone for lunch at Peggy’s Cafe. We were disappointed in the food quality – not on our recommended list. I wanted to take the scenic drive down Needles Highway again but realized that would mean we had to fight our way through the traffic jam at the monument again.

I decided to ride the Spyder down 16A to SD87 and we could come up the Needles Highway from the bottom. This route took us through Custer State Park. At the park entrance there was a sign advising a fee for a park pass to use any of the parks facilities – through traffic on the highway didn’t need a pass. So I carried on without stopping.

At the turn-off to Needles Highway we were stopped and an agent told us we had to purchase a pass to enter the highway, even if we didn’t plan to stop. I didn’t recall paying anything four years ago when we drove down the highway. I paid $10 for a pass.

Needles Highway is very scenic – and it’s slow. The road is narrow and full of twists and turns. There are six tunnels – some a as narrow as eight feet seven inches. I don’t know how the tour buses which are eight feet six inches wide manage to get through, but they do.

I didn’t stop to take photos at the Cathedral Spires which are granite columns – needle like – towering along a section of road. I thought we would come back down the highway and I would get pictures then. We went all the way to Sylvan Lake before stopping to stretch our legs.

Sylvan Lake

We were hot and the route was longer than I anticipated. We didn’t have enough fuel to back-track down the highway. We cooled off in the shade and Donna even put her feet in the lake.

Donna cooling off in Sylvan Lake

We exited the highway at the top end and rode back to Rapid City. We had put in about 110 miles and spent four hours on the Spyder. We had enough sightseeing for one day – we were getting saddle sore.

We ended the day with grilled green chile turkey burgers cooked on the Weber Q for dinner and some leftover red potato salad.

Green chile turkey burger

I opened an IPA called Total Domination from Ninkasi Brewing in Eugene, Oregon.

Ninkasi Total Domination

We’re thinking about going to a barbeque and rodeo later today – it depends on the weather. For the last three days, a thunder shower developed in the late afternoon. Usually it blows through quickly but we had a considerable amount of rain along with high winds, thunder and lightning last night.

Tomorrow we’ll head east and probably make an overnight stop near Chamberlain before we check in for a week in Sioux Falls.

Bass Lake

We went to the social hour at the clubhouse here at Escapees Park of the Sierras Friday night. The social hour is a happy hour combined with heavy potluck appetizers – it’s enough to call it dinner. Everyone brings a dish of food to share and their own drink of choice. Donna brought a vodka and grapefruit juice cocktail while I brought a bomber bottle of  bourbon barrel aged ale.

559 Bourbon Barrel Aged

This ale from 559 was amazing. Instead of imparting sweetness from the bourbon barrel, it had a nice flavor with a tart finish. Even at 8% ABV it wasn’t heavy at all. I really liked it.

Saturday was Donna’s birthday. Traditionally we go out to dinner at the restaurant of her choice on her birthday. Donna chose Ducey’s on the Lake up at Bass Lake. We headed out on the Spyder around 3:45pm. We rode up CA41 through Oakhurst. A couple of miles north of Oakhurst we turned onto road 222. We followed 222 until it became 274 – it changed names a couple more times before we got to the village of Bass Lake. It was a 22-mile ride and we made good time.

It’s been at least thirty years since I last visited Bass Lake. The first time I came here was 1965 or ’66 – I can’t remember for sure. I was about 10 years old and came here with my family. We spent the weekend in a cabin belonging to a friend of my father and fished. I think we all caught fish, but I remember my mom caught the most.

Later, in the late ’70s and early ’80s, my step-dad had a time share in a cabin and we spent a few long weekends here. Of course today I don’t recognize the place. Instead of a few cabins in the woods around the lake, there are many full-size houses with boat docks. There are resorts in the village including a large one called The Pines Resort. Ducey’s restaurant dates back to the end of World War II if I remember correctly. It was originally a family-run operation in a small building. Now it’s owned by The Pines Resort and is located in a large log structure overlooking The Pines marina and Bass Lake.

Bass Lake is a reservoir that was created in 1896 when a dam was built. It was originally called Crane Valley Lake. It’s in the Sierra National Forest. The lake is about four and a half miles long and less than half a mile wide in most places. From the southern tip, it’s oriented to the northwest. Even though it’s on a tilted heading, most people refer to the long shorelines as the north shore or the south shore. Bass Lake Village and The Pines Resort are located on the north shore about halfway down the lake.

Donna and I strolled around the commercial area of the village. We popped in to Pines Bar for a cold one, but left before ordering. It was a dive bar with no view. We walked down to Ducey’s on the Lake and went to their upstairs bar. We had a commanding view of the lake from there and enjoyed a cold one. They had a good selection of beers on tap, including some local beer.

At 5pm we went downstairs to the restaurant for dinner. We had window side table and a nice view of the lake. There was a lot of activity at the marina and on the lake. This was obviously a popular destination for the long Memorial Day weekend. Before we ordered, we saw a number of people pointing and looking out the windows. There was a wedding reception in the resort’s banquet hall and the bride and groom were walking toward the marina.

The groom was a naval officer. The newlyweds were accompanied by an honor guard of four navy officers, three marine officers and a marine Gunnery Sergeant. The honor guard raised ceremonial swords over the couple as the wedding photographer shot pictures. They lowered their swords before I could snap a shot.

Wedding party – reception hall in the background

View of the marina and lake from our table

Donna ordered the 10-ounce prime rib plate with a sauteed mushrooms and a side of scalloped potatoes made with ham chunks, green chiles and cheddar cheese. I had the petite filet mignon. The food was very good.

Donna’s birthday dinner plate

On the way out of the village, we made a quick stop where Willow Creek empties into Bass Lake’s northern tip to take in the view.

Willow Creek

North end of Bass Lake from Willow Creek

Donna ready to saddle up

The weather warmed over the weekend. We had a high of 80 on Saturday and in the upper 80s on Sunday. We played pickleball both mornings here at the park. Sunday morning we played for a few hours with Melinda and Joe – it was just the four of us. It was really fun as we were able to work on strategies and tactics. Pickleball is in its fledgling stages here – Melinda and Joe are working hard to get it going. This makes it difficult to put together competitive games. Melinda and Joe are intermediate level players but oftentimes they are paired with beginners to make up doubles teams. This will sort out as more people play and the beginners gain experience.

Today is Memorial Day – we should take a moment to reflect on the meaning of it. It’s a day to honor the memory of those who sacrificed all for our country. I want to give thanks to them and their families.

 

 

Last Dance in San Diego

Our last week in San Diego was filled with the usual activities and then some. I hit the pickleball courts and happy hours at Offshore Tavern and Grill and Dan Diego’s. In addition to getting some writing done, Donna got in some cycling and also attended a beach workout sponsored by San Diego Magazine.

In my last post, I described the dead end I hit trying to change out Sini’s kitchen faucet. After discussing the issue with my friends Mark and Paul – both have earned their living as plumbers their entire adult lifetimes – they came to the same conclusion. I would have to cut the frozen brass nut off of the old faucet with a sawzall reciprocating saw to remove it. I had two problems with this. First – I don’t have a sawzall. Second, I would most likely damage Sini’s sink if I used a sawzall on the faucet nut. I hated to do it, but I had to tell Sini I wouldn’t be able to complete the job.

On Friday night, Donna, Sini and I went to Offshore Tavern and Grill. We were joined by Sini’s friends, Larry and Cindy, who were visiting from Washington. We ordered dinner from the happy hour menu – Sini and Donna went for the poke plate while Larry and Cindy had carne asada tacos. I went for the seared yellowfin tuna – delicious.

Seared yellowfin tuna

We left Offshore around 7pm and headed over to Tio Leo’s – a Mexican restaurant and bar a few miles south of Offshore. We met up with our friends, Carole Sue and Mona, there. It was my night out with the girls.

Carole Sue, Donna, Sini, Mona and me

The Siers Brothers Band was playing at Tio Leo’s. This was the second time we saw this band – we saw them at the end of April at the Beachcomber. This time they had another member – a singer fronting the band – he did a smooth rendition of the Righteous Brothers’ You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling. They were as good as before – we really enjoyed their performance and I even hit the dance floor with Donna for a couple of songs.

Siers Brothers Band

Steve Siers

Steve Siers and his brother Mark play guitar in the band. They trade off lead and rhythm parts. It was interesting to see their different approach and style of playing. Mark tended to be true to the original recordings and played the lead parts pretty much note for note. Steve was a little more free-form and put his own twist on the solos. It was really evident when they covered Tom Petty’s Last Dance with Mary Jane. Mark also plays hot slide guitar and really cooked on the Allman Brothers One Way Out.

On Saturday, the kitchen faucet saga came to a close. Sini’s current faucet works fine – no leaks or problems – she just wanted to upgrade it. Since I couldn’t get the job done, she decided to wait on replacing it rather than hiring a plumber to do it. Meanwhile, Donna really liked the faucet Sini bought so she decided to buy it from Sini so I could install it in our coach.

I replaced our faucet two years ago but Donna wasn’t entirely happy with the one I put in. There wasn’t anything wrong with it, but it was too low and she didn’t like the way the sprayer functioned. The faucet Sini bought was a Delta high-rise pull-down kitchen and bar faucet. I figured it wouldn’t be too difficult to remove our faucet since it was only two years old and not corroded.

Our “old” kitchen faucet

Of course I had to deal with a cramped work space, but there was more room than I had in Sini’s cabinet.

Cramped workspace

As I suspected, the threads on the hold down nut weren’t corroded at all and removal was easy.

Clean threads and easy removal

Installing the new faucet was straight forward and I had the job done in less than an hour.

New high-rise pull-down faucet

Donna is happy with her new faucet. She likes the way the sprayer works and the high-rise design gives her more room in the sink. A happy ending to the faucet story. Sini will probably have her faucet changed when she returns here in the fall – she’s spending the summer up in Washington and her coach will be in storage.

The weather has been a mixed bag this week. We had a few showers at the beginning of the week. The pattern has been cloudy mornings with sunshine in the afternoon. The temperature has reached the upper 60s everyday. Today may be a little cooler.

I have a few things to accomplish today. We’re pulling out of here tomorrow so I’ll need to pack the trailer, check tire pressures and put away the tire covers and windshield cover. Tomorrow we’ll drive 90 miles up to Hemet where we’ll check in at Golden Village Palms RV Resort. I got a great rate on a 70′ pull-through site there with our Passport America discount – under $30/night.

 

Is Three Enough?

I made my usual stop at Dan Diego’s Thursday for a cold one with the Bay Park guys. When I was leaving through the alley in back, I saw a medium size bird with a bright red tail land on a utility cable over the alley. It was an African grey parrot! I stopped to shoot a photo but I only got one back lit shot before it flew away.

African grey parrot

African grey parrots are native to equatorial Africa – and they’re grey in color with red tails. They are popular as pets because they have an uncanny ability to mimic human speech. This bird must have been an escapee or released from captivity.

There are a few neighborhoods in San Diego that have flocks of parrots – mostly conures. These birds are also medium size and are mostly green – some have red heads. They’re native to Mexico and Central America. No one knows for sure how they got here, but they’ve been around for decades. Some say they’ve seen wild parrots here since the 1960s.

Donna and Sini went grocery shopping Thursday morning. I arrived back at the coach from the rec center just after they got back. They told me about a fifth-wheel trailer that pulled in ahead of them and they said it looked like it had wood siding – like a wood cabin.

After dinner, we took a walk through the park and found it. It was actually aluminum siding that had been air brushed to look like wood. The person that painted it was definitely an artist – the visual effect was unbelievable. We talked briefly with the owner and asked if I could take pictures.

Air brushed fifth-wheel

The painter put his initials here

MagikShop is the name of the place that painted it

On another subject, I think I have a collector bug. At one time, I collected watches. When Donna bought me a pair of cowboy boots last summer, I soon ended up with three pairs. A couple of months ago, while we were at ViewPoint RV and Golf Resort in Arizona, I decided to buy a folding pocket knife with a locking blade. We were receiving a lot of packages and I had to cut the boxes into smaller pieces to put them in a recycle bin. I was tired of retrieving a box cutter from the trailer every time I had to do it.

A folding pocket knife seemed like the answer. I did a little research online. I didn’t want anything too fancy, just a reasonably priced knife from a reputable company that would hold a decent edge. Pocket knives come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Further, it’s important to know and understand the materials they’re made from. The blade steel type is important as it determines how sharp the edge can be, how easy it is to sharpen the knife and how well it will hold an edge. The other consideration is the material used for the scales – the gripping surface on the handle of the knife.

I looked around a little and found a Spyderco Tenacious on Amazon that fit my wants. It was reasonably priced around $40. The blade steel was 8Cr13MoV – a Chinese steel that sharpens easily and has decent edge retention. The scales were G10 – a synthetic material that’s durable and provides good grip. I ordered it and put it to good use in the following months.

Then I started reading more about knife steel and the Spyderco range of pocket folders. I wanted something a little lighter with better edge retention that would fit in my pocket. I found another folding pocket knife with a locking blade called a Spyderco Delica 4. This one cost twice as much as the first knife I bought due to the quality of the materials. The blade is made from VG-10 steel. This is a Japanese steel formulated for knife blades. The scales are fiberglass reinforced nylon (FRN) for lightness. It’s very light and disappears when clipped in my pocket.

That led me to another one – a Spyderco Chaparral. This is the most expensive of the three and has a blade made from CTS-XHP steel. This steel was developed and is made by an American company – Carpenter Technology Corporation. Many high end knife makers consider CTS-XHP to be the best blade steel currently available. The scales on this knife are carbon fiber. It’s ultra lightweight and thin. The build quality is obvious.

Top to bottom Spyderco Tenacious, Delica 4 and Chaparral

A knife collection doesn’t take much space. But, where does it stop? What’s the point of having a drawer full of pocket knives? I can only use one at a time and I really don’t need a lot of specialty knives. I don’t know – all I needed was something convenient to cut cardboard but now I have three.

Yesterday was Cinco de Mayo – a Mexican holiday commemorating the battle of Puebla in 1862 during the Mexican-Franco war. It also happens to be the anniversary of our marriage. Donna and I were married on the fifth day of May in 2006. We always go out to a nice restaurant for dinner on our anniversary.

While we were getting ready to go out, I saw another unusual sight. Someone had put out two small bowls in a vacant RV site. One had some kind of food in it and the other had water. A pair of mallards were dining and drinking there. They seemed very tame.

Mallards dining and drinking

The weather was much cooler. We decided to take an Uber ride to the Cafe Bella Italia in Pacific Beach where I had dinner reservations. As we were in front of the RV park, our Uber driver cancelled and Donna received a message telling her to order another ride. Right about then, Sini drove into the park. She pulled over and got her dog, Ziggy, out of the car and told us to take her car and forget about Uber. Thanks, Sini!

Today we expect a high temperature of 63 degrees – matching yesterday’s high. There’s a 50% chance of rain showers today. Tomorrow’s forecast calls for a 90% chance of rain and a high of only 61 degrees.

 

*Just so you know, if you follow one of my links to Amazon and decide to make a purchase, you pay the same price as usual and  I’ll earn a few pennies for the referral. It’ll go into the beer fund. Thanks!

 

 

Cadman Park Gang

I took a break from pickleball on Friday and took care of a few domestic chores. First of all, I dumped and flushed our holding tanks. I usually do this once a week when we’re on full hook-ups. Then I took care of house cleaning. Donna often says that when you live in 300 square feet of space, everywhere is a high traffic area. High traffic areas require frequent cleaning. I also cleaned out the shower drain and had the place ship-shape by noon.

My next task was adjusting the parking brake on the Spyder. As the brake pads wear and the parking brake cable stretches, it goes out of adjustment. With too much slack in the cable, it becomes difficult to get the brake to release once it’s applied. The procedure calls for tightening the adjusters until the brake applies, then backing off the adjustment lock nut four and a half turns. Sounds precise but it’s really only a guideline. It’s more of a trial and error process until you get it right.

Friday afternoon was warm – the temperature reached 84 degrees. Around 3pm, I rode the Spyder to CVS in Pacific Beach to pick up a couple of items. Although CVS is only a few miles from Mission Bay RV Resort, it was a tough ride. Traffic was backed up on Mission Bay Drive and barely moving. Grand Avenue wasn’t much better. It took me about 20 minutes to get to CVS. I planned to go to Offshore Tavern and Grill around 4pm for a cold one with the guys. I could see that getting out of Pacific Beach on Grand Avenue or Garnet Avenue would be slow going.

I took an alternate route that was much longer mileage-wise but ultimately I think it was quicker. I rode south on Ingraham Street to Sea World Drive, then hit Morena Boulevard and continued onward to Offshore Tavern and Grill. With Donna away visiting her parents in Vermont, I decided to take advantage of the happy hour pricing and ordered a poke plate for dinner. Poke (po-KEY) is cubes of sushi grade ahi tuna over chopped cabbage with green onions and Asian dressing. Fried wonton chips and avocado complete the dish. It’s delicious.

Poke plate

Saturday was another warm day with the temperature reaching the mid-80s. As I was getting ready to head over to Cadman Park for a get-together with old friends from my school days, Ozark was taking her usual mid-day nap on her bed attached to the living room window. With abundant sunshine, she needed to shield her eyes while she slept. She does this when it’s bright outside.

Ozark shielding her eyes while she naps

We had about a dozen people show up at Cadman Park. Someone was grilling burgers and we had snacks out. We stood around and talked over a couple of beers.

Some of the gang at Cadman Park

There were some people I haven’t seen in a few years and there were some I haven’t seen in decades – Mike McMahon, J D Mincey and John Drake. A little after 3pm, we moved the venue to the patio at Offshore Tavern and Grill and a few more people showed up. It was a fun time.

Party on at Offshore

I left before 5pm and came home to watch the Moto GP qualifying and Moto America races from Austin, Texas.

Today we have cooler weather. We may see 70 degrees, but it won’t be any warmer than that. I’m meeting up with Gary Stemple and a few friends at Dana Point around 1pm to go out on his boat for some wake boarding. Sounds like it’ll be another fun afternoon.

 

 

 

Ribs and Racing

Last week I played pickleball five days straight – I played for about two and half hours per day. Donna laid low getting over the cold she picked up while she was in Sedona. On Saturday, Donna borrowed a car from our friend Lana so she could take Ozark the cat to the vet. We suspected that she might have a tapeworm.

Before I dropped Donna off at Lana’s house we made a stop at Seńor Taco for an early lunch. This was our favorite taco shop when we lived in Mesa. They had a two fish taco plate on special for five bucks, including a 20-ounce drink.

Chipotle fish tacos

The tacos were huge and smothered with a chipotle sauce – tasty.

While Donna was out and about, I made a run to a well-known local butcher shop called Midwestern Meats on Main Street. They have high quality meats that are processed on site. We were having company for dinner on Sunday and I wanted to have another go at babyback ribs. The ribs at Midwestern Meats are not like the babybacks I typically find at the grocery store.

Most grocery stores have their babyback ribs delivered from a processing plant where they’re vacuum sealed. Midwestern cuts their own ribs fresh daily. They cut them differently from the mass production butchers. The ribs are meatier and most of the fat is carefully trimmed away.

Babyback ribs from Midwestern Meats

All I had to do was remove the membrane from the bone side of the rack of ribs.

Membrane on bone side

I dusted them with my rib rub which is three parts Pappy’s Choice seasoning and two parts Lambert’s Sweet Rub O’Mine.

Dry-rubbed racks of ribs

I wrapped them and put them in the refrigerator overnight and relaxed with a bottle of IPA Donna bought for me. It was one I hadn’t tried before called DFRNT IPA from Sonoran Brew Company – and it was different alright. Somehow they’ve managed to make a well-balanced brew at 6.2% ABV and only 42 IBUs. This seems like a low number of bittering units and suggests a lack of hops. However, the brew balances nicely and has adequate hoppiness without being over-the-top hoppy.

DFRNT IPA

Sunday was race day for me – I was a couch potato as I watched racing on TV most of the day. I started with the Formula One Grand Prix from Shanghai. It was an interesting race that started on a wet track that quickly dried. Then I watched the Moto GP race in Argentina. Another good one. Then in the afternoon I finished with the Indy Car race at Long Beach, California.

The Long Beach Grand Prix is run on a street course in downtown Long Beach. The first race there was in 1975. An Englishman named Chris Pook, who was running a travel agency in Long Beach, came up with the idea as the city was trying to gentrify and rebuild their image. He envisioned a Grand Prix featuring the best cars and racers in the world – Formula One – racing on the streets as they do in Monaco. The course would take the cars down Shoreline Drive past the iconic Queen Mary cruise ship.

Before the FIA would sanction a Formula One race, the city had to demonstrate its ability to actually operate as a race track. In September of 1975, they held a Formula 5000 race as the inaugural event. I went to that race with my friends Jim Birditt and Steve Drake.

Formula 5000 was chosen as it was a popular class in the USA – as well as in Britain and Australia – at the time. In the USA, the class was sanctioned by the SCCA and USAC. The rules called for an open wheel chassis powered by a stock block V8 engine of no more than 5000cc – five liters. The most popular engine for the class was the Chevy 302 cu. in. V8. The engines utilized mechanical fuel injection and produced plenty of torque and about 500 horsepower. In the lightweight chassis – about 1200 lbs total weight – they were beasts to drive as the tire technology back in the day could barely provide enough grip.

The race was fierce with many top drivers competing. Mario Andretti and Brian Redmond had quite the battle. Brian Redmond was the race winner after Mario Andretti retired with transmission problems. I was looking through a packet of old photos on Saturday when I found a program I had saved from that race in 1975.

Race program from 1975

In March of 1976, the first Formula One race was held at Long Beach. I was there for that one too. Clay Reggazoni won in a Ferrari 312T2 and his team mate Niki Lauda was second. I attended several of the eight Formula One races held there – I saw Gilles Villeneuve win in 1979. The final Formula One race at Long Beach was held in 1983 and I saw John Watson take the checkered flag after starting 22nd on the grid.

I put the babyback ribs on the Traeger wood pellet fired smoker/grill while the race was on TV. With the racks of ribs trimmed the way they were, I was little unsure of the cooking time. After about 140 minutes, I wrapped the ribs in foil and let them cook for another 40 minutes. They came out fine – I probably should have wrapped about 10 or 15 minutes earlier to retain more moisture.

Our friends Howard and Sara Graff joined us for cocktails and dinner along with their daughter, Kenna. Kenna enjoyed playing with Ozark the cat – thanks Kenna for wearing Ozark out – it made for a nice quiet night’s sleep for me! Sara brought home made cornbread and Donna served up green beans and garlic smashed potatoes with the ribs. I got so wrapped up in conversation and story telling that I neglected to take any photos of the group or dinner plate. I had a bottle of Sculpin IPA with the dinner and I have a photo of that though.

Sculpin IPA from Ballast Point in San Diego

This morning, Donna joined me on the pickleball courts and we played for two and half hours. Today was the first time I played without a bandaid on my left finger that I injured last week. It’s mending nicely.

Finger on the mend

We’re expecting a high temperature of 82 today and it will warm up to near 90 over the next two days. I’ll be busy getting the trailer squared away and preparing for our departure on Thursday.

And, oh, by the way, we’re not sure if Ozark had a tapeworm or not, but the vet treated her anyway as it wouldn’t hurt. She also got a rabies vaccination booster shot.

 

RV Renovators – Days 5 – 6 – A Night Out

As I expected, no work on the coach happened on Friday. The shop closes over the weekend so we had nothing in particular to do here. Friday was a rainy day. Donna planned to have a rental car for the weekend and Enterprise was scheduled to pick us up between 3 and 4pm.

A guy from the shop knocked on our door and asked us if we needed to use the dump station. He mentioned that no one would be here over the weekend and if we wanted use it, now was the time. I didn’t know they had a dump station on site. It had only been four days so we told him we were good for the weekend.

They marked the areas of concern on our coach where structural damage was evident from the deer strike. The huge mule deer buck leaped at full speed into the living room slide right behind the driver’s seat. You can see in the photo the large area on the left marked where the initial impact was. Further down to the right you can see where a hoof struck the fiberglass and cracked it as the buck spun and whipped around against the side of the coach. There’s another area of damage farther back that I couldn’t fit into the frame. This was the extent of the work done in our first four days here.

Damaged areas identified

Photos like this one were sent to the insurance adjuster. Hopefully he’ll comprehend the extent of the damage this time.

The woman from Enterprise phoned us at 3pm and said she was on her way. We waited about 15 minutes before we walked out in front of the sales office. A light rain was falling. She drove us to the Enterprise office on McKellips Road – I gave her directions for the best way to get back there. It was her first day at that location and she hadn’t figured out the best routes yet.

While we were handling the paperwork, the rain started pouring down. We inspected the rental car in driving rain with deep puddles around the car. From there we drove to Red, White and Brew – a couple of miles away.

We met our friends Lana and Joel there for happy hour and an early dinner. We had lots of fun conversation and good food. Donna and Lana both went for Donna’s favorite dish there – Mussels vin Blanc – which are green lip mussels sauteed with white wine, butter, garlic and lemon. Joel and I split a pizza. As always, the food was great.

The rain moved out Saturday, but it was a windy and relatively cold day. I spent most of the day reading a book while Donna went for a walk and did a little writing. I mentioned our water conservation efforts. In the afternoon, Donna did about a day and half’s worth of dishes. She used an expandable dish tub on one side of the sink and a dish drying rack on the other. In the photo, you can see how little water it takes if you’re careful.

Conserving water while doing the dishes

There’s less than an inch and half of water in the dish tub – this the amount she used to wash and rinse the dishes. I dumped the dish water outside in a gravel area of the lot.

Donna went to Sprouts later in the afternoon and did some shopping while we had the rental car. She joked that when she left the store, she hated to claim such a hideous looking car. It’s a bright green Kia Soul and I’ll have to admit it’s not the prettiest car on the market. It’s new though with only 230 miles on the odometer and it drives fine.

Saturday night we drove the car to D’vine, a wine bar and restaurant on Power Road near Red, White and Brew. We met our friends Ron and Dara there. Donna and Dara met years ago when we lived here and they bicycled together. We last saw them about three years ago when we were camped at Phon D Sutton on the Salt River. Since then they moved away to Denver, Colorado. By chance, they were here in Mesa because Ron had a conference to attend and Dara tagged along to see old friends. We had  a wonderful time talking and enjoying happy hour for about an hour and a half. Ron generously picked up the tab – thanks, Ron!

On Sunday, we planned to head over to the Mesa Mezona Inn a few miles from RV Renovators on Main Street near Country Club. Donna snagged a half-price deal on Booking.com. I wanted to check in by 2pm so I could watch the game which I thought was kicking off around 2:30pm. Donna was out for walk when I looked online and realized I had the time wrong. The game would kick off at 1:30pm!

After Donna came back from her walk, we quickly loaded up the car and headed out. It was only going to be one night, so we didn’t need much and Donna had already packed most of her things.

By the time we checked in, the game had already started. Atlanta had already scored on their opening drive as I carried our things up to the room. I swiped the room card through the door lock and nothing happened. I tried the second card and got the same result.

I went back to the front desk and the guy ran the cards through the programmer again. Back at the room, I had the same result – no action from the door lock. At the front desk once again, the guy told me he would send a maintenance guy to the room.

He was able to unlock the door with his master key, but our keys still didn’t work. He said he had to reprogram the lock again. By then the first quarter of the game was nearly over. I turned on the TV while we waited for the lock to be repaired.

When I turned the TV so I could see the screen from an easy chair, I lost the signal. I turned the TV back so it faced the bed again and it started working. I figured I’d have to sit on the bed and watch the game. Oh, well.

After the guy fixed the door lock, Donna told him I was having trouble with the TV signal. He said, “It’s probably a loose cable” and proceeded to start tugging on the cables and I lost the signal in middle of a play! I went over and carefully manipulated the cable box until it started working again and I told the guy I was okay with it as it was.

But after he left, the signal started cutting out intermittently. I looked at the cables and could see the coaxial cable from the wall to the box had a bad connector at the box. I lined it up carefully and it started working again. Meanwhile Donna had unpacked our stuff. I phoned the front desk and asked if they could send someone up with a new coax cable.

A few minutes later the phone rang. It was the guy at the front desk telling me he would have to move us to another room as they didn’t have any replacement cables! I told him I had it working now and didn’t want to pack up and move.

The football games weren’t that interesting at the end of the day. The Atlanta Falcons’ offensive juggernaut continued as they put up 44 points and handily beat the Packers. The next game was another blowout as New England beat Pittsburgh 36-17.

Sleeping on the hotel mattress made me appreciate our Leesa foam mattress – it’s much more comfortable. After a complimentary breakfast at the hotel and long, hot showers, we came back to RV Renovators around 10am. I was surprised to find a scissor-lift next to the coach and a couple of guys starting work. They planned to pull the window awnings and slide topper and start removing trim today. Rain is in the forecast this afternoon, so they won’t start work in earnest until tomorrow.

 

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.