Category Archives: Restaurants

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.


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 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.



Blazing Noodles

The rain continued on Friday. Nearly three-quarters of an inch fell on Thursday and Friday, bringing the total for the month over 1.6 inches. This is more than the average December total in San Diego.

Donna and I drove up to Temecula to meet my step-dad, Ken for lunch. He wanted to have lunch at the Pechanga Casino. The Pechanga Casino is on the Pechanga Indian Reservation and it’s the largest casino in California. The casino floor encompasses 188,000 square feet – it’s larger than the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. It’s not your typical Indian casino.

There are 11 restaurants in the Pechanga Casino. Ken wanted to meet at a restaurant called Blazing Noodles. It was an old favorite of his and my late mother. We posed for a couple of photos in front of a large Christmas tree in front of the restaurant.

Donna and Ken at Pechanga

Me and Ken


Blazing Noodles serves Asian style dishes. The food is good and the portions are huge. We all brought home boxes of leftover food. We exchanged Christmas gifts before we left. I may not see Ken again until we return to San Diego in April.

It’s windy here this morning with cloudy skies. It rained hard overnight and more rain is expected today. The current temperature is 56 degrees and it’s not forecast to rise any higher today and tomorrow is supposed to only reach 58 degrees.

We’re looking forward to Christmas dinner with Kris and Tom Downey tomorrow. I hope everyone has a great Christmas weekend.

Toads and Toilets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Water inlet valve

Water inlet valve

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

Ziggy and Ozark

Ziggy and Ozark

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

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

Toilet mounts on four studs

Toilet mounts on four studs

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

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

India Pale Ale

India Pale Ale

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

Loco moco

Loco moco

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

Linda, Sini and Donna on top of Mount Soledad

Linda, Sini and Donna on top of Mount Soledad

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

Mission Brewing IPA

Mission Brewery IPA

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

A Surprise Visit

It’s almost time for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta again. It’s hard to believe a year has gone by since I learned to crew a hot air balloon. The event officially starts on Saturday, October 1st and runs through Sunday, October 9th. Things will begin for us on Thursday as we move and set up our rig with the Escapees Boomers Group outside the Balloon Fiesta Park.

I forgot to mention in my last post that Donna manned the grill while I watched Monday Night Football. The grill is usually my domain, but she did a fine job grilling a mojo marinated pork tenderloin. We planned to cook the tenderloin on the weekend, but gusty winds and thundershowers meant it stayed in the refrigerator. It didn’t hurt it to marinate for a couple of days – in fact it came out excellent. She roasted green chilaca peppers with it and served it with a side of steamed green beans.

Mojo marinated pork with roasted chilaca pepper

Mojo marinated pork with roasted chilaca pepper

Tuesday morning we went to the Los Duranes Community Center for pickleball. We played for two hours and had a good time as always. This community center is a nice facility and it’s open to the public – no charge!

After pickleball it was noon and we were hungry. We stopped at Blake’s Lotaburger – a popular chain of fast food in Albuquerque. We both ordered their signature burger – Lotaburger with green chile and cheese. Spicy, but very tasty. We don’t eat fast food often, but we were happy we stopped and tried the green chile cheeseburgers.

I had a couple of errands to run and also took the Spyder to a self-serve car wash to clean it up in the afternoon. It was overdue, but it’s looking good now.

I saw on Facebook that our friends Dave and Stilla Hobden entered New Mexico on I-40 in their Alpine Coach. They’re traveling west after spending time in Tennessee visiting family. They are on their way to an Alpine Coach rally in Pahrump, Nevada. Dave phoned me and said they wanted to stop and see us – they could make it to the Enchanted Trails RV Park by 5pm and stay the night.

We saw them pull in and after giving them a chance to set up, we walked over to their site. After a short visit we all came to our site for happy hour. Donna cut up and reheated the leftover pork tenderloin and we made street tacos for dinner.

Stilla, Donna and Dave

Stilla, Donna and Dave

It was great visiting and catching up with them – we last got together in January at Lake Havasu. Dave and Stilla pulled out of here around 9:30am this morning. They’re planning for a long day as they need to be in Pahrump tomorrow.

We pulled out on the Spyder right behind them. I dropped Donna off at a Starbuck’s by Costco on Coors Boulevard. She was meeting Jessica Rice and Ruth Garner. They were going to do some meal planning over coffee at the Starbuck’s then pick up provisions at Costco. There will be a lot of tailgating at the Balloon Fiesta.

Meanwhile I made a stop at Dan’s Boot and Saddle Shop on 4th Avenue. I wanted to see an assortment of boots and make some comparisons. You can only learn so much online – sometimes you need to actually touch and feel them and see the workmanship first-hand. Dan’s had a wide selection and I saw several boots I’d only read about before.

Then I stopped at Smith’s Grocery and bought two racks of babyback ribs. My original plan was to smoke a brisket for the potluck dinner at the Rice’s house where we’ll kick-off the Balloon Fiesta Thursday night. Then I realized with the move to Balloon Fiesta Park and set-up time, I wouldn’t have enough time left in the day to smoke a brisket. So I changed up the plan and will put Memphis-style babyback ribs on the Traeger to bring to the potluck.

I don’t know all of the details yet, but we will display the Heart’s A’Fire hot air balloon at a local school on Friday morning. The actual event begins on Saturday and I’ll be at the Balloon Fiesta Park by 5am. We also have an evening glow event on Saturday, so it will be a long day.

I usually try to post to this blog in the morning hours, but with the Balloon Fiesta schedule I won’t be doing that. I expect to post irregularly over the next 12 days.

By the way, WordPress finally fixed the bug that stopped the e-mail notifications. So, if you are a subscriber, you should be getting e-mail notifications when I publish a new blog post.