Category Archives: Restaurants

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.

Wild Hogs and Young Guns

We left the Santa Fe Elks Lodge just before noon on Wednesday. Our destination was only about eight or nine miles away – the Los Suenos De Santa Fe RV Park. This park is a little pricier than we usually pay, but we love the location. I’d mapped our route on Google Maps before we headed out. I hit a snag at the first turn off Old Pecos Trail. I’d planned on taking West Zia Road to Rodeo Road, but there was a sign prohibiting vehicles over five tons on that road. We weigh more than three times that.

That’s why I like to use our Rand-McNally RVND 7720 GPS – it’s specifically programmed for RVs. I input our weight, length, height, amount of propane on board and other factors. It stores this information and uses it every time it suggests a route. I don’t have to worry about being overweight or encountering a low bridge or overpass.

I continued on Old Pecos Trail and hit Rodeo Road. It only added a mile or so to the route. We stayed at this park last year and knew they had long pull-through sites. The pull-throughs are 70 feet long but relatively narrow. I remembered it being difficult to maneuver into the sites – you have to make a sharp 90-degree turn off a relatively narrow road and enter the site between two concrete barriers. Whoever came up with this design doesn’t understand that 70-foot long sites are intended for big rigs. Threading your way between concrete barriers is unnecessarily risky.

When we pulled up to site 76, there was a truck in the back-in site behind it, preventing me from swinging wide enough to enter our site. Donna and I agreed the best course of action was to make a loop of the park and back into the site from the front side. There aren’t any barriers on the front end and the road is wider there. I was able to back in the trailer in one shot, only pulling forward a bit to straighten it out. Much better than trying to get past the concrete.

You're supposed to enter the site between these concrete barriers

You’re supposed to enter the site between these concrete barriers

A few rain drops fell while we were setting up, but it wasn’t a big deal. Later I relaxed and read a book. Donna made lemon chicken with creamed spinach and brown basmati rice for dinner.

Lemon chicken with creamed spinach and rice

Lemon chicken with creamed spinach and rice

On Thursday, we woke to bright blue skies and the promise of nice weather ahead. We rode the Spyder about 20 miles out to a small town called Madrid – it’s not pronounced like Spanish capital (mah-DRID), locally it’s called MAD-rid. The town has a population of less than 200 people. The main street is lined with art galleries, jewelry and gemstone shops and four restaurants – we thought there were five, but I’ll get to that.

Madrid Main Street

Madrid Main Street

We walked and looked at the shops. Donna was tempted by some clothing, but we didn’t buy anything. In 2007, Madrid was the setting for a movie co-starring Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy called Wild Hogs. A building was converted into a diner for the set. The diner was run by Maggie, played by Marisa Tomei and about half of the scenes shot in Madrid were inside or in front of the diner. When we drove through here last year in our coach, we saw Maggie’s Diner, but the streets were too narrow to park our motorhome so we didn’t stop.

This time we walked to Maggie’s thinking it would be fun to have lunch there.

Maggie's Diner

Maggie’s Diner

It turned out that Maggie’s Diner is just a movie set, not a real diner. It looks like a diner inside, but all of the booths and counter space are filled with T-shirts and other memorabilia. It’s just a touristy gift shop in reality.

Wild Hogs poster at Maggie's

Wild Hogs poster at Maggie’s

We walked back up the street to The Hollar, a southern-style restaurant and found a table on the patio there. I had an excellent smoked brisket sandwich while Donna had the stacked shrimp which was sauteed shrimp stacked in layers of cheesy grits and fried green tomatoes with a lavender bechamel sauce. Donna said it was delicious.

On the way back, we made a short detour to another small town called Cerrillos. It’s hard to believe today, but in the 1800s, this was a booming mine town and the hub of activity in the area. By 1900, the mines had shut down and the town dwindled. In 1988, a western movie co-starring Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez called Young Guns was filmed here. The old hotel and saloon where many of the scenes were shot is still standing.

We made one more stop at Santa Fe Brewing just outside of town. We sampled a beer then Donna bought a few beers-to-go. She brought home a six-pack of IPA called Happy Camper, a six-pack of Imperial Java Stout and a bomber bottle of sour ale for me.

After we came home, I made a trip to old downtown Santa Fe while Donna caught up on some work. Since Donna bought me cowboy boots in Cheyenne, I’ve become a real fan of western boots. I love the fit and feel of them. I have a hankering for another pair and I’ve been looking at smooth ostrich skin boots. Ostrich skin is a soft yet durable leather and can be found in a few different varieties such as full quill which is full of dimples from the quills, smooth quill which has a few of the quill marks and ostrich leg which requires several pieces sewn together to make a boot.

In the old town area there are a few western boot shops. I stopped at Lucchese Boots. They are a well-established boot maker in Texas making western boots since 1883. I tried on a pair of full quill ostrich boots there and they were unbelievably comfortable. But they were way out of my price range. The boots in this store were priced from about $1,400 to over $4,000 for off-the-shelf boots. Custom orders are also available. The next two shops I looked at were also handmade boots that could be bought off-the-shelf or custom-made bespoke boots could be ordered. Again, way more than I’m willing to spend. I tried on a pair of boots at one shop that were handmade and priced at $1,900. They were horrible for me. The insoles felt lumpy and they didn’t fit me well at all. It goes to show, boots are a personal item and spending big bucks doesn’t guarantee a good fit.

I’ll keep looking – maybe I’ll end up buying myself a birthday present when I find the right boot.

Today we’re expecting a high temperature in the low 70s. It’ll become partly cloudy in the afternoon. A passing afternoon shower is always possible here, but the forecast looks good. Donna and I are going to the community center to play pickleball this morning – we haven’t played in months! Other than that, I have no plan for the day. Maybe I’ll get ambitious and wash the Spyder.




Bad Dry-Camping Etiquette

Life on the road can be full of fun and adventure, but’s that’s not always the case. Maybe I’m just being grumpy, but I won’t sugarcoat yesterday’s misadventures. We woke up to blue skies and the promise of a better weather day here in Colorado Springs. I still wasn’t feeling 100%. I have a cough left over from the bug I picked up and each time I cough, it sets a pounding headache for a few minutes.

I unloaded the Spyder. Our neighbor was checking the tire pressure on his Airstream travel trailer and found a tire with very low pressure. He asked me if I could locate a Goodyear dealer as he didn’t have wifi access. I found one three miles down the road. Then I looked the map over and found a route to the Hotel Elegante. That would be our first stop – a reconnoitering run before we move our rig there. From there, I looked at what appeared to be an easy route to Manitou Springs where we could do some touristy stuff. I wasn’t up for hiking Garden of the Gods which was the other option we considered.

Instead of jumping on I-25, I took the back way to the hotel down Las Vegas Street. I was looking for Janitell Road which would take me right to the hotel. Somehow I missed it. Then I was looking for Lake Avenue, not knowing it was called Circle Drive where it crosses Las Vegas Street. This changing of road names with no apparent logic would continue to get me. I ended up going way too far south and had to circle back until I found Lake Avenue west of the hotel.

We found the area where we’ll be allowed to park and scoped out our choices for a site. I also confirmed with the hotel registration desk – they told me I would just have to pay $35 for a pass and we would be good for Thursday through Tuesday.

When I checked out the route from the hotel to Manitou Springs, it looked pretty straight forward. Follow Lake Avenue west, then go north on Cresta to US24. Well, I should have looked at more detail. When Lake Avenue reaches the Broadmoor Resort, there is a series of roundabouts. In each roundabout, I encountered drivers that didn’t know how drive them. The rule is, the vehicle in the traffic circle always has the right of way and should keep moving. The vehicle entering the traffic circle must yield until there is a sufficient break to enter. I had drivers coming to a stop in the roundabout to let me or other vehicles enter, throwing the whole thing into chaos.

Anyway, at the first roundabout, I took the first right to stay on Lake Avenue.  But it wasn’t Lake Avenue, it was called Lake Circle. The next roundabout didn’t have an exit for Lake anything. There were two choices – Mesa or Mesa. I took the second Mesa and 300 yards later the road name changed to Park Avenue. I was confused. Another few hundred yards and now the road was called El Pomar. El Pomar hit Penrose at a T-intersection. I turned right on Penrose and the next thing I saw was a sign calling it Mesa Avenue! I tried to visualize the route in my head and use dead reckoning. This didn’t work so well as many of the roads go into box canyons with no exit.

We finally backtracked after looking at Google Maps on my phone and tried the other Mesa Avenue – we’d been on few roads called that by now with no sense of logic to it. Suddenly I was on Cresta. Yay! But then I missed US24 – just spaced it out. We ended up in Old Colorado City where I took the main drag – Colorado Avenue northeast. This was the right direction. After a while, Colorado Avenue became Manitou Avenue Business Route 24 and we found our destination.

Manitou Springs is a lively old west town. The main street had many shops, restaurants and pubs. There are also nice city parks and alleyways with merchants. We walked the main street and checked out menus and settled on a Mediterranean diner. I wasn’t feeling up to par. I ordered a Gyro but could only eat half of it. It was a little dry and could’ve used more tzatziki sauce.

Manitou Springs

Manitou Springs

The walk through town was taking a lot of effort for me. I hope I regain my strength – I’m due to start crewing for the Heart’s A’Fire hot air balloon on Friday.

Homes on the southwest side of town are terraced into the mountain side with steep entries

Homes on the southwest side of town are terraced into the mountain side with steep entries

Fountain Creek runs next to the sidewalk at Soda Springs Park

Fountain Creek runs next to the sidewalk at Soda Springs Park

We decided to head home after lunch. I had a much easier time finding my way home. We made a stop so Donna could buy some gardening tape to help support her tomato plant. When we pulled back into the Elks’ Lodge, I could hardly believe what I saw.

While we were out, someone decided to set up their travel trailer. Fine. There is lots of open space in the back lot.

Lots of open space

Lots of open space

More open space

More open space

But this guy decided he needed to be in the area right next to our door. He set up his travel trailer so were facing door-to-door ten feet apart. I could understand it if the lot was full, but he had a ton of space to choose from.

Our new neighbor

Our new neighbor

This is what you call bad dry-camping etiquette.

Our new doorstep view

Our new doorstep view

They weren’t here when we arrived and didn’t come home until 10pm when they fired up their generator and set out a grill and chairs. We’re pulling out this morning anyway, but I have to say some people have no sense at all.

Donna went for a bike ride while I took an afternoon nap and by chance met a guy who works for the parks commission and is an advocate for the bikeways in Colorado Springs. He was on his way to a meeting on his Tern folding bike with panniers. He apologized for lack of signage on the trails and pointed out recent improvements as they rode together for about 20 minutes.

I met with an insurance adjuster at 4pm. He was a nice guy and knowledgeable enough to see this was more than a cosmetic issue resulting from the deer colliding with our coach. I was happy to hear that as I was concerned that the insurance may try to downplay the issues. We’ll have to continue to work out how we’re going to get the fiberglass siding on the living room slide repaired.

It’s time to start packing the trailer so we can move on to the Hotel Elegante today.

Stealth Parking in Denver

I didn’t post over the weekend, so I have some catching up to do. Friday was our last full day in Greeley, Colorado. We decided to take our chances on getting caught out by an afternoon thundershower and rode the Spyder into town. Our first stop was the WeldWerks Brewery on the corner of 8th Avenue and 5th Street. It’s a very nice taproom and the beer is brewed on site.

I started with a West Coast-style IPA, then followed up with an IPA called Juicy Bits which is a little sweeter, almost fruity. Donna had an apricot gose, then had a five-ounce pour of a beer called Berlinerita. Berliner is a beer style, in this case lime was added thus the ‘rita name.

Donna's little Berlinerita next to a full size glass

Donna’s little Berlinerita next to a full size glass

At WeldWerks they have something I haven’t seen before – they call it a crowler. If you’ve been to brew pubs, you’re probably familiar with growlers, which are usually 32- to 64-ounce refillable glass jugs. The crowler is a 32-ounce can of beer canned on site – it isn’t refillable though. This was a very popular take-out item!

WeldWerks crowler

WeldWerks crowler

After trying a couple of beers, we moved a few blocks away to Santeramo’s Italian Restaurant on the corner of 10th Avenue and 13th Street. This is a family-owned restaurant opened by second-generation immigrants, Lawrence and June Santeramo. Lawrence died in 1968 and June kept the restaurant going until she retired in 1987 and then the restaurant closed. A son and grandson bought the original building in the 2008 and reopened the place. It’s an old house on the corner. The ambiance was casual and very homey. The service was great and we enjoyed the food – Donna had lasagna with a big meatball and I had linguini with marinara and Italian sausage. The pasta was made in-house.

Donna enjoyed the lasagna

Donna enjoyed the lasagna

On Saturday morning, we made a quick run into town again for the Farmers’ Market next to the Chamber of Commerce on 7th Avenue. We bought some honey, elk sausages and Cajun andouille sausages. We also had Philly cheesesteak-style breakfast sandwiches made with thin sliced steak, cheese and eggs on a soft hoagie roll.

We came back to the RV park, I loaded the Spyder and dumped our tanks. I also filled the freshwater tank – that’s how we like to roll – fresh water full, holding tanks empty. We exited the park just after 11am.

Our first destination was the Blue Beacon Truck and RV Wash in Denver. There are only two Blue Beacons in Colorado. We were badly in need of a wash. The thundershowers while we were set up in a dirt/gravel site splashed dirt up the sides of the coach. Runoff from the roof also left streaks. I had a coupon from FMCA for a free Rain-X treatment at Blue Beacon, so we went there by driving down US85 to I-70. Getting in and out of the place was a little tricky. It’s in a lot behind a Pilot/Flying J Travel Center. You have to drive through the travel center and follow signs to find the entry to the wash bay. I figured it out without too much trouble. But when we left, I made two laps of the travel center lot trying to find the exit. The signage pointed me back to the Blue Beacon. Donna asked a trucker walking by and he explained we had to exit next to the Blue Beacon under the elevated freeway onto an access road. It looked like the entrance to a warehouse to me, but it worked.

Our next stop in Denver was an area called Englewood where Donna’s friend, Ann Koerner, lives with her husband Jim. We planned to park in front of her house for the night so Donna and Ann could spend some time catching up. The last time she saw Ann was in 2006 when we visited her in Santa Barbara while we were touring on our motorcycles.

Ann lives on a fairly wide street and there was plenty of room to park without blocking her or her neighbor’s driveway. Her neighbor is an RVer and didn’t have any problem with us spending the night there. Some people refer to street camping as stealth parking. But we aren’t exactly stealthy at 64 feet long. Getting us level wasn’t entirely possible with the slope and road crown, but I got it close enough. I waited until after dark to put out the passenger side bedroom slide. I left the other slides in – they would have extended into the road too much. The passenger side bedroom slide allows us enough room to walk around the foot of the bed, which is oriented east-west in the bedroom.

Traffic cones out to prevent anyone from accidentally walking into the bedroom slide

Traffic cones on sidewalk to prevent anyone from accidentally walking into the bedroom slide

Ann made a delicious grilled lemon-chicken dinner for us with a fresh salad from her garden, corn on the cob, quinoa salad, roasted broccolini and brownies. Thanks, Ann!

On Sunday morning, Ann and Donna loaded their bicycles in Ann’s SUV and went to the South Platte River Trail for a bike ride. Meanwhile I watched the Formula One race from Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium. There was a horrific high-speed crash at the Eau Rouge corner that Kevin Magnussen thankfully walked away from. Later I caught the first half of the Chargers – Vikings game before it was time for us to move on.

We headed south on I-25. The portion of I-25 from Cheyenne, Wyoming to Puebla, Colorado runs just east of the Rocky Mountain Front Range. As we drove along heading south, towering mountains were on our right side and endless plains to the horizon on our left. We had a few slow-downs where I-25 squeezes down from four lanes to three, then to two. The high point between Denver and Colorado Springs is Monument Summit – also called Black Forest Divide Pass at more than 7,300 feet above sea level.

We arrived at the Elks Lodge in Colorado Springs a little after 3pm. This Elks Lodge has RV sites with hook-ups for Elks members and also allows dry camping. I checked in at the lodge and found all of the first-come first-served RV sites were occupied. We joined a few other rigs in the back of the parking lot and we are dry-camped with them. To the west of we see fresh snow on Pikes Peak.

A thundershower arrived in the evening and grew to a large storm after dark. The street behind us flowed like a river and the parking lot had a couple of inches of standing water as it came down faster than it could drain. Our smartphones had severe weather alerts beeping. Lucky for us, it didn’t get very windy and there wasn’t any hail involved. Late afternoon passing thundershowers are common in this area at this time of year. We’ll have to do our sightseeing and shopping earlier in the day to avoid them.

Today we have partly cloudy skies and expect a high temperature in the mid-70s. Although we’re at an elevation of over 6,100 feet above sea level, the overnight low will be in the mid-50s. Perfect for us.