Category Archives: Spyder

A Great Find at the Mercado

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

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

Poke plate

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

The mercado

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

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

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

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

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

2007 quad-slide Newell

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

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

Halloween ale

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

Fast Track Check-in

We went inside the Golden Acorn Casino for breakfast Thursday morning after a quiet night in their lot. The breakfast plates were very good – Donna had an omelette with Monterrey jack cheese, bacon, avocado and pico de gallo while I went for the eggs Benedict. The coffee was tasty and we had a leisurely start to the day. We were only traveling about 70 miles to get to Mission Bay, so there was no need to head out early.

I had completed a new check-in procedure for Mission Bay RV Resort they call fast track. Mission Bay RV Resort e-mailed me the check-in documents a few days ago. I printed them and signed where necessary, then scanned and e-mailed them back.

I fired up the Cummins ISL diesel engine around 11am and set it to high idle speed (~950rpm) while I did my usual walkaround checking basement doors, slides, tires, etc.  I wanted to allow the engine to warm up gently before we pulled out. When we accelerated onto I-8, I knew we would be immediately climbing up the grade to Crestwood Summit. I don’t like to put a high load on an engine before it’s up to operating temperature. Over Crestwood Summit we dropped down to Buckman Springs then climbed another grade to Laguna Summit. From there, it was mostly downhill and I toggled the Jake brake between the low and high settings to keep our speed in check.

While I was driving, my cell phone rang and Donna answered it. Mission Bay RV Resort was calling to confirm our arrival and payment method. They instructed us to proceed to the security hut at the entrance, receive our paperwork there and go directly to our site, bypassing the office. We stopped at the security hut and then went to the overflow lot to drop the trailer around 12:30pm. Then we were free to pull into site 112 without the usual wait at the office for the official check-in time of 2pm.

It felt good to get situated in our site knowing we would be here for the next two months. The last time we were on full hooks-ups was in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a full month ago. We can relax our diligence over water usage, battery power levels and holding tanks. Donna is happy to be able to do laundry again though she has a lot of catching up to do!

Mission Bay site 112

I like this site – we only have a neighbor on one side. The passenger side has an open area next to the bathroom/shower building giving us plenty of room. It also has good satellite TV reception – some sites here have trees interfering with the reception. I had one concern though – the paperwork the security guy gave us only showed us here for one month. I unloaded the Spyder from the trailer and rode over to the office.

At the counter, Nancy recognized me. I reminded her of our conversation last April when I made the reservation. At that time, she worked to move a few reservations around so we could have site 112 for two months. She looked at her computer and confirmed we are booked in this site until December 20th. I’ll have to pay for the second month on November 19th – they only charged us for the first month at this point.

The rates here have gone up over the last couple of years.  If I remember correctly, we paid $875/month when we first came here in 2013. This was the winter “off season” rate. That worked out to about $28/day. Now we’re paying $1,085/month to stay here – about $35/day. The off season is from September 15th to May 14th and the regular daily rate is $70.

During the peak season – May 15th to September 14th – the regular daily rate is $90 and monthly rates aren’t offered. We find San Diego to be a great place to spend some of the winter months and are happy to pay the monthly rate which includes utilities. The park itself isn’t anything great. It’s basically a large paved lot with hook-ups. No amenities, but it’s secure, fairly quiet and the location can’t be beat. That’s what this park is all about – location.

On the way back from the office, I saw Thomas and we chatted. Thomas was the security supervisor when we first started coming here. Last spring, he changed positions and was working on special projects to upgrade the park. Now he’s the operations manager – the head honcho here. He’ll have plenty of projects as the De Anza Cove and Rose Creek areas of Mission Bay Park will be completely redesigned over the next few years.

The weather is cool and breezy today – the forecast calls for a high of 74 with partly cloudy skies and a slight chance of rain. The weekend will warm up with beach weather in the forecast for the coming week. Life is good!

Home Again in Albuquerque

I haven’t posted in several days due to lack of time and/or energy. You might recall from my last post, I had our turbocharger rebuilt by Central Motive Power here in Albuquerque. At that time, I said I didn’t know how Central Motive obtained genuine Holset turbo component parts. I thought maybe they had a gray market supplier. I was wrong. It turns out that Cummins Turbo Technologies has two parallel lines of distribution. For authorized Cummins dealers, such as Rocky Mountain Cummins, they only supply complete units – turbochargers, injectors, etc. – either new or remanufactured. However, authorized Holset distributors can stock replacement component parts which they buy from the factory wholesale and sell them to qualified retailers such as Central Motive Power.

My takeaway from this is to research qualified retailers with access to replacement parts before paying a Cummins dealer the high prices for remanufactured units. The savings can be substantial and Central Motive Power gave me the same warranty terms as Cummins.

Before I took our turbo to Central Motive, I asked Alvaro, the service manager at the Cummins dealer, how long it would take to complete the repair if I could have the turbo back to him by the close of business on Thursday. He said it was about three hours of work and should be easily done by mid-day Friday. I brought the rebuilt turbo back to Rocky Mountain Cummins by 2pm on Thursday and was told by Philip in the service department we should be ready to roll by noon on Friday.

We spent Thursday night at Donna’s friend, Hazel Thornton’s house – thanks, Hazel! Hazel, by the way, just had a new version of her book, Diary of a Menendez Juror, republished to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Mendendez brothers’ first murder trial. She was juror #9. The full story of the case is being featured in a special 8-part Law & Order series that is currently being aired on television. You can learn more about Hazel, her book, and the case here.

Anyway, on Thursday evening, Donna and I took an Uber ride to Rio Rancho for a pre-balloon fiesta party at Brad and Jessica Rice’s house. It was a great party with good food, good people and generous amounts of adult beverages. I had to pass on Friday’s hot air balloon exhibition so we could get our coach. By the way, Uber charged us about 50% more for the ride to Rio Rancho than they did for the ride back – presumably a surcharge for the privilege of taking an Uber ride during rush hour.

Friday morning I didn’t hear anything from Rocky Mountain Cummins – no surprise there, it was par for the course. I rode the Spyder to the shop around 11am. Philip told me it would be ready to roll between 1pm and 2pm. No explanation for the delay. At 1:30pm, Donna and I rode back to the shop – I needed to have Donna along to help me get the trailer hooked up.

We waited and waited and waited. It was 4:30pm before we were ready to roll. Again, no explanation for the delays. Before I could leave, I noticed a boost error and check engine light indicating a fault in the turbo system. The mechanic, Josh, quickly replaced the intake manifold pressure sensor and we were finally on our way. While we were waiting, I had a long conversation with Alvaro and told him areas where he and his team could improve their customer service from my point of view.

By the time we checked in at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta park, it was 6pm and I was whipped. Lucky for us – we were directed to a site along the southern fence line of the park and didn’t have to drop our trailer. Saturday morning I had the alarm set for 4:15am to get up and out the door for the first day of the nine-day fiesta.

We’ve been having a blast with flights on each of the first four days of the fiesta – I won’t go into details in this post but intend to add them later. The last two weeks in the hotel waiting for repairs have taken a toll. I enjoy the crewing and the fiesta, but I’m worn out from early mornings and the activities and still need a bit of a recharge before I can sit at my laptop to tell this year’s fiesta tales. Here are a few photos from the first four days.

Donna guarding the balloon envelope on day one.

Cold inflation at the break of dawn Sunday

Typical Albuquerque scene during fiesta – 2nd Street looking north

Food and fun tailgating before noon on Sunday

View of Fiesta Park from the President’s Compound today

The weather forecast for the next few days looks promising. Hopefully the balloons will fly every day during this year’s fiesta.

A Week in Santa Fe

It’s hard to believe our week in Santa Fe is coming to an end already. We pulled into Los Suenos de Santa Fe RV Park last Wednesday and we’ll head out tomorrow. As usual, we’ve really enjoyed our stay here. Santa Fe has a lot going for it.

When we leave here, we’ll go directly to the Rocky Mountain Cummins shop in Albuquerque to have the exhaust manifold replaced. They e-mailed an estimate for the work – $1,600. I’m guessing it’ll exceed the estimate by $400 to $500 once they get going and things happen – like studs breaking and so on.

On Saturday morning, Donna and I rode the Spyder down to the Farmers’ Market near the Railroad Park and Santa Fe Depot. The Saturday market is the largest of four markets in the area. We came early – we were there by 9am and had breakfast burritos from a vendor inside the building adjacent to the market midway. They were made with locally sourced ingredients and were very good – as was the coffee.

We walked through the market, then returned to the vendor tents that had items we wanted. Donna bought a couple of ears of corn, peaches, apples, green beans that were purple until cooked, cantaloupe, corn pisole stew mix and creamy goat cheese with hatch chile.

There were a number of street musicians performing – we really enjoyed a quartet called Lone Piñon. Donna persuaded me to buy a CD they recorded so we can listen to something different. The music we heard them play was a mix of some Gypsy Jazz sounding stuff to traditional old Mexican folk music. We haven’t listened to the CD yet. Donna is in the process of ripping all of our CDs to a hard drive.

Lone Piñon

We were parked near the train depot. As we walked back to the Spyder, we passed through a section of artisan vendor tents. Donna found a bracelet that she really liked made by a local woman who is a metalsmith. She only accepted cash or check, so I walked back to the ATM for more cash and bought it for Donna.

Bounty from the Farmers’ Market – look closely and you’ll see an ear of corn wearing Donna’s new bracelet

On Sunday morning, Donna took the Spyder to the Atalaya trail head. She looked up hikes online and decided to go for a challenging route up Atalaya Mountain.

Steeper or easier? Guess what route Donna took.

Donna parked at the trailhead and then walked about three-quarters of a mile to the start of the trail. She took the steeper route up and it took an hour and five minutes to reach the summit at 9,121 feet above sea level. The trailhead starts out at about 7,200 feet above sea level and it’s about a two mile climb. The air must have been mighty thin at the top! Another hiker at the summit took a photo of Donna with Santa Fe in the valley below.

Donna at the Atalaya Summit

I stayed home and watched the Formula One race from Singapore and NFL football. Donna came home just ahead of a thundershower. Thundershowers can appear suddenly – mostly in the afternoons or evenings here. This year they seem to happen more frequently than the last couple of years when we were here.

On Monday morning, we were back at the Genoveve Chavez Community Center for pickleball. They’ve raised their visitor fees – it’s now seven dollars a day for Donna to use the facility while I get the old guy rate (60 and over) of four dollars.

I’ll end this post with a discussion of western (cowboy) boots. If you have no interest in boots, now is the time to quit reading.

A little over a year ago Donna bought a pair of cowboy boots for me in Cheyenne, Wyoming. At the time, I knew nothing about cowboy boots. Since then, I’ve studied the subject and bought a few more boots. Cowboy boots and boot making have a fascinating history, but I won’t go into that here. Lots of info is available if you want to search the internet.

I’m most interested in boots that follow more traditional construction techniques and are essentially hand made. That’s not to say there’s no machinery involved – there are always mechanical aids used but these machines are hand operated for the most part opposed to computer-controlled robotic manufacturing used in mass market shoes.

If you’re looking for cowboy boots and find a boot that says “genuine leather lower – balance man-made materials,” you’re looking at a machine-made product that probably comes from China. On the other hand, if it’s constructed of 100% leather, then there is surely some degree of hand work steps in the process. I think it’s important to have hand work in the boots – particularly in certain steps such as lasting. A last is a form either made from wood or plastic in the shape of your foot. Pulling the vamp – the upper leather portion that covers the top of your foot – by hand allows the boot maker to adjust the tension used to match the properties of the particular piece of leather. A machine will pull the material the same way to the same tension time after time with no regard to material variances from piece to piece.

Finding boots that fit your feet is the key element to comfort. Proper fitting boots will break in and conform to your foot. The last is what determines the fit along with the care taken by the boot maker. A custom last designed around the actual measurements of your foot is the ultimate. For off-the-shelf boots, it’s a good idea to try on a few different brands of boot to find the best fit – they have small variations although they may be marked as the same size. For me, Lucchese boots fit well. If I could afford it, I would have a pair of bespoke boots made. There are several boot makers that offer this service. One of the best in my opinion is Lisa Sorrell – she builds the boot from start to finish doing all of the work herself. Her blog has videos that explain many of the steps in custom boot making. Speaking of steps, I’ve read a few different figures on how many steps are involved in the process. Lucchese says there are 120 to 130 individual steps depending on the number of embellishments in the finish. I’m not sure how the steps are defined.

There are many different leathers used. Most of the inner leather pieces – the linings, the insole, heel counter and so on – are generally made from cow hide. There are many variations and grades of cow hide. The outer sole is made from a thick piece of leather that’s been compressed to make it hard and wear resistant. The thickness was traditionally measured in irons – an iron is about half a millimeter or 0.020″. Today most leather thickness is described in ounces. Outer soles are 12 oz or more. The insoles are also thick but not as hard as the outer. It was surprising to me to find that the layers of leather used means that I’m standing on nearly half an inch of leather under the sole of my foot – not the heel but under my forefoot.

The vamp and the shaft (the part that is vertical around the calf) are the visible parts of the boot and set the character. The materials used come from a wide variety of sources. The most common leather is some form of cow hide. By the way, leather is a generic term for a hide that’s been processed or tanned to enhance strength, suppleness and durability for its intended use. In boots, the leather is vegetable tanned. Cow hide is just that – the skin of a cow until it’s tanned and becomes leather.

Likewise, exotic leathers are tanned from the hide of different animals. One of the best leathers in my opinion for the outer boot is ostrich. Ostrich is soft to touch, very supple yet also strong and durable. It also doesn’t scuff easily. Where do ostrich hides come from? They are taken from farm-raised ostriches – mostly in South Africa although there are some ostrich farms in the USA. In some parts of the world, farming ostrich is viewed no differently than farming turkeys here in the USA. The birds are raised, then processed for their meat and the hides are used for leather.

Alligator and crocodile are also fairly common exotic leathers used for boots and fashion accessories such as purses or handbags and belts. American alligator is the most prized. It’s supple and beautifully patterned. It’s also very pricey. Alligators are also farmed but some are sourced from controlled, legal hunting in the southeastern US. Alligator hides are a limited resource and not as common as crocodile. Crocodile can be either Nile crocodile or caiman. Caiman crocodiles are farm raised in Central and South America. Columbia has a large caiman industry and I’ve read that about 600,000 caiman hides are sourced from there annually. Caimans are farmed for meat and hides. Caiman is a food source in many parts of the world including Central and South America and Asia. Caiman hides are stiffer than alligator but can be made into fine boots.

My progression in the world of boots went like this:

August 2016 – Newby with no knowledge of boots, I received these boots as a gift and started my boot obsession.

Ariat machine-made cow hide boots

September 2016 – My first hand crafted boots – Lucchese smooth quill ostrich.

Lucchese hand-crafted smooth quill ostrich lowers, cow hide shafts

October 2016 – Lucchese with taller heels and higher quality leathers – full quill ostrich.

Lucchese full quill ostrich lowers, calfskin shafts

September 2017 – Lucchese caiman crocodile vamp, ostrich heel counter cover, calfskin shafts

I’m sure that’s more than most of you wanted to hear about boots. I love ’em and I’m certain I’ll have my Lucchese boots for the rest of my life.

We have clear skies and pleasant weather today. The high should reach the upper 70s and the forecast says 0% chance of rain today or tomorrow. We’ll pack up tomorrow morning and leave as close to the 11am check out time as possible before heading to the shop in Albuquerque. Albuquerque looks to be much warmer – highs in the upper 80s.

 

Sometimes I’m Crazy Like That

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lucchese crocodile boots

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

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

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

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

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

The Mother of All Green Chile Cheeseburgers

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

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

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

Riana and Bandelier

The weekend at Riana Campground at Abiquiu Lake, New Mexico was so quiet and relaxing, we ended up extending a day until Tuesday morning. They don’t allow anyone to enter the campground after 10pm, but it was always quiet by dark anyway. There were a few empty sites through the weekend. The occupied sites had a mix of RVs and even a couple of tent campers. A lot of fisherman come here on the weekend to try their luck on the lake.

These folks look like they have a comfortable set up in their Tab pull-behind trailer

On Saturday, Donna went hiking through the Corps of Engineers Park. They have a few trails and she hiked them all and ended up at the beach for a swim. She was confused to see boats there, but it turned out that Santa Fe Adaptive Sports had reserved the beach to take people with disabilities out on the lake.

View of the Abiquiu Lake beach from Donna’s hike on a trail up on a bluff

While she was out, I investigated the trouble we’ve been having with the Cummins ISL engine in our coach. I have a loss of turbocharger boost intermittently with a great loss of power and when I have boost it doesn’t seem like I have full power. Digging around in the cramped engine compartment, I found an issue that isn’t good. We have a crack in the exhaust manifold. This is allowing exhaust to leak from the manifold and reduces the flow to the turbocharger impeller. This is not an easy repair, especially with an engine shoehorned into a diesel pusher motorhome. I think there’s more than one issue with the turbo boost, but the manifold will have to replaced before any further troubleshooting can take place.

In the afternoon, we rode the Spyder to Bode’s General Store in Abiquiu and split a green chile cheeseburger. It wasn’t as good as were led to believe – we’re looking forward to a Blake’s Lotaburger green chili cheeseburger in Albuquerque. We managed to outrun the daily afternoon thundershower back to the coach.

On Sunday, I watched the Moto GP race from Monza, Italy and NFL Football. Donna was more ambitious and rode the Spyder to Ghost Ranch – about eight miles up highway 84. She wanted to hike the Chimney Rock Trail there. It was a 3-mile roundtrip with stunning vistas at the top. She enjoyed the hike so much that after having a little snack, she decided to hike the 4-mile Box Canyon Trail too. But somehow, she ended up going past the turn-around and put in a total of 10 miles of hiking. Ghost Ranch was true to its name – very few people out and about there.

Heading up the Chimney Rock Trail

Donna found a friend along the way

Top of the Chimney Rock Trail looking back toward Abiquiu Lake

Donna shot a photo of an interesting looking lizard on the trail. I can’t tell if it’s a collared lizard with a lot of yellow coloring for whatever reason or a spotted whiptail.

On Monday, Donna got into cleaning mode and went to town on the coach. She even took out the screens and cleaned them along with the windows. I straightened the trailer out and reorganized a basement compartment. I had the Spyder in the trailer by evening and watched the Monday Night Football double-header.

After a quick breakfast on Tuesday, we got an early start and headed down to White Rock – a small town near Los Alamos. In White Rock, there’s a visitor center conveniently located on the main drag. It has RV parking with 16 pull-through sites and 50amp electrical service in a dedicated RV lot. It also has a shuttle stop on the street for a free ride to Bandelier National Monument.

We arrived around 10:30am and got situated. I paid at the automated kiosk for one night – $20. We caught the 11:30am shuttle for the 25-minute ride up to the Bandelier Information Center. From 9am to 3pm daily, the only way to access Bandelier is by shuttle – this reduces the traffic and the free shuttles run every 30 minutes. Bandelier National Monument encompasses almost 34,000 acres but has only three miles of public road and 70 miles of hiking trails. We were interested in the Frijoles Canyon with the Main Loop Trail and ancient ruins including cliff dwellings.

The Main Loop Trail is mostly paved and a fairly easy hike. It does have a few steep rocky sections and to access the cliff dwellings you must climb rustic ladders. We spent nearly two hours hiking and toured the entire loop and also went up to the Alcove section – a high cliff dwelling that requires a 140-foot vertical climb – including steps and ladders to the caves. The nice thing about this place is you can actually enter many of the old caves, rooms and dwelling sites.

Ruins of ground level dwellings and food storage rooms more than 600 years old

Another view of the ruins – the hole in the ground is the foundation of a kiva – a communal meeting room

The cliffs and terrain are rugged yet beautiful

The people lived in cramped quarters – Donna in a doorway to a cliff dwelling

This dwelling was roomier – adjoining rooms in fact

If you look closely you might pick out Donna 140 feet up in the Alcove

As we made our way up the canyon, a thunder shower moved in. We could hear the thunder rumbling through the canyon and about 30 minutes later we were cooled off by a few rain drops – it was in the mid 80s.

After riding the shuttle back to our coach, we walked across the street to Smith’s Grocery. What a great location – walking distance to grocery shopping – and a short walk at that. We were back in the coach minutes before clouds rolled in for the afternoon thunder shower. We had half an hour of off-and-on rain, then the skies cleared again.

Tomorrow we’ll move on to Santa Fe for a week stay. I have an appointment in Albuquerque a week from Thursday with Rocky Mountain Cummins to get the exhaust manifold replaced. Hopefully I won’t have any surprises there.

 

Having Fun in Longmont

Ozark the cat as been enjoying our stay at the Boulder County Fairgrounds in Longmont, Colorado. There’s so much activity for her to follow outside our windows – she spends hours watching the world go by. Donna calls it “Cat TV.”

The Longmont Humane Society building is next to the entrance to the fairgrounds. Everyday dozens of people come out to walk the dogs or maybe adopt one. Ozark gets to watch them parade by. Then there’s the livestock and horse arenas across the street from our site. Plenty to see there too. Yesterday Ozark was so caught up in it she wouldn’t move as Donna made the bed and she ended up half under the comforter.

Ozark tuned into cat TV

Donna’s friend, Liz Canavan Byrne, came by around 9am to go for a walk and visit with Donna. They walked the trail out past Cattail Pond to the Greenway Trail and caught up on their lives. Meanwhile, I took the Spyder and rode down to Golden – about 30 miles away. Once I got through Boulder and into some open country, it was a beautiful ride. The temperature was in the low 70s and the skies were clear with just a little haze in the air.

Rocky Mountain Front Range from highway CO93 – the Flatirons over South Boulder on the far right mountains

Some readers may remember that I’ve acquired a small collection of Spyderco folding pocket knives. My destination was the Spyderco headquarters and outlet store in Golden.

Spyderco headquarters and outlet

My intention was to have a look around and take advantage of the opportunity to check out and handle many models I don’t often see. I’ve been interested in their Paramilitary 3 knives.

From time-to-time, Spyderco makes what they call Sprint Runs – these are a limited number of knives made of special combinations of blade steel and handle scales. They had the Paramilitary 3 in a Sprint Run with CPM Cruwear blade steel – one of the so called “super steels” – and light gray G10 scales. This knife has been hot on the market and all of the online retailers sold out immediately – only 1,200 were made. The Spyderco Outlet Store got 10 pieces last Thursday and had two left. Now they have one – I couldn’t help myself and bought one.

Spyderco Paramilitary 3 with Cruwear and G10

Cruwear blade and compression lock

I’m not sure what I’ll do with it. I think for now it’ll be a drawer queen, not a user. Maybe later I’ll sell it to a bona fide collector – these Sprint Runs can gain value over time.

I grabbed lunch while I was out, then on my way home I detoured into old downtown Longmont. I looped around on 3rd Street and made a stop at Sherman Street where I found 234 Sherman Street. This is the house where I lived in 1976 when Jim Birditt, Chris Nirschl and I were roommates with hopes of becoming a rock and roll band. I wrote about an adventure here in this post. This area is known as the Bohn Farm neighborhood nowadays. I’m not sure why, but I think the dairy farm that used to be at the south end of Sherman Street might have been called Bohn Farm.

The old house hasn’t changed much

By the time I got home, it was very warm out. The temperature topped out at 90 degrees. We stayed indoors and Donna completed the first of three writing assignments she picked up. She has two to finish today. She was done by 5pm, so we rode the Spyder over to Prospect Park – the same location where her century ride finished.

From May to September, they have free concerts there on Monday evenings – next Monday will be the last for 2017. It’s catered by food trucks and includes beer vendors set up in tents. The band playing this week was called “Soul Sacrifice.” They were a Santana tribute band covering the 1970s Santana hits – most of the songs started out faithful to the original, then turned into jam sessions. It was fun and the band was good.

Soul Sacrifice

The lead guitarist was pretty much the front man. He had a great sound playing through a 70s vintage Mesa Boogie 1×12 amplifier.

There were a few women hoop dancing. One was very good and we found out she was sort of the teacher/leader for the group of hoopsters and spent the summer here. She’s from North Carolina and will be heading back there. She lent Donna a hoop and taught her a new move.

Hoop dancers among the crowd

We finished the evening there with a walk through neighborhood around the park. Prospect is an interesting neighborhood. It’s very high-density with apartments and lofts over ground-floor commercial spaces. The buildings are all three stories high. It reminded me of many urban settings in Europe – Barcelona comes to mind. We saw a flyer for a unit for sale – it included ground floor office space and a one-bedroom, two-bath loft ( plus half-bath on the ground floor). The 1,926 square foot space – I assume that includes the office space – was listed for – wait for it – $450,000.

We extended our stay at the Boulder County Fairgrounds until Thursday morning – check out time is 10am. When we leave here we’ll head straight to Colorado Springs to meet up with our friends Brad and Jessica Rice and family for the Labor Day Lift-Off hot air balloon event. We expect more hot weather until then – the forecast calls for low 90s the next couple of days. Colorado Springs will be cooler.

 

 

Rock & Rails in Niwot

Donna says we’re just goofing off in Longmont, Colorado. I don’t know, I’m always just goofing off, no matter where we are. I guess from her perspective, she doesn’t have any writing deadlines and is enjoying her free time.

Yesterday she rode the Spyder up to Loveland – about 27 miles from here – to meet her friend Autumn Leopold for lunch. The route had several turns along the way and Donna did a great job memorizing the unfamiliar route before she left. She found the restaurant where they had lunch with no problem. She’s gotten a lot better at plotting a route and finding her way around since we hit the road. When we first met, she was so directionally challenged, that she would often get lost in Phoenix  where almost all of the roads are straight on a east-west/north-south grid.

While she was out, I walked over to the shopping area on Hover Road, not too far from the Longmont Fairgrounds where we’re staying. I stopped for lunch at Noodles, then hit the Chase Bank to deposit a check.

I didn’t mention the good mail I received while we were in Kearney, Nebraska. First off, I got a check from the IRS refunding an overpayment I made two years ago. The refund included interest at a better rate than I get on my savings accounts! Nebraska and Wyoming don’t have Chase banks, so I held the check until we reached Colorado.

I had another piece of mail from the State Department. They returned my old passport. I thought this wasn’t a good sign until I opened the next piece of mail and it contained my new passport – yay! I was a little worried that our nomadic lifestyle with no real physical address would cause problems with issuing a new passport. No worries!

While I was out, I stopped in at Wynn’s Wine and Spirits for a look. I was shocked to see The Balvenie Doublewood single malt Scotch whiskey 750ml bottle on sale for $39.99! I’ve never seen it priced this low – not even in California. I hate to admit what I paid for a bottle the day before in Boulder!

By the time I made it back to the coach, I’d covered 6,000 steps – about three miles of walking. Donna came home around 2:45pm and had a good time with Autumn. Clouds were coming in off the mountains and the wind picked up. I expected a shower at any moment. The rain bypassed us – most of it skirted to the south. We decided to take a chance and rode the Spyder to Niwot to check out the Thursday evening entertainment at a small park there.

Niwot is a small village of about 4,000 people located between Longmont and Boulder. The community is relatively affluent and seems close-knit. On Thursday evenings from 5pm to 9pm during the summer they have a two bands every Thursday for an event they call Rock & Rails.

We showed up around 5:15pm and found parking nearby. A band was playing as we entered the park. They also had food trucks and a beer tent.

A good crowd at Rock & Rails in Niwot

Three-man band onstage

Food vendors

Beer tent

We grabbed a pint of local beer at the beer tent – IPA for me and a stout for Donna. Then we ordered Vietnamese style savory crepes from a food vendor. We watched the band while we ate and enjoyed the beer. The temperature was in the upper 80s in the afternoon, but once the clouds came over the mountains, it quickly dropped to 70 degrees. The wind kicked up and was blowing at about 20mph. By 6pm we had all the fun we could take and decided to get out of the chilly wind.

Yesterday my daughter Jamie phoned from Texas. She lives there with Francisco and their family in Robstown – just outside of Corpus Christi. They’re bracing for the incoming hurricane Harvey to make landfall. They’re on relatively high ground and are well stocked with food and water. Hopefully the hurricane will lose some of its force before it hits Texas. If not, they may have to evacuate the area. Our thoughts are with them and we’re hoping the storm does minimal damage.

Today I plan to hang out. Donna made a reservation for us to tour Left Hand Brewing – a brewery less than a mile from here. Left Hand makes some outstanding beers. Donna is a big fan of their nitro milk stout. There are three well-known breweries in the area – Left Hand, Oskar Blues and Odell’s. There’s also a smaller brewery that I’m not familiar with called Skeye Brewing down the street from us. I’m looking forward to the tour at Left Hand.

Donna wants to get out on her bicycle and pre-run the route to the start of tomorrow’s women’s century ride – the Venus de Miles. She’ll need to ride her bicycle to the start tomorrow morning around 6:15am. High pressure has formed in the upper atmosphere here so we can expect temperatures near 90 degrees with little chance of rain.

Onward to Colorado

It took us a little longer than expected to pack up and head out of Bayard, Nebraska. It was after 10am by the time Donna returned from her bike ride. We pulled out at 11:30am Tuesday morning, but we only had about 150 miles to go to Cheyenne. We followed back roads and stayed off I-80. Our route took us along US26 to Torrington, Wyoming, then we headed down US85 to Cheyenne.

We found the Sierra Trading Post without any trouble and parked in their dedicated RV/Truck lot. I checked in at the warehouse office – all they ask for is a name and contact phone number in case they need to reach us for any reason and we were good to go. There were a few other RVs in the lot when we arrived.

Donna and I walked to their outlet store and shopped around. I didn’t find anything interesting and left after about half an hour. Donna stayed and tried on clothes – that stretched into two hours. Later Donna walked to the Walmart Super Center about a mile away to pick up a few items. I hung out and read a book. By 5pm, we were the only RV left in the lot. There was more train traffic overnight than we remembered from last year, but we both slept well.

On Wednesday morning, I pulled up to their dump station and dumped and flushed our tanks, then we were off to Colorado. We hit I-80 west for a few miles then turned south on I-25. Traffic was light. I stopped at the Pilot/Flying J Travel Center at exit 7 in Wyoming to top up our tank then had the coach and trailer washed at the Blue Beacon there. The coach was dirty from the dusty trip across Iowa and the thunder showers in Nebraska. We only took 40 gallons of fuel, but I wanted to top up the tank to get us through Colorado. There aren’t very many Pilot/Flying J truck stops in Colorado and most of them are in the Denver area where I would prefer not to pull off the interstate.

Our destination was the Boulder County Fairgrounds in Longmont, Colorado. They have 92 RV sites there. Eight are long pull-throughs. Several other sites in the park are also pull-throughs, but they are too short for our rig. The sites ringing the outer boundaries of the park are very short back-in sites. All sites are first-come first – serve, no reservations. Stays are limited to 14 days per year.

When we arrived, we found the check-in process to be a little confusing. I parked in a large dirt lot across from the “office.” The office was un-manned and had a sign in front directing us to find a site, then pay at the automated kiosk. I walked into the park to see if any of the eight long pull-throughs were open. Meanwhile Donna found a park ranger who suggested we use site 1 – the longest pull-through they had. It was open! We paid for five nights using a credit card at the automated kiosk and we set up in site 1 in no time.

The longest site at the fairgrounds

I lived here in Longmont 40 years ago, but I don’t recognize the place today. These fairgrounds didn’t exist then and highway 119 – the Diagonal Highway between Longmont and Boulder – is unrecognizable. Back in the day, it was a rural two-lane highway through the countryside. It passed by a small village called Niwot. Today it’s a divided four-lane highway with shopping centers lining the highway through Longmont. Suburban sprawl lines the roadway with some farmland through Niwot all the way to Boulder.

We rode the Spyder to Bicycle Village in Boulder where Donna picked up her participant packet for the Venus de Miles women’s century ride. She raised over $500 for the charity event being held this Saturday. In her packet was a $20 gift certificate from the bike shop. She ended up buying a new pair of bicycle shoes – they were on clearance and with her gift certificate she paid $80 for a pair of $180 Pearl Izumi shoes. I’ll install the cleats on them today.

While we were out, I stopped at the Whole Foods Wine and Spirit shop. I splurged on a bottle of Balvenie Double Wood single malt Scotch whisky. This is a real goody that I’ll reserve for special occasions.

We were hit by a few drops of rain on the way back, but avoided any real rainfall. We had a quiet evening and I think we’ll enjoy our stay here. It’s remarkably quiet to say we’re right in the city. I think we’ll end up extending our stay by a couple of days to a full week. It’s $25 per day for electric and water – no sewer hookup, but there’s a dump station here.

The forecast calls for mostly sunny skies with highs in the upper 80s for the next week. There’s always a chance of a thunderstorm at this time of year. Typically you’ll see clouds building over the Rocky Mountains to the west all afternoon before they push east, sometimes bringing thundershowers with them before the blow east over the plains. Longmont is northeast of Boulder which sits at the foot of the Rockies. Boulder is at an elevation of about 5,700 feet above sea level. The Flatirons tower over Boulder at a height of 8,000+ feet above sea level. The mountains are spectacular.

Today Donna has a lunch date with a friend in Loveland – about 27 miles north of here. She’ll ride the Spyder there. I think I’ll take a walk to the mall about a mile from here. I need to stop at the bank and I’ll take a look around. Maybe later we’ll head over to Left Hand Brewing which is nearby. They brew some really fine beer there.

The Sun is Eclipsed by the Moon

We survived the solar eclipse. On Sunday afternoon and evening, a few more people showed up here at the city park in Bayard, Nebraska. An older Monaco Windsor class A motorhome parked next to us in the full hook-up site. A car with Texas plates parked on our passenger side and the lone occupant put up a tent in the park. Later, another car with two guys joined our new friends from Longmont, Colorado, Frazier and Debra, in the last campsite and put up a tent in their site.

The Monaco had three occupants, the elderly owner and his son and daughter. The owner – I didn’t get his name – was 90 years old and bought the Monaco new in 1991. He wanted to see the total eclipse as he figured it was his last opportunity. He also figured that this trip to see the eclipse, then Estes Park in Colorado and a couple of other sites would be his last motorhome adventure with his son and daughter.

The car from Texas on the other side of us was driven by Jesus. He made the trip up from Fort Worth to capture images of the total eclipse. He had a nice telescope that he uses to observe planets and the moon and he planned to use it to make a video and capture photographs of the eclipse. He was a nice guy and just wanted to find a place off the beaten path to take his photos.

Jesus and his telescope

On Monday morning, a few local people turned out at the park to see the eclipse. It was very low key with maybe 20 to 30 people overall. Many brought snacks, drinks and/or lunch and sat in the grass or at the picnic tables in the pavilion.

People in the park

The partial eclipse began at 10:26am local time. You wouldn’t know anything was happening unless you had eclipse glasses and could look into the sun to see the moon begin to cross the sun. It was a slow process and I was surprised to see how little effect it had on the amount of sunlight for the most part. Once the moon had obliterated all but a small sliver of the sun the amount of sun light noticeably decreased and air felt cooler like it does in the evening.

While we were waiting for it to happen, a few people amused us with eclipse parlor tricks. If you can catch shadows just right, you can see the crescent shape of the available sunlight in the shadows.

Sunlight crescents in leaf shadows

Sunlight through a colander shows the crescent shaped sunlight

At 11:49am bam! – the sunlight was gone. We were suddenly in darkness but it wasn’t totally dark. Although it was dark enough where we were for light sensor-activated street lights to turn on after a minute or so, on the horizon in every direction it looked like the sun was rising. This was the edge area of the total eclipse where partial sunlight was still hitting the earth. Cicadas began buzzing with the sounds of evening at mid-day. After about a minute and a half, the sunlight returned quickly. Again, without looking directly into the sun with eclipse glasses, you wouldn’t really know much out of the ordinary was happening.

Jesus in the darkness at 11:49am

In the end it was a fleeting moment in time, but everyone was buzzing about it and I’m glad we were able to experience the total eclipse. I now know that being in an area with 90%+ coverage is meaningless compared to the total eclipse – like I said, up to about 97-98% you wouldn’t know much was happening without looking into the sun with special glasses. In Donna’s words, “It’s the difference between night and day.”

The park soon cleared out and the tent campers packed up and left. Jesus had a long drive ahead to get back to Fort Worth. By 4pm, we were the only ones left at the park. Earlier, before the eclipse, I had ridden the Spyder into town and paid for another night here in Bayard. In the town office I paid $10 – that makes our cost for three nights with 50amp electrical service and fresh water come out to about $3.33/night!

The grocery store in town is small but they have their meats prepared by their own butcher. Donna bought a spatchcocked chicken at the store – I wrote about spatchcock here. It was a small, presumably locally sourced chicken of about three pounds perfectly spatchcocked. I set up the Weber Q and grilled it for dinner.

Grilled spatchcocked chicken

Donna served it with roasted butternut squash and sauteed spinach with garlic. It was delicious – the chicken was tender and juicy.

This morning, Donna is out for a bike ride. We plan to pull out of here by 11am and make the 145 -mile drive to Cheyenne, Wyoming. We plan to stay overnight there at the Sierra Trading Post outlet – we stayed there a year ago. Then we’ll move on to Longmont, Colorado where we hope to get a site at the fairgrounds – they don’t take reservations.

The high temperature today in Cheyenne is supposed to be 78 degrees with clear skies and overnight it will drop into the upper 50s.

Since leaving Iowa we’ve been steadily gaining elevation across the great plains. Bayard, Nebraska sits at an elevation of about 3,900 feet above sea level and we’ll be at 6,000 feet above sea level in Cheyenne. Longmont, Colorado is closer to 5,000 feet above sea level.