Category Archives: Spyder

Not So Simple Repair

Our granddaughter, Lainey, is through with high school and also had the day off work on Thursday. After lunch on Thursday, we took some time to have a discussion on safe handling of firearms in preparation for a trip to the gun range. Back in the 90s, I was a certified Washington State Hunter Safety instructor. I also taught a class at Darrington High School on safe handling of firearms. The focus of the class was how to handle a firearm and also to recognize unsafe handling if you are ever in situation where someone is showing a gun.

After going through the safety lesson, we went to Norpoint Gun Range, about three miles from here. Lainey got to shoot a handgun for the first time. She found it much harder to shoot accurately than she imagined – it’s not like on TV! Donna also practiced and I had my share of rounds down range. Altogether we went through 250 rounds of ammo.

Lainey at the range

I’m putting a group into the top bullseye

Lainey had fun learning to handle a gun. I think it’s an important skill to have. Anyone can can encounter firearms and if you don’t have a clue about how to safely handle or operate one, it can have tragic results.

There was another project I’d been putting off since we arrived here at my daughter Alana’s house in Arlington, Washington. The cord for the pull start on her lawn mower broke and needed to be replaced. I wasn’t putting it off so much as I was waiting for a day that wasn’t dark, dreary and raining. Working on the mower in a dark, cold garage wasn’t my preference – I was hoping for a sunny day to tackle the job in the driveway.

The weather took a turn for the better Thursday afternoon. I dove into the lawn mower repair. Replacing the pull-start cord seemed like a simple task at first glance. Well, as usual I had to start peeling the onion. First I took the plastic cover off the top of the Briggs and Stratton engine. Then I found the sheet metal housing for the starter pulley was riveted in place. I was hoping for sheet metal screw or bolts. I’m sure the rivets are used because it makes manufacturing simpler – no tapping threads for bolts and not enough clearance for screws.

Once I drilled out the rivets and had the starter pulley assembly in hand, I could see this may be challenging. I needed to wind the recoil mechanism of the starter pulley to tension it and then feed the pull-cord through two holes. Holding the assembly – which comprised the sheet metal housing, pulley and internal recoil spring  – upside down in my hand, I didn’t pay enough attention to which way it was winding. It only provided sufficient spring tension in one direction, so I tensioned it and used a small punch tool to hold it in place while I installed the cord.

Sounds simple, but the cord was a little frayed and nearly impossible to pass through the two holes I needed to get it through. I tried cutting it clean and using a little super glue to stiffen it. No go. Then I used a length of safety wire and attached the wire with the thought of pulling the rope through. I got about halfway through then it was stuck. I had to use a small punch and hammer to get it through.

I temporarily attached the assembly with two rivets – instead of all four – to try it out. No go. The spring didn’t pull the start cord back – it was turning the pulley in the wrong direction. By then I was through. I figured it was best to attack it fresh on Friday morning. The weather forecast for the next several days is good.

Clear skies at sunset on Thursday

On Friday morning, I got after the mower project again. I drilled out the rivets I’d installed the day before and went through the assembly steps again. This time I worked the recoil spring in the right direction, but it didn’t feel right. When I turned counter-clockwise as I should, it would provide some tension then it seemed to slip. In a clockwise direction, it increased tension with every turn. Puzzling to me. I managed to get the rope holes aligned with the peak tension in a counter-clockwise direction and went through the agonizing steps of threading the rope again. This time I got a little smarter and wrapped the frayed end of the rope with tape, then cut through the tape with a knife to make a clean, tight end.

Top of the mower disassembled

I put it all together and installed two rivets to test it. No go. It wouldn’t reel in the pull-starter cord. There wasn’t sufficient tension. I took it all apart again. This time I went deeper and pulled the pulley assembly down to it’s component pieces. I found the problem. The spring inside the assembly was shot. Apparently when the pull-start cord broke, the pulley assembly rewound without any resistance and the spring was damaged. The spring is supposed to be a flat section of spring steel wound like a main spring on a mechanical watch. What I saw was a spring folded back on itself with random wavy areas.

Here’s the problem

I went to Arlington to the mower shop there – about two miles away. They didn’t have the part. They said they usually stock it and would have some on Tuesday. No good. We will leave on Monday and there’s no way Alana can reassemble what I took apart. The guy there told me the only other possibility was 20 miles away at The Shop in Mount Vernon.

I called The Shop in Mount Vernon, but only got voice mail. I took a chance and rode the Spyder up there. It was a beautiful day with the temperature in the 70s under blue skies. I went up SR9 to Lake McMurray, enjoying the sunshine and views all the way. This two-lane highway meanders through woods and the traffic was very light. From there I went west and up I-5 to Mount Vernon.

When I got to The Shop I found what I was looking for. They told me they try to always have this part on hand as it’s a common replacement.

New spring and pulley

I also bought five feet of cord thinking I shouldn’t be using the old cord to pull-start after this ordeal – after all it broke once and would likely break again sooner than a new one.

With all of the practice attempts at completing this repair, I had it back together in short order.

Repaired assembly riveted in place

A pull test had the mower running in three pulls. It worked perfectly and retracted the pull-start cord as it should.

Job done!

While I was working on the mower, I had another strange thing occur. In my last post, I ranted about Amazon not making good on a guaranteed delivery date. They offered me options for return and refund, but I thought it best to wait and see before I took up the offer for refund.

Friday morning I looked at the tracking info again and it showed out for delivery – scheduled for Monday June 26th. This didn’t make sense to me. If it was out for delivery, why wouldn’t it deliver that day? Well, the UPS guy showed up while I was working on the mower. He had two large boxes on a handcart and two smaller ones. I recognized one of the smaller ones as something I’d ordered, the other was for Alana. The two large boxes turned out to be an error as they were addressed to someone else.

He said, “Wait, I must have grabbed the wrong boxes, I show two more at this address.” He came back with the tires I ordered for Donna that were guaranteed to arrive Friday but showed they would arrive on Monday. Apparently it was a problem with the UPS tracking – the tires arrived on time.

What’s wrong with this picture – hint – I took this shot on June 23rd

Donna was out with Alana while I was working on the mower. They stopped at the computer repair place where the guy transferred the data from her hard drive to an external drive so she can easily set up a new laptop. Then they shopped at WinCo and Costco.

I grilled wild Alaskan sockeye salmon that Donna bought and we dined at the table in the front yard. Warm, sunny days are so much nicer than the weather we had last week!

Wild Alaskan sockeye salmon

We have another sunny day ahead and the temperature should reach the 80s. Donna and I plan to meet Sini for lunch in Edmonds. I need to start prepping the trailer for travel. We plan to pull out Monday and head over the North Cascade Highway to Winthrop for our next stop.

Fifty Years Later

While Donna was out bicycling on the Jedediah Smith Memorial trail on Friday, I took the Spyder over to my old neighborhood. My family lived here in Sacramento when I was a kid, from second grade through fifth grade. We moved into a newly constructed house in the second phase of a development called Glenbrook. My paternal grandparents lived nearby in North Highlands near McClelland Air Base.

When we first moved in, our street (Midfield Way) was more or less at the end of the development. To the east, behind our backyard, hop fields filled the landscape all the way to the American River. When I was in third grade, the developers acquired the farmland and the hops were taken out. A new elementary school, Hubert H. Bancroft Elementary, was built behind our house. Our back fence bordered the school ball field and playground. The school opened in time for my fourth grade year.

Our house fifty years later

Bancroft Elementary

When I was in fourth and fifth grades, I would walk home from school at lunch time and sit at the dining table where my mom had lunch ready for me. I’d watch the news on TV, then hop the backyard fence and join my pals on the playground. I don’t think kids in elementary school are allowed to leave the campus at lunch time anymore.

On the way back to the Cal Expo RV Park, I stopped at the Raley’s Supermarket on Folsom Boulevard. I wrote about entering and winning a pie eating contest at this store when I was a kid in an earlier post. The last time I was in this store was 1967 – wow, fifty years ago!

Donna’s bike ride took her on the trail toward downtown Sacramento on Thursday afternoon. Although it was scenic, she wasn’t too impressed by the number of homeless encampments in that direction. On Friday, she followed the trail upriver and liked it better. Later we took the Spyder down Howe Avenue to Fair Oaks Boulevard. I was looking for the Capitol Beer and Tap Room. I pulled into the strip mall lot where I thought it was, but couldn’t find it. There was a building surrounded by scaffolding and obvious construction work. Donna pointed out a sign that said Open During Construction and another smaller sign with an arrow pointing to the back of the building that said Capitol Beer. We found it!

Sudwerks Bourbonator

They had a large selection of beers on tap. I tried an IPA and then I had their special – Sudwerks Bourbonator. This is a bourbon barrel aged ale. It wasn’t bad, not too heavy although it was 9% ABV, but it was a little sweet for my taste. Donna had a a stout from Abnormal called Mocha Mostra. She liked it at first but it left a heavy aftertaste. So she followed up with a five-ounce pour of Bike Party Pils.

Donna headed out on her bicycle for a longer ride on Saturday. The previous two days she rode 20 miles each day. Her plan was to ride the trail all the way to Folsom – about 23 miles from here. She left at 9:40am. I hung around and watched the Moto GP qualifying from Misano, Italy. Around 10:40am, I hopped on the Spyder and headed out. My destination was the Sutter Street Grill in Folsom. With an hour head start, I figured my half hour ride would put me there about the time Donna would arrive.

Sutter Street is in an historic neighborhood. The area around Folsom was called Rancho Rios de los Americanos (American River Ranch) when it was settled by William Alexander Leidesdorff in 1844. Joeseph Libby Folsom purchased the land from Leidesdorff’s heirs when he died. Folsom laid out a town he called Granite City. It was during the California Gold Rush era and the town was mostly filled with miners and mining services. Joseph died in 1855 and the town was renamed Folsom in his honor.

Folsom is probably best known as the location of Folsom Prison. Folsom Dam was built in 1956 and created Folsom Lake.

Sutter Street, Folsom

Sutter Street Grill

Donna and I met up after a bit of confusion over where she was. I spoke to her on the phone and told her she was only two blocks away from the grill, but I sent her in the wrong direction. We hooked up soon enough and had large breakfast plates for lunch in the Sutter Street Grill. Donna had a home made corned beef hash and eggs while I had a Texas omelette – chili with beef and beans and cheddar cheese in a three-egg omelette. The plates were huge – we each brought home half of our food.

Across the street from the Sutter Street Grill, the Saturday farmers’ market was going on. We took a walk through it and Donna bought raspberries and garlic. She also bought tamales.

Farmers’ market

Donna got back on her bicycle to make the ride home while I stowed her purchases in the Spyder and headed out. She took a few photos along the way on the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail. Jedediah Smith was a mountain man who led a party of fur trappers through the area in 1827.

Bridge on the trail over the American River

View in the other direction from the bridge about nine miles from here – people on the sandy beach on the right

Wild turkeys crossing the trail

Rafters floating the rapids

On Saturday evening, I grilled chicken and apple sausage and had a beer from American River Brewing called Hop Canyon IPA. The label says the brewer tips his hat to the hop growing heritage of the Sacramento area – remember when I said hop fields stretched from our back yard fence to the American River? I don’t think there are many, if any hop fields here now.

Today Donna will make a shorter bike ride – maybe 25 miles. I have a few chores to do before we hit the road again tomorrow. Donna has mapped out a few boondocking opportunities as we head to the northwest. The temperature should reach the upper 80s today with no rain in the forecast. Tomorrow will be warmer – we may be driving with the generator running to power our roof air conditioner.

 

 

The Land of Fruits and Nuts

It remained cloudy but the rain stopped falling Wednesday afternoon. Our friend and neighbor, Joe Milligan, lent me his golf cart so I could transport our grill, chairs and table down to the trailer which was parked near the clubhouse in the dry camping area. I straightened up the trailer and made it ready for travel. Meanwhile, Donna washed two loads of laundry in the Park of the Sierras laundry room.

They have a policy of no onboard laundry when you’re in the park. I’m told there is an issue with lint build-up in their septic system. I have a hard time believing this, but maybe their system is undersized for the number of hook-ups. I don’t know, but I’ve lived in three houses that were on septic systems and we did laundry daily. They have a separate waste water system for their laundry room and we abided by the rules.

For our final dinner in Coarsegold, Donna prepared fish with crispy tarragon bread crumbs, spinach and sweet onions with tilapia filets we had in the freezer.

I paired it with an IPA called Aurora Hoppyalis from Karl Strauss Brewery in San Diego.

As we prepared to leave Thursday morning, Ozark the cat did her disappearing act. She doesn’t like travel days and lately, when she knows we getting ready to hit the road, she hides. I don’t get too worried about it because pulling the bedroom slides in expands the space behind the slide if that’s where she’s hiding. If she’s behind the sofa, it moves with the slide so she’s okay there too. Once we stop and shut off the engine, she’ll come from her hiding place. She’s done this at fuel stops before and Donna puts her in her crate then. When we reach our destination, I won’t put the slides out until I know where Ozark the cat is. If she’s in the wrong place, she could be crushed by the movement of the powerful hydraulic slide.

We hooked up the trailer, loaded the Spyder and left around 10am. Our route took us back toward Fresno on CA41. About 14 miles down the road, we turned west on CA145 and followed it to Madera. This took us through large cattle ranches and pistachio groves. In Madera, we found CA99 and headed north through the San Joaquin Valley.

Most people think of California as the land of beaches and Hollywood or maybe the Sierra Nevada mountains and Lake Tahoe. But the central valley is mostly agricultural. It’s roughly centered in the state and lies slightly diagonal from north-northwest to south-southeast. The southern portion is called the San Joaquin Valley and the northern end is the Sacramento Valley.

This is mostly flat land in a valley that’s approximately 60 miles wide – bordered on the east by the Sierra Nevada foothills and on the west by the Coastal Range. The valley is about 450 miles long. It’s prime farming land and California is the main source in the USA for crops such as lettuce, grapes, tomatoes, sugar beets, peaches, asparagus, artichokes and avocado. California is nearly the exclusive source in the USA for almonds, apricots, walnuts, prunes, broccoli, pistachios, kiwifruit, dates, figs, olives and nectarines.

North of Madera, the pistachio groves gave way to almonds and walnuts. We stopped at a rest area near Turlock. Rest areas are few and far between on CA99 – this was the only one we saw between Fresno and Sacramento. The scarcity of rest areas made this one a popular stop.

Busy rest area near Turlock

Traffic was stop and go from Atwater to Stockton due to road work. Once we reached Sacramento, we followed the I-80 Business Loop across the American River to Exposition Boulevard. After one false turn, we found the Cal Expo RV Park at the end of Ethan Way.

This park is nothing fancy – it’s basically a gravel lot with hook-ups and not much in the way of amenities. We have a 50 amp full hook-up site that accommodates our length without dropping the trailer. The draw here is the location. We are a couple hundred yards away from the American River and the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail runs right outside the park. This is a paved multi-use trail with no motorized traffic. At $40/night, it’s pricey for what it is, but we’ll spend four nights here giving Donna a chance to take some long bicycle rides in preparation for her ride across Iowa in late July and we’ll explore a bit. For comparison, in San Diego at Mission Bay, we paid a monthly rate of $925 – just under $30/day including utilities. In Coarsegold, our first week was $62 with a special discount for first-time visitors plus we paid $28 for electricity. After the first week, we paid a daily rate of $26 including electricity. Our total campground costs for May were $708 – just under $23/day.

Our site at Cal Expo

I lived a few miles from here when I was a kid – from second grade through fifth grade. Cal Expo is the site of the California State Fair and we always came here for the event. It might be fun to take a look at the old neighborhood.

Last night, Donna’s friend Lisa Montanaro drove down from Davis and they went out to dinner at Seasons 52. I stayed home and dialed in the satellite dish and had leftovers for dinner.

The weather forecast is calling for upper 80s and low 90s for the highs over the next five days with little chance of precipitation. The 50 amp service here will be useful – we’re sure to be running the air conditioners.

 

Bass Lake

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

559 Bourbon Barrel Aged

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wedding party – reception hall in the background

View of the marina and lake from our table

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

Donna’s birthday dinner plate

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

Willow Creek

North end of Bass Lake from Willow Creek

Donna ready to saddle up

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

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

 

 

Yosemite

Donna and I were up early on Thursday morning. We wanted to head up to Yosemite National Park and beat the crowd. We left Park of the Sierras at 6:40am and rode the Spyder up CA41 to the park’s south entrance – about 30 miles. From there it was another 35 miles to the Yosemite Valley. Even with the early start, we hit some traffic and there are no opportunities for passing slow vehicles most of the way. Yosemite National Park covers a huge area of the western slope of the Sierra Nevada range – around 1,168 square miles – roughly three quarters of a million acres.

Map of the park lifted from Wikipedia

Our route took us up Wawona Road past Chinquapin. We went through a long tunnel through the granite mountainside on the south side of the Merced River. We made a quick stop in a parking area and got our first view of Yosemite Falls. Although we were all the way across the Merced River from the waterfall we could hear it roaring like a jet engine in the background.

Donna catching the upper falls

From there we continued to the Yosemite Valley Village on the north side of the Merced River where we had breakfast. We each has a banana and hard boiled eggs and coffee before we left, but we were ready to eat again. Donna had a breakfast sandwich – eggs, bacon and cheese on an English muffin. I had biscuits and gravy and somehow ended up with a double order – I managed to eat it all.

While I was in line to order our food, a European couple with a child of five or six years old was ahead of me. The guy asked for two breakfast sandwiches. The cashier taking the order asked, “Bacon, sausage or soy?” The guy looked puzzled and said he would also like a breakfast burrito. The cashier responded with another quick “bacon, sausage or soy?” Again, the guy was puzzled and said “two breakfast sandwiches.” This went back and forth a few times before the guy’s wife stepped in and said bacon. I’m sure the soy was creating the confusion – the poor guy didn’t understand the cashier’s question and the cashier wasn’t offering much in the way of help.

After breakfast, we parked the Spyder in the day use lot west of the Yosemite Valley Lodge. I had camped in Yosemite National Park a few times in the ’70s and ’80s. It’s a much different place today. Of course most of the views aren’t different. But the crowds and the parking situation and campgrounds have changed greatly. Also, many of the trails are paved and wide today – back in the day the trails were – well, they were trails, you know, dirt paths. The lot was filling quickly even though it was only a little after 9am.

We got on a free shuttle bus which makes a loop west then crosses the Merced River and continues east up to Half Dome Village before circling back to Yosemite Valley Lodge. There are a number of free shuttle buses and they pick up at the bus stops every 10 or 15 minutes. The buses are crowded – we had standing room only on the shuttles we rode.

We got off at the second Half Dome stop.

Placard at Half Dome Village

I shot some photos, but it’s hard to capture the scale of the granite mountainsides all around.

If you look closely, you can see a waterfall cascading down the mountain.

Towering granite mountains

The elevation within the park varies from around 2,100 feet above sea level to over 13,100 feet above sea level. There are a number of waterfalls.  The most well known are Bridalveil Fall, Vernal Fall and Yosemite Falls. Yosemite Falls has the longest drop of any waterfall in the USA – it falls 2,425 feet through the upper fall, the middle cascade and the lower fall. The waterfalls are fed from snow melt at the top of the mountains – some of them are dry in the late summer/early fall.

From Half Dome, we took a shuttle to the Lower Falls trail and hiked up to the bottom of Yosemite Falls. It’s an easy hike on a paved surface.

Placard on the Lower Falls Trail

Yosemite Falls from the Lower Falls Trail

Yosemite Falls drains into the Yosemite Creek. The creek was running strong as much water was passing over the fall. With the large snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains this year, I expect the falls to be running strong well into the summer.

We hiked to the bridge over Yosemite Creek. Spray from the waterfall hung in the air and everything was wet. I took our selfie photo and you can see that there was a lot of water in the air around us.

Selfie where Yosemite Falls creates Yosemite Creek

Head of Yosemite Creek

Yosemite Creek running strong to the Merced River

We hiked back to our starting point at the day use parking lot west of the lodge. There were several cars driving the lot in search of a parking place. On average, four million people visit Yosemite every year. A record was set in 2016 when more than five million people visited the park. Like I said earlier, it’s no longer like the old days. Now there are crowds of people. The campground areas are filled with tents wall-to-wall. We headed out before noon.

When we came in to the park, I was surprised to find the kiosks at the entrance unmanned – there was no one there to collect the entrance fee. On our way out, the gate was manned and they were checking vehicles leaving the park for entry receipts. I had a National Parks Pass that Donna bought when she went to the Grand Canyon so we were good to go.

Mid-day traffic leaving the park was light and we made it back to Oakhurst in just over an hour. We stopped there at a fruit and vegetable stand Donna had noticed on the way out, then went over to Southgate Brewing Company for lunch. We enjoyed a couple of their brews and Donna ordered a beet and arugula salad with blood oranges, and fried goat cheese topped with chunks of chicken breast. She loved it.

Donna’s salad – that’s fried goat cheese in the upper right

I had their BLT with sriracha mayo – it was okay, but not too impressive.

Today we have much cooler weather – we expect a high in the upper 60s. We started the morning with pickleball. I don’t have much on my agenda. I’ll need to pay our electric bill for the week and then pay the daily rate – which includes electricity –  until next Tuesday or Wednesday. We haven’t decided yet when to leave here or where we are going for that matter!

 

Darkness, Darkness

We were invited to join fellow Alpine Coach owners Dessa and Frank Halasz at their coach for a small gathering Monday night. I wasn’t feeling up to par after suffering from dehydration in the afternoon, so Donna went without me. She rode the Spyder over to their site at the far end of the park before sundown, around 7pm.

She returned a little past 9pm and said she had a heck of a time riding home. It’s very dark in that section of the park so when she first started out, she thought maybe her eyes just needed to adjust to the darkness after being inside in bright light. She tried the high beams, hoping to shed more light, but that didn’t change anything. It took her awhile to navigate the unfamiliar park roads, but she eventually found her way home. She told me that she thought something must be wrong with the Spyder’s headlights. I went outside and checked it out. She was right – the tail lights and running lights worked, but no headlights. I needed to do something about that – I wouldn’t want us to be caught out in the dark. For some reason the Jesse Colin Young song Darkness, Darkness came to mind.

Tuesday morning we played pickleball here at the Escapees Park of the Sierras. We quit before noon and it was another hot day. After lunch, I looked at the headlight situation on the Spyder. First I checked out the 30amp headlight fuse. Looking at the manual, I saw tail lights and running lights were on a separate circuit from the headlights. The fuse was fine so I moved on to the next check.

I read the shop manual instructions for bulb removal and it seemed pretty straightforward. Simply remove the instrument panel, then take the cover off the rear of the bulb housing. Twist the bulb holder counter-clockwise and it should come out. Easy, right?

The instrument panel snaps in place with plastic tabs. You’re supposed to depress the tabs with a screwdriver and gently lift the panel out. Okay, except you need a screwdriver that’s less than an inch long or else it’ll hit the windshield! I took an old pocket screwdriver and modified it for this task.

Modified screwdriver for instrument panel removal

With the instrument panel out, I could reach into the body work to remove the headlight bulbs. However, the instrument panel opening is fairly small. My hands aren’t especially large, but they’re not small either. I wear an XL glove size.

Instrument panel out

Next I had to take the cover off the rear of the headlight housing. There wasn’t much room – the back of my hand was jammed against plastic mounting points for the dash body work.

Not much room in there

Once I had the rear cover off, I needed to twist the bulb holder and unplug the H7 halogen bulb. This took a lot of effort. The headlight housing is like a monkey paw trap. I could get my hand in there, but once I wrapped my fingers around the bulb holder my hand was trapped against the inside of the housing. Also my wrist was against the edge of the instrument panel opening – not too comfortable. I tried different approaches standing on either side of the Spyder. Eventually I managed to get the bulb out.

The bulb holder is free from the mount

The headlight bulb was burned out. I didn’t bother removing the left side bulb at this point, I assumed that both bulbs were bad. A while back, Sini told me she thought one of our headlights was out. I didn’t think so – I thought the headlights only used one bulb on low beam and both on high beam. Some motorcycles are set up this way. It turns out that both bulbs should be illuminated at all times. High beams are actuated by a solenoid that adjusts the reflector in the headlight assembly.

I rode the Spyder to Coarsegold and bought two new H7 Halogen bulbs.

Old H7 halogen bulb

When I returned, I went back to work. Accessing the left bulb was tighter than the right side! There’s a wiring harness behind the bulb housing that makes removing the rear cover and the bulb holder nearly impossible. I’m sure the factory assembles the headlights on a bench, then installs the body work and instrument panel on the vehicle. To do it the way the factory assembled it would mean removing the windshield, the instrument panel and all of the associated front end body work. It would be a large task.

So, I continued the monkey paw game in the 100-degree heat. I had to take care not to touch the glass bulb – halogen bulbs run hot and any oils from your fingers will cause them to fail. After a while persistence paid off and I had both bulbs changed. Getting the bulb holders back in place was another test of patience. Eventually I got it done. But I would like to have five minutes with the person that designed this set up. I’m guessing it was an engineer that got a mechanical engineering degree because of an aptitude for math. Obviously they had never serviced or repaired anything in their life!

I spent the rest of the afternoon cooling off inside with a book. Before dinner, Donna and I took a cruise around the park on the Spyder. This is a large property with several loops through five sections. We took a look at Coarsegold Creek where it crosses a golf cart path – the creek is running strong and with the large Sierra Nevada snow pack I imagine it’ll run strong through the summer months.

Coarsegold Creek

Donna made coriander crusted pork chops with a pineapple salsa for dinner. She served it with green beans and sweet potato mash – it was a hit in my book – very juicy and flavorful!

Coriander crusted pork chop with pineapple salsa

We played pickleball again this morning. We expect another hot afternoon with the temperature exceeding 90 degrees. Tomorrow is supposed to be cooler. We’ll head out early tomorrow to visit Yosemite National Park.

Pine Cone and a Sleepy Squirrel

Donna hiked and found Coarsegold Creek on Saturday morning. Coarsegold Creek runs along the west side of the Escapees Park of the Sierras property. In addition to the developed RV sites, they have an additional 40 acres undeveloped that is left in its natural state. When Donna was coming back to our site from her hike, she found what appeared to be an odd looking fruit that fell from a tree. After some research, we agreed that it was an immature Ponderosa pine cone.

Immature Ponderosa pine cone

Ponderosa pines are sometimes called yellow pine. The seeds are in the cones and take about 16 months to mature. The trees flower from April to June and the cones mature and fall from the tree in August or September of the following year. When they’re immature, they look like a solid mass. Once mature and ready to shed seeds, they have the familiar woody petal shape that’s somewhat prickly.

After lunch on Saturday, we took the Spyder for a ride up to Oakhurst. Oakhurst is a small town with around 13,000 residents about 13 miles from the RV park – it’s about halfway to the entrance to Yosemite National Park. We rode up a grade to an elevation of about 3,000 feet before we dropped a few hundred feet into the small valley where Oakhurst is located. This area was once known as Fresno Flats. The Fresno River runs through it.

We stopped at the Southgate Brewing Company for a cold one. Donna had a pecan brown ale that she thought was amazing – she said it tasted like a pecan pie! I tried a pale ale and it was quite good. We’ll go back and try out their menu sometime.

Saturday evening Donna prepared lemon-butter chicken for dinner. She pounded chicken breasts flat, then lined them with prosciutto and rolled them. She sautéed them in butter and they were very tasty.

Lemon-butter chicken

Sunday morning we went down to the temporary pickleball court here in the park. We met Joe and Melinda there and played several games. It was a fun time, but nothing here in the park is flat – including the pickleball court. The court is lined out on a parking area near the dry camping zone where we parked our trailer. It slopes from one end to the other and has a slight dip in the center. This made it interesting to say the least.

When we came back to our site, we found a squirrel on the deck railing eating the Ponderosa pine cone.

Who knew squirrels like immature Ponderosa pine cones?

Sunday evening I grilled a simple meal. I roasted two ears of corn in the husks and also grilled Aidell’s chicken-apple sausages. Donna sauteed apple slices and onions with fresh garlic and rosemary to serve over the sausage. Simple but delicious.

Chicken-apple sausage with corn-on-the-cob

Melinda told me about pickleball in Fresno. She was going with Joe Monday morning and sent me directions. I rode the Spyder there – about 30 miles and arrived around 8:45am. I played for a few hours. They had four pickleball courts set up on a couple tennis courts at Rotary East Park. Donna stayed home to work on a project.

Pickleball at Rotary East Park

By the time I left around noon, it was hot – in the 90s. I stopped for a plate of rolled tacos before I headed home. The ride back was hot and dry and I felt overheated. By the time I got home, I was a little shaky and nauseous – I think I was dehydrated. Sitting in the shade with a couple of bottles of water helped. Then we came inside and Donna fired up the air conditioners. I read for a while and took a short nap. I’m feeling better now.

The squirrel that ate the pine cone likes to hang out on our deck. He laid out spread eagle on the railing and napped for half an hour or so. It was comical. I couldn’t get a sharp photo – I had to shoot through a window so I wouldn’t scare him away.

Napping squirrel

I saw sad news on the internet today. Nicky Haden succumbed to injuries sustained when he was hit by a car while bicycling with a group near Rimini, Italy – I wrote about it in my last post. Nicky was 35 years old. I followed his motorcylce road racing career since he was in his teens. I unexpectedly ran into him once back in 2004 in Barcelona, Spain. He was known as the Kentucky Kid and always maintained a positive attitude and a quick smile. He will be missed. I extend my condolences to his family and fiance, Jackie.

Tomorrow we plan to play pickleball here in the morning. Wednesday we’ll leave here early and ride up to Yosemite National Park to see the sights. The weather will remain very warm this week – I’ll be sure to bring plenty of water.

 

 

 

 

 

A Chance Encounter

Our three-night stay in Hemet passed quickly. Tuesday morning I went outside around 9:30am and was surprised to hear people on the pickleball courts.I didn’t think enough people were in the park to play pickleball. When we stayed here before, most of the snowbirds pulled out in April and the pickleball activity was finished. We planned on heading down to Sun City (Menifee) around 11:30am to visit my step-dad, Ken, so I didn’t go to the pickleball courts.

Also, it was pretty windy and cool. The temperature never went above 65 degrees for our entire stay here – about 20 degrees below average for this time of year. We rode the Spyder to Sun City and arrived at Ken’s place around noon. His cleaning lady was there, so we sat in his TV room and talked until she finished her deep cleaning of the house. She had been at it since 7:15am and spent five and half hours cleaning.

We drove in Ken’s car to a Chinese restaurant for lunch. Ken generously bought our lunches and we enjoyed talking while we dined. We headed back to Hemet around 2pm. On the way back, we made a stop at WinCo foods to pick up a few items. When we stayed here before, we always shopped at Stater Brothers – I didn’t know at the time what a great supermarket WinCo is. I found a 22-ounce bomber bottle of Stone Tangerine Express IPA for $4.12 – bargain!

Donna planned to have her friend, Connie Kippycash, join us for dinner on Tuesday evening. Unfortunately Connie was suffering from a sinus infection and had to cancel. So we just relaxed and had leftovers for dinner. It looked like rain was imminent, so maybe it was best to relax indoors.

Wednesday morning Donna and I hit the pickleball courts. There was only one other player so we played a couple of games where we rotated through a two-on-one game. After about an hour, another player arrived and we played a couple of doubles games. They were older and the level of play had me holding back. It was fun nonetheless.

Wednesday evening I grilled herbed boneless, skinless chicken thighs on the Weber Q.  When I was younger, I always preferred the white breast meat. Nowadays I find the dark thigh meat to be juicier, tender and more appealing. Donna served it with a medley of roasted baby squash with feta cheese and quinoa.

Grilled chicken thighs with baby squash and quinoa

This morning I need to pack a few things in the trailer – the grill and grill stand, a few chairs and the Spyder. We’re not in any hurry. Our drive will take us north through San Bernardino and over Cajon Pass. We plan to stop at the Elks Lodge in Palmdale – about 100 miles from here. Tomorrow morning we’ll continue north to Coarsegold in the Sierra Nevada foothills near Yosemite National Park.

I don’t want to delay our departure here too long – the Elks Lodge is first come – first served. I made a reservation at the Escapees Park of the Sierras campground yesterday. We’ll stay for one week. At first, the woman on the phone told me they didn’t have any sites available for a rig of our size. Then she had me hold for a couple of minutes and told me she had one site, but we would have to drop the trailer away from the site. She asked me if I wanted to do that. I told her it wasn’t ideal, but we’d take it.

After I gave her my check-in information, she asked me if I write a blog. I said yes. She said you just went to Hemet, right? And you’re an avid pickleball player and your wife is Donna. I was stunned. I laughed out loud when she told me she had been following this blog for quite a while. We plan to get together for pickleball after we arrive. I was so surprised at the chance encounter that I failed to ask her what her name is!

After three cool, cloudy days, today we have abundant sunshine. The temperature should reach 80 degrees today and the next week in Coarsegold should be in the upper 80s. Sounds good to me!

 

 

Cool and Quiet in Hemet

Monday morning we finished prepping for the road. I had removed the tire covers and checked tire pressure on Sunday. When I broke out my Porter-Cable portable compressor to add air, I found an air leak in the hose. I’ve had the 20-foot air hose for about 15 years – not bad for a cheap Chinese-made pneumatic hose that I bought at Harbor Freight.

It was time to kick the tires and light the fires at 11am. Donna rode the Spyder over to the overflow lot and I followed in the coach. I hooked up our trailer and loaded the Spyder. By the time we were ready to pull out, it was already 11:40am. We weren’t in any hurry – we were only going 90 miles up to Hemet, California.

I drove south on East Mission Bay Drive to Clairemont Drive where I got onto I-5 north. Going to Clairemont Drive added a couple of miles, but it’s a much better route to maneuver. I could have taken Mission Bay Drive north and got onto I-5, but there’s always a tie-up where merging traffic comes off I-5 and many cars want to get in the left lane to hit Grand Avenue. There are also five stoplights before you reach the freeway. I think the extra distance we drove is quicker and it’s definitely a lot easier in a big rig.

We followed a familiar route – I-5 to CA52 to I-15. North of Temecula we forked right onto I-215. We stopped at a small travel center on Ethenac Road. It’s a truck stop but the parking lot and entrance are fairly tight. I filled up at the far right pump. This would allow me to make a 180-degree turn in the small lot and come out past the far left pump. I topped up the tank and we were able to exit without any issues.

From there it was a short drive to Golden Village Palms RV Resort. At check-in, I asked if we could extend our stay until Thursday – we booked two nights originally but decided to stay for three nights. We got the Passport America rate – 50% off – for all three nights.

Our site is a 70′ long pull-through, so setting up was quick and easy. The park is very quiet at this time of year and we have empty sites on either side of us.

Roomy site 821

All of the plants are blooming in the park – including the beautiful purple flowers on the Jacaranda trees. I hope my pollen allergies don’t flare up too badly.

Donna has really taken to the new Weber Q grill. She made up some pork tenderloin kabobs and did the grilling as well. The grill is usually my domain but Donna is enjoying cooking on it.

Pork kabobs hot off the grill

She also grilled baby bok choy to serve with kabobs and rice. It was an excellent meal and we have leftovers!

Pork kabobs and rice with baby bok choy

It was chilly in the evening as we had a stiff breeze blowing from the south. This gave us a nice tailwind on the drive up, but made it a little too chilly to dine outside. Rain clouds formed to the east and north of us and I expected us to have a shower during the night.

This morning Donna was up early – she was out of bed before 6am. We didn’t have any overnight rain. Donna watched rabbits around our site after sunrise. We saw a black rabbit the night before. He was back along with a cottontail. I think the black rabbit is a domestic variety that’s gone feral.

Black rabbit and cottontail

Today we’ll ride the Spyder down to Sun City (Menifee) to visit my step-dad, Ken. It’s about a 15-mile ride. We plan to go to lunch with him at noon. It’s cloudy this morning and the high temperature is only supposed to reach 64 degrees. This is about 20 degrees cooler than average for mid-May here in Hemet. We’re at an elevation of about 1,600 feet above sea level. The forecast calls for another cool day tomorrow before it warms up to a more normal temperature in the low 80s.

 

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

Cadman Park Gang

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

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

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

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

Poke plate

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

Ozark shielding her eyes while she naps

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

Some of the gang at Cadman Park

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

Party on at Offshore

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

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