Category Archives: Trailer

Easter Sunday on the Bay

Friday went pretty much as planned. We pulled out of our boondocking site near the Imperial Sand Dunes around 9:30am and headed west on I-8. There’s construction in progress on the interstate between Yuma and El Centro, but traffic was light and it didn’t slow us down much. I usually cruise at 60-62mph and we were able to maintain this speed most of the time.

We had a headwind as we crossed the desert. West of El Centro the elevation was zero – mean sea level. There’s a huge array of solar panels covering hundreds of acres with a huge transformer station on both sides of I-8 in the desert there. Near Ocotillo, there are wind generators on both sides of the interstate. This is where the climb up to Laguna Summit begins. There are three summits along the route – Tecate Divide, Crestwood Summit and Laguna Summit. All are over 4,000 feet above sea level.

Although we had a headwind, we were able to maintain a minimum speed of 50mph up the grade and the engine coolant temperature never exceeded 197 degrees. I was happy about that. We stopped and had lunch at the Buckman Springs Rest Area. This is located in a valley between the Crestwood Summit and the Laguna Summit and is a favorite stopping place for us. The exit to the rest area on the westbound side is poorly marked. There’s a sign advising “Rest Area one mile ahead” but the exit at Buckman Springs doesn’t have a Rest Area sign and you can’t see the rest area until you’ve passed it. If you are looking for a rest stop and aren’t familiar with the area, you could easily miss this one.

Getting back on the interstate, we had to merge into bumper-to-bumper traffic. There’s a Border Patrol checkpoint about a mile from the on ramp at Buckman Springs. Once again, we were waved through with no questions asked and got up to speed again.

We checked in at Mission Bay RV Resort in San Diego around 1pm. I had reserved our site here last November and paid a deposit. That locked in the price at $925/month. They’ve raised their rates since then – it’s now $1,085/month – it was $875/month when we started coming here four years ago. While I was checking in, the girl at he counter mentioned our trailer and overflow parking rent of $150/month. I told her we haven’t been charged for trailer parking here since those Dirty, Rotten Thieves stole our trailer from their lot. She looked up our account records and verified the information, but then she told me this will be our last free parking pass. So, next time we come here we will be paying a much higher price.

Although parking our coach at ViewPoint RV and Golf Resort in Mesa, AZ was difficult, the overall dimensions of the site were generous. We dropped our trailer on the concrete pad and had ample space between our coach and trailer to set up our awning mat, chairs and grills. Here at Mission Bay RV Resort, it’s a little more cozy. Our neighbor’s rig is closer to us than our trailer was at ViewPoint.

Neighbor close by

Our friend Sini Schmitt is three sites away from us. Sini came over and visited with Donna while I got us set up. Sini had friends coming down from Seattle and they planned to sightsee on Saturday. They used her friends’ rental car and Sini gave Donna the keys to her Saturn Vue. Donna took advantage of the car to get to her hair appointment, stock up on groceries and also visit her sister Sheila in Point Loma.

On Saturday evening, I grilled a pork tenderloin that Donna marinated in her mojo marinade for 36 hours. Twenty-two minutes on the grill had the internal temperature of the loin at 140 degrees – perfect.

Pork tenderloin with smashed potatoes and green beans

The RV park is nearly full with lots of young families and kids here for the Easter weekend. This is a big change from ViewPoint in Mesa, Arizona which is a 55+ park. Not many youngsters racing around on bikes and skateboards there. The weather all weekend was beautiful with highs around 70 degrees – it hit 74 on Sunday. The Easter crowds around Mission Bay Park were at summertime levels – lots of canopies, grills and volleyball games on the grass.

Donna is still trying to overcome a respiratory ailment but wanted to get some exercise on Sunday, so she walked to Trader Joe’s in Pacific Beach. It was about a five-mile round trip and she came home with a heavy load as she also stopped at Petco and bought a six-pound bag of cat food. I spent the morning watching the Formula One race from Bahrain.

Around noon, I got ambitious and pumped up the tires on my Specialized Crave mountain bike. It was breezy – I rode toward the ocean on the Bayside Walk right into a headwind. It was slow going. I kept at it and rode all the way to the boardwalk at the end of Pacific Beach Drive.

Easter Sunday and the boardwalk at the beach was crowded!

People on the boardwalk near the Surfer Hotel

Surfers in the water

The wind pushed me along on the ride back and I made good time. I stopped to shoot a couple of photos and still made it back in just 20 minutes.

A nice day to be on the bay

View from the pedestrian bridge over Rose Inlet looking toward Fiesta Island

For our Easter dinner on Sunday evening, I grilled salmon. I tried a different technique. Donna coated the salmon with olive oil on both sides and sprinkled it with salt and pepper. I also oiled the grill grates. I put the salmon skin side up on the hot grill for a few minutes, then turned it skin side down for a few more minutes on medium heat. It worked great! The fish doesn’t stick or flake when it it’s skin side up because it isn’t fully cooked yet.

Grilled salmon with orzo, spinach & feta salad

This morning I plan to head over to the Ocean Beach Recreation Center to play pickleball. Donna’s working on a article. Tomorrow Donna is flying to Albany, New York to visit her parents in Bennington, Vermont. Once again, I’ll be a bachelor for a week.


A Familiar Route

The final few days at ViewPoint RV and Golf Resort in Mesa, Arizona seemed to fly by. Actually, our two-month stay here seems to have gone by quickly – even more so for Donna since she was away for a girl’s week in Sedona. Our first month of the winter stay in Arizona dragged slowly – that’s because I was stranded in the parking lot of RV Renovators having repairs made. Donna was able to escape for week from there when she made a trip to Vieques.

On Monday, Donna joined me on the pickleball courts in the morning. This turned out to be not the best decision for her. Although she played fine, afterwards the congestion from the cold she’s been fighting returned big time. She took it easy and stayed home on Tuesday. I played for two and half hours that morning and again on Wednesday.

On Tuesday afternoon I started packing the trailer. I reorganized a few things and had it looking good. By Wednesday afternoon, I had most of the stuff stowed in the trailer, leaving only a few items for Thursday morning before we pulled out.  We went out for dinner at Roma Cafe Wednesday evening on Main Street in Mesa. Donna loves Italian food and she says it’s great to feed a cold.

I ran across one of my pet peeves when we arrived at Roma Cafe. Someone decided they were entitled to take two parking stalls – right at the entrance to the restaurant! What? I don’t understand behavior like this.

Nice parking job – but we got the Spyder in there

On Thursday morning, I put the windshield cover, awning mat and chairs away. Then I dumped and flushed the holding tanks. Then it was time to kick the tires and light the fires – we were pulling out. I thought I had a plan to get us out of the tight spot we were parked in. I wanted to pull straight across the street, then angle back and work my way to the left around the light post.

After a couple of moves, I could see this wasn’t going to work. Time for a new plan. I reversed the operation and worked the coach around the orange tree and irrigation line on the right side of the coach and pulled into the street in the opposite direction of my original intent. This was a time-consuming and painstaking process. When I finally got the coach safely into the street, I had to back into the pad to hook up the trailer – this wasn’t so easy either.

After nearly an hour of manueuvering to get out of our site and hooking up the trailer, I loaded the Spyder in it. We hit the road at 10:50am. The trip was a familiar one as we took the Loop 202 south and followed it west on the San Tan Freeway to I-10. I got off of I-10 at exit 164 and followed AZ347 through the town of Maricopa. Although Maricopa has grown and is beginning to sprawl, it cuts several miles off the drive to I-8 versus staying on I-10 and is a quicker route. We took AZ347 to AZ84 and merged onto I-8 west a few miles later.

We made our first stop around 12:30pm at exit 119 – the Butterfield Trail at Gila Bend. We often stop there for lunch at the Subway sandwich shop. It’s next to a truck stop that has ample parking in the rear and also has a free dump station and even RV hook-up sites in back – for a fee of course.

Great parking space behind Subway

We split the daily special foot-long sub and got back on the road. Droning along on I-8 isn’t the most exciting or scenic drive, but I don’t mind. It was getting warm – Donna had me turn on the generator and crank up the air conditioners. It was over 90 degrees out. Also, the wind was increasing – it was mostly a headwind but I had a few cross wind gusts to contend with. Our next stop was another familiar one – the Pilot/Flying J Travel Center at exit 12 – Fortuna Road in Yuma. I always top off the tank there before I enter California. I paid $2.54/gallon there for diesel fuel while the site shows the average diesel fuel cost in California is currently $2.93/gallon. Plus I have a harder time finding convenient truck stop locations in California.

A few miles after we crossed the Colorado River and were in California, we hit another familiar sight – the inspection station. This is where they usually question us about fresh fruits and vegetables onboard and ask us where we came from and where we are going. This time they just waved us through, no questions asked.

About 12 miles later we pulled off of I-8 and found our little piece of desert on BLM land in the Picacho Recreation Area. I think this is the eighth or ninth time we’ve stopped here for an overnight stay. We stop here when we’re east bound from San Diego and when we’re west bound from the Phoenix area. It’s a nice change of pace to boondock in a remote site without the distractions from sirens or helicopters and traffic racing through the streets of the city. Ironically, as I’m typing this, a formation of four helicopters – I think they were military MH6 Little Birds  – flew by!

Our little piece of the desert

The view from our doorstep

We don’t have another rig in sight. Donna spotted a large American flag to the northeast of us and took a walk toward it before dinner. It turned out to be just a flag pole and flag – no people or RV there. She also found a stack of pallets where someone had a bonfire but the site was empty.

The gusty winds continued through the night. It didn’t bother me but Donna said it kept her awake all night. This morning we have calm air here and clear skies. We’ll head out around 9am. Our only planned stop for the trip to Mission Bay will be at the Buckman Springs rest area in the Laguna Mountains – about 115 miles from here. It’s another place we always stop at – we’ll have lunch at one of the picnic tables there.

The weather forecast for San Diego looks great for next couple of weeks – high temperatures around 70 degrees and mostly sunny skies.

Girl’s Week in Sedona

I haven’t posted for a few days – mainly because nothing remarkable has happened since we went to the Arizona Renaissance Festival. It’s been pretty routine around here. This tends to happen when we spend two or more months in one location.

Yesterday the routine was broken. I took Donna on the Spyder to the Budget Rent-A-Car location at Superstition Springs Mall. She picked up a car and drove it back to our site where she loaded up her bags. She was off for a girls week-long adventure. Her friend from her college days, Lynne Ogren, flew in from Albany, New York. Donna picked her up at Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix and they drove up to Sedona.

They booked a room in Sedona and plan to explore the area and spend a day sightseeing at the Grand Canyon National Park.  Sedona is a small city of about 10,000 people located south of Flagstaff, Arizona. The area is known for it’s natural beauty with red sandstone rock formations – it’s called the Schnebly Hill Formation. The elevation there is 4,326 feet above sea level and the temperatures are generally about 10 to 15 degrees cooler than here in the Phoenix area. I’m sure they’ll have a great time.

Meanwhile, I’m a bachelor once again – this time for one week. Donna will return next Tuesday. I’ll probably stick to my routine of pickleball in the mornings and happy hour meet-ups with friends. I don’t cook like Donna, so I can see pot pies and pizza on the dinner menu.

We’ll be hitting the road in about two and half weeks, so I need to start straightening up and organizing the trailer. I’m starting to feel the hitch itch and I’ll be ready to hit the road again. Although we were surprised with an overnight rain shower Monday night, there’s no rain the forecast for next couple of weeks. A cold front will move through on Friday dropping the high for the day into the upper-60s. The rest of the days look to be in the 80s.

RV Renovators – Day 29 – Outta Here

Steve and John put the finishing touches on the paint job Wednesday morning. For good measure, Steve painted the latch handles on the basement compartment doors. This gave it a crisper overall look – I think I’ll paint the latches on the other side of the coach.

Black paint on the latch

Once they were finished, Izzy put a new seal on the slide where the outer wall meets up against the body when the slide is closed. He also went over all of the molding with silicone sealant.

Then Dave took over and installed the window awning and slide topper. With that done, we moved to the wash bay at 3pm for the last step in the process. They washed the coach while I settled the bill in the office.

We headed out around 3:30pm. Donna rode the Spyder while I drove the coach and we met at Mike Hall’s house. I hooked up our trailer and we pulled out – Donna was following on the Spyder. It didn’t make sense to load the Spyder in the trailer for a trip of a few miles only to unload it again.

We pulled in to Viewpoint RV Resort a little past 4pm. I told Donna to take the Spyder to our site after giving her directions. The security person wanted me to wait for an escort to take the coach there. After waiting for five minutes, I told security that I knew where I was going. She said I was supposed to have an escort, but could proceed if that’s what I wanted to do.

The RV sites here are wide. I didn’t think I would have any trouble backing the trailer in. What I didn’t realize was how narrow the road was and we had a fence and structures right on the edge of the road across from our site.

I made several passes before I was able to position the trailer on the concrete pad. Then I drove the coach to the end of the road and made a three-point turn to come back facing the opposite direction. I wanted to back the coach in from this direction.

It was a tight squeeze with an small orange tree on the passenger side and a street light post on the driver’s side. Again the narrow road didn’t help. We had an audience of several people watching while they enjoyed happy hour. One guy – our new neighbor to the right – came out to help. The thing is, Donna and I have our system worked out. Sometimes too much help just jams us up. This was case here. In fact, he even opened the door to the coach while I was backing in so he could talk to me!

I had to jockey in and out of the site several times to position the coach. I would gain a few inches closer to the concrete pad with each pass. At one point I was extremely close to the light post. I could see in my side view mirror I only had a couple of inches when I heard a bang! The slide topper on the bedroom slide extends a couple of inches beyond the side of the coach. It hit the post. This is the first time I’ve ever hit anything with my coach.

Once I finally had the coach positioned where I wanted it, we had another issue. They placed the sewer connection at the rear center of the site! It was under the rear of the coach. I had to pull forward, attach our sewer hose, then back in over it. Otherwise I would be crawling under the coach to attach the sewer hose.

Several friendly neighbors came over to chat while I was setting up. I was friendly as well, but I don’t like anything to break my set-up routine. That’s how mistakes can happen. When I put the slides out, I had a problem with the bedroom slide. It was binding after moving a few inches. There’s a stop lever on the end of the topper tube. When I hit the light post, it pushed the stop lever to the side and it was hitting the mount. After I finished the rest of the set-up and dumped our tanks, I got a ladder out of the trailer and pounded the stop lever back in place. Now the bedroom slide opened fine.

Roomy site, but difficult to enter

It was after 6pm by the time I had us set up.

We’re so happy to be out of the shop and in a nice, quiet environment. We’re also going to take advantage of the amenities here – pool, pickleball and whatnot.

The next couple of days are forecast to be sunny with highs in the mid-70s. Rain is coming this weekend though.

RV Renovators – Day 14 – Coming Together

When the owner and president of Germaine’s RV Sales and RV Renovators, Monte Germaine, came to our coach on Monday morning, he explained why he changed the repair plan. He told me the original thought of installing wood studs was made by the crew before they understood the construction of our Alpine Coach. They were thinking of some entry level trailers and coaches that come from the factory with wood construction. He knew an Alpine and other coaches that have all metal framing should be repaired with metal, not wood.

The guys spent Monday morning cleaning up remnants of plywood and grinding the surface of the aluminum structure. They inlaid more rectangular aluminum tubing to support the seams of the new exterior skin.

All cleaned up

Additional tubing in place

At noon another worker named James came over to TIG weld the new sections of tubing. He first disconnected the power supply and batteries to avoid damage to electrical components from the arc welder.

New tubing welded

Izzy then ground the welds flat.

Welds ground flat

The heat from the welder melted some of the foam insulation blocks, creating voids. Izzy filled these voids with urethane.

Voids filled

Clean and ready for the next step

After some more cleaning of the aluminum and the channels in the trim, it was time to add adhesive. They used black urethane adhesive made by Dow called Betaseal U-418HV. This urethane is commonly used to bond windshields on automobiles. It creates a high-strength waterproof bond that remains flexible.

Urethane adhesive for the first panel

Getting the first panel in place was problematic. They got it inside the lower trim without too much trouble, but had issues trying to seat it under the front edge trim. They decided to remove the front edge trim so they could ensure the panel was properly aligned.

Once they had the panel placed properly, they installed temporary screws and added aluminum angle channels in places to apply pressure against the underlying framework. These temporary screws and lengths of channel were mostly placed in areas where the fiberglass skin will either be cut out – such as the window openings – or ground along seams before the seams are filled.

Inside the living room they placed a 3/4″ x 1-1/4″ hardwood beam across the window opening and used long screws to pull the fiberglass against the window opening. They added aluminum angle across the bottom of the window opening to hold it tight against the lower opening.

Pulling the skin tight against the living room window opening

They added a second section of fiberglass composite skin above the window opening. At the end of the day, the front half of the slide-out had fiberglass skin. They used a forklift against a 4″ x 4″ beam and a section of plywood to apply additional pressure against the skin overnight.

First half of the new skin in place

The fiberglass has a thin plastic protective sheet over the outer surface. The black smears and hand prints will disappear once this sheet is peeled off and paint prep begins.

I had a visitor in the morning, Jim Haxby. He’s a fellow Alpine Coach owner and saw my posts about the work being performed. He lives here in Mesa and came by to see how the work is progressing. We talked for a while as I observed the work.

Later, Donna and I rode the Spyder over to Mike Hall’s place and I got her bicycle out of our trailer. She went for a ride while I went to Lucky Lou’s for a cold one with the guys. It was a beautiful day for a ride – the temperature was in the upper 70s and there wasn’t any wind to speak of. Today we expect another cloudless, sunny day with the temperature reaching the mid-70s. Perfect for bonding the new skin on the coach.



RV Renovators – Day 1

After writing my last post Monday morning, Donna and I visited with Jeff and Deb Spencer over a cup of coffee and enjoyed the desert morning. Our time with them was too short, but I finally had to say we needed to pack up and go – Jeff also had work to do.

It was nearly 11:30am by the time we rolled out of Ogilby Road. I looked at the GPS and saw our predicted arrival time in Mesa was 4:40pm. Doh! I forgot about the time change and loss of an hour when we crossed into Arizona.

We had to drop the trailer at Mike Hall’s house before we could go to our destination which was RV Renovators on Main Street in Mesa. RV Renovators is the outfit that will repair the fiberglass damage on our coach from the deer that hit us in Idaho. They said they have hook-ups so we planned to stay on site at their shop.

I was afraid they would be closed and have the lot gates locked before we could get there. Donna phoned them and was told they close at 5pm. We made arrangements to stop there and pick up a gate key before we went to Mike Hall’s place to drop the trailer. We made it there a little after 5pm but the gates were still open and many of the employees were still there. They showed me where I would park the coach and gave me a key to the gate.

I should have inquired more about the hook-ups when we were here last October. They told me it was no problem for us to remain on site – many customers that are full-timers do it. It turns out that “hook-ups” means they have a 50-amp power cord on electrical fittings at various places around the lot and shop. No sewer or water hook-ups.

At Mike’s house, I unloaded the Spyder before I dropped the trailer. Donna rode the Spyder back to RV Renovators and opened the gate before I arrived in the coach. We got set up in our designated area. It turned out to be quieter than we thought it would be. We’re situated between two shop structures that block most of the road noise.

The shop on the south side of us is a tall building and it also blocks us from direct sunlight. The temperatures have been colder than usual here – it only reached 64 degrees yesterday. Without direct sunlight, we needed to run the heat pumps most of the day. I’m thankful for the 50-amp power! But we’re in full water conservation mode.

Our site at RV Renovators

The tall shop next to us also blocks our satellite antenna – so no TV programs for the duration.

Jim, our service advisor, compared the damage on the coach to the estimate provided by our insurance adjuster. He had an expert in fiberglass repair named Levi look at the areas of damage. We all agreed that the insurance estimate was inadequate and a supplement will need to filed. Levi says the only way to correctly repair the damage on the living room slide is to remove the old fiberglass laminate and completely replace the entire wall.

This is a lot of work. It will take time. One of the reasons I chose RV Renovators for the repair is their experience with extensive fiberglass work. They have the panels needed to make the repair in stock, so we won’t have to wait for parts to be ordered. The insurance supplement is the hang-up at this point.

Our insurance is through Nationwide. Their offices are located in Dublin, Ohio. I’m hoping they are on the ball and don’t leave us hanging for too long. The insurance adjuster thought we needed a week to get the work done. Jim at RV Renovators thought it would take two weeks. Now Levi says it will more likely take three weeks.

I anticipated this and held off on making any reservations for a place for us to stay until I’m certain of how long we’ll be sitting here. Finding a site in the Phoenix area in February can be a challenge, but we’ll worry about that when the time comes.

Donna spent the day writing articles – she has several assignments to keep her busy for a while. She did get out for a walk on the nearby Consolidated Canal Trail. Though her foot is still bruised from her fall playing pickleball last week, the swelling is going down and she managed to walk nearly 3 miles without any discomfort. While she was out walking, I rode the Spyder over to Lucky Lou’s and found my friends Leendert, John and Stan there. I’ll probably head over there again this afternoon and likely find Mike Hall and his wife Jodi there.

The weather forecast is not promising. We’ll hit the mid-60s today but if the weather guessers are right, we won’t see 60 again in the next seven days. It will be cold and wet over the weekend.


Enormous Pot Pie

The weather remains a topic of discussion as we’ve had more wet days again this week. Three quarters of an inch of rain fell in the last seven days. On average, January is the second wettest month in San Diego with a total of two inches of rain. We’re well on our way to exceed that average. February is the wettest month with an average rainfall of two and half inches.

We had some rain Monday morning, but it cleared up in the afternoon. I borrowed Sini’s car and drove over to Dan Diego’s for a cold one with the guys around 4pm. The parking lot at Dan Diego’s was empty and the sign by the door said “Closed.” I knew they changed their hours after the New Year, but I didn’t remember them closing on Mondays.

I went down the street to the Offshore Tavern and Grill and saw the guys at the bar there. I mentioned Dan Diego’s being closed and they told me that was news to them, they were about to go there. I looked up Dan Diego’s hours on my phone and it showed it open at 3:30pm on Mondays. I called Dan Diego’s and the owner, Ryan, answered. I asked him if he was open – he said, “Yeah, but the place is empty.” I told him he should check his sign! We went to Dan Diego’s for a cold one before the Alabama vs Clemson NCAA National Championship game.

I came home and tuned in the game at 5pm. Donna went out for dinner with her sister, Sheila and her nephew Connor. They went to Sushi Ota – where they serve the best sushi I’ve ever had. Donna brought home a spicy tuna roll and some nigiri for me – yummy!

As our time here is winding down, I’m looking forward to dry, sunny days in the forecast ahead, beginning Friday. I’ll need to organize the trailer and move things like our folding chairs, Weber grill and Traeger smoker/grill over to the trailer. Here at Mission Bay RV Resort, we have to leave our trailer in the overflow lot outside of the RV park.

Donna reorganized an overhead bin in the coach where she stores snacks. She used to have opaque plastic containers with lids that snap on and off. She labeled the containers so we would know what’s inside. The thing is, the labels are pretty generic and we would often forget about a particular snack inside.

Old container with generic label

She found a set of Oxo clear plastic containers with pop-up lids at Costco. She moved the snacks into these containers and now we can see at a glance what we have on hand. She’s planning to go back and get two more sets for other pantry items!

Clear Oxo containers

I repurposed the old opaque containers and used them to organize some odds and ends in one of the basement compartments. I had a few loose bicycle tools and lubes. Now instead of digging around in the compartment to find things, I can just pull out the container.

Tuesday, Donna and I went to Pacific Beach Recreation Center and played pickleball for a couple of hours. I’m going to miss the pickleball and the people we’ve made friends with at the rec center over the last three winters. We’ll find pickleball courts in Mesa, Arizona – our next destination.

On Tuesday evening, Donna cooked a chicken pot pie that she bought at Costco. Like almost everything at Costco, this was the biggest pot pie I’ve ever seen – it was over five pounds! We invited Tom and Kris Downey over to join us for dinner – they were the ones who told us about the pot pies made fresh at Costco. The four of us ate about two thirds of the pot pie – we have about two servings left over. It was tasty and I’m looking forward to reheating the leftovers for lunch!

Sini has to leave the RV park today. She’ll head up to Temecula with her son Beau. They plan to spend the night at a casino there and also visit an RV shop to get a quote on new flooring. She’ll be back tomorrow. This will be her first solo run. Although Beau is with her, he doesn’t have experience driving their 37-foot National Tradewinds motorhome. I’m sure she’ll be fine.

Speaking of returning, I posted earlier about the neighbor who left her bike in our site before Christmas. Her bike is still here. Yesterday I went to the office and asked if they could look up the person that was in site 114 and left on December 22nd. I told them about the bike and said I was leaving on Sunday and needed to figure out what to do with the bike. I only knew the woman’s first name, Lindis. They remembered her and looked up her info. We learned that she came back to the RV park two days ago. I’ll clean and lube the chain on the bike – it’s rusty – and return it to her today.

Soggy Year End

The weather guessers do a pretty good job most of the time in San Diego. I have to wonder how hard it could be – if you forecast clear skies and warm temperatures, you’d be right more often than not. Wednesday they had it right as we had beautiful weather. The skies were mostly clear and the temperature topped out at 73 degrees here at Mission Bay.

Donna and I went to the Ocean Beach Recreation Center in the morning to play pickleball. There was a crowd there – we had more than 20 people show up – only 12 can play at a time so we had long waiting periods between games. It took an hour and a half to get four games in. That was too much waiting around for me – we left after the fourth game.

Donna had a whole chicken marinating in a Peruvian chicken marinade. I spatchcocked it before I put it on the Traeger wood pellet fired smoker/grill. I started it breast side down at 350 degrees for 35 minutes – it was a small four-pound chicken. Then I flipped it over and set the temperature control to high – 450 degrees to finish it and crisp the skin.

Whole chicken hot off the Traeger

Donna served it with roasted Brussel sprouts and garlic smashed potatoes.

Roasted chicken, Brussel sprouts and smashed potatoes

Just before I put the chicken on the grill I walked to the west end of the RV park to catch the sunset. I’ll never get tired of watching the sunset over the bay.

Sunset on the bay

Thursday we were in for another gorgeous day. Clear, sunny skies and the afternoon high reached 83 degrees! I played pickleball at the Pacific Beach Recreation Center while Donna worked on an article that was due on Friday. There were only 12-14 people there so we had very little break time between games on the three courts.

I played for about two hours. In my last game, I was getting tired and starting to make too many mistakes. At one point, the ball was lobbed over my head. I turned to run to the back of the court to return it when my feet got tangled together and I went down hard. I landed on my right shoulder and hip and I’m feeling it today. I’m usually good at rolling with a fall to minimize the impact, but I was tired and maybe I’m not quite as quick as I once was.

In the afternoon, I broke out our Porter-Cable air compressor and plugged it in at our site. Once the reservoir was filled to 150psi, I disconnected it and drove in Sini’s car to the outer lot where our trailer is. The trailer had been sitting there for two and half months and I knew the tires would need to be pumped up to the proper pressure. It’s not unusual for tires to lose pressure over time. Smaller tires lose pressure more quickly due to the small volume of air.

I found the tires to be low by about seven psi. The air hose on my compressor leaks slightly when the hose bends in a certain direction. By the time I got to the trailer, the air compressor dropped from 150 psi to 125 psi. Pumping up the first tire dropped the pressure to about 70 psi. Electricity isn’t available in the outer lot so I had to return to the park to plug the compressor in and fill it again. It took four trips to fill all four tires. I’ll check the tires again before we leave here on January 15th, but I think we’ll be good to go.

The weather guessers said rain would move into the area today. We woke up to the sound of raindrops on the roof of the coach. They get the rain forecast right most of the time too. I imagine it’s pretty easy to see what’s heading this way off the coast. Sometimes weather anomalies occur like when the jet stream dips south or moisture moves up from the Sea of Cortez – but these are pretty easy to detect also.

The forecast calls for rain through Saturday night. We’ll ring in a wet New Year. It’s also supposed to be windy on New Year’s Eve. I hope the New Year’s revelers take care on the road – heavy rain and wind could make it treacherous.

Southern California will close out the year with a wet December. We are well over the average rainfall for the month here in San Diego. I read this morning that the water level of Lake Elsinore is rising for the first time since 2011. This is a good thing.

We don’t have any grand plans for New Year’s Eve. We’ll probably stay in. Donna just brought home some lobster tails and other goodies. Have a safe and happy new year!


*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!

Three Summits to the Coast

After a quiet night in the desert, we pulled out of Ogilby Road around 9:30am. Interstate 8 has a huge construction project that spans miles and miles of road – nearly from the Arizona border to the Holtville exit – about 50 miles of freeway. I was amazed to find us on a temporary asphalt road running parallel to the interstate for several miles. It boggles my mind to think of how much it must have cost to pave this temporary road.

The traffic was fairly light and we made good time despite the construction. West of El Centro we crossed a desert basin with a sign post stating we were at sea level. There was a huge array of solar panels on both sides of the road. Then we started a gradual climb for a few miles before we began climbing in earnest. The next sign I saw said we were 1,000 feet above sea level, then 2,000 feet. The climb from 2,000 to 3,000 was short and steep. We crossed the Tecate Divide at 4,140 feet above sea level then dropped into a valley before we climbed again to the Crestwood Summit – the highest point on I-8 at 4,181 feet above sea level.

We dropped into another valley and made a familiar stop at the Buckman Springs rest area. I parked our rig in the truck parking and Donna made salads with roasted chicken. We sat at a picnic table in the rest area and enjoyed our lunch outdoors. The temperature at this elevation was a pleasant 70 degrees.

Dining al fresco at Buckman Springs

Dining al fresco at Buckman Springs

After we hit the road again we immediately ran into a Border Patrol check point. The Border Patrol agent waved us through – no questions asked. I believe they already know who they want to question and search – they probably know which vehicles came across the border or had their trip originate near the Mexico border.

We climbed once again out of the valley to the third summit on our route – Laguna Summit at 4,055 feet above sea level. From there we began a 13-mile descent with some steep downgrades. It’s mostly downhill all the way to the city of Lakeside, east of El Cajon, California. I had to get back into the city driving mode and be on the defensive. I choose the lane I want to be in well before I need to be there.

We pulled into Mission Bay RV Resort just before 1pm. We were checked in quickly and dropped the trailer in the storage lot across from the security shack. Thomas, the security supervisor, welcomed us and told us where to put the trailer. Maneuvering the trailer into place was a study in patience, but we got it done without any issues. We haven’t been charged for trailer storage since those Dirty, Rotten Thieves stole our trailer here in 2013.

Backing the coach into site 120 was another test of patience as I had to maneuver past parked cars and trees. I was feeling good about being back in San Diego. If any city is a homecoming for me, San Diego is it. Then I met our new neighbor.

I had positioned the coach in our site when the guy in site 119 on the driver’s side of our coach came out. He told me I was too far to the left and my slide out would encroach on his space. What? At Mission Bay RV Resort they have lines painted on the paved sites. There are two parallel lines about three feet apart bordering each side of the site. On the driver’s side, the sewer hook up is in between these lines. My understanding has always been that the three-foot zone between the lines on the driver’s side of the coach is a buffer zone for hook ups and slide outs.

Lines for a buffer zone with sewer hook up

Lines for a buffer zone with sewer hook up

This guy told me he’s been coming here for 10 years and I was encroaching on his “patio space.” I looked at the rig on the right side of us, site 121. He was parked with his slide out in this buffer zone. I pointed it out to him – in fact just about every site was parked like this. Rather than fight with the guy, I moved our coach over about a foot. Later I asked Thomas what the site boundary rules were. He told me I was right – my wheels shouldn’t be over the line but the slide out could extend over the closest line. The second line defines the boundary for the next site.

Then it got worse. My Dish satellite receiver couldn’t acquire a signal due to trees. We’re going to be here for two months! No TV for two months was not acceptable. Before setting up I went to the office to see if we could move to another site – one that would solve the satellite issue and get me away from the jerk in 119. There wasn’t anything available unless I wanted to switch sites every week or two. Oh, no!

Then the woman in the office said, “Why don’t you hook up to the park cable TV?” I told her my TV was on an HDMI cable, I didn’t have a coaxial cable set up. She said she would lend me a converter box with an HDMI port. I brought the box back to the site and it worked! I don’t get all of the channels I have with satellite, but at least I can watch the football games.

Home for the next two months

Home for the next two months

We’re required to leave the park for 24 hours after two months, then we can check in again. We plan to stay for a total of three months here. We haven’t decided where we’ll spend our 24-hour exile, but we have plenty of time to get to that.

The five-day forecast looks great – some clouds with daily highs in the low 70s. It’s great to be back.

2016 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta – Final Flight

I ended my last post by saying the final day of the 2016 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta may be a bust. It was raining when I went to bed Saturday night and looking at the forecast, I fully expected to hear raindrops on the roof when my 4:30am alarm sounded. I was surprised to find it wasn’t raining and dragged myself out of bed.

Brad picked me up at the Fiesta Park entrance. I had a nice chat with Johnny, the security guy there, while I was waiting. Hanging out with Johnny for 15-20 minutes every morning for nine days straight gave us a chance to get to know each other.

Breakfast burritos and excellent locally roasted coffee from Piñon coffee was served to pilots and crew at the pavilion. A great start to the day. They do a great job of feeding about 1700 pilots and crew on weekdays and up to 2200 on the weekends.

The pilot’s briefing had weather info that caught me by surprise. It seemed like a nice morning with favorable winds, however there was some ground fog to the east and the possibility of more fog in the river bottom as the dew point and temperature were close.

After sunrise, Brad gave the go-ahead to unload and assemble the Heart’s A’Fire hot air balloon. We had it cold inflated and I expected Brad to fire the burners at any moment when we were given the command to stand down. I didn’t know what was up but soon found out that the field had been closed due to the fog bank to the east. Ground fog can be very dangerous for flight as it makes it impossible to see and identify obstacles for landing.

We were soon back at it, inflating the balloon. I really like manning the throat of the balloon and watching it inflate. It can be taxing at times as wind or the weight of the sponsor banner makes the balloon want to roll on the ground. It’s important to keep the envelope properly oriented with the basket so the lines don’t twist and tangle. The lines connecting the basket to the envelope are numbered and we strive to keep number 10 and 11 centered on top as the basket lies on its side. I had some muscle soreness every day for the first week of the Fiesta but now I’ve worked myself into shape – just as we’re finishing up.

Brad’s passengers for the day were a special pair of siblings – brother and sister. They are the children of a good friend of Brad’s that’s an avid extreme hiker – more of a rock/mountain climber than hiker from what I understand. About three weeks ago, he disappeared while hiking 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado. Search and rescue operations searched for eight days before they were suspended. The kids haven’t been out of the house since his disappearance. Brad thought it would be good for them to get out, have a flight in the balloon and enjoy a day. He contacted their mother and invited them to go up.

We were given the thumbs up by the launch director and they were off!

Final launch of the 2016 Fiesta

Final launch of the 2016 Fiesta

We chased the balloon over to 2nd Street, west of the field. Brad had it working as he flew high and went north over the Sandia Pueblo Reservation, then dropped altitude and came back south down low. In fact he went low enough to dip the basket in the Rio Grande River – what they call a splash and dash! He did this a couple of times.

After more than an hour of flight time, he landed near the water diversion channel – about 150 yards from his landing the day before. This time he was on the west side of the channel and the access road had a locked gate. Lucky for us, a Sandia Tribal Police Officer had a key and unlocked the gate for us. Last year I heard horror stories of how the tribe treated balloonists and crews that landed on the reservation. This year there seems to be much more understanding and cooperation – I haven’t heard any bad stories, only good news.

After packing up the balloon, we had our usual tailgate party. Donna and our friend, Kris Downey, joined us. One of the crew members, Darren, thoughtfully lent us his Ford F150 truck so I could transport the Traeger grill, table, chairs and a few odds and ends from our site in the RV park to our trailer. Thanks, Darren! It would have been a real hassle to walk the stuff all the way to where we dropped the trailer.

I napped and watched football for the remainder of the day. At 4pm, Donna took a Lyft ride to an after-Fiesta party. She had a good time and was glad she opted for Lyft instead of riding the Spyder. We had another thunderstorm pass through. Besides, she could enjoy a couple of glasses of wine without worry. Brad and Jessica drove her back to the coach.

This morning I woke up a little before 6am. It felt luxurious to lie in bed for 15 minutes, then get up. I felt like I’d slept in. After a regular breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast with raspberry-ginger jam, I started packing up for the road. I had a few things I needed to take to the trailer. On my way walking back after the first trip, I saw Jim McManus with his head inside the battery compartment of a motorhome belonging to a solo woman RVer. I stopped to see what was going on. She had a problem with her house batteries not charging. The generator had tripped the breaker. When I checked it, the breaker didn’t feel right, the switch didn’t snap into place like it should. I worked it a few times and snapped it vigorously and it closed like it should. We checked it with a meter and it was charging.

On my next trip to the trailer, I saw Jim messing with a compartment door on the same coach. The door wouldn’t latch and they were trying to come up with a temporary solution. I checked the latch and it worked. The problem was that the squared-off U-bolt that it latches to wasn’t adjusted properly. The woman who owns the coach said she just had that compartment door replaced. It appears as though the shop didn’t lock down the adjustment nuts and they worked loose. Easy fix.

I like to help people out when I can, especially if I know what the answer to the problem is. Helping out here put me about 15 minutes behind schedule – but hey, what schedule? So I thought we could leave by 9am. What’s the big deal? I didn’t have to be anywhere at any special time. By the time I hooked up the trailer and loaded the Spyder, we pulled out at 9:30am.

We didn’t have any special destination in mind. I was thinking if we could make it to Holbrook, Arizona we could find a place to boondock for the night.

We're not in New Mexico anymore

We’re not in New Mexico anymore

On the road, we thought about what we needed to do in the next three days. Tomorrow I want to stop in Mesa, Arizona at the RV Renovators to go over the work we need to have done to repair the damage caused by the suicidal deer in Idaho. Then I’d like to continue on to Casa Grande where I’ll have service work done at Speedco and a wash job at the Blue Beacon there. This had me thinking I should try to get closer to Mesa than Holbrook.

We ended up driving about 340 miles – a lot longer than we usually do – and are dry camped at a casino in Payson, Arizona. We started the day at an elevation of 5,000 feet above sea level in Albuquerque. Our route across I-40 took us to the Mogollon Rim in Northern Arizona – there’s some disagreement on how to pronounce Mogollon. This is probably due to various tribal dialects, Spanish speakers and settlers in the area. Most seem to agree it’s muggy-on. The Mogollon Rim brought us to an elevation of more than 7,700 feet. Now we’re right back where we started sitting at 5,000 feet above sea level.

Tomorrow night we can find another boondock spot – maybe the Elks Lodge in Casa Grande. Then we’ll move on to our little piece of desert in California west of Yuma/Winterhaven for the night.

It will be nice to have a quiet, secluded night before we move on to city life for the next three months in San Diego. I don’t think I’ll be posting for a couple of days as we take care of business.