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.

 

 

 

 

 

Mistakes and a Mishap

Before we pulled out of Golden Village Palms in Hemet, I realized I made a mistake when I booked our time at Park of the Sierras in Coarsegold. Donna had a coupon for $50 off the weekly rate for first time visitors. So, I booked a week beginning Friday, May 19th. This would mean we would leave on Friday, May 26th. I should have consulted a calendar before I made that reservation. Leaving on Friday, May 26th means we would be hitting the road at the start of Memorial Day weekend. Not a good time to be on the road.

I called the Escapees Park of the Sierras to see if I could extend our stay through the weekend. The first woman I spoke to wasn’t sure if it was possible. She put me on hold, then the woman I originally booked the site with came on the line. Her name is Melinda and she reads this blog. Melinda fixed me up by blocking our site through the end of the month. Thanks, Melinda!

We left Golden Village Palms just after 11am. We had a short drive ahead and I figured it would take about two hours. I thought about going up CA79 to Beaumont, then hitting I-10 and looping through Highland to I-215. Our GPS suggested taking CA74 west directly to I-215 north until it merged with I-15. This was a simple route and GPS said it would be faster, so I went with it.

We hit a snag just 12 miles down the road. The on-ramp from CA74 to I-15 north was closed for construction. No detour signs. I should have just got onto I-215 south and turned around at the McCall exit only a mile or so down the road. Instead I went west and looked for a way to get back on I-215 north. I made a mistake and ended up on a dead-end road. Luckily there was a large parking lot by a train depot where I turned around. We ended up taking a drive through old downtown Perris (it’s doubtful they see many big rigs passing through!) before we found I-215.  So much for a simple drive.

Although it was midday, I-215 was bumper-to-bumper stop-and-go traffic past March Air Reserve Base and through Moreno Valley. Once we were past I-10, the traffic thinned out as the freeway was up to seven lanes wide in places.

Light traffic on I-215 north of San Bernardino

At Tejon Junction, we took CA138 west all the way to Palmdale. We found the Elks Lodge without any trouble despite the inability of our GPS to locate the address. There were only a few rigs in the RV area and we had many sites to choose from. We tried a few of them but our length was a bit much for most of the pull-through sites. We finally settled on a site on the west side of the RV area. We had 30-amp electrical service. We didn’t need sewer or water for the overnight stay, so we were good.

Palmdale Elks Lodge

We entered the Elks Lodge through a driveway on the west side of the property. When we pulled out on Friday morning, I looped around the RV area and headed for the driveway on the east side of the property. This turned out to be a mistake. This driveway slopes at a steep angle and the there’s a sharp dip where it meets the road. The jack on the front of our cargo trailer dragged heavily on the tarmac with a loud screeching sound. It stopped us dead in our tracks for a moment – I was afraid we might be stuck, high-centered on the jack – but we carried on.

Down the block, I pulled over to survey the damage. It wasn’t pretty. The jack was bent and we’ll need to have it replaced soon.

We followed CA138 to CA14 north and then got on CA58 which took us over Tehachapi Summit. Tehachapi Summit is 4,064 feet above sea level. Once we were over the summit, it was a downhill run to CA99 and Bakersfield in the California Central Valley. The Central Valley is less than 300 feet above sea level.

Outside of Fresno, we topped up the fuel tank at a truck stop. I made a wrong turn but once again I found a large parking lot so I could get us turned around to enter the truck stop. One thing I noticed on the drive up CA99  – our transmission fluid temperature was unusually high. I monitor the ATF temperature on our ScanGauge-D. It reads a sensor that sends data to the Transmission Control Module. It usually runs around 180 degrees. I was seeing 206 degrees. This isn’t dangerously high, but I wondered why it was hotter than I normally see. The engine coolant temperature stayed in a more normal range of 180 to 195 degrees – depending on whether we were going uphill or not.

When we merged onto CA41 north toward Yosemite, I figured out why we had higher ATF temperature. When we were on CA99, we were heading in a northwesterly direction. CA41 took us due north. The wind was quartering from the northwest. All the time we were driving up CA99, we were in a direct headwind. It was blowing steadily and I didn’t really take any note of it. The added drag of the headwind put a higher load on the powertrain. The Transmission Control Module communicates with the Engine Control Module and monitors the load. With higher loads, it increases the line pressure in the transmission. Higher fluid pressures results in increased temperature.

Once we were on CA41 and no longer driving directly into the wind, the transmission temperature dropped to 188 degrees. Mystery solved. CA41 brought us into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada range.

We checked in at Park of the Sierras around 2:30pm and we got to meet Melinda face-to-face. We’ll have to get together for pickleball at some point. The check-in process is rather involved. They spend a lot of time going over park information. It took about 20 minutes. They had us drop the trailer in a dry camping area – no charge for the trailer.

Damaged trailer jack in the dry camping area

Then two guys in golf carts led us to our site. They directed me into the site which would have been pretty tricky without them – they obviously do this often – and we were set up in no time at all. The park is hilly – our site sits at an elevation of 1,886 feet above sea level.

Park of the Sierras site 303

Our site is quiet and we feel like we’re nestled in the woods. Donna made fish tacos for dinner and we enjoyed them al fresco on our deck.

Dinner on the deck

The trees have my satellite dish blocked. I won’t be able to watch this weekend’s Moto GP race from Le Mans, France unless I download coverage. We have cable here, but it doesn’t include BEIN Sports channel which covers the race. Next weekend, I can use the cable for the Formula One race at Monaco.

Speaking of Moto GP…in 2006, the championship was won in the last race of the season by an American rider, Nicky Hayden. Nicky currently rides in World Superbike for the Ten Kate Honda team. I first saw Hayden at Laguna Seca in the ’90s when he rode in the AMA series. Nicky was on a group bicycle ride near San Marino, Italy last Friday. Many motorcycle racers train on bicycles – it takes a high level of fitness and endurance to race at the world championship level. Nicky was hit by a car and is in critical condition at Cesena hospital. He has a brain injury and is on life support. My thoughts are with Nicky and his family.

Today we plan to explore the area. We might head into town – maybe go all the way to Oakhurst which is about 12 miles away. The weather forecast for the next 10 days calls for upper 80s and 90-degree temperatures with no rain expected.

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!

Last Dance in San Diego

Our last week in San Diego was filled with the usual activities and then some. I hit the pickleball courts and happy hours at Offshore Tavern and Grill and Dan Diego’s. In addition to getting some writing done, Donna got in some cycling and also attended a beach workout sponsored by San Diego Magazine.

In my last post, I described the dead end I hit trying to change out Sini’s kitchen faucet. After discussing the issue with my friends Mark and Paul – both have earned their living as plumbers their entire adult lifetimes – they came to the same conclusion. I would have to cut the frozen brass nut off of the old faucet with a sawzall reciprocating saw to remove it. I had two problems with this. First – I don’t have a sawzall. Second, I would most likely damage Sini’s sink if I used a sawzall on the faucet nut. I hated to do it, but I had to tell Sini I wouldn’t be able to complete the job.

On Friday night, Donna, Sini and I went to Offshore Tavern and Grill. We were joined by Sini’s friends, Larry and Cindy, who were visiting from Washington. We ordered dinner from the happy hour menu – Sini and Donna went for the poke plate while Larry and Cindy had carne asada tacos. I went for the seared yellowfin tuna – delicious.

Seared yellowfin tuna

We left Offshore around 7pm and headed over to Tio Leo’s – a Mexican restaurant and bar a few miles south of Offshore. We met up with our friends, Carole Sue and Mona, there. It was my night out with the girls.

Carole Sue, Donna, Sini, Mona and me

The Siers Brothers Band was playing at Tio Leo’s. This was the second time we saw this band – we saw them at the end of April at the Beachcomber. This time they had another member – a singer fronting the band – he did a smooth rendition of the Righteous Brothers’ You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling. They were as good as before – we really enjoyed their performance and I even hit the dance floor with Donna for a couple of songs.

Siers Brothers Band

Steve Siers

Steve Siers and his brother Mark play guitar in the band. They trade off lead and rhythm parts. It was interesting to see their different approach and style of playing. Mark tended to be true to the original recordings and played the lead parts pretty much note for note. Steve was a little more free-form and put his own twist on the solos. It was really evident when they covered Tom Petty’s Last Dance with Mary Jane. Mark also plays hot slide guitar and really cooked on the Allman Brothers One Way Out.

On Saturday, the kitchen faucet saga came to a close. Sini’s current faucet works fine – no leaks or problems – she just wanted to upgrade it. Since I couldn’t get the job done, she decided to wait on replacing it rather than hiring a plumber to do it. Meanwhile, Donna really liked the faucet Sini bought so she decided to buy it from Sini so I could install it in our coach.

I replaced our faucet two years ago but Donna wasn’t entirely happy with the one I put in. There wasn’t anything wrong with it, but it was too low and she didn’t like the way the sprayer functioned. The faucet Sini bought was a Delta high-rise pull-down kitchen and bar faucet. I figured it wouldn’t be too difficult to remove our faucet since it was only two years old and not corroded.

Our “old” kitchen faucet

Of course I had to deal with a cramped work space, but there was more room than I had in Sini’s cabinet.

Cramped workspace

As I suspected, the threads on the hold down nut weren’t corroded at all and removal was easy.

Clean threads and easy removal

Installing the new faucet was straight forward and I had the job done in less than an hour.

New high-rise pull-down faucet

Donna is happy with her new faucet. She likes the way the sprayer works and the high-rise design gives her more room in the sink. A happy ending to the faucet story. Sini will probably have her faucet changed when she returns here in the fall – she’s spending the summer up in Washington and her coach will be in storage.

The weather has been a mixed bag this week. We had a few showers at the beginning of the week. The pattern has been cloudy mornings with sunshine in the afternoon. The temperature has reached the upper 60s everyday. Today may be a little cooler.

I have a few things to accomplish today. We’re pulling out of here tomorrow so I’ll need to pack the trailer, check tire pressures and put away the tire covers and windshield cover. Tomorrow we’ll drive 90 miles up to Hemet where we’ll check in at Golden Village Palms RV Resort. I got a great rate on a 70′ pull-through site there with our Passport America discount – under $30/night.

 

I Know When I’m Beat

Last weekend’s weather was more like Seattle than San Diego. Saturday morning was cool and cloudy with a mist in the air and a few light rain showers. On the first weekend in May, the Ho’alaule’a festival is held here at De Anza cove on Mission Bay in San Diego. Ho’alaule’a is a Hawaiian cultural festival with free entertainment, boutique vendors and traditional islander workshops.

Donna, Sini and I walked over to the park to check out the festival and also get lunch from the food vendors there. We dodged a few showers and watched some of the performers.

Small stage with musicians and dancers

Large stage with many performers including youngsters dancing

We browsed through the vendor tents and bought lunch at a Guamanian barbeque. We found a concrete picnic table under cover to dine without fear of getting wet.

Sini wanted to change the faucet in her kitchen sink. I had tackled this task in our coach a few years ago and posted about it here. I told Sini I would change out her faucet for her. She ordered a bar type Delta faucet – it’s a high looping faucet. Her current faucet is a Moen.

Moen kitchen faucet

Removing the Moen from our coach was a major pain. While I was visiting with the Bay Park guys at Offshore Tavern and Grill, I mentioned how hard a time I had removing a Moen faucet. One of the guys, Paul, is a plumber. He told me a Moen is a piece of cake if you have the right tool. The thing is, you get the right tool in the box a new Moen faucet comes in – you can’t go to the hardware store and buy one. I told him that was the problem, we weren’t replacing the Moen with a new Moen, we were using a Delta faucet. He said he would loan me the tool and it would be an easy job!

Moen faucet tool

I could see how this tool would make a faucet change easier – it would fit over the hollow stud that held our old faucet in place. Around 1:30pm, I walked over to Sini’s coach to get started. I would be working in a confined space – her sink sits over a small cabinet. The cabinet door opening was barely wide enough for me to get my shoulders through.

Confined work space

As soon as I got under there, I knew I was in trouble. Her Moen faucet is an older model – it isn’t fastened with the small diameter hollow stud. It has a large conduit that houses the water supply lines. This conduit is threaded and has a large brass nut on it to hold the faucet in place. The nut was 1-7/16″ and it’s between the double sink basins.

I tried various pliers and wrenches and couldn’t get a good enough grip on the nut. After an hour and half of struggling, I called my friend, Mark Fredin. Mark has a plumbing business. I told him what I was up against. He said he had a tool that might work. I drove to his place in Clairemont and picked up a couple of tools.

He loaned me a big basin wrench and also some plumbing sockets called tub sockets. They aren’t set up for use with a ratchet, they’re made to slip over a pipe and be turned with a bar or wrench.

Basin wrench

Tub sockets

I thought I was good to go. I was able to get the basin wrench on the nut but couldn’t get enough leverage to break the nut loose. I tried the socket. I got it in place and was able to put a large channel lock plier over the end. I put everything I had into it. I felt the nut move ever so slightly. It turned out that I had moved the entire faucet base escutcheon – the nut was frozen in place. Over the years, it had developed enough corrosion to lock it in place.

Around 4:30pm, I threw in the towel. I hate to admit defeat, but I was done in. All the time I was under the sink with my upper body in the cabinet, I had my left lat (latissimus dorsi) lying across the toe kick of the cabinet. This square edged wood trim was tenderizing the muscle. After reconnecting the water supply lines and walking home, I realized how sore I was. I think it will take heat to get the nut off or maybe it’ll have to be cut off. Cutting risks damaging the sink though and I’m not sure if I’m up to the task.

At 6pm, we walked down to Dave and Shannon’s site for a sunset happy hour. It wasn’t raining but it was windy with a chill in the air. We sat at their picnic table and had snacks. I brought a bottle of Chimay Grand Reserve Belgian Trappist ale. John and Becky were there when Donna, Sini and I arrived. We braved the weather for about an hour before we decided it would be better to relocate to John and Becky’s coach and continue visiting indoors. They have a Newmar Ventana with a roomy floor plan.

Shannon, Dave, Sini, Donna, John and Becky

On Sunday, I woke up sore and bruised on my left side. I watched the Moto GP race from Barcelona, Spain and didn’t accomplish much. I spent the rest of the day reading a book. It was raining all day, so there wasn’t much else to do anyway.

Monday I passed on playing pickleball as I felt like I needed to rest my shoulders. On Monday evening, Mona and Vanessa came by to visit with Donna and Sini. They planned to take a sunset kayak ride on the cove. Mona brought sushi and they sat at our picnic table to snack and visit.

It was cool out – the high on Monday was only 66 degrees – 10 degrees warmer than Sunday was. They ended up having such a good time visiting they were still at the table at sunset – so much for the kayaking.

Donna, Mona, Vanessa and Sini

I’m running late this morning, but I plan to head over to the Pacific Beach Recreation Center for pickleball. It’s cloudy and the forecast calls for another cool day with the temperature in the low 60s.

Is Three Enough?

I made my usual stop at Dan Diego’s Thursday for a cold one with the Bay Park guys. When I was leaving through the alley in back, I saw a medium size bird with a bright red tail land on a utility cable over the alley. It was an African grey parrot! I stopped to shoot a photo but I only got one back lit shot before it flew away.

African grey parrot

African grey parrots are native to equatorial Africa – and they’re grey in color with red tails. They are popular as pets because they have an uncanny ability to mimic human speech. This bird must have been an escapee or released from captivity.

There are a few neighborhoods in San Diego that have flocks of parrots – mostly conures. These birds are also medium size and are mostly green – some have red heads. They’re native to Mexico and Central America. No one knows for sure how they got here, but they’ve been around for decades. Some say they’ve seen wild parrots here since the 1960s.

Donna and Sini went grocery shopping Thursday morning. I arrived back at the coach from the rec center just after they got back. They told me about a fifth-wheel trailer that pulled in ahead of them and they said it looked like it had wood siding – like a wood cabin.

After dinner, we took a walk through the park and found it. It was actually aluminum siding that had been air brushed to look like wood. The person that painted it was definitely an artist – the visual effect was unbelievable. We talked briefly with the owner and asked if I could take pictures.

Air brushed fifth-wheel

The painter put his initials here

MagikShop is the name of the place that painted it

On another subject, I think I have a collector bug. At one time, I collected watches. When Donna bought me a pair of cowboy boots last summer, I soon ended up with three pairs. A couple of months ago, while we were at ViewPoint RV and Golf Resort in Arizona, I decided to buy a folding pocket knife with a locking blade. We were receiving a lot of packages and I had to cut the boxes into smaller pieces to put them in a recycle bin. I was tired of retrieving a box cutter from the trailer every time I had to do it.

A folding pocket knife seemed like the answer. I did a little research online. I didn’t want anything too fancy, just a reasonably priced knife from a reputable company that would hold a decent edge. Pocket knives come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Further, it’s important to know and understand the materials they’re made from. The blade steel type is important as it determines how sharp the edge can be, how easy it is to sharpen the knife and how well it will hold an edge. The other consideration is the material used for the scales – the gripping surface on the handle of the knife.

I looked around a little and found a Spyderco Tenacious on Amazon that fit my wants. It was reasonably priced around $40. The blade steel was 8Cr13MoV – a Chinese steel that sharpens easily and has decent edge retention. The scales were G10 – a synthetic material that’s durable and provides good grip. I ordered it and put it to good use in the following months.

Then I started reading more about knife steel and the Spyderco range of pocket folders. I wanted something a little lighter with better edge retention that would fit in my pocket. I found another folding pocket knife with a locking blade called a Spyderco Delica 4. This one cost twice as much as the first knife I bought due to the quality of the materials. The blade is made from VG-10 steel. This is a Japanese steel formulated for knife blades. The scales are fiberglass reinforced nylon (FRN) for lightness. It’s very light and disappears when clipped in my pocket.

That led me to another one – a Spyderco Chaparral. This is the most expensive of the three and has a blade made from CTS-XHP steel. This steel was developed and is made by an American company – Carpenter Technology Corporation. Many high end knife makers consider CTS-XHP to be the best blade steel currently available. The scales on this knife are carbon fiber. It’s ultra lightweight and thin. The build quality is obvious.

Top to bottom Spyderco Tenacious, Delica 4 and Chaparral

A knife collection doesn’t take much space. But, where does it stop? What’s the point of having a drawer full of pocket knives? I can only use one at a time and I really don’t need a lot of specialty knives. I don’t know – all I needed was something convenient to cut cardboard but now I have three.

Yesterday was Cinco de Mayo – a Mexican holiday commemorating the battle of Puebla in 1862 during the Mexican-Franco war. It also happens to be the anniversary of our marriage. Donna and I were married on the fifth day of May in 2006. We always go out to a nice restaurant for dinner on our anniversary.

While we were getting ready to go out, I saw another unusual sight. Someone had put out two small bowls in a vacant RV site. One had some kind of food in it and the other had water. A pair of mallards were dining and drinking there. They seemed very tame.

Mallards dining and drinking

The weather was much cooler. We decided to take an Uber ride to the Cafe Bella Italia in Pacific Beach where I had dinner reservations. As we were in front of the RV park, our Uber driver cancelled and Donna received a message telling her to order another ride. Right about then, Sini drove into the park. She pulled over and got her dog, Ziggy, out of the car and told us to take her car and forget about Uber. Thanks, Sini!

Today we expect a high temperature of 63 degrees – matching yesterday’s high. There’s a 50% chance of rain showers today. Tomorrow’s forecast calls for a 90% chance of rain and a high of only 61 degrees.

 

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