Monthly Archives: October 2013


Yesterday morning, I went for a bike ride. I rode the Sea World Bike Path, then crossed the West Mission Bay Drive bridge. I followed the bay walk around Mission Bay through Crown Point.

Along the way, at Crown Point Shores, I came upon a large heron standing in the grass between the parking lot and beach. I haven’t seen a heron this close to people before.

Heron at Crown Point Shores

Heron at Crown Point Shores

A little further along, at the Rose Creek inlet, I saw a pelican in the water. I stopped to take a photo. Before I could compose the shot, he suddenly leaped from the water, flapped his wings a couple of times and dived back into the water. He was fishing and just caught a fish! I watched him repeat this performance a couple more times.

Later in the day, on a walk around the RV park with Donna just before dinner, I spotted a kingfisher that looked like he was looking for dinner. Lots of bird watching here in San Diego!

A few people have asked us why we chose to live full-time in our RV and how we chose our motorhome. I think our transition to full-timing was a little different than most. I’ve shared bits and pieces of the story in previous posts. I’ll try to condense the story here.

Last fall, Donna and I made a trip to California. We visited my daughters and grandchildren in San Diego. When we returned to Michigan, we talked about the idea of getting an RV to enable us to visit and spend time with family across the country when I retired. At that point in time, my plan was to retire in May 2014.

We thought about keeping our home in Michigan and becoming snowbirds in the winter. I started researching types of RVs. Neither of us had any RV experience. In the evenings I would go online and read various RV forums such as and I also read blogs for more information. Some of the blogs I follow are; Wheeling It, Technomadia, Our Odyssey and Our Newell Adventure.

I didn’t want to spend too much money on an RV as we didn’t even know if we would like it. I decided to buy a class A motorhome with a gasoline engine. These tend to cost less than the diesel pusher models. Our intention was to buy the motorhome, take a few trips and see how we liked RVing.

I started looking at RVs for sale and took a few for a test drive. We all think we’re great drivers, so what’s the big deal about driving an RV, right? Well, it isn’t like driving a car. There are many aspects that you need to consider. I searched online and found articles and video tutorials for RV driving before I got behind the wheel.

A few months later, we found a used motorhome we both liked. Donna liked the floorplan (and so did I). I liked the way it handled. So we bought it. Our home is a Gulfstream Sun Voyager. It’s 37′ long, built on a Workhorse chassis and powered by a GM Vortec 8.1 liter engine. The transmission is an Allison MH1000. Although the sofa folds out for additional sleeping, the floorplan is really ideal for two people.

We brought it home in December and parked it in the driveway in front of our second garage. In late winter, we started sleeping out there most weekend nights, playing house and learning how everything works. It was winterized, so we couldn’t use the toilet or sinks, but we could eat dinner out there and watch TV. One of my first projects was to install a new flat screen TV up front, replacing the outdated TV that was there.

The pressure and level of stress at work was high. I was at a point where I dreaded getting up and going to work. After discussion with Donna, I decided to move up my retirement date. I was eligible for unreduced early retirement in May of 2013. I filed the paperwork for retirement, commencing on August 1, 2013. This changed everything.

With the decision to retire earlier came discussion about full-timing. We did a little more research and decided we wanted to do it. Once I retired, there wasn’t anything tying us to Michigan. We had been there for four years. We relocated there from Arizona when I took a job promotion. So we decided to sell our home.

With the house sold, we hit the road on July 23, 2013. I took the last week of July as vacation time before my official retirement date. Donna posted about downsizing our belongings here. I’ve posted about selecting and establishing a domicile here.

In hindsight, I wish we had begun planning to go full time earlier. Most people spend a year or two planning before they decide to go full time. The layout of our coach is not ideal for Donna to do her work. She’s used to having an office and large desk. We thought working at the dinette booth would be fine. As I said, it’s not ideal. If you are going to work in your coach, make sure you have adequate office space and a comfortable arrangement.

That, in a nutshell is how we got here. Now, we are considering upgrading to a diesel pusher with dedicated office space. I’ll take my time finding the right coach. Maybe we’ll find something by next spring.

Meanwhile I can dream about some of the coaches we see in the RV parks. Last week a 45′ Marathon Coach built on a Prevost (say pre-vo) chassis arrived here. It’s a double slideout model. I found a used 2008 double slide Marathon advertised online for $785,000. These coaches are usually made to order, however I found a new one for sale on Marathon’s web site for $2.1 million. I’ll need to win something bigger than the football pool before I can do anything but dream about one of these.

Marathon Coach

Marathon Coach

Marathon Coach with slides out

Marathon Coach with slides out

A couple of days ago, a 47′ Newell arrived in the RV park. It’s an older model, 1991. This one had a golf cart mounted on the rear and a Fiat 500 towed behind that. Unlike most coaches, Newells are built from the ground up at their factory in Oklahoma. They design and build their own chassis, then complete the coach. These are generally made to order and have a long standing reputation for high quality. This particular coach is a giant with a gross vehicle weight rating of 75,000 lbs!

47' 1991 Newell

47′ 1991 Newell

Golf cart mounted on rear of Newell coach

Golf cart mounted on rear of Newell coach

We’ll be looking for an affordable, used coach in the 40′ range.

The Fine Print

First of all, I want to acknowledge and thank all of you for the comments here on the blog and on Facebook about the theft we suffered. The support is welcome and very much appreciated. Yesterday was a low-key day. We remembered a few more items that were in the trailer. The loss  really started to sink in.

I spoke with a claims adjuster at Progressive Insurance. She will call me this afternoon for additional details. I don’t have a warm and fuzzy feeling about it. We have the trailer insured as part of our full-timer’s RV policy. However, the fine print says that the policy covers loss of unscheduled personal effects when:

1) they are in the covered vehicle; or
2) on the parcel of real property that is :
a) owned by you or reserved for your exclusive use; and
b) occupied by the covered vehicle.

I guess I’ll find out how that’s interpreted this afternoon. The trailer and motorhome were not on the same site. However, both were on the park property. If they claim the trailer was in storage, that is clearly not covered.

This episode is a bit of a downer. However, it doesn’t reduce my enthusiasm for the lifestyle we’re living. We’ve had a great ride across this country and stayed in amazing places. We’ve met many good people along the way and enjoyed new friendships. And we love being right where we are. I may not be able to replace all of the stuff that was in our trailer, but whatever happens, we’ll get along fine.

Today the weather is looking better, blue skies at sunrise. The five-day forecast is more of the same – abundant sunshine. Donna is heading out to her exercise class on the scooter. Later this morning I’ll head out for a bike ride. Life is good.

Dirty, Rotten Thieves

Yesterday, the morning was cool and damp. I wrote my blog post while Donna was at her exercise class. Donna returned the rental car and then made breakfast. I spent the morning indoors reading a book. By noon, it warmed up and the was sun was breaking through intermittently.

Around 1:30pm I went for a walk to stretch out and get a little exercise. I was walking toward the park entrance. When I walked around the curve in the road and looked at the office, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The parking lot behind the office was empty.

Empty? My cargo trailer was supposed to be there. I walked to the office and told the girl at the counter I had a problem. My cargo trailer was missing from the lot. She looked up my information and saw that I paid to store the trailer through November 20th. She walked to the back door and looked out at the empty lot. She came back to her computer and looked for records of towing activity. She didn’t find any tow records.

She contacted the RV park security.  They weren’t aware of the theft. The last time I saw our trailer was Saturday evening when we went to Halloween party. I called the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) non-emergency number and reported the theft. The person on the line checked towing records and didn’t find anything. She dispatched an officer to the park to make a report in person.

I walked back to our motorhome and told Donna about the theft. While we waited for the SDPD officer to arrive, we made a list of items in the trailer. We had a lot of stuff in there. All of my tools. Motorcycle jackets, pants and boots. Bicycle gear, parts and clothing. Hiking boots and backpacks. Two expensive double barrel shotguns and a hunting rifle. A 2×12 speaker cabinet for electric guitar. The carrying case for Donna’s electronic keyboard. And much more.

We kept coming up with more items as we thought about what was in there. It’s only stuff, but what makes it hard to take is that it’s the stuff we wanted keep when we downsized everything. The SDPD officer arrived a little past 3pm. He was a nice guy; his parents were full time RVers. They were domiciled in South Dakota, just like us.

I had a lock on the tongue of the trailer, but a determined thief can defeat any lock. I doubt if we will ever see the trailer or its contents again. I’m glad our scooter and bicycles weren’t in the trailer. It took about 45 minutes to complete the police report. Today I’ll open a claim with our insurance company. I’ll have to shop for a new trailer.

Our enthusiasm was dampened for the rest of the day. Last night we watched a NetFlix movie called Billy Elliott. I told Donna it sounded like it would be a chick flick. It was a chick flick.

We have a few rain showers again this morning. The weather should clear and the forecast for the rest of the week is beautiful.

Our trailer

Our trailer

Tiki House

Halloween came early here. In the RV park, Halloween was celebrated on Saturday, October 26th. We didn’t stay in the park though. We went to a Halloween party at Donna’s sister Sheila’s house. I’m getting ahead of myself.

A little past 11am Saturday, Donna and I scootered over to Enterprise rental on Garnet Avenue and picked up a Nissan Sentra. Donna wanted to shop at a few stores and we thought having a car for the weekend would be good.

While Donna was out and about, Carole Sue Bringas picked me up and we went to the Tiki House in Pacific Beach. This iconic bar has been a popular local watering hole for almost 40 years. This will be its last week – they’re closing the doors for good at the end of the week. While we were chatting, Kevin Barry came in and joined us. Like me, Kevin is reconnecting with the old gang. When I was in junior high and high school, I hung out with Kevin’s brother, Jim  Barry.

When I was in ninth grade at Marston Junior High School, I would walk home after school. The route took me past Clairemont High School, into the canyon behind the school. In the canyon, I would usually meet up with Jim Barry, John Swingle and Terry McMahon. They were 10th graders then at Clairemont High.

We would walk through the canyon and cross Balboa Avenue, then walk up the hill on Moraga Avenue. I lived on Moraga, across from Cadman Park. Jim Barry would talk me into taking a detour over the hill on Cadden Way. This detour added distance and an extra hill to climb. Jim would talk me into it by telling we would see Debbie Taylor. She would wave to us as we walked by her house. Debbie was a year behind me in school. Jim Barry would always tell me Debbie was the girl for me.

He told me that so many times, I began to believe it. In high school, Debbie and I went out on dates a few times. She was my senior prom date. It didn’t work out for us, but we remained friends for a decade after high school. We lost contact when I moved away and Debbie eventually moved to the east coast.

While Carole Sue, Kevin and I were reminiscing, Debbie Taylor (Bednarski now) walked in. Carole had arranged the reunion as a surprise for me. Debbie and her husband live in north San Diego County now. We caught up on each other’s lives and had a few laughs as we talked about old times. I really want to see her brother and sisters while I’m in San Diego.

While I was out, the carpet guy came to the RV park and cleaned our carpet. He did a nice job; the carpet looks good. That’s something we’ll probably want to do every few months.

Saturday evening, Donna and I drove over to Sheila’s house in Point Loma for her Halloween party. We got there early and I helped her son, Connor, assemble a scary spider. It was about a foot in diameter and was sound activated. When a loud enough sound was sensed, the spider would lunge forward. Connor had several spooky novelties set up throughout the house. The party was attended by friends of both Connor and Sheila. So it was two parties in one – one for the kids and another for the adults. We had a good time.

The bag lady with me at the Halloween party

The bag lady with me at the Halloween party

I went as a money magnet. Donna was a bag lady. Sheila was Wonder Woman.


Sunday was a lazy day for me. We started by driving to The Broken Yolk for breakfast. I had a Mexican breakfast called machaca. It’s shredded beef, onions and peppers with scrambled eggs. It was okay, but the restaurant is overpriced and noisy and I don’t think we’ll go back there.

Machaca breakfast plate

Machaca breakfast plate

I spent the rest of the day watching football. I didn’t fare so well in the football pool. At the end of the day I was five points behind the leader. Oh well, there’s always next week! Donna utilized the rental car and did some shopping. She’s still learning her way around town. At one point she got lost and called me for directions to get home.

Donna bought a treat for me at Costco. It was a 32-ounce can of Mission Brewery Shipwrecked Double IPA. This was the smoothest, best balanced high-gravity beer I’ve ever tasted.

Shipwrecked double IPA

Shipwrecked Double IPA

This morning is overcast and cool. It rained before I woke up. The forecast calls for cool weather with occasional showers today and tomorrow. The highs will be in the low 60s. I will probably put off bicycling until the weather clears. When I lived in western Washington, where it rained about 300 days a year, we didn’t let rain interfere with our activities. Here in San Diego where it’s sunny and clear more than 300 days a year, I don’t see the need to go out in the rain. A warming trend is forecast by Wednesday. Blue skies and temperature in the upper 70s are ahead.


Yesterday, Donna rode the scooter to her exercise class while I  posted to the blog. I walked over to the Snack Shack and bought a breakfast burrito. When Donna returned, I felt like I needed to burn some calories, so I went for a bike ride.

Yours truly with my carbon fiber frame Orbea Onix road bike.

Yours truly with my carbon fiber frame Orbea Onix road bike

As I rode south on East Mission Bay Drive, I was thinking about trying a new route. I crossed Sea World Drive and followed Pacific Highway. The bike lane disappears at the overpass above I-5. There’s a sign indicating that bikes share the lane. We all know how well motorists obey signs. I had a car blow by me at ~50mph, less than a foot away from my elbow.

I rode past the California Highway Patrol station. About a quarter of a mile down the road from  there, I saw a motorhome parked on the street with the shade drawn across the windshield. It looked to me like someone was sleeping in there. There were numerous signs prohibiting this, but this person was doing it right by the CHP station!


I continued through Old Town, then made the climb up to Presidio Park. This is a very steep grade. Before I reached the top, I was in my lowest gear, standing on the pedals. I could’ve walked at the speed I was going. A few minutes of this had me huffing and puffing.


A fort at the top of Presidio Hill was built in 1769 by Spanish explorers. It was the first permanent European settlement on the Pacific coast of what is now the USA. It was also the first mission and the base of Spanish colonization of California. The fort no longer exists here. Eventually the settlers moved off the hill into what is now called Old Town.

View from Presidio Hill

View from Presidio Hill (click to enlarge)

The first padre at Presidio was Junipero Serra. He established the Mission de Alcala there. There is a Junipero Serra museum at the park. I learned that Presidio Hill was purchased in 1907 by a wealthy local business man, George Marston. Now I know who my junior high school was named after. He bought it to preserve the area. In 1929 he donated the land and museum building to the city of San Diego. The city still owns the park.

Picnic area in Presidio Park

Picnic area in Presidio Park

At the top of the hill, hidden by a stand of eucalyptus trees, is a statue commemorating the Mormon soldiers who marched here. Rather than repeat the  story, I took pictures of the placards. Click on the photos below to enlarge and read the story.

Mormon soldier statue

Mormon soldier statue

click on photo to enlarge

Click on photos to enlarge


After I returned home and showered, I rode the scooter out to Kearny Mesa. I wandered around a couple of RV lots and looked at used motorhomes. I was just kicking tires and getting ideas. We might trade-in next year. We’ll see. I would like to have a diesel-powered unit. Turbo-charged diesels perform better at altitude. They go up hills better and they come down hills better. Going down hill with a diesel you can use the exhaust brake to reduce your speed without worry of overheating the service brakes.

While I was in Kearny Mesa, I stopped at Performance Bicycle and bought a set of SPD cleats for Donna’s new bicycle shoes. She wants to convert back to SPD type pedals and cleats. They’re easier to walk in than the Shimano cleats she has now. I also bought postage stamps while I was out.

Last evening, Donna made kabobs with boneless chicken thighs, scallions and mushrooms with a sweet ginger-garlic glaze. While I grilled the kabobs, Donna steamed bok choy which she served sprinkled with sesame seeds. Delicious!

Hot off the grill

Hot off the grill

Chicken kabobs served with bok choy

Chicken kabobs served with bok choy

Today, Donna is renting a car from Enterprise that she will have through Monday morning. She wants to go to Joann Fabric and a few other places over the weekend. It will easier to shop with a car. We’ll also use the car tonight to go to a Halloween party at her sister, Sheila’s house.

Club Cards

Yesterday was a day that got away from me. Donna was working on her computer most of the day while I sat in a lounge chair outside and read a book. The temperature remained in the mid-60s all day and the marine layer didn’t burn off until after 3pm.

Around 3pm, we rode the scooter to the Vons grocery store in Pacific Beach. Nowadays, you can’t get the advertised price at a grocery store without a “club card.” If you don’t have a card, you’ll pay too much for most of the things you buy. Stores use the cards to track people’s purchases and preferences. They also try to create loyalty by making cardholders feel like they’re getting special deals.

Donna and I each have a Vons card which we got soon after we arrived here. Yesterday, we both forgot to bring our cards along. Neither of us have bothered to  register our cards, so using our phone number was not an option. Donna told me not to worry about it.

The cashiers at Vons will not apply the “discount” price unless you have a card or are registered in the system. There’s another grocery store in Clairemont that we shop at called Keil’s. They also have a club card. However, at Keil’s we just tell the cashier we are visiting the area and they apply the card discount for us. The cashier there told us they have a lot of customers from the RV parks.

The approach to the discount card business at Keil’s makes sense to me. Why clog up their system with cards that are used by people that are visiting the area. It doesn’t make sense to track those purchases and  send flyers to addresses that are out of town.

Back to our cardless shopping at Vons. When we got to the cashier, Donna asked if she could join their rewards program. The cashier said “sure” and handed her a card, which Donna immediately swiped through the card reader and got the discounts. Now we have three unregistered cards.

This club card business is a little crazy. If I kept a card for every store I shop at, I would need another wallet. Of course, we could register our cards and use our phone number at the cashier, but that means giving our address, e-mail and phone number so the store can track our purchases and start pitching advertisements to us. We decided to keep the new Vons card in the scooter’s glove compartment. It’s funny how we can use the card without registering it. It’s also funny to me how the cashier will not apply the discount but will happily hand over a card for you to swipe.

At BevMo, I was required to complete the registration form before they would apply the advertised pricing. I complied. I’ll bet someone mindlessly keyed in my information, including my South Dakota mailing address. BevMo doesn’t exist in South Dakota,but they probably mail flyers to me there, which our mail service recycles. At our request, the mail service doesn’t forward junk mail.

One of the items I wanted to get at Vons was book of postage stamps. I learned that our insurance carrier, Progressive Insurance, would reimburse the cost of the windshield repair I paid for last week. I just need to mail them the invoice. With all the club card hub-bub at the cashier, I forgot to get the stamps.

After we returned, I dumped and rinsed the holding tanks. This is a job I do every five days or so. Then I went to the tavern for a cold one and to submit my football picks for the weekend.

Today, the overcast should burn off before noon. When Donna returns from her exercise class (she scootered herself today), I think I’ll go for a bike ride. Later, I’ll go out to buy stamps. Maybe I’ll go to the two RV dealers in Kearny Mesa and kick a few tires. We’re thinking about upgrading our coach next year. I’m pretty happy with what we have, but there are some things I wish for. Donna needs a better working environment. If we don’t replace this coach, we need to think about modifications to improve her office space.

Time Warp

Yesterday marked the end of our third month on the road. We rolled out of our driveway in Shelby Township, Michigan, for the last time July 23rd. Looking back, the time is a bit warped.

What I mean is that time seemed to stretch over the first two months. We visited so many places and did so many things, it didn’t seem possible that it all happened in two months. The last month was spent in one place, Mission Bay, San Diego. We’ve settled into daily routines. For me, everyday is Saturday. The weeks are marked by NFL football games on Sunday. The time has flown by.

Last weekend, we reached our 30-day limit at the Mission Bay RV Resort and had to leave for a day. Once we hooked up the trailer, I actually enjoyed driving our motorhome to El Cajon. Among RVers, this is known as “hitch itch.” Hitch itch is a hankering to hitch up and hit the road.

We plan to stay put in San Diego until January. We’ll have to leave the park two more times as we reach the 30-day limits. That should satisfy my hitch itch until we head to Arizona in January.

We’ve had a couple of days with unseasonably cool weather, about 5 degrees below normal. In San Diego, that means the daily high along the coast is in the mid 60s. Unseasonably cool is what the weather report says, but I’m not complaining. It will warm  up to the 70s tomorrow and through the weekend.

Donna is working on updating her website, She’s also working on her book promotion plan and generally figuring out how to work while living the full-time RV life.

Today, I’ll study the NFL schedule and pick my teams for this weekend’s games. I doubt if I can repeat last weekend’s results when I picked 12 winners out of 14 games.

Grilling Bricks

I love my Weber Q100 gas grill. It’s portable, large enough to prepare a meal for four and it works so well. The flame is proportional to the settings on the  knob, making it easy to control the temperature.

Last night I grilled the tastiest, juiciest chicken breasts ever. I used an unconventional technique that provides such great results, I have to tell you about it. Start with skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts. Sprinkle your favorite herb seasoning; Donna used a mixture of minced garlic, kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and herbes de Provence.

While the grill was heating, I wrapped two bricks with aluminum foil. Reduce the flame on the grill to medium (about 350F). Place the chicken breasts skin side down over direct heat. Then place the foil wrapped bricks on top of the breasts and close the cover on the grill.

Foil wrapped bricks on chicken breasts

Foil wrapped bricks on chicken breasts – start with skin side down

Grill for 10 minutes, then use an oven mitt or tongs to remove the bricks and set them aside on the grill. Turn the chicken breasts over and put the bricks back on them. Grill for another 10 minutes. Remove the bricks, place the chicken on a platter and voila, you’ll have tasty, juicy chicken.

Flip the chicken and replace the bricks

Flip the chicken and replace the bricks

Ready to serve

Ready to serve

I’ve read that this technique comes from Italy, created by either the Tuscans or the Romans. They call it pollo al mattone, although they usually cook a whole chicken with this technique. The weight of the brick presses the meat into the grill, crisping the skin and helping it to cook evenly. The brick also covers the meat, keeping it moist. I know it sounds a little weird, but it really works. Donna found this technique in a magazine called (The Best of) Fine Cooking Grilling. Try it. I think you’ll like it.

Served with spinach and brown rice

Served with brown basmati rice and spinach sauteed with diced sundried tomatoes and sliced garlic

Yesterday, Donna went out to lunch and spent the afternoon with her friend, Paulette Ensign, who says she is one of our biggest blog fans. After they left, went for a bike ride. Later, I went to the tavern and collected my football pool winnings. I bought a round for the other guys there who participated in the pool. It’s their tradition. I’ll have to study the match-ups for this weekend and try my luck again.

This morning it’s overcast with a thick marine layer. I expect it to burn off later and we’ll have another fine day in San Diego.


24-Hour Shuffle

I haven’t posted since Friday. I anticipated this as we had a busy weekend. Mission Bay RV Resort is owned by the city of San Diego and they have strict rules. One of the strictly enforced rules limits RVs to a 30-day maximum stay in the park. After 30 days, you must be out of the park for at least 24 hours before you can return. This means your RV and all belongings must be off the property. For us this meant I would have to pack the trailer and take it with us.

I spent most of Saturday preparing to leave. I organized the trailer and loaded the scooter. I packed some of our stuff in the basement compartments. I lubed the rams on the jacks and one slideout. I hooked up the air compressor and set the tire pressures. By 4pm I had most of my chores done. I asked our neighbor if I could lock our bicycles behind his trailer and retrieve them when we return on Monday. He didn’t have a problem with it. The bicycles are a hassle to load in the trailer. I load them suspended from the ceiling. They’re one of the last things that go in. Leaving them here may have been cheating, but it made loading the trailer much simpler.

At 5:30pm, my friend from our school days, Carole Sue Bringas, picked us up in her car. She took us out to  eat at the Fish Shop on Garnet Avenue in Pacific Beach. This is a popular restaurant/bar/fish market. It’s very casual. You order at the counter, take a number and seat yourself. They bring the food to your table. Ordering is a three-step process. You choose your fish (I chose yellowtail), then you choose one of eight seasonings (I chose Fish Shop Seasoning) then you choose your style – taco, salad, sandwich or plate ( I chose the plate which comes with two side dishes). The food was excellent although I have to say that the Fish Shop Seasoning was very spicy. Donna had the Fish Shop Shrimp Special (say that fast three times!). Carole treated us to dinner (thank you, Carole Sue!).

From there we drove downtown to the Hyatt Hotel. We went to the bar at the top of the Hyatt. The view of San Diego Bay from there is spectacular. We had a drink, then moved on. Carole took us to a place on Morena Boulevard called the High Dive. It was a lively cafe/bar that locals from Bay Park frequent. After a drink there, Carole dropped us off at the RV park.

I paid the RV park a late checkout fee of $10. The  usual check out time is noon. For $10 they allow you stay as late as 4pm. The only caveat is this; they record the time you leave and you must be out of the park for a full 24 hours or more before you can check back in.

I wanted the late check out so  I could watch the Chargers play the Jacksonville Jaguars on TV. The game was played in Jacksonville, so  the TV broadcast was at 10am local time and wouldn’t be over until about 1pm. The Chargers played a good game; Phillip Rivers led the team to a 24 – 6 victory. The defense hasn’t given up a touchdown in 11 quarters.

We thought about our options for our 24-hour leave. Some people park in the public parking areas in Mission Bay Park. This isn’t legal as parking is forbidden from 2am to 4am in these lots. Some people get away with it though, because the enforcement is spotty. I didn’t want to risk having a cop knock on the door after 2am. Another option was to move to another RV park in the area. I didn’t want to pay for a site when I would only be there for a day and wouldn’t hook up. There are casinos in San Diego County that allow free overnight RV parking. I thought this made the most sense.

I dumped and rinsed the holding tanks before the game. Once the game ended, Donna and I finished packing, pulled the slideouts in, raised the jacks and rolled up the awning. I disconnected the water and power. I made a few walkarounds, checking the compartment doors and generally looking things over. We haven’t moved in 30 days. I wanted to  be sure we weren’t forgetting anything.

Once I was satisfied, we rolled out to the lot behind the office. While I was hooking up the trailer, Donna checked us out. I was 2pm when we left the park. Our destination was the Sycuan Indian Casino in El Cajon. It’s about 30 miles from De Anza Cove. The drive was smooth and uneventful. As we drove through El Cajon, Donna was reconnoitering gas stations. She found a couple that looked easy enough to enter and exit. We decided to stop at the Shell station on 2nd Street on our way back to Mission Bay RV Resort.

The drive to Sycuan took us through Granite Hills. This is a pretty area with high-end luxury homes. The landscape is rolling hills covered with sagebrush and manzanita. There was a short, steep (10%) descent on Dehesa Road, but it wasn’t a problem although I wondered how we would fare climbing it on our way back.

Once we entered the casino property, we were directed to an empty parking lot called Bradley 2. This lot over looks the casino and the regular car parking lot. We had the whole lot to ourselves and tried to find a fairly level spot. The lot slopes; I had a hard time leveling the coach. Once level, we put the slides out.

Our spot in the Bradley 2 lot

Our spot in the Bradley 2 lot

Parking lot view from Bradley 2 lot

Parking lot view from Bradley 2 lot

We walked from the Bradley 2 lot down the stairs to the casino. I counted the steps, 49 steps from the lot to the casino level. I read complaints about these stairs on a couple of forums when I was researching places for free overnight stays. The stairs are fairly steep, but we didn’t have any problems. We went to a sports bar in the casino and ordered food. I had a couple of beers and watched three NFL games at once on the array of TVs in the bar. I picked a couple of upsets in the football pool for the weekend. My picks were looking good. I had Washington over Chicago, the Jets over the Patriots, Pittsburgh over Baltimore.

Sycuan Casino viewed from the Bradley 2 lot

Sycuan Casino viewed from the Bradley 2 lot

We walked back up to the RV. I ran the generator and watched the Sunday night game. I picked another upset here; I had the Colts over the Broncos. I picked 12 winners out of 14 games and won the pool!

View down the stairs from Bradley 2 lot

View down the stairs from Bradley 2 lot

View up the stairs from casino level

View up the stairs from casino level

Yesterday we walked to the casino for breakfast. The Wachena restaurant in the casino is quite good. After a leisurely breakfast, we made the RV ready for travel. The drive up the steep grade on Dehesa Road wasn’t an issue, we motored right up. We gassed up at  the Shell station Donna spotted on our way in. We were back at De Anza Cove by 12:30pm.

We couldn’t check in until 2pm, so I parked in the public parking lot outside of the RV park. Donna went for a walk while I sat in the grass and read a book under the shade of a tree. At 2:10pm I pulled into the lot behind the RV park office. We checked in for another 30-day stay. I dropped the trailer and we settled in at site 111. I think I like this site better than 148, where we were before. It’s closer to the gate and has different trees that aren’t shedding nearly as many leaves.

Last night I walked over to the Offshore Tavern and Grill to watch the Monday Night Football. This NFL season is getting expensive. Oh well, my football pool winnings are offsetting the beer bill! I walked home around 9pm.

The 30-day/24-hour shuffle is a small price to pay to stay in such an ideal location. I don’t understand the rule though. The other RV parks in the area (Campland and Santa Fe) have 90-day limits. On the other hand, getting the RV on the road for some exercise every 30 days isn’t a bad thing. The 30-mile drive is enough to get everything up to operating temperature and allow the fluids to boil off any condensation. The emollients in the rubber of the tires are redistributed as you roll down the road. Sitting stationary for long periods of time is hard on vehicles.

This life of retirement is busy! I’m really enjoying it though. I don’t understand when people say retirement is boring. Donna says she can see how much more relaxed I am. I have no plan for today, other than a long bike ride at some point. Life is good!

Top Secret

Yesterday I had the opportunity to do something different. My friend, John Swingle works for the government. He works in Poway at a General Atomics facility (General Atomics Aeronautical Systems). I can’t tell you what he does there; I’m not sure I fully understand his role. I do know it requires a high level of security clearance. He arranged a tour for me.

My alarm was set for 6:30am. I haven’t had to use an alarm for months. I showered and had coffee with a cup of Greek yogurt before John picked me up at 7:45am. It took about 30 minutes to drive to Poway. When we checked in at the security desk, I realized I’d forgotten to bring my passport. My only identification was my driver’s license. Without proof of citizenship, my tour would be restricted. I had to leave my cell phone in a locker due to the camera it has. No photos are allowed.

Visitor badge

Visitor badge

John introduced me to some of his colleagues and gave me a little background on what they do there. This facility is where Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs – sometimes called drones) are built. The support equipment, including ground control stations are also built here. They develop the software to  operate and control the UAVs. It’s a huge facility occupying several large buildings.

We went to the production facility where I saw MQ-9 Reapers being assembled. These are fantastic airplanes, much larger than most people think. The Reaper has a 66-foot wingspan, a 900-horsepower turboprop powerplant and carries 4,000 lbs of fuel. Depending on the configuration, it can fly for more than 36 hours to complete a mission. It can fly at altitudes up to 50,000 feet above sea level at speeds up to 220 knots.

There are many sensors onboard, such as thermal imaging, radar imaging and cameras. Wikipedia claims an operator can read a license plate up to three miles away.

Flying one of these birds from a remote station must be tricky. The command is sent to a satellite and relayed to the plane. This results in a delay. The command can take more than a second to be received, then the plane responds to the command.

We saw MQ-9 Reapers in various stages of assembly. It is designed to be easily disassembled for shipping. The wings and tail surfaces are removable. They have special shipping containers to securely package the airframe for shipping.

We also saw MQ-1 Predators in the assembly area. These airframes were there for upgrades and repairs. The Predator is no longer in production. It is smaller than the MQ-9 Reaper and it’s powered by a 115hp Rotax piston engine. MQ-1 Predators can fly missions up to 14 hours. The estimated cost of a MQ-1Predator is $4 million versus the $16+ million for an MQ-9 Reaper.

The pilots flying these planes sit in a cockpit set up in a containerized work station. The controls are familiar as they are set up like most military jets. The pilot has an array of monitor screens. They can customize the view on each screen. I saw one where there were three monitors aligned to give an impression of looking out the cockpit window from aboard the plane. Below those three monitors were more monitors, one showing the status of the engine and other onboard systems. The others were set up to mimic the typical military avionics found in  fighter jets.

Without proof of citizenship, John wasn’t allowed to take me to the flight simulation area. This was disappointing. He promised another tour in the future. I’ll be sure to bring my passport. Flying one of these planes in the simulator sounds like fun!

We had brunch after the tour, then John dropped me off back at Mission Bay. Donna took the scooter over to see her sister, Sheila. Sheila is a physical therapist. She helped Donna with a muscle pull that’s bothering her.

While Donna was at Sheila’s, I got  the ladder out and treated the seals on the motorhome slideouts. It’s important to keep the rubber seals clean and pliable. I used a three-step treatment that does that. First a pre-soaked cleaning cloth is used, then a different cleaning  formula is applied and finally a cloth soaked in a solution that nourishes the rubber.  I did this before, earlier this year. It’s recommended annually. Depending on the weather, I think it may be better to apply it every six months or so.

Last night, Donna made pan-seared tilapia with smoked paprika and portobella mushrooms stuffed with creamy spinach – artichoke filling for dinner. Another delicious, nutritious gourmet meal. She’s a great cook!


Tilapia with stuffed portobella mushroom

Today I’ll organize things in the trailer. I’ll get the compressor out and set  the tire pressures. I’ll lube the jacks and slideout rams with silicone spray and lube the Kwickee step pivot points. The steps have been out for a month and having the pivots freeze up is a common complaint on internet forums.

Tomorrow will be our 30th day here. We’re required to leave the park for 24 hours after 30 days, then we can return. I’ll have things packed away tonight. Tomorrow morning I’ll pull the slides in, raise the jacks and hitch up the trailer. I want to move out early so I can park somewhere and watch the Chargers game. They’re playing in Jacksonville, so the game starts at 10am.

After the game, we’ll head out to the Sycuan Indian Casino in El Cajon. The Sycuan Casino has a large RV parking lot and security. I won’t put the slides out. I’ll watch football for the remainder of the day, then crash out.

Monday morning we’ll return to Mission Bay RV Resort to begin another 30-day stay. I probably won’t post to the blog until Tuesday, when we are all set up again.