Monthly Archives: April 2015

Where Are You From?

Where are you from? It’s a simple question, right? But when you’re a full-timing nomad, it’s not always so easy to answer. We usually say, “Wherever our motorhome is parked.”

The long answer gets confusing. I grew up here in San Diego, so it always feels like home to me. Donna grew up in upstate New York near Albany and then moved to Lake Placid, New York before moving to Arizona in 2002. I lived in Washington, north of Seattle for 15 years. Donna and I met and married in Arizona in 2006. I lived in Michigan twice, for a few years in the late ’80s and again from 2009 until we hit the road in 2013. So Michigan was our last sticks-and-bricks home.

Our current domicile state is South Dakota. When people see our South Dakota license plates, they often ask, “Where in South Dakota are you from?” Other times, like when we check in at RV parks or show ID at a bank, people assume we’re visiting and ask when we will head back to South Dakota. The real answer is that we’ll head back there in a few years to renew our driver’s licenses, but sometimes we just go along with the charade and say, “When the weather warms up.”

There was a knock on our door the other morning. I opened the door and stepped out to find a man and woman at our site. The man shook my hand and introduced himself and his wife. They were Bob and Dovie Koop from Sun City Shadow Hills near Indio, California. They saw our license plate – KOOP42 (Koop for two) and thought that was our last name. Bob’s uncle was C. Everett Koop, the United States Surgeon General during the Reagan administration. He held that post from 1982 to 1989 and was known for his anti-smoking campaign. C. Everett Koop passed away in February 2013 at the age of 96. I don’t think he was ever a smoker.

We’ve had a heat wave over the past few days with the temperature reaching 90 degrees. It should be cooler today and tomorrow with a high around 80 degrees. We’ve been running the air conditioners.

Donna had her last follow-up exam at her doctor’s office yesterday. We should be good to go on health care until we return at the end of the year. I scootered Donna to her appointment in Mission Hills. I took us down Pacific Highway and up Washington Street to Mission Hills. Donna hadn’t been on that route before and didn’t realize how many restaurants and shops were in the area.

Her appointment was finished by 11am. We made a stop at CVS across the street for a few things and then our thoughts turned to lunch. Our ride home would take us past Old Town, so we decided to stop at one of our favorite restaurants – the Old Town Mexican Cafe.

The parking lot attendant directed us to a perfect motorcycle parking spot behind the restaurant. We enjoyed selections from their daily special menu. Donna had chicken molé ( a quarter of a chicken with molé sauce, rice and beans). I had the half chili verde, half chili Colorado plate with rice and beans. As always, the food was delicious and served with fresh, hand-made warm tortillas.

Making tortilla by the front window of the Old Town Mexican Cafe

Making tortillas by the front window of the Old Town Mexican Cafe

The hockey season ended for me last night. The Detroit Red Wings were eliminated from the playoffs with a game seven loss in Tampa Bay. Donna won’t have to sit through anymore hockey games on television until next year.

While I was watching the game, Donna grilled corn on the cob and made wild Alaskan cod with tomatoes and capers for dinner. The fish was cooked to perfection.

Wild Alaskan cod with tomatoes and capers

Wild Alaskan cod with tomatoes and capers

Today all three of my daughters will be in town as well as my step-dad, Ken. I’m a little concerned about Ken making the 90-mile drive from Menifee, but he insisted that he was fine driving that distance. He got a new car recently and says he needs to put some miles on it.

We’ll try to figure out how to get everyone together later today, after pickleball at the Pacific Beach Recreation Center.

Blue Apron Dinner

We had much warmer, summer-like weather yesterday as the thermometer hit 83 degrees. I spent hours on my laptop trying book places to stay in The Woodlands area of Texas and also on the gulf coast in Rockport. When we know we want to be in a particular area at a certain time, I like to book ahead. When we’re traveling, I like to have open dates as well to allow spontaneity.

Our plan was to arrive in The Woodlands on May 14th and stay through the 18th so we can meet up with Allen Hutchinson and his family when he competes in the Ironman Triathlon there. Of course, the Ironman competition brings a large number of visitors to the area and finding an RV site close to the course was impossible. I didn’t book it earlier, because some of our plans were still up in the air.

I ended up finding a swanky RV resort in north Houston, about 12 miles from The Woodlands. This resort is more expensive than our usual choices, but we’ll make do. Finding a place in Rockport was very time consuming. There are 36 RV parks in the area. I looked at websites, then found each park on Google Earth. Many of the parks I looked at appeared to be dirt sites with lots of trees. I rejected these. I don’t want to be in a dirt site for two weeks on the gulf coast. Rain is likely at some point and a dirt park could end up a mud hole. I’m also wary of too many trees close to a site. Trees can cause damage or at the very least, block satellite signals taking out our TV reception.

I found what appeared to be an ideal park. It showed sites with huge concrete pads – all sites over 70′ long and 40′ wide. I called them and was told they were completely booked through September! I worked my way down my list and heard the same thing from a few more places. This was worrisome. Our friends John and Sharon (On the Road of Retirement) told us about a place at Copano Bay in Rockport that they said lacks amenities but wasn’t a bad park. It also has a dock and is right on an inlet called Salt Lake which is part of Copano Bay.

When I phoned the park, they were very accommodating. They found a site for us and also blocked a smaller site directly across from our site to drop the trailer in. We’re in business! We’ll arrive there on May 18 and stay two weeks, departing on June 1st. We plan to spend some time visiting with my middle daughter Jamie who lives with her family in Robstown, TX.

We’re unsure of our route from there, but we think we want to make stops in Memphis, St. Louis and Des Moines on our way to Minneapolis. Donna will have a half day of work in Des Moines, producing another round of cleaning videos for Better Homes and Gardens. Whichever route we take, I’m sure we’ll find fun and adventure along the way.

I watched most of the Detroit Red Wings versus Tampa Bay Lightning NHL playoff game. Neither team has won two games in a row in this best of seven series and last night was no exception as Tampa Bay prevailed. The series is tied 3-3 with game seven in Tampa Bay Wednesday night.

We left during the third period of the game and took an Uber car to North Park. My daughter Shauna and her roommate Cat had invited us to dinner. They prepared a meal from Blue Apron. Blue is an online company that creates recipes, packages the ingredients (you can choose enough for two or four people) and delivers it in a refrigerated box. Each meal comes with instructions and most meals can be prepared in 35 minutes or less.

Cat and Shauna slaving over the stove

Cat and Shauna slaving over the stove

Cat and Shauna are graduating from Cal Western School of Law this Friday. Cat’s mom, Lil, came here from Hawaii for the graduation and joined us along with Shauna and Cat’s other roommate, Sara, for dinner. The food was great and the conversation interesting. We stayed until it was close to 9pm before we had another Uber ride home.

Corned beef style flank steak with braised cabbage and potatoes

Corned beef-style flank steak with braised cabbage and potatoes

More family will be here by Thursday for the graduation ceremony. We booked a room for my step-dad, Ken, in Mission Valley. Shauna’s sisters, mother, uncles and cousins are coming. Cat has a number of family members arriving as well.

Today’s weather forecast calls for another sunny day with the high temperature approaching 80 degrees. I plan to play pickleball this afternoon. Donna and I are thinking about buying a portable pickleball net so we can continue to play as we travel.

Minimalist RV Meet Up

We started off with a rain shower Saturday morning. The day remained overcast and blustery all day. After lunch, I scootered Donna to her sister’s house in Point Loma. Donna’s sister, Sheila is a physical therapist. Donna’s elbow is bothering her, she has tennis elbow, triggered by playing pickleball. While Sheila treated Donna’s elbow, I dropped off packages at the UPS store and the post office.

It looked like the skies were clearing over San Diego Bay to the south but when we rode back to Mission Bay, it was still cool and cloudy. The wind was blowing with strong gusts and occasional rain drops when I tried to grill chicken for dinner. I say tried because the gusty wind blew out the flame on our grill. I’ve never had that happen with the Weber Q before. Donna had to bake the chicken in the convection oven.

On Saturday evening, I enjoyed the Detroit Red Wings playoff game in Tampa Bay. Detroit won 4-0 to take a 3-2 game lead. I’m looking forward to game six tonight.

We had clear blue skies and warmer weather yesterday for a meeting that Donna had organized. She invited members of a San Diego minimalist group to come and learn more about the full-time RV lifestyle. Unfortunately, the group leader Bruce had a family emergency and had to go out of town at the last minute. Another group member, Debbie, agreed to take the lead and shuttle in members. We ended up with five for the session, which we hosted at our site.

Donna started off by talking about downsizing and organizing and how we came to be full-time RVers. I led a more technical discussion about the different types of RVs and different approaches to the RV lifestyle. After a 40-minute discussion, Donna gave the group a tour of our coach.

From there, we walked the group through the RV park, beginning with a look at our neighbor’s fifth-wheel trailer set-up and his truck which tows it. I explained how the fifth wheel is coupled to the truck and how maneuverable it is. Then we walked to our friend Bob Schmitt’s site. I showed them how Bob’s coach is set up to haul his Harley and tow his GMC Jimmy.

We looked at the tiny MyPod trailer that I posted about previously. As we walked through the park, we identified different classes of motor homes and looked at fifth-wheel and tow-behind travel trailers.

We stopped to admire an Airstream trailer. The owners were sitting outside and we struck up a conversation. They invited the group to take a look inside. The owners were a young couple living full time in their Airstream and working in San Diego. He is a brew master at Modern Times Brewery in Point Loma.

We continued our tour with a look at another smaller travel trailer – a Casita. Again, the owner invited the group to take a look inside. I think by this time, the group was beginning to understand our statements about the sense of community among those embracing the RV lifestyle. The Casita was in the site next to Martha’s Airstream. Martha is the 77-year-old full-timer I wrote about in this post. Martha gave a tour of her rig and then we continued down the lane.

We made another stop at Karen’s 2013 Big Country fifth-wheel trailer. This is a large rig. Karen invited the group to have a look inside and see the layout. By this time, everyone had a chance to see rigs of various sizes and construction. We came back to our site and continued the discussion. We originally thought the discussion and tour would take about an hour, but we were two hours into it! The group was very enthusiastic and inspired by the tour. I think we may have inspired a couple of them to take the plunge into the RV lifestyle.

Minimalist group - Barbara, Donna, Erin, Hal, Jeanne and Debbie

Minimalist group – Barbara, Donna, Erin, Al, Jeanne and Debbie

Later, I rode the scooter to my old neighborhood. I had sent a message to Christine Brutschy Becker asking if it would be okay for me to stop by to say “hi” to her and her mother. She told me to come on over. They had a birthday party for her granddaughter, Annika, in progress and the extended family was there.

It’s been such a long time since I last saw Donna Brutschy, neither one of us could remember when it was. Chris’s son, Matthew, was a kid the last time I saw him – he’s in his mid-forties now. Chris’s daughter was a teen the last time I saw her – now she’s a beautiful mom. I also met Chris’s niece, Danielle, another beautiful mother that was just a child the last time I saw her. I met their husbands, whom I never met before and their children.

I have a lot of memories from the Brutschy’s house. When I was a teen, I spent a lot of time there and was generally treated like part of the family. One of my first memories of their place came after Howard Brutschy and I rode dirt bikes out to Rose Canyon and spent the night camped out. In the morning, we rode back to his house. His mother Donna prepared breakfast for us. She asked me if I liked my scrambled eggs wet or dry. I didn’t know how to answer – no one had ever asked me that before. I just said, “However you prepare them will be fine.”

I don’t know how the eggs were prepared. I was mesmerized over breakfast by the beauty of Howard’s younger sister, Vicki. I was 15 years old and totally infatuated. That’s just one of many memories of my teenage years at the Brutschy residence.

Matthew Becker, Donna Brutschy and me

Matthew Becker, Donna Brutschy and me

Sheila picked us up at the RV park at 6pm. We went to Sushi Ota to celebrate her son Connor’s 11th birthday with his favorite dinner – sushi. Connor’s friend, Sam, came along. We ordered a platter of sushi and hand rolls.

Sam, Connor, Sheila and Donna

Sam, Connor, Sheila and Donna

Yummy sushi platter

Yummy sushi platter

The sushi was excellent as usual. Sushi Ota has a well-deserved reputation for the quality of their sushi. Sheila brought a German chocolate cake for dessert. Although I don’t usually follow a meal of sushi with cake, the top-hat shaped cake was delicious as well.

Happy birthday Connor

Happy birthday to Connor

I finished off a very full day with a bottle of Alesmith IPA. They are one of my favorite San Diego breweries.

Great beer

Great beer

Today we are back to clear skies and warm, sunny weather. I’m thinking I might break out the ladder and clean the coach. The Red Wings playoff game comes on at 4pm, then we have dinner plans with my daughter, Shauna.

How Small Can You Go?

We had a couple of surprise phone calls yesterday. First, in the morning, Donna’s phone rang. Her phone showed that it was a call from Vancouver, British Columbia. When she answered, she was pleasantly surprised to hear it was Chris from Kit and Ace. Donna had connected with the Kit and Ace crew through Facebook.

Chris invited Donna over to the Copper Studio. They were getting ready to pull out of Mission Bay RV Resort and continue their journey north. Donna grabbed a copy of her book Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness to give to Chris and walked over to the Copper Studio where she met Chris, Kate and Trevor. Chris had a gift for Donna too – a gift bag with a Kit and Ace technical cashmere tee shirt inside! They gave Donna a quick tour of the Copper Studio and explained how they set up the studio when they are doing their road shows. They are heading up the coast promoting Kit and Ace clothing in cities where they intend to open stores. We may meet up with them on road – possibly in St. Louis.

Front to rear - Chris, Kate and Trevor

Front to rear – Chris, Kate and Trevor

Inside the Copper Studio

Inside the Copper Studio, packed and ready to travel

After Donna returned from her visit with the Kit and Ace crew, my phone rang. It was Israel Coughlin, the watchmaker at the Ben Bridge Jeweler in Fashion Valley. He had completed the overhaul of Donna’s watch much quicker than I expected. He completely disassembled the movement, replaced the broken set lever and reassembled the watch with new seals and gaskets. He pressure-tested it and regulated it over a period of five days. I rode the scooter to Fashion Valley Mall and picked it up. The watch I bought for Donna eight years ago is like new again. I took her wedding ring with me (also purchased from Ben Bridge) and they cleaned and polished that too.

Our friend, Mona, joined us for happy hour and dinner last night. We had a drink, then took a walk through the RV park to look at all the different types of rigs. Donna has a meet-up scheduled at 11am Sunday at our coach with members of a minimalist life style discussion group. Ten people have signed up to attend. We’ll talk about downsizing and living on the road in a 40-foot motorhome and give them a tour of our coach. We also want to show them other RVs in the park.

While we were walking, we stopped and talked to a few people with various styles of RVs and asked if they would mind having the group check out their rig and maybe even speak to the group. We want to show them the traditional Class A, B and C motorhomes as well as fifth-wheel and travel trailers. We also want to show them alternatives such as Casitas or other small campers. Granted, most of the owners of these smaller units aren’t full-timers, but there are people who do live full-time in them such as Becky Schade (Interstellarorchard).

Here are a few pictures of smaller RVs currently here at Mission Bay RV Resort.

Casita travel trailer

Casita travel trailer

Mypod tiny trailer

Mona checking out the MyPod tiny trailer

Slide in pickup truck camper

Pickup truck slide-in camper

Pop-up tent trailer

Pop-up tent trailer

After our walk and talk, Donna prepared skinny shrimp scampi over zucchini noodles for dinner. It was so tasty! She made the zucchini noodles from fresh zucchinis cut with a spiral slicer she recently bought from Amazon after learning about it from a friend.

Skinny shrimp scampi with zucchini noodles

Skinny shrimp scampi with zucchini noodles

Another day well-lived!



Guests for a Month?

When I started blogging, I had no idea of the number of spammers that post comments on blog sites. I have software (Akismet) to block spam and it’s pretty effective most of the time. Every once in a while though, a clever spammer will get a comment through.

The Akismet program has identified and blocked nearly 50,000 spam comments (49,591 to be precise) since I installed it. It has also blocked nearly 5,000 malicious log in attempts. These are cases where someone is trying to take control of the site by logging in as an administrator.

When someone is clever enough to get their comment past the spam software, the comment is held in limbo for moderation. If the person posting the comment has never had a comment approved before, I have to approve the comment before it’s published.

I’ve been hoodwinked a few times and approved comments that turned out to be spam. When I realize I’ve been had, I go back and remove the comments. I think this is important for the integrity of the site and to protect readers from being redirected to unwanted sites.

Yesterday one got by me. I believed the comment was a legitimate request. I posted the comment on a Facebook RV group and had a number of responses that led me to believe it was a spammer. The request did seem a little over the top, but believeable. Here’s the comment with the link removed:

We are producing a web series project that features Full Time RVers in the US.  We are looking for those with RVs that would be willing to host a couple on your travels for one month for USD$1,000.00 plus fuel costs.  During that month, we will be documenting your experiences as a Full Time RVer. If you are interested, or know of someone that would be, please email us at…

The first clue is the reference to USD$. Maybe this is coming from a foreigner looking for a cheap, monthlong tour of the states. I don’t know what the angle is, but in hindsight, it doesn’t seem legitimate.

On another note, I mentioned in my last post how Donna and I enjoyed good food and happy hour at Sardina’s Italian Restaurant. I’ve said before that Donna is the queen of networking. Well she proved it again at Sardina’s. While we were dining, Donna noticed two women drinking wine at a table near us. She asked me if I thought one of them was a woman we met at Sardina’s when were came here in the fall of 2013. I couldn’t tell if it was or not. Donna seemed sure it was the same woman we talked with at the bar over a year ago.

As we were preparing to leave, I made a quick pit stop in the men’s room. Donna went to the other table and introduced herself to the two women. It turns out she wasn’t the woman Donna was thinking of. We had one thing in common though. She was a Clairemont High School alumni, class of ’73 – one year before I graduated. Her name is Dianne Brittingham (nee Zinser). She is the president of the Pacific Beach Woman’s Club. By the time we left, Donna had an invitation to speak at the woman’s club the next time we’re in town.

Yesterday was another day of rest and recuperation for Donna. Her idea of rest and recuperation was to do a thorough deep cleaning of the coach while I was out playing pickleball. Later, she had dinner with her sister, Sheila, in Point Loma.

I went over to Dan Diego’s European Bistro to sample a couple of beers and a bowl of their Irish stew. I had a beer brewed by Stift Engelszell – a brewery at a Trappist monastery in Austria. There’s only one Trappist monastery in Austria. There are two in the Netherlands, six in Belgium and one in the United States. Trappist beers are strong with complex flavor. The Engelszell I had is called Gregorius. It’s a quadruppel style beer with 9.7% ABV. Unlike most quadruppels, it isn’t brewed with candy sugar. The ABV is pumped up by adding honey to the wort instead. It’s a great brew with a rum raisin flavor.



While I was there, Bob Schmitt joined me for a beer. He had a Latitude 33 IPA. Lattitude 33 is a San Diego County brewery. Their IPA is easy to drink despite it’s 7.3% ABV. Bob’s wife Sini is away for the next 10 days, so Bob is living the bachelor life at Mission Bay RV Resort a few sites away from us. I’ve mentioned Bob’s vehicle before and I need to correct myself. I called it a vintage Chevy Blazer – well, it’s actually a GMC Jimmy – nearly identical, but I wanted point out the error.

We had a rain shower again this morning. There’s a 20% chance of another shower at mid-day and the high will only reach the mid-60s. The weather guessers are calling for continued cool temperatures through the weekend. Then we’ll see upper 70s next week.


Hitchitch Found Us

Our WordPress blog site records daily statistics. I often look at the stats to see how many people are visiting the site and if they were referred from another blogger, web site or Facebook. I didn’t post yesterday so I was surprised to see more than 270 visits to the site yesterday.

Then I saw the top referrer – it was Hitchitch. Hitchitch is a web site whose stated mission is “To be the best site to find RV Travel Adventures and Journals. To Keep It Simple, And Do It Well.” When I first started researching the RV lifestyle, Hitchitch is where I found most of the RV blogs I continue to follow. Now Flyingthekoop is on Hitchitch!

I am honored and humbled to see our listing there. It motivates me to continue posting. In two weeks, we’ll be leaving San Diego and starting a cross-country trek for the summer. I’m sure I’ll find plenty of material to post about along the way.

In my last post I included a picture of a travel trailer at Mission Bay RV Resort.

Cool looking travel trailer

Cool looking travel trailer

The name “Kit and Ace” is on the door. Donna did some research and found that Kit and Ace is a clothing company featuring technical cashmere. I looked into it as well and found the travel trailer is indeed an old Airstream. It’s been remodeled inside with ash wood and the exterior is painted copper. I’m not sure of the model year, but it has an old gold-on-black California license plate. These plates were issued from 1963 to 1969. They call their trailer the copper studio. They are on a tour of the country promoting their clothing.

I blocked a couple of digits from the plate

I blocked a couple of digits from the plate

Kit and Ace is a Wilson Family Company founded by Shannon and JJ Wilson. Shannon is married to JJ’s father, Chip Wilson. Chip is the founder of the lululemon clothing company (think yoga pants). We haven’t seen anyone at the trailer but we hope to have a chance to meet and speak with them today before they leave. Maybe Donna will buy something made from technical cashmere.

Speaking of other blogs, yesterday I read about Clarke and Elaine (Whatsnewell) getting a new printer. Their printer quit working after three years of use, presumably due to vibration and road shocks. Our printer is also kaput. The touch screen doesn’t work and we can’t link it to our network. So I followed Clarke’s lead and went to Walmart to buy an HP Envy wireless all-in-one printer, scanner, copier for just $79! The price on printers is amazing – the ink cartridges alone cost more than $25. That’s the business model – just like razor blades. Make the operating hardware inexpensive then turn a tidy profit on replacement cartridges. The printer was easy to set up and connect to our network. Thanks for the tip, Clarke.

Yesterday was a cloudy, cool day with the thermometer hovering in the mid-60s. We had a brief rain shower at sunrise, but stayed dry the rest of the day. Donna and I rode the scooter to Sardina’s on old Morena Boulevard for happy hour with great Italian appetizers. I had the Italian sliders, one with sausage and one with meatball. Donna had Italian sausage in marinara and a side dish of sauteed artichokes with mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes. The food was excellent. Sardina’s is a family-owned restaurant that opened in 1970. We give them two thumbs up. If you’re in the area and want good Italian fare, give them a try.

We have cloudy skies again this morning, but the forecast calls for clearing this afternoon. I’ll be heading back to the rec center for pickleball. My game is coming along. Tuesday at the rec center I played my best, most consistent games so far. Regular play with high-level players is improving my skills.


Tiny House Intervention

Although we didn’t really have a plan yesterday, Donna had a few things to do. First on her list was an appointment with her doctor. She had a minor procedure scheduled and the appointment was a pre-surgery consultation. Her doctor noticed the recent road rash scars on Donna’s leg and asked her what happened.

Donna told her about her bike crash and said, “I had a concussion too.”  Donna went on to tell her about an odd thing that happened on Friday and Saturday. Her speech was scrambled a few times. At one point she was talking to someone and said, “I see you got the memo.” What came out was, “I see you got the menu.” She repeated it twice, then with much effort was able to say the word “memo.”

Later, she ran into Deann Bolinder at lunch. They had chatted on the phone when Deann heard about her bike crash. Her husband had a bike crash 11 months ago and is still experiencing issues related to concussion. Donna was telling Deann about her word issue the day before and asked her if that was a symptom. What came out was, “Is that a system?” Again, she repeated it twice before she could say with great effort “symptom.”

That evening, Donna phoned me. She was telling me about her word issues. She said she thought it might be due to stress and the busy, noisy conference setting. Except what she said instead of “noisy conference” was “noisy concert.” Then she laughed and said, “I can’t believe I said concert – I meant to say concert.” She able to say conference on the third try.

After telling her doctor this, the doctor asked if Donna had seen her primary care physician (PCP). Donna told her that she went to the emergency room the day of her crash and had a CT scan that was negative. Her doctor told her to see her PCP before she could schedule the procedure, which requires anesthesia.

Donna came home and spoke with her PCP’s office. Her PCP was concerned about brain injury and instructed her to go immediately to a hospital emergency room for another CT scan. Because of the trouble with words, Donna’s doctor was concerned that she might have a late subdural hematoma. I drove Donna to Scripps Mercy Hospital on Washington Street. While she was being admitted, I drove over to O’Reilly Auto Parts and dropped off the old chassis batteries from our coach for recycling. That was something I needed to do while we still had the rental car and O’Reilly was just down the street from the hospital. They actually gave me a $10 store gift card for recycling the batteries!

I came back to the hospital and found Donna in an exam room in the ER. She went through a few questions and an exam with a nurse practitioner, then waited for about an hour before someone came and took her away for the CT scan. After the scan, we waited for another hour before the nurse practitioner came back and said her scan was negative – no sign of brain bleed or stroke. We had to wait another 15 minutes before a doctor came into the room and went over the results. The consensus is that Donna was exhausted from preparing for and working at the conference. That coupled with a lack of sleep at the hotel and the noisy environment caused post concussive symptoms where her brain was misfiring. A period of rest should allow her to fully recover. She has a follow-up appointment with her PCP next Monday. At that time, Donna and her doctors will decide if she should have the surgery next or postpone it to allow her brain time to heal.

Meanwhile, I had phoned Enterprise Rental Car and told them that we were at the Scripps ER and wouldn’t be able to return the rental car by 4pm as scheduled. They were very good about it and told me it would be okay If we could get there by 6pm, there would be no additional charge on the weekend special rate. When we returned the car at 4:40pm, we were also a few miles over the 300-mile limit. They waived that as well.

We walked back to Mission Bay RV Resort along the Rose Creek Trail. Donna wanted to go with me to return the car because she felt like taking a walk after spending the afternoon cooped up in a small exam room in the ER. I showed her how to access the trail from the neighborhood to the south of Garnet Avenue.

When we walked back into the RV park, I saw a cool looking travel trailer in the overflow area. It has a riveted aluminum skin like an Airstream but it’s painted, not polished. It was all closed up with the windows shuttered. I don’t know for sure what it was.

Cool looking travel trailer

Cool looking travel trailer

Another cool trailer came into the park Sunday night. We found it parked on the west end. It’s a tiny house on a trailer chassis. We met the owner and builder, Jen, last night. She bought plans for the tiny house and attended construction classes before she built it. Jen was in town for a tiny house Earth Day show. She towed her tiny house down from Salt Lake City. Her house isn’t quite complete – it’s a work in progress. She gave us a tour of the interior. I would guess it’s no more than 130 square feet plus a sleeping loft and a small storage loft.

Front door at the rear of the tiny house trailer

Front door at the rear of the tiny house trailer

Tiny house on wheels

Tiny house on wheels

Jen said this was her first trip with the trailer. I looked the trailer over and asked her if she had checked the lug nuts. She said she didn’t, but planned to go to a tire store to have them done. I told her I had a torque wrench and would check the lug nuts for tightness. This is important on trailers. The lug nuts loosen from undamped vibration. Most trailers aren’t equipped with shock absorbers, just stiff spring suspension. Jen was leaving to go to a meeting of tiny home enthusiasts. I told her I would check the lug nuts and check her tire pressure as well while she was out.

While I was tightening the lug nuts, her neighbor came out of her Airstream trailer and asked if I was supposed to be messing with the tiny house. This woman was well into her 70s and looking out for Jen. I told her what I was doing and she said she had an air compressor if I wanted to use it to air up the tires. We chatted for a few minutes. She’s a widow and as it turns out, went to Point Loma High School here in San Diego in the 1950s and travels alone with her Airstream full-time. She has kids in San Diego, Monterey and Seattle. So she travels up and down the west coast from San Diego to Seattle. We meet the most interesting people in our travels.

Back to the trailer lug nuts. I had the torque wrench set to 100 ft-lbs. All 24 lug nuts needed to be tightened. Some of them were very loose and needed more than a quarter turn to tighten properly. After setting them at 100 ft-lbs, I went over them again at 110 ft-lbs. Both Dexter Axle and Lippert (the two biggest suppliers of trailer axles) call for 90 to 120 ft-lbs torque on 1/2 inch axle studs. I don’t understand why they specify such a wide range instead of giving a number and a plus/minus range. I go for the middle of the specification.

Her tires call for 66 psi. I found all four tires were 14-15 psi too low and reset the pressure. Low pressure is a killer – it’s the leading cause of tire failure such as blowouts. With that done, Jen is ready to hit the road and head home to Salt Lake City this morning.

Last night, Donna prepared walnut-crusted tilapia. We haven’t had tilapia for a while because 90% of the frozen tilapia on the market is farmed raised in China. From reports I’ve read, it’s questionable whether this is a healthy choice because of the farming practices in China. Donna found fresh tilapia from Mexico at Sprouts. Again from reading, I learned that 70% of the fresh tilapia on the market comes from modern Mexican facilities such as Regal Springs. Most of the rest comes from Equador. We feel better about eating this fish than Chinese farm-raised tilapia.

Walnut crusted tilapia

Walnut-crusted tilapia with asparagus & red onion saute

The fresh tilapia was delicious. It’s Tuesday, so that means pickleball this afternoon at the rec center. Donna is planning to stay home and rest.


Oceanside Harbor

It’s Monday morning. If you’ve been following my posts, when I let the cat out of the bag I said I would be going to work today. I thought I would be traveling to Valencia to work as a consultant for a VW dealer opening there. Last Thursday I was informed that the ownership change ( a buy/sell in auto dealer jargon) fell through. I don’t know if that particular buy/sell is postponed or cancelled completely. So my streak of 635 consecutive nights sleeping in our RV will continue unabated.

We had beautiful weather on Saturday, but I spent most of the day relaxing and watching TV. The Red Wings playoff game against Tampa Bay was a disappointment – the series is now tied at 1-1. After the game, I took a walk along the bay on the west side of the park. Mission Bay was very active with ski boats, sail boats and personal watercraft going in every direction.

Busy weekend on the bay

Busy weekend on the bay

The beach at Campland had plenty of sunbathers and people braving the water.

Beach at Campland

Beach at Campland

After my walk, I returned to the TV and watched the Formula One qualifying for Sunday’s race in Dubai.

I was up early on Sunday and watched the Formula One race (warning – this post contains F1 and Moto GP spoilers). The last two laps were very excting as 2007 World Champion Kimi Raikonnen drove his Ferrari past Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes to take second place behind Lewis Hamilton.

The race ended at 9:40am. I turned off the TV and immediately hit the road to pick up Donna at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles. She was expecting me to be there at noon. On Wednesday, the trip to the Westin took me two hours and ten minutes. I thought it might be a little faster on a Sunday morning, but I didn’t want to take any chances. I always prefer to plan a little extra time instead of sweating it out at the last minute.

The drive was actually a little tougher than mid-week. Traffic slowed from San Clemente to San Juan Capistrano and came to a full stop a couple of times. From there, it was smooth sailing until I reached Norwalk. It was bumper to bumper from there through Santa Fe Springs and Downey until I reached the 101. I arrived at the Westin at 11:55 am.

Donna and her friends Ingrid and Angela were waiting in the lobby. We managed to shoehorn four people, three pieces of luggage and five boxes of books into the Ford Focus rental car. We were giving Ingrid and Angela a ride to the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

I asked the bellman what the best route to LAX was. I thought I would have to take I-10 to I-405 in Santa Monica then go south to Century Boulevard or maybe take the Harbor Freeway (CA110) south then take Century Boulevard through Inglewood. He told me the best way was to take the Harbor Freeway south to CA105 west. CA105 ends at the airport! I didn’t know this route because CA105 didn’t exist when I used to drive in this area back in the ’80s. It was planned in the ’60s but didn’t open until 1993.

This turned out to be an excellent route and we made it to the airport in about half an hour. We dropped off Angela at Southwest Airlines at terminal one. Then we slowly made our way among the cars, limos and buses to the Tom Bradley International Terminal to drop off Ingrid at Aeroflot for her trip back to The Netherlands.

The drive south on I-405 from there was easy. We stayed in the carpool lane and sailed along doing about 70 mph. When we reached Oceanside, we pulled off at Harbor Drive and found public parking near the south harbor. There are restaurants and shops along the south and east side of the harbor. We sat outside at Harbor Fish and Chips and enjoyed a plate of fish and chips.

Fish and chips at Ocenaside harbor

Fish and chips at Ocenaside harbor

It was a nice break, enjoying good food out in the sun. Donna saw a seal in the harbor behind us.

Oceanside south harbor - I didn't get a pic of the seal

Oceanside south harbor – I didn’t get a pic of the seal

While we were dining, another couple sharing our table told us about RV overnight parking near the boat ramp. We took a look before we left. There are large parking stalls for vehicles with boat trailers near the ramp. You can park an RV at the end of the lot away from the ramp for $8/day. Overnight parking is allowed for a fee of $20. The parking stalls are tight – a big rig with slide-outs would be problematic. Also, getting a big rig turned around to exit the lot would be difficult at best. We decided it wouldn’t work for us although we saw a number of smaller RVs there.

We drove south along Harbor Drive then Pacific Highway, but the traffic was maddening. After a few miles, we returned to the interstate and came home to our coach at Mission Bay RV Resort.

While Donna went grocery shopping, I watched the Moto GP race from Argentina. It was a cracking race. Marc Marquez broke away early and built up a lead of more than four seconds. It looked like it would be a race for second place as he was so far out in front. Nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi made his way from sixth on the grid to second. Then he reeled Marquez in and made a pass for first place! Marquez tried to strike back immediately and made a mistake. He contacted Rossi mid-corner, then his front wheel made contact with Rossi’s rear wheel and Marquez hit the pavement. Race over for Marquez. Rossi won by a few seconds over Dovizioso. Valentino Rossi leads the championship after winning two of the first three races at age 36.

Donna has a few errands this morning. I need to take our old chassis batteries to a recycling center. Other than that, we don’t have much on the agenda for what looks to be another fine day in San Diego.

Heavy Lifting in Old Jeans

Friday was only day 2 without Donna, but it seems like she’s been away for a long time. After I posted to the blog, I got busy on the battery project. The first step was to walk out to the trailer and pick out a handfull of tools I would need. Having the trailer in a remote lot is a pain when I want to work on something. After looking over the connections and thinking about how to get the heavy starting batteries out, I dove in.

First, I disconnected the ground cables from the chassis batteries, then the positive cables. I also disconnected the cables from the 6-volt house battery located in front of the starting batteries. The other three house batteries are located on the right side of the battery bay. One house battery and both chassis batteries are on the left. I taped the connectors on the battery cables with duct tape to prevent any possibility of shorting to ground. The batteries are held in place with angle iron and metal straps. I removed the hold downs, then I pulled the 6-volt house battery out from in front of the chassis batteries. These 6-volt deep cycle golf cart batteries are heavy!

Thankfully the big group 31 maintenance free chassis batteries had folding handles on top. This made it much easier to lift and pull the batteries from the compartment. It wasn’t easy though. I was surprised to find these batteries are heavier than the Optima batteries I’m replacing them with. I would guess they weigh at least 70 lbs each. I placed the old batteries in the empty cartons from the Optima batteries so I can transport them to a recycling center.

Old battery out, ready for recycling

Old battery out, ready for recycling

Once I had the old batteries out, our friend Bob Schmitt came over to offer assistance. I appreciated the offer, but it really is a one-man job. There isn’t enough room to get two sets of hands in the battery bay.

Next I placed the 60 lb Optima batteries in back of the compartment. I took several breaks as I worked. The heavy lifting and muscling of the batteries had me sweating and huffing and puffing. At one point, Gayle (Life’s Little Adventures) stopped by to chat briefly. It was a welcome break from the work.

First battery in place

First battery in place

Although the Optima batteries I used are classified as group 31 batteries, they are slightly smaller than the group 31 batteries I took out. This is due to the spiral wound plate construction. Each cell is cylindrically shaped. The six cells are arranged three to a side with an offset. These batteries are leak free and can be installed in any orientation. I have them upright as they fit just fine that way.

Second battery muscled into place

Second battery muscled into place

Connecting the batteries with the stiff 2/0 copper cables came next. I connected the positive cables first with the ground connectors still insulated with duct tape. I did this to prevent any accidental grounding of a positive lug. If the ground cables were attached first and my wrench inadvertently touched the metal frame while in contact with the positive lead, it would create a dangerous short to ground. Sparks would fly and the wrench could get very hot!

Cables connected

Cables connected

With everything connected and the hold downs tightened, it was job done! The whole operation took about two hours – I took many short breaks while doing the work. The battery bay looks awful in the photos. The bay is exposed on the bottom by necessity. Batteries can create hydrogen gas when they are charging. The battery bay must be well ventilated to prevent explosive hydrogen gas build up. A result of this open bottom of the bay is dust collects in the bay. I’ve cleaned it a few times and used a baking soda solution to neutralize acid build up from the flooded wet cell 6-volt house batteries. I need to repaint the trays and hold downs. That will be a project for another day.

In anticipation of the possibility of sulfuric acid getting on my clothes, I wore an old pair of jeans. I’ve had them stashed away for a job like this. When I was done, I put the jeans in the trash. When sulfuric acid gets on fabric, you often can’t tell right away. When you wash the clothes, the sulfuric acid causes the fabric to disintegrate.

After cleaning up an putting my tools away, I rewarded myself with a trip to the beach. I had a rolled taco plate for lunch on the boardwalk in Pacific Beach. It was relaxing to sit in the sun, feel the ocean breeze and people watch.

I came home at 3:30pm, parked the scooter and walked out on the Rose Creek Trail. I walked a little over a mile to the Enterprise Rental Car agency on the corner of Garnet and East Mission Bay Drive. I picked up a Ford Focus there. Donna had reserved the car so I can pick her up in Los Angeles tomorrow. Enterprise has three-day weekend specials for $9.99/day. It was cheaper to get the three-day deal than to rent a car for Sunday only.

Today I’ll kick back and watch the Detroit Red Wings play game two of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in Tampa Bay. Detroit is in the playoffs for the 24th consecutive year! I’ll follow that with the Formula One qualifying from Bahrain. We have more beach weather today, but I think I’ll just be a couch potato.

Tomorrow morning I’ll drive back to the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles and pick Donna up. We’ll come home via I-10 to I-405 so we can drop off Ingrid, our friend from Holland at the L. A. airport (LAX).

Slow on the Uptake

You would think the tax code is clearly written without ambiguity or terms subject to interpretation. Apparently this isn’t true. Last May, I received a pro rata performance bonus check for the seven months I worked in 2013 before I retired. The money was direct deposited to my account and I received a letter describing the performance bonus at our South Dakota address.

In February, I realized I didn’t get a W2 for this payment. I contacted Human Resources at Volkswagen of America (VWoA). They sent a duplicate to our South Dakota address. I saw why I didn’t receive it before – it listed my old Michigan address. I didn’t think much of it and gave the document to our tax accountant, George Montgomery. George pointed out a tax problem. Since the W2 listed my address in Michigan, Michigan state tax was withheld – to the tune of $700!

George tells us this is one of those “subject to interpretation” cases. The tax code is unclear. Sometimes it can be interpreted as taxation is based on where I resided at the time the money was earned. It can also be interpreted as taxation is based on where I resided when the payment was made. I’ve been fighting the VWoA payroll manager over this interpretation, but it seems I’m fighting a losing battle.

The weather warmed considerably yesterday. We had blue skies and a high temperature of 81 degrees. Beach weather! Instead of bumming around on the beach though, I went to Pacific Beach Recreation Center to play pickleball.

Three pickleball courts at the PB Rec Center

Three pickleball courts at the PB Rec Center

It’s a shame to have indoor pickleball courts here when the weather is so fine. I played several games over the course of three hours. I had my smart phone in my pocket so the S Health app counted my steps on the court. Pickleball is definitely good exercise as I made 13,216 steps and burned 930 calories according to the app.

S Health app on my smartphone

S Health app on my smart phone

Carole Sue Bringas picked me up at 5pm and took me out for sushi. I’ve known Carole since the eighth grade. We hung out with the Cadman Park crowd through high school. She took me to Sushi Ota, a popular place on East Mission Bay Drive near Lanna Thai. Carole is a sushi novice, but she really enjoyed the meal and is beginning to expand her sushi repertoire.

Platter at Sushi Ota

Platter at Sushi Ota

When Carole dropped me off at the coach, I saw two boxes UPS left at our site. I was expecting them. I wrote about leaving our CB radio turned on for several days and damaging our chassis batteries in this post. Since then, I had an external battery charger connected to the chassis batteries while we’re parked to try to revive them.

Last week, it occurred to me that something wasn’t right. I guess I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes. When I left the CB radio on, we were connected to 50-amp shore power. When we have shore power, our inverter charges the house batteries. When the house batteries reach a certain level, excess charging current is diverted by a device called an Echo Charger to the chassis batteries. The CB radio is a small draw – it shouldn’t have killed our chassis batteries if the Echo Charger was working. I didn’t connect the external charger when we first arrived here at Mission Bay. Within two days, our chassis batteries were down to 7 volts – basically dead. I connected the external charger to keep voltage available. Last week I investigated and found a connector that had come loose, probably from vibration. This loose connector cut off the Echo Charger. Now I understand why the chassis batteries were drained. The damage is done though – deep discharges like this cause irreversible damage to the battery plates.

Our chassis batteries need to be powerful enough to crank the Cummins ISL diesel engine. This requires a starting battery that can provide high current for short period of time. Our chassis batteries also power some 12-volt accessories at the dash panel – radio, CB, and the DHS surround-sound amplifier. The surround-sound amplifier is the biggest consumer. Watching a long movie with the surround sound thumping can draw a lot of current. Normally, with the Echo Charger working on shore power, this isn’t an issue. If we’re dry camped without shore power, it will draw the chassis batteries down some, then the batteries will charge when the generator runs or the engine is running. Ideally, a deep-cycle type battery instead of a starting battery would be used for this duty.

I thought about rewiring the surround-sound amplifier to a circuit drawing off the bank of deep cycle house batteries. This would involve routing the wiring from the front cap of the coach to the panel in the bathroom cabinet, near the rear of the coach. I didn’t like that idea.

I finally decided to bite the bullet and buy two 12-volt hybrid batteries made by Optima. The batteries I bought provide 900 Cold Cranking amps – wired in parallel I have 1800 cold cranking amps to start our engine. These batteries are a unique spiral-wound absorbed glass mat construction and can also withstand deep cycling. This should solve the issue of cycling the batteries while watching TV without shore power. Of course, this type of battery costs much more than a typical maintenance-free starting battery.

Optima blue top battery

Optima blue top battery

Batteries are categorized by group size. The group size doesn’t define the capacity or particular use. It describes the physical dimensions (i.e. height, length, width). Our chassis batteries are group 31 – large batteries. The Optima batteries weigh 60 lbs each!

Today’s task will be to remove the old starting batteries and install the Optima batteries. I think it will be a back breaker. The chassis batteries are located in the rear of the battery bay. I’ll have to kneel down and reach with arms fully extended to lift the batteries out and put the Optimas in.

When that job is done, I think I’ll head to the beach!