Monthly Archives: December 2017

Runaway Spyder

We’ve settled in at Viewpoint RV & Golf Resort after our first week here in Mesa, Arizona. Viewpoint is an age-qualified community catering to people 55 and older. It covers nearly a square mile with most sites occupied by park model modular homes. There are 331 RV sites with full hook-ups for motorhomes or trailers. There are more than 1,000 sites total.

Our spacious site 5245 after sunrise

The park boasts of 75,000 square feet of recreation space and the residents tend to be very active. There are two golf courses – an 18-hole championship course and a nine-hole executive course – plus a pro shop. There’s a softball field. They have 10 tennis courts and five pickleball courts. There are four heated swimming pools and seven spas. There are two fitness centers and a woodshop. Also onsite are a restaurant and bar, hair and nail salon and a massage therapist. They have a number of clubs including a hiking club that Donna likes to go out with.

I’m not a golfer, so the activity I mainly participate in is pickleball, of course! Pickleball is a great sport and Donna and I find places to play most of the time throughout the country. In San Diego, we play on indoor courts set up on hardwood basketball courts. The indoor game is played with a softer ball with a thinner wall construction than the outdoor balls. They all weigh about the same – between 0.8 ounces and 0.9 ounces.

Here at Viewpoint, we play on outdoor courts. We’ve joined the pickleball club and play frequently – five days a week for me – with the 3.0-3.5 group. The level of play is quite high and many of the players in 3.0-3.5 group would actually qualify as 4.0 level players.

In San Diego, the style of play on the indoor courts involved a lot of hard hits and slamming the ball. Although lob shots were possible, you have to be aware of the ceiling as hitting the ceiling with the ball is deemed out of bounds. Many players there hit hard shots, low and fast from the baseline.

Here at Viewpoint, the game is played mostly with a more advanced style. In higher level pickleball, you’ll see the point set up with a deep serve. The ball must bounce on the court in the proper area before the serve can be returned. The return of serve must bounce anywhere on the court before it can be hit with the third shot. These rules apply both indoors and outdoors. Higher level players will hit a drop shot on the third shot. The idea is to drop the ball in the non-volley zone. This is an area covering the first seven feet beyond the net – players refer to it as the kitchen. If you enter this zone, you cannot hit a volley – that is, you must let the ball bounce before you can hit, no striking the ball in the air before it bounces.

This rule keeps players from standing at the net and swatting the ball. The way we play here, many times a successful third shop drop is followed with a dink. A dink is when you hit the ball softly – just enough to clear the 36-inch high net and drop it into your opponents’ kitchen. A series of dinks will follow as each player tries to hit a certain angle or spot that will create an opening or one of the players will hit the ball too high or beyond the kitchen and the opposing player will pounce with a hard winner.

This is a very satisfying way to play. It requires more control and skill than just trying to hit winners from the baseline or slamming the ball back and forth. If my explanation doesn’t make sense, check out championship pickleball on YouTube. You’ll see what I mean as this is how championship level pickleball is played.

Sunset reflecting off the Superstition Mountains east of Viewpoint

Last evening Donna and I went to Lucky Lou’s for a happy hour beer with the guys. When we came home I parked the Spyder in front of the trailer. This morning it was on the gravel next to the trailer! I pulled it back onto the concrete – I didn’t release the parking brake to move it. I was sure I had set the brake the night before. I checked it and the brake was set, it just wasn’t set hard enough! A neighbor came over and said the Spyder had rolled into the street so he pushed back into the site on the gravel next to the trailer. Mystery solved. I’ll have to double check the parking brake from now on.

True to the forecast, the weather warmed up as the week wore on. Yesterday we had a high of 79 degrees. The mornings are cool though with overnight lows in the 40s. Today we should see upper 70s with clear blue skies.

The Cat and the Hummingbird

Before we left San Diego, our friend, Sini, gave us a hummingbird feeder. This feeder attaches to window glass with a suction cup. We used it at Mission Bay RV Resort and have it set up again here at Viewpoint RV Resort in Mesa, Arizona. I attached it high on the living room window right next to Ozark the cat’s window perch.

Ozark loves napping in the window and now she has entertainment there as well. At first the hummingbirds were a bit skittish and Ozark would try to reach them. She would make little cat sounds and paw at the glass or lunge forward. She soon learned that she cannot get to the hummingbirds. The glass has a solar film that reflects like a one-way mirror. Most of the time the hummingbirds can’t see Ozark, but when they do, it doesn’t really matter. They’ve also learned that Ozark can’t get to them.

Ozark and a hummingbird eyeing each other

I’d almost forgotten how spectacular the desert sunsets can be in Arizona. With a few high, thin clouds, the sunsets are fiery and colorful. On Christmas Eve, I shot a photo of the sunset here at Viewpoint.

Arizona sunset

Donna baked brownies on Christmas Eve. One batch was chocolate gingerbread brownies and another batch was almond butter (gluten-free) brownies. On Christmas morning, we went to the pickleball courts and worked on a few drills, then some players came along and we played several games. Pickleball is played at a high level here and we had a lot of fun.

Then Donna prepared asparagus spears wrapped with prosciutto and boursin herb cheese as appetizers. We were invited to spend Christmas afternoon and dinner with our friends, Howard and Sara Graff. Sara’s brother, Stanley, was also visiting from Denver. Donna brought the appetizers and brownies.

The Graff’s Christmas tree – if you knew Sara you would understand the elf legs sticking out!

Sara and Stanley tag-teamed in the kitchen and prepared a complicated recipe for chicken paprikas, also known as paprikash. Chicken paprikash is a Hungarian meal. The chicken is simmered for an extended period of time to infuse paprika and other spices. It’s served with boiled egg noodles that are like small dumplings and a thick, creamy sauce. Although Donna had paprikash before, it was a new dish for me and it was delicious. The egg noodle dumplings reminded me of of a German version called spätzle that I had several years ago in Munich.

Chicken paprikash

We visited for several hours and talked about a wide range of subjects. We also sampled a couple of Scotch whiskys that I hadn’t tried before. One was Bruichladdich Laddie – an Isley (say eye-luh) single malt Scotch that paradoxically is unpeated. Most Isley Scotch is heavily peated and has a very smoky flavor. In fact, another Bruichladdich offering called Octomore is considered the most heavily peated malt. Laddie is a very smooth Scotch Whisky.

The other Scotch I tried was Talisker Storm. This is a no-age statement bottling that comes from the Isle of Skye – I think Talisker is the only distillery on Skye. This was a flavorful and complex whiskey. I picked up a hint of sea salt – I wouldn’t call it briny, but it has a hint of saltiness that permeates the cask while aging by the sea. A great drink in my opinion.

Before we knew it, it was going on 6pm and we said our goodbyes until next time. It was a nice way to relax on Christmas day.

We had plenty of action on the pickleball courts again this morning. The mornings have been cold – the overnight temperature dropped to the low 40s. We expect to see close to 70 degrees this afternoon with a warming trend for the rest of the week. We might have high 70s by Friday. I hope you had an enjoyable Christmas regardless of weather wherever you are.

Winter Solstice

Our friend Sini left Mission Bay RV Resort on Monday and flew from San Diego to Seattle to spend Christmas with friends and family. She left the keys for her Saturn Vue with us so we could use her car – we had a plan for her to retrieve her keys when she returned. The car was a big help when I started packing our gear on Tuesday. I was able to load our chairs, ladder, Weber Q grill and a few odds and ends, then drive over to the lot where our cargo trailer was stored. Thanks, Sini!

On Tuesday evening, I rode the Spyder over to Offshore Tavern and Grill and Donna walked up to meet me for a final happy hour and taco Tuesday dinner. We said our farewells to the guys and to Leann, the bartender. We’ll be back in September – I’ve booked three months beginning September 25th.

I only had a few things left to pack on Wednesday morning. Donna went to her early morning boot camp for her final workout. Once again, our neighbor from Louisiana, Larry, loaded the Traeger smoker grill into his van and we drove it over to the trailer. Pulling the Traeger on its small plastic wheels is a chore, driving it over in the van was nice. Thanks, Larry! And thanks, Brenda (Larry’s wife) for the yummy homemade pralines!

I checked all of our tire pressures and added air all the way around. The trailer tires needed air as well. It’s common for tires to lose a pound or two of pressure per month and we’d been sitting for two months. Plus the ambient temperature was cooler which also affects the air pressure in the tires. I’m a real stickler on proper tire pressures. Underinflation is the number one cause of tire failure and a blowout is no joke.

Over the past eight months or so, when we’re packing up, Ozark the cat senses something is up. Before we know it she’ll hide behind the sofa and remain there until we reach our destination. I don’t know if being stationary for two months relieved her travel anxiety, but she didn’t hide. She ended up riding quietly in her crate.

We pulled out of our site at 11:30 am and hitched the trailer. Over by the boat dock at the overflow lot, an osprey perched on a lamp post watched us. Ospreys are sometimes called fish hawks as fish is their main source of food. They excel at plucking fish from a body of water and are often seen around Mission Bay.

Osprey on a lamp post

We were rolling down the road shortly before noon, making the familiar drive out I-8 east. We made the usual stop east of Laguna summit at the Buckman Springs rest area for lunch. Donna made ham sandwiches and we sat outdoors at a picnic table to enjoy a little sunshine with our lunch.

It was an uneventful drive to the Imperial Dunes where we exited I-8 at Ogilby Road. Road construction is ongoing on I-8 and the westbound ramps for Ogilby are closed, but the exit and entry ramps on the eastbound side are open.

We missed the turnoff for our usual spot in the desert, but it didn’t matter. We turned off on the east side of Ogilby at the next obvious trail into the desert – it’s BLM land and dispersed camping is allowed in this area for up to 14 days. I was ready for a break from driving and we were set up in no time – not much to it when we’re boondocking. We had a nice, level spot and I didn’t even put the jacks down. I just popped out the slides and got comfortable.

Quiet sunset in the desert

We remarked how quiet it was out in the desert. There were other RVs there, but no one was within a quarter mile of us. To the west, we saw only open desert out the windshield. I was looking forward to a good night’s sleep as I didn’t sleep well the night before.

It wasn’t to be though. Shortly after we retired for the night, the wind kicked up. We had howling gusts of wind that rocked the coach and had the slide toppers flapping. I slept fitfully. We wanted an early start Thursday morning, so I was a little short on sleep again.

We were only about 10 miles from the Arizona border. Once we crossed the border, we continued for another 12 miles to Fortuna Road. We stopped there so I could pick up water filter elements at Al’s RV Store. This shop is well-stocked and has just anything you might need for your RV. And the parking lot is big enough to park a big rig with easy entry and exit. From there, we crossed over I-8 to the Pilot-Flying J on the north side. I topped up the tank with 63 gallons of fuel at $2.70/gallon – about 75 cents less per gallon than diesel fuel costs in California!

We bypassed the usual shortcut through Maricopa and continued on I-8 until we hit I-10. I wanted to stop at the Blue Beacon truck wash in Eloy, near Casa Grande. The coach was badly in need of a wash, but it was too expensive to get a wash in San Diego. Mission Bay RV Resort doesn’t allow you to wash your coach. You need to hire a mobile detailer to get a wash job there and they charge exorbitant prices.

We pulled into Viewpoint RV Resort in Mesa, Arizona around 3:30 pm – we lost an hour when we crossed into Arizona. Arizona is on Mountain Standard Time year ’round. So at this time of year, it’s an hour later than Pacific Time. When everyone else changes to daylight time, Arizona is the same as Pacific Time.

Backing the trailer into our site took a few attempts. The narrow roads here make it tough, but we got it done without any problems. We’ll complete our set-up today. I need to wash the windshield cover before I put it on and then we can set up our mat, table and chairs. This will be home for the next three months.

The wind I mentioned in the desert was due to a cold front moving in from the north. It was chilly when we arrived – about 60 degrees. Overnight, the temperature dropped below freezing! Yesterday was the winter solstice – the shortest amount of daylight for the year. This morning it was only 49 degrees in the coach – we don’t run the heater at night. We have the heat pumps running now and our plans to play pickleball at 8 am were dashed – we play on outdoor courts here. Maybe we can play later or wait for warmer weather which should come over the weekend.


The Social Side of RVing

We’re down to the last few days of this stay in San Diego. I was reflecting on our time here and thinking about how social the RV lifestyle is for us. Here at Mission Bay RV Resort, we’ve made several friends over the past four years and we enjoy meeting up with them again when our stays here coincide.

This year we made new friends with our neighbor from Louisiana, Larry and his wife Brenda. Last week Brenda made a big pot of shrimp gumbo and rice. Donna made up a loaf of garlic bread. They invited us along with neighbors from Canada, Brad and Karen, for drinks and dinner. Sini and Bill came too. We sat outside by Larry’s propane fire pit and dined. Then we had a few cocktails and told each other stories until 10pm. It was a fun time.

The other social aspect of this lifestyle comes from playing pickleball. We meet the some of the nicest people on the pickleball courts and make friends. Here in San Diego I’ve played for several months every year at the Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach recreation centers. Year after year, I see many of the same people on the courts and they remember us from our last stay.

Since I grew up here, I also have some friends in the area from my school days. It’s always fun to get together with some of the old gang for a few laughs. Then, there are the Bay Park guys that I meet for a happy hour beer or two at Offshore Tavern and Grill or Dan Diego’s a few times a week.

I’m more socially active as a full-timer than ever. When we leave here, our next extended stay will be in Mesa, Arizona. Donna and I used to live there and we have friends in the area. We’ll stay at Viewpoint RV & Golf Resort again and I’m sure we’ll meet up with some the same people that were there last winter. We also play pickleball there – they have five courts in the park.

In Mesa, I also have a group of friends that I often meet up with for a happy hour beer or two at Lucky Lou’s or Red, White and Brew. Although we enjoy exploring new places, it’s sometimes nice to have happy hour where people know your name.

We borrowed Sini’s car on Saturday and drove up to see my stepdad in Menifee. After lunch at his local Chinese restaurant, we headed back. I wanted to be back in plenty of time for the Saturday night football game.

On Sunday, Donna again borrowed Sini’s car to meet our granddaughter, Lainey, at San Diego State University. As much as she’s loved being in school here, she’s decided to change her major and won’t be able to do so at SDSU. She’s planning to take some community college classes this next semester and figure out her next move. She asked Donna if she had any ideas about how to get her stuff home to Washington. Donna found Busfreighter, a service that uses Greyhound to get boxes from point A to B for a lot less than it would cost to ship them. After dropping off Lainey’s boxes, the girls headed out to Coronado Island to have lunch at the Hotel Del Coronado and go ice skating.

Lainey – in the gray sweater – skating at the Hotel Del Coronado

Our plan is to pull out of Mission Bay RV Resort before noon Wednesday. We’ll head east and boondock for a night in the quiet desert near the Arizona border, then reach Mesa on Thursday. We reserved three months there – it’s great place to be in the winter!

Tomorrow I’ll get the trailer ready for travel, pack the tire covers and windshield covers. Then I’ll check and adjust tire pressures on the coach and trailer. The forecast looks good tomorrow – upper 60s. Wednesday is supposed to be cooler with a chance of rain. With any luck, we’ll pull out here ahead of the rain.

The Genuine Article

Donna and I usually don’t make a big deal about or keep secrets regarding Christmas presents. This year we both splurged a bit though – but it wasn’t secret. I had  pair of western equestrian style boots from Lucchese made to order for Donna. To do this, I had to trace her feet and take measurements – more about that later. Donna bought a new Euro-recliner chair and ottoman for me. Both of these items are leather, so I want to start this post with some information about leather.

I’m going to talk about cowhide or calfskin leather. The tanned hide of a cow is thick – in some areas it can be half an inch or more. The thick hide isn’t homogeneous – the properties vary. The area on the outside where the hair was removed is smooth and has the tightest grain structure and the greatest strength. The part that is closest to the muscle tissue is rough  and has a more horizontal grain structure that is the weaker. Tanneries split the thick hide – they run it through a machine that cuts the outer, stronger layer from the inner, weaker layer.

When asked what type of leather is most desirable – full grain, top grain or genuine leather – many people pick genuine leather. That’s a marketing ploy – genuine leather sounds like it’s the genuine article. But when we’re discussing the types of leather, full grain is the most desirable for most items like furniture, foot wear or upholstery. Full grain is the outermost layer of the hide and is the strongest, most durable and takes dye well. The downside for some people is the fact that cow hide comes from an animal that may have had scars from rubbing against various objects or branding and of course it’s costly.

Top grain is similar to full grain, except it has been sanded to remove any imperfections, removing a millimeter or two of the strongest surface. Usually a coating is applied to top grain leather. It’s commonly found in furniture and handbags and some lower quality footwear.

Genuine leather comes from the bottom half of the hide – the weakest part closest to the muscle tissue. This is also where suede comes from. It’s not a very desirable leather if durability is important. There’s another type called bonded leather – this is low grade leather mixed with a synthetic binder and leather scraps that have been ground. It’s the leather equivalent of particle board.

Okay, enough about leather. Wednesday a package arrived at Mission Bay RV Resort for us. It was the boots I had made for Donna. They were beautiful full grain calfskin. I had Donna try them on. Uh-oh. Either I messed up when I made the tracings of her foot or Lucchese made them too big. They didn’t fit her feet – they were too loose in the vamp and heel.

I repackaged them and sent them back after talking to Lucchese customer service. It was as hassle-free as something like this can be. I dropped them at the Fed Ex store in Pacific Beach. Meanwhile, Lucchese is making another pair for Donna, but it’ll be weeks before she can have them.

Another delivery was dropped off at our site. It was large box containing the Euro-recliner chair and ottoman she bought for me. Some assembly was required. The parts were well-packed and all of the hardware was present. I unpacked everything, then decided to get our old chair out of the coach and assemble the new one inside so I wouldn’t have to wrestle a fully assembled 70-pound chair through the door and up the steps.

Assembly wasn’t that difficult, but the instruction manual would have been useless without exploded drawings. The written instructions were nonsense. Here’s a quote from the instruction manual:

Attach the back cushion to the left & right the aggregation of arm wood frame base with seat cushion...”

The chair is made of top grain cow hide on all of the contact surfaces – the seat cushion top surface, the backrest front surface and arm rests. The bottom of the seat cushion and rear portion of the backrest are bonded leather to keep costs down. I think this is a reasonable compromise to provide quality leather on the contact areas.

New Euro-recliner and ottoman – color isn’t true to life in the photo

I also received another pair of Tecovas boots. I ordered another pair of Cartwright calfskin boots in desert tan. I know, it’s getting a little out of control. I have six pair of boots now – three Lucchese and three Tecovas. Two of the Lucchese boots are ostrich and one is crocodile. Two of the Tecovas are calfskin and one is lizard.

Tecovas desert tan Cartwright boots

Tuesday night Donna made another new dish for me. She knows that I often cook Marie Callendar pot pies when she’s away. So, she made a chicken pot pie from scratch in a skillet. She said she’s sure it’s much more nutritious and healthy than a pre-made one. It was great – and it was large enough to have leftovers for lunch the next day.

Chicken pot pie baked in a skillet

We’re into our last week here in San Diego. Two months flew by, but I’m ready to roll. We’ll spend the remainder of the winter in Mesa, Arizona. It’s been fantastic as usual. We won’t be back in San Diego again until next September.


Party in the Park

The wind diminished over the weekend here at Mission Bay. The mountains east of San Diego and areas of the north county still had high winds though. The north county fire – called the Lilac fire –  near Bonsall destroyed homes and swept through the San Luis Downs horse-training facility killing at least 35 thoroughbred horses. The wind drove the fire westward causing more evacuations around Oceanside. The fire is 75% contained now and the evacuation order has been lifted.

Someone at the RV park stores their kayaks under a canopy on the beach at De Anza Cove. They have the kayaks locked with a cable to secure them. The canopy didn’t fare too well with the high winds though.

Canopies don’t hold up to Santa Ana winds

I was at a gas station on Morena Boulevard Friday when I heard the unmistakable sound of a radical V8 engine. An old school ’55 Chevy pulled up to the pumps. It was a bit ratty looking, but I knew it had a hot motor. It was old school down to the straight front axle, Halibrand magnesium wheels and cheater slicks. I shot a photo of it.

’55 Chevy Bel Air

The owner of the car saw me taking the picture and asked me if I wanted a look under the hood. Of course I did. It had a supercharged small block with dual Carter carburetors and fender well headers.

Small block Chevy

There wasn’t anything ratty about the engine. Then he opened the driver’s door so I could take a look inside. It was upholstered in diamond stitched naugahyde including the headliner and had a roll bar. You wouldn’t guess that by looking at the paint job!

Diamond stitched naugahyde

Headliner and roll bar

The guy told me he had owned the car for about 30 years. He said he also had a ’32 Ford Coupe and a ’39 Willys. He said they were set up similar to the ’55 Chevy – no fancy paint but killer drive trains and nice interiors.

On Friday night Sini joined Donna and I to listen to live music at Fast Times Bar and Grill up the hill on Clairemont Drive. John January is the brother of my friend, Joe. John is a very talented guitarist and was performing with his girlfriend, Linda Berry. John is an inductee of the San Diego Blues Hall of Fame. They were performing as a duet – they also front a complete band sometimes. John has the skills to fill out the sound with his sense of timing, bass lines, chord inversions and riffs. It was almost hard to believe that just two people and one guitar could sound that good.

John January and Linda Berry

By the way – the name of the bar was taken from the title of the 1982 movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High starring Jennifer Jason Leigh and Sean Penn. The screenplay was written by Cameron Crowe after he supposedly spent a semester posing as a student at Clairemont High School – my alma mater – to develop the characters.

On Saturday, I took the Traeger wood pellet fired smoker grill out of the trailer. I was about to drag it through the lot to our site when our neighbor called out to me. Larry is from Louisiana and his rig is in the site behind us. He was at the overflow lot retrieving something from his van. He said, “How about we put that grill in the van and drive to your site?” Good idea! Thanks, Larry!

I needed the Traeger to smoke a couple of racks of baby back ribs I bought at Costco on Friday. The ribs weren’t the pre-packaged Swift Premium they sell – they were cut right there at the Morena store. The butchers there did a really nice job trimming the ribs. I prepped the ribs with dry rub and cooked them Memphis-style.

We had a potluck dinner planned for Saturday night at Sini’s site. Donna planned to grill chicken drumsticks and make a beer and bourbon cheese fondue. To marinate the chicken drumsticks she needed liquid smoke. I told her I saw liquid smoke at Siesel’s meat market. I rode the Spyder over to Siesel’s to get it. I looked through the aisle where I thought I saw it before, but couldn’t find it. A woman asked me if I needed help. I told her what I was looking for and she said, “It’s right here…oh, I guess we’re out of it.” Then she called out to one of the butchers behind the meat counter and asked if they had any liquid smoke. He said he had a gallon of hickory liquid smoke. I said I only needed a couple of ounces. He disappeared for a couple of minutes, then returned and gave me a small plastic container with about half a cup of liquid smoke and said “You’re all set.” Nice!

Everyone gathered at Sini’s place around 5pm. We had an extra picnic table the park provided plus a couple of folding tables for the food buffet. Five couples from inside the RV park were there plus a few of our friends that live in the area. Gary Stemple and Mona Sojot came along with Mona’s friend, Berdine.

Potluck food and drink time

Everyone enjoyed the food and drink and we talked the night away. Before I knew it, it was 10pm.

We only have 10 more days here at Mission Bay RV Resort before we leave San Diego. The time has flown by. The weather forecast for the next 10 days looks good – daily highs in the 70s with no rain. We’ll be heading east to Arizona to spend the rest of winter in a warm climate.



Moon Turn the Tides

Every blog post needs a title. Sometimes I struggle with that. You may have noticed that I’ll steal the name of a song or partial lyrics for my title from time to time. Today’s title comes from Jimi Hendrix’s third album, Electric Ladyland, released in 1968. I chose it because the full moon last weekend was a super moon.

Super moons occur when the full moon coincides with the moon’s closest distance to the earth as it travels on its elliptical apogee in the sky above. This makes the full moon appear larger than normal. The gravitational forces of the moon’s proximity were very apparent in the tides on Mission Bay. I shot a photo of low tide in the morning at De Anza Cove, then took another photo at high tide in the afternoon. Notice the dock resting in the mud at low tide, then it’s floating nearly horizontal in the afternoon.

Low tide at De Anza Cove

The same dock at high tide

Mother Nature unleashed another southern California phenomenon this week – Santa Ana winds. Santa Ana winds originate from high pressure over the inland desert basin. Hot, dry wind blows over the coastal range and offshore. These dry winds bring warmer than usual temperatures and low humidity – often less than 10%. They increase the risk of wildfires and the strong winds can fan the fires which move quickly and grow in size.

The Santa Ana hit areas to the north on Monday – up near Ventura. Wildfires burned along the coast up there. The winds really picked up in San Diego County on Thursday. Wind speed was clocked at 61 mph at Crestwood on I-8 in east county Thursday morning. A 38-foot fifth-wheel RV trailer was blown over on I-8, then they closed high-profile vehicle travel on the interstate. San Diego Gas and Electric shut down power in portions of east county to prevent sparks starting fires from any power lines that might blow down.

Fires raged all over southern California. Homes were destroyed in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. San Diego County had wildfires in the north county near I-15. The winds whipped the fires and they jumped the interstate in some areas. We heard that some neighborhoods near Temecula were evacuated. The fire danger warnings are in effect here until Saturday afternoon. When fire warnings are issued, no outdoor fires such as campfires or brush burning, are allowed.

We didn’t have any issues with fire here at Mission Bay RV Resort, but a few people had damage from the wind. There were two unoccupied travel trailers in the row across from us that had their awnings out. The people had left in the morning and didn’t retract their awnings. I knocked on the door of one of the trailers and looked to see if I could put their awning away. No one was there and the awning was an electric power unit – I couldn’t do anything. Later someone strapped the extended awning to the picnic table to keep it from flapping in the wind. We heard that others weren’t so lucky – a couple of rigs suffered damage when their awnings were torn away by the gusty wind. I don’t leave our awning out when we are away from the coach. Wind gusts can come up unexpectedly at any time.

On Wednesday evening, Donna grilled chicken thighs and served it with a new-to-me side of butternut squash brown rice pilaf with dried cranberries and toasted pepitas.

Grilled chicken with butternut squash brown rice pilaf

Tomorrow we’re planning to have a potluck gathering at Sini’s site. Donna made up flyers to invite some of our neighbors. She plans to grill chicken and I’ll smoke baby back ribs on the Traeger wood pellet-fired smoker grill.

The winds have calmed down along the coast but are still strong in the mountains. We should have a few clouds with the temperature reaching the upper 70s tomorrow.


Boating and the Barefoot Bar

We were blessed with another fine weekend in San Diego. We’d made plans to meet up with friends and go out on a pontoon boat that Gary Stemple had reserved at Freedom Boat Club. Gary is a club member and has taken us out on a variety of boats.

Donna prepared for the boat ride by taking the Spyder over to Pacific Beach where she bought bagels and cream cheese and Bloody Mary fixings. We planned to meet Gary here in De Anza Cove at the boat dock near the RV park overflow parking lot. Donna and I carried our gear to the dock and saw Gary approaching around 10am. We found a gate on the dock which was locked – we hadn’t noticed this before – we’ve used the dock in the past. It appears the city decided to block access rather than maintain the dock.

Gary beached the boat next to the dock and we boarded. We expected to have seven or eight people, but a couple of people bailed out due to other activities. The three of us crossed Mission Bay and went back to Dana Landing where the boat club is located. We picked up Howard and Johnna Brutschy there. Along the way we cruised past a small island that we always referred to as Horsehoe Island back when we were growing up here – I see on Google maps the official name is West Ski Island. We reminisced about keg parties on the island back in the day. I saw a group with traditional Hawaiian style outrigger canoes beached there.

Horseshoe Island – look closely for a group with canoes (click to enlarge)

We picked up Howard and Johnna and began a leisurely cruise around the bay. The day was warming up nicely. As you can see from the photos, the ski was clear and the slight haze cleared by afternoon. The temperature reached the mid-70s – warmer than expected.

We cruised past Perez Cove to the southeast part of the bay, on the south side of Fiesta Island. There’s an area there called Hidden Anchorage. This inlet is restricted for use by the San Diego Ski Team members. To enter the inlet you need to obtain a permit from the San Diego Lifeguard Station. The permits are free, but you need to prove you’re a member of the club. The club practices for slalom competitions and ski jumping there. We drifted outside of the restricted area and since it was nearly noon, we made Bloody Marys.

Ski Club area at Hidden Anchorage

We slowly cruised past Sea World. Gary commented how his dad used to bring the family down there on his boat when he was young. They could watch the Shamu and dolphin shows from the bay near the water stadium.

Sea World

From there we picked up speed and circled around Fiesta Island and made our way to the dock behind the Hilton Hotel on East Mission Bay.

Gary, Howard, Johnna and Donna cruising the bay

We docked briefly for a comfort break there, then headed back out. We were just cruising and seeing the sights while we enjoyed the weather. We cruised out the Entrance Channel along the jetty and into the Pacific Ocean. We didn’t venture far from the Entrance Channel – the pontoon boat wasn’t really an ocean-going vessel. We spun around in lazy circles and took in the sights.

View to the north from the Entrance Channel. The jetty on the right is the north side of the channel and the boundary of Mission Beach. That’s La Jolla to the north in the distance.

Looking east toward the bay and Quivera Basin. The Hyatt Hotel can be seen on the left

We came back through the channel – the San Diego River and Dog Beach (Ocean Beach) were on the other side of the jetty on our right. We cruised past Quivera Basin, under the West Mission Bay bridge, then docked across from Ventura Cove at the Barefoot Bar and Grill. We ordered appetizers for lunch there and enjoyed the ambiance and view.

View from our table at the Barefoot Bar and Grill

There’s a pond – actually more like a moat – surrounding the seating area at the Barefoot Bar. They pump bay water into it and local fish swim around in it – including leopard sharks. The sharks we saw in the water were only about three feet long, but the average length of an adult leopard shark is close to five feet long and yes, they are found in Mission Bay.

Gary and Donna at our table – waterfall into the pond in the background.

That sums up an enjoyable, relaxing day on the bay. We returned the boat to Dana Landing around 3pm and Gary dropped us off back at Mission Bay RV Resort.

Sunday was overcast and cooler – the temperature only reached the high 60s. Hans Kohls had invited us to join him and Lisa at an event near Balboa Park – it was the SoNo Fest and Chili Cook-Off. We didn’t go though. Donna wanted to pick up some groceries and take a bike ride and I wanted to watch the Chargers game and see if their playoff hopes were real. They are at this point!

It was a great day for chili though. So Donna made her white chicken chili recipe – it’s delicious.

White chicken chili topped with crumbled tortilla chips, shredded Monterey jack cheese, avocado cubes and cilantro

The forecast for today is partly cloudy with a high in the upper 60s. We should have sunny weather and temperatures in the 70s for the week ahead. Donna hit her boot camp workout early this morning. I’ll head over to Ocean Beach Recreation Center to play pickleball and work off some of the beer and chili.



The Neighborhood Mom

Yesterday I put on a suit and tie for the first time in about five years – with good reason. Donna and I borrowed Sini’s car and went to a memorial service at the Pacific Beach Chapel. The service was a celebration of life for someone that was very dear to me and important to me during my teenage years and beyond. Donna M. Brutschy passed away November 5, 2017 at the age of 90. I wore a suit out of respect for her.

I can clearly remember meeting Donna when I was 14 years old. It was 1970 and I had become best buddies with her son, Howard. Howard and I had just spent the night camping out near Miramar. We had ridden dirt bikes there. At that time, we could ride dirt bikes a couple of blocks on the street from their house in Clairemont and get to Geddes Canyon. From there we could reach Rose Canyon, then ride to San Clemente Canyon which would take us to the mesa near Miramar. In those days there were no houses out there, just sage brush on the mesa with small canyons here and there all the way to Poway. The Miramesa neighborhood didn’t exist.

After our night out, we returned to the Brutschy’s house in the morning. Donna Brutschy immediately asked us if we were hungry. Howard answered in the affirmative. Donna asked me if I liked scrambled eggs. I said, “Yes.” Then she asked, “Do you like them wet or dry?” I was 14 years old and didn’t know how to answer – no one had ever asked me that question before. I just mumbled, “I guess I’ll just have them regular, ma’am.” That was my introduction to the nurturing character that was Donna Brustchy.

Howard and I were tight and we were almost always doing things together through our high school years and beyond. His sister Vicki, Donna’s youngest daughter, was my high school sweetheart for a couple of years. The Brutschy’s door was always open and Donna was the neighborhood mom. A few of my friends had known her for years as she was their Cub Scout den mother.

Donna had a way with words. In 1986, I took a promotion and moved my family to the company headquarters in Michigan for a few years – a move I would repeat more than 20 years later.  Before we moved away, I was an avid bicyclist and stayed in good physical condition. After a year of driving a desk and getting through a Michigan winter, I had gained about 20 pounds. I came back to southern California on a business trip and stopped at the Brustchy’s house. Donna looked at my ample proportions and said, “You’re looking…prosperous.” That was her way of telling me I was fat! When I went back to Michigan, I joined a gym and started working out and got myself back in shape.

The memorial service was well attended. Donna had touched many lives and several people were compelled to speak and tell their stories of times with Donna. I wasn’t prepared so I didn’t share any stories there.

Respectfully dressed

After the service we went to the Brustchy house off of Moraga Avenue in Clairemont. The Brutschys have owned this house since it was built in the 1950s. It’s been remodeled several times and the landscaping is nothing like it was back in the ’70s. We had food and drink and milled about telling each other stories about our connections to the family. Donna’s extended family including her three children – Christine, Howard and Vicki – and her nine grandchildren and seven great-grand children were there. Many of my old buddies from our high school years were there as well. It was a nice tribute to a lady who was the neighborhood mom.

It looks like the weather will remain relatively cool over the weekend – highs in the upper 60s. We’ve been invited to go boating on the bay with Gary Stemple and a few friends tomorrow.