Category Archives: Grilling

SpaceX

I was sitting outside watching the Sunday Night Football game and puffing a cigar when a guy walking by alerted me to an unusual sight in the clear, dark sky above. It was a rocket streaking by west of us, heading southwest. I called for Donna to step outside – we watched as its glowing trail sped away leaving a “V” shaped wake in the sky. It abruptly disappeared when it escaped the earth’s atmosphere. It was the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launching a SACOM-1A Radar Imaging Satellite. The first stage had already separated by the time we saw it – I wish I could’ve witnessed that.

Other than that, we haven’t been up to anything too exciting. I play pickleball on Mondays and Wednesdays in Ocean Beach and Tuesdays and Thursdays in Pacific Beach. Donna joins me about 50% of the time. The weather has been pleasant – low 70s in the afternoons and cooling by about 10 degrees overnight. We’ve had more cloudy days than I expected though. September and October are usually fairly dry and offer up great beach weather. We haven’t had that so much this year. The humidity remains higher than usual with partly sunny and breezy afternoons. We can’t complain though – there’s been plenty of rough weather in the other parts of the country.

On Monday night, Donna grilled wild Coho salmon with ginger scallion topping and served it with grilled shishito peppers and baby bok choy. It was a great combination.

Grilled salmon, shishito peppers and bok choy

Monday and Thursday I meet up with the guys for a cold one at Dan Diego’s. On Tuesday and Friday we hit happy hour at Offshore Tavern and Grill. Tuesdays are Taco Tuesday at Offshore and it’s a treat. They have oversized tacos with your choice of steak, chicken or carnitas for $3. If you want fish or shrimp, it’s a dollar more.

Wednesday night Donna made walnut crusted tilapia which she served with green beans and acorn squash with sage and nutmeg.

Walnut crusted tilapia with green beans and acorn squash

Donna is still following the Bright Line Eating Plan, so she has to meet certain requirements on portions and proportions of protein, fat and carbohydrates. It hasn’t affected me too much – I think I’m getting more vegetables and fiber than I usually eat though.

Before this turns into a food blog, I’ll mention one minor project this week. One of the door catches on the laundry room – that’s what we call the utility closet housing our Splendide combo washer/dryer – broke. There’s an Ace Hardware in Pacific Beach that’s an old-time full service hardware store. They had the replacement part I needed and it was an easy repair.

Tomorrow Donna plans to spend the day with her 13-year old nephew Connor while her sister is away at a wedding in Los Angeles. She’ll be gone from morning until late at night. I don’t have a plan at this point. I’ll have to get used to it – on Tuesday, Donna is flying back to Vermont to spend some time with her parents and visit with friends she hasn’t seen in a long time. She has a girls’ weekend planned in Wilmington, Vermont with two college pals who met 38 years ago when they were on a foreign exchange program in England. And there’s also a reunion planned with a group of people she worked with at one of her first jobs. I’ll be on my own for two weeks. I better get another quick lesson on how to operate the Splendide washer/dryer!

 

Birthday Surprise

We’ve had a relatively quiet week here at Mission Bay RV Resort. Most of my days were consumed with pickleball. I played from 10am until noon or 1pm Monday through Thursday. Monday and Wednesday I played at the Ocean Beach Recreation Center. Tuesday and Thursday Donna joined me at the Pacific Beach Recreation Center. By Friday, my legs were heavy – I’m not used to this much time on the courts – so I took a day off.

On Wednesday morning, Donna went out for breakfast with her friend Jana. While I was at pickleball and she was at breakfast, we had a delivery. I wasn’t expecting anything and Donna sent me a text saying she picked up the package at the office. When I came home from Ocean Beach, I had a surprise. Donna gave me my birthday present a few days early. She and Jana had set up a flat screen TV in one of the basement compartments. Donna figured I would enjoy sitting outside in the evening to watch football and enjoy a cigar – great idea!

New outdoor TV

Friday evening Donna made a variation of the pizza chicken dish called Sheet Pan Chicken with mozzarella, grape tomatoes, red onion and pepperoncinis. She served it over spaghetti squash and with steamed baby spinach.

Sheet pan chicken

Saturday was my birthday. I’m officially an old guy – I qualify for Social Security and I can get a senior lifetime National Parks Pass since I’m 62 years old now. Donna ran in a 5k race in the morning benefiting the Wounded Warriors Project. We’d planned to spend the afternoon at the beach, but sometimes the best laid plans go awry. The day kind of got away from us. Around 2:30pm we set out to find rental electric scooters. There are a few companies providing these in San Diego and they are usually plentiful around Mission Bay and the beach areas.

I downloaded an App from a company called Bird. We found one scooter right here in the RV park after searching around for a bit. Then I found another one by the Mission Bay Boat Club. Donna had activated the first scooter with her phone and I tried to activate the second one. For some reason, my phone wouldn’t connect with the scooter and I couldn’t activate the rental. I found another scooter near Campland where someone had left it off the path in weeds. I couldn’t activate this one either – my phone wouldn’t read the bar code. By then it was 3:30pm and we gave up on the scooter and beach idea.

The weather for the last week hasn’t really been beach weather. Usually at this time of year, there’s a marine layer of moisture that creates cloudy mornings. It’ll burn off by noon and the afternoons at the beach are nice. So far this year, the cloudy skies have lingered on most days and it’s been breezy. The weather pattern is being affected by hurricane storms south of here. The humidity has been much higher than normal.

Donna grilled bacon-wrapped filet mignon for my birthday dinner. She smothered them with sauteed mushrooms and onions. It was delicious with a side of grilled broccolini with tomatoes and roasted delicata squash with feta cheese.

Bacon-wrapped filet mignon with mushrooms and onions

After dinner, I treated myself to a glass of 20-year-old Speyside Single Malt Scotch paired with a Perdomo 20th Anniversary Epicure Connecticut cigar. I sat outside and enjoyed the smoke and drink while I watched TV. Donna’s out for a training run this morning – she’s running in a 10k in a few weeks. I’m going to watch Moto GP racing from Thailand, then NFL action.

Dragon Boats on the Bay

It’s already time to turn another page on the calendar. Goodbye, September. Hello, October. We’ve been in San Diego for a week and it went by fast. We had some things to take care of – Donna and I both had dental appointments on Wednesday, We got an hour and a half of pickleball in on Thursday at the Pacific Beach Recreation Center. I had to leave by 11:30am because I had scheduled an appointment to have an estimate for new slide toppers at noon.

Last year I wanted to replace the slide topper on one of our bedroom slides. It was showing wear and tear and I had made a repair to a small hole in it. I had a quote from Shade Pro while we were here, but I didn’t realize how reasonable their price was. The slide topper is a fabric covering on a roller that attaches to the outside of the coach and extends over the slide-out when it is put out. It keeps debris and rain water from collecting on the top of the room slide. I didn’t have the topper replaced last year.

When we were in Mesa, Arizona, I had two guys give me quotes on the replacement. That’s when I realized I  should have had done it here in San Diego. One of the guys in Mesa couldn’t get the proper fabric for it. The other guy said he would have to order the fabric from Dometic and it would be over $400 for parts plus another $200 or so in labor. Shade Pro has a shop here in San Diego – Spring Valley actually – where they custom-make the fabric for toppers and awnings. They offer both high-quality acrylic material in a variety of colors or lower cost vinyl toppers. They quoted $189 for materials for high-quality acrylic fabric matching the color of our current toppers.

When Rich from Shade Pro came out on Thursday, I told him I wanted a quote to replace all three slide toppers. The living room slide is 16-feet long and that topper was more expensive. The price quoted was $189 for materials for each bedroom slide and $239 for the living room slide. Installation for all three was $240. Total price for all three – $857 plus tax. Way better than spending about $600 for one! I told Rich I wanted to go for it. He asked, “Will you be here tomorrow?” I said yes and he said he could be back between 11am and 1pm to do the work. I was surprised they would have the toppers made up that fast. He said he would call the order in and the shop would have the fabric ready to go by the morning.

Over the summer, we encountered numerous thunderstorms including high winds at times. A tear started in the bedroom slide topper and somewhere in Colorado it shredded. The other two toppers were beginning to rip at the seam where they join the metal casing on the coach.

Torn bedroom slide topper – looks like a bird added insult to injury

Donna had a lunch appointment in Old Town on Friday and I stayed home for the installation of the toppers. Rich showed up a little past noon and went to work. The large living room slide was stubborn and he spent about an hour removing the old fabric and installing the new one. The smaller bedroom slides were easier and he spent about 20 minutes on each one.

New Shade Pro slide topper

I’m really happy with the results and would recommend Shade Pro if you’re in southern California. They have added service in Yuma, Tucson and Phoenix too, although it may take a day or two to get the fabric there.

My high school buddy Gary Stemple invited us to go for a boat ride on Saturday. He picked us up here at De Anza Cove around 2:30pm. He had a center console type fishing boat about 22 feet long from Freedom Boat Club. We cruised to the south side of the Hilton Hotel where an event was being held. It was the 9th annual dragon boat races at Tecolote Shores Park.

Dragon boat enthusiasts at Tecolote Shores

Dragon boats are canoe shaped vessels with dragon heads on the bow. They seat eight to a dozen or more paddlers, a tillerman and a coxswain that usually beats a drum for cadence. They were racing four boats at a time in various categories – women’s teams, men’s teams and mixed. It’s a real workout as they paddle furiously – especially with the windy conditions Saturday afternoon.

Dragon boats on the bay

We cruised over to the Freedom Boat Club at Dana Landing. They were hosting a party with food and drink on the grass. It was a fun afternoon. It made me think of something I read somewhere – The ocean is my potion, I’m getting my vitamin sea. We’re happy to be back in San Diego.

Sea Lion near Dana Landing

Donna’s sister Sheila picked her up Sunday morning. They took the Sea Eagle kayak to Shelter Island and paddled on San Diego Bay. When they returned in the afternoon, Donna put the Sea Eagle back in the trailer and retrieved our Weber Q grill. They hauled the grill to our site in Sheila’s SUV. That’s one hassle about Mission Bay RV Resort – we have to leave our trailer in the lot outside of the RV park and shuttle gear back and forth.

Donna roasted a turkey breast from Sprouts on the grill along with shishito peppers and delicata squash. The delicata squash has a thin skin that can be eaten – you don’t have to scoop the meat out of the skin.

Grilled turkey breast, shishito peppers and delicata squash

The weather has been a little unusual. The daily highs have been in the low to mid 70s and it only cools to the mid 60s at night. The humidity level is higher than usual – around 70%. I think this is an effect of Hurricane Rosa to the south. High surf is expected over the next couple of days. Yesterday the temperature hit 80 degrees and we should see upper 80s today with an overnight low of 70 degrees. We might need air conditioners today!

 

Rocky Mountain High

Wednesday night was our second and last night at Mountain View RV Resort outside of Cañon City. Donna prepared a Moroccan chicken kabob dinner she served over grilled veggies and rice (brown for me, cauliflower rice for Donna). We really like Mountain View – the park is well-maintained, clean and quiet and set in a beautiful location. And the owners are super nice.

Chicken kabob

Thursday morning as we prepared to leave I looked at the low clouds obscuring the nearby mountain top with some trepidation.

Low clouds

Our route across the Colorado Rockies would take us west on US50 over Monarch Summit at an elevation of 11,312 feet above sea level. I was concerned that we might encounter low visibility and there’s always the chance of sudden thunderstorms with heavy rainfall and high winds. We left a little after 10am to get over the pass by noon – the thunderstorms usually form in the afternoon. We started out at an elevation of a little over 6,000 feet above sea level, but quickly dropped into the Arkansas River gorge about 1,000 feet lower.

The scenery was breathtaking as we climbed. The last four miles to the summit are a relentless 7% grade. Driving big rigs at altitude can be difficult. Steep climbs at high elevation hit you with a double whammy. The air is thin, reducing power output at a time when you need all the power you can get. This is especially troublesome with naturally aspirated engines relying on atmospheric pressure to fill the combustion chamber with air. I’m not aware of any gasoline powered coaches that have forced induction (i.e. supercharging or turbocharging). Our Cummins ISL diesel has a turbocharger that can mitigate the effect of the thin atmosphere.

But, there are limitations. The Holset turbo on our engine is sized for performance, including excellent throttle response and good power output. However, at elevations above about 9,000 feet above sea level, it can’t completely overcome the lack of oxygen. At lower elevations under normal atmospheric conditions, it produces a little over 25 psi of boost, packing air into the combustion chamber to allow peak power. The last four-mile grade to Monarch is above 9,000 feet and we only developed about 20psi of boost. Turbochargers with larger compressors are commonly used in piston-engine aircraft for power output at high altitude, but those engines typically run at a constant RPM and throttle setting. A large compressor wheel on a motor vehicle would result in a lag in throttle response, poor drivability and a very narrow powerband.

I dropped the transmission down to third gear and let our speed fall to just under 40mph with the engine spinning 1,900 rpm. This kept the big radiator cooling fan turning quickly and also had the water pump spinning, moving the coolant quickly through the engine and radiator. The coolant temperature held at a steady 195 degrees.

Once we reached the summit, we quickly dropped about 3,000 feet of elevation. I used the Jacobs Engineering compression brake (Jake brake) to hold our speed down on the rapid descent. We didn’t encounter any adverse weather conditions and had great visibility over the top.

Our route took us past the Blue Mesa Reservoir at an elevation of about 7,500 feet. We had another short, steep grade up to Cerro Summit at 8,042 feet above sea level where we had full power and held good speed.

Our destination was the Elks Lodge at Montrose, Colorado. We arrived by 2:30pm after fueling up in town. We set up a dry camp in their lot before a thundershower came in. We had a quiet evening with passing showers. I watched some of the US Open, then turned to the first NFL game of the season. It was a bit of a yawner from my point of view.

This morning, I unloaded the Spyder and we headed out –  backtracking on US 50 about seven miles, then turning north on CO347 to the entrance of the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park. It was about 15 miles total to the park entrance. Black Canyon was designated as a National Monument in 1933  and redesignated as a National Park in 1999.

Black Canyon was formed through erosion from the Gunnison River. The river drops an average of 34 feet per mile through the entire canyon making it the fifth steepest descent in the country. At Chasm View, it drops 240 feet per mile. By comparison, the Colorado River drops an average of 7.5 feet per mile through the Grand Canyon.

Black Canyon has steep walls – nearly vertical in most areas. The average drop from the rim to the bottom is about 2,000 feet. We followed the south rim trail and made several stops to hike to viewpoints and take a few photos.

I tried to capture the fall-like colors on the mesa above the canyon. The scrub oak, balsam and berry plants had various shades of red, yellow and orange. The mid-day sun washed the color out of the photos.

On the way out, we turned off at East Portal Access Road. This steep road drops all the way down to the river. It has to be one of the steepest roads I’ve been on with tight turns and a rough surface. It was slow going. Donna likened it to an amusement park ride.

It’s no joke – I think it was steeper than 16% in places

At the bottom, there’s a pool where they divert water from the Gunnison River through a long tunnel to irrigate land around Montrose. The tunnel, built between 1905 and 1909, is 5.8 miles long and it’s been in use since then. In the winter when the water is low, the tunnel is closed off for inspection and maintenance.

Pool in the Gunnison River near the diversion tunnel

We came back to town famished around 1:30pm and stopped at the Horsefly Brewery for burgers. I paired my Southwest Burger with a red ale. Donna had her burger without the bun.

Tomorrow morning we’ll continue our two-night stop-over plan with a drive to Durango. We plan to make a short stop in Ouray – the locals here in Montrose pronounce it YOU-ray – to look around. Then we’ll continue south on the Million Dollar Highway over Red Mountain Pass at an elevation of 11,018 feet above sea level. We plan to stay at the fairgrounds in Durango for two or three nights.

 

 

 

 

Cañon City and Royal Gorge

I mentioned Donna’s Bright Line Eating Plan in an earlier post. It involves weighing food portions and also getting the required proportions of protein, grain, veggies and fat. That doesn’t mean we don’t eat well though – sometimes Donna tweaks things for my serving and it’s all good. Monday night Donna made a meal called pizza chicken. For this recipe, she fileted a chicken breast then pounded it flat – this takes the place of a pizza crust. She topped it with marinara sauce, pepperoni and shredded mozzarella cheese. She served my plate over spaghetti noodles while she used spaghetti squash for her serving.

Pizza chicken

Tuesday morning we said our goodbyes to Dave and Stilla and hit the dump station before leaving the Colorado Springs Elks Lodge. We were out of there before 11am and made a stop at the Walmart on the south side of town. Later, Dave sent me a photo Stilla took of us in the lodge Saturday night.

Donna, Corliss, Marvin, me and Dave (Stilla Hobden photo)

Our route took us down CO115 to US50. We lost elevation as we made our way to Cañon (say “canyon”) City. Cañon City sits at 5,343 feet above sea level. Our destination was about 7 miles northwest of town where we’re at an elevation of 6,300 feet above sea level. It’s a steady grade after you head out of town.

We stopped at Royal View Campground – they have the highest Good Sam rating you can get – 10/10/10. We weren’t impressed. The entry was narrow and the sites weren’t level. We left and backtracked a few miles to Mountain View RV Resort and we’re glad we did. This is a very nice park with level sites – we’re in a long pull through. The campground is covered with pea gravel and the sites have concrete pads with picnic tables and fire rings. It’s super clean and quiet and the views are great.

Donna manned the Weber Q  and grilled pork tenderloin she seasoned with cumin, allspice, and cinnamon and she served it with roasted Brussel sprouts and acorn squash. We didn’t go anywhere as the clouds were threatening and it was windy – thundershowers came through into the night.

Pork tenderloin

This morning we headed out on the Spyder and rode to the Royal Gorge Park just a few miles away. The Royal Gorge is a narrow canyon – about 300 feet across at the top – with a maximum depth of 1,250 feet. At the park, there’s a suspension bridge crossing the gorge and also a gondola and zip lines. We passed on the $27/person fee to get to the bridge and gondola and hiked the rim area instead.

The Royal Gorge was cut by the Arkansas River which  originates here in Colorado and flows southeast through Kansas, Oklahoma and – you guessed it – Arkansas where it drains into the Mississippi River. The end of the gorge is outside of Cañon City – about two miles west from the center of town. It’s about six miles long in a northwesterly direction and ends near US50.

Royal Gorge suspension bridge on the right, red gondola crossing in the center

Arkansas River in the Royal Gorge from the Rim Trail overlook area

Donna at the Rim Trail overlook area

An old locomotive – engine 499 built in 1902 – is displayed outside the Royal Gorge visitor center. The train never ran up at the top of the gorge – the narrow gauge track runs along the bottom alongside the Arkansas River. They have a two-hour tourist train ride through the gorge from Cañon CIty.

We left the Royal Gorge and rode the Spyder back down US50 toward Cañon City and cut off at Skyline Drive. This is a one-way route built in the 1930s with the use of prison labor from the Colorado Penitentiary. It heads southeast up a hogback ridge of sandstone and ends in Cañon City. It’s a little under three miles long and has several pullouts on the narrow one-way road. The road doesn’t have guardrails and the ridge drops steeply from either side.

Narrow road, no guardrails

Pullout on Skyline Drive

The road ahead from the seat of the Spyder

View of Cañon City from Skyline Drive – historic downtown in upper center

We stopped on Main Street in old downtown Cañon City and walked around.

Historic downtown Cańon City

Before we came back home, we stopped at Walmart for a couple of things we forgot to buy in Colorado Springs.

The high temperature today was about 72 degrees with a few afternoon showers and brief periods of sunshine. Tomorrow we plan to head west. The forecast looks favorable although sudden thunderstorms can happen at any time in the high mountains. We will certainly be in the high mountains as our route west will take us over Monarch Summit with an elevation over 11,000 feet above sea level.

 

Fairground Events

While we were dry camping at Sierra Trading Post (STP) in Cheyenne, I saw something interesting. Around 7pm, a UPS tractor-trailer rig with a long trailer pulled into the STP lot. It had an additional fifth-wheel plate mounted on a dual wheel tow bar trailing behind it. The driver dropped the trailer and left. Minutes later another UPS tractor trailer rig with a shorter pup-trailer pulled in. The driver dropped the pup trailer, then disconnected the trailing fifth wheel from the first trailer and moved it to the front of the pup trailer. Then he hooked up to the long trailer and left. A little while later, a third UPS tractor-trailer pulled in with a long trailer. He hooked the pup trailer to the back of the long trailer and pulled out towing a double combination rig. This performance was repeated in exactly the same sequence the following night.

Apparently, UPS used the STP lot as a staging/transfer station. It reminded me of the time we were in Alamogordo dry camping in an abandoned shopping plaza and FedEx trucks converged there to redistribute their packages. I guess UPS and FedEx can’t have dedicated facilities everywhere they need to transfer freight, so they make do with what’s available in the area.

When we left Cheyenne, we saw on Facebook that our friends Charlie and Sheila Pennington were in the area. They stayed at a campground south of town off of I-25. They were probably within 10 miles of us – too bad we didn’t know. It would have been fun to see them again – we met them in Rapid City our first year on the road.

I mentioned the Bright Line Eating plan that Donna’s on. It involves consuming a lot of vegetables and I don’t always eat the same meals as she does. But sometimes it works out and we have the same thing, just in different proportions. On Friday night, Donna made ginger-carrot soup and grilled wild coho salmon, bok choy and shishito peppers. Yummy!

Ginger-carrot soup with unsweetened coconut milk

Grilled salmon, bok choy and shishito peppers

On Saturdays, they have the Longmont farmers’ market here at the Boulder County Fairgrounds from 8am to 1pm. We walked over to see what it was all about. It was a fairly large market with dozens of vendors – local produce, meats and crafts along with food trucks. As usual, live music was presented with a bluegrass band playing while we were there.

Bluegrass at the farmers’ market

Walking over there, we passed a pond. There was a platform with a large osprey nest. The osprey was in the nest but jumped out and stood on the edge of the platform before I took a photo. It’s hard to see the bird, but the nest was huge.

Osprey nest on platform at the pond

After we shopped and bought a few fresh veggies, we headed back through the fairgrounds and stopped at the indoor arena. A horse show was taking place over the weekend – much like the one we saw in Springfield, Illinois but on a smaller scale. It was cool in the arena and felt nice to get out of the sun.

This girl competed in the nine and under category

Saturday night Donna made green chile turkey burgers and served it with fresh corn on the cob we bought at the farmers’ market along with grilled zucchini sprinkled with lemon salt. I had my burger with avocado on a ciabatta roll – Donna opted out of the bread.

Green chile turkey burger with veggies

Sunday morning the Moto GP race from Silverstone, England was cancelled due to standing water on the track. I watched the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix instead and it was a good one. This is the first time Moto GP has cancelled an event since 1980.

It’s been hot out with afternoon temperatures reaching the low to mid 90s. We’ve also had periods of gusty wind. We run the air conditioners from late morning until evening. With the interior temperature of the coach on the cool side, Ozark the cat likes to lay in the sun on the dashboard. She stretches out on her back and from the outside, she looks like a dead kitty.

Ozark the cat lying in the sun

Stretching out

As usual we witnessed the Monday morning exodus. The weekend warrior campers pulled out en mass.

The temperature should reach the low 90s again today with wind gusts up to 35 mph here and up to 50 mph in the mountains. A cold front is forecast to move in overnight and the temperature will be much cooler tomorrow – the high is predicted to be 75 degrees.  Last night we had a passing shower and gusty winds. We plan to extend our stay here until Thursday.

 

 

 

A Curious Thing

We left the Lusk Elks Lodge Tuesday morning around 11am. Before we pulled out, I walked to the Subway sandwich shop on the corner of Main Street. I took a sandwich with me for lunch on the road and we headed south on US85. This highway has light traffic and a smooth surface. It runs south through large cattle ranches. In much of Wyoming, you’re likely to see more antelope than people – as my buddy Jimbo would say, “That ain’t a bad thing.”

Our route took us through Torrington, one of the larger towns in the area with a population of 6,700. As we headed back into ranch land, a curious thing happened. We were in one those areas with little traffic and few people when two motorcycles approached in the oncoming lane. The lead motorcyclist raised his arm and gave a wave as they passed. I wasn’t sure what that was all about.

A few minutes later, my cell phone rang, but Donna couldn’t pick up the call – we had spotty cell service. About 20 minutes later, I stopped in a rest area so Donna could make a salad for her lunch. I checked my voicemail and had a message. It was from my friend and fellow Alpine Coach owner Dave Hobden. He was the motorcyclist waving at me on US85! I could hardly believe it – here we were in a remote area of eastern Wyoming and we pass each other like two ships in the night. He said he recognized our rig from a quarter mile away. He was on a road trip to Rapid City with a friend.

Eventually, US85 bends to the southwest. It was windy – the wind was coming from the southeast so we had a crosswind. It was a steady 20+ mph breeze so it wasn’t too hard to handle. Gusty winds can be a handful, but this was okay. We hit I-25 south and drove a few miles to I-90 east and found our way to Sierra Trading Post on Campstool Road. Sierra Trading Post has a large facility here – it houses their headquarters and fulfillment warehouse as well as a retail store. They have a marked RV and truck parking area with stalls about 90 feet long and they welcome RVers. This was our destination for the day.

We set up in their lot and Donna went shopping. She can spend hours in their store browsing through clothing and trying on clothes, especially when they’re having their annual summer clearance sale! She also checked us in at the fulfillment center – they like to know who’s in their lot and keep contact info. We were the only rig in the RV/truck area. A guy stopped by and talked to me. He was a former full-time RVer and is planning to get back on the road soon. He and his wife had to get off the road after five years to attend to her fathers health issues, but he said they weren’t ready to stop traveling yet. It turned out he was the fulfillment center manager and he told me we were welcome to stay as long as we wanted.

Later, a couple of other rigs pulled in to shop and spend the night. We had a quiet and uneventful night. On Wednesday, I shopped in the retail store and bought lunch at their counter – it’s mainly for employees but they serve the public as well. Most of the cars parked in the two lots are employee vehicles – I don’t know the number, but a lot of people work at the headquarters and warehouse.

We decided to hang out and spend another night. Thursday morning the weather forecast called for a cold front to move into the area and bring high winds – gusts up 50 mph possible by afternoon. I dumped and flushed our tanks at the Sierra Trading Post dump station and we headed out by 9:30am to beat the wind. I had talked to a trucker the night before and he strongly recommended staying on US85 and avoiding I-25. He said due to some construction and low speeds in a couple of towns, the trip might take 15 minutes longer, but he said I-25 was a crap shoot once you get past Loveland. Wrecks, distracted drivers making crazy maneuvers and whatnot were a constant on I-25. We followed his advice after topping up on diesel fuel at the Pilot/Flying J down the road from Sierra Trading Post.

We pulled into the Boulder County Fairgrounds in Longmont, Colorado before noon. We were happy to find open pullthrough sites. They don’t take reservations here – all sites are first-come-first-served and they only have eight pullthrough sites. I paid for five nights but we may extend. We have 50 amp electrical service and fresh water, but no sewer. They have a dump station that we’ll use when we’re ready to leave.

After setting up, I got our DISH satellite dialed in – there is a Moto GP race this weekend and also a Formula One race. I set up the Weber Q grill and Donna took over. She’s becoming quite the grill master. She cooked herbed bone-in chicken thighs and also grilled patty pan squash with onions and peppers. She served it with steamed spinach. Donna’s following a strict diet called Bright Line Eating – so we don’t always have the same meals together. Last night it worked out fine though and the dinner was delicious.

Grilled bone-in chicken thigh, grilled veggies with feta cheese and steamed spinach

High barometric pressure has moved into the area. We can expect mostly clear skies and temperatures reaching 90 degrees. The humidity is low – in the teens. There is some haze over the mountains to the west, but the reports of smoke from wildfires in the west seem to be exaggerated a bit. Typically at this time of year, a passing afternoon/evening shower comes from the mountains in this area, but nothing remarkable is in the forecast.

Our New Hometown

In my post last Thursday, I said I was looking forward to some relaxation. I mostly got my wish, but there were a few things that needed to be done. A change of address isn’t as simple as it sounds. There were several notifications that had to be made – financial institutions, insurance companies, pharmacy, vehicle registration and driver’s license, voter registration – I’m still coming up with things.

I also had a couple of small projects to tackle. Just before we arrived here in Siuox Falls, I was driving up I-29 with the cruise control set. As we neared the city and traffic volume increased, I tapped the brake pedal to cancel the cruise control – this usually works best as I can then press the resume button if I want to go back to cruise control without having to reset it. This time the brake pedal didn’t cancel the cruise control and I had to turn it off with the button on the steering wheel. I made a mental note to check it out after we settled in.

When I was dropping the trailer in our site, I set the engine speed to high idle. I did this by simultaneously pressing the cruise control “on” button and the “set” button. This increases the idle speed to about 1,000 rpm and keeps heat in the combustion chambers. Idling a big diesel slowly for extended periods can allow the cylinders to cool too much and unburned fuel can collect on the cylinder walls – eventually it’ll make its way past the piston rings and dilute the oil in the crankcase. Stepping on the brake pedal drops the engine speed back to the normal idle speed – around 650 rpm. Except this time it didn’t. I dropped the idle speed with idle control rocker switch and parked the coach. I had Donna check the brake lights – as I suspected, the brake lights weren’t working.

The control module for the cruise control receives a signal from the brake light switch. When you press the brake pedal, the brake light switch closes and activates the brake lights. I thought the brake light switch on our coach was probably a pressure switch hydraulically actuated by the master cylinder. I was surprised when I crawled under the coach on Thursday to find it wasn’t so, it was a simple, spring-loaded mechanical switch on the brake lever arm. The brake pedal is attached to a lever arm that’s shaped somewhat like a boomerang. The center of the arm is mounted to a pivot point and the other end of the arm is attached to the master cylinder pushrod. A switch is mounted against the lower portion of the arm – with the brake pedal in the normal (not on) position, the arm presses against the switch and opens it. When you step on the brake pedal, the arm moves away from the spring-loaded switch and it closes, completing the electrical circuit to the brake lights and sending a signal to the cruise control module.

Brake light switch

I had Donna step on the brake while I observed the switch, It was stuck in the open position. I pulled it closed and it started working again. I sprayed some WD40 on the switch rod and had her work the pedal a few times. All was good, job done.

Friday Donna rode her bike on the bike path. The paved path is only about half a mile from Tower Campground and runs along the Big Sioux River. It was hot out – the thermometer hit 86 degrees with high humidity. I mostly puttered around and relaxed with a book. In the afternoon we rode the Spyder to another local brewery – Granite City Food and Brewery. The place has a good reputation, but I found the beers to be average at best. I think they’re known more for the food they serve.

Speaking of food, later Donna fixed shrimp fennel and feta which she served over rotini. Yum!

Shrimp with fennel and feta over rotini

My friend David Hobden bought a new motorcycle and I’ve been following a road trip he’s on with his motorcycling buddy. Dave got a 2017 Indian – I think it’s the Chieftain model. They rode from Colorado Springs, Colorado down to Louisiana. The other day I saw a guy here in the park with an Indian Roadmaster. I talked to him for a bit and found out that the rights to the Indian name were obtained by Polaris and they have been building Indian Motorcycles since 2014. The Indian name was used by a few different manufacturers in the ’90s and early 2000s – some of them weren’t very well-engineered motorcycles.

Polaris made Victory motorcycles and their engineering is proven. The new Indians look like a great motorcycle, worthy of the name. The original Indian Motorcycle company made great bikes from 1901 to 1953. Interestingly, another guy here at the RV park has an antique Indian that he rides almost every day. One evening Donna and I walked down to his site and checked it out. It was a 1946 model. I’ve ridden motorcycles since I was a kid, but I don’t know if I could handle this one. The throttle is on the left grip, not the right. That’s because you need your right hand to grab the shift lever next to the fuel tank to shift gears while working the throttle with your left hand and the clutch with your left foot!

1946 Indian

Shift lever and knob next to the fuel tank

Saturday I set up the Traeger wood pellet fired smoker grill and prepared a rack of baby back ribs. That was my big project for the day! The temperature reached the upper 80s and I mostly stayed cool and read a book. Donna has been braving the heat and either walking the river trail or biking every day. I read two books over the weekend and watched the Moto GP race from Austria on Sunday. I got ambitious in the early afternoon and cleaned the Traeger and the Weber Q and relined them with aluminum foil.

Saturday evening Donna and rode I the Spyder to the fairgrounds and went to the PRCA rodeo. We enjoy rodeos – it’s an All-American experience although several Brazilian cowboys are on the professional circuit nowadays.

Monday I started packing and organizing the trailer. I had one more project – it was time to service the Spyder. Nothing is easy on the Spyder. You have to remove body panels – the tupperware – to get to anything. Then the engineers have packaged everything so tightly that the simplest tasks are a struggle. For example, the oil filter element is housed under a metal cap on the left side of the crankcase. The cap is held in place by two cap screws. Fine, except they routed the shift linkage and an oil line right in front of the cap. The lower screw cannot even be seen. I removed and installed it by feel only and had to wiggle the filter element out past the obstructions. Oh well, it’s a once-a-year task and I got it done.

Today we’ll be pulling out of here. I think we’ll dry camp overnight at Ditty’s Diner in Kimball as we head west. We already checked and they allow overnight parking in the large lot by the diner. Rain is forecast to move in from the east early this afternoon. Hopefully we’ll outrun it as we move west.

 

Iowa Cheese and Beer

Friday morning Donna marinated a pork tenderloin with her mojo marinade sauce. I grilled it on the Weber Q for dinner and Donna prepared acorn squash and asparagus for side dishes. I cooked the pork to an internal temperature of 135 degrees – perfect.

Mojo marinated pork loin with acorn squash and asparagus

Saturday morning we headed out on the Spyder around 9am. We went to downtown Des Moines for the Saturday farmers’ market. The market is huge – it covers nine city blocks in the historic courthouse district.

Des Moines farmer’s market – Polk County Courthouse in the background

We spent an hour and a half wandering and shopping the vendor stalls. Donna bought lots of fresh veggies. We also bought some cheeses – I bought a quarter pound of Maytag blue cheese that came from the Maytag farm near Newton, Iowa. This delicious cheese differs from most blue cheeses in that it’s made from cow’s milk instead of the traditional sheep milk or goat milk. Maytag blue cheese was developed in 1938 by Iowa State University and was first produced at the Maytag farm in Newton, Iowa in 1941. Frederick L. Maytag II and Robert Maytag, grandsons of the founder of the Maytag appliance company, Frederick L Maytag, first made it commercially available. It is delicious – a little bit goes a long way!

We left the farmers’ market around 11am as the crowd grew heavier and the temperature started to rise. The temperature hit 90 degrees in the afternoon. We mostly hung out in the air-conditioned coach and read in the afternoon. Griff’s Valley View RV Park is very quiet. The grounds are well-maintained and the clubhouse right behind our site (one of two on the property) is immaculate. The bathrooms look more like something you would see in a fancy restaurant or hotel – nice tile floors and backsplashes with granite counters. The shower stalls are also nicely finished, clean and private with individual exhaust fans in each of the showers. Saturday someone reserved the clubhouse for a party and it was still quiet!

Saturday evening Donna manned the grill and made chicken breasts that she spiced simply and served them with a kale salad – made with fresh kale from the farmer’s market, green apple, chopped dates and almonds and crumbled Maytag blue cheese. A nutritious, delicious meal!

Chicken breast and kale salad

I paired the meal with an IPA from Kolona Brewing Company in Kolona, Iowa. The ale was called Sucha Much and it was made with only two hop varieties – Nugget for bittering and CItra for finishing. But they use five different malts in the wort. It’s unfiltered and the cloudy brew has yeast dregs – it was interesting, flavorful and I liked it. I read that their brewery has four 15-barrel fermenters and two 30-barrel fermenters but only two 15-barrel bright tanks – no wonder some of their beers aren’t clarified.

Sucha Much Today

A thunderstorm passed through around 4am this morning. With it came high winds, but it didn’t last long. After breakfast, Donna went out for a 25-mile bike ride (her fourth ride this past week) before it got too hot. I watched a very entertaining Moto GP race from the Czech Republic.

I don’t think I mentioned the ponds here at Griff’s Valley View RV Park – they have two of them and they have fish in them. I fished for a bit on Thursday and caught half a dozen fish in about 45 minutes. I braved the 96-degree temperature and fished again this afternoon. I caught 12 bluegills in about an hour! The fish weren’t very large, but fishing is always fun when you’re catching fish and I was releasing them anyway.

A couple of bluegills from the pond

When it cools down a bit this evening, I’ll pack the grill and Donna’s bike in the trailer. Tomorrow we’ll head out of here. I’m not sure where we’ll stop tomorrow – somewhere between here and Sioux Falls, South Dakota. We’ve booked a week at Tower Campground there beginning on Tuesday. We plan to make doctor visits and check out our new mail service location while we’re there.

It looks like we could be in for another wet driving day. Hopefully we won’t be caught in any severe thunderstorms.

 

Corn Country

As I mentioned in my last post, rain was falling Sunday morning. The horse show at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, IL ended Saturday night and everyone was leaving. Most of the sites there don’t have sewer hook ups, so there was a long line at the dump station. Donna and I were in no hurry to leave. I watched the Formula One race from Hungary until heavy rainfall blocked the satellite reception. Oh well, it was time to get to work.

I donned a jacket and my palm straw hat and went out in the rain to pack up the trailer. Then I dumped and flushed the tanks and put the rest of the gear away while Donna made the interior ready for travel. We were ready to go at noon.

Our plan was to drive to Mt. Pleasant, Iowa where we could dry camp overnight at the Walmart there. When I programmed the destination into Nally, our Rand-McNally RV specific GPS, she wanted to route us up the interstate to Peoria, then west into Iowa on I-74 to US34. I wanted to take a rural route and stay off the Interstate. So, I changed the route by setting a waypoint in Rushville, Illinois. The thing is, sometimes Nally knows best. The GPS will take weight limits and clearances into consideration when advising the best route.

We had an easy drive, rain notwithstanding, through western Illinois on IL125 to US67. Traffic was light and soon we broke out of the storm clouds as we headed west. But, there was a snag. Nally diverted us outside of Macomb and we were on county roads driving through farm fields. The roads were narrow with no shoulder. Luckily there wasn’t any traffic either. After a few turns and about 10 minutes or so, she had us back on US67. I’m guessing there was some obstruction or weight limit in the town of Macomb that we had to work around.

Narrow county road through corn fields

We crossed the Mississippi River into Iowa. While we’re now west of the Mississippi, I think most people would agree we’re still in the Midwest, not the West yet. When we cross the Missouri River, I’ll feel like we’re back in the western states.

This is corn country. All day we were driving with corn fields on both sides of the highway, broken up here and there with soy beans. We found the Walmart in Mt. Pleasant and parked in a level corner of the lot. Donna made a shopping run and stocked up the pantry. When we stop at a Walmart, Donna can take her time and really shop the aisles. She can buy whatever she wants without having to think about how much space she has for stuff in the Spyder – she just walks a full shopping cart out to our rig.

Even in town there are corn fields

After a quiet night in the Walmart lot, we hit the road Monday morning a little after 9am. Our destination was about 140 miles away – Griff’s Valley View RV Park in Des Moines. It was an easy route as we got on US34 from the Walmart parking lot and followed it west all the way to US65 into the east side of Des Moines. We stopped and fueled up at the Pilot/Flying J Travel Center a few miles from the RV park. It was only 11:30am, so we were early to arrive at the park.

There was a Blue Beacon truck wash next to the travel center, but it had a long line. We decided to join the queue since we were in no hurry. We were badly in need of a wash job. We’ve been traveling through wet weather for weeks on end without a wash and the coach was grimy. An hour later, were shiny and on our way.

After working around a couple of road closures, we found the RV Park. The park is owned and operated by the Griffieon family who also own a farm nearby. They run the park from an office at their farm. We were instructed to phone when we arrived at the park. Donna phoned and talked to Carol – she directed us into our site. It’s a paved 70-foot long back-in site. Plenty big enough for our size without dropping the trailer. But, I saw a problem. The 50-amp electrical service pedestal was located at the rear end of the site. With our trailer behind the coach, our power cord wouldn’t reach it.

Carol suggested dropping the trailer in a nearby area next to a garage. We found that parking area was already full of trailers. A guy working in the garage told us there was another parking area past our site. To get there, I needed to get us turned around. This wasn’t so easy. The park is laid out to allow entry and exit of big rigs, but the angle of the intersections make it impossible to get turned around when you’re heading out of the park. I drove out onto the county road in front of the park, went north about a mile where a dirt road intersected the county road. I was able to make a three-point turn there and re-enter the park. Whew!

We looked at the second parking area and found it full of trailers as well. Donna called Carol again and she told us to sit tight, Dave would come over to help us find a solution. By the time he arrived, I decided to unload the Spyder, back into the site and go buy a 50-amp extension cord.

Dave was really helpful and he told us to back in as far as possible and not worry about the trailer overhanging the lawn in back. As it turns out, we actually got in far enough for our cord to reach and got set up. Although we haven’t had the need for an extension cord much in the last five years, this was the second time in a month we had an issue with placement of the power pedestal. Once we were set up, I took the Spyder to Imperial RV Center about seven or eight miles away and bought a 15-foot 50-amp extension for $87. We’re okay without it right now, but if we have this issue again, I’ll be prepared.

Our site at Griff’s Valley View RV Park

On the way back from the RV store, I stopped at a roadside stand where a woman was selling fresh sweet corn in front of her farmhouse. The sign said “Sweet Corn $5.” I asked how much corn for five bucks and she said, “A dozen ears.” I said, “Oh no, too much.” She thought I meant five bucks was too much money for a dozen ears. I explained that there were only two of us and we couldn’t eat a dozen ears of corn in a reasonable amount of time. She gave me four ears of corn picked that morning for a dollar!

Griff’s Valley View RV Park is right on a bike trail. Donna was raring to go so I got her bike set up. While I was pumping up the tires, the presta valve on the rear tire broke. I removed the rear wheel and pulled the tire off. I had tubes and a pair of new tires on hand, so I put a new rear tire on while I was at it. Man, those Continental Gatorskin tires have stiff beads. It was a workout to seat the bead on the rim.

Donna rode out of the park and headed northeast on the Chichaqua Valley Trail. This is a paved multi-use trail from Baxter to Berwick – about 26 miles. It intersects with other trails into Des Moines, so biking from the RV park is convenient.

Later, I got the Weber Q grill out of the trailer while Donna prepped a steelhead trout filet with a mayonnaise based topping. I grilled the trout and Donna sauteed fresh mushrooms with bacon pieces to top a baked potato. She also cooked the corn on the cob. It was a delicious meal and the corn was the best we’ve had in a long time.

Steelhead trout, baked potato with mushrooms and bacon and sweet corn on the cob

After dinner, we sat outside and enjoyed the evening. It’s very quiet here at night. We saw a lightning show in a thunderhead off in the distance but it stayed calm and dry here. The forecast for the coming week looks good with mostly sunny skies and temps reaching the low 80s.

 

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