Category Archives: Maintenance

A New Season Begins

The cold weather continued – Tuesday and Wednesday the thermometer barely reached 50 degrees after overnight lows in the 30s. I didn’t get out and do much, but Donna took advantage of the gym here at Viewpoint Golf and RV Resort.

Even though I haven’t taken the Weber Q grill or the Traeger out of the trailer yet, we still enjoyed good meals. Donna made medallions of pork loin with roasted butternut squash and green beans Tuesday night.

Pork loin medallions

Thursday the weather warmed up to the mid-60s and Friday we hit 70. Donna and I played pickleball Friday morning with the 3.0+ group and had a lot of fun. We hadn’t played on outdoor courts for several months.

Friday afternoon we hit happy hour at Lucky Lou’s and met up with the usual crowd. We had fun sitting on the patio with Jeff and Chrissy Van Deren, Jodi and Mike Hall, Kim and Mike Childs and Jodi’s sister Jackie. Mike Hall and I puffed cigars and compared notes on some of our favorites.

Friday night Donna made another favorite dish – walnut crusted tilapia served with sauteed corn, red peppers and spinach plus spaghetti squash gratin on the side.

Walnut crusted tilapia

We’re pretty careful about the seafood we buy. We always prefer wild caught fish over farmed, but with tilapia, farmed is all you ever find. We avoid tilapia from Asia as some of the fish farm practices there aren’t the best. We prefer tilapia sourced from more modern facilities found in Mexico or Central America.

On Saturday morning, I received a package from The RV Water Filter Store that I had ordered after finding out that Al’s RV and Marine in Yuma had closed shop. I got new filter cartridges for our dual canister water filtration unit. I had the delivery by 11am and got busy. I wanted to get a couple of things done before the NFL playoff games which started at 2:30pm.

The first task was to replace the anode rod in our 10-gallon Suburban water heater tank. The last time I replaced the anode rod was April of 2016. It’s a good idea to at least pull the anode rod once a year to inspect it and drain any sediment from the hot water tank. The last time I replaced the anode rod, I used an aluminum rod instead of the magnesium rod I’d used previously. The aluminum rods last much longer than the magnesium.

Our hot water tank is behind this panel

After removing the cover panel to access the hot water tank, the first step was to tape a plastic bag I had split open to create a curtain for the water to drain out of the compartment and down the side of the coach.

Hot water tank with plastic bag “curtain”

With the water heater turned off, I shut off the fresh water supply and removed the anode rod with a 1-1/16″ socket. The rod was still in decent condition, but I replaced with a new one anyway.

Old rod on the left, new on the right

I wrapped the threads with teflon tape to seal them. With the rod out, I watched for sediment or anything unusual, but the water in the tank was clear and I didn’t have much in the way of deposits. I opened the pressure relief valve at the top of the tank to vent it while the water ran out. Once I had the new rod in, I left the pressure relief valve open while I turned on the fresh water supply and filled the tank. The open pressure relief valve allowed the air to vent out of the tank while it filled with water. If you don’t do this, the tank will only partially fill as head space is taken up by air trapped in the tank.

Pressure relief valve in the closed position
Pressure relief valve with lever in the open position

Next up was replacement of the water filter cartridges. I bought the dual stage water filtration system we have at the FMCA rally in Redmond, Oregon from the folks at The RV Water Filter Store. It uses standard 10″ x 2.5″ cartridges. In the first canister, we have a five-micron sediment filter to remove any solids from the water. The last cartridge I bought at Al’s was made from wound polyester string. The new cartridge is spun polyester. I don’t think there’s any difference between the two other than how they look.

Old sediment filter on the right – new cartridge on the left

The second stage of our filtration is a carbon block filter to remove chlorine, chemicals and odors and improve the taste of the water. It’s also five microns.

Carbon block filter – old on the right, new on the left

We also have a third filter under our sink for the purified water dispenser. This filter removes bacteria. I change the sediment filter every three months and the carbon block filter every six months – this was the recommendation by the owner of The RV Water Filter Store. The under sink filter is good for at least two years.

With that job done, it was time to sit in front of the outdoor TV and watch football. It was sunny and about 70 degrees outside. A little before kickoff of the first game, I had a visitor. Mike and Joan Targett were our neighbors in the site next to us last year. This year they’re a couple of streets down from us. Mike stopped by in his golf cart to drop off a present for us. He made a sign for Donna and I to place in our site.

The sign Mike made

Mike captured some of our activities – pickleball, hoop dancing for Donna and an image of the Spyder. He did a great job and it was very nice of him to take the time to make this for us. We much appreciate the effort. Mike has made over 200 signs over the years for RVers.

Rain moved into the area overnight and it was wet and cold Sunday morning. I stayed indoors and watched the Chargers vs. Ravens wildcard game. The Chargers came up with an innovative defensive scheme that stymied the Ravens and they’ll move on to face the Patriots after winning in Baltimore.

Donna bought some wild gulf shrimp and made shrimp with fennel and feta for dinner with sides of steamed asparagus and butternut squash risotto.

Shrimp with fennel and feta

This morning I played in the round robin pickleball matches. We started at 8am, so I was up early and really got off to a slow start on the courts. Hopefully I’ll acclimate to the early play and pick up my game.

The forecast for the week ahead looks good – highs in the 70s. Today will be a littler cooler – mid 60s, but I won’t complain about that.

Speedco Not So Speedy

We extended our stay at the Boulder County Fairgrounds in Longmont, Colorado by two days – giving us a full week there. It wasn’t that we had any great plans, it was more a case of we needed time to plan. We had a look at route options, things to see and do and also find some opportunities to boondock along the way.

That’s one of the nice aspects of life on the road – you can adjust your variable expenses along the way. Our spring trek from Arizona across the country to Maine and back again to San Diego by the end of September means we’ve had higher than average fuel expenses. One way to offset that is to find free or nearly free campsites. Conversely, when we’re in San Diego we pay high campsite fees to be in the location we want to be in, but we’re stationary for a few months and don’t have fuel costs.

I mentioned Donna following the Bright Line Eating plan, so we didn’t go out to eat at all. The plan is working for her and I encourage her to stick with it. But, that doesn’t mean I’ll forgo some snacks or happy hour! Last week we stopped at a nearby taproom that was unique. I went there again Wednesday afternoon. It’s called Brewmented and it’s not your usual small craft brewery. Their core business is homebrew supply. They have everything you need to brew your own. They also serve beer they’ve made in small batches – they use a one-barrel system so they can only brew about 30 gallons per batch. They constantly rotate their beers so you never know what you might find on tap. Typically they have six to eight brews available on tap.

Donna’s eating plan doesn’t mean she can’t put tasty meals on the table. Tuesday she had the slow cooker going all day and made a pot of beef and bean chili. It was delicious.

Beef and bean chili

I made a second trip to the laundromat on Wednesday. We’ve been without a sewer hook-up since we left Sioux Falls, so we don’t use the clothes washer on board – it would use too much water and fill the gray tank. I know I’ve said it before – Donna says there’s nothing sexier than a man doing dishes. I wonder how she feels about a man doing the laundry. (Donna here: It’s even sexier!)

We had a plan when we pulled out on Thursday. First I stopped at the fairgrounds dump station and dumped and flushed out holding tanks. I had already filled our fresh water at our site. We drove to the Elks Lodge in Northglenn – a Denver suburb. We planned to drop the trailer there, then proceed to Speedco in Commerce City about 10 miles away. The Northglenn Elks Lodge has eight sites with water and electricity. I looked at it online and the satellite view looked good.

When we pulled in, it turned out to be not so good. The parking lot was packed – every space had a car in it. As we drove through, I noticed the windshields of all of the cars had writing on them. It appeared that the Elks Lodge lot was being used as an impound yard.When I got to the end of the lot, I had a problem. There was a tall, large-diameter metal pole on my right and I needed to make a sharp right turn to exit. The exit lane was narrow and had a cement barrier. There was no way I could make the turn without either hitting the pole with the trailer or hitting the barrier with the coach.

I had to reverse across the entire length of the lot between the rows of impounded cars, then I backed the trailer around a corner and had a straight shot back onto the street. Then I had another issue – the driveway sloped to the gutter and the trailer jack dragged as we crossed into the street. Grrr!

We continued down the road to Speedco. I dropped the trailer in their lot and we had the coach in the lube bay by 12:15pm. I needed to have it serviced. I was concerned about the condition of our motor oil. On long climbs where the oil temperature rises, we’ve been experiencing lower than usual oil pressure. I was thinking that the overheating problem we had in New York might have oxidized the oil and resulted in breakdown of the oil.

I’ve used Speedco since we bought our Alpine Coach. A few years ago, I could get the oil and filter changed, plus fuel filter and chassis lube for under $200. Then last year they raised their prices and it cost me about $250. Then Love’s Travel Center bought Speedco. This may have been a good acquisition for Love’s, but it’s not so good for customers. There were only three or four guys working in the lube area. All three bays had vehicles in them and there were at least four heavy duty trucks waiting to get in. No one touched our coach for the first twenty minutes. Then a guy in the pit below removed the oil drain plug and also took an oil sample – I’d ordered a used oil analysis. The the guy disappeared and no one touched the coach for next 20 or 30 minutes.

I couldn’t understand it. I talked to a trucker who told me he’s been getting his truck serviced here for years. He said it used to be great – good service and in and out quick. He said they had experienced crews manning each bay. When Love’s took over, they reduced employee benefits, took away accrued vacation time and reduced pay. Everyone quit. Now they have an inexperienced crew, low morale and no one is motivated. It took over two hours for them to change my oil and lube the chassis – usually about a 30- to 45-minute job. The cashier was a rude and surly woman. And the cost was $340! I think I’ll need to find an alternative in the future.

My used oil analysis confirmed my fears. Oxidation was high but a few of the other findings have me perplexed as they seem contradictory. I’ll have to study it a bit more before I can draw any conclusions.

It was close to 3pm by the time we got out of there. The trucker gave me a tip on the best route south out of the Denver area. We went east to I-225 and followed it south past Cherry Creek Reservoir where we picked up I-25. This cut out a lot of the city traffic, but we still had periods of stop-and-go. I-25 was no picnic at that time of day with unexplained slow downs.

We crossed Monument Hill at an elevation of 7,300 feet above sea level and dropped into Colorado Springs. We pulled into the Elks Lodge here around 4:30pm. We’re dry camped in their lot along with three or four other rigs. Their water and electric sites are all taken.

We met up with our friends Dave and Stilla Hobden. They’ve been here for the summer in their Alpine Coach. We got together for happy hour in the lodge. It turned into dinner, then after dinner drinks with cigars for Dave and me. It great to catch up with them. They’ll be here for a another month or so. We plan to stay over the weekend, then head out.

The forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies, warm today with the temperature reaching the low 80s – mid 70s for the rest of the weekend. We’re at an elevation of a little over 6,100 feet on the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains. Weather here can change quickly and there’s always the chance of afternoon thunderstorms.

Satellites and Trains

We’ve been enjoying our stay at Griff’s Valley View RV Park in Altoona – near Des Moines, Iowa. The park is super clean and well-maintained and it’s also very quiet – both day and night. Now that we’re west of the Mississippi, it was time to reset our DISH Network satellite antenna to the western arc.

DISH Network broadcasts from clusters of satellites in different locations. They have multiple satellites in each location – some are for redundancy and others are used for various channels, pay-per-view and High Definition. I don’t know for sure how many satellites they use. The main television broadcast satellites are located at a longitude of 110 degrees west and 119 degrees west. Additional satellites are at 129 degrees west and 61.5 degrees west. The 61.5 degree satellites are for the eastern arc. The western and eastern arc overlap in the midwest.

When we’re in the northeast, we cannot receive a signal from 129. We have to locate satellites at 61.5 degrees. Our Winegard Road Trip satellite antenna has to be reconfigured to locate 61.5. This is done with DIP (dual-inline package) switches on the unit. There are eight DIP switches. By opening or closing various switches, the motherboard for the antenna is reconfigured. Anyway, while we were in the northeast, I set up the satellite antenna for 61.5 degrees – DISH eastern arc. Now I had to reset it to the western arc – 110, 119 and 129 degrees. It entailed climbing on the roof, removed the antenna dome cover and configuring the switch. Not a big deal.

Satellite antenna controller

Tuesday afternoon Donna and I rode the Spyder to Bondurant – a small town a few miles away from here. We went to the Reclaimed Rails Brewery. They have some good beer brewed onsite in their 15-barrel system and the finish work of the interior of the pub is unique.

The have reclaimed and repurposed wood and corrugated tin for the finish work. The bar top surface was cut out of an old trailer they found in Branson, Missouri. The bar was trimmed with a cove taken from an old train depot. The ceiling was lined with corrugated tin they found on an old barn in Minnesota. The table tops on the deck were made from the lids of old oak bourbon barrels. It was all nicely done – I wish I’d taken some photos.

After we came home, Donna whipped up seared scallops with a jalapeno vinaigrette and sweet potato spinach hash for dinner.

Seared scallops and sweet potato hash

Thursday morning Donna was getting ready to head out on the Chichaqua Valley Trail on her bike when she found a problem with our door. Our door had a check lever that stops it from opening more than 90 degrees. The check lever has a pawl that locks the lever in place, holding the door in the open position. To close the door, you have to release the pawl with either the inside or the outside door handle. The door wasn’t locking in place – it was swinging about in the breeze.

I was afraid the pawl was broken. This can happen if someone unfamiliar with the door mechanism tries to force the door closed without releasing the pawl with the door handle. We haven’t had any visitors lately, but it could have been damaged at an earlier time. I got the ladder out of the trailer and inspected it. The pawl wasn’t broken – it was sticking in the open position.

Door check lever pawl

The pawl is spring-loaded and is operated by a cable attached to the door lock mechanism in the door. I pushed the pawl into the locked position and it seemed fine. I released the pawl with the handle, then closed and opened the door. The pawl didn’t catch on the door check lever. I inspected everything and didn’t find anything broken, so I cleaned and lubed the cable and the pawl rod. It’s working nicely now. Job done.

Door panel removed to expose lock mechanism

Donna rode up the bike trail past Valeria and back – about 26 miles – and got home before it was too hot out. After lunch, we took the Spyder north on US65 and rode through the little village of Valeria and continued east for a few miles until we found Trainland USA. Trainland USA is a museum/display featuring Lionel “O” gauge model trains and accessories.

It was conceived and built by Red Atwood and many friends. He began collecting Lionel trains in 1961. He eventually built a 2600-square-foot building to display trains and accessories – including model trains dating back to 1916.

It has 4,000 feet of track, 35,000 hand-cut ties and 120 automatic switches. The display is set up to depict train activity across the country. You take a walking tour that begins with a diorama of Grand Central in New York, then follow along as the dioramas take you through the southern states to the west coast, up the coast and back to Omaha. I shot a few pictures, but the lighting was challenging and I was shooting through glass, so the pictures aren’t the sharpest.


On the way back, we made another stop at Reclaimed Rails Brewery for a cold one. I really enjoyed their red lager. Last night, Donna prepared tortilla-crusted tilapia for a dinner – always a favorite.

Tortilla-crusted tilapia with a dollop of salsa and green beans

The weather had been warm – in the low to mid 80s and breezy. Today will be the start of a heat wave. The forecast calls for a high of 97 degrees and the weekend will continue to have highs of 90 or greater. Tomorrow we plan to go to the farmers’ market in downtown Des Moines – rated one of the best in the country.


Maintenance and Mail

We’ve had a good time here in Springfield, Illinois. We played pickleball Thursday morning at Iles Park and had some great matches. Thursday afternoon I had a maintenance chore to take care of.

When we bought our coach four and a half years ago, the generator had about 400 hours on it. I change the oil and oil filter on it every 150 hours of operation and change the air and fuel filters at 500-hour intervals. On May 31st, just eight weeks ago, it had 1,364 hours on it when I last changed the oil and filter. Since then we’ve done a lot of boondocking, plus we had the battery bank problem which had me running the generator more often than usual. We now have 1,505 hours on it and it was time to change the oil and filter again plus change the fuel and air filters.

1,505.8 hours on our Onan generator

They don’t have any rule against performing maintenance here at the Springfield Fairgrounds, so that was my chore for Thursday afternoon. While I was at it, I changed the fuel filter for our Cummins ISL diesel engine – an annual maintenance item.

Friday morning we started with pickleball until noon then I took it easy for the remainder of the day. While I was scrolling through Facebook, I saw a post in an RV group that said was closing. What? Terri at has been receiving and forwarding our mail since 2013. She also assisted us with vehicle registrations and our first South Dakota driver’s license applications. I phoned Terri and was shocked to find out it was true. I don’t know what the circumstances are, but something suddenly went bad as she told me she was closing on the 31st – next Tuesday!

I needed to act fast so we don’t have our mail service interrupted. After some research, I decided to sign up with in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I worked with Tanyel in their billing department and she e-mailed the forms I need to get on board.

Meanwhile, Donna prepared pork kababs which I grilled along with peppers and onions while she made potato salad and corn on the cob that she picked up at the farmers’ market here at the fairgrounds.

Grilled pork kababs with peppers, potato salad and corn

One of the forms I needed to submit for our new mailing address was Postal Form 1583 which needed to be notarized. The nearest notary I could find on Saturday morning was at a shipper called Box and Go about 10 miles away. Donna and I both had to have our signatures notarized.

On the way there, just blocks away from Box and Go, Donna spied a Chase Bank branch that was open. The one nearest to the fairgrounds was closed on Saturday. We went to Chase since we bank there and have free notary service. The notary there stared at the form for a couple of minutes, then said, “I can’t notarize two signatures – there’s only a space for one signature on this form.” I told her we had submitted one of these forms before and I was sure we had both names and signatures on one form. She looked at the form again and said, “It says right here a separate form is needed for each applicant.” I had only printed one form. I asked if I could send the form from my phone to her e-mail and then she could print one for us. She said no, we would have get new forms and come back. I couldn’t believe it.

We rode the 10 miles back to the fairgrounds and I printed new forms. I looked at the instruction where it said a separate form was needed for each applicant. The next line stated “except for spouses, spouses may use one form.” I knew we used one form before! We went back and this time we were helped by a different notary and she had no problem with both of us signing one form. Grrr…20 unnecessary miles and wasted time.

We went to the Lincoln Museum downtown in the afternoon. Although Springfield is the state capital, there are only about 120,000 residents and the downtown area isn’t too large. It has a lot of nice historic buildings though and the museum was nice.

Pedestrian only section of Adams Street with Abraham and Mary Lincoln statue

After touring the museum, Donna and I walked a few blocks away to Buzz Bomb Brewery and Taproom to sample a couple of local beers. The museum and brew was a nice way to spend the afternoon.

After dinner, Donna went for a walk while I enjoyed a cigar. On her way back, she discovered that barrel racing was about to begin at the arena here at the fairgrounds. So we went down and watched about 15 girls compete and then receive their awards.

This morning we woke up to rain – the first we’ve had since we decided to bug out of Ohio. We’ll be packing up and making the rig road worthy this morning. We’re in no hurry. Our plan is to go to Mount Pleasant, Iowa for the night and then move on to Des Moines. We only have about 160 miles to cover today. It will be another rainy driving day.

Castles Made of Sand

Wow, our time here at Aransas Pass has flown by. On Saturday morning, Donna and I rode the Spyder to Rockport for more pickleball. The games there are loosely organized. There were about 10 of us on the courts by the high school with various skill levels represented. We had fun and got a couple of hours of play time.

Francisco came back from his delivery run to North Carolina Saturday morning. In the afternoon he and my daughter, Jamie, and his son Trey along with Francisco’s sister Ruby came to the RV park to pick us up. We were headed over the Redfish Bay causeway to Port Aransas on Mustang Island. To get there we crossed a couple of bridges on the causeway, then had to take a short ferry ride. We were going to Port Aransas for the Texas Sand Fest – a beach sand sculpture event.

The Sand Fest draws a huge crowd to the beach on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We waited in line over 45 minutes to get on the free ferry. They had four or five ferries running to accommodate all of the traffic. The ferry boats are fairly small – the one we took only held about 15 vehicles. They’re nothing like the ferries found on Puget Sound in Washington.

View across Humble Basin toward Roberts Point Park in Port Aransas

Ferry boat departing behind us while another one loads at the dock

Oil rigs and a tanker near the ferry dock

There were three large oil rigs near the dock. We think they were towed there for maintenance work. A large tanker ship passed through the narrow basin where the ferry boats crossed.

We found our way to the Beach Road on the southeast coast of the island. The Beach Road is an unpaved one-way thoroughfare on the sand. The sand on Mustang Island is very fine and seems to have clay – I couldn’t find any information to confirm this. But the sand on the road was packed solidly and had fine particles of dust along with the sand. I think this would make the sand ideal for sand sculptures as it sticks together when moistened.

The area of the beach where the sculptures were being made was fenced off with temporary chain-link fencing. Entry costs $10/person. There was a vendor strip with food and goods and a beer tent. Many of the Master’s Class sculptures were cordoned off with yellow or orange tape and many of them were still being worked on late Saturday afternoon. Here are some of the sculptures I was able to take photos of.

Entrance to the sculpture area with sponsor acknowledgements

Detailed eyes on this dog

Artist still at work

How were they able to do the top of this sculpture?

There was an anatomically detailed heart in the split of this bust

Another tall one

One for all the cat people

We spent a few hours admiring the artwork and browsing the vendors. Between pickleball in the morning and walking the beach in the afternoon, I had well over 12,000 steps for the day. The ferry ride back was just as crowded with quite a traffic tie-up. We were on a larger ferry boat this time, but still nothing like the ferry boats in Washington.

Ruby, Trey, Donna, Jamie and Francisco at Port Aransas beach – that’s a sand tower in the background

On Sunday morning, I watched another crazy Formula 1 race from Azerbaijan where the two Red Bull teammates spent the race racing against each other, eventually taking both cars out!

Then I got busy. I had noticed a few drops of oil under our generator. A quick inspection revealed a loose oil filter – I tightened it. This is the second time it’s happened. When I change the oil, I’ll have to inspect the filter flange. I suspect that the O-ring from an old filter may have stuck to the flange. This creates a double O-ring situation when the new filter is put on. I usually inspect the filter every time I remove it to make sure the O-ring came off with it, but the last time I changed the oil and filter on the generator, we were in Nebraska and I was recovering from a virus. I may have neglected to check it – the only way to know is to pull the filter.

I also checked tire pressures on all 10 tires – six on the coach and four on the trailer. Then I cleaned the Weber Q and Traeger, relined them with foil and packed them in the trailer. I cleaned our battery bay and batteries with baking soda solution and filled the 6-volt lead acid batteries with distilled water. Phew!

By the time I showered and changed clothes at 2pm, Jamie and Francisco had arrived. We went to Redfish Willies Waterfront Grill for a late lunch/early dinner. Donna and I both had the blackened redfish plate – it was delicious. Jamie had the blackened salmon special with pineapple pico de gallo and Francisco went for the bleu fish sandwich. The food was good and we enjoyed a panoramic view of the marina.

Me and Jamie by the marina at Redfish WIllie’s

Tomorrow morning, I only have a few chores to make us ready to roll on toward Louisiana. There’s a 15% chance of showers by noon, but we should be well on our way and heading away from the weather. It looks like we’ll see a high in the upper 70s. Our plan – if you can call it that – is to travel about 200 miles or so and find a place to boondock overnight. Then we’ll head to Abbeville, Louisiana where we have reservations at Betty’s RV Park.

Austin Moto GP – Day One

Our last couple of days at Lake Buchanan were low-key. I got up on the roof to check out the air conditioners. The condenser coils were dirty so I cleaned them but I could’t find any faults in the wiring. I’m not sure why we had trouble with erratic operation earlier. Donna took a few hikes in the area and we fished from the park piers. The fishing wasn’t so good – the wind whipped up large swells on the lake and the water was turbid. I landed one catfish.

I should mention that Lake Buchanan was formed when a dam was built on the Colorado River in 1939. That’s right, Colorado River. This name confused me at first. When I think of the Colorado River I think of the river that flows west of the continental divide through Lake Powell and on to the Grand Canyon, Lake Mead, Lake Havasu and so on down to the Gulf of California. But, there’s another Colorado River (Texas) that flows from Dawson County generally southeast for about 860 miles, then empties into the Gulf of Mexico. I’m always learning something new on the road.

We pulled out Thursday morning around 10:30am. We followed a couple of numbered ranch roads that had light traffic and smooth pavement south to TX71. This highway took us east. Our first stop was at Bee Cave where I had scouted out the Specs Fine Food and Liquor on Google Earth. It looked to have easy access and ample parking. I restocked the beer supply and bought a bottle of Scotch there and we were back on our way.

Our next stop was Walmart for some provisions. In many parts of Texas, a frontage or service road runs parallel to the highway. These roads are generally one way on each side of the highway with numerous ramps to enter or exit the highway. At times this confuses Nally – our RV specific GPS. Civilian GPS units aren’t totally location accurate – they can have a tolerance of several yards. At times Nally would advise me to prepare for a right turn when I actually needed to go left ahead. I figured out that the GPS had me on the highway, not the service road and was advising me to exit the highway right, then go left from the service road. Confusing for sure since I was already on the service road. This made me miss our Walmart stop.

We drove on to the Pilot Travel Center in Mustang Ridge and topped up the fuel tank. We’ll be on generator power for the next few days at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) race track and I wanted a full fuel tank. When we arrived at the track, we had a few issues with the signage. We went the long way around the track but never saw lot N where we had dry camping reservations.

After finding a place to get our rig turned around, we backtracked and saw the entrance. Coming from our original direction, the sign and entrance was hidden behind a large tree. We found a site and dropped our trailer, then set up. The sites are not at all level, but we have easy access to the track.

Donna and I went for a walk to check out the track and find our grandstand seats.

Fast S section

Turn two – workers walking the track to check for debris

It was windy but the temperature was pleasant. We rode the Spyder to a nearby grocery store/Mexican market and picked up a few items.

Friday morning action started with the free practice sessions. We were trackside a little after 9am for the Moto 3 free practice (FP) 1. Moto 3 is the entry into international motorcycle road racing. The bikes are single cylinder 250cc machines. They’re very lightweight, the racing is close and drafting on the straights is key. Riders must move up or leave the class by the age of 28.

Next up was Moto GP FP 1. Moto GP is the pinnacle of the sport. The bikes are 1000cc and make around 250 horsepower. They’re very sophisticated and extremely fast. The most popular Moto GP rider is nine-time World Champion, Valentino Rossi – The Doctor is his nickname.

Marc Marquez – the villain of the Argentina round enters turn 16

The Doctor coming up on a slower rider at 16

The day was overcast and the wind made it feel colder than the mid 60s the thermometer showed. Before lunch, Donna went back to the coach for a warmer jacket and brought one back for me.

We had lunch at the track and walked around between the 45-minute sessions. We left around 3pm during the Moto 2 FP 2. Moto 2 is the second level of international motorcycle road racing and feature 600cc motorcycles with identical engines, but different chassis manufacturers. Honda supplies the engines.

Back at the coach, I read for a bit and took a short nap. We went back to the track for a pit walk open to premium pass holders – we had it and an invitation. The pit walk was very loosely organized. We wandered the pits and took a gander at the bikes and watched some of the teams preparing for Saturday. At the Repsol Honda garage, the mechanics had repaired Marc Marquez’s bike – he took a fall in FP 2. They also serviced his back-up bike and were test running them.

Honda mechanics running bikes to check for leaks and proper function

Here are a few of the bikes.

Valentino Rossi’s Yamaha

Working on Maverick Vinales’ Yamaha

Andrea Dovizioso’s Ducati

Jack Miller’s Pramac Ducati

Cal Crutchlow’s LCR Honda

Scott Redding’s Aprilia

On the pit lane – the hill into turn one in the background is much steeper than it appears

After we left the pit lane, we walked through the MotoAmerica paddock. MotoAmerica is an American National Championship road racing series. I talked to Roger Hayden – a team Yoshimura Suzuki rider and asked about the bumps on the track a lot of the riders were complaining about. He said the back straight was bumpy and a so were a few other spots, but he didn’t think it was as bad as some of the riders were saying. Of course, he’s on a production based 1000cc Superbike, not a Moto GP prototype that’s going a bit faster.

Today we have thunderstorms in the forecast. If it happens, it may create problems for some of the sessions. FP 3 is scheduled this morning then FP 4 in the afternoon followed by the qualifying sessions. If the rain floods the track, Free Practice times will be used to set the grid instead of the usual qualifying.

We’ll dress accordingly and check it out. But if we have hard rain, I’m coming back to the coach to watch it on TV!

Non-Traditional Thanksgiving

The Mission Bay RV Resort filled up for the Thanksgiving weekend by Wednesday afternoon. We’ve experienced this every year – Thanksgiving is always a busy time here. When I came home from playing pickleball, I saw a mobile tire service truck across from our site. I thought it was a little odd for someone to be buying new tires while they’re at the RV park, but I could see a set of tires in the back of the truck.

After lunch I saw why they were getting new tires. The guy had changed out a couple of the tires by then and one of them was blown out. The tread was separated from the casing. I was curious about this and walked over to look at the failed tire. Tread separation can be caused by many things, such as underinflation, road hazards, overloading, excessive speed and so on. It’s hard to say what caused this but I checked the date code on the tire – it was 2207. These tires were made calendar week 22 of 2007 – they were more than 10 years old!

Tire failure

Complete tread separation

I didn’t get a chance to talk to the owner of the coach – he wasn’t around at the time. Apparently he doesn’t pay much attention to date codes – I saw the tires that were being installed had date codes of 3015 – the new tires were more than two years old! Tires on RVs rarely wear out. They usually age out. The components of the tire deteriorate with age, especially if they have lots of exposure to UV rays from sunlight or are exposed to ozone. I’ve seen a lot of opinions on how long to run tires. My personal tolerance is about seven years provided there are no visual signs of deterioration. I look for sidewall cracks, bulges, uneven wear or lumps in the treads.

Donna spent most of Thursday preparing our Thanksgiving dinner while I hung out and watched football. My youngest daughter, Shauna, flew out from Washington D.C. and was at her friend’s house. Cat was Shauna’s roommate while she was at law school. They graduated at the same time with law degrees and Shauna went to work in DC while Cat got a job with a firm here in San Diego. Shauna just started a new job – she was offered a position as a second-year Associate at Dentons – she accepted it and left Mayer-Brown. Dentons is the world’s largest law firm with offices worldwide.

Dinner with the girls at our picnic table

They joined us for dinner – we had our Thanksgiving dinner a little later than usual. Shauna and Cat came over around 5pm and we had drink and some of Donna’s guacamole before we ate. It was a warm day – the temperature reached 90 degrees in the afternoon but the evening was pleasant. Donna prepared a non-traditional dinner. She made a turkey breast roulade stuffed with pancetta and shallots and served it with acorn squash, roasted brussel sprouts and smashed red potatoes with porcini gravy. The roulade was labor intensive and she was cooking all afternoon.

Thanksgiving dinner plate

Shauna and Cat were eager to do some Black Friday shopping and planned to start at Fashion Valley Mall Thursday night. Fashion Valley had stores open from 6pm to 1am for early shoppers. They left around 8pm and took an Uber ride to the mall. They shopped again on Friday. Shauna flew back to DC this morning, so we only got to spend a few hours together.

Friday morning after I had a slice of homemade pumpkin pie for breakfast – with real whipped cream Donna made – we headed over to Ocean Beach for pickleball. It was time to work off some of the excess calories. We played practically non-stop for two hours. That was about it for me – I spent the rest of the day reading a book and napping.

Today we expect the weather to be a more normal day – blue skies and 75 degrees. Not bad for the last weekend of November! Donna’s off to boot camp for her morning workout. She’s riding her bicycle there and back. I have no plans for the day.

Dieting by Default

We’ve been at Mission Bay RV Resort in San Diego for two weeks now and are settling into our routines. Due to Halloween activities, the recreation center in Ocean Beach was closed on Friday and Monday, so I had a break from pickleball. Donna has been working out with an early morning boot camp near here on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday and with a personal trainer on Thursday.

With no pickleball action on Monday, I made myself useful and changed the engine oil and filter, transmission filter and the air filter element on the Spyder. It was due for service and I’m happy to put that behind me. This is always a tougher chore and takes longer than expected because I have to remove so much body work to access the engine area. The high on Monday was only 68 degrees.

Tuesday was another cool day and it rained in the morning. The roads were very wet all morning, so I decided not to ride the Spyder to the Pacific Beach Recreation Center for pickleball. I stayed inside and had a lazy day reading a book. I got out in the late afternoon though. Part of my San Diego routine is to join the Bay Park guys at Offshore Tavern and Grill or Dan Diego’s for happy hour. We hit Dan Diego’s on Monday and Thursday, Offshore on Tuesday and Friday.

I received another delivery from Tecovas – I had taken my Ariat boots to Buffalo Exchange and sold them. Buffalo Exchange is a used clothing outlet that buys apparel that’s trendy and in good condition. The boots were like new. Now that I made room in my closet, I replaced them with a pair of boots from Tecovas – I wrote about that company in an earlier post.

The new boots are made from exotic leather – they’re lizard skin. The vamps (the part that covers your foot) are made from Varanus salvator – water monitor lizard skin. The water monitor – sometimes called a ring lizard – is the second largest lizard on the planet. Only the Komodo dragon – another monitor – is larger. The water monitor is from Asia and the average length of the reptile is about five feet although there are records of water monitors twice that size.

Most lizard skin boots are made from teju lizards. These lizards are smaller and the vamp usually requires more than one skin to be sewn together. Tecovas uses the water monitor skin so they can create one-piece vamps. The shafts – the vertical portion around your ankle and calf – are made from hand-stitched calfskin.

Tecovas Nolan lizard skin boots

Donna asked how many pair of boots I need – the answer is always just one more! I’m through buying boots for now though – five pairs is my limit due to space requirements.

Donna is following a diet recommended by her personal trainer that’s high in protein, and low in carbohydrates and fats. Although I may stray from her diet a bit at lunch time, I’m pretty much eating what she serves, so I’m kind of on the program as well. This doesn’t mean we don’t eat well.

Monday she prepared tortilla crusted tilapia with baked acorn squash and green beans. A dollop of salsa enhanced the flavor of the fish.

Tortilla crusted tilapia with salsa

Our friend Sini Schmitt got back in town Monday evening. Her coach has been here in a site down the way from us, but she was off on an adventure in Key West followed by another in northern California. She joined us for dinner on Wednesday night. Donna served spice chicken with Moroccan herb dressing with sides of spaghetti squash and roasted tomatoes.

Spice chicken with Moroccan herb dressing

We had a sudden rain shower last night. The sound of rain drops drumming on the roof woke me. I don’t think it lasted very long – I’m not sure because I drifted off back to sleep. Rain during the night time hours is okay – the forecast looks dry today. I’ll head over to Pacific Beach and drop Donna off at the gym while I play pickleball this morning. The weather looks to remain cool for next several days with overnight lows around 60 degrees and daytime highs of about 70.


Errands and Detours

We left the Casa Grande Elks Lodge early Wednesday morning – we pulled out around 8:30am which is an early start for us. Our first stop was at Speedco where I had the coach motor oil and filter changed and the chassis greased. They also checked the tires and coolant – I knew these were okay – I checked our tires that morning and the coolant was flushed and filled with Fleetguard ES Compleat coolant in Albuquerque. Rather than get on the interstate, I took a shortcut down Trekell Road and intended to hit Sunland Gin Road. However, I forgot that I needed to turn on Jimmy Kerr Road to get to Sunland Gin and ended up out in the desert. So much for shortcuts.

Speedco used to do the service on our coach for under $200. Last year they raised their prices considerably and it cost me nearly $300. This year they raised the price again and I paid $330 – this includes a used oil analysis report that I always pay for. By the way, the report looked good with no worries.

It was nearly 11am by the time we hooked the trailer back up and pulled out of the Speedco lot. Originally I thought we would go to Yuma and I would get fuel before we crossed into California. However, our fuel gauge is unreliable and I wasn’t sure how much fuel we’d burned crossing the mountains plus we had lots of generator run time. So, we backtracked up I-10 to the Pilot/Flying J travel center before we headed west on I-8. We ate lunch in the Flying J parking lot after fueling.

We planned a fairly short day and wanted to run a few errands in Yuma. We made a stop on the way at Dateland (exit 67) to take a break and get a date shake. The travel center at Dateland used to be a gas station and a separate small building with a gift shop and milkshakes. They’ve upgraded it considerably over the past few years and it’s a nice stopping point in I-8 for refreshments and touristy stuff. We saw several Border Patrol vehicles along this stretch of freeway and a few Border Patrol officers stopped for lunch at Dateland. They had one of their rigs with two ATVs on a trailer out front – a Polaris four-seater and a smaller ATV.

Polaris four-seat ATV with Homeland Security badges

Our next stop was at Al’s RV Service and Supply on Fortuna Road in Yuma. I wanted to stop there and buy a bottle of Tank Techs RX – the treatment I use in our holding tanks. Al’s is one of the few RV stores that I find it in and buying it at the store saves the cost of shipping when I buy online. I’d also planned to go to the RV Water Filter Store in Yuma, but I found the filter elements I wanted at Al’s. Then Donna said we should look for a new latch for my closet door. The old one broke and the mirrored door slides open and closed as we drive down the road. I was doubtful, but we found the right latch on a display rack! Then Donna found a rod for the kitchen window shade – it went missing earlier this year when were having work done at RV Renovators. Al’s has almost everything for an RV.

We drove across the overpass to the Pilot/Flying J and I topped up the tank with diesel fuel again. We’d been running the generator and roof air conditioners all afternoon and I wanted to avoid buying fuel in California. I also had our propane tank filled. The gauge showed less than 1/4 tank of propane remaining. It took 30 gallons so we had at least a quarter tank – it holds 42 gallons when filled to 80% of actual capacity.

We made one more stop in Yuma at Walmart to get a few things. It was after 4pm by the time we left Yuma. We decided to stop for the night at our usual stopping point on Ogilby Road where we dry camp on BLM land. Interstate 8 is being rebuilt along large sections between El Centro and Yuma. The exit from westbound I-8 was closed at Ogilby Road. We had to continue a few miles west to the Gray’s Well exit and come back east to get on Ogilby. As we crossed over the freeway I noticed the on-ramp to westbound I-8 from Ogilby was also closed so this would present another detour when we left.

We went to a familiar area where we’ve boondocked before. The area was empty – not an RV in sight. We set up a little closer to the road than usual and called it a day. After dark, another motorhome came past us. The driver was brave to drive deep into the desert at night!

Ogilby Road is usually quiet with few cars passing by. The road runs north where it merges with CA78 and continues all the way to Blythe. This morning, a gaggle of cars came south on Ogilby starting around 5am. I got out of bed at 5:30am and the traffic quit coming by shortly after that. I’m guessing the crew working on the interstate must be camped up the road and were heading out to start an early shift – I can’t think of any other reason for that much traffic on Ogilby Road.

Dawn in the desert

We knew the day would warm quickly and planned to hit the road before it became hot out. Tuesday was in the upper 90s and we expected the same today. To get on I-8 westbound, we had to go east to Sidewinder Road – about five miles, then cross over and head back west. Our plan was to cross the desert early and stop at the Golden Acorn Casino across the Tecate Divide. The Golden Acorn is near Campo at an elevation of about 4,100 feet above sea level and would be much cooler. Our reservation at Mission Bay RV Resort in San Diego starts tomorrow, so we needed a place to spend another night before we arrive there.

Desert sunrise on our coach

The traffic on westbound I-8 across the California desert was very light. Even with the construction zones we made good time. West of El Centro, we were at sea level. We started climbing before we reached Ocotillo, then quickly gained 3,000 feet of elevation. The coach handled the climb easily – we never went below 50mph and the coolant temperature topped out right at 200 degrees for just a short time.

We found the Golden Acorn Casino on the south side of I-8 at exit 61. The parking lot is large, but we were a little confused about where we should park the coach. We came in the truck entrance on the southeast side of the casino and saw what was clearly a truck lot. Then we saw a couple of RVs on the north end of the lot and another on the southwest side. We found a fairly level spot on the northwest end, well away from any parked cars. I think we’ll be fine here for the night. It’s always windy here by the divide. There are wind generators on the mountain tops around the casino and to the east. The temperature is over 80 degrees but the breeze makes it feel cooler.

Our spot at Golden Acorn Casino

Tomorrow we’ll have a short drive – less than 70 miles to Mission Bay. We’ll settle down there for the next two months.

Jake and the Shortcut

Donna rode the Spyder to pick up some groceries before we hit the road Sunday morning.  The traffic was terrible as everyone was exiting Balloon Fiesta Park as well as the RV park. She was trying to go east to Trader Joe’s, but police had closed Alameda and were diverting traffic down San Mateo and onto the I-25 frontage road. She didn’t want to get on I-25 and was able to make a detour back west to Jefferson and south to Paseo del Norte. She ended up at Target on Coors Boulevard. It took her about an hour and a half to get groceries and make it back to the RV lot – but she managed to do it without getting lost.

We hit the road around 11:30am. Our first stop was the Pilot/Flying J travel center. I didn’t need fuel, but I topped up the tank to estimate our generator fuel burn rate – I had topped up before we came into the park. We put about 40 hours on the generator at the balloon fiesta and took on only 18 gallons of fuel – less than half a gallon per hour. This is better than I expected. We had a lot of generator run time in the last two months – 95 hours since August 17th.

We drove I-40 westbound to exit 89 and got on NM117 south. This took us along the El Malpais National Conservation Area. We traveled through here two years ago. We were pleased to find much of the road had been repaved and was much smoother. We then followed NM36 to Quemado where we hit US60.

On US60, we found a primitive rest area about 8 miles east of the Arizona border and called it a day around 4pm. The rest area was all dirt and gravel with a few covered concrete tables and no facilities, but it was level and overnight parking is allowed. Two other RVs and a tractor/trailer rig pulled in before dark and stayed overnight. There was plenty of room and everyone had their own semi-private space.

We had a quiet evening. I watched football while Donna watched a couple of episodes of 24 on her laptop. I woke up at 5am – a hangover from eight days of rising early for the balloon fiesta. I rolled out of bed at 5:30am and went outside to look at the stars. It was very dark in this secluded area and the stars filled the sky. It was also cold – the elevation was 7,500 feet above sea level and the temperature dropped to 34 degrees overnight.

Our overnight spot just after sunup

We hit the road around 8:45am and gained an hour a few minutes later when we crossed time zones entering Arizona. When we came this way in 2015, I took AZ260 from Show Low to Payson, then down through Phoenix. This time I stayed on US60 – it’s a shorter route and I wanted to do something different. It also allowed us to bypass Phoenix.

The thing is, short cuts are never easy. If they were easy, they wouldn’t be a short cut – they would just be “the way.” This route took us down into the Salt River Canyon – a steep winding descent from about 5,000 feet above sea level to about 3,400 feet.

The south side of the canyon is equally steep with a number of switchbacks – we topped out around 6,000 feet above sea level. This was a good test of the new turbocharger, charge air cooler and engine radiator. We had good power and made the climb easily and the engine coolant temperature never exceeded 193 degrees. I should also mention that having a full functioning turbo also means the Jacobs (Jake) engine compression brake worked flawlessly and made the descents easily controllable. Donna finds peace of mind when she hears the Jake smoothly slow our coach instead of me having to stab the service brakes!

Our route on US60 took us through the mining towns of Globe, Miami and Superior before we turned off at Florence Junction. We stopped and ate lunch in the coach at a park in Florence, but moved on when we couldn’t find a suitable overnight spot. About 45 minutes later, we found ourselves in Casa Grande and set up in the Elks Lodge lot. I wanted to stop in Casa Grande to have the coach serviced – we’re due for an engine oil change and chassis lube. I didn’t have this done along with the other work at Cummins in Albuquerque due to their high rates. I’ll have it done at Speedco in Casa Grande where I usually stop for routine maintenance.

We’re well ahead of schedule to make it to San Diego on Thursday. I want to stop in Yuma to pick a few supplies – tomorrow we’ll decide where to stop next after we have service at Speedco. The temperature here in Casa Grande is 93 degrees today and we expect to see 90s for the next two days before we reach the coast. More generator run time to power the air conditioners!