Category Archives: Other Coaches

Minimalist RV

There’s no right way or wrong way to go about the RV lifestyle. Decisions on how to do it are based on lifestyle, preference and budget mainly. I’ve photographed and written about coaches costing upwards of two million dollars and also small teardrop trailers and even homemade tiny houses built on a trailer.

Most full-timers are either in a motorhome or a fifth-wheel trailer. These offer the most room and storage capability and each has its advantages and disadvantages. Motorhomes generally have more storage space and can tow a vehicle or cargo trailer. Fifth-wheel trailers are usually roomier inside and once the trailer is set up, the tow vehicle can be used for local transportation. Of course that means driving a truck wherever you want to go. Some people have medium- or heavy-duty trucks converted to RV haulers that can also carry a small vehicle such as a Smart car. Our friends Brett Miller and Cheri Alguire started their full-time journey in a fifth-wheel trailer for a few years and recently switched to a class A motorhome.

What brought this subject to mind was a unique set-up in a site near us at Mission Bay RV Resort. It’s a small – I’m guessing 6 x12 or 6 x14 foot – cargo trailer that was converted to living space. Windows were added to each side and to the door along with a fold-out grab-handle by the door.

Cargo trailer conversion

30 amp power connected at the rear

The trailer has a 30-amp power cord so it has electricity, but I didn’t see any provision for fresh water or sewer, so presumably there’s no toilet or shower or sink. This is quite the minimalist set-up.

Tuesday was Sini Schmitt’s birthday. Bill and Sini picked us up around 5:45pm and we drove down to Seaport Village for dinner at Season’s 52 restaurant. Bill’s son Brandon joined us there. We had a great dinner and drinks with good conversation. It was a nice celebration for Sini’s birthday.

I had scallops for dinner at Season’s 52 and then Donna found scallops on sale the next day. I didn’t mind having scallops twice though. She made seared scallops with jalapeno vinaigrette and served them with a butternut squash risotto and cumin-roasted Brussel sprouts.

Scallops with roasted Brussel sprouts

A storm brought rain Wednesday night and it rained all day on Thursday. The temperature stayed in the low 60s and we had the heat pumps running in the morning. Today is sunny and we should see warmer temperatures in the upper 60s. There’s no rain in the forecast for the week ahead.

Labor Day at the Lodge

It’s hard to believe it’s Labor Day 2018. The year has flown by – paradoxically, when I think back to when we left Arizona in the spring and all we’ve seen and done since then, it seems like a long time has passed. I’ve mentioned this warped sense of time on the road before.

On Friday morning, Zee the camp host stopped by to talk to a few of us. She was anticipating a lot of visitors and traffic at the lodge over the weekend – there were a couple of events planned. She wanted to shuffle all of the big rigs to the south end of the lot. A Monaco Windsor belonging to Ken was behind us. He was waiting for a rig to pull out of one of the hook-up sites so he could move there. Once he did that, I would back our rig into the space he previously occupied. Our neighbor Marvin would move his Country Coach and trailer bedside us. We had a plan, we just needed to wait for the site to open up so all of the dominoes could fall in place.

Donna went for a walk and when she returned she told me there was a fly in the ointment. Someone had dropped their trailer right behind us. I saw them pull in, but didn’t pay much attention. I knew they left only a few minutes before Donna returned. I went outside to look and saw they parked so close I couldn’t even load the Spyder if I needed to.

Blocked in

They had dropped their travel trailer, locked it up, then put cones in the parking spots around it so no one would block them in and left. One of the cones had a phone number on it. I phoned and a woman answered. I told her what the problem was and we needed them to move their trailer. She was short  in her answer – it was around 1pm and she said they would be back at 5pm.

Later I saw Zee and told her why I wasn’t moving yet. She said she had told the woman to park alongside the Windsor, not between us.  When the trailer owner returned at 5:30pm, she was nasty and yelled at Donna telling her I was the “biggest a$$hole around.” Donna calmly asked her if she was trying for second place. Anyway, they moved and we all got situated.

Earlier, my friend Dave Hobden offered his Indian Chieftain for a test ride. I took him up on it. I took a short ride up to Palmer Park and back. What a nice motorcycle. I’ve only had one cruiser style bike – a Victory Vegas – but I’ve ridden several. This Indian is by far the best of the bunch I’ve ridden.

I put on a helmet before I hit the road (Dave Hobden photo)

On Friday night, our neighbors Corliss and Marvin Delameter told me they had a problem. They planned to leave Saturday but an intermittent electrical problem wouldn’t allow them to start the engine. It started once, but when Marvin turned on the dash ventilation, it killed the motor and then he had no electrical power. He cleaned his battery posts and connectors, but it was dark by the time I talked to him. The camp host told him that mobile RV technicians were in short supply and he would probably have to wait a couple of weeks for service. I told him I would stop by and have a look in the morning.

It turned to be a real head scratcher.  Dave Hobden came over and offered his assistance as well. It’s always good to have another set of eyes and a different perspective on a tough problem. A couple of factors complicated the troubleshooting. First, it turned out to be more than one problem. Secondly, the schematic in the Country Coach manual was misleading. The wiring harness color codes on the schematic didn’t match the actual wiring, making it difficult to sort out. After chasing our tails for a while, we found the ignition switch was faulty. Testing it showed inconsistent resistance. It would vary from 0.5 ohms to 12 ohms. So we replaced the switch – it’s a standard GM style switch. The engine fired right up. Then we turned on the dash vent. It died and we were back at square one.

Assume the position (Dave Hobden photo)

Eventually I found a faulty solenoid that supplies power to the ignition fuse panel. The strange thing was, the solenoid would click every time the key was turned to the run position which seemed to indicate it was working. But, internally the contacts were compromised and would only pass current intermittently and once it was working, any additional electrical load would make it break contact. I replaced the solenoid and all was good. All together we spent about six hours troubleshooting and repairing. Marvin and Corliss invited Dave, Stilla, Donna and me to join them for beer and pizza in the lodge – their treat. They stayed an extra night and pulled out on Sunday.

I settled in front of the TV on Sunday. First up was the Formula One from Monza, Italy. Then it was the US Open tennis. Donna’s friend Ann Koerner came by and picked her up. They went hiking at the Garden of the Gods. They hiked about five miles and had spectacular views. Here are some of Donna’s photos.

Snow on Pikes Peak in the background

It’s steeper than it looks

We planned to visit our friends Brad and Jessica Rice at the Labor Day Lift Off balloon glow where they were displaying their balloon, Hearts A’Fire. We crewed for them here the last two years and three years at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. We didn’t know we would be here on Labor Day again, it just worked out that way. I hadn’t made any plans to crew this year. By the time Donna showered and we had dinner, it was getting late and we weren’t up for the event.

We’ve had scattered thundershowers daily – sometimes the showers were heavy for brief periods. There’s a 30% chance of a shower today and tomorrow with cooler highs of about 70 degrees. We plan to head out tomorrow – maybe we’ll stop in Cañon City. We have about 22 days to get to San Diego and we’re keeping things flexible until we get there.

 

Happenings in Lincoln Land

After three straight travel days, it felt good to get up on Sunday with no real plans. I watched the German Formula One Grand Prix and relaxed with a book most of the day. Donna went for a walk and explored Lincoln Park. Springfield, Illinois was the home of Abraham Lincoln for 24 years – the only house he ever owned was here.

Several rigs pulled into the fairgrounds on Sunday – most of the were specialized trailers that held horses in the rear compartment and had living quarters in the front half – kind of like a toy hauler for horses instead of motorcycles or ATVs. We wondered why so many of these units showed up. We thought maybe they were early arrivals for the Illinois State Fair which opens on August 10st.

Horse trailers with living quarters

I set up the Weber Q and grilled herbed chicken thighs Sunday evening. Again, it felt good to be back on what is a more normal routine for us. Donna baked a sweet potato and served seasoned chili beans plus sauteed baby kale and spinach for the side dishes.

Grilled chicken, baked beans, sweet potato and spinach

Monday morning we headed downtown to Iles Park where they have pickleball courts. We found eight courts and a number of people playing. As with most of our pickleball experiences, the people were friendly and welcomed us to join them. The outdoor courts had great playing surfaces and most of the players were experienced. We played for two hours and really enjoyed it.

Pickleball courts at Iles Park

We spent the afternoon recovering and watched more rigs pull into the fairgrounds. A travel trailer set up in the site next to us. They guy told us he was setting it up for his daughter – she was here to compete in the horse show. This was news to us -, we didn’t know there was a horse show scheduled at the fairgrounds this week. But that explained all the horse trailer/campers!

Monday night Donna manned the grill and grilled skewered shrimp which she served over pasta alfredo with green peas.

Grilled shrimp over pasta with green peas

Tuesday morning we were back at the pickleball courts.  The temperature hit 80 degrees on Sunday and each day after that was hotter than the last. Tuesday the high was 86 degrees and it was already warm and humid when we played in the morning. I quit after six games – I was feeling the heat and ran out of energy.

After relaxing and recovering, we rode the Spyder down by the Old Capitol District to Obed and Isaac’s Microbrewery. We had a couple of beers brewed onsite and dinner. I had a local favorite called The Horseshoe – it’s an open-face sandwich made with thick toast, choice of meat, a cheese sauce and fries. I had the house made corned beef. Donna ordered the Kitchen Sink Pie – basically a shepherd’s pie.

The Horseshoe

I brought about a third of my meal home for consumption later – it was too much to eat in one sitting.

From there we rode to Lincoln’s Tomb. On Tuesday evenings they have a ceremony there which includes soldiers dressed in Civil War era uniforms. They lower and retire the flag every week. Spectators can enter a drawing and the lucky winner is presented with the American flag.

Lincoln’s Tomb

Front view of Lincoln’s tomb

Before lowering the flag, the soldiers fired a salute from Civil War period rifles.

Salute

We were ready for the firing of the rifles, but once the flag was lowered we were surprised by the loud boom of a cannon being fired!

We skipped pickleball this morning. We needed a rest day – my right foot is sore along the fifth metacarpal. I fractured the metacarpal between my little toe and heel about 20 years ago and it seems to be flaring up.

At lunch time, we went up to the horse stables and arena area to see what was going on. The participants are mostly girls involved in 4H. They compete in several events separated by age group. The brick stable buildings date back to 1901 and are in great condition. We saw some of the participants practicing and exercising their steeds.

Exercise arena

We walked to another arena where they were competing in an event that simulates trail riding and demonstrating control while completing tasks like retrieving mail from a mailbox or backing the horse into a tight space and opening a gate then closing it from horseback after riding through. It was interesting to watch.

Backing the horse into a tight space

These two sisters competed in different age groups. Girl in the foreground was in the eight-to-nine-year-old group

This girl likes blue – right down to her cowboy boots

We had lunch at a concession stand, then I wanted to get a look at the grandstand area. This is where the Springfield Mile track is. The Springfield Mile is an oval dirt track one mile long. It hosts horse harness racing and also dirt track motorcycle racing.

The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) held the first AMA National event here in 1937. Later, it became the crown jewel of the AMA Grand National Championship. In the 1960s, guys like Dick Mann, Cal Rayborn and Mert Lawwill chased the championship while driving across the country with their motorcycles and tools packed in panel vans. Back then, to be crowned Grand National Champion, you had to accumulate points at various national events across the country – both road racing and dirt track racing.

Front straight and turn 1 at the Springfield Mile

Final turn and beginning of the front straight

The dirt track events on a mile course like this were fast and took a lot of courage. They would accelerate to over 100 mph on the straights and pitch the bike sideways, counter-steering through the turns without brakes. I was happy I had to opportunity to go up in the grandstand and imagine the moments back in the day.

The City of Springfield quit allowing the AMA to hold their event here after hooligans created trouble in 1966. In 1981, the city agreed to hold an event and it went so well, they’ve been back racing here as a national event since then.

We’ve booked an additional day here at the fairgrounds and will stay until Sunday. The weather forecast calls for it to become slightly cooler with highs in the upper 70s and a chance of some showers over the weekend. Hopefully the showers hold off and we can attend a few more events.

 

 

Moon Turn the Tides

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

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

Low tide at De Anza Cove

The same dock at high tide

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

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

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

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

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

Grilled chicken with butternut squash brown rice pilaf

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

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

 

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.

Another Day in Paradise

Thursday was another day in paradise – nothing unusual to report. In the evening, we had a breeze blowing from the west. The onshore flow held a line of cloud cover right at the coastline. Donna and I walked to the west end of Mission Bay RV Resort to watch a spectacular sunset.

Thursday’s sunset

The setting sun reflected off the dark clouds and revealed many colors. Donna topped off the evening by preparing a new dish – tarragon and lemon roast chicken with fennel. Delicious!

Tarragon roast chicken with lemon and fennel – green beans, acorn squash and quinoa on the side

I don’t play pickleball on Friday usually, but since I took Tuesday off, Donna and I headed over to the Ocean Beach Recreation Center (OBRC) Friday morning. They have pickleball scheduled at OBRC Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings starting at 10am. Donna hasn’t been on the court since we were in Santa Fe but she played well and we had fun.

Speaking of fun, we met up with our friends from Arizona, Keith and Suzanne Gallaway at Offshore Tavern and Grill for happy hour and dinner. We enjoyed visiting over a beer and ordered food from their appetizer menu. The appetizers at Offshore are large portions and easily make a meal. Keith and I each had the poke plate while Donna went for the seared yellowfin tuna over salad and Suzanne had the housemade Offshore mac and cheese. The Gallaways treated us to dinner – thanks again!

We made arrangements to meet again Saturday morning. They’re here looking at an RV for sale – a 2004 Alpine Coach 36MDDS. Since I know a thing or two about Alpine Coaches, they asked me if I would look it over. We met at 10am at Campland by the Bay where the coach is being stored. This particular coach was built late in the 2004 model year run and has many 2005 features. After going through the systems and kicking the tires, Keith took it out for a test drive. In my opinion, it’s a solid coach. I think they’ll negotiate with the seller. I wish I’d taken a few pictures, but I was busy looking at things and thinking about it.

I came home around 11:30am. While I was out, Donna borrowed Sini’s car and went up to San Diego State University and picked up our granddaughter, Lainey. They were in the coach when I returned. Keith and Suzanne stopped by for a short visit, then I rode the Spyder to Lanna Thai to pick up take-out for lunch. We enjoyed the Thai food at our picnic table. It was a beautiful day with the temperature in the low 70s and nice to be visiting with Lainey.

Donna and Lainey took the Spyder to the beach and kicked around while I stayed home and read a book. We had pizza from Mountain Mike’s for dinner before Donna used Sini’s car again to drop Lainey off back at the campus.

I did one other thing this weekend. On Thursday night, Sini stopped by to chat over a glass of wine. She mentioned that she wanted get a pair of western boots and had been looking at the Tecovas site. She and Donna had a conversation about women’s styles and boots. I got to thinking – always a dangerous thing. It’s been a few years since I’ve bought something really special for Donna.

I quizzed her a bit about her thoughts on women’s boots and had her look at the Tecovas site. She didn’t want a short boot or one with tall heels and that’s all they had for women. So, I directed her to the Lucchese site. She found a couple she really liked. The next day she was looking at them again and decided she would really like to have a pair of Lucchese Women’s Tall Riding boots. They are high-quality hand-made full-grain calfskin boots. The heels are roper type – only one inch high while the riding shafts are 16 inches tall.

Picture taken from Lucchese.com

I can’t surprise her with them as a Christmas gift – these boots are made to order and I needed to get on it if I wanted them by Christmas. That meant I had to trace her foot and take measurements. So, she knows I’ve ordered the boots and I hope they are finished and shipped by Christmas.

The skies are mostly cloudy this morning, but I think it’s going to burn off and we’ll have a mostly sunny afternoon. Another day in paradise!

If I Had a Hammer

A woman driving a fairly new Dodge Ram 3500 dually pick up pulled into Mission Bay RV Resort with an Airstream travel trailer a couple of days ago. She drove slowly past our site. Her trailer was about 25 feet long. It didn’t take long for me to realize she was new to this and didn’t understand how to maneuver a trailer while reversing.

If you’ve never backed a trailer into a space, it would be a good idea to practice first. The best way I can think of is to find a large parking lot with an empty area. You can back the trailer into a marked parking stall and practice putting it between the lines without fear of hitting something. Here are a few tips before I get back to the woman’s story.

First, go slowly. When I worked as a deputy with the sheriff’s office I attended the emergency vehicle operators course (EVOC). The EVOC instructors had a mantra – always travel in reverse as if you’re about to hit something. What they meant was, if you have the mindset that you may back into something, you’ll always be vigilant and probably won’t hit anything. When you are backing a trailer, you have to be mindful of two vehicles – the trailer and the tow vehicle. If you’re cutting the wheel sharply to position the trailer, the front of the tow vehicle will swing to the side.

When you are backing up a trailer, think about the direction that the bottom of your steering wheel is moving. When you turn the steering wheel to crank the front wheels to the left, the bottom of the steering wheel moves to the right – towards the passenger side. This is the direction the back of the trailer will go.

Once the trailer starts to turn behind the tow vehicle, it will continue to turn in that direction until you correct it. For example, if we turned the front tires to the left as in the example above, the bottom of the steering wheel moved to the right and the rear of the trailer starts turning to the right. If we keep moving backwards the front of the trailer will continue to pivot around the hitch ball and the trailer will turn at an increasingly sharp angle. This will happen even if we straighten the front wheels. To stop the turn of the trailer and get the vehicle and trailer back in line, we need to turn the wheel in the opposite direction and move back slowly until the tow vehicle and trailer align, then straighten the wheels.

If we don’t apply a correction, the trailer will turn at such an acute angle that it’s possible for the front corner of the trailer to make contact with the rear corner of the tow vehicle – this is called jack knifing. A jack knifed trailer is not a good thing – damage occurs to both vehicles.

Be patient. Sometimes it might take a few attempts to get things lined up the way you want them. So be it. Don’t get flustered or concerned that others may think you are inept – everyone had to learn at some point – and some circumstances make it difficult to position the trailer the way you want it. Practicing in an empty lot will help you understand the dynamics and you’ll be able to back your trailer into a space with confidence.

The woman with the Airstream drove past our site. Several minutes later she stopped in front of us again, facing the opposite direction. She had her window down and a man was standing next to her truck talking to her. Donna noticed damage on the right front of her trailer which looked new otherwise. After a few minutes, she starting backing into her site across from us and down a couple of spaces. The man was directing her, but I could see he wasn’t giving her very good instructions. She was all over the place. I was hesitant at first, but then I couldn’t stand by and watch any longer.

I went out to her truck and asked the man to watch the rear so she wouldn’t hit the picnic table. Then I started telling her which way to turn her wheels. Once we had the Airstream in her site, I had her pull forward then back in slowly so we could get it lined up straight. She got out of her truck and said she wished she would’ve stopped and asked for help before trying to back in. What I didn’t know was she first attempted to enter her site from the east before she pulled down to the end of the row and turned around. She jack knifed the trailer and damaged her Airstream and new Dodge dually. This was her second time out – someone helped her get into a site at Campland before she came here.

I came back to our coach and set about doing what I was doing before she came along. About half an hour later, I was getting ready to go to the store. Donna told me the woman hadn’t disconnected her trailer from the truck and seemed to be having a problem. I saw another neighbor go over there with a large hammer. This didn’t look good to me.

I walked over and asked what was up. The guy with the hammer was beating on the release lever for the coupler lock on the trailer tongue. I asked him to stop before he did any more damage so we could figure out what was hanging it up. First of all, I could see she had put the trailer jack down and the tongue of the trailer was actually lifting the rear of her truck. This put a lot of pressure on the coupler lock. While I was explaining how this works to her, the other guy knocked the retaining pin out of the lock lever, removed the lever and started pounding on the linkage.

Example of a trailer tongue with coupler lock lever

I stopped him and explained that beating the linkage down will damage it, the lever lifts the linkage so he was doing the opposite of what needed to be done. With the trailer jack lowered, I was able to grab the linkage with pliers and pull it up, releasing the coupler lock. We put the lever back on. The woman insisted something was wrong with the coupler lock. I explained again how it operates and showed her how to release it. I released it several times, demonstrating that it worked fine.

I wanted to take photos to illustrate what I’m talking about, but it didn’t seem appropriate at the time. I hope this post makes sense to those reading it. The lessons learned are – practice with your trailer – ask for assistance – and beware of a neighbor offering help with a hammer.

We’ve had very warm weather – temperatures have reached the mid 90s. The Santa Ana winds have stayed well north of us though, it’s been fairly calm here in San Diego. The hot spell will continue tomorrow before we cool down to the low 80s by the weekend. Good times in San Diego.

Edit to post – I added a photo of the jack knife damaged Airstream.

Jack knife damage

A Great Find at the Mercado

We’ve settled in quickly here at Mission Bay RV Resort. We had a few San Diego favorites on our list to hit and we started in right away.

On Friday evening, Donna and I headed over to Offshore Tavern and Grill for happy hour. But our real reason for going there was to have their poke plate for dinner. Poke (poh-key) is diced sushi grade tuna over a cabbage salad served with fried won-ton chips. Donna had poke on her mind for a while and couldn’t wait to get it at Offshore where they make an excellent version of this Hawaiian dish.

Poke plate

On Saturday morning, we rode the Spyder downtown to the mercado (farmers’ market) on Cedar Street in Little Italy. This farmers’ market is a favorite of ours.

The mercado

The street market covers about four blocks and has a great selection of local produce, meats and crafts. Donna was on a mission and bought several items including a dry mole salami that wasn’t local – it came from Salumi Artisan Cured Meats – a Seattle market founded by Armandino Batali, father of famed chef Mario Batali. The mole salami is amazing. Sliced thin, it’s somewhat chewy and the flavors morph from chocolate to cinnamon to clove and other flavors that I can’t adequately describe.

After we returned from the market, I took the Spyder to Pacific Beach for a much-needed wash. There’s a self-serve car wash on Garnet Avenue that I like and the Spyder is shining once again. I also ordered air and oil filters so I can service the Spyder – it’s due. We both spent a lot of time online ordering things we’ve been wanting but haven’t had to opportunity to get. We haven’t been in one place long enough over the past few months to get deliveries – the shop in Albuquerque and the balloon fiesta don’t count – we couldn’t receive deliveries there.

Donna also spent a lot of time online searching for a strength training class to join while we’re here. Tomorrow I’ll get back on the pickleball courts – I plan to play four days a week while we’re here. Hopefully I’ll get my game back up to a level where I can play with the 3.5 group when we get to Mesa, Arizona in late December.

While I was walking through the RV park, a high-end coach caught my eye – they always do. It was a 2007 quad-slide Newell. I’ve described Newell coaches before. These are top-of-the-line motorhomes that are mostly made to order in Oklahoma. Newell builds the entire coach from the ground up. They make a few coaches on speculation every year for use at RV shows before they’re sold. Being mostly custom-made, the prices vary, but bought new you need to bring something in the neighborhood of 1.5 million dollars to get onboard.

I met the owners of this Newell. They sold a ranch in Arkansas and bought the Newell. They got on the road with the intention of spending a year or so traveling the country before deciding where to settle down and enjoy retirement. That was one and half years ago and they’re still enjoying the travel.

2007 quad-slide Newell

I saw a similar Newell online for sale listed at $550,000 – probably a third of what it cost new. That’s the reality of RVs – they depreciate.

Last night I had a seasonal special from Alesmith – a local San Diego brewery. It was a Halloween release called Evil Dead Red. It’s a malty red ale that was tasty with a creamy mouth feel. It was very easy to drink despite it’s 6.6% ABV.

Halloween ale

We had cool weather on Friday – the high was about 70 degrees and a few rain drops fell. Saturday was clear and warmer with the temperature reaching 75 degrees. The forecast calls for a hot spell beginning today. Santa Ana winds should develop. Santa Ana is a condition affecting southern California coastal areas when high pressure develops over the desert basin. This pushes hot, dry air through the coastal mountain ranges and offshore along the coast. We should see upper 80s today and into the 90s over the next couple of days. Time to hit the beach!

High Passes and Quiet Night

With the rest of the Hearts A’Fire team heading for home Monday, Donna and I decided to spend one more night at the Hotel Elegante in Colorado Springs. Donna was able to get some laundry done in the hotel while I walked over to the convenience store and bought some drinking water.

On my way to the store, I saw a couple of interesting coaches in the hotel parking lot. They were Prevost custom conversions. I could tell they were entertainer buses – presumably a band traveling through the area had stopped for the night at the hotel. I could tell these were entertainer tour buses by the small lettering on the side indicating they were leased from Roberts Brothers in Springfield, Tennessee – a well-known provider of entertainer buses.

Entertainer tour bus

I wondered who it was, but wasn’t curious enough to find out. At the store, the local newspaper caught my eye. On the front page was a photo from the Labor Day Lift Off balloon event featuring Hearts A’Fire taking off from the park.

Front page of the Gazette

On Tuesday morning, we packed up and headed a few miles north to the Elks Lodge. Our plan was to spend one night dry camping at the lodge so we could use their dump station to flush out our holding tanks and refill the fresh water tank before leaving town. We also used the opportunity to do some grocery shopping and pick up some items Donna had delivered to the Sierra Trading Post store.

While we were at it, we decided to visit Bristol Brewing, a local brewery with an interesting location. They’re in an old schoolhouse. One half of the schoolhouse has boutique shops and a coffee shop/bakery while the other wing houses the brewery and pub.

Shops on the left, Bristol Brewing in the right wing

Red Rocket ale

Donna and I returned to the coach to plan our next move. We enjoyed a stay at Eagle Nest Lake in northern New Mexico last year but decided we wanted to explore new territory this year. Donna wanted to go to Abiquiu (Abbi-cue). We decided to head to Alamosa, Colorado across the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, then south into New Mexico.

Our trip down I-25 started off with a bang. We were driving along and went through an underpass. Just as we went through, a high-cube rental truck passed us on the left. I heard a loud boom – almost like a gun shot. I checked my mirrors and saw gray smoke on the left side of the trailer. I pulled off on the exit ramp and stopped on the shoulder – I thought we had blown a trailer tire. I went to investigate but didn’t find anything amiss. I guess the sound and smoke came from the truck overtaking us.

The turbocharger on our engine was still giving me problems. The engine control module (ECM) was intermittently losing the signal from the manifold pressure sensor. When this would happen, the turbo no longer provided boost pressure and there was a power loss. Also, the Jake brake would quit working whenever we lost the boost. I knew the problem was in the wiring harness at the ECM. I had taped up the harness for better support while we were at the Elks lodge. I checked the harness and repositioned it while we were stopped. This issue would continue to plague us on the trip to New Mexico.

We left I-25 near Walsenburg and headed west on US160. This took us through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains over La Veta Pass at an elevation of 9,426 feet above sea level. Wouldn’t you know it – I lost boost pressure on the climb up the pass and had to gear down to third to pull the grade. There was a Newmar Dutch Star motorhome traveling the same route that must have had engine trouble too – we overtook him on the climb.

We stopped in Alamosa and had a Subway sandwich for lunch. Donna looked up a couple of boondocking opportunities on the route to Abiquiu. Apparently we hadn’t communicated clearly on the route. I intended to head south on US285 from Alamosa into New Mexico. Donna had us heading west on US17 which curves south into New Mexico.

We punched the first boondocking possibility into the GPS and I happily followed the directions. It was near Manassa, Colorado and I felt like it was a bit early to stop and wanted to continue on. The next place Donna had identified was in New Mexico – about five miles across the border near Chama. We programmed that stop and I didn’t give it another thought. When we came through Antonito, I followed SR17 instead of US285 without thinking about it.

This took us over the San Juan Mountains into New Mexico. We had to climb up to La Manga Pass – this was the steepest grade we have ever encountered. Luckily our turbocharger was cooperating and I had the power needed for the climb. La Manga Pass tops out at 10,230 feet above sea level. We wouldn’t have made it without turbo boost. After a short descent we climbed Cumbres Pass at an elevation of 10,022 feet above sea level.

From there, it was downhill into New Mexico and we found a paved pull-out that was level and stopped there. It’s a mile and half from the small town of Chama across from a paved landing strip. It’s in beautiful surroundings and there’s very little traffic on SR17. We’re at an elevation of 7,966 feet above sea level.

Donna went out for a walk. She didn’t to go far, but she heard a train whistle and saw a sign for the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad indicating it was one mile away so she kept walking. She took a few photos along the way – they’re at the bottom of this post. The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad runs on narrow gauge tracks between Chama and Antonito. This historic railroad still uses coal-fired steam-powered engines. The track runs just to the west of our boondocking spot. We heard the train pass by, but it doesn’t run at night. This place is so peaceful and quiet – a welcome respite from the time recently spent in cities. I took a couple of photos before sunset – I stood on our door steps for these shots.

Door step view

I watched the US Open Tennis tournament on TV – I’ve been following it – while Donna prepared cod in parchment paper with asparagus, butter, tarragon and fresh squeezed orange juice. Just because were boondocking doesn’t mean we can’t eat well!

Cod cooked in parchment paper with asparagus, tarragon, butter and fresh squeezed orange juice

Today we’ll move on down to Abiquiu. The weather forecast looks good with highs in the 80s and cool nights in the upper 50s. We may have a stray thunder shower or two, but no big storms expected.

Here are photos from Donna’s walk…

Rio Chama River

Check out the sign!

Chama train station

Narrow gauge railroad track

RAGBRAI – Days 4,5 & 6

I haven’t had a good internet connection for a couple of days, so I’m catching up on the ride now. The day four weather forecast Wednesday morning was not promising. It called for thunderstorms – possibly severe. Looking at the Radar Express app on my smartphone, I could see a line of heavy thunderstorms just west of us and it was moving east. Donna and Jeff Spencer decided to take a day off and not chance riding in what could turn out to be dangerous conditions. Geoff Harrison and Tom decided to go for it. They took off before 6am and hammered eastward to try and outrun the storm. So, team RV There Yet? was split up on Wednesday.

We headed out from Clear Lake before 7am and made a 46-mile drive to Charles City. The bike route for the day was 57.5 miles. We went to a high school that was identified as the main campground. When we arrived there it was chaotic as RVs were trying to exit and enter at the same time while other RVs stopped in the parking area. It turned out the organizers wanted to only have tent campers there. We were told we should go to the KMart parking lot.

Up to this point, the RV camping had been organized pretty well. Trying to accommodate the number of riders and support vehicles of this event in small towns is a logistical nightmare. The crew at KMart wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of RVs. It was every man for himself. We found a level spot that would allow us to exit without too much hassle and had our three rigs lined up.

A fifth-wheel trailer parked next to me and the woman driving it said she was worried about being able to get out in the morning. I told her we planned to leave before 7am and she should have plenty of room to maneuver once we were out. Then she told me one of the crew directing the parking said he might have to put someone lengthwise across our respective bows. This would block us all in. When she told him we needed to able to leave in the morning he said, “Yeah, everyone will leave in the morning.”

What he didn’t seem to understand was not everyone leaves at the same time. That’s why he was still trying to find space for people two hours after we arrived. We put our chairs out in the area in front of our rigs to keep the area clear.

Geoff and Tom rode hard and they made it to Charles City ahead of the storm. I think Donna made the right choice to take the day off though, I don’t think she could safely ride the pace they rode and would have ended up exhausted and possibly caught by high winds, lightning and heavy rain. The number of riders out was way down from the previous days. Where we were parked we only caught the edge of the storm cells. I could see the severe weather around us on the weather radar.

Charles City is called the “Hump Before the Hills.” It was hump day and eastern Iowa gets hilly from there to the Mississippi River. Fred had flank steak marinating in his special sauce and Jeff grilled it – we had corn on the cob to go along with it and enjoyed another great meal together.

Storm moving off to the east

Deb Spencer and I looked at the route laid out for vehicles to get from Charles City to Cresco on Thursday. The route looked fine if you were leaving from the high school, but we were across town at KMart. It would require us to go through the center of town with heavy traffic and cross the bike route which can be difficult as a line of bikes are streaming down the road. We mapped an alternate route which worked out great. We looped around town on US218 and found IA9 that took us all the way to Cresco.

Heading out for day five

We went to the county fairgrounds. When we pulled up at the entrance, the girl directing traffic in the street asked me if I had a reservation. Uh-oh. When I told her “No,” she said I would have to go to the dry camping area. Whew! That’s what we were planning to do anyway.

We’ve figured out that if we leave in the vehicles before 7am, we can reach the day’s destination early enough to be ahead of most of the support vehicles and snag choice camping spots. This worked out great at the fairgrounds as we found a nice level grassy area and parked together. Vehicles kept arriving after us and within 45 minutes, the place was packed and people were pulling in then turning around to find another place for the night.

I got my mountain bike out of the trailer and then pulled out my Orbea road bike. Our plan was to ride to the Iowa Craft Beer tent later and meet up with the rest of the team. I haven’t had my road bike out in a while and I had to change the tube in the front tire – the presta valve was leaking. Deb was going to ride my mountain bike and I would ride my road bike. Then we found out the beer tent was a lot farther away than we thought. We bagged the plan.

When I saw a text from Jeff saying they were about seven miles from town, I rode my mountain bike downtown. I saw Geoff and Tom come by and shortly after that I found Jeff and Donna. I led them to our site – the fairgrounds are fairly large and by then RVs were scattered all over the place. The volunteers were directing riders to the south end of the fairgrounds – we were on the north end.

One of Thursday’s highlights was Lance Armstrong riding the course. A couple of NASCAR racers were on the ride as well – Jimmie Johnson and another that I can’t remember now. I saw a Featherlite Coach built on a Prevost XLII chassis in the fairgrounds. It was decorated with University of Iowa Hawkeye logos and the license plate was Coach1. I thought it was maybe an Iowa Hawkeyes football coach, so I introduced myself and inquired. It turns out he was a fan, not a coach. His license plate was a reference to his number one coach.

When I mentioned his XLII double slide chassis, he asked if I was a Prevost owner – he said only a Prevost guy would recognize the difference between an XL and an XLII. I told him I was an RV geek – I knew the XLII didn’t have the visible rivets of an XL.

Featherlite Vantare on an Prevost XLII chassis

There are more school buses converted to bicycle support vehicles than I ever imagined. We seem to have gotten into a rhythm with other RV support vehicles that make an early start and arrive at the next destination around the same time as us. But I still see a schoolie here and there that I haven’t seen before.

Colorful schoolie from Georgia

The temperature was cooler on Thursday and everyone enjoyed a great ride. Well, almost everyone. Jeff and Donna witnessed a crash involving three riders just ahead of them. The riders were down and police on site called for an an ambulance. We’ve seen a few crashes – it can happen in a heartbeat when riders are in a pack and someone gets distracted.

This morning we were up and ready to roll at the usual time.

Team RV There Yet? day six

We’ve been driving on two-lane highways through rural farmland all week and today was no different. We encountered some rolling hills, but when we arrived at the fairgrounds in Waukon our elevation was about the same as when were in Cresco and Charles City before that – about 1,300 feet above sea level. Once again we snagged primo parking with an easy exit plan for tomorrow.

Primo parking spot

We were able to track the progress of the riders through instant messaging. When Donna and Jeff left Postville – the last town before Waukon – Deb, Fred and I headed out on our bicycles. Our plan was to meet them at the craft beer tent – we figured it was about 5-7 miles away and we should arrive around the same time a Jeff and Donna. Tom and Geoff were ahead of them.

I rode my Orbea road bike, Deb took my Specialized mountain bike and Fred rode his Trek hybrid. Our route shortcutted the final leg of the riders course and had rolling hills. It was also longer than we expected – about eight miles. We made it there and managed to meet up with everyone.

It was warm out and everyone wanted a spot in the shade.

Shade tree

Tom, Fred, Jeff, Deb and Donna in our shady spot

I had a cup of Des Moines IPA,Donna had a hefeweizen – she also had a bacon and blue cheese bratwurst. The ride back was a little harder – it had more uphill sections than downhill and we were riding into a headwind.

Tomorrow is the final day of RAGBRAI XLV – it’s also has the most hills on this year’s course. I have a couple more pictures to upload, but my internet connection is so poor I’m giving up and hoping I can get this post published. After Donna completes the course tomorrow we’ll be on the road – so I won’t post again until Sunday at the earliest.