Summer Travel Map

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

October 31, 2007
Peoria, AZ

One benefit of living in a 55+ community is that you don't need to buy Halloween candy. We didn't expect any trick-or-treaters, and we were right. We've lived in communities without a lot of kids in the past (CT, NJ) where we saw a lot of carpools of kids "bussed in". Here, not so much. A few of the neighbors put out s0me decorations, but nothing like we're used to. On the other hand, all the stores are rolling out the Christmas decorations in earnest, so it's time to start counting the shhopping days...

Yesterday featured another record high temperature, or maybe two of them. Here in the desert, they also keep records of the "highest low", and we've set a few of them over the last week or so in addition to a couple of actual records highs. We grew up with "record lows", so this is a new concept. We've been generally up in the 90s, although we've had a couple of upper-80s, and have even left the A/C on several of the last nights. Since "normal" (whatever that means) highs are around 82-83F, we're hoping it'll cool off soon. Preferably without a huge swing to the other direction! We still remember the cold weather of last winter!

Since it was warm, yesterday was also an "inside day". Geri had a doctor's appointment (never on time) so she was gone for quite a bit of the day. I caught up on some stuff in the study, making sure that the last few remaining mailing address changes are in place (I don't want to have anything important coming here while we're away) and doing some online research into parts I need for a couple of projects on the coach.

Geri picked up some catfish on the way home, so we had that with steamed broccoli. I made another rendition of the curried couscous we had last week, and we had cherry pie for desert. Woo-hoo! I opened a bottle of Chilean red (Escudo Roja) that was particularly good. It's a non-typical blend (Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc) that we picked up at Costco. We had some last year and it was gone when I went for more. Hopefully, they'll still have some the next time we stop by!

Today, I put in some time organizing things in the garage (how does it get disorganized when we're away???) in the morning and did some "project shopping" in the afternoon. I needed a few things from the home supply stores for the DirecTV setup (e.g., a 2x8 to attach the new dish to, lag bolts, paint that matches the trim color on the house), so I'll get started on that tomorrow. I also picked up a few things to make some new shelves in one of the cabinets in the coach. I'm copying the setup that Wayne and Eva had added to theirs for a spice cabinet. It's amazing how the little things can make you happy. Of course, I had to get the right grain, stain, and polyurethane to make things match the rest of the coach. I'll work on this project a bit each day (cutting staining, fabricating/gluing, finishing) until done. It'll be good to test this out when we visit Rick & Annette and Dave & Sandy in the second half of November.

Tonight, we had the rest of the pork roast from the other night. Geri made her new recipe for "crispy smashed potatoes", this time with a bit of grated Parmesan. She also made Provencal Tomatoes, an old recipe we haven't had in a while. A cheap ($3.99, I think) red was drinkable but disappointing, so we won't try that one again.

Tomorrow, I'll start on the new satellite dish and the shelves for the coach. Each will take a few days. Hopefully, by next week, it'll start to cool off and I'll be able to start on the water feature in the back yard.

Monday, October 29, 2007

How 'bout those Red Sox?

October 29, 2007
Peoria, AZ

Well, we actually watched most of the World Series this year. It seems like we're pretty good at watching pro sports during the playoffs, but not so much before that. Game 4 was a bit of a nail-biter, but it was good to see the Sox prevail.

Thursday and Friday were spent running errands. Geri had a follow-up Doctor's appointment (no change from last spring's positive biopsy results) and I had new tires put on the Range Rover. I'm trying a different brand and size to see if we can get any better performance. This is the second year in a row that we've put tires on; they seem to get ~30k miles (combined driving and towing). I'm trying Bridgestones that are warranted for 60k miles, so we'll see (in a year or so).

We also gave the house a better than average cleaning, as we were expecting a visit from our friends Wayne and Eva. They were at a motorhome rally in Tucson, and stopped by on Saturday on their way back to Indio, CA. It was good to see them again; we last caught up with them at the rally we went to in Salem, OR, in September. We picked them up at Cotton Lave RV park in Goodyear, had lunch at a Thai place in Glendale, did some shopping at AJ's (local gourmet grocery), and had Geri's antipasto for dinner. When we dropped them back at their coach, we finished off the evening with a taste of Patron Café (tequila doctored with coffee). Yum!

Yesterday, we relaxed a bit and did some shopping in the afternoon. I had a hankering for Steak Frittes, so we ended up back at AJ's (the only local place with Prime beef). The steak came out great and Geri made her excellent roasted baby beets for a side dish. I made too many fries, but they were good as well. We really need to invest in a new deep fryer, since the one we have dates to the late 90s; another web search project. With dinner, I decided to sample some of the value wines I'd purchased years ago from the 2000 vintage in Bordeaux. We had a Chateau Bernadotte from the Haut-Médoc, which was drinking nicely but probably reflected its place lower on the quality scale. Given the overall high quality of the vintage, it was good but not a blockbuster, probably as good as it gets for a $15 bottle from a region known for triple (and more) digit prices.

Today, we made a maintenance run to the coach. I did a few quick things (changed the tow bar lock, put on the tire covers to provide some sun protection) and used the Bissell on the remaining carpet. Geri cleaned all the woodwork. I also crawled underneath and got an oil sample. I signed up with a lab that does oil analysis to tell how well things are going on the inside of the engine. I'll send in samples a couple of times a year and see how the chemical and metal content changes. It should be interesting.

Tonight's dinner is a pork loin done on the rotisserie. With Geri's pan-roasted potatoes and sauteed carrots, it should go well with a Gevrey-Chambertin from the wine box.

Time to go check the grill...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Where did the week go?

October 25, 2007
Peoria, AZ

Wow, where did the week go? Seems like it was just Monday...

Monday and Tuesday, we hung around the house. I've been working through the planning on a couple of projects (posted separately), and Geri's caught up on some laundry and stuff. On Monday night we had a salad for dinner (mixed green and a small piece of sirloin, pan-seared and sliced thin across the grain) and I tried an Argentinian Malbec (Kawel Riserva 2005) from Costco with it. The salad was great and the wine wasn't bad, but was kind of flat and "flabby". We won't get that wine again, I suspect. Tuesday was "surprise night" in the dinner department, as we didn't have much planned and ran out of daylight before we realized it. Geri found a recipe for "Crispy Smashed Roasted Potatos" that she wanted to try, and it came out great. It's incredible simple (boil baby red potatos, flatten them with the blade of a large knife, and roast them with salt and EVOO), and could only get better with a sprinkle of grated Parmesean right before coming out of the oven. She remembered that she had some pre-made meatballs in the freezer, so we had "Italian meatballs Swedish style" with roasted zucchini. I opened a bottle of Screw Kappa Napa Cabernet, and it went well with the meal.

Yesterday, we did some running around. The pups went to a new groomers, and their practice is to have new dogs spend 1/2 day in "doggie day care" to get acclimated before gromming. That sounds like a way to grab some extra $$$ to me, but it was probably good for them, since we haven't had a chance to go to the dog park since we've been back due to the heat. While they were at grooming, we did some shopping. I was able to get most of the remaining materials I need for the DirecTV project, and we stopped at a new (to us) Italian Deli in Phoenix for cheese and stuff. We stopped in at one of the first wine shops we ever visited in Phoenix: Sportsman's. We stopped there years ago to pick up some wine when we were staying at the Phoenician resort and went to visit our friends Ana and Larry for dinner. I couldn't resist a couple of California Pinots from the Santa Rita Hills area and a coupl eof hard-to-find Australian Shiraz bottles. We did a little grocery shopping and, voila, it was time to pick up the pups. Another day filled...

For dinner, we made Skillet Lasagna, a recipe we've found works well in the coach. It's a one-skillet meal that takes less than an hour. Geri says she may never make traditional lasagna again, but I'm hoping that's not true. I realized I didn't haveany everyday Italian wine (bad planning!), so I found a Francesco Chianti Riserva 1997 in the wine box. It was quite good; you'd almost think Brunello.

We actually watched the Red Sox close out their series with the Indians and win World Series Game 1 last night, strangely enough. I grew up a Yankee fan, but living in the Hartford area for so long, plus spending so much time elsewhere (traveling, living in Jersey near Philly) seems to have tempered that. We never got into the Phillies, and the D-backs seem so far away when we're not here during the summers. So, "how 'bout dem Red Sox"? All in all, a good start to the week.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Planning more than doing

October 24, 2007
Peoria, AZ

The last couple of days have involved more "puttering", which is another way of saying "a series of not too well focused activities generating little completed work". I feel like I've been jumping from thing to thing, not necessarily "doing" anything. I decided to focus on a couple of projects, and that's helped but I'm still in the planning stages so don't have a lot to show for it yet.

One of the things I want to do is convert the house to the same communications processes we use in the coach. Currently, we have DirecTV and Hughes Internet in the coach, and Cox Cable in the house. It's a pain to try to manage both services on and off when we're home, especially like now when we're heading out in a few weeks. We end up paying for both, which isn't acceptable in the long term.

Last spring, I bought a DirecTV Hi-Def DVR (Digital Video Recorder). It's like TiVo, but for DirecTV. Since we have HD-friendly TVs in the house, I should be able to add the HD DVR to our existing account and drop the cable TV. We can also get over-the-air HD; I picked up a cheap Radio Shack antenna and the network stations come in great. When I bought the DVR, I picked up a new 5-LNB dish for outside at the same time. I got everything on eBay for a pretty good price. You'd think we're all set, right? Au contraire...

The new dish is larger and heavier, so it needs a better support. The new dish doesn't fit the rules of our HOA, so it'll have to be mounted lower, below the 6' wall level in the back yard. HD requires new RG-6 cable to be run from the dish to the DVR inside, and multiple cables at that (the DVR is cool and will allow recording two channels at the same time -- if you have two cables from the dish), and I've realized that the old dish that came with the house wasn't grounded correctly. Lastly, I've researched the setup process, and realized I need to upgrade my signal strength meter to get it aimed right. So....

I've found pretty much everyting I need so far online. Fortunately, I'd bought a good crimping tool several years ago, so I can make up the custom cables -- once I resupply on the cable itself (I only have 30-35 feet left. I may be able to source that locally. On the other hand, I need to work through the planning side a bit more, since it's not just getting the TV in the living room to work. I need to decide if over-the-air channels are enough for the bedroom and kitchen (generally, it's only local news and maybe a bit of Jay Leno we watch there) or if I need additional DirecTV receivers. I have one from the old coach, but it's not HD-capable. And running the antenna for multiple TVs isn't a picnic, either. Still more ruminating to do here.

The Internet side is a little more straightforward since everything's wireless these days. We can add a fixed Hughes dish and shuttle the satellite modem back and forth between the coach and house, or we can try to survive on the Verizon wireless broadband service I added as a backup to the dish in the coach. I picked it up in Oregon when we were satellite-challenged for a while (parked under trees or coach in the service center), and I've ordered a router for the card that'll allow us to use it anywhere in the house. We'll see how that works out...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Hey, where are my gloves?

October 22, 2007
Peoria, AZ

Just kidding about the gloves, but we've had a real cooling-off over the last couple of days. Yesterday's high was 79F, which is probably the first time it has been that "cool" since spring. It's been breezy as well, which means that everything's covered with a fine layer of brown dirt. It's supposed to be back up in the low 90s for most of the week.

Yesterday, I put in some time in the garage. I'm doing a complete re-do on the tools from the coach, trying to "thin the herd" to reduce weight and make things more accessible. I picked up an electrician's tool pouch from Home Depot, and all of the frequently-used hand tools fit in there nicely. I'm using two older boxes I've had for years for the rest of the stuff, although I might consolidate there as well. I went through all the sockets from home and coach, and decided what I need to pick up to fill in the gaps. I've gotten caught a couple of times where something needed was in the wrong place. It's less on an issue if I'm at home and need something in the coach, as it's always nearby. The other way around, well, that's a trip to the store.

I also got around to installing shelves in the study. They're by ClosetMaid, and have adjustable tracks that mount on the wall so the space between shelves can be changed to fit the stuff you're storing. Now, I'd bought these shelves specifically for the study. Unfortunately, it was the study we had in our townhouse in New Jersey and I bought them circa 2001 but never had the time (or inclination?) to put them up. Well, they survived the move from New Jersey to Arizona, and have been sitting in the garage here for the last 2+ years, so I figured it was about time to deploy them. It turns out that I have enough vertical space and support brackets to add a third shelf, so I'll add that to me Home Depot list (if they still have them!).

Last night, I made chicken breasts stuffed with a pancetta/mushroom mixture served with fettucine with olive oil, sauteed onions and sun-dried tomatos. I didn't follow a recipe (other than from Geri's chicken piccata recipe for the coating on the chicken), and will keep trying this with different ingredients until I get a "keeper". I hit the wine storage device for a 2000 Damilano Barolo that was excellent; medium-bodied with lots of berries and leather and a clean, smooth finish.

Today is supposed to be warmer but not hot, and still on the breezy side. We don't have a plan yet, but will be getting in gear shortly...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The best laid plans, ya-da-ya-da-ya-da...

October 20, 2007
Peoria, AZ

Well, today went almost according to plan. No shelves in the study yet, but there's always tomorrow.

We were lazy this morning, and didn't get our morning walk with the pups in until after 11:00 AM. It was really getting warm, as today's highs were predicted to be in the mid-90s. When we got home, we decided to have breakfast before heading out for some grocery shopping. This is always a good idea, as hungry shoppers are excessive shoppers. We're trying to buy for 1-2, maybe 3 days at a time in order to work with fresher, more healthy ingredients. Everyone (pups included) could stand to lose a couple of pounds. Now, we just need to get the exercise part down.

After brunch, we headed out for shopping. I made the mistake of stopping at Costco first. The lot was almost completely full, and getting around the store was a nightmare. You'd have thought it was the Friday after (US) Thanksgiving! It was only when I got to the checkouts (several cashiers were standing around waiting for customers) that I was able to pick up speed. The reason? It was just after noon on a Saturday, which is prime time for "grazing". There were more people wandering the aisles (and in many cases blocking the aisles) for the free food than actually shopping. As I finally left (Geri was smart enough to wait in the car), I reminded myself that it was my own fault and I should know better. Lesson learned (again)!

Next, we stopped at the local "health food" store, "Sprouts". They have non-healthy stuff, too, but focus on organic-ish stuff. I was making a recipe for Mahi Mahi that called for a bunch of stuff that we didn't have, and we were able to get most things in bulk. In our case, that meant in very small quantities. A handful of raisins, several ounces of sliced almonds, 3/4 cup of couscous, 5 ounces of macadamia nuts, one tablespoon of curry powder -- you get the idea. While we have a bit left over, it's less likely to go to waste than if we bought conventionally-sized packages.

And, the dinner came out quite nicely, if I do say so myself. In addition to the Macadamia-crusted Maha Mahi and Curried Couscous, Geri made a wonderful roasted zucchini from a recipe in a magazine (Cucina Italia?) that she'd picked up. It looks like there are a number of "keepers" in there that we'll have to try over the next few months. The wine was OK but a little astringent: a "2 Buck Chuck" Shiraz from Trader Joe's. The appeal of $2.99 wine (it's only sold for "2 bucks" in California) is in the value, and the Cabernet and Chardonnay are OK. The Shiraz, not so much. But it was decent (as Geri says) and drinkable, more than we can say for some other wines we've had at much greater prices.

Tomorrow: it's back to the project list, since it's supposed to be cooler, in the low-80s.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Pups and Shopping

October 19, 2007
Peoria, AZ

Yesterday went pretty much according to plan. I lubricated and adjusted the garage door in the morning, paid bills, got a start on filing 6 months worth of accumulated stuff mid-day, and we took the pups to the vet in the afternoon.

I used a new (to us) product, Kent Dry-Lube, on the door. I picked it up at Monaco. It’s the primary dry lube that they use on almost everything (other than where they use white lithium) and seems to work well. If I like it, I’ll try to find a source for it at a reasonable price (Monaco charges more for everything).

The dogs never really “enjoy” a trip to the vet but they were good, as always. They both gained a little weight (which we knew) and we got a new treatment for Merlin’s ear itching. They each got a couple of immunizations and we’ll get a refill on Merlin’s main seizure medicine over the next couple of days. We had them draw blood to check the Phenobarbitol levels, since it hasn’t been done since we lived in NJ.

For dinner, Geri made a nice salad and I reheated the leftover Linguine with Shrimp and Chorizo from the other night. Again coupled with a simple Chianti, it was just as good the second time around.

Today, we planned a journey to Phoenix and Scottsdale. Since the Phoenix area is relatively spread out and congestion and construction are everywhere, it takes quite a while to get anywhere during the day. I dropped off exposed slide film from our summer trip (it had been resting in the refrigerator) at a professional lab, and we stopped at Brookstone and Williams-Sonoma and then Sur La Table (we always need kitchen stuff). By that time it was about 4:00 PM, so we decided to defer the Macadamia-crusted Mahi Mahi with Curried Couscous I’d planned for dinner until tomorrow and grab a bite. We thought about North (we ate there with Bob Lopes last fall, and at their other place with Dave and Sandy, and Ana, Larry and Al on separate occasions in the past), but chose a “sister restaurant called “the Green House” next door. Geri had a cheese plate and truffle fries and I had a warm flank steak salad. Although she’s not a goat cheese fan, the one they were serving was excellent, as was the Irish Cheddar. We started with a glass of Domain Chandon Rose sparkler, and finished with a Robert Craig “Affinity” Meritage (claret), both from California. Both went well with the meal.

We had quite a bit of traffic on the way home, both on Scottsdale Road (construction) and the Loop 101 (sun glare and an accident heading the other way). We’d left the pups from Noon to 6:00 PM, which is a little long for them but they were fine. After a quick walk and then dinner, they were ready to play!

Tomorrow, it’s supposed to be warmer, back up in the mid-90s, so we’ll focus on inside activities. I have some shelves to put up, etc., so that will be a good project…

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

My Andy Rooney Impression

October 17, 2007
Peoria, AZ

[Andy Rooney voice]

Did you ever notice how sometimes you make a list of things to do, or things to bring somewhere, and then you forget to do them or get where you're going only to realize that you didn't bother to look at the list before you left? Why is that? People will say it's because you're getting older and old people forget things, but I'm not sure. Maybe it's because it's easier to make the list than do the things on it. Or maybe, you just didn't want to do those things in the first place, but felt better writing them down so you could say "See, I really meant to..." later. Either way, I'd like to see someone invent a machine that wouldn't let you leave the house if you were forgetting to bring something you needed. Maybe Apple could do it; they seem to have more gadgets than anyone else. They could call it the "iList" or something like that.

[End of Andy]

So, yesterday was a "coach day". I'd made a list of stuff to bring (tire covers to cut down on sun, batteries for various detectors). Needless to say, I neglected to check the list before we headed to the coach! I remembered, of course, when we got there. Oh, well; we'll make another trip soon enough. I did collect most of the remaining stuff that needed to head for home from the coach, so I'll be able to lube the garage door to keep it from stopping 1 foot short of completely open. Unfortunately, that didn't stop me from missing the fact that it wasn't completely open today; I put a dent in it but it seems to operate OK at this point.

I forgot to mention a couple of things about where we've parked the coach this time. First, it's much farther than I thought, taking about 1/2 hour to get there. The city of Peoria is very oddly shaped. It's about 3 miles wide where it's developed, but extends about 20+ miles to the north with roughly half completely undeveloped. It'd be great to buy a few acres and let development catch up. Better said, it would have been great to buy a few acres 10-15 years ago!

The second thing I forgot to mention was about the last time we went up there. As we were driving up Lake Pleasant Road (the only road through the norhern end of own), we came across an animal carcass. It wasn't the normal mule deer or the odd coyote. It was a longhorn steer dead on the side of the road. I have no idea where it came from, as the nearest range land is miles away, but it was as big as a small car. Whatever hit it must have sustained a lot of damage. After we passed the carcass, about a mile away there was a Peoria Police SUV heading the other way, and when we returned home it was gone. I wonder if someone got a whole load of hamburg out of the deal!

Last night, we made a recipe that we've had for a while: Linguine with Shrimp and Chorizo. The last time I made it, I used waaay too much sausage, and it was too spicy. This time, I gravitated back toward the proportions in the recipe, and it was better. It went well with a simple 2006 Chianti.

Today, we had a few things scheduled. Geri had been looking for a place to get a flu shot, and I noticed a sign in the Doctor's Office that they were giving them Wednesday and Friday from 9-11 AM. Since I needed to stop in to get blood drawn for tests, it made sense to combine both in one trip. After we were done therre, we did a little shopping at Wally-World and AJ's, the local gourmet grocery. We had a slice of pizza for lunch while we were at AJ's, and then headed home to drop off the groceries. In the afternoon, we were out again, stopping to pick up Geri's films from her mammogram (everything OK) and order some tires for the Range Rover (I found a local shop that won't destroy the tire sensors AND will match's price). We picked up the resto f the things on the shopping list, and were home by 4:30 PM.

Tonight, Geri had selected Seared Ahi Tuna for dinner. I found out later that we were also having mushroom risotto, so I had a lot of work to do! With Geri's sauteed Snow Peas and some horseradish cream sauce (because I didn't think to make a wasabi sauce), it went very nicely with a Rosemount Shiraz.

Tomorrow, I'll finally get around to fixing the garage door, and we'll take the pups to the vet for a check-up and their needed shots.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Coffee on the Patio

October 15, 2007
Peoria, AZ

It’s a beautiful thing to be able to take your morning coffee outside on the patio. The combination of cool morning temperatures, clear blue skies, and a lack of bugs makes this a good environment for open-air living. Now that daily high temperatures are moderating (keeping our fingers crossed; forecast says we still have some low-90s days coming up), we’ll be able to keep the doors open and spend as much time as we want outside. I keep thinking about putting a TV out on the patio, but then I realize that we don’t need more TV (or TVs).

Yesterday went pretty much according to plan, except that I didn’t get to lubricate the garage door because all my dry lube is still in the coach. I can’t use something like WD-40 because it attracts dirt and dust, and I don’t want anything gunking it up (a technical term). We’re planning another trip to the coach tomorrow, so I’ll get that stuff then. It’s difficult to know what’s where sometimes, and I’m working hard to avoid a lot of duplication of tools and materials.

I did watch a little football yesterday (hard to “adopt” the Cardinals at this point), but it was more background noise than anything else. Geri made a great apple and pear )not peach like I initially posted) cobbler (baking isn’t her thing, so this was quite a treat) and I tried out a cod recipe that we’d found somewhere (oven-roasted on a bed of lima beans – not a “keeper” in my book but maybe a base to work from with more flavors). The 2003 Sancerre that I picked wasn’t the best choice (the dish probably needed a wine with more body) but it wasn’t bad either.

Today we’re back on the appointment trail. Geri has a mammogram this morning, and we’ve got to make appointments for pet grooming. That means we have to find a new groomer first since we were unhappy with the last service we got here before we left in the spring. I also have a referral to an ENT (ear-nose-throat) specialist that I need to set up; maybe they can help my sinuses enough to reduce the level of my snoring. And, of course, I now have a 2-page to-do list, so I need to organize and prioritize and get started on those things.

We were up early today because of a 6:30 AM phone call from Verizon wanting to renew our contract. This reminded me that I really need to change our phone numbers to Arizona. I’m sure that the call was timed assuming that we’re in NJ based on the 856 area code. Another thing for the to-do list!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Back home for a while

October 14, 2007
Peoria, AZ

Sorry for the delay in posting. The past few days have involved getting into a different routine, and I haven’t found a groove for composing yet. More on that later…

As planned, we left Las Vegas (wasn’t there a movie by that name?) Wednesday morning and arrived at our place in Peoria by mid-afternoon. We could feel the outside temperatures rising after we crossed the Hoover Dam into Arizona, and especially after we crossed I- 40 in Kingman. Following US-93 to Wittenberg and then US-60 towards Phoenix, the temperature rose from the low-80s to the mid-90s. Because of the large windshield in the coach, we can feel the heat from outside as the coach pushes through the warm air.

Once we got to the house, we emptied the refrigerator and some of the cabinets. Since we are going to be traveling again about five weeks, we knew we didn't want to completely empty the coach. On the other hand, it's sometimes difficult to decide what to leave and what to take. Knowing that we have enough time to make those decisions, we decided to stop unloading and move the coach to its parking spot. Since I gave up our storage area in the spring (they wanted over $2,000 for the annual rent), I decided to park the coach at a local campground. This way, we can keep all systems running and have everything ready for when we leave in November.

The park I selected is on a man-made lake, Lake Pleasant, in the northern part of the city of Peoria. I misjudged the distance though, as it's farther away from the house that I thought it would be. It's a nice park, and we will be able to get in and out of the coach anytime you need to do so.

After we dropped off the coach, it was time to verify that all of the utilities were correctly started. To avoid monthly fees, we turned off the water/trash and gas services while we were away. We also put our cable (TV/Internet/telephone) service in a seasonal resident program. Of course, nothing is ever a simple when you close up the house for five months. When I turned the water on, I found that one of the toilet valves had failed. It wasn't as bad as last year, when both valves essentially exploded, but I knew a trip to Home Depot was in my future. In addition, the TV and Internet services were not working, so I got to spend over an hour on the phone with the cable company. They were able to reset the TV box and the cable modem remotely, and we were back on line. I did find that one of our network components, a switch, apparently did not survive the summer heat, so a stop at Best Buy got added to my To-Do list.

We were able to catch up with our neighbors Clisby and Raymond/Antoinette for a few minutes, and it was good to see that they were doing well. For dinner, Geri whipped up a meal from leftover pasta that we had in the coach, which went nicely with the red wine from Umbria.

Thursday morning, we had to get up early because technicians from the gas company were scheduled between 8:00 AM and 12:00 PM. Last year, I turned the gas off myself and then turned it back on when we arrived home. This year, I decided that it would be better to let the gas company do it. They arrived early, and spent nearly an hour checking each gas appliance for leaks and proper operation. They repositioned the gas meter as well, since the plumber who installed the gas lines for our stove and outdoor grill used the gas company's service port to connect to the system. I'm glad I had them check everything thoroughly, but I'm not sure I'll go through that routine every year.

Our neighbor Mary Ann stopped by to let me know that our mail hadn’t arrived yet (I had it sent to her address because of our mail forwarding), and that she’d let me know when it did arrive. As it turned out it showed up that afternoon, and I was able to go through it later in the day.

Once the gas company was done, I took a quick trip to Home Depot and Best Buy, stopping at the post office first. To handle our mail over the summer, I used a plan called Premium Forwarding Service from the USPS. Basically they collect all the mail received and ship it out once a week to an alternate address. In our case, that's our South Dakota mailservice. I did this because I wasn't sure exactly what things might show up in the Arizona mailbox, and I didn't want to burden one of the neighbors with having to collect our mail for such a long period of time. It worked out OK, since there were a couple of things that got sent to the wrong place (Arizona), and I should be able to fix those before next summer. Unfortunately, I'm the only person who's ever taken advantage of this service at our local post office. It took well over an hour to set it up in the spring, and almost as long to turn it off. As with the gas, I'm not sure all do this again.

Once home, I replaced the toilet valve and changed the furnace air filter. I installed the new network switch as well. I decided that this was a good time to simplify some of the wiring, so I pulled out all the network cables, repositioned one of the printers, and wired everything back together. It’ll work the same, but I’ll feel better knowing it’s done in a neater fashion.

For dinner, we had pan-seared pork tenderloin and a broccoli/cauliflower gratin paired with a young Australian Shiraz.

On Friday, we got back into the swing of things quickly. I got up early and washed the car before it got too hot. Geri had a hair appointment at 10:00 AM and I had a doctor appointment at the same time. I dropped her off, went to the doctor, and picked her up when she was done. Since the temperature was in the mid-90s, we spent the rest of the day organizing things inside the house. At this time of year, you have to arrange your schedule to fit with the weather patterns. That means getting up earlier than normal, around sunrise, and doing any outside work before the heat of the day. This pattern will take a little getting used to, since I'm traditionally not the earliest of risers. The temperature is supposed to moderate next week (highs in the upper-80s and low-90s); we’ll see.

In the afternoon, we cleaned the back patio and furniture, put out the yard decorations (you have to put them away or they'll get stolen over the summer), and did a few general cleanup activities. Dinner was Steak Frittes, although I had more frittes and Geri had more of the gratin. Dipping into the wine storage locker, I pulled out a 1999 Sebastiani Cabernet Sauvignon from California that was drinking quite nicely.

Yesterday was a coach day. The weather turned cooler (mid-80s) and it was a beautiful day. We brought back laundry that Geri had done and a few things that had gotten into the house by mistake. Geri gave the refrigerator a thorough cleaning and defrosting, and we collected the rest of the inside stuff that needed to go to the house. Early next week, we'll head back to the coach to give it a thorough inside cleaning. On the way home, we stopped at the store to pick up dinner. We had seen a program on the Food Network that featured Chicken Piccata, and Geri wanted to try the recipe. The combination of pan-searing and oven-finishing made the chicken perfect, and it went well with a nice white Burgundy from Verget.

Today is supposed to be cool again, so I'll probably focus on some maintenance items around the house like lubricating the garage door (it tends to get stuck halfway), and maybe catch a little football on TV. We'll take a trip to the store as well, since were thinking fish for dinner. Our plan is to shop more frequently, and only buy what we need for a day or two at a time.

Whew! Now were all caught up. I'll do my best to keep the blog more up-to-date. It may be boring, but it’ll be current…

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Catching up in Vegas

October 7-9, 2007
Las Vegas, NV

Because we were traveling a day early, we ended up having a few hours of overlap in Las Vegas with Rick and Annette (brother/sister-in-law) who were there for the weekend from Alabama. They flew in on Friday and had an early flight out on Monday. We were originally planning to get in Monday afternoon, but arrived Sunday instead. This presented us with an opportunity to catch up with them for a short bit.

They had tickets to the 10:00 PM Cirque du Soleil show “Love” (Cirque done to a Beatles score) at the Mirage. I tried to get tickets online and by phone, but “no Love for us”. In reality, after getting up early and driving from Reno to Vegas, a 10:00 PM show wasn’t in my future anyway. We made reservations at Onda, the Italian restaurant in the Mirage, so we could catch up over dinner.

We arrived at the RV park around 4:00 PM, deployed, emptied the back of the Range Rover (I call it the “garage”, with folding chairs, fire ring, cooler, and mountain bike stored in there) so we’d have room for 4, showered and changed, and left to pick them up around 6:00 PM. They were staying at the Excalibur, near the beginning of the Strip, so it was easy to get there and pick them up. North of there, traffic really bogs down and gets worse in the evening. Having “been around the block” a few times, we allowed plenty of extra time. At the Mirage, we followed the signs for “oversize parking” since we have the roof pod on the Range Rover. Oversize parking is quite a way from the main entrance, but we were pleasantly surprised to find that they’d send a complimentary Town Car to pick us up and deliver us to the valet entrance. Cool!

We actually arrived a little early for our 7:30 dinner reservation, which worked out fine as we stopped at a new place in the Mirage, “Stack”, for some wine. Apparently, the restaurant name refers to the décor and plating style, not the female staff (really, I went to their web site). We found seats at the bar and realized that a bottle of wine would be more economical than 4 glasses. They didn’t have the Ponzi Pinot Noir I ordered. This was no surprise as I’m pretty adept at picking wines that places don’t have. We switched to a bottle of Ferrari-Carano Siena, a red wine blend from California that was quite nice. We finished up just in time to head for dinner.

We had a nice dinner at Onda, sampling various Italian dishes paired with a couple of bottles of Gattinara (also known as the “poor man’s Barolo” at 30% of the price). I had a Pork Chop, Geri had Veal Marsala, Annette had Lasagna, and Rick had Osso Bucco. The wine went pretty well with all of them. We finished dinner just at the right time for Rick and Annette to head to their show. We requested our shuttle from the Valet, got dropped off at the car, and were back home quickly to call it an early night.

Yesterday (Monday), we were homebodies. Geri tackled several loads of laundry and I didn’t do much at all. We’d made arrangements to meet Cindy and Larry Dybas for dinner, and Cindy recommended a barbeque joint near their place. We had a great time catching up with them (we see them about once a year as we pass through Vegas) and dinner was quite good. Geri had ribs and I had a combination platter with tri-tip and brisket. We ordered onion rings for the table and the plate was huge! The wine list was a little light, but margaritas were more on target for the meal anyway.

Today, we started getting things ready for travel again. I’ve loaded the car and dumped the tanks. Geri suggested that we try the café here in the park for lunch, and it wasn’t half bad. I had a chicken salad (a salad with grilled chicken) and she had a patty melt. This will be enough to hold us so that we’ll just need a snack tonight. After eating out two nights in a row (not our norm any more), salad and a snack sounds just about right. Geri went shopping at the local outlet mall, but ended up just getting her nails done, so at least she’s set in that department for a while.

The next couple of days will be busy. We’ll leave here tomorrow morning and get into Peoria mid-afternoon. We’ll probably swing by the house first and drop off food and meds before moving the coach to a local RV Park. Since we’ll be leaving again in about 5 weeks, we won’t unload everything and put the motorhome “in storage”. Instead, we'll keep everything "on" and ready to go. We'll be able to shuttle stuff back and forth as needed over the next few weeks.

We’ll probably head back to the house tomorrow night because we have the gas company coming between 8:00 AM and 12:00 PM. We can survive one night without hot water and a stove (dinner in the microwave), and it’ll avoid having to get up too early the next day.

It’ll be good to be home for a while. It’ll probably make the blog more bland, but it’ll give us a chance to focus on different things for a bit…

Monday, October 8, 2007

Frost on the pumpkin, snow on the mountain

October 4-7, 2007
Traveling from Oregon to Nevada

Things worked out pretty well on Thursday, as all of the coach maintenance was completed a day ahead of schedule. Of course, that’s only because I doubled the amount of time expected, based on past experience. That said, it was good to get all of our paperwork completed at the end of the day, and I was able to get our bill paid (several items were not covered by warranty, but quite a bit was). Our service writer took care of things very well, managing both hours and parts costs to reasonable levels.

Once we knew we were leaving a day early, we had to decide what to do about the trip plan we’d already made. I’d booked reservations at parks in Klamath Falls, Reno, and Las Vegas assuming we left Eugene on Saturday morning, and arriving home in Arizona on Wednesday. We have all the utilities being turned on Wednesday/Thursday.

You’d think leaving early would be as simple as moving everything forward a day. It could be, except for the weather. Throughout our last week in Oregon, we’d been feeling the effects of several storms moving in off the Pacific. Each wave seemed to be accompanied by dropping temperatures and by mid-week, there were rumors of snow levels falling in the Cascades. Well, to get from Oregon to Arizona, you have to cross mountains somewhere, so we had more research to do.

Rather than travel south on I-5 through California and I-10 to Phoenix, our plan was to avoid the interstates and use some of the routes preferred by many of the truckers I’ve met (you get to meet than when you hang out at the Detroit Diesel shop for any length of time). This path would take us over the Willamette Pass in Oregon, and relatively close to Lake Tahoe and Yosemite, prime snow zones. In addition, both Oregon and California have areas where tire chains have to be carried even if not used. We don’t carry chains and don’t plan to get them.

After checking the forecast from various sources and checking the Oregon DOT web cams at the various passes, we decided to take a chance with the route we’d selected. We left the service center around 10:00 AM because a) we only planned a 5-6 hour driving day and b) that would put us crossing the first mountain pass mid-day. The good news is that snow levels were down to about 4,000 feet in the Cascades. The bad news is that the Willamette Pass is about 5,100 feet. Because we were crossing mid-day, what light snow we did have to drive through wasn’t sticking to the roadways. It did make for a pretty view, though. We didn’t stop for pictures, but Geri shot a few through the coach windows.

By the time we arrive in Klamath Falls, the rain had stopped although the skies still had a lot of clouds. This wasn’t a complete surprise, since the high desert climate on the eastern side of the Cascade and Sierra Nevada ranges exists in a rain shield from the mountains. As storms roll in off the Pacific, the mountains “wring” the moisture out of the air and the deserts get more wind than precipitation many times.

The park we stopped at was older and, while many of the spots were configured as pull-thrus, it was pretty tight getting around. We had to disconnect the Range Rover because it was sticking out in the lane. This isn’t a huge problem, but I prefer to just leave it hooked up for an overnight stay, as it’s one less thing to have to do in the morning for departure.

We made pasta for dinner with some of the sauce Geri had made several weeks ago and stored in the freezer. This makes a good “traveling meal” for days when we stop early enough to defrost it and feel like pulling out a couple of pans for cooking. Paired with a nice Chianti, it’s a good way to end a travel day.

By Saturday, the storm system we started out with had moved much farther east and all we had to show for it was cold temperatures. It was a few degrees below freezing when we started out for Reno, and there was quite a bit of frost in the fields. We saw several ponds with a thin layer of ice, and one irrigation sprinkler that had been left on overnight was just covered in icicles. As we drove, we could see snow on the mountains to our west, and we caught a glimpse of Mount Shasta far off in the distance. Somewhere during the day, the clouds just disappeared. It seemed like one minute they were there and then suddenly I realized that there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I’m sure that wasn’t exactly how it worked, but it seemed that way.

It was still breezy and chilly, and we arrived in Reno (actually Sparks), Nevada, by mid-afternoon. We had a chance to relax a bit, Geri called some folks we know who live there and chatted for a bit, and we settled in for the evening. The park was nice and had a good amount of room for maneuvering, but each site’s “grass” was actually fake stuff. Accordingly, park rules prohibited pets from “marking” there. This made it a little difficult for Merlin and Maya Lynn, who have a tendency to “lift their leg” when we’re out for a walk. Since we were only there for one night, we did the best we could.

Sunday morning was crisp again, with temperatures just above freezing. We got an early start because this was our longest driving day. We pulled out a few minutes before 7:00 AM and were well on our way before the sun came up over the hills. I say “we” even though Geri decided to stay in bed a little longer, getting up around 8:30. We had an uneventful drive down US-95 all the way to Las Vegas, arriving around 4:00 PM.

We’re staying at the Oasis RV Park, just south of the Strip. Our friends Linda and Wendell stayed here when they stopped in Vegas early this year, so we decided to try it. It’s definitely better than the KOA at Circus-Circus that we tried last October, although it’s not as nice as the Outdoor Resorts Park (but few parks are).

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Don’t jinx it…

October 3, 2007
Harrisburg, OR

Today was another productive day, at least with respect to the coach. We had a slide lock and seal replaced, and the refrigerator maintenance was done. We only have one items remaining, and 2 planned days to complete it. Of course, this is the item that’s pending arrival of parts, so who knows. By actually posting this “out loud”, I’ve probably jinxed it. D’oh!

We had a pretty good day as well. For some reason, the rain held off for much of the day, and the sun was out for quite a while. The pups spent most of the day sleeping in the Range Rover (or barking at people who walked by), and we picked up the rest of what we need from the parts department. We’re planning to change the fabric on the valances in the front of the coach to match the bedroom (who knows why it was different in the first place!), so we were able to pick up all three kinds of fabric we need. We got a few other spare parts and have almost everything we need for “over the winter” coach projects.

This afternoon, showers were intermittent, and when I made a quick trip to Safeway (Geri’s feeling under the weather – get it? – and needed soup), there was enough rain in the area for another fabulous rainbow.

Well, that’s it for tonight; the alarm goes off way too early… ;-)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Relaxing at “Camp Monaco”

October 2, 2007
Harrisburg, OR

Since we arrived at the Monaco Service Center several days early, we essentially had the weekend to ourselves. Since it was raining on and off, we didn’t try to accomplish too much but rather took the time to relax. This was especially important since time spent getting things serviced tends to involve alternating spells of boredom and frustration. Boredom, because we get to “vacate the premises” by 7:30 AM, sit around all day trying to keep the pups occupied, and watch the clock for 4:00 PM when we get our “house” back. Frustration, because nothing’s ever simple, parts are always needed from somewhere inaccessible, and if you don’t keep on top of the techs things don’t get done or get off track. I’m not complaining, mind you, just speaking from experience.

Over the weekend, we did a little shopping, and I stopped at the local Verizon store to pick up a broadband PC card. We’ve had several situations lately where we were “off the net” because the dish was blocked, so the broadband card should allow us to “fill in the gaps”. Another advantage is that we’ll be able to access the net while moving down the highway. Last, it’ll be a good backup for when things go south (like when the router failed a few weeks ago). Love the new technology.

We caught up with Bob and Jane White for a few minutes as well. We met them at a rally a little over a year ago, and have run into them a couple of times since. We also saw Vicki and Casey, who we met a couple of weeks ago; they arrived for service over the weekend.

Yesterday morning, I took the coach over to the local Detroit Diesel shop to have the engine codes read and the software updated. I picked up fuel and oil filters for the next maintenance cycle (no sales tax!) while I was there. Back at the Service Center, we were able to get the write-up process out of the way so things could start first thing today.

We did have a little excitement yesterday, but it sure wasn’t pleasant. We had a few minutes of sunshine, so we decided to have sandwiches outside at the picnic table near the laundry room. Unfortunately a) a coach pulled up near us and the owner got out and b) I didn’t have as good a handle as I should have. This resulted in Merlin and Maya Lynn running over to said coach owner and say “Hi”. For Maya Lynn, this is fine. For Merlin, not so much. When the guy put his hand out to Merlin, he got a nice puncture wound in his palm for his trouble. And a nip at his pant leg for good measure. We apologized profusely, especially me, since I was the one with my hand on a sandwich instead of the leashes. Fortunately, we were able to smooth things over and the injury wasn’t life-threatening. As it turns out, they have two dogs themselves, both of whom are a handful; they terrorized the customer lounge several times today. We still feel bad, but not quite as bad as yesterday.

Today was actually a pretty productive day on all fronts. We left the pups in the car and hung out in the lounge. I tried to stay close to the work without getting in the way. No matter how well you try to explain something to a service writer, it always loses something in the translation. I was glad I spent time re-explaining things to the techs. They were able to replace the driver’s window (this was the last of the warranty items left over from prior visits – yeah!), lubricate one of the slide mechanisms (it had squeaked forever, and they explained how I can lube it in the future), and fix a nagging hydraulic fluid leak that’s been there since we got the coach (there was a hairline crack in the cast aluminum filter housing). Overall, progress was better than I’d expected. If tomorrow is as good as today, we may get sprung early. I hope that’s not jinxing anything! Seriously, I’m thinking that things are going to bog down tomorrow, since there was already talk of not having some of the necessary parts. That’s never a good thing (they ordered the driver’s window when I was here in March and got it sometime in late-August). We’ll keep our fingers crossed…

This afternoon, we made a Costco run and I stopped at the Verizon store to pick up a battery for my phone. Yeah, I know, I should have done that on Saturday, but we needed the road trip anyway.