Summer Travel Map

Friday, February 29, 2008

Moving on - off to Santa Barbara

February 29, 2008
El Capitan Beach, CA

We wrapped up the rally yesterday and had a nice dinner at a local Mexican restaurant with Wayne and Eva. The portions were huge, and we all took some home. Geri had hers for breakfast, but I'm saving my carnitas for lunch over the next few days.
This morning we had plenty of time to pack up all the gear and get ready to leave. We had scheduled ourselves to be weighed (OK, to have our coaches weighed with us in them) at 11:30 AM, but we were ready to go at 10:30. We hung around for a bit and then got in line for the weigh station.
The weighing is done by a company that specializes in going to RV rallies and events. They have portable scales that they slide under each wheel position. In our case, that's six positions, since we have three axles. We do the weighing thing about once a year to make sure we're not overloaded by axle or tire. Our results came out very good this time, although I may be able to move some things around to shift weight. It seems like that's a constant process.
We left Pomona around noon and were parked at our spot west of Santa Barbara by 3:00 PM. We're at a private RV park right near El Capitan State Park. This place is relatively new, with concrete pads for each site and paved roads all around. Here are a couple of pictures:

The park has quite a bit of slope, but each site is nicely terraced.

It's pretty cloudy right now, but the sun was getting ready to set over the Pacific as I was walking around...

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Pictures from Indio, Lancaster, and Pomona

Here is a link to some photos from this trip so far...

Time is flying by!

February 28, 2008
LA County Fairplex, Pomona, CA

So, I’ve started getting email reminders that I’m way behind with blog updates. Guilty as charged! It seems like time is running away from me, and every time I sit down to update the blog, I get sidetracked into something else. Life is tough, right?

Actually, life isn’t tough, it’s just fun right now. We finished up the Monaco Rally in Lancaster last Saturday. As always, we met new and interesting people, and had a chance to catch up with folks we’ve met in the past. The weather wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t great either, with temperatures in the 40s and 50s and strong winds most of the time. It didn’t get in the way of the fun, of course. It rained on Wednesday and Friday last week, and then cleared up on Saturday for our drive down to Pomona. It rained quite hard Saturday night and during the day on Sunday, but cleared on Monday and turned downright warm. It’s been sunny and in the upper 70s to low 80s this week, and we’re really enjoying that.

Evening “happy hours” were followed by catered buffet dinners and entertainment. The entertainment is geared to an older crowd (majority rules, and the majority of these folks are retirees in the Social Security sense) but, hey, it’s free so we enjoyed it.

We had our two free manufacturer repairs done, actually four if you count the two at Lancaster and the two here in Pomona. We had our entry door lock keypad replaced, the heat in the passenger’s seat fixed (for those of you who know about Geri’s back problems, this was a very important thing), and the slide mechanism lubricated. We also had a bad switch to the lights in the basement bays replaced, but found that there’s a short in the wiring somewhere. This caused the switch to malfunction in the first place, and they didn’t have the time to trace it all out (there are only so many techs trying to help all the coach owners, so they allocate about an hour per coach). I’ll have a project I can work on when we’re home, I guess.

Here at the big rally, there are a lot of vendors for individual components doing service. We had our electric blinds adjusted, and one of the motors replaced. I noticed one of the muffler hangers was broken, so the vendor that installed it over a year ago had techs come out and fix it. I also picked up a new temperature sensor for our See-Level system (this monitors water, waste and propane levels, and includes an external temperature reading) and got advice on how to better calibrate them. Total cost for all this: zip. You can’t beat that with a stick.

Of course, not everything goes as smoothly. When we were leaving Lancaster, I had a bit of a low power situation before we got on the highway. This is usually a sign that a fuel filter is getting clogged, so I found a vendor doing mobile filter changes. I figured that this would be a snap, since I had spares on board. Well, first he found that I had the wrong primary filter. I have no idea how that happened, as I’m pretty sure I had replaced it once before with the size I had with me. Of course, that was pretty irrelevant, since he was standing there with parts that obviously weren’t going to work. No amount of remembering it differently was going to fix it. Fortunately, Filter Guy had one in the right size on his truck, so problem solved. Not so fast, Junior. He had a deuce of a time getting the secondary filter off. I seem to remember that Al had the same problem when we did the annual service last June in Connecticut. Filter Guy crushed the old filter so badly that he had to pull the housing off and take it apart on the ground. My friend Wayne used a screwdriver pounded through the filter to help loosen it. OK, so now we’re good, right? Au contraire. When the housing came off, one of the “o” rings was split. It took a couple of days for Filter Guy to find time to get “o” rings and get back to us, but fortunately, he finished up the job this morning. I ran the engine for 15 minutes and there aren’t any leaks, but I put cardboard under the filter to catch anything just in case.

In thinking about that filter, I’m not sure that the “o” ring wasn’t leaking before. We’ve had a few instances where some fuel would drip until the fitting was tightened, so it’s highly possible that it’s been bad for some time. At least it’s fixed now – and I have a spare on board!

We haven’t spent a lot of money at the rallies this year, especially compared to last year (new Koni shocks, Aero-turbine muffler, all new blinds), but we did enjoy seeing all the stuff that’s being peddled. Geri bought new harnesses for the pups, and found a walking stick that folds out into a seat for when she needs to stop and rest. I picked up a new Interstate Exit Guide that lists everything at each exit nationwide; this is very helpful for trip planning and for deciding where to stop while on the road. I also picked up a kit that will allow me to monitor all the engine and transmission metrics in real time via the PC. It comes with a cable that connects to the diagnostic port under the dash and via USB to the PC. I’ll be interested in trying this out during the rest of the trip.

Before we left Arizona, I moved the new DirecTV HD DVR to the bedroom in the coach for testing. We don’t have a HD dish on the motorhome, but I wanted to test getting over-the-air channels. Our TVs are “HD Ready”, which is another way of saying “don’t have HD tuners built in”, but the DVR does. I wasn’t able to pick up anything in Lancaster, but did get several channels here in Pomona, closer to LA. I wasn’t able to get all the major networks, though, so I picked up an add-on antenna that attaches right to the one on the roof. I’ll get the tools out and climb up there over the weekend.

The one major purchase we made was the Alaska caravan. It’s 49 days (I think I said 50 in an earlier post) from mid-June through early-August of 2009. After thinking it over, we decided that, if we’re going to go, a) we need to commit to a timeframe and b) we’d prefer to have experienced guides. I’m sure we could do it ourselves, but this approach will be like “immersion therapy”. We’ll give up the flexibility to move at our own pace in exchange for seeing a lot of places we might not think of going, and I’m sure we’ll develop a list of places we’ll want to go back to in the future. The other good thing about this particular tour is that it’s limited to Monaco coaches. It’s not that we’re snobbish about coach brands, but it should be interesting to travel as a group.

In other news, these rallies are really big social events more than anything. There are always a few interesting seminars, and the free service work is great, but the real draw is getting together with people and meeting new folks. The Monaco Rally last week had just over 400 coaches in attendance, and the one we’re at now has something like 2,200. Although both numbers are down from prior years (economic concerns and fuel prices - $3.50-ish for diesel in CA are hurting everyone), that’s still al lot of people in one place. We noticed a lot of people attending on “day passes” as well this year.

We’ve had a great time hanging out with our friends Wayne and Eva. We stopped at their house in Indio, CA on the way out, and traveled together up to Lancaster and here to Pomona. They introduced us to a couple (Jerry and Liz) they met who have a similar coach and a home in Rancho Mirage, so we got to meet some new people. We had several nice dinners, including Rack of Lamb with Mushroom Risotto last night. Tonight, we’re planning to join some other folks for “burgers and beer”.

Tonight, we’ll dump the waste tanks and top off the water. We actually lucked out on that front, as we don’t have to move to the “dump station”. After we parked, we realized that there are two 12” access plates labeled “water” and “sewer” right under the back end of our coach. The first day we were here, Wayne went to Home Depot and picked up a 1”-to-3/4” reducer and a hose bib, and we were in business. We’re the only “full hookup” sites at the rally!

Tomorrow, we’ll pack up and hit the road. We’re scheduled to have the coach weighed at 11:30 in the morning, so we’ll be on the road shortly after that. We’ve moved a lot of stuff around in the coach and bays, and tried to eliminate some things we carried but didn’t use, so it’s time to get weighed again. They weigh each wheel position, so we can make sure we’re not overloaded front-to-back and side-to-side. Knowing the weights will allow me to reset the tire pressures based on Goodyear specs.

Our next stop will be for three nights just west of Santa Barbara, where we hope to see Geri’s niece, Cindy. From there, we’ll spend three more nights in Buellton, near Geri’s sister, Kathy, in Lompoc (lom-poke). Then, we’ll have four days to get home, so we may make another stop, to be determined later.

Well, that’s the catch-up summary. Next, I’ll tackle some pictures…

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Oh my, it’s winter!

February 20, 2008
Lancaster, CA

Well, the rally is in full swing and we’re having a pretty good time, except that winter weather has descended on the Antelope Valley. We had rain overnight and the winds have picked up in inverse proportion to the temperature. In other words, it's been nippy out there! Temperatures dropped to the 40s today -- ouch!

The rally is going quite well. Each coach in attendance is entitled to two “free” repairs from the manufacturer. I had a new keypad for the entry door installed and tried to get the switch for the lights in the under-coach storage bays fixed. To be more precise, I got the switch replaced, but the bay lights still don’t work as there appears to be a short somewhere in the circuit. “Free” rally repairs means that they’ll work on something for only so long before giving up. I’ll have to trace the circuit from fixture to fixture when we get home.

We fulfilled our duties as mentors for first-time attendees, helping to welcome one of the 100+ couples who were attending their first rally. We met them at the “first-timer’s meeting” and had dinner with them last night. We lucked out a bit, since they already knew people attending and didn’t need as much guidance as true “newbies”.

We visited with the vendors in attendance and managed to buy a few things (as expected). Surprisingly (and thankfully!), there were no big ticket items. I picked up a few window “weep covers” (they fit in the channels of the windows and let any moisture drip out) and a can of dry-lube, and got all the fittings to add an outlet for the central vacuum to the basement. This will allow me to leave the small shop-vac in the bays home, and cost all of $9. My kind of investment!

The rains started around 3:51 AM today. No, make that the rains started at exactly 3:51 AM today. It started raining so hard it woke me up. I was just falling back to sleep when Merlin started making what we call “out noise”. He has this part grunt, part bark thing that he does when he needs to go out. In general, we really appreciate that. At 4:45 AM, not so much. On the other hand, it sounded like the rain had stopped, so I took that opportunity while it presented itself.

You’d think that retirees at a fun rally wouldn’t have much of a schedule to manage. You’d be wrong. Breakfast starts at 7:00 AM. Sign-up for services from the vendors starts at 8:00 AM. Seminars start at 9:00 AM and last until 3:30 PM or so. At any time during the day, a vendor could call and say “I’m here” so you can run back to the coach and make sure Merlin doesn’t bite anyone. “Happy Hour” starts at 3:45 PM. The cocktail and salad bars open at 5:00 PM with dinner around 6:30 PM. Entertainment starts around 7:30 and lasts until 9-something. Get some rest, fella; it all starts again tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow, we’ll start with a visit from the folks who service the blinds we had installed last year. We have a couple that need adjustment, so they’ll be here for an hour or so. If the weather cooperates (i.e., no rain and/or wind), I’ll get out and take some photos around the grounds. If it’s like today (showers on and off and 30-40 MPH winds), you’ll just have to take my word for how nicely the Fairgrounds is set up for the rally.

We’ve toured the new “show coaches” and haven’t found a reason to trade ours in (thankfully!), although we always get some ideas about future modifications we may want to make. We have spoken to quite a few people who have an interest in a trip to Alaska in 2009, so we’re continuing to explore our options in that area. We also found a group that does 3-4 member-led caravans each year, and they’re thinking about things like California wine country (Napa/Sonoma) tours, so it seems like something that’d be right up our alley. We’re 80% of the way to making a decision to join the 50-day 2009 Alaska trip, so we’ll see what comes of those discussions. It’s not like us to plan that far in advance, but it might be worth it “just this once”…

Monday, February 18, 2008

On the road again!

February 18, 2008
Antelope Valley Fairgrounds, Lancaster, CA

We’ve been quite busy since my last post, and I need to catch up. We wrapped up Geri’s “Day of the Dentists” on Thursday just like clockwork. She had the root canal done and our regular dentist put in a temporary post and acrylic crown. We got home just a little before 5:00, walked the pups and fed them, changed clothes quickly and met Ana and Larry at the restaurant selected for Valentine’s Day dinner. Dinner was good, as it always is with our friends. Service was spotty but, hey, it’s always that way on a day like this. We only had to call the manager over once to chase down the waiter, Joey. Since they’re Hillary supporters, Larry suggested we call him “Joey Obama”. Ouch!

Friday, we brought the coach over to the house in the morning and finished most of the loading. In the afternoon, Jed Balser, an ex-colleague from Towers Perrin and EDS, stopped by to visit. He was in town to visit his father, and we were able to schedule a quick visit. He’s doing OK; suffice it to say I continue to not miss the rat race.

Saturday morning, we finished loading the coach (refrigerator, DVR, etc.) and hit the road around 11:00 AM. What a joy to be back on the road again! We stopped near the Arizona-California border for lunch, and rolled into Indio mid-afternoon. Wayne and Eva were there to meet us and we were parked in their driveway in no time. We did a little shopping and then had dinner at their neighbors, Will and Diane. Diane made a fabulous lasagna dinner and a wonderful chocolate dessert. We brought fixings for “Al-tinis” and some Chianti, and Wayne had CafĂ© Patron after dessert. We all had a great time.

On Sunday, we had planned to drive from Indio to the rally in Lancaster, about 3 hours. We dumped the tanks and filled up the water, left on schedule around 9:00 AM, stopped at a truck stop near Palm Springs to top off the fuel, and were on the road. Wayne had made arrangements to meet up with another Monaco couple, Jerry and Liz Brannon, along the way, and our three coaches rolled into Lancaster just before 1:00 PM. We saw our friends Paul and Dorna on the way in; they were volunteers working at the gate.

We were parked quickly and had everything deployed, then were able to relax for a bit. For dinner, Wayne and Eva had a pork tenderloin and Jerry and Liz had a Costco Chicken, so we combined everything for one meal. Jerry and Liz hosted us in their coach, and even had some banana nut cake with a candle for Geri’s birthday!

Today, we all went to a place called “Crazy Otto’s” for breakfast. They feature HUGE omelets for breakfast. Geri had corned beef hash and I had half-portion of a bacon and chicken liver omelet (never had that before) that came hanging off the plate (who could eat a whole one?). On top of that, they offered a 20% discount for Monaco Rally attendees. As retirees, how could we go wrong?

This afternoon, we took it easy. I went for a bike ride around the grounds and met up with several people we know: Rod and Jean Bahnson, Bob and Marlene Rea, and Bill and Sandy Crawford are parked on the other side of the grounds. Later in the afternoon, we visited the vendor booths (I picked up a few parts I needed, and talked to a guy running a caravan to Alaska in 2009) and then hung out for a while at the “happy hour” put on by the sponsors (Monaco and key dealers). With the large breakfast and the “finger food” offered, we didn’t even need dinner! We caught up with Lew and Dottie Anderson, Andy and Linda Clarkson, and Bob and Jane White over snacks.

Tomorrow is the official start of the rally. We signed up to be “mentors” for first-time attendees, since we had such a good experience ourselves two years ago, so we’ll head off to find out what that’s all about tomorrow morning at 8:15. After that, it’ll be seminars for the next few days and somewhere in there, Monaco will be out to the coach to replace a couple of parts “on the house”. It’s a pretty good deal, all things considered.

I’ll also try to get out for some pictures tomorrow, so I’ll have some things to post later in the week. We’ll be here until Saturday morning…

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Another productive day – with holiday treats!

February 14, 2008
Peoria, AZ

Yesterday was a good day, and we crossed several things off the collective to-do lists. Geri was able to get Merlin’s meds from the vet, which we need to have on hand before we head out on the road. She’s also got her dental prescriptions filled (antibiotic, pain, “relaxation”) so she’ll be all set for the implant surgery scheduled for March 11th, when we get back from our trip.

I spent a good chunk of the day working on the coach. I developed a spreadsheet last year that lists all the maintenance items and recommended intervals, tracks “last done”, and projects “next due”. With the drive train, generator (essentially a second “engine” system), and all the house systems, the maintenance list is almost a hundred items long. This time, I focused on many of the inside tasks, cleaning the air conditioning filters (they’re permanent and cleanable, not throwaway inserts like we have in the house), lubricating the pocket doors, etc. Overall, we’re almost caught up on things that are due, and we’ll tackle the remainder when we get back in March. The next major service is in June, and we’ll do that while we’re in Connecticut.

Yesterday, Geri made a new batch of holiday treats, leveraging a recipe that she’d found around Christmas into new chocolate goodies with a Valentine’s Day theme. They’re great (it’s hard to go wrong with Oreo Cookies and chocolate), and we had some last night after “the Last Supper”. We had steak frittes, recognizing that Geri needed to go to the dentist at 8:00 AM today. I pulled a nice wine (2000 Chateau Puyegard) from the wine box and we had a nice dinner.

Most of my typing today has been done in waiting rooms. I started this blog entry at the dentist’s office. As planned, they took out her loose bridge. It turns out that the “anchor teeth” aren’t sufficient to support a new bridge, as the periodontist had recommended. Accordingly, we’ll have to schedule two more implants for the upper right to be done in late March (they need 2 weeks between insertions and she’s scheduled to have the lower left done on March 11th). This will mean that we’ll be scheduling our summer departure for about 4 weeks from the end of March, allowing time to make sure that everything is OK before we go (they recommend 3 weeks but we’ll plan 4 to be safe). The whole thing should work out fine for our schedule, since the lower implants need 3-4 months to heal before being capped but the uppers need longer (4-6 months). We’ll try to get all this work scheduled (and budgeted!) before we leave, since that will help define our schedule. Right now, we know we’re scheduled to attend the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta in mid-October and, like the last time we attended, we’ll take our time getting back to the Phoenix area, since October temperatures are still pretty intense.

While all that advance planning is nice, we’re still in the middle of today’s “stuff”. Since the bridge was removed and can’t be re-inserted, we have an emergency root canal scheduled for 1:00 PM and then a temporary post and crown to be installed immediately after. The dentist’s office was able to find an endodontist to do the root canal (everything’s a specialty these days) on short notice, so we’ll have to find that office (we know the general area) with enough time to do all the paperwork before the scheduled time, then race back to the dentist’s office where they’re squeeze us back in to do the temporary crown.

In the middle of all this, she had a Physical Therapy appointment scheduled. This is an ongoing series for the bursitis in her hip, and we want to make sure she has her “exercises” down so she can keep them up while we’re away. I’m hanging out there as I type, and she should be done soon. Then we’ll head for the other dental appointments mentioned above. We’ll have dinner with Ana and Larry tonight as well, so today’s a busy day…

Whew! Happy Valentine’s Day!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Keeping the local economy alive…

February 12, 2008
Peoria, AZ

We’ve continued to keep busy, with the focus being on resolving what we’ll do about Geri’s pending dental work.

Sunday was a relaxing day. We actually went to the movies. This is quite an accomplishment, since I’m really not a “movie person” per se. On the other hand, it was a lot cheaper to go than to spend $18-22 on DVDs! Kidding aside, we enjoyed seeing “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” and actually did use some free passes we had hanging around.

Yesterday, it was back to reality. We started out early, with an 8:00 AM appointment at our primary dentist to figure out what to do about a loose bridge that Geri has on the upper right. The regular dentist was alerted to the issue by the periodontist who is doing the implants on the lower left. Long story short, the bridge anchor tooth is decaying, and may require a root canal and pin to fix it. Of course, that means that the whole bridge needs to be replaced! Way expensive. We're definitely doing our part to keep the local dental community occupied.

Today, we had our first appointment back at the implant guy and – surprise, surprise – he thinks that she needs more implants. It’s interesting to watch them compete over who will get the $$$! Of course, that’s easy for me to say, since I’m not the one getting more dental work done. We’ll be back at the primary dentist on Thursday, when he’ll remove the existing bridge and we’ll make a decision on bridge vs. implant. We just need to get it done soon so we can avoid having to stay here when it gets hot. Again, easy for me to say!

In other news, we’re making progress on the utility simplification project. I was able to cancel the cable service on Monday, as we’ve got the TV and Internet service working via satellite and wireless, respectively, and we’ve got an alternative in place for a local phone number. I set up a Skype Internet phone (VoIP) that’ll have voice mail when we’re offline, or that can be routed to one of our cell phones as needed.

Since I had to drop off the digital cable box at the local office, I had an opportunity to check out two new wine shops in the area. Of course, I had to buy a few bottles just to make sure things were OK! I picked up a few value wines from each place to sample. Prices seem to vary, so it’s not possible to get the best deals in any one specific store. Now we just have two more places to shop!

I also finished up work to re-wire that towing lights on the Range Rover. When the tow package was installed, the technician didn’t set things up exactly right, so I’ve needed to use external, temporary, magnet-mount towing lights. I finally had time to figure out what was wrong (they didn’t wire the brake, tail and signal lights separately) and to add some diodes to allow everything to work. I tested it out today with a 12 volt source, and will check it again tomorrow using the coach wiring, since we’re planning to bring it over from storage and put in a couple of hours on inside maintenance (e.g, cleaning the A/C filters). This should be our last maintenance sweep before we load up on Friday for our Saturday departure.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Can’t use the cool weather as an excuse

February 10, 2008
Peoria, AZ

We’ve had a productive streak for the last few days, and have knocked quite a few things off the collective to-do lists.

Tuesday, Geri had the stitches removed from her tooth extraction. Things went very well and she’s definitely on the mend. On the other hand, the periodontist seems to want to find other places where he can suggest more implants. Down, boy!

Geri had physical therapy on Wednesday, so I used the time to get organized in the study. I need to catch up on some filing, etc. to make room for the next batch on incoming mail. I purposely waited until after the beginning of February to have our mail service ship accumulated items, so I could catch all the tax forms. I’m planning to get the taxes done before we head out to California on the 16th.

Thursday was the beginning of a warm up in the weather department, so I got to some of the other things around the house. It was mostly mundane stuff like spraying the weeds; it’s weed season here and things are sprouting all over the place. Next year, I’ll make sure that the pre-emergent weed killer is deployed in the fall.

I also reworked the propane lines for the outside grill/stove we use when we travel. I’d made the attachment to the low-pressure side of the coach system while we were with Wayne in Indio (I wanted the expert help on hand). Once it was set up, it worked fine but I realized that a) I needed to be able to disconnect the long hose from the coach to the primary grill for storage and b) I needed to add another port for the small propane-fueled fire ring we bought from Canadian Tire last year. I had ordered the quick disconnects from Northern Tool, and I had picked up the fittings at the local Ace Hardware, so I was able to reconfigure the fittings without too much difficulty. I probably still need a piece or two, but things should be in working order and I can make changes as we go along.

Friday was “coach day”. We got it out of storage in the morning, and I spend most of the day knocking maintenance items off the list. The biggest was a lube job, which should be done semi-annually. It sounds simple, but is actually quite time-consuming. There are 33 +/- specific fittings that need to be lubricated, and each one needs to be tracked down and checked off. Several of the ones in the front require the wheels to be turned to a specific point to be able to get at the fittings. The kingpins (part of the front end) require that the axle be raised to take the weight off the assembly. It all went well, so we should be OK until the “annual service” during the summer.

Yesterday was another project day, this time with the car. I’ve wanted to rework the wiring from the coach to the car for towing for a long time. I’ve been using magnetically mounted temporary lights for some time because the people who installed the towing package didn’t quite get it done right. I replaced the connection box on the front and adjusted how the wiring interface from the coach connects into the car, so I’ll test that out the next time we have the coach at the house. If I have the time before we leave, I may try to test it out by hooking up a 12 volt source in the garage; we’ll see.

The food and wine front has been relatively tame. We had a chance to get together with Paul and Dorna, friends who have a coach very similar to ours, for pizza and beer at Nino’s (a local place) on Thursday. On Friday, Geri picked up some Mahi-Mahi and we made it with a macadamia nut crust, accompanied by curried couscous. We had an Australian Shiraz, the 2003 “Bad Impersonator” Barossa Valley from Two Hands – exceptional!

Other than all this, it’s been nice and quiet. I’m about 20% done in converting to the new email address scheme I set up, so I’ll continue with that after I get the taxes done. We’ll continue to stage stuff for our California trip, and look forward to hitting the road next Saturday.

Monday, February 4, 2008

What the hail was that?

February 4, 2008
Peoria, AZ

We’ve had a couple of good days, even though it’s continued to be on the cool side, sometimes with a good dose o clouds thrown in. On Saturday, we had lunch with Ana and Larry at a restaurant about halfway between us (they live in northeast Phoenix). We ended up back at their house after lunch for wine, cheese, and conversation – all good.

Yesterday was Super Bowl Day, of course. The media hype has been excessive, but at least we didn’t have too much disruption to our daily routine. We decided to make it a quiet day at home. Geri made noshes: a white pizza with olives and a good dose of garlic that was absolutely fabulous. We had some lamb shanks in the freezer, so I got that in the oven around noon. With some roasted potatoes and haricots verts, it came out nicely (we can’t say the same for the Dutch oven, which needed a good scrubbing after getting a bit crusty during the braising process). We opened the wine box and out came a 2001 Stag’s Leap Fay Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – fabulous!

And, how about them Giants? Even though we’re originally from Connecticut, and I’ve always been partial to the Yankees, I’ve never really been a huge Giants fan. And, even though I grew to have a soft spot for the Red Sox, I’ve never really cared about the Patriots. Over the last few years, they’ve just become a team that’s really hard to warm up to. I suppose that I was lucky, since I could have been happy either way, with a perfect season or a big upset. It was a great game and we’re glad it was here - -and that it's over.

Today was an “inside day”. Geri had Physical Therapy in the morning, but other than that and a quick walk for the pups, it was a good day to stay inside and out of the wind and rain showers.

I continued our project of simplifying our utilities and reducing monthly costs, this time focusing on email and telephone services. Geri and I both have email accounts that charge an annual fee (Hotmail for each of us, plus Yahoo for me), and we’re converting to Google’s free Gmail service. This makes sense, since it’ll tie together our blog and picture web services, both by Google. I’m also working to extricate us from the high cable bill, which involves Internet, TV, and digital phone. By moving to DirecTV (which we already have for the coach) and using the Verizon Wireless Broadband service (which we also have for the coach) at the house, we’re almost there. I’ve added Skype, a cheap Internet-based phone service, which will allow us to maintain a local number here in Arizona for neighbors and local businesses. I’ll start sending out emails with the changes over the next week or so. We could have changed our cell phone numbers to be local here, and we may do so at some point in the future, but the work associated with changing every place that uses the cell phone numbers was just more effort than we wanted to tackle right now.

In looking out the windows to the back of the house around 3:30 PM, we could see a good deal of sun, so we decided to walk the dogs early. Imagine our surprise when we went out through the garage and saw a huge line of clouds that were almost black. We quickly saw lightning and heard thunder, so we made it a short walk. We weren’t home for very long when we could hear it start to rain. Very quickly, it turned to pea-sized hail! It didn’t last too long, but the temperature dropped over 10 degrees inside 15 minutes. Snow levels dropped to around 3,000’ (we’re at 1,200’) which is very low for this area. We’ll have to check out the mountains to the north and east tomorrow. According to the forecast, we may finally be coming to the end of the month-long spell of cool temperatures. Woo-hoo!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Getting ready for our next trip

February 1, 2008
Peoria, AZ

Geri’s doing great and healing well after her dental surgery earlier in the week. She still has some discomfort and has to go for removal of the stitches next Tuesday, but overall she’s been quite a trouper.

Wednesday it was back to the Land Rover dealer to have the coolant leak repaired. I’d gotten a card in the mail that the part was in. I ended up spending most of the day there. They wrapped up the repair around 1:00 PM and I took off for home. I was about 3 blocks away when I got a “low coolant” alarm, so I turned around and headed back. After another hour, they had bled the air bubble in the cooling system or whatever was causing the alarm, and I was on the way home for real.

Thursday, I started preparing the coach for our next trip. Geri took me over to the storage place and I got it started to warm up, only to find a “low coolant” alarm! This was probably related to the repairs I’d made before our last trip. I added a gallon of water to the system (we didn’t have any coolant on board) and the alarm stopped. Geri headed home and I headed for the local truck stop. I had the propane tank filled (19.5 gallons; not bad since we hadn’t put any in since last year about this time) and topped off the fuel tank so we’ll be ready to leave later this month. I’ll need to monitor the propane more closely in the future, since we’ll now be running the outside grill and stove from that tank.

Once fueled up, I headed home and did a few maintenance tasks. I also installed the automated fire suppression system that I’d bought at the Indio Rally. It’s comprised of a 1-liter extinguisher in the generator compartment and a 3-liter tank by the engine. They’re temperature controlled and “fire” (no pun intended) when the compartment temperatures reach ~300°F. I still have a lot to do before we leave on February 16th, but we’re in pretty good shape.

Today was a quiet day at home for the most part, with a few frustrations tossed in for good measure. I got a call from our mail service in South Dakota that they had our vehicle registration renewals. Like last year, our timing is a little complicated, since we need to have the new tags before we leave for California. I don’t have time to mail a check, have them issue the tags and get them back in the mail before we leave, so I had to renew by credit card and incur the 4% add-on fee. It’s about $16, but I’d have spent that if I sent the check overnight anyway. Maybe next year, I can figure out a way to start the process earlier.

Then, the frustration increased as Geri had to call her mail order pharmacy to find out where her last order went. We mailed it on January 7th and got a confirmation of shipping on the 22nd. It’s February 1st, and no package and no credit card charge. She spent at least ½ an hour on the phone to find out that they a) sent the package to the wrong address (SD, not AZ) and b) didn’t update their records with her new card expiration. What a pain. I had her get the address so we can write a letter of complaint and get a refund on shipping costs (we shouldn’t have to pay to ship things twice).

We’ll stay close to home over the next few days, as the Super Bowl frenzy is rising to its peak. Next week, we’ll probably spend another day getting ready for our trip, but should be able to relax most of the week.