Summer Travel Map

Saturday, March 29, 2008

"Earth Hour" Update

March 29, 2008
Peoria, AZ

We had a nice quiet hour with some candles on the patio. Unclear how many people around us observed, since half go to bed before 8:00 PM and the other half leave the lights on all night for security. ;-)

Making progress before the lights go out

March 29, 2008
Peoria, AZ

The last few days have been generally quiet and productive since Geri had her last round of dental work done on Tuesday. We’ve been trying to stick to foods that won’t disturb her mouth, and to get started preparing for our summer departure.

On Wednesday, Geri was still feeling the effects of the surgery pretty strongly. I spent time working on more items for eBay sales and took a ride in the afternoon to run some errands. I needed to drop off the roll of film I shot when Rick and Annette were here for processing, and the high-end lab is near downtown Phoenix. Since we’re more conscious of fuel economy (I know, a strange thing for people with an SUV), I wanted to pack as much as possible into the trip. I made additional stops at the storage place (check on the coach and let the manager know our departure date) and another competing storage place (planning ahead for the fall, I need as many numbers as possible to call around looking for a spot before we get home) before the photo lab. On the way back, I stopped at the local Detroit Diesel shop for fuel and air dryer filters and got a supply of the former; but no joy on the latter. Fortunately, the area south of I-10 west of downtown is “truck stop row”, so I was able to get what I needed at the Freightliner dealer closer to home. I’ve had pretty good luck getting stuff there, even though we don’t have a Freightliner chassis.

Thursday was a “coach day”. Geri was still feeling peaked, so I packed up a bunch of stuff and tools and headed for the storage place. I put in about 3 hours on various projects before heading home. I installed a supplemental OTA (“over the air”) antenna that should help pull in local HD broadcasts while we’re traveling, put on valve stem extenders that should make it easier to check and inflate the inner rear duals, measured for an additional fire suppression device around the refrigerator (Geri will be happy to know there isn’t enough room), and took care of a few cleaning “opportunities” inside.

I had planned to bring the coach to the house for more work on Friday, but the weather didn’t cooperate. It was supposed to cool off with high clouds, which would have helped with washing and sealing the roof and starting on the exterior cleaning that it needs before we leave. Since it’s remained in the upper 80s (I know, tough to take), I decided to put this off for a bit. Besides, it’ll only get filthy again in storage, so I’m better off waiting until just before we leave, right? I can rationalize almost anything when I want to…

Instead, Friday was spent doing more eBay selling (we’re at about 50% sold on the stuff I’ve posted so far) and salvaging files from the failed tower computer. I was able to get most of what I wanted, and the rest will wait until I rebuild that machine in the fall. Dave and I were trading notes, and the best guess is that it was built in late-2002 or early-2003, so it lived several lives in PC-years.

Today, we did some shopping for things we need over the next few days, but also for things we’ll plan to take with us. It’s easier to stock up on toiletries, vitamins, etc. now so we don’t have to search for stuff we need in strange places. We’ve got enough stuff to hold us until summer, so we’ll probably stock up on these types of things when we’re in Connecticut (when Costco is about 5 miles away). It’s a little early to start loading this stuff in the coach (don’t want to run out at home), but we’ll start that process during the second week in April. I have 1-2 days allocated each week for trip preparation to spread it out so we’re not caught with a rush at the end.

There’s nothing special to report on the food and wine front, since we’re focusing on things that won’t cause Geri too much discomfort. She did make an exceptionally good take on “mac and cheese” with several different kinds of gourmet cheese and a Paive/Panko topping. We had a 1997 Frescobaldi Chianti Riserva with that – yum!

Tonight, we’re hanging out on the patio enjoying the iPod and the nice evening, at least until we observe “Earth Hour” at 8:00 PM when the electrical devices go off. We’ll probably light the “fire ring” and sip some more wine. It’ll be interesting to see how many people observe it in this area. No matter what anyone personally believes about economics, government, and the issue of global warming, there’s little reason to not take part in a conservation effort, even if it’s to save a buck. Buys more wine! :-)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Quick Updates

March 25, 2008
Peoria, AZ

  1. Geri did great at the dentist, in spite of needing an unscheduled extraction and partial bone graft to make everything "fit". She's resting and still somewhat uncomfortable, but doing well.
  2. The tower PC is going to remain disabled for a while. :-( A heat sink on the motherboard fell off and fried the video card after knocking another part off on the way. I tried another video card, but got the same result. Of course, it could have damaged the monitor as well, since that doesn't seem to want to accept any connection. I'll have to replace the motherboard and test with the two video cards before I can tell if the monitor has failed. None of that is going to happen until Fall at the earliest. I'm pretty sure that the Photoshop work I wanted to save is backed up on the internal 250 mb IDE drive, and I ordered an external USB enclosure so I can connect that drive to the notebook PC. I started researching options for accessing the SCSI drives, but that will have to wait...

Deja Dentist

March 25, 2008
Peoria, AZ

Catching up on the last few days, Sunday dinner was great and yesterday was a day for getting some errands out of the way before [cue scary music] the next round of dental work.

We had a nice Easter dinner with Ana and Larry on Sunday. The wine was flowing and fit with the rib roast nicely. They brought a Chalk Hill Chardonnay from 1996 which was very nice with some bottle age on it and a Napa Zinfandel from Peju. We also opened a 2005 Badge Pinot Noir (excellent flavors on a lighter-than-expected base) and a 2000 Chateau Potensac (another of the 2000 Bordeaux purchased as futures that’s ding nicely now).

Yesterday, we did some errands for our neighbor, Clisby, since she took a tumble over the weekend and needed an assist. I spent most of the afternoon finally getting started on the eBay Project. I pulled out several boxes of stuff that’s been accumulating, and started the process of photographing, weighing, and describing each item. It’s not hard, just tedious. I’ve tried to set up batches of stuff and work it like an assembly line. I take the batch of pictures first and download them, then use their sequence to drive the weigh and write steps for each item. I’ve gotten reasonably good at estimating total weight and package size from the unpacked weight, since these items are needed to complete the eBay posting. I was able to get about 1/3 of the batch posted yesterday (two sales already!), and I’ll tackle the remainder this afternoon.

We’re back at the dentist for Geri’s second set of dental implants this morning. Like most things these days, a plan is just a plan until you have a new plan. Before he inserted the implants, the periodontist concluded that a) tooth #3 (to the rear of the implant site) has a growing abscess and is loosening, b) tooth #3 would be likely to give her problems while we’re on the road over the summer, and c) the space between #3 and #6 where the two implants would go it too cramped. Bottom line: we need to add extraction of #3 to the day’s activities, on the fly. It remains to be seen why we weren’t able to figure this out before between all the visits to both dentists over the last few months. I’m not too happy…

She’ll be resting (hopefully comfortably) for the rest of the day, which will give me the time to work on the eBay stuff. It’s supposed to be another warm day, with temperatures in the low-90s, so indoor work makes for a good plan. Before I do that, I’ll try to resurrect my desktop computer, which suffered some kind of failure last week. I use it for Photoshop, scanning, and as a backup, so it hasn’t been critical but still needs to be addressed.

The forecast calls for cooler temperatures (low-80s) later in the week, so I have Thursday and Friday earmarked for working on the coach. I have a list of simple items (e.g., adding an outlet for the central vacuum to the storage bays, adjusting two valve stems to ease access for checking and inflating, installing the HDTV over-the-air antenna booster we bought at one of the rallies) that will take about half a day. With the cooler temperatures, I’m also hoping to get the roof cleaned and sealed as well. I’ve allocated 1-2 days each week to getting things ready for summer travel, so we should be in pretty good shape. I have some parts on order (spare fuel filters, furnace maintenance kit), and they should trickle in later this week.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter

March 23, 2008
Peoria, AZ

And a Happy Birthday to Alicia…

And congratulations to Mike and Susan on their wedding last Friday…

Friday and Saturday were productive days, although not necessarily in the areas we had planned. I’d originally planned to spend the day Friday working on the coach and Saturday getting a batch of stuff ready to sell on eBay. Well, not so much…

Friday turned into a clean-up day in the study, catching up on all sorts of miscellaneous things that were dangling in there. Most significantly, I finished up and printed out the tax forms for mailing, and they’ll go to the Post Office on Monday. I’m about a week behind schedule on this, but we’ll get a small refund so it won’t matter if it’s slightly delayed.

I also started organizing things for the coach projects, or reorganizing as the case may be. I’m trying to get the tools and supplies organized the way I want them, and it seems to be a never-ending exercise. I’m trying to leave out things that don’t belong and pack in a few things I’d wanted on the road last year, and still have room for everything, and not change the weight dynamics much. This is a tall order, but I’m dialing in on it.

I wrapped up in the garage on Saturday. I’ve got most of the maintenance items (filters, oil, drain pans, grease gun) all set, and I ordered spare fuel filters. I went through all the cleaning supplies (I’ve probably collected one sample of every RV cleaning gizmo or pad known to man over the years) and separated out those that won’t travel (like waxing kits) from those that will (like spray-and-wipe cleaners). I still have a few spare parts that need to find a traveling home, but I’ll wrap that up next week.

I also pulled out a lot of the stuff I want to sell off, but only succeeded in making a mess in the spare room again. The process of cataloging, photographing, and weighing each thing can get a little tedious, so I know I’m putting it off. I’m bound and determined to spend a good chunk of next Tuesday afternoon on that, since Geri will have her final set of dental implants done in the morning and we’ll be just hanging out at home for the rest of the day. Beside, it’s supposed to be hot, in the upper-80s to low-90s today through Tuesday, so inside work makes sense.

Friday night’s dinner was exceptional: roasted pork loin done on the rotisserie with Geri’s orzo-stuffed roasted peppers and sautéed green beans. We started with a glass of white wine, the Albariño from Longoria that we’d brought back from California, and moved on to a wonderful 1997 Brunello do Montalcino from Castel Giocondo. It’s showing all the signs of a classic Brunello: smooth tannins with lots of leather and smoke behind the fruit. Fabulous!

Today, we’re having a beef rib roast, and Ana and Larry are coming over. We’ll have “Grandma Reds” (pan-roasted red potatoes; Al named the dish) and the last of the haricots verts, and we’ll have the roasted root vegetable salad that we started last week. Wine selections to come…

Friday, March 21, 2008

Some Picture Updates

March 21, 2008
Peoria, AZ

Well, I was wrong (what else is new) -- we did have some pictures from the baseball game and "Old Town Scottsdale" on Geri's camera in addition to those I shot with the D200 in Sedona.

Here is a link to a few shots:

Picture taking this week was interesting. I ran into people who wanted to "talk shop" in both Scottsdale and Sedona. In "Old Town", I ran into a professional stock photographer who was scouting for additional shots on the project he was involved with. He's a Canon guy, so we didn't have equipment in common, but did chat a bit about the street scenes. In Sedona, I ran into a guy wanting to show off his new D300 (camera envy is almost as bad as lens envy -- and my lenses are pretty good) and another guy at Cathedral Rock who just wanted to chat. Must be a guy thing...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A nice visit – now back to our regularly scheduled programming

March 20, 2008
Peoria, AZ

We wrapped up a very nice visit with Rick and Annette yesterday morning, and now it’s back to more mundane activities.

As planned (at least the revised plan), Monday was a relaxing day while we let the weather get back to normal after a cold front went through. We took a leisurely trip to “Old Town Scottsdale”, which is a bit of a misnomer. Sure, it’s geographically correct – it’s where the center of town was a hundred years ago. Other than some of the tourists, nothing’s really that “old” any more. It’s half touristy kitsch and half artsy-fartsy these days, but it was nice to poke around. Geri and Annette both found some jewelry that caught their eye, and a couple of t-shirts were purchased. We found a couple of metal sculptures that’ll go well on the front of the house for $7 each, which saves us a trip to the flea market. The weather cleared and it warmed up to the low 70s. All in all, a productive day.

Geri chickened out (no pun intended) on serving fish and root vegetable salad (Rick’s not a fish person and neither he nor Annette seemed thrilled about beets and turnip in a salad), so we ended up having some chili that was in the freezer. Chili is definitely one of those dishes that benefits from a bit of age, and this one, served with Mexican rice and margaritas, was great. Our neighbor, Mary Ann, joined us for dinner.

Tuesday was a long day. We started with a trip to the dentist (Geri had the stitches from the implants removed) and then breakfast at the local Cracker Barrel. Once properly fueled up, we headed for Sedona, north up I-17 almost to Flagstaff. Once there, we made several stops for pictures of the Red Rocks and spent some time trolling through the shops along the main drag in town. It was another cloudless Arizona day, and temperatures up there (Sedona is around 5,000 feet up) rose into the mid-60s. Once we had enough of that, we decided to head back via Prescott, which took us on a completely different route. We climbed up the mountains past Cottonwood through the old mining town of Jerome. As we continued to climb out of Jerome, we made it up to the snow level above 6,000 feet; the snow was from the storms that passed to the north of us while we were watching baseball on Sunday. Past Prescott, we glided down the long grade (probably about 4,000 feet) to Congress and Wickenberg, then home via US-60.

We stopped at the Safeway before we got home, and decided on simple steak frittes for dinner. Once home, the deep fryer and grill were quickly started and we were eating in no time. Coupled with a 1998 Nuits St. George Red Burgundy and a 2001 Stag’s Leap “Fay” Cabernet Sauvignon, the filets were quite good (even if I overcooked Geri’s – a cardinal sin). After determining that Rick and Annette have not yet developed a palate for Limoncella, Patron Café, or Puerto Rican Rum, we all turned in early.

Yesterday (Wednesday) was a bit of a blur. We were all up early for a 6:45 AM departure. We had Rick and Annette to the airport around 7:20, in plenty of time for their 9-something flight. Rick had done the online check-in the nigh before and they were “A-something” (I don’t pretend t understand Southwest Airline’s boarding process), which I guess is a good thing. Then we were off to another of Geri’s dentist appointments (Are you sick of hearing about them? We are.); she had a permanent post installed in preparation for a permanent crown. Then we went home, made coffee, and chilled for a bit. In the afternoon, we gave the pups a “tubbie”, which they really needed. We were going to have leftover chili for dinner, but a pitcher of margaritas and a plate of nachos were quite enough, thank you. Well, maybe a bit of cookie dough frozen custard filled in the cracks. And, Rick and Annette made it home OK, albeit a bit later than they'd expected.

Today was another beautiful day in Paradise, with sunny skies and temperatures in the low 80s. We slept late and caught up on email. Geri made an appointment at the vet for next month, and I took care of a few errands, starting to prepare for our summer departure. We’ve set April 19th as our start date, and now I need to do some additional planning to get ready for that. We’ll start tomorrow, as we’ll make it a “coach day”.

It’s still quite nice out tonight. It’s after 10:00 PM MST and I’m still out on the patio with the PC updating the blog and downloading pictures from the cameras. I’ll post some Sedona pictures tomorrow. The Scottsdale photos will have to wait for a few days, since I decided to bring the F6 and shoot film for a change…

Monday, March 17, 2008

Raindrops are fallin’ on my head…

March 17, 2008
Peoria, AZ

Actually, we felt 3 or 4 raindrops yesterday, but more on that later.

Late last week was a blur of mundane activities: shopping, house cleaning, etc., once we finished up Geri’s dental appointments for the week. She was able to successfully get through the process of installing the first two dental implants on the lower left, and a fitting for a replacement crown on the upper right. We’re about halfway done with this process, and she’s been an excellent patient.

One of my tasks for Friday was to get started on a recipe we’d planned for Sunday. We make a nice grilled leg of lamb, and it’s at its best when it has a chance to marinate for 36-48 hours. On Friday night, we headed to the airport to pick up Rick and Annette. Their flight was close to on-time (9:25 PM arrival vs. scheduled 9:10), and the delay at baggage claim wasn’t too bad, so we were home by 11:00 PM-ish (or 1:00 AM-ish Alabama time). We motored through most of a pizza and a bottle of Chianti as a snack, and turned in pretty quickly.

Saturday evening, Rick and Annette had a dinner date with an aunt who lives in Mesa, about 45 minutes away. We did a little shopping during the day, and they left around 3:00 PM for their visit. Geri and I had Chilean Sea Bass with a mushroom sauce over rice and peas with a nice Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir from Longoria that we’d brought back from our recent trip.

Yesterday (Sunday), the weather turned cooler as a cold front passed through. Unfortunately, this was the day I’d planned for an outing to the local “Cactus League” spring training baseball game. We bundled up a bit as temperatures only topped out near 60°F, and we felt a couple of raindrops as a stray gray cloud passed overhead. We could see clouds dumping rain somewhere off in the distance, but it stayed pretty dry in our area. We could actually feel the front passing through, and watched the wind shift from the south to the northwest as the game progressed. Since this shifted the wind from our backs to our faces, we all looked at each other when we were standing for the “7th inning stretch” and said, “We’re outta here”. The ‘home team” Seattle Mariners (our local sports complex is shared by the Mariners and the San Diego Padres for spring training) were getting thumped by the visiting Milwaukee Brewers anyway.

At home, Geri did most of the prep work for dinner while I apparently took a nap (I don’t remember it this way, but the vote was 3-1 against me). The lamb hit the grill at 6:20 PM and we were eating by 7:00. Coupled with Geri’s famous Crispy Smashed Red Potatoes and sautéed haricots verts (French green beans), it was a pretty good meal. We started with another of the wines we’d brought back from California, a 2005 Longoria “Blues Cuvee” blend of several different grapes. It was a little rustic, but a good starter with salad. We moved to a 2003 Two Hands “Bad Impersonator” Shiraz from the Barossa Valley in Australia (excellent with the lamb; quite flavorful and fruity), and ended with a 2000 Bordeaux, Chateau Potensac from the Médoc (smooth and refined).

Today should be a nicer, warmer day, but we decided to put off the day trip to Sedona until tomorrow when it’ll be even nicer. We made huevos rancheros (no, they weren't green in honor of St. Patrick) with the leftover lamb and potatoes from last night (and any other leftovers handy in the refrigerator), so we’re primed to tour Old Town Scottsdale in a bit. This means I’d better stop typing and start getting ready…

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Back home, and back to reality…

March 11, 2008
Peoria, AZ

We’re back in Peoria and, wow, reality sets in quickly!

We wrapped up our trip to wine country with another tasting session and a dinner at Los Olivos Café on Friday. We tasted at Foley (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) and found that they had hired away the winemaker from Sea Smoke, so it’ll be interesting to see how each changes over the next few years. We also hit a new tasting room in Solvang, run by the same winemaker and her significant other; we’d met them last year and had a nice chat. Dinner was OK but a little disappointing, since we’d remembered better food and service from past visits. We did have a warm root vegetable salad with gorgonzola that we’ll try to recreate at home.

We originally thought that we’d stop overnight in Indio with Wayne and Eva on the way home, as that would break up the trip nicely. The more we thought about it, though, it made more sense to leave Buellton a little earlier and push to get home early, so that’s what we did. Even though it was disappointing to not see our friends, but we were able to use the extra time to get the coach unloaded, cleaned, and back in storage on Sunday. It would have been a rush to get everything done on Sunday afternoon if we’d taken our time on the return trip.

This week will be pretty busy, and it’s already started. Geri was pushing through the laundry pile, and spent yesterday afternoon with hair and nails. I cleaned up the spare room (since it was my mess of cables and parts from when I was installing the DirecTV system) and powered through the remaining loads of laundry while she was out.

This morning, we’re up early as Geri gets her first dental implants (lower right); we’re at the periodontist’s office as I compose. She’ll be “out of it” for the rest of the day, I’m sure. Tomorrow, she’s back to the prostodontist for work on the upper left crown. It’ll be like that for the next four weeks, as both dentists work to get all the work completed before we head out for the summer. All in, she’s got eight appointments between today and April 3rd!

Later this week, Rick and Annette will be arriving for a short visit, which will be fun. We’ve got a couple of things planned (baseball game, Sedona day trip). I’ll make a to-do list of things we need to do before they arrive today.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Is there such a things as too much wine tasting?

March 6, 2008
Buellton, CA

Yesterday was wine tasting day. We didn’t get the earliest of starts but, hey, how much wine do you want to drink before noon anyway? Geri made some sandwiches and we packed the cooler for an afternoon trip up toward Santa Maria. We stopped for some pictures along the way through the little town of Santa Ynez before heading to Los Olivos. We stopped at the local gourmet grocery to pick up potatoes, and ended up with a few specialty items and a couple of bottles of wine. It’s always interesting to find local wines that are difficult to get at retail elsewhere.

There are quite a few tasting rooms along Grand Avenue in Los Olivos; it seems like there are more of them every time we visit. We stopped at Epiphany Cellars first, where we added to our collection of traveling souvenir wine glasses and picked up a couple of interesting bottles, including Grenache Blanc and Grenache Rose (dry, not sweet). We found out that the winemaker is Fess Parker’s son, and were given a pass for a free tasting at Fess Parker Winery, so that was added to the itinerary.

Walking down Grand Avenue, we then visited Richard Longoria (no relation) Wines, where we’d had some wonderful wines last year. We were able to pick up more glasses and a mixed case, with interesting varietals like Albariño and Tempranillo in addition to the usual Pinot Noir and Syrah found in this area.

Our next stop was at Fess Parker Winery, about 5 miles outside Los Olivos on the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail. We’ve driven this road many times in the 30 years or so that we’ve been visiting this area, but we’d never stopped at this particular winery. We tasted and purchased, then sat on their patio to have our lunch. One could argue that we should have had lunch before tasting, as it was already around 3:00 PM when we got there and we were beginning to feel the effects of the tasting, so to speak.

Given the lateness of the hour, we decided that we’d gone far enough, so we headed back toward Buellton. We decided to make our last stop of the day at Curtis Winery, another place that we’d visited last year. We had some interesting tastes, including a Grenache, a Mourvedre, and a Cabernet Franc (all were added to the collection)

In general, we found an increase in what you might call “non-traditional” or maybe “non-mainstream” varietals compared to prior trips. Winemakers are highlighting several Rhône varieties like Grenache, Mourvedre, and Roussanne. This suggests a level of experimentation, and that we’ll see some of these grape types flourish and others become novelties (or disappear) over the next few years.

Back home last night, Geri made a great dinner of sautéed chicken with Spanish rice and peas. Unfortunately, the tasting experience took its toll on her and she turned in early. We decided to stay here an extra couple of days, so we were able to “take the day off” today and focus on doing some house cleaning (we’ve been tracking in a lot of dirt and leaves this week) and reading. Tomorrow, we’ll do a little more tasting (but not as much as yesterday!) and then have dinner at Los Olivos Café, one of our favorite restaurants in the area. We’ll get things ready for a Saturday morning departure, as well.

Here is a link to some of the pictures from yesterday:

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Enjoying fabulous California weather

March 4, 2008
Buellton, CA

We’re having a great time this week, enjoying weather that’s absolutely wonderful, and visiting with family members. Here's something different: an area map with notations. Let me know if it adds context.

We stayed at El Capitan Beach for three nights, and explored an area that we’ve driven through for years without stopping: US-101 between Santa Barbara and Lompoc/Buellton. When we first started coming out here to visit Geri’s sister, Kathy, and her family, we’d fly into LAX and drive up to Lompoc. We’d add a short stay in LA on either end of the trip, but the drive was basically up the I-405 to US-101 to CA-1 and a straight shot to Lompoc and back. Over the years, we learned to enjoy Santa Barbara as well, and this trip we added a few other stops.

On Sunday, we took the inland route (CA-154) from Santa Barbara to Los Olivos, up the switchbacks through San Marcos Pass, past Lake Cachuma and Santa Ynez. I’d always thought that this might be a shortcut to Lompoc, but it’s probably a bit of a climb and doesn’t really cut out that many miles.

On the way back, we also had a chance to explore the coastline between Santa Barbara and Gaviota, where US-101 turns inland. There are a couple of state beaches along this stretch, but California economics dictates $8 entrance fees just to poke around. Fortunately, there are many roadside turn-offs on the 101 that allow for beach access. It’s not always easy, since you have to cross the railroad tracks and scramble down unimproved trails, but there are always a few hardy souls (and their dogs) who make the trek. Even with the relatively low surf (swells were only running a few feet), you can usually find “surfer dudes” out there as well.

Pictures from the beach are here:

Another part of the attraction to this area is family visits. Geri’s sister has lived in Lompoc for over 40 years. Her daughter, Cindy, lives in Santa Barbara with her husband, Mike, and daughter, Jennifer. Kathy’s other daughter, Debbie, has recently moved back to Lompoc from Oregon, and she has a place right around the corner from her Mom. This is very helpful, as she’s around to help Kathy get to doctor’s appointments, etc.

Since we stayed closer to Santa Barbara initially, we had two opportunities to catch up with Cindy, Mike, and Jennifer. After we got settled last Friday, we quickly showered and changed, and met them for dinner at a little trattoria in downtown SB. It was crowed and noisy, in a good sort of way, the food was excellent, and it reminded us of places we’ve frequented in New York.

Saturday morning, they stopped by at the coach to visit for a short while with their dog, Barkley. Barkley was heading for his first stay at a kennel, since they were on their way to Los Angeles where Mike was running in the LA Marathon. He’s just started long distance running over the last few years, and has rapidly worked up to the 26.2 mile marathon distance. The LA event was his first, and he finished in 4:10, an excellent time.

Yesterday (Monday) was a travel day, one of the shortest in recent memory since we only had to travel 25 miles up US-101 to Buellton. We arrived at Flying Flags RV Park around 11:30 AM, and had “do our penance” for early arrival by waiting in the “holding area” since check-in time is a strict 2:00 PM. No issue for us, since we’re pretty well self-contained so we had lunch and checked email.

After we parked in our designated spot, Kathy came over from Lompoc, with her friend, Kathy. Fortunately, it wasn’t too confusing. We hung out at the coach for a while and then went to dinner at one of our favorite spots, The Hitching Post. It’s been an institution in the area, with the chef/owner being a winemaker known for Pinot Noir and Syrah. The restaurant also played a “bit part” in the movie “Sideways”, a cult classic “relationship flick” about the meaning of life and the quest for Pinot Noir. Since this corner of Santa Barbara County is producing some great Pinots, it was a great setting for the movie. We had steaks, wood-fired as always, and a couple of the house wines. Their “Generations Red” (a Cabernet blend) was the starter, but the 2001 Cabernet Franc was the star. We may have to stop by and see if we can pick some up for the “wine box”.

Today was a relatively quiet day. Kathy had a morning doctor’s appointment in Santa Barbara (quite a drive, about 75 miles each way), and Debbie took her. They stopped by the coach on the way back, and then we all went to Lompoc for lunch. A new sushi place opened since we last visited, so we had to try it out. It’s in a converted Jack-in-the-Box or something, with a few tables and a 10-person sushi bar, and the fish was very fresh. I was the only one partaking, as everyone else got rolls, tempura, soup, or teriyaki stuff. My feeling is, “when in Rome…” (Or is that “when in Tokyo”?), but hey, to each their own, right?

Family pictures are here:

After lunch, we picked up a few things a Wally-World and headed back to the coach for a nap and a snack for dinner. We’ll do some planning for the remainder of our stay here, when we’ll do some wine tasting…

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Photoshop Tricks

March 1, 2008 - Yikes!
El Capitan State Beach, CA

I've been playing around with Photoshop and finally figured out how to use the "photomerge" function. Bill Crawford, who we met at Quartzsite in January, used Photoshop "Elements" (I think) software to blend several pictures together into a panoramic view. I have an older version of Elements at home, but it's not installed as I never really used it. I figured that Photoshop might have the same function, and I found it in the help files.

I've been playing around with it and managed to get at least one reasonably good result from the rally we went to in Lancaster, CA.

I tried another from the Pomona Rally, but got my exposures off so some parts of the panorama are darker than others. I'll try adjusting those in Photoshop, and I'll try to remember to lock the exposure settings next time!