Summer Travel Map

Friday, April 30, 2010

A Boring Day

April 30, 2010
Anthony, TX

Well, there's not much to say about today's drive. We started at the Flying J truck stop on I-10 in Eloy, AZ. We ended at the Flying J truck stop on I-10 in Anthony, TX (just over the state line from New Mexico, just west of El Paso). It was another windy day, with 20+ MPH winds blowing steadily all day. We had some tail winds and some side winds, depending on the direction of travel. Geri made pork medallions with pan-roasted potatoes and sautéed zucchini. Tomorrow, we'll do it again, heading along the I-10 toward San Antonio, where we're planning to spend several days. It's another one of those places we've always been "through", not "to", so I'm looking forward to that...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Casa Grande Visit

April 29, 2010
Eloy, AZ

Today dawned sunny, and we had another good day. I washed the bug debris off the front of the coach, topped off the transmission fluid (it was 5 quarts low due to the leak), and called friends in Casa Grande to see if they were going to be around for a visit. With the green light on that, we headed out once again. After a quick stop to pick up more transmission fluid (have to have that kind of stuff on board at all times), we arrived in Casa Grande around 11:00. We had a great visit over lunch with Bob & Marlene and Rod & Jean, the couples with whom we travelled to Alaska last summer. It was great to catch up, reminisce, compare notes and talk about future travel plans. Bob & Marlene have been doing a lot of work on their house and yard, and are planning to stick close to home this summer. We wish them well.

 "The Lunch Crowd", minus Bob the Photographer

We planned to hit the road around 2:00 and ended up yakking until 3:00. We thought about heading east on the I-10 to the New Mexico border but, after stopping for fuel 15 miles down the road, decided to call it a day. We found a spot to park, I made a batch of Sloppy Joes, and we'll relax a bit before continuing our trip east tomorrow. In spite of the sunny day, some clouds rolled through pushed by very strong winds. We had some sprinkles, followed by a short dust storm - just enough to make a mess on the windshield.

We'll keep playing the schedule by ear, adjusting timing as we go. It's the "new me", focusing more on the journey than the plan for it.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Marking our territory - again

April 28, 2010
Indio, CA

No, we've not let Merlin run amok. We just have a drip under the coach. Not just any drip, but the one I thought I had fixed back in January. I hate it when a fix doesn't "take".

To back up a bit, we've had a minor leak from the transmission for a couple of years, on and off. It got worse on our trip to Florida and back over the winter, and I took it in to the local engine/transmission shop in January. They changed the seals in the "power take off" (aka "PTO") that pumps the hydraulic fluid used for the engine fan and power steering and declared everything OK. It looked that way to me as well, since I saw no drippage on the trip back to storage and a few quick trips to the house and back. Now, I did find a rag stuffed into the side of the transmission when I was under there doing a chassis lube in early-April. Guess what? At our first stop heading west, just over the state line into California, the leak is back.

I did some research and found a shop that specializes in PTO work, "PTO Sales" (clever, eh?) in Fontana, CA, right off the I-10 where we're passing by on our way east. I called first thing Monday morning and made arrangements to be there early in the afternoon. A quick look led to an estimate of $40 in parts and 8-10 hours of labor, mostly related to cleaning things up (can't have road grime and oil fall into the transmission and rebuilding the PTO. OK, so we're not out of here today. We grabbed a travel bag and headed for our friends, Wayne & Eva, in Indio, about 90 miles away. We had a great dinner with them Monday night (Tri-tip with red beans & rice), and their neighbors Will & Diane joined us. We took advantage of their spare room, although the pups were restless.

Tuesday started with a call from Fontana (unlike most service shops, this place was all over the communications process - I didn't have to call them once). "Good news; we're ahead of schedule but we need additional parts". They were able to get everything cleaned up and disassembled on Monday, but found that the PTO needed to be upgraded with a factory-supplied kit. No problem since they stock the parts, but the $40 estimate is now $210. OK, and still on schedule for completion later in the day.

Well, not so fast, fella. The next call comes mid-afternoon, with another good news/bad news message. "We did the rebuild and bench tested it, but found that the cast iron housing is cracked". Huh? How's that happen? No answers there, but we found two new housings. "One is at the factory in Mississippi, but we missed the overnight shipping cut-off. The other is at the PTO Sales shop in Tulsa, Oklahoma and we can get that one here tomorrow, but it's the whole PTO". Ka-ching. Needless to say, we chose the new PTO.

We had another great dinner (on top of breakfast!) with Wayne & Eva and Will & Diane: fish tacos. Eva and Diane contributed black cod that Wayne & Will had caught last summer in Oregon. With fresh corn tortillas, guacamole, chipotle sauce, and a variety of sides, we ate well once again.

When the phone rang this morning, I was expecting the "the part didn't ship" message but was wrong. Instead, we found that the "new" PTO was the same as the "old" PTO, and needed the upgrade kit installed as well. Hmmm, what else can they sell me? With another promise to be done by noon, we decided to head back to Fontana mid-morning. No matter what, we hadn't brought enough "stuff" to stay longer. We arrive just before noon and everything was, indeed, ready for inspection. We check for leaks and didn't see any, so we packed up and headed out, taking advantage of the tailwinds along I-10. We made it all the way to Phoenix (isn't there a song about that?) and parked right in front of the house. We had dinner, I put most of the wine in the "wine box", and we'll just stay here tonight. Since the house is all closed up, we'll stay in the coach. We're self-contained, so that's no issue. It's good to have the leak fixed (fingers crossed here).

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Off and running

April 25, 2010
Buellton, CA

We hit the road as planned last Thursday afternoon, heading west for California. After a quick overnight at the Morongo Casino just west of Palm Springs (almost froze our tushies off Thursday night!), we pulled into our destination at Flying Flags RV "Resort" in Buellton, in the heart of Santa Ynez Valley wine country. Geri's nephew, Rick, was waiting for us, having driven over from his home in California City. Yes, this trip is about family business, not "vacation".

We quickly set up and headed for Lompoc, about 16 miles west. We stopped at the local bank, where I completed the paperwork needed to get Rick added to Geri's sister's (Rick's mother's) banking relationship, so he can help manage some of her finances. We then took Kathy to visit a local Assisted Living facility (yes, it's time for her to get more assistance than she can get at home), and we picked out her room. Rick will get her moved in at the end of the month. We then headed for a local restaurant for a nice dinner.

Saturday was all about wine for us. We "belong" to four different "wine clubs" in the area, and have the periodic "shipments" held for us, since we're not in AZ all year and the summer heat will kill wines. We prefer to pick them up, and we hit three of the four (Fiddlehead, D'Alfonso-Curran, and Lincourt) on Saturday, along with a stop at Foley, one of Geri's favorites. One of the nice things about being "members" is that tastings are complimentary, so we had quite a good time. We had paninis at Chef's Touch in Solvang, right next door to D'Alfonso-Curran, and enjoyed those as well.

Today, we took Kathy for lunch and a ride in the country, heading to the fourth of the wineries, Tres Hermanas, which is quite a way out on the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail. On the way back, we stopped at the coach and picked up the dogs, who spent the rest of the ride hanging out with Kathy in the back seat. She really enjoyed that!

Tonight, we went to dinner at the Hitching Post right near us in Buellton, which was good but not great (Geri's filet looked and tasted more like top sirloin, the local chanterelles were on the tough side, and the whole meal was too salty - my, we're picky!) but convenient and has a good selection of well-priced local wines.

Overall, it was a good visit, albeit a bit stressful. Tomorrow, the adventure continues - but more on that later...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

I Love April

April 10, 2010
Peoria, AZ

Yes, it's the time of year when pollen fills the Phoenix air and the TV stations run contests for people to predict the first day with 100° high temperatures. For me, it's also the time of year when we get down to the business of hitting the road for the summer. The signs are all around us. We've got clean teeth and groomed puppies and Geri's OK with her doctors until the fall. House projects are either done or as done as they're going to get for now. Coach stuff is in pretty good shape, other than needing a nice wash and wax, and boxes and baskets of stuff are starting to appear around the house in staging areas. Ah, yes, I love April.

Since our last update, we've been busy checking things off the to-do list. I've laid in supplies of things that are difficult to get while on the road, and done most of the routine maintenance (generator oil and filter, chassis lube) that the coach will need. Oil and filters for the coach will be done somewhere on the road this year, based on the mileage since I changed everything in December. I also changed the oil and filter in the Range Rover. I miss "4-year scheduled maintenance". This is the first vehicle that we've had in a long time that we kept beyond the warranty period.

We're having our "last supper" with friends Ana & Larry tonight (Geri's famous Lasagna - woo-hoo!) and we'll bring the coach over to the house to facilitate loading tomorrow and probably once more during the week. I've got a few projects to complete (installing a support so we can have the DirecTV DVR in the front of the coach, upgrading the electrical power protection system, fitting a slab of maple that'll be used as a computer table when we're parked), and I'll wash and wax the roof as well.

We had originally planned to load on April 14-15 and leave on the 16th, but we decided to shift that off a week to give ourselves a little breathing room. We'll now load on April 20-21 and hit the road mid-day on the 22nd.

Our travels will take us west at first, with our first stop being the Lompoc, CA, area. We'll visit with Geri's sister and pick up some wine from various mailing lists we're on (even though we don't have them mail the wine to us - go figure). We'll then head back east, hopefully catching up with our friends Wayne& Eva in Indio, then stopping at the "stick house" to unload wines that need to be in the "wine box". Then we'll continue east, hopefully making stops in Casa Grande, San Antonio, Livingston (TX), New Orleans, and Summerdale (AL) before arriving in Albertville (AL) around May 15th. We'll probably hang out with my brother and his extended family there for the rest of May. From there, the travel plan gets a little murky but, hey what the heck, it's an adventure, right?