Summer Travel Map

Friday, December 28, 2012

December 10-28: Yes, There Is A Santa Claus

December 28. 2012
Cederholm Compound, Peoria, AZ

Yes, it’s the “holiday season”.  We decorated.  We ate (and wined).  We mailed and received packages.  And Geri was a good girl and got a couple of neat gifts.

I finally got around to getting the camera gear out and shooting a few pictures of the Christmas decorations for this year.  It was probably a good idea, since we did a few things differently and would probably not remember next year what goes where!

In addition to the MacBook Air she got early, Geri got a replacement iPad, as her original iPad 2 developed a “bad spot” in the touch screen.  It wasn’t fatal; it just wouldn’t always register a “touch”.  She was able to get around this by turning the screen around, but it was annoying.  And, since somebody (aka, me) didn’t spring for the Apple Care plan when we bought these iPads about 18 months ago, fixing it was going to be $250 (that’s the flat rate for anything at Apple).  So, I got her a new iPad 4, which was going to happen after the New Year anyway since we’ll be updating our phones in January and the newest “i” devices have a different cable connector.  We “needed” to upgrade the iPads to be consistent.  How’s that for twisted logic?

The other thing that we’ve been talking about is upgrading the blender we use for smoothies (and other things, of course) to a Vitamix.  Costco started carrying them, so it was a natural that there would be one of those under the tree as well.

What did George get?  Well, there was a set of brake pads and rotors for the Rover that he’s needed, and I’m happy to say that we can now stop without squeaks or that annoying grinding noise that caused us to turn the radio up louder.  Oh, and there was another iPad 4 under the tree with his name on it; we have to maintain parity on the “His & Hers” things, right?  Oh, and there were a couple of Home Depot Gift Cards that will come in very handy when we get started painting the Master Suite next year.

The pups made out well, too, with a nice blanket boasting a picture of their buddy Tanner and some interesting travel accessories from their friends in Alabama, Jackson & CJ (whose gifts will be personally delivered next spring).

Otherwise, things have been calm and quiet, and even a little chilly.  After having above-normal temperatures through mid-December or so, we’ve had a couple of weeks of below-normal days and even a few raindrops.  We’ll likely end the year with just over four inches of rain!  Now that, too, is below normal (of something near 8”), so people are still saying, “we need the rain”.  I’ll take a little rain as long as the temperatures stay in the upper-60s or better.

And, yes, we’re starting to think through the “spring projects”.  I’ve got a batch of stuff that’ll go on eBay in January, both from the house and the coach (stuff we don’t use any longer).  And, we’ll finally paint the master bedroom and bathroom.  On the coach front, I’ll be replacing the “house batteries”, the ones that power all the inside lights and devices (as opposed to the ones that start the engine).  They’re just about 7 years old and starting to fail, so they’ll get swapped out in January as well.

That should hold us for a while, at least until March, when we’ll take in a Cactus League game or two and get started thinking about a summer “on the road”…

Monday, December 10, 2012

November 1-December 10: Doctors, Dentists and Vets

December 10, 2012
Cederholm Compound, Peoria, AZ

Wow!  It’s been a busy six weeks!  We’ve had all our doctor and dentist visits and everything is OK.  Geri had her 3.5-year MRI of her kidney, and everything is fine; she can go to annual checks at this point.  Her periodontist did find the beginnings of an abscess, but that was addressed quickly with antibiotics.

On the pet front, we had another scare with Maya Lynn.  She developed a small bump on her shoulder. And it looked like another mast cell tumor, so she went in for surgery and had it removed.  Pathology came back negative, so that was good news.  Unfortunately, it looks like the heavy doses of Prednisone that she got prior to surgery may have triggered a diabetic reaction, so we’re now giving her insulin injections twice a day.  She’s tolerating that well, thank goodness.

Other than that, things have begun to quiet down.  We’ve been eating and drinking well, and enjoying the wines in the “wine box” that have been aging nicely while we were away.  I’ve been working to get back into a routine of alternating 3-5 mile walks with 10-12 mile bike rides.

Speaking of bike rides, Geri got her Christmas present early.  She asked Santa for a small trailer that she can pull behind her bike for the pups to ride with her.  After some quick and painless assembly, she was off and touring the neighborhood.  It’s a hoot, and the dogs love it!

We did treat ourselves to a night out early this month.  I’d seen tickets for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra online and snapped up a pair.  Their rocking Christmas shows are quite stimulating!  We haven’t seen them in a few years (and don’t do a lot of concerts), so this was a nice change of pace for us.  Plus, the show was relatively close, at the hockey arena in Glendale about 4 miles from the house.

Geri got an additional early Christmas present this year, courtesy of eBay.  I was able to find a reasonably good deal on a used MacBook Air for her.  Since we’ll be able to upgrade our phones next month, moving her to an all-Apple environment will make things much simpler.  She’s had quite a time keeping her Windows-based Outlook, Android phone and iPad in sync, for example.  Or, not in sync, as the case may be.  Since she’s primarily a mail and browser user, the MacBook Air is perfect for her.

I’ve spent some time on the technology front as well, upgrading my iMac to 16gb of memory and migrating the two Windows-based programs I still use (Quicken for finances and Streets & Trips for travel planning) to run there using a “virtual machine”.  I tried Parallels but ended up getting VMware as the performance is much better.  It looks like our collection of Windows-based laptops will soon head for eBay!

And finally, we leveraged the Christmas spirit generated by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra show to get the holiday decorating done.  We don’t go overboard but do put up a tree and a few decorations inside, plus some lights outside.  This year's activities were a little complicated because last January we decided to toss or donate all the old lights that were getting old and starting to fail.  LED lights are the future, so that’s what we’re aiming for in terms of replacements.  Unfortunately, we didn’t take advantage of last year’s after-Christmas sales for stock up on said LED lights.  So, we’ve made several shopping trips trying to find lights we like.  I’m happy to say that we’re almost done with that process and hope to finish up at this year’s clearance sales; we have enough decorations in place for now.  So, as they say, “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas”!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October 30-31: Travel Recap

October 31. 2012
Cederholm Compound, Peoria, AZ

Well, we’ve made it “home” once again from our “Summer” travels. I put these things in quotes, of course, since they’re euphemisms.  Arizona is our “winter home”, and the scope of our absence extends well beyond the summer season.  But, it sounds right for some reason…

Since I tend to keep a lot of information on our travels, let’s put some of that to good use with some interesting (to me, anyway) tidbits.

We traveled about 4,808 miles this year.  This was a huge change for us, as we’ve generally done 10,000-12,000 miles a year in the motorhome. Our decision to not head East this year was a difficult one, driven mostly by the high cost of fuel in the spring.  We missed seeing many family members and friends.

Our reduced travel schedule obviously resulted in a significant savings on fuel.  We “only” used 847 gallons of diesel in our travels, well under the 2,000+ consumed over the past few years.

Since we didn’t spend as much time staying with family and friends, we did visit campgrounds and RV parks more often.  Of the 38 different places we stayed, 17 were commercial RV parks and 17 were Elks Lodges, with the remaining four being “freebies”.  We did reasonably well on managing the expense, though, averaging $27.57 per night all in.


 So, now we’re generally all unpacked and unloaded.  The house is a mess, of course, but we’ll work through that over the next few days/weeks.  We made our annual trek to Grimaldi’s Pizza last night, a “first night back” tradition when nobody feels like cooking.  The house appears none the worse for wear, and the utilities are back on without much trouble, so we’re back in business.

The next few weeks will be busy, with many appointments scheduled.  More on that in our next post…

Monday, October 29, 2012

October 25-29: Cottonwood-Sedona-Flagstaff

October 29, 2012
Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Cottonwood, AZ

Every year when we get back to our place in Arizona, I say I want to use the winter months to explore closer to home.  Too often, when we get back, we’re basically parked until spring.  There’s so much to see in Arizona that we’re missing an opportunity, primarily because waiting until our normal April departure makes much of the state too hot to enjoy.

So, this year, we decided to make a stop in Arizona before getting back to the Phoenix area.  And, what brought this on?  We bought a Groupon for a wine tasting deal.  Hey; whatever it takes!

Our travel began on Wednesday.  We left Malibu relatively early, circling back up the PCH to Camarillo and cutting across to US-101 heading towards Los Angeles.  Near Burbank we shifted east onto CA-134 to Pasadena then I-210/CA-210 along the Foothills.  We picked up I-15 to Barstow then I-40 heading east to Needles.  Just over the CA-AZ border, we pulled into the first rest area and called it a day.

Up early on Thursday morning, we were back on I-40, stopping in Kingman for fuel, and continuing on to Flagstaff where we turned south on I-17.  We exited near Cottonwood and were soon parked at Dead Horse Ranch State Park.  

We don’t often stay at state parks because of the perception that they aren’t set up to handle rigs of our size.  Well, with a little research, parks we can use are out there and are often a good deal.  With a 50 Amp Water-Electric site for $25/night, this is a good deal.

Friday, we took a ride back up to Flagstaff, then back via the “scenic route” on AZ-89A through Oak Creek Canyon through Sedona to Cottonwood.  Very scenic.  

Saturday, we did our wine tasting, after being fortified by one of Geri’s famous brunches.  We made the short drive over to Cornville and visited Oak Creek Vineyards and Page Springs Winery.  The former focuses on Arizona-grown grapes and the latter uses a mixture of Arizona and California fruit.  I say “Arizona” instead of “local”, since there are two different areas where wine grapes are cultivated: here in the Verde Valley about 100 miles north of Phoenix and down near Patagonia and Sonoita south of Tucson.  Another place we’ll have to visit!

Yesterday, we relaxed, had a walk around the Park, did a little local grocery shopping, and took the pups to the local Dog Park.  They really enjoyed meeting all the “locals” and Merlin even let one of the other dog owners pet him.

Today, I caught up on bills and this travel Blog, even though posting has been a bit of a struggle since we’re on the fringe of cellular data coverage.  Tonight, we’ll do our standard travel preparation so we can get a nice start in the morning.  It’s only a couple of hours of driving to get back to Peoria, and then the process of unloading can begin.  I called a week ago to have the water and cable turned back on.  I’ll turn the gas on and get the appliances started and we’ll be all set.  The next two weeks will be pretty busy with all the various appointments we have set up.  I’ll probably post a travel summary next weekend, and we’ll come up for air from all the “welcome home” activities by the 15th.  Then we’ll be able to relax!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

October 18-23: Back to Malibu

October 23, 2012
Malibu Beach RV Park, Malibu, CA

Continuing our trek south, we made one last stop along the coast before we turned inland on our way back to our winter place in Arizona.  Today was a slightly longer driving day but that’s relative to the very short hops we’ve been making lately.  At about 140 miles, we definitely weren’t worn out!  Our route was fairly simple:  back on US-101, south to Oxnard, cut across local streets (Rice Road) to CA-1, then continue south to Malibu.

We’ve been to this park before, with our first RV, The LearningMobile.  Right after we got it, in the fall of 2003, I was able to cobble together two weeks of vacation with holidays falling the right way, and we had about three weeks to travel.  We went to Alabama, then decided to head for Las Vegas.  Once there, we felt that we needed to see the Pacific, so we came here.  I can’t believe that was almost 10 years ago.

We got a nice pull-through site, not completely level but we managed to get parked OK.  We didn’t realize how closely spaced the sites were until other coaches started pulling in beside us!  Of course, it’s all location-location-location in these high-rent district parks, so you take what you get.  The power is good and it’s a full hook-up site, so we are good for a few days.

We’ve basically relaxed for the past few days.  I took several walks along the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) in both directions, 3-4 miles each.  We took a ride up through Malibu Canyon toward Calabasas and Thousand Oaks to do some shopping, and back north on the PCH to Camarillo and Oxnard for the same.  I though about heading down to Santa Monica to the big Apple store there to see about an iPhone upgrade, but that appears to be economically impractical until we meet some “magic date” with Verizon.  Patience, George; patience...

We’ve pretty much completed our “night before” travel preparations, since we’ve got the longest segments in quite a while coming up.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

October 11-17: Santa Maria - Another Set of Firsts

October 17, 2012
Elks Lodge, Santa Maria, California

As always, please feel free to click on any picture to enlarge it.

Continuing our way south, we stopped in Santa Maria, about 30 miles from SLO.  No sense rushing!

Like SLO, this was really the first time we’ve stayed in Santa Maria.  We’ve been here for shopping before when staying in Buellton or Lompoc, because Santa Maria has the nearest Costco, Trader Joe’s and Best Buy locations.

The Elks Lodge here is on a fairly large property, located (unfortunately) right off US-101.  It wasn’t as noisy as SLO, but we did get some traffic sounds.  They have two separate RV parking areas, each about a dozen spaces.  The “North” side sites have electric and water hookups and the “South” has full hook-ups.  Both have 50 Amp power, which is a good thing when the weather gets hot.  We definitely needed the air conditioning this time.

We decided to stay a week and this helped us choose to get a full hook-up site.  We settled in and made a plan for what we wanted to accomplish during our stay.  Although we didn’t cross everything off the list, we did make a dent and saved a few things for next time!

The first order of business was to take advantage of the Lodge’s cook-your-own night.  Several Lodges have a “steak night” where you can cook your own.  Santa Maria goes further, offering chicken, ribs, and fish in addition to the standard rib-eyes.  They have a really nice indoor pit, and our steaks were done in short order.

Our friends Wayne and Eva caught up with us for a couple of days as they’re heading south as well.  We took advantage of this to head out for wine tasting and dinner.  We went to one of Geri’s favorites, Foley, and arranged for a wine and cheese sit-down tasting.  We find these to be much more pleasant and relaxing than stand-up tasting bars.

We also made reservations at Jocko’s in Nipomo for another nice steak dinner.  We were a little early for our scheduled time and were seated quickly, which apparently is unusual as waiting is the norm.  We watched the Pitmaster through the window, and had great steaks, even if they were a tad overcooked.  We’ll know to order differently next time.

I also got out for a couple of nice walks, even though temperatures were a little on the high side.  On one walk, I seriously underestimated the distance and ended up with about an eight-mile ramble to the Walmart and back, where I had to pick up a prescription.  Telling yourself “It’s only a few more blocks” gets old pretty quickly!  But, I survived with no ill effects and can certainly say I need the exercise.

Tonight, we did our travel preparations as we’ll have a longer-than-average drive tomorrow...

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

October 4-10: SLO For A Change

October 10, 2012
Elks Lodge, San Luis Obispo, California

In this case, “SLO” is San Luis Obispo.  It’s an interesting little college town roughly halfway between LA and San Francisco right on US-101.  We’ve driven through here numerous times from the late-70s on, but never stopped.  Well, we corrected that on this visit.

It wasn’t a stop involving a lot of activities, just a nice layover on the way south.  We spent a week at the SLO Elks Lodge, a nice enough place and a pretty active Lodge (having a large swimming pool will attract a younger crowd, good for membership), with the only downside being that the designated RV parking spots backed up too close to the US-101.  It was like being parked in a highway Rest Area to an extent, with noisy traffic 24x7.  But, it was convenient and we managed.

So, what did we do?  Well, the first order of business was to check out the Lodge, where we had lunch and a brew.  Thursday evening, we headed to the “famous” SLO Farmer’s Market.  I’ll say this, it’s one of the largest we’ve visited.  Of course, like most “Farmer’s Markets” these days, there are a lot of vendors selling all sorts of “non-farm” things.  There were even several interesting musical acts performing.  But, there was also an abundance of harvest goodies and we managed to pick up a few items.

One interesting aspect of the SLO event is that it’s downtown, right on Higuera Street, one of the main upscale shopping thoroughfares.  They close off a section about 6 blocks long and the vendors set up on both sides of the street.  An advantage of this is that businesses in this area can set up right outside their front door, which a lot of restaurants do to their advantage.  Unfortunately for us, we’d had a big, late lunch at the Lodge, so we weren’t particularly hungry.  Next time, we’ll pass on lunch and graze the Market.

Beyond that, our time here was pleasantly uneventful.  We did some shopping, finding a new-to-us store, New Frontiers Natural Marketplace, kind of like Market of Choice up in Oregon.  We took the pups to the beach near Morro Bay.  Geri got her hair done.  And, I was able to get out for several good walks in the 3.5-5.5 mile range.

All in all, it was a good visit and we’ll definitely stop here again...

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

October 2-3: Laundry Day in Atascadero

October 3, 2012
Elks Lodge, Atascadero, California

Yesterday, we continued our slow journey southbound, hopping on US-101 in Salinas and exiting about a hundred miles later in Atascadero.  Like Salinas, we’ve stopped at this Lodge before.  There’s never a lot going on, but they do have 50 Amp full hook-up sites.  Our objective this time was simply to have a place to catch up on laundry, so that’s what we did.  Geri found listings for local laundromats and we did a drive-by late yesterday.  Today, we packed the Rover full of all the laundry we had stored up and she ran a series of oversized machines through their paces.  While we were making change and spending quarters, I took the Rover to a car wash while Geri was busy at the laundromat.  Back home, we made the bed and celebrated our industrious natures with a glass of wine.

Exciting, huh?

Monday, October 1, 2012

September 29-October 1: Salinas - One-for-Two

October 1, 2012
Elks Lodge, Salinas, California

After finishing a good night’s sleep on Saturday morning, we were up late and got a late start.  No sense calling it any other way.  But, this wasn’t an issue since we were only heading a couple of hours south to Salinas.  From Pacifica, we headed north for a couple of miles on CA-1, then south on I-280 all the way to San Jose.  I wish we could have “seen the way”, since we had a GPS brain fart there when we found out that vehicles over 4 tons aren’t allowed on CA-85 between CA-87 and US-101.  Oops; we’re about 25 tons total, so a U-Turn was needed.  Back to I-280, we completed the route to US-101 southbound with only about 6 miles of diversion.  The restriction seems to be related to truck noise as opposed to a physical limitation, but I decided not to tempt the traffic enforcement gods.

Anyway, no harm; no foul.  We were parked at the Salinas Elks Lodge by early afternoon, not that there was anything going on there.  As we travel, we find that each Lodge seems to have a different “personality”.  Some are active for lunch during the week, others for dinners, still others focussed on weekend activities.  It all depends on the makeup of the membership at that location.

We had two objectives in stopping this time.  Geri wanted to check out the Outlet Malls in Gilroy, plus maybe some “Garlic Capitol of the World” tourist traps.  I wanted to make a day trip out to Monterey.  We were one-for-two, with the short drive up to Gilroy accomplished on Sunday.

Unfortunately, we had another “weather event” creep up on us, this one in the opposite direction from the sweaters-and-rain-gear of San Francisco.  This time, a high pressure system set up north of us and created an off-shore wind flow.  Since the ocean is the temperature moderator, this pattern brings a heat spike and before we knew it, temperatures hit 103°F in Gilroy according to the Rover.  Hey, we’re not in Phoenix!

Fortunately, the heat didn’t spike as high in Salinas, but Monday’s forecast for continued extreme heat changed our plans for a day trip into a day of air conditioning with a quick trip to Costco (where they already had the Christmas displays out!) and a few other stores.  No matter; we’ll have other opportunities to visit Monterey.  Tomorrow, we continue south, and it’s supposed to cool off.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

September 29: What comes before Oh-Dark-Thirty?

September 29, 2012
SFO Airport

Alarms and fog.  Things we hate in the morning...

Well, another nice visit has come to an end.  We were all up early, around 5:00 AM, and the Rover was quickly loaded for the trip to SFO.  The fog was so thick ("How thick was it"?) that I could hardly see the road in front of me as we headed up CA-1 to the I-280 merge.  Pat, Al and Tanner were all safely delivered to United Airlines for their trip back to the East Coast.  They'll be traveling most of the day, with a change of planes at Dulles in Washington before they get back to Hartford.

We'll be on the road as well, continuing our trek south.  But, that's for later.  Now, it's time to go back to bed!

Friday, September 28, 2012

September 25-28, 2012: Quality time in San Francisco

September 28, 2012
San Francisco RV Resort, Pacifica, California

Tuesday, we headed back to the “City by the Bay”.  Geri and I have loved San Francisco for years, although we’ve usually visited later in the year.  It’s easy to love a place when you always seem to visit when the weather is at its best.  On this visit, that oft-quoted saying “The coldest winter I every spent was a summer in San Francisco” (variously attributed to Jack London, Oscar Wilde, H. L. Mencken and, of course, Mark Twain -- all disputed, by the way) seemed to be the order of the day.  But, we’re a hardy lot and we survived quite nicely, thank you very much.  Even Tanner wore his sweater when needed.

We stayed at a park in Pacifica, just south of San Francisco proper, situated on a bluff overlooking the Pacific.  When we stayed here two years ago (when Pat and Al visited the last time), I mentioned that the oceanfront site we were in wouldn’t be there forever.  Well, this time the whole row of ocean-facing sites was closed off, with a big porta-fence running through them to keep people away from the eroding and unsafe cliff.  It looked like the sea and wave action claimed about 20-30 feet of the Park in the last two years.  Of course, this just allows the Park to raise their rates to recoup the lost revenue.  

Because we were right on the ocean, we had low clouds and fog, supplemented by drizzle, for most of the time we were there.  Fortunately, the topography of the area allows the sun to burn off the fog in some areas, and we were able to go “over the hill” to San Francisco and actually have better weather a few miles away.

Wednesday, we took a ride south along the Pacific Coast Highway, CA-1, to Santa Cruz.  It was nice but not as scenic as the coastline further south, past Monterey.  But, we didn’t have time to go that far, as we needed to get back in time for one of the better dinners we’ve had in a while.

Geri’s a devoted foodie.  And, like any good addiction, it means she’s always on the search for interesting things online.  About six months ago, she came across an article about a chef who immersed himself in pasta.  Not literally, of course, but he moved to Italy and worked in a bunch or restaurants to learn the secrets from the masters.  Well, Geri did a deep dive on this and found that he’s opened a restaurant in San Francisco called Flour + Water.  Get it?  Flour plus water equals pasta.  Clever.

So, knowing that we’d be stopping in San Francisco on our way south, we made a reservation a few months ago.  Was it worth the wait and effort?  You betcha!  We had an early reservation (6:00 PM) so we were able to drive over, find the place in the Mission district, and find a place to park the Rover on a side street.

We ordered a bottle of wine to start while we perused the menu.  After some discussion and cajoling, we finally agreed to the autumn pasta tasting menu (“whole table must participate, no substitutions”), coupled with the wine pairing flight.  Pat and Al were a little reluctant to commit to a menu with rabbit, duck and quail courses, but they were eventually won over.  Good thing, too, since it was fantastic!  I’m now inspired to explore home-made pasta over the winter, but even more to learn more about the great sauces.  For a guy who likes his South Philly “Gravy”, I was really taken with the lightness and flavors of the sauces.  Mmmmm...

As a post-dinner treat, we headed downtown to find a little food stand called Smitten that makes fresh ice cream, while you wait.  A long wait, you ask?  Nope; they mix the ingredients in front of you then freeze them instantly with liquid nitrogen.  Creamiest ice cream you’ve ever tasted.  Double Mmmmm...

After such a nice evening out, nobody was moving quickly Thursday morning.  This was OK, though, since there wasn’t much on the agenda.  Al and I left mid-morning and headed for the BART station in Daly City, where we hopped on a train for Market Street downtown.  From there it was a short walk to AT&T Park for a baseball game, where the Giants beat up on the Arizona Diamondbacks.  In spite of the fog in Pacifica, the weather in town was crystal clear and we had a good game with great food (Al’s first Tri-Tip Sandwich) and beer (all overpriced, of course).

Today was their last day with us on this trip, and we used the time to head back to San Francisco, this time to the Embarcadero.  We poked around in the Ferry Building Shops, picking up specialty cheeses, some mushrooms and a black truffle (leaving me wondering why on earth I left the truffle slicer in AZ), and some Italian specialty foods like Fregola and Marcona Almonds.  We stopped by the wine bar in the Ferry Building as well for a round of flights and even picked up a couple of bottles that I’ve never had before.

From there, it was off to Ghirardelli Square for more shopping for Geri and Pat.  Al and I retired to an Irish Pub for a Guinness.  Back home early, we wrapped up the visit with a nice dinner of Honey-Sake-Lime Shrimp over rice.  It’s been another nice visit, and we really enjoyed getting to meet Tanner.

We’ll call it an early night, since their flight is early in the morning and we’ll be up between 5:00-5:30 AM to get to the airport.  Hmmmm...