Tuesday, January 23, 2018


   I forgot to mention a couple things in yesterday's blog.
   In a previous entry I talked a little about the shower control being difficult to turn, that I had taken it apart, cleaned and lubed it and that it seemed to be working better. Well, it worked better for a couple days - then we were back to having to use two hands to turn it. So last Friday I decided to do something about it. I suspected I might have to replace the entire fixture, but I again removed the cartridge, crossed my fingers and headed for Ferguson Plumbing Supply in Indio.
    There was a plumber chatting with the fellow behind the counter and when he saw what I had in my hand he said, "Ah...", rattled off a part number (apparently this is an infamous item) and disappeared around the corner and into aisle #2. He emerged a few seconds later - part in hand and plopped in down on the counter. The parts guy began punching numbers into his computer then paused and said, "You know... this part is covered under Moen's warranty. I can sell it to you for $83.00, but you can call Moen and they'll send you a new one for free. It'll take about a week for you to get it".
    I thought about it for a second, thanked him for the information and told him I'd suffer the hard turning shower control for another week and call Moen. He replied, "Tell you what... I'll sell you this one, you hang onto the packaging, call Moen, get the free one, put it in this packaging, bring it back here and I'll refund your money!". I thought that was a heck of a deal! It's always refreshing to have someone go above and beyond in situations like this. He had nothing to gain ... just the satisfaction of helping out a fellow human being in need of a properly functioning shower control.
Kind of renews one's faith in humankind.
    The plumber was very helpful as well, giving me a few pointers on how to install the new part, why cartridges fail, specialty tools he uses to get stuck cartridges out etc.
Who knew that a trip to a plumbing supply store could be such a reaffirming experience?
     I installed the new cartridge and it works like a charm. I can now operate it with two fingers instead of two hands. Moen HQ had a ninety minute 'on hold' queue when I called Friday afternoon so I called Monday morning. No questions asked... my new cartridge should arrive within a week.

     And now I'm trying to remember the other thing I forgot to write about...

    Oh yeah...

    The sprinklers here have been hitting the port side of the coach and leaving hard water spots all along the cargo bay doors. I had gone up to the office and asked that they send a maintenance guy to adjust the heads, but a couple of days went by and... no maintenance guy.
   Before you think to yourself, "Water spots? What's the big deal?", let me tell you, these are water spots from hell! The day after our arrival one of my neighbors warned me against washing the coach and that, if I did, I should work really fast to dry it off as the water here has a very high alkaline level. Another person related a story about water spots in his coach's gel coat that he still hasn't completely removed. 
I spent an entire morning rubbing out water spots with polishing compound.
     I knew the sprinklers were coming on sometime during the ten o'clock pm hour but wasn't sure exactly when. At 10pm last Thursday night I sat in my captain's chair behind the steering wheel with a flashlight and a small flathead screw driver, looking out the window and waiting for the little bastards to pop. At 10:06pm, like little tubular plastic prairie dogs from hell, the offending gadgets poked their hideous heads above ground and began spewing their vile, alkaline brew along the lower third of my coach, leaving a corrosive cocktail of enamel etching solvent on my shiny cargo bay doors.
    Game on!

    I sprang to action.

    Not knowing how long they would remain above ground I jumped from my seat and out the door. On an earlier reconnoiter I was able to locate only two sprinkler heads. But now, to my horror, in the blindingly bright beam of my recently purchased Harbor Freight Tools 588 Lumen Tactical Flashlight, I saw there were not only two... but four.

    With cat-like reflexes, I moved from one head to the next, grabbing each by the neck with my left hand and twisting their little radius reducing screw in a clockwise fashion, incrementally choking down the scope of their destructive effluence with each turn of my screw driver.
    So there's that.

    Travis and I went for a hike in the hills today. He has to stop and say hi to everyone we meet walking in the opposite direction. Sometimes he lays down on the trail and rolls over on his back to get his belly scratched.

Thanks for checking out the blog.


Monday, January 22, 2018

Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

    It's been over a week since my last entry. We've been here at Indian Wells RV Resort since returning from Napa on the 10th. The weather has been incredible except for one night last week when we had some pretty high winds. I retracted the patio awning before going to bed and ended up getting out of bed around midnight to retract the two smaller window awnings on the port side of the coach. They probably would have been okay, but the wind was really howling like a son of a gun and I decided to err on the side of caution.
    We're parked along the eastern boundary of the park that borders Shields Date Garden. When we arrived, there was a hedgerow of some sort of flowering tree/shrub, about eight feet high, running the full length of the boundary. I had to almost touch the back of the coach up against the trees so as not to leave the front end hanging out in the road. A couple days after our arrival, tractors, chippers, a dump truck and several workers wielding chain saws, shovels etc. arrived and began cutting everything down, digging up the root balls and just generally making a mess. We weren't told about the impending (de)construction when we checked in - so it came as a bit of a surprise. It was noisy and dusty and resulted in a view not nearly as aesthetically pleasing as before. The soil here is really more sand than anything else and even when there is no noticeable wind, the sand seems to find it's way into the coach and we find ourselves dusting a little more than usual. It's not all that bad, but the hedgerow provided a barrier between this end of the park and the sandy, beach-like landscape of Shields Date Garden... and it ain't there no more. According to a notice left on our door last week, a wall will be built in it's place. More digging, more dust, more noise.



      I rode my bike up to the office a couple days in (at the urging of a few neighbors) to see if they were offering any sort of compensation for the inconvenience. The woman was very nice but explained that 'word had come down from management' that anyone wishing to leave would have the balance of their 'rent' refunded but that no other compensation was being offered. I spent the next morning checking out three other RV resorts in the area - none of which had a space for me. 
     Oh well.
     I did, however, extend our stay here at IW another thirty days. On February 10 we'll be moving to a site located in the middle of the park - and away from the dust. 

     So, what else have we been up to. We've been out to eat at a couple of places. There's a recurring TV commercial advertising Mario's Italian Cafe, a chain of four or five restaurants here in the Coachella Valley. One of their restaurants is about a mile down the road from us, beside the Ralph's where we do our grocery shopping. Last Friday we were in the mood for Italian food so we took Suzanne's mom out to dinner. Mario's is apparently a very popular place. We had to wait only fifteen minutes or so for a table but it appeared that people arriving while we were dining had a much longer wait. In his TV ad, Mario boasts that his restaurant serves the fullest $5.00 glass of wine in the valley... he wasn't lying. And the linguine with red clam sauce was incredible!
      We took advantage of Senior Monday at the Century Theatre last week (I still haven't completely accepted/acknowledged my senior status) and saw the new Star Wars movie. I enjoyed it, Suzanne was less impressed.
      I've been exercising almost daily at the fitness center here at IW. As I mentioned in a previous post, it's not the best, but it'll do.

      Suzanne's sister Jodi's son, Ryan drove out from LA this weekend and took us out to dinner at The Cheesecake Factory at The River in Rancho Mirage. We had a great time dining outside under heaters and listening to the smooth jazz band playing on the outdoor stage. Ryan joined us for breakfast at the coach Sunday morning before returning home to LA. He also helped Suzanne figure out some issues she was having with her cellphone.

     There's a closet in the rear of the coach where we store towels, extra blankets, sleeping bags etc. There are no shelves and everything is just kind of stuffed in there. I've wanted to do something with it for a while and today was the day. I considered a few options and decided to go with adjustable metal shelving. Having visited the local Home Depot several times since our arrival, I chose instead to check out Lowe's today. 
     Here's a couple of before's and an after...

    I'm pretty happy with the results. 
    Check another project off the list.

    I guess that's about it. Tomorrow I think Travis and I are going to go for a hike.

Thanks for checking out the blog.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

We Could Get Used To This...

   Since we won't be moving for the next thirty days I'm thinking a daily blog wouldn't be very interesting, so I've decided to blog less often - maybe a couple times a week. I'll continue taking pictures and writing daily, saving my entries in draft form, then posting on maybe Wednesdays and Saturdays.

    So, here's our site/setup at Indian Wells RV Park...

     It's a nice enough place. Not nearly the caliber of Motorcoach Country Club - but clean, well maintained and much more reasonably priced than MCC. We haven't used any of the three swimming pools yet, but at some point tomorrow, I'm going to take my book over to pool #1, the one closest to our site, and hang out for an hour or so. There never seems to be more than a couple of people there whenever I walk by - and with temps in the mid 80s, it's time for a dip. 
   Suzanne went to church this morning. I stayed home and cleaned the interior of the coach. Travis' hair and dander make cleaning on a daily basis kind of a necessity. We dust frequently. This morning I dusted, vacuumed, washed the floor and the stairs. The stairs had gotten pretty dirty during our stay in Napa where it rained for more than 24 hours straight. Travis' hair also seems to collect in the stairwell, more than in any other place in the coach. Anyway, the place was looking pretty good by the time Suzanne got home.
    I took Travis for a walk (we played at the dog park earlier in the morning) then we picked up Suzanne's mom and went to lunch at Mimi's Cafe. 
   Oh, here's a picture of a hot air balloon I saw while playing ball with Travis this morning...

     We took a hot air balloon ride several years ago here in the Coachella Valley and it was a blast!

     We returned to the coach and watched the Saints/Vikings game. I took a few breaks from the game to do a few things on the coach. There's a four inch chrome strip at the bottom of the cargo bay doors and there are some scuff marks that have been bugging me a little. I buffed out the offending marks on four of the passenger side doors. They're looking sharp now. I'll continue working my way around the entire coach over the next few days. 
     I hopped on my bike and headed for the fitness center at the end of the 3rd quarter and watched the rest of the game while maintaining a heart rate above 150 for thirty minutes. Pretty exciting 4th quarter!
     After returning to the coach, taking a shower and (of course) drinking a margarita, I took Travis for a long walk around the park. There's a group of palm trees at the rear of the park with lights strung all the way to the top... 

     Both Suzanne and I had a pretty big lunch and weren't even a little bit hungry at suppertime. 
     Time to take Travis for his evening constitutional and call it a day.

Thanks for checking out the blog. 



Friday, January 12, 2018

Day One Of Thirty...

    Not a whole lot to report today. Suzanne had a couple of early calls and was done around 10am. I busied myself doing a few things around the coach. I swept the concrete and asphalt patio on the passenger side of the coach and put out the two awning mats. I then put out the chairs, footstools and folding tables. There's a six foot folding table that Winnebago and other manufacturers include as standard equipment in their motorhomes. I don't often use it but we don't have a picnic table here at IW so I set it up. One use I have found for the table involves lifting Travis onto it when it's time for a brush. He stays put and it makes the job much easier. The initial 85lb lift is the tough part. Gotta start doing squats. We furminated and fluffed - and Travis is looking quite handsome.
    I'll include a picture of my patio setup tomorrow. I didn't take any pictures at all today.
    I took Travis to the playground for some tennis ball time and when we returned to the coach Jodi and Bear were arriving on their new Harley Trike. Suzanne and I followed them in the car a couple of miles down  the road to Sloan's restaurant where they treated us to breakfast and some great conversation. Both Suzanne and I had the breakfast burrito and it was delicious!
    Sloan's - two thumbs up!
    Following breakfast we returned to the coach. Suzanne had a little more work to do and wanted to check her email. I dusted the starboard side of the coach with my California Duster, cleaned the wheels and tires on that side and treated the tires with 303 tire protectant. I'll probably put the tire covers on sometime in the next few days to completely protect them from the desert sun.
     As soon as Suzanne finished reading and responding to emails we hopped in the car and ran out to do some errands. There was a deposit that needed to be made at Wells Fargo and then we went to the Walmart across highway 111 to do some much needed grocery shopping. $215 later, we returned to the coach where Suzanne stowed the groceries while I got out my bucket, squeegee and long-handled-windshield-scrubby-thing and set about removing 550 miles worth of bug guts from the coach's windshield. Our coach is positioned so that we have a beautiful view of the mountains - it looks so much nicer through a gutless, crystal clear windshield.
    I rode my bike to the park fitness center around 4pm for a half hour cardio workout. Suzanne decided to relax back at the coach with a magazine she had bought at Walmart. The 'fitness center' here at IW is no great shakes, but the eight-or-so cardio machines are of good quality and well maintained. There's also a very nice universal gym, stability balls, resistance bands, a few free weights and other random pieces of exercise equipment. I'll include a photo of the fitness center in tomorrow's blog as well (gotta remember to take all these pictures tomorrow).
    Rode back to the coach, made margaritas, took a shower, baked tilapia and green beans, watched a little TV and now I'm writing this blog entry.
    And that... as they say... is that!

Thanks for checking out my blog.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

So Here's The Deal...

    We left the RV park at the Napa County Fairgrounds at a little after 11am yesterday (Wednesday) morning and traveled 215 miles south, to Coalinga where we had spent the night on our way up to Napa last week. It's not much of an RV park - although it's very convenient, being just off I-5. The sites are very closely spaced, separated by a patch of dirt (now mud, due to the recent rain). Hey, some RV parks are destinations, others are conveniently located, no-frills overnight parking spaces. This is the latter. It did, however, offer up a beautiful sunset...

     Earlier that day, lunch came in the form of ham sandwiches in an I-5 rest area. When we stopped to refuel a little later on, we noticed this big, beautiful rainbow to the southeast.

     Neither of us was terribly hungry at the end of the day so I cut up and cooked some chicken we had thawed and had it over romaine lettuce for supper. 
     Suzanne had a couple of calls this morning but was done by 9am, so we were able to get a fairly early start on our 300+ mile day. Rather than retrace our steps in reverse for the return trip we opted to leave I-5 in Bakersfield, where we took SR58 east to SR247 to Yucca Valley, then SR62 to I-10 east to Indio. Here's a shot of our road atlas if'n yer interested...

     Kinda looked like this on Google...

       SR247 from Barstow to Yucca valley was a fun road. A little desolate, but fun...

      We called Indian Wells RV park from the road and reserved a site for thirty days. There's really no reason for us to be home any time soon and the long-term weather forecast for the Coachella Valley seemed a lot more appealing to us than that of Northern Virginia. We arrived at IW at 4:20pm where we maneuvered into site #51. It's a back-in site, which is fine. In fact, the back-in sites here offer a bit more side to side room than the pull-thrus.  It is, however, a little short for our 43 feet. The coach just fits lengthwise. The problem is finding a place to park the car. I parked it perpendicular to the coach, snugging it right up against the front end. It sticks out into the road but there are other cars parked in front of other coaches hanging out just as far. I think it's gonna be fine.
     The thirty day rate here at IW is $1247.00 plus electric... a pretty reasonable rent for these parts. It is, after all, the high season
    We're pretty stoked about spending the next 30 days in the warm desert southwest. It's going to seem a little strange being in the same spot for such an extended period of time though. 

Thanks for reading the blog.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Bill Wentworth

    I've been a member of one gym or another for a good portion of my adult life. When I lived in Napa I joined a little, no frills gym on... I think it was Jefferson Street. It had a few different names over the years since it's inception - and I can't remember what it was called during the time I was a member... I want to say Napa Fitness, but I'm not sure. As I write this, I can picture at least a dozen faces of people I came to know or simply saw on a daily basis.  I was a bit of a gym rat in those days and would spend a couple of hours every weekday morning working out. There was an older couple, originally from Maine... his name was Harold and her name... I can't remember her name. They were well into their 80s and Harold had a VERY thick, almost comical 'Down Maine' accent. Knowing I was from Massachusetts, Harold loved to strike up conversations about chopping wood, churning 'buttah' and other activities associated with his early life, growing up in New England. Almost every sentence punctuated with an 'ey-ya'.
    I mostly listened.
    There was a guy who would appear, without fail sometime around 9am. He was about 60 years old at that time and in great shape. Usually wearing red sweat pants, a grey or white sweatshirt with the sleeves hiked up a little and white sneakers, and he had a very regimented warm up routine. He'd begin on a decline bench next to the gym entrance with a bunch of half crunches followed by some toe touches and side twists. Then he'd grab a wooden broom handle, put it behind his neck (a hand on either end) and twist from side to side - then do the same, only bending at the waist. He was just warming up - and stretching. He was very disciplined and obviously knew what he was doing. I was disciplined, but didn't have a clue. His form was impeccable. Mine was...eh. After his warm up he'd go about attacking whatever muscle group was on the hit list that day. He was very focused.
    I don't remember our first conversation... who introduced himself to the other... but Bill and I developed a friendship that lasted for years.
    We became workout partners. He pushed me to work harder in the gym than I ever had before and I was soon in better shape than ever before. He taught me about nutrition, supplements, vitamins and at one point had me drinking a shot-glass-a-day of some sort of foul tasting bottled s**t that needed to be refrigerated. We'd talk. We'd go out for lunch once in a while.
    Bill was one of the most upbeat, cheerful and optimistic people I've ever known.
    Bill drove a Porche.
    Bill was cool.
    I moved to new Jersey in 1996 but Bill and I stayed in touch. We'd call each other often and catch up on things - often talking for over an hour. He made a business trip to Manhattan once and I met him for dinner in the city.
    I moved to Massachusetts in 2008. Bill and I maintained our friendship, talking on the phone every couple of months. He always called me "Stevers".
    The phone would ring, I'd answer, "Hello?"...
     And we'd talk for the next hour.
    During one conversation, Bill told me he was trying to secure a room at the veteran's home in Yountville, a town a couple miles north of Napa.
    He was getting older.
    Though he didn't say as much, I suspect he was having health issues and, as he had no family in the area, wanted to get his ducks in a row in preparation for the inevitable decline. Rooms at the veteran's home were apparently a very coveted thing and he was on a waiting list.
     In a subsequent conversation I learned that he had gotten his room at the veteran's home. He wasn't particularly thrilled with the accommodations or the lifestyle, but I think he knew it was for the best and seemed thankful to be there.
     His calls started coming less often.
     I moved to Northern Virginia in 2011.
    The last time I called Bill a nurse answered the phone. Before she went to get him I asked how he was doing and she assured me he was just fine - and he did sound bright and cheerful as always. But there was no "STEVERS!" It became immediately obvious that he didn't know who I was. We talked for quite a while but it wasn't the same - and it kinda broke my heart. I tried reminding him of people we knew and things we'd done but he had no recollection.
    I never called again. A year later I was between sets at the gym and, for whatever reason, grabbed my phone and Googled 'Bill Wentworth Napa California' and learned that he had passed away a few months earlier. It was a sad day for me. I felt guilty that I hadn't called him for a whole year. He wouldn't have known me but it might have been nice for him to have gotten calls from someone.
    This morning, while Suzanne was working and before our 11am checkout, I put Travis in the back of the car and set out to find Bill's grave site. It took only a minute on my phone to find the name and address of the cemetery - which turned out to be just .3 miles from our campsite - just across the Silverado Trail and up the hill. I went into the office where a very nice woman typed his name into her computer then showed me on a map where he was.

    It's in a beautiful setting, overlooking the valley. I like that it says 'A Good Person'.

    Bill's obituary...

William Bill Wentworth, died at the Veterans Home of Yountville on Nov. 6, 2013. He was born Jan. 8(sic), 1932, in Vallejo, Calif., to William and Theda Wentworth.

As a boy, Bill enjoyed trout fishing in the Sierras with his father and friends. He served in the U.S. Army and graduated from Stanford University. Bill was the long-time owner of Napa Health Studio.

 I also found this in a 2011 edition of the Napa Valley Register. Apparently there was a lifting competition in Napa and Bill trained some of his veteran's home friends for the event. Makes me smile to think he was still inspiring others at this stage of his life.

        I think we all have just a few people in our lives whom we consider to be our best friends.
        Bill was one of mine. And truly 'A Good Person'.

Another Day In The Valley...

     I'm a little behind in my blogging. I'll post my most recent entry tomorrow (Thursday) as early as possible.

    The rain ended sometime before I got out of bed this morning. Even so, the best place to play with Travis, rain or no rain, is in the pavilion across from our campsite. I think Travis would chase balls all day long if I was willing to keep throwing them.

     Suzanne finished work around 1pm and we drove over to Barb's where her contractor was demoing her guest bathroom. We were planning to go to lunch, all four of us, but Vince thought it prudent to stick around while the bathroom was being smashed to hell so Barb, Suzanne and I headed for Napa's Oxbow Public Market to do some shopping and have some lunch. As it turned out, the OPM was closed for maintenance - so instead, we shared a pizza across the street at Filippi's Pizza Grotto. I'm telling you, Fillipi makes some of the best pizza I've ever had. It was delicious!

    From there, we took a ride out to the Carneros region of Napa. We lived here from 1992 to 1996. It's a beautiful area just south of Napa proper, where the climate is more suitable for cultivating Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. In fact, Carneros Elementary School (where my kids went to school) owned a vineyard and sold the grapes to Mumm. A great source of income for the school district.
    We drove by our old place, which looked like it had been added on to at some point. I was always pretty fussy about maintaining the yard and the current owner is doing a great job of carrying on that tradition. The manager of Carneros Alambic, a brandy distillery across the road, built and operated by Remy Martin, used to bring me a bottle of their best at Christmastime in appreciation of my landscaping efforts. Carneros Alambic is no longer in operation and I believe the building is vacant. It was a beautiful facility, built while we were living here. Here's a 2002 article from the Napa Register you might find interesting. 

      Back at Barb and Vince's place, we hung out... visiting and watching a little TV. Our dinner reservation was for 7pm at The Red Hen Cantina, one of our favorite haunts when we lived in these parts. At 6pm I took my leave and returned to the coach to walk and feed Travis. I met Suzanne, Barb, Vince & Barrett at 'The Hen' at the appointed hour and we had a wonderful evening of food, margaritas and conversation. We said our goodbyes in the parking lot  😢, as we would be leaving the next morning... and headed our separate ways.

    It's been a wonderful three days here in Napa visiting loved ones. We created a lot of memories in the four years we lived here and driving around the area definitely rekindled a lot of those memories. A pilgrimage I made this morning brought back memories of a very good friend. I'll write about that tomorrow.

Thanks for reading the blog.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Rainy Days & Mondays...

   The weather predictors predicted rain today. They were right! I took this picture from my bedroom window shortly after waking up this morning...

   I arose to find Suzanne hard at work in her 'office'...

    Travis was itching to get out (he doesn't seem to care whether it's raining or not) so we went for a walk. I took a tennis ball along and we played fetch in the big pavilion I mentioned in yesterday's blog. With a concrete floor and being open on both ends, it's a great place to play on a rainy day! It's a very large building - I can throw the ball pretty far without hitting the other side. Travis got a good workout. I'll take a picture of him playing in the pavilion tomorrow.
    Here's what it looked like through the windshield of the coach this morning...

    We returned to the coach where I fed Travis and prepared breakfast for Suz and myself. She had a couple of conference calls today - the last from 12:30 to 1:15. Barb, Vince and Barrett arrived at 1:15, as planned, and whisked us off to Mumm Napa for an early afternoon of sparkling wine tasting. Barrett used to work at Mumm so we got the VIP treatment and had a really good time.
     We were seated at a table with a wonderful view of the vineyards and given a menu of tasting options. I can't remember the name of the 'package' I chose, but this is what it looked like...

    Suzanne's more of a sparkling wine person than I am. I mean, I like it, but I prefer my wine without bubbles. Nonetheless, it was very tasty and we ended up buying a couple of bottles. I'm sure it'll be gone by the time we arrive back in Northern Virginia.
    What better way to spend a rainy day in the Napa Valley!...

     I guess it was around 3:00 by the time we finished our tasting and we were all hungry and ready for a late lunch. Barrett suggested R&D Kitchen in Yountville...

   The food was fantastic! I had the best Cuban sandwich I've ever had and a glass of Pali Pinot Noir. Suzanne had the Honor Burger and Banshee Chardonnay. For anyone thinking about visiting the Napa Valley anytime soon, I would definitely recommend dining at R&D Kitchen. Top notch food and superior atmosphere.

    The Robert Louis Stevenson Museum is located in St. Helena, California and Barrett is the curator. So... after lunch we drove there and got a great tour of the museum, archives and other interesting behind the scenes stuff, and her office. I know a lot more about Robert Louis Stevenson than I did 24 hours ago. It really was pretty interesting. The museum houses many of his personal belongings, correspondence and photos... even a lock of hair taken the day of his death! I left kinda wanting to read Treasure Island. I think I will.

    It was 6:00 by now and time to return to the coach where I knew Travis would be patiently awaiting our arrival. Everyone moved quickly out of the rain and into the coach while Travis and I headed for a grassy area to take care of business - and then to the pavilion. I brought along a tennis ball (of course) and my recently acquired Harbor Freight Tools ultra bright LED flashlight... like the one that former Navy Seal guy advertises on TV. It was dark and I didn't want Travis running into walls in pursuit of his tennis ball.
     I forgot to mention we stopped at Whole Foods on the way home where I ran in and bought a chocolate truffle cake for dessert. After exercising Travis for ten or fifteen minutes we returned to the coach to join the party and have some cake. No cake for Travis. He had some biscuits and showed everyone that he knows his right paw from his left and how to spell the words t-a-k-e and w-a-l-k.
     It rained all day. We obviously would have preferred nicer weather, but they really need the rain in this part of the country and it was actually kind of nice. A perfect day for indoor activities like wine tasting, lunch at a classy restaurant and a visit to a one of a kind museum. 
Thanks for reading the blog!

Monday, January 8, 2018

Napa Valley

 (Click on highlighted text to follow links. Click on pictures to enlarge) 

We packed up and left Sommerville Almond Tree RV Park in Coalinga, Ca. at around 9am. The words 'Almond Tree' aren't in the title for no reason...

    There are acres and acres of almond trees in this part of the Central Valley. There are also acres and acres of dead almond trees. You can read an interesting article on why that happened HERE.

    Napa is only 215 miles from Coalinga so it wasn't a terribly long day of travel. With clear skies and relatively light traffic the trip was pleasant and uneventful. We stopped once to fill up the DEF tank on the coach.  For the uninitiated, as of 2010 (as per an EPA mandate) large highway vehicles must be equipped with a DEF (diesel exhaust fluid) system. Here's a Youtube video explaining how it works. 
    Anyway, I pulled off the freeway to fill up the DEF tank. Many truck stops have DEF pumps beside the diesel pumps - a convenient way to fill the tank. The alternative is to buy it in 2.5 gallon jugs, available at most auto parts stores and Walmart. I usually get it at Walmart as they carry an off brand called SuperTech that is substantially less expensive than the Blue Def brand sold at most locations.
     This isn't much of a story... and it's turning into a much longer one than I had anticipated. Hey, I said it was an uneventful day. I gotta write about something!
     Long story short... as I pulled forward into one of the truck pump aisles I mistakenly identified the free-standing payment kiosk as the DEF dispenser. I set the air brake, Suzanne went in to prepay and I started making my way back to the pump (the DEF tank is all the way at the rear of the coach). When I arrived there I realized I had pulled too far forward. I pulled the DEF hose out of it's housing as far as it would go but it was still about 12" short of reaching my tank. By now, if you've been reading my blogs you know I can't back up. I went inside the station. Suzanne had already prepaid $50 so I asked the attendant for a refund. She told me I hadn't properly hung up the DEF pump and that I would have to do so before she could close the pump and issue my refund. I did so, she did so... and all was well. I had bought a jug of DEF when I purchased the windshield crack repair kit at O'Reilly Auto Parts the previous afternoon. I dumped that in the tank instead.
     Pheww... good story, right?
     Keeping the DEF tank full became a priority earlier last year after paying a diesel shop over $250 to diagnose a check engine message that turned out to be... you guessed it.... a low DEF level.
     I def won't let that happen again.  😏

     Suzanne is a big fan of the Manning boys (Peyton & Eli). I'm sure they have nothing to do with exit 365 on I-5.

     As we neared our destination I had to stop once more to pay the $25 toll before being allowed to pass over the Carquinez Straight on the Benicia-Martinez Bridge. The passenger car toll is $5.00, but with a rig of this size (with a car in tow) tolls tend to be substantially more than your basic car toll. When the toll collector hangs out the window of his booth, calculator in hand, and begins counting axles... I feel like I always experience a slight rise in blood pressure and anxiety level. 

    We arrived at the Napa Valley Exposition RV Park sometime around 1:30pm and were escorted to site #13 where we set up, had a snack and relaxed for a few minutes before heading over to Suzanne's sister Barb's place. This is the Napa County Fairgrounds. We've been here before, when we lived in Napa, for livestock/agricultural events etc. but I don't remember there being an RV park here at that time. It's a very nice facility with paved roads, concrete parking pads and full 50 amp hookups. There are no events going on here currently and there's a big open-sided building nearby that looks like it's used for cattle auctions etc, and that I think Travis and I are going to have fun playing in over the next couple of days. 
    We spent the evening at Barb & Vince's place visiting with them, their daughter Barrett and Suzanne's cousin Janis and her husband Ken. Janis and Ken are beer connoisseurs and brought along a couple of interesting and tasty brews - and pineapple sangria! By the time they arrived the rest of us were already two margaritas in. So needless to say, a good time was had by all and the conversation flowed - as did the libations.

      It's supposed to rain all day today and into tomorrow afternoon. I don't mind the rain, as long as we're parked ... and especially when we're parked on concrete. Driving in the rain gets the coach dirty ...and you know how I feel about that.

Thanks for reading the blog!


Sunday, January 7, 2018

Headed For Napa...

     We were up at 7:30 this morning and on the road by 8:30. I wasn't exactly sure where we would end up - it was either going to be Lost Hills, Ca. (270 miles) or Coalinga, Ca. (320 miles) depending on how we were feeling in the afternoon. As it turned out, we were feeling pretty good and made it all the way to Coalinga.

     Traffic got a little heavy on the 210 Freeway in the San Bernardino area but lightened up considerably as we continued through the San Gabriel Valley. Suzanne and I lived in Monrovia from 1979 to 1987. Both our kids are native Californians and were born at Arcadia Methodist Hospital. Driving through this area always brings back a lot of fond memories. We were in our early twenties and just married when we moved here. This is where we bought our first home...and our second, developed some of the most meaningful friendships of our lives, had countless fun and enriching experiences, and started a family. It was the best of times.
      I took this picture of the Myrtle Ave. exit as we passed by Monrovia. 

      In Sylmar we reached the interchange between the 210 and I-5 and began the gradual, eventually not so gradual climb to the Tejon Pass (4,144 '). As we began the steep climb up the 'Grapevine' section of the pass, I was glad we were in the Tour and not the Fleetwood Discovery we owned prior to getting the Tour.  The Discovery had a 330 Caterpillar diesel engine and the Tour has a 450 Cummins. The Tour has considerably more horsepower and is not nearly as prone to stress induced overheating as was the Discovery. On more than one occasion, when ascending some of the country's more challenging uphill grades in the Discovery, I had to pull to the side of the road to let the engine cool before continuing to the summit. A couple of continental divide crossings come to mind... as does the climb to Chiriaco Summit on I-10 west out of Indio, Ca.
     Suzanne suggested we exit in Gorman and have breakfast at a restaurant she had found online. We took the exit but after a quick visual scan at the bottom of the ramp, I decided it didn't look particularly big-rig friendly and we continued through the intersection and back up onto I-5. I've become very cautious about pulling into areas where I'm not sure I have room to turn around. As I've mentioned in previous blogs, I can't back up with the car in tow and I hate having to perform unscheduled uncouplings! We've had to do that twice on this trip so far. 😏

     Within a few hundred yards of reentering the freeway, there was a sign for a rest area three miles ahead. We pulled into the rest area where we took Travis for a walk and made turkey bacon and pancakes. 
      The fuel gauge was dipping just below the 1/2 full mark so, only 10 minutes from our destination and wanting to have a full tank in the morning, I exited, swallowed hard and paid $3.86 a gallon for 67 gallons of diesel fuel. That's $258.62. California has the highest fuel prices I've encountered so far on this cross country trip. And by higher, I'm talking like A DOLLAR PER GALLON higher than the closest runner up! The proceeds certainly aren't going toward infrastructure. Many long stretches of I-5 were in terrible condition - the worst we've experienced since leaving home. Highest fuel prices? Sh**iest roads? Hmmm... I don't get it.


    Ten minutes further down the road... 

     The next exit was our exit. Imagine my disappointment when I saw that diesel fuel at this exit is $3.39 per gallon. I could have saved $31.49! 
     How unfortunate. 😕

     With our Good Sam discount, tonight's stay is setting us back $40. It's a pretty good RV park. Full 50 amp hookup, surrounded by endless almond orchards. This is California's Central Valley - a vast agricultural region.
      Earlier in the day we noticed a chip in the passenger side of the coach's HUGE windshield. After setting up at our site, I made the twenty mile round trip to O'Reilly Auto Parts in downtown Coalinga and purchased a windshield chip repair kit. On the way I passed the State Hospital and the oxymoronically named Pleasant Valley State Prison. The hospital, like the prison, is surrounded by fencing and razor wire. I suspect this is not where the good citizens of Coalinga go for their colonoscopies. I could be wrong.   
     I performed the repair procedure as instructed. Step #11 says to drive the vehicle into the sunlight as ultraviolet light is what is needed to cure the resin. 
    It was 6pm at this time. 
    We'll hope the resin cures tomorrow morning.

The adventure continues...

Thanks for reading the blog.


Friday, January 5, 2018

Just Checking In...

    Beautiful day here in the Coachella Valley! The temperature just about hit 80 degrees with blue skies.
    Not much to write about. I've been a little under the weather - some sort of intestinal bug, and have been lying low. I had a low grade fever last night and didn't get much sleep. I made a trip to Ralph's supermarket a couple hours ago to get some light, easily digestible things to eat but haven't eaten much today.
    Even though I wasn't feeling tip-top yesterday I managed to get a few things done around the coach. I went to Home Depot and got a two tiered wire basket thing to install under the sink to better organize our cleaning supplies. I also got another strip of LED lights to put under another section of counter top but it turned out to be a bust. The channel under that section wasn't wide enough to accept the lighting strip.
    I was feeling a little better this morning so I got out a bucket and Murphy's Oil Soap and washed all the woodwork in the coach - there's a lot of woodwork. I also did a couple loads of laundry and cleaned the bathrooms.
    In other important news, my neighbor to the left pulled out today so I now have an unobstructed view of the RV park office and the mountains beyond. The sites here at Indian Wells are pretty close together, so even though my neighbors were very nice people, I was kinda glad to see them go.
    Travis and I went for some nice walks today and played with tennis balls at the dog park.
     I just looked out the window and the sun has just set. Here's the view I described above...

    Suzanne's flight out of JFK has been delayed for a couple of hours. She's been sitting on the plane all that time (she's in a great mood) and just called to let me know they're about to take off. I'll have to check status a little later. Looks like I'll be picking her up at PSP around 11pm.
    We're leaving for Napa tomorrow morning, probably going about halfway - and the other half Sunday. Maybe we'll make it a three day trip...we'll see.
    That's about it for now. Things will get more exciting once we start  moving again.

Thanks for checking out the blog.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

A Heck Of A Hike!

     A rare, at least during the time we've been here, overcast day in the Coachella Valley. Fortunately overcast doesn't necessarily portend foul weather in this neck of the woods. As a matter of fact it was a lovely day with temperatures reaching the mid 70s. Travis and I decided it was a perfect day for a hike so I got online and searched for dog friendly hiking trails in the area. There were several. Some were too short, some too long, some too far away, too hard, too easy... we decided The Homestead Trail looked just about right.
    First things first, a walk over to the dog park for some tennis ball time. There are two fenced areas, side by side here at Indian Wells RV Park, one for large breeds and the other for small. It's a nice area but there's about a three inch gap at the bottom of the fencing - which translates to me having to do almost as much retrieving as Travis. On our way back to the coach there was a fellow sitting at a small table in front of his RV with a box-full of dog biscuits. I'm guessing he's a permanent fixture here and that doling out morning treats is part of the daily routine. He had treats of different shapes and sizes and offered up one of the king-size variety, which Travis gladly accepted.
     Back at the coach I filled my hydration pack with water, dog snacks, human snacks and Travis' collapsible water bowl then we hopped in the car and headed for the hills, literally.
     We had a good time, meeting up with several other dog/human teams and making new friends along the way...

                                                           (click on pics to enlarge)

     I'm not sure how far we hiked. At some point we strayed off the Homestead Trail and onto... I think it was the Hopalong Cassidy Trail and after quite a long hike, came off the mountain about 2.5 miles away from the Homestead Trailhead, where we had parked the car. That necessitated a circuitous 2.5 mile hike through residential neighborhoods - and after about thirty minutes we found ourselves back at the Suzuki (thank God for smartphones and GPS). Travis happily hopped in the back of the car, stretching out on his bed for the eight mile ride home.
    Having worked up a sweat on the trail, once we got home I took a shower before making lunch. I spent the afternoon doing some housework and a couple loads of laundry. My next door neighbor arrived home and came a-knockin' at my door to tell me I should lock up my bikes. He had left his unlocked last night and his wife's was stolen.
    I put the cable lock on the bikes.
    There's a channel routed into the underside of the galley counter top that I think is designed to accept LED strip lighting. I've seen this type of lighting in other coaches and have had it in mind to, at some point, install it in ours. So, after feeding Travis his dinner I took the half mile ride to Home Depot and bought an eight foot LED light kit - exactly the length I needed.
     I think it looks cool...

        Tomorrow morning I'll get out my roll of super-sticky-double-sided-tape and mount the control inside the cabinet, where it can't be seen.

  Thanks for checking out the blog.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Leaving Paradise

     I'm including two days in today's blog.
     I moved the coach today from MCC to Indian Wells Sun RV Resort. It's just around the corner (and a world away) from MCC but the preparation and move kinda got me behind in my blogging.
     But I get ahead of myself...

     Suzanne had to fly to NYC late last night on business and will be returning on Friday. This was an unanticipated trip and she hadn't packed a winter jacket, nor did we bring any luggage with us. She would need both for the trip back east. Finding a winter coat in the desert southwest can be a bit of a challenge but after a few minutes of online searching, Suzanne located a Burlington Coat Factory Store in nearby Palm Springs.
     As it turned out, this particular store is going out of business and they had a big sale going on. Inventory had been kind of depleted and the pickings were a little slim. After unsuccessfully rummaging  through the women's coats we spotted a much larger selection of men's winter coats, three or four racks worth, at the other end of the store. I pulled a long, hooded down coat off the rack that looked stylish enough and appropriate for single digit temps... It was a perfect fit.
     Did you know that Burlington Coat Factory sells things other than coats?
     Come to find out, they sell luggage... and Suzanne found a carry on piece that fit the bill perfectly. I also bought a new wallet, a car charger for my phone and a suction cup phone mount to stick on the dash of the coach. Prices were greatly reduced with an additional 20% off at the register and the total cost of our items was something in the neighborhood of $120. Not too shabby.
     By now it was lunch time and we were both hungry. One of our favorite Mexican restaurants in the area is Las Casuelas in La Quinta - conveniently located on Hwy 111 between Burlington Coat Factory and Motorcoach Country Club. Suzanne had a chicken burrito and I had chicken fajitas. Neither of us was able to finish even half our entree so I have plenty of leftovers to get me through the next couple of days. Actually, I ate the rest of her burrito for lunch today. I'll polish off the fajitas tomorrow.
     Suzanne spent the afternoon packing and getting ready for her flight while I puttered around and took Travis to the dog park. Chasing and retrieving tennis balls has become his most favorite thing in the world! He's gotten very good at it. Sometimes he jumps in the air and catches them on the bounce. This dog has more energy and is more athletic than any dog I've ever had. We have a lot of fun.
                                                  One of the colorful fountains at MCC

     Suzanne wanted to see her mom before leaving for the airport so we took Joanne out to dinner. I was still feeling pretty full of fajitas and only had a glass of water. Suzanne wasn't very hungry either and had a small Caesar Salad.
     I dropped Suzanne off at Palm Springs International Airport at 9:15pm for her 10:50pm non-stop Jet Blue flight to JFK. Travis came along for the ride.

     Indian Wells' check-in time is 2:00pm. Check-out time at MCC is 11:00am. When I made the reservation at IW I explained the situation and the woman , unlike the grumpy woman in San Antonio, told me there would be someone in my assigned site but that as soon as they vacated I could move in.
     I was ready to roll at 10:30am. I drove the car, with the bikes on the rack, to the parking lot at the MCC office, took my bike off the rack and rode it back to the coach. I put my bike inside the coach, sat down and called IW to see what the status of my site was. It was empty and she said, "Come on over!". Both Indian Wells and the RV park in San Antonio are Sun Resorts. How can one be so accommodating and the other such a pain in the ass?

     I drove the coach out through the front gate to where I had left the car, hooked up to the car and drove the 1/2 mile to IW. Check-in went smoothly. I parked in my site, took Travis for a walk, ate the rest of Suz's chicken burrito and took a little siesta. I went to the fitness center around 5pm (not nearly as nice a MCC's, but adequate) and got a good thirty-five minute cardio workout - then returned to the coach for a shower and a bite to eat.
     IW is a little rough around the edges. Well, I mean anything would look a little rough around the edges compared to Motorcoach Country Club. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I believe MCC to be the premier RV resort in the entire country. It's truly an amazing place. Indian Wells is well worn and a little thread bare... but I like it. The employees and residents are very friendly, it's clean and well maintained, there are three nice swimming pools and as I mentioned earlier, the fitness center is just fine. Oh, and it's WAY less expensive than MCC. MCC is a fun place to indulge ourselves for a week every year or two but now it's time to return to reality.
     So I'll entertain myself (and Travis) for the next few days and when Suzanne returns we'll disconnect from shore power and head for northern California for a few days.
     The adventure continues...

Thanks for reading the blog.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Boundaries, Buggies and Big Bangs...

 Click on pictures to enlarge 

Golf carts are a popular mode of transportation here at MCC. There's one parked and covered at our site and I was hopeful that it's use was part of the deal... but it's not. I haven't peeked under the cover to see if it's a custom job like many of the carts I see tooling around the resort. I took some pictures of just a few of these fancy buggies while walking Travis yesterday afternoon. Check em out.

                                                                   '57 Chevy

                                                                Santa's Golf Cart?

                                                   Custom Painted to match the coach

                                                              A British 'Black Cab'


                                                               Probably a woman's?

     My mother commented that I'm always writing in my blog about cleaning something. Well, I'm happy to announce that I didn't clean anything yesterday. All the things I've wanted to clean are now clean. Hmm... I haven't done the inside of the windows yet...
     It was kind of a lazy day here at site #271. We have a dome satellite dish on the roof and I bought a receiver earlier this... make that LAST year. I've tried several times to get the dish to locate a satellite but have never had any luck. I gave it another shot yesterday morning, to no avail. Judging from everything I've read on the subject, I'm going to have to get a newer dish. One like this...

      They're kind of pricey, and I'm not in a hurry to get one. We're usually able to pull in quite a few channels over the air with the antenna - and we watch Netflix. I also have a subscription to Sling TV. At some point I'm sure we'll pop for a new dish but for now, there are other accessories higher on the list.
     In the afternoon we went for a bike ride around the resort. It's an easy couple of miles. There are no hills save for a couple of arched bridges over the waterway. With a few good pumps of the pedals you can coast for quite a ways.
     The neighbor I mentioned in yesterday's post arrived in the early afternoon. I was preparing lunch and saw him carefully surveying the positioning of our coach. He appeared concerned that I might be encroaching on his lot. There is a very clear line of demarcation where my concrete pad ends and his brick one begins. When we arrived last week I wanted to gain as much starboard side patio space as possible so I positioned the coach as close as I could to our port-side neighbor, being careful not to allow the extended slide to hang over the boundary. It's right at the boundary.
     He even had his wife come out to eyeball it. They finally retired to their rig - having determined I hadn't violated their personal space.
    I was kind of hoping they might say something to me so I could retract the slide like... an inch, thus avoiding a turf war.

    Suzanne watching the football game...

    I rode my bike to the fitness center around 4pm and had a good cardio workout. The fitness center is reserved from 7am to noon for members only. We're not members, we're guests. I'm all about the rules. Especially those concerning boundaries and fitness center hours, so I comply.
    Let's see... what else. We spent a quiet night in the coach. I'm sure there was a party at the clubhouse but not knowing anyone here, we weren't interested. I made margaritas since we were fresh out of champagne, and we stayed in for the night, watching a few episodes of Blue Bloods on Netflix.
    Travis does NOT like loud noises... especially those made by firecrackers and the like. The popping and banging started around 8pm and continued until well past midnight. I was a bit surprised that MCC allowed fireworks. Maybe they don't and people use them anyway. At any rate, Travis was completely wigged out and had to get in bed with us around 10pm. He remained agitated, even lying next to me with my arm around him, but was more relaxed than he was running back & forth the length of the coach.
     I guess the most newsworthy item is that we're considering renting a spot at Sun Resorts Indian Wells for 30 days. Suzanne has to fly to NYC Monday night, returning Friday. When she returns we're taking the coach up to Napa to visit with her sister, Barb for a few days. Then I think we're going to return to spend some more time in the Coachella Valley. With record cold temps back in Northern Virginia, we're not in any hurry to return home. And there's really no reason for us not to stay out as long as we want... or at least until the weather back east is a little more palatable.
     The adventure continues...

Thanks for reading the blog.