December 30, 2005 To January 2, 2006
We thought that we'd take a small break from the web log because to be honest, we've done absolutely nothing noteworthy over the past few days, not even counting the New Years holiday.
Our New Years Eve was typical of many people's where we sat up watching TV and tried to stay awake long enough to usher in the new year. We enjoy watching New Years Eve television because lots of times there are some great musical programs on featuring everything from Jazz to Country music. Unfortunately we didn't see much of that this year so we watched some favorite old movies instead. We did have a few adult beverages to help us greet the New Year but we enjoyed them in moderation. No hangovers for us! Geez, we must be getting old.
Clouds and rain showers put a damper on outdoor activities for New Years day so we stayed inside. Monday the 2nd, we got up early, made breakfast and watched the Tournament Of Roses Parade live from Pasadena. As everyone knows by now, the weather was dreadful in the L.A. area during the parade. We felt so sorry for the folks who put the floats together and for the marching bands. It was still a wonderful parade though and we always enjoy it, rain or shine.
To be honest, cloudy skies and rain showers the past few days have given us the perfect excuse to stay inside watching the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction from Scottsdale, AZ. Speed Channel has been broadcasting it almost continuously throughout the New Years holiday period and we were glued to the TV for at least 10-12 hours during that time. We love watching the collector cars get auctioned off and it's like an addiction for us. Once we start watching it, we can't turn it off. We've talked about going to Scottsdale and seeing it live, but that would be too dangerous for us being the car junkies that we are. Best that we stay away and just watch it on TV.
Time now to get back into our normal post-holiday routine and hopefully do some sightseeing here in the San Diego area.
January 3, 2006
We woke up to sunny skies today but everything outside was still wet from yesterday’s rains. For me that was the perfect time to go outside and use the chamois to dry the truck and trailer off. Since neither had been moved during the rains, they weren't dirty, just wet. It took me an hour and a half but I dried both the truck and the trailer leaving them both looking like they had just been washed. After hitting all of the windows with Windex the job was complete.
While I was cleaning the truck and trailer, Margo did the laundry and tidied up the trailer inside. I know it sounds like we're always cleaning something, but aside from our basic nature of being "neat freaks", we just feel better when things are in their place. I think it comes from living on sailboats where things need to be in their place out of necessity. Items both large and small need to be in their place when the boat is underway and in that tight of a space if even one small item isn't stowed properly, the whole vessel looks messy. I guess you could say that we've carried our boating habits over to the RV lifestyle. For me the outside cleanliness boils down to pride of ownership and maintaining resale value neither of which are a bad thing.
The San Diego weather is supposed to be great for tomorrow with high temps in the mid 70's. With kids back in school and the holidays behind us, we're going to give Balboa Park (see web log for December 28th) another shot.
January 4, 2006
We woke up to sparkling blue skies and just knew that this would be an excellent day to head back over to Balboa Park. Since most museum attractions don't open until 11:00 am, we had a relaxed breakfast here before making the short drive over to Balboa. Our last attempt to visit the park was during the Christmas holidays and it was so packed with people that we couldn't even get into the parking lot. This time there was little traffic and the parking lots were only around 10% full when we got there.
Since we arrived at the park a little early, we headed over to the Visitor's Center where we picked up a park map and got some useful info from one of the park volunteers. Still having time to kill, we bought coffees from a cart and sat out in the sun until things opened up. Sometimes it's just nice to sit out on a park bench sipping coffee on a warm sunny morning. Margo and I both enjoy people watching so this type of activity is always welcome.
Our first stop was at the park's Botanical Building. Normally I'm not one to get excited by things horticultural, but this building and its contents are something to see. First off, it's one of the largest wood lath structures in the world, which is even more amazing since it was built in 1915. It contains over 2,100 permanent plants and many more seasonal displays. There are also water features, which contribute to the entire structure having a wonderful calm and peaceful feeling. In fact, people tend to speak in hushed tones in there not unlike a library. This particular park attraction is free while some others do charge an admission fee to get in.
After the botanical building we headed over to the Timken Museum of Art. Again, this isn't the type of museum we would usually enjoy, but we were attracted to it because there was a Rembrandt exhibit in progress. In addition to the Rembrandt's on display, the Timken Museum also has many other works by the European old masters. We don't know much about art history, but it was fun to stroll among these old works trying to appear as though we did. In all seriousness, some of those works are amazing and it's easy to see why they were called the "Old Masters". The Timken Museum is also free and worth a look even for those who have no knowledge of art.
We saved the best museum (in my opinion!) of the day for last. The San Diego Model Railroad Museum. Located in a 28,000 square foot building, the museum houses several spectacular model railroads each of which are operated by a different model railroad club. The most spectacular railroad in the building is an HO scale model, built by the La Mesa Model Railroad Club, depicting the shared BNSF/Union Pacific mainline over Tehachapi Pass between Bakersfield and Mojave California. The real-life line is around 70 miles long but the museum layout has faithfully recreated approximately 24 miles of the line right down to the last building and blade of grass. They say it takes a model train an average of 1 1/2 hours to complete the trip from Bakersfield to Mojave to give some idea of the size of the layout. There are several other clubs that occupy the building and all have amazing layouts in O, HO and N scales. Most of the club members are retired geezers and have time on their hands but they're also an amazing collection of three-dimensional artists. Maybe that's why they call these layouts a "museum" as the artistry exhibited in creating these miniature worlds is extraordinary. The museum charges $5 for adult admission, but it's well worth it to see some of the best model train layouts in the world. We spent several hours in there giving us a chance to talk to club members and to get a "behind the scenes" tour of one of the railroads areas that is still a work in progress.
It was mid-afternoon by the time we departed the model railroad museum so we spent the rest of the day walking around the park stopping at shops and just enjoying the place. Midday temperatures were in the 70's and perfect for strolling. If you're ever in the San Diego area, we highly recommend spending at least a day at Balboa Park (www.balboapark.org).
January 5, 2006
Out of necessity today's web log entry needs to take a hard turn towards the serious side of life. For the past few months I've noticed some minor "inclusions" forming on various parts of my body. Many of them have been there for a while and are no doubt parts of the normal ageing process, but one in particular got my attention so I decided to have it checked out by a dermatologist. The suspect flaw was a small quarter inch diameter discoloration located on the left side of my face. What brought it to my attention was the fact that it burned in that area whenever I'd apply my morning after-shave. Since we've gone into retirement and have been on the move a lot, I've tried to ignore it away as just a "normal" skin flaw. But it kept gnawing at me so I decided to have it checked out.
Today was the day that I needed to face the music and see the doctor to get an actual diagnosis. As my appointment time drew nearer I couldn't help but think of a family member and his near miss with skin cancer a few years ago. I'm not sure of the actual facts of his case, but to cut to the chase, he dodged a bullet and to our relief is fine now. We all got a scare though and it was with his history in mind that I marched into the examining room and met with Eugene Nowak, local Chula Vista area Board certified Dermatologist.
Doctor Nowak performed a complete skin examination and to my relief determined that none of my skin problems were serious although several of them had the potential to turn serious. The one on my cheek had the potential to become the most serious as it was diagnosed as an "Actinic Keratosis" or AK as it's called. 1 in 6 adults will get at least one AK in their lifetime with about 40% of their AK's turning into "squamous cell carcinoma's" which are the most common types of skin cancers.
Treatment for my disorder turned out to be small localized blasts of Liquid Nitrogen to freeze the offending areas and allow them to scab over and fall off on their own. Turns out I had one problem area on each arm, the one on the side of my face and another on my left ear. For those who are interested, the liquid nitrogen is applied with a small device not unlike one of those common automotive style oil cans with a trigger. While the device looked like it might have come from the local Pep Boys auto supply, the liquid nitrogen was the real thing and stung when it was applied.
I debated as to whether or not to share this experience with the readers of our weblog, but in the end I thought it was too important not to discuss it. I highly recommend that everyone use sunscreen and get any suspicious skin disorders checked out as soon they are noticed. Also take advantage of your annual physical exam to get a skin screening if you can. Just my two cents worth.
After my doctors appointment we spent the rest of the day relaxing. Margo occupied herself inside while I relaxed with a book outside in the SHADE!
January 6, 2006
For those who live in the colder climates, I hate to continually brag up this San Diego weather, but it's hard to ignore. Today was another high to mid 70's day under sparkling blue skies perfect for sight seeing. We've been wanting to explore downtown San Diego and thought that we'd head down there via the local light rail trolley. After doing some checking online, we found that the trolley fare would be $12 round trip for both of us plus an additional shuttle fare from the RV park over to the light rail station. After talking it over we decided to take the truck downtown and take our chances with finding parking.
Our prime destination was the San Diego waterfront and the retired US Navy aircraft carrier USS Midway. The Midway has been retired from active duty service and is now a floating museum. We found parking right next to the ship at the "Navy Pier". The cost to park there was $7, so our decision to drive was probably a good one.
We took the self-guided tour of the ship and had a great time. We've been on quite a few carriers in the past and always enjoy them. Of course I spent 4 years on the USS Enterprise so visiting them is sort of like going home for me. The view of the San Diego skyline from Midway's flight deck was something to see. Just beautiful. As far as aircraft carrier tours go, this is one of the better ones and we recommend it.
After touring the Midway we took a walk down the waterfront where we spotted two Holland America cruise ships, the MS Amsterdam and the MS Ryndam. We're scheduled to take a cruise out of Tampa on the Ryndam in April so it was fun to see the ship in person for the first time. Being big Holland America fans we took lots of pictures of the two ships together.
Being a warm day and needing something to drink we stopped at a local cantina where we downed a brew and people watched. It was nice sitting out in the sun with a view of San Diego Bay watching people pass by.
We spent the bulk of the day on the waterfront and didn't see it all so we'll be heading back down there sometime soon. We also need to check out the core of the city as well as the "Gaslamp District" and it's restaurants. San Diego is a beautiful city and one that we recommend.
January 7, 2006 To January 11, 2006
We needed to take a small break from our web log posting to make a road trip up to Thousand Oaks. Margo's mother has taken ill and is in the hospital there. Since Thousand Oaks is only a three hour trip north, we thought it best to make a run up to see how she's doing. In short, she was resting most of the time while we were there and tests were being run. At last report a surgery is being planned for her and we have our fingers crossed that everything goes well. We stayed at Margo's brothers home while in Thousand Oaks and we really appreciated their hospitality. The entire family chipped in to make our stay a comfortable one. Thanks to all.
Our days in Thousand Oaks pretty much revolved around hospital visits and family chats so there really isn't much to report during that period in time. Today's run back down to Chula Vista was routine with lots of Southern California traffic. We arrived back at the trailer in late afternoon and it was good to be "home".
We just received an email inquiring about Sparkie (thank you Eneida!) and how he's making out in his new RV lifestyle. The fact is that Sparkie is happy as long as he's with us no matter what we're doing. I think he really enjoys the RV parks though because they all have something new for him to explore. The parks usually have "doggie" areas or places where other dog owners walk their dogs and he loves visiting them on a regular basis. Margo and I enjoy sitting outside reading and we usually bring him out with us and put him on a rope. That way he can see the other dogs going by on their walks while enjoying the sun. He also has a favorite window to look out of in the trailer. Other than his daily walks, he gets his treats several times a day and the occasional new toy. I'd say he's got it made these days!
January 12, 2006 To January 13, 2006
There was no web log entry for yesterday because we did nothing worth telling.
Today we decided to make a run over to San Marcos to do some shopping at the Camping World store there. My guess is that San Marcos is around 30-35 miles away via highway 15. Highway 15 is a driving nightmare right now because of highway construction in progress over most of its length. The freeway is being widened to an incredible 14 lanes! When it's completed there will be commute lanes down the middle of the highway that can switch direction of travel depending upon the commute direction and it won't be long before the state expects highway 15 to handle up to 380,000 vehicles a day. Anyway, there is major construction going on there and it made us want to reconsider how important a run to Camping World was to us. In the end we decided to go ahead and make the trip anyway.
Traffic was heavy but we had fun shopping at Camping World. They allow dogs in the store so we brought Sparkie in there with us and he rode around in the shopping cart like a kid. It was Margo's idea to bring him in and I have to admit that it was fun to see him riding in the cart.
After dropping a chunk of change for RV supplies we headed next door to a Beaudry RV dealership. Our good friends the Metz's up in Northern California just bought a new Kountry Star motor home and we wanted to see if Beaudry had a similar one in stock for us to check out. We weren't on the lot 30 seconds when a salesman nabbed us but he turned out to be a nice guy. He said that they didn't have any Kountry Stars in stock right then but he'd be glad to show us some other units. When we told him why we were looking he took it in stride and still offered to show us some motor homes. Things were slow at the dealership so being typical RV'ers who love to look, we took him up on his offer. We did find one motor home that we really liked but we're happy with our truck and trailer and are enjoying things just the way they are. Still, that motor home was a real beauty.
January 14, 2006
"Never a dull moment" doesn't exactly describe the RV lifestyle. If it's non-stop action you want then I'd advise a person to look elsewhere. But sometimes when you least expect it things can get exciting. Such was the case this morning when I took Sparkie out for his morning constitutional. The drill is usually a simple one, I take Sparks out for a quick walk while Margo makes the coffee and puts out the breakfast goodies. This mornings walk started out like any other until I ran into a middle-aged couple walking their dogs, two Chihuahua's and a Lhasa Apso. The man was walking the Chihuahua's and the lady was walking the Lhasa Apso. Both Sparkie and their dogs were on retractable (reel) style leashes with a reach of around 10-12 feet. As people will do, the humans exchanged "good mornings" while the dogs sniffed noses.
All of a sudden one of the Chihuahua's, a wiry little pup, lunged at Sparkie snapping and barking. Sparkie took it all in stride but he still backed away and sought shelter behind my legs. It all happened very fast but before any of us had time to react, both Chihuahua's had chased Sparkie around my legs until they could go no further with me firmly wrapped up in the leashes. Of course the leashes themselves were hopelessly tangled too. The man and I were trying to untangle the leashes while the one little Chihuahua was trying to chew on Sparkie who was by now starting to retaliate on his own. There was lots of barking and snarling going on with the woman yelling "oh my God!, oh my God!". We finally got one of the Chihuahua leashes untangled and the woman reached down to pick up the dog. While she was doing that she lost track of the Lhasa Apso and it proceeded to get itself involved in the fray. This was all going on very fast, my legs still wrapped up in the
leashes and the dogs all going at it, the Lhasa Apso having replaced the one Chihuahua.
I still don't know how we did it but somehow we managed to get the dogs apart and the leashes wound back around so that I was free of them. At that point Sparkie and I made a quick retreat while the other owners yanked their dogs away. We all got a laugh out of the situation but as Sparks and I walked away I heard one of the plastic leash handles drop to the ground. Somehow the man had dropped the leash and the freed Chihuahua came running at top speed straight for us dragging his leash behind him. The man then yelled at me,"look out, killer Chihuahua on the loose!", as he ran to retrieve the dog. It took him seconds to halt the wayward pup and Sparkie and I finally went on our way hoping that the rest of the day would be a little less exhilarating.
And it was. Margo and I took our walk to the other side of the marina then she spent time working on the computer while I busied myself with other mundane things. Every time I think of the dog episode though, I still laugh. It must have been a sight to see.
January 15, 2006
Unless we do some sightseeing or leave the RV park for some reason, our days tend to be pretty much the same. In a nutshell, we eat, walk and sleep, not necessarily in that order. It's the same stuff we'd be doing if we were retired and living in a stick-built house the only difference is that when living in a house it stays firmly in place 24/7. So does your neighbors place.
With RV's it's different. People come and go from the park and occasionally someone will decide that they like another part of the park or a particular space better than the one they have and will request to move. Such was the case today when we watched a huge 45' Prevost motor home move from its space and head our way destined for a new space a few down from us. I think most RV'ers would agree that Prevost's are probably the top of the line when it comes to RV's. Based on a tour bus chassis, some top a million dollars and are equipped with only the finest of amenities. Marble, leather and hardwoods abound. They are rolling works of art with their highly polished chrome and expensive paint.
We watched this particular Prevost with interest as it approached our corner site intent upon making a very tight right turn which would take it past the rear of our trailer. As the bus started making the turn, we could see that it was going to come very close to us. In fact it was going to hit us! At the last second the driver hit the air brakes and the bus halted just inches away from our right rear corner. Margo and I were standing in the rear of our trailer watching this through our large rear windows, and to be honest, we didn't know what to do as it was all happening so fast. We didn't know whether to stay put or run outside waving our arms. Seeing that he wouldn't be able to make the tight corner the way he was going, the driver backed up and made another attempt at it. This time he didn't stop as he came forward, his four right rear tires climbing the curb into our site. Margo and I stood there frozen in place as the bus went through the corner of our space missing the rear of our trailer by inches. From our vantage point we were sure that he would hit us. Later, using his tire marks as a gauge, I calculated that the bus was less than 6" from our trailer as it passed by. It was strange standing here in the rear of our trailer watching as a giant wall of steel, chrome and smoked glass windows passed by so close that we could have touched them, and nothing that we could do to stop it.
It all happened very quickly and we were speechless. Was it driving skill on his part or just plain luck that he didn't hit us? We'll never know but it did show us how vulnerable our home can be under certain conditions.
January 16, 2006
Today was another one of those days like any other day where we stay at home and veg out. We did take our walk though and it was under awesome sunny blue skies. The view across San Diego Bay was crystal clear
When we got home from our walk we called our nephew, Nick, to see if he wanted to come join us for a dinner out. Nick is Margo's brothers son and is soon to graduate from the University of California, San Diego. We figured that he could use a good meal. Turns out we were right. He showed up at the RV park around 6:00 pm and we walked over to The Galley Restaurant where we had a nice dinner with a view of the marina. We talked about his plans after graduation and he seemed to be really interested in the RV lifestyle. After a hearty meal we walked back to the trailer and called it a night.
One thing that Nick pointed out to us was how close we were to Mexico. The nighttime lights that we see on the local hills to the south of us are actually those of Tijuana.
January 17, 2006 To January 19, 2006
Tuesday, January 17th saw us doing absolutely nothing but chores. It was one of our work days when we clean the trailer and do laundry. Nothing worth writing about.
Wednesday, January 18th we made a long overdue run back to downtown San Diego where we once again visited the city waterfront. Our goal this time was to check out the Maritime Museum of San Diego (www.sdmaritime.org). The museum consists of a number of historic vessels most of which can be boarded and inspected. The centerpiece of the collection is the beautiful old sailing bark "Star Of India". Launched in 1863 she is one of the earliest steel hulled sailing ships and the worlds oldest active ship. She's maintained to a very high standard and sailed at least once a year.
Other museum vessels include (my personal favorite) the 1904 steam yacht "Medea", the San Francisco Bay ferryboat, "Berkeley", a 70's era B-39 Soviet Attack Submarine and tall ship "Californian". A new addition to the fleet is the "HMS Surprise", the Royal Navy frigate used in the Russel Crowe movie "Master And Commander: The Far Side of The World". There are other lesser boats in the collection such as the pilot boat "Pilot" and several beautiful vintage sailboats and dinghies. The ferryboat Berkeley serves as a gift ship and as a floating museum for maritime artifacts. The price for adult admission is only $10 and a person could literally spend the entire day there and not see it all. The museum is a real bargain as far as attractions go.
The museum staff were always helpful and willing to take the time to explain things. One elderly man we talked to volunteers as a wood carver on the Star Of India and turned out to be a fountain of information on not only the museums vessels but on just about anything nautical. We enjoyed our long conversation with him very much.
After leaving the maritime museum we walked back to Navy pier where we had parked the truck. We just can't resist the $7.00 parking fee at the Navy pier. It's a bargain as far as downtown parking fees go. On the way back home we took a detour through downtown San Diego's Gaslight Quarter. We'd been curious about it and wanted to see what it was like. From what we can tell it's an older part of town that has undergone a renovation and now sports many nice shops and restaurants. We've been planning on a trip down to that part of town and will have to do it soon. It's a tight area though with congested streets and limited parking for large vehicles. We'll take the trolley when we go there again.
Yesterday, the 19th, was a combination day of chores and goofing off. I washed the truck down at one of the local coin car washes then picked Margo up so that we could do the weekly grocery shopping. I know, real exciting!
January 20, 2006
This was another quiet day at home and we used it to plan where we're going to go after we leave Chula Vista. One of the joys of RV'ing is getting to head out for new destinations and planning where to go can be half the fun. We still have a couple of weeks before we're scheduled to leave here, but we wanted to make sure that we had plenty of time to make reservations if needed.
From Chula Vista we'll be heading north to the San Francisco Bay Area with some intermittent stops in between. Our first two stops will be in the town of Ventura, California. One stop will be at a Ventura RV park and the other will be at a California state park that borders the Pacific Ocean off of Highway 101. We've been to both places many times in the past and are looking forward to seeing them again.
After that will come the quaint town of Solvang, California followed by the California coastal fishing community of Morro Bay. More on this later.
January 21, 2006
Margo and I have to admit to being addicted to cruise ships and cruising in general. There is literally nothing that we'd rather do than take a cruise. We cruise when we can afford to and we visit cruise ships at the pier just for the fun of it. With one of Holland America's cruise ships visiting San Diego, today's activities were a no-brainer. It was another fantastic day weather wise so we put on our walking shoes and headed down to the waterfront to check out one of Holland America's newest "Vista Class" ships the "MS Oosterdam".
By now the San Diego waterfront has become like an old friend to us. We pay our seven bucks to park at Navy Pier then we're free to walk anywhere in town. In this case we hopped over a couple of piers to pay our respects to MS Oosterdam and take a few pics of her. We've sailed several times on one of her sister ships "MS Zuiderdam" and seeing the virtually identical Oosterdam sitting at the pier was like seeing an old friend. Oosterdam was just in from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and would be heading back to Mexico's Cabo San Lucas that evening. Passengers were already boarding and we couldn't help but be excited for them.
After getting our cruise ship fix, we decided that it was just way too nice of a day to head back to the trailer, so we spent the rest of the day walking the docks checking out boats and sitting in the sun. We did make a stop at Fisherman's Village where we enjoyed cold Corona's while listening to a live Latin band playing in the square. It was such a great day that we didn't want it to end but eventually we decided to head on back to the trailer. One of the great things about full-time RV'ing is that you always feel like you're on vacation so heading back to the trailer was really no great sacrifice.
January 22, 2006
Being a nice Sunday morning we thought that we'd head over to a local I-Hop for some pancakes. Once there we didn't even get parked before we noticed that there was a huge line of people waiting to be seated for breakfast. At that point we downshifted into "plan B" and came on back to the marina area where we had breakfast at our old hangout, The Galley Restaurant. When the waitress came to take our order I told her that I'd like an order of "flapjacks". She gave me a funny look then said, "Flapjacks? You're not from around here are you?" I didn't want to spoil things for her but I got the flapjack term from a character in the movie "Groundhog Day". I think they must only say "pancakes" here in the San Diego area but the look on the waitress's face was priceless. Margo and I got a laugh out of it anyway.
After breakfast we did something a little bit different. We went to another part of the waterfront. (Sorry, but we love boats and the water!) This time we went up to the northern part of San Diego Bay and checked out the boating scene there. The particular area we went to was where the America's Cup boats operated out of when the San Diego Yacht Club hosted the America's Cup in 1988, 1992 and 1995. It's a nice area with lots of places to access marinas and boats. We were walking down the street when we spotted a tall superstructure towering above the tops of the buildings. Being curious we walked back to see what type of vessel it was attached to. Turns out it was #34 on the list of the world's largest motor yachts, the 234 foot "Boadicea". (see photo gallery) Boadicea is owned by a rich Aussie and is really a beauty. Sort of like owning your own miniature cruise ship.
Just north of San Diego is the Mission Bay area. So being in the area and having never been there before, we decided to check it out. The Mission Bay area is another water oriented coastal community with palm tree lined streets and quaint older southern California homes. We thought that we'd take a look at the downtown area and maybe get out of the truck and grab a cold beverage. Unfortunately, unlike San Diego, the entire area is completely congested with cars everywhere. There are tons of cars parked in every nook and crannie and the streets are packed too. It turns out that the downtown area was kind of cute but nothing to write home about, so we changed course and headed on back down to the quieter streets of Chula Vista.
January 23, 2006
The RV'ers who read this web log don't need to be told how comfortable their coaches are. We really do have nice comfortable surroundings. The one area that needs to be improved in my opinion is the laundry situation. Washer/dryer combinations are available for RVs and in fact, many RVs have factory installed washer/dryer combos or are at least set up for them. We've heard both good and bad things about them, the problem being that they only operate on 120 volts rather than the normal 220 volts that a regular home setup uses. The result is slower drying times and somewhat diminished performance compared to the home laundry combos. Then there's the additional weight that the washer/dryers add to an RV. At least for now, even though our coach is set up for a washer/dryer, we've decided to forgo the luxury of an RV laundry system instead preferring to use the coin operated washers and dryers that most RV parks provide.
Today was laundry day for us, but instead of using the park laundry facilities, we decided to find a coin-op laundry out in town. As most folks know, this can be an adventure all by itself. Normally our laundry consists of the normal soiled clothing which we would wash here at the RV park, but today we had the addition of a large comforter and some throw rugs that we wanted to wash and thought that maybe we should seek out one of those large front-loading commercial coin-op washers.
We finally found a laundromat in downtown Chula Vista that looked like it would fill the bill. It must have been laundry day for half of Chula Vista though because it was packed with hordes of people all doing their laundry at the same time. As we entered the laundromat carring our stuff we were met by a chorus of different languages and people of different cultures all having one thing in common, removing ground in dirt using the latest in laundry aids. Of course there were the usual screaming kids underfoot as well. We finally made our way to some empty washers but it was a little like culture shock for us, not having to use a laundromat since our live-aboard boating days. I don't mean this to sound like it was a bad experience, but it sure made us long for our old laundry room back at our Orlando home. That house has been sold and the old laundry room is but a fond memory at this point, but I just wanted to point out that laundry day can be one of the low points of this RV lifestyle.
The rest of the day was spent running errands like grocery shopping, banking, getting diesel fuel for the truck (Chula Vista, CA price $2.89 a gallon), going to the post office and trying to figure out what we're going to do tomorrow, our 30th wedding Anniversary.
January 24, 2006
Today is a day like any other except that for us it's a landmark wedding anniversary, 30 years together. I'd have to say that today has been a day sort of like Thanksgiving where a person sits down and reflects on what they have to be thankful for. Except in this case we've been reflecting on the years that have gone by and the many wonderful things that we've experienced as husband and wife.
One thing that dawned on us is that our RV lifestyle actually started before we got married, when we were still dating. You see, it was the early 70's and I had one of those surfer style vans that fathers hated to see their daughters ride in. It was a '63 Econoline painted a bright "Road Runner Orange" with wood paneling and shag carpet. California rake, chrome wheels and fat tires, natch. We never thought of it as being an RV but in retrospect it was and maybe set the tone for things to come.
There were a few other custom vans after that one, but then the kids came along and we transitioned to a Coleman tent trailer. I remember one time when we were camped by a southern California beach and a man with a motor home came by to say hello. Of course the talk turned to RV's and he told us that he'd started with a tent trailer then "moved up" over the years. He suggested that we would probably end up doing the same thing. I remember us saying "no way. We're happy with what we have". Yeah right, many years and many RV's later look at where we are. The RV bug and the RV lifestyle can become a way of life where "moving up" is almost mandatory.
But getting back to our anniversary, one of the reasons that Margo and I have been together for so long is that we enjoy doing things together. Simply put, we're best friends and that seems to be the case with many other RV families and couples that we meet. Maybe that's one reason that RV'ers as a group get along so well. Just a thought.
Anyway, we capped off the day by heading over to the Galley Restaurant for a nice meal and a glass of wine by the fire. We're saving the real celebrating for April when we'll be taking a Caribbean cruise.
January 25, 2006
The good news for today is that my dermatologist, Dr. Nowak, just gave me the green light to leave town. I first visited him back on 1/5 to have him examine some skin areas that had been bothering me. He treated the affected areas but wanted to see me for a follow-up visit to check his work. That meant that we would have to extend our Chula Vista stay by a couple of weeks. No problem, this is a wonderful area and we thoroughly enjoy it.
We take Sparkie out for walks 4-5 times a day so it's important that he have a good collar and leash. We've been having problems with his retractable leash lately so the goal for today was to shop for a new one. We like the retractable leashes but his current one has a button requiring us to stop him from extending it out. What we want is a retractable leash where we have to push a button to extend it rather than stop it, just the opposite of what we have now. So the three of us jumped into the truck and headed over to the local shopping areas in search of a new leash.
The first stop was Petco because they have lots of leashes and Sparkie is welcome in the store. Margo put him in a shopping cart and we walked the isles checking out the pet supplies. We found the leashes but discovered that they all worked the same as the one that he has now which was a disappointment. To cut our losses we loaded the cart with a bag of dog food and a bag of treats. Next we took our spoiled pooch down the toy isle and let him pick out a new toy. He's very particular about his toys. They have to have a good squeaker and just the right type of material for good carrying around. He found a round one with four separate squeakers that he liked so in the cart it went.
We stopped at several more stores but the leashes were all basically the same which was puzzling since we used to own one of the other style. Time to come home and do some research on the internet. It turns out that you can't buy the type of leash that we were looking for. Apparently they don't make it any more. Makes me want to get into the leash business. Like the late industrialist Henry J. Kaiser used to say, "Find a need and fill it".
I just got to thinking that you really know you're retired when the high point of your day is shopping for a dog leash!
January 26, 2006
Today I was a slug (so what else is new) and didn't do anything except walk the dog, read a book and watch TV. Margo on the other hand was busy making an important addition to this website.
Ever since we've gone on-line with the site, we've been deluged with requests for more photos and news about Sparkie. "Where's Sparkie?", "How come you never show Sparkie?". Okay, we've heard your requests and we've taken action. We're pleased to announce that Sparkie now has his own dedicated area with pics and captions. Just click the new Sparkie button on the home page. We hope you like the pics!
January 27, 2006
San Diego has a mass transit system that is second to none. In fact, this whole area seems to be dedicated to moving people as efficiently as possible. Aside from an extensive network of freeways, there are the usual buses and a superb light rail trolley system. There are ferryboats crossing the bay and even inexpensive pedicabs roaming the streets of the downtown area. This combination of transit choices works wonderfully as we were to witness first-hand when we decided to take the San Diego Trolley from Chula Vista to downtown San Diego.
The nearest trolley (light rail) station is roughly a mile and a half from the RV park and there is an hourly shuttle bus service that makes stops right outside of the park entrance. Being a nice sunny day we opted to walk over to the station instead of waiting for the shuttle. Once at the station we popped our fare into a ticket machine and we were set to go. The fare to downtown each way was $2.25 for Margo and only $1.00 for me based on the senior (60+) rate.
I have a theory that you can tell a lot about a community by checking out it's buses and light rail vehicles. If the coaches are dirty and graffiti covered then to me, that particular community has problems that go beyond that obvious vandalism. We can't speak for the local buses, but the light rail cars were clean and comfortable. They even had vinyl covered foam seats instead of the hard plastic "fast food" restaurant style seating of some transit vehicles. I know areas of the U.S. where those nice seats wouldn't last 5 minutes. All-in-all, we give the San Diego Trolley system an A+ for comfort and service.
We got off of the trolley at the beautiful old downtown Santa Fe railroad station. This mission style structure now serves Amtrak and has been maintained in all of it's pre-Amtrak glory. It's only a short 5 minute walk over to the waterfront so we headed over there to see what was new. There were a few cruise ships in port which we enjoyed seeing, but that was about it since our last visit. Being in a walking mood we decided to head to the center of town to see the famous "Gas Lamp Quarter". (http://www.gaslamp.org/)
The Gas Lamp Quarter is an older restored part of town that seems to be the heart of the city's entertainment scene. You can't walk a block without passing half a dozen nice restaurants, some with outside or sidewalk seating. One thing we found amusing was that many of the restaurant hostesses have their seating podiums located outside by the sidewalk. Because of the abundance of nice restaurants in this area, we don't advise going there if you're hungry. The aromas will drive you crazy! The rest of the Gas Lamp Quarter businesses seem to be an eclectic mix of clubs and mom-and-pop small business establishments. We never had the feeling that we were in a "tourist" area but rather an area that both locals and travelers can equally enjoy. One thing that struck us was the contrast between the older architecture of this area, when just a few blocks away were steel and glass highrise condos and office towers.
After our self-guided walking tour of the Gas Lamp Quarter we jumped back onto the trolley for the return trip to Chula Vista. Unfortunately we just missed the shuttle bus back to the RV park, so we opted to walk back rather than wait the 45 minutes until the next bus. Margo and I did a really good job of walking past those Gas Lamp area restaurants without stopping, but our resolve gave out about the time we approached the Galley restaurant at the marina. We'd walked a long way today and the image of cheeseburgers and fries dancing in our heads was too much to resist. It wasn't hard to justify the decadence of a nice meal by the water. Today's little adventure wasn't an exciting one but it sure was nice.
January 28, 2006
We can't say exactly where we were except that it was somewhere on I-10 and we were stopped for fuel at a remote desert gas station. We were headed here to Chula Vista but we needed some diesel for the truck and a cup of coffee to keep us going. After fueling the truck we went into the station's mini-mart for some coffee and a danish. When we returned to our truck we noticed that we were parked next to a pickup truck hauling a large radial aircraft engine on a gooseneck trailer. Being airplane junkies, we struck up a conversation with the driver of the truck who told us that the engine was from a B-29 bomber and that he was transporting it to the east coast. It turns out that his name is Edward Henretta and he works for a helicopter museum called "Classic Rotors" (www.rotors.org) located in a desert community east of the San Diego area. Our conversation was brief but he gave us his business card and invited us out to the museum located at the Ramona, California airport. Margo and I never forgot that chance meeting so I gave Edward a call and we arranged to meet him at the museum at 10:00 am this morning.
The trip out to Ramona is a pleasant drive taking approximately 45 minutes from the San Diego area. The first thing we noticed was that Ramona is a great little place full of small town charm. We'd have to describe it as "cute". We arrived in town around 9:30 and being a little early, decided to get a cup of coffee. A leisurely cruise down the main drag (Hwy 67) revealed several places to stop for coffee but one place in particular caught our eye, "Packard's Coffee", located at the east end of town. If you enjoy good coffee, Packard's is not to be missed.
We enjoyed our coffee in town then headed out to the Ramona Airport where we quickly located the Classic Rotors Museum hangers. As though on que, we pulled up in front of the restoration hanger just as Edward arrived. After exchanging greetings out on the ramp, Edward who is himself a helicopter rated pilot, graciously offered to give us a tour of the museum facilities. To be honest, I don't think we were prepared for what we saw as we entered the hanger. Sitting before us was the most eclectic group of airworthy historic rotary-wing aircraft we've ever seen. Towering over the rest of the aircraft, was a classic 1950's vintage H-21B U.S. Army helicopter, the only one in the world still flying and a hit at air shows. While the H-21 appeared to be the centerpiece of the collection, there were many other unique rotorcraft sharing the hanger space. (There are way too many to mention here so we suggest that you see their website for complete details) Edward patiently walked us through the hanger and an adjacent one as well, taking the time to describe in detail the characteristics of each aircraft. Some of the aircraft will never be restored to flying condition such as a Triumph motorcycle engined little craft or another one powered by a Johnson outboard motor, but they're all fun to see.
If you like helicopters and aircraft museums in general, I have to warn you that this isn't a formal museum with roped off exhibits. These are real working aircraft hangers filled to the brim with vintage aircraft that you can walk right up to and examine. Some are airworthy and waiting for their next flight while others are still in the restoration process. There are parts and sub-assemblies everywhere, some of which alone are worth the drive out to the museum to see. We loved their little restored vintage aircraft tug!
This museum like many others in the country survives on donations and countless hours of skilled volunteer time. For that reason we would suggest that if you plan on going out there that you call ahead (619-427-1330 or 760-803-0244) so as to make sure that it's open on a particular day. Saturday seemed like the best day from our perspective as much volunteer work was being performed while we were there. If you love vintage aircraft and helicopters in particular, we highly suggest that you put the Classic Rotors Museum on your schedule if you are in the San Diego area. Classic Rotors is one of only three dedicated rotorcraft museums in the world. While there is no formal admission charge, donations of any size are always welcome.
Oh, by the way, to you fixed wing pilots out there, Ed says that fixed wing aircraft are only good for one thing, "providing shade at airshows". Is he right? If you'd care to debate it with him, head on out to Ramona and give him your opinion. While you're there, drop a few bucks in that big water bottle over by the MonteCopter. Trust me, these are good guys, they'll appreciate it!
While driving back from Ramona we hatched the bright idea of having a tailgate dinner over by the water at northern San Diego Bay. One of our favorite cruise ships, the Holland America MS Oosterdam, was leaving for a Mexican cruise at 5:00 pm and would be passing right by in the main shipping channel. So, Margo whipped up a picnic dinner and we drove the short distance up to the ship channel. We ate dinner by the water and watched as Oosterdam passed by all lit up and with excited cruise passengers lining the rails. We know that ship well and could see the two-level dining room preparing for the first dinner seating. Seeing Oosterdam head out to sea, what a way to top off the perfect day.
January 29, 2006
Since we'll be leaving Chula Vista in less than a week, I thought that today would be a good day to start checking out the truck and trailer to make sure everything is 100% road worthy. The trailer has come over 3,000 miles with us pulling and there were at least another 500-600 delivery miles put on it before that. So I gathered together my wrenches including my torque wrench and headed under the trailer. Our trailer has Al-Ko axles and the owners manual lists torque values for the various suspension components. I found a few fasteners that needed to be cinched up but things were generally looking pretty good.
The main area of the truck that I wanted to check was the hitch. 5th wheel hitches take a lot of stresses and I wanted to make sure that all of the mounting bolts were secure. To my surprise, all eight vertical bolts and nuts holding the hitch plates to the truck bed were loose! I tightened them as the best I could with what tools I have with me but I'll need to purchase another wrench to access several hard to reach nuts. Once the hitch is secure, my only remaining task will be to check the truck and trailer tire air pressures.
I guess the moral of this story is to never leave anything to chance with an RV. I hate to think about towing the trailer through L.A. area traffic with loose hitch mounting bolts.
January 30, 2006
The first thing on today's agenda was to head over to Sears to pick up a combination wrench that we could use to access our 5th wheel hitch mounting bolts. We have toolboxes of wrenches sitting back in Orlando in our storage locker. So it was hard parting with fifteen bucks for a wrench that we never thought we'd need on this trip. Oh well, we might need it again in the future so it's good insurance.
After leaving the Sears store with the new wrench (and some new clothes) in hand, we were driving back to the trailer when we got to wondering how close we could get to the US/Mexico border without actually driving into Mexico. Sounded like an adventure to us!
So we took off down I-5 towards the Mexican border with only one small road map to guide us. That particular map is a little vague and the last thing we wanted to do was end up in a line of cars committed to entering Mexico and us without our passports or Mexican car insurance. The map showed a last turn-off before the border leading to a park out by the ocean. The park is named "Border Field State Park"; sounds nice. We pictured it being right by the blue Pacific Ocean with a US/Mexican border fence blocking the view to the south. Off we went to the state park. The road out there was somewhat narrow with no real sign of a border fence or border markers to the south. When we finally reached the much anticipated border park it was closed! A large sign on the gate said that it was only open on weekends. To be honest, it looked a little rough around the edges and not exactly like a real state park. Maybe it's a nice place to visit but we'll never know. The one interesting thing we noticed was the number of US Border Patrol vehicles we met on the road going out there. At least three in just a few miles. One thing each border patrol officer had in common was trying to make eye contact with me as we passed. I noticed it right from the beginning and it left me feeling like those agents have the eyes of eagles.
With the park being closed, we decided to head back towards the east to see if we could get to the border fence that way. We drove a few miles and I mentioned to Margo that one area in the distance might be Mexico. She replied by saying "Duh, I think so, see that Mexican flag?". Sure enough, there was the largest Mexican flag I'd ever seen flying from a super tall flagpole. It was like one of those huge American flags you see on some car lots. There was no doubt that the area we were seeing was Mexico.
Soon our narrow two-lane country road crossed I-5 and landed us in the border town of San Ysidro, CA. San Ysidro is an interesting place. Don't feel like actually driving into Mexico? No problem. San Ysidro has much of the feeling of a Mexican town without the hassle. Much of the signage is in Spanish and there are Mercados and money exchanges everywhere. The San Diego Trolley has a stop there and there are even parking lots available to people who want to walk across the border into Mexico. They say that the San Ysidro border crossing is the busiest in the nation and after what we saw, we can believe it. We drove right up to the border then made a u-turn to head back the way we came. Our curiosity had been satisfied but in a way we feel like maybe we cheated ourselves. It would have been fun to have parked the truck and at least walked across the border into Mexico. Next time we'll come prepared and head on over. Maybe we'll even buy a souvenir or two.
January 31, 2006
We'll be leaving Chula Vista this coming Saturday morning and with that in mind we started asking ourselves if we'd seen everything we wanted to see in the San Diego area. Actually, we have seen everything on our list, but we thought that we'd like to revisit Balboa Park, not with any specific museum or exhibit in mind, but just to go to the park and walk the grounds.
As we stated in an earlier web log post, Balboa Park is a "must see" if you come to the San Diego area. We won't try to cover it again, but it's a wonderful park that includes the world famous San Diego Zoo. Our goal today was to just drive over there and relax. We parked the truck and headed straight for a small coffee bar that we had frequented the last time we were there. Coffee in hand we walked out to a courtyard area and sat down in the sunshine to people watch. We can't put our finger on it, but once people enter Balboa Park they seem to leave their troubles behind. It's a very calming place with young and elderly alike enjoying the beautiful buildings and landscaping. School field trips are a common sight during the week and the kids are well behaved and cute as they go about their business.
We finished our coffee and walked the grounds discovering some gardens that we'd missed the first time around. One was a huge cactus garden, the other an equally impressive rose garden. The landscaping staffs at Balboa Park have much to be proud of. This is a park that requires no admission for either parking or to walk the grounds. While many Balboa Park museums and exhibits do have an admission charge, there are other exhibits that are free and well worth seeing.
Reluctantly, we decided that it was time to get back to the trailer so we said goodbye to wonderful Balboa Park but knowing that we will definitely be back.