February 1, 2006
Margo and I love big beautiful old resort hotels. The only problem is that we can't afford to stay in them very often. One that has been on our list of hotels to visit is the Hotel Del Coronado (www.hoteldel.com) located in Coronado across San Diego Bay from the city of San Diego. We've driven by the "Del" in the past, but we've never actually stopped to look inside. I should have stayed home today and washed the truck but it was far easier to procrastinate. I'll do the truck washing tomorrow (maybe). Instead, we made the quick trip across the bay to check out the Del Coronado combined with a walk along the lovely Coronado waterfront.
Parking was plentiful by the yacht harbor across from the Del so we left the truck there. Before heading over to the hotel we couldn't help but take a walk along the quay so that we could check out the boats.
After checking out the harbor we walked over to the hotel to begin our self-guided tour. Approaching the hotel a person can't help but be struck by the 1888 architecture. Personally I like it but in some ways it reminds me of an upscale, stark white version of the Winchester Mystery house. It is a beautiful old structure though. The Del Coronado bills itself as a resort and we would agree with that description. It has all of the resort trappings from beautifully tended grounds to a large sparkling swimming pool and several restaurants located on the property. There is even a very nice shopping area located under the hotel.
The Del Coronado is painted a very bright white and it almost requires a person to wear sunglasses when viewing it in full sunlight. It came as a surprise to us then that the lobby area should be so dark. Not only is the lighting subdued, but the wood used throughout the lobby is very dark, a marked contrast to the outside. It's a lovely old lobby though and maintained to an expected very high standard. We've only seen the rooms on the website but after seeing the rest of the place we came away feeling that the Del is expensive but worth it.
After the opulent surroundings of a first class hotel our return to the trailer seemed a little anti-climatic. It's home though and we love it.
The weather is still nice here in Chula Vista and makes people want to sit outside and socialize. That was the case here yesterday. People from all over the U.S. and Canada mingling and chatting. There's no denying the appeal of the RV lifestyle on a day like this.
February 2, 2006
It's Cockapoo day! I took Sparkie outside this morning and he saw his shadow. Unfortunately that means six more weeks of winter for the people of Chula Vista. Not to worry, it's hard to tell summer from winter in this part of the country anyway.
Seriously, it is Groundhog Day and we love the whole idea of it. We always swear that we're going to go to Punxsutawney so we can see it first hand, but for now we'll have to be content to watch the Bill Murray movie of the same name. We love that picture and wait until this time of year to watch it.
We have a small area in the shower stall that needs to be recaulked and I recently noticed that the trailers pin box could use some paint touch up. All normal maintenance stuff. So I jumped in the truck and headed over to the local Home Depot to pick up a tube of bath caulk and a can of black spray paint.
I still can't go into a Home Depot or a Lowes without seeing something that I'd like to have for the house except that we don't have the house anymore! There are row after row of home improvement products that we have absolutely no use for. In a way, it's a little sad because we really did love our house and we both love decorating and making improvements. Our HGTV induced home improvement fever will have to wait until the next house. For now a small tube of caulk and a can of spray paint will have to do.
Which reminds me, either by law or by store policy they had to make sure that I was age 18 before I was allowed to purchase the can of spray paint. (they actually checked!) I know it has something to do with the graffiti laws but do they really think that anti-social behavior and the urge to vandalize private property ends at age 18? Oh well, maybe the system does work as we've seen very little graffiti here.
February 3, 2006
Our stay here in Chula Vista has taught us two things. First thing is that six weeks is way too long for us to stay in one place. We came on this adventure to see new places and to meet new people and we can't do that unless we travel more. Unfortunately, I had a minor medical problem to contend with which caused us to have to extend our stay here at Chula Vista RV Resort beyond our original 30-day reservation.
The second thing that we've learned is that there is no better place in the United States than the San Diego area to have to extend a stay. This place is amazing from so many points of view. Great weather, great people and amazing sights to see. San Diego describes itself as "America's Finest City" and we believe it. They could also add, "We Do Things Right" to their description because they really do. Our hats are off to the city officials and others who are responsible for this masterpiece of a community. We need to leave but we'll be sad to do so.
So today was a blur of chores preparing us for our departure tomorrow. Next stop, Ventura, CA
February, 4, 2006
Like a kid on Christmas Eve, I had a hard time sleeping last night in anticipation of our leaving today. Margo on the other hand is an inveterate sleeper, always able to sleep late and snooze. But not this morning. She was up bright and early. We had been in Chula Vista for 6 weeks and just couldn't wait to get back on the road with the trailer in tow.
Our goal was to be on the road by 9:00 am so that we could get into Ventura early. We had made a date to meet Margo's brother and family for dinner at nearby Thousand Oaks at 4:30 pm. The run up to Ventura would take us about 4 hours depending on traffic. And what traffic there was. There are several routes that we could have taken up to Ventura from the San Diego area, but we chose to take I-5 to the 118 then the 118 over to the 101. The RV park is just off of the 101. Normally there is no large metropolitan area that I'd rather drive in than the Southern California/L.A. area. I know most people hate it but normally I enjoy it. That is until today. We thought that it might be a full moon the way people were driving. Every aggressive nutcase driver on the west coast must have been out. We only saw one accident though, with an Impala resting upside down on the side of the road. The CHP had the situation well in hand so our delay through the accident site only took a few minutes.
Our host for the next few days will be the Ventura Beach RV Resort located in the town of Ventura just off of Main St. We've stayed here before and find it to be a comfortable campground with all of the usual RV park amenities. The interior roads and spaces are asphalt. Each space has a strip of grass with a picnic table and fire ring. There are some trees but we were able to aim our satellite dish between them. Good thing as this park doesn't offer cable TV service. They do have WiFi but we must be out of range since our signal strength is too low for us to lock on. All in all, it's a nice little park and quite a bit more "down to earth" than the upscale Chula Vista RV Resort we had just left.
We plan on being here for at least the next few days and are looking forward to a little sight seeing. It sure feels good to be back on the road.
February 5, 2006 to February 6, 2005
Yesterday, the 5th, we had some family matters to take care of down in Thousand Oaks so from a web log standpoint there wasn't much for us to report.
Today was another matter altogether. Originally we were going to leave the RV park at Ventura and move the trailer a few miles north to a state campground also in Ventura. The state campground, Rincon Parkway, is a favorite of ours because it's right at the beach with wonderful views of the Pacific Ocean and Channel Islands in the distance. The main drawback to Rincon is that there are no hookups and dry camping is the only option there. With the short days of winter and it being a little chilly at the beach (they don't allow campfires at Rincon) this time of year, we decided that we would forego dry camping for the comfort of the RV park's full hookups. Our intention was to extend our stay at the park until Friday.
That is until we got up this morning and went outside for the first time. The park sprinkler system had come on overnight and both the truck and trailer were covered up to the trucks window level with hard water spots. Both truck and trailer were a mess. It took me a little over an hour with a bucket and sponge to remove most of the spots. Some of them are still there and will need to be removed with a hard water spot remover if we can find one. The park managers say that the watering system can be activated at any time on a daily basis so needless to say we decided to pull stakes and move on. To be honest, this park simply isn't worth going through the daily "spot removal" routine. Our advice is that if you value your vehicles paint finish and if you value your time, you'll avoid Ventura Beach RV Resort.
So Margo got on the phone to Morro Dunes RV Park in Morro Bay and asked them if they had space for us. They did and that settled it for us. We were off to Morro Bay. We already had a reservation at Morro Dunes for this coming Friday so we just moved our arrival up a few days.
Today's drive north along the California coast was only about 150 miles and was a nice drive through the coastal hills. The scenery is very pretty with rolling green hills and many vineyards. Unfortunately, the developers are having their way with the area and we'd advise visiting this part of California before it's completely developed. Some areas need to be kept for future generations to enjoy as open space and this is definitely one of them. Pismo Beach is a prime example. The once pristine coastal hills of Pismo are now dotted with cookie-cutter "mini-mansions". We'd advise seeing it now before it's completely ruined.
We've stayed at Morro Dunes RV Park many times in the past. In fact, too many times to count, so it's a little like coming home for us. The park is starting to show a little wear but we were delighted to find that they had installed an excellent complimentary WiFi system since our visit here last year. Morro Dunes is situated about a two minute walk away from the beach so if you love the ocean, this is your kind of place. We'll be talking about it more in future web log posts.
February 7, 2006
It was a little breezy here last night which is fairly common for the Morro Bay area but we woke up to beautiful blue skies this morning. After taking Sparkie out for his morning walk we ate breakfast then headed for the beach which is all of a two minute walk from the trailer.
Dogs are allowed on the beach as long as they're leashed but there are restrictions as to how far north they can go. It has something to do with a nesting bird species but in reality we think it has more to do with the local equestrian club as horses are allowed there but not dogs. We saw a horse make quite a large deposit right smack in the middle of the beach and there it sat. Go figure.
After our walk we came back to the trailer and debated on what to do. Since we've been here many times before and have seen just about everything, it was more of a matter of what we'd like to revisit. Not being able to make up our minds, we set the chairs up outside behind the trailer and decided to read in the sun. This park is very quiet right now and before I knew it I was snoozing. Maybe I was too relaxed because I sure didn't plan on that!
That was about it for today but tomorrow we plan to drive north to the little town of Cambria. Cambria has many galleries and small eateries which make it a perfect destination for a day trip.
February 8, 2006
About 20 miles north of Morro Bay lies the small coastal town of Cambria. Cambria is known mostly for its antique shops, art galleries and quaint eateries. Nestled in the rolling coastal hills of central California, the scenery is beautiful, especially this time of year. I don't think we could have picked a better day to make the run up there. The sky was deep blue, the trees and hills green and the weatherman came through with temps. in the low 80's, what a day.
Cambria is small by any measure, but it still manages to be divided into "west" and "east" sides of town. We started out on the west side at an art gallery we like then went on from there. Maybe it's just the time of year, but the town was empty of tourists which isn't always the case. Amazing for such a nice day. Oh well, we enjoyed the quiet as we strolled from shop to shop checking things out.
The weather and the quiet seemed to put the locals in a good mood because we had one nice conversation after another with folks who seemed to be in no particular hurry to run off. If only every place could be this stress free! We ran into some cute little girls from the local 4-H who were selling candy bars. Being suckers for cute little kids, we ended up buying a candy bar. A little while later we were in another shop when I happened to ask if the 4-H girls had been there and without saying a word everyone pulled a candy bar out of their pocket. Cambria is that kind of small town and a joy to experience in this fast paced world.
Later in the afternoon we returned back to Morro Bay and relaxed in the trailer. Tomorrow, we plan to head to downtown Morro Bay to a Fish & Chips place we know of. It's located right on the dock where the fishing boats tie up so you don't need to ask, "is the fish fresh" because, guaranteed, it is. Makes me hungry just thinking about it!
February 9, 2006
The town of Morro Bay is one of our favorite destinations. We may travel other places but for us, all roads eventually lead back here. I think one reason that we like it so much is that time pretty much seems to stand still in Morro. The place never seems to change. A few local businesses my change hands and some may get a makeover, but the basic feel and character of the town stays the same. In fact I don't think it's changed much since we came here with our first RV, a Coleman tent trailer, back in 1978.
The two main landmarks of the area are 576' high Morro Rock standing at the entrance to the harbor and the Pacific Gas & Electric power plant with it's signature three towering smokestacks. The power plant may be dismantled one day, but Morro Rock sure won't. It's huge and a main nesting ground for the once endangered Peregrine Falcons. You can walk right up to Morro Rock but climbing it is prohibited.
The plan for today was to head downtown and visit some of our favorite shops then grab that Fish & Chips lunch. We parked a block up from Embarcadero Road, then set out on foot. Embarcadero Road is one of the town's main streets and borders the waterfront. We love Embarcadero for it's mix of shops, restaurants and galleries plus it's views if the inner harbor and the fishing boats. I guess you could call this waterfront street Morro Bay's main tourist area. We usually walk down one side of the street then return back on the other side. That way we don't miss anything.
Our first stop is always at a gallery called "By The Bay Gallery" which specializes in art glass. We love art glass and always enjoy checking to see what new pieces they have on display. Over the years that we've been going to this gallery we've made friends with a young woman named Heather who works there. When we first met Heather she was quite young but we were immediately impressed with her knowledge of art glass and her willingness to help us. Now when we visit By The Bay Gallery, we always hope to see Heather and have a chat with her. The last time we were in town we stopped by but sadly (for us) we learned that she had moved to Hawaii. Well surprise! we walked into the shop today and there she was back from Hawaii. It was great to see her again and we had a nice long chat. During the course of our conversation she mentioned that she might like to open her own business one day. She should be an immediate success because we can honestly say that Heather is one of the nicest people and best employee's we've ever met. We wish her all the success in the world.
We lived in Indianapolis for a year and one of the first things we noticed after moving there was that the beef was the best that we had ever tasted. They say its because it's corn fed. It was way better than any we had ever been served in California. Seafood there was another story. It was pretty mediocre, frozen and lacking. When we had a taste for seafood we used to wish that we were back in Morro Bay. Morro Bay is a working fishing village and fresh seafood is a mainstay in the local restaurants. For Fish & Chips there is no better place than "Giovanni's" fish market and restaurant located on Embarcadero Road. Food orders are placed at an outside window and when your order is ready, you're free to eat on their new deck or take your food elsewhere. We chose to eat on the deck which was new since the last time we'd been there. The view of Morro Rock and the fishing boats bobbing along side the deck are a perfect setting for consuming the best fish & chips in the world.
After eating way too much for lunch, we headed back to the trailer. The week seems to be flying by but I'm sure that we'll have time for another run downtown before we leave.
February 10, 2006
We had planned to maybe head back to downtown Morro Bay today but the weather turned foggy and dreary soon after breakfast. I was sitting at the dining table working on the computer with sunshine streaming through the window when, I just happened to look out and see a fog bank start coming in from the ocean. It was strange to look out and see the fog rolling by the window, slowly blocking out the sun and the view. It was a little like being in an airliner and descending into the clouds from sunny skies. That fog bank was to set the tone for the rest of the day's weather so, we downshifted into a chores mode consisting of trailer cleaning, laundry, and grocery shopping. We'll do Morro again when the sun comes back out.
Around 5-6 years ago we bought one of those indoor/outdoor thermometers so we could monitor outside temperatures just for fun. We were still living in the SF Bay Area when we bought it. For all of these years it's worked perfectly with the little outside transmitter sending temperatures to the indoor base station. It even worked well through a freezing Indianapolis winter. But yesterday it failed to transmit. I changed the batteries and even took it apart looking for an obvious fault but, could find nothing wrong. The strange thing is how dependent we've become on this little device. We always look at it to see if we need to put on a coat before going out and it's become one of our most valued electronic devices. So today we went on a quest to find a replacement and we found one at the local Albertson's market, of all places. So, we're back in business. Guess retired people need to get their entertainment where they can.
I don't think up jokes very often when I'm awake and I almost never think them up when I'm asleep. But last night while sleeping I came up with one I thought I'd pass on. In my dream I was at a large gathering and I was the center of attention (now that is a dream!). I was telling jokes and people we're falling over laughing. One joke I remember telling people was "the Brokeback Mountain action figures were now available at finer stores (batteries not included)". Oh well, I
woke up laughing. Just remember you heard it here first.
February 11, 2006
Not really too much to report today. It was a good day for sitting around reading in the sun and taking walks. As the afternoon wore on we decided that a nice campfire would be perfect for the evening.
For some people, a weekend away from home in the family RV isn't complete without a nice campfire. The problem is that many campgrounds and RV parks don't allow fires of any kind. This park, Morro Dunes, does allow fires and they provide a nice heavy-duty metal vessel in which to contain the fire. The park store sells firewood so, all a person needs to do is show up with a fire-starter of some kind and they're set. We had some firewood left over from Indianapolis but needed a little bit more to ensure a nice evening fire. So off we went to the park store to pick up a bundle of their seasoned wood.
It was a perfect evening for a fire. The moon was full and the sky was full of stars. The frosting on the cake was that the air was a little nippy which made having a fire especially nice. It's funny how tending a campfire can be so relaxing and rewarding. By the time our fire burned down to embers we were ready to come inside but we'd had an excellent evening. I think if there was one thing that we learned tonight it was that we need to turn off the TV and do this more often.
February 12, 2006
Today was haircut day for me so out came the hair cutting kit. Margo is becoming a very accomplished barber and is able to cut my hair in about 10 minutes. My hair, what there is left of it, is pretty basic to cut (think David Letterman or figure skater Kurt Browning) but she does a great job. Based on what I paid at the barbershop before we left Orlando, I figure we're saving about $14 a pop including tip not to mention the convenience. Heck, that's enough to almost pay for a decent sit-down breakfast somewhere.
We'll be leaving Morro Bay early tomorrow morning so I thought I'd run the truck over to the local coin-op car wash for a quick bath. We like the truck to be clean when we hit the road but to be honest, I just enjoy going to the car wash here in Morro. I use it every time we come to town because it's fun to wash the truck then dry and detail it while soaking up the small town atmosphere. There are some things money can't buy and this is one of them for me, simple as it may seem.
Speaking of leaving town, our next stop will be San Francisco, about a 4-5 hour drive north. Since we're originally from the SF Bay Area this will be a homecoming of sorts for us. It's been about three years since we've been there and we're really excited to go back. We'll be seeing family and friends and we'll also be visiting some of our favorite places. It should be a lot of fun and we can't wait!
February 13, 2006
There are two routes we could have taken to get to San Francisco from Morro Bay, Highway 1 which hugs the coastline and Highway 101 which is more inland. Highway 1 would probably be considered the most scenic, as it has not only the Pacific Ocean going for it, but it also has Hearst Castle and the spectacular Big Sur coast on it's agenda. However, there are road signs north of Cambria warning that large vehicles should consider an alternate route because of the tight, curvey roadway.
The alternate route and the one we always use is Highway 101. Highway 101 may not be quite as scenic as the coastal route, but it is an easier drive. So we departed Morro Bay on Highway 1 then took the 22 mile drive over Highway 46 to the 101. This is a good time of year to make that drive as the coastal hills are a beautiful bright green this time of year. Unfortunately they turn brown soon after spring and stay that way until the following winter.
The run to San Francisco was uneventful except for a rest stop at the Camp Roberts rest area, then a quick run into the Camping World store at San Martin just south of San Jose. The entire 235 mile drive was a pleasant one with us checking out what changes had taken place since we were last in the area. It's amazing how much can change in three years. New homes and new buildings everywhere. It makes a person wonder where it will all end.
As we entered the San Jose/Silicon Valley area where we used to live our opinions were mixed. Margo said that it gave her "the creeps" while I thought that it was like coming home. Neither of us would ever consider moving back to the area, but it still feels like home to me. Guess because I was born here.
We rolled into Candlestick RV Park (1-800-888-2267) a little while later and were assigned a nice space right outside of the main office. This park sits literally in the shadow of Candlestick Park, home of the S.F. Forty Niners. The park info sheet says "30 steps from Candlestick stadium". It looks a little bit further than that to us, but it is right across the street. The ball park has undergone several name changes ("3-Com Park", "Monster Park") but to us it will always be "Candlestick".
We stayed at this park one time before and are always amazed at how quiet it is. It's only a few miles from downtown San Francisco and even offers a shuttle service to the downtown area. The park is 100% asphalt but is nicely landscaped and spotless. The facilities include full hookups, a store, laundromat and lounge area but no pool or spa. It's kind of a no-frills type of place but we like it. They do offer WiFi but so far we haven't been able to get it to work. It's a pay service so that doesn't surprise us. Our experience with wireless Internet is that the free services usually work the best.
February 14, 2006
The Bay Area like most major cities has "windows" when it's easier to get around. Those windows are typically the hours between commute times and in some cases, lunch times also have to be factored in. To travel outside of the windows is an invitation to longer travel times and increased aggravation behind the wheel. With that in mind, we decided to wait until after the morning commutes to hit the road. That gave us time to eat breakfast and decide exactly where we wanted to go.
It's been over 5 years since we sold our house here so we decided the first thing we'd like to do is drive down to the city of Sunnyvale and see how the old place looks after all these years. Sunnyvale is just north of San Jose and is about 40 miles south of the RV park. The drive down to Sunnyvale on Highway 101 involved the usual weekday traffic but was moving at the limit. The house, much to our surprise, looked almost exactly the same as it did when we sold it. Some rose bushes had been removed but the place appeared to be well kept much to our relief. We were the first owners of the little house and had gotten attached to it. It appears to be occupied by the same people we sold it to and it's obvious that they care about it too.
From there we decided to grab some lunch and then try to find a place that offered a wireless "hot-spot" so that we could check our emails and post the web log from yesterday. Lunch was at a favorite burger place we know, then we thought that we'd hit the local public library to take advantage of their WiFi. This being the heart of Silicon Valley, we just knew that the Sunnyvale Public Library would have wireless Internet, wrong. Okay, how about the Mountain View Public library a few miles to the north, wrong again. Geez, Mountain View is the home of Fairchild Semiconductor, the original and very first local semiconductor company. This is the ultimate high-tech area, wireless Internet should be a part of everyday life here, sort of like air and water. All right, there's always Starbucks, we were pretty sure we could get on-line there.
We found a Starbucks, bought a coffee and settled into a chair to boot up the laptop. Come to find out Starbucks has an agreement with a company called "T-Mobile" for pay wireless service. Three bucks for a half-cup of coffee-flavored foam and they have the nerve to charge for wireless service? Not with us they don't so the laptop got turned off and put away. By now it was getting late (remember the traffic windows) and we needed to go grocery shopping so we headed back towards S.F. On one hand we had a fun day seeing the old house and looking around our old town. But on the other hand we found out that we need to have a better game plan for Internet service. Until now we've been depending on wireless service at the RV parks we stay at and had thought that we could find other sources of wireless service without much problem. That's not really the case and some research is definitely in order.
February 15, 2006 To February 17, 2006
We just found out the hard way that not having the Internet is a bummer. Three days without it and we were starting to have withdrawals. It sort of makes us wonder what we did for communications and entertainment before Al Gore invented the darn thing. As we posted before, the WiFi at Candlestick RV Park is non-existent. We checked with the park office and the deal is that Candlestick RV Park has permission to offer access to the Candlestick (Monster Park) system across the street but it just doesn't have a strong enough signal to log-on to. Kind of lame actually but it didn't ruin our opinion of Candlestick RV Park. It's a nice place.
Putting the wireless issue aside, we've had a pretty good time in the area so far. We stopped by some of our favorite waterfront communities and marinas and we got to visit with old friends at DB Design Group, Inc. in Milpitas. DB Design was my last Bay Area employer before we moved from the area and to be honest, the best place I ever worked. Company CEO, Derek Bowers, gave us a company tour on Wednesday then took us out for lunch on Friday. Lunch was at a local Asian restaurant where we were joined by five of the company's designers, all good friends. We email regularly but it's been three years since our last visit to DB Design and it was like a homecoming of sorts for me. There aren't too many things that I miss about the Bay Area but this company and its people are very high on the list. It's very special. Thanks for lunch Derek, we owe you!
Friday morning I took Sparkie out for his morning walk only to find FROST on the roof of the truck! It's been a long time since we've seen frost or anything like it. It made us want to turn-tail and head south but we still have people to see and visit with here not the least of which are our two daughters, Heather and Jennifer. Guess we'll have to grin and bear this cold weather.
Friday evening we drove over to Los Gatos to see our friends (see "Camping Friends") Gary and Terri Metz. We wanted to see them and check out their new Kountry Star motor home. Gary lives in it four days a week while working in the Bay Area then returns to Pine Mountain Lake (Sierra mountains) on the weekends. It was great to see them and their new coach was beautiful. We enjoyed a pizza dinner and toasted their new acquisition with a glass of Champagne. It was fun talking RV's and catching up on things. We wish them many happy miles of RV'ing and know that they'll have a great time in the new rig.
February 18, 2006
Can you believe it rained overnight? First we get frost, now rain. There is even some dusting of snow in the local Bay Area hills. The temps are dipping into the 30's at night and we're having to wear sweatshirts and even coats. Gone are my shorts and t-shirts. Something is wrong here, we're supposed to be laying outside soaking up the sunshine. Oh well, seeing family and friends comes first.
Today we moved the trailer from Candlestick RV Park down to Morgan Hill, just south of San Jose. The park is called "Parkway Lakes RV Park" and is located several miles off of Highway 101. There aren't too many RV parks in the South Bay Area to choose from, but this one is listed in the Trailer Life Directory and in Woodall's so we thought it must be good. The truth is it's a little rough around the edges and not really the type of park that we're used to. There are many RV's here that obviously never move and have lots of items stored around and under them. It looks messy and comes across as being maybe a little too casual in terms of rules. On the plus side it's quiet, people seem to be nice and the WiFi ($4.95 a day) works perfect. Still, I don't think that we will return.
After we got the trailer set-up, it was time to go meet our daughters for dinner. Our oldest daughter, Heather, lives and works here in the Silicon Valley area while our younger daughter, Jennifer, lives and works in Reno, NV. Jennifer along with granddaughter Heather and boyfriend John braved a Sierra snowstorm to come see us and we appreciate it.
Jennifer, knowing that we love the movie "A Christmas Story", brought us a little gift. It's a nightlight in the form of the famous "leg lamp" from the movie. We love it and have already tried it out. It's a Major Award! Thanks Jennifer!
Heather had a gift surprise for us too. It's a personalized Christmas ornament in the shape of an RV rear-end with Christmas lights on it. It's way too cool to save until Christmas so we're displaying it now. Thanks Heather!
We met for dinner at a local Mexican restaurant here in Morgan Hill which gave us a chance to enjoy a good meal while catching up on all of the latest news. Heather and Jennifer are both very outgoing people and a lot of fun to be with. They're the type of gals that you definitely know are in the room at any type of gathering. We laugh, we tell jokes and we always have a good time. Dinner was over all too soon but we made a date to get together for breakfast tomorrow morning at the I-Hop in Santa Clara.
After driving back to the trailer and taking Sparkie out for his last walk of the night, the skies opened up and it poured rain. The trailer was nice and toasty and we drifted off to sleep to the sound of rain on the roof and trains passing on the nearby Union Pacific Railroad coastline. Perfect sleeping conditions.
February 19, 2006
I just got to thinking how common it is for parents to call their offspring "kids" long after they're well into adulthood. The parents could be 90 years old and the offspring age 70, but to them the kids are still "the kids". So it is with us. We met the kids at the Santa Clara I-Hop restaurant for breakfast as we had planned yesterday. They were already seated when we arrived and even had hot mugs of coffee waiting for us. We don't see the kids very often so there is always a lot of catching up and reminiscing to do. Their plan was to head up to San Francisco after breakfast so this would be the last time we would see them until our next visit to the area. The result was our taking much longer over breakfast than is necessary to just eat and run. Each of us put away a huge breakfast then we all adjourned outside for some photos, a few of which are now posted in the photo gallery. Then came the hugs and goodbyes until we see them again.
We walked back to the truck and discovered that Sparkie had gotten sick while we were in the restaurant. He had thrown up on the back seat carpet and it needed to be cleaned up. Thankfully, we had a roll of paper towels in the truck so we were able to make quick work of it. We checked him out and he seemed okay so, we chalked it up to him being upset because we left him alone. He's been fine since then so I think maybe we were right.
We took a leisurely trip back to the trailer stopping at a Target store for some automotive carpet cleaner. After leaving the Target we discovered a really neat radio control airplane flying field. This thing was really well organized and well laid out, even featuring paved taxiways and runways. Nothing was lacking and we couldn't help but think how lucky the local RC pilots were to have a wonderful flying field like this. For RC fans, the field is located on Monterey Highway just a few miles north of downtown Morgan Hill.
Evening saw us in downtown San Jose where we were to meet some friends, Dave McGarvey and wife Bonnie, Barry Schmidt and wife Gina with daughter Haley, for dinner. We had agreed to meet at a restaurant called "The Spaghetti Factory" which is very popular with the locals. Maybe too popular as we we're told the wait would be an hour and forty-five minutes! We discussed the situation briefly and all decided that none of us wanted to wait that long. We did some checking and found another place within walking distance that had good food and just a short wait. The dinner was good and we really enjoyed the company of our friends. After dinner the McGarvey's invited us to join them for coffee at a nearby Starbucks and we were happy to do so.
Our much-anticipated visit to the Bay Area is almost over. We've seen everyone that we came to see and we will be leaving for Bakersfield tomorrow morning. We don't care much about the S.F. area, but we will be sad to be leaving family and friends behind. It's hard to put into words but it makes us realize that people are the most important things in life and that the rest is just window dressing. To family and friends alike, we will miss you and are already looking forward to our next visit.
February 20, 2006
We elected to give the truck a rest and just hang out at the trailer today. We've been going steadily since we hit the Bay Area and needed a little time to work around here. Since we'll be leaving the area tomorrow morning, I decided to give the truck and trailer their customary pre-trip inspection and cleanup.
The trailer has been staying pretty clean but the truck was a mess from the recent rains and needed a little TLC. I checked out the weather forecast for our projected route and it looks to be clear for at least the next week so, I got my cleaning gear out and gave the truck a bath. I washed and cleaned everything inside and out then turned my attention to the trailer. It got a "sponge bath" with the bucket and wash mitt then it was dried off with the chamois. Both truck and trailer are back to looking nice which always makes us feel good.
Tomorrow's destination will be an easy 238-mile run south to Bakersfield, CA. We haven't decided on an RV park yet, but we can check out the guidebooks while in route and decide then.
February 21, 2006
Today's run to Bakersfield was the first leg of a journey that will eventually take us back to Central Florida. Orlando was our point of departure for this little fulltime RV adventure, so it will almost be like coming home for us, except that we no longer have a home there. The reason for our return is that a number of months ago we booked a Southern Caribbean cruise scheduled to depart from the port of Tampa in early April.
A trip back to Florida is probably a good thing as it will give us a chance to see our doctors for check-ups, and we'll be able to check out our storage unit and make sure that things are okay there. We'll also get to look in on "Willie" our Mini Cooper and "Mimi" our Miata, also in storage. We may not have a home base but we do have "stuff" in storage. Not much mind you, but what we do have is important to us.
So here we are in Bakersfield sitting in a not-so-great RV park. Todays run from Morgan Hill was great. We chose a route that took us through the California Central Valley. We had great sunny weather which was a relief as fog is not uncommon in the valley this time of year. The trees in the many orchards along the way must have thought it was springtime as they were all in bloom. Thousands of acres of trees all blooming at the same time are a sight to see. We're not tree experts but we do know that many, if not all of them, were almond trees and their blooms were bright white. Just beautiful.
We picked this RV park out of the Trailer Life Directory while on the road. "Bakersfield Palms RV Resort" has a full-page ad which makes it look much better than it really is. This park, like the one in Morgan Hill, has many small, older travel trailers that obviously never move and are, to put it politely, low cost housing. We have no problem with that, but the spaces should be tidy and free of junk. Many of these aren't. If we could have seen this park interior from the check-in area, we probably would have passed, but we're here now and it's only for one night. The WiFi seems to work well and at a cost of $2.50 a day seems quite reasonable. One last comment on this RV park, it's in very close proximity to an active railroad mainline. Depending upon your feeling about trains, you may not like the noise. Being rail fans, we don't mind it but we fear most will find it not to their liking.
First thing tomorrow morning we have an appointment with a trailer repair place here in Bakersfield to replace a wheel stud that is broken. We don't know if it was cross-threaded or if it got over-torqued, but it needs to be replaced. We replaced the factory steel wheels with aluminum ones soon after buying the trailer and we feel the problem was probably created at that time.
After that we'll be heading from Bakersfield to the small town of Tehachapi, California located in the mountains approximately 35 miles to the east. We love Tehachapi enough to have purchased property there plus we have a favorite RV park in the area. The only drawback is that it's been getting cold there at night with lows in the 20's. It may be cold but the skies are clear and we need to check on the property so we're going for it. Should be fun.
February 22, 2006
We set the alarm clock and got up early so that we could be at the trailer repair shop about the time it opened. We were the first customers of the day and the technician was able to get right to work repairing our broken wheel stud as soon as I backed the trailer into their yard. The tech was a fountain of useful trailer information and I listened to him talk as he worked. It was quite an education. This man knows his trailers and I learned a lot about axle and bearing maintenance. The repair only took about 45 minutes to accomplish and we were on our way. The total cost for everything, including parts, was only $33.00. A bargain in this day and age of high shop prices. If you're in the Bakersfield area and need trailer axle service or repair, we highly recommend "Buds Brake & Wheel" 305 East 19th Street Bakersfield, CA 93304. Phone: 661-322-7061. They are a factory authorized AL-Ko axle repair facility and trailers are their only business.
With the repair job behind us, it was time to make the 35-mile climb up Highway 58 to the town of Tehachapi. Tehachapi is located in California's Tehachapi mountain range at the 4,000 foot level and is the quintessential railroad town. Some of the most spectacular railroad action in the country takes place in the Tehachapi area. Just a few miles from town is the famous "Tehachapi Loop" which draws rail fans from around the world. "The Loop" as the locals call it, is an area where long freight trains actually circle around and pass back over themselves as they climb or descend the mountain rail line. It's an amazing sight to see even for non-rail fans and not to be missed if you're in the area. The frequency of trains using the line varies from day-to-day but with both the Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroads sharing the right-of-way, you don't have to wait long to see a train.
We pulled into Tehachapi around 10:00 am and headed directly for the RV park. The "RV Park, Mountain Valley Airport" (www.mountainvalleyairport.com) is located exactly where you would expect to find it, at Mountain Valley Airport (Unicom 123.000) just southeast of town. Mountain Valley is an airport specializing in sailplanes and soaring. The RV park is located right next to the active runways and offers great views of airplanes taking off and landing. In fact, it's literally close enough to see the smiles on the glider pilots faces as they take off or land.
I'm not going to pull punches on this place, we love it! In fact, I'd say that after 29 years of RV'ing, this is probably our all-time favorite RV park. This park is a no-frills operation with no fancy clubhouse, no swimming pool or spa and no social event's calendar. What it does offer is spectacular scenery and the ability to relax in total peace and quiet. There is the occasional sound of a tow plane taking off with a sailplane in tow or maybe the whoosh of a sailplane passing by as it lands on the nearby runway, but this place offers solitude for those that crave it.
It's also very casual. When we arrived, there was a sign on the office door saying that nobody would be there until 2:00 pm. This came as no surprise as we've seen the office closed mid-day before. We took it upon ourselves to select a site with an excellent view of the runway out the back of the trailer and set about hooking up our utilities. When we were done, we headed over to the nearby airport office and told the lady there that we had a trailer in the park and would pay as soon as the office person arrived at 2:00. We knew from past experience that the airport operators also own the RV park and thought we should give them the courtesy of at least letting them know we were there. Plus, we love that airport office but more on that later.
After checking in we headed the short distance to town and had a nice lunch at a favorite restaurant. After lunch we drove up to our property to check it out. Even though it's in a populated area, we always worry that somebody might have dumped something on it. We were relieved to find it in good condition and free of debris. Our plan is to build on this property after we get this RV thing out of our systems. It already feels like home to us which is a good thing.
February 23, 2006
When we went to bed last night our trusty indoor/outdoor thermometer was showing 30 degrees and looked to be dropping. To be honest we were concerned that the trailer might not be up to handling that much cold without us being uncomfortable. Our Challenger cost us less than half as much as some of the higher-end units and we know for a fact that it isn't insulated quite as well. Our fears were unfounded though as we were toasty all night long. When we bought this trailer our plan was for this type of cold to be the exception rather then the rule and we figured that we would deal with the cold when the time came. From this point on we won't let it concern us.
At the first hint of daylight I got up and opened a window shade to take a look outside. I was spellbound as I watched the sky lighten to the east. It was breezy and chilly out but it was also crystal clear. The moon was still visible overhead as was the North Star. I sat on the sofa and couldn't take my eyes off of the sunrise. The airport runways empty at this hour and the sailplanes tied down in front of the airport office in the distance. Mornings don't get much prettier than this.
We took an extra long time with breakfast just sitting in the trailer enjoying the high desert mountain scenery and watching the airport come to life. The airport tow plane pilot has a morning ritual of pulling the tow plane, a Piper Pawnee, out and taking it up for a quick flight around the pattern. This is to make sure everything is a-okay for the days glider towing. We couldn't help but think he just might have the best job in the world as we watched him land right next to the trailer.
The day actually turned out to be nice and warm so out came the lounge chairs. We spent way too long sitting in the sun, watching the airport operations and the sailplanes flying overhead. I think our favorite thing about the gliders, besides being a picture of grace, is listening to them as they pass overhead or as they pass by the trailer when landing. They have no engines and are mostly silent except for the sound of their form slicing through the air.
This afternoon we took a little ride around the town of Tehachapi. We needed to pick up a few items so we stopped at the town's only department store, a K-Mart. Many of the locals complain that they would like more choice of places to shop, but were the town to start getting larger and offering more big name stores, our opinion is that it would start to loose its charm. Right now there are no McDonalds, Wal-Marts, etc. Major shopping needs to be done over in the town of Lancaster or down in Bakersfield. There is talk of a Home Depot so maybe that will be the beginning of the end and this awesome little town will begin to loose its innocence.
February 24, 2006
Another beautiful but chilly sunrise this morning, 26 degrees out and the trailer is still warm and cozy. I have to say that this is the only place in the United States that we would be willing to tolerate this type of cold. The curious thing is that as soon as the sun peeks up over the mountains the temperature starts to climb immediately. By mid-morning it was actually hot standing in the sun so out came the lounge chairs again.
Margo baked a coffee cake and we sat out beside the trailer reading and watching the gliders come and go. This combination of sunshine, mountain scenery and graceful aircraft is hard to beat. I don't know why for sure, but I always feel a little guilty when I goof off sitting in the sun. I always feel as though I should be doing "something". Today I decided to knock off the guilt trip and be the best goof off that I could be.
Needing to stretch, we took a short walk over to the airport to check out the gliders up close and to say hello to the operators of the glider operation, Skylark North. Tehachapi's Mountain Valley Airport is one of the premiere soaring areas in the nation and Skylark North is one of the top soaring schools. They even have contracts with the US Air Force Test Pilot School and the National Test Pilot School. Needless to say, this is a very prestigious place to enroll in flight training. Located in the same building as Skylark North is a small coffee shop called the "Ravens Nest Sandwich Shop" which is open for breakfast and lunch. It's a great little place to grab a bite with views of the flight-line and runways right outside the windows. The walls are covered with photos of aircraft and famous test pilots. The perfect place for us airport bums to grab a meal. Keep in mind that Tehachapi is only a short distance from both Mojave Airport (home of "Spaceship One") and Edwards Air Force Base, so test pilots and extraordinary aircraft are common around here.
As we walked back to the trailer we decided that we needed to extend our stay here for at least two more days. To be honest we don't really want to leave, but hey, the whole object of this fulltime RV gig is to see the country and meet new people. We'll hitch up and hit the road for Palm Desert on Monday.
February 25, 2006
No visit to Tehachapi would be complete without a trip over to the Tehachapi Loop. As I posted above, Tehachapi Loop is a part of the railroad line through the area where, because of the steep grades, it is necessary for the railroad to engineer the trackage so that it loops around and passes back over itself. It's fun to watch freight trains climb the grade and travel around the large circle of track then pass back over itself. The Loop is one of the major tourist attractions in the area and it's not uncommon to find families and rail fans alike stopped along side of the road, cameras in hand.
The road out to the loop from the town of Tehachapi is called "Woodford Tehachapi Road" and is quite curvy with lots of elevation changes. It's only a few miles out to the loop, but it seems like more as you negotiate the many curves in the road. Margo and I always say "the quickest way between two points is a curvy road, that's why we own the Miata and Mini Cooper, they're fun on curves. But this road is a little tight in our quad-cab dually. There were times when the inside rear tires were almost rubbing against the mountains on one side with the tires on the opposite side over the double-yellow line. If you decide to go out to the loop from the town of Tehachapi do not take your motor home or trailer!
The loop in it's entirety is best viewed from up on the road and there are pullouts and a highway marker describing it's construction. Margo and I prefer to drive down into the loop itself to watch trains. Most people think that since the property surrounding the loop is railroad property, it's off-limits to the public, but that's not the case. We've been driving down to the loop and even into the center of it for years and we can tell you that we've never had any problem doing so. In fact, we had a Union Pacific High-Rail pickup truck drive right by us when we were there and they said nothing to us. Usually they just wave. If you go there, PLEASE be careful and stay back from the rails. Do not walk on the tracks or place objects on them. Also try to stay on the service roads or wide areas away from the tracks. Remember that this is a very active rail line and as such it can be a very dangerous place for those not paying attention. Caution must be exercised. The last thing the rail fans of the world want is to be denied access from this awesome area because people do stupid things there. Right now the railroads have been fantastic about allowing the public to visit this very special area but that could all change with one small accident.
We drove down into the loop and parked at an area off of a service road where there is a large rock outcropping that's perfect for picture taking. We barely had time to get ourselves situated when we looked down the hill and saw a headlight coming up the grade. Before too long a BNSF freight train came growling up the hill and started curving into the circle of track that forms the loop. We could see the locomotives pass by below but soon they circled up to our level and got ready to pass right by where I was perched. By this time Margo and Sparkie had moved back down by the truck to watch. As the lead locomotive passed by me I gave a friendly wave to the engineer which he pretty much ignored (very unusual on the loop) but when he got to Margo not only did he wave to her but he yelled out a loud "hello"! Guess he just prefers attractive women to run-of-the-mill, crusty old male rail fans.
It wasn't long before a UP freight came by heading the opposite direction down the grade towards Bakersfield with his dynamic brakes howling. This is railroading at it's best! The smell of the diesel, the sound of the engines, freight cars pounding over the rails, the noise. Yeah! After the last car of the UP freight disappeared around the bend all was quiet again and it left us wanting more. But trains are fickle and you never know when the next one will appear. Sort of like sitting in a boat fishing and hoping for a bite, an activity best done with a good friend or spouse. Waiting for trains and good conversation just seem to go hand-in-hand.
February 26, 2006
This morning was a direct contrast to the warm sunny weather we've been having. There were high clouds and it was windy and cold out. This is high desert country and to be expected this time of year. It made us wish we had an actual wood burning fireplace.
We set the alarm clock to get up early so the we could enjoy breakfast at one of the best eateries in the country, the Voyager Restaurant at Mojave Airport. The desert town of Mojave is only about 20 miles to the east of Tehachapi and the airport there is known worldwide as a civilian spaceport and experimental aircraft center. This is the home of Spaceship One and designer Burt Rutan's company that built it, "Scaled Composites". Just down the flight line from Scaled Composites sits the Mojave airport restaurant.
Mojave Airport is home to many exotic aircraft from civilian owned jet fighters to homebuilt one-off experimental prototypes. Oh yeah, and civilian spaceships. The flight line is off-limits to all but those that have a need to be there and security is high but no one minds if you look from the other side of the fence. We love this airport because you never know what you'll see there. I was here last year looking for property in Tehachapi and took a picture of our Mini sitting in front of the Scaled Composites' building. In a way it was a lot like taking a photo out in front of the Wright Brother's bicycle shop back when they were developing the first airplane. These civilian space pioneers have the same spirit as the Wrights and their work is just as historically significant.
We got to the restaurant just as it opened for the day and took a booth seat by the large plate glass windows which look out on the runways and flight line. There were rows of mothballed airliners sitting in the distance but little else of aviation significance sitting around. This was a Sunday morning and most operations were closed. Sundays at this airport can be interesting though. I ate breakfast here on a Sunday morning last year and the restaurant was full of local aviation types such as a test pilot whose name I recognized, to a member of the "Rare Bear" air racing team, to a person with a "Spaceship One" shirt on. These were all locals and their presence just added to the mystique of a place that reeks of aviation.
Margo and I sat there eating a fantastic breakfast while thinking of the poor travelers waiting in line to eat over at the local Denny's about a mile away. If they only knew this place was here. Superior food, great views out the window and lots of aviation atmosphere to soak up.
After breakfast we took a ride back towards Tehachapi and stopped to see the wind farms, which dot the nearby hills. The Tehachapi/Mojave area is known as much for its power generating windmills as the railroading or the pioneer aviation. We took a back road that we knew of and went back into the hills for a close-up look at these electricity-generating marvels. The first thing we noticed about them is that they're huge when seen up close. All appear to have three-bladed propellers which turn a geared generator contained within an enclosed housing. There is talk that the huge blades of the windmills can and do kill birds like eagles that happen to get too close. I don't know what's being done to prevent that from happening, but from what we could see, this is a very clean way of producing energy. To us the windmills are like slow turning visual pacifiers. They have a very calming effect on us as they slowly and silently go about their business. This may be a case of one person's visual blight being another person's beauty but we like the windmills.
February 27, 2006
This morning I hopped out of bed early hoping to get some cleaning done on the truck and trailer before leaving Tehachapi later in the morning. As soon as I opened the door and looked outside I knew that the cleaning would have to wait because it was raining in the mountains just to the south of us. The sky was dark with rain clouds and the forecast was for rain in most of Southern California. At that point we thought it best that we get ready to depart as soon as possible.
While Margo prepared the inside of the trailer for travel, I worked to put things away on the outside and soon we were rolling down the road. Heavy rain clouds chased us along the route to our Palm Desert destination, but it never rained more than a few small sprinkles. Traffic was heavy over parts of the route so it was good to have the rain hold off.
We arrived at the "Emerald Desert Golf & RV Resort" (www.emeralddesert.com) around 12:00 noon. I usually stay in the truck with Sparkie while Margo goes inside to register and today was no exception. As I sat waiting in the truck, I took a look around and was pleased with the overall look of the place. We've stayed in RV "golf resorts" before and they're usually not our cup of tea. Neither of us plays golf and to be honest, we're not the type of people who enjoy "putting on the dog". But I'll be darned if this place didn't win us over almost immediately. Margo was still registering at the office when I started to hear the faint sounds of bagpipes playing in the distance. As I sat there the sound grew louder until I could see a small parade of people coming around a corner in the distance lead by the piper. It was a parade and it was headed straight for where Sparkie and I were parked in the middle of the street! People were dressed up in festive costumes, flags were flying and the bagpipes were playing. It was really neat. Margo came out from the office about that time and I could see her smiling. As she walked towards the truck she gave me one of those, "what the heck is going on?" looks and I just shook my head.
She jumped into the truck just as the parade folks got to us. They stopped right in front of the truck then started to disband. The spot where our truck and trailer sat was obviously the end of the parade route. Many of the parade participants came by the truck to welcome us to the park and say hello. Some of the people were dressed up in really cool outfits that were made to look like horses, complete with the heads and rear-ends. Several of the people came by and stuck their horse heads through our drivers side window and Sparkie promptly went over and sniffed noses with them. It was a hoot and we were all laughing hysterically. There were so many people milling about in the street that we couldn't pass but it didn't matter because we were having a great time. We still don't know what the occasion was, but we noticed that some of the flags sported the Canadian maple leaf. Perhaps the participants were Canadian snowbirds blowing off some steam but we're not sure. As the crowd thinned we slowly made our way past decorated golf carts and barbeques, all manned by people in a holiday mood. These folks know how to have a good time! We can't wait to take a walk around the park to check things out.
We decided to stay at Emerald Desert RV Park because we've been having problems with our trailers day/night shades and there is a man near here who specializes in repairing them. I'll discuss the shades in more detail after we talk to him tomorrow morning. I will say that the shades manufactured by Specialty Window Coverings of Elkhart, Indiana do seem to be failing prematurely with the cause as yet to be determined.
February 28, 2006
The shade guy showed up this morning as promised and gave us an assessment as to the health of our day/night window shades. In short, he thought that all of them would eventually need to be rebuilt and wasn't happy with the way the factory mounted ours. He quickly rebuilt one shade as we watched, but still wasn't satisfied with its operation. At that point he decided to take the three problem shades back to his shop for further examination and a more complete rebuild. We're due to have them reinstalled first thing tomorrow morning and we'll post the results in tomorrows web log. After talking to him, I have a feeling that this window shade problem may be more common than we first thought.
After the shade guy departed we decided to take a walk and check out the park. Wow, what a place this is. Ever see those advertisements for RV's with the happy RV'ers smiling and having a ball in pristine surroundings? Well, this is that kind of place. The perfect place in which to enjoy an RV. The park is perfect in every way and the park guests are the friendliest that we've ever encountered. This park is large enough and has so many facilities that we had to bring the park map along on our walk to keep ourselves oriented. Beautiful manicured grounds, multiple clubhouses, pristine sites, and amenities galore. It honestly doesn't get any better than this as far as destination RV parks go.
The park is integrated into what appears to be a 9-hole golf course complete with water hazards. The golf course is surrounded by beautiful grounds and RV sites. The park offers several categories of RV space, depending on whether or not it has a golf course view. It's all quite stunning and beautiful and makes us not want to leave.
Feeling the need for some entertainment, we decided to make a run over to the local Blockbuster, which gave us a chance to see what the town of Palm Desert looks like. Our first impression is that everything is brand new, like the entire town was built yesterday. It's a sea of shopping areas, restaurants and homes with red tile roofs. The buildings tend to be painted in earth tones and the tree of choice seems to be the Palm. It reminds us of a model home where everything is beautifully decorated and sparkling clean, but lacking the patina and character that comes from use.
We were driving down a four-lane mixed commercial/residential city street when we noticed that the speed limit was posted for 55 MPH. In fact, a similar street leading to the RV park also has a 55 MPH speed limit. This type of road would normally have a speed limit of 35, maybe 40 MPH at most. It dawned on me that maybe what was going on here was that the area was growing and expanding so fast that they hadn't gotten around to changing the speed limit signs. What was once a rural road, where 55 would be the norm, is now a city street. To the credit of the locals, we noticed that 35-40 MPH was the average speed most people drove on these streets proving that, given a chance, most people will use reasonable caution behind the wheel. I could just picture us flying down that street leading to the RV park at highway speeds towing the trailer!
Last night we relaxed with the new Reese Witherspoon DVD, "Just Like Heaven" followed by "American Idol". The movie had a good ending and the Idol competition is starting to heat up. Not a bad TV night.
March 1, 2006
Yesterday the window shade guy told us that he'd be by sometime this morning to reinstall our rebuilt day/night window shades, so we set aside the morning for his visit. He showed up mid-morning with the shades in hand and set about reinstalling them. Come to find out, the shades failed because the shade cords wore through where they make a bend through some bushings. There was a problem with the factory bushings which he replaced with some of better quality. The replacement cord he used is also of heavier duty quality so we should be in good shape with those three rebuilt shades for quite a while to come.
We found the shade man, "The Dirty Blind Man" (www.dirtyblindman.com), on the internet while we were in Bakersfield. When we found out that he was located here in Desert Palms, we decided to make a detour here so that he could examine all of our shades and give us a professional opinion as to why they failed after only five months of use. He said that bushing problems or too much tension on the cords can contribute to early failure.
We can't say enough good about Tom, The Dirty Blind Man. The first thing we noticed when he stepped into our coach was that he immediately removed his shoes, very impressive. From there he went around to each of our problem blinds and gave them the once over. The cord had completely broken on one of the shades, so he quickly re-corded it in the hope that it could be put back up without more extensive rework. It was then that he discovered the bushing problem and decided to take the shades back to his shop for complete rebuilds. His work is first rate and the cost to rebuild a shade to better then new condition is very reasonable.
Tom serves the local Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Palm Desert areas but the good news is, he also does mail-order repairs. Just send your defective shades to him and he'll take care of the rest. For those that are handy with tools, he also sells complete rebuild kits for day/night shades along with a DVD showing step-by-step instructions how to repair them. The blinds are actually very simple and clever in their design and rebuilding them is straightforward and easy. We bought several rebuild kits and he threw in the DVD. We felt very lucky to have found Tom and his service.
As we posted earlier, this is probably the nicest RV park that we've ever seen. We like it so much that we were planning on coming back here next winter and staying for at least a month. We saw ourselves taking long walks in the park, biking, swimming and generally leading the good life. All of that evaporated into thin air when we heard that the park is set to close for good in a few weeks. We were stunned. This amazing place is set to be bulldozed and replaced by condos. Such is the value of California land. Rumor has it that the park owners sold the park for forty million dollars. That's a lot of money and I guess we can't blame them for taking it. After all it is a business, but still, the RV community is losing a wonderful resource. Judging by the people we've talked to around here, it will be missed.
Tomorrow morning we'll be heading east into Arizona. We're not sure where we'll be staying tomorrow evening but that's part of the fun of being on the road.