Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Into the fray.......

One thing I'm enjoying about our new manager's (Robert) management style is.....well, actually, there are two things.....number one is he is holding staff meetings every day at 10 am until we are all up to speed in order to deal with questions, suggestions, and instructions with everyone present.  Number two is he delegates responsibility....he trusts us to to our jobs, and to know what needs to be done.....he is not there hovering.  

TLE and I were on duty by 8:30 am......our employee codes have been activated so we can now clock in an clock out.....we were writing our hours down up until Tuesday.  TLE spent her day training people to use the DigiRez system, while I spent part of my day helping clean up the maintenance/storage yard, and then a few hours training people how to be a ranger here at TVC.  Robert wants everyone to be cross trained in any position so anyone can be used anywhere in the park based on need.  

After lunch I spent most of the afternoon with an electrician who was trying to diagnose why only one leg of my 50 amp service is not working.  When we first plugged in Saturday both legs were working, but within a few hours only the left leg was working so I only had power in half the coach.  For the uninitiate 50 amp service means you have two legs carrying 50 amps of power each giving you a total of 100 amps.  50 amp RV's are set up distributing half of the 100 amps to part of the RV, and half to the other part of the RV.  There are 7 sites receiving electricity from each large duplex breaker in the main service panel for Section E.  For instance breaker #6 supplies power to sites 426 (ours) through 433.  Our site is on the end of that 'run'.  The electrician started working backward from our site to isolate where the problem was.  There were no issues with wiring in any of the pedestals, but we determined that from site 429 to 427 one leg of the 50 amp service disappears, so it is not just ours, the the site next to ours (427) that has this same issue.  So it was determined that the problem is underground between sites 429 and 427 (site 428 is across the street and on a different 'run'), which means they will have to come back, excavate about 40 feet and replace that large electrical cable.  Right now I am (as you know from reading my past blog entries this week) hooked up to a pedestal on a different circuit, and the folks coming into that site will not be here for a month, so there is plenty of time to get this fixed.

I clocked out at 3 pm as my six hours were up and headed for home, however, I ended up helping a gentleman parked behind us to get his cable TV running, then around 5 went over to section F to help a young couple (Pearce and Wesley) get their Dodge Van Conversion hooked up.....they are working here in the park, but are brand new to RV ownership.  They did not know how to turn on the propane, light their water heater, or oven.  I also helped them get their water hooked up and determined their house battery was dead, which is why their 12 volt interior lights don't work when they are parked.

Finally, on my way back to the coach around 6 pm I helped two late arriving families get into their sites for the night.....all in a day's work. Tuesday just flew by, which is what I like.  When I went back to the maintenance/storage yard to park my cart and plug it in to recharge I was amazed at how much work Alex and Adam had done to clean up and organize the maintenance part of the yard....WOW!  I'll post pictures later.

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

That old familiar bouquet.....

Knowing we will not be here in SLT* in the summer of 2017 makes this summer feel even more meaningful to TLE and I.  We, as a married couple, have been coming to Lake Tahoe since August of 1971.....we came here on our honeymoon.  In fact, we rented a small cabin less than 2 miles from TVC**.  We have been back to Lake Tahoe virtually every year we have been married.  I have often remarked to others unfamiliar with the Tahoe Basin that it has its own unique bouquet......aroma if you will.  Each morning when I step outside the coach I catch that aroma and smile.....a smile of self satisfaction......a smile that belies  100's of memories slowly parading through the recesses of my mind.  I'm sure everyone has a place like this.....a place away from their regular home they long to return to over and over again because of all the good memories fostered by being there.  Lake Tahoe has been a sort of anchor point in our lives....a place we return to often to be recharged, reinvigorated.  After all the years of coming here for a one, or two week vacation being able to come and stay for four and a half months, or more each of the last three summers is a dream come true.  As a child of 4 years old my parents took their first long vacation towing a 20 foot trailer.....on our way back home to SoCal from Zion and Bryce they stopped at a small trailer park up near the north shore of Lake Tahoe called Incline Trailer Park.  The first morning camped on the shores of Lake Tahoe in 1953 I began a 62 year love affair that has never been quenched.....that Lake Tahoe aroma has never changed.....never faltered.....it is always unerringly there when we return each time.  That small trailer park does not exist anymore.  It's lakeside location is now part of the larger Incline Village, which no longer bears any resemblance to that idyllic lakeside setting we first visited back in August of 1953, but the memories linger......they are strong.....they make me happy.

Incline Trailer Park circa 1955

Emerald Bay circa 1975

So, what did Monday in SLT look like?  TLE I reported for our first official day of work around 8 am and while TLE got to work re-familiarizing herself with the DigiRez system I got in a golf cart and began to survey the TVC campground.  Winter is always hard on the campground and there is a lot of work bringing her back up to snuff for the summer.  My first order of business was picking up around three of the dumpsters that had been invaded by our local bear population during the night....nothing new there.  Then I swept the sidewalks around the store, and picked up some litter before we all headed to our first staff meeting of the summer.  Robert, the new manager at TVC introduced himself, and then we in turn introduced ourselves around the room.  In all there were about 10-12 people there.....another 10+ will be on board in another week or less.

For the month of May we will be working just 30 hours a week, but by June we'll be moving up to 40 hours per week as the summer season and crowds descend upon South Lake Tahoe.  After the meeting TLE and I drove over to our bank to have some documents notarized, and then we were back to work by 12:30.....well, TLE was.....I had to got to the local USPS to mail the notarized documents, then get a Subway sandwich for lunch before going back to work at 1:30.  TLE and I worked until 4 on this first day.   We'll be working Saturday through Wednesday each week putting in about 6 hours per day.

TLE had me grill some wonderful salmon steaks, and she prepared a rice, cauliflower, broccoli side......great dinner!

Yummmy!

Thanks for stopping by!

*SLT = South Lake Tahoe
**TVC = Tahoe Valley Campground

Monday, May 2, 2016

May day

There were no May Day marches and/or parades here in TVC*.....there aren't enough people in TVC right now for a march and/or parade....instead I spent the better part of the day getting "setup" (I always wondered if people do anything for the worst part of the day....probably not by choice, huh?).....hooking up the long sewer line, putting out the awning mat, deploying the patio and window awnings, the three gray tarps we bought at KMART so we can walk back to the trailer without putting on our shoes, putting on all ten wheel covers, deploying the 'malibu' lights, and setting up my work bench in the trailer.




It was in the mid to high 30's until about 10 am so I didn't really venture outside until it got into the 40's, but once outside I worked pretty steadily until about 1 pm in my hoody sweatshirt and sweatpants......finally by 1 it was t-shirt time, but barely!  About that time we got a call from Victor asking if we could come and work in the store from 2 to 5 pm as he had some errands to run......we readily accepted.  Since I still had a few things around our site to do I didn't follow TLE over to the store until 3 pm.

When I arrived just before 3 it was obvious some changes had been made in the registration desk configuration, which we both like.  In no time I was in the golf cart making a run to the 'yard' with a bent cashier's drawer to straighten it out, then re-install.  I was barely back from that errand when I was asked to deliver a portable fire pit to site 209....it felt like I had never left........

 TLE deep in concentration

There's TLE running her day end reports.....

......I stopped to talk to a few full time tenants who welcomed me back.....it will be a while before things get real busy, but it was nice to work a few hours with no pressure to kind of ease back into our routine.  TLE, as she is want to do, spent time cleaning and organizing her work area in between phone calls, and customers coming in to ask questions.

The hours passed by quickly, and at 4:30 we began to close up the store, run day end reports, turn off the lights, set the alarm, and then walk home.  It won't be long until the lines at the registration desk are 3 deep, but that can wait.....for now we are just enjoying the general lack of activity, and the emptiness of the campground.

TLE made street tacos for dinner, which meant I had to get out the BBQ to grill the pollo asado.....yeah, I am slowly getting our STUFF out for the summer.  I've got a number of hours of work left, but Sunday was a good first day!

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The last 31......

 At dawn the skies over the Tahoe Basin were a steely, sodden, forbidding gray.....I wonder did it stop snowing up there?  If so, when?  What will the Spooner Summit road look like?  Will it be icey?  The forecast Friday night indicated it might snow first thing in the morning, but the updated forecast Saturday morning indicated it was not snowing.  Our plan was to drive the last 31 miles to Tahoe Valley Campground around mid morning hoping to avoid any unfortunate weather and road conditions.  Fellow TVC staff members Phil and Sandy arrived at Silver City late Friday afternoon and left first thing in the morning to take on Spooner Summit....Sandy called me about 45 minutes later to say that the weather was fine, and the road was in excellent condition......whew!

Around 9:30 we unhooked and I drove the coach over to the Silver City propane station where they dispense propane at $3.25/gallon.....not a wonderful price, but certainly much less than the $3.99 they charge at TVC.  Our tank was about 1/2 full which is what I would expect after 3 months.....normally we can get 6 months out of one tank of propane in SoCal.  We took on 22 gallons, paid our tab and were on our way.....we left the VW out of the trailer for the final 31 miles......no point in loading it for such a short distance, right?  TLE followed as I began the ascent.

Hauling 3,000 pounds less up the 8-9% grade makes a big difference.....I was able to hold 3rd gear at just over 40 mph......I would be down to 2nd gear at around 28 mph with the car in the trailer......we crested Spooner Summit about 10:20, and suddenly there she was......

 I never tire of this first glimpse of Lake Tahoe

......Lake Tahoe in all her cloud shrouded glory.....beckoning us onward towards our summer sojourn.  We arrived at TVC shortly before 11 am with smiles on our faces.  It was as if we had never been gone even though 8 months has transpired since we rolled our wheels north to Cape Blanco......8 months almost to the day.

We are home.....

Ironically we arrived at TVC on April 30th marking the end  of our 50th consecutive month of nomadic wanderings.  We were greeted by a winter wonderland.....it had snowed for several hours during the night......a wet, sticky, soggy type of snow......as the temps warmed the snow began to fall off the trees in big chunks.....I know....I was hit by a few as we were checking out our site for the summer......we have spent close to a year out the last two in this exact location.  Instead of backing my rig into the site this year we pulled into it from the back side using the outside loop road....since we are the only ones here the site behind us is not blocked right now making it much easier to get situated this year.

BRRRRRRR!!

We spent about an hour getting partially set up......it was too wet to put out the awning mat, or hook up the sewer, so I just plugged in and hooked up our water.....I'll take care of the rest Sunday when it is forecast to be sunny.

Our arrival immortalized on YouTube courtesy TLE

We made a quick run over to KMART to pick up a few tarps, and some other sundries, and then around 4:30 we walked over to Lake Tahoe Pizza for our traditional 'first night at TVC dinner'.

When we returned to the coach I found the front electric heater was not working....it's only a couple of years old, so I was pretty sure there was nothing wrong with the heater, but, nevertheless, my mind immediately goes to that dark place where I'm imagining having to order a new heater.  I got out my multi meter and began checking for current......no electrical current at the heater, so it's not the heater.....no electrical current at the thermostat control....hmmmm.  I go outside and open the water bay to find that electric heater is also not coming on....then I check the block heater and it is not working either......hmmmm.  Inside the TV is on, and all the outlets in front of the coach are working, but all the outlets towards the rear of the coach are not.  I finally deduce that one of the 50 amp legs on the electrical pedestal is not working, and sure enough that is the problem.....whew....at least there is nothing wrong with the coach.  I checked the 30 and 20 amp outlets in the pedestal and they were not working either, so it looks like a job for the electrician.  Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I needed power, so using my existing 50 amp extension cord and the BRAND NEW one I recently bought (you just never know do you ?) I was able to run my line to the pedestal in the site behind us and plug into that 50 amp outlet.

After buttoning everything up again, and putting away all my tools I sat down to relax for the evening......our first day at TVC is in the books.  We'll spend Sunday getting set up in the sun, but beginning Monday we will have a week straight of forecast rain.....I have never hoped more that the weather guessers will be wrong this week.

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Conway, Bridgeport, Walker, Coleville, Topaz, Gardnerville, Minden.....

We awoke to a mostly sunny day Friday, and were rolling our wheels by 9:30 am headed north on US HWY 395 towards our first summit of the day.....Conway Summit, elevation 8,143' above the level of the sea.....the highest point on all of US HWY 395.  In all there would be three passes for us to conquer....Conway (8,143'), Devil's Gateway (7,519') and Simee Dimeh (5,987').  Last year as we passed the Conway Summit sign snow was piled up around the sign........

May 8, 2015

.....this time last year there had hardly been any snowfall in the Eastern Sierras, but as luck would have it a lot of snow fell in early May......this year the snowfall has been significant all winter, but there was no snow on the ground as we passed by the summit sign once again (I forgot to have TLE take a picture, but you can use your imagination).

From Conway summit it was an 18 mile slide down to Bridgeport, and then we were on our way up to the second summit of the day (Devi's Gate).  The scenery was just idyllic all day long.  

As we skirted along the banks of the Walker River towards Walker, CA we decided to take a rest stop next to the river......



I tried to convince TLE it wasn't cold outside, but I was unsuccessful

....it has been a long time since we took a rest stop along the Walker River.

Just past Walker a few miles we pass through Coleville, then Topaz, and finally Topaz Lake where we cross into Nevada......our first state line in 3 months.....then the long climb to our final summit for Friday.....Simee Dimeh.  From that summit it is a long, leisurely downhill run into Gardnerville, then Minden, then Carson City where we called a halt to our day's travels after covering just 99.9 miles.

Lee Vining to Bridgeport

  Bridgeport to Topaz

Topaz to Silver City RV Resort

Since this weekend is the beginning of the fishing season in the Eastern Sierras we did something we do not normally do...we made reservations at Silver City RV Resort, and it is a good thing we did......we usually stay here on our way south in November and it is usually pretty empty, but when we arrived at their doorstep Friday morning about 11:15 the park was quite full....our reservation had secured one of the last 70' sites!

Once we were in our site we headed out in the VW to have lunch at the local In 'N Out Burger........


Now I ask you....is that a look of contentment, or what?

.....next up was a drive over to one of our favorite Goodwill Thrift stores....I was hunting for a couple more flannel long sleeve shirts, and maybe another pair of cargo shorts.....most of current pairs of cargo shorts I wear on a regular basis have been purchased at this store.  As it turned out I found one flannel shirt, one L.L. Bean wool long sleeved shirt and another nice pair of cargo shorts.....total for the day...$18....TLE looked up the L.L. Bean shirt on their site and it was listed at over $100....I paid $6.49....virtually brand new!

On our way back to Silver City we made one last stop at Trader Joe's to top off our vino supply....we won't be back down in Carson City until late May.....we love their Blue Fin Pinot Noir ($4.99/bottle) and their Coastal Zinfandel ($3.99/bottle).....it's pretty easy to be wino at those prices.....lol!

Early evening the forecast rain arrived, and it rained for a few hours before abating.....it appears that simultaneously it was snowing in South Lake Tahoe, so we will have to see what Saturday brings.....we are pretty sure we will be able to get over our final summit of this trip....Spooner (7,146') and slip into the Tahoe Basin by noon time....we'll see.

Just 31.3 miles more to South Lake Tahoe and Tahoe Valley Campground where we will drop anchor for the summer months at a cool, and pleasant 6,300' elevation.....every time we drop into the Tahoe Basin over Spooner Summit we feel as if we have 'come home', and we have come to love the South Lake Tahoe vibe.

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Bishop, Sherwin, Dead Man, and Mono....

Technically the southern end of the vaunted Eastern Sierras begins near Kennedy Meadows, south of Lone Pine, but for TLE and I they begin at Lone Pine.....it is where the spectacular views of the Eastern Sierras begin.  After about 20 hours in Lone Pine it was time to continue our four day, 440 mile journey to SLT*.

Since winds out of the north were predicted (18-20 mph) later in the morning we were on the road by 8 am heading north on US HWY 395.....within an hour we are passing through Bishop, CA (where my maternal grandmother was born and raised) and headed for the base of Sherwin Grade....from the base of Sherwin Grade to the top of Dead Man Summit you gain some 4,000' elevation in just 20+ miles.....the Sherwin grade is 7-8% for 13 miles.....it is a grinder.  We normally run 25-30 mph in 2nd gear going up this grade.  The whole time I am focusing on coolant, oil and transmission temperatures trying to keep them under 200 degrees.  On this particular day they ran about 198 degrees which is about as good as it is going to get with a Detroit Diesel 6V92.  Redline on these 2 stroke diesel engines is 2100, and I try to keep my RPM's on grades like this at, or near 2100. 

Nearing Big Pine

As we passed Crowley Lake, south of Mammoth Mountain, we decided, for the first time ever in our lives, to stop at the Vista Point....I was noticing my oil pressure had decreased about 10 psi.....normally I see consistent readings of 60 psi all the time, but when I begin to see the oil pressure decrease I know it's time to add oil....so this was the perfect spot (in between steep grades) to check the oil.  While we were stopped I braved the low 40's temps (lower with wind chill factor) to take a few pictures......




....we spent about 15 minutes at the Vista Point before rolling our wheels once again to cover the final 25 miles to Lee Vining, our destination, for the day.  I know....I know....only 125 miles for the day?  That's right....we've been sitting in one place, with the 4+ week exception of our desert sojourn during January, since the middle of November.  While this current trip to SLT* is less than 500 miles we are going to pull every ounce of enjoyment out of that distance.  The only way is to take it in small chunks, and that is exactly what we are doing.

We arrived in Lee Vining directly across from Mono Vista RV Park around 10:30 am....way too early to check in so we decided to walk back up the street to Nicely's for an early lunch, which turned out to be a late breakfast....I love breakfast for lunch!


As we walked down the street we could see signs everywhere of the snowfall form the night before....a reminder that winter is never very far away at 8,000' elevation in the Eastern Sierras.

We finished our late breakfast just after noon time, and walked back to the coach......they have about 7, or 8 long pull sites at Mono Vista RV Park that will fit our rig.  The pads themselves are gravel surrounded by grass.  We've stayed here several times over the years, but often our travel brings us through when they are not open.  They are only open 7 months out of the year (April 1st through October 31st).  They only accept cash, and checks in payment for sites.

By the time we got settled into our spot the wind had picked up to the mid 20's, and with the wind chill factor  made it feel like the mid 30's, so we turned up the heaters and just stayed inside the rest of the afternoon enjoying the splendid views of Mono Lake and surrounds through our front windows.

Friday we continue on to Carson City....a whopping 99 miles away!

Thanks for stopping by!

*SLT - South Lake Tahoe

Thursday, April 28, 2016

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.........LIFT OFF!

I was personally up by 5 am anticipating turning over the big Detroit 6V92 at 7 am, and being on the road no later than 8.  We didn't have a lot to do except unplug, and dump our tanks.   I wrote the blog and then got busy with a few tasks as the sun was peeking over the for what passes for the eastern horizon in Fontana......TLE was up 6 and preparations for lift off were in full motion!

Precisely at 7 I fired up the 6V92.....I love to hear her purring first thing in the morning because that means we are rolling our wheels once again!  I pulled the coach over to the dump station where TLE (who was finishing one last load of wash) joined me.  We were done dumping by 7:30 and rolling our wheels by 7:37.

As we edged up Ayala Ave. towards the 210 FWY I once again turned to TLE and said...."It's good to be moving again", to which she replied as she always does....."Yeah.....".  We crested Cajon Pass about 35 minutes later and within minutes were exiting to US HWY 395 northbound......ahhhh...back on the 'Mother Road'!

We took a break at Kramer Junction (aka: Four Corners) and were back on our way in about 10 minutes.........


......we had less than 200 miles to our first overnight stop at Boulder Creek in Lone Pine, CA so our early start meant we should arrive in Lone Pine near noon time.  The drive northward was completely uneventful....we had a slight tail wind which  is always nice......


......soon we were taking our second rest stop at Coso Junction....a tradition for us......I remember stopping here often with my parents back in the 60's when Coso Junction was called "Gil's Oasis".........



.....next up was a quick stop at the Post Office in Olancha where TLE put a letter in the mail.....


......as expected we arrived at Boulder Creek RV Park just before noon, and were in our site by 12:15.  Boulder Creek is another tradition we have......whenever we are north, or southbound on US HWY 395 we almost always (last year was the exception) overnight at this park....virtually all of their sites are pull through, and at least 60 feet in length.


.....after a brief rest and snack we headed into Lone Pine to take a tour of the Lone Pine Museum of Film History.....in all our years of driving through Lone Pine we had never taken the time to visit this local institution......



 Made a couple of new friends at the museum....

Of course, when in Lone Pine there must be the pictures of Mt. Whitney....highest mountain in the Continental USA....14,505'

After touring the museum (which we thoroughly loved) and watching a 10 minute film on the extensive history of film making in, and around Lone Pine we headed off for a walk around town, ultimately ending up at the 'Pizza Factory' where we ordered a pizza for dinner later.  Yelp gives them (we found out later) a 2.5 out of 5 stars based on over 140 reviews, and we would have to agree.....not the best pizza ever, but passable.

We spent the evening relaxing, reading, and watching the latest episode of 'Survivor'.....tomorrow (Thursday) we push further north to the Eastern Sierra mountain town of Lee Vining.

We both felt like excited 'school girls' as we cruised north.....we have spent a lot of time this year in a stationary position, and, in fact, we will be sitting still once again for over 4 months when we reach SLT, but after that we will be changing it up dramatically.....stay tuned!

Thanks for stopping by!