Wednesday, August 20, 2014

TVC Office - Day # 23 - The Lull

Everyone says the same thing.....we are in the "lull before the storm"....what storm you ask?  The looming storm will be the tens of thousands of people who descend upon South Lake Tahoe, and specifically Tahoe Valley Campground as our nation celebrates the "Day of Labor" long, long weekend......the last big blowout of the summer for the workaday world.  How bad will "it" be?  I have no idea.....it can't be worse than the 4th of July weekend, can it?  Well, however it turns out we are going to live in the present and enjoy the more laid back atmosphere of TVC this week.....I'll think about next week.......next week.

TLE and I ambled over to the TVC office around 7:25 to open it for yet another day of commerce.  We struggled a little bit with the door lock, but it finally submitted to our wishes allowing us to gain entrance.  Whilst TLE deactivated the alarm system I backed the office golf cart out of the entry way, and then re-secured the doors until opening time at 8 am.

The one thing I am enjoying about opening the office is that we get off at 4 pm......the day just seems to go faster, and Tuesday was no exception.   Our arrival list, for the first time since we have been working, was less than one page long, and the same was true for the departure list.

A few days ago I ordered a new awning mat, which arrived while we were down in Mammoth Lakes last weekend, and the replacement electric heater for the bedroom I ordered arrived Tuesday afternoon.  We replaced the salon electric heater in April of 2013 when we were visiting our friends in Huntington, WV, and knew it was just a matter of time before it would be time to replace the one in the bedroom......but it just keeps on working, so finally I decided to be proactive, and order the replacement so I could install it at my leisure.  The next one on the list will be the water bay electric heater.  Both items were ordered through Amazon Prime, and both arrived within 2 days (free 2 day shipping) of being ordered online.....we love Amazon Prime!

By 4 pm we had clocked out, and were on our way home.....just 7 days of office work remaining before we head north to the Oregon Coast.  Our friends (Chris and Cherie) with whom we will be working at Cape Blanco Lighthouse, are gradually edging their way west and are now in Idaho.  Paul and Nina are currently spending a month on Orcas Island, and will be heading south in a matter of a week, or so where we will all convene for 2 months of coastal living just north of Port Orford.

Wednesday I'll run the VW over to Higher Ground Autworx to have the brakes done, and the oil changed......then she will be just about up to snuff again.

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

TVC Office - Day # 22 - "Don't know where you find the time!"

Michael, a friend from our first stint at Amazon.com in Campbellsville, KY, wonders where I find the time to put words on a page each day.  If I didn't sit down at my computer first thing in the morning, every morning, to write this blog it would not get done.  I wonder almost every day "what will I write about today?", and even as I am typing now I am wondering what the fruit of today's meanderings will be.  I don't consider myself a gifted writer......like many endeavors in my life I have to work at it.....every day it seems a struggle, but somehow in about a 30 minute stretch each morning I manage to arrange enough words on the screen that make sense.

Two years, in October of 2012, ago I started blogging every day when we arrived in Campbellsville, KY to start our Amazon job.  Up until then I had only been writing an entry when we were moving every day, or had done something I thought might be interesting to others.  It was when we arrived in Campbellsville that I began to realize that our very life on the road, and how we coped with every day things "on the road" was interesting to others.  My goal at the time was to chronicle our Amazon experience in an honest, forthright manner not only as a historical record for my future reference, but for others who might be considering a temporary position at Amazon.  Since that first day I have not missed one single day....even when I was in the hospital recovering from double hernia surgery.  Obviously, after this many months of building this habit it has become a little easier, but I am finding this stretch in SLT my most difficult time in my "blogging life".  When you sit in one place for almost three and a half months there is repetitive quality that begins to seep through.  My daily struggle has become how to make one day in the TVC office seem different from another, and/or remotely interesting.

So, here we go....day # 22 in the TVC Office.....well, Monday was our first day opening the office.....errr, well, it was TLE's first day opening the office....I was just along for the ride.  My only task was to turn my computer station on and get ready to provide customer service.  We arrived at the double glass doors just before 7:30......just about the same time Billy and Sandy arrived.  Even as we scurried about the office getting ready to open at 8 am there were already people appearing at the locked doors wanting in.....some wanted coffee, which we had just started brewing, and others wanted the aforementioned customer service.

This is our first time working on a Monday, and I kind of liked the laid back nature of the entire day......all the hectic office work had happened on Saturday, and Sunday.  The list of arrivals for Monday was very small, and the list of those leaving only slightly larger at less than 50.  I helped Deb work on straightening out the RV storage area, which has been an issue all summer.

The flow of customers was pretty light all day, but we managed to keep ourselves occupied in a somewhat profitable manner.  I did my "site check" rounds over the course of the day.....the first round about 9:30, and then back out after lunch break to be sure those who had not yet departed in the morning were now gone.

In my spare time I typed up a very short 4 point instructional sheet on how to use the Tengo Internet WiFi here in TVC.  This will be especially helpful on days were the office is being "slammed" by customers, and there is little, or no time to help people get on line.

We were both off by 4 pm, and on our way back to the coach....we now have less than 2 weeks until we depart, and it almost seems surreal that our time here is rapidly coming to an end.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, August 18, 2014

"Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy......"

Tim and Laila joined TLE, Brenda and I for breakfast Sunday morning......the girls cooked up some of the left over Mexican food into the scrambled eggs.....it was a great breakfast!  Then it was time to think about getting dressed to go riding one last time on this trip.


In another life time, back in the mid 70's, I remember getting off chair # 9 at Mammoth Mountain on Christmas day at the very beginning of a beautiful, windless, cloudless ski day.  A John Denver song was playing over the loud speaker at the top of that chair lift......"Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy"......as I stood looking toward the Minarets Sunday morning (a scene I have seen in both summer and winter many times over the years) with the sun on my shoulders, I was thinking of how that view, and that sun hitting my shoulders out of a clear cobalt blue sky, just made me feel at peace, and very happy.  I could still hear the refrain of that song echoing in my memory from so many decades ago.



Sunday morning Paul and Mark decided they would go fishing before heading home, and Richie headed home with his wife and son.....they had arrived early Friday morning and had already ridden 2 days, so it was just Brenda and I who headed down Canyon Blvd. to the Village to pick up the first shuttle of the day at 9:30 am.  Frankly, I was a little bit beat after the 32 miles we had ridden Saturday and would have been just as happy to sit at the condo drinking a second, and maybe a third cup of coffee.  I guess, ultimately, it was the thought of gazing upon that long view one more time, and maybe the fact I had bought a two day ticket that finally got me motivated enough to get dressed and ride.

Just before Brenda and I left to do our last ride of this summer at Mammoth TLE spied a mamma bear and her cubs walking through our parking lot....


.....to think we have been waiting all summer to see bears at South Lake Tahoe, and to see them we have to drive 150 miles south to Mammoth Lakes!

Brenda and I finished our 14 mile final ride with our usual Big Ring trail competition to see if we could do it one more time without pedaling, and we both did.  We were back at the condo loading our bikes on our cars by 11:15.....in all we covered 46 miles of downhill over two days.

Within an hour after our one run of the day Brenda was on her way back to SoCal, and then Paul and Mark returned from fishing and were gone in a few minutes, too.  As always, I do not look forward to saying "until next time", but this time it will only be a short few months until we are back in SoCal with them for a month, or so.

Tim and Laila followed us into town where we dropped off the condo keys at the rental agency, and then headed over to John's Pizza Works to have lunch and say our "until next times".  It was so great to see Tim and Laila this weekend.  Here are a few pics of our time together.


Then it was our turn to make our run back north to SLT and our last two weeks at Tahoe Valley Campground.  We left Mammoth just before 2 and were home by 5, even with a quick stop at TJ's in Carson City.

We now have 9 work days, and only 6 days off left in our sojourn here.....WOW, where has the summer gone?

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

11,053

We started off real Saturday with scramble eggs, bacon and toast courtesy of TLE and Brenda, then gathered ourselves together (those of us who were riding) and rolled our bikes down to the parking lot to get our riding gear out of our cars.  One thing I love about staying in the Silver Bear Condos is we just hop on our bikes and ride a mile downhill to the shuttle, and then up to the Mammoth Mountain Adventure Center.  We don't have to drive anywhere.  At the end of our riding day we just exit the trail above the condo and essentially (there is a short uphill) coast down to the condo parking lot.


Left to Right: Brenda, moi, Richard, Paul and Mark

We began our first downhill run of the day around 10 am at the top of Mammoth Mountain......11,053 feet in elevation.  It was a cloudless day, no wind, and a magnificent view of the Sierra Nevadas in every direction.  On this day, unlike our first day on our last outing, there were no mechanical issues.  We just rode and rode and rode.....finally covering just over 22 miles before we arrived back at the Village and the shuttle.  By this time it was 12:30 and time for lunch, so we opted to eat lunch at the Lakanuki Tiki Bar.....Yelp gives them 2.5 stars, and I don't know why.....we have eaten dinner here once, and lunch a couple of times and all three times the food and service were above average.  We would give them a 3.5 to 4.0 without hesitation, and Saturday's lunch experience was no exception.  TLE met us there for lunch as well as Richard's wife, Gloria and their son Richard Francisco, so we had quite a crowd.  I had the Blackened Fish Tacos, which were cooked to perfection.


TLE joined us at the Lakanuki Tiki Bar

I have been riding mountain bikes with Paul since 1994, and with Brenda since 1999, and Richard since 2004.  I could not ask for better friends......not only for mountain biking, but just as friends in general.  Being able to meet up with them twice this summer has been pretty special, and that I can still keep up with them is just as special to me.  We all used to ride a lot faster than we do now, but after a few bad crashes over the years we have all learned that we can have just as much fun without shedding any blood, or breaking any bones.....I guess that would be called "maturity".

After lunch we all (except TLE) boarded the shuttle once again for the ride up to the Adventure Center and a gondola ride back to the top.  TLE spent her afternoon browsing through used book stores, and a thrift shop, or two.

Adventure Center

Brenda, Richard and I had decided this would be our last run of the day, so we rode with Paul and Mark back to the adventure center and then bid them adieu as the three of us continued on our last ride of the day which would put us at 32 miles total for the day.....that's the first time I've  broken 30 miles in one day in a long time.  Our last trail of the day is called "Big Ring"......we always have a competition to see who can ride the entire 4 miles of trail without pedaling, or "dabbing" (touching the ground with our shoes).  I managed to do it for the first time in years.  

Back in the late 90's Paul and I set out one day to do 100 miles, which was nuts.  I called it a day at 72 miles after breaking three spokes on my rear wheel, and Paul made it all the way to 96 miles before calling it quits.  Those days are gone forever now as we are about 20 years older, grayer, and maybe a little wiser.  For all of us Mammoth Mountain Bike Park holds a lot of wonderful memories, and camaraderie stretching back many many years.

We arrived back at the condo around 4 pm where TLE and Brenda quickly made up some Margaritas for us.  Around 5 my son, Tim and his girl, Laila, arrived.  We, of course, haven't seen them since we left Riverside back in March, so it was really, really good to see them.  Around 6 we drove down to Gomez' Mexican Grill for appetizers and a couple of pitchers of Cadillac Margaritas.  Paul and Mark eventually joined us (they rode 20 more miles after Brenda, Richard and I called it a day) and then Richard, Gloria and Richard Jr. arrived as well.  We spent a couple of great hours laughing and talking and just enjoying the company of good friends.

We'll make a run, or two first thing in the morning (Sunday) and then begin our trek back to our respective domiciles.  

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Baby's New "Shoes"

I really wanted to start our trip south to Mammoth at 9 am Friday just as I did on my last trip, but the baby must have new shoes, and that necessitated leaving in the afternoon.....during the height of traffic congestion in South Lake Tahoe.  TLE and I busied ourselves with getting ourselves packed up and ready to go, and then I drove the Beetle over to Ken's Tire Center just before Noon to get the new "shoes" installed.

As I expected, the truck delivering my tires had not yet arrived at Noon when I arrived, but I was prepared to wait it out with my Kindle.  The service manager had the wheels removed from the VW in preparation for the arrival of the "late" delivery truck, so when the truck arrived just short of 1 pm all they had to do was mount the new tires on the rims, and then put them back on the car.




As they finished up I sent a text to TLE letting her know I would be home shortly, and she replied she was "ready".  I was home by 1:35, and we were on our way by 1:45.  It is only about 26 miles to Gardnerville from SLT, but it took us over an hour to drive that distance due to the heavy traffic, which I had feared would be the case, and the on going construction on HWY 207 over Kingsbury Grade.  

Once south of Gardnerville it was smooth sailing, and we were in Walker, CA by 3:30 where we stopped at Walker Burger for a very late lunch.  I've driven by Walker Burger a dozen times over the years, but have never been inclined to stop, but this time hunger made it a necessity.  Yelp gives Walker Burger a solid 4 stars on 65 reviews, and we would both have to agree.  They have a nice outdoor dining area covered by shade trees, and the operation is well run from top to bottom.  I had, of course, the Walker Burger with cheese, and TLE ordered a large portion of fries....we both had shakes (vanilla for TLE, and chocolate for moi).



Waiting for our order

We ate a leisurely lunch and were back on the road by 4 with about 80 miles to go.....the rest of the drive was uneventful, and I really began to appreciate the new "shoes" the Beetle was wearing......a little higher profile than the old "shoes", and a noticeably smoother ride, plus I think a little better mpg than previously.  We arrived in Mammoth Lakes just around 5:15 at the condo we rented for the weekend with our good friends from SoCal.....Paul, Mark, and Brenda.  Our other friend, Richie, is staying with his wife, Gloria, and their year old child down at the Shilo Inn, and will join us for our ride on Saturday.

When we arrived Paul and Mark had gone fishing, so TLE, Brenda and I drove over to the Charthouse Restaurant for apps and drinks.....we were both still full from our late lunch.  By the time we returned Paul and Mark had returned from fishing and were heading out for a late dinner.....Brenda decided to join them.  They were going to eat at the new Mammoth Brewing Company (located in the old Whiskey Creek Restaurant), but found out upon arriving at just before 8 pm that they #1 did not serve food, and #2 had just announced "last call".....who has a last call at 8 pm in a resort town on a Friday night?  Anyway, they decided to head just up the street to Toomey's for dinner, but experienced the worst service imaginable.  Yelp gives Toomey's a solid 4 stars, but I noticed a review posted just a little earlier than our friend's visit describing the same bad service, however, on 389 reviews they get a solid 4 stars.  Maybe it was just one night, but first impressions are everything.....I don't think they will be back for "seconds".

Paul, Mark and Brenda arrived back home as TLE and I were watching a movie on Netflix starring Jason Statham called "Redemption"....it was not a memorable movie, and soon we were all talking about this and that while the movie played in the background.

We were in bed shortly after 10 pm dreaming about about our mountain bike adventures to come......thanks for stopping by!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Magical

Before I get into Thursday I need to back up one day and relate our experience at the South Lake Tahoe DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles).  When I last left off on Tuesday we had a 10:10 am appointment on Wednesday to renew our driver's licenses for 5 more years.......geez, that means we'll be 70 the next time they're up for renewal!  We arrived a little early for our appointment at 9:50 am to find the DMV relatively devoid of patrons.  We are used to the DMV's down in SoCal where the line is already out the door by 10 am, and all your appointment does there is get you in the door to wait in the next long, long line, and regardless of what time your appointment is for you can count on at least an extra 45 minutes to an hour before you get an audience with a DMV employee.  This day there were fewer than a dozen people waiting to be served.  As it turned out we were called at 10 am for our appointment and after transferring $33 each to the DMV we were done, and out the door by 10:20 am.  I have to say other than renewing by mail, this was the most pleasant interaction we have had with the DMV in our entire lives.

Fourth Saturday started off sweet, and just got sweeter.  Some days everything just goes your way.  I was in the VW at 8:45 on my way over to Lilly's Tire Center to get the two remaining locking lug bolts (I called them lug nuts previously.....they are really bolts) removed.  George directed me to park over by the air compressor, and within 5 minutes both of the offending lug bolts had been removed....WOW!  From there I drove 4 blocks to the local O'Reilly's Auto Parts store and bought two regular lug bolts, and was home by 9:30 installing the new lug bolts.

TLE decided to tackle the re-organization of our basement through storage space to make better use of it.  She is really good at spacial stuff, and already had some ideas of how to repack everything, and make room for a few more things we have acquired during our sojourn here in SLT.  By 11 am she had finished, and we now have soooo much more room in our basement through storage.

The weather was so nice we decided to pack a lunch, and ride our bikes over to the "Commons" at Lakeview and Tahoe Blvd. where we have gone a couple of times previously.  It is just a 4 mile bike ride to the "Commons" and we were there before Noon.  Surprisingly, the crowds had not yet arrived, and we were able to get a picnic table with a great view of the lake.




Sitting at the beach here at Lake Tahoe has been one of my favorite things to do since I was a little boy, and the view of the lake here at the "Commons" is one of my favorites.  When I see that view I feel like I have come home.....it's as if time has stood still all these years and I'm 6 years old again seeing it for the first time.  The air is so clear, and the horizon is so defined.

We spent a couple of hours eating our lunch, and then reading before deciding it was time to begin our meander homeward.  On our way we hit a couple of our favorite thrift shops, and at The Attic I found an almost brand new golf bag with "legs" for $6! By "legs" I mean you can sit it down on the ground and these two legs extend to keep it upright.  Just what I have been looking for......I know I haven't really played any golf since we have been here other than hitting a bucket of balls, and putting on the practice green, but I'm now ready to walk the course!


We got home around 3:30 and sat outside reading for another hour or so before it began to cool off.  I think the forecast temperature was 81, or 82, but I don't think it got much past 78 on Thursday.  I've noticed it is also getting much cooler at night again.

Thursday night there were a few more pre-season NFL games on TV, and I watched part of the Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers game with the sound muted while 60's music played in the background on our XM radio.......it was a magical day where everything fell into place from beginning to end.

Friday we'll get the new "shoes" on the Beetle, then head 148 miles south on HWY 395 to Mammoth Mountain for the weekend......YAY for us!

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Local Knowledge....

One thing I need to keep reminding myself is to ask for referrals from people I know in a given locale for services I need.  When I needed the water pump replaced on the VW I asked Debby (Bill and Debby's Wild Ride) who is from South Lake Tahoe originally.  She referred me to Eloise Autmotive who, in turn, referred me to Higher Ground Autoworx.  Now, when I needed new tires why didn't I call John at Higher Ground first?  I'm still asking myself that question.  Instead, on Wednesday, I head immediately for Les Schwab Tires (a national chain) to get new shoes for the Beetle.  I have bought tires from America's Tire Store, and Discount Tires in the past and had good experience, and always liked the fact they have tire stores all over the U.S., so I guess my reasoning was "they're a national chain, that might come in handy down the road".   

The Beetle has these cool 17" rims with low profile tires, and it looks kind of cool, but the ride on those low profile tires is a little rough, so I thought I would replace them (and they do need replacing) with a slightly higher profile tire, and Les had what I wanted in stock.....for $617 (4 tires installed).  That seemed a little high to me, but I haven't bought new car tires in about 4 years, so what do I know?  Prices go up, right?  So, reluctantly, I agreed, signed the paperwork and promised to return in an hour to pay for, and pick up the VW.  TLE and I walked over to TJ Max to browse (she was looking for small trash can for the bathroom). While we were browsing I got a call from the service rep at Les Schwab asking where the lug nut "key" was......hmmmm....I didn't realize one was needed, but apparently there should have been one, but I knew there was not one anywhere in the car.  The service guy advised they would have to order a "key" from the VW dealership down in Reno, and that would take a few days.

So, what to do?  They can't remove the wheels without the lug nut "key", so I call John at Higher Ground to see if he might have one since he works on so many VW's.  He advised he did not have one, but would do some checking around town with other tire stores.  He then asked "Where are you right now?", and I replied "Les Schwab".....there was this momentary silence, and then he came back "Why?  They are a bunch of hacks!" (John is a pretty blunt kind of guy, which I like).  So then I asked "Where should I go?"  John responds with a question "Have you paid for anything yet, and have they put any tires on yet?"......I say "No".  He then advises me to get my car out of their service bay and head for "Ken's Tire Center" and tell them John sent you".

So I did.  Ken's is just down the street, and I have seen their sign many times as we have ridden our bikes down Tahoe Blvd.  We arrived at Ken's around 11 am, and had a quote with in seconds for 4 tires, just the size I wanted, for $417!  Wait, what?  Two hundred dollars less for virtually the same tires?  I looked at TLE and just said, "Why didn't I ask John in the first place?".  The downside, and this is small, is that they have to have the tires delivered from Carson City....they don't have them in stock, but that's a small downside, and I'm certainly willing to wait for 2 days to save $200!

In the mean time John called me back and advised that Lilly's Tire Center would be able to remove the lug nuts requiring the special "key" on Thursday morning.  He advised "just call them and ask for George, and set an appointment for Thursday morning and they will get them off for you".  So, you see, ALWAYS, ALWAYS seek out local knowledge no matter where you are.  Not doing so could cost you hundreds of dollars in needless expense.  I am so grateful that my wheels require this special "key" to take off the lug nuts, otherwise I would be $200 poorer today.

So that was pretty much the morning portion of our Wednesday.  When John called me back we had just stopped in to Jalisco's Mexican Grill for lunch.


Now, we had a plan of action, so we finished lunch, headed back to Ken's to have them order the tires.....we had waited to find out what we were going to have to do to get those wheels off short of driving to Reno.  Once the tires were ordered and the appointment was set with Lilly's we headed over to Heavenly Village Cinemas to watch "Lucy".  This movie is a good example of some movies with great "trailers".  Based on the "trailers" we had seen I wanted to see "Lucy", but, unfortunately, the "trailers" we saw were the best scenes in the movie.  It wasn't a bad movie, it just wasn't what I was expecting, and the story line was a little thin, even for me.  I see that IMDB gives it 3 out of 5 stars, but I would only go 2.5 max......should have gone to see "Guardians of the Galaxy".

We were back at the coach by 4 pm, and while TLE took care of some housekeeping things inside, I spent time vacuuming out the car.....there were a lot of pine needles on the floor mats, and it was time to remove them.  I also removed all the lug nut caps in preparation for having the offending "locking" lug nuts removed.  To my surprise, only two wheels had the special lug nuts.  It is now obvious that the prior owner knew of this problem, and had already had 2 of them removed.  Well, that will make it even easier Thursday....only two lug nuts to remove and discard.  On top of that I am feeling blessed that the first wheel Les Schwab attempted to remove was one of the two with this "locking lug nut".

To cap off the evening we watched "So You Think You Can Dance" and a new dramatic series premier called "Legends"......not sure if I'm going to get into that one, but we'll give it one more week and see.

Thanks for stopping by!