Wednesday, July 23, 2014

TVC Office - Day # 9 - Getting Comfortable...


Tuesday was another work day for moi......TLE* does not work again until Friday.    My work day began once again at 9:30 am.  Apparently the first hour and a half (office opens at 8 am) were quite hectic, but none of that was in evidence as I clocked in for my day of labor.

I had barely settled in front of one of the terminals when my first customer of the day approached.  It was another of the "reservations for next summer" folks, so I advanced my screen to July of 2015, and the future is where I spent the better part of the day.

So far we have worked at Amazon (for compensation + RV site), the Indy 500 (for compenstion + RV site), the Sugar Beet Harvest (for compensation + RV site), as camp hosts at Ranch Jurupa Regional Park (twice---no compensation, but free RV site), and now in the office of Tahoe Valley Campground (compensation + RV site at 1/2 cost).  Next to Rancho Jurupa this is my favorite job of all.  While we are only being paid minimum wage ($9/hour here in California) we get to spend the entire summer at Lake Tahoe, and we get to work with a great group of people.....and I mean that sincerely.  As we have talked with some of the "old timers" who have been returning to TVC** for 15-19 years, they all agree it is the people who draw them back each summer.  We would both have to agree.......the main reason we plan to return next summer is the people..... and,  of course,  LAKE TAHOE!!

Duane, the new on site manager, is settling into his new position quite well.  The first few days he was, compared to the rest of our lot, dressed quite formally, but on Tuesday he arrived replete in cargo shorts, tennis shoes, and the ubiquitous green TVC staff t-shirt.....he is now one of us!

There is really not much else to relate about Tuesday, except that I am really enjoying my time in the office working and chatting with the customers.  I did learn how to pump propane, so I can fill in when someone from "Maintenance" is not available, and Wednesday I will ride around with Bill (of "Bill and Debby's Wild Ride" fame) learning how to do site checks (making sure people who are supposed to have left, have actually left, etc.).  TLE will learn how to "open" the TVC office starting next Tuesay, and it looks as if, beginning next Tuesday, we will begin to work 4 days a week......they are a little short staffed in the office, as they often are each summer, and if TLE and I work one additional day per week, it will take a little pressure off everyone else.  Since we didn't start working until July 3rd we have had a pretty easy summer so far, and working the extra day will help us recoup a little of the money we lost by not working the first 7 weeks.

On the other hand, we had that first 7 weeks to really explore SLT***, seeing and doing everything we wanted to do, so now that we only have 3 days off each week, it is okay.

Thanks for stopping by!

* TLE = The Lovely Elaine
** TVC = Tahoe Valley Campground
***SLT = South Lake Tahoe

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

TVC Office - Day # 8 - Back in the saddle

Since I had the weekend off I had two more days of work in the TVC office to complete beginning Monday.  Thankfully I had the late shift starting at 9:30 am, so I was able to sleep in a little.  When you are doing a lot of down hill riding on a mountain bike you spend about 80-90% of the time standing on your pedals......it's much more comfortable than sitting due to the rough terrain you are riding over.  Instead of  taking all the energy generated by the bumps directly to your bum, you use your legs to absorb the bumps.  It's been a few years since I did this much down hill so I had forgotten how sore your thighs can get from close to 50 miles of standing on those pedals.  The end result was a lot of residual soreness Monday morning, and, of course, I spent most of the day standing before the various computer terminals in the office, so I was continually reminded of all the fun I had over the weekend.

If all Monday's are like this Monday I think I would like to work more of them......we worked steadily, but there was never the "crush" of humanity standing three, or four deep all day.  I began my day working at the cashier position, and occasionally jumped over to an open registration terminal to fill in when someone was at lunch, or on break.  Most of the work I did this day was taking reservations for next summer.   The only real problem I handled Monday was helping a lady who had made a reservation back in early June for July 24th....unfortunately the RCC (Reservation Call Center) in Floriday had made her reservation for June 24th!  She had called to confirm her reservation when we discovered the problem.  We were able to find one RV site that fit her criteria, and move her deposit from the incorrect, already expired reservation forward.  All's well that ends well, right?

There is really not much else to report about my 8th day in the TVC office, which, in hindsight, is a good thing......it means nothing much out of the ordinary occurred.  We had a lovely partly cloudy day with no power outages, no lightning, no torrential down pours, so all was good in the land of Tahoe Valley Campground.

We started the day with fewer than 50 check ins expected, and finished with fewer than 10 who had yet to arrive.

I have to say, it was nice coming home to find TLE all chipper and full of good humor since she had spent the day relaxing from her three day work weekend.  She had made up a batch of her wonderful salsa from scratch, done some shopping, and caught up on a lot of her cooking programs.

We finished the evening watching "Longmire", "Masterchef" and a new Gordon Ramsey show called "Hotel Hell".  It's good to be back home, and back into my routine, but memories of a great weekend just passed will put a smile on my face for days to come......except for that muscle soreness in my thighs.....:D

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Heaven on Earth.....

My riding buddy, Brenda, refers to this view as "Heaven on Earth", and I have to agree.  Every time I arrive at this spot I feel like I have come "home"......it always feels like it was only a few days since I was last here, when, in fact, it has been over 3 years.  


This picture was taken by Brenda at the top of Mammoth Mountain, some 11,083 feet above sea level....and at least 1,000 feet above timberline (the point where trees begin to grow).  You can see the Minaret Mountains in the distance.

As agreed our group met at "Breakfast Club" around 7:30 for breakfast.....I had my usual eggs over easy, sourdough toast, hash browns, bacon and coffee, and as usual it was great!  Sundays on a mountain bike trip to Mammoth with good friends reminds me a lot of our life on the road when we meet up with other nomads as we crisscross the USA......the "until next times" always come too soon, and never seem to get any easier.

We were in the gondola making our way to the top of Mammoth Mountain a little after 9 am to begin what would end up being our last downhill run this time around.  The weather was partly cloudy with a light breeze, but not too chilly as we began our 15 mile plunge to the Village.  The run was entirely without incident, and, in fact, we had no injuries this weekend, and only a few minor spills with no blood shed.  I managed to ride crash free for the almost 50 miles of downhill riding we did this weekend.


Here I am at the end of the "Juniper" trail section about 3/4's of the way down.  Note the "full body armor" I wear now.  I take a little ribbing, but at least "if" I fall there will not be much damage to my person.  Knowing I have the extra protection reduces those moments of hesitation that can cause crashes........hesitation is your enemy.


Taking a short break near the top of the "Big Ring" trail before we continue on the "Paper Route" trail on our traverse across the back side of the mountain.


Me (above) about 1/2 way down "Off The Top" trail, just reaching timberline......the overnight rain helped to pack the sometimes loose pumice trails, and it is because of the volcanic pumice that covers the entire mountain terrain here that you must wear protection.  Pumice is decomposed volcanic glass, and will cut you to ribbons if you do not wear enough padding.

Rain at the Adventure Center

We reached the pavement just as it began to rain......we had heard from a rider just a few minutes before that they had shut down the gondola due to lightning.  It's good that we at least got one run in, because this was to be it for the day.

We all headed back to Motel 6 by a little after Noon, and were in our cars headed to our respective homes around 12:45......my friends heading south on US 395 back to SoCal, and me north to SLT*.  I can never escape that vague feeling of ennui that over takes me at these times.  The rain came again with a vengeance just as I was approaching the south end of Topaz Lake, an continued the rest of the drive home.  I was continually fighting a strong wind from the west, and occasionally hydro plaining through puddling water on the highway.

On the south end of Topaz Lake, and about to enter Nevada.

I stopped off at Trader Joe's in Carson City to get a few things TLE requested, and then began the 10 mile jaunt up US 50 to the top of Spooner Pass in a driving, torrential rain storm replete with wind, lightning and thunder, but no lions, tigers and bears.......:D

Bill and Debby were behind me as I approached 
the Kingsbury Grade turnoff

I arrived home around 3:50 pm just as a lightning strike caused a power outage throughout South Lake Tahoe.  I pulled up to the Registration office to find it bathed in darkness and TLE checking in customers without a computer, or much light......the "show" must go on, right?

The electrical outage was so extensive that it took until after 9 pm for them to restore service, but as I write all it back to normal, and the campground is drying out once again.

Thanks for stopping by!

* SLT = South Lake Tahoe

Sunday, July 20, 2014

"E Ticket Ride"

I have a large collection of pictures like the one below going back to 1996.....some of the faces are the same, but everyone always has a really big smile on their faces, because within seconds of these pictures being taken we know we are all going to be plunging headlong down trails we know like the collective back of our collective hands.  Even though we have ridden the "Off the Top" trail hundreds of times over 18 years we never get tired of it.....the views a 1,000 feet above timberline are long, big and spectacular!  Behind the group picture are the "Minarets".

Left to right: Ryan, Paul, me, Brenda and her son 
Dalton (I know, what a cool name, huh?)

My very good friend, and mountain bike buddy, Paul (on the right)

Brenda and Dalton

The "gang" in the gondola

Within a few minutes of the group picture I discovered I had two serious mechanical issues on my bike.....somehow between the time I handed my bike to the attendant to load in the gondola, and the time it was taken out of the gondola, the chain had been twisted (damaged) causing it to keep "jumping" gears.  This problem, all by itself meant I needed to replace the chain right away.  The second issue has been lurking for a few weeks now, but seemed to come and go.  The "issue" was at above 15 mph I would hear this loud "buzzing" sound emanating from my rear wheel's hub.  This day it began almost immediately, and would not stop.   So, here I was just 3 miles into the first run and I already needed to head directly to the Adventure Center bike shop for repairs.....ugggh!

I decided to take the direct route back to the bottom (the Kamikaze Run).....it's very steep and requires a lot of braking, but cuts about 25 minutes off the run.  My friends continued on with the hope that by the time they reached the bottom I would be ready to go again.

Fortunately, my very good, long time friend, Paul, had had this issue happen to him (he has the exact same wheelset I do) and told me what to tell the bike shop to do to fix it.  I reached the bike shop in about 10 minutes, and was able to get my bike in quickly for repairs.  The bike mechanic ("wrench") removed the cassette from the rear hub and squirted some oil in to fix the "buzzing" sound, then installed the new chain.....in and out in 10 minutes for $30.....:D

I was barely back outside when the "gang" arrived (love it when a plan comes together) and we continued on with our ride.  The rear hub made that "buzzing" sound a couple more times, but within a mile, or so it quit completely so I thought the "problem"  was fixed......the operative word here is "thought".

About 3 miles into our first run

We reached the "Village" in another 40 minutes, and boarded the shuttle bus for the ride back to the Adventure Center and another gondola ride back to the top.  As we began our second run of the day I was barely a 100 yards into the run when the "buzzing" returned with a vengeance, much to my dismay.  At almost the same instant Paul's bike developed an issue with the rear hub causing his chain to keep coming off the sprockets, so we both exited the trail for the Kamikaze trail and headed for his car.  First we got his problem fixed, and then he took my rear hub apart  to really lubricate the internal workings, and this time it worked.

Before heading back to the gondola we got a bite to eat at the Yodler Restaurant, and then were back on the gondola for a "real" run.  This time all worked perfectly and we had the run of the day, at least for me.  In all we rode 32 miles of downhill (with a little pedaling here and there).

We were back at Motel 6 by 4:30 with plans to meet at the motel office at 5 pm to walk up to the Village and have dinner at our favorite local Mexican place, Gomez'.  We sat outside for two hours, consuming a few Margaritas, brews, and chips whilst talking about the day's adventures and looking forward to Sunday's ride.  We'll ride from 9 am til Noon, and then head for our respective homes.

It was a great day of "E ticket" rides.....for those of you who are under 40, "E ticket" is a referenced to the Disneyland tickets for their best rides back in the 50's and 60's.  Each ride was graded from A to E with "E" referring to the best, most popular rides.

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Mammoth Mountain Bound


At Conway Summit, overlooking Mono Lake....not much farther now

The plan.......be in the car heading for Mammoth Friday at 9 am.....execution......in car heading or Mammoth on Friday at 8:50 am....I love it when a plan comes together!  I stopped off at the office to bid adieu to TLE (she had the 8 am to 4:40 pm shift Friday) and then headed east on Tahoe Blvd. to HWY 207, and then over Kingsbury Grade to the Carson Valley....I was in Gardnerville taking a potty brake by 9:40 at the 7-11, and then one more time in Bridgeport at the Shell station on the north end of town.  

The drive south was rife with memories made over decades of traveling this route with my parents, and with my own children.  I know this part of US 395 like the back of my hand, and as I pass through the small towns of Topaz, Coleville, Walker, Bridgeport, and Lee Vining they come flooding back.  One of my favorite memories is stopping at the vista point at the top of Conway Summit and taking in the loooong view towards Mono Lake and the small lakeside town of Lee Vining.  No matter what time of year, or what the weather, I always stop at this vista point and take a picture, or two.  My mother has pictures of us at this vista point as far back as the late 50's.  And, of course, Friday was no different.....I pulled over, parked the VW, got out and took one more picture to add the collection.

I arrived in Mammoth at the Motel 6, my abode for two days, at precisely 12 Noon.....that was my goal....just three easy hours of driving.  After checking in, and putting my luggage in my room I went back to the car to unlock my mountain bike so I could take it into my room.  As I approached the bike rack and reached into my pocket for my keys it suddenly dawned on me that I did not have the key for that Masterlock.....doh!!!  I meant to transfer one of those keys to my car key ring.....I really did.  What to do?

I walked back to the room looking up local locksmiths on my Samsung Note 3 phone and found a listing on Yelp for Mammoth Lock and Key.  I dialed the number and 4 rings later Bob answered.  I explained my problem to Bob, and he suggested I call TLE and have her read me the key number off the key.  I remembered that when I first bought that lock there was a 4 digit key code on the key.  I called TLE and she happened to be at the coach for her lunch break, so she pulled out the key ring with the original 15 year old Masterlock key and said there was only a two digit number....M-1.....that's not it.  Apparently over 15 years of wear and tear the 4 digit code had been rubbed off......doh! again.  I called back Bob and relayed the disappointing news.  He said in response....."Well, the only other option is to cut off the lock, but it will cost you for me to do it".....the price quoted was more than it would cost for a new lock, so he suggested I drive down to the local Chevron station where they had bolt cutters they loaned for free.....for just this situation......"Tell John that Bob sent you....".

That seemed like the most cost effective solution, so that is what I did.  The disconcerting thing about this whole episode is that it took me less than 5 seconds to cut off the seemingly invincible lock....I think I need a better lock, what about you?

After solving the lock issue I headed back to the room, got a bottle of water, and headed out to the pool to sit, do a little reading, and just enjoy the afternoon sunshine.  Around 4 pm Brenda, one of my riding friends from SoCal, and her son Dalton arrived at the motel, and we sat by the pool talking of times past, and about our ride Saturday.  Around 5:15 we headed over to "Chart House" for dinner.  They have a great happy hour with half price appetizers of which we we more than happy to take advantage.

As I looked down the menu my eyes locked on "fish tacos"......they were very good.  We also ordered, and shared several other appetizers including their prime rib sliders, ahi nachos....etc., etc.  The three of us sat talking until almost 7 before heading back to the motel for the evening.  

While we were eating we got a call from Paul and Ryan, our other riding friends, advising they had just gotten on the Interstate and would arrive sometime after 11 pm.....past my bedtime, so we arranged to meet for breakfast at "The Breakfast Club" Saturday morning at 7:30.

I spent the evening watching a replay of Friday's round of the British Open" and was in bed by 10:30.

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, July 18, 2014

TVC Office - Day # 7 - Easy Peezy

I don't know why I always fret about my ability to adapt to a new job, or skill set.  It seems that in spite of my misgivings I always pick up the knowledge pretty quickly, and find my comfort zone in a short period of time........and that has been the case with my clerical position in the TVC Registration Office.  I started day # 7 in the office sans TLE who has a different work schedule this week than I due to my taking off this weekend to drive down to Mammoth Mountain to ride in their mountain bike park with good friends from SoCal.  To accommodate me Debby scheduled me for Thursday this week, and Monday, Tuesday next week giving me Friday, Saturday and Sunday to "play".

I started my day at 8 am, and the flow of customers was steady, but never overwhelming......just the kind of day I like, because when you stay busy the time seems to fly by.  We had way fewer problems with arriving customers being misplaced in sites that would not fit their RV configuration.  A big chunk of the day for me was helping customers make reservations for next summer in their favorite spots.

Around mid afternoon the forecast thunder storm arrived....with the first sounds of thunder I was sent to the pool to close it down.  The last place one wants to be in a lightning storm in waste deep in water in an exposed area.  The many customers were very co-operative, and within minutes I was locking the gate.

Just after I returned to the office the skies opened up with much, much needed rainfall, if only for an hour, or so.  By the time I clocked out at 4:30 pm the rain had ceased, but was nice to see the effect of the rain....all the dust and pollen had been settled, and a sweet smell lingered in the air.

I spent the early evening taking care of a few chores including dumping the black tank for TLE....it didn't need it yet, but would probably need it by Saturday.  This is not a task she relishes....she knows how to do it, but really prefers that I handle it.  Then it was time to move the car around and insert the Yakima bike rack into the receiver hitch, but there was a minor glitch.....the battery had died, and it is probably time to replace it.  I think I left the XM radio receiver on from the other day, which by itself should not have run the battery down, so it is probably on its last legs.  Fortunately we were able to push the car around to the front passenger side where the coach house batteries are located, and jump start it.  If it's hard to start Friday morning I'll need to replace the battery for sure.  Once the car was started I went ahead and drove over to the Raley's fuel station to fill the tank up for my trip....I was able to use one of TLE's .50 cent off coupons to buy the 12+ gallons of 91 octane gas, but still paid $3.75 per gallon....gas is really expensive up here.....diesel is actually cheaper in many cases.

We closed out the evening watching "Hell's Kitchen", and were in bed by 10:30.

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Payday!

Around 10 am Wednesday we mounted our Cannondale bikes and began a leisurely ride eastbound on Tahoe Blvd. out to Lakesore Drive.  We hadn't visited a couple of thrift stores out that way for a while, so we thought we would just make 3rd Saturday a "junking day".  It' just a little over 4 miles to the first thrift store, and we both enjoyed the still cool morning air as we trundled eastward.  Unfortunately, there is still some residual construction winding up in that area and both stores were closed due to the construction interruption, so we made a "U" turn and begin our trek back westward where we found "The Attic" open for business.....TLE found a couple of paperbacks she couldn't live without.....nothing caught my attention.  Then it was off to "Mountain Treasures" where nothing was found by either of us.  Next up was "Tahoe Merchant" (right next to the 7-11 Store), and then "Connie's Clothesline".  Once again TLE found a pair of earrings at "Connie's Clothesline" for $6 that tickled her fancy.  

By this time it was closing in on Noon time so we decided to stop at "Alpina Coffee Cafe" just a 1/2 block from Connie's.  We've ridden by "Alpina" many times since we arrived back in May, but never stopped.  It is a funky cafe/coffee shop and we enjoyed our refreshments a lot.  TLE had ice coffee with, get this, coffee ice cubes....never heard of that before.  I had my usual warm day moca frappuccino (called a "moca shake" at Alpina).  They get a solid 4 stars from Yelp, and we would have to agree.



After that delightful interlude we headed back to TVC, and our coach.  By the time we arrived home it was time to turn on the A/C once again, and spend some time cooling down.  While I was relaxing I checked eBay for the delivery status of my new Delorme 2014 Street Atlas I had ordered to install on the "new" HP Netbook I got a few weeks ago.  I had the same program on my old HP Netbook that bit the dust just before we arrived at TVC, but the maps were from 2011, and were a little outdated.  To my surprise it had just been delivered to the Registration Office (a day early) so I took a walk over to pick it up.  When I arrived Duane (the new manager) was in his office, so I leaned in to say "HI!".  He looked up and said, "I have something for you!".....I asked "is it our employee numbers",  and he answered, yes, and I have your paychecks".......wait, what?  The way things have been going I was beginning to think we might be lucky to see one big check at the end of the summer.  So, now it is official, we will be "clocking" in and out like everyone else, no longer writing our times down on a piece of paper, and seeing an actual paycheck every other week.  The last thing I was expecting Wednesday was that we would receive our first paychecks, but that is exactly what happened.

I spent the next couple of hours installing the new Delorme program on the Netbook, and then testing it to be sure everything worked, and it did.  One of the upsides to the "new" Netbook is it has Windows 7, more ram, a faster processor, and a bigger hard drive, so everything runs faster than the old Netbook with Windows XP.  I've already laid in the course up to Cape Blanco Lighthouse for our departure after Labor Day.

Later in the evening, after dinner (chicken salad), we took a walk around the park while it was still light and stopped off at Bill and Debby's to chat for a while.  Eventually we were joined by John and Deb (our neighbors in "E" section).  It was a nice unplanned get together....of course we exchanged our first impressions of Duane, and so far Debby likes some of the changes in the office.  As you can imagine, whenever a new "guy" comes on board there is a little tension as you await the "changes".  So far it is all good, and he seems like a good guy who knows what he's about.

Around 9 we began our "amble" home with John and Deb, stopping off briefly at the "tent" to  listen to some "Karaoke".  The singing was not great, but I am always impressed with anyone who will get up in front of strangers and sing, whether, or not they have any talent.

That was our Wednesday.....thanks for stopping by!