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Thursday, July 31, 2014

3rd Saturday...."the rain, the park, and other things"

Taken from the 1966 song by the Cowsills by the same name.....and that was, in a phrase, our Wednesday.  After working 4 of the previous 5 days it was nice to wake up to "Saturday" again, albeit 3rd Saturday.  

The Rain.......We woke up to a 50% chance of rain looming out there around 1 pm.  The thing about rain here at SLT* is that it rarely seems to come to fruition, but because it does occasionally you must plan for the worst.....makes it a little hard to make plans...especially plans that involve being outdoors like biking, hiking, walking, etc.  Nevertheless, we did make plans to take a bike ride late morning down to "The Commons" where Tahoe Blvd. runs along the lake for about a mile, or so....right at the intersection of Lakeview Ave.   There is a nice park up near the road with grass, trees and shade where you can sit and just enjoy the view looking north towards Tahoe City.

(NO UPLOADED PICTURES TODAY.....THE INTERNET STINKS TODAY)

The Park.......We headed out on our single bikes around 11 am, and reached the "Downs" area by 11:20, found a nice picnic table to sit at and just sat there enjoying the view, which, due to the incredible slowness of the internet today, Thursday, I am unable to share with you.  I don't know about you, but I don't have the patience to wait an hour for one picture to upload.

Around Noon we headed back westward about 1 block to "Sprouts" (4.5 stars on Yelp) for a light lunch....we split the Mexican Volcano salad, and each got a smoothie.....Blueberry for TLE, and Strawberry for moi.

I posted this picture of us at Sprouts to Facebook and was 
able to "copy and paste" the URL  very quickly.


About 12:45 we began to hear the distant rumble of thunder, and the sky was beginning to look threatening so we finished our lunch and began the ride back to TVC**.  About half way back to TVC we could feel the temperature dropping fast, and just as we were turning on to Melba Drive we began to feel sprinkles, but managed to arrive back at the coach just before the serious moisture began to fall.  We only covered just over 7 miles, but that was all we had time for.....no fun riding in the rain.

And other things.......While we were gone our new bike rack arrived that I had ordered last week from a seller on eBay.  It's made by a company called KUAT.  My mountain biking friend, Paul, had recently gotten one, and loves how light weight it is.......about 27 lbs.  My current Yakima bike rack weighs close to 60 pounds, and I have to have TLE's help to put it on the car, and take it off.....don't want another hernia, right?  I wish I could upload a picture of it, but that is not possible today (remembered I had uploaded it to Facebook...so "copy & paste").

The new bike rack was pretty easy to assemble......the instructions had the bar codes you could scan with your phone which connected you to You Tube Videos showing you how to 1) assemble the bike rack , and 2) how to use it.  I'm a visual guy, so this really came in handy.  Of course, in this case, the written instructions were also very easy to read.

New KUAT SHERPA bike rack courtesy of  "copy & paste"

It continued to sprinkle and rain on and off the rest of the afternoon, so TLE did some wash, and we spent some time reading.  The campground is staying pretty full right now, and it is hard to tell the weekend from the week days anymore, which is why the WiFi, and our mobile broadband stink right now.

Thursday calls for more possible thunder storms, with about a 50% chance of rain around 1 pm, so we'll try to get out and do some more riding before the moisture begins to fall again.

Thanks for stopping by!

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

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

TVC Office - Day # 13 - The CSR's of TVC

Tuesday was the recently added 4th day of work each week we voluntarily added to help blunt some of the effects of being understaffed, plus we can make up a little lost ground from the 7 weeks we were not able to work.  TLE reported for duty at 7:30 am to begin her training so she can open the office when we take over Bill and Debby's Monday through Wednesday shift.  This will happen just after the weekend of the 16th......from then until we depart on September 2nd we will work Monday through Wednesday, and then Saturday for our fourth day.

We are beginning to see improvements in the campground.......we received our first ice delivery in almost a month, the electricity has been restored at the pool.....we lost power about 11 days ago due to the power outage, and have been running the pool pumps via generator since then to keep the pool open.  We received an ice cream delivery for the first time in a month......essentially vendors are being paid again.  The problem was not money.....the problem was invoices were not being submitted for payment.  With Duane's arrival all that has changed.  Those of us who were here before Duane's arrival kept the campground running as best we could, but none of us had authority to pay bills, or submit invoices for payment.

My shift began at 8 am, and I was greeted by the ubiquitous line at the door awaiting the opening of the office/store for business.  We all "grabbed" a terminal and began providing customer service.  

There were calls from customers on their way up to Lake Tahoe verifying what site they were in, asking if it was raining here yet (more on that later), asking if they could change sites to be closer to friends, and the usual panoply of issues.  There were those appearing before us in person who didn't like their site......too much sun, not enough sun, too many trees (satellite TV), too many pine needles and pollen, too much dirt (this is a forest), people walking through their site (a legitimate concern), "why did my site # get changed?", and on it goes.

All you can do, and all that is expected, is that you deal with the customer in front of you, and not worry.....yet.....about the two standing behind them waiting to bequeath upon you their problem in search of a solution.  Don't misunderstand, there are people who just come in to thank you for a good experience, and are so happy they make reservations for next year.  Unfortunately the easy stuff does not necessarily stand out in your mind......it's the memory of the problems, mistakes, etc. that sift through your mind after you clock out for the day.  On the fortunate side I learned long ago, back in my workaday life, how to separate work from my private life.  My family will tell you that 99.9% of the time my work was left at the office, or on the soccer field.  If you don't separate your work life from your private life you'll go nuts.......:D

Around 11 am I went out to the ice house with 3 other male employees (Bill, Billy, & Ray) to help unload the ice shipment and put it in the ice house.  We made quick work of the job forming a "chain gang" of sorts.  Fortunately Bill had two pairs of gloves with him, so there was no frost bite to my hands this day.  The rest of the day went pretty fast, and the magic hour of 4:30.....quitting time for me......arrived.

Also, around 4:30 it began to sprinkle lightly just as I was on my way home from my shift, and by 6 pm it was raining pretty hard.   The much needed, and appreciated rain (appreciated by all but the tenters) was accompanied by lightning and thunder.....some strikes not too far away.   Nevertheless, by 9 pm the rain had stopped and we could see campfires begin to dot the landscape around our coach......people come here to enjoy the great outdoors, and by gosh they will get their enjoyment!

We will be off Wednesday and Thursday, and then put back on our customer service hats for the weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday).

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

First Saturday

The one thing we miss when we are workamping is the "every day feels like Saturday" feeling when I wake up on Monday, or Tuesday, etc. Well, Monday did feel like Saturday again, because we had a day off before returning to the TVC office on Tuesday.  My day started with me driving the VW over to "Higher Ground Autoworx" to find out why I am losing coolant.  We first realized there might be a problem last Thursday when we drove up to Tahoe City to ride out bikes into Squaw Valley.  I was initially referred to "Eloise Automotive" by Bill and Debby, but they do not work on European cars there, so the kind gentleman there referred me to Higher Ground, where they do specialize in BMW's, Mini's, Audi's and VW's.  It is around a mile to the shop, so my plan was to drive over around 8:30, drop the car off, and walk home, however, the sign on the door said the hours on Monday are 9-5.  No wanting to sit there for 30 minutes I decided to drive back to the coach, pick up a light switch that I needed to exchange for a different one at DIY, head there, and then back to Higher Ground by 9.


The plan worked great, but when I returned to Higher Ground at 9:05 they still weren't open, but just as I arrived I received a phone call I was expecting, so I took the call and waited to see if the owner would arrive while I was on the phone.  As I finished the phone call 15 minutes later the shop was still not open......I had noticed they had a "key drop box" so I decided to park my car, drop my key in the box, and call the number on the business card and leave a message about my car, then walked back home.

I had barely arrived home when my phone rang.....it was John from Higher Ground asking me to relate to him the symptoms of the VW.  We talked for a few minutes, and he said he would try to get to it later to do a pressure test on the cooling system, and call back with the recommended repair.

The walk home took about 20 minutes, and even though it was still early the outside temps were already well on their way to the "guessed" high for the day of 81......not warm by Phoenix, or Palm springs standards, but warm for us.  After putting around the coach and trailer for about an hour I decided to take my Kindle outside and spend the rest of the day finishing a good Zane Grey book I started a week, or so ago, but hadn't had time to get back to since then.

Around Noon I got another call from John at Higher Ground with the diagnosis and prognosis for the VW......the water pump has begun leaking so that is the source of the coolant loss, and is what needs to be fixed.  I knew he had a few cars ahead of me, so when he told me it might not be ready until later in the week I told him "Fine".......we really don't drive it that much, and are here until Labor Day.  So, some time by the end of the week we'll get our baby back.......there you go.......we continue to spend more in repairs on our cars, than we do on the Newell!

We spent the rest of the afternoon reading, and I took a couple of delicious naps.  around 6 TLE began preparing the evening's meal........Jambalaya!  We sat outside talking and eating until almost 8 pm before heading in for the evening.....a fine First Saturday to be sure!

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, July 28, 2014

TVC Office - Day # 12 - Five out of Seven

If this was baseball 5 out of 7 would be a pretty good day at the plate.....I'd be batting .714......but this is not baseball.....it is the TVC Office.  Sunday was the fifth day I had worked in the office out of the past 7.  That I had worked 5 out of the past 7 days was the result of my 3 days off last weekend to go mountain biking, and is an anomaly in the over all scheme of things, but it was enlightening to me.  There are a few folks here who do work 5 days a week, every week since May.   I could not do that, and I don't really want to do that, because then every day would not feel like Saturday.  Nevertheless, Sunday was, indeed, the 5th work day out of the last 7 for me.....for TLE it was the sixth work day out of the last 10.

As we did Friday and Saturday, we started our shift at 9:30 am, and stayed pretty busy all day long.  I headed out to do "site checks" around 10 am, and was finished around 12:30. Once again there were almost 150 sites checking out Sunday.  There were a few people who did not check out on time, but in the end it all worked out.

I spent the rest of the afternoon in the office facing what seemed like one problem after another.  A lot of our problems stem from reservations taken by the "Call Center".  They often promise things they can't deliver, and we suffer the consequences.  Problems like one gentleman who arrived believing he had a pull through site, full hookups, and 50 amp electrical service. The site he was booked into was a water and electric only site, not pull through, and only had 30 amp.  I totally get his point of view.....it's "our" fault.....to him the "Call Center" and the TVC Office are one in the same.  All you can do at that point is apologize, and then work your butt off trying to find a site that remotely resembles what he was expecting.  Then there was the lady who also arrived expecting a pull through site, and, in fact, was expecting to be in a specific site (providing lots of shade) she had requested when she spoke with the "Call Center".  What she got was a back in space, with sun exposure most of the day.  The "Call Center" promised she would have the site she requested, but TVC doesn't guaranty that you will get the site you want, and we spend a great deal of time giving the "disclaimer speech" whenever some requests a specific site.  Most of the time we can deliver their requested site, but on occasion we cannot, therefore the need for the "disclaimer".

There are many more examples I could relate, but you get the point.  Some days are like that in the customer service business, and you just have to "roll with the punches".  At the end of the day we were able to solve 99% of the problems to the customer's satisfaction, and I think that is a pretty good average.  Of course, I spend my time thinking about the 1% I couldn't satisfy, wondering what else I could have done.  Like everyone in the office, I want to see people leaving the office with a smile on their face......not a frown.

We headed for home around 6:15 pm thankful we have a day off Monday......I admire those who work 5 days a week, but after 3 days in a row my brain is fried......:D

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

TVC Office - Day # 11 - Yasgur's Farm

Real Saturday began much like 5th Saturday with TLE and I making the walk to the TVC* office around 9:20 am.  Our start time for Friday, Saturday and Sunday is 9:30.  On Tuesday TLE will start at 7:30 am to do her training for "Opening"....I'll start at 8.

On Saturday the "Departure List" had 150 sites being vacated, so my site check rounds took quite a while to complete.  Now that I'm getting out every work day in the golf cart to make my rounds I'm becoming more familiar with the layout of the campground, and Saturday was a much better experience, plus I had the chance to stop and talk with a few campers about their experience staying here.  By the time I returned to the office almost half my shift had expired. 

Meanwhile, back at the office, life was quite hectic according to TLE.  There were many, many calls from people trying to find out if we had a site for one, or two nights.....one maybe, but two.....almost non existent.  Our per day price for a non-hookup tent site is $44, which, by comparison to most places we have stayed over the years, is quite pricey.  We rarely pay more than $40 for a full hookup spot, but this is a popular resort area and the prices at most private campgrounds in the area are comparable.  Nevertheless, quite often after we have found a site for the caller, and they are still basking in the elation of the moment, once they hear the price they often end the call advising they will check other options and call back.  In most cases those calling at the last minute for one night are traveling on a tight budget, and are used to paying about half that amount.  This is not a criticism of the pricing policies for TVC*.  They (Encore Resorts) charge what the market will bear, and the success of that pricing policy is evidenced by how full we are on a daily basis.  Back in our workaday lives we were on the other side of the counter handing over our credit card to pay those high resort prices at Zephyr Cove (Nevada side of Lake Tahoe), and Meeks Bay Resort (California side, south of Tahoe City), so I understand the mentality of paying those high prices just to be at Lake Tahoe for a week.  Would we do that now?  No...we live on a modest fixed income, so we try to stay at places like Lake Tahoe in the "off season" when rates are more palatable, or, as we are doing this summer, trade labor for a highly reduced rate. 

We were off duty by 6 pm, and walking back to our coach when someone asked if we were coming back later to hear "Yasgur's Farm" band play some 60's and 70's tunes.  That was not on my mind at the time, but we decided to answer in the affirmative, and after dinner walked back to the big tent for the evening's entertainment.  For those who may not remember, Max Yasgur owned the dairy farm in the Catskils where the 1969 Woodstock Festival was held.  


"Yasgur's Farm Band"

We spent about an hour singing along to tunes from our youth, and I was impressed with the job the band did covering so many iconic tunes from the 60's and 70's.  We were joined by many, if not all, of our workamper friends here at TVC, and were very glad we took the time to spend an hour at the performance even though we were tired from our day of labor.

We were home and in bed by 10:30 looking forward to Sunday's shift, and our day off on Saturday.

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

TVC Office - Day # 10 - Solo

Fifth Saturday was anything but.......back to work in the TVC office, and it felt like a real Friday!  As you can imagine Friday's can be hectic at any popular RV park, especially during peak season, which TVC is smack dab in the middle of right now.  TLE and I went on duty at 9:30 am, and the office was already a madhouse.  I began preparing my lists of those departing the park on Friday, and those arriving, and was not quite done when it was time for another office meeting with Duane, the new onsite manager.  A campground, like TVC, which is an aging campground at 50+ years old, which has lacked an onsite manager for almost a year, needs work, and someone to organize and direct that work.  Duane seems like the guy to get that done, and some evidence of his determination to improve conditions is already manifesting itself.  Please don't misunderstand my intent, or direction here.  TLE and I have enjoyed our stay here in spite of some of the deficiencies of the park.  We are fully self contained, so we do not need to use the campground restrooms, or showers.  Admittedly, the restrooms need some updating, and a really DEEP pressure washing type of cleaning, but to be fair, they are cleaned twice a day, every single day.

We rarely have need to drive the interior roads as we walk, and bike most of the time, but the interior roads need repaving, and no doubt they will be within the next year now that Duane is here.

Probably the most frequent complaint we receive is the poor quality of the WiFi in the park, which is provided by Tengo Internet.  If you have traveled in an RV on a regular basis you will know that Tengo Internet is not highly thought of by those of us who need reliable internet.  As I jokingly relate, it works well between the hours of 11 pm and 6 am.....otherwise it is slow, and often you cannot connect after 6 am, and before 11 pm.  Based on Duane's report we will either get better WiFi from Tengo, or we will employ another vendor to make it better.  I don't think the problem is from lack of coverage in the park......there are 7, or 8 repeating towers in the park.....the problem seems to be adequate bandwidth to go around to the several thousand people who occupy this park when it is near capacity.  I am using it right now, and it is almost 7 am.....I can already see a significant degradation in the speed since I began using it at 6 am.  Since I do need reliable broadband I switch over to my Verizon hotspot on my Samsung Note 3 phone when Tengo begins to crash, but even that fails me sometimes on the weekend when the Verizon towers in SLT get overwhelmed by the influx of weekenders.

The meeting probably lasted 20 minutes, and we were back to our respective jobs.  Coming only recently from the workaday world I still have a mild loathing for too many meetings.  I don't mind meetings every couple of weeks, or even one on one meetings to clarify my responsibilities, or improve my performance.  There is a tendency by those in management, sometimes, to believe that frequent meetings will fix problems, but they don't.  Problems get fixed when employees are led by example, have clear direction, and clearly defined responsibilities.

It took me another 30 minutes to get my paperwork in order before I headed out in the golf cart to survey my domain and do my site checks.  Being that this was my first doing site checks on a solo basis I concentrated mostly on making sure those who were supposed to be departing were either departed, or in the process of departing.  If everyone who is supposed to be leaving has done so then it makes the arriving customers happier, and reduces the number of problems we must solve.  I had three pages of people departing, so it took me a while to make my rounds through all for sections of the campground, but finally, after about 3 hours, I was done.  Then it was back to the office to help out with those arriving, and those with questions.

(I had to switch over to my hotspot at 7 am to finish this blog post, as the Tengo Internet crashed right on schedule).

The time passed by pretty quickly, but by 6 pm my brain was fried, and so was TLE's.  We took a slow walk home, changed clothes, and then relaxed for about an hour.  TLE made a nice salad for dinner, and then we sat watching "mindless" TV for a couple of hours before heading off to bed.

You may wonder why we chose to return to the workaday life a couple of times a year, and put ourselves through "this".  The answer is quite simple.....we need to supplement our income periodically with "workamper" type jobs.  We can earn decent money in a short period of time, and then we are back to our nomadic lifestyle.  The money we earn from this job, and the Amazon job in the Fall will go to replace the tires on the VW, the trailer, and the remaining three tires on the rear of the coach, as well as perform the necessary periodic maintenance (oil change, new air filter, fuel filters, 23 gallons of coolant, etc.).  By removing these items from our monthly budget through the money we earn, we are able to have more disposable income, which means more fun, more adventure while we are in travel mode.  As long as we are healthy, and physically fit we will continue to seek out jobs such as this one.  A side benefit, as you know from reading our blog, is the people we meet, and the new friendships which are formed.

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Olympian....

Fourth Saturday we decided to put the two Cannondales on the bike rack and drive up to Tahoe City to ride the bike path along the Truckee River into Squaw Valley.  The last time we did this ride was at least 7 years ago when we were staying at Meeks Bay Resort.  There is a bike path that begins about 1 mile north of Meeks Bay and runs all the way into Tahoe City.  Since there is a lot of construction in progress along the entire route to Tahoe City we opted to drive into Tahoe City, park, and then pick up the bike path there.

Normally the drive to north shore takes about 40-45 minutes, but this day it took almost an hour and twenty minutes due to all the construction, and traffic at 10:45 in the morning.  As we were approaching Tahoe City we opted to pull into the Transit Center to use their parking lot, instead of fighting the mind numbing traffic in town.  The bike path runs right through the Transit Center, so it was a perfect alternative to downtown parking.

We were on our bikes and pedaling along the Truckee River by a little after Noon.  The trail along the river is mostly in the shade, and on this day the ride was quite pleasant.


As would be expected, the river was jammed full of rafters, and the picture above is just one small section near the the top of the river.....it looked like this all the way to River Ranch.


As we rode along I was reminded of the first time we took this raft ride with my father, Art, back in 1976.  It's hard to believe that it has been 38 years since that first raft ride down to River Ranch.  It almost felt like I was in a time warp.

The total riding distance from the Transit Center to the back of Squaw Valley, the home of the 1960 Winter Olympics, is only 8 miles, and in no time we found ourselves at the entrance to the valley.


As we rolled along the road to the head of the valley I was pointing out homes to TLE my family had rented back in the 60's and 70's when we used to frequent the area.  We found a Starbucks in the Village and each got a frappuccino before retracing our steps back to Tahoe City.  

By the time we reached Fanny Bridge it was 2 pm, and we were both getting hungry so we stopped in at the Bridgetender Restaurant for a couple of brews, and some onion rings.

The drive home at 3 pm only took an hour, but was still slow due to the ongoing construction.....we were hoping they would quit at 3 pm, but they were still going strong.

Around 6 I turned on the BBQ to grill a filet mignon, while TLE baked some potatoes, and cooked up some broccoli.  We sat outside watching the sun set, and just enjoying being at SLT.

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Third Saturday.....

Even though Wednesday was one of two days off before we return to the "office" on Friday, I had volunteered to come in to the office to learn how to do "site checks" with Bill.  He is the only one who does them right now, which means they are only done on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday each week.  Our busiest time is Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so now I will be filling that position when on duty over the weekends.  

I arrived at the office around 9:15 and while I was waiting for Bill I helped check in a few customers.  As I have written previously, there are four sections here at TVC.....A, E, F & G, as illustrated in the site map below.


The point of doing "site checks" is two fold....before heading out on our rounds we obtain printouts of those scheduled to depart on a given day, and a second list of those scheduled to arrive, or who are already in the park.  We check to be sure those scheduled to depart are in the process of "departing" by the checkout time of 11 am.  On the printout for those departing we make notes of those sites that have someone arriving to check into those particular sites at Noon.  We only have an hour to get those sites cleaned before they are re-occupied.

Now, on the surface, it does not seem this would be a time consuming task, but indeed, as I learned through first hand experience Wednesday, it takes over 2 hours to make the rounds throughout all four sections.  One additional thing we check for are those who checked in late the night before (after office hours), or in some cases, in the previous few days, who have not "registered" at the office and paid whatever balance due they may owe for their stay. Occasionally some either forget to register (honest mistake), or who decide deliberately not to register and then leave without ever paying their balance due.  We only charge for one night's stay in advance, so if someone is staying 2-6 more days, they may get up to 6 days free if someone does not "remind" them to register.   So, in a few cases we may have to knock on a door, or leave a note for the unregistered customer to visit us in office to formally register.

Just as we finished with our site check rounds the batteries died on the golf cart, so we had to walk back to the office.....maybe a 100 yards.....and call maintenance to come tow the cart back to the office to be recharged.  In all it took us around 2 hours and 15 minutes to make the rounds.  This weekend I will be on my own, but it will be a nice break from spending all 8 hours in office each work day.

I returned home just before Noon......just in time for lunch, and then a nap......I was still tired from my weekend of fun, and then two days on my feet in the office.  Around 1:30 I went outside to finish putting away the rest of my mountain bike stuff, and finish unloading the VW.

TLE and I spent the rest of the afternoon reading....me outside, TLE inside most of the time, and then around 6 she brought out the fixings for "stir fry" to cook outside on the camp stove and the induction burner.  We sat eating, talking and just enjoying the outdoors.  The temps are quite moderate in the early evening now that we are into late July, and it stays comfortable until almost 9 pm, even in shorts, flip flops, and a t-shirt.

Around 7:30 I started a fire in our portable fireplace, and were joined by our neighbors, John and Deb, who are also spending their first summer here at TVC.  They alternate between working at RV park jobs, and living on their 40+ foot sailboat down in Mexico during the winter.  In their prior lives John was a "shipwright" for 35 years in the Oxnard, CA area, and Deb was a real estate agent.  They now spend 6 months on their sailboat, and 6 months in their 5th wheel trailer trying to be where it is not hot most of the time.

Third Saturday was a good day, and I am looking forward to 4th Saturday before we return to the "office" for the weekend shift.

Thanks for stopping by!

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!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Who's The Boss?

I think I have mentioned this previously, but if I have neglected to do so, here you go.  TVC* has not had an on site Manager for a number of months.  Billy, the assistant manager, whom I have spoken of several times, has been standing in the managers shoe's until a new one was hired.  One was hired back in the spring, but lasted only a few weeks.  Encore Resorts, which owns TVC*, has been searching for a new manager since then, and Tuesday we were privileged to meet their pick, Duane Jacob, at a hastily arranged staff meeting.  As you can imagine, the current staff is used to Billy's management style, so there will be an adjustment period for all of us, including the new manager, as we get used to each other.  This job has enough difficulty when you have time to ease into the job, which is why the previous manager was hired during the off season to slowly ramp up to the position.  The new guy is starting in the middle of peak season, so it will be interesting to see how he adapts not only to the facility itself, but to the staff, many of whom have been coming here to work summers for 15-20 years now.

Since Tuesday was not a work day for TLE** and I, we headed back to the coach after the meeting.  I had some work to do on an application to refinance our home, and had been putting it off for at least 10 days because I knew how involved it would be, and that it would take the better part of the day to pull everything together, and it was just as involved as I suspected it would be.   I finished the loan package around 2 pm, and shortly after that TLE** and I went to do some adult beverage shopping.

By the time we returned from shopping the heat of the day had arrived and we spent the rest of the afternoon inside keeping cool.  It is supposed to cool off Wednesday so we are thinking of taking a good bike ride.

We spent the afternoon reading, and around 6 TLE** whipped up a batch of her famous chicken street tacos.  I chased the 4 street tacos with a new beer I found at Dart Liquor over at Stateline......Shake Chocolate Porter produced by Boulder Beer out of Boulder, Colorado.....WOW!!!  This is a great sipping beer.....check it out!  Whenever I find myself in a liquor store with a large beer selection I am always on the lookout for something I haven't heard of before, and I struck it rich Tuesday.



Until Tuesday I had never heard of Boulder Beer, or Shake Chocolate Porter, but I have to say it is right up there in the top 2, or 3 chocolate porters I have ever sipped.

Nothing else to report for Tuesday......thanks for stopping by!

* TVC = Tahoe Valley Campground
** TLE = The Lovely Elaine