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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Remembering

 Friday was the first official day of TLE's college reunion, and it was a day of moving from one hug, one conversation to another.  We ventured downstairs from our 5th floor room in the Hilton about 9 am to find something to eat before registering at 10 am, but found they had already opened registration, so we all grabbed a cup of coffee at the Starbucks kiosk, and the mingling began.  You may be wondering how I might know so many people from the school where TLE went to college, so I would imagine some explanation is in order....

TLE and I belonged to the same church when we were young.  That church had 3 college campuses.....Bricketwood, England (two hours outside London), Pasadena, CA and Big Sandy, TX (near Tyler, TX).  Even though I grew up in Pasadena I attended the Texas campus of the church college.  TLE, who was from Miami, FL attended school at the Pasadena campus.  Since I was from Pasadena I knew a lot of the people she went to school with, and it was through those mutual acquaintances that we eventually met when I returned from Texas that first summer after my freshman year. So, there you have it....even though we have not belonged to that church since the late 70's we would never have met if not for the fact our parents belonged to the same church, although at opposite ends of the country.

By 3 pm I was 'talked' out for a while.......I have found when I go to these things that I  have to pace yourself, or my voice will be gone by the end of the first day......so I went upstairs for a break while TLE and her sister went shopping.

There really isn't a lot else to relate as the memories and people would have no meaning to most of you.  Those who have known me for a few decades know my history, and would probably know some of the same people.  The one thing I will say is there is something sweet about being able to renew friendships that were forged during a very formative period of my life.  The connections are still there after all these decades, and even though we have all gone our ways professionally and religiously we still have that connection.

There was a welcoming banquet at 7 pm Friday that we attended which lasted until after 9 pm, and by then we were all pretty talked out, so we headed back to our room for the evening.  There are two more days of festivities to come......

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Reuniting

Thursday it was time to move on to Pasadena for TLE's college reunion.  Of course you always want to look your best so she had made a hair appointment with Amanda at Forte in Claremont, CA for 10 am.  Amanda has been a best friend of Sharon (our daughter who was just married) since they were wee little tykes and has become a very good hair stylist.  Whenever we are 'in town' TLE has her shape up her coif.  

We got there a little early so we dropped into the Starbucks just a half block away for some coffee and bagels before TLE's appointment.   Within an hour we were hugging Amanda goodbye and heading for the gas station to fuel up the VW one more time, then waiting for a call from TLE's sister, Phyllis, who was flying into Ontario International for the same reunion......around 11:45 we got the call that she had landed and zipped over to the airport to retrieve her.

The drive into Pasadena took less than an hour.....traffic at Noon is not too bad.....and we arrived at the Pasadena Hilton around 12:45.  Ironically, the Pasadena Hilton (Los Robles and Cordova) was where TLE and I spent our wedding night about forty-three and a half years ago.  This is our first time back since then.

Around 5:30 pm TLE's other sister, Laureen, and her husband, Glenn, arrived for the reunion, and we all headed off walking down Green Street to Dog Haus Biergarten, which was recommended by my oldest daughter, Meredith.  Since we were so close to where my brother Philip lives I called him and got he and his wife, Jeannie, to meet us there for dinner.  By the way, this place gets 4.5 stars on over 1,500 reviews on Yelp, and that rating is richly deserved.  Their main fare is hotdogs, and they are amazing, but they also have hamburgers that are equally amazing.  I had the 'Old Town Dog' (bacon wrapped dog, caramelized onions, roasted jalapenos, chipolte mayo, and cotija cheese)  and TLE and Phyllis split the Kung Poa Cajun sausage dog (cajun andouille, kung pao sauce, bell peppers, green onions, water chestnuts, and peanuts).  My 'dog' was amazing, but the heat provided by the roasted jalapenos lit my mouth of fire so it took two pints to get it down (:-)....they have several craft beers on tap and we had the 'Nitro' Coffee Stout.

Left side: moi, Philip, Jeannie
Right side: Phyllis, TLE, Laureen, Glenn

We had a great time sitting outside, which, by the way, is nicely heated, although the temperatures on this evening were quite pleasant outside.  The walk to and fro was about 1/2 mile each way from the hotel.  In fact, there are literally dozens of good restaurants in the Old Town Pasadena area near the hotel which are within walking distance!

So, our first day in Pasadena is in the books, and the main festivities of the reunion begin Friday.....for me the best part is already happening....spending time with family.

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

'Runaround Sue'

Wednesday was a day for running around.......but, first there was a little matter of morning nourishment.  Our first stop was Simple Simon's Bakery & Bistro in the 'mall' next to the Mission Inn.  Simple Simon's has been a favorite of ours ever since we began to live full time in the Newell four years ago.  Whenever we are in town we must visit there at least one time.......and one cup of their amazing coffee is simply not sufficient.  They bake everything on premises, and personally I like their bagels.....TLE usually gets a scone.



The next stop on our list of many, many stops this day was the local car wash......our poor Beetle hasn't had a proper washing since early November when we first arrived in Sparks, NV to work at Amazon.  She has been mostly outdoors during that time in pretty harsh environments, and really needed that $20 spa date at Main Street Car Wash......

Then it was my turn.....my last haircut was just before Sharon's wedding, and it was really only a trim, so I was getting pretty shaggy.....10 am was the perfect time to arrive at Supercuts.....I was able to walk right in and sit in the stylist's chair.  While I got my ears lowered TLE went across the street to the Goodwill to browse....by the time I got there she had found a couple pair of shorts.....you can never have too many pairs of shorts.....seriously....I know.

Then it was off to the bank to deposit our just received IRS refund for 2013......I had indicated on my tax return that the refund should be direct deposited, but for some reason they chose to mail it.  My bank will not let me scan tax refund checks in remotely and deposit them, so thankfully we got the check when we were near our bank!  On a side note, has anyone else noticed that the IRS seems even more inefficient these past few years than they usually are?  I've gotten mail from them the past two years asking for information that was clearly provided in my original tax return.  Of course, our mail is always chasing us, so responding to them each time to point out they already had the information they were requesting took longer than it would have had we been in a fixed location, thereby delaying our refunds.

Next up was Trader Joe's to resupply our wine and scotch inventories, and then it was over to the Ontario Mills to visit my watch maker guy to get new batteries in one of my Seiko watches, and one of TLE's.  I also needed to leave one of my Seiko Automatic watches to be cleaned and serviced.

I have been looking for one of my favorite beers (Samuel Smith's Organic Chocolate Stout) ever since we left Cape Blanco and was hoping the local BevMo (Beverages and More) in Rancho Cucamonga might have it, and SCORE!  They had just 3 bottles in stock so I cleaned them out.  



And then, since we were soooo close to my son's (Chris) office we stopped in to see him one more time and get a couple more hugs, and then headed up to another favorite spot of ours......Rubio's for another fix of their amazing fish tacos before visiting one of our favorite Goodwill stores just a few blocks away.  I rarely ever leave this store without finding one, or two things I can't live without.  In this case I found a nice rain jacket (it will be raining this weekend, and I forgot to bring something somewhat waterproof) for $4.99, and another gray t-shirt.  TLE found another sleeveless blouse.

By the time we finished at Goodwill it was closing in on 3 pm and time to head for the barn.....SoCal traffic begins to get dicey after 2 pm, so we were pushing our luck.  By the time we hit HWY 60 there was an accident that backed up traffic for two miles, but finally we got passed that and were back to Kate's home by 3:30.

We were joined by three of our children (Tim, Sharon and Meredith) for dinner at Kate's, and as usual, there were at least 4 conversations going on at all times.  Our brief two day reunion with our kids is fast coming to an end, and Thursday we will be heading into Pasadena for TLE's reunion festivities.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Rewind...

We've been gone from SoCal for just over a month as of Tuesday, and it was time to return, if only for a week.  The RV park where we resided the past two days has two storage areas, and one of them (the one just a few hundred yards from our site) has 30 amp electrical hookups available.  As you know we do have solar panels, but the next 8 days will have a lot of cloudiness and rain in the Cottonwood/Camp Verde region, so since we were not going to shut the coach down (empty and turn off the fridge, etc.) the odds were the batteries would be not be at 100% when we returned.  The only way to guaranty our batteries would be close to 100% would be to shut everything down, and completely isolate all four batteries.  We have four switches that can be turned off to accomplish just that.  However, for $37 we were able to plug the coach in for 8 days while we are gone, and leave the DVR on so when we return we will have a fridge full of food, fully charged batteries, and all of our favorite shows recorded.

After the deluge of the prior 36 hours we had mostly clear blue skies Tuesday morning with a little snow showing itself on the nearby mountains.


We had the coach and trailer tucked away in the storage yard by 9:50 am, and were on our way back to SoCal for TLE's college reunion.  The 399 mile drive was completely uneventful, and even with the time change we arrived in Riverside just after 3:30 pm.  TLE and I took turns driving 100 miles at a time to break up the drive....in all we stopped three times to use the restroom (we're old and drink too much coffee), once for fuel where we also had lunch.

Since the reunion does not start until Friday we will be spending a couple of days at my daughter's home in Riverside before continuing on to Pasadena on Thursday afternoon.  Of course, this gives us an opportunity to see all of our kids, and get a bunch more hugs and kisses thrown in for good measure.

We managed to get all five kids, their significant others (as the case may be), and a couple of grandkids to all meet at Tio's Tacos on Mission Inn Ave. in Riverside at 6:30.  Most of their seating is outdoors (the indoors just has a few booths that would only seat 4 each) and we had a party of 14 so we ate outside on the patio.  I was concerned that it might be too cool outside, but this is SoCal, right?  It ended up being just fine until about 8 pm when it began to cool off quickly so we bid adieu to all, involving many more hugs, and headed for home .

La Familia

As I look at this picture I am struck by the fact that without Elaine and I the rest of this picture of all these happy people would not exist.  Our hearts are full, our smiles are large, and we know we are blessed beyond measure.

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ride Captain Ride....

 We spent Monday riding out the rain which came in waves all day long and into the early evening.  The forecasters were correct, and we were correct to move to our present location.  There is no doubt in my mind that those who stayed up on the red clay and tried to leave yesterday, or will be trying to leave today will be in one muddy mess.

One thing I was remiss in not reporting a couple of days ago I will report now......a few days ago TLE began to complain of a 'smell' in the kitchen area....personally I wasn't picking up on a 'smell'......she thought it was the fridge so she put a bowl of baking soda in to absorb the 'smell'.  Then she began to think that maybe we were getting the 'smell' from the gray tank, or that something was leaking under the kitchen sink.  I was still not picking up on the 'smell', but suggested pouring some dish soap down each drain (bath, shower, and kitchen sink) and then flushing it into the gray tank with super hot water to attack the mystery 'smell' that I was still not smelling.  So we did that, but finally by Sunday afternoon I was finally picking up on the 'smell'......so, it only took my sniffer 3 days to smell what TLE was smelling 3 days prior.  

Suddenly it occurred to me that we had left one mouse trap 'active' on the floor under the oven just in case we had missed any mice from our Cape Blanco sojourn.  It was over two months ago that we caught the last mouse, and it didn't seem likely there would be one after so long, but then again we have been 'boondocking' for the past 10 days, so who knows, right?  Well, we got out the flashlight, and pulled the large pan drawer out to see what we could see......what do you know?  In the forgotten mouse trap was a small dead mouse that had obviously been aging for the past 3-4 days!  As soon as it was disposed of the 'smell' began to abate.

Right after the last incident I had put dryer sheets in all the basement areas (water, storage, etc.) and forgot about them.  Dryer sheets to have a life expectancy when it comes to discouraging rodent incursion, so I guess it's time to re-deploy some more dryer sheets pronto!

We spent the day getting ready for our trip to TLE's college reunion in Pasadena.....trying to decide how much 'stuff' to cram into the small VW Beetle.....hmmm....I think TLE is still deciding even as I write.  When we weren't packing we were reading and listening to rain on the roof, and being thankful we had decided to stay here for two nights while the storm passes.

Nothing else to report for Monday.....I'll continue to post about our journey back in time to TLE's reunion.  There will be some people there she has not seen in over 40 years.


Better weather, and fewer neighbors this morning!

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Being proactive......

Our written in Jello plan had been to stay in our 'boondock' site on NFS land until Monday, then move down the hill into the Thousand Trails RV park overnight to recharge our batteries, dump our tanks, and then put the rig in storage there Tuesday morning while we drive back to SoCal for TLE's college reunion in Pasadena.  However, Mr. Jello saw what we were planning and sent a big rain storm to melt the Jello.  

Where we were parked is all hard as a rock red clay 99% of the time, but add a little water to it and suddenly you have red, sticky, clingy mud.  When we arrived 10 days prior we saw the evidence remaining from the last rain storm of deep furrows dug by RV's trying to move out during, and after the storm, so preferring not to get stuck in the mud, or even deal with the mess of trying to extricate ourselves from it on Monday we moved up our moving date to Sunday afternoon.

Check in time at this Thousand Trails park is Noon, and we were at the gate by 12:05 pm checking in.  At this park they do not assign spots when you call for a reservation....they just guaranty you will have a spot with full hookups that will fit your rig.  We were able to use our Passport America card to get the daily price down to $22 from $44, which gives us full hookups with 30 amp.....we've been living on zero hookups, and zero amps for 10 days, so we're happy with 30....for $4 more per day we could have had 50 amps.  We really haven't had 50 amp service since we left Rancho Jurupa January 21st.

We were in our site and hooked up by 1 pm, and by 2 pm TLE was headed over to the laundry to do a big wash.....I stayed behind to refill the fresh water tank, and dump the black tank, which had only gotten to 2/3's full over the 10 days we were 'boondocking'.  Our batteries were down to 73% Sunday morning which is not really bad after 10 days.  Had we stayed put in our 'boondock' site there is no doubt we would have been running the big generator Sunday and Monday due to the heavy cloud cover and rain to bring the batteries back up.  We still had just under 100 gallons of fresh water left.  So, over all, our first extended 'boondocking' experience was successful.  We lived well within our electrical means, and had enough black tank capacity left to go several more days.  Fresh water wise we could have gone 20 more days easily.


The rain eventually made its appearance around 10 pm Sunday night, and it rained steadily all night long, and is still coming down as I write.  Of course, the one thing you come to appreciate about 'boondocking' is the big, long, uninterrupted view, and not looking out your window and seeing two other RV's within 15 feet of you.....


The rain is supposed to stop this evening, and we will pull out of our site Tuesday morning, put the coach and trailer in storage, and be on our way to SoCal for a week.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Until Next Time

Real Saturday was a day for saying 'until next time' to our SoCal friends (Paul, Mark, Ryan, Richie, Gloria, Little Richie, John and Deana).  I chose not to ride Saturday.....a man has got to know his limitations, and I am one guy who has learned to know his limitations through trial and error over the years.  The first step is to admit you are not 19 anymore.....I finally reached that level of awareness in 1999 at age 50 when I crashed on my mountain bike at 30 mph breaking my left clavicle.  Prior to that time I had survived a number of serious MTB crashes with minor bruises and scrapes, and a couple of times  with major road rash, but nothing broken.  Over a ten year span I broke 3 bike helmets, but until that fateful day in early summer of 1999 I had not paid a serious enough price to make me slow down.

Even though the clavicle break was quite bad, I escaped without surgery, but with a stern warning from my orthopedist that if I broke it again there would be surgery, and maybe no more mountain bike riding. Well, that got my attention......that was just shy of 16 years ago.  There is a saying among mountain bikers, and motorcyclists....."There are two kinds of riders.....those who have crashed, and those who will".  Of course until that day arrives you think you will never be in the first category, but eventually your day comes and you must pay the piper.

At any rate, I know when my riding ability is being stretched to the breaking point, and I felt that way at the end of our Friday ride.....I managed to escape with a couple of minor falls....the second one where I came away with a few prickly pear stickers in my right leg......no blood shed, and nothing broken, so I figured I would just enjoy the memory of a good day of riding and meet up with my friends later in the day for lunch and perhaps dinner.

TLE and I decided to drive into Sedona Saturday via HWY 179 off of I-17......until I drove that way Friday to meet up with my friends I had no idea how much more scenic it is than HWY 89A, which is how we usually drive to Sedona from our present location.  The hassle with 179 occurs when you reach the small town of Oak Creek, about 5 miles south of downtown Sedona......you must pass through one 'roundabout' after another, and let's face it......most Americans do not understand the fine art of moving through one of these without stopping.  On rare occasions you have to stop, but the key is to keep your car moving.  Well, here in the Oak Creek/Sedona area the 'roundabouts' are more like four way stops, and it takes an inordinate amount of time to drive the 5 miles from Oak Creek to Sedona.  For those of you who have spent some time driving through 'roundabouts' you know how to do it, but it is an acquired taste.  I have found that the 'roundabouts' with two lanes entering and exiting work the best.....the ones with a single lane like the ones on 179 do not work well with a lot of traffic.

We enjoyed the drive into Sedona and met our friends at the Red Planet Diner on 89A....by the time we wended our way through all the 'roundabouts' they had already finished lunch, so TLE and I just ordered a Caesar Salad to split and chatted with the guys for 30 minutes, or so before agreeing to meet them again that evening at 6 at one of our favorite funky micro breweries, Oak Creek Brewing Company.



TLE and I arrived about 5:30 and ordered a flight of their brews.......their 'flight' is essentially every one of their beers on tap at that time, so we got nine 3 ounce glasses to sample.  Last year when we were here I had their 'Prosperity Porter' and after tasting all nine of their offerings was not dissuaded from going back to it again.  They do not serve food (there is, however, an ample supply of freshly popped popcorn, and peanuts in the shell), but there is a little hot dog stand in the hallway before you enter the brewery where you can buy an amazing hot dog from Simon's Hot Dogs.  Just like last year I ordered the 'Sonoran Cousin' hot dog....OMG.  TLE had the Bratwurst hot dog.




In all we had 10 people for dinner, and had a great time talking and sampling brews.  TLE and I headed for home about 8:30, arriving back at the coach just before 9 pm.  Our friends will begin their journey back to their workaday lives sometime Sunday morning, and we will still be here enjoying the weather and the views!

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Sedona MTB

It begins to get 'light' about 7 am out here in 'boondock' land, and I have gotten into the habit of staying in bed until I can open the curtains and light the interior naturally, thereby avoiding the use of electricity.  Friday was not one of those days......my mountain bike friends from SoCal had arrived Thursday night in Sedona to ride the surrounding trails for two days, and I had decided to join them for at least one day, but that meant I had to be at their hotel in Oak Creek (on the south side of Sedona on HWY 179) by 8 am.  This, in turn, meant I needed to leave our campsite by 7:15 am for the 40 minute drive, which meant I had to get up at the very indecent hour of 5:30.

I arrived shortly before 8 and true to form we were riding a block up the street shortly thereafter to start our ride.  These Sedona trails are a lot different from what we ride in SoCal.....a lot of loose rock to ride over, and a lot of what is called 'slick rock'.  It took me a while to get used to it, but ultimately I did and had a lot of fun.  As I have mentioned before these guys are in their 30's, 40's and 50's, and they still ride once, or twice a week.......I'm the old guy of the group, and if I get out on my mountain bike once, or twice a month now it is unusual....nevertheless, I held my own.

The following pictures from our ride are in no particular order.......


Cook chapel built into the surrounding rock formation

Taking a break at 'Submarine Rock'....Sedona style bike rack....:-)

Richie and I

Left to right-back: John and Paul
Left to right-front: Ryan, Richie, moi and Mark


In all I rode just over 16 miles on 5th Saturday, and this morning my body is feeling it, but I would have traded that day for anything.  The views were just stunning, and my poor photography barely does a small amount of justice to what we saw.  After we finished our ride we stopped off at Red Rock Cafe for lunch.....Yelp gives them 4 stars on 244 reviews, and I will have to agree.  Around 2pm I bid farewell to my friends and began the drive 'home'.

Friday was overcast, and the house batteries were down to 83% by the time I left for my bike ride.  I thought about setting up the Honda generator for TLE to turn on after I left, but I didn't have time.  When I called TLE at 11 they (batteries) were down to 81%, but were beginning to charge a little according to the Blue Sky monitor.  By the time I arrived home at 3 they were only back to 83%, so I plugged in the Honda 1000 watt generator, and ran it for three hours getting them back to 90% before I shut 'er down for the night.  Real Saturday promises to be cloudless so we should be able, without the use of a generator, to get back into the 90 percentile range then.

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Crema & Junk

Fourth Saturday dawned clear and calm......just another typical day here in the high desert near Cottonwood, AZ.  We both had a hankering for some al fresco dining, which is not hard to come by in this part of the country.  Any eating establishment which cannot boast outdoor dining is the exception to the rule.  Last year we had lunch at a funky place in Old Town Cottonwood called 'Red Rooster', and we both loved it.  One thing TLE is good at is kind of nudging me outside my comfort zone.  In my 'zone' eating at a restaurant I like over and over again is the norm.  Why take a chance on a new place you don't know even if the reviews are good?  I suggested we return to the 'Red Rooster', and she immediately replied there were a lot of good, interesting places to eat in Cottonwood, and she would like to try another.  Eventually she came up with a place called 'Crema Cafe' just down the street from 'Red Rooster'.  She went on to say they had outdoor dining, and great coffee according to the reviews so I reluctantly agreed.

We decided to head into Cottonwood just before Noon to have lunch.....I might add that since we arrived in the Cottonwood area we have been eating just two meals a day.....usually a late breakfast/early lunch, and then dinner around 6.  We arrived in Cottonwood about 12:15, found a parking spot in the public parking area at the end of the street, and walked back to 'Crema'.  Well, their outdoor dining area is just what we like, and they serve breakfast all day....YAY!



I ordered their Classic Egg and Toast plate (steamed eggs, bacon, avocado, salsa, toast), and TLE ordered one of their 'Signature Breakfast Sandwiches with red-chile-glazed bacon, egg, tomato and cheddar.  The coffee came in large, pre-heated mugs, and was every bit as good as the reviews had promised.  We sat outside enjoying the early afternoon sun until almost 1:30 before beginning our walk around town.....first up was Larry's Antiques....as I mentioned in a past earlier this week, this is one of my favorite junk shops anywhere....they have tonnage, and their prices are reasonable.  TLE found a 'new' relish dish to replace one that had been broken.


After we finished at 'Larry's' we continued on around the old town area checking out other thrift and antique shops, finally arriving back at the car around 2:30.  We made stops at Home Depot (new light bulb for our 4 D Cell Maglite), at Fry's for 'small shopping', and then at Walmart for a couple of things arriving back home by 3:30 to finish out the afternoon sitting outside reading and once again enjoying the weather and views.


We enjoyed a subtle setting of the sun, then went inside for the night......as promised I was reprised with another round of TLE's pollo asado enchiladas......is it possible they were better the second night?

When we are 'boondocking' we don't put out all our other lights as they eat up precious power, but we do put out the solar powered malibu lights, and sometimes I turn on the LED lights under the coach.


We finished off the evening watching 'Blacklist' and 'Elementary'......Friday I meet up with my mountain bike buddies for a couple of days of mountain biking around Sedona....stay tuned for a report!

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Sites unseen.....

For me it is sometimes too easy to feel compelled to go site seeing whenever we find ourselves in a location known for gorgeous scenery.  I find myself checking out all the sites online to see in a given area, such as where we are situated right now.  Then I begin to ask myself, "self, why don't you just enjoy being where you are right now?".  That, of course, is the dichotomy we face on a daily basis when we are in places like this. 

We make a point of finding places that have the "it" factor when we are are 'boondocking'.  The "it" factor being loosely defined as a place with a good view, and interesting surroundings.  It's like pornography....hard to define, but I know it when I see it.  So, if we have succeeded in finding a place with the "it" factor, why spend a lot of time running around site seeing, when there are sites to see right where we are at?

After all, how many free places can you 'boondock' where you get to see hot air balloons passing overhead on almost a daily basis? 


Or have this spectacular view of the Mogollon Rim and the Verde Valley right outside your door?  So, I wrote the preceding to just say this.......we spent the greater part of Wednesday just enjoying the million dollar views where we are living.  No need to drive anywhere for the view we already have right here.


There is something therapeutic about long views combined with letting the warmth of the sun soak deep into your being......or the the amazing quiet in this spot......a quiet so penetrating you find your self whispering.

Of course, then there is great food to accompany the view........around 5 I turned on the Sea-B-Que so I could grill the pollo asado for the amazing chicken enchiladas TLE prepared for our dining pleasure......replete with avocados, and this amazing white sauce.  I cherished every bite, and lucky me......there will be some more tonight!



To cap off the evening we watched the 2 hour series finale of the 'Mentalist'.......it ended just as it should have, and I thank the writers for making it so.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Water witch.....

  Early Tuesday morning the temperatures bottomed out at 32 degrees.....how long it was there I don't know.  We don't sleep with heaters running.....electrical, or gas.  As a result it can get quite cold inside the coach, and at 53 degrees it was.   That is the nature of the high desert where we are currently situated.  Comfortably warm during the day, and freezing at night.

After writing my blog post about Monday I went outside with my book and pretty much spent all day sitting in the warm sun reading, and enjoying the long views towards the Mogollon Rim.  This 'rim' forms the southern boundary of the Colorado Plateau and is some 4,000' higher in elevation that the land at its base.



Looking north toward the Mogollon Rim

I think I have mentioned previously that we are at about 3,500 feet elevation at our current location.  The thing I love best about this area is the long, unobstructed views in every direction.  We are totally off the grid here......no water source, no electrical plug, no sewer.  So, after 5 days 'boondocking' how are we doing water wise?

We came in with 150 gallons of fresh water (zero gallons in the gray, and 1 gallon in the black) and are down to 125 gallons half way through our 10 day stay here, so we are using a miserly 5 gallons per day to flush our toilet, take the odd shower, wash dishes, etc......that is 2.5 gallons per person, per day.....less than half of that goes through the toilet into the black tank.   To give you a little perspective the average American living in a 'sticks and bricks' home uses between 80 and 100 gallons of water per day.   How do we get by using so little?  Here is what we have learned......

Identify & monitor water usage: 
  • We installed an RO system a few years ago prior to beginning our travels.  For every gallon of purified water it produces there is at least 1 gallon of 'waste' water produced.  When we 'boondock' we turn off the RO system.  Once we know we will be without a city water source for an extended period of time we begin stock piling purified water.  TLE saves our milk cartons, cleans them thoroughly, and fills them with purified water from the RO system.  Naturally, living in an RV we have a limited amount of space to store this pre-filtered water, and eventually we will run out of it.  To guaranty a continuous source of purified water we also use a 'Zero Water Filter' system to supplement our purified water supply as needed.


'Zero Water Filter'
  • It's easy to blow through a lot of water unless you are aware of how much you are using.  To help us monitor our water usage in the kitchen we put a standard Rubbermaid wash basin in one of the sinks.  Once we are finished with this water then we take the basin outside and dump it in the desert.

 Rubbermaid wash basin
  • We always keep a little water in the bottom of our Dometic toilet to keep the gasket from drying out.  Instead of using the flush pedal to put water in after using the toilet we put water in a small cup on the bathroom sink and when done using the toilet we pour just enough in to cover the rubber gasket.  Using the flush pedal invariably puts way more water in than you need for this purpose, so using the cup to put the water in helps you minimize water usage for this purpose.  The whole key to how long you can 'boondock' is how much water you put into your black tank each day.  If we start out with an empty black tank, and can keep the amount of water going into the black tank at, or under 2 gallons per day we can go up to 20 days.

Just enough to cover the gasket
  • When showering we turn the shower on to wet ourselves down, then turn it off to soap up, and then turn it back on to rinse off.  Combined with using a Oxegenics showerhead we can take a shower using around 1/2 gallon of water, or less each.  Naturally, we don't take a shower every day when we are 'boondocking'.  It helps that we are 'boondocking' in a quite arid part of the country......it would be tougher in the deep south with higher humidity, no doubt.

Oxygenics showerhead

I hope the foregoing helps you a little bit in your quest to keep your water footprint small while 'boondocking'.

As I mentioned previously, we spent a good portion of the day outside reading and enjoying the views.  Around 3 pm TLE decided to take a hike down the dirt road to the Verde River and back up.....2 miles round trip, so I decided to keep her company by riding mountain bike down and up 3 times.  When I passed her going down for the 3rd time I knew she was going to make it back to the top before I finished my third 'lap', and she did.

Around 5:15 I turned on the Sea-B-Que to grill some filets, and by 5:45 we were dining on the finished product.

The 'Sea-B-Que'

I can still taste that medium rare filet mignon!

Nicely presented TLE!

We watched NCIS, NCIS N.O., and Person of Interest and were in bed a little after midnight!  Oh, by the way, we managed to get our batteries back to 100% Tuesday using only the solar panels.......nothing like a clear, coolish day to get that done!

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Sedona and 'first Saturday'......NOT!

Monday started off kind of slow, but finally around 11:30 we decided to drive into Sedona for the afternoon.  Normally I would call Monday first Saturday, but we both forgot something important about this particular Monday, which would have immediately disqualified it from being called first Saturday.......

Have you ever wondered where the name 'Sedona' came from?  According to AZCentral.com Sedona was the name of the first postmaster's wife whose full name was Sedona Schnebly.....somehow Schnebly just does not seem to go with Sedona.  Some speculate it means expensive restaurants, spas, and hotels, and I would have to agree, especially on this St. Valentine's weekend.....even the thrift shops were pricey!  Well whatever the meaning I cannot imagine another name that would remotely capture the beauty of this place.

Speaking of 'beauty'....look at the gams on that lady!

Everywhere one turns in and around Sedona is another 'picture postcard' view.  On a clear day like Monday the colors just popped.

We decided to take the bikes into Sedona, find a place to park, and then just ride around seeing everything along the main drag.  Before we got into town proper we took a short detour to Red Rock State Park.....interesting, but way over priced at $10/person.  There are so many places to hike and/or bike that are free around the area that paying $20 for just a view seems a little over the top.  This did not seem to stop the four Prevost passenger buses crammed full of young Chinese tourists from forking over their money.  When we arrived in the park it was literally swarming with a few hundred of these kids, but within a few minutes they were back on their buses headed off to another overpriced adventure.

Red Rocks State Park


 The 'free' views

We found a parking spot a the local Walgreen's, unloaded the bikes and began riding.  Of course, we had both forgotten that this past weekend was not only Valentine's weekend, but was also President's Day weekend........the triple dog whammy.......and the town was extremely crowded with above average vehicle and pedestrian traffic.  So, in short, this particular Monday bore no resemblance to what we have come to define 'first Saturday'.

We had planned to stop into Oak Creek Brewing Company  (one of our favorites from last year) for a latish lunch, and some brews, but they did not open until 4 pm......nuts!  Around 2 pm I was getting hungry, and figured if we were going to eat a late lunch we might as well do it in a place with a view.  Open Range Grill and Tavern offered such a view....we would have sat outside, but there was long waiting list for those tables.  On the positive side they did have one of my favorite Oak Creek brews on tap.....Oak Creek Amber, so I ordered a pint of that and a plate of Chicken Quesadilla's.....TLE was not too hungry and just ordered a bowl of their Corn Chowder, which she thoroughly enjoyed.  I thought the quesadilla's were quite good, as well as the service, but Yelp only gives this place 2.5 stars.  I would give them at least 3.5, but that's just me.

The view from our lunch spot

As we rode back to pick up our car I couldn't help but stop and take more pictures while I waited for TLE to catch up......we had to climb a 1 mile hill at about 5% grade to get back to Walgreen's.....wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.


We were home by 5 after making a few stops in Cottonwood for a few miscellaneous items such as a color ink cartridge for our HP printer/scanner, two extra keys for that cool lock I got at the Wittmann flea market a few weeks ago (Ace Hardware), & some AA batteries.

The sun was dipping below the local mountains as we unpacked, and I was able to capture a pretty good picture of our 4th Cottonwood sunset.


Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Learning curves.....

As with most things in life there is a learning curve when it comes to 'boondocking', or living without the convenience of full hookups, if you will.  When you decide to live off the grid you must change your mindset, and be vigilant about your use of your on board resources (water, electric and sewer).  Being 'plugged in' requires no thought, and no real change in the way you live, but disconnecting those water, electrical and sewer umbilical cords changes everything.  

Prior to our launch into this nomadic lifestyle in February of 2012 we spent a lot of time discussing, and thinking what our nomadic experience would look like.  There is something somewhat romantic about the concept of living off the grid......especially being energy independent, however, there are some upfront costs involved.   I contacted a number of people who were already doing what we wanted to do for recommendations on whom to use for our solar installation.  Everyone we contacted recommended AM Solar out of Springfield, OR.  I went to their website and found they had a certified mobile installer who spent part of the year in SoCal near Temecula, CA, so I contacted Mike and Lisa Sylvester of The RV Guy, Inc.  They came to visit us at Rancho Jurupa Regional Park on December 19, 2011 to inspect our coach, determine how to run the cabling, and finally, how many watts we would need for our application.  Mike recommended starting out with two 150 watt panels with the possibility of adding one, or two more at a later date depending on our needs.  On February 1st, our first official day as nomads we journeyed down to Mike and Lisa's location near Temecula, CA and the installation began (I wrote about that experience here).  Our total costs for panels, cabling, charge controllers/monitors and labor came to just under $2,600.  The labor was about half that cost.  Could we have done it ourselves.....probably.....but it would have taken a couple of weeks, and a lot of knowledge we did not have at the time.

Just after the completion of the installation

It took the better part of two days for them to complete the installation, but by February 3rd we had solar power.  That was the easy part.

For the next two years we rarely relied upon our solar installation as we spent a lot of that time on the east coast where access to consistent sun, and 'boondocking' opportunities are more difficult to come across.  We used the solar panels mostly when we were dry camping in Walmart, Lowes, or Cracker Barrel parking lots for one, or two days at at time.  It really wasn't until last year in March that we purposefully decided to 'boondock' at the same location we find ourselves at this February.

Our first night  of REAL 'boondocking' almost a year ago

When we chose our 'boondock' site almost a year ago we chose to park the coach facing due west, and then tilted the solar panels to face due south.  We figured we we get the most sun exposure on our solar panels as the sun moved across the sky from east to west, and it worked pretty well, so when we returned this year we found a site which gave us the same ability to have the front of the coach facing due west.  In addition to giving us maximum sun exposure, facing west also keeps the sun off the passenger side of the coach, which is where our refrigerator is located, thus making it easier to regulate the internal temperature.  A final bonus is we really have no sun blasting in the front windshield until late, late afternoon.

As with every RV (coach, travel trailer, 5th wheel, etc) you have a number of 12 volt 'things' that draw power all the time.....some I can 'turn off', some I can't.....in our case our 12 volt 'draw' is about 4.5 amps to 5 amps, which is distributed as follows: radio memory, refrigerator led display, black tank ionizer, Norcold refer, temperature gauge (gives fridge temp, Norcold refer temp, inside temp, outside temp, water bay temp), analog battery status, 5 separate volt/amp gauges over the driving area, the trailer if it is plugged into the coach, and a hardwired CO2 detector (very important).  We cannot turn off the temp gauge, the radio memory, the CO2 detector, the analog battery status gauge, or the volt/amp meters, but we can disconnect the trailer, turn off the Norcold refer, and turn off the black tank ionizer thereby reducing that draw down to 3.5 amps, so, essentially, my solar system has to be putting a minimum of 3.5 amps into the battery bank to negate the passive draw before it begins to charge the batteries.  With our current setup it takes until about 9:30 in the morning before we reach zero discharge and begin to see a charge going back into the batteries.  With a couple more 150 watt panels we would get to that point earlier, and be putting maximum amps back into the system earlier in the morning, and longer into the afternoon.  Those extra panels will be installed this fall after we finish our sojourn at Cape Blanco.

Tomorrow I'll write more about water conservation tips we have gradually come to embrace.  Many of them are obvious, but you still have to decide to use them.

Mid afternoon I got my mountain bike out and rode the dirt road down to the Verde River, which is about 1 mile, thereby making the return trip 1 mile up a pretty steep hill.  I did the ride down and back twice getting my heart rate and breathing rates up, and getting my legs in shape for riding some Sedona trails later this week when my mountain bike friends from SoCal drive up for the weekend.  In all the two round trips took just over 30 minutes, and I burned a little over 300 calories.

We both spent part of the afternoon reading outside......TLE also worked on her tan.......she says her legs are getting toooo white.  Once the sun dips behind the mountains around 5 pm the temp drops quickly, so we were back inside shortly thereafter.

TLE made 'stir fry' for dinner, and as usual it was exceptional!


Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Changing gears....

When we go from being 'plugged in' to 'boondocking' we must completely change our behaviors regarding the usage of water, electricity, and the generation of waste water, whether it be gray, or black.  When are 'plugged in' we have unlimited electricity, water and sewer capacity.  Even if we only have partial hookups like we did the last three weeks in Wittmann there are no worries, because we can dispose of the waste water via our macerator pump as needed.  But when you decide to 'boondock' for an extended period of time (one week, or more) the whole ballgame changes.

For those who may be wondering what the difference between 'boondocking' and 'dry camping' is let me reiterate.  To me dry camping is something you do at Walmart, or Lowe's, or Cracker Barrel.  It is usually for one night, sometimes two, but mostly overnight.  Usually you are in travel mode (repositioning).....moving every day.  There is no urgency about conserving electrical usage as the batteries will be charged up again the next day while under way (the alternator will charge your batteries back up).  The same is true for water usage....since you are moving every day there will be opportunities to add water to your fresh water tank when you stop for fuel, or at a rest stop.  The only limiting factor is the waste water situation, but even that is not critical as you will most likely be staying overnight every periodically in an RV park, or find that a lot of rest stops have sewer dumping available, so you will have an opportunity to dump your tanks if needed. 

'Boondocking' on the other hand usually involves extended stays far from services in remote, or somewhat remote areas, so every resource (water, electricity, and waste water capacity) is finite and must be rationed appropriately to match the length of stay for which you are aiming.  It is during these times you begin to realize how much water you needlessly use on a daily basis when supply is no issue, and the same goes for electricity, and waste water.

Our previous record for 'boondocking' is quite modest.......6 days.  This time we are aiming for 10 days....our biggest limiting factor is our electrical.  Right now we only have 300 watts of solar panels on our roof, and ideally we should have twice that in order to be able to pour a sufficient enough charge into the batteries to bring them close to full every day.  As it is, right now, we lose a little more ground every day, which necessitates the use of our generator every few days, or more often if it is cloudy, to bring the batteries back into the 90 percentile range each day.  The other half of our electrical system is our house batteries, which at present is represented by 2 8D flooded cell batteries.  By their very nature they are less efficient than say AGM batteries, and way less efficient than a lithium setup would be.  Our goal is to transition over the next two years to a lithium setup, and to add another 300 watts of solar panels to the roof (the solar panel upgrade will happen this fall).

So, where are we at after two days in the boondocks?  We were able to get our batteries back to 93% Saturday using only the solar panels.....I would have preferred 95%, but beggars can't be too choosy, right?  What I have right now is what I have, so we will soldier on, and make the best of what we have.  We have only used about 10 gallons of water over two days (we started with 150 gallons).

Saturday morning I was up before 6 (5:47 am).....way, way too early, but when sleep will not return and it's almost 6 am, you might as well get up and get at it.  I was in the middle of writing my blog about Friday when I noticed a hot air balloon landing a few hundred yards away from our position.....

Full 'zoom' on the phone camera

Around 10 am we decided to drive into Cottonwood to do some junking......some of our favorite junk shops are in Cottonwood (Checkered Past, and Larry's Antiques and Things).  Larry's Antiques and Things has real tonnage!  They have one of the biggest collections of license plates I have ever seen, and they even had several Canadian license plates.  I wasn't really looking for Alberta, but there it was so I snapped it up.  They had every east coast state except for the ones I still need.....Maryland and Washington D.C.

Sweet!!!

From there we headed about half way towards Sedona to check out some NFS land for a possible future 'boondock' site, but were totally disappointed in what we found.  The three spots we looked at seemed more like 'homeless' encampments.  On the other hand, we did reconfirm to ourselves that where we are right now is perfect for us!

We stopped off at Fry's to fuel up the VW, and then headed over to Walmart to do a small shopping before arriving back 'home' around 3 pm.  I spent time cleaning up around our campsite......I am at a loss why people cannot just pack out what they bring in, instead of leaving their trash in the firepit.  I think I picked up no less than 50 cigarette butts lying all around our spot, plus broken glass, burned aluminum cans, tangerine peals.....you name it.  Well, now our site is way better than when we arrived.

While TLE read a little I drove over to the nearby Thousand Trails RV park (Verde Valley) to check out their storage and to see if they had a site for one night.   We will be driving the VW back to Pasadena, CA for TLE's reunion on the 24th, so we will be staying there one night (23rd) to recharge our batteries, fill up our water tank, and dump our waste tanks, before putting the coach into storage for a week while we are gone. I was able to use our Passport America discount card to get the site for $22, and the one week storage will cost us $25....perfect!

For the rest of the afternoon I read a book sitting outside.......the view is a little distracting, and I found myself putting the book down on a regular basis just to enjoy the long, long view towards Sedona.
 

Thanks for stopping by!