Thursday, August 27, 2015

Reflections on our RV Adventure

We are now in our third day (of ten) here in Pismo Beach. The weather is glorious, as usual, high temp today will be about 80, I think. We're going to get the dogs into the car and go for a ride later, maybe to the dog-friendly Avila Beach. They deserve it; they've worked hard.

We've been on the road since early May and, really, have gotten pretty used to living like this. We could probably do it indefinitely, except for the fact that we miss our kinfolk and friends back home and will be happy to see them when we return. As of today, we will be back in Murrieta on September 9th, almost exactly four months since we left.

Everything considered, The Beast has held up pretty well. We have had no problems with the engine or the transmission, and we've had no blowouts with the tires. I've pretty much figured out how to drive the rig on the highway and have learned the tricks of maneuvering around tight spots and into truck stop gas bays. The fact that we are towing a vehicle complicates all of that, but it's something that you get used to. Other than some in-vehicle electrical issues we've had with the towing aspect, it's gone smoothly...and the Hyundai has been perfect as a runaround vehicle once we've gotten to our destination.

As I've mentioned before, the motor home has a lot of moving parts and an unbelievable amount of technology. This presents the opportunity for a million things to go wrong, from minor issues to total catastrophes. Really, we have had very few issues. We have a cracked windshield, which is probably a symptom of the leveling issue, which has since been resolved. We have a few dings and scratches. And, we had to replace a defectively-installed ceiling fan, which Giant RV will be hearing about as soon as we get home. The scariest situation was the air hose that ruptured, but we survived that, and it will probably cost us $200 out of pocket once the insurance claim is settled.

I had estimated that our fuel cost for the 3,000 mile trip would run about $1,700 (7 mpg x $4/gal), but we are probably going to spend about $1,000 (8.5 mpg x $3/gal). That's pretty good news. Actually, the fuel cost of RV'ing is an incidental cost; there are many costs, especially long-term ones. For example, the tires last 5 to 6 years. Ours are about ready for replacement, and that cost will be about $4K. The engine needs to be serviced at least once per year, and that cost is at least $1K. When this trip is finished, we will have spent maybe $6K on RV park space rental. In the future, we might reduce that by "dry camping", but, as long as Charlie's business can pay the tab, we will stay in the Class A RV parks with full hook-ups, amenties, and good location.

The coach is plenty big for the four of us. There's lots of room for the dogs to lie about, our dining room table works well for Charlie's office, and the Queen Sleep Number Bed is comfortable at night, even with Booger hogging a portion of it.

The electronics that we brought with us have worked well, including two computers, two monitors, a 4-in-1 printer/fax/scan/copier, and our Verizon WiFi mobile hot spot. The amenities inside the coach (the microwave, the range, the refrigerator, the toilet, the shower, the TV, and the HVAC system) have worked without problems. We've used our washer/drier a time or two, but don't yet know how everything works. Our friend, Steve, here in Pismo is going to give us a hands-on demo this week.

We've learned a few things about the traveling aspect of RV'ing. Although the rig can handle an all-day run from Point A to B, the four of us unanimously prefer a maximum 200 mile trip per travel day. That's maybe 4 hours plus at 55 mph. And, we really like to stay at least five days at a location so we're not constantly setting up and taking down the rig.

Now that we've done this a bit, we're getting more sophisticated in how we choose where we stay. First of all, when making reservations, we need the park representative to swear a sacred oath that good Verizon phone service is available within the park, not just at the office. We ran into a few problems on this trip in Zion and on the way to Ft. Bragg (which we canceled) when the park representative fessed up to the fact that they had no Verizon service. That's a big problem for us, since Charlie's bookkeeping business depends on Internet and cell phone access. Secondly, there a choice locations within RV parks...and you want to get one of them if you can. By reserving many months in advance, it is possible to specify a particular space. We will be doing that next year, for sure. And, thirdly, there is no need to be changing locations if you've found a winner. And, we've now got a few nice ones that we'll be putting on the regular route. We might stay for a month at one of them.

Our plan for next year is to do at least 4 months, with the final two months (July-August) on the Pacific coast just like this year. We might even consider 3 months (adding September) on the coast swing, to avoid the hot Murrieta summer weather. Our outbound itinerary (May-June) will include: Las Vegas, Flagstaff, Albuquerque, Santa Fe/Taos, Durango, Moab, Grand Junction, Golden, Deadwood, Garryowen, Butte, and Kalispell, At least, that's the plan as of now. Sometimes, things change.

Hopefully, we will remain healthy and prosperous and be able to continue this lifestyle. It's a pretty nice way to keep cool and see America.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Some Lucky Sombitches

Today we made the 180-mile milk run from Santa Cruz to Pismo Beach.  Hwy 101 pretty much all the way, good weather, no traffic, no road detours, and the rig running smooth.  Piece of cake!

...until we got to Pismo Beach, that is.

Right about the time we rounded the corner and could actually see the beautiful Pacific alarm went off on my instrument panel, alerting me about "Low Air". WTF! Now, I'm no genius, but I'm pretty certain that the "air" that we're talking about is the compressed air that runs the leveling and braking systems on this monster. The normal air pressure is about 130 PSI, and one glance told me that I had dropped to maybe 50 PSI.  Oops!  I was maybe two miles from the RV park, and the rig was still working, so I decided to limp on in. And, I made it.

After checking in, I motored over to our space with the alarm still sounding.  I turned the engine off and went behind to unhitch my Hyundai tow vehicle.  I did so and parked it, then returned to the rig and re-started its engine.  All of the sudden I heard a loud hissing sound from under the back axle, like all of the air being released from a balloon. Not a good sound. Then, when I tried to move my MH into our space, it would not budge one inch in either forward or reverse.  The brakes were locked!

We were screwed!

As Charlie and I stood there petrified, a nice guy walked up.  His name was Steve, he had on a NAPA baseball cap and a NASCAR tee shirt, and he was here to help.  Actually, he owns a Monaco MH and was parked a few spaces away.  He took a look at the problem and said, "It's either a blown airbag or a ruptured air hose.  Either way, you can't move it because the (air} brakes are locked." Yer fucked, he thought.

So, there we were, blocking one of the streets within the RV park, with a rig that required a big truck mechanic.  But, we were we in luck; Steve was in the automotive business before he retired, just up the road in Paso Robles, about 30 miles north.  He knew a few guys, and got on the phone ASAP. Within twenty minutes, we had found a mechanic and our savior was on his way. We hoped.

Steve told me that we were very lucky that this problem had happened where it did. If we'd lost air as we were flying down Highway 101 at 55 MPH, the brakes would have locked, the rig would have gone into a dramatic skid, and we'd have been lucky to control it. Could have been a messy accident. Yipes! At a minimum, we'd have been looking at a $1,000 big rig tow charge just to get it off the highway. Plus, the charge to repair it. Plus, the inconvenience of having nowhere to stay while it was being repaired. Ugh! And, all that if we hadn't wrecked it.

As it was, we were stranded in the middle of a lane within the RV park, blocking traffic.  If the repair required any parts that needed to be ordered, we might be stuck in this spot for a day or two.  Oh, Man, what a bummer!

Finally, the mechanic "Ryan" arrived and got under The Beast. To say that we were anxious would be an understatement.  The $$ meter was running in my head. After the inspection, Ryan announced that the air hose had ruptured...and it was something that he could repair on the spot.  Thank You, Jesus! Ryan also checked out our air bags and reported that they were in good shape.  That was great news, because we'd been having issues with the air leveling system during our trip. Ryan said that it was possible that the air hose had developed a small leak, causing the leveling system to malfunction, and then, today, the leak had ruptured entirely.  He said that the air line repair might fix the leveling issue,

What a great young man, that Ryan.  He finished in less than one hour, repaired the air hose (which fixed the leveling problem!!!!!!), which released the brakes, and we were home free.  He also tidied up another item in the engine compartment (exhaust connection to turbocharger) sufficient to get us home to our ace diesel mechanic, Jesus Serrano.  Total charge was $445, which included two-way trip (30 miles each way) and emergency call-out.  We were elated, and think that we can recover a lot of this expense through our maintenance insurance.  We're sure going to try!!!

Anyway, considering that we could have been wrecked or stranded on Highway 101, the day ended on a very positive note.  We now have ten days to lick our wounds here in beautiful Pismo Beach, sunny with air temp...72 degrees at 6:00 p.m.

Honey, would you please bring me another Valium and refill my Margarita?

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Great Time in Santa Cruz!

Tomorrow we take this road show down 101 to Pismo Beach.  Hopefully, it will be a continuation of the nice time we had here in the Santa Cruz area.

We had kinfolk here in this area, so Charlie had told her clients not to bug her for this week. Surprisingly, they left her alone! So, she finally got her week of "vacation".

Last Friday night, we enjoyed a nice pizza party at Cousin Jim Duggan's home in Scott's Valley. Charlie's cousin Jack Duggan was also there, as was his sister, Charlie's cousin Joann.  Charlie had a great time reminiscing with her cousins and getting some girl time with Jim's wife Barb. She is a corporate attorney with Hewlett Packard (HP) in Silicon Valley.  Barb and Charlie get along real good, so much that...Charlie wants to move here!!

Jim lent me a 35-film treasure chest of Clint Eastwood movies so that Charlie and I could re-watch the oldie, "Sudden Impact" that was shot in Santa Cruz many moons ago. A lot of the movie takes place in places around town that my brother and I used to frequent back in 1959, like the wharf, the beach, the fun zone (the amusement park), etc.  The fun zone back then had a great roller coaster and a carousel on which you reached out and grabbed a ring, then threw it toward a clown's mouth. Great fun! In the movie, Clint dispatches the bad guy by shooting his ass as he stands atop the highest point of the roller coaster, and then the miscreant falls through the roof, impaling himself on a "unicorn" horse in the carousel ride.  Wow, what a fall!  Except that (as I pointed out to Charlie) the roller coaster is maybe 100 yards south of the carousel.  There must have been a strong wind that day...

Today, I had a chance to drop by Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, which is, essentially, right across the river from this RV park. My brother and I spent a bunch of time in the State Park back in the day, shooting BB guns, playing with matches, and getting dosed with poison oak. I don't think we ever paid to get into the place; today, I had to fork over $9 for parking!

Henry Cowell is a miniature version of the Humboldt Redwoods.  There is a short loop trail that takes the visitor among and around a variety of specimen, old growth Coast Redwoods.  It's beautiful in there.

Near the entrance to the loop trail there is a cross-section of a large redwood trunk that has been measured (by growth rings) to be 2.200 years old. There are markers placed on the cross-section to indicate historical events in the life of the tree, which started out as a seed about the size of an oatmeal flake. This tree was sprouting when Romans road chariots around the Circus Maximus.

The trees in the Humboldt Redwoods are generally larger that the ones in the Henry Cowell, but there are many good sized ones here. The largest in this grove is called "The Giant"...17ft wide at the base and 270 ft tall.

There are other very large and unusual trees in this grove. There was a fire here 100 years ago, and many of the trunks are scorched or burned out, yet the trees were able to survive and thrive.  This one is 250 feet tall and healthy.

This burned out base was reputedly used as an evening's shelter for the "Pathfinder"General John C. Fremont in 1846.
In this grove, I noticed a number of peculiar phenomena, like redwood trees with large branches, leaning trees, enormous burls, and clumps of giant trees appearing to grow from one root ball.

The base of this tree, which has sprouted ten individual redwoods, some of which are 150 feet tall, is 24 feet in diameter!!

By comparison, this individual tree has a width of 17 feet across at its base. All of this is very hard to fathom, particularly by a guy from Southern California, where a large oak tree might be 7 to 8 foot diameter.
Probably the most amazing part of these  redwood groves is that there is virtually no sound here, leaving the visitor a chance to contemplate one of nature's greatest creations with no people on cellphones, no kids crying, and no boomboxes blaring.  Pretty cool.

The whole community of Felton is laid-back, beautiful, and peaceful.  No wonder Charlie likes it here. I know Terry and I loved it back in the day. But, as I've mentioned to Charlie, it rains like a monsoon here in the winter, and it's cold, and summers can get pretty warm.  And, not to forget, there are Sasquatch roaming these woods.

Be that as it may, it's been nice here.  Temperatures in the 70's, good food and drink, not much work distraction for my wife, we've had the time to read several books, and the dogs have really enjoyed the woodsy smells and the sunshine.  Life doesn't get much better.

On to Pismo!

Yesterday, Jim, Barb, Charlie and I drove down to the beach and had dinner at a nice Mexican restaurant. On the way home, we all talked about real estate in the area, and the fact that we will be coming back next year to look around. (Today I booked our Santa Cruz stopover for next year...August 19 through 25.)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Deja Vu All Over Again

We are now in Felton, California, which is located in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I lived here for a short time back in 1959-60 (?) when my father had a short fling with an automotive business in Santa Cruz. My grandparents lived just up river from Felton in Ben Lomond for many years.

The Santa Cruz Redwoods RV Resort where we are staying is south of Felton on Highway 9, maybe a quarter mile or so past the entrance to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. The RV park is carved out of a redwood grove and is very beautiful and peaceful. The old growth trees were logged off about 150 years ago (to build Victorian mansions in San Francisco, I was told). So, throughout the park, there are little mini-groves of 150-ft tall redwoods surrounding the huge stump of an old growth redwood that was felled way back then.

Those "mother" stumps are maybe 15 feet in diameter; the "baby" trees surrounding their mama are maybe 36" in diameter at the base and almost the same width at 100 feet in the air.  It must have been a mighty forest back in the 1850's!

My brother Terry and I used to roam this area with BB guns.  As a matter of fact, our family lived for a time in a little subdivision called "Gold Gulch" which is located right over the fence from this RV park (which wasn't here at the time). My brother had a real good friend named Mike Rugg who lived down the street right next to the river. He was maybe a couple of years older than me, was real smart, and was quite the artist (for a teenager). He drew Vargas nudes with pencil, and they looked pretty good to a 12 year-old boy.
The San Lorenzo River runs through the valley that Felton is located in, and there are many dammed-up parts where kids like us used to swim and swing from ropes tied to trees out over the "swimming holes" to drop in from 20 feet in the air. What a life it was for a 12 year-old kid!

The river is very low now, but, back in the day it might have been six to ten feet deep right here, with trout and steelhead in the stream. On the far side of the river is the Henry Cowell Redwoods. My brother and I used to explore that area.
That's the house in Gold Gulch that we once lived in.  It was pretty small, as I recall. It had a Dutch door leading into it, and a wall heater that was pretty popular during the winter.

Yesterday, Charlie and I had dinner just up Highway 9 toward Felton in a nice place called the Oak Tree Ristorante. Joints like this did not exist in Felton back in 1959.

Today, Charlie's cousin Jim Duggan, who lives in Scotts Valley, drove over to visit with us. My brother and I used to bicycle our way up to Scotts Valley to sample the apple cider when that community was quite rural. It's now a large, yuppie-fied town, much larger than Felton. Unrecognizable to me.

As a matter of fact, almost everything in Felton has changed since 1959. The Old Covered Bridge is still there, however. It was built in 1892, and was, supposedly, the tallest covered bridge in the United States. Looks a lot like the one in that Clint Eastwood-Meryl Streep tear-jerker, doesn't it?

(Charlie says, "Doesn't this bridge make me look thin?)

There's a little park now at this spot, and it seems to be populated with drifters, hippies, and low lifes. Just up the street, at the corner of Highway 9 and Graham Hill Road, are two derelict gas stations. My grandfather Benny worked in one of those gas stations (I think it was an Arco) for many years. Everyone in town knew him.

Caddy corner from the gas station was the Village Pantry (now a hardware store), a bakery (now a real estate office), and Costella's Chalet (a restaurant/bar).  We had lunch there today; see Charlie and Jim waving. Now it is a Mexican restaurant that has nightly live entertainment. It's quite colorful inside.

The owner actually had an old menu from Costella's, probably vintage 1950's.  Check out the price for a Martini!

When we lived here, there were just a few buildings in the town. There was an A&W Root Beer joint (now gone), and a bowling alley.  It is now a thrift store.
There is also a small chiropractor's office. That used to be a MD's office; I know, because I remember when the doctor was going to give me a shot (an injection, with a NEEDLE!), and I ran out his door and continued running up Hwy 9 until my mother caught up with me.
Like I say, it's a much changed place now.  A few weird people here, too.

We passed this tourist trap on the way to our RV park.
Charlie's cousin Jim had never been in the place before, so, after lunch, we dropped in. There was all manner of stuffed Yeti look-alikes, newspapers articles, doctored photos, alleged footprints, etc. What a ripoff, I was thinking (except that there was no admission charge to this "museum").

I've heard that there is a TV "reality" show called In Search of Bigfoot.  Apparently, the guy who runs this tourist trap has been on the show because...he has actually SEEN a Bigfoot. That's the liar in the photo...the short guy with the white beard...surrounded by the other guys (the cast of the TV show) who have actually run into a Yeti.
So, I am looking around the so-called museum and a pencil drawing caught my eye. It showed a couple of cowboys posing with a Bigfoot. Something about it piqued my curiosity, so I read the caption at the bottom. It attributed the drawing to Michael Rugg.
I turned to the museum curator and mentioned that I lived here back in 1959, and knew a Mike Rugg. He said, "That's me!" And, I told him that we lived for a short while in Gold Gulch, and my brother was named Terry...and he said, "Terry Manning". Son of a Gun, what a small world!  The only guy in this entire Valley that I knew, and we run into one another. What are the odds?

Mike graduated from San Lorenzo Valley High School (as Valedictorian!) and went to Stanford, majoring in Art. He had a career in art, the music business, and now is the curator of his own little museum, where he indulges his fantasy and sells some of his art, tee shirts, etc. He moved out of Gold Gulch back in 2008..

Today was a pretty good day for us. No work for Charlie, spent the day with Cousin Jim, visited the old haunts, had a nice Mexican lunch, and met a guy who has actually seen a Bigfoot. And, despite that, remembered my brother Terry from 55 years ago!

Back to the RV park we go, to plan tomorrow's adventure and play with the kids.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Victorian Ferndale

We've been hanging out here now for a number of days, not doing much because Charlie is AGAIN having to do some additional clean-up work for the client who is trying to finalize his loan (to buy a building).  "Every time I get out, they pull me back in!"  Sounds like an Al Pacino line...

It's a nice place here in the Riverwalk RV Park.  We were here last year with our travel trailer, and we noticed the "millionaires row" (as we called it) of big expensive Class A rigs with tow cars.  Now, we in that row; go figure.

Booger likes this RV better, because she can watch television while laying on her back.
Charlie was about to have a nervous breakdown this morning (over this never-ending client project), so we decided to get the Hell out of here...and head over to Ferndale, a quaint little town maybe 6 miles away.

Ferndale is a community of about 1,500 people that was established about 150 years ago.  It was (and still is) a farming community.  However, the big economic draw nowadays is the "downtown" area, which features scores of Victorian era homes and commercial buildings. Many are nicely restored.  It is a tourist trap extraordinaire for women, and is what the City Fathers and Mothers are trying to replicate in "Old Town" Temecula. There are a bunch of shops, and there's not one consumer good on the shelves that a self-respecting man would want to purchase. If you've taken you wife to Ferndale, you're probably either: 1) really sucking up to her so you can ask her if you can buy that GUN you've been wanting; 2) feeling bad because she just told you she has CANCER; or, 3) you're actually a stupid schmuck who loves his wife and likes to give her a well-deserved DAY OFF every once in awhile. Yeah, well that was the plan, anyway.

That's something you don't see anymore...a graveyard within a few hundred yards of Main Street.  I wonder where they plant the stiffs in Murrieta and Temecula?  I can't remember seeing a cemetery anywhere in town.

Anyway, there are quite a few Victorian homes within the town site; probably more than a hundred. Here are a couple that we drove by.

An old church, too.
The downtown commercial main drag has numerous old storefronts. The street reminds me of Main Street in Disneyland when you first walk into the place. Except that here, the buildings are real.

This next one is one of my favorites. Lots of gingerbread and detail. Somebody really cared about this baby.

All of the sudden, Charlie started to feel punk, so we decided to take a break with some lunch at Curley's.
While there, we figured out what had happened...she had forgotten to take HER PILLS.  Oh, Boy, that's what just about did her in last year in Quartzite.  What a doofus! But, I love her, just the same. She's been under a lot of stress the past few days.
(Pretty in Pink, but...she looks beat, huh?  That's because, when we got home, she realized that it had been TWO DAYS since she last took her handful of pills. Oy Vey!)

On the way back to the car, we stopped at the only place in town that interests me at old time mercantile store.  We'd been there before, but they have all types of stuff that you don't see anymore, presented just like it used to be before supermarkets and strip malls arrived.  It's a fun place to walk through, like stepping back in time to the "good old days"...of my parents' youth!

I bought a couple of soup mixes. So, call me a liar...I did find something that interested me in this goldarned tourist trap!

Charlie is taking a well-deserved nap this afternoon.  With JayJay.  They're snoring now.