Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Dream Coming True

Even though we had a few trials and tribulations getting here, I find I am spending New Years Eve just as I had hoped and dreamed to for a long time.

In an RV... With a retired husband ... and our two grandsons, on a trip to an event I have wanted to go to for many, many year, The Rose Parade.


Happy New Years Everyone!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Catch up.

The last four days have been pretty busy for me, and although I have had time to read a few blogs, I have not written anything.

Our drive to San Diego was very nice.  The weather and the road were great and there was very light traffic in L.A. We easily made the trip in a one day drive, eating sandwiches as we traveled rather than stopping at restaurants along the way.

We "aced" getting out of the driveway, turning around and getting up and out of our road.  Unfortunately we had a minor mishap on 3/4 mile of the mountain road that gets us out and onto the freeway.  There is one very tight turn that has a rocky dirt wall on the passenger side. We encountered a pick-up driven by a local worker coming the other way.  We both stopped, and looked at each other.  He backed up a little, and Craig tried pulling to the right a bit.  I had my head out and told him he was too close, but I think it was too late.  The truck pulled around us, and as we went forward the bottom edge of the Alfa scraped along the toe of the wall.  Just a big scuff, but that is also where the connector for the outside grill WAS located.  It got ripped off. It will get fixed next week.

I have to admit I was pretty angry because I had told Craig he was too close, and he didn't listen to me.  When we got to the first stop, I took over driving for a while and felt a lot better.

I have been a bit "out of sorts" about a number of things.  But that is nothing new.  I feel I've been "on edge" for a long time.  It seems if I say white, Craig wants black.  And yet, each new morning all is well again.

One thing that has put me on edge here is we are having some problems with the electrical system on the Alfa.  We are parked, without using much of anything in the rig and it loses most of the battery reserve in 24 hours.  He runs the generator for several hours, brining the indicator lights back to full charge, and then the next day it is back down.  We are going to have that looked at next week.

I would write more, but the family just got back from a scout meeting and I have to go ...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Speaking of Food and Stuff

Jessica wrote about planning on eating more healthy meals in the future today.

For us, food has been a really interesting hodgepodge this month. At the house, we have two refrigerators, with two good size freezers.  I only use the garage refrigerator for holidays,  but the freezer is usually pretty full.  Same for the freezer in the kitchen.  

Craig does most of our food shopping on the way home from work.  Most of the time he shops every day.  Whenever he stops at Trader Joe's he comes home with numerous frozen items.  Same for when he visits the interesting Asian grocery, Berkeley Bowl, or Costco. I too have a liking for Costco size bags of chicken tenders and such.

I do try to keep things turning over, but sometimes that's hard.

Just before Thanksgiving I declared a moratorium on buying new things for the freezers. On the first of December I declared we were going to try to use up as much as possible before we leave for Christmas.  And we have.  

Tomorrow I will be moving the few things left into the garage freezer, plus moving anything from the kitchen refrigerator that I want to keep, and turning off the kitchen fridge.

We will not be taking any refrigerated foods along on our trip because we will not be turning on the fridge in the Alfa for a week. We will be parking it at our daughters home, and I really can't see running the fridge on propane or batteries all of that time if it isn't necessary.  We plan on shopping in San Diego, on the morning of the 30th., before we drive  to L.A. with our grandsons.

Today I packed more things into the Alfa.  I'm looking at this trip as more of a trial for what we might need when we are full timers that our weekend trips have been.  As I evaluate things in my kitchen, I find that there is so much I will not need.  

I'm trying to create a "master list"on my laptop. EVERYTHING I could possibly pack is going on it.  As I load for a trip, more and more is added.  
Many are things I might not want to take on a short trip, but if they are on the list I can check them off after I have decided I don't need them. 
As things are finding permanent places in the Alfa, I am putting that next to the item on the list, so I can put them there again in the future. 
Eventually the list will be an "index" of where everything might be located.  I say "might", because I'm a realist and know that just because something has a place it doesn't mean it will be in that place when I'm looking for it.  It seems I am always the one who has to find things. One thing I have noticed about myself recently is that my memory for where I have put things is getting much worse.  I hope it's just stress, and not age! I put a couple of things away today that I know if I don't note their locations I might never find them again! 

We have so many places and so many tools around our house that neither Craig nor I have been good at putting things away.  In fact most tools don't really have a specific place.  Craig is constantly asking "where is my xxx?" and I am constantly either going to get it, or saying I don't know, or asking him where was the last place he used it."  
Recently I have been jokingly saying "You must have left it in Topeka."  Reminding us both that when we are on the road we will have to pick up our tools and put them away or they will be left behind! I actually think Craig is starting to put more things away than in the past.

Do you have a system?

Monday, December 19, 2011


I like plans.
I like long range plans, and short range plans. 
I do not mind if a plan gets changed, as long as there IS a plan!

As we get closer to our winter trip the plans have changed. 

We are now going to leave on Friday instead of Saturday. If we need to overnight, we will still get to San Diego by Christmas Eve.

We are going to drive down on Hy. 101, a more meandering state highway with better scenery and more opportunities to stop, instead of I5, a straight and somewhat boring Interstate down the center of the state.

Taking 101 adds a few  miles, and will take a little longer, but it will probably be more interesting.

The biggest change is that we have decided not to take the car.  We are not set up to tow yet, and we had planned on one of us driving the Alfa and one the Prius.  But that's no fun!  Without the car we can more comfortably trade off on driving the Alfa.  I want my time behind the wheel too.

Looking at our itinerary we decided we really only need a car for few days out of the four weeks we will be gone.  So we are just going to rent one in L.A. We have a couple of days after the parade and before the rally to do things in L.A.  It would be pretty hard to find parking for a 36' Motorhome! We shouldn't need one at the rallys themselves.  We will be with other Alfa people, and hopefully if we need to get to a store or something we can get a ride with someone else.

I plan on being pretty well prepared as far as groceries go, and I can't think of anything else we will need a car for.

We may take our time coming home, but we will just have to manage without side trips this time.

The next few days will be very busy for me.  I'm going to start packing The Big White Thing tomorrow!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Count down to Christmas

Busy, busy!

In years past I would not still be working on my art work at this point in December, but with the economy the way it is, I can't say "no" to an order.

I just finished and shipped a buffalo to Canada, and still have a unicorn to get done in the next few days. It is not a Christmas order.  It is for a December 28th birthday, so it should get to Texas on time if I can ship it on Monday.

I did have to say "no" to one order this week. A former customer wanted to get her husband polar bear for Christmas, but I told her it was too late.  We settled on a February delivery because he has a birthday then. I gave her a nice discount.

It's a good thing I've had a little business this season.  We have been going kinda crazy with buying things.  In addition to all the Christmas gifts, we have been buying necessities, and not-so-necessities for the Alfa.  Things like the 50 foot air hose to fill the tires from the onboard compressor, and the new air filter Craig will be installing this weekend.  Little things like the telescoping brush to wash the roof someday, and the fiberglass renewing kit to use after.  Also the surge protector and the driving lessons, both necessary in my eye. 

We did splurge on one not-so-necessary item: a new flat-screen TV for the bedroom.  We don't have a satellite service yet, but we should be able to pick up some stations with the antenna in the LA area. This was something Craig wanted to do from the day we bought the Alfa.  I thought the old one was OK.

Craig was given a nice gift at the Christmas party today.  Special recognition was given to a number of people for the work they did on projects this year, and Craig was one of them.  He was given an iPad.  He says I can have it because he doesn't feel his fingers are nimble enough, but I think we will both use it a bit.  I played with it some this evening, and at first touch, I have to say I like my laptop a lot better.  It took me a while to get used to the track pad, but now it is very comfortable.

But I will give the iPad a fair trial period.  People seem to really like them. 

I was very excited to see the traffic on the maps.  I was looking at the L.A. area at about the time of night we will be going thru there next week.  

We have also been talking about getting a smart phone.  Verizon is promoting all their 4G phones that if you buy one by the end of the month you would get double the bandwidth for the life of the phone.  It really seems like a great deal.  A decision to make in the next few days.

It would be a forward looking purchase.  We don't need it here at the house, but it would be necessary once we were on the road.  Craig is talking about getting rid of the two land lines we have.  But then I would have to get a "wedge" that would attach to the phone so I could continue to process credit card orders for my art sales.  Right now I have a transaction processor that is attached to the house phone line.  Not very portable!

So the decision is not whether to get a smart phone or not.  It is whether to get it now or wait until we are actually free of the house.

The double bandwidth is very tempting!

Oh, and before I forget, Welcome Russ.  My 100th  follower.  It just occurred to me, I'm being followed by a Duck!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

GO RV Warranty is OK

So, everything is resolved.  (Except I don't have cards yet, but they should come.)  According to the warranty processing center, our contract is now "active" instead of "pending."

I must say that Jason and Paul  of GO RV were accessable and responsive. It took a few days, but my problem was resolved.

Hopefully, if I ever need it, the warranty will be as good as Judy's was this year!  I know she has had to push them, but she did get good coverage.  But, I do not have the same company :(

I am editing my first post on this subject because Google picked it up and It was on the first page when I Googled GO RV Warranty.  Since they did resolve the problem I don't think it is fair to leave a negative post out there.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I think it's going to be OK, Warrantee update

I think it's going to be OK.  I spoke with both Jason and Paul Simpson this morning and they seem to have an explanation of what went wrong and are correcting the problem. 

The explanation was that they sent in a copy of our signed contract application to the actual insurance company, instead of the original.  The original is required. We are in the system, we have a contract number, but our application was considered incomplete.  Paul is seeing to it that the original is being overnighted to them.

 I will know for sure by Thursday or Friday.

I'm not really counting on an Extended Warranty to pay for itself, but I didn't want to be scammed from the start.

We shall see.  

Rick's comment sure did shake me up, but when I read the actual complaint on RVforum it seemed to me like someone trying to get a pre-existing problem fixed.
The complainer said he had asked if radiators were covered, knowing that possibly something was wrong with his.  If he had asked if a preexisting problem with his radiator would be covered, he might have gotten a different answer. When it wasn't covered after ten days of having the policy he felt there was misrepresentation etc.  There are always two sides to any story.

  GoRV does not get "rave" reviews anywhere. But other than the guy mentioned above, the main complaint seems to be something about a claim that if you do not use your policy you get a refund. It seems that when people applied for said refund they never got it.  Thus the claims of lying and fraud.  I never heard that promise from the beginning. I have heard similar things about some health insurance plans and have quickly considered them a rip off.

When my situation is fully resolved, I want to poke into that further.  

I knew that we had a contract  on file with the Warrantee Company, but that something was missing from GoRV.  I hope it is as they say, and just a mistake.

I hope they were just sloppy, not crooks!

I will keep you posted!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Very Upset with Go RV Warranty

Below is a post I made to my blog in December of 2011.  I think it is only fair to report that this was corrected quickly by Jason and Paul at GO RV.

They were accessible and responsive. The problem was due to an error, not maleficence. 

In late August I spent considerable time comparing extended warranty companies and base on the experience and recommendation of at least one other blogger I choose to purchase a policy thru GoRV Warranty and worked with a fellow named Jason.

Jason seemed very helpful and had a very smooth voice.  It was easy to give him my business, and as you all know that means several thousand dollars.

We did all the paperwork and set it back and were told it would take several weeks to get a card and welcome information.  I waited.  After more than six weeks I called the warranty company and was told that yes, we were in the system, but they had not received the copies of our signed contracts from GoRV Warranty.

I called Jason.  It took him a week to get new copies of the contracts for me to sign.  A week after I had mailed them back I again emailed him to see if they had arrived, and the next day I got an email saying that he had confirmation that their processing department had received them.  Since Thanksgiving was coming, he advised me it might be several weeks until I go my card , etc.

A month has passed.  Nothing.  I called the Warranty processing center, ended up with a supervisor, and again was told they had not received anything from GoRv.  They are a third party "claims processor."


I again have a call into Jason.  My call to him from the West Coast was in the afternoon, so I guess he has gone home already.   I hope he calls me back first thing.  This definitely needs to be resolved.

I didn't realize he was just a salesman, and GoRV Warranty was just a sales agency. I hope this can get straightened out.

Friday, December 9, 2011

An Odd Week

This post is a total ramble.  

This has been an Odd week.  Oddly busy! Oddly creative!

Monday I was busy unpacking the stuff we took on our short weekend trip for the driving lesson, and working on the cow.

Tuesday the new washer was delivered and I had to catch up on the wash and ship the cow.

Wednesday I went to the dentist for a little problem, and found out my little problem was  an abscess on an old root canal and crowned tooth. I had lost too much bone to save it.

Thursday I had the tooth pulled and the prep and placement of a temporary bridge.  I will get the permanent bridge in February.  Many $$$  :~(

The really odd thing is that I have no pain.  Seems the placement of the temporary bridge has kept the hole from the extraction from getting any air or from bleeding.  I have a great dentist.  He cut the tooth in half so it would come out easier.

Today I worked on a buffalo sculpture and at the same time did some experiments with a new way of making the moose antlers.  I am very excited because I think I have finally solved a big problem  that has been dogging me for years.

A major break thru that will make the antlers lighter and stronger than before.  It makes the prospect of making and selling moose when we are on the road   possible!  

I tried a new application for a very old material.  Something I thought of in a "light bulb" moment in the middle of the night!

Very exciting.

Maybe when the dentist pulled my tooth he unblocked a creative force.

The hard part is I won't really be able to follow up with it until the end of January.  Too many other things to do!  
Unless I take the experiments along. 
 Maybe I will. 
 Where better to see if something will work on the road, than on the road!


For my Golden Friends

The Golden Retriever Grinch

My daughter sent this to me this morning.

Happy Holidays.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

From Craig

Since Merikay and I are both alumni of the U of Wisconson, we're pleased to see that the Badgers won the first-ever Big Ten championship game and will meet the Oregon Ducks in the Rose Bowl while we're in Pasadena.  

Duck hunting is very popular in Wisconsin around this time of year.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

One more Christmas Order

This has been a pretty busy month for me.  I've had several animal head orders to work on.  I shipped the mandrill this morning and a large cow this afternoon.  I thought I was done for Christmas, but when the email was checked one more time I discovered an order for a large buffalo.  It will be going to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

If I get any more Christmas orders I will let the customer know I can't deliver by Christmas and give them the option of canceling.   But, It seems that every year I  get one or two orders from people who find my web site while browsing for Christmas gifts, and then end up ordering an animal head for themselves.  They usually don't mind waiting until January. 

This year has been very slow, so maybe I won't get any more work.  Since we will be RVing most of January, that's OK by me! I'm not ready to try to take work along with me yet.

I've been doing all of my own Christmas shopping online.  It is so much easier that facing the mall.

Since we won't be here, I'm not putting up any decorations.  I haven't for several years.  I like to see the lights on other people's houses and on the town trees however.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

RV Driving School *a long post*

I promised I would do a post about our experience and opinions of the two-day private lessons we took from Dick Reed's RV Driving School.

Except for some short test drives, neither Craig nor I have had any experience driving a Class A motorhome, nor a bus nor trucks other than my Safari Van.  We have rented two 25' Class C's, one in New Zealand and one on the West Coast, and watched the Lazy Days videos several times.

We were both "able" to drive the Alfa, but were not confident in our own skills nor each other's.  I know I was a "white knuckle" passenger, and I don't think Craig was very relaxed when I was behind the wheel.

We took two day, 12-hour, two-person lessons in our own rig.  The instructor, Frank Piccolo, came to our RV park at 9 AM Saturday morning.  After a short conversation to determine our experience and what we felt we needed the most help with, he worked with us to properly aim the mirrors and check our tire pressure.  (Although we knew we should have done it before the trip, Craig hadn't and all of our tires were seriously under-inflated.)

Frank showed us where the connection is on our coach to use the built in compressor.  It seems all we might need is a long hose!

At this point we drove to the local Les Schwab Tire store to get the tires properly inflated. Frank knows the guys there and all it cost us was a tip to the mechanic.

At the same time the mechanic crawled under the rig and found the DOT number.  Our tires are from March '06: almost five years old.  They both said (and this is the same as our RV inspector) that the tires look good and should hold up for some time yet.

On our second day, we checked the tires when they were cold in the morning and again after driving for a while. For newbies, this was good.  It's not a fun thing, but very important.

After the tires were taken care of, he took us to a deserted industrial area where we took turns driving and making left and right turns, backing up and driving in general. Much of this was so he could evaluate our skill levels.

I was a bit timid, and sometimes went a little fast. Craig just plain drove too fast. We both made so-so turns but weren't too bad.  As we repeated these several times Frank corrected us and we did better.

At this point he also showed us what to do if our air brakes failed.  For example if we hit a road hazard and tore a brake line while on the highway.

Next he had me drive quite a few miles on a winding two-lane mountain road.  He helped me learn to stay in my lane, not panic when approaching an oncoming car, and not drive off onto the shoulder.  I kept hearing "keep to you left, to your left..."  He instructed me on not riding the brakes, not going too fast, making nice turns, and always looking ahead and to be aware of road hazards, deer, cars coming out of driveways, etc.

His message was "you're big, stay in your lane, slow down, cars are more maneuverable than you are." I'm still not sure what to do if I come face to face with another big RV going around a tight blind curve!

Then Craig took a turn at the same.

We stopped for a fast food lunch, and then went to a gas station for fuel.  Even this was a lesson in how to watch for canopies and posts.  He also told us that it was best to get fuel at busy truck stops or stations that had a good turnover in diesel fuel.  Even if an out of the way station has a slightly lower price, the fuel might be "old."  Go where the truckers go!  The extra pennies per gallon are well worth it in performance and prevention of problems.

From Craig: on the way home we stopped at a non-truck-stop station that had the lowest price for diesel in the Bay Area.  Everyone's advice is based on their experience. Frank was an owner-operator trucker for many years before he retired to be a driving instructor, so naturally he recommends truck stops.  The station we stopped at was quite busy.

Next we went to a large deserted parking area and practice backing up into coned off spaces, each taking several passes.

We ended the day with freeway driving and going up and down "grades".  He emphasized staying in our own lane, watching for merging traffic, going on and off ramps, changing lanes, and keeping a reasonable distance from cars and trucks that were ahead of us.  

We started day two with a safety check of our lights and more maintenance checks.  We discovered we need a new air filter and new windshield wipers. (La Mesa was supposed to do that, but it seems they didn't.)  He also showed us how to check the oil filled wheel bearings.  I don't understand exactly what that is all about, but Craig says he does.

Although he is not a mechanic, Frank was a big rig driver for many years and seemed to know what we should be checking on.  More information than we got from the dealer!

We repeated most of the same exercises that we had been through on Saturday with Craig driving the windy road that I had driven.  In the parking exercises we changed the cones to be different types of parking spaces and environments. 

We also did a "panic stop."  On a deserted street, Craig drove quite fast and then slammed on the brakes.  It was a good thing I was prepared, because the chair I was in went sliding and tipped over. This let us see just how long it took to stop.  Frank said we had good brakes.

We decided to end our Sunday lesson early so we could get back home before dark.  The ride home was really rather nice.  We each drove some, and I was more comfortable because I had more confidence in Craig's driving.  I hope he had the same for mine.

We both need a lot more practice, need to slow down, and need to stay to the left!

Unfortunately the lessons really didn't help with backing into our driveway.  It is still very hard and just on the edge of what is possible! But we got safely parked once again.

Overall I would recommend driving lessons for any new motorhome owners that aren't experienced driving similar vehicles.  If it prevents one accident it is money well spent!

From Craig: after the first day I would have said "if I wanted another person to tell me to drive slower, bigamy might be more fun."  But the second day we did more technical and practice-oriented things, and overall I would say that it was worth the money for both of us.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Almost an "Oops"

Our latest adventure, going up to Auburn, CA for driving lessons, has started out well. We got out of the driveway and up our road with no problems at all!  Good job Craig!

Traffic out of the Bay Area was not too bad, and after about 75 miles Craig pulled off so I could do the second 75.  

We were moving nicely until we got to Sacramento during the evening rush hour.  It was a bit scary, but I did OK and except for missing the entrance to the RV park, we got here just fine.

We found our spot, pulled in and got all set up.

The almost "oops"?  We walked around outside after dinner and noticed we had missed sliding out our big slide into a pedestal by less than an inch! 

Lesson:  Make sure the slides have enough room to extend.  

We were lucky.  No damage and I'm sure we will always look in the future.

From Craig: our new Surge Guard 40240 is conducting the AC from the site we're in, and is displaying the voltage and amperage on each of the two power lines on its little message display.  Having been in the business of testing electronic things for years, I would hate to devise a test for whether it's protecting us from anything though!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Learning From Others

I've been reading blogs, mostly RV blogs, for over two years.  Even though the dream of buying a rig was "Written in Smoke" whenever I read something I thought might be useful I copied it and put it into my "RV Tips" folder.

Now I have reason to go back and reread some of those!  It is because I have learned from others that I write about the things I learn as a new RV owner.

One not so fun, but necessary topics that has come up from time to time is the care of the black tank.  As far as I'm concerned it's Craig job to take care of outside connections, but when we noticed the monitors for the holding tanks were not reading empty after dumping, I recalled what several other people had done to clear up any possible blockage.  

We know that the Alfa was unused from at least June to September from some intake service records, but who know how long it was dry parked before that. So there is a good possibility that our use has dislodged something in the black tank.

In my tips file I had two recommendations.  Adding a solution of water, Calgon, and Pinesol, or  water, Calgon and  Liquid Detergent.  I choose the second because I had the detergent.  I poured that in and have been taking gallons of water from the house to get the tank at least half full before our next drive. 

But over the weekend when checking the dumping compartment for another reason, I notice a big yellow sign that said "San-T-Flush"  I went to my owners manual and YES,  it is a built in "power wash" for the black tank. It has a short length of black hose attached to connect to the city water, but I  bought an additional 15' garden hose.   I think between The San-T-Flush and the Calgon we should be well on the way to an "empty" readout on the monitor. If not I will do another treatment to slosh around on the way to San Diego.

 But at least I won't have to carry gallons of water up the hill again.  I know I could have used the onboard fresh water, but I wanted to know how many gallons I was putting in.

Ah,  the little things!  Understanding and caring for your plumbing is important.

We are having a very beautiful week here in California.  The sun will be shining all week and all of the trees that are going to turn colors are in their fullest glory right now. 

 A bit later than the East Coast.

We are also feeling lucky about the dry sunny weather predicted for this upcoming weekend when we drive up to Auburn for our RV Driving lessons.

I'm excited!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Welcome 99

Welcome Tanya, Follower 99.
 I hope you find my ramblings interesting from time to time.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Surge Protector Installed

We decided on a hard wired Surge Guard rather than a portable one.  It is now installed. Hopefully it will work!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Black Friday Purchase

I can't help but thinking that this is one of the "time wasting" blogs Sue was referring to in her bog post today. 

On Wednesday Morning, for no apparent reason (no rain storm or high wind) we lost all power here at the house.  That in itself is not all that unusual.  But it also seemed we had a power "surge" as well.  Our electronics are pretty well protected by individual power strips that include surge protectors, but not all of the appliances.

We think it was this that took out our somewhat old washing machine.  

The repairman came today, and determined that the board on the control panel was fried, and possibly a secondary one as well.  The cost of replacing them was way more than a replacement machine, so I didn't get it fixed.

Craig shooed me out the door this afternoon to go by another washer.  I was determined to just get a very basic one, without all the belles and whistles.  It only needs to last for a year or so! I don't do delicate or heavy loads. 

I was delighted to find the shopping center was not still crowded.  I did have to look for a parking place, but not for long.  I checked out Sears and although they had one that was on "Black Friday" sale, I didn't like the $80 delivery and disposal fee.

Lowe's also had a sale, as did Home Depot.  Neither of them have delivery charges.  I ended up buying at Home Depot. 

 Best price.  A simple machine with a one year warranty. 

 It won't be delivered until December 6th., so I will have to go to a Laundromat at least once, possibly twice. I really don't mind.

So I've done my bit for the economy and to boost the sales numbers for this weekend.  

 I just hope the dryer will hold up for another year.  It's just as old as the washer was!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Missing One

The dinner is over and the dishes are done.  We will have desert soon.

As happy as I am to have my daughter and her family here, I miss my son.

He works in retail and it has always been impossible for him to join us for Thanksgiving.  Has to be at work bright and early on Black Friday!

Two years ago he flew in, had an early Thanksgiving dinner and was supposed to fly back home on Thursday evening.  I don't exactly remember what happened, but his flight was changed to an earlier time and he missed it.

He ended up having to fly bak Friday morning and missed work.

Anyway, the family is not complete.

We missed you Brother, Son, Uncle!

But at least we know he is safe, as opposed to someone who has a young man or woman in Afghanistan.  I think of them too.

And to all my blog friends ... Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Extra bed!

I am sitting here in my kitchen waiting for my daughter and her family to arrive from San Diego.

A cold front is coming thru, but a nice fire is laid and ready to light.

The maple trees are heavy with bright gold leaves that are fluttering down in large numbers.

We are changing the sleeping arrangements a bit this year.

Our daughter and her husband will be in our room, the two grandsons will sleep in one of the guest rooms and the Au Pair will be in the other. 

Craig and I will be in the Alfa. 

Our house just got one room bigger!

The feasting will begin tonight with homemade pizza. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011


For 22 years I have enjoyed little light and shadow shows around my house.  The best are in the late autumn months when the sun rides low and the leaves are thinning out on the Maples to the West of the windows.

This fall I started recording a few seconds here and there, and have put together a three minute video.  By capturing the light on video I am able to put it onto a DVD that I can take with me.

I share it here.  Play time is 3:09 minutes:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


A few weeks ago Craig brought up the idea of taking a two day, 12 hours, private RV driving course.  He had read an article about it and thought it would be a good idea for us.
Some of the things covered are:

  • Pre-trip Inspection

  • Proper adjustment of mirrors

  • Effective use of mirrors

  • How to test your air brakes

  • Safe braking

  • Backing straight

  • Backing on a curve

  • Backing into campsites

  • How to allow for tail swing out

  • Turning radius

  • How to make sharp turns

  • Campground maneuvering

  • How to drive in a city

  • How to drive on freeways

  • Freeway on and off ramps

  • Proper lane changing

  • Staying in your lane

  • How to properly go up hills
       Safe braking down hills

  • When to use engine/exhaust brakes

  • Defensive driving

  • And more...

    All done, hands on in our rig on two days, six hours each day.

    There is an excellent article about the course on RVers online that gives a lot of detail.  Actually it was this article that Craig read on day at work, and sent the URL to me to consider.

  • We have both watched the videos from Lazy Days several times, and do not find it difficult to drive the Alfa, but also feel there is a lot we can learn.

    We have booked the lessons in Auburn, December 3rd and 4th. 

     Auburn is the last town before you start going up into the Sierra's.  We know we are pushing our luck on the weather.  But we have driven thru there many times on our way to Tahoe to go skiing and we have not seen any snow on the ground.  

    What we might run into is cold, rainy or windy weather.  We hope not, but if we do we will just have to learn under not so nice conditions.  It will make driving in good conditions even easier.

    The timing couldn't be better for us.  Actually if it had been the first week of November it would have been better, but as it is it is just weeks before we take our big trip down to San Diego and to Pasadena for the Rose Parade.

    We expect some real driving challenges then.  One of the things I don't look forward to is the long pull up over the Grapevine, a rise over a mountain summit, and then coming back down.  I think I remember it as having a 6% grade for several miles!  The lessons should help prepare one of us for that!  One of us will be driving the Alfa, and one of us will be driving the Prius.

    We will also be challenged with driving on city streets to the parade in Pasadena, and parking the Alfa in a parking lot with other rigs.  Since no slides will be allowed, I have a feeling the spots will be a bit tight.

    So what is the conflict? 

    The drive from here to Auburn is 160 miles.  Four hours, five if you count the time to get out of our road.  Maybe more if we run into rush hour or weekend traffic.  

    We had planned on having Craig check in at work for a few hours on that Friday, and then come home so we can take off a little after noon. That gives me time to get all the necessary stuff carted up to The Big White Box.
    Thats what we've done the first two trips and it has worked quite well.

     But today one of the bosses talked to Craig about being sure he comes to the company Christmas party. Since he is retiring just a few weeks later, Craig figures they might be planning a little going away toast or something.

    The party is on the afternoon of the Friday Dec 2nd.
    Just when we want to be driving.

    We've been talking about it this evening, trying to decide what to do.  Change our dates?  A week later and we would really be risking winter weather.  

    Skip the party?  I think Craig really wants to go.  You only retire once.

    The party is going to be held at a winery in the hills above Los Gatos.  We have looked at Google Earth to see road to the place and the parking.  It looks like we could drive The Big White Thing to the party.  Only about a mile and a half of residential and mountain road.  Nothing can be worse that our road.

    I am going to go drive it tomorrow.  If it looks like a "go" we will take the Alfa to the party, I will not imbibe, and can drive up to Auburn.  We can stay for the lunch, and then take off.

    If it doesn't look like it will work, we will come up with another plan.

    Actually, as we talked about it tonight, it seems like  fun.  We could show off the Alfa to all his soon to be former co-workers. He's been telling them he wants to fix up the house and "drive off into the sunrise."  Since the sunset is just down the hill.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    Busy days ahead

    The rest of the year is going to be very busy for me.  

    Thanksgiving is just around the corner and that means I had better get busy getting the house cleaned up a bit.

    We have an RV adventure of sorts planned for the first weekend of December. I'll write more about it when things have been finalized.

    Then it will be time for the dreaded Christmas shopping.  I want to find gifts for people that they will love and appreciate.  To me there is nothing worse than just buying something because you feel you have to.

    But what to get?  I have no idea.

    I  got a sculpture order today.  For a Mandrill , one of my favorite creatures to make. It is from a repeat customer, and she wants it as soon as possible.  That means I start it tomorrow.

    I really don't know how people have time to have real jobs!  

    Sunday, November 13, 2011

    Pnnacles National Monument: The Movie

    I'm learning to use our video camera.

    I am also learning to use iMovie at weekly "personal projects" sessions at the Apple store.

    On our hike at the Pinnacles I shot a lot of video, and I am learning to edit and keep them short.

    I am making a DVD with shorts for each of our adventures.  This is the second one. I did most of the editing on the Sunday of the trip when it was raining.  It was a very pleasant place to work on it.

     I know some of you can't watch videos, because you are on the road, but by posting here I can share them with my family.

    The video is just under three minutes.

    Friday, November 11, 2011

    Not My Largest Elephant

    Several of you commented on the size of the elephant sculpture I am just completing. When I built the first of any animal, I made it what I felt was the "right" size.  Not the real size.  Then if it was a popular animal I added other sizes.  Some I do in only one size, some in small, medium and large. For each animal I do, I create and keep a master sculpture so if someone orders one from a picture on my web site, they get one that is very much like the one in the picture.

    For the elephants, the one in my previous post is a Large.  But he is not the largest elephant I have ever done.  I once did one I called my Huge elephant!

    Several years ago a client contacted me and wanted a "life size" elephant head.  I did a little research and told him just how big that would be, and after some discussion and room measurements, I agreed to do an elephant that was about four feet wide from ear to ear.
    Definitely not life size.
    He wanted it to  hang it in his Palm Springs, Florida townhouse dining room.  He never sent me a picture of the room, but he did say he was very pleased with it.  

    It took me about six weeks to make, and most of the work was done outside.

    Shipping The elephant from California to Florida was a challenge. His ears and tusks were made so they could be boxed separately and installed by the client.  He went in two boxes.  But they were still too large for FedEx or UPS.  He ended up going by Greyhound Bus.  You can send fairly large boxes that way, but someone has to pick them up at the station. I used to ship moose that way until I developed a way to make the antlers removable.

    I still have the master sculpture for the elephant hanging in the garage.  Over the years I have had two serious inquiries about making another.  One client ended up ordering a set of four other African animals for the space, and the other balked at the "pay in full before I start, no refund" condition I put on the job.  I don't do that for any others, but I didn't want to get stuck with it if the client changed her mind.

    And then there was the whole Zebu ...  But that's another story.

    I was not exaggerating!

    My life has been zooming by at high speed lately.  So fast that I actually lost track of the days this week!

    This will often happen to me when Monday is a holiday.  Well, this week, we drove home from the Pinnacles and Monday was an unpacking and getting resettled day, so it felt like a weekend day.  When I was making a date to meet fellow bloggers Russ and Donna I thought it was Tuesday when it was actually Wednesday!

    Have you ever done that?  I'm not loosing my mind, but sometimes I check the day and date on the top of the computer screen or newspaper because I'm not sure what day it really is!

    I had a short but delightful visit with Russ and Donna.  I wish I had more time, but because we went camping last weekend, I had to keep working so the elephant and warthog will be ready for shipping as promised.

    Donna has written a very nice post today about our visit.  Craig thinks I was exaggerate the difficulty of parking here. 

    This is their description of our road and driveway:

    And what a road that is!!  It has more curves than Kim Kardasian, and more twists than a John Grishom mystery.  Not only is it curvy and twisty, it is skinnier than a than a marriage manual written by your maiden aunt Mildred.  On one side is a steep drop-off and on the other is mountain side with a deep ditch running alongside.  We were terrified driving our little Fit up there!  NO WAY would we ever drive a motor home on that road.

    So, I was not crazy in being worried.  Craig is doing a great job getting it in and out, but it will always be hard and I will always fret the night before.

    I'm stealing this picture that Donna took of me and the Elephant I'm currently working on.  It's hard to take pictures of yourself, and it shows the scale of my work.

    Most of my pieces are a little smaller, but this is an Elephant after all!


    I want to thank all of you who left great comments on my post about surge protectors.  We have ordered one that will be hardwired into the Alfa.  I feel a bit like we have tempted the wrath of the RV Gods by having dared to go out a couple of times without one! 

     But Craig says to remember the Alfa is almost six years old and has not been damaged.  I have a feeling that the only power the Alfa has slurped has been in high end resorts and not at sometimes iffy rustic parks.  Why? Because she feels so very "unused."  Just a feeling.

    Do you get more reliable power in expensive private resorts?

    Wednesday, November 9, 2011

    More about the hike, and campground

    After reading my post about our hike, Craig said he objected to my comment that he didn't stop for rests.

    I admit I was wrong.  He did stop numerous times and offered me the best rocks to sit on!  

    But, I spent more time watching where my feet were going than appreciating the view. I have a hard time walking and looking at the same time.  I don't want to trip or twist an ankle.

    Next time, more stops to just look around. 

    In answer to Merri.  We did carry water.  Even though it was cool, and I wasn't really thirsty, I took a water break.  I had water along for Craig, but he says he doesn't like to drink when hiking.  If he needed it, it was available. 

    I have had the experience of drinking too much water in hot weather and having the feeling that it just sat in my stomach, and made me feel sick.  That's not good either.

    The eight miles was round trip.

    Now that I have read Karen's post  about the power problems they had today, I guess we were lucky we didn't damage our rig with the "iffy" power we had at the Pinnacles campground.  

    When I looked at available campsites on line, the campground listed 30 amp power.  When we got there and parked, Craig saw that there was a 50 amp outlet.  The camp store was already closed, so we weren't able to ask about it.  

    He plugged in.

    All seemed OK for awhile, then the power went out.

    We tried the 30 amp plug and it didn't work either.

    One of the other RVers plugged a light into the 20 amp and it didn't work, so we tried it on the 20 amp in the post for the next site.  It worked, we moved, and plugged into the 30 amp outlet.  

    Saturday morning we asked the ranger whether it was OK to plug into the 50 amp service, and he said it was.  So Craig switched it to the 50 amp service.  Everything seemed OK all day Saturday, but Sunday morning the power was out again.

    We flagged down the campground lady as she rode by in her golf cart and she checked the breaker box (which was right across the road from us) and threw the breaker, restoring power.  

    Craig said he thought they only had 30 amp breakers in the box.  

    When I say everything seemed to work OK, I am wondering.  I do not know much about how power variations effect small appliances. I used the slow cooker on Sunday, and my corned beef, although cooked, did not get as tender as I expected it to. 

    Were we experiencing "brown out" conditions? Would lower power effect the slow cooker?  

    We do not have a surge protector (yet).  Until I read Karen's post, I didn't know they existed. 

    So much to learn.  So many things to buy!

    But I do have a little set aside for repairs and future tires.  Maybe a surge protector would be a good investment.  If our rig can use 50 amp or 30 amp, should we buy and carry both sizes? 

    Craig thinks that a Class A diesel pusher should include its own surge protection.  Do you agree?
    Advice about surge protection will be appreciated!