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!

    Tuesday, November 8, 2011

    The Hike

    Nine years ago, on September 11, we went to the Pinnacles National Monument with our son and his girlfriend to get away from all media for the day.

    It was close to 100* that day and I suffered minor hallucinations as part of heat-stroke.  We were trying to hike the highest and hardest part of the park.  Overheated, I sat down in the center of the trail and told the others to go on ahead and send a helicopter for me "tomorrow".  I can  clearly remember saying that and thinking it was a perfectly reasonable idea!

    Our son went on to a Ranger Station, and Craig helped me back down to a lower parking area.  I did recovered on my own, but the ranger sent a rescue squad to check me out.  Fortunately, I didn't need to be taken to the hospital.

    On this trip to the park, the weather was much cooler and once again Craig wanted to try for the High Peaks Trail.  I told him I didn't think I could do it, but he had it in his head that that is what he wanted to do.

    Keep in mind, Craig does not exercise.  Craig does not believe in carrying or drinking water. Craig rarely stops to rest.  Craig is generally pushes me to do things all at once, that sane people work up to gradually.

    Sometimes I try.  But I have learned to say "no" when I reach my limit.

    To get to the High Peaks trailhead from our campground we first had to hike the 3.5 mile Bench trail. 

     Much of this was easy since it was thru oak meadowland

     and along a dry creek. 

    Only about a mile of it was harder, as we started to climb up the side of the mountain.

    There was a Nature Center at the trailhead area. 

     Craig waited outside, while I went in to talk to a Ranger about our options.  Looking at the maps I learned the High Peaks trail was a loop of seven miles of very hard climbs.  

    The Ranger suggested "Keep the car keys and let him go up by himself if he was so inclined!"

    This is a view of a very level section of the trail.
    It was a steady, rocky incline.
    She suggested an alternative 1.7 mile "strenuous" climb that continued on to the High Peaks trail.  She said that we would still have some great vistas, and could come back the same way to the Center.

    Craig agreed to this.  

    "Strenuous" was a good description of the trail.  At about a half mile my knee began to twinge and I felt like I was getting a blister on one toe. 

    Seeing I was slowing down, Craig asked if I wanted to turn back, and of course I did. 

     I kept thinking about the four miles we would have to go to get back to camp.

    Sometimes going downhill is harder than going up.

    The first mile and a half back were a bit hard because the trail was very rocky and we had to be careful not to trip. 

    Once on the flat, the trail was mostly sand, which is not  easy to walk in either.

    A very welcome sight!
    By the time we were close to the campground again I was feeling much better, and it was Craig who asked: "Aren't we there yet?"  

    The total hike was eight miles.

    Truth be told, I haven't been working out on the treadmill for a while.  This has motivated me to try to loose some of the excess  pounds I carry!

    We talked about going back in Spring. The wildflower bloom is said to be beautiful.  They also have a bus then, that goes from the campground to the Nature Center.   If we start there, maybe I can do it.  

    If not, I can always turn back.  

    Monday, November 7, 2011

    Pinnacles National Monument (a three day post)

    Pinnacles Trip
    Getting The Big White Thing out of the driveway and turned around went very well.  Perhaps we are beginning to communicate.  Having the stump removed helped a lot too!

    We were mystified by a loud noise that we thought was coming from the refrigerator, but were relieved to discover it was coming from the radio via the speaker just above the refrigerator!

    I drove about 50 miles, including some curvy, hilly, two-lane highway.  I got the hang of frequently checking the bottom of the convex mirrors to see the white lines on the road.  It felt like I was driving half in the oncoming lane, but I really wasn’t!

    We got all set up and were just getting ready to eat when the power failed.  It was dark by then.  We went over and asked another camper if they had power.  Three guys came to consult on our problem and it was decided the power post had gone bad. One of the guys told us the same had happened last year.

    They helped us move to the next spot over.  In the dark.

    After they left, Craig had to re-level and put the slides back out.  Just as we were finishing, we notice another class A pulling in and we wondered if we were in their space.  We weren’t.  We helped them find their spot and guided them into it with our flashlight, passing the helpfulness on.

    Our Brie, fruit and wine was a bit late, but ever so wonderful! If you’re in Trader Joe country, try their French Brie.


    When I opened the front screen, I was greeted by the sight of a flock of turkeys!  Driving in we saw a coyote and later a bunny hopped past the side window. Of course there were seveal deer that wandered thru the campground as well.

    After breakfast we went on a five-hour, eight-mile hike.  Craig has reminded me of my goal to hike in National Parks.  A National Monument is good too.

    The weather has held.  Cool, but not really cold.  No rain.

    We were ready for bed before eight o’clock. Craig made tea early, and we were tucked in by nine.



    It rained very hard during the night. We learned the propane furnace does a very good job of warming the coach.  The alternative electric heat pump is very loud and not as effective.  There are lots of words about closing some of the vents to make the heating more effective.

     The morning was dry.  We decided to wait until later in the day to take a walk, so I went to a Ranger talk about condors and Craig found the 49er game on the radio.

    By 11:00 it started raining again, and we watched the other campers packing up and pulling out. We sat at the table, I writing this, and Craig listening to the game.

    I saw a condor flying high above the peak, circling as it caught a thermal draft.  Thanks to the ranger, I knew it was a condor and not a vulture because of the way it glided in flight.

    Being in the almost empty campground, in the rain, playing with iMovie felt odd.  We planned on going home Monday morning, and didn’t want to drive and park in the rain.



    Pack up and departure went very smoothly.  The only fuss was by the Toms of the turkey flock.  When we started the engine, all four of them fanned their big tails and rounded up the hens!

    The 92 mile return trip was a good drive.  Getting The Big White Thing back into her place was much easier than the last time.  The gloves and headphones helped, although Craig said he couldn’t hear me half of the time.  But at least we didn’t get angry with each other this time.

    Unfortunately there are a couple of large scratches from a tree branch on the back of the Alfa.  The only damage we have done to her has been on home ground!

    Craig went to work in the afternoon while packed all of our stuff back down to the house.  I also vacuumed and washed the Alfa's floor, and gave everything else a quick dust and polish.  My goal is to keep her as nice as when we bought her.

    Back Home

    Back home safe and sound.



    Had a very nice weekend.

    Will post details later.

    Wednesday, November 2, 2011

    I Wonder

    I wonder whether the weather will be wonderful!

    I'm pretty sure it won't be.

    After almost five months with only one little rain storm, our weather is about to change.  Of course it is the weekend we want to camp, but that's really OK.

    A cold storm front is moving thru, but it looks like the worst of it will be to the north.  So far, only a "chance of showers" is predicted for the weekend days in the Pinnacles National Monument area. But it is going to be quite cold!

    I guess we will get to test our heating systems. I think we have both electric  and propane. And I had better dig up some warm clothes for both of us.

    But,  it's really just about going somewhere and from what I read on other blogs, it's often all about the food!

    We will not have a car along, so we will have to take everything we need  from the start.  I've planned the meals to be easy, but all things we like.

    The following pictures are all from Google Images.

    Friday night we will have a meal that goes back to our skiing days.  Whenever we had a motel room with a kitchenette we would stay in and have baked Brie with fruit, a baguette, and wine instead of going to a restaurant. They were some of the best nights.

    Breakfast Saturday will be Ham Cheese and Apple Panini made with English Muffins.

    If it's not raining we will hike them off!

    Dinner Saturday will be my favorite Amylu Sweet Caramelized Onion Chicken burgers from Costco and Garlic Fries from Trader Joe's.


    Sunday breakfast will be light and tasty. I'll bake a batch of Trader Joe's Mini Croissants.  

    They are frozen and you just put them out to proof over night and bake in the morning.  So good and fresh.   A nice glass of OJ and some brewed coffee will warm us up.

    I'm planning on cooking a nice Corned Beef dinner in the slow cooker on Sunday.  That way I'll have leftovers for dinner when we get home on Monday and I won't have to cook. The ribs I made last time worked out great.  The insert from the slow cooker fits nicely in the refrigerator. 

    I am curious to see if the cabbage stinks up the Alfa.

    Monday morning breakfast will be our usual weekend fare.  Something hearty to see us thru getting home and back into the driveway. Eggs over easy, toast or muffins, and a chicken  sausage. 

    I'll probably pack a few cans of good soup and some salad fixings if we want a lunch.  But usually if we eat breakfast we skip lunch.  A couple of yogurts and some extra fruit for snacks would be good, and Craig will probably want something salty so I'd better pack chips and Cheetos as well.

    We usually get more veggies in our meals than this lineup provides, but I'm trying to keep things easy.

    So if the weather's not great, the food will be! 

    One more day.