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!