Winding Down Our Sonoma County (CA) Stay

Our time back in our former home county fast approaching an end for this time around, we remained camped out in the back of the Petaluma Elks Lodge. I can’t thank them enough for their hospitality and consideration during my surgery process. I had a few P/T sessions to attend for post-surgery, which were pretty normal as far as surgical P/T goes (aka: a waste of my time). We also got to attend the Gladiator’s (6 year old grandson, Maximus) first Little League Baseball game of the season. Lots of picture taking…

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Showing up for gameday, battle face ready…

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A little pre-game fielding practice. “I got it!”

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Pre-game BP, crushed it!

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That searing look of concentration…

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Trying out the catcher’s position…

We managed to fall into a fairly good-weathered Sunday. We took Max and his mom Jenn back to the Point Reyes Lighthouse area so we could go see the Elephant Seals. It was just a short hike near the Chimney Rock trail and we could view a large colony of the critters just across the water. But we hiked to the rescue boat house and found a small group of juvenile Elephant Seals sunnin’ themselves just a matter of feet from where we were standing. Max got a kick out of that. Lots of picture taking…

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Looking down at the colony just across the water.

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OK, let’s zoom in…

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Opa, the Gladiator, and his mama Jenn, getting photo bombed by the sunbathers.

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Jeanne and I mugging for the camera. Nice weather, even though we are in sweatshirts and windbreakers…

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Jeanne, Jenn, and Max with the bay behind them.

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Some of the babies sunnin’ out behind the boathouse.

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Aaaaaaaaaaawww!

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The Lifeboat Station.

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The Elephant Seals could care less about the humans gawking down at them…

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“Do you mind, buddy? I’m trying to get some shuteye here!”

For the last 4 days of our stay in Petaluma, we moved over to the Petaluma KOA. Our son, Chad, had 4 days of training in nearby Napa, so he brought our 2 year old granddaughter, Miss Hailey Marie, with him and we picked her up for the duration of his training. Hailey had a blast “camping” at the KOA. But that is as expected; the Petaluma KOA is one of the best KOA’s nationwide, hands down. There is a ton of activity for the young’uns to keep busy. And Miss Hailey went absolutely wild on the bounce pillow, jumping on her short little legs for an hour straight! She wore Opa out just watching her! While Hailey was staying with us, we had Max and Jenn come visit as well. The two kids had a blast. Lots of picture taking…

So it was back to Atascadero, CA, for us as we returned Miss Hailey to her parents, Chad and Crissy. Crissy was still somewhat infirmed, healing up from a recent auto accident she was involved in which broke no bones but did mess up her foot and mobility quite a bit. So we did another week of granddaughter tending (x2) for Miss Hailey and 7 week old Miss Ellie Grace. And the Atascadero Elks Lodge came to our rescue again, allowing us another week at their RV lot (we were a little premature per the local city regulations, but we won’t tell if you don’t). So far, being a new Elks member, I have to say, the Elks people are just plain quality folks and we thank one and all for all their patience and assistance during this whole medical fiasco stay.

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Definitely a huge negative for the once great state of CA, now fast becoming intolerable.

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More of the lovely traffic of northern CA, which sadly has become the norm these days…

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Little Miss Hailey visiting “the Elk” at the Atascadero Elks Lodge.

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Little Miss Ellie Grace, coughing some zees…

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Oma, Hailey, and Ellie.

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Chad and his new 7 week old daughter, Ellie Grace.

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We had Hailey do a belated Easter egg hunt in the backyard, with Daddy looking on…

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Chad, Jeanne, and Crissy supervising Hailey Marie on her egg hunt.

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Hailey not only wore herself out, she did Opa in as well!

Oh, yeah, I gotta catch you up on the case of Gout from Hell. So I finished the first 5-day round of Prednisone. From the first night of meds I got immediate, but not complete, relief from the excruciating pain in both feet. Just a twinge of pain remained and it stayed that way for about 20 days past the last of the Prednisone. But that 21st day it exploded back in a big way. The doc scripted another round of Prednisone, this one the diminishing dosage type for 9 days. I am on the 9th day now, and absolutely no sign of gout pain! Holy moly, I hope this holds out this time…

I think this must be the shortest post I have done so far. This catches us up to date for now, until next post…

Posted in Atascadero, California, Petaluma, CA, Santa Rosa, CA | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Post Surgery Life

Well, after the epidural injection did not work, surgery was in my near future. I have about had it with doctor office staff. It seems whenever I am in dire straits, the staffers seem to “only” have appointments way far off in the distance. My surgeon could only get me on the table on 2/28, so I had a whole month of intense pain to endure in the meantime. I did get a scrip for muscle relaxants and pain (Percocet!) to hold me over to surgery. For the uninitiated, Percocet is a heavy opioid that leads you to Wonderland in a big way. I took half doses to keep from going to Zombieland and that worked pretty well, left me somewhat functional.

To kill some of the wait time I got an appointment with Freightliner in Sacramento to try to resolve my Gremlins problem in my dashboard emergency warning lights and buzzers. They were good to get me in and out, but again they were not sure of the cause. This time they changed out the whole warning gauges module and said that should do it. I got to drive the bus back to Atascadero and by golly no issues for that 200+ mile drive.

We spent another week with our son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter, Chad, Crissy, and Miss Hailey while staying at the Atascadero Elks Lodge. It is so much nicer being able to stay in Atascadero than to do the daily driving from Paso Robles in to visit.

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Miss Hailey playing with her stickers we picked up for her at Mrs. Grossman’s in Petaluma. Haily loves her stickers.

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Hailey and Oma playing in Hailey’s play room.

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Gotta teach them kids early…babies go in the car seat when driving to the grocery store.

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More tragedy. Chad’s family pet Lucy had some serious spastic episodes while we were there. To the vet’s, they thought maybe a brain tumor, not good prognosis. Lucy returned home and March 15 Chad informed us he had to have her euthanized that morning. More crappy news for a generally crappy month. RIP Lucy!

We got hit with terribly sad news while in Atascadero – a very close family friend and one of my former co-workers/partners at the Sheriff’s Dept., Jon Watson, lost his battle with throat cancer and passed on to a much better life. We were heartbroken  that we were unable to attend his memorial service, it was just after I got released post surgery. Rest in peace, my friend!

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Jon Watson, with his partner “Koogan”. RIP, my friend.

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Jon and Koogan, doing what they did best!

So we returned to Petaluma counting down until surgery. Murphy, again, reared his ugly head with his screwed up list of “laws”. The day of my pre-surgery appointment with the sawbones (about 6 days out), I got the pleasure of developing a case of gout, something that I tend to do from time to time. Usually, past practice I would pop a Colchecine for 2-3 days and bingo, no more gout. Unfortunately, sawbones said I cannot take any anti-inflammatories or blood thinners this close to surgery and in any case not for about 6 months after surgery. He said it interferes with the fusion process. Great. So, back to full strength Percocet. He also gave me the good news – this surgery tends to exacerbate gout kinda big time. Great. Surgery day came and Memorial Hospital in Santa Rosa actually did a good job for me. Dr. Athanassious from Santa Rosa Orthopedics (aka: The Bone Palace) also did an excellent job as my sawbones. Once I came out of Wonderland I noticed relief from the neck pain right away. But Mr. Gout was still with me. He was not just “with” me, he decided he needed to invite the whole Gout family with him. Normally I only get it in one foot or the other. Now, out of my cloud of anesthesia, I could feel gout in both feet. Doc was right, I felt the exacerbation almost immediately. Great.

It was just an overnighter for me at the hospital, thankfully. Problem was after I returned to the motorhome, the double-barreled gout intensified to the point I absolutely could not stand, walk, or even allow a simple bedsheet to rest on either foot. I’ve seen a lot of pain in varying degrees in my 58 years and was pretty proud of the amount I could take. But holy cow! This round broke me down to a sniveling simp. No neck/spine pain, oh, OK, I guess these Percocets will handle the gout. Yippee, oh boy, flying without an FAA license! (Made me pretty useless for a few weeks, anyway.) My savior was an appointment to establish a primary care physician here in Santa Rosa. She scripted me with a 5 day Prednisone regiment and AAAAAAAAHHH! Immediate relief! I just finished my 5th day and time will now tell if it will take. Now to cross fingers and hope no gout for the next 6 months. To top it all off, Miss Hailey received Little Sister Ellie Grace a little earlier than expected, on the very day of my surgery. Chad and Crissy now the proud parents of two daughters!

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Early on in my attack of gout. I was lucky I could stand then…

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Yeah, I survived the knife!

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This is what a few Percocets can do for you…

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Proud Daddy Chad with Little Miss Ellie. We were with you in spirit, son…

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New momma Crissy with their second bundle of joy, Miss Ellie.

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This is what relief from gout can look like. See, I can even put socks on the affected feet…

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I no longer have a titanium deficiency!

While convalescing and with the gout relief, we eased back into a little more normal activity. We had the opportunity to meet up with my cousin Cheryl, whom I have not seen in, ahem, 40-some years. We had a very nice time catching up and telling stories. Luckily, she was only evacuated from her home near Annadel Park in Santa Rosa during this past fire storm in October. Her home survived the fires.

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Thanks for the visit, cousin Cheryl. We enjoyed the catch up!

During the recovery period the weather has been less than optimal here in Petaluma. Lots of rain and cold. But we did find a clear day to load Jenn and Max up and head out to check out the Point Reyes Lighthouse. The day was beautiful, but cool and windy. And we all survived the daunting 330 steps (one-way) to the lighthouse. They call it the equivalent of a 30 story building. A plus was we got to see several of the whales spouting on their yearly tour north up the coast after birthing down south.

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Jenn taking a selfie with Jeanne and I, trying not to get blown over by the wind.

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The Point Reyes Lighthouse.

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The Point Reyes Lighthouse from a closer vantage point.

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After climbing down those 330 steps, it is time for a rest with snacks.

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Maximus the Gladiator doing a coast watch. “Hey, Max, the whales are out in the ocean, look that way!”

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With the heavy wind, critters like the red tailed hawks could remain stationary in the air while in their “attack mode” looking for Hawk snacks.

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There were lots of coastal deer, chowing down on grass while whale watching with the humans. The problem was I could not be fast enough to catch the small whale spouts on camera, so hence, no photos. Sorry…

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The Gladiator, tree bound.

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A shot north toward South Beach and Drake’s Beach. It was a beautiful day on the Marin County coast.

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Max thinking we are crazy to embark on this descent.

That about catches us up. We still have a bit of California time to burn to finish up medical issues, babysitting issues, and maybe take in a couple of the Gladiator’s Little League games, then look to head north for a change of scenery. Until next post…

Posted in California, Petaluma, CA, Santa Rosa, CA | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Stalled in Wait Mode in CA

So, here we sit, hanging out in northern CA, waiting to find out whether or not I am going under the knife for what they call an Anterior Cervical Discectomy & Fusion. My surgeon decided to try one last ditch effort to avoid surgery by having me get an epidural injection into the area causing the numbness in my hand, the area from C7 to T1 vertebrae. Currently, it has been almost a week since the needle. The first couple of days were beautifully pain-free and numb-free. But since then, something is not right and it is a process filled with excruciating pain just to get in and out of the bed, any chairs, or the Jeep. 2 more follow-up appointments prior to the scheduled surgery are in order to make the final determination. Oh boy…

The Petaluma Elks Lodge #901 has been a life saver for us during this long, drawn out process, most graciously allowing our extended stay for the medical treatment and various doctor’s appointments. It is in a nice location on the south end of town, with Shollenberger Park just across the street. Our time here was plagued with that particularly nasty version of the flu, putting both Jeanne and I down, bedridden, for about 4 days straight. The bummer about that was it coincided with the Elk’s Law Enforcement Appreciation Dinner, so we missed out on the festivities.

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Looking down the parking lot at the RV area behind the Petaluma Elks Lodge #901.

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Our home at the Petaluma Elks while we wait out the medical issues.

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Paved and full hook-ups, what more could we need? Oh yeah, did I mention the cocktail lounge inside the clubhouse?!?!?

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Max leading us on a walkabout on the trails at Shollenberger Park.

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Max checking out the small pier on the Petaluma River.

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Turtles and ducks. Ducks and turtles. After all, Shollenberger Park is a sort of wildlife refuge.

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These wild looking guys were all over the place. Red winged Blackbirds…

We did manage to spend some quality time with the Gladiator (Maximus) and his family. New Year’s Eve was a start, with a yuppy trip to Stinson Beach where we noshed on cheese, crackers, and fruit. We frolicked on the beach in the near frigid weather and hunted for sand dollars.

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Here we are at Stinson Beach, pretending to be yuppie Marin-ites and dining on fruit, cheese, and crackers…

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Kinda reminded us of a fine summer day in the San Francisco Bay area…

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Heading down to the beach… Stinson Beach.

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Jeanne, Jenn, and Max clowning for the camera.

On a much warmer and clearer day we took Max and his mother up to Lake Sonoma to wander around the fish hatchery. We were a little early for any steelhead/salmon runs up the fish ladder, but Max got to feed some of them in the holding ponds. We also drove up to the lookout and got some nice views of the lake. To finish off the nice day at the lake we hit Old Chicago Pizza in Petaluma for one of their awesome deep-dish pies.

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Inside the Visitor’s Center at Lake Sonoma.

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Jeanne and the Gladiator checking out the swag in the gift shop at Lake Sonoma.

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Heading over to the hatchery facilities.

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We were just a tad bit early in the season for the salmon/steelhead run up the fish ladder…

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…but the holding tanks were full and the fish were hungry!

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The holding ponds at Lake Sonoma.

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Lake Sonoma, view from the lookout tower.

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Max, the budding ornithologist!

Petaluma is home to Mrs. Grossman’s Sticker Factory. I never heard of it before, but according to Jeanne and Jenn it is a world famous printer of all manner of stickers. They also print wine labels for many wineries. We took Max on a tour of the factory where he scored sheets of stickers, an integral part of the tour, and got to play with all the stickers he wanted in the craft room.

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Max, mom, and Mah browsing in Mrs. Grossman’s gift shop/craft room.

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Getting ready for the factory tour.

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Max standing in front of the chronological display of Mrs. Grossman’s stickers.

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Mrs. Grossman’s keeps about a 3 month supply of all of their stickers on hand in their warehouse.

Max has short days at school on Wednesdays, so on one of those such days we picked him up and took him to the Scandia Family Fun center in Rohnert Park. It was rainy, so we kept it to the indoor arcade area. We let Max demonstrate his skills such as skeeball, basketball, pinball, air hockey, and motorcycle racing. We also made another trip to Scandia on a clear day and got Max started in the batting cages, preparing for the upcoming little league season.

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Puttin’ a little English on that Skeeball toss…

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Motorcycle Madness by Mad Max…

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Cruisin’ in the Batmobile…

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Max beating the britches off his Opa in air hockey.

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Ahhhhh, the smell of pine tar is in the air!

Well, today is Superbowl Sunday. We will be going to Max’s house and stuffing our faces with the usual fare, rooting for Green Bay to win next year,  and otherwise still kicking back, firmly entrenched in this hurry-up-and-wait period. Sorry for the lack of excitement in this post, family visits aside, this waiting on medical “stuff” is just not a lot of fun.

Until next post…

Posted in California, Santa Rosa, CA | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ol’ Nero Must Be Sawin’ On That Fiddle Like the Ragin’ Cajun

OK, so we are not in Rome, but, dang, California sure has become a virtual inferno in 2017. No sooner had the north settled down into recover and repair mode, the south decided to ignite and, as of this writing, still burns out of control. I will try to catch you up on our doings to now, as best I can without being too boring.

So we left Sonoma County and headed back to Paso Robles and the Vines Resort. We stayed there about 3 weeks whilst visiting granddaughter Hailey and her family. That included a return visit to the Paso Robles Children’s Museum (converted fire house), a few trips to local area parks, a little babysitting time, and a general good time visiting family. While here I also made a couple of command decisions related to health and lifestyle. I have begun the process of joining the Elks club in Atascadero. Second, and more importantly, I have had neck pain issues related to a herniated disc (C6-C7) for the past 5+ years. Back in 2012 & in 2013 I had epidural injections which provided immediate but short-lived relief, both done in Sonoma County. Since then I have lived with the “pain in the neck”. Within the past 2 months the pain recruited a new teammate – occasional numbness – so I decided it was time for medical attention. I returned to the “Bone Palace”, aka: Santa Rosa Orthopedics, and started THAT process. We did a road trip up to Santa Rosa for Doctor visit and X-Ray, which showed arthritis covering basically the entire C3-T1 section of my spine. Great. So Doc set me up for PT, an MRI, and a neurological conductivity test. Pain not withstanding, I was put into “stand-by to stand-by” mode.

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Hailey having fun on the swings at Atascadero Lake Park.

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The flamingos at the Charles Paddock Zoo next to Atascadero Lake Park

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Oma, Hailey, and Woody outside the flamingo pen at the zoo.

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Hailey playing at the Children’s Museum

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Oma and Hailey doing the teeter-totter.

With the Gladiator’s (Max, the 6 year old grandson) birthday and Thanksgiving both occurring very close in time, our daughter Jenn opted to host the family for both celebrations at her home in Santa Rosa. We relocated our house on wheels back to the Sonoma County Fairgrounds RV Park. Upon arrival we found the park dramatically changed. With the recent spate of disastrous fires, FEMA has purchased a fleet of travel trailers and was in process of setting them up here. What was once an RV park with single, pull-through sites, now had those pull-throughs chopped in 2 for a back-to-back doubling of the spaces. And although they allowed larger rigs like ours, our site caused our nose to hang out into the traffic lane quite a bit. Many others were situated likewise, so any navigation of the interior traffic lanes became a slalom course. Our entire stay we worried about someone hitting the front of our bus.

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Our home, at Sonoma County Fairgrounds RV Park.

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A look at the fairgrounds RV lot through the fog.

First order of business was Thanksgiving. The family elected to have a crab feast, so we made a run on Costco for some King Crab legs & Dungeness whole crabs. Chad, Crissie, and Hailey drove up for the weekend festivities and we stuffed our faces with crab. Hailey was not real sure of the little critters, but boy, howdy, they was TASTY!

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Hailey was not quite sure of that little critter…

Somebody’s 6th birthday was next on the itinerary. Max had a few friends over for his party and party they did. He is now into Nerf gun wars, and has no shortage of weapons. The living room became the battlefield. Cake & pizza to boot, not too shabby!

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Hailey would rather eat the Nerf darts…

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Max, getting loaded up for battle…

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Let the carnage begin!

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Nothing better than some cake after a hard fought Nerf battle…

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No, Hailey is not eating both those plates full…

The Sonoma County Fairgrounds RV Park was gracious enough to extend my stay beyond their 14-day limit so I could do my PT appointments while waiting for related appointments. As it happened, I got my MRI and conductivity tests moved up because of appointment cancellations, so I was able to crank those out on the same day.

After finishing my last Doc ordered PT, we moved the house on wheels back to Paso Robles and the Vines Resort for some early Christmas celebration with Hailey and her family. I also got sworn-in as one of the newest members of the Atascadero Lodge of the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks of the United States of America. One of the perks being an Elk is it now opens the door to parking the bus at numerous lodges all over the country. We did our maiden voyage to the Atascadero lodge and stayed in their RV lot, full hook-ups, at a wallet-friendly $25 per night. I had to giggle at myself because I actually had to go out shopping for a sport jacket and slacks for my initiation ceremony, my full-time RV wardrobe mostly consisting of shorts and flip-flops. I found all the folks here at Lodge #2733 to be very friendly and welcoming and I encourage any of you RV-ing Elks out there, if traveling through this area, to consider a stop-by for brief respite and fellowship. This is a good location, within striking distance of San Luis Obispo, the coastal communities of Avila Beach, Morrow Bay, Pismo Beach, and Hearst Castle.

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Our home, at the Atascadero Elks Lodge RV lot.

While waiting for my eventual follow-up Doc’s appointment, I was able to access the report from my MRI. It wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but could have been worse. It basically looks like all my “C” discs have “minor” bulging, coupled with arthritic damage and the canals through the bone in which the nerves run are all congenitally abnormally small. So here I sit, hoping another appointment cancellation will move my Doc appointment up from January 15. You gotta love that “hurry up and wait” lifestyle!

Meanwhile, back in reality, we got to have an early Christmas celebration with Hailey, Chad, and Crissy. I got to re-live my young adult parent days and build a play kitchen set for Hailey. Glad to see nothing has changed, companies still make instruction manuals that would give a structural engineer a migraine! But failure was not an option, 2 hours later a kitchen was born. Whew…Chad cooked up a great platter of pork ribs and we feasted yet again, washing it down with a bit of Founder’s CBS Barrel Aged Stout. Nirvana…

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Soon to be a play kitchen…

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Jeanne was hard at work, making Christmas cookies in a real kitchen!

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Wow, sometimes I can make things that turn out the way they is supposed to…

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Now there’s some good eatin’ Christmas cookies!

Chad & Crissy then treated us to dinner and Christmas lights in Cambria. The Cambria Pines Lodge puts on a large light display. It was a nice time out, even if little Miss Hailey cried when she had the chance to sit with Santa.

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Chad, Hailey, and Crissy on the “Golden Gate Bridge” display at the Cambria Pines Lodge.

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Opa, Hailey, and Oma.

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Oma Jeanne, Hailey, Crissy, and Chad walking through the lights.

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Santa, Crissy, and an unsure Hailey.

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The Krampus, in lights…

Well, that about catches us up. We will spend a couple of days back in Coarsegold, CA, with Jeanne’s mom and Fred, then back to Sonoma County to wait out the medical issues. Merry Christmas to everyone!

Posted in Atascadero, California, Santa Rosa, CA | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Santa Rosa Fire of 2017

Well, our family “stuff” survived the Coffee Park Fire in the storage unit. For this post, I think I will forego my usual wordiness and let the photos speak for themselves. This will be a photo recap of our first go-round back in Sonoma County, CA, but not a lot of captions. Amidst all the saddening devastation we did manage to enjoy some family time with Max. We took him to the Pronzini Pumpkin Patch in Petaluma, Lagunitas Brewing Co. also in Petaluma, and the Fall Fun Fest put on by Redwood Covenant Church in Santa Rosa.

 

 

From Santa Rosa it was back to the central coast area of California, Atascadero to be exact, for some more Hailey time. Until next post…

Posted in California, Santa Rosa, CA | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Back in Jerry’s Inferno

Well, a couple of boondocking nights, a couple of nights back at the Grand Canyon RR RV Park, and back into California we go. We boondocked in a field across from the Silver Moon Cafe in “beautiful” downtown Santa Rosa, NM. It seems that truckers and RV’s are welcome to overnight in just about any open space in this poor ol’ rundown town. We dined at the cafe and were treated to a cool double rainbow in the sky immediately following a pretty heavy downpour. Our stop at the Grand Canyon RR RV Park in Williams, AZ, included a visit to the newly relocated Grand Canyon Brewing Co. just across the street. They actually had a couple of IPA’s that were palatable, me not being much of an IPA aficionado. Our other boondock night was a very wide shoulder of Hwy. 58 heading into the Tehachapi Pass. This is a busy boondocking area for truckers and RV’s as well, you just have to be able to sleep with traffic noise. We were treated to a nice sunrise to boot.

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Our home across the street from the Silver Moon Cafe in Santa Rosa, NM.

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Anybody in the mood for a double rainbow?!

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A little adult refreshment at the Grand Canyon Brewing Co.

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Inside the G.C. Brewing Co.

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Sunrise greets, along Hwy. 58 heading into the Tehachapi Pass.

Our first stop in CA was in Coarsegold to visit Jeanne’s mom and her partner Fred. Fred just happens to live across the street from his daughter’s vacation home/property and he was gracious enough to allow us to “mooch”-dock in her driveway. For those of you who are not in-the-know, moochdocking is mooching space on someone’s private property where you can dry camp for free. We had a nice visit with Yvonne and Fred, went out for chow to a pretty good Mexican restaurant called El Cid in Oakhurst, took a drive over to the Bass Lake area, and the highlight of our stay was to watch Yvonne feed the neighborhood “cats” on her back porch. The photo says it all…

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Moochdocking in Coarsegold, CA at Fred & Yvonne’s place.

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When you live out in the sticks, you can have the outdoor shower experience!

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And for the heated water for that outdoor shower, black coiled hose on the roof!

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Woodrow Wilson certainly had fun at Fred’s, chasing the quail and having a good time.

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The neighborhood “cat”…polecat, that is!

On moving day I woke up to the smell of propane on the outside of the rig. Great, I just love surprises. I popped the bay door for my propane tank and could hear a feint hissing and smelled the strong odor of propane. Being in the middle of nowhere and not willing to postpone our departure, I turned the gas off and we hit the road. From Coarsegold we popped over Hwy. 41 into Paso Robles for about a week’s stay to visit our son Chad, daughter-in-law Crissy, and our almost 2 year old granddaughter Hailey. The Vines RV Resort was our home while there, a very nice RV park we have stayed at many times and it just happens to participate in Passport America. Don’t ask me why but after set up, out of curiosity, I turned the gas back on to try and find the leak. No smell, no hiss. Wow, Murphy took a day off from his law-making duties and fate smiled down upon me. But that was soon to correct itself. After a couple of days, the odor outside was back. A little soapy water revealed my little pigtail hose from the regulator to the tank valve was the culprit. Tempting fate I decided to try the fix myself. These fixes are never simple for me, I carry very limited tools, unlike a lot of handy fix-it fellow RVers who carry multiple tool chests loaded with every tool known to man. So besides picking up the pigtail, I had to hunt down the right sized open end wrench. With the tools in hand, I swapped out the pigtail and, for some unknown reason, no more leak!

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The evil pigtail…

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It was pretty busy at the Vines RV Resort.

So we had a nice week with little miss Hailey. We took her to a children’s activity museum, a converted fire house in Paso Robles. She got in a day of playing in the pool at the RV park. And we took her and her daddy to the Barrel House Brewing Co. for dinner and a concert by a band called the Blimp Pilots. Taking a toddler to a brew house?!? Well, this place is very popular with the locals and they ALL take their kids, some even bring their dogs since there is ample outside seating. I got a kick out of watching Hailey “rock out”.

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Little Miss Hailey, Oma, Chad, and Crissy.

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All kids like Round Table pizza, but Hailey really liked the black olives and garbanzo beans!

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Hailey was ready for it all…a little recycling and a little dog poopy cleanup!

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Fun at the activity center in Paso Robles.

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You are never too young to learn to shop.

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Swimming with Dad and Oma.

After this initial visit with Hailey (there will be more, we are planning to float all over the “left” coast area for quite a while now) we headed into Santa Rosa, CA to visit with the Gladiator (Max, our almost 6 year old grandson). We were happy to see clear skies and no fires while on the central coast area. The past 2 years, as we have returned to the area, the central coast has had massive, devastating wildfires, but this time it was “clear sailing”. Our happiness was quickly doused as we neared the bay area (SF bay area that is) and encountered heavy smoke. Santa Rosa was suffering a devastating fire which was just one of a whole slew of nasty wildfires covering all of northern CA. Our former home of 25 years which we sold to start our full time RV lifestyle was reduced to ashes in the Coffee Park section of the fire. The last of all of our Earthly belongings are stored in a storage facility right in the middle of the firestorm and we are still waiting to get the OK to enter the partially burned business to check their welfare. Family pictures, heirlooms, kids schoolwork, etc. may or may not have been affected by the heat/smoke/flames…we will see.

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Morning skies over Santa Rosa, CA during the early days of the fire.

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This photo of the fires was floating around on FB.

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Our storage unit complex as seen from the air. Some burnt, some still standing.

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Our former family home is one of the below piles of ash.

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Kmart in Santa Rosa, post fire.

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This was a gun shop at the corner of Range Av. and Piner Rd. in Santa Rosa.

We usually try to stay at the Sonoma Co. Fairgrounds RV park when we come to Santa Rosa. However, being in the middle of this current, evolving disaster, with thousands of evacuees looking for shelter and particularly those with trailers/RV’s needing space, we chose to park on the street in front of our daughter Jenn’s house. She lives just close enough to some of the flames that we waited anxiously for the mandatory evacuation notice that, thankfully, she never got. The disastrous wildfires brought thousands of outside agency first responders, even firefighters from Australia, to the northern CA area. I had heard our Sonoma Co. Deputy Sheriff’s Assoc. was looking for volunteers to help prep and serve meals to the emergency personnel who were working 12 hour shifts, so I rounded up Jeanne, Jenn, and even Max and we spent 2 days at the DSA office serving the heroes. Max actually was the big hit, especially with his new friends from San Francisco P.D. He made out with a handful of badge decals and even one SFPD uniform patch!

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The Gladiator enjoying some good ol’ Round Table pizza.

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Our home in front of Jenn’s house during the fire crisis.

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Max helping out with serving the first responders meals.

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Max and Opa hanging’ with our POTUS at the DSA union hall.

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Feeding the heroes.

As the light at the end of the tunnel gets brighter, we wait to learn the fate of our family pictures. Next post will tell the tale…

Posted in California | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Lower 48 Completed!

 

It took 5 years of full-timing, but we can finally say our wheels traveled through and came to a stop for at least one night’s stay in all of the lower 48 states of the union! And in all but 3 states we actually stayed in at least 1 RV campground/park. Kansas, Nebraska, and West Virginia were our park-less stops, but stops nonetheless with the help of some of the many options available for free, overnight stays. In these 5 years we have learned of several no-cost options for overnight stays during our travels, including but not limited to Walmart, Cracker Barrel, truck stops, some rest stops, Cabelas, Bass Pro, public lands such as BLM and National Forest lands, and occasional open field/private property that allows overnighters. Now, in that time and during these travels, we have seen a lot of beautiful sights nationwide, however we have only scratched the surface and there remains still much more to experience. How much more, on our part, remains to be seen, since we are starting to get the “settle down itch”. What that means – total “get off the road” to maybe becoming part-timers to remaining status quo, we just haven’t sorted the cards we have been dealt yet. But for now I’ll get back to current events.

Finished in Maine, it was time to head back west for some kids and grandkids time. It was not without some minor detours. When Jeanne’s sister Denise left us we told her we were gonna swing by on our way west to check on her in Branson, MO, (she recently lost her husband, Don.) So instead of a northern crossing we headed south. We did an overnighter at the Sturbridge, MA Walmart, then to an overnighter at a place called Aspen Family Campground in Candor, NY. Holy-Total-Pit Batman! This place was off a skinny road, with a skinny, back angled driveway which I BARELY made with the toad, then terrible rutted gravel uphill driveway. We were tired and did not feel like driving more, so we buckled and stayed here. The grass field we were put in was accessed through a tunnel of trees, then was not even close to level, and the sites were not delineated so you park any which way you like near the W/E post. The grass/mud was moist enough that when I tried to use my jacks, they just sunk into the grass/mud. So it was an unlevel, unrestful night’s sleep for us, never to return here again.

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The field at Aspen Family Campground.

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Our settled position, we were far from level.

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Jacks down, oops!

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Our tunnel of trees getting to our site.

Next stop was the Luray KOA in Virginia. While here we took a drive along the Skyline Dr. in Shenandoah National Park and used this stop to take care of some business, car insurance business that is. Texas is a terrible state to have to insure your vehicles through if you are a full time RVer with the Escapees RV Club mailing address in Livingston. Our Jeep insurer, Nationwide, just notified us that the Jeep was going up $1,000 more this year, no tickets, accidents, nothing. After clearing the smoke out of our motorhome from what billowed out of my ears, Jeanne set off on yet ANOTHER insurance search. We ended up at Hartford through AARP (sometimes it’s nice to be an old fart) and got a $100 discount by just taking an online AARP Driver’s Safety course. The hunt continues for a break in our motorhome insurance, currently costing us $4,000 per year (just let that one soak in for a second, don’t say a word!)

 

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Our home at Luray KOA

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Playground and ping pong at Luray KOA

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Pavillion area with smoker/BBQ at the KOA

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Pools at the Luray KOA

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Driving through a tunnel along the Skyline Dr. at Shenandoah Nat’l Park.

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The valley below Skyline Dr.

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Another shot of the valley

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Iron Mike stands in commemoration of the Civilian Conservation Corp whose sweat made the park possible.

Another Walmart overnighter in Hurricane, West Virginia, then it was on to Frankfort, KY and the Elkhorn Campground. While there Jeanne and I were able to finish out the Kentucky Brewgrass Trail (craft breweries in the area) and earned our official Brewgrass Trail T-shirts (sorry, no pic, they had to mail them to us and we haven’t gotten our mail yet.) We also made a visit to the Buffalo Trace Distillery this time around. It is not included in the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail or the Craft Distillery Trail, but it is on the trail. The distillery gives free tours and tastings and is quite picturesque. Also while here we started seeing these small painted rocks hidden around the park, we found 3. It seems there is a Facebook group called RVers Rock! who are the responsible culprits. The tops of the rocks are painted with anything the artist desires, then the backs have instructions printed to keep or rehide the rock, post pictures on the group’s FB feed, and frequently have the location/park of origin or state also included. This caught Jeanne’s curiosity/interest, so it looks like we will become artists now. Our 3 found rocks will also find new homes somewhere along our westward trail to California. You never know where you may find one, they can be anywhere. We will be sticking with hiding them in or around RV parks.

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The playground and a pavilion at Elkhorn Campground.

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Miniature golf, anyone? Elkhorn C.G.

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The pool at the campground.

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Some of the sites at Elkhorn C.G.

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Welcome to Lemons Mill Brewery

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So many choices, so little time…

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Let’s brew some beer!

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What’s on tap?

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Back on the hard stuff…

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Messin’ around with the buff…

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Here they use that high tech method of manual air conditioning to keep the aging barrels cool…

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Buffalo Trace gift shop

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He saw me coming. “Set ’em up!”

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Jeanne checking out Warehouse V, licensed to house (1), count ’em, (1) barrel of Buffalo Trace bourbon.

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And here’s the current barrel housed in Warehouse V

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RVers Rock! artwork.

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More RVers Rock! art.

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The backside of the art.

Gotta love the RV lifestyle. For the couple of weeks prior to our Elkhorn stop we have been having more issues with our water heater. Our water only heated to tepid at best. We were putting off looking for a service center until I just blew a gasket (metaphorically speaking). I called Precision Temp and one of their people in the know helped me troubleshoot the issue, discovering the propane regulator was bad. Gasket #2 just went (another one of them there  metaphors) since we had just replaced the piece of $h!t regulator last January. It seems somebody imported a buttload of bad regulators, probably from our friend China, this according to the Precision Temp guys. Anyways, on moving day our first stop was at Bluegrass RV in Lexington to get another regulator. The saving grace for the day was that on our way in for service we got treated to an nice sunrise, Kentucky style.

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A fine Kentucky sunrise…

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Oh, and by the way, if you should desire to drive your rig through downtown Lexington Kentucky, take a look at this photo before you choose to do so…

On the road with HOT water (!!!!Yippee!!!!), another Walmart, and into Branson, MO we rode. Denise hooked us up with a site at her camping club, Treasure Lake RV Resort, in downtown Branson. We had a nice stay visiting with Denise, Cedric, Savonna, Robert, Cooper, Brody, and Khloey (I probably mangled the spelling, sorry kid!). And we had HOT water the whole time!

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Jeanne, Cedric, and Magnum enjoying coffee and cinnamon rolls…

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While at Treasure Lake RV Resort a couple of locals decided to stroll through…

Oh the joys of the RV lifestyle, volume 2. We have been having nothing but problems with our satellite reception since we switched DISH receivers to the Wally version up in Maine. Trying to figure out the cable and over-the-air reception has also been a disaster for quite some time. With (4) massive TV’s scattered throughout the motorhome, they never acquire the same channels from one TV to the other at any given stop. And to make matters worse, the jumble of wiring jammed into the small cabinet area is a nightmare trying to decipher. To add insult to injury, Woodrow Wilson (our K9 travel companion) has had one too many accidents on our small piece of carpet in the rig. It was becoming stained from all the shampooing Jeanne has had to do to clean up Woody’s indiscretions. So since we was in Missouri, another detour seemed in order, back to the east to our very favorite and happiest place on Earth…Red Bay, Alabama! (Insert mega-sarcasm here!) Home of Tiffin Motorhomes and the world famous Tiffin Service Center.

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Which wire is it? That one, right there!

And the joys of the RV lifestyle are the gifts that keep on giving. So we are southbound out of Branson, heading for I-40 East. No sooner do we get out of town when my yellow check engine light starts going on and off, with the accompanying “ding, ding, ding” and the red “brake air” warning light flashing, the same time my gauges for the two air tanks go to zero. This goes on, intermittently, for about the next hour and a half. I have had issues with my warning lights and gauges since I got the motorhome 3 years ago. We have been to several Freightliner/Cummins shops, every time it occurs. It has gone unresolved from day one, but the audible alarms that go off drive me crazy. So this new occurrence was not surprising, but 90 minutes is a long time to worry if the bus would shut down at any time. The drivability during these episodes has never been affected. Add this problem to my Tiffin list, since Bay Diesel is just down the street.

We stayed at one of the off-campus campgrounds this time around (the service center was jam packed full). We got hooked up with Daniel Humphries, one of the “after-hours” techs who work on Tiffin products, to get new carpet (his specialty). While waiting we tried yet again to obtain full satellite reception. Our big gripe was we have never received high definition channels from the hi-def satellite, #129, since we switched to Wally. Still no hi-def, I did my usual call to DISH to try to resolve it. Gasket #3 went after another hour-long phone debate with the DISH techs and troubleshooting attempt. I hung up on DISH and we put a call into another after-hours tech for Tiffin products, Nick Brewer who specializes in the satellite/TV/electronics stuff. Nick took all of 1 minute and had me go into diagnostics, click one stinking button, and BOOM! I got satellite #129 and all the hi-def I could want. I guess the DISH techs were playing hooky the day they taught that in tech school.

While waiting/dealing with the cable/over-the-air issues, as well as a try to get in at Bay Diesel, we decided to poke our heads in and say howdy to Marion who is the tech in Bay #2, he has done work for us in the past. We also stopped in at the Tiffin parts store for a couple of things and Jeanne blurts out “Dave & Diane!” In the flesh, we see Dave and Diane (Dave writes his blog “Dave & Diane throwing caution to the wind”). Theirs was one of the first full timer blogs Jeanne started following way back in the beginning. And in the small world of RV traveling, we have run into them 3 times now; at the SKP park Jojoba Hills, CA, in the desert boondocking in Quartzsite, AZ, and now at the “real” happiest place on Earth in Red Bay. We chatted briefly and vowed to get together to swap stories, but regretfully we were not there long enough to make it happen.

Well, we got the carpet and hi-def issues resolved during this run to Red Bay. The diesel shop could not get us in for the dash light issue and Daniel tightened up some connections but it did not resolve the cable/air issues for TV. So it was back to the road, westward ho again. We had been watching weather and noticed the North and Northwest were starting to take on snow. That made the decision on routes easy, I-40 it was. A plus with this decision was there are numerous Freightliner shops along I-40 and I was intent on getting my dash light issue fixed once and for all. I settled on the Premier Truck Group Freightliner Service Center in Amarillo, TX. Last December I had been to the same company at their Dallas, TX shop for the same issue. The overall experience, especially this current one, has eroded any faith or trust in Freightliner as a company. Besides having to waste 3 full days, getting NO resolution, and having to pay out of my pocket for the issue which should have been fully covered under the original warranty, I got to listen to numerous truckers bad-mouth and complain about Freightliner’s terrible customer service practices. I was so full of piss and vinegar that I wrote a lengthy letter to Freightliner, with a copy to Bob Tiffin.

 

Anger set aside, breathing deeply, chanting in a meditative state, we continue our trek westbound, a couple of days out of California. And soon, well, take a look for yourself…

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Maximus, the Gladiator!

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Hailey Marie!

Until next post…

Posted in Alabama, Branson, Kentucky, Red Bay, Texas | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments