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Saturday, March 31, 2012

It’s a Dry World After all……

It rained pretty much all through the night. This morning there were puddles all around but the rain stopped mid-morning. It has not rained now for the last 9 hours or so, though it looks like it could start up again soon.

Today we went to the Chimacum Café for lunch. It is a small town (make that very small town) café that has been in business since 1955. The décor is worn and not much to look at but the food was surprisingly good tasting.

We signed up for Red Box today and rented a movie called “Moneyball.” It is based on the book by the same name and shows how the Oakland A’s used statistics to overcome a lack of superstars to win a lot of ball games. I’m not much of a movie person but this one was pretty darn good.

Next we have a DVD that my friend John Bardin lent us called “Paths of Glory.” Will probably watch that tonight or tomorrow.

While outside a bit today, I got some good pictures…….

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Above is looking over towards Whidbey Island. You can see the ferry returning to Port Townsend.

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This picture is of Port Townsend. It is about 2 miles away……by water. A little too far to swim. It is about 17 miles by car! Fort Flagler is on Marrowstone Island and you need to go all the way down the island to a bridge and then come back up over to Port Townsend. We plan to visit there on this trip and check out Fort Warden, another campground.

I also made a video with help from my friends John and Kevin, showing how we installed the automatic satellite dish. It runs about 21 minutes and you can watch it by clicking here.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Holding down the fort (Fort Flagler, that is)

Today we got up somewhat early, for us at least, and were on the road by 9am.  We arrived at Fort Flagler up on the west side of Puget Sound by 2pm.  We had rain quite often on the way up.  Other than that, nothing really eventful.

We were able to get a waterside site at the campground, but the hookups are meant for backing in.  I tried to use extensions so that we could look out our front window, but the sewer connection is just too far away.  So we had to back in and lose the view.

The wind has come up and is really rocking the RV even though the jacks are down.  This will be a good test for the new automatic satellite dish.

We are able to get 5 bars of 3g cell service here, so we can tether our computers to our phones for relatively high speed internet.

We haven’t really planned out our 5 days here at all so I guess we will just see what each day brings.  The one thing we know it will bring is rain!  At least that is forecast. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

It Works!!!!!

I mentioned a few posts back that I was going to replace my manual satellite dish with an automatic HD one.  The old manual one would not hold its position in the wind and developed a leak to boot.  I bought a kit from Winegard that was supposed to fix the problem, but it only marginally improved it.

So I was in the market for a new automatic dish that includes HD capability.  The difference between Standard Definition (SD) and High Definition (HD) is only a few hundred dollars, so we decided to bite that bullet.

I did some research.  Winegard also makes automatic dishes.  However if anything breaks on it, they do not sell individual parts.  You have to replace the entire mount for about $900.  That really soured me on them.

Other companies make domes, but the plastic dome suffers signal quality in the rain and none of those are HD capable for Direct TV.  So that was out.

In talking with a dealer, he mentioned a company called RF Mogul.  I looked them up on the net and saw that they are in Salt Lake City and that their president is Jim Pendleton.  Back in 2001, I knew a Jim Pendleton in SLC that worked for Motosat, a company that makes RV internet satellite systems.  So I fired off a message to this Jim to see if he was the same one.  He is and he even remembered me!

We exchanged emails.  His company makes both satellite TV automatic HD dishes and Satellite Internet Automatic dishes.  He put me in contact with his guy who does the TV side (Royal Lamb) and I asked Royal about his product.

Well, the cost uninstalled was $1,999 and if you add $350-$500 for installation, it was a bit too pricey.  Some dealers will discount that a bit.  I asked Royal if he needed any beta testers hoping to get a good deal.  Turns out he did. 

RF Mogul designed their system for simplicity and he was hoping to eventually market it directly to RV owners to install themselves.  He asked if I would be interested in doing that for a steeply discounted price.  He’d be available at any time to answer questions.  But he wanted to see if a reasonably intelligent person with a medium knowledge of tools and RV systems could do it.

So I took the project on.  First I went through his manuals and had several questions, some of which caused the manual to be changed.  After seeing what was involved, I went ahead and ordered a unit.  It arrived a week ago Friday.

I enlisted two friends to help me.  One to help me get it on the roof an positioned and the other to take video of the installation.  The unit only weighs 36 pounds but as you can imagine, it is bulky.

Last Monday we installed it.  Everything went fairly smoothly.  We pulled out the old manual unit, plugged the large hole it for it, and installed the new unit.  All together it took about 4.5 hours of actual installation time. 

At the same time, I upgraded one of my DVRs in the RV to an HD unit. 

The RF Mogul dish works really well so far.  It is very stable and even in rain storms, appears to get a strong signal.  The old manual dish suffered from “rain fade” where the rain drops attenuate the signal and block portions of it.  The RF Mogul dish is larger and more precisely aimed, so it does not suffer as much from the rain.

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Here is just some of the parts involved in the system.

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Here is the completed system installed on our RV

We are going out on the road in a few days and will get a great chance to check it all out.  Hopefully we will have some wind and rain and get a chance to see it in adverse conditions.

I am now editing a video on the experience so that others can follow on the trail we blazed.  Let me know if you are interested in more details!

Monday, March 12, 2012

On the Road Home

Saturday we left Monterey for Pleasanton.  The weather in the Monterey area was already changing.  Rain clouds were moving in and the wind was increasing.  We were so fortunate to have 3 days of perfect weather for our golf outings at Pebble Beach.

We drove up bumpy highway 101 and then to 680 out to the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton.  This is a nice campground except that the sites are somewhat too close together and it can be hard to park the tow car.  Our neighbors had a long pickup truck that they parked halfway into the street.  How rude!!!

Fortunately when it was time to go, the site directly in front of us was open and I just pulled through it.  One other thing is that the sites are not paved, not gravel, and really not grass.  Instead they are sort of a mixture of stubby sparse grass and scattered dusty dirt.  So you track lots of little grass clippings into the RV.  Not Cool.

Saturday night we had dinner with our niece Laura and her boyfriend Will at an Italian restaurant in Livermore near where they live.  It was great to see them and as an added treat, Laura baked us some red velvet cupcakes using a recipe that my brother used to make.  He passed away in 2008 but he passed on his recipe and baking skills to his daughters and we are the beneficiaries.  It is a great reminder of his love of cooking.

Sunday we drove from Pleasanton to Cal Expo in Sacramento.  Cal Expo is the site of the state fair and is a real nice place to stay.  We have stayed here before but their Wi-Fi never worked.  Well, now it does and it is really solid.

We took my sister-in-law and two more nieces out to dinner Sunday night.  That was a great visit and it was fun catching up on all that is going on in their lives.

This morning we did some quick trip planning to  determine where we would stay overnight.  There are major storm warnings for our route for wind, freezing rain, and snow.   I really wanted to get through the Siskiyou mountain passes if at all possible today so we planned several alternatives.  Rouge River Valley was about 330 miles from Sacramento and was through most, but not all of the passes.  Seven Feathers Casino and RV Park were 383 miles which is a bit further than I usually like to drive in one day.  260 miles is better.  But it is through most all of the passes so we decided to try to make that.

While there was no rain, the wind was a definite presence.  Fortunately, it came from the south and since we were heading north, if anything it would be a help to us.  It did make the drive more tiring than I would like, but even with the wind we made it all the way to Seven Feathers.

The forecast storm has now started and the rain is falling but we are tucked in our cozy RV for the night.  Tomorrow we are going another 100 miles to Eugene so that we can have dinner with some fellow bloggers (Russ & Donna).  We have met them before and they are also RVers who recently bought a new rig.  So that should be fun to catch up with them.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Trifecta–Today at Spyglass Hill

Today we played Spyglass Hill, the third course for our adventure and another course used in the Pro-Am tournament each year.  This course is way different in that there are lots of trees and only some holes have the water view.  The fairways are narrower but the greens are just as fast and still quite small.  They actually slow the greens down for the Pro-Am otherwise the amateurs would have too much trouble with them.  But for us regular folks, they make them harder!

That said, Phil Barricklow, one of my friends who joined me for this adventure, was really in a groove today and shot a 78!  He was really making some fantastic shots!  Maybe we should sponsor him in the Pro-Am next year!

I took a picture of each hole to give you some idea of just how beautiful this course is.  Each course we played has its own characteristics that make it different from the others.  Yet they are all fantastic venues and an experience the four of us will treasure.  I’ll put the pictures below with no descriptions.  (remember, you can double click them to enlarge them).

On several holes, there were deer on the course.  You can see a deer in one of the pictures below.  Several holes before that, I  hit a shot just by the flag on a hole with a small green and if you miss it long, you are over the cliff and into the water.  That was probably my best shot of the day.

I didn’t play all that well again but did I ever enjoy the course!  It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I was doubly blessed to enjoy it with such great friends!!!

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Results from Pebble Beach

Yesterday I was too tired when I got back to the RV so I didn’t post the blog.  So here are the results from our day at Pebble.

First, we were delayed almost an hour on the tee off.  They had an early morning frost delay and a professional tournament ahead of us (The winner got $100,000).  That meant that things were really backed up and it took us a little over 6 hours to play.  We finished after sunset and it was almost dark.  But it was Pebble Beach!

The weather was fantastic and there was little wind.  If you have watched the tournaments held here on TV, the afternoon wind can play havoc with scores.  Fortunately, we didn’t have that excuse.  The course is hard enough already.

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John Bardin, Phil Barricklow, Doug Kretz and me on tee #1

The day started out well as I got a par on the first hole.  I made 4 good shots in a row and really enjoyed it.  But as you will see, these are tough holes.  There are many sand traps and the greens are fast and do not hold.  Many of our approach shots landed on the green but wouldn’t stay.

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Approach to green #4.

The views of the water were stunning all day.  I can see why this is rated the number one course in the world for both the course itself and the surrounding scenery.

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Fairway view of #6

The course surrounds Stillwater Cove and the Pacific Ocean is actually quite calm in this area.  You can see too that the sky is totally blue – no clouds.  The temperature was about 68 degrees.

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Looking back toward the Beach Club from the fairway

There are some holes that go away from the ocean but even these have great scenery.

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Approaching the green on #5

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Looking out to the offshore rocks from the tee box.

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The Monterey Cypress tree on hole #6 is the trademark for Pebble Beach.

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The green on #7 surrounded by the sea

Most of the holes are surrounded by bunkers and they are often really steep.  I visited several during the round and was able to get out of about half of them.  My playing partners had about the same luck.

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View from tee box #8

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Another view backwards from #8 tee box

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Doug and Phil discuss the approach shots to #8

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Finally a wide open green with only a few bunkers.

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One of the few greens with no ocean view

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The view up #15 as the sun gets lower in the sky

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Fairway on #16 in the fading light

The staff at Pebble Beach is awesome.  They bend over backwards to ensure you have a great time.  The smallest request is responded to quickly and with a smile.  Of course when a round of golf costs $495 (more in the summer), I guess they can afford to be really nice.

My driver was working pretty well all day.  The rest of my game was only so-so though.  The course was in fantastic condition, and while I didn’t play too well later in the round, it was great being there with good friends!

Today we complete our triple treat here with a round at Spyglass Hill, another of the courses used each year in the Pro-Am event that used to be called the Bing Crosby.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Links at Spanish Bay

My three friends from Vancouver joined me today to play golf at the Links at Spanish Bay.  John, Phil, and Doug are fellow football referees and drove down to play three rounds here in the Monterey area.

We had a great day and some good shots.  This is a beautiful course and it was in great condition.  The weather was great with an onshore breeze to make it interesting.  This is a links course which means that the fairways follow the natural terrain and the greens are full of mounds and rolls which makes them a real challenge to read.  I ended up shooting a 94 which included 4 pars and one birdie.  I had a good shot at another birdie too.

One hole I landed slightly off the green higher than the hole.  The cup was placed on a small shelf just in front of the green  So if I hit the ball ever so slightly toward the flag, it would have taken off and probably gone down the hill in front of the green.  So I hit it softly about 90 degrees away from the hole hoping it would stop on the same shelf the hole was on.  Well, it started out to the right, started curving and went a distance of about 60 feet all together and went right in the hole.  My friends were duly impressed!

Tomorrow we play Pebble Beach so expect more great pics then.

Here are some great scenes from the course which is the nicest I have ever played.  (I expect to say that again about tomorrow’s course too!)

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