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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Red Rocks and a Broken Door

Yesterday (Saturday), we drove out to the west of town to visit Red Rock Canyon.  This is actually a park run by the Bureau of Land Management which meant that we didn’t need to pay the $7 entry fee because of our National Park Senior Pass.

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The park has a really nice visitor center with outside exhibits and a great viewing area (pictured above).  It also has a 17 minute movie that introduces you to the park and is well worth watching.

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The picture above was taken from the viewing area and shows the Calico hills.  The red coloring is actual from layers of marine sediment – yes, marine sediment.  This area was actually under water millions of years ago.

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Here is a close up of the Calico Hills and you can see how rugged the rocks actually are.

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We actually started on what was supposed to be a hike of a couple of miles.  Except that after the first 100 yards or so, the footing was really rough and we didn’t want to try it and fall.

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The above picture is looking south from one of the viewpoints.  Everyone here is taking pictures in all different directions!IMG_20121229_120615_598

Here is a desert tortoise. (This is actually a plaster cast of one that is on display at the visitor center).  We took a 13 mile scenic drive and there were many signs indicating that they would be crossing the road, but we never saw any.

On Friday night, the door to our washer-dryer broke.  There is a latching mechanism and part of it is made of plastic and broke off.  I tried Krazy glue but it would not hold.

Saturday morning, I decided to go and get some clamps to try to put pressure on the glue.

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If you look in the picture below, just under the clamp is the part that broke off.  There is a little metal rod held in by a half donut shape of plastic that snapped.

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I decided that this weak point should have extra strength.  I went to a hardware store and bought some plastic epoxy that you mix up to the consistency of gum.  Then I shaped it to go over both donuts (one on each end) and let that set over night.

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Today I reassembled the door and so far we have done three loads of laundry and it is holding.  Tomorrow I will order the part to hang onto in case my repairs don’t hold up.

Tomorrow is also our last planned full day here in Las Vegas.  We plan to leave Tuesday morning and head to Death Valley for a few days. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Never thought I’d ever see that again!

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Here is a picture at a Union 76 station that I never thought I’d see again, at least out here on the west coast!  Gas under $3/gal.  Station was crowded for sure.

This morning we ran errands.  First to Wal-Mart for some things, then to Camping world for some other items.  We went out to fast foods for lunch and then to the gas station above.

Once we got back to the RV, we moved all our food from the outside refrigerator into our new one.  It is working great and Carol is doubly happy because it both works, and is frost free.  But wait, there’s more…..the doors also will hold magnets!  No fake wood panels here.

I did a few small maintenance items on the RV and had to go to an auto parts store for some hydraulic fluid for the jacks.  I have been fighting a cold the last few days, so about 3:30 I took a nap for a few hours.  Didn’t get rid of the cold though!

Tomorrow we actually plan to do something touristy….go out to Red Rock Canyon.  Should be able to get good pictures from there.  Also need to start editing my video from yesterday.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Brrr!!! It is cold in there!

Well, we have our new refrigerator and it is installed and working just fine.  Everything turned out super.  Miguel (better know as Mickey) was the tech assigned to the install.  He is quite the craftsman and it shows in his work.  I was able to stay with the coach all day and watch him work.  I also took many pictures and video of the entire process.

We started at 8am sharp and Miguel stayed late by 2.5 hours to finish it all up in one day.  The install went very smoothly and the result, well, let’s just say that so far we could not be happier.  The fit is really well done and if you didn’t know better, you would think it came that way from the factory.

I’m going edit all my video clips and make a single movie out of it and will post it up on YouTube as soon as it is ready.  It will be so nice to have this done and not have to worry about losing our food or the fires that the old Norcolds are so well known for.

While I stayed with the coach all day (except for lunch), Carol was out and about the town.  I kept her informed with text messages and pictures all day long. Here are some of those pictures of the process:

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8:30am: Our Bounder backed into the work bay.

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9am: Mickey (Miguel) has removed the old Norcold – that only took him about 5 minutes!  Me thinks he has done a few of these before.

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10:20am: We were really lucky as the old unit fit through our door with no problems.  It is really heavy though and once it was out, it slipped out of the hands of Two Bears (owner of Apache RV Service) and crashed to the ground.  It really made a thud too.  Surprised it didn’t break the concrete!  And very glad it happened outside the RV!

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10:40am: Here you can see the old space with the floor and back baffle wall removed.  If you look carefully, you can see a black spot along the back edge in the center.  Turns out our old unit had a water leak and that caused some floor rot.

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11:45am: Here is the new floor which is slightly lower than the old to accommodate the height of the new unit.  The black streak on the front is special glue that will hold it all in.  This dried over lunch.

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1:00pm:  Mickey is now measuring and getting ready to cut about one inch off of the top.  This will give us the total height needed.  Notice the yellow tape along the top of where he is working.  This is masking tape that he put along his pencil line to make it easier to see as he cut.  For the actual saw, he has both a normal saws all and a much smaller saws all that is air driven.  This cut of slightly less that 32 inches took almost 6 minutes to make.  He is very deliberate and measures several times.

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1:50pm:  The space is ready, now Mickey removes the doors off of the new unit so that it can fit through the window.

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2:05pm:  With Art’s (the service writer) help from the inside, the front passenger window is removed.

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2:10pm: Three guys (Art, Two Bears, and Mickey) lift the new unit to a horizontal position and start passing it through the window. 

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As more of the unit goes inside Mickey goes inside to catch it and then Two Bears joins him inside.  Art is left holding it outside.

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2:20pm:  The three guys carefully lift it into the space for the first fitting.  It actually required no modifications except for the hinge caps which was expected.  Mickey did a great job getting the space ready to receive it.

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2:45pm: Here is the unit now in position with the doors off.  Mickey was so proud that it fit the first time!  He measured it for the hinge caps, then pulled it back out so he could cut those out.  Then he re-installed the doors and worked on making brackets to hold it down in place.  These are actually accessed from the back of the unit and they are quite strong.

Also the propane is tested to make sure the permanent cap has no leaks, the water is connected and checked for leaks, and the AC power is connected and the unit begins to cool.

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5:15pm:  The front window goes back on and is caulked with silicone so that it can’t leak.  We have already heard the first ice cubes drop into the tray!

5:30  Mickey begins work on the trim pieces to go around the new unit to give it a good finished look.  This takes until about 7:30.  Carol did bring Mickey and I some dinner about 6pm, so we stopped for about 20 minutes to eat.

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Above is a picture of the final result.  It is at a crazy angle because my camera on the phone does not have a wide angle lens and you can’t get far enough away to get a good shot.

Also during the last 30 minutes or so, Two Bears came out and checked in with Carol and me.  There were some slide marks on the floor and he got down on hands and knees to clean them.

At this point, Carol went back to the RV park and I went into the office to settle up the bill.  Originally this was going to take two days to do but Mickey wanted to get it done in one day so that we would not have to come back over.  It would take them extra time to get us back into position and set up and then when done, get us back out.  By getting it done in one day, we save several hours plus we can sleep in tomorrow.

Now the best part……..which of course I saved for last……the estimate for the install was $2,000.  The actual final bill was $1,380 total (parts, labor, tax, etc.).  That was quite a relief!

We had some fears about how far the doors would open and whether they could open with the slide in, etc.  Safe to say all are great and there are no problems like that at all!

Time will tell whether we chose the right option to solve the refrigerator problem.  But so far, it is thumbs up.  We were so fortunate to find a unit that was a close fit (thank you Whirlpool), that could be delivered in time (thank you Sears) and capable installers to do it (thank you Mickey, Two Bears, and Art of Apache RV in Las Vegas).

Oops – just heard some more ice cubes dropping!  Tomorrow we will move our food from outside into the new unit.  And we will be able to keep ice cream in the freezer without it getting all mushy.  Yippee!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Big Day Tomorrow!

Yup, tomorrow is the big day for our RV to get its new refrigerator.  The new one arrived today and I went over to Apache RV to check it out.  I verified that it will fit in through the passenger side window as long as they take the doors off.  So that is a big relief.

Funny thing though….the old one suddenly started working last Friday evening and has been doing great ever since!  Almost like it knows it is about to be cut from the team and wants to make a good impression on the coach or something.  Too late though.

So we get up early tomorrow morning and have it over at the shop at 8am and they will go right to it.  I plan to stay there all day and take pictures to report on the progress.  If all goes well, I will blog some of them tomorrow night.

They expect to have the new one installed tomorrow and available for us to use.  They might not get all of the trim work done though by tomorrow night.  So we should be able to bring it back to the park tomorrow evening and use the new refrigerator with no problem tomorrow night.  Then Friday they will finish out the trim so that it looks like it was made to go there.

Stay tuned for updates tomorrow night if all goes well!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Weather…(or not)

The weatherman in this area must be using some weird formulas to make his predictions.  For the last two days, the weather has generally been better than forecast.  Today, for example, it was supposed to be partly cloudy with a 20% chance of rain.

Instead we awoke to clear skies and as the day progressed, by lunch time it was quite warm…..warm enough to switch to short sleeves and shorts!  And to sit outside for awhile and enjoy the sun.

We went to a Christmas program at a local church and when we came out, the wind had sprung up.  That was not in the forecast either.  It is pretty gusty outside now.  According to WeatherBug, the wind is gusting up to 30mph.

Since today is Christmas Eve, here is a reminder of what the season is truly all about……

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Merry Christmas faithful readers!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Buddy, can you spare $150,000???

Last night we went to the Bellagio to check out their Christmas decorations and watch the water show.  The Christmas decorations are in a large viewing area that is changed for each season.  Last time we were here in March of 2010, the area was filled with flowers.  Now it is all setup for Christmas.  As you view these pictures, remember you can double click them to make them even larger.

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A friendly polar bear is near the beginning to greet you.

IMG_20121221_180734_257The above corner of the exhibit area has snowflakes hanging.  Others have different things.

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The Christmas tree with bells and nutcrackers.  There are actually 4 of these nutcrackers rotating.IMG_20121221_180813_956

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The Christmas tree with hanging bells

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Bottom of the tree with ornament.

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The top of the tree (about 30 feet tall) and you can see the large ornaments.IMG_20121221_181242_187

Dancing penguins in front  colored water fountains

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A small village of houses with electric trains running around the outside of it.

After viewing this display, we headed outside for the water show that is scheduled every 30 minutes from 11am to 11pm.  And from 7pm to 11pm it is every 15 minutes.  Carol had some great pictures of the water show and you can view them on her blog or by clicking here. 

I attempted to take a video of the show.  It seemed to work OK but the last 20 seconds or so got truncated.  I did this using my new phone and have not yet mastered all the capabilities.  You can watch the video below.

Bellagio water program

I also have some shots of the landmarks visible from the area where we watched the water program.

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Here is the Eifel tower in the Paris Hotel and Casino

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Here is the Planet Hollywood.

So about now, you are probably wondering what I want that extra $150,000 for.  While we were eating lunch today, there was a knock on the door (no, it was not Santa coming early).  It was the park “host” (read sales agent) coming to check if everything is OK.  He mentioned that there are spots in the park for sale including the one we are in (see blog from a few days ago).  The upkeep is only $400 per month, but the sales price for this fully developed lot is $155,000.  (I’d go ahead and contribute the extra $5k myself).  Just a bit out of our league!

People here use golf carts to get around in the resort.  To show you just how far this is out of our league, here is a picture of one of the personalized golf carts.

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It probably cost near as much as our RV!  By the way, what I thought were tiki hut roofs actually have a name – Palapas.  You can by them in kits and the small ones start at about $2,000 (6ft diameter).  These 24 feet ones are close to $10,000.  Still way out of our league.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Yes, we are still here!

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Well, that about says it all!  Yup, we are still here, and if you are reading this, then I guess you are too!

Today dawned bright and sunny.  Temps will probably get into the 50s pretty quickly here.  It seems to warm up fast and when the sun goes down, it really cools down quickly.

Today is a day to catch up on some RV tasks and then maybe get some exercise on a nice walk.  Tonight we may go look at Christmas lights.

I took some pictures with my new phone to see how it works.

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Above is our RV nestled into site 358

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Here you can see the tiki huts in our site.  All the way in the back is a patio with a BBQ, full size refrigerator, bar seats, etc.  It even has a water feature and small bridge crossing over a pond (dry right now).

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Here is the site next to us.  It has about the same setup except no water feature but an extra tiki hut.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Things are looking up!

As Carol reported on her blog tonight, we did find a residential refrigerator to go into our RV.  Yesterday we went searching (Lowes, Home Depot, Fry’s) and found a good one at Lowes, but they could not deliver until after Jan 1 which is too late. 

Interestingly enough, many folks who do this conversion have to wait 6-8 weeks to get the exact model to fit their space requirements.  Our requirements are tighter than most yet we want to do this all in a week’s time with a two day holiday included!!!

The one unit we found last night at Home Depot could be delivered in time but was not really what we wanted.  Plus we both realized this morning that we would only be able to open it when the slide was out!  Yuk!

So today we went shopping for other options.  We went to Sears and found a model that was almost the exact replica of the good one at Lowes except Sears can deliver in 2 days!  Works for us!

A quick call to the Apache RV folks to make sure the unit will work from their viewpoint.  They got online, downloaded all the specs, and called back about 10 minutes later with the go-ahead.  So we ordered it to be delivered on Wednesday with installation scheduled for Thursday.

If all goes well, it will only take one day.  So we will bring the unit to them at 8am and hopefully bring it back at 5pm.  I will be there while it is being worked on as I want to know how it is installed in case I ever have to take it out to be worked on.  I plan to take pictures and will post some on the blog.

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Here is a picture of the unit and we did order it in black.  This one includes an in-door dispenser for water and ice and to top it off, it is frost free!  No more defrosting after our trips!!! yippee!!!

On another note, I got a new cell phone today and now am going through the process of loading all my applications and accounts and settings.  The last phone lasted 2 years and it seems like it will take me that long to get the new one configured.  Fortunately, it is a larger version of the one Carol got a few months back so the look and feel of both phones is pretty much the same.

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The version of the android operating system, code named “Jelly Bean,” is the same version I wrote about putting on my nook tablet a month or two ago.  So that will make it easy to go back and forth between devices.

We had great weather again today but now it is getting cold outside so we are bundling up.

I’ll close with this….regarding all the hype about the Mayan calendar predicting the end of the world tomorrow, it is nice to have a calendar that is edible!!!

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

We Go Gambling……

Well, today we started out in Bakersfield trying to figure out what to do with our broken refrigerator.  After some phone calls, we determined that we are going to replace the RV Propane/110 VAC model with a normal residential unit.  This will eliminate the risk of fire that the Norcold models are famous for.

We found a place that could fit us in during the next 10-14 days if we can find the refrigerator and get it shipped to them.  The installers are Apache RV of Las Vegas, NV.  Since we were planning on going there anyway, we cancelled our 2 day stopover in Calico and drove the 280 miles from Bakersfield to Las Vegas.

Fortunately Apache RV is located right across the street from the RV Park and that made things easier.  We stopped by there at 3:30 when we arrived so they could look at our unit and come up with the dimensions we could work with.  They are also putting together a cost estimate for the installation and I am sure it will be several thousand dollars.  Ugh!  But at least it will be reliable!

Then we went to check in at the RV park.  Originally we had a simple no-frills site.  But I asked if by chance they had a developed site that had an external refrigerator available.  There is one site in the park with a full residential unit installed in the patio, so we took that.  Now we at least have a place for our food to stay while the old unit dies.

Then we went to a quick dinner and then out to shop for refrigerators that would fit our dimensions.  Lowes had one unit but could not get delivery quick enough.  Home Depot had a couple and could deliver by Saturday which is actually too quick.  Fry’s really didn’t have anything of note.  Tomorrow we will check with the Apache guys and verify that the unit we want will work and then we will go order it for delivery next Wednesday.

They will most likely have to remove the right front window to get the new unit in the RV.  That will be interesting.  Hopefully by next weekend, we will be road worthy again!

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The Fry’s we went to had an interesting front sign.  It was a slot machine that continually would start the wheels going and show various results.  Was interesting to watch.  I tried to get the above picture so you could see it, but the contrast was too great for my phone camera to resolve.  I guess the wheels came up empty for us because they didn’t have any reefers that would fit our dimensions.

At least we had clear weather on our drive and only some areas of wind.  The sun was out and not a cloud in the sky!  Somehow they had forecast 50% rain, but I guess no one told them you need clouds for rain!

Tomorrow we will see if our gamble in coming here pays off!  (maybe 4 to 1 odds???)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A less than chilling experience…..

Today started out bad and really didn’t seem to improve much.  When we awoke today it was to the realization that our refrigerator was kaput!  It was not keeping things cold at all.  The Freezer got up to 36 degrees and the cooling section was in the 50s.  Not good.

Even though we were 200 miles from Bakersfield, that was our destination for today and I figured I would have better luck getting it fixed closer to a major metropolitan area.  So I called around and found one guy who suspected that the cooling portion of the unit was shot. These types of cooling units have to run on both propane and electricity so they use a ammonia based system with a burner.  The tubes in this particular unit are easily blocked internally and that ruins the unit.

We had this same problem 2 years ago and got a replacement under warranty.  2 years later, we face it again and probably no warranty help.

So he suggested that we turn the unit off for two hours and drive down the road.  The bouncing may actually dislodge the jam in the pipes.  So we did that.  When we turned it back on, the temp was at 36 and over the next 2 hours it slowly came down to 20 which sounded like it was working.  Unfortunately, the non-freezer area never got below 50 which is not good enough.

We elected to eat out and when we came back, the freezer was up to 22 and rising slowly.  We went to get some dry ice and it cooled down to 16 but that is not a permanent fix in any way.

Tomorrow we shall explore options including an alternative “Amish” cooling unit which supposedly is much more robust.  We will also consider replacing it with a residential refrigerator.  That obviously will not run on propane but it will be a lot more reliable for sure!

I’ll post again tomorrow night to let you know where we are physically as well as where we are with the repair.  We are supposed to go to Calico Ghost Town tomorrow but that doesn’t appear very likely at this point.  Instead we need to spend some time “chilling out.” (Or at least our food needs to spend the time!)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Is the weatherman right for a change

I just copied this from a friend (thanks Ric) who lives back up in our home area.  I think he may have gotten this from the local weather forecast.  Sure hope the weatherman got this one wrong!

 

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Looks like next Friday could get interesting!

Sunny California????

Yesterday (Sunday) was a great day to stay in and watch the NFL games on TV.  I have the Direct TV NFL Package so I can get all the games including the Red Zone Channel which shows whichever games have teams inside their opponents 20 yard line and all scoring plays.  Great way to watch the NFL.  I also record the Raider and 49er games and then view them by only watching the plays and skipping the in-between time.  Allows you to watch a 3+ hour game in about 1:15 which is super.  And of course, both my teams won yesterday.  (OK while the Raider game was technically a win, it was more of a who will survive.  No touchdowns and 5 field goals).

It rained pretty much all day yesterday and in the afternoon the wind came up.  It was about 20-25mph all afternoon and night with gusts to 35-40.  It kept up most of the night but when I got up this morning it was sunny with some clouds, no rain and no wind!  Guess we are in California after all!

We left Rolling Hills Casino & RV Park at 9am and went down I-5 through Sacramento to Patterson about 20 miles south of Tracy.  We had good weather until just south of Sacramento when we encountered rain showers and some winds.

We arrived at Kit Fox RV Park at 1pm and got all checked in.  It is still raining but no wind.  There has been a fog hanging about 100 feet above us ever since Stockton.  If it actually comes down to the ground, it becomes the dreaded “Tule Fog” which has been known to cause major accidents along the I-5 corridor that often include over 100 cars and block the freeway for the full day.  Sure hope to avoid any of those!

Tomorrow we head to Bakersfield and then east towards Las Vegas the next few days with a stop at Calico Ghost Town for a few days.  Hopefully we will have some decent picture taking weather while there.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Getting Corny in Corning

Today we had some rain, and then some more rain, and then it even rained some more.  It started about 9 or so this morning and hasn’t really stopped much all day.  That put a crimp in our plans to go into the downtown area for a walk.  I suppose we could have gone canoeing instead, but we would have gotten too wet.

We did make one excursion out of the RV in the rain.  Did you know that Corning is world famous for the olives grown here?  I suppose you could say it’s the pits here, but really, it’s the olives!  So we went to a gift shop called the Olive Pit where Carol bought some olives.

Then we went to lunch at Round Table Pizza and had their buffet lunch including pizza, salad, & bread sticks.  This pizzeria had found a unique use for those old television console sets from the 50’s and 60’s.  Make them into aquarium housings.

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So if you have one of these old consoles hanging around and you don’t know what to do with it, here is a possible solution. 

Then we went to Safeway to buy some items for dinner and then back to the RV.  It was nice to be able to take a couple of days off from driving the RV.  We will remain here tomorrow too so I can watch my NFL games and then we will head to Patterson on Monday.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Walter, the Weather Angel

This morning we got an early start – 8:40 – which is early for us.  I wanted to be sure to time going through the Siskiyou mountain passes before the predicted snow came.  We also like to be all set up by 3pm on weekdays so we can catch our favorite news program “Special Report” on the Fox News Channel. 

Our timing was pretty good.  The passes were icy earlier in the morning according to ODOT’s web site but by the time we got there, they had warmed up somewhat (35 degrees) and whatever ice there was had melted.  In fact most of the pavement was dry except at the summits. 

Some of you who know me are aware that I have a parking angel named Angelo.  Angelo helps me always get great parking spaces no matter how crowded the parking lots are.  Usually I can drive right up to the entrance and there will be a spot there waiting for me.  Drives others crazy to see it happen so consistently.

So now I think I have a weather angel and I think I will call him Walter.  As you can see in the pictures below, Walter did good on his first day on the job.

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The roads up & down the mountains were in good shape!

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The summits of the passes had some snow but not much

So today we arrived at Rolling Hills Casino and RV Park at about 2:30.  The car was a mess from the mud kicked up going over the passes.  But a quick hose job got it usable.

If you have ever stayed here, they have changed the entrance.  You used to go to a small booth at the entrance and self register. Now they have changed the entrance one driveway further down the frontage road and you drive in to the truck area and register at the truck stop office.  Then you can drive in and just pick any site.  Hint:  Sites nearest the truck stop office have the best Wi-Fi signal.

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The picture above is looking out the front window of the RV towards the southwest.  You can’t see the coastal mountains too well in the picture but we are in a valley that is pretty much between the Sierra Nevada mountains and the Coastal range.  This valley starts at about Redding and goes all the way south past Bakersfield.

We will stay here three nights.  Not sure what we are doing tomorrow yet but Sunday I like to stay put so I can watch my football games.  And as a special treat this week, the 49ers play a key game Sunday night so that will make for a great football day.

The forecast for tomorrow is for a good chance of rain.  But if it doesn’t rain, I may take a few minutes and lubricate the power jacks and other exterior items.