Thursday, December 6, 2007

New Blog - Mesa, AZ

I am starting a new blog with the mac computer I switched to. It is so much easier to use and I'm enjoying learning it. The new address I will be using for the blog from now on is:

Check it out. Just copy and paste it into your browser and save it to your favorites if you wish.

The new blog opens to a cover page which I will be customizing over the next few weeks. The cover page will list the most recent blog. You can click on the title of the blog to open it. Once there, you just click next or previous to go from post to post. It is easy to figure out.

Thanks, Mitch

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Mesa, AZ

This is a cell phone tower at Fountain of the Sun where mom and dad stay. If you look at the top, there are antennaes on it. It looks like a real palm tree and blends in very well.

I went with dad Friday morning and we preped the shuffle board courts for the day. It was interesting to learn how they do it. Here's dad (left) and a friend cleaning the courts.

Mom and me on the Cricket.

Kim last night as we played dominos with mom and dad.

Isn’t it hard to believe December is here? Christmas will be upon us before we know it. We stopped by Cummins at Avondale, AZ to get the fan clutch checked out. Avondale is on the west side of Phoenix and Mesa (where my parents winter) is on the east side. Normally we would stay in the coach at night but we stayed with mom and dad for two nights while they were working on the coach. It has been great to spend time with them. Dad and mom won’t let us pay for any meals while we’re here. They've always been like that and we very much appreciate their generosity. We’ve been out to eat three times already.

On the way from Yuma to Mesa we had a coach engine clutch fan problem that turned out to be quite an exercise in futility. The clutch runs the fan at low speed until the engine gets hot from climbing a hill or we are stopping using the engine brake. Then it runs at the normal full speed. The clutch fan gets us about one more mile per gallon and also cuts down on the fan noise. The coach comes without a clutch fan but our Cummins rep back home recommended we install it to save money and cut down on noise. It only runs one or two percent of the time. At Cummins, the service writer wouldn’t agree as to how it worked when I described the problem and so he didn’t tell the mechanic what I thought the problem was. He thought the clutch fan turned the fan on or off. I explained that the clutch fan runs the fan on low or high speed and it never turns off. He told me I couldn’t have driven it there without the clutch fan working as the engine would have overheated. I explained that it did not overheat because the fan doesn’t shut off, but run on low. I told him to check the engine computer log and verify the engine had not overheated and that my explanation was correct, but he didn’t. Consequently after a day I drove back over there and he told me they didn’t warranty the clutch and I would have to pay the bill when they were finished. They had spent the day trying to get the fan to shut off, which it doesn’t do. I have a friend back home who goes to our church and works for Cummins on motorhome engines. His name is Jack Markin. Jack actually did the install himself. Since Jack is the Cummins area rep / mechanic for motorhomes and 85% of the motorhomes made in America are made in northern Indiana, I really trust Jack’s knowledge. I got Jack on the phone with the service writer and he explained how the clutch worked, called the clutch company and also told the service writer that they were in fact distributers for that make of fan. In the end the service writer explained how the fan worked to me and I said that was what I have been trying to tell you. I talked with the manager and requested to talk to the mechanic because the service writer didn’t want to let me do so. The mechanic was very open to my opinion of what the problem was and was very glad to speak with me. He couldn’t have been nicer. He called Jack on his cell and Jack walked him through the diagnostics. Bottom line: the clutch fan works now and they did it on warranty. Since they didn’t have to replace it and it now works, Jack suggest since it failed before it will probably fail down the road, but I understand they can’t fix something that is not broke.

We took the coach in on Wed and picked it up on Friday. During that time we looked for an RV park here is Mesa. We will be here a few weeks, home two and a half weeks and then here a week or so and the best deal was to just rent a spot for 6 weeks. We’re at the Spirit of Mesa Park which is about 7 miles from mom and dad. We are on a lot about 40 by 80 which is one of the biggest sites we’ve had on the trip. There are 1800 units here. Some are RV’s and some are park models which are like miniature mobile homes – maybe 12 by 40 feet. We have a lot of palm trees, some 40 or 50 feet tall here in the park. When we checked in they gave us some really good cookies and Kim liked that. They gave us a weekly newsletter which has about 15 pages and has so many activities we couldn’t believe it! We went to the clubhouse for a pancake breakfast yesterday.

Mom and dad’s neighbor is Jim and we met when we were here a few years ago. He and I really get along well. Jim and his friend Dolly came over yesterday to see the coach and I gave him and mom each a ride on the cricket (mini golf cart we have). While talking he referred to the movie Field of Dreams. I told him we had never seen it and he told me we had to see it. Last night when Kim and I were at mom and dads’ there was a knock on the door and Jim had went out and bought a copy and gave it to us. That was very nice. I got up at 4 and wrote this. We will be at mom and dad’s this morning at 7:30 to go to church with them.

I mentioned in a previous post that I had a new computer. I got a macbook. It is a notebook made by Apple that uses a different format than PC’s. They are known for reliability, common sense operating and not locking up like the IBM based computers with Windows operating system. Why you ask? I have come to realize that I’m an initiator. I just like new things. Most people would not want to learn a new system at my age but I really enjoy learning new things. It keeps my mind young and open to change. Hannah had wanted one so I bought her one as her early college graduation gift. I also see it as something we can learn together and help each other out. I like interacting with her on new things like this. We taught our kids for years and now there are areas where they can help us along and I really appreciate that.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Algodones, Mexico

Somehow we didn't think we were at Lake Tahoe!

There are many eye clinics there.

This was the chiropractor's office. It was very neat and clean.

The dentists had some interesting artwork. This shows a crown. It hurts me just looking at it.

This is the place we ate our big meal for $7.50. The owner was great and showed us how they use tortilla shells as their bread. He took one of mine and put some salt in it, then he said you can put rice, beans, chicken, beef, pork or donkey meat in it. He said they eat tortilla shells every day as a main staple and anything can go into it. Painted on the wall in big letters it said "If you don't like it, you don't have to pay for it."

We drove 20 miles west of our Yuma campground and walked across the border into Mexico today. They have a huge asphalt parking lot on the US side and it is $5 to park there. Going in to Mexico there was no border check. The cars had to stop but there was nothing for us walk-ins. I should mention that there were hundreds of cars in the parking lot. Coming back there was a walk through check for us at the border. There were about 100 people in line for two inspectors. We met some nice people in line and they were informative – like when they call us to the inspection table, only one person at a time. They also told us that sometimes the line is much longer to get back in the USA. We only need a drivers license now to get back into the USA but starting Jan. 1 people will need a passport or application for a passport.

One must understand that this town is not like most towns in Mexico. It is a town that thrives because of the US people who shop and come for medical treatment and prescription drugs. If you need prescription drugs, they will write one for you and sell you 3 months worth. That is what our customs will allow in. There are maybe 50 dentists’ offices. There are also chiropractors and other doctors. I went to a chiropractor but he wasn’t in. The receptionist said he may be back in an hour and a half. We ate at the street side vendors and the food was very good. Their veggies are fresh and the seasoning is good – a bit spicier than the Mexican food we’re used to. One of the guys saw us coming and pushes some kind of meat off to the side of the grill where we wouldn’t notice it and then offered us beef and pulled it out of a pan already cooked and warm. We got a beef taco and afterwards asked him what the other meat was. He said it was tripe. According to a web search, tripe is usually made of one of the first three stomachs of the cow, but it can be made of pigs, goats or sheep also. It didn’t look too good. My friend Doug Moore would have probably tried it. I was with him in Goshen when he tried tacos with some strange animal body part or organ in it. I spoke with my friend Kevin Sommers by phone while we were there and he said he generally stays away from eating organs – makes sense to me.

The people there were nice and friendly and helpful. Our son Ben collects Harley Davidson T shirts so we bought him two for $16. We didn’t haggle much on price as everything seemed inexpensive already. The one restaurant we ate at I got chicken, beans and rice with chips, salsa, three kinds of dip and also a shrimp taco. Kim also got a shrimp taco and we each got a large bottle of coke that tasted kind of fruity and all was $7.50.

San Diego to Yuma, AZ

Lots of pretty mountains with lots of small rocks

This is the ATV area that went on for miles. There were lots of RV's parked in the wilderness.

This pretty pink cactus is in our park.

Monday we left San Diego and drove east on Highway 8. People had warned us that there would be nothing to see. We thought it was one of the more interesting and colorful roads we had been on. There was a huge variety of things to see. There were mountains with huge rocks and then some of shattered rocks. They were just beautiful! There was also lots of veggie farming, irrigation, and desert and just about anything else you could imagine. There was a big ATV area in the desert that went on for miles and miles. I thought of Tyler Moser as he would love it. It is big enough that it shows up on the state map. It is called the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area. When we arrived here the weather was just perfect. It was 75 and sunny. We’re staying at the Shangri-La RV Park and it is really nice. There are lots of palm trees. We walked all the roads in the park today. It was probably a mile and a half or so. There are over 300 hookups here and we walked every row today. We plan to stay here tomorrow and leave Wednesday.

Today when going up the mountain I noticed the engine coolant and transmission temps were running about ten degrees high. I troubleshot the problem and found the clutch fan on the engine wasn’t engaging in high speed. It was only operating at the low speed. I think some insulation came off the engine compartment and got in the fan and it damaged the wires to the clutch fan. I watched the temperatures and they only rose above normal going up mountains. They only ran about ten degrees above normal. I have an appointment at Cummins Coach Care in Phoenix this Thursday. Cummins Coach Care works on engines and also fixes most other things on the coach. They have hookups and we can stay there overnight. We have had excellent service from these facilities.

We had planned to go to Quartzsite after Yuma but after contacting our friends, Jerry and Sharon Angel, we decided to wait till they were there in a few weeks. We would like to have them show us around and explain the area. Quartzsite, AZ is an area known for huge RV activity in the winter months. I guess it is a flea market and also has anything you could want for RVing. Most folks just simply park in the desert. I guess you have to see it to believe it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Kids in San Diego 3

Si and me at Balboa Park where we visited museums.

Here's the boys on the Cricket. They enjoyed riding around the park on it.

Sightseeing along the coast

This was s pretty area overlooking San Diego, an Air Force Base and the ship docks

This is a glider port where people strapped themselves into parachutes and ran off a cliff.
There wasn't enough wind to really get them going though.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Kids in San Diego 2

Ben and Hannah sleeping sideways (actually the new computer doesn't respond when
I rotate the pics). I'll get it figured out.

Si and Ben eating like cave men (they just did this for the pic).

Dessert time!

Ben and Kim

Kids in San Diego 1

Hannah at the camel display

Ben spent a lot of the day holding Kim's hand.

Hannah really liked the pandas.

Here's the family on an outdoor escalator.

The kids were tired at the end of the day.

The kids just left this morning for Indiana. We had a great time with them here. They were able to be here 5 full days. We have really missed not being with them. As I write this, I am on a new computer. We made some changes and I like the new notebook, though it is a little challenging at times to learn a new system. We went to the zoo. Most of the day we walked. The San Diego Zoo is a must see. The employees are so friendly and helpful and the displays are great in that they aren't just rows of cages but rather the settings are very well planned and spaced out. We also went and saw two movies while they were here, August Rush and Enchanted were both enjoyable. We made it to IHOP and Denny's for breakfast and Red Lobster one evening. We also stopped by a Cold Stone Creamery after a movie. We had fun getting around the city in the rented car. We had a GPS but it still was a bit of an adventure at times. It was good to just lay in the hammock and talk with the kids. I really enjoyed just talking with them. Kim was so content to have the kids here and it showed. We go home for Christmas in two and a half weeks, but it was still good to have the kids here.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Disney 2

Kim and I with the Cars Characters
We ate lunch at the Rainforest Cafe and it was really good. On the left and right are round aquariums and in the middle there is a round tube that connects them. It was beat to see the fish swim back and forth.
Kim and I aren't sure what makes adults put on mickey ears but we figure it's a good thing.
At the Tortilla factory they had a scale calibrated to tell you how many Tortillas you weigh. I think Kim was 1650 and I was a lot closer to 3000.

We visited Disneyland again today and also the California Adventure Land that is next to it. What can you say? Disney is interesting and fun. We enjoyed watching them make tortillas. They make 1200 per minute. We also went to the Boudin Bread Company in Adventure Land and watched them make sourdough bread. Sourdough doesn’t use yeast. Instead it takes a small amount of the last batch of bread mixed into the new batch to make it rise. It is like ‘friendship bread’. Kim has done that before when a friend gives her a small amount of bread and she mixes a batch and puts that small amount in and just before she bakes it she takes out a small amount and gives it to a friend and so on. The Boudin Bread Co. is a big thing here in CA and they said at the factory that they are still passing on the bread from loaf to loaf from 150 years ago.

Tomorrow we leave for San Diego and will see the kids there on Monday eve. It will be so good to see them again.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Disneyland 1

Here we are at Toonland in Disney.
This tree is probably 50 feet tall
It's a small world after all
Moose bush
This is in Tommorrow Land. You press a button and a computer scans your head. The caption says, "Have your head examined". I would be afrain what they would (or wouldn't) find if they got in my head!

Today we went to Disneyland. It was our first time there. Today is the first day they were decorated for the holidays. It is really pretty. We left about 9 am and shuttled there and got back about 3 PM to rest a bit and plan to go back tonight for the light show.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Anaheim, CA

Here's a harbor shot along 101.
Lots of pretty beaches along 101.
We saw miles and miles and miles of veggie farming.
The RV's are parked along the Pacific Coast Highway. If we had known, we would have stayed there but we had a RV site reserved. This went on for several miles. I love the breaking waves.
Here are some of the trees grown in boxes for resale. (read below)

When my in-laws were on the mission field it was good when they wrote about the little things that they might not think were even important. I found the day to day things interesting. This is what I am doing today. I had something happen yesterday that was a pleasant surprise. Our GPS (we call her ‘Grace’ because lately she has needed a lot of it) started locking up and getting lost from time to time. With the coach and trailer it is inconvenient to almost get to your destination, especially in a city and have her quit. We can’t just go around the block like in a car due to low trees and sharp corners. I would like to send her in to get checked out but that leaves us without a GPS for a while. Since we are going through the LA area this week, we researched on the Web and found a new one that we like. A new one will let us have a GPS while the old one is being fixed and then with two we won’t have to switch it back and forth from the coach to the car. Here’s the surprise. Wal-Mart has a pretty good deal but doesn’t stock the one I want in stores. It is an online purchase. I kind of need it now so we went to Circuit City and they had the same thing for about $80 more. I told the salesman that Wal-Mart had it for less and asked if he could help the price. He said, “Sure. We’ll do price matching.” Not only did they match the price but they gave me a discount. He just took my word on the price. I didn’t have documentation. As we left I told Kim that policies like this are just good business. I guess people do this kind of thing every day, but it was the first time it happened to me and it was a good experience. The store didn’t have the GPS in stock but we paid for it and it is being held at a store 25 miles down the road and we are going right by it today anyway.

I write the blog on my word processor and then copy and paste to the blog. It is surprising that I have 42 pages, 27,728 words of blog notes on my computer. That doesn’t include the descriptions I type with each picture. Yesterday we got to the campground and asked for a local Mexican restaurant. They told us about a little hole in the wall and we told them that is just what we wanted. Mexican food is different here. It is spicier. We have also started seeing more and more catering trucks parked along the road with Mexican food. I’d like to stop and patronize one of those. Yesterday we drove south mostly on 101 and it was a pretty drive. We were surprised to see so many vegetable farms. It was common to have a mountain on each side of us and a valley with rich farmland between. Maybe there was 5 to 15 miles between the mountains. There were so many manual laborers. We had to have seen over a thousand people working and harvesting by hand. Everything is irrigated and they lay 30’ aluminum pipes every 50 feet or so. This is so labor intensive. We saw huge stacks of this pipe. There were literally thousands of pieces. The tractors are cool in that they have 4 large lug tires and are 4 wheel drive. There are very few rubber wheeled big 4WD tractors. Instead they have Cat rubber track tractors or every once in a while we see an old Cat steel track dozer pulling tillage equipment.

Here in the Santa Clarita area there are so many trucks that it boggles the mind. We are in the area of highways 5 and 126. In one small town there are 3 huge fuel stations within a mile and that is about all there is for that mile – trucks. They are parked along the road, parked in turn lanes and waiting to get out on the roads. We have to get fuel today and will probably stop by one of these giant fuel centers.

Here’s an interesting tidbit. A month or so ago we bought a Silver Leaf electronic monitor that reads the buss data signals from our engine and transmission computers. It collects all kinds of data on the go. It even stores all error codes in plain English so I don’t have to look up and see what the code number is. Some interesting data is that my best fuel mileage is about 57 to 58 MPH. At 55 the transmission doesn’t get into 6th (high) gear. When I set my cruise it even digitally shows me what speed I have set it at. Normal level driving at 57 MPH registers about 75 horsepower. While I have 400 HP at lower altitudes, I only have 330 HP at 9,000 feet elevation. I really like the Silver Leaf unit. It is expensive but I can move it from coach to coach and if there is a new engine or transmission, I just send it in and they reprogram it to accept the new equipment. They said they have customers who have moved the computer to their 4th coach.

Something I haven’t mentioned is trucks. It is interesting in that different states trucks are configured differently for their weight and length laws. In Washington the dump truck configuration seemed to favor a straight truck with a box and a trailer with a 20’ tongue and a dump box. Often the trailer had no steering – just a long tongue that pulled like a two wheeled trailer. They unhooked when they dumped. Here in California they have a semi tractor with one rear axle pulling a single axle trailer and a single axle dolly with another single axle trailer. They bottom gravity dump with air doors from the tractor. We saw a fleet of about 8 trucks going down a lane and dumping on the go and turning around to go get more. They never stopped. This California configuration is the same on fuel and box trucks also.

Another interesting sight is all the huge nursery farms that have trees planted each in its own box and sitting on top of the ground. There were thousands and thousands of trees like this. It looked like hundreds of acres of trees just close together in boxes. The boxes were from 2 foot square to about 8 foot square with 25 foot trees in them. I think they just load the tree, box and all when they ship them. I don’t think we could do this in Indiana as the roots would freeze.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Paso Robles recap

Here's the rig at Paso Robles, Ca. We are at the Wine Country RV Resort. It is a really nice resort. Just above the Miata hood you can see the hammock post at an angle.
Here's a pic of a tree being moved for the Hearst Castle.
Highway 1 is very pretty. Here are some hills and the ocean.
This is one of the three guests houses at the Hearst Castle. Bob Hope stayed here and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had a party at the castle on the rear patio for his wife two weeks ago. It was for her charity.

W. R. Hearst was eccentric to say the least. Whenever his plans for the castle dictated that a big oak tree was in the way, he ordered that it be moved and not destroyed. The workers would dig around the tree, cut the roots and pour a concrete wall around it and under it and then move it on rollers. They then had to break up the concrete, haul it away and fill in around the tree with dirt. In 1926 they moved a tree that required a concrete wall ten inches thick and thirty foot diameter around the tree. It was estimated that the tree, its dirt and the concrete weighed 600 tons. See the picture above.

Today we plan to travel south to Castaic. We will stay there one night and then move on to Anaheim for three days and then on to San Diego for eight days to see our kids. We’re excited about that. Last night we purchased a two day park pass for Disneyland and the California Adventure Park. We got a discount online and can go straight to the turnstile and not wait in a ticket line. We printed the tickets in our MH. Pretty cool huh? Kim is excited to go to Disneyland. I am excited for her.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Paso Robles and the Hearst Castle

Beautiful hillsides adorned highways 101, 46 and 1.
This is the "Outside" pool at the Hearst Castle. He wanted the whole thing to look like Italy 300 years ago. I told Kim it would have been a lot cheaper for him to just go and visit Italy from time to time.
These are freshly planted vineyards. They last 35 to 45 years before having to be replanted.
This is a view from the Hearst Castle.
More pretty hills

Today we toured the Hearst Castle. It is a true paradox. It is a fascinating place and I could go on and on about the furnishings brought from Europe to decorate and furnish it including ceilings, benches, artwork and special made sculptures. I left there really saddened by the whole thing. I don’t think like other people – OK? Here is a guy who built a castle to his own ego. He entertained stars and leaders from all over the world – but here are some things we learned from the tour guide and the display area we toured. William Randall Hearst married and he lived in the west in California while his wife lived in the east on Long Island. He had a mistress that was in the video tape he shot that was part of our tour. He had 5 sons and between them they had 16 wives. When he was a child his mother would take him to Europe for up to 1.5 years at a time without his father. His father was a mining tycoon and was very wealthy. W. R. Hearst got into the newspaper business and owned newspapers, magazines, radio stations and got involved with the film industry. He built the castle but had no conception of how things looked on paper and consequently had them build many things and then tear them down and start over. There were artifacts where he sent letters to the architect and wanted things changed. As if this weren’t bad enough, he also had them quit their progress in one area and finish another area because he wanted to bring guests there. Consequently he had trouble keeping craftsmen on the job as they didn’t like his micro managing and tearing down their work. They would just quit. There was documentation that he was slow in paying the bills also. There was documentation that in 1923 he had $25,000.00 per month allotted to keep building his castle. In 1937 his empire began to collapse and it was discovered he was in financial trouble with 126 million in debts so from 1937 to 1945, he turned his estate over to an attorney who liquidated land, art and antiques. He never did get the castle finished. When he left it in about 1948 he said it was half finished. Here is one last irony. This guy was a nut that built a monument to himself and 600,000 people a year pay $20.00 each to see it. I didn’t want to go see it but so many people said we should – personally. I wouldn’t again. Here’s my logic. It is interesting that people around the world build these huge monuments to their success and then when their heirs can’t afford to keep up the place they make a tax deal with the government to take it over and turn it into a tourist attraction.

We met a guy in a coffee shop on our way home that was a strong believer and has a son who is in the mission field. When it is all said and done at the end of my life would I rather be able to say I built an empire but didn’t father my kids – or live a life that would send a son to the mission field? Sorry, I don’t usually rant, I just couldn’t help myself.

On the plus side, we had a great day for a drive and saw many, many wineries and beautiful vineyards. The countryside is so very pretty here. We got back at about 4 this afternoon and we laid in the hammock in the sunshine for an hour or so. Last night we got home after dark and there were so many stars that I set up the hammock and we got some blankets and laid under the stars for a while. It was fun.