Monday, August 12, 2013

Decompressing in the Desert

Elks Lodge, Lancaster, CA – August 8th thru 12th, 2013
Indecision attacked again as EJ and I tried to make up our minds about our next destination. One thing we both felt strongly about was the need to get away from the crowded California Coast.  Our decision to return to Orange Park early this year requires that we focus on  traveling in an easterly direction. The problem with that is that it leaves the California Desert for potential destinations. I included all that as explanation as to why we were getting a very late start in leaving Monterey. In fact it was 1:30 in the afternoon before we got away.
Much to EJ’s chagrin, I insisted on leaving even though we had no definite destination in mind. With California campgrounds running 40 to 50 dollars a night, that leaves us with boondocking or Elks Lodges. It was way too hot to boondock, so Elks Lodge it is. We had considered hopping from Lodge to Lodge down the coast, but after our experience in Monterey we didn’t want to be the ones left standing in that game of musical chairs.
One thing we had decided is that we wanted to visit the Reagan Library in Simi Valley so the object was to find a Lodge in reasonable proximity. Since we got such a late start we knew we didn’t want to be driving Big Guy in LA rush hour traffic so that ruled out the Elks Lodge near Simi Valley. Driving down highway 101 we had until Pasa Robles to make up our minds. Coast or desert? Before we got to the decision point, EJ found an Elks Lodge in Lancaster which is about 70 miles from the Reagan Library, easily doable in the Element. So we got on the phone and called ahead to make sure there was room for us and to let them know we would be arriving around 8PM.
We got a friendly welcome when we arrived and we had our pick of spots. After trying 2 or 3 we found one that fit just right. As we were setting up one of the other RV dwellers came by and said he’d been there for a couple of years and never seen anyone get a satellite signal where we were parked. We got the coach leveled and pushed the dish button and viola! We connected to those three little satellites in synchronous orbit. We never did get to give that fellow the good news.
Early the next morning we loaded our packed lunch, drinks and goodies and took off for Simi Valley. We figured it would take about two hours each way for travel time and had heard from friends that it would take four hours to see President Reagan and Nancy’s Museum. Along the way we we spot this structure and guess it’s part of the California Aqueduct system
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They were right. It took every bit of 4 hours and we didn’t stop to read every display. We rented the audio guides which helped a lot. The museum did an excellent job of conveying the compassion President Reagan had for improving opportunities for Americans, eliminating government interference to help business succeed and to promote democracy around the world. The museum also covered President Reagan’s tragic decline into Alzheimer's disease.
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We ended up having lunch at the Reagan Irish Pub that is part of the Library/Museum complex. The pub was brought over from Ireland piece by piece. It was good and it was nice to get off our feet for awhile.
It was also interesting to note that when we got there, the primary parking lots were full and we had to park on the street at the 4th of 12 shuttle stops. When we left, cars were parked as far away as the 12th stop. The Reagan Presidential Library and Museum is pretty popular.
Our drive back home was reminiscent of the former time we worked in California. If you’re going the speed limit, you’re going way too slow. So you’re in bumper to bumper traffic traveling 15 to 20 miles an hour over the posted speed limit. And it was bumper to bumper until we reached the turnoff for Lancaster. We definitely earned our adult beverages that evening.
We took the opportunity while in Lancaster to catch up on some maintenance. We repaired two Day/Night shades. It seems as though they were incorrectly built and have the grommets that protect the cords installed backwards. This allows the cords to rub on metal edges which means they wear out about once a year. Camping World sells a repair kit for about $16. Sounds like a good winter time project to permanently fix all five shades. Here’s a picture of one of my helpers stretching the new cord for me.
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I also took advantage of the really good water pressure here at the lodge to clean the diesel engine radiator fins. This hot weather is really taxing the limits of the engine cooling system. By cleaning the crud off the fins maybe it’ll help a little.
During our stay we also helped ourselves to Sunday breakfast complete with Bloody Marys and Mimosas at the Lodge. Folks were really friendly and made us feel at home. On another day we helped ourselves to a hot dog lunch too.
One day wandering around in the desert, we found the “Singing Road”. Grooves, perpendicular to your direction of travel, are cut in the road surface in intervals to produce a musical tune when you travel the speed limit. In this case it is the William Tell Overture. The back story is that this was created for a Honda commercial years ago. However, the original “Singing Road” was located in Lancaster near a residential neighborhood. So many people liked driving over it to hear the music the neighbors complained to the city. It was then moved outside of the city in the desert where no one lives.

Also while wandering around we came upon the Blackbird Airpark. For those that don’t know, Blackbird is the given name to the SR-71. At this Airpark sits the world’s only display of a Lockheed SR-71A and its predecessor the A-12. Although to the untrained eye they are very difficult to tell apart.
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We got to talk to one of the pilots and listened to him tell the story of the last flight of an SR-71. Arrangements had been made for the SR-71 to fly over an airshow. The plane flew so high & fast that the pilot had to do a fuel dump to leave a trail in order for it to be seen from the ground. It was also flying close to it’s top speed which prompted those on the ground to complain about not being able to hear the sonic boom. The pilot we talked to told those around him at the airshow to “just wait a couple minutes, it’ll get here.” Of course the Blackbird was long gone before the sonic boom ever reached the ground.
Next door was the Joe Davies Airpark which also had an interesting display of planes.
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JoeDaviesAirpark3 (1024x767)We also learned that B-52s are still in operation and being upgraded with new computer systems. That last picture is a B-52.
Before we knew it our stay in Lancaster was over, and once again we were faced with trying to decide where to go next. The temperatures were getting even hotter so staying put was not an option. Where’s that coin to flip when you really need it?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Bro’(Broila’) and Sisila’

Elks Lodge, Monterey, CA – August 2 through 7, 2013

We left Tehachapi early (7 AM) because unlike our normal practice, we didn’t fill up Big Guy when we arrived. The price of diesel fuel at the truck stop was disappointing and we hoped to find something cheaper in town. The search for cheaper fuel was a bust (yep, we’re in CA alright), so it was back to the truck stop this morning for fuel, coffee, and breakfast sandwiches. Just after we got on the road Dad called and he was surprised we were almost to Barstow already. But the method to the madness of our early departure was to arrive in Monterey before rush hour. EJ’s brother and sister-in-law live in Pacific Grove and are the reason for this part of our adventure.

The drive was not too bad and had very differing landscapes. We saw desert, goats, oil rigs, vineyards, almond trees, tumbleweeds and some crops growing under cover that we weren’t sure of.

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We were making pretty good time. It is a 300 mile day and we actually got on Hwy 101 by 11 AM. Starting early does pay off. We only made a few stops for lunch and fuel. Finding fuel is a little easier using an app called Gas Buddy. We have found it to be pretty accurate with the location and prices. It sure beats wondering if there is fuel at the next exit and how much.

We arrived at the Monterey Elks Lodge around 3:00. It was a winding, hilly, narrow climb up the hill to the lodge and the parking spots for the RV’s were pretty skinny. They have 12 sites and we were the fourth one there. Once we were set up between our white lines, the slides were on one and the door opened on the other. Sure hope it doesn’t get too full.

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We headed into the lodge to sign up for our 3 day limit and were we ever surprised by the view. They have a pool area that overlooks Monterey Bay. Even though it was foggy it was still very impressive and very cool temp.

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Since we had a long day and John & Masiah  hadn’t seen BG yet, we decided they should come see us tonight. We had happy hour, snacks and talked, talked, talked. This location is going to work out great since it is only about 15 minutes away from their house. Already loving the cooler weather, time for an extra blanket tonight.

The next several days were busy checking things out around town, going to a Blues concert in Seaside and enjoying hanging with the family.  All of the towns seem to run together and the traffic was pretty heavy and lots people. Also, Pacific Grove is where the Monarch Butterflies stop on their migration.

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Of course we had to check out the Wharf area and all of its inhabitants.

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We drove down the coast toward Carmel and checked out Point Lobos and the views.

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And once again we were able to experience the local farmers market. Lots of people, fresh produce, beautiful flowers and curiosities.

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We were able to extend our stay at the Elks another 3 days, but it did in fact get a lot busier. There was a group of 6 RV’s that came in just after we renewed.  Lucky timing on our part.

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All in all it was a great visit. We made it from coast to coast and had a wonderful time. Lots of fun, food and cool to make us really happy campers.

Happy Campers

Thursday, August 1, 2013

It’s Vegas Baby!

Sam’s Town Las Vegas, NV – July 29 through August 1, 2013

Descending into the desert that holds Las Vegas revels some magnificent scenery.


And apparently not all Casinos are money makers…


And finally Vegas is in sight, sorta.  Is that smog? Are we going to be breathing that for the next 3 days?


We’ll make a three day stop here in Vegas to visit some friends, do a little financial contributing and see the sights before continuing on to California.

We check into the Sam’s Town Casino and RV Park, which by the way, is a very nice place to stay. Our only complaint was the triple digit temperatures.

We had a great visit with our friends Steve and LeeAnn and caught up on their adventures. They made the big step and joined the ranks of us retired folks this year. Congratulations!

We had originally thought we would stay at the Western Hotel RV Park, but they wouldn’t answer the phone. We found out why.  That’s it behind the fence. Looks like nobody’s home.


And of course we had to do a little sight seeing (via car since it is way too hot to be walking around).


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I was lucky, in that traffic was fairly light that day. While I had driving duty, I think you can tell who was taking the pictures…


We finally got smart and used the Sam’s Town shuttle to catch a ride down to Fremont Street. This is the old original Vegas. It’s a little seamier now, a little more casual, and definitely more unusual. But we think the slots are looser and drinks and food are less expensive for sure.


Our visiting and sight seeing is over and it’s time to head to California. How would you like to wake up every morning and have this as a view?


I think the big wind harvesters are more attractive than the smaller ones. We stay at the Mountain View RV Park in Tehachapi, CA which is right next to a glider air field. We’re told the Air Force uses this facility for some of their pilot training.


Tehachapi is also known for the Tehachapi Loop where long trains actually loop back over themselves via a tunnel when transiting between the mountains and the Mojave Desert.

After a drive around town, checking out fuel prices and lucking upon the evening farmers market, we head back to BG. The elevation here is high enough that we won’t need to run the air conditioning tonight. Life is definitely good!!