Friday, January 30, 2015

Camping World Redefines Dog-Friendly

My prior reference to the "iffy" reputation of Camping World was based on a large number of bad experiences shared by bloggers and forum-participants. I am well aware that the bad is more often reported than the good, and was very happy that some commenters here shared positive examples of their own interaction with CW.

The number one reason we chose CW in the first place was proximity. It is literally two blocks from the apartment - an easy walk to return home while any work is being done. Even before our first appointment we had another reason to choose them. The RV dealership quote for the same brand/model of tire pressure monitors plus installation was nearly $800.00 more!

Still, I'm a little wary when I take the Jeep in Wednesday morning for the Invisibrake and Sterling towbar install. Dealing with the parts "guy" on the phone had been a pleasant experience, but a few times it was difficult to get ahold of him. I don't know what to expect on the service end.

When in doubt, take Tessa. I'm sure everyone who goes there gets great customer service, but I felt like a celebrity. The regional manager, Laif, was spending the day at our location and handled our service from beginning to end. He explained everything they were doing, confirmed costs, and understood my time contraints - all while petting the dog. The other service agents stopped by at least once for a doggie-fix, some got on the floor to pet her. It was hysterical to listen to their voices change to "cute little dog" mode!

Just pet me - you know you want to!

 Because we share the car now, I needed to pick it up by four so I could pick Bill up from work. It would still mean his staying later, but we wouldn't need to rent a car if they didn't keep it overnight. Laif said he would call at 2:00 with a status update so I could make arrangments if necessary, and keep Bill in the loop as well.

One can't just walk into CW, go to service, and walk must shop a bit. It's a rule. A sales rep comes up to me and says "Excuse me, I'm the fluffiness inspector and need to check the dog before you can continue shopping." Tessa is already wagging her tail because he said "fluffy". Of course I give permission as this is clearly a serious requirement. She passes with high marks and the delightful young man continues stocking shelves. I'm sure only until his real work is needed again :-)

Walking home I'm feeling pretty darn good about my first service experience at CW . When my phone rings at exactly 2:00 I'm still surprised it's Laif. Jeep will be ready before 3:30, come over a little early to finalize. Sweet!

This time Tessa is greeted by name and introduced to those who weren't there in the morning. No one asks to have their picture taken with her. This time. I'm asked when "we" are coming back, and when I say February 9 for the tire monitors the cashier marks her calendar to be sure she's working. They only know my name because it's on the paperwork.

All the pieces are identified and I'm shown how to attach and remove the towbar. The wiring that I'm sending to be installed on the motorhome by the dealer is bagged separately for me. Everything looks perfect. We head out at exactly 4:00. I'm sure those weren't tears in his eyes as Laif said goodbye to Tessa........

Like the commenters, I'm very happy with my Camping World experience. I imagine their service is excellent for everyone at this store, but just in case, I'm always taking Tessa :-)

Adorable is so exhausting......

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Ice Cream Memories

On our way home from Vasquez Rocks on Saturday we stopped for a couple scoops of ice cream.  A rare dose of comfort food on a beautiful day.

For me, the "comfort" of comfort food comes from the warm fuzzies of good memories.  The strong combination of smell and taste brings back chuckles and smiles, sometimes even tears. There are the traditional-meal-memories like Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas cookies.  Sometimes it's a common food enjoyed at a special place like a kraut dog from a cart at Venice Beach (or Home Depot) that reminds of us fun times from our past.


Although neither of my parents were "cooks", they both had their signature homemade dishes. 

When I was a little girl I brought friends home to prove that Mom really did "hang up" her noodles in the kitchen!  She made these wonderful thick noodles from scratch that she hung over clothesline strung between the cabinets. The process took an entire day. Added to long simmering chicken or a ham hock, those noodles were the stuff of legend.  I've never attempted the recipe, and I have still not tasted a noodle that compares - even from San Francisco's Chinatown, and those are pretty amazing.

Dad's macaroni salad was always served in the large yellow Pyrex bowl (the red one for ambrosia and the blue for tuna salad - always).  He was a machinist by trade and the importance of details came with him to the kitchen.  He always said, and I repeat every time I make it, that the secret to the salad was cutting the ingredients in perfect, small squares.  Pre-chopped black olives were allowed, but everything else was (is) cut with a knife, and added in the proper order.  Made with Tilamook cheddar and pimentos, making it and eating it both remind me so much of my dad.

Most people have a favorite flavor of ice cream.  With or without toppings, there is one flavor that is the absolute best for each of us.  For most of us these flavors are found among the traditional "31".  Others have found their match in the fancier combinations created by Ben and Jerry or Dryers, or the newer favorites by Blue Bunny and Tilamook.

Dad's was Baskin Robbins' Chocolate Chip. No other brand. Just Baskin Robbins. If not available he would default to plain vanilla or forgo the ice cream altogether. No fancy-schancy flavors for him.  He had standards.

Mom loved butter pecan and was less picky about brand name.  When Pralines and Cream came along she decided that having two favorites was just fine.  She was always wilder than Dad.

My favorite(s)?  It's almost embarrassing to share, siting a clear lack of imagination and independence on my part.  Baskin Robbins Chocolate Chip, and Pralines and Cream.  Seriously.  My choice on Saturday? - a scoop of each.  Dad would be so proud.  Mom would be slightly disappointed.

Being in the ice cream shop, with the pint containers lined up in the tall freezer toward the back, always sparks a great Dad memory.  A delightful ice cream memory.

Brian (oldest son)'s dad and I were living in Ontario, CA, about a four hour drive from my dad in Quartzsite (he had a S&B there). One summer evening Dad called to say he was about an hour away and was picking up ice cream before stopping at our house for the night.  Cool.  Naturally he got chocolate chip, I got the pralines this time, and the third was german chocolate cake.  I don't remember what I had for dinner last night.......but I know it wasn't ice cream :-)

So dad comes, we enjoy the ice cream and some television, we go to bed.  Next morning he heads back home after breakfast.  A nice quick visit.  Nice of him to bring ice cream.  Two days later I realize I missed his birthday.  It was two days before.  Oh crap!

When I call to apologize and give him hell at the same time he is cracking up - big belly laughs.  I'm in my 20's at the time and horrible at remembering birthdays.  He thinks it is the funniest thing in the world that he brought us ice cream for his birthday and we didn't even know it!  I vow I will never forget his birthday again.

Fast forward 12 months.  Summer evening.  Dad calls.  He's on his way to Long Beach, wants to stop on his way and go to Vince's for spaghetti.  It's a favorite for all three of us, yes let's absolutely do it!  On the way back to the house he stops at Baskin Robbins.  He buys us ice cream.  He decides to spend the night and we all enjoy our dessert on the patio.

Bet I don't have to tell you what day it was.  This time it was a few days longer before I made the connection.  I waited a week to call him.  No matter, he just thought it was even funnier! 

The next several years he was on the road in his motorhome over his birthday, and most of those years I did call him on the actual day.  We always laughed about those two years.  He always laughed harder than I did!

With reminders from my phone and my calendar and my Facebook page I remember birthdays every year.  And when I go to Baskin Robbins I remember Dad's "birthday surprise" every time.  


Sunday, January 25, 2015

KISS - Keep It Simple Saturday

Even though it is a four-hour drive one way to Quartzsite from here, I was really hoping to get to the Bloggerfest on Saturday. I knew there would be "familiar" faces, and that I would have a great time matching what I've read with those faces. Unfortunately it was not to be :-) After seeing Al's photos this morning I'm even more bummed!

I still wanted to get out and "see some stuff", and Bill is always up for an adventure, so we packed a lunch and headed out. One of the things we enjoy is traveling roads we (or one of us) have never been on before. I have always lived in California, and Bill arrived in elementary school, and we have both lived in each half of the state, so between the two of us we have been on a lot of roads!

Big Tujunga Canyon is an area of the Angeles National Forest north of Los Angeles. Neither of us had been there. Big Tujunga Canyon Road intersects with Angeles Forest Hwy and runs between Hwy 210 and Hwy 14 - so it made a nice loop for a Saturday drive. I had hoped to stop and take photos but the blowing dirt and brush made staying in the car the better option.

With the severe drought and several fires in the last ten years, there is not much "forest" left along this route. The dam now holds back a small pond surrounded by long-dry creek beds. Although there is a lot of green grass and other low-growing foliage, driving this area is like watching a documentary on the long-term devastation of California's drought. If it ever returns to it's former beauty (you can still see what it used to look like in the landscape of dead trees and water-carved canyons), it will be decades.

Sometimes those "beauty-challenged" areas make you look harder. Instead of driving faster to just "get through it", I slowed down, letting the other very few cars pass as soon as there was a turnout. We noticed the incredible variety of rock color - chocolate, brick, cream, charcoal, even green. Random out croppings of stone, drastically different in color from their surrounding soil, were remarkable. The ghostly skeletons of burned manzanita look like the villian's forest in Disney movies. Crumbling stone walls with no other sign of civilization hint at a past that is impossible to imagine in the present.

Tessa is not a fan of winding roads and we stopped along a flat section to let her out of the car. The wind was still blowing hard and she was not impressed with my choice of rest stops. It was nearly on top of us before we saw the tumbleweed coming at us. It was the size of a mini-cooper, and I had to pull Tessa out of its path at the last minute. We watched it make its way between the trees, and then between the fence posts like it had built-in sonar - they are really kind of creepy :-)

Soon we were in "civilization" and getting hungry. And we were back on roads we had already seen. The sign for Vasquez Rocks gave us our best option so we headed there. I didn't know until we were pulling in the park (free admission) that Bill had never been there. We were back in adventure-mode! Us, and about a hundred others.

Those of you who have not been to Vasquez have very likely still seen it in movies and/or TV shows. I also referenced it in this post about our local area.

Home to cowboys and aliens

Yes there is a person on top, no I don't have decent zoom on the phone

I have only been one other time myself, a day with only a couple other people. Not this day.

A nearly full parking lot
Families with toddlers, teenage girls with loud (always) voices, older boys with remote-control dune buggies and drones, young and old couples with and without dogs - all out enjoying a windy, sunny Saturday. I forgot a jacket and it was just cool enough for me to be uncomfortable standing still so we ate our lunch in the car with non-stop entertainment all around. I couldn't watch the guy attempting to run down the largest rock slab - it was so steep his much-smarter (usually) girlfriend was sliding down on her butt.

Lots of green among the rocks

Trails around the back lead to the top

A good spot for those poles.......

Please take my picture

Why are you taking my picture?

After lunch we hiked among the large junipers and smaller out croppings. With all the people in the parking lot and up on the big rocks, we saw very few others where we walked. It would have been a good place to practice with my trekking poles and I was sorry I hadn't thought to bring them for the day (they're hanging next to the jacket). There is very little signage in this park so I figured the one we saw must have some significance. Google is clueless on this sign.


If there are 11 other signs we didn't see them. There was no California buckwheat growing near the sign. It was not a trailhead. I remain as clueless as Google.

So we got out, took a drive, had a hike, saw new things, people-watched - a simple and very enjoyable Saturday.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Not the Arizona Desert or the Florida Keys

While we are not yet spending our days and nights in unique and exciting places, our temporary S&B gives us a great view of the morning skies......


Reminds me of those rocket popsicles I enjoyed as a kid.....

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Honeymoon Phase

Everything is perfect. 

The motorhome is beautiful and all its surfaces are shiny. I get excited every time I realize it's ours and has everything we want. The mechanical parts all work as designed, and the electronics are easy to understand. The interior storage is sufficient, the exterior storage is huge, we have room to spare. Driving it is easy and comfortable, it almost drives itself. The dealership loves us and the upgrades, additions and inspections are on time and without incident.

We haven't picked it up yet.

The weather is ideal. Blue skies, warm temps, and no wind. None. Windshields are no longer frozen in the morning, and the afternoons are comfortable in a t-shirt (maybe with long sleeves). All signs point to an early Spring with perfect travel conditions. A February weekend in the desert will be fabulous.


Good thing we don't have historically unpredictable weather in SoCal.

One of the reasons I read blogs and forums is to learn from others who are living the fulltime life. To learn from their mistakes, and from their successes. The biggest takeaway is that there is no one right way to do this. Still, there are some consistent do's and don't's - like waiting until you get out there to buy a lot of gizmos and gadgets that you may never use. Makes perfect sense.


Over half our Amazon Wish List items are now in the garage, purchased in the last two weeks. They look really cool.

Another helpful part of following the veterans out there is paying attention to customer service reliability. Even better than reviews on Yelp, this information is from people I have grown to trust over nearly two years. It is so smart to avoid places where these folks have had consistently bad experience.

We're getting our Invisabrake and Roadmaster tow kit installed at Camping World. They're across the street......they're "nice guys"......every CW can't be horrible.......

Because when you're in love and all your dreams are coming true, you want to hold on to that feeling for as long as you can. You expect perfection. Regardless of the little but, but, but in the back of your mind, and the well-meaning reminders from others, you keep dancing to the music that keeps your feet from touching the ground (Al gave me that one...).

This "phase" of our journey is So Much Fun! With the sale of the house behind us and the purchase of the rig complete, we are free to focus on the exciting stuff. Like a child with a new toy, or a teenager with their first car, or a couple newly married, we feel only the joy of having gotten what we most longed for.

Not only longed for, but worked for. There's also a feeling of reward, of crossing a finish line of sorts. In this case the finish line does not indicate an end, but rather a most wonderful beginning.

Bill still has ten more Mondays to work, and I know for him that crossing that finish line will truly mean freedom. It will be another huge milestone, but not one there is any doubt about the if or when. Like Richie's graduation on June 2, it is a date on the calendar that gets closer every sunrise.

We know there will be some bumps moving forward, there always are. We'll do our best to limit them, and get through them with as much good humor as possible. We'll do it together. But in the meantime......

The honeymoon is perfect :-)

Saturday, January 3, 2015

THIS Year!


As anticipated in last year's post, it feels a lot better to say "This year we are heading out...."  Actually it feels better than better - it feels amazing and about fifty more flowery, exaggerated adjectives, all meaning GREAT! 

There was never any doubt that we would realize this dream, just whether we could pull off all the things that needed to happen to keep us on schedule for a June, 2015 launch date.  When I clicked "publish" on my very first blog post I remember thinking I might regret putting all those goals "out there", inviting public accountability :-( 

Looking back now I am so glad I'm recording this critical part of the journey. We worked hard to get to where we are, stayed on track, and have been incredibly blessed at every turn. There have been some sad times, the passing of Bill's brother Wayne was particularly hard; and a couple potential side-liners like the wheel-bearing on the trailer and the huge income tax bill. 

We took a leap of faith and listed the house four months earlier than our original plan, and it turned out to be the best thing we could have done!

We learned some important lessons - like purging has no end-date, and keeping your options open might find you an even better motorhome :-) The learning continues.

Now that we have the rig, school is definitely in session!  We finalized everything yesterday, and made arrangements to pick it up in February. Yes, it took a lot of will-power not to say "We want it tomorrow!"  But a month of free storage while they prep the rig, and we get the Jeep set up with the tow and brake package, was the smarter way to go.

In yesterday's Bayfield Bunch post, Al talked about the forward-feeling of a new year.  I can so relate to that feeling - putting up a brand new calendar, starting the first page of a new journal, making commitments that you might or might not keep.
THIS year that fresh-start, unlimited-potential, open-opportunity feeling is nearly over whelming!!