Friday, January 26, 2018

Thank Heaven for Little Boys

January 19-26, 2018
Valencia, California

Sometimes two negatives create a positive. Of course, there's still the two negatives to deal with :-(

The weekend starts out perfect with Ezra coming to visit. He and PopPop play with his new Lego's and he and I spend some time at the playground. He is so smart and delightful, and we love every minute we get to spend with him.

Ezra loves playing with his PopPop.

Nothing better than a big pile of clean sand to climb!





This would be great for playing in that sand!
Sunday we're invited to Travis and Emily's (engaged, wedding in June) to watch the NFL playoffs, but I'm feeling like a cold is coming on and figure staying home is best for me. 

I've never thought of corn chips as dangerous, but when I bite into one I feel and hear a gun shot go off in my mouth! I broke my tooth? Having never had a cavity or root canal, I guess this is going to be bad.

The pain is bearable overnight, and Monday my dentist office is able to get me an afternoon appointment. My regular dentist, who I adore, doesn't see patients on Mondays, but when I'm waiting for his brother and partner he comes in to see me. Such a considerate professional.

He confirms that the tooth has broken in half. A perfectly healthy tooth, maybe I grind my teeth? Fortunately an appointment has opened up first thing in the morning, and I can get the extraction and implant done in one surgery. Not something I look forward to.

All goes well, no pain, no anxiety, still surgery. I sleep for most of the next two days. Remarkably I have zero pain. Without pain meds. None!

Definitely a negative, on top of the negative of our delay. But, without that delay we would have been in Morro Bay, away from my regular dentist, and I doubt I would have had such a positive outcome.

By Thursday I'm ready to get out of the house. Missing our two weeks at the beach, I realize it will be a long time before our travels bring us back to the ocean. It's less than an hour away, so we take the drive to Ventura.

On the way we check out the RV park we'll be staying at for the June wedding, then find a dog friendly stretch of beach near a small marina. It's very windy, and gets colder while we enjoy watching the crashing waves. Unfortunately it's not a place where Tessa can do zoomies. There's lots of other dogs, and leashes required.

Large rocks protect the shore from the pounding waves.

Ezra would love playing in this ship!

Scorched hills behind Ventura already showing signs of new grass.

The Mermaid of Sorta Point

We could watch the waves crash for hours - if not for the cold wind!
Having gotten a small ocean fix, we head back and visit Ezra and his mommy. He loves to entertain us, and is most happy when he makes us laugh. Starting to speak in full sentences now, he is such a character. 

We're treated to a fiery sky on our way home.
Friday Brian, Shalise, Jeff and Ezra join us for taco lunch at our place. It's chilly outside so we hang out and visit. And I finally get another family pic for my desktop! The last one was from June 2016 so I'm very happy to get an updated one :-)))



Friday, January 19, 2018

Lazy Days Waiting for Disappointing News

January 13-18, 2018
Valencia, California

Not being able to extend until Monday means driving 3+ hours on the day my NFL team is in a playoff game. Although my quarterback has over 450 yards passing and five touchdowns, we lose the game and it's just as well I didn't see it.

We get set up, again, at Valencia Travel Village for at least four nights. The parts for the big slide should be in by then!

Monday we pick up Jeff (my youngest, our number four), and Ezra. Mom has the flu and Dad is at work. We meet Nick (Bill's oldest, our number two), wife Jillian, and Maximus at our favorite pizza place. I mean to get a pic of the two little guys together, but...nope.

"I don't know about my uncles....."

Ezra loves close-ups :-)

Maximus and Daddy
After lunch the four of us return home and Ezra and I spend an hour at the playground. The joy of sand, a bucket and a couple of big spoons. The big guys are taking a nap when we get back, so we relax and watch cartoons until I take Jeff to work and Ezra to his dad. 

Chillin' out with his minion.

Such a sweet boy.
Tuesday we spend a lazy day at home until meeting Bill's two middle boys and their partners (a fiance' and a girlfriend) for dinner. It's always fun times. No pic, they look like they did a few weeks ago :-))

I still haven't heard from our service tech or the manager so I leave another message. Obviously we aren't getting out of here on Thursday so I extend through Monday.

Jeff and I drive to the San Fernando Valley to pick up a bicycle on Wednesday. It's great to have this time to spend with him after his years in Seattle. 

One thing we did plan to do when we got back here was to see the new Star Wars movie. Wednesday's the day. And we both love it!! Everything about it is excellent. If you haven't seen it I highly recommend you do!

While we're in the theater I get two calls about the slide repair that result in our driving to Camping World for some in-person information.

The short story is the part hasn't shipped from Indiana yet, the factory is still building it :-(((( Since we took the rig in on December 18 this news does not sit well with either of us. 

The long story is that I want to see all the documentation since we took it in to see what the delay is, and if it's their responsibility then I want them to pay for expedited shipping. The manager does not tell me no. He has the service tech review everything with me as requested. 

It's amazing what you can learn if you ask. If you don't just get mad and blame who's in front of you. Turns out the main delay was the warranty company wanting to do an inspection themselves and CW pushing for an exemption because we were in the desert. With the holidays as well, the approval doesn't come in until January 8. The rest of the calls and ordering and communication between the parties is all documented (smart service dept) and I'm satisfied that CW isn't to blame. Damn, that quick shipping would have been nice! Still, I'm happy to retain a good relationship with our go-to service people.

So I extend through the end of the month, the service tech and I agree on a schedule of checking in with each other until the part comes in, and we leave. We really wanted to spend this two weeks in Morro Bay, but being here with the family isn't a bad option. 

Plan C is to head to our friend's in the rig for Super Bowl Sunday, so our fingers remain crossed :-)

We do get pretty skies every afternoon.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Finding Fun in Between

January 7-13, 2018
Thermal, California

Thermal is hardly a destination location, unless you're attending the Coachella Music Festival, which we're not. Instead, we're here because it's a good "in between" stop for a few days before we return to Valencia to get the large slide fixed.

It's still in our desert, it's close to Borrego Springs where we can visit with some good friends, it's close enough to good size cities where we can get errands done. 

Sunday we set up at Oasis Palms RV Resort. The concrete parking pads are level in large grass sites. FHUs with 50 amp and good water pressure. Nothing to block our satellite, and the park WiFi is fast and consistent. There is a small, clean fishing pond with nice palm trees, swimming pool and spa, clubhouse with games, and a community fire pit. We're right on Hwy 86 so there is road noise, and we're 20+ miles from anything. A Passport America park year round makes it a very reasonable option for this popular winter area.

More wiggle-room than most private parks.
I reach out to Pam and Sue about meeting up in Borrego Springs where they're staying for the month. Can't believe we haven't seen them since February!!

We join them at their side-by-side spots at a lovely resort on the golf course. As always, it's like no time has passed, and we enjoy getting caught up with all our year's adventures.

On the way to Borrego, the Salton Sea looks magical in the mist.
After a yummy lunch at the new Kessling's Kitchen we head for a Jeep run. Bill and I haven't been to Fonte's Point so we start there with oohs and ahhs at the amazing views. Stops at Five Palms and Pumpkin Patch give us historic and interesting things to see, and then the adventure really begins. Unfortunately Bill's upset stomach means less fun for him, but he hangs in there and still enjoys the trip.

Our return route takes us over several "blind" hills where I'm grateful to be following John so I can see which way he turns at the top. Because there's no way I can see the road from our steep angle at the top. One narrow (on both sides) section with tight turns is at the edge of my comfort level, but once through it I admit I'm having a great time! After a couple re-routes to find the main highway, with the sun getting very close to setting, we find our way over a couple rough and rocky hills to the end. 

Font's Point - wow!

I don't notice until I see the pic that Tessa is walking over the very edge behind John, Dave and Pam! Stops my heart.
The views are amazing.... all directions.
Bill finds his own point where he too stands way too close to the side edge!! They do this to me on purpose.....
Through the slalom course to Five Palms.

Dave and John scouting our next stop against darkening skies.
I fail to get a single pic of the palms, so I shamelessly "borrow" Sue's wonderful shot of Tessa zooming down the hill past Gramma Pamma!
Fascinating concretions seemingly scattered across a gray section of desert, called The Pumpkin Patch

Many of them show signs of extreme aging.

Tessa, Pam and Sue explore.

Fortunately the area has been protected with fencing, and covered picnic tables and pit toilets added to make for a nice stop while playing in the desert. Dave and John read the history.
We head back toward the glowing hills.

The azure skies are beautiful.

As we get into the more exciting section, this is the last photo I take.

Fortunately, Pam captures a few pics of Piper coming through the hills.

Crossing Mars under darkening skies.
When we arrive at the highway our guides aren't quite sure what reaction they're going to get as I jump out of Piper's driver's seat - OMG, what a blast!! Thanks again John, Pam, Dave and Sue for a very fun day in the desert. Can't wait to do it again :-)

Tuesday we realize we haven't had a "day off" in over two weeks so we veg-out all day watching movies and taking naps. 

After finding out that our service tech (for the slide repair) was on vacation for two weeks, and therefore not returning my calls, we hear back from her that the part has not arrived, and she has to get a tracking number from the parts department......okay. We can wait a bit more.

Wednesday and Thursday we run errands, getting Tessa a much-needed grooming, the Jeep washed, tires rotated, groceries, etc., etc. We venture into Coachella for dinner at a "very authentic" Mexican restaurant where we don't recognize most items on the menu. Tasty for sure.

When you're "tire-d" at work.....

When these are the chairs you know the food is the real thing!
Some of the most unique and beautiful art I've seen is on the streets of small towns.
Friday we make the loop around the Salton Sea. But first we have to return to the car wash where I forgot my camera bag!! Not a great area of town, I'm grateful for the integrity of honest people for turning it in.

What I'm not grateful for is the message I get from our service tech. The part has not been shipped because Lippert isn't sending them anything due to a "credit" issue. She can't tell me when the part will be shipped. My patient-understanding self takes a backseat to my pissed-off, why-didn't-you-know-this-three-weeks-ago-we-don't-know-if-the-slide-will-stop-working-any-minute-what-is-being-done-to-fix-it self! I manage to leave a not-too-much-of-a-jerk message, asking for a return call on next steps.

We share memories along Hwy 111 where we traveled to football and basketball games on team and pep club buses in high school, and where I drove to worksites as the union rep for this area in later years.

Our ultimate goal is Slab City and Salvation Mountain where neither of us have ever been. I've read several blog posts on the unique places, but I'm still amazed at both.

The concrete slabs that are now home to a community of off-grid living vagabonds began life as a military training base during WWII.

Leonard Knight's man-made mountain is described as "one man's personal religious intensity". He lived here and worked daily from 1984 until he could no longer live alone in 2011. He passed in 2014.

Freshly painted areas in front and brighter paint throughout the mountain show that work and maintenance continue here.

Photographers and models take advantage of the bright colors and clear blue skies.

Layers of painted tree branches 30 feet above the floor.

Columns and hay bale walls surround a meandering path.

Leonard's message.
Vivid colors throughout.

Windows and framed pictures break up the painted surfaces.

Only at the edge of the completed work does the fact that this is all just dirt and hay bales become apparent. 

Painted and "messaged" vehicle from tractors to a moped are scattered in front.

The boat may be new as it is the only unpainted surface at the site.

I love the painted tires.
Now you know - it's at the back of Slab City.

In addition to tattered blue tarps over crate furniture, Slab City has several homesteads with elaborate sustainable power.
I'm sure it's an elevator.....
In addition to the library and other "established" locations, the original concrete slabs are identified on Google Maps.

The original Slab City location - now surrounded by acres of homesteaders. And unfortunately also acres of trash which I choose not to photograph.
Although there is a new Phaeton and a couple other nice looking RVs at Slab City, this is a community stained by deep poverty. There is no water, no electricity, no trash pickup, and most disturbing, no sewer. Many residents have no means of transportation. Some of the sites are no more than shelters made of cardboard and metal sheeting. It's a rough life in the harsh desert.

But there is art everywhere, friendly signage, two music venues, several entrepreneurs, at least one church, a library, a clothes and goods giveaway site, clear roads, and lots of smiles. Although we aren't the only "tourists", there are no pan-handlers on the corner.

It is easy to come here and judge negatively, which I have seen from some on Facebook. It's a unique and interesting place where people live the way they want to - some raising children here. Would I want to live here? No. Am I grateful I don't have to make that choice? Yes. For the nay-sayers I would just say "Stay away."

On our way out I stop to buy a glass of lemonade from two beautiful young girls and their dad. The smiles are genuine, they're clean and look healthy. They all feel happy and safe. My day is better for my short time with them.

I make a quick stop in Calipatria to show Bill a point of interest he's unaware of, then it's a delicious dinner at another place I know about from my working time here. 

In Calipatria, California - sea level is at the top of the pole!

Few people know this geographic designation, on a small side street of this dying farm town.
We seldom eat red meat, but this thick T-bone at the Town Pump in Westmoreland is glorious. Seriously, they serve the best steaks I've had. Bill agrees :-)
I have a message from the service manager to call him back (my phone is not ringing for every call), but no message about any resolution. Of course they're closed on weekends so it will be Monday before we know what's happening, how long we'll be in Valencia again (starting on Sunday).

Saturday is NFL playoffs and getting all the laundry done in case we can't open the slide at our next stop.

At least if we're delayed due to the slide, we'll have more time with the grandbabies and our kids. It's not the hot and smoggy summer. We don't have any place to be until Superbowl Sunday. 

Fingers crossed the slide will open one more time :-)