Rain, Rain, Go Away

According to plan we pulled into Malibu Beach RV at 1:02 PM, in time to register without causing any complaints about early arrival. These people do not seem to understand that we are customers and they are in business to provide us with service that will encourage us to return. I will not blame them for the rain which began as we arrived and continued for five (5) days with very little relief. But they were less than accommodating. There idea of explaining their rules comes across as if they expect everyone to be rude and inconsiderate and the rules are to be enforced with an iron fist. As an example, as we were position Gee 2 on a none too spacious site, Carol left the RAV with two tires on the pavement while she guided me. A resort attendant stopped by to tell her that she must park with all the tires off of the pavement. Given the width of the pavement it seemed obvious that if we didn’t want to get hit we would pull off as far as we could, once there was someplace to pull to. Here is the view out the windshield after I finished setting up:

view of pacific

Because of our rescheduling we needed to change sites on Tuesday. I suggested that I might move as soon as the previous renter moved out. The man at the desk said “no you must wait until 1 PM.” I was about to lose it with this nincompoop when the manager stepped in and said that since no one would be inconvenienced and we had to help care for the grandchildren, we certainly could move as soon as the site was clear. Yesterday Carol went to the office to let them know that we were moving at 9 AM since the site had remained empty for five days and the same guy tried to tell her we couldn’t and again the manager had to tell the power hungry one that it really was okay. Oh, the site we had to vacate is still empty.

Rain! If you have seen the news, you might have noticed that it has been raining in Southern California. It has rained in inches per hour fashion on and off since we got here. In fact from Friday until Tuesday night it rained over 8 inches in places. Given that normal annual rainfall is 10 inches and they had 30 inches in January this is overkill. People live on the sides of sand and dirt cliffs that turn to mud in the rain. Roads are cut through these bluffs and through canyons with steep sided walls. All of these bluffs are poised to slide to a lower place given any chance. In Rochester we have a furnace Red Tagged when it an inspector finds that it is dangerous. Out here they Red Tag the whole house when its location becomes precarious due to sliding mud, either under it or above it.

Last night, Tuesday night, we left Miriam and Yechiel’s home at about 8:15 to get to bed early. We had to be back by 5:30 so they could get off to the hospital with Azriel for a small medical procedure (which has gone just fine). Depending on traffic the ride has taken as long as 50 minutes, but generally it is about 30 minutes. As we turned on to PCH (Pacific Coast Highway also CA rte 1) we saw a sign that a slide had closed the road. I said “they must have cleared it by now” – wrong! As we approached Topanga Cyn (that’s California for Canyon) Road I knew I was wrong because there were lights and barriers all over the place. There is no real alternate to PCH at this place. We turned up Topanga Cyn, which was going to be closed in 15 minutes so the flagman could go home, and called Yechiel to see if he could look up an alternate route. His map was not fine enough detail and he had little enough knowledge of the area that he could not help us. I knew that, if I could get to the 101, I could get to Malibu Cyn Road which would bring me back to PCH past the slide. I did not have any assurance that Topanga Cyn would get me there. Eventually I got to the flagman and he said we could indeed get to the 101 on this route. He did not have time to tell me that I would drive 16 miles of road to cover 6 miles as the GPS points. We got to the turn for Malibu Cyn and I said to Carol that this road had been closed by a slide in the morning. “Surely it must be open by now” – Wrong! Five miles from the freeway (FWY) there was a little sign in the middle of the road “Road Closed.” I turned back just a bit desperate by now, so desperate that I pulled into the first gas station I saw to ask for directions, without any prompting from Carol. To our great good fortune there was a police officer filling his vehicle and he said that just a few miles further North (sure looks like South or West to me on the map) on the Ventura FWY (the 101) I would find Canaan, well that how I heard it, it really is Kanan and it was a straight shot south to the PCH. Straight shot relative to what, he did not say, in this case 13 miles of road to cover 6 miles as the GPS flies. We got back to Gee 2 at 10 PM.

Since we had no idea what the morning would bring, we set the alarm for 3:30 (who said this is a vacation?) to allow plenty of time to get to the house by 5:30. We retraced the route up Kanan to the 101 to the 405 to the 10 (I know back east that would be route 101, to I 405 to I 10, but Californians use the definite article for all of their major roads) and arrived in just under an hour, about 5 AM. Fortunately we had keys and let ourselves in quietly to await their waking up.

They were off by 6, the doctor got the timing wrong and they were waiting for her until 8:30. Carol has taken Avtalyon to a Mommy and Me program and I am alone with the computer and the cat. The SUN HAS COME OUT!!! I can see mountains and the Hollywood sign. The sky is blue and I didn’t have to take and airplane up to 30,000 feet to see it. In two days we will begin driving east into the back side of the storm that has passed over us. I will drive slowly and hope not to catch up with it.

Here are some family pictures:

avtalyon 20 mo

Avtalyon, 20 months old

Azriel 4 y o

Azriel, 4 years old

bubbeh and tal

Avtalyon with Bubbeh

New Friends, Old Friends

We moved on to Arizona. This has been a favorite playground of ours in the past, but we planned to just pass through on our way to LA this time. Ah plans! A year ago we stopped in El Paso, TX to catch a plane to Atlanta for a Bat Mitzvah.. When we got back, we found a Southwind set up next to us. As these things happen we got to talking and as we sat down to dinner we heard a knock on the door and Pat was there inviting us over for a glass of wine after we got cleaned up from dinner.

We have kept in touch by email and these blogs ever since. Bob had sent us their planned stops at the beginning of the travel season and I have kept it on my desktop. As we headed for Arizona I looked at it and noted that they planned to be in Tucson when we would be passing through. A phone call later and we were set to meet at Gilbert Ray Campground in the Tucson Park near the Sonoran Desert Museum. As we traveled we got a phone call from Yechiel suggesting that they would like for us to be with them February 23rd and 24th when Azriel was going to have a minor medical procedure done. This gave us the idea of extending in Tucson and delaying our arrival in Malibu. A call to the campground in Malibu got that in motion.

We arrived in Tucson mid afternoon and once we got set up we spent the time catching up with Pat and Bob Hogg. They have a 2003 Southwind 36E and it was the first with that floor plan that we saw. Bob has made many modifications and improvements and with Pat they have personalized the interior far beyond what we have achieved so far. I was particularly taken with Bob’s solution to storing the sewer pipe (the stinky slinky). He has bolted a section of PVC pipe to the back of the street side slideout compartments to hold it. For those who don’t get it, when the living room slideout is extended the storage compartments below it move out with the room. When the room is closed, there is sufficient space between the backs of those compartments and the frame for a four inch diameter pipe. This will be one of my next improvements; otherwise the stink slinky rides in the same compartment as the freshwater system. The other changes were too numerous to mention, but certainly make for a comfortable way of life which is important since they are full time on their Southwind.

In the evening we went to dinner in town at Seri Malaka a Malaysian restaurant that was very lovely. We all managed to order dishes that met our desires. I had a lamb chop dish in curry that was just on the edge of fiery and was perfect for my mood. The next day we set out to spend the day in the Desert Museum. We had spent some time there four years ago, on our first voyage. We had much more time and managed to take in most of the outdoor exhibits. While there we had lunch in the restaurant. This turned out to be more of a dining experience than we had expected. The food was excellent the service was interesting. How do you divide a bill in two even parts and end up with a $7.00 difference between the results? The waiter never did understand our complaint and it became more trouble than it was worth to sort out. He reassured us that the two separate bills added up to the correct total. Oh well. We continued our tour and then returned to the campground to relax and have some wine before venturing out again. This time we introduced the Hoggs to Sweet Tomato, a restaurant we first enjoyed in Atlanta and more recently in St Petersburg, FL. We had spotted it from the car the day before and suggested it as a treat for our credit cards. In all of our experiences this has been a source of good fresh vegetables well prepared and modest prices. We had a delightful time and returned to the campground sated and ready to keep talking for another hour or so. On Wednesday we took our leave.

We stopped first at an Albertson Grocery we found in Casa Grande, AZ to stock up our food supplies and ate lunch while stopped there. We then kept moving until we reached Quartzsite, AZ. This modest crossroads in the far west of Arizona grows from it’s permanent population of less than 1,000 to over 250,000 at any one time during the peak of mid December to mid February. This is the second time we have stopped there. No Bob, we didn’t figure out where to boondock in the desert, we just pulled into the B 10 campground where we stayed two years ago. Prices are UP. Our purpose was to hit the vendors and the swap meets to see if we could find some items for Gee 2. We had very little luck. We started too early in the day – 9 AM – and had to be out of the campground by 11. As we pulled out of town, we could see many more vendors open, but none had the kind of things we were looking for.

We still have a couple of days before we want to be in LA, but we want to be able to get in mid day, to avoid the rush hour and to be able to get to Miriam and Yechiel’s before Shabbat. We decided to stop in the Palm Springs area. We are in Sky Valley Resort in Desert Hot Springs, CA and a very nice resort it is, especially since they are Passport America and we were able to take advantage of the 50% off program. Two nights for the price of one. The place is packed with many park models and otherwise permanent looking arrangements. We are a lonely itinerant RV in the block we are located on. The hot spring fed pools are very nice and I am sure we will get back to them tomorrow.

Moving West . . .sort of

We finally made it to Austin and the Lone Star RV Park on Saturday, February 5. As soon as we had settled in to this very high touch RV Resort (more about that later) we went off to meet Leigh and Patrick at the Austin Museum of Art (AMOA). The exhibit —and we spent over an hour there before going to their home for a breather and a beer until it was time to go to dinner at Z Tejas. This is a very Texas place with fine southwestern cooking that is a substantial cut above the normal Tex-Mex one gets here. Sunday morning we had breakfast on board and joined them for Brunch at Shady Grove, another funky place that is mostly outdoors.

Leigh and Patrick

It used to be the reception area for a trailer park. The park now serves mostly as parking for the restaurant. We wandered through interesting parts of Austin and walked the South Congress area which has many interesting shops. At last as Super Bowl time approached we parted and Carol and I returned to Gee 2 to clean up and make preparations for the next stage of the trip.

This is the first campground we have been to that had greeters and assistants always around. We were met at the gate by a gent wearing the blue shirt uniform that came to be familiar. He had our name on a reservation list and it had our site number too. He lead us directly to the site and saw that we were getting set up while he gave us all the necessary information about getting registered and about what activities were scheduled. The kitchen offered pancake breakfast included in the price of the site and on Monday, as we were preparing to leave, it was a nice addition to the service and it helped us avoid the breakfast cleanup on board.

Upon departure we had a route to LA that in our usual indirect manner included a visit to Big Bend National Park. First we stopped in Del Rio, TX at Buzzards Roost CG, don’t ask. If you look at a map of Texas, you will soon come to the conclusion that if you go to Big Bend that is where you are going. It is at least 85 miles out of the way from anyplace, in this case anyplace is McDonald Observatory in the Davis Mountains. There are two roads that lead to Big Bend and both of them end there. For variety, one can come in by one route and leave by the other, in either event you will find yourself back on US 90 within the same 30 miles. The material for the park warns that distances are vast and always start out with a full tank of gas. This is not a laughing matter. In addition to great distances there is no cell phone service and the mountains block most other radio service as well. We set up in the Rio Grande Village campground run by the Park Service. It is primitive; this means there are no services other than a fresh water supply. We recharged our batteries each day with the generator, about 90 minutes in the morning and a couple of hours in the evening.

The park is huge and magnificent. From the St Elena canyon in the west where the Rio Grande enters the park through a 1,500 foot gorge cut in the cliff

St Elena Canyon
view from st elena

to the Boquillas gorge in the east where the river enters another huge gorge cut in the highlands. We hiked both of these canyons as far as the trail permitted as well as several other modest hikes of 1 to 2 miles. Here is Carol at the end of the trail.
end of trail

Through out our stay we enjoyed the company of many interesting people and shared trails and stories with many. The most thoughtful people are still unknown to us. On our first day we did a newby stunt. We left for the day with our awning extended and without any storm fittings. It was a mild sunny day, what was the worry? As we drove back to the campground eight hour later, the temperature dropped a little, clouds moved in and the wind picked up. As we approached the campground the wind was strong enough that I began to worry about my awing being ripped. When I parked in front of Gee 2 I still couldn’t see the awning and it wasn’t until I walked around the side that I could see that someone had stowed it properly in our absence. The Camp Hosts denied any knowledge so I printed up a large “Thank You” and posted it on the windshield.

As we approached the banks of the Rio Grande in places that had been traditional “soft crossings” before 9/11/01 we were greeted by hopeful salesmen displaying their wares on the far shore.mexican salesman

After two days and three nights, our food supplies were getting low and we needed to move on to keep our schedule with Yechiel through Alpine and Ft Davis to go to the McDonald Observatory. We have passed this way before but never with time or inclination to stop. This time it was in our mind to make the stop and we had noted that near the observatory was a camp ground at “Historic” Prude Ranch. We called ahead for a spot and were assured that they were open and empty. How true, we were the only RV in the campground when we arrived and remained so the following morning on our departure. They won’t last long on $10.00 a night. However they have been there for over 50 years serving guests so they must know what they are doing. We went up to the Observatory and took the Solar Tour (that’s the day time tour). Since it was cold and grey we decided not to come back for the “Star Party” beginning at 7:30 in the open amphitheater. It was really impressive going onto the dome floor of the 107 inch telescope and watching it move and watching the dome revolve. They couldn’t even open the observation slit because the wind was too high. We then went to the 432 inch segmented mirror HET scope, WOW. No useful pictures because there was no was to get far enough from any of these instruments. Check out the observatory website for pictures.

I will cut this off here and post. Next I will be writing about getting together with other RVers we met last year.

One Night Stands

I know, depending on the context the title can have a wide variety of meanings. In this instance it is closest to the musician’s understanding. Since leaving Dan and Malena’s we have not stayed any place for more than one night.

That first night, looking for propane, missing the family, and rehashing the Bar Mitzvah, we ended up in a WalMart parking lot in Lynchburg, VA.. We pulled into a Flying J on I 81 only to find that they were out of Propane. We backtracked six miles to another Flying J that said they had plenty of propane. By the time we maneuvered through the truck fueling area to the propane tank by the scales we were frazzled. The campground in the area that we remembered was Hungry Mother and our memories were not fond. We asked about the nearest WalMart and found one in ten miles just off the interstate. The signs said No Camping, I said to Carol “we aren’t camping, we are eating and sleeping.” We had company and no police or other officials disturbed our sleep to tell us to move on.

The next night found us a bit out of place. The direct route would have had us in Nashville, but we spotted a show cavern we had not seen only 60 miles or so off the route. We went to Lost Sea Cavern just east of Sweetwater, TN. The underground sea and the anothodites (cave flowers) were spectacular. The rest of the cavern was rather sad as it had been open and unguarded for some years and the wandering public had stripped the cavern of many of its features. After all how could it hurt if I just break off one stalactite? Enough people took enough that little is left for today’s public. We located Sweetwater Valley KOA just west of the interstate back through Sweetwater. It is very pretty and is on our list as a return should we ever be so far off any predictable route again.

The roads we selected to get to Nashville could be used to design a rollercoaster. By now Carol was fully in the grip of the stomach bug bequeathed by Cory. I had the driving to myself as we soared up and down hill and around bends that had me staring at the tow’d in hopes it wasn’t trying to pass me. It was good that Carol’s version of the bug did not include nausea as the road would not have been possible had that been so. If anyone is really interested, I can clip the log and send you the route. It is gorgeous, would love to do it again.

Once in Nashville we took Gee 2 into Camping world for routine maintenance (oil change) and did some shopping. Since we had stayed at two of the three adjacent campgrounds we decided to visit the third, Two Rivers. We won’t go back there. The people were officious, the camp ground was ordinary and the price was high. KOA or Yogi Bear are nicer and no pricier. We had dinner; well I had dinner at the Nashville Palace. It is a venue that has been the gateway for several country musicians and we had wanted to go. Tuesday night is amateur night. We got worse than we expected. Fortunately the back up band and the waiters who performed were quite good.

We were heading for Little Rock, slowly, as we planned to meet the Beth and Josh Brunner, from Rochester, at the William Jefferson Clinton, Presidential Library which has opened recently. Although we were planning on meeting them Friday, we decided to arrive on Thursday. We stopped in West Memphis, AR (just across the river from Memphis, TN) and found America’s Best Campground (that is their new name). The people were lovely, the campground was immaculate and we determined that it would be high on the list for return visits the next time we were in the area. We would like to spend more than one night there.

For our Little Rock visit we found there was very little choice at this time of year. The only well located campground that is open is Little Rock North KOA. While not among my favorite campgrounds, it has nice facilities, and the people are pleasant. We went into town and met the Brunners as planned. They had changed their schedule and had to move on before dinner, so we had a nice visit, and bade them safe travels and went looking for some entertainment and eventually dinner. We found “The Flying Saucer” which is a “beer restaurant.” The wall behind the bar was covered with, it seems, 60 active taps. I was not able to sample them all J or even more than one, but the selection was so great as to be cruel for one who likes tasty beers. Their web site which I have not had the chance to visit is www.beerknurd.com We went on to dinner at Sonny Williams Steak Place. It is a fine restaurant and as such was able to cater to Carol’s vegetarian needs every bit as well as to my desire for a the Omaha Beef they serve, Yum.

Our last one night stand on this segment is Buffalo RV Park and Campground in Oakwood, TX. We did it again. How do you get to Austin from Little Rock, or for that matter any place in Texas from Little Rock, without passing through Dallas? You get off the interstate and go someplace else. In this case the route is through Tyler and Taylor Texas and it misses all of the big cities until we get to Austin where we plan to get together with Leigh and Pat Rainwater tomorrow. We may stay more than one night, thuis breaking the chain of one night stands at six, which is way too many. The laundry is piling up and other things need attending to, like putting this blog together. Oh, yes this campground rates way down on the list. It is on a par with WalMart, but noisier. Highway 79 is a hundred yards from my windshield and the trucks are moving fast and constantly. The campground is little more than a flat open field in which decent amenities have been installed. It serves its purpose and being Passport America it is not terribly expensive, unless you compare it to free.

The Party

The long awaited day finally did what such days do. It arrived with a flash and was gone almost before we realized. From our perch in the driveway we helped with preparations both for the party and for the house. We also were able to observe the rising levels of stress in the household. All was pretty much as usual, with the exception that I was watching my precious supply of propane dwindle rapidly in 10 F over night temperatures. There was a storm called for so no one would come to fill my tank and clearly I was not about to drive any place for a refill, which would have necessitated spotting the unit back into place, a non trivial project. We pulled in the slides, turned the heat down to 55 F and left it up to the fates. We left for our hotel room at the Omni in downtown Charlottesville where the party was to take place.

The first stop was rehearsal at CBI (Congregation Beth Israel). This was to be the only opportunity for picture taking in the sanctuary and here is Josh carrying the Torah.

Josh with Torah

After the rehearsal we had time to get settled at the hotel, greet the arriving guests and family and try to get our act together for Shabbat dinner at Escafe, a wonderful restaurant just a few steps from the hotel. We went to services, well some of us went, and then came back to the hotel where we stopped in the lounge to unwind before going to bed in preparation for Josh’s big day.

The Bar Mitzvah did his part of the service beautifully. The rest of us filled our roles as best we could, very well in most cases, and Josh got to deliver both his D’var Torah, teaching us about the portion, and a talk on the mitzvah projects he had performed as part of his preparation. The presentations by the parents were wonderful and my reservations about such presentations were lessened. If only more parents would talk about there hopes and dreams for the child and offer them solid advice drawn from the portion of the day and not tell us about what the child likes to do.

During the afternoon we escorted some people out to Dan and Malena’s house since they had never seen it and the sight of Gee 2 perched up there brought a chuckle or two in my car. Then we went back to town as the weather was getting dicey. We stopped in a coffee shop on the mall and there Dan found Alex and Corey and two cousins and he read a book to them instead of drinking his hot chocolate.


The party in the evening was at the Omni and the food was great, the DJ was ok and everyone had a great time. It is really exciting to have four generations together. Here is a picture of my mother with my sister and her daughter.


Somehow we never did get a shot of the four generation lineup from my mother to me to Dan to Josh.

Sunday morning found Corey with a stomach bug, the weather deteriorating and people ready to get back home. Some left early to try to get ahead of the weather, others waited, counting on good fortune to make their connections. Over brunch in the hotel lobby, we said our goodbyes and eventually, leaving a few who were delayed to await their flights, we departed for the house. The first thing I did upon arriving there was check the propane level. Although it had showed ¼ of a tank on Saturday afternoon, now it read Empty. We decided we had no choice but to depart at once rather than wait another day. We said our farewells and beat it out of there to a Flying J almost to Tennessee along I 81. It was a good thing we left. By nightfall everyone in the house except for Josh had the stomach bug, he had had it the week before. We thought we were clear, but Carol came down with it the next day.

More about the next days in another piece.