Friday, November 28, 2014

Giving Thanks, Thanksgiving 2014…

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[Sharon pens today’s blog] - John and I have always enjoyed the Thanksgiving Holiday. Good food, some adult beverages and watching football are all a part of the tradition. When we lived in our home in College Station it always made me happy to break out the turkey roaster, the good china, silver and crystal for the table as well as a few holiday decorations. Most of those things did not make the cut when we downsized for life in our motorhome. I wondered how I would do without those beloved items but I am finding that actually the BEST parts do not really revolve around the “stuff” I gave up.

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This year we are in San Diego reunited with our friends Blake and Dawnderee who are, like us, here rather than with family for Thanksgiving. We agreed to feast together with John and I hosting and doing the cooking so as to thank them for taking us to the Charger and Aztec football games. The boys went shopping for the groceries and Dawnderee bought a turkey roaster! How happy was I to see my old friend, the roaster!

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John was in charge of the turkey, making his super awesome cornbread dressing, deviled eggs, stuffed celery and green bean casserole. My contribution was homemade yeast rolls, sweet potato casserole with pecan topping, and giblet gravy. I also love setting the table and doing dishes. Some of the prep we began the day before and the planning paid off because Thanksgiving Day was busy but we still had time to sit outside sipping wine while the turkey roaster did its job on my outside table (I just love that glass top table I found for free at the Florida flea market that I have also made poor John lug around for nearly a year). We even managed to fit in a shorter version of our bayside morning walk on this day.

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We ate in the early afternoon and had a wonderful time with our friends. I may not have had my china, the decorations, the silver or the crystal but I had delicious food, wonderful wine, perfect weather here in sunny San Diego and a delightful time with our friends and their dogs. As the sun set it brought the end to another great Thanksgiving. We really are blessed…. I hope you had as Blessed and Happy a Thanksgiving as we did!

Monday, November 24, 2014

It’s not all fun and games…

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Living the life is a phrase we have often heard regarding our choice to live life on the open road. However it isn’t all fun and games as this is a lifestyle not a perpetual vacation. With it comes the normal day-to-day activities everyone has to deal with such as laundry, house cleaning, general maintenance and home repairs.Each spring and summer we create a list of things to address once we arrive at our first extended stay for the fall or winter.

Below is our list of items that we have addressed or checked off during our fall stay here in San Diego:

  • we have a floor “bubble” which after discussing the issue with Tiffin on the phone is likely a bolt that is working its way up through the floor. I learned that I will need to extract the bolt and put some extra strength Locktite on the bolt before reinserting it.
  • I cleaned out the air conditioners coils which required a day of disassembly while using a brush to clean off the fins and coils inside the A/C shroud. I used a brush similar to this brush. The important part is to make sure the bristles are not angled away from the hand when cleaning the delicate aluminum fins as these straight bristles will not only clean them but will also help straighten them if they have been bent.
  • I performed some major bike maintenance on my bike by repacking grease in my rear wheel axle as well as greasing the bearings in my fork
  • we have a couple of “squeaky” windows which I addressed but haven’t completely solved
  • I still need to order some replacement windshield wipers and a small parking light lens cover (that broke during our travels) from Tiffin
  • we replaced our broken anti-gravity chairs by ordering a new two pack from Amazon
  • we went to a free clinic for our flu shots
  • we paid the registration for our RV and car
  • we ordered a new quiet fan for our bedroom as our other one had become rather noisy and unrepairable.
  • we scheduled our upcoming yearly physicals at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona.

In addition there were a few major items requiring attention. One was my annual hand waxing of Abbey, our RV, with Meguiar’s Paste Wax. This usually takes about ten days to complete as I only do a small amount each day so as to not make me so sore from the continual “wax-on wax-off” motion required to really make her shine. The payoff is that she sure is pretty now…

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Another major item was to remove and replace our kitchen faucet and the sink drains. I will pen a blog soon on how it was done as I feel it may be helpful to detail it for others who might be planning the same task. But I will say we are very pleased with our new Dura Faucet and I was especially pleased at how easy it was to install.

The last major item is still a work in progress as I am nearing age 59 1/2 thus making me eligible to begin withdrawing money from our Roths and Traditional IRA’s.  I am doing a lot of reading as to how to optimize our exit strategy to minimize our tax bite from these withdrawals.

You may also notice that I have become an Amazon Associate and will provide occasional links to items that I would recommend. Of course by your using my link I will receive a small commission on any item purchased . Please know we really do appreciate any of your purchasing on Amazon utilizing our links…

Friday, November 21, 2014

Taking in a SD Charger Football Game with Friends…

imageWe knew when we decided to book a two month stay in San Diego that we would be able to reunite with some friends we made here a few years ago. Our friends, Blake and Dawnderee, hail from northern California and aren’t typical RV’ers. They are in a smaller subset of those who RV sin order to follow their favorite sports team. In this case it is the San Diego Chargers. So they make an 8 hour trek down here to stay during the football season and when there is a few weeks gap they leave the RV locked up in their site to head back home t since Blake is still a working man.

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We were in the park about two weeks before they returned and when we got  together it was like it was yesterday. We have been enjoying their company and especially when they treated us to tickets so we too could join them for the San Diego Chargers vs the Los Angeles Raiders.

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Game day for a pro sports team is not a lot different than that for a big college rivalry game. However the fans for this rivalry game between San Diego and Los Angeles are a bit more “rabid” than most college fans. Raider’s fan’s were all decked out in costumes displaying their prominent colors of Black and Silver while the Chargers fans countered with Charger Jerseys and painted yellow and blue faces.

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We set up our tailgate not too far from the entrance and tailgaters were everywhere with tents set up, chairs out and grills smoking.  I could also see lots and lots of red solo cups. We brought some steaks for the grill and our own adult beverages which nearly cost us a lot of money.

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We found out that the stadium no longer allows bottled beverages into the game after an incident at a previous Chargers/Raiders game. Did I mention that these two fan bases don’t like either much?. A police officer reminded us in a not so friendly way that if we didn’t pour out our beverages and throw the bottles away that we would each get a $200.00 ticket. We complied with his request and were glad we did since the next group he found with bottles weren’t as fortunate as we saw him giving them a ticket…

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We certainly had fun at the game with our California friends and are looking forward to other encounters such as bike riding on the beach and of course Taco Tuesdays. Life is good here in San Diego…

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

La Jolla, California - What a Seal-ly place this is…

I blogged about La Jolla or “The Jewel” in California but I feel  compelled to elaborate a bit(a rant of sorts)… There is a controversy brewing with the residents of La Jolla. What might be the problem in such an idyllic place you may ask? Well  for one, there are an awful lot of seals residing there.  Why are seals the problem? Well with a lot of seals there is also awful lot of seal poop… The stench that arises from one particular part of La Jolla is adjacent to a many small taverns and eating establishments. I can pretty much tell you I certainly wouldn’t want to be eating outside at a nice restaurant overlooking the beautiful La Jolla cove while trying to discern the flavors of my $35.00 entrĂ©e with that stench …

These harbor seals are very shy animals and scare pretty easily when disturbed on land. These coastal marine mammals  are of the scientific order Pinnipedia and are entirely harmless.They vary in color from white to a shiny gray, jet black or even a dark brown but nearly all harbor seals have spots on their bodies. They grow to 5 to 6 feet in length and might weigh as much as 300 pounds (males slightly larger than females).

In La Jolla’s Casa Beach there are approximately 200 harbor seal which mate and have pups during the months of February through April when the beach is closed off to humans (another complaint of the residents). Like humans seals carry their young for nine months and the pups will nurse on their mother's milk for 4 to 8 weeks keeping the beach closed for a good while.

When not mating or rearing pups harbor seals are out in the open sea feeding mostly on fish. According to the residents they are depleting the fisheries in the area (yet another complaint). When not fishing they must haul-out (come out of the water onto dry land) each day in order to survive where they will spend as much as 40% of their time “sunning”.   And while on shore they do what most animals do… relax, poop and pee… a lot!!!

Anti-seal activists who oppose the seasonal closure of Casa Beach in La Jolla from December 15 to May 15 every year filed a lawsuit in October of 2014 challenging the city of San Diego’s decision to prohibit people from going onto the beach. Although the harbor seals are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act there is no real enforcement at Casa Beach. We saw this firsthand as tourists (including Sharon) got really close to a sea lion sunning on the beach for pictures despite the 50 foot distance specified by law.

The latest complaint has come from swimmers and snorkelers who say aggressive seals are scaring them away. There are many residents who think that that since there are more seals in the area there will be more incidents.

So what do I think about all this hubbub? Well first of all there are really two issues here. One is the mating season and calving of nursing of pups by the harbor seals. The other has nothing to do with the seals themselves… You see most of the stench from excrement is a combination of birds, seals and sea lions (Not just harbor seals). Many residents complain about the water pollution being caused by the excrement but clearly (to me) we are likely creating more pollution (and likely more harmful to the environment) than the birds, seals and sea lions.

It is also very unlikely that harbor seals are being aggressive to anyone and the sea lions are once again the most obvious culprit in those incidents. Sea lions in the area number as high as 300 and they are larger in size ranging from 100-pound females to 700-pound bulls (and can get even larger). They can be very aggressive during the mating season since they have a small harem of females to protect. Also because of their size I am sure they and their poop  actually cause much of the stench near the restaurants.

Now they too are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act but are so at the lowest level of protection. So how are these residents that are on opposing sides going to solve this issue? I surely don’t know but from an outsider’s viewpoint (who worked as a Biologist for Texas Parks and Wildlife) the solution seems simple.

I think they should continue keeping the beach closed to protect the harbor seals who are in need of protection so they may increase in numbers. This will make the environmentalists happy. Next, allow the city to open up the bluffs along the area just beneath the restaurants which will naturally encourage the sea lions to move away from the area. This will make the the anti-environmentalists happy. Lastly allow the city use fire hoses to hose off the rocks where the excrement is the most evident. This should make the small business owners happy.

These actions will likely result in sea lions moving elsewhere while keeping the harbor seals protected. The tourists will continue to flock to this area just to see the seals and spend a lot of their money. Although this won’t make everybody happy I feel it would be a simple and good compromise… which is probably why it will never work…

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Walking the Boardwalk at Mission Beach, CA…

Mission Beach CA 015One of the reasons we love staying at Mission Bay RV Resort is its location. Nearby, with a short 10 minute drive or 15 minute bike ride, is Mission Beach. Mission Beach is about 2 miles long perfect for watching  the waves tumble in. Just south is Pacific Beach (another interesting community) where one can find just about anything they need. There is even a Trader Joe’s within easy walking distance from the beach.

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Pacific Beach or "PB" is famous with the college aged crowd for its wide sandy beach as well as  its wide walking/biking/rollerblading trail along the shoreline. The area has a pretty lively nightlife with its many well-known bars where they all have typical beach mode dress codes. We usually leave the night time activity to the others as we tend to go there more for for Mission Beach CA 023evening walks. We love walking along the waterfront as the beach is beautiful and it is always bustling. We usually park at some of the free roadside parking a few blocks from the beach and take in a 3 mile or so walk all along the boardwalk that parallels the coastline. The boardwalk runs along the waterfront on both the ocean and the bay sides of the community so we have our choice of scenery.

It is always interesting to see the varied architecture in Mission Beach. The oldest homes only go back into the 1920’s to 1940’s but there are many interesting more modern places leaving only a few of the older “less pleasing to look at” structures behind.  “Mission Beach is the most densely developed residential community in San Diego with a land use designation across the majority of its land area of 36 dwelling units per acre.” In fact Mission Beach has the smallest lots in the city with many as small as only 1,250 square feet.

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We like to take our walks along the boardwalk an hour or so before sunset taking in the views of the sun, sand and surf culminating in yet another ocean view of a splendid sunset. Along the boardwalk are many bars, eating establishments and stores offering the latest in beach gear. On the boardwalk we are passed by cyclists, joggers, skateboarders, rollerbladers and even the occasional Segway. Yep… if you like to people watch along a beautiful beach this is the place to walk…

Some other interesting places near Mission Beach are Belmont Park with a historic 73-foot-tall roller coaster called the Giant Dipper and a bit further inland  is SeaWorld San Diego. Seaworld once held a great fireworks show every night which we could see across the bay from our RV park. They no longer do this due to budget cuts and I have heard they are in a bit of financial distress since the release of recent movies and documentaries about captive aquatic animals and their treatment.

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After oooohing and awwwing at the sunset over the ocean we usually walk on over to one of the local taverns such as the Guava Beach Bar to enjoy a happy hour beverage before heading back to the park…

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Stroll through Little Italy…

Once home to San Diego's thriving tuna fishing industry the area own as Little Italy found its beginnings. Generations of Italian, Sicilian and Portuguese families lived here and made their living from the sea. Tune packing plants were a booming business until competition overseas forced all of them to eventually shut down. What evolved from the tuna fishing villages along the coast north of downtown San Diego became a vibrant and cool little neighborhood called Little Italy.

Full of quaint restaurants, pubs and other mom and pop businesses Little Italy has become a thriving neighborhood  clean with a low crime rate, thanks to their Neighborhood Association. We found it to be a neat area with a great vibe where we even heard some people speaking Italian.  After walking into several of the shops we discovered many Italian delicacies on sale. Now this is nothing like the North End in Boston where one actually might think they are in Italy, it is nevertheless, a fun place to spend a day walking around to take it all in…

The best day to visit is on any Saturday  between 8:00 am and 2:00 pm when Little Italy has their Mercato or Farmer’s Market in full swing. We have been to a lot of Farmer’s Markets but nothing like Little Italy’s Mercato.  It's a huge collection of booths lining Cedar Street from Kettner Blvd to Front Street selling various wares, meats, artisan foods, farm raised vegetables and other interesting food related goods and products. It was amazing how many tastings were offered at this market. We scored some beautiful one dollar leaf and butternut lettuces .  Later, we both decided our favorite tasting was the spicy Bitchin Dips and their chips fried in coconut oil.  The vendor was very entertaining inviting everyone to "have a bitchin day". We need to return to pick up some for sure.

Also interesting in Little Italy are the various banners displayed on several of the light posts honoring famous Italians who were influential in promoting the Italian culture. They also have a couple of plaques honoring Italians who were important in the development of Little Italy. Walking through the beautiful Amici Park, we saw sweeping views of the bay at each intersection and  enjoyed  seeing the Piazza Basilone .

The Piazza Basilone was built to honor Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone and the “boys that never came home” from all of the wars fought during the 20th century. In the Piazza they have flags from four countries representing American, Italy, Portugal and Mexico. These flags honor and represent the national origin of those lost in combat.

The only drawback to visiting here, especially during Mercato, is that parking is a challenge.  However  we found that patiently circling eventually yielded two hour free roadside parking. This may mean walking a few blocks to the Mercato but we felt it is definitely worth it to stroll up and down India street watching all the people milling about…

I feel sure we will be revisiting Little Italy on several more occasions while we are in San Diego…

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Jewel that La Jolla Cove is…

One place we just had to revisit during our stay in San Diego was the spectacular La Jolla Bay. It was a short 10 minute drive from our park to the town of La Jolla where we were able to find some street parking. Free public parking is extremely limited  but luckily we were able to score a spot in a two hour zone. Although there are a few three hour parking places, they are much harder to get.

Since we parked a few blocks from the waterfront we took a stroll down a steep hill  to begin our walking tour along the coastline. This delightful walk is mostly on the edge of a bluff overlooking  the scenic La Jolla Bay and with the tide out as it was on this day there were lots of rocky and craggy spots exposed in the surf covered in vivid green sea grasses. La Jolla is Spanish for the English word jewel and that name fits perfectly for this gorgeous hilly seaside community along the Pacific Coast.

La Jolla village has under 50,000 residents but these folks are not your typical Americans. Most of the villagers are very wealthy and all along the road beside the walkway are small but very, very expensive housing. Just to give you an idea of how expensive consider these numbers from 2009 showing a standard four-bedroom home in La Jolla was reported as US $2.1 million. Well, I guess that means our future retirement home won’t be in La Jolla!

As we walked along the coast we passed the beach area known as the Children’s Pool. There was a lot of construction  and much of it was closed off for improvements, including the sea wall. On many parts of the sidewalk we had to detour around as they were under some type of repair or modification as well. Since it is the off season I guess this is the time to get this type of work done. Funny to me is the temperatures the last few days have been in the mid 80’s so if this is offseason then this is the right time of the year to be here…

As we moved along on our walk we saw our first of many seals and sea lions basking in the sun on the exposed rocks below. We simply love watching these noble creatures as they stretch, yawn, scratch themselves and roll off the rocks to the awaiting surf below. Next up was Shell Beach at the south end of Ellen Browning Scripps Park where sun bathers were enjoying some late season sun tanning. Lining the street here is a long line of tall palm trees and some very interesting plants can be found in the park

A little further down we come to the small beach where we snorkeled the last time we were in La Jolla. Much of La Jolla Cove is protected as part of a marine reserve. There weren’t as many seals here this time around. We remembered having a great time snorkeling among the seals watching as they performed underwater acrobatics for our enjoyment. We ventured off the walkway and down the stairs to walk in the sand and dip our feet in the water. The sand at this little beach is of a very coarse grit unlike many other beaches we have visited.  We saw some sunbathers as well as a few snorkelers, swimmers and kayakers. Most were wearing wetsuits as the water temperature was 65 degrees. Upon leaving the beach we had to retrace our steps back to the stairs we came down on as the other stairway was closed since this area too was getting a facelift.

Interestingly this cove is where the village hosts the annual "La Jolla Cove Rough Water Swim" which is one of the oldest ocean swims in the world. Also of interest here is a small cave  and an even larger one a little further down the coast explored by kayakers during the high tide.

At the larger cave the paved trail ended and we followed a wide dirt trail to the west along a steep cliff. The rolling hillside is covered with all sorts of interesting plants and I even spotted the largest Jade Tree I have ever seen. There are some Torrey Pines growing in this area native only to La Jolla and this region. Lots of very expensive coastal homes dot the hillside next to the trail and they all have fantastic views of the blue waters below.

This was yet another fine day on the Road of Retirement as we lingered to savor the sights and sounds of the rolling surf crashing into the picturesque rocky shore below..