Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Grand Canyon--WOW!

Yesterday I had a fantastic day taking the train from Williams, Arizona, to Grand Canyon National Park. I'm so glad I decided to do this. Every time I go to a national park, I am grateful for the experience.

Xanterra does a great job running the Grand Canyon Railway, hotel, RV park, restaurants, kennel and other concessions in Williams. I'm staying at the RV park, which is one of the nicest I've seen on my travels so far. After my full and active day yesterday, I'm staying an extra night here to take advantage of the amenities--showers, laundry, the pool and hot tub over at the hotel, good WIFI connection, etc. I'm having a "catch up" day--continuing to sort through my stuff and get rid of things that it turns out I haven't needed, finding better ways to stow the stuff I actually need, working on eBay, etc.

As I sit here this morning in The Guppy, I can hear the gunshots from the silly cowboy skit they do before you board the train--full of corny jokes, a lot of them about horse puckey.
There is also entertainment aboard the train...my favorite performer was Clarence Clearwater, who sang in many languages and had a great message of sobriety and spirituality to share with the general public. He also told corny jokes! What a character!
There is a steward on each train car who makes sure you are comfortable, points out mountains and wildlife along the way, and answers everybody's questions. I didn't manage to get any photographs of the elk we saw along the way, but I did some get some yearlings that were kicking up some dust as they ran across the range.
If you take the train up just for the day like I did, you have about four hours to spend in the Park. This doesn't give you time to take the free shuttle buses to the extreme ends of the road that goes along the Canyon's South Rim, but you can go part way and come back, or just stay in the "village" part of the park and walk along the paved South Rim trail. I did a little of both. I probably walked about 3 miles and rode maybe 10, getting different viewpoints of the Canyon. The awesomeness of the Canyon speaks for itself, so here are some pictures:

Is this amazing or what?! It was a glorious day to spend up there--crisp and cool in the morning, then pretty warm (over 60 degrees) in the afternoon. Still some snow on the ground, but spring is on its way.

There were more people going to the Grand Canyon than I'd expected. I forgot that it's spring break for many schools right now. On the way back to Williams, the kids on the train were mightily entertained when the train robbers showed up! (And the kids were savvy enough to realize these were the same cowboys who had all been plugged at the end of the skit in the morning, too!)

I was tired and completely satisfied by my visit to the Grand Canyon. My favorite part of the return trip was just watching the landscape go by and reflecting on my wonderful day. I got a pretty good shot of San Francisco Peaks, which are just north of Flagstaff, the area I'm heading to next. This photo is from the north, and over the next few days I will probably see these mountains from the south.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Trip Planning Across Northern AZ and NM

(Today's pictures are from the Colorado River, the border between California and Arizona)

Today I'm at Ridgeview RV Resort in Bullhead City, Arizona. I stayed here last night and will stay again tonight. It's not much of a destination, more of a stopover, to me. The resort is just across the river from Laughlin, Nevada, where there are lots of casinos.

I had thought about going over to Laughlin just for laughs, so to speak, but when I got here to the resort, everyone was all excited because today is their yearly Bash. It's a day long event involving a pancake breakfast, a cake walk and some games, an open bar, and a chicken dinner. I decided to pay my $5 so I could eat the pancakes and chicken, but I'm not interested in the rest. Most of the participants are snowbirds who spend a good part of their winter right here at Ridgeview, so they all know each other and are having a Bash before they go home to Canada, Alaska, Michigan, or wherever. I did meet a very nice couple from British Columbia this morning over breakfast.

I spent a good part of the day using my road atlas, the Internet and a AAA tripbook to plan my route for the next couple of weeks. I want to be in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, two weeks from today to meet a couple of my online VanDweller friends. In the meantime, my itinerary looks generally like this:
  • March 27-28--to Williams, AZ, and take a train day trip up to Grand Canyon
  • March 29-30--Sedona/Flagstaff/Prescott area
  • April 1-5--Head east to Albuquerque and Taos area, hopefully meet my online friend Bridget
  • April 6-9--Head south to see the aliens in Roswell, plus maybe Carlsbad Caverns, then loop back west to meet up with my friends in Truth or Consequences.
I'm not sure how long I'll stay in TorC--a few days, I hope, before continuing the push eastward. I'm just really glad to have the opportunity to do some sightseeing and relaxing here in the beautiful Southwest. I have been here several times before, but never was so struck by how beautiful the landscapes are or how temperate the climate can be. My previous trips to the Southwest were usually a little later in the spring, during my kid's spring break from school, so it was hotter. I could really see spending significant times of the winters in desert settings--and that's part of why I'm traveling this year, is to get an idea of what sort of place or places I'd like to spend more time.

I'm sure looking forward to taking the train up to the Grand Canyon! I was so conflicted on whether to go camping up there. The daytime temps are still in the 50s this time of the year, and the night time temps can be well below freezing. I wanted to go and I didn't want to go, so much. Radical ambivalence. I finally decided to camp at the Grand Canyon Railway RV Park and take the train up for a day. It's expensive, but it will be very memorable and I know I will enjoy it.

Time to go out and spend the rest of the day in the sunshine before I join the red neck diesel pushers for a fried chicken dinner.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Joshua Tree and the Colorado River

Me, at Skull Rock at Joshua Tree National Park

Hi, my friends and family! I'm writing to you this morning from Emerald Cove Resort in Earp, California, which is on the California-Arizona border, near Parker Dam on the Colorado River. This is a Colorado River Adventures campground that's part of my Coast-to-Coast membership, so I get to stay here for $10 a night. Not as ritzy as the Catalina Spa in Desert Hot Springs, but it sure is nice to have a shower, a pool, and Internet after a couple of nights of boondocking.

When I last wrote, I was about to head off to do a day of eBay shopping at the many thrift stores in the Palm Springs area. I had a pretty good day of it, not as fabulous as when I'd last visited this area, but decent. My best two finds: a vintage Gucci necktie from the Goodwill and a 1960s slide rule still in its original packaging. I probably hit about 10 thrift stores and spent maybe $45 that should net me $100 in profits after I get everything photographed, listed, and shipped. So I won't get rich on my Palm Springs finds, but they will help me pay my way as I travel.

After my day of shopping, I followed the signs to the Augustine Casino in Coachella, which was a nice place. I stayed in the parking lot overnight on Monday, next to a big motorhome from Canada. I joined the players club which got me some very inexpensive meals. Never did any gambling--couldn't figure out the machines. Here I am a successful eBay seller who can do all sorts of things on the computer, but I couldn't figure out how to lose my money in a casino. Probably just as well.

After my night of casino camping, I headed up to Joshua Tree National Park, buying myself the new America the Beautiful Pass on my way in. This is a multi-agency pass that allows you into all of the federal recreational areas that normally charge a fee. I'll be heading to plenty more National Parks and so on this year, so it will definitely be a worthwhile investment for me.

I simply could not believe the beauty of Joshua Tree. It was an experience like I had driving down the California Coast--every time I came around another corner of the road, I was amazed by a whole new landscape. In Joshua Tree, I could be driving along in an area where the flora was pretty nondescript (to me, as an untrained amateur naturalist), and then the next thing I knew I was in the midst of a forest of some weird kind of cactus that I'd never seen before! Some of the landscapes looked other-worldly to me. So cool!

I headed up to Jumbo Rocks Campground, because I heard it was the place that had the most available campsites, and I'm so glad I went there! I wonder if there is another campground anywhere like it in the world. Huge rocks, with a few roads looped around them and campsites kind of willy-nilly alongside the road. I happened to get a huge campsite that would have accommodated a large family with multiple tents. I enjoyed sitting at my picnic table, reading in the sunshine, until the evening got chilly.

The only "disaster" I've had lately, thank goodness, was temporary losing my camera while in the campground. I'd walked back up to the entrance to pay for my campsite, and I took my camera out of my purse for a minute while I wrote a check, then forgot to pick it up and put it back in. I realized my mistake when I was walking back to my site and wanted to take a picture along the way. By the time I walked back to the pay box, my camera was missing.

I had a couple of hours of coming to acceptance that having to buy a new camera was just one more wrinkle in my plans, when suddenly a nice Oregon couple was at my door, bringing my camera back to me! Wow! What a great turn of events. I wish I'd thought to snap a picture of my new friends, Cary and Teri Cummings, who were brilliant detectives. They saw my camera, picked it up, looked at the pictures, saw my pics of The Guppy, and set out to find me and my rig. Teri is a city councilperson in West Linn, Oregon, and we had a very pleasant time talking about the issues that she has to help make decisions about. What nice folks!

It got very cold at night at Joshua Tree on Tuesday night, and I wished I'd gotten my propane heater working...that project has kind of fallen by the wayside since I got to warmer climes. I'm making a list of things to get done when I light someplace for a while. Perhaps when I hit Truth or Consequences, New Mexico--I may meet up with some online friends there and stay a few days. In the meantime, I was okay because I got out some of the winter clothes and bedding that I'd stored away, thinking I was done with it.

Yesterday morning I made myself a bowl of hot cereal, then headed out of the park to Twentynine Palms, where I gassed up before taking California Hwy 62 east to Earp. I drove about 100 miles and it was the easiest driving day I've had since I left Eugene, Oregon, about five-and-a-half weeks ago. Flat and easy. The Guppy loved it.

Sonja is also adjusting well to traveling. She used to let out a long, low, moaning "mee-yooooooo" when I started the engine, but now she just jumps up into the cabover into one of her comfortable hangouts when it's time to go. And she also comes down to interact with me when I stop to go back into the house for a snack or to change clothes or whatever. She hasn't escaped for a while and is beginning to enjoy the simple pleasure of sitting by a screen window, listening to birds and watching the neighbors.

I drove over the bridge to Parker, Arizona, yesterday before heading out to the resort. I found a computer repair shop where they were able to restore sound to my computer, which I'd inadvertently removed when I was trying to get some unnecessary programs off my harddrive. So now I have my drivers back as well as a much cleaner, faster running machine. They fixed it quickly--I'd just gotten set up in my campsite when it was time to unplug and drive back into town to get my computer. Getting my rig set up and ready to go again is getting much easier over time. I got rid of a bunch of unnecessary stuff, and that's helped a lot. There's less stuff to stow when I want to go.

When I got back online last night, I discovered that I'd made lots of eBay sales during the two days that I didn't have Internet access. Yay! This is the way it's supposed to work! I'll be able to get the items that have sold ready to ship, plus list some more auctions, while I'm here. Tomorrow morning I take off for another resort at Bullhead City, Arizona. Probably on Sunday I'll be heading towards the Grand Canyon. Maybe I'll start messing around with that heater today, after all! I bet it will be cold up there.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Off to Visit National Parks

Santa Barbara Mission...one of my last California Coast shots before heading East

As I expected, my six days or so here at the Catalina Spa & RV Resort in Desert Hot Springs, California, have been pretty uneventful. Blissfully so. I didn't realize it when I reserved a site here, but the water that's in the swimming pool and hot tub is from a natural mineral hot springs. It's 130 degrees at the tap and they have to cool it off for the pools. After nearly a week of hot tubbing and swimming every day, I feel very relaxed. My sore butt from my fall in Trinidad is completely healed (I'm sure you have all been wondering about that--ha!).

I have had pretty good Internet access, although I've usually had to go up to the clubhouse to get really good reception. I've also had time to get the interior of The Guppy a little better organized, so now I can really go to town on getting eBay prep work done! I can use the big counter on one side of my RV to iron my scarves, and I've figured out how to drape the dining area on the other side to use as a photography area. This is exactly what I'd envisioned when I hired Eric to rebuild the interior of The Guppy.

I got half of the curtains sewn and hung up, and I hope to complete that project today, since I am leaving the Cat Spa tomorrow.

I still have too much stuff. Things that seemed essential before I left Eugene are now useless flotsam, or is that jetsam? I've got another big box ready to drop off at a thrift store tomorrow. I've gotten rid of six boxes of stuff in the past week or so. Most of the things that I "might" need "sometime" have to go.

There are a few exceptions. For instance, I'm hanging on to my simple old Zebco rod and reel for when I get to where I can do some crappie fishin'. I grew up in the Midwest where fishing was a pretty simple thing. You could even fish with a bamboo pole and a few worms and catch little sunfish, perch, crappies and the occasional bass. After years of living in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, where fishing is a huge deal that involves expensive gear, I long to do that simple kind of fishing from the bank of a lazy river or a dock on a lake again. And I'll be in plenty of places where I can do that this year.

So here is my plan for the next few days...today I'm getting organized so I can unhook and be out of the Cat Spa fairly early tomorrow morning. Then I'm stopping by the Desert Hot Springs Post Office one last time to pick up whatever General Delivery mail is waiting for me there, plus pick up a few groceries.

After that I'm going to head into Palm Springs and shop the thrift stores along Hwy 111. I did this the last time I was in Palm Springs and oh...my...God...!!! Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, etc., are a thrift-picker's heaven. I think the last time I was here, I found 14 thrift stores along the main highway without even having to look at websites, phone books, or anything. And I recall that I also found something like 15 Vera scarves in one day, which is incredible. Plus a weird set of Tarot cards that I was surprised to get a lot of money for and other fun little items.

After I shop 'til I drop tomorrow, I'm going to go do some boondocking...either at the Agua Caliente Casino or at the BLM lands just outside of Joshua Tree National Park. I haven't decided yet. It depends on how I feel at the end of my shopping spree. Bingo and buffet, or wilderness? We shall see.

Either way, I'm definitely heading into Joshua Tree National Park from the south on Tuesday morning, and I'll spend the day exploring the park, then head to one of the campgrounds at the northerly end of the park to spend the night.

Then Wednesday I'll leave Joshua Tree fairly early and head towards the California-Arizona border. I have reservations for an RV park in Earp, CA, that night, and I'll probably be really ready for a swimming pool, showers, and all of that luxury after a couple of nights of camping without all that stuff.

That said, I probably won't have Internet access again for a few days, and it's possible that my phone won't work in the National Park, too. I'll have a long driving day on Wednesday, so it might be Thursday before I get back online. If you're reading this a couple of days from now and you're one of the people I play Lexulous with on Facebook, now you know why I haven't played my turn!

There will be times like this over the next few weeks...I'm also going to the Grand Canyon and Carlsbad Caverns and probably some other fairly remote locations in New Mexico. It's been nice to sit still for a while...in fact, it's been downright civilized, with time to make nice meals for myself, and there were even two good-ol'-boys who came by and fixed my step for me, for free!...but the travelin' itch is really, really strong again. See ya'll on Thursday when I post another blog entry!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Made It to the Desert

Vintage Bill Blass Silk Scarf

A month after leaving Eugene, Oregon, I finally made it to Desert Hot Springs, one of the desert towns in the Palm Springs area. I am staying here in one place, the Catalina Spa & RV Resort (which, of course, I immediately dubbed the Cat Spa), for about a week. This is one of those Coast to Coast campground deals, so once again I have lots of nice amenities for just $10 per night, plus a little more to have Internet.

The Cat Spa is really out in the boonies, actually outside of Desert Hot Springs, and I'm glad I realized this before I got here so I could go into town first to mail eBay packages and stock up on groceries. I had about a dozen packages to mail, auctions that I'd listed while in San Francisco. Now that I'm staying in one place for a while, I've just finished listing another batch of things.

I haven't taken any desert pictures yet, so I'm including photos from some of my new eBay listings. This morning I woke up and the first thing I did was go for a nice walk all around the Cat Spa. I saw quail and ducks and lots of other photogenic critters, but didn't have the camera with me.

This is my first time, since turning 55 last year, staying in a 55+ community. Man, it's pretty weird! Some of the women are okay, but the old men remind me of my ex's worst characteristics. One guy pedantically explained to me how weather patterns work from LA to this part of California, but my ears stopped listening really fast and I'm pretty sure my eyes glazed over, too, and I almost stopped breathing. Okay, it wasn't quite that bad, but you who know me in person know that I'm just not much of a people-person. So this is a new challenge. I hope I can learn to serenely float through situations which used to bother me.

There probably won't be a lot of exciting news from me over the next few days, and I think that's a good thing, don't you?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Chillin' in Relative Luxury Tonight

Friendly Horse at Rancho Oso, Santa Barbara, California

Monday, March 14, 2011--San Bernardino, California

After spending two nights at an RV park/horse ranch near Pismo Beach, I booked another two nights at an RV park/horse ranch near Santa Barbara. The first place was near the beach, and somehow I had it in my mind that the second place would be, too. However, when I started following the directions, they took me way up into the Santa Ynez Mountains. I got exposed to a whole different side of Santa Barbara that I didn't know existed. There are lots and lots of horse people in that area.

Rancho Oso is a very pleasant 1000 Trails campground, included in one of my campground memberships for $10 per night. What a steal! I swam in a nice warm outdoor pool, sat in the hot tub, and saw deer and quail and woodpeckers and ground squirrels and all sorts of fun stuff, in a beautiful mountain setting. I could get internet at the lodge, but my phone didn't work very well up there. Since I was there for two nights, I was able to get some eBay stuff done. I took lots of photos of scarves on the picnic table in my campsite. I love being able to use natural outdoor light--it usually means a lot fewer color and light corrections on PhotoShop.

On my drive down to Rancho Oso from the previous night's stay at Oceano, I stopped in Solvang, the Danish Capital of the United States. It was a cute place, like Poulsbo or Leavenworth in Washington State, but I wasn't in the mood to spend money. Fortunately I quickly located what I dubbed Underground Solvang, or the thrift shop district, which was a block or so off the usual tourist streets. I bought fabric for The Guppy's curtains for $4, found a few scarves and Danish imports for resale on eBay, and had a $3 lunch. My kind of shoppin'. I also bought a loaf of cinnamon bread from the Solvang Bakery, which has cakes as creative as those that can be found at Sweet Life Patisserie in Eugene, Oregon (although the execution is much better at Sweet Life).

I could easily have stayed longer at Rancho Oso because it was so pleasant, but I wanted to get going towards Palm Springs today. I have discovered that neither the Guppy nor I like to drive more than about 100 miles in a day. This may change when we get to some flat lands, but so far every one of my driving days has involved large inclines that must be taken slowly, with my eye turned more to the engine temperature gauge than the speedometer. I'm babying this new engine and keeping it running nice and cool all the time. Who needs to go faster than 55 mph on a straightaway or 35 mph up a mountain?

Today I really didn't intend to drive any mountains besides the ones I needed to descend to get back on Highway 101 from Rancho Oso. However, I started looking for a place to stay around Azusa, just off Highway 210, about halfway from Santa Barbara to Palm Springs. I figured I'd find an RV park there somewhere in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. So I headed up that way...and headed up and up and up, into some gorgeous country, and finally found an RV park that wanted $60 per night for not much of a spot. So I turned around, went back down the mountains, got back on the freeway, and ended up at a Motel 6 just outside of San Bernardino. It cost less than the RV park, I have Internet, and it's pet friendly, so Sonja is enjoying lounging on a big bed. I'll get to watch "Harry's Law" tonight! I'm going to stay until checkout time tomorrow and get a bunch of eBay stuff done. It's not very much of a drive to where I'm booked for tomorrow night in Desert Hot Springs.

Today I seem to have escaped having a disaster of the day. Wow! Yesterday's disaster was that the bottom step leading into the house portion of my motorhome broke off. Yes. It just completely broke off when I stepped on it, leaving a hole that my cat could escape from. I took the step and jammed it in the hole for the time being. It completely covers the hole, and I can get in and out from the motorhome with a bit more difficulty than before, because now it's the equivalent of stepping up about three steps, in one big step. It makes it really challenging to get me and my gear in and out of the vehicle. I'm sure I can find somebody in Desert Hot Springs to help me with this and the twisted ladder and bumper. Poor Guppy!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Beach, Beach, Beach, All the Way Down the Coast

California Poppies

Friday, March 11, 2011 - Oceano, California

I am finally at a fairly warm, sunny ocean beach, which was the sort of destination I had in mind when I left rainy, gray Eugene, Oregon, almost a month ago.

I've been enjoying having Internet access at the Pacific Dunes RV Resort & Riding Stable, which is on a bluff overlooking the dunes at the south end of Pismo State Beach. I got caught up on some eBay re-listing. I usually list items at auction for a week, and then I may re-list the unsold ones for a flat price rather than at auction if they seem likely to eventually sell.

I got here last night, later than I expected, having had some more mechanical troubles. I was heading south on Hwy 1, just outside of San Luis Opisbo, when my brake and battery lights suddenly went on. I didn't hear any unusual sounds or see any other evidence of what was going on. I pulled over at the first opportunity, at a place that turned out to be one of SLO's several correctional facilities. I popped the hood and saw coolant all over the place. AAA towed me to a local garage. The problems weren't anything related to the engine replacement in San Francisco--just other old parts of the Guppy needing to be replaced. There was a rotor that sits in front of the engine that went bad and that needed replacement, as well as a belt. Fortunately they found the parts locally and got me on my way in a couple of hours, so I made it here to Pacific Dunes where I had a reservation.

My plan for today was to do my eBay work and walk on the beach. I was really surprised when I walked down to the RV park's office this morning and learned about the horrible earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which also has much less drastic consequences here on the California Coast. The beaches I'd planned to walk on today are closed until further notice. There have been swells in some of the towns along the Coast, in some places damaging boats and shoreline property, including some wreckage at the very harbor where I camped a few nights ago in Santa Cruz! I saw some local TV footage of boats that were floating around and hitting other boats. I found out it's safe to go up on the bluffs or dunes and look down at the beach, so I guess I'll do that this afternoon.

I really want to tell you about the drive down here, before I had to call AAA again. After I left my friend Mike in Santa Cruz two days ago, I drove south on Hwy 1 to Big Sur and stayed at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. I'd gotten faulty or outdated information from the Internet and thought that it cost only about $20 to stay at this park, but in fact it's $50 if you get a site right on the Big Sur River or $35 if you don't. I opted for a cheaper site, but it was so close to the river that even deaf ole me could hear the rapids as I fell asleep. And I took a wonderful walk through the old growth redwoods that made me not regret spending one extra cent on staying there.

On my Big Sur day, I only had one disaster. I drove head-in into my spot okay, but then decided to back up and correct the angle a little bit, and that's when I hit the tree, which seemed no worse for wear afterward. The Guppy's ladder is twisted, however, and there's a little gap in the siding which could lead to leakage, I would guess, so I'll need to get that addressed fairly soon. (The day before, I realized I'd lost a credit card in San Francisco, so a twisty ladder seemed pretty tame on the daily disaster scale.)

Yesterday morning I continued down Hwy 1 and stopped in Hobbit fashion for second breakfast, because the views were just stupendous and the sun was out and it was getting warmer the further south I went. What a great feeling it was to sit on a rock above the surf, having a snack and some tea from my Thermos.

I am so amazed as I drive the length of California that there are so many juxtapositions between coastal formations and whatever is going on across the road from the coast. For example, sometimes there is rugged coast across the highway from agriculture...or sandy beaches with good surfing across the road from huge rocky outcroppings. As I wound up and down all of the hills and in and out of the twists and turns on Hwy 1, I had so many "aaaah!" moments when I'd catch a glimpse of the next view. The elephant seals on the beaches near San Simeon were incredible; unfortunately my camera battery had no charge when I was there, but I got out and walked along the boardwalk to get a good view of them.

I'm enjoying my non-driving day here at Pacific Dunes. Besides getting caught up on some eBay work, I've mended the screen door with duct tape, because it was the first day that it's been warm enough to use the screen door and there was a Sonja-sized gap along one side. Then I put up a curtain over the doorway as well, which is inspiring me to get to the other sewing projects I want to do for The Guppy (covering cushions and making curtains for the windows).

I am doing a collage of my journey along the eye-level cabinets that line both sides of The Guppy's interior. The picture shows my travels along the coast in Northern California and my stay in San Francisco. The photo didn't turn out very well, but note that the business card for Ted & Al's Garage is torn into three parts to represent the tripartite repairs performed there.

Okay, now my biggest decision of the day...nap first and then climb a dune, or the other way around?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Guppy Made It Up the Big Hill!

My friend Mikey a/k/a CocoPuff

Wednesday, March 8, 2011 - Santa Cruz Public Library

After a 15-day delay in San Francisco due to engine and accelerator problems, I finally made it to Santa Cruz and got to meet my long-time PseudoBabble online friend, Mike Thurber. What a delight! Mikey is smart, funny, and a lot of fun to talk to. My only regret is that, because of the delay and money-letting in San Francisco, I'm not going to stay for several nights in Santa Cruz as I had originally planned, so I won't get a chance to meet Stacy, who was at work today. Mikey and I had a nice time. He helped me find the post office, where I had some General Delivery mail waiting for me, and we went to coffee at a fun surfer/diver-themed indy coffee shop called Fins.

Last night I stayed at the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor, which has a small RV park. It was a pleasant setting, but expensive and offering few services, so I just stayed the one night. The best part of last night was just being back in The Guppy with my cat, Sonja. We had been apart too long and really missed each other.

I dropped Mike back off at his house after we had coffee,and now I'm back in downtown Santa Cruz using the Internet at the library. I will also probably hit a couple of thrift stores here to find eBay inventory. Then I'm going to move to on down the road. I'm probably going to stay at one of the inexpensive ($13 a night during off season) State Parks in Big Sur tonight. They don't have hookups, but they have showers! Then I'll probably spend a night or two at a fancier campground down near Pismo Beach--I joined a couple of membership campground clubs, so I occasionally can stay at really nice resorts for a minimal price.

This last picture is Sonja, checking out the provisions. I'm sure she is wondering, "Where is the Fancy Food, like they served me at the kitty hotel in San Francisco?"

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Guess Where I Am?

Almond Croissant & Coffee
Haight Street Whole Foods

Did you guess San Francisco? That's right, boys and girls, I'm still here in the City of Love...oh, no, wait, that's Philadelphia. San Francisco is the City of Haight, where the Summer of Love was celebrated, just blocks from the garage where my cat lives inside of my RV and the hotel where I am living, probably until Monday or Tuesday.

Recap: If you've been following my blog, you know that I had planned to spend one night at an RV park in Pacifica, just south of San Francisco, about two weeks ago. After that I was going to visit friends in Santa Cruz and meander down the Central California Coast. However, my engine overheated on the rise that leads to the Pacifica exit and it turned out I needed a new engine. Then, about a week later when I got stuck at about the same place, we found out that the new engine was defective, so I was here a second week getting the second new engine.

Recent Events: On Thursday, I moved out of the hellish rooming house and went to pick up The Guppy at the garage. It was ready and the new engine runs so smoothly, it purrs. I drove around San Francisco, testing whether it had any trouble stalling out or with idling in low gears, at low speeds, up hills, etc. No problems! So I picked up Sonja from the deluxe cat spa and started to head out of town. Took the Great Highway south along the coast and got to the same hill that had buffaloed me on my last two attempts to escape San Francisco, and whaddyaknow...suddenly the gas pedal hit the floor and the engine was racing! I put on the brake, pulled over to the shoulder, and let the engine stall out, then called the garage to come out and tow me back to town.

The accelerator problem is a new problem, not related to the engine replacements. It's due to an old, rusted-out accelerator cable that needs to be replaced. It's a fairly straightforward job that should just take a couple of hours, but the problem is finding the part. Apparently accelerator cables for my particular vehicle aren't something you'll find at a standard parts store, and the used ones that the garage has been able to uncover at various wrecking yards are just as old and rusty as the one they removed from The Guppy. So now we are waiting for the part to come directly from a Toyota factory, hopefully on Monday.

So I'm back to living in the Stanyan Park Hotel, a couple of blocks from the garage. Fortunately the garage has paid me 100% of my expenses for the six days I was delayed due to the defective replacement engine, plus they have comped all of my tows. Right now, since the current problem isn't the garage's fault, I'm back to paying for my own hotel and other expenses. And I considered going to a cheaper place, such as a hostel, but I decided instead to concentrate on my eBay sales and just try to make enough money to meet this weekend's expenses. So I'm listing about 50 vintage designer scarves today.

I wasn't going to write another blog entry until I got out of San Francisco, because I felt like there just wasn't much to say. But My Favorite Sister Sharon said she'd looked for news of me on my blog all week and she was pretty sure everybody would want to know what I'm doing and that I'm okay. Sharon says my stay here is part of my journey, and, who knows, it may be a really important part of it. I have certainly learned acceptance, patience, and being okay with having little control over things, especially with this most recent return to the garage.

My Best Friend Helen says she thinks I'm not supposed to go to Pacifica--maybe I'm supposed to take the freeway to Santa Cruz instead of the coastal route. I dunno. I'm just taking it a day at a time, trying not to have expectations. I do know I'm a lot luckier than most of the other people who are staying at this particular hotel--it's near the children's hospital, and a lot of families are here to be close to their babies who have serious health problems.

I went to the Goodwill and a few other stores in Haight-Ashbury to buy some clean clothes and other things to make my stay here more comfortable. Now I have a real plate and silverware for the food I can purchase about a block away at Whole Foods, plus bubble bath and a small candle...might as well make the most of my stay in a hotel, I figure. I've learned a lot about what I need to keep in my "exit bag" for situations like these.

Almond Croissant Reviews: During the days I stayed at the San Francisco Guest House on Geary Blvd., I often had coffee at the Royal Ground, a coffee shop across the street. They serve a nearly mystical almond croissant. It had substantial, chewy, almost sourdough-like pastry with just a hint of almond paste in the center...just enough to keep you wanting more. So good I had it two days in a row.

The almond croissant pictured at the top of this blog entry is from Whole Foods on Haight. I don't know whether Whole Foods gets their pastries from local bakers or if they serve the same ones nationwide. The one I got here in San Francisco, I'm naming the Mucho Crustini, because it had so much edible matter (almonds, almond paste, and I'm not sure what else) spread on top. It also had more almond paste inside than I care for. Excessive on all counts. I probably would've liked it better back when I was a kid and liked gooey excessive things.

That said, I'm going for a walk in Golden Gate Park, probably to the De Young Museum for the afternoon. Then it's back to work on that pile of eBay scarves!