Archive for the 'San Onofre 2008' Category

Mar 27 2010

What have we gotten ourselves into?

Published by under San Onofre 2008

We made the move to Southern California a little earlier than planned so Dianna could be here when her Dad has some more surgery for skin cancer.  The original plan was to be here the first of April, but we made the move on the 19th of March instead so she could help with pre-op appointments.  Finding a reasonably priced place to stay in Southern California is always a challenge, and since are not spending the summer volunteering at San Onofre this year we had to find a different place.  Our plan is to stay around here until early June, then begin our trip toward the east coast.

After considerable searching we found a mobile home park that looked like it would be a good choice.  It is located in Frazier Park, a mountain community about 45 miles north of Dianna’s parents.  It is half as far to her folks house as we were in San Onofre, and the price on a monthly basis is quite reasonable.  The mobile home park itself is located at 5,200 feet in a pretty valley.   We arrived during the early afternoon and finally found a site that had a 50 amp power plug, which our rig requires if we are going to use our heat pumps for heating.  Heat pumps are about three to four times as efficient as using propane or resistance type electric heaters, and we knew we were going to need heat.  What we didn’t know is how much.

The mobile home park is actually located between Frazier Park and the little community of Lake of the Woods.  It is only about two miles up the road and 600 feet higher than Frazier Park (whose weather we had been watching and using for planning) but it turns out that because of the bowl it is located in, the night time temperatures are about 10 degrees colder.  The very first night the temperature dropped to 24 and it has been well below freezing every night since!  Daytime temperatures have rarely exceeded 60.

Freezing temperatures cause several issues.   First of all, I can’t leave the water line hooked up, so we are having to fill the tank on the trailer and use our own pump.  That’s not a big issue, but just a hassle.  Second, our heat pumps only work down to about 34 degrees.  This means that we will have to use a lot of propane to keep warm.  Propane here costs $3.75 a gallon compared to $2.50 a gallon in Yuma and Quartzsite, and we will burn  at least $35 dollars worth a week when the heat pumps can’t be used.  Then there’s the hassle and cost of taking propane bottles several miles down the road to be filled every few days.  The less often we have to do that, the better.

After plugging the trailer in and firing up the heat pumps, we immediately discovered we had another issue.  The power in our site is very poor.  We have a power monitoring system installed in our rig to check for things like high and low voltage, and for wiring problems.  It immediately became apparent that we had a low voltage problem.  In fact, the voltage was so low that the monitoring system cut the power off so we would not cause damage to our heat pumps.  We had the park electrician check it out, and he did find some problems that improved the power a bit, but not enough.  I think the park is just too old and has wiring that was not sized for today’s RV’s.

I felt I had no choice but to purchase a special transformer that monitors for low voltage, and automatically steps it up.  These transformers are used by many full time RV’ers because this problem is not that uncommon.  In fact, I already have such a transformer and have used it previously, but it is only a 30 amp model.  We need a 50 amp model for the amount of power we will be using here.  I found one on sale on line, and ordered it Thursday morning.  FedEx delivered it Friday afternoon.  I installed it and problem solved.  Unfortunately, these things are not cheap.  $550 is a lot of money, but still much cheaper than replacing a heat pump with a burned out motor.

Meanwhile, as soon as we arrived we discovered that cell phone service here is almost non-existent.  We were able to connect very briefly at times, and soon found that only those of us on the highest row in the park were even able to do that.  We have had spotty cell service in other locations where we stay, so we decided it was time to do something about it.

I checked with several other RV’ers and learned about external cell phone antenna’s and amplifiers.  Sometimes only an external antenna is needed, but usually an amplifier is also required.  And, only certain cell phones have the RF port where an external antenna can be plugged in.  I ordered the best antenna I could find, along with the adapter to attach it to our Motorola RAZR phones.  Fortunately our phones were on the list of those with RF ports.  Unfortunately, it turns out that the RF port is the most delicate and poorly designed of any phone out there.  It is really more of a test port used during manufacture.  After playing with the phone and antenna adapter for several hours it was apparent that it was not going to work, and even when it was attached the signal strength was no better.  After consulting with some experts I came to the conclusion that the only option was to order an amplifier and get different phones.

Yesterday we made the trip to Bakersfield, a little closer than the LA area, and a whole lot easier drive.  It is only about 45 minutes to a shopping area with all the stores we care about, including a Super Wal-Mart and a Costco.  We went to the Verizon store to find new phones.  We were eligible for our “free every two years” phones, but finding phones that met our needs was not easy.  Although we have thought about getting fancy phones, like a Droid, we just can’t justify them.  Not only do they cost a lot more to purchase, they also would require us to add data services and increase our monthly cost as well.  While they would be a fun toy, it just does not make sense in our situation, especially when none of them will meet the external antenna support requirement we have.  So, we purchased (got for free) new Samsung flip phones that essentially do nothing different from our RAZR’s.  In fact, they are even less capable in some ways.  For example, they do not take videos like our RAZR’s did.  Of course, that’s something neither of us ever did, but it is a little discouraging getting a new phone that is no better than the one you are replacing.  Also, they will also need new car chargers and Dianna will want a new carrying case.  Oh well, they will meet our needs for communications, and that is the important issue.

So, here we are, sitting in a place where the temperatures will require us to spend far more on heating than we anticipated, where it is too cold to be outside much of the time doing things like geocaching, where we have had to spend $550 for equipment to clean up their electricity, where we have had to replace our cell phones and spend over $350 to make them work, and where when I checked the weather forecast this morning, I discovered we have a winter storm warning for the last half of next week.  Six inches or more of snow is predicted for here!  What have we gotten ourselves into?

12 responses so far

Nov 05 2009

Three Hikes in Big Bend

Published by under San Onofre 2008

We decided to spend another day in the western part of the park so we could do a few more hikes.  They were all relatively short.  First we rode up to the Burro Mesa turnoff and parked at the Burro Springs Overlook Trail.   Information about the trail was not posted on the sign but it looked like it was just a short hike to an overlook.  We didn’t even take water with us as we thought it would only be a few minutes.  Wrong.  It turned out to be 3/4 of a mile each way to a rather disappointing view of some greenery in a small canyon.

We then rode another mile or so up the road to the parking area for Burro Mesa Pouroff.  Pouroff’s are places that would be call falls if water continously ran over them, but they are dry except when it rains.  It is a spot where water that falls on Burro Mesa during a rain storm “pours off” the mesa.  The hike was less than half a mile each way, and the formation itself was interesting.


On the way back to the scooter we saw a tarantula crossing the trail.


We then decided to try the Santa Elena Canyon Trail again.  When we were there a couple days ago the water levels were so high that it was not possible to cross Terlinga creek to get to the start of the trail.  The water levels had gone down some so we figured we had a chance.

When we arrived we watched as some European tourists waded across the creek in knee deep mud.  It looked like it was time for some adventure so we followed suit.  Yuck!


The canyon itself was very narrow and the hike was cool and pretty.  We watched several river rafters as they floated past.  The canyon itself is about 8 miles long but the trail ended in about half a mile where the canyon rock walls drop all the way to the river.   It is strange to think that the walls on the other side are in Mexico.


On the way out we met some other hikers who had found a rope attached to a tree farther up Terlinga Creek where you could pull yourself up the 10 foot sheer embankment.  We searched it out and used it to get back with dry feet, although Dianna needed a little help rappelling.

Three hikes in one day was plenty, especially because it was quite warm.  But we had a good time.

Wednesday was move day.  We relocated to the Rio Grande Village Campground on the other side of the park.  After setting up camp we did laundry and then settled in for a few days of exploring this side of Big Bend National Park.

All the photos are in the gallery.

3 responses so far

Feb 25 2009

Good News and Bad News about Carlsbad Caverns

Published by under San Onofre 2008

We decided to spend a couple days at an Escapees RV park between Artesia and Carlsbad, NM.  Today we went to Carlsbad Caverns since it has been a few years since we were there.  We always enjoy caves and Carlsbad is about as good as it gets.  We hiked in the natural entrance and then rode the elevator up to the visitor center for lunch.  Then we rode it back down for our stroll around the Big Room.  We had a good time but three hours of walking on steep grades wore us out.  Obviously we are out of shape again.

So, what’s the good news and the bad news?  When we got there I walked up to the counter and told the Ranger that I had good news and bad news.  The good news is that I am now 62 and for $10 I get the lifetime Senior Pass that covers the entrance fee for me and up to three others to all National Parks, BLM parks, COE parks, etc.  It also provides half price for most other fees like camping and tours.

The bad news?  I’m 62…………….

5 responses so far

Sep 24 2008

Our first grandchild’s wedding!

Published by under San Onofre 2008

Christine Chapman and Nathan Milam were married Saturday, September 20th. Unfortunately we were unable to attend.

They have been dating for several years and we wish them a lifetime of love and happiness.

Here are some pictures of the happy day. They are not the professional pictures but are pretty good snapshots.

Christine & Nathan 

6 responses so far

Sep 22 2008

Mt. Palomar

Published by under San Onofre 2008

It was a nice day for another scooter trip.  Today we rode south on Interstate 5 the 17 miles to Oceanside where we took Highway 76 inland toward Mt. Palomar.  The road soon narrowed and became winding as we rode through lots of avacado and citrus groves and past many plant nurseries.   Eventually we turned off Highway 76 and began our climb up the mountain proper.  The road became very twisted and steep.  That is just the kind of road I love on the scooter, but Dianna would have been more pleased with fewer hairpin turns.

We eventually arrived at Mt. Palomar Observatory in a bowl near the top of the mountain.  The elevation was about 5600 feet and we were in the pines.  After a lunch at the picnic grounds we toured the 200 inch Hale Telescope.  From about 1948 until 1993 it was the most powerful telescope in the world.   Many, many astronomical discoveries were made using it.  It is still a very powerful telescope and has been upgraded with adaptive optics that make it even more powerful than it was when first built.  It is booked by astronomers for years in advance.


The dome is huge and the telescope itself is also very impressive.  The primary mirror is a solid chunk of pyrex glass that weighs about 80,000 pounds.  I remember seeing one of the failed casting attempts when we visited Corning Glass works when I was a boy.

On the way back we stopped at Mt. Palomar State park to check it out, then at Pala Casino.  It is another of the Indian casinos that exist on every Indian reservation now.  It was very nice and was a good place to stretch our legs.  After another stop in Oceanside for groceries, gas and then dinner at a Mexican restaurant, we arrived home about 6 PM.  It was a fun day.

The trip totaled 159 miles.  We got 63 MPG.

4 responses so far

Sep 17 2008

Chopper Pilot

Published by under San Onofre 2008

Yep.  That’s me.

The Jennings family gave me a very nice Fathers Day present.  They gave me a gift certificate to Xperience Days where you can select your own experience from a number of things around the country.  One of the choices was the opportunity to take a helicopter flying lesson, something I have always wanted to do.

We arrived at Long Beach Airport about 11 and spent the first half hour in ground school.  Dianna was able to sit in on that part.  The pilot explained each of the controls and some safety procedures.  Then we walked out to the flight line, pre-flighted the Robinson R-22 and climbed in.

The cockpit is similar to an airplane, but there are some differences.  The  big differences are in the controls.  It takes both feet on the pedals, the right hand on the cyclic and the left hand on the collective which also has the throttle.  Too bad if you need to scratch your nose!

The pilot took off and we climbed up to 500 feet and headed west toward the L.A. River.  He shortly  told me to take over the pedals.  They work differently on a helicopter than on an airplane.  All they control is where the helicopter is pointing, not the direction of flight.  He banked left over the river and turned the collective over to me and told me to climb up to 700 feet.  Once I leveled off there, he also turned over the cyclic to me and I flew down the river, then made a long slow U turn over Long Beach Harbor and back towards the airport.

As you can see in the picture, there are no doors and my right arm was sticking out in the wind.  It is a very small craft.  All this results in tremendous views.  You can look straight down by just putting your head out the door a little.  It was neat seeing the Queen Mary and downtown Long Beach, Signal Hill where I once worked and all the other sights of a place where we used to live.

He took the controls again as we descended and he put us in a hover over a pad in a special part of the airport.  There he demonstrated hovering and gave me several opportunities to control it.  The first couple times he handled the cyclic, but he was impressed enough in my ability to let me do a couple hovers where I was in complete control.  It is not easy!  I was able to maintain pretty good position for about a minute and a half, but then it kind of got away from me and he took control again.  I think I could have gotten it with a few more tries, but the wind was blowing pretty good and that was not helping.

Our half hour was up so we hover taxied back to the flight line and landed.  He filled out my pilot’s log book with half an hour of dual helicopter instruction.  Whoo hoo!

Thanks again Dayna, Chris, Deidra and Dom.

8 responses so far

Aug 14 2008

Grandkid Visit

Published by under San Onofre 2008

Deidra and Dom flew in from Texas last Tuesday and have been getting their Poppa/Nana fix.  Well, something like that.  Last weekend we all went to Wideners so they could see their great grandparents.  While we were there Dianna and Deidra went to Marie’s shower that was held at Julie’s house.  While they were at the shower, Dom and I  spent the afternoon at Julie’s pool so we all had a good time.

This week the kids have been surfing.  For real, as Deidra would say.  We made arrangements with the surf camp next door to give them some lessons, which they were very nice to do.  Two of the instructors are girls from Australia and we let them use our wireless internet to keep tabs on their families, so they were glad to be able to do something for us in exchange.

Both kids were able to get up and ride in to shore several times but they are probably not ready for the North Shore of Hawaii just yet.

Deidra on her surfboard Dom on his surfboard

Next week they fly back to Texas and start school.  This was only a two week visit, but we have all had a good time.

9 responses so far

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