Monday, March 31, 2014

Monterey, Santa Cruz, and New Bikes



Yes, on Friday, just three days after getting our bikes stolen I found a used one from a local individual, who was kind enough to bring it out to Laguna Seca for us to look at.

The frame is a bit smaller than my old bike, which is great because I’m not quite as close to the top tube when standing over the bike. I made some minor adjustments to the handlebars and seat and it feels just like the other, which I really liked.

Meet the new bike, same as the old bike, a Giant Anthem 29er.


That afternoon we went to Monterey for lunch at El Cantaro, a completely vegan Mexican restaurant. Our grilled pineapple and black bean burrito was really good.

We then took a walk on the waterfront, passing by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, along Cannery Row, and on to the municipal wharf, the highlight of our walk.



Several people told us we should not miss the aquarium, and I’m sure it’s a great attraction, but we’ve been to many others over the years and just don’t enjoy crowded touristy places like that anymore. There were busloads of kids all around when we walked by so we knew it was a good decision to skip it.

Cannery Row was quite disappointing, although we had heard it was very touristy so we knew what to expect. In fact we didn’t take any other photos. It’s just a typical street with souvenir shops, hotels, and restaurants. Sadly there is even a John Steinbeck Spirit of Monterey Wax Museum. He’s got to be rolling over in his grave, as they say. At least the city put up quite a few placards talking about the history of the sardine canneries along the waterfront, which were interesting to read.


The free live entertainment at the wharf was the best. This was the closest we’ve gotten to the California sea lions, a very vocal group, and much more active than the harbor seals we’ve seen.




Don’t try this at home.





Rain was predicted for Saturday, but before it started we took a walk around the track where there was SCCA racing. Those cars are loud!


Jim made some phone calls to bike shops and found a bike he wanted to look at in Santa Cruz, 45 miles away. A similar used one was also being sold by an individual in LA that would ship, but he wanted to look at it and check the fit. So off to Santa Cruz we went, in the rain. Just so happened the one at the bike shop was a demo, and they had reduced the price by $1,000, close to the price of the used one. The rain stopped just long enough for Jim to take a test ride, and he ended up buying it.

He hasn’t taken pictures yet but it’s a Giant Trance. After looking at lots of other bikes, we are both impressed with Giant. And we actually got to ride abut a 7 mile loop yesterday. The Fort Ord trails accessed from the Laguna Seca campground are great, although there is a lot of hill climbing. Of course that means lots of downhill, too. Fun!

Now after watching videos on how easy it is to cut bike locks, we have a couple new U locks along with the heavy chain we already had. Jim is still working on other ideas. If someone really wants the bikes they will find a way to get them, but we’re hoping we can hang onto these a bit longer.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Point Lobos State Reserve



It’s hard to believe there could be a more scenic place along the California coast than Point Lobos State Reserve. We spent hours taking a leisurely five mile hike and hundreds of photos.





The park is home to interesting looking trees.



Some artistically decorated with orange lichen and moss.


And the Monterey Cypress, which the park was originally acquired to protect.


We visited the Whalers Cabin, built by Chinese fisherman in the 1850s and now a museum.



Saw lots of wildlife. The usual moochers.


Very tame deer.


Many birds.



Including nesting cormorants.


If you forget to bring binoculars you can borrow a pair from one of the docents in exchange for your car keys. We spent a lot of time looking for whales through ours but didn’t see any.

We did see plenty of harbor seals.



And California sea lions. It was quite amusing watching them try to get on the rocks from the surf. They are a noisy bunch!


There are a few places where you can get close to the water.



We were fascinated by the effects of wind, water and erosion in this area.





And the mesmerizing crashing waves.


This has been my favorite place on the California coast so far. We were there on a weekday and it was not very crowded. If you drive in and park it costs $10 per vehicle ($9 for seniors), plus $2 for a very well worth it map and brochure. There is limited parking and on weekends we heard they cut off the number of vehicles allowed in. You can also park for free along Hwy 1 with a suggested $1 per person walk-in donation, but be prepared for a much longer walk if you do that.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Warm and Fuzzy


We got an email yesterday from Z the cat’s owner. This is the kitten Jim found a home for while we were staying at the RV park in Virgin, Utah this past November.

“Z is doing well and has completely adjusted to the Southern California lifestyle. He gets along great with our dogs and often sits under our motor home during the day - which we love especially when we see him batting around the occasional mouse that dared to get too close.   We often find him lounging by the pool too...board shorts on and Mai tai in hand!  The vet calls him the "cat that found his family" and we are so blessed to have him.  We'll send more pics.”

photo (1)

Don’t you just love happy endings?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Laguna Seca Recreation Area and Update on Our Stolen Bike Claim



We were pleasantly surprised with the campground at Laguna Seca. For $33/night with Jim’s $2 senior discount, we have electric and water at our site, and there is a dump station, flush toilets, and showers.


We even have a nice view of the green hills between Monterey and Salinas.


Some of the sites overlook the Mazda Raceway, which has practicing drivers on a daily basis. There is also a shooting range on the other side of the campground, so depending on where you park you either hear racecars or gunshots, but it hasn’t been bothersome since it’s been cool and we haven’t had windows open.


It’s also rained off and on since we got here yesterday, which is good news since this part of CA really needs the rain. We did squeeze in a little hike between showers. These would have been great trails to mountain bike on.


Speaking of bikes, we did take a drive to Monterey and Carmel to look at a few bike shops but didn’t really see anything we were interested in.

And I saw a recipe on Watson’s Wander blog this morning for these Honey-Lime Sweet Potato Black Bean Tacos that sounded so good I had to make then tonight. I must say they were excellent, and Jim concurred. I will definitely be making these often!

And now I turn this post over to Jim for some insurance talk:

Since people asked I thought I would give you an update on our insurers handling of the stolen bikes.

I first reported the loss to the Salinas PD yesterday morning. Couldn’t reach them by phone, their voicemail box was full. I was able to submit the report online. As you can imagine, other than an automatic email saying they got it I heard nothing else.

I took photos of the car and scene and then contacted our insurer, National General Insurance, formerly known as GMAC. Other than a windshield claim this is the first experience we have had with them. They took my report and within a couple of hours I was contacted by phone by the claims rep assigned to our claim.

I discussed the loss with him and advised him that I had photos of the bikes, serial numbers and receipts for all the stuff that was taken. I emailed all of those records to him late yesterday afternoon. This morning I received an email noting they have sent payment with an itemization of what was paid for each item.

We have what is known as fulltimers coverage, which includes some coverages that are similar, if not identical, to what you will find in a homeowners or tenants policy. It includes personal property coverage in an amount that we specified. It also covers our personal property at replacement cost value. However, generally you don’t get the replacement amount until you actually replace the item. In this case the bikes were so new I assume they decided to not apply depreciation pending our replacing the items.

One commenter mentioned that his policy covered property only when it was attached to his RV. I had not heard of coverage that limited before. Our policy covers your personal property up to the limit of the policy at your campsite. This means anywhere you park your RV and the surrounding area. Had we taken the bikes on the car to a location away from the RV then the limit would have been reduced to some percentage of the personal property coverage. This is generally the case on a homeowners policy as well and the policy spells out the percentage it is reduced too. You can purchase insurance for specific items which will cover them wherever they are up to the limit and that is referred to as a scheduled item and is used most frequently for expensive items like jewelry, silverware, art, etc.

So, as far as I am concerned, their service exceeded my expectations. The service in my experience, having worked in insurance claims, was exceptional. Of course, this can all vary based on the claims person you deal with and the company. There is a good bit of fraud in theft claims.

I know that people love to complain about insurance companies and there are plenty of reasons to be aggravated with them. That said, you need to read your policy before a loss and have some idea as to how and what is covered. If you find that the coverage isn’t what you would hope for you need to find coverage that provides what you want and decide if the cost is worth the coverage.

Hope this info helps someone. Property and auto insurance can be a complicated subject and there is a lot more to this topic, but I suspect everyone fell asleep a couple of paragraphs ago.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

It Was Bound to Happen


Last night was only the third time we’ve spent the night in a Wal Mart parking lot. We find them to be too noisy, bright, and not always in the best neighborhoods, but they can be a convenient stopover. We had a lot of errands to do in Salinas, CA yesterday, including shopping at Wal Mart, and it was late when we finished. So it was convenient to just stay there overnight.

We’ve carried bikes on a hitch rack on the back of our car during our five plus years of fulltiming and have always been concerned about them getting stolen, but we’ve been lucky so far. We have a couple of heavy duty locks but for some reason last night we got complacent and just had them locked together with one lock but didn’t put the second one around the hitch. When I got up this morning the bikes and lock were gone, plucked off the car which was sitting directly in front of the motorhome. We never heard a thing. Guess we shouldn’t have taken those sleeping pills.

Jim, former claims adjuster that he is, got right on the phone, filed a police report, called in a claim on our RV insurance, and went in to speak with Wal Mart security. We speculated that it was probably someone in security who works with the thieves to let them know when there’s an easy target parked in the lot. Hey, anything is possible!

With only a $50 deductible on personal property the financial hit isn’t so bad, but what bothers me most is just the fact that someone took something that wasn’t theirs to take. Is it too much to ask of people to behave nicely?


So if you come across a black Specialized Rumor and a white Giant Anthem for cheap on Ebay, let us know.



And what’s even more irritating is that we are now at Laguna Seca Recreation Area near Monterey, an area with miles of mountain bike trails we were looking forward to riding. In fact the famous Sea Otter Classic mountain and road bike event is held here, coming up in a couple weeks.

Ah, we should have stayed up on the hill with the million dollar view, but such is life….


Monday, March 24, 2014

Big Sur, CA



Besides being the name of a very small town on the coast, we didn’t realize that Big Sur refers to the 90 mile stretch of rugged coastline between San Simeon and Carmel, with the Santa Lucia Mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west.


Highway 1 through Big Sur has been designated an American National Scenic Highway, and with good reason. It truly is a spectacular drive, and there are plenty of places to stop and stretch your legs at scenic overlooks, hiking trails, several state parks, a few rustic lodges, restaurants, galleries and  convenience stores. If you’re coming from the south be sure to get gas in Morro Bay or Cambria, or in Monterey if you come from the north. It was going for $5.79/gallon at the only station in Big Sur the other day. (It was just under $4.00/gallon when we left Morro Bay.)

One of the most scenic places we stopped was McWay Falls, at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Although there is a $10 parking fee if you drive in, there is plenty of free roadside parking where you can access the trail to the overlook.




Another hike was on the Mill Creek trail, about a quarter mile up the road from our site. It starts in the open with a nice view of the mountains but soon becomes a shady trail through the redwoods and stays along the creek most of the way.




It was foggy for a couple days, but just before the fog rolled in we got to watch this sunset over the ocean.




The day after the fog lifted we drove a few miles north to Limekiln State Park, where there is a small, crowded campground, mostly for tents, and a few short trails leading to the fall and the old lime kilns.

All three trails follow branches of the creek.


Four stone and iron furnaces remain from the limestone mine which opened in 1897. It only took the Rockland Lime and Lumber company three years to deplete the lime deposit, along with the redwood forest that was nearly clear cut to use for lumber and fuel.




The 100 foot waterfall.


A very pleasant place for a hike.



So our five days without phone or internet was really not a problem. We may never get another chance for a site with a view like this.


Tonight we’re at the Wal Mart in Salinas, CA. Quite a change in scenery, but we needed to get propane, gas, do laundry, pick up some groceries, and went out to eat at BJs Brewhouse. Tomorrow we’re heading back towards the coast.