Thursday, March 26, 2015

First Week San Diego



It’s been a good first week in San Diego. Eight different breweries/brewpubs, a multitude of fine tasting beer, and the company of friends. It’s been enough to make us like our little piece of concrete here at Mission Bay RV Resort.

Not our favorite kind of place to stay, but it’s all about location. And at least there are some trees, a little grass, nice showers and laundry.


The site behind us that was empty is now occupied by a huge family. Thankfully they are well behaved children but this is why we don’t like staying in RV parks.


But being able to walk along the bay from the park, or hopping on our bikes to a brewery, has been an added bonus. Two bike and brew trips so far and no BUI! We do know our limits, but some of the really fine craft brews that we seem to like are very high in alcohol content. Unlike the 4% watered down beer we found in Utah, we have had some here that were over 12%. That’s a lot for a beer, but boy do they taste smooth and rich.

Bike trail along the bay.


And they go down great with gourmet pizza. This is from Pizza Port, one of the best veggie pizzas we’ve eaten anywhere. It might have been the multigrain beer crust, but pizza really can be good with no cheese. Accompanied by a Penthouse Double IPA and a Suavecito Imperial Milk Stout, as smooth as the name implies. Doesn’t get much better.

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Be sure to sit outside on the patio with the dogs. The inside was filled with families, which translates to loads of noisy children.

Frances, Russ and Todd.


Nina and Paul, who look good even after the 5 mile bike ride to get there.

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It’s not been all play, though. We finished up the cosmetic issues in the bedroom following our floor install. I found some $1 contact paper and a vinyl door strip, and a little caulk to cover things up. It isn’t a perfect solution but looks so much better and your eye is not drawn to it. We’re happy.



After. So far the wall hasn’t fallen down from removing the metal support strip that was along the floor.


We also got a little history lesson and a hike at Cabrillo National Monument on the Point Loma Peninsula, where explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo landed on September 28, 1542. After checking out the displays in the visitor center, we walked the trails taking in the views. Unfortunately it was quite a hazy morning.





Nina was disappointed that we didn’t take the lighthouse tour, but Jim wasn’t about to wait in this long line of people.


We also walked along the coast to the tide pool area but it wasn’t low tide. Still nice to see the Pacific again.



Yesterday Jim had an appointment with a cornea specialist at the University of CA to see if he’s had any progression of his Fuch’s dystrophy. This is the real reason we decided to come to San Diego, and we were just going to stay for a few days, but since we weren’t sure if Jim would need something done which may require follow-up, we decided to just spend the month here and get us through spring break and Easter. Luckily the doctor didn’t think he was ready for a corneal transplant yet, but the change in vision he’s noticed in his left eye was due to a cloudy posterior capsule, which is common after cataract surgery. They were able to perform a laser procedure while we were there, and after the dilation wore off he could tell his vision was much better. He has one more appointment in a couple weeks.

Since the eye center was in La Jolla, we thought it would be a good opportunity to check out La Jolla Brewing Co on the way home. After getting stuck in traffic that took 15 minutes to travel 2/10 of a mile, we decided to just head towards home and stop at Pacific Beach. We walked along the boardwalk and had some tasters at Amplified. Pretty good stuff and a great outdoor deck with ocean views.



Since our time here is limited and we’ve only sampled a fraction of the 100 local breweries, we made one more stop at Modern Times. They have a really cool tasting room with a bar made of books. The limited release Devil’s Teeth Baltic Porter was our favorite. You know they must have fun coming up with these beer names.


 We have no plans for our second week here but I’m sure we’ll come up with something!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Sad Camera, Sadder Customer Service


We interrupt our regularly scheduled postcard blog posts for a public service announcement by me, Jim.


This is a story about a little camera that couldn’t.

Some of you that follow our clown show might recall that our Panasonic FZ200 camera took a little bath when yours truly slipped in a puddle of water. We dried it out and for a brief time it seemed to work OK. Over time, though, it got more and more sickly. Sputtering and coughing although it bravely struggled.

On January 16th, 2015 I mailed it in to the Panasonic service center in McAllen, TX. When we visited Mission, TX a couple of times in bygone years we had occasion to drive by this huge structure several times and wondered what sorcery must occur behind those walls.

Apparently, it is where made in China electronics sold to unsuspecting Americans by Japanese companies go to die.

It is nigh on to impossible to get the phone number for this mythical place so that you might talk about your camera with a caring person.

When I started our little friend on its trip I included a very brief note describing the problems, providing our contact information and advising them that they must contact us before any return of the camera since we were traveling.

After some time passes we learn that instead of contacting us our camera has begun its journey to Florida and our mail service instead of our location in AZ. Now bear in mind it was not repaired. No, they send the camera back to you with an estimate and if you wish to have it repaired you must sign the paperwork and send the camera back to them. They are apparently unable to simply discuss it with you by email or phone and find these repeated trips and delays to be far more efficient.

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So, our little friend makes its way back to McAllen, TX and the factory. After its return someone calls and advises what it will cost and I OK repairs and provide a credit card. They advise it will stay for 7-10 business days. They ask for an address and I provide our Yuma location since it should all be done and back to us before we leave there. I do explain that we will be leaving on March 16th and they say they will call first.

March 16th we receive the call as we are packing up to go. Its ready, and it feels much better but just wants to come home. I provide them with our next address in San Diego. They even call back with a tracking number. On the morning of March 18th I see that it is out for delivery in Yuma, AZ.

Gosh, how could this error have occurred. I call and, as luck would have it, I speak with the very person who had taken my mailing information. After some time on hold I find that our friend must again make the trek back to McAllen, TX. Every time it thinks it has made it out, BAM, they keep bringing it back.


So, while our little friend made it from McAllen to Yuma in two days, two days later it had only made it to Phoenix from Yuma. Tears are shed as it appears the chances of a reunion fall further and further away.

I’ve decorated this with enough random punctuation and words that I can stop now.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Morena Butte Trail and Moving On to the Big City



 With so many nearby trails to choose from, we decided to stick with the one that Hans and Lisa told us is their favorite in the San Diego area, Morena Butte. We started our hike at Lake Morena County Park, about 20 miles from our free campsite at Viejas Casino. In order to get to the Butte trail, it’s a three mile hike towards Mexico along the Pacific Crest Trail, which is worth it for the views even if you don’t tackle the steep climb up the butte.


The trail takes off with a good little climb, so it wasn’t too long before we had some nice views of what used to be the lake. Unfortunately San Diego needs the water so they are draining the reservoir down to just about nothing.


The surrounding hillside is dotted with houses that used to have lovely views of the water. I’m guessing their property values have plummeted, since the boat launch is now closed. 


As we continued along we did finally see the dam and what little water there is.


A couple miles into the hike we saw two guys sitting beside the trail. Turns out they were on their second day of thru-hiking the entire Pacific Crest Trail, having started at the Mexican border. They hiked 15.5 miles the previous day, with only 2,635 miles to go! A few minutes later another hiker stopped and we had a nice little chat. They said normally around 200 people make the entire hike but more are expected this year due to Cheryl Strayed’s book and movie, Wild.

Little Spoon, Knight Shade, and Perk. Hope they make it all the way!


Another mile on the PCT and we came to this sign for the turnoff to Morena Butte. Good thing it was there, as the trail wasn’t visible.


The steep climb started right off the bat, with rocks to scramble up and over. It finally leveled off a bit, but then would climb even steeper. There were a few cairns to mark the trail but it wasn’t always easy to follow. It was a mile up to the top of the butte, but with a quarter mile to go we lost the trail and would have to scramble the rest of the way up. It was just one of those days, and neither of us had the desire or energy to go all the way up, so we turned back and retraced our steps. It was still a great hike, with lots of interesting and colorful rock formations, wonderful views, and quite a few flowers.



See the duck?






Alpine, CA Viejas Casino

We left Alpine yesterday for a short drive that turned into a long trip to San Diego. I’ll just warn you not to try to get gas in a motor home between Alpine and Mission Bay RV Park, where we are spending the next month. We had to disconnect the car at one point, but still couldn’t get in a gas station for various reasons. Between that and the traffic, Jim was ready to turn around and go anywhere else. Luckily Paul and Nina (Wheeling It) invited us to join them at a couple breweries yesterday afternoon, where we discovered some of the best and most unique beer we’ve ever had. Jim changed his mind about San Diego after Nina said she would tell us which breweries we could just ride our bikes to from the RV park!

Belching Beaver Brewery. With a name like that the beer just has to be good. Although I usually drink IPAs, I ended up having a pint of their wonderful Peanut Butter Milk Stout.


Brenda (Island Girl Walkabout) joined us a little later with her sweet doggie Angel. Paul was patiently waiting for Nina to photograph the beer.


Angel patiently waiting for Brenda to drink the beer.


We then moved on about a mile away to Thorn Street Brewery, where the beer was just as good or better than Belching Beaver. Russ and Todd joined us for dinner from the Thai food truck that pulled up in front of the brewery. It was our first food truck experience and it was excellent.

Todd, Paul, Nina Jim and Russ’s back.


Frances, Russ and Todd’s cute little dog who would not hold still for a good photo. We just love that so many places here are dog friendly, and not just in the outdoor patio area. It should be good month…


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Viejas Casino, Alpine, CA



We left the heat of Yuma on Monday for a 150 mile drive west on CA I-8 to Alpine, where we are spending three nights (the maximum allowed) in the parking lot of Viejas Casino.

It was a very windy day, but we lucked out with it coming out of the east, one of the rare times we’ve ever had a tail wind.


Before we left Yuma Barbara D. had told us about Viejas, and I also saw that the Wheeling It crew stayed here last month. There have only been a few other RVs here each night, and except for the shuttle buses it is pretty quiet. The only negative is the lot is extremely sloped, so for those of us without leveling jacks it’s not easy to find a place to get level. Jim wanted to park facing east/west for maximum solar, but we didn’t have enough blocks to raise up as high as we would have needed to, so he finally caved in, parked north/south, and with a few blocks on the right side we were good.


On our last day in Yuma we made the pilgrimage up Telegraph Pass, a steep little hike of just under 5 miles round trip that we did last year with a group of friends. This was the steepest trail we’ve been on since Jim’s pulmonary emboli diagnosis back in November, and although we both huffed and puffed on the way up, he was happy that he didn’t feel worse on the climb.





Happy to take advantage of a place to rest a bit.


On our first day here in Alpine we walked over to the casino to register with security, then joined the V Club. You get $10 free slot play when you spend $10 or accrue 2 points, so we put in some of our own money and lost both it and the freebie. We did sit and play for quite a long time, but we figured since we never eat at the casinos we park at it was just the price of camping here for a few nights. After that we went over to the adjacent outlet mall, which was surprisingly nice. We didn’t need to shop for anything but it was a good place to take a walk.

Yesterday we drove into the Laguna Mountains to Cuyamaca Rancho State Park to try a little mountain biking. The East Side trail sounded fairly easy, and it was in a very pretty area. Parts of the trail were pleasant and fun to ride, but then in other places there were lots of big rocks and we did quite a bit of hike and bike.


Jim couldn’t get his rear brake to stop rubbing, and after a few miles we called it quits and continued our drive to Julian, which was just another 15 miles up the road.


Although we’ve stayed in Anza Borrego a few times in the past, we never did make it to Julian, known for its apple orchards and pie. So of course we had to sample some, and it was quite good. Otherwise it is just another little tourist town.


Since we had already eaten pie, which is not normally on our vegan low fat diet, we figured we might as well really blow it and stop at Alpine Beer Company for happy hour. I enjoyed an IPA, Pure Hoppiness, and Jim had the Odin’s Raven, an 11% alcohol Imperial Russian stout. It was quite good!


We sat out back with the brewery mascot.


In order to make up for yesterday, today I planned for us to do a long hike, which deserves a post of its own. I picked up some trail info at the visitor center in Julian and there is a lot of opportunity for hiking within a half hour or so drive of the casino. Not a bad place to hang out for a few days.