Thursday, March 31, 2011

the Paddling Surfer

I'm so used to seeing people out in the ocean, lying down on their surfboards, either paddling out to catch a wave, or trying to stand up on their way in towards the beach.

But the other day,
we saw a gent using a new approach.

Like always,
I took way too many pictures.

He started way far out.
But I have to tell you
this guy just kept paddling.

These were taken
over the period
of at least sixty minutes,
if not longer.

I think this is his familiar,
keeping watch
(see the paddler in the background).

He never wavered,
he never rested,
he just kept going.

I missed a shot of him actually
landing on the beach!
We should try to take a clue from him.

Today, we started back at the auction, taking a load in. Then, we looked at all the artwork and decided it was time to load it in the car. Geez, I bet there are sixty pieces, at least. And this isn't any of the Disney, just other pieces we've collected over the years. That will be tomorrows run.

And now,
there's a small hole
in the gigantic mess
that we call "the house".

Hopefully this will inspire us to keep going.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Old Friends Revisited

We've had a wonderful couple of days, visiting with friends we haven't seen in years. These people are gold and we appreciate them more than we can say.

And the sun finally came out!

Our visits took place over a period of two days, both of which we spent in Santa Cruz. On day one, we met at the wharf, and it was just the perfect weather. We were so happy to see the sun again, it really was an added bonus to a perfect day.

So now, in no particular order,
here's my photo impressions of the day.

Ya gotta love sock monkeys,
I sure do.

Then there's the seagulls.
I assume you're all sick of seeing them,
but I love to take their pictures.

I might have bought one of these marbles,
but decided to settle on a photo instead.
That's the new me!

We all thought
how nice it would be
to be out on this boat,
or ship,
or vessel.
Anyway, you get the idea.

I took a couple of my "arty" shots of Terry.
I was inside the store,
he, of course, was outside.

I like the composition here,
even though it's a kind of messy shot.

I think I like it even better
in black and white.

Now here's a few memory shots,
Howard and Annie.
Gee, she's grown a bit in four years!

Here's the whole family,
Paula, Howard and Annie.

These closeups are crops
of the above photos.

Just to remind you
that you don't have to get in close
for closeups.
(click for larger images).

And for some reason,
I didn't get a shot of Dona.
Hopefully next time.

This day reminded us of how many people we need to see while were here in California. I do believe if the sun will stay out for a bit, my depression (which I was unaware of till I saw the sun again) might lift and maybe we'll be able to do a bit more catching up with old friends.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Literati $55, Today Only

Just a quick note for anybody looking for an eReader . . .

As I wrote a while back, we picked up two Literati eReaders from Bed Bath and Beyond, and we have been exceptionally pleased with them. I never thought Terry would use an eReader, but he's become a convert.

Today's Woot (click here) has the Literati for $49.99 plus $5.00 shipping.

This is a backlit reader, which I have found I prefer. I will be keeping my Kindle in case I want to read outdoors, but for inside, and especially at night, I prefer the Literati. This is a matter of personal taste, but we've both found it to be a good device.

I also like the fact that it has a color screen, and comes with a case.

The Literati has one other advantage over the Kindle, in that you can download books from your local library and read them on the Literati. The Kindle doesn't allow library books.

If you're at all interested in trying an eReader on the cheap, this is a good deal, so I thought I'd pass it on.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I Got an iPad!

This will be short, but oh boy, am I excited . . .

OK, let me back up a bit here.

I have wanted an iPad since I first heard of them. But they just seemed a bit expensive to me (not that that would have stopped me if I had the extra cash, but I just didn't have the bucks).

So then they go and announce the iPad 2 and I look at it, and it doesn't seem like quite the upgrade I had hoped for. So I get to thinking that it might be the right time to get a 1st generation, what with everybody else upgrading.

But these people want a lot of money, often merely $50 less that a brand new 2nd generation. So I just decided that I would wait for #3.

Then this afternoon, on one of the many boards where I hang out on the internet, someone mentioned that just this morning, Verizon had decided to clear out their leftover 1st generation iPads, dropping the price another $100 (this after an initial price drop of $100 with the announcement of the 2nd generation models).

This brought the 16gb WiFi model down to $300, and since I have a mifi with an unlimited plan (thanks to being grandfathered in from my original USB720), this would fit the bill just right!

I called the local store and they said they had had 3 this morning but they were gone. However, they were expecting another shipment any time now. I asked if they'd hold one for me and jumped right in the car (in the middle of torrential rains, that's how bad I wanted one) and hotfooted it into Capitola.

I got there and the courier had not yet arrived, but was expected at any moment, and I was first on the list. Yahoo!

The shipment arrived a few minutes later and I got my iPad (as did the two people behind me) which left three for my local store.

So I've been playing with this all this evening, but could any of you who have iPads share some of your favorite aps? I'm moving over my favorites from the iPhone, but I'm sure there are a lot more to play with.

If you're looking for an iPad, I think this is a great deal (iPad 16gb WiFi, $300) so you might want to check out your local Verizon Store.

One more quick word on the mifi. I've had an aircard with Verizon for some time (hence the unlimited plan) and have been quite pleased. When I heard about the mifi, it sounded good to me, but I thought the price was a bit steep. Since I'm out of contract, I really didn't want to start all that again. So I went on CraigsList, where I found a local geek who had forsaken Verizon for Sprint, and got my mifi for $60, no contract. Then I simply went to my local Verizon Store, and told them my situation. They looked up my account and saw that I was on the unlimited plan. Then they de-authorized my old device, authorized the mifi (with no contact and no change in terms) and that was it, Easy Peasy!

If you're thinking about upgrading, remember you have options that don't always involve a contract!

I'll be back in a day or two when it's all set up.

Monday, March 21, 2011

REALLY Good Cauliflower

Now that we're back from our little vacation to Morro Bay, we're back on the straight and narrow low carb lifestyle.

Being somewhat bored with our regular fare, I started searching my gigantic file of recipes for something different to add to our regular meals.

We both love cauliflower, and I fix it in a number of ways. Roasted, steamed, fried, mashed, made into a potato salad (no one ever notices that it's cauliflower instead of potatoes), we love it all.

But I wanted something different that would spice it up just a bit, and I found a recipe that sounded like a good place to start.

Easy enough, you just cut it up into florets, mix a bit of mustard and olive oil to coat the cauliflower, then pop it in the oven.

This sounds really promising! Like always, I followed the instructions for a new recipe.

Well, I almost followed them.

I thought that a bit of blue cheese dressing mixed with the olive oil and mustard would brighten it up a bit. Then, because I would be roasting it, I decided to throw in a couple of handfuls of whole garlic cloves (I love that I can buy a huge bag of peeled garlic at Costco, makes these kinds of additions so easy).

Then I decided to chop up a couple of pieces of bacon for extra flavor. Yum! This was listed as optional in the original recipe, but it really added a nice smoky underflavor. Then into a 350 degree oven for about an hour and boy, was this tasty!

Next time I will make a few modifications. It came out a bit oily and I believe that that's because of the olive oil. Next time, I'll mix the mustard and blue cheese dressing with just enough water to coat the cauliflower. That way the only oil will be from the bacon. I might also try adding some onions.

I love roasted veggies, and the sauce really spiced it up nicely, adding a bit of zip without overpowering the sweetness of the roasted cauliflower.

I might also try this with broccoli or Brussels sprouts, or maybe a combination of all three.

In any case, it's a keeper for future meals.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Out and About in Morro Bay

One morning while at Morro Bay, two wonderful ladies pulled up at our front door and asked if I'd like to join in an excursion to some of the local junk stores.

Of course, I'm never interested in thrift stores, but I was talked in to going along. It must have taken them about twelve seconds to convince me!

The day would be spent with me traveling in the back of a 22 foot Lazy Daze, a different experience, so of course I got out the camera.

My first photos were of my traveling companions . . .

The ones in the back of the rig with me,
not the ladies up front.

Look at Smokey's eyes

And this is Jake.
They were quite hospitable
throughout the day.

A note here on Lazy Daze. They all have tinted windows, a great plus in most situations. I've noticed that some of the older rigs have a decidedly brown tint, while the newer ones tend towards gray. I understand that gray gives a truer color, but I really like the warmth of hue created with the brown windows.

Since this was a 1990s era Lazy Daze, it had the the brown windows. I love the tint it gave to my photos.

Taken out of the back window
while we were moving down the road,
a shot of Morro Rock.

More shots out the moving windows.

Don't these homes
have the most wonderful views?

It was around 3pm
when I took this shot,
but look what the windows did to the shot.

It's kind of like using
one of those neutral density filters.
I keep looking at these filters,
and now I think I'll have to buy a few of them.

Or I could just buy
an older Lazy Daze with brown windows!

As we were driving along,
I noticed lots of windsurfers.

I was in a moving vehicle,

shooting through tinted windows,

so these aren't as sharp as they could be.

Still, I liked the feeling of freedom

and the open-ness of the seashore.

Here's one final shot,
right before we turned around
to go back to the campground.
I thought this looked like
an old Kodachrome postcard.

Now we're back to clearing the house and auctions.


the Campground at Morro Bay

We're back at the house now, and it's really strange. The weather in Morro Bay was just perfect and we had a wonderful time, but now we're back here and the rain has returned with a vengeance!

I want this rain to stop!

Terry just commented to me that he can't ever remember the rain going on for weeks at a time like this. And I have to admit, neither can I.

Is this a plot? Is this happening to encourage us to leave? It would be so much easier to get the house done if this rain would ever stop . . .

Enough complaining (for now).

I have to admit that I didn't take a lot of pictures during our sojourn to Morro Bay, but I do have enough for a couple of entries. It seems like I was just too darn busy talking and visiting!

Here's a shot of the campground.
Pretty cool, huh?
Sorry I didn't include a picture of Cholula Red
but with 30+ rigs,
I figured this would do.

Right across the street
is a wonderful little restaurant.
We ate there way too many times,
but the food was so great.

The next pictures are kind of strange,
I seem to have gotten into a "shape" mode.

Then there was this small bird.
I couldn't decide between shots,

so here's both of them.

More shapes.

The restaurant has lots of tiny tchotchkes
tucked in every corner.

Just my style!

Here's one quick shot of the seashore.

And except for one more series of pictures
(shot from inside a moving motorhome),
this is all the pictures I took!

One final quick note, I had my second cataract surgery last Thursday, all went well. Once again, if you have cataracts and the surgery is available to you, I can recommend it completely.

I love not wearing glasses or contacts!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

RV Power for Dummies

As promised, here we go with some very basic information on power in your RV.

Remember, if you know much of anything about electricity, this is not for you. You already know all this!

For the beginner, this will seem like a lot of info, but I've tried to keep it simple. Just read it over a couple of times and hopefully it will help you to begin to understand the electrical power in your RV.

Before I go any further, one note . . . If you are ordering a new rig (probably a Lazy Daze) I think one of the most important options you can pay for is to get as many 12 volt (Direct Current or DC) and 110 volts (Alternating Current or AC) outlets as they will give you. It's been my experience that they're never where you want them, so I like having them everywhere! We got all they would allow, and still had to put more in!

OK, back to basics.

110 volt power is what you have in a regular house. It comes from the power poles that feed into your outlets. You access it via a regular 2 prong plug (or sometimes a 3 prong plug). If there are three prongs, the flat ones supply the power, and the bottom round prong is a ground plug. Don't ask me to explain ground plugs. I don't really understand them (and I don't really care), but I know they're a good thing.

12 volts is what is supplied to your RV by way of your battery bank. In your RV, if you're sitting out in the middle of nowhere, you're running off of 12 volt power supplied by your batteries. Think of those little plugs that go into your cigarette lighter in the car. This is a 12 volt outlet.

In most newer rigs, the 12 volt plugs up in the front of the cab are powered by the cab battery. This cab battery is located under the hood, by the engine. The house batteries, which power the lights, etc. in the living quarters of the motorhome are located somewhere in the "house body" of the motorhome.

One short note about house batteries. They come in two types, flooded cell and sealed (AGM or gel cell). If you have flooded cell batteries (and most rigs come with flooded cell batteries) you must maintain them by checking that they have enough distilled water in them. If your batteries don't have enough water, they will die a premature death. There are many ways to water your batteries but that's another subject. Just remember that this is a crucial step in preserving your power. KEEP YOU BATTERIES WATERED!!!

If you have replaced your flooded cell batteries with AGMs or gel cel, they are sealed and never need water. There are many advantages to sealed batteries, but they are considerably more expensive than flooded cells. Since most RVs come with flooded cell batteries, that's what I'm going to talk about here.

So here you are, out in the desert, relying on your batteries for power. You can only use lights and appliances that are 12 volt, so nothing that uses a regular 2 prong plug will work. Most RVs use 12 volt lights, so you can use them, but remember, they are drawing power from your batteries.

If you want to use regular 110 volt items (DVD players, some TVs, charge your computer, etc.) you need to buy an inverter.

An inverter takes the 12 volt power from your batteries and changes it into 110 volts. Inverters come in several models, portable and hard wired. A small portable inverter plugs in to your 12 volt outlet, but contains regular house plugs that take the 2 or 3 pronged plug. Different inverters can handle different amounts of power, so before you buy one, you need to do a bit of research. We opted for a hard wired full house inverter, so with the flick of a switch, all the 110 volt outlets in Cholula Red are "live". When we don't need this feature, we simply turn it off.

Depending on how much power you consume, you eventually will need to charge your batteries. This can be done in one of three ways.

One option is solar. Solar is a great boon to RVers and we love having it on Cholula Red. We have four panels, giving us lots of battery power, assuming we have the sun to power them. That said, solar is somewhat expensive, and not for everyone. While we often have hook ups, we have found that solar gives us the opportunity to camp at places with no power for extended periods of time. I look at solar as an addition that opens up options. It does a great job of charging the batteries, but since it's an option rather than a standard item, I'm only mentioning it here for informational purposes.

So back to talking about charging your batteries.

You can run your cab engine. This will charge your batteries via the engines alternator, and it's fairly efficient. HOWEVER, it's noisy, it pollutes and it uses a good amount of gasoline, so it's really not the best option.

If you have a generator, you can charge your batteries that way. It also uses gasoline, but not as much as the engine (they say about 1/3 of a gallon per hour, I've never checked). But there's a catch to charging the batteries via the generator. In order for your generator to charge your batteries, it has to use a device called a charger. And chargers come in various models.

Most RVs come with a plain charger as part of the built in converter. It takes the power made by the generator and it puts it in to the batteries. But here's where it gets tricky. Your batteries are sensitive, and they only want to take so much of a charge. If you overcharge them, they start to boil. When they boil, the water goes away and all of a sudden, your batteries are out of water . . .


So here's where you might want to consider a smart charger. Not only does it charge your batteries, but it communicates with them. It knows when the batteries are low and need a lot of charge and it pumps the power in at a fast rate. When it reads that your batteries are getting close to full, it backs off to a lower rate of charge. And when it reads that your batteries are near to completely full, it goes in to a trickle charge mode.

Three stage "smart" chargers are a real boon to RVers and I think a necessary upgrade in most rigs.

Now I want to talk a bit more about the power in your batteries. Now that you understand that the power comes from your batteries to your appliances, the question comes up, how do you know just how much power is left in your batteries?

The answer is simple.

You need a battery monitor.

Short story here . . . When we first got Cholula Red, I was truly clueless about RV power. I understood that I didn't understand, and I wanted to learn. But when people would try to explain to me about power, they would start talking amps, volts and watts, and honestly, my eyes would just glaze over.

Regular readers may remember me talking about my brain missing the photo gene. Well, I'm also missing the electrical gene. I just want to understand the basics, and I want to know how much power I have/need/use.

I could care less about the math (and hence, this article).

But I did know that I was using a lot of power and I wanted to know where I stood. After all, we were running lights, watching television, playing DVDs, charging phones, computers, you get the idea. I wanted to know when my batteries were getting low, and I was completely clueless about how to find that out. Several people had told me that I could get this information from my solar controller (the device that monitors/controls the power from your solar panels to your battery). The catch was this- it would only give an accurate reading when there was no power going into or coming out of the batteries. And when would that be? Yep, I would find myself getting up in the middle of the night, turning on my flashlight and sneaking up to the display, trying to figure out how much power was left in the batteries.

There had to be a better way, and there was.

We got a battery monitor.

Now, with the push of a button it tells me that I have exactly 83% left in my batteries (or whatever the percentage is at any given time). Not only that, if I want to make sure my three stage charger is working, I can turn on the generator and see how much power is going in to the batteries (without using the 3 stage charger). Just as an example, say the number is 6 (amps, watts, whatever). Then by turning on the 3 stage charger, I see that all of a sudden my generator is putting in 59 or whatever. That's how a smart charger should work.

For me, managing the power in the RV became pretty simple after I got the battery monitor. If you don't want to have to learn all the math, it's the easiest way to manage your power.


So that's pretty much my introduction to the electrical power that's used in an RV. I hope it helps someone, and if you have questions, please feel free to get in touch.

One more thing . . .

If you go out in your RV, and don't have a generator or solar power, then you must learn to conserve, or resign yourself to parking in places that afford you hook ups to electrical power.