Thursday, May 4, 2017

Modesto, Hearst Castle, and Beyond

Before leaving Modesto, we spent another day mostly with Frank & Dottie, starting with a trip to the Saturday morning farmer’s market. The weather was nice, and we loved seeing all the fresh produce, as well as hand-made products of many varieties, and listening to live music.

20170429_101707

We even found time to have lunch with a long-time RV friend, Pat Livingston, who was part of our “Loosey Goosey Gang” led by Dennis & Carol Hill to Alaska in 2011.

20170429_120206

We had dinner later with Frank & Dottie at Fisherman’s Galley. We tried to get in to Outback but there was a 45-minute wait for a table, whereas we were only one of three groups at Fisherman’s and we all enjoyed the meal and chance to continue our visit.

Here’s a picture showing Bella’s face. Do you think she looks like a slightly larger Gigi?

20170429_161431

20170428_113302

Our next stop down the road was to tick off an item on Don’s bucket list: Hearst Castle. He had never been there, but I had visited several times when I lived in California, and then took all 5 tours (as offered then) in 2003 when I first started full-time RVing. If you’ve been there I’ll spare you the tedium of looking at all my pictures. If you haven’t been, look at the Hearst Castle website for professional pics. Here are just a few of the many I took.

We arrived early for our 10:00 tour of the Grand Rooms so we explored the gift shop. Somehow this style hat doesn’t exactly suit Don, but he had fun modeling it anyway.

IMG_7665

We could see glimpses of the castle from the bus on our ride up to the top of La Cuesta Encantada (The Enchanted Hill).

IMG_7678

IMG_7681

IMG_7690

How would you like to be a guest at this dinner table?

20170501_104324

And sleep in this bedroom?

IMG_7716

We took the Grand Rooms Tour on Monday, then the Upstairs Suites Tour, followed by the Cottages & Kitchen Tour, both on Tuesday. After climbing more than 300 steps on the second tour plus all the walking and steps on the other tours, our legs and feet were tired. We decided to check out a nearby restaurant recommended by one of the guides: Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill in Cambria. Their clam chowder was really good – we had it in sourdough bowls and it was a hearty meal. The outdoor seating offered a great view of the Pacific Ocean too.

20170502_130345

The Atascadero Elks Lodge was our home for these few days, and we enjoyed having full hookups with 50 amps for $25/night – inexpensive for this area. Yesterday I drove the 34.8 mile distance to Oceano, where we are again staying at the local Elks Lodge paying $25/night. This time it’s water and 30 amps with a dump that is hard to get to, but it’s just a block from the ocean and all the other RV parks here charge even more than around Atascadero.

We again had clam chowder for dinner last night, this time at a small cafe in Pismo Beach called Splash. The chowder is creamier but doesn’t have bacon cooked in it like Moonstone does. Both chowders were good, just different. We’re enjoying the cool ocean breezes here, but I hope it warms up and the sun comes out so we can take Gigi to the beach.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Another Winner! And Return To Modesto

After winning a prize for wearing his military cap and a huge gift basket as a door prize, Don and I were eagerly awaiting the final evening of the WARE rally to see if we won another prize. This time it wasn’t entirely free, as we had to buy raffle tickets to qualify. If you’ve ever participated in a penny raffle, you may know how great a fund raiser it is. The goal of the raffle was to donate $1,000 dollars to Escapees CARE and to provide a cash prize as well as three nice gifts. There were 600 tickets to be sold. The price of each ticket was determined by the last three digits in the ticket number. In other words, if you pulled a ticket with the number 281005, you would pay $.05 for the ticket. If your ticket number was 281599, your price would be $5.99. The lucky winner whose ticket was drawn would win $500. This raffle had another wrinkle: if you bought 5 tickets at once, you were given a bonus ticket. You would drop this ticket (keeping your half) into a bucket next to one of 3 nice prizes: an Amazon Echo, a rolling picnic cooler bag, or a propane fire ring. Since we sold our fire ring a couple of years ago when we thought we needed space for dialysis supplies (no longer an issue) we have missed it. I bought 5 raffle tickets and put my bonus ticket in the fire ring bucket. To increase his odds, Don bought 25 raffle tickets and put all 5 of his bonus tickets in the fire ring bucket! And guess who won!

IMG_7591

He even got a hug from the Queen of the WARE!

IMG_7590

The rally was one of the most fun RV events we’ve attended, and we are so pleased to see our first efforts to create this event for the western members of the Escapees RV Club continue and thrive. We know how many hands it requires to be a success, and we thank all the volunteers who made it so great!

IMG_7599

Life is not all fun and games, however. When we got ready to pull out of the fairgrounds the next morning, the saturated ground was so soft we got stuck in the mud and had to use our Coach-Net road service to call for a tow truck. Don tried unsuccessfully to get some traction by stuffing a couple of rugs under the front of the wheel, using an extension pole. You can see what happened to the rugs and the pole!

IMG_7630

In fact, the pole was left behind for good.

IMG_7640

The tow truck finally arrived. It didn’t take Joel long to figure out how to attach a chain and very carefully and slowly pull the motorhome out.

IMG_7639

I got a cheer from the onlookers when I was able to drive up on the pavement. We left some serious ruts behind.

IMG_7644

We are now in Modesto, parked at the Elks Lodge. We had to boondock the first night because the hookup sites were full. We were preparing to move to an RV park in another town when Don discovered that a site was becoming available. As the 5th wheel driver drove out past us, I was starting up our engine to move right in. This location is ideal for visiting Don’s late wife’s parents, Dottie & Frank Azlin. We spent some time with them today and enjoyed going out for pizza. We plan to visit some more tomorrow before moving on down the road on Sunday.

Dottie is struggling to get around as she was put in a rigid brace for her hip that popped out after hip replacement surgery. We’re amazed that she’s taking it in stride (pun intended) and getting around really well! You can tell by her smile that she approaches every challenge with a great positive attitude.

20170428_110601

Frank also seems cheerful, and he’s getting around and doing pretty well, too.

20170428_110606

Gigi and Bella had no trouble getting acquainted outside when we first arrived, then after Gigi had a chance to explore the entire home, the two of them settled down and shared Bella’s pillow on the sofa beside Don. I wish I had a better picture of Bella – her color, face and ear markings make her look like a slightly larger Gigi!

20170428_113302

In closing, I have to post a picture of Bill Mains petting Gigi during the WARE rally. She was totally mesmerized. The only problem is that It had rained during the night, and although I warned him the step might be wet, he sat there anyway and let Jan sit in the folding chair next to me. For the rest of the story, go to Jan’s blog from Tuesday. I guarantee a good smile and maybe even a laugh. It’s a good thing Bill is a good sport!

20170424_144312_001

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Winning!

First, I must apologize for failing to publish posts to my blog for almost a month. We enjoyed helping Don’s sis-in-law Susan Del Rosario celebrate her 70th birthday, along with visiting her family living nearby around Watsonville and Aptos, CA. Niece Laura flew out from Massachusetts and it was great to see her again, as well as niece Lisa and her hubby Sergio Nell, along with beautiful and delightful daughters Carolina (4) and Olivia (1), and his parents, plus various friends, all of whom shared meals, cookouts and fun conversations for several days.

Next, we briefly visited Modesto, intending to spend time with Don’s late wife’s parents, Dottie & Frank Azlin. However, we were both nursing colds, and I was still really sick, so Don spent only about an hour with them. We plan to return soon.

We continued to suffer when we went to Santa Rosa to visit Don’s Aunt Della. Because she was recently hospitalized and still somewhat weak, we didn’t want to share our germs with her either. A brief visit with her and her daughter Svea was all we could manage there.

We went to Beale AFB FamCamp for about a week and finally got well, but both still have a bit of a cough – probably due to allergies by now. We got together with good friends Frank & Gloria King as they did the final move out of their home in Folsom which they sold. They’re now full-time RVers (again) with the lot near us in Cochise Terrace as their only anchor, where they’re currently headed.

This week we’re enjoying the WARE (Western Area Rally for Escapees) Rally in Yuba City, CA. This is the 6th annual rally – we started the rally in 2012, with lots of help from a great crew – and the first time we’ve attended since we got it going 5 years ago. We were recognized by Caryl Mutti (the “voice of the WARE”) at the opening session on Sunday afternoon. Thanks for the recognition, Caryl!

IMG_7368

Caryl is an excellent event leader, very animated and clever with every announcement and presentation, and a seemingly unending amount of energy.

There was a parade of banners from regional chapters and BoFs (Birds of a Feather interest groups) represented.

IMG_7384

IMG_7390

IMG_7396

Jan didn’t have a banner for Chapter 45, but she printed out a picture of it and made the most of her small representation. She gets a high grade for enthusiasm!

IMG_7389

A King and Queen were selected and royally adorned for the theme of the rally “Fruits and Nuts.”

IMG_7406

Awards for crazy hats are given each day. Here are the first day’s winners.

IMG_7410

And the second day.

IMG_7464

Lots of gifts have been presented for all kinds of things, and Don was the recipient of two of them! The first was in recognition of his military service. In fact, all the men and women who served their country and were wearing a military hat were given a gift.

IMG_7471

Inside the bag were a bottle of gin (for me), an apron (for his BBQ cooking) and a certificate for a free 3-night stay at the SKP Kofa Ko-Op in Yuma, AZ, good for a year. Nice!

IMG_7476

At the 4 pm gathering today, we had a great group of friends at our table, with “heavy appetizers” as our evening meal. You’ll recognize some of these folks, with Don looking the other way, Bill, our newest friends Tracy & Jeff with Bud & Susie to Jeff’s right, Jan (wearing my bunny ears headband) and Lisa. Jim was helping deliver door prizes.

IMG_7505

It was a winning event for all of us at this table, hence the title of this blog post. Every couple at our table won a prize! Jim turned theirs down, since they are Escapees employees. Tracy & Jeff won a set of serving bowls.

IMG_7506IMG_7507IMG_7509

They barely got their gift open when Bud & Susie won a bottle of Vodka.

IMG_7510

Jan & Bill won a pair of lobster beach towels.

IMG_7511IMG_7515

There were two large gift baskets remaining to be given out. The first one was for the day’s winning hat, and was presented by the King of the Rally.

IMG_7518

By then we knew we were the only ones at our table without a prize and Jan was saying “You’re next.” When the King drew a name and started reading it “Don… uh, Don…” we knew he was trying to figure out how to pronounce our last name. Last and by no means least, this prize basket was so big and heavy Jim had trouble carrying it to us.

IMG_7520

We couldn’t believe how much was stuffed into it!

IMG_7524

IMG_7526

Here’s what it contained:

IMG_7529

Finally, Caryl got a chance to sit down and eat a bite.

IMG_7527

One of the best parts of every RV gathering is spending time with friends. We’re so glad the weather cleared enough for our good friends Bill & Jan Mains to make it over Donner Pass from their tour of Nevada.

IMG_7346

And it’s always great to see Jim & Lisa Koca, who are on the Escapees RV Club staff and have become personal friends.

IMG_7397

Stay tuned for more from our continuing adventures!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Watsonville, CA

We’re having a wonderful time on the California coast, visiting Don’s sis-in-law and family. Susan retired from being an RN at a nearby hospital, and became Nanny for her two granddaughters, Carolina (4) and Olivia (11 months).

IMG_7158

IMG_7159

Both girls are full of energy and laughs. I don’t know how Susan keeps up with them, as we’re about the same age and I got tired after only a few hours!

IMG_7155

Their Mom Lisa manages well, too.

IMG_7167

Gigi and Brandy are getting along well, and Gig likes being in the back yard and off leash. She’s been very good around the little girls, too – we didn’t know how she would act because we’ve never had her around children before.

20170328_161858

Yesterday, Don and I baby-sat the girls while Susan took a neighbor to the doctor. They love their Uncle Don!

IMG_7179

And they also like sitting in my lap, sharing one of their many books, and playing games together.

IMG_7192

Later, Don and I drove to San Jose airport to pick up Susan’s daughter (and Lisa’s sis) Laura, who flew out from her home in Massachusetts.

IMG_7197

Late afternoon, Susan’s sister Jane and her daughter Katy came from San Jose for a visit.

IMG_7175

Lisa’s husband Sergio joined us later and we ordered a huge Chinese dinner delivery. We’ll be snacking on the leftovers for days!

IMG_7195

What a great family, huh?