IMG_7220This year we planned a longer RV trip. We’re taking our motorhome from BC into Mexico – a little further than the ‘usual’ southern California trips we have been making the last few years.

Our front tires have been showing a little wear on the inner edges. Nothing serious looking, but we wouldn’t want to lose a tire in Mexico, especially since the tires are 9R22.5’s – an older tire size that’s getting harder to find. They’ve never given us a lick of trouble. They don’t even lose any air over the season.

Still, I fretted. We pulled into a tire shop in Oregon to have them looked at. Nothing symptomatic. No checking evident. “The front tires on these older coaches seem to wear funny like that. You might want to rotate them,” said the tire guy. We pushed on down the I-5.

Still, I worried. So-o-o… out of an overabundance of caution, we arranged to have the front tires replaced in Phoenix. We camped overnight in the lot at Camping World and at 8 in the morning I signed us in at the service counter.

About 2 in the afternoon we rolled out. It would be a short drive to our campground south of Tucson– and then only 20 or so miles before we reached the Mexican border at Nogales the next day.

20151117_113923The following morning I set to pack up, looked admiringly at my new tires, and… saw that the one on the driver’s side looked awfully squishy. I checked the pressure. 45 pounds. Significantly less than the 100 pounds I left Phoenix with and too low to drive on.

One of the other campers in the park volunteered his compressor but it was no match for the big RV tire. After a considerable spell of rattling and hissing with no resulting increase in pressure, I thanked the guy, returned his compressor, and called Good Sam. They sent the local tow truck out to pump up my tire.

With the tire back at a 100 pounds (at least for awhile) we backtracked to the Camping World at Tucson. Turns out they can’t handle tires as big as ours so they sent us to their tire people a couple of miles down the road.

There they diagnosed a bad tire valve (they were still the old originals) and ended up replacing the valves on both tires. (This should have been done in Phoenix when the new tires were installed. New valves are itemized on our original invoice.) Both tires were pumped up to spec. We were not out-of-pocket.

We camped in Tucson that night. We’d lost a day and had to backtrack but, hey, we had all winter and we discovered a great RV park in Tucson.

IMG_7368I eyeballed the tires in the morning and they looked fine. We made our passage into Mexico, stopping for the night at Magdalena – about 50 miles south of the border.

Next morning the driver’s side tire looked a little squishy again. The gauge registered 85 pounds. Gr-r-r!

Low, but above placard pressure. We headed south. After all, the Mexican economy runs on trucks and they have a great tire repair culture.

The air hose at the Pemex gas station in Santa Ana hissed valiantly but it wouldn’t run the pressure any higher. Oh, well. Good try. We continued on.

IMG_7424 StitchWe reached San Carlos in the afternoon and settled in at the Totonaka RV Park. Nice location and terrific park. I was however a little distracted to really appreciate the laid back atmosphere of the resort.

In the morning, José in the office phoned the mobile tire repair truck. The poor fellow was great with car and trailer tires, but fixing the big RV ones was beyond the capabilities of his equipment. Even his compressor wouldn’t boost the tire – now deflated down into the 70’s.

My Spanish vocabulary had added some useful new words though: desenflado, bajando, and the like, but I’m still a rank beginner at the language. I scrunched my face to understand what his suggestion was.

“Go back down the highway a few kilometres. On the way north, heading out of town towards Hermosillo, is a Pemex station on your right. Just past that is a tire repair shop. Those guys work on the big trucks all the time. They’re good. They have the right equipment. They can fix your tire.”

OK, the tire’s a bit soft, but I figured a few careful kilometres should be ok. Off we went. And there it was.

llanteraThe llantera, or tire shop, was not impressive looking by US or Canadian standards of industrial building design. The fellow that came out listened to my haltingly-told story, waved me closer to the front of the shop, and brought out a hefty looking bottle jack.

After a little delicate fiddling with my fancy chrome wheel covers, their impact wrench made short work of releasing the wheel. The fellow and his three buddies had the leak pinpointed, the tire off the rim, and immediately after I heard the baritone thumppity-thump of a serious compressor, the wheel reinstalled on the motorhome.

Sucio,” he said, as he lowered and removed the jack. Dirty. The rim was dirty so the bead of the tire couldn’t seal properly. I can’t believe two professional tire shops in the US would remove and reseat a tire without checking and cleaning the rim.

20151123_170922Several days have now passed. We’ve driven another 150 miles south to a lovely beachfront RV park, El Mirador in Huatabampito. The tire pressure hasn’t budged. I am finally relaxed and actually appreciating and enjoying the ocean and the cool breeze coming off it. Pass the chips and salsa. And the cerveza.

If I decide I want to rotate my tires, I know where I will take it to be done.

IMG_7252“I think I’ll try the raita.”

Margaret turned and gave me a supercilious look. “You mean the Riatta. Raita is the yogourt and cucumber dip we make up to have with our curry.”

“Yes, yes, of course, I meant the Riatta.”

We have been working our way down the west coast in our motorhome. We were somewhere near Paso Robles, California, and since this was wine country, we were sampling some of the local wines. We had picked up a JanKris Cabernet Sauvignon a few days earlier and quite liked it. Now I was looking at a JanKris Riatta at the store’s expansive wine display. I have never tried a Riatta. I have never even heard of a Riatta.

I looked around for a knowledgeable-looking store clerk. No one fit the description, but there was another couple picking out a number of wines to add to the collection already in their shopping cart.

I lifted the bottle toward the woman. “Excuse me. Have you ever heard of a Riatta?”

She took the bottle and looked at it. “No. No I haven’t.” She turned to her companion. “Google this wine, will you, sweetie?”

He took out his phone and danced his fingers across the face of it. ”Ha! Here it is. It’s a blend of Sangiovese and Zinfandel. Gets a good rating. At this price, I’d say it’s a keeper.” I took back the bottle and tucked it in my cart.

While we have our favourites, Margaret and I do like trying different wines. Sometimes we will splurge on a special bottle but we will generally choose our wines from the moderate and lower end of the scale, Yes, we’ve suffered through a few lackluster choices but we’ve also discovered some real gems.

IMG_7220A few nights ago, camped in a quiet corner of the Santa Rosa Valley, we tried three different Cabernets: a Chilean one that came in a 3 litre box, a Kirkland labelled California offering from Costco, and the JanKrist from Paso Robles.

I was sniffing the first two. “With this one, I am walking across a grassy meadow, and…” I shifted my nose to the glass in my other hand, “…now I’ve definitely entered a very, very old building.”

20151018_190625“I don’t think you’ve quite got this,” remarked Margaret.

“This one is tighter, cleaner… more astringent.”

Margaret shook her head.

I thought they were both pretty good, but the JanKris was definitely head and shoulders above the other two – even though the boxed wine announced that it had been the winner of 50 gold medals.

I was feeling mellow, it was getting dark and I was ready to turn in. Another day, another wine.

20151020_173057Oh, and we finished off the Riatta a few days later to accompany a chicken cacciatore that we simmered on a Coleman grill on the beach. It was all very good.

The wine – definitely a keeper. Or at least it was.

IMG_7072We love travelling in our motorhome and staying at scenic, out-of-the-way camping places. Over the years we’ve camped in a variety of tents, trailers, and motorhomes. We currently travel in a 37-foot Safari motorhome. It’s pleasant to be able to take our home with us. Wherever we are, our immediate surroundings are familiar and we can enjoy our little conveniences wherever we may be.

Like most people, we’ve become accustomed – spoiled, actually – with our modern conveniences. We flip a switch and the lights come on. We turn a faucet and endless hot water comes out. We nudge the thermostat and the furnace (or air conditioner, if it’s hot outside) kicks in and we feel more comfortable. We haven’t opted for satellite TV, but we do watch our DVD’s with 5.1 surround sound. (I just love that subwoofer.) Now, as we travel, we have all these conveniences as part of our motorhome lifestyle. Camping is not nearly as rustic as it used to be. (Oh, good. The icemaker just kicked out another batch.)IMG_7085

Where we haven’t caught up is in the area of communications – and our need to be in touch, right now! The ability to have blazing fast Internet whenever and wherever we may be. What I miss most is good Internet.

Cell phones and Internet are urban services. They also work quite well along major transportation routes. If we are close to an Interstate highway, we do just fine. Our phone works and our trusty hotspot gives us all the Internet we need or want.  However, if we wander into more remote areas, these services fade away. And we don’t  have to wander too far off the beaten path. If we’re tucked away in the middle of nowhere, we’re hooped. If we’re staying at an RV park, we may have a fighting chance.

Most RV parks these days provide Internet to their guests. Not the fast kind we’re used to. Usually it’s wi-fi – available throughout most of the park if we’re staying at one of the more deluxe places, or more often, at a central location somewhere: you carry your computer to the wi-fi area of the lodge. Typically it’s a shared service, throttled down in speed and reduced in coverage, sometimes erratic, and, if a lot of people are using it, agonizingly slow. No streaming movies here. Not ideal, but, still, I can read my email and post my selfie with the scenic background onto Facebook.IMG_7082

Sometimes, if we’re camped close to the wi-fi signal, we don’t actually have to go into the lodge. This is very nice. The prime sites in a campground these days are the ones that have a clear view of the sky for satellite TV reception, and the ones close enough to the wi-fi signal to be able to use it inside the motorhome. Not usually too many of these – if any.

At best, I always seem to be camped at the fringe.

So, how can I improve the signal that I’m almost getting?

IMG_7055Getting in the right position helps. I can move my computer up closer to the windshield or, maybe, by the bedroom window, the one that looks toward the lodge. Or height. Getting up higher usually improves the signal.

So does having a better antenna. Most of our technology is not very efficient at picking up wi-fi. After all, it is designed for an environment in which we are all being slow-roasted by all the wi-fi and cell signals around us. It is not optimized for fringe reception.

So what can people do?

IMG_7059There is usually a way to connect some kind of external antenna – something higher and outside. These little omnis are popping up on more and more RV’s. There are also boosters that don’t need an antenna connection on the device. There! We just improved our coverage area.

And for the ultimate, there’s the high-gain directional antenna. (It is based on the theory that if you have a big enough dish, you can pick up anything, anywhere.)

IMG_7057In addition to the antenna, this guy had a network in his 5th-wheel trailer that would put a small high-tech company system to shame. You needed binoculars to see the lodge that had the wi-fi lounge and he had a solid enough signal to stream video – if the wi-fi system in the lodge didn’t constantly keep dropping him. Sometimes you just can’t win.

As for me, I’m still muddling along on the trailing edge of technology, looking for the ideal solution (effective but cheap). Look for only an occasional Facebook post from me.

IMG_7061I’ll bet I could pick up the wi-fi just fine from here if it weren’t for those power lines up on that hill.


Where does Vello travel and what does he see and do on the road? Visit his travel blog: Heading Down the Road

IMG_6932“You couldn’t buy a dinner like this for a hundred bucks.”

Margaret sliced a thin sliver from her bacon-wrapped tenderloin, pushed on some mushrooms (there must have been a quarter pound of them on her plate alone) and then went fishing for some fresh green beans and cauliflower, followed by a forkful of potatoes a la russe (Nicholas would approve – thanks for the the recipe, Armando).

We were in our motorhome, toasting each other and watching the waves rollIMG_6985 in just north of Ventura, California.

It all started several months ago when our friends, Ann and Gary, took us for a wine tasting at the Monte de Oro winery in Temecula, California. Ann and Gary are members there, part of that group of people who have first call at the fabulous wines produced at the winery. When we go for a tasting with them, we get to experience wines not offered to the hoi poloi. There was one in particular, a 2008 Estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon that danced on my tongue and then reached into my soul.

Ann saw the look on my face, leaned over and whispered in my ear. “You should buy a bottle of this for Margaret. For a special occasion.”

Margaret and I both like Cabernets. This one, you could taste the black currant and all those other subtle flavours wineries like to list on their labels. The lingering echo was that deep, dusky sensation, like Diana Krall when she sings, I’ve Got You Under My Skin. I had to get a bottle. For a special occasion.


If you’re going to let it breathe, let it be good air.

That was months ago. We ‘imported’ the wine into Canada several times as we travelled up and down the coast. (There’s got to be a better way to do this.) And every special occasion – birthday, anniversary – seemed to be accompanied by enough of life’s pressing issues that we knew we couldn’t really enjoy it.

Fortunately, wine waits for the right moment.

Which ended up being today. We are camped right on the edge of the ocean. The weather is perfect. Time has slowed to a crawl. All is right with the world. A sumptuous dinner with a remarkable wine. Perfect!

IMG_6938So here at our beachfront campsite we enjoyed the perfect camping meal. And a bottle of wine that enhanced the experience: the meal, the view, the company.

Life is good!

I’m a sucker for mechanical things. Things that move, jiggle, whir, spin, and clatter. They don’t have to do anything or be useful although practicality does add a certain  level of elegance to an otherwise purely entertaining device.

A long time ago (in the early ‘60s) during a family vacation to Yellowstone Park, we passed through Virginia City, Montana. There, I discovered the world of mechanical musical instruments. A whole building full of coin-operated devices: wind-up music boxes, pump organs, player pianos, nickelodeons, player banjos and violins. And my favourite: the player trumpet. Awfully out of tune, breathy and wheezy, and so wonderfully loud. I plugged a lot of coins into that beast.

We just made another visit to the Nethercutt Collection, in Sylmar, California (at the northern edge of greater Los Angeles). It’s known mainly for its restored vintage cars, but the collection has so much more. It’s also known for its mechanical musical instrument collection, lovingly restored, kept in perfect operating condition, and played every day.

From tiny music boxes right up to the featured mighty Wurlitzer theater pipe organ, the tour is accompanied every step of the way by whirring spinning musical machines.

I was taken back in time. I was serenaded. I was in heaven



Sometime around the middle of December I received an email from a long-time friend. Usually, we look forward to getting a pre-Christmas missive in the mail from him and his wife. It’s a summary of the interesting things they did over the year interspersed with photos highlighting their projects and activities, acquaintances and visitors, and excursions to new places they’ve discovered.

Now I find out we won’t be getting one this year.

Is it because the post office has upped the cost of a mailed letter to a dollar?

Or maybe that they don’t have our current address? Quite possibly true. We’ve been moving around a lot over the last year and it can be a real challenge for our friends and family to keep track of our whereabouts. Greater Vancouver, southern California, northern BC – we’ve been to those places this year. And points in between.

What was a little disturbing, though, was that they won’t even be composing a letter this year because they didn’t feel they accomplished enough. I find this a little difficult to believe in light of the short-list of projects outlined in the email. Or when I think back to all the photos posted on Facebook over the last year: the vistas from their rural home and the wildlife that comes to visit it, the projects being built around the home and yards, the bounties from their orchards and gardens, the delight on the faces of the visitors that stopped by.

Are they having a tough year? I can understand that. It’s not surprising – I have a sense that everyone I know is having a tough year.

20141219_152930Other friends, members of the family and extended family also appear to be having a tough time. Even our dog wants to sleep all day. Not that anything terrible has happened to any of them or even that anyone is complaining. I just a sense it.

We’re having a tough year. No, nothing catastrophic. Just a succession of draining events. Possibly exacerbated by dismal weather or short daylight hours?

Like my friend, I can see the accomplishments and good times I’ve had. I shouldn’t discount them – but look back and highlight the positives to balance out the negatives. Be OK with where I am. Look forward to new projects and new directions in the new year.

Maybe put an a Tony Robbins CD. Or better yet, crank up some music.

And call up my friends and tell them I’ll be expecting the annual letter from them next Christmas. They might even have my new address by them.

Margaret squinted at the temperature readout. “It’s 85.3 degrees out there.”

We were in Palm Desert, California, in our motorhome, vegging. (I’m still not quite sure how to spell that.) Having driven down from Canada less that a week ago, we were enjoying the warmth and sunshine, but the warm weather was still a bit of a shock to the system.

“I don’t know that the point 3 really makes much of a difference,” I offered.

Sure it does. Every little bit makes a difference.”

I’m not big on too many decimal points. I prefer the broad brush approach to life. You know, “That’s close enough.”

IMG_6560What I was really thinking about was dinner. What to make. Margaret had suggested a peanut chicken stew. I haven’t made that… forever, and it sounded great. Inspired by traditional west African groundnut stews, it sounded perfect for dinner today. A dish with a little heat for this warm day.

Easy to make, rich chicken flavour laced with a spicy peanut sauce full of tomato and veggie goodness, smothered over rice. How could it not be the right choice for dinner.

Problem is, I haven’t made it for a while and my recipe notes are packed away somewhere in a storage unit 1500 miles north of here. Thank goodness for the Internet. Ideas galore. (I never really follow recipes exactly. I use them to get a general idea of proportions and to get ideas and inspiration.)

IMG_6555Spicy is the key here. But just how spicy? A little tingle on the tongue? I like my spicy dishes to bring out just a little bit of sweat on my cheekbones. (Suck a little air over my tongue, then hit it with a little splash of chilled white wine. Ahhhh, perfect!) Maybe that’s too much for today.

Some recipes called for cayenne, some for freshly ground black pepper, and one for a whole habanero. Ooh, scary! I take one look at a bin of those spicy little terrors and I run. I settled for a serrano (seeds taken out) and some cayenne.

“More cayenne,” said Margaret as she sampled a spoonful dipped from the bubbling Dutch oven. “Maybe we should have used a scotch bonnet.” (Scotch bonnet is an alias for a habanero pepper.) Maybe I shouldn’t have been such a wimp. I could have at least left in the serrano’s seeds.

Margaret launched into remedial action. “I think that cayenne is bogus. Too domesticated in any case.” She sighed. The sambal oolek came out hiding from the fridge. She glanced over at me as she stirred in ingredients. “Every little bit makes a difference.”

Mix, mix. Stir, stir.

IMG_6558The end result? Here we are.

A fabulously rich (not too spicy)chicken-y vegetable infused stew with cauliflower flowerets served over a fluffy heap of rice with a side of broccoli slaw drizzled with Asian dressing. Heavenly!

I know that the leftovers are even better the next day. (I can hardly wait.)


Here’s the recipe that inspired me today:

There’s this old saying that goes,

Ya can’t live with ‘em;   Ya can’t live without ‘em.

If I’m not mistaken, it refers to plastic containers. Plastic containers are the bane of my existence.

IMG_6364First of all, you have to have them. Where else are you going to put all your left over stuff? Without them, all those little plastic clips, buttons, screws, washers and other thingies you toss in the drawer would roll around and get lost in the corners and under the all the other things you put in the drawer. (I mean, how else do you keep extra SIM cards organized?)

Or, especially, leftover food. There’s always some left over and it seems so wasteful to throw it away. Ever since they invented microwaves, leftovers are so easy to make up into another meal, and, hey, put an egg next to it and you have breakfast.

IMG_6378I’ve tried other solutions. There’s plastic wrap over bowls. It’ll do in a pinch but you can’t press all your bowls into storage service. Besides, there’s the thing with the wrap: who designed those plastic wrap boxes anyway. I’m always fighting with them. You can’t find the end of the roll. The cutter never cuts – if it hasn’t bent or fallen off. It’s on the wrong corner of the box, anyway.

I tried re-using Chinese food delivery containers. No, not the foil ones with the cardboard lids. The classy plastic kind. Well made. It’s a shame to just toss them. They ‘sort of’ work, but in the end, they’re not that well made – at least not for continued use. They should recycle but I find that the embossed number in that little recycle triangle never matches the numbers approved for our recycling program. *sigh*

Next, there’s no good way to store plastic containers. You need to able to quickly find the right size container and the lid that matches it. To begin with, there are four million sizes and shapes, all with non-matching lids.

IMG_6375And they don’t stay put. I’m sure I stacked them neatly (as far as is humanly possible) when I put them in the cupboard. The next time I open the door, they’re all jumbled about and half of them fall out before I can slam the cupboard shut.

Then there’s the lids. Do you store them attached to the containers, wasting valuable cupboard space, or do you stack them separately, assuring that you can never find the right one as you shuffle awkwardly through pile? I tried the ones ‘available only on TV’, with the one-size-fits-all lids and the spinning lazy-Susan storage tray. Well, the storage tray immediately fell to pieces and while I still use some of the containers from that set, they have a certain alien strangeness to them that I find common to all ‘made for TV’ products.

Also, why is a stack of containers always a little bit too tall to fit the space on the fridge shelf? Do I take one out, leaving a big gap and one extra container with no place to go? Do I try to bend up the shelf a tiny bit so the stack will slip in (and hopefully come back out)?

I’ve come to the conclusion that, as in many aspects of my life, there is no single simple solution to plastic containers. I may prefer glass, I will continue to stretch plastic wrap around weirdly-shaped objects, and I am resigned to meeting plastic containers at some level below a perfectly harmonious relationship.

Or I could just eat out all the time.

About me…

I'm an occasional writer, a refugee from the technology biz, a family guy, and a curmudgeon. Until recently I was most likely to be seen behind the wheel of a bus. Now you are more likely to find me behind the wheel of my RV.

Click on my picture if you'd like to know a little more about me.


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