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July 2006

Tuesday, July 11:

So where are Mac and Chris, and why hasn't there been a blog entry in almost two weeks!  Inquiring minds want to know! 

Well, we're still in the Reno area, and we're having a good time, but there's just not been a lot to write about.  Here's a quick update from the last two weeks. 

Monday through Friday we get up around 5 AM and go to work.  Still keeping an East Coast schedule, we work until about 2 PM.  That gives us just about the whole afternoon and early evening to have fun, so we hit the casino.  On Saturdays and Sundays we sleep in until about 6 AM, sometimes work a little, and hit the casino.

Gambling Summary:

Poker:  I've played a lot of poker tournaments, but with limited success.  In Reno, I've placed in two tournaments out of 14, wining 2nd in one and chopping 1st/2nd in the other.  So I have a losing record, but I'm not too far behind.  In cash games I'm up.  Played some 4/8, some 6/12, and some 2/3/5 NL (2/3 blinds, but it takes 5 to come in).  Enjoying the poker, but a little frustrated with results.

Blackjack:  I rarely played blackjack before this trip, but I'm playing a few times a week and doing well, up a little.  I've finally memorized basic strategy for this particular BJ game (Single Deck with good rules) and the casino only has about a 0.2% advantage, so it's almost an even bet.

Craps:  Playing less (even though I enjoy it) and I'm down a little. 

Video Poker:  Chris is playing a lot (as always) and I'm playing some too.  She's up, I'm down.  Chris has hit 5 Royals so far this year, three of them on progressive jackpots.  I've hit Zero.  So I'm due.

Overall we're doing very well, we're down just slightly for the year, but if you add in the comps we're way up.  We haven't bought many meals since we arrived in Las Vegas on 5/29, and have only paid for two nights camping since 5/26.

Travel Plans:

Here's my best guess for the balance of 2006. 

  • Pyramid Lake near Reno later this week? 

  • California, Oregon, and the Pacific coast, late July, 1-2 weeks

  • Napa valley 1 week

  • Back to Reno for a few weeks, most of August, maybe into September?

  • Black Hills, Badlands, Mt. Rushmore etc. Mid September  (alternate plan Las Vegas? Probably too hot)

  • Travel East to Illinois and visit Tina and the kids, early October

  • South to the DataStorm User's rally in TX, mid October

  • Visit Chris' folks in Livingston, TX, late October

  • Biloxi MS, early November -- looking forward to visiting there again, but it will be sad in many ways

  • Florida mid to late November

  • MacDill AFB FamCamp, reservations for December 1st

  • Visit with Nicole, Aaron, Austin, and my mom.

  • Day after Christmas or just before New Years head for Key West

Sunday, July 16:

Here's a quick update for the last few days.  We didn't leave for the coast.  Chris wasn't feeling up to par on Friday, and I had won a tournament the night before and wanted to play more poker anyway, so we both decided to stay another week.  Current plan is to head out this coming Saturday. 

I forgot to tell you this in the last post.  As you may know, Chris doesn't like seafood often.  She'll eat it on occasion, but really has to be in the mood.  Last week we looked at the menu for Oceana at the Peppermill and discovered they have fresh Florida grouper flown in daily.  Well Chris loves grouper (it's the only fish she'll eat) so we went.  I had the Chilean Sea Bass.  Both of us enjoyed it.  Today, Chris wanted to go again!   So naturally I agreed.  She had the grouper again, and it was even better than before.  I had sushi this time, and then helped her finish her grouper.  We highly recommend Oceana if you like seafood and/or sushi.  It's open for lunch and dinner.  Casual, interesting decor, not too pricy with exception of wine by the glass which I think is about 25% too high.  We were comped, but we try to be frugal with the comp dollars and make them last. Our meals were about $36 today sans wine, and about $60 the other night when I had 2 glasses of Sauv Blanc. 

In the gambling area, I've had some successes lately, chopped a tournament for first last week, won some money in cash games lately.  Here's a "good beat" story for you.  I was in a cash NL game.  Had pocket 8's and called.  It goes around and several people stay in.  Flop comes 882, I flopped quad 8's!!  Well two people bet, one guy moves all in, and I say "thank you God" and I move in behind him.  He had flopped a boat, ducks full of 8's.  That was a very nice win of about 300 on the one hand. 

But today wasn't my day.  I busted out early at the Peppermill 2pm tournament.  Tonight at the Boomtown tournament I was an early chip leader at my table, then dwindled somewhat.  After the break I was fairly short and moved all in with AJ, and busted out.  Both bad beats, but I won't bore you with the details.  Oh well, I did get a consolation prize.  During the break I spent 10 minutes playing video poker and hit the progressive aces for about $120, so that paid for all my entry fees today!  

Have to go get some sleep now.  Five AM comes early!

Wednesday, July 19:

Yes, we've left the Reno area.  We really enjoyed it, and we're going back, but very happy to be on a road trip.  We headed out late this morning when it started getting a little warm in Verdi.  We took 395 up to CA SR70, into Plumas National Forest (a pretty place), then SR89, then SR36, and we're dry camped for the night in Chester, CA.

Along the way it was hot, and our dash air started malfunctioning again!  It's running only moderately cool. No idea why.  Will have it checked out sometime soon.   

On the positive side, I enjoyed using the computer and DeLorme GPS on our new Jotto Desk!  I've had it for a few weeks now, but didn't mention it yet.  Have been using it as my new workstation, and now it's been field tested on the road.  I give it a thumbs up!  Here's a link to our tech and projects section where I have a photo and brief story about it. 

Will write more as we travel.  Bye for now.

Thursday, July 20:

So here we are in Northern California, close to the Oregon state line, and we stop for a quick break and a driver change.  After 20 minutes or so we prepare to leave and the engine won't start.  Had been running fine up until now.  Checked all the fuses, let it cool down another half hour.  Pulled off the air cleaner and watched the injectors (we have a 1995 Chevy throttle body).  No fuel. 

Run the clock back about 6 days.  The Escapees RV Club just endorsed Coach Net RV Road Service, and I signed up.  So now I have the top-of-the-line "auto club" for my RV.  I called them, and talked to an actual mechanic.  He told me that likely the fuel pump or engine computer one is bad.  I checked all the fuses, including the one labeled "injectors" and the one labeled "ECM".  They're good.  Also cleaned the contacts (I've had a corrosion problem there).  Still an hour later it won't start.

So we're stuck here at the rest stop until morning.  If it starts, we'll proceed North to a repair shop about 45 miles away.  If it doesn't start they'll send a tow truck for us.

Time to count our blessings...

  1. It didn't happen on the road
  2. We have the greatest RV road service available
  3. We're otherwise comfortable with our generator running the AC (it's 100 outside) we enjoyed a nice dinner in our rolling home
  4. We have no set schedule, nowhere we must be tomorrow, and we can even put in a few hours work between 5 AM and likely 9 AM or later when the tow truck comes
  5. We're in good company, dry camping with a Beaver Patriot and a Country Coach :-)

Tomorrow we already have a date with Oregon Light Truck & RV for an air conditioning checkout.  Sounded on the phone like Coach Net was OK with towing us there (45 miles) if needed.  I'll be following up with everyone in the morning, and hopefully the RV will start.

Friday, July 21:

We’re on the road again, and I can add another positive review to  Coach Net found A-1 Automotive in Yreka, CA, only 8 miles away. It’s a family business, and the family also owns the towing service, Bruce's Towing.  Good people all.

Thursday night we saw our neighbor towed away, and this morning the same tow driver returned for us.

At least it's a scenic route -- following our MH as it's towed for service -- Mt. Shasta in the distance

The tow driver and his assistant (his younger brother) took great care with our motorhome. Bob, the service manager at A-1 knew right away what the problem was from my description. He called and checked on availability of a fuel pump before the mechanic even looked at it. The mechanic, Nick was very knowledgeable of RV’s and had done this repair a number of times before. They use a unique method of dropping the fuel tank, check out the photo on the right, a large forklift!  Repair bill was reasonable, $475 including $270 labor.

There were a few other RV’s in the lot, and while we were there, another two Class A RV’s were towed in. If you ever need RV service in this area A-1 Automotive is a good choice for all chassis repairs minor to major. They also have several other businesses in the same location, a Hertz rent a car, an ATV dealership, and an Auto Sound store.

I didn’t have them work on the air conditioner. I had added a can of coolant, and it was blowing fairly cold, so we weren’t too concerned about it. After we left we discovered it had leaked down and was not working at all. Oh well, another service stop seems to be in our future, but at least it will be cool where we’re headed!

Oh, and a big thumbs up for Coach Net they took very good care of us. We've only had the service for a week and it already paid off big time -- best $79 I've spent lately (it was a $250 tow). 

Saturday, July 22:

We have arrived at The Mill Casino and are set up for a week (maybe more) of cool weather, sight seeing, and relaxation.  Here's a link to our other web site where we talk about The Mill Casino.

We had spent the night in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Grants Pass Oregon after leaving the repair shop in Yreka CA. This morning Mac went into the store and bought supplies. We’ve learned now to buy groceries and other supplies whenever we can and not wait till a need arises. After putting everything away, checking lights, brakes, etc. we hit the road again.

We drove on towards our destination of Coos Bay Oregon and we finally hit 101 in Reedsport. It’s so pretty to finally see the beach and there are massive dunes for miles and miles it seems. We drove on to The Mill Casino in Coos Bay, actually it’s in North Bend. We got checked in, set up and unhooked the car, etc.

We drove in the car back to the dunes and took the first road that we saw that entered the area. There’s about 40 miles of dunes down the shoreline so there are plenty of places to get off the road and visit the dunes. It’s really awesome to see. Where we were at there was a parking lot filled with ATVs, RVs, etc. out for the day enjoying the dunes.

In the evening Mac went into the casino, checked out the poker room, video poker, etc. There aren’t any good video poker pay tables here so I won’t be playing; good thing I brought plenty of books to read.


Sunday, July 23:

Coos Bay, OR.  We picked up several brochures on the area. You know, 101 things to do in Oregon, that sort of thing. Chris quickly found a state park about 27 miles from here with two waterfalls, and Chris does love waterfalls.

This is the Silver and Golden Falls State Park. I searched the internet for good directions, and it was hard to find much information. One comment that I noticed said these falls are “a hidden gem”. Later we would see why.  I finally located it on DeLorme Street Atlas and we headed out.

Our route took us along the Coos River, and it was scenic. Often, there was a 20 to 80 foot drop off at the white line with no shoulder and no guardrail. At one location a large tree had fallen, taking away some pavement and this was marked “one lane road”. It gets better. About 5 miles from our destination the highway turned into a fairly good 2 lane gravel road. See photo below….

…then another 2 or 3 miles and it turned into a one lane gravel road. See photo below…

Now I’m an old country boy, so I don’t mind gravel roads, even one lane, but I prefer to drive them in a pickup or jeep vs. a Honda Civic.   Anyway, we arrive at the park and there are two paths to the two falls. Each about 15 to 20 minutes round trip. Actually there was another path to the top of Golden falls, but it was an hour round trip and we didn’t think Chris should try that one with her new knee. We were also put off by the aggressive biting flies we encountered! And to top it all off, it was about 15 degrees warmer than when we left the coast.

I don’t want you to get the wrong impression. We enjoyed ourselves (but did hate the flies). Here are photos of the two falls. The water was clear and cold, and I waded in a small pond at one spot. We do recommend visiting these falls, but be sure you wear long pants, long sleeve shirts, and maybe some insect repellant.

Mac went in and played a tournament this morning and brought back a free magazine of 101 things to do and see in Oregon. While looking through it I found Golden & Silver Falls State Park listed. Two waterfalls to see, oh boy! This sounds like an adventure for me! So Mac finally found out how we could get there, it’s only a little over 20 miles away so we decided to go.

The difficulty in finding out where the park is should have been our first clue that this place was going to be hard to get to. The road keeps getting narrower and narrower, in some places it’s down to one lane, there are places where there’s no shoulder too, and the last few miles are down a graveled bumpy road. We finally got there and when we got out of the car we were greeted by some kind of biting flies. They were midsized to large, like horse flies. We were determined to see the waterfalls so we headed out on the trail. Mac showed me the poison ivy along the way, how pretty it is. We walked the trail to the Golden Falls and it is very pretty. We enjoyed seeing it. Then we walked back to the car parking area and then up the trail to see the Silver Falls. Of course, some of the flies followed us on both trails. I enjoyed seeing the falls but I sure did not enjoy those biting flies!

Monday, July 24

After working a few hours this morning I headed out to visit the local thrift stores. There are several in the area and I found some nice stuff. After Mac finished working for the day we headed out to visit the beach and take in the views. We stopped at the Mingus Park, a city park. It was a nice park to visit. The pond or is it a lake, had several ducks, geese and even a swan on it. The swan didn’t want his picture taken though, he kept his head from view and Mac didn’t get a picture of him.

We headed to Cape Arago State Park and it is definitely a must see. Once you enter the park area, there are many places to stop and see the ocean. There’s a beach area for swimming and just enjoying the relaxing view of the water and waves. There’s a viewing area that you can easily see sea lion, seals and even whales in season. There’s also a botanical gardens which we didn’t visit this trip. At one of the many viewing areas is a great view of the lighthouse. At the top is a great view too. We had a great time and this is such a beautiful place to see. It’s on my list of places to see again.

Tuesday, July 25

Did I mention that we came to this area to escape the heat? It was very hot in Reno and Verdi so we had come to the coast to enjoy the coolness here. Well, we found the cooler weather alright, highs in the 60’s and lows in the 50’s; we are really loving the cooler weather. It does seem to be very breezy here though this time of year. Every day the wind starts before noon and gets quite strong until way after dark. We’ve had some gust today that really shook the RV. It seems like a winter storm to us so we enjoy this day just goofing off in the RV, working, reading, etc. in other words doing nothing.

Wednesday, July 26

It’s still rather chilly and foggy but we want to see the beach so after work we drove over to Bastendorf Beach which is right off of the Cape Arago Highway. It’s a foggy, cold, and windy day but we enjoy seeing the seabirds, the starfish, etc. that can be seen from here. We had intended to see the botanical gardens today but it’s so foggy we canceled that idea. After the beach we drove back towards the RV and stopped at Wal-Mart and did some much needed shopping.

Thursday, July 27

After work today we just drove around and viewed the area. We’d intended to stop and visit the local shop for myrtle wood but it was closed. So we just drove around and then stopped at a local hamburger joint and ate burgers. We then drove over to North Bend, I visited a used bookstore and Mac was across the street visiting a local art shop. I joined him and we enjoyed talking with the owners of the store. There are many local artist that have items for sell in the shop. I found a pair of hairsticks that I loved, even though they’re not myrtle wood; they’re ironwood.

To summarize the last few days on the positive side; we’ve enjoyed the cool weather and the sightseeing. Coos Bay is a nice area in general, and the ocean front views are beautiful

On the negative side however, we’re tiring of the constant daytime wind.  It starts in the late morning, growing to 20 - 30 steady, gusting to 35 - 45 MPH, and doesn't quit until the late evening.  Besides being a nuisance, shaking the RV, blowing the door out of your hand, etc. it’s also uncomfortable to have the DataStorm deployed. The DS itself is supposed to be OK up to 60mph, but we have it mounted on a very thin plywood roof and although it’s held up in stronger winds before it’s still unnerving.

So we’re leaving a few days early, hitting the road tomorrow after work, about 2pm and heading South down the coast. Here are a few more of the cool sights we’ve seen here.  Click any one of the photos to see all 46 taken in the area.

The Dunes

North of Coos Bay the coastline of Oregon is very different. There are huge sand dunes, some look 100 feet high, and this area stretches for miles. It’s a very popular area for Off Road Vehicles, and there are numerous access points where you’ll find a dozen or more large toy hauler trailers full of 4 wheelers and other ATV’s.

City Park

We visited Mingus Park in Coos Bay, a nice place for a walk. The rear half is a Japanese style garden in honor of their sister city in Japan.

The Rugged Shore

The area from Charleston, Oregon South on the Cape Arago Highway is beautiful, rugged shoreline with high sandstone and clay cliffs. You can watch sea lions and seals, water birds, and odd humans (especially the young) swimming in the 50 degree water.

We visited Sunset Bay State Park and Shore Acres State Park. We were amazed to see hundreds of sea lions and seals on the rocks. Too far away to photograph well, but close enough for a good look with 10x binoculars. Also saw the Cape Arago lighthouse. A very picturesque scene. Bad light and an inexpensive camera didn’t do justice to most of the sights we saw.

More Weather Curiosities

In addition to the cold weather and wind, another curiosity is the nearly permanent fog bank over the water and shoreline. In some of the photos it looks like clouds from a distance, but it’s fog. The whole area is fogged in at daybreak, by mid morning it is burned off back to the ocean, and it moves in again in the afternoon/evening.

Shrimp & Clam Digging

On the shore of the bay, we saw a man digging with an odd tool. It looked like a length of 3 inch PVC pipe with some kind of handle and plunger. He would put it against the sand and pull out the plunger quickly, sucking up the sand and whatever was below in a 3 inch hole. We stopped and talked with him, and discovered the tool is called a Shrimp Gun. He was digging up what he called “sand shrimp” which we found out are also called ghost shrimp. They’re no good to eat, but are great bait for some fish species. There’s also a similar, larger tool called a Clam Gun, and used in the same manner to dig up clams.

Friday, July 28

Mac was ready to leave yesterday and head on down the road but I wasn’t ready yet. So today after work we left Coos Bay and drove south on 101. Coos Bay is very nice, we enjoyed our visit there and we didn’t get to see everything that we wanted to see. But too much wind, and the wind made it seem colder too. We do want to come back to the area and visit more, so we left some things to see and do.

We so enjoyed the drive down 101. There is so much breathtaking beauty to see. It’s hard to describe how beautiful it is to see the craggy shoreline, the ocean breaking over the rocks, etc. You’ll just have to take this drive yourself and see the beauty.

Somewhere on the Southern Oregon or Northern California Coast -- it all runs in together :-) -- click for more!

Too soon it seemed we left Oregon behind and entered California. There is much beauty here also. We did stop and fill up with gas in Oregon before we left the state. We’d heard that there is a huge difference in gas prices between the two states. We are glad we did too; the gas prices are about 25 cents a gallon higher in California than in Oregon,

We drove to Elk River Casino in Crescent City. It’s a nice casino, Mac went in after dinner and played some poker. I sat outside enjoying listening to the birds singing, trying to spot the birds with such a beautiful song but I never saw those songbirds. I did see some finches, some swallows, and other birds that were enjoying the nice evening weather too.

Saturday July 29

We hit the road again this morning and drove more down 101. We took a scenic drive through a redwood forest that was just awesome to see all the majestic tress. Some were so huge, I just wonder how many hundred of years old they are. We saw so many beautiful vistas and pulled over so many times to admire the beauty. We stopped for lunch at a day use beach area along the highway. It was so incredible to sit and eat lunch while watching the waves come in.

We soon had to hit the road again and head to our destination for the evening; Blue Lake Casino, east of Alcata. We ate dinner in the casino, Mac had heard that their buffet of steak and lobster was good; so we decided to check it out. It was good food too, I gave my steak and lobster to Mac and I ate the chicken and shrimp on the buffet. After dinner Mac played in a poker tournament and I played a little 7/5 bonus poker.

More photos will be posted soon.  Here are all the photos from the Coos Bay area.

Sunday, July 30, Blue Lake Casino, Arcata, CA

We spent the morning goofing off, updating the blog, etc. We finally decided to hit the road about 11:00, it was just too relaxing here this morning. The weather was great, nice and cool. But we need to hit the road and get on down to our next destination.

We didn’t drive very far till we got to Eureka California and stopped for lunch. We saw a Marie Callender’s restaurant within walking distance of a grocery store next to a mall so there was plenty of easy parking. We’ve never been to one of these restaurants, but we’ve eaten plenty of the frozen dinners and pot pies that are available just about nationwide; so we just had to try the restaurant. It was pretty good too. Here’s a link to the website

After lunch, and picking up a few needed supplies from the grocery store, we hit the road again. The view today is not as beautiful as the previous few days. The road is not as near the coast anymore, bummer. I really loved seeing all those views of the ocean that we’ve seen lately. But there are many other beautiful views to see so we’re headed that way.

We saw a sign that for the “Avenue of the giants”, a scenic drive through the giant redwood trees; so of course we had to take that. My goodness, the trees are gigantic!  It was just too awesome to drive through, stopping and looking at all the awesome trees.

After several stops to see the trees and various views we finally arrived at our destination of Calistoga California. We’re staying at the Napa County Fairgrounds RV Park. We’re staying at the park because the weather forecast is for warm days so we’ll probably need the air-conditioner. Cost is $24 per night for electric & water hook-up and $27 for hook-ups including sewer. We’re paying the $24 per night, who needs sewer every day? We’ll use the dump station to dump and save $3 a day.

It’s such a pretty little town! I’m looking forward to exploring the area. I know Mac is looking forward to all the wine tasting that he plans on doing. We drove through miles and miles of grapevines and wineries to get here. It is really amazing to see acres of grapevines, as far as the eye can see in some places.

Monday, July 31, Calistoga, CA:

It was a nice cool night, great sleeping weather here. Now it’s time to get back to work, yuck. After working for a few hours I decided to drive over to Santa Rosa and check out a few thrift stores. Santa Rosa is a pretty town too. It’s almost too pretty; I had a hard time finding stores because the signs weren’t very noticeable. But I did find a couple of stores and a used book store too. The road from Calistoga to Santa Rosa (Petrified Forrest Rd. and Calistoga Rd) is very interesting to say the least. It’s very narrow in places, twisty and curvy and NOT for an RV at all. There’s a sign that says RV’s should not use this road but take a different road. On the way there and back I noticed the signs for the grades of 11% & 12%; kind of steep hills to climb and then come down. So that was my morning adventure!

After working and stopping for the day around 2:00 Mac and I drove over to St. Helena to visit. It’s another pretty town too. It seems all the towns around here are very pretty, all prettied up for the tourist dollars I assume. We did enjoy walking around and looking.

We came back to the RV and enjoyed just being able to sit outside in our large reclining chairs. We haven’t been able to use them in quite some time. We’ve already decided to leave them in storage next year when we leave Florida because there aren’t many places we’ve been were we could actually enjoy using them. One reason is that we’ve dry camped in parking lots so much and the other is the few places where we were in a park the weather wasn’t nice enough to enjoy sitting outside. But we know we’ll use them a lot in Florida. It is great though to be able to sit outside and just relax. Nice cool evening that we really enjoyed.

July was another great month for our camping budget.  We didn't pay for a campsite all month until the 30th.  In fact, we haven't paid for a campsite since June 7th.  Now that we're in Napa Valley and paying $24/night our average will be busted, but I still think we'll beat last year by the time December rolls around.  One thing I've noticed, when we do pay to camp we're paying a lot more than last year, but we're getting more nights free, so we're beating last year by $1.12 a day.  Here's how it looks:

Year Avg $ per Nite # Dry # Elect # FHU # Free %Dry % Free
2006 to date $7.97 106 8 95 99 51% 47%
About this time last year $9.09 127 17 69 56 60% 26%

Continue to August, 2006

What did we do last July?  Click here for July 2005

This is a "reverse blog", so earlier posts will be found above -- also see left sidebar for the blog archive index

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