Ahhh…how refreshing it is to be in Flagstaff.

Summit of Mount Elden in Flagstaff AZ

I am really far behind on blog posts due to the lack of good internet.  So here is Flagstaff’s blog post…but we are currently in Nashville, TN.

We were happy to get the hell outta Phoenix after record 113 degree temps sent us quickly heading north to Flagstaff. We were even more excited that it gave us an opportunity to spend some time with our friend Karin. After climbing from 1,500 feet in elevation to over 7,500 feet we enjoyed the greener more lush landscape and much lower temps that Flagstaff had to offer. We decided to stay at another KOA, KOA Flagstaff, which makes our third KOA on this trip so far. It was clean and beautiful with the added feature of being just feet away from some of the best hiking in the world. Karin was very gracious and took us on a little tour of downtown Flagstaff. I have never been so I thoroughly enjoyed it. Flagstaff is my kinda town. Karin warned that it has very strong gravitational pull and I totally agree. There are tons of people out and about on bikes and walking around just enjoying the outdoors. It has some awesome paved trails that lead in and out of downtown and follow the historical Route 66! It was so great to spend some QT with Karin and meet her roommate and doggies. Karin is a huge outdoor enthusiast and she graciously gave me a list of recommended trails to try for my morning run. So the next morning, it was bright and sunny and I was rearing to hit the trails. The KOA backs right up to the Elden Lookout trail and the Fatman’s Loop Trail. The trail climbs 2,500 feet in about 3 miles and ends right on top of Mount Elden at the Peaks Ranger station. I started out running and scampering up the many many switchbacks. The views were spectacular and so breath-taking that I had to stop and take a few pictures. I ran up the trail until it got so steep that I had to climb over big rocks and up stairs. I made it up there in one hour and ten minutes! So for those friends back in Seattle, Mt. Elden is about the same elevation as Camp Muir on Mount Rainier. I took in the amazing views of downtown Flagstaff and could even see Meteor Crater in the distance. After some rest and pics I descended the trail quickly and made it back to the trail head in one hour. But man, were my quads screamin’! And I loved every minute of it!  After we spent some time with Karin we decided to visit the Lowell Observatory.  If you don’t know what the Lowell Observatory is, it is the place where Pluto was discovered back in 1930!  Man it was so cool.  Pea and I spent several hours there walking around from lecture to lecture and movie to movie.  The volunteers that work there are absolutely wonderful and engaging.  My favorite part of the tour was seeing the Clark Refracting telescope, built in 1896 for $20,000!  Today it is still used for education purposes.  We also got to see the telescope that Clyde Tombaugh used to discover Pluto in 1930.  After we spent hours walking around the campus we were told that we could stick around until after dark and look through some of the telescopes!  Once they set everything up we were able to look through the Clark telescope to view the M11 Wild Duck Cluster, which is an open cluster formation of over 2,900 stars which are about 220 MILLION YEARS old!  Amazing…then we got to look through another telescope to see the globular cluster M13 in the Hercules constellation and Vega, the brightest star in the Lyrae cluster.  But the best part was seeing Saturn’s rings and it’s moon, Titan!  I can’t even describe to you how breath-taking it was to see the rings so vividly.  Pea asked the volunteer if he had any newspaper for me to stand upon (insinuating that I would pee the floor from my excitement…very funny Pea).  As Karin mentioned, Flagstaff has a very strong gravitational pull…and she is right. We are going to stop back in Flagstaff after we leave the Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon

Pea and I were looking forward to going to the Grand Canyon, it wasn’t originally on our planned route but since it is only an hour’s drive outside of Flagstaff it was the perfect opportunity to visit it.  Pea was very much looking forward to seeing one of the biggest holes in the ground in the world. As he so eloquently put it, “You know how I love me some huge hole!”

You know he is wondering how long it is going to take him to fill it.
There is nothing like the awesome size of the Grand Canyon.

Chitwoodville, Arizona – AKA The Surface of the Sun

Chitwood and PeaWe left Calistoga and decided to skip Hearst Castle as I was antsy to start heading East. So, we headed for Phoenix, AZ to see the Chitwoods. I’ve known Matt AKA T.O.M. AKA The Original Matt since I was in 3rd grade and lived at 865 Lafayette Drive, Mt. Laurel, NJ. Without a doubt Chitwood is the person who I’ve known the longest. His parents also live in Phoenix and I really wanted to see his mom as well.

It took two days to get to Phoenix which let us have our first ONP experience (Overnight Parking) at a WalMart in San Bernadino. It was definitely not glamorous, but it was convenient and just what we needed. Sleep. No fees. The next day we drove on to Phoenix and with every passing desert mile it was clear we were approaching the center of the sun. It ended up being a record 115F in Phoenix that day!!! Did I mention the engine based AC in our motorhome doesn’t work?!?! We tried to run the overhead AC, which means running the generator as we drive, but it couldn’t even put a dent in the heat.

Matt and his wife Anne were kind enough to put us up for the night in their air conditioned guest room. Anne made an awesome pasta dinner, we met their kids Allison, Ryan and Jacob who I’d never met. Mom made a stop in, which was awesome. And even Matt’s little sister Susie was ther with her two kids and one on the way were in attendance. It was great to catch up with old friends and see how well they were doing.

With the heat-wave in the SW going to continue until the rapture, we bailed on our plans to go to Roswell, NM. The RV just can’t deal with the heat and neither can we! It was so friggin’ hot the referigerator couldn’t keep up either and we lost all of the food. Luckily the refrigerator isn’t that big and the freezer did ok. So, after a great healthy mediteranean lunch at Pita Jungle (horrible name) with Matt, we immediately headed North to the cooler highter de of Flagstaff AZ.

Thanks again to Matt and Anne for a great visit!

Wine with Matty

Matty is the CWO, Chief Wine Officer, aboard Deep Playa and planned out an entire day and a half trip in wine country California. He had already planned to be in town on a Wednesday for work so he drove up to Sonoma where we met him and visited our first winery, Hanzell. The next day we had a full itinerary:

Hanzell is absolutely gorgeous and our host Zakk, who happened to be a Burner, was very funny and gracious in answering Dawn and my rudimentary questions. The tour of the property was amazing. We happened to visit while estate workers were ‘netting’ the vines to keep the birds from stealing the precious crop. It is always nice to witness the wine making process first-hand so we can learn. In particular, Zakk happily geeked out and educated us on soil composition, how the age of the vines changes the characteristics of the wine and how the vines are trimmed and shaped to protect and encourage the grapes to yield their best. Of the wines we tasted, I really liked the Chardonnay. It had a very big mouth feel for a white, something I like in my reds. I’m probably not explaining this correctly, but I believe this is due to the controlled secondary fermentation process used at Hanzell, which produces a very viscous and creamy mouth feel. This controlled fermentation was invented at Hanzell in the 1960s. If I got that right, Zakk gets the credit, if I got it wrong, blame me.

At Chateua Montelena, the vineyard famous for producing the Chardonnay that took first price at the 1976 Paris Tasting. Which put Californian wines on the map and raised its reputation around the world. We were lucky enough to meet with Jeff Adams, the director of marketing at Montelena. He gave a beautiful tour of the vineyard and private residence and we able to taste their Estate wines. Along the tour, we even bumped into and were introduced to Bo Barret!! He was quick with a funny quip about the movie featuring him and his wines (Bottle Shock). It was very nice of him to stop and take a second to say hello. The Chardonnay at Montelena was interesting because they do not intervene during the fermenation process as they do at Hanzell. They allow the natural fermentation to occur and let nature take care of the rest. It was very delicious, but so much different. I could feel my wine education beginning! The Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and Henzell Chard would be great to taste side by side, but unfortunately, we downed the bottle we bought the night before. Our favorite red we tried was the 2005 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. It was a very big wine and had a nice smooth mellow finish on the pallete. This wine also has opportunity to mature even further as it ages. I hope Matty has some of these in his cellar!

We had some time before our appointment at Charles Krug, so we ran down the road to Inglenook. Inglenook is both famous for its history, its wines and its owner, Francis Ford Copolla. The property is straight out of the movies. It was stunning with lots of old world charm and sweeping views of the valley. We went here principally to look around the grounds, but we also drank a bottle of Edzionne Zinfadel, a wine we were familiar with. We enjoyed the film exihibits in the Chateau with a glass of wine… heaven!

The next in the massive lineup was Charles Krug. It is a special vineyard for me because Matty has been kind enough to share some of his older bottles when we went to dinner for my bachelor party. I was very excited to visit the tasting room. We did a very thorough tasting and in all honesty, I had to stop and dine on some water crackers and water several times because I was getting pallet fatigue and wasn’t getting the same signals everyone else was getting. Throughout the day I learned that my pallet may not be ready for tanins and I definitely was learning that at Krug as well. Our host was even nice enough to warn me at one point about a wine she referred to as ole’ Tannin-bomb. ;-) We did buy a bottle of the Zinfandel Port. We do like ports, and this was so unique we had to have on for our RoadTrip this summer.

Finally we visited Keever Vineyards, our host Ashley was the nicest person and I felt more like we were getting a tour of her family’s passion and being invited into their home than a place of business. The tasting and tour at Keever were combined and we we able to linger more with each glass as we toured the production facility, the cave and the property. Much like Zakk and Jeff, Ashley indulged our questions and rolled with out jokes. At the end we all sat in the entrance lounge for a while as she and Dawn discussed different health topics and Matty and I plotted how many bottles of Keever’s Inspirado we would buy! Many of the wines we tasted throughout the day were really glimpses into the wine making process and were meant to be stored for several years. Keever’s Inspirado was ready to drink now, but could be cellered for some time as well. I wish we could have bought a case and watched it evolve over time. Since we’ll be keeping ours in the barely temperature controlled Land Yacht we’ll be enjoying our bottle much sooner than that!

Thank you so much to Matty, and the friends he hit up for favors, for making our first wine tasting in California so magical. We will definitely be back and we can’t wait!

Redwoods and San Francisco

We spent a couple of days enjoying the Redwoods. That allowed Dawn to go on a run through the trees and for us to take what amounted to a 20 mile round trip bike ride on the Avenue of the Giants with three pretty steep climbs on the way back. I would have been happy on my old race bike from college, on these beach cruisers we have it was pretty much a death march. I was VERY happy to see the RV Park come into view because I was dead and I actually thought we had another climb to go. I did survive and Dawn was happy to go on a bike ride.

Next we made a quick stop in Santa Rosa, CA home of the Russian River Brewery. They don’t have a tour but they have our favorite beer, Pliny the Elder! They also have an amazing sampler tray of 22 different beers! Dawn and I split that and Pliny was still our favorite. For our Settle Pliny brethren, Pliny is $4.50 a bottle in CA not the $8.50 I remember paying in Seattle!

We visited with Zander and Gwen in Sausalito and met their beautiful daughter Decima. We’d never been able to stop in Sausalito on the way down in Deep Playa, so a Land Yacht visit was a nice consolation. Now I really wish we’d stopped by, the anchorage along Sausalito would have been very cozy! We spent a day seeing the sites in SF. Coit Tower, Long Now Foundation, Fisherman’s Wharf, Aquatic Park Museum all on foot! It was a good day of walking. We then walked back to SOMA and met up with Brady and Mollie at Brady’s new loft. Absolutely amazing space Brady is well setup!

Next Stop Oakland to see Paul and Erin originally hailing from Seattle, but Paul is now a shipwright in Oakland working on wooden boats. We met at Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon home to Jack London and sailors of all kinds. Paul and Erin are doing great and it was good to catch-up with old sailor\drinking buddies.

While in Oakland, I also made a stop at Ham Radio Outlet and got the rest of the gear for the radio in the Land Yacht. I’ll save that for the W7PEA Blog.

The Bay Area was great and we were lucky to meet so many friends, next stop Wine Country.

First Stop Kent, Washington

We finally made it out of Seattle!! We were recovering all morning from last nights bon voyage party and ran more errands this afternoon, including another stop at Matty’s house to use the shower and drop off a few things.

Thanks to everyone who cam down to Golden Gardens for the send off, it was a great spot and Dawn and I were happy to see everyone! We can’t wait to see you all soon, maybe on the road, maybe in Mexico, or some other exotic location! We miss you all already!

After running errands including get a bike rack and some more tools from Harbor Freight it was almost 8pm so we decided to head to the Seattle\Tacoma KOA Campground 12 miles away in Kent. We just got back from taking a walk through the place, and while the setup is very compact, there are a lot of amenities, including a heated pool, showers, large chess and checker boards, dog park. Its pretty nice. The place is packed too.

Of course no blog entry from me would be complete without a project or two. Two days we used the shower for the first time and immediately after we noticed water dripping out from under the coach. After a little online research and digging around under the shower floor, i figured out the shower pan sags enough with an adult in it that the p-trap bears all the weight. This lead to the p-trap becoming cracked and thus the leaks. We bought a new p-trap and I installed it shortly after we arrived here in Kent. When it dries out under there, I’ll cut two pieces of 3/4″ plywood to add additional bracing.

It feels good to finally be on the road. Road Trip 2012 is underway!!

Road Trip !

First off let me say we have no immediate plans or dates or tickets or destinations or anything yet, but I can tell you we will be touring the US this summer.

Dawn and I both had not been looking forward to going back to the Sea of Cortez for the summer and we were both not looking forward to the oppressive heat anywhere in Mexico. I was not excited about leaving the Pacific Coast of Mexico to go to the waveless and surfless Sea of Cortez. I’m not that into snorkeling and haven’t been very impressed with it anywhere (in the world) so I wasn’t excited about that as a trade-off. Dawn was probably more into that, but she (and I) were also a bit homesick for the US. Neither of us were very excited about making more overnight passages just to get North to avoid storm season. That’s kind of the why’s behind all this…

SO…. we decided we’re going to put the boat in Marina Riviera Nayarit (AKA Marina La Cruz) at some point this summer, fly somewhere in the US, buy a crappy RV or a Bus and do some visiting, see some places we might want to live, etc.. The official Storm Season is 1 June – 31 Oct, but we probably won’t leave Mexico till closer to July. Weather is still pretty benign, not yet oppressively hot or humid surf is still good and we will have some to-do’s to do to decommission the boat.

Anyway, just wanted to let y’all know that and when we know when and where we’re headed we will let you know!

Our Life in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

I must apologize for ignoring our blog lately.  Life in Mexico is rewarding, relaxing and wonderful, but it also has its challenges.  One of those challenges includes finding good reliable Wi-Fi access to upload our pictures and blog posts.  So we spend a lot of time moving from café to café utilizing free Wi-Fi while enjoying a bebida fresca.  Most of the time the Wi-Fi is iffy, at best, so I have to utilize the time online very efficiently. 

We are currently anchored in La Cruz (“The Cross” in Spanish) de Huanacaxtle in the state of Jalisco, Mexico.  It is a small fishing village just north of Puerto Vallarta in Bahia de Banderas (Bay of Flags) on the Pacific mainland of Mexico.  La Cruz is a popular destination for cruisers because of its benign weather during the winter months, relatively quiet anchorage (although rolly at times), and easy shore access via a dinghy dock in the La Cruz Marina.  The village is growing from its original roots but still holds its small town vibe due to its beautiful town square and cobble stone streets.  Along the marina malecon is the open-air fish market where the pangas are docked and fish is carted off straight from the bay.  Every Sunday there is a farmers market where I buy organic fresh salad greens, fresh fruit, handmade jewelry and art and, most importantly, yummy homemade baked goods.

Sunday Farmers Market

La Cruz Sunday Farmers Market

Panga beach

La Cruz Fisherman’s Panga Beach

Fish Market

La Cruz’s Fresh Fish Market

Stingray with reflection of a palm

Stingray swimming by in the La Cruz Marina

So far we have been here for about a month.  And we love it. Smile  The people are so friendly and the restaurants located here are so diverse and interesting.  There is a German restaurant, a British pub, and an Italian restaurant with wood-fired pizza.  And not to mention the many cheap and delicious local taco stands that pop out of the wood work after dark.  One of our favorite places is Huanacaxtle Bar & Café that is is owned and run by a local family.  They are super friendly and make you feel like one of the family every time you show up.  They have an awesome happy hour, 10 peso draft beers, and host karaoke night on Tuesdays, but Oliver is ready for some karaoke any night of the week and will try his hardest to convince you of the same!

Singing our hearts out!

Patrick and me singing karaoke after a few 10 peso happy hour cervezas.

It’s also a popular day trip for tourists from Puerto Vallarta and Punta de Mita because of the easy and inexpensive bus ride. Since La Cruz is so convenient to get from PV’s airport, we had our friends, Melissa and Ruben, down for a visit.  It is always so nice to see friends from back home.  We took a bus up to Sayulita, a quaint hippy surfing town known for their beach palapa restaurants and surfing schools. Since they were visiting from Seattle, they brought a gift for us…rain and clouds!  We hadn’t seen rain since we left San Diego!  That didn’t deter us from enjoying ourselves so we took a bus ride up to Sayulita.


Melissa, Ruben and Pea getting wet in Sayulita


Sayulita beach during our wet beach walk


Downtown Sayulita in the pouring rain


At least we got an amazing rainbow in payment for the rain and clouds.


Double rainbow over the La Cruz Marina

And when the clouds and rain cleared up we took at trip into Old Puerto Vallarta and explored the city a bit.  We really enjoyed this part of Puerto Vallarta because of its beautiful beach, historic buildings and streets and interesting art work.  This is much better than Neuvo Vallarta and Paradise Village, which has a very sterile and “Americanized” feeling.


Walking along the malecon in Old Puerto Vallarta


View of the breakers along the malecon in Old Puerto Vallarta


Patrick trying his first tamarind-flavored margarita based upon Ruben’s recommendation…yes it was quite yummy!

This February was our second wedding anniversary Smile and it was my turn to plan our celebration, which wasn’t too hard since there is so much to explore and experience in this area of Mexico.  And so I surprised Patrick with a surf lesson in Sayulita. We decided to use Patricia’s Surf School, which is located right on the beach. Edgar, our teacher, gave us land-based instructions before we hopped into the water to try and catch some waves.  The small surf allowed us to get up quickly and we had such a blast that we decided to make more time for surfing and consider buying our first boards. Smile

Sayulita sunny beach

 Sayulita’s beach after our surfing lesson….enjoying mas guacamole and tatopos


Sayulita’s local surfers at the school enjoying the sunny evening on the beach


Sayulita’s beach just as the sun begins to vanish behind the hills

So what’s next for Deep Playa and her crew?  The month of March will be a busy one…there is a regatta from March 2 through the 18th, Regatta Copa Mexico, which is a HUGE event including J24 races, kite surfing, laser and big 80 foot yacht races, which is held in PV and La Cruz on the Bahia de Banderas.  Many of the boats and events are taking place in La Cruz Marina and right outside the anchorage.  So we will be hanging out here to watch the boats racing and hopefully hitch a ride on some viewing boats to get close up to the action.  The entire town is being beautified for this event and is quickly being transformed into a clean and well-primped world-class marina.  There is also a big Stand Up Paddle (SUP) and longboard surfing contest in Sayulita that we want to watch.  So our cup runeth over for the month of March.  After March, it all depends on the weather, but we plan on making our way back north to La Paz and up the Sea of Cortez.