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.

Today’s fixes to this old Winnebago

Real quick background. Our RV refrigerator, the Dometic RM2612 runs on AC Power or Propane. It involves witchcraft and physics, but it makes stuff cold. Pretty much right from the get-go the self-igniter for the Propane died. Then in Phoenix when it was 115F we learned it can’t keep up with that and we lost all our food. Since then it had seemed to just not be getting cold enough. While we were in Albuquerque we took it to Camping World to get a tune-up.

After four hours, the Technician at Camping world said the igniter and the lower board were bad. I had figured this going to into it. He said they don’t make the lower boards anymore. I asked him if there were 3rd party boards. He said, there are for the Norcolds, but Dometic is a Swedish company and they keep every secret. He then said the guy in the store would give us a deal on a drop-in replacement. ($1000 or so). They did clean the flu in the unit and when lit manually it was working way better, but it still needed the new board or if it ever blew out then propane would still be flowing and it would not relight.

Here’s the deal. Bill is either ignorant or the Camping World was trying to rip me off. It took me about 2 minutes on their free wifi to see that the dometic boards are widely available and that there is even a 3rd Party board with some improvements from Dinosaur Electronics.

I explained this to Bill, the Service Rep Jeanne and the parts guy. They all seemed shocked since they couldn’t find one. They sent us on our way with a free cleaning. I then called Jack Sisemore’s Traveland in Amarillo, TX. They had the Dinosaur Electronics board and the reigniter in stock! I paid them right over the phone to hold them for me.

Today I installed both pieces, took me about 30 minutes to remove the old ones and install the new. Refrigerator is now working awesome, automatically switches back and forth from AC to Propane. We’re happy!

If you’re older Dometic RM2612 is limping along, get the flu cleaned and have the lower board tested. There is a service manual in PDF on the web if you want to do the tests yourself. Its pretty easy with a multimeter.


Fantastic Vent Installed

Fantastic Vent model 8000We bought this vent at Camping World outside of Portland and have been driving around with it sitting in its box since then.  Its a drop-in replacement for the vent the bathroom which also the only manual roof vent in the motorhome. There used to be a fantastic vent with a built-in fan in our motorhome (there are manuals for it), but for some reason it had been replaced over the years with a crappy non-fan one. Because there had been one in the past though the install was super easy as the wiring was already available in the ceiling and these things just drop right in to the 14″x14″ vent hole which is standard on all motorhomes.

While I was up there I slathered some Dicor Lap Sealant on a bunch of spots we think could leak and I spent about two hours cleaning regular house caulk on top of tree-sap on top of old sealant that was all around the skylight in our shower. I was able to clean it all up back to the original, still maleable sealant, and with the fresh coating that sylight seems to be water tight. It rained a few hours later, so hopefully that didn’t mess anything up. Nothing leaked though!

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!

Land Yacht Tracking Engage

APRS.fi screenshot


Thanks to the miracle of Ham Radio, we have the Land Yacht Tracker setup finally.  You can go to the APRS.fi page and seach for W7PEA-9 or use the LandYacht Tracker link on the homepage and you will see the last position report sent as well as a trail showing our route. We only turn this on when we’re driving, so not seeing new information posted does not mean anything bad has happened, just that its off or we’re camped somewhere!

Enjoy stalking us!


For more on all this, follow my HAM Radio blog – W7PEA

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!