Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wednesday, November 7, through Friday, December 7, 2012:  In the California Desert:
The drive to tiny Thermal, California (Population:  2,863) was an easy 133 miles.  We are staying at the Oasis Palms RV Park.  It's pretty nice, though far from anything and virtually deserted since the high season hasn't started yet.  The park is actually in the village of Oasis, an unincorporated plot of land located in the same ZIP code as Thermal.  As the name "Thermal" suggests, it can get very hot here---topping out at 122 degrees in the middle of summer.  Today, it's only 82.  Good.  Since we're so far away from anything, we don't plan on doing much in the few waking hours we will spend here.

On the way here, we were listening to a local talk radio station that plays our National Anthem every hour on the hour (Very patriotic!), followed by the Canadian National Anthem (O, Canada)---which they explain is a tribute to the many Canadians who spend winters in the area.  It's a nice touch.  They also play the Kate Smith version of God Bless America.  It's still exciting after all these years.

We left early on Thursday  to make the 30-mile trek to the Palm Springs Thousand Trails preserve---arriving two minutes before 8:00AM, in time to be the first people to look for a site.  We had our pick of several good ones.

Becky immediately suited up for pickleball, while I settled in to read.

Saturday, there was a pickleball tournament Becky did not want to play in, so instead she went on a 19-mile bike ride to the Street Fair on the campus of the College of the Desert.  It’s a huge weekly (weekend) affair from October to April.  It’s an event we’ve visited before.  She didn’t buy anything.

Saturday was also our 27th wedding anniversary, and we went to the Jackalope Ranch restaurant in Indio---with the Wheelers, who celebrated their 45th anniversary on Sunday.  As usual, the food was excellent; but, unfortunately, the service was awful.

Sunday was our day to see a movie in an actual theater---for the first time in many months.  We settled on Argo.  It turned out to be excellent, in spite of the fact that Ben Affleck (a terrible actor) both starred in it but also directed it.  (He and George Clooney also were in the list of producers.)

After the movie, we stopped by the Bermuda Dunes Country Club to visit our friends Salli and Carl Middleton, who came in from their home in Seattle to celebrate Salli's 60th birthday. Their children and grandchildren were with them.  It made for quite a mob.  It was great to see them all again. 

Monday afternoon we went to see Flight (with Denzel Washington).  I haven’t yet decided whether I liked the film.  It was certainly different.

Tuesday afternoon, ten of us from the Thousand Trails preserve went to see the new James Bond movie, Skyfall.  It was a typical Bond movie, full of amazing stunts and special effects, terrific acting (Javier Bardem was very special as the villain), beautiful women, and just plain fun.   We followed that with a trip to a nearby Mexican restaurant, El Portal, for a delicious dinner, laced with yummy margaritas.  

We've now been to the movies three days in a row.  That's a first since we left Pasadena nearly ten years ago.  I can't see it happening again for another ten years.

The next few days were pretty routine---Becky playing pickleball in the morning and riding her bike in the afternoon, Ramsey insisting on going for numerous walks, me reading, and the two of us shopping.  Friday afternoon, a number of us met at Joe and Barb's rig for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. 

Joe and Barb are new folks at the Palm Springs preserve, but have something special in common with some of us---having worked at the North Rim years after we left and after Xanterra lost the concession.  Nice people. 

Joe occasionally works for FEMA as a claims adjuster.  He was scheduled to go to New York last weekend to deal with the Sandy mess, but the trip was cancelled due to a shortage of hotel rooms.  Duh! 

Saturday was sushi for lunch (at Sam's Sushi in La Quinta) and then mostly watching college football.  UCLA beat USC for the first time in years, and the top two ranked teams (Kansas State and Oregon) both lost.  It was an interesting day.  

On Sunday, Becky rented two movies at the nearby Red Box---Magic Mike (awful, as expected, but so bad it was actually impossible to watch all the way through) and Take This Waltz (pretty good).

Monday was a return to normal, with Becky having a flat tire for the umpteenth time in the last month.  Where we've been lately, there are zillions of goathead thorns, which easily penetrate bike tires.  This time, I got a protective liner for the tire to try to help prevent recurrences.  We'll see if that works. 

Tuesday was our day to have lunch at The Elephant Bar, one of our favorite places---in the desert or anywhere.  I had the Five Spice Shrimp & Chicken Stir Fry.  Absolutely delicious.

Tuesday afternoon, we received an email from our daughter-in-law, Joell, directing us to a recent article in the Austin Business Journal---listing the top 10 mortgage producers in Austin for 2011.  Our son, Rick, was #9! 

He was only about 1 1/2 loans away from the guy who was #7 (who works for the same company, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage).  At the beginning of 2011, Rick had been in the mortgage business in Austin for only three months.  Yea, Rick!  For those who may be interested, the link to the article is

We got our bi-annual holiday cards early this year, and I will have spent much of this week addressing and stamping envelopes.  Becky will do the personalizing and stuffing of the cards over the next week or so.  

Thursday, we headed for the Pasadena area to celebrate Thanksgiving with the Shelton clan.  The bash was at Peter & Terry's home in San Gabriel. 

It was also nice to reunite with Becky's 86 year old dad, Bill.  Fun. 

Ramsey was with us.  We introduced him to Peter & Terry's dog, Berkeley, a dog of mixed breed who is about Ramsey's size.  They got along very well, and Ramsey was so good he was allowed to roam around the house. 

We had arranged to spend the night at the Quality Inn in Pasadena.  Ramsey loved the king-size bed we had.  He spent the whole night on it. 

Friday, we headed back to the desert and immediately took naps; we were exhausted from the Thanksgiving festivities.

Saturday was mostly football.  UCLA lost to Stanford (at UCLA), naturally,

and has the opportunity to lose to them again next Friday in the Pac-12 Championship game (at Stanford).  If UCLA had beaten Stanford, the Championship game would have pitted UCLA against Oregon, at Oregon.  USC lost to Notre Dame, as expected, which was a bummer because the only time I root for USC is when they play Notre Dame.

On one of my Ramsey walks here in the park, I saw the ultimate in RV opulence:  A beautiful motorhome, towing a Bentley convertible.  Wow! 

I actually played a little pickleball on Sunday and Monday mornings, and on Wednesady afternoon, for the first time in months.  I wasn't very sharp but it felt good, anyway.

Over the weekend we had started noticing that the refrigerator was not as cold as we were used to.  By Monday morning it was apparent that whatever was wrong was not going to solve itself.  A repairman to whom I was referred finally called me back Monday night and we performed a number of tests by phone.  He gave me the bad news:  Subject to the result of one more (overnight) test, we would need a new cooling unit, which, for practical reasons (i.e., economics) would have to come via the manufacturer's warranty.  The overnight test failed, and I contacted the manufacturer early Tuesday morning to start the lengthy process of coordinating the repair with the factory.

We will probably have to change our travel plans to accomplish the repair. In the meantime, our refrigerator is kaput.   The last time this happened, we were on the way to Bemidji, Minnesota, and it was a nightmare.

Tuesday morning it was confirmed that we need a new cooling unit in our refrigerator. Late Wednesday morning the manufacturer arranged to cover the replacement under warranty, so we now just have to wait for the part to arrive, which means we will be here an extra week or so.  Oh, well, there are worse places to spend time.

Thursday was our day to take up the offer at Staples for a free "tune-up" of our computers.  I don't know what they did, but the machines seem a little faster.  

Friday called for another cocktail party at Barb & Joe's rig.  The usual suspects attended, and we feasted on leftover shrimp and other goodies. 

That was followed by another UCLA loss to Stanford.    

The rest of the week was pretty routine, with a major exception---we went to Costco and walked out with only one item, and it cost less than $10.00!!!   Sunday morning, Becky rode her bike to the Street Fair again, and came out with only a couple of items.

Monday was the 30th anniversary of our first date (for the arithmetically challenged, that was December 3, 1982) and we celebrated by having an adult beverage at the beautiful La Quinta Inn. 

The place was all decked out for Christmas.  Quite stunning.

Otherwise, for much of the week we just marked time, waiting for the refrigerator part to arrive at the repair facility.  It was scheduled to arrive late Wednesday afternoon, and we had an appointment to take the rig to the repair place early Thursday morning.  Of course, the part did not arrive until Thursday afternoon, so we moved everything to Friday. 

Staying that long at our RV park is a no-no under the rules, so we had to convince the manager to ignore the rules and let us buy the two extra days.  That also required a daily call to our next two scheduled parks to delay our arrival dates.  We pulled out of the RV park at 7:40 Friday morning---headed for The Grand Paw Pet Resort, where Ramsey would spend the day,

and then on to Benlo RV, the repair facility in Indio.  After dropping off the trailer, we had breakfast at Goody's in Palm Desert, then did some Christmas shopping.  

Though we had the right to stay at the RV park Friday night, we had earlier decided to leave the area as soon as the repair was finished, which meant we left Indio, headed for Barstow, 142 miles away, at 2:30 Thursday afternoon.  We knew we would arrive after sundown, which we have done only once---many years ago.  It's no fun to try to set up in the dark, but we wanted to get going.

We arrived at the Barstow KOA in pitch darkness.  But, since we are now such experienced RVers, we managed to settle in quite easily.  An hour later, another RV came in and parked next to us.  (The people left the next morning at sunrise.  I can't imagine doing that on a regular basis.) 

Thus ended our California desert adventure.

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