We have finally left the SF Bay Area again and are slowly making our way to L.A. where I will attend the Electronic Entertainment Expo (or E3 as it is known) in mid June. The last few days we stayed near Santa Cruz at Pinto Lake RV Park in Watsonville. The park was a pleasant surprise, given that it was not originally our first choice. We had totally missed that it was Memorial Day Weekend, a major holiday and every park we called told us they were fully booked!
Luckily this little city park at Pinto Lake had an opening for one night, so we took it thinking that we might have to go on the next day inland, away from the coast to avoid the holiday crowds. But we were really lucky when the park hosts told us the next morning that another space had opened up until Monday, Memorial Day. We took it, because it meant we could relax, stay near the coast, and also visit Monterey and Carmel. We were really relieved that it worked out that way, because otherwise we would have maybe ended up having to wing it, which we didn’t really want to do.
I really wanted to show Tracy the famous 17 mile drive through Pebble Beach and with the help of an old friend who lives in the area, we got the grand tour. Though the crowds caused quite a lot of traffic, we still managed to hit all the good spots, including a photo opportunity at the Lone Cypress!
After Memorial Day we stayed at the Paso Robles RV Ranch, which was also very pleasant (I think we will definitely visit again) as well as the Flying Flags RV Resort in Buellton, another rather nice park.
We’re now heading further south and will arrive in L.A. soon. At first we will still be staying outside the city though, until E3 is about to start!
Chris and I brought a friend couple to a favorite downtown restaurant the other night. They were visiting our new motor home, and hadn’t been to Petaluma before.
“I didn’t didn’t know Petaluma was so cute,” we heard from each of them.
It really is. Many other towns in Sonoma share this same sort of quality…which is a sort mix of vintage and modern, artsy funk with a tasteful aesthetic. All mixed in with green mountains, farm and coastland. And the name: Petaluma. Just saying it makes me want to grab myself in a hug, or dig my fingernails into my cheeks because of the high cuteness quotient in it.
Since I’ve begun this new life of RV’ing, I’ve found myself saying that I’ve said that Sonoma and the Bay Area has spoiled me for other places. However, I hope that isn’t the case, and that I’ll always find charming and beautiful areas everywhere. I did find myself very attracted to the Palm Desert/Palm Springs area (and wrote about it’s bewitching beauty here):
But, I digress.
In getting back to that attractive-but-hard-to-define quality of Petaluma, let me tell a little story that happened a couple of days ago:
I went to a local car wash to get Menti (our ‘toad’ car) cleaned inside and out. As I’m waiting to pay for the service, I see this rooster walking around the lot. A very handsome rooster. Not just any run-of-the-mill rooster; this proud guy was gorgeous. Look at that feather color!
So, of course I had to ask about him when I paid, and the owner told me a bit of a back story. He showed up a short time after her father (the previous owner of the carwash) had passed, and made the place his. Many of the customers are charmed by him. He even has a chicken as a mate. The two of them have ‘free reign’ (relatively speaking) of the place, and are a staple there.
She also added that the rooster can get aggressive in protecting his mate or if others/children get too close/try to touch him. to me. I mean, it looks pretty clear to me that one should keep a distance—there is nothing about his demeanor that is cute or cuddly.
At any rate, I just love that: the rooster mascot and his mate of Raintree Car Wash.
And what’s a post about Petaluma without including art? And wow, there’s some surprising stuff that you can come upon.
Like this Huge metal whale-tale-that-has-a-whole-room-with-a-bench-in-it sculpture.
W-O-W! I couldn’t get enough of it. I wanted to just stay in there, hold a meeting, eat lunch; sleep. It’s such a treat for the eyes and the senses. And it’s just hanging out there on the sidewalk, in an unassuming shopping area with sandwich shops and home improvement centers, instead of in the courtyard of an art museum.
Such cool little details…like the ‘Superman’ emblem!
…and 3 deer!
Ah, Petaluma—such a mix of old and new, quaint and modern; nostalgic past and exciting future!
We’ve come a long way, baby (561 miles to be exact! :).
We are back in our ‘hometown’, Petaluma, CA, which is in Sonoma County/North Bay Area, and it is good to be back (in large part because that means that our new-to-us motorhome has successfully made it back)!
Yes, ‘Mel’ (the name of our coach) has made the maiden voyage, and is doing very well now that we addressed all of the major problems.
Despite the fact that it took over 3 times as long as we thought it would and experiencing some pretty major inconveniences, we feel in our heart that it truly all worked in a pretty great way. We had the time to absorb/incorporate all the change happening/new RV lifestyle, and learned A LOT from the Palm Desert RV shop owner (and new friend) –giving us more than enough know-how to function well in said RV lifestyle!
Chris has taken to it all like a duck to water (in many instances—because of his research—knowing more about something than those more experienced), and enjoys ‘talking shop’ with RV neighbors about engine power, abilities, etc. He also drives it very well.
This is, of course, after an initial scare after leaving the Palm Springs area (read about it here). Boy, that day was something. We were all set—gassed up, tow car in the ready, final tweak on a 2nd toilet seal done that morning (there was a water leak, no sewage, easy fix). I was worn out, chomping at the bit to get moving back to Northern CA, and when that ‘Check Engine’ light came on, I about lost my mind!
But, I digress. The focus on this post is that we are in ‘our neck of the woods’, so to speak, and we are thrilled to see the Beauty that Northern California is known for (can you handle all of this daydream-inspiring blue sky and perfect green fields?):
We finally did it… we left Palm Springs after our extensive repairs and upgrades and are now officially on our way to the San Francisco Bay Area. We’re really looking forward to be reunited with our house plants (which are being cared for by friends) as well as other cherished items currently in storage. And speaking of friends – it’s been too long and will be great when we can all meet again (Friday night beer gatherings, even though I don’t drink beer ;). And of course not to forget: family – Tracy’s brother and family live in SF too.
We drove 145 miles today, and it was quite a ride; first we had a scare when our coach all of a sudden showed a “check engine” light. We panicked a little and pulled off the freeway, thinking we could be stranded again (in what at that moment felt very disheartening), but at least the light turned off again after we cruised to a stop. We immediately called a few of our mechanic contacts for advice, searched the internet and studied the manuals. We learned a lot in about half an hour; if the light had flashed, it would have meant a serious problem. But since it stayed solid and turned off by itself, it meant that the engine was not operating optimally, likely also causing higher than desired exhaust emissions. The likely culprit was a bit of a steep climb up a hill just before we became aware of the problem. I felt the engine was struggling with the gears our automatic transmission was choosing (btw. it’s an Allison, which is an excellent transmission nevertheless) and after studying the manuals I came up with a plan to be more proactive about what gears to use for climbs. And it paid off… the rest of the way I manually picked lower gears for steeper hills and the engine seemed to be very happy with the higher RPMs. No more check engine light and the water and transmission temperatures also stayed lower. Conclusion: you can’t just drive one of these like a car… it needs a bit more attention.
We’re now in Lancaster, in Antelope Valley, just over the San Gabriel Mountains, which at times provided us with stunning vistas. Tomorrow we may rest for the day until we continue our trip on Sunday. Driving the motorhome is exciting, fun, but also hard work and truly frightening at times! 😉
“Life has become immeasurably better since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously.”, Hunter S. Thompson
Chris and I drove to the Salton Sea area today, while waiting for our new Michelin tires to be put on the coach. This is the final fix/upgrade that we are doing until we get back in the Bay Area—and then (fingers crossed) only things of the upgrade kind! Chris’ work space, water filtration system, some deep cleaning and painting, too.
But I digress. We decided to drive out there after hearing our wait time was 4 hours, and after getting breakfast at a charming local place (Sloan’s, in Coachella), we headed out.
I was excited to go: I’ve wanted to for years, ever since I saw ‘before and after’ pictures and heard it’s backstory. It used to be quite the “It” Place To Be in the ’50’s, too—starlets and movie stars, etc., with a beautiful beach, boating, resort lifestyle, etc. Now it’s a bit of a wasteland; moody and mysterious. It’s fascinating to me, the rise and fall of something.
Quick and imprecise summary for those who want/need it: it came to be because a river that was being diverted ran amok from the original plan, and before it was corralled again, it had dumped a bunch of water for two years into the Salton basin. Later, farming and irrigation runoff was added to the mix (fun!). The salinity gradually raised, different types of fish that were introduced have died off, and the general ambiance of the lake and surrounding area soured. If no intervention takes place, it will gradually continue to increase in salinity and kill off the remaining fish—I hope that those in government, nature conservation and ‘other’ can decide upon and implement a positive solution.
I was surprised to find out that it’s a major spot for birdwatching! “Somehow this odd accidental lake, with its prolific fish and nearby fields, has become one of the most important migratory bird habitats in the U.S., if not the world. Millions of birds representing more than 400 species can be spotted here, including endangered brown pelicans and Yuma clapper rails. Snow and Ross’s geese arrive from the Arctic; blue-footed boobies cruise up from South America. Why? Perhaps because in southern California there’s no place else to go.” (http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0502/feature5/fulltext.html)
We could smell it as we drove closer to the area…definitely fishy. And with a weak pulse—totally empty and abandoned in parts, others burnt and demolished; yet there is still a community, houses, cars.
Chris and I got out of the car and walked around a bit. The look of certain places there are shocking, like something out of an apocolypse movie, I half expected to see a zombie shuffle around the corner. At one location, I came upon something truly near and dear to my heart: a found art piece. A pair of sunglasses wired to a smashed loudspeaker, made to look like a mouth. It’s crusted with time and sand. Chris remarked that it looked like the character from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Hunter S. Thompson), and he’s so right! I added a bit of a stick to make the cigarette and holder…perfect!
So Hunter adds to our list of [unofficial] mascots, riding with us on the dashboard, and helping to guide our adventures!
Chris and I originally wrote this post last week, and postponed putting it out–but we now see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel (I hope writing this doesn’t ‘jinx’ us). Every issue in this post has been taken care of; tomorrow we get new tires for the coach, and soon after we’ll be heading back to the Bay Area to get our other remaining stuff from storage!
Here’s the post, for your enjoyment. Take pleasure in our pain:
We decided to write this next post together, because it’s too much for just one of us to take on (you’ll see what we mean in a minute).
Chris: I finally drove our motorhome away from the garage in which it’s been located for 1 ½ months or so – you would think “so far, so good”!
Tracy: Unfortunately, the place we drove it “to” is yet another garage.
C: We wanted to get the suspension checked due to the somewhat bouncy ride and ended up choosing to replace all the shocks. But on top of it, they found that the brakes are in immediate need of repair (the system was leaking hydraulic fluid at an alarming rate and was at this point absolutely unsafe to drive). In addition, the process of hooking up the electrical wiring of the Invisibrake for our tow car has seemed to cause an electrical issue with the ignition switch, which still need to be sorted.
T: I know what you all are thinking. Yes, I do. If you are of any kind of intelligent mindset, you’re thinking that Chris and I got duped and were sold a lemon. Yes, it can be said that Chris and I can both be somewhat naive about things, (personally I think the world needs people like us to help it go ’round), but there are reasons (of which we can go into more detail later) why we decided to go ahead and purchase the motorhome after learning that the back end had been dinged. We have been firm in our conviction to get this coach, and stand by it through the repairs and updates.
C: The repairs on the back end were done really well (the coach is actually looking better than before!), and additionally we had two side doors repainted to fix some unsightly clearcoat failure, a back ladder was added, our engine cover got resealed, some cracked upper chassis lights in the back were switched out, etc. But there have also been other things that badly needed repair: we had to fix a leaky shower handle connection, and the broken automatic entry steps’ motor (more about that story here).
T: Chris and I have stayed (for the most part) very positive about the fixes that have needed to be done, because we feel it’s really shaping up the coach to be a really healthy piece of machinery. We’ve been told by knowledgeable RV mechanics that our Safari is overall a really solid choice in terms of chassis, engine, etc.–despite all that may point to the contrary.
C: When I researched class A motorhomes, I really liked the pros of the Safari: it’s a long lasting diesel, has an all aluminum skin, full fiberglass roof, no slide-outs that could break, no yearly smogging requirement (because it was built before 1998), lots of storage etc. We also had it professionally inspected, though in hindsight I’m wondering why they didn’t find or point out some of the issues we’re dealing with now…we’re looking further into this.
T: It’s just getting through this initial process of ‘working out the kinks’, so to speak. One of the more difficult things to wrestle with was not having any water hookups, combined with having fairly full holding tanks and not being able to take it to a dump station (because it’s been in a garage/getting work done). It feels like we’ve been hard camping for quite awhile now.
C: Good news is that once we’re finally able to clear out our holding tanks (along with a newly
The “not so glamorous” side of RV life!
filled freshwater tank), everything will go so much better, particularly for boondocking/dry camping as we’ve learned to be very conservative with the water!
T: Chris has come up with an awesome way to clean dishes with a minimum of water–look for a blog post/video about it in the future! But what I’ve come to decide, is that the RV Life seems to test people who choose to try this life. It’s as if there’s a big “How bad do you want it?” thrown at certain individuals, and mettle has to be proven before the gates to the kingdom are thrown open. It’s strange.
C: There are actually a lot of RVers who get on the road and have breakdowns, leaks, engine trouble, etc. As a matter of fact, it’s actually common knowledge that in the RV Life you will always have something to fix, improve or maintain – we just didn’t think we’d have to do it so much at once, right from the start! 😉
T: I’m reminded, yet again, of the tale of The Farmer from a previous post: are these repairs happening now bad? Or good? Take the brakes, for instance. It is such a lucky happenstance that the brake thing happened when it did and how it did—safely reaching a garage in which they told us the situation, and not having the brakes go out on us unexpectedly, on the road, causing untold amount of injury, harm, or worse! We are definitely feeling the silver lining in that one.
But besides all these challenges we want to thank you for joining us on our adventure, welcome your questions, and are both are looking forward to getting past this initial phase, and taking our first ROAD TRIP!
(This post may be somewhat redundant, because we have talked about many of these points in previous posts, but I wanted to have one concise record or statement about our major lifestyle change to post to Twitter etc.)
It’s time to reveal a brand new exciting adventure of mine / ours. In fact, it’s a major lifestyle change that has been more than 6 month in the making! Tracy and I (and our 2 cats) are hitting the road as full time “RV’ers”. We sold our 3 bedroom house in the San Francisco North Bay, massively downsized our belongings and bought an older (but for its time well appointed) class A diesel pusher motorhome (see the attached pictures) to try something truly unique and wild!
We’re planning to travel quite a bit and see the country, but instead of traveling for just a few days or weeks a year, we will be living in this behemoth full time and also work while being on the road. Of course I will continue to create music for games and other media and literally take the term “mobile studio” to the ultimate level. I am currently designing a custom work desk with a single very large 4k computer monitor, compact studio monitor speakers, a slide out shelf for a midi keyboard and a 19 inch rack for my remaining outboard gear. The rest of my studio has for years resided in virtual form on my Laptop (though it’s a quite powerful machine, not the typical underpowered one from your local office supply chain 😉 ), so my tools stay pretty much the same.
Also, and this is maybe the most exciting part is that we want to document our journey and adventures in the form of an official blog and Youtube channel. To that end, we have created “The Cruisin’ Crew” and you can read all about our trials and tribulations at right here at http://www.TheCruisinCrew.com
I hope you will be as excited as I am about this new chapter in our lives and you can ask me any questions you might have. I’m looking forward to share our stories, photos and videos of this adventure of a lifetime! 🙂
And, ‘Wow!’ was it a happy reunion! The motorhome Looks. Great. I’m talking, making-me-fall-in-love-with-her, Capital-G Great. This is the moment that I’ve been waiting for…I’m now starting to feel proud as a motorhome owner.
And the wet-dog smell is better too; I have hope that we can actually rid ourselves of it at some point!
It’s been such a strange limbo state that The Crew have all been in, waiting for small damage on the bumper and side door to be repaired. This shop, that the previous owner took the coach to is in high demand, because they do such beautiful work. They, quite simply, strive for perfection in what they do.
The RV shop basically squeezed us in as a favor to the previous owner (which said owner had failed to tell us; actually he said “Oh, they just starting working on it today, and it should be done within the week”–while, in reality (for insurance reasons) the shop couldn’t start work on it until the following week, and they had to basically work on us in their spare time, and the owner/head mechanic took a nasty spill off of some scaffolding and was seriously injured, and that’s why it’s taken longer than usual.
And there’s no rushing perfection, as they say.
Speaking of perfection, I experienced a perfect moment (several of them) yesterday on the drive to Palm Desert from Bakersfield. Chris had read about an alternate route to take (in order to avoid the L.A. area traffic, leave the Grapevine near Gorman and continue on I-138), and it was as close to perfection as anything I’ve experienced.
The views were spectacular, with the poppies and other flowers just starting to show their colors—and it’s only getting better onward into Spring! I mean, I was gasping and yelling out loud in jubilation over the majestic beauty of the mountains.
I wondered aloud, “Are other drivers appreciating this?! I mean, no matter how crappy your life is, or what you’re dealing with, are you Seeing this, and if not, why not? Let this beauty Heal You, people!”
Booie definitely approves it! 🙂
And speaking of beauty: in arriving at the shop, there were a bunch of packages waiting for us, one of them being a mattress that Chris had found, researched, and ordered. So. Awesome. It’s plush. It’s luxurious. It’s eco-concious.
And it beats the hell out of an old, smelly, (and surprisingly, or perhaps not so?) pee-stained mattress (at least, I think it’s pee—the location of the stain is an odd one—I’m hoping it’s from one of the dogs, at any rate).
Improvements continuing, all around!
Now all we have to do is learn how to drive this thing…
I am, I thought, standing with some of the coolest people I’ve ever seen, in one of the coolest places I’ve ever been.
Who would have thought it would be in Bakersfield?
My first impression of Bakersfield can be summed up in a scene from the show Friends, a scene that I watched just 2 nights ago in a La Quinta that I’m staying in with Chris and the cats (we’ve been staying here for several days while waiting for the shop to finish the paint job on the back end of our motorhome *gasps for breath*; see previous posts for details).
The scene goes like this: engaged couple Chandler and Monica go to Las Vegas to see Chandler’s transsexual father perform in a drag show/men’s review (as ‘Helena Handbasket’). As part of the performance, ‘Helena’ moves out into the audience and has playful banter with them. She approaches one man and asked where he’s from. “Bakersfield”, he replies. “I’m sorry,” she says, after which he repeats himself: “Bakersfield.” “No, no I heard. I’m just sorry.”, she deadpans. Get it?
Yes, I must admit, that’s how I felt when Chris and I first started driving around this city (though it’s more of a ‘small town’ feel). It’s spread out, with a lot of trucking, factory and construction yards. It also can be downright ugly; one’s view being either dirt, metal, or concrete. Looking pretty down-an’-out in some places, I had to wonder if we’d be mugged if we walked around.
But upon further investigation, parts of it are incredibly cool, cute and artsy at the same time. As a matter of fact, I would go so far as to say that Bakersfield is having a comeback of sorts! Chris says to just “Look between the ugliness; everywhere there’s pockets of cuteness”.
Driving downtown, there were really cool old buildings, wonderful murals, an old funky theatre (showing Quadrophenia—I mean, come on!),
the funkiest Natural History museum that I Ever Did See (I’ll have to go inside next time),
and the already-mentioned Cool coffee shop (Dagny’s Coffee Co.) that served the already-mentioned Coolest Bunch of People/Clientele Ever.
I mean, L.A. has got nothing on this coffee house. It’s hard to describe, and I think can only be experienced—but somehow, these random good-looking and well-dressed uber-hipsters. They were so on another level that ‘hipster’ needs to be updated somehow…perhaps ur-bohip-sters (‘ur’ for urban/uber, ‘bo’ for bohemian, and ‘hipster’ for, well y’know. Or hipsturbo. I like that. They were all kinds of hipsturbo, with their clothes and hair and glasses and overall energy.
I wanted to take pictures, I did! But I was too nervous—how do I do it? Do I just walk up and ask individual / groups of people, “Can I take your picture”? Do I locate/ask the owner or manager of the place to take pics?
I took the easy way out, and took a couple of blurry pics on the sly. Of people’s backs.
Doesn’t do the scene justice.
Then, on the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a gas station/liquor store for gas. So dive-y looking, but it housed a 5-star Mexican cafe inside, and at one of the gas pumps was this awesome car, with its awesome-by-proxy owner!
Overall, Bakersfield is a bit of an enigma. Somewhat hip and edgy, while also a bit seedy and somewhat ‘on the wrong side of tracks’. Still, though–my feel is that the city is pulling itself up again, scrappy as it is.