Farewell Indio, thank you for the horse fix

It seems like we just arrived and now we already heading out to Mesa Arizona. While it is really only our third week as nomads, road warriors, refugees or what ever term our friends have used to define our adventure, it feels like perhaps it is time to move on.

Our time here in Indio has been occupied with some exploring, mundane chores, lots of reorganizing and purging. We have gotten out to dinner or lunch a few times, visited the Palm Springs Art Museum and made several trips to Home Depot (I thought those days were over).

The one constant thing has been a long bike ride every day and for some reason, we have been drawn to riding by the the Empire Polo Club. Perhaps it is my horsey upbringing and the fact I rode competitively until my 30’s. I do still love the smell of horses, their sheer athletic ability, their big brown eyes and their canny sense of danger. Since my “retirement’ from owning horses, I have still attended Grand Prix Jumping Competitions, enjoyed Olympic Dressage events, been to the home of the Kentucky Derby, ridden in London’s Hyde Park and attended a few Polo matches. All as a spectator, which seriously, it was less expensive than owning a horse or 12 which I have done in the past!

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The Empire Polo Club grounds are really beautiful, acres of lush, green grass playing fields and millions of pounds of sleek, muscled horses to admire. We were too early in the season for the matches but practice goes on year round, so we were able to park our bikes and watch the action.

Polo is a team sport played on horseback that originates from ancient Persia (bet you were thinking England). Its invention is dated variously from the 6th century BC to the 1st century AD. The objective is to score goals against an opposing team. Players score by driving a small white plastic or wooden ball into the opposing team’s goal using a long-handled mallet. The traditional sport of polo is played on a grass field up to 300 by 160 yards. Each polo team consists of four riders and their mounts. Field polo is played with a solid plastic ball which has replaced the wooden version of the ball in much of the sport. In arena polo, only three players are required per team and the game usually involves more maneuvering and shorter plays at lower speeds due to space limitations of arenas. Arena polo is played with a small air-filled ball, similar to a small football. The modern game lasts roughly two hours and is divided into periods called chukkas. Polo is played professionally in 16 countries and was formerly an Olympic sport.

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Polo “ponies” are rugged beasts with endurance and stamina. While they are called “polo ponies”, the term pony is purely traditional and the mount is actually a full-sized horse. They range from 14.2 to 16 hands (58 to 64 inches) high at the withers, and weigh 900–1,100 pounds. The polo pony is selected carefully for quick bursts of speed, stamina, agility and maneuverability. Temperament is critical; the horse must remain responsive under pressure and not become excited or difficult to control. Many are Thoroughbreds or Thoroughbred crosses. They are trained to be handled with one hand on the reins, and to respond to the rider’s leg and weight cues for moving forward, turning and stopping. A well trained horse will carry its rider smoothly and swiftly to the ball and can account for 60 to 75 percent of the player’s skill and net worth to his team.

The “ponies” I saw today where fast, sleek and had no problem going shoulder to shoulder with the competition’s pony when the ball was in play. Hearing them thunder down the field was incredible. I really admire the connection between the horse and the rider as it is a bond of trust. Occasionally, I do get wistful about riding again but for now I am content to stay on my trusty two wheeled steed.

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The grand finale was our dinner at the Tack Room Tavern at the Polo Club. Definitely, a locals bar with multiple sports game on the big screen but reeking with horsey history. I felt like I was in a English bar with the dark beamed ceilings but the eclectic horsey décor ( imagine saddles instead of bar stools) and the desert setting were all reminders I was definitely not in England.
The place was hopping on a Thursday night, the beer and burgers were 4 star and the people watching was a sport all to itself.

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Merry Christmas from the Road

We throughly enjoyed a warm Christmas with the snow dusted San Jocinto Mountains as a spectacular backdrop. It was clear, crisp and sunny here in the desert today making a perfect day for some outdoor activity.

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We are based in Indio which is in the Coachella Valley at the base of those gorgeous snow dusted mountains. The valley stretches along the eastern side of the range, including the cities of Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage. Much of the range is embraced by the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument created in 2000. Mount San Jacinto State Park is located along the flank of San Jacinto Peak. Part of the eastern flank of the range is located within the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation. In 1990 the California Legislature created the Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy to protect the mountains surrounding the valley. This makes it an outdoor enthusiast’s delight…hiking and biking opportunities abound.

I thought we would be hiking our selves silly but my broken toe has gotten us back on our bikes. I think I am falling in love again!!! Today we spent the morning in Palm Springs, biking the wash and lovely residential areas that surround it. Palm Springs is incredibly biking friendly, much like Portland, with well marked bike paths and routes that wind along the base of the mountains.

In case you are wondering, Palm Springs is a desert resort city in Riverside County, California, United States, within the Coachella Valley. It is located approximately 107 mi east of Los Angeles, 123 miles northeast of San Diego, and 268 miles west of Phoenix, Arizona. The population was 44,552 as of the 2010 census. Palm Springs covers approximately 94 square miles, making it the largest city in the county by land area.

Biking, golf, hiking, horseback riding, swimming, and tennis in the nearby desert and mountain areas are major forms of recreation in Palm Springs. The city is also famous for its mid-century modern architecture and design elements that really appeal to Wally and I. We had a ball cruising the area, looking at the architecture and enjoying the balmy day. Traffic was almost non-existent, thanks to the holiday.

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6.5 miles went by really easy and it was a great ride to break in the derrière to the saddle again but I think I want a to upgrade to a big ole comfy cruisers padded seat!

We may be living in a small space but that didn’t stop me from making a gluttonous Christmas meal. Prime rib smoked on the traeger topped with porter caramelized onions, green beans with a mushroom madeira sauce, roasted baby potatoes and pecan pie. We may need to up our game tomorrow and do a 15 mile ride but the feast was so good and worth every calorie.

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Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas from the warm, balmy desert. We are feeling truly blessed, relaxed and ready for what ever the new year brings.

Palm Springs or Bust

We arrived at the Indian Waters RV Resort on Sunday after a onerous drive from Bakersfield. Our tow car, Ernie Equinox started doing the “Death Wobble” in Stockton the day before and on Sunday, after three heart pounding incidences between Bakersfield and Pasadena we called time of death, pulled over and disconnected Ernie from the Road House and we drove separately to Palm Springs.

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“Death Wobble” is not something we had ever read about when researching which tow car to purchase but of course, now that we have Ernie Equinox and have spent $$ to set him up as a tow car this problem has cropped up.

So what is this “Death Wobble” you may be wondering??? It is basically Ernie Equinox not tracking correctly behind our 30,000 plus pound RV. An oscillation would occur when we hit a rough patch of road and bounced up and down. This caused Ernie to start shimming around behind us. It truly felt like we had two flat tires, the entire rig started shaking and bucking. We could see poor Ernie doing his shimmy in the rear camera. We could also see cars behind and around us getting the hell out of our way as Ernie did his sassy shimmy.

Our first reaction was WTF, we must have a flat tire (which the thought of that annoyed me greatly since we just put 6 new massive tires on the Road House). Wally was able to get our hulking mass slowed down and pulled off the freeway on the emergency shoulder where Ernie finally quit his shimmying. Luckily for us, there was an emergency shoulder when this happened – all three times on Sunday.

If that wasn’t enough, one of our awnings over the rear pop out had come loose and ripped, the wind in Riverside was gusting 30 MPH and the generator exhaust pipe came loose, was dragging on the ground just 1 mile out from the RV Resort. Seriously, we needed a big ole drinkie by the time we arrived in Palm Springs!!!

After some research on a few RV forums we learned about the what the heck was actually happening. It seems there are a few fixes for the “Death Wobble”which we will try on our upcoming trip from Palm Springs to Mesa, AZ. We did take poor Ernie into the La Quinta Chevrolet dealer for his 50K service and oil change…no surprise he needed a front end alignment too.

Otherwise, we are just chillaxing in the desert, trying to get our coach organized (yes, we have WAY to much stuff on board), doing some errands, drinking wine, trying some new restaurants and doing some bicycling, cause you can do that with a broken toe. The resort where we are for the next ten days is really lovely, very quiet and we have an amazing mountain/sunset view from inside and outside. Bentley gives it two paws up too, he loves the off leash dog park where he can chase his ball and roll in the grass.

There are several fun events coming up near by in the next ten days and we are planning to do a beef tenderloin on the traegar for Christmas. The drive to Palm Springs may have been a bust but we are really enjoying the desert warmth, exploring the area and being stationary for a while

Stuck in Lodi wouldn’t be that bad

Despite the seven cases of wine we already have on board the Road House, we were total excited about our three day stop in Lodi California. Yes, we do have a bit of a fascination with wine and I am not holding a grudge about my broken toe.

Lodi is a city located in San Joaquin County, California, in the northern portion of California’s Central Valley with a diverse population of about 65,000 people.

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Lodi is best known for being a center of wine grape production – I personally think it is the “Zinfandel Capital of the World”, although its vintages have traditionally been less prestigious than those of Sonoma and Napa counties. However, in recent years, the Lodi Appellation has become increasingly respected for its Zinfandel wine and other eclectic varietals, along with its focus on sustainability under the Lodi Rules program. National recognition came from the Creedence Clearwater Revival song “Lodi” and continues with the “2015 Wine Region of the Year” award given to Lodi by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.

I suspect that the founding fathers are less proud of the fact that Lodi gained international attention in 2005 when local residents Hamid and Umer Hayat were arrested and charged in the first terrorism trial in the state of California.

That small blip in history aside, I can think of worse places than Lodi to be stuck and while it did our rain torrentially for about 15 hours on our second day there, that did not detour us from getting out and exploring the wineries.

Lodi wineries are diverse and with 85+ wineries, this beautiful wine country offers an amazing variety of tasting opportunities.

We prefer smaller, more intimate experiences but visitors will find Lodi wine tasting rooms large and small, brand new and decades old. Although variety is abundant, one constant remains: the Lodi wine experience. Visitors to Lodi wineries will often find themselves sipping Lodi wine with a fourth-or-fifth generation winemaker, who is passionate about his product.

It is hard to talk about Lodi wineries without talking history. Lodi has been growing wine grapes since the mid-1800s and today is the largest appellation in California with over 190,000 acres in production. Known for hearty Zinfandels, Lodi is also home to all of California’s leading varieties, and has long been the leading producer for Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc. Today Lodi has over 100 varieties in production and offers a vast portfolio of diverse wines. Interestingly, many of the big producers in Napa and Sonoma are buying Lodi grapes for their wines.

The Zinfandels in Lodi run the gamut, from big, juicy, concentrated fruit bombs to the more minimalist winemaking practices, beginning with native yeast fermentation and use of no new oak. We found the focus with each winemaker is on the taste of vineyards rather than varietal character or brand.

With only a few days to devout to tasting, we only visited 5 wineries but truly enjoyed each of them for the art of what they are doing. We had a intimate experience at every winery we visited and the tasting room staff/winemakers were incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about their wines. Klinker Brick, McCay Cellars, LVVR Sparking Wines, M2 and St Jorge were all equally compelling, individual and well made wines.

Because of our over abundant supply of wine on the Road House we only added 9 more bottles to the on board cellar, very restraint. Next year we will definitely stay longer and leave Portland with a smaller stash of wine on board.

Lodi is also a great place to eat and there is no shortage of great dining options. We had a crazy good lunch at a local BBQ place (no texas cobb salad Barb) called the Tin Roof BBQ. I knew this was a good place when we pulled up, the lot was full and the smokers were running at full steam. I love giving a shout out to a family-owned restaurant whose food is delicious and guaranteed to fill your stomach without emptying your pockets!

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Great wine and food…my kind of place, we will see you again next year Lodi!!!

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What Whoa, I think I broke my toe

Have you ever had one of those moments when you think what whoa …this can’t be good? That thought crossed my mind on Tuesday morning as I rushed to grab my phone and jammed my foot, specifically my little toe into a box of wine.

I suspect you are thinking one of many things right now…
1. Why is she rushing for the phone – she’s retired?
2. Why is there a box of wine in the middle of the RV?
3. Is she really that big of a klutz?
4. Was there alcohol involved?

So many good questions, which I will try to address but in the moment all I was thinking is SDPH, that really hurt. Once I concluded the call, I calmly informed my husband that the important banking transaction (transferring a really large sum of money to my moms account for a home purchase) went well and I think I broke my toe. Of course he immediately suggested ice, advil and a stop at a urgent care once we got to Redding. Ice and advil sounded just fine but urgent care is not on my list of things to see or do in California. Out next stop after Redding was Lodi where we had grand plans to visit wineries and drink wonderful Zinfandel.

The internet has a plethora of information about just about anything and best I could tell after googling broken little toe, ice, binding the questionable toe and limited exercise was about all any doc would do. So, all my medical friends are welcome to chime in here but you are all so not compliant about your own injuries and the fact that I am 4 days post injury, might quench your desire to respond!

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Well, I iced and took gobs of advil, no binding cause I am not really sure it’s broken and it isn’t really hurting now, well maybe a little when I twist and turn on it! Sadly, this is cutting into my walking and doggie play time as I am trying to adhere to the limited exercised suggestion.

Ironically, we have very little room on board the RV for more wine. We left Portland with 7 cases of wine squirrel away…yes, some of which is being stored inside the RV where the couch will eventually be. One could conclude that I am a bit of a klutz since I broke my toe on a box of wine on the second day of our road trip. And yes, there was alcohol involved but there was none in my system at the time (story of my life). The final irony is that our next stop in in wine country.

Seriously, what is it about me and wine on this trip, do you think I should be worried?

Throw out the piano Ma…We are headed over the pass

In addition to scouting the weather conditions and providing navigation assistance for the Road House Party, I couldn’t help but wonder how many pianos made it over the Siskiyou Pass. The first wagon train crossed the Siskiyou Summit in 1849 – a party driving ten wagons led by Jesse Applegate. Applegate’s description persuaded a number of groups to cut off from the main Oregon Trail and try the new route, much of which had hardly been marked, let alone cleared. The going was slow and rough; the trains were subjected to intermittent harassment by Paiute and Modoc Indians almost all the way west to the Rogue River valley.

Well, I didn’t see any abandon pianos or Indians but my appreciation for what these folks went through to blaze new trails has surely deepened after our party summited the Siskiyou Pass. Sometimes called Siskiyou Summit, this historic mountain pass in the Siskiyou Mountains of Jackson County is the most used pass in the U.S. state of Oregon. For us, it caused a lot of angst because in bad weather it can be down right treacherous.

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Thanks to modern weather apps like NOAA, the weather channel and google we timed our climb over the Siskiyou’s in-between passing storms. Low lying fog clouded the top of Mt. Shasta as the Road House shifted in to low gear and chugged up and over the 4,300 ft elevation. The ascension wasn’t an issue for us as we have a 330HP Caterpillar diesel pusher engine with a work horse Allison 3000 transmission – way more horse power than Jesse Applegate had for sure. The 6% downgrades were what puckered the driver as the Road House is 30,000 plus pounds and tows our Chevy Equinox, Ernie behind it. Our PAC exhaust brakes drove the pucker factor way down. This breaking system is the cats meow for big rigs and large RV’s because you actually don’t have to use the regular braking system which means no overheated brakes or runaway vehicles. The PAC-braking system actually closes down the exhaust path and it stops the gases from being eliminated on the exhaust pipe. As a result, back pressure is built in the manifold and in the cylinders, making the engine work backwards and subsequently slowing down the vehicle. If you really want to geek on on Pacbrakes, check out this website: http://pacbrake.com/exhaust-brakes-how-do-they-work-and-what-benefits-do-they-bring/

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We were happy to call it a day and pull into the Premier RV Resort in Redding as it started to rain. After getting settled into our oak tree shaded spot and a playing a rousing game of fetch with Bentley at the parks off leash doggie area, we fed the critters and headed to Woody’s Brewing Company for a early dinner.

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I loved the story of Woody’s on their website and the google reviews suggested I wasn’t alone. We got a seat near the bar to watch the action, enjoyed a sampler of Woody’s finest and chowed down on some seriously good grub – including home made garlic tots made fresh daily by the “tot bot”. Our server Justin was awesome and filled us in on the tap favorites, some insider scoop and was very proud of the recent award – best brew house in Northern California. WTG, Team Woody and thanks for taking care of the Road House Party…I am sure we ate much better and had a much easier trek than the Applegate party in 1849.

The First Fifty

WOO-HOO… we did it… we are officially on the road!

Yesterday was literally a flat out pedal to the metal move out frenzy. Our goal was to get on the road around 10 am   – it’s good to have a goal, right? The hours ticked by, packing and cleaning, 10 am became noon and soon it was 2 pm. The last big task was to move our real queen sized mattress (as opposed to the thin RV mattress) from the second floor bedroom in the house into the RV which was parked at the end of the driveway. No easy task for two exhausted people but with some ingenuity and sheer determination, we muscled the damn thing into the RV. High fives, hugs and some seriously silly giggles.

Now fully committed to leaving, it was 3:30 and we really didn’t want to be on the road after dark. A quick look at google maps for RV Parks and we hit the road. As Mao said, the journey of 1000 miles starts with one step or, I guess, “Salem”. (M. Tedesco)

Yes, Salem Oregon, a whooping 50 miles away.  I drove the car and Wally followed me in the Road House. A bit anticlimactic but we had a gorgeous sunset as we drove along I5.

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We may have only done our first 50 but for us that was reason to CELEBRATE! Some one gave us a wonderful bottle of J Brut Rose at our going away party but in the fun of the day, the card was separated from the bottle. So, whoever you are – Thank You… it was much needed and appreciated.

I Think I am Starting to Panic…

When my normally calm husband uttered these words to me today, I stopped what I was doing to gape at him. With three days to finish packing the coach, clean out our house, make a final dump and Goodwill run, get our second vehicle to the new owner, get our tow car serviced it had started to snow, so no small wonder he was feeling edgy!! I tried to calmly remind him just to focus on one task at a time so he would feel good about getting something done and feel in control. Okay, so after mentally checking my to-do list, I felt slightly better too.

We knew leaving Portland in December could get complicated by weather and the biggest worry was getting over the Siskiyou Pass. The pass is only 4,311 foot elevation but can be really treacherous in the winter. But seriously, I wasn’t envisioning snow in Portland and was thinking we would get to Ashland, no problem. From there we could wait until we had a good weather window to to get over the Siskiyou Pass and make the 2.5 hour drive to Redding where the sun was sure to be shining and mountain passes would be all behind us.

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Well, the house is a disaster inside and so is the coach but I am optimistic we will be hitting the road on Sunday morning. Fingers crossed…