Our Second Harvest Host Stay

img_20190223_165745Well, a mere one week after our first Harvest Host stay at Klinker Brick Winery in Lodi we stayed at another winery.  This time we stay in Merced at Vista Ranch and Cellars.  My brother was going to be staying the night after we did.  I would have liked to have stayed the same night but I had work the next day.  So we spent a nice afternoon walking around the vineyard and orchards, dodging the bees who where busy doing their jobs, and just enjoying the break from the rain.  We stopped by the tasting room but since I don’t drink, I had a bowl of lobster bisque.  It was delicious!  Cristy tasted some sparkling wine and bought something in the gift shop as a thank you for being able to stay in such a beautiful location.

Most Harvest Host locations are boondocking only, meaning, there are no facilities available.  You bring your own power and plumbing.  This winery is different in that they provide three spaces that have water and 50 amp electric service.  No sewer service or dump station is available.  However, having electricity is AWESOME!  And if I’d known they have water, I’d never have filled up my fresh water tank to save some weight.

We spent the evening reading and catching up on some TV shows I downloaded to our iPad.  We heated up the soup she had brought and enjoyed a nice quiet dinner.  Even though there was a high school dance going on at the event center also located on the winery grounds, it was still very peaceful

That is, until a train went by.  And they go by very often.  There is a very busy stretch of railroad right on the other side of the street.  At times during the night it sounded like some of the trains were going to come right through our trailer!  But I fell right back asleep each time.

The next day we slept in.  I cooked some eggs for breakfast, and then we watched our church live on their website.  Just as church was ending my brother and his wife showed up.  We caught up a little, gave them the grand tour of our little Lance, and then headed back up to the visitor center to have some lunch together.  After some great conversation I had to start packing up.  Amazed that three hours could pass so quickly.

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It was really nice catching up with my brother and just enjoying a quiet getaway to Vista Ranch.  We will definitely be back soon!

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Our First Harvest Host Stay

Many RV’ers take advantage of a website called Harvest Hosts.  It is a searchable map of wineries, farms, museums, golf courses, and assorted other attractions that allow RV’ers to stay overnight for free.  The assumption is that you will patronize their facility.  Cristy and I found Klinker Brick Winery in Lodi, CA through Havest Hosts and stayed there this past weekend.

They have a great facility with LOTS of RV parking behind the winery right next to their  vineyards.  It’s a beautiful view!  The only problem we ran into was that it had rained heavily off and on for the past two weeks.  This made for some very large puddles and some very soft ground.

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I did my best to find a high spot to park the trailer but we were tip toeing around puddles all weekend.  Still the folks at the winery tasting room were really friendly and understanding.  They offered to pull out their tractor if I got stuck in the mud. And the view during breakfast was outstanding!

After breakfast we took a walk before heading over to the tasting room.  I don’t drink wine and Cristy can’t drink wine so it was a short visit.  However, since we wanted to support them Cristy bought a T shirt.

We really enjoyed our stay at Klinker Brick and can’t wait to try another Harvest Host location.  Which, incidentally, will be next weekend when we stay at Vista Ranch and Cellars in Merced, CA.  We’ll let you know how that went.

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Beautiful walk!  But COLD!

The RV Journey Begins

After 4 years of research and one year of actual shopping we have finally purchased our first RV; a Lance 1995 Travel Trailer.  We picked the trailer up on Saturday from Meeks RV in Acampo, California.  They gave us a walk through and demonstrated how everything works which took about an hour and a half.  We signed the paperwork and pulled out onto the highway for the first time.

I had to do some work at my job at 2am so we booked a spot at an RV park about 10 minutes away from where I work.  I got everything set up just in time for the rain to start.  I started going through some of the inspection items that I wasn’t able to complete at the dealer.  There were only two things that I could pick on.  I’ll start a list for when I visit the dealer again to have them take care of the repairs.

The RV park itself was pretty nice.  I’ve driven past it for years but this is the first time I’ve been to it.  I was assigned a pull thru site which made set up really easy.  It was really quiet which made resting before my late night work easy.  They gave me a key to the gate for a $10 refundable deposit so I could get in the gate after my work was done.

I rolled back into the RV park after doing my work at about 3:30am.  I turned the heater on and listened to the storm raging outside my warm little camper.  I actually had to turn the heat down at one point because it was too warm.  I slept in and completed a few more inspection items before joining my wife and son for some lunch.

My wife then rode back with me to spend the night in our new RV.  We had a really enjoyable time in the quiet RV park.  It rained and stormed most of the time we were there but there were but we still really enjoyed ourselves.  If our first shakedown cruise of the RV was this good then we have many more adventures to look forward to.   We plan to use this time to learn the ropes of living in an RV.  We’ll spend as much time in it as we can over the next 7 years and make sure that full time RV living is something we really want.  We can’t wait!

New Year, New News

Nothing big or earth shattering has happened since I  last updated this blog.  Thanksgiving and Christmas came and went rapidly.  We spent both here at home with our kids.   Our extended family is becoming dispersed and it’s no longer possible for us all to spend time together at the holidays.  I go to work.  I come home.  I plan for the future.  I watch the nervous-nellies in the stock market wreak havoc with my 401K.

The one bit of interesting news we have is that we have just ordered our Lance travel trailer.  It’s scheduled to be built and arrive in 4 to 6 weeks.  It’s going to be a bit of a financial strain until we get both cars paid off but we’ll swing it.  We bought a Lance model 1995.

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The hunt for the right travel trailer has now turn into the hunt for insurance, storage, accessories, etc.  It should keep me off the streets and out of trouble for the foreseeable future.  It’s a new chapter of life that Cristy and I can’t wait to start enjoying.  We’re going to take some small camping trips locally to learn the ropes or RV’ing.  But later this year we’re going to take a road trip to Missouri to visit my mother’s grave.  That will be the true test.

Happenings

We’ve had a little bit of life happen since my camping trip.  Nothing major.  We travelled to Austin, TX so my wife could attend a medical seminar.  I just went for some R&R.  I spent the long weekend strolling about the grounds of the resort we stayed at, and reading pulp detective novels from the ’60s.  Good stuff.  Like  fried Twinkies for the brain.

We spent one afternoon in downtown Austin strolling South Congress Ave.  We sampled some of the restaurants there but everything was full on an early Sunday afternoon.  We ended up eating at a chain taco place called Torchie’s.  Pretty good tacos.  We had dinner at True Food Kitchen to satisfy Cristy’s gluten free needs.

I’m still trying to sell my trailer and buy something smaller and cheaper.  There’s lots of “interest” out there but not a whole lot of people willing to actually spend money.  Other than the folks that are offering less than half of what I’m asking.  Don’t even bother to return their calls.  One guy was going to buy it but then he kept changing the terms of when and where we’d meet.  Then demanded to come to my house when I wasn’t even home and just pay my wife.  Not happening.  He told me if I wasn’t willing to do that then I could just forget about him buy my trailer.

And after this paragraph… forgotten.

We are looking to buy our Lance 1995 trailer in the spring.  Probably the worst time to buy a trailer because that’s when everyone is buying trailers.  But I have to wait for a tax refund to come in before I can buy it.  That will allow me to pay off my truck and then start with the trailer payments. 🙂

High Sierra Flyin 2018

I finally got to return to the High Sierra Fly-in this year after missing last year due to having my parachute repaired and inspected.  The High Sierra Fly-in or HSF was started by a group of guys who liked to land their airplanes at off airport airstrips and in out of the way places.  I joined them a few years in my Rans S6ES.  That was why I built it in the first place.  Even after I had exchanged my fixed wing for my powered paraglider I still went to HSF.  This year will probably be my last but I’ll get to that later.

HSF is held on Flanagan Dry Lake which we call Dead Cow Lake.  That’s because the first time our organizer, Kevin Quinn, landed there he came across a dead cow and so the place was called that.  Dead Cow is roughly 2 miles wide by 4 miles long.  It has lots of room to maneuver and park airplanes.   Lots of camping space too.  A few of our group purchased property on the northwest shoreline of the dry lake and this is where we camp.  The rest of the lakebed is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and is open to the public for recreational use.

 

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I left on Thursday morning and made the 5 hour drive to Dead Cow.  I took the long way which is on mostly paved roads.  There is a shorter route that is pretty heavily washboarded and rutted.  I elected to spare my trailer this abuse.  It was only about 30 minutes longer to drive the northern route anyway.

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The last part of the drive was across deeply rutted roads piled almost a foot deep of fine dust the consistency of talcum powder.  I was really nervous about this last portion of the drive even though it’s only two miles or so.  My truck doesn’t have 4 wheel drive so I was a little concerned about getting stuck but the truck, even pulling a cargo trailer, did just fine and I made it out on the the playa of the lakebed.  The lakebed itself is as hard as concrete and almost as smooth.

I drove around a while looking for familiar faces or a good place to camp.  I finally ran across some other PPC’ers at the extreme southern end of the camping area.  There was a small “bay” in the dry lake that was a perfect place to launch PPCs.  I pulled in next to them and set up camp.

 

 

I got done just as the sun was about to set.  My windsock indicated that there was ZERO wind and it was 73 degrees.  Perfect time to go fly.  So the evening I arrived I got to take my first flight at HSF 2018.  It was about as perfect a flight as you can get.  The only problem I had was I had to run full throttle to stay airborne.  After landing I realized I hadn’t changed the mixture in the carburetor but I was now operating at 4000 feet above sea level.  I changed to a leaner jet in the carburetor and this seemed to solve my problem.

 

I flew for a short time with one of the guys I was camped next to, Ryan.  He has the exact same PPC as I do, a Six Chuter P3 Lite. (sorry for the blurry photo)

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After landing and putting my parachute away I broke out an MRE, heated it up, and had a nice dinner under the stars.  There were no clouds and only a half moon so the stars were pretty bright.  I had my propane heater on the ground in front of me keeping me warm since temperatures in the desert drop rapidly after the sun goes down.  That’s no joke.  It was 73 degrees at sunset, by sunrise the next morning it was only 23 degrees!

At sunrise I got up and took care of business.  I saw Ryan getting his P3 ready so I decided to go fly too.  It was around 8:00am by this time and it had warmed up to about 35 degrees.  I had my thermal layer on, a thick fleece, my North Face jacket, and some ski pants on and they were just enough to keep me warm while flying.  My nose was freezing though!  35 degrees air temperature and a 35 MPH wind equals about 20 degrees with the wind chill factor.  Still it was another great flight.  So great that I flew 3 more times that morning!  I made several passes over the main part of the camping area to the north.  Even though the even did not begin until Saturday, it’s amazing how many planes and campers were already there Friday morning!

 

All in all on Friday I flew 5 times, two more times in the evening plus the three flights that morning.   Here’s a short clip of me flying over the campsites.

 

I didn’t stay for the entire event however.  As Saturday morning progressed more and more airplanes arrived and there was more and more activity over the lakebed.  I didn’t feel safe flying my parachute in the area any longer.  There were a few other guys there with PPCs but they tended not to wait around for me.  I didn’t want to fly alone away from the lakebed very far and I didn’t feel safe flying in the lakebed so I decided to pack it up and head home.

The most worrisome part of getting home was the access road to the lakebed.  It was full of that deep powder only this time I was driving uphill to get out.  I was afraid my two-wheel drive pickup and cargo trailer would get stuck.  However, they did just fine and I was soon out on the main road.  Four hours later I was pulling in front of my house.

I really enjoyed this year’s High Sierra Fly in, however, I think this will be the last year I attend.  For a few reasons.  First and foremost, it is DUSTY!  The alkali dust doesn’t bother me too much but I worry about what it does to my machine and parachute.  I intend to clean both but still… it’s not good for the machine.  The second reason I’m not returning is the same thing that makes the event so awesome… the sheer number of aircraft attending.  It’s a crazy awesome mix of Oshkosh and Burning Man.  I know a lot of pilots bristle when I say that but that’s exactly what it is.  The more aircraft that attend the more chance we have of attracting those who don’t operate their aircraft as safely as we do.  If I had a fixed wing airplane still I wouldn’t hesitate to go, however, my slow plodding PPC just doesn’t mix well with the other aircraft.  Could it be done safely?  Yes.  Is it worth the risk?  Not to me.  Not at this point in my life.

We finish old chapters and start new chapters in life.  Doors close.  Doors open.  It’s not like I’m giving up flying.  There are still some really nice (and smaller) fly ins closer to home that are more conducive to my type of flying.  I’ll stick to these from now on.  I wish the organizers of the High Sierra Fly in all the best and sincerely hope everyone operates as safely as possible.

Fly safe.