Leslie wins a cruise

While we were travelling in our motorcoach the travel agency Leslie works with started a contest in which whoever sells the most cruises on Carnival Cruise lines during the month of July wins a free Carnival cruise for two! Thanks in part to our friend Butch recommending Leslie to some people, Leslie ran away with the win! We didn’t think we could use it because we were getting ready for our long awaited trip to Europe. But after James got married we still had 10 days before our Europe trip started and had to go back to LA anyway to get some stuff we needed, so we gave our motorcoach to the dealer in Palm Desert we bought it from for some minor warranty items (Holland RV), went to the Kellys for a couple of days. While there we saw Sara Butler-Gold and some of her family (including the marvelous Jessie) plus our daughter Madison and her boyfriend Joey.

We got on the cruise out of the Port of Long Beach on Sunday September 29th. It was a short 4 night cruise going to Ensanada in Mexico and Santa Catalina Island off the coast of LA. We really had fun on the old Carnival Imagination, saw some good shows, some not so good comics, and in general had a blast walking around the ship. We got off the ship the following Thursday, picked up our coach in Palm Desert, and headed right back to Phoenix to get ready for our long trip.

James Baker gets married!

One of the best weekends of my life was 3 years ago around all of the activities of my youngest son Patrick getting married to Mysha in Reno. Well now I have a competitor for that title of fun times as the events and general feeling around the wedding of my oldest son James brought just as much joy.

James and Alma have been a dedicated couple for almost 4 years now and had planned to get married in a large event in October of 2020. But for timing and economic reasons they decided to move forward faster with a small private wedding at a local courthouse. It turned out their “family and close friends” still numbered over 40 people so we moved the actual ceremony plus reception dinner to a local restaurant named “Seasons 52”.

Part of the joy for us was the family we had come in from the LA area: my sister Tess and her husband Tom; my brother Dave; our dear friend Rosemary; Leslie’s sister Kelly plus her husband Pat and their boys Jayden and Devin. We moved out of the coach for a couple of nights to stay at an Embassy Suites next door to “Seasons 52” with all of our family. Everyone arrived the actual day of the wedding, but early enough for us to all gather and hang out at the bar for a while.

Because the wedding was moved to the restaurant they needed an officiant and James helped me get ordained so I could actually perform the ceremony. I was very touched and honored, and even though I speak publicly all the time I was nervous before getting if front of everyone and performing the ceremony. But I thought it all went very well. Alma was radiant and James was as happy as I have eve seen him. The entire party was a blast with Leslie helping by getting shots of Tequila for those remaining near the end!

The Kellys and Rosemary had to leave mid-morning the next day to travel back home. Tess, Tom and Dave stayed another day and we had a wonderful day going to Old Town Scottsdale then later to a really great Italian restaurant we love named “Tutti Santi”. Highly recommend of you’re ever in the area.

Congratulations again to James Baker and his new bride Alma Baker!

Back to Phoenix and a friend gets married

Leaving Flying Flags felt like the end of a large part of our trip and this was all planned in advance as a precursor to our large and long (45 day) European trip starting in October. We left Buellton on September 3rd and stopped at the Kellys in Long Beach for a couple of nights to gather some stuff we needed for Europe from storage. Things like sweatshirts and other colder weather clothes. Then on to Phoenix to stay at The Motorcoach Resort, a nice RV resort in Chandler that only allows motor-homes (no trailers or 5th wheels).

The day after we returned was the small private wedding of Butch Leiber and his now husband Hi Lin. Butch is a very close friend and one of the key reasons we have so many friends in the Phoenix area. As long as I’ve known him he has wanted to be in love again and this is it. It was a very nice small private service with 36 guests held at the Gladly Restaurant (Butch’s favorite hang out) with a bunch more people showing up after the main event for cocktails and an open party. Our oldest son, James, is getting married 2 1/2 weeks after Butch so we decided to stay in Phoenix for the next 3 weeks.

In an another post I talk about some of the problems we had there, but otherwise we used the opportunity to connect with some old friends and I was able to play golf a few times with my old golfing buddies. We had JB Barrick and his wife Cindy over for dinner one night in the coach and that was great. We also had Noam and Nick come one night. And we went out to dinner with Richie and Darryl one night. Mostly it was catch up time including my going into the office. And one of my Phoenix highlights was dinner with Deon Arnold one night at Z Tejas. One fantastic woman I must say both as a friend and long time co-worker. As nice as it was to see these people I certainly don’t miss going to an office very day.

Labor Day at Flying Flags

Disappointment leaving Pismo was more that overcome by excitement going to the town of Buellton and Flying Flags Resort for Labor Day weekend as we had family and friends coming up from LA to met us. Buellton is about 45 minutes north of Santa Barbara and very close to the Danish themed town of Solvang. Flying Flags is unique in that in addition to the huge number of RV spots it has camping in fixed in place Airstream trailers, glamping tents, small cottages, large town homes, and even a small hotel next door (The Sideways Inn for those wine country movie buffs). It also has a restaurant on site, many games and even concerts on the weekend in a large park in the middle of the resort.

We had a great first day with some new friends, Eileen and Larry Winters, who we met when we were in Paso Robles a few months before, plus another couple they introduced us to. Then on Friday Leslie’s sister Kelly, her husband Pat, and their boys Jayden and Devin plus Jaydens girlfriend Josephine came up. Our daughter Madison, her boyfriend Joey and one of her best friends Nick came as well. The Kellys all stayed in two of the cottages, while Madison and Joey stayed in a tent and slept on cots! Nick only stayed for one night, but slept on the fold out bed in our coach.

We just had a great time and all we really did was hang out at the RV resort. I left to do some grocery shopping but otherwise we all stayed on site. Pat Kelly brought up a huge Pork Butt he bought in LA. He then slow cooked it all day on Saturday, brought it over to the coach and we had a fantastic meal of Pork Belly tacos. I made my specialty cheeseburgers the next night (see recipe on that tab), and it was also great if you don’t include the part where I sliced off the tip of my left index finger trying to cut a corn cob in half. It is fine now, and I had Madison and others pitch in to help so I wouldn’t bleed all over the food.

All in all Flying Flags is a little over priced, but perhaps the best social and party park we have been to.

Meatballs

The idea behind these originally were to go with the Marinara for the classic spaghetti and meatballs. And the meatballs were my go-to recipes for a while. But the Marinara is so easy to make it stands for itself so this can be a nice add. My key touches to this are the butter which adds a nice richness, and the Worcestershire as my go to savory addition.

1 1/2 lbs ground meats (I use a lb of beef and 1/2 lb of ground sausage).

Small stick of butter

2 eggs, beaten

1 tbs olive oil

1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs

1/2 onion, finely diced

15-20 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

2 tbs Worcestershire sauce

1/2 small bunch chopped parsley

Salt & Pepper

Pre-heat oven to 450

Gently mix all ingredients

Form into 1″ to 1 1/2 ” balls

Spread out on parchment paper lined baking sheet (or 2 sheets of needed), then place in oven.

Remove and carefully place into pot on stove top. Add enough marinara to cover meatballs and simmer for at least an hour before serving.

On to Pismo Beach

We left Reno on August 20th on our way back south and west. We had an uneventful drive back over the Sierra Nevadas and spent a single night in East Sacramento RV Park. A cute little place that served our purpose but we wouldn’t go back to stay for any time. We left the next morning for a new park named Yanks in Greenfield, CA. Not only new but very nice park and spaces. The problem was the wind was very high (30-40 mph) and constant! It made the outdoors of the area almost unusable. We did have a very enjoyable side trip to Monterrey and the area which has always been fun.

After 4 days there we headed down to the Pismo Beach RV Resort. We have always loved the area and this just reinforced those feelings. The RV Park was great and it is right on the ocean. Walking distance to all sorts of good stuff. We spent hours just watching the gulls and pelicans dive for fish. We made a side trip to Cambria for lunch. This is one of our favorite places so far and it has a membership program sort of like a time share. While I have never liked (or trusted) time shares, this is different and we may do it for the 45 days a year you can stay there. It is not a fancy park at all, and has lots of modest trailers and stuff staying there. But the area, temperate weather and overall feel make it great in our minds.

Spicy Marinara

Like most of my recipes, this was developed over time with trial and error. I was going for spicy with lots of flavor, not just heat. I found that Jalapenos were one of the secrets because they are very flavorful. Using more or less than I show below changes the heat, I also will remove the seeds if I don’t it want it too hot. I also use WAY MORE GARLIC than others, but no one has ever complained and people seem to love the flavor. I use diced and crushed tomatoes because I like the texture to be just a little rustic. The honey is a key to cut the acidity of the tomatoes and the Worcestershire is a great add to almost any savory dish.

2 tbs Olive Oil

1 large onion finely diced

15-20 Garlic cloves, minced

2 cans (28 oz each) crushed tomatoes

1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes

1 can tomato paste

2 Jalapeno peppers, finely diced (seeds and spines removed for less heat)

1 small bunch Italian parsley leaves chopped fine

1 tbs crushed red pepper flakes

1 tbs dried oregano

a good drizzle of honey

Juice from 1/2 small lemon (add some zest if so inclined)

6-10 shakes of Worcestershire sauce

Salt & Pepper

Heat a pot to med-high, then heat olive oil

Add onions with a good amount of salt and some pepper and saute for 5 minutes

Add peppers and some more salt & pepper for another 5 minutes

Add garlic and continue to saute stirring often for another 3-5 minutes

Add all tomato products plus a little water (1/2 cup or so) and mix together

Add everything else, mix together and bring to a slow boil

Once it boils turn to low heat and let simmer as long as you can. Taste after a while to see if you need more salt. Also check for more honey if it is bitter at all. If possible I like to cook it the evening before, refrigerate overnight, then slow cook it again for 6-8 hours the next day.

Back to Reno- August 14-20

Leslie really wanted to swing back thorough Reno on our way south again to see Ronan. So we left Oregon with very fond feelings and decided to spend 3 nights in Redding, CA as a stop over on the way to Reno. The RV Park was Premier Resorts of Redding, sister to a park in Eugene we really liked. Problem #1 was it was 100 degrees there! The park layout was sub-standard. Then after being there about 30 minutes our AC stopped. We soon realized it was the main circuit breaker from the park and switched it back on. We called the office as we were concerned it would happen again and the person they sent out kept trying to say the problem was with our coach. We got fed up and decided to just stay one night and extend our stay in Reno. To avoid the heat we went that night to a local casino and Leslie won at Bingo!

The drive over to Reno across the Sierra Nevada mountains had winding roads and slow going in our big coach. But we made it fine and checked back into Bordertown RV Park as it is very close to our grandson.

While this was only a five day visit it was great. We of course saw Patrick, Mysha and Ronan. I played golf twice with my old golfing buddy Alan Krogness and another old friend Bill McKnight was able to join us for the second round. We also had dinner with Pete and Jody Dekay plus their two boys at Si Amigos, our old favorite Mexican restaurant. But this time and the prior two times it did not seem as good as it was and we may look for another go to Mexican place. We also had another really fun evening at dinner with Jean and Roy Lassiter at (of course) PF Changs.

MarshAnne Landing Vineyard & southern Oregon friends

We just loved Newport, Oregon but had to move on. We had a date with Gigi & Harry (Leslie’s bestie from middle school) and were anxious to see them. On our way down we made another Harvest Host stop at MarshAnne Landing Vineyard and spent the night parked next to their main building. The husband and wife owners were the only people we saw there, but they were very talkative and welcoming. Told us all of their stories and background to get to be a small private owned vineyard. Leslie bought a couple of bottles and we enjoyed a nice, relaxing and private evening.

Our next stop was Southern Oregon RV Park, in the Medford/Ashland/Grants Pass area. This park is county owned and right next to the local fairgrounds (which were not in use when we were there). It was low priced at only $40/night but had large spaces, a fire pit, picnic tables and great hiking around their fish-able lakes.

It was here that we hosted dinner with Gigi and Harry. I made a spicy marinara and spaghetti. I will post the recipe later. Gigi and Leslie hadn’t seen each other in about 25 years, but connected like they had never been apart. There is nothing like old friends and the ties of growing up together. We have always liked Harry as well of course and just had a fantastic evening that we will be sure to repeat as southern Oregon is one of our favorite places.

Gigi brought over a bottle of wine from a local vineyard named RoxyAnn Vineyards that Leslie loved so we made a visit there the next day. Leslie tried several and liked them all, but really loved their Viognier and bought a case that she has since shared with many people.

As this are is also the home for “Harry & David” (the mail order food company) we had to visit their main store and pick up some nice food mixers. As I said this entire area is fantastic and we will be back.

The Oregon Coast

We left Gig Harbor on August 4th and made our longest drive yet at just under 300 miles. Our goal was the Oregon Coast, specifically Newport, Oregon and an RV Park named “Pacific Shores Motorcoach Resort”. Pacific Shores is relatively unique in that it only allows motor coaches, no trailers or 5th wheels. Each of the lots is individually owned and the tenants just pay a monthly fee like an HOA (in this case about $300/month). They can then rent it out to people like us if they want. The lots here are much nicer than anyplace else we have stayed and the location is right on the ocean! The temperatures even in August never got about 72 and it was actually sweatshirt weather the entire time we were there.

We thought about actually buying a lot (they range from about $50K to $450K depending upon improvements and views), but decided it would only be worth it if we would spend about 4-6 months a year there. And while we truly loved it, it is too far from our friends and family to use that often. i can see us spending a couple of weeks a year here though as we truly loved the area.