Category Archives: The Beast

our 2015 Winnebago View 24J

Winnebago View, Sprinter based, rough start and no power.

Leaving Normandy Family Campground yesterday, we had a scare.

I had disconnected, but had not taken in our Sat antenna.  No problem, I thought, just turn on the inverter to power the antenna and bring it in.  With the antenna stowed, we went over our checklist, all good to go.

The Beast started hard, turned over and ran but with no power and a very rough idle.  WTF?  Holy craparoonie.  I shut down the engine and re-started:  SAME DEAL, rough running with no power.

Ellen leapt up to check the control panel and asked, “Should this green light be on?”  Now who would think starting the diesel engine with the inverter powered on would cause trouble?  We’ve run with the inverter on powering a crock pot.  Ellen turned the inverter off and The Beast started right up.  Great problem #1 solved, but were there any secondary problems created?

It is now the next day and all appears to be right in Li’l Beast.  I just have to examine the electrical wiring diagram to understand why we had this problem.

Electrical Problems

This morning I noticed Dennis, our neighbor here at the campground, looking at his heater as I headed off to the showers. He was still outside when I returned. I walked over and mentioned that we had found the pub they suggested and that we had enjoyed a meal there. Yes, the memorabilia was fascinating. He then said he was having some electrical problems. He had a problem a week ago. His lighting was glowing dim as if he was not getting full current through his trailer. That was traced to his converter, which was replaced. This last night he had the same problem: his lights were dim and his heater blower was not operating normally. We both agreed that it was more likely that some problem ahead of the converter was the culprit. I mentioned fire as something to keep an eye out for; not to alarm him, but to be sure he was aware of it. Dennis said he had called the fellow who replaced his converter who suggested testing the power going into his trailer. Dennis then called the campground to have the electric box tested to be sure the source was good. I was about to show him the surge protector and line validator I use, but the campground trouble-shooter arrived. He was the same fellow who filled our propane tank yesterday.

He tested the output voltage at the box and it was fine. Next he examined Dennis’ plug and found that one of the contacts had been pushed about 1/8 of an inch into the recepticle and there was sign of melting in the rubber around the contact. Then too, the cable running into the plug was wrapped with electrical tape. Dennis said that the wires had been pulling out. His fix was to tape the cable. Fix-it man recommended that Dennis replace the plug. It was clear that a bad connection was causing impedance on the input and threatening to short out and/or cause a fire in the wire.

I’ve noticed that my shore power plug is becoming more difficult to attach and remove from the surge protector. I’ll find a conductive lubricant and “grease the skids” so to speak. McDonald’s RV is nearby on Rt 1 south. We’ll visit when we leave. I hope to replace both our internal filter, which Brad removed, and our outside filter if they have replacements. I’ll also get a strain relief fitting for our water inlet. The quick-connect fitting doesn’t slide smoothly and I’ve been stressing the water bulkhead. It’s best to address problem before they become problems. (The corollary to “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”)

All in all, The Beast has performed exceptionally well these past seven weeks!

Normandy Farms Family Campground is near capacity this morning. It was party time last night going well past 11 pm, but not noisy at all. People were huddled around campfires talking in subdued tones punctured by the occasional belly-laugh. The intimacy of a near empty campground feels lost. That sense of people sharing an unusual common experience has been replaced by “the crowd” mentality. Will the common hello as people pass each other still be there?

Cape Cod in November

Scusset Beach Campground (11.01.2015)

We were up earlier than expected this morning after turning our clocks back an hour.  The temperature was mild last night: 50 degrees outside and 57 degrees inside before we fired up the heater.  Our electric mattress pad set on low is enough to keep us toasty at freezing temps.  With heated restrooms and unlimited hot water, this campground was great.   Once again being off season, the campground was very sparsely populated.  We did meet a number of couples and dogs on our walks.

The skies were overcast this morning with intermittent rain drops striking the windshield as we drove off.  There was nobody collecting fees both on the way in and on the way out.  We headed further east on SR 6 toward Marconi Station and White Cedar Swamp.  Terry, a good friend of Ed and Jean, told us to see the swamp if we visit Cape Cod and off we went.


Marconi Station and White Cedar Swamp


It is worth stopping at Marconi Station just for the history.  The first transatlantic radio broadcast was transmitted from Poldhu on the coast of Cromwell England and received at Marconi Station, Wellfield Ma.  Thoreau’s comment about Cape Cod inspired Marconi to setup a receiver there and in Maine.  More information on Marconi Station


The visitor center was closed.  I put the keys in the ignition, keeping my eye on a bicyclist riding toward us.  The rider circled back to check out our license plate and rode over to the window.  “Hi, do you need information?”, asked Bob Spiegleman.  “No” I said initially, then thought better of it and added, “But there’s a wooden walkway through a swamp near by.  Do you know how long the walk is?”  That started a long conversation about Marconi, the swamp, steamers, did we rent our RV, wives and husbands with different last names.  We had a good long conversation.

The White Cedar Swamp entrance is three quarters around the parking lot at Marconi Station.  There’s nothing there now, erosion and storms took the towers.  Bob mentioned friends with different last names who gave one child one last name and the other, the other.  Or a couple whose last names were golden and brownmantle.  They both changed their last name to champagne, a color mid way between brown and golden.



Bob also mentioned that there was a 100th year anniversary for the Titanic.  The SOS transmitted from the Titanic was received here at Marconi Station.  The station contacted a boat in the vicinity which saved a number of people.

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We walked the bluffs where Marconi’s receiver once stood and walked off toward the swamp.  The first few hundred yards are not remarkable, but as the scrub forest grows and the light is filtered by the leaves, the walk takes on a ethereal sense of peace.


Two equestrians riding beautiful muscular horses trotted by on the trail.  A bit further on, the trail through the scrub forest crosses a dirt road and winds onto a raised walkway over a swamp.  The trees change from wind blown scrub and dwarf pines to tall white cedar. This cedar must love having its “toes” wet. The White Cedar Forest thrives in the swamp.  Cedar is a pine; the needles do not change color in the fall.  Now and then a maple towers above the cedars with bright yellows and reds.  As wonderful as walking the swamp was, to see it in peak foliage would be more so.




We had asked Bob about steamers.  Most everything is closed now, he suggested  cook’s or Cookies in Orleans.  Climbing aboard  The Beast, we both mentioned being hungry.  Should we push on to Provincetown or head back to Orleans?  We chose to drive to the fist of the cape.  It’s not that much further and we should find lunch there, perhaps some steamers.


Provincetown Massachusetts


P-town was “happening”  The street we drove in on led to a parking lot right on the bay.  Before crossing toward the lot, I had to wait for a number of groups to walk past.  They walked everywhere; on the sidewalk or in the middle of the street; quite a contrast to the near empty towns we passed.  Great a parking lot. Better still, a sign out front read, “Enjoy Free Parking”.  It was a large lot and it was nearly full.  I recognized immediately  that I would have trouble maneuvering the parking lot and would probably not find parking.  Heading back out of town, we found a still larger and empty lot with plenty of parking and a short walk back to Commercial Street.


We checked the menu posted outside the first restaurant we found.  No steamers.  We went inside and found a typical warm dimly-lit bar and numerous tables and chairs, some with customers enjoying lunch.  We waited a few moments hoping to ask if they had steamers.  A few too many moments later, we left to walk main street.   I’ve craved some steamed clams with beer since crossing the Mississippi.  We walked on. Commercial street was busy.  Two places appealed to us: The Squealing Pig and The Lobster Pot.  The Squealing Pig was packed and we loved the aroma coming from the kitchen.  The wait was too long; the Lobster Pot won out.




The Lobster Pot has a restaurant in the back on the ground floor and a bar and tables on the second floor.  We were led to a side table on the ground floor when Ellen asked if there was seating for lunch upstairs.  She preferred to sit facing the bay.  “Yes, there is additional seating upstairs beyond the bar area. Yes, they have the same menu.”  We headed to the bar and were seated at a table overlooking the bay.  Just as Ellen wanted.  Ellen enjoyed a hot lobster roll and broccoli gratin, and I had clams; not steamed, but fried.  They were great!

The Lobster Pot overlooks P-town’s bay and pier.  Walking toward the pier after lunch we passed a sign “Steamers 9.99”.  REALLY?  I had to ask.  I popped into the diner and asked if they still had steamers.  A women said, “We sure do, and they’re on sale today.  Do you want some?”  No, we had just eaten.  Next time I’ll hold out a bit longer before settling.  The Lobster Pot was scrumptious, but pretty expensive. $9.99 for Steamers could have been a deal.  Oh Well…

A Fox?


Walking toward the Beast, I noticed a mid-sized animal loping behind our RV heading right-to-left.  It was too big to be a cat.  Dogs do not lope.  I pointed it out to Ellen just as it disappeared behind the RV.  Seconds later a white tailed fox appeared.  Its pace increased as two couples jumped out of their SUV to watch agape as the fox ran past.  Ellen did get a photo or two before the fox disappeared.



Sunset on the way to Foxboro


Normandy Farms Family Camping Resort (11.02.2015)

Bruce and Vivian had told us about Normandy Farms Family Camping Resort in West Foxboro MA.  I had called earlier in the day and they were open and could accommodate us for two or three days. They would be full on the weekend; we would not have a space on Saturday but would Sunday afternoon.  That’s fine.  I asked about car rentals and Jessie said the enterprise was very close and would deliver a car, but that we should consider taking the train into downtown Boston and not driving.

We left P-town headed to Foxboro knowing that we would miss the beginning of the game. Come to find out the game would not be carried on DirecTv. The Raiders are notorious for blacking out games.  I was hoping that a local east coast channel would broadcast it.  The JETS are local, right?  Wrong.  We arrived and were given site #1001, with a good view to the south through some trees and a cable hookup for local channels, but no channel carried the JETS game.  We can watch The Good Wife and a few of our other favorite shows tonight and Wednesday if we chose to stay three days.

Normandy Farms Campground is huge and very well appointed. The “office” is like a ski chalet.  There is a heated indoor pool.  For the three weekends prior to Halloween, they have weekend events celebrating Halloween including hay rides.  We have not walked the grounds, checked out the pool, the restrooms, or the laundry.  We’ve settled in for the evening.

Issues with The Beast

Last night we learned that an “F” reading on our gray tank means.  It does not mean nearly full or almost full or don’t worry about it full.  It means full.  I was settling in for the night while Ellen was organizing things on her way to bed when she noticed a rather nasty odor in the shower.  She had washed out our crock pot earlier and that was enough to push the gray tank into overflow.  A gray tank overflow is a pretty nasty thing.  This was clearly my fault for not connecting the septic hose and draining the swamp.  So it was that I found myself outside in the dark moving The Beast closer to the drain, monkeying with our sewer lines, and emptying tanks when I’d much rather be inside asleep.  With the tanks empty, Ellen took on the task of cleaning out the shower pan.  About an hour later all was well in Mudville, well almost.

The next morning I tried dialing in DirecTv.   To get closer to the drain last night, I had moved The Beast.  That little move was enough to throw reception off.  Even re-aligning the antenna failed.  Next I wasted half an hour calling RV Service Centers in and around Foxboro looking for someone who could take us on short notice.  All the large dealers were slammed.  The soonest anyone could take us was Nov. 12th.  We cannot wait around that long.  Giving up I arranged for Enterprise to deliver a car to the campground.  We plan to anchor The Beast for a few days and use a car to explore Boston, Cambridge, Arlington, and Martha’s Vineyard.  Enterprise car rental often delivers to campgrounds if there is an office nearby.  It’s a great business niche for them.  I arranged for a KIA to be delivered at 10:30, giving me time for a shower (unlimited hot water, heated room, spotlessly clean) and to help Ellen with laundry.

Enterprise Car Rentals, Foxboro Ma.

At the office I bought another fifteen feet of sewer hose minutes before our KIA arrived.  That rental went quite smoothly.  For out of state rentals, Enterprise requires a major credit card and of course a valid license.   We’re thinking that renting a car when we stop for more than two days makes more sense than purchasing, insuring, and hassling with towing car would.  This was our first car rental “on the road” and it went very smoothly.

Brad’s RV Service

Back at The Beast, there was activity in the neighboring fifth wheel.  I walked over to meet Joe who was breaking down and storing the family summer equipment.  We talked RVing, retirement, work, and avoided solving the world’s problems.  I turned to walk away, but something made me mention that we had a hot water problem in our RV.  I described the two problems:  1. water flows in both the hot and cold lines, but both run cold.  Yes, the water heater is running and is hot.  We actually get a short flow of warm water before it goes cold.  and 2. The cold water outlet in the kitchen is not running at all.   Joe first said, “That sounds like a check valve problem” (which I thought too) then, “I have a fellow coming to winterize my RV and do some caulking for me.  Perhaps he can help you out too.  He’s a great guy, a retired police man”

I called Brad who said he was on his way and sure, he’d look at my problem.  Ellen and I now were resigned to a day of rest with some work on Li’l Beast.  I added a second latch to the most egregious door, the one that insists on slamming open around turns.  Tested out our compressor and some new fittings, they work just fine.  We unfurled our outdoor patio rug for the first time and folded it to make storage easier. I setup the fifteen foot sewer line extension.  In the mean time Brad had arrived and was working on Joe’s rig.   Sometime later I walked over to introduce myself to Brad and to be sure he didn’t forget me.  Brad works out of a small van that is chock full of tools and parts.  I was very impressed with Brad’s confidence, warmth, and the tools he brings with him on the job.

Around 2 Pm, brad drove up behind The Beast and we got down to it.  I said that first time we experience a problem with hot water was in the morning at a campsite what was closing.  The campsite manager had said the water would be turned of at 10:30 Am.  I left our line connected through the night.  It dropped to 27 degrees, but with our black and gray tank heaters we were in good shape.  However in the morning we had no water pressure at all, NONE!   The campsite water valve was open, but there was no water in the line.  The campsite manager had purged their pipes.  I had used our water pump, but had no hot water pressure at all.  Days later, the kitchen cold water stopped flowing.

Brad said, “yeah, the campsite probably ran 120 psi. through their pipes.  That’s not good for you RV.  First he checked the aerator on the kitchen sink and found some debris in the screen, but not enough to stop the flow.  Next Brad asked if we had a diverter for the under-sink filter.  We scrambled to locate the plug, which we had moved into successively remote locations.  With the filter removed and the plug in place, we had cold water flowing.  The filter was clogged. Problem #2 solved in about fifteen minutes.  I run with two filters one outside and the one that went bad.  I wonder how effective the outside filter actually is.

Next Brad tested our lines.  He switched the hot tank diverter to see how the system behaved. He asked how many check valves The Beast has.  Then he went to the lowest point of the hot water lines, the outside shower and turned on the hot water.  There was no flow.  Ah Ha! Brad said there is no flow out of your hot water heater.  It’s your check valve that prevents cold water back flow into the hot water tank!   I had read about this, bought a replacement check valve at Camping World, but I did not have the tools to easily replace the valve.  I gave Brad the check valve and he installed it in no time flat.  That fixed our second hot water problem.  Brad was very easy to talk with.  In fact we spent more time talking with Brad than it took him to fix our problems.

Brad said that had I called him to schedule this repair, he would not have been able to do it.  He has over a thousand clients and he is book through December 2nd.  Since he was here at the campsite to winterize Joe’s 5th wheel he’d take the time to look at our problems.  Wow.  If I had not mentioned our trouble to Joe this would never have happened.   The only other fellow I’ve met who instills the same level of confidence was Tim, the fellow who did our initial checkout at Crowley RV.  I tried to have Tim look at The Beast, but he was booked out a month.

Brad did say, “Call me anytime”  As he is a mobile service I asked, “Is a service call to California out of the question?”  Brad’s initial charge is $60 for travel and $70 for the first hour.   He charged us $70, waiving the travel charge.  He may not be able to help you out, but it is worth a call if you’re stuck near Foxboro Massachusetts.

Brad’s RV Repair 508-951-7607  he is a Full Service Master Technician and a very nice guy.

Brad’s Web Site

Nespresso in Massachusetts

When we finished cleaning up it was past 3 Pm.  We’re running out of Nespresso capsules and there is a Nespresso Boutique at Bloomingdale’s in Newton, a thirty minute drive.  Off we went. Our iphone GPS guided us flawlessly to Bloomingdale’s, once we knew for sure that’s where we wanted to go.  Ellen called Nespresso to find that there is a boutique in Chestnut Hill.  ????  My research showed 225 Boylston St Newton as the address.  We went round and round for a while  before realizing that Chestnut Hill is a shopping center in Newton.  It’s address is on Boylston St, Newton.

The Nespresso shop is on the first floor of Bloomingdale’s men’s store.  We found it with ease and after a short wait for two customers ahead of us, we returned a large number of capsules for recycling and took about 150 away with us.  There are only two Nespresso outlets in Massachusetts, both near Boston.  We collected 2 bags for recycling, via US mail, free of charge.

Tokyo Japanese Steak Restaurant

We were both hungry and asked our sales fellow where he would recommend we eat.  He mentioned The Cheese Factory, a Mexican place, and two Japanese restaurants.  He said by far the better one is on the 2nd floor.  That turned out to be Tokyo Japanese Steak Restaurant.  We love steak, but why eat beef at a Japanese Restaurant.  Sure, Kobe Beef is world famous, but for Japanese, we think sashimi and sushi.  We set our hesitation aside (fish at a beef restaurant is usually a bad idea), and ordered our favorites:  Hamachi Sashimi, Spicy Tuna Hand Rolls,  Spicy Hotate Roll, and a Dragon Roll.  All were very satisfying and delicious.

Our iPhone GPS guided us back to the campground.  We fearlessly  negotiating traffic circles as they are called in Massachusetts, watched for two police vehicles that Waze pointed out, and avoided much of the 6 pm traffic.  Waze is pretty amazing.  Waze records information from its subscribers to compare subscriber speed with posted speed limits to gauge traffic patterns.  It is very good at guiding a driver around traffic and it did not let us down.

“Home” now, we are fully connected:  our stabilizers are setup,  our antenna is deployed with exceptional reception, and we have fully functional hot and cold water.  We’ll check out the indoor heated swimming pool, weight room, and pool tables some other day.



Smuggler’s Notch, Vermont

What a wonderful three days.


It started slowly, with an unfulfilled promise of good weather.  It was 35 deg last night and overcast mid-morning.  We felt no urgency in getting moving. Morning cappuccino was great, some local news featuring presidential candidates was amusing, and we finished working on our blog for the day.  We set off late as usual, thinking today would be a bust.  With overcast skies and flat light, photography was out.  We had hoped to take the gondola to the top of Mt Mansfield, but with the weather and cold we decided not to.

Morrisville, Vermont

We turned onto the business loop through Morrisville from SR 100 and just had to stop for photos.  In the hour we spend waking fields to find that “perfect shot”,  the sun started to peak out and some of the overcast burned off.  When we got back in “the Beast” it was clear, we’d continue on to the gondola for a “look see”.







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Stowe, Vermont

I forgot to take the spur that avoids “downtown” Stowe.  We wasted about twenty minutes creeping through town, and enjoying the sites, before we turned right onto SR 108 and resumed a normal clip of 40 mph.  By now the weather was warming and the sun was on and off as clouds drifted by overhead.


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Climbing toward the notch, we saw signs for the “Scenic Toll Road”.  We both though that would be cool and we took the turnoff to the left for the toll road.   We were greeted by a footman who explained that the road was extremely narrow and curvy and that we could not make it up the road with “this traffic”.  Not wanting to be crass nor wanting to find myself in an untenable situation, I agreed that it would be best not to take the “Scenic Route”.  We turned around (an accomplishment in itself) and continued up SR 108.

Seinic Toll Road, Smuggler’s Notchch

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Sometime later we saw gondolas running overhead and turned right toward their source.  WRONG.  We turned into the Stowe Mountain Resort, a posh inn with valet parking and their own gondola to the base of Mt Mansfield.  I wondered if anyone thought we’d valet park “the Beast”.  Again we were back on SR 108, but this time we simply drove through the circular dive.

The third time is the charm.  The next entryway to the left from Stowe Mountain Resort is the entrance to Mt Mansfield’s gondola and is the main entrance to the ski resort in-season.  The entry way faces the gondola lift to the top of the mountain.  Again we were greeted by a footman who asked if we were her for the gondola ride.  “Yes”, we answered and we were told that the gondola had failed and was not in operation.  The diesel generator was running the gondolas at slow speed to bring passengers down the mountain.  Nobody was going up.  We saw groups walking down the mountain.  Strike Two!

We made the most of it.  We walked the lower ski slopes and took some “OK” photos.

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We continued up SR 108 toward the notch.  Some time later we saw two granite cliffs facing each other.  This is “the notch”.  SR 108 runs up between these two escarpments.  A short time after we had our first dramatic view of the notch, a glaring flashing sign notified us that no trailers are allowed beyond this point.   Well, we are not a trailer so we’re good to go.  On we went.  The road continued upwards with a 40 mps speed limit, that decreased to 30, and then lower.  The road narrowed, became extremely twisty, with the added joy of parked cars lining both sides of the street, some not entirely off the street.   There were more than a few places where two cars could not pass, one had to wait for the other to go.  The Beast is narrow for an RV and could easily negotiate the road, but it was a challenge with other drivers on the road.  In two instances I near panicked as oncoming drivers apparently did not now where the side of their car was.  More than a few couples walking the roadside watched me pass with a dumbfounded look.  Ours was the only RV I saw today past the “no trailers allowed” sign.   The Smuggler’s Notch drive is not to be taken lightly.  There are more than a few places where the road is a single lane hair-pin steep up-hill 180 degree turn.   An inattentive or inadequate driver would be disastrous on this road as would an over-confident driver of an 18 wheeler.

As we approached the pass, it became clear that we would not find a place to park along the road or in the small trail head parking at the top.  We continued past the pass and down into the next valley.  The road was steep, I selected a low gear using the brakes as little as I could.  Cars backed up behind.  I selected a turnout to stop and let them by.  This was not a scenic overlook, but a small turnout.  Surprisingly, the SUV immediately behind me turned in with me.  After about a dozen cars passed by, my follower turned out too and I followed.  No less than 200 feet down the road, there was a dirt road to the right and I took it.  My thought was, maybe this road opens onto great views.  It was the entrance into parking lot 1 for the Smuggler’s Notch Ski resort.

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The parking lot was heavily rutted and slow going all the way in, but the views were spectacular. There was a standing map of ski routes ahead of us, a yurt to our right, and ski runs heading up-mountain to our right.  We disembarked and separated camera in hand.  While I was orienting myself, two woman hiked down a ski trail and into the parking lot.  We exchanged “Hi’s”, and talked about hiking up-mountain.  I had not gone far from Li’l Beast and one of the woman noticed our CA license plates and putting it together asked, “Are you from California?” That started another conversation about how beautiful Vermont is and what California is like.  With their encouragement, Ellen and I headed up the ski trails in search of dramatic views.  There were many.

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It was late and we allowed ourselves 30 minutes to hike up-hill before turning back.  The slope we walked was heavy with moisture.  There were running streams and mud in some areas, firm ground in others.  It was steep and slow going, but rewarding.  I can only imagine what skiing would be like on these slopes.  With the densely packed trees, tree-skiing would be out of the question here.  It is amazing how slow we walk and how fast we can ski downhill.  We returned to the Beast comfortably exhausted and happy to have left the crowds and found a peaceful retreat of our own.

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I considered driving further down to the valley and trying to find a way to Morristown, but Ellen had talked to a woman in the parking lot who said there was no quick way around the mountains to get back to Morristown.  The best way was back through the notch!  Back through the notch we went.  Traffic was less severe, though there were a few cars parked half way off the road making progress challenging.  On one hair-pin turn I had to stop and wait for a long string of cars and motorcycles to pass before the path around the rocky outcropping was safe to turn past.  A low gear by itself was insufficient, I had to brake repeatedly to be safe on the descent trading off brake wear and heat with engine braking when I could.   It was fun for me and other drivers were not a problem in this direction.


We returned to the valley hungry.  Should we head back to the Mountain View Campground and cook, or find something to eat “in town”.  In town won out.  I remembered the woman at the campground’s desk had recommended McCarthy’s Restaurant and remembered driving past it on the way out.  Off we went to find that the restaurant is open from 6:30 Am to 2:00 Pm serving breakfast and lunch only.  That didn’t work.  We discussed what we would like to eat and kept coming back to sushi or Thai.  The nearest Thai restaurant is in Montpelier, not happening.   We remembered passing Sushi Yoshi on the way out and back.  It was a sushi and Chinese restaurant, a strange mix.  I thought we’d be risking it, going for sushi in Vermont, but we did.


We chose to sit at the sushi bar, we were the only ones at the bar.  Talking with the sushi chefs, I tried to order Hamachi Sashimi, but they looked dumbly at me.  Yellow Tail sashimi they understood and we settled on two orders of  Hamachi, two spicy tuna rolls, a lobster roll, a unagi hand roll for Ellen, and avocado salad.  All were amazing and some of the best sushi I’ve had.  The lobster roll was very good, though the delicate flavor of the lobster got lost in the other flavors.  There are six reviews for Sushi Yoshi online, some of them two star.   My experience was so different that I wonder what the “two star” people ordered.   The sushi and sashimi were fresh, excellently prepared, and scrumptious (if you like sushi).

Sushi Yoshi’s Website

Again we returned to Mountain View Campground well after sunset.  It’s no problem setting up the water and electric connections.  Tonight we’ll forego the sewer line.  We setup, hoisted the Winegard antenna, turned on the local HD antenna, downloaded our video and photos, and settled in.  I played guitar for a while as Ellen looked over today’s photos.  Then as I looked over mine,  Ellen grabbed my throw while watching a TV show, leaving me with a crummy blanket.  We have been looking for comfortable throws that don’t shed lint or fabric for a while now.  I found one I liked last week; Ellen is still looking.  It was surprising to see Ellen wrapped in MY throw.  Bummer, but I’m happy she’s happy.  We’ll have to find a throw for her, and soon.

Tonight we watched the season opener of “the Good Wife” in off-air HD, and now “Homeland” on direcTv.

Where In The World Are We?

I worked for Trimble Navigation on hand held GPS receivers as the GPS satellite constellation was going up.  I contributed to the development of a number of GPS receivers used in aviation, marine, and land based applications.  One of the receivers, the Pathfinder Basic, was used in quantities in the first Gulf War.  I am very pleased with the way GPS has become commonplace in our smart phones and computers.  It is an amazing technology that has saved lives.

Tracking Our Travels with GPS

We’ve only been retired for a few months.  We’re enjoying the freedom not having to work provides.  Over the years we’ve saved enough to have an annual travel budget.  This fall we’ll be visiting family on our photography trip to New England.  I would like to have our location published to have family members track our progress across the U.S. This way they will know how close we are and when we might drop by.  Ideally we would publish a record of where we’ve been.

I-70 vs I-80

We will be driving I-70 rather than I-80 through Nevada and Colorado.   I’ve read many Q&A about driving I-70 in an RV.  I-70 has many more steep grades and twisties than does I-80.  I-80 is the preferred truck route and it is said to be boring.  By geo-tagging our route we can reference specific locations on a map as we describe our experiences driving through Nevada, Colorado, and all the way to the east coast.  We may be able to share a map with tags that reference photos taken along the route.

We are not alone in choosing between I-70 and I-80.  Others may find that our description and dash cam footage influences their route decision.


I’ve added GeoLocation to our blog on the header menu.  Clicking on Our Current GeoLocation transfers you to Glympse and displays our last tagged location on a map.

This was easily accomplished by installing Glympse on my iPhone; adding the tag Gps, and linking a menu item to the Glympse URL the tag generated.  I have to remember to update our GPS location on Glympse regularly and only the our most recent location will display.  This is “ok”.

What Next?

Ideally we’ll store a track over time of our geolocations.  Glympse does not seem adequate to this task.  Once I’m happy with our solution, I’ll update our blog with the info.


We have had very good experiences finding campgrounds as we travel.  Before we left to purchase “Li’l Beast”, I loaded eight campground applications into my iPhone in the hopes that one or two would be useful as we drove from Connecticut to California.  It was mid-winter when we drove back to Ca, and many campgrounds in the north east close for the winter.  One application quickly became our “go to” app for choosing a campground for the night.  AllStays was invaluable to us on that trip and has not let us down since.  It provides filtering to narrow campground searches to exactly what you want or need.  Need 50 amps, water, but sewer hookup?  No problem.  It has an extensive list of amenities to search over.

Wineguard HD DirecTv antenna

We well be leaving on our months long road trip on Sept 16th, 2015; next week.  Ellen will be at a “girl’s retreat” in Tahoe City.  I’ll be staying overnight in Truckee on the 16th and picking her up the next afternoon.  AllStays lists seven campgrounds in the vicinity two of which have electric hookups.   Both are near the freeway and have good reviews (8+).  I need an electric hookup too test; our new Wineguard DirecTv antenna, load the guide, and record a program or two.  Both campgrounds have tall trees and unless I can find a clear view of the southern sky my plans for that evening may be dashed.  We had the antenna installed just before leaving for a friend’s wedding in San Diego.  I have not had the opportunity to play with our HD TV setup.  We’ll ring it out on our New England trip and hopefully not have any issues.

No photos this blog.  We’re counting the days ’till we leave on our next adventure.






HD Antenna

Little Beast just had a Wineguard DirecTv HD antenna installed by CamperWorld in Vacaville. The installation looks to be excellent and the antenna and receiver work great (based on testing at CamperWorld). It took about four hours total for the installation and working through DirecTv’s setup was a snap.

I would caution anyone going to CamperWorld to look closely at your invoice at checkout. The sales people added the two year extended warranty to the sales contract. That’s something I never purchase. Also the credit card deposit was six times greater than the sales guy, Will, quoted. It was not a deposit, but rather payment in full for the antenna! It’s ok with me, but I’d prefer knowing that up front and not finding out at checkout. If for some reason I had chosen not to have the antenna installed, what then? The installers at CamperWorld did great work. I’d be wary of the sales team.


Video of the antenna “doing its thing” is coming. We have a wedding to go to first!


Cross Country Video is available

I’ve moved time compressed video of day 2 through 7 and day 9 of our cross country road trip from Connecticut to California to our website. Day 8, 10, and 11 are still in process.

Somewhere in my video processing stream, the sharpness of the H.264 stream has been compromised and the video is just OK. In some instances a rough road creates camera jitter that’s apparent in the video. The problem is quite obvious in the trees along the highways. Keeping the windshield clean was not a priority, and that shows in some of the clips as does dashboard reflection if/when we put paper or maps on the dash.

Quality aside, this is a quick video summary of a cross country trip from Bristol Ct to the S.F. Bay area. Weather forced us to drop all the way down to interstate 10 to avoid snow, sleet, freezing rain, and a cold front that dropped to 8 degrees.



Dash Cam Video, try try again

Well that didn’t work!  Simply speeding up a video to compress time is terrible.  It might work for a humorous video of people working, but not for dash cam video.

Enter PowerDirector and the ability to compress time to fit a sound track.  I’m not trying to boost PowerDirector sales, but this is one of the fastest editing and rendering programs I’ve used.  It has some extreme limitations in its editing features.  I suppose that’s the trade-off, speed and ease of use for functionality.  The software is also quite inexpensive for what you get.  It does crash if overwhelmed; loading too many AVI files at once challenges its memory/cache for example.  Loading the same set of files converted to MP4, works.

I will remove the dash cam videos at 16x and I’ll be uploading our entire trip from Connecticut to California.  Well almost the entire trip, Day 1 starts at night south of Baltimore, Md, I’ll skip that and start with Day 2 which should be available in a few hours.  These videos are much smoother and more fun to watch.

I’ll be experimenting with these videos to make them more fun; adding still shots, inserting google map shots, changing up the music.




Optimal Route Mapping, update

With minimal gaffing around, I am able to run Randal S. Olson’s route optimization program. There were a few “gotcha’s”: 1) the program is written for Python 2.7, I loaded 3.4, and syntax differences when writing to a file required the string field be enclosed in bytes( somestring,’UTF-8′)      2) Google limits the number of gmaps.distance_matrix calls for non paying subscribers to 100 000 in a 24 hour period and that limit is quite easy to exhaust; 3) the Python extension “numpy” fails to load with pip, use Christopher Gohlke’s binaries to load it from I used numpy-1.9.2+unoptimized-cp34-none-win_amd64.whl but had to install python’s “wheel” extension (python easy_install wheel).

If the program does not run, cut back the number of waypoints in the list to avoid exhausting google’s access limit. If the limit is exceeded, the program will report that the distance calculation failed, but you won’t have a clue why. It’s reported in the exception handler.

It is very cool that Randal included the map html as part of the program’s output. What is none too cool: google does not include low clearance, one lane, or narrow bridges as points of interest/concern. Be sure to check that a route from A to B does not run through a bridge whose clearance is lower than your rig’s height.

Next Up, defining the points of interest in our RV trip to New England and seeing how this maps out.


Buena Vista Aquatic Recreation Area

A number of interesting observations:


First, watch for ants; right, ants.
Once parked and leveled:
Connect water line to RV, check.
Turn spigot on, check.
Ask Ellen to open a faucet to check water pressure, check.
Connect 110 electrical service, check. Noticed a few ants near the service box
and forgot about it.

The next morning we were inundated with small red ants. Thousands of the little buggers had crept up the power cable, through the electrical wiring, and were investigating their new home. Our first clue that we had trouble was ants in bed with us! Ellen handled this with aplomb.

We were squishing ants between sips of morning coffee and it went on forever once we knew what was what. Ellen used a lavender cleaner here and there. I remembered that ants leave a scent trail to navigate home and sure enough, the ants congregated at the lavender “clean spots” in confusion. These guyz were dead meat. I’m sure we have another 200+ confused ants looking for water in “the Beast”.
Beware of site 56. I just have to find a general solution for ant colonies near the water or electric hookup.

Ant Update

World Wide web to the rescue, if a bit late. According to numerous posts, Comet sprinkled around areas that you do not want ants to explore works wonders. Yes, Comet, the household cleaner! We’ll be sure to pack some on our return trip to the Bay Area.


Second the prevailing wind.
In late after noon the wind blew west to east, toward the lake. The wind was hot but cooled a bit at night. AC is a definite must in the summer.
In the morning the wind shifts blowing east to west, coming across the lake. This sounds idyllic, right? It isn’t. The wind stinks of BO. It’s the only way I can describe it. It stank. I’ve enjoyed hiking to mountain streams and lakes with water so clear it is as if the water was air. I could see ten or twenty feet to the bottom. This lake sure looks inviting, but that morning breeze was a put-off.
Though the lake was like glass and very beautiful, you will not find me in that water. It reminded me of Mission Beach, San Diego and the stench on me after a few hours SUP with a few falls. That was nasty.

The lake was quite pretty otherwise.

We have arrived San Diego. I considered an excursion into Mexico (not entering at Tijuana), but my passport is with State being renewed. We do not have the required docs.

Mercedes Sprinter / Winnebago View

The Beast is a beast. She performed excellently. We did have one issue with the Mercedes Sprinter though. In moderate wind with the cruise control set, the OBC went crazy just after we hit a bumpy patch going over a culvert. We had three warnings pop up at the same time: ESP visit workshop; an image of a tire with the message visit workshop, cruise control visit workshop. I can be stubborn but three messages saying visit workshop got through: visit workshop!

I asked Ellen to look up the codes (I was driving). She did and the error messages indicated that ABS and cruise control were disabled. Stopping distance was compromised.

We turned in at the next stop. I checked tire pressure: good; restarted the engine and the error codes cleared. We were good to go. I can only guess this is a safeguard against ABS doing the wrong thing as it.can do in the rain.