Springing into action at Agua Caliente

Our rooster crowed, “Awake,” and we heard his call to action and proudly flew the flag of the United States,* along with the Human Rights Campaign’s Equality flag at Agua Caliente County Park in the Anza-Borrego Desert.

DSC_0279 Agua Caliente County Park

Like Canada geese, Bert and Janie finally, after unexpected surgeries, winged their way south from Montana to milder climes and spent the day chatting, hiking, and feasting.

DSC_0109 Bert & Janie, Larry & Bill

The following day, we drove up to Borrego Springs and visited our Airstream friends Bob and Theresa at their beautiful home.  Ten years ago, we took our 2007 Airstream Safari on its maiden cruise and followed Bob and Theresa in their Airstream Classic to our first trailer camping experience in Borrego Springs, California!  Over the years, Bert, Janie, Bob, and Theresa have joined us for desert hiking and feasting!

DSC_0237 Bob & Theresa, Bill & Larry

My breakfasts consisted of Larry’s homemade pumpkin bread, cool apple and orange slices, and reading material.  He calls it Hagrid’s pumpkin bread because it’s made from a pumpkin similar to those seen just outside Hagrid’s hut in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  These large and unusually shaped pumpkins are called Mexican Sweet Pumpkins (Calabaza de Castilla), that he bought at local Latino markets, poached and made into pumpkin bread (pan de calabaza).*

DSC_0040 Breakfast & HRC leaflet

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) represents a force of more than 1.5 million members and supporters nationwide. As the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization, HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are ensured of their basic equal rights, and can be open,* honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.  HRC’s Buyers Guide helps consumers to find and choose businesses committed to workplace equality before making purchases.

After breakfast, Larry donned a plague doctor mask that I have worn at Renaissance faires (and while camping in the forest) in preparation for a surprise visit to the park’s supervising ranger.

DSC_0049 Larry as plague doctor

“Yo soy el doctor de la peste,* and I’ve brought Hagrid’s pumpkin bread as nourishment to feign off the plague.”

DSC_0058 Pumpkin bread for Maggie Tull

Agua Caliente County Park Supervisor Maggie was delighted to receive Larry and his pumpkin bread and happily shared it with the staff!  We returned to our campsite and Larry continued on his sewing projects…

DSC_0271 Project time for Larry

DSC_0072 Larry sewing HRC appliques

while becoming energized and redirecting energy toward positive change as we both stand indivisible…*

DSC_0032 Y'all means all (HRC shirt)!

Because y’all means all.*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Happy Holidays from the desert!

Recovering from post-election blues and a bout of tendonitis that scuttled last month’s trip to the desert, we sorted through our Christmas decorations and rediscovered our Nacimiento de barro bruñido that had not been displayed in a decade and was up for review.  As Larry unwrapped the pieces and placed them in the early morning sun, he experienced a flood of sentimental feelings and memories of a 2-month stay in Cuernavaca,* Mexico, attending a special class on Neurodevelopmental Treatment for cerebral palsy in 1980 when he was an Occupational Therapist.  His experience studying and living in a foreign country, knowing only a semester of Spanish endeared him to the children and people of Mexico.  Many of his patients were Mexican immigrants.  We both agreed the nacimiento continues to be an important part of our family reminding us of peace on earth, good will toward men, women and children, and will continue to have a home with us!

dsc_0024-our-nacimiento-nativity-scene

Larry made two holiday decorative panels that can be attached to our corgis’ harnesses in preparation for our attendance at the San Diego Corgi Meetup – Caroling in Balboa Park upon our return from the desert.  They double as table displays, as seen below!

dsc_0093-holiday-decorations-table-setting

We returned to Agua Caliente County Park in the Anza-Borrego Desert, California, last week and enjoyed 5 days of sunny weather and temperatures in the 70s!

dsc_0190-agua-caliente-county-park

Larry brought along his delicious homemade Craisin-date panettone (traditional Italian Christmas bread).*

dsc_0030-craisin-date-panettone

I brought along Airstream Life, 2016 Winter Issue.

dsc_0038-airstream-life-traveling-well

Larry continued on his project of making various corgi costumes, decorative panels, and accessories.  On this trip, he drafted, cut out, and sewed Airstream appliqués for panels to be attached to their harnesses…

dsc_0104-larrys-sewing-project-corgi-decoration

While I hiked and photographed Moonlight Canyon.

dsc_0063-moonlight-canyon-trail

At night, we lit our Holiday Tree of Lights and lantern candles… and will light the candles of freedom!*

dsc_0127-campsite-at-night

And enjoyed the quiet serenity of the desert floor in winter.

dsc_0132-tree-of-lights-at-night

Happy Holidays from Bill and Larry, and Mac & Tasha!

dsc_0172-bill-larry-mac-tasha

Though we’ve grown old, the bell still rings for us as it does for all who truly believe.*

Added feature: Watching Ryen and his corgi Gatsby in Merry Ramen Christmas Feast* helps keep us young at heart!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Quick, easy and safe RV refrigerator defrosting

Dometic User Manual Caution: “Do not use: A knife or an ice pick, or other sharp tools to remove frost from the freezer shelves. It can create a leak in the ammonia system.  A hot air blower. Permanent damage could result from warping the metal or plastic parts.”  We use neither sharp tools nor a hot air blower and yet easily and routinely defrost our Dometic RM2551 RV refrigerator (5 cu. ft.) in less than 30 minutes.

Frost and ice buildup on the cooling fins reduces the cooling efficiency of the refrigerator.  As seen below, our refrigerator is overdue for defrosting!

DSC_0004 Time to defrost RV refrig

I usually defrost our refrigerator about every two months depending on outside temperature and humidity conditions.  I like to start a trip with the cooling fins clear of most of the frost to make sure the refrigerator maintains safe temperatures for food (40° F or less).  We use our RV refrigerator full time (it acts as a supplemental refrigerator when at home) and it always has food in it, so it is important to be able to do the defrosting quickly, to prevent food spoilage and to shorten the recovery time to get adequately cold again.

DSC_0002 Gathering defrosting tools Once I determine that the refrigerator needs defrosting, I choose a warm day and gather five tools: a cooler, electric fan, large Tupperware lid, extra long chopstick, and a washcloth.

One of the benefits of our 23′ Airstream Safari trailer is that the large lobster sink/counter is directly across from the refrigerator, which provides a handy location for the fan to direct warm air directly into the freezer/refrigerator compartments.

I then turn off the refrigerator, fully open the door and place most food items in the nearby cooler. (I leave most condiments and other food items in the door in place.)

DSC_0006 Removing food

DSC_0004 Wireless sensor & thermistor

As you may have noticed,  our refrigerator’s white thermistor probe wire is not in its OEM plastic holder on the far right fin where it normally is moved up and down to regulate the temperature (See Adjusting the Thermistor to Improve Cooling*).  Refrigerator thermistors are NTC (Negative Temperature Coefficient) thermistors* and resistance decreases as the temperature increases.  The higher the position on the fin, the warmer the thermistor will be and the refrigerator will run longer and become colder.  But our probe wire is short and does not allow it to be moved high enough on the fin to obtain the proper refrigerator coldness.  So I found that by removing it from its holder and moving it away and down from the fins, I can adjust and maintain the proper refrigerator coldness (which for us is usually 36-37 ° F and monitored by our AcuRite Wireless Digital Thermometer).

I use a condiment bottle to prop open the freezer door (Thai sweet chili sauce* works well) and place the frozen items in the cooler.

DSC_0013 Freezer door propped open

A closer look at the tools is seen above: an inverted Tupperware lid to collect melting ice chunks, an extra long chopstick* (17.7″ bamboo chopstick for hot pot and wok cooking) to gently loosen ice chunks, and a white washcloth to wipe clean and dry the refrigerator.  (Note: we have greatly reduced our use of paper towels by purchasing a 24-pack of white reusable washcloths from Costco and also available at Amazon.com.)

DSC_0008 Ice cube trays in freezerTip: This set of 4 flexible silicone ice cube trays from Target works wonderfully for us.  It makes ice cubes quickly and takes up less space than traditional ice cube trays.  It helps keep other food items cool in the cooler when defrosting and it helps decrease the refrigerator’s recovery time after defrosting.

Packages of fish balls, jiao zi (dumplings),* and pesto are seen on the left.)

The fan is then turned on and defrosting will take about 20 minutes!

DSC_0016 Defrosting begins

DSC_0018 Water exits via new drain tubeAs ice begins to melt, water drips down and is collected in the condensation drain pan and flows through its bottom hole into the Dometic white drain pipe with cup, which connects with the drainage tubing on the backside of the refrigerator.

Our OEM drainage tubing had become brittle and we replaced it with Shields Rubber Series 162 Polyester Reinforced Clear PVC Tubing, 1/2″ ID (inside diameter).  I chose this tubing over the clear vinyl tubing because it is reinforced, can tolerate hot water (or being in a hot space such as near the boiler tube), is more flexible and is slightly less expensive than their clear vinyl tubing.

The chopstick is then used to gently nudge the melting ice sections forward and off the fins and collected in the Tupperware lid and deposited by nearby plants.

DSC_0023 Chop stick coaxes ice free

DSC_0026 Ice placed in tray:lid

Each section slides slowly and smoothly towards me and reminds me of Dave using a simple tool/key to selectively disengage electronic circuit modules in HAL’s Logic Memory Center.*

The washcloth is then used to remove excess water and wipe down the refrigerator’s insides and door seals, which completes the defrosting process in 30 minutes or less!

 

DSC_0029 Defrosting completed

Additional information: Airstream’s How to Operate Your Refrigerator* and Airstream Life’s (Nearly) Complete Guide To Airstream Maintenance.

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

 

Great expectations: Nests, beasts, bread, books and America

The Nest Caravan trailer prototype, designed by Robert Johans, is a sleek, new trailer with a fiberglass monocoque body that does not sit on a steel frame, which makes this 16′ trailer lightweight (about 2000 pounds) and easily towed by a standard car!  The Nest Caravan prototype has a queen size bed, large counter, vent fan, and a removable step bumper for the option to install a bike rack (see video linked above or photos here).   See how Robert built the prototype: “Nest Caravans – Building a new FG trailer step-by-step.”  Last spring, Robert sold his prototype and company assets to Airstream Inc., where he will assist Airstream to develop the Nest, expected to be launched by late 2017 or early 2018.  I have great expectations that the proud and happy owners of this new trailer will enjoy the ease of towing, not worrying and dealing with filiform corrosion, having fewer, if any, leaks, saving money on tow vehicle fuel, and feeling good about going green (it has an integrated solar panel!).  Future buyers and Fans of the Airstream Nest will not have to contemplate acquiring fantastic beasts to tow this trailer!

DSC_0084 Airstreams pulled by F-250s

Surf’s up and time for keeping cool along the coast and doing summer reading, gardening, hiking, house and yard maintenance, and fun cooking!

DSC_0094 trailer towed by car

For the centerpiece of my summer reading, I have great expectations in the New York Times Bestseller, Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow, which was the inspiration for the wildly successful Broadway musical Hamilton,* winner of 11 Tony Awards!

DSC_0425 Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton

My expectations for making beautiful and delicious challah from scratch were fulfilled by Maggie Glezer’s “My Challah” recipe on page 94 of her wonderful book, A Blessing of Bread: Recipes and Rituals, Memories and Mitzvahs – “Modern-day takes on age-old recipes for challah, holiday breads, and everyday family breads from Ashkenazi, Sephardic, North African, and Near Eastern traditions, interwoven with joyous family stories, wise folktales, proverbs, and prayers.”

DSC_0419 Challah, Maggie Glezer recipe

I have very great expectations this summer in the new writings of J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books.

DSC_0007 Harry Potterbooks

A new book, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One & Two (Special Rehearsal Edition Script), will be published the day following the official stage production opening in London on July 30.  Other new writings include, “Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry,” the second in a series of stories called History of Magic in North America,* written by J.K. Rowling as a prelude to the movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,* opening November 18, 2016!

Summer for us is a time for a staycation in happy San Diego with its many attractions and a time for sharing stories and cherishing memories of our Airstream camping adventures before its time to wash, wax, and treat our Airstream in the fall.

DSC_0509 Sharing stories & memories

And as we approach the fall, we also have great expectations for “the miracle that is America” as reflected upon by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in their introduction to the performance of “Hamilton” at the 70th Annual Tony Awards!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Encore: See and hear the creator and star of the Broadway musical, Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda sing the production’s opening number, “Alexander Hamilton,”* at the White House Poetry Jam, May, 12, 2009.

Monkey business under the Hunger Moon

The Hunger Moon* was rising as we unhitched our Airstream Safari in the California desert, which marked the conclusion of the 15-day celebration of the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Monkey.*

DSC_0038 Hunger Moon 2016

This moon is also called the Snow Moon* because it usually occurs during the snowiest month of the year, but in San Diego, we just had the hottest February since records began in 1874.  Here in the desert, we experienced comfortably warm, sunny days, and cool, clear nights that were perfect for celebrating the Chinese Lantern Festival* as we did last year at this site, except this time, we suspended a large paper Chinese lantern with string attached to a long bamboo stick from our garden.

DSC_0049 Chinese Lantern Festival Full Moon

Evening breezes made low light photography of this large paper Chinese lantern challenging until I held on to it…

DSC_0079 Lantern festival celebrator

while our Chinese lucky lion* looked on and laughed (perhaps regarding the Year of the Monkey political predictions)!

DSC_0065 Chinese lantern festival lion

The Chinese New Year* is also known as the Spring Festival,* and this year, it felt like spring arrived early at our campsite, especially with freshly cut Freesia flowers that Larry brought from home.

DSC_0007 Spring Year of the Monkey

Larry also brought a pork and mushroom mixture that was placed in dumpling wrappers to make siu mai,* which were then steamed.

DSC_0121 Larry making siu mai

DSC_0131 Pork mushroom siu mai

Recent rain and warmer temperatures have brought new growth and flowers to Agua Caliente’s Moonlight Canyon flora.

DSC_0097 Moonlight Canyon

Swaths of red were seen across the desert due to prolific chuparosa, Justicia californica, blooms.

DSC_0106 Agua Caliente chuparosa

And a beautiful and fragrant Cattleya bloom greeted us upon arrival home and seemed to announce the arrival of spring!

DSC_0191 Cattleya (at home)

“Winter is gone, the mountains are clear, and water sparkles… Spring comes, birds sing, and flowers fragrant.” (A Chinese Spring Festival – New Year’s couplet,* Chun lian.)

*This is a link to a YouTube video.