November – Streamin’ gratitude

November, along with its holiday of Thanksgiving, is a wonderful time to pause and take a moment to reflect on our blessings, the fruits of our labors, our families and loved ones, our health, nature, our beautiful world and universe, and appreciate everything that inspires gratitude.  It is also a great time to be grateful for the health benefits that come from an attitude of gratitude.  The CBS This Morning video, “Why an attitude of gratitude can help your health,”* points out that research studies have found that an attitude of gratitude can have health benefits such as a sounder sleep, boosting the immune system, coping with stress, feeling happier, being kinder, motivating one to exercise and eat healthier, and feeling more satisfied with life in general.

This November we are grateful for the wonderful memories we have of our past 10 years of camping with our Airstream trailer, which was a custom factory order placed on the day before Thanksgiving.  We are also grateful for the good deal we received from the dealer (another good time to buy an Airstream is just before Christmas when most others are shopping for presents and dealers are eager to make a deal!).

Ten years ago this month, Larry and I and our late corgi Mac and pug Pau Hoa celebrated our first fall camping season at Vallecito County Park in the Anza-Borrego Desert.  We were so grateful that this park was relatively empty, quiet, surrounded by natural beauty and near the Ghost Mountain home of Marshal South,* which I photographed for the first time (see the full story here).

HPIM1749 Vallecito County Park 2007

HPIM1839 Morning Coffee

HPIM1813 Larry, Mac & Pau Hoa

HPIM1803 Larry cooks steak on Hibachi

Although we recently have passed our Airstream Safari on to a younger generation, we still have that esprit de corps of Airstreamers, exploring and appreciating each day as a gift, even when health issues arise.  In 2008, my sun-related facial skin lesions (Actinic keratoses) were treated and in 2009 one lesion was diagnosed as squamous cell carcinoma and removed through Mohs surgery.  In 2014, Larry was diagnosed having a small, slow-growing, benign pituitary gland adenoma that has been successfully managed with oral medication.  Last August, Airstreamer Sean Michael posted in this Long Long Honeymoon episode* that he also was diagnosed with a benign tumor on his pituitary gland and vlogged his Thank You!!!* to everyone for all of the positive energy he has received.  In September, Sean & Kristy vlogged tips regarding health insurance, especially while on the road, “Health Insurance & RV Travel.”*  Last month, Sean posted his great news* that this tumor is responding positively to his medication.  This is great news because a growing tumor here could impinge on the nearby optic nerve and lead to vision changes and possibly blindness.

We are so grateful for our eyes, our visual gateway to experience the wonder and awe of nature and the world around us.

DSC_0037 Stars above Airstream

Wonder and Awe* is also a breathtaking video filmed and presented by Louie Schwartzberg at a TEDx event.  “Nature’s beauty is a gift that cultivates appreciation and gratitude”, says Louie.  “Did you know that 80% of the information we receive comes through our eyes… and aren’t we grateful for our brains that can take this electrical impulse that comes from light energy to create images in order for us to explore our world?”

Gratitude* is another Louie Schwartzberg presentation given at a TEDxSF event.  Per TEDxSF, ” Nature’s beauty can be easily missed — but not through Louie Schwartzberg’s lens. His stunning time-lapse photography, accompanied by powerful words from Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast, serves as a meditation on being grateful for every day.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

*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!

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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!

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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!

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

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I brought along Airstream Life, 2016 Winter Issue.

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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…

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While I hiked and photographed Moonlight Canyon.

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

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

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

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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.

Airstream torquing tendonitis

Before every trip, I follow a checklist of procedures that need to be done and items to include, which are spread over a 4-day period.  Critical items that must be done are checking and adjusting tire pressures, and checking the torque of the trailer wheel lug nuts to lessen the chance of a tire or wheel failure (See Outside Interests‘ “Tire Tips – Part 2″).  I lug around a rather heavy air compressor to each tire that needs more air and then I apply a torque wrench to each lug nut in a star pattern* to the specified tightness of 110-120 ft-lbs two days before departure (See “Carry a Torque Wrench for RV Maintenance“).*  See and hear Colonial Airstream’s Patrick Botticelli’s video, “Airstream Tire Safety,”* which includes information about tire inspection, tire pressures, lug nut torque, DOT (Department of Transportation) Code for manufacture date, and when to replace tires.

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Last month, two days before our first trip of our fall-winter-spring camping season, I checked the tire pressures, placed PressurePro tire monitoring sensors on our ST tires* and checked lug nut torque.  I am right handed, so I lugged the air compressor and checked the lug nuts mostly with my right arm.  Our aged air compressor seemed to struggle at times with the job, so at the end of the day, I went to Home Depot and got a new compressor and then went to Costco and picked up a half-gallon of ice cream and a large apple pie, mostly with my right arm.  That evening, I felt my arm ache, which interrupted my sleep. The day before departure, I continued with my checklist and the ache became pain and burning that persisted throughout the night. I awoke on departure day realizing that hitching up would result in further injury, so we reluctantly canceled our November trip to the desert.

Ten years ago, we first bought this Airstream Safari just before Thanksgiving when I was 69 years old [actually, I was 59, as caught and corrected by my dear Dr. C., whose sharp eye, insight and wit are evidenced in his comments below]. By the way, November is a great time to shop and haggle for a new Airstream.  Next month will be the 10th year of our camping with this Airstream travel trailer, and I will be 70 in March.  As Willie Nelson sings, “Gee, ain’t it funny how time just slips away.“*

It seems this Airstream is holding up better than my body parts, as my Kaiser Urgent Care diagnosis of right arm tendonitis* confirmed.  Fortunately, after a 2-week course of Ibuprofen (Motrin) 800 mg q8 hrs and most importantly, mindful rest,* I feel up to preparing for our return to the desert this month.

Whether this incident is a fluke, or a sign of things to come remains to be seen.  We have reservations for camping sites through next April…

Meanwhile, we are attending the fun events such as the Harbor Walk at Oceanside, CA, put on by  San Diego Corgi Meetup.

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Happy Holidays to all, no matter who you are, where you live, or what you believe!*

Wait, wait, there’s more:  A Dr. C. inspired encore video selection: James Cluer’s Wine Route – Bordeaux Part 8: Cháteau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Wash, Wax and Corgi Day at the Beach!

While some are winterizing, we are washing and waxing our Safari Airstream travel trailer for the beginning of our fall-winter-spring camping season in the wonderful mountains and deserts of Southern California, popular with snow birds as far away as Bigfork, Montana.  A full report on how I wash and wax the trailer, along with a list of my tools, strategy, procedure, and the benefits, is seen in last year’s post, “Wash, wax and treat II.”

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Once again, I wore my “Ridin’ with Biden” hat, especially because I am on-board with his efforts to accelerate progress in preventing, detecting, and treating cancer with the goal of ending cancer as we know it.  As a retired RN, I appreciate Joe Biden’s passionate tribute to the nurses and all who fight cancer, as seen in the video, “Vice President Biden Delivers Remarks at the Cancer Moonshot Summit.”*

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Seven years ago, I had Mohs surgery to remove a skin cancer lesion from my face, so as the sun broke through the marine layer, I put on my trusty wide brim hat for better sun protection.

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Our annual washing and waxing the trailer was completed ahead of schedule, so we took a day off and rewarded ourselves and our corgis Mac and Tasha with a day at the beach!

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But it was not just any day, it was the 2016 Fall So Cal Corgi Nation Beach Day at Huntington Beach, California!

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One thousand people with their corgis flocked to the beach for a day of excitement and sensory overload!

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It is billed as the “THE BIGGEST CORGI PAWTY ON THE PLANET !!!

Corgis played in the surf and on the beach.

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Ryen, a popular vlogger, drove down from the San Francisco Bay Area with his famous corgi Gatsby* dressed as Batman for this event!

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And fans lined up to meet them.  See Ryen’s vlog, “How Corgi Dog Changed My Life.”*

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See Ryen’s video of the 2016 Fall Corgi Beach Day at Huntington Beach: 1,000 Corgis In Costume – World’s Largest Corgi Party!, Life After College: Ep. 516.*

By the end of the day, we were all dead… tired… but with wonderful corgi memories to dream about!*

*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 How to make your RV fridge colder*).  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.