Tuesday, February 28, 2017

You're probably wondering why I asked you here today...

That's what it looks like little Izzy is about to say...

No, she was looking outside... wanting to go for a walk... outside.  It rained yesterday and today; the sandy gravel here in the park would make a mess of that pretty fur.  So, she has to stay inside until things dry out - shouldn't be long here in the desert.


You know you're getting old...

You know you're getting old when "dinner and a movie" is over by 3:00 in the afternoon.  ;-)  We went to an early show today, Hidden Figures.  A great movie - we both enjoyed it and give it an enthusiastic two thumbs up.  Once again, at our favorite theater, with the big, cushy, reclining seats; seats that we can pick and pay for the night before.  No standing in line, we go to a kiosk, put in our confirmation number, and it kicks out the tickets.

I was a cheap date today: we had breakfast before going to the theater, so I didn't even need popcorn.  Yep, a 10:10 am movie.  Almost like a private screening, I think there were three other couples in the theater, none close to us.

The theater adjoins a mall, so we took a walk through the mall after the show.  Nothing we needed, mostly the walk and some window shopping.  Then off to lunch: Oregano's - my favorite pizza in the Phoenix area.

Just like our first date almost 5 decades ago: a movie and pizza.  It just all happened earlier in the day today.  ;-)


OK, one more Izzy photo, this time from a lower vantage point (she likes to take the high ground)...

Monday, February 27, 2017

Go, Johnny, Go Go Go!

Well, OK, Joan, not Johnny.  But, she does not like to be called Joanie.

We started our morning off getting a repair done on the CR-V.  Well, not anything automotive, but the electrical connection on the back (for hauling the cargo trailer or boat) broke.  Months ago.  I was plugging in the electrical connector for the cargo trailer (double towing), and the connection on the car came apart in two pieces.  It was made of plastic... and, apparently, not great plastic.

RV Master Tech is the place that did the install for our tow-bar and all the electrical.  They were great to deal with last year when we had the work done.  The service write said we could make an appointment, bring in the car, and wait for it... "Shouldn't take more than 45 minutes."

Yeah, we've heard that before.  We borrowed a car from Steph and Dan, dropped off the CR-V, and went out for a relaxing breakfast... instead of me waiting around the service place (they said I could wait in their break room).

We came back in two hours.  Nope, it wasn't done; but they did explain why: the replacement connection was also plastic.  They got a metal one, but it wasn't black.  They painted it so it would blend in with the black lower portion on the back of the CR-V... they had to wait for it to dry.

Joan had some more errands to run, so I stayed, she left.  When the paint was dry, it really did only take about a half hour to put in the new connection.  I went to the office to pay... the service writer said, "We're going to cover that for you under warranty.  It shouldn't have failed, so even though we are beyond the warranty time (something they set), no charge."

I was pretty impressed.  I gave the tech who worked on it a gratuity.  Took longer than they said, but they made sure it was right.

What about the "Go Joan!" part?  Thanks for asking.  We have been helping in Steph's class for a science project they are working on, building Gravity Cruisers.  Teaching them some physics, some design, and teamwork.  Joan has been working with a couple specific teams, I have been "floating," giving advice to each team as needed.  Seems that Joan got into the spirit of the project, and built her own Gravity Cruiser... in about an hour!

Dan made some flames for the car.  Yes, they are allowed to decorate the car after they get it moving.  The car uses a container of pennies for weight on a lever; the lever is connected to the axle by string, which turns the axle as the weight on the lever drops.  She built the car on her own, I did give her a couple physics tips for positioning.

The competition will be for distance.  On a partial first (and only) test of the car (lever not all the way loaded), it went just over 14 feet (4.27 meters).  Her car will be competitive, based on what we have seen.  No, she will not be competing with the kids... that wouldn't be fair.

Maybe sell the car to the highest bidder?  ;-)

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Who are you wearing?

Anyone else think that is a stupid thing to ask?

The Oscars are tonight.  Joan let me know we will be watching.  At lunch yesterday, she and Steph started coordinating who would be making what (to eat) while we are watching.  I understand coordinating Super Bowl food... but, the Oscars?

Of course, when they said what they'd be making... I'm in!

Who are you eating?  Yeah, that sounds just as stupid to my juvenile senses.  ;-)

Most years, I've seen maybe one or two of the nominated movies.  Some of the movies sound good, some... well, I'm sure they are... um... artistic.  It's a good opportunity for pampered Hollywood folks to give each other an award.  And dress up.  Wear borrowed jewelry.  Give meaningful short speeches, until the music cuts them off.  Walk the red carpet.

Some compare it to the Super Bowl... where overpaid guys chase a ball up and down a field... come running onto the field with a bit of fanfare... and afterwards make self-congratulatory speeches.

Either way, I'm in it for the food.  Are there good commercials during the Oscars??


Friday, February 24, 2017

RV Super Show...

Billed as: The Good Sam RV Super Show.  There were RVs.  Good Sam had a presence there.  But, "Super"??

A couple years ago, the Good Sam Rally was held at PIR (Phoenix International Raceway); same place as this event today.  Previously, it was a national rally, with RV manufacturers, all kinds of RVs on display, and several huge tents of vendors.

This was not that.  This was an RV show - mostly local RV dealers, including the two Phoenix area Camping World outlets, looking to sell RVs (Camping World is part of the Good Sam conglomeration).  Because, as everyone knows: it is much less expensive to move all the RVs off your sales lot, put them in an expensive rented place, pay a bunch of people to get them moved... and then offer "RV Show Special Prices."  ;-)

Fortunately, we got free tickets when we checked in at our RV park.  As lifetime Good Sam members, we would have only had to pay $5 to get it ($10 to the general public).  I say "fortunately," because there are "RV Shows" all over the Phoenix area that are free... and, the same: move RVs to another place to try to sell 'em.

There were WAY fewer people, vendors, and display RVs compared to a real Good Sam national rally.  But, as Joan said, "We have the RV we like - I'm just going to see all the vendors!"

So, off to the Super Show...

For a diversion, there was also a display of pontoon boats...

Joan was wearing a Roche Harbor sweatshirt; the people selling the pontoons were formerly from Washington... one of them said, "I am surprised to see anyone in the desert who knows about the San Juan Islands!"  They visited for a bit.  I walked around on pontoons - all bigger than our petite pontoon.  I miss my pontoon.  And the dolphins.  But, I digress.

Into the vendor tent...

Not a lot of vendors, but not much duplication of wares.  We had a couple specific items we were interested in seeing.  Not wanting to cart stuff all around the show, we saw what we wanted and planned to come back on our way out.

Checking out some RVs...

NuWa owners have been a tad bit appalled at another manufacturer calling one of their models "Champagne" (NuWa's top  of the line 5th wheel - but, they are now out of the 5th wheel manufacturing business)...

Peeking around this one... yeah, "Champagne" is stretching things a bit.  This model had some great stairs - very solid, and they fold up into the doorway for travel.  I liked 'em!

Typically, you could not cover all of a big rally in one day - we were done with this in less than 2 hours.  Although we only went in a few of the RVs that had some interesting features I've read about.

Back to the vendor booths, we picked up an adjustable entry step, an awning sunscreen, and some windshield wiper covers.  The awning sunscreen was our main interest.  Here's how it looks attached to our awning...

Look really close, and you might see that entry step platform.  The vendor who was selling that had displayed them at Quartszite a couple weeks ago... "This one has been stepped on, but it's brand new; how does half price sound?"

Sold.  Turns out, he also had the awning sunscreen we were interested in.  And the wiper covers.  Heck, we could have gone to one place to get what we wanted.  ;-)

We got our exercise and were done before lunch.  Didn't have to pay "Raceway prices" for a hotdog; we had a nice sit-down meal instead.

Izzy isn't sure about the awning sunscreen - "That is different!"  She went out into the sun...

That contrasty light makes her look tough; the dogs being walked by our site seem to think so, too.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Really tired...

Nothing to do with tires.  We volunteered in Steph's class again today, working with their kids on their Gravity Cruisers.  The GM engineer guy wasn't there today, so I got to be the "physics guy"... Joan worked with specific groups, I kinda floated around, offering encouragement and free advice.

The kids have made progress on their gravity-propelled vehicles - they need to: next week will be the competition to see who gets to compete with other classes.

I felt like the kids were doing great today.  The bell rang, we gave our encouragement, and they filed out.  Then, in came the next class... you mean we aren't done??  More of the same.  I'm only kinda joking - it is fun working with the kids.

I have a great deal of respect for Steph and Dan, doing this day in, day out.  All day.  I would not have the stamina for that.  We aren't supposed to tell them what to do, but to help lead them to the discovery of how to improve their designs.  Not as easy as it sounds.  Because... they are kids.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017


No, not sleepy nor worn out.  Today, the scooters go in for new rear tires.

We made the arrangements last week; the service writer told us he'd order the tires, give us a call when they come, then get us in right away.  AND (big deal for us), not have to leave the bikes - we could wait.  Josh called yesterday and scheduled us for 11:00 today.

The dealer is about 40 minutes away from us, so we headed out an hour early...

We hit every light on the way there; 55 minutes later, we pulled the scoots in...

Josh, our service writer told us it would be 45 minutes to an hour.  He was putting two guys on it, so both scoots would get worked on at the same time.  Joan settled at their customer lounge...

I walked around, looking at bikes...

A multi-brand dealer, they have plenty to check out...

The bikes above and below are models of Victory (made by Polaris)...

Polaris bought the Indian Motorcycles name and decided to drop their Victory line to concentrate on Indian.  Too bad, because I think Victory has built up a following over time.

It took longer than the service writer figured (more stuff to take apart on a scooter to get to the rear tire), but the price was still the same.  The cost for both scoots was less than what I figured it would be for one.  I have no complaints.

Since we were in the area, to one of our favorites for lunch...

With bellies full of BBQ, we took the scenic route home.  May be the old guy in me, but I enjoy the roads that run through the Sun City developments here...

I did have an ulterior motive for taking this route back: it takes us past a Cycle Gear shop... I've been wanting to check out a modular helmet (full face, but the chin bar part raises).  They had a good sale; I brought a new one home...

My other helmet is a 3/4.  This new one is going to take some getting used to - a bit less peripheral visibility, and the buttons to operate the raising chin bar and the integral sun-shield are a bit different from what I'm used to.  It seems pretty comfortable, though.

It was supposed to be a warm one today, but Mother Nature gave us some overcast, which kept the temps in the 70s so we could both wear our armored jackets.

With new bike tires, you have to go easy for 30+ miles - the tires have a coating on them that can be slippery if pushed too hard.  The service writer said, "You probably shouldn't go 'dragging a knee' until you get a few miles on 'em."

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


No, we didn't trade Izzy in for a bigger model... although, she has the heart and attitude of a lion.

This is about the movie.  Lion.  The premise: a young Indian boy gets separated from his brother and lost.  I won't reveal any more about the plot line, but it is a great movie.  I didn't know anything about it, this was Joan's choice... it drew us both in.  Two thumbs up.

We share a Premier Pass with Steph and Dan - with that, you get reward points, discounts on the over-priced snacks, but the best part: you can pick your seat and book the tickets ahead of time at some theaters.  We have our favorites here - the AMC theaters that have the over-stuffed seats that recline and have electric footrests (think: Lazy-Boy theater type recliners).  When we booked the seats last night, we had our pick of any seat in the theater.  Joan said, "I wouldn't be surprised if we're the only ones in the theater."

By the time the previews started, there were about 12 people in the theater, most of them seated right around us.  I guess we picked good seats.  Yeah, that means we can't neck during the movie.  ;-)

It wasn't "date night"... more like date morning/afternoon: the movie started at 11:00 am.  Yes, everyone in the theater was around our age.  We know how to party.

When we got back home (well, motor home), little Izzy wanted to go out for a walk.  Then, a sit...

Some swirly clouds, looking to the southwest...

Another pretty day in the desert.

Monday, February 20, 2017

I heard that today is...

National Love Your Pet Day.

Or, as we call it: that's everyday.

There's a lot of love at Steph and Dan's house.  Three cats worth.  Two big, one little.  Pretty much, love everywhere you look.  And, cats.

Tasha, at Steph's house...

Izzy, at our cruising condo...

Maybe it is National Cats Nappy Day?  Also known as: everyday.


Not to be confused with National Love Your Guitar Day...

Yeah, also known as: everyday.


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Who done it??

The ladies booked us for a "Murder Mystery Dinner" tonight.  They hooked me by saying, "It's going to be fun!  AND, it's at the Old Spaghetti Factory!  Really, it will be fun!"

Oh, and "We'll dress up like 1920s gangsters..." said very quietly.

Waiting to get seated...

I also didn't know we had the upgraded seating: best seats and photos included...

For anyone looking close, we are all now NBA stars, with Dan topping 7'6".  ;-)

Once seated, they snagged Dan to play one of the suspects...

That is Dixon, the second in command gangster who is also an under-cover FBI agent.

The premise: you ask questions of the suspects, listen for clues, and try to determine who committed the murder.  Each table was a team.  Hoaky?  Sure.  You could roll your eyes and not play along, or just go with it and have some fun.  We had fun.

We did manage to solve the murder, but another table had more details.  So close.  For the record, Dan wasn't the one who committed the murder... we all knew that, because... Dan is so nice.

A review...

On a guitar forum, I was asked for a review of the X20, after having a chance to play it for a while...


24 hours in. I've been playing the X20 for about 18 of those hours.

Yes, I'm kidding. There was a few hours for sleeping. A previously scheduled "date" ... well, not a candle-light dinner - my wife and daughter like to play Bingo once in a while. And, being the man of the house, I put my foot down and said, "Whatever you want, Dear." Because that's the way I roll. On the bright side, I won a $75 jackpot (one of the smaller ones) - first time ever. I give credit for that to the good karma generated by the new X20.

So, time out for a bit of sleep, and a meal or two, and I've still been playing the X20 a bunch. First impressions: "Oh, baby!" (yes, you may quote me on that)

We all bring preferences and biases with us when we evaluate a guitar. I've been playing for going on 53 years; I should be better than this. But, I digress. There are some things about other guitars I own that really shine...
814ce: tone, playability, and looks (tobacco burst)
T-5: plays like a dream, versatile
X7: hands down, the most comfortable guitar I've owned; great tone for its size
RS Shorty: introduced me to the sound and ease of CF
522ce 12-fret: rich mahogany sound, typical Taylor playability
GSmini: introduced me to the pleasure of a small guitar

This X20 seems to take the best of those and kicks it all up a gear... or twelve. Opening the case, I was taken by the striking looks of this guitar - the sensuous curves designed in, the black CF weave on the sides and back, and the show-piece: the louro preto veneer. Gorgeous!

Picking it up, you notice the light weight... and, again, those curves. Even before putting a strap on it, I had to strum... love the rich sound! That off-set sound hole delivers the punch of this guitar up to the player as well as out. Rich, full, and balanced. It has the crystal highs I expect from carbon fiber, but balanced with rich bass. It sounds much bigger than the X7, but is every bit as comfortable. As far as set-up, there is nothing I will change about how this plays, other than the strings I prefer, at some point, probably a couple weeks down the road. Just right, straight out of the box.

The X7 is a delight. The size, sound, and comfort make it an intimate playing experience... then plug it in, and it kicks butt. It is the "pocketknife" I slip into a comfortable pair of jeans. My first exposure to the X20 is the sound that comes out and grabs you by the face. Instead of a "pocketknife," this guitar is a carbon fiber weapon. It is probably possible to play it quietly, but that would be a darn shame.

I don't have an amp or PA with me this trip, so I can't say anything about the LR Baggs Element Active pickup. If it is as good (or better) than the B-Band in my X7, I will be a happy boy. All acoustic at this point, and I am very impressed.

I haven't owned a Hiscox case before. This came with the Hiscox LiteFlite case, and I like it. A lot. Lighter than the wood cases I own, and seems to offer plenty of protection. It made the trip here (Phoenix area) from Ireland, and the guitar seemed plenty happy about it. The optional gig bag is a nice companion for easy, lightweight traveling. I have come to really appreciate a good gig bag.

I will admit that I spent more time playing than looking, after that first "Ohhhhhh!" when I opened the case. Now, looking closely, the workmanship is impecable. While it immediately moved into first place in the Beauty Competition, this guitar isn't just a pretty face. (see the "face" reference early in this thread)

Honeymoon period? The above is all stuff that isn't going to fade away with more use. I've been playing long enough to know what I like in a guitar. This X20 does it all for me, and delights me with the rich sound, the comfort, and the striking looks.

And, as with my X7 purchase, Emerald has made this a first class buying experience. Any downside? That whole week between them handing the guitar over to AN Post and the US Postal Service putting the pink slip in the box... apparently, there was some "waiting angst" that some perceived. Me? Nah, I was cool about the whole thing.

Worth the wait? I have been waiting over 50 years for this... I just didn't know it until I opened the box.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Thinking about going pro...

No, I'm not talking about the guitar.  I did the full-time musician thing in my younger years.  Yes, I am SO enjoying this new guitar, but last night, we took some time for... BINGO!

Joan and Steph like to do an evening of bingo at Community Bingo when we are here.  No, not 5 nights a week - maybe once a month.  There are about 20 different games in a session and the jackpots range from $75 to over $1,000.  When we have done this in the past, Joan, Steph, and Dan have all had a turn at winning a jackpot; sometimes, more than one.  I have never won, but I do enjoy seeing them get excited and hollering, "Bingo!"

That changed tonight...

Yes, I won.  Early in the evening, so it was a $75 jackpot.  I am pretty sure the new guitar brought me luck!  ;-)

The place isn't fancy, but it is well run, with very nice people working there.  You can bring snacks, and they do sell some food there.

In the past, I have felt that my bingo cards have had unlisted numbers.  This time, I even got close on a few other games... no, it isn't like horse-shoes, there are no points for "close."

There are regulars there - they know each other by name, and they have racks of fancy daubers (the thing like a marker that puts a blob of color on your bingo card when you touch it) and all kinds of good luck charms.  We brought ourselves and a few snacks... yeah, we know how to party.

We were done by 9:30, but there is another session that starts again at 10:30 on Friday nights... too much party for this pooper.  ;-)

Winning was fun - I am just happy to spend an enjoyable evening with my family.

I'm not sure if there are professional bingo players, but I'm ready to take this on the road!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Oh my goodness...

The new Emerald X20 is an amazing guitar!  Emerald includes a flash card with professional images with each guitar; smart marketing: who wouldn't be excited to share photos of the new instrument.

The first views...

Opening the case...

Since I don't have a full studio set up in the motorhome, one of their images...

Even the professional images can't truly show how deep and rich this guitar looks.

Beyond the looks, I was hooked with the first strum!  The body of this one is bigger than the body of the X7; the sound hole on the X20 opens more upward - the sound really projects great to the player, as well as forward.

Stephanie put her hand over the sound hole and said, "You can feel the air and vibrations coming out!"  Yes, this guitar is a power-house.

It is rare that I get a guitar and don't feel the need to do something with the set-up, to make it play more to my liking... this one is perfect, right out of the case (nice Hiscox LiteFlight case, btw).  After making that trek from Ireland.

Definitely, my new favorite guitar!

I've been joking about the wait.  It was shipped from Ireland last Friday, so one week to get here.  Yes, the X7 made it in 4 days.  Timing.  Emerald says to expect 8 to 10 days.  One of the participants on a guitar forum (who also has an X20 said, "It will be worth the wait."  Oh, SO worth it!

In Emerald fashion, there were some other very nice "extras" along with the guitar.  I won't say what, so it doesn't spoil any surprise for other Emerald buyers.

I had been considering ordering a custom Emerald before this Select Series was announced.  I was thinking of a different wood instead of this gorgeous louro preto... because I had no idea this was a possibility.  The look of this guitar, with the exotic wood veneer on the front and headstock, and the black carbon fiber weave everywhere else is beautiful.  Alistair from Emerald is a true artist with his custom instruments.

This is a very special guitar!  As I played up and down the neck in the first few minutes, I felt my eyes get a little teary.  Yeah, that special.