San Diego: I made it back!

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Feels like home!

So yeah, I left Lake Havasu, AZ after an extended stay. The looming expiration of my registration demanded that I return to good ol’ SD for some Minivan maintenance.

The return trip was uneventful albeit a bit convoluted. My GPS program sent me on a stair-stepped route through fields of hay, soybeans, corn, nut trees and even a strip mine!

Strange. If you’re north of I-8 or even I-10 there’s really no direct route west! At least, not in the southern half of California.

You know, the vast majority of Arizona is flat and unremarkable desert—with light brush, the occasional tree, some cactus and spotty rock formations. When my GPS announced, “Welcome to California” at the border, there was a striking change in terrain: green!

My brain, after a while in the desert sun, said “home.”

Oh, that’s riiiight.

It was nice to arrive back in the Golden State but, the very first gas station I hit reminded me of one of the reasons I enjoy traveling elsewhere—the price of gas. Just about everywhere else, regular fuel is anywhere from $1.99 to $2.25 a gallon. In my home state, it’s closer to four bucks and, in some places, even more!

But, hey, the weather is nice!

As a matter of fact, the weather is damn nice, with highs in the mid 70’s and lows in the upper 50’s. It will be getting warmer here in a couple months but, for now, it’s perfect!

Remember the new tires?

Yup, had a flat in Oregon and another in Washington! And I caught a third tire on the verge of losing its tread and replaced it, as well, in Washington—before it killed me. So, it certainly came as a surprise to learn that both of my rear tires (both of them brand spankin’ new) were revealing some of the steel belting on the edges facing the inside of the Sienna!

The back wheels are out of alignment! Who knew? I had always thought it’s the front wheels that needed alignment, not the rear ones. This is the reason why I lost those tires in Oregon and Washington in the first place!

So, I haven’t quite done the figuring yet, but it looks like I got only about 3,000 miles out of two brand new tires (the third new one, on the front passenger side, still looks new).

Had to buy two tires again—this time, used, but in great condition—and I had both of them mounted and ready to go for $100. There’s a “special tool” needed for the Sienna back tire alignment, so I’ll have to find a shop that has that tool and can get the $40 work done.

I don’t want to buy two more tires every time I drive out of state!

The Catalytic Converter

Yes, the State of California is fixated on air pollution—not a bad thing—and requires cars, trucks and minivans to get a “smog check” every two years or, at random, every year. This is my year! And so, I needed a new catalytic converter.

Expensive, they are!

Now, “research shows” that a catalytic converter is effective down to about 75% efficiency, but the millisecond it hits 95%, the engine computer module (ECM) turns on the “check engine” light! I’ve been resetting that light with my handy little OBD device for about two months now (it comes back on every eighty miles or so).

Hello Antonio!

My trusty auto mechanic, Antonio, had his Chief Mechanic change it out for me. When import expert Marcelo put the Sienna on the lift and pulled the converter off, pieces parts came falling out of it (guess I needed one)!

That looks like the problem there, Marcelo.

“Ya think?”

Once I’ve driven about 80 miles and the ECM resets, I’ll have Antonio perform the smog test and I’ll go get my $88 sticker for the back license plate.

Hello Doctor!

I have an obligatory visit to my physician this Friday for my regular bleeding (a blood test) so, that gives me some time to take care of the alignment, smog testing and sticker business for the Sienna. I am thinking those are all of the responsibilities I have this time in SD—and I can, once again, hit the road!

I’ll let you know in a week or so the launch time for RoadTrip 2.1! At this moment, I am setting my sights on Crater Lake in Oregon, as I have mentioned numerous times here, on TheMinivanExplorer.com.

Happy trails my friends!

 

Lake Havasu AZ: Still alive!

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Talk about lazy.

Yes. Yes I am. I’ve been taking it easy and staying put—getting a really deep tan and drinking the coffee I am making with my little Coleman and at a local cafe called Social Bean in Lake Havasu City, about a mile away from my campsite.

Social Bean has a great WiFi connection. And they make a cold brewed coffee that rocks! I have commandeered a very comfy chair in the corner, spending my daily computer time defending this site, and others I manage, from Russian hackers and various proxy hack attempts—most likely also Russians, remotely using computers around the world that their users have not protected with anti-virus software!

Oh, there is no doubt in my mind that the U.S. is under attack—cyber attack—at this very moment! My only question is, why would they bother with my travel blog!?

There are no passwords stored (other than mine), no data other than my ramblings, no monetary connections, no advertising and, with the exception of my regular musings on the dangers of bears, absolutely nothing else they should want to mess with!

Invincible!

Nevertheless, I am better at keeping them out than they are in trying to get in! So far. You, the reader, are perfectly safe coming here so, no worries please!

But, just to remain that way—especially using other sites that don’t care very much about youplease install an anti-virus software if you haven’t already (don’t run more than one at the same time; it confuses both of them—leaving you unprotected).

I recommend Avast (it’s effective, doesn’t slow you down, updates automatically, daily and it’s free!). And please, rid yourself immediately of any Symantec product (McAfee, Norton, etc) as they more focused on making money—and monitoring you—than they are in protecting you.

The little, free Avast is far superior in protecting you and your computer.

More neighbors!

I’ve met a few new neighbors and have been having some great conversations. Of course, the default discussion is about our campers, trailers and RVs. I am proud to say I always get “props” on the outfitting of The Minivan Explorer!

It seems no one has had the idea of using a battery jumper charging anytime the engine is running to provide power at times the engine isn’t! C’mon, that was a no brainer!

And everyone likes the real twin bed idea!

Every. One.

Helpful to the last.

There is a genuine interest in helping one another among this group. And although I am pretty self-sufficient, it’s nice to know I am surrounded by some good people—for the most part. I have been at Craggy long enough to have learned that there is a criminal element gathered here, about three miles deep, that specialize in thievery.

I can confirm this as, in my first few days here, a solar-powered light I displayed at “my space” (also so I could find it again) was stolen while I was at the McDonald’s only a mile away—for about an hour. As a result, I always pack up my chair and table whenever I head into town for supplies, coffee or gas.

I can’t begin to tell you the range of conversation we’ve engaged in because it truly is high and wide. Some topics have included politics, religion, personal growth, Park Rangers, other campers, water, solar power (a big interest by all), garbage, noise and, of course, propane!

Other travel blogs.

I apologize to you for not writing so often as I have in the past. As I scan other blogs of travelers, campers, explorers, boondockers and van-dwellers, I find they are similar in going to a new place and staying for a while—if only to save a few dollars on gas!

I will admit, remaining static for a while cuts way down on the fuel bills. And staying in a warmer climate can also save on certain items such as propane canisters, engine idling and even stove butane (when it’s freezing, things take longer to cook!).

Since I started out by heading north in the winter (what was I thinking!?), I already have an fine assortment of cold weather clothing and bedding—and I still have that Mr. Heater Portable Buddy handy! So, I’m ready for temperatures to drop.

And I haven’t forgotten the Crater Lake, Oregon plan!

It’s all timing now.

I just checked the weather there and now, it’s within my own parameter set for going there (overnight lows dropping no lower than the low 30’s)!

The timing is a little wrong, though.

The Sienna has to be inspected, smog tested, repaired (catalytic) and properly licensed by mid June.

And that means, I should probably head home to SD to get these things done before I drive almost a thousand miles to reach Crater. Once there, I can fan out in other directions when I get tired of the place! And there’s that still unchecked box for seeing ye olde geyser erupt at Yellowstone.

You’ll remember, the majority of the park was closed when I was there last. And I remember temperatures heading south of minus 25 on my previous attempt.

So, um, no.

did promise myself I would go back there and finally see the earth boil water into steam! But, it’s Crater Lake or bust first, after a pit stop in SD. I’ll try to post more often than I have been. And, again, I apologize for taking so long to write this post, this time.

Happy trails my friends!