Archive for ◊ December, 2016 ◊

29 Dec 2016 Old Friend…..Good Food
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It was dark and cold when I got up at seven. Buddy was nowhere in sight. As I was brushing my teeth she poked her head around the corner. She is beginning to get that far off, no one is home look. Growing old isn’t for sissies………

I checked in on River house to find it had snowed three or four inches last night. That helps a little but our annual snowfall is still about twenty inches below normal. Our Part of the Great White North is headed into another cold spell with evening temperatures going down well below zero. Next I checked Walla Walla (35), Sydney (88) and it was about thirty outside my door here in Petaluma.

Judith and I left, at ten thirty, to pick up Peggy and headed south to San Rafael. We immediately hit traffic. What else is new? We arrived at Peg’s daughter’s house where she is visiting for the holidays. Peg was sound asleep and had forgotten we were coming to pick her up today. We waited in the truck for about ten minutes while Peg got ready. Peg is eighty six and we have been friends for many, many moons.

Our lunch reservations, in Jenner, was for twelve thirty which we could have made if we had taken Hwy 101 North to Santa Rosa then made a beeline for the coast. I made the mistake of taking the scenic route up the coast thru Point Reyes Station and Bodega Bay. The trip was beautiful but caused us to be an hour late for our reservations. We called The River’s End and they moved our reservation to one thirty.

Even on a slow day finding a parking space at The River’s End is almost impossible. Add the size of the F-450 into the equation and getting a parking space is almost as difficult as winning the lottery. I made two passes before letting Judith and Peg out. My plan was to find a place to park within walking distance, park the truck and walk back to the restaurant. I went almost a mile then turned around and decided to go past the restaurant to a pull out overlooking the ocean. As I started to pass The River’s End I spotted a recently vacated space right in front. I squeezed our truck in-between two cars giving me just enough room to get out of the truck.

Much to my surprise Judith and Peg were already seated. The waitperson explained the daily special; A Dungeness crab taster special cooked five different ways. It was priced at seventy four dollars per person. It was paired with a forty four dollar bottle of wine. No thank you. Judith opted for the duck salad, I chose the fish and chips and Peg tried prawns and fish “cooked” in citrus juice. The ladies had a glass of wine and I had a Ramos fizz. My fish and chips were as good as they get and I heard no complaints for Judith and Peg.

On the way back I dropped Judith off at the RV Park and drove Peg back to San Rafael. The traffic was the pits in both directions. California………….

We grazed for dinner and started tying up loose ends getting ready for tomorrow’s departure.

29 Dec 2016 48 Hours To Blastoff………
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The morning ritual, with Buddy, is to get her to jump up on by bed. I think it is good exercise for our rapidly aging cat. This morning she just sat on the stool next to my bed and mewed. I finally coaxed her up. I checked the time; five forty five.

I checked my weather app: Twenty at River House, twenty five at Walla Walla and thirty one here in Petaluma. I did check Australia and it is HOT down under.

I worked on my puzzles before turning to my new poker training site. I played several hundred hands and looked at the results. I read the reports and played practice hands. Knowledge is power.

Judith was up at eight thirty. We had breakfast and discussed the day. My plan was to head to the East Bay while she started the packing. The Temperature, in Australia, will be in the high eighties to above a hundred so we don’t have to bulk up on coats.

I’m never really sure what the traffic will be between Petaluma and Lafayette so left in plenty of time to make my noon appointment. The traffic was light and I ended up catching up on e-mails, in the parking lot, for thirty minutes. Terry was waiting at a table in the Metro when I walked through the door. We had a couple excellent burgers and discussed Capture and our plans once River House is sold.

My plan wasn’t to stop at the office but when I climbed in the truck things change and I decided to drive back through Oakland, stop in, and say hello. I knew John was on vacation and Capture would be running on a holiday crew but………… I said a quick hello to five or six Employee/Owners and headed towards Petaluma. The traffic was just fine until I hit Novato where everything came to a dead stop and we crawled into Petaluma. This section of Hwy 101 has been a problem since we lived in Petaluma way back in 1980.

Judith and I shared the cooking duties. The plan was to fire up the Tool Box Grill but it was just too cold IMO. I sprinkled on some Mrs. Dash and pan fried porkchops while the ears of corn cooked and Judith fixed the salad. We’ll have just one more home cooked meal before we embark on a month long trip eating mostly restaurant meals.

Tomorrow we’ll pick up our friend, Peggy, and ride up the coast to Jenner for lunch at River’s End. We’ll spend the rest of the day getting ready for tomorrow night’s trip.

27 Dec 2016 Three Days And Counting…………
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Petaluma is just three hundred miles north of Pismo Beach and considerably colder. When I woke up this morning the frost was on the pumpkin and it is just thirty eight degrees as I type. I checked in at River House and it was in the mid-twenties while Walla Walla was in the low thirties.

Buddy came calling at five thirty and I started my day just a few minutes later. I checked my e-mails, completed my puzzles and did forty five minutes of exercises. I’ve gained a few pounds this last week and dread a month of little exercise and lots of unique new dishes to try in Australia.

Judith was up at nine and we discussed the day. Sydney was taking care of Grandma by taking her to the salon to have her hair done. We agreed I’d leave the F-450 parked near Buffalo Billiards where she could pick it up after her appointment.

Fifty players showed up for the ten o’clock tournament at the Graton. I plunked down my forty five bucks and drew Table 19, seat 7. I was surprised to see three young guns at the table. The younger players have discovered poker is probably the hardest “easy” job on the planet. I started off on a real rush and double my chips almost immediately. Then the unplayable hands started appearing as the blinds climbed upward. When the smoke cleared I finished eleventh, one away from making the final table and seven from the money assuming there wasn’t a chop. I played as good as I can. Poker.

As soon as the tournament was over I headed for Petaluma and Buffalo Billiards. Lee was nowhere in sight. Mike who works in the pro shop said Lee would be back shortly. I went out to the room to wait and immediately saw Jack who is a fixture at Buffalo Billiards. I would say out of the umpteen times I’ve been in Buffalo Billiards he has been playing on one of the tables all but a handful of times. He came over to say hello and we spent the next forty five minutes talking politics.

Lee came in and asked to give him five minutes as he had to do a few things. An hour later we went to lunch. We did a coin flip for lunch and I was the lucky winner. We went to the Tea Room where I got a much better than decent BLT served with a nice salad. We talked for well over an hour getting caught up on the last seven months.

Judith and I shared the cooking duties. I pan fried halibut and she baked a sweet potato, boiled peas and fixed a nice salad. I’m not sure what I’m going to miss more while we are in Australia; Buddy or our home cooking.

Tomorrow I’ll drive to the east bay for lunch with a friend. Hopefully the commute traffic will be light on this week between Christmas and Hew Years.

26 Dec 2016 Hello Petaluma………..
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Beautiful Day—Beautiful Bridge….

We were packed up and heading for Petaluma by eight thirty. The sun was shining brightly when we pulled onto Hwy 101 North with light traffic. The only real pull is climbing out of San Luis Obispo. It is a relatively steep but short uphill climb of just a couple of miles. We started up the hill and I put the pedal to the floor. I was expecting the turbo to kick in and easily keep up with the traffic doing sixty. When that didn’t happen thoughts of a long day flashed into my head. I looked down at the instrument panel and “cleaning exhaust filter” was displayed in the window. This function is done automatically every so often and I guess today was the day. The process usually last only about a minute but that wasn’t the case today. After about five minutes I asked Judith to grab the operator’s manual and read about the cleaning exhaust filter process. Before she could get the book open the light went out and we were back to normal power.

We stopped at King City to fuel up and found diesel at $2.69 a gallon. In Pismo Beach it was over three bucks. We’ve made this trip many times and usually go up the east side of San Francisco Bay through Oakland. Today the traffic was pretty light and we decided to follow the GPS selected route through San Francisco. Many times in the past, when we weren’t pulling a trailer, we would take a shortcut through Golden Gate Park completely missing downtown San Francisco. Unfortunately we didn’t take that shortcut and ended up going right through the middle of San Francisco following Mission Street to Van Ness then across the Golden Gate Bridge. The bridge was jammed packed with walkers and the traffic was barely moving. We picked up speed through Marin but hit a solid wall of barely moving autos when we hit the north end of Novato. From there until we hit the last exit in Petaluma it was bumper to bumper traffic.

We pulled into the Petaluma KOA at three about an hour behind what Mapquest predicted. The check in process took a while as the check in person wasn’t real familiar with the monthly rates or how to properly book them. I finally suggest they just charge me for a couple of days and I would come back in the morning to fight the fight………. She agreed and off we went to space 164. It isn’t our favorite space but we’ll be in Australia all but a few days out of our thirty some days of being in this park.

We touched base with our son, David, and agreed to meet him and the girls at a Chinese restaurant at six. We spent the next hour getting the inside of the rig set up. Tomorrow will be just fine to complete the outside tasks.

We haven’t had any decent Chinese food since we stopped at the Peaceful Café in Vancouver. That all changed this evening. Syd suggested we go Lilly Kai and we are glad we did. We ordered six dishes for the five of us and everyone was excellent.

We have four jammed packed days before we leave late Friday night for Australia. Tomorrow I’ll play in the Graton’s ten o’clock tournament then go see my buddy, Lee, at Buffalo Billiards. Judith has a hair appointment at one and granddaughter, Syd, will drive her to the salon.

26 Dec 2016 Christmas Dinner At the Madonna Inn………..
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The Dining Area at The Madonna Inn…………..

I was up early on this Christmas morning. Christmas is a way to measure time. I’ve been on this planet for seventy one Christmases and married for forty seven. There has been a lot of water under the bridge in those seventy one years and hopefully many more Christmases lay ahead.

In years past the internet has been marginal in this RV Park. We were told that they just put in a new system and for the first three weeks we had no internet issues. Well, yesterday something happened and for the last two days we can barely get on line long enough to download a few messages. It is never easy.

When I first started playing poker, about ten years ago, I bought every book I could get my hands on and read every word. I also did online training. That to has changed. Books and training from that era are called OLD SCHOOL. In the last ten years billions of poker hands have been recorded and analyzed to the point that the best players are playing a math based game. Most of the top players are either poker coaches or use poker coaches. I’ve decided to either reinvent my game or stop playing. I did some research and found . I paid my twenty nine bucks and will try it for a month to see if I see improvement then decide if it is worth continuing. Each week they evaluate all the hands you play, on their training site, in both tournament and cash games. They determine your five biggest leaks (problems), tell you what they are, and give your training exercises that address those leaks. For example if you have trouble playing AQ they set up a training table that will deal you seventy five hands of AQ from all different positions at the table. During play you can hit the advice button and get a suggestion from several pro advisors. I received my first evaluation and they pointed out problems that I’m well aware of, however, the question is can they guide me through the maze to plugs the leaks.

For many, many years we have traveled Hwy 101 through the Pismo Beach area and have seen the Madonna Inn just south of San Luis Obispo. It was built in 1958 and is humongous. Judith made reservations for Today’s Christmas dinner at three. We arrived a few minutes early and was lucky enough to find a parking space. Our mouths fell open as we walked through the door of one of several massive dining areas. They found our name on the reservation list and were shown to our table at exactly three o’clock. There was a good and complete menu but we opted for the traditional turkey dinner. The wait people were friendly and very competent. The food came quickly and was better than decent. We shared a huge piece of banana cream pie for dessert then went on a tour of the three story dining area including a huge wine cellar and gift shop.

We were back at the RV Park at four thirty and immediately started packing up for an early departure tomorrow morning. I took care of the outside while Judith took down our Christmas decorations. I’ll get Judith up at seven thirty and we should hit the road by eight thirty. Many businesses are off tomorrow and I’m hoping that means light traffic through San Francisco on our way to Petaluma

24 Dec 2016 Merry Christmas……………
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My feet hit the floor at six to start my day. The rain stopped early last night and the forecast is for nice sunny days, both here and in Petaluma, until we head for Australia on December 30th.

I fed Buddy, put on the coffee and turned on Fox. One of the adamant Never Trumpers was on and based on Trump’s progress since he WON the election is willing to give him a chance. That’s about all one can ask.

Today was my last tournament in Pismo Beach at least for this RVing season. We have been visiting this part of California’s Central Coast ever since we started RVing some seventeen years ago. For the first fourteen years we stayed in Moro Bay then getting a reservation at Moro Dunes became very difficult. I wasn’t happy with the move but soon realized the Pismo Beach area has a lot more to offer than Morro Bay. In fact, once we get settled into Walla Walla I think having a condo here might be in the stars. It is relatively warm during the winter months and has lots to offer including poker and even a pool room.

Today only two tables filled for the forty dollar entry event. Pocket kings are the second best hand a player can have before the flop. One can expect to get any specific pair once out of every two hundred and twenty one times the cards are dealt. The good news; in less than thirty hands I got pocket KINGS three times. The bad news: two of those three times, with no aces on the flop, those pocket kings went down in flames. Poker.

Judith asked me to stop at Von’s on the way home and I was dumb enough to say yes. Job one was finding a parking spot and there wasn’t one in sight. I finally parked in front of the recycle trailer which didn’t thrill the attendant. Any port in a storm. The store was packed making it almost impossible to get through the aisles. I only wanted three items; bottled water, a Sudoku book for Judith and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. The registers were all full with three or four shoppers waiting in each line. It is never easy……

No sooner than I got back to the RV Judith suggested we go for a walk on the beach. As we started out the door we could see dark skies coming in from the ocean. By the time we got to the beach the skies opened up and we were more than a little damp when we got back.

I took on the cooking duties and made clam chowder for dinner. This is a recipe I’ve made for well over forty years and it is a little different from the norm. For starters I use bacon cut up in little pieces then sauté the onions and celery in the bacon grease. Next I don’t thicken the chowder giving it the consistency of soup not chowder. I do use heavy cream and at the very end put a dollop of sour cream in each bowl. Much better than decent.

Judith called a movie night and broke out A Walk In The Woods. We both read Bryson’s book and enjoyed it immensely. The book was very funny and we weren’t expecting that to come through with two old actors: Robert Redford and Nick Nolte. Wrong! I laughed until tears came running down my cheeks.

Tomorrow is Christmas day. We’ll have reservations at the Madonna Inn for Christmas Dinner at three.

23 Dec 2016 Wet and Cold In Pismo Beach………
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I woke up at four and never made it back to sleep. It was barely six thirty when I finish my mental and physical exercises. About the time it was getting light rain drops started falling. Rain hadn’t been in the forecast or at least that is what I thought. I checked out the forecast and there was a yellow banner at the bottom of the Pismo Beach page: flash flood. As the morning progressed the rain continued to fall and at times very hard.

Judith was up at eight thirty. We had breakfast and discussed the day. Judith’s plan was to stay at the park and do laundry. My plan was to go the poker room to play in the morning tournament.

Three full tables showed for today’s forty dollar event. I have been pretty much card dead for longer than I’d like to admit but today that was taken to a new lower level. I literally had only one or two playable hands the entire tournament. Needless to say I didn’t come close to cashing. Poker.

After a quick lunch at the rig I drove Judith to Bank of America to pick up our Australian money for the upcoming trip. We have been in several BofAs since we got back to the states and they seem to be all on the same page and intent on getting customers OUT of the branches. At two different locations, while standing in line for a single teller, we’ve had the manager come up and not so pleasantly explain that everything we can accomplish standing in line waiting for a teller can be done faster at the ATM or on line. Hmmm………

Our last stop of the day was at Von’s to do a little last minute grocery shopping before Christmas. Judith was there yesterday and the place was a zoo. While busy it wasn’t all that bad today. I picked up all the goodies for Christmas Eve clam chowder.

I won the evening crib game and Judith took on the cooking duties; chicken, mashed potatoes, dressing and green beans. I sure am going to miss our cooking on our month long trip to Australia.

Tomorrow I’ll go to the ten o’clock tournament which will be my last at the Central Coast Casino until our next visit. I can’t believe we are just a few hours away from another Christmas Eve. My, time flies……..

22 Dec 2016 Strawberries In December……….
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Farmer’s Market Crowd………

I started my day behind the eight ball. I had a call scheduled, with John, at six thirty. Unfortunately my alarm clock, AKA Buddy, didn’t come calling at six. John was available when I called at six forty. We talked about ten minutes tying up a few loose ends before the holidays and before we make our trek across the big pond.

I finished my mental gymnastics and jumped on line to find a mounting base for the automatic gate opener I bought for the new River House Entry gate. . I will have all hands on deck when we return in late April and do what is necessary to have all projects completed by June 1st.

Only twenty players showed for today’s ten o’clock tournament at the Central Coast Casino. I was card dead for the first three levels and level four didn’t start all that well. I did make the final table and had exactly three chips equaling the blinds which were on me moments after I sat down. Someone suggested a chop, which I would have gladly done, and it was turned down by one of the players with lots of chips. I survived the blinds and by the time we were down to just six players I was sitting tied for the chip lead. A player suggested a chop and the other four players pushed there chips across the betting line signaling they would chop. It was my turn to object and I told the dealer to deal. Five minutes later I did agree to a four way chop netting $236 for the morning’s effort.

We’re not sure how much walking on the beach we’ll be doing in Australia so decided to take advantage of the beautiful Pismo Beach. Lots of folks were out walking the beach today. Little kids were running out into the surf as if it was eighty not barely sixty.

For many years we have enjoyed the Thursday night Farmer’s Market in San Luis Obispo. We decided to go and check it out tonight. We went early in the hopes of finding a parking place which is never easy. We got there as they were setting up about thirty minutes before the six o’clock start time. We like a little Italian restaurant that has a wood fired pizza oven and decided to go there for dinner. The couple who owned it for the past eighteen years turned it over to their daughter who made a lot of changes including the name. They offer authentic Italian style pizza which has super thin crust with just a slathering of tomato sauce and a couple teaspoons full of toppings. A Cesar salad, two Italian beers and a medium pizza was forty bucks including a decent Christmas tip. Good but not a River House pizza.

The Farmer’s Market is always crowded and tonight was no exception. The highlight of the evening is when a dozen or so bikini clad college students came through the crowd singing Christmas carols. The girls looked cold the guys looked colder. We bought just two things; strawberries and Mandarin oranges.

I doubt seriously if I’ll play any poker in Australia so I’ll play every chance I get in the next week. I’ll play in tomorrow’s tournament then see what unfolds.

21 Dec 2016 Stupid You Say?
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Surf’s Up……………….

I stumbled onto something this morning that still has my head spinning. Trump started running well over a year ago and has been called everything in the book including stupid. Today one of those annoying pop ups came up entitled the IQs of presidents. A couple of days ago there was a story about Trump amassing more wealth than all the other forty four presidents combined. That’s impressive. Almost as impressive as his 156 IQ is the highest of anyone that has held the office. Hillary’s is an impressive 140 as is her husband’s which is approximately the same. I watched both the primaries and general election and NOT a word about IQs was mentioned. Why is the question? Who was our least gifted President? Google it!

It was snowing when I checked in on River House. It didn’t get light to about eight thirty. That will change rapidly as starting tomorrow daylight increases by about eight minutes each day. Walla Walla is still chilly, Australia hot and Pismo Beach is chilly but pleasant. Today I sat next to a poker who is familiar with Hawaii. No poker or gambling on the island. Cross Hawaii off the list.

I did my daily exercise routine before Judith woke up and started her day. We talked briefly before I headed off to the Central Coast Casino. Only two tables showed today. No cigar. The card Gods are not smiling. Poker.

We took our daily walk north on the beach to Pismo. The sea was angry with waves the biggest we’ve seen in the three plus weeks we’ve been in this neck of the woods. A small crowd was out enjoying the sunny but cool day.

Our grandson, Cameron, wants to go big game hunting, something he has never done. In fact, I don’t think he has ever gone hunting. I decided this might be a good offset for Judith taking the granddaughters places and I’m trying to book a trip. We are up against the gun as most trips are usually booked by the end of the year. It is never easy.

Judith won the evening crib game breaking a three or four day losing streak.

Judith took on the evening cooking duties. It is always so easy in the RV: paper plates and couple utensils, a pot or pan and two wine glasses. I did the cleanup which just takes a few minutes.

More of the same tomorrow. Lucky us………………

20 Dec 2016 Close Call……………
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I’m not sure how many frost days they have here in Pismo Beach but they came damn close this morning. I woke up several times during the night to hear the heater fan doing its thing. Buddy came call a few minutes before six and we started our day.

A lot went on in the world yesterday but, for the most part, was overshadowed by the Electoral College fiasco that happened here in the USA. The death toll increased in the Christmas Market incident in Germany with many more on the injured list.

I checked in at River House. The temperature set a little above freezing with what appeared to be another two inches of snow. It has warmed up a little in Walla Walla.

Judith was up at eight thirty and we discussed the day. We have just a few more days here in Pismo Beach and most of our effort is directed toward our upcoming trip to Australia. I will be mid-summer when we arrive and hotter than the face of the sun..

I arrived at the Central Coast Casino just in time to get the early bird chip a ten percent increase which is substantial in a game with a small one thousand chip starting stack. They managed to fill all three tables. I caught some cards, played well and was one of the top chip leaders at my table. On break I walked around the block getting back just a minute or so before play resumed. As I approached the table the manager came running up to me waving his phone. He told me it was my wife and she had an accident and I might need to take her to the hospital. I ran to my truck and tried not to floor it back to the RV Park just a mile or so away. Visions of her falling off her bike or the ladder she always seems to be climbing raced through my head. I walked in to the RV to find her waiting on hold at the emergency room. I quickly found out her bed, which opens up to access storage underneath, had fallen on her arm. While there was no break in the skin a sack about two inches long and an inch wide had filled with blood. We have a friend, in Spokane, who is a nurse. We called and we lucky enough to get her on the phone. Judith’s main concern was a blood clot and JoAnn assured her that wasn’t an issue. She told Judith to Ice it immediately leaving on the ice pack for fifteen minutes, take it off for fifteen minutes and do that for the next two hours. That worked and she now has only a big bruise to show for the mishap. It could have been worse.

I haven’t had BBQ in a while and decided to give one of the local places a try. I checked on the internet and read the reviews. I chose The Rib Line which is near the Casino and within walking distance of our RV Park. We walked logging a little over a mile. It was lunch time with only two tables taken. Strike one. Next I saw they served fish and chips. Strike two. If I had been driving I would have hoped back in the truck and drove away as fast as possible. The wait person was very nice. Judith ordered the tritip slider and I opted for the lunch special; two pork and one beef rib. When she brought the plate to the table the ribs were slathered with sauce. Strike three. Good BBQ joints don’t do that. One bite told me what I has suspected; barely editable. Cross that one off our list.

I spent most of the afternoon on the phone with Northern Tool getting the replacement parts for the broken mixer. I don’t have a warm fuzzy feeling I’ll be getting them anytime soon. It is never easy.

Judith and I shared the cooking duties. She bought a roasted chicken at the market and baked half a butternut squash. Yesterday Judith bought some Brussel sprouts and I wanted to do something different. I separated the leaves from about a dozen sprouts, minced about a tablespoon of onion, sliced three mushrooms and cut two small red peppers in eighth inch rounds. I sautéed the onions, mushrooms and peppers in olive oil. When they were nicely done I added the leaves, salt and peppered then tossed them for about three minutes before letting rest covered for two minutes. Just before I served them I sprinkled on shaved almonds. Yummy……

I’ll be back at the poker wars tomorrow at ten. Who knows what the rest of the day will bring….