kevin_standlee: (Rolling Stone)
This morning I left work at 11 AM to drive to Redwood Shores for my semi-annual dental check-up. (No problems.) This gave me the opportunity to have lunch at my favorite taqueria: El Metate in Belmont. (Good burritos at a fair price, and really great tortilla chips and salsa.) From there it was on to Fremont, where I finally paid my mechanic for the work he did on the Astro back in June. (He only got around to calling me with the final bill — $1200! — last week.) Then I went by Suju's Coffee in Fremont to buy a couple of pounds of whole-bean Columbian from them. (I don't come down to the Bay Area that often anymore, so I need to stock up when I'm here. Suju's was across the street from where I used to live in Fremont, and I like their coffee.) Then I refilled the forward tank on the Rolling Stone at one of the less-expensive gas stations in south Fremont. I'd intended to spend the rest of the afternoon at my employer's Fremont warehouse, but I had an in-person meeting scheduled for 4:30 PM back over in Sunnyvale. I was dismayed to hear on the radio of an accident on westbound CA-237. Fortunately, it had mostly cleared by the time I got back over there, and I managed to make it back with less than 30 minutes to spare. Whew! And that was driving in "off peak" and "counter commute" directions.

I hope to be able to get away before Noon on Friday, if work permits. I've put in enough hours that I can do so, but it requires that the urgent stuff gets done. If I don't get away before Noon, it's almost inevitable that I won't get home that night and will be obliged to lay up somewhere along the way, thanks to the never-ending traffic in the Bay Area and Sacramento.
kevin_standlee: (Confusion Ahead)
We set no alarms last night and I got almost a full eight hours of sleep. After a nice breakfast in the Tonopah Station Hotel restaurant, we set off for home about 10:45 AM. With only 200 miles to go, we knew we didn't have to rush. We congratulated ourselves for not making the mistake we made on the trip back from San Antonio, where an attempt to drive Las Vegas-Fernley in one day at the end of the trip nearly killed us.

Avoiding the 8 Ball )

About 3:45, we arrived home. The house was in one piece. The various wildfires (and a fire at the asphalt plant across the tracks from us) did not affect our home, thank goodness.

After nearly 1,700 miles driving over the past nine days, we were happy to be home. We unpacked some of the stuff from the minivan, restarted the house (I remembered to turn the water heater on this time) and got the swamp cooler and air conditioning systems running, and tried to relax. I do have to run out and get a few groceries for tonight and for tomorrow morning, which is an ordinary work day for me, but otherwise we're going to try and wind down.

While I'm sorry we couldn't also attend NASFiC this year, I can see that such a trip would have wiped us out. With nearly three weeks planned for the Worldcon trip (for which we set out in just under three weeks), we need some time to recover and prepare for Helsinki. We won't have the luxury of traveling with a minivan-load full of our gear, so we need to think carefully about how to pack.
kevin_standlee: (Confusion Ahead)
Today turned out to be longer driving both in time and distance than planned, but it worked out in the end. We'd initially planned to grab some breakfast sandwiches from Starbucks and get on the road, but all of the stores the Starbucks app showed near us in either Laughlin or across the river in Bullhead City were kiosks in casinos or grocery stores and didn't have the full selection of stuff. With no 'fridge in our room, we couldn't stock our own supplies, so we had breakfast at the Claim Jumper in the Golden Nugget. This was nice enough (the waterfall next to the restaurant was nice), but cost us time. In retrospect, we should have checked: there was a Black Bear Diner in Bullhead City, and we probably would have had a better breakfast there, besides being able to collect a new passport stamp.

After breakfast, we set off across the river and through Bullhead City and what did we find? A standalone Starbucks! We stopped there anyway because it was adjacent to Lowe's and Lisa wanted a couple of things from there. We went into the Starbucks for me to get a coffee for the road. It turns out that the full store (the only one in the area) had only opened yesterday.

Next, on a whim we took a side road that took us partway up the hills onto the Oatman Highway, an early segment of old US-66 and one of the first ones ever cut off when they started cleaning up the road. We didn't go all the way up to Oatman, but even the part we drove seemed a bit hairy to me, with lots of twists and turns. Eventually we ended up down on I-40 for a short segment before we ducked off onto the road for Lake Havasu City.

Welcome to London (Bridge) )

There was a custom t-shirt shop in the English Village from which Lisa commissioned a shirt. The guy said it would take him about an hour, so we drove up to have fish and chips — at the Lake Havasu City Black Bear diner, filling #23 in our passport book.

Bear Has All He Can Eat in the Heat )

After lunch, I dropped a London Bridge postcard into the mail for Kelli at the nearby post office and we headed back to the bridge. Originally we were going to walk across the bridge, but the heat was too much for us, so we simply drove across to the island and back, just to say that we'd done so. We then returned to the Village, collected Lisa's shirt, and left for Tempe.

The heat was sufficiently intense and the minivan old enough that we couldn't run the air conditioning at full (or sometimes at all) when climbing hills or when otherwise working the engine hard. Lisa was driving and kept an eye on the temperature, letting me know when to turn the AC on or off.

Any Shade is Welcome )

At Quartsite we joined eastbound I-10. Lisa kept our speed down in order to spare enough power to run the air conditioning. She drove most of the day, except for a short period when she needed a break and had me drive. We made a final driver change at a familiar-sounding place.

Driving in Circles )

Lisa drove us into Phoenix. By now, it was around 7:30 PM. Arizona doesn't observe daylight savings time, and that's a good thing as far as we are concerned. The worst of the Getaway Day rush hour was gone, and we faced no slowdowns across Phoenix, arriving at the Mission Palms Hotel in Tempe around 8 PM or so. Arriving this early meant we were able to obtain one of the relatively few hotel self-parking spaces. We don't plan to move the van again until we leave on Tuesday. We also could move our things into the hotel in the dark. It was 37°C this evening, warmer than the high temperatures back in Fernley, but again, tolerable out of the direct sun. After getting our personal bags into the hotel, we walked to the CVS store a few blocks away and got some yogurt, milk, and cereal, as this hotel room has a mini-fridge. Finally, we borrowed a bell cart and moved a large load of stuff from the van into the hotel room. There's still more stuff out there, but we won't need it until we do Match Game SF on Monday night.

Fortunately, we have no early commitments to Westercon on Saturday, the first day of the convention. We picked up our membership badges this evening, but could find nothing else going on when we came back from CVS. Tomorrow I have nothing before 1 PM. I think I will not set an alarm for Saturday morning.


Jun. 15th, 2017 04:57 pm
kevin_standlee: (SMOF License)
Yesterday, I drove us into Sparks in the Rolling Stone to Big O Tires and we paid about $1300 to redeem the Astro for the repairs, including the rear axle, rear brakes, and front idler arms, but not including the new tires ($550) we bought last week separately. Painful, but it is of course very important to have the van in roadworthy condition, with our trip to Arizona coming up in two weeks.

We left the RV parked in Sparks and drove in the Astro to the Peppermill for dinner, where they didn't even have to ask, but directed us to our regular table. We're so predictable.

Logically, we should have tried to do some shopping after dinner, but I was too tired and we did have to convoy home, so we simply drove back to Sparks, where Lisa got the Astro and we drove home and I soon thereafter fell into bed. My Central Time Zone work hours are convenient for leaving time for errands, but they are unsociable for other reasons.

Another accomplishment yesterday was to book the last hotel room in the Arizona trip: one night at the Riverside in Laughlin, where we'll stay on the outbound trip the night before we arrive in Tempe.


Jun. 8th, 2017 06:03 am
kevin_standlee: (SMOF License)
I worked out this morning that the set of tires we just replaced lasted about five years and we rolled about 63,000 miles on them over that time. That's not too bad. What's also a bit surprising to me is that even with several very long road trips (San Diego, Portland, Spokane twice, Kansas City), we still managed less than 15K miles/year.
kevin_standlee: (SMOF License)
Today after work (that is, 3 PM) we drove into Reno to have the minivan's tires rotated and brakes inspected in anticipation of the trip to Tempe at the end of the month. The last rotation was about a year ago, before the Kansas City trip.

Double whammy:

1. The tires are too worn and had to be replaced. $550.
2. There are brake problems on the rear. Worst-case estimate is an additional $850.

The brakes are still serviceable, but definitely need the work done. We'll take the Astro to Big O on Monday to give them a couple of days to do the work.

This will be painful, but of course we need tires and brakes if we're going to take road trips.
kevin_standlee: (Reno)
Over the past few days, Lisa and I (mostly Lisa) have unloaded my sister's boxes from the minivan to our storage locker and garage, so yesterday we could put the middle seat back into the Astro, returning it to what we consider its normal configuration. (The rear seat lives in the storage locker except for those rare times when we need seating capacity more than cargo space.) Today, however, we took slight advantage of my Central Time-zone shifted schedule and shortly after I knocked off work for the day, we headed into Reno, where we had dinner at the Peppermill (the server and manager recognized us and commented that it had been a while, which is true) and did a round of grocery shopping. It's certainly a lot less crowded on a Thursday evening than a Saturday afternoon.

Lisa drove us home, and I'm about to fall into bed, since by my body clock it's nearly midnight.
kevin_standlee: (SMOF License)
I left for Yuba City around 7:30 this morning, after having breakfast at the Wigwam. No free breakfast won this week; that's why it's called gambling.

Rabbits and Trains )

It was excellent traveling weather in the morning, and I made good time. I'll write more about the full day later, but it took me to Yuba City, then to Sacramento. I'd packed an overnight bag in case I needed to stay down there, but after stopping for dinner in Auburn around 5:30 PM, I decided to push on home.

Cutting it Close )

Wet snow began to accumulate on the windshield, but not the road. I had some difficulty getting the windshield to clear even with the defroster on full blast. Fortunately, the snow faded away around Floriston, just before the Nevada state line. It rained thereafter off and on until just east of Fernley, where it was windy but dry when I got home. Lisa had a fire going.

In retrospect, although I did get home safely, it would have been more prudent of me to have stopped for the night at Colfax and to have come home tomorrow. But I'm here now and I don't have to travel again until next Sunday. I hope it won't be snowing again then!
kevin_standlee: (SMOF License)
Yesterday's travels went at least as well as could be expected. Even the fact that the California Zephyr was late into Reno was not that big a deal, for while it meant I couldn't get breakfast on the train (service ends 9 AM; the train basically needs to be right on time if you're going to get boarded and your ticket checked with enough time to get to the dining car), it did mean I had time to walk to the Wigwam, have my usual, and win it back on a free-play coupon.

Lisa drove me into Reno and deposited me at the Amtrak station, then headed home. (She'd not slept well and said she was going back to bed.) Amtrak made up some of the time we lost, and soon enough the California Zephyr arrived and I was on my way to the Bay. The train trip was as nice as I could want. Train was not overly crowded. Scenery was very nice, and I took lots of photos this time, but I haven't posted most of them. (Once you get clear of Truckee, you spend a lot of time out of mobile phone/internet range, so there's a backlog.)

At Sacramento, there was a small chance that the dispatcher might release us ahead of the Capitol Corridor service, on account of our train had fewer stops. But doing so would have delayed the Capitol, so we followed it down to Emeryville. Due to the CZ's schedule padding, we actually arrived early at EMY, but not early enough to allow me to make the "negative time" connection to the Capitol train. No matter, however, as there was another one 90 minutes later and I went over to the Emeryville Public Market for dinner before catching the train to Fremont.

The Capitol train had problems. The doors in the leading car wouldn't open, so you had to go down to car 2. The air conditioning in car 2 wasn't working, and today was quite warm. However, the train was lightly loaded, so going back to car 1 wasn't a big deal. You had to reverse that to get out at Fremont due to the non-working doors, but I could manage that. A short walk to my mechanic's shop and behold: my well-used minivan.

Reclaiming the Astro )

After collecting the minivan, I stopped by Suju's Coffee (across from where I used to live in Fremont) to buy a pound of coffee beans from them, then headed out Niles Canyon and the Altamont Pass. The combination of location, price, and IHG loyalty led me to the Holiday Inn Express Tracy last night. I could have pressed on a bit longer, but I did not see the need, and it would have cost me more at other IHG hotels farther up the road. This is not the best IHG property in which I've ever stayed, but the hot tub worked (and I remembered my rarely-used swim trunks), so I got a long soak. This made the tendonitis in my elbow feel better, not to mention my right leg, which woke me up yesterday morning with a bang when the muscled seized up.

Today it's on to Sacramento to visit my sister, then home. Sunday going away from the Bay Area should be a lot lighter traffic than my normal Sunday drive coming toward it to spend a week working down here, something I'm going a lot less often.
kevin_standlee: (Pointless Arrow)
As of this evening, the train that I'll be catching at Reno tomorrow morning around 8:30 AM was through Green River UT on time, so I'll need to be up tomorrow as if it were a usual work day for me. But that's okay. If I get tired, I can sleep on the train. I've confirmed with my mechanic that I'll be able to collect the Astro from him. I haven't picked a hotel yet because it will depend on when I actually get to Fremont. When the Zephyr hits everything right, there's a negative connection at Emeryville (i.e. I can connect to at train that leaves before the Zephyr's scheduled arrival at EMY, because that includes almost an hour of "recovery time."), and if that happens, I can go farther tomorrow night before laying over.
kevin_standlee: (Pointless Arrow)
I confirmed with my mechanic in Fremont the arrangements for me reclaiming the Astro this weekend. It's a good thing I didn't try to go on Saturday when he had gone away on a trip; it was parked trapped behind other vehicles in his yard. I have therefore purchased a one-way ticket Reno-Emeryville-Fremont for this Saturday. I'll collect the minivan and stay in a hotel somewhere between Fremont and Sacramento, visit my sister on Sunday, and drive home. Theoretically I could just drive home on Saturday, but I don't want to risk it. Unlike the RV, I can't just easily pull over and take a nap. (I did once stop for the night at the Gold Run rest area on I-80 when driving home in the Rolling Stone because I'd gotten away from work so late that day.)

I'm looking forward to the train ride through the Sierra with all of the snow they've had up there. The drive home is less fun, of course. I'm glad that I don't have to make the trips as often as I used to do.
kevin_standlee: (Pointless Arrow)
I don't actually have to be in the Bay Area next week, so we were working on ways to get the Astro back that don't require Lisa having to make a 600-mile trip in one day. The best plan seemed to be for me to take the train down on Saturday, collect the minivan, and either drive home the same day or go part-way and stay in a hotel, then come home Sunday. The challenge is getting my spare keys back from my mechanic. (I can pay him by phone.) But it turns out that he's on vacation today and tomorrow anyway, and thus I decided it would be better to not even try this weekend. He might have parked my van in a place on his lot where I can't get it out. Furthermore, my National Association of Railroad Passengers discount on Amtrak tickets requires a three-day advance purchase. So I'll talk to him early next week and make plans.
kevin_standlee: (Rolling Stone)
I got to sleep in a little bit on Saturday before heading over to the SFSFC board of directors meeting. After the meeting, I drove to Fremont to rendezvous with Lisa, who drove down from Fernley in the Astro. Thanks in part to some of the clocks in our house still being on standard time, Lisa got away from home later than she planned, which put us a bit behind schedule. After dropping the minivan with my mechanic, we got dinner and then set off for home in the Rolling Stone, with the usual stops at Lodi Junction to refuel and in Sacramento to visit my sister. We got home just before midnight. It was a 600 mile trip for Lisa.

Today got off to a good start with me parleying a win for the cost of my breakfast at the Wigwam Restaurant-Casino from a free-play coupon. There are things we have to do today, but none of them are terribly ambitious, which is good because neither of us feel that ambitious today.
kevin_standlee: (SFSFC)
Off to the SFSFC Board of Directors meeting. Then I meet up with Lisa (who is driving down from Nevada in the minivan). We'll drop the Astro with my mechanic and we'll then drive home in the Rolling Stone. A few weeks from now, we'll reverse the process to collect the minivan, which we hope will then be in better condition for the road trip to Tempe for Westercon this summer.

Home Again

Oct. 1st, 2016 03:13 pm
kevin_standlee: (Kevin and Lisa)
Lisa showed amazingly good timing this morning, pulling up alongside the Rolling Stone just before 6 AM as I was putting on my shoes and finishing packing up. We made quick work of transferring stuff from the RV to the Astro, took the RV over to my mechanic's shop, and headed out of the Bay Area as fast as legally possible, which is pretty fast at 6 AM on a Saturday. Even with a stop at Tracy for breakfast, at Lodi Junction to refuel, a few minutes in Sacramento to look in briefly on my sister (with me wearing a face mask and not getting close because of the cold I appear to have caught), and a trip through the drive-through at Colfax for coffee, we made it back home by 1:30 PM, just over twelve hours after Lisa left home. I once again thanked Lisa for collecting me as she headed off to bed. She warned me that it will take her several days to get back on a more "normal" schedule.

I am happy to be home for two weeks.
kevin_standlee: (Reno)
Today Lisa and I went to Reno/Sparks to deal with accumulated errands and shopping, including getting the minivan's oil changed. We got an oil change just before the Kansas City trip and more than ran through it (and burned up/lost about a quart of oil in the bargain) during that trip. Then it was a round of grocery stores, RV supplies, and clothing stores as we replenished the larder and I bought a new pair of slacks and a shirt — and moved down one shirt size, just barely. I hope that lasts, and is not just temporary stress-related weight loss due to Day Jobbe.

Tomorrow morning we're up fairly early to get me into Reno to catch the California Zephyr to Emeryville and then on to Fremont to collect the RV. Next week I'm in the Bay Area, and then I get to home for two weeks. As I told Lisa while we were driving home, "I want to come home already, and I haven't even left yet!" But at least I don't have to drive there tomorrow.
kevin_standlee: (SMOF License)
Because we refueled the minivan the night before we left and the afternoon after we got home, we have the exact figures for how far we traveled and how much it cost.

Refueling stops: 12
Total distance: 3,719 miles
Total gasoline: 201.249 gallons
Total cost: $428.75

Average cost per gallon: $2.13
Average fuel mileage: 18.5 miles per gallon

The price of fuel for us ranged from a low of $1.929/gal (August 14, Cheyenne WY) to a high of $2.329/gal (August 27, Rock Springs UT).

And we have of course burned through an entire oil change and need to get that dealt with when we have the chance.

The air conditioning system worked fine, and Lisa's somewhat bodged-together-with-tape fix held the entire trip. We still need to have it properly repaired, though.

The doesn't-like-to-start-when-warm bug is still there, so we tended to refuel at the start of the day before we had driven very far, lest we get stuck at a fuel pump unable to restart until the van cooled down. (This did happen once; fortunately the station was not busy.) We liked the drives through the (relatively) cool I-80 corridor through Wyoming. Coming back was more difficult, and in warm weather the van starts to complain at certain points on its power curve.
kevin_standlee: (Reno)
Lisa and I drove to Reno last night for the final shopping (and a trip to AAA for maps of all of the states along our route of travel — yes, we still use paper maps) before the Worldcon trip, which starts on Thursday afternoon as soon as I can get off work. This was an initial road trip for the repairs Lisa made to the blower motor. Everything seems to be holding. The blower produces plenty of air to keep us comfortable, and the motor didn't burn out for lack of cooling air to itself. Fingers remain crossed that it will hold together for this trip.
kevin_standlee: (Kevin and Lisa)
While driving out of the Peppermill parking garage on Sunday evening to go do our shopping while we waited to see if my $271 winning keno ticket would turn into a $500 bonus prize (it didn't, as I described yesterday), we suffered a setback: no air coming out of the air conditioning system. That is, the fan wasn't running.

Not What You Need, Especially Just Before a Long Road Trip )

After three trips to the parts store and considerable improvisation with washers and tape, Lisa undertook to fit the replacement blower motor into the minivan. It was around 9 PM, which did mean it was comfortable temperatures in which to work, although the bugs drawn to the shop light were annoying. I held the shop light and handed Lisa tools as she directed.

Blower Motor in Place )

Lisa said, "If I get this installed and working, will you order us a pizza?"

I said, "No." She looked startled. I explained, "I can't. It's after 10 o'clock, and everything is closed." Lisa allowed as that was a pretty good reason. I offered to take her to Denny's (our only 24-hour restaurant in town now that Amazon moved out of Fernley, taking with it the late-shift workers that justified late-night restaurants), but she decided to just call it a night.

Lisa is worried that the repairs may not hold. I, however, am astonished that Lisa got it to work at all. Assuming that keno ticket didn't drain all of our luck away, this should hold together long enough to get us to Worldcon and back, after which we can look into getting better replacement parts more or less at our leisure.

Neato Keno

Aug. 8th, 2016 10:23 pm
kevin_standlee: (Reno)
Sunday afternoon, Lisa and I drove into Sparks to get the oil changed in the Astro at Jiffy Lube. While we were there, I had them do an air conditioner check as well, inasmuch as it seemed to me like the AC wasn't putting out as much cool as it should. They did say we were were down a bit on coolant, and it was certainly putting out lots of cold air when we left.

Hot August Nights ended on Sunday, so we decided to risk going over to the Peppermill for dinner. (We avoid Reno during Hot August Nights because it's too crowded.) Things were mostly back to the normal Sunday night, although the price was of the Saturday night buffet. We were able to get our regular table. A lot of the staff are starting to recognize us.

As usual, I marked my normal keno ticket. We usually play five games, which covers most of dinner, and sometimes we win back some of the $10 the ticket costs. Tonight we got a lot more. During the third game, I looked up and saw that I'd gotten 4/7, which is good, particularly as this is a "way" ticket marked as a 1, 2, 4, and 7-spot ticket. (Don't worry if you don't understand what that means.) In this case, it meant that I'd hit a 4 out of 4 ticket, which would be enough to pay for dinner. Then I looked at the board more closely. When you throw in the other numbers, I'd hit 6 out of 7, the best win I've every had in my life. This ticket won $271!

(It's a pity that last number didn't hit, because if it had, I would have won more than $4000.)

The keno runner came by and said, "You look happy," consulted her book, and told me how much I'd won. Then she gave me the even better new: the Peppermill has a Sunday night promotion for anyone in their players club who plays keno between 5-10 PM. The biggest winner of the night gets a $500 bonus prize, and my $271 put me on the top of the leader board! All I had to do was stay until 10 PM and have nobody beat my win.

We'd intended to go shopping after dinner, and there was actually enough time to do so and still come back before 10 PM. (You have to claim the bonus no later than 10:30 and must be present to win.) So we went and did some of our shopping, although one of the stores had already closed. We came back to the Peppermill and at 8:30 were still leading, so we went and played slots for a while using some of the "house money." We even managed to come out $5 ahead on that.

At about 9:10, I went and checked the leader board again: $460. Darn! Someone beat us for the bonus prize. Oh, well, it did mean we could go home, which was good because I was very tired. Lisa drove us home.

Even with a $10 tip to the keno runner and a larger-than-usual dinner tip, we still came out around $250 ahead for the night. That means the keno winnings paid for dinner and for the oil change and AC service on the minivan, and then some.

That was some pretty good luck! Unfortunately, it was counteracted by some bad luck related to the air conditioning about which more tomorrow.

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