Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Home again

Another long update today to catch up.

Before I get started, I should let you know that Blogger has forced us to move the blog onto their new system. Everything should be working now, but we haven't had a chance to go back through the whole archive to make sure everything is still there and working. If you notice any problems or issues with the blog, drop me a note. And, while Blogger offered Louise the chance to consolidate her old Blogger account with her new one, it has not made me the same offer as yet. So I have two different profiles here, and clicking "Sean" at the end of this post will take you to a different place than if you click "Sean" on some earlier post. I'm not sure if that will ever get fixed.

Our cruise sailed into San Francisco in the early hours of Thursday morning. We managed to arrange for a late debarkation, and so had a leisurely breakfast before they booted us off the ship. Louise and her dad went off in a cab to Hertz while Kay and I stayed with the enormous pile of luggage. They had booked an Expedition, but ended up with a Tahoe, which, fortunately, is only slightly smaller. Most of the luggage fit into the back, piled high to the ceiling, leaving plenty of room for us up front.

It was past noon by the time we rolled out of the city, and we stopped for a leisurely lunch en route to San Jose. Jerry and Kay dropped us and our gear off at the storage yard, and we said our goodbyes so they could continue home to Monterey before the traffic got miserable.

Much to our relief, Odyssey was in great shape when we returned. We had been concerned that we might have some issues after the air bled down completely, specifically regarding the air door (which does have mechanical latches for storage purposes, but they are finicky), the flapper door in the toilet, and the potential for more glass breakage due to chassis flex. As it turns out, just enough air remained trapped in the system to keep the toilet sealed and the air door from putting too much pressure on the mechanical latches. I'm sure there was some chassis flex, as the ground was a bit uneven, but no other windows suffered. I think some of the cracks in the upper windshield may have spread a bit, but it's hard to tell anymore.

For the first time ever, we returned to a completely charged set of batteries. With all the loads, except for the alarm systems, shut down, the solar array had no trouble keeping the battery bank topped up in our absence. Of course, this is also the first time ever that we have shut down the fridge, which normally would consume most of the energy contributed by the solar panels.

It took us about an hour to get all the systems powered back up and on line, and complete our start-up checks. We then loaded up the luggage and drove back over to our old haunts at the San Jose Elks lodge, where, among other things, we were able to flush, sanitize, and refill our fresh and drinking water systems.

The last few days have been a whirlwind of errands, including retrieving the cats and the dog from their respective mountain-top hideaways (the cats were in Boulder Creek, while the dog was in Woodside near Alice's Restaurant), hunting down our mail so we could find the last of our 2006 tax documents, and meeting with the accountant to get the taxes finished and filed before today's deadline. We have yet to retrieve the fish, as the friends who have been fish-sitting for us were away this weekend.

Last night we moved here to the Fremont Elks Lodge (map), as our holding tanks were completely full, and Fremont has a dump station whereas San Jose does not. Fremont is also conveniently on the direct route to our next stop, Coach Specialties in Alameda. The replacement lower windshield is scheduled to arrive there sometime today, so we will drive up this evening so they can get started on replacing it early tomorrow. The replacement upper windshield is scheduled to ship today from Nashville, and with luck, should be in Alameda on Friday.

As it stands right now, we are signed up to attend the Escapade in Stockton, which starts Sunday. Unless the upper windshield arrives first thing Friday morning (doubtful), we will still be in Alameda come Monday. I'm guessing right now that we will get to the Escapade about halfway through it, if at all. We are signed up for some post-Escapade Red Cross training, so we'll be heading to Stockton in any case.

And now, I'll close with the final updates from our cruise:


Easter Sunday found us in Mazatlan. It also found the entire ship decorated, including an enormous display of football-sized, elaborately decorated chocolate eggs in the main atrium.

We had originally made plans to meet up with our local ex-pat friend Lee and spend the day catching up and seeing more of the lesser-visited parts of the city, but she was called away at the last minute with more pressing issues. Given that everything would either be closed or packed due to Easter, we opted to just browse the handful of stores and booths that are attached to the port complex specifically to cater to the cruise trade, and otherwise spend a relaxing day aboard ship.

Cabo San Lucas

When we awoke the next morning at anchor off Cabo, Louise was sick as a dog. Not surprising, considering the entire ship went to Red Alert on Saturday morning. What that means is that some number of passengers and/or crew (1.2% or more of the total, for Red Alert) had come down with symptoms of Norwalk-like virus, and procedures had been implemented to reduce the spread. We had already been through a Yellow Alert about the second week or so of our cruise, wherein all the common-use items like salt shakers and pepper mills were removed from the tables in all the dining venues, and wait staff were hand-serving rolls in the dining rooms and certain specific items in the buffets. That outbreak never reached the Red stage, and things returned to normal after a few days.

This was different -- we had gone from Green directly to Red in the span of an hour, as we noticed nothing unusual at breakfast, but by lunch things were locked down completely. In Red Alert, the buffet line goes from a self-service model to one wherein a crew member is positioned at each station to serve the food -- passengers never touch a serving spoon or dispenser handle. Also, chairs and tables are wiped with a bleach solution between each sitting, and all handrails and other commonly touched surfaces throughout the ship are wiped down hourly.

In spite of being religious about washing our hands constantly and using the hand-sanitizer provided throughout the ship, Louise managed to come down with it, probably picking it up from a keyboard in the Internet cafe. She was down for the count in Cabo, so I went ashore by myself and just wandered around the now-familiar town a bit before heading back to the ship for lunch. The town was jumping, with ourselves, the Dawn Princess (sister ship to Sea Princess, on which we cruised several years ago), and our old friend the Oosterdam all in the anchorage together.

At sea to San Francisco

Our last two sea days were uneventful, with Louise more-or-less recovered by the time formal night rolled around (which was good, because I was tired of eating alone, a particularly weird feeling in the main dining room). On the last night, our trivia team, which had swept the prizes at the twice-daily team trivia contests throughout the cruise, won the big Jeopardy contest and sealing our place as the all-around trivia champions (frankly, the cruise staff was getting a little tired of us, I think).

At some point, I'll post some overall impressions of this ship and this cruise, but I am out of time for today.

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