Friday, April 29, 2016

Family Time #1

The week is almost gone once again, so it is time to bring this blog up to date.  Monday was another travel day, and a fairly long one at that: north through most of Oklahoma (including Oklahoma City) and about half way up through Kansas, stopping in Salina.  The weather had been rainy earlier in the week and the forecast was for more bad weather, so we took advantage of Monday’s tailwind and put in a long day.  

Tuesday was that much shorter since we planned to stop and see Bob’s sister, Mary, and her husband, Bill, in southern Nebraska. 
They have told horror stories about the dirt roads in their neighborhood that become extremely slippery when wet.  We had called them to ask about road conditions and they advised us to camp at a former Pony Express Station east of them.  It wasn’t particularly convenient for them, but it was paved all the way there and the parking area was paved as well, so we wouldn’t sink into the ground.  Our rig is about 35,000 lbs and getting a tow is not a small undertaking, so we appreciated their help in finding this parking area.  They came to visit us on Tuesday evening and again when we had them over for dinner on Wednesday.  The bad weather came, as predicted, on Tuesday night and this was one of the few areas that was not drenched with rain, pelted with hail, or blown over by the wind.  It was one of very few areas that was spared. On Wednesday, we took a trip to Lincoln to do laundry, errands, and lunch with Mary.  It was great to spend time with them! 

After a little down-time there, it was back on the road again.  Thursday was cloudy and cool, but without wind and rain so it was good to put in another longer day.  We stopped at a Corps of Engineers-managed area just north of Des Moines.  This made for another shorted day on Friday, just getting to Forest City, where Winnebago RVs are built.  We have a service appointment there next week which is great since we developed problems with two of our slides last night.  Our large passenger side slide seems to have developed the same problem that was “fixed” at LaMesa in February.  Grrrrrrr!  We’re lucky to be able to get this fixed here as the factory seems to be more reliable than their dealers. 

April has been a month with lots of driving: from California on the first to northern Iowa by the end of the month.  Our little sightseeing in West Texas has meant about 3,000 miles just this month, which will likely be more than half of our expected miles for all of this year.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Quiet Weekend

Where did we leave off?  Oh yes, Thursday morning was spent wandering the Hill Country of Texas – nice roads and scenery! The noontime was spent tracking down Paige’s mother who was having some unplanned medical issues that have since been resolved (mostly).  The rest of the afternoon was quiet, thankfully.

Friday was yet another travel day, getting through the combined San Antonio – Austin metropolitan areas.  There was lots of crowding and road construction as well, so it wasn’t quick.  Just north of Waco we found a place alongside of the Interstate and stopped for the night.  Billboards along the way promoted the Czech heritage in this area and advertised a couple of nearby bakeries.  We got some kolachis at a nearby store which reminded us of the bakery items at Tobies in Hinckley (similar crowds). 

Saturday was another day of metro traffic and road construction; this time getting through Fort Worth.  This will be the last large city for awhile, thankfully.  We crossed the border into Oklahoma and stopped for the weekend at a private RV park across the road from the Chickasaw Cultural Center.  It was too late in the day and too close to closing time for us to stop when we drove through the area.  But we did find a Braun’s Ice Cream Shop.  We found one of these in Tahlequa when we worked at a project in Oklahoma a couple years ago.  Braun’s has a huge selection of ice cream and a 2 scoop ice cream cone for $1.99.  Can’t pass that up! 

Sunday was a day for church and rest and recuperation.  We met an interesting couple during a stop at Walmart:
Their parrots go with the couple when doing errands.  They are 4 and 5 years old, with a life expectancy of about 50 to 60 years.  Their plan is to pass them to any of their children who do not provide them with grandchildren. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Busy Traveling

As mentioned in the prior posting, Sunday was a day to travel into the Big Bend area.  We stopped for two nights just to the west of the national park in an area called Lajitas, at a nice resort type campground.
This is not really a town, but it does have a mayor (who is a goat)

On Monday we passed through Terlingua, a former ghost town which has become famous for its chili cookoff competitions, on our way to the park itself.  Big Bend is a huge park and is so far out of most peoples’ way that it is also lightly used, see for more information.  One of the park’s highlights is the mouth of the Santa Elena Canyon.  This is where the Rio Grande comes out of a narrow rock canyon into a wider flood plain.  Mexico is on the far side of this river.  To save 30 miles of paved road, we got there on a 13 mile dirt road; 4 wheel drive was not required, but high clearance helps and it was dry today.
Another highlight is the Windows View Trail.  We drove the paved Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive to get there, including driving up a mountain to the nearby visitors’ center.  The top was socked in by clouds with a heavy mist in the air making it hard to see across the parking lot, so we skipped the hike and returned home.

Tuesday was another moving day.  Many cactus were in bloom:
The Texas Hill country was too far away for a single day, so we stopped in Sanderson TX.  We learned that the Big Bend Open Road Race is scheduled for later this week and Sanderson will be the turn-around point.  There were 2 RV’s in the campground with us that brought cars for the event.  After a week full of registration, inspections, qualifying and meetings, on Saturday US 90 is closed to all public traffic and becomes a timed road course for about 59 miles.  The drivers’ objective is to maintain a particular average speed and get to the finish line at the right time.  Target speeds range from 85 to 150 mph.  Cars leave individually in the order of their target times, so there shouldn’t be any need for passing.  After every one has gone south, they turn it around and every car is timed north.  We didn’t stick around to watch someone roar past, but we did cruise by the tech inspection area:
On Wednesday we left Sanderson, headed to Hill Country.  Just after a mid-day stop in Del Rio we crossed the 100 degree Longitude line, leaving the West behind.  Now we are in an area where rivers actually contain water, row crops are planted, and the real color of green exists, not the desert’s pale shade.  It is also quite humid, something we haven’t felt for many months.

We planned to sample some of the Hill Country’s scenery on the motorcycle, but the sky was dark and the forecast was for rain.  The V-Strom went back on the lift and we jumped into the truck, and had a gorgeous sunny day, but no photos.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Saturday as a Tourist and Sunday Relocation

We had a busy Saturday around Fort Davis: first we found a geocache and left a trackable coin that we got from Yuma, then we visited the Fort Davis National Historic Site  (see

Then we went down the road to nearby Alpine where we toured the free Museum of the Big Bend.  Very interesting!  All this was before noon.

We had afternoon tickets for a guided tour of the University of Texas’ McDonald Observatory.  To get there, we had to drive the highest paved road in all of Texas, nearly 7000 feet above sea level.  They have many telescopes here and we got inside two of them.

Our guide made astronomy almost understandable.  These telescopes are incredibly complicated!  A number of the research team live on the site and sleep days so they can do their research at night.  The sky is brilliant with stars here as there is no nearby light from a city so it’s a good location for the telescopes.  The evening turned windy and cloudy so they might have had a hard time doing research then. 

Sunday was another traveling day as we went south to Presidio on the Rio Grande.  We slowly followed the river downstream to Lajitas.  It was interesting to see Mexico right across the river while we drove.  In spots there might not be room for Crazy Donald’s wall:
The river road, El Camino Rio, is slow and roller coaster-like as it follows the riv er.  At one spot there is a 16% grade up to a mesa and overlook, and another 16% gradeto get back to the river level.  Bob likes his diesel torque and exhaust brake.  Paige liked the scenery – very twisty and pretty mountains. 

Tonight we are at a private RV park outside of the Big Bend National Park.  We plan some non-paved roads, some hiking, and some scenic views for tomorrow.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Traveling Again

We have been making up for lost time, putting on quite a few miles lately the past couple of days.  After sitting around in Yuma for about a week, Wednesday’s drive across most of Arizona was just a warm-up.  On Thursday we entered New Mexico and crossed the Continental Divide, so we are back in the middle part of the country.  By the end of the day, we finally got to a river that had water in it: the Rio Grande, where it comes south out of New Mexico toward El Paso before it becomes an international border.  We used our membership in Harvest Hosts (see ) to spend the night at a winery near the state line and also near the river.


Yesterday was a little longer day, ending in Ft Davis Texas after a quick detour through Pecos (not quite on the way).  Pecos didn’t have what we wanted for an overnighter, so we came south into the Davis Mountains.  The last 15 miles or so was especially pleasant.  This is the highest town in the state, at over 5000 ft elevation, and has some interesting history.  We plan to take today off and play at being tourists again.  We should have some interesting photos and comments for tomorrow’s posting.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Where Does the Time Go?

It has been over a week since our last posting.  In the prior post we had mentioned our plans and they all worked out.  First, we had 3 days being a snowbird in Yuma where we saw the Territorial Prison (now a State Park), went to Los Algodones Mexico (to see where Paige’s folks used to buy their medicines) saw the Yuma Proving Grounds and Imperial Dam.  Here is Bob waiting for "The Especiale" in a downtown tavern:
You know you are in "Snowbird Country" when the supermarket has a fleet of more than a dozen battery-powered shopping carts:
Last Wednesday, we moved about 17 miles to a large RV park that was hosting a number of RV rallys: the Fleetwood owners club had just finished, and both the Alpha and Freightliner clubs were there for the rest of the week.  Freightliner (the same company that makes big trucks) makes rolling chassis for a number of RV builders.  Freightliner puts together the frame with wheels, tires and brakes then adds engine and transmission, steering and dash hardware then Winnebago (or other manufacturer) adds all their stuff.  This rally is part of the Family Motor Coaching Association and is a chapter, or sub-group, for the owners of any brand of motorhome built on a Freightliner chassis.  We knew only one couple when we arrived, but made a number of new friends.  Two sites north of us was a couple from Nova Scotia who had our same motorhome (but with a different paint job).  We had fun touring each other’s rigs comparing storage ideas and problem areas.  Just south of us was another couple with a house in the same area of California where we just completed 2 projects.  We sat in on a number of informative presentations and shopped at a couple of vendor’s booths.
After the rally ended, Freightliner held two limited-enrollment schools for 2 days each.  Bob was lucky enough to get into the Mon/Tues school which just finished.  Paige had the opportunity to spend time at Starbuck’s and doing little projects and cleaning around the motorhome.  Some people we met had to loaf around (like seniors can do) until today when their school started.  Now we know enough to be dangerous around a service shop.  Paige had time to hang around the pool:

Today was our longest driving day of the year at 275 miles.  We are parked at the Escapees club’s Saguaro Co-Op in Benson AZ.  Here is what our view through the picture window (windshield)

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Traveling Again

We finished working last Thursday and had a pleasant dinner with the group that evening.  This group was such fun!  We did a ton of laughing.  We don’t say “goodbye”, but instead say “we will be seeing you again somewhere/sometime.”  One couple pulled out early Friday morning, and the other two went sightseeing to Venice Beach where there is great people-watching.  We stayed around LaVerne and did routine errands and relaxing.  On Saturday morning we hosted the others for a waffle breakfast, then hooked up to leave the Los Angeles area.  We stopped for the night at the Escapees Jojoba Hills Park outside of Aguanga CA.  This co-op park is member-owned and, this time of year, the members are all here so the only space for us over-nighters is in a boondocking area (no electric).  After living with low voltage at LaVerne for the past 6 weeks, we now have No-Voltage, so we are only staying here for one night.  It is a very scenic area with lots of hills and ranches.

Tomorrow we will head for Yuma where we will be staying for 10 days: 3 on our own, 5 at a FMCA rally, and 2 at a Freightliner school.  It looks like there are some interesting sites to see there – a date farm, Algadonas Mexico, an old prison, etc.  We should get some photos for the next posting.