Bill and Kit’s 2013 Excellent Adventure-Journal #7

Bill and Kit's Camping Rig

Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey

Fitzhugh Mullan

 

Monday, February 11, 2013:  This is the morning we leave Tucson, at least for the next few months.  However, before we hit the dusty trail, a bit more from our stay in this, one of our favorite wintering over spots.

First off the weather has been unbelievable…..warm days and cool nights with zero rain.  However reports from back home have our more hardy friends and neighbors dealing with Superstorm Nemo.  Our son and family southwest of us received just shy of three feet of snow and on the coast our place got a little over two feet.  And with the gale force winds the drifts were very high in spots.  In order that we share their pain our neighbors snapped a photo of our place.

Blizzard Nemo Pix #4

Both our neighbors across the street and Kim sent photos of our place to ensure we knew exactly how bad it was.  Note the validating headline on the newspaper hanging off the mailbox post.

The next photo really portrays how bad Superstorm Nemo really was!

Storm Nemo

Yea, the photo looks a bit fishy to me as well…..but hey, if The Weather Channel can name every silly storm it desires to then they should be made fun of!

Here are a few other items of note about our “home away from home” this past week.

The USAF campground we stayed at shares a common border with the famed Davis-Monthan Air Force Base “Boneyard”, a repository of all the out of service aircraft in the US Military’s inventory.  The following photo came from the USAF archives and shows a very small portion of the collection.

DM AFB Boneyard from the air

The Boneyard came about due to the military drawdown following WWII which created a corresponding surplus of combat aircraft.  Some were scrapped, some were sold to the general public and others were sold to “friendly” nations.  However, many needed a place to retire and live out their remaining years in a warm dry climate……sound familiar?

This 2,600 acre storage lot has gone by many different official names over the ensuing years but is generally referred to as “The Boneyard”.  Housed here in a mummified state are over 4,400 aircraft from all branches of the US Military.  Most of these planes are laid up and maintained in such a way that they can be reactivated if and when needed.

Intrigued with the concept of a giant scrap yard of cool military hardware, I took a bike ride about the area.

I noticed some big planes.

DM Boneyard Pix #1

I noticed some not so big but very fast planes.

DM Boneyard Pix #5

I noticed some wrecked planes.

DM Boneyard Pix #2

I noticed some scrapped planes.

DM Boneyard Pix #4

And I noticed some classic old and very fast planes.

DM Boneyard Pix #6

Then there were the planes with propellers……some would call “real airplanes”.

DM Boneyard Pix #11

These are the planes that a few of my friends used to fly and work on back in the day and the type that would circle aimlessly over my home before Brunswick Naval Air Station was BRAC’d.    I counted 53 of these P-3 Orion patrol aircraft sitting in the desert far away from their natural element!  Kinda sad.

Returning from my bike ride with a desert inflicted flat tire, I stopped to talk to one of our campground neighbors.  Mike is a retired Navy C-130 pilot, lives in Washington State and winters in the southwest.

Mike

However, the thing I found most interesting was that he pulls his 20 foot Airstream with the VW Touareg you see to the rear.  Not a traditional tow vehicle but Mike reports it handles the heft of the trailer very well with a Turbo Diesel 3.0 liter, 225 horsepower engine putting 406 pounds of torque through an 8 speed automatic.  Nice powerful rig and he enjoys great gas mileage as well.

Well, as mentioned, this morning we are off toward the land of the setting sun.  It is 0945 and the weather is partly cloudy with a temperature of 48 degrees.

After winding our way through South Tucson, we jumped on I-10 and headed west.  Today’s destination is Lake Martinez on the AZ-CA border just north of Yuma.  Being a Monday, the traffic was light and the driving was easy.

Toward CA #2

Just south of Phoenix, we moved over to I-8 and continued our westerly trek until we moved over to US-95 and a variety of dirt roads toward our intended stop.  At 1520 we pulled in for the night and set up in a rather unique campground for a few days.

Lake Martinez Campsite

Tuesday, February 12, 2013:  Lake Martinez, AZ:   Lake Martinez is an impoundment created by the damming of the Colorado.  The resulting lake covers approximately one square mile and has an average depth of ten feet.  Being so shallow, Lake Martinez is the perfect waterfowl habitat and part of its western shore has been designated as the Imperial Wildlife Refuge.

Well, all this created the perfect paddling opportunity for Bill and his little yellow boat.

Bill Kayaking

The lakes irregular shoreline provided many bays and inlets to explore.  And being an impoundment there were many submerged trees that had died off leaving a forest of spindly trunks.

Lake Martinez Pix #5

Soon, I came upon an old coot eating lunch; nope, not a fellow retiree but an actual American Coot enjoying his fresh caught crayfish.

Eating Lunch

I could tell this old coot was not from the south as there wasn’t a Tabasco bottle in sight!

A few hours later, I witnessed this huge bird soaring and diving about.

Snowy Egret #4

I believe it might be a Snowy Egret; however I have also referred to it as a Heron so not sure…..I bet either Dave or Dew will be able to clarify that…..please?  Anyway I noticed later that the huge white bird had eventually come to rest on the branch of a submerged tree where it joined its mate.

Snowy Egret #6

I was able to get quite close in stealth paddle mode so my puny camera was able to get an acceptable shot of the pair.

After a while, I came to the southern edge of the Imperial Wildlife Refuge which was closed to the public and had to turn around.

Lake Martinez Pix #6

Returning to the campground, as the sun was setting in the west, made for a perfect end of a perfect afternoon on the water.

Sunset over Lake Martinez. AZ

Back at camp, Kit enjoyed the day as well.  I felt guilty leaving her all alone like that but somehow she managed dealing with the peace and quiet and was able to get in some reading and knitting!

I have one additional note that may be of interest to folks who like to bring expensive and delicate electronics on the water.  Before leaving Maine I picked up some waterproof enclosures for my phone and camera.

Dry Pak

In the past I relied on traditional Dry Bags, which always were a pain to unfold and rummage about in.  These relatively inexpensive and purpose designed pliable containers open with a twist of two knobs and the best part is that all your touch screen controls work right through the clear plastic cover.  The size shown worked perfectly for my phone and the next larger size fit my Canon S-95 like a glove.

 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013:  Up early and on the road by 0930.  It is crystal clear and cool with temperatures only in the 40’s.  Heading back south to the interstate we bypassed Yuma and headed west on I-10, soon passing into the Pacific Time Zone at the California border.

As a happy coincidence, Dew and Bea were returning from their California adventure at the same time and on the same interstate.  So, utilizing some cell text coordination, we were able to connect at an off-ramp near the town of Winterhaven, California.

Rendezvous in the Desert Pix #1

Always a pleasure seeing these two, however I had an ulterior motive to make this desert rendezvous work.

You see, one of the folks we visited in Tucson was the nephew of my mom’s third husband.  Bonnie and Dave have been wonderful in visiting mom from time to time and we wanted to repay that kindness by treating them to dinner.  While visiting we discovered that David’s daughter, Danielle was serving in the Navy on a destroyer similar to one that I spent many years working on at Bath Iron Works.  The name of her ship?  The USS Dewey DDG-105!  So they thoughtfully gave me a ships cap to pass on to its namesake.

Dewey

The old submariner was thrilled and immediately popped it on his head with a big smile.  I have often believed that Dewey lamented the fact that he didn’t serve on an actual ship, but on those objects that were designed to sink.  So now he can at least pretend that he belonged to the real Navy.  OK, that last part is to see if Dew really reads these journals, or not.

Back on the road within the hour I noticed that the GPS altimeter read minus 48 feet!  No wonder Dewey likes the desert…..he’s used to living below sea level!

Stopping for lunch at a rest area near El Centro we heard a lot of jet aircraft flying about, not unusual since El Centro Naval Air Station is a short distance away.  However in this case the planes actually were part of the Blue Angle Flight Demonstration team.  They use the perfect weather and unpopulated surroundings to prepare their new team members for the upcoming show season.  The only time they flew over the rest stop, I couldn’t get my camera out of the holster on my belt fast enough to snap a photo…..drat!

Back on the road, we made quick time of the remaining miles as we passed up and over the Laguna Mountains toward the left coast.  As we motored along, we ran into many wind turbine generators.

CA Pointy Road with Wind Gen

Well, not literally, because that would hurt!  They were everywhere but none were actually rotating even though the wind was at about 10 knots?  Not sure what was up with that!  However I did have the hunch that Don Quixote would have gone nuts around here, you know if we lived in California instead of Spain and if he actually existed.

Encountering the California rush hour traffic we so vividly remember Kit and I made our way toward the Admiral Baker Field campground in Mission Valley and set up for a week of exploring our old hometown!

 

Thursday, February 14 through Tuesday, February 19, 2013-San Diego, California:  Admiral Baker is a Navy Recreation Facility featuring, in addition to the very nice campground, two 18 hole golf courses, various athletic fields and picnic areas, and a large swimming pool.  Since we rarely make reservations we were told that we may have to move about over the next week to accommodate folks that plan ahead better than we do.  However, road magic once again intervened and we were able to stay put through our entire stay.

Adm. Baker Campsite

We often have the smallest RV in any given campground which makes us feel a bit inadequate…..well at least until we witness the bigger rigs being turned away due to space restrictions in National Parks and some older commercial facilities.   However in this case our neighbor to the right tows about that little green windowless RV…..stinks to be him!  Literally!!

That patch of green you see to the rear of our trailer in the above photo is part of one of the golf courses.  The way our trailer was positioned we were able to enjoy the antics of many golfers as they teed off.  I think it’s called teeing off because after they hit their little white ball they generally became very “teed off”.  I’m not a golfer, but I do enjoy watching Homo sapiens in their unnatural habitat, so some amateur observations follow.

First off most everyone that teed off while we were observing took a number of practice swings before actually hitting the ball.  Not sure what that was all about…..what if one of the practice swings was “the one perfect swing” and it was wasted swinging at the air?  Also…..what is with all the yelling and body gyrations after the ball is hit?  Like a rocket, once the ball becomes airborne nothing can change its ballistic flight!  And why do they all yell “fore” when they only hit one ball?  Also, why do they hit the ball, only to chase after it only to hit it again, and again, and again…..until they end up at the clubhouse bar?  Seems like they would save a lot of time and frustration if they drove their little go-carts about for a while stopping occasionally at the bar until they all ended up in one of the little ponds scattered about.   Oh, and I also noticed that the older golfers walked and the younger ones rode little the little carts, seemed backwards to me.  I do have a confession to make however.  Some of the little white balls ended up on our side of the fence and I would collect them.  Then when a group was headed to a nearby hole with the little flag sticking out, I would lob one or two over the fence….pretty comical I thought.  However they weren’t laughing and they had clubs!

Most of my young life I was admonished by my mother for attempting to play with my food…..now that I’m all grown up, that responsibility falls on Kit’s shoulders.  However I still try and get away with it.

Banana face

I call this art and I’ve titled it:  “Are you my breakfast or…..are you just happy to see me”?  By the way, the artwork is copyrighted so don’t even think about using it for any commercial purposes!  (These are some of Bill’s activities during his “idle” time-KT)

Being as San Diego is the town Kit and I grew up in and then later lived in as adults, there are a number of family and friends we need to see.  One of those was our neighbors across the street from us when we lived in the Clairemont area back in 1972.  Carl and Angie, being 25 years our senior, took us under their wing and helped us out a lot.

Carl and Angie

They still live in the same house!  Carl will be 90 in a few months and both are doing well.  It was very enjoyable to catch up with them and reminisce about the old neighborhood.

Most of my family has left the area but Kit has a number of family still about.  Her brother John and his girlfriend Lu, along with her nephew Matthew all came by to see us.

Kit, Matt and JD

Since it’s hard to cook for a group in our little trailer we all went out to eat at a San Diego institution called Filippi’s.

We were also able to visit my best friend from childhood when we visited Rod and Gloria at their east county home.  Rod is getting ready to retire after many years in the trucking industry and Gloria, a Mexican American is retired.  They treated us to an excellent homemade Carne Asada meal.  Rod and Gloria came to Maine to visit us a few summers ago.

Bill's Best 0f 2011 (143)

The above photo was taken during that trip…..a great time was had and we hope the come to visit again in the future.

We took one day and did some tourist stuff.  An area that we hadn’t been to in over 40 years was Point Loma and the Cabrillo National Monument, home of one of the most photographed lighthouses in the country.

Pt. Loma Lighthouse Pix #1

This navigation aid only had a service life of a few years due to its high location which caused it to be obscured by clouds and fog quite often.  So another lighthouse was built down on the shoreline.

New Pt. Loma Lighthouse

Still in use today, it is not open to the public, but equally as picturesque!

Point Loma is a peninsula of land that separates San Diego Bay from the Pacific Ocean.  On a clear day, such as we enjoyed, the views are spectacular, both on the bay side…..

San Diego #1

….. and the ocean side.

Pt. Loma Tide Pool's

It was an incredibly beautiful Southern California day to be out in the fresh air and we made the most of it.

Kit and Bill at Pt. Loma

Also on Point Loma is Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, a place of final repose for many members of our family.

Fort Rosecrans National Cemetary #1

This solemn and dignified place makes one stop and ponder the veterans that have served our country with distinction.

Fort Rosecrans National Cemetary #5

After paying our respects, we decided to cross over the Coronado San Diego Bay Bridge to the small town of Coronado, where on June 4th, 1965 Kit and I were married.  Our wedding ceremony was held at the court house, which in later life was a variety of commercial business.  I had no clue what the address was or even where it was located….but Kit directed us right to the place!  Women have an uncanny sense about stuff like that!

Coronado Court House

Yep there it was in all its glory.

Old City Hall

Forty Seven years ago, two young and scared kids started their life together…..and most folks didn’t think it would last!

Kit’s sister and brother in law, who we visited in Texas a few weeks ago, have two children, Josh who lives in Colorado and Christopher here in San Diego.  We were able to spend an evening with Chris at a really nice restaurant in Liberty Station, which is the former Navy Recruit Training Center.

Kit and Christopher

Chris is a Mechanical Engineer and works for Solar Corporation with their Gas Turbine Electrical Generation division.  We had a nice visit and meal.  If you’re in San Diego, and in the mood for great food, check out the Tender Greens Restaurant at Liberty Station.

In addition to all the family and childhood friends in the area, there are a few folks that have relocated to San Diego from Maine.

Scott and Marie

I worked with Scott for many years at Lockheed before retiring a few years ago.  The project we were working on wound down so he and a few other Maine folks accepted Lockheed jobs in the area.  We visited them at their beautiful south San Diego home on a hillside overlooking the bay.  We had a great time catching up on each other’s lives and sharing a nice meal.

On another day, Kit and I went in search of where our daughter Suzie was born back in 1971…..yep, we have a child that old!  And she’s not the eldest…..we have two creeping up on 50!  Anyway, the Balboa Naval Hospital isn’t a hospital anymore.  When the Navy built a new state of the art facility a few years back the old complex was transferred to the city of San Diego.

Old USN Hospital #2

Attached to this old historic building was an addition that housed the Maternity ward.

Where is the Hospital

All that’s left was a few courtyard elements.  The building is long gone…..sorry Suzie!

Well, it’s been an all too short but thoroughly enjoyable stay in our old hometown.  Tomorrow we crawl up the left coast in search of more adventures.  Sorry to anyone we were not able to see this time around.  There is just so much time and so much to see and do in this area!  Hope to catch up with you on a future trip.

Kit’s Corner:  As usual, the weather in San Diego was nearly perfect.  It did get a bit cool towards the end of our week there and we also had some rain (middle of the night, the best time) but all in all, it was very pleasant, as we remember it.  Heading over to Coronado was quite a treat since we hadn’t been in many years.  What a delightful small town!  Next time we are in the area, I would like to spend a couple of days there.  I’m still waiting for my opportunity to walk up and down Orange Ave. and browse all the shops and stop for lunch.  BTW, finding that old court house was easy!  I remember very well going over there (via the ferry) back in 1965.  J

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Bill and Kit’s 2013 Excellent Adventure-Journal #6

Bill and Kit's Camping Rig

When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money

Then take half the clothes and twice the money

Susan Heller

Tuesday, January 29 to Sunday, February 3, 2013-Doobie RV Resort, Tucson AZ:  Woke to rather cool weather for this part of the country…..temperatures in the 50’s.  It was cold enough that our hosts, Dewey and Bea were in there Severe Winter Survival clothing.

It's Cold for Arizona Folks

Living in Tucson are, Dewey my bruzzin, Bea his fiancée, Dan, my half-brother and of course, my wonderful mother, Mom.  The folks that live here are one of the draws that pull us and our RV clear across the country despite New England law that states all residents of Maine must age in Florida.

After a real nice homemade Mexican breakfast, Kit and I drove over to the care home where my mom resides to surprise her.

Nana

Mom is doing okay for a woman who singlehandedly raised two unruly boys in the wilds of 1950’s San Diego.  She celebrated her 88th birthday last August and her sparkling blue eyes and bright smile still shine!  On this year’s visit to Tucson, we will make an attempt to see her at least once each day as her condition allows.  Battling dementia, mom has some short term memory loss and suffers from severe fatigue.  There are some good days where she is lucid and up for the visit, and others where she is not as alert.  It appears my mother fills her day with memories of the places she has been and the characters she has met.  Mom has lived in Turkey, Mexico and the US and she has successfully outlived three husbands, many close (if you know what I mean) male friends and a lot of her family…..she is a true survivor.

The place where mom lives is a very nice adult care facility situated a few miles from Dewey, Bea and Dan.  The large property has a neighborhood feel and consists of three small residential homes each containing a dozen residents or so.  It features a nice courtyard and lush gardens from which the residents can sit enjoy the water features, listen to the birds sing and enjoy a magnificent view of the surrounding mountains.

Crossroads #1

After a nice visit with mom, we returned to the Doobie RV Resort and were immediately greeted by the resident royalty…..Max, Nile and Kalie.

Max, Nile and Kallie

Max, a lovable beagle lives for ear scratches and belly rubs.  Nile, a lanky Pharaoh Hound is all legs and full of mischief and energy.  He is the Counter Intelligence Specialist of the group, able to locate, seize and devour any edible item left unattended on any counter in the kitchen.  Then there is Kalie, the undisputed Alpha dog, quietly waiting for one of the other two to provide some entertainment. 

As mentioned, Dew and Bea are engaged!

Bill's Best of 2012 Pix (37)

The above photo was snapped out at camp last summer when they visited Maine and I believe speaks volumes of their love and commitment.  Bea is a wonderful woman and we happily welcome her to the family.

The campsite and facilities at the Doobie RV Resort are first rate.

Doobie Campsite

We enjoy electricity and water connections and there is a sewer cleanout available if we need to dump our holding tanks.  In addition Dew and Bea have provided us with a key to the house and allow us to freely use their guest bathroom.  We usually only impose on them for a week or so, but the accommodations are such what we could easily spend a few months here!

One of the highlights of our annual visits to Arizona is the incredible authentic Mexican Restaurants that populate the area.  Dew and Bea spend considerable time before we arrive researching and trying out new establishments, a chore they gladly endure.  One establishment they wanted us to experience was Mi Nidito’s Restaurant located in south Tucson.

Clinton's Mexican Place

This incredible place has been popularized by many celebrities; Bill Clinton dined here as he stumped about the southwest during his 1st presidential campaign, then returned a few times while in office.  There is a specially marked booth that remains reserved for Bill and his posse whenever they decide to return…..no mention of any special accommodations for Monica Lewinsky however.  Willie Nelson, another guest of note, (pun intended) likely joined Mr. Clinton because, um well, you know they had the bud thing in common.  However I hear on good authority that Willie did all the inhaling.  Or, was that Monica; I was never very good at keeping politics straight.  Come to think of it, neither was Barney Frank, but that’s a whole other story.

Being this is the Wild West you never know when the banditos might show up.  So Dewey and I practiced our marksmanship in his backyard on some hapless steel silhouettes of a humped backed flute player called Kokopelli.

Dead Eye Dew & Bull's Eye Bill

For the information of my NRA friends out there, that’s a massive .177 Caliber sidearm im’a sportin there mister man!

 On a beautiful, sunny and warm day we all decided to drive out to Catalina State Park and hike in to see the Romero Ruins.

Intrepid Hikers #2

Those aren’t the ruins; those are the hikers…..the ruins come later, smart ass!

The typical Arizona terrain was enjoyed by all as we trod the well-worn path through the desert while viewing lots of interesting Saguaro Cactus formations.  A pastime that entertains folks that spend a lot of time in the hot sun of the desert, is trying to see if any cactus resemble any human form.

Doobie cactus

When I attempt this, they all look like skinny legless green men caught in a hold-up!  The two experienced cactus watchers above often envision other forms.

BFC

This particular Saguaro cactus formation reminded them of their worst schoolyard pick basketball game nightmare!

It’s a funny story how these cactus’s came by their name.  Many generations ago as sun addled pioneers came out of the mountains to the east they hallucinated many human forms on the desert floor.  At one point a particularly brave and gregarious cowboy walked up to the image and said “So, how are you?”  The native Indians misinterpreted the phrase as Saguaro.  OK, I made that all up, and I know, it wasn’t worth the time…..sorry!

As mentioned, the particular trail we chose to hike led to a number of Indian and early settler ruins.

Romero Ruin

It was fun to envision what the structures might have been and how life was in the desert might have been while living in dirt floor and mud caulked stone huts.  Today, we think it’s tough when the internet goes out or the air conditioner isn’t working correctly!

Deciding that his rifle wasn’t a good enough self-defense weapon, Dewey has been making and learning how to use the ancient sling.

Slinging Dew

On the hike he discovered a cache of sling suitable rocks and honed his sling accuracy by chucking them at various objects.  I suggested that as an alternative, he should use Brussels Sprouts…..they are the correct size and heft, are biodegradable and really serve no other useful purpose.

After our enjoyable and entertaining ramble about the desert we took a break under a shade tree before locating the car and heading back to a cold beer.

Intrepid Resters

One of my favorite local Mexican food spots is El Guero Canelo, which means the red headed Mexican, which is coincidentally owned by a red headed Mexican!

El Guero Canelo

I ordered a medium Burrito which, as you can see, is quite large…..their Burros are humungous, completely overflowing the plate.  All the condiments you see are available buffet style and one could easily make a meal out of the variety of sauces, peppers, vegetables and other items.

My newly discovered passion for Geocaching has caused me to become a bit evangelical.  After helping Bea download the iPhone App and explaining the basics of the sport she took to it like a seasoned pro.

Her first Geocache attempt was a short walk from the house…..the coordinates led us down a narrow wash toward a neighborhood stream bed.

Geocache #1

There hidden amongst some Mesquite she spotted the cache and logged her first cache find ever!

Bea's First Geocache

And another Geocacher was born!  Can you tell how excited she was?

On the days that I visit mom and she is alert, we frequently sit with the iPad and look at family photos…..old and new.  On one occasion, with the help of relatives back east, I used Facetime to connect mom to her brother back in Upper Darby, PA for a session of video chatting. 

Relaxing at Mom's

The wonders of modern technology…..only the stuff of science fiction not that many years ago!

Speaking of the Philadelphia area, there is a new film in the theaters that we enjoyed here in Tucson.  Silver Linings Playbook is an incredible story and very well acted.  However the thing that caused us all to go see the film was that some of the movie was filmed on the block where my uncle (mom’s brother) lives!  Even though during actual filming everyone had to stay out of sight all reports were that the actors and crew were very friendly and accommodating between takes.  One of our relatives did some catering for the crew and a few of the younger members of the family were cast as extras in the film.  There were even background shots of my uncle’s house.  Exciting times in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania!  Dew, Kit, Bea and I all enjoyed the movie and highly recommend it.

Well folks, it’s getting near Valentine’s Day.  And being ever the romantic I decided to get Kit something large, white and shiny.  No, not a kitchen appliance…..I’m not that dumb.  And besides I remember not too fondly the Thigh Master fiasco of many years ago.  This offering is the perfect gift for the gal that has everything and one that she will remember for many Valentines to come!

Kit's Valentines Day Gift-Edited

The doctor tells me that the lumps on my head will start to recede soon.  Actually this was an upgrade to our camper that Kit honestly wanted to replace the plastic OEM terlet.  It was a good move (no pun intended)!

Well tomorrow, Dewey and Bea are heading off to the left coast and a long planned and highly anticipated visit to see his kids and grandkids.  So we decided to pull up stakes and hit the road as well.

Monday, February 4 to Sunday, Sunday February 10, 2013-Davis Monthan AFB:  Following an arduous 45 minute drive we pulled into Davis Monthan Air Force Base in South Tucson and were able to acquire a spot for a few days……which ultimately turned into a week’s stay!

Our first night we had to stay in the overflow area but the next morning we were able to move into a nice full hookup site.

Agave Gulch FHU 

We spent these bonus days in sunny Tucson wisely…..exploring, shopping, relaxing, more visiting with mom and other worthwhile pursuits. 

One of the days Dan and I decided to explore Mount Lemmon and leave poor old Kit to fend for herself at the Tucson Mall……hope she won’t be too lonely.

At 9,174 feet, Mount Lemmon is the highest point in the Santa Catalina Mountains bordering Tucson’s northeastern edge.  The Catalina Highway which leads to the summit is designated a National Sky Island Scenic Byway and is the only paved access to the summit.

Mount Lemon Pix #1

The highway takes 27 miles to climb 6,000 feet due to its use of many switchbacks.  It takes the traveler from desert terrain and vegetation to an alpine environment where evergreen and hardwoods flourish.  The highway was originally built by Japanese Americans that were housed in a nearby internment camp during WWII and the highway has undergone extensive rebuilding in the past few years.

Mount Lemon Pix #5

The great weather and diverse terrain make the Catalina Highway a prime location for bicycle racing teams to practice for major events such as the Tour de France as it resembles some of the pitches encountered in the Tour as it traverses the Pyrenees Mountain range.

Mount Lemon Pix #3

One cyclist from Team Lance Walgreen, rode circles around us as we motored along toward the summit.

As we climbed in elevation, we started seeing patches of snow.  I decided to pull off so Dan could get a feeling for what we experience back home.

Mount Lemon Pix #7

Living most of his life in the Arizona desert, he was not amused.

The summit of Mount Lemmon receives an annual snowfall of 180 inches.  So, with that kind of resource, what better thing to build in the Sonoran Desert but a ski area!

Mount Lemon Pix #8

Only one problem…..no water to use in snowmaking equipment because, well, this is the Sonoran Desert!  So they have to rely on natural snowfall and sustained cold weather to build up a snow base suitable for skiing.  The day we visited was following a warm period and their snow base had depleted to the point that the resort was closed.

Mount Lemon Pix #10

I had thought it would be really cool to rent some equipment and take a few runs on the southernmost ski area in the United States…..oh well, maybe next year.

The lodge itself was open and we decided to enjoy some coffee and homemade pie while sitting by the warm fire.

Mount Lemon Pix #9

Great day touring a fascinating area of Tucson and I really enjoyed spending it with my brother.

After 40 years or so of on and off RV ownership we had pretty specific ideas as to what we wanted to pull around the countryside in retirement.  For the most part we were in complete agreement; however size was an issue, as it is in most marriages.  Kit wanted a trailer in the 25 foot or larger range and I preferred one in the 18 foot or smaller range.  So as a compromise we went with the 22 foot model we currently own.  However one feature that Kit really misses is a comfortable chair to relax and knit or read.  So, I should have known that something was amiss when she wanted to attend a local RV show.

Off we went to the Pima County fairgrounds on a beautiful sunny morning and walked into this sight.

RV Show

That is a row of $200,000.00 motorhomes!  A few were in the $400,000.00 range!!  One of us has to sell an organ or two on the black market to afford these land yachts!!!

However Kit did look completely at home and quite comfortable enjoying the palatial interior of these rolling mansions.

Kit's Camper

That’s leather, granite, ceramic tile and solid hardwood you see there.  Much nicer than anything we have lived in over our 47 years of marriage……ever!  The very nice sales folks were happy to explain why we needed one of these coaches in our possession and even treated us to lunch to soften up our reservations.

Over lunch I reiterated all the reasons that “smaller is better”, an explanation that I find myself frequently making by the way.  I really thought I had convinced her of that fact as we toured the “low rent” portion of the RV show way in the back and she suggested we consider the following cute little trailer.

Bill's Trailer

I was ready to purchase the mini-rig until I realized that this was to actually be my trailer and it was to be attached to the back of Kit’s new motorhome.

Undaunted in my never ending quest to make Kit happy we returned to our fully paid for and certainly adequate RV and was inspired to provide her with the RV creature comforts that she so desires.

Kit's Chair- Reality

She certainly looks as happy and content as in the motorhome photo doesn’t she?

While driving about, we frequently notice trucks and vans with advertising that that promote their business…..occasionally they have a slogan that pretty much sums up what they do for a living, such as this one spotted in downtown Tucson.

 Shih Tzu Truck

On another day, one that Kit needed some quiet time (read no Bill around time), I decided to head south and visit The Titan Missile Museum which is a National Historic Landmark.  It was a bright, clear and warm morning as I drove along the snowcapped Santa Rita Mountains toward the town of Sahuarita.

AZ Mountains-Snow

A relic of the cold war, the Titan II Missile sites were part of a massive US vs. USSR one-upmanship during the 1950’s to ensure each could wipe the other country off the face of the earth.  Officially called Mutual Assured Destruction, ironically referred to as M.A.D., the missile was intended to be used on any region that threatened our civilized way of life…..such as, say Trenton, New Jersey.

This was a particularly scary time if you were a youngster growing up under these mutual threats and watched neighbors build bomb shelters in their backyard or you practiced “duck and cover” drills in school by diving under your desk whenever the air-raid siren went off.

Known as Complex 571-7, it is all that remains of the 54 Titan II missile sites that were on alert across the United States from 1963 through 1987.  Possibly needed at the time but fortunately never used.

Titan II Museum Pix #4

Looking pretty innocuous from the ground, the 740 ton blast doors cover a 140 foot deep by 55 foot wide tube that housed the 103 foot and 340,000 pound Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM).

Titan II Museum Pix #3

Yep, a ballistic missile with a ballistic flight profile…..like a bullet fired from a rifle.  Fire and forget, then hope it glides to the appropriate target half a world away.

Also underground are two large blast hardened structures that contain equipment rooms, the missile launch control center.  On a separate level there are living quarters for the crew of four that stood watch on a 24 hour rotation being on alert for the coded launch order to come from the President.

Titan Missile Complex

Fifty eight seconds after the coded message is verified the largest nuclear warhead in US inventory is on its 6,300 mile journey to a pre designated impact zone.  Apparently the concept of M.A.D. worked and the US just waited patiently until the USSR self-destructed from within.

This complex is the only one remaining from the cold war…..the other 53 sites had their bullets removed and were destroyed by imploding the silos.  The missiles were then repurposed for more benign uses like satellite launching and space exploration.

Included in the visit is a very interesting guided tour of the underground facilities, including the launch control center.

Titan II Museum Pix 31

If you are ever in the Tucson area, take the tour……just don’t touch that amber colored button in the upper left of the desk control panel.

The next day, our last in Tucson, we met Dan at Crossroads to say our goodbyes to him and mom.

Dan, Mom and Bill

It’s been a great visit but we need to be moving on.  These moments are difficult as one never knows with an aging parent if it will be the last.

Mom-Hands

Love you, mom!

 

Kit’s Corner: Each time we leave Nana, it gets harder.  We seem to need a few days to kind of get back on track because our thoughts are consumed by her advancing age and what’s to come.  She has always been so kind to me, I could not have asked for a better mother-in-law.  She probably thought I was a bit too weird for her son back in the early 60’s but once we married, she accepted me into the family unconditionally.  Not only that, up until she became ill, she somehow managed to come and see our family every single year!  A huge commitment considering we’ve lived 3,000 miles away from her for most of our married life.  Hang in there, Nana!  We love you J! 

Bill and Kit’s 2013 Excellent Adventure-Journal #5

Bill and Kit's Camping Rig

One main factor in the upward trend of animal life has been the power of wandering

Alfred North Whitehead

Friday, January 25, 2013:  Up and intended to hit the road early…..however, as happens so much during these adventures, we met an interesting couple that came wandering by.  So there we stood in front of our fully hooked-up and ready to go rig for a few hours of enjoyable conversation.

Jim and Carol are from Portege, Michigan and like us, escape the frozen north for some fun in the sun.  Jim is a retired US Army Lt. Col. and a high school administrator.  However, the thing that caught my attention and piqued my interest was the shirt he was wearing……emblazoned on the right front pocket was the emblem for the Kalamazoo Corvette Club.

Jim the Corvette Guy

Not being content to own one of these fine American sports cars, Jim has three!  A 1961, a 1962 and a 2006…..somehow that just doesn’t seem fair!  He also has other classics and a few street rods in his collection.  And a point of coincidence, one of his restorations is in the Wells Maine Auto Museum!

So finally we are underway from Fort Sam Houston at 1200 under cloudy skies and a temperature of 73 degrees.  Once again we decided to choose time and miles over exploration opportunities and jumped on I-10 heading west.  Not much occurred over the next nine hours but the humming of tires on the long straight stretch of asphalt.

Since we trundle along at 60 MPH and the speed limit is 70 MPH, many cars, trucks and joggers pass us by.  Most are just plain old generic vehicles.  However every once in a while something of interest comes roaring by…..like this nice Lead Sled.

Texas Lead Sled

Also, already passed and now back in the travel lane in front of us is a nice 1966 Mustang GT.

We try and stop every few hours to take a break and do some stretching and walking.  Around midafternoon we pulled into a truck stop for fuel and exercise.  Being a full service establishment, they featured all the trucker’s favorites.  Kit couldn’t resist flying her Redneck Flag and devouring a Corndog.

Corn Dog Kit

A few times during the afternoon, when the monotony of the Interstate got to us, we pulled off on I-10 Business.  This parallel bypass left the highway, pierced a small town or two, and rejoined its mother road a few miles further down the line.

See how exciting getting off the main highway in this part of Texas can be.

Texas Pointy Road

See why we stick to the interstates in this part of Texas?  Kit could hardly contain her excitement.

Kit Still on Watch

Oh, that black horse-collar looking thing she has around her neck is a “Prank Preventer”.  You see, when I’m driving down the road and Kit nods off, I like to entertain and amuse myself by wiggling the steering wheel, causing the truck to weave a tiny amount, which causes Kit’s head to flop from side to side.  Then, after tiring of that, I would pulse the brakes and cause her head to nod back and forth.  However the real thrill was combining those moves so her head would make complete circles about her neck…..believe me that operation takes real talent!  This fun diversion went on for many years before she figured out her sore neck upon awakening was Bill induced…..the head support pillow fixed the problem and ruined all my fun.

Being on back roads, we have the benefit of enjoying some authentic roadside art.  This creation was in front of an old dilapidated building just east of Lordsburg, NM.

Texas Roadside Art #1

Sorry, Randy.  I agree…..what an ignominious end for such a fine automobile.  Keeping the VW company were other fine objet d’art.

 Texas Roadside Art #2

It’s a wonder that such valuable art work is left alongside the road!?!?

Back on I-10, as the sun set in the western sky, it illuminated the surrounding landscape in a golden glow.

Texas, Heading West #3

About this time of day, we generally stop for the night.  However we were within striking distance of Balmorhea State Park, one of many Texas State Parks that feature camping…..so we soldiered on.

Our last stop before arriving at our destination was a roadside pull-off.  It was pretty dark, and the combination of the truck headlights, trailer running lights and full moon to the east made for an eerie image.

Texas, night rest stop

Arrived at Balmorhea at 2050 and since it was way past the rangers office hours, we just selected an available site and set up for the night.

 

Saturday, January 26, 2013:  Woke to our first glimpse of the campsite and surrounding terrain.

Balmorhea Campsite

Not bad for a true “shot in the dark” I’d say.  Since yesterday was a long and tiring haul, we decided to lounge about the campsite for a few hours.  Balmorhea State Park was constructed by the CCC in the early 1930’s.  To put folks to work during the depression 200 young men hand dug and covered with Limestone a 3,500,000 gallon pool which was filled by the San Solomon River.

Balmorhea Pool #1a

25,000,000 gallons of fresh spring water flow through the pool every day making it a perfect swimming hole.  The 74 degree crystal clear water provides a great facility for scuba divers to explore the 75 foot depths where they can observe two rare aquatic species…..the Comanche Springs Pupfish and the Pecos Mosquitofish.  Yeah, I know……it sounds like a title for some bizarre sy-fy western but that’s the name of the fish.

Having some free time from my hectic retiree schedule, I pressed my iPhone into service and looked for any Geocaches in the area.  Turns out there were quite a few, one of which was hidden by the Texas State Park folks themselves.

Balmorhea Geocache #1

This cache had a variety of toy cars as tradable’s.  Many still in their original bubble packs and likely placed there by park service personnel in order to entice youngsters to get off hand held video games and use their hand held GPS to get some exercise.  I didn’t have anything to trade so I just logged the find in the logbook and on Geocaching.com.  Also in the cache was a dog tag shaped device called a “Travel Bug”.

My First Travel Bug

These metal tags are generally attached to a tradable, in this case a Texas key ring.  Travel Bug’s are purchased and owned by a geocacher who establishes a goal for its destination, in this case Yellowstone National Park.  Then finders are to move it along on its intended route by relocating the Bug to another cache closer to that desired destination.  The metal tag has an image of a bug made of UPC lines and by scanning the code with your smart phone the Geocaching.com webpage of the Travel Bug’s owner will come up.  Unfortunately I didn’t do this until later and now the Travel Bug is going west rather than north…..oh, well the innocent faux pas of the newbie.  So, what now my learned fellow geocacher friends?

While returning from my geocaching adventure I happened upon a campsite that was occupied by a unique RV with a unique license plate.  So what does one do?  Well unique up on it of course! 

Fiat Motorhome

Turns out that the Class A motorhome is a Fiat and was shipped from Germany to Halifax, Nova Scotia last May by its owner.

Rainer Pix #1

Rainer from Berlin, is on a post retirement North American RV trip and has been across Canada, visited Alaska and traveled down the west coast.  His intention is to tour the south before exploring the east coast and then travel through New England before arriving back in Halifax for the voyage home…..pretty comprehensive trip I’d say.  Rainer was a very interesting character, Kit and I enjoyed talking with him about Germany and America.  We invited him to dooryard surf at our home in Maine…..sure hope he takes us up on the offer!

Returning to our campsite, it was obvious that Kit needed some more quiet Kit time so I pulled out the old trusty iPhone and looked for another Geocache.  This second one was a bit harder to find as the coordinates were a little off.  So I conducted an expanding circle search (yea I know…..I’m such a geek) and eventually spotted the cache hidden under a cactus!

Texas BSA Geocache

This one was placed by a BSA Troop from Eastern Texas and, in addition to the regular items, it also contained a Geo-coin, which is another form of Travel Bug.

Balmorhea Geocache #2a

Its Eagle Scout owner want’s the coin to travel the US and promote the wonderful world of scouting.  Logging the find on geocaching.com, I learned that the coin has traveled 15,343 miles so far but has only been in the western US and Hawaii.  So in honor of my oldest grandson, an Eagle Scout as well, it is coming to Maine with me to see the other side of the country!

Another feature of Balmorhea State Park is a restored cienega, or wetland.

Balmorhea Cienega

Before the CCC dammed the San Solomon Spring and developed this area into a recreation facility, these wetlands were plentiful.  Since the area is a haven for migrating birds the park service has channeled off some of the water to a low area that formally contained a natural cienega.  According to the literature, this area is prime bird watching habitat and draws lots of birders during migration season.

At 1240 we pulled out of Balmorhea under bright blue skies and temperatures in the upper 60’s. Then we continued to make our way westerly toward I-10 on a variety of back roads.

Texas Pointy Road 32

As you know, we so much prefer these types of roads for travel as they are sparsely used and far more scenic.  However the reality and need of occasionally making better time forces us to take to the Interstates.

Within the hour we were on I-10 and making tracks for El Paso, Texas.  At 1430 we crossed into the Mountain Time Zone and once again gained an hour…..which was the most exciting thing to happen since leaving camp.  Kit called Fort Bliss and learned there were a few spots open in the campground so that is now our destination.  At 1500, we arrived at the campground and set up for a few nights stay to take advantage of the internet connectivity, do some underway replenishment and take care of the pile of laundry.  Laundry is a touchy subject.  If you have been following these adventures at all, you will remember that I am forbidden to have anything to do with laundry…..I can’t even say the word in Kit’s presence.  Apparently this has something to do with the great San Diego overstuffed washer flood of 2009.

 

Sunday, January 27, 2013:  Not much happened today.

 

Monday, January 28, 2013:  On the road at 0940, it is a sunny day and the current temperature is 67 degrees.  We decided to take the Trans Mountain Road just north of El Paso which goes up and over 7,000 foot Franklin Mountain.

Climbing out of El Paso

On the opposite side we once again encountered I-10 and headed toward New Mexico, crossing the border at 1008.

Shortly we encountered our first US Border Patrol Checkpoint.

Border Patrol Check Station

Kit started frantically rummaging about the various travel debris we cart around in the back seat of the truck while simultaneously lowering the side window.  Asking what that was all about, she excitedly yelled “we need to chuck the oranges”!  After calming her down and informing her that this wasn’t an agricultural checkpoint she started to relax.

That is until this ominous sign appeared.

The Thing Sign

Yep, billboards advertising “The Thing?” start hundreds of miles before its actual location.  We have blown by these signs for many years and also casually drove right past Exit 322 without batting an eye.  However something compelled us to stop and see what all the hype was about.  Only 149 more miles of anticipation remain!

Within an hour, we noticed the temperature had dropped to the low 50’s.  The skies became dark and ominous while the wind speed increased and the direction shifted to the southwest.

Arizona Sun and Clouds

It was a dark and stormy afternoon my friend.  The wind was buffeting the truck and trailer bad enough that we pulled off in rest area to wait it out.

Prarie Storm #2

After a while the wind abated a bit and we decided to motor on and soon were crossing the Arizona border.  Shortly thereafter the rains came…..torrential but not long in duration.  In a few minutes we punched out of the storm and viewed better weather ahead.  The proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel”!

Arizona Wet and Pointy Road

Not wanting to upset the local weather spirits, we pulled off the interstate at exit 322 and into the dooryard of “The Thing?”.

The Thing's Home

Inside, we paid our $1.00 admission and entered The Thing?’s inner sanctum.

The Thing Entrance

Where we viewed The Thing? In all its mummified glory.

THE THING!

Don’t ask about the placement of the straw sombrero and I’m not about to guess what the thing is that the “The Thing? has his right arm around!

After our private audience with The Thing?, we knew the spirit gods were at peace as we departed The Thing?’s home to a glorious rainbow to the east.

Arizona Rainbow #2

Once again, on the road westerly to a much anticipated family reunion with my 88 year old mom, my slightly younger than that brother, his much younger finance, and my little brother.  Also one of the nicest camping opportunities we enjoy on these trips…..The Doobie RV Resort.

Stay tuned for “Fun in the Old Pueblo”!

 

Kit’s Corner:  It was great that we finally stopped to see “The Thing!”  It’s been on our bucket list for maybe 40+ years.  We’ve driven by it probably 20 times over the years.  I’m glad we only spent $2.00 on it.  I couldn’t even find anything worth buying in the huge gift shop.  It was good to finally arrive at Dewey & Bea’s place and settle in for a few days.  We went to see Nana each day and visit with her.  As usual, she was happy to see us.  BTW, the reason you see me dozing off while riding along is that my mapping services are no longer needed.  Now that we have Lucille, she has taken over the task of getting us where we need to go.  Occasionally, she takes us in circles for a while but hey, it’s good for entertainment value.

Bill and Kit’s 2013 Excellent Adventure-Journal #4

Bill and Kit's Camping Rig

Bill and Kit’s 2013 Excellent Adventure-Journal #4

 In wisdom gathered over time I have found that every experience is a form of exploration

Ansel Adams

 

Saturday, January 19 through Wednesday, January 23, 2013-Kyle, Texas:  This is the first of three “must stops” on our annual winter excursions.  Kit’s sister, Charlotte and her husband Donald are, like us, California ex-patriots.  They relocated to this nice little East Texas town a few miles south of Austin five years ago.  And lucky for us they don’t mind if we block their driveway for a few days of dooryard surfing.

 Camp Crowe

Now, don’t tell the rest of the family, but Char is Kit’s absolute favorite sister of them all.  And Donald is not bad as well.

The girls spent their days doing sister things…..catching up on each other lives and accusing each other of childhood misdeeds.

Kit and Char

Donald introduced me to the wild world of horse betting at the local track…..an interesting experience.  There were folks in a large darkened room and it appeared they placed bets based on a variety of strateegery (Hey, it’s a Texas word….just ask Dubya) and basic horse sense (pun intended).  Then they all crowded around video screens and whooped and hollered while encouraging their selected horse to win, place or show.  The yelling was so loud I bet the gamblers were horse (yea, you guessed it, pun intended).  Anyway, Donald, after studying the racing form made a few well placed bets…..and won a whole bunch of money!

Lucky Don

If you happen to encounter Charlotte, please do not breathe a word of his huge win…..thanks.

Kit’s sister is an excellent cook, and while we were visiting she created a number of home cooked feasts.  One of the most unique and one of my favorites were the California BLT’s.

CA BLT's

In addition to the traditional BLT ingredients she added some A and a few O’s topped off by some C!  They were incredible!

A local attraction that somehow I overlooked in previous visits is Dick’s Classic Garage.  This is indeed a garage…..not a museum.  Every car is roadworthy and some even have fuel and oil in case the owner, a local business owner by the name of Dick Burdick, wants to drive them or loan one out for special occasions.  The focus of this incredible collection is American cars from the years 1929 through 1959.  Unfortunately, some manufactures of the cars in this collection have since gone out of business.  Like this beauty…..one of my personal all-time favorite automobiles.

1948 Tucker 50 Pix #3

That’s a 1948 Tucker Torpedo, one of only fifty-one built by the Tucker Automobile Company of Chicago, Illinois.  The Tucker was way ahead of its time and had a promising future before being run out of business by the “Big Three” and a few crooked politicians.  This particular Tucker is number 50, it is totally original and only has ½ mile on the odometer, yep…..one half of a mile.   The car was completed by volunteer workers after the factory was closed and then protected as an historical artifact ever since.  The value of this one car is in the multi-millions!

Other cars of note in Dick’s garage are a 1930 Duisenberg:

1930 Dusenberg

A 1959 Cadillac:

1959 Caddy

And, much to my delight, there is a vehicle in this world class collection that I actually own, albeit mine is in unrestored condition.  This four wheel, caster steered, independent suspended and environmentally conscience mode of early transportation is a 1952 perambulator.

Bill's Antique Vehicle

Yep…..got one in my cellar upta home!  Ours is pretty rough, but totally original…..a true “barn find” survivor!  We purchased the stroller a number of years ago at an estate sale because it reminded me of an old Tucker family story.  We were living in San Francisco, California in the early 50’s while my father went to a school on Treasure Island.  My mom used to wheel me about the neighborhood in this contraption.  Well, one day, as she was coming down a steep hill, the handle broke and the stroller with me aboard careened down the slope with mom in hot pursuit…..still grasping the handle.  Not sure what happened next, or actually what has happened since, but this story might explain a lot to folks I have known over the ensuing years.

There was also a unique convertible, a 1958 Ford Fairlane 500, Retractable Hardtop.

1958 Ford

The engineering in the retractable top mechanism was so complex and fraught with design flaws that very few were sold.

A 1938 Hudson Terraplane pickup,

1938 Hudson Terraplane

A 1939 Auburn Boat-tail Speedster,

photo4

And even a 1919 Lone Star:

1919 Lone Star

This car has an unusual pedigree.  It was advertised as being built in San Antonio, Texas, but was actually built by a small company in Virginia.  The Piedmont Motor Company built generic car bodies and then mounted them on a variety of different rolling chassis.  They then “badge engineered” them to represent whatever brand the purchaser wanted.  This sole remaining example is badged as a Texas built Lone Star 4-30 but the entire vehicle, including the emblems was manufactured in Virginia.  Ah, the stuff one could get away with before the internet!

This place has an incredible collection of rolling American art.  Check out their website at http://www.dicksclassicgarage.com/.  If ever in southeast Texas, Dick’s Classic Garage is worth a visit.

While I was out goofing off, Kit and Char were enjoying their visit the high tech way.

Computer Twins

They would spend hours texting and e-mailing each other and video chatting via Face Time!  It was during these times that I would escape, um make that give them some quiet time, and go in search of a diversion.  Just a few miles from their home, I happened upon a large recreational sports complex with a nice open area for kite flying.  To the west was an unobstructed path for the prevailing winds to provide consistent velocity.  Had a great time and even cycled through a few of my seldom used kites!  A win-win for all!

As is customary, we treated Donald and Char to a meal out at one of their favorite local steak houses.

Last night in Kyle

The muzzle flash outside the window of this upscale restaurant is from a Colt 45 revolver…..this is Texas after all!  Kinda goes with the theme of the Colt 45 Malt Beverages and local beer that was consumed in massive quantities.  Well, all except Donald…..that cup in front of him contained coffee…..Donald is an avowed teetotaler.  Oh, and don’t ask what that is that Kit is about to consume.

We also know another couple in the area.  Well…..actually Rey and Darlene are friends of other friends that we have befriended due to the fact they are so friendly.   Rey spends the summer in his home state of Maine, but spends the winter south Texas.  They are homeless, having recently sold their place in Kyle, bought a nice large fifth wheel trailer and a nice new GMC pickup and are hitting the road full time!

Rey and Darlene, Pix #1

While visiting Rey and Darlene upta Maine last summer, I mentioned that I was getting our trailer ready for another 4 months on the road and a prime need is a new trailer hitch, since I’d worn mine out.  As luck would have it, he had a nearly new heavy duty hitch that he didn’t need and made me a gift of it.  This new hitch has been efficiently yanking our trailer around over the past three weeks and works better than the OEM hitch.  As a belated thank you, we took them to their favorite Tex-Mex restaurant for food and drink…..a great time was had by all.

Char and Donald’s neighborhood is well laid out for taking walks.  As I was out for a morning stroll, I noticed a cactus that had taken root in the crotch of a big old Cedar (pronounced sea-dar) Tree.

Cactus upa Tree

Kinda odd, but there it was about 15 feet of the ground and about 300 miles too far to the East!?!?

There was another day that Kit and Char told me to get lost so I decided to enjoy a new activity of mine…..Geocaching!  My buddy Randy back home introduced me to the sport a few months ago, and from my very first geocache find I was hooked!  For the uninitiated, Geocaching is the art of finding caches hidden in various places around the world by fellow participants who then publish the GPS coordinates.  The hides are cataloged online in a massive two million cache database.  The hobby is fun, entertaining and addictive.  A lot of the caches are cleverly hidden in locations that one would not think to explore unless drawn there by the promise of discovery.  It’s a great way to get some exercise in the great outdoors and walkabout with a purpose…..besides it is a heck of a lot of fun.  Interested…..check it out at www.geocaching.com!

This particular cache was in a suburban setting and one that I had unknowingly walked by a few times in the past.  It was titled J’s House, and when I first started following the GPS App on my Smart Phone, I thought I may be looking for someone named Jay, at his house.  As I got to the designated coordinates, I found some yard-art in the form of decorative birdhouses hanging on the public side of a neighborhood backyard fence.

Kyle, TX Geocache-Closed

Upon closer examination, I noticed one of the birdhouses featured a plastic Jaybird sitting on a movable perch…..pulling the perch out released a hinged bottom and out came the cache…..pretty clever!  After signing the log, and entering the find on geocaching.com, I reset the trapdoor for the next Geocacher to discover.  There are also trinkets in most caches that can be traded and/or moved to other caches…..a real enjoyable activity for youngsters as most of these trinkets are toys of some sort.

A point of irony…..as I was walking away from the Geocache, I noticed an actual bird sitting up in a nearby tree.

B1-RD

Having a number of friends that are avid bird watchers and photographers, I’m trying hard to learn the names of some of the more common animals that I may encounter…..I believe this particular bird is called Fred.

Walking quietly toward his perch while snapping photos I tried to get as close as possible before Fred took flight.  However, he didn’t budge, just glared at me with an agitated scowl on his face.  Finally, Fred squawked, flipped me the human, and flew off.  It was only then that I realized he was on babysitting duty as this small nest was just a few feet below him.

B1-RD Nest

Felt kinda bad about the whole thing…..but not as bad as his wife Betty is going to make poor old Fred feel when she returns with the groceries!

 

Thursday, January 24, 2013:  After a very enjoyable visit in Kyle, Texas, it’s once again time to head west.  However, having full holding tanks and empty pantry’s we decided to head south and stop by Fort Sam Houston, near San Antonio, and overnight at their campground.

We were on the road at 1027 under cloudy skies and a temperature of 64 degrees.  We jumped on I-35 heading south and just a few miles from Kyle we happened upon a Texas sized convenience store called Buc-ee’s.

Buc-ees

Needing fuel and just plain curious, we pulled in.  Now, Buc-ee’s is huge…..it features 82,000 square feet of indoor retail space and it has 60 gas pumps on 20 islands.

Buc-ees #2

The fuel is sold at a volume discount so the pumps get a lot of activity.  So much so that there is a continuous cycle of gas tankers that rotate through the place every hour or so round the clock!  The store’s inventory is typical 7-11 type stuff just a much larger variety and a whole lot more in quantity…..who knew that Pork Rinds came in so many different flavors and sizes!?

Pulling into Fort Sam Houston, we made our way to the sparsely populated campground and set up in a full hook-up spot.

Fort Sam Campsite

Since it was relatively early in the day, I disconnected the truck from the trailer so we could poke about the base more easily.  While Kit explored the Post Exchange and Commissary, I drove about looking for something that might peak my interest.  I discovered an area with a lot of military hardware on display…..here you see me standing beside a US Army BAG (Big A** Gun).

Bill and BAT

There are two nice museums on base and a historic district where many military heroes from the past lived and worked.  For example, General Eisenhower was assigned at the post very early in his career and is where he met and married Mamie Dowd.  Also Brigadier General Billy Mitchel was posted at the base after being demoted to colonel for disobeying orders.

Fort Sam Houston

Fort Sam Houston is a huge training facility and is known as the Home of Army Medicine and the Combat Medic.  Since the BRAC decimation of 2005, medical training for all branches of the US Military, as well as many allies, were consolidated here…..a one billion dollar building boom for the local economy.

Fort Sam Medical

It is unusual to see so many servicemen and women walking about a single base sporting the many different uniforms of their affiliation.

This place is huge with a population of 27,000 and once through the security gates, looks like any other small town in Texas…..it even has its own school district!

Returning to the Post Exchange complex to retrieve Kit, I noticed this solemn parking spot.

Fort Sam Houston Sign

It’s unfortunate that there is a need for such an honor, but it’s nice the base provides the support.

Back in 1976, we traveled across country with our three children in a 1967 Excel Travel Trailer.  (More on that trip, and other early Tucker RV Adventures, in an upcoming journal).  We stayed at this same Army Post for a few days to enjoy San Antonio, The Alamo, and other interesting sights of the area.

Fort Sam Houston has the largest collection of historic structures of any US Military base…..some 900 sites that are officially recognized as such.  One feature on base that we visited 37 years ago was the Quadrangle, the oldest structure on post.  It was originally built as a supply depot, but was later used as a prisoner of war camp and at one time housed the Apache war Chief Geronimo and his warriors.

Quadrangle Tower

The grounds are enclosed on all four sides by tall stone buildings and entrance is through a single opening called a “Sally Port”.  Within the courtyard are a number of resident birds and animals that prance about as if they owned the place……not unlike some military folks I have served with.

Here is General Peacock trying to impress an uninterested local lady.

Peacock in the Quadrangle

He was putting on such a show, I captured The General on video…..check it out at:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QgmycHc0GA&feature=youtu.be

Well, tomorrow we hitch up and head further west……see you around!

Kit’s Corner:  We thoroughly enjoyed staying with Donald and Char in TX.  It’s rare that she and I get to spend time together so, fortunately, Billy has his favorite activities to spend time on while Donald is at work.  We had a little fun teasing him about his new hobby (as if he needs yet another hobby), calling it Geezer Hide and Seek.  However, both she and I actually think it would be fun to try it.  One of these days, when I have a little extra time, I will check it out, or accompany him on his search.