Bill and Kit’s 2014 Excellent Adventure, Journal #4

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday, placing it like a picture in a frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear.  Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art.

Freya Stark

 

Thursday, December 19, 2013:  Woke to very windy conditions (outside the camper) and temperatures hovering in the low 50’s.  How windy you ask?  Well just ask our poor neighbors.

CSP high wind

The two lumps are a young couple from California.  They were fine and crawled out of the wreckage laughing hysterically.  We thought it funny as well because a number of years ago on the Saco River that was us!

Today is a relatively short travel day.  It’s only 432 miles to Las Vegas, a trip we’ve made in the past in one day.  However our new normal is travel days less than 300 miles, and since we aren’t scheduled to be in Vegas until tomorrow anyway, we intend to find a convenient spot mid-distance to overnight.

As I was making all preparations to get underway a fellow camper noticed our Maine plates and stopped to chat.

CSP Russ fm BC

Russ is from Vancouver Island, British Columbia and when he and his wife Dorothy are not traveling in their 30 foot camper they live on their 50 foot wooden schooner.  He was curious about cruising to our side of the continent and spending some time in Maine waters as well as exploring the Canadian Maritimes.  I told him what little I knew but assured him we had many friends that could give him some excellent sailing guidance.  We exchanged contact information so if and when he makes the transit, we can hook him up.

By 1000 we were on our way as the temperatures were climbing into the 60’s.  Taking Tangerine Trail over to I-10 we continued west, however over the next few hours I-10 actually meanders more northerly…..which is fortunate as the 30 MPH winds are coming from the south.  After taking an additional turn on the sway control adjustment the camper behaved pretty well and with the tailwind we were experiencing, our average MPG shot up to 13.8!

This portion of I-10 is pretty desolate as there are many miles between settlements.

AZ I-10 Pointy Road

A bit north of the I-8 interchange we entered an agricultural area and the consistently high winds picked up a bunch of Arizona and carried it toward Nevada.

I-10 Sand Storm

North of Phoenix, we pieced together a couple of US highways and then rode AZ-68 West to the border.  The desert landscape began to change as we increased in elevation into the high desert.

I-10 in the Mountains

In the mountains, the wind had moderated considerably and we entered into the climate zone that supports the famous Doctor Seuss Joshua Trees.

I-10 J-Tree's

At 1609 we passed through the border town of Bullhead City, Arizona and crossed the Colorado River into the state of Nevada and the Pacific Time Zone.  Even though it was only 1510 we decided to seek out a safe, flat spot to remain overnight.

On this, the Nevada side of the river gambling is legal and there are a number of casinos…..basically a Baby Vegas!

Baby Vegas!

Pulling into the RV Parking lot at the River Palms Resort we were adopted by a pleasant couple from British Columbia that helped us with the process of getting a casino permit to stay the night.  Staying in their Arctic Fox truck camper we instantly developed a kinship as they invited us to park near them.

River Palms Casino Campsite

We had a great view out our bathroom window overlooking the mini-strip and the meandering Colorado River.

Friday, December 20, 2013:  Only 101 miles to Las Vegas!  We lounged about the parking lot and took care of some online correspondence and bill paying.  I also put the finishing touches on Journal #3 and asked Kit to proofread and add her corner bits.  Even though my intention was to publish the journal on Sunday, I knew once in Vegas our quiet time would be limited…..which is exactly what we want!

We bid our new camping friends safe travels as they headed on toward their own adventure further south along the Colorado River.

Bob and June from BC

Bob and Ellen are retired business owners and used to travel in a mega-motorhome but found their camping opportunities were severely limited.  Since they are avid outdoors folks they prefer to camp in more rural settings so traded in their bus for this rig.  They had a pair of high end mountain bikes strapped to the back of their towed vehicle.  We compared notes on great trails in the southwest we had each experienced and hope to connect at some point to ride together.

By 1036 we were on the road under sunny skies and temperatures once again climbing into the 60’s.  The wind has moderated a bit but was still blowing at 15 MPH with gusts near 25.  On NV-163 heading north we encountered some typical desert terrain…..a lot like west Texas.  Man, one would not want to experience a breakdown here!

Nevada Desert Pointy Road

Two hours later we came over the final ridge into the Las Vegas Valley and got the first glimpse since last March of our home for the next few weeks.

Vegas Baby!

A short time later we found the Oasis RV Resort which is just west of the south end of the strip and a mere two miles from the grandkid’s house.  I think their parents live there as well.

Oasis Campsite

Dropping the trailer, hooking up all services and leaving the kayak we drove to a pizza shop and headed to their house for a surprise reunion.

006a

Stay tuned for Christmas in Vegas…..a first for us with our youngest grandchildren.

Kit’s Corner:  Now, I have to write some “bits”.  I can never think of anything.  We are happy to have the opportunity to spend Christmas of 2013 with our youngest grand kids, Jack, 9 and Tucker, 6.5.  They are always happy beyond words to see us and spend time in our little camper, even though we have to move things around constantly to accommodate the mountains of stuff they bring.  They don’t travel lightly.  Somehow, we always manage, though.  We have the simplest of meals, use paper plates, bowls and cups to reduce dishwashing and also indulge them in fun times, and a few too many sweets.  It’s always fun seeing them.  Before we know it, they will be teenagers and more interested in their friends than the “old folks”.  We are incredibly fortunate to have this time with them.  Time to fix mac’n’cheese and hot dogs!

Bill and Kit’s 2014 Excellent Adventure, Journal #3

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe.

Anatole France

As noted, we are departing Maine a month earlier than usual in order to spend the holiday with our youngest two grandchildren and their parents.  So, therefore, we celebrated our Maine Family Christmas on Thanksgiving, or as Kim called it, Thanksmas.

2013 Family Thanksmas Photo

The entire Maine (main?) Family gathered at our home for the Thanksgiving holiday meal as well as exchanging of gifts and the traditional airing of grievances and feats of strength.  Above you will see (Left to Right) Ann, Abby, Joe B, Kit, Bill, Katie, Kim, Joe T, and Chris.  You may notice that Kim is holding Gumby which represents the West coast members of the family who are (Right to Left) Jack, Tucker, Suzie and Kevin……yep, youse guys were there in spirit!  A rousing good time was had by all; well except for Gumby, he had a bit too much Holiday Cheer and spent the entire next day sleeping it off under the Christmas tree. Thursday, December 12, 2013:  We woke to the bright Texas sun streaming through the windows and temperatures in the mid-twenties…..yikes, could have stayed home for these kinda temps!  After breakfast in the camper we departed Columbus RV Park at 0810 and continued west on I-10. Two hours later we crossed Woman Hollering Creek and jumped on the 1604 Loop around the north side of San Antonio.  Now normally, at this point, we would turn north toward Austin in order to visit and door yard surf with Kit’s sister and her husband up in Kyle, Texas.  However, over the past year they have purchased a summer home in San Diego, California and are currently there getting settled.  Since our rough plan is to eventually hit the west coast and bounce about Southern California I’m sure our paths will cross at some point. The area west of San Antonio, the beautiful Texas Hill Country continues with its rolling terrain.

Texas Pointy Road #2

But soon this gives way to flat, barren and boring.  For the next seven hours we viewed desolation out the windshield broken only by the occasional stops for fuel, food or rest. Heading west on these annual trips always takes longer and seems more arduous.  Until recently, I couldn’t figure out why.  Then it dawned on me that there is actually a valid scientific reason that heading west across country is harder than heading east.  You see, our planet rotates on its axis from west to east, or counterclockwise…..so therefore one traveling by motorcar from east to west is heading against the earths rotational direction.  As an analogy, and so you lay folks can prove my scientific discovery, try this empirical experiment next time you’re at the Gym.  Step on the treadmill as normal…..see how hard it is to walk up the length of the track.  Now step on the treadmill facing the opposite direction…..your relative progress accelerates considerably and your life is a whole lot easier.  Well, until you slam into that muscle bound dude bench pressing 300 pounds that is…..then it suddenly gets a whole lot harder.  Feel free to share my discovery with any Planetary Scientist you may know. OK, back to reality.  This area of the country is so devoid of life, I couldn’t even pick up NPR on the radio…..oh well, at least I had Kit to provide some sparkling conversation and make the miles glide by.

Kit on Alert

Oh well, at least I could be lost in my thoughts for hour after hour after hour after………… We generally prefer to take US-90 across Texas because even though the progress is slower there is the sporadic cow-town that provides some interesting sights and the occasional comic relief.  However, due to this year’s “Speed Run” mentality we stick to the Interstate…..and please don’t tell Maine DMV, they might take our BACK RD license plate away from us. At 1705, tired hungry and covered with trail dust (the truck and trailer, not us) we pulled into the Fort Stockton, Texas RV Park for the night.

Fort Stockton RV Park

A very pleasant surprise awaited us as this campground, pretty much in the middle of nowhere, featured a small café that served some fine home cooked meals.  Tired of our own cooking we both enjoyed Texas Mesquite Barbeque Pork Ribs, hand mashed potatoes, fresh green beans, a drink and dessert….all for $7.95!  What a bargain, and very good as well…..this place is now marked for a return visit! Still tired but with full bellies we called it a night. Friday, December 13, 2013:  Up to threatening skies and temperatures in the mid 30’s, we were back on I-10 by 0800 rolling west. A prairie storm was brewing to the south but we skirted the worst of it however we did have to deal with short period of heavy rain.  As the sky cleared, this incredible double rainbow graced our path.

 Texas Storm, Double Rainbow #1

The rainbow stretched from horizon to horizon and was very bright.  Within minutes it vanished…..hope natures morning display is a harbinger of great things to come. Within a few hours we merged with I-20 which is the route we would have likely taken had it not been for Winter Storm Cleon and a short while later we crossed into the Mountain Time Zone, banking another hour. At one of the many rest stops folks our age tend to take on motor trips, I called Fort Bliss in El Paso to inquire about staying a few days at their very nice and convenient RV Park.  Well, fitting the season, there was “no room at the inn”.  This is a first for us in over five years and a bit of a disappointment as we needed some down time.  Apparently the active duty soldiers who are temporally assigned here for training and receiving Per Diem have discovered they can buy an RV, economically stay at the park, and when returning to their home base have the RV paid for…..pretty slick if you ask me!  Military RV parks are constructed for the men and women on active duty and if there is space available, offered to the military retiree.  So no one should complain about being locked out of a military RV Park because the men and women that help protect our great country are utilizing one of their quickly eroding benefits. Time for Plan “B”…..since we needed groceries anyway we pulled into a local Wal*Mart.  As Kit shopped I walked the parking lot to ascertain the feasibility of staying the night right here.  Being very close to Juarez, Mexico about 30% of the vehicles sported license plates from the state of Chihuahua, Mexico.  Another third of the cars, and their occupants, looked a bit sketchy.  It also appeared the parking lot wouldn’t be very well lit so I deep-sixed that idea. While researching a convenient and safe place to stay I came across an iPad App that I downloaded to my Etch-a-Sketch…..it is produced by ALLSTAYS and is called Camp and RV.  It has been honored with a 5 star rating, a rarity in the App World, and is the most comprehensive application for the mobile RV’r that I have seen to date.  In addition to all the possible places to stay overnight such as RV Parks, commercial campgrounds, municipal campgrounds, casinos that allow camping, state and national parks, business parking lots, truck stops, rest areas or just safe wide spots in the road, it also lists many of the necessary RV friendly business and services.  Most listings feature links to the facilities website, a contact phone number, the current weather in that location and reviews, ratings and comments provided by fellow travelers that have come before us.  At a purchase price of $9.99 I believe this App is well worth the money. So, using ALLSTAYS, Kit was able to pick a nice clean campground across the New Mexico border in Deming, where we headed and came to roost for the evening.

Little Vineyard RV Park

Saturday, December 13, 2013:  Little Vineyard RV Park, Deming, New Mexico:  Decided to take a down day as we are getting a bit road weary and needed to do some laundry. This park is very nice and has more facilities than most.  In addition to the usual store, bathhouses and laundry, there was a very nice meeting room complete with kitchen and an indoor heated swimming pool with hot tub!  The camping fee was very reasonable and the owners were as nice as can be.  This park seems to be a favorite of northwest snowbirds…..there is one lady who has been coming here for over thirty years. While Kit did laundry I worked on the Journal.  Then she wanted some quiet time to complete the Christmas cards so I took a walk into town.  Deming was at one time a nice western town that frankly has seen better days.  It is sad to see as we stayed here forty-eight years ago on a cross country transfer from San Diego to Key West, Florida and have fond memories of this once quaint southwestern town. Sunday, December 15, 2013:  Woke to freezing temperatures and sunny skies…..won’t take long to warm up today!  Fortunately I had checked weather.com and learned of the overnight lows so disconnected and drained the water hose.  Other campers were not as fortunate as I noticed a number of folks staring at their frozen water faucet and scratching their heads. On the road at 0845 we are anxiously looking forward to our next stop, Tucson, Arizona and a long anticipated reunion with my mom and our Arizona family. After a few rest and fuel stops we rolled across the Arizona state line at 1048 and three hours later arrived at our home for the next few days…..Catalina State Park.  This jewel of the Arizona State Park system is located in the Oro Valley just north of Tucson.  In all previous trips we have camped in the dooryard of my bruzin Dewey and his fiancée Bea.  However, since this is to be a relatively quick visit, and since we have always wanted to stay in this park, and since Dewey and Bea were having their front yard and driveway totally redone this decision was a win-win for everyone. Decoupling truck and trailer and hooking up all shore services we made a beeline for Crossroads Adult Care Home to surprise my mom.

Bill and Mom 12-15-13

At 89, and after many strokes, she is doing OK…..doesn’t talk much but for the most part appears to be fairly alert.  We surprised her with some Christmas gifts including her favorite See’s Chocolates and a warm fuzzy blanket.  We plan to visit with her daily while in town. Monday, December 16 through Wednesday, December 18, 2013-Tucson, Arizona:  We always have a great time in our winter hometown and this brief visit has been no exception.  In addition to seeing mom and getting caught up with Dewey, Bea and Danny we took some time to recreate which was not hard to do as our campsite was situated in one of the premier facilities in the entire Arizona State Park system, which I believe is one of the best in the US. Catalina State Park is nestled in the western foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains located in the Coronado National Forest.  This mountain range is crowned by Mount Lemmon which at 9,157 feet is its highest peak and which averages 180 feet of snow a year…..yep, in the arid southwest! Our campsite had a perfect view of the Catalina’s and it was a joy to watch the sun rise over these majestic mountains each morning…..well, one of us got to enjoy the spectacle.

CSP Campsite Pix #2

On one morning I took my bike out for the first ride of this trip.  The state park is honeycombed with a variety of multi-use trails open to equestrians, hikers and mountain bikers.

CSP MTB Bill #2

A lot of the trails are double-track which weave in and out of the desert landscape.

CSP MTB Ride #2

However there are a few technical sections of single-track that takes more skill and youthful stamina than I possess (read-I walked them).  I was out for three hours, logged 6.1 miles on the old GPS Tracks App, and only fell once…..fortunately not into a bed (funny word to use when pain would ensue) of cactus. Being a multi-use trail, I did come across a number of hikers and unlike some areas they were for the most part friendly.  I always slow and move off the trail as the IMBA courtesy rules ask…..however there is always that 10% that believe their trails belong to them alone, I just offer a cheery good morning and pedal along. I also came across a number of souvenir piles left by our equestrian brethren.  Since I’m usually not riding that fast I was able to avoid some rather nasty (pun intended) surprises since my bike has no fenders.  I only came across one actual horseman however, and she was traveling down the wash as I was crossing it.

CSP MTB Ride #5

Notice anything missing in her western regalia?  Yep there is no industrial sized blue bag affixed to her saddle horn…..hey, if responsible dog owners have to pick up after their animals, why not equestrians?! The next morning Dewey, Bea and Danny joined us at our campsite.  While Kit and Dan relaxed, visited and did their electronic gadget thing the rest of us set off on a hike into the foothills.

CSP Hike Photo #2

There wasn’t much elevation gain or loss but we enjoyed a nice six mile hike through some very beautiful and rugged backcountry.

CSP Hike Photo #1

The trail crossed a creek a number of times and since the temperatures were approaching the 80’s and the stream was fed from the surrounding mountain snowmelt, it was very refreshing to splash some cool clear water on your neck and face.

CSP Hike Photo #6

Once again, we encountered many fellow hikers but only one equestrian…..although, once again we did step (pun intended) into evidence that they had passed this way before.  I particularly like this photo.  It could be a poster of a great metaphor of life.

Horses Ass

”Please Be Kind, Don’t Be What You’re Looking At”

Great hike, and a really nice rest of the day as Danny, a chef at a local resort, treated us to his famous grilled shrimp which we all enjoyed back at Dewey and Bea’s place.  Afterwards we looked at old family photos and told old family stories…..some of them for the tenth or eleventh time. Kit and I have had a busy couple of days, but we did take time to sit about and relax.

Bill and Kit Relaxing at CSP

With daytime temperatures near 80 degrees, our campsite was bathed in glorious sunshine and the white puffy clouds that occasionally rolled in from the west just added to the sense of peacefulness.

CSP Campsite Pix #3

A truly great place to camp, relax and play! On one of my frequent walks about, I met an interesting fellow camped across the park.  David is my age, a retired cabinetmaker and has a small retirement business making old fashioned “teardrop” trailers.

Davids Homemade Trailer

His advertising consists of going camping…..in the two days he was here he showed his product to at least a dozen folks and received one order.  Not bad I’d say! And just to let everyone know that some of the lesser appreciated holiday celebrations are thriving in Arizona…..below is a grand lighted display near Dewey and Bea’s home that celebrates Festivus!

Festivus

Frank Costanza would be very pleased indeed! The beginning and the end of the day in the desert southwest can be spectacular.  I’m not sure what I like better, the desert sunrises….

CSP Sunrise #1

…..or the desert sunsets

AZ Sunset

Actually, I think I like them both as well as all the hours in-between…..just love spending winter in the southwest! Fortunately, we were able to spend a portion of each day with my mom at her very nice adult care home.  For the most part she is holding her own and seems to perk right up when we stop by.

Mom, 12-17-13

She doesn’t talk much, which must be hard on her because mom was the most outgoing and social person I knew.  However her infectious smile and the twinkle in her eye, is still evident.  Love you mom…..see you again real soon! Great stay in the Tucson area, but tomorrow we head north toward Las Vegas and our youngest grandchildren…..stay tuned. Kit’s Corner:  It’s always great to see Miriam, and the rest of our Arizona family.  We enjoyed staying at Catalina State Park this time through, we had always wondered about how it would work for us…  Oro Valley continues to be developed with new homes, schools and shopping areas, so having this beautiful state park right in the middle of it is a true gem in the Tucson area.

Bill and Kit’s 2014 Excellent Adventure, Journal #2

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told to.

Alan Keightley

 

Sunday, December 8 and Monday, December 9 2013-Pensacola, Florida:  Well we are a bit surprised but very happy to once again be in Florida.  Surprised because our intended route to the west this year had a more northerly track and happy because we like Florida (read, we like being warm) and as Maine residents, we have an obligation to visit Florida during the winter months.  Actually I think it’s a Maine State Law.

In addition, we are finally enjoying some warm, albeit damp, weather…..the temperature is in the 70’s and the humidity is hovering near 100%.  Well, unless it’s actually raining, then it is a bit drier.  Virtually everything is dripping wet…..it feels like living in a sauna!  However it also feels pretty darn good after a month or so of frigid temperatures.  The below mist shrouded image is our back yard, which I’ll explain later.

BANRF Pix #7

The name Pensacola comes from the early Native Peoples and means “Village of the Hairy People” which is what they called the early Spanish settlers.  With a population of just over 50,000 folks, Pensacola is the westernmost city in the state of Florida and a major seaport as well as the location of the nation’s first Naval Air Station and the home of the famed Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Team.

The Pensacola area actually has two military campgrounds.  One we’ve stayed at before and is known as Oak Grove Park which is on the Naval Air Station itself and fronts the Gulf of Mexico.  The other is Blue Angel Navy Recreation Facility which is situated more inland on Perdido Bay……this is the one we decided to try this trip.

As usual, I took a walk about the grounds (Kit calls it “Scout and Patrol”) and discovered this Navy recreation facility is built on the old Pensacola Navy Seaplane Base, which explains the large expanse of concrete and large ramps leading into the water.

Pensacola Seaplane Base

The campground we were in was nestled in the treed areas at the lower right of the above photo.

In addition to the campgrounds there are many athletic fields, picnic areas, and a marina with boat rental, a café, disc golf, paintball fields and nature trails.  The campground was very well laid out with modern laundry and restroom facilities.  We selected a site nearest the bay but separated from water by the seaplane tarmac.

BANRF Pix #1a

There is also an older, more rustic campground to the north with limited services but in a very nice stand of trees.  It is also less expensive to stay the night.

The seaplane ramps are now deteriorating and the thousands of iron tie-downs are rusting away.

BANRF Pix #5

There are so many cracks in the concrete they have sprouted weeds…..the effect looks like a piece of mosaic art:

BANRF Pix #1

Well, enough goofing around…..one of my first orders of business was to replace the malfunctioning water heater element.  Note in the photo below what a heating element looks like when energized while not being immersed in water.

Water Heater Element

I should hang this up somewhere to remind me to never do that again!

Once that repair was made and since I already had the tools out and was in the fixing mood, I attended to a few other items as well as cleaned and re-greased the hitch components.  I also cleaned and re-soaped the friction sway control mechanism.  Everything should now be ready for our push west.

While I was doing all this, Kit was over doing laundry.  During the spin cycle she was out walking about and trying to pick up sailors.  Well she ended up flirting with a guy who had served on one of my ships, The USS Robert H. McCard (DD-822).

Danny and I, DD-822

Danny was a Boatswains Mate who served for thirty years on active duty before retiring from Commander Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (SURFPAC) as the Command Master Chief.  Lots of sea stories and good times ensued.  We exchanged contact information and hope to re-connect again soon.

Being a retiree, I have a lot of time to poke around and be amused by what I observe.  A case in point was these pilings out in Perdido Bay, apparently a prime roosting spots for seagulls.

BANRF Pix #3

Evidently a hierarchal system of pole sitting existed as when one of the larger birds in the flock flew into the area it would displace a lower ranked bird which would then displace its subordinate and that bird would do the same, and so on and so on.  The poor guy at the bottom of the totem pole (pun intended) would when have to just fly around aimlessly.  A real metaphor for life, I would say!

The next amusing thing I came across was at the marina.  The rental sailboats had their nautical terms labeled on the boats…..at a Navy facility!

BANRF Pix #2

I appreciate that this is an aviation facility but what’s my Navy coming too?!?!

Since Cleon forced us this far south we decided to make the best of it.  After all, if life gives you lemons find someone that received Gin and have a party!  So when the sun peaked through we decided to explore the area.  We meandered our way through the countryside and headed out to Perdido Key, known locally as “The Redneck Riviera”.

Pensacola Road

Perdido Key is a barrier island that straddles the Florida and Alabama line and is separated from the mainland by the Gulf Intercostal Waterway.  The 16 mile key is very narrow, only a few hundred yards wide in most places and populated by vacation homes and the typical seashore tourist businesses.

Perdido Key Road

Many of the cottages are painted unique pastel colors which Kit called “Ice Cream” colors.

Ice Cream Cottages

The beach sand was pure white and soft…….known locally as “Sugar Sand”.

Perdido Key Beach

Nearing lunch time, we started looking for a nice local spot to eat.  Stopping at the visitor’s center I asked the hostess where her favorite non-touristy spot was.  After a bit of prodding she directed us to Doc’s Seafood, the island folk’s favorite seafood dive.

Doc's Seafood

The food was inexpensive, plentiful and incredibly delicious…..I had fried Oysters and Kit enjoyed fried Saia.

Doc's Fried Oysters

After lunch we continued to tour the area and happened upon this sad sight.

Telephone Pole Crop

You are looking at the last remaining old growth Native Pole (Vestibulum Polum) Forest.  Many of these majestic species have been harvested to extension and this last stand is now protected by the Perdido Key Forestry Commission.

Well, the sun sets in the west on another nice stay in the Pensacola area.

BANRF Pix #6

Tomorrow we start traveling in that direction!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013:  Up and on the road at 0745 under rainy and cool temperatures…..the remnants of Winter Storm Cleon I’m guessing.

We meandered through the back country of western Florida until we came to US-59 which took us into Alabama and right past Johnny’s RV Emporium…..the place where our friends Vince and Candy fell prey to the upgrade disease earlier this year and traded in their camper for a much larger and nicer rig.  Kit wanted to stop but I didn’t want to chance it so on we rolled.  As a consolation we did stop at a Camping World a few miles away.  Still trying to come to terms on a couple of folding camp chairs…..nothing here struck our fancy however.

At 0948 we intersected I-10 and headed west passing through Mobile, Alabama before crossing the Mississippi state line at 1035.  Normally at this point in our past travels we would drop down to US-90 and slide through all the unique coastal towns.  However this trip we have a goal to reach Las Vegas the week before Christmas so we stayed on the more efficient and far more boring interstate.

At 1050 we pulled into a rest area and enjoyed lunch in the camper.  Back on I-10 we crossed into Louisiana at 1228 and an hour later came to I-12 which we took around the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain to Covington and our dear friends Johnny and Eileen.  We had a very nice visit with them and two of their three grandchildren, Shelby and Gracen.

Laurencis Pix #2

The “50” symbolizes the 50th wedding anniversary that they are celebrating.  Their goal is to take many milestone photos to document the year, each containing the “50”.  As a point of reference, Kit and I have known these folks for all but about two weeks of our 48 year married life.  They are truly our oldest Navy friends.

As is custom, we went out to dinner at one of their many favorite restaurants.  Some of the best meals we have had in this side of the US have been with Johnny and Eileen and today was no exception.  This trip they brought us to Fazzio’s, a Cajun-Italian place famous on the north shore.

Fazzio's Pix #1

We all had excellent meals and I enjoyed an interesting dish…..Fettuccine Alfredo with Sauteed Crawfish.

Fazzio's Pix #2

It was incredible…..even if it contained what I used to use for bait while Bass fishing.

We were able to dooryard surf in their nice large circular driveway and said our goodbyes late that night as we wanted to get on the road at first light.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013:  Up early and on the road by 0700.  It is cold at 34 degrees and cloudy.  We made our way back to I-12 and continued west crossing the Mississippi River at 0821…..we are officially west, but still have 1,340 miles to reach our next major destination of Tucson, Arizona.

Since we skipped out before breakfast we pulled into a Cracker Barrel for a hearty meal in the town of Yum, Louisiana.

Back on the go, we crossed into Texas at 1226, and after a long day pulled into Columbus RV Park in Columbus Texas at 1607…..only 1001 miles to go before rolling into Tucson!

Columbus, TX RV Park

Well, tomorrow we once again hit the road and continue our “Speed Run” toward the west and a much anticipated visit with my mom and our Tucson families…..stay tuned!

Kit’s Corner:  Best part of this leg of the trip was visiting with Johnny, Eileen, Shelby and Gracen!  We were disappointed we didn’t get to see their sister, Kaitlyn, however, she is off to college now.  Maybe next time we will catch her.  Not so sure about these Speed Run’s; our friends Frank & Pat are quite fond of them but somehow, we have a hard time keeping up the momentum.  We were able to do it when we were in our 20’s but it’s much harder now that we’re in our 60’s, even though “60 is the new 40”.

Bill and Kit’s 2014 Excellent Adventure, Journal #1

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

Latitude: Wherever ••• Longitude: Who Cares

  Bill and Kit’s 2014 Excellent Adventure, Journal #1

He who is outside his door already has the hardest part of his journey behind him.

Dutch Proverb

Wednesday, December 4, 2013:  Okay, first a note of clarification, actually its Bill and Kit’s 2013 and 11/12 to 2014 and 5/12 Excellent Adventure…..hope that clears everything up?

Underway at 0400 hours for our sixth consecutive winter RV trip to parts warm and southwest.

It is 27 degrees and the relative humidity is 83%, which means Frozen Fog…..the driveway is an ice skating rink and the road by our home is only slightly better.

0400, December 4th

Decided to carefully pick our way through the neighborhood and test the waters (pun intended) on the Interstate.  Fortunately the proceeding long haul truck traffic had rendered the turnpike surface in much better shape then the secondary roads.  So off we tentatively meander to the south.

So why are we heading out a month early?  Well, funny you should ask…..we decided to spend Christmas with our two youngest grandchildren out in Las Vegas.  Jack, an African American is a Black Jack Dealer (what else?) at the MGM Grand Casino and Tucker works as a Bouncer at Club Hoop-d-Do.  We are certainly looking forward to an interesting and fun filled holiday season!

OK, that stuff above is BS…..Tuck is six and Jack just turned nine and they’re both Caucasian.  Still looking forward to a grand old time, however!

Within the hour we made our customary safety pit stop at the Kennebunk rest area.  I checked all eight wheels as well as the hitch and all ancillary equipment.  Everything checked out, so on the road once again we continued south and crossed into the state of New Hampshire at 0605.  From there we chose the tried and true transit through Massachusetts, Connecticut and on into New York before crossing the Hudson River on the Hamilton Fish Newburgh-Beacon Bridge.  Lucy (the GPS) wanted to guide us further south and across the Tappan Zee Bridge, but that led us too close to “The City” for my comfort.

At 1222 we crossed the border into Pennsylvania and an hour later pulled off in Hawley, PA for lunch.  Bypassing the usual fast food joints we choose Ellen’s Deli and enjoyed some delicious freshly made sandwiches and casual banter with the owner.

Around 1400 we merged on to I-81, which would be our path for the next few days.  The temperatures had risen to 57 degrees and we seriously considered trying to camp, which would be a first on day one of any of our previous Excellent Adventures.  However not wanting to flush the antifreeze from the camper this soon, we settled on staying at our favorite Fairfield Inn just south of Carlisle, PA.

Camping the First Night

We should have arrived at the hotel around 1630, however some kind of major traffic tangle caused us to exit 8 miles early and take the scenic route through downtown Carlisle which added 45 minutes to our trip.

Oh, in case you’re wondering, we still have the same old truck with 91,000 miles and same old camper with 62,000 miles.  Kit would like a newer, larger and plusher rig however I’m still in the process of researching our next RV move.  Can’t just rush into these things you know!  I did treat the old girl to a new set of tires.  The camper, not Kit……she’s still rolling on her old 35’s.

Thursday, December 5, 2013:  On the road at 0840 hours following a restful sleep and a hearty continental breakfast.  We are back on I-80 heading south under cloudy skies and a temperature of 51 degrees.  Within an hour we crossed the Mason-Dixon Line and entered the Redneck state of Maryland.  Ten minutes later we crossed over into West Virginia and an additional 20 minutes saw us pop into Virginia.  It never ceases to amaze me that one can notch off so many states in such a short amount of time…..out west we take days to navigate through one state.

I-81 is a heavy long haul truck corridor and for the most part the truckers are very courteous to us slow RV drivers.  As mentioned in the past, we feel far more comfortable sharing the interstate with professional truckers than commuters hell bent on getting somewhere while texting merrily away.

On this year’s trip we were passed by dozens of electric utility service repair trucks heading south…..many towing trailers full of transformers and utility poles.  Represented were utility trucks from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Virginia and other states.  We’re assuming they were preemptively been positioned close to the projected track of Winter Storm Cleon…..a real bad actor that will impact our travels in a day or so.

It’s been a long day and the sun is setting gently in the west.  I wonder if the folks in that aluminum tube represented by the contrail in the photo below realize how much they miss by not taking the slow lane as RV’rs do?

Sunset Pointy Road in Pennsylvania

At 1630 we decided to stop for an early dinner at that famous southern restaurant, Cracker Barrel.  Most of this particular chain of stores features long parking spots that accommodate the traveling RV public and so it’s a nice place to pull into for a meal……or even stay the night.  Back on the road at 1730 we crossed into Tennessee a half hour later and, since the temperature had climbed to 70 degrees, decided to re-commission the trailer and camp.  We pulled into the Rocky Top RV Park in Blountville, Tennessee, a place we have enjoyed in the past.

Rocky Top Campground

Putting the camper back into commission is a relatively simple process.  Drain the antifreeze, flush the lines with fresh water and check out all the systems.  Well, even though I’ve done this task dozens of times, on this occasion I made a bozo mistake that got me in a bit of hot water (pun intended).  Last fall, during the winterizing process I bypassed the water heater so as not to waste expensive antifreeze filling a six gallon tank.  So the electrical heating element is pretty much suspended in air.  Experienced RV’rs know where this is headed…..well, not a problem unless some dufus connects the shore power electrical cord with the water heater electrical switch on.  Fortunately our water heater has two modes, electric and propane…..otherwise Kit would be taking cold showers, which would not be a pleasant outcome for poor old dufus.

Friday, December 6, 2013:  Woke to drizzly weather, the onset of Winter Storm Cleon, and to temperatures in the upper 40’s.  We had a very comfortable and restful first night in the camper however.

Getting on the internet to check e-mail and the weather we observed this startling graphic.

US Temperature's 12-06-13

Winter storm Cleon is making a mess of our intended path to the sunny southwest, which, as you can see, isn’t very sunny.  We might just have to head for the yellow portion of the country instead.

At 0915 hours we were rolling out of the campground and making our way back out to I-81.  Now it’s decision time…..either start heading more westerly to save some miles and time and possibly run into the icy teeth of Cleon, or continue to head south until it gets warmer and then head west to sneak under the belly of the winter beast?!?!  OK, that all sounded a bit melodramatic, but with a storm with the sissy name of “Cleon” and one that has been hyped to extremes to boot, I felt the need to invoke an element of danger and adventure to our decision.

Viewing this brooding sky out our truck windshield cemented our decision.

Stormy, Day 2

We decided to continue south and plotted a course for one of our favorite winter hangouts, Pensacola, Florida.  Merging onto I-40W toward Knoxville then onto I-75S toward Chattanooga, Tennessee we noticed a large RV dealership with a service and parts department.  Since I now need a water heater electrical element we decided to pull in.  As I made my way to the parts counter Kit decided to Oz around the store and look for suitable camp chairs since our five year old ones had finally worn out.  As I headed back to the retail store with my repair part in hand I came upon this sight.

Kit Hideing

Kit chose this chair for her and an old upturned milk crate for me…..welcome to my world!

Back on I-75 the rain started picking up in intensity and the wind began to pick up in velocity.  Just as we were deciding whether (or is that weather?) we should pull off the highway and seek shelter, we punched through the southern edge of the storm and within minutes the sun appeared for the first time in two days…..Yea!

At 1407 we crossed into Georgia and the Central Time Zone.  It’s nice to have that extra hour as we haven’t a clue where we will be staying tonight.  By 1500 the temperature had risen to 68 degrees and we merged onto I-59 continuing south.  Since our cupboards were suffering the Mother Hubbard thing and since Kit was suffering from a lack of Retail Therapy we probed old Lucy (the GPS…..otherwise this sentence would be just plain weird!) for the nearest Wal*Mart.  After 90 minutes of Kit shopping and an hour and a half of my walking laps around the parking lot we were once again on the road with a considerably heavier load under tow.

As we moved onto I-65 near Birmingham we began to get tired and hungry. Fortunately, we came across another one of our favorite overnight quick stops…..a Flying J Truck Stop.  This one, as most do, caters to the long haul trucker but also to the RV’ing public.  They have separate RV fuel lanes with fresh water and dump stations provided…..one can fuel the truck, fill the camper water storage tank and dump the sewer holding tanks all from the same position at the pump.  Pretty slick…..and as an added feature, with a Flying J Rewards Card you get an additional two cents off per gallon of fuel!  In addition, they welcome you to pull into one of their level and well lit RV parking spots and spend the night.

Camping Flying J, Day 3

Since we were hungry and too tired to make dinner, we treated ourselves to a meal at the next door Denny’s Restaurant before settling in for the night.  This is a very busy truck stop but we enjoyed a relaxing evening.  At some time during the night we were joined by a couple of other RV’ers as well as a truck pulling a very large stock trailer.  Don’t know what was in the trailer but the critters were moving about in their stalls and making a heck of a racket…..not enough to keep us awake for long however.

Saturday, December 7, 2013:  Up, breakfast in the trailer and back on I-65 south by 0840.  Cleon has caught back up to us and it’s cold, windy and rainy.  The iPhone weather app shows the temperature at our current location as 33 degrees…..so in order to seek some comfort that we are heading in the right direction we checked Pensacola’s weather, 65 degrees!  Then just as a point of reference we checked our next major destination of Tucson, Arizona…..33 degrees.  Yikes!  We might have to spend the winter in Florida!

Around noon we pulled off the highway for fuel and decided to have lunch as well.  In the middle of our meal we received a FaceTime call from our six year old grandson, Tucker.  It was great seeing and talking to him, his brother Jack and our youngest daughter Suzie……please do more of that guys, it was the highlight of our day!

Just a quick note concerning an interesting phenomenon; well at least to me, concerning trailer tires vis-a-vis trailer suspension and their associated support mechanisms.  Trailer tires are co-parallel to the tangent of the supporting suspension and therefore do not articulate.  With the dynamic stresses of a tight radius turn the tires disagree in alignment, such as was the case when I shoe-horned our rig into a tight parking spot at the restaurant.

Tires after a Tight Turn

This misalignment, verified using the “round earth model”, and the resultant scrubbing of vulcanized material from the tire surface may explain why we are on our third set of tires in only 63,000 miles!  Hope you’re taking notes because I don’t have a clue what I just said!

(Nor do I  :> kt)

Back rolling, on said tires, heading south while Lucy pieced together a variety of Alabama back roads that delivered us to the Florida State line at 1342 hours.  Then she cogitated a set of Florida back roads that led us to the US Navy Blue Angel Recreation Field and our stop for the night.

Setting up in a very nice spot on Perdido Bay we decided to take a couple of down days to let Cleon blow by and to take care of some trailer and truck maintenance.  Also it is time to just relax after being on the road the past four days.

Before I close Journal #1, I wanted to include a photo of this year’s wreath attached to the back of the camper.  This tradition is like the “Canary in the Mineshaft”…..when the wreath gets dry and brown its warm enough for us to winter over.

2014 Travel Wreath

Stay tuned…..might have an “Anchor Pool” where one can predict the exact date that the wreath spontaneously combusts!

Kit’s Corner:

Still campaigning for my leather recliner!  I suppose we will have to have an additional trailer to haul it with, though.  So far, everything has gone well, considering the big giant storm we’ve had to dodge.  By the time we arrived in Pensacola, it was 70 degrees and nearly 100% humidity; a huge change from our home state of Maine!  We’re adjusting, though.  Stay tuned….