Bill and Kit’s 2015 Excellent Adventure, Journal # 3

Bill and Kit's Woody and Airstream-201550th Logo

We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.

Hilaire Belloc

 

First, a comment about the note concerning Journal #1 that was contained in Journal #2.  Or, in other words…..The Rest of the Story!

My rant about the imprecise way we English speaking folk’s spel our words has elicited the following from an English Major, published author and good friend:

Hi Bill,
Just read your comments about difficulties with spelling.  We owe that conundrum to one or two guys…Caxton and Pyson. These were two pioneer English printers. The first actually. Consider that in the 1400’s English as a language was still evolving and growing.  These guys were mechanics working with the first printing presses and it fell to them to make crucial decisions about how a certain English word was to be spelled. Today we credit Caxton with bringing a degree uniformity and standardization to the spelling of English words.  Further these decisions were entirely his. There was no equivalent to the Académie française, or Webster’s to consult. So in many cases he took his best guess and his choices have never been changed.  It’s no wonder learning to speak and write English can be so maddening for foreign speakers. Back in the 1980’s PBS did a program called “The Story of English”.  I received the companion book that accompanied the series as a gift and in discussing the difficulty of mastering English it describes no less than 13 ways we have of spelling the “sh” sound.  (Shoe, sugar, issue, mansion, mission, nation, suspicion. ocean, conscious. chaperon, schist, fuchsia and pshaw).  Kind of boggles your mind when you think about it.  As you might expect, there’s a pretty good discussion about spelling reform in wiki.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English-language_spelling_reform

Fair winds, Randy

Thanks Randy…..so stick that in your Funk and Wagnall’s all you orthographist!!!

 

Thursday, December 11, 2014:  Woke early camped in the beautiful South Llano River State Park to cool, drizzly skies interspersed with generally miserably wet weather.

2014-12-13, Photo #8

Kit and I had considered staying an additional night in order to more thoroughly investigate this interesting and picturesque park located just west of San Antonio, Texas.  However considering the poor weather forecast, we decided to see what we could see, then motor on around mid-day.

Out on my morning Scout and Patrol, I noticed a tiny teardrop trailer parked at one of the Camp Host sites.   At first I thought it was just used for storage and possibly contained tools or equipment…..no one could possibly be staying in the thing!  But I was proven wrong as the tiny door opened and this tall woman stepped out.  Since it’s my belief that everyone has a story, I nonchalantly walked the camp road around to her site.  As I passed, she let out a cheery “good morning” which was my cue to intrude on her morning.

2014-12-13, Photo #11b

Laura is a retired professional woman traveling full time in the tiny trailer.  In other words, she has no sticks and bricks home!  As her story goes, a number of years ago she suffered a life changing event, quit her job, sold her house, and spent six months hiking the Appalachian Trail.  After summiting Mount Katahdin in Maine, she hitched a ride back to her native North Carolina and stayed with friends.  Not content to sit still, Laura bought a used Toyota Rav4, hooked it to that tiny RV (which was intended to be used as a motorcycle trailer) then hit the road…..that was over four years and 200,000 miles ago!

2014-12-13, Photo #10

Laura calls herself a minimalist and gets by on very few material possessions.  She travels about the country and volunteering as a substitute park ranger or campground host…..basically pulling into an area, locating a nice wilderness campground and offering to spell the regular staff in consideration of a free camp site.  An interesting lady, with a positive attitude and a zest for life……she is a real inspiration to those who think the only way one can full-time RV is with a mega-bus or monster trailer.

While Kit enjoyed some morning quiet time, I set off to further explore this beautiful area by hiking one of the paths in the parks 18 mile multi-use trail network.

2014-12-13, Photo #13

Trekking along I discovered a noticeable diversity of terrain and vegetation.  This area of the country nestled between the humid southeast and the semiarid southwest provides many examples where Mother Nature couldn’t decide if the environment was desert or prairie.

2014-12-13, Photo #14

A bit farther up the trail I stumbled upon a “bird blind”, one of four such structures placed about the park for viewing and photographing wildlife.

2014-12-13, Photo #12

The shelter featured benches and chairs in a darkened room with windows and camera ports allowing undetected observation of the various manmade features built to attract wildlife.  There is a solar powered pump that supplies fresh water to a natural looking pool and existing vegetation was utilized to provide animals with cover.  During my brief visit I noticed a number of native birds visiting the oasis, including this little fellow.

2014-12-13, Photo #16

And not to be outdone…..his brilliantly colored cousin.

2014-12-13, Photo #15a

Pretty cool, huh.  So to verify your powers of observation, did you also notice the grey Dove?  How about the Deer?  Or the Bunny?  I find that photo a great example of wildlife’s ability to blend into the environment as a defense mechanism…..well; except for the poor Cardinal……I’ve nicknamed him “Lunch”!

By 1030 Kit and I were back on the road heading west on I-10.  The sky began to clear as we put more distance between us and the easterly moving storm and by early afternoon, had transitioned from Hill Country to the flatter and drier Western Prairies.

2014-12-13, Photo #32

Later in the day, Kit and I stopped at a rest area for a lunch and some walking around time.  Shortly after we arrived, an older Class B (van-based) motorhome, with a huge train locomotive air horn affixed to the roof, sidled up next to us.  Immediately spotting a Moxie sticker in the window, and figuring there had to be a story there, I waited a considerate interval before approaching the rather interesting looking gentleman.

2014-12-13, Photo #17

When asked about the Moxie sticker, John calmly mentioned that it was in recognition of the fact that he was the owner of a Moxie Horse.  Not familiar with the breed I inquisitively replied; huh?  Seeing the quizzical expression on my face, a look that I sport often, he presented his business card.

2014-12-13, Photo #23

Yep, John does indeed own a Moxie Horse, and it’s mounted on a fully functioning automobile!  He built the unique vehicle using a 1924 Buick and it’s a replica of the originals that were commissioned by the Moxie Beverage Company.  Here’s a better shot of Johns car I grabbed off the internet.

1923-Buick-Moxie-Promotional-vehicle-John-Wissink-EDITED - Copy

For those outside of New England, Moxie is a rather bitter soft drink tasting somewhat like cough syrup mixed with turpentine which was first bottled as a nerve tonic in the late 1800’s.  The first promotional Moxie Horse Car was built in 1916 and a number of others followed.  The lone survivor, built on a 1929 LaSalle, is now on display at Clark’s Trading Post in Lincoln, New Hampshire where Kit and I viewed it some years back.  Moxie is still being bottled by a subsidiary of Coca Cola and each year, in the second week of July, the history of this soft drink is celebrated at The Moxie Festival in Lisbon, Maine…..just 12 miles from our home.

And John is indeed a Doctor of Philosophy……and a recently retired college professor.  Oh, about those train whistles?  That’s a whole other story!

Back on the road following a relaxing and thoroughly interesting visit with John, we noticed that the clouds had cleared and the brilliant blue Texas sky once again appeared.

2014-12-13, Photo #19

By late afternoon, we decided to pull into Balmorhea State Park for the evening…..a convenient location and a pleasant campground which Kit and I have enjoyed in the past.  Being sparsely populated this time of the year, we were able to select an isolated site with a great view to the East.

2014-12-13, Photo #27

Where we sat in the waning daylight and enjoyed the sun setting over the hills to the west.

2014-12-13, Photo #28

This marked the end of another day of retirement bliss!

 

Friday, December 12, 2014-Balmorhea State Park, Texas:  Kit and I decided to spend two nights in this park as we sorely (pun intended) needed a day out of the saddle and time to catch up on correspondence.  The rainy weather was now far to the East and the brilliant sunshine caused the ambient air temperature to rise with a corresponding rise in our spirits!

Balmorhea State Park was built around San Salomon Spring in the 1930’s by the CCC.  It features the world’s largest spring fed swimming pool.  The water is a constant 72 degrees due to the thermal effect of 15,000,000 gallons of clear spring water flowing through the pool each day.

Balmorhea Pool #1

Balmorhea is used extensively for recreation, swimming lessons, SCUBA instruction and, yes…..fishing!

Out on my morning walk about on this “down day”; I decided to “get down” with some hip Geocaching and I successfully located two of them.  One of which was a first for me…..an Earthcache.  This form of cache is usually placed at an unusual or historically significant location and marked only by its Latitude and Longitude, a physical cache does not actually exist.  However in order to gain credit for the find, you have to e-mail the caches owner with photo proof you were actually there.  Enjoyable find and simple to manage…..if I ever start placing geocaches, this is the type I would use.  Nothing left to mar the environment and no maintenance involved!

The Earthcache search took me down a short path to a Cienega, or wetland created by a spring, which pools and evaporates creating a Playa.  The water in a Cienega is alkaline due to the rapid evaporation which creates a natural habitat for unique desert birds and animals.

2014-12-13, Photo #24

So, how does one spot unique animals?  Why, unique up on them of course!  Sorry.  While waiting quietly for a few birds to find the only available water for miles around, I spied these two fellas sunbathing on a nearby rock.

2014-12-13, Photo #25a

I was able to snap off a few shots before they dove into the deep water surrounding the spring.  You know, I’ve always thought the turtle to be a great metaphor for an RV (stay with me here) as, like a turtle, RV’rs live in mobile shelters and lumber about, sometimes sticking their necks out to see what’s new.  (Yea, I know, I’m weird!)

A short while later on the opposite side of the campground I spotted this peculiar bird running right down the middle of the road.

2014-12-13, Photo #29

Peculiar conduct for an animal with wings…..and a very peculiar song, “Beep-beep”…..now what’s that all about?

Being such a nice day, Kit decided to spend the afternoon in the shade of the camper and enjoy some knitting, one of her favorite pastimes…..well, other than trying to fix my faults that is.

2014-12-13, Photo #26

Following cocktail hour, a nice meal and stimulating conversation…..which I participated in by utilizing my powers of stimulating hearing, it was off to snooze-land.

 

Saturday, December 13, 2014:  Woke to a hazy sunrise across the meadow to the east.

2014-12-13, Photo #22

Following a hearty breakfast, Kit and I were once again off to the west under bright blue skies and pleasant temperatures.

2014-12-13, Photo #21

Not much to see in West Texas, just miles and miles of miles and miles!

2014-12-13, Photo #31

And what does exist, we have explored during past Excellent Adventure trips.  However on the highway we occasionally come upon a few unique sights…..such as a whole string of trucks carrying these.

2014-12-13, Photo #33

In case you may not know, that truck is carrying just one 116 foot blade destined for a wind turbine!  The perspective of the photo does not adequately show the immensity of the thing!  And to think the wind farms in this part of the country contain hundreds of turbines with three of those blades each!!

Approaching the western border of Texas the country of Mexico became visible.  The community of Guadalupe, Chihuahua, Mexico can clearly be seen in the photo below.

2014-12-13, Photo #34

As Kit and I neared El Paso, which is Spanish for “pass quickly through this town”, we diverted to the north in a flanking maneuver and intersected the US Army outpost of Fort Bliss which would be our bivouac position for the next few days.

2014-12-18, Photo #3

 

Sunday, December 14 and Monday, December 15, 2014-Fort Bliss, Texas:  The RV Park affiliated with Fort Bliss is one of the nicest parks in the military complex.

2014-12-18, Photo #1

Too bad it’s close to El Paso and Juarez!  Over the years we have tried to make peace with this very large Texas Cow Town but so far, have not accomplished it, and believe me we have really tried…..oh well.  It is however a great place to layover and take care of the chores of RV life such as laundry, shopping, washing the rig, cleaning our 176 square feet of living space, working on the journal, taking care of correspondence, and lots of relaxing.

2014-12-13, Photo #36

Oh, and the community center you see in the background features a large screen TV, high speed internet and, most importantly, plenty of comfortable leather couches and recliners.

 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014:  woke early to the wind whistling outside and our little camper shaking about.  Last night, I had reconnected the truck to the trailer in anticipation of an early departure…..in doing so the wheel chocks were loosened a bit and this morning I found them a fair distance from our site.  As Kit and I debated traveling in this wind, the sun peaked over the horizon and the wind velocity abated.  We figured it was safe…..so following a quick breakfast we were on the road by 0830.

I chose to drive the Trans Mountain Road up and over Franklin Mountain which bypasses El Paso, thereby, creating a shortcut to Las Cruces, New Mexico.  This route, in addition to saving time, also allowed me to test the various towing features of our new truck in mountainous terrain.

Transmountain Drive

Setting the cruise control at 50 MPH and turning the Exhaust Brake on, I left my foot off the accelerator and brake as the trucks speed control management system took over.  The speed stayed within a 2 MPH band the entire transit…..a feat that would have been impossible with my previous truck!

Soon we spotted the town of Las Cruces where we rejoined our old friend Interstate 10.

2014-12-18, Photo #4

By 0900 Kit and I were crossing into New Mexico.  A few hours later we encountered our first Border Patrol Checkpoint and, following a few cursory questions, were waved on through.  Oh, and for the record, I don’t think our government officials should curse when asking the public questions!

And, in case you’re wondering…..Eastern New Mexico is just as desolate as West Texas, go figure!

2014-12-18, Photo #5

Kit and I have been following a few journals as we motor about.  It’s always fun to see what other folks are seeing and learn about other ways of RV’ing.  One of these journals is written about by a young couple that built a Tiny House and mounted it on wheels…..their Blog is Tiny House-Giant Journey…..check it out at:

http://tinyhousegiantjourney.com/

Another Blog we have been following is by a retired television journalist by the name of Mike Wendland…..his very informative and interesting Blog can be found at:

http://roadtreking.com/

Both of these couples travel about in smaller RV’s, which we currently do as well…..however that is about to change!

As Kit and I neared the Dragoon Mountains just east of the Tucson Valley we are getting excited to reunite with my bruzzin Dewey, his blushing bride Bea and our mutual brother, Dan.

2014-12-18, Photo #6

Most folks now know the bizarre genealogy of my Tucson family.  However if you are still confused you’re not alone…..there are days I even have a tough time keeping it all straight!

As Kit and I neared the outskirts of Tucson, we pulled off the Interstate toward Vail, Arizona in order to locate a church that my mother had frequently mentioned as one of her all-time favorites.  She and her last husband, Dean would drive the 35 miles on Sundays to attend mass with the locals at this chapel.

2014-12-18, Photo #13

Saint Rita’s of the Desert is a small parish primarily made up of folks of Mexican or Indian descent.  The quaint interior is tranquil and with the setting sun piercing the stained glass windows, also very beautiful.

2014-12-18, Photo #8

The church is primarily constructed of wood and adobe, and the Stations of the Cross that line the walls are rendered in Mexican Tile.

2014-12-18, Photo #11

Kit and I spent a few minutes in the quiet church feeling content, at peace and close to mom…..it is no wonder that she and Dean truly loved this church.  Before leaving, we lit two Votive Candles in their memory and watched as the smoke carried our prayers heavenward.

2014-12-18, Photo #10

Within the hour Kit and I were back on I-10…..and 45 minutes later we were pulling into Dewey and Bea’s ample driveway and our camp spot for the next couple of days.

2014-12-18, Photo #14

Stay tuned!

 

Kit’s Bit’s:  Our latest trek from Texas to Arizona was relaxing and uneventful.  I love stopping at Balmorhea State Park, it’s so peaceful there.  Also enjoyed South Llano State Park but it was so isolated that we had no internet access which makes me nuts.  The weather was “iffy”; Bill only likes warm sunny days, so we moved on.  For the record, I actually enjoy cloudy, even rainy days.  Gives me a chance to catch up on things, sometimes even take a nap!

Disclaimer:  I claim no responsibility for the first sentence of this Journal.  I can’t understand it and certainly can’t correct it.  LOL

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Bill and Kit’s 2015 Excellent Adventure-Special Edition #1

 

The Big Rig

50th Logo

The Legend of the Expanding RV

 (Or, how I sank back into debt after many years of carefree living)

 If I don’t get a bigger trailer to travel in, you’re going be some sorry!

Kit Tucker

It was a dark and stormy night outside a small cape on the rugged but beautiful coast of Maine.  As smoke curled from the decaying chimney, ice crystals formed on the poorly insulated windows of the quaint weatherworn cottage.  The phone rang; brinnng, brinnng…..it rang out with the urgency that can only spell trouble for two innocent citizens in the tiny village of Crabapple Cove.  But alas, half of the couple was a very poor spelr and did not immediately grasp the severity of this jarring intrusion.  The clattering instrument shattered all peaceful reverie for the innocent folks snuggled in recliners by a roaring fireplace while squinting at the glowing screen of their iPad’s.  Their quizzical faces adorned with the seasonal barroom pallor so common in New England this time of the year, Kit and Bill yelled out in unison as a couple joined for half a century can only do; “Don’t answer it”!  But alas, the intruder had left a message…..was it important?  Had someone been trying to contact us about a long lost fortune?  Did we owe someone money?  Was it an old friend trying to reconnect?  Was it that relative we don’t like but tolerate for family harmony?  Curiosity, having already done in the feline, was looming over our innocent couple as stink looms over a canine deposit.

“The area code shows that the call is from California”, bellowed Kit.  To which Bill meekly replied, “If it ain’t Ed McMahon…..don’t call back”.  Throwing caution to the arctic winds that ripped any residual fall warmth from their quaint New England village, Kit sat in contemplative repose as she listened to the dismembered voice worming into her ear.  Bill, becoming increasingly agitated, noticed a smile slowing forming from the corners of her mouth…..a sight he had not visualized in many a year.  It’s that RV salesman from California; you know that one that you thought wasn’t as big a bozo as the other half dozen we visited earlier this year?  Already regretting what he was about to say, Bill tentatively replied “huh”.  The next few seconds would change his simple and uncomplicated life forever as Kit hit re-dial and after a few moments excitedly exclaimed…..yes, yes, yes…..we’ll take it!!!!

This my friends is where the Legend of the Expanding RV was born and, a graphic example of how it is indeed possible to “get the cart before the horse”.  You see, the lovely Kit had just committed to the purchase of her dream RV, which will be played in this mellow (pun intended) drama by the up-and-coming cart.  While homely old Bill suddenly realized that this meant they required a new tow vehicle, being played by the supremely talented horse.  So, a few days later, while Kit and her BFF were off playing in the city of Big Apples, Bill went a shopping for a new Tow Vehicle (horse) that would be capable of hauling their new RV (cart).  And, (queue trumpets) TaTa…..here she (or insert gender or sexual identity of your preference…..however, what part of TaTa did you not understand?) is!

Bill and Kit's New Truck

Well, if you haven’t stopped reading yet, and you’re not a motor-head, this might be a great time to visit the Concession Stand as there’s a bunch of truck-speak coming down the road (no pun intended).

 

Bill and Kit’s “New” Excellent Adventure Escape Vehicle is a:

2015 Chevrolet Silverado 3500

Crew Cab with Standard Pick-up Bed

Silver Ice Metallic, Chrome Aluminum Wheels

4×4, SLT, ZR1, Snow Plow Prep Package

Factory Spray-in Bed Liner

Heavy Duty Trailering Package

Duramax 6.6 Liter Turbo Diesel with Exhaust Brake

397 Horsepower and 765 Pound/Feet of Torque

Allison 1000 Six Speed Transmission with Tow Mode

Remote Starter

Hill-holder Control

36 Gallon Fuel Tank

Four Wheel Disc Brakes

Integrated Trailer Brake and Sway Control

17,000 Pound Tow Capability

220 Amp Alternator, Dual Batteries

6 Inch Chrome Assist Steps

Projector Headlights, LED tail and Clearance Lamps

Electric Camper Mirrors with spotting lamps

Black Leather interior, six way adjustable heated seats

Drivers Information Panel in Dash

GPS, MiFi, OnStar, Sirius XM, MyLink, Bose Audio System

USB Ports, SD Slots, 12 Volt DC and 110 Volt AC Power Outlets

Rear Vision Camera, Front and Rear Parking Assist

 

So, what’s the skinny on that new RV?  Stay Tuned…….

Bill

 

 

Bill and Kit’s 2015 Excellent Adventure, Journal # 2

Bill and Kit's Woody and Airstream-2015 50th Logo

The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land

K.Chesterton

First a note about Journal #1.  On the day it was posted our website garnered over 160 hit’s…..an all-time daily record!  And the many positive comments addressing our first offering of the trip were overwhelming…..thank you all, we really enjoy reading the comments and they will remain a permanent part of the website.  Also, most of you know this but, all I do is take the photos and hammer out the words and thoughts…..the fact that you can read and understand what I’ve written is credited to the editor, proofreader and wordsmith, Kit.  I tend to spell phonetically partly because I’m a terrible spelr and partially because I have this fundamental belief that someone, many years ago, decided the way words should be spelled and ever since we have blindly followed this small group’s decision…..what made them right?  Who anointed Johnson, Webster, Funk or Wagnall the supreme arbitrator of all things spelling?  So, I have written Thu Eenglish Dikshinaire Ukordeng tue Bil…..soon available for purchase on Amazon!  We now resume Bill and Kit’s Excellent Adventure already in progress.

 

Saturday, December 6 through Sunday, December 7, 2015-Pensacola, Florida:  We need a few days off the road to reload, rejuvenate, recreate, replenish and rewarm…..and what better spot then on the shores of Pensacola Bay?!

2014-12-10, Photo #32

On the first morning of our stay we woke to an absolutely gorgeous sunrise which the following photo does not do justice to.

12-06-14, Photo 2-3

After a hearty breakfast, we spent the day walking on the beach…..

2014-12-10, Photo #28

…..and taking care of other pursuits of the moment, such as basically goofing off.

By afternoon, Kit was busy with Christmas Cards while I continued to rattle about our tiny camper.  Getting a bit exasperated she said:  “I need some space…..with you not in it”!  So, being the sensitive guy that I am and able to read a woman’s mind, I gathered up a few of my kites and hastily departed the premises.

About a half mile down the beach lays a large open area, remote enough to safely fly these high performance, and very fast kites.  After testing the winds with my old faithful 1.5 meter ram-air traction kite I broke out one of the smaller deltas.

2014-12-10, Photo #29

If the kite above looks different than any of my previous half dozen, it is!  We are on our seventh Excellent Adventure trip and this is my seventh kite…..just like the symmetry of a new kite for every new trip.  All the kites are different, for different wind conditions and they display different performance characteristics.  Never thought kite flying would become so high tech…..most of these things are incredibly light and strong being constructed of carbon fiber spars and state of the art fabrics.  Most of the kites are dual line controlled, but I have two quad line kites as well.  I tried to capture some video of my spastic kite maneuvering skills but this kite is fast, and I had to keep it in the camera view which was low to the ground…..at one point I was playing an impromptu game of Lawn Darts with the thing.  Anyway, here is a short video of the kite in action:

http://youtu.be/e87fv3ffVts

If interested in seeing what an accomplished kite pilot can do check out this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pe2PddwZJAI

Not sure how he controls that middle kite….maybe I don’t want to know!

And, my personal favorite kite video is at this URL:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pe2PddwZJAI

Great control of a quad line kite and great music soundtrack as well!

Okay…..enough about one of my many irrational obsessions.

I’m always impressed at how clear the water is on Pensacola Beach and how white the sand is as well.

2014-12-10, Photo #27

Locals call the blazingly white sand “Sugar Sand”!  Just don’t sprinkle it on your morning cereal and don’t ask how I know this.

On our second day in paradise, I washed the grungy truck and trailer then made my 3rd visit of the past six years to the National Museum of Naval Aviation, just down the street from the RV Park.

2014-12-10, Photo #12

Arriving in the lobby just as a guided tour was about to get underway I quickly hopped on board…..  our guide was retired P-3/C-130 pilots by the name of Jim Veazey.

2014-12-10, Photo #22

Do any of you P-3 folks know him?  Jim was entertaining, knowledgeable and articulate, interspersing his narrative with personal flying stories.

Also in the tour group was a wheel chair bound older gentleman.  Part way through the tour he mentioned that he had been a WWII aviator, crewing B-25 Bomber’s as a Navigator/Bombadier.  His voice was weak and raspy but his grandson told the group he was very proud of his wartime service.  I so wanted to take a photo of the gentleman, but somehow it just didn’t seem right.  There are dwindling numbers of the Greatest Generation so it was a thrill to personally meet one…..especially today, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day!

The museums incredible collection of historic Navy aircraft is open year round to the general public and is well worth the time to explore.  It contains original planes form the propeller era.

2014-12-10, Photo #15

Including some unrestored WWII warbirds.

2014-12-10, Photo #18

And, early aircraft carrier based airplanes.

2014-12-10, Photo #21

There are many examples of combat aircraft sporting “nose-art”.

2014-12-10, Photo #17

And, many examples from the early jet age…

2014-12-10, Photo #14

In the main atrium there is a collection of retired jets formally flown by the famed Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Team headquartered here in Pensacola.

2014-12-10, Photo #16

In addition, there are some modern aircraft including this UAV, also known as a drone.

2014-12-10, Photo #24

Spending about four hours at the museum, I was able to see all the newer exhibits…..if this would have been my first visit I could have very easily spent the entire day.

Back at the camper, Kit and I enjoyed a glass of wine as the sun set into the western horizon…..

2014-12-10, Photo #31

…..before calling it a night, because um, well it was dark…..couldn’t very well call it a day, now could we?

 

Monday, December 8, 2014:  Breaking camp, we were on the road at 1020 under cloudy skies and moderate temperatures.  We decided to take US-90 for a bit which ferried us over Perdido Bay as we began our long trek toward the west.

Our new tow vehicle features a complimentary subscription to a variety of information and entertainment features.  One of these is Sirius XM Radio, a satellite system that transmits commercial free specialty programing.  We preselected the following channels out of the hundreds available:  50’s music, 60’s music, 70’s music, all acoustic music, and NPR.  We have thoroughly enjoyed listening to the various channels as the mood strikes us and the variety in talk and music really helps make the miles melt away.

By 1145 we were within striking distance of a Camping World store, and since we had an empty propane bottle, and since there was sure to be something in the store we couldn’t live without, we pulled into their ample parking lot.

Only took 45 minutes to lighten our wallets and we were once again on US-90 heading west.  A half hour later we intersected I-10 and soon crossed Alabama’s Mobile Bay.

2014-12-10, Photo #33

By 1323 we crossed the border into Mississippi and passed to the north of Pascagoula…..a small Mississippi town anchored by Ingalls Shipbuilding.  Ingalls is direct competitor of Bath Iron Works and an area I know all too well spending some of my post-military formative years working there.

By 1445 we were entering the state of Louisiana and moved over to I-12 in order to skirt the northern shore of Lake Pontchartrain toward the town of Covington.  At 1545 we pulled off the interstate and made our way to the home of our oldest military friends, Johnny and Eileen, and our layover for the evening.

2014-12-10, Photo #4

Their hospitality and friendship, as well as their accommodating circular driveway, make our stays here nearly perfect.

Following greetings and time to catch up on the doings of our respective families, we all headed out to one of Southern Louisiana’s premier eating establishments…..Lake Pontchartrain Po-Boy’s.  This long established local favorite is by all accounts, and by personal experience, the best fried seafood place in the state!  Of all the other great restaurant’s that Johnny and Eileen have introduced us to, Lake Pontchartrain Po-Boy is the one I long to return to in order to inhale their signature Fried Oyster Plate.

2014-12-10, Photo #2

Being more prudent, Johnny and Eileen shared the Catfish and Shrimp Plate and Kit stuck with the Catfish, which I sampled; it was incredible as well!

2014-12-10, Photo #1

One wall of the rather large restaurant was adorned with a mural of the long ago dismantled Pontchartrain Beach Amusement Park.

2014-12-10, Photo #3

This brought many stories from Johnny and Eileen about growing up in New Orleans and spending warm summer nights at the lakeside park.

Back at their home, we continued to enjoy their company and shared many stories of our early days as neighbors in Key West.  As always, what a great visit…..thanks guys!

 

Thursday, December 9, 2014:  On the road early, 0730…..hope I don’t wake Kit as she slumbers peacefully back in the camper!  Just kidding, she’s bright eyed and, well…..you know.

About 3 minutes later we came to a screeching halt when we noticed the sign for Café du Monde.  A bag of warm Beignet’s and two large cups of Chicory Coffee and we were set for the day’s travels!  Jumped back on I-12 until we rejoined I-10 at 0915 and soon crossed the Mississippi River.  This has become our personal demarcation point dividing the East from West.

Soon we were motoring through Baton Rouge, Louisiana the eastern boundary of the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area.  At 1.5 million acres, this sparsely populated region is the largest tract of swampland in the United States.  Very few roads bisect the wetland, and those that do are built atop the many levees that provide flood control.  I-10 crosses this unique environment by way of an 18 mile bridge with incredible views of the swamp and its iconic Cypress trees.

2014-12-10, Photo #6

Shortly after leaving the western edge of the Atchafalaya Basin, we passed through Lafayette Parish and continued West on I-10.

2014-12-10, Photo #7

And, at 1150 we crossed into Texas stopping at the Welcome Station for a lunch and walking around break.

2014-12-10, Photo #35

Behind the Texas Visitors Center was an elevated walkway that took one over the surrounding wetlands of Blue Elbow Swamp.

2014-12-10, Photo #8

Back on I-10, we trundled on West for another four hours before moseying into the River Bend RV Park and Horse Race Track in Luling, Texas.  Upon checking in the proprietors ponied (pun intended) up an excellent discount for the night.

2014-12-13, Photo #1

Yep, half the property is devoted to exercising and training thoroughbred race horses.

2014-12-13, Photo #2

That’s a first for us there, pardoners!

 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014:  Last night we contacted some old Maine friends who had transitioned to fulltime RV’ing and are currently in southern Texas.  Rey and Darlene were only 30 miles away in the small town of San Marcos and graciously agreed to meet us at a nearby Cracker Barrel as we rolled through.

2014-12-13, Photo #3

After parking their truck in front of ours to prevent anyone from blocking us in, we enjoyed a nice parking lot reunion.  Then, following two hours of great food and even greater company we had to part ways as we needed to get moving on and they had a luncheon engagement.

Kit and I decided to stick to the back roads as we plodded on toward the west.

2014-12-13, Photo #6

The weather was moderate but cloudy as we travelled through the towns of Wimberley, Johnson City, Fredericksburg, The Wal*Mart Nation, and into Junction, Texas where we found our way to South Llano River State Park for the evening.  Since Kit’s sister Char and brother-in-law Don used to live in this part of Texas, we have extensively explored the area over the past six years so didn’t take the time to stop this year.  However it is our opinion, that this part of Texas, known as The Hill Country, is the best of the state and deserves thorough exploration to fully enjoy all that it has to offer.

Also, since we used to dooryard surf in Char and Don’s driveway, we never took the time to stay at any of the areas State Park campgrounds…..until today!

Checking in at the office, the park ranger gave us directions to our campsite.  Traveling down the camp road we soon came to this sign!

2014-12-13, Photo #9

What the ………….?  Stay tuned!

 

Kit’s Bit’s:  As always, it’s wonderful to catch up with Johnny & Eileen.  We both have very busy and hectic lives so rarely get to visit, just the four of us, except on these layovers each year.  We missed seeing Gracen and Shelby this year but were able to see Kaitlyn for a bit.  These girls are their beautiful Grand Daughters, with whom they are very involved with on a daily basis.  It was also great to see Rey & Darlene again.  We never seem to run out of things to talk about.  Hopefully, we will see them again next summer, in Maine.  Stopping to see the sights across the US is great!  However, for my two cents worth, stopping to see friends and family is the very best part of our trips!  We have very special bonds with each and every friend and family member we are able to see.

Bill and Kit’s 2015 Excellent Adventure, Journal # 1

Bill and Kit's Woody and Airstream-2015

50th Logo

 

See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.  Ask for no guarantees, ask for no security.

Ray Bradbury

 

Monday, December 1, 2014:  Well, we are once again up at zero-dark-hundred-hours for our annual seeking of temperate weather and interesting sights.  This being the seventh consecutive winter escape and one which will be anchored (like the nautical term?) by our 50th Wedding Anniversary in 2015!

So, what does zero-dark-hundred-hours look like?  Well…..kinda like this:

2014-12-06, Photo #1

And what is all that white stuff on the ground?  Well…..it’s the remnants of our Thanksgiving Eve Nor’easter which dumped a foot of snow on Coastal Maine knocking out power for a number of our town’s hapless residents.  Being a resourceful bunch, Mainers without power cooked their holiday meal on barbeques, or just made do with pumpkin pie and wine while preserving their thawing turkey in a backyard snowbank…..or what I would call:  “Giving Mother Nature the Bird”!

You may have noticed the new photo on the website’s homepage.  For the past six years we’ve enjoyed using the photo collage in that honored spot that our creative son-in-law Kevin developed for us, however this year I’ve decided to mix it up a bit so the image will likely change from time to time as the mood strikes me.

So, what’s the significance of the current homepage header photo?  (You know, you guys sure ask a lot of questions!)  Well…..when we last left our intrepid (or is the word inept?) couple they were “discussing” getting a new RV.  Now, it is no great secret that Kit has been longing for a new traveling rig, actually maybe even a new traveling partner as well?!?!  That particular photo reflects the size of rig that Kit would like to live in for the winter.  My desired winter abode leans more toward the nylon and aluminum pole variety.  There’s change in the wind folks…..more on that later.

So, as a way of reintroduction, our inept (or is the word intrepid?) duo consists of Bill…..the brawn of the operation and the long suffering husband of Kit.

2014-12-06, Photo #6

And, the aforementioned Kit, the brains and beauty of the Excellent Adventure Team and the long suffering wife of the aforementioned Bill.  In addition, Kit is the primary navigator, scribe, road princess, CEO, COO, CFO, CIO, EIEIO, and most importantly…..Bill’s personal Life Coach.

2014-12-06, Photo #5

Kit frequently participates in “crew rest” in order to be alert to tackle the challenges of the day which primarily consists of telling Bill how to behave, where to go and what to do.  Notice the neck pillow Kit is sporting?  I refer to that as a “fun spoiler”.  In the past I would derive great pleasure by motoring down the road while Kit is in an aforementioned “crew rest” period and gently wiggling the steering wheel to watch Kit’s head move side to side.  Or gently tapping the brake and watch her head bob fore and aft.  Or with considerable skill I can manipulate both steering and braking and get her head to rotate clockwise.  Didn’t master the counterclockwise rotation because, well…..I got busted!  It was during one of my attempts to learn this very difficult aforementioned maneuver that Kit woke up, yelled at me, and purchased a neck pillow at the next truck stop.

Until last year, Kit and I would head out on our annual Excellent Adventure escapes in early January, following Christmas with our Maine family.  However starting with the 2014 trip we decided, with the urging of our Maine based children and grandchildren, to combine Thanksgiving and Christmas into one large family celebration, which has become known as Thanksmas.  Below is a photo of our Maine family taken two weeks ago at this year’s Thanksmas gathering.

Thanksmas Family Photo-2014

And our Grand-dog Mosey who is a bit camera shy, unless you have food as a bribery tool.

Thanksmas-2014, MOSEY

Did you notice the heart shaped patch of fur on her left ear in addition to the holiday scarf and expertly applied lipstick she sported for the occasion…..Mosey is one stylin’ canine!

Pulling out of Brunswick, we traveled the traditional Blue Hair Migration Route, passing through the states of Confusion, then Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and on into Pennsylvania before calling it a day.  Our progress driving south this year was slowed by the factory recommended break-in scheme for our new tow vehicle (more on that later, as well).  So rather than the first night being further south we only made it as far as Hazelton, PA before settling into a really nice Fairfield Inn which featured ample parking.

2014-12-06, Photo #3

There was also an excellent eating establishment within walking distance where Kit and I enjoyed a very nice meal.  Damon’s Grill is a small regional chain of casual tavern style restaurants known for their signature ribs and gourmet potato chips.  Kit ordered the meatloaf stack and I enjoyed one of the better burgers I’ve had in some time, complete with those aforementioned in-house made chips forgoing the aforementioned Home Style Ribs (OK, OK…..I’ll stop using that aforementioned and highly overused adjective).

2014-12-06, Photo #2

The food was incredible; as was the service…..this could be my new favorite casual restaurant if they ever expand into New England!

Back in our room, there was e-mail to attend to followed by an early evening, ZzZzZzZzZz.

 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014:  Up and following a hearty continental breakfast Kit and I were on the road at 0717, under cloudy skies and a temperature of 24 degrees.  Back on I-81 South, we soon hit 1,000 miles on the trucks odometer, and all break-in period speed restrictions were now satisfied.  We decided on an earlier than normal departure due to the days forecast for rain, sleet and snow developing mid-day.

Two and a half hours later it began to snow but nothing was sticking to the roadway so we motored on.  Using the trucks onboard communication system we placed a call to our #4 grandchild, Jack, to wish him a Happy 10th Birthday!

Our new truck features a weather app in the onboard computer which alerts the occupants of any hazardous weather conditions that might impact driving.  As the temperatures neared freezing, the snow turned to rain and freezing rain.  The weather app showed us traveling right along the rain/ice border.

2014-12-06, Photo #4

That little rectangle is the graphic for the truck, and as you can see, we had rain to port and ice to starboard…..yikes!

At 1040 we crossed the Potomac River and entered the state of West Virginia where the weather moderated a bit.

Earlier this week we had been notified that some dear friends of ours were making a hasty trip from their winter home in Florida to Inwood, West Virginia due to their 49 year old daughter’s hospitalization.  Sandy had been battling cancer for the past few years and recently suffered a setback.  Her parents, Pat and Sterlin were to be in town around the same time we would be rolling through so we decided to stop by the hospital to offer them some moral support.  Little did we know that we would be with them during one of the most personal and emotional events of their lives.

Within an hour of our arrival, Sandy lost her courageous battle and peacefully passed into the Lords hands.  Her parents, her spouse and her brother were lovingly at her side while Kit and I waited in the family lounge.

Sandy was an intelligent and creative soul and a woman with a strong religious faith.  Here is a photo of Sandy and Kit back in 2011 when they met for lunch in Tucson.

Kit and Sandy-2011

Rest in Peace, Sandy…..you made a huge impact on a lot of folks…we love you.

After many hugs and tears we decided to give the family some space and departed the hospital at 1310.

Within the hour, battling increasingly slippery roads we decided to pull into a Cracker Barrel for a late lunch and to get off the icy road for a while.  The Cracker Barrel chain is consistently rated number one in Trailer Life Magazines reader polls.  And it’s no wonder…..in addition to great food; most of the chain’s stores feature large RV parking areas (plus, neat knicky knacky stores-Kit).

Back on the road, refreshed and alert we continued south on I-81.  The rain had slowed and the temperatures continued to rise, so we felt safe continuing.  As we travelled along, we were lost in our own thoughts and simultaneously came to the realization that this had been a very emotional and tiring day.  Even though the weather was cooperative enough to allow re-commissioning the camper and camping for the night, we decided it would be prudent to stay in a motel.  At 1900, we pulled into Christiansburg, Virginia and made our way to the local Fairfield Inn for the evening.

 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014:  Woke to mostly cloudy skies with a few blue patches showing through.  At 0842 the temperature was 45 degrees as we pulled out of the motel parking lot.  Back on I-81 we moved over to I-77 an hour later and continued south through farmland and gently rolling hills soon crossing into North Carolina.  Skirting around Charlotte on I-485, we rejoined I-77 south of the city and headed toward Columbia, South Carolina.

Tonight was to be our first night of camping, and since we needed groceries, we pulled into The Wal*Mart in Rock Hill, SC for replenishment.  Back on the road at 1420, the temperature had risen to 65 degrees and the skies had cleared.  Finally, the warm weather we were seeking!

At 1507, we transitioned to I-85 and continued south stopping for the night at Ivy Acres RV Park just north of Greenville, South Carolina.

 

Thursday, December 4, 2014:  I was up before dawn and noticed a nice sunrise developing to the east.  Grabbing my camera I ventured out in the cool dawn to capture a photo.

2014-12-06, Photo #8

The morning light allowed great exposure for our obligatory “campsite photo”.

2014-12-06, Photo #7

Oh…..you may have noticed the “Excellent Adventure Christmas Wreath” adorning the rear of the camper.

2014-12-06, Photo #9

This tradition began six years ago when we took one of the wreathes from our sticks and bricks home and transferred it to our rolling home as a gesture of holiday cheer and an indicator when we have hit warm weather…..when the wreath turns brown, we are truly in a consistently warm and sunny locale.

We are on the road at 0928, under partly cloudy skies and a temperature of 54 degrees.  Back on I-85 heading toward Atlanta, we arrived at my cousin, Connie’s place in Lawrenceville, GA, just northeast of the city.  Connie is a long time cancer survivor, beating the odds against this horrible disease for the past six years.

2014-12-06, Photo #10

We only stayed for a couple of hours as Connie tires easily; however we had a great visit and really enjoyed seeing her looking so well.

Back on the road, we negotiated the congestion of Atlanta before merging onto I-185 toward Fort Benning, GA.

2014-12-06, Photo #11

At 1742 we pulled onto Fort Benning Army base and made our way to the Uchee Creek Recreation Facility on the grounds of adjacent Fort Mitchell cross the river in Alabama.

2014-12-06, Photo #13

Here, we selected a nice private campsite for the evening, under towering oak trees still clinging to most of their foliage.

 

Friday, December 5, 2014:  Woke to cloudy skies and temperatures in the 50’s.  I went out on “scout and patrol” while Kit enjoyed some quiet time in the camper.  Uchee Creek is a tributary off the Chattahoochee River that bisects this area of Georgia and Alabama.

It is a military recreation park for the soldiers of nearby Fort Benning and as such has all the amenities and natural features that would be expected of a riverside campground.

2014-12-06, Photo #14

Including a large fleet of watercraft for rent…

2014-12-06, Photo #15

As I was poking about, I decided to do a bit of Geocaching and was able to locate a very clever cache hidden amongst the forest duff.

2014-12-06, Photo #16

By 1057 we were back on the road and picking our way south toward our first “layover” camping opportunity of the trip on Pensacola Naval Air Station located in the Florida panhandle.

After a few wrong turns we pulled into the campground under cover of darkness and used flashlights and a bit of braille to locate our site on the shore of Pensacola Bay.  Before turning in I noticed a near full moon with a rare halo effect encircling it.

2014-12-06, Photo #17

Inquiring of Doctor Google about the genesis of this weather phenomenon, I discovered the halo is the result of moon light reflecting off high altitude ice crystals.  The really interesting thing to me was that the sun illuminates the moon, which in turn illuminates its circle of ice crystals creating the halo…..pretty cool, huh?

And with all that thinking, my brain is tired so off to bed I go with the Halo Moon shining through the window.

 

Kit’s Bit’s:  Our deepest condolences to Sandy’s family.  She will be missed by many but I know she’s in a better place now.

As to my “new” titles, well, I had no clue!  Where the heck does he come up with all this gibberish?  It must be from his idle mind and not having something to tinker with or a manual to read.  Truth of the matter is, my short snoozes happen when he overdoes it with his constant chatter.  It seems I only noticed this chatter thing when he retired.  Don’t you guys down at Sup Ship miss this?  Do you have any part time ops for him when we return?