Bill and Kit’s 2018 Excellent Adventure, Journal #5

“This Year Marks Our 10th Winter RV Trip”

There’s only one place I want to go and it’s to all the places I’ve never been.

Nikki Rowe

 Sunday, January 21, 2018:  Arose with the morning sun as we made preparations for departure from our extended stay in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Following a nice breakfast, Kit and I were on the road by 0945 hours.  We headed north on US-95 under cloudless skies and temperatures rising from the low 60-degree mark.

Yesterday, after much discussion, and double checking the weather forecast, we decided to head Northwest into California and spend time in the Owens Valley which is located just to the east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  The shortest distance to this spot on the globe is to drive over two mountain ranges divided by Death Valley National Park.  Certainly, doable from a logistics point of view, but some idiots in our nation’s capital decided to stop paying the bills and most of the government is shut down!?!?  However, since the US Highway we will be traveling bisects the National Park it should be passable…just have to make sure we have enough fuel and supplies before venturing into Death Valley.

As we ventured further from Vegas, the terrain became more desolate.

Those yellow caution signs read “Open Range” and to amplify the point we passed over numerous cattle guards crossing the highway and spotted a fair amount of wandering cattle, but they gave us little notice…however these fellas were very curious.

I’m guessing tourists that who have passed this way before have offered these burros a handout as they stood alongside the road posing for photos.

Hated to disappoint them but don’t believe in feeding wildlife people food…makes them lazy and dependent, and therefore can be aggressive towards humans when hungry.  Burros are prevalent across the American Southwest being brought to the region as pack animals by early prospectors.  After the mines played out, many were turned loose and now their offspring roam about in small herds and live off the land.

Shifting over to US-190, we headed west and soon began climbing the Funeral Mountains.  I find it interesting that this macabre sounding mountain range borders Death Valley.

After stopping in the dusty little town of Beatty, Nevada for fuel and a break, Kit and I were back on the road.  Then climbing into the mountains and topping out at 4,404 feet the temperature registered 44 degrees.

A few minutes later found us heading down into Death Valley and at 1234 hours, crossing the California border.  Leveling out, we noticed that our elevation had slipped to 104 feet “below” sea level and the temperature had jumped to 63 degrees.  An elevation change of 4,508 feet and a temperature change of 19 degrees…all in about twenty minutes!

If it wasn’t for those mountains in the distance, and a few other obstacles, this road would be 104 few under seawater!

Kit and I extensively explored Death Valley National Park a few years ago, so on this trip we just enjoyed the scenery along the main east/west highway, which by the way at 65 MPH, has the distinction of possessing the highest speed limit of any National Park road in the nation.

The mountain range in front of us is the Panamint Range and the steep and winding road over it is an exhilarating experience…so much so that Kit kept her eyes closed for a significant portion, so no photos were captured of the narrow twisting highway.

At Stovepipe Wells we stopped for a break and topped off our fuel tanks at a very remote, and very expensive gas station…you do not want to run out of fuel in this isolated area of the country.

Upon reaching the 4,956 foot summit, I set the truck’s Exhaust Brake which kept the rig’s speed in check during the 6-mile steep, narrow and winding downgrade.

Once in the Owens Valley, we took US-395 a few miles to the south and checked into the Boulder Creek RV Park for a few days stay.

It’s been a long and tiring day on the road…good night!


Monday, January 22 and Tuesday, January 23, 3018-Lone Pine, California:  Woke to cold but sunny weather…last night had dropped to 25 degrees but our camper stayed warm and cozy.

Boulder Creek RV Park turned out to be a very nice, and well-maintained campground.

Within sight of the sierra Nevada Mountain range, most sites had a spectacular view as the rising sun illuminated the hillside.

Kit and I wanted to visit this area during last year’s excellent adventure trip. But it was logistically very difficult, so we’ve made a concerted effort to visit Lone Pine this year primarily because we wanted to visit Manzanar National Historic Site.

Why go to all this trouble to visit a remote National Park unit?  Well, when we lived in San Diego back in the early 1970’s, there was a Japanese family that lived nearby, and the father had been “relocated” to Manzanar as a child.  He didn’t talk much about it, but the experience had a major impact on him.  Ever since, Kit and I had been curious about this chapter in our nation’s history.

However, currently the government is shut down due to our clowns in DC not being able to get their collective act’s together…Grrrr.  This shutdown affects the National Park Service as well as other important institutions we sometimes take for granted.  So, until our representatives start representing us and Manzanar reopens to the public who, by the way owns it in the first place, we decided to poke around the area a bit.  The town of Lone Pine, California with its 2035 souls lies in the Owens Valley nestled up to the Eastern foothills of the mighty Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.

Sitting at 3727 feet in elevation, the winters can be cool by California standards, and indeed…it dropped below freezing each night of our stay.

The town features a typical frontier type downtown area with covered boardwalks and mercantile stores selling everything one might need in this isolated community.

The one and only hardware story is a blast from the past in this age of huge mega home centers.

Cramped and crowded with merchandise, Kit and I spent a bit of time in here roaming the aisles and both of us picked up needed items.

A fishing, mountaineering, and tourist town, there are numerous craft and gift shops…some hidden in quaint back alley shopping clusters such as The Lone Pine Pocket Park.

Where Kit made friends with the resident guard dog.

Kit and I always like walking the streets of towns and villages we come across. You meet some of the most interesting folks, get a real feel for the towns vibe, and pick up interesting tidbits about the town and places to explore.

We discovered that the countryside around Lone Pine has been used for filming since the silent movie era.  The unique and varied terrain coupled with the relatively short trip from Hollywood, made it a perfect venue for western movie and television productions.

Over 400 feature films, and an even higher number of television shows and commercials, have been produced in this rugged countryside.  At the southern end of Lone Pine lies a unique attraction…The Museum of Western Film History.

The museum profiles films featuring such notable actors as Hopalong Cassidy…

…the Lone Ranger…

…John Wayne…

…and others such as Roy Rogers, Tom Mix and Randolph Scott…what ever happened to Randolph Scott, anyway?

Many of the folks of Lone Pine had second careers playing movie extras or providing room and board to the production companies.  In addition, a few became outfitters providing animals and props when needed.

The museum was very well exhibited, and it was fascinating to learn about the many films that were produced in and around this small town.

Later Kit and I took a leisurely drive through the countryside that parallels the Sierra Nevada Mountain range.

Along this path lies views of the highest peak in the continental United States…Mount Whitney.

Can you pick it out in the photo above?  Nope, not the peak to the left, that’s Lone Pine Mountain.  Mount Whitney is visible at the exact center of that photo.  It appears shorter due to an optical illusion…Mount Whitney is 13 miles further west than Lone Pine Mountain.  Here is another photo taken from a closer vantage point.

Yep, decided to go all Ansel Adams in this photo, but Mount Whitney can be clearly seen through the couloir on the right near the two sharp spires.

An interesting factoid about the geography of this region, is that the highest point, 14,505 foot Mount Whitney and the lowest point, -282 foot Death Valley’s Bad Water Basin, are only 85 miles apart!

Driving about, Kit and I came upon an interesting looking dirt road…so decided to see where it led.

Most of these roads were laid down by the movie production companies in order to get their camera trucks and other equipment into the preferred locations and many are used today by off road driving enthusiasts.

I was having a great time, but as the roadbed became a bit rough while we were heading downhill, Kit reminded me of the other times I had pushed too far and got into trouble…like the infamous Bay of Fundy Fiasco, or the Lost in the Desert at Night SNAFU.  I need to learn that owning a high clearance vehicle possessing a four-wheel drivetrain, a one-ton truck is not a suitable off-road exploration vehicle!

On the second day of our stay, the Washington DC monkeys decided to reopen the government for three weeks which gives us enough time to enjoy some of our public lands before they take it all away again.  So, to the north up US-395, Kit and I motored toward the National Park Unit we had come all this way to see…Manzanar National Historic Site.

One of the few National Park facilities that does not charge admission, this relatively new Historic Site is very well exhibited.  The visitors center contains many photos, personal stories, and artifacts

We learned that as the United States was being drawn into WWII, folks of German, Italian, and Japanese heritage were becoming ostracized around the country, however when the Japanese Imperial Navy attacked Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans were looked at with greater suspicion.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the sitting senators and congressmen decided to leave the Western Defense Commander, General John L. Dewitt to fix the “Japanese problem”.  His solution was to ignore the US Bill of Rights and forcibly relocate all Japanese people away from the west coast…for their own good.

Manzanar was one of ten Japanese “relocation” centers that ultimately “incarcerated” over 120,000 people from 1942 through 1945, and it became the largest and most infamous of them all.  Located on barren desert 230 miles from the west coast, Manzanar confined over 10,000 US citizens and legal immigrants…just because they were of Japanese descent.

The “evacuees” were quartered in hastily built relocation camps.  Upon arrival the detainees were greeted by barbed wire, guard towers, and armed soldiers with fixed bayonets patrolling the perimeter. It became apparent to folks that they were, in reality, political prisoners.

These Americans citizens, many pillars of their community and owners of retail shops, restaurants, and laundries, were given orders by the US Army to report to a collection center and only bring what they could physically carry.  As a result, those that could, sold as much as they could and left everything else where it sat, only to be looted by others.  And mothers with infant children often could only manage to carry their baby and the child’s necessities.

In the photo above, the tags hanging from the clothing of mom and baby contained their “number” and identified who they were and where they came from.

The camp was made up of 504 barracks arranged in 36 blocks.

The barracks were tarpaper shacks…

…with bare studs for interior walls and no insulation.

Each 20’ by 100’ building was divided into four apartments with army beds and linen but very little in the way of heat.  To provide some furniture for their families, detainees used scrap wood to create tables, chairs and bookcases.

Each block unit contained its own mess hall building, a laundry, and a community latrine.

Given their circumstances, the political prisoners began to try and make this desolate, windswept corner of the desert into a community.  They built baseball fields and basketball courts and erected a Dojo to learn and practice the ancient art of Karate.  Others built places of worship and community vegetable gardens, and even started to raise chickens for food.  Some even found employment as cooks and defense contractors when the government decided to put them to work making camouflage netting for the war effort.

Ironically, many of the offspring of the Japanese American internees were serving in the US Military, so when they returned on leave from combat they had to visit their family in places like Manzanar.

And, at the rear of the camp was placed the cemetery.

Where over 80 folks that died in captivity were laid to rest.

This sad chapter in American history came to an end on November 21, 1945.  Many of the former detainees had nowhere to go, and their fellow citizens did not want them in their towns, so adapting to a civilian life and relocating to a new area was difficult.

After the last person had been removed, the government tore down all the wood structures leaving only the foundations.  This city of slabs remained like that until March 3, 1992 when president George H. W. Bush designated it Manzanar National Historic Site and the National Park Service oversaw the reconstruction of some buildings as they would have existed fifty years earlier.

Oh, and the nearest inhabited town to Manzanar?  Independence, California…kind of ironic, huh?

Kit and I have visited hundreds of National Park units in our 10 years of RV travel, and we can say this is one of the more emotional and poignant sites we have experienced…we highly recommend visiting Manzanar National Historic Site when you get a chance.

Kit’s Bit’s: Visiting Manzanar has been very interesting.  I never paid much attention to history while in school but, this place has always been in the back of my mind for many years.  It’s amazing to me that, when people are forced in to a place like this, they begin to create a home like atmosphere as best as they can, under the circumstances.  Most of the people lost everything they left behind and had to start all over once they were released.  However, during their time in the camp, children were sent to school, churches were established, a makeshift First Aid Station was created, activities for the children were started, gardens were planted, all the things that a normal community would have were created as best as they could under the circumstances.  The resilience of people taken from their homes with little or nothing, is amazing to me.  Other than Manzanar, the next best place here is the hardware store!  They have a sign hanging outside that says, “The Everything Store”.  It really does have just about everything!


Bill and Kit’s 2018 Excellent Adventure, Journal #4

“This Year Marks Our 10th Winter RV Trip”

Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.
Frank Herbert

Thursday, December 21, 2017: Woke to sunny skies and warming temperatures following a crisp, clear Arizona night. Today is to be a travel day, so over breakfast Kit and I discussed where we might stay overnight during our 450-mile trek northwest toward Las Vegas. There was a time that 450 miles in one day while piloting an RV seemed reasonable. However, we try to adhere to our self-imposed restriction of 300-mile travel days, so the plan today is to stop approximately mid distance for the night.

Underway at 0903 hours from one of the best camping opportunities in the nation…the dooryard of my brother Dewey and sister-in-law, Bea!

Thanks guys for a great stay! It would’ve been even better if you had been able to join us (insert winking smiley face emoji here).

Leaving Tucson found us on I-10 rolling through the high desert terrain of Central Arizona.

Then looped around Phoenix and shifted over to a few other highways that didn’t get recorded in the log book as my trusty scribe, navigation questioner, and personal fault finder was fast asleep.

Once aroused from her slumber, sleeping beauty and I discussed heading to the town of Laughlin located across the Nevada border from Bullhead City, Arizona. Laughlin, a mini-Vegas features half a dozen casinos nestled along the Colorado River offers, as many casinos do, free overnight RV parking in their parking lot. However, instead we decided to see about staying in the small Arizona town of Wickenburg. So, hopping over to US-60 we hit the open desert once again as the winds started increasing from the west.

Since our destination was just an hour away and traffic was light, we slowed and battled the buffeting winds all the way into Wickenburg.

Using the app All-Stays, Kit located the Desert Cypress RV Park and pulled in shortly after noon selecting a nice site for the evening.

This clean and well laid out RV park is primarily full of long term seasonal folks, evident by the personalization of their sites.

However, in the section we were in, there appeared to be nomadic RV’rs such as ourselves who are just here for a day or two. All the folks we met in the park were friendly and only needed an ears scratch or two in order to accept us East Coast folks.

And Geri, the park manager, welcomed us with a couple of gifts from one of the local bakeries.

Oven fresh Blueberry Lemon Bread and Marionberry Jelly! Marionberry, which we were unfamiliar with, is a uniquely flavored fruit developed by the University of Oregon from two blackberry species. Known as the Cabernet of Blackberries for its robust flavor, the Marionberry is quickly becoming the favorite fruit of cooks and bakers. The bread, warmed and topped with Jelly, was incredible…and did not last long in our camper’s pantry!

Kit and I choose this RV park due to its convenient location. Not wanting to disconnect truck from trailer just for an overnight stay, we easily walked to town over the pedestrian walkway that crosses the raging Hassayampa River.

The “No Fishing from Bridge” sign seems unnecessary, however according to locals the dry wash can quickly fill during the Monsoon Season. The cement bridge to the left in the photo above is the new automobile bridge bringing traffic into town. The old span on the right was kept as a pedestrian walking mall complete with park benches and picnic tables.

Wickenburg, founded by German prospector Henry Wickenburg, is a west central town in Yavapai County with a population of 6,363 souls. Back in 1863 Old Henry struck paydirt and later staked the famous Vulture Mine which produced $30,000,000.00 worth of gold…to put that into perspective, it would be Seven Hundred Million Dollars today! But alas, poor Henry was not to benefit much from the claim as he sold his mineral rights early on and, even though receiving a substantial amount of money for the times, died penniless due to his mismanagement in addition to being swindled by the new mine owners.

The early town, populated by over 5,000 settlers, became a battleground between the Yavapai Natives and the newly arrived palefaces. Pitched skirmishes ensued and both sides lost lives and lands before the US Army drove the Native Peoples onto reservations, where they remain to this day.

After the mines played out in the early 1900’s, the area reinvented itself and western themed guest homes thrived. These Dude Ranches catered to the tenderfoot from back east and immersed the greenhorn’s in all things cowboy, such as horse riding and cow punching…whatever that is. Some of these early tourist ranches still exist and make up a portion of Wickenburg’s economy. There are signs about town that capitalize on the towns cowboy past.

The wild west in those days was truly wild…and the earliest form of western incarceration is memorialized in the town center.

Wickenburg’s Jail Tree was a stout Mesquite sporting a chain where scofflaws were shackled, and it still stands after being replaced by a proper Hoosegow. In more recent times, as the story is told, parents used to threaten their unruly children with a few hours embarrassment and public shaming by being chained to the Jail Tree.

With the arrival of the railroad in 1895, the town prospered and grew…many of the original structures remain and make up the historic district.

Now a major tourist destination, many of these old buildings have been turned into museums, eating establishments, or antique and gift shops.

These are generally prowled by tourists and snowbird retirees looking for a piece of the old west, but occasionally one will find an old cowboy loitering about.

Walking around town, Kit and I stumbled upon the local Library…and since Kit likes libraries even better than shopping, we stopped in to look around. Spotting a table of older magazines for the taking, we noticed this.

Yep, right on the cover of that Country Magazine from last year was an image of Maine’s own Portland Head Lighthouse!

If there is any constant in the American Southwest, it is that the area boosts the most flavorful and authentic Mexican cuisine in the world! And the Town of Wickenburg upholds that boast with several quality restaurants…one that came highly recommended to us was Anita’s Cocina’s.

Where we enjoyed authentic Navajo Tacos.

Which are open-faced taco’s made with Navajo Flat Bread, and they were incredible!

After our meal, we strolled back through town as the day faded to night and the seasonal decorations on the old pedestrian promenade came aglow.

This brings to a close a very enjoyable afternoon in an iconic western town…goodnight!


Friday, December 22, 2017: Up and on the road by 1000 hours and heading north on US-93.

It’s a beautiful day to be on the road…sunny and temperatures in the 60’s!

We came to Interstate 40 and headed west stopping for fuel in Kingman before crossing the Nevada border at 1329 hours. Bypassing the gambling town of Laughlin, we moved over to US-95 heading north. After a quick roadside stop for lunch Kit and I motored on to the city of Las Vegas, and found our way to Oasis RV Resort just to the south of the famed Vegas strip.

As you may have noticed, the authentic Maine Christmas wreath, made by a friend back home, is still holding up…thanks Susie!


Saturday, December 23, 2017 through Monday, January 1, 2018-Oasis RV, Las Vegas, NV: The prime reason we are in Vegas over the Christmas holiday is these two monkeys…Tucker, age 11 and Jack, age 13.

Happily holding a taste of Maine in the form of Whoopie Pies thoughtfully sent by Aunt Kim!

Christmas day dawned bright and clear and with urgent texts from both grandboys to get up, get dressed, and get to their house, to start the festivities.

Opening of gifts was accompanied by fresh coffee and homemade pastries. Then the next few hours were filled with visiting and enjoying each other’s company.

This year’s traditional Vegas family holiday meal consisted of smoked ribs, chicken wings, broccoli salad, fresh green beans, and homemade popovers!

The rather unorthodox combination of foods is a result of each family member choosing an entrée, and somehow it all comes together to form an interesting and tasty holiday feast!

Thanks, Suzie, Kevin, Jack and Tucker for including us in your Christmas celebration…love you guys!

Being that we are at an RV Resort, featuring numerous kid friendly amenities, and within 5 minutes of their home, Jack and Tucker spent most days with us during our stay. They kept busy enjoying their new Christmas gifts,..

…swimming in the heated pool,..

…and on a few consecutive evenings, overnighted in our camper to give their parents some time to themselves.

We also went out to see the movie “Jumanji” (highly recommended by the way), enjoyed a few restaurant meals, played mini-golf, watched many Redbox flicks, took daily walks about the vast RV Park, and just enjoyed their company.

During one outing, we parked beside a Cadillac…not unusual in a city such as Las Vegas.

But this Cadillac was of 1959 vintage…a classic big finned automobile!

While we were enjoying the sunshine and warmth of the holiday season, back home they were dealing with a blizzard!

Twelve inches of snow coupled with the wind caused drifts about half way up the side of our home!

While in Arizona, I picked up some un-cracked Geodes for the boys.

Geodes are found worldwide, but the type that formed here in the Desert Southwest are made up of sandstone. When the sedimentary rock is laid down, pockets occasionally form, then surface water leaches through these cavities leaving deposits…generally in the form of quartz. As the sedimentary layers are worn away by erosion, the Geode is left on the surface to be discovered. So, with safety in mind, the boys took to pulverizing the four stones to see what was inside.

The gathering of Geode’s is an art as not every sandstone rock contains a crystal…in our case we hit (pun intended) the prize in half the specimens I picked up! The rust colored Mud Geodes were full of the same rust colored material throughout, so not much in the way of excitement. However, the tan colored Geodes were hollow and full of sparkly crystals, much to the boy’s delight!

Tucker and Jack return to school soon, so tomorrow we relocate the camper to a more suitable, and less expensive, campground.


Tuesday, January 2, 2018: Pulled out of Oasis RV Park at noon and headed north on I-15.

Twenty-three miles later we pulled into Nellis Air Force Base, and set up for a few weeks stay at their military campground.


Wednesday, January 3 through Thursday, January 18, 2018-Desert Eagle RV Park, Las Vegas, NV: This park is undergoing a major expansion and modernization and we were fortunate to be assigned a site in the brand-new section.

Desert Eagle RV Park is consistently rated as one of the finest facilities in the system, and it has gotten even better with all new paved sites and bathhouses built in the area where the old dirt overflow area used to be. For comparison, the following screen shot is from Google Earth and the image shows the park before remodeling…the yellow marker shows where we are camped, however now fully developed.

And the following image shows how the park has expanded in that area.

The section to the left is all new with an additional 118 pull-through sites with full hook-ups bringing the total campsites to 226 in number. In addition, there are two new bathhouse buildings with laundry facilities included!

This nearly 50% increase of capacity is great news to those of us who RV about the country and seldom make advanced reservations as about 8 of these sites will be set aside for folks that spontaneously arrive unannounced.

Come the weekend, the boys could once again stay with us which is nice as they love to visit this active fighter base. Nellis AFB is the home of the USAF Flight Demonstration Team, The Thunderbirds…a fact that we can attest to as they practice almost daily in the skies above the RV park! The boys enjoyed watching this demonstration and visiting the Thunderbird flight line and touring the museum.

Which has been totally remodeled and paid for by the defense contractor, Lockheed Martin…the company I retired from ten years ago. I sure hope this magnanimous gesture doesn’t lower the value of my stock dividend!?!?

Usually there are Thunderbird team members about to answer the boy’s questions, and no visit is complete without a photo op next to one of their aircraft.

Another nearby attraction that we had not toured, is the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement…also known as “The Mob Museum”.

This eclectic repository of police and gangster memorabilia is housed in the old downtown courthouse and is run by the city of Las Vegas. One of the refreshing things about this city is that the do not shy away from their history nor do they pretend that they are something that they are not. Las Vegas embraces its humble, if somewhat nefarious beginnings, and celebrates its place in the world as a party town!

In the museum, we learned that the mob had a presence in many states and countries, hence the moniker Organized Crime.

Much of the mob activity exploited legal activities by providing “protection” to these enterprises. During WWII, the Fed’s laid off the Mob as they “controlled” the major shipping ports…necessary for the movement of war supplies.

Then there was the illegal trade that brought the Mob its most income and notoriety. The museum houses many photos and artifacts in its three-story exhibit floors. One rather famous artifact is a segment of wall from a downtown Chicago warehouse.

On February 14, 1929 mob on mob violence resulted in the demise of seven gangsters from the Northside Irish gang at the hands of assassins from the Al Capone family in a dispute over territory. Two of the assassins were dressed as Chicago police officers and “arrested” the gangsters, then lined them up along the brick wall and opened fire. After the deed was done, these two faux officers escorted their accomplices out of the warehouse under gunpoint tricking folks on the street into believing this was just another mob arrest in the crime ridden city. To this day, the crime has never been solved and no one has been arrested.

The Mob made most of its money during prohibition when legal breweries turned their operation to more mundane products.

During this time, the mob controlled all the liquor trade and received political cover by many corrupt city officials.

The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement was well worth a morning to peruse and learn about the seedier side of early 20th Century society.

When leaving the museum, we noticed these rather unique charity coin collection devices.

What an innovative and creative way to repurpose old parking meters!

There was one day during our stay that it rained…the first precipitation in 116 days, and the locals went nuts…over 200 auto accidents due to the slick roads were reported in a 24-hour period!

As the rain stopped and the sun was beginning to set I started looking for rainbows and spotted this sight.

Kit noticed the rainbow, and wanted to see if there was a pot-of-gold at the end. Nope, but in her mind, close enough!

Well, this would normally bring our stay in the Las Vegas Valley to a close. However, there is a storm front coming through, and our next destination requires some mountain driving, so we prudently decided to extend our stay.


Friday, January 19 and Saturday, January 20, 2018: Didn’t do much to write about with our bonus days but did get caught up on a lot of reading, computer work, journal writing and website posting, truck polishing, exercise walking, camper cleaning, and enjoyed some great homecooked meals. It’s good to have a few days of leisure…forced or otherwise!

Tomorrow we once again hit the highway after a whopping 35 days in this one area…believe that is a new record for us! However, as enjoyable as it has been to be around family, we are ready to get back on the road and see something different!

Speaking of family, three fifths of our grandchildren remain back in Maine, and I’d be remis if I didn’t mention them.

First, there’s our oldest grandson 25-year-old Joe shown here with his girlfriend Whitney.

Both are registered Whitewater Raft Guides up on Northern Maine’s Penobscot River. And both enjoy the sport of whitewater kayaking as well.

Kit and I were fortunate to spend a few days this past summer up on the river and enjoyed watching them expertly navigate the rapids.

Then there is our only granddaughter, Katie…at age 22 she is a college senior at a New York university.

In addition to carrying a full academic load in two majors, she plays division one Lacrosse for her school…last fall, Kit and I we were fortunate to spend a weekend on Long Island, NY for a tournament playoff.

Then there is Christopher, age 18…shown below with his girlfriend Maddie.

Chris, a high school senior, is also a high achieving student and plays Varsity Lacrosse.

Unfortunately, during a preseason game, he suffered a fracture. However, he is fully recovered and ready for the start of LAX season this spring…and we should be home in time to cheer him on!

And no picture of our Maine family would be complete without our Grand-dog, Finny.

We miss you buddy and all our Maine family…love you guys!

Well, this issue of our journal is far longer than I would like, but a lot has transpired during our very enjoyable stay in Las Vegas. Tomorrow we are off and once again on the move…stay tuned.

Kit’s Bit’s: As always, we’ve had a great time here in Las Vegas. The weather has been perfect, and we’ve had fun with the kids. The one thing we missed was more time with Kevin. He’s been on a big project at work, putting in 12-hour days since Christmas. Something to do with the big CES Trade Show here in Las Vegas each January. Our youngest Grands, Jack & Tucker are growing up so fast! Jack is my height and Tucker not far behind. By this time next year, they will be towering over me. Where does the time go???

Bill and Kit’s 2018 Excellent Adventure, Journal #3

“This Year Marks Our 10th Winter RV Trip”

The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.
Oprah Winfrey


Tuesday, December 12 and Wednesday, December 13, 2017-South Llano State Park, Texas: As mentioned in the last episode, Kit and I prefer the more rural and rustic noncommercial campgrounds such as state, county, and national parks. We seldom use the fancy amenities that the commercial RV resorts feature and most have small sites that can be quite cramped, especially in this era of large RV’s with multiple slide out rooms. However, the individual campsites at noncommercial parks are generally larger and sited in such a way to take advantage of the natural surroundings which provide nice views from the camper as well as while sitting outside.

This marks the second time we’ve stayed at this nice Texas State Park…however previously it was rainy which limited our outdoor activities. So, we decided to take a couple days off the road for some rest, relaxation, and exploration. The place was only half occupied so we had the luxury of driving through the campground and selecting our ideal site, which ironically, turned out to be the exact site we had the first time here!

Many of these type parks offer hiking trails that lead to the surrounding back country…Kit and I especially enjoy walking these paths.

A few trails lead to bird blinds with discreet viewing and photography ports.

The blinds looked out on protected enclosures which were equipped with food and water features to attract birds such as this little fellow…the Pico Graciosa con Plumas Rojas.

And his cousin from further up north…the Azul Porque soy de Pájaro Norte de Nieve.

In addition to many other birds of a feather that flock together and visit the beautiful Texas Hill Country this time of the year.

South Llano River State Park features interpretive signs along its many trails.

With signs detailing the various native vegetation, such as this Spanish Dagger.

A species of Yucca Plant, the Spanish Dagger is frequently mistaken for a cactus due to its sharp tipped leaves; however, it is actually a member of the lily family. Many elements of this plant can provide food for wildlife and were used by the native peoples as well. The fibers in the leaves are very long, reaching from the plants roots to the needle pointed tips, which makes them useful as a primitive needle and thread for sewing clothing and moccasins.

Then there is the Ash Juniper, sometimes mistakenly called a cedar tree due to its similar bark structure.

The aromatic tree is responsible for allergy symptoms in humans which is referred to as “Cedar Fever” by the locals. This malady is a real nuisance to those of us who suffer allergies kept under control by medication. Allergy treatments are only effective in one’s home environment, and do little to combat symptoms of allergens found elsewhere, so those of us who enjoy travel just deal with the symptoms. However, the Ash Juniper also has positive benefits to the local population of man and wildlife.

The trunk and branches make excellent material for fences, and the blue colored berries provide food for wildlife.

Over the years, Kit and I have discovered that folks who camp in the noncommercial campgrounds seem to be more relaxed and therefore a bit friendlier…and here at South Llano River State Park the experience was the same. Just taking a walk about the grounds elicited many waves and good wishes from fellow campers. To amplify this sense of community, the camp host and his wife dropped by with a plate of freshly made cookies!

However, not all was peaceful in this serene setting. On the second morning of our stay there was a bit of excitement when a masked fugitive sought shelter and sustenance in the park. Fortunately, he was quickly apprehended by one of Texas’s finest lawmen…Ranger Bob.

Rocky Racoon had been marauding the campground and ravaging the dumpster. He has been captured in the past and released on the far side of the mountain, only to find his way back to these fertile feeding grounds. Ranger Bob’s plan on this capture was to relocate the critter farther away, like Florida…good luck!

One perceived disadvantage to folks that camp in more remote and natural locations is the lack of internet and cell phone connectivity. This nuisance bothers one of us more than the other, however, locating a half-read book from last year’s trip, she was once again content to enjoy the camping experience. Of course, this meant that I needed to be quiet, and the best way for me to abstain from interrupting her reading was to take a hike…so off I went.

A short scramble up a well-marked trail led to the summit of Fawn Hill where views of the valley and campground could be enjoyed.

As I was standing enjoying the solitude and serenity of that beautiful fall morning, my iPhone started alerting when a weak cell signal found the device. Knowing that Kit would enjoy seeing what she had missed these past 14 hours, I downloaded email, the daily news, and her Facebook feed onto my phone for her enjoyment. I guess the mystique of the male provider as hunter and gatherer is still prevalent in South Texas!

Returning to the campground I stumbled across this cute little fellow looking for a meal.

Armadillos, Spanish for “little armored one”, are native to this region of the county and are known as Turtle Rabbits by the native people. One unusual trait is that Armadillos have the ability to hold their breath underwater for up to six minutes, which allows them to walk along river bottoms to access the far side. A distant relative of the Sloth, this poor sighted animal is surprisingly quick considering its short legs, and when startled can leap straight up in the air several feet…don’t ask how I know that!?!?

Kit and I really enjoy these reprieves from the road to relax and recreate, however, since we are on a rather tight schedule to reach grandchildren by Christmas, tomorrow we must continue west.


Thursday, December 14, 2017: Departed South Llano River State Park at 1017 hours under sunny skies and temperatures in the low 50’s. As the name implies, there is a river that borders the park and access is from the day use section which we didn’t visit. However, while driving across the bridge, we noticed that the gently flowing river provides opportunities for fly fisherfolks to ply their craft.

South Llano River is reported to be an excellent river for paddle craft as the river meanders about the famed Texas Hill Country. Oh, in case you’re wondering, I still haven’t solved my kayak carrying problem with this newer rig…so no paddling for Bill!

Leaving the park, Kit and I made our way back to the bustle of the interstate by connecting a few country roads.

Then merged onto I-10 with the other traveling drones heading west.

Today was a rather long and tedious day of traveling across the expanse of Texas, with a rest or fuel stop every few hours. At one roadside rest, I spotted Santa with his sleigh filled to the brim with 2018 model Corvettes!

Now I can’t remember…am I on the naughty or the nice list? Guess I’ll find out come Christmas morning!

Kit and I decided to stop for the night at one of our favorite commercial campgrounds, Fort Stockton RV Park and Roadrunner Café, located just off the freeway and to the east of Fort Stockton, Texas.

A basic campground with nice sites and an onsite café, Fort Stockton RV is a great overnight camping opportunity while making the 550-mile transit from San Antonio to El Paso.

Walking about the campground before dinner we noticed a rig sporting Maine license plates…a rare sight west of the Mississippi, or outside Maine, or Florida.

Paula and Mike are from Old Town, Maine and travel in a ten-foot-long by five-foot-high custom utility trailer, complete with a bed, refrigerator, cassette toilet, and storage cabinet! They have a larger rig located in Florida, but going Full Waldon Pond, they prefer to tow, travel and live out of this diminutive rig. There is a real advantage to RV’ing as a minimalist; lower capital expenses, better fuel economy, ability to squeeze into even the smallest campsites, and without the size and complexity of larger rigs, little risk of forgetting something important…like latching the fifth wheel witch around the pin box as this hapless RV’r apparently did earlier today.

Yep, have heard campfire horror stories of this happening, but have never seen the aftermath…an embarrassing and expensive boo-boo. Think I’ll print this photo and attach it to my pre-underway checklist as a reminder to pay attention to details!

Waiting for the campground café to open, Kit and I meet a woman traveling solo who was waiting, as well. Inviting her to dine with us, Kit and I learned that Sarah was from upstate New York and had recently lost her husband to cancer. Since they loved traveling about the country, Sarah decided to continue RV’ing and purchased a new rig…a 43-foot Newmar Dutch Star, with a flat-towed 4×4 Hummer hitched behind!

That’s a half-million-dollar rig folks, and its combined length is a whopping 63 feet!! Pretty impressive for a solo traveler!

The café is locally known for old fashioned homecooked meals, and even though the no longer offer their signature ribs, the items remaining on the menu were very good.

Well, it’s off to bed as we want to depart fairly early in the morning…good night!


Friday, December 15, 2017: Up and on the road by 0900.

The weather is sunny and clear, but the temperature is a chilly 37 degrees. Before hitting the interstate, we rolled through the town of Fort Stockton on Business I-10 to see a bit of the town.

This Pecos County town of 8,500 folks is one of a few dusty cow-town’s along the I-10 corridor. As such, it is an important transportation stop for commercial truckers as well as the traveling public. And it will soon to be even busier when Interstate-14 reaches the town from the south. Currently under construction, I-14 is known as the Gulf Coast Strategic Highway and will connect important shipping ports of the Gulf of Mexico with important military bases in the west. It will also help evacuate the Gulf Coast population centers in times of emergencies, such as hurricanes.

Easing back on I-10, Kit and I settled in for the last half of the transit through West Texas. We motored along through the desolate countryside stopping only for rest breaks before crossing into the Mountain Time Zone around noon.

Regardless of the name, this part of Texas has no mountains and very few hills. But there are vehicles pulling boats, so I can only surmise there must be a lake nearby.

The above, is a unique power boat, a Duffy 18!

Photo from Website

Its power is from an electric motor running on a 48V DC battery pack and delivering propulsion by way of an unusual system called a Power Rudder.

Photo from Website

This drivetrain propels the picnic boat at 6 MPH for about four hours before needing recharging. Designed in 1970 by Marshal Duffield, The Duffy 18 is built at their boatyard in Newport Beach, California. Popular with excursion boat companies for tours of sheltered rivers and bays, the Duffy 18 retails for $44,000.00 and the current fleet numbers are a bit over 10,000 units. An interesting vessel, one that I never even knew existed! Check them out at:

As we neared the left side of Texas, the terrain started to vary, a tiny bit.

Soon we were Down in the West Texas Town of El Paso, (hey that would make a neat country song!) and spotted this unusual contraption motoring along.

The lettering indicated it was a vehicle out of the Apple Computer stable, mapping the countryside such as Google had done years earlier. Bristling with 12 high resolution cameras and four laser ranging transponders, dozens of these Apple Maps vehicles are on the road worldwide gathering data to compete with Google.

Pulling off the interstate east of the city, we meandered toward the US Army base of Fort Bliss…our final stop before reaching the Southeastern region of the US which we will be exploring for the next few months.

This military campground is off base near one of the military housing complexes and offers an inexpensive and convenient place to stay.

Setting up camp, dinner, and a cocktail brought the day to a close.


Saturday, December 16 and Sunday, December 17, 2017-El Paso, Texas: This marks the eighth time we’ve stayed at the Fort Bliss Family RV Park. About half the spots are occupied by families of military personnel, some are being used as temporary housing by soldiers attending the various technical schools on base, and most of the remaining sites are claimed by retired military snow-birders…Kit and I are an anomaly as we will only be here for a few days. Fortunately, at 133 sites, there is usually room for the RV’ing through-traveler.

Fort Bliss is on the outskirts of El Paso, and after so many visits to this area, there is just not much else that can be added. On this stopover, we took care of the mundane chores of life on the road and stocked up at the base commissary and post exchange complex…one of the largest, and nicest military shopping facilities we’ve seen. Also made time to eat a bit better as time was available for Kit to whip up many of her culinary masterpieces such as this incredible skillet fried dish!

And it was as good as it looks!

True to our routine, we did take a walk about the sprawling RV park, as it’s always interesting to see the variety of rigs folks use to RV in. Occasionally we stumble upon a truly unique traveling home…such as this stick built fifth wheel trailer.

The owner (builder) of this mansion on wheels probably received inspiration from the Tiny House Movement…but the dark purple, triple axel, two level, forty foot rolling home was anything but tiny! Wanted to talk to the occupants and get their story, but no one was about during our stay.

Well tomorrow, Kit and I continue our trek toward the land of the setting sun.



Monday, December 18, 2017: Broke camp and hit the road by 0747. It had rained overnight, and the temperatures are in the mid 40-degree range. We normally take a shortcut up and over Franklin Mountain to bypass the congestion of downtown El Paso and its cross border Mexican neighbor of Juarez. However, with the wet roads, we decided to stay at a lower altitude and head south into the city…fortunately, at this hour, traffic was fairly light!

Back on I-10, we headed west and crossed the New Mexico border within an hour.

This far south, I-10 skirts the Mexican countryside, and therefore is a prime spot for illegal immigration activities. The US Border Patrol is evident all over the place, and staffs a few checkpoints along the route.

Everyone exits, answers a few basic questions, then most folks are allowed to continue along their way.

Kit and I decided to stop for breakfast in the camper at a rest area then continue along I-10 where we crossed the Arizona border at 1125. A few hours later we came to the small town of Vail…the home of The Shrine of Saint Rita.

This old Mexican Catholic Church was my mother’s favorite place of worship.

And, in the nearby memorial garden, she still enjoys a presence. Visiting this spot has become an annual tradition for Kit and me since moms passing…we sit in the chapel and reflect after lighting a votive candle in her memory.

I found it amusing that the candle was labeled as “combustible”!?!?

Kit and I were back on the road an hour later and making our way further up I-10. We are heading toward the North Tucson and the home of my brother Dewey and his bride Bea, where we set up camp in their ample dooryard for a short visit.

Dew and Bea must have gotten wind we were heading their way as they were nowhere to be found!?!?! Actually, they are on their own RV trip to the California coast in order to visit family in the LA area, but being the great folks that they are, offered up their driveway for a session of dooryard surfing…thanks guy’s!


Tuesday, December 19 and Wednesday, December 20, 2017-Tucson, AZ: The weather was unseasonably cool during our two-day stay with daytime highs reaching only into the low 50’s. Kit and I have, over the years, considered this area as our home away from home not to include our rolling home which we use to get to our home away from home from our Maine home…does any of that make sense? We are actually Arizona landowners, inheriting a relatively small plot of land from my mother, which we haven’t a clue what to do with. Fortunately, the property taxes on this unimproved land are low…but it does give us the right to claim status as Arizonians!

Also residing in Tucson is our mutual brother Dan. Fortunately, Brother Dan was able to get time off work to hang out with Kit and I for a few hours. We enjoyed the visit and catching up on Dan’s recent doings.

As the afternoon wore on, we all headed out to one of Tucson’s many fine Mexican Restaurants, the Ole Mexican Grill.

Decorated for the holidays in the Mexican tradition, there were even Medias de Navidad hanging about this small local restaurant.

Kit, Dan and I enjoyed a nice authentically prepared meal in the Sonoran tradition and treated ourselves to a refreshing glass of iced Jamaica.

An herbal tea made from the Hibiscus flower and sweetened with honey, Jamaica is a favored drink in various parts of the world, including Mexico.

On the second day, Kit and I visited one of the newest and more elegant thrift stores known to man or woman.

The Golden Goose is located in an exclusive area of North Tucson sitting in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountain range.

Run by the local residents as a charity fund raiser, most of the donations come from folks living in this high-end retirement community. It seems, they relocate from the colder climes with all their worldly possessions, so the Golden Goose receives a constant infusion of quality and luxury goods from these folks when they discover there is no way to stuff 5000 square feet of household stuff into a 1500 square foot condo. Kit and I picked up some treasures and now must figure out how to stuff these “must have” items into our 375-square foot rolling box…the cycle continues!?!?

That afternoon, Kit was able to “crock pot” a batch of Great Northern Beans for freezing and later use…I initially questioned the need for such a large kitchen appliance in a camper! However, to date she has used her 2.5-quart crock pot to prepare the beans, chick peas, a batch of shredded beef and another batch of shredded chicken, much to my culinary pleasure!

This has been a short but enjoyable stay in Tucson, but we must continue on…anxious and excited grandboys await a few days to the north…stay tuned!


Kit’s Bit’s: Many thanks to Dewey & Bea for letting us stay in your driveway for a couple of days. It’s such a nice spot, among the trees, with birds singing. We missed seeing the Javalina’s this time, but I’m sure we will see them again. We enjoyed visiting with Dan, he and I are kind of
“on the same page” with our computers, we can sit for hours and enjoy all they have to offer. We also enjoyed our time at Llano State Park. I would love to spend a week there, however, I might have an issue with no Wi-Fi signal. Oh, I could send Bill to the top of the mountain each day to get the latest info downloaded! 😊