Bill and Kit’s 2020 Excellent Adventure, Journal #4

The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.
Eleanor Roosevelt

 

Tuesday, December 24, 2019 through Saturday, January 4, 2020-Oasas RV Park, Las Vegas Nevada: Vegas is one of our must stops on our annual winter RV excellent adventure trips as it is where 1/3 of our family lives.

On Christmas eve, the first full day in town, found us hanging out with our two youngest grandsons Jack and Tucker and, as is tradition, taking them shopping for their parent’s Christmas gifts.

Tucker is approaching his 13th birthday, and older brother Jack is age 15. They are the youngest of our five grandchildren and are great kids…as are the other three back east.

After shopping and to recover from the Christmas Eve shopping madness, we sought refuge in a local In-N-Out Burger joint for lunch.

This chain, which hasn’t made it to the Northeast yet, features a simple menu and uses natural and fresh ingredients to produce a very good hamburger. The business model is unique as well, a privately owned company, every employee receives benefits and is paid far above minimum wage…but they agree upon employment to bring value to the company in the form of delivering an honest day’s work and providing excellent customer service. In-N-Out is one of the few fast food chain restaurants that consistently receives high marks from well know chefs and food critics.

After a nice meal, we returned to the boy’s home for more visiting with them and their folks before heading back to the RV park for the evening.

Christmas morning dawned bright and early with the boys…

…and newest member of the family, Sophie…

… excited and ready for the day’s festivities.

First off was the traditional opening of gifts from Santa…

…where Jack received the world’s largest Tortilla…

…and Tuck scored an…

…authentic Lamb’s wool blanket, amongst other gifts such as fancy basketball shoes.

In addition, they both received an Amethyst Crystal…

…that Kit and I purchased a few days ago in Wickenburg, Arizona.

Along with gift opening, we enjoyed some of our daughter’s famous Monkey Bread…

…served with fresh brewed coffee!

By afternoon, the boys were either enjoying their new gifts indoors…

…or outdoors.

That skateboard Jack is about to ride is motorized and can reach a pretty good speed by manipulating a small wireless controller…a far cry from my skateboard days of homemade contraptions made from 2×6 boards and cut up roller rink skates.

Toward evening we enjoyed a traditional, by Vegas standards, Christmas meal…

…of Broccoli Salad, home-smoked beef ribs, Buffalo Wild Wings, and homemade popovers…

Kit and I had a wonderful time celebrating this joyous day with our left-coast family!

By now you may be wondering if Jack and Tucker live in the house on their own.

Nope…

… their folks, Kevin and Suzie are allowed to live there as well.

Also, as mentioned earlier, a very affectionate rescue dog by the name of Sophie resides in the home.

Sophie took an immediate liking to Kit and started bringing her gifts in the form of her favorite dog toys…

…one after another…

…after another.

Since the boys are off school for Christmas break, Kit and I spent the rest of our time in town with them, going to places of interest, or just hanging out at their home.

Traditionally the boys like to spend a few nights in the camper with us but this year only Tucker took advantage of the offer. Jack is getting a bit too tall to comfortably sleep on the Lazy Boy recliners and the campgrounds Wi-Fi lacks the speed for him to enjoy his many electronic devices.

However, with Tuck’s late to bed-late to rise schedule, our day started around noon…which was just fine with Kit!

Oasis RV Park, our home for the next 12 days, is an upscale (read pricey) facility…

…with 935 full hook-up sites, and a nice recreation complex featuring two pools…

… hot tubs, dining facilities, and a 19-hole pitch-n-putt golf course.

All in all, as nice as it is, not our style of campground! We much prefer federal, state or municipal facilities that feature less amenities but more spacious sites away from large cities…or, when convenient, military campgrounds and recreation facilities.

So, why do we stay here? Well, it’s about 5 minutes from where the kids live and the prime reason for us even being in Vegas is to spend time with them! And so, without further to-do, here are some of the activities we enjoyed.

Viewed the movie Jumanji, The Next Level…

…even though it’s about some kids being sucked into an old video game, it was surprisingly entertaining!

On one of our many outings I spotted a toy from my own childhood…

…which both boys enjoyed…

…even though it functioned without computer technology.

We often ask the boys what activities they would like to do and being quite different they usually come up with unique requests…such as when Tucker wanted to see some special interest automobiles. This didn’t appeal to either Jack or Kit, so while they hung out at home, Tuck and I took off on our own…first stop was to the Shelby American manufacturing plant and museum.

Where the story of famed American race car driver and automotive entrepreneur Carrol Shelby was told concerning his innovative take on American sports car racing. Also, his legendary vision, in conjunction with Ford Motor Company, to develop unique automobiles for the American motoring enthusiast…such as the 1967 Ford Mustang GT-500…

…and the iconic Shelby AC Cobra developed by marrying a lightweight British AC Ace. With an American Ford V-8 power plant.

Carrol Shelby passed away in 2012 but the company he built still has a relationship with Ford to modify production Mustangs and F-150 Pickup trucks…

… with performance suspensions and available engine modifications producing up to 1000 horsepower!

Then the car that started it all, the AC Cobra…

…is still being built and sold at this facility. One of these jewels can be yours for a mere $250,000.00 and depending on engine choice the price goes up from there! Being one of my dream cars, I happened to exclaim to Kit, “it’s an investment”! The very first AC Cobra built recently sold at auction for $17.7 Million Dollars!” Yea, Kit wasn’t buying it…literally!

Another iconic race car in the collection is this Shelby modified Ford GT-40…

…that famed racer Dan Gurney drove in France during the 1966 Le Mans race where Ford fielded the top three finishers, an American first. Notice the “blister” on the roof? That was added so 6’4” Dan Gurney could fit in the driver’s seat.

After viewing the museum collection, Tucker and I enjoyed a garage tour by a Shelby staff member…

…and an accomplished semi-pro race car driver. We got to see new AC Cobra sports cars being built. These are known as “continuation cars” to differentiate them from the original 1960 era classics, which often command seven figures at auction. In addition, we were able to see some new production Ford Mustangs and trucks being modified with Shelby performance parts.

A very enjoyable and informative experience…if you’re ever in Vegas, make sure you make time to tour this interesting facility.

Our next stop was at the quirky Hollywood Cars Museum.

Many car collectors specialize and focus their collection on one marque or vintage of automobile. But this place is full of unique vehicles from either movies or television shows such as the jalopy from the Beverly Hillbillies…

…and a fully functioning roller skate car…

…notice the steering wheel sticking out the top of the boot?

Also, the death car from Bonnie & Clyde.

Complete with bullet holes made from…well, real bullets! Note the holes in the car’s body…

…they were shot from inside to minimize damage to the interior, but from a distance they look normal.

Then there was the Batmobile from the film “Batman Returns”.

And the submarine car driven by Roger Moore…

… in the James Bond film “The Spy Who Loved Me”.

And although technically not a movie or TV car is old Doc Hudson of “Cars” fame…

…which was built from an actual Hudson Hornet and used for promotion of that classic animated film.

The owner of this eclectic collection is Michael Dezer, a local real estate developer.  Michael was born in Israel and at a young age developed an interest in vehicles while piloting his Vespa scooter around town.  So, it’s no surprise that he has a separate mini-museum that houses a complete collection of those iconic Italian motor scooters.

The two red scooters in front are Ferrari Vesparossa’s…reportedly those were produced for an Italian Formula One Racing Team.

There are many more car collections to view in Vegas, many we’ve enjoyed in past years, but its time to head back and see what Kit and Jack are up to.

Often, we just enjoy hanging out with the boys at their home. Being a musical family, there are instruments scattered around the house…

…such as this electric cello. I asked Tuck to play the old Rosemary Clooney song “I Ain’t Got No Body” but he didn’t get it…yea, very few people understand my weird sense of humor.

Some folks hear of Las Vegas and think of only the famed Las Vegas Strip of hotels, casinos, and show venues.

However, there is life outside the strip. Vegas is in a valley surrounded by mountains…

…such as snowcapped 7,510-foot Mount Charleston. And many other attractions that do not include “The Strip” most of which we’ve enjoyed in past years.

Las Vegas has your typical American neighborhoods with average folks attending to average daily activities…although it is a bit surprising to be walking through the average neighborhood grocery store and come upon a bank of slot machines!

Before leaving Oasis RV Park, we treated the family to a nice dinner out an BJ’s Restaurant, a perennial favorite.

Where we enjoyed food, drink, and great conversation…

…what a difference a coupe of years makes, the boys were behaved and engaged…it felt like we were dining with six adults!

Well tomorrow we pull chocks and head to the north…stay tuned for further adventures with Bill and Kit.

Kit’s Bit’s: We had a wonderful Christmas Holiday week with our Las Vegas family! The boys are getting older so, we don’t actually play with them as we did when they were younger. It’s more about observing them doing whatever they enjoy. Both are intensely involved with computer games and seem to have a natural knack for it. Of course, it’s way beyond our understanding so, we are content just watching them as they each get totally immersed in their favorite activities.

Bill and Kit’s 2020 Excellent Adventure, Journal #3

One of the great things about travel is that you find out how many good, kind people there are.
Edith Wharton

Thursday, December 19, 2019: Woke in El Paso, Texas to sunny skies and cool temperatures. Then made relatively quick work of breaking camp and getting on the road before 0900 hours.

There are primarily three routes to head west from our location, south and through El Paso, west and over the Franklin Mountains, or northwest through a gap in the mountain chain…this year we choose the latter.

It’s a few miles longer, but not having to climb those steep grades saves fuel, and not dealing with El Paso traffic minimizes stress…and the travel time works out to be about the same.

Within fifteen minutes, we encountered our old friend Interstate 10 and soon crossed the eastern border of New Mexico…the domain of the fearless Roadrunner which is memorialized with a huge roadside sculpture.

Roadrunners are a species of Cuckoos that inhabit the American Southwest and Northern Mexico. Even though they can fly, the Roadrunner prefers to run…able to reach speeds of 30 MPH. Guess swiftness, and its legendary agility, is why the Roadrunner never had to mail order anything from The Acme Corporation in order to evade its nemesis.

As mentioned in the previous journal, Border Patrol Checkpoints are scattered along southern highways, and we soon encountered our first one of this year.

Unlike previous Excellent Adventures where the agents stopped our truck for questioning, it appears they are using sophisticated technology to screen each vehicle before it arrives at the agent’s position.

                                    (From Google Images)

When we rolled up, the agent just smiled and said: “Hi Bill, hope you and Kit enjoy a safe trip to your brothers’ home in Tucson”. Then we waved us through the checkpoint…yep, the USBP knows almost as much about you as Google does!

An hour passed before deciding to take a break from the monotonous interstate by exiting into downtown Deming, New Mexico.

A typical isolated and dusty Southwestern Desert town of 15,000 folks, Deming lies about 30 miles north of the Mexican border, and 60 miles from any sizable US town. It’s historical claim-to-fame was that the second American Transcontinental Railroad was completed here in 1881 with the driving of a symbolic silver stake and connecting the Southern Pacific to the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroads.

Oh, and in June of 1965 the town of Deming was our first stop as teenage newlyweds during the 2,900-mile road trip from our childhood home of San Diego, California to our new home of Key West, Florida.

And, after nearly 55-years, the motel we stayed at that evening is still standing!

Back then it was a Travel Lodge, note the “TL” on the second-floor railing, and as I recall a room cost about $10.00 a night. Adjusted for inflation that would be close to $90.00 in today’s dollars…a princely sum in those days.

A sad update about our time in 1965 Key West however.  Readers of these journals may remember Johnny and Eileen, a couple we first met in Key West and have visited many times during our Excellent Adventure trips.

A few weeks ago, Johnnie passed away following a short illness.  He was one of our oldest friends and always welcomed us to camp in their driveway.  Rest in Peace Johnny.

Another update from our early travel contacts is the passing of Pat S.

A dear friend from our Maine hometown, Kit and I enjoyed connecting with her during our visits to the San Antonio area.   Pat also left us way too early after battling the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s Disease and dementia…Love you Pat.

Back to our travels along Interstate ten, we soon came across evidence of the recent heavy rains that swept through this area a few days ago.

Initially thinking it was a mirage, as it is unusual to see standing water alongside the road in the arid desert southwest…

…but we soon realized it was mile after mile of water ponding on both sides of the highway.

Four hours into today’s trip, and after a few roadside rest breaks, we rolled across the Arizona border…

…and a half hour later pulled off into a favorite roadside stop of ours…

…Dwayne’s gas station, campground and Jerky Emporium…

…where every conceivable meat product is dried to oblivion and vacuum packed for ones snacking pleasure.

In addition to a variety of jerky we also picked few jars of cactus jelly…

…from the famous “We B Jamin Farm” (apparently the pun is intended). Kit and I were in culinary bliss!

Back on I-10W, we trundled along through Texas Canyon, bypassed the famed Saint Rita Church of Vail, and rolled into the city of Tucson. Then at 1546 hours we backed into the dooryard of my brother and sister-in-law’s place for a brief stay…our first “mooch-camping” opportunity of the year!

Dewey and Bea are avid Rv’rs as well and have set up their sizable driveway with full hookups resulting in a very comfortable and enjoyable place to camp.

The afternoon consisted of a lot of visiting and catching up followed by a nice home cooked meal, followed by a few cocktails, followed by slumber in our camper…goodnight!

 

Friday, December 20 and Saturday, December 21, 2019-Tucson, Arizona: Spent an enjoyable two days visiting with family and enjoying the nice Arizona weather in Dewey and Bea’s large and beautifully landscaped backyard…

… full of various desert trees, shrubs, cactus and succulents, such as this Yucca.

Dewey pointed out that the Yucca leaf’s each have a unique geometric design…

…a result of when the plant was forming and tightly bundled. The leaf above imprinted an image of its shape on the one below it…pretty cool.

Their backyard is the perfect place to gather…

…and enjoy breakfast alfresco of Bea’s delicious Tamales and eggs!

So much outdoor time in winter is a real treat, however any northerner who hasn’t been exposed to the sun in a while knows the importance of proper sun protection and therefore wears stylish headgear…

…regardless of how dorky he or she may look.

A tradition Kit and I adhere to is the act of treating our dooryard accommodating guests to a meal out. So, on the final evening in Tucson Dewey, Bea, Dan, Kit and I gathered at the prime Mexican restaurant of Guadalajara Grill in North Tucson.

Specializing in inexpensive Margaritas…

…a tableside Salsa bar…

…and authentic Sonoran inspired fare…

…which was incredibly delicious!

Back at the DewBea Ranch, some of us participated in a challenging game of blocks…

…until it was time to climb the spirals stairs up to the rooftop deck…

…and enjoy the evenings sunset.

Goodnight!

 

Sunday, December 22, 2019: Up early, and on the road at 0815 hours under partly cloudy skies and a temperature of 46 degrees. We wound our way through various North Tucson streets until hitting I-10 where we headed west once again.

While motoring along, Kit and I started seeing what looked like snow…what the?!?! Soon we can upon this tractor-trailer rig…

… that had a huge roll of raw cotton which was sloughing off bits of the fiber as the truck rolled along. That was surprising, but even more surprising was the fact that cotton is being grown in Arizona…in fact, this state ranks number ten in the US for cotton production!

Passing through Wymola, Arizona we noticed the major landmark of Picacho Peak on the left…

…and shortly left civilization for the open desert.

As we neared the megalopolis of Phoenix, we choose to detour around the city via I-8 to Gila Bend where we stopped at the Shell Truck Stop for fuel and breakfast. A large facility with easy access in and out, separate dedicated RV fuel lanes, and a large parking area. It’s the perfect stop and includes a fitting memorial to the animals …

…who gave their lives so we may have the fuel to travel.

Out of Gila Bend we traveled on AZ-85 heading north, then rejoined I-10 East intersecting with AZ-303 North which circles the west side of Phoenix. At US-60 we headed north toward the town of Wickenburg, Arizona…our destination for the evening.

Upon arriving, we pulled into the Desert Cypress RV Park at 1235 hours and set up on a nice level site.

This RV park, one which we’ve stayed a few times before, is across the Hassayampa River from Wickenburg proper and features a nice wide pedestrian walkway that leads to downtown.

The river is basically a desert wash, and dry most of the year making it suitable for grazing of cattle…

… except during Monsoon Season when raging runoff flows under the bridge. Even though the river is occasionally damp the “No Fishing from Bridge” sign seemed more of a practical joke.

Wickenburg, the self-described Arizona Cowboy Christmas Town…

… features a typical western downtown with shops and restaurants lining both sides of the main street…

…where cowboys, cattlemen, and miners…

…congregate on a pleasant Sunday afternoon.

Kit and I have stopped in this quaint little town in west central Arizona of 6,000 souls a number of times. We enjoy walking about and poking through the various gift, antique, and junk shops…such as Trader J’s.

Where Jimmy, the third-generation proprietor all previously being named Jimmy as well, holds court.

It’s not a large shop, but full of interesting items such as Native American jewelry, historical artifacts, various gems and other local oddities from the surrounding hills, and best of all, Jimmy’s stories of growing up in this small western town. If your travels ever find you in Wickenburg, stop by Trader J’s and tell him Bill and Kit said howdy!

Around midafternoon, we grabbed a quick bite to eat at Bedouins Bistro…

                                    (From Google Images)

…where good food was the staple…

…followed by a slice of incredible Pecan Pie, made from an old family recipe that Kit failed to convince the owner to divulge.

Then it was back to the camper for a cocktail and an early turn in…goodnight!

 

Monday, December 23, 2019: Up and on the road at 0903 hours under overcast skies and a temperature of 46 degrees. Back on AZ-60 West and climbing in altitude…

…we enjoyed driving through a forest of Joshua Tree’s that line the highway.

A species of Yucca, these iconic plants of the American Southwest, grow in an altitude band of 1,300 feet to 5,900 feet and always look to me…

…as a figment of Doctor Seuss’s imagination.

About once a trip, while driving along a relatively straight, flat, and windless highway, an exercise I periodically undertake is to zero out the trucks MPG calculator and check the trucks fuel efficiency…

…12.3 MPG! Not bad for a 19,000-pound rig with a frontal area near the size of a billboard!

Around 1100 hours found us merging with I-40 continuing west, then at the crossroads town of Kingman, Arizona Kit and I choose to head north up the east side of The Colorado River by taking AZ-93.

Crossing the Colorado River via the Pat Tillman Bridge, we pulled into the Hoover Dam Lodge and Casino for a quick break…

…and where a scenic overview of Lake Mead can be enjoyed.

Yep, the lake is still historically low, the result of population growth and below average rainfall…yet this area is still being developed!

At 1244 we crossed the border of Nevada and entered the Pacific Time Zone, gaining an hour on the day.

Rolling through Bolder City, Nevada and dropping into the Las Vegas Valley, we found our way to Oasis RV Park situated on Las Vegas Boulevard, south of the famous Las Vegas Strip and set up camp for a two week stay.

Today is a big day for Kit and me as we finally reach the city where our daughter and her family live, and where we are looking forward to a nice Christmas…stay tuned.

Kit’s Bit’s: Yes, we’ve been looking forward to this day! We saw our 2 youngest Grands last summer however, it’s been 2 years since we’ve seen Suzie & Kevin! Our trip so far has been easy. Thanks to Bill who is so particular about getting everything on both the truck and trailer in tip top shape before we head out. I don’t mention it often but, I REALLY appreciate all the work he puts in to keep us safe on the road! I’m quite certain his attention to detail has kept us out of lots of precarious situations. We’re anxious to see the kids and share the holidays with them. Let The Wild Rumpus Begin!

Bill and Kit’s 2020 Excellent Adventure, Journal #2

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page
Saint Augustine

Friday, December 13, 2019-San Marcos, Texas: Woke to a beautiful Texas morning at Canyon Trails RV Park located in the town of San Marcos.

And why did we choose this particular campground? Well, it’s because of these fine Maine Snowbirds who winter over here.

Rey and Darlene live full time in their luxury fifth wheel camper. They also travel with a cute little guy by the name of Kobi…

… who unfortunately had to undergo doggie dental surgery and wasn’t his old self.

Kit and I spent the day visiting and taking care of maintenance items on our rig. Then at the appropriate blue hair dinner hour of 1630 we gathered with another Canyon Trails couple at the 54th Street watering house.

Rey, Darlene, Larry, Debra, Kit and I enjoyed ice cold Barley Pops and delicious Tavern Fare.

This local brewhouse had an incredible selection of draft offerings…

…of which I chose the Velvet Yeti from Great Divide Brewing Company.

Thick, rich and frothy…the perfect American Stout! In fact, it was so good, I enjoyed a second, what the heck, I’m not driving!

Back at the ranch, Texas Talk for the campground, we gathered in Rey and Darlene’s camper for a few nightcaps and more enjoyable socializing.

While walking back to our trailer in the gathering dusk, I noticed some timid deer that had left the protective cover of the woods…

… to graze in an adjacent field as the sun dipped below the western horizon…

…illuminating the rear of our camper in golden Alpenglow…

…which was followed by the full moon rising in the east…

…signaling that it was time to retire. Goodnight!

 

Saturday, December 14, 2019: Up, said our goodbyes to Rey and Darlene, and hit the road at 0850 hours under sunny skies and a temperature of 66 degrees.

Traveling south on I-35 Kit mentioned she would like to visit the world-famous Buc-ee’s. So, with my needing fuel, and Kit desiring some Retail Therapy, we pulled off the highway and made our way to the Texas sized service station.

With 120 fueling stations in two rows, it’s the largest gas station in the world.

Only a native Texan would think to build such a massive facility. The fuel prices are quite a bit lower than anywhere else…case in point, diesel was $2.55 a gallon where the current nationwide average is $3.32 a gallon. Filling my 36-gallon tank nets a savings of $27.72! Open 24 hours, the fuel flows day and night to the point where Buc-ee’s has a fleet of gasoline/diesel tankers that deliver fuel nonstop!

The associated convenience store is…yep, you guessed it, the largest convenience store in the world at 68,000 square feet

The above photo was taken inside the main entrance and only shows the right half the retail space! The store features 31 cash registers, a food court with 80 soft drink dispensers, and the “facilities” boasts 83 gleaming toilets!

Picking up various sundries, which seemed a bit odd to me as it was only Saturday, Kit and I continued our trek south on I-35. Nearing San Antonio, we merged onto I-10 and headed west meandering through the picturesque Texas Hill Country.

This area of Southcentral Texas is known as the demarcation line between the American Southeast and the American Southwest. As such it contains elements of both geographic regions and hosts Yucca, Prickly Pear Cactus, Juniper Evergreens, and majestic Live Oak’s. The region is noted for lush rolling hills, meandering streams, and a heavy influence of German culture. Kit and I have explored this area extensively over the years and hope to spend more time in this interesting section of the US, possibly on our return trip East in the spring of 2020.

During our days travel, I-10 continues to cleave through the Texas Hill country…

… on its way to the flatter, and more arid West Texas.

Kit and I enjoyed a pleasant and uneventful transit across the Texas plains with stops for fuel, rest and to stretch our legs a bit. After 345 miles, we pulled into another one of our preferred campgrounds, Fort Stockton RV Park, and set up for the evening.

We were pleased that the late afternoon temperature was a pleasant 82 degrees…the warmest it’s been all trip!

This campground is unique amongst RV parks in that it’s one of the few we’ve seen that features a nice little café on the premises…

…where southern fare is the specialty, such as their incredible chicken fried steak!

Drinks and desert, in the form of ice cream cups, are included for $7.95…hard to justify cooking in the camper after a long day of travel at those prices!

 

Sunday, December 15, 2019: Departed Fort Stockton at 0822 under sunny skies and a temperature of 62 degrees. Back on I-10 and continuing westerly we traveled the longest, and most boring segment of Texas. An area of little traffic and seemingly endless “pointy roads”.

You may notice the white dot in the upper part of the above photo. Yep, it’s the moon, still reflecting the early morning sunlight!

Long, flat, featureless highways seem to be more prone to vehicle mishaps…

…such as befell this hapless trucker.

As we neared the west end of Texas, the terrain begins to exhibit a bit more character…

…well by West Texas standards anyway.

Over the years, Kit and I have noticed less long-haul commercial truck traffic on the East-West Interstates, as opposed to those that traverse North and South.

It appears that east-west commerce is transported via railroad more often than hauled by trucks.

About an hour east of the New Mexico border a weather alert came across the trucks onboard computer indicating high winds. Pulling into a rest area we discovered that the winds were from the west and sustained at 18 MPH with gusts to 25 MPH. My personal threshold for driving this high-profile vehicle is 20 MPH, however with a headwind I determined it was reasonably safe to continue on, but at a reduced speed…which helped offset the wind effect on handling and fuel economy.

Not wanting to tempt fate and nearing our daily travel time/distance limit anyway, Kit called the campground at Fort Bliss Army Base. This military RV park has a first come, first served policy and she discovered there were only three campsites available. So, soldiering on (no pun intended) we battled (no pun intended) our way through increasingly heavy winds toward that objective.

Pulling off I-10 and onto I-375, which loops around the city of El Paso, we headed north and fifteen minutes later exited toward the Fort Bliss RV Park where we happily discovered that there was an available camp spot for us…

…so, we checked in at 1130 hours, and set up for a three-night stay.

Spent the rest of the day doing laundry, fixing a few items on the camper, and relaxing before enjoying a nice meal. Then it was off to bed…goodnight.

 

Monday, December 16 through Wednesday, December 18, 2019-Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas: This RV Park is another of our favorites. Primarily because it’s an inexpensive, clean, modern and a full featured RV Park. Since we are making pretty good progress toward our Christmas destination Kit and I decided to layover for a few days. That will allow time for us to fill the larder, attend to some domestic chores, see some of the sights, and take a breather from our daily travel routine.

On one of the days, we spent shopping at the commissary and Post Exchange.

A retail establishment that rivals any mall in the US! In addition to the huge Post Exchange, there are many smaller stores clustered about a large food court…

… that contains dozens of fast food offerings, as well as full featured restaurants.

At 4,900 square miles, Fort Bliss, in conjunction with White Sands Missile Range, is the US Army’s largest installation. It is home to the 1st Armored Division with a troop count in excess of 33,500 soldiers. The primary mission of Fort Bliss is to train soldiers in the use of Army weapons such as this M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank doing its thing in the hills north of El Paso.

Ironically, the 1st Armored Division was nicknamed “Old Ironsides” by its first commanding general after the Navy’s USS Constitution, a wooden-hulled, three-masted frigate who earned the mantle “Old Ironsides” during the War of 1812, due to her ability to withstand relentless cannon fire.

On base, there is a museum I took in while Kit enjoyed other pastimes that didn’t feature loud noisy machines.

The Fort Bliss and Old Ironsides Museum includes US Army weapons from various world wars, police actions, armed conflicts, skirmishes, peacekeeping scuffles, and other armed fracases…

…such as this 105mm Howitzer from WWII…and the M2A1 Halftrack that hauled it…

… which frankly would make a pretty nifty RV, especially with the .50 Caliber machine Gun sprouting from its roof to dissuade discourteous drivers from cutting you off in traffic! Over 13,500 M2 Halftracks were manufactured by the White Truck Company, they all sported 386CID truck engines that developed 148HP which produced speeds up to 50 MPH over rough terrain.

Also, of WWII vintage, was a M5 Light Battle Tank manufactured by the Cadillac Motorcar Corporation.

During the second world war, most automobile companies retooled to support and build equipment for the war effort. The M5 features two Cadillac V8 engines that propel the 33,907-pound tank to a speed of 36 MPH.

There was also a captured German Troop Carrier from WWII on display.

Which featured heavy armor around the troop compartment…but there was no roof!?!?

Seems like an engineering oversight that would put the troops in jeopardy from aerial assault.

Outside the museum, there were other US Army weapons on display…

…such as this M-60 Patton Main Battle Tank used during the Vietnam conflict…

…manufactured by the Chrysler Corporation.  Sporting a 105mm main gun, the M-60 is powered by a 750HP Turbo Diesel engine which propels the 100,000-pound tank to a top speed of 30 MPH.

Even though I’m partial to US Navy museums, I found this offering to be a very interesting collection of military history and hardware!

On another day, we took a ride around El Paso to do some shopping and stumbled upon a community Rose Garden.

Being winter, it wasn’t open…however being the Southwest, there were many rose bushes still in bloom!

Before returning to the camper, we happened upon a chain Mexican food place we had never heard of. And since it was past lunch, and since it appeared to be popular, we stopped in for a bite.

While Kit and I stood in line pondering our order, a very nice Hispanic woman realized we were Taco Tote novices and offered suggestions. Which turned out to be spot on!

The food was excellent, by chain restaurant standards, and the salsa, pepper, and chip bar were fresh and very well stocked!

On the final day in town, Kit and I visited the US Border Patrol Museum, a bit north of town.

Established in 1979 this national museum is dedicated to the men and women patrolling our nations boundaries…some of whom gave their lives in pursuit of their duties. The Border Patrol, currently an agency of The Department of Homeland Security, was established in 1904 and originally called Mounted Watchmen.

At 19,437 agents, the US Border Patrol is the largest law enforcement agency in the nation. Their original charter in the late 1800’s was to restrict the flow of illegal immigration from Chinese nationals, who were crossing our southern border in defiance of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

Agents not only patrol the borders, but also man checkpoints along southern highways…

…a practice that continues today. If you’ve traveled through the American Southwest within 100 miles of the Mexican border, you have been subjected to personal questioning and occasionally searching of your automobile.

The Border Patrol Museum features the many and varied vehicles used by agents in their line of duty.

I was surprised to learn that border surveillance by air has long been utilized to watch for illegal activity.

This helicopter was used to patrol the border south of El Paso in the 1940’s.

Another asset used by the Border Patrol is a bit unusual…a 1985 Pontiac Firebird 350 “Pursuit Vehicle”.

This high-performance muscle car was designed to chase automobiles that were engaged in illicit activity. However, the pursuit vehicle was not very practical, so this sole example was eventually relegated to public relations activities by being taken to schools and car shows as a recruiting tool.

Other automobiles in the Border Patrol inventory are items confiscated from drug traffickers who, in order to launder their ill-gotten gains, purchased exotic sports cars or classic vehicles such as this 1930 Ford Model A Rumble Seat Coupe.

Most confiscated automobiles are sold at public auctions with the proceeds going back into the Border Patrol budget…however this fully restored Model A found a home in the museum.

Today, the US Border has a modern and capable mobile arsenal to use…

… in patrolling the land and water boundaries of the United States against illegal activity. In addition to the above, the Border Patrol uses off road vehicles, video surveillance, tethered blimps, thermal and motion sensing devices, agents on horseback, drones, and good old-fashioned foot patrol to guard our borders. And, today their mission remains to combat drug trafficking and capture any person entering the United States illegally.

On the other side of the law, drug and human traffickers use novel and usually homemade contraptions to illegally enter the US.

Yep, motorized hang-gliders, powered scooters, makeshift boats, and low slung and highly muffled go-cart’s…

…with side baskets for prone humans or bundles of drugs.

Or, during illegal human entry, some aliens try and use fake cow hooves made of wood attached to huarache sandals.

Which the illegal migrants would use to mooooove along, but doesn’t fool the border patrol agents one bit.

The majority of agents are minorities, and many of those are of Hispanic origin, some of whom immigrated to the US legally and worked toward their US citizenship before becoming agents.

Many miles of border contain no fencing, and some with little vehicle deterrent, so the agents of the Border Patrol serve a valuable function in helping minimize drugs or illegal aliens from entering our country.

As an historical side note, in the early 1960’s, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, took advantage of the proximity and experience of Border Patrol agents by deputizing them to enforce school integration in the deep south.

A great museum dedicated to the men and women of the US Border Patrol…don’t miss it if your travels find you in the El Paso, Texas area!

Well, its been a nice stopover, but tomorrow we must continue west, so as the sunsets behind our camper…

…we bid all a goodnight.

Kit’s Bit’s: Fortunately, our trip has gone very smoothly, so far. Other than Houston traffic, we’ve been able to get through or around all of the larger cities easily. There weren’t any problems in Houston, just a LOT of traffic during the middle of the day. Our visit with Rey & Darlene and Larry & Debra was fun. Hope to see them in Maine this summer. We enjoyed our short stay at Fort Bliss. It has always been a good stop to take a couple days of rest. Heading west in the morning!