Friday, October 03, 2014

RV Holiday Rambler to Pacific Northwest September 2nd 2014

 Preparation:
With over 70,000 miles on the now vintage 2004 Holiday Rambler motor coach, it has grown 'long in the tooth'. Repairing and re-enforcing the two battery isolation switches, after one separated under internal spring pressure, was only one matter of which to attend after storage from last trip through the southern states.

The puzzling loss of battery voltage at the switch, led to the cost saving method of drilling and installing 4-40 nuts and extended bolts, rather than the four screws into the grey plastic base section. These battery isolation switches cost between $50 and $100 each, so time and ingenuity is preferable in our situation.

Upon entry into the stored coach, I discovered that during storage, one motorized sun visor had dropped loose on one end. A piece of nylon strapping found all over lumber stores, fixed the problem. Due to the linear engineering nature of strapping tape, the holes must be melted and enlarged for the screws that hold the strap loops up to the structure above the dashboard. These visors are long, heavy motor powered devises. I took the added precaution of re-enforcing both ends of both visors, using the strap tape.

The 60 gallon fresh water tank had been filled previous to warm weather storage... just in case. Now the reservoir must be treated with Chlorine bleach. I add one cup for the 60 gallons. we never drink the water from the taps. It is only for washing and bathing, so the mild temporary Chlorine odor from the initial water supply does not bother us. A pressure test follows with a test of the water heating systems. We have both AC and Propane heat. Testing of the furnace powered by Propane, as well as the refrigeration unit for food and the two roof AC's, ensures a comfortable trip.

The coach, house battery bank of  four, six volt golf cart batteries now six years old, require periodic addition of distilled water, as they are left on a  large 'float' maintenance charger, designed to fluctuate the storage voltage for longevity. We do not use the Xantrax converter/inverter as a power for battery storage unit. Not only is it hard on the batteries, it degrades the expensive Xantrax unit that provides power to the coach for battery charging and inverting for AC to watch TV.

The chassis battery (starts the motor and provides engine electrical, driving lights, etc) has it's own dedicated charger I added to 'float' the maintenance voltage. Both charger/maintainers were a worthwhile investment, as the batteries are lasting well. This time the addition of a half gallon of distilled water was required for the four batteries. A round mirror fitted with a support wire, enables me to view the water level in each cell as I add the water from a large squeeze bottle and tubing. A device that I fabricated.

Tires are another concern. Most tire failures are due to low air pressure overheating the tires. Causes are numerous and often traced to the extensions installed to make it easier to access the Schraeder valve. One such incident was from a service facility not tightening the extension onto the valve. At first I suspected a puncture. Further investigation and re-tightening the extensions, repaired the air loss problem. Do Not trust service facilities completely, they are humans and make errors.

We carry our own small Craftsman oil type piston compressor, capable of 110 # of air, with 50' of hose and two separate gauges to verify inflation. 110# is the requirement for these 22.5" tires. Air compressors were commonly available at all service and fuel facilities... no longer. While traveling and stopped for brief periods and before rolling each day, I take a minute to 'whack' the dual tires with an aluminum bat to check for the 'ring' of fully inflated tires. duals are deceiving, one can temporarily support the load while the other disintegrates from the heat of under inflation, thus destroying the other. After storage from last spring trip, all Michlen tires were near 110# and little additional air pressure was required.

Noted the gradual leakage from a holding tank knife valve had accumulated in clear section above secondary knife valve that we added as redundancy. The small amount of leakage ceases as we travel and systematically use the valves. City water pressure applied, to test faucets and toilet valve.

Added one cup of Clorox to fresh water tank of 60 gallons and ran more fresh water in to mix. We only use supply for washing and flushing, we don't drink water from holding tank, use only bottled water from Dollar Tree $1 a gallon and refill our sturdy personal bottles. When on city water and separate filter faucet is clear, we sometimes use that water for consumption in cooking or drinking..... if good tasting.

Tested the propane water heater system and the refrigerator on propane. Started and ran for 20 minutes, the generator and the chassis engine. tested the Xantrax inverter to 120 volts. Before stored, a qt of difficult to find due to environmentalists, Marvel Mystery Oil was added to 75 gal fuel tank on last fill before driving 6 miles as generator was operated, so everything started up easily. Fuel pumps last longer if fuel has a bit of lube. Upper cylinder and fuel injectors also respond well, if slightly lubed. I add a qt of Mystery Oil to a full tank of fuel when refueling.

Wet basement has a remote holding systems monitor that was not functioning. Removed the little panel and discovered a loose, red 12 volt wire from test switch, due to wrong connector. Repaired the connector with proper sized spade and all LED's lit up.

On our way to Pacific Northwest:
Left Albuquerque New Mexico at 2:20pm on way to Farmington NM, our first night camp in the Sam's Club parking lot. Fuel price increased overnight by .05 to $3.45 per gallon. Quiet night and leave Farmington west through Shiprock NM and turn North toward Cortez Colorado. Fascinating driving along and looking at the beautiful desert the Navajos call home. Colorado gives way to irrigation from McPhee reservoir and the fields planted with crops, including corn and hay, are doing excellent.

Utah begins in the southeast from the Four Corners, where Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico state lines converge with it's modest rock formations and builds in crescendo past Monticello, as the uplifts of 'Range and Basin' become ever more apparent. Moab Utah. This small adventure tourism town that specializes in 4x4 rentals and tours, begins the real exposure of drastic and rapid 'Climate Change' over the millennia. Dozens of vertical multi-colored layer cakes of strata, forms a great background to the scenic horizons. The vertical uplifts of earth's layers and deep slot canyons are a wonder to behold for everyone that see's this magnificent geology.

Moab is just the beginning. Arches National Park is a side trip not to be missed. Golden Age Pass is available at the entrance for those that qualify. The paved highway tour is well worth any amount and time. The earth torturing Range and Basin effect is described, with a view of the separated rift feature easily seen from the top of the first cliff overlook, thousands of feet higher than the valley canyon.

Following northward, the scenery just keeps inspiring. Green River Utah State Park is our destination for overnight camp. Do not confuse with the Green River Campground Dinosaur monument National Park. Although on the other side of the river and bearing a similar name and looking fascinating, it is hundreds of driving miles in distance. Tourists, especially those meeting family, learn the hard way.

Green River itself is always brown from the continual erosion of sediment from the sandstone upstream, is known for irrigation growing local watermelons around Green River the town. I assembled my bike and rode to the nearby store for a melon and a six pack of beer. Heavy distraction on a bike..

9-4-14 leave Green River Utah:
After breakfast and refill fresh water, dumping the holding tanks, we headed North toward Salt Lake City. No loaded freight trains were plodding up the Price Canyon when we passed through on this trip. Economies are often judged by freight movement. The historic little town of Helper is named for it's extra locomotives and crews that assist the long heavy 'consists' of freight cars over and down from Soldier Summit.

On approach to Salt Lake City, a difference is noted. The area is growing, 2nd fastest in the nation. One of the prime drivers is the Tech Demand. Utah is leading the nation's rate of growth, 7 times the average. From the first southernmost vestiges of the dynamic valley, to the current last northern developments, we logged easily over 100 miles. Spanish Fork was not an especially busy town three years ago. Now, as the unhindered economic snake of progress and building links the valley together, it hosts yet another Costco...... and it's better fuel prices.

We failed to count the numerous Costco's along this 120 mile and growing, corridor of powerful economic development, as it continually extends, now over a million population with 17% added since 2000. We stay periodically at the Willard Bay RV park next to the south marina. The water level enclosed within the earthen dam is about 18 feet lower than three years ago. Smaller boats can still launch. Entrance fee, just to look around, is ten dollars if caught by an enthused camp host or ranger. The docks and launch ramp are presently laying flat on dirt. Last trip, large boats were at the docks.

Willard Bay is the fresh water for irrigating the valley. It is divided from the Great Salt Lake by a causeway about 20 miles long. Wiper, a delicious laboratory fish of 2 crossbred Bass, is sterile, really fights on the sports line. Several other species of fish are stocked, even thriving during this drought cycle, when cyclic mountain snowfall has not produced the run-off of years past.

Smith and Edwards is a great store nearby. One that offers vast omni browsing for whatever one might need, specializing in, but not limited to sporting goods for the adventuresome outdoors oriented. Leaving after our 'spree' of browsing and purchasing a few items from this always interesting mega store, that includes surplus equipment and a large hardware dept, we motor on north.

Idaho Falls Idaho:
 It's Snake River 'falls' are interesting, photogenic and have a story about the historic services to cross the river during the gold rush days,extending into the Copper rush that built the infrastructure of electrical power lines and copper wiring for the USA.

The days of prosperity due to mining, are waning across many areas today. Blame restrictions, regulations and govt 'control' for the environmentalists planned demise of scarring the earth practices. Environmentalists seemingly forget the amazing nation, the USA built by the practices they today despise. The city park is busy with farmers markets on Saturdays. We parked overnight at the Sam's Club, after fueling for $3.50 a gallon and nearby propane fill, to last our trip.

46 years ago Navigator and I were married, so we celebrated our anniversary with a shared delicious house sirloin steak at Applebee's. We walked around Sam's, looking at jewelry as if we were buying Nav a well deserved  anniversary gift, before leaving their parking lot RV 'camp'.

Butte Montana:
Our next days target, is another western state route of desolation that unnerves many tourists. The lack of trucks is noted on this trip. Steep hills and low gears are common. Butte was the site of the deep mines of Copper ore, later the open pits, so despised by environmentalists. They seemingly have no understanding of developing a nation through the industrial age and it's needs, which includes electrical energy transmitted and controlled through 'Copper'.

Clark, a name seen often through this area, is notable as one of the 'Copper Kings' who gained immense political power, even became a US Senator for one term. Anaconda Copper survives to this day within other international companies, primarily in other countries more favorable to mining. Clark's only surviving (one died of meningitis) daughter, Hugette Clark died at 104 in 2011, leaving a few mansions that were seldom occupied, though meticulously maintained. She lived out her later years back east, in seclusion and secrecy, while her legal 'handlers' prospered from her father's wealth. The 'Clark' name is on regional rivers and many landmarks today.

Walmart 'camp' is across the street from the cemetery where famous motorcycle daredevil showman 'Evel Knevel' is buried. Last trip, I paid my respects, as a former motor cycle rider naturally would.

Missoula Montana:
Our next goal for the day's driving. Costco fuel and lunch of polish dog and pizza, were the target. After fill of fuel and drive for evening camp.

 'Sloway' National Campground, for $5 with no hook-ups. Nice little campground and quiet, except for an occasional Union Pacific freight, hauling 100 car 'consists' including periodic Boeing airliner fuselages along the Clark Fork River. Rode the bike around the quiet little camp, as I visited with a few campers. Steel boxes placed separate for food storage, keep the tent camper's food away from their tents. ....Bears...

Each night's temperature is ten degrees lower, as we drive further north. Last night at Butte was 35 degrees. Fall is approaching the northern states.
9-7-14 passing freight of 111 'well' cars moving containers west (empty?) noted at 3pm while in Sloway campground. Another passed at 4:15 pm with 96 cars loaded hopper cars with three engines pull, one pusher. Another freight at midnight.

White packets of pheromone chemistry, MCH organic, to fool the Beatles infesting the pine trees. Most trees had at least one packet, tacked about 6' high. 41 degrees morning as Missoula is lower than Butte Montana. Costco was very crowded and fuel $3.53. Cheaper than three years ago.

9-18-14 left Sloway National Park Campground:
Westward on I-90 over Lookout Summit, after leaving the Clark Fork River Valley of Montana. Roadside point of interest, informed of the 1910 forest fire that consumed over 3,000,000 acres of forest. 3 Million acres is a big fire. 30 years worth of USA's annual vehicular CO2, all produced in one big blaze.

EDWARD PULASKI:
Kellogg Fire 1910
Famous firefighter, saved his firefighters (85 others perished) by leading them into a mine shaft until the conflagration had subsided. After a beautiful scenic drive through this forested mountain area, we stopped at Kellogg Idaho for lunch just off highway. Also, as Navigator had noted 3 years ago, they have city provided RV holding tank dump station, with fresh water fill. Leave donation to keep it operating. Very nice.

9-8-14 Kellogg to Coeur d'Alene Idaho:
Pleasant drive with increasing traffic on approach to this tourism destination. The beautiful lake in the mountains attracts people from around the world. We passed through on our way toward Spokane Washington, where we turned north toward  Wenatche Washington, near the Columbia River Valley irrigation that produces a major portion of the nation's fruit.

The vast fields of wheat seen from horizon to horizon on last trip, irrigated by the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River, were already harvested on this trip, weeks later in the year. No great fields of waving grain, they had already been harvested. Only horizon to horizon tilled soil ready for the winter crops. We then changed our plan.

Detouring away from the eventual pass through the Wenatchee Valley Columbia Riverside forests of Apple and other fruits, turned south on Hwy 17 for overnight in Sun Lake Washington State Park. Surprised at price of $42 on dirt and gravel, albeit with hook-ups under trees. The lake is close and popular with swimming visitors and camps of recreational groups. Rode the bike around the area to ascertain it's main reason for visitors... the lake.... provided by the Columbia River water.

A Deer family were puzzled by me on a bike. Casually looking around, not noticing the Deer, until I was within their group, they allowed me to ride in among them before wandering away. Handlebars appear as antlers?

9-9-14 Moses Lake Washington, destination south:
After change in plans considering the $55 ferry transport to Whidbey Island and the ensuing traffic around the cities, in contrast the drive along the river lakes fed by the Columbia River, was different and interesting. Foam along the shore of the lake was apparently natural. Moses Lake Washington, with one of the largest air facilities in the USA initiated by WWII bomber training, even currently used by Boeing for tests, was at one time included in a plan for a spaceport that never occurred. Long runway, over 13,000' and lots of infrastructure in anticipation. Prolific irrigation from Grand Coulee Dam, now provides for a lot of agriculture. This entire area of the northwest, formerly arid desert, is dependent on the magnificent Columbia River and it's several great dams for irrigation and prosperity.

Kennewick Washington... fuel at Costco:
$3.64 on the Washington side of the Columbia. The Dalles is on the south side, along our new route plan. Rail freight is prolific along the Columbia River, both sides have several long trains with seven engines pulling and more pushing, several in view at a time. Natural Geology is magnificent along the river. We never fail to be amazed by the views ever changing as we travel the big river. Volcanic lava formed the entire Pacific West Coast. The remains of the ancient violence are fertile and breathtaking.

Memaloose State Park:
A nice camping park along the river, was noted by Nav from former trips. Trees and more trees is the Western Oregon state, as approach to the Pacific is made. Memaloose begins the tree concept in the Columbia River valley. Tourist friendly 'Ranger Talks' describing the Columbia River Gorge and history, are seasonal. Bike ride around the hilly park was exercise before bed. $28 and far more pleasant than previous night's camp in $42 Sun Lake RV park in Washington State, other side of the Columbia River.

Memaloose was an Indian name referring to the nearby burial site of the dead, on an island now in the river after damming. The Columbia River valley is sustainable economically, only because of damming. There are those extremely vocal and political people that want the dams, all dams removed from the USA. They apparently care not, in actuality hold contempt for the prosperity and sustenance of US civilization.

Portland Oregon 9-10-14:
Check out Multnomah Falls:
Our goal after Memaloose camp.
Navigator noted a truck bypass. Do Not take the truck route. You will get a long extended tour of Portland's port and transportation facility. It is huge and traffic of trucks keep you busy avoiding them. Portland is just that, a large port for international shipping. Always thriving, it is a city to avoid in a large motor coach. We were warned about camping in Walmart. Two security guards that warned us, are required to protect the store after closing ... early. Highway 30 west of Portland is nice, a pleasant drive, even with occasional log trucks, but do not do the truck routes.

Astoria Oregon:
To cross over the wonderful Astoria-Meglar Bridge, is a real adventure always enjoyed, especially when lashed by storms. The wide Columbia River flows under the 6.5 mile long (including end approaches) bridge, with it's elevated section for big ships to pass beneath in the 44' to 55' deep channel. Three US Coastguard ships are stationed here.

Do not miss the Maritime Museum in Astoria. It is constantly growing with excellent world class exhibits, including historic boats from the US Coastguard, a Pilot transport boat over 90' long, Lighthouse ship and others.

Chinook and Ilwaco Washington:
We enjoy the river drive through Chinook and Ilwaco. The narrow twisty road on entrance to Cape Disappointment State Park. is fascinating with brief glimpses of the water through the trees. $54 for two nights only, was the availability for this well designed, multi spoke wheel concept, popular RV and camping park on the shore of the beautiful Pacific Ocean.

Winter storms change the shoreline from year to year, with large logs tossed randomly among the dunes and trees. Ft Canby with it's restored facilities including a rifled, swivel disappearing cannon from 1904 accessible today, is the fort's name after change in the first part of the 1900's. The RV campground itself was changed back to Cape Disappointment, a term from the first failed attempt at exploration by ship.

"O the Joy" were the Lewis and Clark party words documented on presumably seeing the vast "Ocian' from the first view of open water of the estuary, still 20 miles from the real lookout point above Cape Disappointment within the current State Park.

8 am waiting in line, was our only way to obtain an extension with a site move. We took another two nights so that we could tour the Washington Long Beach Peninsula. Always interesting to visit the little settlements along the highway north. Fireworks displays are said to be immense during the 4th of July on the long beach. The recent building boom has even caused the newer houses to be more densely constructed within their various enclaves. Several newer enclaves are wisely positioned inland and on elevated parcels of land above the shoreline... Tsunamis..

One structure on the northern peninsula shoreline, a curiosity that really attracted Navigator and her camera, caused us to drive the firm beach sand, (28 miles long, 2nd longest in the world), in our Honda-Jeep. The 'water tower' of legal description, more suspiciously resembles a lighthouse. Owned by a wealthy Salt Lake businessman, it is a piece of his shoreline empire that encloses the national park end of the peninsula ???

'Jack's Country Store' is more like a large frontier trading post. Every conceivable item is sold at Jacks. If a local resident, no need to ever go to a city for supplies. Jacks has everything. They quickly fill orders from online query's or phone calls.

Our ocean front site, back in the camping RV park, is only a few steps from the black sand beach. The 'Wagon Wheel' repeated design allows many people to camp near the shoreline and listen to the waves roar. The roar of the ocean always lulls us to sleep. Totally fascinating for us as desert dwellers, we were spell bound on the first visit. In spite of our several trips, this beach never looses it's allure.

Navigator noted only 10.5 VDC on our house batteries. Usually they read 12.8 VDC while no load. I dragged out the meters and read each 6 volt battery separately under load and determined that two paralleled batteries were indeed lower than 6 volts due to parasitic drag by one to the other. By reconfiguring the cables and using the stronger two batteries in series, I was able to restore over 12 VDC temporarily.

A trip to Astoria/Warrenton Oregon for four Golf Cart battery replacements at $320 with no tax, followed the local Seaside battery shop's price of $200 more than Costco. Would have been charitable to support local Washington Peninsula business, but we left that to the wealthy philanthropists camping on the peninsula. Big guy at Costco lifted out the old set and installed the new set of four Interstate batteries into place. I did the cable connections to my cabling drawing. The old set was six years old, cost $200 when Sam's Club  ABQ installed them. Note the inflation? Self controlling Maintenance charger during storage and periodic addition of distilled water, kept the longevity longer than average.

After the restoration of voltage, Navigator and I ate lunch in Costco $3.51. No sales Tax in Oregon, so the necessities are somewhat cheaper. While in Warrenton Oregon, Goodwill Charity nearby had a few small 'treasures'. Ft Stevens State Park, our next camp, is first come first serve. We drove back to Cape Disappointment to our campsite.

Nav and I trekked the nearby path of pod #2, to the black sand beach for a last view of the ocean and the lighthouse of North Head. Just a few years ago she could walk the beach and enjoyed it dearly. No longer able. The Chinese lifeboat that we monitored for many years as storms relocated it each winter, is reduced to random shreds of orange fiberglass rubble and the little rusted lump of diesel engine is presently sitting upright in the sand near the pod #2 pathway. Time changes everything. Rode the bike around the extensive popular campsites before nightfall.

9-12-14:
Lined up, first in line early at office for our next site in the front grassy park with no hook-ups. Still quiet and nice on grass. Paved entrance road continues up the hill to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and the US Coast Guard Station, as well as the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. We were able to obtain the wifi code from 'Serious Pizza store, across the way, near the entrance. Nice owner with wife works hard to run the little store they refurbished and make great pizzas. Years ago he had the little shack near the lecture site of Waikiki Beach, near the entrance curve to the camping pods. The storm ravaged little beach was named after a ship's sailing crew member from Hawaii, years ago.

Battery voltage dropping again. Nav alerted me to low readings on little Walmart digital meter that we keep plugged into lighter socket while dry camping. I had failed to fully tighten the nuts on the cables. After minor adjustment, the voltage held high throughout the entire trip.

Drove into nearby harbor village of Ilwaco for excellent fish and chips, lunch at 'Ole Bobs' on the harbor. Fishing has been excellent this year, allowing creativity in selection. We had fish and chips (fries). Saturday, so the little harbor-side trade booths were set up. Lots of crafts, art, specialty foods and other trinkets are interesting. 'Harbor Lights' motel and cafe is for sale now, as is seen more and more as we travel. A formerly thriving business is now closing it's extensive nautical gift shop as well. Signs of the 'change' the voters brought upon themselves?
Returned to Cape Disappointment for one last quiet night before moving south across the Columbia River. The only disappointment is that our ocean side time is limited.

9-14-14:
Broke camp and dumped our tanks at the RV dump site back in the park. Nav watched as a class C rental unit, driven by an impatient young man, filled the fresh water tank of his unit,.... using the sewerage brown tank flush out hose at the dump station... Yuk. She mentioned that she would not like to be the next renter of that unit. Oh well, with age comes wisdom...sometimes.

Drove our rig one last time south across the beautiful Astoria-Meglar bridge to Astoria. It is under continual restoration, so a slight delay. Ft Stevens near Warrenton opens early, so we wanted to get a site of preference, or at least close. They are all nice sites, albeit smaller and tighter than Cape Disappointment State Park back on the north shore. Still nicely positioned on circular loop paved roads embraced by big trees. Ft Stevens itself is fascinating to explore in All of it's many emplacements.

Several  driving and walking tours around the various and extensive, historical concrete structures, that at times over the years, guarded the Columbia River on both sides including river front, from attack until 1947 when they were decommissioned, proves very educational each visit. The Pacific Northwest was well guarded, even lightly attacked a couple of times during WWII.

Highly technical, the revolutionary for their time, massive swiveling articulated 'hiding' rifled cannons, were controlled by DC electric motors (thick, high amperage cables still hang from the ceilings in concrete cannon chambers) and triangulation co-ordinates, electrically transmitted by written character recognition technology, similar to the president's electronic pen today. This is all especially remarkable, seeing as it was in use over 100 years ago, installed in years following the Civil War of the USA. War drives technology is fact.

Now begins our trip south on hwy 101 along  The OregonCoast:
Ft Stevens, Warrenton Oregon 9-14-14:
Two nights in coastal forest a distance from the beach, for $54 with basic electrical hook-ups, was very pleasant in spite of being more densely configured, in comparison to several other random places we have visited over the years. Summer season has scheduled Ranger Talks, especially on weekends. 'Graveyard of the Pacific' describes the hundreds of shipwrecks around the mouth of the Columbia River. Thousands if including the surrounding area. Coast Guards from around the world come to the Columbia River to train at the periodically, violent currents area of the offshore 'Bar', where the out flowing, river meets incoming tide during the winter storms.

Warrenton Oregon was 'Abacore Tuna and fries' in a tavern not far from the park entrance, along with a bit of treasure hunting in charity thrift shops. Returned to coach, rode the bike around the entire park and an evening of logging our trip and reading before a quiet night.

9-15-14:
Breakfast, with electric heater to take the night chill off the coach interior, after which we explored the South Jetty. Still in awe of the Jetties of the Columbia River. These massive rock structures were constructed during the 1800's, using railroad cars to haul the 30 ton 'Armor stones' out over the ocean, to be dumped in place, preventing the ocean from changing the channel current while enabling the river to flush the deep water passages for maritime navigation by huge freighters.

 Rebuilt many years ago, leaving the trestles in place visible today across 'Trestle Bay', they are scheduled for future restoration as planned with funding set aside in 2005. The 40 ton volcanic basalt Armor Stones originally came from Idaho by barge, before being loaded aboard specially constructed, dumping rail cars pulled and pushed by small steam locomotives, as the trestles and rails were continually extended miles out into the ocean. Men of steel, with nerves to match? Even rescuing shipwreck victims..

Peter Iredale:
The 1906 shipwreck's prow is still visible, extending up from the sandy beach. An Iron hulled sailing ship, it ran aground over 100 years ago. Storms this last winter exposed the long buried keel temporarily. The iron plates were savaged from the hull many long years ago. The bowsprit was cut away for safety. The rudder is exhibited in the Astoria maritime museum. Climbed the observation deck while Navigator waited, taking pictures from the Honda-Jeep.
Drove out to the riverside beach and watched a large ocean freighter leave Young's Bay for the river mouth.

Noted Driver's License had expired and drove to Astoria to find out if we could contact New Mexico DMV for extension? Not possible. Easier to acquire an Oregon DL for 9 years, than NM 1 year from out of state. I just drove very carefully rest of trip, not desiring police attention.

Thrift store treasures such as old fishing reels hunted, then return to Ft Stevens and chilly coach, requiring the electric heater again.

9-16-14: through 9-19:
 Left Ft Stevens State Park and drove the interesting coastal 101 south, bypassing Seaside, Cannon Beach and other tourist busy towns. The highway elevated often on volcanic rock bluffs far above the beach, has turnouts to view the ocean. Manzinita is one of the beautiful beach areas seen from the 101 highway.
Kelly's Brighton Marina, along the tourism oriented historic railway leading from Garibaldi Oregon (tall historic smokestack from old mill) to Wheeler. (Note the Oregon coastal map on this 'Wheeler' website).

We love the ambiance of this little privately owned fishing and crabbing harbor. Kelly and his wife run it now. His mom owns the next fishing harbor south, so they have the experience required to manage the busy little marina, provide crabs, boats and gear for fishing for whatever is in season (closed during winter). Kelly boiled a large Dungeness Crab ($23) for Nav and I to share for supper in the coach. I hiked the railway and picked about 5 pounds of wild blackberries as the sun set. Only one night stay, after a bit of exploring back up the coast in the Honda as far as quaint little Wheeler Oregon where we have found treasures in the past, we left Kelly's reluctantly the next day.

Tillamook River RV Park:
Base for two nights as we explore the capes, Tillamook and points further back north. Noted that prices are rising as rapidly inflation affected Obama Dollars (Carter economics) do not go very far. Even thrift stores are feeling the rising costs, as their expenses are rising faster than their sales, they are being forced to re-invent themselves into boutiques, how this will play out financially is anyone's guess..

Last time we stayed in this little park with dikes holding the tidal river back, a big Blue Heron electrocuted itself on the power transformer. It sounded like an explosion and knocked out power for the afternoon. Eagles have nested and raised their young in the trees nearby. Nehalem recycle center 'Re-Store' has organized and raised prices. Interesting discards, but no longer attractive for our needs. 'Terrible Tilly' the name acquired by the notorious Tillamook Lighthouse, attests to the violent storms that periodically play with the volcanic lava Oregon Coast.

9-19-14 leave Tillamook River RV camp:
Proceed south on 101, past Oceanside, Netarts, Pacific City, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, working toward
Newport Harbor Marina:
70 miles south on 101 is always beautiful to drive. Each curve presents a panorama of coastal ocean scenery all of the way south to the great coastal sand dunes. The artistic Newport bridge is always a fascination to see after an absence. Found my old 'Popeye' the sailor man. Keith and I discussed the marina as if we had never changed subjects over the years. He is aging as I am. His Samoan wife is still working for the marina, as is Keith. They live aboard their comfortable sailing boat, as they have since arrival, sailing from the Philippines many years ago when we first met. Keith also owns a beautifully restored lifeboat that is moored next to his sailing cruiser.

We discussed the numerous boats that are being neglected during these economically weak times. 'Silent Running', a beautiful sailing cruiser that was meticulously maintained three years ago, is now falling into the status of neglect. Walking the docks for many years, I recognize many of the same boats at dock. Not a good economy time for recreational sailing.

Commercial and sport fishing are doing extremely well. The effect of the China Industrial Revolution is feeding nutrients to the Arctic Ocean and the source of molecular life. Those cells in turn feed the chain of marine life upward. Fishing is great. I observed a man wheeling a load of sleek Tuna to the cleaning table, then for sale to the restaurant business. He had returned from the 35 mile horizon, where the big fish lurk. Environmentalists refer to the airborne iron compounds released from China, as 'pollution' and desire it being 'controlled', their only response to everything they do not fully comprehend.

Sea Lions are still barking across the harbor. They survive and multiply, protected by law on the harbor jetty and the docks. One grabbed a little girl from dock, as her dad unloaded their sport fishing boat. After taken down, the Sea Lion released her to survive. The harbor front shops are interesting and Mo's is still thriving with waiting lines for their Clam Chowder and fish dinners.

9-20 to 922:
Trip back north to Lincoln City in the Honda Tow, where we prowl around a few favorite places and have Fish lunch. Another trip back upstream along the navigable river to the logging town of Toledo Oregon, named by the son of an early businessman. The sun missed Toledo Ohio. Structures of pilings from long ago, all along the river, harks back to the days of Yaquina River steamboats.

 Following the Yaquina River upstream nine miles from Newport to Toledo, a small (population 3,600) relatively deep navigable water port town of historic note as a lumber logging mecca in the days before the world's 'do gooder' tree lovers. Toledo was at one time, lasting almost a hundred years, thriving and logs were floating 24-7 in hundreds of 'rafts' downriver from the surrounding mountains of the Cascades, to the rail terminals and barges.

Feeding the lumber demand of a building nation, was Toledo's role, 'back in the day' ending in the 1960's. The Yaquina River is still structured with the vertical pilings that tied off the log rafts awaiting transport and the countless docks and piers serving the needs of the accompanying Toledo boat building industry. A profitable business that also thrived from the spruce production. Fishing, the west coast's bread and butter, drove the boat demands.

 WWI aircraft were also built from spruce processed in Toledo Oregon. 'Spruce Goose' as well? Toledo hosts a 'Wooden Boat' gathering each year. The excellent little museum featuring equipment dating back to early logging, has multitudes of pictures of life in Toledo from the early days.

Toledo was one of many great little business opportunity cities that were scattered across the USA. All that is near dead now, except for a processing mill that seems to generate sawdust slurry for particle board, more than logs for lumber. The little tourism oriented 'Art' colony now depends on tourists to buy 'stuff' for it's existence. A town that is reminiscent of a 1950's town, is pleasant to experience.

The mountains surrounding Toledo are now becoming overgrown with timber, getting prepared for massive forest fires whenever drought cycles? 'Save the Trees' is in reality setting them up for total destruction and waste, while adding mega tons of CO2 to the atmosphere. Sometimes universities and their misguided special interest groups, create the problems they then fight by passing counterproductive laws, while they wring  their hands attempting to solve the problems they create?

Navigator discovered a few unique items in one little museum like shop, the home to a nice cat with blue eyes. The shop owner, retired Marine was happy to sell his first items in the last three days. One item was a little old paddle with wooden chickens that pecked the seeds when the paddle was gently swung in a circle. Is that different or not ? :>)

Toledo is near the beginning of the longest highway across America, a multi-state linked system ending near Boston. Highway 20 is the western end of that historic road from east to west. Two lanes of mostly blacktop, it winds over 300 miles through the Cascade Mountains and crosses the Oregon desert into Idaho.

We are checking this desolate route, little used but scenic over the mountains, as an alternative route bypassing smoky (logging prohibited) and therefore burning, northern California. Being a narrow, twisty two lane, hwy 20 is not motor coach friendly. Neither is coastal highway 101 in some areas, but that is our chosen scenic route along the pacific coast of Oregon.

Today we ate burgers for lunch, passing up the fish and chips temporarily. :>) Tomorrow we plan to head south for further adventures, leaving our beloved historic 'Conde McCullough' master engineered bridge of Newport and checking out the beautiful Pacific coast of Oregon.

9-22-14 Salmon Harbor, Winchester Bay:
The drive south was Oregon coastline fine and filled with photo opportunities. Re-Fuel at Florence Oregon, the beginning of the north end of the Oregon National Sand Dunes Recreation area (really Big dunes with forests growing all over them) that extend visibly along the highway for over 20 miles. As the dunes grow, by wind that increasingly blows sand inland, the pine trees and other species take root and climb ever higher, some over 500'. Small fresh water lakes and lagoons are spread throughout the dunes inland.

This area encourages ATV and motorcycles, rather than discriminate against the riders. Winchester Bay facilities nearby offers rentals for those that do not bring their own 'Off Highway Vehicles'. No telling if the environmentalists will force legislation to end this sport, thereby eliminating the livelihood of the numerous campgrounds and motels, restaurants and little stores catering to the excited tourists that arrive from all over the nation. Fishing attracts even more goal oriented visitors.

The beautiful Umpqua lighthouse, inland from the ocean, with it's majestic Fresnel lens, still operates. Restored for the benefit of tourism, now managed by Douglas County, it is a short distance from the harbor. A small supportive gift shop is located in the museum, a former US Coast Guard residence. Modern navigation has little need for such historic methods. Since 2012, the US Coast Guard no longer maintains the restored Historic Umpqua River lighthouse and facilities. Some absolute fool in a drug induced or drunken stupor, shot at the historic First Order Fresnel lens and damaged it several years ago.

I watched as the 'Pearl J' offloaded it's fish from it's hold packed in ice. The lift operator places the container where the forklift places it on the scale. The operator then collects the data onto his smart device for recording. Only a small note pad backs up the reading. A boat from 'Deadliest Catch', Grizzly, a deep water fishing boat, is also docked here when not in Alaska. Did not see 'Ocian' this trip. With the fishing so good along the Pacific Coast, the big boats can earn easier profit out of Winchester Bay?

Rates, $30 for two nights, for overnight on the huge parking lot with no facilities, are double what they were three years ago. Another sign of the decreasing value of Obama dollars. $10 to dump and a limit of only 20 customers per day, set the stage for our departure early.
A 'Wolf Creek' brand camper in front of us, has a hybrid Wolf for a pet.

9-23-14:
Drove north back to Reedsport for treasure hunting in small shops and a delicious take-out Blackberry pie from the bakery in the old part of town near the river, while partaking of their wifi.

Returned to Winchester Bay:
 Brought a 'Fish and Chips' from the floating Cafe 'Ungar's Bay Fish and Chips' owned by Cassie, who now also operates the Blue Heron tavern in Coos Bay.We took the excellent dinner to the coach for our evening meal. The ducks still are hanging out near the little floating cafe.

Talking to a true sailing aficionado at the dock late in the afternoon, was a very interesting four hour marathon of exchange between our cultures, history and political differences of opinion. He has ridden a bicycle from British Columbia to Saskatchewan in the past. A liberal Canadian pensioner, employed by govt all of his life, we had our differences. He has sailed to Mexico and Hawaii and returned to British Columbia, his home port as a 'live aboard'. This cruise is to San Francisco and across the Pacific Ocean on the 'trade winds' documented by Murray' after the WWII years.

One hundred years of sailing knowledge accumulated from hundreds of sea going ocean captains, Murray compiled the first sailing charts necessary for the success of every sailing vessel today.

Kevin brought out his charts, showed me the intricacies of the winds and ocean currents during our discussions. Described in detail his 40 foot fiberglass double ender vessel with it's Yanmar auxiliary diesel engine. Built in Indonesia, purchased in an estate sale in British Columbia where it harbors near Victoria. The full height cabin ceiling is inlaid strips of fine teak, as is the fit and finish of the cabinetry.

Kevin designed and installed a heat transfer system to bring the propane heated air inside the cabin, lower to the floor where the chill settles. It is his compact, efficient home afloat. Rare is the privilege to meet an intelligent person like Kevin, rarer still to be invited aboard. Weather is about as expected this time of year on the Oregon coast. 59 degrees and cloudy days, cooled and rained all night.

The boats that are neglected in this wet harbor, show it fast with green growing 'fur' over all of the decks and lines. Birds and their excrement add to the accumulation of neglect, creating questionably, a work of art? Kevin noted his own active vessel accumulating a bit of 'furry' growth on it's surfaces as he awaits in harbor, the favorable north winds to drive his 40' sailing craft further south, then turn west to Hawaii and then, Kevin mentioned as if a common natural occurrence, circumnavigate the world.. 

The woman owner of the 'Staten Yacht' a Pirate ship facsimile, is living aboard temporarily and restoring it for sale after her husband passed away. The mast had to be cut away to save the structure after rot. Deck house must be replaced and numerous items need attention.Hull is fiberglass and has just been restored in dry dock. It is for sale as an interesting boat ...suitable for a movie?

Navigator and I drove back to Reedsport in the tow, 3 miles back north. A crippled tourist town dependent on tourism and fishing,  several of the formerly prosperous, small tourist malls (small buildings with several vendors) were now closed. A couple businesses remain that we recognized from past trips.A few eating establishments such as McDonald's.

Now we are headed to Coo's Bay and plan to camp in the casino lot free for two nights before deciding what direction to proceed. Home is one option, due to my expired driver's license not renewable on line, crossing into regulatory obsessed California, especially with our two little travelers (turtle and bird) is now extremely risky. Cassie now also operates 'The Blue Heron' in Coos Bay. Unger's Bay Fish and Chips has been her specialty for many years. It still is a fine dining on the water, floating cafe, so I am sure the Blue Heron, with it's German menu, is excellent as well..

9-24-14 Coos Bay Oregon:
It took a short amount of time to drive the rig the scenic 25 or so miles south from Winchester Bay, to the harbor town of Coos Bay. The first item of interest is another impressive coastal Oregon bridge. A large bow tie shaped green array of steel girders set in place among concrete ramp structures many years ago, it does form a high clearance for shipping, a majestic scene over the harbor entrance of North Bend.

The harbor itself is an abstract horseshoe of large proportion, that wraps around and forms the front street of the city facing inland away from the ocean. At one time the city was right on the harbor docks, but a massive fire removed the city location, to a few blocks away from the harbor waterfront and brought about the new city, wisely built of bricks rather than volatile wooden frame structures.

The main reason for the city's early existence, was the harbor and connected waterways to enable trade goods from San Francisco to arrive by way of ship. Coal and timber were Coos Bay products. The overland routes from the interior of Oregon were long and twisty mountain trails for wagons and horses.

Timber was and still is the main ingredient in the city's economics. The individual mills at one time numbered in the hundreds of small enterprises. The railroads were of course drawn like a magnet and further changed Coos Bay's economy into a politically powerful economic demographic.

With the acquisitions by the politically powerful Timber Barons, two main mills today survived the uncertainties of economic times and gradually acquired the small units. Simpson family was one noted in history. One beautiful estate overlooking the wave ravaged entrance to the stormy harbor, was burned to the ground during misfortunes of the once powerful Simpson family. A ship wreck on the rocks below the high bluff, provided the lumber to rebuild the large home, site to several lavish parties for the elite. The creative and expansive garden structure survives today as an Oregon state park, open to visitors.... for a fee.

Today we drove out past the early port town of Charleston, where we had fish and chips at a small family owned facility near their small popular harbor, to the Simpson Point. An artist's dream, where the river bar meets the tides in a jumble of large volcanic rocks littered with seals, seal lions and every other related sea going mammal. Did you know that the 'Elephant' Sea Lion (with it's big floppy nose) can dive to over 4,000 feet deep? It weighs up to 5,000 pounds... wet.

The average Sea Lion can weigh up to only 2,000 pounds. A virtual lightweight in comparison. The diminutive common Seal is a furry toy. They all congregate at one time or another on these inhospitable rocks lashed with ferocious wave action. We watched a few surfers brave the rocky vertical shoreline to impress themselves with their skill at surviving the surf, which today was running high, before it crashed onto subsurface, ancient volcanic flow rocks. Craft punishing waves approaching 19 feet, were reported on the 'bar', that often violent section where outgoing river meets incoming ocean tidal cycles.

Navigator and I tour this area each time we pass through, over the several years of our travels. Today we find relatively few treasures in the charity thrift shops everywhere we stop, a vast difference from even several years ago, when more wealth resulted in more quality discards.

The overall prosperity from the logging of the surrounding tree covered mountains where rain falls in abundance, is still evident, but ever more advanced mechanization removes the human element from the equation. Demands for ever rising wages, made from the vocal and politically motivated, have the end result in ever more machines to replace costly  humans.

The surviving big mills are still churning huge numbers of logs into timbers, but machines do the work formerly requiring large teams of manpower. We watch endless trucks with logs go into the large wood facilities, as others leave stacked with precision cut lumber for industrial demand elsewhere.

The Japanese ships that are fully automated, loading logs from their own Oregon mountainsides, bought many long years ago for the express purpose of growing timber, still rule the harbor in volume exported.

The highly technical, automated ships process the Japanese owned logs, cut on their own bought and payed for mountain forests of Oregon, as a floating mill. The cargo then moves out of port while the onboard mills continue operating 24-7. Destined to various demanding cities, including LA and SFO. The milled lumber is to spec, demanded by Home Depo and any other quantity buyers.

 The Oregonians rage among themselves politically, at the audacity of Japan to be so creative and deprive Oregonians of the jobs and timber, Oregonians self righteously demand as..... theirs.

The boardwalk has on display tied to the docks, several very large ocean tugs used in maneuvering the big ships in the deep 'turning basin' of Coos Bay. Several other smaller ships of historic nature, not as bulky, but still interesting, are on display as well. All orderly arrayed in the general area near the city center, easily accessed by tourists.

Our formerly free overnight campsite in the large and open gravel parking lot of the Old Mill Casino, on the former site of a large dockside lumber mill, now charges $15 a night for the parking lot dry camp. Up until a year or so ago, it was free, as the overnight guests used the Casino facilities and played it's games of chance.

Apparently the 'new economy' with it's free services for the rapidly expanding numbers of underprivileged, no longer covers the amenities once offered free to the taxPayers. A common scene, now that the reality of Obama dollars dropping value requires a lot more wealth redistribution.... to buy everything of value.

We will leave the Oregon coast tomorrow, heading inland for a couple of reasons, including state of California border restrictions involving Nav's little bird. Reluctant also to enter California and it's smoky fire engulfed landscape from 'Saving' too many trees, leaving the forest to burn, we are contemplating foregoing our beloved Brookings Harbor in Oregon's southern banana belt. Perhaps another time in the future?

9-25-14 Coos Bay to Medford Oregon:
About 200 miles in 4 hours. Beautiful two lane highway with improvements in progress. Green trees, bushes, grass is closest to the coast. Less fungi inland, along with more tree variations. Meeting oncoming Log trucks every few minutes indicates a strong local economy.

One estate sale near Mertyl Oregon, with home in the forest overlooking a small river, resulted in a few little treasures and nice conversation with elderly lady. Nav wanted to buy the little house in the forest :>) Continue on to Medford Oregon. Prosperity obvious where logging and ranching is active. Lots of contented cows and green pastures.

Carl's Jr burgers 2 for $5 with country music, first heard since Montana week of trip. Walmart at north end of Medford on Crater Lake highway is best for parking lot 'camp'. Newer store, Eagle Point further out than the busy city store. Drove back into city center for thrift store hunt and treasures.

9-26-14 leave Medford Oregon.
Costco fuel was $3.49 per gallon fill, then take highway 140 east toward NM. Beautiful drive over the Cascade Mountains passes near a mile high. Lots of lower gear... up and back down.

Klamath:
 is 4,000' altitude and cold in winter.  Medford lower and milder winter. Where Medford with it's lumber mills and manufacturing appears prosperous, Klamath Falls appears distressed. Homeless in abundance on day we were passing through, defines Klamath, as does vacant store fronts. Rail terminals should provide some resources? The city center is attractive with inlaid bricks crosswalks and restored brick store fronts, cafes. Nice city park shows that they are trying.

Wendy's lunch and leave for Lakeview 90 miles away on highway 140 now a narrow two lane, with ongoing construction straightening out the curves through the mountain passes. Farmland that requires irrigation to grow crops. Easily becomes desert without water from mountain snow. Fields of hay, beef cattle and many horses dot the landscape.

Lakeview County Fair was open for camping, easing doubts of Navigator for finding a suitable evening site.. $5 for the night in parking lot with no facilities. Quiet 'camp' and a local gun show was setting up for Saturday. I walked through and enjoyed the pre-show in the little display hall, before returning to coach for the night.

9-27-14 Saturday leave Lakeview Oregon:
Windy night in the fairground. Nice to get rolling again after breakfast. Forests covered the eastern slope of the mountain as we growled and twisted our way to elevation of 6,000'.

Desolation valley after the forest. One particular climb of a long 'shelf',  growled the coach to about 3,000' + above the valley floor, with no real hard edge on the narrow two lane highway. Long way to roll if a mistake was made. I assume a few have rolled their way to the bottom?

Met about 24 vehicles and one 18 wheeler on the entire trip east out of Lakeview Oregon. The climbs revealed a wide spread valley with high mesas that resembled the moon. Only irrigation saves it from desert. Nav drove onward toward busy hwy 95, where we turn south to Winimucca Nevada and Interstate 80. Hank Snow "I been everywhere man" comes to mind when we hear Winimucca.

Casinos and fuel at $3.45 Flying J. Cod specials at Long John Silver's before truckin' away to Elko Nevada. Prosperity more apparent in Nevada, where they mine the earth quietly out of sight of the environmentalists and gamble their paychecks.

Elko Nevada is Walmart camp, leave 9-28-14:
On the hill just off the highway, Walmart is easy to find. We love Walmart. Camping is cheap and supplies are just a walk away. I usually spend time wandering the aisles and gathering a few items like Marvel Mystery Oil, the machinery saving oil added to fuel, that is rarely found in eco-obsessed states like California.

After breakfast we roll down the exit hill and across more moonscape toward Wendover Utah. As we top out on approach to the Great Salt Lake Desert, we are greeted with a vast expanse of ... water. First time we have seen the flat salt soaking wet. 100 miles of shallow soaked wet salt with periodic tracks leading off the highway where drivers have fallen asleep at the wheel. This is one long flat, straight highway. I can imagine the repairs to fix the salt encrusted mechanicals after a fast ride into the salt slop followed by a quick stop. Big rigs temporarily leave their front end fiberglass behind as markers.

The same storm that soaked Phoenix, soaked the Great Salt Lake Desert, leaving it a dirty beige, rather than the pristine white normally observed. Salt tolerant weeds thrive when it rains. No intricately flying rocketry was seen this trip. Dugway proving ground puts on a show periodically, that can easily be watched from the highway across the salt desert.

Approaching Salt Lake City, Morton Salt is busily harvesting 'product'. Dealing with salt. Eat the stuff, it's prolific here. Kennicott is busy with it's huge complexes of whatevers, producing more of what it sells. Looks like it is on break today, as we drive past the large infrastructures and around the mountain toward the Salt Lake itself.

Our goal is Spanish Fork where we fueled on trip to the west. This time Nv took us on a shortcut.  Today fuel was cheaper at $3.21. Spanish Fork, which has developed rapidly over the last years, is at the southern end of the 100 mile corridor that relates and intertwines economically to Salt Lake City.

The Salt Lake itself is only a small remaining percentage of the large basin that was formerly a vast inland sea. We ate Costco Polish Dog and Pizza before continuing on to Green River Utah State Park, where we camped on way northwest four weeks ago.

The vast expanses of earth's resultant plate tectonics causing geologic uplifts, are really brilliantly lighted as the sun sets. The layer cake of strata from eons of 'Climate Change' are outstanding. Range and Basin western states geology is photogenic today.

South to 7,000' Soldier Summit pass, into Price Canyon, following the railroads down to lower elevation, rewarded us with a few trains today. Our campsite was tight in between trees. Rain and hail followed our registration. I had to put the bike away fast and watch the storm from inside the coach.

Navigator extracted the coach from the greedy trees as I monitored from outside. Dumped the tanks and headed toward New Mexico by way of Moab and Monticello, Southwestern Colorado's irrigated farmland, through simpler landscape to Shiprock NM and turn east back to Farmington NM for the night camp in Sam's Club.

Fuel was $3.45 at Farmington Sam's, due to four corners fuel price controls, historically by one family. Nav found ABQ fuel 'Gas Buddy' at $2.94, so we only added enough to make it to ABQ. Sam's ABQ fill, a quart of  Marvel Mystery Oil added and home to park in driveway for 2 days of unloading. While engine was still warm, I crawled beneath the coach to grease the 13 fittings, drain the oil and change the filter. Fill with new oil and refill the batteries with distilled water. Even new, they took 16 ounces for each of the four batteries totaling 1/2 gallon.

Unloading treasures and supplies took two days. Chores, mowing the tall grass in the back yard and restoring other necessities, takes a bit of unwind time after an extended trip. The horizons seen, memories to store, are worth every penny spent. What an amazing country, The United States of America, One Nation Under God. God Bless .

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

RV New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia

Changed oil in the tow Honda-Jeep. Coach, did that along with all lubes last fall. Finishing the packing for a spring coach tour of the south. Leave at High Noon, drive to Roswell for 1st night camp at Sam's Walmart. 
Texas route, until we see what the weather is doing to the east. We avoid snow, ice and tornadoes.

As we travel, the weather forecast is our guide. Sometimes we are hunkered down in our bed, as we watch on the late night news, storms close by or around us.


 So far we have always taken successful evasive measures, with navigator on the computer and I driving one way or another, 100-200 miles or more, to get away from the advancing storm tracks, if they appear menacing.

Although periodically close, the storms have missed us by enough distance to be comfortable. One time, navigator wife overruled my 1st choice (I was tired) to park (camp:>) overnight in the Walmart lot, due to late arrival, instead of down in the nearby valley, where fun Tannehill Iron Works State Park is located in Alabama.


We hooked up to the power and sat in our coach after arrival. The ranger had told us to hurry, settle in and head for the shelter, while "Sireens" (sirens) were wailing loudly. We stayed in the coach and watched, as the RV'ers all congregated in the nearby park laundry building. It was 100 feet away, a crowded metal shed. It looked as vulnerable in the big trees as our coach and not nearly as comfy.

They watched us, we watched them... While we watched on the computer, as the swirling storm passed overhead and wiped the Tuscaloosa Walmart away. Good thing I didn't argue with her about the camping choice.

another note: this original blog, referring to the old northern Midwest term for going to the movies, 'Going to see DA Flikkers', began in 2006 while working on set of 'Comanche Moon', 'Lonesome Dove' prequel It has just passed the 70,000 'Hits', viewers mark http://daflikkers.blogspot.com/2014/02/knives-and-kids-back-in-day.html   Actually it is far more, due to a reset in the main counter about a year later.
One of the others, Blogengeezer. wordpress.com started much later and has military stories, is about 1/4th that, at over 18,000 in visitors. The other four are negligible in thousands, as I do not post much of change on them. They are primarily for storage of information I have researched, or family stories.

BTW 'Flikkers' are 'girls' in parts of the Netherlands, so that may explain the popularity of 'Da Flikkers'... until they see no girls :>)


After driving from Albuquerque to Roswell for one night 'camp', we stayed at Sam's Club 'camp' Roswell first night. Wind came up fast and grocery baskets rolling about 20 mph, hit the side of Honda-Jeep. big damage for Crown Coachworks to repair when we get home.

 San Angelo Spring Creek City Park, near pleasant Lake Nasworthy for the next quiet night, is one of our favorite overnight dry camps. Periodically feral animals of many types and many birds visit the area in early morning and late dusk. Morning we topped with fuel at Sam's Club.

Leaving San Angelo after a brief check of local charity thrift stores for 'treasures', for uneventful, easy day's drive, we are
now parked in Alamo KOA San Antonio on the third night of this extended trip. 

A pair of exotic 'Egyptian Geese' (along with many other animal exotics) escaped
from a nearby mansion across the creek. A big estate filed with rare critters. A valuable estate that the owner recently turned over in a deal with the city. Texans are great that way. When they can and are prosperous they share agreeably with everyone.

The tall lean brownish Geese with colorful wings, have had three babies near the KOA pond/swamp/river, where wild ducks have always lived.  They wander the RV camp on their daily excursions, babies following closely. Navigator wife took their picture.

44 deg this morning in San Antonio, sure beats the 29 deg yesterday morn in San Angelo.

Sunshiny days, mild to enjoy while rolling in our own private tour bus navigated and driven by professionals :>)

 
We are scheduled for four nights at Alamo KOA before moving .....to wherever.

 
Rode my bike on a trail before dusk. Slept like an Egyptian mummy last night. Today is 'out and about', checking a few charity thrift stores for treasures :>)

Tomorrow is scheduled for checking out the model train show in nearby New Braunfels.
We like model trains. Train shows are mostly for Duffers.
Kids are rare in train shows, except for our grand kids, who like trains.
Most kids today have no desire for anything they cannot
carry in their hand and talk to their friends 24-7 :>)

Will discuss progress again, as we find connections along the way :>)


Awoke to about 60 degrees and breezy this Sunday morn in San Antonio. Brkfst and head back to the train show to see if any last day deals. They had over 1,800 visitors at $7 a person and it wasn't over yet.

Found the last couple of small HO bargain engines and some random pieces of wooden Brio track that the young grandkids enjoy on the carpet at our home when they visit.

 Lunch, shared a plate at a small local New Braunfels Bar B Q joint, then drove around, looking for an elusive charity thrift store, before heading home to our KOA.

We boogy out tomorrow
after dumping 7 days of full holding tanks, including showers, two 30 gal holding tanks. A dubious record. I sure hope that the untested dump valves work, after the long winter storage with glycol anti freeze to prevent sticking and freeze.

 Heading south towards Corpus Christi. There are a couple of reservoir lakes north of Corpus. Last time we stayed at Choke Canyon South state RV park, White Tail Deer came around and hung out near our dinette window. They had babies with them. Awwww. :>)

The always busy, many thousands of Texas oil patch workers periodically take up a lot of the state park spaces. They must move every so often, due to time limits on camping, so they don't like state park camping, as much as long term local RV parks... fortunate for seasonal campers like ourselves.

North Padre Island National Seashore is nice to look at in spring, but not very pleasant to stay, in comparison to the wonderfully mild fall. Spring wind blows sand in your face, and into every nook and cranny. If in the mood for shore camp, we only stay one night on the outer barrier islands for the ocean shore ambiance in spring, then move back into the mild inner mainland for camping.

 The millions of fascinating little Sand crabs running sideways during the day and large Ghost Crabs after dark, running along the shoreline in the fall, are not as obvious in the cooler spring.
Navigator wife likes to shop in a few large stores in Corpus. They seem to always have great seasonal sales on nice lines of clothing in nav's size. Again, we forgot to bring our warmer coats we may need. Had them laying out, forgot them. Maybe it will not get cold?

Noticed a black couple, in a big diesel motorcoach next to ours last night. A large organization plaque on the back, 'African American RV Association'. Can you imagine the media perpetrated outrage, if we had one, 'Anglo-Saxon RV Association'?..
 

Awoke to about 60 degrees and breezy this Sunday morn. Breakfast and head back to the train show, to see if any last day deals. They had over 1,800 visitors at $7 a person and it wasn't over yet. Pass was for two days.

Found the last couple of small HO bargain engines and some random pieces of wooden Brio track that the young grandkids enjoy on the carpet at our home when they visit.

 Lunch, shared a plate at a small local New Braunfels Bar B Q joint, then drove around, looking for an elusive charity thrift store before heading home to our KOA. 


Leaving San Antonio KOA:

Left San Antonio, drove south. Stayed in Corpus Christi Lake State Park for two nights 50 miles north of CC. A wild pig, Javelina leisurely walked in front of our coach as we settled in for the night. Kind of shiny, clean and pretty, with big ruffled collar and coarse hair down his spine. Navigator's camera was not handy. Quickly searching, she became ruffled herself.

Drove Honda into C.C. for one day of shopping and seeing the goings on at the Gulf ocean at North Padre Island. Wind blowing and making pretty good sized waves around Bob Hall Pier. Their cameras sometimes function for on-line views.  Wind Chute para-sailing on surf boards is popular in the Inter Coastal Waterway. They really get 'air'...... 20 vertical feet of it. 

After leaving Corpus Christi, Walmart was our camp night at Rockport, along the coastal bend north of Corpus Christi. Noisy and lighted in the section I chose. Bad choice my fault.

Stayed for one night in Brazo Bend State Park near Houston. That is one great RV camp with large sites, hiking and biking trails, an observatory, even though nearly impossible to find highway signage directing campers. Alligators that have populated the area for millions of years, take away fish from the anglers (free fishing at Texas State Parks).

Wife got a good set of pics and video of one close alligator, as he tried to swallow his pilfered Catfish whole. Another Alligator chased him, to grab away his fish. All on her vid.
The next morning several Gators near the fishing pier, were all growling, bellowing to one another. Probably talking about 'the one that got away' :>)

Last time we were in the park, a really big Alligator was devouring a somewhat smaller Gator, as wildlife photographers from as far away as France, had flown in to document the many days long event. They eat each other, all of the time, so the population number never gets really large. Some aggressive gators get 'Really' large. Maybe humans should use that approach? If it ever starts, do not appear too Luscious:>)

They had no open sites for the busy reserved weekend, so we pulled out. Texas RV campers are avid and fill all of the State Park sites every weekend. The water and electric RV sites, everything, even primitive, are filled with tents and families camping.

Then after being turned away from Ft Sam Houston State Park in Lake Charles Louisiana, and no sign of existence of Jelly Stone RV Park listed on GPS, we just parked in an old outlet mall for the night. Tonight we finally found a real commercial RV park for couple of nights.

People next site (sites are close in real RV parks) are chain smokers, so we can't open our windows on their side. Their entire rig Stinks. It is permeated from the inside out with Cancer rot. That perpetually smoking rig will require demolition after they are finished saturating every nook and cranny of it.  It oozes the stale tobacco essence into a blurry haze of hazmat zone surrounding their site and periodically engulfing ours...........

We really love State Parks.
State Parks are our first choice, but this will have to do, as the S.P.s are all filled for the weekend.

Stuck in a traffic jam yesterday. Fifty miles and half a tank of fuel later, trying to find an alternate route, we progressed only about 25 miles, before pulling into that old nearly abandoned Vanity Fair outlet mall west of LaFayette Louisiana for that night. Fueled at a nearby casino truck stop for $3.16 today.

Traffic jam was caused by a truck loaded with orange juice, that had overturned and burned on the only I-10 bridge over Lake Charles Louisiana. The hazmats and EPA shut down the entire eastbound highway for the rest of the day, just to be sure that it was 'safe'? Louisiana has some of the worst highways. Especially the concrete squares that bounce the whole rig repeatedly for endless miles of 'Ballup-ballup-ballup'

Remember that senator (another 'for the people' Democrat) that had portions of about a million or so in govt corruption stashed in his mansion? He made the Louisiana National Guard drive him through the flood waters, in order for him to retrieve his secret suitcases of cash.

 Too bad some of his govt-personal fortunes never make it to the highway construction. Same 'mystery engineering' events over the years, happened to the levees around 'Nawlins'.

After driving about 500 miles from San Antonio across the Texas state line, another couple hundred to Slidell Louisiana, tomorrow we drive the toad into 'Nawlins' for the day. Maybe lunch at Mulates? :>)

New Orleans:
Quiet night and late breakfast after a bit of difficult computer time on park wifi. This place is thick with popups and spam that invest every aspect of time on Nav's laptop. We never saw so much evil ad-ware that attempts to block, take over and infest each episode of internet time. It even tries to block access to Norton for cleansing. What causes so much nastiness in secular humanity?

Nav spends much time de-spamming the system. Ripping out piece by piece, blocking their viral infestations with every tool she can find. Trust absolutely nothing. It all is fake and designed to look like the real websites. Even a fake Norton that flashed wildly while resisting all attempts to remove it.

We left RV park at ten AM in toad. Drove over Lake Pontchartrain I-10 bridge causeway for about ten miles, until the other side of more miles, 30 minutes to New Orleans from our old ex KOA, (now named something else). An RV campground where office is always closed. Hurricane Katrina destroyed a lot of infrastructure. Lots of things changed, not all for the better.


Everything about New Orleans is costly in comparison to other places we visit. This little RV site next to the 'smoking hulk' neighbor, was $44 each night. Lunch shared at Mulates (Moo-lots) was $42 for the 'One' shared entree and one shared bread pudding desert.

Traffic through French Quarter one way alleys, is a bumper crawl, with thousands of people walking every where, on every street/alley of the French Quarter. Our goal was the French 'Market', with it's 1/4th mile of little booths set up under a series of roofed enclosures near the railroad and trolley line terminal.

 A snack in the food section of the French Market, was $13 for a shared basket of plump (Bubba Gump:>) shrimp and crawfish, delicious Cajun style. Great taste, difficult to eat the meat, seperate from the little legs and heads, crispy exoskeletons and long antennae. Fingers end up with an orange stain that smells very tasty.

Lots of Mardi Gras paraphernalia. VooDoo stuff is popular. Lots of baby Gator heads of various sizes. Not sure they would sell, back in ABQ? Mardi Gras masks of every description. Peg bought 3 ornately feathered style, to sell in her mall space back in ABQ.

Noted the ornate porcelain styled masks she had bought at Goodwill in San Antonio for $4, were over $20 in the booths of Nawlins French Market. Bought a few unique gifts for grand kid's Christmas. Probably something they will not like, but WTH, we are always thinking of them, hoping they will one day see the real USA we are experiencing, as we travel.

One attractive young girl walked in front of us, decorated in body paint and little else. Tits were painted flowers and not sure she wore very tight hot pants.... or paint. Nav said she had on tight short shorts, I'm not so sure. Nav didn't have her camera.

We saw painted Mimes and other costumed folks wandering the streets. Normal attire for 'special' folks, or something else special? Crawfish Festival is in process, maybe the entertainers?
Bad horn players endlessly repeat, 'It Aint necessarily so'.... from Porgy and Bess. Street entertainers are common (Buskers).
The Fleur De Lei symbol is everywhere New Orleans Saints is depicted. Reminds me of Boy Scouts of America :>)

If a wrong turn is made in the French Quarter, it takes about 15 minutes to correct the error. Most times we end up back where we started, due to one way streets that are designed to endlessly circle the French Quarter through it's tight one way alleys. No Parking spaces empty, other than several blocks from where we want to visit.

 Finally found a convenient $10 lot, elevated near the trolley tracks, for two hours.... or more. Near the French Market where we want to visit. Nav's walking distance is limited, but she managed to accomplish the exploration and return to the Honda Jeep.

Canal Street and the main downtown of 'Nawlins' is radically different from the historic old French Quarter, with it's narrow one way alleys. Modern highrises of downtown, that could survive any storm, are organized in wide city street patterns and tree covered boulevards that are easy to navigate... on a Sunday.

 Mulates is near the Convention Center, not far from Harrah's Casino Hotel. Close to the big attraction of port facilities and shops near the Caribbean tour ship docks (also on the trolley line). Facility river walk shops are being rebuilt and due to open in 2014. Damaged by Katrina?

note: French Quarter is relative high ground and did not flood during the hurricane. Massive Seawalls are surrounding the vast area of little old homes (painted in wild color combinations) below sea level, near the high walled shipping canal, a short distance from the French Quarter. Several are now boutique restaurants.

French architects/engineers knew about the historic sea levels and their drastically varying nature?


After our 3:30 PM Mulates Cajun sampler experience of Gator (tastes like chicken), Shrimp, Crayfish, Tillapia, Calamari, meat rolls, stuffed toad stools (Mushrooms) and Frog legs (Cajun Music starts at 7 PM), we consult GPS wisdom for route home across Lake Pontchartrain. That is one large lake. Width is horizon to horizon. Temp tonight is 60 degrees, falling with cool breeze from the north.

Plan is for Eastward morning through Biloxi Miss, along Gulf Coast, where I spent time in USAF at Keesler AFB. We heard that the hurricane wiped the numerous old southern mansions off the seashore, leaving only the old concrete steps.

Toodles until we find another hot spot, hopefully not so internet infectious evil as 'Nawlins' :>)


Louisiana Mississippi Alabama Florida:

Leaving Louisiana's New Orleans ambiance, we motored east along the Mississippi coast, until we located the beach road near Biloxi where I spent some time as a young SSgt at Keesler AFB. 

A few of the old stone mansions are still standing, after Hurricane Ivan randomly swept away whatever it had a taste for. The state condemned the rest. As young airmen many years ago, we rode the coast highway bus off duty.... for ten cents a day, as we periodically paused, to swim in the gulf.

 Enterprising folks and corporations with a penchant for rewarding financial risk with cheaper land values, have now rebuilt massive structures on most of the vacant lots. Modern high rise condos, apts, new Mc Mansions, multi story, as well as low profile business buildings now replace the old vulnerable structures. Obviously they don't believe the false hype,'No End in Sight', that mega hurricanes are the forever danger? 

National Geographic headlines front page after Katrina, declared with Al Gore's intuitive intelligence for taxing for personal financial gain and Hollywood's movie graphics, they would always be an ever more devastating way of life now... and forever. 

Silly geese, they have been totally wrong (contrived) and now are always busily seeking new politically remedied ''tax will fix it', dangers to mankind.

We crossed from Louisiana, to Mississippi, through Alabama into Florida. Four states, all within six hours. Neither of us had ever been to Fla, so it was very interesting. Snow white beaches, aqua water shallows, close above the white sand shoreline and deeper blue further out. 

We headed for Pensacola and the barrier island of Santa Rosa. It is all  part  of the Gulf Islands National Seashore along the coast, extending from Brownsville Texas. Our Golden Age Nat Park Pass got us in and gave us 50% off camping. All after crossing the causeway and high bridge for $1 toll, past navy ships and museum naval displays. WWII aircraft carrier. Aircraft of many models, including the venerable SR-71 Blackbird sitting out in the weather sadly :.. >(.

The white glistening beaches began millions of years ago, high in the Appalachian Mountains, as Granite rock. As the millions of years and erosion by rivers distance, wore and flushed it's impurities away, only the intensely hard, pure Quartz crystals remained on the migration. Viola... white Florida Gulf Sand beaches.

Our overnight site was in 'A loop' of this National Park. We could only stay one night for $13. The loops really have a lot of sites, but all were taken, due to the spring break and seasonal snowbirds on winter months escape from the cold northern states.

 Interesting that hurricanes and floods have periodically built and cyclically worn down, these barrier islands from 90' foot sand dunes documented in the 1500's, to 30' dunes today. For some reason, tough small but sturdy trees, have clung tenaciously, in spite of the harsh conditions that have left them looking prehistoric. Periodic flooding can leave a couple of feet of water covering the campgrounds, especially lower B loop during storms.

We parked in among one little grove of trees among birds that have figured out the cycles of horrific, periodic gulf storms. Ospreys had a nest high in dead standing trees near our site. They enjoy the fishing. We saw one large fish laying on the road, where an Osprey had lost it's grip. 

The habitat on the gulf barrier islands is various, bio-diversified from gulf ocean beaches to inner waterway harbor lagoons, dunes, fresh water lagoons and ponds, small dense forests of hardy  trees and salt marshes. All attract their individual forms of life. Lots of critters. 

American Indians of the previous 5,000 years, fared on the barrier islands with limited sporadic success... between cyclic storms, leaving only traces of their settlements. National Geographic's prophecies periodically got them?

Nearby Ft Pickens was a very fascinating morning's tour, that we really enjoyed. Never knew the significance of these other coastal port guarding forts, built after the war of 1812, only of which Ft Mchenry is recalled by most of the historically astute.... of our generation.

The damage from the 8,000# of powder that exploded accidentally is still visible, obliterating a segment of the five pointed star shape, common to these historic castle designed forts.

 The original brick structures were eventually rendered obsolete, with ever heavier, up to 20 mile range rifled cannons, beginning at the end of the US Civil War, modern cannons that shook the massive brick mounts to pieces. The later cannon revetments, countless structures are  poured concrete that are still in place today. A few artillery pieces are displayed in their original mounts. Reminiscent of the coasts of Normandy.

Interesting facts about the forts construction, consuming over 20 million bricks and five years of slave labor. Civil War, WWI and WWII. The only 2 people documented ever killed, were in accidents. One in the  big explosion and another when an artillery piece broke loose upon firing, flew down the steps and killed the gun commander.

 The only time they were used in warfare, was against the US Confederates that attempted to force them into surrender during the Civil War. The forts were controlled by Federal Union forces, although Florida was a Confederate State.
Ukraine could learn from USA history.

Leave Pensacola, along the barrier Island to the east. After driving past miles, miles and miles of white sand beaches with numerous visitor parking facilities, crossing another high bridge to the mainland, we eventually approached Tallahassee Fla.

 One long circumference detour looped us right back to the starting point, a joke or lack of detour planning  skills? 

One education degree is evident for a lifetime of success and prosperity, Highway Engineering is ongoing all across the USA. We have never been on a trip where highways were not being rebuilt to ever greater magnificence.

Tallahassee has a Sam's Club with quiet overnight camping and $3.16 gas. We took the Honda Jeep, explored Tallahassee and it's Goodwill charity stores for the afternoon. Florida charity stores have really great stuff.

 Amazing sets of high dollar Noritake dishes for cheap. Computers, Nav bought one for RV campground use. A Dell laptop. Windows 7 features newer and more upgraded than her own, for $170... I'm on it now.Many old folks die in Fl and leave all to Goodwill? We are spoiled now. No Goodwills will ever compare to Florida's.

Left Fla and began more casual trekking north toward Chattanooga Tenn. Staying in Walmarts RV camps along the way :>) Cheap and quiet was the common experience :>) Fuel was no more than $3.27 per gal so far. 

Nice highways through some really classic US countrysides of pristine farms and settlements
Cows were separated from their new spring calves, that were sequestered in their individual small 'doggie' houses. Georgia is Cow friendly. Logging is ongoing across these treesy states, with the tall, fast growing Lob lolly Pines, cut and loaded onto trucks traveling along the endlessly reforested area's highways.

Arriving at our Holiday RV Park outside Chattanooga Tenn after 5pm, we are now leisurely set for the next four nights, as we explore our environment. Georgia is one day's plan, to acquire some imported antique 'look alikes', for Nav's mall space. Many people do not care, they want the 'old' look for ambiance...... at cheap prices. Navigator wife happily obliges :>)

Chattanooga Tennessee:
Our realm for today is our coach. Laundry and a thorough cleaning, took up a major portion as we are experiencing periodic rainfall and overcast. One brief 'sun glow' today. The new little Dell laptop from Goodwill, is working it's Windows 7 magic and keeping Nav's primary older laptop safe from predatory on-line attacks. 

No spam attacks have appeared in this mild Holiday RV park near Chattanooga Tenn. Found a really sturdy and compact small set of cooling fans in an adjustable frame, for $7 at Big Lots. It holds the laptop at a comfortable angle and runs quietly off of the USB.

Her old Gateway Windows XP laptop contains her business information, and is unrealistic to replace. XP is in it's final support days and increasingly vulnerable to data attacks and infestations. Reason she bought the little used Dell, is for safety for her irreplaceable laptop.

Far from the drastic, incessant spam/viral attacks that were relevant to our temporary New Orleans residency. Extremely busy interstate truck stops are noted as dangerous to on-line events, as well as periodic suspicious behaviors.  We learned quickly to avoid any long term visits to interstate truck stops. Overnight trucking 'camp' is noisy, brightly illuminated and results in a fitful night's attempt at sleep. Feel  sorry for professional truck drivers. 

Sunday will be another day of  nothing eventful for us. Monday will be our first 'out and about' day. Should have gone early today, but judged poorly, indecisively and unproductively on time allotments. Will most likely now spend more nights here than planned.

Nav wife recalled a narrow, winding car road entry through the back country into this RV park, saving us a long trafficky, complicated route through the city. When I walked to desk upon arrival, the attendants were surprised we arrived from that direction, remarking that No big rigs take that twisty, narrow car route.

 We had to drive precisely, as the power poles and signs were next to the pavement, attempting to remove our expensive right mirror. The narrow pavement ended at the dropoff edge into the ditches, no shoulders. Happily we met no other trucks, but surprised a few car's drivers on the curves.

Evening will be TV and more computer time, to hold gray day boredom at bay.  A brief hike between rainfall for a bit of exercise is in order, as I do not desire to muddy the tires on my bike.

Chattanooga days: 

50 degree night with 80 sunny degree day. After breakfast, our trip plan was to head for the downtown Whole Food store.

An antique mall of several shops, sharing an old shopping center with no other stores, popped up near our RV park. Nav recalled it being past the intersection and voila, there it was, sitting exactly where she recalled.

They had much nicer stuff than the thrift stores, lots of various items from the past and present and the prices were not much more, even cheaper.

 I found several new imported pocket knives for great prices, enough to last Nav a couple of years in her mall space. I suppose that having the Smoky Mountain Knife Works less than a 100 miles away, north of Pigeon Forge (Dollywood) is the reason?

I had wanted to stop in at SMKW Seveirville on a slightly detoured way home. No reason now. We are knifed up. Lunch at a Bojangles was 'different'. 

No need to try it again, the Colonel does a better job.

 Navigator took us across one of the bridges over the river, to the Whole Foods listed on her Garmin. We drove right past it on Sunday without realizing. My Brown Cow Cream Top Plain yogurt was in stock. We now have a couple of qts, enough to last me a few days breakfast. I don't use milk on my 'dog food' bowl of raw rolled oats, rye, triticale, spelt, apple and walnuts.

Sam's Choice coffee or Four Sisters Cinnamon from Big Lots, rounds out these mornings for me. Nav has her Sam's Club Jimmy Dean pre-cooked sausage patty, on her Costco whole grain bread toast with an apple slice and tea. Same breakfast every morning :>)

Extremely pleasant day, no wind, sunny with great afternoon and evening for my walk. Have you ever wandered into a Dollar General store? Amazing little stores, they are everywhere we travel, like mini Walmarts. One across this street, as everywhere, is always busy.

When I walked out the front door, a small Bat was flitting in lazy figure 8's snatching bugs. The precision little flying machine was performing for me for several minutes, as if I was holding a remote control and having it grab bugs. Fun to observe God's nature at work, doing it's miracles as a performance.

Now the new Goodwill computer is functioning it's miracles, as I tend to a few details. Checking prices on a few things we are interested in. I found a Harmonica to sell in Nav's mall space. She liked an old Yashica camera, but the price was more than on-line, no profit margin in the Yashika.

An old Daisy model Winchester 94 BB gun from the 'old' 1960's to check 'before' investing, and it will be time for bed. We sleep like babies in these cool weather evenings. Have to turn on the electric heaters before dawn. Takes the chill off while having breakfast :>)


Still more Chattanooga:
After Nav's study of the surrounding area, she noted a vast expanse of hilly real estate that we had not yet explored. After our power breakfast, we motored on over uncharted territory in the Honda Jeep. Nav's GPS sort of tells us which direction to go.

The maps are not expandable to the point of a good Google map, so we make errors of miles in maneuvering around the big ridges like 'Lookout Mountain' and 'Missionary Ridge', names of famous battles during the Civil War. The Tenneessee River causes a lot of long circutious excursions to circumvent the natural barrier.

The newer area of Chattanooga extends northeast and has many new shopping malls and housing areas. This place is far bigger than anyone could guess while just driving along the interstates. Trees hide the developments from view. Churches are numerous and many appear to be quite wealthy, in comparison to the churches in New Mexico.

We see one obvious reason why Wayne Barber, our former pastor, returned back to Chattanooga from his relatively brief time at our church in New Mexico.

Found several  charity thrift stores not noticed during other trips. Discovered a few more treasures, unique in NM. In that respect, Nav can sell them for a profit. She is so evil to earn a profit from her little business...... At least using socialized business logic, according to what is taught in govt unionized US schools of today.

Hardee's Restaurant was our shared burger lunch (pretty tasty), as we were away from our RV. We put well over 150 miles on our Honda Jeep so far this week alone, just while exploring all around our camp site. This RV park has a battleground site near the back row of the park. While hiking out the perimeter, one Civil War campground is marked by a monument.

Tennessee as a state, supplied more troops to Both sides of the armies, than any other states volunteers. Tennessee apparently had a large population of young men and strong feelings for both sides. The battlegrounds were huge in area and difficult in terrain. Apparently anywhere a metal detector is waved, Civil War items are found.

One disconcerting fact (unsustainable) we are noting of this economy, openly visible across the south we travel, is the vast numbers of young blacks, young women with children and young men by the countless thousands, all just hanging out on street corners and lounging in front yards... every day of the week.

One other opposite note, not regularly seen in NM, is the numerous young black men riding very expensive, fully dressed out Harley Davidsons and many on fast new 'crotch rockets'.... on weekends. They obviously have well paying jobs and thoroughly enjoy prosperity.

We had to dump the holding tanks after setting another record of over 9 days. Nav noticed the grey water rising from the drain (lowest point) in the shower stall pan {:>)
Fortunately black water was staying in it's separate tank where it belongs..... below visibility. One more holding tank dump on Friday morning, before we leave this area we enjoy, heading back towards ABQ NM...



Chattanooga snowbirds:
As we look around during the  heavy evening traffic incoming for each night at our RV park, we notice a disproportionate number of Michigan license plates. We assume they are satisfied with the freezing temps and snow still lingering near the Canadian border :>)

We also assume that they spent the winter in Florida. That has got to be a shock, facing the harsh reality of Michigan, after wintering along the gulf coast and Florida in general?


 Nav is intently monitoring the broad swath of storms presently at an angle extending several hundreds of miles, forming a barrier to our westward migration. Last year was interesting, as we drove a hundred miles or more in various directions, avoiding tornadoes. Apparently this season will be similar in evasive tactics.

Fuel was $3.24 at nearby Georgia Costco yesterday. With luck it will be so, as we top off fill Friday morning. 500 miles range should get us to our next fueling at good prices :>) Turned out it was even cheaper at $3.22.

We cleaned up the coach interior, vacuumed flooring and stowed treasures, showered and then dumped the holding tanks one last time late Thursday afternoon, so that we can get away early and not get me soaking wet from predicted rain oncoming Friday morning.

Only the connecting of the Honda Jeep may be a bit wetting... for me. Not quite sure yet, whether to retreat back down towards Florida, then west, or dam the torpedoes and full speed through the storm front. 


In a car, no problem, just drive on through. This 55' rig is not quite as forgiving of errors. Dawn will bring the decision, after looking at the latest weather images.)

Thunder Lightening Leave Chattanooga:

 Redbuds and Dogwoods, Wisteria in bloom on an overcast drive southwest from Chattanooga Tennessee and through Alabama, roll towards us in waves of color. Colorful trees resembling Wisteria (also prolific as you approach Birmingham) are lining the highways and thriving, beautifully peeking out from between the forests of pines and other trees.

The roadsides of most highways we travel across the USA, are lush with thriving vegetation, contrary to what you are led to believe by special interests. The vehicle emissions, 'pollutants,' are obviously not as 'polluting' as they would have you believe. Fact is the growth is enhanced by moisture and CO2.

Redbuds change, sometimes on the same tree, to regular green leafed trees as we get further south toward Birmingham Alabama.

 Our stay for the next 3 nights is Tannehill Iron Works State Park. TIWSP is a reconstructed critical historic village that supplied the south with iron for cannons, as well as other needs.

This unique in the world, geography that has every ingredient necessary to manufacture iron, including it's extensive traditional family based society infrastructure, was viciously attacked by a Union mounted cavalry division and destroyed as a vital industrial area during the Civil War. 


It's loss along with the Selma Armory, ended the war within days. Tannehill lay totally in ruin, abandoned and forgotten for almost a hundred years. Visited only by the curious individuals that explored it's ruins.

Today it is a restoration in progress. A technically working museum, complete with steam generating, manufacturing factory, producing electricity, forging iron periodically in it's several sites.

Two really big stone forges were rebuilt from the Civil War rubble and re-fired during the year 1976 commemoration. The big (by history standards of the time) Bessemer (state of the art at the time) designed, stone furnaces were used in the nations birthday celebration, to forge iron memorabilia sold to offset the costs of historic Tannehill's reconstruction.

Some nights as scheduled, the smaller forges are set to smelt scrap iron. They spew flames and sparks into the night skies, as men in heavy leather clothing, big gloves, wearing face screens, work with the molten iron.

Visitors that pay $20, are shown how to engrave their own sand mold and the red hot molten iron is repeatedly poured, rewarding them all with personalized souvenirs. 


Nav and I made a novice mess of our own mold last trip, forgetting that everything is reversed after it is solidified. We hid our ruined black sand mold under a pile to be recycled, payed the $20 and instead took home a nice little anvil that had been poured previously with the logo of Tannehill Ironworks cast onto the iron.

For the logo to protrude from the anvil, it must be etched 'into' the mold... in reverse.

 Another artistic trick employed by the art majors common among these evening presentations, is to engrave, etch scratch away (more difficult than it seems) the surrounding mold image (Dremel Tools are used) and thus leaving the image you desire to be 'engraved into' the iron.... in reverse. Did I mention tricky?


 There were many art students in our 'Forgery' group that evening. We understand why... after our mess. The full process lasts until the wee hours of the morning. We wimped out early, returning to our bed.

Tannehill State Park is a kids paradise. Bicycles are endlessly being ridden around the large expanse of valleys, hills and streams that is controlled entry and patrolled. Kids can go exploring all day, returning whenever they are hungry. It takes a week to lightly explore this park, if you have fast kids.
An entire season is best.


Tannehill Days:
45 degree night...... sunshine changed the day into a pleasant 75 degrees. Found a 'Trade Days' charity church sale, several  miles of circuitous driving through a very nice scenic neighborhood nearby. Complete with beautiful homes, lakes and streams through hills.

Bought a like new 20" Tony Hawk trick bike for $20. Took it apart to stow away in the Honda Jeep. Just when there is no more room, we find a cranny.

Drove 30 miles northeast, to other side of Birmingham Alabama.
Noticed a large thrift store on way in Friday. Returned to check it out. No treasures to be had, basically a curbside day within a store. What they lack in quality, they make up for in quantity. Nothing good, but lots of it?

Returned home to our RV, where I took my real bike for a couple of hours tour of the area. Iron working blacksmiths were busy pounding out items for Tannehill Trade Days. Craftsmen were carving and pounding nails into knives. Everyone seems to have a craft around here. I enjoyed the conversations.

As usual, today was busy, with the park teeming with day visitors. A run was scheduled to raise charity funds.  Friday had two buses parked in the entrance lot, with dozens of kids on a day trip. Roaming the restored village and restored forges at a fast pace only kids can accomplish. The small train, powered by a car engine, was busy hauling passengers to the farther end of the Iron working park. A real train passes nearby periodically.

I found one fairly easy trail along side of a substantial little river and rode it for a mile or so. Tram Trail is 8 miles in canyon along side the river, so I turned back as dusk set in. 


Did you know that log or 'plank' rods were often across the rough old terrain for a toll? One major local 'plank road' was 84 miles. Nicer travel for carriages on planks, than mud and rocks.

Many of  these cabins restored and open for visitors or nightly rentals, are original and documented. They are re-set in Tannehill village, as were the original countless cabins around these hills. Many of the larger cabins hold entire extended families.... for nightly fees. An old church in the hills holds service on Sundays. Large groups of every type, have picnics and meetings at Tannehill State Park.

I talked with the Ranger about this fascinating area he patrols. He said he can not believe they actually pay him to work here :>)
 


Tannehill Rain:
Sporadic rain, after a cool evening of 52, is keeping me from riding the bike today. Now we are visited by 6 colorful, wild Ducks that stare at our door from a tiny stream close by. I had tossed out some peanuts. Obvious that they understand RV campers.

The Ducks eat the entire peanut in the shell, without taking time to even taste the things. They are quite busy bathing in the tiny stream that is flowing past the door and enjoying the rain, while preening their pretty iridescent feathers.

Two Crows stopped in and grabbed a few peanuts. They can hold a couple in their beak at one time. Rain is not a frog drowning event, but intermediate enough that Squirrels still visit the free chow that I sometimes toss out the window.

Ducks found the birdseed I had tossed out a few days earlier. One determined Duck is nibbling up each individual seed. This process is taking some time and effort. After the large peanuts in the shells, this has got to be very unrewarding. The Duck has finally moved on, searching for greener pastures.

Craftsman making birdhouses to sell from the cabin venues, told me of the diminutive Flying Squirrels that inhabit the birdhouses. They are no larger than Chipmunks, can easily fit into most birdhouses for nesting. His birdhouses are like old mountain cabins, with various items surrounding the doors. He also uses a lathe to 'turn' layered laminated wooden bowls for serving, as he hammers out knives from large nails.

Possum recipes are numerous for these Appalachian Mountain areas. Blacksmith was making 'Possum cookers' (long iron rod with a hook to hold the skinned and cleaned Possum in place) while I watched him forging iron bars into tools at the 'coke' fire. Coke is made from burning coal in a confined enclosure and limiting the amount of O2 available, as the lower temperature impurities are 'cooked' off.

 The 'coked' coal then burns far hotter when used in the blower fanned fire, to melt iron ore or melt scrap into useable pieces. It develops so much excess heat, it can easily melt any iron you are attempting to forge into a useful tool. Takes great attention to regulate the heat, by amount of fanned air and adding coal to lower the temperature.

 Old car springs are a favorite source of tool grade steel. Old style coiled springs (their favorite) once numerous, are becoming very had to find, now that lighter cars use lighter smaller McPhearson struts.

Supposed to be heavier storms tonight through dawn. We showered in preparation for tomorrow's departure. At rain let up, I should attend to holding tank chores, so I will have less to do in morning?

Still various forms of entertaining wildlife are visiting, the kind that keeps me from being bored today.
Rain on roof tonight will put me to sleep.


TANNEHILL FLOOD:

That serene  little creek, the one that the pretty, wild ducks were bathing in outside our door? Well... at 4:15 AM came a fierce pounding on our door. We got up to see what it was about. The little stream was a raging torrent. I dressed and ran outside, yelled to Nav to bring in the slides, we are getting out of here.

 I ran to the back and disconnected the 50 amp power (while standing in rapidly rising water) and hose connection. Other swamped power boxes were flashing red beacons in warning. 


I drove the car to high ground a distance away and ran back downhill to get the coach. Trailers and fifth wheels were scrambling to get hooked up and out of the rapidly rising torrent.

Nav was frantically stashing gear in it's crannies as she brought in the 'slides'. We drove up the hill to the entrance lot crowded willy nilly with several other rigs. 


People were milling around in shock, as our formerly peaceful RV sites were flooded with a raging torrent 80 yards wide. One park maintenance man was coming here as a child and never saw this before. 

I  read the history and this is really nothing new, one big flood washed away a nearby stone furnace and it's little village 100 yrs ago. Three creeks converge in this valley. 24 hours of rain flushes them out.

A couple of motorhomes, a trailer or two that had no occupants last night, were flooded and stuck until the water recedes. A car and trailer were totally swamped. A trailer was sinking into the muck and turning kitty wampus. 


One big new beautiful 5th wheel stood tall, out in the rising river, like an aircraft carrier on a stormy sea. A big tent was down in the water. 

Bridges were washed out, making escape tricky. We finally got out 4 hrs later by driving through another stream of water rushing over the road and into the swollen river. 

200 miles later, we are now north of Jackson Mississippi, at the Timberlake reservoir RV camp at Barnet. A nearby McDonald's wifi will suffice. The entire day, from 4:15 Am was kind a dream, as far as Nav remembers it :>).

Meridian Mississippi has fuel at $3.16. Obama must have put in a word for them :>)
 


Mississippi:
From flooded Tannehill Alabama, we had progressed on through Meridian Mississippi, to Jackson Mississippi, where we spent two nights at Timberlake RV park, a state park on the edge of the Barnet Reservoir. Currently filled to capacity by rainfall runoff. The floodgates were open and downstream was flooded to Pearl Mississippi, where we stayed one night last spring trip 2013.
 

 LeFleur Bluff State Park downstream also floods often. The RV campground floods whenever the Barnet dam releases flow. That RV park even has the main electrical control panels mounted very high on a platform that has a float similar to a sump pump. It cuts off the main switch as the water rises. Apparently it happens very often. Hopefully they warn the campers?

Our Timberlake RV park on the reservoir is much better. The dam releases the Pearl River to regulate the flooding. Summers get hot and humid. We enjoy this cool weather for the present. Left Timberlake, to travel the scenic historic Natchez Trace again this trip. 100 miles from Jackson Mississippi to Natchez, the southwest end of the 400 mile new Trace.

Tonight we are parked in Natchez Trace State Park, tomorrow we leave for Alexexandria for fuel (cheaper in Louisiana) then on to Nacogdoches Louisiana (Nacadoches Texas is a bit further west:>)
 


Natchez Trace to Galveston Texas to San Antonio:

 Leaving Timberlake RV Park, 2 nights, Jackson Mississippi (the State capital) visiting a few areas and explore beautiful upscale neighborhoods for one day. Many are gated communities.Thrift charity stores around Miss are not especially lucrative, nothing like Florida's :>) A new 'up scale' consignment store, not far from the reservoir dam, has lots of interesting collectible 'stuff'.

 We had previously camped on this Pearl River Reservoir (Barnett) outside Jackson Mississippi, watching birds building nests, catching insects. Turtles are Nav's idea of fun entertainment to photograph. These large turtles lounging on the shore, are water turtles, snappers, and very fast.

 We also drove to observe the spillway flooding the low lying areas below the dam. Fishing is excellent, judging by the shear numbers of boats along the dam. Our last spring's 'LaFleure Park state campground' in lower level of nearby Pearl, was flooded on return.

 It was on the news, as they had to let the water from the Barnet Dam, flow down into the low parts of Pearl Mississippi gradually. Water is periodically released to prevent breaching this long earthen and concrete dam upstream at Brandon.

This idealistic, cheap monthly rates, dreamland RV park, Timberlake, on the shore just above the Barnet dam, has a long waiting list. People die and others grab (legally) their prime RV sites, along with whatever RV (some relics) they were living in. Several are for sale at any given time.

An older fifth wheel brings 40K..... on site. Temporary overnights get a different area near the entrance, still very nice, cheap RV camping in a pleasant area that we enjoy when passing this way.

Leaving Jackson Miss, we drove onto 'The Natchez Trace' hwy for a peaceful drive at 50 mph, no stops. 100 miles later we arrived at the Natchez Mississippi end.

The Natchez Trace is over 400 miles long and extends northeast from Natchez Miss. to Nashville Tennessee.... no stop signs nor lights, just cruisin' along an extremely scenic, limited access highway with no commercial trucks or vehicles allowed.

 Get off the Trace whenever you desire, for visiting the towns and historic sites, then returning for more 'Trace' travel. That scenic route, restored today, is very relevant, as it was a major route of return for travelers (including migratory animals), before the steam powered river boats could travel back up the Mississippi River. There are many points of interest along the Trace, with descriptions of their historic importance.

Natchez State Park, our night's destination, has a twisty entrance road, details recalled from our stay last year. Our recollections got us into the campground.

The headquarters building was open, but the ranger in the office near the big earthen dam that creates the reservoir, said to "come back in the morning, as the computer was down and nothing is done by hand any more".

 After a quiet night with a hike around the little RV camp until dark, I awoke in the morning, drove the tow Honda to the headquarters to pay before leaving in the morning. "Closed and back at noon" was the sign on the door.

After clearing the holding tanks, we guiltily left the park early without paying, as there were no honor boxes nor envelopes... nor rangers.

Natchez Mississippi, situated high on a bluff near the big bridge, is on the Mississippi river state line. We had toured by horse drawn carriage last spring, a trip during which we visited one of the several old mansions being restored.

 'The Barber of Natchez' is excellent reading for history buffs. Natchez was the indisputable center of wealth (exported cotton) in the US, back before the Civil War. For various reasons and international ownership interests, it was not forced into total destruction, as were many of the south's prominent cities. That is why more Antebellum (pre Civil War) architecture is to be seen nearby, than anywhere else across the south.

Crossing the big classic girder beam bridge over the Mississippi River, driving on through Louisiana (highways across Lou. are lacking... bumpy wavy, (due to corruption), with only a fuel stop at Sam's Club in Alexandria Louisiana ($3.22), we eventually traversed on into Texas.

 Traveling along the intensely industrious, fuel refining, shipping and storage gulf, gives anyone a feeling of the major importance of this area. 


Nav noted it is understandable that Putin took the Crimea, it is a major port system similar to Galveston, an asset that periodically ice bound Russia can not do without. Notice that in spite of Obama's typical rhetoric and politically 'staged' outrage bluster, how quiet the 'news' has gotten?

After driving high up and across the bridges, including the really high, inland waterway bridge, we continued across the salt marshes, over the channels and farmland.


 Eventually we drove aboard the 'free' Texas state ferry, loaded with many cars and trucks, for the 15 minute ride across the inland waterway bay and then driving the industrious Bolivar Peninsula. Always fun to drive aboard a ferry.... for a successful ride across the water.

Love the view, as they have always put us near the front for exit first. Seagulls float above us on the breeze, US flag waves as the ferry cruises the waves effortlessly. A huge China registered freighter crossed our bow and blew it's horn. Several big international ships were at anchor, awaiting loading and unloading.
Nav got several videos and pics for her Facebook page.

Long day of driving hundreds of miles, but Galveston State Park seemed the best for the night. Galveston Texas was devastated in 2008. You would never believe much of it was wiped away during the last hurricane, after seeing it today.

Galveston's destruction is totally rebuilt, stronger and larger than ever. Tall highrise dwellings and hotels replace the smaller buildings that were swept away or destroyed. The city is almost extending to Houston, as new homes are filling the former farmland. Texas is growing, like an industrial area of intense, freedom loving prosperity always does.

I would guess the investors, holding companies figure it will be another 100 years before a record hurricane and by then, they will have made a profitable fortune off the property rentals.

Crowded and busy, tourists enjoy the countless amenities along this somewhat primitive seashore, more akin to a natural ambiance. Nothing at all in comparison to Florida's pristine and orderly white sands. Galveston is still very interesting, exciting in it's own unique way.

Absolutely beautiful buildings by the thousands, now fill the 2008 hurricane's swept clean areas along the gulf shore. Those previously devastated areas we drove through after the history setting storm have risen like a Phoenix.

Colorful and sitting proudly, architectural wonders, higher and larger than ever on their new stronger, taller pilings, the new condos, with lower level parking structures, are growing in every direction. An amusement park with tall loop and swirl rides, stretches out over the water on high pilings above the ocean and extending out from the seawall, a structure where a hotel 'was' before the 2008 storm.

Arriving at Galveston Island State Park after hours, we found 'No Vacancy' signs. After checking out the pitifully small tent areas left as indicated, we returned to the office parking lot. I was tired from the long drive and figured that we would just camp right there.

Slides out and camp we did. About 10:20 pm while we were watching the news, a panicked girl knocked on our door and asked if we were the 'camp host'? They had been in town naively enjoying themselves and were now locked out of their gated campground.

Early morning, after a very quiet night with the slight roar of the gulf waves to lull us to sleep, indicated a couple more cars hunkered around the office. Others apparently 'camped' there overnight? We arose early, fixed quick breakfast and fled the scene. No fees payed... again. We do have a Texas State Park pass we purchase each year, so not exactly free.

Several new and restored McDonald's are now situated around the Galveston city proper. We did check a few emails while I had my McMuffin breakfast and coffee. A Thrift charity store or two in Galveston was unrewarding. Checking out the fantastic nautical store along 'The Strand' downtown, without actually 'parking' (parking $1.25 per hr per space, we take 3), a shop that sends Nav 'on line' information, was left behind. We fled on to Brazos Bend State Park near Houston. The Alligator RV park that Nav enjoys :>)

'No Vacancy' is our destiny on this trip. $12 a night in the Brazos Bend parking lot was undesirable. Turning back onto the highway I-10, by way of a complex route 'Garmin'ed by Navigator, we fled on to San Antonio for two nights. Another day with intensely long hours, hundreds of driving miles, killed the Honda's battery, as I left the fuse in place with key in 'on' position, as it requires for steering while in 'tow' . I carry a strong 'starter charger' for just such occasions :>)

Two nights camped quietly among the Egyptian Geese (with babies) and squirrels. KOA internet is fine, as this note indicates. Long day, fast miles of trafficky  I-10 at 70mph is weary driving. Satisfied now.... for a couple of nights :>)
 


KOA Alamo San Antonio to Lockhart State Park Austin Texas:

We head on out of the San Antonio Alamo KOA this morning. Yesterday was a nice fish lunch at Sea Island in 'The Forum' outlet mall, followed by a quick tour of a couple of local thrift charity stores where we sometimes find unique 'stuff' for Nav to sell... hopefully.

 San Antonio is growing into a metropolis of unimaginable size. Big sweeping modern overpasses several levels high, where only a few streets formerly existed.

Shopping malls abound in all directions radiating from the city center. We first saw 'The Quarry' as it was, a stone quarry. Now it is the center of a large condo living, golf course, restaurants, snack shops, bakeries, boutique clothing and shopping complex, with everything within walking distance.

 All of this within the last few years. Dynamic Texas Freedom with common sense taxation, few restrictions, is on track for prosperity.

Austin Texas is next after a stop
at the Prime Tanger Mall, where wife found great deals at Talbots.  Goal one night at nearby Lockhart State Park, a small RV park on a 9 hole golf course, with a little river through it. I know what you are thinking :>).

We will drive the toad (towed), stop in at the Austin city warehouse on Monday, to see if they are selling
the TSA confiscated articles by the pound.

 Pocket knives, nail clippers 'Weapons of mass destruction' and other 'contraband' (toy plastic soldiers with 1/4"... Guns) are piled into big bins by the hundreds. Peg bought 10 pounds of pocket knives for $12 on one trip :>)

They sell the other stuff based on ebay pricing, which is not all that cheap. Sculptures, models of anything, snow globes, toys. Interesting what all the enthusiastic government bureaucracy now confiscates and considers dangerous to 'their' seething masses of public transportation.

Shirts, blouses (even T's), purses, hats, belts, buckles, rings, bracelets, earrings, hair decorations, jewelry of any type or size, Pictures of guns, knives any size, boots, wallets, money clips and jackets etc etc etc.

ANYTHING and Everything decorated with, or depicting cowboy 'Gun' motifs (common across Texas). All deemed Politically dangerous to the Nanny state, are considered extremely dangerous by this current TSA 'protection'.


Lockhart State Park Texas: 

After we left San Antonio KOA, the destination was one of the small State parks near Austin. Lockhart S.P. was built in the 1930's by the CCC and is a golf course state park, with one hole of the 9, being the highest 'hole' in Texas.

Weather was cloudy on arrival, we drove to San Marcos to meet friends for a meal at 'Saltgrass', (connection with Landry's). Great evening meal with friends that have recently moved to San Marcos. Shared a small steak with wife, as we sometimes do, especially late in the day. 


The headwaters springs of the San Marcos River begin there. The river has never gone dry, no matter what year's drought has hit the area. Drought still has this area of Texas in it's cyclic grip.

After driving Honda Jeep back to Lockhart, the night in the coach was quiet. Another 'Blood Moon' (rare to have more than two a year... historic events for Israel).  The morning brought clouds, rain and we even experienced brief hail while on our way to Austin in the Honda.

We stop in at the TSA 'treasure chest' (my term), where we pick up confiscated items, things like pocket tools that hapless airline passengers have left, their treasures, while being frisked by TSA.

We found enough to last until next trip. After browsing a few other places in Austin, having a delicious flat bread chicken sandwich at Tito's Greek Cafe, we headed back through intense, jammed traffic of Austin downtown (8 lanes neck down to 2, through an old girder bridge), towards San Marcos to meet our friends for evening hamburgers at RR Station restaurant.

 Their daughter moved here looking for a job. Found her a dream job in education quickly in prosperous, thriving Texas.

 Cloudy, cool days, cooler nights with rains across the east of Texas. Western Texas, not so much. They need more rain to return.

Break camp, leaving Lockhart S.P. in morning for San Angelo, where we often stay overnight in the 'Spring Creek City Park' off Knickerbockerboker Dr.

Pleasant afternoon and evening. I hiked a bit around the park. Lake Nasworthy was low due to drought. Critters were few, in comparison to previous cycle years of rainfall, where hogs, turkeys, vultures, deer and lots of squirrels were present. Only one resident Alpaca. No white Peacock, no horses, nor donkeys wandering the private reserve across the channel. Nature in it's cycles again.

No one to collect a fee, so we stayed free. After a few thrift store browses and fill the fuel tank at Sam's ($3.45), we drove to Big Spring Texas on the way northwest. Used up the Walmart gift card on their 'Murphy' fuel (saves .03). Tatum NM, west of the Texas state line, is known for the iron silhouettes seen around ranches. Wife likes the cowboy leaning on the fence.

Dry cotton fields across the western side of Texas in this area do not bode well for this year's crops. Only the irrigated fields are doing well... at a price. The countless oil jacks are still 'jacking' the oil out of the ground, so 'Oil is well :>)' 


New Federal Government regulations are forcing increasing expenditure to make 'safer' oil jacks and sites. Of course the new expenses will be passed on to consumers.... you. Remember Obama's energy appointee saying that $10 a gallon fuel is the goal..... so that solar and wind energy will look cheap?

After crossing the 100 plus miles of desolate high desert terrain from Brownfield Texas, to the rim rock overlooking the Roswell valley, the Roswell valley is an oasis. Irrigation works wonders. 280 mile day.... wind was not friendly.

 Race horses ('Mine my Bird' famous) and the hay to feed them, are popular around Roswell NM. Aliens are popular in the media pertaining to Roswell. The military academy keeps their students 'squared away'. The extension university of Eastern NM fills the gaps to keep everyone well educated.

Sam's Club RV camping is free and the new ATTWIFI they now provide makes it even better. No wind tonight, so less likely the Honda will be further damaged from errant shopping baskets (our first night out on this trip). We shared a couple of Sam's hotdogs for late afternoon meal. Did a bit of walking to shake the kinks out of the legs, before sitting at the laptop for a few words to all friends and family.

To home from Roswell, our last 'camp', after having breakfast in the coach, filling the tank and driving north from Roswell. Wind for the first 100 miles. Strong enough to slow down a motorcycle rider and force him into a lean to the right. 

 The long straight from Roswell to Vaughn, was the windiest. Could not get the coach over 64 mph due to the headwind. Of course fuel economy was non existent. Fortunately we fed 'the kitty' with $100 worth of fuel at Roswell Sam's, before we left.

A clue was the night in the Sam's Club RV camp. Wind enough to rock me to sleep and keep Nav awake. We parked away from the grocery carts this time, so the Honda didn't get whacked again by more of the errant little vehicles. 


Nav had visions of the RV campers in Gauthier Florida flipping over in a wind gust during the night. What a wake up for those sleeping campers. We had passed through there on our trip.

Roswell NM is in a drought like west Texas. The only green growing stuff is irrigated and that costs money. Vaughn NM, now a relative ghost town, formerly a busy railroad and pre-interstate highway town. A town where the Illinois couples were last seen in 1935 was not so bad driving, even a little wind push, to help us along the way to ABQ. 



ABQ home:
ABQ Costco fillup was $3.26 for 57 gallons, a surprise...cheaper than Texas? That is very rare. Home was in good shape, as neighbor who watches the house, called the yard guy whenever it looked a bit shaggy. Rain is sparse in ABQ, so the same green is only at expense of water. Our system is automatic, but timed sparsely to save on water bill.

Call from Norcold the refrigerator manufacturer. They did safety fix last season? It has always worked well for us. I had added a powerful fan, to keep the heat transfer system from cooking itself. Only has problems when driving rain or mist from the ocean confuses the circuit board mounted in
the outer compartment. Wife's hair dryer fixes it... for a while.... as we flee to less wetness.

Unloading is a long process. Takes longer to find everything, than it took to stow the 'stuff'. Only food was cleaned out today, more 'stuff' tomorrow. I worked on the coach first...... to prepare it for the next trip.... whenever that is. 


Changed the oil (really dirty) and greased the numerous 'zerks (15). on the drive shaft and front suspension. Crawling around under that thing is getting harder each year. Must be the coach, can't be me:>) Drained and flushed the holding tanks, prep wash wax for back yard storage.

4,400 memorable miles in all:

Lot of different places to see on this trip. Neither of us has ever been to Florida before. Those white sand beaches are fascinating. Maybe next time we will find warmer weather to check them out thoroughly as we go from west to east side. Lots of beach open to the public on the Bolivar Peninsula. Cold breezes kept us in the coach most of this trip.

Want to find some more Craw-fish and large shrimp with heads and antennae. Those we had in 'Nawlin's, were wonderful. They were cookin' them up in a big kettle loaded with interesting Cajun spices.

The other memorable lunch on the trip was the 'Tino's Greek flat bread bread chicken wrap in north Austin Texas. We got to tell (pointed at it) what all we wanted in the sandwich, rolled loosely. Had to eat  it with a fork and knife. Loved their Tabbouleh, making it must be an art.
Next trip is anticipated. After a recharge of our physical batteries.... and bank account.