Sunday, November 22, 2015

P-51 impressed a Canadian boy

Received this little story by email. Now to see if Blogger publishes it.... in full.. 

Since Google made 'Changes', improvements?, they have Not fully published the last few stories from email origin, leaving areas blank. 

Stories that contain no profanity, nor would cause conflict of opinions.  

 If desiring to see this entertaining post full length, in it's entirety, along with others Blogger, for so some reason has deleted, view

This 1967 true story is of an experience by a young 12 year old lad in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. It is
about the vivid memory of a privately rebuilt P-51 from WWII and its famous owner/pilot.

In the morning sun, I could not believe my eyes. There, in our little airport, sat a majestic P-51. 
They said it had flown in during the night from some U.S. Airport, on its
way to an air show. The pilot had been tired, so he just happened to
choose Kingston for his stop over.  It was to take to the air very
soon.  I marveled at the size of the plane, dwarfing the Pipers and
Canuck's tied down by her. It was much larger than in the movies. She
glistened in the sun like a bulwark of security from days gone by.

The pilot arrived by cab, paid the driver, and then stepped into the pilot's
lounge.  He was an older man; his wavy hair was gray and tossed. It
looked like it might have been combed, say, around the turn of the
century.  His flight jacket was checked, creased and worn - it
smelled old and genuine. Old Glory was prominently sewn to its
shoulders.  He projected a quiet air of proficiency and pride devoid
of arrogance.  He filed a quick flight plan to Montreal ("Expo-67 Air
Show") then walked across the tarmac.

After taking several minutes to perform his walk-around check, the tall, lanky man returned to
the flight lounge to ask if  anyone would be available to stand by
with fire extinguishers while he "flashed the old bird up, just to be
safe."  Though only 12 at the time I was allowed to stand by with an
extinguisher after brief instruction on its use -- "If you see a fire,
point, then pull this lever!", he said.  (I later became a
firefighter, but that's another story.)  The air around the exhaust
manifolds shimmered like a mirror  from fuel fumes as the huge prop
started to rotate.  One manifold, then another, and yet another
barked -- I stepped back with the others.  In moments the Packard
-built Merlin engine came to life with a thunderous roar. Blue flames
knifed from her manifolds with an arrogant snarl.  I looked at the
others' faces; there was no concern.  I lowered the bell of my
extinguisher.  One of the guys signaled to walk back to the lounge.
We did.

Several minutes later we could hear the pilot doing his pre-flight run-up. He'd taxied to
the end of runway 19, out of sight. All went quiet for several seconds. We
ran to the second story deck to see if we could catch a glimpse of the
P-51 as she started down the runway. We could not.  There we stood,
eyes fixed to a spot half way down 19. Then a roar ripped across the
field, much louder than before. Like a furious hell spawn set loose --
something mighty this way was coming. "Listen to that thing!" said the

In seconds the Mustang burst into our line of sight. It's tail was already off the runway
and it was moving faster than anything I'd ever seen by that point on
19.  Two-thirds the way down 19 the Mustang was airborne with her
gear going up. The prop tips were supersonic.  We clasped our ears as
the Mustang climbed hellishly fast into the circuit to be eaten up by the
dog-day haze. We stood for a few moments, in stunned silence, trying to
digest what we'd just seen.

The radio controller rushed by me to the radio. "Kingston tower calling Mustang?"  He looked back to us as he waited for an acknowledgment. The radio crackled, "Go ahead, Kingston."
"Roger, Mustang. Kingston tower would like to advise the circuit is clear
for a low level pass."  I stood in shock because the controller had
just, more or less, asked the pilot to return for an impromptu air
show!  The controller looked at us. "Well, What?"  He asked. "I
can't let that guy go without asking. I couldn't forgive myself!"

The radio crackled once again, 
"Kingston, do I have permission for a low level pass, east to west, across
the field?" "Roger, Mustang, the circuit is clear for an east to west
pass." "Roger, Kingston, I'm coming out of 3,000 feet, stand by."

We rushed back onto the second-story deck, eyes fixed toward the eastern haze. The sound
was subtle at first, a high-pitched whine, a muffled screech, a distant
scream. Moments later the P-51 burst through the haze. Her airframe
straining against positive G's and gravity. Her wing tips spilling
contrails of condensed air, prop-tips again supersonic. The burnished bird
blasted across the eastern margin of the field shredding and tearing the
air. At about 500 mph and 150 yards from where we stood she passed with
the old American pilot saluting. Imagine. A salute! I felt like laughing;
I felt like crying; she glistened; she screamed; the building shook; my
heart pounded.  Then the old pilot pulled her up and rolled, and
rolled, and rolled out of sight into the broken clouds and indelible into
my memory.

I've never wanted to be an American more than on that day!  It was a time when many nations
in the world looked to America as their big brother.  A steady and
even-handed beacon of security who navigated difficult political water
with grace and style; not unlike the old American pilot who'd just flown
into my memory.  He was proud, not arrogant, humble, not a braggart,
old and honest, projecting an aura of America at its best.

That America will return one day! I know it will!  Until that time, I'll just send off this
story. Call it a loving reciprocal salute to a Country, and especially to
that old American pilot:  the late-JIMMY STEWART (1908-1997),  Actor, real WWII
Hero  (Commander of a US Army Air Force Bomber Wing stationed in
England), and later 1959, awarded USAF Reserves Brigadier General, (B-36, Peacemaker under SAC, B-47, and B-52) who wove a wonderfully
fantastic memory for a young Canadian boy that's lasted a lifetime.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Holiday Rambler October 2015 trip Southeastern USA

DaFlikkers on wordpress link has the full trip details, as this 'new' blogger no longer functions on long posts from my account. It now leaves a large blank space from top to bottom if any of my post was copy from emails. Sorry for that. Been on blogger for many years with no problems....

With full preparation and thorough testing of all systems after summer storage in back yard, we are now to the stage of countdown hours leaving home after loading Thunder Pig for another trip across the USA. With various clothing to cover 'climate change' as we travel, our happy motor coach left Albuquerque New Mexico on the first day of October 2015. 

Filled with high expectations for an enjoyable vacation tour returning toward the southeastern USA. Fall is usually met with excitement for the opposite direction, the coastal northwest. This year, with numerous fires clouding the air along the way, we returned to the Southeast.

Georgia is again in the plan with Chattanooga Tennessee as base for our first explorations. I-40 to Amarillo, 300 miles east of Albuquerque New Mexico, at an easy 70 miles per hour, and our usual 'driving on the top half', 1/2 tank of fuel, + 1/2 qt of Marvel Mystery Oil, added at Amarillo Sam's Club. Thunder Pig is often able to travel over 600 miles on one 75 gal tank of fuel with Honda in tow at 70 mph.. if conditions are right.

Amarillo has a Cracker Barrel Restaurant similar to others that allow overnight 'camp' for RVs. A nice long space with grass and Oak trees outside our door, provides the quiet evening ambiance with a couple of other RVs in back of the restaurant. Evening meals are light, to ensure an easy sleep. Mine was Cracker Barrel 'Beans and Greens' with a a few hot cups of decaff coffee.

Morning stroll out of our door and into the Cracker Barrel, thanking them for being our host, we enjoyed a real breakfast of Sunrise Sampler and various additional items to cover our table. Lots of coffee to keep things washing down. We love Cracker Barrel.

Back onto the I-40 east out of Amarillo Texas at 70 mph in light traffic, moves us another 300 miles eastward in speedy fashion with no stops. Another fuel top off, of 1/2 tank and Marvel Mystery Oil settles us for another night at Walmart 'camp' Oklahoma and Oklahoma City Valero before rolling again. I enjoy an evening patrol of Walmart real estate before crawling into bed to watch local TV and sit at the laptop to check emails. Walmart, as does Sam's Club, has WIFI that is often easy to use while in lot 'camp' overnight. 

10-2-2015 spent the night in Eufala State Park Oklahoma. Very nice state park with utilities for $24. Oct 3rd left at 11:30 am. Top off fuel Russelville Arkansas Walmart $1.95 gal and covernight 'camp'.

Oct 4th, rural area near Russelville, checked out a navigator family cemetery from the 19th century.. Story told by a resident of many long years, is that the family patriarch built his own above ground crypt and died during the final stage, falling to the ground dead. They buried him in it, but the top fell in soon after, requiring a bit of rebuilding. Took a few pictures of the old family crypt as well as several other family grave plots in their own cemetery from the 1800's..

Oct 5th stopped in the 'Pyramid' Bass Pro Shop, after crossing the bridge into Memphis Tennessee. The huge pyramid, formerly a grandiose city owned structure on the river front, was still in the process of being re-purposed by Bass last trip. Finished now, it is a site to see. The interior, with a Cypress swamp decor, has a glass elevator that soars to the peak. Rooms are available for guests overnight.

Leaving the Bass Pyramid, we stopped to view a helicopter overturned in the street, still attached to it's transport trailer. The driver was on his phone, visibly shaken from his experience. Visited a warehouse of Victorian salvage items for restoration materials. Heading back to coach, we noted a stainless steel fifth wheel tanker from the sugar plant, laying nose down in the bushes on the street, due to the tractor latch coming undone. Interesting day in Memphis. Costco fuel at $1.89. Walmart Oakland Tennessee hwy 64 overnight.

Oct 6th left Oakland Tennessee for Chattanooga.

One fact navigator noted by traveling and watching nightly 'news', 'Every' US city has the exact same problems with society's deviants, 'career repeat offenders' spoiling the peace and tranquility for the law abiding majority. Psychotic behavior seems to be tolerated and subsidized until it results in the death of a government official. The arresting officers. 

Then, true to the political agenda, the crime is politically blamed on the tool [gun] used.. Don't think your town is bad, just because of 'perpetual repeat offenders' causing the overwhelming majority of problems. Every US town has it's share. The entire USA legal system, with the USA's obsession with chemically enhanced, perpetually subsidized dependency, is obviously at fault.

'Camping' in Walmart lots are frequent along our trips, with only small stops for food, often delis along the major highways, routes that we seldom travel. 'Motor on' is the logic when on these large interstates from point A to B.. 

We approach the heavy traffic of the cities of the busy southeastern states [including all large cities] with clenched grip of the steering wheel, the transmission out of overdrive, in lower gear with higher engine revs at max horsepower @ 3,200 RPM to facilitate rapid [for Thunder Pig] maneuvering. Now the games begin. Jockeying for position as we search for the desired exits and lane changes while on approach to a busy commercial city.

Winding up with big highway trucks and speeding cars, through low mountain passes, tunnels, up grades, down grades, around rivers, over bridges, taking sweeping overpasses in lane changes at the orders from navigator with her GPS. She is the controller of Thunder Pig, just as the bombardier controls the bombing run of a WWII B-29. I only adjust the steering maneuvers, the gear choices, speeds, braking and power to meet her instantaneous commands.

We bypass 'Lookout Mountain' enveloped in clouds high above Chattanooga, the Tramway and the several other tourist points noted on big signs along the highway. They are most likely fun for many people. Tunnels are approached with attention to the clearances posted. We have driven through a few very interesting battlefield historic sites of the south, during past trips. There are countless detailed. Chattanooga was pivotal during the conflict. The 'Chattanooga Choo Choo' hotel is fun to visit, with overnights in the classic Pullman cars available as well as restaurants. Talented Dorothy Dandrige comes to mind whenever I think of that memorable song.

After a 5 day week 'camp' at the Holliday RV Park east of Chattanooga and prowling around the Chattanooga area with a brief foray into Ringold Georgia for Navigators antique interests.

Oct 11th Sunday morning top off with low priced fuel Costco $1.79. Robbins Georgia Walmart very quiet night camp in lot. After breakfast Oct 12th, we rolled south, continuing through Georgia toward Florida.  Noted Fuel @ $1.99 as approaching Florida. Tonight, after a short bit of intense traffic, we are in a tree covered Sam's Club overnight in Tallassee Florida. Fuel @ $2.11.

Plan is to prowl a few thrift stores in Florida. Old folks, which Fla has countless retirees, apparently die and donate all of their worldly goods to charity.

The Floridians in the prosperous past, have left very nice 'stuff', as no one in their own families desires  it. One person's trash is another person's treasures. Great 'pickens' were previously found at charity thrifts in Florida. Lots of computers, so many, that several big charity stores in prosperous cities have large computer centers. Vehicles are donated in large numbers. So many vehicles, that they have Goodwill car lots.

Quality wall pictures are numerous for some reason only the donors know. Maybe the younger people today have far different tastes in art work?

One additional note from the tour. Traffic Interstate 75 through Atlanta Georgia was atrocious, with 14 lanes of traffic, all competing at high speed for position, exits and on ramps.

 One very close, trip ending incident, as a suicidal? confused car driver stopped in the middle,, unsure, possibly checking their GPS or handheld device, of which way to go at a big high speed Y intersection.

All southbound lanes of traffic at 70 mph downhill and in a blind curve, became all red brake lights, swerving and lane changing within seconds. We fortunately had a brief clearing on the right lane to 'sidewinder snake swerve' the long rig around the inevitable mass collision. I swore loudly. Of course prayer each morning, was the savior of the moment.

  Navigator immediately found an alternate older highway that we drove peacefully from then on. County and state highways at 55 mph, with no shear terror involved, are easier on the nervous system. Tallahassee, at least where we travel, is not quite as bad as Atlanta. Sam's Club is very quiet for a night back in the trees.

Still more than a few impaired drivers with their ever present handhelds....... for them to stare at.... while texting. After breaking 'camp' at Sam's, We motored west along the coast. Crossed causeway bridge and topped in at St George Island for fish [rectangles] and chips and a night at the mosquito capitol state park. Butterflies were migrating.

Beautiful beach, but RV sites were in trees with swarms of mosquitoes.

Oct 14th evening after more coastal travel, stopped for the night at Topsail Hill, an expensive State Park. Not as bad as the other state park with the wildly swarming mosquitoes, overflow parking, miles from the office.  Oct 15, Morning we drove west along the coastal highway for miles, before realizing hours had passed and we had only gone 40 miles.

Stoplights every mile or two were the problem. Coastal areas are being developed to such extent, that it is getting more difficult to enjoy views of the ocean. Modern high density population, high rise buildings are steadily filling in the open spaces, replacing the quaint little shoreline bungalows of the romantic past. Navigator wisely had turned us inland and away from the stop and go traffic loaded coast.

After pleasant driving at 70 mph speeds on a real highway, away from the popular coastal towns near large military installations, we camped in Walmart Hattiesburg Alabama, where we left Oct 16th. 

After leaving the heavily populated coastal areas and venturing into Mississippi, Oct 16th we camped for two nights in a place that has treated us well in the past, very pleasant, reasonably priced Ross-Barnet Timberlake State Park, on the big flood control reservoir of the Pearl River near Jackson Mississippi.

Weather is beautiful ......and few to no 'biting' mosquitoes. Hit a few nearby thrift and consignment stores today. Perfect ambiance for relaxing in this popular RV park with the big water channel 40 yards behind the coach. Could have parked facing the water, but wifi was good this way.

 Last time we were camped here, the water was very high, a big, triple deck party boat, colorfully lighted with music and party goers, cruised past. Big trees and a carpet of grass, pine needles and cones with falling leaves stretch between the sites. Turtles bask on shore... until you approach for pictures. Lots of squirrels. Lots of big Canadian geese flying and roaming. Spring has the dozens of baby geese following the adults all over the park.

Big nice park with many yearly, monthly, weekly rentals. Boat launch, swimming pool and basketball court, tennis courts, guest facilities for laundry. The lake front best sites are always filled. Many sites look like they are more permanent with patios and colorful lights set up for leisure living. Lots of pontoon deck boats parked in the shore lot. A large marina is across the lake.

One big fifth wheel RV was for sale including the reserved site. Lady in office says when residents die, the most desirable sites change owners fast. There is a list. No mention of their state of health :>) A drought and low reservoir is in effect this time. Last trips were very high water, with flooding of low areas on into Pearl Miss.

Oct 18th Sunday left Timberlake @ 12 noon, to Kroger for fuel and lunch deli. The historic Natchez Trace passes by on the other side of the reservoir. We will soon resume our roam westward, the mellow driving Trace on into Natchez, after we leave here. Read about 'The Barber of Natchez' if you think all slave owners were 'racists'.

Historic Natchez Trace is scenic, laid back, over, 400 miles long to Nashville Tennessee. It began as a migratory game trail used by native Americans, then river drift boat operators plied it's path to return upriver... before steam boats rendered it obsolete. 

The path of mystery, opportunistic 'ner do wells' and disappearance for many, it was viewed as a bit dangerous by travelers. Even those that used it's many Inns for comfortable overnight ambiance, were not ensured survival. Mrs Grinder and her husband, Inn operators, were involved in many mysteries of the years around 1809. Meriwether Lewis of the famed Lewis and Clark expedition found out.

 The Natchez Trace has been restored for modern travel at 50 mph, no stops for the entire length. Many tourist attractions, old mansions, Indian burial mounds and visitor centers with historical information. There are cutoffs to towns all along the highway through the trees and farmland. Many exits allowing you to get off and back on whenever you desire.

Oct 18th Night spent at Walmart Winnfield Louisiana, heading for Nacogdoches Texas fuel at $1.97, before night at Crockett Texas Walmart. Left Crockett at 10:20 Am Oct 20th.. Madison Texas, propane was $3.00 a gal. Highest paid.

Finally got the cab AC to blow air. No idea why, it just started after a bump, on it's own, with low fan speeds. Cautiously keeping it there. Found the resistor block ocated on the outside evaporator box under the hood. Resistor block only operates the lower speeds of the blower. Still need to find the hidden relay and fuse for the blower, in event total failure occurs again.

Most of the time has been spent over these last days, where no wifi exists overnight. As usual we spent some time in Walmart parking lots overnight, vague areas with little scenic wonder. Louisiana, known for historic political corruption, is not prosperous, with many little towns barely surviving. Few to no grocery stores, several with bare necessities and dimly lit. Louisiana is a nightmare of rough pavement, and for those of GPS faith, with paved highways suddenly becoming miles of rutted, narrow dirt logging roads through forests of tall pines.

Exciting for the coach and tow rig to navigate..... with no way to turn around. Met future Lavender growers along the desolate road and viewed their large unfinished barn while being told the many commercial uses for Lavender. Road less traveled. Nice people at future website, they informed us to have faith, keep going forward on this rutted track, paved highway 6 was ahead..

Oct 20th Lockhart Texas was our goal, to drive tow vehicle and visit grand daughter in college in nearby Austin Texas. Nice visit, lunch at Tino's, a Greek fast food restaurant. The owner of all ten Greek restaurants, including Zorba's, stopped at our table for a quick visit.

Grand daughter was then dropped off at her dorm [50 to 70 thousand students] and we left her to prepare for her next trip to see her cousin.

We stopped in at the TSA confiscation warehouse, with it's thousands of confiscated pocket items for sale. Thousands of pocket items of great security threat. They sell them at higher prices.... after the confiscation.

First times we visited, there were only a few employees, the items were very cheap and sold by the bagful. Now the employees are numerous ['sweepers' were busily sweeping floors in the warehouse where groups of 'inspectors' studied the pallets of whatevers] and the items now are priced much higher...... to compensate for the amount of employees necessary to shuffle around and research the 'booty'?. The  large numbers of govt fire extinguishers is always puzzling. Great deals for us, but still curious as to why fully charged stainless steel fire extinguishers are sold by the pallets, rather than tested and refilled .

I think the future may note the passing of this once lucrative government 'business', by notation that it was more expensive to operate than when it originally started. More employees costs more in labor, therefore everything connected costs more. Fact of govt 'business'. Lots of govt vehicles for sale here also attract buyers.

Lockhart State Park, south of Austin, was our quiet home for a couple of nights [complete with plump Armadillos that kept navigator's camera busy] while visiting Austin and friends in San Marcos. 

Our friends drove us around the large flooded area in Wimberly. An area canyon with stream that rose rapidly. Resulting in a flash flood that swept away navigator's friend [and his family] from church as kids. The area was visible devastation on a large magnitude. 40 and 50 foot wall of water took away homes high on pilings above a canyon. Massive trees uprooted and trash high in branches. A dog was reportedly found safely high in a tree after the flash flood.

Pleasant visits in the area with friends. Enjoyed a great lunch in a small popular Wimberly cafe, which topped off the day. Pleasant time before leaving Lockhart State Park and heading on to San Antonio Texas for another two evenings stopover. A retreat while a predicted storm passed. Oct 23 left Lockhart State Park Texas and into San Antonio during heavy rainfall. Driving tensions increase, searching for highway signs as the traffic becomes hidden in the heavy rainfall.

 Lots of rain caused the KOA RV park to cautiously turn us away, as the lower area was located in the flood plain. We were directed up onto higher ground.... and a less desirable RV park. We drove the Honda back to Sea Island restaurant for our fish and chips. A few charity thrift stores, where not much of value is discarded in these leaner years of less prosperity. Rained all night and all day Saturday from the storm of the century over the Pacific, meeting moisture from the Gulf.

Leaving San Antonio on Sunday Oct 25th, for the last legs of our journey back home. Costco fuel @ $1.93.

Left the wet San Antonio area this morning and drove on to Brownwood, a college town in west Texas. The storm of heavy rain predicted was wet and soggy, but not as heavy as the professional 'climatologists' of the news stations predicted. A nice rain that eased the drought of west Texas ... somewhat. Sun was shining as we neared Early and Brownwood. Walmart 'camp' for the night, after top off 1/2 tank of Walmart fuel at $1.79 gal.

Wifi is good, as is TV. Of course the wifi times out after a bit, requiring another sign-in. Last time we passed this way, a Texas State Park was our night camp. Stopped in Lometta at a familiar junk shop...'Cowgirls', to seek treasures for nav's mall space. Found a few little items of value. One unique item was sadly broken. We noted the cast iron piece broken before we bought it. A small cast iron oil fired water heater from the turn of the century... 1900.... was rare.

Thousands of Grackles are massing tonight in the trees around our coach. Reminds one of Hitchcock's, 'The Birds'. Texas has more birds than any other state due to the flyways of migration adding to the resident bird population. Llano River RV State Park along I-10 has several bird blinds to sit and observe the migrants as they gather to feed at the protected stations provided. Painted Buntings [look like colorful plastic toys] are rare, but seen in flocks like chickens during migrations through Texas. Cheerful Cardinals are plentiful during migrations.

San Saba, navigator's ancestral roots on grand mother's side, is still of interest as we drive through on this route. Brownwood has a charity thrift shop or two that we investigated, no 'finds'. No treasures.

Brownwood Texas Walmart 'camp', to La Mesa Texas, was a couple of hundred miles. Roscoe Texas, in passing through, is a vast, horizon to horizon wind turbine farm, with close to a thousand [more]? of the white beasts in every direction, sitting idle or turning slowly in the breeze, with oil pump jacks sucking crude, while cattle graze and cotton fields yield their prize.

Anyone not recognizing Texas as a 'Productive' center of the US economy, just isn't seeing the big picture. One of the newest cotton balers, in addition to the long square 'loaf' machines seen by the dozens, is a new device that rolls and processes a cotton wad the size of a big truck and seals it in shrink wrap for delivery. These new machines costs about $700,000 dollars... each.

The Permian Basin is also the US oil field mecca that has proven itself worthy of US strategic resources over many long years of US history. The Chinese have now wisely decided to unload another Billion or so, US paper, fiat printed Obama dollars, and as they are quietly doing with the US housing market and mining reserves of the USA and coastline commercial interests, initially buying up one big section at bargain prices, while oil is cheap.

Of course they will re-develop the oil field, using the latest technology. What happens to the US natural oil reserve, is anyone's guess,.... after the new owners, the Chinese govt industrialists, get it out of the ground. I would imagine they will in the future, if they feel it in their heart, possibly sell a portion of it back to us, at a sizable profit of course.

What is occurring to the USA of today is called 'Selling the Farm'. Mandatory when the borrowed money (approaching $20 Trillion) has been lavishly wasted on 'feel good' extravagance..... for 'Progressive' election results. Doesn't that just make you feel all warm and fuzzy to know that so much 'good' is being accomplished?

Oct 26th Driving through Abilene Texas, we stopped for some Tex-Mex food at a nice looking restaurant with Mexican music playing. What a dreadful mistake. Chile con carne on a corn tortilla with cheese, were referred to as Enchiladas? Fajitas, an especially tasty fire grilled New Mexico dish, were a basic chicken salad bowl with pineapple chunks. Can't wait to get back to New Mexico for some 'real' Mexican food with the unique Indian influence.

Recalled seeing in past travels, a La Mesa Texas city park that welcomed RV's overnight. Found it the evening of Oct 26th, with directions from a friendly man and wife. Electrical and water overnight.... free. Quiet ....and dark. Big trees, grass and birds, hawks, squirrels etc. Only two other RVs as neighbors. Pulled out at 9 AM Texas time Oct 27th and drove on through several small west Texas villages to Tatum New Mexico, where navigator has always wanted a few hand made iron silhouettes.

She finally got her desire. Juan Carbahal, the iron working artist, threw in a few extras for her little collection. We drove on to the pleasant retirement spot of Roswell New Mexico [the race horse home ranches, an irrigated mecca of NM], Sam's Club gas at $1.96, pizza slice and salad, before heading the last 200 miles to Albuquerque. A 300 mile day and home by 6 PM October 27 2015. Lots of headwind encountered today, so not much in the fuel mileage desirable.

The entire trip was excellent in spite of a few minor attention getters. We always find a few little treasures to pack the tow car.... and every nook and cranny of Thunder Pig. Now the real chore, to unload tomorrow. Eventually take the coach to dealer for Norcold refrigerator problem under warranty to fix a device they added.... for safety. My old bugaboo returns with the sacrificial zinc anode solidly corroded into the water heater after a month of travels. Drilling it out, to drain tank for winter, is the only recourse, with risk of damage to the tank..

Plan is to refill the fuel tank for storage with a heavy dose of Marvel Mystery Oil to make the fuel system easier to withstand the long sleep of idleness well deserved. Drain tanks, purge water lines. Change the oil and grease the suspension, U joints and steering. Back the coach into the back yard and complete the prep for winter. With 90,000 miles soon to appear on our coach of 12 years vintage use, we must carefully maintain the vitals if we are to continue these ventures in this unit that has served us so well.

Next trip will be..... after paying off credit cards, then saving and scrimping together enough money for another tour in the future,. After the winter months have passed and we are ready for another adventure. All is in the life plan...if we remain healthy and alert, taking nourishment as directed. LOL

Enjoy traveling the greatest nation ever known. The United States of America. One Nation Under God.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Holiday Rambler RV USA trip 2015

Holiday Rambler RV USA trip 2015

  • After leaving ABQ NM in the spring of 2015, following the usual preparations including oil change and lubrication of the rig, (still crawling around underneath, this time with a new, black, Harbor Freight pneumatic grease gun:>), 
  • we are presently, substantially over one thousand miles from home, camped in the outlying suburbs of Chattanooga Tennessee. Holiday Traveler RV park near the Georgia state line.

  • The last week was spent traveling along amongst the thousands of other interstate trucks. Even taking a few Old RT 66 highways off the beaten path and staying at Walmarts overnight ‘camps’ for the most part. We basically ‘kept them doggies rollin’, only pausing to sleep or check out a fast food stop.

  •  Branson Missouri was a great stopover, camped at Table Rock State Reservoir RV Park along the river. A complete Branson visit with two fantastic shows on afternoons enticed us to stay two nights in this tourist mecca that really takes much longer to see in it’s entirety.

  • Visiting copilot’s long lost cuzzin in Missouri and her Blue Grass violin playin’ husband, was a fine way to restore memories. 
  • Watched a crime program that featured her kin from San Saba Texas. The extended family youngsters (nephew and grandson) snuffed out 84 year old Bonnie Harkey in 2012, to get her money.

  • All that they got was life in prison. Bonnie Harkey’s once prosperous ranch land and almond orchards adjacent to Tommy Lee Jones ranch, is now in the hands of real estate agents ……and lawyers..

  • While in this area of Georgia, not far from fun to explore Chattanooga, a brief trip to Copilot’s favorite chicken farm, a business that desperately became an importer of antique reproductions after their chickens all died, always results in a few treasures for her little mall space.

  • We now have to figure out how to duct tape two large tin chickens to the top of the car…. or coach…. for the trip home….. They are about five feet by five feet dissembled. Nothing to do with the chicken farm, just very big, beautifully colorful tin chickens. :>)
  • Lots of other small stuff, much of it cast iron that costs way too much to ship across country… or from China. We often tend to overload the coach on these trips.

  •  This is a section of tornado alley, where the tornadoes skipped over us as we hunkered down in valleys on previous trips. Maybe the iron stuff will hold us down?. Of course there are those problematic big tin chickens on the roof….

  •  Leaving Chattanooga on Sunday morning for other adventures along the return route, most likely fascinating Tannehill Iron Works State Park near Birmingham Alabama. After spending a few nights and days exploring that part of the country near Talladega Raceway, we mosy along a section of the Natchez Parkway Trail back toward Texas on our way back to New Mexico. Not sure about internet connectivity as we roam.

  •  Cooler than in past years, we need heat every morning. A problem with the hot water heater being clogged ….by something…, was resolved by a quick reverse blast directly into the tank, from the air compressor we carry for various incidents along the byways. We can once again take showers… yea!

  • Toodles ….until the next opportunity… Those big chickens !!….. Two of them…. One ended up under the bed, the other, Gorilla Taped to the top of the towed car.

  • While near Jackson Miss in the Barnett Reservoir RV park where we enjoy camping, we noted the big outdoor grills next to the RVs. Apparently the weekend Bar BQs are attended by lots of family and friends. Casual weekenders that use the RVs as lake houses, occupy much of the very popular large park.

    Lots of boats to take advantage of the large lake formed behind the dam holding back the Pearl River from flooding Pearl Miss. Fishing and recreation are very popular there. Checking out the nearby charity thrift stores and consignment shops for resalable items did not prove quite as lucrative as previous years when prosperity was flourishing.

  • Further along the way, we did pick up a number of the biggest pine cones we have ever seen, at a small National Park in Louisiana where we parked overnight. LobLolly Pines drop lots of big cones here. 
  • Interesting is the large number of very big, rust colored daddy long legs spiders hiding in them. Copilot described the little camping park near Pollock Louisiana, as ‘Pine cones and Spiders’ in her log book. We were the only overnight guests in the little Stuart Lake’s National park.

    The office rangers were excited to see that we were staying overnight. They seem bored this time of year before the busy summer crowds enjoy the little lake and it’s attractions. The little lake is periodically restocked with fish before fishing derbys and group festivities.

  • Quiet night in camp, even a distant rail way train occasionally passing in the night.
    We drove on in the morning, often paused, visited a few little places we like along this highway route, before turning for Houston and San Antonio.
Steadily returning back toward ABQ NM, while watching weather patterns that suggest storms in the future is our mission.
Note: The future that eventually brought record flooding to Texas and taking the lives of acquaintances in Wimberly Texas. 

We often stay in a big Texas State Park named Brazos Bend, near Houston. Arriving late on Friday evening with no reservations, we took the only remaining facility spot… in ‘overflow’ lot, #18 with water… and electric to run the AC.

The attractions include Alligators… among many other interesting things to explore. Families were biking and hiking this park to the max on this weekend. Bikes in limited numbers are free to use for the day. ‘Giant’ brands, with large tires are really good bikes. To be free for the use of park visitors, is very nice indeed. Texas likes it’s tourists and park aficionados.

 After taking advantage of the wheelchair compatible paved walkways, we were watching a small Coot (duck) from the dock, when a gator slid out from under the water Hyacinth mass floating on top of the water near the fishing dock. The small coot voiced it’s alarm to it’s partner and scrambled further back up onto the flowering plants covering a large part of the lake, as the always hungry gator turned closer.

Bigger Gators eat other smaller gators, thus keeping the numbers constant in this park. The big gator often shown on the internet and described from many places, is actually from this Texas State park. One park employee described smaller gators that try to leave the park. They apparently understand the rules and try to escape….. to extend their lives.

One trip previously, a very large gator was eating a smaller gator. The process takes several days.
A man among the several professional photographers gathered on the shore during that previous trip, was from Paris France and had flown in only for the event using his sophisticated live streaming ‘on line’ action.

 His telescopic camera was huge, white and looked like a National Geographic piece of equipment. We got to look through the lens… up close and personal as the big gator gradually swallowed his slightly smaller… meal.

Watching the gator under our dock on this day in the park, was a family with a little girl. She was really fascinated by the gator that kept swimming under our dock, as her father and mother held her hand… tightly.  

Copilot got several pics as the gator posed within feet close by.
This was the same lake where the gator grabbed the big fish from the man’s line last trip. Copilot got several pics of that event, as another gator chased the one with the fish.

Always something happening at the large Brazos Bend State Park near Houston. Problem was we took the wrong route, made for trucks and passed fitfully through Houston’s business industrial port area during rush hour. 

Bridges over the river, barges and ships were loading below. Not especially carefree fun with the rig towing the Honda and following GPS instructions from copilot with lane changes among drivers racing to get home fast, mixed with countless big trucks anxious to get on to their destinations.

We learn by these mistakes. When we finally no longer drive this route due to age of our bodies, we will know the best way to do it :>)

Austin Texas on route was very rainy after bit of camping at Lockhart near San Marcos, company of friends at the Saltgrass in San Marcos. Austin is always great to explore for a couple of days in spite of the horrendous traffic on narrower than they should be, highways.

We enjoy checking out the Austin City warehouse for a few items they sell from TSA confiscations. Feasting at one of Tino’s Greek cafes. Prowling the charity thrift stores for ‘antiques’ and salable discards. :>)

After driving in heavy rain, we eventually made it to the KOA  of S.A. Very marginal wifi and crowded spaces due to a filled RV park. So far we have been fortunate in finding a space for the night at state parks along this route of I-10 that we periodically take. 

Good thing as the northern route across Texas has storms this time.
A small, well made spinning wheel caught our eye in a San Antonio Goodwill on our day browsing the city. Not especially old, being in excellent working condition it was still quite an unusual find and copilot will sell it in her small space at the Antique mall.

Rain is not yet falling in the amounts anticipated over the next weeks, allowing a bit of hiking to end the day before nightfall on this Mother’s Day. All three sons called their Mom today, giving her a great smile during and after each call. :>)

The lack of internet access is a good reason to not give boring details of each part of our travels. Seems that the parks and other points that once had wifi are letting them degrade away, as most folks have smart phones. Wifi is becoming obsolete already as the times change.

This section of KOA where camped on this trip, is near the older area where the trailer park types stay year around. We have a big truck parked in front of our site and several older trailers with permanent looking sites, as for monthly rentals.

The charity thrift stores are slim pickens these days. When an economy is weak, people do not donate at the level they did when prosperity allowed them to discard high quality items and buy new on a whim. Everything, like bicycles, are rusty or very heavily used. A stark contrast to the previous trips where we often found desirable, lightly used discarded items to purchase…. and resell.

I liked the sign on the back of a high end motor coach. “Homeless and Unemployed” :>)

Fuel is rising in price and seems to be at $2.49 a gallon except for a few Pilot stations lower in price at $2.35.We stay for two more days before rolling westward after a few more stops visiting along the Texas trail.

We renewed the Texas State Park pass, so we will be returning this coming year. Temps are in the high 80s and high humidity is normal. Stops later included the small but interesting Tallavera Pottery vendors along the route between San Antonio and New Mexico.

One rooftop AC unit on the RV coach is problematic and needs adjustment of the fan squirrel cage to get it away from the housing. Always some little thing to keep me occupied while rolling along the traveling routes. Mother’s Day will be celebrated at Sea Island seafood restaurant not far away. Rain is most definitely on it’s way, according to weather reports.

Note: Fortunately we escaped the area just in time. Rain was a real threat to Texas and Oklahoma as record amounts of it fell, flooding many areas after years of drought. Alb NM, our home port is around 37 degrees these days, so we actually left warmer climate in Texas.

After topping off the fuel tank at ABQ NM Costco, adding a quart of Marvel Mystery Oil to the fuel, as have since early days of motoring, we returned the last leg to home port. After unloading the rig, the following day was spent greasing all of the 13 fittings under the chassis, replacing the oil filter and changing the oil… 7 quarts. 

At over 85,000 miles (3,800 this trip) the old rig is long in the tooth, but with steady preventative maintenance, still running like a thoroughbred. The new 100  watt solar panel and MPPT regulator performed like a silent mini generator when we were camped, boondocking away from shore power.

Enjoy traveling, touring, camping, hiking a marvelously blessed nation, ‘The United States of America, One Nation Under God’..

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Texas Hill Country by RV

10-14-14 prep Holiday Rambler for departure:
Oil and filter, I changed immediately after last trip. Grease fittings are juicy, water tank is filled, fuel filled, Marvel Mystery Oil added for 500+ miles, refrigerator is on 120 VAC shore power for pre-cool before LP system maintains while on highway. We finish load up tomorrow, for one last brief trip this year. Texas, with over 100 state parks, one of our favorite states.

Wed 10-15-14:
Final loading done, head out of ABQ 2:30pm after brief stop at Costco for minor provisions. We buy food locally as we travel, periodically dine in/carry out, sharing meals cuts cost and keeps calories down during travels. Our home is left in minimal idle mode, with caring neighbors and family to oversee. The addition of security cameras, cloud storage enabled, allows us to monitor while traveling.

This motor home lifestyle was primarily necessitated by Navigator's mobility, linked to physical sensitivities which accelerate muscle/nerve degrading over time. Travels in the past caused problems, due to hotel/motel cleaning products, odors, smokers, and steps, distance to navigate while on any daily incursions, to say nothing of periodic rest stops chemical vapors while on the highways. 

With her numerous books to read, her view of the scenery from her comfortable reclining chair, her easy access to restroom as need arises, TV programs to watch, the ability to prepare food and eat in our own dining area whenever we desire, are all satisfying.

 The fact that we can wander unhindered by limitations imposed by travel and timed reservations, all make motor coach travel to see 'Our' USA from the comfort of our own mobile environment, a blessing. When parked, she enjoys reading and observing the natural world, including park wildlife around her 'home' on wheels.

 I can leave her alone (with small bird companion) in her comfortable ambiance, while I am free to hike the trails and be assured of her safety and well being. We, as countless travelers historically, travel armed at all times against aggressive motivations. 

This chosen lifestyle, which is admittedly not for most, far outweighs the costs and associated labor involved. Navigator's expertise in financial management, assures that the bills are paid. As long as our health allows us to function safely, visit places we enjoy, as well as new adventures, this style, which is far cheaper than a care home, works best for us and apparently many others.

I-40 (Rt 66) East through Tjeras Canyon, Edgewood and Moriarty to Cline's Corners, intersection (NM 285 under reconstruction) where a turn south heads to little Encino, now a veritable ghost town. Vaughn to the east, not much better economically, with 487 residents, 86% Hispanic, where we turn south across the high prairie toward Roswell NM, home of N.M. Military Academy. 

Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway is building an extensive 9.3 mile, new parallel rail line through this area, to alleviate the single line bottleneck. Only 25 miles of single line remain on the BNSF transcon rail from LA to Chicago. A 70 million dollar project, to be completed in 2015. On our periodic trips, we often note several long trains waiting for the lines to clear along this section.

Wind is off our starboard stern, so fuel reserves are a go, for a 600 mile voyage if required. Roswell begins to 'green up' 8 miles north, where irrigation from the aquifer enables hay production for the horse farms ('Mine That Bird' was Roswell's Kentucky Derby fame) A 200 mile day and a 'camp' in the Sam's Club parking lot near Walmart, is welcome after this busy day. 

10-16 Thursday:
Pecan trees in their well manicured farms, line the highway as we head for the high limestone caprock uplift on the eastern horizon. The slow climb up out of the green irrigation, onto the high arid land to Tatum, where steel silhouettes seem to keep the local shops busy. Texas border, at one house Bronco, is only a line across the pavement.

On approach to Plains Texas and more steel silhouettes, the cotton business, Beef and the oil pump jacks are busy. Prosperity of working the natural resources, keeps Plains Texas growing enough to add a substantial piece of new construction to the local High School. 'Dairy Queens' are the favorite gathering places across all of rural Texas and Plains is no exception. Near the High School gives it an additional advantage.

The same formula for steady employment, keeps being visible through Brownfield where we make a jog in the highway toward La Mesa then turn toward Big Spring. Cotton, Cotton and more Cotton. Short cotton and of course Tall cotton. 

All are labor intensive cash crops, requiring expensive equipment, keeping dealers, gins and their personnel busy. Most farms are in process of prepping for a great harvest, which will be evident on our return. Irrigation is the key element, along with cooperation from the weather. Crop dusters are often visible flying, climbing out in big figure eights and coming in low over these large fields.

On approach to Big Spring Texas, cotton diminishes into the mesquite and cactus that describes west Texas. Stopping for lunch, 'carry out' from one of the many food establishments, marks our brief rest stop in Big Spring. 

We have been caught by fierce wind storms and spent major time hunkered down in the Walmart lot, with numerous highway trucks as company on occasion. Amarillo to the north, also has been our periodic refuge from seasonal winds.

South of town, on the high  mesas, the large, beautiful white wind turbines by the hundreds, Panther Creek Wind Farm, spin lazily on the horizon. With the fact that it takes five turbines to produce enough energy to create one wind turbine, (efficiency 20%) they  are going to be turning for years. The countries that build and export them to the USA are very happy with the arrrangement.

It would take one turbine many years, far exceeding it's life expectancy, just to replenish the energy consumed in it's production. The 'law of diminishing returns' fails to impress those well meaning people that have been convinced that they actually 'produce' energy. The contrary is true, but folks are being made wealthy and feel proud in the process. Reportedly, 135,000 homes are now powered by this array of over 300 turbines, one of the ten largest in the USA.

San Angelo is on the schedule for the end of this 300 mile+ travel day. Take Knickerbocker a few miles west, to the 'radar golf ball' of the airport. Turn north on Fisherman rd and follow the pavement to the park entrance. Lots of Deer. Once through the entrance past the gate house, turn left, rather than to the Spring Creek RV Marina.

 The city system manages this beautiful park, off Lake Nasworthy. Before the problematic threat of bankrupting legalities shut it down, this family oriented park even offered boat rentals from the marina near the little store.

 It is our target 'camp' for the evening. Deer and wild Turkeys, along with Squirrels antics, keep Nav's camera busy. 'Black' and 'Turkey' vultures circle the last thermals of the afternoon, in a group of over 100, as they head for their evening roost.

Across the channel from where we always park, Horses, Llamas, a Donkey, Sheep, goats (they climb trees) and for some period a beautiful White Peacock entertained us during past years.

Sam's Club refuel for $3.84, was .60 higher than ABQ. Apparently they have not gotten the word that fuel is falling in price. 62 gallons to cover over 520 miles, two days in our rig, was not all that bad...considering.

A few local charity thrift stores to browse, then begin our drive south toward I-10, 'Junction' of 'Birder's delight at the state park on the migratory flyway, as we passed through this trip. Texas has so many birds passing through on their way from South America to the northern part of the continent, it garners attention for the shear Numbers. 

I-10 at Junction, near South Llano River State Park, where we sometimes camp to enjoy the migratory birds. Turn east toward San Antonio and begin several climbs over the fascinating broken terrain that encompasses several altitude checks, reminiscent of the western Range and Basin states of last trip. 

Building rail systems such as was accomplished by Jay Gould, across these limestone uplifts and deep canyons, took the engineers of the 19th century, some indulgence. Modern highways are great, in comparison to the earlier paths that were basically only paved trails in early times of the automobile. We bypassed Fredricksburg Texas this trip. Having spent several days/nights, over the past years, prowling this charming Germanic themed town, we opted out this time.

Kerville Texas:
Wendy's chicken and brief tour around town, reveals a great little city to camp for the night. Shriener City Park, was formerly a CCC constructed state park. We made a turn by GPS which led us on a circuitous route, before finding our camp across the river from the hospital and treesy site for the evening. Squirrels are the camp routine, due to the Pecan trees that form a canopy over our roof. Dropped Pecans were a steady rhythm of the busy Squirrels. 

I climbed onto the roof with a broom before leaving, to check if the slide outs would come back in without Pecans jamming the roller mechanism. An evening bike ride along the river and talk with campers, passed some time before darkness and a welcome bed. Nightfall brought relief from nearby traffic sounds. Pecans fell as a light rain kept the trees dropping their fall crop as we slept. 

Morning departure from Kerville, along with a local charity thrift store where treasures were found, set us up for travel on to San Antonio. Great highways across Texas. The only problem was on approach to San Antonio. ...
 Afternoon 1.5 hour slow-mo traffic jam, where only five miles was affected, as highway crews attempt to modernize an overpass.  Directing fast, heavy interstate, combined with local traffic, one at a time to the exit, stop and re-enter ramp, did not go well. Heavily traveled I-10 no less, on western approach to SA, definetly was a problem.

Thousands of SUVs, pickups, cars and 18 wheelers, countless were going off-road in desperation, spinning tires throwing dirt, down through the bar ditches to get around the mismanaged, unplanned mess.

10-18 San Antonio evening:
Arrival to our favorite Alamo KOA, just off I-10, with lots of upgrades in past years. WIFI slow due to a full park, but works enough to record our travels, contact family and friends. 

Travelers (def not the oldies like us) do their business inventory and watch live action interactive horror vids from the comfort of their RV's. The practice sucks bandwidth, so other people can not look at emails, without long delays.. 

This older established RV park has been undergoing many improvements, new paving, new swimming pool, being noticeable. As nomadic travelers, we drop in without reservation. The very helpful, extremely friendly office staff, always find a site to our liking. Fresh Pizza made to order, is offered as an added convenience and welcome attraction.

We go 'out and about' tomorrow. Fish and Chips at 'Sea Island', within the outlet malls between SA and Austin. We love Fish and Chips. Not common in NM. :>)

 My tall young attractive friend Ashley, in the Alamo KOA office, informed me of the fate of the Egyptian Geese we recalled from our last spring trip. She is always very informative, especially while preparing aromatic fresh, Hunt Bros pizzas to order. Tempted to partake of the excellent looking pizza before the office closed, I had to pass on the, late in the evening offer, as it probably would have kept me awake.

According to Ashley, the exotic geese were adopted out, on Craig's List, due to some finicky residents not enjoying their company. Ashley told of working around secluded cabin four, when one of the larger resident ducks (Muscovy) took surprise notice of her intruding on it's chosen habitat.

The little family of Egyptian Geese, who normally mate for life, was also broken by a larger male goose that drove off the smaller male that had fathered the babies. Ashley said it then was also mean to the babies. A story of life? 

We decided it was 'Drama of the Geese'. Ashley informed that they were all escapees, along with other exotic wildlife from the nearby Red Berry (a colorful Texas legislator, gambler, murderer) estate, after the city took control. Apparently the Famous Mansion and it's private lake were no longer paradise under govt management. The geese were only seeking a better life and found temporary utopia in the secluded KOA pond.

Highways are All under construction (Anyone want to be an Engineer?), widening with sweeping multi-tiered modern overpasses, as San Antonio grows north, east and west in seemingly erratic wide circles. The long corridor between AUSTIN Texas and SAN ANTONIO is almost all filled in now and expanding in width, as each Texas intercity connected highway property is becoming more populated.

A long, ever widening span of business growth (No state income tax in Texas) that is causing a building boom like none other in the nation.
Twelve years ago there were all cows and ranch land along these highways.

 San Antonio Texas 10-19
Had our fish and chips (with Oysters and Shrimp), did some shoe shopping at Forum Mall DSW. Both of us found some new shoes... sale priced. Do you have DSW? Great deals on shoes. Style is everything in the designer world, latest styles cause last years, seasons to be sold cheap.
New shopping centers and outlets are all in suburbs of San Antonio, Austin.
'Tex' our NetJet pilot Friend that lives in HOU, said that Austin has high taxes. New businesses locate outside the city, which suits the control libs fine. They don't like development, unless it suits their 'boutique' lifestyle, doesn't interfere with their personal ambiance.

San Antonio welcomes new development, but their city taxes are still higher than surrounding communities. Expansion continues. New highways deal with it.

Weather is great. Temps in 80's. Humidity not too high. Mild breeze. Somewhat of a drought cycle is in effect. The floods of 1998 devastated large sections and following floods have had their effect, placing this KOA in an official flood plain. Noting the high bridges (rail and traffic) over the creek, shows the high water possibilities.

Wild Ducks that we enjoy and photograph in this campground, are not as plentiful as former times. The creek is low and their KOA pond (flood basin) behind the office, is getting pitiful during this cyclical drought period. Salado (Salad) Creek, along side the, over four mile 'Greenway' trail, is flowing, but slowly. The site of two battles with Mexico 'after' Texas was declared a Republic, it is kept flowing by recycled city water.

Rode my bike each afternoon, exploring in both directions, the nicely maintained, over 4 mile long city trail, that runs through the KOA RV Park. Alligator Gar, huge fish which have been seen in this Salado Creek, lay low under deep mud during dry spells, must be really low. They can grow to over eight feet long and weigh over 300 pounds. They also can live to over 95 years.

Caught only turtles last time I fished the stream on a previous trip. They are long necked soft shell water turtles with flippers more than feet. Not the hard shell desert tortoise that we have in our yard, these can stretch back and bite your hand. 

Tomorrow is in another direction to hunt additional charity thrift stores for unique items. Leaving on Tuesday. Not completely sure which direction, just a pair of drifters until reserve funds run low, then dash for home :>)

10-21-14 Tuesday:
Leave San Antonio and continue en route to Lockhart Texas.

 20 miles south of Austin, our secret Lockhart State Park for two nights, was built by the CCC, to keep unemployed young males busy, providing them with a paycheck to send home, training them for a trade and to follow orders in a nice military fashion, which came in handy for WWII. A perfectly timed event, that finally broke the govt mandated 'Chicken in every pot' (but nothing else) Great Depression of the 1930's.  

Many of the original stone and concrete installations are still in use today at the numerous CCC and Corps of Engineers facilities across the USA. Dams along this stream, form small ponds behind them, to allow stocking of Perch and Catfish. Free fishing without a license is offered at all Texas State Parks. If staying for several days a year, it pays to buy the annual Texas state park pass that waves vehicle entrance fees as well as offers several free camping nights. This family/group friendly facility also has a big swimming pool in season.

The golf course of 9 holes has it's first tee set for a hundred yard shot downhill through a 30 yard wide opening in trees lining the little stream. Many countless hundreds of balls yearly, shot by the brave and confidant, fall short, hook or slice and are lost in the trees and stream ponds. Periodic spring flooding piles them up behind the dams, to be scooped out with the mud by backhoes... by the thousands.
Cleaned balls, collected by staff on the course, are sold $1 for three at the office.

 I hike out the course after it has quieted down for the evening. Deer family  herds enjoy browsing the nice meadow fairways after the golfers leave for the day. Our camp site is on the edge of the course which brags of having the 'highest altitude hole' in Texas. Squirrels feeding on acorns from different types of Oak trees, 'Live Oak' and those that have the Oak Leaf of tradition, have differing sizes of acorns and leaves of varying shape. 
'Live' Oak , an Evergreen that stays alive during winter, can also look stone cold dead, during consecutive drought years and then come back vibrant alive, after a bit of rainfall. All hours, random pops of acorns falling on our roof, lets us know we are camping beneath an oak tree. Last night a roaming skunk was startled by Nav as she slammed the coach door for the night. We were treated to the 'surprise' spray for a portion of the evening. :>)

On our way into Austin Texas,

 we drove along side the controversial, but beautiful International Tollway, built on officially 'condemned' land, to last 100 years, by a Spanish consortium of changing international interests. Part of NAFTA, it runs from the Mexican border to Canada when completed. Many duty free 'ports' are designed into the very wide and high speed (85mph), Internationally owned tollway, cutting America in half after it is complete.
We prowled our favorites in Austin, such as the TSA resale store inside the Austin City, State warehouse, housing the Railway Commission. As usual they had the various confiscated 'weapons' such as pictures of toy guns and toy soldiers with ''guns', belts and accessories including clothing depicting weaponry. Old 'Cowboy 'stuff' with pics of guns? Fugedaboutit, they are instantly confiscated.. We found nice airline booster seats for the grand kids. Apparently people leave them after one flight.

The seats we have been using are pink, naturally detested by the grandsons, in spite of mandatory PC training of total diversity acceptance in the elementary schools. 

In the warehouse section with loads of other govt discards, a sleek modern power stapler loaded with the wrong stapes by the affirmative action bureaucracy, then discarded by the affirmative action bureaucracy when it jammed, was purchased single digit cheap, though the intricately engineered repetitive labor saver cost the tax Payers days pay.

Industrial grade fire extinguishers from govt buildings are routinely discarded by the thousands as their 6 yr 'time in service' date is reached. Though in beautiful condition and checked monthly on contract recorded visits, they are discarded en-masse by the pallet load. We bought two for $10. Govt contracts are lucrative indeed.

 We always enjoy the TSA items, they always give us moments to wonder why the item, innocent in formerly sane times, was deemed 'dangerous' to the people of today. What in the world has happened to our country? One day the govt will catch on and destroy all confiscated items as dangerous evidence, as the public awareness and curiosity increases.

 Left Lockhart State Park,

 for transit through Austin Texas and fuel at Sam's Club for $2.61. After maneuvering the rig around miles of wrong turns due to Sam's old location permanently programmed into the 'new' Garmin GPS (we are rebels, we don't own 'smart' handhelds), Navigator eventually found the newest location off of Slaughter Lane by asking a passerby. Not that we care, but Slaughter Lane? Really? Must have a story.

Two Sam's hotdogs with sauerkraut and sodas, at $3 made up for the wasted fuel. More driving, with miles rolling on the unmanned, intensely camera recorded tollway. A modern state of the art transportation system that fails to charge out of state motorists, due to the complexity of computer programs able to account for every one of the thousands of different license plates across the USA, being unavailable... at the present. An intricately programmed US International license plate in 'your' future? We relished the nice International highway miles to reach Burnett Texas and on to our favorite Texas State Park campground.

 Ink's Lake State Park.
 Nav called ahead as we were driving, and arranged one night loosely confirmed, firmed on arrival. Pedaled the bike around some of the park (it's big and covered with intertwining miles of trails) and visited the little store where canoes, kayaks and colorfully decorated pedal boats are rented. Ducks and Canadian Geese are in abundance on our lakeside site this evening. Nav sometimes enjoys casting out a line and sitting on the coach steps to watch her bobber.

Many Canadian's (Geese and people) enjoy weather in Texas year around. From what Canadians have informed me, the total costs of heating/maintaining a home in winter wonderland Canada are saved and pay for their mild sunny winters in coastal Texas. 

Coots (black ducks more like water chickens with white beaks) were in migration on one past trip. Ever present vultures (Blacks as well as Turkey vultures) circle everywhere over Texas. 

 Tomorrow I must go to the office before 8 am and be first in line to get on a list for the 9 am drawing (I must be there) for another site. Cancellations of reservations (common due to the practice of  online 'booking'?) are the only way to sporadically get a weekend site at this popular campground on the waters of a beautiful fishing reservoir.

Ink's Lake is on a chain of lakes behind dams constructed by the US Army Corps of Engineers to control flooding across Texas. In this case, many small towns and San Antonio, which historically flooded away before (hated by environmentalists) dams. Often we are forced to stay at somewhat nearby, Black Rock Park. Colorado River Authority (Buchanon Dam, during high water years generates hydro-electricity, also hated by environmentalists) controls Black Rock RV camp on Lake Buchanon above Ink's Lake. 

One fellow Ink's Lake shore camper, lives on the drought depleted, mostly dry shoreline of the Buchanon reservoir. Tax of $800? per frontage foot, does not care that the water during drought is hundreds of yards away. 

One upscale home that sold during high water years for over $1.5 million, is now listed for a small fraction of that figure. It has over 800 feet of what was once 'shoreline'.

Black Rock is a nice RV park and tent/cabin campground on a tree covered hill, but not as beautiful as tree covered, Deer friendly Ink's Lake and it's regulated water level. Buchanon is the main feeder dam and it's lake levels are volatile and erratic to say the least. I have hiked nearly all of the way across the dry bottom of Buchanon Reservoir in drought times. Belatedly begun in 1931, by mass electrification, energy industrialist Samuel Insull, it is intertwined in my family history.

Ink's Lake 10-24:
Today Ink's Lake State Park renewed our RV site stay for the next two nights. Took about 1/2 hr. Strange that the sites they said were All reserved, magically open after no occupiers show. Dog in the manger? Remember us being taught that rule as little kids?

Drove into Burnett today and browsed antique shops. What is plentiful in Texas,  is more rare in NM. We found a few interesting items such as antique tools.
A starter pistol, rarely seen today in the 'gun free' environment of competitive events. Deer antlers 'drops' that are often found by hunters in singles rather than matched sets suitable for display. My intent is to cut them into 'scales', handles for knives.
Nav also found a big, precision wood boring auger used during the 1800's. Not common in NM, where most everything involved crudely fabricated tools, due to the transportation costs involved during those times.

Lunch Cod shared at a little local 'Crazy Gals' cafe was lunch. A burger later, shared at our campsite. Chris Landing at Ink's Lake State Park makes good burgers at the campground commons. He apparently also does the big telescope 'Star Parties' when the night sky cooperates.

Ink's Lake State Park 10-25:

Camp Kids :>)
Fun watching the kids around these campgrounds. As the evening approaches, fewer of them are playing ball, chasing around the campsite, fishing, swimming, riding pedal boats and riding bikes around the extensive park. They enjoy the attentive time with parents. While camping away from life's routine, attention is not diverted by the official business and rules of daily life.

Mothers and dads join into the games of whatevers, playing as the goalies or cheering bystanders. It mattered not that the moms and dads were not fully active, though some were. What did matter is the kids finally had their parent's full focus.

One little girl about 6 years old, was in a rental canoe as her parents brought it to their campsite shore. They pulled it into the reeds, leaving it unattended and walking up slope to their tents, while they attended to other camp chores of their large gathering.

The little girl came back alone to the canoe and wading alongside, began carefully arranging it out a distance away from the reeds. The water is shallow in this little inlet where we are camped, so she was able to wade around while dragging the large craft behind her.

I watched as she tried several times to climb aboard. Each time the canoe floated out away from her while she had one foot still in the water. Finally her dad noticed what she was trying to accomplish, paddle the large canoe out to open water by herself. He trotted down and brought the canoe back to shore, as the little girl told him she was just innocently gathering a few things from inside the canoe.

Nav noted that memories were being constructed inside the little kids lifetime storage, as they were camping away from home, in far different, exciting surroundings, with much more freedom to seek out adventure. 

Ducks in this small lake inlet outside our coach door, have discovered that I toss bits of tortilla on occasion. The little brown females come up to me and take bites from my hand held tortilla. Colorful males (Mallards) are a bit more twitchy and stand back quacking for a bite.

Cautious Canadian Geese stand way back and wait for tossed bits the ducks miss. Noted that ducks can tell the difference between young boys and girls. They stay way back from the young boys. They know full well what danger lurks in the minds and actions of young males. 

Kids are everywhere today. Laughing and having fun around the water. The weekends at this popular park are really crowded. Tent groups are large encampments of their own, with one end of the long park packed like a continuous village through the trees. Smokey fires insure that we seal up and run the air conditioning and ionizers to keep the air breathable for Nav and her sensitive respiratory system.

 Afternoon, I rode my bike to the pier, where many kids and their parents were trying to fish for the mysterious creatures lurking below the surface. One young man with a little boy, a darkly tanned man in his later 20's, that appeared as though he had been stationed in the middle east recently, asked what I was trying for. 

I replied honestly, 'I don't know'. He smiled, nodded and said 'Fish' in agreement.  After casting the $2 lure hundreds of times out from the pier, my line invisible in the dark, eventually became ensnared in the treble hook, unable to clear in the darkness. My casting for whatever was ended. One saving grace, I was able to retrieve my shiny new $2 lure.

 As the dark of night enveloped the campground, the fishing pier became silent. I was alone with the bugs flitting around the timer controlled lights.
The lights and small campfires around the park kept up the camp ambiance for hours, as the campers enjoyed their night under the stars.

We were in bed listening to the surrounding sounds of the laughing children in their camps. Quieter and quieter the sounds diminished and lights began going out, as the campers tucked into their sleeping bags for the night. Finally silence and darkness, belying the fact that this fascinating place was occupied by thousands of people, a virtual city among the trees.
Ink's Lake 10-26 Sunday morning:  

There are quite a few folks leaving camp for church.
We pack up Sunday 10-26:
 Head for San Angelo (fuel for $2.65). We will only stop at Roswell NM for the last night camp at Sam's Club, not fuel this trip at their higher prices (Nav checked 'Gas Buddy'). ABQ NM is $2.65, at 520 miles, we will make it.

We have been getting close to 600 miles each tank this trip. Nice weather, no major wind. Wireless is good at this site with Nav's new antenna she ordered from ebay before we left home. Plugs into her laptop and boosts the reception/transmission.... a lot.

After leaving our favorite campsites at Ink's Lake, we drove across vast miles of Texas ranch land, where exotic game animals are frequently preserved, raised and bred, onward toward San Angelo Texas, where we refuel for the trip home. Cotton is visible all along the highway until the New Mexico state line, where it forgets how to grow. Great year for Cotton. Great year for Oil, Great year for crops (hay and Milo this year, this area) and herds of beef. All in all,  great years for Texas and it's ever expanding development. 

We 'camp' in the large San Angelo city park. After hours.... and Sunday, leaves no attendant at the gate. No one other than a flock of wild Turkeys that had Nav and her camera busy (they disappear into the mesquite like illusory magicians), and no one else camping in the park. No one except us. Two men were packing up to leave their weekend tent site near our favorite site alongside the Spring Creek channel. Now it is all ours.

We always enjoy this quiet site, as it has several forms of wildlife that like this remote area near the back gate. This time, as mentioned earlier, the magnificent Caracara (Mexican Eagle) 

was swooping into a tall tree across the channel. Nav took pics, but too far away to identify. We set up a spotting telescope and at least got to watch the big black and white bird for a while. 

Lockhart State Park Texas, we also see the opportunistic big birds on occasion. Besides seeking fish discards along the gulf, where we often watch them, the resourceful Caracara walks around pastures and catches mice and grasshoppers, along with it's fare of whatever else is convenient to eat.

The other side of this Lake Nasworthy channel is private property and has always had unique animals and birds. One time a rare white Peacock with the huge tail fan spread. Another time, a donkey and horses with Llamas add to the intrigue. Always ducks and geese. This time a lonesome black Coot paddled around until dark. The Coot was there in the morning as well. The first time we camped here, feral hogs were roaming the area. No more hogs, but Squirrels, Turkeys and Deer are still plentiful.

Always the big Vultures of both types, 'Black and Turkey' circle on thermals, sometimes by the hundreds. They are expanding their range across the USA. One can smell anything dead for many miles, the other can see everything for miles. The bigger Caracara takes advantage of both birds abilities and circles with them, riding the thermals until the Vultures locate something tasty. The Caracara then swoops in and takes over, not allowing the Vultures to eat until the Caracara is finished.

Silent evenings are common in this large city park. Stopped in nearby Goodwill upon leaving and found a basically beautiful, but dirty, neglected Schwinn bicycle... with flat tires. After cleanup, tuneup and adjusting shift mechanism, Slime and air in the tires, it, like the last Schwinn sold before we left on our trip, should sell to a happy rider on Craig's List.

Left ever expanding San Angelo, after fuel fill for $2.65 per gal Sam's Club. Drove northwest in direction of Roswell NM for the long leg of our journey home. Over 300 miles on this day, with some wind against us. Cotton, Cotton, Cotton is growing and now being harvested, all of the way on both sides of the road, interspersed with pumping jacks slurping out crude for the Texas gulf refineries.

Pipelines underground carry a great portion of the oil from the countless thousands of jacks to the refineries. Relatively few trucks or tank RR cars are involved across the high production areas. Drilling, maintenance servicing is in progress everywhere, due to the new methods of extraction giving new life to the old oil basins. RV parks filled with late model rigs are home to the shift crews, the hard working, well paid rig hands that frequently move from location to location with their busy companies.

Beef graze, and hay fields fill in the spaces where mesquite and cactus has been cleared. New businesses and accompanying home developments are spreading everywhere. Gotta love Texas, nothing wasted, everything works, including the innovative people. No state income taxes work marvels for development. Texans learned long ago that being 'taxed into prosperity' is a proven loosing game fallacy.

Nav wanted a Cotton plant or two, but the trucks were everywhere with people that could take issue with me pulling up a cotton plant :>) It is illegal to pick flowers along side the highways in Texas, the Bluebonnet State where the state flower grows in abundance at a certain time of year.

With Big Spring Texas and the huge white wind turbines that add/subtract (they can't 'start' themselves without electrical power after wind stops, so they motor idle during light winds) energy to/from the grid. Nav complains about the horizon to horizon turbines blocking the view as she takes pictures. Being a tech guy all of my life, I still admire the technology and the gutsy skill required to install and keep them operating.

Not withstanding that it takes the energy production of Five turbines to supply enough energy to manufacture One wind turbine every twenty years, they are pretty interesting. Some politically connected people are earning big bucks off of these 'imported' (USA, with it's prohibitive wage and environmentally restrictive plans, does not even manufacture them) marvels that drastically increase the costs of energy.

Roswell in our 200 mile day sights, Texas and it's cotton soon gave way to NM and it's open range land. Nav said 'Look' and pointed out a big animal. It had long black horns, large and dark, with white. She had seen a 'Trophy' Antlope. The world record Trophy antelope was recently taken in New Mexico.

 Ibex (Long curved horns) and Oryx (Long straight horns) are now breeding (since 1970's), becoming relatively more common in the southern part of NM, due to their introduction from Africa. The big wild animals, the offspring of those introduced into the USA, roam ever more northward as conditions support them and poachers do not shoot them. Hunting permits in N.M. control the numbers of animals, as they have few natural predators.

 Roswell sits in the lower elevation southern portion of the state, where the porous limestone aquifer perpetually fed from Canada, supplies the water for irrigation. Horses are business in Roswell. Derby contenders and winners (Mine that Bird) seem to periodically originate from this area. Hay is the big business near mild climate, retiree friendly Roswell NM. Descending from the eastern high mesa caprock, down the long slope to town, is always pleasant and scenic.

As the Sam's Club 'camp' approached, we noted few campers this evening. I hiked over to Walmart to purchase a roasted chicken for supper. After the fine dining in our coach, I hiked  back again to Walmart, to walk off the days driving. Bedding down is noisey at first, but Sam's quiets down after closing time. Fuel was high this time, so we passed. ABQ has the best price.... if we can make it.

Leaving Roswell Tuesday 10-27 :

This moisture laden year promotes green grass across the range land. Lots of cattle, but no antelope visible (except for wife's 'Trophy') for some reason. Usually we see Antelope by the hundreds.

Vaughn, 100 miles north of Roswell, a one time vibrant, crew change RR station from the steam train days of limited travel options, into the days of caboose and unionized heavily crewed trains, is gradually decaying, it's old restaurants, stores, a long gone car dealership with service facilities and motels closing, due to modern efficient BNSF freight management and faster travel, with passenger trains a bygone era. 

Vaughn, population now 437, where I often stayed overnight while traveling on my former job circuit, eventually (after this short term prosperity) will be literally gone from the maps, except for the intersect highways and a small dot depicting motel, diner and a truck stop fuel station.

 A Chief of Police that was barely over 21 and had been a felon that could not legally possess a fire arm nor a badge, garnered attention last year. His white police cruiser now sits near the highway, locked behind a fence at the city yards, a forlorn reminder of the 'pellet gun' carrying 'Chief' of past 'news' fame. Maybe he now is the Mayor?

In contrast, as mentioned near the start of our trip, the BNSF railroad section at a cost of $70 million, is building more track, lots of it. Apparently the container traffic from the west coast gets bottle necked on five sections totaling 25 miles, including these plains near Vaughn. Crews are laying new roadbed and track for 9.3 miles alongside the BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe) that hauls containers 24-7 from China, to a 'buyer hungry' nation of the east coast and middle USA.

Empty containers are easy to haul back westward, the return with fewer engines. The east bound trains (consists) can have multiple engines pulling and even more 'pushing' the heavy loads of hundreds of  'well cars' that containers sit in, and are double stacked. With long curves and few grades, the trains are very long day and night. Today there was one train sidelined, idling near Vaughn while waiting for a clear line, loaded with approximately 400 containers.

Often we see five or more long trains in transit at one time across this vast, horizon to horizon range land. That can equate to thousands of containers passing within a two hour period. That is only one BNSF line across the southern USA. 

Count the other lines over a 24 hour period and you can estimate the volume of goods being sold around the clock to buyers in the USA. With empty containers returning to China, it bodes not well for the future generation who must somehow pay the overseas debt. Oil exports, food and grain are the debt 'paying' exception. Pray that they continue, unhindered by self serving politics. 

Little Encino is another intersection, a lost village from the past. Most is gone now, with little remaining of the former service and tourist stop along the desolate highway when vehicles were less reliable and slower. Remnants of the decayed motels, restaurants and service stations are gradually dissolving into the earth.

From Roswell over 170 miles to the south, we approach busy I-40 (Rt 66) at touristy 'Clines Corners', where a new NM 285 intersection overpass is being constructed. Highway Engineers are in demand across the USA everywhere we travel. Know anyone looking for a great future?
The familiar silhouette of the Sandia Mountains frames the western horizon. A long, down grade of  I-40 toward Moriarty, Edgewood, then up over Sedillo Hill and downgrade through the Tjeras Canyon, we race alongside the highway trucks to ABQ. Our destination to fill the tank last time this season, with $2.65 fuel at Costco.

Over 500 miles from San Angelo Texas and still had several gallons in the tank. Good mileage for a loaded coach :>)

Home driveway, after an additional 7 miles and unload our treasures and necessities. Drain all water plumbing for the long months of winter storage. Tomorrow will finish with a blowing out of the water lines with compressed air, winterize with automotive ethylene glycol anti-freeze in traps and over the drain valves, to protect against sticking, freezing and oxidation.

Change oil and filter in preparation for our next season, just to be sure of a fresh start after this 1,800+ mile jaunt. It takes about two days driving, just to leave the state of NM ...... and get to somewhere else. Then it takes another two days just to get back home. :>)

'Albuquerque Brake and Alignment', Pete had an opening for appointment to rotate tires, remove the broken 'Steer Safe' assy and balance the front wheels. They aligned the front end steering last year and the coach has driven beautifully ever since. Now it is ready for the spring travels.

Marvel Mystery oil will keep the fuel in the tank in condition for easy start in the spring. Generator, change oil and filter should be done as well. Gen shares the Marvel Mystery Oil from the fuel tank mixture. 

Work is cut out for my grease gun and creeper :>)  Wash and wax (Nano Wax by Eagle One) on the front lawn as the days roll by, then maneuver the coach into back yard for the winter.... under protective cover this time, as we become winter frugal mini consumers and save funds for our 2015 trips.

Enjoy a vibrant life, travel with Freedom as a US Citizen in the greatest nation ever known, The United States of America. One Nation Under God.

DO NOT Ever let Anyone 'CHANGE' it! Vote like Your Life depends on does.