Monday, December 24, 2007

Jax to Cave Creek and back wrapup 12-20-07

We arrived back home on December 20 about 8PM. We left Clinton, MS at 6:45AM Central time in the rain. The rain chased us all the way to Mobile where we finally outran it. Dad called several times today with weather reports keeping us informed. We stopped in Quitman, MS and filled up with gas before we noticed it was cash only. No wonder their gas was cheaper than any one else's. No credit card fees.

Ever since we left San Angelo EJ and I had been swapping driving duties. Let us tell you, it is so nice to be able to get in bed when your driving turn is over and take a nap. It's also nice to give your posterior a break from all that sitting in one spot. Roadie did great.

What worked and what didn't:
  • The only real problem we had was with the gps reciever. Occansionally it would decide to take a break right when we needed it most. It would deliver the dreaded "Lost satellite signal" message. It's a Pharo brand receiver sold by Microsoft. I'll have to do some research on that problem and see if anyone has come up with a solution.
  • Preparing and freezing meals ahead of time is a good thing.
  • As a general rule use the backroads if you have the time. Use the Interstates if you don't.
  • Using a good cat sitter works. Fewer worries about how the cats are doing and if there are any problems with the house.
  • Driving 2200 miles in 4 days is not a good idea. (Actually it was 5 days, but on the third day we didn't do any driving).

When we get home from these trips, the cats have been pretty much ignoring us. This time they were like velcro. They wouldn't let us out of their sight. We usually don't let them in the bedroom, but they insisted on sleeping with us that first night. I guess they were making sure we didn't sneak off again.

Now for the stats:

  • We traveled 4,823 miles.
  • We spent $990.54 on gas,
  • Our average fuel consumption was 14.18 mpg.
  • We spent $156.16 on rv parks.
  • We stayed in Roadie 13 nights.
  • We were gone for 22 days.

We can't wait for the next trip.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas in San Angelo 12-18-07

We set the alarms to get up early this morning to take Mom and Dad to the hospital for tests. Since they were both going to be under anesthesia at the same time they needed some one there to keep track of things and some one to drive them home. So we volunteered since we were going to heading back this way to go home. All went well and Mom slept a good part of the afternoon.

While they were relaxing we slipped out to do some Christmas shopping. It's amazing how busy we've been that we didn't have time to really do any Christmas shopping up to now. Hiking, visiting, sight seeing,'s been go go go! Knowing that we weren't going to see Frank's parents again until after the holidays we decided to have Christmas early. Shopping at the mall in San Angelo was interesting. They have all the usual stores, Sears, Penneys, Belks, and so on, but not the crowds. Frank even said it was pleasant and he hates crowds.

Jean enjoying her Christmas surprise

Bill intent on unwrapping his gift

Another Texas Surprise 12-17-07

When we awoke in Demming this morning it was 24 degrees outside. Since we wanted to make a quick get away we rushed to get dressed so we could get Roadie ready for the road. Having arrived after dark last night, I didn't want to bother with connecting the water and sewer hoses. This morning with temps below freezing, filling with water and dumping the holding tanks was going to be interesting. Given my propensity for making a mess while dumping, I was concerned. In preperation EJ made me a cup of hot chocolate. Thus fortified, I tackled the tasks and surprisingly everything went well. Actually I did have one little problem. The connection where the RV sewer hose connects to the campground sewer system froze in place and I had to get out the tools to pry it loose.
Ice column on RV next door

To us Texas is a state of many pleasant surprises. Lots of parks, wind farms, 80 mph speed limits, lots of roadside picnic areas on all types of roads, and now we add a new one to the list...roadside rest stops with free wifi.
Wifi sign and notice the other sign

We're embarrassed to admit that as we were traveling I-10 we were so engrossed in a conversation that we blew right by the hiway 67 turnoff to San Angelo and had to back track 8 miles. Thank goodness for GPS. We looked at Nomad and then each other and said "Hey, weren't we supposed to turn back there?"
We arrived at Rio Concho Manor in San Angelo about 6PM.

Monday, December 17, 2007

I-10 Rant 12-16-07

We digress a little from our quick Tuscon entry to fill in the blanks.

By now you are probably aware of our dislike for Interstates. In a moment weakness we decided to take I-10 from Phoenix to Tuscon yesterday. We hadn't been on it 10 minutes before all 4 eastbound lanes came to a halt. There was a traffic accident ahead. We opted instead for an alternate non-interstate route to Tuscon.

It worked out better because we got to stop at the Casa Grande National Monument. This was a Hohokam Indian settlement occupied around 1300 A.D. They hand built over a hundred miles of canals to bring river water to their crops. They had to dig through caliche which is a hard rocky clay material. Today we use ditch digging machines and backhoes to remove caliche. They did it with their hands and stone digging utensils. They then used the removed caliche to build their homes and lodges.

We had a really good time visiting with Andy, Sabina, Johnny and Christina in Tuscon. We spent the evening catching up and talking about family items. We wish we could spend more time, but we have to hit the road. Keeping in touch with family is important.

After we left Tuscon this morning, we had to avoid most of I-10 around Tuscon because of a huge road widening project. This meant most of the entrance and exit ramps were closed.
We wanted to see Chiricahua National Monument. So we had Nomad (our computer) plot us a route from Wilcox, Az to the Monument and on to I-10 without backtracking. So we took our 35 mile detour off of I-10 and spent 2 hours at the monument. Chirichahua is home to Faraway Ranch and rock formations like Bryce Canyon. We plan on coming back when we can spend more time.

As we got ready to leave we checked the onward route Nomad had planned for us and discovered it was all dirt roads. We prefer not to travel dirt roads in Roadie. We asked a park attendant which the best way to get to I-10 and she said back the way we had come. We really hate back tracking but there was no choice.
We made it to Demming, NM where we'll spend the night. On to San Angelo tomorrow.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Tuscon 12-15-07

A few quick notes. No pictures this time as we are trying to get on the road.

We stayed in Tuscon with Andy, Sabina, Johnny and Christina last night. Actually we boondocked out on the street. Andy fixed a great Artichoke Chicken and dressing. We were stuffed.

Also we met up with old friends Don and Trish who live in Missouri. We both happened to be in Phoenix at the same time.

Time to go more later.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Finally Hiking 12-14-07

The rains are finally gone and the weather has turned beautiful. It's in the low 40's at night and right around 60 during the day. The sky is a brilliant blue. Our first hike took us to Pinnacle Peak, a 3.5 mile hike with highest point at 2900 feet. The trail was really well groomed compared to the Appalachian Trail. The rain had caused some damage, but folks were out with their shovels taking care of it. It is a popular trail and lots of younger folks were actually jogging. Not me, there were several places I was huffing and puffing just walking.

Our second hike took us to the Sears-Kaye ruins. The ruins are reconstructed to a degree to give the observer a feel for what life was like back then.

After that, EJ and I rushed off to the dentist as EJ had broken a tooth the night before and we wanted to get it checked out before we left for the rest of our trip. Mike, a good friend of Terry's, got us an appointment with his dentist. Scotty the dentist did his magic and told EJ just to take it easy on that side of her mouth and she'd be ok until we get back to Jacksonville to see our own dentist.

Thursday night Joy and Terry had their friends, Ronnie, Abby, Mike and Mary over for dinner in the condo. It was a roaring success, but we were all having so much fun we forgot to take pictures while everyone was there.

Earlier this week I had called old friends Don and Trish who generally travel west this time of year to see if they had left their home in Missouri yet. Turns out they are here in Phoenix also. We are going to meet them for brunch on Saturday. We're off to Tucson after that to visit EJ's niece & nephew.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Rainy Days 12-11-07

It has been raining for 11 straight days in Phoenix. So hiking has not been an option. EJ and I did try to sneek a quick hike in late Tuesday going up Black Mountain right behind the condo, but after about 15 minutes into it, the rain started again. Here's a view of the our condo in Cave Creek.

So we've been visiting and catching up plus going to museums and getting in some Christmas shopping. We found out the city museums are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. We did get in to see the Heard Art Gallery and the Penske Racing Museum. The Penske museum is sandwiched in between Jaguar, Mercedes, and BMW dealerships. It almost gets lost in there.

The Penske Museum contains mostly Indy style racers, but it did have a '64 Pontiac that Roger raced, and two pace cars, a 442 and Z06 Corvette. There was a 1991 Mercedes engine that produced over 1000 hp with a max rpm of 10,400. There was also a Chevy engine that produced 765 hp with a max rpm of 13,400. That's screaming!!

We decided to go to Old Town Scottsdale to do some shopping and have lunch. We ate at Dave's and had some really good hamburgers. Here's Frank and EJ with his brother and wife Terry and Joy at Dave's.

Sidenote: We had seen several catcus plants with styrofoam cups on their ends. At first we thought someone had been decorating the catcus for the holidays. Turns out the cups protect the ends of the catcus from frostbite which in turn would kill the catcus.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Snow Day 12-8-07

We stayed in Socorro, NM last night. We had seen a weather report forecasting the possibility of snow along our intended route. The forecast was for snow in the late PM today. So we talked about taking the longer southern route down to I-10 or stay on US60 which was shorter. We didn't really want to travel on I-10 because interstates are boring and generally crowded. Also we will be taking I-10 back to Texas when we leave Arizona and I really hate to travel the same road twice. So our decision was made, west on US60.

Along the way we passed the VLA. We had seen several signs for VLA so we were interested in what it was. Finally we arrived. VLA stands for Very Large Array, a radio telescope. There are 3 lines of these antenna radiating from a center point. Each line is seperated by a 120 degree angle.

After an hour or so on the road, I turned on the CB to get a NOAA weather forecast. NOAA was predicting 2" to 4" of snow accumulation in Show Low, which was on our intended path. In Datil, NM we ran into our first snow flurries. We drove through it in about 30 minutes and there was little snow that actually stuck to the surface of the road. After that we drove in several hours of sunshine. Off in the west we could see very dark ominous clouds. In Springerville, AZ we stopped for gas and reviewed our decision. We asked the attendant at the filling station "In which direction was the snow?". Her response was to point in all 4 compass directions and said "That way". We were surrounded by snow flurries. Surmising that NOAA predictions probably tended along the direction of those of the Weather Channel (in other words sensationalistic) we still thought US60 was worth trying.

About 25 miles east of Show Low we started to run into snow. On occasion it was so heavy that visibility was about 1000 feet. But it still wasn't sticking to the road. There was some accumulation along the road and the snow plows were out in force. We made our turn onto route 260 at Show Low and saw a sign that the road was closed. So Plan B was implemented. We headed south thru the mountains down to Phoenix. It was a beautiful winding route with just a little rain.

Once near Phoenix we hit the big own traffic and 8 lane freeways. It took about an hour to get thru and up to Cave Creek. We arrived around 5:30 in the dark, of course. We'll be here a week in a timeshare with Frank's brother and his wife. They have friends here and lots of stuff planned for us to do.

Trust No One 12-7-07

Roswell takes this Extraterrestrial life/UFO stuff seriously. Several blocks downtown have store fronts that follow the UFO theme. "Out of this World" Coffee Shop, and the like are sprinkled throughout this area. We visited the UFO Museum and Research Center. It is about the size of a basketball court and the walls are lined with old newspaper articles, affidavits, and drawings of skinny, big headed, big-eyed creatures. There are also lots of grainy photographs of supposed flying saucers. In other words, over 60 years of people saying they've seen aliens or UFOs but no hard proof.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Carlsbad Caverns 12-6-07

EJ had suggested that we see Carlsbad Caverns and I glad we did. It is one of the best that we have seen. It's not the biggest or the deepest, nor the longest. But it has more formations than any other cave we've been in. The picture to the left shows us at the entrance to the cave.
During the summer over 100,000 bats fly out of here at night in search of food. The trails we took today were about 2.8 miles long and as deep as 750 feet. We stopped and gawked alot so it took us 4 hours to go through. We only saw about half of what was open to the public. The parts we didn't get to see were available only by guided tour. That didn't fit with our schedule so we opted for the self guided tours.
We're staying at the Carlsbad RV Park near downtown Carlsbad tonight. We actually have a cable connection and WiFi at the campsite. We got to see a weather forecast and of course update RoadNotes.

Chaparrals in Midland 12-5-07

This was a 309 mile day. At 80 mph (yes a LEGAL 80 mph) it should have been a 4 hour trip. However, we got waylaid by the Petroleum Museum in Midland, Texas. Frank was interested in learning more about all the oil wells we had seen dotting the landscape along the way. Not only did the museum explain oil exploration and extraction, but it also had this really cool display of Chaparral race cars. Turns out Jim Hall, the founder of Chaparral is a Midland boy.

Hall and his team developed and raced the first ground effects race cars complete with downforce wings. He left the competition in the dust. He also won the first Indy 500 he ever competed in driving one of his cars. He also developed and tested the 2K, called the "suction car", which was immediately banned by the racing committee because it was too competitive. The downforce created by suction fans allowed the 2K to corner faster the anything else racing.

We pulled into White's City RV Park about 4:30. This place is desolute. Most of the businesses are closed. Best Western motels gave up here 2 years ago. So far this was the most derelict RV park we've stayed in. It was close to Carlsbad Caverns, the only reason we stayed here. But, there were mule deer everywhere. Todays suprise was when Frank took the trash to the dumpster and heard noises inside. Rats?? Feeling brave he opened the lid and saw 2 pairs of beady eyes staring back at him. The eyes belonged to two racoons.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

West Texas 12-4-07

We arrived in San Angelo, TX late Sunday(Dec 2) afternoon to spend a few days with Frank's parents. Enjoying cold mornings and warm sunny afternoons.

This will be our last post for several days as we are heading out into the vast unpopulated areas of west Texas and southern New Mexico. We are headed to Carlsbad to see the caverns, then Roswell to see if we can view any exterterristial activities before heading on to Cave Creek, Arizona which is the western most point of our trip.

Traveling through eastern and central Texas we saw acres and acres of cotton fields. Some were harvested and some still awaited picking. We made several guesses about how the cotton was picked and transported when we happened upon these huge white shapes.

A new house in Frank and EJs future? We did tour some new homes in San Angelo and were quite impressed with the prices. We found one under construction that looked like it would be quite comfortable. Who knows what the future holds?

We'll update you in a few days.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Louisiana 12-1-07

When we woke up this morning we found that once again we were camped next to a lake. There was a swimming area, several pavilions and a trail around the lake that we walked.

Our opinion of roads in Louisiana hasn't changed. They are still the worst we have driven. They're built of concrete and you are jarred on every concrete joint. Plus the maximum speed limit is 55 mph. In Texas the speed limits are 70 mph. Much better.

We made several aborted attempts at connecting to the internet today, but no luck. You'll have to wait for updates until we get to San Angelo.

Arrived at Palestine, Texas Highway 155 North RV campground at 5:30. Once again we are camped right next to a lake.

On to San Angelo tomorrow.

Unique Town Names 11-30-07

We gotta get better at this leaving early stuff. EJ woke up at 7am and asked me if I was awake. I said no. (How'd I do that if I wasn't awake?) Next time we both woke up it was 8am and 45 degrees outside. It was 11:45 before we left the campground.

One of the reasons we took so long to leave is that EJ offered sausage gravy and there was no way I could turn that down. Breakfast was great as you can see from the picture. Sausage gravy, grapefruit and blackberry jelly on biscuits. Yumm again!!.

Our big surprise for the day was when we woke up and looked out the window, we found we were camped on a peninsula. There were only 4 RVs in the whole campground.It was dark when we got in last night,but we were immediately greated by our campground host Duwayne Dubose. He made sure we got settled in, gave us a trash bag and brochure and took our money.

When we walked around the campground this morning we saw brightly decorated birdhouses everywhere. It turns out that there were 114 of them. Childrendecorated them when they visited here.

Some of the towns we passed by today were Burnt Corn, Grave Hill, SOso, and Hot Coffee. We kid you not!

We pulled into Clear Springs Recreation Area Campground area after dark and took the first spot we found. We went for a walk after we set up and with no streetlights it was dark. On our walk we heard a huge rustling off the side of the road in front of us. EJ immediately jumped behind Frank offering him up as bear food when out of theleaves strolled a possum. We had a good laugh and waited for our hearts to settle back into a normal rythmn before continuing on.

Model "A"s in Monticello 11-29-07

The back roads are full of surprises. We counted 9 Model "A"s in Monticello, Florida just north of the town square. We know we are goingto see unsual things we just never know where or what they will be.

One thing that did catch us off guard was that it was dark at 4:30pm in eastern Alabama. What a bummer!

In Opp, Alabama at 6:30 the main road was lined with folks on both sides of the Street. Maybe they were waiting for a parade?

By 7:30 we had arrived and set up camp at the Point "A" Campground just northwest of Andalusia, Alabama. It's an Alabama Electric Coop campground. Electric and water provided and a nights stay is only $10. Outside it was 53 degrees. Can't wait to see what this place looks like in the daylight.Tonights menu was meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and green bean casserole. Yummm!!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Delayed Trip

We decided to delay our trip for one day. We have a lot left to do to get the house ready for our departure and to get us and Roadie ready too. EJ pulled a muscle in her back and has been going to the chiropractor. Her last appointment was this morning.

Rather than get a late start now that the days are so short, we opted to get away Thurdsay morning instead of rushing this afternoon. That's what retirement is all about, you make the schedule instead of someone making it for you.

Roadie, our 2004 Roadtrek Class B motorhome, got new tires in anticipation of this trip. The rear tires were pretty much square because of a bad alignment done in Las Vegas. The back tires were originally on the front, but it got to the point when you hit a significant bump, the steering would begin jerking back and forth uncontrollably. It was pretty scary. We put on 5 new tires (spare included) of the same brand that came on Roadie when he was brand new. Bridgestone V-Steel radials.

We also replaced the blackwater and greywater drain valves. We had a slow leak through the greywater valve so I hope this cures it.

The Trip - 2007

The destination is Cave Creek, Arizona. That's north northeast of Phoenix. Frank's brother Terry has a week in a timeshare there and invited us to join them. We expect to do some hiking, some sight seeing and see some friends. On the way there we will stop and see Frank's parents for a few days in San Angelo, Texas, and if the timing is right we will try stop by Tuscon, Arizona to see EJ's niece and nephew.

The trip should take about 3 weeks. The reason for the short time frame is that we have to get back so Frank can make a doctors appointment on December 21.

The Machine: We travel in a 2004 Roadtrek on Chevy Express Van 3500 chassis. It's a fully self-contained Class B motorhome. It has all the conveniences such as a shower, toilet, refrigerator, stove, microwave, flat screen TV, king size bed and more. It is tall enough for Frank to stand up straight and he's 5'11". It also has enough storage for us to take our favorite outdoor chairs, a barbeque, a table, and supplies for taking care of the outside of Roadie. Oh yeah, we've nicknamed it Roadie.

The Route: We don't like to travel on Interstates unless we are pressed for time and need to make some miles. We prefer the lesser traveled US highways such US 84 which will be our main route to San Angelo. Out of Jacksonville we will take I-10 to 41, then 129 and 92 to US 84. We stay on US 84 to Goldthwaite, Texas where we get on TX16, US 190, then US 87 which takes us on into San Angelo.

We won't bore you with all the different roads we'll be on, but after we leave San Angelo the plan is to go through Big Spring, Texas, then Roswell, New Mexico, and then Show Low, Arizona on our way to Cave Creek. Those all sound like interesting places. However, we want to see Fort Davis, Texas again and Carlsbad Caverns but it's a little out of the way so who knows. Plans change. The reason we have plans is so we'll have something to change.

Coming back we'll probably mostly stay on I-10 since we'll be pressed for time to make Frank's appointment back in Jacksonville. We could delay it until next year but that's another story involving changing medical insurance and a major difference in out of pocket expenses.

Our intention is to update "RoadNotes" as frequently as we can while we're on this trip. It all depends on how successful we are at finding Internet connections. So it may get updated daily or weekly. Check back often and see.