Sunday, October 3, 2010

Texas Bound Shocks August 3, 2010

The journey to San Angelo has not been without moments of exictment surrounded by hours of uneventful driving.

The first was near Robertsdale, Alabama when we pulled in to buy diesel and had to pay $3.04 a gallon. Quite a shock when we had been paying $2.70 to $2.84 a gallon.

The second was in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Frank was getting tired, "Big Guy" needed a fuel stop and we needed to get up and stretch some to get the kinks out. So while we were in that really relaxed state looking for a filling station there was a big "WHAM". We had just been clobbered by a Fed EX truck. Actually he ran into the drivers side mirror. EJ and I were sitting at a traffic light minding our own business when the incident occurred. Because of the shock of having our peaceful reverie interrupted, the crash sounded much worse than it really was. Turns out there was no damage, but the Fed Ex guy never apologized. He swore that he never left his lane. Funny how a 24,00 pound motorhome can be at a standstill, jump in front of a Fed Ex truck, get hit, then jump back into it's own lane and nobody notices. Needless to say, with all that adrenalin pumping,Frank was no longer tired.

The further west we drove that hotter it got. We were seeing temps well into the 100's. Looks like that repaired generator is going to get a workout on this trip.

We arrived at Bill's(Frank's Dad) place about 5:45pm and Terry (Frank's brother), Joy, and Bill came out to see the RV. It was the first time they had seen it in person.

A Sad Texas Journey August 1, 2010

It's a sad trip we begin. Frank's mother passed away on July 19, 2010 and we are on our way to be with his Dad and prepare for the memorial service. Her health had been failing for the last several months partially brought on by a series of mini-strokes. She passed away in her sleep that night. The service is to be held August 5th so that gives 3 days to get to San Angelo and 1 day to prepare for the service. We have pictures to prepare, scrapbooks to assemble, and speeches to write. Even though we had been mentally preparing for this since May, you're still not prepared when it actually happens.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Big Guy Gets a Checkup - July 9 to 15 2010

Big Guy is due for a checkup.  Having just bought our motorhome in March of 2010 we had not had a chance to go over the mechanical systems like we wanted to. We knew the second owner had been good about annual oil changes and filters but we had no knowledge of how Big Guy had been treated by the first owner as there were no records available.

Frank wanted to take him to Gaffney, South Carolina as that is the source for Frieghtliner motorhome chassis which Big Guy has.  Briefly motorhome chassis consist of everything that makes the motorhome go and stop.  So appointments were made, budgets were established (more on that later), and packing was accomplished.

We left Orange Park on July 9 headed towards Blue Ridge, Georgia to see friends Jim and Shelley Ward and their new mountain cabin.  The Putnam's and the Ward's had consulted their respective calendars and determined that this one weekend was probebly the only weekend we would be able to get together until November or December.

Naturally the night before we left, Big Guy developed a problem.  The hydraulic system for the slides and stabilizer jacks decided to go on strike.  Frank worked on the problem until the wee hours of the morning with limited success.

We arrived in Blue Ridge late in the day because several stops were made in an attempt to get several rv dealers to work on the hydraulics.  Every where we stopped the service departments were full and they
couldn't take time to look at our problem.  Oh well, when we bought Big Guy we knew there would be times when we would have to spend a night or two with the slides in so we'd just deal with it.

We stayed at the Mineral Springs RV Park in Blue Ridge.  It was kinda rustic but it had all the amenities.  As we were setting up, Frank decided to take a chance and put the slides out.  By golly, they worked.  We called Jim and Shelley and invited them over to take a look at the new (to us) motorhome.

The next morning we got to see their new cabin and were we surprised. The "cabin" was huge and beautiful.  The deck space at the cabin was bigger than our condo in Orange Park. 

We spent the day exploring and enjoying the house.  They also took us on a tour of the Blue Ridge area and we also looked at RV Parks for future visits.  That evening we cooked out and enjoyed catching up since we hadn't seen each other in a long time.

The next morning we returned to Jim and Shelley's and had a great breakfast to prep us for the trip to Gaffney.

After breakfast we returned to the RV to get ready to get underway for South Carolina.  One of the last items is to retract the slides and guess what?  They chose this particular moment to go on strike again.  Knowing that this situation might arise, Frank had studied the manual and determined it was possible for two people to manually retract the slides.  After much head scratching and grunting we managed to get them back in and off we went.

Our course to Gaffney took us over some pretty twisty roads and we noticed the bedroom slide was working it's way out.  That's not a good thing to have happened when you're cruising down the road.  So we found a place to pull over where there was a car already parked and managed to push the slide back again.  Frank tweaked the hydraulic solenoid valves one more time and we crossed our fingers.

Due to all the delays, we arrived in Gaffney late and then ended up going to the wrong place.  We went to the Frieghtliner factory instead of the Service Center.  However the guard at the factory gate was used to this happening and had directions printed up to hand out for lost souls like us.  We arrived at the Service Center at about 6pm and there was only one space left in their campground.  It was #13.  Frank had read some forums that said arrive early or you may not get a spot.  We were lucky.

We were prepared for Big Guy being in the shop for all of Monday and part of Tuesday as we had enrolled in Camp Frieghtliner.  This was a 2 day class that taught you about your motorhome chassis.  It was very informative and fun.  We learned about things we didn't even know we had.  The cool thing about having service done here is that they come get your motorhome ar 8am in the morning and bring it it back by 5pm.

Part way through the second day, the service people told us they were going to need to keep Big Guy for a third day.  Turns out, the maintenance that had been previously preformed on Big Guy had been superficial at best.  Just like the generator, the diesel engine cooling system was a mess.  And the radiator was a mess, and they found the right front wheel hub was leaking which explained some funny odors we had been smelling.  The list goes on.  Needless to say our carefull budget planning was out the window.

We spent the third day that Big Guy was in the shop touring the Frieghtliner factory.  We got to go out on the shop floor and watch them building several motorhome chassis.  At their peak several years ago, they were building 150 motorhome chassis a month.  Now they are building about 9 a week.

We spent Wednesday night at the Frieghtliner Service Center and headed home to Orange Park on Thursday.  And believe it or not, Big Guy performed like a new motorhome.  The service was expensive, but it was complete and it was necessary.  We now feel confident that we are ready for the big summer trip.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

We’ve been a little delinquent in providing updates about life on the road.  A lot has happened since our last real update in January.  So here is a brief synopsis beginning May 2010.

This is about our second of three trips to Texas this year.  The first trip, in January, we covered pretty thoroughly in an earlier blog.  The next event was that we acquired a 34 foot diesel powered Class “A” motorhome.  Quite a step up from a 19 foot Roadtrek Class “B”.  A year’s search had finally yielded the motorhome we had been looking for.  It’s a Winnebago Itasca 34H with 2 slideouts.  It’s so big after being used to a 19 footer for 4 years.  Since our creative juices have not yet produced a satisfactory name for the new motorhome, we’re using “Big Guy”

This trip to Texas, which took place in May and June, was primarily focused on making sure Mom and Dad’s finances were in order.  Much time was spent learning Texas rules on assets, income and trusts.But Frank and EJ with the help of Frank's brother Terry and his wife Joy managed to successfully get everything into place to satisfy Texas.  Actually it was a pleasure working with the agencies here in Texas.  Everyone was very helpful.

By the time we pretty well had that wrapped up, we had endured all the 100+ degree weather we could and it was time to head to a cooler location.  Mom’s health was such that we didn’t want to travel more than a day’s drive away.  So we drew a circle around San Angelo to locate all of the mountains within a days drive.

There was no use checking North, East or South as there are no mountains or cool weather in those directions. So we checked out Ft. Davis, Tx and found it was not high enough .  The temperatures were still to hot.  The only direction left with mountains of any size were the Sacramento mountains which are West NorthWest of San Angelo.

Things were looking promising because Cloudcroft is over 8000 feet and the Solar observatory in Sunspot is over 9000 foot.  Things we’re looking good.  Temperature checks yielded figures near 80 degrees for highs and high 40’s low 50’s for overnight lows.  Destination locked in….off we go.

Ooops, side track.  In the last half hour of our trip to San Angelo we realized we had a serious generator problem.  The thing that makes 110v electricity for the coach.  It was overheating but we didn’t worry too much because we had a place to plug in at Dad’s.

They had to lift Big Guy to get the generator out - twice!!

I wanted to get it fixed before we headed off to the mountains because I wasn’t real sure where we were going to stay and we might even be boondocking.  The nearest authorized service center was Midland/Odessa where we made an appointment for noon on Thusday and off we went.  Long story shorter, everything the generator needed had to be delivered from somewhere else and always took at least overnight to get to Odessa.  5 days, and many new parts later, we were back on the road.  We still weren’t 100 percent positive the problem was fixed, but it looked promising.  (We’ve since put over a 100 hundred hours on the generator and are convinced Cummins Southern Plains in Odessa knew what they were doing)

Side track over, we’re back in search of cooler temperatures.  As we were heading up into the Sacramento Mountains, we kept checking the elevation and the temperature.  At 7000 feet things weren’t looking good.  Temperatures were still in the low 90’s.  On to 8000 feet.  Hmmmm….a little better.  Temperatures were now in the upper 80’s.  Well, on to 8663 feet, the elevation of Cloudcroft.  Temperatures were now near 80 degrees at about 5pm.  I guess this will have to do.  The campground was a little rustic but it quickly grew on us.

We had wifi, a beautiful view of the lake, a view of an open field and lots of humming birds.  This was the first time we had heard humming birds chirp constantly.

Their favorite trick was to soar way up into the sky, do a hammerhead stall, and dive bomb you. The campground office and several of the campers had hummingbird feeders out for the little guys.

And the best part, as the sun got lower in the sky it cooled off real fast.  At about sundown you needed a light jacket or sweater if you were sitting outside.
Playing tourist, we visited the Space museum in Alamagordo , a winery, the solar observatory in Sunspot, an old wooden railroad trestle just outside of Cloudcroft, the Lodge in Cloudcroft (very fancy for the area), the local cherry festival,  Inn of the Mountain Gods Casino  and Resort, a Civilian Conservation Corps fire tower, Ruidoso Downs, the Apache casino and more.  There’s plenty to do and see around the Cloudcroft area.

The first observatory at Sunspot was ordered from Sears and Roebuck.  It was a modified grain bin.
A week in the mountains was over all ready and it was time to head back to San Angelo.  We wanted to check in on Mom and Dad before we headed home.  Unfortunately, Mom had a stroke the 2nd day we were back and she had to go to the hospital again.  Another battery of tests and still no definitive answers.  Human bodies need on board computers you could plug into and read the error codes like you can with automobiles.  Although we did learn she had already had several ministrokes in the near past.  We stayed to help Dad out some more and finally we needed to head back to Orange Park.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Times are changing

We brought home our new to us 2005 Winnebago Itasca Meridian 34H on March 9th, 2010. This picture was taken at Georgia Veterans Memorial Park in Cordele, Georgia.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Classic Westerns and other Taunts

Friday and Saturday January 29-30, 2010

It's been a real treat driving through towns with names attached to western lore. Sanderson - the town too mean for Judge Roy Bean, Langtry - named after a British actress that Judge Bean liked, Comstock - Comstock Lode by Louis L'amour, Del Rio, Hondo - a movie based on "The Gift of Cochise", and more.

I had carefully plotted a course around San Antonio to avoid 5 o'clock traffic and began searching for the exit to get on the loop around town. As I got on the exit EJ said something that caught me off guard. I asked her to repeat her comment and she said "You're a wuss!" I asked why. She said I was wimping out by not going straight through town. Taking offense at being called a wuss, I had to call her bluff and get back on Hwy 90. Sure enough, my fears about heavy traffic were unfounded and we sailed right through San Antonio with no problem. But at least I wasn't a "wuss".

On Saturday we stopped by Holiday World RV in Katy, Tx to look at some motorhomes and got hooked up with a "know it all" salesman. He and I were at odds immediately and I even put on my coat(it was 40 degrees outside)and started to walk out. EJ sat there with an "if I'm really still, I'll be invisible" look on her face. The salesman and I eventually made nice, but it put a damper on the whole experience. Once again we found out that there were almost no used motorhomes for sale. We did find a new unit, a Winnebago Sightseer 33C, that has a layout we like, but it's a gasser. I still have reservations about that.

Onward to Houston and another suprise. They don't tell you until after you're committed that I-10 eastbound is closed in downtown Houston. The only indication we had of the detour route was a tiny little sign at the exit you were supposed to take to avoid the blockage. Unfortunately, we were in the right hand lane of three lanes of standstill traffic and the detour sign was for a left hand exit. We had a few choice words for the traffic engineer responsible for that snafu. In the end our trusty GPS came to the rescue and found us a way around the mess and once again we were on the way.

We wanted to make it to Louisiana tonight, but we started running out of steam and light about 6:30pm. EJ went into research mode and found us a couple of likely campgrounds. But it was dark and we couldn't find them. So we stopped and took a little break to regroup. EJ came up with plan "B" and off we went, headed for Beaumont, Tx and the East Lucas Drive RV Park. We highly recommend this park to all RV'ers. Not only did they give a discount rate and put us close to the bath house, but they also let us use their internet pass code for free for the night. Oh, and I almost forgot. Their office was open late for us to check in. What a great experience and a great end to a less than optimum day.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cold Again

January 1-29-10

Leaving Big Bend NP we saw clouds flowing down off the mountains. We had a feeling this was the extreme cold front coming we had heard about in the park. Some of the campers in Rio Grande Village were staying there instead of going on to Chisos Basin (highest camp in the park) because they were afraid they would get snowed in at the higher elevation.
Suck it up Gator Fans, we stayed at Seminole State Historical Park last night. It was dark, windy, and pouring rain and the park had paved spaces and electric hookups. We picked a spot close to the showers ( water). Upon arising the next morning we decided that might not have been the smartest action since it turned out we were on the highest spot in the park and we had some pretty terrifying lighting storms during the night. It got down to 34 degrees. We actually heard what we thought was hail or sleet several times during the night. This morning EJ got this neat picture.
Today we stopped in Del Rio for about an hour to do some internet research at the local McDonalds to determine our route through the rest of Texas. We were going to go to Corpus Christi to look at an RV but they wouldn't answer the phone so we're off for Houston instead to stop at Holiday World and PPL Motorhomes. The search continues.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Casa Grande es Muey Grande

Wednesday January 27, 2010

36 degrees overnight. That wasn't too bad. The campground we were in didn't allow generators between 8pm and 8am, so it was gas heat or nothin'. Actually we don't like using the gas furnace because it heats up to about 90 degrees then shuts off and doesn't come back on until it's 50. (It's not that bad but you get the idea.)

We stopped by the visitor center so EJ could get the passport stamped and to buy some ice for the cooler. Then it was off to the Lost Mine Trail.
This was a great hike. Because we are in the Chisos mountains (as opposed to the desert) there are lots of trees and plants. We saw mexican weeping juniper, skunkbush, oaks, mexican pinon pine and more. The views of Casa Grande peak were awsome. We climbed up to the saddle and could see for miles in all directions. While we were up there, we could see the weather moving in from the west. Rain and possibly snow are forecast for Wednesday night Thursday morning.

We also hiked the Dugout Wells trail. This was down in the desert area so we learned about Prickly Pear Cactus, Octillo, Strawberry cactus and so on. Dugout Wells was another community that didn't make it. Although it has a natural spring feeding the area, it was just too harsh to survive. At one time it even had a school and was thus called the "cultural center" of Big Bend. All that's left now is a windmill to pump water (obviously rebuilt) and a dugout area that was possibly once a house or storage shed. What a contrast from the mountains.

Big Bend National Park, Texas

January 27, 2010

Good morning from Big Bend. This is an amazing place. Yesterday we were at 80 feet above sea leavel hiking in the Santa Elena Canyon and 1.5 hours later we're at our campground at 5,000 feet. If you're not prepared, Big Bend is a pretty unforgiving place. Roads where another vehicle may not pass by for days. Seasonal water sources, which means no water for most of the year. Lots of homestead ruins from ranchers that just couldn't make it down here.

We followed the Rio Grande all the way from Presidio, Tx on FM170. Along the way one of the things we saw was the Contrabando movie set. Several low budget westerns were made here such "The Gambler V" with Kenny Rogers.

Also, did you know that the Rio Grande is basically dry from El Paso to Presidio? The water we saw actually came from Mexico via the Conchos river. Apparently farming and metropolitan water usage pretty much depletes the Rio Grande by the time it reaches Texas.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Marfa Lights remain a mystery

Last night the temperature was 22 degrees and the wind was blowing 40 to 45 miles an hour per the local news. As a result, we wimped out and didn't venture back out to see the Marfa Lights. However, we did tour Marfa this morning and found that it is quite a famous little town. It has lots of history involving the military, mining, movies, the arts, agriculture, and more. It is also home to the famous Paisano Hotel., once the fanciest hotel between El Paso and San Antonio.

We are now in Presidio having lunch at the Enlightened Bean Cafe. Foods great and the folks are friendly. Finally found a true local eatery. Of course english is not the primary language, but most are very fluently bilingual. We will be taking the river road to the west entrance of Big Bend National Park. The river road (FM170) has the steepest paved grade in Texas. Hope Roadies brakes are up to it. Wish us luck!!

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Sunday January 24, 2010
Quick note from Alpine Texas (Mc Donald's): Left San Angelo after four days with Bill & Jean. Had a great visit and got Bill's computer stuff somewhat organized. Cold and windy today, mileage will be pretty bad. We plan on being in Marfa, TX tonight. Hope to see the famous "lights". Heading off to Big Bend tomorrow. Temperatures are supposed to be 30's -60's. Glad we brought some warm layers. Probably won't have phone or internet access for the next 3 or 4 days. Hope to do some hiking and check out the Rio Grande.

Friday, January 22, 2010

What, no Local Restaurants?


Upon arrising at the Mineral Springs campground this morning we were inspired to do some excercises to work out the kinks caused by all the road miles. So out comes the trusty laptop and the "Motion is Lotion" dvd and we get to work. After about an hour of this we feel sufficiently unkinked and ready to get on with the day.

We decided we wanted a good hearty meal to fortify us for the road. We fired up the gps and had it locate all the local restaurants it could. We pick one and off we go only to find it out of business. Not to be daunted, we pick another and off we go again only to it out of business also. Are you beginning to see a pattern here? After spending an hour looking for a still in business local restaurant we gave up.

Frustrated and hungry we decided we needed to restock some items before we hit the road so off we headed to Walmart. Along the road to Walmart I think we saw every franchise fast food place known to man. I guess that explains what happened to all those local restaurants in Mineral Springs. (We ate at Cisco's)

Off we go on the last leg to San Angelo to see Frank's parents. Frank's dad had requested 4 cases of original flavor Dr. Pepper if we happened to find ourselves in the vicinity of Dublin. So happens, Dublin was right on the way. We also treated ourselves to a Dr. Pepper float which was delicious.

We arrived at our destination in San Angelo at 6pm.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

RV Search Diversion


Last evening we crossed the Texas Louisiana border at 5:31pm. We had finally made it. We stopped at the Hitchin Post RV Park in Hallsville, Texas for the night. The folks there were so friendly and they really made us feel special when they used their golf cart to lead our little Roadtrek into this huge pull through campsite. As we pulled into the RV Park EJ noticed that the store next to the office sold pizzas. So we had fresh hot pizza for dinner that night.

This morning I was out walking around the Park talking to fellow RVer's one asked me if our rig was the big fifth wheel over there and I said no, our's was the little guy hidden on the other side. Stealth mode once again!

We took a break at one of the Texas I-20 rest areas and saw this emu at the end of a nature trail.

Instead of just blasting straight through Dallas, we drove around the north side to check out a couple of RV dealers. I guess it's just a sign of the times, but inventory is way down and used inventory is practically non-existent. However we did see another 2010 Winnebago 34Y we really liked. Too much money!!!

We made it to Mineral Springs State Park where we spent the night. Camping fees for Texas State parks have gone from $15 to $25 since May of last year. On a more upbeat note, being so far away from any metropolitan centers meant the star viewing was exceptional. It's been a long time since we were able to see that many stars.

Upon entering the camping area, it was unnerving to note that we were on a road that was below water level, and that the wall holding that water out was leaking. However we couldn't resist stopping to take a picture.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Rainy and dreary then sunny, bumpy and boring

1-16-10 to 1-17-10

It began raining late in the evening Friday night. Breaking camp in the rain Saturday morning was a soaking experience to say the least. Our neighbor in the Prevost was long gone. I guess he wanted to avoid the embarrassment of any comments such as "Looked like you were stuck pretty good last night."

On the way across the Florida panhandle on hiway 98, the road suddenly took a turn away from the coast. This diversion was not on the map. Wanting to continue along the waters edge for as long as we could, we turned towards the gulf at the first opportunity thinking we would find a secondary road that would eventually join back up with hiway 98. What we found instead was a barricade on the old coast road with a sign stating that it was the property of the Marriot Beach Club. We turned around and rejoined the diverted 98 where it eventually joined the old coast road. I'm guessing that after one of the recent hurricanes, Marriot made a deal with the state that allowed it to acquire all that property including the old US98 to relieve the state from having to repair the hiway every time the water came up. By the way, we never did see any signs for the Marriot Resort, or Hotel, or whatever it was. Only the Marriot "Keep Off" signs.

We arrived in Saucier, Mississippi about 6:30 Saturday evening. The rain had stopped at about 6pm allowing to set up camp without getting wet.

On Sunday we took advantage of those "American Reinvestment and Reconstruction Act" dollars and used the newly paved US49 to get from I-10 to I-20. About the time we got on I-20 the sun came out and the bumpy ride began. And it started to get boring. Each mile of Interstate looks pretty much like every other mile of Interstate. Miles and miles of concrete ribbons surrounded by trees punctuated by the occasional cell phone tower.

Our goal is to make it to Texas tonight.

(Note: We made it)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Tampa RV Show

January 12 to 15:

We arrived at Jim and Shelley's around 8:30 in the evening. Shelley had prepared a wonderful dinner with Chicken catchatori as the main course. It was real tasty.

The next morning we headed for the Tampa RV Super Show. As we headed dowwn I-4 towards Tampa, we saw the news crews out hyping all the sinkholes (some had closed lanes on I-4) caused by farmers sucking up so much water in such a short period to protect their crops from freezing.

Even though it was a Wednesday, and we (as a people) are in hard economic times, there was a huge crowd at the show. We got into the show at 11:30. It opened at 9. Only a couple of hours later when we worked our way around to the Newmar Motorhomes (very pricey units), two already had sold signs in their windows. I guess not everyone is experiencing hard economic times.

We left Jim and Shelley's Friday morning after a great few days. it was time to hit the road. We still had some unfinished business in Orange Park (home) the needed some long distance attention. As it happens, McDonalds has just recently started offering FREE wireless. So we stopped every couple of hours to check back home and make sure things worked out the way they were supposed to.

We reached our destination, Holiday Campground in Panacea, Fl, at around 6:15pm. The big excitement this evening was watching a big 45 foot Prevost Motorhome trying to get unstuck. It had gotten highcentered, and it's rear wheels couldn't get any traction. A little tow truck was dispatched to handle the situation and it was great fun watching him slide all over the road trying to pull out the Prevost. Think ant trying to pull a brick. Next they sent out an old army surplus deuce and half truck. Well this guy knew what he was doing. He hooked up a tow line that had a lot of stretch to it. He got a running start and stretched that rubber band to the point where we thought it would surely pop. All of a sudden, that Prevost shot forward like a rocket. We thought it was going to hit the deuce and half it was going so fast. But it didn't. The entertainment was over.