Thursday, December 29, 2011

Getting warmer

I was up at sunrise this morning as was everyone else in the campground it seems. Sometime during the night, two other RV's pulled in. They were Camping World rental units. Two families traveling together with school age children from either Germany or Holland from their language. A small herd of horses came wandering through the campground. Everyone was there with cameras. Smiles are the same the world over.

We were on the road by 8:30, or so. Our choices to get to warm and sunny Yuma were either two four hour driving days, or one long and one short day. As the day wore on, we just kept going. It was still cold and there was snow on the ground until we got about 50 miles south of Flagstaff. Finally the plan became to just get south of Phoenix where it would be warm and call it a day. Tonight we're at Holt's Shell Station, just off I-8 in Gila Bend; about two hours from Yuma. We've stayed here before. There are two camping choices. Use the free dump and water fill then stay in the parking lot behind the convenience store for free or pay $21.43 to stay in their full hookup RV park. We're in the RV park tonight, which is no more then a parking lot with hookups, because for the next month or so, it's going to be boondocking in the desert. We both took long, water-wasting showers tonight. Enjoy it while we can!! There is a nice laundry room here so we're all caught up in that department.

We woke up to this.

And went to bed with this.
The sign says $3.45/gal. for regular gas. We filled up at Pilot in Phoenix for $3.07.

In the morning we get our shopping done in Yuma then head to Mittry Lake for the Escapee New Years Eve party. That will be fun.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park and getting there.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

We left Suzanne’s house about 9:00am. The drive from Denver west on I-70 is very pretty. As we passed by the different ski resorts we could see the skiers and the lifts. Everything looks busy. The drive through the Glenwood Canyon was especially nice. Sheer rock walls and the Colorado River. The parking lots by the springs at Glenwood Springs were packed with cars. Business looks to be good.
We arrived at the James M. Robb-Colorado River State Park near Fruita, CO about 3:00; a longer drive then I had anticipated. We’ve stayed here before. It’s just off I-70 so it makes for a very convenient nights stop. We’re the only campers here tonight. The Ranger said just help yourself to any site. He, or his relief, would drive through the campground now and then. $20/night for a full hookup site plus a $7 entry fee. Nice to have electrical hookups on yet another cold night. We finally got to dump the tanks after spending nine days camping in the streets at Suzanne’s house.
It was 17* this morning when Gopher and I went walking.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Monument Valley

Today we drove through the state of Utah from Crescent Junction to Mexican Hat . Passed through the magnificent National Parks of Arches and Canyonlands, through the Manti-La Sal National Forest, Moab and Monticello and a dozen or so “towns” that barely existed. This is a most beautiful drive through canyons, up and over mesas, past huge cattle ranches and eventually to the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park just south of the UT/AZ border. We need to come back this way when the weather is more conducive to outdoor things.

The Monument Valley Tribal Park is a very special place in the Navajo culture. The visitor center had an extensive collection of artifacts and told the story of the area from before the army expelled the Navajo tribe as part of the Western Expansion to modern times. Very interesting. Carol found two beautiful, well crafted, pairs of handmade Navajo earrings in the gift shop. The nice thing about buying crafts in an “official” store, rather than from a roadside stand, is that everything comes with a certificate of authenticity. Is the certificate authentic?? Who knows. For the price I should hope so.

There is a camping area near the visitor center. It’s simply called the Primitive Campground. Trash cans and pit toilets; nothing else. $10/night. Tonight it’s us, three young couples tent camping and two couples from Germany traveling in their RV. Europeans quite often ship their RV to the US then travel extensively. They really like the “Old West” America; cowboys, Indians and such. Several of the old western movies by John Ford were filmed in Monument Valley. Stagecoach being the most famous.

Our view is magnificent. We’re on an elevated area overlooking the Mittens, named because they resemble a mitten, Mitchell Mesa, Merrick Butte and Elephant Butte.

In the morning we continue south. An Escapee friend told us about a New Years Eve campout a bunch of Escapees are putting on at Mittery Lake which is a BLM area just north of Yuma. That’s where we’re heading next. The woman who is organizing the party sent us an e-mail with directions and said the temperatures are in the low 70’s. Much more to our liking.

This view from our window.

A happy camper

Our campsite overlooking the Mittens

What's keeping that rock from falling?? The formation is called Mexican Hat.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Another wonderful Christmas

Saturday, December 24, 2011 Christmas Eve

We enjoyed a fun day with Izzy and Oliver. Carol and I went to Mass at 3:30 then came home to another great meal by Suzanne and her able assistant, Izzy. After dinner we all enjoyed the family tradition of the “open me first” gift. Everyone gets to open one present on Christmas Eve. The gift is always pajamas of some type. Oliver got a Bat Man set and Izzy’s were snow bunny. All the adults got nice, warm flannel pajamas.

Our iPhone has a feature called FaceTime. It’s a video conferencing program. Jennifer has an iPad II with the same program. We called Jennifer and Alex in Virginia and had a great time talking to all the Virginia grandchildren and playing show-and-tell with the open-me-first gifts. We’ll call them again tomorrow. One of the great FaceTime features is that the call is completely free. Amazing technology.

The weather is improving, in a relative sort of way. Yesterday when I got up, the outside temperature was 7*; this morning it was 14*. I guess if the temperature doubles that represents a huge improvement. When I was walking Gopher, 14* today felt just like 7* yesterday. I didn’t feel twice as warm.

Before Carol and I went out to the camper tonight, Izzy asked if we could get up a little earlier tomorrow since they can’t open presents until we’re there. It seems the coffee pot timer is set for 6:00am and that would be a good time to start opening presents. :-)

Sunday, December 25, 2011 Christmas Day

I woke up at about 6:00 and took Gopher for her walk. We were inside, all ready for the opening of presents by 6:45. As always, under the tree was piled with gifts. We called Jennifer and Alex with the FaceTime Apple program. It’s the next best thing to being there.
Suzanne is a vegetarian and Chris and the children mostly so. Instead of the traditional turkey, we had fish which Chris cooked, green beans, a sweet potato/apple casserole, corn pudding and a great cheesecake for desert. Suzanne is a wonderful cook. Among the favorite parts of my visit, was a week without cooking and cleaning up.
Our original plan was to leave in the morning but we decided to stay for another day. Who knows when we’ll be back here again.

Oliver, Carol, Suzanne & Izzy

Monday, December 26, 2011

I spent the day getting the camper ready for our departure tomorrow morning, walking with Gopher and enjoying everyone’s company. Carol, Suzanne and the children went shopping then out to lunch.
After dinner we took lots of pictures of the children. Carol has a collection of her favorites on her iPad. Tomorrow it’s back to work for Chris and Suzanne. We said our goodbye’s tonight. There is talk of a family reunion on Carol’s side of the family next Summer in Connecticut. If so, perhaps we’ll see everyone then.
In the morning we begin the long drive to Quartzsite “Q”,AZ. 983.4 miles per Streets and Trips. The last several days I’ve been looking at the different routes from here to there. One route is all Interstate highways to Las Vegas, NV then south. The other goes from I-70 to Utah then south on Highway 191 through Moab, Blanding, Mexican Hat, Flagstaff, then Phoenix. There is nothing of interest on the Interstate highways and we’ve lots of time so I decided to take the slow and scenic way. Four hours max. driving time per day.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Waiting for Santa

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The weather service issued a blizzard warning for the Raton area starting tomorrow. Our timing turned out to be quite lucky; the weather on our drive to Longmont was just perfect. Sunny skies with temps. in the lower 60*’s. Traffic was light except in the Denver area where we got caught in the Denver Broncos home game traffic snarl.
Arrived at Suzanne’s house about 1:30pm. The storm forecast for the Raton area is due in Longmont tomorrow. Chris installed a 30 amp plug on the front porch so we were able to run the small electric space heaters and stay toasty warm.
I received a phone call today informing us that our long time neighbor, Brian Knapp unexpectedly passed away yesterday. He was 47 years old. His wife Elizabeth, looks after Mom when we’re traveling. 47. That’s so very young.

Monday, December 19, 2011

This morning it was 31* and snowing when I took Gopher for her first walk of the day. After that, I worked setting up the trains in the basement. In about 1947, my father bought me a set of Lionel trains, built a platform for the setup and built houses for a village. The quality of his work is just amazing. Regrettably, I didn’t inherit those skills.
The trains were wrapped in an edition of the Miami Herald dated December 28, 1983; that was the last time they were used. The newspaper headline was about Ronald Regan and the attack on the Marine base in Beirut, Lebanon. There was a K-Mart ad. A microwave oven was on sale for $399.99. Today, less then $100 will but a microwave. They were selling champagne for $2.49/bottle. The K-Mart quality, of course, but still. When I unpacked the trains, there was a note Jennifer had written to Suzanne about some game they were playing with the trains. Suzanne posted the note on her bulletin board.

The trains all set up.

Carol and Oliver playing light saber.

Today was cookie making day. Pecan balls, chocolate cookies with crushed peppermint, and such.
Gopher and I took several walks today in spite of the cold and snow. She’s a real snow dog. Chews on it, rolls in it, bites at the snow flakes. Wonder if it’s because snow is such a novelty to her? It doesn’t snow in South Florida.
Suzanne took Carol and the children shopping today. The girls like shopping with Carol because she has a credit card. :-)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I finally got the train set running this afternoon. I surprised myself considering the trains are about 65 years old and the last time I set them up was in 1983; 28 years ago. It was fun watching Izzy and Oliver play with them much as Jennifer, Suzanne and Alex did when they were young and as Ginny and I did when Dad first set them up in either 1947 or ‘48. The paperwork with the train transformer, said it was the 1947 model. I’m so glad I kept the trains for all these years and that Suzanne wanted them for her children.
Everyone went shopping again today except for Gopher and me. We went walking and just enjoyed a pretty day.
Tomorrow is another shopping day. Why not? We worked long and hard for our money. The time has come to spend it.

Wednesday & Thursday(The Winter Solstice)

Wednesday was another shopping day; this time to Boulder.
The snow started falling in the late afternoon on Wednesday. When Gopher and I took our Thursday morning walk, there was at least a foot of snow. Right now it's 11:00am and it's still snowing. The weather forecast is for below freezing temperatures for the next two days. Come Monday, we'll be ready to head south.
There was so much snow on the roads, that Chris didn't have to go to work today so the entire family will be here until Monday.
Today everyone is finding inside things to do.

The park where Gopher and I take our walks.

It takes two electric cube heaters running on high to keep us warm at night

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Cotton, windmills, grasshoppers and hay

Thursday, December 15, 2011
Left Kerrville, TX at about 9:30am with a destination of Sweetwater. The drive from Junction, TX north to Sweetwater was through a very rural part of TX. Mostly large ranches with cattle, or course, but also goats and sheep. We took a break in Paint Rock, a small community that has seen better days.

On the way to Sweetwater, we saw the largest windmill farm we’ve seen anywhere. There were hundreds of them. It’s nice seeing competing energy sources like oil rigs and windmills sharing the same land.

Tonight we’re camped at the Newman City Park in Sweetwater. The camping area is basically the parking lot surrounding the coliseum building complex. $16/night for a site with electricity and shared water connections. There is a dump station on site. Tomorrow there is a stock show in the coliseum. This afternoon, participants are bringing in their animals for the show.
As I had hoped, we drove through a nice rain storm today. It washed off any salt spray and sand I might have missed at the car wash in Port A.

Friday, December 16, 2011
Continued north to the Amarillo “Best” Wonderland RV Resort in Amarillo, TX. That’s a real mouthful for what is a very basic RV park. Ordinarily we go to lengths to avoid commercial campgrounds but tonight the temperature is forecast to be well below freezing so we wanted someplace with electrical hookups. $26/night for a full hookup site; a fair enough price and a great location right off our planned route.

Texas is a huge state; just mile after mile after mile. Today we drove through cotton, oil and cattle country.

Texas has lots of cows!!

There were several cattle feed lots along the road. It’s interesting to see the different ways in which hay is baled. On Amish farms, the small, traditional cube of hay is most common; probably because it’s the easiest to handle manually. The round bale seems to predominate in most areas but the feed lots around here tended to use very large cubes of hay ; most likely because it’s more efficient to stack and store cubes then cylinders.
There were thousands of acres of cotton fields and perhaps a dozen cotton gins. I can’t drive past a cotton farm, I suspect cotton plantation is not a politically correct word, without thinking of the role cotton played in the Civil War. Fatalities from the Civil War are estimated to be from 600,000 to 700,000.
Overall the quality of the roads on the drive from Corpus to Raton was very good. We like Texas; we’ll be back.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Today’s destination was Raton, NM. We topped off the propane tank in preparation for the very cold weather we expect in Longmont. The drive to Raton was pretty. The elevation is increasing, there is snow here and there, and the snow topped mountains are in view. A few days ago we were camped at sea level along the Gulf Coast. Right now we’re at 6,553’.
Tonight we’re staying at the Summerland RV Park. $33.34/night. Once again, a very basic place to just spend the night. We can see the traffic on I-25 but the camper is so well insulated, we can’t hear a sound. The plan is to dump the tanks tonight, put the antifreeze in them and then make minimal use of the tanks until we head south to where it’s warm enough for them to thaw out so they can be dumped. The weather forecast for the Longmont area is for sub-freezing weather every day.
In the morning, we make the drive north on I-25 to Suzanne’s house.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Moving north towards Colorado and Christmas.

We arrived in Port A last Friday. Last night we decided we had stayed here long enough and it was time to move on. The five days of beach camping cost us $4.00.

We really like this part of Texas and will be back. Spending our day’s backed up to the jetty was a nice way to meet other people and see interesting things.

During WW-II there was an artillery battery nearby to protect the inlet from German U-Boats. This survey marker was placed by the War Department during that time period.

A Winter Texan stopped by to admire the camper as people frequently do. We talked about the recent weather and he assured me all the rain and cold weather were certainly not the norm. A Canadian from New Brunswick, of all places,boy is he a long way from home, stopped to chat. They have spent their past winters in the Tampa area but got tired of the congestion. Can’t argue with that. The Tampa/St. Pete area, Orlando and the east coast south of West Palm Beach are terrible any time of the year, but worse in the winter. He told me of another good boondocking place in the area. On our way out of town we drove by and made notes for future use. I sent the coordinates to Ted so he can add it to his camping database. On Monday, a young couple stopped by to ask what it cost to camp on the beach, and what the rules were. They’re traveling all across America in a van for a year. When I told them it was free and there were no particular restrictions their eyes lit up. Then I told them about the bath house in the campground and suggested that they could probably take stealth showers,and they both had big smiles on their face. After that, we would see them strolling along the beach now and then.

This morning, first thing I paid the $4 fee and dumped the tanks and took on water. After that we went to a car wash that has a nice RV/Boat washing area to get the salt spray and sand washed off the camper. The vacuum cleaner did a great job in removing the 5#, or so, of sand from the inside. I hoping for some rain to wash off the roof and underneath real good.

On the drive here, we stopped in Oakville to have lunch at Van’s Bar-B-Que because of a road sign we had seen. As soon as we pulled up, we knew this was a winner. There were semis parked along the right-of-way and the parking lot was filled with pickup trucks and the building had a certain “rustic” look to it; sure signs of a good place to eat. Carol had the beef brisket and I had the sausage plate. The food was served on a heavy white waxed paper. The waitress just picked it up from the tray by holding the ends of the paper, and set it on the table in front of you. Plastic place settings. The brisket might be the best we have ever eaten. Carol could cut it with the side of her plastic fork. The ranch beans and potato salad were just as good. We’ll be back to Van’s. While in Oakville, I walked around the reconstructed old settlement. The Oakville area was settled in the early 1800’s by Irish immigrants. The city of Oakville was chartered in 1856. At one time it prospered because it was at the crossroads of ox-cart caravans and mule trains that traveled from Laredo to Goliad and from the Gulf Coast to San Antonio.

Tonight we’re camped at the Kerrville-Schreiner City Park in Kerrville. Full hookup sites for $26/night. A reasonable price.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Skinny people will get blown away!!

That doesn't apply to us, of course. Way too many bakery stops.

The weather today was terrible. Cold, rainy and very, very windy. The weather guessers said the winds topped 35mph. Most of the day the rain was blowing horizontally. The Gulf and inlet were very rough. We parked by the jetty again, but not too close because the waves were breaking over the seawall. The kite boarders and guys on the sail boards provided the entertainment.

A rough day in the inlet

We got married in 1966. Shortly before that, Carol and I drove from New London, CT where I was attending Navy submarine school, to West Palm Beach so she could meet my parents. In Georgia, and again in Florida, Carol saw her very first roadside chain gangs. She couldn't believe there really were such things. Well, today's equivalent of the chain gang, spent the morning cleaning up our little patch of beach. They really should have the inmates drag around a ball and chain. It will slow them down if they try to make a break for it plus it just might teach them a lesson. Shakin' the bush Boss, shakin' the bush.

Later in the day, a flood watch was issued for the beach areas saying the extra high tide and winds might push the water all the way to the dune. We parked at our usual night camp area and I kept an eye on the tide. High tide today was at 5:39pm. The "flood watch" turned out to be a real Chicken Little event.

There are sea gulls by the zillion.

No weather is too bad for a game of ball.

Kite boards.

The weather forecast is for steady improvement with some sunshine possible by Tuesday. Whoopee!! From the number of almost full RV parks in the area, this is clearly a popular winter resort area. Given that weather is relative, this area may be a good choice if you're from North Dakota or some such place, or you just don't know any better. As for us, we won't be back this way during the winter months.

Another part of the adventure. Sure beats just hanging around the house.

Friday, December 09, 2011

On to Port Aransas (Port "A")

We enjoyed our stay at the Galveston Island SP. The sites are close together and offer no privacy at all but the beach is very nice and located just across the dune from the camping area. Gopher and I were able to take a few nice walks along the beach. Still cold and overcast.

On Thursday we drove to Port Lavaca.

Texas generally leads the fight to shut down the EPA. Wonder why?

All the pollution does come with a cost.

Port Lavaca has a city RV park with a great location on Lavaca Bay. The majority of the guests seemed to be long term. There are eight nice, level pull-through sites set aside for transient guests like us. Full hookups plus wi-fi. for a very reasonable $29/night. There is a small nature preserve that is part of the city park. The path is paved so Carol was able to join in on a nice walk. The first sunny day we've had in a while.

I did wonder just what three plastic palm trees added to the preserve.

Our campsite

Why do people do stuff like this?? It's a nature preserve for Pete's sake.

Today we drove to Port Aransas, locally known as Port "A". On the way, we found the Rockport Bakery which is actually located in Fulton and not Rockport. More of a doughnut shop then what I call a bakery but it was good. Won't make our top ten list but the apple fritters were exceptional.

Port A is our favorite Texas area. We discovered it this past March when we were out this way. It was Spring Break then, and the place was jammed with college kids and vacationing families. In December, it's mostly just old folks like us. We prefer the excitement of the family atmosphere to the geriatric setting.

At any rate. In order to park on the beach you need a $12 annual parking permit so I stopped in the office at the I.B. Magee County Park/Campground to buy the permit. They were all out of 2011 permits and the 2012 permits were not due in until the 19th. So, until the 19th, no permit is required. Saved a whole $12!! During the day, we stay next to the inlet which is actually a part of the county park. The inlet is very busy with ships of all types heading to Corpus Cristi. Fun to watch the activity.

If you stay after dark in the park proper, you must buy a $12/night camping permit. As the day wears on, we just move south of the fishing pier about a hundred yards and now we're not in the county park. That's where we spend the night. The night camp, as some call it, is very nice. The beach is clean, there are trash cans and the police patrol on a regular basis. As needed, the county campground has a dump/water fill for $4. With the $12 I saved on the permit, I had dinner (next paragraph) plus enough left over for one dump/fill. Life is good!!

About 4:00 a guy,a dog and a rusty pickup stopped by. The guy was selling tamales that his wife made. Twelve for $7. That was my dinner. Carol doesn't like tamales so I heated her up some leftover fish.

Just looked it up on the internet. Only says it's a cargo ship; not what kind. Just left the port of Corpus Christi headed for Grundartangi, Iceland. Due to arrive on 12/22. The internet is an amazing place.

The plan is to stay around here until the 15th then begin the 1,100+ mile drive north to Suzannes house in Longmont,CO.