Texas '04


Tuesday, February 10, 2004  - St. Clair Shores MI to Covington KY
Awoke at our regular time, 7:30 am, and immediately attended to the unfinished business of packing for Texas. Trying to be sure not forget anything, checking and rechecking my list so far everything on track. 9:00 am haircut the final chore then ready to go.

Departed at noon after several checks and rechecks. Shoveled the 10" of snow from the roof of the camper as the final chore and off we went. Cloudy cold windy a typical Michigan winter day. Traffic was moderate and we tooled uninterrupted all the way to the southern edge of Covington Kentucky. We stopped at Flying J's gas station and put in $60.42 my daily maximum for gas as dictated by AAA credit card. While sitting in my camper, I started the lap-top to check for a campground/Wal-Mart. While I was running MS streets and the GPS trying to compare where I was at as to where I wanted to be, up popped my network icon saying I had a network connection with excellent strength. So I clicked my Internet Explorer icon and sure enough I was hooked to Flying J's web page. Only catch is to leave their web page you have to sign on and pay. As it's getting late in the day I'll put off buying an hour till a little later. Spent the night at Wal-Marts.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004  - Covington KY to Pulski TN
Today, day 2, Wednesday, is beautiful sunny day and the temperature is 56 degrees. We decided to head to toward Nashville then on to Gulfport Mississippi. We'll hang there a couple days before pointing west.

We stopped at another Flying J's just north of Nashville and I bought an hour and sent an email. It was very straight forward if you read the instructions. I put a space in my user ID and nothing happened (no error message) but nothing happened. After making the corrections I sign up for the hour. Appears what you don't use is saved and can be use at any Flying J's. I also found a network connection in a shopping center but it was locked.

Spent this night at Wal-Marts in Pulski TN, just south of Nashville.

Thursday, February 12, 2004 - Pulski TN to Tupola MS
Looked at the map and decided to head south west via the Natchez Trace Parkway. Best move ever made. Brand-new blacktop two lane un-traveled road. Absolute beauty, no cars and just a perfect 100-mile drive.

Early on this morning, being it was a tad chilly, Turn the van heater up and increased it to full fan speed. A terrible thumping/humming sound shouted from the fan motor. Damn what's wrong now? Turned the speed to slow and it still wasn't right but did warm the cab. As soon as we stopped and got set up I went under the hood and pulled the heater fan motor out. Low and behold was I surprised to find a dead mouse in the squirrel cage. I guess he couldn't keep up when I went to high speed

Got to Tupola Mississippi early afternoon and rented a camp site with cable. Called, RV Campground at Barnes Crossing. $16 per w/everything. Washed the camper and filled the propane. A cloudy wet day but in the 50's. We toured the town visiting the birth home of Elvis Presley and concluded with a drive by of the largest buffalo ranch east of the Mississsipi.

Dogs have been pretty good. Gypsy just came in from a walk and then preceded to messed the cage (groan). Tomorrow is another day...

Friday, February 13, 2004  -  Tupola MS  - Gulfport MS
A sleep in day. Of course they all are, but sometimes it feels extra good to just lay around. I think we left about 8:30 am. driving south on US 45, another empty road way. Highways are so empty we had a hard time finding a place to pull off. No roadside pull offs, we ended up pulling off at an abandon chicken shack and gas station. Here we had a cooked lunch and walked the dogs, yap yap.

We finally encountered a few other cars around Hattiesburg and then proceeded south on M49 to Gulfport. Traffic (5 pm.) into Gulfport was huge. In fact the traffic was so bad we decided to do another Wal-Marts in stead of fighting our way to the beach. We're inland about 5 miles. Fun part of this was when I turned on the compute and found that the Fairfield Inn, some 500' away from the Wal-Mart parking lot, provided free wireless internet hook up which I was able to use right from the motorhome. Ahh yes!

Saturday, February 14, 2004  - Gulfport  MS 
Happy Valentines day. We topped off at Wal-Marts for $1.48 per. then motor to the a camp ground near the beach, 10 am. Checking in we again discovered free wireless internet. Glad I didn't up grade my cell phone service. We're staying at Cajun RV in Biloxi Miss. $25 per....

Disconnected and immediately went touring old familiar territory. The 26 miles of beach has been renewed, casinos added, and a whole lot of tourism. Prices seem vary reasonable. After our drive we ate our first meal out at McElroy's Harbor Restaurant, (picture) afterwards we went to Boomtown Casino. Carol pumped $2 into a nickel slot machine ("The looses machines in town.") and walked out with a sack full of nickels. Me? I gave them a Jackson.

Sunday, February 15, 2004  - Gulfport  MS  
Sun shine in the morning. Spent the day driving around Gulfport looking for things from the past. We visited the home (picture) where we spent the first year of our marriage.  Returned to the camper and decided to spend another night. We leave for Texas tomorrow morning.

Monday, February 16, 2004  - Gulfport  MS to  I-10 exit 873 Wal-Mart TX
Early start this morning on the road at 8:00 am. Like to do 300 miles and get into Texas this day.

A sad day it is, Gypsy can't stand up. We held her up to no avail. We rub her down feed her an aspirin but she just laid in her bed all day. She was shaking a little we have her in her sweater but that doesn't seem to make any difference. Even Dr. Dieter seems to know something is wrong he gives her a passing kiss but doesn't even bite her. He pretty much left her alone all day.

We made Texas at 6:30 pm. bought gas for $1.47 and the temperature outside is 72 degrees with bright sunshine. We entered at mile maker 880 and are planning on staying over at mile marker 873. Interstate 10.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004  -   I-10 exit 873 Wal-Mart TX to Mustang Island TX
No change in Gypsy. Early start this morning, early enough to hit morning rush hour around Houston. It was slow and a little un-nerving at times but with sun shine and temperature rising our spirits remain high. We arrived in Corpus Christie around 3:00 pm. Temperature was 81 degrees. We checked into Island RV Resort (tight) on Mustang Island the island just north of Padre Island. This appears to be a very beautiful resort community with beaches you can drive on. We laid back this day and we'll hit it again tomorrow. Carol is doing laundry this evening.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004  -  Mustang Island TX
Well we have arrived! How do we know you ask? Well as the attached picture depicts, short sleeves, bicycles, and most importantly the aroma of freshly cut grass.... Were here in the outer bank island of Corpus Christi. Island is Mustang Island and the city is Port Aransas (spelling is correct). Corpus Christi is the 5th largest seaport in the US. It's from this port they assemble and transport out to sea the giant oil drilling platforms. (picture) There is one being assembled at this time that will be towed to sea in the near future.

We haven't made the valley yet (Brownsville) but after stopping here we think we'll be spending some time here. We're staying at Island RV resort. It's tight but reasonable. There is driving on the beach and motorhome camping on the beach. (picture) So if anyone wants to come down there is room at the Inn. Carol and I were talking and discovered this is the first time since 1996 that we've vacationed alone.

I finally washed the camper today and then we went biking. Stopped at the break wall to watch dolphins cavorting and pelicans soaring. (picture) Temperature is in the mid 70's, bright and sunny. We miss everyone. Gypsy is not doing well. Dr. Dieter is overwhelming. 

All the electronics are working great. Used the laptop with GPS attached a couple times (in conjunction with street and Trailer Life) and it worked great. Trailer Life CD works great for locating campgrounds. Just zero in on your location and all the local campgrounds show up.

No wireless at this campground so after I finish writing we'll go to the motel area and see if we can find a free service. If you don't get this till May you.ll know we didn't find one.

Brighter note this evening, Gypsy stood up and tried to take a few steps. And, bought our first bag of grapefruits today, delicious.

Hope everyone at home is doing well and staying warm.

Thursday, February 19, 2004 -  Mustang Island TX
Happy note this morning Gypsy walked /hobbled to the water dish. Carol walked her this morning and she appears a whole lot better.

Our day today. Washed the car and went for a drive. Drove the 12 miles south on the island back to the bridge. Here we ate out first "Whataberger", very good. We ate on the beach while enjoying the sun and warmth. After lunch we went back across the bridge and drove into downtown Corpus Christi.  (picture) Beautiful waterfront park and a clean downtown. We completed the circle tour by heading north from town to Port Aransas where ferried back to our campsite. (walking distance to the ferry).

Friday, February 20, 2004  - Mustang Island TX
Gypsy appears to be her old self again. Spent the beautiful morning biking, checking out the bird sanctuaries, and beachfronts. Our first encounters with white pelicans. They are much prettier then the gray ones. We ate out for the third time (getting to be a habit) this afternoon. We ate at Cancun Mexican Restaurant, (picture) excellent food and very reasonable. I guess we’ll be eating out more now. After lunch we visited the Tarpon Inn. Kinda of a neat Inn. One wall in the office is covered with Tarpon scales which visitors caught, dated, and signed. One from Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936. (picture) In the evening we returned to the beach to walk and watch…

Saturday, February 21, 2004  -  Mustang Island TX
An early start this morning, 7 am walk at the bird sanctuary, a stone throw from camp. Saw loads of White Pelicans (wingspan 8 ft.).  We’re learning the difference between Pelicans, Herons, Whooping Cranes and the ones that don’t whoop. After an exhausting couple of hours of bird watching we ventured to the bakery/coffee shop where I indulged in a cinnabun and a blueberry muffin for Carol.

We biked up to the store for quart of oil and later spent the afternoon at the beach watching surfers and what ever you call the boards that are pulled along by a parachute type rigging. (picture) Dr. Dieter got so excited by the birds that upon rapid acceleration he broke the steel choke chain he was on. He was in heaven as he lighteninged across the sand back and forth.

At late evening we walked to the ferry dock to observe…

Sunday, February 22, 2004  - Mustang Island TX
Here it is Monday morning as I await breakfast I’m trying to remember what we did yesterday.  Let’s see after a leisure breakfast we loaded the car and drove to Rockport and Fulton, cities just north of here. Visited a maritime museum in Rockport and a Victorian style home of the founder of the city of Fulton. It was a mild overcast day, too warm for a sweatshirt but too cool to swim. Returned to base camp and lounged the rest of the day doing minor preparation for Monday’s departure. Met and talked with Woody Smith at the camper. He and wife are presently co-managing the camp. He’s from Marlette MI and his son lives south of Oxford, coincidentally, and east on Drahner, coincidentally, and just east of Barr rd., coincidentally. He lives on Cherokee Ct., walking distance from son Gary’s. Small world.

Monday, February 23, 2004  Mustang Island TX to  San Benito TX
Left Port Aransas about 9:30 am. and arrived San Benito Texas (about 20 miles north of Brownsville) about 5:00 pm. Not bad time for 200 miles huh? We lollygag a little.

Temperature upon arrival 92° and sunny and at 8:30 pm 74°. We are at “Fun in the Sun” park which has over thousand sites, heated pool, large air conditioned dance hall with wood floor, computer lounge, square dance classes three time a week, and various other dances. Appears there is a lot going on here. Camp sites are large. We attended a free country show this evening with country entertainers Ron & Opal Show. We had good time and enjoyed some of the old country stand bys as “If my nose was running money I’d blow all on you” but it’snot.  It was fun and they sang good.  They are doing an advance tip at the dance hall tonight but we’re not up to it…

Tuesday, February 24, 2004   San Benito TX
Whopper of  a day. Started by housework, I polished the outside and Carol did the inside. It felt good to finally rid the exterior of the winter black streaks. I went in search of fellow square dancers Lytle & Donna Russell. Across the road from our RV park is a smaller RV park so I road my bike over and searched for the Michiganders. Lytle was out cleaning his rig. We talked for a short time while rain clouds were building. I left as sprinkles started. I peddled the block with great exuberance, rounding the park entrance missing most of the drops, flying by the gate house in to the final turn towards home. Ninety miles an hour I leaned into this turn and bearded down only to see the wheels slid out from under me sending me skidding on the moisten slick black top, stopping traffic. Slowly I rose and waved off the traffic indicating my soundness of mind and body. I jump back on the bike and proceeded home. Batter and bruised I asked Carol to evaluate the wounds. One skinned knee, one scraped palm, and one jammed wrist. All in all not bad shape. Oops, one scratched lens on the specks.

So much for the morning. We went for a ride during the afternoon and toured the small town of San Benito. Carol found we were definitely near the border while shopping at Wal-Mart. Announcements over the PA system were in Spanish. Evaluating the pastries was also a task because all the descriptions were in Spanish. She paid in Pesos and we left.  (smile)

Stopped at Best Western to send the email and then returned home for dinner. The Russells stopped over for a visit and we made plans for Thursday. Wednesday off to south Padre Island..

 Wednesday, February 25, 2004  San Benito TX
Early start today, drove to south Padre Island this morning. Neat upscale place. Lot of beach high raise condos. Nice neat residential areas and also a private park at the tip of the island. There are several RV parks one of which cost $35 a night. We’re finding cost over all very moderate. RV parks running $16 to $25 and eating out for less then $25 a couple. Drove the main road to the where it ended about 20 miles out of town. (picture) Nice straight drive through the varying sand dunes. Stopped at a shell shop that sported giant conch shells and a giant shark out side as advertisement. (picture) Bought some post cards there. We had lunch just off the Island and returned to camp.  Did email and visited with the Russells for a short time.

 Thursday, February 26, 2004  San Benito TX
Pulled up stakes this morning and moved over to First Colony RV Park, across the street. $19 a day for three days and the forth day free, no limit. We got settled in by 9:45 am and by 10 am we were on our way with the Russells to Mexico. About a twenty minute drive to Progresso. We parked on the American side for a buck and walked across the bridge over the Rio Grand. (picture) There was absolutely no boarder check of any kind. The day was bright and sunny about 75 degrees with no wind. Immediately across the bridge town starts. (picture) What you can see is one straight street heading south. Both sides lined with angle parked cars. Sidewalks filled with tourist, both sides, as far as you could see. Probably a good half mile or more.  We started up one side bobbing in and out numerous stores until half past lunch. Above the store we happen to be in was a very nice restaurant. We enjoyed the food and relaxed for over an hour. Seven specials including filet mignon were priced at $7.45. Carol and I had the Mexican platter. We continued the shopping mission (picture) and finally ended up back at the boarder. Crossing back over to the American side there was an ID check and that was it. Easier than going into Canada.

Friday, February 27, 2004  San Benito TX
Dance day, national caller Larry Letson called for the morning dance. We dance to him at Mid America in the past. It was a very nice dance, we recognized a couple Bob & Lind Price that we met and danced with at Poncho’s Pond, Ludington. Afterwards the Russells took us to Golden Corel for gorging and then a drive to the city of Donna where there is a large fresh fruit market and a large flea market which fortunately err.. unfortunately was closed. I did buy a bag a salty peanuts.

Paid some bills this evening and did laundry.

Saturday, February 29, 2004  San Benito TX
Drove to Brownsville today. Stopped at a large flea market at the edge of down. Couldn’t find what I needed. Stopped at the mall after seeing the SAS sign from the road, Carol bought some SAS. (picture) Drover around down town, felt like we were in Mexico. Paid a visit to the Confederate air force museum, very low key.

Dance night tonight with Jeff Nelon, good dance. We danced at Fun N Sun with their beautiful dance hall which I’m sure could easily handle 50 squares on the floating wooden floor (125x100). There’s ample seating room around the perimeter. We’ve been told that this is one of three such dance halls near by.  

Little wind this evening.

Sunday, February 29, 2004    -San Benito TX
Windy, winds all day today 20-30 mph variable, warm and overcast. Too windy to sit out and read. Spent the day recovering from peanuts.

Monday, March 01, 2004  - San Benito TX
Dance this morning at Fun N Sun with national caller Nasser Shukayr . He was very good and worked progressives for two tips with everyone ending up in their own squares. He is originally from Louisiana.

After the dance we took Donna & Lytle out for lunch after which a trip to Wal-Mart. Guess who’s going to start needle point?  On the way home we stopped at the Iwo Jima Memorial. Here, Harlingen TX, they have the original statue which was use to make the one for Arlington..  Came home to rest up for tonight’s dance and tried to pay our rent, but the office was closed, we’ll pay tomorrow. Jerry Story and Bobbie Newman are calling the dance. At the dance we met and talked with Al & Bertha Nelson from Swinging 8’s (Sarnia). We have danced with them in Canada. Came home and slept well…

Tuesday, March 2, 2004  San Benito TX
We were planning on leaving this morning but decided to lay back this day in preparation for departure. Went to Wal-Mart for groceries and shopping for dog bones. Gypsy, who has never chewed a dog bone in her life, now chews dog bones. Especially if Dieter is in the cage without a bone, Gypsy will come out from under the table and sashay to the front of the cage and stand there with the bone hanging out of her mouth just to rile the pup.

The Shrimp man came to the park today. We bought a pack of mixed large/medium cleaned and deveined shrimp for $5.20 a pound.

Carol made a grapefruit/marshmallow pie today. Russells stopped over to say goodbye and we shared the pie. It got good reviews.

Went for a bike ride through the Fun N Sun this evening just for the exercise. Great day today in the 80s, mostly sunny.

We’ve learned a lot of people come down here to go the dentist (Mexico). Cleaning $10 crowns $100. Our tour of Mexico found loads of dentist offices and advertisements for dental work. Everyone we talked with is pleased with the work and commented on how clean the offices are. The Russells have their dental work done down here. The other thing is there are loads of pharmacies.

Wednesday, March 3, 2004  San Benito TX  to  Mission TX
Did a leisure pack and left by late morning. Drove an easy 75 miles to end up at Mission TX. There are hundreds or even thousands of RV parks in the area. Every corner you turn another RV park. I have no idea on how you would go about selecting a park. What we did was to go to the State park on the Rio Grand, then after finding they no longer allowed camping there, I asked for their recommendation. The Ranger gave us three to chose from each offered a free night. Back up the road we stopped at Americana RV and took advantage of a free night. Had dinner and loafed the rest of the day.

Gas went up $1.65. Interesting is every gas station we’ve seen in Texas has the same price. It has been at $1.57 since arriving in TX and now as we drove here every station has changed to the $1.65. Price fixing??

Thursday, March 4, 2004  Mission TX
Drove back (2 miles) to the state park this morning and paid the $3 pp fee and drove through the park. We stopped and did some bird watching (Picture) and walked some paths. Afterwards we drove along the Rio Grand catching occasional glimpse of the river. Saw a sign advertising Pepe’s on the River. Hank Clark said if I would get a chance to stop at Pepe’s, so we decide to have lunch here. (Picture) We found Pepe’s to be a large gathering place. They have entertainment and dancing here nightly.  Upon leaving we found that immediately next door is another Pepe’s only the neighbor is called Peps’ Fiesta. Now which did Hank recommend? I have no idea.  Both can be described identically, they have large parking lots in front, both on the river, both have food and entertainment.

No wireless connections to be found from McAllen to Mission. (??)

Friday, March 5, 2004  Mission TX
Jumped on the bikes this morning and headed for the bike path. (picture) A new black top winding over and around the Resaca, prickle bears, and caster beans trees. (Resaca (picture) is what the river like reservoirs are labeled). We biked for some twenty mile enjoying nature. (picture) Yep there he was wiggling across the road in front of us. I think it was a harmless Blue Racer. Came home showered and went for a late lunch to the "other" Pepe's. Not much difference from the first Pepe's. Line dancing was going on with continuous CD's playing country. Cat fish was the special so Carol ate Cat. I opted for a burger. The fish was excellent as well as the burger. Cost $16 for two.

Follow up with a drive to McAllen and the airport. Spotted a Fairfield Inn so we parked and were able to connect to the web. Got the email and then toured McAllen town before heading home. Learned this evening that a campground down the street (one mile) has wireless access. Went there and up loaded the Tom Katz news letter before retiring.

Saturday, March 6, 2004  Mission TX
Bikes again this morning only this time to a RV park garage sale. Almost bought a printer for the camper for $10, but was able to control myself. We came home empty handed. After lunch we biked over and visited the Fays who are staying in a nearby RV park (picture). 

Took a long ride due west to the dam at Falcon. Nice state park there with full hooks. Located on the edge of the dammed lake. On the way there we stopped at the boarder city of Roma. This is a very high location with a nice view of the international bridge and of the Rio Grand. According to my GPS we were at a staggering 198' above sea level. You could see for miles. It was a perfect day, sun shine all day long and no wind.

Fixing to leave for San Antonio tomorrow. We're leaving a nice park no frills but full hook up plus cable for $11 per night and one free night. (Picture) Four nights cost $33. We are surrounded by RV parks here. The one across the street sells their lots, 32'X90', ask $16,000. Some have houses on them and have larger lots 45'X90' I don't know what they cost. After asking around it looks like peak season is January and February down here. They start leaving by the month, the first of each month a another group heads home. At this time a lot of the parks appear to have lots of vacancies. Talking with Bob Fay who said a number of years ago he was told there are over 500 RV parks in the area. He said there are a lot more now.

Sunday, March 7, 2004   Mission TX  to  San Antonio TX
Started out a beautiful warm sunny day. We left the camp ground at 10:30 am for we only had 225 miles to drive. At 11 am I was sitting in Sam's parking lot, we needed a few things.. hmmm. It was an uneventful drive, except for the security check point some seventy miles from the boarder. All cars are stopped and we were asked our citizenship then waved on.  We arrived in San Antonio as 5:30 pm. Located a campground 7 minutes from the "river walk" so we'll be ready to go Monday morning after rush hour. Camp cost $18 full at Mission RV resort park. (far from a resort but will serve our needs.)

Monday, March 8, 2004  San Antonio TX
At 9:30 am we took the ten minute drive to downtown San Antonio. We circled around downtown and parked ($7 all day) within walking distance of the Alamo.  Our first venture was the Alamo (picture). We spent some time there listening to the informative guide describe in detail the last days at the Alamo. Very interesting and enjoyable.  It was not crowded there and very pleasant just to spend some time looking about.

Across the street and down some stairs we entered the world famous "River Walk". The Idea was conceived in the 20's but not fully realized until the early 40's. The river which runs smack through the middle of town and had been a problem of flooding is actually located some 15' or so below street level. The river banks were planted and walk ways made to allow tourist to enjoy the river. Merchants were encouraged to open their basement to the river walk which in 1946 Casa Rio restaurant did just that. As they say the rest is history. Others joined in and now there is an abundances of restaurants and shops along the river walk. We ate lunch at Casa Rio (picture) (picture2) and enjoyed a boat ride on the river (picture). Weather wise it was a perfect sunny day. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2004  San Antonio TX  
We decided to stay another day and do a little more browsing around. First off we did the old town, La Villita. This is a little artsy area just off the river walk. We stopped at restaurant because the sign said coffee and baguettes after getting a seat at the rail over looking the river walk area, the waiter said "Oh we don't serve baguettes any longer."  Groan, we settled for a small piece of apple pie. We then took in King Williams historical area. This area is a couple blocks of vintage upscale homes. (picture) The area was heavily populated with German immigrants in the late 19th century. German immigrants were in greater numbers then Mexicans.

After the exhausting walking about we headed over to Market Square for more walking. Guess what, yep eating Mexican again (picture) I've had more enchiladas in the past week then I've eaten in a year. We ate at El Margarita and these were the best chicken enchiladas I think I ever had. We talked with a couple from Indiana at the table next to us. They were taking a very similar winter tour of Texas, we may see them in Big Bend. After our late lunch we walked the Market Square until the dogs barked. I think we covered every inch of downtown San Antonio. We'll spend one more night and stop at a flea market as we depart San Antonio. We're told it is larger than Shipshewana.

We thought of Ron Reuter as we observed the Snapdragons in full bloom. Redbuds and Mountain Laurel are also in bloom. The Mt. Laurel tree (picture) looks like a cross between Lilac and Wisteria and has a sweet candy like aroma.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004  San Antonio TX  to  Brackettville, TX
Tidied up the camper this morning and checked Email over the dial-up modem in the office before leaving. The flea market opened at noon and we we ready. What a disappointment, definitely no comparison to Shipshewana. In fact I think there was more at Gibraltar Trade Center. We spent twenty minutes at the flea market and then headed towards Del Rio, a 150 mile trip. We followed US 90 west stopping at Wal Mart again for a few things. Carol took some of our dog food and a couple of green backs and gave them to a panhandler at the side of the road. He Carried a sign "traveling - broke and homeless".  We seen several people give him a few bucks. As we left he got into a pick up with a male friend. Hmmm.

Well we didn't make Del Rio. I think I need help on this traveling stuff. We ended up at Fort Clark in Brackettville, TX.  This is the results of having an excellent navigator. One of Carol's finer attributes is to read aloud to me, as we drive, of the history of the cities and towns we motor through. After read all the historical information about Fort Clark the motor home automatically made the left into the park. It's a neat place, a converted army post. Some one bough it from Uncle Sam and converted into a senior resort community. The building have been updated and modernize. I'll get some pictures. In addition there is a couple golf courses one of which, as a camper, I can use free. Also the second larges spring fed swimming pool in Texas is on the grounds. They have over 1600 acres here and it's all owned by the membership. Members can buy existing structures or build on the land or put up park models. The RV park is open to the public. At sundown this evening, as we sat in front of our camper, seven deer (picture) came out of the field and paid us a visit as well as some turkeys (picture). What does tomorrow hold, we may just have stay here a day or two to find out.

Thursday, March 11, 2004  -  Brackettville, TX
 Cloudy day with rain in the forecast for the next two days. What should we do?  I unpacked the bikes and we started a ride with a slight mist in the air. We peddled a mile up to the source of the river, a giant spring which pours from the ground fills a large reservoir (picture) then creates a river. This feeds a huge swimming pool which at this time had been drained and was being cleaned (picture). Of course the rain became more then a drizzle and we headed back to the camper. After a change of cloths and a quick snack we head out in the car. Drizzle returned to a mist as we headed to Alamo Village. This is the original move set from John Wayne's move the Alamo and many other westerns. We spent a couple hours walking among the ghost town  atmosphere of shells of buildings. There is a complete Alamo setting (picture) and the some 300 yards away a western town street scene (picture). We had a coffee in the movie set canteen (picture) and went in a couple of the buildings they used for indoor scenes (picture). Loafed the rest of the day waiting for the big rain...

Friday, March 12, 2004  -   Brackettville, TX  to  Sanderson TX
Decisions decisions, Had to decide if we wanted to stay a few more days and enjoy the Fort Festival where the Calvary arrives on horse back and a whole bunch of things go on, or move west. The biggest factor is the weather it's misty and overcast again this day and it suppose to be this way for another two days. We opted to head for nicer weather because all the festival will be outdoors. 

We headed towards Del Rio, our last big city before Big Bend. Stopped there at Wal-Mart and stocked up again. drove 150 miles to Sanderson a city of 800 population. Spent the night at Canyons RV Park $15 per full. Had dial-up so did a little email. Maybe I'll post this before we leave because this maybe last communications till we leave Big Bend.

Saturday, March 13, 2004    Sanderson TX  to  Study Butte TX
We were on the road by 9 am, overcast but no rain. Heading west on US 90 a beautiful two lane with wide shoulders. Speaking of wide shoulders, the general practice in this part of Texas is to move on to the shoulder to permit someone behind you to pass, even though there is a solid white line. We drove for 21 minutes this morning without seeing a car or truck in either direction. I guess we are in a remote part of Texas. The clouds thinned out and disappeared and we had sunshine and warm temperatures again. We drove through a mile long area of construction. I know now why I want mud flaps. (picture).

Driving here we found the terrain changed to a mountainous (picture) very enjoyable landscape compared to the FLAT area we had visited. It's still quite arid with loads of yuccas, scrub, and no trees to speak of. At Marathon TX we turn south for 40 miles to the park entrance then another 20 miles to the ticket gate. Being holders of the US Golden Age Passport we entered the national park free of charge. Another 22 miles to the visitors center only to learn all  campgrounds are full due to spring break. Another 30 some miles to a campground just outside the west entrance of the park. We checked in to Big Bent RV Park for $25 a night, full hook-up. We'll stay for only one night because they are all reserved. We took the car and drove another 10 minutes down the road and found a park that will take us tomorrow and for how ever long we want to stay.

We continued to drive around the immediate area and visited a ghost town that appears to be trying to bounce back, called Terlingua. There is a restaurant that was hosting an outdoor concert with live bands, costing $10 a head and a sheriff on horseback standing nearby. The crowd  looked to be about fifty people but it was still early.

Tomorrow we hope to do a loop through the sw section of the park...

Sunday, March 14, 2004   Study Butte TX
Drove over to the new campground, Longhorn RV Park. There are 14 sites here, a motel, and miles and miles of scenery. $15 per with water and electric. Set up camp and were on our way to Big Bend by 10 am. Half of the south west loop was closed due to  past heavy rains, the ranger reported. This meant we have to return along the same road we enter by, no big deal. We drove the curvy, hilly, road for 4 hours the odometer showed 22 miles. I guess we stopped a few times along the way for site seeing, we saw the sheriff and a I inspected a boiler (picture). Wild flowers and cactus abound (picture) chiming in with breathtaking scenery it was a very pleasant day. We lunched along road (brown bagged it) stopping at the numerous vantage points and observing the named mountain sculptures. Now this one is called donkey ears ??? (picture). At the southern most point of the park, on the Mexican side of the Rio Grand, there is a steep cliff that is over 1000 ft high and runs for miles. At one central point of the wall is a large canyon (picture), we tried to drive as close as we could but the road was flooded across. Some four wheelers drove through, I was prudent with our low to the ground Horizon, and stopped short. This was the turn around point of our day. Seeing how it took me 5 hours to get here, Carol drove back in an hour.

General observation: Clouds roll in and out very close to the ground. Sometimes they roll across the ground, one moment your engulfed in fog then it rolls on by. There is a lot of difference between this area and the "Valley". People are equally as friendly but the the geography is more of what you might expect of the southwest.  Thinking back, of the Valley, trying to decide if winter is to be spent at one place, I think if square dancing is what your looking for the Valley is definitely the place to be over Florida. I think I enjoyed the ocean waters edge most, so if I were to return I would stay at the Corpus Christy, Mustang Island area or the south San Padre Island, even though there is more to do around Mission and the surrounding communities. The wind is something to definitely consider anywhere in the Valley.

Monday, March 15, 2004   Study Butte TX
Left before 9:00 this morning to tour the final paved roads of the park. Basically there is one east west road and one north south road. From these roads are numerous dirt roads that lead to hiking trails and tent camp sites. You'll also find cars parked along the paved roads for hikers accessing the numerous hiking trails. This day we hiked the trail to a hot spring (picture) only to find the high water level had submerged the spring. The spring now appeared as part of the Rio Grand. People have come to this spring to bath and drink for over a hundred years. The brochure encourages you to bath here, we were ready. At this point across the Rio, Mexicans held up walking sticks and shouted deals across the water. $5 me bring (picture). Someone said OK and a Mexican waded across the river to close the deal. We ate our brown bagged lunch here and then continued our exploration. 

Driving along, another road runner zipped across in front of me. I stopped the car got out and chased him through the brush. He made the mistake of jumping up into a small bush. I slowly walked up to him and shot him (picture).

At one overlook Carol talked at length with the border patrol. Since 9/11 no transaction are not allowed across the river, purchased walking sticks will be confiscated, if caught. Seems like a useless unwarranted effort to control terrorism. We took the final turn up the hill off the centrally located visitors center to the "basin". The basin is a saucer shape area nestled up high in the mountains. My GPS recorded 5670 ft. high. There is a  lodge and restaurant located here as well as a tent campground . Shopped the gift shop then ate dinner here before returning to camp. Only a nine hour day today, and people think retirement is easy. Upon returning to camp we found the campground full and we may not be able to stay another night. We'll go check after breakfast tomorrow. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2004   Study Butte TX
Went over to the office and talked to owner Betty about staying, she said "Stay as long as you like and pay when you leave." That was reassuring. I made some observation about the dinning room and returned to the camper to suggest eating breakfast out this morning. We meandered back to the restaurant and poured ourselves a cup of coffee as the sign instructed. Seated we noticed three tables occupied. We drank a 1/2 cup when Betty dropped off a menu. Reading we found stated "Our service is slow but the food is good." Finished our coffee as we listened to causal conversation between the waitress and the maid go on forever. We decide it would be lunch before our order was taken so we returned home for French toast.

Lodging and breakfast handled we departed for Santa Elena Canyon walk. As we entered the park we found Old Maverick road was now open. This was the short cut to Santa Elena Canyon that we wanted to take for a loop trip the first day. We entered the gravel road that looked like it may have been graded. As we proceeded to drive and find a comfortable speed over the rocky road we found 12 miles an hours was it. Now do you know how long it takes to drive 12 miles on a gravel road at 12 miles per hour...? Hmm that's what I thought. After a couple of investigative stops (picture) then some extreme slow downs due to deep ruts, and a brief conversation with a young couple who pulled up along side of us in their 4 wheel drive SUV as the man hollered out the window " I admire you courage."?? Well an hour and half's time we pulled into the parking space to Santa Elena Canyon.

I walked to the open space to determine what  our game plan would be. First: this canyon is where the Rio Grand curves south through a thousand foot high wall. This puts Mexico on the East side of the canyon and US on the west side. The Santa Elena Canyon walk is a 1 3/4 mile walk on the American side of the canyon. Sounded like a nice senior citizen walk to me. Now for the reality, first a muddy walk to the Tuff Canyon River, which dumps in to the Rio Grand at this point and is usually dry. This means we must first traverse this river to do the walk (picture). After checking all other options we removed our shoes and socks and followed the path across. On the  other side we wiped the mud off the best we could and replaced the shoes and socks. Now thinking the worst was behind us we walked the path through the cane field to the canyon's edge only to find a vertical wall (picture) which we must cross to get to the walk. Up we trudged over 200 feet along a nice narrow walkway with few hand rails and lots of sharp drop offs that made my knees turn to jelly. Cautiously upward we moved. I think I heard the scenery was magnificent (picture). After making it up the steep incline we started a nice causal descend until finally reaching the Rio Grand River. Here we walked some city block to the paths end. The mile and three quarters senior walk turn in to a death defying grueling two hour hike which ended with another muddy walk across the river. (picture) Carol also found a nice 4" long centipede this day but no picture was taken.

On the way home we stopped and did laundry and I found a phone connection to do email. At home it was a late dinner and early to bed... Great day!

Wednesday, March 17, 2004   Study Butte TX
Lay back day. Weather is absolutely perfect, bright sunshine, in the 80's and no humidity. (picture)Went over to the motel and owner Betty let me connect the lap-top, boy this dial-up is dead slow. 

We hung around camp till about 2:00 then decided to take a ride west to Lajitas, what a neat little resort town. The town is located on Rio Grand and has some history. The whole community is moderately up scale with a first class RV park whose brochure proclaims class A rigs only at $45 a night. A couple condo complexes and hotel (picture) located in the one block town. Returned home ate and watched another John Wayne DVD. (I have 10 hours of OLD John's movies '35 to '47 vintage) groan.....

Thursday, March 18, 2004   Study Butte TX  to  Presidio TX
Starting a do nothing day. Gabbing back and forth by 8:30 we decided to move on this day. Now which way do we go. We want to go to Fort Davis and check out the observatory so we could head due north through Alpine, but that's only 100 mile drive. Now if we go west we can follow the Rio Grand to Presidio, a larger boarder city, and then bend north to Fort Davis making it 150 mile day.

We're rolling by 10 am, through Terlingua and again through Lajitas to a fresh hilly road west. Groaning up some very steep roadways, sharp curves , and glorious panoramas. Passing interesting structures we discovered were called "Contrabando movie set" (picture), we stopped again. Picture this, the road is basically empty of traffic. We stopped at these roadside buildings where there is absolutely no one around. We walked the area, took pictures, meandered around and as we were leaving another couple shouted down to us, "is there anything down there" blah blah back and forth only to find this couple is from Flint MI. and just returning from an Air-Stream Rally through 'Copper Canyon Mexico'. This is the piggy back train ride through Copper Canyon that we've been contemplating for several years now. They raved about it, saying it an "absolute must." 

Continuing on to Presidio we came to a nice full hook-up campground that accepted Pass Port America, so for $11 a night this is where we spent the night. A whopping 70 mile day.... Interesting enough there are several Air Stream campers here. Parking next to one we talked about their Copper Canyon trip. They did not enjoy it that much. They were disenchanted with group travel and apparently this is the first time Air-Stream put the trip on in this direction, so someone transposed the instruction log where the instructions said turn left and really meant turn right. They all depart from the same campground, travel independently and arrive at the next campground that evening, covering and average of 220 miles a day. They said some traveled in small groups but they want to travel alone. Sound to me like they generated their own problems, hence their displeasure. Also, the 7 days aboard the train made them sea sick from the constant swaying. They stopped each night to sleep so that was OK.

Friday, March 19, 2004   Presidio TX
Sunshine warm and the start of another beautiful day. Seeing how is so perfect of a day it may be hard to travel... pause for discussion... OK we'll stay another night. I washed the car while Carol dusted. In the afternoon Carol suggested we check out the adobe fort just down the street. The complex is a reconstructed trading post highlighting one man's effort in developing the area (picture). This is a Texas State operation, and while gleaning information from the ranger he told of a scenic trail of some 30 miles through a canyon with caves and water falls. Tweaking
our interest, he gave us the combination to the lock that secures the gate so we can drive through. Now here again Nick's jeep is called for, but we proceeded along at a snail's pace. After the couple hour drive we were a little disappointed. We're near the heat peak of the day, 90's, and the sights were not any better than we've been seeing along the paved roadway. The caves were mere pockets eroded in the soft stone walls.

We turned to camp to lounge for the evening, make a few calls home, enjoy the sunset (picture).

Saturday, March 20, 2004   -   Presidio TX  to  Fort Davis TX
Happy Birthday Robbie Joe & Uncle ED. Leisurely start this morning, sitting across from each other having coffee and realizing it not even 10 am yet and it's already getting hot. We decided we don't have stand for this and pulled our plug and headed north. Up US 67 to a little ghost town called Shafter. We paused to find it was a Mercury mining town and like so many in this area after WWII the use of Mercury diminished and the industry collapsed. We detoured into the abandon buildings area following a narrowing road around a bend to a seemingly dead end. For the first time I was in a situation that required me to disconnected the car in order to turn around and exit. (groan). Since the car was disconnected we took a little tour and found a neat cemetery. Under a shed roof they have a town history board. Enclosed framed boxes that you can open and view family heritage photos (actual) and read of the towns history (picture).

Next town along the way is Marfa. This towns claim to fame are the mysterious lights. Like the mysterious light Chuck Bergs talks about in the upper, no one knows the source or reason for them. This light viewing is so popular they've erected an elaborate viewing station (picture). There was a Canadian couple camped in the parking lot for this nights anticipated light show.  After walking the area we learned this was also the location of a WWII pilot training field where some 7000 WWII fighter pilots got their wings.

We finally made it to Fort Davis a small town of 2000. Gassed up for $1.79 compared to the $1.90 near Big Bend. After gassing and driving another block we passed the only other gas station in town where they sold gas for $1.73.

We elected the Pass Port America campground for this night which was located one mile north of town. We're staying at a 'dude ranch' for $8.25 per night. After learning there was no cell phone service, no television, I found the ranch had computer wireless service available in my motorhome. (cooool).

Square dancing to Errol Atkinson tomorrow at the Square Riggers, we talked about but don't think we'll make the dance.

Sunday, March 21, 2004  -  Fort Davis TX
Today is the day! Off to the solar observatory which houses the third largest telescope in the world. Why here in Texas you ask. This is one of the darkest spots on earth. Miles and miles from any city lights, 250 cloudless nights a year, low humidity and high elevation 6800 ft. By 10 am we were on our way up the mountain to make arrangements. Now this can only be appreciated by those who remember Mt. Rushmore. As we circled and hairpined up the hill only to find that after driving some 2500 miles to see the McDonald Observatory, the mountain top is cloud covered (picture). We chuckled at remembering Mt Rushmore. Of course we were here to see the equipment not what it sees. Checked with information person to see what we had to do then left to take care of morning business. We decided to relocate to the state park down the road to get some breathing room. Had to sacrifice the wireless connection but gained cable.

Returning at 1:30 to toured two of the observatories (picture) and learned that no one looks through telescopes any more, it's all done electronically. They have an auditorium which seats maybe 100 people and hosts star parties three times a week. Groups view stars outside then through telescopes near the visitor center and during adverse conditions they have a virtue showing on a screen in the auditorium. After gleaning all the technical information we could from a very knowledge guide, after three hours, we did the gift shop and then scooted down the hill to camp.

Giving serious thought to returning south, high today 55 degrees and heavy overcast. We'll see what tomorrow brings..

Monday, March 22, 2004   -  Fort Davis TX  to  Guadalupe National Park  NM
Busy day today. Took an early morning drive over to Fort Davis (National Park) for educational purposes. I tried to pay the $6 fee but by showing my Golden Age Pass Port, he wouldn't take my money. We walked among the restored buildings imagining what it was like in 1860 (picture). Took in a 30 minute video depicting early life and history of the post. Afterward we drove up town browsed a few stores and headed back to camp. Over lunch we decide to head towards El Paso this day. Pulled the plug and by 12:30 we were on state road 17 heading north to I-10, which is a beeline west to El Paso. Cruising along the interstate at highway speeds rolling over low hills and soft curves lulls one into a very comfortable mode. As my navigator study the map and read aloud of the history of the towns we would be passing through, I hear why don't we go to Guadalupe National Park. ("Because it's 60 miles north and we're heading west?") Oh that's sound like a wonderful idea. Why ? err.. Why not.  At the city of Van Horn and hwy 54 we exited to head due north. As we did Carol recognized a restaurant we had visited some eight years ago, Don Madden's Chuy's. Yep thee Don Madden (picture). So we stopped and had an early light dinner reminiscing with the staff none of which remember us. 

The Best Western across the street offer a drive by opportunity to send email, which I did. Moving up route 54, after a little mix up of general direction, was a long drive along a narrow two lane-er with NO traffic. Sometimes one wonders if they're doing the right thing when you see no one else around. We pulled in the the park in the mountains about 6:30. Self server pay, again Golden Age Pass Port permitted me to only have to stuff $4 in the envelope for the camping, . We took a short hike before dark then retired for the evening.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004  -  Guadalupe National Park  NM  El Paso TX
Up at the crack of dawn to head to the hiking trails. As we had breakfast we watched numerous hikers heading out (picture). All ages and all dressed in the 'proper' hiking gear. Full brimmed hat, hiking boots, back back, water jug and walking stick. Mom fits right in, Pukaskwa walking stick, hiking boots, pack pack, and water (picture). Me, baseball hat and tennies. Now that's another thing I need, mud flaps and now hiking boots. 

By 9:30 we've selected a trail from the board and we're on the trail. Bright morning, vivid blue sky with white puffy clouds, temperature about 60, no humidity or wind. Admiring all of mother natures beautiful plantings, we trudge up ward at a moderate incline (picture). Occasionally sipping hydrating water and then stopping for a munch on a pear. We started out at 5676 ft. as we moved slowly forward Carol spots some deer a quarter mile away. I don't see squat, out come the binoculars ( from the back pack). Sure enough two mule deer sitting under a tree. As we study them, then an elk trotted by and disappeared. We met and talked with a number fire fighters hiking up to the bowl. They are planning on a controlled burn in a week or two and want to do some preparation first. All and all there must of been a dozen of them passing us by. They said they'll be camping out for about three days. We turned around after reaching the limits of aged capabilities and slowly followed the trail home. The GPS said we hiked 2.5 miles to an altitude of 6456 ft. it took us 3.5 hours, our average speed was 1.4 mph, stops totaled 1:44 hr, time moving 1:46 hr. Darned I'm tired.

We snacked for lunched and around 1:30 we again headed toward El Paso. This time heading west on US 84. As we came out of the mountains we were at the top lip of a giant saucer. We could make out a slight depression in front of us and could see some 80 miles, the same off to each side. They call this a dust bowl  and appeared to us like a lake that had been drained of water. Driving we came across a drive entrance and a sign in front read "7 miles to the house." A whole lot of nothing out here. saw one sign offering acreage for $200 per.  

Got to El Paso around 4:00, drove across town to Wall Marts for shopping and a free night. The reality is, the last camp was $4, I think we spent $60 at Wal Marts.

Oh yes, one other thing. On our way in we drove past the largest collection of auto salvage yards, I think, in the world. From US 84 as far back as you could see (guess over a quarter to half mile) and for at least a mile driving by, nothing but junk cars. There are a number of different names out front but as you drive by it looks like one big junk yard. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2004  -  El Paso TX   Sunsites  AZ
Early start. The camper we parked next to in the parking lot was not really a camper but a parking lot stripe painters crew and equipment. Soon after dark they roll out the little gas powered stripe painters and went to work. I went to tell mom but all I heard from the birth was Zzzzz.  It wasn't too bad because the area we were in had been done the previous night. 

By 8:00 am we were driving with no breakfast, we stopped at a rest area to regroup and eat. We decided this was a driving day, Interstate 10 all day towards Tucson AZ. As Carol reads of a small town we were about to pass by, and if it tweaked our curiosity, we exited via the interstate bypass, drive though, and re-enter the interstate on the other side of town. We do this often, it plays heck with our drive time but breaks up a long drive and is fun. I think this was our longest driving day to date, about 300 miles. The was a bright day mostly sunny and warm, 80's. What we saw plenty of, were tiny tornadoes. I think they call them dirt devils or dust devils (picture). Somewhere around 4:00 pm and way to much road for one day we pulled off I-10 on to US191 to a town called Sunsites, were in "Cochise" country. Stayed at Goldminers RV for $13 full.

Thursday, March 25, 2004  -  Sunsites  AZ   
Filled, dumped, and rolling south by 8:30. We're on our way south to the boarder town of Douglas in search of the Paramore Crater. While heading south on US 191 we observed the boarder patrol herding a group of about ten individuals, with pack packs on, into a small van type vehicle. (look like a dog catchers truck).  At Douglas we headed back east on SR 80 for some 30 miles but to our dismay no indications of a crater, as denoted on the map. Back to Douglas where we seen a vacant K Mart at the edge of town with campers in the parking lot, after getting the OK from the visitors center, we left the camper there and drove to the border crossing area.

The town of Aqua Prieta is the Mexican town that is not dedicated to tourism so we thought that would be cool. Well guess what, hardly anyone spoke English as we walked from store to store. Carol shopped and bought the our boys identical gifts which we would have to declare upon returning. Well well well going through customs we learned that customs here is different than Canada and other boarding states. Here we were permitted to bring only one of these gifts per person, and could 'not' pay duty on the other, "but officer we have three boys!" Carol exclaims. No matter mamma we'll have to confiscate it. Carol said well we'll just give it away on the street. "You can do that, yes mamma.. So off we go back to the street. Standing there with three brown bags looking for some un-expecting person. Low and behold a young Spanish looking, American speaking woman approaches us looking for a donations. Carol explains our dilemma and I said you can have this gift as a donation. The young woman responds "I'll take this gift through customs for you." I said that would be great and I'll give you a contribution for you rehab center. So we walked through customs again with the proper quantity of stuff and waited and waited on the American side. Finally the young lady came bouncing down the walkway bag in hand. I gave her a fin for her trouble and we all went away happy.

We had pizza and beer for dinner, after which we just laid back. At dark I said "since the car is off the hook let's look for a connection." We drove to town center and found several but most were secure. Finally located one in front of the main hotel, we exchanged email and drove off.

Friday, March 26, 2004   -  Sunsites  AZ  to  Bisbee  AZ
Wow what a day. Drove 21 miles to Bisbee AZ. Yep Bisbee, who ever heard of Bisbee (picture). Bisbee was the largest city between St Louis and San Francisco in the early 1900's with a population of more then 20,000. Mining was the reason, copper primarily, until 1975 when mining on a large scale became unprofitable. Since then it has evolved into an attractive artist colony and retirement community. The town is located in a valley with homes built up the valley walls, driving is a breath taker (picture). This town is reminiscent of out trip with Nick and Patti to Eureka Springs, very comparable cities..

Camping you won't believe, Queen Mine RV is located on the edge of an open pit mine on one side (picture) and the town valley on the other (picture). Beautiful 25 sites, three occupied presently, for $21 a night for full hook ups plus cable. 

First thing, a mine trip only $12 per for a long train ride deep into the mountain which included informative talks along the way (picture). Next a walking tour (picture) and then lite lunch. Relax for a bit then a car ride around to acquaint us with the area. Don't drive the side streets.

Saturday, March 27, 2004  -  Bisbee  AZ   to  Tombstone AZ    to   Tucson AZ
Look out Wyatt here we come. We arrived at the OK Corral in
Tombstone AZ about 10:00 am. Wow is this place neat! Cowboys and gunslingers all over the place (picture). Carol was shopping and a lady of the evening waited on her (picture). We visited the OK Corral and all the places noted in history, including the ice cream shop. Mom talked with Doc Holiday and Sheriff Earp (picture) trying keep me from getting arrested (picture). We visited all the shops talked to all the cowboys and figured we should try and get more then 25 miles in today. We drove up to I-10 then west to Tucson and found a campground in a desert patch of cactus on the west side of town. Desert Trails RV Park $21 full - wireless. Kick back evening.

Sunday, March 28, 2004  -  Tucson AZ
We've arrived, 3000 miles plus and we are here in the land of the Saguaro (picture). This is definitely the land of cactus, there are so so many different kinds you can't believe. We've seen cactus before but never like this and of course the giant Saguaro (pronounced 
sə-wär­ə) that can grow to heights of 60 feet. This is what we came west to see.  

This is Sunday morning so we thought we'd take advantage of 'no traffic' and do down town Tucson. Early Sunday morning no traffic to speak of we rambled around side streets closing in on the downtown business district. Were driving on large five lane roads that would be jammed with traffic on a week day, empty now. Looking up at the tall new buildings and some of the historic ones as well. Look here, look there, turn here, let's go there, hand me the camera, then before you know it I'm on the relatively empty six lane road doing a touristy 25mph gawking around when I see in front on me a car swerve from the extreme left side heading directly for me, at the last second he swerves back out of the way. What! I exclaim, as I study the situation and observe that all the cars I can see even the ones parked are all facing me.. Damn a one way street and guess what.... Quickly I make a right turn to avoid embarrassment and damage. We parked and walked about deciding that was a little safer way to take pictures. (picture)  

One thing about the Arizona and Texas we've seen is the large amount of graffiti on the expressway over passes etc. They don't do graffiti like Detroit does (picture notice under the bridge as well).

In the afternoon we drove through Saguaro National Park and hiked a mini trail. Went to the visitors center leaving Dieter in the car while we gather information. It 89 degrees out so the car windows were left opened but Dieter must of gotten thirsty anyway cause he chewed the top off Mom's water bottle. This time of the year a lot of the cactus are blooming, we are fortunate to have the opportunity to photograph all this (picture). Back to camp to do the pool, unwind and sunbathe, after which Tiny's Longhorn for a Steerberger.

Retirement is exhausting, we're going to have to consider returning to Michigan to rest a little.

Monday, March 29, 2004    Tucson AZ
Yesterday we drove by the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum http://www.desertmuseum.org/ but didn't stop because there were hundreds of cars and buses and RV's. "It's Sunday we'll have to come back Monday after everyone has gone, It must be something to draw this kind of crowd."  So this morning 9:ish we drove back to the Museum only to find loads of cars again filling the parking lot again. We parked and walked up toward the ticket window were some twenty people or more in line with two windows taking money. Now we don't have a clue what we're in for but jumped in line and paid our $12 per to follow the crowd. Picking up literature and listening to the the guides we came to the understand this is a self guided tour through the desert with all kinds of exhibitions and live animals. This turned out to be quite an experience the acreage is beautifully done in local landscape and the animals are displayed free in natural sittings. There were mountain lions, Cougars, prairie dogs, black bear and much more (picture). Also a walk in aviary that house hummingbirds (picture). We spent the day here and were totally exhausted.

Later in the evening after resting up we drove over to Wal*Mart to restock. It was dark when we returned home needless to say we didn't stay up late.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004    Tucson AZ   to  Organ Pipe Park  AZ
Pulled the plug and headed west for a hundred more miles to our final westerly destination 'Organ Pipe National Monument.'  A beautiful park on the Mexican board which has some 228 sites with paved pads but no hook ups. There are only about twenty campers here. Golden Pass Port save us entrance fees and cut camping cost to $5. The ranger said populations in the campground is dwindling because the temperature will be 97 degrees today and not a cloud to be seen. It's OK it's dry heat!

After we plugged in we took a motor trip five miles to the boarder nothing to report there. We then went on a 25 mile scenic loop drive in the early evening to see the Organ Pipe cactus (picture). Only seen one other vehicle on the road for the whole trip. The mountains and scenery is really enjoyable. We had hoped to see the javalina but were not successful.   We did find some unusual Saguaro that we just could not get a handle on (picture). 

Back at camp, the activities over the past couple of days finally caught up with us and shortly after dark we were both sawing logs. Didn't even attempt John Wayne.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004    Tucson AZ   to   Phoenix AZ
Slept till the crack of dawn. First thing we did this morning was to wish Emily a happy birthday, driving next year oh my gosh!  After breakfast we decided to head for Michigan. This park being the turn around point of our Texas westerly adventure. Hot today (picture). We'll head up to Sedona then the large crater east of Flagstaff as we journey east towards home. Gassed up southwest of Phoenix today for $1.97 per, after turning down $1.84 because everyone knows larger cities are less expensive then the small towns way out in the boonies. (groan). Took time to wash the home before continuing on north. 

Along the roads close to the boarder are tons of road side memorials. For areas with no population there are an excessive number of these memorials. I speculated that these memorials mark the point where wetbacks enter America. We spoke with local visitor center and they explained that the Indians make these memorials to mark where the soul leaves the body. They claim they are the results of auto accidents, the Indians drink a lot. Hmmm I wonder. here is a typical one (picture)

Tonight we're at Pioneer RV Park north on Phoenix. Cost $22 w/Good Sam, full hook up w/cable. Exit 225 I-17. This a large senior snowbird park, a lot of whom have gone home already. One neat thing we've seen here is at the dog run, a fenced in area for the pooches, was when a man with a dog on a golf cart pulls up, the dog jumps off, goes in the pooch area, does his business, comes out and jumps back on the golf cart and off they go.... The man never left the cart.

Everything we've seen in the near by community shows of a new upcoming area. Lots of new homes and new subdivisions and malls.  This evening we went to a Mexican restaurant and had delicious meal with marguerites.

Thursday, April 1, 2004  -  Phoenix AZ   to    Camp Verde AZ
Lazy start this morning not planning to drive far. Left about 10 and drove up I-17 for hundred miles. Stopped at the city of Camp Verde and stayed at Rancho Verde RV Park, a small camp $14 for water and electric. 

After lunch we revisited the town of Jerome (picture). 12 years ago we were in this remote area visiting some Indiana ruins and saw this small town atop a hill in the distance, Jerome. We drove some 20 miles to the hilltop town and had an enjoyable stay. Today we drove to Jerome and all I can say is wow!  What a difference in getting there the whole valley is now spotted with homes. Unbelievable the growth in the area. Jerome itself stayed pretty much the same, only today there were a whole bunch of tourist and evidence of a little more prosperity from tourism. Even the Red Hat Ladies were here (picture). From the remote Palatki ruins to Jerome there was nothing just absolutely nothing. Today you felt like you never leave civilization. It's a beautiful area and now with new homes and shopping all around, it would be easy to consider spending some time here. We're only twenty miles from Sedona so maybe we'll trip there tomorrow. Gas price locally $1.69, double groan.

Friday, April 2, 2004  -  Camp Verde AZ
Last night it started drizzling and it stayed all night and for most of the day. Not a heavy rain but a steady all day rain. This is of course very unusual for this time of the year and now because of this they have already had four times more rain then they usually have for the whole month April, and it's only the 3rd.  Rain scheduled for a few more days as well.  

We didn't let this light drizzle stand in our way and off we went to Sedona. What a magnificent place, if you haven't been there in a while be sure and schedule a trip. The growth is unbelievable and all upscale. How upscale you ask? Carol stopped and pick up a realtor page from a box in front of drive, it read: "Building sites for sale starting price $450,000 to $1,000,000." (picture).  This is red rock country and the visuals are terrific they are so nice you just have to have a piece of the rock for home (picture). We toured some of the back roads and reacquainted ourselves with some of the places we had visited in the past.

How's Dieter doing you asked. I'm glad you asked, Every time Mom leaves with Gypsy Dieter sits and waits (picture). Once he tried to write with my favorite pen (picture) and while trying to take a picture he could not get the camera from the case (picture). Dieter tried email but could not get the power cord plugged in (picture). Of course the best is that Gypsy never chewed on a dogs bone until Dieter arrived now they chew together (picture). Best of all you don't have to feed Dieter (picture). Thank goodness we have a cage, we have things worked out to a science. Dieter sleeps in the cage, Gypsy out. During the day while we are in, Dieter is out Gypsy is in. And, when we tour Dieter is in Gypsy can be trusted to behave so she is out. So far everything is A-OK.

Saturday, April 3, 2004  -   Camp Verde   to   Meteor Park AZ
Well the day started off great, warm , sunny, and clear skies. Even the drive north to Flagstaff was OK but there things turned sour. Looking out the window I should have realized things were heading in the wrong direction for high up in the mountains you could see snow (picture). Flagstaff is sitting at over 7000 feet so as soon as I stepped outside I exclaimed were heading the wrong direction for the temperature was about 50 degrees and it was closing in on noon already. I wanted to stop in Flagstaff for a short break because of a tooth squeeze I was having due to the altitude. Exiting I-40 the first parking lot, would you believe, Sams!  I parked and of course Carol said we need a loaf of bread. 45 minutes later here comes Mom with a cart of stuff. Well now it's past lunch and whoa and behold in the grocery cart is a half of a slab of cooked ribs. I immediately dig in while Mom put MOST of the stuff away. We are both going to town on these delicious ribs hardly a sound is being made until Mom says "Dieter has been quite too long where is he?" I turned to see five pounds of ground beef, that had been left on the cage near the door, now only weighted four pounds (picture).

We pulled out knowing things will be better and sure enough, we are on old route US 66 heading toward Walnut Canyon. Our Golden Passport get us in free again. The ranger explained what was offered then said you descend 247 steps take mile hike and ascend 247 steps, should take about an hour. So off we go through the doors to a beautiful panorama canyon view. After the ooohs and ahhhhs we started down the steps and the views and sights keep getting better  (picture). The canyon is 400 feet deep and we make several hairpin turns as we descended. We get down a little more then half way then take a circle loop around a around an isolate portion of the canyon. We are able to view and walk in numerous cave dwellings (picture). Back up the winding path to the visitor center in little more than an hour. We wish pictures could do the canyon justice, there is just no way you show or describe this beauty. These are the things you just have to see for yourself.

We rested a while then drove another thirty miles to Meteor Crater RV Park, exit 233. The park is in the middle of no where. A real nice park with all pull through lots, water and electric for $20 a night. Settled in for the night and tomorrow we'll tour the crater.

Sunday, April 4, 2004  -  Meteor Creator Park  to    Holbrook AZ
Down the road 5 miles from Meteor Crater RV Park is "Meteor Crater." http://www.meteorcrater.com/  (The RV park we assume is directly associated with the crater). We've learned two families own the area. Barringer family, who took out the original land claim incorporating two square miles encompassing the crater, teamed with the Tremaine family who owned the surrounding land, some 300,000 acres, and dedicated a mutual effort to preserve for educational purposes this impact crater. Knowing this was a private enterprise I had some concerned what I would get for my $9 per as I was here only to see the hole in the ground. I was totally impressed by the facility, employees and how everything was handled.

You entered one of two large parking lots (one for RVs) and walked to the ticket office then through the gate to the elevator and up to the rim. At the rim there are nice walkways at three different levels, for maximum visual effect. Inside housed a museum, theatre, and of course a gift shop. Our tickets included a hald mile guided walk of the rim, which we partook. Walking along the rim (picture) observing and listening to our guide explain how the families got together to support this enterprise. Astronauts come here each September for crater training and this is quite an event we're told. The crater it self is about one mile in diameter and 600 feet deep (picture). Standing at the rim you have no concept of the size of this crater. Pictures again can not capture the grandeur of this site. And, the surrounding acreage. No exaggeration, from our vantage point you can see unobstructed 60 to 80 miles in any direction. I can't remember ever seeing so much nothing. The movie was a short fifteen minute presentation of the crater and done very well. The museum had lot of hands on videos as well a actual piece of meteor (picture) that is said to have broke off from the one that caused this crater. Everything is done very well and we felt we got our monies worth.

We drove down the roar another fifty miles to the Petrified Forest National Park and took a camp site in the town of Holbrook. Camping at A-OK RV Park for Good Sam price of $20 full w/cable. Giant sites and roadways, very comfortable. There are petrified trees trunks lying all about this city.

Monday, April 5, 2004  -  Holbrook AZ  
Took the car to the petrified forest this morning driving in light rain on this cold cloudy morning. The drizzle let up so we could get a few pictures of the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest. Viewing the painted desert after a rain really made the colors rich and showed the obvious reason for the name (picture). There is a dramatic range of colors (picture). We continued the 20 mile trip through the park stopping at every lookout and trying to exam all the dead trees (picture).

It was interesting to lean this forest existed 225 million years ago, during the triassic period, and was buried in sediment where silica laden water encased the trees, while various minerals effect the coloring (picture). At the local gift shops they sell polished petrified trees slices as table tops for up to $24,000. (picture)

The trees were buried for eons while wind and rain washed layer upon layer of soil away finally exposing these petrified trees. As you view the various layers of earth it becomes visually obvious which layer contained the trees as you can see partially buried tress becoming exposed.

Tuesday, April 6, 2004   -    Holbrook AZ    to   National Monument El Malpais
Bright sun shinny day, first in three days. Weather pattern had stalled over us giving us mostly cloudy days with scattered showers, maybe it's time to move on now. Departed by 8:15 this morning, stopping first thing to buy a piece of dead wood. Traveling interstate all day today, wow.  At least that was the plan till Mom the navigator study the map and found the direct route to Albuquerque could be interrupted by a short side trip through National Monument El Malpais. Hence this is our day, after traveling only a hundred miles or so. 

We headed south on SR 117 through an extended lava field. The road parallels a very picturesque bluff there were only a couple of observation pointes so we took them in. The first was a boy's dream, rounded rocks you could easily jump from one to another with all kinds of crevasses and cave like pockets. (picture)  Next we stopped at the "arch", a natural rock formation near the top (picture). I climbed to the base of the arch seeking the ultimate picture (picture). After taking a few pictures we continued on. 

This is a relatively new NP Monument dedicated in 1991, without too much to offer there are few visitors. In fact the ranger said if we'd like to camp we would be the first to register in April. No official camp ground yet, but there is a small picnic loop where we could stay if we chose. No services no fee. So after the scenic drive and jumping around the rocks we arrived at a secluded picnic area loop. Here we found about six covered tables, one was already taken so we selected another with room for the RV and spent the night.

Wednesday, April 7, 2004  National Monument El Malpais   to   Santa Rosa  NM
Drizzle on the roof last night and cloudy this morning. Took some time to evaluate the pump on the towed vehicle. The alarm is sounding for no reason (?). Drove back to I-40 and stopped there to call the pump's manufacturer who said there is a dealer in Albuquerque. Everything was working good again so we headed east as the sun broke out and some with white puffy clouds appeared. Made the most picturesque drive into Albuquerque from the west. Snow capped mountains as the back drop then and overview of the city as we drove down the gentle slope into the heart of the city. Here again interstate over passes and support structures are all painted in pastel colors. Makes for a very warm feeling. 

We found a dealer who sent us to another dealer. I decided we'd just continue on and I'd look into this pump at another time. We ended up in Santa Rosa at Santa Rosa Campground for a Good Sam price of $22 full with cable. Gassed up today for $1.65 that's the cheapest since San Antonio.

High today was about 77º and mostly sunny. Generally speaking today was just a blah driving day. 

Thursday, April 8, 2004     Santa Rosa  NM  to   Amarillo TX
Rain on the roof again last night but just cloudy this morning. Pleasant driving with just an occasional spot of sunshine, reached Amarillo late afternoon found Fort Amarillo RV Resort for $25 per, full.  www.fortamarillorvresort.com  We had saved our appetites all day for dinner. So after settling in we seeked out a restaurant and settled for "On the Boarder", yep Mexican. One Margarita and excellent enchiladas with chili sauce, a delicious meal it was. Later it was off to Wal*Mart to re-stock. On the way home the rains caught up with us and it poured big time. We had to wait at the camper for the rain to let up before we could get out of the car. Spent the rest of the evening in side. Rain stopped at bedtime.

Friday, April 9, 2004   -   Amarillo TX
Awoke to  bright sun shinny day. Temperatures is suppose to reach 75° today and cold tomorrow with a high of 45°. The weather man said if your going to do anything, do it today. So we decided to stay here in Amarillo TX today and drive tomorrow in the colder weather. Today we drove to the state park called Palo Duro, this is the Grand Canyon of Texas (picture). A short drive through flat cattle country to the park. Beautifully colored canyon walls (picture) up to a thousand foot high greeted us at the visitors center. Camping is available here and would be a nice place to spend some time. There are numerous hiking trails and little streams all about (picture). Come to think about it the little streams are more than likely dry washes, we had big rains last night and water is flowing everywhere. We spent the morning touring the canyon. Laundry and loafing filled the remainder of the day.

Wind and rain started late this evening as the cold front moved in. The camper was rocking and rolling as we turned in for the night.

Saturday, April 10, 2004   Amarillo TX  to    Shawnee OK
Awoke to a bitter 38° out side. Hit the road about 9 and drove all day. Cloudy heavy overcast with occasional rain and constant wind out of the north. A good day to be driving. In fact we drove so long we missed a few good places to spend the night and ended up in Shawnee OK between a bunch of 18 wheelers in back of a gas station. The price was right..   :-(

Sunday, April 11, 2004  -   Shawnee  OK  to  Branson MO
Happy Easter! After giving thanks and morning prayers we were on our way before sunrise. Outside temperature 48°, skies are clear no wind. It's great to see the cold front blew through making this a beautiful sunshiny day. Temperature back in the 60's by noon. Driving east on I-40 all day, lunch at a rest stop where we discussed where to spend the night. We'll be across the Arkansas board shortly and a short drive from Branson. 3 pm we pulled into "Shenanigans." two-bits a night full. 

Monday, April 12, 2004   Branson MO
Received word this morning that Aunt Barb (Bobbie) had been in hospital over Easter. Home now and is doing well. Gallbladder attack with some complications. (Ron I'll get you more info for the news letter).

 Lazy day today, we'll just tour the town again, check out what's new and make an early start tomorrow. Ate at the Hard Luck Cafe again, saving Dockers for breakfast. Looks like they changed Berg's camp spot around some? (picture)

Only a stones throws from home now so this will conclude our adventures. The remaining entries will just, more than likely, be data and location information entries. Gas today $1.65

Tuesday, April 13, 2004   -   Branson MO   to    Effingham IL
Drove, beautiful day today.. drove drove drove. Ended up Wal Marts in Effingham IL Gas $1.65

Wednesday, April 14, 2004   Effingham IL   to    Home....
Gas at Wal Marts $1.69. Another beautiful day sunny and warm. Heading east on I-70 then north on I-69. Thinking of stopping for the night north of Indianapolis but it's was only 1pm. Still feeling fresh and getting more anxious to get home, continued driving to Fort Wayne. Computed drive time and found with a short dinner stop we could be home by 6 pm. Carol is driving and I'm feeling very rested.

It's interesting, or Murphy's law, but we've driven over 6,000 miles without any hitch. I think we had construction 3 or 4 times but to no consequence. Now here it is 4:30 pm east of Jackson "Michigan" and guess what. Well first I had to make the decision do I use M14 to get to I 696 or should I stay on I-94 and go straight home. Well I haven't used I-94 for several years due to construction and bad roads in the city but that has all been repaired now so we'll use I-94 for a change. 3/4 of mile passed the exit for M14 guess what, I'm committed now no more exits, I-94 comes to a dead stop. Listening to the CB we learn the back up is over 5 miles long as I-94 is reduced to one lane and other roads are still feeding in. Groan groan groan. After one hour and twenty minutes we pass over the bridge where they "plan" to do some work so the lane is closed off.

We got home at 7:45 pm. Came in the house looked at the stack of mail and had a beer.........

All and all it has been a great getaway! Thanks honey.

Looked forward to seeing the family but part of Glenn's family is in Myrtle Beach,  Gary and family are in DC, and Craig and family are in Malaysia. Should of stayed away a  little longer I guess, it sure is quiet at home......





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