Saturday, December 31, 2011


Once we download the current year's version of Turbo Tax to the computer Denny finishes off his maintenance and mileage lists for The Beast so I thought I'd briefly sum up our travels this year.

January first saw us in Live Oak, Florida and December thirty-first finds us in Mesa, Arizona. In between we pulled the trailer 8,498.5 miles, putting a total of 16,751 miles on Black Beauty in our errand running and sightseeing. We crossed the borders of thirty-four states, spending at least one night in twenty-five different states during the year. Denny and I spent the year in a total of forty-six campgrounds over a period of fifty-two weeks. Of those forty-six campgrounds, twenty-five of them were private member parks which meant we either stayed for free or for a deeply discounted price. Our shortest stay in a campground was one night and our longest stay in one campground was five weeks.

In September we finally arrived in Maryland, which completed our desire to visit all fifty states. In November we spent three weeks in Oklahoma while dealing with repairs to The Beast, which allowed us to play golf in that state and thus crossing off Oklahoma as the 50th state in which Denny and I have played a round of golf. That means after thirteen years on the road we finally met our two primary goals of full time travel. Yes, we're a little slow.

Tomorrow begins a new year. Monday we will head for Casa Grande, Arizona with plans to bounce around southern Arizona and California for the winter before moving north through California to the Oregon coastline over the summer. There are no real concrete plans at the moment, because making said plans seems to bring a plethora of problems upon our heads and we're a bit tired of that. We're thinking of visiting friends and family in Colorado, Nevada, South Dakota and New Mexico before the year is through, but if there's one thing Denny and I have discovered over the years it's that nothing we plan is written in stone. So you'll just have to tag along to see where we end up.

Happy New Year! Use a designated driver if you are out celebrating so we can see you somewhere down the road....

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Silly Way to Spend the Day

sTuesday I found out I had dodged the skin cancer bullet so I decided to celebrate my "over the hill plus ten" (or twenty depending on what you consider to be over the hill) birthday by hiking up Silly Mountain in Apache Junction, Arizona. Silly Mountain is its official name and now it even has it's own Botanical Trail, picnic benches and doggie water fountain. It is officially a destination park instead of a place where people brought their off road vehicles to tear up the side of the mountain. And yes, I'm a bit anti-ATV when it comes to the damage they do to the desert. Anyway, when Denny and I first walked up Silly Mountain back in 2002 you could pretty much just walk straight up the hill from the parking lot. The park service has now closed off that wide pathway created by misuse and a staff of volunteers has created a series of narrow walking/trail biking pathways around the mountain that create 360 degree vistas and varying amounts of difficulty to walk. On a good day you can see for miles; there was a haze in the air when Denny and I were attempting our walk. I assume there are still some geocaches around the mountain too, although I haven't checked that.I think the sum total of the paths I took was about one mile, but that was a lot of ups, downs and turns. Denny and I stopped a couple of times to chat with people on the path; once with a Mennonite couple from Kansas who were taking a brief winter break before heading back to Kansas to haul hay (I was awed by the fact the woman was walking the trail in a long and billowing dress) and a second time with a Native American gentleman with a big gentle yellow Lab who told us of other trails in the area that lead to petroglyphs and areas where folks still search for the Lost Dutchman Mine. He entertained us for quite some time and then it was time for me to move on. Denny found himself a comfortable rock with a view of the Superstition Mountain itself and waited for me to wave to him from the top.
If you double click on the photo below, Denny is the tiny little bright blue spot below the red arrow. I took this from the high point of Silly Mountain.
This time of year the rattlesnakes are a bit dormant so I didn't worry about running into critters on my walk, although this little fellow thought I was pretty scary with all my huffing and puffing on Huff and Puff Trail.It was an ideal day for hiking the mountain thanks to bright sunshine but cool temperatures. The scenery was fabulous as always.
In the photograph above you can see where the old off-road vehicle path is. The parks department has fenced that off and is hoping Mother Nature will do her thing by scattering the seed of native plants and reclaim this part of the mountain.

And another item is checked off the bucket list.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Eating Our Way Through Silver City

Thanks to our unanticipated and extended stay in Oklahoma City, my nice, neat little travel schedule was all messed up. I had a couple of pre-paid reservations still to come that I had made in Arizona that we needed to get to but due to the inclement weather predicted along I-40 Denny and I need to change our travel route in an attempt to avoid the snow. Thus we ended up in Deming, New Mexico for a few days.

The two of us have been here before; we stay at the very convenient and reasonably priced Dreamcatcher RV Park owned by the Escapees organization. There are multiple day trip opportunities here in Deming; City of Rocks State Park, the Luna Mimbres Museum, Rockhound State Park, a couple wineries, Pancho Villa State park, the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument , Gila National Forest and Silver City, New Mexico. Since the two of us had already explored City of Rocks, Rockhound SP, one winery and the museum on past visits, we decided to check out Silver City.

Silver City is a drive of about 60 miles from Deming, seemingly flat roadway and terrain with distant mountains. But the elevation changes from about 4,300 feet in Deming to almost 6,000 feet in Silver City so we were glad when the sun finally popped out from the clouds as we arrived in town.
The discovery of silver in the nearby hills brought miners and settlers into the area in the late 1800s, although like many mining towns the claims petered out eventually. Today there is still copper mining and some gold and silver mining carried out, but the downtown section of Silver City is busy recreating itself as an eccentric little town full of eateries, shops and art galleries.
This is the kind of town where you have to look up, down and around thanks to the interesting architectural details of the buildings and what's on the buildings.
This old truck door had small flying pigs cut out of its panels which hovered above the cut out sections. The artwork was attached to an exterior wall of one of the businesses on the main drag.
After the silver rush was over, people with tuberculosis came to the area for the dry air and hot springs. Among them was Billy the Kid's mother, so the Kid lived here several years as a child, which is noted in this stained glass/art glass window high above the sidewalk. There is a cabin in town that sits on the Antrim homestead (Billy the Kid's step-father) that is "similar" to what would have been the cabin where Billy was raised.
At this time of year the people out on the streets in downtown are basically the folks who live here but they are friendly folk eager to share their love of the area and life here in Silver City. Denny and I bought some fudge in one shop, a loaf of the most wonderful, crusty sour dough bread from Diane's Bakery and had sandwiches at Vicki's restaurant which is housed in what I believe to be an old church. The downtown leans towards aging, more upscale yuppie/hippies but it was a fun way to spend the afternoon. Certainly we'd come back for more exploration on another day.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Fix Up and Clean Up

Hmm, let's my last post we were in Roswell, New Mexico so I'll start there. Wednesday morning I got up and as I walked to the bathroom I felt like I was in a carnival fun house. I was walking at an angle. Let me just say here that while I am a bit of a klutz and lately don't have the world's best balance, I am very sensitive both physically and visually to things that aren't level. And we weren't level. Added to the fact that there had been some creaking coming from The Beast the night before I suspected we had a tire that had gone flat or a hydraulic jack that had lost pressure.

After Denny got up I allowed him a peaceful breakfast before I warned him that I thought we might have a flat tire that needed to be fixed before we pulled out to hit the road. I got the "what next?" look from him before he went outside to check and sure enough, one of the tires he had added air to yesterday was totally flat. Apparently the tire pressure monitor cap hadn't been seated correctly, allowing the air to leak out. All of this meant that half of the contents of the storage bin had to be removed to get to the pancake air compressor to fill the tire and that's when Denny saw that we had water sitting on the floor of the storage bin which means either the water pump, the water filter or the hot water heater was leaking. We had been using the water pump in the evenings because of the below freezing temperatures since Denny takes in the water hose from the faucet to prevent the hose from freezing. To say Denny's jaw got tight might have been a bit of an understatement.

Tire re-inflated, storage bin repacked, we hit the road for Deming. Our delay in getting started allowed the heavy fog to clear and we were able to enjoy new scenery as we traveled US 70 down and across New Mexico. At Ruidoso Downs we drove on roadways just barely cleared of snow as the town sits at an elevation of 7,000 feet and they had had snow the night before. The temperature started warming a few degrees as we drove out of the hills down towards Las Cruces, passing the White Sands area. As we continued on to our destination Denny and I decided we were going to come back next fall to more fully explore this corner of the state but we'd make sure to do it much earlier in the season so we wouldn't be trying to outrun bad weather.

Arriving in Deming where it was very cold, I checked at the campground office to see if it would be possible for us to wash The Beast if the weather turned warmer. Yes. Yippy! Because driving through the icy fog, over sand strewn overpasses and snowy slush had done a number on both Black Beauty and The Beast and they both desperately needed to get the road grime and crud washed off.

We had to wait until the afternoon the next day so the temperature could warm up enough for the two of us to work outside, but Denny was able to locate the leaks; both the water pump and the lines leading into and out of the whole house water filter were leaking. Two trips to the hardware store and Denny had the problem fixed while I did clean up. Maneuvering around inside the tight storage bin area caused Denny to pull a muscle in his back, so we were done for the day.

The weather people started warning of rain over the weekend so we knew we needed to get the rig and the truck washed sooner rather than later. Cold winds made the whole experience a bit torturous, but we finally got the job done and Beauty and the Beast are looking good once again.
You certainly can't tell that there is chrome and polished aluminum and silver paint under that dirt, can you?

Now that we have all the work out of the way we might actually be able to go day tripping today. Yay!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Warming Up a Cold Day

My intended plans for the day included going to two museums (one wasn't open) and getting a photograph of us with some of the hokey alien creatures lining the streets of Roswell. What I hadn't planned on was cold, dreary, drizzly, windy weather so the photographs were scrapped for another year's visit to the area and instead Denny and I headed for the warmth of the Roswell Museum and Art Center.

As we entered the doors we were greeted by a staff volunteer who immediately informed us that the gallery to our left was closed for remodeling and I thought "hmm, this doesn't bode well" but I was wrong.
How can you not love a place that has a modern version of "The End of the Trail" statue where the horse has red glowing eyes glaring at you as you enter the building? The Roswell Museum is large, bright and airy with plenty of room for exhibits to come. Currently exhibitions include the artwork of Peter Hurd, Peter Rogers, women artists of New Mexico, the collections of Rogers (not a misspelling) and Mary Ellen Aston and a display on the life and inventions of Robert Goddard. I fell in love with the work of Peter Rogers, especially a small pen and ink drawing of a dove superimposed over an angel superimposed over Pegasus.The museum displays are housed in glass paneled sections with laminated flip-page books explaining each piece inside the glass wall. That was a little strange and hard to manage if you wanted to look closely at the piece and match it up with the book as the books were set at the edge of one side of the exhibit so you would have to walk back and forth to read what the difference displays were. However all the artifacts they have gathered are well displayed and beautifully kept. And as always we learned something new as we read our way through the exhibit about Robert Goddard, who advanced the science of rocketry, starting off small with rockets that went a whole forty-one feet in the air to inventing propulsion system that eventually led to man being on the moon.

There is also a planetarium attached to the complex but Denny and I passed on that for this visit. We needed to pick up a few groceries and top off the truck's fuel tanks since diesel prices were twenty-eight cents a gallon cheaper than in Amarillo, Texas. I was still feeling the chill of the wet day when we got home so I made a pot of spicy vegetable soup. How do I do that, you might ask? Make up a potful of vegetable soup using your favorite recipe and then instead of dicing up tomatoes or adding a can of diced tomatoes (you DO add diced tomatoes to your vegetable soup, right?) toss in a can of original style Rotelle tomatoes with green chiles. Yum! It adds a surprising kick and went very well with our roast pork loin sandwiches.

All in all, a very good day despite the lack of hokey tourist photos of us standing next to lime green aliens.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Getting Back to Normal--Whatever Normal Is.

The RV Vagabonds are once again on the road and traveling through new territory; that's a feeling we like. The trip from Oklahoma City to Amarillo, Texas was an interesting one since the landscape changed quite a bit due to the icy fog that had settled over Texas early in the morning. The result was a fairy land of vividly white lacy trees and bushes with long grasses bent with a heavy sheath of ice. The skies were gray so the effect wasn't as stunning as it would have been with bright sunlight and blue skies, but I didn't remember seeing the pure white coating of hoarfrost and ice that an icy fog leaves compared to the clear coating of an icy rain. The fog had lifted enough that we had no difficulty driving but the landscaped was muted and foreshortened to our view.

Our stay in Amarillo was only scheduled for one night which was good since it was bitterly cold--so cold that at first our hydraulic jacks on the front of The Beast wouldn't lower . Denny and I looked at each other and wondered "what next?", but after I went inside to turn on the furnace in hopes of getting some warm air into the compartment where the hydraulic fluid reservoir and pump are located I was able to get the jacks to lower. Whew! I swear The Beast is trying to see how much we'll take before we crack! Patches had forgotten about snow but quickly learned to avoid the patches on the ground as we took a very quick walk for exercise and exploration. It was a hot chocolate and peppermint schnapps night for sure!

When we got up the next morning we thought about going out to breakfast but then decided we simply wanted to get away from the cold, because our next destination of Roswell, New Mexico was supposed to be several degrees warmer per the Accuweather forecast. The route I had decided upon, a four lane U.S. route, took us through a section of Texas and New Mexico that we had never driven so we enjoyed what scenery we could see since once again fog had settled in. I will say we have never seen so many cattle feedlots since we've hit the road and I think it's going to be a while before I get the smell of cow manure out of my nose.

Having crossed yet another time zone, we arrived a bit too early at our reserved campsite which was still occupied so we chose a different site and got ourselves set up. Poor Black Beauty and The Beast--they were covered with mud and an oil/asphalt mix from newly laid roadway! Goodness knows when and where we'll be able to wash the trailer as fewer and fewer campgrounds are allowing rv owners to wash their rigs on site these days.

Since we've been stepping over a nine foot long box that has the remnant of our vinyl flooring since we left Oklahoma, our task this morning was to see if we could find a piece of PVC pipe that was at least six inches in diameter. My idea was to carry the flooring rolled up inside the PVC pipe which Denny would fasten with metal straps to the underside of the trailer. Unfortunately, the big box hardware store only carries four inch PVC pipe so the flooring is now wedged at an angle in our storage bin with a 1x3 for support. I simply was not going to leave that flooring at the rv dealer since we had to pay the entire cost of the flooring and shipping it to Oklahoma and they only used a segment of it to splice in a section where the flooring had been torn by the broken slideout roller. I figure by carrying this big honking piece of vinyl I'll pretty much guarantee that nothing will happen to the flooring inside. Kind of a reverse psychology/beating the odds ploy on our part. Thus there was a lot of extra work involved to make room for said flooring and the day was pretty much shot. Weather-wise it was another cold, foggy day which means the weather forecasters got it wrong yet again. I know there's sunshine and warm temperatures somewhere out here in the West!

Tomorrow's agenda takes us to a couple of the local museums and the visitor center and the taking of at least one touristy photograph of an alien. I believe that is de rigueur for the author of this blog, n'est-ce pas?

Friday, December 09, 2011

A Day Night Brightener

Denny and I had been touring the Oklahoma History Center (a post for another day) when I received a telephone call from the RV service center. They had finished replacing the roller assembly under the kitchen slideout and had been able to do it without removing the entire slideout. The bad news was that to replace the vinyl flooring as we had requested they would have to remove the entire slide (yes, that had been discussed and pre-arranged) but now they were telling me that to remove the slideout and lay the flooring would take an additional eight to ten days. WHAT?????? The alternative would be to see if the flooring installer could splice in a new section that would stay in place despite the fact that the kitchen slideout would be pulled in and out much more frequently than the normal weekend user of a RV would do. Or we could just take the rig to someplace warmer and have THEM pull out the slideout, which would still mean removing all the cabinets from the slideout, as well as the TV, the stove, the microwave, the refrigerator, blah, blah, blah. Which is not how it was explained to us in the first place. Long story short, we said we'd go for the splice method of repair. At which point the service manager told me he'd tell the installer when the man arrived to confirm whether or not he really could splice the flooring. Which was the last we heard from him until they closed at 5:30 PM to say that the splicing could be done if that's what we wanted. Yes, that's what we want. Okay, he'll call the installer first thing Friday morning to get him to come out and work on the floor. AAARRRGGGGHHHH. All of this dinking around is why we've been here two weeks waiting for something to happen.

After my dinner fiasco in which the rental cabin's oven did not work properly, thus leaving me with a sadly undercooked pork tenderloin, I was ready to have my spirits raised. I asked Denny to drive us to Yukon Oklahoma for their Christmas in the Park light show; four million lights and about 360 light displays, some of which are animated. Weekends there are horse drawn carriage rides and on nights the weather permits there is also a "train" ride through the park. The lights are set up in three separate city parks; the Yukon City Park, Freedom Trail Park and Chisholm Trail Park. There is no entrance fee for any of the three parks, although at the Yukon City park and Chisholm Trail park there are volunteers (and very friendly and welcoming ones, I might add) to graciously accept any donations. Entering any of the three parks you are bombarded with lights and moving figures on all sides of you and even in the trees (make note of Santa in the flying saucer in the collage below) as well as glassed in picture boxes with winter and Christmas scenes, Nativity sets, light displays donated in memory of loved ones, trees that dance to Christmas music on stations 107.1 and 106.1 and more. You can drive through the parks but the nice thing is that you can also park your vehicle and walk the 2 miles of trails through the parks to see the lights and displays "up close and personal". The city of Yukon has done a wonderful job of creating a fantasy-land of lights and I left smiling and singing along with the Christmas carols playing on the radio. It was just what the doctor ordered.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Lingering in Limbo

While we did receive word that the factory has our parts in Indiana, Denny and I have not yet heard from the local RV service center that the parts have arrived here in Oklahoma. We're figuring at this point that we won't be pulling The Beast into the repair center until Monday since it's now Friday and the service department is closed on weekends. If the roller repair and floor replacement can get done in three or four days, that means we would have four to five nights to drive the 1,000+ miles to Mesa, Arizona by the southern route, thereby (or hopefully) avoiding bad weather. That would be a good thing since it means we wouldn't lose our week-long pre-paid reservation at the state park in Mesa. Denny's sister has released us from our promise to assist her with some home repairs, for which we are grateful as severe winter storms are predicted for the Albuquerque area this weekend.

In the meantime, we have been Christmas shopping for our grandkids, I've been wrapping presents and I hauled out the new computer again to work on transferring some files from the old laptop to the new desktop PC. Denny and I have also put back a lot of things we packed up, thinking we'd be taking The Beast for repairs much earlier this week. In a sense we're going around in circles with this packing and unpacking but we're hoping this part of our lives will be over soon. We can but hope. We're keeping busy and trying to stay positive because we're truly tired of being angry with Heartland RV and the quality of the product they put out.

And that's where we are right now.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

We're in Limbo. Oklahoma.

Okay, so it's not a town in Oklahoma but simply our current state of mind and position in life . After two days we're still waiting for the parts department of the company-that-does-not-care aka Heartland RV Mfg. to respond to our service department to tell them whether or not parts are available to fix the broken roller on our kitchen slideout. TWO DAYS!!! You see, the parts department does not take telephone orders from their dealers; the service departments of the dealerships HAVE TO SEND A FAX REQUEST FOR PARTS!!! Is that unbelievable or what? So we wait, which means we are now on our eighth day of having only half of the floor space in The Beast and no access to my pots and pans, mixing bowls, toaster and various electrical kitchen appliances. I have one cast iron skillet that I can get to and I can cook on the stove if I reach over the kitchen island and the four inch gap to the stove and stand on my tip toes. I can reach the microwave enough to slide a dish inside and hit the controls but I'm stretched way sideways to do it. The alternative is to eat out all the time and I'll have to tell you, that gets darned expensive. Thus, we here at Chez Disaster on Wheels have not been in the best of moods lately. And yes, I'm very whiny.

On the positive side, by being here in Oklahoma City, currently known as Limbo, I was able to meet up with a high school classmate who had driven down from Tulsa to bring her friend to the OU Medical Center for a procedure. We met down in Bricktown for lunch (which was at the corner of Sheridan and Mantle (for Mickey) Blvd. near Johnny Bench Dr. ((go Big Red Machine!))) It was great to hear about her life in the forty+ years since we graduated and Denny and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Leigh Anne and meeting her long time friend Sheila. Visiting with them and getting out of The Beast for a while was just what the doctor ordered.

Word is, come this weekend Boris and Natasha might just blow into town too. Limbo's looking better.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Timely Windy, Rainy Day

We're still sitting at the casino "campground", waiting for Monday to arrive to take The Beast to the RV service center to have our slideout looked at and hopefully repaired. Denny and I did manage to play golf on Wednesday, ate our Thanksgiving dinner at the Rez, the casino's restaurant, and then ventured out to the town of Yukon to hit a big box store to replace Denny's wireless mouse. The mouse was yet another victim of our travels; its wireless USB connector was broken when Denny's laptop got bounced around on Arkansas'/Oklahoma's horrible concrete sections of I-40.

Perhaps it is the area, or because we arrived after 10 AM and the big surge of shoppers had been out early, but the store we chose was uncrowded and we walked away with the new mouse, a new desktop computer for me and a Christmas gift for one of our granddaughters. I had been waiting for the Christmas sales to replace my old desktop which had been exhibiting the blue screen of death on a frequent basis. Recently my laptop, which is a refurbished model, starting taking five minutes to download a web page, despite frequent disk clean ups and defrags and the transfer of all my photographs to an external hard drive. It was just tired, I guess. Since we were on a shopping roll, we hit another big box store which again was surprisingly not busy, and did some shopping for the other granddaughter. Wow, almost halfway finished with the Christmas shopping!

And now the fun begins; downloading my favorite programs to the new computer, transferring the files and having to deal with our daily download limits of our satellite Internet system. This morning I got up at 4:30 AM Central time to start some of the large downloads since I can do unlimited downloads between 2 AM and 7 AM Eastern time. Which means 1 AM to 6 AM here in Oklahoma. This will take a while and starting Monday chances are good that we'll have to stay in a motel for a few days while the service center works on our slideout--IF they can work on the slideout.

In the meantime, on this rainy, windy day I'll be sitting in front of two computers doing that familiar dance once again.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Good Writer

A good writer draws you in and takes you along for the ride. Today I share two: a story of roping a deer and one about rasslin' one.

You're welcome.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

I'm sitting on the banks of the Mississippi River in a downpour, amid flood warnings, waiting for RV dealers to open up because we have a problem.

Yesterday when we arrived in West Memphis, Arkansas I started to open the kitchen slideout and noticed that our flooring was ripping as the slide out was moving out. I stopped it, called Denny in and we tried to figure out what was going on. At first I thought one of my carving knives had fallen out of the knife rack and had gotten caught up under the slide, digging it into the floor. Getting down on our bellies showed us one of the roller brackets/mountings under the slideout had broken. Gah! Since the slideout was already half way out we tried to put a piece of board under the metal mount to lift it--no dice. The floor and flooring were already damaged so we just put the slideout all the way out.

We are en route to Albuquerque to visit Denny's sister and to do some house maintenance and repairs for her, so I called her to see if we could stay with her if we had to leave the rig for several days at a dealership out there. That was fine. Okay, it's too late to call the dealership so I'll do that tomorrow. No sleep, thunderstorms started at 3AM. Up at 4:30AM to brainstorm. At 7AM our time I called our service department in Elkhart, Indiana to see what could be done. The verdict? 7-14 days to order the flooring, 2 days to repair the slideouts. However, the service department has moved and they do not have hook ups for us to camp and wait until they re-open after the Thanksgiving weekend and the local campground closes tomorrow. Great. Once we close the kitchen slideout we're afraid to open it again, but it will take four days to get to Albuquerque and three more for the dealership to open so that's seven days without access to our stove, microwave and refrigerator. Hmm. I can live with the torn flooring but the slideout has to be fixed.

Next option; call local Memphis RV service departments--a two month waiting list. Mississippi, same deal. Arkansas, the same. I hit pay dirt at a dealership in Oklahoma City, but we'd have to wait until Monday. Okay, I guess we're going to be eating out a lot until after this slideout is repaired. In the pouring rain (deluge, actually) we pulled in the slideouts (cringing the entire time) and lifted the jacks and off we headed for western Arkansas. And now that we're set up for the night, it's time to start cancelling campground reservations and apologizing to Denny's sister; we'll still try to make it out there to take care of a couple of her repairs, but it will be a case of getting those jobs done and then heading for Mesa, Arizona. Albuquerque is going to be awfully darned cold and possibly snowy in December and we don't want to linger. And doesn't this always happen when I make pre-paid, non-refundable reservations?

At least there's a steakhouse just around the corner from the campground--that's where I'm heading for dinner tonight!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Yes, we're still alive. I just haven't been able to wrap my head around a blog post for some reason. I did start another blog because my web hosting site for my full time RVer information has been making more changes and messing things up so I'll be dropping that after the first of the year. Pages from that web site will now be individual blog posts which I'll update as needed. That has distracted me from this blog.

We left Myrtle Beach, had our brakes checked by the fine folks at Camper Connection in MB who as always were honest with us and told us we didn't need any brake adjustments because we had automatically adjusting brakes, contrary to what our RV dealer's service department had told us. Okay, that's nice to know! They always do great work for us (remember the fried appliance fiasco from last year? They worked with us on that one.) We spent two days at Greensboro, Georgia to ensure that we'd drive through Atlanta, GA on a Sunday (smooth sailing) and we arrived in Langston, Alabama Sunday afternoon for a week of visiting friends Tim and Penny and pick up our new chairs they had ordered for us.

The cat has been vomiting for three days and last night urinated on our comforter which had been kicked off the bed, which meant an unexpected 40 mile round trip to town to visit the laundromat. In the rain, on twisty mountain roads with one lane bridges over water falls. Yeah, not fun.

On the plus side, there is a pair of nesting bald eagles on the small island across the lake from our trailer. They are too far away to get a good photograph of them, but our binoculars allow us to watch them. Such majestic birds. Denny and I have a great view of the lake out of our large rear living room window and we've been watching the grebes, Canada geese and Great Blue Herons feeding near the shoreline of the lake while it rains. And our neighbor has been practicing playing his wooden flute that he bought while in Arizona; handmade by a Native American and inlaid with turquoise stones the flute is a work of art as well as a finely crafted instrument. Marty has been playing those haunting Native American songs that make me yearn for the desert and red rocks of the West.

There has been quite a change in the area but not for a good reason; this past spring tornadoes struck the area tearing down trees and damaging homes and businesses. The town of Albertville has also been hard hit by the legislation passed by the state of Alabama that allows for law enforcement officers to check the paperwork of people they stop on the road (it's more complicated than that.) The result has been a mass evacuation of the Hispanic population, leaving the local poultry factories without workers, homes and apartments and even pets abandoned and the local economy going down the tubes. Which includes our friends and their business. It's going to be a long haul for everyone, I'm afraid.

Denny and I did hear from the detective in Myrtle Beach who has been working on our stolen wallet complaint; he found a surveillance video with the suspects using our ATM card and will be putting out that information to the media. It's nice to know that the incident is being taken seriously but I have a feeling ours wasn't an isolated incident either. We're still working on getting Denny's insurance cards and driver's license and other cards replaced and dealing with the credit union trying to get our funds returned. Everything takes longer when you're on the road and mail has to catch up to you.

Okay, I think we're caught up for now. Good talking to ya. More later.

Monday, October 24, 2011


As you can see from the photograph above, we were having a pleasant evening around the campfire Friday night. It was the last night of our son and daughter-in-law's week long visit with us and our MB group was in fine spirits as usual. One of our group was trying to take our picture and her flash wouldn't work on her camera so she asked me to get my camera from our rig to take some pictures. Our rig was just a few paces away, located catty-corner to the empty site we were sitting at with our fire, with the back/street side exposed to us and the front/side door facing the beach road away from us.

As I approached the door I noticed the screen door was open and my thought was that the kids (sorry, Darb and Net) had not secured the door latch well when they came out after us. I grabbed the camera, called for the cat and went back to the group to give them the camera and tell Denny that I thought Patches had gotten out the door. Some of the group saw Patches under the fifth wheel that was parked in the adjacent site and we were able to chase her back into our trailer and close the screen door again. We sat and talked for a couple more hours and then the party broke up for the evening. Denny went into our bedroom and asked me if I had put his shorts away. He had been wearing shorts during the day, but the evening hours had gotten cold so he changed into jeans, leaving his wallet in his shorts. The shorts were no longer on the bed, so I searched the laundry basket, the drawers, the closet, on the floor--all over. Hmm. I went back into the living room and called the kids to see if they had accidentally picked up Denny's shorts with their stuff and they answered "no." So I searched again. And again. And finally we considered the possibility of theft, so I called our credit card company to see if any charges had been made on the card and indeed there had been, so we then called the local police department to make a report.

Now understand; our living room and dining room lights were on, there was a huge security light at the edge of the road next to our site and eight of us were sitting 30 feet away on the far back side of the trailer out of site but certainly in a position to come back to the trailer at any moment, plus there were two cars parked on our site. These people apparently waltzed in off the beach (the campground has security at the entrance) or were people camping here who had been watching us and our routine and knew we weren't in the trailer. Regardless, it was brazen and ballsy. The good news is that they only grabbed the shorts and didn't look around for my purse or any jewelry, my iPhone that was sitting on the counter, etc.

And now the fun begins; two separate police reports from two separate jurisdictions since the theft was in one jurisdiction and the credit cards were used in another (they do things differently down here), having both our credit union and credit card company fax affidavits to the police department so the officer would take a report, arrange to have a new Medicare card sent by mail, arrange to have a new Texas driver's license mailed to us, change credit cards for those companies that auto bill our account, blah, blah, blah. All of which is much harder to do when you are on the road.

So now after coming to this campground for 18 years without any thought or concern to our security we will be locking our doors whenever we leave the trailer. And that s*cks.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Down Time

I realize I've been AWOL for several days.  That will probably continue as the RV Vagabonds are spending the next five weeks here at Myrtle Beach.  That means a lot of walking the beach looking for beach glass and sharks' teeth with the main destination being the state park pier where there is an ice cream freezer.  The park staff is very generous when they make ice cream cones and the mile long walk back to the campground helps remove a few of the calories said ice cream cone adds to our bodies.

We have a couple of repairs to be made to the rig, which will be worked on here on our campsite this morning.  Gotta love mobile RV repair service.  It's raining so I didn't make it to the beach for the sunrise but there will be other days.  After the repairmen leave I might work on replacing the wallpaper border in the bathroom, or read a book, or update my journal.  That's how life goes on the beach--there's a lot of quiet time.  If I need activity, there's the Wii Fit or Just Dance 2 or Walk with Leslie or even some Sweatin' with the Oldies and Richard Simmons.

What there probably won't be are a lot of blog posts.  You may find some photographs on my Facebook or Webshots page but that will be about it.  MB for us is a place to kick back, socialize with the neighbors at happy hour, get maintenance done and breathe deeplyNone of which makes fascinating blog fodder, although you never know what might pop up.

Until then, I'll be on the beach--see ya around.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

An Up and Down Week

 It's been an odd week here in Virginia.  We arrived with the intention of meeting a fellow blogger, but continuing health issues on her end put the kibosh on that.  We were saddened by the fact because we had been talking about meeting for the past two years, but certainly Denny and I didn't want to use up her meager energy resources.

We're parked backed up to the north fork of the Shenandoah River just a few miles north of the Shenandoah National Park, so naturally a trip to the park was on our agenda.  Which means that the weather absolutely refused to cooperate and it rained for most of the week.  On Monday the skies cleared in the morning so Denny and I hopped into the truck for a brief foray into the park, knowing we had to keep it fairly short since we had a 2 PM tee time in the afternoon.  The views from the various overlooks within the first five miles of the park were wonderful and while the air wasn't fall-crisp the humidity was low enough to get some decent photos.

We bumped into a man that had stopped in the middle of the road, finally pulling off so we could go by and asked if perhaps he had seen a bear to cause him to stop like that.  Indeed he had, but his camera wasn't ready so he missed his shot.  And we were that close to having seen the bear also.
It was shortly after that that our luck ran out and we ran into rain clouds at the 2400 foot level of the hills and there were to be no more photographs or magnificent views from the scenic overlooks--the fog/clouds totally obliterated the roadway and we crept along for another twenty miles before exiting the park to return to the campground.
We did get to see a waterfall in our travels--it's just that it happened to be on the eighteenth green of the Blue Ridge Shadows Golf Course where we played later that afternoon. Oh well, beggars can't be chosers!
Another disappointment this week was in the fact that I had to cancel our reservations to camp on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  Hurricane Irene destroyed large sections of Highway 12 on the Outer Banks and we wouldn't be able to get to our campground as the road repairs have not yet been completed.  So there's another item to put on our "someday" list.

What we have gotten accomplished are minor "honey do" jobs and routine maintenance on Black Beauty  so we're hoping our fuel mileage will increase once more with the new fuel filters and oil change.  The tires on the truck and the rig have both been checked because we're pulling out today, heading for Williamsburg.  The last time we were in the Williamsburg area we stayed at a campground that was located right next to the railroad tracks and at 2:30 in the morning we were awakened by the blast of a train whistle and thought we were going to get run down it sounded so close!  Even closer was a poor young couple in a tent literally right next to the tracks (which were actually hidden by a thick line of trees and bushes)--when we spoke to them the next morning they truly thought they were going to die because it sounded to them like the train was right on top of them!  Memories!

And I guess Denny and I will have to eat the entire apple/blueberry pie he baked for Skippy all by ourselves.  The sacrifices we make, sometimes!
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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cleaning Up

Despite the recent rains, Denny and I have been busy cleaning up the rig in between sightseeing and playing golf. So many campgrounds no longer allow you to wash your RV so the Beast was looking pretty grungy, especially his bug splattered front cap. We were given permission to wash the rig here and took advantage of that fact, including washing the exterior windows and I even scrubbed the smoke film off the underside of the awning. Camp fires do leave an oily film on surfaces, especially when folks burn whatever they can put their hands on, which is what we ran into at a campground in Massachusetts.

That being done, I decided to look around on my blog and see what I could clean up, such as links to bloggers who no longer maintain an active blog. Imagine my chagrin when I discovered that the link to my own fulltimer's website, RV Vagabonds, was not working. After some double checking I discovered my web hosting service had changed the ISP address on my site so I had to correct that also. Talk about feeling like a dunce for not paying more attention! Updating that web site will be my next big project, I guess.

I also corrected the map down in the lower right hand corner of the blog. The one that lists all the states we've visited? You will note that there are no longer any blank states there. Yep, by stopping here in Maryland Denny and I have now fulfilled our first goal of visiting all fifty states. We still have to play golf in Oklahoma before we can say that we've played golf in all 50 states but then we'll have fulfilled our secondary goal. Yes, we could have done all that in a couple of years but we were in no rush, having no "home" to return to other than the one on wheels. Next month we'll be returning to Myrtle Beach, which is where our fulltiming life began, making the cycle complete.

Are we done? Not hardly. We haven't seen Yosemite, the Arches, Lake Tahoe or much of the Oregon coastline. But we're getting closer to the time when we'll look for a residence that doesn't move. As long as I can find a place on the ocean with a mountain view and no bugs or humidity and a moderate climate. Yeah, not so easy to do, which is a reason we're still out here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Day Two of Speed Touring Washington, D.C.

On Day two of our Old Town Trolley tour we got on at Union Station once again and thus got a review of what we had seen the day before from the same trolley driver. We even had the same weather; gray, dreary and misty. I had hoped for a sunny day to showcase the deep red brick of the Smithsonian Castle, which is now a visitor center.
Since the Capitol Building wasn't open for tours on Sunday, Denny and I decided to tour Arlington National Cemetery. Once there, your choices are to wander the huge and hilly grounds on foot or to pay for trolley tour of the three main sites. Denny was all for the trolley tour so that's what we did. There are many, many sections, thousands of graves, special memorials to women, unknown soldiers, chaplains, Afro-Americans, officers--you name it. Of course, the most recognized areas are those of the eternal flame and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.We are told that the cemetery will be full by the year 2060. Wives and/or children are buried on top of the veteran buried in a site; up to three family members can be placed in one grave site.

This is a quiet place, with most of the tourists observing the requests for silence and respect. The largest crowds are at the site of the eternal flame.
Twin anomalies of the cemetery are the white wooden crosses marking the grave sites of Bobby and Edward Kennedy. Theirs are the only grave sites with wooden crosses.
You are free to get off the trolley tour and wander wherever you like on the grounds. There were many people walking, obviously searching for a family member or loved one among the thousands of matching tombstones.
The quietest spot in the entire cemetery was at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier; although a huge crowd was seated to watch the changing of the guards there was not a whisper nor a cough to be heard. The precision and care of the soldiers' routine was impressive and something Denny and I will not soon forget.
The final stop of the Arlington trolley tour was at the Arlington House. Once owned by General Robert E. Lee who lost the home because he could/would not return from the war to pay the taxes in person as was the law then, the mansion sits empty now although it is open to tourists. From the front porch you look over all over Washington, D.C.
It was time to board the Old Town Trolley once again to visit the Museum of Natural History. I knew that Denny would only be good for one museum on this day and I had an item on my bucket list--to see the Hope Diamond.

Denny and I did wander the museum, seeing the displays on mammals, sea life, geology and more, but the hills and steps were taking a toll on Denny's hips, so we called it a day. Although we were still in for an hour's trip back home by Metro and truck, somewhat delayed by the huge throngs of Redskins fans returning from a winning game. Thank goodness they were all going the other way!
Washington, D.C. is not an area to try to see in only two days. The opportunities to learn, see and do here are fabulous and the fact that all of the Smithsonian museums are free to the public is wonderful. Although I wouldn't want to live here, it is a great place to visit.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Speed Touring Washington, D.C.

Allow me to say right off the bat, I am a small town girl. Growing up, going to downtown Dayton, Ohio to view Rike's Christmas displays in their windows or seeing a movie at the RKO Keith was a big deal where you dressed up and rode the bus or Mom took Dad to work so she could have the car to drive us there. So the thought of having to deal with the Metro train's fare cards and transfers was a tad intimidating to me until we arrived at the Largo Town Center lot. There I asked the very friendly and helpful station master to walk me through purchasing fare cards for where I wanted to go. I had picked a weekend for our time to visit downtown Washington, D.C. since the parking was free at the Metro lot and the website said there would actually be spaces available to park there. There were no other passengers around when we arrived, so the station manager chatted with us as he showed me how to purchase the fare cards, pointing out that the fares were also discounted on the weekends (I wouldn't have known that) and explaining the stops and how to find our way back to the Largo stop when we finished our sightseeing. That was certainly a nice welcome to Washington!
I had chosen the Old Town Trolley tour company for our tour as we've had good experiences with them in other cities. Their employees are always friendly and very knowledgeable about their city and are usually able to answer any question you may throw at them. Our thought was to hit some of the highlights of Washington, D.C. and perhaps wander a couple of the museums on our second day of the tour (I chose to book two days, knowing one would not be enough.) With these tours you can get off and on at the various stops at will, exploring that area and then hopping on another trolley when it comes by (usually about every 30 minutes or so.)

Denny and I explored the Holocaust Museum first. This is not part of the Smithsonian system of museums, however unlike many of the other private museums in town, the Holocaust Museum is free to the public. For the most part you can't take photographs of the exhibits, so I have no pictures but allow me to say this is a must-see for those coming to visit Washington, D.C. I still find it incredible that one man's insanity brought about the deaths of so many people. The people visiting the museum were very quiet as they walked through--it has that effect on you.

Of course at each stop you can wander further afield on your own and find museum after museum and building after building to explore. We chose to hop back on the trolley and ride down to the Jefferson Memorial and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial.

Notice the people looking upward at the walls at the Jefferson Memorial--they were reading the words of this great statesman, taking the time to absorb the thoughts inscribed there. These memorials are not only awesome for their size and grandeur, but for how well thought out their designs are.

Denny and I enjoyed the FDR Memorial. It stretches along a wide, meandering path, filled with flowers, greenery and waterfalls as well as statuary. It is a place to relax and to think. And to rub the head of FDR's little dog as many have done--you can tell by the shiny yellow ears. FDR's knee has also been rubbed by many a hand.

From the FDR Memorial we walked to the newest memorial; that of Martin Luther King Jr. His words too are engraved along the wall that surrounds the memorial and the two split rocks/mountains that comprise the memorial are quite unusual.

From the MLK Jr Memorial we walked to the Lincoln Memorial--it's certainly not that far but this walking was starting to add up for Denny. Next up; the Korean War Veterans' Memorial, the Vietnam War Veterans' Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial.

Arriving at the Korean War Veterans' Memorial I wondered if the fact that it was called "the forgotten war" caused the sculptor of the soldiers to cast the figures in aluminum which gives them an ethereal quality, especially on a drab and rainy day.

This is the first place I cried and it was because of the real veterans being pushed to the memorial in wheelchairs and listening as other visitors bent over and quietly thanked them for their service. There was a quiet and humble pride in the demeanor of these aged men who came to visit this place created to honor them.
Still misty-eyed, I then walked to "The Wall"--that memorial honoring the men of my age group. So many people stood searching for names of those they knew, loved and lost, all under the eternally watchful eyes of the three soldiers cast in bronze behind them.

Walking over to the Lincoln Memorial gave me a bit of time to blink the tears from my eyes before the climb up the stairs to see the statue of that great man. After taking the same photograph as hundreds of thousands of people have taken in the past, I walked to the steps to take a photograph of what was once the reflecting pool. This was perhaps our only disappointment in our trip to Washington; that the reflecting pool has been dug up for repairs and rebuilding. Of course, we had to skip climbing up the stairs of the Washington Monument also, since cracks developed in the walls after the recent earthquake in Virginia. But that iconic view from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument was gone.
And way down there across the street and leaning on a concrete pylon was our man Denny, who refused to climb any more stairs on this day, other than the ones leading up into the trolley cars.

Waiting for said trolley, we spied Benjamin Franklin using a bit of modern technology to get around.

There are monuments and statuary everywhere you turn in Washington, D.C.

Denny finally called time out so we boarded the trolley for the final time that day to return to Union Station, our starting point. Of course, we had yet another photo opportunity at the Capitol building as we drove by.
And thus ended day one of speed touring Washington, D.C.

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