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.
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