Wednesday, November 15, 2017

California

They had a busy schedule set with happy hour at 4pm (Naturally) and trips to the nearby casino buffet, a cruise on Lake Mead and much much more.
Lots of questions about our European trip too.

We had a blast with the Shanty Shakers and when it came time to move on we decided to visit Death Valley for the first time. This is probably the best time of year to visit as the temperatures were in the 80's instead of the 110's like they get in the summer months.

We made sure we filled up before crossing into California as recent gas tax hikes there have regular gas costing over $3 a gallon and often MUCH more. As we wandered thru the hills and the desert we started feeling like we'd never left California.

On the steep downgrade before Furnace Creek we came across a Highway Patrol vehicle blocking the whole road. At first we thought there had been an accident but the we noticed a mounted Honor Guard at the side of the road. The Police Officer came over and said “You'll have to wait until the Wagon Train gets moving then follow me with your 4 ways on.

The Honor Guard
And just like that we were the first vehicle behind the “Pioneer Days” parade! People lining the street in Furnace Creek were waving to us as if we were part of the parade! When we stopped now and again we explained we were not the last vehicle in the parade but just the first vehicle in the traffic jam!
Real wagons

The Wagon Train heading out
We decided to stop for the night in Stovepipe Wells as Furnace Creek was jammed full of people for the Pioneer days event. We parked in the campground and using our National Park passes got partial hookups for $7.50 a night and were rewarded with a nice sunset that I just had to sit and paint before bedtime.

National Parks CG in Stovepipe Wells

My sunset painting

The hills are very steep getting in and out of Death Valley. Furnace Creek is 190 feet below sea level and the road out gets to 5000' ABOVE. There wasn't much traffic luckily and I was a good guy, pulling into to turnoffs along the way if cars started to back up behind.
Desert Hills
We decided that we would head towards the Escapees Park near Temecula CA, Jojoba Hills. I got tired from concentrating on the winding desert roads and we pulled into a Walmart at Joshua Tree but soon found there was an Elks Lodge at Twenty Nine Palms with hook ups so we stayed there instead.

Finally we got to Jojoba Hills but it was Sunday and the both the electronic gate and the office were closed. We used our secret weapon to get in. The cell phone! Our friends Marty and Peggy MacCauley have a site in the park and came and let us in. Being Sunday we had to park in the Boondocking (no hookup) section but we were fine with that.
Lovely boondocking area in Jojoba Hills
Marty and Peggy picked us up in their golf cart and we did the full tour of the quite wonderful park and it facilities then we all went out for dinner at a local restaurant.
Marty and Peggy
Next morning we went to the office and paid for 2 nights then later we went to the “Friendship Hall” for free ice cream Sundays and the monthly park meeting where all the business matters are discussed. 
Pool area at the Friendship Hall

Million dollar view from the patio

All 4 of us for free ice cream.

Then after another dinner out with Peggy and Marty we sat on their patio sipping beer and wine and catching up on the news with them.
Sunset Jojoba
We liked it so much we put a refundable deposit down to get on the waiting list for a place in the park. We're number 60 on the list so it may be a while before we get a call!

Next stop was San Diego. We had reservations at our old haunt the Thousand Trails Pio Pico park but not for this week so we had to find somewhere for 4 nights. Chula Vista Elks Lodge has 27 full hookups spaces and we were soon settled in. A lady came by and told us there was lunch available at the lodge, which turned out to be the “Lady Elks” Thanksgiving lunch so we had the full turkey meal with all the fixings!


Our friend Mike Trimble Then dropped by (With bottle of Tequila!) and we were catching up on the news with him and having dinner at the lodge too! Many plans were made for the rest of our stay so we could catch up with our many San Diego friends and neighbors.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Drifting thru Texas and on to Las Vegas

Especially when they mentioned that the nearby town of Muenster TX was having Octoberfest while we would be there!

We passed thru Muenster a couple of years back when we drove across to the East Coast and had fond memories of the town and the road it's on Rt 82, In and out-of-texas

Our friends Karen and Paul, who we met the first time we stayed in Casa Grande, have been work camping in Sanger TX for the summer. We found a KOA nearby and booked in for 3 nights.

Nice Elks Lodge near Sanger TX
It's such fun catching up with the news when you haven't seen someone for year or so. We spent a couple of pleasant evenings sitting outside and just talking.

On Sunday we all piled into their car and drove up to Muenster for the “October Fest” Luckily it was in a large purpose built building because the weather had turned really cold. So much so that we disconnected the water hose on Saturday night to stop it freezing, and got out the big warm bedspread.

We sampled some beers and some German food, Paul and Karen are good dancers and as soon as they walked in and heard the band playing they were on the dance floor.


Karen and Paul tearing up the dance floor again.
There were lots of booths selling trinkets, food and snacks, I bumped into a couple of people in the food line and we were soon talking full timing and travel.

After a winery tour and a last dinner together, it was time to move on, so reluctantly we packed up the rig and headed West. We'll see Karen and Paul again in Casa Grande at Christmas.

Not good at these night time selfies!
Being the “No Plan Kids” we had a quiet, slow trip down Rt 82 in mind with stops in Wichita Falls and Lubbock. Then winds of change blew and instead we ended up in Abilene! Can't really say why, except Wichita Falls was too close and Lubbock to far away!

We had seen on FB that our Aussie friends Mike and Lynne were back in the US after a couple of months back home. We called them up to find out how they are doing and where they're planning on going next. It sounds like they did well storing their RV in Bakersfield during the summer and now they are headed towards Nevada and Utah, they thought we might get together in Arizona sometime, and apparently Fred and Judy are planning a trip out that way too so we better practice our “Mexican Train” and “Farkle” skills! When they mentioned they were going to Las Vegas we sent them details of an RV Rally being put on by the Shanty Shaker RV club. They thought that might be fun and signed up for it.

Somehow the winds of change have decided to blow us in some decidedly different directions because after Abilene we just kept going and going. In a couple of days, instead of the intended week or so, we were in Casa Grande AZ and camped at our winter quarters for 2 days catching up with the news and playing darts!

Wondering what to do with the extra days we now had before heading to San Deigo we called our friends John and Debbie who live in Prescott AZ and got invited to stay with them. Prescott is about halfway to Las Vegas NV we thought. (actually it's only about 1/3 of the way!)


John and Debbie
We also decided to surprise Mike and Lynne plus our Shanty Shaker RV friends by going to the rally there! Boy we're even surprising OURSELVES now!
Las Vegas lights.
Well we really did surprise Mike an Lynne and they in turn surprised us because instead of 2 Aussies there were 4! Their friends John and Daryn showed up too.

Slot machines in the Las Vegas Albertson's supermarket!!
The Shanty Shakers were out in force for this one, almost 50 people which apparently is their biggest Rally yet. The bright lights of Las Vegas must have really tempted them. It was so good to meet all our old friends and make some more new ones. They had a busy schedule set with happy hour at 4pm (Naturally) and trips to the nearby casino buffet, a cruise on Lake Mead and much much more.

Lake Mead paddle wheeler

Heading out on Lake Mead

The Mod Museum. Bloodstained wall from the St Valentine Day's Massacre.
Lots of questions about our European trip too.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Abita Springs LA to Livingston TX

Abita Springs was a nice place to spend a week. We made lots of visits to the local brew pub and brewery for lunches and dinner. Of course Louisiana has the best food anywhere, so we ate out several times.
Plenty of choices at the Abita Brewery
One really good find was a small grocery store on River Road in Destrahan where we stopped for a sandwich on the way to tour a plantation house. We had expected a sandwich wrapped in plastic from a refrigerator. What we found was a kitchen serving fresh Poboy sandwiches to order. We ordered a combination seafood 12” which we intended to split between us. We bought a bag of chips each to go with it.
Once featured on "American Pickers" the Abita Mystery House is a must see.

Very curious but fun place, the best museum that we've experienced for $3!
When we got it I could barely lift it! No sub roll here, it was a 12” long LOAF and so stuffed with shrimp and catfish that it spilled everywhere when we unwrapped it. We didn't have room for chips after we finished. Or dinner that night either!
National Museum of WW2
The World War 2 museum downtown in New Orleans was huge and took all day to see. The theme took you along the path of an actual person which you followed using “Dog Tags” to log onto displays scattered thru the exhibits. I was fascinated and I think Barbara was happy enough to go along too.
Plantation house in Destrehan LA

Reproduction slave quarters
We attempted to see some of the classic sights in New Orleans such as Mardi Gras World, Jackson Square, Bourbon Street etc., but parking was the usual expensive hassle and we decided that as we'd seen it all when we lived here 35 years ago we'd give it a miss.

Instead we crossed the Mississippi to the “West Bank” and searched for the house we lived in in Harvey. We thought it was HUGE back then. Having recently arrived from UK. In our minds we had a huge lot too. In reality it was quite a nice rancher, showing it's age. The lot was really small we discovered. Smaller I think than the one in San Diego. It's funny how memories don't measure up to reality sometimes!
Our old house on Dulaney Drive in Harvey LA
A week was enough in the condo and “Hitch Itch” reared it's ugly head again. At the back of our minds the start of our trip West for the winter has been lurking. I made a “Multi Stop Trip” in the GPS. Barbara and I talked about some of the places we'd like to see along the way and roads we'd like to travel. Of course we don't like Interstates especially I10 which is the main East-West route across the South.

We've driven it several times going coast to coast and the rough surfaces and heavy truck traffic were not attracting us to do it again.

Fortunately Rt 190 went right from Abita Springs thru Louisiana into Texas to Livingston where the headquarters for our favorite RV Club the Escapees (SKP's) is located. That had to be fate!

Nice and quiet in the SKP Rainbows End RV Park
Of course it turned out that Rt 190 was pretty rough in places too but there was almost no traffic and we happily cruised at 57mph and got nearly 8 mpg! (well it's better than the 5 to 6 we get going 65 on the Interstates. Wouldn't you like to get a 17% improvement in your fuel economy??

Texas opened it's arms to us. Gas in Livingston was $1.99 a gallon, the SKP's had room for us, there was a “Happy Hour” the first night, an ice cream social the next. We needed our propane tank filling and the local source even gave us a discount for being SKP's
We like being SKP's.

$1.99 a gallon? No problem in Livingston TX
After we posted on Facebook that we were in Texas our friends Karen and Paul contacted us to say they were north of Dallas doing their work camping for the summer in a park near Sanger. It took all of 5 seconds to change our route to include a few days visiting them. Especially when they mentioned that the nearby town of Muenster TX was having Octoberfest while we would be there!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Painting and drawing

Some of the sketches and watercolor paintings I've been doing in campgrounds for my own satisfaction. I try and select subjects I'm not good at to help me improve. This has been vehicles and RV's lately. I'm quite happy with the improvement.


Sumpter Oaks Florida colored pencils

Sumpter Oaks, colored pencils

Foscue Alabama watercolors

Bonningen Switzerland, colored pencils

Weston Super Mare, UK. Colored pencils 

Oswestry UK, colored pencils

Mosel Castle Germany, watercolors

Orlando Florida, colored pencils


Saturday, October 14, 2017

Time to get going.


We had our trials.
Chased out of Florida by Irma,
Fiesta had a starting problem.
Blew a rear tire on the RV.
Smashed the lid of the casserole dish when we put the slide out.

Our neighbor at Foscue COE Park
But then we randomly picked an area to stop at halfway between Summerville and Birmingham AL and discovered a super Corps of Engineers (COE) facility called Foscue Park.
A nice quiet spot to camp
Foscue was such a pretty place we extended our stay from 2 days to 4, I even broke out my paints and did a watercolor painting of our view across the lake. The rest of the time we sat outside and watched the egrets fishing and the turtles sunning themselves on a log. Such a stressful time!

The thing about COE Parks is that they accept the National Parks Senior Pass. That normally gets us into ALL National Parks free and gets us up to 50% off camping too. Our stay in Foscue was $13 a night instead of $28, which paid the $25 cost of the pass several times over, never mind all the money we've saved in the last 2 years going to all the Parks.

An old grist mill.
We had 4 new rear tires fitted by a shop in Birmingham. We also had reservation at a campground (without a deposit) and there was an Elks Lodge that has camping near Birmingham so we went to see what the Lodge was like and if we liked it we could cancel the campground reservation! Turns out the camping at the lodge was less than ideal with car and train noise but for a couple of nights we made do and we had a lot of fun with fellow Elks in the lodge.

A big vintage/antique motorcycle event near Birmingham caught my attention and we decided to do Friday there as the rest of the weekend could be pretty busy. That turned out the be an excellent idea as the crowds weren't bad at all, but more importantly ANOTHER hurricane was on it's way and headed for this area.

MV Augusta racer.

Barber had a LOT of motorcycles

I could paint these bikes for ever.
Hurricane Nate was due Saturday night Sunday morning and discretion being the better part of valor we headed out!

The best direction to avoid the storm was West and the second best North. When we looked on the map there was our old favorite Memphis just 275 miles North West of us! 

We hit the road Saturday morning and stopped a night in Walmart in Tupelo Mississippi.
MMMM, Charlie Vergos BBQ!!
That broke the trip into 2 reasonable legs 175 and 100 miles each.
After 3 nights at Graceland RV Park and a delicious night out at the Charlie Vergos BBQ restaurant followed by some nice micro brews at the Flying Saucer Taproom we upped sticks again and headed due SOUTH!
Porter ale at Flying Saucer
King cotton ready for harvest


Baled and ready to go.
Wait a minute I thought we were supposed to going west towards our winter spot in Casa Grande AZ??

Well we have a week off!
Well a week out of the rig anyway. How come? We still own a timeshare near New Orleans and we called to ask if we could swap one of our weeks for a week there now and they said yes.

This will be only the second time we've stayed at our home resort IN 35 YEARS OF OWNING IT!

Indian Mounds in Mississippi
That meant a nice leisurely drive from Memphis to Abita Springs along the “Great River Road” thru Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana, taking time to visit the Indian Mounds and the Vicksburg National Military Park. The "Great River Road" sounds really romantic and if you have visions of rolling along the banks of the great Mississippi River, forget it! You barely glimpse the river at all! But is was a very nice drive along a reasonable road with NO traffic.
USS Cairo, salvaged from the riverbed, on display in Vicksburg

Very similar to Gettysburg battlefield park, lots of monuments.