Our first few days on the road as full-time RVers proved to be rather interesting. Although we had previous RV experience, this was our first real experience (other than driving it from the dealer) with the fifth-wheel. Between the one ton dually pickup truck and fifth-wheel, we are just under fifty-four feet long. We quickly learned what “Big Rig” meant in Orlando and Tallahassee (Florida)!
The route we took in Alabama had very few campgrounds and we ended up having to boondock west of Montgomery. It was our first attempt at boondocking and the timing couldn’t have been worse. There was a heat wave hitting the Southern U.S. and temperatures were near or at 100 degrees. As Floridians we never had a problem with high temperatures, at least not until we drove away from that lovely Atlantic breeze!
We found ourselves driving earlier in the morning and pulling off as soon as the roadways got hot. We figured this would be the best way to escape the heat and keep our tires from melting!
Since our driving hours were limited, we slowly made it through Tupelo (Mississippi), Memphis (Tennessee) and then Arkansas. When we pulled into a campground near Little Rock (Arkansas) the thermometer read 103 degrees. As soon as we got into the air-conditioning we decided that we would skip the sightseeing until we headed into a cooler region. We were bound to come back this way again and hopefully it would be under cooler conditions.
Heading westward the temperatures were cooler and there were a few places we enjoyed on previous travels to the region and we decided to revisit. Not much how changed in Oklahoma… except the condition of the bridges and highways. We hit such a rough stretch of roadway on Interstate I-40 that several cabinet doors opened and we had to put duct tape across the handles. And these were brand new cabinets and latches! So we took a quick break in Oklahoma City and then scooted through the rest of Oklahoma in search of smoother roads.
I had always wanted to visit Roswell (New Mexico) so we planned to head that way next. Instead of continuing along Interstate I-40, we took a back road just west of Amarillo (Texas). This route took us through Clovis (New Mexico), down to Roswell.
Of course, we visited the International UFO Museum & Research Center. And to add to our visit, there was an older couple there filing a UFO report. On their way to visit Roswell, they actually saw a cigar-shaped UFO from their hotel room window! Looking back I have to laugh, but at the time it was pretty cool to hear their experience.
While in the area we also visited the Roswell Museum and Art Center, the Goddard Planetarium and a few other places. We also experienced our first laser car wash with the big dually truck and saw piranhas for the first time. The campground we stayed at actually had tanks of piranhas in the main office! Overall we had a great time in the area, and naturally bought way too many alien tee shirts. In fact, I’m still wearing one seven years later. Maybe they are made of alien technology?!
Our route took us to Ruidoso (New Mexico), another place that tested our big rig. Just maneuvering around the campground was a bit of a nightmare. Tree limbs caught on the top part of the slide-awnings and it looked like some lame attempt to camouflage our rig. Then as we were leaving the campground we heard a loud scrap. We stopped and I jumped out of the truck to see what hit. The ladder rack near our front landing gear actually scrapped the road. Thankfully nothing was damaged.
Driving through Alamogordo and Las Cruses (New Mexico) proved uneventful, although it is a very scenic drive. We did mark a few places to visit the next time we headed that way.
On previous vacations we had toured most of Arizona, so we didn’t spend much time visiting Tucson or Phoenix this time. We were eager to find ourselves in some new territory and we continued toward Kingman (Arizona).
One new place we looked forward to visiting was Hoover Dam (Nevada). Well, we had no idea what it would be like driving to Hoover Dam with our big rig. Now you have to remember that this was before GPS navigation systems were prevalent. We relied on road atlases and brochures. The directions we had showed taking Kingman Wash Access Road and Hoover Dam Access Road. So that’s where we headed.
Imagine our surprise when five miles from the dam we get stopped by Homeland Security to inspect our rig. They opened our compartments and then one officer said he would have to look inside. What took me by surprise was when my mom told the officer to wipe his feet before he went inside our home! He grinned and complied. Apparently his mother made him wipe his foot too.
We did have to explain why we carried four bottles of propane. Our generator actually runs on propane, so we told them we carried two tanks for the generator and two tanks for normal RV usage. They asked to see our generator to verify it ran on propane. After a few minutes, we were allowed to continue to the dam.
For some reason, I always pictured Hoover Dam as a long, straight drive. Nope! Hoover Dam Access Road proved to be a bit of a scary experience for us. With tourist looking at the dam and oncoming drivers crossing into our lane trying to avoid hitting tourists, we found ourselves holding our breath at every turn. But Hoover Dam is definitely worth seeing, even if you can’t take the “dam” tour in a big rig like we did several years ago.
After Lake Mead (Nevada), our next stop was Las Vegas (Nevada). This was our first visit to the infamous city and we were surprised that they have numerous RV parks in the area. The one we stayed at even had a shuttle to take guests to various hotels and casinos along the Strip. It was a great way for us to see the city without even having to unhook our truck.
What surprised me were all the buffets! They aren’t kidding when they joke about Las Vegas buffets. One we went to even had a time limit. Guests prepaid for the buffet and a time was stamped on their check. The check was placed in a holder on your table and your server had to make sure you didn’t overstay your ninety minute welcome. I thought that was a bit extreme, after all, who would stay that long at a buffet? At least, that’s what I thought until I saw the dessert bar!
After spending several days touring Las Vegas, we traveled northward to the remote Extraterrestrial Highway (Highway 375). Most people wouldn’t willingly drive their big rig (especially one that gets low mileage) through the desert, but after having visited Roswell we had to make the pilgrimage.
Personally, I found that after fifty miles of it, I wished I was abducted. The area is so barren and lonely; no wonder people welcome the aliens! Fortunately along the way is Rachel (Nevada) and the AL’E’INN. This is a little cafe and gift shop that has an alien theme.
When we walked inside, there was a man at the cafe counter. He was asking the waitress if she heard the funny noises and saw the “lights” the previous night. My Dad kept nudging me with his elbow. “Did you hear that?” he whispered. I just shook my head in acknowledgment and tried to keep my cool. I didn’t want to appear like a tourist! I’ll always wonder though if they were just putting on a show for the crazy Floridians with the over-sized RV or if he really did see mysterious lights over the desert.
I was a bit disappointed not to see any dark, unmarked vehicles on the highway; however, we did see some interesting rock piles by the road where it appeared that vehicles had drove into the desert. But if you ever find yourself along Nevada State Highway 375 be on the look-out for skinny green, silver-eyed hitchhikers!
The next stop on our route was Elko (Nevada). The scenery began to change from Elko to Twin Falls (Idaho). We continued toward Boise (Idaho) and then made our way to Baker City (Oregon).
The campground we stayed at was just a few miles from the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. Amazing to think we were following the footsteps of our ancestors… if only in a bigger wagon!
Soon after leaving Pendleton (Oregon), we continued northward and crossed the Columbia River into Washington. We had visited Washington before, but it was just a day-trip from Oregon. Now we were in new, unexplored territory. To us, our Full-Timing Adventure had officially begun!
We took time to sight-see Moses Lake (Washington) and the surrounding cities. This area is very popular with tourists and while we were there we actually spoke with people from other parts of the U.S.
Then we spent some time between Ephrata and Wenatchee (Washington). This is farm country and we enjoyed stopping at fruit and vegetables stands. The fields in this area have signs by the road that indicates what crop is being grown. A few crops, like peppermint, really didn’t require a sign. Even today when I get a whiff of peppermint and I think of that region of Washington.
Wenatchee is the Apple Capitol of the World and fortunately the apple harvesting was going on during our visit. There was a festival going on in a nearby town and we were able to take a tour of an apple processing plant.
While we were in the area we kept hearing about the Bavarian-themed town of Leavenworth (Washington) and planned to visit. On the way there we discovered the town of Cashmere (Washington), a small town dotted with antique malls and a candy factory. Of course, we had to stop and sample the candies! Fortunately we saved room for fudge, because when we arrived in Leavenworth we saw that practically every shop sold fudge.
We especially enjoyed Leavenworth and managed to make a few visits before we left the area. There was a festival going on during one visit and it certainly added to the area’s charm.
Before leaving that region of Washington, we visited the Gingko Petrified Forest, State Park in Vantage. When petrified wood was discovered in the area the park was created as a national historic preserve. The Forest is a registered national “natural” landmark. It is an amazing drive along the Columbia River and we found several rock shops nearby to stop and buy souvenirs.
We also saw Mount Rainier and a few other towns like Ellensburg (Washington). Although we enjoyed our time, we were really eager to explore the Pacific Northwest
We decided to spend the winter in the North Olympic Peninsula (or “NOP” as the locals say) and started to head that way. Since it was mid-October we never would have thought of snow, but we encountered snow flurries at Snoqualmie Pass and later learned that they closed the road behind us as conditions had gotten worse.
We honestly had no idea what we would be getting into around Seattle or Tacoma (Washington) with our big rig. And being unfamiliar with ferries and floating bridges, well, we had no idea what we would get into. So after Interstate I-5 we just took Highway 101 and crossed our fingers! That will probably be one of the longest, yet scenic routes we will ever have on our grand journey. And I wouldn’t hesitate to do it all over again.
Some places along Highway 101, we held up traffic because of our size and the narrow curves. Yet we pulled over as often as we could to let local traffic get around us. I think we may have actually got up to 40 mph at one point!
We made our way around historic Port Townsend and then on to Sequim (Washington). In Sequim we fueled up and found a place to park the rig while we grabbed a pizza. We joked about driving all the way from Florida to try their pizza and they were kind enough to give us one free! It was a nice welcome to the NOP.
As we got closer to Port Angeles (Washington), we found ourselves between Olympic National Park and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The campground was just west of Port Angeles along the Straits of Juan de Fuca and looking out; we could see the mountains of British Columbia (Canada) in the distance. Behind us was Olympic National Park. It was an amazing location with gorgeous views.
The area where we were staying was actually a ghost town of sorts. It was part of a logging community that no longer existed. Beside the campground was a historic cemetery and we ended up parked in the open spot closest to it. We made jokes about having “dead quiet” neighbors. Although with Halloween quickly approaching, I admit, I was a bit spooked. Little did I know that we would all have a reason to be later on!
The first week there we pretty much spent most of our time at the campground. From walking the beach to watching the surfers, we enjoyed being “home”. During the day the beach was active with surfers. Yes, surfers in Washington! They surf the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the colder months and aren’t afraid to don their wet suits and brave the cold for a few seconds on their boards.
I’ll admit that it did take some getting used to the noise. At night the beach is noisy as drifting logs get pounded against each other during the tidal changes. And the buoy noise! The first time I heard that I jumped out of bed thinking a ship was coming ashore.
During the second week of our stay, we woke up just after midnight to noise coming from the cemetery. Not knowing what was going on, we left the lights off and peeked out the dinette window. In the back corner of the cemetery was a figure with a flashlight and a shovel. Now this is why I don’t watch horror movies!
And to add to our growing concern, someone knocked on our door! My dad looked out the window and saw it was the current camp host. He opened the door to find out what was going on. Apparently, the host was out walking her dog and saw the light in the cemetery. Afraid to go any farther, she wanted to know if we could see anything from inside our fifth-wheel. We quietly explained what we saw and she said she would contact the campground owner immediately.
After the host went back to the safety of her motorhome, we sat in the dark at the dinette table peeking out. It was chilly outside, but we turned our furnace off for a few minutes and opened a window. We could hear the figure talking. It was a woman and it appeared that she was talking to herself. “It’s mine,” she kept repeating.
A set of headlights came down the hill and we could see the figure in the cemetery much clearer now. It was indeed a woman and she was shoveling! My mom went upstairs to peek out the master bedroom slide-window. It was the campground owner’s car and she had parked behind the cemetery visitor’s vehicle. She didn’t get out, she just wait until the sheriff came.
It didn’t take long for two sheriff vehicles to arrive. After a half hour another vehicle arrived. We sat in silence just watching from the window, unsure what was going on. As everyone started to leave, we had another knock on the door. The campground owner wanted to apologize to us and explain what happened. Apparently the woman was digging in the cemetery, looking for her mother’s ring. Unfortunately the woman suffered from mental illness and had actually been caught digging in the cemetery before. So don’t worry about the walking dead, it’s the roaming heirs you need to be wary of!
As the weeks went by we found ourselves keeping busy, from hiking the rainforest in search of waterfalls to visiting antique shops, we didn’t let the dropping temperatures spoil our fun. We purchased a pass for Olympic National Park and visited most popular areas such as Sol Duc Falls, Marymere Falls, Hurricane Ridge and Mount Olympus. Another favorite of ours was Crescent Lake.
Thanksgiving reminded us of our isolation as strong wind storm downed trees and left us without electricity and blocked the road the only road to town.
As winter progressed we were very fortunate with snowfall. Just a few times and not too heavy, although the cold winds remind you that winter can be unforgiving. I did love seeing the snow fall on the beach. Close to shore it stops – about two feet above the sand/water.
It was amazing what we saw at the beach in winter. One day we saw a small octopus had washed up and three bald eagles were tearing into it! If only I had my camera at the time– what a sight! And in addition to periodic whale sightings, we’ve also saw many submarines. They were heading out to the Pacific or heading back to Bremerton (Washington).
The next thing we knew it was 2008. We had seen a great deal in such a short amount of time. We looked forward to our adventures in the year ahead. And one of our first of the New Year was to visit Hoh Rainforest outside of Forks (Washington).
Ironically, I had not read any of the “Twilight Saga” while we were in Washington, so I had no idea that when we visited the town of Forks that we should be looking for vampires and werewolves instead of Bigfoot. Although, looking back at my photos of the Forks Timber Museum, it is possible I saw a werewolf. Or could it be a hairy lumberjack?
The Hoh Rainforest is one of my favorite parks. The area receives over one hundred inches of rainfall each year. An interesting thing about this region is the Bigfoot sightings along the Hoh River. We joked about stepping in Bigfoot poo along the trail (although it was more likely from some elk we spotted) and I purchased some Bigfoot souvenirs from a shop located just outside the park.
Our next adventure took us to Cape Flattery in the northwestern most point of the Continental U.S. – located on the edge of Neah Bay (Washington). It is a beautiful day-trip through the Makah Indian Reservation. The hike along the Cape Flattery Trail can be slippery if it’s raining, but well worth the effort. Tatoosh Island Lighthouse is three miles from shore and can be seen quite clearly from the end of the trail. The hardest thing is taking photos from the observation platform at the Cape. There are sea tunnels eroding away underneath you and giant waves shake the tunnels and, of course, you! An informational sign read that the area you are standing will be gone in 100 years from the constant erosion. Definitely one of the most memorable stops we had in Washington.
And just when our “dead quiet” neighbors hadn’t been giving us any trouble, we find activity going on in the historic cemetery again on our final week in the area. Only this time it was a handful of younger men and they were digging a grave. A member of the local Klallam tribe had passed away and he was to be buried there. The next day they held his funeral party in the campground, right beside our fifth-wheel! Since it was a chilly day, they even started a campfire. We quickly found ourselves surrounded by funeral guests. It just goes to show you that there is never a dull a moment living the RV lifestyle.
The day we left the North Olympic Peninsula, a bald eagle flew three feet above our fifth-wheel as we were hooking-up. We figured that was a send-off gift for us.
The next leg of the journey took us southward to California. Previous trips had us exploring Oregon, so we didn’t spend too much time sightseeing. Along the way we saw Mt. Hood and Portland (Oregon). Then we decided to take Highway 199 (also known as Redwood Highway) in Grants Pass (Oregon). Another scenic drive, although we missed the route and ending up going down some narrow streets first!
We continued on Redwood Highway to California. We decided to spend a few days exploring Crescent City (California) and, of course, Redwood National and State Parks. The coast along that region is amazing and the redwoods are magnificent. The only problem was a few areas we couldn’t go (with the dually truck) because the road was too narrow or there was no parking for an over-sized vehicle.
And I can’t forget our trip to Battery Point Lighthouse. It’s on an island near the shore and is only accessible during low tide. Our first visit there resulted in poor timing – but the second one we managed to spend some time on the island.
After exploring the area we headed along the Bigfoot Scenic Byway (Highway 96) for a bit before crossing California through the Trinity National Forest and Whiskeytown National Rec Area over to Redding (California).
We spent a week at Oroville (California), sightseeing that region – from the downtown murals to the Oroville Dam. Then we made our way to Grass Valley and Nevada City (California) for the summer.
One of our favorite activities is treasure hunting and you can’t go to Gold Country without panning for gold in the rivers. It didn’t take us long to get the gold bug and plan weekly outings around panning. Over the summer we panned the South Yuba River, American River and Humbug Creek. We also visited mining towns and historic gold sites. I think Empire Mine State Park, Gold Discovery Site State Park and Gold Bug Mine were some of the neatest to visit and that’s just naming a few.
The Gold Bug Mine is actually a hard-rock gold mine and we had the chance to walk about three hundred feet into a drift (a mining term meaning a horizontal passageway) with hard-hats.
Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park is memorable, but it was rather sad to see the effects of a hydraulic gold mining operation. Although we enjoyed a visit to the neighboring ghost town of North Bloomfield.
Bridgeport covered bridge across the South Yuba River, just outside Penn Valley (California) is definitely a must see if you are a bridge enthusiast. Gold panning (“pans and hands”) is allowed along this stretch of the river. We were shocked to see that the water under the bridge is literally glittering with gold flakes! Of course, it wasn’t enough to buy a new RV, but we found our time along the Yuba River priceless.
Another place worth noting in the area is the town of Rough and Ready (California). A mining settlement in the mid-1800s, Rough and Ready was named after President Zachary Taylor, who had the nickname “Old Rough and Ready”.
While in the region we also made several day trips over Donner Pass to Truckee (California). It is an incredible drive and we often found ourselves missing our turn. In fact, one time we unintentionally ended up at Donner Summit. Let’s just say that after that we paid more attention to where we going. We didn’t want to end up like the Donner Party. You have no doubt read about the Donner Party, a group of early pioneers that suffered a tragic loss in the late 1840s. Donner Memorial State Park in Truckee hosts the Emigrant Trail Museum. The museum has a variety of displays and information about the Donner Party.
Another place we enjoyed is Lake Tahoe (California – Nevada). On one trip we trekked down to Vikingsholm Castle. Vikingsholm was built in the 1920s as a summer home. The parking area where the trail starts has an amazing view of Fannette Island and Eagle Falls. However, when we visited Emerald Bay State Park it was actually hazy from wild fires a hundred miles away.
We were a bit ill prepared for the hike to Vikingsholm and had only taken some bottled of water – no trail snacks. Downhill isn’t bad, but it’s a long way up again – especially when you’re dad keeps asking if there is a cheeseburger stand close by!
Then one day we decided to visit Downieville (California) and got lost in the mountains. Luckily we found a place that sold ice cream sandwiches, so not all was lost! Downieville is a quaint little town and very beautiful drive. A few smaller towns along the route are rather interesting… one of which I regret not getting a photo of the “Dogs Playing in Street” sign!
There was a movie we wanted to see and I found the closest theater at the time was in Yuba City (California). So we planned a route to take us to the theater! It was a fun time as we saw Timbuctoo (the sign of where it once stood anywhere) and took a detour to Smartsville (California). Now our drive through Smartsville proved to be rather an interesting experience. You’d be amazed at where you can take a one-ton dually Chevy! Despite a few detours, we really enjoyed the drive along Route 20 and planned another trip before we left the area.
Our trips to Sacramento (California) and the surrounding area were always eventful. One of our favorites was visiting Old Sac and the California State Railroad Museum. These sites are nestled among highways and skyscrapers are historic buildings and wooden boardwalks in the old downtown area. It really is hard to imagine you are in a major city!
That summer California was plagued with wildfires. And then a heat wave hit our area and it was near 100 degrees, which only added to the summer fires. We actually had to wear breathing masks if we went outside as the smoke was thick in the mountains. For several days there were warnings regarding the poor air quality.
We were camped at a lake in the mountains and there was a fire on the other side of the lake. We saw a helicopter drop down over the lake to fill bags with water. Scary thing to see as the campground only had one way out and that was several miles down the mountain!
As much as we loved Gold Country and the Sierra Nevada region, it was time to move on. The next must-see site on our list was historic Highway 395 which follows the backside of the Sierras. By now it was October and weather forecasts were predicting heavy rain and snow showers at higher elevations. Since our route took us over Donner Pass again we left quickly and tried to beat the storms. You can’t tow a fifth-wheel in the mountains during snow, nor can you safely drive through rain and high-winds. So the weather was a major concern for us.
We found ourselves several hours ahead of the storms and on the other side of the Sierras, so we hunkered down outside Reno (Nevada). We had light rain and some wind gusts, but found it more appealing than the snow and high winds among the higher elevations.
After spending some time in Reno and sneaking in a few buffets, we found that the weather we had run from was planning on heading our way after all! We left early and made a quick trip through Carson City before the winds picked up. They had actually warned people traveling the area that there were high winds and that RVs may not be allowed on the roadways. Fortunately we stayed ahead of the weather until we got back into California on historic Highway 395.
This route is definitely one of the most scenic drives you can experience in the mountains. Yet it is very long and you pay a great deal for fuel and supplies along the way. We spent some time in Bridgeport (California), which is just down the road from Bodie State Historic Park and Yosemite National Park.
Bodie is a modern-day ghost town. When the California State Park system took over Bodie, it left all the buildings as they stood. This is one of the most unforgettable places I have ever been. There is so much history there, it consumes you. You can almost feel towns folk walking along the streets right beside you. It is a must-see for anyone visiting that region of California.
The drive to Bodie is a rather long eighteen miles off of the main highway. There are warnings against taking larger and recreational vehicles as there is limited parking and the road is very rough. The last three miles of the road is nothing but dirt and stone. This is extremely rough. In fact, the toolbox in the bed of our pickup truck (which had been with us for at least 30,000 miles at the time, unfastened) moved from its spot almost six inches. This is a heavy-duty toolbox!
Unfortunately the weather caught-up with us and we awoke to snowy mountains and freezing temperatures the next day. In fact, this was the first time we ever had our water line freeze! Tioga Pass (the road to Yosemite National Park) was closed. We had heard that the recovery team for Steve Fossett’s plane (down in Mammoth Lakes) was scrambling to cover the crash-site and we realized that every place we planned to tour in the days ahead was either getting snow or going to get snow. So we decided that since we were quite happy touring California, that we would come back to visit Yosemite National Park another time.
The remainder of our trip along scenic Highway 395 was amazing. We did manage to see some of the other noteworthy stops along the way, such as Mono Lake, June Lake, Manzanar Camp and Mount Whitney. We then decided to head to Death Valley National Park to see Stovepipe Wells, Furnace Creek and Scotty’s Castle.
The trip through Death Valley National Park was not what we thought. To us, this wasteland is not as beautiful or poetic as some make it out to be. It was over 100 degrees and everything was hazy. The drive through the park is a long and wheel-gripping drive that made us question the sanity of all who journey there (even our own). And for those with long rigs or who can barely drive theirs on the highway – do not drive Death Valley! The curves and grades are significant and, of course, other tourists will not give you any room for tight curves meaning you may literally scrape the side of your RV against rock. We were quite relieved when we got through the park and were headed toward straighter driving conditions.
We then ventured to Nevada and stopped in a few of its isolated desert towns. After driving in the desert for several days, we decided to wet our thirst in Las Vegas. We revisited a few favorite sites and then headed toward Arizona.
We toured some areas we hadn’t been to in years like Lake Havasu (Arizona). For some reason, London Bridge appeared much smaller to me this time. I guess I was shorter or perhaps it was because we had a small motorhome back then.
Many seasonal and full-time RVers will go to Quartzite (Arizona) to escape the winter temperatures and live cheaply. The BLM has land there and people boondock on this land. “Boondocking” means living in the boonies and pretty much dry camping. You have to be prepared with batteries, generator, water and rely on the honey wagon (a sewer truck that pumps out holding tanks) to make a regular visit. There are people who live this way for months (and some say years). It can be done if you have the know-how and can manage the isolation, since (many boondock areas are not near cities.
We got there before the season started and wanted to see what all went on in this area. Let me tell you, it is sparse. It is desert and the nearest discount shopping center is over ninety miles (one way) – so that shows you how remote you are. There are campgrounds in the area where you can get full-hookups and other amenities. Unfortunately, it is still quite a drive to the nearest cities for supplies.
We have boondocked and blacktop boondocked (what most call overnight parking) before, but never at a region so remote and prone to the extreme (heat, especially). We all agreed that this is something we just couldn’t adjust to.
Our next major stop was Yuma (Arizona) which is the mecca for season and full-time RVers in the Southwest. Yuma has all the modern amenities one could want and the weather is sunny and dry. In fact, it is so sunny that I suffered from headaches our entire stay. Everything has a dreadful glare and sunglasses didn’t seem to help. And at times it is very windy and dusty.
Another thing we that surprised us was the large military presence. We continually heard jets, plane and helicopters at all hours. Yuma is alone the Arizona-California-Mexico border and we were stopped by Border Patrol officers numerous times just touring within Arizona! Each time they would stop us and asked either our purpose in the area or if everyone is our vehicle was a U.S. citizen.
After visiting the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historical Park, we decided to get a few supplies before heading back to the campground. We pulled into the parking lot and started walking into the store. Alone the way we saw not one, not two, but four people looking for their vehicles. Even a parking lot security man in a golf cart was driving around helping people look for their vehicles. But the real eye-opener was when we passed a pickup camper with the keys still in the door. We agreed that we were way too young to by Yumans!
From Yuma it was decided that we would get on the highway and head eastward, touring more of Arizona and New Mexico. Yet somehow we ended up in El Paso (Texas). So we thought we might as well tour Texas!
After a few more weeks we found ourselves outside of San Antonio (Texas) and thought we would spend the upcoming holidays. The area was the gateway to some fascinating country that we hadn’t explored before.
We especially liked the region known as Hill Country. The Guadalupe and Comal Rivers weave through this area and make it quite the tourist attraction in the summer. Toob (the local’s spelling) and kayak rentals are everywhere. Although there are scenic drives you can take to experience these rivers without getting your feet wet.
During our stay we enjoyed visiting the towns of Gruene and New Braunfels. Both towns were settled by German immigrants. Gruene has preserved their downtown with antique and specialty shops. It is also the site of one of the last standing dance halls in Texas (it was featured in the movie “Michael” with John Travolta). New Braunfels is a larger community outside of San Antonio. They have tried to balance nature with the city and have a beautiful series of parks and outdoor places. One of highlights of the holidays was the “Hill Country Christmas” at the popular waterpark. (Unfortunately when we returned to the region another winter, they no longer offered it.)
As 2009 rolled in, we continued touring Texas and decided to wait until the bluebonnets bloomed to head eastward. As it turned out, our departure from the region was delayed because of an outbreak of swine flu (that’s what they were referring to it as) at the time. School, churches and day cares were closing because of possible exposure. Between the health warnings and an outbreak of severe weather, we found ourselves rather eager to leave Texas.
Unfortunately, Texas was not eager for us to leave! We were traveling I-35 when some motorists got our attention, saying we blew a tire. Our fifth-wheel is 8 tons and the pickup is a 1-ton Duramax diesel and it weighs a couple of tons and we never felt a thing!
We got over as quickly as we could only to discover our tire wasn’t blown – it was shredded. In fact, it looked like an industrial-size rubber mop! A quick assessment revealed damage to the trim, undercarriage and back slide (where apparently tire chunks hit). We got the spare on and made our way to the nearest tire center about six miles away. They had one tire for us and it was at another store. So while we waited we had our undercarriage repaired. When the tire arrived from the other store, we had it put on and all the other tires checked. The techs said they were fine and asked if we wanted help putting the spare back underneath. We decided to leave the spare in the back of the pickup truck bed as we were eager to move on. Once we were on the I-30 in Arkansas when a tire on the other side went (luckily no damage). We decided to ease up on our Travel Angel and blacktop boondocked at a truck stop until we could get our rig to a tire dealership the next day.
After replacing our tire, we spent some time in Arkansas touring the back roads. Our main goal was to visit Crater of Diamonds State Park. Of course, while we were there the entire state was under severe storm warnings, flood warnings and tornado watches! Fortunately, after a heavy rain is a good time to look for diamonds because it is easier to find them on top of the furrows.
A large number of families were there and even the young children who don’t really understand what was going on had fun playing in the mud. The park also has a Discovery Museum and water park and is only an hour from Hot Springs. It’s a beautiful drive.
So we were a sad, muddy mess, but had a great time. There had been several good diamonds found during our stay. Unfortunately, we didn’t find any diamonds ourselves, but found some great pieces of mica, quartz, jasper and other “treasures”, including a split geode.
Some other sites we wanted to see were a “wash” because of the weather. In fact, we found ourselves having to pull-over several times because of high-winds and downpours. We spent some time in Tennessee visiting some old haunts and friends.
It didn’t feel like accomplished much in the previous weeks, yet with the tire problems and poor weather, it rather left us eager to get to Virginia so we could rest! We had been in Virginia before but just briefly.
We took I-81 North and headed for the Blue Ridge Parkway and Shenandoah Valley country. The nice thing about this region is that it is so close (mostly day-trips) to the rest of Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maryland, West Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina.
The first few weeks flew by rather quickly and we managed to see some wonderful sites – including Appomattox Court House National Historic Park. One thing we have really enjoyed in Virginia is all the antique shops and “malls” and the general stores. Most of the antique malls have parking for RVs and they make great stops to soak in the local color.
We found ourselves in the little tourist community of Natural Bridge (Virginia). The area is filled with unusual stops from FoamHenge (a replica of the UK version only in foam) and oversized animal statues to a caverns and a wax museum. And, of course, there is visiting Natural Bridge itself. Legend says that George Washington once surveyed this “Seventh Wonder of the World”. And right before the American Revolution, Thomas Jefferson purchased the surrounding land and Natural Bridge from the King of England. As much as ticket prices are, I bet they wish they had it back!
Although the really odd thing for us to see in the area was when we were driving through the town of Glasgow (Virginia) and saw a scantily-clad prehistoric woman riding a dinosaur!
A few other towns worth noting are that of Lexington and Lynchburg (Virginia). The Stonewall Jackson home is in Lexington. It is the only home that Jackson ever owned. The community is also home to Virginia Military Institute and Washington and Lee University. Lynchburg is another mountain town with many historic sites and landmarks to see.
While touring Roanoke (Virginia), we really enjoyed visiting the Virginia Transportation Museum. From wagons to hearses and fire trucks to trains, it’s nice museum to spend a few hours. They have working toy trains on display and even a room devoted to circus trains.
Another interesting stop we found was in Mount Jackson (Virginia) at the Route 11 Potato Chip Company. You can stop in during business hours and watch how their kettle chips are made. Free samples of each variety are available and you can purchase small bags of chips for your trip. Although, if it says “HOT” on the label – believe me – it’s hot!
We found ourselves keeping busy in Virginia and were surprised when we saw it was already October! As the temperatures began to drop and cold, drizzly days of rain descended on us, we started to plan our trip south. Our main priority was to get all new tires on our fifth-wheel as we didn’t want a repeat of our prior cross-country trip.
Although Camping World told us that they had the tires and it would be no problem to get it done, we decided to make another visit and make an appointment. That trip revealed that no one at Camping World in Roanoke wanted to wait on us… and then when someone finally did… they said they didn’t have those tires, couldn’t get them, there was a flood, locusts… it was a heap of excuses. Luckily we found a Goodyear dealer with the appropriate tires and loaded them up in our truck. Of course, the next step was who was going to put them on! Fortunately, we found a small garage in the town of Buena Vista (Virginia) that would put them on for us the day we planned to leave Virginia. Once the new tires were on, we found ourselves on the Open Road once again.
One of our favorite past-times has become treasure hunting. So our first major stop was Hiddenite (North Carolina). This area is known for its emerald and gem mining. There are three ways to find emeralds – sluicing (with buckets of pay dirt), digging or creek’n (which is like panning for gold). We got a permit for all three methods and spent several days “hunting”.
We then moved on to South Carolina and Georgia to do a little site-seeing. At this time the temperature was starting to drop into the thirties and with talk of the “white stuff”, we decided to keep the wheels moving toward a warmer climate!
We found our way to I-10 and headed to Biloxi (Mississippi) for a week of fun and games only to have a tropical storm heading our way. The weather made up our minds for us when the tropical storm brought heavy rains to Gulf coast. So we moved on and found ourselves in New Orleans and Baton Rouge (Louisiana) for a couple weeks. We had a great time exploring Louisiana and even found a great new hideaway.
Since we were already heading westward, we decided to continue along I-10 and its long stretch of bump-da-bump highway! In Texas we visited Houston and Galveston and then made a bee-line for San Antonio and Hill Country. The weather conditions that winter were crazy and we were victims of the beautiful warm weather only for it to quickly turn to sleet with the highs in the 30s!
Despite the crazy weather we managed to keep rather busy. From visiting the local heritage museums and train museums to flea markets and outlet shopping – we somehow managed the time to celebrate the holidays and welcome 2010.
When the bluebonnets returned we found ourselves moving eastward again. Of course, we took the rather bump-bumpty I-10! If you have never driven this stretch of interstate, then picture driving over speed bumps on the worst road you every traveled… every ten feet!
We had spent some time in Louisiana a few months before and wanted to return to one RV resort and spend more time exploring the region. While we were there, the oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico occurred. This changed some of our plans, as coastal communities were busy with media and crews.
There was still plenty to see and do, from gardens and casinos to exploring plantations and the back roads. We even managed to partake in our first crawdad “buffet”. Which is was quite an event in itself! I never imagined seeing adults wearing bibs and gloves, eating buckets of crawdads. Although it didn’t stop us from attending not once, but three times!
Our next stop was Mississippi and again, we faced the oil-spill crews and media. We had been eager to visit a few of our favorite spots, but the nice thing about being a Full-Timer is that it leaves us an excuse to return.
We did have a problem with our ladder rack along the way. Ours is under the front of the camper and a little too much of the bumpty-bump and scraping along backroad dips left it barely hanging on. Luckily we caught it in time and a potential crisis was adverted.
We are from the Atlantic coast of Florida and honestly haven’t spent much time in the Panhandle region. So we toured around a bit and found that we just love the Emerald Coast and decided to make it our new base camp. Fortunately this area was not too affected by the oil spill and most of the beaches remained unsoiled.
During our stay we managed to visit five incredible lighthouses along the Florida Gulf coast, several museums, and half-dozen state parks and even make the pilgrimage to the Possum Monument! Within a matter of weeks I found myself with over six thousand photos.
Then I found out that I needed surgery, so we remained parked for my recovery. But believe me; I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be on the mend than in beautiful Florida. When I was able to site-see again we visited a few more state parks. Camp Helen State Park was so peaceful that we fell asleep in the rocking chairs in front of the lodge!
The holidays crept up on us again and we found ourselves digging out the souvenir Christmas ornaments. New Year 2011 got started with a bang as we enjoyed listening to the local fireworks.
We visited the Tall Ship Peacemaker when it was docked at Panama City (Florida). Thankfully we had picked a nice day to visit it, as the weather had been windy and rainy a few days prior. We also visited several more museums, including the Air Force Armament Museum and ventured to a few more parks, such as Florida Caverns State Park.
An interesting thing for us Full-Timers to do was actually take a few longer trips without home being towed behind. Yep! It was a fun experience and certainly makes parking easier! Although next time we get the urge to stay in a hotel, I’m taking my own pillow!
Eden Gardens State Park is another place we enjoyed visiting. I am a lover of the old moss-draped oaks, so this was certainly Eden for me. The historic mansion and gardens are lovely. That trip we also visited the South Walton (Florida) beaches. This is really an interesting drive along route 30A. What really had me laughing was the row of lunch wagons made from Airstreams trailers. Of course, we didn’t eat at them because it would be like eating at home. There was also Grayton State Park which is right along this stretch of 30A near Seaside and Watercolor (Florida).
We were fortunate enough to be along the Gulf during the Thunder Beach Spring Biker Rally. Talk about seeing some great-looking motorcycles! One of the Class A’s that pulled into the campground had a long cargo trailer in tow and unloaded eight Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
Our summer plans were to head westward once again and spend some time in the Pacific Northwest and then heading to Canada and Alaska. But with economic conditions, rising fuel costs and an increase in severe weather, we decided to remain on the East coast just a little while longer. That left us with time to see some other areas. No matter what – it’s all an adventure.
Then fuel prices started to climb and we decided to do something we didn’t normally do. We let the rig sit in a campground and went to travel via hotels. It was quite a difference at the pump with the 10 miles per gallon going up to 19 mile per gallon without the rig in tow. And we found that staying in a hotel (with high-speed WiFi that really works, free hot breakfast bar and housekeeping service) is actually cheaper than staying at your average campground! Yet I wouldn’t trade the home-on-wheels for the hotel-life as I missed my pillows too much!
We did enjoy our time visiting Orlando and Kissimmee and various sites in Central Florida. It was time for us to do the theme-park “thing” you just have to do every year or so! Although we really surprised that the parks weren’t as crowded as they have in the past. We weren’t sure if it was our timing (earlier than usual for us) or if it was the economic situation, fuel prices and ticket prices that kept crowds to a minimum… well, except at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure. Too many of us Harry Potter fans walking around in awe!
We also enjoyed visiting the minor attractions and of course, you have to visit a flea market or two. Always have to look at things you normally wouldn’t buy, but you are in Orlando and, of course, you must now buy it because it comes from Orlando! And no, I only bought 4 tee shirts! Well, maybe 5… who’s counting anyway?
It was nice to be on our home-turf for a while before heading eastward again. We found ourselves ending up at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in St. Marks (Florida). Our last visit to the refuge was during our “4 lighthouses in 1 day” trip, so we were rather tired by the time we arrived at this beautiful refuge. This time we took time to enjoy the surroundings a little more.
Our trip around Tampa (Florida) was rather interesting. It had been several years since we were that way and were eager to see how much more the surrounding area had grown. After seeing the sites, such as the Seminole Hard Rock Casino, we headed northbound on Highway 19 to stop at a few of the state parks and preserves along the way.
After living in Florida so long you get to where you can predict the summer weather. It usually goes something like this: heat wave, storm front, heat wave, storm front, storm front and storm front. Well, we found ourselves in-between storm fronts and decided to spend our down time working on RV chores. Living full-time in a recreational vehicle is similar to a stick house. There are monthly and annual maintenance duties to perform. From changing water filters to cleaning out the furnace. And like houses, RVs require time and money for upkeep.
Then another tropical storm arrived leaving us several days of gloomy weather. Not to mention noisy ones as the weather alert radio kept going off with marine warnings, tornado watches and severe storm warnings. Although I won’t complain too much about it as a weather alert radio can save you live, especially if you are living or vacationing in a RV during severe weather.
Fuel prices began to drop again, so once again the wheels started turning and we relocated to Pensacola (Florida) for a month. We wanted to see the new hangar at the National Museum of Naval Aviation. We discovered some great historic attractions – such as Fort Pickens. The fort is located on the very end of Santa Rosa Island. On the drive there we thought we were in the Arctic, as the snow white sand blends in with the deep blue Gulf of Mexico.
After remaining in Florida for so long, we were itching for some new territory. We took our time traveling through Alabama and Mississippi, and we were amazed at all the highway fires we saw. Usually we come across accident scenes, but never fires. A bit scary considering the weather had been dry in this region. Then we found ourselves in Louisiana for two weeks enjoying some down-time at one of our favorite hideaways.
We then found ourselves in Texas Hill Country again. Imagine our surprise as we woke up one morning and found ourselves experiencing an earthquake! Although we later learned this may not have been natural, but because of fracking.
Finding a nice campsite on the river, we set up camp for a few months. We enjoyed several day trips throughout the area and visited many museums and historic sites we hadn’t seen on previous visits. And then Thanksgiving came and we found our quiet campsite was no longer quiet. That is one good thing about being a Full-Timer, if you don’t like your neighbors you can move! And we did just that! Only our dilemma was that we ourselves scrambling to find another RV park or campground that could accommodate us for an extended stay. Since we are in the middle of the Winter Texan “season”, that was a bit of chore! Fortunately we did manage to find one and once again, found ourselves heading out on the highway.
The weather turned bad around Christmas and the start of 2012 kept us busy. A hungry squirrel chomped on our truck wires and we had to make an appointment with the Chevy dealer.
Once repairs were made, we visited the LBJ National Historical Park – LBJ Ranch in Stonewall (Texas). This park is on our “return list”. It was amazing to step inside the Texas White House and see where LBJ spent most of his time. Well worth a trip if you find yourself in the region. And while we were there we visited the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm. A tour of the early 1918 farmstead you literally step into living history – just watch out for cow and sheep patties! The folks dressed up as settlers actually grow and can the foods you see on display. Around lunchtime they actually prepare foods as they would during the period. And all the food comes from the farmstead (including the meat). So don’t pet the critters!
Historic Fredericksburg (Texas) is down-the-road from LBJ National Historic Park and it is an interesting town. There are lots of antique shops and galleries as well as several museums to visit there, including the National Museum of the Pacific War.
Spring was coming and we thought about venturing westward again. Of course, fuel prices and severe weather made us reconsider. Prior to our leaving Texas, we had severe storms and tornadoes (three touched down outside of San Antonio) and we had hoped to avoid any major storms on the road. Although it appeared stormy, we managed to make it to Louisiana with only a few drops on the windshield.
We spent some time outside Shreveport and then continue to make our way along yet another bumpy highway in Mississippi. This stretch of road also had some of the highest diesel prices we had seen east of the Mississippi River at $4.29 a gallon. If prices were this high here, we knew they would have been higher heading westward.
The next part our journey went smoothly and we even found a few other little hideaways to spend a few days at. As we headed into South Carolina we noticed it was getting rather dark ahead. The weather turned bad quickly and we found ourselves driving into a literally wall of rain and hail. Fortunately we got off the road and found a place to spend the night.
When we decided to continue our journey, we found another dark sky ahead and spent a day driving in rain. At least it wasn’t as bad as driving through the hail storm. We had learned later that there had been a multiple car pile-up. So we were very lucky not to have been involved in that.
We continued through Virginia and then found ourselves in Pennsylvania. We planned to spend a few months exploring Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Maryland.
Of course we did the tourist thing, like Harrisonburg, Lancaster, Hershey and Gettysburg (Pennsylvania). Another thing we enjoy is visiting covered bridges. Our first visit to a covered bridge proved rather interesting! We had pulled the truck off the road, because obviously, some of these bridges aren’t really up to a 1 ton dually and while I was out snapping photos, a man in a truck pulled up and asked if we were part of the bridge crew. Apparently one of the beams underneath the bridge had fallen and a crew was sent to repair it. After we assured him that we were just crazy Floridians looking at bridges, he started to tell us about the forts in the area. So you never know what you’ll come across when you head down those country roads.
It is rather sad though; most just don’t care about the covered bridges and history. Many covered bridges we encounter in Pennsylvania were in poor shape or had graffiti inside. Some were hang-outs for “people who were not bridge enthusiasts,” if you know what I mean!
We were de-“lighted” to come across The Hotel Edison in Sunbury (Pennsylvania). This is the first building in the world to have electricity! And the story regarding this is rather humorous, as the hotel staff during Edison’s stay, didn’t really want it.
After several weeks our exploring took a turn as one of us recovered from food poisoning and another took a tumble that left a few ribs badly bruised. Then not only were our plans clashing with the poor weather but also traffic. They have signs warning you that there are aggressive drivers and some areas have dots painted on the road so that you stay the proper distance from other vehicles. The aggressive drivers and heavy traffic made us reconsider our travel plans. As soon as we headed southbound, we found the weather much better and as was the traffic. Probably a sign we were headed in the right direction!
I think this trip we experienced the most “you’ve got to be kidding me” camp site locations than we have ever had. One campground left us looking for hook-ups. We found the water spigot two inches off the ground hidden in a bush brushed against one of our slides, the sewer was covered by a soda bottle (acting as the cap) and the Cable TV hookup was actually on another site and was shared by a few Campers! Oh, who says the life of a Full-Time RVers is boring?
We continued making our way south again and, naturally, in the middle of a tropical storm. Our area was in tornado watches and flood warnings for a couple days. At one point, I think we had a duck on our roof! Fortunately we didn’t experience the extreme flooding and sinkholes like many areas of Florida did.
Our next task was to get new tires for our truck. We had put on a great deal of mileage the last couple years and decided to replace them with new Good-years. So we decided to settle down for a couple of months and explore some more of Central and Southern Florida. Most we had seen before but it is home and we enjoy exploring the area. We also visited a few attractions and parks, such Silver River State Park and the Ocala National Forest area, that we hadn’t been to before.
We revisited Ponce de Leon Lighthouse at Ponce Inlet (Florida). It was fun to see the changes over the years and climb to the top again. Of all the lighthouses we have visited, this remains one of the nicest. It is well worth a visit if you find yourself along the Atlantic coast.
In-between our adventures, the air-conditioning went out. Apparently it was jealous of the new truck tires. After a few days of melting we had a new air-condition put on. A tropical storm headed our way and that brought cooler temperatures, as well as a great deal of rain. Then our back bike rack got attacked by a crazed lawnmower at one RV Park. The bike rack won, but came out damaged. Fortunately the RV Park paid for the repairs.
We decided to head northwest and made our way to Alabama for the fall season. We found ourselves switching from air-conditioning during the day to throwing on an extra blanket in the evening. Despite the cooler temperatures we managed to get a great deal of sight-seeing in.
One of the neat things was the Pioneer Museum of Alabama. The museum has over eighteen thousand artifacts and over twenty buildings to see. We also made a trip to Enterprise (Alabama) where they had the Boll Weevil Festival downtown, near the Boll Weevil Monument.
The weather improved until a hurricane turned “post-tropical” storm caused a few days of high winds and even resorted to a wind warning for high-profile vehicles. We hadn’t experienced one of those since our time in California and Nevada.
While in Alabama we attended a peanut festival and also saw the Johnston Peanut Butter Mill, which was one of the first around to sell peanut butter. Thank goodness for that as chocolate wouldn’t be the same without it!
We headed back to Florida for a while and then returned to Alabama to explore a few other sites. One was to see Fort Toulouse – Fort Jackson State Historic Park in Wetumpka (Alabama). Our timing was great – the start of the annual five day Frontier Days event! It was exciting to see period costume and hear musicians and cannon-fire throughout the day.
Time went quickly and once again we found ourselves digging out Christmas decorations. And then was the December 2012 Apocalypse to worry about. Luckily we have a Chevy Silverado and didn’t worry too much about it. Since we didn’t have any Twinkies to hold us over, we did like the locals and hoarded boxes of Moon Pies!
On Christmas afternoon we found ourselves in the midst of severe weather and potential tornadoes. Instead of watching holiday movies, our eyes were on the local weather! The RV resort lacked adequate shelter facilities, so when the tornado warning went into effect, we grabbed our hardhats (I knew that souvenir hardhat from Hoover Dam would come in handy), a couple stiff pillows and flashlights, and then made a mad dash to the Silverado. We buckled ourselves in and drove to a low ditch-area near the park entrance. Moments later we saw that other Campers had the same idea as us. Fortunately the storm passed quickly over the resort; however, a park less than two miles away had a tornado touch-down. Thankfully no one was injured but several homes were destroyed. Yet an unforgettable Christmas!
The New Year didn’t bring any better weather for the Southeastern states – from severe storms and flooding to gusty winds and cold temperatures, 2013 got off to a “stormy” start. It made us cancel a few outdoor adventures because of 30-40 mile per hour wind gusts. Naming the winter storms seemed to allow winter to drag on.
Fortunately we found some indoor activities around Montgomery (Alabama), including a place that made deep-fried banana-flavored Moon Pies! I wish I would have taken a photo of the beautiful deep-fried creation. The top was dusted with confectioner’s sugar and since the Moon Pie was hot, the sugar formed a sweet glaze on top. Never been one to go crazy over fried foods, but good gracious was that a delightful surprise on the palette!
As soon as we got thawed out, we found ourselves heading westward through Mississippi and Tennessee. Only this time we found ourselves driving into dark looming skies and blinding rain. That turned into flooded highways and tornado-stricken areas as we traveled through Arkansas.
And don’t even get me started on the whole GPS-thing. Give me a free State Welcome Center map and a 99 cent highlighter any day of the week! The little man in the tiny “global positioning” box is oblivious to driving a 53′ rig through narrow city streets, low-lying bridges and up-and-down 2 – 7 % grades!
So the wheels stopped rolling for a bit for us to explore the Ozarks. Normally we just breezed through Missouri (except one occasion we made a brief trip to St. Louis and one of the local caverns). So we never really “experienced” the Ozarks. So those rolling hills we encountered on the main highways were a bit misleading. Once we turned onto the back roads, we realized that the Ozarks are mountains!
It didn’t take long for us to start visiting the local attractions. One of the first stops we made was at the Ralph Foster Museum located on the campus of the College of the Ozarks. This was a great museum to visit (even former PM Margaret Thatcher had made a visit here) and one of the star attractions is the original truck from “The Beverly Hillbillies” TV show. Another point of interest was the Edwards Mill, which is just a minute from the Ralph Foster museum.
We toured the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery, Table Rock Dam and several other places before the weather changed again. It actually snowed in May! Yes! We couldn’t believe it! We had to dig out our winter gloves and jackets because we were on the edge of getting either sleet or snow. Well, not only did we get a few hours of sleet, but we also got snow!
Branson (Missouri) has a ton of attractions and shows to see. One show we went to was a dinner murder mystery show. All I will say is that they definitely murdered my chicken dinner. It was a crime most fowl! Ha! Another place to see shows is Silver Dollar City. We found that a fun place to visit and planned to go again before we left the area.
The weather began nicer, but there were still threats of storms in the afternoons. We spoke to some Campers who were in Oklahoma City (Oklahoma) during one of the recent tornado outbreaks. They were in a museum when the staff evacuated everyone to the basement. Fortunately they were okay, but the tornado hit Moore (Oklahoma).
Then I found myself with laryngitis and asthma; apparently it was catching because I wasn’t the only one dealing with it. A trip to the local ER revealed that I had something called the “Missouri cough” which is a seasonal thing there. Unfortunately that wasn’t mentioned in our travel brochure! When I felt better we ventured out on trips to Oklahoma and Kansas. We left the rig in Missouri and enjoyed the hotel-life for a few days each week.
A trip to definitely note is Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield between Springfield and Joplin (Missouri). This was the first major Civil War battle west of the Mississippi. The park is a five-mile driving tour and you are literally driving back through time. In fact, I may have let my imagination get the best of me during our visit. I had gotten out of the truck to take a photo of two of the cannons at one stop and when I walked past the first cannon I had chills. I assumed it was from stepping out of the air-conditioning into the ninety-plus degree heat. But after I took a photo of the farthest cannon, I walked back to the first and got chills again. I stepped toward the cannon to take a photo and swear I heard someone shout “NO”. Boy, did I hustle myself back to the truck! So someone needs to cut back on watching on “Ghost Adventures”!
We headed eastward on Highway 60 toward Mansfield (Missouri) and saw a number of Amish farms. Always fun to see buggies on the road. We had a great day trip to Mansfield – which is the longtime home of Laura Ingalls Wilder. The Wilder homestead consists of the old farmhouse (the property was purchased for $100 back in 1894), vegetable and flower garden, museum and gift shop. Down the road is the Rock House, which Rose Wilder built for Laura and Almanzo. Rose had the home “modernized” with electricity (in the 1930s), but her parents only lived there a short-while. They missed their farmhouse down the road. The amazing thing that most folks don’t realize is that Laura didn’t write the “Little House” books until she was in her 60s and that she wrote them in Mansfield. Laura lived there until her death in the late 1950s and the farmhouse is as it was to that very day. Even the calendar in the little kitchen remains untouched. And the museum has some wonderful pieces of the Ingalls and Wilder families history – from Charles Ingalls fiddle to the braille tablet Mary Ingalls used.
Although the weather turned hot and dry, we had to don our jackets at Fantastic Caverns, which remains at sixty degrees. Now, what makes the caverns so “fantastic”? I’m pretty sure our tour guide mentioned why they called it that, but he was rather dull and I honestly blocked out half of what he said. But the neat thing is that this cavern is the only one in the U.S. to have a drive-thru tour. Visitors are loaded into a tram that is pulled behind a jeep. Again, not sure why they chose to have jeeps inside the caverns… the guide probably mentioned that… but again, I was more interested in snapping photos and watching that my head didn’t hit a rock at the low spots. Another unusual thing is that they show a short film in the middle of the tour. We debated whether this could be considered a “Drive-In” or if it was a “Cave-In”.
As the weeks went by we saw other things and even took a train ride through the Ozarks. But a place we really enjoyed was the Rose O’Neill – Bonniebrook museum. Most people probably aren’t familiar with this talented woman. She was a famous illustrator and writer “back in the day”. But if you have ever seen a Kewpie doll, then you’ve seen some of her work. She created those cute little cherubs. Although she has a very serious side to her work, which you can see touring the museum gallery. The original mansion “Bonniebrook” burned down in the 1940s, but dedicated folks helped rebuild and refurnish it to where it was during its glory days. Definitely worth a stop if you find yourself travel along Highway 65 in Missouri.
And we finally got to see the Dixie Stampede in Branson! Every time we planned on going, something came up and it was put off. But now we can say we saw it and had a four-course meal which we ate with our fingers! And just when you think you’ve seen it all – well, people throw rolls at you. YEP! We stopped at Lambert’s Cafe in Ozark (Missouri) and while you are dining, a guy comes out and asks if you want rolls. But don’t expect them to come to your table – they throw them at you! Thankfully they don’t throw the butter!!!
Then October made itself known from Winter Storm Atlas to Tropical Storm Karen. Fortunately all we got was rain from Atlas, but the temperatures dropped down enough that we had to dig out the winter gear again. Although we wouldn’t be in colder temperatures for long as we had planned to move on in a few weeks.
We took in a few more shows and museums, and unfortunately, we had to cancel some plans that involved national sites because of a government shutdown. Yet being October we had to do something spooky, so we saw Pythian Castle in Springfield (Missouri). I had actually saw this on SyFy’s show “Haunted Collector” a couple months prior and thought it would be neat to see the haunted landmark. And it certainly was a cool place to see!
We started packing to move on, but not with seeing the Christmas Festival at Silver Dollar City. They have wonderful decorations – over 4 million Christmas lights! And they also had Christmas performances going on, such as “It’s a Wonderful Life”. And food! Can’t forget the red velvet funnel cakes and deep-fried Oreos on a stick. Yes, deep-fried Oreos on a stick. How can you top that?!
Then the campground started putting up Freeze Warning notices and we headed southward only to find a lot of other RVers were doing the same. We didn’t get as far as we hoped and the campground we found in Arkansas was experiencing freezing conditions as well.
Thankfully the weather warmed up as we resumed traveling southbound. We looked for the Boggy Creek creature when we stopped in Fouke (Arkansas). I didn’t see Bigfoot, but I did see a deer. And anyone who knows anything about Bigfoot knows he loves to eat deer. So no doubt he was there, lurking behind a tree watching and waiting to snack on Bambi. Technically, I guess I saw him!
We made a few stops in Louisiana. There are a few places we like to hideaway there. One has a buffet that we used to like. Notice the emphasis there. They now want $30 each for a buffet!! Yep! So naturally I had $25 worth of dessert. Just pour whiskey sauce over everything and it tastes great! HA!
I describe I-10 along the Gulf States as “bump-ta-bump”. Well, I must retract that. This corridor of I-10 is actually bump-ta-bump-ta-bump-bump now. It got much worse. I actually take off my back curtains because of previous experience on this stretch of highway. Yet this trip was another first. The quilt came off my bed – I apparently vibrated itself off the bed! Thankfully we got off the highway for a bit and took the back-roads. And then we had to stop and restock our supplies. Luckily a few of the older grocery stores have curb-less parking lots. Some of the new ones are crazy for curbs and it is hard to swing a Big Rig around unless you want to take out a few cars and shopping cart racks. Although now that I think of it, that would be a fun video game!
We eventually made our way to Mississippi only to find some really horrible campgrounds. The park we did find appeared to be a nice one, only it was one of those parks that double their sites to make them Big Rig friendly. We didn’t mind that, we just wanted to get settled before it got dark and get some rest as the past few days were rough traveling. Well, a train went through every four-five minutes! It’s a joke with RVers that campgrounds are near either airports or a railroad, but this one was right on top of it! And coming in from the front road you never saw the tracks. So no rest for us! Thankfully we only stayed the night and left early the next morning.
We headed toward Biloxi (Mississippi) in hope of finding some rest and then gradually made our way back toward Florida Panhandle. After arriving back in Florida we settled in a nice RV resort along the Gulf of Mexico.
Taking advantage of the mid-seventy temperatures, we took some lovely day trips throughout the region, including Gulf Breeze (Florida) and Orange Beach (Alabama). Found a lot of nice shells at Orange Beach. The nice thing about this stretch of gulf is that it isn’t heavily developed as it could be (thankfully!) because of the designated national seashore and the protected lands of a threatened beach mouse.
We also made a visit to Fort Morgan State Historic Park. What a wonderful day we had! To stand at the top of Fort Morgan and view the Gulf of Mexico and Mobile Bay… and then picture history as it was… and as it is now. There are natural gas rigs in the bay and on a sunny day you can see Sand Lighthouse out in the Gulf.
The holidays kept us busy but we managed to see Pensacola Lighthouse decorated for Christmas. Only one other time had we seen a lighthouse decorated for Christmas and that was several years ago when we were in Oregon. So it was a treat for us. We had been there several times but not since they added the carriage house gift shop and pump house. Nice to see the additional historic buildings have been added to the property. Each room was decorated for Christmas, including a tree at the bottom of the tower steps. Even though the lighthouse is haunted, I didn’t see the “Ghost of Christmas Past”- but I did feel the cool air as I entered the Keeper’s room, where they now show the episode of “Ghost Hunters” featuring Pensacola Lighthouse. The last time I visited there I recall having a similar experience in that area. And on the previous visit I had also felt someone watching me in the basement. So even after telling myself I wasn’t going in the basement this visit, I did. However, the “dummy” they have sitting at the desk at the base of the stairs now startled me so much I jumped backwards onto the steps again! That certainly cleared out my Moon-Pie-clogged arteries! And, of course, we re-visited the Naval Aviation Museum while were across the road from the lighthouse. No matter how many times I go there, I still end up taking 500-600 photos. The museum also had the “Homefront” decorated for Christmas, as well as a few other areas.
We welcomed 2014 by making several trips to Gulf Islands National Seashore. It really is a beautiful area. In fact, we really enjoy the location at Fort Pickens. We had been there several years ago and were eager to return. Fort Pickens, like Fort Morgan in Alabama, has an interesting history.
And then Mother Nature decided that even Florida was going to get freezing temperatures. The RV resort workers came back to each site and advised Campers on what to do, since this was something most of them never experienced while spending the winter in Florida. Of course, we are no strangers to winter camping, but good golly gee, it’s Florida! So we filled our water tank and unhooked our hoses for the night. That week the rest of the U.S. had subzero temperatures. We felt badly for those folks camp hosting or wintering in RVs in the Northern/Midwestern states this winter. The coldest we have camped is in the high-teens, but it was short-term lows and went back to normal temps quickly.
Our thermometer read twenty-four degrees although the mainland (Florida) was colder. Fortunately the high winds (up to 35-40 mph gusts) helped keep it from dropping. We went three days with our water hose unhooked because the daytime temperatures were near or barely above freezing.
As spring started to warm us up, we began planning our summer travels. It’s always exciting to move on and start a new journey, but honestly, sometimes it is tiring. Not just traffic, sometimes the whole concept of packing. Going on eight years of traveling this way, you’d think we would get used to it.
Then we headed northward just a bit and thanks to a winter storm and those crazy pessimists at the Weather Channel, the temperature dropped and dropped and dropped and the rain came… the ice cold rain… and then it turned to sleet… and while we were sleeping, it turned to snow. Yes, snow in Florida! And it didn’t melt right away either. Everything was shut down for a couple of days because of icy conditions. The roadways and even sections of I-10 were closed because of it. We were literally stuck where we were. Just crazy weather for Florida! Actually, we are thankful we had left the RV resort on the island, because both bridges to it were closed because of the ice and bridge design. I’d hate to have to need propane or groceries now!
And instead of the Groundhog popping out of his hole wearing a Speedo on Groundhog Day, he predicted six more weeks of winter. Despite the ice-age loving Groundhog’s predictions, the weather started to warm back up. But wait! Another night of cold temperatures made its way to Florida. It was nowhere near the freezing temperatures we had a few weeks prior, yet we found ourselves being diverted off of I-10 because of ice on the highway.
Before we moved on we did find time to explore Fort Barrancas and a few other places around Pensacola (Florida). The fort was rather fun, but I never did see the Confederate ghost!
As we headed northward the severe weather waylaid our travels for several days. Evidently we made it through Georgia and South Carolina. Ironically we crossed paths with some other Full-Timers we met the previous year outside of Savannah (Georgia). We then followed Pedro’s advice on all those South of the Border billboards and stopped in! It was even tackier than we remembered from years ago, but a nice stop after several weeks of rough weather.
The roads in North Carolina were a lot rougher than our previous trip and we passed a few places that we had planned on stopping. There were a few places we wanted to stop in Virginia and we found an “award-winning” campground to stay at. This park wasn’t even close to earning one-star with us. It was over seventy dollars a night for fuzzy fifteen fuzzy Direct TV channels and limited WiFi. And then they parked some moronic Campers next to us that moved their fire ring right beside one of our slides and filled our fifth-wheel with smoke. And this park had planes and trains keeping us up at night. Award-winning, indeed! It really put a damper on our plans.
Traffic certainly was bad during Virginia this time. I think we have seen more accidents on the roadways this trip than all the years of traveling. We even saw a vehicle on fire in one stretch and another where a tractor trailer was flipped over. We spent at least an hour in Virginia driving under five miles per hour because of the accidents slowing down traffic.
We crossed the Potomac River into Washington D.C. and then into Maryland. Our travel plans were to explore this region a little more. And, believe me, we did! I took so many photos that I had to buy another memory card. One place worth mentioning though is Fort McHenry National Monument in Baltimore (Maryland). There is just something awe-inspiring about seeing the Star-Spangled Banner waving over the fort and knowing what happened during the Battle of Baltimore. It makes you appreciate the National Anthem even more.
We also visited other sites in the region like the B&O Railroad Museum. I must admit though, we were very disappointed in the train ride. We thought it would be wonderful to go on the first line of track in America; however, the thrill was gone when we looked out the window. Rather poor section of town and all you see is trash and graffiti. It took some of the “awe” out of our visit and would certainly advise future visitors not to go on the train.
Chesapeake Bay Bridge was a fun drive, although if you don’t like bridges I would not recommend driving over this one. Worth a trip though if you want to go to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels (Maryland). This museum is definitely worth a visit if you love boats and the water. Hooper Strait Lighthouse is on the property, as well as another tower, several boats and larger historic items. While there we were fortunate to tour the visiting the Nina and the Pinta, which we had tried to see earlier in the year at Perdido Key (Florida).
We also made the pilgrimage to George Washington’s home in Mount Vernon (Virginia). We took advantage of our visit and even drove to the grist mill and distillery. This is one of those places you want to make sure to visit again. It is so hard to describe how you feel, seeing Washington’s deathbed, approaching his tomb or snickering at his false teeth! And then you see the other items, like the key to the Bastille and trees labeled with their dates (such as the Tulip Popular labeled circa 1785) and you truly feel like you’ve stepped back into time. Amazing place and I’m still in awe from our visit.
Although I think George Washington would be saddened by the region. The traffic is absolutely insane and everyone is in a hurry. It was really difficult for us to adjust to the “city” life and traveling the Capital Beltway. And taking buses and the Metro wasn’t something that felt comfortable to us. Being Full-Timers, we rely on our own transport. As we left the region we did have a bit of a mishap. We ended up driving the rig through DC. We had been told that GPS doesn’t work in various areas and ours flickered at a crucial exit. So what we missed we actually saw from the rig!
Then we planned to mosey in a southwesterly direction, but unfortunately the highways leading out of the area were jammed up. We found ourselves changing highways only to get jammed at the next one. It took several hours just to go sixty miles! Happily we left Virginia and made our way to North Carolina. Yet again we found ourselves with tire trouble. Something hit one of our fifth-wheel tires and we had some damage to the tire and undercarriage. Fortunately we were okay and with the help of our Travel Angel and the tire service man, we made it back on the road.
High-tailing it for South Carolina, we took a few weeks to soak in the sun and catch up on some rest and relaxation from our hectic travels. Discovered a few neat places and we will make sure to revisit them on another journey. Then we headed to Georgia. Driving through Atlanta (Georgia) was pretty uneventful this time. Usually we end up in rush hour traffic or in the middle of a complete-stop for an accident.
We spent a few days in Alabama, were we got into some weather again. Fortunately it was nothing too severe. The rig got on I-65 and headed south to Florida! It just really, really likes it there. But considering we have repairs to make (new fender skirt, undercarriage repaired, air-suspension hose replaced, etc…) it is be nice to be home to rest and recuperate from our long haul.
In between repairs (still waiting on new fender skirt and trim) we went on a road-trip of some old haunts. The weather turned very warm across the country and Florida was no exception. Florida had several days with a heat index of over one hundred degrees. I felt sorry for those who didn’t have access to a beach.
When it cooled down we found several more museums to visit as well as a quaint heritage museum across the Alabama-Florida border. We also managed a trip to see the USS Alabama and the USS Drum in Mobile (Alabama). I think we were there about four hours just to see everything. The self-guided tour of the USS Alabama takes about two hours (if you see everything and stop to enjoy exhibits). There were some really neat things on board to see, including a piece of the USS Arizona. The real treat for me was going on-board the submarine, USS Drum.
Another heat wave hit and we found ourselves on the beach or sight-seeing near the beach. Fortunately we can deal with the heat – especially when we have a lovely gulf breeze! We did manage to find several cool museums we haven’t visited before such as two train museums and a quaint heritage museum.
Then allergies seemed to catch-up with us, so we used our down-time to replace all our window treatments. That, of course, led to new bedding… and new wallpaper! Who says a fifth-wheel isn’t like a stick house?
You can always tell when it is Fall in Florida – the license plates change color! And a trip to the grocery store will certainly guarantee a sighting of at least a dozen different state plates. Fortunately the weather remains beautiful – despite these brief visits by some polar-vortex and the occasional band of storms that passes our way.
We enjoyed visiting the lighthouse in Pensacola (Florida) again. This is one of our favorites to visit, especially during the Christmas holiday. They decorate the lighthouse for Christmas and the tower becomes a giant tree. The cottage and outbuildings are also decorated, as well as the inside. Just about every room has a Christmas tree decorated with a different theme. And the lighthouse and buildings are haunted – so that really puts you in the “spirit” of things!
The New Year started us off with some allergies, but we used the time to start thinking about our travel plans for 2015. We also planned more day trips for the weeks ahead, which have included the beach, flea markets, forts and more museums. And I plan to sneak in a few Roadside America attractions as well.
Such as our recent sighting of the UFO House in Gulf Breeze. For those who are into UFOs, you know that Gulf Breeze has a large number of UFO and USO (Unidentified Submerged Object) sightings. Well, we can add one more to the list if you count houses!
Also had a chance to visit the Advanced Redoubt, which was built in the mid 1800s to help defend the navy yard near Fort Barrancas, Fort Pickens and Fort McRee. The inside is not open to the public, but it is still a great “fort” to visit and walk around. The NPS gives guided tours on Saturdays, but unfortunately we had just missed it.
The weather got a little chilly, but we managed a couple day trips to Alabama and did a little sight-seeing and shopping. Managed to get in another trip the the National Museum of Naval Aviation to see the new Coast Guard exhibit as well as an IMAX movie. Oh, and we visited Big Lagoon State Park for some hiking and bird-watching.
Time has passed us by and we found ourselves taking off for the next long haul… hmm… now where will the summer travels take us? What new adventures will we be in store for?
We headed westward for a ways… And, just as we have come accustomed to, I-10 did not let us down with its rhythmic bumpty-bump-da-bump! Traveling though Alabama and Mississippi were uneventful and it didn’t take us long to find ourselves in Louisiana. We had planned to stay in Baton Rouge, but to our dismay, the campground we always stayed at had gone downhill. Although it wasn’t just the condition of the park, it was also the help. Thankfully the RV resort we planned to vacation at (yes – even Full-Timers get to take a vacation!) wasn’t far away and they had no problem getting us a site for a few days earlier. And that’s all I will say about Louisiana. Those that follow our travels know we don’t reveal all our hideaways!
After having some down-time, we made our way back to the highway and headed westbound for Texas. Our first stop passing the Louisiana/Texas State Line was the Texas Travel Information Center in Orange (Texas) to see Blue Elbow Swamp. The Center has a boardwalk that extends into Blue Elbow Swamp and you can view a variety of plants, trees and wildlife. It has always been a great stop for us before heading into Houston traffic. Nothing more relaxing than walking a swamp! But Blue Elbow Swamp (which is part of Tony Housman State Park and Wildlife Management Area) does have a fascinating history that even includes cannibals. Yep!
Made our way into Houston and were just getting on another highway when some folks in a small vehicle started waving at us that something was wrong. Naturally we thought tires and pulled off the road as soon as we could. Fortunately it was just a cable that had come undone and was dragging a few feet behind the RV. No damage – phew!
From then on we were truly on new roads (for us that is) and found ourselves pulling off an exit that apparently had no return entrance… so we ending up driving through several small towns in order to find the main road again. But hey, that’s okay! We saw a few patches of bluebonnets… then a handful of tepees… and a dinosaur! Yep! You don’t see stuff like that on the main roads.
The next stop was Victoria (Texas) which is known as the South Texas Crossroads because of the three highways that intersect there. Hmm… let’s see, from there we went to Goliad and saw the Goliad State Park & Historic Site (the Franciscan mission).
The back-roads in this region are not marked well and we ended up on some farm road that wasn’t on our map or GPS. Thankfully we found our way to the highway, only to be surprised by the change of scenery. From undeveloped land and cattle ranches we were suddenly surrounded by large farms and wind turbines. That quickly changed to bayous and a looming cityscape. And yet another turn had us heading for a big bridge… and over to the left was the USS Lexington! Woohoo!
We had never been in Corpus Christi before and look forward to exploring the area more. One of our first visits was to Padre Island National Seashore on Padre Island. For some reason I thought the majority of the park was paved with only a few miles of beach roads. Wrong! Yet it was fun to drive the Silverado on the beach road. Then we got to do the same in Port Aransas which is on the far north end of Padre Island and what they really call Mustang Island.
They also ride horses on the beach in this area, although you won’t find me riding one. I watch too many of those shark movies on the SyFy channel and I am positive that if I rode a horse on the beach a super-shark would attack the horse and me with it! Ha!
We had a chance to see the Blue Angels fly over the area – boy, they seem to be following us! The weekend after that was the Texas Sandfest in Port Aransas. People from all over come to participate in building incredible sand sculptures. The start of the festival was rather rainy, fortunately it ended with sunny skies.
Our next adventure took us back over Corpus Christi Bay to tour the USS Lexington. The Lexington, an Essex Class aircraft carrier, was nicknamed the “Blue Ghost” by Tokyo Rose because of several reports of being sunk. At the time of her decommission in 1991, she was the oldest working carrier in the U.S. Navy. There are five self-guided tours and it took us about four hours to see the entire ship. One of the hidden gems we found was a ball cap (of the Lexington) worn by Commander Jerry Linenger on board the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1994. In addition they had wreckage from the USS Arizona on display at the Pearl Harbor Exhibit. We also had an opportunity to visit the radio room courtesy of a fellow ham radio operator and ship volunteer (thanks, Chuck!).
Keeping up with the “finding new roads” theme, we headed to Kingsville (TX) and toured King Ranch. The ranch was established in 1853 by Captain Richard King. King originally bought over 68,000 acres of land from Spanish and Mexican land grants. The ranch today consists of over 800,000 acres and Kings logo can be seen all over the world – from sod to cattle feed. It is a working ranch and you can see Santa Gretrudis cattle, Kings Quarter horses, historic buildings and a variety of wildlife. You can see the Kineños (Kings Men) working the ranch. While in Kingsville we also visited the John E. Conner museum at the Texas A&M campus. They had a variety of exhibits, including The Celebration of Quilts. From there we went downtown and stopped at the 1904 train depot and Victorian bandstand.
The weather turned nasty for several days and we found ourselves in storm and flood warnings. Even had a tornado warning one afternoon. Thankfully the funnel cloud didn’t touch down.
We took advantage of a rainy day and visited the Marine Science Institute (University of Texas) in Port Aransas (Texas). They have a small, free education center that is open to the public. They also have a spotting scope where you can see Lydia Ann Lighthouse. We also were happy to see dolphins down by the ferry landing and, of course, take a photo of the Chevy with a pirate ship in the background.
More severe weather and a great deal of flooding in Texas put our day travels on hold a couple weeks. Fortunately the weather has cleared and we managed to put in some mileage again! We found ourselves in Rockport (Texas) and visited the Texas Maritime Museum, Bay Education Center and Rockport Beach. The weather was beautiful and the Gulf was like a sheet of glass.
We then made a point to visit Lighthouse Park (off Hwy 36 between Aransas Pass and the Port Aransas ferry) to see Lydia Ann Lighthouse. Thankfully it was a clear day and we had a wonderful view. Then we took the ferry across to Port Aransas (Texas). The Silverado was on the high seas! Okay, maybe not so high, but hey, it was pretty adventurous waiting in line!
Time has went quickly and now summer is in full-swing. Hard to believe that the Fourth of July is almost here! And what an exciting summer it has been already. From dinosaurs running amok to visiting a two-story Whataburger – I can’t seem to keep this updated.
Managed to get to the Art Museum of South Texas to see the Andy Warhol exhibit. It was worth it to see John Wayne… and Santa Claus. Also visited the Museum of Science and History in Corpus Christi (Texas). The museum offered visitors a bit of everything from dinosaurs to coastal ecology. Although the dinosaurs didn’t run amok like they did in JURASSIC WORLD.
The weather has been beautiful – adding to our site-seeing ventures. We made a trip to Fulton Mansion State Historical Site in Rockport (Texas). Although the mansion is currently closed for renovations, we enjoyed walking the gardens and grounds. Also enjoyed some local antique stores.
Although the weather has been warm and dry, we managed to get some rainfall the other day. Also managed to enjoy a beach sunrise, even though the truck didn’t appreciate getting up so early in the morning! Unfortunately it may be our last to enjoy as red tide has moved in and we are all coughing, sneezing and itching.
And… my itching continues! So I am considering myself a victim of red tide. I wonder if I can sue BP? Fortunately that didn’t prevent us from finishing up our visiting the rest of the sites we wanted to see along the Coastal Bend.
Fall dropped in suddenly and we found ourselves making reservations for the next leg of the journey!
After a few final preparations we found ourselves on the road again. Everything was going well until we found ourselves springing a leak… yep! You guessed it – another tire! The value stem got damaged and we developed a slow leak on the inside dually. Fortunately we were able to pull into a campground to get the spare on. You’d think we would be used to it by now, but no, it’s almost a surprise… well, that and a few choice words!
Took some time out to explore historic Victoria and then moved on toward Houston. It is places like Houston that reminds us we aren’t “city dwellers”, that’s for sure! Moseyed our way to Louisiana and managed a little down time before moving eastward again. The weather has changed dramatically though. From our summers of near or at 100s to now lows of 50s at nights, we find ourselves scrambling for a jacket or extra blanket.
The tire that was damaged in Texas still needed fixed. Unfortunately we couldn’t find a truck stop that had time to fix it, so we found a smaller town in Louisiana that had some folks happy to help us out. In fact, his name was Cooper too!
We made a point to visit the USS Orleck, a Gearing-class Destroyer built in1954. The ship is currently located in Lake Charles (Louisiana) and we visited during normal business hours, only to find a rather ominous “Do not enter” sign near the fenced gate. Stepping into the fenced area we noticed it didn’t really look all that welcoming to visitors. Stepping a few feet more toward the walkway, we heard two big splashes, only to see that we had agitated two alligators. Considering we had no hardhats, life jackets or gator-wrestling gear, we found ourselves heading back to the safety of the Silverado! Note to self – may sure tetanus shot is up-to-date before touring another ship!
Since Louisiana is home to one of our favorite hideaway locations, I won’t say anything more… but the weather was beautiful and we all had a great time… although food just a little too spicy this trip!
Traveling eastward proved rather slow and we found ourselves literally crawling near Baton Rouge (Louisiana). It took us just over an hour to go ten miles. What we thought was an accident wasn’t – just a disabled vehicle getting ready to be towed. Then a few miles later we made our way upon the remains of the accident scene. After that traffic cleared.
Made a brief stop in Mississippi at the Infinity Science Center and even saw some pretty pricey hot-boiled peanut “stands”. We were making good time on our trip until we hit Alabama and traffic slowed down again near the tunnel. Fortunately traffic didn’t completely stop in the tunnel, (wasn’t there a movie about being in a tunnel traffic jam?) but it was pretty slow going!
We waved at one of our favorite stops in Alabama – the USS Alabama – and kept heading eastward. Then, like a water truck in the desert, we spotted the WELCOME to Florida sign. Yippee! It took a few days but we are getting settled in and managed a trip to the beach already. Oh, Florida! The beautiful beaches and sunny skies, now that’s what a call a Welcome Home.
Unfortunately the weeks have went by and I haven’t updated this. We have been very busy…Then we found out that one nomad needed eye surgery. Now that is over with and our One-Eyed Willie is seeing a bit better. In fact, we managed to see the El Galeón the one day. The 170 ft. tall ship was a pretty impressive site.
It seems Thanksgiving has crept up on us! The last few weeks have been busy with visiting craft shows, flea markets and even a car show. The weather has been nice except for a few nights the temperatures dropped in the forties. BRRR! But after a summer of high temps in the Southwest I guess we shouldn’t complain too much, huh?
We managed to get a few day-trips to Alabama. Weather has been a little cloudy and cool, but still beats wintering in the Northern states. Especially now that there are experiencing such severe weather. It is a shame to see places we visited over the years dealing with floods and tornado damage.
Christmas came and went quickly, unfortunately the Christmas weekend after was a little too eventful! I didn’t post this before, but during the summer while we were in Texas we were visited, not once, but twice by moonlight marauders. They had attempted to take items we had stored under our rear slide. Fortunately each attempt resulted in us waking from the clatter of the cable-lock being pulled. The culprits didn’t realize our stuff was securely locked to the underside of the fifth-wheel. And it wasn’t just us; other Campers had a late-night visit. Lucky for the marauders other Campers were more trusting and woke to find their Yeti coolers and other items missing. This happened not only at the resort we were staying at, but also another down the road.
Imagine our surprise when the night after Christmas we had yet another visit from a moonlight marauder right here in Florida! Thankfully our items were secure and he ran off when the scare lights were turned on. Although it certainly did make it a memorable Christmas weekend!
And then we started the last week of the year with an early morning tornado warning. Not only something every RVer dreads but even more-so when you are still in your pajamas! Thankfully the system went over us with minor damage.
With the wet and stormy weather we find ourselves confined to the rig. Fortunately Santa brought plenty of books, DVDs and puzzles to keep us busy until we can start site-seeing again.
The New Year started off great until another nomad experienced vision loss in one eye. So travel is on hold until all the eye “doctoring” and surgery is done. Yet with the way the weather has been lately – cold, rainy or just plain gloomy – there honestly hasn’t been much motivation from the three modern nomads to gear-up and go out.
Fortunately a break in the weather had us putting on a couple hundred miles the other day – just exploring… that is until we encountered another “first”. We heard a loud motorcycle behind the truck. A glance in the mirrors showed only traffic in the distance. The noise kept getting louder and I physically twisted around in my seat to look behind us. In the rear corner (driver side) of the truck was a helmet sticking up – no motorcycle mind you, just a helmet! The motorcyclist was so close to us we could not see a body or the motorcycle. We couldn’t imagine why someone would be so close to us, especially with the amount of traffic on the highway and the possibility of having to brake suddenly. No attempt was made to pass and we began to worry that this person was up to no good! We pulled into a nearby truck stop only to have the motorcycle remain on our tail. Fortunately we found a pull-thru parking spot near the entrance of the truck stop where we could be viewed by all the customers. We did not turn off the truck, nor did we get out. The motorcyclist pulled up to us and motioned for us to get out. We did not move, but I had the cell phone in my hands to call for help. The driver side window went down 1 inch and we listened to his “story”. He claimed he dropped his microphone on the road and went back to get it only for us to run over it before he got to it. He wanted $100 cash to replace it. What he held up was a cut (obviously cut by hand, not torn apart) microphone, completely intact (not crushed from being on the highway). Oddly enough we encountered no motorcycles on that stretch of highway (other than him) that day and we would have seen him flip back! With all the highway traffic – semis, dump trucks, RVs, etc… he randomly picks the first vehicle he can follow to claim they allegedly ran over some two inch item on the highway. Obviously a scam – and one that not only endangered us but other vehicles with his unsafe driving! Who said being a Full-Time RVer was boring?!
The weather has warmed up a bit, but unfortunately the wind has kept outdoor activities at bay. Luckily we can still “get lost” in the Chevy and find some new roads! Although who knows what cuckoos we will run into this week!
Fortunately, our venture to Gulf Breeze (Florida) wasn’t as crazy as the previous week’s one near Defuniak Springs (Florida)! We also made a few day trips to Alabama, including a trip (or two!) to the casino buffet. Did I hear something about cheesecake?
We found out that our one-eyed Nomad will be needing a few more eye surgeries over the next few weeks, so we’ll be staying close to the rig. Despite everything, mid-season travel plans are still in the works, as well as a growing list of things we still want to see while we are in this area.
We managed to get in a few day trips around the Panhandle and have been itching to travel. So we between eye surgeries we each packed a bag and hit the road – trying out the “hotel life”. Won’t say where we ended up (need a few places to get away!) but had beautiful weather!
Then we were surprised to find that the air-condition was on the fritz in the RV. Naturally we had record highs! So the Nomads packed their bags and found a nice hotel suite for a few days until one could be ordered and installed. I guess we shouldn’t have unpacked from our previous hotel stay!
The Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival was underway in Foley (Alabama) and we spent the day there. Especially enjoyed seeing the World Famous Frisbee Dogs and the incredible show they put on. And don’t get me started on all the food!
Despite horrible weather across the county, we have been fortunate to have sunny skies and warm temps. It is something to sit and watch the Weather Channel, recognizing places we have been that are impacted by severe weather. You know you have traveled the country when you recognize a flooded parking lot in another region!
We were saddened by the news of the Blue Angel crash in Tennessee. We have been fortunate to see the Blue Angels many times – all over the country. On our next visit to the museums at the NAS in Pensacola we will make sure to pay tribute.
Our summer travels are on hold as this Nomad – moi – finds herself dealing with a journey of her own. I was recently diagnosed with cancer and will be undergoing treatment. Fortunately we are in an area that has plenty of activities and museums to keep our traveler’s blood flowing until I am able to take on the next leg of our journey.
Treatment has been tiring, but fortunately my fellow Nomads are keeping me on the go. A fold-able wheelchair has allowed me to regain my mobility and independence. During treatment I must refrain from site-seeing (germs) but we have been doing some nice day-drives to get away. I must say I have learned a great deal about what the disabled have to deal with during traveling. Restroom facilities may be adequate standards for the disabled; however, heavy doors, garbage cans and other obstacles hinder access to a wheelchair user! When I think of all the traveling we’ve done through the years – all the places we’ve stopped – I wonder how I would have coped in a wheelchair. It is eye-opening and I give kudos to those with disabilities that keep on the move! You inspire me!
Well, I just realized it has been a while since I updated this. I have been keeping myself busy with craft projects and reading books lately. The chemo has left me in a great deal of pain, but keeping busy takes my mind off it. We have managed to make several nice day trips, despite my treatment. I refuse to stop moving and doing! 🙂
There is a weather system off the Gulf Coast, threatening to drench most of Florida over the next several days. Fortunately we have no need to get out in the rain! Instead we will stay in and watch them panic on the Weather Channel.
Despite another heavy dose of chemo, this gal managed to take a long road trip. The first rest area we came to, I sat in my wheelchair outside the breezeway eating an ice cream (gotta love Florida rest areas!), feeling the warm air and smelling the oil on the asphalt. Now if that isn’t a love for travel, I don’t know what is! I still can’t imagine people who do not want to go anywhere. I guess it’s in my blood – and regardless of the cancer – I’m going to keep these feet moving!
We managed another long day-trip although I’ll admit I was beat this time. I have to learn to stop and get out more… more ice cream breaks needed! haha Also managed a trip to the beach, despite the weather. Now I’d been to the beach before, but not out of the truck. This trip I managed to get in the wheelchair and enjoy hearing the waves, gulls and distant thunder.
Considering the Fall holidays have arrived, the weather has been beautiful. Record high temps and lots of sun – something I appreciate as the cancer has left me cold all the time! We decorated the RV for Halloween and enjoyed sitting outside sipping apple cider and nibbling on Halloween cookies. Although I probably looked quite a site – me in the wheelchair with an eye patch swirling a champagne glass of cider! haha
My birthday this year was rather nice – we enjoyed a trip to the Naval Museum and followed with lunch at the Cubi Bar & Cafe. The staff sang “Happy Birthday” to me and it was extra special.
As my treatment schedule winds down, we hope to do some more sight-seeing. I have some rough days ahead, I know, but again, I can’t let that stop my feet moving!
Updated: November 5, 2016