Twin Spruce RV park Ruidoso NM

Traveled from Alb NM 200 miles south to Ruidoso NM Twin Spruce RV Park camp on Wednesday ….for a few days trial run with grandsons on their first overnight.

Twin Spruce RV Park

On approach to the mountainous area nearing Sierra Blanco [12,000′], the hills are low gear demanding, for a significant time. The Nogal ‘shortcut’ east of Carrizozo is pretty steep in sections.

Co-pilot noted a forest fire on the horizon towards Cloudcroft NM. The Timberon Fire eventually encompassed about 400 acres and consumed 20 homes. Fire risk is historically present across mountainous NM during hot summer days.

The Ruidoso, Capitan, Alto Fire was extreme a few years back and the remnants of  wide spread destruction are still visible today.

As entering Ruidoso, low gear is the mandatory method to save the rig’s brake rotors and pads. Driving down through the narrow main street of Ruidoso is a bit tight when tourism is at peak. There is the Gavilon canyon route that saves a bit of nerves, related to pedestrians and slow traffic through town.

As the junction leading to Twin Spruce is in sight, we slow for the turn and mosy on into the RV park where site reservations are waiting. Three rigs arrived all at the same time. Took a bit of maneuvering to sort out the rigs and for ‘Stump’ to guide us up the steep hill into our site for three nights camp.

First time away from the grand sons parents, extended nights sleeping in the RV. Campers told of evening herd of Deer and one regularly wandering Black Bear that raided some leftover watermelon from a nearby campsite. The kids sat up for a while, watching for the Bear and Deer.

They did fine and seemed to have a bit of fun in the process of setting up their fold out sofa bed each night. Days were wasted in leisure as we prowled around a few little touristy shops, finding some crystals of quartz to add to their collections.

Entertainment for us grandparents, watching as they drove gas powered go carts for first time….. around a figure 8 track, under an overpass, several laps, 15 minutes, while racing other kids. Enjoyed their laps enough to do it again on 2nd evening.

Although a swimming pool is on RV park property, they never showed interest. When the three grand daughters living in Alb, went with us as youngsters years ago, All they wanted was to be in the pool. When the little one even had a poopy problem, she wanted to go jump in the pool… yuck.

Brought along an Airsoft rifle that I had acquired at a charity shop, but had no little plastic BB’s.

As  obviously destined, we were assigned site #78… further up the hilly sites on the mountainside… which by chance had been occupied previously by three families with a lot of kids.

They had dropped hundreds of little colorful plastic Airsoft balls. So many were on the ground, stuck in cracks of the deck and laying around the sites nearby, that our grand sons ‘re-shot’ airsoft BB’s for days, with never running out. The forested mountain range was next to our site, so no campers were in danger of little colorful BB’s in their stew :>)

Flying J Wranglers were performing in their ‘Bonito Village’ entertainment town. Thursday eve, we arrived at 6pm and left at 10pm, poking around their little village, shooting wax pellets from real six shooters, then watching a gun fight in the street.

Sheriff said “Take ten paces, turn and fire at will”. Troublemaker then shot his own partner, claiming his name was ‘Will”.

When Sheriff addressed the bad guy to stop, draw and fight, the troublemaker just turned around, walked away from the Sheriff, while replying to the Sheriff,

“No”.

Sheriff said “just where do you think you are going”? He defiantly replied…” I’m going to Rehab”… “Just like everyone else today.”

Troublemaker walked away, replied, “I’ve seen you shoot, I’m not worried”

Sheriff shot at him anyway, in a finale of crowd laughter as he shook and rang to the tune of a cow bell after bragging, ‘You missed me…sort of”.

Then the tasty dinner was served efficiently to the large group, on steel plates from the chuck wagon serving line as we hustled through in orderly fashion. Lots of seconds and thirds left everyone fed up.

One grand son went back four times for the Bar B Q Chicken, must have liked it :>)  Lots of Cowboy/Cowgirl singing, guitars and comedy during a well done fun performance ……after trail chow was served.

One grandson desired a train engine of vintage new HO ga at a little train shop. His allowance went for that ‘investment’.

The other grandson had not spent all of his wealth on rocks or trains and saw a little plastic rifle-pistol set at the little shop in the Wrangler’s Village. It took lots of older wisdom to get him to wait until Walmart, to see what the same allowance wealth would buy.

After a call to his parents for approval and blessing, he now owns his first Daisy Red Ryder. Lots of gun slinger lessons later, as he went through his first little jar of BB’s, he has not “Shot his eye out’..yet..

One grandson and I walked down the hill to the office shelter and breakfast served from 8am to 10am on Saturday. While waiting for her son to prep our order, Kay the owner, stopped by for a chat. Have not seen my friend Kay since last time, two seasons ago. Great biscuits and gravy, two pancakes and bacon for me and one pancake and bacon for grandson. He loves bacon.

Break camp after dumping and rinsing the holding tanks. Grandsons were fascinated by the fast flow of poop passing through the clear viewing tube. Doesn’t take much to interest kids.

Hook up the Honda tow, remembering to connect the additional stop and tail lights taped to the roof. Gradually descending the steep hill to the highway, we bid adieu [until next trip] to Twin Spruce.

Taking the Gavilon Canyon by-pass to save bit of traffic and tight hill climbing through town, we were on our way. AC blower circuit [resistor block?} had failed a few times in the past, so a 12 ga jumper wire to the cigar lighter socket, kept the blower functioning on the return during a very hot driving day… 99 degrees.

200 mile trip home after three nights in camp, was four hours total. 1/2 the distance was of up and down mountainous driving in low gears, followed by a long stretch of volcanic lava scenery across Valley of Fires and of interstate 25 into Albuquerque.

The twenty miles or so, of maturing Pistachio or Pecan groves were interesting near Belen NM, south of Alb NM. Today’s temp was 99 degrees. Kind of warm but, as true in NM, no humidity to sweat about.

Parents picked them up on arrival, as they showed their mountain treasures and a rock… a big rock.

Holiday Rambler RV to Chattanooga

After prep of motor coach with it’s ‘Leonard the Mobil Mechanic’ installed new fuel filter, serpentine belt, pulleys, install new water pump, all from NAPA, in the process. The coach is running like a smoother, aged version of when new, over 90,000 miles 12 years ago.

Left out of ABQ in afternoon and arrived in Roswell NM in time for evening ‘camp’ in Sam’s Club parking lot. The 200 miles to Roswell are uneventful pleasant drives across the remote ranch land, where few ranch houses are visible from the highway. Antelope are the usual inhabitants of the former Buffalo range, now occupied by a sparse number of cattle accustomed to the harsh dry environment of the arid desert southwestern USA.

Quiet evening and the morning drive toward San Angelo Texas, our next evening stay, is the goal. The cotton farms are being prepped for spring planting in some areas. Oil pump ‘jacks’ are still operating, even in this lower profit time. The big wind turbines are stil somewhat turning as leave Big Spring Texas toward San Angelo.

The city park entrance is usually a closed gate house, where free night’s stay is welcome. Arriving before 7:00 pm, we paid the attendant the $12 city park fee and located our usual spot on the shoreline of the channel of the reservoir for one night.

Most times we see exotic animals on the opposite shore in the gated community. Not so, the last few trips, with only a pair of Egyptian Geese and one lonesome male wild Turkey. With the new US economy not so well endowed with resources, the exotic animals formerly brought in and maintained by the gated community residents, are not to be seen any longer.

We are not alone as we welcome a return to prosperity for the USA. Possibly this next presidential election will seed the new prosperity cycle?

Morning and a beginning to our trek across Texas, after a previous evening fill of fuel at the local Sam’s Club. Now we travel as tourists with a flexible goal. Not to be hindered by the restrictions of a set travel plan, we travel as do Turtles, with our home on our back.

San Antonio Texas

KOA. Rated as the winner across the USA for 2015, for a couple of evenings in the battlefield area of the Alamo, where the ducks enjoy prosperous safe dwellings in the remodeled pond, the new paved site roads… and the laundry facilities as well.

The slender, brown Egyptian Geese are back and doing well. Escapees from the nearby Red Berry mansion across The Salado Creek after the city acquired the estate, the Egyptian Geese are spreading their territories across Texas. We saw a pair of these exotic attractive geese at San Angelo City Park, as we camped for the night.

Our visits to the charity thrift stores are becoming less fruitful, as the sluggish US economy of the last 8 years recycles less of it’s discard assets of value. Resale of the discards is a portion of saleable items for the small mall space, navigator maintains in The Antique Connection of East Central, located in Alb NM.

Left KOA San Antonio and traveled along the I-35 corridor of new business. A former rural area where cows made their home a few years back. Now it is lined with thriving new businesses and surrounded with housing developments.
We turned south to Lockhart State Park, where we camp for three nights as we roam the area. First and second day was a visit to the outlet malls along I-35 and return back after an evening with friends at the Saltgrass restaurant over the spring of origin of the river through San Marcos Texas. We did not visit the Austin TSA store in the city warehouse complex on this trip. Their increasing pricing was commensurate with new items, last trip.
A few other goals, such as lunch meeting with our grand daughter at the University of Texas celebrating navigator’s birthday.
Huntsville Texas
On Monday morning we rolled east along the way to our evening camp at Huntsville State Park. Huntsville Texas, is the location to the tough guy prison known famously as ‘Huntsville’. Nothing to do with Alabama Huntsville, where the big Saturn 5 space rockets were built.
Nice evening, big park on a large lake with several gators grunting to each other. Lots of shelters and a few cabins. Lots of fishing with lots of big fish, Bass were the action this week. Free fishing while in the Texas State Parks.
Big winds had knocked down lots of trees in the last week. Hiked the area a bit and checked out the rec lodge built in 1942 by the CCC boys. First structures they built were the rec lodges. They looked forward to the dances with the local girls during those years of construction,  get togethers, meet and greets held at their dance halls.
Drove on east toward Alexandria Louisiana, where we spent the night in Walmart parking lot ‘camp’ after a fuel fill. 500 miles on the odo for this leg of our journey. Lots of green across east Texas as we leave the dry west Texas close to NM. Rolling on east Wednesday toward our destination of Chattanooga Tennessee. Not likely to enter Florida this time, we have seen enough of Fla on the last trips..

On to Chattanooga

After leaving the area of Huntsville Prison ambiance in Texas, driving distance of 100 miles, we drove through downtown Natchez Mississippi, after crossing the Mississippi River bridge. Not the best way to maneuver the 55′ of rig through 8 miles of traffic and narrow streets of restored Victorian ambiance, should have just followed the interstate to the terminus of The Natchez Trace at mile marker 1… Next trip…

Walmart overnight ‘camps’ are free and while ‘climate’ is cool, quite pleasant with wifi available at most.

Once on the ‘Trace’, life reverts to serene at a steady 50 mph and fuel efficient with no stops for the next 450 miles to Nashville Tennessee. We do not go all the way to Nashville, instead we turn off after 350 miles, toward Chattanooga Tennessee.

No trip to fun Tannehill State Park in Alabama this trip. Will save it for when we are younger and can more enjoy all of it’s family friendly museums and historic re-enactment attractions. Tannehill is a very Big State Park. I forgot my bicycle anyway, so no distance exploring of parks this trip.

At Jackson Mississippi, Barnett Reservoir is our evening stay, couple of miles off the Trace. We had stopped near Tupelo Mississippi and walked a bit of the ‘Old Trace’ to where 13 Confederate soldiers had been buried after the famous Battle of Shiloh… General Nathan Bedford Forest?

The original wooden markers were long ago lost. Replacements of marble were promptly stolen. As we observed the lonesome little row of replacement quartz grave markers with the words ‘Unknown Confederate Soldier’, we thought about the immense bravery and value of these young men, as well as the countless thousands of other Confederate Soldiers that gave their lives for their families, their Confederacy… and Their Flag.

Far more valuable people, those very young soldiers, than today’s absolutely disgusting elitist generation, so self centered,  so encumbered by their ‘politically programmed’ emotional baggage, as to be ‘offended’ by the sight of the ‘Stars and Bars’ of the Confederate Flag.

An integral part of the United States of America and it’s History. A true History that defies being ‘rewritten’, no matter what political agenda is pushing for the proliferation of their own self promoted deceit. We happily note the Confederate Flag proudly still being flown along our travels…. in proud defiance :>).

Timberlake is a great RV park a distance upriver from Jackson Mississippi, operated by the Pearl River water control authority. Big RV park. Trees, Lots of Ducks, Geese, and Squirrels to observe.This lake of the Pearl River behind the dam is about 20 or so miles long and holds lots of water. Big Fish. Must have been great fishing as the river just below the dam was lined with folks fishing.

Jackson Mississippi itself is as usual. It shuts down after dark . News with big fights in the schools. Big fights within the city government…. Culture. Not much different from South side Chicago. After nice evening in our quiet RV park away from the city and quick visit to few charity shops and consignment shops, we rolled back onto the Trace again.

250 more miles and a quiet night in Tupelo Sam’s Club ‘camp’ after fuel fill. All fuel is below $2 this trip and motor coach is running like new after the new serpentine belt, pump and pulleys. ‘Trace’ at steady 50 mph gives a solid 10 mpg. Usual, with 70 mph and stops of average travel, is about 8 mpg. Slice and a Polish dog are our supper at Sam’s.

Tupelo Mississippi was the home of Elvis Presley. We pulled off at a newly developing area with lots of new business construction. Less than 2 miles off the ‘Trace’. Easy back on and rolling steadily eastward to Chattanooga Tennessee. Passing the Redstone Arsenal Davidson Center at Huntsville Alabama is unique. The vertical standing Saturn Five Rocket gets your attention from a distance. The USA Moon Rockets were quite the technology ‘back in the day’. Maybe some day with a different focus, the USA can return to it’s former greatness.

The traffic, as we approach Chattanooga is often intense. Lots of gear changes and sudden braking. Hills and traffic, Trucks and more trucks. Navigator advised a turn off and it by-passed heavy traffic, to enter our Holiday Travel Park from a local street, rather than off the intense freeway. Saved a bit of cursing on my part :>) 7 nights in this area should allow us to accomplish our vague goals.

Great battle grounds, such as famous Chicamauga, are all over this area around Lookout Mountain. The largest, with a small museum and theater, is not far from where we are camped. Even a smaller Union contingent from the Indiana Volunteers was camped on this very site. They were decimated during one battle.

The week in Chattanooga was spent visiting our favored businesses, such as the old chicken farm near Ringold Georgia, that now sells antique replicas to dealers, along with some vintage items. A number of independent charity shops and salvage sites sell interesting items for navigator’s little mall space resale. The Estate of Confusion in Chattanooga has some treasures. Finding him open for business is the trick.

Each day was an adventure in search of forage for food or items of interest. The seven days passed rapidly and we began our return toward home, by way of Tallahassee Florida.

 

South ..out of Chattanooga

Working our way back to home by way of the coastal route, we ‘camped’ in Walmart parking for a few nights along the southern trek until the coastal region and high humidity forced nightly ‘camp’ in state facilities, ….not prisons. Tallahassee has Sam’s Club parking ‘camp’ that is pleasant and where we refuel for the coastal route. A few charity shops locate a number of saleable items of interest on the way.
AC was required during the warm and wet coastal ‘climate’. While camped with ‘shore power’ near the Alabama coast, we took a little day trip, to see some Dolphins, some gators and some bayou. The 40′ aluminum pontoon boat holds 49 tourists and for two hours, cruises around the bay attracting a few Dolphins. air breathing mammals that have sex like humans,… for recreation. Other animals seldom practice the ‘deed’, other than for strictly reproduction of their species.
After two evenings along the white sands coastline of little known Alabama development, we moved on another couple of hundred miles and camped again with hook ups…. to give cool sleeping.
After arriving south of New Orleans Louisiana at the St Bernard State Park, less than 15 minutes from the ‘Nawlins’ French quarter, We noted a strong odor of Carbon Monoxide in the coach. I was dreading the thought of a severe mechanical problem under the 12 year old coach with over 90 K miles. Loss of a bit of sleep…. imagining the worst cases outlined on the forums, proved just that, imagination. We drove the ‘toad’ into Nawlins for some French Market shrimp basket. Yum.
Today I called a local exhaust shop and the Louisiana drawl said “Yall bring it in and I will estimate the cost”. I attempted a brief bit of my own mechanical efforts to no real avail. Lifting the ‘doghouse’ cover over the engine, I checked a few nuts securing the exhaust manifold, before ‘battening the hatches’ and driving the seven miles up the St Bernard Parish highway.
Bob said he would Not work in the rain. Fortunately it was only cloudy this morning.
Navigator followed in the Honda. I pulled up to the little muffler shop, littered with tools and rusty pipes among the modern bending and welding equipment that showed lots of hard use. ‘Bob’s Muffler shop was a little two bay garage, with two grimy, skinny country mechanics sawing off rusted exhaust systems from old derelicts parked outside.
After smoking a few more cigarettes, and after using an electric ‘Sawzall’, cutting away discarded catalytic converters from a rusty old Infinity, Bob then crawled under our coach, parked in the entrance driveway. Within a few minutes of listening for the exhaust leak, he said “Bout $175 to replace the ‘donut’ seal on one side”. Knowing that there were two seals. The fact that a long duration before service was actually accomplished, was common in the big professional commercial chains, I asked about replacing both donut seals… and when could Bob and his helper work on it?
His quick calculation said “$300 for both.. “Rat naow”….. Cash money”. Credit card payment was $327. Navigator quickly dug into her stash ‘bank’ and Bob with ‘grunting’ and helper crawling around under the front end that I had raised on it’s hydraulic front ‘landing gear’, dug through their boxes of parts, emerged with two new ‘donut’ seals and finished the job within an hour.
We profusely thanked the guys for their prompt attention and left to return to our camp site… with no carbon monoxide odor and no more fumes leaking, no putt putting sound from the engine.
Stories on the ‘on line forums’ had estimates for drastic repairs, in the thousands of dollars and long waits for ‘parts’ to be located.
Not ‘Bob’ and his helper. With them, in typical Louisiana fashion, it’s just ‘Git ‘er Done’…’Rat naow’. Gotta love the Louisiana way of doin’ business. We head out westward tomorrow… to brave the wall of storms looming in our path.
Last night was exciting. Watching TV and the threats of tornadoes around us, was fun… sort of. Navigator got dressed…. in case we got sucked up in a tornado funnel, she would not be ‘buck nekkid’. The lightning flashing here is non stop during the frequent storms, Thunder ‘Rolls’ nonstop and inches of wet, fall in minutes. Bayous are the result. No wonder Gators like it around here.
Shrimp is sold by the pound and the platters are huge. The spicy Cajun food is great ….but we eat too much of it.
Raining ‘Rat Naow’.

 

‘Nawlin’s in the rear view mirrors.

Louisiana is noted for some really rough highways. Apparently the federal highway money allocated, fails to often get to the actual highway surfacing. One ‘Chocolate City’ Louisiana politico of notoriety, had the Louisiana National Guard drive him through the flood waters of Katrina in their monster truck, so that he could retrieve his suitcases of millions in corruption cash from his home.

As we bounced and rattled our way westward along the patched Loisiana state highways as well as rough portions of Louisiana I-10, the racket inside the house on wheels never ceased. Requiring shore power for the air conditioning units during this hot humid ‘climate’, we camped in state parks overnight along this southern route. Richard Dies State Park had a nice lake with Bass… and Gators.

Camp neighbor said the 17′ footer looked a bit intimidating while he paddled his 17′ kayak 50 yards behind it. It stopped often, turning to check out his kayak… for digestibility?

Leaving on our way toward Texas, the goal was to avoid the persistent violent storms that we noted every night on the TV news/weather. “So far, so good”… as the falling man yelled, while passing each floor on his 70 story drop. :>)

Texas is approximately 1,000 miles across, as travelers of I-10 can attest. Crossing the State line into Texas, the highways became immediately smoother. Remarkable what taxPayers money spent for the intended applied purpose can do. Lots of ‘Texas Longhorn’ cattle along the highways of Texas. Game Ranches are prospering, as hunters pay to enjoy their sport.

Navigator noted several trophy exotics along the highway fenced enclaves. Ostrich roam among the various exotics, all seeming to get along well. Several species of exotic animals were crowded around a pickup truck, as it’s driver checked on their well being.

A hunters sport that actually increases the species numbers of the preferred animals, as it improves the species sustainability. Amazing the sizes of the prime breeders, as they are coddled to enjoy their ambiance, while selectively breeding for the future generations. Woe be to any person that takes down a prime breeder. The bounty on that person’s capture would be intense. Hidden cameras are prolifically mounted, monitoring the valued game for their protection night and day.

Beautiful Ink’s Lake has usually been our camping goal along the route we are taking. We always enjoy the free fishing at Texas State Parks, as at Ink’s shoreline and fishing pier. Kayaks and canoes are available for rent at the little camp store on the shore line. Birds are another Texas specialty. More kinds of birds across Texas, than any other state. Cardinals were the most prolific this trip across the south.

Round Rock ‘was’ a sleepy little community years back. Today it is another rapidly growing Texas megalopolis, where we spent a navigator GPS stressful traffic hour of narrow entrance ways and one way streets, searching for Sam’s Club fuel station…. that was non-existent at this location. GPS is befuddled by new construction.

Navigator recalled a nice fuel station at the H.E.B store in Burnett Texas near our night camp area, another hour or so away. Calculating fuel consumption, we can make it.

Continuing on toward Ink’s Lake after fuel fill in Burnett below $2 a gal, we realized it was too late and that popular Ink’s Lake State Park, with it’s strange Texas reservation system, would most likely have no open sites. In Texas, the reservation system which requires two days advance, allows reservations to hold sites, though no actual occupancy is intended. No penalties for this ludicrous hogging of preferential camp sites. Not good for people like us, the random drop ins, searching for a site to camp overnight, is like throwing dice. Walmart ‘camp’ is the result.

Lower Colorado [not the Real Colorado River, of fame across Arizona]River Authority has Black Rock Recreation Area, not far from Ink’s Lake. Texas has only one natural lake and it is in east Texas. All of the rest of the Texas lakes with recreation areas and campgrounds, are US Army Corps of Engineers constructed dams for flood control. Buchanon Lake Reservoir, feeding Ink’s Lake Reservoir, is another one of those magnificently engineered devices.

As we approach, we note the water only a couple of feet from the highway. In years past, I had walked half way across the ‘bottom’ of this Buchanon Reservoir.

No longer, it is beneath 85 feet of water during this wet ‘climate’ change. Houses along the shoreline that were all ‘for sale’ during cyclic drought years, are now far more expensive, as the water is right up to their docks, as designed for high water.

Interesting fact that Samuel Insull of Chicago’s Edison Company, was the pioneer of this dam at the beginning of the 1900’s. The Great Depression of 1929 ended his plan for the US energy grid and the US Govt finished the project in the later 1930’s, installing the massive electrical generating turbines, as Samuel Insull deemed another generating link to facilitate the US energy grid across the nation. This energy grid so dominant to our everyday survival today. Insull was one of the great innovators, those whose contributions, we prosper from today.

San Antonio Texas regularly flooded during the wet ‘climates’ interspersed among the cyclic droughts throughout Texas history. This Buchanon Dam is the first line of defense in the chain of dams protecting San Antonio today. Our night of camp in the LCRA’s Black Rock RV area was pleasant and as reasonable price as the state parks. Black Rock is prospering with the full lake, new pavement, new structures show the prosperity.

We had a weak wifi signal that allowed a brief connectivity. I lost the extensive email…. just as I attempted to ‘send’, Grrrr.

This is that story, regurgitated as best I can recall.

Following the departure, after navigator plotted our course based on the news reports of storms, tornadoes, hail along the route, we drove on westward across Texas for a planned San Angelo City Park overnight ‘camp’.

Changing our plan, we fortunately bypassed San Angelo and headed for Big Spring and La Mesa (pronounced La ‘meesa’ in Texan) where a pretty, treesy with stream, city park has graciously provided 30 amps electrical for the AC units… if run one at a time. Free night stay is enjoyed, no matter where.

Only one set of three long haulers of the 150′ wind turbine blades, were noted this trip. Former years were noted as many sets, as well as new transmit lines across the Texas landscape. Could be the fact that it takes Five turbines to generate enough energy to replicate One [imported] wind turbine? Economics is not immune to the laws of physics.

We watched TV that night, as the hail and tornado warning storms appeared to repeatedly hit the areas we had recently departed, as along the route we had originally planned. God works in mysterious ways. We pray before each days decisions and even the brief impromptu changes always are to be for the wiser.

Morning and the end game appeared to be the last haul into Albuquerque New Mexico over 360 miles away. Texas fuel was priced from the sub $2 mark, to the $2.29. We gambled on Roswell and won at $1.95 for the 70 gallon fill with 5 gal remaining in tank. Wind was incessant and not favorable to speeds above 55, nor economy of fuel. The constant pull from the wind on our left front quarter, ironically for most of the 4,000 mile trip, kept my hand on the wheel auto- focused to maintain the lane.

Roswell New Mexico Sam’s Club, the tenured attendant’s prayer for our safe travel, (for years, he always asks if he may pray for the travelers) is welcome.

Roswell is famous for Triple Crown Winner, ‘Mine That Bird’ and horse business is consistently doing very well. Hay and alfalfa is grown on vast irrigated acreage around this lush irrigated oasis valley, along a vast subterranean river that surfaces in ‘holes’ of blue water of periodic bottomless lakes. Winter ‘climate’ is acceptable/mild and not usually freezing. Summer can be a bit warm in Roswell, as most of southern New Mexico.

The long, remote with sparse civilization, 200 mile stretch from Roswell to approach of Albuquerque, is dry and hot in summer. Antelope and range cattle are the only living beings along this desolate highway. Wind and hills limit the Thunder Hog speed while traveling north, to below 50….. often.

Not as many freight trains noted this trip, along the double rail line that parallels our west route from the former bustling town of Vaughn NM. Past years trips were far busier in container freight, which is the economic pulse of the USA.

In the days of the train crews, including switch men in a caboose, Vaughn was a transition overnight crew change/stop. Today the ‘consists’ of long trains, as well as the line rail switches, are electronically computer controlled across the nation. Large propane tanks along the lines keep the countless thousands of automated mainline switches free of ice during frozen winter. Few laborers are required on the lines today, to keep trains rolling.

Mileage is not good as ‘Thunder Hog’ gradually climbs out of the Roswell valley, straining to attain the mile high altitude for Albuquerque. Clines Corners is a famous tourist stop on the I-40 interstate. After that hard climb, the rest is not so difficult and we roll along NM highways smoothly and quietly approaching our city from the East through the Tjeras canyon,…… along with the rest of the interstate highway trucks that never cease their 24-7-365 rollin’ rollin’.

Only noted one set of giant wind turbine blades this trip. In years past, the extra long trucks with escorts, three in a set, were seen all across this highway, heading for wind swept ridge-lines of west Texas geography.

We slow and downshift for the turn off onto Tramway and our five miles north across the western slope foothills of the Sandia Mountains to our home port.

Backing into the driveway after disconnect of the towed Honda, is mixed emotion. Enjoyable Trip is successful and home is nice. Now to unload over the next few days and settle in. Tighten up the ‘loosies’, change oil and grease ‘Thunder Hog’. Possibly contemplating a next trip after a summer of intense frugality to save up some traveling cash.. maybe West and North.. in the fall?.. :>)

WWII Fighter Pilot at Iwo Jima

WWII Fighter Pilot at Iwo Jima.

They simply don’t make ’em like this any more.

Take five minutes to watch this video interview — and listen carefully to what he says and how he says it.

I promise you, you won’t regret a second of it.

Ask yourself,
how many of the few surviving WWII veterans kept themselves and their uniform in such good condition for over 70 years and can still proudly wear it?
Notice his superb delivery, no teleprompter,

no script — just a 91-year-old fighter pilot
representing the greatest generation at home and abroad

who won WWII.

He has some surprises and a great take on the philosophy of life.

Enjoy!
https://www.dvidshub.net/video/395572/jerry-wellin-world-war-ii-veteran-interview

Capt. Jerry Yellin, from Fairfield, Iowa, flew the final combat mission in World War II. World War II veterans visit Iwo Jima for the 70th anniversary Mar. 21 in commemoration of the end of World War II.

 

P-51 impressed Canadian boy

This 1967 true story is of an experience by a young 12 year old lad in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. It is about the vivid memory of a privately rebuilt P-51 from WWII, and its famous owner/pilot.


In the morning sun, I could not believe my eyes. There, in our little airport, sat a majestic P-51.
They said it had flown in during the night from some U.S. Airport, on its
way to an air show. The pilot had been tired, so he just happened to
choose Kingston for his stop over.  It was to take to the air very
soon.  I marveled at the size of the plane, dwarfing the Pipers and
Canuck’s tied down by her. It was much larger than in the movies. She
glistened in the sun like a bulwark of security from days gone by.

The pilot arrived by cab, paid the driver, and then stepped into the pilot’s
lounge.  He was an older man; his wavy hair was gray and tossed. It
looked like it might have been combed, say, around the turn of the
century.  His flight jacket was checked, creased and worn – it
smelled old and genuine. Old Glory was prominently sewn to its
shoulders.  He projected a quiet air of proficiency and pride devoid
of arrogance.  He filed a quick flight plan to Montreal (“Expo-67 Air
Show”) then walked across the tarmac.

After taking several minutes to perform his walk-around check, the tall, lanky man returned to
the flight lounge to ask if  anyone would be available to stand by
with fire extinguishers while he “flashed the old bird up, just to be
safe.”  Though only 12 at the time I was allowed to stand by with an
extinguisher after brief instruction on its use — “If you see a fire,
point, then pull this lever!”, he said.  (I later became a
firefighter, but that’s another story.) 

The air around the exhaust
manifolds shimmered like a mirror  from fuel fumes as the huge prop
started to rotate.  One manifold, then another, and yet another
barked — I stepped back with the others.  In moments the Packard
-built Merlin engine came to life with a thunderous roar. Blue flames
knifed from her manifolds with an arrogant snarl.  I looked at the
others’ faces; there was no concern.  I lowered the bell of my
extinguisher.  One of the guys signaled to walk back to the lounge.
We did.

Several minutes later we could hear the pilot doing his pre-flight run-up. He’d taxied to
the end of runway 19, out of sight. All went quiet for several seconds. We
ran to the second story deck to see if we could catch a glimpse of the
P-51 as she started down the runway. We could not.  There we stood,
eyes fixed to a spot half way down 19. Then a roar ripped across the
field, much louder than before. Like a furious hell spawn set loose —
something mighty this way was coming. “Listen to that thing!” said the
controller.

In seconds the Mustang burst into our line of sight. It’s tail was already off the runway
and it was moving faster than anything I’d ever seen by that point on
19.  Two-thirds the way down 19 the Mustang was airborne with her
gear going up. The prop tips were supersonic.  We clasped our ears as
the Mustang climbed hellishly fast into the circuit to be eaten up by the
dog-day haze. We stood for a few moments, in stunned silence, trying to
digest what we’d just seen.

The radio controller rushed by me to the radio. “Kingston tower calling Mustang?”  He looked back to us as he waited for an acknowledgment. The radio crackled, “Go ahead, Kingston.”
“Roger, Mustang. Kingston tower would like to advise the circuit is clear
for a low level pass.”  I stood in shock because the controller had
just, more or less, asked the pilot to return for an impromptu air
show!  The controller looked at us. “Well, What?”  He asked. “I
can’t let that guy go without asking. I couldn’t forgive myself!”

 
The radio crackled once again,
“Kingston, do I have permission for a low level pass, east to west, across
the field?” “Roger, Mustang, the circuit is clear for an east to west
pass.” “Roger, Kingston, I’m coming out of 3,000 feet, stand by.”
 


We rushed back onto the second-story deck, eyes fixed toward the eastern haze. The sound
was subtle at first, a high-pitched whine, a muffled screech, a distant
scream. Moments later the P-51 burst through the haze. Her airframe
straining against positive G’s and gravity. Her wing tips spilling
contrails of condensed air, prop-tips again supersonic.

The burnished bird
blasted across the eastern margin of the field shredding and tearing the
air. At about 500 mph and 150 yards from where we stood she passed with
the old American pilot saluting. Imagine. A salute! I felt like laughing;
I felt like crying; she glistened; she screamed; the building shook; my
heart pounded.  Then the old pilot pulled her up and rolled, and
rolled, and rolled out of sight into the broken clouds and indelible into
my memory.


I’ve never wanted to be an American more than on that day!  It was a time when many nations
in the world looked to America as their big brother.  A steady and
even-handed beacon of security who navigated difficult political water
with grace and style; not unlike the old American pilot who’d just flown
into my memory.  He was proud, not arrogant, humble, not a braggart,
old and honest, projecting an aura of America at its best.

That America will return one day! I know it will!  Until that time, I’ll just send off this
story. Call it a loving reciprocal salute to a Country, and especially to
that old American pilot:  the late-JIMMY STEWART (1908-1997),  Actor, real WWII
Hero  (Commander of a US Army Air Force Bomber Wing stationed in
England), and later 1959, awarded USAF Reserves Brigadier General, (B-36, Peacemaker under SAC, B-47, and B-52) who wove a wonderfully
fantastic memory for a young Canadian boy that’s lasted a lifetime.

Holiday Rambler southestern USA Oct 2015

With full preparation and thorough testing of all systems after summer storage in back yard, we are now to the stage of countdown hours leaving home after loading Thunder Pig for another trip across the USA. With various clothing to cover ‘climate change’ as we travel, our happy motor coach left Albuquerque New Mexico on the first day of October 2015. 

Filled with high expectations for an enjoyable vacation tour returning toward the southeastern USA. Fall is usually met with excitement for the opposite direction, the coastal northwest. This year, with numerous fires clouding the air along the way, we returned to the Southeast.

Georgia is again in the plan with Chattanooga Tennessee as base for our first explorations. I-40 to Amarillo, 300 miles east of Albuquerque New Mexico, at an easy 70 miles per hour, and our usual ‘driving on the top half’, 1/2 tank of fuel, + 1/2 qt of Marvel Mystery Oil, added at Amarillo Sam’s Club. Thunder Pig is often able to travel over 600 miles on one 75 gal tank of fuel with Honda in tow at 70 mph.. if conditions are right.

Amarillo has a Cracker Barrel Restaurant similar to others that allow overnight ‘camp’ for RVs. A nice long space with grass and Oak trees outside our door, provides the quiet evening ambiance with a couple of other RVs in back of the restaurant. Evening meals are light, to ensure an easy sleep. Mine was Cracker Barrel ‘Beans and Greens’ with a a few hot cups of decaff coffee.

Morning stroll out of our door and into the Cracker Barrel, thanking them for being our host, we enjoyed a real breakfast of Sunrise Sampler and various additional items to cover our table. Lots of coffee to keep things washing down. We love Cracker Barrel.

Back onto the I-40 east out of Amarillo Texas at 70 mph in light traffic, moves us another 300 miles eastward in speedy fashion with no stops. Another fuel top off, of 1/2 tank and Marvel Mystery Oil settles us for another night at Walmart ‘camp’ Oklahoma and Oklahoma City Valero before rolling again. I enjoy an evening patrol of Walmart real estate before crawling into bed to watch local TV and sit at the laptop to check emails. Walmart, as does Sam’s Club, has WIFI that is often easy to use while in lot ‘camp’ overnight. 

 

10-2-2015 spent the night in Eufala State Park Oklahoma. Very nice state park with utilities for $24. Oct 3rd left at 11:30 am. Top off fuel Russelville Arkansas Walmart $1.95 gal and covernight ‘camp’.

Oct 4th, rural area near Russelville, checked out a navigator family cemetery from the 19th century.. Story told by a resident of many long years, is that the family patriarch built his own above ground crypt and died during the final stage, falling to the ground dead. They buried him in it, but the top fell in soon after, requiring a bit of rebuilding. Took a few pictures of the old family crypt as well as several other family grave plots in their own cemetery from the 1800’s..

Oct 5th stopped in the ‘Pyramid’ Bass Pro Shop, after crossing the bridge into Memphis Tennessee. The huge pyramid, formerly a grandiose city owned structure on the river front, was still in the process of being re-purposed by Bass last trip. Finished now, it is a site to see. The interior, with a Cypress swamp decor, has a glass elevator that soars to the peak. Rooms are available for guests overnight.

Leaving the Bass Pyramid, we stopped to view a helicopter overturned in the street, still attached to it’s transport trailer. The driver was on his phone, visibly shaken from his experience. Visited a warehouse of Victorian salvage items for restoration materials. Heading back to coach, we noted a stainless steel fifth wheel tanker from the sugar plant, laying nose down in the bushes on the street, due to the tractor latch coming undone. Interesting day in Memphis. Costco fuel at $1.89. Walmart Oakland Tennessee hwy 64 overnight.

Oct 6th left Oakland Tennessee for Chattanooga.


One fact navigator noted by traveling and watching nightly ‘news’, ‘Every’ US city has the exact same problems with society’s deviants, ‘career repeat offenders’ spoiling the peace and tranquility for the law abiding majority. Psychotic behavior seems to be tolerated and subsidized until it results in the death of a government official. The arresting officers. 

Then, true to the political agenda, the crime is politically blamed on the tool [gun] used.. Don’t think your town is bad, just because of ‘perpetual repeat offenders’ causing the overwhelming majority of problems. Every US town has it’s share. The entire USA legal system, with the USA’s obsession with chemically enhanced, perpetually subsidized dependency, is obviously at fault.

‘Camping’ in Walmart lots are frequent along our trips, with only small stops for food, often delis along the major highways, routes that we seldom travel. ‘Motor on’ is the logic when on these large interstates from point A to B.. 

We approach the heavy traffic of the cities of the busy southeastern states [including all large cities] with clenched grip of the steering wheel, the transmission out of overdrive, in lower gear with higher engine revs at max horsepower @ 3,200 RPM to facilitate rapid [for Thunder Pig] maneuvering. Now the games begin. Jockeying for position as we search for the desired exits and lane changes while on approach to a busy commercial city.


Winding up with big highway trucks and speeding cars, through low mountain passes, tunnels, up grades, down grades, around rivers, over bridges, taking sweeping overpasses in lane changes at the orders from navigator with her GPS. She is the controller of Thunder Pig, just as the bombardier controls the bombing run of a WWII B-29. I only adjust the steering maneuvers, the gear choices, speeds, braking and power to meet her instantaneous commands.


We bypass ‘Lookout Mountain’ enveloped in clouds high above Chattanooga, the Tramway and the several other tourist points noted on big signs along the highway. They are most likely fun for many people. Tunnels are approached with attention to the clearances posted. We have driven through a few very interesting battlefield historic sites of the south, during past trips. There are countless detailed. Chattanooga was pivotal during the conflict. The ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’ hotel is fun to visit, with overnights in the classic Pullman cars available as well as restaurants. Talented Dorothy Dandrige comes to mind whenever I think of that memorable song.

After a 5 day week ‘camp’ at the Holliday RV Park east of Chattanooga and prowling around the Chattanooga area with a brief foray into Ringold Georgia for Navigators antique interests.

Oct 11th Sunday morning top off with low priced fuel Costco $1.79. Robbins Georgia Walmart very quiet night camp in lot. After breakfast Oct 12th, we rolled south, continuing through Georgia toward Florida.  Noted Fuel @ $1.99 as approaching Florida. Tonight, after a short bit of intense traffic, we are in a tree covered Sam’s Club overnight in Tallassee Florida. Fuel @ $2.11.

Plan is to prowl a few thrift stores in Florida. Old folks, which Fla has countless retirees, apparently die and donate all of their worldly goods to charity.

The Floridians in the prosperous past, have left very nice ‘stuff’, as no one in their own families desires  it. One person’s trash is another person’s treasures. Great ‘pickens’ were previously found at charity thrifts in Florida. Lots of computers, so many, that several big charity stores in prosperous cities have large computer centers. Vehicles are donated in large numbers. So many vehicles, that they have Goodwill car lots.

Quality wall pictures are numerous for some reason only the donors know. Maybe the younger people today have far different tastes in art work?

One additional note from the tour. Traffic Interstate 75 through Atlanta was atrocious, with 14 lanes of traffic, all competing at high speed for position, exits and on ramps.

One very close trip ending call, as a suicidal? confused car driver stopped in the middle,, unsure, possibly checking their GPS or handheld device, of which way to go at a big high speed Y.

All southbound lanes of traffic at 70 mph downhill and in a blind curve, became all red brake lights, swerving and lane changing within seconds. We fortunately had a brief clearing on the right lane to ‘sidewinder snake swerve’ the long rig around the inevitable mass collision. I swore loudly. Of course prayer each morning, was the savior of the moment.

Navigator immediately found an alternate older highway that we drove peacefully from then on. County and state highways at 55 mph, with no shear terror involved, are easier on the nervous system. Tallahassee, at least where we travel, is not quite as bad as Atlanta. Sam’s Club is very quiet for a night back in the trees.

Still more than a few impaired drivers with their ever present handhelds……. for them to stare at…. while texting. After breaking ‘camp’ at Sam’s, We motored west along the coast. Crossed causeway bridge and topped in at St George Island for fish [rectangles] and chips and a night at the mosquito capitol state park. Butterflies were migrating.
Beautiful beach, but RV sites were in trees with swarms of mosquitoes.

Oct 14th evening after more coastal travel, stopped for the night at Topsail Hill, an expensive State Park. Not as bad as the other state park with the wildly swarming mosquitoes, overflow parking, miles from the office.  Oct 15, Morning we drove west along the coastal highway for miles, before realizing hours had passed and we had only gone 40 miles.

Stoplights every mile or two were the problem. Coastal areas are being developed to such extent, that it is getting more difficult to enjoy views of the ocean. Modern high density population, high rise buildings are steadily filling in the open spaces, replacing the quaint little shoreline bungalows of the romantic past. Navigator wisely had turned us inland and away from the stop and go traffic loaded coast.

After pleasant driving at 70 mph speeds on a real highway, away from the popular coastal towns near large military installations, we camped in Walmart Hattiesburg Alabama, where we left Oct 16th. 

After leaving the heavily populated coastal areas and venturing into Mississippi, Oct 16th we camped for two nights in a place that has treated us well in the past, very pleasant, reasonably priced Ross-Barnet Timberlake State Park, on the big flood control reservoir of the Pearl River near Jackson Mississippi.

Weather is beautiful ……and few to no ‘biting’ mosquitoes. Hit a few nearby thrift and consignment stores today. Perfect ambiance for relaxing in this popular RV park with the big water channel 40 yards behind the coach. Could have parked facing the water, but wifi was good this way.

Last time we were camped here, the water was very high, a big, triple deck party boat, colorfully lighted with music and party goers, cruised past. Big trees and a carpet of grass, pine needles and cones with falling leaves stretch between the sites. Turtles bask on shore… until you approach for pictures. Lots of squirrels. Lots of big Canadian geese flying and roaming. Spring has the dozens of baby geese following the adults all over the park.

Big nice park with many yearly, monthly, weekly rentals. Boat launch, swimming pool and basketball court, tennis courts, guest facilities for laundry. The lake front best sites are always filled. Many sites look like they are more permanent with patios and colorful lights set up for leisure living. Lots of pontoon deck boats parked in the shore lot. A large marina is across the lake.

One big fifth wheel RV was for sale including the reserved site. Lady in office says when residents die, the most desirable sites change owners fast. There is a list. No mention of their state of health :>) A drought and low reservoir is in effect this time. Last trips were very high water, with flooding of low areas on into Pearl Miss.

Oct 18th Sunday left Timberlake @ 12 noon, to Kroger for fuel and lunch deli. The historic Natchez Trace passes by on the other side of the reservoir. We will soon resume our roam westward, the mellow driving Trace on into Natchez, after we leave here. Read about ‘The Barber of Natchez’ if you think all slave owners were ‘racists’.

Historic Natchez Trace is scenic, laid back, over, 400 miles long to Nashville Tennessee. It began as a migratory game trail used by native Americans, then river drift boat operators plied it’s path to return upriver… before steam boats rendered it obsolete. 

The path of mystery, opportunistic ‘ner do wells’ and disappearance for many, it was viewed as a bit dangerous by travelers. Even those that used it’s many Inns for comfortable overnight ambiance, were not ensured survival. Mrs Grinder and her husband, Inn operators, were involved in many mysteries of the years around 1809. Meriwether Lewis of the famed Lewis and Clark expedition found out.

The Natchez Trace has been restored for modern travel at 50 mph, no stops for the entire length. Many tourist attractions, old mansions, Indian burial mounds and visitor centers with historical information. There are cutoffs to towns all along the highway through the trees and farmland. Many exits allowing you to get off and back on whenever you desire.

Oct 18th Night spent at Walmart Winnfield Louisiana, heading for Nacogdoches Texas fuel at $1.97, before night at Crockett Texas Walmart. Left Crockett at 10:20 Am Oct 20th.. Madison Texas, propane was $3.00 a gal. Highest paid.

Finally got the cab AC to blow air. No idea why, it just started after a bump, on it’s own, with low fan speeds. Cautiously keeping it there. Found the resistor block ocated on the outside evaporator box under the hood. Resistor block only operates the lower speeds of the blower. Still need to find the hidden relay and fuse for the blower, in event total failure occurs again.

Most of the time has been spent over these last days, where no wifi exists overnight. As usual we spent some time in Walmart parking lots overnight, vague areas with little scenic wonder. Louisiana, known for historic political corruption, is not prosperous, with many little towns barely surviving. Few to no grocery stores, several with bare necessities and dimly lit. Louisiana is a nightmare of rough pavement, and for those of GPS faith, with paved highways suddenly becoming miles of rutted, narrow dirt logging roads through forests of tall pines.

Exciting for the coach and tow rig to navigate….. with no way to turn around. Met future Lavender growers along the desolate road and viewed their large unfinished barn while being told the many commercial uses for Lavender. Road less traveled. Nice people at Lavenderlouisiana.com future website, they informed us to have faith, keep going forward on this rutted track, paved highway 6 was ahead..

Oct 20th Lockhart Texas was our goal, to drive tow vehicle and visit grand daughter in college in nearby Austin Texas. Nice visit, lunch at Tino’s, a Greek fast food restaurant. The owner of all ten Greek restaurants, including Zorba’s, stopped at our table for a quick visit.

Grand daughter was then dropped off at her dorm [50 to 70 thousand students] and we left her to prepare for her next trip to see her cousin.

We stopped in at the TSA confiscation warehouse, with it’s thousands of confiscated pocket items for sale. Thousands of pocket items of great security threat. They sell them at higher prices…. after the confiscation.

First times we visited, there were only a few employees, the items were very cheap and sold by the bagful. Now the employees are numerous [‘sweepers’ were busily sweeping floors in the warehouse where groups of ‘inspectors’ studied the pallets of whatevers] and the items now are priced much higher…… to compensate for the amount of employees necessary to shuffle around and research the ‘booty’?. The  large numbers of govt fire extinguishers is always puzzling. Great deals for us, but still curious as to why fully charged stainless steel fire extinguishers are sold by the pallets, rather than tested and refilled .

I think the future may note the passing of this once lucrative government ‘business’, by notation that it was more expensive to operate than when it originally started. More employees costs more in labor, therefore everything connected costs more. Fact of govt ‘business’. Lots of govt vehicles for sale here also attract buyers.

Lockhart State Park, south of Austin, was our quiet home for a couple of nights [complete with plump Armadillos that kept navigator’s camera busy] while visiting Austin and friends in San Marcos. 

Our friends drove us around the large flooded area in Wimberly. An area canyon with stream that rose rapidly. Resulting in a flash flood that swept away navigator’s friend [and his family] from church as kids. The area was visible devastation on a large magnitude. 40 and 50 foot wall of water took away homes high on pilings above a canyon. Massive trees uprooted and trash high in branches. A dog was reportedly found safely high in a tree after the flash flood.

Pleasant visits in the area with friends. Enjoyed a great lunch in a small popular Wimberly cafe, which topped off the day. Pleasant time before leaving Lockhart State Park and heading on to San Antonio Texas for another two evenings stopover. A retreat while a predicted storm passed. Oct 23 left Lockhart State Park Texas and into San Antonio during heavy rainfall. Driving tensions increase, searching for highway signs as the traffic becomes hidden in the heavy rainfall.

 Lots of rain caused the KOA RV park to cautiously turn us away, as the lower area was located in the flood plain. We were directed up onto higher ground…. and a less desirable RV park. We drove the Honda back to Sea Island restaurant for our fish and chips. A few charity thrift stores, where not much of value is discarded in these leaner years of less prosperity. Rained all night and all day Saturday from the storm of the century over the Pacific, meeting moisture from the Gulf.

Leaving San Antonio on Sunday Oct 25th, for the last legs of our journey back home. Costco fuel @ $1.93.

Left the wet San Antonio area this morning and drove on to Brownwood, a college town in west Texas. The storm of heavy rain predicted was wet and soggy, but not as heavy as the professional ‘climatologists’ of the news stations predicted. A nice rain that eased the drought of west Texas … somewhat. Sun was shining as we neared Early and Brownwood. Walmart ‘camp’ for the night, after top off 1/2 tank of Walmart fuel at $1.79 gal.

Wifi is good, as is TV. Of course the wifi times out after a bit, requiring another sign-in. Last time we passed this way, a Texas State Park was our night camp. Stopped in Lometta at a familiar junk shop…’Cowgirls’, to seek treasures for nav’s mall space. Found a few little items of value. One unique item was sadly broken. We noted the cast iron piece broken before we bought it. A small cast iron oil fired water heater from the turn of the century… 1900…. was rare.

Thousands of Grackles are massing tonight in the trees around our coach. Reminds one of Hitchcock’s, ‘The Birds’. Texas has more birds than any other state due to the flyways of migration adding to the resident bird population. Llano River RV State Park along I-10 has several bird blinds to sit and observe the migrants as they gather to feed at the protected stations provided. Painted Buntings [look like colorful plastic toys] are rare, but seen in flocks like chickens during migrations through Texas. Cheerful Cardinals are plentiful during migrations.

San Saba, navigator’s ancestral roots on grand mother’s side, is still of interest as we drive through on this route. Brownwood has a charity thrift shop or two that we investigated, no ‘finds’. No treasures.

Brownwood Texas Walmart ‘camp’, to La Mesa Texas, was a couple of hundred miles. Roscoe Texas, in passing through, is a vast, horizon to horizon wind turbine farm, with close to a thousand [more]? of the white beasts in every direction, sitting idle or turning slowly in the breeze, with oil pump jacks sucking crude, while cattle graze and cotton fields yield their prize.

Anyone not recognizing Texas as a ‘Productive’ center of the US economy, just isn’t seeing the big picture. One of the newest cotton balers, in addition to the long square ‘loaf’ machines seen by the dozens, is a new device that rolls and processes a cotton wad the size of a big truck and seals it in shrink wrap for delivery. These new machines costs about $700,000 dollars… each.

The Permian Basin is also the US oil field mecca that has proven itself worthy of US strategic resources over many long years of US history. The Chinese have now wisely decided to unload another Billion or so, US paper, fiat printed Obama dollars, and as they are quietly doing with the US housing market and mining reserves of the USA and coastline commercial interests, initially buying up one big section at bargain prices, while oil is cheap.

Of course they will re-develop the oil field, using the latest technology. What happens to the US natural oil reserve, is anyone’s guess,…. after the new owners, the Chinese govt industrialists, get it out of the ground. I would imagine they will in the future, if they feel it in their heart, possibly sell a portion of it back to us, at a sizable profit of course.

What is occurring to the USA of today is called ‘Selling the Farm’. Mandatory when the borrowed money (approaching $20 Trillion) has been lavishly wasted on ‘feel good’ extravagance….. for ‘Progressive’ election results. Doesn’t that just make you feel all warm and fuzzy to know that so much ‘good’ is being accomplished?

 

Oct 26th Driving through Abilene Texas, we stopped for some Tex-Mex food at a nice looking restaurant with Mexican music playing. What a dreadful mistake. Chile con carne on a corn tortilla with cheese, were referred to as Enchiladas? Fajitas, an especially tasty fire grilled New Mexico dish, were a basic chicken salad bowl with pineapple chunks. Can’t wait to get back to New Mexico for some ‘real’ Mexican food with the unique Indian influence.

Recalled seeing in past travels, a La Mesa Texas city park that welcomed RV’s overnight. Found it the evening of Oct 26th, with directions from a friendly man and wife. Electrical and water overnight…. free. Quiet ….and dark. Big trees, grass and birds, hawks, squirrels etc. Only two other RVs as neighbors. Pulled out at 9 AM Texas time Oct 27th and drove on through several small west Texas villages to Tatum New Mexico, where navigator has always wanted a few hand made iron silhouettes.

She finally got her desire. Juan Carbahal, the iron working artist, threw in a few extras for her little collection. We drove on to the pleasant retirement spot of Roswell New Mexico [the race horse home ranches, an irrigated mecca of NM], Sam’s Club gas at $1.96, pizza slice and salad, before heading the last 200 miles to Albuquerque. A 300 mile day and home by 6 PM October 27 2015. Lots of headwind encountered today, so not much in the fuel mileage desirable.

The entire trip was excellent in spite of a few minor attention getters. We always find a few little treasures to pack the tow car…. and every nook and cranny of Thunder Pig. Now the real chore, to unload tomorrow. Eventually take the coach to dealer for Norcold refrigerator problem under warranty to fix a device they added…. for safety. My old bugaboo returns with the sacrificial zinc anode solidly corroded into the water heater after a month of travels. Drilling it out, to drain tank for winter, is the only recourse, with risk of damage to the tank..

Plan is to refill the fuel tank for storage with a heavy dose of Marvel Mystery Oil to make the fuel system easier to withstand the long sleep of idleness well deserved. Drain tanks, purge water lines. Change the oil and grease the suspension, U joints and steering. Back the coach into the back yard and complete the prep for winter. With 90,000 miles soon to appear on our coach of 12 years vintage use, we must carefully maintain the vitals if we are to continue these ventures in this unit that has served us so well.

Next trip will be….. after paying off credit cards, then saving and scrimping together enough money for another tour in the future,. After the winter months have passed and we are ready for another adventure. All is in the life plan…if we remain healthy and alert, taking nourishment as directed. LOL

 

Enjoy traveling the greatest nation ever known. The United States of America. One Nation Under God.

Holiday Rambler RV USA trip 2015

  • After leaving ABQ NM in the spring of 2015, following the usual preparations including oil change and lubrication of the rig, (still crawling around underneath, this time with a new, black, Harbor Freight pneumatic grease gun:>), 
  • we are presently substantially over one thousand miles from home, camped in the outlying suburbs of Chattanooga Tennessee. Holiday Traveler RV park near the Georgia state line.
  • The last week was spent traveling along amongst the thousands of other interstate trucks. Even taking a few Old RT 66 highways off the beaten path and staying at Walmarts overnight ‘camps’ for the most part. We basically ‘kept them doggies rollin’, only pausing to sleep or check out a fast food stop.
  •  Branson Missouri was a great stopover, camped at Table Rock State Reservoir RV Park along the river. A complete Branson visit with two fantastic shows on afternoons enticed us to stay two nights in this tourist mecca that really takes much longer to see in it’s entirety.
  • Visiting copilot’s long lost cuzzin in Missouri and her Blue Grass violin playin’ husband, was a fine way to restore memories.
  • Watched a crime program that featured her kin from San Saba Texas. The extended family youngsters (nephew and grandson) snuffed out 84 year old Bonnie Harkey in 2012, to get her money.
  • All that they got was life in prison. Bonnie Harkey’s once prosperous ranch land and almond orchards adjacent to Tommy Lee Jones ranch, is now in the hands of real estate agents ……and lawyers..
  • While in this area of Georgia, not far from fun to explore Chattanooga, a brief trip to Copilot’s favorite chicken farm, a business that desperately became an importer of antique reproductions after their chickens all died, always results in a few treasures for her little mall space.
  • We now have to figure out how to duct tape two large tin chickens to the top of the car…. or coach…. for the trip home….. They are about five feet by five feet dissembled. Nothing to do with the chicken farm, just very big, beautifully colorful tin chickens. :>)
  • Lots of other small stuff, much of it cast iron that costs way too much to ship across country… or from China. We often tend to overload the coach on these trips.
  •  This is a section of tornado alley, where the tornadoes skipped over us as we hunkered down in valleys on previous trips. Maybe the iron stuff will hold us down?. Of course there are those problematic big tin chickens on the roof….
  •  Leaving Chattanooga on Sunday morning for other adventures along the return route, most likely fascinating Tannehill Iron Works State Park near Birmingham Alabama.
  • After spending a few nights and days exploring that part of the country near Talladega Raceway, we mosy along a section of the Natchez Parkway Trail back toward Texas on our way back to New Mexico. Not sure about internet connectivity as we roam.
  •  Cooler than in past years, we need heat every morning. A problem with the hot water heater being clogged ….by something…, was resolved by a quick reverse blast from the air compressor we carry for various incidents along the byways. We can once again take showers… yea!
  • Toodles ….until the next opportunity… Those big chickens !!….. Two of them…. One ended up under the bed, the other, Gorilla Taped to the top of the towed car.


  • While near Jackson Miss in the Barnett Reservoir RV park where we enjoy camping, we noted the big outdoor grills next to the RVs. Apparently the weekend Bar BQs are attended by lots of family and friends.Casual weekenders that use the RVs as lake houses, occupy much of the very popular large park. Lots of boats to take advantage of the large lake formed behind the dam holding back the Pearl River from flooding Pearl Miss. Fishing and recreation are very popular there. Checking out the nearby charity thrift stores and consignment shops for resalable items did not prove quite as lucrative as previous years when prosperity was flourishing.
  • Further along the way, we did pick up a number of the biggest pine cones we have ever seen, at a small National Park in Louisiana where we parked overnight. LobLolly Pines drop lots of big cones here. Interesting is the large number of very big, rust colored daddy long legs spiders hiding in them.Copilot described the little camping park near Pollock Louisiana, as ‘Pine cones and Spiders’ in her log book. We were the only overnight guests in the little Stuart Lake’s National park. The office rangers were excited to see that we were staying overnight. They seem bored this time of year before the busy summer crowds enjoy the little lake and it’s attractions. The little lake is periodically restocked with fish before fishing derbys and group festivities.
  • Quiet night in camp, even a distant rail way train occasionally passing in the night.
    We drove on in morning, often paused, visited a few little places we like along this highway route, before turning for Houston and San Antonio.

Returning back toward ABQ NM while watching weather patterns that suggest storms in the future, is our steady goal.
Note: The future that eventually brought record flooding to Texas and taking the lives of acquaintances in Wimberly Texas. 



We often stay in a big Texas State Park named Brazos Bend, near Houston. Arriving late on Friday evening with no reservations, we took the only remaining facility spot… in ‘overflow’ lot, #18 with water… and electric to run the AC.

The attractions include Alligators… among many other interesting things to explore. Families were biking and hiking this park to the max on this weekend. Bikes in limited numbers are free to use for the day. ‘Giant’ brands, with large tires are really good bikes. To be free for the use of park visitors, is very nice indeed. Texas likes it’s tourists and park aficionados.

 After taking advantage of the wheelchair compatible paved walkways, we were watching a small Coot (duck) from the dock, when a gator slid out from under the water Hyacinth mass floating on top of the water near the fishing dock. The small coot voiced it’s alarm to it’s partner and scrambled further back up onto the flowering plants covering a large part of the lake, as the always hungry gator turned closer.

Bigger Gators eat other smaller gators, thus keeping the numbers constant in this park. The big gator often shown on the internet and described from many places, is actually from this Texas State park. One park employee described smaller gators that try to leave the park. They apparently understand the rules and try to escape….. to extend their lives.

One trip previously, a very large gator was eating a smaller gator. The process takes several days.
A man among the several professional photographers gathered on the shore during that previous trip, was from Paris France and had flown in only for the event using his sophisticated live streaming ‘on line’ action. His telescopic camera was huge, white and looked like a National Geographic piece of equipment. We got to look through the lens… up close and personal as the big gator gradually swallowed his slightly smaller… meal.

Watching the gator under our dock on this day in the park, was a family with a little girl. She was really fascinated by the gator that kept swimming under our dock, as her father and mother held her hand… tightly.  Copilot got several pics as the gator posed within feet close by.

This was the same lake where the gator grabbed the big fish from the man’s line last trip. Copilot got several pics of that event, as another gator chased the one with the fish.

Always something happening at the large Brazos Bend State Park near Houston. Problem was we took the wrong route, made for trucks and passed fitfully through Houston’s business industrial port area during rush hour.

Bridges over the river, barges and ships were loading below. Not especially fun with the rig towing the Honda and following GPS instructions from copilot with lane changes among drivers racing to get home fast, mixed with countless big trucks anxious to get on to their destinations.

We learn by these mistakes. When we finally no longer drive this route due to age of our bodies, we will know the best way to do it :>)

Austin Texas on route was very rainy after bit of camping at Lockhart State Park near San Marcos, enjoying the company of friends at the Saltgrass in San Marcos. Austin is always great to explore for a couple of days in spite of the horrendous traffic on narrower than they should be, highways.

We enjoy checking out the Austin City warehouse for a few items they sell from TSA confiscations. Feasting at one of Tino’s Greek cafes. Prowling the charity thrift stores for ‘antiques’ and salable discards. :>)

After driving in heavy rain out of Austin, we eventually made it to the KOA  of S.A. Very marginal wifi and crowded spaces due to a filled RV park. So far we have been fortunate in finding a space for the night at state parks along this route of I-10 that we periodically take. Good thing as the northern route across Texas has storms this time.

A small, well made spinning wheel caught our eye in a San Antonio Goodwill on our day browsing the city. Not especially old, being in excellent working condition it was still quite an unusual find and copilot will sell it in her small space at the Antique mall.

Rain is not yet falling in the amounts anticipated over the next weeks, allowing a bit of hiking to end the day before nightfall on this Mother’s Day. All three sons called their Mom today, giving her a great smile during and after each call. :>)

The lack of internet access is a good reason to not give boring details of each part of our travels. Seems that the parks and other points that once had wifi are letting them degrade away, as most folks have smart phones. Wifi is becoming obsolete already as the times change.

This section of KOA where camped on this trip, is near the older area where the trailer park types stay year around. We have a big truck parked in front of our site and several older trailers with permanent looking sites, as for monthly rentals.

The charity thrift stores are slim pickens these days. When an economy is weak, people do not donate at the level they did when prosperity allowed them to discard high quality items and buy new on a whim. Everything, like bicycles, are rusty or very heavily used. A stark contrast to the previous trips where we often found desirable, lightly used discarded items to purchase…. and resell.

I liked the sign on the back of a high end motor coach. “Homeless and Unemployed” :>)

Fuel is rising in price and seems to be at $2.49 a gallon except for a few Pilot stations lower in price at $2.35.We stay for two more days before rolling westward after a few more stops visiting along the Texas trail.

We renewed the Texas State Park pass, so we will be returning this coming year. Temps are in the high 80s and high humidity is normal. Stops later included the small but interesting Tallavera Pottery vendors along the route between San Antonio and New Mexico.

One rooftop AC unit on the RV coach is problematic and needs adjustment of the fan squirrel cage to get it away from the housing. Always some little thing to keep me occupied while rolling along the traveling routes. Mother’s Day will be celebrated at Sea Island seafood restaurant not far away. Rain is most definitely on it’s way, according to weather reports.

Note: Fortunately we escaped the area just in time. Rain was a real threat to Texas and Oklahoma as record amounts of it fell, flooding many areas after years of drought. Alb NM, our home port is around 37 degrees these days, so we actually left warmer climate in Texas.

After topping off the fuel tank at ABQ NM Costco, adding a quart of Marvel Mystery Oil to the fuel, as have since early days of motoring, we returned the last leg to home port. After unloading the rig, the following day was spent greasing all of the 13 fittings on the chassis, replacing the oil filter and changing the oil… 7 quarts. At over 85,000 miles (3,800 this trip) the old rig is long in the tooth but with steady preventative maintenance, still running like a thoroughbred. The new 100  watt solar panel and MPPT regulator performed like a silent mini generator when we were camped, boondocking away from shore power.

Enjoy traveling, touring, camping, hiking a marvelously blessed nation, ‘The United States of America, One Nation Under God’..

Reskinning Solar Heat Collectors

 Replacing the fiberglass skins on 2 Solar Age heat collectors yourself, can save $1,000 in labor.

The two big aluminum boxes, oriented at 45 deg and facing south (we are in the northern hemisphere, southwestern US state of New Mexico), that are collecting winter sun heat on our roof and blowing 100 degree heat into our home a major part of every sunny day, are about 11′ long X 4′ wide and 6″ deep. They are lined with this type Owens Corning insulation.

After removing the top frame edges from the outer skin of 60 mil fiberglass, the top ‘skin’ can be peeled off in one sheet, exposing the 1″ aluminum square tube spacer frame and the inner sheet ‘skin’ of whatever material was used originally.
Cutting, slicing away of the sealing silicone, is required on both skins, taking care not to destroy any of the insulation. Dremel tool with reciprocating blade worked fast with minimal damage to insulation.
Remove the 1″ thick inner spacer, square tube aluminum frame work (possibly held in place with ‘pop rivets’), then the center divider section top bar, that makes the air travel  across the whole, insulated heated area in a U pattern.
Note the order of dissasembly and reverse the process to restore, sealing each of the layers of Sunlight sheeting. I used several applications of 3M mylar metallic tape to repair the aged insulation, reseal the spacer frame and for sealing each edge of both skins during reassembly, rather than 100% silicone caulk, as originally used.
Aluminum tape, to withstand accidental super heat conditions, would have been preferable to the metallic Mylar. Only the top skin required 100% silicone caulk to prevent water intrusion. Silicone, applied after final top frame sections were screwed into place.
The inner heat collector, a sheet of corrugated or dimpled aluminum, is usually toasted and has lost it’s flat black qualities while powdering. BBQ grill paint, (1 spray can) sprayed on evenly, after cleaning off the powder residue, withstands the internal high temperatures periodically occurring, whenever circulating fan is not running on sun days.
The collector chamber wafer snap disc switch (close 110 deg- open 90 deg) had failed, causing sustained overheat burning the wire connectors. Wafer snap disc switches are available on the internet for about $15.
Be sure to seal the collector’s external electrical box containing the snap disc switch connections. I used aluminum tape over each seam. The vacuum from the circulating fan will pull in cold outside air, causing a repetitive ‘start stop’ cycle of the snap switch. Circulation Fan (in ‘Active’ systems) failures can be avoided or prolonged by lubricating the fan bearings periodically.

 In operation, the cooler air flows into the system’s vacuum from the baseboard of our hall (and den), up through the wall space and into the attic duct specific for the collector.
Following a vacuum drawn (active systems) convection in a U route through the collector box, the heated air then feeds into a soft, large diameter, insulated flexible HVAC tube duct. It goes out through the roof insulated flange, into the lower side of the big insulated aluminum box.

After circulating across the aluminum collector plate (directed by a sealed wall center section), it exits through another flange, down into more soft insulated duct into the attic, where a squirrel cage blower (insulated) feeds the 100 deg heated air through  insulated flex duct, through the ceiling vent.

They were installed about 40 years ago by ‘Solar Age’. The original aluminum boxes were spaced internally with wood. The internal wood on the originals, burned into charcoal when the sun was shining without the fan running. Solar Age replaced the wood containing units, with all aluminum units (thousands of them), then folded and closed the factory.
To prolong the units life, I use big white plasticized fabric covers during summer months when the extra heat is no longer required.

This is the units first re ‘skinning’. I used 40 mil (inner) and 60 mil (outer) Sunlight fiberglass on both layers to resist heat and last longer. Internet sources for Sunlight fiberglass with one side UV coated, saved local fees for ordering and handling.
Rapidly cutting the fiberglass sheets to size required a diamond blade  from Harbor Freight, or similar cutoff disc mounted in a handheld grinder. My cuts for two layers on both units, totaled 60 linear feet. Hand held ‘snips’ were fatiguing, slow and impractical. I clamped the old sheets over the new sheets and supported both above the level cutting surface, to have a cut guide edge.
I tried the Dremel reciprocating tool saw and wore out the saw blade within the first 12″ of painfully slow progress. Wear a face shield or/and goggles and be sure to wear a well fitted breathing mask. The fine powder created by the power cutting,  is intensely invasive.

Two layers of fiberglass ‘skin’, 1″ apart (spacer frame), keep the cooler top (Outer) skin from contacting the heated inner skin section above the aluminum heat collecting plate. Result, an R factor sufficient to maintain the 100 degree heat flow most all of  the day.

When positioning the sheets during assembly, carefully align, adjust ‘All’ the edges before final taping and sealing. Remember to seal any diversion walls within the collector boxes, with whatever method you decide (I used 100% Silicone). Remember, the interior chamber gets very Hot.

These basically energy efficient units can be constructed of wood, or other suitable and convenient materials, ‘Only’ if the intense heat buildup is automatically dumped and vented by thermostat controls during times not required…. or they are covered. Otherwise the sun’s collected radiation super heats the units internally, which causes a dangerous burn of the components.

Enjoy the project. Passing on the mistakes, helps the next adventuresome technician. From “The United States of America, One Nation Under God”