Holiday Rambler trip to Georgia from ABQ NM

So many things to do before any travel. Digging up the yard was not planned. Several broken (freezing) sprinkler lines this year. So far three new sprinkler heads during testing. The NM drought is probably going to force us to shut down on watering. We are one of last homes to still have a real lawn in our neighborhood.

Grandkids still enjoy rolling and playing under shade trees (with old swing) and in grass at our house, rather than rocks. They still like to visit us periodically. We also keep bikes and toys that interest them. ABQ is gradually raising water rates to force us to let it all die. With a yearly annual avg of only 8 inches per yr, The High Mesa Mountain Desert is not a good place to put in and maintain grass. :>)

Changed oil and filter in the ‘toad’ Honda, after 4,500 miles since last change. The warranty says to do it at 3,000 but with new oils and engineering, we don’t agree, so the warranty will probably be void if anything happens. Documented ritual of resetting the dash monitor, failed numerous times, so it will be many more miles until a dealer or ‘professional’ resets it.

Filled the coach water tank and pressure tested the water lines and water heater. So far, so good, no leaks. Even heated up the water using the 120v line. Refrigerator works on both LP and land line. Now has the new high temp limiting device installed by Rocky Mountain RV. Norcold recall payed for the gadget and install, excellent.

Lost the little air compressor off the air horns on last trip through the Northwest. Found one at Harbor Freight for about $14 in a set. Used the compressor only, to power the long trumpets. No horn on last trip, so had to rely on Yelling out the window :>) One fuel stop, years ago in a line waiting for a pump to open up, a truck pulling some heavy equipment on a flatbed trailer, started backing up without looking. I laid on the air horns enough to make the guy look in the mirrors. Saved from a smashed front end :>)

Over the last few years, we have replaced the old heavy CRT TV’s, with the light thin flat screens in both the living and sleeping rooms. On the way back from Texas last fall, the bigger front TV came loose and was swinging out, away from it’s normal position. I used a dog leash to tie it in place. Today I securely fastened a nylon strap across the top front. The TV is mounted on a swing away wall mount from Sam’s Club, so no problem with it falling. Just distracting as it swung back and forth :>)

We carried out clothes, planning for warmer weather. Shorts, short sleeve shirts, light stuff. Turned out insufficient for unseasonably cool weather. Shoes and hiking boots for my nightly ‘patrols’ and day hikes. Initial food (we buy food as we travel) is gradually making it’s way into the refrigerator/freezer that I keep pre-cooled on the shore AC power. Mostly Frozen stuff, snacks and some items that we will not eat within the next few days. We don’t drink the water from the coach reservoir, even though I treat it with Clorox, so buy gallon bottled water from Dollar Tree, to keep refilling the smaller bottles. Only when hooked up to ‘good’ city water, do we drink and refill the bottles with the ‘filtered’ tap water from the little special faucet on sink. Some RV’ers filter All water entering the system. Co-pilot navigator drinks G2 stuff sometimes, so we save the sturdy plastic bottles to use for our individual drinking water.

8 April 2013 Monday is the plan for liftoff, but the wind may set our schedule back a day or so. Tentative is through Texas, toward Georgia. Fun route and lots to see along the way. Big waterfall 70 miles north of Atlanta. Maybe see it? :>)

Watching the weather reports. We don’t like Wind. It blows the rig around and can flip it over when blowing above 65mph. Headwinds cause atrocious mileage and decreased highway speed. We previously have spent many countless hours waiting in Walmart lots for wind to subside before moving on.

Mow the lawns one last time. Ask neighbors if they will watch for buggers. Give the keys to one neighbor (he watchess house, picks up the mail, seeing as we don’t have the PO hold). Caring family members look after the plants and house needs. Few details left. Now to remember all of the them, as we change from a ‘house’ to the coach lifestyle. Navigator’s new knee is doing pretty well. At least she can climb the steps again. Like a bear on all fours, she climbs in with no assistance :>)

8 April 2013
Rolling along I-40 toward Amarillo Texas. ‘Camped’ in a large graveled truck lot near a little convenience/fuel store along I-40, before Amarillo. Kept ‘fire irons’ handy of course. We don’t relish the thought of repeating the 2010 ‘Gary and Linda Hass’ RV experience http://countywidenews.com/horrifying-details-of-haas-murders-emerge-p3511-94.htm for the ‘Moral Goodness’ liberal leftist Diane Feinstein and ‘friends’ demands, of being unarmed and helpless.

Morning of 9 April:
Rolling on to Amarillo Texas   http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=amarillo+texas&qpvt=amarillo+texas&FORM=IGRE  Sam’s fuel $3.22 gal while Dust blowing kept us moving on to

Matador Texas:                                                                                                  http://www.mooremaker.com/  for a bit of ‘knife buying’ from Wayland Moore, then on to Paducah Texas, for an overnight ‘park in the street’ camp stop at ‘kin’ folks. Conversation about squirrels (lots of home wall invading Squirrels in Paducah Texas), Pecans, homemade quilts and other kin, were the subjects, checkin’ out the ‘fire irons’ and hunting experiences of kin. Morning roust out and a provided hot breakfast of eggs, ham and potatoes, sets us up for continued travel on the trail. Light snow in morning, as we broke camp, followed a few days of heat earlier in trip.

We are heading toward Abilene Texas and fill up fuel at Sam’s $3.36 gal. Overnight at Abilene State Park http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/abilene where fishing in All Texas State Parks is free, after brief stop at the local Goodwill to seek treasures. Watched the dozens of Black Vultures soar in for their nightly roost, high on the framework under the water tank.

‘Buffalo Gap’ lunch of Calibecitos (squash, green chili and ground beef). Gave away a  handmade bunny, to little girl (daughter of owner) that talked to us while we ate. Spent night camped at Walmart in Brownwood Texas, home of Howard Paine University. Bought a cheap ‘Goodwill’ bike to ride while at camping parks. Parts and repairs exceeded cost of a new bike. University Bike shop owner was very happy with his first customer of the day :>)

Been on the road for over a week. Weather was fairly cold for many days of this trip and we had skimpy clothing. We required heat during several nights near freezing. San Antonio and Fredricksburg Hill country, were quite warm in contrast.

AC needed now. One over back bed quit working. Onto roof and check it out. Prosperous Texas is still working as an industrious society, cities growing and economy is doing well. San Antonio is growing rapidly to the north by miles noted on each trip. No state income tax, fewer Nanny restrictions/regulations in Texas, so lots of incentive to invest, earn money and work hard so you can afford cool ‘stuff’.

RV parks are filled on weekends with families. Tents, ‘Pop-ups’, camp trailers. Many ‘Casitas’, small trailers that can be pulled by VW’s and other small cars. Motorcycles, touring single and in groups, circle their wagons for the night. Tents mostly. Some pull unique trailers with tents. Many ‘Trikes’ of various designs. One interesting unit made in Texas, is on a Ford running gear. It’s futuristic, top quality design really attracts attention.

  Even the less well known ‘Black Rock Campground’ on Lake Buchanon  http://www.lcra.org/parks/developed_parks/black_rock.html  (LCRA flood control, protecting San Antonio with dam systems creates drastic up/down levels of water) was filled with campers and their families. In process of being modernized, very nice now, with big trees shading the grassy, paved and level sites with the Lake shore a short distance walk. Tried out the small bike around campground. Ended up with sore butt in spite of modifications, not comfortable at all for a 6 ft 180# adult, Will save it for grandkids :>)

Previously we only stayed in LRCA’s Black Rock relatively coarse sites, when we could not get into Ink’s Lake State Park. Beautiful ‘Ink’s Lake State Park’  http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/inks-lake   one of our old favorites, is very popular now and reserved far in advance. We don’t even try to ‘just drop in’ anymore. Miss the evening Deer, Coots, Ducks and Geese.  Aerial ‘dancing’ Scizzortails and Squirrels. The canoes, kayaks and little boat cruise amenities available for rent at the little store, were all fun. Our favorites were the high quality aluminum canoes. The little lagoon with turtles, ducks and geese always attracted us for a short paddle.

13 April:
Nice Bluebonnet airshow over Burnett Texas for the weekend.  http://hlscaf.sharepoint.com/Pages/default.aspx   Privately restored WWII bombers dropped smoky boom bombs on the airfield, fun. Privately owned, beautiful precision WWII fighters doing tricks with lots of smoke. All good stuff. Event Insurance is exorbitant since notorious recent fatalities elsewhere, so according to news reports, few observers allowed on the field. Too many lawsuits waiting for an excuse. Lawyers on every tv channel just begging for more business, even in ‘lawsuit limited’ Texas.

Everyone parked in adjoining fields, empty lots and lined the fences with police directing traffic. They flew over Burnett for several hours of the weekend days, so we didn’t even have to go to the airfield. We visited the local Bluebonnet festivities downtown. They parked the really beautiful display aircraft along the fences on the airfield, so people could see them easily :>)

15 April:
Rollin Rollin toward the east after overnight at Walmart in Fredricksburg http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=fredricksburg+texas&qpvt=fredricksburg+texas&FORM=IGRE Nice Walmart is quiet for a night’s ‘camp’. We have visited quaint antiquey, boutiquey German themed Fredericksburg often, so we only drove to places we preferred this time. Admiral Chester W Nimitz birth place. National WWII Pacific theater Museum is great and covers several blocks downtown. Entrance located in the Nimitz family home. No side trips like Kerville, where we previously camped in the city park . Left in morning for San Antonio.

San Antonio KOA evening 15 April:
http://koa.com/campgrounds/san-antonio/
Fog is extremely rare in New Mexico. San Antonio  http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=san+antonio+texas&qpvt=san+antonio+texas&FORM=IGRE  is engulfed in it this morning of 16th, beginning last night. Yesterday evening I left navigator to rest up after setting up the RV for land connections. She was fatigued after a short day of browsing a few points of interest around S.A. The rest of the local Greenway hiking biking ‘trail’ alongside the Salado Creek running through the KOA RV park, was calling me. Walking it out for another 3 miles in opposite direction from last trip, discovered another hooting Owl I could not see, a Soft shelled water Turtle on the pathway, welcomed my relocation of him/her, back to the stream.

The ten foot wide pathway had just been undergoing a clearing by the city crews. The crews wear ‘fire ant’ protective jumpsuits while whacking weeds. The Turtle had apparently been disturbed and disoriented by the weed whackers. I picked it up and a 6″ long neck immediately snaked around trying to bite me. Long pointy snout, looks like a snake. I carried it back to the Salado Creek waterway. Turtles disappear immediately when dropped in streams.

A large ‘Brush Hog’ on a tractor, was clearing both sides of the trail, another ten feet on each side. This ‘Greenway’ is a big project. Now that I have hiked out the greater part of this section, I am curious about the rest of it. 40 miles awaits a future visit…with bicycle? We ‘saddle up’ and ride out to another ‘pasture’ this morning. Clothes are now clean again, after copilot did the laundry in the KOA facility yesterday. Temps are headed toward 90 today, so we are soon to be rolling toward Austin Texas with little, to no wifi, other than McDonald’s, Wendy’s or KFC..

Usually lots of friendly wild Ducks here at KOA, due to pond and Salado Creek. None visible this time. Tour trip around north west San Antonio today. This place has grown exponentially. Evident even as we visit each year of travel. The latest big complex multilevel interchanges are finished and now businesses are surrounding them in each direction. Gov Rick Perry is inviting the nation’s Gun manufacturers to relocate away from newly anti-gun states, where they were first born and move to Texas. Nanny State Libs in Austin (capitol) are throwing a hissy as expected. Camping and touring Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, I wear a hunting/fishing knife every day with no problems and often carry a concealed firearm. Can’t imagine doing that without problems in the ‘nanny’ states.

Climbed up on roof today and found the fan motor squirrel cage brushing against the fan housing enclosure inside the ac unit. Three times on two coaches, since we have been motor coaching, the fan motors have become misaligned and brushed the housings internally with the squirrel cage blowers. A bit of coercion with a pry bar to realign/center the motors and the blower spun free again.

A bit of lube oil on the shaft bearings on both AC’s fan motors and we are back cooling again. A noise is evident when the fans first contact the housings. Sometimes they are silent and stop abruptly as they overload the motors. This time was an abrupt stop after several hours of use.

Moving on tomorrow after fuel fill at Costco for $3.29 gal. Plan is for one night stay at CCC constructed Lockhart State Park:

http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/lockhart   a small quiet RV park south of Austin, where golfing aficionados like to camp near the 9 hole course. One hole is the highest in Texas. Fish are in the small stream, so I caught a couple and released for the next ‘kid’. Tomorrow a little bit more toward the East.

Bastrop Texas was decimated by a wildfire that burned over 3,000 homes, over 1,700 in Bastrop alone. Our plan on return is to stay overnight in Bastrop State Park.

20 April:
Ratcliff Lakes National Park was closed http://www.recreation.gov/camping/Ratcliff_Lake_Recreation_Area/r/campgroundDetails.do?contractCode=NRSO&parkId=75227    Feds closed it to ‘clean it up’ after a wind storm. We parked overnight in the empty lot. At one time it was a large popular park. The Fed govt in it’s wisdom shut it down after some trees fell in a windstorm. They have been ‘cleaning’ away the fallen trees… for the last two years. I hiked out the closed trails and countless RV sites that are now overgrown and in need of rejuvenation. Sequestered money? In order to fund billions of rounds of JHP ammo for Homeland Security? Fishing the little lake is enjoyed by a few visitors I spoke with. Those that still recall it’s glory days.

21 April:
Left Crockett Texas Ratcliff National Park for Nacogdoches Texas. BTW is not to be confused with Natchitoches Louisiana, a bit over the border. Crossed from Texas over the wide Sabine River into Louisiana and Mississippi over a bridge, causeway… or two… or more. Lots of water on approach to the Mississippi River flood plains.

Alexandria Louisiana  http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=alexandria+louisiana&qpvt=alexandria+louisiana&FORM=IGRE  fill up for $3.17 gal @ Sam’s Club, where we ‘camped’ for the evening. Browsed a few thrift stores for ‘antique’ donations to purchase.

22 April Natchez Mississippi:
Crossed high bridge over Miss River.
Natchez Mississippi:  http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=natchez+miss&qpvt=natchez+miss&FORM=IGRE
Registered for night at Natchez State Park  http://www.stateparks.com/natchez_state_park_in_mississippi.html  Carriage ride around old downtown Natchez, revealed facts of Civil war not readily available to most tourists. ‘Jake’ the horse, knew the route and avoidance of cars.

After leaving the state of Texas, crossing the Sabine River (big)   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabine_River_%28Texas%E2%80%93Louisiana%29  we crossed Louisiana barely stopping for interesting sights due to old rough pavement on state highways. Crossing the Mississippi River into Mississippi and Natchez. Not much in Mississippi not govt along this route. Today’s welfare is generous, as can be observed. Thrift donation stores are few and slim pickens. No treasures.

When these black folks (the population majority of this area) are finished with Anything, it is done for. They donate nothing to anyone, unlike the perpetually ‘guilty’, educated white folks that fill donation dependent thrift stores elsewhere. Natchez, as all of the south, has lots of history. We took a horse carriage tour around old Natchez and heard explained the system of ‘Antebellum’ (“before” War) life and after the Civil War life of share croppers and land owners.

Interestingly the blacks around Natchez did quite well, both before and after the C.W. Of 29 millionaires in the USA of C.W. times, Natchez was home to 17, with the ‘Barber of Natchez’ as just one. Cotton, in high demand by the European mills, brought wealth to the USA. The ‘Primary’ causation of the CW was to Tariff, tax and spread the incoming cotton wealth, north to the Union. Lincoln, as a Senator, was obsessed with the forced ‘revenue sharing’ the south was reluctant to oblige. Slavery, already rapidly ending due to the onslaught of the industrial age, was only the politically motivated battle cry.

The Barber of Natchez (black aristocracy)  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Johnson_%28barber%29  did exceedingly well, owning slaves and large properties, including commercial, even though he himself was black. He kept busy reading and writing. He was educated by his father, to take over the family businesses. By 11 years of age, he was in charge of the day to day business operations. His diaries are a record of daily life in Natchez. He bought his first business, a barbershop for $300. From there he built his own estate.

William Johnson’s genes continually prospered through several generations of prominent lawyers, judges, politicians, educators and property owners, along with his own heritage from a white, wealthy cotton grower of white aristocracy. It was common among the attractive slave women to bear children from their white masters, who kept them in relative prosperity…… for as long as they desired their company. In some cases educating the children….. if they deemed them worthy of further education, as was William Johnson.

The white male aristocracy commonly sent their arranged marriage (wealth, property, political) wives to tour the world and spend money….. importing furnishings of envy for their mansions. Being spared during the Civil War, many mansions are still in use today. Many are on tours, several owned by the state and national registry. Restoration is ongoing.

Sotheby’s is kept busy, selling and internationally listing desirable properties around Natchez (there are many). After the C.W, prosperity was shared (sharecroppers also ‘shared’ in lean times…. poverty) until the Boll Weevil ended it for everyone. (‘Fire Ants’ of today are liked by cotton farmers, they help eliminate Boll Weevils)

24 April tornado watch:
Left Natchez State RV Park after a night of peaceful quiet. Entered the Natchez Trace toward the north, a parkway of over 450 miles in total. The drive was wonderful through an endless corridor of trees and meadows, interspersed with Cypress swamps. NO Stop signs or lights :>)  http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=natchez+trace&qpvt=natchez+trace&FORM=IGRE  The ‘Trace’ was popular with migrating animals before humans. Humans used it from their earliest times in the area. US commerce and movement of civilization, made it valuable for a relatively short time until the Steam boat rendered it obsolete.

Continued on into Jackson Mississippi   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackson,_Mississippi for fuel @ $3.11 gal:
(Capitol) Miss, staying in LeFleurs Bluff State Park http://mississippistateparks.reserveamerica.com/camping/Lefleurs_Bluff/r/campgroundDetails.do?contractCode=MS&parkId=155844  on the Pearl River for 2 nights. Tripped around town getting an education in urban decay poverty and wide spread suburban ‘gated’ prosperity. RV park flooded after we left, forcing campers eviction. Countless dead end streets with ‘gated community’ accesses around prosperous sections outside of Jackson Miss, forced one disconnect to turn the rig around.

‘The Natchez Trace’ is wonderful, so we drove back onto it. We pulled off the pavement at a rest area and stayed near a noteworthy swamp along the Trace for one night, walking the pathway around the ‘Tupello and Bald Cypress (Trees) Bayou’ http://www.natcheztracetravel.com/natchez-trace-mississippi/canton-jackson-ms/171-cypress-swamp.html  Frogs, and ‘El Lagatores’ (alligators) sang all night, lulling us to sleep, after I explored the swamp with it’s live symphony after dark. Gators sound kinda like bull frogs, Big Bull Frogs. Two smaller Gators sat on a log, patiently waiting, waiting, waiting. Navigator got a picture, but does not do justice to seeing them live.

Morning of 27 April: we continued on ‘The Natchez Trace’ (read about it’s history) on to Huntsville Alabama http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huntsville,_Alabama   a distance of well over 300 miles (It continues on to Nashville Tennessee). Speed is restricted to 40 or 50 mph, so mpg along the tree lined parkway is excellent with extremely light traffic. Over 20 miles of tornado destruction from a storm of 2011 along ‘the Trace’. Damage and destruction visible as we drove. The wind destroyed this vast wide area of trees, seemingly following the parkway.

27 April: left the ‘Trace’ for Huntsville Alabama, the home of ‘Redstone Arsenal’, supporting the manufacturers of the ‘Saturn’ Rockets, among others to this day. Several tall rockets are on display and can be seen for a distance, like tall vertical towers with flashing lights to warn aircraft in the area. ‘Saturn 5’ is a monster of technology only appreciated up close and personal.

Stayed for one night at ‘Ditto Marina’  http://www.dittolanding.com/ on the Tennessee River. left in rain. More Rain, lightning and endless rolling thunder after 3am while camped. Waste tank Dump is newer style 3″ marine fitting, not adaptable to our rig without a 3″ receptacle. We left with the holding tanks full. Fuel is $3.15 in Huntsville.

Continued on to ‘Chattanooga Tennessee’ where fuel is $3.05. Staying for three nights at Holiday RV Park for base of operations, as we explore Chicamauga Battlefield and into Georgia. Alabama, Tennessee are all in this area we explore. ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’ is now @ downtown train station and hotel. ‘Dorothy Dandridge’ and her friends did the excellent musical many years ago. Still raining as we covered the last 100 miles.

2 crashes (hydro planing) halted traffic on the interstate. Navigator wisely used Garmin to find a way around them. The grass ‘mower’ of choice across the ‘green’ south, is the lever steered type that turns within it’s own length. Home Depo sells them from 3 to 5K. ‘Operators wear their headphone ‘tunes’ while endlessly mowing the grass and Kudzu that grows up to 12″…. per night. “The Vine that ate the south” was brought in to USA for erosion control….. by US govt. “We are from the govt. We are here to help you”.. :>)

Chattanooga Tennessee 28 April:
http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=Chatanooga+tenn&qpvt=Chatanooga+tenn&FORM=IGRE
In our ‘toad’ we tour the Georgia towns from our Holiday RV Park camp in Oglethorp near Chattanooga. A trip to Rhynes across line in Ringold Georgia, for ‘stuff’ to sell in mall space upon return, loads the cargo bays. Two years ago, little Ringold was leveled by a tornado within hours after we left. Our favorite little BBQ stand survived.  :>)

Toured the Chattanooga area for a couple of days, noting changes, more construction to modernize the river walk and small boutique shops. The old ‘River Boats’ are parked as entertainment under the big bridges. River Tours are periodically scheduled.

Tannehill Georgia 3 May for 2 nights stay:
Forge Iron! http://www.tannehill.org/

After touring the historic area again and stopping for a doughnut, we encountered a ‘flea market’ in nearby Bessemer Alabama. Nothing but new ‘stuff” from China, in each booth operated by blacks and a few Asians.

Around Texas, the Tex-Mex culture operates and patronizes the markets’, as a sort of black market for everything, including ‘shoplifted’ items by the thousands. We call them ‘Mercados’ across the southwest and they are always busy, busy, busy. Hmmm.. an historical way of ‘doing business’?

Found a few traditional donation thrift stores and a couple of unique items for nav to sell back home. Nowhere near the quality and quantity of donated merchandise found in the bigger Goodwill, Savers (Save the Children) and other charitable donation stores in ABQ.

Arrived back ‘camp’ @ Tannehill State Park to prepare for the evening ‘fire and sparks’ demonstration at the Tannehill Forge and iron works. Navigator and I decided to let them ‘pour’ our little iron plaque individualized. We picked up a hard sand mold and began scratching our name and date into it.

Well into the tedious project, a man told us, whatever we ‘engrave’ will result in a reverse image. BUMMER. Now we had a series of scratchings that we had to reverse. A super mess of deeply engraved markings became unreadable like hieroglyphics.

Working our scratching tools vigorously, we kept trying to make the correct, but reversed, letters deeper than the others. Being backwards, I then misspelled our name. The date was a reversed ‘4’ so I changed it to an unreadable ‘2’ for special reason.

Now the entire sand casting was a mess of forward, which would cast backward, and backward which would cast forward, letters. Frustrated, I stacked the mold in a pile of others and asked the ‘Forge Master’ if he had an anvil or other small item to sell. He told me of one in the store, that I could buy for $20.

Nav told me later she wished we had let them cast the mess we engraved, if just for memory :>) Soon the area surrounding the ‘Pig Furnaces’ was becoming crowded with curious people, all scratching and placing their molds in line for the ‘pour’. Lots of kids with little letters, names or designs. Art professionals had done some really intricate designs using rotary tools.

One art major, that had just graduated from Alabama University, was pouring many iron ‘pig’s feet, for use by BBQ restaurants as decorations. He used Real Pig’s feet, as did another guy with real Chicken’s feet. Now the flaming hot forge area was really crowded, with men wearing leather coveralls, heavy leather gloves, covered boots and helmets with wire screen face shields. The wire screen face shield actually blocks the intense blast of heat, when the furnace is opened periodically to inspect the process.

Layers of ingredients are continually dumped into the top, by a furnace operator on a high metal stand over the furnace, as the huge iron lid is slid open by another operator. ‘Coke’, a sort of ‘coal’ charcoal, is loaded in layers with scrap iron. The melted accumulation of scrap iron is contained inside the cement lined iron furnace, which was preheated by a set of propane burners, to melt the iron scrap rather than iron ore, as is used in manufacturing of iron.

A blower is running to force a continuous blast of air through the layers. This is the ‘Bessemer’ process that forever changed the melting of metals. Before the blast of air was introduced by it’s inventor Bessemer, only an air convection controlled and meticulously stacked layers of ore and wood or charcoal in a ‘Bloomery’ oven built of bricks, could melt iron, by a long process of layers of wood, ore and charcoal. Without this intense process of trial and error, perfected over thousands of years, the Industrial Age would not have occurred.

The Bessemer process furnaces, in the days before electricity, were fanned by big waterwheels (the Tannehill iron works) and gears to rotate a fan fast enough to ‘Blast’ air. Before that, men cranked wooden fans by hand. Tannehill and Birmingham were the original US sites for that, following Pennsylvania where the higher heating, coal to make ‘coke’, was located.

Once heated to about 2,800 degrees, an hour is all the process needs to melt the scrap, periodically dumped into the red hot furnace bowl, lined with fire blocking compound. A bell rings loudly when the furnace master decides to ‘pour’. He digs away at the cement like compound sealing the crucible, as the two men holding the big ladle on long handles, are ready to receive the flowing molten iron.

It looks like red glowing molten lava, as it pours down the chute into the ladle. When the ladle is filled, the furnace master quickly takes a hand full of the blocking compound and stuffs it into the pour hole of the furnace…by Hand. Another man scrapes off the slag on the ladle full of pour iron, just before pour.

The two men then carry their hot ‘lava’ iron to a low bench, where the dozens of molds are ready to receive the molten iron. This process, repeatedly continues into the night, with sparks, molten iron, fire and glowing molds all around the men.

The molds that did the pig’s and chicken’s feet were more complicated. A process of ‘lost wax’ casting into two part molds. They really smoked and blazed as the molten iron was poured into them. Only one mistake as a stack of red hot glowing iron molds were dropped off a handler’s shovel. Everyone near, jumped …fast. One molded item broke in half. Hopefully it was not a treasured casting? The mold survived and another ‘pour’ refilled it.

I was chilling in the 40 degree night, so returned to ‘camp’ for bed without staying for the final ‘pour’. We leave for our next stop along the route back toward ABQ, in the morning. One minor furnace problem in the coach. Fixed it by shaking the circuit board and re-seating connections. It rained all one night and got very cold. A record setting series of cold days, from what the ‘news’ reports. 40 degrees is not really ‘cold’ to us, but to Alabama folks, it is like another ice age, at this time of year..

Left wonderful Tannehill RV campground 5 May::
The return trip covered miles of similar territory we had traversed just one week earlier, so we mossied rather quickly, driving extended hours on toward Louisiana.

Our Le Fleur’s Bluff State Park of previous trip, overnight camp near Pearl Missisippi, was under water on return, due to controlled water release from the Ross Barnett Reservoir (caused lots of foam that fisher folks didn’t seem to mind). Mississippi River flooding affects the entire multi-state Mississippi River water shed, so we camped at Ross-Barnett Reservoir Timberlake RV Park. Great campground with only a few ‘night’ sites. Evening of 5 May, arrived after closing and followed directions to ‘N’ (nightly) site that was not occupied.

Most people live @ Timberlake RV Park  http://therez.ms/Camping/timberlake.html  either as permanent home or weekend retreats. This is one really nice RV park with tall trees and a lakeside vista to be remembered. Summer heat and humidity are not to be relished, from what we hear.

Hiked this nice RV park for hours, while chatting with several residents during the pleasant evenings. Enjoyed the camp site, so stayed for two nights as we drove the toad out to the shopping centers, had lunch, then drove across the dam and browsed the area around the prosperous reservoir. One night a big party boat with music, lights and revelers paddled it’s way around the shoreline. Ross-Barnett reservoir borders the Natchez Trace on the NW shore, north of Jackson. Fishing and boating are ‘The’ big attractions. We had turtles, ducks, geese and one water moccasin as entertainment near our campsite on the shoreline. Navigator snuck up on the dozen or more shy and skittish Turtles for a picture. :>)

Left Timberlake RV park on 7 May:
as we cruised our way west, Alexandria Louisiana was our goal again for a night at Sam’s Club. Wifi was available due to proximity to a few nearby restaurant hot spots. TV is usually pretty good along this route, so no boredom while we caught up on shows we like before bedtime.

8 May: Leaving Alexandria Louisiana, back toward Texas.
We drove away from Alexandria   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexandria,_Louisiana (Decimated, looted and burned by the northern Union forces, after defeating it’s defenders during the civil war) on our way west toward home. Leaving the Mississippi River flood plain below the river levees, is flat farm land, growing numerous crops over wide expanses of rich flood plain.

Some years, the historically repetitive floods of the Mississippi River drainage system, swamp everything for 20+ miles in all directions. Other years, the media scare is that the river is running dry. Louisiana also has some (many) ‘not’ nice highways, with wavy sections that begin a rhythmic series of bounces, similar to a Kangaroo takes as he bounces merrily on his way.

Many Louisiana highways are the old concrete ‘squares’ with expansion joints, that do a ‘slap slap slap’ as you drive across them. Reminiscent of the old, narrow with no shoulders, hwy 59A near my home as a kid. Not pleasant in a motor coach. We slowed to 45 mph and turned on the flashers. Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, interestingly all have lower than avg fuel prices at $3.11 to $3.19 per gal.

Not a lot of fascination this time of year along the endlessly tree lined route, other than ‘colorful’ persistent ‘Gator’ hunters, that endlessly elude Fish and Wildlife Rangers that park along the bayous monitoring passing trucks towing ‘gator’ boats. Nothing that compelled us enough to stop, so we continued on across the very large, wide Sabine River into Texas. Big, Big reservoirs along the wide weaving Sabine river, the wiggly eastern border of Texas. One reservoir, a former confluence of two rivers lined with nice homes and boat docks, extended to the horizon. A long ’causeway’ highway section, showed off it’s size.

Our goal for evening camp was the classic example of late 1800’s Texas architecture, Bastrop Texas. Bastrop State Park was decimated by a massive forest fire two years ago (didn’t know Texas had ‘forests’ did you?)  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bastrop_County_Complex_fire  Most of eastern Texas has Loblolly Pine that grows profusely fast, straight and tall and used for productive purposes. The ‘Lost Pines’ are descendents of pines that existed during the Pleistocene era. They were damaged by the fire. The log trucks keep rolling across this forested ‘Piney Woods’ section of the USA, from Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana to Texas, carrying their valuable loads of ‘renewable’ resource for processing.

98% 0f the Bastrop State park was reduced to standing stalks of blackened trees from the wind driven fire tornadoes. Over 1,600 homes were destroyed in little Bastrop alone, with little recognition by the ‘administration’ in DC….. until brought to attention by Governor Rick Perry.

Burned homes and infrastructure, as were the roofs of the 1930’s CCC constructed park facilities. Fortunately one lower section, a grotto of 50′ tall LobLolly pines with pre-iceage based lineage, survived. Texas is now running a voluntary fund raising, to help maintain and improve state parks. 32 thousand baby trees have already been planted to begin to restore the burned areas.

Arriving after closing, as the last ranger was leaving for the day, we followed his directions. We parked in one shady site of Bastrop State Park (attractive 18 hole golf coarse with 8 acre lake). We noticed later it was reserved for the ‘park host volunteer’, who was Not there when we parked.

In the morning, we paid the $21 for the night, with nice level paved pads (including full utilities) and we left the fire decimated, historic CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp) constructed state park. The office staff seemed distraught that we had stayed in the host’s space, even though the host was not due there for a few days.

Classic little Bastrop Texas, though badly burned out, is interesting enough and undergoing reconstruction, we intend to return during future touring. Bastrop Lake to the north, has LRCA parks where we intend to stay next trip.

8 May:
Navigator noted the pathway of approaching storms and decided to head more south to our old favorite CCC constructed ‘Lockhart’ State Park. A 9 hole golf coarse and fishing stream, it’s claim to fame. I have caught some fish in the stream in previous stops. This night was Thunder, Lightening Rain and more Rain. A leak persisted, that required several towels to collect the water dripping down onto the dashboard from a window frame high over the driver’s door.

The sun came out today,… 9 May:
We broke camp and began rolling again toward San Antonio, between major storm fronts that flooded S.A. a couple of weeks after we left. A 500 mile stop for fuel @ Costco near ‘The Forum’ mall, where we enjoy fish at ‘Sea Island’, followed a shop-stop at Tanger-Prime Outlet Malls, a favorite pastime :>) Good place for wife to pick up another couple of pieces of her desired daily clothing (Talbots) not available in ABQ. Costco fuel was $3.27 per gal. Higher than the southern states where $3.05 was noted, but still reasonable in comparison to the financially ‘disrupted’ E and W coastal states.

This ‘corridor’ of modern I-35 highway, stretching east from San Antonio http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Antonio   to Austin Texas   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Austin,_Texas   is now a continuous stretch of ‘Business’, surrounded by new prosperity evident suburbs, along what was previously new highway across rural farmland. Intermittent cows and crops are still seen in fields between ongoing development.

This busy corridor also eventually interconnects to a section of the NAFTA international tollway (owned by an international Spanish consortium) planned for the connection of Mexico to Canada. Many miles of the restricted access toll way are now in place, with the automated billing cameras (British concept) that recognize the Texas license plates (80%). At this time the software can not recognize or decipher the rest of the US license plates, so the ‘out of state’ drivers (20%) drive free :>)

Alamo KOA in San Antonio   http://koa.com/campgrounds/san-antonio/   is our regular night stay whenever in SA. We arrived at the time of a promotion on Mother’s Day, raising funds for Childhood Cancer. Our second night free at this pleasant Salado Creek, a lazy stream until rainfall floods wash 5′ long Alligator Gar down stream (previously lots of ducks around the KOA).

We bought 12 tickets to the raffle that shares in the benefit pot. They said they will call if we win (we didn’t) Now to wait and see if the oncoming thunder storms miss us both nights. I climbed on top the coach and taped over any visible gaps, to try and stem the leak over the driver’s side window.

Saturday was spent browsing a few donation thrift stores for relics of the past. Texas Thrift stores are troves of treasure, in comparison to those of the Mississippi, Louisiana areas we traversed. Far more generous donations are prolific in prosperous Texas. Stopped and had sea food lunch again at ‘Sea Island’.

Washed the towels soaked in the previous roof leaking, all in preparation for leaving in morning. Llano River State Park, near Junction Texas, off I-10 was the next stop ‘planned’. Llano River State Park is a bird watcher’s gold mine, where the vast majority of America’s birds, stop for R&R during migration.

Wildly colorful, plastic toy like ‘Painted Buntings’  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Painted_Bunting  exceedingly rare to the point of never seen by most people, are prolific as chickens, during migration through Junction Texas. The related happily singing Cardinal, so bright red it appears easily, is also prolific during migration through South Llano River State Park. Texas on the bird migration routes, is the one state to see almost all of the North American birds, at one time or another.

Llano River State Park has numerous bird blinds to relax in, while observing the flocks of hungry birds feeding in front of the glass windows. Deer wander around the RV’s, as dusk settles in. Fishing in the Llano River is Free, as common in Texas State Parks, with no license for park guests. Hopefully a space is available for Sunday night. Friday and Saturday nights are harder to find spaces in family friendly State Parks. This riverside park fills early due to it’s many various activities and wildlife.

Departing ritual of wet camp KOA San Antonio… 12 May:
Disconnecting the water line, shore power and TV cable, along with the the necessary task of dumping the two holding tanks (black waste and gray water), now further complicated by the clogged tank cleaning device hidden deep within the bowels of the ‘Beast’. I now hand co-pilot navigator the washing hose, through the bedroom window and she runs copious amounts of water through the system, until the water coming out of the discharge, runs clear.

I have installed a clear section of discharge pipe and a secondary knife valve in motor coach discharge. You don’t know when it is clean, if not for the clear section. Grand daughter on camping trip a few years back was excited…”To Watch the ‘Whizzy’ go down the pipe” :>)

We rolled on our way toward Llano River State Park as planned, looking forward to seeing the birds and critters. Nothing much but rolling hills and big limestone ‘cuts’ where the hwy crews excavated away the hills, filled in the valleys, making the ups and downs less noticeable. No big attractions other than natural beauty, along the miles departing San Antonio.

Always more recent development across Texas. We observed over the years, as another new modern highway was built, leaving SA to the west toward Fredricksburg and Kerrville ‘Hill Country’. It didn’t take long before the ‘infill’ occurred ,leading out from SA, with the early addition of Bass Outdoor Pro Shop (we Really enjoy that place). Now the entire surrounding area is filled with businesses and still being constructed housing, of a quality and scale to be proud of.

The latest Texas highways are modern, smooth and wide, so the distance was covered easily. So easily that we approached Junction Texas very early. Tail winds help move the pavement beneath the wheels at speeds up to 80 mph. The latest wheel alignment, rotation and balance, did a miracle for the drivability.

With the day barely begun, we decided to turn north at Junction near South Llano River S.P. and keep driving toward San Angelo. Our favorite Lake Nasworthy Spring Creek ‘city’ park, with no RV hookups (boondocking, dry camp) in the park area, always has a space for the night at $12, sometimes free, if no one is at the entrance shack and the rest of the park authorities are absent. :>)

We only seek a conventional full hookup RV park space with 50 Amp service (runs two rooftop AC units) when the temperature is hot and muggy. Then electricity to run the AC’s is a must. Can’t run the generator all night. Cardinals, Buntings and other interesting birds with long tails (Scissor Tails ‘Dance’ in mid air), are passing through Texas at various times, so Lake Nasworthy area is even gathering a few of them, as well as the ever present gray Mockingbirds. Always lots of big black Vultures among the trees. We enjoy watching them soar in circles, seeking updraft thermals and hopping about on the ground, looking for snacks.

This big city park near Spring Creek Marina was very popular and busy years ago. They charged $4 a night. They had climbing bars, slides, and spinning rides. Offered boats, canoes, kayaks, paddle boat rentals for families. With the onslaught of lawsuits now so rampant across the new USA, viewing city owned property and activities as ‘Deep Pockets’ (financial Lotto), They closed down all but the park open space. Removing all of the attractions that kids and families loved.

Mother’s Day was pleasant, especially so with the three sons calling their mother. She was waiting with anticipation and was quite excited to answer each loving call, just as they did on her Birthday. The park had family Mother’s Day gatherings scattered around the pleasant grassy park under big shady trees. Fishing is big in Texas. There are anglers along the shore lines and in boats. Big spaces of open area are around every site here. No crowded feeling, as found in other popular camping areas. It was late in the evening before the families left and the ducks, Herons, bullfrogs re-appeared. Earlier, the water of the channel was crowded with numerous pontoon ‘party’ boats.

Some playing soft music with families singing along and some loud, with pounding rap. Favored the soft music and families. Kids dangled their feet over the front of the numerous boats idling along shoreline at slow speed, as they enjoyed the outing on the water, so popular here. Lake Nasworthy is surrounded by homes with docks and boat houses.

Launch ramps are plentiful along the shore. Never have figured out this lake’s random shoreline. Still puzzled by the extensive earthen dam that leads north away from San Angelo. Every fresh water lake in Texas is there, Only because of the dams across canyons and deep draw arroyos. It didn’t take Texans long, to work hard, spend money buying the correct boat and tow rig. Some bigger, some small, but a boat is a must have to Texans bent on fun. As the sun set, the animals began to appear. Evening temperature was pleasant and no mosquitoes. I despise mosquitoes. No Llamas, Donkeys, Peacocks or horses this time. No feral hogs. A few Turkeys, Deer and Squirrels. Scavenging of picnic morsels is the pastime of Squirrels.

Folded camp in morning and left San Angelo. After fuel at Sam’s for $3.27 per gallon, we rolled toward home base New Mexico. Roswell is our end day of miles at 350. I am getting tired of sitting, with miles of driving every day. Back is beginning to ache. Crossing the state line at little Bronco, after seeing the prosperity (Oil, Cotton Hay, Cattle and Goats..including wild game for profit) and the dry mesquite covered ranch land of Texas, is always a shock with the horizons of New Mexico, always 15 miles away. Sometimes 30 miles, if you come over a high ridge. As occurs historically, NM is in drought trouble with limited rainfall. NM averages about 8 inches a year, so every drop is welcome.

Highway projects are big and often remote in NM, with hundred mile stretches between towns common. Along this route between Tatum NM and Roswell, it is ongoing. Pulled into Roswell Sam’s Club for overnight ‘camp’. Several other weary RV’ers joined us between Sam’s and Walmart. Pleasant weather with breezy air, allowed open windows all night. The Roswell Military Academy is the mainstay of the city. A young friend is attending, his degree goal is to become a State Trooper upon graduation. Ranching surrounds the town. The aquifer with open ‘Bottomless Lakes’ that feeds the prosperity of Roswell, allows for large fields growing hay along with other crops.

Remember the Kentucky Derby winner ‘Mine That Bird’? Home was Roswell. Lots of horse breeders here. In the past it was the US AF that fueled the economy. When the AF base shut down, most figured Roswell was done for. Surprisingly it survives and prospers. Several companies have tried to use the AF facilities for commercial applications. Even bus manufacturing for a time. Now the longest runway in the world (former SAC base) is home to commercial aircraft restoring. Roswell ‘Alien’ stories are still mined for all the dollars they can garner. Even a museum is now busily toured by travelers, some even coming specifically to see the ‘evidence’. My opinion?… a secret (at the time) weather and spy balloon, as the govt said.

This morning we broke camp in the parking lot and after a bit of fuel at $3.26 per gallon, began our final 200 miles back to home. Now I actually want Home. Weary after the 4,000 miles of journey, I desire rest and relaxation. Co-pilot drove over half way on this leg, letting me rest.

Rough NM state roads, like similar Louisiana, are the name of the game after last governor, Bill Richardson used the money for his ‘friends’ and his run for president of the USA. His Cessna Citation twin jet and office in Washington DC did wonders in depleting the state treasury. Several of his ‘friends’ were found guilty and imprisoned. He is ‘golden boyed’ by his friends in high places. Like Illinois, there is no end to what the Democrats are capable of, after being elected by people that are clueless. Of course they may be in some way ‘on the dole’, so vote for ‘more of the same’?.

Pulling into ABQ NM, we filled at $3.25 per gallon, Costco which jumped .40 the next day. Then home for the job of setting up the home ‘dump receptacle’ into the city sewer system on our lot.

Tomorrow, cleaning out the gathered ‘stuff’ accumulated along the miles, is another day. Oil change in engine and generator, transmission and all other lubrication will occupy my time for a few days. At over 70,000 miles, the 10 year old coach is showing it’s age. Things quit, sometimes like recently the AC blower in the cab, then start working again on their own. Rough pavement shakes mechanical stuff and components, until it stops and maybe restarts itself?

Enjoy life touring within the beautiful USA. One Nation Under God. :>)

‘Post Trip’ maintenance on coach:
Finally feeling a return of energy after 5 week trip, so crawled around under the coach for the afternoon… after church and short nap. Significant lube jobs used to take me minutes, now takes hours. Crawl under, realize forgot something. Crawl out, get it and crawl under again. Forgot to take oil under coach for filling filters before spin on. I don’t like the dry start after installing a dry filter. Had to crawl out to get oil and trans fluid in Qt containers for pre-fill of filters. No wonder I ache tonight.

Repeated ‘forgets’ over and over, the full service Oil change, grease job (5 ‘zerks’ on drive shaft, 8 on steering) takes hours because of ME. Also drained the auto transmission at 70,000 mi. I again changed oil in Onan Generator (at 421 hours). We use it often, so the hours build. Oil was pretty dirty in everything. Last service I did was over 6,000 miles ago. Only way we can afford trips, is for me to do all maintenance.

High Quality Filters that were really no big expense before, are really expensive now. Have to shop around for deals on oil and filters. RV shop was more expensive than NAPA on Onan gen filter. Walmart is good for oil, but I do not like Fram filters. Pep Boy’s and NAPA are better. Pep Boys Auto Transmission filter is twice what they cost at Auto-Zone. Strange so much difference. Pep Boy’s Purolator filters are good deal, but hold less oil than the bigger NAPA ‘Gold’ engine filter I like.

NAPA ‘Gold’ is excellent quality and they have the engine, generator and transmission filters. Son’s discount helps. Found out the little magnet is missing from the filter threaded tube on Allison transmission whereby mounts the filter, so tomorrow is NAPA again. Oil from draining is in containers to take to Walmart auto service center for recycle. They are questioning everything now, so I save receipts to show them it is Walmart oil.

Stiff shoulders and neck muscles tonight from all of the horizontal gymnastics. Shoulders do not like doing the reaching overhead. They get out of joint and really hurt, until I work them around and pop them back in, while trapped under the frame. Grease gun dripped it’s ‘juices’ on me. More yuck.

I Just got out of shower after scrubbing the grease and oil out of my hair and from around neck. Wind was blowing the oil all over me as the last drips made long wispy stringers.

We have ‘Steer Safe’ self centering springs on the steering mechanism. Ours broke off a light aluminum part and lost two springs. Will call tomorrow about getting replacement pieces. Looks like the other side is cracked as well, soon to loose two more springs. Not sure it even helps steering. Rooftop housing over the vents, has turned into a ‘crispy’ from the UV of NM. Replaced with a spare, then cleaned and polished the skylights.

Had the front end realigned and wheels balanced last fall. It drove perfect and tracked well this entire trip of 4k miles. Balance of front tires was really needed. During the fall trip to Oregon, the coach shook above 60. This trip I tried over 80 mph with no problem. Texas has beautiful sections where 80 and 90 are common for long distances on the modern highways and Spanish owned Tollways.

Refilled the engine oil, transmission fluid and generator engine oil (total of 20 quarts + 3 filters) after completely draining all sumps. Checked the brake fluid level and power steering. Battery banks of four 6 volt golf cart batteries, require ‘topping off’.  Washing/waxing (Eagle One Nano Spray Wax) coach and moving to back yard for summer storage under it’s sun blocking soft cover. Short trips are possible with New Mexico mountain (cooler) destinations enjoyable.

Young Grand kids have wanted a short trip this summer. Not as friendly toward Colorado as for all of the past years. The Gun ‘Control obsessed’ in Denver, have now passed knee jerk legislation not conducive to our safety during motor coach travel and camping in Colorado. Past incidents in Colorado campgrounds (escaped convicts and overzealous drugged, young male testosterone) have me feeling uneasy about camping ‘naked’…. without our fire arms. For YOUR Own safety, Protect YOUR Second Amendment. It is YOUR Bill of Rights.

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