RV TRAVELS SUMMARY TO DATE...
...Back to last year's travels... -OR-
...On to next year's travels...
1-19 JAN, MONTGOMERY AL -- We begin a new year of RVing by wrapping up our annual Thanksgiving and Christmas visit to Montgomery enjoying time with kids and grandkids, and making the annual medical and financial advisor visits. We've really enjoyed the visit, but it is time to get back on the road ...particularly after we had several nights in the 20's the week before leaving Alabama!! We stayed two weeks past the original 2 month plan, paying the weekly rate of $130 for each of those last two weeks, bringing our nightly average cost at Capital City RV Park to about $14.40 per night.
20-26 JAN, PERDIDO BAY FL -- We watched the inauguration of the 44th President until his speech was over, then pulled the plug to get out of the RV park before we exceeded checkout time too far! We got 15 gallon of LP at Alabama Motorcoach on our way out of town, then stopped at the first rest area south of Montgomery for lunch. It was an easy drive, and seemed shorter than normal, probably due to the nice new 4-lane road on Hwy 113 from I-65 to Flomaton! We arrived at a friend's home just north of Perdido Key and west of Pensacola FL at 3:45pm. They are very generous to share the RV full-hookup in their 12 acre yard. The weather warmed up enough that I managed to get in three trike rides along the beach road in the Gulf Islands National Seashore in the Johnson Beach area on beautiful Perdido Key about 5 miles from where we were parked. I watched my buddy coach the high school girls basketball team in a game (many rules have changed since the last basketball game I watch so many years ago!!), and we took on more than we could eat at Lambert's Cafe in nearby Foley, AL ...Lambert's has three locations (1 in Alabama and 2 in Missouri), and is "the only home of throwed rolls." They are well worth a visit if you are near one of their locations. As always, we enjoyed the fellowship with our friends along with the opportunity to get away from the normal RV park routine for a bit.
27 JAN-2 FEB, TOOMEY LA -- We headed west at 9am, and stopped for lunch and a diesel fill-up at the Flying J near Gulfport MS. Though Flying J is under bankruptcy re-organization, the station appeared to be doing a booming business. We paid $2.15 a gallon for 47.5 gallon. That is over $2 less per gallon that we paid just 4 months ago, and the lowest price we have paid since December 2004. We arrived at Texas Pelican RV Park west of Vinton LA at 4:30pm. This is an old RV park, part of a somewhat run-down complex including RV park, truck stop, and poker machines. Note the warning sign on the drainage pond by the RV park!! After a cold dismal day on Wednesday (but much better than most of the country had fighting ice & snow!!), on Thursday we explored Orange TX and Port Arthur TX. Both had some very neat grand old houses. In Port Arthur, we also enjoyed Pleasure Island Park. The RV park there would be a neat place to stay after it re-opens after repairs from the hurricane damage in mid-2008. We returned to Toomey via US82 along the coast, passing through Holly Beach LA. Holly Beach used to be known as "the Cajun Riviera," and was totally destroyed by a hurricane in 2005, with recovery efforts severely damaged again in 2008. From what we saw, it will come back, but will be considerably different from before ...likely more up-scale and more costly to both residents and visitors. On Friday we explored Beaumont and found a good bit of the downtown area under re-construction. The most impressive sight we saw was the stone library building, originally the First Baptist Church built in the early 1900's. On Sunday, we enjoyed worship at Welsh Memorial UMC in Vinton LA, followed by a very enjoyable lunch with the pastor at the buffet at the local racetrack/casino which was the only restaurant open on Sunday for several miles. Our cost for the week for a nice concrete pull-through site with 50a power and full-hookups was $96. The slab and utility hookups were in great condition, but the rest of the park ...yards, roads, etc, was in pretty sad shape.
3 FEB-2 MAR, ROCKPORT TX -- We got away from Louisiana at 9:30am, and headed for Texas. We stopped for fuel and lunch at the Flying J at Bay City TX, where we paid $2.109 a gallon for 52 gallon of diesel. After lunch, we made our way through Houston (every time, perhaps the worst traffic/craziest drivers of any city we travel through) and down to the Circle W RV Ranch. Circle W is 4 mi SW of Rockport TX, between Rockport and Aransas Pass, and is described as "a gated retirement community." We contacted them a few days before our planned arrival and found they had a site we could have for a month. The price list includes daily; weekly; monthly plus electric off season/peak season/4-6 month stay; winter Texan (your rig and storage shed can stay all year but you can stay only 6 months); Yearly RV monthly rate +electric (both your rig AND you can stay all year); and mobile home. Free WIFI is provided (poor signal and even poorer reliability), and CATV is available for a fee. Permanent residents had some decent patios where they added concrete at their own expense, but the transient sites had only a narrow sidwalk for a "patio," and ours was broken into many pieces (but the grass was nice!!). Rockport is apx 30 mi NE of Corpus Christi. While in the area, we enjoyed a couple of visits with one of Jean's sorority sisters and husband that we had not seen since she played the organ at our wedding 36 1/2 years ago. Sight-seeing included the Fulton Mansion, a 3-story sea-side home completed in 1877. The home, in the pic to the left, was designed and built by a structural engineer. In addition to being built to withstand hurricane-force winds, the wood home featured running water, a flush toilet, central heating, and central gas lighting BEFORE there were any public utilities in the area -- quite a marvel!! The mansion is now a state park. A few miles north of Fulton Mansion, we visited Goose Island State Park and saw "The Big Tree", a Live Oak measuring over 35 feet in circumference, and estimated to be over 1,000 years!! We spent one sunny afternoon on a scenic drive from the ferry landing in Port Aransas on North Padre Island, 34 mi south to the end of the pavement. At the south end of the asphalt in the bounds of the Padre Island National Seashore, we found a seemingly endless "camping" area, where RVs were parked haphazardly along the beach for as far as we could see, enjoying the sea-side parking where it appeared high tide would bring water lapping almost right up to your RV tires!! There is no charge for the primitive (no-hookup) camping on the beach, but there is a limit of 14 days at a time and 56 nights a year. We very much enjoyed our first visit to the Texas coast!! Our cost at Circle W for the month, including $92.82 for metered electric at 14 cents/kwh was $11.89.
3-16 MAR, ROUND ROCK TX -- We left Rockport about 9:30am, and arrived at the Old Settlers RV Park at Round Rock, just north of Austin, about 3pm after a rest stop for lunch, and a fuel stop where we paid $1.95/gallon for 60 gallon of diesel ...the lowest we have paid since late 2004!!! Old Settler's RV Park is west of I-35, and is part of the Old Settler's Park complex including the Dell Diamond baseball stadium, a few miles of paved hike/bike trail and a number of lighted baseball and softball fields along with other attractions. We had some good visits with friends in Round Rock we had not seen since college days, and a visit from an AF chaplain friend who was in a training program at Ft Hood about an hour north of us. During our second week, temperatures dropped 40 degrees overnight, followed by several days of cold, wet, and windy weather. We mostly stayed inside, amusing ourselves by watching the unfortunate carnival workers working through 4 days of cold rain to set up a carnival immediately across the street from our front window! Here you see picture of a small part of the carnival the cold night they opened. Fortunately for them, the weather did get better over the weekend. The carnival noise wasn't bad as they shut down at 10pm. But the rent-out park building right behind us was another matter on Saturday night ...whatever the event was, they had a very loud band until 11pm or so! Our last day in town, we got a windshield tour around Lake Travis west of Austin, and through the UT area. We took in a downtown museum and a great Mexican dinner on the way back to Round Rock. During our stay here, we received and installed our TST TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system), designed to help us in monitoring the pressure of our ten tires while underway. You can read more about the TST system on our RV Travels page ...click on the link to the left, or at the bottom of this page, then on the link on that page for "RV Tire Care." Our cost for two weeks of full hookups was $21 per night ...no weekly or monthly discount ...a bit steep for very narrow unlevel sites and no WIFI, CATV, grills, or anything else.
17-23 MAR, PECOS TX -- We left Round Rock about 9am, went north to Georgetown and then west, avoiding the Austin traffic completely. Our GPS routed us slightly differently than we had planned, but it worked out fine adding only about 20 miles to the 430 mile drive to Pecos. For those who have not been to Pecos, there is a very marked difference between the Texas Hill Country where we were in the morning, and Texas West of the Pecos River where we ended the day!! We refueled at the Flying J in Pecos, paying $1.95 a gallon for almost 65 gallon of diesel, and arrived at TraPark RV Park about 2 miles away about 5:45pm. TraPark is an Escapees Membership park, and is located between the Pecos Park & Zoo, and the small local airport, all of which are on the grounds of the former Pecos Army Air Field, a WWII pilot training base. We were parked CLOSER to the runway than the rotating airport beacon!! But we rarely heard an airplane the week we were there, and then only small single-engine planes. While in Pecos, we got the annual Texas state inspection accomplished on the motorhome and car, and we explored the 3-story, 50-room "West of the Pecos Museum," housed in the former Orient Hotel and old Number Eleven Saloon. The population of Pecos is about 1/3 what it once was, but there are still a sizeable number of homes in town. The picture on the right shows the pull-through parking area at TraPark. Not bad as you see it, but note that there is a site BETWEEN each one of these rigs! It appears that they have doubled their number of pull-through sites by adding T's to the water and sewer connections. When occupied these "between" sites make things pretty close ...the "good" feature of that being that the rigs pulling through from the other direction are more toward the rear of the rigs pointed the direction we are. Each site has a nice slab w/picnic table, and patio cover. The patio covers are nice and solid, and despite their making opening some storage doors difficult, they are great to have as the gusty sometimes gale-force winds in the area would often prohibit use of the RV awning to shade the side of the RV from the hot sun. Some rigs cannot use the sites with the covers due to passenger side slide-outs, and sitting too high for the entry door to open against the patio cover roof ...they were built when RVs did not have slide-outs, and were not as tall as many are now. Our passenger side slide-out is in the bedroom, and worked perfectly with the patio cover. And as our air suspension drops the coach 8-10 inches when we park, the entry door was also no problem. Our cost at TraPark for full-hookups w/50a power was $85 for the week, or $12.14 per night.
24-30 MAR, ROSWELL NM -- We left Pecos at 11am local time (Central Time) headed for Roswell NM. The late departure was due to arrangements to meet Jean's brother, wife and grandkids for lunch at 11:30 in Carlsbad NM ...on Mountain Time. We arrived right on time and had a good visit over lunch at the local Furr's Cafeteria. Heading on North, we arrived in Roswell around 2:30pm. We had hoped to stay at the Eastern NM State Fairgrounds which has over 60 full hookups, but were unable to reach a live human all day via telephone, and found only closed gates around the entire perimeter on arrival. So, we went to the Town & Country RV Park nearby on the south side of town. We had checked out the local RV park options online, and most received poor reviews for their ability to accommodate big rigs like ours. Town & Country is a nice RV park, but a bit over-priced for our tastes. While in Roswell, we saw "Return to Witch Mountain" at a local theater, checked out some of the local UFO related attractions ...like the International UFO Museum & Research Center, an unusual "theme-oriented" McDonald's shaped like a flying saucer, and an alien items souvenir shop in the local Wal-Mart ...and hibernated for about 36 hours when temps dropped from the 70's into the 30's and below and the winds started blowing. We even got a good dusting of snow ...guess we left South Texas a bit soon!! Our cost for one week at Town & Country was $190.40, or $27.20 per night, over twice our cost the previous week in Pecos.
31 MAR-29 APR, KIRTLAND AFB, ALBUQUERQUE NM -- We left Roswell about 9am headed North. By the time we reached I-40 about 3 hrs later, we had very strong winds out of the NW. Most of the time it was a headwind. We stopped for lunch at a rest area, then stopped for fuel at a TA Truckstop in Moriarty. Pumping 58 gallon of diesel in high 40 temps and 40+ mph winds was not fun!! And the price has gone back up a bit, today to $2.28 a gallon. When we arrived at Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque just 40 miles west, the winds were very calm there and temps quite pleasant! We got one of the last two sites available, but found both sites had high voltage that our SurgeGuard would not allow through. The camp host called an electrician. He came and checked it out, agreed there was a problem, and said he would call the contract electrician. The contract electrician came and checked it out, decided there is a problem, determined it was just on our row ...one of three rows in the Famcamp ...and said someone would come back the next day to check out the cause. Meanwhile, several other RVs were unknowingly plugged into the excessively high voltage, probably incurring damage to electronics that they won't know about until a few months down the line!!! We decided to "dry camp" with no power for the night and see if we could get a site with good power the next morning. There were no openings the next morning, but the power crew showed up at 8:30am. After some testing, they called out a bucket truck and sent a guy up to adjust the taps on the transformer. By 9:30am, we had good power! The 40 new sites they started construction on when we were here last October were supposed to be ready 1 April ...the day after we arrived ...but after a quick walk-through my conclusion was, "not yet." The sites appear to be ready, but the access streets are not. Regardless, they opened the sites on Apr 3rd ...basically a gravel & dirt parking lot with sites marked off by telephone poles laid out end to end. No tables, no grills, no CATV, no WIFI, no landscaping, no shade ...a bit disappointing for a "new" RV park, particularly as they raised the price top $20 per night for the new sites. Since they have no weekly or monthly rates, that prices them well above better civilian parks in the area, so we will likely look for other options next time we are in town. While in Albuquerque, we enjoyed visits with several friends and with family members, and we made our normal jewelry shopping pilgrimage to The Palms Trading Post on Lomas. We got the annual chassis service for the motorhome, getting a leaky pinion seal repaired in the process, and then had to have the water heater replaced due to corrosion holes in the tank. And we happened to be in town when a large RV rally was held in mid-April, so we spent most of one Saturday strolling through the vendor area, pickup up some items that we would have needed to order and pay shipping on. Between the motorhome service appointments, Paul managed to work in a doctor visit to check out a pain he has had for a couple of months. The doctor did some tests, but found nothing out of the ordinary -- he just said "if it doesn't go away, come back for more tests." Our Tricare Standard medical plan works great as we travel -- if we need more tests, it will be somewhere down the road! All in all, we certainly did our part of "stimulate" the local economy!! In spite of cool weather, and many very windy days, Paul did manage to get a few rides in on the Catrike, and rigged the rear side-saddle basket so Maggie could ride along -- she really loves riding the trike! We had some great visits with family and friends in the area, and with some fellow RVers ...some old friends, and some new friends!! And, we found time to see "Gran Torino" at a local "dollar" movie theater, having missed it when it first came out. Due to severe weather forecasts on our travel route through the Texas Panhandle to Oklahoma, we extended our stay in Albuquerque one additional night, taking advantage of the extra day for another trike ride and some more great Mexican food!! Our cost for the first two weeks at Kirtland was $15 per night, and no charge for the night without power. The last two weeks was $18 per night, as they raised the prices while we were there!
29 APR, VEGA TX -- Departing Kirtland AFB at 9:30 am Mountain time, we had an easy drive to Walnut RV Park in Vega TX, with rest area stops for lunch and a pacing dog an hour or so later! We arrived at Walnut RV Park just after 3 pm Central time. We stayed in this park back in late December 2003 enroute to Western NM taking our grandkids to meet their great grandparents. Our stay this time was a bit more "pleasant," as the 2003 stay was in 40-50 mph wind and temps in the teens! I recall having to melt ice off the inside of the windshield, and dry the glass with paper towels before departing the next morning!! This time, temps are in the low 80's with a gentle breeze. Walnut RV Park isn't anything fancy, but they have full hookups with almost new power boxes in very good condition, and nice grassy pull-through sites. They are easy to reach from I-40 but just far enough that we don't hear the highway noise inside the RV. Cost for one night was $19.40.
30 APR-6 MAY, WOODWARD OK -- We left Vega about 9:30am, stopped for fuel at the Flying J in Amarillo ($2.07/gallon for almost 43 gallon of diesel), and after a stop for lunch at a nice roadside "picnic area" between Miami & Canadian TX, we arrived at Boiling Springs State Park north of Woodward OK about 2:15pm. We had planned to stay at an RV park south of Woodward, but a call ahead about 2 hours out informed us that they had no sites available, and a call to Boiling Springs SP told us they have "plenty of room", so we went North of Woodward rather than South. We stayed at Boiling Springs, in 2007, and knew they have 10 very nice full-hookup 50a sites in their Whitetail Campground area, named after the Whitetail Deer seen almost daily in the area. As you can see from these pictures, other wildlife were also visible. The Raccoon came to check out the dumpsters almost every evening, pushing the lid up to get in and back out. The Cardinal spent a lot of time daily attacking itself in the rearview mirrors of parked vehicles. Another very pretty bird seen was a flock of little yellow & black Finches. None of the local RV parks we have found in the Woodward area have WIFI, and our Verizon cell phone Mobile Broadband doesn't work here either, so our internet connection here is free WIFI at the city library ...not real convenient, but workable once a day... On our arrival at Whitetail, 5 of the 10 full hookup sites were occupied, the only RVs in the entire campground. We also noted the other campground, Springhill, was totally closed. There were a few departures and arrivals during our stay, but it was all together a very quiet week. Each site has a concrete slab, concrete table, steel grill, and fire ring -- pretty decent!! About 3 hrs after our arrival, a ranger stopped by to take our registration information and collect the camping fee. Our cost for 7 nights was $21/night ...broken out on our receipt as $10/night for the site, and $11/per night for utilities.
7-13 MAY, ENID OK -- After a peaceful week with the wildlife at Boiling Springs SP, we headed East at 11:30am, arriving in Enid OK about 1:15pm. Just before starting out we started the generator, to exercise it and to provide air conditioning as temps were in the low 80's with high humidity. The generator didn't want to run, shutting down with a flashing fault code. We decided to trouble-shoot that later, and made the drive with a couple of windows and roof vent open. It wasn't bad. In Enid, we went to Highpoint Mobile Home & RV Park where we had stayed the year before, and were assigned a site. The first thing we did was plug in the 50a power, but immediately noted our SurgeGuard showed only one leg of power. Testing the outlet with a multi-meter confirmed one leg was dead. I called the park office and they suggested we move to #16 on the same row, saying, "We knew #12 had a problem, but not #10!" Suspicious now, I carried my meter to #16 and confirmed there was one leg dead there also -- not surprising as normally most of each row in on the same circuit. I called again, and this time they told me where to find more 50a sites in another part of the park. After settling in there, I returned to the office to let them know what site we were in, and they refunded $1 per night of our fees since the area we were now in doesn't have CATV (which we don't need anyway!!). It was nice to be in a park with free WIFI again, even though the signal was pretty weak and occasionally totally disappeared out on the edge of the park where we were. We had a great week, with lots of visits and good enjoyable fellowship with Paul's uncle & aunt ...and probably left Enid weighing a few additional pounds! There was bad weather in the area several nights during our stay, but we were on the beginning edge each time and other a brief stint of small hail the last evening in town, we got little more than plenty of rain. While in Enid, we resolved the generator problem, finding that the folks that changed the coolant in Albuquerque failed to get all the air out of the system -- some patient running of the generator with addition of a little over 1 qt of coolant resolved the problem. Paul also got the problem with our new water heater resolved. A noticeable shortage of hot water was due to the plumbing being reversed -- the "cold in" was connected to the "hot out" port and vice versa. Swapping the lines around wasn't easy, but wasn't too bad a task. A final service blow was finding our 3 week old water pump warranty replacement had failed ...Paul replaced it with our "backup" water pump in the dark w/aid of a cap-mounted LED light! Maybe it is time to forget the Shurflo 5.7gpm pump that the factory has replaced twice now -- three pumps in four years!!! Our final cost per night in Enid, at the weekly rate, was $16.86.
14-20 MAY, GUTHRIE OK -- After a morning visit over breakfast, we left Enid just before 11am. We had only about 75 miles to go, so took a very leisurely pace, passing through several small towns on our route to Guthrie. Along the way, we took on 35 gallon of diesel at a cost of $2.09 per gallon. We arrived at Cedar Valley RV Park Resort about 12:15pm. This is a fairly nice RV park, with narrow concrete slabs and plenty of grass, surrounded by an 18 hole par 3 golf course. There also are regular 18 hole courses within 1 mile or so in both directions. The RV park has free WIFI, with probably the strongest signal while at the same time, slowest service, we have seen in an RV park. We enjoyed visits with family members while in Guthrie, dinner out at historic "The Stables" restaurant, and a visit with friends in nearby Edmond. The first capital city of the Territory of Oklahoma, Guthrie is a very interesting town to drive around in, or to walk the downtown area, with the many well-maintained old buildings. We had a fascinating tour of the awesome Masonic Scottish Rite Temple in Guthrie, which adjoins the first Oklahoma State House. The temple was built on "Capital Hill" in the early 1920's after a statewide 1910 vote moved the capital to Oklahoma City. Adding to the atmosphere was the almost daily road block in West Guthrie where a movie crew was filming. Cars could detour around the area on narrow side streets with low hanging trees, but larger vehicles had to wait for periodic breaks in the filming before they could proceed. Along with everything else, we also found time to make some alterations to our Blue Ox KarGard, the shield designed to protect our towed car from rock damage. We engineered a change in the angle of the vertical shield, believing angling the shield out at the top will better deflect rocks and debris back downward toward the pavement rather than outward into the rear of the motorhome. You can see our experimental change toward the bottom of our "Tow Setup" page. Our cost per night at Cedar Valley, at their weekly rate, was $18.14.
21 MAY, WICHITA KS -- It was an easy drive up I-35, 143 miles from Guthrie to Blasi Campgrounds just west of Wichita, where we spent the night and enjoyed a visit with a retired AF chaplain friend. We stayed at Blasi two years ago, and found they have raised their prices almost 20% in just two years. And the price you pay depends on the length of your RV, despite the fact that their "pull through" sites are not long enough for larger RVs with towed cars (or larger fifth wheels and tow vehicle). WIFI is an additional charge, and they warn you probably will have to carry your computer to the office building to use it -- no thank you! Their roads are extremely dusty, and the concrete sites are in reality two parallel concrete runners which can cause problems and possible damage to leveling jacks if they happen to come down on the edge of the concrete. We'll probably find another place to stay on our next visit to Wichita. Our cost for one night at Blasi was $29.
22-28 MAY, ARLINGTON KS -- Since the checkout time at Blasi was 2:30pm (the latest we have ever seen!), and we had just over 60 miles to drive, we slept in, had our normal morning, and left Wichita about Noon after an early lunch. It was a pleasant drive to Arlington where we got a site at the K-61 Motel & RV Park on the East side of town. They have 7 nicely grassed back-in sites with full-hookups and 50a electric. One other site was occupied with a long-term looking fifth wheel. We are here for a high school class 40th year reunion. Paul did not graduate here in Reno County, but did live here for 7 years, attending elementary schools in two small towns and two years of high school at the "consolidated" high school that serves 6 small towns. We enjoyed the reunion with about 25 of the 60-some who were in the class, and enjoyed driving around the county looking at places where Paul lived and went to school so many years ago. During our peaceful week in Arlington, we also found time to go see the new "Star Wars" movie in nearby Hutchinson, and to have an evening meal at "Carolyn's Essenhaus" restaurant next to the RV park. While paying for our meal, we also bought some homemade cookies and egg noodles! At the weekly rate of $105, our nightly cost in Arlington was $15.
29 MAY-4 JUN, BURLINGTON CO -- After a peaceful week in Arlington, we headed North about 9am. After a rest area stop for lunch, we made a stop for fuel at Goodland KS where we paid $2.289 for 70 gallon of diesel -- that included a 7 cents/gallon discount for using our debit card rather than a credit card. Since this Valero station did not have "pay at the pump" which would give us 5% off (almost 12 cents per gallon in this case), the debit card discount was the best deal available. A few miles later, we arrived at Campland RV & Mobile Home Park in Burlington CO at just after 2pm Mountain Time. A call ahead assured us they had an open site, but we were a bit unprepared for what we found on arrival. The mobile home area of Campland looks half way decent, but the "RV Park" area is a half-circle shaped gravel parking lot with a small building of some sort in the midst, and about 10 "back-in against the fence" sites. It is barely adequate for longer rigs. After plugging in, we found the 50a power had marginal voltage. About the only thing we can say for them is that there are full-hookup sites, and the weekly rate is decent. As they were the only RV park we found in the area other than Bonny Dam State Park several miles north, it was manageable for one week's stay. We enjoyed our visit to St John's UCC near the little town of Idalia about 30 miles North, where we lived for a short time in late 1976 and early 1977. We really enjoyed our parsonage in the open country south of Idalia where we had a pair of Magpies and a Barn Owl nesting in the yard. While in Burlington, we also discovered a National Historic Landmark at the county fairgrounds -- one of the few remaining hand-carved wooden carousels, now known as the Kit Carson County Carousel, and this one is in operation at 25 cents per ride!! This is something you don't want to miss if you are in the area!! At the weekly rate of $100, our cost in Burlington was $14.29/night.
5 JUN-5 JUL, CHEYENNE WY -- We left Burlington about 8am, stopping at the Wal-Mart in Ft Morgan for some shopping and for lunch. We went on past the RV park in Cheyenne WY to refuel at the Flying J on I-25 where we paid $2.37/gallon for 37.5 gallon of diesel with our RV Club 1 cent per gallon discount. Once again, our Visa card that gives us 5% discount when we pay at the pump would not work at the pump (it always works in stores, and at other gas pumps, just not at Flying J!). Most of the time the cashier says it is because of too much use outside our home zip code. This time, she said the computer said we had not been Flying J customers long enough -- wonder how many years "long enough" is??? The discount we missed this time totaled $4.55. After refueling, we returned apx 2mi East to AB Camping RV Park, arriving a little after 2pm. Our first week in Cheyenne, Jean's sister visited us from Texas. The three of us took the trolley tour of downtown Cheyenne, and visited the Cheyenne Depot Museum, Cowgirl's Museum (as much a store as a museum), Nelson's Museum of the West, Cheyenne Frontier Days Museum, and the Historic Governor's Mansion. All were worth the time and very small cost. Cheyenne is a clean town, and relatively easy to get around. We enjoyed almost daily sightings of antelope in an open area near the RV park and on FE Warren AFB. We also took in a couple of antique shops, and enjoyed looking at the 8 ft tall western boots scattered around town! Jean's sister's visit was cut short a couple of days when we put the dogs in a local kennel for a few days and flew to Seattle for a memorial/celebration of life service for one of Paul's nephews. Later in the month, Paul got several rides in on parts of the Cheyenne Greenway paved trails on his recumbent trike. Though the various sections are not yet inter-connected, he found the trails quite nice -- much better than his physical condition as he had not ridden since April in Albuquerque!! One portion of the Greenway starts just one mile from the RV park, with very wide shoulders on the street between the RV park and the trail access point. Maggie enjoyed riding along with Paul in her side-saddle rear basket. We extended our stay in Cheyenne a few days beyond the original plan in order to get the results of some more medical tests for Paul. The end result was a "nothing to be concerned about" diagnosis, and we were able to get out of town before things got really crazy (along with RV park prices!) during Cheyenne Frontier Days in mid-July. AB RV Park is probably the best RV park in the area. It has gravel pull-through sites, free CATV and free WIFI (fast when it works, but normally was reliable for us only in the mornings at best). They also have a BBQ shack located in the RV park, selling great carryout meals daily. Our cost for the month, with military discount, was $19.35 per night.
6-8 JUL, FE WARREN AFB, CHEYENNE WY -- Since we were paid up at AB RV Park until the 6th, and couldn't leave town until the 9th because our weekly mail packet was already being forwarded to Cheyenne, we decided to move across town to the Crow Creek Famcamp at FE Warren AFB. We had been unable to contact them when we made our original reservations for Cheyenne, but were able now to get a reservation for 3 days. Like AB, the Famcamp is beginning to fill up due to reservations for Cheyenne Frontier Days. We managed to get a 30a back-in site -- really not long enough for our 40' motorhome but we did a little tree-trimming to get closer to the large tree at the rear of the site, and the street is wide so won't create too much of a hazard for just 3 nights. FE Warren is a very historic military base, originally the site of Fort D.A. Russell. Many of the old red brick buildings pre-date the existence of the Air Force. We noted one row of buildings on the south side of the parade grounds which had to have been barracks for cavalry troops as immediately behind each of the buildings is what was undoubtedly the stable barns for cavalry horses. FE Warren is unique among Air Force bases in that is has no flight line! It has no aircraft flying mission, but is solely a missile base. We were very interested to see the many antelope grazing throughout the base, and especially on the parade ground. In early July, it appeared that the parade ground was the antelope nursery area as we saw a great number of very young antelope being supervised by the adults. While at FE Warren, we had lunch with a guy Paul went to a few years of elementary school and high school with in Central Kansas, and had not seen for over 40 years ... my how time flies!! The afternoon we moved to the base the RV park was hit by a hail storm. We saw plenty of hail the first couple of weeks we were in Cheyenne, but it was soft hail. This time it was hard hail, many the size of quarters. A few rigs around us lost roof vent lids, but our vent covers protected ours. We found no visible damage after inspecting the roof. Our heavy duty triple-wrap sewer hose ended up with many holes from end to end from hail stones, but the really nice (if a sewer disposal hose can be nice!) Ramble Super-flex hose survived fine. Crow Creek Famcamp is in a draw bordering a wetlands area. There are a few pull through sites, and a few 50a sites. There is an interesting Archeological Pavilion across the road from the famcamp, where remnants of a Native American camp active from 400 AD to 900 AD have been excavated. The famcamp is nice, but could use some improvements. Our cost for three nights was $20 per night.
9-15 JUL, LANDER WY -- We left FE Warren AFB about 10am, and arrived at Lander WY at about 3pm after a stop at a rest area for lunch, and a second brief rest stop for the dogs. There is a lot of beautiful wide open country between Cheyenne and Lander, and a good bit of altitude to climb. While in Lander, we drove a few miles south and up about 2,000 feet into Sinks Canyon State Park. The main attraction in the park is the Middle Fork of the Popo Agie River, which disappears into rocks and fissures in a cave, and then reappears in a calm Trout-filled pond 1/4 mile down the canyon. Tests have indicated that it takes the rushing water apx 2 hours to make its way underground that 1/4 mile from the "sink" to the "rise." At the Sinks Visitor Center, we saw the majestic Rocky Mountain Ram pictured here. On our last day in town, we drove our to Ft Washakie to view the grave and monument of Sacejewea. Sleeping Bear RV Park is located on the south side of Lander, on a hill overlooking the town. It offers gravel sites, small grass yards, & nice small trees. Due to placement of the sewer dump at the extreme rear of the pull-through sites, leaving the toad attached behind the motorhome is not possible unless you have multiple extensions for the sewer hose. The free WIFI is among the fastest and best quality of any we have experienced, and the park owners are very visible and helpful to their guests. Along with the great service, they provide a nightly campfire and frequent ice cream socials. Our nightly cost for 7 nights at Sleeping Bear RV Park with the weekly price & Escapees discount was $26.16.
16 JUL-5 AUG, ISLAND PARK, ID -- We left Lander about 9am headed for Yellowstone National Park. We took the slightly longer route via Cody to avoid highway construction delays on US 287 between Lander and Moran Junction, and also inside the south entrance to Yellowstone. We did encounter a short construction project south of Cody but arrived at just the right time to avoid any delay. We stopped for some shopping and lunch at the WalMart in Cody, then stopped a couple of blocks further along for 61 gallon of diesel at $2.59/gallon. The pump stopped at $75 each time, but we are able to use our credit card that gives us 5% rebate when used at the pump. That is just under 13 cents a gallon, or right at $7.50 this time -- well worth the slight hassle of having to re-start the pump each time it turns off at $75!! We entered the East gate of Yellowstone about 2:20pm, saving the $25 entry fee (good for 7 days), by using our Golden Access Passport. Since we would be in the area for three weeks, we drove across Yellowstone non-stop from the East gate to the West gate. The 95 miles covered elevations from apx 4,000 feet to apx 9,000 feet, with snow on the side of the highway at one point, and crossing the Continental Divide at least 3 times. The 95 mile drive, including severe climbs and descents, both with severely winding roads, and with speed limits ranging from 25 mph to 45 mph, took about 2 1/2 hours. Traffic was pretty light on the East side of the park, but picked up quite a bit from the middle of the park to the West gate. We entered Montana just before exiting the West Gate, then passed through the town of West Yellowstone and into Idaho. Thirteen miles from the West gate, at about 4:45pm, we reached Valley View RV Park where we had reservations for the next three weeks (shortened from the original month reservation due to the extra week we spent in Cheyenne). Island Park is basically an incorporated, rather large, rural area. They claim a 34 mile "main street," aka US Highway 20. There are a couple of state parks in the area, and a few small settlements scattered along the highway and off into the trees here and there. Many of the "residents" live here only during the summer months. With no United Methodist Church in the area, we found the non-denominational Little Church in the Pines in Island Park, and enjoyed our visits there. About 30 miles south of the RV park, we found beautiful Mesa Falls, with awesome upper and lower falls on a fork of the Snake River. On the return trip we took a side trip to Big Springs (exactly what it sounds like), and historic John Sack's Cabin nearby. John Sack built the cabin and all the furniture in it, using a rare log curing technique that leaves the bark intact on the dried logs, making for a very beautiful finished surface. We took one afternoon to drive into Yellowstone to see Old Faithful and numerous other geysers on the road to and from. Along the way we saw a Bald Eagle in a nest high atop a dead tree, and took a short side loop to view Firehole Falls. On another afternoon, we drove about 20 miles north (just West of Yellowstone) to see Earthquake Lake, formed by a 7.5 earthquake in the middle of the night in August 1959. The earthquake caused a massive landslide that buried a National Forest campground under 300 feet of rocks and dirt, killing 28 people, and moving a massive amount of earth into the river valley and half way up the opposite side, damming the Madison River in the process. Another day-trip took us to the North end of Yellowstone to view the very spectacular Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. There are two beautiful water falls, and unbelievable colors on the canyon walls. The picture on the right is looking up the river toward Lower Falls. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River is something you absolutely should not miss if you get the chance to visit Yellowstone National Park! After the canyon, we looped on around to the north to go over Mt Washburn, then past park HQ at the site of Old Ft Yellowstone and next to Mammoth Springs on our way back to the RV park -- a 165 mile loop that took us apx 7 hours due to speed limits and traffic. The next to last night in the area we FINALLY found a restaurant that has trout on the menu! Even a couple with "trout" in their name served no fish at all!! Valley View RV Park has 80 RV sites in a very scenic location. The picture on the left is of the mountain immediately behind the RV park. There is a large public laundromat in conjunction with the RV park. The long pull-through sites are at a near 90 degree angle to the narrow roads, making access a bit tight, but the gravel pads have lots of grass on each side, making for a nice wide site. Once again, the sewer connection was at the extreme rear of each site, requiring multiple extensions for the sewer hose if you wish to park you toad behind the motorhome where it can be easily re-hitched at departure time. No free WIFI, no CATV, and no local TV reception. Fortunately, our Verizon Broadband internet worked well on our cell phone, and the satellite TV dish worked great with Dish Network. Our cost at Valley View was $19.05 per night.
6-19 AUG, OSBURN ID -- Departing Island Park at 9am, we made the 384 mile drive to Osburn ID in about 7 1/2 hours, including a couple of rest stops and a lunchtime stop at Flying J for fuel and lunch. We normally have a sub sandwich when on the road, purchased a day or two before from the deli at Walmart. This time our sandwich came from Subway as there was no WalMart in the Island Park area, but there was a Subway! Contrary to our experience the last several times at Flying J, this time our CC was accepted for purchase at the pump, so we got our 5% discount from the CC card company on top of the RV Club discount of 1 cents per gallon. We bought 39 gallon of diesel at $2.45/gallon for an avg of 7.8 mpg. We were at Blue Anchor for 2 nights last year, and stayed longer this time to give Paul more time to explore the very nice paved Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes bicycle path that passes by right across the street from the RV park. The upper end of the apx 70 mile trail is about 12 miles uphill from the RV park. As it is built on an old railway bed, the incline isn't too severe -- there is a gain in altitude of 800 feet in that 12 miles. It isn't impossible for an old guy to ride up, and is a great ride back down! In addition to the few trail rides between almost daily rain, we enjoyed some great scenery and a few of the local restaurants located in historic buildings. We also took the tour of the "Oasis Bordello Museum" in Wallace where everything is just as it was left when the Madam and her girls got a telephone "shut down" warning in 1988 due to state authorities being enroute to the town. They vacated the premises very quickly, and when the Madam then decided to retire the bordello never re-opened. Blue Anchor is a small RV park with tight sites. We are unable to get Dish satellite TV reception due to heavy trees, but survived on the limited free cable. We found the free WIFI to be fast but unreliable, but our Verizon broadband internet worked well. Our cost at Blue Anchor on the weekly rate was $24 per night.
20 AUG-3 SEP, FAIRCHILD AFB, SPOKANE WA -- We left Osburn at 10:15am, and after a brief stop for 37 gallon of diesel at $2.93 a gallon, completed the 92 mile drive to Fairchild AFB Famcamp just west of Spokane about 12:20. Somewhere along the way we re-discovered summer -- it was in the low 70's in Osburn and 96 in Spokane! A couple of days after arrival, we went back over the state line to Post Falls ID to the nearest Cabella's to use a gift certificate we had been carrying for a few months to buy a weather alert radio we had been thinking about for over a year! While at Fairchild we got the Norcold refrigerator recall we attempted/failed in Island Park completed at a local RV dealership. It seems Winnebago is much more thorough at attaching refrigerators than other mfg'ers are, but the Spokane Valley folks got the job done with the only cost to us being the 57 mile round trip (that's probably about $25 worth of diesel fuel!!). Although Spokane does have some paved bicycle trails, we were several miles from the "very hilly" end, and even further from the flatter portion, so Paul & Maggie did a couple of rides on base. They even figured out a route that got them a 15 mile round trip! Our cost at the Fairchild Famcamp for 2 weeks at the weekly rate plus one night at the nightly rate was $14.50 per night.
4-10 SEP, BOTHELL/SEATTLE WA -- We got away from Fairchild AFB at 8:30 am, and took the scenic route to Bothell via US 2/SR 522. It was 2-lane, but good road. And it really was quite scenic, including a couple of deep valleys followed by mountain passes. A few miles before Stevens Pass we made a rapid descent from 2,800 feet to about 600, then after a gradual climb back to apx 1,000 we made a serious climb to 3,500 and back down again. The 280 mi drive took us about 5 1/2 hrs, with fairly heavy traffic the last 40 miles. Since we are no longer a part of the working world, we often lose track of holidays, and thus ended up traveling on the Friday of Labor Day Weekend. That was just how the schedule worked out, so when realized that a few weeks before we called ahead for a reservation. The first place we called was already filled up, so we called Lake Pleasant RV Park where we stayed last year when we were in the area for a niece's wedding. They had space available, so we ended up on the North side of Seattle rather than the East side. Lake Pleasant is slightly above average as far as facilities are concerned compared to most RV parks, but fails the test when it comes to level sites. Unlike last year, their WIFI did work this time. The big shock was a 25% increase in prices from last year!!! While in the Seattle area we got to meet our new niece, visited the Pike's Place Market, and enjoyed a ferry ride from Edmonds to the little town of Kingston where we had lunch before returning. On the weekly rate, our cost at Lake Pleasant was $44 per night, resulting in a cost for the week nearly equal to what we pay for a month in many places!
11-21 SEP, LACEY WA -- We had an easy 75 mile drive from Bothell to Lacey, made less easy by the fact that there is solid traffic all the way as you go from Seattle to Tacoma to Olympia. But we did actually get over 60 mph part of the way!! Just before reaching our destination, we stopped for fuel and to dis-connect the car from the motorhome per instructions from the parking crew at our destination. We had a choice of two service stations with diesel, and would have had to disconnect the toad to get into either one, so it all worked out fine!! We paid $3.09 per gallon for 57 gallon of diesel ...the highest price per gallon we have paid since last November. One year ago, we paid $4.65 per gallon in this area, so $3.09 is a great improvement!! We arrived at the WBCCI WLYH about lunchtime …those initials stand for Wally Byam Caravan Club International, Washington Land Yacht Harbor …rough translation being the Pacific NW HQ of the Airstream Owners Club. This was the location for the 2009 SMART (Special Military Active Retired Travel Club) National Muster … military RVers, some active duty, most retired. The National Muster is in a different part of the country each year. This time the attendance was lower than normal, with about 140 rigs registered. With the geographic center of membership being somewhere in the SE United States, many members did not want to travel all the way to the NW corner of the country for the annual meeting. But those who attended had a great time. There were tours to Mt St Helen's, Boeing Seattle, and the Space Needle/Pikes Place Market/Seattle Underground. We took only the third tour as there was more of the Market we wanted to see, and we went shopping in the Pioneer Square area rather than taking the tour of the Underground that we did last year ...that's where we found the "Utilikilt Shop" pictured here. Note the kilt on the left with the tool pouches built it! We hit paydirt in the antique shop where the tour begins and ends, finding quite of bit of old turquoise jewelry, and Jean finally found a Squash Blossum necklace that she likes (she's only been looking about 15 years...)! We also had a great seafood buffet at a local casino. The WLYH is set up for trailers, and doesn't work great for motorhomes, but we managed. After using some wood planks to help get the motorhome level, the primary challenge was in convincing poop to run uphill when it came time to dump. We even managed that one!! Cost for our site at the WLYH was $20 per night.
22-23 SEP, GOLDENDALE WA -- After providing the invocation for the meeting of the Board of Directors, we slipped about from Lacey about 9am. After a WalMart stop in the Vancover area for shopping and lunch (and a couple of doggie walk stops), we enjoyed a scenic drive through the Columbia River Gorge, then crossed the river from Oregon back into Washington to arrive at the Peach Beach RV Park near Goldendale WA about 2:30pm. We stayed here two nights to give us time to visit "Sam Hill's Stonehenge", a replica of the real Stonehenge in England. The Washington version is pictured on the right. We also visited the very interesting Mary Hill Museum which has many artifacts provided by Maria, Queen of Romania, along with many Native American items, and the nearby Mary Hill Winery. The view from the high vantage points on the Washington side of the Columbia River is spectacular, as shown in the picture on the left. Peach Beach RV Park is adjacent to Mary Hill State Park. On one side is the Columbia River, and on the other side are fruit orchards and vineyards. After our visit to the tourist sites up the hill, we bought some very nice peaches at one of the fruit stands nearby. The RV park is pretty decent, but the electrical voltage tends to sag considerably under load. The real oddity here is that the telephone is manned only on Tuesdays from 10:00am to 2:00pm ...if you want RV park info or reservations at any other time, you just have to stop in to check it out. There is a camp host on site to assist with the "self check-in" procedure. Our cost at Peach Beach RV park for 50a power and water (no sewer) was $20 per night.
24 SEP, GLENN'S FERRY ID -- We headed south around 8:30am, losing an hour when we crossed the state line into Idaho and entered the Mountain Time Zone. About mid-day we stopped at the Flying J in Caldwell ID for 54 gallon of diesel at $2.72 a gallon. We had covered just over 400 miles when we stopped for the night at the Power Pop RV Park in tiny Glenn's Ferry ID a few miles north of Twin Falls. A nice touch here is that you get to choose your flavor of Power Pop on checkin! ...and if you like them you can buy them by the bag or even sign on to become a distributor! Power Pops are a "diet lolipop" that are claimed to "Suppress appetite and burn fat." They did taste good... About 2 hours after we checked in at apx 5:30pm, we answered a knock on the door to find a couple who were also traveling southward from the SMART National Muster in Lacey! This small park is ok, but would be a problem for more than a day or two as the voltage sagged severely, tripping the low voltage alarm a couple of times. This is the kind of place that would cause serious damage to electrical components if you do not have over/under voltage protection, but you probably wouldn't be aware of the damage until the damaged items quit working several months down the road. Power Pop is a Passport America park. Our "1/2 price" for the night in a full hookup 50a pull-through site was $14.00.
25 SEP, GREEN RIVER UT -- This time we got away about 8:15 am. The drive across Idaho and Utah is stark but scenic, and this time was accented by rough roads in Idaho and several 2 lane construction zones. Several times we saw smoke off in the distance, one time smelling burning wood as we were seeing smoke on a mountain to the West. The towering plume of smoke in the picture on the right was from brush fires around some buildings just off the interstate north of Brigham City UT near the rest area where we stopped for lunch. In early afternoon we stopped at a Camping World store in Draper UT for a few items, but they didn't have the toilet seal which was the primary thing we stopped for. Then we decided to start the Honda and do the required run through the forward gears followed by idling engine for 2 minutes every eight hours, and found the Honda battery was totally dead. This is the third such occurrence in the past year. The second time we replaced the battery thinking it was worn out due to its age. The dead battery is not towing related, as there is nothing drawing power when the car is being towed (and the other two times it happened we were not towing). In the process of trying to get the car started, I got the transmission shifted out of Neutral and into Park ...then could not get it out of park! Since the day was getting warm, we started the generator on the motorhome, ran an extension cord from a 120v outlet in a basement compartment, secured the cord around the towbar to the front of the Honda, put the portable battery charger on top of the Honda engine, hooked it up and plugged it in, and closed the hood. That ensured the Honda battery would be charged up by the time we arrived at our planned destination about 4 hours later! Now if we could figure out why this is happening a few times a year... About 30 miles later we stopped for another diesel fill, this time taking on 54.7 gallon at $2.72 per gallon. After checking on the battery charger under the Honda hood, we went on South. The last 3 hours of the 465 mi drive was a bit more tedious as we left I-15 for a US highway riddled with construction zones and numerous mountain climbs from Spanish Fork to Green River ...but it was very scenic, with some areas of great color as the trees were beginning to turn to their Fall colors. On arrival at Shady Acres RV Park in Green River, we found ourselves parked immediately next to another couple also traveling from the SMART National Muster to Texas! ...the RV world can sometimes be a small one!!! Shady Acres is a nice park with tight roads and very long pull-through sites. The 50a power was good ...no sagging voltage this time! We took advantage of the "buy one get one free" coupon for the Blimpie Sub Sandwich store next door, stocking up for lunch on the road the next day. Our cost for one night in a 50a full hookup pull-through site was $35.50.
26-27 SEP, PUEBLO CO -- We headed East out of Green River at 8:30am for a slightly shorter drive this time, 388 miles to Pueblo CO. After leaving I-70 at Grand Junction, the drive got more "interesting." There are several significant mountain passes on US 50 between Grand Junction and Pueblo. The goal on a steep climb is to keep the rpm on the big diesel high enough to keep from lugging the engine down and overheating it. The desirable range for our 8.3 liter Cummins ISC is about 2,100 RPM, and certainly not less than about 1,700. Going down the other side is about as slow as going up as the general rule is to go down the other side in the same gear you had to use for the climb. This allows the engine compression, aided by an engine brake (aka Jake brake that OTR trucks and some large motorhomes have) or exhaust brake (which most motorhomes have) on the diesel engine, to keep the speed of the large vehicle under control without overheating/burning out the brakes. We can generally maintain 40 mph pulling a steep grade in 3rd gear on our 6 speed Allison transmission, so that means 40-45 mph in third gear on the equally steep downgrade! Add to the downgrade way too many 30-40 mph curves, and it is slow going ...but we weren't alone ...there were plenty of trucks to keep us company, and where US 50 was only two lanes there were also plenty of cars keeping us company too!! After negotiating several fairly significant mountain passes, in mid-afternoon we came to Monarch Pass ...just short of 11,400 feet compared to around 8,500 feet on a couple of the earlier passes! As we reached Monarch Summit, we could see snow covered mountains both to the South and the North. When we stopped to take the two pictures here, there was a small pile of snow in front of us on the edge of the parking lot! After descending from Monarch Summit, we refueled in Poncha Springs near Salida, taking on 61 gallon at $2.49 a gallon ...much better price than in Washington state! From Salida to Canon City is more slow going as nearly the entire distance is through a canyon where US50 is a winding two-lane road, most of it still on a downslope. This is just north of the Royal Gorge area. After a long tiring drive through some beautiful scenery, we arrived in Pueblo at 4:45pm. We found Pueblo West RV Park and Horseman's Arena on the edge of town in Pueblo West. It is exactly what it sounds like, complete with a braying Jackass right behind our RV site! The row of six or so sites we were in was obviously a recent addition, bringing their total sites to 54. It appears that this is more of a trailer park than an RV park. Many RVs are obviously here for the long term, with skirting around the bottom (for winter weather) and large propane tanks. And in the picture on the left you see the fifth wheel that was next to us, giving a whole new meaning to the term "trailer trash." Our back-in pad was formed from a deep bed of crushed concrete (badly needing some raking/leveling). The 50a power was good and there was very good water pressure, but we once again found ourselves trying to dump a 3" sewer hose uphill as the sewer connection was at the rear of the site on a rise from the level of the site, and protruding 6-8 inches above the ground!! This kind of arrangement isn't a problem for trailers and most gas motorhomes, but diesel motorhomes with air suspension "squat" when they park, dropping 8 inches or so from normal highway height. Too many RV park owners & designers don't consider all their customers when building their RV park. It seems they presume that ALL RVs work just like the one or two they are familiar with. We stayed two nights in Pueblo, visiting First United Methodist Church on Sunday morning to see the pastor who was a young associate pastor near us in SE Colorado 30 years ago. Our cost per night at Pueblo West was $25.
28 SEP, AMARILLO TX -- It got down into the 40's overnight in Pueblo ...time to head further South!!! We hit the road at apx 9:00am, went over Raton Pass (which was nothing compared to Monarch Pass on Saturday!!), then left the Interstate and cut across NE New Mexico toward the Texas Panhandle. We stopped for lunch at a roadside pullout & historical marker near Des Moines NM. Somewhere near here Paul's maternal grandparents homesteaded briefly in the early 1900's. Their second child was born in NM, and after the month-long trip back to Oklahoma via covered wagon, she had to learn to walk all over again ...apparently Grandma was too nervous about wild animals, Indians and such to let the child out of the wagon!! On arrival in Amarillo around 5pm,(after losing another hour crossing into the Central Time Zone) we refueled at Flying J ... 58 gallon of diesel at $2.439. A couple of miles East of Flying J on I-40 we pulled into the AOK RV Campground. AOK is an older RV park with long pull-through sites. The power outlets are in poor condition, and are shared between sites. We tested the outlet before plugging in and it tested ok, but the SurgeGuard immediately disconnected after we plugged in. When we tested it again with the multi-meter, it showed extremely low voltage. We plugged into the other 30a outlet on the post and it worked ok. The park offers a 50% discount for Passport America and Escapees members. The park is ok for an overnight stop, particularly since the weather is moderate and won't require ac or heat (which they charge extra for!!). Our cost for one night was $11.
29-30 SEP, ABILENE TX -- We got a leisurely start shortly after 9am, headed for Abilene via Lubbock -- not quite the shortest route but we were hoping to connect with Jean's younger brother for lunch. When that didn't work out, we headed on south. After a stop at a roadside "picnic area," we arrived in Abilene at about 2:30pm. After figuring out how to get around a blocked construction area where we needed to turn off US80, we found VFW Post 6873 near the main gate of Dyess AFB. This VFW post has a small RV park where they rent to VFW members, active & retired military, and family members of airmen stationed at Dyess AFB. We found their 18 full hookup sites full, and were assigned to a "temporary" site with water and 50a electric hookup along with another motorhome. They also have a dump station for use by those in "temporary" hookups. Jean finally got the Taco Bell taco salad she had been wanting for several days! ...followed by a quick drive-through of the college campus where we met 39 years ago. Our first "house/2nd floor apartment" is gone, replace with apartment housing for married students. Good move, as it was a WWII building that had been moved from the old Camp Barkley Army Post in the 1950's, and was nearly falling down when we lived in it! Our cost for two nights in "temporary" hookups was $20 per night.
1-4 OCT, FREDERICKSBURG TX -- After the 2,000 miles and long days we had done in the past week and a half, it was an easy 180 miles from Abilene to Hill Country RV park on the south side of Fredericksburg. Traffic was very light, and the roads were good. Along the way, we stopped in Brady for 54.9 gallon of diesel at $2.49 a gallon. Jean's sister Tammy drove down from Saginaw to join us for the weekend. We had a good time at Oktoberfest and the 13th Annual Retired Air Force Chaplain Service Reunion. We toured the National Museum of the Pacific War (Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz of WWII fame was born and raised in Fredericksburg), strolled through Oktoberfest activities, did some enjoyable window shopping through the many neat shops on Main Street, toured the LBJ Ranch National Historical Park near Stonewall TX about 16 miles from Fredericksburg, ate some great Texas BBQ cooked by a gentleman who grew up on the ranch while his parents worked there, enjoyed a music show at the Rockbox Theater, and did lots of socializing and more than enough eating! It was all enjoyable, but the immediate result was a need for dieting and napping!!! Our cost for 4 nights at Hill Country RV park was $20 per night.
5-30 OCT, SAGINAW TX -- It was foggy and cool when we left Fredericksburg around 9:30am. We drove US 281 most of the way to I-20. There were many roadside tables/picnic areas to choose from for "doggy stops" and for our lunch stop. We refueled at the Valero in Saginaw, 45.6 gallon of diesel at $2.47 a gallon -- excellent price!! Because of the roaming dogs at Eagle Resorts RV Park where we had stayed for the past 5 years when in this area, we decided to try another location. This time we went to Fowler's RV Park about 6 miles North of Saginaw on US 287 Business. Fowler's has 30 or so full-hookup sites, some pull-through and some back-in. We found a permanently unmanned office when we went to check-in, with signs telling RVers what to do to check-in. Seeing a sign for a park host, we knocked on his door. He assisted in helping us select a site, and then got a guy nearby to get out a tractor with a scoop to put some gravel down in the site before we pulled in. Park streets are paved, but the entrance was a muddy mess basically through the paved bar ditch rather than have a proper driveway with a culvert to handle the water rushing by. The dirt sites were firm due to being covered with crushed asphalt, but some were still quite muddy due to recent heavy rains. Several sites looked a bit better than our assigned site as far as water was concerned, but were a bit small for our motorhome. Note the lucky number 13 on our neighbor's submerged electrical box (yes, the box is "live" and there is a power cord plugged in, coming up out of the water against the box)... This park isn't anything beyond basic, but when it was dry it wasn't be bad -- unfortunately, there weren't many dry days during our stay. Rather than roaming dogs, there are a few chickens -- that we can handle! Like too many RV parks, this one also has become something of a permanent trailer park rather than a traveler's respite. But they do have 50a power and very fast free WIFI that works sometimes... While in Saginaw we upgraded Paul's Verizon phone as the old one had some serious battle scars and a crack across the face. He got an Ozone (Blackberry-like device) to replace both the phone and the old iPaq PocketPC. Now to see who is smarter ...Paul or the new "SmartPhone"! It does provide a much faster broadband internet connection than the previous phone did! We got in lots of visiting with family and friends in the area, made our normal visit to the Justin boot outlet in Justin where Jean got a new pair of boots, and got in a couple of visits to the Ft Worth Stockyards shopping district. We also got in a lunch visit with an Air Force friend we first met in 1980! We left Saginaw two days early, so our cost for 26 days at the monthly price (which includes the first $100 of electricity) was $11.54 per night.
31 OCT-1 NOV, DUNCANVILLE TX -- After lunch with a couple of college friends, we had an easy 50 mile drive from Saginaw to the Wycliffe Associates location on the south side of Dallas. As we made our way across the south side of Arlington on I-20 we saw a column of thick black smoke ahead. A report on the CB radio indicated a car was on fire on the East bound side ...our side. As traffic was moving, we stayed on the freeway and went past a fiercely burning car with a crumpled front end on the right shoulder just after the police arrived. There were about 10 cars stopped on both sides of the eastbound lanes, and fire trucks were coming up the access road -- a good place for us not to be! Wycliffe Associates, Dallas, is located on the International Linguistics Center campus with a number of organizations including SIL Intl, Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics (GIAL), Wycliffe Bible Translators, Pioneer Bible Translators, and the International Museum of Cultures. It was nice to be on a concrete RV pad with grass around rather than the standing water and mud we experienced the entire past month ...even though the concrete pad was low to the front so the leveling jacks required wood blocking and subsequently lifted our front wheels several inches off the ground. Last time we stayed at Wycliffe, Paul was volunteering 4 hours a day in the IT department. This time, we had no volunteer plans, but when they learned Paul is a retired military chaplain, he got tagged to do one of the weekday morning devotionals for campus staff. More below on our time in the Dallas area...
2-3 NOV, MCCLAIN'S RV LAKE DALLAS TX -- We finally had several straight days of sunshine to dry things out, so arranged to have the roof sealant checked at McClain's RV in Lake Dallas -- 40 miles across town. Jean & the dogs stayed at friend Linda's while Paul took the motorhome to be checked. Two service guys Paul had talked to said "no appointment necessary, just come by and we'll check it right on the drive. Then if it needs repair, we'll get you in." He arrived about 2pm, and it was quickly determined that some recaulking was necessary ..as we expected. Paul got the last of the 4 hookup sites behind the dealership, and they told him someone would give him a call in the morning when they were ready for the motorhome. The four hookup sites have nice concrete slabs. One is a 50a full hookup while the other 3 are 30a water & electric. The site we got was quite nose low, requiring double 2x6 blocks under the front jacks to get level much like the site at Wycliffe. The next morning Paul was ready at 8am. At 10:30 he walked around to the service dept to ask when they expected to want the motorhome. They said, "about 1 hour from now." So Paul went back and had lunch ...and waited ...and waited. Finally, at 2:40pm they came for the motorhome. They had said it wouldn't take very long (which normally means about 1/2 day), so no big problem ...just the thought that the 40 mile drive south across Dallas would likely be in full rush-hour style. About 5:10pm the call came that it was ready. They told Paul to see the cashier in parts to pay the service ticket, and they would bring the motorhome around to the front gate by the cashier. When Paul got to the parts dept, it was locked up. He found someone who called a parts guy to re-open, get the ticket out of the printer, and take the payment. Then Paul went out front by the gate to get the motorhome... and waited... and waited... Finally, fearing the showroom would soon close and he would be locked out, Paul went back inside at 6pm to ask the receptionist to check on where the motorhome was. She said she couldn't call the service dept "because they won't answer the phone this late," so sent him to the service dept where Paul found there was no one present. Paul returned to the front desk, and the receptionist found a manger to see if he could find the service guys and/or the motorhome. About 6:20pm he returned to say that the motorhome had been taken to the "campground" ...the hookup sites behind the dealership. By this time it was totally dark, and I-35 in front of the dealership was bumper to bumper. Traffic didn't look good, and getting the motorhome parked, leveled and hooked up in the dark isn't the best plan, and Paul was hungry to boot!, so he and the motorhome stayed in the dealership hookup site for another night, returning to Duncanville on the south side of Dallas the next day during daylight hours after morning rush hour.
4-14 NOV, DUNCANVILLE TX -- The trip back across town was uneventful, and by noon we were back in Wycliffe site 41. A few days later, the project of the day was to replace the bowl seal in the toilet, as the 7 yr old seal was not holding water well. But about the time that project was to start, we noticed the display panel on the refrigerator was dead. A brief inspection revealed tell-tale yellow liquid residue in the access area behind the refrigerator -- a sure sign the cooling unit has failed. A call to a mobile RV repair guy revealed there is no quick solution as it would be three weeks before he could get to us. We will be in Alabama by then. So we went to Sam's Club where we bought a 4.5cf apartment-size refrigerator as a temporary replacement for the "big" 12cf. Fortunately, the freezers were less than half full, so it wasn't a big problem. The excess, including a few things too tall to fit in the small refrigerator, were taken to a friend's home for storage there. After finding there are no Norcold service locations near Montgomery AL, we contacted a service location in Ft Worth who said they could get the replacement part in 4-5 days, and then could get it installed before we head on to Alabama. When we called back a couple of days later to confirm the part was ordered, they said they found they had one in stock, so we got an appointment for installation. Most of the next day the LP alarm located under the refrigerator was going off due to the odor of the leaking ammonia behind the refrigerator. On closer inspection in the outside access panel, we found evidence of excess heat in the chimney area, but thanks to the thermal "kill switch" installed as part of the Norcold recall kit just two months ago, the refrigerator was shut down before causing a fire ...an all too common occurrence in too many RVs over the past few years. The pic on the right is on Camp Wisdom Road in Duncanville, about 2 blocks south of I-20 ...unfortunately we didn't get to try out the food claim as the building is vacant/for lease.
15 NOV, HALTOM CITY/FT WORTH TX -- Late afternoon on the 15th, Jean & the dogs went to spend the night with a friend and Paul took the motorhome to United RV in Haltom City on the NE side of downtown Ft Worth. The dealership had said they have 50a hookups in front of the dealership. There were about 10 narrow sites w/two other motorhomes and a tractor-trailer parked in them, so we picked an open site and settled in. The sites close to the dealership are fairly level, but as they get closer to the street they are increasingly unlevel side to side. Our site wasn't too bad ...just enough that we could not get fully level, but close enough. Starting with in-processing in the service department on Monday morning, the replacement of the refrigerator cooling unit took about 6 1/2 hours ... requiring removal of the built-in refrigerator and removal/replacement of pretty much the entire "works" on the back of the refrigerator box. This task is much more involved and difficult in a Winnebago motorhome than other brands because Winnebago uses a rollover kit in refrigerator installation to ensure the very heavy refrigerator will not come loose got flying about in an accident. That makes is much more difficult and time involved to remove and replace the refrigerator, but sounds like a good deal to me -- I sure don't need a refrigerator flying around the inside of the motorhome in an accident!!! We left United RV about 4pm for the 30 mile trip across Ft Worth & Arlington, returning to our site at the Wycliffe campus just before dark.
16-19 NOV, DUNCANVILLE TX -- Our last week in Texas ...we had a great time visiting family, and reuniting with college and military friends. And Paul got tagged to do the devotional for one of the regular week-day morning fellowship sessions at the Wycliffe RV park. We enjoyed our time in Dallas. This last week we had to start using the heat pumps as the weather turned a bit cooler ...time to move on toward Alabama, kids and grandkids, and the holidays. Our cost at the Wycliffe RV park was $15 per night.
20 NOV, VICKSBURG MS -- We left Dallas in the rain, and drove about 2 hours east before leaving it behind. We stopped for lunch and fuel at the Flying J near Greenwood LA. 55 gal of diesel cost us $2.629 per gallon. After managing to get into the RV fuel island backwards (from the "wrong" direction) in order to be properly positioned to get the LP tank filled, the attendant told us they were out of LP... Oh, well ...we're only down to apx 1/3 tank so not out yet. We normally fill once in Nov and again in February. The refrigerator, range and water heater all use LP, but pretty sparingly ...the two LP furnaces are real LP hogs when we have to use them. Fortunately, that is only when the temps fall below apx 38 degrees, which we try hard to avoid experiencing!! We'll find some LP somewhere before we run out ...most RV dealers and some RV parks sell LP in addition to most Flying J locations. After driving about 380 miles, we stopped for the night at Magnolia RV Park on the SW side of Vicksburg MS. This was the first RV park we used after we bought the motorhome in 2003, so knew they have nice long pull-through sites and easy access. We had planned to try a supposedly less pricey unfamiliar RV park a few miles East of Vicksburg, but when their telephone went unanswered about 45 minutes out, we erred on the side of caution and stopped in a place we knew. More than once we have gone to an RV park listed in one of our directories only to find that it is closed up and gone ...not this time! Our cost for one night at Magnolia RV Park "Resort" (full hookup although all we wanted was electric), free CATV, and free WIFI that we were unable to connect to in spite of following their detailed directions) was $28.14.
21 NOV-31 DEC, MONTGOMERY, AL -- On departure from Magnolia RV Park Resort, we got a rude surprise ...in spite of having been charged a premium price for a "big rig" site, we found the turn at the end of the road toward the exit to be too tight for a "big rig." We had to unhook the car to maneuver around the curve, then hook up again after we got around the corner!! ...such tight turns are all too common in RV parks wanting to think of themselves are "resorts" or otherwise special for some imagined reason. There is nothing resembling a "resort" in this RV park ...they just tacked the word onto the end of their name in the past couple of years, apparently in an attempt to attract some of the local casino traffic. We've been here before, but won't stay again if they want to put us on the first row where the so-called "big rig" sites are. We have fit just fine in the other rows in the past. The drive to Alabama was uneventful. After a stop for diesel in Prattville, AL, we arrived in Montgomery just after 2pm, where we had a reservation at Capital City RV Park. By 3pm, we were relaxing with kids and grandkids in the Emerald Mountain area between Montgomery and Wetumpka!! We enjoyed visiting with kids and grandkids over the holidays, got in the annual doctor visits, and spent a few days visiting our daughter in Atlanta. As normal, we parked the motorhome in our older son's driveway for Christmas Eve and Christmas night, pictured to the left. There was no snow for Christmas, but we did have rain and then below freezing temperatures for a few nights. Capital City is a good RV park with very visible management ...but the free WIFI only works sometimes. Because the WIFI is terribly unreliable, I keep my Verizon Mobile Broadband activated while in the area. Monthly cost at Capital City RV park is $410, coming out to a cost of $13.67 per night.
SOME NOTES ON OUR 2009 RVING COSTS ...
Our RV mileage for 2009 totaled 8,377 miles.
- CAMPGROUND COSTS totaled $6,014 (avg per night $16.48) ...this includes a few nights parking at no cost at friends' homes). We are also able to hold campground costs down by staying in military famcamps around the country. Unlike some RVers, we rarely stay at a WalMart or truck stop overnight.
- COST FOR DIESEL FUEL was $2,775.84 with avg cost per gallon of $2.41, and avg 7.3 mpg (includes apx 35 hrs of generator use at up to .5 gallon/hr). Note that our per mile operating cost just for fuel is apx 33.1 cents per mile (considerably below last year's cost of 52 cents when fuel costs were higher)!!
- COST FOR LP GAS was $127.59 (two fills of our apx 37 gallon tank). The second fill was 17 gallon at $3.50/gal + $10.88 "environmental fee." We use LP gas for stovetop cooking, occasional water heater or refrigerator power when electric is not available, and to power two LP furnaces when temps are below the point where the heat pumps will work (apx 35 degrees), or if it is cold and we do not have electric power available. The stove top, refrigerator, and water heater use very little LP, but the two furnaces are real LP hogs!!
- MAINTENANCE COSTS for the motorhome were a bit higher in 2009 due to replacement of the water heater at just over $1,000 parts and labor, and the refrigerator cooling unit at just over $2,400 parts and labor. Total maintenance cost was right at $5,687. We budget about $300 per month for maintenance, which covers the cost of routine maintenance each year and tire replacement every 7 years ...needless to say, that didn't cover our total maintenance costs this year!! It is a VERY GOOD idea to have some $$ in reserve for unplanned repairs along the way.
- MOTORHOME INSURANCE for fulltimer coverage runs us apx $1,500/year. That includes full replacement cost in case of accident or fire that "totals" our home. This figure varies widely for fulltimers depending on driving record, credit record, and state of residency.
- TOAD COSTS were primarily for fuel at $777 for 8,073 miles ...apx 9.6 cents per mile and avg cost $2.17/gallon. Avg mpg was apx 22.5. Repair costs totaled $423. Beyond normal oil changes I did myself, most of that cost was two items. One was balance and alignment to cure some steering vibration. The other was a problem with cross threaded lug studs apparently from when we bought new tires in Wyoming in mid-2008. I had to relace several lug bolts, which included splitting two lug nuts off with a big hammer and chisel with a little help from a Dremel tool cutting wheel. The Honda Odyssey has a nearly 158k on the odometer plus apx 35k towed miles.
AL, AR, AZ, CO, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, MN, MO, MS,
MT, NC, NB, NM, NV, OH, OK, OR, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WY = 34
back to Our RV Travels... ...... back to Our Retirement Home...
back to The Empty Nest HOME...
RV TRAVELS SUMMARY TO DATE...
...Back to last year's travels... -OR-
...On to next year's travels...
...Back to last year's travels... -OR-
...On to next year's travels...