grandson mason

grandson mason

grandson jaxson

grandson jaxson

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

29-31OCT07 - Kerrville, TX (we're back!)

After taking three days to drive from the western edge of Texas to the Texas hill country. We plan to stay here awhile and have set up camp in Kerrville city park named Kerrville-Schreiner Park. This is very nice park, voted one of the top ten in Texas; but the staff allows and encourages the feeding of the local deer population. Needless to say the deer have no fear of humans, or the dogs, since all dogs are on leashes. To us the deer are just a nuisance, and we wonder how long before a buck during the mating season attacks someone? Not to mention the disease carried by fleas and ticks on deer.

While here we will visit Dan’s sister Sharon, her husband Tim, and Dan’s father. (See our first blog posts back in July.) And we will attempt to have the RV repair done in Minot, ND, checked at a Freightliner dealer in San Antonio. The repairs were probably done properly, but we would rest easier if another service facility checked the entire drive train.

The last couple of days have been spent visiting with our relatives, doing laundry and other miscellaneous things. On Wednesday we went into Fredericksburg for most of the day. Fredericksburg is 45 minutes north of Kerrville, and is the hill country town that a lot of tourists have on their “to do list”. End result is that Fredericksburg has many beautiful original buildings that have been restored. But most of them are antique stores; boutiques; and other emporiums that have nothing to do with the ranching economy or Texas cowboy life, but designed to appeal to tourists with platinum credit cards. Dan did note one interesting thing in the window of one of these shops. Seems there was an original movie poster for a Roy Rogers movie. Turns out Trigger got second billing on the poster. Dale Evans and Gabby Hayes were in much smaller print at bottom of poster.

But there are a few things that are worth your while if you are ever in this part of Texas. First is the museum dedicated to Fleet Admiral Nimitz located in the restored Nimitz Steamboat Hotel ran by his parents when he was child. Second is the National Museum of the Pacific War.

And last but not least is the Old German Bakery & Restaurant located on the west end of Main St away from the tourist center. We are not sure how good the Restaurant is, but the German pastries baked fresh everyday are not to be missed. Get there early because most are gone before 10AM. Turns out we were just in time for the first day of Christstollen cakes, traditionally baked in Germany for the holidays. These are similar to fruit cakes, but have almond paste in them and a slight anise flavor, with what looks like a whole box of powered sugar poured on top.

28OCT07 - Ozona, TX

Today’s drive brought us into the western edge of what Texan’s call “the hill country”. These hills are located in the center of the state and are rolling hills covered in oaks and cedar trees. In the summer this area is known for its much milder heat and humidity. After the flat desert and dust of west Texas it was welcome sight.

We set up camp in the small town of Ozona. Ozona claims it is the “Biggest Little Town in the World”? There is no explanation of what this claim is based on; and we could discover no clues during our exploration of the town. Ozona is the county seat of Crockett County named after Davy Crockett who was only in Texas less than three months, but is considered a Texas hero because of the Alamo.

One more day of driving to Kerrville.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

27OCT07 - Van Horn, TX

After Corrie’s departure hug from the Escapee RV park it was a non-eventful drive to our next rest stop. In fact, I-10 looked so easy to navigate, that Corrie decided to drive for the first time since our departure. Turns out she is a better RV driver, since she has actually had RV driving lessons at Lazy Days RV in Tampa.

We had decided to split the drive to Dan’s sister’s house in the hill country of Texas into three drives of about 200 miles each. So after four hours we pulled into the town of Van Horn, TX. Although we can usually find something of interest in every small town we visit, it was a little more difficult in Van Horn.

Dan and Gumbo walked the entire length of the main business road from west to east and back, and noted the following. The road is named Broadway, and used to be old US Highway 90 now designated as I-10 Business. You can find the remains of at least twenty or more motels; along with several service stations, all out of business now. A few even have OPEN signs hanging in the window, even though it is clear they haven’t been open for years. The only businesses surviving are the national chain motels and gas stations clustered around the exit ramps to I-10; even though Broadway parallels I-10 less than 1/8th of a mile away.

In fact the one business thriving is Chuy’s Mexican Restaurant. Why you ask? Turns out that John Madden famous ex-NFL football coach and now TV football commentator is afraid to fly. When he coached he had to fly, but when he became a TV commentator he demanded to travel by bus. He criss-crosses the USA several times each NFL football season and “inducts” restaurants he feels worthy into his “HAUL of Fame” (note spelling of haul). Chuy’s has been inducted into this Haul of Fame, and have benefited. Corrie and Dan ate there on a previous RV trip. It is good, reasonably priced, and worth stopping if you are in the immediate vicinity.

As usual, Dan and Gumbo stumbled across a few unique items. One was a motel sign advertising SCI-FI, not WI-FI. Not sure what SCI-FI gets you in your room, but we can only think of the Twilight Zone. There also was an establishment that looked like a store and was called Van Gogh Books – Studio – Gallery. There were thousands of books piled on the sidewalk and other items, but the store was locked up with no posted times of business. We could tell from the condition of the items on the sidewalk, that someone has been tending them and they are not abandoned? And as usual, there was a yard full of art objects made from scrap metal, old cars, bottles, etc.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

25/26OCT07 - Deming, NM (happy birthday)

We decided to spend two days in Deming, New Mexico, in a RV park run by the Escapee Organization. Escapees is a RV club we belong to that provide a host of services to full time RV’ers (like mail service), and have a small number of RV parks available to members. Not only are the fees at the parks substantially lower for members, but they try to have two or more get-togethers throughout the week. While we were there they had a baked potato supper ($4.50) our first night, and a Saturday morning french toast breakfast ($2.50). The food was good and plenty, but both also offered an opportunity to socialize with many other fulltime RV’ers.

The next morning we, including Gumbo, took off for the town of Silver City about one hour north of Deming. Silver City, as is the story with most towns in the region, started with the discovery of silver and copper. It did shrink some after the minerals declined but never was in danger of becoming a ghost town. Now it is making a comeback as a haven for free thinkers and artists. The political sense of the town is shown in the unofficial motto – “Silver City, where hippies go to ...”. About a hundred years ago the town’s main street was “lowered” by two flash floods in seven years. We are talking fifty feet! So learning their lesson the second time, the fifty foot ditch was lined with rocks and retaining walls for future flash floods. Today part of it is a beautiful linear park. There are murals everywhere, and many shop owners paint their shops with bright colors that are inspired by the southwest landscape. We found the time in Silver City very enjoyable, and want to return to see what the night life is like.

We took a different route on our return to Deming. About 15 miles out of Deming we discovered the largest open pit copper mine in North America. The owner of the mine even provides a “scenic” overlook of the mine, complete with placards depicting the history of copper mining on this site from the Native Americans, through the Spaniards, to today. Our next stop was to view a natural wonder as opposed to a man made wonder, City of Rocks State Park. These rocks were formed by volcanic action and sit in the middle of the high desert with nothing like it around. This formation is not unique and six others exist throughout the world. What is different is that New Mexico allows you open access to the entire formation, even allowing climbing on them; unlike elsewhere where you are strictly limited to marked paths. From our perspective it appears that the rocks are no worse for wear, even with Gumbo leaving his mark on them.

After our return to camp and taking care of Gumbo, it was time for dinner. Dan’s sister, Sharon, and husband, Tim, had spent some time in Deming in an RV. Sharon has raved about a Mexican restaurant called Si Senor ever since. So off we went. We arrived a little before 6PM and there were already eight people in line! We were seated within 20 minutes and have to agree with Sharon. The food is very good and reasonably priced (no item over $8, most cost $6). The chips come with three salsas – red, green and white. And at the end of the meal they give you fresh baked sopaipillas with honey, and then ask if you want dessert?

The next day when we checked out Corrie got to experience another Escapee tradition. When Corrie paid the bill, the lady asked her if she wanted a hug? Turns out when leaving an Escapee property you are offered a farewell hug. We definitely enjoyed our first experience with an Escapee RV park, but Dan will leave future hugs to Corrie. Wonder what they would have done if they knew it was Corrie’s birthday at the baked potato dinner?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

21-24OCT07 - Tucson, AZ

The trip from Wickenburg to Tucson was uneventful even though we had to go through the heart of Phoenix. But since it was Sunday morning, the traffic was not bumper to bumper (but it was still pretty heavy for early Sunday!). Once again we decided to stay at a military facility. This time it was Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

The interesting thing about Davis-Monthan is that it is the “graveyard” for the excess/obsolete planes for the Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard. We didn’t see aviation assets from the Army, so they must have a separate facility? We are talking thousands and thousands of aircraft, usually shrink wrapped, and parked neatly in row after row in the desert. Some of the aircraft are old and you understand why they are there, but some are fairly new and you wonder – like B-2 bombers, A-10 attack fighters, not to mention F-16s and F-18s. There is even one of the Boeing 707 Air Force 1. Just outside the base is the Pima Air and Space Museum that seems to benefit from this graveyard. We didn’t tour it, but driving by it appears that have one of every military aircraft since the 1950s.

The day after our arrival we went into downtown Tucson and picked up a walking tour map. Not much remains of the original adobe buildings (like in Sante Fe) but it was still a nice excursion. We had an excellent lunch at the El Charro Cafe, a restaurant ran by the same family for 85 years in Tucson. During our walk we noticed a church that had services in the usual English and Spanish, but also had services with Folk Choir, or no Hymns, or with Mariachi!

As usual Dan had a list of offbeat or eccentric things he wanted to see. Some were gone and some were closed but we did manage to see:

---a pedestrian bridge over the highway, designed and built to look like a giant rattlesnake. The cyclone fencing encasing it has a diamond back pattern in it, and one end has giant rattler tail, while the other has a big snake head with fangs.

---Garden of Gethsemane with a depiction of the Last Supper in concrete by soldier who prayed to God during WWI as he lay wounded.

---Jerry Hall’s art collection surrounding his house.

The next day we toured Ft Lowell. The fort was originally located close to central Tucson, but the Army moved it to distance the soldiers from the disease and the rowdiness of town life! Few of the adobe buildings remain but the historical markers give you a very good idea of the harshness of military service in the late 1800s.

From there we traveled to the eastern unit of the Saguaro National Park. Turns out there is an eastern unit and a western unit, because this is the only National Park separated by a city (Tucson). It was a fascinating and educational time. Turns out that these cactus can live over 200 years old, and don’t even start spouting their distinctive arms until they are 75. For years the locals thought they were indestructible and a nuisance. But now they are protected whether or not they are on federal land and are making a comeback. In fact, the biggest danger now is cactus rustling, because a large cactus can go for several thousand dollars.

We had planned on spending three days in Tucson, Arizona; but woke up on our departure day to 35 mph winds. We could have safely driven in these conditions, but it would not have been enjoyable. One of the advantages of full time RV’ing is usually we have no schedule to keep; so we paid for another day and waited for a change in the weather.

Trivia: Why is there a monument to the Mormon Battalion in Tucson?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

20OCT07 - Wickenburg, AZ

After our lengthy stay in Las Vegas it was time to start heading south and east on our way back eventually to Houma. We decided to continue on old US 93 toward Phoenix, Arizona. Taking this road out of Las Vegas allows you to cross over Hoover Dam. This is a very scenic route that literally allows you to drive over the top of the dam. We did not stop for the tour, but Dan did this many years ago and says it is worth it if they let you into the power generating chamber. If you are thinking of doing this drive, you may want to do it soon. They are building a new road that will bypass the dam and cross the river and canyon via bridge. We don’t know, but we bet that with terrorist concerns, the gov’t might ban all vehicles from the dam.

The rest of the drive was along the high desert country of Arizona on US 93, through Kingman, to our destination in Wickenburg, AZ. The RV park we stayed in has facilities for horses and was appropriately named Horspatality RV. Wickenburg was founded by Henry Wickenburg after he discovered gold at what is now known as the Vulture Mine. As with most towns that were founded after valuable minerals were found, Wickenburg fell on hard times when the ore ran out. But thanks to agriculture, the railroad, dude ranches, and other factors, the town survives with many of its original buildings still standing. In fact Wickenburg was once called the dude ranch capitol of the world, and there are quite a few in business today.

So after setting up camp and taking care of Gumbo, we headed into town for our usual walk about. And as usual we found that as with almost every small town in America, Wickenburg has a few claims to fame. Turns out one Everett Bowman called Wickenburg home. Mr Bowman was the all around Cowboy Champion from 1935-37; and was first president of the Cowboy Turtle Association which eventually became the Professional Rodeo Cowboy’s Association. Unbelievably Wickenburg was also home to Victor Cedarstaff inventor of the “Piggin Necklet”! What is a piggin necklet you ask? Well today it is know as the Bola Tie. To top off our walk we discovered the Jail Tree in the middle of town. Turns out Wickenburg didn’t have money for a jail for many years, so they just chained the dastardly felons to a tree in the town center. Sign by the tree claims there were no escapes. Who knew?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

15-19OCT07 - Las Vegas, NV & LA (no pictures)

How come we list both Las Vegas and Los Angeles as locations and no pictures? Because on the 15th Dan departed for five days to Los Angeles on a business trip; while Corrie remained in Los Angeles. Corrie relaxed around the RV park and Nellis Air Force Base; while was enjoying the slow motion joys of LA as he fought his way downtown each day from Commerce, CA. Anyway no one found a reason to take photos for the blog; and tomorrow we depart Sin City.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

09-14OCT07 - Las Vegas, NV

 Tuesday morning we were back at New York, New York, to participate in the time share presentation. We boarded a bus with many other tourists who were expecting a “free gift” after the presentation. We were taken to a condominium building next to the airport. Upon arrival each couple was assigned a person to explain the benefits of their approach to the time share world. Long story, short, after three hours of our time we finally got our “free” tickets for that evening’s Mystere show. Next time we’ll probably just buy the tickets!

The rest of the week was spent just lazing around the RV park during the day, and then checking out one of the mega casinos at night. There are so many mega casinos now and The Strip is so congested that trying to move between casinos is difficult. One change Dan noted from his visits to Las Vegas in the late 70s, is that the good deals that casinos used to offer to get you into their property are pretty much gone. Meals in the casinos, including buffets, are more expensive than most restaurants; tickets to shows cost as much or more than Broadway; hotel room cost close to $200 for a cheap room; and the cost of drinks at the bar are high. In fact the local paper had an article about the cost of a vacation in Las Vegas and noted that because Vegas is now the number one tourist destination in the USA (we are talking one million visitors through the airport every month) the mega casinos can charge whatever they want.

About the only freebies available are the free shows or demonstrations that some of the casino put on outside their building (some are inside like the circus acts at Circus, Circus). During the week we saw the dancing water fountains at the Bellagio (very good); the pirate battle at Treasure Island (Dan liked it, Corrie didn’t); the volcano at the Mirage (pretty poor); and story of Atlantis at Ceasar’s (pretty poor).

We also found time to ride our bikes around the base. On one of these bike rides we discovered a museum on the base dedicated to the Air Force aerial demonstration team, The Thunderbirds. It was interesting and we were allowed to go onto the flight line for an up close and personal look at one of the jets used by The Thunderbirds.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

08OCT07 - Las Vegas, NV (need for speed part deux!)

Woke up this morning to the sound of fighter jets, just like in Fallon. Turns out Nellis AFB is the Air Force version of the Navy’s Top Gun school in Fallon. So once again we were treated to aerial display of dogfighting tactics. In addition, Nellis is the home of the Air Force’s aerial display team the Thunderbirds. So we were also treated to a private show of their aerial maneuvers as they practiced for an upcoming air show.

That afternoon we headed to the local Pro Bass Outdoor World to pickup some items needed for the RV. For those not familiar with Pro Bass stores, they are gigantic stores that carry almost anything you can think of for hunting, fishing, camping and boating. The outside of the store looks like a huge lodge constructed of logs, and the inside of the store has hundreds of stuffed game animals from all over the world on the walls. In the center of the store is usually a big fresh water aquarium that contains fish species from surroundings lakes and streams; and sometimes fishing demonstrations are conducted using the aquarium. But what was very different about this Pro Bass was what appeared to be another big aquarium at the very back of the store with salt water tropical fish. It was only after we had wandered back to view the tank did we realize it was not in the store, but in a casino attached directly to the Pro Bass store! Only in Vegas?

After dinner we headed to the one of the “new” mega casinos on Las Vegas Boulevard (or as the locals call the street – The Strip) – New York, New York. We are not sure why, but we must have looked like easy marks because we were immediately hit up to sit thru a presentation on a time share vacation condo. We have refused all these offers in the past, but when Dan saw one of the “gifts” was tickets to Cirque du Soleil’s show Mystere, he immediately said yes! We have paid to see three of their shows in the past and have become big fans. So tomorrow we will endure our first time share sale’s job to score free tickets. It is hard to explain exactly what a Cirque show is, but it is sort of a combination of circus, broadway show, opera, and rock concert. If interested, you can sometimes catch portions of their shows on the Bravo cable channel or check out: