On our way to Lake Havasu City we found ourselves driving through open roads with nothing on either side except rocks, dust, bushes and wildflowers, every now and then a small town would pop out of nowhere, you would blink, and then again to nothing. I believe the largest town we drove through was Parker and like Havasu, it is likewise on the Colorado River. I miss seeing water and after six months of wintering in the desert, I really was looking forward to the change.
We arrived in Lake Havasu City and fell in love. It was such a cute, clean city right on the water and bordered by the mountains.
London Bridge, the iconic landmark of Lake Havasu, is spectacular, especially at sunset. I was amused as I found a clock in town called Little Ben. I really liked this little town on the side of the river bordered by red rock formations.
Where ever you turn, there are RV and marine related businesses. Most homes had either a boat or an RV or both, parked on their property and many homes also had RV/Boat garages.
It occurred to us that perhaps this might be a better place to get the RV repaired. After much research, we contacted a local company who enjoyed excellent references. This time however, prior to contacting them, we visited the establishment just to look around. It looked very professional, no visible junk in their lot and everything was clean and picked up, and several RVs, boats and vehicles were in their lot. After speaking to the owner, he personally came out to our site, took pictures, contacted the insurance company and immediately ordered all the necessary parts, all without delay.
While in Havasu, we took a drive to visit the nearby towns. Along the drive we came across a beautiful, and unusually bright road, edged with wildflowers. The yellow lines, recently repainted reminded me of the good things to come…. “Follow the Yellow lined Road”… or Brick Road…
We arrived in Oatman, a very sparsely settled town in which a couple of prospectors struck it rich after finding gold back in the early 1900’s. It then became a mining town and then that dried up. It now remains a ghost town. With only 128 people and a handful of feral burros calling it home, Oatman is really tiny. It has a few stores, restaurants and gift shops and rely exclusively on tourists to survive.
We took Oatman Highway from Oatman to Kingman and it had many hairpin turns, reminding me of the road to Hana in Hawaii because of its numerous curves. No vehicles over 23′ were allowed on the road for obvious reasons.
We also drove through Quartzite. This area had always intrigued us as many RVers choose to winter there. There were numerous campgrounds, mostly all either dirt or gravel, and the city itself it quite small.
Alternatively, there were many BLM’s (Bureau of Land Management) – managed public lands, where people boondock (a site with no services). A permit is required to stay in these areas, you then select out a spot and park. I assume you will need to either use a generator or solar power, and I understand there are companies that will come out to pumpout your waste and refill your water tanks.
It’s definitely a budget friendly way to winter, still it feels too much like camping.
We had heard that we needed to visit the Desert Bar. This is a bar that is literally off the grid and totally self-contained – no power and no water.
Getting there was almost half the fun. The road was all gravel and dirt and definitely not maintained. Four wheelers and bikes were passing us as we took our time. Close to five miles later, we arrived at this incredible place.
When it opened back in 1983, it was a small shack with an outhouse. It has grown quite a bit since and is certainly a fun weekend hangout. Today, they have water tanks in the property, which are filled with a firetruck they purchased for that purpose, along with solar panels. There is live entertainment and relatively inexpensive alcohol and food. It is a cash only business and it is packed every weekend they are open. John did not visit the boys’ room so I can’t report on that, but I certainly had to make my obligatory visit. The ladies’ restroom is built against a boulder. The boulder serves as the back wall of the stalls and the separating walls are steel slats. The stall’s door was really heavy and after looking at it closer, I realized it was a box car door. Even more interesting was the way I had to flush the tank. There is a huge water tank above the restroom needed to flush the tanks and provide water to the sinks. Next to the toilet was a 4″ PVC pipe coming down from the ceiling. Perpendicular to that, above the tank was a 1″ pvc pipe that had a valve. There was writing on the pipe “fill to flush”. So once I was done, I opened the valve, and water slowly began to fill the toilet tank. When I thought there was enough water in the tank to allow for a decent flush, I then had to lift the flapper and voilà, it flushed! There were no handles or buttons to push. Thank goodness I’m married to a plumber and had a vague clue as to the inners of a toilet tank. There was no wall over the sinks, so while I washed my hands I had a beautiful view.
It was time for the RV to get repaired and after leaving it in the collision shop, we drove to Las Vegas for a few days with a small mission in mind. Once the mission was fulfilled, we returned and now…
Upon our arrival at Lake Havasu City, we ordered brand new H rated Goodyear tires and had them installed on the RV. Ours were only 4 years old, but after having experienced a blowout we were not going to take any chances. We left the RV at the collision shop in Lake Havasu, knowing it would undergo cosmetic surgery and that the doctor had previously ordered all the botox it needed, we left for Las Vegas for a few days and bordered Jackson at Camp Bow Wow.
We have been to Las Vegas in the past many times over the years and had always stayed in the strip. This time we opted for different and decided to stay downtown and the GPS took us through the strip. Aside from it being crowded and the traffic being just awful, it is always amazing to see the magnitude of these hotels. On the bright side, it is awesome to see how much the town continues to grow and how many new hotels are being built.
We reconnected with old-time friends, Kathy and Chuck England. John worked with Chuck at the United Association and they have lived in Las Vegas all their lives. It had been ages since we had seen them.
On our first night, we walked up and down Freemont Street where nightly street performers do their thing hoping for tips. Another sight was that of older men wearing nothing but boas and thongs standing idly by. Suffice it to say that the images were worse than those of the less than presentable homemade full body paint jobs done for Fantasy Fest in Key West. The main stage offers live band entertainment all while screaming patrons zip lined above our heads. It was also quite fitting that the sign read “We Come to… Las Vegas”.
A few blocks away was Container Park. An interesting shopping mall entirely built using shipping containers, each of which is a different venue, ranging from shops to eateries and everything in between. In its courtyard was a huge children’s playground with more slides than I could count and a small amphitheater. At the entrance was a huge steel praying mantis where people gather to watch it emitting fire from its antennas every so often.
We wanted to see Vegas from the Stratosphere and on our way we stopped at “the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop”, which was interesting to see and for fun, we met Rick’s life size cardboard. People are allowed to come in just to look around and it was like a revolving door.
We learned that the Stratosphere tower is 1,149′ tall and claims to be the tallest building in the western hemisphere. We were fortunate to have a very clear day and the views from the observation deck were amazing. I did not realize how large a city Las Vegas is.
We drove with Kathy and Chuck to Death Valley National Park. The road to Death Valley reminded me of Texas in a way. It was a long drive with not much to see along the way, except for a few establishments of ill repute here and there. It’s pretty sad that people actually travel for hours just to get a little lovin’ and then who knows what kind of souvenir they take back.
We arrived at Death Valley National Park around 10:00 a.m. and already the temperature had reached 100°. Thank goodness for air conditioned vehicles.
We had to pick and choose which scenic points to visit as this park is the largest of the national parks outside of Alaska. We knew that the road to Scotty’s Castle was closed so that narrowed our options and we were saddened to learn that Dante’s View was closed the day we visited.
One of the lookouts is Zabriskie Point
In the middle of the park is The Oasis at Death Valley which used to be called Furnace Creek Resort.
The Oasis was absolutely beautiful and the surroundings were surreal. I could not get over the thought that this was in the middle of the such a dry and hot desert and that it was not a mirage.
We had lunch at the golf course grill and it was a lovely place. The greens were nice and it was so peaceful with the mountains as a back drop.
Badwater Basin is the lowest elevation in the western hemisphere. It is 282′ below sea level. As we walked on the basin, it felt odd and spongy. It makes for a truly unique experience as you can see them for as far as the eye can see, about 200 square miles.
Note the sign posted on all trails – hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
The crust is relative thin and there is mud underneath, which is why vehicles are not allowed on it.
Walking back to the car, someone pointed to a sign that read sea level.
I circled the sign so you can get an idea of how small it looked from the ground.
And then, there are the Mesquite Sand Flats
The highest dune is only about 100′ although they cover a vast area. Does anyone out there know how sand dunes are formed?
It was time to return to Las Vegas and then the following day, return to Lake Havasu. The RV was ready and it looked really well. We are now ready to travel!
Before leaving Lake Havasu, we visited Joshua Tree National Park. The drive was only a little over 2 hours and it was very peaceful. We drove over the Parker Dam into California and had to stop at a border checkpoint. In our six years of traveling, this was the first mandatory checkpoint we have ever encountered. The agents stop everyone driving from Arizona to California but not the other way. Surely they are looking for something, but for all they know we could have had whatever they were looking for, as they neither looked nor asked, the agent just said hello and waved us through.
We drove and drove through large swaths of uninhabited land. No longer did we see cacti but instead, lots of dirt and tiny bushes, which I recently learned were mesquite and creosote. We reached the very small towns of Twenty Nine Palms and Joshua Tree, both of which border the park. For logistical purposes we entered via the westernmost town, Joshua Tree.
Not much compares to the beauty and majesty of the Grand Canyon, but this park can hold its own. Joshua Tree National Park sits where the Mojave and Colorado deserts converge. The boundaries are not firm, but they rather overlap.
The main road lead us to the famous Joshua trees, which are actually not trees at all but a species of yucca.
After seeing acres and acres of Joshuas we came across what I would describe as a field of jumbo boulders haphazardly stacked as if just thrown about. These boulders protruded the earth eons of years ago as a result of volcanic activity. It is however, a rock climber’s paradise.
Midway through at an elevation of 5185 feet is Keys View where we had the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful view of the valley, mountain and desert. You probably wondered what is wrong with this picture? Well, the picture is fine, it’s actually haze and caused by pollution.
As we continued our drive, we ventured into the Pinto Basin in the Colorado desert portion of the park and the landscape gradually began to change. We came across the Cholla Cactus Garden. The Cholla cactus is also known as jumping cholla because it has a tendency to jump and attach itself to those being inattentive and yes, their needles do hurt. Back in Florida during one of our stays at Jonathan Dickinson State Park, chasing after Jackson who was chasing a rabbit, I was apparently being inattentive and the chollas got me and it was not fun. So bearing that in mind, I stayed really close to the trail.
Right before we were left the park, out of nowhere we encountered an Ocotillo patch. Ocotillos are very tall, long stemmed looking plants, not quite a cactus, whose red blooms can be seen after rain, usually in the Spring. We were here just in time! Yay!
Although the views in this park were drastically different from our most recent adventures, it was quite a place to see.
We intend to visit as many National Parks as possible this summer so you are welcome to travel along vicariously with us through our experiences.
It is almost time to begin our summer trip and the RV still had to undergo some plastic surgery. Remember the blowout we had on our way to Arizona? Well, it was high time to get it fixed.
Upon our arrival at Palm Creek, we had met with the owner of a local collision repair shop, which came highly recommended and he provided an estimate for the repair. We filed a claim with the insurance company and once we received payment, we gave it to him so he could order the necessary parts. Through out our stay in Palm Creek I can’t tell how many times we confirmed and reconfirmed when we would be dropping the RV off and on the day we arrived, he had no clue that we were coming in. We had already planned a trip around Northern Arizona to give him time to perform the repairs and he did say he would have the job done by then.
We boarded Jackson at Phoenix’s Camp Bow Wow and began our trip to visit the Grand Canyon. We were both excited as we had never stayed in a National Park’s lodge. We were warned that it might be cold and windy in that elevation so we went totally prepared.
We spent the night in Prescott, a lovely mountain town and rightfully so. Downtown’s historic Whiskey Row, known for its bars and live music would have been a fun place for alcohol research, but again we were on a different mission. As for the weather, you could definitely tell we were in a higher elevation.
The following morning we continued our trip and had to got through Williams, a Route 66 town known as The Gateway to the Grand Canyon. Williams has an elevation of 6,770 and you could definitely smell the mountain air.
Upon our arrival at Grand Canyon National Park, we checked in to the Thunderbird Lodge, which sits right on the south rim of the canyon. Our room reminded me of a renovated old college dorm, but its redeeming quality is that it is right on the edge of the south rim, right in the center of the village so geographically desirable. Originally, we had made reservations for two nights at Maswik Lodge, about a 1/4 mile walk from the rim, and when we attempted, at the last minute, to extend our stay on the front end, Thunderbird was the only lodge with available accommodations, so we were excited nevertheless.
We followed the recommendations of many to make sure we made the much sought after dinner reservations at El Tovar. At least a month prior to our arrival this was secured, as we learned that walk-ins would not accepted. The hotel itself was built in 1905 from local limestone and Oregon pine, as a cross between a Swiss chalet and a Norwegian villa, the views from the dining room were spectacular and we lucked out by getting a table with a beautiful view of the south rim. The meal itself did not disappoint either.
As anticipated, the majestic views of the Grand Canyon left us in awe. We had been there before but it is beautiful each time. Parking was incredibly difficult to find and when we agreed not to move the truck until it was time to leave. The park itself was amazing and the free shuttle transportation provided was very well organized and easily accessible to everywhere you might want to venture. Even though it was the beginning of April, it was already busy and the summer months are yet to come.
We heard on the news that the week prior to our arrival someone had plummeted in the canyon and then the week we were there yet another person met the same fate. This was not shocking as in front of us, people, both adults and children climbed through the metal railings to have their pictures taken. The wind picks up at that elevation and all it would take is for a gust to come along or to misstep on a rock and bye, bye baby. The rule of thumb is to not get closer than the length of your body to the edge. Hence the reason for the placement of the railings and danger signs posted everywhere.
When it was time to leave the Grand Canyon, we decided at the last minute to visit Page, Arizona. We had always wanted to see both the Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons. The local Navajo people’s name for the Upper Antelope is Tse’bihanilini, which means “the place where the water runs through rocks”. The name for the Lower Antelope is Hasdeztwazi or spiral rock arches. The reason they are called Antelope canyons is because many years back pronghorn antelope roamed the area, thus the English name. These canyons were created over many thousands of years by the relentless forces of water and wind which continuously carve and sculpt the sandstone into what we see today. As the sun moves across the sky, the sun beams filter through the stone walls, and the angles bounce light back and forth creating the beautiful color, light and shadows.
Lower Antelope Canyon: You are guided through many narrow, steep steps throughout the canyon.
Upper Antelope Canyon: You are driven to the entrance and much easier to navigate and explore. Additionally, we were so excited to be able to catch the sunbeams at perfect time.
Prior to leaving Page we wanted to visit Horseshoe Bend, so we opted for a short helicopter ride for an aerial view of Horseshoe and Lake Powell. We were the only passengers and it was really cool as we sat next to the pilot and had the entire front window to ourselves.
The following day we tossed a coin between either going to Sedona or Winslow. Sedona won out so I booked a hotel room at Los Abregados for a few days. We contacted Palm Creek friends, Gina and Mike Wimmenauer (pronounced “Women Are”) who happened to be staying in nearby Camp Verde. We met for dinner in downtown Sedona and are excited to again see them this coming winter in Florida. We were in Sedona over 20 years ago and it has grown tremendously. We took a pink jeep tour back then and loved it so we wanted to take another one, just not as extreme, so our tour took us on an off-road adventure through the red rocks of the Coconino National Forest.
It was time for us to return, as we had only packed a week’s worth of food for Jackson and then pick up the RV. We had a magnificent week and looked forward to continuing toward Lake Havasu until we attempted pick up the RV. The owner of the collision shop was not in and would you believe, the RV was untouched. The owner claimed he had forgotten to order a part and that it had yet to come it. Blah, blah, blah, blame this one or that one, bottom line, he refunded our money and we were glad to just move on.
It was very early in the morning on September 27, another travel day, within a couple hours we would be on our way toward Arizona when we received the expected, yet dreaded call from John’s oldest brother, Rick, informing us that their mom had passed in her sleep. She would have turned 93 in November. Mom lived a very good and long life and she will always be missed. May she rest in peace alongside her lifelong best friend and partner, John’s dad, Clyde, known to most as Chunky.
The services were delayed which allowed us time to arrive in Casa Grande, Arizona. Once we got settled at Palm Creek RV and Golf Resort we immediately located a kennel for Jackson and flew to Miami for the service.
It was a bitter sweet service as it was terribly sad to know that this wonderful lady was no longer with us, but yet so nice to see the entire family gather together. As we returned to Palm Creek in early October, our emotions took a 180° turn. Our oldest daughter, Katrina, would be getting married on October 26 to Brian Bruckbauer, the absolute love of her life in Lyons, Colorado. We wanted to be there a few weeks earlier so again, we put Arizona on hold.
Prior to arriving in Ft. Collins, Colorado, where Katrina lives, we joined our dear, long time friends, Dan and Sharon, at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. The Stanley Hotel was first opened in 1909 and is known for being spirited. Also, it was the inspiration for the film “The Shining” starring Jack Nicholson.
Unfortunately, our stay happened to coincide with Halloween week and there were over 1000 people wandering around the property. Parking was a nightmare and finding a bellman or even a single luggage cart for that matter was impossible. After long waits and finally getting settled in, we tried to go the bar but didn’t stay as it was at least 5 people deep. The non-stop ghost tours were being held until after 9 p.m. It was certainly not quite what we had anticipated. Not only was the hotel hosting a masquerade ball, they were also hosting not one but two weddings, plus the usual tourists and hotel guests on site. Funny they don’t tell you any of this when you call for reservations. Oh well, lesson learned, do not go to a haunted hotel on halloween week.
We drove around town and ran into a herd of elk, well known to wander the area. The scenery in Estes Park is spectacular and never fails to mesmerize me, but after having seen and done all we wanted to do, Dan had a fabulously spontaneous idea…
he suggested we go to Vail for lunch. It was quite a drive, but boy was it beautiful and so worth it. The last time we had been to Vail was for Dan’s daughter’s wedding many years ago. We also have a story to go with that, but I digress.
We returned to Fort Collins to begin preparing for the nuptial festivities and to again reunite with family members we had recently seen along with the remaining few who were unable to go to Miami, our adorable grandchildren, and dear friends who made the trip to Colorado from back east. It was also just as lovely to meet Brian’s entire side of the family.
Our friend, Dan, officiated the wedding and if you know anything about Dan, laughter abounded during the ceremony. The reception was equally fun as Katrina and Brian chose a fabulous band which kept everyone dancing and cheerful and until the end of the night.
Since the family had never been to Colorado, of course a visit to Rocky Mountain National Park was a must. So back to Estes Park we went except this time it was to go to the park and spend some time in Sprague Lake. Again, the Rockies are majestic and it was amazing to see the grands enjoy playing in the snow, which had recently fallen, and spending time with Aunt Ashley and Aunt Ivana. Walking around the lake was also special as it afforded everyone with lots of quality time.
As everyone returned to their routines, we drove back to Casa Grande hoping to begin our winter experiences. We chose to winter in Palm Creek because it is a 55+ community which enjoyed amazing reviews, none an understatement. It was quite large and very well maintained. It hosts over 165 weekly activities, including but not limited to 32 pickle ball courts, (the largest in the country), tennis courts, an 18 hole executive golf course within its property, 4 heated swimming pools and spas, a bistro and sports grill, a state of the art fitness room a 15,000 sq. ft. ballroom to host meals, weekly dances and Branson style entertainment, and so much more. Our intention was to stay active. Except, Mother Nature had other plans. Apparently, this was the coldest winter everyone normally wintering in this area had ever experienced and thus, most everyone stayed inside. So in spite of the weather, we stayed active by joining a gym and for purposes of accountability even hired a personal trainer.
Many mornings were cold and frosty as were most evenings but what got us was that there were many days when the sun just would not even make an appearance so it just remained very cold. Believe it or not sometimes it was even rainy as well. As I am usually the one who walks Jackson, in spite of both of us wearing heavy winter coats, yes, Jackson too! it was certainly rough for this Florida gal. Rough enough that I purchased fleece pants, used gloves and ear warmers. Honestly, we do hope this is not the new normal.
On the bright side, the sunsets were breathless!
Equally as beautiful, albeit only seldomly seen by me, were the sunrises.
The park has expanded and the area to which we were assigned consisted of huge sites as they are intended for future park models. They were great to spread out, but kind of a bit lonely too. We woke up each morning making bets as to whether we were going to have any neighbors that day. Inevitably the one who said no would always win, until late November, when RVs started trickling in. It was not until January that our section actually began to fill.
Palm Creek, once all built out, will have 2,500 sites, comprised of both RV sites and park models. It is surrounded by cotton fields and dairy farms. It was pretty to see the cotton fields right before they were ready to be harvested. Interestingly enough the cotton was gathered and bailed right in front of where we were parked.
The park was constantly sponsoring a myriad of activities. Amongst these, a cancer awareness weekend was the largest, where many of the clubs raised funds by having people partake in all sorts of different events including hot air balloon rides. Did someone mention aerial views of Casa Grande? What an interesting way to see it and for a good cause even. So around 7 a.m. on a relatively cold Saturday morning on a hot air balloon ride we went.
As the weather began to improve, we did wander out. Even Jackson got do to some agility training.
It was the season for the Wuertz Farms Annual Gourd Festival, so Jenn and Keith Russell, our new fun-loving full timer friends from Delaware, joined us for this excursion. Having never heard of anything even remotely like this, we decided to go explore.
Gourds are plants in the family of cucumbers, pumpkins, squash, luffa and melons and are most usually known as the hollow, dried-out shells. Wuertz Farms grows 1000’s of these gourds each year and I was mesmerized at how beautiful these are, once hand painted and decorated.
We loved visiting Scottsdale, Tempe and Chandler often but really liked Fountain Hill. This small town is just northeast of Phoenix and has, as its centerpiece, an impressive 300′ fountain, once the tallest in the world, which turns on every 15 minutes every hour.
During the holiday season, we, along with the Russells, visited the Desert Botanical Garden which was displaying its luminaries and Electric Desert exhibit. It allowed us to explore around 50,000 desert plants from around the world. The desert, lights and sounds harmoniously united to become a beautiful experience.
On a warmer day, we drove through the Apache Trail, a 40 mile mostly unpaved road, steep and winding with several one way bridges. The scenery was magnificent, surrounded by saguaro cacti and many lakes. First, arriving at an old-west settlement known as Tortilla Flat, population of 6, serves as a great stopping point for food and refreshments and then continuing on to the Theodore Roosevelt Dam.
We also drove to Mt. Lemmon, just north of Tucson and drove all the way to the summit with an elevation of 9,159′. As we began the drive you can see Tucson along the horizon and would see cacti and as you drove to a higher altitude, they slowly disappeared to be replaced by bushes and ultimately pine trees at the top where skiers seemed happy-as-a-lark. Jackson, now over 8 years old, had never seen snow and it was hysterically funny to watch.
The sun finally came out and the temperatures stayed steady at over 50°. Unfortunately, this was toward the end of our stay. Apparently, we were not the only ones suffering from cabin fever as our neighbors started surfacing. In order to celebrate the sun, we hosted several happy hours. For those of you who know us, happy hours are not happy unless we everyone partakes so we ended up with gatherings in excess of 40 people. It was during these gatherings that we met the most amazing people. Interestingly enough, some of the couples intend to winter in Florida this coming season. So, the party continues….
From Arlington, we drove to the outskirts of Oklahoma City and met with Renee and Ken Diaz, RV friends we met several years ago in the Florida Keys, for lunch. While at the RV Park, for the first time I saw ground shelters for tornados. They had these bunkers in various locations around the park and I immediately began to wonder, wow, how many people fit into one of these things. Is there ventilation, what if you are claustrophobic. I guess if a tornado is coming, all those questions and probably many more, if I really gave it some thought, are immaterial. Remember, Floridians do not usually build anything underground, unless it’s going to be a submarine.
While in Oklahoma, John got the hairbrained idea to drive to Joplin, MO, which was only 3 hours away, to purchase Michelob Golden Light. During a previous trip to St. Louis, we recall enjoying this beer very much and knew from past experience that Anheuser-Busch only distributed it in five states, Missouri being one. So off to Joplin John said we had to go.
Fifteen cases later, we were driving back to figure out how to place it in the RV. Our drive out of Oklahoma into New Mexico was relatively uneventful except for a minor situation, we had a blow out. A semi truck happened to be passing us and we heard a loud pop. John mentioned that the semi just had a blowout, but when the semi kept on going and John looked through his rearview mirror, oh dear, it was us! We do have a tire monitoring system, so why did we not get any warnings? Should it not have read hot or something??? Oh well!
Fortunately for us, we had Good Sam Roadside Assist and it was early in the day. After a couple of hours on the side of the road, the tire was changed with the spare, a new tire was purchased down the road and on to Arizona we went. Can you just imagine what John had to endure for the rest of the trip?
Upon our arrival in Arlington, I immediately scheduled the last six weeks of physical therapy and worked harder than ever to improve my range of motion.
While there we ventured out but not as much as we would have wanted due to constant rain. We visited the stockyards in Fort Worth where the Old West comes to life during a twice daily cattle drive. Texas cowhands dress up with authentic chaps to boots and hats, as they drive a herd of longhorns down Exchange Avenue. I was a bit disappointed as I expected more than 15 longhorns, however, if I were one of those poor longhorn cattle, I wouldn’t be overly eager to volunteer my participation either, although it might just be my only source of exercise. But, I digress!
John wanted me to experience Billy Bob’s Texas, if only but for lunch. Billy Bob’s is known as the World’s Largest Honky Tonk. This is truly an incredibly large establishment of 100,000 sq. ft. where, in addition to large dance floors and band stands for musical events by country music’s biggest stars, it has a mechanical riding bull, a real bull riding arena, numerous food venues, and of course, the obligatory over 30 bar stations. I can’t even imagine what it might be like on a Saturday night.
We also went to the University of Miami v. Louisville college football game, as they were playing at the AT&T Stadium. Regardless of the fact that Miami played very poorly and lost overwhelmingly, we did enjoy the experience. John has always wanted to visit college venues around the country and if nothing else, this one was a very nice one.
It’s time to go and I’m so glad to report that I now have full range of motion and ready to tackle strength retraining. We leave tomorrow toward Arizona, so stay tuned for more adventures.
We arrived in San Antonio after a relatively uneventful drive, except for somehow losing one jack snap pad. For those of you unfamiliar with a snap pad, it is a shoe which fits over the jack so blocks no longer become necessary.
We had not quite settled in and began hearing the sound of a police helicopter hovering over us. It flew around for over an hour. It was apparent they were looking for someone, but just in case, we stayed close by. The police was scouting the area because someone had broken into a nearby Pizza Hut, no less (apparently looking for some “dough”)!
Our friends, Debbie and Tommie Preuett arrived in San Antonio and we so enjoyed our time with them. We dined at Rosario’s, a local hangout, where the food was delicious and the margaritas were out of this world. Between the four of us we had the usual lime, strawberry, mango and go figure, I opted for different, so I had prickly pear. Somehow drinking cactus juice didn’t seem appealing to me until I tried it. Wow!
A weather phenomenon I did notice while there was that if it rains for over a few hours, a flood warning will go out. We received a flood warning and I thought it so dramatic as it was only expected to be a bad thunderstorm just like the typical ones in South Florida during the summer, except, oh boy, it did not take long at all for the water to rise as it had nowhere to go. The roads quickly flooded and the water rose anywhere between 8″ to 12″. I immediately understood the reason for the continuous warnings. There were flash floods, people getting rescued when trying to cross flooded roads thinking they could get across, a teenager had to get rescued from a river, all in all, just a mess! It did not last long, just long enough to create havoc and back to a drought we returned. Then the pendulum swung and we experienced yet another first. I had been noticing a haze and had no clue as to its cause, it was neither fog, nor smoke, it was African dust. Yes, Saharan Dust apparently mixes in with the jet stream and it tends to bring with it a heat wave. Well, we experienced heat for sure. When we decided to explore Texas on our way to Arizona, we were not really concerned we would be traveling in the middle of summer as being lifetime Floridians, heat and humidity are part of life. Except, we had never experienced temperatures in triple digits which stayed that way until way after 8 p.m., even Jackson was unimpressed. We had to purchase cool paws for him so he could walk to do his business, although he absolutely hated wearing them. The weather forecasters repeatedly warn pet owners to be mindful of asphalt temperatures, as they can exceed temperatures of 145°.
We visited Fredericksburg in the hill country. We found it to be a rather cute, artsy town with a strong german influence.
There were quaint boutiques, art stores and plenty of eateries lining the major roadway with lots of different types and styles of benches along its sidewalks. I imagine most of them are used by bored men, waiting and keeping an eye out for their spouses as they meander in and out of the many stores and hoping that not much money is spent. Most intriguing, was a Dooley’s 5 and 10¢ store. I just had to go in if only but to reminisce about all the products/items that are now difficult to find in our current times, but which I vividly remember using. One item in particular brought back some vivid memories. They were the diaper pins, pink ones for girls, blue one for boys and of course, the white ones for neutral. I remember having to use only blue ones, and I will never forget the numerous times I pricked myself using those evil little things all the time while trying my best to avoid pricking fidgety Randy.
And of course, boys will be boys!
We stopped by the Enchanted Rock, a tremendously large dome which people come from near and far to either climb, hike or whatever, and even get to pay for the experience too! We climbed up the mound where the marquee was and that was the extent of our climbing ability and inclination. We went and saw the rock, that’s all!
We visited the Main Plaza in downtown San Antonio at night and enjoyed a video art show of a mesmerizing trip through San Antonio’s history projected onto the façade of the San Fernando Cathedral. The images told the story from the historical discovery, settlement and development of San Antonio, told through custom choreographed music and was absolutely spectacular.
There are five missions in San Antonio, all part of the National Park System. The San Juan Mission is a working mission and we had heard that a mariachi band played all the worship songs on Sundays, so when Sunday came around, albeit neither Debbie or I had attended church in years, we chose to attend Sunday services at the San Juan Mission. While waiting for the doors to open we met a worshiper whose parents were forced to relocate from their home and family land, which they had owned for over 100 years, simply because it was located yards from where we were standing and the Park System had to have it so they could enlarge the grounds. You know, that pesky little thing known as eminent domain. You own it. We want it. We are bigger than you. We got it. You lose. Oh well!
We did the obligatory stroll through the River Walk, a stone pathway connecting shops, restaurant, various hotels and museums. We also took a river boat along the meandering San Antonio River. We were told the city is planning to extend the water route from its current 2 miles to 13 miles so it can connect with the historic districts and theater and the other four Spanish Colonial missions.
We visited the Tower of the Americas, a 750′ tall tower for happy hour and dinner, and enjoyed an amazing 360° view of San Antonio. From our eagle view, we were able to see “La Antorcha de la Amistad”, Spanish for the Torch of Friendship. This was a gift from the Mexican government to the City of San Antonio in 2002, representing a symbol of cooperation and shared culture between the country and the city.
We decided to visit the remaining missions in San Antonio, each of which are remarkably preserved and equally as beautiful.
Note the fresco’s still visible on the ceiling and walls
Mission San Francisco de la Espada
Aqueduct of the Mission San Francisco de la Espada
and finally, we visited The Alamo
During our visit to San Antonio I had no choice but to address a medical hiccup. For the past two months, I had been experiencing worsening pain and discomfort in my right shoulder and was having extreme difficulty with daily activities. After seeing an orthopedic doctor who confirmed I had a torn rotator cuff and three partial tears, I ended up undergoing surgery. I still do not have a clue how it happened but do know that John was definitely a happy boy as he had to help me wear and remove all my tops. As a result, we had no option but to extend our stay for an additional six weeks so I could get the initial physical therapy. The remaining six weeks would be done in Arlington, Texas, which was our next stop.