Vegas and Death Valley National Park

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.

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And then, there are the Mesquite Sand Flats

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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!

Joshua Tree National Park

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.


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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.


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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.

Visiting Northern Arizona

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.










Yay- Finally, We Made it to Palm Creek in Casa Grande, Arizona! But… it took a while to enjoy…

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.

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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!

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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….

Passing thru Oklahoma and New Mexico

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?

Dallas/Fort Worth – Arlington

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.





















While in San Antonio, TX…

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.

Mission Concepción
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.







Galveston, Oh, Galveston – I still hear your sea winds blowin…

But for the rain along the way, our route to Texas was relatively uneventful.  We drove past Eureka Springs, my favorite city in Arkansas, and crossed the border into Oklahoma.  We stayed in a very small town by the name of Poteau, pronounced Po-toe in Oklahoma, at a campground we shared with bison, deer, and Shetland ponies.


From Poteau we traveled to Grapeland, TX at a campground recently purchased by a couple with nine adorable children, all ranging in ages from 1 to 14.   The way I saw it, they were going to need all those little hands to take care of the 100 acres they now owned.  The older ones cared for the younger ones, while others were painting and yet others were mowing the lawn, mom worked in the office and dad did all the outside repairs, etc.  From the outside looking in, they gave the appearance of a well-oiled machine, I just wonder what meal times look like!

The previous owner was an artist who collected western style buildings and had them positioned throughout the property giving the semblance of a western town.  Within it was a large swimming lake with a floating platform for sunning, various rental cabins and a very large stage, a perfect place for music festivals.







From Grapeland to Katy, and a quick stop over in Navasota, yet again another rainy travel day.  Apparently, a tree branch must have struck the skylight over the shower at some point because when we arrived in Navasota, we realized we had a hole the size of a golf ball.

Because of the rain, water and pine needles made their way inside the shower, but fortunately nowhere else.  We patched up the hole temporarily and immediately ordered the skylight and inside dome from the manufacturer and had both delivered to Galveston where we were going to be anchored for a couple of weeks.

In the meantime, we arrived in Katy, Texas.  Our youngest daughter, Ashley, prior to leaving Alaska, shipped us fresh Alaskan salmon, rockfish, black cod and halibut.  After picking this delicious gift from the airport, we left Katy and drove into Galveston.



Upon our arrival in Galveston we quickly made arrangements to have the bathroom skylight repaired.  We had not realized how discolored it had become and how dull the lighting in the bathroom actually was.  For the first time in years it was now light and bright.  Natural light is amazing!




We took a drive westward to Surfside and came across many beach camping.  Although this may not be foreign to some, to us it was certainly a novelty.  We are used to soft sand so with the exception of Daytona Beach, vehicles on sand are positively out of the question.  Seeing RVs parked on the beach was intriguing for sure.  We took a closer look and yippee!! we actually got to drive on the beach ourselves.  Now, that was special!  “Big Bertha,” our truck, had never been on such an excursion.

There were even directional signals right on the beach!  Sure enough, both vehicles and RVs were parked right on the sand.  While vehicles park as close to the shore as possible, RVs were parked alongside the grassy dunes, but nevertheless still on the beach.  Amazing, was all we could say!  Imagine turning off your A/C, opening all your windows and hearing the waves crashing on the shore, all day and night.  Sleeping under the stars! Ahhhh!!! Now, that’s boondocking!   On the flip side, salty air sticks to your RV and because it is always incredibly windy, you would definitely get a lot of sand inside.  Oh, well – I guess that’s what a vacuum cleaner and patience are for anyway.




Another day, we took a ride in the opposite direction and came across  East Beach, where one can ride horseback on the beach.  I had the opportunity of walking miles and feeling the warm sand on the bottom of my feet, while hearing the sound of the crashing waves, without actually getting into the water, as it is very murky.

Apparently, because the Mississippi and Red Rivers empty out onto the Gulf, (and we all know how filthy they are) sediment gets carried by the counterclockwise currents and all the beaches from Louisiana westward are brown.

We learned from the local news that a man had caught a 6′ shark a few days ago less than a mile away from where we stayed.  He had no clue what he had caught.  Families actually swim and play in that water.  It’s so murky, you cannot see your feet, let alone any creatures lurking nearby.  On a good note, there are tons of seashells near the shoreline.  So to those who enjoy shelling, this place could provide hours of fun.

Galveston has undergone massive beach expansions and continues to do so, the newest of which is Babe’s Beach.



We took a day trip around Galveston Bay and returned via the Bolivar peninsula and rode the ferry into Galveston.  We even crossed over the Intracoastal Waterway, which was actually pretty neat.  I had never actually seen any oil refineries and was in awe with the vast number of oil plants and drills dressing the landscape.

What was most amazing was the vast number of donut stores.  From chains to mom and pop establishments, everywhere you look you would find one, we couldn’t keep track.  There must be almost as many donut shops in this area as there are churches in South Carolina, without exaggeration.  Not only do they sell donuts, they sell Kolaches, pastries filled with either cheese, meat or fruit.  We decided on the meat kolache.  It was shaped like hotdog filled with sausage and it was actually pretty tasty.


Loading up into the ferry was easy and we were queued and positioned in the very front row.  Because it was so windy, large waves crashed onto the ferry totally soaking everyone in the front row. (Us!) I had gotten back in Big Bertha just in the nick of time and had I delayed one more second, I would have needed a change of clothes.  Poor Jackson froze in place.  Some guard dog he is!


We visited Murdoch’s, a souvenir shop and restaurant which is feet above the Gulf of Mexico surf.  The original Murdoch’s opened in 1910 as a swimsuit rental store for island visitors.  It has been rebuilt four times, the most recent of which as a result of Hurricane Ike in 2008.  This building, if nothing else, symbolizes Galveston’s resilience.



The Pier, the seawall, the sculptures, the Strand, which is where most of the boutique shops are located, and the many mansions and historic buildings make Galveston the city it is.


We made reservations at a steakhouse for the Fourth of July.  It was our 33rd Wedding Anniversary and we like to choose lively spots to celebrate the continuation of our wonderful journey.  After dinner we picked up Jackson and the three of us went to see the parade and fireworks by the seawall.  He got beads and wore them well!


This was Jackson’s first ever experience watching fireworks and I’m not real sure it was a hit.  Although his eyes were as large as flying saucers and was shaking enough to warrant John holding him for the duration, he never took his eyes off the fireworks.  Poor guy, he was probably saying – Do not do that again!  I truly don’t mind staying home by myself for a while.  That was insane and I didn’t like it!


Note to self – No more fireworks for Jackson.


We had a great time in Galveston and it’s time to move on.  So, on to San Antonio we go!








On Our Way to the Ozarks

We left Florida and made an overnight stop at Vicksburg, Mississippi. After setting up, we drove downtown to perhaps pickup some dinner. We drove and drove, turned this way and that way and not finding anything of interest, shrugged at each other and went to one of the local casinos and had a buffet dinner there instead.  Our preference is to stay away for those type of establishments as the tendency is to eat with your eyes.  Regardless, the food was bountiful and tasty.

Vicksburg is a historical town with many civil war attractions, the largest of which is Vicksburg National Cemetery is part of the military park, located by the USS Cairo.  Vicksburg National Military Park is the second largest national cemetery holding the remains of 17,000 Civil War Union soldiers.  The town itself, other than for the casinos, in my humble opinion, was rather depressing and but for the churches  which were kept up very nicely, the buildings and houses were old and tattered.


We left Vicksburg and crossed the bridge over into Louisiana.  Driving through these small cities made me sad.  They all are mostly depressed with stores either closed or shut down, with no shopping other than a small Walmart speckled every now and then and, of course, the usual Family Dollars or Dollar Generals.  The drive itself was pleasant and the view was dominated by corn fields, pecan fields, the occasional rice paddies, and Lake Providence, a large, beautiful lake with tons of cypresses along its shores.  Seeing the differently shaped cypress knees sprouting from the water reminded me of the trip we took into the Louisiana Bayou a few years ago but even more so for the beautifully hand painted cypress knee made to resemble an adorable Santa Claus, which I still am in the lookout for.

We arrived in Little Rock and again met up with Joe and Melodie.  Some have said we are stalking each other, but in reality we both had  similar itineraries, so why not play with friends whenever possible. We both stayed at Downtown Riversides, a campground on the banks of the Arkansas River, across from the Clinton Presidential Library and downtown Arkansas.

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We had the opportunity to also connect with old work friends, Tony and Darlette Ellis.  Darlette and Tony suggested that we go to dinner at Doe’s Eat Place, a little hole in the wall which has become a local hangout and has been around for ever.  Had we driven by and not known about it, we would have never even considered stopping, as it’s really not much to look at.  Oh boy, were we glad we did.  Doe’s was a true gem.  The decor was simple and contained tons of memorabilia and pictures of patrons, celebrities, and politicians, hanging on the walls all bringing each and every one of those moments to life.  The focus however, was the food.  It was absolutely, incredibly delicious and the portions were so tremendously large that sharing was highly recommended.  Whenever we come back to this area again, a stop at Doe’s is a must!

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On our last night in Little Rock, Joe, Melodie, John and I went to Buenos Aires Restaurant, where they served authentic Argentinian fare.  Again, the food was very good but the company was even better.



Now for the saga, approaching Little Rock, our tire monitor display read that one of our truck’s tires was low on air.  Also, immediately upon arriving, we noticed that the hub cap for our right rear tire had fallen off.  For the third time!  (Most recently, it had fallen while we were in Stuart).  The following morning we took the truck to a dealer (our first mistake), purchased another hub cap and had them look into the tire situation.  After a four hour wait, and close to $300 later, they installed a new hub cap and replaced the extended valve stem, which they claimed was not working properly, which was also replaced in April, while in Sebring.

On our last day as we were preparing to leave, we were manually checking the tires’ pressure and simply could not access the one day old, newly installed extended valve stem.  Off to another tire store we went where they remounted the inside back tire so that the extended stem could be accessed from the outside tire and wouldn’t you believe they tell us that the extended stem used was not working either.  Really????

We must have driven around for at least an hour looking for the darn extension.  Mind you, we had not yet tucked in and the jacks were not up.  We gave up the search and since the tire had good pressure we decided to just leave.

We left for Table Rock Lake sad that it will be a long time before we see these guys again but excited to meet up with yet another set of friends, Cindy and Steve.

The country roads to our next rendezvous were narrow, winding and hilly, not a good combination for us flatlanders.  The GPS was even telling us to drive through neighborhoods.  Thank goodness for alternative apps, (Allstays is my go to app),  which allowed me to identify alternate routes which ultimately took us to our destination.

We arrived at Ozarks RV Park in Table Rock.  This park overlooks Table Rock Lake and is very scenic.  The site assigned to us was very nice with an absolutely beautiful view, so I was excited to get settled in and relax, given all the running around and tense driving we had just done that morning.


I began opening the slides and the bedroom extended, but neither the kitchen, nor the living slides would.  We immediately contacted a mobile service guy and as luck would have it, he was already in the park and was looking into our issue within minutes.  However, after two hours of meticulous checking and testing, he concluded that the batteries we had, which were only  three months old, were not working  so we had to purchase new ones.  Uggh.  Anyway, once all was fixed, we went straight to having fun.

Cindy and Steve arrived late on Friday night and from that moment on, it was non-stop fun.  We boated, went swimming and tubing, played games, golf, and pickleball.



On Monday, we left the Ozarks and started heading toward Texas.  It was so nice seeing and reconnecting with our friends, Cindy and Steve again.


Leaving Our Happy Place

We got ready to leave Jacksonville heading for Navarre, a small town in the panhandle overlooking the Santa Rosa Sound.  All the slides were in, and the jacks were up when John started yelling at me that I had forgotten to lower the satellite dish.  Hmmm, I know I pressed all the appropriate buttons in the right sequence and even heard the motor of the dish stowing, so needless to say, I was confused.  I then looked at the display and it read EL motor home failure.  We have had the satellite dish for over four years and had never seen this message.  So, I tried to stow it again and the got the same message.  The dish just would not stow.  We couldn’t leave unless the dish was stowed.  So we had no choice but to do the millennial thing, use our phones to GTS.  What is GTS, you might say?  (Well, it’s google that sh..!)  Fortunately, we found an illustration showing us what to do to stow the dish manually.  Perfect, it appeared to be a simple task, except we had to go up on the roof to execute it.  Anxiously, up on the roof I went and after trying unsuccessfully for a while we decided to call several repair shops and mobile repair companies.  None could come out to help us right away and even if they could, they really did not know what to do.  The situation was that John had NEVER been on the RV roof.  I simply would never let him.  I cited health reasons but honestly, I was not even sure that the rear ladder would hold his weight and became really concerned as he suffers from mild acrophobia (fear of heights).  Naturally, John falling off the roof was certainly not in the plan.  I was so proud of him, although scared, he managed to climb the ladder, remove the necessary bolts, manually stow the dish and climbed back down.  What a relief!!!  I asked him if he had taken the opportunity to look at the roof, as he had never been on it and he said, absolutely not, his concern was to get up, get the job down, not fall off in the process and get down as quickly as possible.  That was one problem solved but we still needed to figure out why we received that message to begin with.  While John was driving, I spoke on the phone with a Winegard technician directly and received the instructions on how to recalibrate the system.  She even emailed me the instructions for the future.  Upon our arrival in Navarre, I successfully followed the instructions and VOILÁ our satellite dish was back in business.  John was happy and life was good again.

Santa Rosa Waterfront RV Park is a lovely, small park right on the Santa Rosa Sound.  The sites were a bit close together but the owners were in the process of adding shrubbery in between them to create more privacy.  It has a beautiful pool area, but even nicer, our site backed up to the Sound and we could hear the lulling sound of water lapping on the shore all day and night long.  Add to that a soft blowing wind and oh dear, we were in heaven!  I decided to soak it all in as much as possible as we would not be able to enjoy this type of view in a long while.

The following morning, while sitting outside and enjoying the view, we thought we smelled gas.  We have two LP tanks.  As both valves were closed we didn’t immediately register where the smell was coming from.  Upon inspection of one of the tanks and it was cold and sweaty.  Now, that was unusual.  As luck would have it, a mobile RV service person was two sites away so I posed the situation and he came over only to diagnose the problem.  He informed us that albeit rare, the tank was bad and needed to be replaced as it probably had a small leak somewhere and that it was not worth repairing and it would be more economical to replace it.  Wouldn’t you know, just down the road, less than 10 minutes away was a Camping World location where we purchased a new tank and just for good measure, new valves as well.  John replaced everything and we were good to go.

We took a drive to Pensacola Beach and returned via the scenic route through the Gulf Islands National Seashore, located in Santa Rosa Island, all the way to Navarre Beach.  Imagine being in a totally desolate area with pristine, crystal clear emerald green water, sand so white it’s blinding, giving the appearance of sugar, and so fine you sink in it as you walk.  Imagine seagrass swaying back and forth in the wind trying to keep pace with the waves lapping on the shore. The beach is my happy place for sure.


We again met up with our friends, Melodie and Joe, at Florabama for lunch.  We appear to be traveling in the same direction, only just a few days apart from each other, and this happened to be one of the places in which our travels overlapped.

We took walks on the beach, played golf, ate seafood, took in beautiful views of the Sound and even watched incoming storms, and even made new friends.

After a week in Navarre, leaving Florida brought bittersweet emotions.  We knew this time was coming but now that we actually left, it was exciting.  We will not return for several years as there are many other places to visit.

With that in mind, we made our way toward Little Rock, Arkansas via Vicksburg, Mississippi.