Monday, February 28, 2011

Keep Movin', Eldo!

Cacti at Carlsbad National Park
From Junction, TX to Lakewood, NM, to Deming, NM....a lot of distance in just a couple of days. Saw some interesting things along the way..How about this huge roadrunner close to Las Cruces, NM along I-10? He's made of recyled garbage from a dump and appears to be about 20 feet long and 50 feet high(?) The front of him is covered in athletic shoes!

One of the things I love about full timing is seeing all the incredible scenery as we ride through the country. Yes, sometimes it's really boring, but LOTS of times it's interesting and beautiful. You certainly can't sit on a couch in a car and look out the window and see things as easily as you can through panoramic windows in a motorhome! We saw signs for dust storms constantly on the way through I-10, traveling west from Lakewood, NM to Deming, NM. "Dust storms may exist," "Warning visibility zero," "Don't stop in your lane", "Zero visibility possible" and so on...we watched carefully but we were lucky to only see them at a distance around the mountains during our travel today...whew! Guess they can come up in a heartbeat!

dust devils in the distance
Eldy was trying to avoid getting trapped by the strong New Mexico winds rolling into Deming these past few days.  Deming was a really nice Escapee Park, but the winds were supposed to get up to 60 miles an hour in gusts over and around the mountains and about as strong in the park which was totally in the open. People in the park were nervous about the winds coming, so we decided to move ahead of them and head to Benson, Arizona. Unfortunately, Benson was full and we would have had to boondock in the storm and high winds, so on we went towards Casa Grande, AZ. There are Escapee Parks in all these towns, but again, the Casa Grande Escapee park was full, and 12 people were boondocking on a waiting list until they could get a spot. With an Escapees year membership, you get great deals in their parks, but it's first come, first served. On the way, we passed through Tucson, Arizona, a beautiful city with beautiful bridges. We saw one that had inlaid stone flowers everywhere on the bridge. I couldn't whip out my camera fast enough to get that bridge but here is another one....very pretty!

I researched places to stay while Eldy drove today, away from the winds, and found a GREAT Passport America park called Arizona Hideaway RV park, which is in Picacho, AZ...between Phoenix and Tucson off interstate 10. This is an older park that honors the Passport America card for one night, then you can use Escapees or Good Sam's discount after that. Our stay is 14.00 for the first night, then 26.00 a night with other discounts. There's a little STEAKHOUSE on the premises that serves fantastic steaks for a VERY reasonable price. They cook them on an outdoor grill! Try $9.99 for filet mignon with baked potato, roll and tossed salad for their Sunday night special. The staff at the park is VERY friendly and helpful, and the park is full of mature cactus and trees, so we have shade. Couldn't get over how much more green this area is than New Mexico. It's really nice to see the trees and some green grass and very green golf courses. We're going to stay here for a couple of days, there's lots to see...see you tomorrow!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Carlsbad Caverns are BAD!

Cool formation!
National park photo
When you say something is "bad", hopefully it's still slang for TERRIFIC! Because that's what the caverns were...unbelievably, totally amazing..the most incredible thing we have ever seen! According to Ranger Jeremy, a funny, wonderfully informative tour guide who led us through King's Palace today on an hour and a half tour, it's the 8th wonder of the world. And we could see why...These caverns were formed when sulphuric acid dissolved the limestone "shelves" or reefs left from an inland sea 400 miles long from prehistoric times. It opened up fractures and faults as the mountains were being pushed upward. Creation of each type of formation happened by drips and drops. Billions and billions of drops later, you have thousands of different formations in the caves. Remember stalagmites and stalactites from your school days? I think our guide called them "sticky-uppies" and "droppy-downies". (Stalactites-"droppy-downies"- hang tight to the top of the ceiling, by the way.)
Peering through spaces in the rock
Eldy walking the Big Room self-guided tour
My photo of the" doll's theater"
If I remember some of my facts right, the first main cavern area, called the Big Room, was the size of 14 football fields, or was it 14 acres? You get the idea...It was incredibly HUGE.  We learned that "soda straws" are very thin stalactites hanging from the ceiling. "Draperies" hang where water ran down a slanted ceiling. There's even "popcorn"  formations..small, delicate needle shaped mineral crystals that look just like popcorn. The formations in the different parts or "rooms" of the caverns have names and we learned lots about them from our very informative ranger guide, Jeremy. Ranger Jeremy really knew his stuff. We found out the history of the caves, how they were discovered, how the formations came to be, and lots more cool stuff! He led us on the King's Palace tour, (4.00 a person with a senior pass), and  we went an additional 100+ feet deeper into the cave on this particular tour. I got a little claustrophobic as we descended down, down, down into the depths of the cave, but I fought the urge to leave the tour and head for the elevator up. I'm glad I stayed. I immersed myself into the tour information being given and my panicky feeling passed.

This was a tour that was entirely and easily climbed, following a guard rail path the entire time. There are other tours where you need kneepads, flashlight, and no fear of darkness to clamber around rocks, crawl through crevices, etc. I did have to ask before the tour started if there had ever been any seismic activity in the caverns (there hasn't been), and has anybody ever been left behind at night, when they turn out the lights? Yes, there being mischievious. (They were fined). They do a "sweep" after the last tour has come up in the elevator. Wait a minute, one more question...has anything ever broken off while people are touring the caves? As in fallen off and hurt someone? No, they replied, not ever in 100 years. The only breaking of anything has been the dumb people who broke off a piece of formation for a souvenir. I liked the way Jeremy explained the ignorance of people vandalizing OUR national parks and how it affects all of us. Touching the formations damages them, transferring oils to the surface and discoloring the rock. He told us that the King's Palace used to be a self-guided tour, but that in three years' time, 10,000 pieces had been broken off the formations from people taking "souvenirs" and so they made it a ranger guided tour. How sad is that!?  He definitely had the proper reverence for the beauty of this place and tried to transmit his feelings to the public. We were very impressed with him.
Size relativity

Then, towards the end of the tour, Jeremy decided to show us how dark a cave really is. He turned off the lights for what seemed an eternity but was really only about three minutes. He then proceeded to talk about insects in the caverns. Yes, there are spiders, and "they are about THIS big," demonstrating their size with his fingers, which of course nobody could see, and there are crickets "which are about THIS big" demonstrating again, and we still were in the this time, I was clutching Eldy's arm pretty tightly. I think I even said a couple of times, "YOU CAN TURN THE LIGHTS ON ANY TIME NOW"...each time a little more loudly, and finally, on  came the lights. WHEW! (I wasn't the only one clutching the arm of my nearest and dearest partner!) Jeremy also told us about how they have found evidence of caffeine, antifreeze, and oil in the cave waters down 800 feet below the did it get there? From the surface parking lot, one drop at a time, percolating through the rock. Three to six months for a drop to make it down below the surface, into the rocks, dripping into the pools below the earth. They have since resurfaced the parking lot with a special filtering surface to keep contaminants from leaking into the natural cave system. Makes you think twice about pouring something out onto the ground, doesn't it?  It sure did for us!
"Totem pole"-national park photo

The lighting throughout the entire cave system was one of the coolest things about the cave..the wiring is hidden, each major formation is spectacularly lighted with angled views of the spectacular formations, you don't really see the lights themselves, it's very subtle how they are's dim but with every corner you round, another formation is highlighted. The lighting naturally makes you feel like you are in God's cathedral, and nobody talks above a whisper while moving through the caves unless you are a person who hasn't a clue and doesn't realize your voice carries a 1/4 of a mile in normal tones. There are audio tours for 3.00 where you can hear information if you don't want to take a ranger guided tour.

The photos today are about half mine, and half national park royalty free photos. It's hard to get a really good photo showing the grandeur of the caverns. It was truly awe-inspiring! Sorry for the long blog today, but we want to remember this day, it was very special!  (PS. Carlsbad Caverns National Park entrance fee is FREE to seniors with the Golden Age Pass.)

An Escapees Welcome-Wow!

After a long, tiring drive for Eldy today, we stopped at the Escapees Park 22 miles north of the town of Carlsbad, NM., "The Ranch". Talk about a welcome! When you come in, they ring a school bell (the old fashioned way-with a rope handle) which summons residents of the park who want to welcome you with hugs all the way around. They say they are the "friendliest" RV park in the Escapees parks, and no doubt about that! I'll bet we got about ten hugs a piece! It's 14.00 a night plus electric, $.07 a kilowatt hour...can't beat that!
Pet run at the Ranch

This park is at the base of the Guadalupe Mountains, in the Chihuahuan Desert in southeast New Mexico. It's barren but beautiful to those who live here. I'm not a scrubby brush, cactus, tumbleweed, hot weather kind of person but it's ok for me for a short stay. Eldy likes the warm weather, I like the cool nights and we both love the clear sky, brilliant sparkling diamonds night sky, with all the stars as clear as clear can be. We have a very nice, spacious lot rented out from an owner. Firm gravel sites, plenty of room between us and the neighbors. This park has a VERY nice ranch house for get-togethers, meetings, reading, rocking in the rocking chairs out on the porch and a laundry facility on the premises. They have LOTS of activities for, crafts, line dancing, beading classes, etc. Many of the residents in the park seem to live here full time, with some kind of small house or extra building with screened porches on their lots.
Meeting place/clubhouse for The Ranch
The weather is not going to be too great this weekend...high winds are coming with a strong cold front putting temperatures back in the 40's for a high during the day. That will keep the snakes underground awhile longer, I'm happy about that. They warned us about snakes and particularly rattlesnakes coming around when the weather warms up! Yikes! We can't decide whether to stay put or head closer to our rally destination, Yuma. We'll watch the weather for the next couple of days and see what happens...stay tuned! For now, here's another sign at the Escapees Ranch entrance...the "bus stop".
Beside the bench, the sign says,

And now, here's an update---we're going to see the Carlsbad Caverns tomorrow, then leave the next day...severe winds are coming....batten down the hatches, boys!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

On the way to San Jose?

I've got that song going through my head..."Do you know the way to San Jose?...." Dionne Warwick, I think. Naw, we're not going to San Jose, we're heading through Texas to get to Carlsbad Caverns eventually! Our first stop tonight is going to be Junction, TX, on the west side of San Antonio...Eldy did great on the drive today..

We had a close call however, on I-10. Some idiot decided to come over into the lane we were changing into..We had our signal on W-A-A-Y ahead of time to signal the lane change, but that didn't stop the Chevy HHR from coming into our lane AT THE SAME TIME! We just missed colliding and the other driver didn't have a clue that we just missed hitting her. It happened too fast for Eldy to blow the air horn at her, and too fast for me to grab the "OH, SHIT!" handle on the passenger side. (The terminology for that handle comes from an excerpt in a funny book about a diva princess, high society girl who takes to the road with her husband and writes about her travels.) The name of the book is Queen of the Road. 

Me, sometimes I'm obliviously knitting, which can be a very good thing. I looked up at the last minute to see us just miss hitting her. Got a dishcloth done today by concentrating on my knitting and not on the road!

You know, there's a few things we've noticed about Texas that are just tidbits of stuff we like...I think whoever has a handle in designing the Texas highway system has done a pretty good job. We liked the "feeder" lanes that run alongside the've got a choice whether to get on the interstate running parallel to the feeder lanes at opportune times, or you can stay out in the feeder lanes and get to many different destinations for shopping, gas, etc. without ever having to hop on the interstate, but it's there if you need it. We also think the Texas bridges over interstates are beautifully designed. The bridges actually have what I call "inlay" designs of "waves" on the sides. Some of them have murals painted on them...Add the rest stops to that list as well.
ceiling in the bathroom, for heaven's sake!
ceiling in rest stop lobby! Look at the pulley system, cool!
We stopped at one rest stop today about 50 miles east of San Antonio on I-10. The woodworking inside was really something, the beam construction was gorgeous, and the restrooms had the same beautiful woodwork on the ceiling and blue mini mosaic tiled walls. There was a historical display about the "oxcart wars" and a cool hacienda facade with some information as well.  Impressive!

I actually took the time to read all the wifi at this rest stop as well. Texas really knows how to treat their guests!

Our first night away from Houston was Pecan Valley RV park, 22.00 a night, full hookup in Junction, TX off I-10....beautiful BIG open areas, hundreds of deer grazing in the woods next to the park, which was more like camping in somebody's backyard, BIG TEXAS style backyard. The owner had a house on the premises. They also had a salt lick for the deer and we were hoping to see them come out and feed in the big grassy area, but they were very skittish and didn't come in that night. The park is also on the grounds of a grove of pecan trees, and has funny little signs coming into the park. We didn't get any free pecans or specials on them, that would have been a nice touch if they did! Pecan Valley was a nice overnight stop even if there was no air card signal or antenna/TV signal for us. That was a different experience for us--no internet and no TV!  ...On the bottom photo, the camera focused on the fence not the deer, but you can see there were lots of them. On we go to an Escapees park near Carlsbad, 22 miles north. See you there!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Winding Down, Getting Ready to MOVE!

fishing boats in Dickinson's harbor
It's hard to believe, but our month's stay is just about up in Galveston Bay RV resort...the time has gone by relatively quickly...when you have things to do and friends and family to visit, it does pass quickly. I've managed to ride my bike on narrow asphalt roads 3 miles almost every day, with only popping one tire on sharp oyster shells while we were here. It's not a pretty ride, but hey, it's exercise. Gotta keep doing stuff to make up for eating at TBone Tom's restaurant a few times while we were here. Best steak in the area! And, I've enjoyed the parrots! Here are my last two parrot photos and what I imagine them saying:
Hey, guys! Whaddya say we crash this party?

Ps-s-s-t! Don't look now, I think we're surrounded!
We did regret having committed to this particular side of town for a month, as the area around this pretty campground is kind of depressed looking as far as the landscape goes...refineries line the highway, no biking or hiking trails available nearby, no activities at Galveston Bay RV campground, trash and debris along the roadsides and in the Dickinson harbor and along the bayou and then there's the constant wind. We've been able to sit out and enjoy the view in our chairs outside only a couple of times since we've been here because of the cold and the wind. But it's been wonderful seeing my daughter Kerry and her fiance, and we really loved Galveston...but now it's time to plan for where we are going next...

Out come the maps, the weather channel app on the phone, and Eldy starts planning.  We use Mapquest to figure out the driving distance after looking on the maps for possible daily destinations. Then we check RV Park Reviews for possible campgrounds, figuring anywhere from 250-350 miles a day driving. Eldy checks the weather (average temperatures for these locations) for this time of year. we're hoping not to go through propane again like we did while we were here in the Galveston area. We've got our next three locations/destinations mapped out until the Gypsy Journal rally starts in Yuma, Arizona on March 7th. We're only going to have 20 amp service at the fairgrounds there in Yuma, so I'm a little concerned about that, but hopefully, the weather will not get too warm! First we think it's too cool, now we hope it's not going to be too warm in Yuma!  Are we fickle or what? We've even got a location picked out for a month's stay AFTER the rally and are getting bids now for month rentals.  We're heading to California after the rally.....more about that later. Last photo of Galveston Bay RV resort...a heron sitting on a derelict oil drum left over from the hurricane just a few yards out in the water in front of our campsite.
PS. I forgot to mention I went kayaking yesterday. The manager at the campground graciously offered the use of her sit upon kayak, paddle and vest so I could venture out on the bayou during a relatively calm day with just a little wind....It was an uneventful trip until AFTER I got back to the high dock where they wanted  me to leave the kayak. It was one of those floating pontoon docks where you could paddle the boat right under it halfway, then climb out of the kayak somehow...but it was too high for me to boost myself up, so I thought, well, think I will back out from under the dock and attempt to disembark sideways. So I laid my paddle on the dock and pushed backwards just a little too hard--WHOOPS! I'm now in the water gliding backwards rather rapidly from the fast disappearing dock, the paddle is laying on the dock, NOT in my boat and nobody is around to toss the paddle to me. "SH--T!" I exclaimed just a little too loudly. OK, Sparky, start paddling like hell with your hands and hope there's no current to keep you from getting back to the dock. There wasn't, and I managed to get back to the dock using my hands for paddles. Very ungracefully, I clambered out of the kayak onto the dock, stepping in squishy, extremely mushy clay mud that threatened to eat my sandals. Whew! I'm glad nobody was around to hear me cuss and see what an idiot I was for a moment. At least until I turned around and saw two fishermen on the other side of the channel laughing. Thank goodness, they didn't say a word!  See you on the road!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Trip Down Memory Lane

As we get older, I think most of us think about the "good ole days"...and it doesn't take much to trigger a memory trip when you look at an old object, or look at something you had when you were a kid, or you clean out a parent's house, or take a mental checklist test of "Just How Old ARE You?"  as somebody did on a blog recently. I gotta be getting old, because I remembered all items on that blog checklist except one! There should have been a category, "older than DIRT" for remembering that many! (The category name for remembering as many as I did was a much kinder label.)

Kerry and I visited an antique fleamarket today that was huge, all under one roof in Spring, TX. It was wonderful! I could have spent all day in we went down aisle after aisle, I kept exclaiming, "O-o-o-h! Mom had these when we were growing up!" or "I remember drinking out of these when I was a kid!" Or "I had one of those when I was in grade school!" I looked at a vintage apron and was instantly transported back to jr. high when my first sewing project was an apron in home economics class. I almost remembered the fabric I made it out of. Now they call it "Consumer Science" and you're lucky if your kid's school offers that! I was instantly lost in the Land of Nostalgia and got buried very quickly in the aisles, while Kerry moved on.....WOW! Kerry!  Look at all this old stuff and beautiful glassware, dishes, and silver stuff, and toys, Fenton glass, and carnival glass, and Toby mugs and......."Yes, Mom...I see...." She doesn't see, but she will when she takes a trip down memory lane at my age, 60......

I saw a Royal typewriter identical to the one I used to sit at the dining room table and type my papers on in jr. high and high school. I remembered the little pink wheel erasers with the little brush on the end that you would use to erase and quickly brush away the debris before it dropped into the carriage return. I saw plastic tumblers in pastels with little "grass" weavings inside the sides of the glass that we had growing up in the fifties. Old books, old Pyrex casserole dishes and bowls brought a memory back of when I bought a Christmas present for my mom as a little girl. I practically told her what I bought for her, I was so proud. She realized that I came out of the store (it was a Woolworth's 5 & 10) that I didn't get the set of bowls that I was supposed to, having spent all my she kindly guided me back into the store to get the rest of the set, without letting on that I really had told her what she was getting!

If I ever see a Dick and Jane reading book, I'm gonna buy one. I loved that series, and for some reason, I loved learning to read and writing in our phonics books that we had in the early primary grades. All those great memories came rushing back and it was hard to get me out of there today....

My last thought of that wonderful antiques "mall", "showroom" or "Memory Lane" was seeing some Care bears....I think they are from the '70's. That's my nickname for Kerry, "Carebear", so naturally, I had to take a photo of her holding one! Aw-w-w-w, isn't she cute? KERRY, not the bear, tee hee! Today was our last day was HARD saying goodbye...The tears came on my part...It will be awhile until we can see her again...a long while, but that's the way it has to be...We'll stay in touch...and we'll stay in touch with you! Bye for now...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

An Evening Ferry Ride

While Eldy enjoyed the Daytona 500 (I'm a little out of sequence on my blog for the moment, bear with me), I ventured out but not for long, to get a couple of craft things...Speaking of the Daytona 500, isn't it wonderful that a kid who just had his 20th birthday the day before, can make it to the front of the line? (with some lucky breaks) I'm not a big NASCAR fan but do enjoy watching an occasional race...I watched the finish, and I think Eldy got almost as excited for this young kid, Trevor Bayne, the winner did! I thought it was cute that he didn't know where to take his car after the finish. This is a kid who didn't have enough sponsors for the rest of the season, but I bet he will now! He seems like a kid with a really good head on his shoulders, one with values, based on his victory speech....nice to see....

Dolphins following a sailboat
After the race, we decided to go for an early evening ferry ride, back on the Galveston ferry....this time we walked on, as we wanted to just ride the ferry a couple of times back and forth, hoping to watch one or two or all three cruise ships take off out of the harbor. No such luck! The cruise ships were all lit up like Christmas trees, but going nowhere, due to fog delays earlier in the day, causing harbor channel traffic snafus for a bit. But the ferry ride was very entertaining, as usual. The ferry is like a microcosm of our world, with many different cultures on board... It's fun to people watch---a young mother with her little son hoping to catch some glimpses of dolphins--I told her where to watch at what part of the trip, having now become a temporary expert dolphin watcher/ferry rider! The three Asian guys with one mammoth Canon SLR camera and lens speaking Japanese, the Hispanic families speaking rapid Spanish who had just come from the beach dressed in not much more than bathing suits and towels wrapped around them, the older couple that looked like they were Mennonites along for the trip, and many others..the ferry was packed!

I loved watching the gal feeding the gulls at the back of the boat with the frothy wake, although I kept a little distance away in case they decided to poop! That didn't seem to happen where we were watching, which I find surprising. They took bread right from her fingertips....we saw a beautiful sunset on the shipping channel...
We finally got a little cold and had to go inside the ferry. Only my hands were cold, so Eldy warmed them up for me...Aw-w-w-w....he's such a sweetie...You know what they say, "Cold hands, warm heart"....that's my guy, Eldy....I'm lucky to have more visit with Kerry, and then we will be on the road, heading through Texas towards New Mexico. Bye for now.....

Monday, February 21, 2011

Back to Bolivar

We liked the ferry so much we decided to ride it again. This time we took the car with us..and we'll probably ride the ferry again at least one more time. Eldy says, heck, we might ride it several times back and forth in one day as walk ons! It's just really cool (literally, Wear a WARM jacket!) to see the HUGE freighters and tankers and the occasional dolphins. And, it's interesting to people watch on the ferry as well...We only saw a couple of dolphins today and they didn't hang around very long....about the time I get the camera focused, they're gone!

The gulls are back and again traveling with us. These guys remind me of the Three Amigos for some reason....don't ask me mind works in mysterious ways--when it is working!

We drove around Bolivar Island after getting off the ferry....we could see lots of devastation caused by the last hurricane in 2008, Hurricane Ike. The people are working hard to rebuild, just as they are in Galveston. Beautiful new homes going up...such bright colors! I wonder if the bright colors are sort of a psychological reaction to the depressing circumstances of living through a hurricane and losing some or all of your home? Or if this is just because it's getting further south towards tropical climates and weather? Although you'd never know it by the temperatures here lately....

Look it how high this lavender house is! (on the left) It was one of the highest built homes that we saw while driving around. I can't begin to estimate how high it is off the ground, but I'm thinking twenty feet maybe? I'm just thinking how much exercise everybody gets climbing stairs to get to the first floor everyday. I'd be hoping for good knees as I got older! Here are a couple more...

Here's a cherry red one...with a cool design on the front of it...
 And one more....

Really enjoyed the ferry today....back home to relax...just a few more days before we have to go..I'm going to get to see Kerry one more time and then we have to leave....see you later!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Star Drug Store, Galveston TX

One of the things we've been trying to do is visit Star Drugstore, "the oldest drug store in Texas" but we kept hitting it when it was closed...on Mondays, and it's closed after 3:00 p.m...we finally got to visit it one morning this week and it was very cool....we wanted to see it because there's a lot of history behind it and it has survived the hurricanes. We had a great breakfast's some of the history behind the store...

In the "olden days", the druggist would keep cots on the mezzazine floor so that after people took their medicine right there in the store, he would keep an eye on them to watch for adverse reactions to the meds.

The Coke sign on top of the drugstore outside is the oldest porcelain neon Coke sign in existence....I love anything Coke..that's my drink of choice, I have one every single's my "coffee" to get me going for the day...I don't collect Coke memorabilia, but they sure had the selection here if I wanted to start! (Uh-oh! says Eldo) I do think I'd like to go back and get a Star drugstore mug with the Coke sign on it! (Are you sure that's all? says E.) Yep! says me.....

This drugstore was the first desegregated lunch counter in Galveston...others quickly followed suit....
There are cool wooden cabinets filled with antique reproductions and jewelry items for sale.

There is an old 1873 working cast iron safe in the store. Ironically, the combination to that very same safe was found scratched in the upstairs apartment bathroom floor! Here is a view from the mezzanine overlooking the main floor---
I believe this is the original horseshoe shaped soda fountain....
They sell Star drugstore tee shirts, mugs, glassware and a BUNCH of other stuff! We'll check it out one more time before we leave next week, I would guess....the breakfast burrito wraps are really great! So far we've had two meals here and both breakfast and lunch were excellent...speaking of lunch,  I'm getting hungry, time to go fix a snack!  Bye for now.....