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Sunday, January 20, 2019

Sitting out the wind......

7:07 am - Sunday - January 20th - Vernon, TX - 26º F, 84% humidity, wind 2 mph out of the south by southwest....mostly cloudy today with a forecast high of 55º F, but we will not be here for that......we roll our wheels in 2 hours!  In fact, our destination for today will have a high in the 60's......much more preferable!

Saturday was just a layover day, plain and simple.  When the wind is blowing 25-35 mph all day out of the exact direction you must travel it is time to sit still and wait it out.  We always allow enough time to get to destinations so that we can take a day, or two off to let weather conditions improve.  This layover is precisely why we rarely ever make reservations.  Once you make reservations you are kind of locked into a schedule which must be adhered to, or many phone calls will result in cancelling, and/or changing reservations.   And that brings me to the present.  

I'm sure some of you have wondered why we left I-10 back in Baton Rouge, and are gradually moving north and west to I-40 where it is windier and colder than the much preferred southern route along I-10.  Well, our current destination is Flagstaff, AZ at 7,000 very cold feet in elevation.  A year ago just after I had my stroke I sought a consultation with a local surgeon to have a cyst in my right cheek saliva gland removed.  As far as we know it is benign, but it is getting bigger as cysts are wont to do.  At the time the surgery was scheduled for early March, right after we finished our tour of duty at the Desert View (Grand Canyon) General Store.  At the last minute my cardiologist (who treated me after my stroke) advised I should have no surgeries of any kind for a minimum of 9 months after my stroke.  That resulted in the surgery being cancelled and put off until after October 1st, 2018.  Well, we were on the east coast in October, and would not be back in the western U.S. until January, so I made a new appointment with my doctor which will be on January 29th.  Once I am reexamined a new surgical date will be set, and I will have my surgery some time in early February.  So, that is the reason for working our way up to I-40.  The cyst causes me no discomfort of any kind, but I'm getting tired of seeing this large bulge in my cheek when I look in the mirro, and would like to get my face back to normal....whatever that is.....:-)

The local windchill factor here in Vernon on Saturday was 21º F, and it felt every bit of that.  The wind and the cold kept us indoors most of Saturday until around 2 pm when we took a 2.1 mile walk around the campground and the Walmart Supercenter next door making two complete loops until we had surpassed 2 miles.  That makes our 7th consecutive day of walking one, or more miles each day.

Around noon time I headed outside by myself to dump our black tank, and then put away our fresh water hose, and sewer hose.  Since the overnight lows were predicted to be in the 20's (and they were/are) I would have had to disconnect the hose from the city water supply anyway, so I just put both of them away so I would not have to deal with them on Sunday when we hit the Interstate once again.  I guess I could have pulled out my heated water hose, but that would be more effort than I was willing to expend Saturday.  While I was at it I topped off our fresh water tank at 140 gallons once again.  

Many people with RV's do not like to travel with a full water tank, because of the added weight, and no doubt that is a consideration, but I have not noticed any discernible difference in my MPG carrying a full water tank (140 gallons of water @ 8.34 lbs. per gallon weighs 1,168 lbs.).  But that is not my reason for traveling with a full tank.  My reason is I am always thinking about the 'what if'.......what if we break down somewhere and need to stay in the Newell while it is being fixed?  Where will we get fresh water, and how difficult will it be?  That is also why I always dump our gray and black water tanks whenever we have the chance......I want empty tanks if we are stranded somewhere.   When it is cold like it is right now I always make sure we have enough propane on board to sustain us for a couple of weeks, or more of heating, and hot water if the need arises.

Each time I ventured outside Saturday I was happy with our decision to sit still Saturday....sometimes it was difficult to open our door the wind was blowing with such ferocity.......thanks for stopping by!

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Saturday, January 19, 2019

Big, long views once again.....

7:45 am - Saturday - January 19th - Vernon, TX - 32º F (feels like 21º F), 68% humidity, wind 17 mph out of the north by northwest......partly cloudy today with a forecast high of 45º F.  Wind blew like crazy last night, and there was rain and hail at times......not big hail, but big enough to wake up one.

We chose to leave the Dallas Elks Lodge about 9 am to miss the morning rush hour traffic, plus we needed to take advantage of a good diesel price down the street at the Kroger fuel station ($2.39/gallon).  We arrived at the fuel station at the perfect time, so it was easy to pull up to one of the diesel pumps.  We had 10¢/gallon fuel credit with Krogers (earned through grocery purchases at affiliated stores) so that made the first 35 gallons $2.29/gallon.  I figured we would take on a total of 70-80 gallons, and I was close...we took on 79 gallons......35 at the discounted price and the balance at $2.39. 

By the time we finished that task it was about 9:40 am, and time to head northwest towards Amarillo, TX.  It took us 45-50 miles to extricate ourselves from the Dallas traffic vortex......

.....traffic, as you can see, was relatively light, but there were 6 lanes of it going each way for quite a distance, and at one time there were 9 lanes going north.......that's a little more congested that I prefer, to say the least......

......at last we began to be able to see a big horizon, and the freeway narrowed to only 3 lanes.......

....eventually it was down to two lanes each direction and very little traffic....now that is more like it!

It is pretty much always windy in the Texas Panhandle, and eventually we came to a large windmill farm......TLE caught a picture of one, but there were literally hundreds all the way to the big horizon.

Initially we had planned to drive only as far at Wichita Falls, but when we were about 25 miles south of our destination we decided to press on another 50+ miles to Vernon, TX where we would be just 176 miles from Amarillo.  Our decision was influenced by the fact that it would be quite windy Friday afternoon, and terribly windy on Saturday.  We do not like to drive in 25-35 mph winds, so we decided to drive the extra distance and sit still through Sunday morning when the winds will abate, and then continue on to Amarillo.

We arrived in Vernon, TX around 2 pm at a nice RV park situated directly next door to the local Walmart Supercenter where there is a gate allowing one to take a short cut to the store directly from the RV park.....perfect!  After hooking up to the utilities TLE started a load of wash after which we took a 1.4 mile walk, which included a stop at Walmart on the way back.  That's six straight days we have walked at least one mile, or more.

As we returned to the Newell the winds became more intense as the wind speed rose above 20 mph where it stayed the rest of the evening.  TLE prepared some Progresso Clam Chowder and a nice salad for dinner and that was our day.

We are now back in the land of big, long views, and how I have missed them!  We are also back above 1,000' elevation for the first time in a long time....by the time we reach Flagstaff we will be over 7,000' elevation!

Thanks for stopping by!

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Friday, January 18, 2019

"It's a small world after all...."

7:13 am - Friday - January 18th - Dallas, TX - 46º F, 94% humidity, wind 5 mph out of the southeast....cloudy today with a chance of rain this afternoon, however, we roll our wheels in a little over 2 hours!

On January 17th, 4 years ago, my beautiful daughter Sharon was married To Rod....she was such a beautiful bride!

My daughter Sharon's wedding day 4 years ago......left to right: Meredith, Katharine, Sharon, Chris and Tim

Thursday dawned clear and cool, but the operative word is 'clear'....no heavy cloud cover for a change!  In fact, it was quite sunny for most of the day!  I had several maintenance projects on which to focus my attention Thursday: 1) Clean the solar panels, 2) Apply 'Rain-X' to the windshield, and to both of the side windows in the 'cockpit', and 3) Fill up our 5 gallon gas can for our Predator generator.  'Rain-X' helps rain run off your windshield more quickly, and also prevents fogging.  I haven't applied it for some time, but with all the rain we have had lately it was time.

In between chores TLE and I walked for a mile along Northwest HWY, which borders the Elks Lodge here in Dallas.  On our walk we checked out the local Kroger Fuel Station for easy ingress and egress (their diesel price is $2.39/gallon).  Even though we have over half a tank of diesel, we cannot pass up this great price.  Diesel only seems to be more costly the further west we progress.

Upon our return to the Elks Lodge we retrieved the VW and drove over to the Kroger supermarket to do some shopping....the pantry shelves are getting a little empty.  After shopping we headed over to the Kroger station to fill up my 5 gallon gas can for the generator (Regular unleaded $1.79!).

A few months ago I was contacted on Facebook by a cousin I did not know I had.  Her mother was a Hockwald.  The father of her mother was Lewis Hockwald who was a brother to Lionel and Sigmund who founded Hockwald Chemical Company.  Both brothers were chemical engineers, and graduated from Stanford.  Together they developed formulas for household products still in wide use today such as 'Tide', Borax Soap, Lava Soap, Palmolive, and many others which do not come immediately to mind as I write.  I had seen the name 'Hockwald Chemical Company' in the L.A. phone book for years, but had no idea we were related.  At one time they were one of the largest landholders in the San Francisco area....amazing!

We knew we were coming through Dallas on our way west, and so I arranged with Cathy to meet for dinner Thursday night, which was our primary reason for stopping in Dallas for two days......

 Cousins Harry and Cathy to my right

....we met at 6 pm at Mi Cocina, a TexMex restaurant, for dinner and were joined by Cathy, her husband Wayne, and Cathy's brother, Harry.  We talked non-stop for over 2 hours about family history.  It was an amazing evening!  And the world gets smaller......by the by, the food was amazing....I had their brisket tacos.....yum!

Thanks for stopping by!

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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Play it again, Sam.....

8:16 am - Thursday - January 17th - Dallas, TX - 53º F, 86% humidity, wind 9 mph out of the west.......partly cloudy today with a forecast high of 58º F.

We awoke once again to leaden skies, and cold temperatures....a very familiar theme.  Our modest goal for the day was to make it to an Elks Lodge near Dallas, TX where we will drop our anchor for a couple of days before continuing our ever westward trek.  Our travel distance this day was just 147 miles.  Once again the Interstate was flat and straight most of our drive.  About 80 miles into our day we took advantage of a Rest Area for an extended break.......

Our Rest Area was the one circled in RED

.....typically Rest Areas are oval in layout, but this one was a very long rectangle.....how long?  Well I know because we walked up and then back down the 1/2 mile long sidewalk for a total of 1 mile of walking during our break (per TLE's GPS program on her phone).

  We arrived at the Elks Lodge about 1:45 pm after an uneventful drive.  There was one site left (50 amp no less) and we were able to back our 62' into that spot without blocking any parking traffic.  I plugged into the 50 amp receptacle and then went inside to dial in our DirecTV when we got a call from our daughter Meredith.  She calls us often when she is driving somewhere, and that was the case this day.  While we were talking to her I saw a truck and 5th wheel pull into the Lodge parking lot.  I'm thinking "Boy, I glad we got here when we did!" as I watch the gentleman park his rig and walk over to the Newell.  At first I'm thinking he thinks we are the camp host, but when I open the door he advises me he reserved the site I am in the day prior by calling the office.....DOH!  There is no indication on the website for this lodge that reservations are necessary, or allowed.  There are a number of Elks Lodges that allow, and in some cases, require a reservation due to their popularity, but they state so on their website.  Nonetheless, he had reserved and paid for our site, the last site, the day before.

So, what do we do?  It's still early in the afternoon (about 2 pm), so I ask him for some time for us to come up with a 'Plan B'.  First, I check the weather forecast....the low for night is forecast to be 52º F.....not too bad....so we decide to just move over to a far corner in the parking lot to dry camp for the night.  In the end I think we ended up with the best spot, because there is no one parked on either side of us.....total privacy.....

 I think plan 'B' worked out pretty well!

All of the others are crammed into the corner in the left background
.....by the time we disconnected, and repositioned the Newell it was after  3 pm, and time for a nap....at least for moi.  About 5 pm TLE began preparing our dinner, which consisted of baked talapia (fish), and roasted vegetables (sweet potatoes, onions, zucchini, potatoes, and garlic).  With all the cooking shows we watch I have become interested in TLE's cooking style, and how she prepares these amazing dishes from scratch day after day, so I am now taking time to watch her preparation, and asking a lot of questions.  Who knows?  Maybe I'll cook her a dinner some day.

After dinner we watched some TV, and then read before heading off to slumberland once again.....thank for stopping by!

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

West of the Mississippi!

8:16 am - Wednesday - January 16th - Marshall, TX - 48º F, 82% humidity, wind 1 mph out of the north by northeast.......cloudy today with a forecast high of 54º F.

As has been mostly the case for the past 5 days we awoke to steely gray skies and temps in the 30's in Vidalia, LA.  It was the first time I had awakened west of the Mississippi since April 29, 2018.  I had one big task to accomplish before the 11 am checkout time (besides stowing the city water hose, and electrical cord), and that was to check out our non-functioning city water pump.  This water pump is quite important while we are underway, and while we are dry camping/boondocking.  It quit working sometime Monday afternoon on our way into Vidalia.  Since our Jello plan called for us to be dry camping Tuesday evening near Tyler, TX I needed to either get this one working, or remove it and install the backup water pump we have been carrying around for 10 years for just such a situation.

The last time I had to deal with a non-functioning city water pump was almost 11 years ago, before we retired.  We were going away for a long weekend in the Newell and I discovered the water pump was not working.  We were going to dry camp along the Pacific Ocean north of Ventura, CA and needed it to be working.  I was still learning about our new to us 1982 Newell and just assumed the pump was broken and needed to be replaced, so I ran out and bought a brand new one at a local RV store.  Without checking the electrical connections to the current pump I just removed it and installed the new one.  It also did not work.....hmmm.  Must be the electrical connections, right?  I checked both the supply wire and the ground wire and found the ground wire was bad, so I replaced it and the new pump began working.  Since, apparently, the old pump was, indeed, working I decided to save it and keep it for an emergency.  Well, 10+ years later that emergency had reared its ugly head.

This time I checked the ground and the supply wires first, and found them to be fine, so I just removed the old 'new' pump and reinstalled the original pump.....

 The now non-functioning Shurflo water pump removed, and back in its original box from 10 years ago

The original Shurflo water pump reinstalled after a 10 year hiatus.......it still works!

.....in all it took me about hour to reinstall the original Shurflo pump, and we were good to go.  It was now after 10 am and time to get rolling!

We still had some 50+ miles left to travel on US-425 north to I-20, and then another 170+ to our destination for the day.....Marshall, TX.  The last time we were in Texas was back in late April when we passed through Amarillo, TX......

 The birthplace of my brother-in-law, Glenn Parker

......when we had covered about half the distance TLE received a call from her sister, Laureen, advising we would be passing through the birthplace of her husband, Glenn....Mangham, LA.....TLE made sure to snap a picture of the town welcoming sign for posterity's sake.

US-425 is a divided highway all the way to I-20.....very nice highway!

Just before 12 pm we merged on to I-20 westbound, and within 30 miles came to a very nice Rest Area where we decided to take an extended break, including a 1 mile walk around the Rest Area.  We needed to take on some propane as our 60 gallon propane tank was down to 1/4 full.  That's probably good for another few weeks, but I am all about taking advantage of opportunities when they present themselves, and there was a Flying 'J' truck stop about 20 miles before Marshall, TX that had a propane station, so we exited the Interstate around 3:15 pm to do just that.  We received good service and were quickly back on the road after taking on 33.2 gallons of propane......hmmm....we had way more left than I thought....those rascally analog gauges can be so inaccurate!  

By 4 pm we had exited the Interstate just east of Marshall, TX to avail ourselves of another Passport America park.  We had planned to dry camp at a Cracker Barrel, but the temps were going to be very cold Tuesday night, so we opted to 'plug in' for $20.  In all we covered just over 235 miles and had a very good driving day.....flat and straight!  We finally got sun late in the day, but by the time the sun set it was to a steely gray sky once again.  

Thanks for stopping by!

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

'Paying the rent'......

7:31 am - Tuesday - January 15th - Vidalia, LA - 39º F, 85% humidity, wind 4 mph out of the north by northeast.......mostly cloudy right now, but forecast calls for mostly sunny later today with a forecast high here in Vidalia of 51º F.

We awoke to bitter cold, slate gray skies at Lamar-Dixon Expo Center,  and nothing changed all day long.  We had first to disconnect from our full hookup site, then drive about 7 miles over to a fuel station to 'pay the rent'.  It had been almost 900 miles since we took on diesel just north of Crystal Springs, FL and we were down to just under a quarter tank.  Using Gas Buddy I found a station selling #2 diesel at $2.39/gallon.....that is a full .40 cents less per gallon than the last fill-up, so diesel is finally beginning to drop.  We took on 125 gallons and change for $300.  When we are moving every few days we 'pay the rent' more often.  Prior to taking on fuel in Crystal Springs we hadn't had to 'pay the rent' since we topped off our diesel tank in Lebanon, KY back on in late October.  We determined we had average 6.9 mpg on this last tank of diesel.....slightly higher than the 6.7 mpg we averaged on the previous tank.

By the time we finished 'paying the rent' it was after 10:30 am, and time to get moving!  We had a very modest goal for the day.....just 117 miles north to Vidalia, LA (just across the river from Natchez, MS).  Based on recommendations from our hosts Forest and Cindy we left I-10 in Baton Rouge to merge with I-110 which eventually took us to SR-61 north to Natchez, MS.....

SR-61 northbound....a nice divided highway all the way to Natchez

......the traffic was quite lite on SR-61, and the super cold weather clung to us like white on rice for the entire drive.  We had all our chassis heater blowers on high for the entire drive north.  

By the time we hit Natchez and turned left on US-425 to cross the Mississippi it was about 12:45 pm.  In another 15 minutes we were entering the gates of River View RV Park and Resort right on the Mississippi River in Vidalia, LA.

River View is a Passport America park enabling us to stay in a $50/night pull through site for just $25 and change for one night.  We have never camped on the banks of the Mississippi River so this was a perfect opportunity to cross that item off our proverbial bucket list.

Once I had connected us to the pedestal supplying water and power we took a walk along the River covering about 2 miles round trip......

Big barge headed north on the mighty Mississippi

We just came across that bridge a few minutes ago....Natchez is on the right, and we are on the Vidalia side.....walking into the wind and all bundled up

Backs to the wind now.....

........River View is a very, very nice park sporting a large pool, and Jacuzzi.  The interior roads are gravel, but there are many long concrete pads in the pull through sites, which are very level, thank you very much!

Tuesday we will finish our trek northward to I-20 which we will take westward to Dallas where we will begin to angle north and west eventually hitting I-40 in Amarillo, TX.  That will take us almost all the way home.

Thanks for stopping by!

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Monday, January 14, 2019

Sunday, Sunday.......

6:46 am - Monday - January 14th - Gonzales, LA - 41º F, 78% humidity, wind 6 mph out of the the north......partly cloudy today with a forecast high of 54º F.  We roll our wheels in 3 hours!

Sunday was to be our last full day in Gonzales, and it was bitter cold most of the day.  The original forecast called for partly cloudy skies, but that did not materialize until late afternoon when it finally did warm up a little.  

About noon time I went out to dump our black tank, and found it still quite cold.....had to wear pants, a watch cap and hooded jacket.  Even here in the deep south it is quite cold this winter....at least colder than I was expecting.  On the other hand, our time in Florida was quite warm and humid....again, not what I was expecting based on previous visits this time of year.

We spent a goodly portion of Sunday morning, and early afternoon watching English Premier Soccer, and staying inside due to the cold....at least the humidity has been in the 70's, so we've got that going for us!  With the soccer matches playing in the background I spend time researching our route, and overnight options for the Canadian portion of our journey to Alaska, and making notes.

Around 4 pm we drove over to Forest and Cindy's home to have some additional discussions about our upcoming Alaska adventure, and take a look at our proposed route on a large map which comes with the publication called Milepost (Forest has the 2017 edition, and we have pre-ordered the 2019 edition to be received sometime in March) on which we traced our proposed route with a pink highlighter.  Being able to see it all on one page gives a lot of perspective.  The distance we will travel from SoCal to Alaska and back is just slightly further than we will have covered when we arrive back home from our 9 month trip to Maine (plus all over New England, down to Florida and home).

About 5:30 we headed out for dinner at a regional chain called 'Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers'.....they have only one item on their menu......Chicken Fingers....that's it!  They may only serve one thing, but they do it very well.  TLE and I shared the 'Caniac Combo Box' which includes 6 large chicken fingers, fries, and coleslaw......just the perfect proportions for us.

By 6:30 we were finished with dinner, and this final, in person round of Alaska planning, so we said our 'until next times', and headed home.  I caught the last 2 minutes of the Saints vs. Eagles NFL game, won by the Saints 20-14.

Thanks for stopping by!

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