Sunday, March 25, 2012

Hello from the SKP park in Livingston, TX. The plan was to be here about a week before we leave our rig here on April 14 and fly to New Orleans to begin our Spring transatlantic cruise to Barcelona. But because our fridge stopped working on propane last Wednesday, when we were in Corpus Christi, and we couldn't find a trusted person or place down in that area to get it fixed, we hot-footed it up here on Friday. When we called the recommended place, they told us they were booked up for 2 weeks!!!! After some whining by me, they agreed that I could call them at 8:30AM tomorrow and they would try to squeeze us into their schedule. So hopefully, that will happen...
Since we have been here, the weather has been bordering on HOT. Today it is about 85 outside, with no breeze. Can't believe this is March!! We are wearing shorts and tank tops and trying to get a little more tan before getting on the ship. What we are learning is that we can go just about anywhere and we will know somebody!!!! On our very first walk, around the campground loop where we are parked, out from her rig came Kathy Howe to greet us. She is the editor of the World Wide Travelers BOF monthly newsletter. Her husband, Rick, was in Houston getting some computer upgrading done. They are REALLY world travelers, having driven their Tiger traveling RV all the way from the tip of Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina, the tip of South America. We met them down there when our Around the Horn cruise stopped there in 2009. Next they shipped the Tiger to Europe, where they have been exploring for the last 2 years. They have been back in the USA for a few months while they take care of some things, including getting some needed parts for the rig. On Thursday they fly back to England to pick it up again and spend another 9 months exploring everywhere. We had a delightful Happy Hour with them yesterday here at our site:

We had several wonderful hours of travel talk with them, and another nice visit today when we went to see their Foretravel RV. They are a wonderful inspiration to all world travelers, and they do an awesome job of editing the newsletter (and writing wonderfully entertaining articles about their exploits) while they are traveling!!!
Last week, when we drove to Corpus Christi, Jan and Barry Kessler joined us at our rig for a nice Happy Hour on Wednesday. They are Boomer friends and we haven't seen them for 3 or 4 years. Here is a picture of them in our rig:

They have been volunteering at Mustang Island State Park for long stints for the past 3 years. They love it down there and so do their dogs. The next day we drove out there to see them, and the park, and Jan was working. Here is her picture in her uniform:

And here is Barry with their 2 Springer spaniels:

We went for a walk on the beach which is very flat, has a lot of seaweed, lots of sea birds, and lots of beached Portugese Man-o-wars. Here are some pictures from our outing there:

We had intended to stay in the area, camping on the beach, for about a week, but the fridge problem caused us to relocate to Rockport. We found a place there, called Camper Clinic, where they said they could fix our fridge problem on Friday. But when we went in there, we weren't comfortable with the way the place was run and the technician, and they wouldn't let us be in the area when they were working on our rig, so we left. Yesterday we were walking around this park and ran into Tom & Jeanne, a couple who used to be assistant managers at Park Sierra. They have spent lots of time in the Rockport area and they said it was a good thing we left, because that was the worst place in Rockport to get anything done.
Tonight we will go for a long walk, as it cools down. This park is so big, because there so many deeded lots, that we can get a good long walk in without going out onto the public streets.

Monday, March 19, 2012

3/19/12 Hello from San Antonio. We are parked in a WalMart parking lot and a big crack of thunder just surprised us. The weather report said that it was supposed to be a very windy and rainy day with possible flash flood warnings, but it has been warm and fairly calm and dry all day. This morning we went to an indoor mall to walk, since rain was threatening, but that was boring. So we went to the Riverwalk, down by the Alamo, and did a walk along the river there. It is so scenic and very developed in parts, with hotels and restaurants, lovely rock work, landscaping, and riverboats full of tourists floating by. Here is a picture of Elaine down there:

Yesterday we joined our friends, George Lamson & his wife, Sharon Wylie, whom we got to know on one of our December cruises on the Mariner, for a local's tour of San Antonio. It was fabulous to see them again and they did a wonderful job of sharing their city with us. First we walked through the Farmer's Market which was right in the parking lot of the Whole Foods Store at the Quarry Marketplace where we parked. Here is some of the lovely produce which was on sale:

And here are Sharon, George and Elaine in front of one of the delivery trucks, which we thought was funny:

Next we went to the Mission San Jose, one of the 5 missions established by the Spanish Franciscans in the 1700's. It is now a National Historical Park, with a very informative and interesting visitor's center and a wonderful introductory movie explaining the entire mission concept and experience from the point of view of the indigenous people at that time.

Many years ago we were here and visited the Alamo, which is also one of the original 5 missions that were built in San Antonio. It's real name is Mission San Antonio de Valero. Of course, most people think it was a fort, because of the battle that was fought there for 13 days in Feb/Mar 1836 in the struggle for Texas independence from Mexico. But, I digress. Mission San Jose is quite beautifully restored, and has a very large grassy area within it's walls. There were some lovely blooming yucca trees near the old church and here are George and Sharon looking lovely amidst the blooms:

We walked around and admired the grist mill and outer buildings while mass was in progress,

then were able to get inside to see the newly renovated interior:
Next was a delicious Mexican lunch at a small, heavily impacted restaurant that George and Sharon have been enjoying for years.

George and Sharon met while he was a career Air Force guy in Japan and she was an elementary school teacher in the Air Force school. So they took us to Fort Sam Houston, which is a huge military base encompassing Army, Air Force, and medical training units for all the branches of the military. It was inaugurated in 1876 when Ulysses Grant was President! First we went to the Exchange, which is where George and Sharon recently spent 2 weeks displaying and selling his art work. Then we drove through the housing area for the senior officers and marveled over the elegance of the beautiful old stone houses, some of which have housed auspicious officers such as Eisenhower.

Then we went to the Quadrangle, which is the former command area and one of the oldest parts of the base. Here is the clock tower there:

We were first confronted by a number of peacocks, with the males intently displaying for the females:

Across the quadrangle there was a compound where there were a number of deer:

Usually these deer are out, munching on the vast expanse of grass in the quadrangle, but this day they were happy to remain in their shelter. Then we passed a couple of geese who were busy protecting their eggs:

After a couple of other stops, for a fudge sample, and to wander around the garden of the McNay Art Museum, we reluctantly said goodbye to Sharon & George. Happily, they will be on board the Voyager with us on April 14 as we sail from New Orleans to Barcelona, and then on to Dubai.
Prior to coming to San Antonio, we spent 5 days at the SKP park called Lone Star Corral at Hondo, TX, directly west of this city.

Almost as soon as we arrived, we ran into Rich Peterson. He has a lot at this park and we know him from the World Wide Travelers BOF, and Boomers. He invited us over for Happy Hour and we had several hours of interesting travel talk. He has had an RV in Europe for many years, as well as one here, so he is quite the busy world traveler!

Then we met Evelyn and Walker Lane, almost the newest members of Park Sierra. They have a lot at this SKP park too, and were right across from the boondocking area where we were parked. The next day they graciously hosted us for lunch at a local restaurant in D'Hanis, called Bill and Rosa's Steak House and Saloon:

We will be looking forward to getting to know them better whenever the 4 of us are at Park Sierra at the same time. (How likely is that???!!!)
One unique thing about the Lone Star Corral is that they have "sheds" that are built by each lot holder, so they vary from very small storage sheds, to large living room areas with kitchens and bathrooms. The only requirement is that they be smaller than 288 sq ft and they can't sleep in them. Here is one of the more humorous ones:

There was a variety of landscaping also, of course, and here is a picture of Texas Bluebonnets, which are in bloom everywhere along the roadsides at this time of year:

One of the serendipity moments that occurs in this lifestyle happened on our 3rd day there. We ran into Paul and Judy Johnson, from Maine.

They were our neighbors at the Boomer gathering in Quartzsite in January. They were only at the park for one night, and Paul happened to spot us on our way back from a walk. We had a delightful evening with them and then they were on their way again.
No wonder we still love this RVing lifestyle, even though we are in our 18th year!!!
Tomorrow, we are off to Corpus Cristi. Jan & Barry Kessler are working at Mustang Island State Park and we hope to see them, while also spending some alone time on one of the off shore islands.

Monday, March 12, 2012

3/12/12 This post is being written while we are driving across west Texas – BORING!!!! Elaine is listening to an audio book while driving and I am on the computer. We are hoping to be in the San Antonio area sometime tomorrow or Wednesday. Haven’t been there for years, and it was so much fun and interesting the last time we were there.
We have been visiting lots of friends since we left Elaine’s relatives in Tucson. First we drove to Benson and stayed at the SKP park there. Kartchner Caverns are only about 20 miles from there so we made a reservation and went the next day. When these caverns were first opened up to the public as a state park in 1988, it was very difficult to get a reservation. Now it is fairly easy. The caverns were discovered in 1977 by some amateur cavers, and were kept a secret, even from the family that owned the land, because the 2 guys who found the caves didn’t want them ruined by the public or profiteers. After investigating the owner and learning that he was a former science teacher and conservationist, they knew that they could tell the owner (Kartchner), and they all then worked with the state to get the caves protected and properly prepared for low impact viewing by the public.

There is a very nice interpretive center, with exhibits, pictures and information about the cave and also the surrounding area. The grounds are nicely landscaped

and there is a small cafĂ© for food, as well as picnic areas and also a couple of hiking trails. You can’t take anything into the cave, so taking pictures was out. Here is a picture of a picture in the info area which shows the very largest formation in the cave, called Kublai Khan.

An electric tram takes people to the entrance, and then you go through several sets of airlock doors so that the outside air can’t get into the cave to change the environment. It is about 72F and 99% humidity inside the cave. There are 2 tours; we toured the Big Room. The tour lasted 1 ¾ hours and cost $22.95. Our guide, a park ranger, was very informative and fun. Tours are limited to 20, and only 700 people a day can be accommodated.
After the tour, we were met by some RV friends, Warren and Carolyn Miller, who are volunteering at this state park for 6 weeks. There are 24 full hookup sites for volunteers in a nearby area, so we had Happy Hour in their 5th wheel.

The wind was starting to come up pretty forcefully, so it was nice to be inside. We spent several interesting hours with them “talking travel”, since they had recently returned from a trip to Indochina with Intrepid Travel, our favorite small group tour company. Luckily, they had a marvelous time, since we had recommended this company to them. It was a trip down memory lane to hear all about their adventures.
The next day we hunkered down in our RV because it was blowing so hard we didn’t want to set foot outside. Elaine was feeling a bit punk anyway, and I started doing the taxes. Dinner was at Mick & Ann Mielicke’s rig, and when we went out to get into the car to drive up there, the salad we were bringing just about was blown right out of the bowl! Ann had a delicious veggie dinner ready to bake

because we had previously discussed our latest evolution in eating – trying to get away from eating meat. Watching the movie “Forks Over Knives” has had a serious impact on us, and we are trying to stay healthy even as we slide swiftly towards our 70’s. The meal was delicious and we enjoyed catching up on all their news and plans. They are leaving for Africa in mid-April with Marilyn and Mike Harrison. Here is a picture of them at the table in their new 5th wheel, a Mobile Estates. Quite fancy, and with beautiful wood and a spacious layout.

The next day we drove east with the intention of stopping at the Chiricahua National Monument, an interesting geological wonder not far off the freeway between Benson and the state line. But it was still very cold and Elaine still wasn’t up to doing much. We also wanted to get to Las Cruces by the evening because we were staying at Stephanie and Paul Bernhagen’s and she had to leave the next day for a weekend book fair in Tucson. Good thing we were staying in their side yard where they have hookups because it got pretty cold that night and stayed that way until Sunday! Stephanie and Paul are always warm and welcoming and we enjoyed the evening with them.

Saturday and Sunday Elaine laid around on the couch and recovered, and I worked on taxes. Paul has a handyman business and is currently involved in setting up several solar systems for customers, so he was busy during the days an d then we fixed dinner for him each evening. It was a great chance to get to know him better.
Sunday we drove all of 38 miles south and set up at the WalMart in El Paso nearest to the home of one of our cruise buddies, Pene Demore. We got to know her and her husband, Ken in 2009 on the 46 day Around the Horn cruise. Unfortunately, Ken died on the ship just before the cruise ended in Los Angeles. Pene has been adjusting to her new and different life without him, and we have been on several more cruises with her in the last2 years. She is so much fun, and as soon as we called she drove right over to pick us up and also see our RV. Here she is sitting with Elaine in our rig.

First she took us to Jaxson’s, a nearby brew pub and restaurant and we had a light lunch, and a brew, of course. Then she gave us the $10 tour of El Paso. Here is a picture of me with her at one of the overlooks

And here is a view of downtown El Paso from the overlook.

On the cruises, one of our favorite things is to join our friends in the Concierge Lounge at 5PM and have drinks and appetizers and talk. This day we went to Pene’s house where she had wonderful appetizers, and we brought the California wine.

One of the interesting and delicious appetizers was local chilis which had been roasted and cleaned, then spread with honey, Greek yogurt, half a Kalamata olive, and a small slice of jalapeno pepper – yum.

Then Pene fixed a delicious dinner of spicy shrimp and grits, with salad and more wine, of course, served in her spacious dining room.

We were STUFFED by the end of the day, but what a great visit we all had. Pene has “found herself” in the aftermath of dealing with her grief, and is embracing life and her new self.
As we rocket through west Texas, we are making loose plans to spend some time visiting even more cruise and RV friends, while having more alone time at some of the beaches and state parks. But tomorrow night's goal is to be at the SKP park in Hondo, just outside San Antonio.

Monday, March 05, 2012

3/5/12 Hello from the SKP park at Benson, where it has been warm and mostly sunny, except for an overcast day today. Our Boomer friends, Mick & Ann Meilicke have a lot here and we had a nice visit with them. Also, RoVing Rods friends, Warren & Carolyn Miller are volunteers at Kartchner caverns, which are about 15 miles from here. So tomorrow we are going for a tour there, and also a visit with them.
In Tucson we had a very nice visit with Elaine's sister, Penny, and their aunt, Marion. Aunt Marion lets us park our RV in her driveway. Here we are with Aunt Marion and you can see part of the backyard behind us. There are lots of nice cactus plants, cholla, etc.

Everyday Penny came over and walked with us in the neighborhood. In this picture of Penny and Elaine you can see an interesting saguaro cactus behind them with what looks like a very malformed top.

One day Aunt Marion's friend, Louise, took Elaine and me out for lunch at El Charro.
Louise is on the left in this picture.

El Charro is the oldest Mexican restaurant in the USA which has been continuously owned and operated by the same family since 1922. There was quite and extensive menu and the food was delicious too. Tucson has a large Hispanic population and it is loaded with good Mexican restaurants.
Dinner every night was in our rig because Elaine and I cook a lot, especially since we started going about 90% vegetarian, and not eating meat, just seafood. This gave us a chance to catch up on Aunt Marion's doings because she is so active and busy she was hardly ever around during the day. She is doing fabulously well, especially considering
that she will be 90 in August! Here is the venerable lady with her two neices:

We only stayed 5 days because we were getting nervous about a pack rat problem that was in the neighborhood. One of them had eaten into the insulation in the engine compartment of Aunt Marion's car. Another neighbor had a major electrical problem in his RV because the rats had chewed the wires. So Aunt Marion got Bob, a neighbor, to set 2 rat traps in the area of our rig every night, and yes, the first night he caught one!
Thursday we will hit the road again and head for Las Cruces and El Paso.