Thursday, December 30, 2010

Hunkered Down in Benson

While most of our blog entries have been about the fascinating new (and warmer) places we visit, for the present southern Arizona is unusually cold and windy. With temps in the 30s and our anemometer recording wind speeds in the 25 mph range it was a good day stay inside and prepare some taco soup in the Crock Pot. The local news here is filled with stories of road closings and warnings about temps dropping far below freezing. If it does snow in Tucson the roads are closed; end of story, there are no plows here to clear the streets. My short drive into town today included some light sleet and snow but it was actually the wind driven tumbleweeds that hindered my travel. These lightweight 3 foot diameter bouncing dead weeds probably wouldn't do the car any harm but I chose to avoid them when possible.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Tombstone Arizona

Tombstone is one of those places I love coming back to again and again. Sure, it has its share of tourist gimmicks, but beneath all that there is some real unspoiled history and architecture here. Today we browsed the courthouse museum, a two story victorian structure built in 1882.

The gallows behind the courthouse left me with a bit of a chill as well as that Old West feeling.

There were more street performers and horses than I've seen on previous visits. Perhaps this is because of the Christmas and New Years holidays. This photo was a rare photo op., seven horses at the hitching post and the stagecoach coming in.

This is a tourist trap I can enjoy. Lunch at Big Nose Kate's Saloon with live music and dancing.

Now, that's a serious mug of beer!

Why let them come in at all?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas from Arizona

Texas Canyon, Arizona After opening our presents this morning we wanted to do something outdoors to enjoy the nice weather. Everything is closed for the holiday in Bisbee and Tombstone so we headed to the Dragoon/Texas Canyon area.

Thursday we made the 450 mile trip from our New Mexico camp to Benson Arizona in one day. Normally we don't like to travel this far in one day but thought it would be easy because the miles go by so fast here in the west. While most of the trip was easy the first 100 miles involved a high mountain pass. Before ascending the east slope of this pass several signs warned us that this route was going to be steep and high. "Trucks over 11 tons without an exhaust brake or more than 65' are not permitted on this route" is what the sign read. O.K., we're just under 65' and have an exhaust brake; we've come this far so lets go for it. About 50 miles from the top it started to get foggy and rain a bit; uh oh, sure hope it's not snow when we get to Cloudcroft, elev.8700'.

When we reached Cloudcroft it had in fact snowed sometime earlier. Fortunately the skies were clearing and the threat of precipitation or ice were no longer a possibility. All we had to do is 20 miles or so down the west side.

The descent down the west side was not as gradual as the climb on the east side. As if the 16 mile long, 6% grade and sheer drop off into the canyon below were not enough they added a tunnel just to make sure everyone has a white knuckle experience on the way down. Tunnel, yikes??!!! Nobody said anything about a tunnel 100 miles ago; sure hope it's at least 12'-6", no way I'm stoppin' this thing now. Despite the steep grade the exhaust brake and lower gears did their job to keep the speed of our 16 tons in check until we reached the valley below. Whew!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Carlsbad, New Mexico

Carlsbad Caverns is better than all the other caverns I've been to during my lifetime. End of rave! A must see!

The highway sign for the cavern is the same as it was in the days of "Leave it to Beaver". We had lunch there and give it a 4 star, farm to fork recommendation.

Once you leave the highway there's a 7 mile climb up through Walnut Canyon to get to the Cavern. A bonus we didn't expect!

The natural cave entrance looking up, way up! Down we go, 750 feet down a 20 percent grade to reach the bottom. We walked about 3 miles today, underground!

Ranger Martha

Mmmm??? Stalagmite or stalactite? Tights fall down, right?

Some cave formations are most unusual.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Land of Enchantment

How do we find these great campsites? When we left Texas I thought it would be a long time before we stayed in a place so perfect. Here at Lake Brantley, New Mexico it's even better. Not only does the sun rise in our bedroom and set in our living room but we can see Lake Brantley from both sides of the motorhome.

A huge campsite with our own covered picnic table.

Our first sunset here was the best we've ever seen in our lives. When we went outside it filled the sky for 360 degrees. There was no way I could capture it in a single photo that would do it justice. This photo from the drivers' seat is but a small portion of this amazing event that lasted for about 20 minutes.

Charlie saw her first Prickly Pear today.

There's a big Yucca right in our site. Today was a sandals, shorts and capris day, 78 degrees!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Late Sunrise

As you can see in the header photo the windmill looked quite different at sunrise this morning. I took the photo of our rig parked at the rest stop just before sunrise this morning at 7:45 AM. We're so far west in the central time zone that everything comes later. By this afternoon we'll be on Mountain Time when we reach New Mexico.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

West Texas

This morning we headed west and ended up in the Fort Stockton area of Texas. Even though we enjoyed Lake Whitney so much it felt good to be on the move again. We continued to stay on secondary roads and the avoided the interstate. The speed limit is the same (70 mph) and there is better scenery and almost no traffic. It was big day for Dessy as she added a fifth digit to her odometer-10,000+ miles now. Temps here are 70 degrees at 7:30pm and absolutely no wind. Tomorrow we have to decide whether to go to Big Bend National Park or Carlsbad Caverns.

Only in Texas!

Almost a full moon tonight. We're parked for the night right next to this windmill.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

We don't want to Leave

It has been wonderful to spend a whole week in one place. We have made new friends, explored the small town of Whitney and been able to feel more at home in the rig (we let ourselves get a little messy). Terry even relaxed enough to sit outside in the sun while reading!!! But, since the high desert in Arizona is calling to us, tomorrow we'll hit the highway westbound towards New Mexico.

The bluff overlooking Lake Whitney has provided us with many memorable sunsets.

Many warm days have allowed us to explore most of the park on foot. The shoreline here offers sandy beaches as well as rugged mini-cliffs like this portion we traversed today.

This fossil-like impression was discovered on the shoreline by our new friends and neighbors, Clif & Carol. It's a big imprint of what?, is how old? -- any thoughts?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Warm in Waco


We had some Christmas shopping to finish and wanted stores besides Walmart so we headed to Waco; the mall was a nice one and we found what we were looking for (ssshhh it's a secret) but Christmas shopping when it is 78 degrees was strange to say the least. On the way back to Lake Whitney we searched the FM radio for some Christmas tunes to get us into the holiday spirit.

After a long day of hitting the shopping centers Martha relaxed to watch a little TV. Much to my surprise we get 14 channels with our little roof top antenna (6 channels are en Espanol).

Buzzards fly around here all day long. This flock was getting ready to roost for the night, well until my camera flash sent them all flying.

The dam that creates Lake Whitney.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

We Love Lake Whitney Texas


We liked Lake Whitney so much we decided to stay a whole week. Not only do we love this state park for the peacefulness and views of the lake but we have made some new friends too. My aunt and uncle in Pennsylvania had introduced us via phone to Clif and Carol who have been full-timers for 6 years. When we saw their blog and photos of Lake Whitney we decided to try and catch up with them as we headed south in pursuit of some warmer weather. We met up with them on Sunday, swapped stories and toured each others rigs and have started a new friendship -- awesome! and we also found the warmer weather -- 73 degrees here today.

Our front windshield provides an excellent view of Lake Whitney to the southwest.

The campsite is huge with an abundance of mature trees and filtered sunshine.

The sun rises in our bedroom and sets in our living room; what more could you ask for?

Like duh! I guess when you get used to 70 mph speed limits on secondary, non limited access roads you need to be reminded to slow down.

'saw our first armadillo today, a little young-un, and later we saw a roadrunner as well, but he was too fast for my camera.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Kiva Loan to Kenya

The last couple weeks I was able to sell a number of items on eBay. This lightens our load, frees up some storage space and puts a few dollars in my paypal account. Since Kiva loans are funded by way of a paypal account it is a good time to share my good fortune.Ronald Kiboi is a single father with four school aged children living in Kitale town, Kenya. He supports his family by selling milk, maize and beans as well as his carpentry services. Ronald needs $750 to buy a power saw for his business and will repay the loan over the next 18 months.

Shortly after adding my contribution I received an email stating that this loan has been fully funded. Watch your fingers Ronald!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Windy in Texas

Last night we made camp about 100 miles south of Dallas. While the temps. here are a definite improvement it is very gusty. Several times last night I thought the winds had stopped as it would be completely calm for 20-30 minutes or so. Then a series of gusts would start to blow and rock the whole coach for several minutes. Next it would get calm again and then the whole process would repeat itself. Not at all like New England wind.

Friday, December 10, 2010

We Took a Bath

Yes, today we took a bath in the famous thermal spring waters found only in Hot Springs, Arkansas. All our aches, pains and ailments are forever gone and we now feel years younger.

During its heyday, tens of thousands of people came here by stagecoach, steamtrain, horseback or any other means to bathe in elegant bath houses in hopes of curing themselves of whatever health problems ailed them. Today it's a National Park with a museum, hiking trails, observation tower and camping as well as two fully restored, operational bathhouses. We chose the Quapaw Bathhouse on Bathhouse Row to see what this special water is all about.

There were four separate bathing pools to choose from with different temperatures in each, ranging from 90 degrees to 104 degrees. No chlorine or chemicals are used; the thermal spring water flows through continuously, much like bathing in a stream would be. We tried all four baths but agreed that the 98-100 degree one was best. The water we bathed in today, fell as rain 4000 years ago, can you imagine that? We would do this again; a must do if you are in Arkansas!

Steam could be seen all over town rising from fountains, storm drains, natural springs, leaking pipes and all manner of cracks and crevices. This National Park is considered an "urban park" as all of the hot springs are within the city limits.

Free spring water is available all over town. Spigots are provided that dispense the precious H2O at its natural temperature of 143 degrees. I asked the Park Ranger on duty if I could fill the 90 gallon fresh water tank in our RV with this spring water. She said no one had ever asked her that question, but she couldn't think of a reason why not. "My hose wouldn't reach, and I'd have to double park and hold up traffic" I replied, maybe next time.

Very few springs remain in their natural state. Most have been capped off to harvest this unique resource hidden deep below the earth's surface.

Bill Clinton's hometown too!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Village Creek State Park, Arkansas

We originally stopped at this park for a quick overnight but we liked it so much we decided to stay another night. It's a bit crowded however; we have to share 7000 acres with 3 other RVs.

That's us just below the arrow.

Martha has been apprehensive about celebrating Christmas without the "boys" this year so I followed her around Walmart today and helped her pick out stocking stuffers for them. Hope they don't believe in Santa anymore?? Later when it got up to 42 sunny degrees we hiked one of the shorter trails at the state park.

One of the highlights yesterday was crossing the Mississippi River!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

We never got to visit the airfield at Fort Campbell, weather and timing did not permit but here is a photo of a Blackhawk that Zach took this summer. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit with him and hope to visit once more before he is deployed to Afghanistan in February. We are so proud of "our" soldier and his accomplishments since he made the decision to enlist at age 17. Also we were pleased to have him "hang out" at the rig with us and get a feel for our new lifestyle.

Since Zach will be busy at work for the remainder of the week and since it was 22 degrees when we woke up this morning we are heading SOUTH, even a few degrees warmer will feel nice and maybe we can even find some sun!