Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Hightailing it to North Carolina

After we stored the motor home in Del Rio we headed east.  Our destination was Robin's parents' house in Weaverville, NC just outside of Asheville.

Vagabonding Requires a Certain Mindset
We meet people all the time who travel serendipitously - no itinerary and few plans.  I also read some blogs and participate in some forums that are full of this type of travelers.  I dream about the spontaneous and complete freedom of these folks.  Robin and I have tried it but we just can't get our arms around it.  After a few days we feel anxious and end up planning a route and a destination.  I know we are missing some great points of interest but we get destination oriented and away we go.   Sheesh.  Maybe we'll get it some day...

Great Friends, Great Food and Contented Cows in Victoria
We took off from Del Rio and hit it hard - no relaxing this day - across the state to Victoria, TX.   We were going to visit with good friends Brenda and Larry.

Brenda and I worked together at the Attorney General's Office for the last couple years of both of our careers.  Brenda hired me into the field support side of things when I realized it was time for me to move away from IT.  My time working with her were definitely some of the best years of my career.  We clicked and were a great team.

Brenda and Larry treated Robin and me to a marvelous evening at their home.  They have a small ranch near Victoria.  Their home is like something out of Southern Living.  Beautiful!  The yard is perfect for relaxing and visiting.

The evening was splendid.  We all had a grand time on their patio:  steaks on the grill, a little wine and great conversation.  Before dinner, around dusk, they took us on a tour of their ranch. They don't have a lot of cows but the ones they have are certainly pampered.    How to describe them?   They just looked - happy.  Very contented cows.  These are beef and breeders, no dairy cows, but they were as happy as any dairy cow I've ever seen.  Given their ranch and the care that Larry dotes on them I think I wouldn't mind living there myself!!!

The evening ended too soon.  We left with fond "Good Byes" and promises to get together again.  Brenda and Larry have a neat old Airstream trailer that they have done a bunch of restoration work on.  They travel as much as they can so we're confident we'll meet up sometime, somewhere.

After leaving Brenda & Larry's, we went to Goliad State Park for the night.  This is definitely a no-frills park.  The campground is pretty much just a large parking lot with an island of hookups in the center.  It was fine for an overnighter.  We would not hesitate to stop there again.   It was pretty late when we arrived so we did not get to explore before turning in.

Little Rock and the Clinton Library
The next morning we packed up and worked our way north-easterly through Houston and on to Little Rock, Arkansas.  Nothing of interest, just hammer down and pound out miles.

We spent the night right on the river in Little Rock.  Easy access to the river front activities and the Clinton Library.  The park could have been something terrific with their location but they missed the mark.  No frills.  The restrooms were barely adequate.   We will most likely not return.  Too bad, it has potential to be pretty neat.

The next day we went to the Clinton Library.  We walked in, looked around and decided that, being the skinflints that we are, it was not worth $14.

We left Little Rock and headed for Tennessee.  What a beautiful state.  We always enjoy passing through.  Interstate 40 is in much better shape than in the past.  It's a long drive west to east tho.

Relaxin' Through Tennessee
We did slow down a bit in Tennessee.  We saw Natchez Trace State Park on the map so we decided to check it out.  Wow!  What a great park.  The campground was perfect.  We drove around and picked a spot, got set up and then walked around a bit.  There is a lake and the people were very friendly.  The restroom and laundry facilities were top notch.  Clean, well kept and private.  This park rates very high on our scale.  Without a doubt, we'll be returning.

The next day, more travel and an early night at our first TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) park:  Melton Hill Dam.  Another hit.  It was fun driving through seeing all the campers decorated for Halloween.  We spent another comfortable night.  We'll be returning there too.

Phil Knocks One Out of the Park in Knoxville
We left Melton Hill and drove a short while into Knoxville.  We wanted to visit friends Phil and Dixie.  Phil was in the hospital recovering from a recent hip replacement.  We were pleasantly surprised by his recovery.  The last time we saw him he was very uncomfortable and not moving too well.  Now, just a few days post surgery and still in the hospital, he looked and sounded better than we had seen him for some time.  Good Job, Phil!  Definitely a home run!   Dixie is a rock; one incredible woman.  I could spend a full blog entry on nothing but this neat couple.  We consider ourselves privileged to be counted among their friends.

We left Phil and Dixie and made the short trip on to Robin's parents' home outside Asheville where we spent most of November.

We hit it hard for a bit and then slowed down.  We got to see great friends and some new areas.  Can't ask for more than that while we're "Chasin' Our Dreams!"

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Wyoming to Texas ... via North Carolina

A Round-About Path From Wyoming to Texas For the Winter

And the Beet Goes On...
We left Yellowstone on September 26.  Our first stop was Cody, WY.  We parked for a few days in anticipation of working the sugar beet harvest.  We had been accepted for positions on the loaders for the duration of the short harvest.  Unfortunately for us, the harvest started early and due to our commitment to Yellowstone, we were not available.

The harvest lasts a few short weeks.  The weather dictated it to begin around the 17th of September; we did not finish in Yellowstone until the 26th.  That date combined with travel time made us unavailable until the 27th at the very earliest.   We would have missed the first 10 days of a 21 to 28 day harvest.

The employment agency in Billings, MT was great.  We clicked with the agent when we met her earlier in the year.  She understood our schedule problem so she offered us positions at the factory in Worland, WY.  We agreed to her offer but as the time drew near we decided that we were more interested in the experience of the harvest in the field rather than the factory, so we opted out of the opportunity.

How About Heading South?
That freed us up for October and November.
What to do, what to do.  Hmmmm.
We decided to run down to Del Rio, TX and store the motor home until December 1st when we begin our Seminole Canyon stint.

We delayed leaving Cody for a bit and spent time visiting my sister and her husband.  Fall was in the air; things were getting cold.  It was not too surprising when the RV park owner notified us we needed to leave so he could winterize the park and close for the season.

We packed up and headed south.  Our route had stops in Rawlins, WY,  Cheyenne,WY,  Lamar, CO, Amarillo, TX,  Big Spring, TX and finally, Del Rio.

This was mostly a reverse of our trip north earlier in the year.  We again, stayed a couple days in Amarillo and relaxed.  We had dinner at the famous "Big Texan" restaurant.  I was not up to the 72 ounce steak so I did not compete to see if I could eat one in an hour.  If you can eat the steak plus some sides within an hour you get it free.  Big Texan has been featured on many of the food programs on TV.

The 2nd Largest Canyon in the Country
You may recall that when we were in Amarillo a few months ago, we had planned to visit Palo Duro Canyon State Park.  The weather was so hot we decided to pass.  This time we went to the park.

WOW!  It is incredible.  There is no indication of its existence as you travel across the plains.  Suddenly, the ground opens and the  H-U-G-E canyon is presented.

I lifted this text from the above link:
"...The canyon is 120 miles long, as much as 20 miles wide, and has a maximum depth of more than 800 feet. ... It is often claimed that Palo Duro Canyon is the second largest canyon in the United States."

We spent some time at the Visitor Center and then explored the campgrounds.  We talked about a volunteer stint and so we had to inspect the bathrooms in one camping loop.  There were just a few people in the park that day.  A couple was walking in our direction when we emerged from the bathroom.  They waved and shouted "Hi!"

We met up and began visiting.  They were the camp hosts for the loop.  We talked about a possible stint.  We ended up visiting for an hour or so.  Great people.  The information was so good that we did contact the volunteer coordinator about a position.  Unfortunately, their seasons were booked up for the next year.  Rats.

We got on the list in case anyone cancels.  We'll see what happens.

Another Remarkable Encounter
While visiting with the hosts we got to talking about RVs.  Nothing unusual there.  Rigs are the main topics for many conversations in this lifestyle.  Great ice breakers and always a common interest.

Anyway, the conversation progressed to a point where they were telling us about a family member who has a Wanderlodge bus RV.  He was telling me about a great mechanic the family member had found.  Then he said something about Indiana.  My ears pricked up.

I interrupted him and asked for clarification on the family member and Indiana.  He told me the family member (unfortunately, I don't recall the exact relationship so I'll refer to him as "FamMem") is a commercial pilot and lives in Houston, TX.  He said there is a familial connection with Muncie, Indiana.   Hmmmmm.  Could it be????

I asked if FamMem was by any chance married to a Houston veterinarian who is dealing with some severe health issues.  I'm angry at myself for not being able to recall the host's name so I'll have to refer to him as "Host".  Anyway...

When I asked about the veterinarian connection etc., Host's eyes grew large and he said "Yes that's them!"  I laughed as I told Host about an encounter at a remote RV park in Muncie a year or so ago.

Remember from earlier posts that Robin and I spent some time last year in Muncie while we visited our daughters and family?

While there I noticed a nice Wanderlodge RV enter the park.  Later I saw an attractive woman emerge with a large dog.  She and the dog went for a walk.

A bit later I had an opportunity to visit with the guy from the Wanderlodge.  During our chat he mentioned that they are from Houston where he is a commercial pilot and his wife is a veterinarian  He also said she is dealing with some severe health issues.  I was touched by how he talked about his wife.  He was so much in love and concerned for her well being.  It was a special encounter that I have thought about many times.

I've even spent some time on the Internet to see if I could find any information on her condition.   I did not find any, tho.

Anyway, back to Palo Duro...
Robin and I and the Hosts all had a good laugh over the coincidence.  I was relieved to hear that Dr. FamMem is still with us.

I pray that her health improves.  FamMem's love is so strong.   Pretty neat....

The crazy things we experience and the small world we travel still amaze us!!

Headin' South - No Room At The Inn
We returned to Amarillo and left a day or two later.

All went well until we got to to our planned stopover at Big Spring, TX.  We had not made a reservation and were surprised when we could not find a place to park for the night.  The oil and natural gas boom, combined with many huge wind generator projects had all the RV parks chock full. Nothing was available.  Good for them.  Glad to see all the prosperity!  Guess we had better move on...

We checked the map and saw San Angelo State Park about 90 miles south.  A quick phone call had us confirmed for a night.  Problem solved.

Sssssay, Can I Have Ssssssome Privacy?
The drive to San Angelo was uneventful.  We got there around 9:00pm; way later than we like to travel.  We got all set up and walked over to the bath house.  Robin walked in and immediately emerged; her eyes as big as saucers.  "There's a snake in there!"
"Cool!" I replied and headed in.
Along with being surprised, her big eyes clearly indicated she thought I was crazy.

Sure enough, there was a snake.  I don't know much about them so I could not identify it.  I did note that it did not have any rattles nor a viper head, so I was not concerned.  I watched it slither through a hole in the wall behind the commode.  I'm sure it wanted to get away from me far more than I wanted to be gone from it.  If it came back in through the hole in the wall I bet someone else got a surprise later on.

Good Time Near Goodfellow
The next day we extended our stay for a bit - Isn't this retired and free lifestyle great???

We explored San Angelo.  I was stationed at Goodfellow Air Force Base for six months in 1977 for a school.  I don't recall much about the city.  Our visit did not trigger any deja vu.  I suspect it has changed quite a bit in the past 30+ years.  Boy, time sure does fly...

South to the Border, Down Del Rio Way
A few days later we put San Angelo in our mirror and headed for southwest Texas.  Del Rio is right on the US-Mexico border.  Our ultimate destination, Seminole Canyon State Park, is 40 miles west of Del Rio.  Our plan was to store the motor home in Del Rio and take the truck and trailer to North Carolina for a family visit through Thanksgiving.

We arrived in Del Rio and got the motor home settled in for a 6 week nap.  We patted her good by, jumped in the truck and pointed our noses east toward our next adventure while "Chasin' Our Dreams!"