Saturday, October 31, 2009

Motorcycle Play...

After finishing the trailer, we had a couple blustery days. Not cold, but lots of wind. Today was a perfect motorcycle-kinda day: cool enough to be comfortable in a light jacket, boots, and helmet. It's been several months (before we left to cruise the Erie Canal) since I've gotten in a good ride, and I made up for that today. The V-Strom is a great bike: nimble, gutsy, and comfortable riding position. The only thing missing around here are the great motorcycle roads we enjoyed so much up north (in the Black Hills)... the terrain here is flat and most of the roads are relatively straight. There's plenty of back roads so you can stay away from the crazy-ass drivers, but no hills and twisties that are so much fun to ride through.

The cool temps? It was 61º this morning, warming into the upper 70s. Sunny and not a lot of wind. A fine day to be out on the motorcycle!

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Trailer Work...

For the past couple days, I've been working on the motorcycle trailer. Once we brought it south, it has been a "garage" for the bike, but hasn't really been set up for the road. It came with a wheel chock and tie downs... but they were just OK.

We picked up materials to build a shelf and a coat rod. I picked up a decent wheel chock. We put in some storage drawers that we had in the toy hauler. The trailer is ready to roll when we are... with the motorcycle and all the stuff that goes with it.

When I was done, Joan brought out the vacuum cleaner and tidied up the mess I left. She also started suggesting where I should hang things... I had to stop her. When we were moving back in from the RV, I asked where I should put a load of household items... she said, "Put it in my room." We have a room in our small house that has her desk and office stuff and my music equipment; that's the room she meant. All the other rooms are "ours". I don't have one that is mine. I declared the cargo trailer MY room. It may not be pretty, it may not be neat; it isn’t heated or air conditioned; it doesn’t even have a window. But, it’s the closest thing to a “room” and I have declared it mine, mine, mine!

And on the really bright side: the trailer is DONE! Well, maybe it would look even better with some cool stripes? Or a little sign on the door that reads, “Jim’s Room.” And a satellite dish would be kinda fun. I better not press my luck or I might be sleeping out there.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Settling in

The HitchHiker is back in storage and we are settled in. Including little Izzy...

A sunset shot before we left Isla Blanca...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Movin' on up...

Well, moving out. We've taken our time moving back into the house. We were really looking forward to having the 5th wheel at the beach, but this red tide situation ended that idea. We will be back in the house tonight. And didn't get a single beach walk in. Stuff happens. The HH will go back into storage for a short time and we'll be looking forward to the next trip out.

The irritants in the air are much less at our house than they were on the beach. Hoping we'll be able to get the boat back in the water and be able to use the motorcycle while we're here.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Castles in the sand...

The Red Tide is a concern for those here, especially if you already have respiratory problems. Here's what time on the beach is like right now...

Who was that masked man? Yeah, they are necessary. Hopefully, the wind will change directions and blow from the southeast... that may move the red tide further out in the Gulf. In the meantime, we have been moving back into the house, but took time today to admire the sand sculptures that were built during SandCastle Days...

Just a few of the many. Real talent to make these... and knowing that Mother Nature will soon reclaim the sand.

Back at the HitchHiker, this is one of the few sites that has a double pad...

We specifically asked for this site; there are sand burrs in the grass here and the cement pad keeps that to a minimum as far as tracking them in. If the red tide improves, we'll look forward to taking Izzy for a walk... on the pavement. Oh, and in the photo above, you can see Big Red's "good side."

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Red Tide...

So... we get back, with visions of beach walking, and keeping the HH at the SPI beach park. We're down for a couple hours and discover the area is in the midst of a red tide. That's an algae in the water that kills fish and gets into the air around the "bloom"... causing irritation of the eyes and lungs. Especially a problem for folks with respiratory problems... yeah, like asthma.

We heard music coming from the beach last night, and walked the block or so to check it out. It is "Sand Castle Days" here on the island, including a sand castle building competition; last night was the party on the beach for the participants. We didn't get there in time to see the band, but we did get to see the sand sculptures - Nice! And get to experience what the red tide does to your eyes and lungs. Not fun.

We may have to re-evaluate our stay here on SPI. Where's the fun in being on the beach if you can't be on the beach?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Back in the Tropical Tip

Big Red hauled the HitchHiker back to the Tropical Tip today... didn't miss a beat, no fuss. She is scarred up, but still does the job. We'll get her fixed soon and have her looking as good as she performs. In the meantime, there's some clean up and waxing to do on the "Love Shack", some beach walking to get done, and the ever-necessary kitty petting and walking. It's a full schedule.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Spiders, scorpions, and snakes...

We left the COE campground this morning. While unhooking electricity, I did some hand-to-hand combat with the biggest black widow spider I've ever seen. I'm pretty sure I squealed like a little girl as I chased him down the side of the coach, onto the 50 amp cable, and into the storage box. I couldn't let him (or her) stay in there and reproduce. I'd like to tell you I carefully lifted it out of the box and released it into the tall grass... but, that's not the way it worked out. If they stay out of my living space, they get to live, if not, they are dispatched.

While pulling up the front landing gear on the 5th wheel, Joan flicked at something and asked, "Oooouuu, what's that?" It was a scorpion. It scampered off after the flick, so it got to live. It was a lot bigger than the spider.

And the snakes? Oh, yeah... the insurance companies.

We ambled our way south. Stopped frequently for shopping, lunch, and a Camping World. The RV park we intended to stop at was having an RV Women Rally that we didn't know about and they were completely full. We drove a bit further than we intended, but we're down for the night. It was chilly and drizzly this morning, but the further south we drove, the better the weather became. 79º, sunny, and breezy here at the Adventure Texas RV Resort.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Crash follow-up

After discussing (and a bit stronger than that) with both insurance companies, I think we have this worked out. We're not going to repair the truck in this area, but will get it done at our convenience. Unfortunately, both insurance companies had people down the "chain" who gave us less than accurate info that had to be RE-discussed further up the chain. They wasted hours of my time... and I have to say that I'm generally a pretty easy-going guy... to a point. I had to say to one rep, "My time was expensive when I was working... it is PRICELESS now that I'm retired. You don't want to waste any more of my time or I will make it my life's work to make your job a living hell. Shall we all get on the same page now?" angry

It shouldn't be necessary to bring in "supervisors" on each side to get a relatively minor incident taken care of. The guy who caused the accident admitted that it was his wrong-doing... that took care of much of the problem. Now, we just need to all come together that the truck needs to be brought back to what it was before the accident. I think we're on the road to that.

We appreciate the well-wishes.
Jim & Joan

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


It's now 11:45. At 11:00, Joan was outside... I heard her yell, "We're gonna get hit!" followed by that sickening crash noise. As I ran to the door, I hollered, "Are you OK?"

"I am, but our truck isn't!"

When I got outside, I saw a Jeep had run into the side of our beautiful Big Red. A guy with a Bounder Diesel unhooked his Jeep uphill from us, and didn't put the transfer case in gear... it rolled down the hill and smacked into the side of our truck. He was on the front of the Jeep, trying to hold it back... yeah, that trick didn't work.

The truck is drivable, but damn ugly. We've filled out insurance and police reports.

As you might imagine, this puts a crimp in our travel plans while we wait to see what's next.

Fortunately, no one was hurt. The bike rack on the back of his Jeep did a number on our truck; the rear door, cab, and bed on our truck has damage. His Jeep had damage on the rear gate.

He admitted to us and the police officer that he did not have the Jeep in gear. Excrement occurs. We've driven RVs over 300,000 miles and have come off relatively unscathed. This is an inconvenience, but it could have been a lot worse... it didn't hit the HitchHiker and the truck (while nasty looking) is still drivable. No one got hurt.

Here's an example of someone who shouldn't be driving a big coach... he has it for sale... too bad it didn't sell.

This will have an effect on our travel plans for a while.


I like that truck so much I could just about write a country song... "You done broke my heart when you broke my truck... everybody sing!"

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Time to build an ark?

We enjoyed our stay at the Lake Whitney RV Community; the premise of the RV port homes is very interesting, but the location of the park is just a bit far out for what we have in mind. We'll continue to search for the right situation.

We debated leaving today... Mother Nature showered us with rain all night. Checking with the weather weasels, it promised to be more of the same all day today. During a lull, we decided to head out. With a light sprinkle, I donned my raincoat and went out to unhook the utilities and get the coach ready to go. About the time I had everything unhooked and started backing the truck up to the 5th wheel, the sky opened up again. Too close to being ready to roll... I continued. Stepping out to lock the hitch, you could hardly see your hand in front of your face it was pounding so hard. Well, this is big fun.

Decision time: sit in the truck and wait for it to pass, rehook all the utilities and stay where we are (in the pounding rain), or put the truck in gear and pull away? Yeah, we're rolling. The two lane road from the campground to the nearest town had scads of standing water on it... the ditches on either side of the road were quickly filling... if we had waited any longer, this would only get uglier. With the wipers on their fastest setting and Big Red doing a whopping 35 mph, we made our way to the Interstate.

Less standing water on I-35, and lots more traffic. And even harder pounding rain. Nothing on the Weather Channel predicted this kind of downpour in this area. It was an hour of that while we headed south before the rain began to let up any.

Our destination for the day is the COE campground near Georgetown. When we turned off the Interstate, the precip was down to a very light mist. We drove around the campground and picked a site... something with a view of Georgetown Lake and a clear shot at the southern sky for the satellite TV.

This may be our first Corps of Engineers campground; neither of us are sure. Like most state park campgrounds, it is wooded. Electric, water, and a paved site. We'll likely spend a couple nights here before moving on.

As heavy as the rain was, the coach was nice and dry inside and underneath when we arrived - a very big plus!

One of the few sites that isn't heavily wooded...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

RV Port Homes...

Saturday, October 10th.

It was another chilly, windy, cloudy day. Two and a half hours after leaving the park from last night, we had cruised through Decatur and Fort Worth and pulled into the Lake Whitney RV Community.

We pulled up to the office to register and met Frank, the owner and developer. This RV park is completely different from others we’ve visited - besides a typical RV rental site, they sell lots with RV ports. These are small homes with BIG RV garages. Frank got us checked in and said he’d show us around the park at our convenience. We didn’t know that today is the annual owners’ meeting.

After getting set up and feeding Izzy, we went out for lunch and a quick tour of the nearby small town of Whitney. When we came back, there was a sign on the entrance sign saying “Campground For Sale”. As we came into the park, Frank was hanging another “Campground For Sale” sign on the office... apparently the owners’ meeting didn’t go well!

Frank told me that the owners group elected the one guy he can’t deal with as president, so he has decided to sell the campground... I guess we won’t have to be making any decisions on buying something here right away! I asked if we could still look around and stay here (he gave us 3 nights at no charge when we first checked in)... he said, “Of course; and I’ll still show you around if you’d like.”

“Well, we did come a long way to check out this place. If this isn’t a good time, we can give it a couple days.” He said he’d meet us back at our coach in 10 minutes.

About a half hour later, he came down the road as we were heading up. No doubt he has a lot on his mind. He took us in a golf cart for a tour of the facility.

The concept is exactly what we are looking for: a place to store the RV and/or boat under cover, with a small home attached. Considering the current situation here, this may not be the place... but, we know what we want can be done in a nice way.

The homes/RV ports here are all steel buildings. Inside, they are insulated and finished off just like any home. You can design what you want, but most of what we saw here have a living room, dining room, bedroom, bath, and utility room. Some have nice enclosed exterior storage. The metal siding takes a bit to get used to, but it is functional and relatively maintenance free.

Friday, October 9, 2009

More wind...

We ran a bit over our 200 miles today... 266. We would have been in early, but got caught in a filling station... you would have thought the prices were going to raise dramatically in the next few minutes - there were cars and trucks trying to cut in front of each other and not much room to maneuver. We waited more than our turn and then had to wait for people who parked to run in and buy cigarettes to get back to their vehicles so we could get out. Ah, the life of leisure.

We had wind again today, along with some rain. Most of the time the wind was on our beam (that's crosswind for you landlubbers), but occasionally the road turned enough to become quartering. Highway 287 all day today... and a couple rest areas that are nicer than anything we've seen on the Interstates. That will give you and idea of what the scenery was like - I'm excited about the rest areas. ;-)

We're in an RV park (using that term loosely) that looks like it could use a front-end loader and a LOT of gravel... giant ruts, sloped sites, and BIG puddles that may or may not be over-your-head deep! It's another Passport America place, so the price is inexpensive. And they have 50 amp, which we'll probably need tonight - it's cold and windy.

Good thing the HH is lux and comfy.

We're heading for the Lake Whitney RV Community next to check out the RV home/port options.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thar She Blows...

We left Santa Fe this morning, heading for Texas. By the time we made it to I-40, we had a nice tailwind. Nothing major, but it bumped our mpg to better than 12. That all changed around Tucumcari... the temperature dropped over 30º in less than 10 miles and the wind shifted from about 15 on the tail to 30-35 mph just off the nose!

Big Red and the HitchHiker are well matched and have great road manners. The strong winds didn't bother us much... other than the BIG drop in mpg when we drove through the cold front. A cold rain followed the wind. We are down for the night in a nice park in Amarillo. It's supposed to get into the 30s tonight (48º as I write this), but we're comfortable with the fireplace running and a bunch of channels on the cable TV... no desire to go out for supper this evening.

Little Izzy thought she wanted to go for a walk... until Joan opened the door and let her feel the cold wind and rain... yeah, it's nice and comfy in here. ;-)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A VERY Short Travel Day...

We were able to get a second night in this campground, with the understanding we'd have to move to a different site. I was told to check back in the morning... just in case. Well, Mother Nature decided to grace us with a steady rain. Checking in at the office, we did have to move... in the rain. We pulled in the slides and unhooked all the utilities. Instead of putting everything away nicely, I put it all in the pickup bed. We hooked up to the HH and pulled a whole 500 yards or so. Then got to set up... in the rain. About 15 minutes after we were settled back in, it quit raining. Momma Nature does have a sense of humor.

We had planned a drive to Taos for the afternoon, but have decided to stay around the coach. Maybe get some laundry done. We've been running for days, so we'll make this another easy day.

Izzy got to go for a couple walks through the desert plants when it dried up.
And settled in for the evening on Joan's lap...
While walking Iz in the early evening, a gust blew in... the sky quickly turned gray. Looks like we're in for another night of rain. It does make for some dramatic sky images, though...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Going to Hell in Santa Fe...

We left Albuquerque this morning; driving up I-25, we got to enjoy one last view of the balloons participating in today's competition. It was a short travel day, about an hour. We were a bit early to check into the RV park, so we walked around a nearby outlet mall. OK, we shopped a bit.

After checking in (and securing an extra night), we set up the coach, fed little Izzy, and went off to explore town. It's been more than a decade since we've been here... seems that art galleries and real estate have driven things a bit more up-scale than the last time we visited. After lunch, we drove to the town square, parked the truck, and walked around. There is a beautiful church about a block off the main square.

We stepped inside... plenty of other tourists admiring the lovely interior. There was a sign stating "No Flash Photography"... I turned off the flash on my camera and took a photo. I turned the camera off and moved to get a different angle. Who knew that when you turn the camera off, it resets the flash to "auto"? Oh yes, I took another photo and the flash fired... a collective gasp of people echoed in the church as they all turned to see who the blasphemer was. Joan pretended to not know me. I slunk out the door as quick as I could. I'm pretty sure there is no Commandment stating "Thou shall not flash." Still, I felt guilty... does that count for anything? Oh, here's a nice photo of the interior...

One thing that hadn't changed since our last visit: the Native American jewelry artists selling their goods along one side of the square. Lots of turquoise and silver; some very nice work. Not my style, but there were a steady stream of tourists looking and buying.

Up-scale shops and galleries surround the square. A couple museums. Plenty of history here. Plenty of trendy shopping. Nothing we needed enough to part with the $$... I've been doing my part for the economy at the gas stations and RV parks... especially considering the prevalent "Balloon Fiesta Rates."

Back at the coach, little Izzy wanted to go for a walk. As usual, I obliged. We weren't out more than a few seconds when a bird in a nearby tree caught her eye. She surprised me by bounding right up that tree! The bird moved further out on a branch and seemed to be egging Izzy on. Izzy climbed higher and further out. I could see this wasn’t going to end well. When the bird finally flew off, laughing, Izzy got the “oh-oh” look on her face. No exit strategy. She tried backing, but that didn’t work. She looked for a way off the branch she was on... no joy. She tried turning around and couldn’t keep her balance on the skinny branch... she slid under it, holding on for dear life. The tree wasn’t that tall, but she was just above my reach. When her grip gave out, I caught her. No harm, but she was very anxious to go back in the coach.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mass Ascension...

We took in the Mass Ascension this morning and the Flying Competition. The way some of these balloon pilots are able to maneuver their balloons AND plan ahead to arrive over the target areas is pretty impressive. One scary occurrence this morning - a pilot hit one of the buildings on the grounds... when the gondola tipped to about 35 degrees, the passenger fell out. With the lighter weight, the balloon went up quickly. Initial appearance is that the pilot then let too much air out, and then the balloon made a VERY hard landing, right in the middle of the Fiesta Grounds. Both are hospitalized. In spite of the accident, the professionalism of the pilots and organizers is likewise impressive.

A few photos from this morning...

BIG wind this afternoon, gusting above 30 mph. The weather weasels are predicting more windy conditions this week.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Everyone Knows It's Windy...

Tonight's Balloon Glow was canceled due to the wind. There will still be fireworks and other activities on the Fiesta grounds... and there is no charge for parking or entrance to the grounds. Smart of the folks who put this on to try to generate more of a crowd for their vendors.

Up, Up, and Away...

The alarm went off at 4:45 this morning, and we were on the road shortly after 5:00. The local news last night was reporting the long waits in traffic at the Balloon Fiesta yesterday, and recommended that anyone attending today be on the road by 4:30. We figured we'd take our chances.

The drive in was easy and relatively uncrowded. We parked near the Balloon Fiesta Grounds entrance, and went in for a tasty breakfast burrito. It was still dark, and there was no sign that balloons would be launching this morning. There was a heavy overcast, but not much wind. We entertained ourselves by walking through more vendor booths and eating a cinnamon funnel cake.

Now getting a bit lighter, but still no balloon activity. Finally, around 7:30 one balloon sporting a large American flag launched, and the activity began!

Over the next hour and a half, hundreds of balloons inflated and launched... even though we've seen this before, it is an amazing sight. This is billed as "the most photographed event in the world," and I don't doubt it one bit. We fired off over 250 photos and everyone of the thousands of people milling about was clicking away. Here are a few of those images...

This is one of the few events where spectators are allowed to be on the "playing field" with the participants. Watching these beauties launch up close and personal is part of the appeal of this event. There are teams coordinating who launches and when, and then the chase teams head off to try to keep track of their balloon. Quite a sight!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Weather... whether or not

Well, off to the Balloon Fiesta Grounds. There are two exits off the Interestate for the Fiesta; it is that big. We paid our $10 to park and were directed by parking attendants to a gravel lot not far from the entrance. After paying $6 each to get in, the first thing you notice are the dozens and dozens of vendors on the grounds... selling food, t-shirts, art, jewelry, pins, hats, more food. AARP was there. So was the State of Texas. And Sea World. Honda. The Cayman Islands. If you can imagine it, someone there was trying to sell it to the throngs of balloon viewers.

The only thing missing - balloons. There were a few gas balloons, and thousands of people wandering about the grounds... occasionally some trucks or trailers with balloon team names on the side. They were in their spots to set up for the balloon glow.

We wandered by some of the vendor booths; found some fried cheese curds. Picked up some pizza at one of the dozens of booths selling that. We then visited some of the touristy vendors, waiting for the sun to go down.

Looking up on the bluff overlooking the grounds, you could see the “Presidential Parking” for RVs... a great view of the grounds from your RV window... for only $135 per night... but, it is a nice view.

When the sun began to set, the wind came up. You could see the gas balloons really moving in the wind.

As the sun set, the full moon came up over the distant mountains... very pretty. I expected the wind to die down, but it got stronger. I began to think they might cancel the Balloon Glow. We wandered around the grounds; people were sitting on lawn chairs and blankets on the ground. There was no activity from the balloon teams. Then, what we hoped not to hear: the Balloon Glow was cancelled, due to the increasing winds.

We started walking back to the truck, well ahead of the crowd. Unfortunately, the parking spot near the grounds entrance put us WAY back in the line of traffic to get out. We spent the better part of an hour, just waiting in line.

And then a loud BOOM! And a bunch of fireworks, right in front of our truck. They cancelled the Balloon Glow, but apparently not the fireworks display. We had a front row seat. With the bumper to bumper traffic and no one moving, we sat back and enjoyed the show.

Slowly, the traffic began to move. By now, LOTS of people had made it to their vehicles, slowing progress even more. Once we got out of the parking lot, the Police had traffic moving out on the roads. A minute or two later, we were up on the Interstate. I-25 to I-40, and about a mile off the Interstate and we were back home.

So, the balloons and Balloon Glow we had hoped to see tonight was a bust. There will be another Balloon Glow tomorrow evening... but the weather weasels (yes, the same ones who said it would be “perfect” tonight) are predicting strong winds after sunset. We’re also planning to do sunrise tomorrow... we’ll see how it works out.


After a couple days in and around Ruidoso, we left this morning, heading for Albuquerque. It was raining when we left (48º), and the road was narrow and bumpy for the first 50 miles or so. Hardly any traffic, though. As we got further east, the road smoothed out, the sky cleared, and we began to see more motorcycles heading towards Ruidoso. Their Aspen Festival is this weekend, with a parade, car show, and other activities. If we didn't already have a reservation in Albuquerque (hard to come by during the Balloon Fiesta), we would have stayed another day or two.

The closer we got to Albuquerque, the lower the price for diesel. We stopped south of town for a sandwich and fuel and paid $2.41, 33 cents per gallon less than in Ruidoso.

The park we are in is a mobile home park with some RVs. The spaces are snug, but we have an easy one to back into. It is apparent that most of the RVs that are in here are here for a while... we were fortunate to find any kind of an RV space with elec/water/sewer on such short notice, having booked this just last week.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

On to Ruidoso

We left Pecos this morning, heading northwest to Ruidoso, New Mexico. Ruidoso used to be the host area for a “fall colors” motorcycle rally called Aspencade. I have no idea if they still have that rally, but this would be a great place to cruise on motorcycles. It’s in the mountains; lots of twisty roads.

Unlike most of the way here... which was straight roads, flat terrain, and nothing but scrub brush and some oil wells as far as you could see. Just to make it interesting, Mother Nature tossed some strong winds our way, mostly in the form of a headwind.

We drove through Carlsbad, it’s claim to fame is the nearby Carlsbad Caverns, a huge cave. We passed a couple RV parks out in the middle of nowhere, then came to the town of Artesian... I thought that might mean that they have good water wells... now I’m beginning to believe it is an old Indian term meaning: blowing dust. From there, we passed by the town of Roswell, New Mexico; known for the place space aliens crashed in the 1950s. We didn’t see any signs of aliens, but that may be because we were wearing our tin foil alien-repelling hats.

After Roswell, we started climbing into the mountains... up to about 6,000 feet. We are down for a couple nights at Deer Crossing RV Park. It’s about 15 miles out of Ruidoso; we have no phone, no TV, and no internet. But, the park is decent... no overhanging trees, adults only, and no smoking anywhere, and that includes campfires.

We fed Izzy, then headed into Ruidoso. It is an interesting touristy town in the mountains; reminds me a lot of Estes Park, Colorado, or Eureka Springs, Arkansas. We stopped for lunch, then drove around to get a feel for the area. After a stop at the store, we came back to the coach. The RV park is supposed to have wifi... nope. I think we can declare this officially out in the boonies.

We decided to reconnect our Dish Network. I set up our VuQube and Joan called Dish. Of course, there is no one there who actually speaks decent English. She spent the better part of an hour fussing with someone on the other end and finally got transferred to a "supervisor" who spoke English. Situation taken care of in a couple minutes.

With a very weak phone signal, we were able to hook up long enough to post this. That's it for now.