Monday, November 30, 2009

Are You Kidding Me?

We departed Pecos around 8:00 this morning, stopped for fuel, and headed west. The temp was 40º a a bit of a "spit" in the air. By the time we got a few miles down the road, the spit turned white... yep, snow! It was light at first... and then got heavier as the temp dropped. By the time we got to El Paso, there was a full-fledged Winter Storm Warning in effect - they were predicting 3 to 8" of the evil white crap. We stopped at the Flying J on the east side of the city and had over an inch of snow on the hood in the short time it took us to fuel up.

We planned to head as far as we could, checking weather along the way. If we could get out of El Paso, we'd go to Las Cruces. If we could get beyond Las Cruces, we'd try for Deming. Make it past Deming, and we'd go for Lordsburg. If we can, we'd like to make it to Benson, Arizona, for the night. Another long day.

The traffic in El Paso was nasty... these people drive in the snow like they drive when it's dry: darting back and forth between lanes, passing on the right, tail-gating, and cutting in front of you when you try to leave any kind of pad. And today, it was in the snow, with low visibility, slush and water messing up the lanes... I really don't like this crap!

By the time we got to mile marker 11 in Texas, the traffic started to thin out. The snow didn't. Joan called an RV park in Las Cruces; they have plenty of sites available and it is just raining there... incentive to move on!

The temp dropped to 28º. On a fun scale of 1 to 10, this was no damn fun. We stopped for a burger at exit 0, and the snow started to turn to a cold rain... and the wind came up from the east. We ate while we rolled. This section of the Interstate runs north, so we had a crosswind... in the snow. The truck and HitchHiker continue to impress me with their road manners.

Another 30 miles down the road and the precip turned to steady rain... 33º. From Las Cruces, the road turns west, so our crosswind turned to a tailwind. For the next 150 miles, we drove through rain, then snow, then rain, then snow. It got lighter when we crossed the Arizona border. And by the time we were 40 miles from Benson, the temp began to rise... slowly. As the elevation increased, the temp decreased. Then down the hill into Benson, and no precip and 42º. Almost cause to celebrate.

Izzy spent most of the day cuddled on Joan's lap. She is really a great little traveler... never makes a fuss and does a great job of lowering blood pressure when the going gets rough.

It's supposed to be clear and cold tonight, but we are down, the fireplace is running, the Love Shack is warm and cozy, and Joan is making chili for supper. It was a long day, but we're that much closer to seeing our little girl again.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Blowing Dirt Festival...

We left the Dallas area this morning at 8:00, heading WSW. We haven't been on this stretch of I-30 before; we were hoping it would be a change of pace and scenery from I-10 across west Texas. In the past, I have poked (some would say "in the eye") a bit of humor at the sparcely populated western 1/3 of the Lone Star State. Well, I-30 runs through Dallas and Ft. Worth, then merges with I-20... which ultimately merges with I-10 about 40 miles west of Pecos. So, the scenery is pretty much the same.

No matter the route, it's a looooooong driving trip across west Texas. One of the pokes I've made is the "Blowing Dirt Festival", and we timed it right for that once again. (It generally runs from Jan. 1st through Dec. 31st.)

It was in the 60s and humid when we left the Dallas area, but the temp dropped all day, settling in the low 40s and blustery most of the day. Occasional spitty rain. Our fuel mileage went from around 10.5 mpg on the first tank to 8.5 on the second... we feel those quartering headwinds, right in the fuel tank. We pulled into the Escapees campground just before dusk, and were treated to the cold wind while setting up for the night (and, blowing dirt).

The forecast for the night and tomorrow is cold, windy, and a 60% chance of precip... some of which may be of the white variety (I can't bring myself to say the "s" word). Looks like more of the same for the next two days along our route.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday...

Time to go stand out in the cold and line up in front of one of the stores... gotta get those "Door-Buster" values...


No, I made coffee for Joan, she made me the "almost grown-up" coffee and hot chocolate mix. We don't really care who has what on sale. Late afternoon today, we'll put on grown-up clothes and head to a nephew's wedding. Outside. On Black Friday. "I now pronounce you husband and wife... you may now take your bride shopping."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving...

I got up this morning to feed Izzy and get coffee going. The fireplace in the Love Shack warmed the living room, even though it's in the 30s outside. After watching the Macy's Parade on satellite TV (Hey, we were there on 34th Street this summer!), we'll head to the in-laws... turkey and some Texas brisket. No idea how many of us will be around the table, but it's sure to be a bunch.

Another year ticking by, and much to be thankful for. Wild Blue and the Love Shack took us on some wonderful travels. We made new friends. Little Izzy has taken to traveling better than we could have hoped for and is family in every way. We have our health.

When we say what we're thankful for today, I'll have quite a list.
Most of them won't get our wandering lifestyle. In a few days, we'll hook up our rolling condo and head to see our daughter and son-in-law... and for that, I'm very thankful.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


We rolled into the RV park, north of Dallas. While putting the landing gear down, they stopped a half degree from level... wouldn't go up or down. I pulled out the manual to troubleshoot and gave James at NuWa service a call to see if there was a procedure (check this first, then this, etc). The in-line fuse holder seemed to be... um, fused closed. I pried it open and broke the fuse in the process, so I couldn't visually check to see if that was the problem. Got out the multi-meter and checked... no voltage at the fuse connection. James suggested I open the connection for the switch and check voltage there. Before doing that, I shorted the connection at the fuse... nothing. I scraped the connection and checked it again... 13.2 volts! I shorted the connection again and the landing gear made that familiar noise! Yeah, this beats replacing the motor. We are here to visit with Joan's Mother, so on the way to her place, I stopped at an auto supply place to get some 30 amp fuses and another fuse holder (yeah, I have all that stuff... in the boat. Roll Eyes). Tomorrow I will replace that fuse holder and see if that takes care of it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Rolling Again

We had a great three days with our friends Brent and Dixie in Rockport. They are the kind of folks that, if we don't see each other for months, we can pick right up. We have cruised together with boats... and one of these days, we'll do the same with RVs.

This morning, after visiting with our friends, we hooked up the HH, backed it up to the cargo trailer, hooked that up, and hit the road. We ran a bit long on our 2/2/2 rule today, since we were looking for an RV park that had LONG sites so we wouldn't have to unhook. Tomorrow will be less than 150 miles and then down for a few days while we visit with family.

The HitchHiker makes a great home on the road. Big Red does a fine job handling the load. And little Izzy is one fine traveling companion. We enjoy being two (and a cat) for the road.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

The HitchHiker is loaded, the house is all closed down except for one final walk through and closing the large hurricane shutter over the sliding glass doors. When we walked into the house, we discovered the power was out... a bit of a problem, because that large shutter is electric powered. It wasn’t just our place, a transformer had blown, so the whole neighborhood was out.

We called our friend, Bev, to ask if she would run the shutter down when the power came back on (yep), locked the house, and started to hook up. The fun part: the blown transformer is about a block from our place, and there is a firetruck and a bunch of gawkers blocking most of the road.

We had plenty of maneuvering to do to get the 5th wheel off the site, down the street, turned around, then backed up to our driveway so we could hook up the motorcycle trailer. And all the while trying to dodge the oblivious old farts who are drawn to a firetruck like lawyers chasing an ambulance.

We got out of the park and started heading north. Mother Nature didn’t cut us any slack - big rains predicted for north of us and a quartering headwind. About half way to Rockport, we stopped to fuel and add air to all the tires... we were getting just under 9 mpg.

By the time we got to the Corpus Christi area, it started to rain. We later found out that they had 12 inches of rain in the last 24 hours! It wasn’t pretty - the fields were flooded, the ditches were full of water... we weren’t looking forward to the situation at the campground, since they are all grass sites.

When we got to the campground, the rain had let up quite a bit. I tried to get checked in quickly, because we knew there was another big cell bearing down on us... that request was met with blank stares and I was told that one of the guys would “get us parked.”

Another fiasco... while we waited for “the guys”, the rain started pounding again. I had three guys all trying to give me different directions. I finally said to them, “You guys go get out of the rain; we have this.”

“No, it’s our job to help you, one of them said.

With all their “help” (each one signaling something different), it took extra time and we had to set up in the worst downpour this coach has been in... and it went through the tail end of two hurricanes last year. We were up to our ankles in water in the site. And then we still had to park the motorcycle trailer in another especially soggy area.

What a giant pain in the ass. By the time we were able to get in the 5th wheel, we were both soaked to the skin, even though we both had rain coats on.

We waded over to Brent and Dixie’s coach for a nice evening of conversation and spaghetti. They really like this place. Joan made me promise that we would never stay here again, even if we come up to visit sometime in the future... an easy promise to make. Just down the road a ways is a park with cement pads in the sites.

What's that old saying I've repeated? Oh yeah: Never judge a day by the weather...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Allowing Plenty of Time...

We hauled Wild Blue to the storage lot. The plan: put some Damp-Rid in the boat, make sure all the covers are on, then take the 5th wheel home. The reality: Joan asked, “Did you drain the water heater?”

“Nope, but I will right now.”

As I locked the boat, I thought to myself, “Self, that’s strange... there should be some water on the ground from the water heater. Hmmmm, does that drain into the bilge or the shower box.” I unlocked the door and peeked inside. Yep, it overflowed the shower box. Yeah, I had the battery turned off. “Oh, $%^&!”

I turned on the battery... nothing. Joan started mopping up the water and pulled up the carpet runner. I went back to the batteries and turned the switch to put the power to the other batteries... nothing. I went to the switches on the helm... nothing. Joan continues towelling up the water. In between swearing, I went back to the electrical buss and found a breaker that wasn’t quite closed. I flipped it off, then on... and we have power to the bilge pump and the shower box pump! That still doesn’t make up for all the water that ran into the cabin, but it gets it out faster. I went to the 5th wheel for more towels.

While Joan worked on the water situation in the boat, I took the truck around and hooked up to the HitchHiker. By the time I brought it around, Joan had the boat ready to be closed up. Yeah, that was fun... not.

We hauled the 5th wheel back to Port Isabel, stopped for lunch, then parked it in the spot where the boat had been.

Let the loading begin.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Movin' Out, Movin' In...

Wild Blue is on the hard... our HitchHiker (the Love Shack) will be coming out tomorrow. Lots of moving in and out and in. This is getting to be like work. I'm really going to miss decorating for the Lighted Boat Parade... maybe we'll decorate a cactus this year?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Muted Sunrise...

Our time here is getting short. On Wednesday, we’ll get the HitchHiker back out, park it across the street from our place, and get it loaded. As you might expect, I’m trying to get in as much boat time as possible before she comes back out. So, this morning, I was up early and out again.

The weather weasels are predicting a front to move through the area around 11:30, bringing with it big wind and some precip. But this morning, it was just the opposite of that: calm and warm.

I left in the dark, headed down the canal and turned into the ICW; around our island and out the ship channel. It was clear from a look at the starless sky that I wasn’t going to get the usual sunrise. Instead, it started with a bit of light filtering through the clouds, making for an almost silver monotone at the horizon.

And then, a little peek of sun well above the horizon.

I motored out into the jetties on flat water; the sky took on a warmer cast. There were a few dolphins swimming around, but the light was too low for a decent shot.

From the west, a shrimpboat was on its way to the Gulf. I positioned Wild Blue to be able to get s silhouette of the boat, backlit by the weak sun. I stepped out into the cockpit with the boat in neutral to get my shot. Wrapped up in the moment, I didn’t see the boat getting broadside to the wake from the shrimper... rock ‘n roll! I went back into the cabin and wiped up my spilled water... and picked the binoculars up off the floor. The rest of the ride home was uneventful.
Back to the house and back to work. I started getting the boat ready to come out while Joan arranged things in our underneath storage.

An hour ahead of schedule, the front blew in... the winds went from light and variable to 40 mph from the north. In seconds. Hold on to your hat! While labled a "cold front", it dropped our temp from 78º down to 70º... but the humidity dropped to around 25%. Nice.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sunrise (never gets old)...

Great morning on the water! Here's what the view looks like from the helm...

And the sun coming up out in the Gulf...

Nice way to start the day.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday the 13th...

Nothing scary about this beautiful day.

Just getting in as much boating time as possible these days. Here's a shot of this evening's sunset...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A "Chamber of Commerce" kinda day...

This is the kind of day people write home about... perfect weather: clear blue sky, high around 79º, light breeze, and humidity around 45%. If you were ever going to be out on the water in the Tropical Tip, this shoulda been the day!

We spent most of the day putting around on Wild Blue. And what a difference a day makes... yesterday the wave action was rockin' and rollin', today was nearly calm.

We saw dolphins, watched the birds fish, and came across this bunch (flock?) of pelicans fishing in the jetties...

We traded off on the helm, toured around the old shrimp boat basin, and just basically had a perfect day out on the water.

And little Izzy? She stayed home today, but was posing for me before we headed out...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day Sunrise...

A salute to our Veterans - your service and sacrifices are appreciated by all who enjoy the freedom and opportunity that defines this country.


I was up and out at O-Dark thirty this morning. It’s been a while since I’ve taken sunrise photos on the water.

Going through the Port Isabel Turning Basin on the way out, I had the opportunity to see one of the town’s newest enterprises up close: this is a ship that services the pipelines out in the Gulf. Kinda pretty all lit up at night.

From there, it was down the ship channel and out through the jetties. Tropical Storm Ida is making a mess with rains in the southeastern US; we are still feeling the residuals of her movement through the Gulf, with higher than normal tides and waves. Before I even got to the jetties, the swell was about 4 feet. As I motored further out, the wave action seemed to moderate and then increase. By the time I was at the opening to the jetties, the waves were 6 to 8 feet, coming from the northeast.

Widely spaced, the waves weren’t a problem for Wild Blue, but you certainly felt the power as they rolled under the boat. Just outside the jetties, and with no protection, the waves were 10+ feet. I’m guessing it will be a good surfing day on South Padre Island!

Saturday, November 7, 2009


In between running the boat, we made another trip into "the big city" on Friday to check out the new Verizon Droid... my current phone is in dire need of being replaced. I've been wanting an iPhone, but with the Verizon ads (iDon't and We have a map for that) it's pretty clear that Verizon and Apple aren't going to come together anytime soon. So, the Droid is V's newest offering to compete. Friday was the release date, and I brought a new one home. After playing with it for a while, I'm very pleased with the performance and capabilities.

Today, I took it out on the boat... yep, it's easy to browse the internet while cruising, check weather, check the moon phase, send an e-mail, took some photos with the 5 meg camera... oh, and you can make phone calls with it, too. ;-)

There is somewhere in the vicinity of 12,000 apps currently available... probably about 11,990 more than I'll need. With the Google involvement in the open OS, I have no doubt that there will soon be many more apps to play with.

The internet speed is better than I expected... should be a good traveling tool.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Afternoon at Anchor...

We went out for a local cruise on Wild Blue. Joan had a rather restless night after a long travel day yesterday, so she was looking forward to some relaxation. Izzy and I are really glad to have her home.

We followed a big tug/barge out throught the swing bridge and into the Laguna Madre. On no schedule, we chugged across the Laguna and anchored in Barracuda Cove. The wave movement was very relaxing... Joan closed her eyes for a bit in the V-berth, while I got some sun in the cockpit. There is still a red tide along the coast, but it wasn’t as bad as when we first got here.
We listened to the satellite radio, had a snack, and just enjoyed being out on the water. Heading back for home, we saw some dolphins. Nice way to cap our time on the water.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Boat Name...

I considered calling Wild Blue by the name of Bill Bailey today... 'cuz she is back where she belongs: in the water, at our dock. It seems like it's been a long time coming... the red tide here changed our plans a bit. It has now moderated to the point where you can stand to be out on the water.

It was a busy day today... first thing this morning, I took the boat to San Benito for some service work (oil change, lower unit lube change, grease up the motor lift). I was in and out of there in a bit over an hour... and less than a "boat buck".

Then back home to get the boat back in the water. We always do this together, but Joan is visiting her Mother right now, so I launched the boat solo. The toughest part is the logistics of getting the boat and truck/trailer back to the house once they have parted. I had that done in time to take care of Izzy for her noon feeding. Nice to have the boat back in the water.

Then it was off to Brownsville (the other direction) to get a trailer tire worked on... we've had a pesky slow leak on one of the tires. I got to the tire shop during the lunch hour and expected to have to wait a while... they had me out of there in less than 15 minutes and no charge; there was a very small crack in the valve stem.

I put the trailer back in storage and came home to clean the boat and get things arranged inside. I finished that in time for Izzy's 5:00 meal... and decided to take the boat to the fuel dock and then a short cruise. I turned on the dock lights, knowing it would be after dark before I came back. The sun set while I was at the fuel dock, but I did manage this shot of the pretty evening sky as I pulled away...

A good day... beautiful weather (sunny, light breeze, low humidity, high around 80º) and a lot accomplished.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Boat Play...

With the red tide, I haven't been overly excited about getting Wild Blue out... well, today it was just more than I could take. I drove to the storage lot, strapped that pretty boat down, took covers off, hooked up the trailer and pulled her home. Not into the water, yet - I scheduled some service on her for tomorrow. But I am MORE than ready.

When I pulled up to our place, my next door neighbor (who recently bought a boat) came out to see if I needed him to spot for me as I backed the boat in. I asked him how he was doing with the new boat... "Well, I have a lot to learn. Will you go out with me sometime?"

"Sure, how about NOW?"

10 minutes later, we were shoving off from his boat lift. He has a new Dargel... certainly different from what I'm used to, but a nice boat for the shallow waters around here. I talked him through rotating the boat in the canal and we headed for the ICW. I pointed out places he could take his wife for anchoring out for a nice picnic lunch. We then went around to the ship channel, where I pointed out a couple more coves. We went as far out in the jetties as he was comfortable with, then turned around and headed towards home. We discussed nav aids along the way, some Rules of the Road, and paused for a bit to enjoy the dolphins playing nearby.

Yeah, I needed that.