Freedom and Liberty

Freedom and Liberty
I travel in Freedom but sleep in the security of Liberty (not only on the road, but in this amazing country of ours)

Monday, January 20, 2020

The Waco Bridge From the Old West

Location: Airport Park Campground (Corps of Engineers); Waco, Texas

all pictures taken with Google Pixel 2XL cell phone
click picture to enlarge

First: So far, no Argentine Ants hitched a ride with me to this campground. 
This is Stop #3

The tow here was another short trip of about an hour with nothing special happening along the way. The location of this campground is near the airport and that may scare people away from staying here. That's fine with me since the assumption of loud planes doesn't exist. Today is day 3 of a 4 day stay and I've only heard one plane during that time and it was a small private plane. I have a great campsite with full hook-ups near Lake Waco which I can see out my door and windows. My campsite is one of about 6 or so other campsites located on a little loop within the campground. There is a large multi-unit shower house located behind me that some of the campers are using. In the 6+ years I've lived in Liberty, I've only used the campground showers once. That was in a county park near Chattanooga, TN. But, I'm being tempted by this one so close to me. Maybe a long shower of hot water would be a nice change of pace from the Navy showers I take. Maybe. The weather has been great so far with lows in the mid 30's but warming up nicely to the low 60's with clear skies.

My Campsite overlooking Waco Lake

I couldn't decide which campsite picture to use, so I put both of them in.

One of the views out my windows

A look out the door of Liberty towards the setting sun. 
One of the reasons for my stop here was to see an old bridge that used to be the longest single span suspension bridge west of the Mississippi River. The bridge is in downtown Waco and crosses the Brazos River. Waco was formed in 1850 and located where the Huaco Indians used to live. Huaco became Waco by the non-Indian settlers. Fifteen years later in 1865, the American Civil War had ended. During the war years, the longhorn cattle that the soldiers had left to fend for themselves while they went off to war had been breeding. They were everywhere in central and south Texas and generally available to anyone who wanted to rope and brand them. But due to their overpopulation, the price per head was only about $4.00 and not worth bothering. But the opposite was true up in the northern and eastern states. Due to the war, many cattle had been killed and were in short supply. A cow up there may be worth $40.00 a head. But how to get them from Texas to the high dollar markets? Well, one way was by railroad. Coincidentally, the Transcontinental Railroad was under construction and crossing Kansas. It would not be completed until 1869, but there were enough tracks from the east to make it available for hauling cows back east. So began the cattle drive years. Rounding up longhorns from central and south Texas and driving them north along the Chisholm Trail to the rail heads in Kansas.

So, where does the bridge come into all of this? Well, some of the business people in the newly formed city of Waco got together around 1865 and decided to build a toll bridge across the Brazos River. They figured it would be beneficial to the city since the river cut the town in two. After 5 years of construction and $140,000 they opened the longest single span suspension bridge west of the Mississippi River on January 7, 1870. By comparison, the Brooklyn Bridge was still 13 years from opening. It was the only bridge crossing the Brazos River and the owners were granted a 25 year guarantee, from the State, that no other bridge or ferry would be located within 5 miles of the bridge. All of this came together at the right time for the cattle drives. The cattle drives were given the choice to swim the herd of cattle across the river or pay the 5 cent per cow toll to use the bridge. It was cheaper and safer to use the bridge. There is no telling how many 10's of thousand or 100's of thousand head of cattle crossed the bridge. Remember, there were more than 5 million cows that traveled on the heart of the Chisholm Trail.
Looking down the centerline of the bridge. 

Statues of cowboys and cattle on both sides as they simulate the old cattle drives across the bridge.

Pedestrian walkways are on each side of the bridge. That is one of the two main cables on the left. Most later suspension bridges around the country would not have the cables so close to traffic and people.

Standing in the center of the bridge looking upstream. That again is one of the two main cables.

Looking towards the bridge with the cables leaving their saddles and coming into their anchorages on the left and right.

From the bank looking towards the bridge. I don't know the history of the old piers in the foreground.

Farther along the Riverwalk and looking back towards the bridge. The memorial in the foreground is to the fallen law enforcement officers in the area.
The trail drives ended when the railroad started building spur lines across Texas that connected to the main lines. It was then that the public started complaining about the toll on the bridge. So, in 1885, fifteen years after it opened, the private owners sold the bridge to the county for $75,000.00. The county, in turn, sold it to the Town of Waco for $1.00. After several rehabilitation projects over the years, it remained open to public vehicular traffic until 1971. Since then, it has served as a pedestrian bridge to connect both sides of the Brazos River. Waco has done an excellent job of creating a nice Riverwalk of parks on both sides of the river. 

I have two more days of exploring this area and have a couple of other things to see and do. At first, I thought four days would be enough time, but now I'm not too sure. But since reservations have been made through February 5th, moving day will have to be the 22nd.
Sunrise over the lake as seen from Liberty's small upstairs window.
Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.    

Friday, January 17, 2020

Argentine Ants?? and Rain

Location: Liberty Hill Campground (Corps of Engineers); Dawson, Texas (between Corsicana and Waco)

again, the pictures are an assortment between Pixel or Lumia cell phone and Nikon camera
Click pictures to enlarge

This is Stop #2
Today is day three at this campground and tomorrow is moving day. It was a very short tow of only an hour to get here. It was raining when I left and has been doing that misting/light rain/occasionally heavy rain since I got here. A cold front is suppose to pass through tonight and push all of this dreary weather on to the southeast. After that, it should be clear and a little cooler. 

The purpose for stopping here was to visit a local museum. It is the Pearce Museum located on the Navarro College campus. It is actually three museums in one. They have one each on the pre-history of Texas, old Western art and fancy art. All for $6.00. I've been to a lot of museums around the country and I would rank this one a little above average. I did see some new type of art I had never seen before. It is called "scratch art" or "scratchboard art". That was interesting and I would like to see more of it. Very intricate work.

Argentine Ants!!!! I first heard of them last year when I was looking into a campground south of Dallas. On the reservation page, there was a warning that the campground had several locations of Argentine Ants and campers were warned to be prepared in case they infested their RV. Well, that warning was enough for me to look for a different campground. I never heard of them again until I started reading the fine print on the reservation confirmation email from this campground. The email gives you directions to the campground and other standard stuff. However, when I read the finer print for this campground, they mentioned those Argentine Ants. They advised campers to place poison around their wheels, landing gear, electric cables, water lines, etc. I called the Corp office for advice and they said there wasn't any special type of poison. They were still trying to find out what worked the best. I stopped at Walmart on my way here and looked their poisons over to see if any mentioned Argentine Ants. Nope, none mentioned them, so I picked up some fire ant poison. When I got to my campsite, I didn't see any ant hills so I didn't put out the poison. I talked with another camper who was local and he said the ants are mostly dormant right now due to the weather and rain. I checked online and apparently the magic temperature is 50 degrees. They should have mentioned the ants boldly on their reservation page. If they had, I wouldn't have stopped here. We will see if I have any stowaways when I pull out tomorrow. I've been keeping a close eye and so far, so good. 

The rest of this post will be some pictures from around the campground. I was able to wander around between the rain. It was cold and windy a lot of the time.
This is the campsite picture. No ants in site, so far.

These bare trees are all over the campground. Some are short and twisted and others are full and rounded like this one. I haven't found out the name of them yet. Maybe some type of Elm? I bet that is a favorite picnic location during the summer. 

A thinking bench in the museum. All those drawers are filled with arrowheads. A lot of them.

A pair of thinking benches at the end of a peninsula jutting into the lake. 

How about a floating bench? The waves had it rocking and rolling.

Lastly, what I think is a Great Blue Heron. The little ponytail of black feathers on the back of the head means he is a male heron. The guy was standing alone, looking out across the lake. I wonder what he was thinking about? 
Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

An Old Courthouse in Waxahachie, Texas

Location: High View Campground (Corps of Engineers); Ennis, Texas

click pictures to enlarge
pictures were taken with two cell phones and a Nikon 5100 (fancy camera)

I am at Stop # 1
I pulled out of Mansfield early and was on the road by 9:00 a.m. I'm always a little concerned about hitching up after sitting still for so long but everything went well. The temperature was in the mid 30's and I was prepared to get wet and cold while washing off my plastic blocks that are placed under my stabilizing jacks and landing gear. When hitching up after so long, insects and such set up home under those blocks. I usually have to wash them out with a water hose. I was surprised this time and only found one spider, although it was black with a bright red dot on its back. It may have been a black widow. Instead of washing it away, I used a rock to try to kill it. That was a mistake since the rock missed and the spider jumped. I didn't see where it went, but was pretty sure it wasn't on me, so I continued hitching up. Yes, for those wondering, I always, usually sometimes wear gloves when hitching and unhitching just for such encounters with insects. 

I had a couple different options as to the route to get here. Although it was a few miles farther, I chose interstate highways all the way to Ennis. I don't mind traveling on two lane country roads but only if they have shoulders. I am always looking for shoulders on roads ever since Liberty had her tire blow out on the Indian Nations turnpike a while back. I sure was glad to be able to pull off onto a shoulder while waiting for help.
This is about an hour into the trip. The blue skies were just teasing me at this point.

This is the overcast and dreariness that awaited me at the campground. Of the three days I stayed here, it was like this for the first two.
The first two days here were very overcast and dreary due to the leftovers from the strong storms that passed through the area last weekend. Today, though, as been great. Blue skies with a few clouds and 70 degree temperatures. 

The purpose for coming to this area was to see the Ellis County Courthouse in the town of Waxahachie. It is probably one of the most photographed courthouses in Texas and I wanted to see it in person. The cornerstone for the courthouse was laid in 1895 so it's almost 125 years old. It has had some renovations done to it over the years, but the basic structure is original with most of the interior as well. It is worth a stop to see it and walk around the square.
I won't go into all the history about the courthouse since there is a lot about it online. Of course, one little tidbit would be the legend of the faces carved by the stone carver. It may involve a love interest of his and how the appearance of the faces changed when she didn't return his love. 
High View Park is a Corps of Engineers campground located on Bardwell Lake. Like most of the COE campgrounds, it is in need of a little tender loving care. The roadways have a few potholes but the campground hosts are doing a great job with keeping everything clean and picked up. It is the cheapest of all COE campgrounds that I've camped in. With my senior pass, it is only $8.00 per night for 50 amp electric and water. If you come, be very careful which campsites you choose as some of them are impossible to level up, forth and aft. Most, but not all, of the ones on the lake side of the road are the problem sites. I use Google earth to see how unlevel the sites are before making my reservations.
Campsite #8 is level. I used one set of leveling blocks because of a depression in the surfacing.

Campsite #8

A nice bare tree with Bardwell Lake in the background

Same bare tree on the left, but a green on on the right. The contrast was striking.

I think it is great they haven't removed this old tree. 

A couple of ducks came swimming by while I was walking by the lake.

One was hungry. :)

This picture is in memory of Judy Bell who passed away a while back. She was a solo RV'er that volunteered in Wildlife Refuges across the country and seemed to know every bird in the world, or at least in her world. Her blog was "Travels with Emma". Emma was her dog. In her own way, she paved the way for those of us who follow. I never met her in person, but I started following her blog for a couple of years before I started traveling. Over the years, we each commented on each other's blog. She would end many of her blog posts with a picture like the one above that included the words, 'the end' on various things.  
Tomorrow is moving day but only about an hour away. It will be another COE campground.

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.  

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Trip Begins Tomorrow

Location: New Rockdale RV Park; Mansfield, LA

This will be a short post and will serve as a starting point for a short trip that will last a couple of months. 

Some pretty serious storms passed through the area last night. The line of storms stretched from southern Texas all the way north to Chicago. The cold front that contributed to the storms are bringing cooler temperatures. After a week or more of 60+days/40+nights, the temperature tonight is due to drop into the lower 30's. That low temperature is fine with me normally, but I'll be hitching up in it tomorrow morning and would appreciate a little bit warmer temp. 

After weeks of going back and forth as to which direction to travel, I finally made up my mind between going to the Gulf Coast first or second. The deciding factor was the nightly temperatures in central Texas. I do NOT want to camp with a "blue northerner" passing through the campground. Lucky for me, there are only a few nights during the next three weeks with nightly temperatures below freezing and those nights are just barely below (upper 20's). The daily highs will average in the 60's. So it seems like a nice time to see central Texas again while working my way to the Gulf coast in a few weeks. 

There are a lot of Corps of Engineers (COE) campgrounds between Dallas and San Antonio. COE campgrounds are at the top of my list when searching for campgrounds. They are usually well designed, no extra frills and cheap with my senior pass. In fact the first one I'll be camping at is only $8.00/night for a lake view with water/electricity and still close to a city (sometimes with a Taco Bell).

I've picked 5 COE campgrounds as my first 5 stops. I'll be camping for 3 to 4 nights per campground. It will be like old times when I was traveling quickly. There is only about 250 miles between the first and fifth campground, so there won't be any long tows on this part of the trip. I haven't researched enough of the areas to know what to see and do but I hope to get some ideas when I stop at the Texas Welcome Center on I-20 tomorrow morning.

Well, I have a few more things to do before leaving, so I'll sign off for now. The next post should be from a nice lake view campground. 

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.    

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Trip Planning Time

Location: New Rockdale RV Park; Mansfield, Louisiana

I've been back in Louisiana for a little over three months. During that time, I've visited with the family, especially the grandkids, did some repair work on Liberty and maintenance work on both Freedom and Liberty. Overall the weather has been nice with only one short spell of low temperatures down in the low 20's. Using my two ceramic space heaters, I'm good with temperatures down to about 25 degrees. Below that I'll sometimes turn on Liberty's furnace. I guess over the last 5 1/2 years, I've used the furnace maybe a half dozen times. But, I know the possibility of freezing weather is increasing as we get closer to January and February so I guess I'll be "forced" to take a little trip to warmer weather. 

Sometime around the first of the year, I'll be taking a slow trip to south Texas. My ole saying is "A destination with several journeys along the way". My departure date will depend on the local weather as well as the weather where I'll be heading. I'll also try to factor in full moon times, high/low tides along the Gulf coast, holidays, etc. Until I get farther south in Texas, I'll also be on the lookout for Blue Northerners blowing in from the plains. Those things can get it "colder than a ______ (you can fill in the blank with some body parts from a witch or well digger, your choice). 

I figure the trip will last two to three months and I'll be back here in mid-March or so. Afterwards, my long range thoughts for the heat of the summer are a trip up to D.C. by way of visiting some old Tennessee Valley Dams and the Smoky Mountains along the way. 

For those that have followed Brandon's ordeals over the years, he is doing great. His monthly blood-work continues to be normal and both organs are doing their jobs flawlessly. It's still an ongoing miracle and his attitude is an inspiration.

This post was just an update and I'll end it with a few family pictures.
The whole family. Now a days, Thanksgiving is about the only time everyone gathers in one place at the same time. It was a good time.

All four grandkids.

The boys playing some touch football in the front yard. The same front yard all three of our kids played in when they were growing up. The tradition carries on.

A professionally taken picture of Olivia and Nathan

Olivia invited me to the Veteran's Day service at her school. Of course, I thought it over a lot and after about a split second I said 'yes'. I haven't tried it yet, but I'm not sure I can say 'no' to her. Hmmmm,,,,, 
Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road. 

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Trip Re-cap

Location: New Rockdale RV Park; Mansfield, Louisiana (elev 300+/-)
All pictures taken with Nokia Lumia Icon 929 Cell Phone

The complete circle
I arrived at New Rockdale RV Park early Wednesday afternoon. For the last few years, it has been serving as my home base campground. It is good to be back and stationary for a little while so I don't have to be thinking about places to go or reservations to make at some campground. I may have to start looking for another home base though as routine maintenance seems to have been non-existent while I've been gone. So many campground owners think they reach a point where they don't have to do anything to keep their campground running. That complacency will eventually doom an owner. Maybe I'll look for a piece of property and set up my own site to serve as my home base. Oh well, we will see.

A quick look at the numbers on this latest trip:
14 states
47 days
4,800 miles of towing Liberty
19 campgrounds (12 public, 5 private, 2 Walmarts)

My memory pictures are at the bottom of this post with captions. There are a lot more pictures than I planned, but oh well. 

The beautiful things about trips are that no matter how well you plan them, something always comes up to change the plan. Sometimes those things aren't nice, like Liberty's water pump going out on this trip. Most of the time though it seems the unexpected becomes some of the highlights of the trip. 

On this trip some of the unexpected/unplanned things were:
** the bird attack while I was walking on the trail at Copper Breaks State Park near Quanah, Texas
** the Raton Museum in Raton, New Mexico
** the road trip over and past Blue Mesa Reservoir Dam, west of Gunnison, Colorado
** Skyline Drive in Canon City, Colorado
** Box Canyon Falls Park in Ouray, Colorado
** the campsite at Massacre Rocks State Park in American Falls, Idaho
** the two Walmarts I over-nighted at in Laurel, Montana and Sidney, Nebraska
** Petit Jean State Park near Russellville, Arkansas

All of these unexpected gems are covered in the posts from the trip.

A few quick observations from the trip. 
1) There is not a bridge in Wyoming that doesn't have a dip before and after it. It is the worst state in terms of bad bridge ends. 
2) Although Wyoming has problems with all of their bridges, Louisiana has the two worst bridge ends on this trip and any other trip I've taken recently. They are located on I-49 southbound, between Louisiana highways 1 and 2 in Caddo Parish. About a dozen or so miles south of the Arkansas/Louisiana state line. If you hit these dips at highway speed, it can cause serious damage to your trailer. If you pass through this area, try to situate yourself where you have another vehicle ahead of you by about a half mile. This will give you enough time to slow down to about 40 mph before hitting the dips. I reported these dips to the authorities about a year or so ago, but they have yet to repair them. Be careful, very careful.
3) There seemed to be a lot more homeless people in the larger cities than I've noticed in the past. It is still hard to tell if they are con-people or truly people in need of help.
4) Love's Truck Stops have moved up my list of places to look for when towing. Most of them are newer than other truck stops and they are designed to handle large RV's. They also have a variety of pre-packaged, easy to eat while driving, great burritos, 2 for $4.00. Too many "truck stops" are not designed so RV's can maneuver around the gas pumps. I will continue to look for Flying J's/Pilot because most of them are RV friendly as well as most will give Good Sam members a $0.05 discount on fuel. 
5) Freedom did a fantastic job towing Liberty and me over the high Rocky Mountain passes. Never had a problem either going up or down. I do wish the states would post more signs. They need more signs showing how far ahead the downgrades begin as well as signs saying how far it is until you reach the crest or when you will finish the steep parts of the downground. Something like "Greater than 5% downground next XX miles". There are some states that do an excellent job with signing, but there were a few places that caught me by surprise due to the lack of proper signing. 
6) Walmart camping is OK for me under certain conditions. Two of those conditions are having night-time temperatures between about 55 and 65 and not having anything to explore in the area. The temperature is important because I don't want to sleep in a hot trailer. Also, since I'm not going to drop my RV in a Walmart parking lot, I won't be able to explore anything in the area. Thinking back over my years of traveling and 250+ campgrounds, I can think of maybe a dozen one night stands where I could have used a Walmart and saved time and money. Oh well, live and learn.
7)  The trip was nice, but I wish it had been a little cooler. I did use my ceramic heaters a time or two to warm Liberty up a little bit. Mostly though, the heat wave seemed to have followed me everywhere I went as if I were a "weather Jonah". I did bring a little cooler weather to Louisiana but it seems to have been short lived as the mid 90's have returned. 

Here are the pictures. I've chosen the ones that will spark my memories when I look back on them in the years to come. I have several pictures that do just that from all of the places that I've visited over the last 5+ years of RV'ing. 

This was my first view of the "open road". This picture is taken somewhere just west of Fort Worth. Prior to this, all of the views between Mansfield and Fort Worth are essentially the same. 

I've seen these abandoned homesteads all over the country. I'm glad they have not been torn down so they can remain as a reminder of the life and times of generations past. I try to take pictures of them to document the lives spent at these locations. It is easy to visualize children running and playing around the house,,, a clothesline full of clothes flapping in the West Texas breeze. Oh well, lest we forget. 

The view from the campground at the top of Raton Pass in Raton, New Mexico. It was a great view of the storm approaching from the south. 

Not counting the mountains around Raton, New Mexico, these are the first sightings of the Rocky Mountains. It is from west of Pueblo, Colorado near Haggard's RV Park.

This is before the big storm hit Haggard's RV park. A micro-burst or straight line wind rocked Liberty like she has only been rocked a couple times before. It was worrisome and exhilarating at the same time because you could see the heavy wind and rain coming at you. 

Skyline Drive in Canon City, Colorado. This narrow one lane road running along the top of this "hogsback" ridge will get your blood a pumping. I was lucky in that I was mostly alone and could stop to take in the view. This was a surprise because I didn't find out about it until a day or so before riding it. 

Sitting in the parking lot at the top of Monarch Pass, Colorado. It is the location of the Continental Divide and a lot to take in before going down the other side.

Snow capped Rocky Mountains in the distance. I never got a real close up view of them on this trip, maybe the next time.

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison. That is the Gunnison River in the bottom. I have had this place on my "to see" list for a few years. I was not super impressed by it, but I attribute that to my expectations being too high.

This is at the bottom of the Black Canyon. I enjoyed a picnic lunch in the cool temperature and quiet serenity of this location. It was very peaceful and whenever I think of this place it will bring me a sense of peace. 

The Rockies as seen from The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Sometimes when I look at them I think of the mountain men who explored this area. They experienced true freedom.

The waterfall at the Box Canyon Park in Ouray, Colorado. This is another one of those unplanned places that I learned about at the last minute. The water just shoots out of the side of the mountain face with a tremendous force and loud roar. I again was lucky to be the only one there for about half the time I explored it. Great stop.

In my mind, this is what Northern Utah will always look like.

How lucky was I to get such a great campsite in Massacre Rock State Park, American Falls, Idaho. I randomly chose it when I made my reservations and it blew me away with the view. Great campsite.

Shoshone Falls located near Twin Falls, Idaho. This was a planned stop. Just like the Black Canyon, this place has been on my "to see" list for a few years ever since it was posted on the Gypsy and the Navigator blog. Thanks again Barb. It would be worth a return trip during the spring time/early summer when the falls are really flowing full. 

Another old homestead. This must have been a very fancy house at some point in time since it is a two story home. If the house could speak, what kind of stories would it tell???

I hope the memory of this place will always stay with me. It is the Columbia River just downstream of where the Snake River joins the Columbia. It is a special place because it is from this location that I did a video call with my granddaughter, Olivia. I wanted her to see the Columbia and some of the surrounding mountains. 

This picture will remind me of the long boat cruise on Lake Coeur d'Alene. I couldn't choose a picture from the tour so I opted for this one. It is taken as I'm about to get into Freedom at the end of the tour. The tour boat, parking lot and nasty weather will all be a nice memory. 

I overnighted in two Walmart parking lots on the way back to Louisiana. This picture will represent both stops. This is the first stop at Laurel, Montana. I arrived later than I planned due to heavy traffic on the way. The time was maybe an hour or two after sundown and the temperature was in the mid-60's with a nice cool breeze blowing. It is a good memory. 

Looking down on the Arkansas River from Petit Jean Mountain near Russellville, Arkansas. The view was great and the legend believable. It was a nice day.

Murray Lock and Dam on the Arkansas River with The Big Dam Bridge on top of the lock and dam. It was a nice walk on a semi-warm morning. As usual, I was mostly alone with my thoughts. 

That's the Arkansas River on the left and part of Maumelle Corp of Engineers Campground on the right. The RV with the sun shining on its side is Liberty. This was taken from a nice bench located in the shade of a tree. 

New Rockdale RV park. Not a glamorous campground but the location in relation to my family is good. Those tall pine trees to the right provide shade from the setting sun starting around 3:00 in the afternoon. The site has some sewer problems that the owners have not dealt with yet. I may move to another campground or campsite in the days to come.
Well, that completes the re-cap of this trip. Overall it was a good trip and I'm satisfied with how it turned out. I've had some great visits with my family in the short time I've been back. Olivia and Nathan have grown a lot in the six weeks I've been away. My next trip is already circulating in my mind. When will I ever grow roots and settle down??
Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.