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, June 3, 2019

What to Do?, Where to Go? and When????

Location: New Rockdale RV Park; Mansfield, Louisiana

I've been back in Mansfield, for a little over two months. During that time, I've visited with my family, had two new A/C units installed in Liberty (one because it broke and the other just to teach it a lesson) and been sick for about half of those two months. This sickness hung around for almost five weeks which surprised me since any sickness I've had in the past usually ran its course in two weeks at most. Now that I'm just about 100% recovered from my sickness, I have set up an appointment with my General Practitioner for my annual checkup. Like most reasonable people (see what I almost did there,,,, if you don't agree with what I was about to say, I declared you "unreasonable". lol). Now that wasn't fair for me to do that, so I'll start that sentence over. Unless you're crazy like me, you normally go to the doctor when you're sick. My thoughts over the years has been if I have a touch of the cold or flu or sinus or whatever minor thing I may catch, it will run its normal course in a week or two with the help of just a few over the counter meds. If I would happen to go to the doctor, I may get better quicker, but there is a trade off. Some people say, the more antibiotics you use, the less effective they become, so maybe I'm saving up their "effectiveness" for something really big. The sickness this time was a low grade fever for a few days with a ticklish type of cough. After the first week or ten days, one of my sinuses started acting up. But I'm much better now and will see my GP tomorrow. I will probably tell him about my sickness, but maybe not. 

The weather around here is getting hotter and more humid by the day. One of the things I used to say about my plans of retiring and hitting the road was, with an RV, I could follow the 70 degree temperature line on the weather maps. Now-a-days when ever I think of following that line, I'm reminded of my friend, Joe Debusk, who used to laugh each time I mentioned it. He also had plans for his retirement, but a lot of them went unfulfilled when he passed away a little more than a year ago. His passing was one of the many reminders to me of "don't wait too long". 

I figure the weather will be OK through June but somewhere around the first of July, I need to be traveling in search of that 70 degree line. 

So, that means I need to pick a destination, plan a route and find some things to explore along the way. Several readers of this blog are planning to become Full Time RV Travelers in the future, so I thought it might be interesting for them to see how I plan a trip. This will also document my thought process for my grandchildren when they read the blog decades from now. Planning the trip has become necessary only within the last couple of years. With the dramatic increase in RV's on the road, campgrounds are filling up faster than they have in the past. It used to be you could pull into a campground in the middle of the afternoon and have a pick of half the campsites. Not anymore. You better have a reservation unless you plan to dry camp in a Walmart parking lot. 

Picking a destination: The trip will be during July, August and September. Three very hot summer months. This means the cooler temperatures will be north. 

Choices are the northeast which is the more expensive area for RV'ing. I wouldn't mind seeing Washington D.C. again since I certainly didn't see everything during my last trip. Maybe some other time. The northeast is out of the running. 

The north central part of the country would be Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin. I was in that area not long ago, so it is still fresh in my mind and I don't want to re-trace my steps so soon. The north central is out. 

The great plains area is out of the running due to a crazy tornado season this year, plus it would be almost as hot as down here. 

The Rocky Mountains would be a good choice and maybe even a little farther west to the Pacific Coast. Now we're cooking with gas (younger readers may need to ask a seasoned citizen the meaning of that phrase). 

The way I travel is I pick a destination which is basically as far as I plan to travel during that trip. I then plan my trip to that destination by picking exploration stops along the way and on the return trip. As an example, my first destination when I left Louisiana on my first RV trip was Bangor, Maine. It was a crazy route to get there, but I kept heading in that direction. 

I think I'll chose Coeur d'Alene, Idaho as my destination. I know very little about the place except my father was stationed there when he was in the Air Force back in the 40's. He never talked much about his service but he did say Idaho was a pretty state. I've been in parts of Southern Idaho but not as far north as Coeur d'Alene. So, the destination is set. 

Now, a couple preliminary routes to get there. Some of the places I'm interested in stopping at along the way would be the Big Bend area of Texas, Death Valley, Yosemite, Angel Lake in Nevada, revisit parts of the Oregon coast, Shoshone Falls and other waterfalls, Black Canyons of the Gunnison in Colorado and other places yet unknown to me. 

This route is the quickest route north. It also passes through North Dakota which is one of the states I haven't been to. Some of my cousins are working in North Dakota so it would be a combined family visit. I would be retracing an old route of mine between here and South Dakota which is the route I took after being notified that my youngest son had a stroke. I've been in Montana and there isn't anything I really want to re-see. The return route looks really good and hits many of the places on my list. I'll think about this route some more, but initially, I think I'll pass on this one. 

This is a figure eight route and is about 6,200 miles in length. It stays out of California except for exploration trips. That means lower prices on everything. Although it would be nice to pass through the California central valley when all the fruit would be getting ripe. But, not sure it's worth it. This route works in both direction, either Colorado leg going or returning. The weather would dictate which way would be first. There is a campground I want to stay at located in Colorado with no vacancies until mid-August. It may be too hot in the Big Bend part of Texas for a July stopover, so that may have to be on the return trip. Otherwise, this route hits most of the places that interest me, so it is Very Possibly the route. 

This route is similar to the one above but is 500 miles shorter, goes through parts of California but sadly skips parts of the Columbia River area. This one has the same beginning and ending legs as the trip above. This one is definitely in the running as well. 
Those are three preliminary routes and will definitely be modified before I hit the road and will be modified more while traveling. The main part to take away from those two routes is the distance. It will be about a 6,000 mile round trip. That is 6,000 miles of towing and based on past experience, that means another 6,000 miles of exploring. 12,000 miles of total travel. Those mileages help give me some more information. With a distance between campground of about 200 miles, this means about 30 campgrounds. If I stay, on average, 3 days per campground, then the trip will be about 90 days long. That means if I leave the first week of July, sometime after the 4th, I should be back in Louisiana about the first week of October.

The next post will firm up some of the preliminary routes, look at some campgrounds and find things to explore along the route. 

A couple of pictures to round out the post.

Grandson Nathan asleep in his Pa's arms while attending Olivia's T-ball game.

Olivia returning my wink while she was on stage with the rest of her Pre-Kindergarten graduating class. She not only knew all of the words to her part, which was several sentences long, but also all of the other speaking parts. She calmly winked without causing a distraction or losing her place within the program. Very nice. 
Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.  

Monday, April 8, 2019

Thinking Benches are Everywhere

Location: New Rockdale RV Park; Mansfield, Louisiana

Almost all of the pictures were taken with a Nokia Lumia Icon 929 Cell Phone. There may be a couple taken by my fancy Nikon or Canon point and shoot, but I'm not really sure.

My five year anniversary of retiring and hitting the road full-time in an RV is in a couple of days. A few things have changed since then but I'm still living and traveling in the RV, although the traveling has slowed down considerably from the first two years. I started out keeping a lot of different statistics on my travels but I've since boiled them down to only four. (1) Liberty has been towed just shy of 40,000 miles, (2) I've camped in about 220 different campgrounds. I have to say "about" because I may be off a couple, one way or the other. (3) Of the 220 campgrounds, about half have been publicly owned campgrounds such as federal, state, county and city campgrounds. (4) I've traveled through or camped in 45 of the 50 states. The ones I'm missing are Alaska, Hawaii, North Dakota, Delaware and Rhode Island. And nope, I don't have a desire to purposely go to those states just to complete a list.

One of the things I always look for during my travels are "thinking benches". My "benches" folder on my laptop has well over 100 pictures of thinking benches I've found around the way. Not all thinking benches are benches. Sometimes they are picnic tables, swings or just a pile of rocks that double as benches. I have been asked many times by many people why I take pictures of the benches and why I call them "thinking benches". There is an answer and a very good answer, but I'm not ready to answer it here and now. Maybe in a future post. 

The following are a few of my favorite thinking benches. I tried to rank them, but it was impossible since I couldn't decide one over another so I scrambled them up and am posting them in random order. The dates in the caption corresponds with the date of the picture. That date can also be used to find the post which contains that picture and has more of a write up about the location. To use it, find the date that matches it in the archive located on the right side of the blog. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did in putting them together. Just seeing the pictures can bring back some of the emotions and feelings of the place. 

Erie, Pennsylvania (5/27/2014)
Watching the USS Niagara entering Presque Isle Bay after a day of training on Lake Erie.  

South Beach, Oregon (3/31/2015)
A nice thinking bench along the path between the campground and the Pacific Ocean

Youngstown, New York (6/1/2014)
Looking out over Lake Ontario from Four Mile Creek Campground. 

Cascades Lock, Oregon (4/13/2015)
Statue of Sacagawea with her son, John-Baptiste, on her back. The name of the dog is Seaman and yes, he made the entire trip as well. I saw many statues of Sacagawea while in the northwest, but this one is by far my favorite. 

The Mesa Verde, Colorado (5/8/2015)
A nice place to sit and wonder about the people that came before us and why they mysteriously abandoned this place. 

Bar Harbor, Maine (6/21/2014)
Just about everyone in the campground always went down to the shore of the inlet to the Atlantic Ocean to see what kind of sunset was in store. It was a nice ritual. 

Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain NP (9/1/2016)
A beautiful lake with a nice walking path around it and located in one of my top three National Parks 

Bolivar Peninsula, Texas (10/25/2014)
This swinging thinking bench is located in the campground I usually stay at when I'm on the peninsula. 

Brimley, Michigan (8/21/2014)
Looking out towards Lake Superior.

Canyonlands National Park, Utah ((5/6/2015)
This is my number one National Park and the one you hear the least about. The reason for that is there is very, very little commercialization of this park. It is just beauty in its raw state. 

Mackinac Island, Michigan (8/18/2014)
Sometimes thinking benches come in a rocking style. This is the front porch of the Grand Hotel looking out onto Lake Huron. 

Cape Girardeau, Missouri (9/28/2014)
The view of the Mississippi River from Cape Rock. I did a lot of thinking from this spot as a teenager back in the early 70's.

Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico (9/21/2016)
How about an underground thinking bench. While sitting and thinking here, you don't want to think about how much rock is overhead.

Cochiti Lake, New Mexico (9/15/2016)
Beautiful Corps of Engineers campground in the middle of nowhere.

Davis Mountains, Texas (9/23/2016)
Great views from the mountains of West Texas

Bossier City, Louisiana (about 5 years ago)
This is the side entrance to the Department of Transportation and Development's District 04 Headquarters. I was the District Administrator when I retired. The back door to my office came out this way. The "thinking bench" on the left was used by many people over the years and more problems were problems solved right here than inside the building. 

Duluth, Minnesota (6/26/2018)
There was a very chilly wind blowing on this late June day. That is Lake Superior in the background. This was a good "vibe" place.

One of the Finger Lakes, New York State (6/5/2014)
The finger lakes were created by the last Ice Age and provides a great place to sit and think today.

Goshen, Indiana (8/4/2014)
This was at the first FROG (Forest River Owners Group) Rally I attended. The year of this picture, there were 400 RV's in attendance, the third year, more than 800. I used sit in this bench and just people watch for a while.

 San Francisco, California  (3/16/2015)
This Golden Gate Bridge Park. Some thinking benches are taken and you don't have a chance to use them. I patiently waited for the bench to be free but the lady continued to use it. She sure had a lot of thinking to do on that day. 

Goliad, Texas (1/12/2015)
The forgotten massacre before the Alamo. It was a very somber and sobering place. I could sense the sadness in the place. Spooky.

Loveland, Colorado (5/20/2015)
The sculpture garden/walkway. This was a wonderful find and I spent a few hours wandering around it. 

The Battle of Bear Paw, Montana (6/15/2015)
The last battle of the Nez Perce Indians in 1877 after they lead many U.S. Army Calvary units on a 1,200 mile trek. The were trying to escape to Canada like Sitting Bull and the Sioux had done after the Battle of the Little Big Horn, but were captured just 42 miles from the border. I was so disappointed in the site due to the lack of care and respect for the place. Shameful.

Quintana Beach, Texas (3/11/2019)
Sitting and watching ocean going ships arrive and depart from Freeport Harbor.

Carmel, Louisiana (8/4/2015)
The Rock Chapel built by Carmelite Monks in 1891. Yes, those six crosses mark six graves. Even with the graves, it is a very peaceful place.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado (8/29/2016)

Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan (8/21/2014)
Nice benches to think on while waiting to take the boat tour of the Soo Locks. 

Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan (7/13/2018)
The Hydro-Electric Powerhouse.

South Toledo Bend, Louisiana Side (10/31/2014)
Looking and thinking about the large man-made lake with Hydro-Electric Dam on the Texas/Louisiana border.

Sedona, Arizona (2/21/2015)
This was one of those great thinking benches I stumbled upon. It is a Stupa at Peace Park. They named the park correctly because I had a sudden sense of peace when I arrived.

West Memphis, Arkansas (10/2/2014)
Sit and watch the tow boat work on the Mississippi. Like Charlie Pride sang, "Roll on Mississippi"

Canyonlands National Park, Utah (5/6/2015)
Some thinking benches are very simple. As simple as a 2X6 board between some rocks. But what a view to sit and think on.

John Day Fossil Beds, Oregon (4/16/2015)
This is a great place to look over the Painted Hills. It was so quiet the day I was there and was fortunate to be alone in the park. I don't remember many places so quiet.

Astoria, Oregon (4/7/2015)
A nice place to rest and think after climbing the Astoria Column. Looking at the Columbia River, which is one of the most beautiful rivers I've ever seen. The bridge connects Oregon and Washington.

Bolivar Peninsula, Texas (10/28/2014)
This is at Travis Park at the tip of the Bolivar Peninsula. Galveston is a short ferry ride away from here. This is also the place where Ann Long fooled Jean Lafitte and his pirates. She is often called the Mother of Texas. 

Two Harbors, Minnesota (7/2/2018)
A nice bench I never able to use. The two gentlemen sat at the bench the whole time I was in the area. I wondered if they were retired workers at the harbor. The ship in the background that they are watching over is loading up with taconite (iron ore pellets).

Independence Rock, Wyoming (5/23/2015)
The rock is a large piece of granite that can be seen for miles and miles. The pioneers guided by it and camped near it on their way to the pacific northwest. The benches are placed for you to sit and look at the rock and wonder what the pioneers thought when they were here. 
Little Rock, Arkansas (8/1/2016)
To end this post, how about a nice sunset from a thinking picnic table overlooking the Arkansas River from my campsite at the Maumelle Corps of Engineers Campground. Yes sir, coffee always tastes better when drank with a view like this. 
Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.     

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Trip Wrap-up

Location: New Rockdale RV Park; Mansfield, Louisiana
Circle Route in Texas

I'm back in my usual campsite in Mansfield, Louisiana. I'll be here at least a month or more. Summer will be here before we know it and with it some typical hot Louisiana weather. The hottest two months of the year around here are July and August. Maybe I'll be somewhere up north in Yankee-land or maybe the north-west during those two months. I'm just not sure yet. 

The trip was a short one by comparison to some of my others. This one latest one only 4 weeks and covered about 1200 miles. I stopped at a total of 5 campgrounds with 2 being Corps of Engineers campgrounds, 1 was a County owned campground and the other 2 were privately owned. They were all adequate and reasonably priced for what they offered. I would not hesitate staying at any of them again in the future.

Freedom did well on the trip and she now has about 110,000 miles with 40,000 of those miles towing Liberty. Both are about 5 1/2 years old. I did get confirmation from an RV repair shop near my last stop of the trip that Liberty's bedroom air conditioner needs to be replaced. I was hoping it was going to be a simple fix, like a capacitor needing replaced, but nope, the whole thing needs replacing. Except for one night, I've lived in Liberty since I bought her, so, the appliances in Liberty have been in used a lot when compared to other RV's that may only be used every other weekend for the summer. I'm guessing this A/C unit will be the first of many appliances replaced, but I can't complain too much. Everything has held up surprisingly well, for the amount of miles over sometimes very bumpy roads she has on her.

Some of the highlights of the trip was visiting Dealey Plaza to see the JFK assassination location. It was a strange feeling being at the place where the path of our country was changed by a couple of bullets fired by one or more people. Another highlight was visiting Longhorn Caverns. They are not as big or nice as Carlsbad Caverns, but they were still worth a stop, even though they have a higher entrance fee than Carlsbad. The Gulf of Mexico at Quintana and Bolivar was nice. To me, the Gulf is always a place of peace. All large bodies of water is nice for me, but there is always something special about seeing the Gulf. I know this will surprise some readers, but the weather, with it's sometime cold, dreary, foggy, windy and unpredictability was also a highlight. It is always nice to see what nature has in store for us, even bad weather.  

I took this while walking on the jetty that outlines the entrance to Freeport, Texas. It was a chilly, stormy morning at high tide. Waves were crashing over the jetty and I was the only one out there. This will probably be my most vivid memory of the trip.  

But even when the storms are blowing and the waves are crashing everywhere, there is always a path back home.
Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Bolivar Peninsula (mostly pictures)

Location: Bolivar Peninsula RV Park; Crystal Beach, Texas

All Pictures taken with Nokia Lumia Icon 929 Cell Phone

I pulled out of Quintana 5 days ago with another overcast day in which to travel. Once I arrived at Galveston the skies cleared and the sun came out. After riding the ferry over to the Bolivar Peninsula and setting up camp, the weather was very nice. It was a little chilly but still the way I like it. The weather has cooperated for my entire time here at Crystal Beach. Tomorrow is moving day so my fingers are crossed that it remains nice. 

I've been to Bolivar/Galveston several times over the years so I don't feel like a tourist/explorer in a strange place as I do when I travel to places I haven't visited. I guess that is why I've been slow at posting to the blog. 

I think it will be best to make this post with pictures and captions.
Crossing the Intracoastal Waterway as I'm leaving Quintana Beach. It gives an idea of how flat the terrain is along the coast. That is the Gulf of Mexico in my side mirror. Seems a lot of things have been in my side mirror. 

A view from the same bridge but looking down on a small part of the industry in this area. 

This is about half way to Galveston. You top a bridge and "bingo", another refinery/industry. It is a good picture showing the comparison of heavy industry on the left
co-habitating with the nothingness of nature on the right.

Speaking of industry, that is the smoke coming from the petro-chemical storage fire in south east Houston. This picture was taken from the Bolivar/Galveston Ferry.

That's Liberty in the middle on a nice weather day. The front part of the campground is only about 20% full. It is a Passport America campground so I'm getting 50% off for the first 4 days. 

This is Rollover Pass. It is located about 10 miles north/east of Crystal Beach. The pass connects the Gulf of Mexico with the upper reaches of Galveston Bay. The pass was cut and dredged in 1955 which created what we see today. Before that it was just a narrow piece of land on the peninsula used by smugglers to offload illegal cargo from ships in the Gulf and transport it across the narrow strip of land where it was loaded on smaller boats in Galveston Bay. Today, fishermen flock to this location to try their luck. 

This is looking back towards the bay which is on the other side of the highway bridge. I've been here before when every foot of the wall has been taken up by fishermen. 

One of the great things about Texas is you can drive on a lot of the beaches. You can drive and find an isolated spot to park and look out at the Gulf. In this case, I parked in hopes of seeing the full moon rise. The sun is setting directly behind me and the shadow in the picture is Freedom's shadow.

It was a little bit hazy when the moon came out. And this picture is not very good because I don't know how to take night pictures and I'm generally too lazy to learn since I rarely take them. But, the experience is still in my memories (silent echoes),,, at least for a while. 

One of the sunrises from the campground. 

This was another late afternoon visit to the beach. The pelicans put on a show by diving into the water for their supper. It was nice and peaceful.

Good morning sunshine. This is taken from my little slide window looking over my neighbors RV. There was a low fog in the vacant field next door which gave a mixture of emotions when looking at it all.

The Commodore Motel. Memories from a long time ago.

How is this for a view while gassing up Freedom. I wonder if the locals get used to the view and not notice it anymore. It would be sad if they do.

Can't ride the ferry without seeing the gulls

Still on the ferry while looking out in the Gulf at the Ships in Parade line waiting to enter the harbor.

Ships all the way to and past the horizon

A couple more ships and a gull. 

People feeding the gulls on the fantail of the ferry.

This is the north jetty of the entrance to Galveston Bay. It stretches a couple of miles out into the Gulf. Waiting ships. 

This is as far as you can walk on semi-smooth concrete. It is about 1/2 mile from shore but still almost 2 miles from the end of the jetty. I didn't go any farther since there was danger in walking on the uneven blocks. One misstep and I could be in trouble with me being the only one this far out.

Looking back to shore for the jetty.

There is a lot going on in the is picture. It is taken for the jetty looking back towards the harbor entrance. You can see the ships going in and some waiting. The two mounds of earth on the right side are old gun emplacements at Fort Travis used in the past to protect the harbor. The Fort is also the location where Jane Long fooled Jean Lafitte and his pirates into thinking the fort was still manned. You can read about his from my previous visit there. Look on the archive list on the right side and find the post from 10/30/2014 to read about the Mother of Texas.

This is an old picture from 2014 showing the "Tea Pot House" on the southern end of Galveston Island. I usually drop by to see how it is doing whenever I'm in the area and for years it has been vacant. 

But things rarely stay the same for very long in this life. Someone bought the old "Tea Pot House" and remodeled it, even added a deck. I had to look twice to make sure what I was seeing. I think it is good that someone is giving the old place a new life, but I wonder if there will be a need to make the drive to see it next time I'm on the island. Oh well, "if things don't change, something is wrong."

Tomorrow is moving day. I'll be camping at a campground in Duson, Louisiana near a privately owned RV shop that I have an appointment on Monday for them to check out the bedroom A/C unit on Liberty. They have certified technicians so I'm starting out confident they know what they are doing. If I get good vibes from them, I may have them check some other things. It is hard to find a good RV shop without it being a dealership. While in the area, I'll make a quick stop to check on my sister and her family. I'll come back for a longer visit in the near future. Unless things change, I'll be back in Mansfield at my usual campground by Monday or Tuesday afternoon.

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