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)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Stormy Travels but Cooler Temps along Lake Erie

Location: Maumee Bay State Park (el. 600 ft); Oregon, Ohio (just east of Toledo, Ohio)

all pictures taken with Nokia Lumia Icon 929 Cell Phone

Route thru stop #4

I planned to pull out of Carlyle early due to the long tow ahead of me. I figured to start hitching up just after daylight and be on the road by 8 o'clock. I was on the road by 8 but it was nip and tuck for a while. I had checked the weather forecast before going to bed and it showed rain coming into the area but was due to hit around noon. I was OK with that timing since I would be long gone and be able to see the weather system in my side mirror as I would be driving northeast. Around 4 a.m. I awoke to a flash of lightening coming through the window shades followed by a loud crash of thunder. Immediately things started hitting the roof of Liberty. At first I thought it was rain, but then remember those dang gum ball trees I had parked under. I was being pelted by gum balls and branches from the tree. I laid there waiting for a large limb to come crashing through the roof. I grabbed my phone and checked the weather. They said to expect "strong thunderstorms with large hail and wind" for 2 hours beginning at 4 o'clock. They issued that warning at 3:45 am. Well gee wiz guys, an earlier warning would have been nice although even if I had the warning hours earlier I couldn't have done anything about it. So, the forecast called for clearing by 6 a.m. and if they were correct, I could start hitching up shortly after that and still be on the road by 8. All I had to do was lay in bed for a couple of hours while listening to the pounding on the roof of Liberty. About dawn, it dawned on me (lol), that instead of me being ahead on the storm system while towing, I would now be behind it and chasing it. I did some rough calculations and figured I would just be catching up to it as I got closer to the campground. If needed, I could slow down to let it get farther ahead. The rain stopped about 6 as predicted and since I had already been awake, I had everything tied down inside Liberty and was ready to hitch up. I walked around Liberty and did not see any limbs large enough to cause a problem to the roof. I then walked behind her far enough to see the roof all the while hoping there were no limbs sticking out anywhere. Her roof was clear and I breathed a sign of relief as it seemed I had dodged another weather bullet. As I looked around the campground I could see several other campers were not as lucky as me. A young couple with a small child had a very large limb fall and just miss their tent. Severe injuries would have resulted had it hit the tent. After hitching up and driving to the dump station, I saw moderate size limbs across RV's and cars. At least 3 foolish campers had left their awning out and were rewarded with having their awnings either ripped off or laid across their roof. Some of these RV'ers will leave their awnings out from the time they arrive at the campground until they leave. It's just a matter of time before an unexpected wind or storm like this will cause them financial and emotional heartburn.

I stopped at the McDonalds which was conveniently located at the campground entrance. Before pulling of the parking lot, I double checked the weather and the storm system. 
Typical countryside along the way. It is hard to tell if it is Illinois, Indiana or Ohio since they all looked the same to me. I'm not sure why they put the billboards so far away from the highways.

Dark clouds, then clearing a little. They alternated the entire way but I was lucky and missed all the rain until the end.
This is the "Cross at the Crossroads" in Effingham, Illinois. It is suppose to be the larges such cross in the U.S., but I saw another one like it later on that appeared to be the same size, so who knows for sure. It sure stands out on the side of the highway. 

The storm was about 200 miles ahead of me and traveling at 30 miles per hour in the same direction I would be traveling. I would be averaging 55 to 60 miles per hour. The question was would I catch the storm before getting to the campground which was 475 miles away. Sounds like a math word problem from high school with an RV and storm system instead of trains. The best answer I could come up with was it going to be close and I would probably have to slow down or stop for a while to let the storm move on some more. For 8+ hours I followed along while seeing the sky stay dark ahead of me. Everything was working out just fine until a different storm that came in from the west decided to join us about 3 miles from the campground. I found an empty school parking lot and pulled in just as the bottom dropped out with heavy wind and rain. I figured I could just relax and wait it out. It blew through in about 30 minutes after which I continued on to the campground. After getting checked in and set up, I was tired. It was a long day.
This is the storm that surprised me just before reaching the campground. It blew through in about 30 minutes though.

The campsites are large and separated from each other. I chose poorly in the setting sun is hitting the back, right (starboard quarter) of Liberty. I had thought the tree behind me would shade me from the evening sun, but I was wrong. 
Man-made beach inside of the

The campground in on the shore of Lake Erie but the campsites are not within sight of the lake. It is a large and nicely laid out campground. I used their laundry today which is a first for me since state parks rarely have laundries and the ones that have had them, they were too nasty to use. The only thing special to see here is the lake but I drove around some just to make sure. I found the spot where a lot of train tracks end or begin. It seems Toledo is a major rail hub that services Lake Erie. I started to go to the Great Lakes Museum and tour the freighter they have on display but I just couldn't get excited enough to go. I guess I'm getting a little jaded.

I did find a nice little city park just a mile or so outside the campground. 

The lake was a little windy and there was a nip in the air. That house was in a great location.

Whoever laid out this little walkway did a great job. 

A couple of nice thinking benches. I spent a little while sitting here enjoying the cool breeze and nice view. 

I'll be pulling out of here tomorrow with a short tow of only about 140 miles to a campground on the banks of the Saint Clair River. I saw this campground from a boat tour I took a couple years ago and have been wanting to go back to camp there. I will also be able to check in on Lake Huron to see if it is as blue as I remember. The straight shot takes be through downtown Detroit but I've decided go a little out of my way to avoid it. As usual when passing close or through big cities, I'll just turn the music up to drown out the gunshots and look for bullet holes in Freedom and Liberty once I get to the campground. 

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


Saturday, July 22, 2017

Hot, Hotter, Hottest and 2 posts in 1

Current Location: Dam West COE Campground (el 675 ft); Carlyle, Illinois
Previous Location: Cape Camping and RV Park (el 390 ft); Cape Girardeau, Missouri

Pictures are a combination in this post. Some are Nokia Lumia Icon 929 Cell Phone others are Nikon D5100.
Route thru current stop #3

I've sort of fallen behind with making posts to the blog. I don't have any reason other than laziness. As you can see, this is two posts. After I left Tom Sawyer's Campground, I headed north into southeastern Missouri. Specifically, Cape Girardeau, Missouri. That is the town I lived in when I was 16 and 17. I camped here a couple years ago and wrote a pretty good blog post about it which includes the time I thought I was going to die. This link will take you to that post. It will be easier reading the rest of this post if you go to the link first: 

I road around town a little bit and saw the old places but not any of the old people. Red Star Baptist Church looked as if it was deserted. I'm not sure it is even a church anymore. I sat for a while in the parking lot and just looked at. In it's heyday it drew teenagers and adults from all over. I could visualize us teenagers all over those front steps, laughing and joking and feeling good about ourselves and the church. It was a special summer, that summer of 72. We teenagers were exposed to good and evil that summer and I'm sure it tempered all of our lives.

Campsite at the COE Park. 
After leaving Cape, I drove north into Illinois and am currently camped in a nice Corps of Engineers Campground in Carlyle. My plans were to come here for 4 days while exploring the ancient Indian ruins of "Cohokia". It was the largest Indian settlement in North America. But like so many others during that time of 1000 to 1300 AD, most of the people just abandoned it and moved on. That information is what got me interested in seeing the place. However, the high temperatures kept me away. This area is in the middle of an extreme heat wave with temperatures approaching 100 degrees with heat indices in the 110 to 115 range. Too hot for me to be wandering around some old Indian Mounds. I'll keep it on my list for the next time I'm in the area. 

One great thing that I did do was have lunch with an old friend from high school. If you read the link above, you will recognize his name as being Mike Jones. The guy who went with me to Red River, New Mexico when we were 17 years of age. It was the first time we've seen each other in over 43 years. We had a nice lunch and got caught up with each others lives and relived many memories. It was a very good time.

Sorry there weren't many pictures, but most would have been repeats from the link above.

Tomorrow is moving day and it will be another long one. I planned to break it up into two days but changed my mind and will just drive. It will be a little less than 500 miles and I hope to get an early start. I've checked the weather forecast and I should get behind this stationary front that is keeping it so hot and humid around here. The prediction is to have temps about 15 degrees cooler within a couple of hours after leaving tomorrow. If all goes as planned, I'll be sleeping in an Ohio State Park on the shores of Lake Erie tomorrow evening.

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

Sunday, July 16, 2017

"Roll on Mississippi,,,,,, roll on"

Location: Tom Sawyer's RV Park (el. 100 ft); West Memphis, Arkansas

all pictures taken with Nokia Lumia Icon 929 cell phone
(click pictures to enlarge)

Stop number 1
Well, it's been a month since I've posted anything to the blog. During that time, I've been parked in Mansfield getting some updates on my son. His condition is such that I can take a short trip and return to Mansfield by the first of September. The timing works out well since the Forest River Owner's Group RV Rally will be going on during the first week of August. That is where I got several thousand dollars of free work on Liberty. The post that describes that surprisingly beneficial experience is located here:

I decided to make the first day a long haul of 380 miles since I couldn't decide about anything to see along the way. It is getting more and more difficult for me to decide about places to go and things to see along the way. I used to be torn between directions to go since I was new on the road. I know I haven't seen nearly as much as I want to see, but I find myself second guessing places to go. I will read up on a place and find a nice campground then change my mind. So, in answer to that problem, I just decided to drive. The 380 miles got me to an old campground I stayed at a couple of years ago. It is Tom Sawyer's Campground in West Memphis, Arkansas and is located right on the banks of the Mighty Mississippi River. It is a great place to watch the tow boats working on the river pushing their barges up and down the river. It is like a parade as the boats and their tows pass by. I'm posting another link. It is to my blog post from 2 years ago when I was at this campground. 

Wow, two links in the same post. I must be getting too lazy to keep up with this blog. How about some pictures? 
There are lots of "thinking benches" along the bank. As the tows come by, people come and sit to watch them pass.

A small storm passed through during the day which left these clouds to put on a show at dusk.

One of the many tows that passed by. Pretty clouds, uh?

The tow boat,,,,, "disappearing around the bend. Roll on Mississippi, rolllll on." Some paraphrased lyrics from an old Charlie Pride song. I think of it just about every time I see the river.

Evening on the river. 
Tomorrow is moving day and I'll be heading a few hours north of here. It will be another "river town", but the campground is not on the river. It is another of my old home places and again will be the second time I've camped there. 

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

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Mount Nebo and Lake Dardanelle

Location: Old Post Road Corps of Engineers Campground (el. 330 ft); Russellville, Arkansas

All pictures taken with Nokia Lumia Icon 929 cell phone
click pictures to enlarge

Stop number 12. Next stop
Mansfield, LA.

As I left El Reno, the landscape changed again. Trees became more and more common. Once I crossed into Arkansas it was as if the Great Plains were but a distant memory. I chose a Corps of Engineer campground on the Arkansas river near Russellville, Arkansas. I know, I know, I remember the "bad juju" COE campground a month ago. But like I said then, I had never stayed in a bad COE campground and don't expect any more to be like that one. This is the first campground I have ever stayed in where they allow you to dump your grey water on the ground at the campsite. I'm not doing that but there are several RV's that are watering trees. 

Interstate highway 40 in eastern Oklahoma

The trees are crowding in which restricts the view to the left and right. I have mixed feelings about this "semi tunnel effect".

Nice COE campsite with the Arkansas River right out the back. That dam in the background is what brought me here. 
This is another project which my father helped build. This was earlier in his career so he would have been the Concrete Superintendent for the construction company. The dam is about 55 years old and still looking good. It is a hydro dam so it has been producing low cost electricity for all those years. 

That is the lock gate on the right. I've only seen a could tows passing by. I guess it is still too early for the harvest in the plains.

One of those concrete pours in the dam is the one that "encouraged" my older brother to go to college. He graduated high school while we lived here and started work in one of the several concrete crews my father supervised. This was intended to be a summer job before starting college in the fall. He liked the money and mentioned to my father and mother that he would just as soon work construction instead of going to college. That was a mistake. The next concrete pour, little did my brother know, but my father told the foremen to work my brother just short of killing him. When that 10 hour pour was over, my brother was covered head to toe in concrete and he was flat worn out. That evening while eating supper, he informed my parents that he had changed his mind and thought college was a great idea. He didn't learn about my father's "teaching experience" for several years after her graduated from Arkansas Tech, located right here in Russellville. Yep, my brother stayed behind while my parents, sister and I went to the next project, this time in Pennsylvania. 

The dam made a nice lake called Lake Dardanelle. That distinctive tower in the background is a cooling tower for a nuclear power plant. Wow, two environmentally friendly power plants within a few miles of each other. Arkansas, the Natural State. :)

Another view of the lake

Last view of the lake.

Sun setting over the dam. A nice breeze is keeping the skeeters from attacking but the lightening bugs don't seem to be affected by the breeze.

A view from on top of Mount Nebo. It is a nice state park on top of a mountain just a short ways away from the campground. 

Oops, this is another view of the lake. This time from way up high. Nice views from Nebo. Probably in the top 10 that I've seen around the country.

Each end of the mountain has an overlook. I was lucky to be the only one there at both. 

This is one of the better bench pictures in a long time.

That sign will make RV'ers pucker up a little tighter. 
 Tomorrow is moving day and I'll be sleeping in Mansfield tomorrow night. I'll be there at least one month. 

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

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Oklahoma; Driving Across the Prairie

Location: Lake El Reno RV Park (el. 1,400 ft); El Reno, Oklahoma

All pictures taken with Nokia Lumia Icon 929 Cell Phone
Click pictures to enlarge

Stop number 11

The title of the post is a line from a song. If you know it, put in the comments. A fantastic prize awaits all who respond correctly. But wait,,,,, if you do so within 10 minutes of reading the post I will double your prize and you will win two, yes, two, fantastic prizes. (Just pay additional handling charges.) 
Just kidding about the prizes, but the title is a song lyric. 

As the title says, I drove across the Oklahoma prairie. The total drive on Friday was a little over 440 tiring miles, with about 300 miles of it in Oklahoma. I had planned to drive to Dodge City, Kansas before turning south but made a wrong turn in Lamar, Colorado. I didn't realize it for 30 minutes or so when I wondered why I was headed south instead of east. Oh well, I had looked at several different routes with all of them about the same mileage. The way I looked at it, I missed that turn for a reason. I just don't know the reason, but since everything happens for a reason, there must be one. I arrived in El Reno close to 5:30 in the evening which is way, way later than I usually arrive at a campground. I stopped here about a month ago. It is a city owned park with a first come, first serve system where you pay the iron ranger after getting set up. It is a nice park and I'm using it for a 3 day rest. I've dropped about 7,000 feet in elevation over the last few day and I can really tell a positive difference. The wind here in Oklahoma will drive a person crazy. It is blowing consistently at 20+ mph with gusts in the 30 mph range. It has blown this way both times I've passed through here. I will avoid Oklahoma as much as possible in the future. 

Driving 300 miles across the Oklahoma prairie had me thinking about what I had learned in high school about Oklahoma. The only two things I remembered was several Indian tribes has been relocated to the Oklahoma Territory and of course the Oklahoma Land Rush. That Land Rush happened between 1889 and 1895 when about 15,000,000 acres of land was up for grabs to whoever was quick enough to claim their homestead. The homestead was 160 acres of land and it was yours free of charge after 5 years if you improved it by either agriculture, living on it or used it for some type of industry. Most of the nearly 100,000 homesteaders used their land to raise cattle and grow crops.

Most of the homesteaders would have been in their 20's and came from all of the eastern states looking to start a new life with free land and hard work. They would have been in their 50's when the Great Dust Bowl hit this area during the 1930's. Sixty percent of the homesteaders and farmers lost their lands during that decade. The ones who survived and retained their lands, probably increased their land holdings by buying up adjacent property for very little money. As the children of the homesteaders grew into adults, many would leave the farms for the cities and when their parents passed away, the farm would have been sold. Usually it would have been sold to neighbors because it wouldn't have been the "right thing" to sell to strangers. As time went by, what started out as a 160 acre homestead may have grown 10 or 20 times in size. But, you can still see signs of the original homesteaders lives. Some of the signs are clumps of trees which were planted to surround a house and serve as a wind or snow break. Other places you could see the left overs of root cellers/storm shelters. How many hard lives had passed through this area that I was casually driving through? How many times had those fields been plowed, first by horses, then by tractors. Sometimes, it was as if I could see those ghosts still working the fields and waving to me as drove down the road. Those work days would have been long and hard with no trees for shade under which to rest and maybe eat a bite of lunch or drink some cool water. Nothing but hot sun and that dang wind. And what a wind it is,,,, I've only been here for 3 days and the wind is always blowing. I'll be glad to leave. I hope by slide toppers survive.
I believe that is wheat on the right. There were some locations that were harvesting. I don't know how many cuttings per year they get in this area.

I think that was called Indian Butte. I also tried to get the spiral vapor trail.

An old home place. They were scattered everywhere.

Another tree that had been planted by someone in the past. Picnics and dinners were probably had beneath its boughs, now, it stands alone.

Can you imagine plowing these fields with a horse and plow. Hard, hard work. Then to see it all blow away in the 30's. Wow.

Some of the old homes looked a little newer. Possibly from the time after the dust bowl and perhaps after WW2. But they all, had the trees around them.

The more trees, the bigger the house and out buildings. It would be interesting to know if that bunch of trees were the home of original homesteaders. 
Tomorrow is moving day and I'll be heading to a Corp of Engineers Campground just downstream of a dam my father work on near Russellville, Arkansas. 

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

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Life's Circles, Forks and How a Family Was Created

Location: La Junta KOA (el. 4,250 ft); La Junta, Colorado

Current Route. Stop #10.

This blog post will not have any pictures so if you're expecting them, you will be disappointed. Well technically that thing over there >>>> to the right is a picture, so maybe just one. It will be a personal blog post written with my grandchildren and their children in mind. The subject will be some family history that may be of interest to them in the distant future. You non-family readers are more than welcome to continue reading and comment if you so desire. 

I created this blog a little over three years ago to document my RV travels. It was a way to record my travels, campgrounds, explorations and thoughts about this great country of ours. Those posts were snapshots in time. Frozen forever in this blog. I have gone back to previous blog entries and sometimes it is as if another person had written it. Sometime in my mid-teenage years, I learn a life lesson about just that thing and it has stuck with me ever since. Surprisingly, it was from some TV show. I don't remember the name of the show, but I remember the lesson. Something tragic had happened to the TV family and the father was speaking to his son about it. He told him that when some major event happens in our lives, whether tragic or happy, we should never ask the question, "what is going to happen to me now?". Instead, the correct question is "who am I going to be now?" since every major life-changing event changes us into someone else. That's some heavy duty stuff for a teenager, so I thought on it some more until it made sense. For example, once you get married, you become a spouse, once you have children, you become a parent. Those are good examples. Some not so good examples, are when a family member dies or you have a major medical problem. Those things change who you are and the way you look at life and you become someone else.  

From time to time I have used this blog to post about my past. There have been posts showing some of the houses in which I lived as I was growing up in different states. There were some of the construction projects my father help build. There have also been some about the death of family members as well as their successes. This one is going to be about how my personal branch of the Goza's was created.

Let's start in the fall of 1973. I graduated early from high school and enlisted in the U.S. Navy at the age of 17. That was two events that changed me into someone else with the enlistment being a big one. I wasn't just young and impulsive. I enlisted with my eyes wide-open and was anxious to start on a new and great adventure. Adventurous it was, but I won't go into those now. Instead, fast forward to the summer of 1977 and I only have a few months before my discharge. What to do, what to do? That was the question I was asking myself. Do I re-enlist, and if so, then the Navy would be my career. That wouldn't be too bad. I had reached the rank of Petty Officer 2nd Class in the critical rating of Operations Specialist. I had been on-board ship for 3 1/2 of my 4 year hitch and shipboard life was not a problem for me. There was a hefty multi-thousand dollar bonus and choice of duty assignment if I just signed the papers to re-up. 

My other option was to leave the Navy, go to college and become a Civil Engineer. My father was a Construction Superintendent for a national construction company. It was a family owned company so over his career, he worked for with many Civil Engineers. My visits to the construction projects and talks with those engineers is what put the thought of becoming a Civil Engineer in my mind. That was something I had planned to do right after high school but my mind wasn't in the right place at that time so I took the detour into the Navy. By the time of my discharge, I would have been out of school for 4 years and although I had completed dozens of training courses in the Navy, I wasn't fooling myself into thinking college would be easy. The Navy had also matured me way beyond my 21 years and I anticipated there would be problems with some of the more immature students who had only recently graduated high school. This was in the late 70's when there were some conflicts on college campuses. 

And there it was again, just as it had been at other times,,, a fork in the road of my life. One (re-enlisting), was a safe and pretty much known commodity. The other (college), was a real unknown. Either choice would create a "new me". 

I chose to leave the Navy and go the college route. I started my planning a few months before I was discharged. I had several thousand dollars saved, a car that was paid off and my G.I. college benefits. Uhmmm, next question I needed answered was which college to attend. I had moved around my entire life so I didn't have a permanent home. I literally could choose any college in the country. Now that is freedom. Of course to solve the problem, I bought a book. I don't remember the name of the book but it listed every college and junior/community college in the country. It also listed the degrees offered at each and the current tuition costs, etc, etc. I don't remember all of the thought process of choosing or the pros and cons of each school but somehow I decided on Otero Junior College in La Junta, Colorado (town sound familiar??, one of life's circles). Heck, I had never even been in Colorado. I just picked it out of a book and found it on a map. I thought it would be nice to be near the Rocky Mountains. Little did I know, you can't even see them from this town. I had also been hankering for a motorcycle and figured that would play a part in my life as a carefree single man.

So, the plan was finalized. I would be discharged in late November of 1977. I would pack all of my belongings in my sea bag and drive my Chevy Vega to the town of Justice, West Virginia. That was the place my parents were currently living while the company my father worked with built the R.D. Bailey Dam. The plan was for me to work for the company as a member of the survey crew until the fall of 1978 when I would head off to college. That meant I could save more money and buy the motorcycle. I paid cash for a brand new Suzuki 750 in the spring of 1978 after the snow melted. That scooter was fast! 

Oh, did I mention the girl who worked in the company office at the dam. I met her a day or so after I started work at the dam. She was real pretty and just a few months younger then me. (you can see where this is going can't you?). Well, up jumped another fork in my road of life. She asked me to go for a walk one day and six weeks later we were married. That's not a typo, six weeks is correct. She had a son named Jerry who had just turned 3 years of age. The date that the three of us got married was June 9, 1978 (tomorrow would have been 39 years). My father was the best man at my wedding, and last month on May 13, 2017, I was the best man at Jerry's wedding. Another one of life's circles. 

Well now, I worked the day of Friday, June 9th, got married that evening, honeymooned over the weekend at a state park and then back to work on Monday. You can sure tell what a romantic soul I was back then, unfortunately I didn't improve much over the years. We had to quickly modify the individual plans Kathy and I had when we were single and come up with one for the three of us. There's that fork in the road again. Where do we live? What do we do to make a living? It seems she didn't have a lot of hard fast plans of her own and she was more than happy to leave West Virginia, so she and Jerry sort of adopted mine. We sold my Chevy Vega and her Chevy Monza and bought a new Red Chevy Monte Carlo with a T-top. It was a sweet car. Notice I didn't say we sold the motorcycle. I figured I would be able to ride it to school while leaving the Monte Carlo for Kathy. That made enough sense for me not to sell it. By the way, it still wasn't licensed. 

I don't remember the exact date, but would guess it to be sometime in July of 1978, about one month after our wedding. We rented a U-haul truck and packed everything we owned inside, including the motorcycle. Along with the truck, we got a hitch to tow the Monte Carlo. My father showed me how to take the drive shaft out so it could be towed without a dolly. Off we go, a brand new family of three, heading 1,300 miles across country to a town none of us had ever been to or knew anybody in the town. I don't remember stopping except for fuel and eating so it was a long and exhausting trip in that truck. We arrived in La Junta and the first thing I noticed was no Rocky Mountains in view. Darn, strike one. We got a motel room and started looking for a place to live. We contacted a realtor who showed us several houses and apartments but none suited us. Looking back, that may have been the official reason, but perhaps neither of us were too excited about the town. I have looked at the town again yesterday and today with the eyes of a 61 year old and it looks OK. Back then, we never even drove by the college, but I did yesterday and it looks really nice. 

After a couple of days unsuccessfully searching for a place to stay, that fork in the road came up again. Do we continue looking or do we go somewhere else. Hmmm, I knew of another place. In fact, it had been on my list of possible colleges. Alvin Community College in Alvin, Texas. It had pre-engineering classes which I needed before transferring to a four year school to finish up. An added benefit is that my older brother (10 years older), lived in Alvin. We called him from the motel in La Junta to see if he could find out if the fall session had started. Remember, this is way before internet. He called me right back and said it started in a few days. He also said we could stay with him and his family until we found a place of our own. So, Kathy and I decided to follow that fork and traveled another 900 miles to Alvin, Texas. After a couple of weeks, we found a trailer for rent in a town down the road called Manville. Kathy stayed home with Jerry while I drove a school bus for extra cash and went to classes. Life was good. We celebrated our one year wedding anniversary as I finished the school year with high enough grades to know I could compete, academically, on the college level. Another decision was needed as to where to go to school next. Stay in Alvin for one more year or transfer to a four year school. That decision would wait until the end of the summer of 1979. The three of us packed everything up again and headed back to West Virginia, minus the motorcycle. Money got tight and I wasn't riding it much so we sold it (never did get a license for it). After working on the dam for the summer, we decided to go to Lafayette, Louisiana where I would enroll in the University of Southwest Louisiana. And wouldn't you know it, another family member lived there. My sister and her husband lived there and we stayed with them for a couple of weeks until we found a place of our own. I enrolled in USL, now called ULL. Kathy started work at Eckerds Drug Store and was very successful in working her way up to assistant manager. She was very impressive at her job.

Three and a half years later, in the fall of 1982, we graduated from USL, our daughter Brittanie was born and we were faced with another fork in the road. Where do I work? As it was seen in the past, we didn't have a problem moving anywhere in the country. Again, like some of the forks in the past showed, it was freedom. We received a pretty good job offer from the construction company my father worked for and we were very tempted to take it. It would mean Jerry and Brittanie would live a life similar to the one I grew up in with moving from town to town as construction projects started and finished. Wow, I had to think that one over pretty hard. I liked the life in which I was raised. It never really bothered me moving every 2 years or so. One of the things that I did miss out on while growing up was staying in a place long enough to develop long term friends. The only kids I knew longer than a couple of years were the children of the other company employees. Would I want that for my children?

Another offer came in from the State of Louisiana, Department of Transportation and Development. They were staffing up in the northwestern district for the imminent construction of the Interstate Highway 49 and were looking for young engineers. The starting pay was smaller but the long term benefits, job stability and promotional opportunities were greater.

Two offers with two distinctly different paths. Kathy was leaving this decision up to me.

I chose the DOTD and began work in January of 1983 in the town of Mansfield, Louisiana, about 35 miles south of Shreveport. Two years later Brandon was born and that made us a family of five. After years of baseball and gymnastics all of the kids graduated from the same high school with friends they had known for over a decade. They cruised the same streets after getting their drivers license and could recognize most of the people in town by sight. Jerry went on to college and graduated from Louisiana Tech in Ruston, Louisiana. Brittanie also went to college and graduated at Louisiana State University at Shreveport. Brandon chose a different fork than his brother and sister and graduated from Universal Technical Institute in Houston, Texas. By the way, he also had a heart stint installed while going to UTI and it only set him back about one week. 

Along the way, the marriage that began in that summer of 78 ended in the early fall of 2006 after 28 years and 2 months. It was a sad day, and I learned too late that you never take anything for granted, even marriages. In the spring of 2014, I retired from the DOTD after 31 years. I had reached the highest position a person could achieve in the district. Another promotion would have meant moving to the state capital in Baton Rouge. Even though I probably could have received another promotion, I just didn't have it in me to make the move. 

Jerry, his son, step-son and new bride live in Sulphur, Louisiana which is in the southwestern corner of the state near the Texas border.

Brittanie, her husband and daughter live in Plain Dealing, Louisiana in the northwestern corner of the state near the Arkansas border.

Kathy and Brandon live in Mansfield, Louisiana. They are in the house we bought when the children were still small. Brandon is the one that never wanted to leave the town he was raised in except when he went to Houston to attend UTI.

And me, I live in an RV named Liberty, towed by a truck named Freedom, and travel around the country. I guess I do have a few more moves left in me. 

So here I sit, in the town where Kathy, Jerry and I thought were were going to start our new lives together, 39 years ago. We were wide eyed and in our early 20's with nothing but our futures ahead of us. Little did we know the ride we had began as just the Goza3 eventually would became the Goza5. 

Life's circles and forks are all around us, you just have to look for them. And remember, everything happens for a reason.

Tomorrow is moving day. Yep, I'm the Goza that is still moving. The move is going to be a long one, almost 450 miles. I don't like moving such great distances in one day any more, but there is nothing that interests me between here and Oklahoma City, so I'll just drive. If I get too tired, I'll find a place to stop. I expect it to be a good thought-clearing drive. 

Grandbabies; I hope this piece of history is of interest to you. I also hope it helps me remember it in a few year if my memory fades. 

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

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Out onto the Great Plains (just pictures)

Location: La Junta KOA (el. 4,250 ft); La Junta, Colorado

all pictures taken with Nokia Lumia Icon 929 cell phone
click pictures to enlarge

Current route.
Campground number 10

It was a pretty morning as I was getting hitched up and ready to leave South Fork. The 8,200 feet of elevation had begun to affect my breathing if I didn't any even semi-physical. I would be glad to drop down the 4,000 feet to the Great Plains.

Anyone that goes east/west in southern Colorado recognizes what I think is Blanca Peak. And if I remember what I learned a few years ago, Blanca is the female name. 

Some of the unique housing but with a great view

This one was taken at a "chain up" pull out that I stopped at and treated it like a rest area. 

This going up the last pass in Colorado. It is named La Veta Pass and is between Alamosa and Walsenburg. It is a long smooth grade. Not as steep as Wolf Creek but much longer

What goes up must go down. Going down the other side of La Veta Pass.

No mountains left in sight. For the southern folks, I believe those are snow fences. They help keep the roads clear in the winter by intercepting some blowing snow before it gets to the road. 

Last view of the Rockies in Freedom's side mirror

This is the beginning of the Great Plains that stretch across the mid section of the country.

Campsite at the KOA. I usually don't stay in KOA's but this one was convenient to La Junta.
I'll be here for two days before moving on. This is the second time I've been to La Junta with the other time being in 1978. I'm still thinking it over about telling that story. 
Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.