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Monday, February 28, 2011

VACATION - Just Blow Me Away! - to Brantley State Park, NM

(This post is about Sunday travels, but being posted today)

We woke up in the Walmart at Hobbs NM at 4 am on our body clocks (which is really 3 am NM time) and all was calm out yet.... the impending high wind warnings were scrolling across all the tv stations.  Any high vehicles were warned to stay off the roads.  Seeing as we couldn't go back to sleep, instead we perked up some coffee.  We decided to hit the road the last 90 miles or so to Brantley State Park near Carlsbad.  This way we wouldn't be fighting the winds.   We really don't like driving in the dark, but did it anyhow...

We found our way along the darkened highway, with barely any other traffic anywhere.  I was able to finish my blog post from the day before.   We got to the front gate of the park and it was still dark.  Steve got out and read the signs with his flashlight which said the campground is 2 miles in and to just drive in and take a campsite.  But knowing how awful it would be to enter a quiet sleeping park with a big noisy diesel, we decided to wait at the gate till daylight.  So we went back to sleep!     It was only for a bit and was light about 630 am.

Here is my first desert sunrise photo, taken out of the window of the motorhome as the sun rose in the spaces of this interesting bush.  I thought it was kinda pretty!

We had some more coffee and then unhooked the Tracker and drove into the campground to check it out....    Half the campground is reservable, and if you do take an empty site there it can only be for one day at a time, and you might have to move, depending on the reservation schedule.   On the other loop were all first come first serve type sites and there were about 10 empty sites ... so we nabbed one, paid for it at the selfpay station and went back to the rig.  We waited till 7:30 to bring the rig into the campground, backed in it quickly and made as little noise as possible.  There were some folks up and about.  

The shrubbery and trees are not really native to the area, we even see white pines!   But we did notice all over are underground watering systems and spigots like the one in the bottom right corner in this pic, just to water the shrubs around the sign way back at the entrance to the park.

The sites are lovely and spaced apart enough to give some space.  Some trees are planted here and there for shelter from the winds, as is a big stone wall alongside the picnic table and pavilion.

We are happy with the price too... $10 a night for the site and $4 for electric... some of the sites on the other side also have sewer available for another $4.  The toad does not require an extra car entrance fee either.  Some state parks nail you left and right with fees, especially higher rates when you are from another state.  New Mexico rates seem to like having tourists and set fees accordingly. 

Our view from our campsite is spectacular!

Our neighbor looks like he has a bit of trouble, both tires are off his tag axle and the back compartment door appears to be ripped off from either a tire blowout or an accident.  OUCH....   We see a destroyed tire laying on the other side of his windblock.

We took a nice walk around with the dogs after breakfast, and had just gotten back to the motorhome when WHAM the winds hit full force!  it was like a matter of 60 seconds from calm to gale force winds!

There is a fire to the north of the park, about 10 miles away, and we see the plumes of smoke from time to time but its not coming this way....  I can imagine the dry tinder of the brush and weeds are making a heck of a time battling the fire against these winds.

We were blasted all day long...  we watched from inside the rig all of the dust storms and whirling dervishes are so thick at times everything is brown..... . guess we arent going to grill out salmon today, huh?  Here is a shot where the blue sky is all brown. We had to close up the rig as we could taste the dust, see the dust and breathe in the dust.  Not Good.

We had sustained winds of 50mph and gusts up to 90mph here.  WHEW! 

Once the winds abated a bit around 6pm, we took a ride in the Tracker to check out the park, which is huge.  We saw the Pecos River which is dammed up near the park, making the big Lake Brantley.  On the low side of the dam, this is all that there is to the Pecos River at this time of year.

And here is a shadow of our teeny tiny Tracker! 

Even throughout the park and landscape we could see some more oil pumping stations.  
They are everywhere!   Wish they were pumping crude to help bring down the price of diesel!~ 

OK... now it's morning here and we are up and at em, going to head to Carlsbad Caverns today...  we have clear blue skies and it is drop dead gorgeous here this morning. It was down to about 36 overnight but will warm up fast this morning... supposed to be in the high 70s! 

Steve is out walking the dogs and I am getting ready for a day trip in the Tracker.  We are leaving the dogs here in the rig with the shades pulled, the tv on to distract them from any outside noises and the AC unit set to be on if it gets too hot.... 

88 miles today
1609 total miles traveled so far

Sunday, February 27, 2011

VACATION - Finally found some SUN - Wichita Falls TX to Hobbs NM

(this post is for Saturday Travels, but posted on Sunday morning) 

We woke up in our cozy motorhome with the heater on high... why high?  Because it was freakin cold out again!   There was frost on everything when Steve took the dogs out.  Brrrrr

Having solar panels to recharge our batteries is a very nice thing.  After pulling off the road at 5pm yesterday, we had the television on to watch the news and weather, and left it on all evening.  We had two laptops going and the router with our aircard to share our signal.  Various lights on and off here and there, plus the water pump going for 2 showers and dishes.  We recharged the cell phone and 2 rounds of camera batteries.

After using that and the tv well into the later night, about 11 pm I think, our four 6 volt golf cart batteries were only down to 78% by this morning ...  (one should never let their batteries get below 50%)  The sun was burning through a dense layer of fog, and the batteries were almost to 90 by the time we were ready to take off.   Of course the alternator charges them as we drive too, but a recent discussion on our SafariFriends list remarked on how much more strain it is in an alternator to make it charge the depleted camping batteries as well as the driving batteries when driving.

I perked up the coffee and then we decided to hit the road by 8am.   We got ready to roll *Road Worthy* and started west.  As we left town it was sunny, but the further west we went, we were catching up to the fog again!

But once it burned off, this is what we saw--- rolling hills and the starting of some desert landscapes!

We marveled at the changing terrain from flat grasslands into desert and tumbleweeds and sage brush and rocks...    there were sections that would suddenly burst into rock formations and desert, and then suddenly we would be back to flat yellow grasslands with cows happily munching their breakfast.

I won't bore you with tons of photos taken through the windshield, but it was all new territory for us.  Neither of us has been to this part of the country, so we were tickled at the ever-changing landscapes. 

I had no idea they grew cotton in Texas!  I know we saw cotton growing in the fields on our way to Florida and back, but I guess I didn't think of Texas as being a cotton belt state.  The cotton fields had already been picked clean by machines but ends of rows with tufts of cotton still in the boll.  I could take them, and pick out the seeds and spin them if I wanted to on my spinning wheel by attaching a spindle.   But I would much rather spin wool!   Here is a shot of the leftover cotton at the end of the rows... almost looks like SNOW to us Northerners! 

We didn't see much wildlife yet.  Steve saw an upside down armadillo that might have been dead or might have just been hanging out on the pavement to get warm?  A couple of dead skunks too... but I think around here they call them *pole cats* ... LOL     Then, suddenly, across in front of us spurted a brown animal the size of a dog....   at first I thought it was a coyote, but watching it hop through the grass and saw the white sections of the back of the feet it must have been a big jackrabbit.. errrr  a jackalope?   Ironically, the town we were just passing through was Home of the Jackrabbits sports team at Ralls TX!  Too funny! 

We fueled up at the Flying J in Lubbock TX.  
74 gallons  at   $3.719  per gallon   $275.00

They were painting around the RV islands which have cones blocking them, so we had to pull around the building in a big loop out to the road, and in again into the semi truck islands.  We pulled into #20 and Steve went inside to prepay (they swipe your credit card now for a set amount instead of just leaving it on the desk in there)  .... and then you come back in after the actual amount is pumped and they adjust it.  Soooo Steveio is waiting patiently at the counter to give his card,  tells the gal the pump number and she said: "Oh, that pump is out of order, you have to move to another pump"  ARGGHHH   She said the painters doing the overhang canopy must have moved those cones.  So he comes back out, fuming, and we have to loop around the building again, out on the road, and in again..... and this time pull into #18.  He has to go BACK in so the card can get pre-swiped.  He comes back out, pumps, goes back in to get the slip and have it tabulated.  Guess what?  THE PRICE WENT UP during the time we were messing around with the pumping and moving and moving again!!!!!!!    We complained to the clerk (she was nice) but she couldn't do anything about it.  Plus she also forgot to swipe the RV Value card for our 1 cent a gallon discount.   We complained more, and she went and asked the manager to adjust the price.  Nope, Nada, No Go.   Needless to say, I fired off an email to the corporate office, noting the manager's name, store number and time of purchase.  Had it not been for their painting and misplaced cones, we would have gotten our fuel 4 cents cheaper per gallon!   I know it's not a big deal, but it was the principle of the thing. 

We drove on to Hobbs, NM without incident and pulled into the Walmart for an overnight.  The weather was amazingly warm.  It was 77 degrees and sunny! 


A Bounder pulled in near us and proceeded to fire up their generator, which was facing us.  At first I was thinking perhaps just long enough to cook dinner in the microwave?  But no.  It ran all evening, and all night.   Oh well, we shut the windows on that side and ignored them.  It was a free place to overnight, so sometimes ya gotta just deal with it.

I had a question in the comments sections of yesterday's blog:

trailercamper said...

How do you like the Microsoft Streets and Trips software? Hope you feel better soon. I really enjoy reading your posts as you make your way down the road.

 Well, ours is an old version, 2006.  It came with the GPS dongle that plugs into a USB port.  It also came with an extension cord with a suction cup so you could stick it to a window, but a wire must be broke inside the cord now.  Probably from getting caught in the slides on the drawer of the built in computer desk on the passenger side.   So that was the cord I replaced yesterday at Walmart.   I got a retractable USB extension cord for $15 and it is nice to just pull it out to work and then ZING back into the little circle thing to stow.  No messy cords hanging around.     Here is the GPS dongle on the left and the full screen on the laptop on the right.

Ok.. on to the Streets and Trips program.   I reallym really like it!   I fiddled with a small portable GPS of a friend's once back in 2005, and had a hard time reading the route numbers, and setting it to find an address by pushing this button umpteen times for a letter of the alphabet, then that button umpteen times etc.   I wasn't going to blow $400-500 at that time to buy one.   But then Steve's dad told us about Streets and Trips he uses for his business travels.   So we bought one at a Walmart on our way to Florida.  Turns out that it needs a DVD drive, not a CD drive to be installed into the laptop.  And my old 2002 Dell at that time only had a CD drive.

I tried to return it to the next Walmart we stopped at, but because it had been opened, it was considered software and not returnable.  I said it was HARDWARE (the GPS part)  and the disk was something that came along with it, like a digital camera.   But no go.. we were stuck with an $89 program that I couldn't even load up. ARGGHHH    So once we got to Florida, I got to thinking.  What about changing the CD drive on the Dell laptop to a DVD drive?   So I ordered one up on Ebay, it came 3 days later to my mom's house.  I installed the new drive, then the program...  VOILA!    It worked!    So now that I had it, I had to learn to USE it.

I LOVE having the big screen to work with.

I LOVE having a full keyboard to type in things (even notes of what we saw where, or costs of campgrounds, or favorite site numbers)

I LOVE that I can make a map and save it as my basic "Camping Map" where I have imported a bunch of POI (points of interest) that show me all the campgrounds, all the Walmarts, all the Flying Js, all the Cracker Barrels etc.   Then from this base map that I keep saved, I can use as a template to make individual trip maps.  Then I don't have to import the POI's each time I made a separate travel map.

I LOVE that I could make a map and save it as "Out West Trip"  or "Florida 2009"   and keep notes of places we stopped, or prices we paid for fuel, or routes we took

I LOVE that I can set it to leave a little blue trail of wherever we went, called a GPS Trail.

I LOVE that I can see how fast we are going...because I can not easily see Steve's odometer.  So when I say to him:  Steve--- it's 35 mph speed limit here, and Mr ZoomZoom used to LIE to me and say: "I am! I am!" ......  but now I know he is fudging about it and is really going 42 or 43!   Ask him about the warning ticket that he got for that very reason in our pre-GPS days!

I LOVE that I can change trips stops or add or take off things en-route with the click of a few keys, instead of leaning over a dash sideways to fiddle with the tiny buttons of a built-in GPS.   If we see a sign for something interesting, I can just click some keys and add it to the route.

I LOVE that I can take a little highlighter icon and draw across the map from point A to point B and it tabulates the miles to get there, just to see.  Without changing the preplanned route.  Especially useful when  deciding if we go this way or that way, which is shorter?  And a click of a button erases it fast too.

I LOVE that I can click on a button and it will tell me how far to the next stop I have plugged in, or the stop beyond that, or the last stop etc.  Then we can plan our segments of every 200 miles to stop and move the transmission gears on the Tracker we tow behind.  We can also plan our fuel stops by just clicking to see how far ahead is the next big town to get fuel.

I LOVE how it can search and find gas stations (even by brand), campgrounds, grocery stores, restaurants (even by ethnic styles) museums, hospitals, etc.   in a pre-determined radius.  Then it even gives you an option if you are hooked up to the internet, to click over to get their webpage!

I LOVE how I can plan trips while still in the house and just carry the laptop out to the rig.  Or the car. Or the Tracker.  Or bring it back into someone else's house to figure out more things, like I did at Sam and Donna's the other day.

Now.... what I DON'T LOVE are three things.....

I DON'T love how you "must" un-check the box of "Keep Position Centered" before you try to make changes to the route planner or want to scroll the map over to see something just beyond the edge of the screen. Then once you do that, you have to remember to re-check that little box on the Task Pane.

I DON'T love that for some reason the maps do not include the names of lakes, rivers or streams, unless they are HUGE.  Even when zooming in close up, most of the lake names do not come up.

I DON'T love that it fights with my MediaImpression program for the camera.  If I have both programs open at the same time, it usually ends up in a flickering battle, which gives me the dreaded BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH!  

I am using Vista and was told by Streets and Trips people that it isn't always compatible with the older versions like mine.  Also the lady's voice of the driving guidance feature does not work with Vista.  We don't use her anyhow, Steve has it hard enough just taking directions and listening to ME, much less ANOTHER woman!   LOL

So I hope that answers your question?   That was a long long diatribe, but you gotta understand, that right now we are up at 4am on Sunday and decided to drive to Carlsbad in the dark before the big winds pick up in a few hours.  So I needed something to type about, there isn't anything outside to look at or take pictures of!  So this is being typed while Steve is zooming down the road towards Carlsbad, and I am toggling between the internet and the Streets and Trips program to keep tabs on our route.

We hate driving at night, but after watching the weather report warnings of gusts up to 50 mph, we decided to head on out when we both woke up at 4am.

Have to get that *work alarm clock* adjusted ... plus we are in a new time zone so it's really only 3am!

321 miles traveled today
1521 total so far

Saturday, February 26, 2011

VACATION - Looking for Sunshine and warmth - Joplin MO to Wichita Falls, TX

It's Friday morning, day three of our adventure.  We woke up in our quiet Sam's club parking lot...brrrrrr it's cold out there!  About 30 degrees and damp and wet.  Steve took the dogs out while I put a few things away.  He wanted to get some miles under us to warmer temps.  We gobbled down bowls of cereal and headed out by 7 am.  The forecast for here in Joplin is to stay COLD all day and never get above 40 degrees!   So onward south and kinda west we are gonna go.. towards Oklahoma City, and then south towards Texas.  The forcast down by Wichita Falls TX was to reach 80 tomorrow so I think that is where we would like to be!

As a passenger, I am cruising along down the highway ... sitting here sipping my coffee and writing this.  In my flannel jammies, with my big woolen slippers on, a blanket around my shoulders as a shawl.... and off we go!  The motorhome life can be kinda fun.  My head cold seems to be mostly gone, just the voice is missing and raspy.  I have some throat spray and am sucking on lozenges and have some honey which helps.

We passed into Oklahoma at 7:45 am

We just paid a toll for the pleasure of driving the last 20 miles or so on the Will Rogers Turnpike.   $9.75 ouch!    Oh well, I always liked Will Rogers, so I guess we can pay for his turnpike?  LOL LOL  We didn't even KNOW we were on the Will Rogers Turnpike until it was time to pay.  We never saw any signs.  LOL

As we headed towards Oklahoma City, we were contacted by a fellow Safari owner that we know from our Safari Group.  Doug and his wife Ann have been following us for a while on our blog.  We also swap repairs, modifications, sources of parts and supplies, and even campgrounds and directions.

(a note here, for those so inclined to offer some prayers or kind thoughts for their little granddaughter, Lyra, who is putting up a good batter against cancer) 

We followed Doug's suggestions of which routes to take to meet up with them at Oklahoma City.... so the route he put us on was the historic Route 66!   We saw some interesting things, some strange things, some dumpy things and some great scenery.  So much nicer than the Interstate (which was also a tollway again)

 The two lane road wound itself like a ribbon, along the countryside, sometimes in little towns, other times parallel to the busy interstate.   We saw that RV reality show a few years ago, the one with the six families, all in motorhomes?  They drove part of the way on Route 66 too.

Many of the homes were in disrepair, abandoned and falling down.  So sad.  I think of all the cars that has passed by here, and thought of the family sitting on the porch, wishing they were in those cars.. going somewhere.. going anywhere...  just going.

Even new buildings get into the act in some of the towns we passed through.

 and a few murals here and there, painted in honor of the Route 66, and covering up an otherwise ugly shed

What I found the most fascinating were the old gas stations.  Many are made of flagstone and some were painted brick and stones...  some were square and some had arched doorways, all were placed close to the road.  Even the old ones that were falling down were so cool.  Steve zoomed by them so I couldn't take too many photos.  So please excuse the fact that these are taken through a dirty windshield with an aircard antenna in the way!

We wove our way along until we reached Oklahoma City and Doug had guided us right to them perfectly.  We had shot emails back and forth till we connected up together in the parking lot at a Walmart.  They had enjoyed some thick shakes from a local ice cream parlor before we got there.  We gave them the nickel tour of the rig, and shared some stories on travels and trips, motorcycles and scooters, and places to go and see.  Doug wanted to see Steveio's custom made tool drawers before they left.  Steve made some toolbox drawers from a big old industrial metal shop desk by cutting off the top and legs, and removing the center drawer.  He just used the two side sections and bolted them together to set in the basement compartment in our motorhome.  Here are some pics from in my files:

All too soon they had to go to take their granddaughter to a therapy session. After a few pics, we waved them on their way, and took Doug's suggestion on the best routes around Oklahoma City and down on towards Wichita Falls, TX.

As we headed south, the land flattened out more, the landscape got more barren, and where there were cows, so each time she saw spotted ones, our dear Ducky had to bark bark bark at them. (she was scared by spotted cows when she was a pup, and feels she needs to bark at them now to pay them back)  

 The goofy mutt even jumped up on the rocking Euro chair, to see out the windows on the passenger side where some cows were.  It was rocking and dipping and moving, but she ignored it so she could keep out a watchful eye for more cows!

Duke just rides along peacefully, usually on the floor next to me or sprawled out on the couch.  Cows? He could take em or leave em.  

Ut Oh.. another toll...   $3.00  I guess we are on the H.E.Bailey Turnpike heading south and west towards Wichita Falls

and another toll....   $3.25   whew the price is going UP

and another toll ...   $3.00  ....     this time we almost got to go through for FREE!   Duchess leaned forward over Steve's shoulder to stick her big nose out through the side window to the toll gate lady.  She loved her on sight ... and we said: "It's $3 to kiss a collie!"   hahahahha

We finally crossed into Texas at 4:45 pm.   I am really liking this horizon-to-horizon view with blue skies as far as the eye can see.  There wasn't a cloud to be found, no wind, calm and smooth roads.  It sure was delightful to be cruising along with my sweetie.  We are MADE for this life=====

We marveled at the change of scenery, remarked on the different plants, trees and even the grasses.  It was all new to both of us.  Last trip south we had seen a few small oil wells in northern Mississippi, but not nearly as many as we saw in OK and now in TX.  It had been a long day of driving, but we were feeling good and enjoying the views as they unfolded before us.  That big windshield is really a moving Picture Window!

We found our way into Wichita Falls, TX and went to the second Walmart on our GPS which was further back and in a nicer area than the one out by the interstate.  Once each vacation, we do a treat of buying a roasted rotisserie chicken from the Walmart deli.  Yummmmm  for $4.99 we had a great meal as I added mashed potatoes and some green beans.  Besides, the roasted is much better for Steve instead of deep fried for his cholesterol.  Now there are enough leftovers to make some chicken salad or chicken sandwiches tomorrow for lunch.  So that was our *splurge* for the day.

 Oh and I bought a new USB extension cord for the Streets and Trips GPS dongle.  It originally came with a cord but a little wire inside must have broken on the cord.  For now I have been using it stuck directly in the USB port on the side of the laptop, but I am scared it's gonna get bumped or sheared off when I shove the laptop drawer back into the recessed area it stows into.  With the extension, it can be suction cup adhered to the window, where it picks up the 9 satellites signals much easier with a clear view to the sky.  So those were our TWO *splurges* today.

We are keeping a close eye on the happenings back in Wisconsin.  I have had a few people email me to ask why he is not in Madison.   Well, Steve's union has sent down representatives and they have negotiators waiting to be called to the table.  So there is not much he or anyone in his union can do.  Steve's particular union has a contract with UWGB that says they can NOT strike, so that is why they are not travelling the 200 miles back and forth to go to the capitol. So again, it's wait and see.  Who knows, he might not even have a job when we get back.  After 33 years of hard and loyal service. It makes me sick to think of it.

Plus, our vacation was planned for about 5 or 6 months ago.  I have been saving every penny and nickel and dime to go.  With my newest health issues, Steve felt we should go now, use up his banked vacation days before those would get taken away too in this deal.  So that is why we are gone.  LOL  Just in case you guys were a wondrin?

According to the weatherman here on the local tv news, big big winds are heading through this area from the west on Sunday.  Perhaps 50mph blasting us right in the face as we head west? So we are thinking of driving tomorrow towards Carlsbad Caverns instead of down to Big Bend park.  And hole up there for a day or two in a campground or on some BLM land.  Will see when the sun comes up and what direction the motorhome goes in?

Today we drove 371 miles
1,200  total miles so far

Thursday, February 24, 2011

VACATION - St. Louis to Joplin, Missouri

Thursday Feb 24, 20100

We got up at 4am and dressed to head into the house.  Donna needs to leave by 5:15 for work ... so she invited us in for coffee and donuts.... and to keep Sam outta trouble for the morning!   LOL

She showed us some of Riggen's tricks..  he sure is a CLOWN!   Even at 5am he is raring to go!

We let the doggers come into the back yard, and Riggs thought that Ducky was one classy gal,  but little Dukie kinda hung close to me, as the big dogs were playing and he was just getting in the way. Little Sadie Mae just wansn't happy with all these new dogs in the house, so she went and hid out in a bedroom.

After having our HUGE donuts and coffee, said our goodbyes to Donna..  Sam and I did some computering....  he showed us a better way to get where we wanted to go, on some new roads.

Then the two guys proceeded to solve all the world's problems with another cup of coffee.   I noticed that my throat was getting sore, and I was suddenly losing my voice.  Turns out my darling beedle bug Chelsea has shared her head cold with me!   Erin said they took her to the doc today, and she had ear infections in both ears, pink eye in both eyes and a viral cold.   So I am thinking this is the shape of things to come with me?   I went out the rig, dozed up good with my vitamins, and extra C and some Airborne and a Claritin D ... and hauled out the throat spray and cough drops.

About 10 am it was time to head out on the road.  As much as we hated to say goodbye, we decided it was time to get a moveon. We were parked right in their driveway near their big fifthwheel.

Because we pulled in forwards, now we had to back out....  and you can not back up a toad (towed vehicle) as it will ruin the expensive tow bars.  So it was best to just back out the rig first, and then hook up the Tracker after we got the rig out. I drove the Tracker out the extra driveway while Sam expertly guided Steve backwards down the driveway.  He then walked right out in the road, held up his arm in perfect police-chief style (Sam IS a retired police officer!)  and got Steve a cleared out spot in the traffic to get out.   I scooted along ahead of Steve to the church parking lot down the road.  Then we pulled in there to hook up the Tracker  and we were back on the road again!   (see me scooting along ahead of him?)

 (and the good donuts too!) 

We headed on down Interstate 44 through pouring rains, some thunder and a bit of wind.  The winds were switching around and we had some tail winds too!   But it was boring and rainy and I kept coughing and not feeling so well.

We were getting weary of the rain, and decided to pack it in early and hit a comfy spot to stop for the night.   We were thinking of staying in the Fly J where we stopped for fuel,  but we had also seen a Sam's Club nearby so after our fill-up we headed there.

4:45 fuel stop flying j in joplin mo
57 gal @3.48 198.29

I whipped up some supper while Steve walked the dogs outside.  We are parked in a nice quiet lot, and have a horse trailer and 2 semis alongside us.  All is quiet and the store is closed....   I took a nap while Steveio walked the dogs.  The rain let up and now it's calm, no winds, and no more rain.  But the temps are dropping!   We are down to about 35 now and gonna get to about 28 tonight.  We watched some local news and weather.  Tomorrow looks like a better day.

I just hope this head cold goes away!

271 miles travelled today
829 miles total

VACATION - Heading south from Wisconsin to St. Louis

Wed Feb 23, 2011

Woke up to 12 degrees frosty cold winter in Wisconsin, but we didn't care, we were LEAVING!   It was day ONE of our VACATION!

(we didn't take a vacation last winter because we had two new grandbabies arriving on the scene in Dec and Jan.  so this year we are going to make up for it!)

We loaded up the last few items like laptops, cameras, and phones... then the dogs (can't forget them, they were driving us NUTS in anticipation)  We set the alarms on the house and garage, and the neighbors know we are leaving and are keeping an eye on things, plus our kids are going over to take care of snow, mail, plants and just checking things out for us.

Steve had preplanned and brought in the garden hose the night before so it was soft and pliable before hauling it out the fill the water tank.  (last year we cracked and broke a cold hose stored in the garage by trying to stretch it out.)

So he got it all stretched out and started to fill the tank.. but "Rut -Roh"  the fill port fitting on the side of the motorhome water manifold was frozen up!   So out came the hairdryer and in a few minutes we were filing up our 100 gallon fresh water tank.

See how dark it was out yet?   Here was the view out the front windshield...brrrrrr

We had considered waiting till we were further south to fill it, but we do like the taste of our well water, the dogs are used to our well water, and we could enjoy a shower or do dishes on the first night if we had the tank full.  Later after that 100 gallons get used up, we will buy drinking water for the dogs.   Long hair on the butt dogs are NOT FUN if they get diarrhea!  Our basement compartments are heated when we run the big furnace, so we would be fine in that respect.   But honestly, we like running just the Olympian Wave 8 instead of the big furnace.  Uses less propane, and more important NO POWER as there isn't a fan or blower unit on it.

By 6:45am  Steveio fired up the big rig..... we pulled outta the yard, hooked up the Tracker and left Oconto.  It was just starting to get light and we were on our way!!!!

Bye House and Garage- be good while we are gone! 

And we were all set to hit the road!

We had our MAP ....  the grandkids colored us a map so we wouldn't get lost... also they gave us:
- travel kleenix to cry with as we miss our grandkids
- a flashlight and batteries so scare away the boogeymans
- matches to start our campfires
- 2 decks of cards to play cribbage and rummy 500
- some trail mix snacks for when we are hiking on trails
- sunglasses for the enjoying the desert sunshine
- and a really really funny card that made me CRY!

Those danged grandkids!

We headed south and saw less and less snow.... about 200 miles later we were ready to cross into Illinois.  There are toll roads by Rockford, and with four axles now towing, we prefer to avoid tolls.  We knew a quick loop around through Shopiere and Clinton could bypass those tolls... and a stop to see our friends Juanita and Norm with the quaint little weaving studio called Vavning.    www.vavningstudio.com

We pulled up, but alas.. she was not there!   We left a little present under a hidden flowerpot and went on our way.   We were just asking for a "Drive-By Hugging" anyhow.  Have to catch her on the way back, I guess!

We flew on down the road, got back on the interstate south of Rockford and headed south.... I know I have mentioned it before, we are really "not" Interstate People.  We like the backroads and the quiet routes, commonly called Red Roads ... on the maps?   Well, for now we are willing to drive the interstates to get south fast....   out of the snow and the cold and the ice...

Minok, ILL   46  gal  at 3.55   $165.01

We drove past some interesting fiberglass characters, including a PINK ELEPHANT in Livingston, IL.   Yes, PINK ELEPHANTS!  So I had to take a pic for my mom... she loves PINK!

We finally crossed into Missouri at 6pm  and went over both of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers....

We drove as far as the Dardenne Prairie just west of St Louis... Fellow RV bloggers Sam and Donna
They offered their driveway for an overnight stop.  We were just getting in as it was dark (we HATE driving at night) and there was Sam... standing at the end of his driveway, waving a light frantically back and forth, and then showing us the way in... What a welcome sight!

We got settled in, unhooked the Tracker and visited with Sam, Riggens the Wonder Dog and Sadie Mae the Elusive Pupster.....   (and that grey thing is a long disemboweled play toy in my hands, being dragged off by Riggs who wants me to keep playing and not posing for a picture!)

After jaw jacking for a while, Sam took us over to JJ's Restaurant where Donna was hard at work.
She was able to take a break and join us as we feasted on some delicious food!  They treated us to some of the best things on the menu, per Donna's recommendation.  Here is the obligatory restaurant pic of the food.....
We toasted to RV blogging with our wine and beers.... 

I had the cannolli and soup (yummmmmm  but they served so much I had to take the rest home)  Steve had the beef brisket sandwhich, Sam had fried ravioli and Donna had a pulled pork sandwhich and baked potato.  Gosh it was GOOD! We even met her boss and then a fellow co-worked snapped this pic of us!

 and US....    back row Donna and Sam, front row, Karen and Steve...
 in case you might mistake who was who!   

We headed on back to the house with full bellies and boy oh boy were we ever tired.  We crashed into bed and I think we were both asleep in ten minutes flat!

558 miles travelled today

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Well, most of my doc stuff is done, and although I still have some "issues" remaining, we are going to monitor the situation and the doc gave me the All Clear signal.   My friend Dot said that means I am CLEARED FOR TAKEOFF !!!!

Today is a sunny day in Wisconsin, the winds have died down.  Sure wish we could leave today.   But there are two impending storms on the horizon.

One is the weather, which we are due for 10-12 inches tomorrow and into Monday.   Hope all will be clear by Wednesday morning take off time.

The other storm is our political situation in Wisconsin.  As many of you know, not only is Steve a hard working state employee of 33 years, but he is also the union president of the AFSCME  WSEU Local 1800.  The firestorm brewing in our capitol due to some horrendous legislation being pushed through is affecting all of our taxpayers, not just the state workers.   I don't ever want to get political in my blog, and never want any arguments.  But unless you live here and know what this is going to do to each tax payer, property owner, and state employee,  it's hard for anyone on the outside to express opinions on this matter. The trickle down effect will harm all Wisconsin residents indirectly and property owners very directly.  Personally it is going to hamper our meager household budget and really diminish the very low take home pay Steve gets.    So I will end this topic with:   "It's a heck of a storm and we don't see any calm waters for a long time"

Poor Steveio has to monitor the situation and it is causing great stress and turmoil for him,  He has one more meeting on Tuesday night before we leave, and we are hoping nothing is going to cause him to have to stay here and forgo the vacation plans.   We might as well enjoy our tax refund and our vacation, before having to come back and seriously tighten the belt and work on a much diminished household budget.

On a brighter note.. much brighter... I am inspired by Al and Kelly of http://thebayfieldbunch.com   in their southwestern decor choices in their motorhome.  I had found this lovely handwoven runner a while back at a rummage sale, no less.   It was a mere dollar or two if I recall correctly.  So I have added to our little table in our rig as a bit of southwestern color to encourage us on our journey and brighten up our motorhome.

and for my weaving buddies who read this blog, here are some closeups of the patterns.... 

And then a bit of knitting here... been doing some socks for the cute grandkids on five needles, toe up, with some fun self-patterning yarns....

And of course, I will wind up the blog today with some more pics of these absolutely darling grandkiddos that we are going to miss terribly while we go on our vacation.   




They are all going to come here tomorrow for lunch and the afternoon as a 
Going Away Party for the Grandparents!   

(Steve said we have to lock up the motorhome so they don't stuff the grandkids in there as stowaways.... and Heather even threatened to send along all Grandpuppies too!   That means Tiger the Terrible yellow lab,  and Domino and Angel the ratpuppies!!!!)