"if you are not living on the edge, you are taking up too much room"

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

well what do ya know!

Tuesday morning we woke up to rain hitting the roof of the RV and a few rumbles of thunder in the distance. The skies looked like the rain was setting in for the long haul. We decided to do a little exploring and drove into Decatur. They have a small college there but other than that it is your typical small Mississippi town. Their claim to fame is this is where murdered civil rights activist Medgar Evers was born and raised http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medgar_Evers
After driving through Decatur we headed north to Philadelphia which is quite a bit larger but also has a very ominous past. It was here in 1964 that three civil rights workers were kidnapped and murdered. Their deaths at the hands of the KKK and the resulting investigation made national headlines and was a big catalyst in the civil rights movement. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippi_civil_rights_workers_murders
This was a very turbulent and sometimes violent time in the history of our country.
We stopped into the Super Wal Mart and picked up a few items while we were there. We also stopped at the Williams Brothers Store which has been serving this community since 1907.
This variety store had everything from "soup to nuts"! They even had a complete saddle shop in the rear of the store. The building itself was like walking back in time with it's creaking wood floors and wooden front door with the well worn push bars. Rudee noticed they had football jerseys hanging from the ceiling, one for Peyton Manning and one for Eli Manning. I knew that Archie, their Dad as well as Eli had attended college at nearby "Ole Miss" and wasn't surprised they had some fans in the area but as Paul Harvey would say, "now for the rest of the story". When I got back to the 5th wheel I looked up the history of the store and found out that Peyton and Eli's Mother's maiden name was Williams. Yep, the same Williams'. The store was started by two brothers which I would assume were Peyton's Great Grandfather and Great Uncle and is still ran by the Williams family over 100 years later. Wow, we were in the store owned by Peyton Manning's Grandfather, pretty cool for a couple of Colts fans like us :-)
The rain is supposed to continue Wednesday so we'll have to play it by ear on any activities. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

something new

Monday morning we took our time starting our day. Rudee wanted me to fix a handle on one of the kitchen cabinets where one of the screws had come out and is no where to be found. I removed the other screw so we could match it up. I also grabbed the empty LP tank figuring I had better get it filled before we went any further north, I'm afraid we are going to need it :-O.
Our campground is about halfway between Decatur and Newton, Mississippi, We knew that Newton had a Wal Mart and figured it was our best shot at finding a decent hardware store as well as propane. We made the 7 mile drive and even saw some wild Turkeys crossing the road in front of us.
We found the hardware store in the downtown strip of business' and located the correct screw. I only needed the one and it cost a whopping 10 cents!
The next stop was the local propane supply where we got the tank filled for $23. Back at the 5th wheel I fixed the cabinet and hooked the tank back up so it was ready to go. Here we are, site #8 at Turkey Creek Water Park.
I read several blogs by different RVers and several of them have inflatable Kayaks/Canoes and really love to go out on the water and explore. This has always intrigued me so we took the plunge, no pun intended :-), and ordered a Sea Eagle SE370 last month. http://inflatableboats4less.com/boats/sea-eagle-370-sport-kayak
We made arrangements with Kit and Jerry Bertelsen to have it shipped to their address and we picked it up there when we we were staying in Del Rio. The weather just has not cooperated enough for us to try it out plus we wanted some water that was calm and not crowded. I figured if we were going to make fools of ourselves the less witness' the better!
The lake here is not a huge lake and the wind was light so we decided to take our maiden voyage this afternoon. The park has a sand beach and this would make a good launch point so we drove over and inflated the boat in the parking lot and carried it down to the water. Neither one of us had ever been in a Kayak before and getting in was a new experience but we made it without taking a bath! We paddled around a little cove near the beach and practiced paddling getting used to how the kayak worked. We didn't venture out too far from the protected cove because the wind started picking up. Our boat trip lasted about an hour and we both proclaimed it a success and are looking forward to the next trip :-). I didn't get any photos, I was afraid of the camera ending up at the bottom of the lake :-), I'll do better next time.
On our way back to the 5th wheel we collected some abandoned fire wood that had been left from departing campers and I built a campfire. We sat outside enjoying the fire until the sun started drooping below the trees and the temperture started dropping. Yep, it was a good day :-).
They are predicting rain and thunderstorms for the next few days so we will adjust our plans accordingly. The bike is still on the back of the truck and will likely stay there until we meet Rob and Jany later in the week. Speaking of which, we have decided to head to Florence, Alabama. We will head there on Thursday with Rob and Jany arriving sometime Friday. We have reservations at McFarland Park and are really looking forward to the week. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Travel Day

Yesterday was a travel day for us but since we were only going a little over 100 miles we took our time tearing down and got on the road about 10:30.
I had done a little research trying to find a spot on the way to Alabama where we were meeting friends from Indiana, Rob and Jany Runion. They were taking a week off and wanted to find some warmer weather to do some motorcycle riding. Their decision was narrowed down to Alabama but were waiting on the weather forecast to narrow the choice to a certain area of the state. They are hoping to stay in the Northern 1/3 to decrease travel time and we have been talking by phone and email bouncing ideas back and forth.
I found a Passport America park near Decatur Mississippi that sounded nice and got good reviews on http://www.rvparkreviews.com/ . The park is called Turkey Creek Water Park and is owned and operated by the state. There are only a few sites but all have water, 50/30 amp electric and sewer. There is also a large lake here and the rate with PPA discount is less than $10 per night. I figured we could spend a few days here before heading into Alabama to meet Rob and Jany.
I called the office and made sure we would fit and they had open sites before we headed that way. The roads into the park were not too bad, a little narrow and winding but do-able. When we arrived they gave us a list of open sites and I hopped into the Dakota with Rudee to check them out. The sites are paved with parking spurs at the rear of the sites and each has a large patio area as well as a fire pit and picnic table. We chose site #8 across from the shower house since it looked to be the easiest to get into and we could park our extra vehicle at the shower house parking lot.
The campground has full shade with tall pine trees. I wasn't holding out much hope for our Tail Gator dish to pick up a TV signal :-(.
We registered for 4 nights and got the rig parked, we even had room to leave the semi hooked up to the 5th wheel, barely!
Once we got parked and set up I found a problem, one leg of the 50 amp power pedestal was not working. When this happens you only have power to one side of the rig on our 5th wheel. I simply got out the 30amp cord and plugged it in. Problem solved.
I have a cheap compass I use to check out the satellite heading for Dish Network and thought, hoped, prayed that if I put the dish "right here" so it was pointed through that little hole in the trees I may get a signal. Rudee had her doubts but puts up with me anyway :-).
I got the dish out, chained it to a tree for security, and hooked the cable up. I went inside and fired up the receiver with my fingers crossed. The dish receiver goes through several checks and then tries to acquire the signal. This is all done automatically and takes about 15 minutes. Any hitch in the set up and no TV :-o. The checks all went smoothly and then it started looking for the signal. The TV screen shows a bar graph with 5 colored bars that turn green to show the progress. Once it gets to 3 green bars you are home free, if it stops at 2 bars, or less, it is a no go and it starts all over again. This part is agonizing, will it go past two bars, will I get to watch the Datona 500, the stress is killing me! Yippee ...... 3 bars! Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Clause!
The downside is we do not have much of an internet signal so photos will be few and far between but I will try to post one or two.

Rudee got into a cooking mood last evening and baked a raisin cake, threw it out because she forgot the soda and it was flat, then baked another one :-). She is also slow cooking a roast for Monday and made a Mexican Casserole for Sunday evening supper! Is she super or what??!!

Tomorrow we plan to explore the area a little bit and enjoy the natural surroundings. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

exploring Vicksburg

Friday we headed out shortly after breakfast. Our destination was the Vicksburg National Military Park. We paid the $8.00 per vehicle entrance fee and headed to the visitors center. They have the usual gift shop along with some displays/ We watched a short film explaining the siege of the city by the Northern Army led by Gen. U.S. Grant during the civil war.
We purchased a CD driving tour at the gift shop and headed into the park. The tour starts in the parking lot of the visitors center and the narrator on the CD explains the area you are driving through as well as some stories about the battle and those that fought there.
We made several stops along the way visiting points of interest. There are a lot of monuments along the route placed there by individual states to commemorate the fighting units and are placed in the area of the battlefield where they were positioned. Plaques, red for Confederate, blue for U.S. were also positioned explaining what you were looking at as well as a lot of canons.
The tour route includes the U.S.S. Cairo museum. The Cairo was an "ironclad" military gunship that was sunk nearby in the Yazoo River in 1862. The wreckage was located and raised in 1964 and, in my opinion, was the highlight of the tour. The museum itself is designed to resemble the shape of the ship and inside there are display cases holding a large amount of artifacts found in and around the ship including personal items from the crew. The ship was the first ship sunk with an electronic activated torpedo (mine) set off by Confederate soldiers on the banks of the river. The ship sank in 12 minutes and all the crew survived. The ship itself is on display in front of the museum under a large tent like structure.
Our tour of the National Park took a little over three hours including our picnic lunch. Back at the 5th wheel we caught the shuttle over to the casino for some gambling fun and dinner. The casino sits right on the Mississippi River and we were able to snag a table overlooking the water where we could watch the barges pass by while eating our meal :-). To top off the evening I even came out a little ahead at the slot machines.
Saturday morning I woke up and the trailer was shaking! Then I realized it was because I was shaking! Brrrrr, it's cold in here! I jumped up and turned the furnace on and ran back into bed under the covers. We did have our little ceramic heaters on but they were set pretty low and could not keep up. Oh well, the furnace heated things up pretty quick and I was able to poke my nose back out from under the blankets :-).
Today we decided to drive into downtown Vicksburg and visit the Old Courthouse Museum housed, where else but in the old county courthouse. The building itself is impressive and was one of several buildings in this area that was here during the siege. This is also the location where the Confederate Flag was lowered and the U.S. "stars and stripes" was raised after the city surrendered to General Grant. Just imagine if the walls of this courthouse could talk!
Inside they have displays of artifacts in several rooms on the ground floor, most dedicated to war artifacts from the civil war but also from WWI and WWII. Upstairs there are displays of clothing and house hold articles and furniture. The main courtroom was impressive and is the location where former Confederate President Jefferson Davis attended a trial where he was suing the government to reclaim his land and property after they were seized in the war.
We have enjoyed our short visit to Vicksburg and our stay here at Ameristar Casino RV park.
Tomorrow will be a short travel day for us of only about 120 miles. We are looking to land at Turkey Creek Water Park near Decatur, Mississippi for a few days to relax and enjoy some nature. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Mississippi .... my favorite state to spell

Thursday morning we took our time getting started packing up and hooking on. The skies were thick with clouds and it sure looked like we would be driving in some rain today :-(.
I worked on the outside loading the bike onto the semi and getting the truck and 5er ready to travel. Rudee took care of the inside chores and by 10am we were pulling out of our spot.
We enjoyed this area but the campground was not the greatest, it wasn't really bad but on the other hand was nothing special either. The traffic noise was probably the worst we have encountered and that includes all of our travels before we started fulltiming. There were a lot of older permanent trailers there and they were not in the best of condition but we were never bothered by anyone nor did we feel unsafe. The manager was super nice and even delivered our mail to our door the day it came.
Earlier this week I woke up in the middle of the night to a strange sound and once fully awake I knew exactly what it was. We had a critter inside the front cap of the 5th wheel! Crap! I figured it was a mouse but with all the oak trees here it could have been a chipmunk or even a small squirrel. I could hear the thing when it was moving around and was chewing on something. I figured it was making itself at home and building a nest with the insulation.
The next morning I went off to Home Depot and picked up a package of these:
I had no idea if they would work or not but there was no way to put a trap into the front cap and I was afraid if I used poison the thing would just curl up and die (pee yew!). I removed the trim around the vent in the bedroom roof where I knew I could access the small attic space. I then hooked the gizmo to a small extension cord and pushed it as far in (towards the front cap) as I could. I replaced the vent trim with the cord hanging out and plugged it in hoping for the best.
That night I thought I heard the critter again but nothing since. Maybe he was packing his bags! That was 3 days ago and still no sign or sounds from the critter so I think it must have bailed! I have no idea why the sounds the little gizmo makes is so offensive to rodents but it sure seemed to work for us. I am no way associated to this company (usual disclaimers apply) so use it at your own risk but I will be having these plugged in from now on except in the attic, Rudee doesn't like the look of a cord hanging out of the ceiling :-)
Our trip today took us back through Lafayette on US 90 to I-10 which we took east to Baton Rouge. Once we crossed the bridge entering the city we headed north on I-110 which ends just north of town and turns into US 61. This road is a really nice 4 lane that we took all the way to Vicksburg, Mississippi. We passed through a few smaller towns on the way and the larger city of Natchez slowed us down a little but otherwise we made good time plus the skies had cleared to a pretty blue with temperatures in the low 80's!. Our new home for a few days is the Ameristar Casino RV Park, a Good Sam park that is owned and operated by the casino. http://www.ameristar.com/Vicksburg_Hotel_RV_Park.aspx
I called Wednesday evening and made a reservation and it's a good thing I did because when we arrived the clerk was talking on the phone turning an RVer away because they were full tonight. We checked in shortly after 3pm and got parked into a pull through 30amp site. The site is not long enough to stay hooked up but that's OK because we plan on staying until Sunday so we can see all the battlefield sites. There is a large paved parking lot adjacent to our site so we were able to park the semi where it is out of the way but we can still see it. Our site is full hook ups with free WIFI and cable (50+ channels). Looks like a nice park for a few days.
Once we were settled the first order of business was food! We hopped in the Dakota and followed the GPS to a really nice Mexican Restaurant. We shared a chimichanga dinner and it was very good.
We made it back to the 5er and even had time for a walk around the campground before the sun set. We plan on touring some of the civil war sites tomorrow and Saturday and of course I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

mission complete

Wednesday morning we woke up to thick clouds and it looked like it could start raining at anytime. The temperature was supposed to be in the mid 70's so we said "what the heck" and headed out on the bike for our last day here.
When we decided to spend some time here we had a short list of things we wanted to see and do. I wanted to see some of the countryside on the motorcycle and eat some good Cajun food. Rudee wanted to go to the area where they filmed Swamp People for TV and see an alligator.
We got all those accomplished except the alligator. Everywhere we rode we kept a look out in all the bodies of water we passed hoping to see one but no luck :-(.
Today we headed southwest towards Abbeyville, La. and US 82. This road goes south into the swamp area and eventually to the coast before turning west towards Texas. We could not go too far since we started late in the morning but this is marked as a scenic route and we wanted to take advantage of as much of it as time would allow.
We had a quick lunch in Abbeyville and headed into the swamp. We crossed over the inter coastal waterway over a large bridge and the area became less populated with only a few houses and some fishing cabins. There was a large channel of water that parallel both sides of the road and we saw lots of birds and turtles. We rode for about an hour and turned round at Pecan Point to head back. Something caught my eye next to the water a few miles before turning around and I made a mental note to check it out on the way back.
I found the spot and there it was, an alligator, sunning itself on the opposite bank. We watched for a few minutes and as soon as I fired up the Harley it jumped back into the water :-).
A few hundred feet up the road Rudee said "there's another one" and then we came upon these four. Rudee thinks it is two mothers and their youngin's but I'm not so sure, after all spring is in the air :-).
Mission complete! We not only saw one alligator but six with in 1/2 mile of each other!
Thursday will be a travel day for us. We are heading for Vicksburg, Mississippi to check out some Civil War sites. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

finally, a perfect day!

Monday we decided to rest the motorcycle since it was still a little on the cool side and the wind was blowing. We ventured out in the Dakota a little and ended up at another casino. We spent a little time there. I started out hitting a little but that soon changed, but then Rudee got hot and recouped our loses. We figured we had better get out of there before we both started losing at the same time :-).
I had been wanting some Chinese food so we stopped at a Hong Kong Buffet just up the road from the campground. They had quite a few seafood items as well as the typical Chinese offerings. The food was decent but overpriced for the amount we eat. Oh well, that should satisfy me for another 6 months until I get that craving again.
Tuesday was predicted to be the best weather day of the week so we wanted to take advantage of it. We loaded up on the bike and headed out.
We are both fans of the TV show "Swamp People" and love to watch those guys catch alligators. Rudee's favorite is Troy Landry and we learned from the show he lives in Pierre Part, La. which is only 50 miles away from us. We decided that would be our destination today.
Our ride took us south and then east. I stayed off the 4 lane US 90 as much as possible and we rode through several small communities. We got lucky in the town of Franklin and made it through just a few minutes before they closed the road for a parade. We did wave at all the people sitting on the curb as we passed, I think we were probably the last vehicle they let through and it felt a little weird being the only thing on the road with people on each side looking at you. I know they were thinking, "is this the parade???" :-).
We passed some nice homes and scenery along our trip.
The town of Morgan City has a full size shrimp boat welcoming you to town.
We made it to Pierre Part shortly after noon and were both hungry. We stopped at a small cafe named Landry's Seafood (no relation to Troy). The parking lot was full and we took that as a good sign. Not only was the parking lot full but all the tables were as well. One thing about a small town is they usually have friendly people and it took all of about 1 minute for a couple to offer the two empty chairs at the end of their table to us :-).
Fried Crawfish was the choice for lunch and we had a great meal. Now we know why the parking lot was full!
After lunch we rode through Pierre Part and it was pretty much what we imagined it to be, small town Louisiana at it's finest. We stopped for gas at the edge of town and Rudee asked the clerk about the TV show. A customer behind her overheard her question and said he was a friend of Troy's and if we went back to the other side of town to Duffy's Shell station we might find him there because his family owns it and he is in there a lot. Well this was all Rudee wanted to hear and I headed to the Shell.
Troy wasn't there, the clerk said he was in Rayne fishing for Crawfish. Oh well, guess we missed out on a "celebrity" sighting and have to settle for a cardboard cut out.
I didn't want to just turn around and go back the same way we came so I headed North. We skirted around Baton Rouge and had to hop on the interstate for a few miles to navigate over the swamp, but ended up back on the 2 lanes that we like to ride.
We really enjoyed our day and once we were back at the 5th wheel Rudee commented that it was a "perfect day" :-).
We have one last day here in Louisiana before moving on and have no real plans. They are saying we may have a little rain moving in. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Courir De Mardi Gras

Saturday morning the rain started before daylight and did not end until well into the evening. About 10am our Radio Shack weather radio went off alerting us to a severe storm heading our way and they had issued tornado warnings in a nearby community. Rudee packed up a "bail out" bag and we headed for sturdier surroundings :-). We ended up at Wal Mart which had a McDonald's inside. We sat in the restaurant and waited for the worst to pass which took about an hour. We returned to the 5th wheel to find that all was well and ended up staying inside the rest of the day.
Sunday the sun was supposed to shine at least part of the day anyway :-). I decided we needed to get the bike out and Rudee agreed. The temperatures were still a little on the cool side in the mid 50's so we would have to bundle up some.
Rudee had been doing some research on Mardi Gras events and mentioned that the town of Eunice, La was having a celebration on the streets downtown. This was about 50 miles away and would be a nice ride so I pointed the bike that direction.
Eunice is about the size of our old hometown of Lebanon. They had blocked off the streets and had 2 band stands set up at either end of the business district. We walked and checked out the few vendors that were set up and eventually found our way to a small cafe for lunch. We shared an Alligator Po' Boy and enjoyed this new experience. The alligator was fried and served on a hoagy type bun with lettuce and a spicy mayonnaise spread.
With lunch over we spent some time listening to the Cajun music and watching the locals dancing.
There was also a kids parade scheduled to start at 3pm so we found a place to sit on the curb and waited for the "run" to start. I had read a little about the "Mardi Gras Run" and learned that the Cajuns would go throughout the local countryside on wagons and horse back to beg food stuffs from the local farms. The parade commemorates the return of the "Mardi Gras", which the group was called, to town where a large feast of Gumbo was prepared.
While waiting for the parade to start an elderly gentleman, Mr. Smith, sat down beside me and we began to chat. He told me he was 89 years old and had started doing the "Courir de Mardi Gras" when he was 6 years old. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Courir_de_Mardi_Gras
He told me in the old days only men could make the run because there were no "facilities" for the women. Now they make accommodations for the ladies which explains the port-a-pots tied onto the wagons :-). He remembers his grandfather making the run and they would collect rice, veggies and some would even give a live chicken. He was quite an interesting character and extremely alert and fit for being 89 years old! It was a joy listening to his stories and learning the history of Mardi Gras in this area.
The parade started and the kids would throw beads at all the people lining the parade route. Everyone on the "floats" had to be in traditional Mardi Gras costumes and the kids wore colorful clothes and some had hats and masks.
We enjoyed the parade and Rudee got a nice collection of beads for the grand kids (no skin had to be exposed in the "gathering of the beads").
We headed back to the 5th wheel after the parade so we could make it before the sun dropped too low. We enjoyed our short ride and day out. The temperatures never made it out of the mid 50's but the next few days are supposed to be even better. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

"pass the Tabasco please"

Friday morning was another gray cloudy day and there was a threat of showers. Rudee had picked up a bunch of tourist fliers from the campground office and had been studying them for things to do in the area. Since we are staying for a week and the the weather is supposed to improve starting Sunday we decided to keep the bike covered and take the Dakota today.
We headed for Avery Island, home of McElhenney family and Tabasco brand hot pepper sauce.
The factory was established on this island not long after the civil war ended to produce the now familiar hot sauce developed by Mr. McElhenney. The company is still owned and operated by his decedents using the same recipe he developed all those years ago.
The factory tour was fairly short starting with the history of the company and then the process of changing peppers into sauce was explained. You do get to walk through a glassed in walkway with views of the bottling process with an occasional sign explaining what you were looking at.
The most interesting point I found in the process was learning that the pepper mash is stored for at least 3 years in used wooden barrels. They actually buy the barrels from the Jack Daniels Distillery who can only use them one time to age their bourbon. Once the mash is in the barrels the lid is put on and it has vent holes to allow gases out, to keep water and air from going back in the holes they cover them with salt. The salt is mined right here on the island and was the original business of the McElhenney family. Here are a couple of familier faces taking it easy outside the gift shop :-).
Once we were done at the factory and adjacent gift shop we drove to the Jungle Gardens which got its start as a bird sanctuary to save the dwindling number of Egrets who were being killed for their feathers to be used in ladies hats. We stopped at the visitor center but felt like the entrance fee of $8.00 was a little excessive so we passed on going into the grounds.
Looking at the map we found Cypremort State Park nearby and thought we would check it out. The park sits right on a point separating Vermillon Bay and West Cote Blanche Bay. We paid the $1.00 per person entrance fee and headed for a covered picnic table on the beach for a picnic lunch. We had some company at lunch when a couple of Grackles came by looking for a hand out and kept "yelling" at us :-).
The park is really small and consists of a beach area, fishing pier and a few rental cabins but it made a great place to enjoy our lunch. There is also a large coastal community adjacent to the park and we enjoyed driving through looking at all the homes up on stilts.
We decided to head back to the 5th wheel and made a stop at Wal Mart for groceries. We made it back home a little after 4pm and looked forward to relaxing in front of the TV. The rain never materialized but the sun only peaked out once or twice otherwise it was a pretty cloudy day. Saturday looks to be the worst day weather wise. They are predicting a 100% chance for rain and thunderstorms and we are under a flood watch. Guess we better be ready to run to high ground if need be. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, February 17, 2012

leaving Texas

Thursday morning dawned with more gray, dreary looking skies. I wanted to wash the rig before traveling any further and there happened to be a Blue Beacon Truck Wash right up the road from the park here in Beaumont. I drove the Dakota over there to check out the price and was told it would be around $60 for both the truck and 5th wheel. Probably not a bad price but with the threat of rain I was a little hesitant to spend that kind of money just to drive through another shower 50 miles up the road :-(.
I decided to call our next campground and talked to the manager. He was very nice and told me no problem washing the rig there once I arrived. Cool!
I do have the "no rinse" type of soap popular with RVers where you can wash the rig using only a bucket of water. You apply it with a car wash brush like normal but instead of rinsing with a hose you just squegee it off. I also do a quick buff with a towel afterwards but this time the rig was just way too dirty and needed to be hosed down.
I stopped at Sonic and got us each a breakfast sandwich and took them back to the 5th wheel for breakfast.

We had a short travel day today of only around 130 miles so we could take a little extra time this morning being lazy. We did eventually head east on I-10. Our destination was a small Passport America Park in Broussard, Louisiana. We called a few days ago and made sure they had space available at the 50% off rate and forgot that this week is the peak of Mardi Gras! The manager was really nice and said he was not as busy as he expected to be and would honor the PPA price for the week we wanted to stay. So our nightly rate for 50amp full hook ups is only $15 per night.

We arrived shortly before 2pm and got checked in. This park is not the greatest we have ever seen, the spots are very close to a 4 lane main road so we have a lot of road noise. We are here to see the area not spend time at an RV "resort" so this will do us just fine and the price is right :-).
Before even setting up I drug out the hose, bucket and brush. Rudee and I washed the entire 5th wheel, well everything but the roof, in record time. Whew, that was a job! Sure looks better though!
We got set up and went out to a neat little diner for a late lunch, early supper. We will probably do a lot more eating out here since we want to experience the Cajun food.

Back the 5er we unloaded the bike and called it a night. We were both bushed and went to bed early! Friday we plan on exploring some in the Dakota as they are predicting heavy rain and storms for the next 2 days. Looks like maybe Sunday will be our first chance to take the bike out and we are sure looking forward to that! I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

meeting old friends

Tuesday was a big travel day for us. We got up early so we could hit the road at a decent hour only to hear of dense fog causing traffic problems in and around San Antonio. We decided to stay put for another hour or two to allow the fog to lift.
We pulled out of the campground at 8:30 and wound our way to I-10. Once on the interstate we made good time into the city. I decided to follow the GPS and take the 1604 loop around the north side thinking it would be similier to outer loops found in other major metropolitan cities. We were still 5 miles from hooking back up to I-10 when we passed a sign announcing the freeway ends and the road changed to a 4 lane state highway complete with stop and go lights and 2 miles later it went to a 2 lane road :-o. By the time the road narrowed the traffic had lightened up some so we all just got in single file and made it back to the interstate without too much trouble. I think it would have been better to have just stayed on I-10 and motored on through but you never know. Nowadays we are learning to just "go with the flow" :-).
We did run into some foggy haze along with some off and on showers that stayed with us the rest of the day.
We hit Houston just before 1pm and it was the typical zoo with traffic and to top it off the rain picked up to a heavy down pour! We took our time and let the kamikazes in 4 wheelers zoom around us hoping we would be able to stop when they finally hit something :-o!
The rain slowed to just off and on showers again once we got east of Houston and we could breathe normally again! The rest of the trip was a breeze and we landed at Gulf Coast RV Resort, a Passport America park, in Beaumont, Texas after driving a total of 340 miles today. We stayed here back in October and found it to be pretty nice with long pull through sites. http://www.gulfcoastrvresort.com/
We got checked in and parked at our site fairly quickly. They must have had quite a bit of rain here because the grass around all the sites was soggy. The pads to park on are all cement but the patios are designed more for diesel pusher motorhomes so they do not line up with the doors are most any other rig.
We finished our set up quickly and headed out the door again. We were heading back towards Houston to meet motorcycle buddies from Indiana, Jim and Becky Owens.
They are living here with family while Jimmy undergoes cancer treatments. We met them at a little gas station that doubled as a barbecue restaurant just off the highway about 1/2 way between us. We spent the evening catching up on his treatment and plans for recovery as well as reminiscing on past times. We had a great time with these guys and are looking forward to when they are back home in Indiana and we can make some more memories with them on and off the bikes.
Back at the 5th wheel we were both bushed after our long travel day and it wasn't long before I was nodding to sleep in the recliner! The rain is supposed to be over for a couple of days and we need to get the 5er and trucks cleaned up! They are nasty with a capitol "N"! Our next stop will be in Broussard, Lousiana where we will spend a week exploring the swamp, "shoot em Lizbeth, shoot em"! I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

cowboy day

Tuesday I was up before the chickens again! Gotta quit that stuff! We really didn't have any plans until later this afternoon so Rudee suggested we backtrack a few miles to the town of Bandera, Texas. They boast as being the "cowboy capitol" and when we drove through with the rig the town looked interesting with a neat main street. We hopped in the Dakota and it was only a short drive through the hills, sure wish we had some more time here to do some bike riding around here.
We parked on main street and walked a few shops just checking out some of the "stuff". One thing nice about full time RVing is the limited space keeps you from buying a lot of things :-).
I have an app on my cell phone for Yelp that lists the local points of interests and restaurants with reviews. It listed a barbecue place on main street that had great reviews that said they had the best burgers in Texas. We decided to try it for lunch and walked over but found the doors locked. Seems like Tuesday is the only day of the week they are closed :-(. No problem we walked a block up the street and found another nice place and I had a durn good (that's cowboy talk!) cheeseburger there!
For my Goldwing friends I came across this "conversion" parked on a side street.
I can certainly understand going to three wheels when riding on two gets to be difficult but why someone would go this route baffles me.
We made a stop at the grocery on the way back to the 5er and spent a little time getting ready for tonight's "date night". We had plans to meet at Mike and Les' 5th wheel at their park where we could walk to the dinner and concert. We arrived shortly after 4pm and had a chance to visit before heading to the dinner a little after 5pm. Here is Mike and Les all decked out for a night on the town!
Their park has a really, really nice activities building that is big enough to be a banquet hall. We checked in and they led us to our reserved table. We sat with 3 other couples and had a great time meeting new friends.
The meal was steak and chicken with carrots, rice and a salad with a slice of cake for dessert. The food was decent but nothing to write home about, so I wont :-).
The entertainment started right after the dishes were removed. They had booked country singer Thomas Michael Riley. We had never heard of him before but were in for a treat! He was very talented! He writes all of his own songs and has won several awards for them. He has made 9 albums and is getting ready to head to Nashville to record number ten! The songs he sang were aimed toward the RV audience and we thoroughly enjoyed the 2 1/2 hour show. Watch out for this guy, he has the talent and drive to really hit it big! http://www.thomasmichaelriley.com/home.html
We spent a few minutes with Mike and Les after the show and the time came way to early for us to leave. We are traveling about 350 miles to Beaumont, Texas this morning as soon as the fog lifts. We have been talking to our friend Jimmy who is fighting cancer in Houston and are making plans to get together. He has treatments Thursday and Friday so we need to get together tonight or we may miss the opportunity. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Travel Day to Kerrville

Sunday was as predicted, a cold, blustery, wet day. I knew when I woke with sleet hitting the roof that I wasn't going to do much today and I didn't :-).
Monday morning we were up early to make a move to Kerrville, Texas to be near friends Mike and Les Kennedy. They are fulltimers that are also in a Keystone Montana. We met them in South Dakota in 2010 and hit it off right away. We have kept in touch by email ever since and knew when we were coming to Texas we had to get together with these great folks again.
We pulled out of the campground at 8:30 and made our way through the streets of Del Rio to US Highway 90. The weather man promised that the sun would come out late in the morning but so far there was just a blanket of low hanging gray clouds and misty rain. We drove east through Brackettville, Uvalde and eventually turned north on SR 173 in Hondo, Texas. We made a quick stop here to do a safety check on the rig and get rid of some morning coffee :-).
The further north we drove the more hills and twists and turns we encountered. Yep, we're in the "Texas Hill Country" now and the scenery is quite different (in a much better way!) than the desert of south Texas.
We arrived at Triple T RV Resort http://www.tripletresort.com/ shortly before noon and got registered. The park is a Passport America park and I was surprised to find it was only about 1/3 full. The park is not very old and the sites are long pull thrus with full hook ups including free cable and free WIFI. The downsides for the park are the sites are fairly close together and the cable, while nice only has a handful of channels.
We called Mike and Les to let them know we had arrived and they said they would be right over and we would go out for lunch. We no more finished our set up procedure when they pulled in front of our 5er in their dually truck.
We were all hungry so spared no time heading out. Mike drove us to Fredricksburg, Texas a few miles away. This gave us the time to catch up on all the latest news on the drive over. Fredricksburg has a very nice shopping district and reminded me of Nashville, Indiana with it's art community and funky shops.
We had lunch at a Brewery/Restaurant on the main drag. The food was good but the company was our main attraction and we talked and had fun all through lunch.
Our next stop was the LBJ Ranch where Mike and Les acted as our tour guides, well at least until we got to LBJ's house where an official National Parks Guide took over.
We toured the house and surrounding displays. The house surprised us at how "plain" they kept things. This was known as the Texas White House and they spent a lot of time here escaping Washington DC. The office he used while here was only a small room with a few desks for staffers and one for himself.
LBJ passed away at home, in bed, in 1973 at age 64. I remember when he died and 64 seemed pretty old back then, not so much now that I've gotten closer to it :-)
Mike and Les drove us over to their RV park, Buckhorn Lake just west of Kerrville. Their park is really nice and has a large collection of "winter Texans". They have a very active social calender here so you can stay pretty busy everyday if you want to. We are going to attend a Valentines Day dinner and show they are hosting here on Tuesday evening. They also have bus trips to various locations through out this area and Mike and Les told us about some of their favorites.
The day ended much too quickly and Mike chauffeured us back to our 5er. We had a late snack of left over vegetable soup and watched a little TV before calling it a night. We will be going back to Mike and Les' tomorrow with plenty of time to visit some more before the dinner and show starts. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

it's like Christmas!

Saturday morning we both creaked and moaned our way out of bed. Not really but we were a little sore from our big hike yesterday :-), nothing a couple of Tylenol wouldn't take care of.

We have been waiting on our mail to catch up to us here in Del Rio. We called our mail service Monday afternoon and asked that they forward our mail to us after getting permission from the RV park here. I was expecting it to arrive on Friday and when it didn't show up I was a little worried that if it didn't arrive Saturday we would have to extend our stay here for another day.
We spent the morning being lazy in the 5th wheel and decided to venture outside around noon. Rudee wanted to try a Mexican restaurant recommended to us by Kit and Jerry so we drove over to Pancho's. The restaurant is on a side street here in Del Rio and the building looks fairly new. Rudee had a taco salad and I tried the super burrito. The portions were huge! The first thing I did was cut my burrito in two and still barely finished one half while taking the other half home. They have homemade chips and salsa to snack on while waiting for your meal and the salsa is a little on the hot side! I like things hot and spicy, that's why I married Rudee (wink, wink) but this was even a little hotter than I prefer.
After lunch we took a drive out to Amistad Lake and drove around looking at some of the homes. There were some nice houses built around the lake but not as many housing additions as I would expect given the views from the hillsides. I guess since this is a National Recreation Area the government owns most of the surrounding land.
The bass fisherman were out in force today and the boat ramp parking lots were full. We could see some of them motoring across the lake and anchored in the coves. The weather was cool and there was a pretty stiff breeze so I wonder if they had any luck?

We made a stop at the grocery store and picked up a few items for the pantry and fridge on the way back to the 5th wheel. I dropped Rudee off at the office/managers residence and she paid our tab and picked up our mail package. Yeah, it came! Just like Christmas! I get to open a package! Unfortunately this package usually has some bills in it that need paid :-(. We pay almost all our bills on line so at least the news isn't all bad and I usually get a magazine or two also :-). We spent our Saturday night watching TV and researching RV parks for the next leg of our "adventure".

Rudee is making a big pot of vegetable soup (we call it "stoup" because it is more like stew than soup) since Sunday is supposed to be rainy and cold. We plan to stay inside as much as we can until "winter" is over here in Texas :-)! Monday is a travel day and we will make the short drive up into the Hill Country of Texas and spend a couple of days with friends Mike and Leslie Kennedy who are wintering in Kerrville. We have already reserved a table with them for a Valentines Day dinner and show at their RV park. We are looking forward to hooking up with them again. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

up off our lazy butts!

Thursday was a slow down day for us. We slept in and then stayed around the 5th wheel for most of the day. We had both been wanting to see a couple of the new movies out and took advantage of the matinee prices at the local movie theater. We chose to see "One for the Money" with Cathrine Heigle playing a bounty hunter. The movie was enjoyable but why do they spoil most of the movie showing all the good one liners and funny scenes as "teasers" during the advertising.
Friday morning we woke up to cloudy skies and sprinkles, guess we wont be venturing out much today either :-(. I decided that today would be a good day to fill the tanks on the Freightliner. I figured since the weather was gloomy I might as well be gloomy too and spending several hundred dollars on diesel fuel was a good way to wipe a smile off ones face :-(.
I had not fueled up since Florida back in October and we had driven right at 1500 miles since. This was going to hurt! We had loaded up our Wal Mart fuel card so we could get the 3 cents off per gallon a couple of days ago. I fired up the truck and we hopped in and drove to the other side of Del Rio to the Murphy gas station at Wal Mart. On the way Rudee said she smells something burning, like wires. I think women are more in tune to smells than men because Rudee can smell a fart in a hurricane! It took me awhile but I soon found the source of the smell. The freightliner has a small computer monitor that is used by the trucking companies to monitor the mileage, rpms, miles per trip etc. You can set it for different states so you can keep track of mileage in the state you are in for tax purposes, anyway the computer has shown the words "no communication" for the last couple of years on the screen. Today it was blank and when I touched the box it was really warm so I unplugged it and this seemed to cure the hot smell. Guess maybe it shorted out inside the computer thingy.
Fueling up took a little while since we needed almost 200 gallons and of course once one saddle tank is full I had to turn the truck around to fill the tank on the other side. All that coupled with the fact they only had one pump that offered diesel caused me to get some dirty looks from the pick up truck drivers! Our total bill was just a few pennies over $700 and we got right at 8 miles per gallon. Ouch, told you it was going to hurt but knowing we wont have to fill it up again until next fall after our work camping back in Indiana helps ease the pain a little :-)
Once we got over the sticker shock of the fuel we decided to stop for lunch at Buffalo Wings and Rings. I got my chicken wing fix while Rudee had some chips and salsa. We came out of the restaurant and the clouds had parted and the sun was shining. One thing we wanted to do before leaving here was to see the ancient Indian rock art at Seminole Canyon State Historic Park about 35 miles up the road from Del Rio. The only way to see the art was by ranger guided tours down into the canyon which are done twice a day and it looked like this afternoon would be our best option since the weather is supposed to turn cold and rainy late in the week end. We took the truck home and grabbed our hiking sticks and headed back out in the Dakota.
We arrived at the visitors center 45 minutes before the 3pm afternoon tour and had the chance to check out the displays on early life in the canyon. The entrance to the park is $3 each and then another $5 each for the tour. We were the only ones signed up when we got there but by the 3pm start time 6 other couples had signed up and we were all ready to go, well almost, we had to wait for one guy who had ran out to his car to make himself a sandwich, geez! Guess there is always one in every crowd! :-)
Once our gourmet joined us we headed down the stairs with our guide Tanya. She would stop occasionally and explain some of the various plants and how the ancient Indians would use them in their everyday lives. The going was slow as the steps became steeper and steeper until we finally got into the bottom of the canyon. Here is a photo looking back up the steps.
We walked through the canyon floor back towards the visitors center high above us.
We arrived at the Fate Bell Shelter named after a former ranch owner of this property and the location of the Indian art.
No one knows for sure what all the art means or depicts Some say it has religious meanings and other drawings appear to display the everyday life of the Indians. The drawings are determined to be 4,000 years old, amazing they can survive that long!
The Indians used the shelter for their home and Tanya explained the area looked much different back then with abundant wildlife and green plants and trees before the climate changed to the more desert type we know today.
The tour lasted for about 1 1/2 hours and we had to return the same way we came. Back up all those stairs! The last several months the most stairs we had climbed was the 4 steps into the 5th wheel! I thought I was in better shape since I was in and out the door many times a day tending to the gate, well I was wrong! By the time we got back to the top I was winded and my legs were burning :-)! On the way out of the canyon we spotted some purple flowers blooming on a shrub that smelled just like grape koolaid! Gave us both spring fever! We both enjoyed the tour even though we were tired. Back at the 5th wheel Rudee had some left over baked chicken heating up in the crock pot for dinner. I added some homemade barbecue sauce while Rudee made us each a salad to top off the meal.
The weather is supposed to turn for the worse late Saturday and the high temperature for Sunday is only 45 degrees! Brrrrr! Sounds like a good day to stay inside and make a big pot of vegetable soup! I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

more history

Wednesday we got a little later start than usual being lazy and laying in bed until well after daylight. Felt pretty good after all the early mornings manning the gate!
The weather was cloudy and cool today. The temperatures were not supposed to be out of the 50's and there was a chance for some rain. We decided to pack a lunch and drive to Langtry, Texas location of the Jersey Lilly Saloon and home to Judge Roy Bean "the law west of the Pecos".
Langtry is about 50 miles west of Del Rio on US 90 which follows the Rio Grand River (on the good side) and you get some good views of Lake Amistad about 1/2 way there.
The water level is very low due to the drought that has hit this area the past few years. Even with the lake levels down this is still a huge body of water! I'm sure this is a popular vacation spot during the long hot summer :-).
The State of Texas operates a museum at the site of Judge Bean's "courthouse". He was Justice of the peace and not only tried cases but you could get married for $5.00 or divorced for $10.00. The trials were held in the Judges Saloon and the jury, witness', defendant and anyone else present could buy a drink at every recess, pretty smart on the old Judges part don't ya think? The original saloon burned and the Judge rebuilt it attaching a pool hall on the side and built his "Opera House" behind which was his home and never hosted any kind of opera. Here is a little history on the Judge. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Bean
Before leaving the grounds we ate our picnic lunch in the cab of the truck. They had a few picnic tables on the grounds but it was just too cool and windy to sit outside.
We made the trip back to Del Rio and and made a stop at Wal Mart for some supplies. On the way back to the campground I saw a sign advertising a mission. I followed the directions thinking it may be an old Spanish style historical building. I followed the road south and it dead ended at a fence next to a river ..... "hey that's Mexico over there!", guess I better turn around :-).
We did find the mission but it was more of a soup kitchen instead of a historical site so we skipped the tour :-). Can I pick em or what? :-)
The rest of the evening was spent enjoying a crock pot full of ham and beans as well as relaxing and watching some TV. No real plans for Thursday except to take it easy since we have been running kind of hard since arriving here. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

we joined the Cavalry

Tuesday morning we were up and out the door shortly after 10am. We were heading for Brackettville, Texas to visit friends and fellow native Hoosiers Kit and Jerry Bertelson. They are our "gate guard mentors" and it really helped having someone we could lean on who was experienced to lean on. They have a great blog and we are loyal followers :-) http://www.kitandjerry.com/index.htm
We had to make a stop at the local car wash first. The truck was simply filthy with all the dust, mud, and even some crude oil residue. We got the outside all spruced up and headed east on US 90. We didn't get very far though when we were stopped by a road block. We figured it was just a random Border Patrol check point but a Sheriff's Deputy came to my window and said the road was closed due to a train derailment. He gave me an alternate route because they anticipated the road closure to last "several hours". The route took us southeast next to the border with Mexico and then north cross country back to US 90. We arrived at Kit and Jerry's safe and sound, just a little later than we anticipated.
Kit and Jerry have an RV port in Fort Clark Springs. Their property sits right in the middle of a restored cavalry Fort. There are several restored buildings including a theater, and some of the old barracks where you can even rent a room and sleep where the soldiers slept all those years ago. The first order of business though was lunch:-).
Anyone that has followed their blog knows they like to hang out at the Burger and Shake, now we know why! Good food in a very relaxed place where you can meet friends and just enjoy being there. We were joined by John and Libby Veach. John spent some time in Lebanon, graduating high school from LHS and still has family in the area. We enjoyed our lunch and meeting the Veach's, thanks for the treat Kit and Jerry!
On our way back Jerry chauffeured us around the Fort. We had a great time and can see why they enjoy this place so much. I really enjoyed the historic aspect and Rudee loved seeing all the deer and turkeys that roam the area.
Kit and Jerry are building a house under their RV port. What a nice place this is going to be. They have the exterior walls up and are starting on the roof beams. There is even going to be a second story "man cave" for Jerry!
The day went quickly and we soon had to say goodbye. What great people these two are! Thanks so much for helping us out and it has been great getting to know you guys better and we will stay in touch!
We left Brackettville and decided to head to Eagle Pass Texas the home of the only casino in the entire state of Texas. I had promised Rudee that I would take her there before leaving the area and this seemed to be the best day. The casino is owned by the Kickapoo Indians and is a few miles outside of the town of Eagle Pass. There was not too big a crowd when we arrived. We enjoy it when a casino is not very crowded :-). We played for a couple of hours and were not doing very well until right at the end and I got "hot"! I ended up recouping all the money we had spent so far and even got enough extra to pay for week of camping and dinner on the way home! Cool!
Today we are planning a short trip to Langtry to see the Jersey Lilly Saloon owned by Judge Roy Bean the "law west of the Pecos" and where he held court back in the day. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, February 6, 2012

turning over the gate

We had a quiet night last night but I still got up a little after 5am! I need to get out of that habit and quick!
I made some coffee and surfed the web until Rudee was up and showered. I took my shower then and headed out the door to finish tearing down the 5th wheel. Yowzer it's cold outside. I guess I'm turning into a true winter Texan because the temperature was in the high 40's and I was freezing. Rudee finished the inside work while I did the outside stuff. Our plan was to pull out of the spot between 9:00 and 9:30 so we were out of the way so our replacements could pull right in. We had a few hick ups when one of the slides would not close but after a little persuasion it moved in and we were ready to go.
I pulled the 5er onto the front well pad to turn around and parked it there to be out of the way. We sat in the Dakota with the clip board in hand in case someone wanted in the gate. We were only there about 5 minutes when we saw Rudy and Deloris coming down the road. They have a really nice Keystone Raptor toy hauler and are towing it with a 2 tone purple Freightliner! Purple is our Goldwing chapter colors and this outfit would fit right in! Rudee wanted to take it home but I couldn't get them to trade :-).
We had already given them most of the information they needed on Friday so the changeover didn't take long at all. Hunter showed up so he could help them get settled so we decided to head on down the road. We made sure they had our phone number and told them to call with any questions or if they needed any help on anything. They will do a fine job taking over for us!
We headed toward Cotulla and it didn't take long to figure out I had a problem with the semi. I didn't have any power at higher RPM's and it would start missing as soon as there was any load put on the engine. This happened once before and the problem was a clogged fuel filter. I figured it was the same problem since I had been messing with the fuel filters a couple of weeks ago. Rudee remembered a truck repair place in Cotulla and I was able to make it there. Unfortunately they were too busy to change out the filters and recommended a place in Dilley, Texas 16 miles north of us. We hopped on the interstate and I was barely able to maintain 60 mph but we made it to Eagle Oil Services and met Joe. We told him our problem and I wanted them to change out the two fuel filters. He said "no problem" and pulled us into his shop and got a mechanic right to work on our truck. While they were working we ran across the interstate to Burger King and grabbed a sandwich to go. By the time we made it back they were putting the new filters on and as soon as I finished my burger they were all done, cool beans. They charged for 30 minutes labor and the cost of the filters, total bill less than $80 and we were out the door.
The new filters did the trick and the truck ran great. I could even accelerate going up the hills now :-).
We took state road 117 from Dilley to Uvalde which is a 2 lane road with little traffic. We did see a few gate guards "doing their thing" along the way. Once we got to Uvalde we headed west on US 90 for the trip to Del Rio. The traffic was pretty light and we had a very relaxing trip all the way.
Del Rio is a busy place and we are staying at Hidden Valley RV Park. This park used to be a mobile home community and the owners are making a very nice RV park out of it. They are a little hard to find but the managers are very helpful giving directions. We pulled into the park at 2:30 and the owner plus a few of the snowbirds met us in the driveway. We always draw a crowd with the "big truck". They showed us to our site and we backed in and got set up. The sites are long, long, long! We have the 5th wheel back in, the semi is unhooked in front of the 5er and there is room for the Dakota in front of the semi! Each site has 50/30/20 amp service, sewer, cable and free WIFI. The owners are working hard to make this place a great park. This is not a "resort" but they don't try to charge you an arm and a leg either. $20 per night and we will probably stay for a week and get the weekly discounted rate of $120. Once we were set up our neighbors came over to welcome us and we talked for quite a while. They are fulltimers here for their second winter. They gave us some tips for dinner as well as directions to get around town. I'll try to get some photos of the park and our spot tomorrow.
Speaking of tomorrow we called our friends Jerry and Kit Bertelsen and will drive over to their place in Brackettville tomorrow. They own an RV spot and are building a "bungalow" house on their site. We are looking forward to the "grand tour". I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

99 days of gate guarding

Tomorrow marks our 99th and last day here at Hinkel A2H outside of Cotulla, Texas. This marks the end of our first assignment as gate guards in the oil fields of South Texas and I'll do my best to give you a little insight into our feelings towards this work.
First of all our budget and small pension dictate that we work for at least some pay most of the year. Gate guarding provides us with a way to make a decent wage with very little in the way of overhead. The company we work for pays $125 per day 7 days a week for a single well site. The wages go up $50 per day when more than one site is active past your gate. We had two sites working for about 5 weeks of our 14 week stay here. This is not a physical job and is very easy to do, basically just write down names and license plate numbers on a log sheet, not hard at all. The biggest workout you get is going up and down the steps multiple times per day running in and out of your coach with your clip board.
This work is a 24 hour 7 day a week job so sleep time can be erratic. I rarely got more than 4-6 hours of sleep at a time, less during busy times. I guess I had trouble adjusting to my sleep being divided up over the course of a day.
Most of the gates are isolated from the rest of the world. We are 16 miles Southeast of Cotulla, Texas adjacent to a paved county road. We were lucky in this respect as we do have a view of the passing traffic which helps us to feel less remote. There are a lot of gates that are several miles from the nearest paved road at the end of a dirt/gravel road and these can be downright lonely when times are slow.
The people you meet are overwhelmingly nice and polite. They are truck drivers, rig workers, safety and company personnel, and workers who do support services for all of them. They are overwhelmingly male and we ended up being adopted grandparents to some of the regulars. I say grandparents because most of them are very young. You can bet that working in the drilling industry is very hard work and seems more suitable for the young guys. You don't see a lot of old roustabouts. :-)
We made quite a few connections with several of the people that passed in and out of our gate and it was nice being a small part of their lives.
There are a few of what I considered downsides to this type of work. Rudee and I have always enjoyed being mobile and doing things together. That is not possible being gate guards, someone has to stay at the gate so going out for dinner or just taking a short drive together is impossible. We tried to trade off taking our weekly trips to town. That way you get to see some different scenery every other week.
Rudee compared life on the gate to being on house arrest with the benefit of getting paroled for an hour or two once a week to go to town! :-)
When it is dry it's dusty, when it rains it is incredibly muddy and you can't keep either out of the coach, as soon as you get it clean it gets dirty and dusty again!
Let's talk a little about romance :-), it takes a little planning and be prepared to answer that driveway bell! The work doesn't stop just because you want it to. :-) Bathroom breaks are treated the same, the quicker the better!
With all that said we have enjoyed our first experience as gate guards and being able to get a nice chunk of cash into the bank account is big plus. Would we do it again? Yes we would and as of right now we plan to be back next winter. We both agree though that 8-10 weeks seems to be about the longest we would want to go with out a break. These last few weeks have been a struggle but thankfully we have been busy and the time went fairly quickly.
Is this job for everyone? Absolutely not but of you are looking for a better than average paying job for a work camper this might be for you! You do need to do a lot of research and know what you are getting into before arriving at an assignment. You don't want to be miserable because you didn't know you had to work nights and week ends, rain or shine!

We dodged the rain and storms most of yesterday. Last night we could see lightning all around us! We did get a shower just before bedtime and another came through and woke me up around 4am this morning. I had the weather alert radio on but thankfully no severe weather came our way.
Our plan today is to relax and enjoy a, hopefully, quiet last full day here at the gate. We will be tuning into the Super Bowl game tonight and Rudee is already planning on making a pizza for supper to enjoy while we are watching.
Tomorrow will be a moving day for us. Rudy and Deloris should arrive here late in the morning to take our place and we will head West to Del Rio for several days of relaxing and reconnecting. Ahhhhhh, no bells! ;-) I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


The gate is still slow and I am getting in the habit of sleeping in the "big bed" and keeping a more conventional schedule. The last 4 nights there has been no one in or out the gate after 11:30 pm and before 6 am :-). During the daylight hours we get a little traffic, mostly the water tankers hauling the flow back water out to be disposed of. They have been starting around 8am and ending around 9pm. The same drivers make 6 or 7 round trips throughout the day and we have them trained to just slow down at the gate giving us the chance to make sure who they are, this way it doesn't slow them down too much and we don't have to run outside every time. Hopefully the nights will stay slow for the next couple of nights and I can keep on a regular sleep schedule.

Friday was payday, well actually Monday is when the checks are issued but we wait until Friday to make sure it arrives in our P.O. Box in Cotulla. I drove into town late in the morning and was surprised by how little traffic there was. I only met one car in the 16 mile drive into town. Once there I went to the post office and filled out the paperwork to cancel our P.O. Box and forward any mail back to Indiana. I had a short list of groceries Rudee wanted and then picked up lunch for us both at Wendy's and headed home. We have enjoyed being close to a decent little town like Cotulla. The grocery store is nice albeit a little overpriced but I guess they are just cashing in on the oil boom like the rest of us.

Friday afternoon a strange car rolled into the gate and Rudy and Deloris introduced themselves to us. They are going to be our relief and wanted to "check out the digs"! They are new to gate guarding and have filled in for a few hours on another gate but otherwise this is their first assignment. We gave them the low down on what to expect as best we could and showed them around our set up here. I remember just a few months ago Jerry and Kit Bertelsen were doing the same thing for us! We remember how nervous we both were trying to figure all this stuff out and how nice it was to have a shoulder to lean on :-). Dummy me though I forgot to get a picture of them for the blog. They left with promises that they would be back Monday morning, I guess we didn't scare them off :-). The neighbors even stopped in to say "hello" to the new comers and "goodby" to us.

We have no more mouse sightings so maybe we are getting the upper hand. I think Rudee is slowly being convinced that I caught the one we saw and it's safe to put on her shoes again with out shaking them like a paint can at the hardware store! :-) I will continue to leave the traps baited and set, just to be on the safe side :-).

We continue to do some of the little things that need done around the 5th wheel to be ready to leave Monday morning. They have been predicting rain for Friday night and Saturday morning but so far we have been lucky and it seems to have missed us. Hopefully our luck will hold out and we can make the swap here at the gate without having to fight with the mud. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, February 3, 2012


One of the "facts of life" here in the giggle weeds of Texas is the presence of field mice. To be fair to Texas though we have had the occasional mouse find it's way into our 5er no matter what state we are parked in. We have heard all the "fixes" to prevent mice from getting in and I try to seal up any holes I find in the underside of the 5th wheel but the practical matter is these things can get through such small openings it is almost impossible to keep them out. We bought moth balls and spread them around because we heard they would repel mice ...... didn't work. The best thing I have found is the old fashioned, spring loaded, board traps baited with a little peanut butter. I have 2 of these set in the basement and have gotten about 2 mice per month. That was until this week! Maybe they sense we are leaving and want to relocate with us but we have had a virtual mouse invasion here at the gate. I check the traps every day and they are usually empty, this week though I have caught 5! That is more than the first 2 months combined :-0 !
Luckily we have had no activity in our living area, they seem to prefer the basement. That was until last night. We were sitting watching TV and I saw a mouse run across the living room floor right next to Rudee who was sitting with her feet up in the recliner. Not thinking I yelled "Mouse!" and instantly regretted it thinking Rudee would jump up and run out the door screaming! I guess this gate guard life is toughening her up some because she just looked at me and said "get a trap". :-)
I already had one trap set under our desk "just in case" but never had any activity on it. I set another one up near the table where we saw the mouse go. Fast forward to this morning and both traps inside are still untouched :-(. I went outside and found the little bugger in one of the basement traps. I told Rudee I got it but I'm not sure she believes it is the same one. I, on the other hand, am sure it is because he/she still had that same stupid smirk on its face it had when it ran across the carpet in living room taunting me! Well that's my story and I'm sticking to it! :-)
There is a chance for rain and thunderstorms late today and into Saturday so we decided to go ahead and hook the semi up to the 5th wheel. The truck just does not do very good on wet ground when there is no weight on the back wheels and we didn't want to have any problems trying to hook on in the caliche' mud. We are slowly getting things ready to travel again, only 3 more days and we'll have some time off. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

water woes

Monday night Rudee turned on the kitchen faucet and nothing happened. Oh oh!
We had just gotten a delivery so I knew we had a full tank of water on our service trailer so we must have another problem. I went out to the trailer to see of I could figure it out mumbling something to myself about these things always happening at night and not during daylight when you could see! I did remember to take my flashlight and portable radio so I could see a little and also talk to Rudee.
The water pump is a 12 volt RV pump and is inside the generator cabinet. Power is supplied by clipped on wires to the generator battery posts. I wiggled the power wires and could hear the pump start up. I called Rudee and she confirmed that the water came back on. I figured it was too dark to do anymore trouble shooting so I closed the cabinet back up figuring I would check it after daylight.
Tuesday morning the water ran fine for Rudee's shower but stopped again shortly afterwards so I put on my "mud boots" and headed out. I could jiggle the wires and get the pump to run so knew it had to have a loose connection somewhere so started tracing the wires and found the connection for the 12v power at the pump was burnt. I did have some similar connectors in my tool box so I cut the bad one off and replaced it. Once that was done we had water again but I could still wiggle the wire and it would go on and off so it had to be a bad connection on the pump itself.
I came back in and put a call into our service guy Hunter who said he would be here in a couple of hours with a new pump.
Sure enough Hunter showed up right on time and it only took him about 5 minutes to swap out the pumps.
We are back in business and this pump seems to have more pressure than the old one. I think we may have had some issues with it for longer than we thought.
The gate has continued to slow down. They did light the "birthday candle" which means they are getting oil and natural gas and less water from the well now. Sure enough the water truck traffic slowed to just a couple of loads per day and will probably stop in the next day or two. We do anticipate a few crude oil trucks to arrive to haul away the oil being pumped out. Last time at the front well they only ran a few loads per day so we still wont be "swamped" with business :-). I'll keep you posted.