Saturday, January 29, 2011

What a Day!

Oh, my…. do I ever feel like a princess.  Well, maybe not quite a princess,  but today has certainly been an extra-special birthday for me.  No, not because I am now eligible for Social Security AND the “America the Beautiful” Senior Pass to National Parks, but because of all of the wonderful, special friends and family who have sent me greetings through Facebook, phone, E-mail, text, and in person here at our desert hide-a-way.  Thank you all, for making this a very beautiful, special day.

I started out this morning by defrosting the freezer.  Yeah, what a fun thing to do on a birthday, but hey, I put if off as long as I could, and today was definitely the day it had to be done!  The last time I defrosted, I put up plastic wrap on the back wall of the freezer.  It definitely made the job faster and easier this time!

I sat outside and enjoyed the sunshine and my book for much of the day, before we headed over to Gina and Rollie’s for happy hour/dinner.  Gina told me a few days ago that she wanted to prepare my birthday dinner, but wanted to know what I would like.  What else – her very special Gumbo of course!

Gina prepared the most delicious pot of her Gumbo and rice, Pat made my favorite 7-layer salad, Brenda and Sylvia both contributed their own special corn bread recipes, Janna made a wonderful frozen margarita pie, and Deb baked red velvet cupcakes.  Each one of these very special dishes was outstanding, thank you all again!

Deb served me a cupcake with a candle (thanks for just putting one candle on there!) while Mike McFall looked on:

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Janna, Gina and Glenn:

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Brenda and John:

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We even had some neighbors stop by and join the festivities, fellow boondockers, Frank from “over the hill” and Dave, whom we met last year at our first boondocking location, joined us.

Dave, Mike and Frank:

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So, we’ve been out here several days now, and some of our readers are probably more interested in knowing how this “50-amp-pavement-princess” is doing with the second year of desert boondocking than what I did for my birthday, especially now that we have solar panels to help provide power.

We’re quite a bit more relaxed about things so far this year.  I’m not quite as obsessive about conserving water as I was, knowing we can dump and fill quite easily just a few miles away.  We are still conservative, though!  We wash dishes once a day, use paper plates as much as possible and separate the trash so we can burn paper waste in our portable fire-pit.  Jim has already added more water to the fresh water tank using the pump set-up he fixed up last year.  It looks like it will probably be at least Friday before we need to think about going to dump the gray or black tanks.

As far as the solar system, we’re definitely still in a learning curve!  The panels are working great, especially since we’ve had beautiful weather every day, plenty of sun to keep those panels charging the batteries all day, and we’re turning the inverter off at night to conserve power as well.  Learning the details of how much power we use vs. how much we’re making is going to take a little time and some self-education.  The bottom line for us, though, is that we are having a good time and we are not lacking any comfort.

We are enjoying the quiet and solitude, as well as the company of friends!  I’ve been getting some great walks in and look forward to making it up to the top of the local mountain one of these days.

It just doesn’t get much better than this.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

At Last! We’re Back in the Desert

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The football games got played and watched, our laundry got done, and finally, Monday came and we paid our bill at Dreamcatcher RV Park in Deming and began the final legs of our odyssey to Arizona and our desert camping spot.

We got our sites at Pima County Fairgrounds just outside of Tucson, did minimal set up and drove back to Benson to meet JoAnn and Doug for a quick “Dinch” at the local Chinese Buffet.  It was a much-too-short visit with them, and we hope to get together again soon!

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Deb and Rod needed to do some shopping back up in Tucson, while Jim & I made a run to the local Safeway in Benson before returning to the fairgrounds.  We had not been aware of this handy overnight stopping place until Janna mentioned they stayed there on their way out here.  It’s a typical dirt-lot fairgrounds camping area, but it is only $20 for full hook-ups.  The sites are close together, but for an overnight stop where we wanted to be able to dump and fill the appropriate tanks, it was a great stop.

Deb and Rod made it back from their shopping excursion just in time for sunset:

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Deb made sure she was ready for a cook-out, she got a huge package of Ball-Park Beef Franks!

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Promptly at close to 10 a.m., we pulled out of the fairgrounds for the final travel day.  The wind gods were kind and gave us a tailwind most of the way.

Along I-8 after we got out of the city traffic, we passed through the National Sonoran Desert Monument.  As we drove through the forest of saguaros, I started feeling a peace settle over me.  I have a hard time explaining how the energy of these gentle giants affects me, but somehow, being among these special creatures gives me a feeling that all's right with my world.  I feel like I’m home.

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Finally, we arrived at our place.  I snapped this picture just for a quick perspective of our location.  Behind us are Deb & Rod.  Way back, hardly visible (that little dot in the center), are Brenda & John.  Out of the picture way on the left are Janna & Mike.

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Brenda hosted us at their rig for dinner.   Janna made a fabulous recipe of chicken and veggie kabobs, Brenda made her famous cheesy potatoes, and there was salad, wild rice and to top it all off, Brenda also made a peanut butter pie.

What a journey, and now, we’re back home in the desert!  Jim got our solar panels tilted up and cleaned, and we’re set.  Thankfully, they were not damaged in the Rockport hail storm.  We turned the inverter off overnight and the batteries stayed charged.  We’re sitting here now, inverter running, furnace on, coffee pot on, and the batteries are still on full charge.  I love it!

This morning, Jim is driving with me up to Lake Havasu City so I can go to my Weight Watchers meeting, and we’ll get some errands done there before we get back and welcome Gina & Rollie today!

What a great life.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Blowin’ Across West Texas

Whew! We made it out of Texas…

On Thursday morning, in spite of high wind warnings, we left San Antonio at 10 a.m.  Ellie 119

Of course, all day, Jim and Rod both fought high crosswinds and/or headwinds as we made our way to the stop for the night at Ozona, TX:

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I had a pork tenderloin cooking in the crockpot during the day, so we had a nice dinner that night.  It was our coldest night though, with the temperature dipping under 20 during the night.

Friday morning, again around 10 a.m., we started off on day 2, heading for Van Horn, TX.  My navigating job was easy, get on I-10 and go 213 miles to exit 140A:

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I spent some time watching clouds while Jim and Rod again dealt with high winds, mostly headwinds this time.  Our fuel mileage wasn’t great – we averaged about 7 mpg.

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Our original plan was to stay at Chuy’s parking lot in Van Horn, but with below freezing temperatures predicted for the area, we all decided to spend the extra bucks and stay at the Van Horn KOA. We did eat at Chuy’s, though, it was pretty good.

This morning, Jim and Rod took advantage of the opportunity to have an “eat-out” breakfast at the campground cafĂ©.  Deb made smoothies for us girls, yum!

We were on the road before 10 this morning, and very soon crossed into Mountain Time Zone, so it felt really early!

Rod took the lead today.  We stopped just outside of El Paso for fuel and then made it through the city traffic:

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Nice job, Rod!

Finally, another state:

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We were all settled in at the Escapees Dreamcatcher RV Park in Deming, New Mexico before 1:00.  The winds were much friendlier today and our fuel mileage went back up to around 8 mpg.

We’ll be here for 2 nights and then on to Arizona on Monday!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

On The Road…Again

Ellie 001_2We are once again in travel mode, after a brief stopover in Rockport, Texas.  Jim got his dental check-up taken care of, the dogs got groomed, and we lived to tell of our hail/lightning/wind/rain experiences at The Last Resort.

It was about 4 a.m. on Sunday morning, January 9.  My first thought was, “Hey! No flash photography allowed in here”, and then I realized I wasn’t dreaming, and those constant flashes were lightning.  The wind was howling by this time, and I jumped out of bed at the sudden noise of the thunder and hail.  Jim was already up, trying to get on the computer to look at the radar, but of course we had no internet connection.  We tried to shout to be heard above the din of the hail, but couldn’t even hear each other shouting.  By the time we communicated about whether to bring in our slides, the hail let up and things started to quiet down.  Later on that morning, we found out a tornado had possibly touched down in Rockport.  It could have been worse!  We have some damage to our air conditioner fins, but we’ll wait until we get to Arizona to have an adjuster take a look to determine just how much damage there is. 

Others in the park and the community weren’t so lucky, there were many broken windows,  vent covers shattered, and hail dents galore.  When we went out to start checking things and cleaning up, there was still a lot of hail on the ground.  I’m glad that storm passed as quickly as it did!

A week later, about the same time on Sunday morning, we got another storm, but this one brought just a lot of rain, nearly 3 inches in some places.  Of course, our site was located in one of the low areas of the resort, so we had quite a bit of water around our Castle, kind of a moat, I guess!

The highlight of our time in Rockport was spending time with Deb and Rod, and getting to see Donna and Nolan as well.  Of course, as with any RV’ers gathering, this involved food.  Deb, Rod, Jim, Nolan and Donna enjoying dinner at Finn’s in Port Aransas:

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One day the four of us, Deb & Rod and Jim & I, took a drive over to the little town of Lamar to see if we could find some Whooping Cranes.  Deb & Rod had seen them over there last year when they were in the area.  Sure enough, we did see a family of 3 Whoopers.  We also saw a few Roseate Spoonbills and some Sandhill Cranes.  Our pictures were not good, so you’ll just have to take our word, we did see them!

The weather was generally cloudy and chilly nearly all the time we were in Rockport so we’re ready to be on the way “Out West” to the Arizona desert.   We plan to travel our usual – about 200 miles a day.  I’ve been informed that we won’t be traveling on Sunday – seems there will be some football games that must be attended to!

We are looking forward to this journey, especially since Deb and Rod are going along. They recently made the change from a 5th Wheel to an Allegro Bus, and this will be their first boondocking adventure.

Deb and Rod, going down the road in their Bus:

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Tonight we are back in San Antonio at Braunig Lake RV Resort, tomorrow – Westward!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Starts

We’ve had a week of some busy days and some lazy days - just the way we like it.  The weather has been just like that – warm, sunny days mixed in with cloudy and cool days, with a little rain thrown in for good measure.

Last Tuesday, we enjoyed a day trip with Deb and Rod back up towards Fredericksburg and some Texas Wine Country.  That evening, Dortha and Mark arrived for a couple of nights as they were on the way down to the Rio Grande Valley.  We got together at our place the next afternoon for football and happy hour, followed by a great grilled-burger dinner.  We tried to talk Dortha and Mark into hanging around with us here for a little longer, but they had things to do down in the valley, and took their leave much too soon on Thursday morning.

Brenda and John:

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Dortha and Deb:

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Rod and Mark:

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Jim, master of the grill:

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Then New Year’s Eve rolled around (where did that year go!) and we gathered at Deb and Rod’s, along with Brenda and John for Happy Hour and snacks.  Being the great partiers that we all are, I think we were all home long before 2011 made it’s entry.

On New Year’s Day, Deb & Rod with their son John and his wife Erica, along with Brenda and John, all joined us at our house for the traditional foods of the day:  Ham, Black-eyed peas, greens, corn bread and Georgia Peach cake.  Most of those foods have some traditional meaning related to wealth and good luck for the coming year.  The Georgia Peach cake, well, that was just plain good eats.

Brenda and John took their leave on Sunday, heading out to Arizona.  Since I subscribe to the Escapees “Day’s End Directory”, I gave John a hint I found in there about a parking lot in Van Horn, Texas, where they could park overnight with permission from the restaurant.  They were able to stay there at no cost, other than the cost of their meal in the restaurant, which, from their report, wasn’t too bad!

In between the happy hours and gatherings, we’ve been taking care of all the routines: walking, laundry, cleaning, watching endless college football bowl games on TV, shopping, and all that stuff that makes up our days.

Today was a special day for us.  Our good friends from Montana, Janna and Mike, made the trip here from near Baton Rouge, LA, where they’ve been staying with some other good friends, Gina and Rollie.  We made dinner for them, with assistance from Deb, who brought happy hour snacks, black-eyed peas and potatoes to go along with the crockpot sirloin roast and salad I made.  We spent quite a bit of time with Janna and Mike out in the Arizona desert last year on our first boondocking experience, and plan to join them out there again this year.  They are on the way out there now, and will have their choice of the best spot, since we are going to be following in a couple of weeks.

Janna brought my finished quilt with her, and after about 2 years in the planning and making, here it is in it’s place:

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I am in awe of how this quilt turned out.  There just aren’t any words to describe how I feel about this beautiful, beautiful work of art lying on our bed.  The colors match our motorhome’s decor perfectly, the craftsmanship in the quilt is exquisite, and I just couldn’t be happier and more grateful about how it all came together.  Thank you, Janna, from the bottom of my heart. I “borrowed” this picture of me that Janna took as I first held the quilt.  I don’t know if you can really grasp how intense that smile on my face is!

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Janna and Mike will be pulling out in the morning to  continue their westward trek towards Arizona.  We’ve decided to spend a week or so down in Rockport before we go out to the desert.  The night-time temperatures  in Arizona have been way too cold for our comfort over the last week or so, and we’ve decided to wait a little while before joining our friends out there.  We’ll go back to the same park in Rockport we stayed in before, “The Last Resort”, actually in the same space we were in.  Our current plans are to leave here on Thursday this week and spend a week or two down there.  Of course, you know our plans are always made in Jell-o, so anything could happen!