Monday, January 15, 2018

Deadwood Trails in the Cactus Forest

We love to hike.  Fortunately there are many ways to do it.  We fit into the recreational, casual category.  We enjoy getting out and taking a easy walk through different places.  It helps us appreciate nature and gives us some badly needed exercise.

I couldn't wait to get over to our nearest National Park (we are at Davis-Monthan AFB campground) and take a hike through the desert.
Pam put together some sandwiches, we got some water bottles and our walking sticks and made our way over to Saguaro East.  We have been on these trails every time we have visited Tucson.

This particular one was the Mica View trail that is hard-packed and disability accessible.  Not sure that is a word but wheelchairs can roll on this portion.
 We went down that the path for a while,  found a joining trail and continued on.
I found myself stopping and say, "Wow -- look at this view!"  Its not like I had never seen the desert or cacti before.  Or this was the first time we'd been hiking on a beautiful, warm, calm day in the desert.  The first trail we took was aptly named the Mica View.
This huge one Saguaro was really something to look at.

From their we joined up with the Cactus Forest trail.  We have been out here on previous visits to Tucson but I have never really stopped and thought about "Cactus Forest".  I don't know who coined that term but it is quite remarkable.  And this area has a lot of big Saguaros which are magnificent all by themselves, let alone in the midst of hundreds of other ones.
A couple of days later, we returned and went on another hike a little later in the day on some different trails:  Shantz, Pink Hill and Loma Verde Wash.  This time we went after lunch in the heat of the day. It was mid-70's.  It was beautiful and hot.

This time I noticed the wood ribs of decayed cactus that were scattered near the trail.  



There were lots of dead and decaying wood from the cactus near the trail.  And this gem in the middle of a young green tree, and an old dead one.  All kinds of variations of life among the cactus and desert trees.

I guess I was most impressed with the 'wood' laying around the once used to be Cholla or Saguaro cacti.  This one was in a class by itself.
We didn't go on a long hike, but long enough for us until we get more miles under our feet and used to the heat.

From here later this morning we go up the road to Catalina State Park.  Hopefully we can hike some more of those trails again.

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Crossing Paths With the Roadrunner

How does one do that?  Why would one want to do that?  We all have our ways and our reasons...

For a family, friends and acquaintances, I have listed one of my infrequent "Roadrunner Travel Schedule Updates".  Here's where we think we may be during the next few months.  If you are nearby or plan to be near us, it would be fun to catch up with you and say "Hi!":

Here our schedule as we know it:

January

  • Jan 11 - 14: Agave Gulch FamCamp, Davis - Monthan AFB, Tucson, AZ
  • Jan 15 - 17: Catalina State Park, Oro Valley north of Tucson
  • Jan 18 - 22: Outside Our Bubble group, Plomosa Rd, BLM spaces north of Quartzsite, AZ
  • Jan 23 - 27: Yucaipa Regional CG, Redlands, CA
  • Jan 28 - 31:  TBD
February
  • Feb 1 - 12: Catalina State Park, Oro Valley north of Tucson
  • Feb 13 - 28:  TBD
March
  • Mar 1-31:  Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort, Casa Grande, AZ

April 
  • Apr 1 - 2:  TBD
  • Apr 3-17: - Kirtland AFB FamCamp, Albuquerque, NM
  • Apr 18: - Sayre City Campground, Sayre OK
  • Apr 19 - Oklahoma City OK
  • Apr -  Downtown RV Park, Red Bay, AL
  • Apr -  Roadrunner RV Resort and Campground (Private), Maynardville, TN
May
  • May 1-31: Ocean Pines CG, Virginia Beach, VA
  • Jun 1-30: Ocean Pines CG, Virginia Beach, VA
June
  • PA, NY and the Northeast?

Thanks for stopping by today for the latest update on our Roadrunner Travels!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Overnight at Monahans Sandhills State Park with Mr. T

Pam found a Texas State Park along our route from Aledo Texas (near Fort Worth) to Benson Arizona.

It was too far to drive in one day.  In fact we divided it up into a more comfortable three days and made a reservation at Monahans Sandhill State Park.  It reminded me a little of White Sands National Monument but on a smaller scale.

We haven't stayed in too many Texas State Parks over the years but we were glad to find this one.
The entrance provided for easy access off I-10 was a well designed with the ranch sign over the road.
The Visitor Center where we registered had an area out back that led to a desert trail that looked inviting.
 Inside they had a display and history center that included information on the expansion of the Texas and Pacific Railway through southern Texas in the 1880s.  A surveyor for the railroad, John Monahan was dispatched to find water for the workers laying the tracks in that area.  He found water and workers congregated there, eventually establishing businesses and the small town.
 In 1926, oil was found in the area and the boom began!  As we concluded our quick tour of the displays, we were met by Park Ranger Arturo T.  He said, "You probably won't remember my last name, folks here call me Mr. T."
 Mr. T. told us the area was in the midst of another oil boom and the area had grown to over 30,000 people and was likely to reach the high of a few years ago of 60,000 population.  Interesting.
He also said the State Park had to sift through potential guests wanting to stay in the campground because a lot of the oil workers ask to stay at the park.  Instead, many workers end up staying in over-priced RV parks that have sprung up all over for miles around.

One thing we will remember about Monahans is the oil boom that IS occurring in the area.  Miles and miles of oil related businesses near Odessa, Midland and Monahans as well as all the 'pump jacks' (what we just called oil wells) dotting the horizon.

Turns out Mr. T. is from Roswell NM and we are within a few years age-wise.  I asked if he knew the legendary LPGA golfer Nancy Lopez who was from NM.  He said, "Believe it or not, my Father-In-Law was best friends with Nancy Lopez' father".  How about that?

We moved on and found our campsite in the midst of the mounds of sand dunes.  What an anomoly in the middle of the country side.
 If you notice, we decided not to open the front DS slide.  I was just a little too close to the campground road for my liking so we didn't do that.  Ended up being fine for a one night stay.
 This is a photo (above) of our spot next to the sand dunes.
We got our walking sticks and walked about a quarter of a mile up to the top and looked around.  It was beautiful.
 We loved our unique spot in the middle of west Texas.  I hand no idea there was a few square miles of real sand dunes out here.  It was beautiful.

And so was the sunrise next morning from our site.
 On the way out we had to wait a few minutes for a very long trail to pass and we had time to take another photo of the visitor center from the entrance road.
Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Traveling Tips - Cold Weather

We have been on the road now for a little over a week.  We have, like most of you, been experiencing cold weather.  In an RV, that can make life a little more difficult.  There are a few things we do that make it cold weather living in a RV doable and quite enjoyable.  It is all part of the adventure.

We left Virginia Beach and drove south toward Florida.  The farther south we went we noticed the front heater aka as "dash heat" was not blowing warm air.  Hmmm.  We forgot that we had the reverse problem last summer in the heat when our air conditioner would not blow cool air.

When we took it in to Bay Diesel at Red Bay, they added freon and serviced the A/C.  A tech also told me about the yellow shutoff valve near the transmission back underneath the engine.  He gave it a half turn to block the flow or warm air through the hose to the front.

I forgot all that.  In the last few days, after Pam and I experienced some cold driving in the front of the coach, we stumbled upon our conversation with the tech.  I didn't remember where the shutoff valve was located exactly.  The weather has been rainy and nasty so I wasn't anxious to get down on the ground and wedge myself under there to poke around.  We waited until we were in a better spot to do anything about it.

I called Bay Diesel yesterday morning and talked to the man himself.  Nice to talk to Chris.  He explained where the engine heater shutoff valve was:  near the bell housing and chassis frame.

Since I did not know what bell housing was, I looked it up on Google and figured out what it looked like.

It was freezing cold outside at our campground in Houston, but we were on a dry concrete pad and I figured it was as good a time as any to see what I could do.

l bundled up with gloves and work jacket and got a moving blanket to lay on.  I didn't know how long I was going to be on the ground but it doesn't take long to get cold laying on cold concrete.   I also put my headlamp to good use.  I have recently started using it more to free up my hands.
I wanted to see if I could squeeze under the coach since it was leveled and sitting pretty low to the ground.  I was able to wiggle my way under the tight space.  I looked up and around and just tried to get my bearings.  I looked where the hoses were and were they were leading.  It wasn't too long before I found the yellow shutoff valve.
I was able to get one arm raised and turn the valve where it was in line with the hose.
Then I crawled out from under the coach, picked up and put away my things.

I was surprised:  I turned a simple 5 minute job into a simple 5 minute job!
I thought:  I am winning at life!!  Yes!!!! :)
I only got excited because I have learned that things that seem simple often times aren't simple and if they are simple, I know I often have a way making things harder than they need to be...

So there it is - how to open the valve and get hot air blowing into the front dash heater.  We verified it worked and were a lot warmer on the drive to Cowtown RV Park in Aledo, TX, where we are camped for a few days.

While we are at it, I thought I'd note our own version of winterizing.  Since we live in the Roadrunner 24/7 even in cold weather at times, here are some of the things we do to make our home warmer.

Pam devised a curtain hanging system with a standard rod that is held in place with 3 self adhesive plastic Command-brand plastic hooks.  Kelly gave her a two curtains that she no longer needed and it fits in place and keeps the cold from the window and door at bay.
I got a Snuggy years ago and keep it over my leather recliner in cold weather.  Instead of cold leather, I sit on a warm blanket.
If you look real close, you can see a small blue comforter that I also drape over me.  Just like at everyone else's house, we use throws/afghan/comforters when we read or watch TV.

Last fall we got new carpet installed at MSRV in Golden/Red Bay.  Daniel did a great job with the install and put a binding on a couple of pieces of extra carpet.  I paid him extra to put binding on two long pieces I keep rolled up in the basement.  During cold weather we keep them unrolled and minimize the exposure of those cold ceramic tiles.
 Heaters.  We have a large electric space heater for the front area
In the back near the shower/bathroom, we have a smaller ceramic heater.  We turn them both off at night and pile on the blankets if necessary.
The DS bedroom slide has some drafts around the rubber seal from the outside.  Pam puts some rags and towels in strategic places to cover the holes.  Most of the time we don't even notice it and its no big deal, but in the cold weather when it is windy we can tell where the drafts are coming from.  This simple fix takes care of it.
Those are some of the things we do to keep warm in cold weather.  I left out the best way to stay warm -- stay in places that are 80 degrees and above!

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!  We hope you are well and warm!

Monday, January 1, 2018

Connecting In Houston

Happy New Year!  We hope you are well and warm!

We are 'holed' up in Houston for a couple of days.  We are waiting for better weather and then will head north to the Fort Worth area to see my brother Brad and wife Sue.  Their two boys and daughter in law and granddaughter live in Houston.  Which is why we are here.

Their youngest son Drew lives in Houston and met us at Mark (oldest son) and Dean-na's Saturday evening.  Mark and Dean-na and daughter Kayley were flooded out of their home during Hurricane Harvey.  Drew lives on higher ground and had no damage.  It had been a couple of years since we had seen all of them and we were pretty excited to visit them again.

It is absolutely one of the best things we like about this lifestyle!  -- Being able to touch base and see family and friends.

We all met at Mark and Dean-na's house that is still being repaired. They have lived with friends for months and months and only in the last few weeks were able to move back into their own home. They are able to live upstairs while the downstairs is being renovated.

The national media and news of the day is covering other things like the New Year and football games, but the millions of people who suffered during hurricanes, floods and fires of the last few months continues.  Hopefully most are making progress and getting back into their homes.

Mark and Dean-na's house has a ways to go.  You can see the water line on the garage door.
And damage around the front door.  
Currently they have new drywall from the floor up to about three feet.  There are also some new hardwood floors being laid down which are about halfway done.  Then they have all the rest to put back together downstairs.  Lots to do and things are moving along.

A couple of months ago I asked Mark what was the hardest thing for them dealing with the aftermath of the hurricane?  They have very good friends who have a big home and insisted that Mark and family move in with them.  They did and were very fortunate.

They are dealing with all the ups and downs of getting back to normal or the new normal and handling it all very well.  For the months that they were staying with their friends, the toughest thing it that they never had any down time.  They never any private time they could just totally relax and kickback although their friends were more than generous and accommodating.

I can say, "I understand" but not really.  I've never had to deal with that.  And then to think of the millions of people in our country and other places who have been displaced by disasters-- its a pretty sobering thought.

When we met, we looked around downstairs and saw where the damage had been inside the front floor. Water rose about two feet inside the house before it receded the next day.  The damage was done and all the furniture was ruined.  The drywall was removed up to about 24" and had been replaced.  They had time to many most things upstairs before the hurricane hit.

Currently the entire first floor is empty and new hardwood is being put down.  That is about 1/2 done. Next will be the sanding and floor refinishing before they can bring in kitchen cabinets and appliances.

The slow part of the process right now is the insurance money.  The submitted their claim within a week and yet they don't really know how much they are going to be reimbursed so they don't know what their budget it.

They also had two vehicles that were paid off.  But both were totaled in the storm so they bought one used and one new.  Often times it is difficult to replace a vehicle of the same type and year with the the claim reimbursement, so that is another unexpected expense.

Some neighbors are starting to get settlements, so hopefully they will get the insurance claim processed soon.

They are handling it all very well and are definitely not the complaining or negative type.  The bulk of our time with them was all about learning getting to know them and Kayley.  We went out to a Mexican Restaurant and had a great meal and just had a very enjoyable time.  I got to sit next to Drew and hear a little bit about what his life is like and what his job consists of.  Its fun to get into their world a little bit but very interesting when they open up.

And then on Sunday we went to the church where Mark and Dean-na were married.  For some reason I just loved loved loved the service and the singing and the worship.  It was inspiring and relevant and just a very good time.
After the service we had even a better time at the "Egg and I" restaurant.  Kayley had a coloring book and then ate her pancakes and was just having a good day.  She's three and a real joy to be around.  she is about as cute as they come.

While she was occupied, we got to talk with Mark and Dean-na about anything and everything.  They are a great couple and we enjoyed every minute of our time with them.
Mark is a MD and splits his time between ICU and making his rounds as well as teaching.  Dean-na worked for years in ministry and as a senior office manager for a very large entity before she had Kayley.  Now she's got the Worlds Most Important job - mom.

We will be in Houston until mid-week when we will drive to Aledo which is outside of Fort Worth.  Hopefully the weather will warm up some and get above freezing during the drive.

Thanks for joining us on this edition of the Roadrunner Chronicles!