Saturday, January 25, 2020

Rockhound State Park, Kartchner Caverns in Benson, Gila Bend, Quartzsite, Arizona

Another view from Rockhound State Park in Deming New Mexico.  Our views were spectacular with good clear weather. The campground is about 4500 feet elevation and this year we experienced one night of 18 degrees--dry camping. Quite cold, and our coldest night to date in Lady Blue; but we were happy to have our furnace working great. Deming is about 12 miles ahead to the right.

We headed west on Interstate Route 10 and made an overnight stop in Willcox, Arizona at Grande Vista Campground, a Passport America campground.  For those unfamiliar with Passport, we have belonged to Passport America for a number of years. It costs $40 per year and gives you access to many campgrounds in each state for a 50% discount. In this case , it cost $23 for the night instead of $46 for a full hookup.  Passport usually pays for itself many times over during the year.  
From Willcox, home of Rex Allen( a western singer who recorded many early records in the late 1940's and early 1950's. He then was in movies as the clean cut Arizona Cowboy similar to Roy Rogers)we headed west to Benson, Arizona and Kartchner Caverns Campground--one of our favorites. 

A link to the Rex Allen info on Wikipedia

 The video above is a section of Route 10 just before descending from 5,000 feet to Benson.  We always like seeing the unusual rock formations, Note a few "balanced boulders" on the right.

The campsites at Kartchner are large and mostly well separated with beautiful mountain views.

From the campground, a short walk to the Visitors Center. Lots of information on the caverns, tickets for the cavern tours, and great displays on the cavern discovered in the 1970's and one of the best preserved caverns in America.

A great view from the Foothills Loop Trail looking east, southeast. 

Above are some of the Native American grinding stones in the park. They date from 4800 B.C. to A.D. 300.  We placed one of our hiking sticks next to them for perspective.

The video above is from one of the high points on the Foothills Loop Trail. You can see some traffic passing by on Route 90 including one trailer truck. Some of the points in the far distance ahead are--left to right--Cochise Stronghold, Tombstone, Arizona; and Bisbee, Arizona.

Bruce taking a break on the Footlhills Loop.

The Foothills Loop goes around the mounds that reflect the different rooms in the caverns below ground. One --the Throne Room--is below ground on the left.

Above is one of the new models of Tent Camper from Opus. 
This was on display outside the main RV tent.
If you are wondering why we show these different RVs, first we have no plans of trading or changing Lady Blue!!!!
But we know we have some friends and family who have interests in tent trailers, trailers, camping products, and even motorhomes. Plus we always like to see what is happening in the industry.

We saw one at Kartchner Cavern being used. A unique thing about these is that they set up on their own with an onboard air system.

Some points about this camper.
Very high road clearance.
Two water tanks and room to carry two 5 gallon water containers.
On demand water heater.
Slide out kitchen seen above.
Lots of other things that can be added.
The very first picture above shows a rack that is permanently attached to the trailer. It has assist for raising and lowering on the roof, and can carry lots of your stuff.
Below is the website link and below that is a video.

We came across another interesting blog back in the early Fall. But we had so many pictures and places for the blog issues that it had to wait until now.  The following Episode of Go North, an adventure of Mortons on the Move blog, was fascinating to us because it goes right into the Lance Camper factory to see the process of creating the largest Lance Pickup Camper.   A quick overview of the Mortons is---They met at college in Michigan and joined the corporate race . Tom was Electrical Engineering and Caitlin was Business Management. We are posting a link to their backstory below. Short version is that after several years of climbing the ladder, the demands and stress began to affect Tom's health and neither one was happy. In the link you can see how they gave up the corporate life and became full time RVers.  And have been for 5 years now.
Weblink "About Us" from "On the Move" dropdown menu on the Mortons on the Move Webpage
The episode video below is from their trip to Alaska , sponsored by Lance, Truma on demand hot water, and other RV manufacturers.
There are 17 episodes in all. This video is about 20 minutes long. Sometimes on Youtube , commercials interrupt the videos. The video ends when the new camper is on the new truck .
We remember when truck campers were either an improved pickup truck cap for the bed, or a basic wood frame perhaps covered with siding. Didn't expect anything inside either--just bring your tent camping equipment with you-campstove,maybe a camper's kitchen, and your sleeping bags
Note to Somerset people. We think Caitlin could be a twin for Lisa who was a bartender at Magoni's for a while and now owns a Vegan Bakery in Fall River. Great person who welcomed just about everyone with hugs when they arrived.

Episode 2 is at the Lance Factory.
There are 15 other episodes.

A view along the road , Route 8, to Gila Bend, Arizona

A picture of Jan at Lady Blue with a number of the other Lazy Daze units on LTVA in Quartzsite, Arizona

Just a slight hint of how great the pot luck supper was. Among other items--Lasagne Rollups, a Pear and Pomegranate featured salad, Turkey Meatloaf, Mac and Cheese topped with a wonderful flavored chicken, Apple Crisp, Kale and Sweet Potato kind of salad, and Beans,Onion, and Rice from an Insta-Pot.
Oh yes----followed by a fire circle.

Just happened to have this wonderful sunset behind the outline of a Class A  motorhome in Gila Bend KOA Journey.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Into Southern Arkansas, west to Texas, and into New Mexico

Out of Lake Chicot State Park on the Arkansas side of the Mississippi, we follow U.S. Highway 82. This heads west in southern Arkansas to Crossett Harbor RV Park. A nice park with good separation.  Originally built by the Army Corps of Engineer , it is now maintained as a county park within the Felsental National Wildlife Refuge, within a mile of Lake Jack Lee. Very casual. The host came by the next morning to collect $16 cash for the previous night(with senior discount)

Continuing on US Highway 82 to the nice little town of Magnolia and Magnolia RV Park. A small private campground . We were welcomed by the work hosts and had a great conversation.  Their laundry facilities were one of the cleanest we have ever seen. 
Also, for any RVers on this route, they offer a 15% Escapee discount.

Good separation with long , clean sites. Behind the row on the right is a small pond with a few other sites on the other side of the pond.

Our next move takes us northwest on US Highway 82 to Texarkana, around ,and into Texas on US Highway 59 south.
An easy stop at Rocky Point Corps of Engineer Park on Wright Patman Lake. See Lady Blue across the way?

A beautiful view from our site.  The first day , we saw a large flock of white pelicans.  They quickly moved away before a picture could be taken, but this is a big lake for bird migration.
A very short distance further south on US Highway 59 is Lake O' the Pines and Buckhorn Creek Park, another Corps park. These two parks were $13 and $16 per night with the National Parks Senior Pass.

The campground was fairly quiet. However, most of these parks fill up on weekends.  Camping is still very popular this time of year. Lady Blue likes her spot on the lake.

As an example. This is the deck right alongside a double RV site at Buckhorn. Double site means room for two RVs. In this case one in front of the other in a pull through site. Each unit has its own electric and water hookup. Not bad for $16 each per night, seniors.
Which brings us to one of our all time favorite campgrounds, Rayburn Corps of Engineer Park in Broaddus, Texas.  About 22 miles off of US Highway 96, it is quite a ways off the beaten path, but worth the trip.  Jan took the picture above from our site.

This campground was unavailable(full) for Thanksgiving, but now there are just three units with lots of room.

Back out to US Highway 96 and south to Jasper. Then west on US Highway 190.  This is another favorite Corps park, Sandy Creek on BA Steinhagen Lake. The lake is quite high this year, but Lady Blue thinks that is okay!!

Lots of things to do in Livingston, Texas. Pick up mail, renew passports, rotate tires, and finally pick up a library card.
Even though our address is in Livingston, Escapees RV Club,we had to be at the library in person to sign up for a card. With the card, we can now access all kinds of books on an App called Overdrive. We know----For some of you Overdrive is old news. First book was John Grisham's The Rooster Bar.
Had to add these pictures.  Our northern camping family never get a chance to see these. Why, you ask? Because campgrounds up north close(mostly)around Columbus Day and it's too cold.
Above and following are some of the Christmas decorations that campers bring with them to highlight the holidays.  Most of these are lighted. Some have continuous air supply and mechanical parts.

You have it!! Two penguins roasting fish-not S'Mores-over the fire.

Santa just caught a fish from his Santa boat with motor.

Of course, this is from Bass Pro Shops.

My favorite is Santa's Fish Taco Truck.

Santa and Mrs. Claus on a swinging swing.

Frosty---and mouse that pops out of the hat--mechanized.

Another mechanized. Santa pops out of the outhouse. Snow on the roof, toilet paper outside.  We did laugh, but probably not a choice for our lawn.

Something we never saw before. Right outside the post office in Livingston is this Patron Grill.  Note the thatched roof outdoor dining to the left. For those who do not know Patron(like we did not), it is a brand of Tequila. In the mural , the man is harvesting some Blue Agave which will become tequila. Some interesting info at the following website Patron Tequila Website. You will be asked to enter your birthdate.  This is common on many liquor websites.

From Livingston, we head south to Conroe for some shopping and then west on State Route 105 to Brenham and then north on State Route 36 to Somerville Lake and Yegua Corps of Engineer Campground.  Jan loves her view from Lady Blue.

From Yegua we head north on State Route 36 to Rockdale and one of our favorite restaurants Corona's. West on US Highway 79 to Taylor, north on State Route 95 to Granger Lake and Wilson H Fox Corps of Engineer Campground.  
Just one night and we are heading west again on State Route 29 through Georgetown. We quickly realize--because we go from no traffic to lots of traffic---that we are close to Austin now. But we continue through to US Highway 281 south to US Highway 290 west into Fredericksburg.  
It just so happened that we had just picked up mail including Christmas cards, and discovered that Adonia ,from North of Highland Campground days, had moved to Comfort, Texas , just south of Fredericksburg. We had a great day in Frederickburg, including a wonderful BBQ lunch.  So nice to see her after a number of years.

Still love the preserved 1800's look of the main street. Also , the many connections to the old German heritage here.  Every year we return to Frederickburg, we note more and more vineyards. We are not familiar with the different wines, but maybe next time we will try. 

From Fredericksburg, it is a long travel into New Mexico. We do enjoy a stop at South Llano State Park in Junction Texas. And, of course, that is close to Cooper's BBQ. The website takes you to the homepage for Cooper's. This picture is pretty much what you see when you come into the line. A server carves up your order. Coopers BBQ

Junction connects us to US Interstate 10 and west.  From here the travel is mostly desert, 80 miles per hour, and watch out for high winds. We usually stop in Fort Stockton and Van Horn before heading around El Paso on Route 395. That rejoins Route10 into Las Cruces, New Mexico. We enjoy staying at Hacienda which allows us to walk into the Old Town of Mesilla.

Mesilla was much quieter this year . Mostly because we arrived after the holidays.  Small shops offer local artists works, jewelry, chocolate, tourist things, and the old square.  
One favorite stop for many visitors is La Posta Restaurant De Mesilla.  The website has many pages, including the history. A stop on the Butterfield Stage Line. Each room is highly decorated.
La Posta Website
If you wait on the homepage it will scroll through some of the pictures of the interior and historic pictures. The history page here is interesting as well.

An entrance gate to an old Mesilla home.
On our Mesilla walk , great views of the Organ Mountains.

This year we stop at St. Clair winery(still on the walk). Except now it is called DH Lescombes. While you can just do a wine tasting, the winery serves some excellent food.  Jan had Schnitzel and Bruce had a wonderful spicy Asian Pasta with Shrimp.
Following is the menu page from the restaurant.
Menu page from DH Lescombes Website

From Las Cruces and Mesilla to Deming, New Mexico and Rockhound State Park.  Views of the Florida Mountains from our campground.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Cheraw State Park, Dreher Island State Park, Hamilton Branch State Park, South Carolina; Fort Yargo State Park, Georgia; Coleman Lake National Forest, Rickwood Caverns State Park, Alabama; Tombigbee State Park, Wallace Creek Corps of Engineer Campground , Enid Lake, Mississippi; Lake Chicot State Park, Arkansas

Our last issue left us heading for Cheraw State Park in South Carolina.  That was following US Route 1 south from Jordan Lake State Park in North Carolina.
Website for Cheraw State Park-South Carolina
On Lake Juniper, this park also features what it describes as an 18 hole championship golf course. We enjoyed a hike around the lake , including a nice section of boardwalk.

Many people enjoying the park on the weekend. 

Continuing south on US Route 1 towards Columbia. Then north a bit on Interstate 26 to catch Dreher Island State Park on Lake Murray.

Most of the sites have a water view or are on the water.

A perfect spot for a nice campfire.  We rarely carry firewood with us and will not pick up firewood unless we know how the campsites are arranged.  Many campsites now have newer fire rings that are so high you cannot easily see the fire. It is nice when you do see a great fireplace to have wood available in the campground.

A short video from our visit to Dreher..

Amazing to see so many great campsites unused this far south. But------it is cold down here too.

A spot for some major national fishing tournaments. Some 348 acres on Lake Murray with 12 miles of shoreline , very close to Columbia.
The map above shows how so much of the campground is on the water. A little confusing at first glance, but the two main camping areas are enlarged on the map and are shown in the gray areas of the main map top and bottom.

Staying still in South Carolina, we follow US Highway 378 west to Plum Branch and Hamilton Branch State Recreation Area. This campground is on the Georgia border where the Savannah River flows southeast to the Atlantic. This park is on a peninsula of the Strom Thurmond Lake. Where Lake Murray was 348 acres, Strom Thurmond is 70,000 acres!!

Most of the sites are on the water.
Website for Hamilton Branch State Recreation Area

Still following US Highway 378 , then US Highway 78 to Athens, and then US Highway 29 to Fort Yargo--west of Athens.
We also made the mistake of driving into Athens, thinking it would be easy to find our bank there.  Well, the bank was in downtown Athens and Lady Blue had a challenging time with some heavy traffic and narrow streets.  But she did great. By the way , it dawned on us as we went through town that this was the home of the Georgia Bulldogs-top of the SEC east college football. As you can see above, Fort Yargo was a very quiet spot in Winder, Georgia

Still some color in the park.
Website for Fort Yargo, Georgia

We made some short stops at two campgrounds after Fort Yargo. We were staying north of Atlanta to avoid heavy traffic. Even on State Route 20 to Interstate 75 south for McKinney Corps of Engineer Campground on Alatoona Lake, there was heavy traffic. This would have been a very enjoyable stop, except for a very noisy crew of tree trimmers .  From McKinney we headed south on State Route 92 to US Highway 278 west, US Highway 27 south, and then US Highway 78 west into Alabama. Coleman Lake is a wonderful National Forest Campground. Normally a very easy place to find, this year it included a five mile detour over a very dusty dirt road. Still a favorite campground though.

Thought we would take this opportunity to illustrate a website we use to look up information on National Forest Campground. This information was compiled by Fred and Suzi Dow. Basically they traveled all across the United States-first in their Class C Motorhome and then in a larger unit. If you look below on a portion of  the Coleman Lake Info, you will see a great deal of good information for RVers.

A big Thank You to Fred and Suzi Dow. This is an enormous task well done!

Our next stop was a bit more challenging. We followed Interstate 20 into Birmingham , Alabama. A simple connection to Interstate 65 north became a detour through the street of downtown Birmingham---interesting and nerve wracking---signs could have been clearer. But we found our way to Rickwood Caverns State Park.

Unique experience to go into a cavern that has the usual formations of most caverns plus Christmas decorations.  

A short video of some of the decorations.

A few more examples. Many families were enjoying the hour long walk.  Guides along the way were dressed in holiday costumes.

Many colors

Also sections where the level rock was used to create winter villages.
Still, as here, you can see the cavern formations like these curtains.

The volunteers put a great deal of effort into placement and lighting. You could see that the volunteers in the cavern--many of  them high school age--were enjoying the experience.

Happy to avoid Birmingham, we head west on US Highway 78 into Mississippi.

Close to the Natchez Trace Parkway, we stop this time at Tombigbee State Park. We met some very nice park workers here.

At Tombigbee, a set of playground characters we had not seen before. Native American on the left and cowboy on the right. The six shooters on the right are part of the ladder.

Following US Highway 278 west, we found we could stop at Oxford for some groceries.  Well----our first stop-a Kroger grocery store =was under construction for additions and had very limited parking, So, we headed further west on the local road. Rather than coming to the next store we wound up at an entrance booth----to the University of Mississippi( Ole Miss). We told the guard that we were obviously in the wrong place, but he invited us to drive a tour through and then how to find our way. What a beautiful campus! Well planned and yet separate from the town itself.  We were impressed that the marching band had its very own separate building!  By the way, it was an easy, quiet tour because students and faculty were away on Thanksgiving break.
Above is a video from Ole Miss Halftime 2019 "A Day at the Circus" If you let it play after the halftime you should see a video of Drum Major tryouts----Interesting!
US Highway 278 and Interstate 55 south brings us to Wallace Creek Corps of Engineer Campground on Enid Lake.

Another site with lake views and a nice combination of walking loops. Many of these lakes have been drawn down 6 to 12 feet or so for maintenance of the shoreline.  We were assured there was no drought happening here.

Spots to stop on your walk or just have coffee and watch the birds and fishermen.

Back up Interstate 55 to Batesville to pick up our mail and then west and south on US Highway 278 . This follows the Mississippi River south through cotton fields and more. Connecting on US Highway 82 , this is a quiet highway crossing the Mississippi.

Hard to get good pictures from bridges, but this will give you an idea of how high the Mississippi River was.

Destination this time is Lake Chicot State Park in Arkansas.  This park is very close to the Mississippi River and at one time was part of the river itself.  The river changed its course and left this lake.  Engineers created a fresh water flow  to keep the lake alive and now it is a popular recreation area.  

Sunsets are wonderful here.