Saturday, March 31, 2007


It is pouring down rain this afternoon here in Memphis, as a cold front meets the very warm humid air that comes up from the gulf. I had the perfect chore for the dreary day: our 2006 income tax return, now sitting on the table ready to mail. Whew.

Memphis, TN, is Odel's hometown. We come here to visit his family, and I managed to get them together for a photo. Left to right: Audrey (niece), Odel, Miss Bea (mom), King (dad) and Emma (sister).

King and Miss Bea, ages 90 and 89, continue to live independently in the house where Odel grew up. We picked them up at home, then took the ten mile drive to Barnhill's Buffet, where King and Miss Bea eat daily around 1 or 2 pm - a nice combination of entertainment and labor-saving activity. All the waitresses know them; the manager gives them a couple free meals a month and has invited them to her house for holiday meals!

Friday, March 30, 2007


Our first day in Memphis was a LONG one! We started by crossing the Mississippi from West Memphis, AR, to Memphis, TN. After parking at the Visitors' Center, we took a long walk on the "Riverwalk", a several-mile-long loop through small parks and lovely, upscale, neighborhoods adjacent to downtown Memphis on the banks of the Mississippi. Sacramento, our prior hometown, could learn a thing or two (or FOUR) about making good use of the riverfront from Memphis - our walk was interesting, beautiful, clean.

Isn't she a doll? This is Crystal, the little pup belonging to Audrey Conley, Odel's niece. I took at least 20 photos to get this shot; she DOES NOT sit still! We spent the afternoon visiting with Audrey, Odel's sister Emma, and Odel's niece Jacquie - and Crystal, of course.

After socializing, we hit the Memphis Costco, our first in three months! We were happy to get home (after dark). Just after we carried in the groceries, I heard the throbbing of an engine on the river. Looked out the window to see this LARGE, paddlewheel steamer traveling upriver. It was quite a sight.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


Hot Springs National Park is as urban a national park as I can imagine, a small jewel of history, hiking and camping adjacent to the main drag of Hot Springs, Arkansas. Down one side of Central Avenue run the usual tourist services, shops, restaurants and galleries; down the other side are the grand old bath houses now protected by their National Park status (since 1921).

We visited once before, a couple years ago. Both times, I wished we had planned to stay longer.

The day we arrived, we went straight to the park for a hike. It was too late to tour the restored bath house that serves as park headquarters, but we picked up the park map and set out up the hill.

This photo shows Odel on the Grand Promenade, up the slope behind bath house row. A hundred years ago, this was THE place to see and be seen, strolling back and forth, socializing...

Twenty six miles of well defined trails wind up, down, and around the small mountain (really, just a large hill) encompassed by the park. During the heyday of the bath houses and "taking the waters" for your health, exercise on these trails were part of the overall health improvement plan. For us, it was part of our "make room for BBQ'ed ribs" plan.

Fronting the Grand Promenade are small parks with benches, bubbling, steaming hot springs, and beautiful spring flowers. I can easily picture visitors relaxing on these benches under the redbud trees between treatments.

Hot Springs is still known for the water, both hot and cold. At one end of the park, a hot spring is piped into a fountain outfitted with four faucets; at the other end, a cold spring is set up the same way. According to National Park literature, the water emerging from these springs is 4,000 years old. I don't know if that is a good thing or not, but we joined the group of people filling gallons and gallons of water jugs at the cold spring, and it tastes GREAT!

Tuesday night was our first test of the weather radio I gave Odel for his birthday. This is a radio that is always "ON", quiet until there is a NOAA weather watch or warning within a 50 mile radius of your current area (or a specific county you have set). When we got back from sightseeing, the little amber "watch" light was blinking. We pushed a button to learn that most of southern Arkansas was under a tornado watch (just means it COULD happen).

As little later, a loud, undulating, wail snapped us to attention, and a red light blinked on the display: tornado warning for the county to the south of us. We headed into the Elks Lodge to watch the weather channel playing in the lounge, and saw that it was no threat to us. I was thrilled with the performance of the radio. Now, rather than staying awake all night to watch TV or listen to the radio during local severe weather alerts, we can count on the radio to awaken us for any urgent weather action.

I took this last photo just this morning, as the sun rose over the Mississippi in front of Scoopy. We will be in Memphis for a week.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


ARKansas LouisianA TEXas - that is the Ark La Tex region. Kinda' swampy, kinda' piney, very green and rolling. We stayed at a beautiful, lakeside Corps of Engineers park on Lake O' The Pines in the Texas portion of the region, using it as a base to visit two state parks before we moved on to Hot Springs, AR.

This photo was taken at Caddo Lake State Park, right up against the Texas-Louisiana border. Caddo Lake seems more like a series of bayous, narrow passages through 350 year old cypress trees. We took a guided pontoon boat ride here, winding through passageways marked by numbered signs. Getting lost in the maze is called "spending the night in the Caddo Motel" and even our guide admitted to being unexpectedly out overnight once.

We didn't see any alligators, as it was still too cold for them (though it was in the upper 70's). What we DID see were the striking spring blossoms. A short loop hike revealed dozens of blooming dogwood trees, a beautiful counterpoint to the green, green, green of the forest. Most striking, though, were the wisteria vines, at the height of their bloom season. They climbed way up to the very treetops, smothering their scaffold in foot long cones of purple blossoms. And the scent...!

The entire area was an eyeopener for us. Because it takes two days to drive through the arid lands of West Texas, I tend to think of Texas as open and rangy. Not east Texas - it is green, rolling, carpeted with lush pastures and heavy forests.

On Monday, it was a half day drive up to Hot Springs, Arkansas, where we set ourselves up as the only rig in the RV parking area at the newish Elks Lodge. We went straight to Hot Springs National Park for a hike, planning to earn a dinner of BBQ'ed ribs (we had researched several recommended rib joints on the web).

To our mighty disappointment, all the rib joints in Hot Springs CLOSE on Monday! If you know us, you know we had a back-up plan: shrimp and catfish at the Cajun Boiler.

Dinner was delicious and plentiful, but we could not pass up the opportunity to try a regional speciality: Peanut Butter Pie. I have since looked up the recipe on the internet; standard ingredients are peanut butter, cream cheese, cool whip, and powdered sugar. It is as decadent and yummy as it sounds. It does not pay to resist a regional speciality.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Travel in the Ark La Tex area (where Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas come together - I didn't make it up!) has been a challenge for the Verizon aircard, our link to the internet. We are generally able to read and send email, but some of the more advanced uses of the internet (posting to our blog and, specifically, posting photos) work only occasionally.

Today seems to be one of the days we can't post photos, but that should change once we get to the Big City, Memphis, on Wednesday afternoon. I have beautiful photos of the blooming dogwoods, the swamp cypress, redbud trees... and the slice of Peanut Butter Pie that topped off our meal of catfish and shrimp at the Cajun Boiler in Hot Springs last night.

When we visit Memphis, we stay across the Mississippi in West Memphis, Arkansas, at a favorite RV Park, Tom Sawyer's Mississippi River RV Park, where we can watch the heavily loaded, blocks long barges move up and down the river in front of Scoopy. If you take a look at the link, you can picture us out on the front row, where we have a reservation for one week.

Friday, March 23, 2007


Sorry, no pretty travel pictures today. Instead, motorhome owners take note!

We do not work on our engine, so that means we "take it in" for annual routine maintenance. In the past, we have taken it to a Cummins service center in Sacramento, CA, our prior hometown, since we return there twice a year.

Sacramento Trucking Company wants our MH onsite at 7 am; the work is completed by the time they close, 3:30 pm. During that time, we are out of our home, with Luna and her cat box, at loose ends.

Now we know that there is a better way, and we will use it again even though we have to come to Texas to do it!

On the recommendation of another Escapee, we made an appointment with RV Mobile Lube to have an oil change on our Cummins engine at 10 am last Friday morning. Ten minutes before our appointment, Robert Matthews, the owner, pulled his truck up to our site. In no time, he had gone to work, with Odel observing. We didn't have to move the rig. I went for a walk; Luna lounged around inside.

Look at Robert... this is a dirty job! He changed the oil, the oil filter, the fuel filter and the coolant filter. He lubed the chassis. He checked the air in the tires and added a bit. He was personable, knowledgeable, and full of good advice for us.

For all of this, we paid $255, less than we pay for similar service in Sacramento when WE go to THEM. Robert was finished at noon; we checked out and were on our way.

We HIGHLY recommend this service. It was totally hassle free for us, and a good price. They cover a huge area around Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, as far west as Fredericksburg and Kerrville. Click on the link to go to their website.

By the way, they also have a referral program. If you give 'em a try, tell 'em Odel King sent you!

Thursday, March 22, 2007


Odel was up before sunrise this morning to wash Scoopy, getting rid of the salt spray. We will be leaving our beautiful site this morning. I have a few final photos to share...

The clouds had drifted off by late afternoon on Wednesday, and I couldn't resist taking a few more photos within 20 yards of Scoopy, looking towards the Gulf Of Mexico.

Yesterday, we drove north from the State Park, along the Galveston Seawall, to the free car (and big vehicle) ferry to Bolivar (pronounced BOLiver, rhymes with Oliver). This route is used by people traveling north and south along the Gulf coast who want to avoid Houston, and we shared the ferry with a huge flatbed semi, a motorhome, a truck and 5th wheel, a school bus (!) and other passenger vehicles.
Our target was Crystal Canal RV Park in the town of Crystal Beach, TX, which had been recommeded to us by our neighbors at Las Jaibas in Mazatlan. For us, visiting RV parks is a hobby; we wanted to check it out for a possible future visit.

It was a very sleepy area, totally flat and, surrounded by water on three sides, obviously of interest to fisherpeople. The RV park is at the end of the road, in an area of deeded lots suitable for homes, RV's, and boats.

Here are two of the homes, across the canal from the RV sites. In California, these would be multi-million dollar homes. I don't know what they go for here, but you can be sure it is a fraction of the cost.

This is a fairly typical house in the Galveston area, though there are many old fishing shacks on stilts throughout the area, too.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


The city of Galveston is located on a long, narrow, flat, sandy island, joined to the mainland by bridges and a free ferry. Driving the ten miles north from Galveston Island State Park into the city is an eye-opener - the island is SO FLAT!

The waves of the Gulf of Mexico slide endlessly up the beach for mile after mile, and all the architecture is a reminder of the folly of building here - all houses, old and new, are set on stilts.

A couples miles south of the city, the seawall begins and the stilts disappear. We went off to "The Strand", one of the oldest parts of town, highly reminiscent of New Orleans.

In the late 1800's, Galveston was the third largest seaport in the U.S., and the Strand was the commercial district. Huge, ornate homes were built nearby, all on sand a few feet above sea level.

The hurricane that swept Galveston Island on September 8, 1900, is still regarded as the worst natural disaster to strike the U.S. The entire island was drowned in a tidal surge and the waves of the Gulf of Mexico. At least six thousand people died, homes and commercial buildings disappeared.

The Galveston Seawall is the so-far successful attempt to protect Galveston from another similar disaster. After building the seawall, the bay was dredged and the sand was used to raise the elevation of the city from 3 to 17 feet. Future hurricanes have come and gone, but none with the devastating effects of the hurricane of 1900.

I guess that makes the residents feel safe, but to me... it is not just the architecture of the Strand that is so evocative of New Orleans, but also the obvious vulnerability of the city.

When we visited New Orleans a couple years ago, I remarked to Odel that I would not want to live there, that it looked like a big bowl ready to fill with water. I feel the same way about Galveston. I LOVE visiting here, but I can't look around and believe there isn't a 100-year or 200-year hurricane waiting to trash it in the future.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


All I can say is "WOW!"
We arrived at Galveston Island State Park on Monday, right at check in time, 2 pm. There was a long line up of campers checking in, and I had to pick a site from the map without any idea of what the campground looked like. We are thrilled with our site!

On daylight savings time, it is EASY to be up for the sunrise.

Here is Scoopy in site #116, taken from the bridge over the little dune area that separates the campground from the beach.

This is the view from our front door, with the beach a few steps away.

Monday, March 19, 2007


Thanks to our wonderful hosts, Jackie and Buddy Bartee, we had a great stay in Lovelady, Texas. Not only did they provide a beautiful campsite, but great food, fun socializing, and a day trip to some of the local sights: the much-greater-than-life sized statue of Sam Houston (67 feet high) in Huntsville, the infamous Huntsville prison where Texas executions took place until recently, the campus of Sam Houston State (practically next door to the prison), and a hike in Huntsville State Park.

We left on Sunday, and Jackie and Buddy were up and getting ready to roll very early in the morning. Here they are... ready to take off on their own springtime trip once we said goodbye. The Bartees' place will definitely be on our route from now on!

It took less than two hours to get to Rainbow's End, the headquarters of the Escapees RV Club, source of many of the good times we have had on the road. We checked in, set up, and took off to Lake Livingston State Park for a hike.

Being Sunday, the park campground was practically deserted. As we passed a motorhome with a "Beware of Birds" sign, we heard a squawk - and turned to see two parrots sitting on outdoor perches!

The couple in the motorhome were friendly fulltimers (14 years) volunteering as campground hosts. They were happy to show off their birds, and soon the parrots were walking up and down our arms, standing on our heads, eyeing us with curiosity. You NEVER know what you will see on a walk!

Saturday, March 17, 2007


I read today that east Texas is sometimes called "wet Texas". Zooming across the state from west to east, it is easy to see why. What a difference from one side to the other!

Yesterday we drove from Kerrville, through Fredericksburg and the Hill Country, then east to tiny Lovelady, TX, to visit our friends Jackie and Buddy Bartee.

Recent rains had left streams muddy and swollen, with standing water in pastures and deep tire ruts near the gates at the ends of the long ranch driveways.

Most of the famous Texas wildflowers have not bloomed yet but, as we got closer to Lovelady, the grass grew long and green, blanketed with mustard. We didn't know the names of all the cattle we passed - light gray ones, rust colored ones, black with a white "blanket" around their middles, and classic Texas Longhorns. A pretty drive, but LONG, and we were happy to arrive in Lovelady around 5 pm.

Check out our site!

We are parked on a driveway spur in front of Buddy's and Jackie's "house". We met the Bartees in Colorado two summers ago, as they were traveling in the motorhome you see peeking out of the barn here. Over the couse of the 4th of July weekend, we became friends and we put Lovelady on our list of "Places We Want To Visit Someday"... and today is the day.

We arrived at 5 pm, and an hour later we were sitting in the... barn? ... house? ... eating our fill of steak, sausage, garlic bread, baked potatoes... delicious!

When home, the Bartees ease their big motorhome into the barn, essentially a huge room with rollup doors on both sides, a bathroom/kitchen, big screen TV, lots of storage... there they live between travels. When it is time to go, the barn doors come down securely and they motor on down the driveway. This seems to me to be a great solution for anyone who wants a home base without undue worries about "home" while they are off traveling. This has been Bartee family property for years (and years and years), and the Bartees plan to build a home here one day - maybe. Probably.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Traveling from west to east in Texas, you know you are leaving the arid southwest behind when at last you come to a "wet" river, the Llano... and slowly, slowly, the landscape changes to trees, the woodlands thicken, the road rises and falls, and you approach Texas Hill Country.

We arrived in Kerrville on a lovely, sunny, spring day, set up Scoopy at the Kerrville Elks lodge, and took off to walk in Louise Hays Park, where this blooming Redbud could not be ignored.

On Thursday, we took a day off from RV travel. Instead, we explored a small corner of the Hill Country, driving north from Kerrville to Fredericksburg, the best known and most visited town in the Hill Country.

It's Spring Break around here, and Fredericksburg was jam-packed. We bought a book, tasted some Texas wine in a wine bar, dodged tourists, ate a great lunch at the Bejas Grill & Cantina, then took off for the back roads and a bit of peace and quiet.

This odd structure is a bat roost, built in the early 1900's to attract bats to help control the mosquito population (along with malaria and yellow fever). It is near the small town of Comfort, established in 1854 by German "free thinkers" escaping religious persecution (unlike the Germans who established Fredericksburg and other Hill Country towns, who were escaping unemployment) - it had no churches for the first 40 years of its existance.

I could stay here for days! In one day of sightseeing, I saw enough of interest to cover another three or four days - and that is a tiny, tiny fraction of all we could do around here. Well, there is NO TIME now, so we will just have to come back!

When we got home, Luna was ready to play outside. After strolling the grounds for a few minutes, she settled near this cinder block... then proceeded to spend the next ten minutes thoroughly rubbing it with her entire body. I don't know what it smelled like, but she fell in LOVE!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

200 MILES DOWN, 600 TO GO...!

On Tuesday, we drove from Las Cruces, NM, to Balmorhea, TX - with a stopover in El Paso, TX, attempting to get the oil changed in the motorhome. That didn't quite work out, so we just rolled on east through miles and miles of Texas. Man, this is one BIG state, and everything we saw on Tuesday was scrubby and arid.

The GOOD thing about the drive is the road. I-10 on the western side of the state is lovely - wide, smooth, with a shoulder as wide as a lane. This is everything we dreamed of while we traveled the narrow, potholed roads of Mexico.

Check out the speed limit - it helps that you can blast through the miles at 80 mph, although WE can't, of course. Still, in the perfect weather we had, you can set the cruise control and make tracks.

Our target for the night was a little RV park right off of I-10 at Balmorhea, where we usually stay at the wonderful, oasis-like state park. This time, though, we were arriving late and leaving early, so opted for the convenience of a freeway-side park. The wind blew hard enough that the freeway noise didn't bother us. This photo makes the place look a little nicer than it is, but it worked great for us.


We drove another 300 miles today, from Balmorhea to Kerrville. The view didn't change much until the last 60 miles or so, when we approached the edge of Texas Hill Country. Luna doesn't care... this is how she rode most of the day.

We settled at the Elks Lodge in Kerrville, where we plan to spend two nights, a little rest before we push on to Lovelady, Texas, to visit friends there.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


On March 10th, Barry Kessler turned 64.
On March 11th, Odel King turned 64.

Of course, we threw a party, with a cake (and ice cream).

Barry got the most unusual present I have seen. Rosanna and Auntie Carol gave him a 55 inch long snakeskin, shed that very morning by their pet King snake, Freddie. Welcome to Arizona, Barry, and happy birthday!

Saturday, March 10, 2007


Ray Martinez is a real cowboy and Rancho Mi Sueno is a working ranch, although Ray and Jeanie have sold off their cattle so they can travel more frequently. Ray had been a rancher all his life, and a rodeo cowboy. We see a lot of "westerners" in our travels, but one look at Ray and you know he isn't just foolin' around.

This is Ray and his horse Ajo, ready to drive the cattle to a new pasture last year.

Here is Ray on the ATV, followed by temporary Ranch Manager Odel on the tractor. Last year Odel and I spent a month as ranch hands while Jeanie and Ray took their 5th wheel to California. This year, Odel has been promoted to Ranch Manager while Barry and Jan learn the ropes.


Odel prepares for a morning of training. First lesson: corral cleaning.

Odel and Jan discuss the fine points of "apple picking" while Barry takes a no doubt well deserved break.

You go, girl! Jan hauls ...

Next time you hear "That's a load of horses*$#", you'll know exactly what it looks like.


Ray relaxes, watching the greenhorns muck the corral.


The dogs and cats have a great time on the ranch, and are so much fun to watch. We all are happy to have Spike back from the vet, and he is looking good... can't quite keep up with the other animals, but he does get out and about.

This happy guy is Pearce, and he looks and acts like this all the time EXCEPT if a car dares to pass on the road or a bunny or jackrabbit plants a paw on the property of Rancho Mi Sueno - then he is a black streak across the landscape.

Luna is helping with gopher patrol.

A nice stretch after a hard-workin' day