Monday, April 30, 2007


We're happily settled in a beautiful, shady site in the Escapee RV park in Coarsegold, California. We've spent the past two days cleaning and shopping, including a trip to Costco where we bought a great piece of fresh salmon and a bottle of a good chardonnay.

I tried a new recipe from one of our South Beach diet books - Broiled Salmon with Creamy Lemon Sauce. WOW! The sauce was so good that I am going to try the same recipe tonight with thinly sliced, sauteed, pork tenderloin instead of salmon. If you want to give the recipe a try, I added a link to "Favorite Recipes" on the left side of the blog.

Tomorrow we are going to Yosemite for a day of waterfall viewing. None of the high trails are open yet, and Tioga Pass Road and Glacier Point Road are still closed. With the hot weather we have had the past few days, there should be a lot of falling water around the valley.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


Can you see that little green line, from Southeastern Arizona to the Central Valley of California? That represents four days of driving, around 950 miles, through the first heat wave of the year.

We rarely drive four days in a row, but the prospect of spending several hours a day in a campground in the low deserts of western Arizona and southern California was particularly unappealing as the temperatures were forecast to hit the mid-90's.

Our first day was short, from Rancho Mi Sueno, Jeanie's and Ray's ranch in McNeal, Arizona, to a "resort" park in Casa Grande, AZ - chosen by us because it had a swimming pool, which we used gratefully. Our second day ended on the banks of the Colorado River, the boundary between Arizona and California, at a county park near Parker, AZ, with electric hookups to help us battle the 95 degree heat.

Day Three was the longest drive, from Parker to Tehachapi, California. Tehachapi, at 4,000 feet, lifted us out of the 95+ degrees of the Mojave Desert to a lovely, 83 degrees, with a breeze and shade. Whew, did that seem wonderful.

Today, on our fourth day of driving, we dropped out of the cool, higher elevation of Tehachapi into the sweltering and smoggy central valley of California, heading to Coarsegold, California. We arrived early in the day, but the last of the available full-hookup sites had just been taken, so we pulled into a "boondocking" (which means no hookups, including no electricity) site until tomorrow's departures create an open site for us. No problem... except the forecast high temperature here was 90 degrees, and I am sure we hit it! We spent the afternoon in our chairs in the shade of an oak tree, watching quail and drinking ice water.

It is pleasantly cool now, at 10:30 pm, and we are happy to be in a park full of fellow Escapees, with a good shot at electric hookups and air-conditioning tomorrow. We plan to be here four days before we move on, with the weather cooling each day. Yosemite National Park is just up the road, so a day trip is in our future as soon as our behinds recover from four days in the saddle.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


We had five busy days in Cochise County: ranching, dining out, hiking, golf for Odel. Luna loves ranch stays and so do we... but now the hot weather is setting in and we need to hightail it north.

Rosanna, Odel, and I did a great loop hike through Chiracahua National Monument one day, fairly long, rocky, and high-altitude. It brought back memories of last year's difficult training hikes - I am so grateful the Grand Canyon hike is behind us. Now we hike just for fun!

This bit of the trail, through a tree-filled canyon, was such a surprise - look at all the little green ferns in the understory.

Friday, April 20, 2007


After a very windy drive across New Mexico, we arrived back at Rancho Mi Sueno, Jeanie's and Ray's ranch in Cochise County, Arizona - where we were warmly welcomed by the ranch dogs, Gleason and Pearce.

Jeanie and Ray are away for the day, Odel is cleaning vehicles, I just finished setting up our home, and Luna has done her happy roll in the dust. All is well!

Thursday, April 19, 2007


We had some great times in Texas this year! For most of the time, we seemed to catch the weather right (except for the tornado scare in Fredericksburg), tricky in the south in springtime.

Because our trip back west across Texas coincided with the peak of the wildflower blooms, we decided to deviate from I-10, our usual (boring) route across west Texas. From Fredericksburg, we traveled northwest to San Angelo, staying two nights at San Angelo State Park, home of the Texas State Longhorn Herd!

Though we weren't in San Angelo long, we DID search out the Longhorns. Isn't this a majestic pose? We also visited the Chicken Ranch Art Farm (yes, it used to be a chicken farm, now houses art studios, galleries, a restaurant and a B&B) the Riverwalk, and San Angelo's beautiful new visitor center on the Concho River... so managed to see enough of the town to know we would like to return one of these years.

From San Angelo, it was a couple hundred miles to one of our favorite spots in west Texas, the naturally heated San Solomon Spring pool at Balmorhea State Park. This pool never fails to delight and, since the temperature was around 85 degrees, we hopped right in with the fish and turtles.

The trees and bushes nearby were alive with birds - we could pick out the cardinals and vermillion flycatchers - and a green heron flew around the edge snatching little fish out of the pool. It was a fun stay, followed by a long drive today to Las Cruces, New Mexico. Tomorrow we have another travel day, to Cochise County, for a stay of several days. Whew!

Sunday, April 15, 2007


Today is our last day in site 75 at Lady Bird Johnson Park in Fredericksburg, and it is a beautiful one. Odel is off playing golf on the course here at the park (LBJ park is public, a municipal park). I've been shopping, walking, puttering around... generally preparing for departure.

Good thing, too. Early today, a huge motorhome pulled up in front of our site and a guy walked up to our door. He asked if we were leaving today and, when I said "no", told me they had reserved this site a YEAR ago for two weeks beginning today! He went back to the office to see what was up, and I checked our receipt with my heart thumping.

Well, the office had messed up (though, if I was the camper, I would have called a month or so ago to confirm the reservation), so the other MH has a different site for tonight. He was relieved when it turned out we were planning to leave tomorrow. He told me they have had this site for these last two weeks of April for the past EIGHT years!

Rosanna, I know you feel we don't post photos of Luna frequently enough, so here is one for you. I took this while she was helping Odel make sense of some insurance papers; her sentiment seems to be "take a break!"

Friday, April 13, 2007


On Friday, I went off on my own to do some sightseeing that was of no interest to Odel.

I started in Comfort, Texas. We had visited Comfort briefly as we passed through Texas heading for Memphis, and I wanted to spend more time exploring there. I am particularly attracted to their history - Comfort was established and settled by German "Free Thinkers", emigrants who were interested in freedom from religion. The first church was not built there for forty years, quite different from the other Hill Country communities established by German emigrants.

Now it is a small, quiet town of B & B's, antique stores, a cafe, a bakery, and a couple gift shops.

Many, many, of the buildings in Comfort date back to the mid 1800's, and are built of the locally quarried stone, a lovely, solid, clean look that I find particularly appealing.

After strolling around Comfort to my heart's content, I headed back to Fredericksburg, destination Wildseed Farms. This is the largest wildflower farm in the nation, and I didn't want to leave the Hill Country without seeing it.

The red poppy field was in full, fantastic bloom, and so were the rows of Icelandic Poppies, but most of the other test plots are weeks from blooming. At any other time, I would have been impressed, but I have been completely spoiled by the unparalleled natural wildflower displays we have seen driving along just about any road from one Hill Country town to the next.

No manicured display, no matter how large, brilliant, and beautiful, can match the pool of Bluebonnets we saw in the valley of the Willow City Loop.

My last stop was the first fort built on the Texas frontier, in the 1860's, I think - which was in use for about four years, then out of service as the frontier moved on. The head of the German emigrant community in Fredericksburg so successfully negotiated with the Comanches that the settlers did not need the protection of the fort.

This is a very typical scene in this area: an old, stone home, covered porches on two sides, a shapely oak tree for shade. These buildings lookslike they would last forever.


Here in Texas, spring weather is fickle. We decided to take advantage of a warm clear day to visit one of the outstanding natural features of the Hill Country, Enchanted Rock.

This pink granite dome was considered sacred by Native American tribes, somewhat spooky by settlers ("strange noises" at night) - and enchanting by us. The dome and surrounding outcroppings, creeks, lakes and streams are not a state park, but a "state natural area"... only "primitive" camping allowed (tents), with lovely picnic areas and hiking.

The most popular hike is the Summit trail, under a mile to do the round trip with an elevation gain of 445 feet. Although the hike is steep, the granite is rough, so a good pair of hiking boots or athletic shoes grip like Spider Man. Up, up, up we went to the dome.

What looks smooth and barren is considerably varied on top. Once we caught our breath and got over the knockout view, we wandered around enjoying a closeup look: lots of small pools of water, some HUGE boulders, protected gardens of ferns and tiny wildflowers.

Look at this pool of water, filling a large, shallow depression in the rock. Behind is a cactus and wildflower garden, about the same size and shape. We noticed this all over the top of the dome. Here and there, plants get a foothold in one of the pools, which gradually captures a bit of soil and seeds, and evolves from a pool to a garden.

We descended from the summit to Echo Canyon, a trail between Enchanted Rock and another, slightly less imposing dome. The trail was rocky, with a creek bubbling nearby, lots of flowers, shade... and a RATTLESNAKE! A REALLY BIG ONE!

Odel was leading, and stopped short when a 3-4 foot rattler, stretched out across the trail soaking up the sunshine, blocked our way. In this picture, you can see the back half of the snake - I couldn't get the camera out and on in time to get the entire snake. Too bad.


Texas Bluebonnets, white poppies, all kinds of wildflowers large and small, were abundant along the trails we hiked at Enchanted Rock. Even the cactus were blooming (below)!

Not far from Enchanted Rock, the Willow City Loop, a small (lane-and-a-half) backroad, is well known as a wildflower oasis. We wanted to drive the loop, so took a similarly narrow backroad from Enchanted Rock. We drove past old stone buildings, beautiful ranches... through shallow rivers and pastures of sleepy, contented cows. Texas bluebonnets lined the sides of the road and Odel commented that it was difficult to believe that the Willow City Loop could be prettier than the road we travelled. I agreed.

At the Willow City Loop, where the road narrowed to less than two lanes, an official road sign said that the 13 mile road went through private property and there was NO parking on or off the road. Hmmmm.... a clue that this would be something out of the ordinary.

For the first couple of miles, we wondered why we bothered. Then the roadside shoulders became more colorful.

We were getting into the spirit when we came around a curve, overlooking a valley, to see a clot of vehicles parked on the road - a no-no. And this is why: in the photo below, the blue pool is not water, it is a pool of Texas Bluebonnets. Throughout the valley, bluebonnets glowed everywhere.

And from then on, we - and everyone else- couldn't help but stop in the middle of the lane to drink in the eye-popping beauty. We were so thankful to be there on a weekday; I am sure this little lane is FILLED with cars on April weekends when wildflower lovers arrive in droves from Dallas, Ft. Worth, Austin and San Antonio. We probably saw two dozen cars, and we carefully leapfrogged each other as we slowed/stopped to take pictures and gasp over the displays.

This last photo was near the end of the loop, taken when we illegally stopped on the roadside. None of the pictures can do justice to the wildflower gardens, or the enchantment of the day - puttering slowly along, windows down, smiles on our faces. It doesn't get any better than this.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


At last, around noon today, the clouds and cold weather of the past week rolled away, the sun poured down on us, and everyone began to smile. Ahhhhhhh.....

We have a wonderful, big site in a beautiful municipal park (with golf course) in Fredericksburg, Texas. Because we have gotten a little smarter in these past years of fulltiming, we knew to hold on to a good thing while we could, so we have arranged to stay for a week.

Today, the first day of sunshine, we took off to enjoy the April wildflowers of the Texas Hill Country and to visit RV parks owned by some of the small Hill Country towns.

As we were zipping down the road oooohhhing and aaaaahhhhing at the flowers, we passed an artist at work on the side of the road. Sydney, Odel actually TURNED THE CAR AROUND so that I could go back to take a picture to post for you!

I apologized for interrupting her work, but she didn't seem to care and chatted away while she painted and I took photos. She is an artist from Dallas who drove over to catch the wildflowers in bloom.

This is what she was painting - a pasture covered in white poppies. I don't know how she chose her landscape; there are carpets of wildflowers everywhere.

Monday, April 9, 2007


Before we get too far from Toad Suck, I want to tell you the tale, taken from information given to me by the campground host, of how Toad Suck got its creepy name.

"This pungent, earthy name is most unusual, to say the least, and is steeped in legend and forklore. The name was given to the river ferry, a riverside tavern, a settlement and finally a modern gigantic dam across the Arkansas River.

"The first river crossing here was in 1823, when a postal route to Hot Springs was established. A skiff, large enough for just the operator, a horse and rider was propelled back and forth by a pole.

"A wood yard was located about a quarter mile downstream where steamboats could stop and take on wood for fuel. Near the skiff crossing, a tavern was located on the west side of the river sometime between 1830 and 1850.

"It was a favorite gathering place for steamboat roustabouts, passengers, and local folks. Some very well known people passed by the old ferry crossing - Sam Houston, Washington Irving, Zachary Taylor, Jeff Davis.

Heavy drinking at the tavern caused a traveler to remark, "Those fellows suck at a bottle 'til they swell up like toads!" So the name of Toad Suck came into being, and remains today. "

That's the story, as given to me! These photos show the Toad Suck Ferry Lock and Dam, and our great campsite, D4.

Friday, April 6, 2007


We came to Toad Suck COE campground planning to spend two nights, then to move on to Shreveport, LA for two nights. We scrapped that plan when we discovered how much there is to see and do in and around Little Rock. On our first day here, we visited a nearby State Park, Petit Jean, spending the day hiking and enjoying the springtime blooms. I wish we had visited Little Rock first, as we didn't have nearly enough time to visit all the fascinating places when we were in town today... and we ARE leaving tomorrow!

We started our sightseeing day at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site. Here, in 1957, the "Little Rock Nine", nine black high school students, attempted to integrate, by federal order, an all-white high school. I can't imagine the courage of these students and their parents - the photos of the treatment they endured are terrifying.

Three years later, in 1960, Odel was one of the handful of black students to integrate Memphis State University. I admire his courage. I was ten years old, and of course oblivious to what was going on with the Civil Rights movement.

Our next stop was the RiverMarket area of downtown Little Rock, for some lunch. RiverMarket is a revitalized area along the Arkansas River, filled with shops and restaurants, so we grabbed a quick fish lunch before we headed off to the Willim J. Clinton Presidential Library, a short walk away. All we got to do here was gawk at the outside; we didn't have anywhere near enough time to do it justice, so decided to wait until our next visit.

I was completely surprised to find that Little Rock is home to the headquarters of Heifer International, a non-profit organization I admire greatly... AND the headquarters are right next door to the Clinton Library! Their headquarters building is only a year old, part of a complex still in the works. It was built "green", with recycled and sustainable building materials, a self-sustaining water system, low energy requirements. I was sorry to find that the 30 minute tours of the building ended at 3 pm, so we missed out. Another addition to the "next time we come" list.

Though we missed the tour, we did get to watch this Buddist monk at work on a sand mandala. He filled a long, pointed metal tube with colored sand, then scraped gently back and forth on the side of the tube with a flat metal implement to "vibrate" the sand out of the pointed end of the tube. The speed and energy of his motion controlled the flow of the sand as he worked his way around the table creating the intricate design. Quite a talent.

Though there is much we didn't get to do here, we did get a great overview of all the reasons we should return - when it is warmer. Tomorrow we plan to travel to Shreveport, LA, forecast to be quite cool, as well. One night there, one night in mid-Texas, then we have a four-night reservation in Fredericksburg, TX - another city that had so much to offer we vowed to return!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007


On Monday night, we watched the full moon rise across the river on a balmy, calm night. On Tuesday night, we took Luna to the protection of Audrey's house as thunderstorms rolled over Memphis and the weather radio trilled with severe weather watches and warnings.

After so many years in Sacramento, we are trying to adjust to the fact that we are in a part of the country that has WEATHER. As fronts move across the mid-west and mid-south, the warm, humid air and the cold dry air collide somewhere - we just hope it is not over us!

After a great visit with family in Memphis, we are currently on the road towards Little Rock, Arkansas, and then slightly northwest to Toad Suck Ferry, a Corps of Engineers campground on the Arkansas River, where we plan to stay two or three nights. Since it will be a couple of weeks before we see anyone we know (therefore, no uncontrolled social eating), today is Day 1 of 2 weeks of Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet. We hope two weeks are all it takes to lose the fabulous ribs, fries, and deep-fried catfish we have consumed since we hit the Texas border on our way east.

Monday, April 2, 2007


On Saturday, we stayed inside all afternoon while rain poured down and thunder rumbled - worrisome weather, since we had invited Odel's family over for grilled chicken on Sunday. Sunday dawned clear and beautiful, and we had a perfect day for an outdoor picnic - best weather we have seen since we arrived.

Here are Audrey, Earl, Emma, Odel, and Jacquie posing next to Scoopy.

See the tree in this sunny photo I took Sunday afternoon?
Now, see the same tree in the photo I took this morning? The fog is so thick that we can't even see the river, less than 100 feet away!

Sunday, April 1, 2007


April Fool's Day - yep, we left Sacramento in Scoopy on April 1, 2003. Today begins our 5th year of fulltiming.

Neither of us can imagine a different, better, life than what we have, and we feel so lucky that our partner feels the same way!

Why We Love Our Travelin' Life

Every once in awhile, I look back over the photo record of our travels. For this anniversary, I picked out 30 that capture the spots that have impressed us as most special. Thirty photos are TOO many to post on the blog, but I had difficult time distilling 4 years of travel into just 30 photos... so I made an online album that you can view if you are interested, and have a high-speed internet connection. Click on the photo to visit the album. I hope you enjoy it.