Sunday, January 28, 2018

Truck Repair

We left Rainbow Plantation in Alabama on Wednesday, January 24. We were planning to only go about 90 miles to a remote State Forest campground in the far western panhandle of Florida. Once we got on I-10 I noticed that the truck was running poorly. It was missing and just did not sound right. We decided that it was time to get it to a shop. I was sure that there would be no shop near that campground, so we decided to drive a bit further and get close to Tallahassee. I knew I would have a better chance of finding a good diesel mechanic in the larger town. I had already done the research and knew that we would make the longer 180 mile drive on I-10 and turn north a few miles to Eastbank Campground on Lake Seminole.

We were able to get a great site at this COE park. We are right on the water and have an unobstructed view out our door side of the lake and Dam. The rate is $24 per night. We had weak Verizon, but it works and decent OTA TV.

I took a walk over to the dam to get this shot of our rig and the campground. 
I spent the evening looking at websites for local shops and selected two to call the next morning. I got up early (for me), and called the first shop. They were very nice, but told me to call Shiver Diesel. They told me they were the best shop in town. I called Shiver and they told me they could take a look at 1:30 that afternoon. I was happy to get the process started that quickly. Kim and I discussed the plan to take it in that day and then bring it back the following week to get it fixed. I was expecting that it was another injector problem. The shop in Pahrump, Nevada had replaced injectors #1,3,5,7 last March. We planned to go get a rent car and then take the truck in and leave it for hopefully less that 3 days.  I was guessing it was an injector on the other side of the engine and I would be shelling out another $2100.

When I arrived at Shiver Diesel, I was not impressed. It is an older shop with motor parts laying all over the place. When I walked in the door, I was immediately greeted by some very nice people. Jay checked with the mechanic and told me he would be right up to pick up the truck and take it back to his work area. As I sat in the waiting room I noticed that this was a busy shop with many locals coming in for a social call and to ask advice. Jay knew almost everybody. The advice was free and always appreciated. These guys know what they are doing when it comes to diesel pick up trucks. I decided then, this is where I wanted to get my truck fixed. 

We were all surprised when the tech came back and told us the problem was injector #1. That injector had been replaced in Pahrump. The good news is that the shop in Pahrump uses the NAPA nationwide warranty. I called NAPA and they gave me the numbers of the local NAPA service centers. I called them and nobody would do the work or could get me in, but one shop told me to call the 800 number and see if Shiver could get paid to do the work. I called the 800 number and they were great. We were able to get it worked out to pay Shiver directly. My day was going well. Now, we just needed to see when they could work me in. Jay said, "come with me". We walked back to talk to Eric the Ford expert. He had two other trucks in his work area with engines that looked like the had exploded. He was doing major motor jobs on both of them. Jay explained that I was on the road and asked when he thought he could do the work. We were both shocked when Eric said, "how about right now." It was almost 3:00PM and he needed to be out of there by 5:00. I went back to the waiting room wondering if he could do it that fast. A couple of other guys showed up and it felt like Floyd's barber shop in Mayberry. The conversation went from fishing to hunting and everything else about trucks and boats. At about 4:30, Eric pulls up in my truck and says,"You are good to go!". Jay in the mean time had been working with NAPA to get paid. He looked at me and said you are set, we just got paid. So, I walked out of there with a truck that runs perfectly and it did not cost me a dime. How awesome is that??? I did buy the guys dinner, but that was just because I wanted to show my appreciation. 

I drove the 40 miles back to the campground and the truck ran great. I could not wait to tell Kim the whole story. This was one of those really good days. And to finish it off, we had a very nice sunset.

The weather was going to get sunny and warm for the next few days, so we did some sight seeing and nature photography. Come back to see what we were able to find.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Gulf Shores with Friends

We have been living in our rig for over 5 years now. We have been retired and traveling most of the time for over 4 years now. During that time we have met many people while traveling. All of those meetings have been enjoyable. It has not been uncommon to hope that one day in the future we would see each other again. Those second meet ups have been very few...except with two couples that we met in 2015 in Rockport, Texas. I am not really sure why we keep seeing each other, but we have really developed a connection. Bill and Lisa, and Bob and Rox are awesome folks and we really enjoy each others company. We tried to meet up with Bill and Lisa in New Orleans, but the weather would hear nothing of that.

On January 20, we left Bayou Segnette SP, just west of New Orleans, and drove the 190 miles to Rainbow Plantation in Fairhope, Alabama. The truck did not run well. It continued to have a miss in the engine. I put some oil additive in it and it seemed to be better, but still not perfect. That would be a continuing story. The weather was still a bit cold, but the forecast was for much warmer temps in the coming days.

We met up with the other couples at Bob and Rox's new condo that they purchased in Gulf Shores this past year. This is a new chapter in their lives and it was interesting to hear the reasons they made that decision. We watched the NFC and AFC Championship games with mild interest and enjoyed a nice dinner and great conversation.

The next day it warmed significantly and I went for a walk around Rainbow Plantation, which is an Escapee park. It is a very nice and quiet place. We were lucky to get a spot, they were completely full while we were there.

Nice to be in T-shirt and shorts in January - Temps around 70
Then we met up with the group at Lu Lu's for happy hour and dinner. We always enjoy our time together.

We had to say good bye to Bill and Lisa, as they were moving on down to Florida for a 6 week stay in Cocoa Beach. They are traveling in a new to them Roadtrek.

We met up with Bob and Rox the next day to listen to a talk at Fort Morgan. This is a very historical fort at the mouth of Mobile bay.

The talk was not the best we had been to, but he did know the history of the fort. We then enjoyed walking the grounds and learning more of the history.

There was a famous battle that took place at this fort at the end of the Civil War. In this battle, Union Admiral David Farrigu,t said the famous line, "Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead". It was a battle that really did not need to be fought, because the war was all but over at that point. After the dinner we went to Moe's for BBQ, which was excellent. I was surprised to find out that Moe's is based in Colorado. We parted with the usual handshakes and hugs and planned to depart further east the following morning.

On the drive east, the truck was again running poorly. I decided then it was time to take it in for service. I was convinced that it was another injector problem and I prepared myself for a repeat of the $2100+ bill I paid last March in Pahrump, Nevada. In my next entry, I will tell you what happened. It was one of those amazing days.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Tour of Southern Louisiana State Parks

I am writing this entry on Sunday, January 21. It has been a busy week since my last entry about our time in the Houston area. We were sitting at Bayou Bend on Saturday morning when we got a text from some god friends that we have made on the road. The last time we saw them was two years ago in Cocoa Beach, Florida. They were planning to be in New Orleans at the end of the week and asked if we wanted to join them. We quickly said yes and set our plans to make that happen. Or at least that was the plan.

We left Bayou Bend RV resort on Sunday and drove about 90 miles to Sam Houston Jones SP near Lake Charles, Louisiana. We have stayed at this park before and really like the park. It was Sunday of the MLK holiday weekend and the weather was nice, so the park was busy with families camping.

Busy campground with plenty of families enjoying the holiday weekend. 
We love to see families in the campground. We just hung out in the rig the rest of Sunday and watched the football games. I still can't get over the finish of the Vikings-Saints game. We planed to leave on Monday, but decided to take a walk on a beautiful day. We ended up hiking about 2 miles on the river trail. There are over 10 miles of trails in the park. I had walked most of them on our previous visit. The park is built in a swamp along a river. There are beautiful Cypress trees and lots of birds.

There are some very nice homes built on the far side of the river.

I took a few bird pictures, but none of them are worth publishing. We looked at the weather and saw that a major cold front was coming in the next day, so we hitched up and decided to move further east. We chose Palmetto Island SP near Abbeville. We wanted to go to see the Acadian Museum. I have read about the people that moved to the area and wanted to learn more. The weather was perfect when we arrived at Palmetto Island. There were about 5 rigs in this beautiful park. We knew the weather was coming in, so we went for another walk. Two in one day for Kim and I, that has to be a record.

This lake was right by our site. 
We really like Louisiana SP's. The are reasonably priced and have free washers and dryers.

I kind of liked this little black bird.
The storm came in as expected and we found out our friends were not going to make it to New Orleans due to closed roads. This part of Louisiana has bridges all over the place and when it freezes, it gets ugly. We had temps down in the teens and an inch of ice and snow. It was much worse just a few miles north. We never made it to the museum.

Not often you see ice on a Palmetto
We ended up having to extend our stay to 3 nights at Palmetto Island. We spent most of the time hunkered down in the rig staying warm. I did take one long hike, but it was cold. We really wanted to do the paddling trail, but it was just too cold. 

We left Palmetto Island on January 18th. We waited until around 1 PM to leave to ensure our tanks could be dumped. We drove north to I-10 only to find that it was still closed. We had planned on getting to New Orleans and staying in a park just north of the lake, but that was not going to work. Kim did an excellent job researching on her phone on the fly and we switched our destination to Bayou Segnette SP, just to the west of New Orleans. We made it just before dark. We had to switch sites due to the first one being very unlevel, but we were still settled before dark. 

The following day, January 19, was our 38th anniversary. I got up and went for a long bike ride. We then went out for an early dinner and then just relaxed for the rest of the day. I did get some wildlife pictures right from our site. 

This Coyote just came strolling through our site.
Then this beautiful hawk stopped by for a visit. He just sat there while I took about 10 shots. I think it is a Cooper's Hawk, but I am not sure. 

We made plans with our friends to meet up in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Another couple that we met back in 2015 in Texas are staying in Gulf Shores for the winter. We are looking forward to seeing everyone. It looks like we are back to normal weather for the south for the next couple of weeks. We are ready to stay warm. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Houston Supercross

As most of the people that read this blog know, I am kind of into off-road motorcycle racing. The most well known of the different types of racing is Supercross. This is where the bikes and riders compete on a closed course with large jumps and other obsticles in a stadium. The biggest Professional Series is called the Monster Energy Supercross. They have a 16 race series held at some of the largest stadiums around the country. The teams race 16 out of 17 weeks each winter/spring. I love to go watch the best riders in the world competing in the comfort of football stadium. This year is especially interesting because of a number of reasons. I will not go into why because my readers that follow the sport know all about the major story lines and the ones that don't care, well, they don't care.

Let me say now, MOM, this is NOT the type of riding I do. I did an amateur form of this type of riding when I was young and more stupid than I am now, but now I ride on trails in the woods.

NRG Stadium - Home of the Houston Texans of the NFL

We left Hanks Creek Park on January 12 and drove the 90 miles south to Baytown, Texas. I had made reservations (yes, reservations) at Bayou Bend RV Resort. BB is a nice new park. It is a Passport America park and was $25 after the 50% discount. It left us 37 miles to the NRG Stadium on the south side of Houston. We were able to totally bypass the Houston traffic with the rig. I did not take any pictures of the park, but all the pads and roads were concrete and the entire place is not very old. The only problem is we were about 100 yards from I-10, making the road noise significant.

I was very excited when we got up on Saturday. Kim was...well, willing to go along. One thing I like about going to a race is that they have the pits open from 12 to 6 and they have qualifying going on at the same time. So, you can go check out the team haulers and even meet some of the riders and get autographs. Then, you can go watch the fast guys try to get the best qualifying times for best gate pick and the slower guys try to make the show. The top 40 make the night program in each of the two classes (450 and 250).

My favorite, Team Red Bull KTM
Monster Energy Kawasaki team. Last years runner up Eli Tomac's Bike #3
Is that a beautiful motorcycle or what?
I tried to take a few shots of the guys riding the track, but you just can't do them justice without using video.

#25 Marvin Musquin of Team KTM
You can click on this link to get a video I shot track side during qualifying practice.

Houston Supercross Qualifying

The race was good except my favorite rider got hurt in the first heat race and did not ride the main event. #21 - Jason Anderson riding a Husqvarna won the race on the 450's. #23 -Aaron Plessinger won the 250 race. I had a great time.

With this event crossed of the list, we were now heading east. Come back to see where we go next.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Hanks Creek COE - Lake Sam Rayburn, Texas

We left Oak Park on January 9. We decided to make one more stop before going into the Houston area. We selected another COE park on a lake. Notice a pattern here?

We selected Hanks Creek Park on Lake Sam Rayburn in East Texas. The drive was about 170 miles. We went more East than south, but it was a nice drive through the East Texas piney woods. I have been having a strange issue with the truck, so that creates a little anxiety, but I don't think it is a major issue. I will write more about that as I do some troubleshooting.

We were a bit surprised to find that the park's office was closed for the winter. There are volunteers working in the park, but they just do maintenance. I talked to one nice lady and she told me to just go on the website or call the toll free number to get a site. We had very weak cell signal, but I was able to get a call through. We waited on hold for over 30 minutes. I decided to just move into a spot and hope they would eventually get on the phone. They did, and we got set up for 3 nights. Kim really liked one site that was right along the lake (She is still all about the view), but there were some guys with a cherry picker working in the area trimming trees. She went to ask them if it was OK, and they said, "no problem".

The site was $26 per night with 30 amp and water. We had a few TV channels and very weak Verizon cell signal. We were out on a point jutting out into the lake. We had no signal in most of the rest of the campground. We were the only rig in this part of the campground. We loved it!

I went for a long bike ride around the park and neighboring roads. It looks like a nice quiet lakeside community.

After the bike ride, I decided to take full advantage of the day and go for a walk with the camera. The forecast for the next day was for rain and wind. I had walked for about 100 yards when I noticed two large birds at the top of a tree. I thought the profile was that of an Eagle, but I moved closer to be sure. Sure enough it was a mating pair of Bald Eagles. They look to be young, but had the distinctive white head and tail. I did not have the best lighting, but I did the best I could. This is the reason I was excited about this camera that my son is allowing me to use.

As I moved closer, one flew off, but the other stayed for a bit longer and let me take a few more shots.
One Eagle taking flight

It was an awesome experience. I love Eagles, and this photo session was special. I did get a shot of what I think is their nest.

The rain came as expected the following day. We stayed inside and just read. I have not taken some time and just read a book since the last time we were on the road in May. It does not take too long to settle into the "rhythm of the road". We were in a very good place.

We got up on Friday the 12th to temps about freezing. We waited for a bit of warming and then headed south to Baytown, Texas. Why would we go to Baytown? I will tell you in our next entry.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Time to Relax – Oak Park, Navarro Mills Lake

Many people think that “Relaxing" is what we do all of time. That, for the most part is true, but we have been very busy since we left the ranch. It was a fun busy visiting with family, but we were ready for some down time. We love to find a quiet, empty park in a natural setting and do very little. Kim likes to read and I do a lot of blog stuff and go for hikes. This time, I have an added thing to enjoy. Our son Mark has allowed me to use his Nikon D3400 DSLR camera with two lenses on this trip. He traded with me for the GoPro that he bought for me. This has given me a much better camera to shoot wildlife and other natural features.

This guy even posed for me
We arrived to Oak Park on Navarro Mills lake mid afternoon after a 90 mile drive. We were just looking for a COE park that was not too far and looked like would be empty this time of year. We were greeted by very friendly camp hosts that have been full timing for a long time. I think there were 4 sites occupied when we arrived. We drove the loop and Kim chose site 48. It had the best views of the lake out our back window.

Our view behind the rig
I was ready to walk all over the area taking pictures. The variety of birds was excellent. I had fun with the zoom lens.


Cedar Waxwings
Mallard Duck taking flight
We ended up staying 6 nights. Kim read 5 books and I watched countless football games and caught up on a number of blogs and paid the bills. We really enjoyed our time at the park. On the last day we decided to take a drive to hit the Walmart in Corsicana and take a drive around town. I did not bring the big camera, but I took a few with my phone. It is a historic town that is the county seat of Navarro County.  
Cool street of old buildings
Court House of Navarro County

Christmas Tree right in the middle of the street
Beautiful United Methodist Church
We extended our stay twice. We really loved this little park, but it was time to move south. Another cold front was coming and we need to be in Houston by Friday. We made reservations and everything! 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Happy 80th Birthday Mom

Kim and I are very lucky people. We both have both of our parents still alive. The reality of that fact is that we have parents that are getting up there in years. The fun part of that is getting together to celebrate milestones in their lives. When we left Missouri, we had a timeline because of my mother's 80th birthday on December 29. My brothers and I had planned to celebrate this milestone with a night on the town.

The only bad thing about the night was that my youngest brother, Bob could not attend. We did have Alan and Denise, Brian and Julie and Kim and myself. We started the evening with an early dinner at the clubhouse at the community that my brother Alan lives in. We had a nice dinner, but Mom and Dad had no idea what we had planned for the rest of the evening.

Yep, that is me wearing a tie. There is only one person in the world would wear a tie for. Alan's oldest daughter, Erin and son Colby joined us for dinner. 

Just my three brothers and my Mom and Dad. 
When we arrived back at my brothers house, the limo was waiting for us. My Mom was giddy with excitement.

We all fit, but it was a bit tight. 
We headed out to Irving. We went to see The Manhiem Steamroller Show.

It was a very good show. I really like to listen and watch live music. I think the night was a success. Mom and Dad enjoyed the show and we enjoyed the time together. A special thanks to Alan for doing all of the planning and Denise for most of the pictures in this post.

We did get in a few more visits while we were in the DFW area with both my brothers and with Kim's parents. Phase one of this trip was complete.

We left the Benbrook park on January 3. We had to wait until after noon to leave to let our rig thaw a bit. We were not able to dump the galley, but we got the grey water in the front tank dumped. We moved about 90 miles south to Oak Park on Navarro Mills lake. We were able to get the back tank dumped when we arrived. It was 50 degrees. That was the first time we had seen above freezing temps in 4 days. We have really enjoyed our time at Oak Park. I will write all about that in my next entry.

Friday, January 5, 2018

On the road again

We left the ranch in Missouri on December 21, 2017. We were very ready to move. We only went 60 miles to Ozark, Missouri. We invited ourselves to our daughter and SIL's house to moochdock in their driveway and enjoy the Christmas holiday with the family.

Our son Mark came down from KC on the 22nd. It was great to see him. We were sad to hear that our son Michael's youngest son, Cameron was sick and they were not able to make the trip. I also got a call from our son Scott. He was replacing the water pump in his truck and was having problems. I headed down to his place near Branson to give him a hand. We got it done and we also got to spend some quality time together. That worked out just fine. That night it got cold and we got a little bit of snow, so we can say we had a white Christmas.

Kim's sister's oldest son was on his way to Oklahoma for Christmas and stopped in Ozark for a night. It was great to see Ryan and his girl friend Cherida and daughter Cienna. We really enjoyed our time together.

Shannon, Amelia, Jake, Isabella, Will Cherida and Ryan playing spoons at Shannon's huge dinner table.
Kim, Mark and I decided to make the drive down to see Michael and his family. We went down on the 23rd and just stayed one night. Michael just moved into a new house a few weeks before. We had gone down to help him move, so we had seen the new house, but Mark had not seen it yet. Michael's wife Audrey did a great job with the decorating and the place looked great.

Michael and Cameron cutting loose his new tractor
Connor and Cameron opening presents
We arrived back at Shannon's on Christmas eve just in time to make the Christmas Vigil mass. After church, Brian, Mark, Brian's BIL Jimmie and I read Christmas stories to the kids. 

Me reading to the group. I chose the original Christmas story.
Me and Will. I just like this shot by Mark.
Isabella and Amelia
We all went to bed and waited for the kids to wake us up on Christmas morning. We had a very traditional Christmas day of opening presents and playing games. It was great to be part of it this year. We missed it last year.

Chaos on Christmas morning. Just the way we like it.
We played a crazy game where you wrap up prizes in celophane wrap and try to unwrap it. It got a bit wild.
The kids then played with all of the new toys.

Will playing with his new BB gun out in the snow. 
We were never able to get all of our kids in one place, but we did get to see all of our kids and grand kids and that is what it is all about. 

We left Shannon's on the 26th and headed south. Jake, Isabella and Will were going to spend some time with their father in Texas, so we decided to take them as far as Dallas. It was the first time we have traveled with the grand kids. It was fun and a little challenging. We made one stop in Eufaula, Oklahoma. We stayed at the Terra Starr RV park. It is very nice and with our Passport America discount was only $13 for full hook ups.

And then we made the drive through Fort Worth to Benbrook, Texas. We like to stay at the COE park called Holiday (Texas). It is a bit pricey at $28 per night with W/E, but the location is perfect to see all of the family. 

Huge site in Benbrook, TX in a grove of Live Oaks. The only problem is that we were frozen up most of the time we were there. Oh well, all part of the adventure. 
We had a very eventful time in the DFW area. I will write about it in my next entry.