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Friday, February 1
was such a beautiful day. We snorkeled and enjoyed seeing the fish
again. We each got to snorkel twice today. We snorkeled once
together and then Mac had a call to make so I snorkeled by myself in the
shallow water until I got too cold. It’s hard to snorkel when your
teeth are chattering. Even though the water is in the 70’s and we
wear wetsuits our bodies still get cold after a long while in the water.
Mac snorkeled later in the afternoon with a couple of other guys.
They had fun going out into the deep water, I think they were out in the
middle of the channel. They saw some really big fish and other
interesting creatures of the deep.
Off and on all day we’ve been getting things put away. We’re
leaving Saturday heading out on new adventures. We’re excited to
go but we’ll miss Key West too. We’ll be back next year.
Saturday, February 02:
Today is Ground Hog day but we didn’t see any so it must be spring here
in Florida. It feels like it too with highs in the upper 70’s and
the humidity is higher too.
We took our time getting ready to leave this morning. After
getting everything stowed away Mac drove the RV over to dump the tanks,
fill with fresh water and he filled up the gas tank too. I went to
the commissary while he was doing all of that and picked up a few
groceries. We then hooked up the car and we left Key West around
The traffic is pretty heavy at times but no accidents to hold up the
flow. The water is incredibly beautiful as we drive up the keys,
each time it’s just so awesome to see. We stopped for lunch at one
of the many pull offs along the way and enjoyed the view while having
We’ve stopped for the night in the Everglades at the
Pine Key campground. . We’ve never been to this section
of the Everglades before and are looking forward to seeing some
wildlife. This is a nice big campground with large primitive
sites. There are no hookups or showers at this campground.
There is fresh water and a dump station though if needed. We knew
we’d have to unhook the car to park on the site but we need it anyway to
drive to the trail we want to visit. We had heard about the
Anhinga Trail and this is the closest campground to it.
We drove over to the
Anhinga Trail this afternoon and it was really interesting to see
the alligators, herons, anhinga, turtles, and etc. up so close. We
even saw baby anhingas in the nest, so awesome to see.
Photos below left to right -- Click for larger view:
1. Anhinga about 5 feet from me! 2. The obligatory alligator photo.
3. Cormorant. 4. Another gator - they were everywhere! 5. Great Blue
Heron - a really nice photo -Mac
The past few nights I haven’t been comfortable sleeping.
I kept waking up during the night and woke up sore and sleepy. I
complained about it to Mac and discovered that while adjusting his side of the
bed he accidentally adjusted mine too. It was much harder than what I’m
comfortable sleeping on. So today he adjusted my side of the bed to a
softer setting and I had a very comfortable nap. It’s amazing that such a
small thing can affect our sleep but it does.
Sunday, February 3 -- Wednesday February 6
we left the Everglades and headed to Tampa. We took highway 41 the Tamiami
Trail across and got on the interstate around Naples. The interstate is
kind of boring but it beats the stop and go traffic that we would have had on
highway 41 up through all the cities on the way to Tampa. We stopped for
lunch in a rest area and we stopped again at the south rest area near the
Sunshine Skyway Bridge. We love stopping at this rest area, the water is
pretty and the view of the bridge is great. We had a full day of driving
and we made it to MacDill AFB late in the afternoon.
I now have to take back what I said back in January about there being less RVs
in Key West or Tampa. When we arrived at MacDill FamCamp we were told this
is the most campers they’ve ever had. We are in the dry camping area.
We’ve never stayed in this area before. It’s pretty nice too, a huge
grassy field. We may stay in this area more often. We don’t need the
hookups so why pay for them?
On Monday after working some, Mac tackled the job of organizing
the bays under the RV. He sorted and pulled out items to go into storage
and some stuff that we decided we no longer needed or items that needed to be
disposed of. We made a trip to our storage unit and put a lot of items
away till fall when we return.
While Mac was doing the great job he did of cleaning out the bins I made a run
to my favorite thrift store. I needed a thrift store fix since I’d only
been once while we were in the keys. I found a few items and was now a
happy camper. So back to the RV to do some sorting of my own.
Later in the afternoon daughter Nicole, her husband Aaron, and grandson Austin
came to visit. We all went to the beach here and enjoyed looking at the
water, watching the birds and seeing the sun setting. Of course, Austin
had to get his feet wet and then his legs, and then his pants so back to the RV
to wash all the sand off of Austin before we went out to dinner. We went
to The Ranch House Grill again and everyone’s food was very good. I
ordered fried grouper and it was wonderful and quite a large portion too.
Tuesday after working some we went to visit Mac’s mom. We
stopped for lunch at Sweet Tomatoes
Buffet for lunch. Wow, it was good too. Mac did his mom's taxes.
We then made a stop at both our banks, made another thrift store shopping stop,
went to Wal-Mart, and other errands that we needed to do.
Wednesday afternoon Nicole and Austin came for a visit and we
all went to the beach again. We stayed down there for quite a while.
Austin really loves to play on the beach. He has toys to play in the sand
and when he’s tired of that he loves to run around chasing the birds, run
through the water and of course getting all wet and sandy. So another
shower was in order once we got back to the RV. After shower and snacks we
had a good visit. Then it was time to say goodbye till we see each other
We’ll be leaving Tampa on Saturday and heading towards Biloxi. Well,
Biloxi is just a stop along the way. We have to be in California in early
April but we want to be in Vegas in very early March to meet up with some people
so that’s what we’re going to try and get done in the next few weeks. We
want to stop in Biloxi, Texas to see my parents, New Mexico to see some friends,
Tucson to pick up something for the swamp cooler and then on to Vegas baby!
I haven’t mentioned my work in a while. Last year I worked as a contractor
for the same company that Mac works for. They are such great people to
work with too. This year I started as an employee to start putting money
away in a 401K. So now I have to get up and face that long commute from
the bed to the front of the RV where I crank up my computer and get to work.
I have items that I have to do every day (5 days a week) and there will be
special projects also that I’ll work on. So I get to do interesting work,
I get paid for it, I don’t have to buy a wardrobe for work and the view out the
window changes all the time!
Thursday, February 7 -- Sunday, February 10:
a lot of Mac’s work is with people on the west coast we take a break
during the middle of the day and do something, lots of times it’s just
relaxing and enjoying being quiet. Other times we go somewhere,
run errands, etc. Thursday when we took a break we ran a few
errands here on MacDill, Mac got a haircut, we looked around the BX, had
some lunch, etc. After we got back to the RV we decided to walk
down to the beach and enjoy it. We had a nice walk on the beach.
It’s windy and the water is churned up but it was still nice to walk on.
This is one of the best beaches that we have access to. It’s a
very large soft sandy beach; it’s so enjoyable to walk along the water’s
On the walk back to the RV we stopped at our friends Al and Shelby’s RV
and visited for a bit. They’re such nice people. I didn’t
mention on Wednesday they’d stopped by and brought Mac some pumpkin pie
she’d baked. They’re always doing nice stuff like that.
After enjoying the lazy afternoon it was back to work. In the
evening we watched the start of a new season of Survivor. It’s
about the only TV show that we watch. We’re not big TV watchers
anymore. If TV doesn’t appeal to us we have plenty of interesting
stuff to do. Why should we waste an evening on watching TV unless
it’s something we enjoy watching. Most evenings for our relaxation
we surf the internet finding lots of interesting stuff to read and
learn. Or we’ll read a book, I love to read. Sometimes we’ll
sit outside and enjoy the weather.
Friday we worked at our jobs and on getting things
ready to hit the road on Saturday. Mac finished up organizing the
bays of the RV. We had another load of stuff we decided to leave
in storage too. Some items are to be sold next year when we come
back. We’ve determined that there are many items we just don’t
need. Why pay gas to carry this stuff around if we’re not going to
use it? I think one of our goals this year is to minimize even
further the amount of stuff that we have. So when we come back in
the fall we’ll pull the stuff out of storage and start selling it off
and what doesn’t sell we’ll donate.
Mac changed the oil in the RV too. He also helped me get the
laundry loaded in the washing machines and walked back over to the
laundry in time to help finish up the folding and loading the laundry
into the car.
We went to our storage unit and left some items, ran over to the thrift
store and donated some items, went to Lowe’s to pick up a few things and
went to dinner at The Ranch House Grill again. We ordered fried
grouper and fried shrimp and shared. Wow, it was good and we ate
too much. I’m going to miss having fried grouper but the choice is
clear, I’d rather travel than stay and have good grouper whenever I want
We’re so excited about getting on the road again. It’s been nice
being here in Florida, wonderful to see our family and enjoy the great
winter weather in Florida but we are so ready to hit the road!
This is the earliest that we’ve ever left to start our western travels.
We know that it will be chilly in many places, especially at night but
we have our quilt and each other, what more do we need to keep warm?
Saturday morning we got everything done and were on the
road by 9:00. We had a leisurely drive up to Tallahassee and
stopped again at Wal-Mart store # 1077. My friend Susan came over
and she and I went shopping at a couple of thrift stores. We had a
great time talking and shopping. Later Susan and her husband Keith
picked us up and we all went to dinner at Applebee’s. We had a
great time talking, laughing and having good food.
After they dropped us off at the RV Mac and I went into Wal-Mart and did
some shopping. We needed a few supplies to get us through the
week. When we get to Biloxi we aren’t going to want to waste time
shopping. We’ll want to get in the casino. We’ve been
practicing quite a bit but nothing is like the real thing. We’re
also looking forward to some of the good food that we plan on eating.
Sunday we got up and left Tallahassee at about 8:00.
We had great weather for driving, clear skies and no wind. While I
drove Mac went through all our comp mailings and we decided to go to the
Hollywood Casino Bay St. Louis first. We have 2 free buffet
dinners and free play for each of us that expires today. So to get
full advantage of all our comps we’ll go there first and then drive back
to Biloxi and utilize the comps from casinos there tomorrow and the next
We got to Hollywood around 3:00 and parked out in the large main lot.
There are a few other RVs parked out here too. It’s such beautiful
sunny weather. Our solar panels are cranking out the juice and
we’ll have wonderful sleeping weather tonight.
I got to play for quite a while on my free play money and the money I
put in. Unfortunately I was not a big winner today. We had a
great dinner using our free buffet coupons. Later we came back to
the RV and goofed off on the internet.
Monday, February 11 - Saturday
We worked for a few hours this morning and then left the Hollywood
Casino. We drove East down Highway 90 and there was a lot of road
construction going on. Traffic was moving so it wasn’t too bad of a drive.
Right after Hurricane Katrina they did repair the highway but it was a temporary
fix. Now they are doing a major repair job and it looks like it will be a
very nice road. I love driving down the beach; it is so pretty to see the
We drove to Keesler AFB FamCamp and got set up on our site. We’re parked
right in front of the showers and very near the laundry room. We could
have gone to one of the casinos and drycamped but we had ordered our mail to be
sent here. Once we receive our mail we do plan on moving to a casino and
parking for free.
After lunch and working some more we went to 2 casinos. We went to the
Grand Casino Biloxi first. I needed to play some on my card before
March 1 to keep my points and player status. We had fun but again didn’t
We then went to the Imperial Palace
Casino and used one of our free dinner coupons. We had the buffet;
there was no line tonight so we had no problem getting right in. The
buffet was good and we were wise and didn’t eat too much. After dinner we
played our free play and a little bit more, didn’t win either.
We left and were home before 7:00 tonight. I wanted to go play some more
but I agreed that I need to play only where my play adds to the value of the
comps we receive or/and the pay tables are good. The IP has changed the
pay tables and no longer have good pay tables. So it is not smart to play
there until they hopefully put in good pay tables again.
This evening after goofing off on the internet I read some of my book and then
fell right to sleep. I love our new bed now that it’s adjusted to my body.
I’ve noticed that my hip and shoulder has stopped bothering me. That’s
great, now I get a good nights sleep and wake up refreshed, with no aches to
start the day.
Tuesday, February 12:
We were working away this morning when there was a knock knock on the door.
It was Dave and Rebecca from Reno! We’d had dinner with them at the
Peppermill back in June 2006. It was good to see them and catch up on what
they’ve been up to. We’ve been reading of their journeys in their
blog/journal. Here’s a link to it for you:
We knocked off work early today and headed to the Beau Rivage Casino. We
split a sandwich and then had fun playing for a few hours. We went to the
player’s club to see if we had enough comp points for dinner and we did!
We also had played enough to get the free gift of the month a nice garment bag.
We enjoyed our dinner at the Memphis Q restaurant. We both love the ribs
there. We weren’t as hungry as we thought we were either because we took a
lot of the ribs home for lunch tomorrow.
After dinner we drove back to the RV. It had stormed while we were in the
casino and all the rain seems to be over with, but there is still some wind.
It’s supposed to be pretty chilly tonight. I guess this wind is bringing
the cold in with it.
Wednesday, February 13:
It dawned nice and chilly today, still windy too. After Mac went to the
FamCamp office and picked up our mail, we packed up and left. Mac drove
the RV to the Island View Casino and parked and I went to do a little shopping.
After joining up with Mac at the casino I decided to go inside and check it out.
It’s pretty like most casinos are. We’d seen the billboards around
advertising that the Island View would double your coupons for new members so
Mac had called them and checked it out. They double your free play
coupons. So since I had a coupon from another casino for free play I
joined the players club and got my free play. I played for a while at the
bar on video poker and would check to see if my free play was loaded on my card
yet. After quite a while went back to the desk and saw a sign that said
the free play was for slots only. When I talked to the customer service
person I told her that I didn’t know it wasn’t for video poker too and she said
that they had to stop it. “The video poker was killing us” were her exact
words. Would someone like to tell me again that slots are the best game in
the house? I think not.
After we played for a while we drove on over to the Hollywood Casino RV park to
spend the night. We decided to take advantage of our coupon for a free
night’s stay there since it’s supposed to be pretty chilly tonight. We can
use our electric heater to stay warm. So we played for a while and then
had another free dinner buffet for the two of us.
At some point this evening I started feeling like I had a cold but I was hoping
it was just the weather making me feel yucky. You know coming from pretty
warm weather to this sudden chilliness. But it turned into a real cold
pretty fast. After dinner I went to bed and huddled up under my blankets
and quilt. Mac started me on Zicam right away.
Thursday February 14:
Happy Valentines Day honey! After working some this morning we drove over
to the main parking lot and hooked up the car. We filled up with gas in
town and then hit I-10 heading west. Mac drove and I suffered with my new
cold. We drove to Jennings LA and stopped at Wal-Mart store # 386 to spend
the night. We went in and shopped a bit. Watched a little TV and it was
early to bed for me tonight.
Friday, February 15:
After working a bit this morning we headed on down the interstate and stopped in
Beaumont Texas at the nursing home my dad is in. We had called yesterday
to find out if there is a place nearby to park the RV and fortunately there is.
Right in front of the nursing home is a closed restaurant with a nice large
parking lot. We parked there, locked up the RV and walked over to the
We visited with my dad for a while and then headed out to the Escapee’s RV Park
in Livingston Texas. We arrived around 3 in the afternoon and of course on
the way here it started raining. I don’t think I can remember when it
hasn’t rained while we were here. I visited with my mom some this evening
and then it was early to bed for me again. It rained off and on all night
Saturday February 16:
I went down and visited my mom some this morning. But I feel pretty yucky
today. So I went back home and slept. I took several naps today.
It’s been a good day to stay in bed. I got up for a few hours and then
took another nap. I think I’m finally getting rid of this cold too; by
late evening I’m feeling somewhat better. Again it’s early to bed again
for me tonight.
Saturday February 16, 8:30 PM
I ever mentioned that I don't like rain?
For some reason it seems to rain every time we visit
Livingston Texas. Do they really have rain here twice a week, every week,
all year long? And I'm not talking about showers, I'm talking about gully
washers. Yesterday we arrived in Livingston and within about 4 hours the
sky opened up and we enjoyed our first downpour and thunderstorm. Now one
night later and as you can see from the radar image the marching line of
thunderstorms is treating us to what they call a "train" of storms.
This is one reason we find ourselves leaving Florida -- another rainy state --
earlier in the year for our western trips and wanting to come back later.
We love being in the dry climates of the Western USA.
And while I'm complaining about the rain, what's up with RV manufacturers that
can't seem to keep the inside of an RV dry?
Let's compare an RV to a car. Has your car ever leaked
during a thunderstorm? I can't say that mine has, and I've owned some 20
year old beat up junkers. I don't even think my MG Midget convertible
leaked very much, just a drop or two. How about windows in a conversion
van? I've had one of those, and I can't recall them leaking.
So why on earth can't RV windows keep out the rain? The
little channel fills up with water and runs over, and it doesn't matter how much
you've cleaned out the weep holes with compressed air. I've even drilled
additional drainage holes and most of the windows still leak when it rains.
So that's my gripe for the month, leaky RV's. Thanks for listening. :-)
Sunday February 17 – Sunday, February
had plenty of chores to do for my folks including the roof, new battery,
shelves, etc. But we also had time for some fun. Mac and I
went out one evening to Shrimp Boat Manny’s Restaurant and had some
great fried shrimp. My mom and I had gone shopping and ran some
errands and we had lunch at City Grille. We enjoyed our meals at
both places. Both restaurants have some beautiful stained glass in
them. The City Grille has some of their stained glass for sale but
Manny’s has their glass as part of the décor. I love stained
glass, especially with light shining through it.
I got an email from a friend that she and husband were at the same park
in Livingston and to so stop in and say hello if we had a chance.
One evening Mac and I stopped by their RV and sat for a while and talked
to the Slusser’s, Gary and Ethne. Ethne and I have corresponded
for quite a while by email so it was good to finally meet her.
They’ll be leaving Livingston soon and heading west also so hopefully
we’ll meet up again this summer.
I took my mom to see my dad down in Beaumont at the nursing home.
I had to cry some and they did too. When we got there my dad was
so happy to see my mom, they haven’t seen each other in about 3 months.
He slowly got up from his wheelchair and my mom is trying to stay
balanced with her walker but they manage to hug and kiss. Over 55
years of marriage and they aren’t together right now. Mac and I
started the process to get my dad into a nursing home closer to
Livingston so that they can see each other more often. I felt so
bad that we hadn’t done this yet for them. I still have a hard
time realizing that I need to step in and do things for them. In
my head they’re still the adults and I’m the kid. But then I get
with them and realize again that I need to be the adult and ensure they
are taken care of.
Chores are done; we have places to be so we headed out Saturday morning
about 9:30. We drove to Abilene Texas and stopped for the night at
Wal-Mart Store # 536. It was a pretty good driving day. We
did have some gusty wind this afternoon and had to slow down but we
still made good time and the wind stopped after dark.
Sunday morning (2/24) we headed out around 7:30. We stopped for gas and
it was $3.05, sure is expensive compared to further east in Texas where
it was around $2.99 when we filled up yesterday.
We left the interstate around Big Spring and took Highway 87 to Highway
180 heading to Carlsbad New Mexico. We arrived safely at our
destination in Lakewood NM at The Ranch, an Escapee Park.
From the interstate and driving up highway 87 we saw many fields that
had grown cotton. I would have never thought of west Texas as
cotton country but it is. There were many cotton gins and fields.
Driving up Highway 87 I saw many flocks of birds in the fields. We
pulled over and got out our binoculars to look at these birds. We
looked them up and found out that they are Greater Sandhill Cranes.
They were quite pretty with feathers that look solid bluish gray.
They’re also a rather large bird too, about 4-5 feet tall.
After we got on our campsite in the dry camping area I took a much
needed nap. Mac went visiting our friends, Neil and Jo who we
usually see in Key West. We’ve made a date to go see Carlsbad
Caverns on Tuesday.
This evening after dinner we went to the club house and celebrated the
February birthdays with the rest of the campers here. It was lots
of fun, we enjoyed ice cream and various other goodies.
Monday, February 25 – Tuesday February 26:
was another work day. But we managed to see a video we’d borrowed
on Carlsbad Caverns. We’re excited about going there tomorrow.
Later in the afternoon we washed a load of clothes and a load of rugs.
All our rugs were dirty with mud from the rain in Livingston.
After doing the laundry we attended the social hour here at The Ranch.
We met some other campers and had some great conversation about places
seen and things done. I also traded a few books at the book
exchange here too.
Monday evening Mac was asleep before 9:00. Around 9 I heard
several coyotes singing but when I went outside they had stopped and all
that I could hear were dogs barking.
It got pretty chilly overnight but it was tolerable with a blanket and a
quilt on the bed. Tuesday morning Mac had to turn on the heater
because it was about 30 degrees when we got up.
Tuesday, a little after noon we headed out for Carlsbad
Caverns National Park.
www.nps.gov/cave/ Neil and his son Chance were our tour guides
for this adventure. Jolieanne wasn’t feeling very well today so
she stayed home to rest.
After arriving at the park and getting our tickets we decided to take
the Natural Entrance route into the caverns. Originally we had
thought to take the elevator down but the natural entrance is very
impressive so that’s the way we went. The Natural Entrance route
descends more than 750 feet into the earth following steep and narrow
trails down and around and down and around till finally it ends near the
underground rest area, near the elevators and the Big Room route
starting point. I think it took us about an hour to walk down the
trail. We kept stopping and admiring the beauty. It is a
totally awesome place to see!
After we descended we went to the rest area and had some snacks and
rested up for the walk around the Big Room. It was incredible to
see all the natural beauty of the place. It was tiring also to
walk so much and stand and admire the many natural wonders there.
We finished the Big Room and rode the elevator back up to the surface.
We then stopped in the gift shop, of course, and bought our token
souvenirs to remember our visit. This place is definitely on our
list of places to see again and explore further. There is so much
to see that we didn’t see today that we’ll have to come back.
This evening Mac has worked some and we enjoyed a light quick warm
dinner of soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. The rest of the
evening is spent relaxing and getting ready for tomorrows adventures.
Mac and Chris at the entrance to Carlsbad Cavern
Winding walkway descending into Carlsbad Cavern
Inside the cavern - photo doesn't do it justice
Wednesday, February 27:
work today we headed out to a lunch buffet at a local Chinese restaurant
in Carlsbad. There were 7 of us and we had a good time eating and
talking. After lunch we all visited the
Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park. We spent 3 hours at the
park, and we saw animals, birds, reptiles, and plants native to the
Chihuahuan desert. It was a great place to visit and learn more
about the desert.
We returned home and rested some before dinner. The rest of the evening
has been spent planning our future adventures and goofing off.
mentioned the Chinese buffet. I noticed a few interesting dishes in
addition to the typical fare. You've heard of Tex-Mex cooking? Well,
they had some Chin-Mex here -- two or three spicy dishes were made with Jalapeno
peppers! I should have taken a photo -- and speaking of photos, we have
quite a few from the Museum/Zoo at
Here's a photo from a few days ago, early
hard at work, with a great view of the desert sunrise out our front window.
If you have to work, this isn't a bad way to do it -- dressed in pajamas, in a
recliner, and with a great view that we can change with the turn of a key.
Thursday, February 28 – Friday February
didn’t do much these two days; lots of work to do with our day jobs.
Friday we got everything put away, the tanks dumped, the fresh water filled and
the car hooked up. We’re leaving Saturday morning heading for Tucson AZ.
This area is really interesting. We plan on coming back here again and
exploring further. We want to see the Guadalupe Mountains National Park,
explore the Carlsbad Caverns more because we didn’t see all of it. We’d
also like to visit Roswell and other places nearby.
It’s been very peaceful here, it’s far enough off the highway and the highway
isn’t heavily traveled that it’s very quiet. We loved it. The social
hour in the park is fun and the people are very friendly. We’ll be back to
Another crop that is grown around here that I wouldn’t think of growing this far
west is pecans. There are thousands of acres of pecans trees. I’d
never have thought of pecans growing anywhere but the Deep South. New
Mexico and west Texas just don’t enter my mind as a place where cotton and
pecans would grow but they do quite well.
February End of Month Camping Expense Report
made a great start for nightly average camping expense this year. One
reason is 77% dry camping so far. With gas costs up nearly 50% since we
started fulltiming it's good that we're saving somewhere! Notice that our
average per "paid night" is lower than ever for this date. Many of our
paid nights have been dry camping at $5, to $12 a night. So far we've been
able to reduce total costs per night each year, and we hope to do so again in
||Avg $ per Nite
||Avg $ per Paid Nite
Continue to March
What did we
do in Februaries past? Take a look at: