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February, 2009

February 1 - 5, 2009  ♫ On the road again ♫

A quick post to catch up the last few days.  If you've read our blog for long, you'll recall that a couple of years ago I would do this.  I'd post frequently, even if it was just a note to say where we were, and what we were doing.  Then a few days later either Chris or I would make a more detailed post, upload photos, etc.  Well, now that we're traveling again I'm going to attempt to get back on track doing this so that we don't have 1-2 week gaps.  Wish me luck. :-)

RV Maintenance:  We were planning to leave Tampa last week, but Camping World couldn't get our tires (4 Michelin's for the duals) and we also wanted a new toilet and a repair on the water heater, so we stayed another week.  Wednesday we were at CW when they opened, and by lunch time they had finished the job and we were on the road. 

Wednesday afternoon we drove to Tallahassee and went to dinner with friends Susan and Keith.  We stayed that night at the Wal-Mart on Apalachee Parkway.  Thursday we worked our day jobs until afternoon and got a very late start.  I can usually work while Chris drives, but she gets carsick if she tries to use the computer while in motion, so when she has a lot of work we need to stay put.  We decided to not try and drive all the way to Biloxi, but to just do an hour or so, and stopped at the Wal-Mart in Marianna, FL last night. 

It was forecast to be down to 20 F here, so I set the built-in RV propane heater on the coldest setting possible and let it come on during the night to ensure the pipes didn't freeze.  This morning (Friday) we're up and working for a while, then we plan to head over to Biloxi.  Running the generator to charge up the batteries, and it's not liking the cold weather.  It won't smooth out but continues to surge every few seconds.  Will shut it down now that the sun is up and hitting the solar panels.  Hopefully it doesn't need any repairs!

Tuesday, February 3
 
Mac called Camping World and our tires are in and our appointment for tomorrow is verified.  So weíre packing everything up to get ready to roll.  Nicole and Austin came over for a visit and we put them to work too.  Later in the evening we all met up with Aaron and had dinner at Red Lobster.  It is Aaronís birthday and thatís where he wanted to go.  Itís exciting to finally be getting back on the road. 
 
Wednesday, February 4
 
We got up very early and finished getting the RV ready to roll.  Unhooked from electricity and away we drove to Camping World.  We were plenty early so we stopped at the Flying J and filled the RV with gas and propane.  While the RV was in being worked on I drove over to see Nicole and Austin one last time before we left. 
 
The RV was finished by lunch so after a quick lunch at Cracker Barrel we hooked the car to the RV and headed out.  We drove to Tallahassee Wal-Mart store # 1077 to spend the night.  Our friends Susan and Keith drove over and picked us up for dinner.  We went to Ruby Tuesday and had a great time visiting.
 
It was very cold this night.  I think it got down below the forecasted low of 22 in Tallahassee.  Even with the heater running it seemed very cold.  I think this is the coldest weather weíve been in since we started full-timing.  I donít care for this cold weather.  Get me out of here!
 
Thursday, February 5
 
Today we both had a lot of work at our day jobs.  We didnít leave Tallahassee until around 4:00.  We drove to Marianna Florida and stopped at Wal-Mart store # 1375.  There are already several RVs here when we parked to spend the night.  Itís another cold night with the low expected of about 20.  Brrr, Iím cold and canít wait to drive on to where itís warm.  Hard to believe but Biloxi is warmer than here. 
 
Friday, February 6
 
We worked at our jobs for a couple of hours this morning.  But we finally headed out driving to warmer places.  We drove to Pensacola and picked up our mail.  We then got back on the interstate and drove to Biloxi.  Weíve been peeling off layers of clothes as weíve driven here.  Itís great to be out of that cold weather.  I donít mind a chilly night but I donít like that freezing weather any longer. 
 
We parked at the Imperial Palace Casino.  There are several RVs here also.  This is a great place to park; we have easy access to the interstate and highway 90 is a straight drive from here down Caillavet Street.  Itís real easy to get around leaving from this location.  
 
We set up the RV for our stay, unhooked the car and got ready to go out for the evening.  We drove to the Grand Casino and played for a while.  We then drove to the Beau Rivage and went to the Memphis Q Restaurant.  We love the ribs there and have to eat there at least once a year when we drive through.  The ribs were great as usual.  After dinner we drove back to the RV.  Mac stayed at home and I decided to go to the Imperial Palace and play for a while.  I was back home and in bed by 11.  It is so great to not use the heater tonight!  We still have to use the blanket and quilt but we donít have to wear socks and fleece to bed.

Saturday, February 7 Ė Wednesday, February 11:
 
When we werenít working at our day jobs, we visited the southern Mississippi area.  We drove from Ocean Springs all the way to Bay St. Louis checking out what has been done in the area.  There is still so much to be done but slowly they are rebuilding.
 
We stayed 2 nights in the RV Park at Hollywood Casino Bay St. Louis.  We ate at their buffet twice and it was very good; plenty of good southern cooking.  We also ate one night at the Tuscany Steaks & Seafood restaurant in the casino.  I had received a coupon in the mail for $100 of dining so Mac and I had a wonderful meal using the coupon.  We also had plenty of steak left for Mac to make steak fajitas the next day for lunch.  Mmmm, good.
 
When my parents lived here in this area my mom used to trade books at The Book Bag in Gulfport.  She had a lot of credit left there when they had to relocate to Texas.  She gave it to me and I stop in when weíre in the area.    I started saving books to use for trade here because it seems so far to be the best place Iíve found for trading books.  Any books that werenít sent to my daughter Tina went into the collection for trading so I had quite a few books collected.  I found several books that either I or my mom wanted to read and still had plenty of credit left for the next visit to the area. 
 
On our last night at the casino I hit a royal on the quarter machine for $1,000.  A great start to my year of gambling.
 
Wednesday before lunch we headed out towards Texas.  It had started raining and poor Mac had to hook the car up in the rain.  He didnít mind though since it meant more adventures awaiting us down the road.  It was pretty windy even after we drove out of all the rain.  We decided to stop for the night instead of pushing on to Livingston TX.  So we stopped for the night in Lake Charles LA at the Isle of Capri Casino. 
 
Mac had wanted to check it out for his website, Casino Camper.  We had dinner at their Farradday Restaurant .  It was very good food and quite reasonable at only $25 each. 
 
After dinner I of course decided to play a little video poker.  And I was so happy that I did because I hit another royal flush this night.  Boy, I hope this good luck keeps up for the rest of the year!
 
Thursday, February 12:
 
After working this morning we headed out about 10:30.  We stopped at the Atchafalaya Basin Visitor Center/Rest Area at MM 121 on I-10.  We like to stop here when we drive through this area.  The visitor center is quite nice and interesting to visit. 
 
We also stopped at the welcome center when entering Texas.  This is another nice stop to visit and stretch the legs while traveling.  There are many brochures from various places of interest in Texas to pick up.
 
From Beaumont we headed north on highway 69.  We stopped at a super Wal-Mart on this highway and did some shopping.  Now weíre stocked up with some groceries for a few days and wonít need to run to the grocery store real soon. 
 
We arrived at our destination of the Escapee Park in Livingston Texas around 3:30.  Weíll be here for about 2 weeks visiting my mom and helping her out with a few chores.

Wednesday February 25:

"Where are you guys?  I thought you were going to post more often?"  Yes, that's still the plan.  We were in Livingston Texas for 12 days, staying at the Escapees RV park Rainbow's End, and visiting Chris's mom at the Escapees CARE Center.  Chris and her mom enjoyed some good mother/daughter time.  We also had chores like putting up a shelf and curtain rod, selling my MIL's golf cart, shampooing the carpet, etc.  We're glad that we're able to do this 2x a year, because otherwise she'd have to pay someone for the various chores.   We ate again at Manny's Shrimp Boat, and for the first time at the Texas Pepper restaurant.  TX Pepper was good, and it's on our list of places to eat again.  It's not just Mexican food (although that's what I ate).  They also have a good comfort food menu with fried catfish, chicken, hamburgers, etc.

We left Livingston around 11:00 AM yesterday and spent the night at the Wal-Mart in Kerrville, TX.  This morning Chris got up early, around 5:30 AM.  She said she couldn't sleep because the bed was too hard.  We have a Select Comfort Sleep Number Bed, and we love it, but it has to be adjusted with any significant change in elevation, especially for the Princess.  :-)   So Chris got her "day job" completed early and we left a little before 10:00 AM.   Tonight we're camped in Van Horn, TX.  Tomorrow it's on to Tucson, then Phoenix for the weekend and we need to be in Long Beach by the 4th.   

Internet access update:  This is the first time we've used both our Sprint and Verizon aircards with the Cradlepoint 1000 router "load balancing" between them.  Van Horn is in a slow 1x area for both providers, so by using both air cards at the same time we get quicker access to page views, although download speeds are the same because downloading a file is a single request, and uses a single air card.  I'll post more about this in the Tech section another day.

Thursday, February 26:

Trains 4, Mac 0, (we stopped keeping score at 4).  Last night we stayed in Van Horn, TX in the gravel lot across from the Love's Truck Stop -- oh, and beside the railroad track. :-)  Chris must have been really tired because she fell right asleep and slept through most of the trains.  I wasn't so lucky.  We won't stop there again. 

Dead battery.  We aren't sure how long the Honda's battery will survive in "towing mode" but we know that we can't leave it overnight.  Previously, with the old Civic, when we were in an area that didn't feel 100% safe we would leave the car "ready to tow" so we could leave easily and quickly if necessary.  We tried that last night with the new car, and woke up to a completely dead battery.  How dead was it?  It was so dead our small portable battery booster wouldn't even make the starter click. 

Giant Roadrunner  on I-10 just outside Las Cruces, NM is a huge sculpture built from scrap.  You can see it on  www.RoadsideAmerica.com.  We think it's a nice welcome to New Mexico. 

We'll be stopping for the night in Benson, AZ at the Saguaro SKP park.

Friday February 27:

Escapees RV Club:  Last night we stayed at the Saguaro SKP RV park in Benson, AZ.  I just realized that I don't talk much about the Escapees, except a brief mention when we stay in one of the parks, or when we visit Chris's mom at the Escapees CARE Center.  We've been members since early 2004, and if we could only belong to one RV club the Escapees would be the one!  No other club offers so much:

  • RV Park system; 19 parks in 11 states from Florida to California to Washington.  The website is a little confusing because of the division between Rainbow parks, which are more like commercial parks, and Co-Op parks, which are private for Escapees only.  All offer excellent value for short or long stays.  Overnight dry parking is $5, hookups are $11 to $20.  There are a variety of weekly and monthly rates as well depending on the park.  If you're looking for a "home base" most of the parks offer some type of semi-permanent arrangement.  You can buy into a co-op park and have a lot there for the rest of your life or until you sell the lot back to the co-op.  Most have a long waiting list, so there's no problem if you decide to sell the lot back.  If you travel and use the parks system you'll find some places will welcome you like family, The Ranch in Lakewood NM is an example.  At the other end of the spectrum a couple of parks seem to be inwardly focused and not as outgoing with travelers, but they're still OK places to stop. 

  • Escapees Mail Service; the largest and some would say the best mail forwarding center in the USA.    There's a fee for this and it varies with the level of service you want, from simple forwarding to customized handling of your mail and packages.  They provide you with a legal street address for Texas residency and can assist you with the process of becoming a Texan.  There's no state income tax in Texas, and that's one major draw for retirees who fulltime. 

  • Escapees CARE; a nonprofit organization that provides assisted living for fulltime RVers either on a short term or long term basis.  For a fulltimer, it's a very inexpensive way to receive a little help while maintaining your independence and your RV lifestyle.  Some use it during recovery from injury or major surgery, and others as an effective way to delay or avoid entering a nursing home.

  • Escapees Magazine; 6x a year, written by and for RVers, I look forward to getting ours each time.

  • Online Forum; You can participate in the RV forum without being a member, and it's a great place to learn more about the RV lifestyle, get help with technical issues, exchange information about places and routes, and to learn more about the Escapees club.  

  • Escapees members are a special group.   Any sample of the population will have its bad apples, but overall we've found that Escapees are an accepting group, ready to welcome anyone who shares the common love for RV travel.  They're also a helpful bunch, willing to educate and even mentor new RVers and those who are making the big step of going fulltime.  It may seem at first that Escapees is all about fulltimers.  Although that's not true, I tell people that Escapees is a club for "serious RVers".  If you're thinking about joining an RV club look closely at the Escapees.

  • Dues:  The first year Escapees dues are $70 and after that they drop to $60.  Every few years they offer lifetime membership for a short time, and we took advantage of that last year.   If you decide to join because of our recommendation our member number is 85423, remember us when you fill out the application. :-)

On to Phoenix AZ:  We worked a little this morning, then headed out around 10AM for Phoenix.  We're going to stay a couple of nights at Harrah's Ak-Chin casino.  It's our first time here, and we're looking forward to our visit.  While in the Phoenix area we also have the opportunity to meet up with our grandson Ethan who's in the Air Force at Luke AFB.  You might be saying "now wait a minute, you guys aren't old enough to have a grandkid in the AF".  Well at least I'm not! :-)    Chris was young when Tina, her first daughter, was born.  Skip forward 20+ years and Tina married a guy several years older than her who already had kids, and she adopted them.  Presto!  Instant older grandkids.  Anyway, Ethan is a sharp young man and we're proud of him.  We plan to see him once more before he heads to Iraq in July.

Friday February 27 - Saturday, February 28:

Since Mac has done such a great job of keeping the blog updated Iíll just finish out the month for him.  We stayed 2 nights at Harrah's Ak-Chin casino.  I enjoyed playing video poker but I didnít hit a royal though I tried very hard.  I really enjoyed the casino and the staff was very friendly.  Harrah's Ak-Chin Phoenix
 
The buffet was very good and quite reasonably priced.  I think our lunch buffet was about $3.99 paid with playerís card points.  Saturday night we again had the buffet.  It was a seafood buffet and we enjoyed it.  I really loved the boiled shrimp and ate quite a few.  Mac ate salmon and had crab legs too.  He said the salmon was great.  Weíre both trying to lose weight and eat healthy.  It was hard but we did a pretty good job of eating small portions and picking the healthiest food on the buffet.
 
This casino has a quite large water feature with a huge saguaro cactus with an eagle and various statues of Native American people gathering fruit from the cactus.  Also on top of the casino are many objects sticking up.  At first glance I thought they were just odd shaped ornamental displays on top.  On looking closer I realized that it was agave plants that had the leaves cut back showing the heart of the agave symbolizing the importance of the plant to the culture. 
 
The section where RVs and trucks are allowed to park was nice with long parking spots.  There is also a huge dirt lot for overflow parking when the marked spots are full.  Short drive down the road about 3-5 miles to the town.  Itís a growing town and there is a Wal-Mart being built so you know itís really growing in the area.  The only thing we didnít enjoy was the cattle lot to the east a few miles.  If the wind blew from that direction it was a pretty gross smell.  Fortunately the wind didnít blow from that direction much during our stay.
 
Garmin GPS  I donít know if Mac has mentioned that we finally bought a GPS navigating system.  We bought a Garmin Nuvi 265-WT just before Christmas and it has really been surprisingly helpful.  Weíve used it in our car and it has directed us to our destinations with no problems.  We used it in the RV on our trip and it directed us around San Antonio using a route that we would not have found ourselves.  Also driving to see our grandson in Phoenix she guided us around with no problems.  We call it the ďChick in a boxĒ since it is in a box and has a female voice.  I really like having one and donít know why we put it off for so long.  I can see many uses for her getting us around while on our adventures and helping me while Iím on my shopping trips in new towns. 

Continue reading -- March 2009

 

What did we do in February of years past?  Click below to see.

 

February 2008

February 2007

February 2006

February 2005

 

 

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