September 30, 2014

Today we visited Skip and Bev in Arizona City. It was great to see them again - it's been a long time. Arizona City is sparsely populated right now, but that will change starting next week.

Then we went to a few stores. Grocery stores in Arizona carry products for the local tastes, such as Dragon fruit, Guava, Cactus, Cherimoya and Tamerillo.

One year ago: Beautiful Spiders - ick
Five years ago: Silver City, New Mexico

From Texas to Arizona

It seems like a long time since we had wifi, although it's just been 4 nights. When we left San Antonio on 9/25 and went west on I-0, we drove out of Hill Country and onto flat, dry plain. We originally planned to stay in Fort Stockton but Randy felt like pushing farther, so we ended up at the Saddleback Mountain RV Park in Balmorhea. I'ts a small park; you check in at the gas station, then drive through the truck lot full of pot-holes to get to the RV area. There is no wifi and no TV (not even local), but it's a right off I-10, has a Passport rate of $10, and the sites are long and level. And each one has a small cactus garden, some with happy faces!
The next morning we got an early start, just as the sun was rising. Randy drove across the rest of Texas and into New Mexico. We started seeing these signs; this is the land of blinding dust storms.
We check in for the night at the Faywood Hot Springs RV park, a little north of Deming. We have stayed there before but since then it has gone up in price and down in comfort; the roads are worse and the water pressure is nonexistence. We had to run our RV water pump to get any water at all. The only thing they have going for them are the hot springs baths and as much as we enjoyed them, they are not enough to bring us back again. 

So we stayed there one night and in the morning we drove 26 miles to Deming to check into an Escapee park. After we settled the RV, Randy drove another 30 miles south to cross the border into Mexico. On the way we passed field after field of dry dirt and scrub bushes. But one field was completely full of solar panels. I don't understand why more of this isn't going on around here.
The Mexican town of Palomas is not as touristic as Los Algadones and, perhaps because of that, their prices are are higher, so we didn't buy much there. Instead we walked through the town a little and I admired the beautiful little touches.

Then we went to lunch at the Pink store. There is a very good reason it's called the Pink store...
They do a great job of keeping it authentic Mexican while making a few adjustments to make their American customers comfortable, like the note at the bottom of their menu (the sentiment is better than the spelling).

The food was great and they serve Coke Light! Coke Light is different than Diet Coke - it's better. And somehow everything was better for being served on a colorful Mexican tablecloth
After lunch we drove back to Deming for the evening. 

Sunday morning we went out for breakfast. There were very few places open but Manolo's Cafe was busy so we went there. The food was OK but not much more - we decided the restaurant was busy because of the lack of options. We spent the rest of the day relaxing at home, reading. 

And today Randy drove us into Arizona. He does all the driving so if he wants to keep going, we keep going! The road was good and reasonably flat, and it seemed like we were always surrounded by beautiful mountains. 

Out here the trains run along beside highway 10, carrying double loads of truck trailers. Unfortunately we passed one that had run off the rails; it is going to take a long time to get all those trailers sorted out.

This part of Arizona is where we started five years ago, and it's nice to see familiar sights. Picacho Peak is the main landmark here; we climbed it back in 2010.
We checked into a resort in Casa Grande, when went out for something to eat. We planned to go to Chris's for their wonderful pizza, but Chris's is closed on Mondays (as we found out after we got there). So we grabbed a late lunch at In-N-Out; this is a burger chain that is another sign you are in the Southwest. Then a little shopping, and back to the RV.

4 years ago: Mount St. Helens

Decision time

Yesterday we looked around to see what it will take to fix our RV floor, and what it will take here is a pile of money and a chunck of time. So we are not going to get involved in gate-guarding right now. Instead we are going to California.

Since we are going to leave here so soon, we will meet up again with Marla for dinner. We will really miss these folks, but tomorrow we will fire up the RV and head west.

Moving again

We left Medina today. The company does not have a gate to offer us yet so while we are waiting, we decided we would rather be closer to Lance and Marla. Plus it seemed like a good idea to be someplace where we could get parts and maybe skilled labor to fix the RV. So we packed up and drove back to the Schertz, which is a suburb of San Antonio. In some ways it's the best of both worlds - just at the edge of a big city without being in the city. We celebrated being back in town by letting Marla cook dinner for us. She did a great job and we had a good visit again; we are really enjoying our time with them.

Let's see, what else is going on in Texas? Something I see here that I haven't seen elsewhere is advertisements for a dating site for farmers. The idea is valid, but the ads are really corny (no pun intended!).

Just another day

I took a walk around the outskirts of the RV park today and found a the liveliest ant colony I've ever seen. lt was just a flat spot on a path, with a couple of little paths running from it into the brush. The entrance was extremely busy - ants just pouring in and out, and most had something in their jaws. 
I thought the ants were taking advantage of a path something else made, but apparently they made it themselves; I think these big-headed critters are red harvester ants. I was afraid to mess with them, although the urge to touch was almost overwhelming, but they probably would not have hurt me. They may be red, but they are not fire ants. At any rate, I left them alone.

Back in June I shut the RV door on my fingernail. I expected to loose the nail; at one point the the whole thing turned black
but it stayed on, and a new nail started growing behind it. Now it's a normal except for a crease in the middle, which hopefully will grow out.

I must be bored if I am writing about ants and fingernails.

The RV park has nice pool. In typical Texan fashion, it is shaped in the shape of Texas. I was going to take a dip in the pool this afternoon; got my bathing suit and sunglasses on, took a big towel, and wandered over to dip my toes in the pool. At that point I wandered right back to the RV - that water is too cool to get into!
Today Randy cleaned some cabinets and baked bread. All this is really makeweight because behind everything we are thinking about the floor problem. We have to fix the original problem, which is water getting in around the slide, and then fix the floor. This is heartbreaking right now.

A wonderful weekend with a troubling end

Friday Marla invited us to a party in their neighborhood on Saturday. Since it's a long drive over there, she suggested we bring the dogs with us and stay overnight. They have 3 dogs; our Julienne likes to bark and we think Shorty might mark territory, so when we left Saturday at noon, we took along their sleeping kennels. We took advantage of being in the San Antonio area again to do some shopping, then invaded Marla's house. Marla's friend Kim made buffalo chicken dip and then she made this wonderful thing - chocolate chip and M&M cookie dough dip! 
It's not quite cookie dough because there's no eggs in there, but it's pretty close. You are supposed to dip it up with graham crackers or vanilla wafers, but I found a spoon works just as well.

The party was for a neighbor who is being deployed for a year. Chris a career soldier and this is his 6th deployment, so they have had practice throwing a deployment party. The hosts brought Bob Miller BBQ and guests brought side dishes. The food was good but the company was better - these are good people. I talked to a lady for about an hour about our families before we finally got around to introducing ourselves. Randy hung around with the guys and I don't know what they talked about, but drinking seemed to be a necessary part of the conversation. I had a tiny sip of a maple liquour that took my breath away; the guys mixed it with with mango and it smelled wonderful, but I knew I couldn't handle it. Eventually most of the ladies moved to Marla's house where the karaoke was set up. Marla, Kim, my new friend Katherine and Chris's wife Angela all sang several songs while the rest of us applauded. They sang songs by artists like Rhiranna, Chaka Khan, and Erykah Badu; I didn't know most of them but my new favorite songs is "Tryone". Later the guys joined up - apparently it takes more alcohol for these guys to sing, but once they got started, look out! Chris is a tall, husky, broad-shouldered serviceman who looks like a linebacker but when he got up, he did a perfect Micheal Jackson impersonation. He was so good that his audience responding by holding up lighters (BBQ lighters, since nobody smokes anymore). Later his friend sang a gospel like a pro; there are a lot of good singers in this neighborhood. The party broke up around 1 a.m. with the extra blessing that nobody had to drive "under the influence" - they just walked home. 

Sunday we got up and went to Bussey's Flea Market, where they have several hundred vendors. Even so, we couldn't find a horse blanket or Mexican rug, which is what I was looking for. We had breakfast at Bob Miller's BBQ, but they don't do breakfast nearly as well as they cater. Next we went back to Marla and Lance's to say goodbye, then headed south for 95 miles to visit with other friends. We came to Texas to start gate-guarding, and our friends from Arizona/Alaska are doing that job now, just south of of Fowlerton. We spent a couple of hours visiting with them, catching up on what's been going on and getting tips about how to have a successful gate-guarding session. Now all we need is a gate!

It was over 110 miles back our RV. Randy stopped to get some Church's chicken on the way to pick a quick dinner, while the locals passed by...
and we went back to our RV to relax. Then he discovered a soft spot on our RV floor. That means rotted wood. That took the shine off the day. 

Still waiting...

We've been here since Sunday night and still no job. It was our understanding that if we could get here by the 15th, there was a gate for us. That hasn't worked out and we are getting a little discouraged. We are parked in the Hill Country RV park and it’s a nice park, but we are spending $ instead of making it! Hopefully something will open up today or tomorrow, because I don’t think the office is open over the weekend.

So we are still here. Today we drove east, to Bandera. It's a small town between Medina and San Antonio, and like Medina, it's pretty much just along the highway. A couple of people had recommended the OST restaurant, so we went there. "OST" stands for "Old Spanish Trail" and it's been here forever. The pork chops Randy ordered were a bit too dry, but my Mexican dinner was really good.
Once again our lunch was big enough to be our dinner, too. So to walk off a little bit of it, we walked through the town. Downtown is mostly a tourist town, but it's pretty nice. There are a ton of cowboy clothing stores, cowboy antiques, cowboy get the idea. Even the bar seats in the restaurant are saddles.
And cowgirl boots are gettin' fancy.

Kerrville and Zombie Defense

We are ready to start a gate-guarding job, as soon as one becomes available. On Tuesday one opened up and it sounded great to us, but it turned out that our RV is too large for that one. I don't know what the area is like but the site manager said it would tear up our RV, so of course we had to pass. So now we are waiting for another opportunity to open up. 

While we are waiting, we are getting a couple of things done. The back air conditioner started dripping water on the bed, instead of funneling it outside. Randy had to climb up on the roof a couple of times to clean it out, but it looks like it may be fixed now. I am painting the bathroom floor; Randy took off the cracked tile and eventually we will replace it, but for now we are making do with the subfloor. I am also keeping up with laundry, since our first days on the job may not allow for a trip to town, and we don't know how far "town" will be. 

We are also looking around this area and today we went to Kerrville, 20 miles north of our RV park. Back when we were planning our route to Medina I thought it might be a good route for the RV, until a workamper at the RV park said not to try it. So Randy drove the RV into Medina on the southern road, and today I discovered why that was a good choice. The road between Medina and Kerrville has a couple of sections full of steep grades and hairpin turns. But in the Jeep it's fine. We found a good place in town for lunch - Classic Burgers and More. These are awesome burgers! Big, meaty burgers with a thick layer of bacon.
We finished our lunch (which was so big that it turned out to be our lunch and dinner combined) and looked around the town. We were able to get replacements for our vacuum cleaner, fan and CO monitor. Another store, Gibson's Discount Center, is a lot like an old General Store except it's a lot bigger and has a little of everything.
Does it really have everything? Well, I think if a store has a "Zombie Defense" crossbow, that's close enough.

Another day in Texas

We needed to get some tests done to complete our gate-guarding application, and the office set up our tests near Schertz. Unfortunately when we got there, there was a snag and they weren't able to complete the drug testing. So we did the fingerprinting thing at a nearby gun range, then headed over to Lance and Marla's house for a visit. We hadn't been there 5 minutes when we got a call that the drug testing snafu was fixed, so we went back to finish that up. Then we drove back to Lance's and had a great visit with them. Lance got Cane's chicken for everyone and we sat around the table talking about everything; jobs, cars, motorcycles, bat caves, money and dinosaur tracks. It was a wonderful visit; but eventually we had to leave and drive back to Medina. 

Five years ago: An interesting RV park in Golden Colorado


Today we went to Medina to sign up at a company that supplies gate-guards to various business. It took a couple of hours to get through everything, and by then we were getting hungry. I was wrong about Medina, there are actually 2 restaurants in town - a BBQ place and a Cafe. On a recommendation we went to the Cafe, which is attached to the Apple Store. The burger was good but the special, Chicken chipotle with bacon/raspberry sauce, was even better. 
Marla had mentioned something about Texas that I hadn't noticed, but it's true - Texans love to advertise their pride in Texas. The Texas star or flag or state shape is on chairs, doors, floors, walls - even truck tailgates. 
Even without those, though, it's easy to know you are in Texas. Antlers are an essential - and omnipresent - decorating material.
 Furniture is made of real wood, not particle board.
And I doubt if you will find deer inside an office anywhere else.

... he's right behind me, isn't he?

Medina, Texas

We didn't need to get up very early this morning, just early enough to go to the store and get a few things we may need at our gate-guarding job. We don't know everything we will need yet, but friends who are already doing this have given us some suggestions. Then Marla, Jordan and little Liam came by to say goodbye to us, and we were off again. 

In town the major highways like I-35 have a frontage road on each side that runs the entire length of the highway. We realized that if we were on the frontage road we had a better shot at finding a restaurant we could fit the RV in. Even so, What-a-Burger was the best we could find. Well, hamburgers can be good for breakfast, if they are good burgers. And these were quite good. 

Then we headed out 16 towards Medina. 16 wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, it was multi-lane over half the way, and even after that it was OK. This is Texas Hill Country and it lives up to its name, with lots of hills but no mountains. 
This is a green land but unlike the Midwest, the trees are mostly scrubby-looking things, probably mesquite. As we got further away from San Antonio, the trees got a little taller, but they still had that scrub look.
Every time we came to a dip in the road, there was a flood gauge. Not a comforting thought, that there could be 5 feet of water over the road. And apparently it happens fairly often because there are several signs like this along the road.
We pulled into the RV park around 1pm. It's a nice, friendly park, just 4 miles from the office we will go do tomorrow. Since we got here so early, we decided to drive back those 4 miles to have a look at the town of Medina. And here's what I learned about Medina - if you blink, you will miss it. This town is even smaller than Los Algadones. The whole town is about 4 blocks long but it's just along the highway; no town side streets, no restaurants, no grocery stores, not much of anything. Back to the RV to rest.

Five years ago: Heading into Dodge, Kansas

Gruene, Texas

Marla offered to chauffeur us all around today. Lance couldn't be there, but their kids Jordan and Liam were. Jordan gave me some line about how she isn't crazy about little kids, but even as those words left her mouth I noticed she was holding up Lian's chin so he could sleep comfortably. I think she has a soft spot for Liam.
Marla drove us to the historic town of Gruene. Gruene is pronounced "green", which leads to some cutsy signs around town. 
Marla knows the good places to eat around here, so she directed us to the Gristmill where we all ordered off-the-menu ribs, sauce on the side. The ribs were meaty and tender - I ate all of mine! Their version of french fries are deep-fried whole potato slices and I was prepared to not like them, but when dipped in the BBQ sauce, they are great. 
The town is full of cute and unique shops, and it's very scenic. I asked Jordan to stand by the flowers; she is one of my favorite models, and prettier than the flowers around her.
Afterwards Marla drove us through Landa park in New Braunfels, where deer browse in the yards.
We went back to the RV to let the dogs out, took a quick nap, then headed over to Marla's where Randy make shrimp and grits - a good ending to a good day!

Settling in Schertz for a couple of days

We didn't hit the road quite as early today as we have the last couple of days, because we weren't planning on going far - just 177 miles to Schertz, Texas. Along the way we started seeing the sights that have come to mean "Southern and/or Texas" to me - things like What-A-Burger (good), Buc-ee's gas/food station (interesting), and H.E.B grocery store (wonderful!). And frontage roads - lots and lots of frontage roads. I think they have a mile of frontage road for every mile of freeway. And lot of that big, big sky!

The reason for stopping in Schertz is because our nephew Lance and his family live nearby. Lance was traveling for work today so we got to spend time with his beautiful wife, lovely daughter and very lively year-old son. We all went to Zio's for Italian food, then called it for the night; we were worn out. I think the last couple of days just caught up with me, but tomorrow we will get to spend more time with them.

A disappointing RV park

Another day on the road, this time to an RV park north of Waco. The Waco North RV park is a good example of how, in spite of all the research, sometimes you get an unpleasant surprise. I called to confirm the directions to the park and the woman at the office told me to take exit 354. When I checked the map, that didn't make sense. I called back and this time she admitted that she didn't really know which exit I should take. We eventually arrived and the woman I had spoken with checked us in, got into her golf cart, and led us to a site. The interior road were awful, full of ruts, gouges and hills. When we got to the site Randy discovered that the water didn't work. The woman seemed lost, and finally said we should move to the next site, which was right next to a 5th wheel. She led us around the loop so we could come into the site correctly, but took a shortcut that was fine for a golf cart but impossible for a big RV. Randy had to drive back to the front of the park and retrace the whole route; meanwhile the woman just left us and parked her cart. The sites are so close together that our slides hung out over the neighbor's table and chairs, but it started to rain so we decided to just stay put. But tomorrow we will be glad to leave.

From Memphis to Texarkana

Yesterday Randy drove us from Sikeston to Memphis. We could have gone farther but when we are near Memphis we like to go to Corky's and get some great ribs. Although we have been here several times, I have never taken a picture of the ribs. The reason is simply that I just dive in and start eating! This time was no different, but I did pause long enough to take a picture of half of the rack. The other half was long gone.
We spent the night at the T.O. Fuller park, turning in early because we planned an early start on Wednesday. And today we were on the road by 7:30. We didn't get far before stopping at a Waffle House for breakfast, but after that Randy put some real miles behind us. Unfortunately it seemed about a third of the road was under construction, and construction lanes are not created with big rigs in mind. I don't know how he drives on some of these.
Eventually we pulled up in Texarkana around 3 pm. As we go farther south, of course, it gets hotter, and even with the air conditioning running it can get warm in the RV. I was ecstatic to find that there is a lovely pool at the Sunrise RV Park. I was afraid it would be bath-water hot, but to my surprise it was slightly cool - which made it just perfect! After lounging around in the pool a bit we went back to our RV and had the leftovers from our dinner at Lambert's Cafe.

Five years ago: A first look at Tulsa

St. Louis to Sikeston

Randy got up really early this morning to get the Jeep looked at first thing. I stayed home and packed up the RV again (after the dogs and I got up much later) and we were on the road by noon. Since we didn't have a full day to travel, we just went as far as Sikeston. It's always expected - I think it might be an actual law - that when you go to Sikeston you eat at Lambert's Cafe, Home of the Throwed Rolls. It's just a half a mile from the RV park so we walked there. Since we went at 4:00 on Monday, we didn't have to wait for a table. We've been there several times, so we know how to order; we choose something that will warm up the next day, then basically fill up on the pass-arounds (fried okra, mac-and-tomatoes, fried potatoes, etc) and hot rolls. The rolls, of course, are their claim to fame; they really do throw them. Every time we've been there, the young man who tosses the rolls across the room has been a dead-shot.
And then they bring around sorghum and apple butter to drizzle over the rolls. This is awesome.
We were full of rolls and had a big doggie bag of our entrĂ©es, so we let the Lambert's driver take us back to the RV parkThere we spent a quiet evening, resting for another day on the road tomorrow.

Not headed to Texas today

Well....we were supposed to leave today. But the Jeep would not go into neutral. It did that once before and the problem was fixed pretty quickly. But the guy who fixed it is in Maine, so we need a local guy. Plus it's Sunday, so the local guys are not available. So we have to stay another day and get the Jeep to a mechanic tomorrow. 

We are both discouraged, but I took it really hard. I was prepared to sit on the couch all day, watching MEtv and feeling lousy. Randy, however, came up with a better idea - the St. Louis Zoo. The St. Louis Zoo, which is free to the public, is one of the best zoos in the nation and they are constantly improving it. One of the biggest changes since the last time we were here is the Sea Lion exhibit. A lot of the zoo animals hide or sleep during the day, so it can be difficult to see them. But Sea Lions, like otters, love to play. They were more than happy to entertain the crowds. 
They like to swim upside down; they probably think we look funnier that way. The display area includes a see-through tunnel, to give both sides extra viewing access to each other.

Spices, Slingers and Pasta

There is a new bridge crossing the river to St. Louis, and coming across there you get an attractive view of the skyline. Much better than the view from the old McKintley bridge.
And there is so much to do in St. Louis that it's hard to get around to everything. Yesterday we went to one of our favorite stores - Penzey's. This small store sells only spices and seasoning. I love to look around and find new spices, or new variations of spices that I do know. They have more kinds of cinnamon and nutmeg that I even knew existed.
Today we decided to try a St. Louis specialty - the Slinger. There is some debate about who came up with it first but the Eat-Right dinner has a pretty good claim to inventing it. I think the diner is about 100 years old and I don't believe they have changed anything inside, except adding a couple of pinball machines.
They start their Slingers with hash browns (I ordered mine extra crispy), then top it with sausage patties, a couple of eggs, a slice of cheese and a big ladle of chili. It looks awful and tastes wonderful!
One of the reasons we love St. Louis so much is that it really is a great food town. Aaron and a friend came over for a visit today, and we all went to dinner on the Hill. We went to Guido's, which is one of our favorite Italian restaurants. Actually, it's half Italian; the other half is Spanish. The owners are an Italian and Spanish couple who combine their two cuisines to form one great restaurant. It took a long time for our dinner to arrive, but that was unusual - the waiter said there was a big banquet in the back room. But that was OK; when it eventually showed up, it was worth waiting for. Randy likes their Tutto Mare, but I went for the Beef and Pork Tortellini. Good choice!
We've been having a great time in St. Louis. I didn't get out see all of my friends but several friends came to visit us. Now it's time to move on again. We will be heading to Texas within a day or so (like it's not hot enough here!) to try our hand at gate-guarding.

Just a couple of days getting things done

Just a couple of days getting things done....yesterday Randy replaced our toilet (no pictures needed). Today we got the dogs' rabies shots updated and ran around town getting groceries. To reward ourselves, we got Imo's for dinner. Imo's - the only people smart enough to put provel cheese on their pizza. No pictures of that, either - I was too busy eating!

Three years ago: Return to St. Louis
Four years ago: Zip lining in Alaska

Great Fried Chicken!

Here's a tip: if you are ever in the Bethalto/Alton area, go to Castelli's Restaurant. It used to be called Moonlight and for many years it had a fabulous reputation. Then someone decided it would be OK to use generic ingredients, and that almost killed the restaurant. But a few years ago management changed hands again, and the old recipes are back! This is where you get some of the best fried chicken anywhere.
The chicken dinner comes with 2 sides; always get the salad with house dressing as one side, then upgrade the second side to an order of fettuccine. 
Just trust us. Do it.