Chiricahua National Monument

We left Fredericksburg TX and drove 9 hours to Las Cruces, NM. Our friends suggested the St. Clair Winery and Bistro for dinner. It is just down the street from the Hacienda RV Park, where we were staying. I’m so happy that they suggested it because we thoroughly enjoyed the ambiance, food and wine. We highly recommend it. https://stclairwinery.com/las-cruces/

In the morning we drove to Wilcox, AZ for the sole purpose of visiting the Chiricahua National Monument; https://www.nps.gov/chir/index.htm

As soon as we arrived at the Lifestyle RV Resort in Wilcox we unhooked the Jeep and drove the 37 miles to the park. There are no towns or services between Wilcox and the park, but it is a scenic drive.

We got to the park mid-day and decided to just do a short hike up Sugarloaf Mountain for a 360 degree view. It is a short 0.9 mile hike up to the top, with an elevation gain of 470 ft.

The following day we arrived at the park just before 9:00am to catch the shuttle up to Echo Canyon. We then hiked the Echo Canyon Trail and the Upper and Lower Rhyolite Canyon Trails back to the visitor center. It was a scenic 2.5hr walk through the rocks. When we started our hike it was barely 40 degrees on top of the mountain. When we ended it was nearly 50 and partly sunny. Perfect weather for a hike.

In the afternoon we decided to take a scenic drive over the mountain via the Pinery Canyon Road. This road is not maintained in the winter and you drive it at your own risk, but since there wasn’t any snow we did not have any issues.

The only negative with taking the canyon drive was that we ended up on the other side of the mountain, near Portal, AZ and had to drive an hour and a half back to our RV park. Portal seemed like an interesting place with beautiful mountains to hike, but we didn’t have time to explore. Maybe another time.

We are now heading up to Tucson for a week. More on that later…..

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Fredericksburg, TX

We spent the last 5 nights in Fredericksburg, Texas a town founded by German settlers in the 1800s. We visited the area a couple of years ago, but only for an afternoon, as we were on a day trip out of San Antonio. We decided to return for a longer stay to explore the Nimitz WWII Pacific War Museum and enjoy some of the wineries in the area.

It took a day and a half for Charlie and I to explore the museum. It is one of the best museums we have ever visited. http://www.pacificwarmuseum.org/

There is a focus on music in the town and many restaurants have live bands each night. We stopped by Hondo’s and listened to a band called the ‘Almost Patsy Cline Band.’ They were pretty good, but it wasn’t my favorite genre of music.

When I was about ready to fall asleep to Patsy Cline music we decided to go across the street where a more hip hop band was playing at the Crossroads Saloon. We had fun dancing to the music.

One morning we took a recommended scenic drive west, along TX337 to Medina, Vanderpool and Leakey. In Medina we stopped at a fantastic Apple Store. We bought a piece of apple pie which was about the best I’ve ever tasted.

The area between Medina and Leakey is very scenic with rolling hills and country ranches.

Back in Fredericksburg we toured the Vereins Kirche museum. The building housing the museum is a replica of the original building built by the founders. We learned a lot about the challenges the early German settlers had to overcome as they established the town, and how the small town grew over the years to become what it is today.

If you visit Fredericksburg, we suggest the Mamacita’s Mexican Restaurant. It is fantastic!

Not too far from Fredericksburg is the Lyndon B Johnson National Historic Ranch. We visited the ranch during our last trip to the area and really enjoyed it. We did not revisit it during this trip, but highly recommend it.

While in Fredericksburg we stayed at the Fredericksburg RV Park. It is a quiet and clean park just a half mile from Main street. The park worked well for us and we’d stay there again.

We are now on our way to Wilcox, AZ to visit the Chiricahua National Monument. We’ll stop on our way in Las Cruzes, NM for the night. Following a couple nights in Wilcox we move onto Tucson. More on that later……

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Galveston, TX

Galveston was not in our original trip plan. However, once we learned that friends of ours, Jon and Cathy Kling (www.rvgreenboard.com), were going to be at the Jamaica Beach RV Park for the month of January and that Jon would be willing to build me some new cabinets in our RV, we headed that way.

Jon converted 5 paneled spaces to cabinets, giving me a ton of more storage space. I’m quite excited that he was able to do this, especially considering that we are embarking on a 10 month road trip.

The weather ranged from the low 40s, with wind and rain, to the mid 50s. We only had a couple days of sunshine. On one of those nice days we joined Jon and Cathy and took a tour of the Oceanstar Oil Rig. We found it fairly interesting. It is hard for me to imagine working on an oil rig for any length of time.

Down the street from the Oceanstar is a Train Museum, which we also toured. The museum is done very well, offering a lot of interesting history and things to see. It was also enjoyable strolling through all of the trains.

While walking around the old district of Galveston we came upon an old fashion ice cream and candy store called La King’s Confectionery. It brought back memories of similar stores visited in our youth. I wish my 5-year old grand-daughter was with us, as she would have LOVED this store.

We only went out for dinner once, and it was great. We highly recommend Gaidos if you are ever in Galveston. We enjoyed a great dinner with Jon and Cathy.

Not too far from the Jamaica Beach RV Resort is Allex’s Seafood Market where I picked up some locally caught fresh shrimp and Red Snapper. I then made a very yummy dinner.

While at the Jamaica Beach RV park we also had an opportunity to catch up with some fellow Atlanta based RVers, Lisa and Ricky Gonzalez. We saw them for the first time in years last week at the Tiffin Service Center in Red Bay, Alabama. Turns out, they were also heading to Galveston. Small world.

Well, we are back on the road, heading to Fredericksburg, TX. More on that later…

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Lafayette, LA & Tabasco

We stopped for a night in Lafayette LA, on our way to Houston TX. We arrived at the KOA just off I-10 shortly before sunset. We ventured out to see the Old Town district, but did not find anything interesting there. We went a little further down the road and stopped for dinner at a small restaurant called Steve & Pat’s Bon Temps Grill. The food was fairly good and the local atmosphere of the restaurant was great.

In the morning we drove over to Avery Island and toured the TABASCO Museum and Factory. TABASCO was invented back in 1868 by Edmund McIlhenny on Avery Island. Today, his descendants run the company which provides the spicy red sauce to nearly every country around the world. We enjoyed learning about the history of the family and the famous sauce.

Following our TABASCO tour we headed back to the RV, packed up and prepared to work our way to Houston. However, right before we got back on the road we received a call from our kids, whom we were to meet in Houston. They were on the plane in Atlanta preparing for take-off when our five year old grand-daughter, Kensie, had a seizure. She had never had such an event. Long story short, Kensie had a Febrile Seizure. She is doing better now, but their trip to Houston was cancelled. Since our primary reason for going to Houston was to see the kids and they were no longer going we changed our plans and went straight to our next destination; Galveston, TX. More on that later……

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Natchez Trace Parkway

We pulled out of the Tiffin Service Center yesterday afternoon and decided to take the Natchez Trace Parkway towards Jackson, MS. If you are not familiar with this parkway it is a 444-mile federally protected scenic drive through three states. Back in the day Indians, slave traders, soldiers and settlers traveled along a similar route. We have travelled on different sections of this road, from Nashville to Jackson, at various times. It is always an enjoyable and peaceful ride. Often we were the only people on the road.

We stopped at the Jeff Busby campground (CG) on the Parkway, just before sunset. The CG was completely empty. Not sure if it was because of the government shutdown, or the season. The RV sites were up a hill and designed primarily for smaller campers. We could have parked in one of the sites, but it would have been tight so we decided with everything shut down and nobody around we would just park in the entrance parking lot for the night. That worked out great.

In the morning I took a very nice 3/4 mile walk up the hill to an overlook. The views and trails were very nice.

In the morning we got back on the parkway and drove to Lafayette, LA for the night. More on that later.

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On the road again: Jan.12, 2019

It is hard to believe that it has been nearly 10 months since our last road trip. That’s not to say that we have not utilized our RV during that timeframe. Upon returning from our Winter 2018 road trip we headed up to our home base resort in Lake Toxaway, NC; Mountain Falls Luxury Motorcoach Resort (MF) (http://www.mtn-falls.com/ ).

We absolutely love MF. We have made so many wonderful new friends there and the surrounding lush mountainous area will take us many years to fully explore. We purchased a coachhouse on the top of the mountain ridge and have enjoyed many stunning sunrises, storms and Fall Colors from our back porch.

(You can click on the pictures to enlarge)

There are endless opportunities to explore nature around Mountain Falls. The Blue Ridge Parkway is just up the road and there are over 250 waterfalls in the county of Transylvania.

My daughter, Sarah, and granddaughters joined me on a hike to Log Hollow Falls in nearby Brevard, NC.

My other daughter, Stephanie, joined me on a visit to Living Waters Waterfall and captured me taking a photo.

My favorite waterfall in the area of Mountain Falls is Eastatoe Falls. It is on private property in Rosman, NC but the landowner allows the public to see this beautiful landscape.

Charlie and I enjoyed a day driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway this past Fall.

Some quality time was spent with family and friends at our house on Lake Chatuge, in Hiawassee, GA.

We also enjoyed a few hot air ballooning adventures. Charlie has been ballooning for over 40 years and always looks forward to getting his “Dense Fog” balloon up in the air.

One of the ballooning events that Charlie really enjoys participating in is in Helen, GA. Unfortunately, this year the balloons were unable to take off due to an extreme amount of rainfall. In fact, the river nearly ran over in front of the hotel.

The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC had a couple of good exhibits this past summer and we took the opportunity to check them out. One of them was the Titanic Costumes. It was neat to see the costumes from the movie incorporated throughout the mansion.

The Biltmore also hosted the Chihuly Exhibit, which was really nice to see.

In December we took a vacation via Charlie’s plane. We visited many of the new friends we had made at Mountain Falls, as well as some of Charlie’s friends from his past employment. Our first stop was in Panama City, FL. We saw some of the devastation caused by Hurricane Michael back in October. You can see all of the blue tarps and downed trees in the photos below.

We then flew onto St. Petersburg, Orlando and Hilton Head. It was great to visit with so many wonderful friends. I also loved flying over the Atlanta airport.

The biggest adventure we had over the last 10 months was a 2-1/2 week trip to Iceland. I’ll do a separate blog on that fabulous trip.

We are now in Red Bay, Alabama having our annual service completed on our Tiffin RV. We expect to be done here tomorrow and begin our adventurous 10 month trip. Below is a map of our planned trip. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep up with the blog, as we expect to have many great experiences to write about.

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Naples, FL and The Everglades: Mar 8 – Apr 1, 2018

After four days in Ft. Myers we made our way to Pelican Lake Motorcoach Resort in Naples. We spent 2.5 weeks there. It is a beautiful resort in a beautiful area. We enjoyed site seeing, shopping and dining in Naples and Marco Island. We met up with friends from Mountain Falls and met new friends. We spent a bit of time simply relaxing, which is unusual for us.

Our favorite restaurant in Naples was a small place called USS Nemo (https://ussnemorestaurant.com/). I was skeptical about it, considering that it is a small restaurant in a strip mall along Tamiami Trail. It was difficult getting a reservation though, because it is so popular. You even need reservations to sit at the bar. Well, it was FABULOUS. I highly recommend it. I’m very thankful to our friends Don and Sherri for suggesting it.

During our stay in Naples a fire in the Everglades area affected us. Ash would blow into the resort and rain upon our car. A couple of days it was difficult to even go outside. Visibility was very limited and breathing was tough with the smoke ridden air.

We loved our stay at Pelican and look forward to a return visit in the future.

Our final destination for our winter trip was Outdoor Resorts of Chokoloskee, just south of Everglades City. Our friends, Van and Jane, from Mountain Falls, and whom we visited with in St. Petersburg, are owners at the resort. They are photographer hobbyists, as am I, so we were looking forward to a week of shooting in the Everglades.

We spent a couple of early mornings along the Loop Rd Big Cypress National Preserve Rd, just off of US41 looking for good photography opportunities. We were excited to spot a few Roseate Spoonbills, along with a ton of alligators.

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We passed a very strange residence, a closed down service station:

At the Everglades National Shark Valley Park we spotted many more alligators, including babies.

In the parking lot we spotted this. I told Charlie we need to step up our game and pull this set up behind the RV.

One evening we decided to capture sunset in the Big Cypress National Preserve. I was pretty nervous about walking out into the field to take the picture. I kept envisioning stumbling upon a large python. YIKES! But, all went well.

We travelled back to Marco Island a couple of times to seek out and photography the burrowing owls. I had no idea that their burrows were throughout the neighborhoods. We also spotted a busy woodpecker.

To top off our week at Chokoloskee we played in a Euchre tournament. Being from Michigan, I love Euchre. Not a lot of people know this card game, but they play it at Chokoloskee because many of the owners are originally from Michigan.

On April 1st we ended out Winter RV roadtrip and headed back to Atlanta.

Until next time…..

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St. Petersburg and Ft. Myers, FL: Feb 24 – Mar 8, 2018

Our next stop was Palmetto, FL, just south of St. Petersburg. We were lucky to get a reservation anywhere in the area, considering that we didn’t make reservations until just a month or two prior. We ended up at Fiesta Grove. It is primarily a full time residence park, which we don’t typically like. However, we found it to be very clean, quiet and friendly. We had a very large paved lot close to the pool. We’d have no issue staying there again. It was centrally located for us, as we were visiting lots of family and friends within a 20 mile radius of the park. We also felt safe leaving the RV there for the weekend when we headed to St. Petersburg to stay with friends.

We enjoyed catching up with many friends and relatives. We also really enjoyed our stay in downtown St. Petersburg with good friends, and fellow RVers, Van and Jane. We had lots of fun walking around the downtown area, shopping at the Saturday Farmer’s Market and eating at various local restaurants. The Farmer’s Market is fabulous and our favorite was the Red Mesa Mexican Restaurant. We highly recommend it.

One morning we drove over to Ft DeSoto Park for a photography shoot. We were on the hunt for birds and a nice sunrise. The early morning colors in the sky were spectacular.

Following a week in the St. Petersburg area we made our way down to Ft. Myers. We were scheduled to spend a week there. However, we did not care for our RV park so we cut our visit short by a few days. We stayed at the Ft. Myers Beach Encore RV Resort. The positive was the staff was very friendly and the park was centrally located for getting to the beach. The negative was we were crammed in next to our neighbor so much so that we could not even put up the small outdoor window shade without touching our neighbor’s RV. The roads were very narrow, no more room than the width of an RV. Across from us were cabins and cars parked in front of them. We had to search around for the car owners and get them to move their vehicles before we could pull the RV out. We would not stay at this park again.

Cramped space, as seen from our RV window.

During our stay in Ft. Myers we toured Sanibel Island. It is a beautiful island with fabulous beaches. The island is also home to the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. We enjoyed a slow drive and occasional walk through the refuge, spotting many birds and even an eagle, along the way.

We spent an afternoon kayaking in Lovers State Park. We spotted numerous manatees and dolphins swimming nearby.

On another day we visited the Audobon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, referred to as the Western Everglades. We strolled along the 2.5 mile boardwalk through pine flatwoods, wet prairie, around a marsh, and into the largest old growth Bald Cypress forest in North America (www.corkscrew.audubon.org). We spotted alligators, snakes and numerous birds, including an owl. It was an enjoyable adventure.

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It was a little too chilly to hang out at the beach and since we felt we had seen what we had desired to see in the area and did not want to hang out at the RV park, we packed up and headed to Naples.

 

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Cedar Key, Florida: Feb 17-24, 2018

We stopped in Tallahassee on our way to Cedar Key to have dinner with some fellow RVers from Mountain Falls Motorcoach Resort. They took us to a local restaurant, ‘A La Provence’. The chateaubriand, crab cakes, fried tomatoes and dessert was fabulous. We boondocked in a church parking lot just down the street from our friend’s house. It was very convenient. In the morning we continued our journey to Cedar Key.

Cedar Key is a destination location, an island 50 miles southwest of Gainsville, Florida. It sits three miles out into the Gulf of Mexico. There is one road into the small village where just 800 people reside full time. As you come into town you cross over salt marshes. The area is a haven for outdoor people with tons of fishing, bird watching, nature trails, and kayaking. The Cedar Keys form a chain of barrier islands which migratory and shore birds love. Some of the surrounding barrier islands are federally protected sanctuaries for birds.

We spent a week in Cedar Key, at ‘Low Key Hideaway.’ This is a motel with a handful of parking spaces for RVs. We loved the location, as we had a beautiful view of a salt marsh and the sunsets were spectacular. The motel has a pretty hip tiki bar that was popular with the locals, as well as the renters.

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During low tide we would have a lot of birds feeding along the salt marsh, in front of the RV:

Our spot was within walking distance to the village of Cedar Key so each morning we would walk a few miles and tour the area.

‘the view along our morning walk’

Down by the shore we would find the clammers and fishermen at work.

We spotted many Osprey. Often times we’d see them up in the tree with a fish in claw. We spotted one male feeding and then when he was about half way through the fish he picked it up and flew over to the nest where the female was waiting for her share.

We even spotted an eagle.

There is a nice park in the village; Cemetery Point Park. I liked that their work-out equipment was situated so that you could exercise with a view.

Next door to the motel / RV park is Southern Cross Sea Farms. Charlie and I took a tour of the facility and learned a lot about the history of Cedar Key and the process of clamming. In short, the state of Florida banned the use of gill nets in state waters back in 1995. That put a lot of commercial fisherman out of work, but also opened up new opportunities, such as clamming. Due to Cedar Key’s rural location and exceptional water quality it quickly became one of the largest producers of farm raised clams in the country. At Southern Cross Sea Farms they spawn clams in their hatchery and then harvest, process and ship them all over the country. The process takes about 2 years. It was a very informative tour.

We tried various clam dishes while in town. Our favorite was clam chowder from Tony’s. We liked it so much that we bought a few containers to freeze and eat later.

It was a very restful week and we enjoyed it very much. We would return to this area again.

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Working our way to and through Florida’s Panhandle: Feb 5-17, 2018

We began our 2018 winter road trip Feb. 5th. We departed early in the morning from Atlanta and headed towards Red Bay, AL for annual service work on the RV.  We were in and out of Red Bay within 2 days.

Our first vacation destination was Mobile, Alabama. Neither of us had ever visited the area. We were lucky to find an available spot at an RV park, as it was Mardi Gras time in the area and all parks were full. We stayed at the “all about relaxing” RV park on the west side of the city, in a rural area. The park is small, but very quiet and clean with a friendly staff. When we checked in we were given a small jar of local specialty jam. From the park it was only a 20 minute drive to downtown Mobile. We would highly recommend this park if you are in the area.

We had only one day to spend in Mobile so we made the most of it. We started with a tour of the USS Alabama Memorial Park. The park offers self-guided tours of a submarine, a battleship and an airplane museum. We spent a few hours there and enjoyed it very much. It was a little chilly in the morning, low 40s, but warmed up nicely to the low 60s by early afternoon.

Pics from the Aviation Pavilion:

Pics from the Battleship:

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Pics from the Drum Submarine:

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In the afternoon we grabbed lunch at a boutique restaurant called ‘Spot of Tea’. Charlie enjoyed crab cake eggs Benedict, while I enjoyed a salad.

Following lunch we took a scenic drive through Daphne and Fairhope, before returning to the RV. All in all, we enjoyed our visit in the Mobile area.

A Pelican hanging out in Fairhope:

Our next stop was at the Bella Terra Motorcoach Resort in Gulf Shores, AL for one night. We found Bella Terra located a little farther from the coast then we would have liked, but the resort was nice. After getting settled in we headed out for lunch. I was thrilled to find that there is an Acme restaurant in Gulf Shores. I have fond memories of falling in love with their baked oysters in New Orleans.

After enjoying some oysters we took a drive through the Gulf Shores State Park. We were amazed to find that they have 450 camping sites. It is located right across the street from the Gulf of Mexico, and includes a boardwalk over the main road to get to it. We would have loved to stay there, but every site was booked through March. If you ever think about staying at this park you need to consider booking a year in advance.

The Pensacola Naval Museum was on the way to our next destination so we decided to stop there, with the RV towing the Jeep. We had confirmed that there was a parking lot large enough to accommodate our rig. However, we missed the appropriate turn for the gate entrance to the museum and ended up going to the Naval Base main entrance. There was no way we could turn the RV around before going through the security gates. Security made us pull over and wait 10 minutes for a police car to lead us back to the exit. After that excitement we decided to park the RV at a nearby Target parking lot and simply take the Jeep to the museum, as you have to go through yet another security entrance. We finally made it to the museum and spent a couple hours there meandering around the planes.

After the museum we continued on our way to Navarre’s Emerald RV Park in Navarre, FL. It was pretty much the only RV park along the panhandle we were able to find a spot at last minute. When we arrived it was pouring down rain. We had been dealing with a ton of rain and cold weather since leaving Atlanta the week prior.

During our time in the panhandle we visited the Air Force Armament Museum. It was very interesting. They have a large variation of armament from the early days of WWI through today. The write-ups and displays throughout the museum were well done and informative.

We also visited ‘The Gulf Islands National Seashore’. It is a short 10-minute drive from the Emerald RV Park. We found the national seashore park to be extremely quiet at this time of the year. We rarely saw a car go by as we drove and walked along the park’s main road. I regretted not having brought our bikes on the trip, as a ride through the park would have been enjoyable.

We discovered, through their blog (https://liferebooted.net/), that fellow RVers, Kat and Mike were staying just east of Destin, at Topsail State Park. We were able to meet up with them for lunch at the Back Porch Restaurant in Destin. Last year, by pure coincidence, we discovered through their blog that they were staying at the Lost Dutchman State Park in Phoenix, AZ while we were there. Turns out, they were our nextdoor neighbors.

The week spent in Florida’s panhandle was very enjoyable. The Emerald RV Park was centrally located in between Destin and Pensacola Beach. The sunsets from the park’s dock were very pretty.

If we returned though we might pick the Santa Rosa RV park, just down the street from Emerald. It has a nicer pool to sit around and larger patios. Another good option is the Pensacola Beach RV Resort. It is on the island, next to Gulf Islands National Seashore. There are a number of waterfront lots facing the inner waterway. It is close to Pensacola and within walking distance to a number of shops and restaurants.

We spotted this unique ‘Martian’ house not too far from the Pensacola Beach RV Park. Pretty crazy:

Our final stop in Florida’s panhandle was in St. Joe, and that was just for lunch. We were working our way to Tallahassee for an overnight stay and visit with friends. The drive along the coast to St. Joe was picture perfect. We drove through numerous quaint beachfront towns. For lunch we ate at Sunset Coastal Grill, along the water in St. Joe. It was fabulous.

We look forward to returning to the area in the future.

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