25 December 2013

Merry Christmas

BJ and I are on the TX Gulf Coast west of Galveston for Christmas.  Weather has been a little too cold and colder then we expected but all is going well.   We are enjoying some long anticipated time in the great state of TX! We are moving further south after Christmas and plan on spending New Years in the RV on the beach at Padre Island National Seashore with a fire going on the beach.

Galveston is an interesting beach side town and we are looking forward to seeing more of it then we are right now.  It looks like a great place to be in warmer weather.
An Old home in Galveston

My favorite place in Galveston!

We are staying at an RV park that is on San Luis Pass (in TX speak a pass is what we call an inlet in FL, a break in the barrier island where the sea enters a lagoon/estuary). It is a small county run park that is about half-full except that in the last few days many of the folks in the RVs have left their RVs here and gone home for the holidays!  We of course are in our home so are staying right here.

BJ has been thrilled to see these regularly

at the beach in front of our RV!

Low temps overnight have been too low in the bottom 30's!  Days have been in low 50's and sometimes have not reached the 50's!  And, it has been windy. But, sun has shined on most days, more on some days then others.

We are enjoying a sedate, for us, Christmas! BJ has a turkey breast to cook, she cooked a pecan pie already and our favorite 7-layer salad. She cannot remember if she got the recipe from Aunt Joyce or Myra but we remember that was the first time we had it one T-day at their house when we were stationed at KI Sawyer!

Some homes across the hiway from RV park

The gulf beach just west of the RV park

Merry Christmas and a Safe and 
Happy New Year to you all!

Always at home, no matter where we are!!

22 December 2013

New Orleans in our time!

Our second visit to New Orleans went quite well. Weather was good, the famcamp at NAS New Orleans was very nice and we were glad to be there.  We will definitely make a 3rd and maybe more visits now we know!

As you may remember we arrived there from Red Bay AL in far NW and cold AL.  NAS New Orleans is a small joint reserve base south of New Orleans on the very edge of the suburban limits on the delta of the mighty Mississippi River.
USMC display helicopter
An A-4 attack jet

LA highway 23 runs on the west side of the river and in Belle Chasse the base on the west side of the highway the river on the other side.  Of course high flood control berms are between the river and the highway.  At the base we are about 15 easy miles on good roads to the French Quarter. 

Louisiana Citrus

It is 70+ miles south along the river road to the gulf and river mouth. We took the trip one day just to see the territory. Less than a mile from the base and we are in open country, to the west is open wetlands mainly but there are homes and small businesses along the road. There are a few small towns along the way but no major concentrations of populated areas. 

A partial view of one of the refineries 

Some of the remaining wetlands toward the end of LA 23

River traffic at sunset!

One surprise I got was Louisiana Citrus.  A small but thriving fresh fruit business exists along this highway.  Main product in Navel oranges with lesser amounts of Satsuma oranges which are like a tangerine, easy to peel and very sweet.  I was in a UPS store one day to mail a package and there were stacks and stacks of relatively small boxes proudly labeled "Louisiana Citrus" being mailed out.  We of course bought some of the citrus while in the area and it was delicious!  We took a few bags with us when we left. 

Our first visit to New Orleans was on our honeymoon, 40+ years ago.  (In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit I visited New Orleans on the way to San Antonio TX to attend Officer Training School and again after commissioning with my Dad and sister Marla who came out for commissioning ceremony. But that is a tale for another day!) When BJ and I were last there we enjoyed the night in the French Quarter and rested during the day! This time we switched and enjoyed a few days in the French Quarter and rested at night! 

One of the bombers on display 
And a suspended fighter at the WW II Museum
The National WW II Museum was a highlight of the trip for me.  It originally started out as the National D-Day Museum but was "upgraded" to include all of WW II later.  I believe the original impetus was to recognize Andrew Higgins and his boats. General Dwight Eisenhower attributed a lot of the D-Day success to the Higgins boat which were the landing crafts that took some many of the troops and supplies right to the beach. Higgins was a New Orleans native and he came up with the basic design of the landing craft that was so successfully used in both the European campaign and the Pacific Theater. The museum certainly told the story of the boats, but that was just part of story.

The exhibits, while telling the big picture, featured a lot of stories of individual efforts during the war. Of friends and relatives lost (and sometimes reunited), of the privations of families and individuals to support the war effort. They had gathered interviews from the war years as well as more current ones from the people that experienced it firsthand.  All in all a very well done museum.  A repeat visit will definitely be on to-do list next time we visit NOLA! 

In the French Quarter we saw the St Luis Cathedral, a magnificent cathedral built in the very early days of New Orleans and still an active place of worship.
St Luis Cathederal 

The sanctuary 

The big picture
It is on Jackson Square for Andrew Jackson, the hero of the Battle of New Orleans that was actually fought about two weeks after the treaty ending the war had been signed in Ghent, Belgium.  Word of the treaty signing had not reached New Orleans by then so the British attacked and lost over 2000 men, including the commanding general while Jackson’s forces lost 8 men!  Even though the war was over, the decisive victory was a great source of pride to our new nation. That was also the last battle between the US and the British!

After a week in NOLA we were getting itchy feet to move on so we headed out toward TX our future home for 4 months. We have about 5 weeks to WAT before starting our volunteer gig in February and were anxious to get started seeing TX! 

So we packed up and headed west!    

Always at home, no matter where we are!!

12 December 2013

Its December and you are heading NORTH!?!?!

Well we finished up in the Keys and are ready to start a slow journey west to Santa Anna National Wildlife Refuge in SW TX along the US/Mexican border.   We are excited about our volunteer gig there from February through April before we head to Alaska in May.
We wanted get some work on Tucson, our valiant RV, on our way west. Red Bay, AL in far NW AL is his birthplace and they have an extensive service facility separate from the factory.  Many, if not most Tiffin RV owners regularly visit Red Bay for service on their RV.  We were not enthusiastic about going to north AL in Dec but we were felt we wanted the service done before we went to Alaska next summer and this was really the only time. The procedure is to get there and wait until your number comes up - the number you get when you arrive!
Inside the service facility, service bays are on each side of this center aisle!
So we were anxious to get there and get our number so maybe we could be done by Christmas.
It took us a day and half and we got here in minimum time and got our number. The next day Norris, the "gatekeeper" came by and reviewed our work list with us and with a few minor mods said he could fit us into the schedule for an express bay in about a week, otherwise it might not be done before the Christmas break when the facility closes between Christmas and New Years.

Exterior view of one side of the service facility
 Express Bay means the work can all be done in one of the 50+ service bays by two technicians in 3 hours!  The bays start at 0700 and at 0630 you can hear the campground come to life as those with bay assignments crank up the RVs and start moving to the assigned bay - reminds me of being on the flightline as it comes to life in the morning!

So we relaxed and "enjoyed" the freezing temps and daily rain and waited for our number to come up!  Nightly lows were in low 30's when we got here and they kept dropping lower every night. The last several nights they have been in low, very low 20's! However, the last two days have been sunny rather then the rainy, wet days we had.  At any rate on our 7th day we got "the call" to be at bay 31 at 0645 the next AM. Hallelujah!
View of Tiffin land at sunrise. This use to be Red Bay Airport and this was the runway! Now it is campground for those with a number for service!

So by 1000 hours they were through except for one item that required some drying time for some stain to dry. And, by early afternoon that piece was installed and we were released and ready to roll.
So we are heading SOUTH in the AM. We have made reservations at a famcamp on a Navy base just south of New Orleans and we plan on being on the road by 0700 tomorrow. We should make it tomorrow afternoon and looking forward to visiting New Orleans for the first time since our honeymoon there 40+ years ago!  
This guy could not decide which of his vehicles to leave at home so he brought both!

Always at home, no matter where we are!!

18 November 2013

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

Well we are enjoying our two month stint as volunteers at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo FL.

This is the Upper Keys (first ones after leaving the mainland) vs. Lower Keys (100 beautiful miles further down US Highway #1, aka The Overseas Highway).  While we were not looking for a volunteer gig this Fall, they had an unexpected vacancy and we decided to grab it!  We have stayed in the Park a dozen times or more , but this is our first volunteer gig here. 
A regular park resident!

I have been catching up on my diving while here. Have been out with the friendliest dive shop in the Keys nearly every week. Conch Republic Divers in Tavernier is the best in my opinion.  They have two boats and you drag your gear directly from your car to the nearby boat! The crew is always customer oriented and they don’t treat you like a novice (unless you are one) and do all they can to make your dives enjoyable. 
On the way back from a good day diving!
We have been doing some kayaking in new to us territory and had some great weather to match.  As I write this we are over half-way through our gig here but far from half-way thru list of things we wanted to do while here!  But hey, we will just have to come back! 
 A nice day on the water!

A nice cool plane to rest out of the hot sun!

Card Sound mangrove creek

We will leave here Thanksgiving and stop for a few days in Melbourne for appointments then on West.  We will spend a week or so in Red Bay AL, birthplace of our valiant travel coach, to get some service done then continue westward.  We need to be at Santa Anna National Wildlife Refuge in SW TX along the Mexican border by 1 Feb for our 3 month volunteer gig.

In May after we finish at Santa Anna we will be northbound for AK for the summer. We plan on crossing into Canada in late May from MT and work our way north from there.

Always at home, no matter where we are!!

27 October 2013

A Trip to Indian Key

Indian Key is a small key about a half mile off US 1 (aka The Overseas Highway) in the Middle Keys. 150 years ago it was booming town that was the capital of Monroe County which is the FL Keys.  The charter for Dade County was signed there.  It is not much bigger then 2 or 3 city blocks but it was very busy and its main business was salvage operations on the ships that wrecked on the reefs along that part of the FL coastline!
Preparing to unload the kayaks - Indian Key is in the background 
Today it is uninhabited and is a State Park accessible only by boat.  It is a nice paddle out and BJ and I have been there several times and wanted to go back.  

We dropped the kayaks in the water at MM 77.5  and parked Oscar nearby and headed out.  Waters were calm and sun was bright and we had packed a lunch! What a great day to be on the water.

When we reached Indian Key we decided to paddle around the key before landing. Much of shore line, especially ocean side is very rocky and rough.
The rocky ocean side shoreline behind BJ 

There was no fresh water on Indian Key, then or now! Today you bring your own water but it the day they had elaborate systems for catching and collecting rain water.  Most buildings had cisterns underneath them and there are still remnants visible where the buildings stood. They also had above ground cisterns for storing water and some of them are still there!  

One of the cisterns used to store rain water!

The streets are still there and the state has added some historical markers as well as the original street names to help you get a feel for what this busy town was like in the early 1800's!

The Native Americans were not too happy with the settlement and attacked it several times. The 1840 attack was particularly devastating and marked the end of Indian Key as a community. Many of the survivors moved their business to Key West and several years later the US Navy took over Indian Key as a supply depot because it had good deep water docks of which no trace remains today.

Deep water docks use to extend seaward from here!

We walked around the key enjoying the weather and sights and I found a geocache I was looking for, the only one on the Key!  And we found a nice shaded spot for lunch.

A geocache found!

This was the town Square back in the day!

We decided to do some snorkeling on the way back but it was a little too shallow and only the grass beds to see so we gave up after a short while on that!

A Jelly checks us out while we were snorkeling on the way back!
All-in-all another great day in the Keys!  We are enjoying our stay in the Upper Keys vs the Lower Keys where we normally stay at the Navy base.

Always at home, no matter where we are!!

19 September 2013

Colonial Williamsburg VA

While visiting Williamsburg VA last month while we were staying in Norfolk  It was a wonderful day to enjoy being outside and I had walked the the William & Mary campus soaking up the history, such as the beautiful field
This where the students AND faculty mustered up before marching off to join George Washington!

where the students and faculty had gathered and camped in preparation to marching off to join
A couple of William & Mary students prepping for the test!

George Washington and support the revolution as it drew to a close in nearby Yorktown!

BJ really enjoyed the museum which an extensive and diverse collection of furniture, paintings and other early American artifacts
The original William & Mary college building, still functional and in use today! 

On the street in Williamsburg I was fortunate to run into Thomas Jefferson. He was enjoying the bright sunny day to and watching the people go by as he sat on a bench on the street!  He showed me a draft he had of the Declaration of Independence.

We talked about his visions for the future of the country and sacrifices so many had made and would make.  Before he left me he invited me to stop by Monticello, his home in Charlottesville VA When  I was next in the neighborhood!

Downtown Williamsburg

Williamsburg is a living history of the early formative days of our country and I would urge anybody that values the freedom and liberty we enjoy to visit it.

Always at home, no matter where we are!!

18 September 2013

Back in Home Territory

We are on the road headed SOUTH away from the cold of northern VT!  It was 31 degrees the night before we left.  But, the last two days have been sunny and bright and getting warmer!  Yesterday we had a long day as our plans to stay the night at a convenient Wal-mart near Scranton PA were stymied by vehicle height restrictions entering the parking lot, but we found another one several miles down the road and it all worked out nicely.

We got an early start this AM and it got sunnier and warmer as we moved further SOUTH!  About 1445 we crossed the Mason-Dixon Line and really started feeling at home!  We don't normally stay at KOA campgrounds but this one was so convenient to I-81 we stopped early.

Tonight we dined at a near by diner, the Pink Cadelliac - and Elvis was there.

BJ and Marla, my sister, were little teeny boppers again at dinner.  We had some good Southern Comfort Food and enjoyed the visit with Elvis, he had NOT left the building!
Right to left - BJ, Elvis & Marla
I enjoyed liver & onions with the best gravey since my Mom last served it; BJ had chicken fried steak with a creamy gravey and licked the plate clean and Marla had fried oysters and some turnip greens!

Marla was the hit of the evening with her original Elvis pin directly from Tupelo!

We skipped desert!

Went home to RVs fat, sassy and happy!

Tomorrow we are off to visit another great American - Thomas Jefferson in his home at Monticello!

Always at home, no matter where we are!!