Monday, March 29, 2010

We interrupt your regularly scheduled blog reading for this important announcement


Almost three weeks since our last blog! All I can say we have been busy. We spent 10 days in Fredericksburg, Texas. What a great area to explore and I started a blog about it weeks ago, but we have been too busy to get back to it. Hopefully, I can complete is soon. After Fredericksburg we went to Kerrville, Texas only about 20 miles south of here to attend the Montana Owner’s National Spring Rally. More very busy days.

However our BIG NEWS is that while we were in Fredericksburg we decided to replace our 2007 Montana 5th wheel with a larger 2010 Montana 3400RL 5th wheel. So after Kerrville we returned to Fredericksburg for a week to move into our new home.

After two plus years on the road we really needed more room and of course, having now lived in a 5th wheel since selling our house in September of 2007, we have a better idea of what works for us and what doesn't. It also doesn’t hurt that with the many miles we have pulled the trailer we are much more comfortable with the idea of pulling an even larger trailer. Out new 5th wheel trailer is about 3 feet longer and 1,500 pounds heavier than our previous one. It also has a 4th slide out which adds a lot of room.

Here are some pictures of the outside of the new trailer:





This link will take you to the Montana Website and you can see the floor plan and pictures of the interior.

Hopefully, I will get back to the “regular scheduled” blog posting of our travels soon.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Pancho Villa and Sonora Caverns



Caverns of Sonora

After two months in Arizona and one more storm, on a perfect day we left Benson, headed east on I-10 to Deming, New Mexico. I had once heard Deming described as a “windy desert town” and that pretty much sums it up. While in Deming 2 years ago we stayed at the Escapee’s Dream Catcher RV Park, because Escapee Parks are always friendly and cheap we stayed there again.

IMG_6316 Entering New Mexico

Part of the reason for our stop in Deming was to visit the town of Columbus, New Mexico and the Pancho Villa State Park. Columbus is located about 30 miles south of Deming and only 3 miles from Mexico. On March 9, 1916, soldiers led by Pancho Villa attacked the military camp and the town of Columbus, New Mexico, killing 18 Americans. This was the only ground invasion of the continental U.S. since 1812. As a result of the raid the US sent Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing and 10,000 troops on a  500-mile pursuit of Villa into Mexico. Eleven months later the US entered World War I and recalled General  Pershing and his troops from Mexico for redeployment in France. In the 11 months in Mexico the US troops never encountered or even saw Pancho Villa. This expedition into Mexico is significant because it was the last use of the Calvary by the US Army and the first time the Army used airplanes, trucks and cars in the field. The Pancho Villa State Park has a small museum with a replica plane of the era and a few cars and trucks used in the pursuit of Pancho Villa.


1916 Four Wheel Drive Truck


1916 Armored Truck

After Deming we headed east. Back in 2008 we had skirted the northern part of El Paso and then headed north to Carlsbad Caverns. This time we drove through El Paso and headed east. Everything from that point on will be new country to us until who knows when.


Montana Owner friends Michael and Renee were traveling about a week in front of us and in an email mentioned that one of their stops would be the Caverns of Sonora. We had never heard of them and also can never pass up a cavern. West Texas is big and it took us a couple of days to get to Sonora, Texas. If you look at a map you will see that Sonora is pretty much out in the middle of nowhere; the caverns are 16 miles from town and really beyond nowhere.

The Caverns of Sonora is a “living” cavern. That means that formations are still being made, which makes it is warm and very humid inside. This cavern is privately owned and doesn’t have all of the rules that Kartchner Caverns had, so we could take our cameras. Also the tour group was only 6 people, one whom had last been in this cavern over 50 years ago with his high school caving club.  The Caverns of Sonora  can best be described as “intimate”. The “rooms” in Sonora Caverns tend to be very tall and skinny. We have never been in a cave where you got so close to the formations; you had to be careful in some spots not to brush them as you walked by.


P1030820-1 P1030834-1

As you can see in the above pictures the walls are encrusted with formations.





Some of the more delicate formations in the cavern.

Kathy says that this is the best caverns we have ever been in. I think that Carlsbad Cavern wins just by its enormity, but this is undoubtedly has the most diverse formations we have ever seen in a single cavern.

The slideshow below has many more pictures from inside the cavern.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Benson, Arizona - 2010


After three weeks at Diamond J RV Park in Tucson it was time to move on. Our next stop would be Benson, Arizona, a trip of about 50 miles. As we were hitching-up the trailer we could see very dark clouds in the west heading our way. It was just starting  to rain as we were pulling out of the RV Park. Since Benson is almost due east of Tucson we had no problem staying ahead of the rain, but when we stopped at the RV Park in Benson the rain and wind caught up to us. It was the coldest, windiest and wettest setup we have ever done. As soon as we could we were inside running the  heater.

Our main reason for coming to Benson was to visit Kartchner Caverns State Park. Kartchner Caverns has two tours: the Rotunda/Throne Tour and the Big Room Tour. When we were in this area two years ago we could only get on the Rotunda/Throne Tour. This time we had reservations for the Big Room Tour. Although, both tours are very nice we thought the Big Room Tour was the better of the two. Their visitor center tells a story of how the people that discovered this cavern kept them a secret for 10+ years! Then after the land was turned over to Arizona Parks it took another 10+ years do get it developed for public access. This is a living cave and they go to an extraordinary length to keep it that way. You go through a number of air locks to pass through, you are misted down to keep lint etc from falling off of you and this is a list of what you can’t bring into the cave:

The following are NOT permitted on Cave Tours:

  • Purses, handbags, backpacks, fanny packs, baby backpacks or other bags/items.
  • Binoculars or flashlights.
  • Photography or video equipment (to include phones, other electronic recording devices and tripods).
  • Food, gum, tobacco products and drinks (including bottled water).
  • Strollers, walkers, crutches (though you can borrow a wheel chair)
  • Touching or damaging formations (punishable by law).
  • Littering or tossing coins.

No photography equipment of course means we have no pictures of our tour. It was absolutely killing us that we didn’t have our cameras with us!

Another reason for us to come to Benson was to see the SKP Saguaro COOP. As you may remember we have stayed at  the SKP CO-OP in Pahrump, Nevada 3 times. The CO-OPs are owned by Escapee RV Club members that have lifetime lease on the lots there. When the lot owners are not using the lots they are available for other Escapees to rent for a day, weeks, or months. Over our time we have heard much about the Benson SKP CO-OP, it is apparently the most popular CO-OP of them all with an 8 to 10 year waiting list for a lease to open up. We came to see why this CO-OP is so popular. They are so popular that the only space they had available was dry camping in an asphalt parking lot. When the weather is bad we prefer to have full hookups, so we opted for a commercial RV Park on the other side of town. We did get to tour the SKP Saguaro COOP and it is a very nice park in a lovely setting. When our travels take us back to Benson we will try again to get into the SKP Saguaro COOP Park. It didn’t occur to us to take pictures as we toured the SKP Saguaro COOP so we don’t have any pictures to show you.


The first building you enter at Gammons Gulch


The inside of “Ellies Photo” is a saloon

As has been the case this winter in Arizona we had good days and stormy days while in Benson. On what was probably the best day of our stay Montana Owner friends Charlie and Nila offered to show us some of the area. They have been spending part of each winter in the Benson area for a number of years. They took us out to Gammons Gulch a local tourist spot. Jay Gammon’s father was a stunt man back in the 50s and 60s, mostly John Wayne westerns. Jay even made his film debut at age 11 in the John Wayne movie “Rio Lobo”. In the 1970s Jay decide to build his own western town for movies. Over the years he has added buildings to the town and has collected western antiques. Jay personally conducts the tour of the town and has all kinds of anecdotes from the many pictures that have shot in Gammons Gulch.


Jay Gammon walking out of his home that also doubles as the Grand Hotel when needed.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Tucson, Arizona – Part 2


Top of the TITIAN II missile and the Mark 6 warhead

 WOW, almost a month since we had a blog entry and Kathy did that one; I am REALLY getting bad about this! I’ll see what I can remember of our adventures over the past 4 weeks.

After our last posting we had some more rainy days and some very nice days. Every day that the weather would allow we would  take Raider “the desert dog” out for a walk on the desert! He absolutely loves these walks, because he gets to run off leash and sniff to his heart’s content for about two miles. Yes, he does occasionally get stuck with cactus thorns. He doesn’t whimper when this happens, he just holds up the injured paw until we remove the thorns and then goes right back to the same cactus to sniff it again. 

We also spent some time doing trailer maintenance. As you can imagine with roads as rough as they are everywhere the trailer is undergoing a constant earthquake as we travel down the road. As is typical for RVs it took 4 trips (20 miles each way) to finally get the right part.  We also had the truck serviced and even a simple oil change took two visits to the Chevy Dealer. Naturally, that was on the other side of Tucson and took almost an hour each way to cover the 25 miles to the Chevy Dealer. We REALLY like the location of Diamond J RV Park for its scenery, quietness and great access to desert trails, HOWEVER it is on the wrong side of town from everything.


State of the art 1970s missile launch and guidance computers

On one of the nicest days we drove down to Sahuarita, Arizona (about 30 miles south of Tucson) to the Titan Missile Museum. “The TITAN Missile Museum is the only publicly accessible Titan II missile site in the nation. The TITAN II was the largest Intercontinental ballistic missile in USAF inventory and remained on ALERT from 1962-1987. Atop the missile sat the massive Mark 6 warhead. The TITAN II measured 110 feet in length and 10 feet in diameter, utilized in excess of 200,000 lbs of two part hypergolic propellant and produced 530,000 lbs of thrust. The TITAN II held a target range of 5,500 miles.”. TITAN II was also used to launch all the Project Gemini manned flights of the mid-1960s.