Monday, April 26, 2010


Today’s blog written by Kathy:

Let’s see, we last were in Beaumont, Texas. On Monday we drove through Louisiana and stayed the night in Baton Rouge. I couldn’t get over all of the thick forests along I-10! I guess I expected swamps and places like in the “Blue Bayou” of Disneyland! People had warned us that the roads were the worse in Louisiana, but they must have fixed most of them! There was only one 20 mile stretch where we were so glad we had the Trailer Saver Hitch or we would have been porpoising down the road from the bouncing! They have improved I-10 at least!

IMG_6454 Beautiful I-10 through Louisiana

Tuesday we drove through Mississippi and Alabama, just narrow strips of each state. 75 miles across the “boot heel” of Mississippi and only 60 miles across Alabama’s “boot heel”. Imagine our surprise when we came on the metropolis of Mobile, Alabama and there was a tunnel under the Mobile River!! Where’s the height clearance? Oh well, the trucks are going through and so did we!

IMG_6456 On an approach to a tunnel! A tunnel?!

IMG_6458 The tunnel under the Mobile River, a First for the new Montana!

By 3 PM we were in Pensacola, Florida already! We stayed 2 nights at the KOA, it was far enough away from the highway, quiet and peaceful, we needed to stop and catch our breathes!


Thursday we continued on down the road again at the crack of 11 AM! (It’s warmer here in the south; you don’t want to move too fast!) Before we knew it we were in Williston, FL at a gorgeous RV Park we found on RV Park Reviews, called Williston Crossings! It has to be the prettiest RV Park we have ever visited. However, it is in receivership due to the lack of funds by the owner! They honored our reservations and that’s all that mattered. The sites are long and wide, with nice grass strips on both sides and trees for privacy! You could barely see the rig next door if there was one! It has so much potential if somebody could afford to complete the many projects it would be a very good investment!

You’re probably wondering: where the heck is Williston and why go there?

IMG_6486 Kathy and her cousin Liz

Well, my cousin Liz lives there and I hadn’t seen her since the day we left Long Island, NY in Sept. 1959, to move to CA! My family lived next door to her and her family. Liz and her brother, Walter were more like sister and brother to me than cousins!

IMG_6483 Addison, Liz, Tiffany and Craig

So, my goal was to visit her and her family for the first time! It was wonderful seeing her again and meeting her son Craig, his beautiful wife, Tiffany and their darling 20 month old Addison, who runs non-stop like the “Energizer Bunny”!!

IMG_6487 Zack and Nick

Plus we got to meet Liz’s daughter Michelle’s two youngest sons, Nick and Zack. Zack will be a contestant on the Food Channel one of these days! He loves to cook and he’s of the ripe old age of 13! I watched him make mashed potatoes from scratch and I’m sure Emeril Lagasse would have been licking the bowl! Nick is quite a computer wizard and was happy on his computer for a rainy weekend.

Two days of going down Memory Lane with Liz was a lot of fun! Catching up on 51 years was quite a gabfest! And of course, she treated us to fine southern barbecue dinners both days! I can still taste the grilled veggies, and the flank steak a week later! Thanks Liz for a wonderful visit!

Well, since we were only 125 miles from Disney World, how could we skip a visit to there?!! Living in California, we’d been to Disneyland hundreds of times, so EPCOT was intriguing! And heck, Kissimmee is right next to Davenport, we could meet some more Arctic Camsters! So Monday we checked into the Kissimmee KOA for a couple of nights. What a great deal, as KOA VIP’s, we got 2 nights for the price of one! It was only 12 miles from Disney World and away from all of the traffic.

P1040004 Gloria, Kathy and Liz

After exchanging emails, we drove over to the Davenport Cracker Barrel and met Mz. Liz, her husband, Kurtis, Gloria with her husband, Ralph! I have been emailing these ladies for over a year, it was a lot of fun meeting them finally in person! Ralph and Gloria hope to go full time RVing in 2-3 years, so we have a lot in common. Mz. Liz and Kurtis hope to retire around the same time too, but they want to move back to Alaska, full time! It was fun to put faces with names!

The next day we did Epcot. Since we knew we’d be gone most of the day, we checked Raider into the Kennel Club right there at the park. I didn’t have to worry about him going outside once and a while and if the thunder storms came through he wouldn’t be alone.

Like a couple of 16 year olds, we road all of the rides that everybody runs to first! We loved the “Fast Pass” method of waiting for rides! The only long line we stood in was 40 minutes, which wasn’t bad, because it was inside under the AC.

Traveling through “the World” section, it was a tough decision on where to have lunch! Mexican sounded good, but the fancy restaurant was “Reservations Only”. Do we do: Norwegian, German or Chinese food? The Nine Dragons restaurant had no waiting and looked very elegant, that made the decision easy – Chinese! The Sweet and Sour Pork over spinach noodles was delicious! Grant had the Szechuan Beef with the Hot and Sour Soup. It was so refreshingly cool in there I didn’t want to leave!

We also traveled through “Germany” and “Mexico”, where we sipped on delicious Margaritas as we watched them bring out the fireworks barges. Then on through “Italy”, “Morocco”, “France”, “England”, (had to visit the ‘Rose and Crown’ for a pint of Bass Ale), “Canada” and then USA!

I found out that EPCOT is twice the size of the Magic Kingdom! No wonder our feet and legs were tired! Where are the Segways to get around the park? Disney is missing a buck there!

It was time to retrieve our furry friend. He was so elated to see us, we hadn’t abandoned him totally! The Daily Report Card said: he wasn’t hungry, but was a happy camper for his walks and sang along with the kennel choir! I’ll bet he did, probably one of the baritones! Thursday we moved on up the eastern coast of Florida to St. Augustine Beach for a week of R&R. So where are those very white beaches I’ve seen in photos?!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Back to our semi-regular schedule blogging!


We have been doing a lot of visiting and traveling in the past two weeks covering about 1,200 miles . There was so much to see and do around Fredericksburg that it is going to take some time to sort through the pictures and write about what we saw. However, the blog is getting too far behind so we are going to skip over our first 10 days in Fredericksburg and write up that story when we have some time. So, we will restart our travel blog right after we bought our new trailer.

Kathy wrote today’s blog:

After squaring away the new rig for added accessories, we went down to Kerrville to see our Montana Owners Club friends for the annual MOC Spring Rally. Since we weren’t sure we’d be in the area we hadn’t made reservations at the RV Park of the rally. This Spring Break thing is a serious event down here! Needless to say, they were already full. But, there was another RV Park a mile away that had room for us. So we “commuted” to the rally each day. We only wish we had the new Montana to show off! C’est la vie!!

A week later we were back at the Fredericksburg KOA and they had reserved a special site where they parked the new trailer next to the old one, with doors facing each other to save time. We could transfer our “stuff” with as few steps as possible. Who knew it would take 2 ½ days to make the transfer!! We filled up 3 large bags of clothes we haven’t worn in 2 years and another large bag of houseswares for the local thrift shop donation! Then we made trips to the dumpster to get rid of things we just didn’t need.

On the second day there we spent our first night in the new trailer! Right away I could tell the new mattress is a major improvement! Of course, there was the usual arranging and rearranging of things in the new rig. However, when we came back from groceries it was so nice to have a real pantry to stock! I had to squirrel away a lot of stuff under the dining room chairs in the old rig. “If you want the corn chips look in the DVD cabinet” was a case in point! Plus with a double wide fridge and freezer, I don’t have to cram food in and slam the door really quick to hold it all in!!! Amazing! We even have room for ice trays! The spice rack pantry is so handy beside the oven, just pull it out and every single cooking or baking item is right at your finger tips! A woman must have helped get that neat feature applied!

After the move was completed, we moved back to our favorite site in the pull through section, backing-up will come later! And then we just vegged out! With all of that “stair stepping”, (down the old rig’s steps, up the new rigs steps and back again!), R&R was the ticket! The trees had filled out with new leaves and wild flowers were popping up everywhere. Plus the birds were coming back, especially Cardinals, one of my favorites!

IMG_6429 Texas Blue Bonnets

Finally we got brave and moved the new RV on down to Corpus Christi. I have been emailing a friend from Fairbanks Friends, Melinda, for years and she invited us down if we were in the area! The trip to Corpus Christi was beautiful as Spring had really broken out with wild flowers lining the road for miles and miles. Grant had to fight a strong head wind, all 240 miles down, though not quite a white knuckler ride. It was definitely a “two beer” happy hour to unwind.

Getting to meet Melinda and her husband, Frank, in person was such a treat! Putting a face with an email name makes it more real! They whisked us off to the best Texas BBQ we’d ever had at that point! All kinds of delicious smoked meats. Beef brisket, spare ribs, sausages and chicken!

Friday they took us for a drive around Corpus Christi, to see all of the gorgeous almost million dollar homes, (although if they were in California they would be multi-million dollar homes!), over to Rockport, a haven for wintering RVers, Aransas Pass and a delicious lunch in Port Aransas!! Grant tried a Po’ Boy with oysters for the first time.(It’s a hoagie or submarine sandwich with seafood.) I just had the shrimp tacos, but should have been braver and tried the Po’Boy with shrimp or crawfish!! Then back to the trailer to walk Raider and freshen up. 3 hours later we were off to one of their favorite seafood places near their home. They certainly don’t let you go hungry down here with the portions! Delicious! But just roll me to the car! LOL

Saturday we went over to their home, which is one of those great looking coastal houses up on really tall pillars! Living so close to the Gulf of Mexico and Laguna Madre demands you keep your home above the surf surge in case of hurricanes! Frank built it himself, what a handy man! He treated us to the BEST Texas BBQ when he cooked flank steaks on a mesquite wood fire! Oh man, he turned those into wonderful tasting fajitas! Melinda had homemade tortillas with all of the fixings! We had a feast! Great food with great new found friends! They have been to Alaska several times, too, so we had a common bond!

Sunday was Easter and we woke up to dense fog. Coming from the San Francisco Bay area we associate Fog with Cold. However, down there it was already in the mid-70’s by 7 AM! It is very weird to be in a warm fog!! Very trippy! The church was so close we could leave the big dually in the campground and walk to church! That afternoon we said our “Goodbyes” to Melinda and Frank, thanked them for treating us like celebrities! We truly had a wonderful time! They asked that the next time we plan on going up to Alaska to “please give us a call, we’ll hitch up the motorhome and caravan up with you!”

P1030999 Kathy and Melinda

Monday we headed northeast towards Livingston, Texas. You’re probably wondering: where? Since we started full timing, we have used the Escapee RV Club as our mailing service and their headquarters is in Livingston. “Maybe we should see our home town?!” Well, it was over 320 miles from Corpus Chrisit, a little more than we like to travel. So we stopped for the night north of Houston in a town called Spring and stayed at the Rayford Crossing RV Resort. A very nice RV park with lots of pull through sites! YAY!!! I wouldn’t mind staying here again! The next morning we were off to Livingston, about 80 miles north.

IMG_6433 Livingston, Texas

We have come to learn that this is the Piney Woods area of Texas. Miles and miles of pine forests so lush and deep! Azalea bushes in everybody’s yard were exploding! The Escapee RV Park for travelers is one of the nicest Escapee Parks we’ve been to! Nice big sites with lawns and trees for shade! We got one of the easiest back in sites available. (Wink, wink! There was a little strip of grass right behind the gravel leading from the campground road, so we made it a pull through! Baby steps with the new rig, you veteran full timers!!! Baby steps!J) It is a huge compound!

Birding Note: We had the pleasure of Cardinals and Blue Jays serenading us, not to mention the Carolina Wren and Red Bellied Woodpecker for added sounds! With the onset of Spring, all of the tall trees are so beautifully leafed out, which of course, makes bird watching all that more difficult.

Wednesday was the usual grocery shopping and laundry day. Then Thursday we took the tour of the Escapee facility and got to know the whole park. It started with Kay and Joe Peterson, who were the first pioneers of full time RVing in 1978. They found out that there were not too many resources available for people who wanted to try this life style, so they started the Escapees RV Club. They have Escapades which are rallies held twice a year, filled with seminars on the RV life and how do to things properly. From safety to proper equipment, they thought of everything. Now the Escapees Club is so huge with thousands of members. There are all kinds of interest groups called “Birds of a Feather” or BOF for short! We had an in depth tour of the mail service building and were impressed with the state of the art sorting machines. I’m sure a few small town post offices wished they had! Especially fun was meeting Kelly, our personal mail service rep! We just have to email her and she gets all of our mail together, it’s out the door to the post office the very next day! I mean we even got several packages all of the way up in Alaska on our trip 2 years ago! Little did we know there is an army of about 30 employees that do all of the sorting!!

The tour continued with a trolley ride of all the permanent sites and semi-permanent sites, plus areas they wish to expand to in the near future. You get on a waiting list for those areas much like you do in their other parks.

But we were pleasantly surprised to actually meet Kay and Joe Peterson outside their beautiful home! We had seen them before at the 2007 Escapade, but that was also with a few hundred other Escapees!! They are no longer traveling but are still spry and enthusiastic on the RV Life!

Friday it was time to say good bye to our “home town” and head south east to Beaumont, Texas about 70 miles away. It was time to do some serious birding, especially if we call ourselves “BirdingRVers”. Well, one of our true expert birding friends from San Jose has transferred to the Beaumont area and we just had to hook up with John for some serious Texas birding!

Saturday started out sunny and clear as John picked us up and headed down towards the coast, east of Galveston. The skies kept getting darker and darker! As we’re birding in one of the High Island Audubon Sanctuary I asked him, “Is that the pounding waves on the beach or thunder that I hear?!” He said, “probably thunder.” Oh goody, this is a first for us: birding in a thunderstorm. (We rarely have them in San Jose!) Just our luck, a bus load of birding enthusiasts had just unloaded from the Galveston Feather Fest, a spring bird watching rally! So everywhere we were we bumped into more birders out to see what migrants had literally just dropped in from their migration north! The thunder kept getting louder so we high tailed it back to the car as the rain began! Off we went to see shore birds; they don’t care if it’s raining. Lots of Black Skimmers, Plovers, Red Egrets, sandpipers and various gulls were all around. We could easily watch them from the car while it rained, so I broke out the picnic basket and we had lunch. Shortly after that the rain stopped and we ventured out for better looks of the birds. I kept looking towards the gulf and noticing another band of clouds with thunder rumbling in the distance. Hmm is this a second storm wave heading towards us?



John thought of another sanctuary that might have birds, so off we headed for that spot. Unfortunately, Hurricane Ike really wiped out the area of trees, moved entire sand dunes across the highway so now there are unobstructed views of the gulf! It tore down homes for miles! The plants are slowly recovering and the reconstruction is coming along, but the great tall trees are gone! Birds depend on these for shelter and food. He then remembered another place where we saw a rookery for the Roseate Spoonbill and Snowy Egrets. With all of the hurricane damage, proper trees for nest building are prime real estate! You can’t help but giggle when you hear the Spoonbill, it sounds so comical like they are gargling or burping!

IMG_6442 Spoonbill & Egret Colonies

IMG_6443 Roseate Spoonbill in flight

We saw birds literally drop out of the sky and into the trees and bushes at this point. One of our Life Birds was a Yellow-billed Cuckoo! He looked so exhausted from his wild flight across the stormy gulf that his wings were drooping as he sat in the bushes catching his breath and a bite to eat! All of a sudden there were warblers, Blue Grosbeaks, Indigo Buntings and lots of bright red Summer Tanagers and Scarlet Tanagers everywhere!! We acquired at least 4 new life birds in an hour! Thankfully, the storm took another course and the sun was out as if it had never rained!

IMG_6451 Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Sunday, John and Grant did another 7 hour Birding day at Sabin Woods and the area around John’s house. Kathy stayed home to catch up on the laundry and write a draft of the blog entry. Grant picked up 7 more life birds.

After Birding all day we went out to dinner with John, his wife Michelle and their 3 year old twins. It was a very entertaining. I don't know how anyone can survive twins! However 3 year olds are cute no matter what they are doing.

The 11 Life Birds for the weekend were: Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Brown Thrasher, Wood Thrush, Carolina Chickadee, Fish Crow, Prothonotary Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Orchard Oriole and Brown-headed Nuthatch.

On to Florida …