Tuesday, December 25, 2012

12/25/12, Tuesday:  Merry Christmas from New Mexico!  It's suppose to be in the 40's today for a high. We've been lucky that it's been in the 60's or 70's in Texas and New Mexico so far. A lot of areas got snow last night north of us. Our furnace and little heaters are runny pretty constant this morning. 

Did we think last Christmas that we'd be in New Mexico the next one? We had no idea at that time. We were still in the selling house, getting rid of things, planning stages. We knew we'd be gone, but that's about it. It's been a lot of learning in the last 8 months.

12/23/12: Arrived at Midway RV Park at Dexter, New Mexico, 7 miles south of Roswell. On our highway we didn't have a Welcome to New Mexico sign, I guess it's too small of a highway for that. But as we went through the town of Bronco, the highway changed and that was the state line and we were in New Mexico. Speed limit changed from 75 to 65. We changed to Mountain Time also.  As we got further into New Mexico there is an area of white sandy soil. Then it started getting more into rolling plains, less trees. Kind of reminded me of North Dakota for a while. Midway RV Park is another small park which accepts Passport America. Most of the campers parked are fifth-wheels which are longer term. There are about 6 open sites for short term. 

12/20/12: We were going to stay at Walmart in Brownfield, TX, but it's a really small lot so we checked to see if they had a city RV, which they do. Coleman City Park is another free city park. This one is free for 5 days. It also has 30 amp and water, and a dump. It’s also at the edge of their park where they have a swimming pool (closed now), tennis courts, horseshoes, disc golf, ball fields, etc. There were 2 other campers when we got there. As we pulled in to the campground, trying to decide where to park, Curt said he smelled something burning. Then we saw smoke coming out of the dash behind the backup camera. He told me to get the fire extinguisher from the bedroom and he took the backup camera out of the dash. He was able to get it unhooked and that’s where the smell was coming from. For some reason, it decided to burn out. Luckily we weren’t driving at the time, and we didn’t have to use the fire extinguisher.  Nothing like spending time thinking that everything we own is in this vehicle, or attached to it, and it could all be gone in a matter of minutes. After we parked and got set up, Curt got on the internet and started searching for a new backup camera. We can’t see the Jeep when we’re driving without it, and backing up with it is a lot easier.

The next morning Curt ordered a backup camera and had it sent to the next park we’re going to near RoswellNew Mexico. I e-mailed the kids and let them know we would be stopping next week if they wanted to send the rest of the packages out. A City employee stopped by and said we could stay free for 5 days. Curt told him we’d probably be leaving the next day or Saturday. The other 2 campers took off after that. Around noon I went for a walk and Curt went metal detecting.  A lot of City vehicles drove through the park during the day; nobody stopped to tell Curt he couldn’t use his metal detector. (Some cities have ordinances against it.)  It seems like the park is a place people come for their lunch hour; there were vehicles coming in and stopping, but not getting out of it. So as I walked around by myself, I started getting kind of leery of that and decided to walk around near Curt. We were outside for a couple of hours; it was beautiful out. There were other people walking, playing basketball and baseball. We decided that since this was free, we would probably stay another day or two.

12/19/12: We stopped at the Haskell Municipal City Park, which is free for one night and $16/ after that. It has full hookups, 30 amps. There were about 6 other campers there, but they were long-term. I went out for a walk around their park/ baseball/rodeo area. Curt went metal detecting. As I was taking pictures of the fountain area, a man walking his dog said that I should take pictures of the sky as the storm comes in. There were wind warnings, and we had driven in wind all morning. It looked like a dust storm coming tonight. The man said that it’s from the fields west of town that are plowed, in between the cotton crop and planting wheat. I got back to the RV before the storm came in, but Curt was caught in it, spitting out dust/sand when he got back. We later learned that there was a multivehicle  accident on the highway because of the storm and one person was killed.

Texas is a big state (I know I’ve said that before). We want to go straight west to the RoswellNew Mexico area, on Hwy 380. Trying to find places to stay could be tricky. I did find a Walmart and a city park, so we’ll try that. As we drove through some of the small cities, we noticed a few of them had small RV parks. So there must be a few people that drive this out-of-the-way road. There is a lot of oil activity, so there is truck and pickup traffic. Some of the oil wells are old and no longer working, but there are some new pumps going. The old pumps are small; the newer ones are larger, like the ones in North Dakota.

The terrain varies a lot throughout the state. It’s very dry; some counties have burn bans. It’s mostly flat, but then there’s an area of rolling hills, back and forth like that. Lots of cactus. There are areas with cattle and horses, and then you get to big farming areas. We found out later that it was cotton crops, and after they were done they planted wheat. We had no idea there was cotton in Texas.  There was a lot of irrigated areas. The ground is very red also; reminds me of the scoria in North Dakota. We had watched The Dust Bowl on PBS about a month ago and I could see why it would keep blowing like that. These farming areas where huge with no breaks in them and the topsoil was blowing into the ditches like snowbanks. Some fields still had cotton in them, some were plowed, some planted.

12/18/12, Tuesday:  We got ready to leave, to go to above Dallas, and stop at McKinney to pick up the oil that Curt had ordered. I asked him if the guy had called and said that it came in. He said he wasn’t going to call back, we should just stop. And if it wasn’t in yet, then what? Curt called the company and they said they didn’t order it because McKinney Walmart has it and they can sell it cheaper than he can. Curt was surprised that Walmart would have it, because we haven’t been able to find any. Curt called both Walmarts in the McKinney area and neither one had the oil he wanted. Okay, so much for that idea. Guess we wouldn’t have had to stay the weekend. It was a nice quiet place though. We stayed at Decatur Walmart for the evening. Definitely back in the city noise…screeching tires, honking horns, sirens.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

12/06/12, Thursday: Since Hot Springs, AR is on the way down to Crater of Diamonds State Park, I thought we could stop and see what it is about. There’s a lot of camping around the area, but nothing really cheap (Yes, we’re cheap). We found an Army Corp of Engineers park, Crystal Springs Recreation Area that was open so decided to try that. I think this would be a pretty park in the summer time, right along the river. It’s real quiet now. Four other campers there. 

Before we went to the campground, we drove into Hot Springs trying to find the Hot Springs National Parks Visitor Center. Hot Springs is not a town to be driving RVs, very little parking downtown at all, other than parking garages.  So we went to the campground and spent the evening there, then the next morning we went to Walmart and unhooked and drove the Jeep downtown. We found the visitor center, which is in Bath Row, and walked along Bath Row and the downtown area, and did some caching. There’s a couple of areas that people can fill water jugs with water from the hot springs…drinkable? It’s suppose to be. We didn’t try it, but there were people that were filling water jugs. We weren’t really impressed with Hot Springs; it’s a really old town, not RV friendly  and not much other than state parks and lakes for tourism (other than the gift shops and museums).  I would prefer to stay at the park rather than actually go to the town.

From there we went to Arkadelphia and then on to Crater of Diamonds State Park. We got there in the afternoon, so we decided not to pay for a day of diamond hunting until the next day.  It costs $7 per person to get in. We stayed at the campground in the park. It was beautiful outside, lower 70’s. Curt opened up the awnings and washed them off. They were full of bugs and leaves, even if we haven’t used them in ages. He washed the RV and the Jeep also.  Grilled some burgers – I finally found some hamburger that is decent. Most of the burgers have turned out so chewy you can barely eat them. I miss North Dakota hamburger. That evening it rained, so we figured it would be a total mud mess, terrific. We went over about 10 and it really wasn’t muddy at all. We took our own bucket, shovel and trowel, but rented a screen set. There is a short video to watch with directions on how to sift for the diamonds and what they look like and what other stones or rocks you might find.  The diamond field is basically a field that gets plowed once a month (last done on 12/04) and people come in and dig and sift for stones. It is 37 acres (they don’t plow the whole thing). We just picked a spot and started digging. We started out dry sifting. A park ranger went to the water pavilions and was explaining to some people there, so I went over to see how to do it that way. It seemed like most people were doing it that way, so we went over to do the “wet sifting”.  I picked out some clear “stones”, but they were calcite and other things not worth anything. Curt wasn’t impressed, but I’m glad we stopped to do it.

There have been diamonds found. In 1924 the largest diamond found in North America was found there; 40.23 carats, named The Uncle Sam. The last “larger” one was in 2011 at 8.66 carats.  It is the only diamond-producing area in the world open to the public. There are people that come back monthly and yearly to do this. A massive volcano brought diamonds to the surface. Over 75,000 diamonds have been found at “the Crater”, an eroded volcanic pipe. On average, more than 700 diamonds are found each year. 

There’s a cold front coming in, so we want to find a campground for electricity instead of using just our LP, and we need to get mail transferred again. I found a Passport America campground in Texas to work our way to that has good reviews for $12.50 a night for full hookups. It’s about 100 miles east of Dallas. We need to fill our propane pretty soon.

12/11/12, Tuesday: Got to Big Cypress RV Park, Pittsburg, TX. It’s a small park, maybe 35 sites. But it’s got full hookups, decent water flow and electricity and sewer. It’s got free internet and even free washers and dryers. We called for our mail yesterday to be sent here. On 12/12/12 we did some geocaching. The closest ones were in the town of Pittsburg, which is really small, and there was traffic and people wherever we needed to go to. I did get 2 though.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

12/05/12, Wednesday: We are now in Arkansas, Central Time zone, at the Downtown Riverside RV Park, North Little Rock. It's a small campground which accepts Passport America, so we are only playing $23.10 for two nights, full hookups. It’s on the bank of the Arkansas River. We’re third row back, but we can still see if there’s barges going through. We checked in last night, leaving tomorrow, heading toward Hot Springs.

Today we walked across the pedestrian/bike bridge which is an old railroad bridge that has been changed to a pedestrian bridge across the Arkansas River. I wanted to get to the Peabody Hotel before 11:00 to see the “famous” Peabody Ducks. The ducks come down the elevator every morning at 11 with the “Duckmaster”, walk the red carpet to the marble fountain to the tune of John Philip Sousa’s King Cotton March, climb in and spend the day in the fountain. At 5 they get out, walk the red carpet back to the elevator and go back up to their “home”.  It was fun to see this. After that we walked through the River Market section on the banks of the river and did some caching. President Clinton’s presidential library is in this area. Also Heifer International, whose mission is to work with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the Earth.

11/29: Cedars of Lebanon State Park near Nashville, TN. This is about 25 miles from Nashville, but thought it would work better staying here and then driving in to town with the Jeep. When we were in Knoxville we had parked at a Walmart overnight, which was too close to town and Curt wasn’t comfortable driving there or being there. This is a nice state park, about 8 miles from the town of Lebanon, just a little way off of the highway, but it’s very peaceful there. One of the better roads we’ve been on going to a state park lately. While we were getting set up, we (I should say I) was met by a cat sitting near by. She was kind of shy, but came over while I was talking to her. I could tell she was tame. As soon as I started petting her, she started purring. Oh, I miss cats. But it would be so hard to have a litterbox in the little space we have. I’ll just enjoy those I find along the way, including Korene’s and Dean’s. One of the neighbors in the campground said someone had dumped her off and people have been feeding her and trying to get someone to take her home. I had a leftover hamburger that I gave her and she gobbled it down.

Friday we drove to Nashville. We drove around a couple of blocks trying to find parking near the visitor center down town, which is part of the Bridgestone Arena (hockey area).  Finally found an empty parking meter. We got some city maps and had the option of either feeding parking meters or going in a church parking lot for $7 for the day. Since we had no idea how long it would take us downtown, we chose the $7. As it was though, it would have been cheaper for us to feed the meter, but we didn’t have to rush this way either. We walked along blocks of country music and bars and restaurants. The Ryman theater is downtown, the Country Music Hall of Fame museum. They’re building a Music City Center downtown; it’s going to be a huge, fancy building. The amount of money spent on the buildings downtown is unbelievable. After that we went to find the Grand Ole’ Opry. Supposedly free to see it, and all decorated for Christmas. There’s a large mall by it, called Opry Mills. Well, it is closed to tours until February because of the Christmas shows that the Rockettes are putting on there. We couldn’t even peek inside the theater part, just the ticket stands and gift area.  Okay, so much for that idea. From there we went to see the Parthenon. It is a replica of the building in Greece (I have no idea why it is in Nashville).  This, we were told, was free also. Nope, only if you’re a member. By that time Curt had a headache and wasn’t really enjoying driving around any more, we decided to go back to the campground and enjoy that instead.