Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Almost There!

Tucumcari...Tucumcari... what can I say about Tucumcari...?
 Not a whole lot.
   It's one of those towns on old Rt.66 that time forgot after completion of Interstate 40 back in... I think it was 1957.  A drive through Tucumcari on old Rt.66 is an interesting glimpse into the past. Well, I thought it was cool and interesting - Suzanne just thought it was creepy. There are several abandoned gas ('filling') stations, a couple dozen motels; some still in operation, others long ago abandoned and weather beaten with their once colorful neon signs now rusty and hanging akimbo. A divergence from Rt.66 and into the residential and "Old Town" section of town is, indeed, creepy.  This is a very economically depressed part of New Mexico. If you're considering relocating to Tucumcari, New Mexico... you might want to reconsider.

  That being said, if you're into mid 20th century American pop culture, it's worth a visit. Creepiness notwithstanding, I think it's cool that there are still places like this in existence. I'm a fan of rusty relics of bygone eras.
   I am one!
   Here's a short Youtube video promoting Tucumcari tourism.

   Having arrived Christmas eve afternoon, we had planned to spend Christmas day in Tucumcari. Up to this point, we hadn't spent more than a single night in one location. We have a reservation at Motorcoach Country Club in Indio, California for 12/29 thru 1/5/19. Allie and her new husband, Andy will be in Rancho Mirage 12/30 thru 1/3/19 and we're looking forward to spending a little time with them before they head back home to Maryland. Suzanne and I had to wait a few days after their 12/15 wedding to head out in the coach - so time is of the essence and we've had to maintain an average of 250 miles-per-day in order to arrive on time.
   But I digress...

Cleaning and replacing batteries in malfunctioning tire pressure sensors
(When in Tucumcari...)

   We HAD planned to spend Christmas day in Tucumcari. However, after seeing what Tucumcari had (or hadn't) to offer, upon further consideration, we arose early Christmas Day, prepared the coach for departure and headed further west on I-40 to Albuquerque, NM.

   Enchanted Trails is a Passport America affiliated RV park in Albuquerque. There was a note on the office door advising us that the office had closed Christmas eve and would reopen the day after Christmas and that visitors wanting to spend the night should chose a site, fill out a registration form, place that form and the appropriate amount of cash in the provided envelope and slide it under the office door. We did that, set up and settled in for a lovely, New Mexico Christmas day.
   Cornish hens were on the dinner menu, but having arrived early, around 11am, I made a late breakfast and we watched a little TV - something we'd been unable to do for the previous couple days due to remote RV parks - too far from over-the-air TV antennas. In this park a channel scan was able to memorize 50 channels!
   Following breakfast and some chill time we made the 5 mile drive back east on I-40 to the exit for Historic Old Town Albuquerque. Most of the stores in Old Town were closed because of the holiday but we had a good time browsing the few that were open. Suzanne found a pair of New Mexico themed socks and I found an Albuquerque baseball cap I couldn't live without. We also bought a magnet for our collection. Returning to the coach, we began preparing our Christmas feast and cracked open a bottle of champagne. It was a good Christmas.

   Flagstaff, Arizona lies 325 to the west of Albuquerque on Rt.40. The Flagstaff weather forecast called for snow both Thursday & Friday. Wanting to beat the bad weather to Flagstaff, we decided not to stay an extra day in Albuquerque as we had planned and instead, got an early (7am) start and, after taking on 110 gallons of diesel fuel at the nearby Love's service area, rolled out onto the interstate.
   As it turned out, the forecasters were wrong - at least about the Albuquerque area weather. Clear skies were forecast for today. However, we weren't 10 miles into our trip when it started snowing. At times, heavily - and some of it was sticking. There was a serious accident on the east bound side of the highway - a tandem tractor trailer overturned, completely blocking both lanes of traffic. It didn't look like there was any way of detouring traffic around the accident and I'm sure it was at a stand still for hours. Glad I wasn't headed east.

   It was a long drive. The speed limit on this section of I-40 is 70 & 75. I did 55 and 60 for the majority of the trip. It cleared up after 150 miles or so but as we neared Flagstaff I could see the road had just been treated in anticipation of more bad weather and icy driving conditions.
  Change of plans.
  We had planned to stay at a campground just west of Flagstaff but a quick weather Google showed snow beginning earlier tomorrow morning than the weather guessers had initially expected. We decided to push on another 40 miles to Seligman, AZ where the elevation is almost 2000' closer to sea level and the probability of snow, much less.

Much better weather at the end of our day

   And that's where we are now. Temps are supposed to dip into the 20s overnight so we were advised, by management, to disconnect from the water supply by 7pm. We have only 290 miles to go to reach our final destination of Indio, Ca. Our reservation was for a Saturday arrival but in our efforts to beat the bad weather we find ourselves a couple days ahead of schedule. We called Motorcoach CC and arranged to check in two days early. I also made an appointment with the guy who washed and waxed the coach when we were here last winter. He and his crew will show up sometime Friday afternoon to wash 2700 miles of mud, grime and road salt off the rig. It really is a mess. I don't think it's ever been this dirty.

   Time to walk the dogs one more time before calling it a night.

Thanks for checking out the blog!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Making Friends, Arkansas & Oklahoma

  Clarke and Elaine Hockwald happened to be parked just a few miles outside of Nashville when Suzanne and I rolled into town Thursday. Clarke & Elaine have been living full time in their beautiful vintage 1982 Newell motorcoach for six years. Clarke blogs on a regular basis - and by regular, I mean daily. I discovered Clarke's blog 3 or 4 years ago and have been a loyal reader ever since. His daily musings on 'life on the road' are well written, entertaining, educational and have been a great source of inspiration as Suzanne and I spend more and more time traveling around the country in our motorhome. Our paths have crossed a couple of times in the past few years and we met briefly when Suzanne and I were in Lake Tahoe a couple years ago. When I realized we'd be within a few miles of each other this week, I reached out to Clarke and the four of us met for breakfast Friday morning before Suzanne and I rolled out of town. We chatted for well over an hour and had a great time sharing tales of the road. We went our separate ways after exchanging handshakes and hugs and hope to see them again in a few months when, once again, our paths will cross in Southern California.
 It's always fun to meet people who share our love of this lifestyle - and when they're as friendly and as genuine as the Hockwalds, it's an extra special treat.
   It rained for most of our drive Friday but as we approached the Arkansas state line there was a clear north/south line of demarcation overhead where the clouds we'd been traveling under for the past four days gave way to blue, sunny skies. By the time we reached Forrest City, AK, our destination for the day, the sun was shining and it was 60 degrees.
   We did some light grocery shopping at a store within walking distance of our campsite and spent a quiet, restful evening under clear, starry Arkansas skies.

   Saturday's destination was Fort Smith, Arkansas - clear on the other (western) side of the state. We arrived at Spring Hill Campground sometime between 2:00 and 3:00 in the afternoon in nearby Barling, AK. Spring Hill Campground is a federally run recreational area and, with a National park Senior Pass, the nightly fee is a mere $10. It was a very nice park - and if we weren't on a schedule, we would have absolutely spent a few more days relaxing in this beautiful venue located on the banks of the Arkansas River.
   After setting up and walking the dogs, Suzanne and I drove the 6 or so miles into the town of Fort Smith to explore Historic Fort Smith. Though the visitors center and other buildings were closed, due to the partial government shut-down, we still had a fun time walking around, exploring the grounds and reading the markers. Though it wasn't filmed there, portions of the movie True Grit take place at Fort Smith. It's where John Wayne delivers his prisoners and meets up with Kim Darby and Glen Campbell. So there's that.

   After our tour of the fort we decided to have an early dinner at La Huerta Mexican restaurant, just a couple blocks away. I had the Burrito La Huerta with chicken and Suzanne had the Burrito Mexicano. Both were delicious - as were the accompanying margaritas.

   Which brings us to where we find ourselves tonight... Sayre, Oklahoma. I have nothing of any particular interest to share in regard to Sayre, Oklahoma. It's remarkably unremarkable. The RV park is nice enough... and in reaching it, we put ourselves 310 miles closer to our final destination of La Quinta, Ca.

  We did have a beautiful sunset here in Sayre...

Stay tuned!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

California Bound!

  December was quite  month for us. My son was married to his lovely wife, Molly on the 2nd in a beautiful ceremony in Detroit and my daughter was married just two weeks later (on the 15th) to her husband, Andy in an equally incredible ceremony in Washington DC. Suzanne and I couldn't be happier for our kids and their new spouses. However, winter has come to Northern Virginia and we're becoming accustomed to spending our winters in warmer climates. So last Tuesday, with full hearts, happy in the knowledge that both our children have found their soul mates and are destined to live happily ever after, we shut the water off and adjusted the thermostat in the townhouse, loaded the dogs and the few remaining items on our 'pack list' into the coach and hit the road!
   We were planning to leave Wednesday morning but the cleaning woman came Tuesday morning and Tuesday afternoon, realizing the house was spotless and we really had nothing more to do in preparation for lift off - decided to split.
   Having gotten a bit of  late start, we traveled only 96 miles to Shenandoah Valley Campground in Mt. Jackson, Va. SVC is sort of an RVers pit stop. Just 5 minutes off I-81, it was the perfect place to spend the night and perform a few necessary housekeeping chores before racking up more serious miles over the next several days. Having winterized the coach a few weeks prior, we needed a water hook-up in order to flush all that nasty pink stuff from the plumbing system. That was my first order of business.

   We pulled out of SVC mid-morning Wednesday and traveled 275 uneventful miles further down I-81 to Shadrack Campground in Bristol, Tennessee. The entrance to the campground is a bit tricky - involving a very sharp turn off a heavily traveled road followed by a steep downhill drive to the campsites. We found our site, parked and leveled and upon exiting the coach to hook up to shore power and plumbing I noticed the hub cover for the passenger side front wheel was missing. Thinking it might have popped off upon entering the park, Travis and I took a walk up the hill for a no avail. I lost the driver's side one two years ago - the day we took delivery of the coach! The two front hub covers have a Freightliner emblem in the center and sell for $120! Generic, non-Freightliner caps sell for a fraction of that price and, the following day, at a truck stop, I was able to buy two (one for backup) for $5.99 each.
   Anyway... back to Shadrack...
   After setting up, Suzanne and I hopped in the car and headed into town to do some much needed grocery shopping. We now have more than enough grub in the fridge and cupboards to get us to Southern California.
  We had a bit of a glitch the next morning when, car in tow, coming off a flat section of gravel and onto the steep 30' stretch of pavement leading to the road above, the rear weight of the coach shifted to the tag axle lifting the drive axle a couple inches off the ground. I wasn't going anywhere and had to uncouple from the car in order to back up and get a running start up and onto the paved section - where I was then able to reattach the car. A minor annoyance... but a pain in the ass nonetheless.
   Thursday's destination was Nashville, Tennessee. It rained all day. I'm not crazy about driving the coach in the rain and considered calling it a day about 150 miles in. But when Suzanne informed me that the forecast called for more rain Friday, I decided to power through and at around 4pm we arrived at the Nashville KOA Resort. An hour or so before our arrival Suzanne went online and scored two tickets for the Vince Gill & Amy Grant Christmas Show at the old Ryman Auditorium. So, after setting up, having a bite to eat and tending to the dogs we Ubered into town. I considered driving but after a day of piloting a 45,000 lb bus (with an SUV in tow) 300 + miles over the Smokey Mts.... in the rain... I thought it might be nice to let someone else do the driving. The show was great!

It got much more crowded by showtime

...and following a post-performance stroll down Music Row, we summoned our return ride to the RV park and hit the sack. Nobody had to sing me a lullaby. Both Suzanne and I were out like a light.
     We're now in Fort Smith, Arkansas. There's more to tell about yesterday and today but it's getting late and the dogs need to go for a walk before calling it a night. I'll catch up tomorrow.

Btw, it's been a while since I've recorded any new Christmas songs - but if you haven't yet been Christmas-songed to death, you might want to listen to a few of my recordings from Christmas' past here, on my website.

Thanks for checking out the blog!