Saturday, February 27, 2010

From Tucson to Florida, On the Road

On the Road

I headed out this morning after hitching up the 5th wheel.  Had a few minutes of angst as the hitch would not completely close.  Discovered a  bracket that had swung in front of the bar that locks the pin in place.  I corrected the problem and before you knew it, I had swung out of the campsite and onto Bopp Road.

After merging into traffic on hwy 10, I was heading east and towards my final destination Florida,  2,000 miles away.  The truck and camper purred as we drove along at 70 miles an hour.  The traffic was light with a fair amount of semi-trucks as well.  Did you know they still flash their headlights when it’s safe to merge back into their lane?

It’s very chilly out, barely reaching 48 degrees today with a stiff wind as well.  I reached Deming NM around 12:30 and proceeded to not find the campground I’d planned on staying at.  Checked  out my Passport America book and found a couple other campgrounds in the area, finally settling on one for $10 a night.

Deming is a small town on a desert plain.  Hwy 10 and a rail line streaming commerce past the town.  The train line appears to be continually busy transporting all those Chinese containers east and west across country.

Wonder what we actually produce anymore.  Paperwork?

The next day I headed out early and got as far as Fort Stockton Tx.  Settled into another passport America campground, cost $14 total for hookup w/cable tv.  Woke up in the morning to a couple inches of snow on the ground and 26 degrees.  Along with ice.  I’ve got snow on the roof and slide outs and will need to get it off before heading out.  By 10:30, I was able to close the slides and head on south towards hwy 90, sort of a bypass of hwy 10 at least as far as San Antonio.

As I was traveling along 285, a most desolate road that I’ve ever been on.  The scenery was dry desert plains coated with a light dusting of snow, the sky and landscape a dreary gray, making everything look more dead and bleak than usual.  The only signs of civilization along this lonely road were a couple gutted stone buildings, abandoned many years ago.  A few trucks passed on by.  A few cars and the rest was silent travel along the wet back asphalt.

My gas gauge continued to go lower and lower, as I traveled deeper and deeper into this no mans land.  Finally signs appeared for Sanderson Tx.  Hard to read as snow was covering most of the signs.  But I made it with less than a quarter of a tank of diesel.

On down the road a few days later and I’m still in Texas.  Found a nice small campground in Luling Tx.  After unhitching the camper, I headed into the small oil town.  What makes it an oil town?  How about 184 oil wells within the towns city limits.  An artist has created some unique art and citizens have attached it to the pumping units throughout town.  I had a fun time driving around town trying to find all of them.  The town is a throwback to an era when railroads were king, as the railroad goes right through the main street of town.  Or should I say main streets, as a road parallels each side of the railroad tracks.  With grass and trees along the train tracks and town buildings on either side of the tracks.  

A true southern town with tons of charm.  It’s an active working mans town with just enough historical sites and shops for the tourist.  Along with a river for canoeing.  By the way, the campground I stayed at has a race horse training course and I watched as they were training a horse early in the morning before I headed out. Even a small petting zoo.  I never know what I’ll find at some of these small campgrounds.

Yep, this is one of those gems I’ve found by getting off the beaten path. Lunling Tx, just off hwy 10 east of San Antonio.

Back on the road (hwy 10) through east Texas and Louisiana, I’ve seen just a ton of police cars.  They’re spaced about every other mile it seems and even are in groups of 3 and 4 patrol cars off to the side of the highway.  Handing out lots of tickets as well, though how anyone can get up much speed through this part of the country is beyond me, as the traffic is quite heavy.

Stopped at a flying J truck stop and had lunch.  While sitting there, they had the Tv set on the health care debate.  So I asked the waitress if she had health insurance?  She said yes, but it wasn’t as good as when she worked at the Dollar Store.  Flying J makes you work for 9 months before you can get insurance and the cost is very high.

The next day I was having a free breakfast at the Bay Hide-a-way Rv park.  The gal preparing the breakfast setup was all in a dither.  She’s under a lot of stress.  Less work hours, her mother recently passed away, her ex-husband won’t let her see her young son and with the medications she’s taking her blood pressure is too low and she feels depressed.  Not having insurance doesn’t help.  Amazing how people will share their lives stories at the drop of a hat.

I arrived in Bay St Louis, Miss. And found out that there has been a lot of construction going on in the past two years since I was in the area.  Apparently either Gov help or insurance companies have finally broke loose of some money so these folks can start to rebuild.  Lots of homes being built, most all raised up on stilts, even miles inland.  The shore line is still pretty much empty.  How many years ago was the hurricane?

I’m making good time on my progress to Florida, though this is not the typical pace I prefer going.  There are so many places to explore along the way and I’m whizzing by so many of them. Till next time, your roving reporter…. On the road..

Saturday, February 20, 2010

03-2010 Leaving Tucson Arizona

What I thought was going to be a week of winding down has turned out to be a whirlwind of activity before heading out on the road again.  For those of us who travel in our campers, whether full time or part time, anytime we stay in an area for more than a couple of weeks, we often get to know our neighbors and fellow Rv’ers.  The hard part then is leaving all these new friends.

Monday brought friends together for a Mexican shrimp boil.  Kathy and Randy had purchased fresh shrimp from Rocky Point, Mexico and decided to share it with half a dozen of us.  Glad I was included.

To ease the leaving a bit, Christine and Tom organized a tour of a local open pit copper mine.  Our tour guide had a most unusual cadence to his voice, causing much of what he said to blur from one sentence into the next.  I sat in the back of the bus between tour stops and at one point the guide was describing the holding tanks where the copper is separated from the chemical liquids.  I piped up that all I could see was a green out house, as the driver had parked right in front of it.  Everyone in the back of the bus began to snicker and giggle.  May as well have fun eh.  Amazing the amount of stone and rubble that has to be removed, crushed and separated to obtain a pound of copper.  The mine operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is one of the better paying jobs in the area.

On Wednesday I attended my last Writers Club meeting and heard more great stories from many folks who have been writing for more years than I can claim.  Great inspiration to continue my quest  to write better stories for you to read.

Thursday, Chris and Tom and Laurel organized a Farewell party for me.  Gosh what a huge crowd of fellow campers that came out to wish me well on my journey.  Tom said by the end of  March when they leave, they will have gone to over a half a dozen of these get-to-gethers.   We campers do like to party and what better excuse to get together  than sending our new friends off on another adventure in life.

The campfire was lit, the tables were filled with snacks, appetizers and drinks.  The conversations were flowing.  All making it harder and harder to say good bye.

I’ll attend a going away party lunch today as well as a dinner party tomorrow evening and then I head out.

Dropped by a McDonnell’s  today and saw a number of young boarder patrol officers ordering breakfast before heading out on their patrols.  The driver of the Wackenhut bus, a commercial bus operator,  that transports all the illegal’s back across the boarder was also in line.  The young clean cut white boarder guards looked happy to be doing their jobs.  One of them said on a good day they catch about 1,000 illegal’s coming into the U.S.

I dropped in a bit late to the photography club.  One of the last questions asked, was directed at a picture I had taken in Ruby, the ghost town we had gone to the other week.  The photographer asked how I captured the image of the kids slide so well.  I described how I often go around a particular scene taking a number of pictures along the way.  When I saw the slide, I already had an image in my mind of the composition I wanted to capture.  That being the slope of the mountain mimicking the slope of the slide.  When I finally was positioned correctly to capture the image, it all just fell into place.  It was also important to make sure the kids slide was not obstructed by anything, hence the angle of the slide so that it appeared above the slope of the mountain.  The photography club has really helped me in composing a picture.

I’m hoping to be able to capture many more great images to share with you.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Ruby Arizona, A Ghost Town


Two weeks and counting.

Ruby, A Ghost Town, AZ

I’ve been working on my project a day schedule and have completed most of my prep work for getting back on the road.  A new tire installed on the 5th wheel camper, Checking air pressure in all the tires, topping off the batteries in the camper, oil and filter change in the truck and defrosting the fridge.

With all that done, it was time to join the Photography club for our outing to Ruby AZ.  It’s considered the second best preserved ghost town in Az and is only about 4 miles from the Mexican boarder.  We piled into about a dozen trucks and started our caravan down Ajo hwy to three points and headed south on 286.  A lonely road through dry desert landscape with brown bare mountain peeks off in the distance, including the famous Kitt Peak with it’s National Observatory on top.

We passed a number of white boarder patrol vehicles, a check point and even saw the Wackenhut busses used to collect all the illegals crossing into the U.S. before bringing them back across the boarder.  A helicopter landed on an desert outcropping overlooking a deep wash, probably spotting a group of illegal’s hiking through the desert.

I was in the lead vehicle and providing directions.  Didn’t bother to turn on my GPS because we only had a few turns to make.  Opps, we missed the turn off and almost ended up in Mexico.  After a quick turn around, with all the trucks following us, we found the right road leading into Arivaca, A T-tiny town with a bar, local artisan shop, gas station and Mercado.  After a quick stop, we continued SW on 5th Ave which eventually became Ruby Road… we were almost there.

The pavement ended a couple miles out side of Arivaca and we were on a surprisingly smooth dirt road.  Actually we passed the grader along the way so we were in luck to have such a nicely graded road.  Well as much as is possible as the road dipped up and down and around hills, following the old wagon train route.  At most every dip in the road, we crossed over running water as it had rained out in the past couple of days.  The washes were all hard gravel and our trucks had no trouble getting through even the bigger washes filled with running water. Water and mud splashing up and over everything.   I’m sure the illegal’s were happy to see running water, as many die out here in the desert on their way to finding a better life.

We passed a few more white boarder patrol vehicles and even saw a group of folks doing some panning for gold in the fresh runoff streams.

Then after about 10 miles on the dirt and gravely road, we entered Ruby.  Started around 1854 as the Montana Camp, as it grew and became an official town, that’s when a post office is established, it was renamed Ruby.  You can check out the history by doing a search on Ruby AZ.

Our photography group, all 29 members, started off by listening to a gray bearded nomad that is the current caretaker of Ruby and goes by the name of Sun Dog.  After a lengthy (but informative) talk which was spiced up with dramatic descriptions of the bandits, killings, and daily life of the Ruby miners we were all eager to head out and explore the old mining town.

Check out my Picasa web site to see all the pictures I’ve uploaded.  What a great place for all of us amateur photographers to take some awesome and stunning pictures of adobe houses, mining buildings old school houses and wood planked structures.  We all scattered in every direction so no one had to worry about people getting in our “perfect” shot.

My favorite shots and views to just enjoy even without taking a pictures were of the long slide at the school house, the adobe structures and looking through windows out into open skies and mountain ranges off in the distance.  The two man made lakes were great to see in a dry desert community.

Really nice to be able to share a location with fellow photographers.  Pointing out favorite view points and perspective for shooting the perfect picture.

After a few hours of shooting pictures, each vehicle went their own way back to Tucson.  Our group went back through Arivaca and had a drink in the oldest continually operated bar in AZ.  It was once a barn for the Buffalo Soldiers horses before being purchased by a gypsy and turned into a saloon.  The town has the oldest continuously operating one room schoolhouse in AZ as well.

This is one of those experiences that make traveling and exploring this country so much fun.

14 days and I’m back on the road again.  Ready to send you all some great stories of places to visit and see along the open road.