Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Exploring Saguaro National Park

Exploring  Saguaro National Park was a unique experience. No where else in the world does Saguaro grow in "forests.  Even with ever increasing pressure for housing around the park the Saguaro thrive in this other worldly place. If you visit Tucson by all means take the drive to the National Park and see the Saguaro. Join us as we visit the Giant Saguaro Cactus Forest (click below).

Friday, December 7, 2018

Estimating and Replacement of Our Wind Damaged Patio Awning

  Wind Gust Ripped our Patio Awning Off (Part 2)

November 9th 2018

Some of our readers may know about our RV patio awning getting ripped off by wind. Now that we are in the Benson/Tucson area we will be getting estimates for repairs. Getting one blown off while in motion is sort of nerve racking and dangerous at best.

And then there is the whole what to do about removal after it happens. I can tell you it's a bit like playing Jenga. If you get it wrong you gotta problem and if you screw up you could damage the coach or RV while removing the wrecked parts.

Since we were in disbelief of what had just happened Martha googled what to do when your awning does this while I dug out the tools, rain coat and my 10' step ladder.  She ended up looking at Exploring the Local Life's blog for advice since this happened to them. We pondered the problem for a bit before we decided to rip down the remaining awning and awning arms.

The bottom line is that if the awning hardware was substantially bent or ripped through it's pivot points and mounting hardware you are screwed. You might as well just take it down. My first thought was that I could maybe save the awning roller. But on close inspection I could see that it was damaged too. Since there was no dumpster nearby I did something I would never do otherwise. I left all the debris in a ditch along the highway.  

Removing our wrecked patio awning

Estimating Insurance Replacement and Labor Costs

December 4th 2018

Today's task is to get an estimate started for replacement.  I didn't think I would miss having the awning but when you want to grill something in the rain, well, it's indispensable. Tucson where the repair guy's shop (Ricks RV Repar) is located is about an hour away. This requires me to break camp and then re-establish it later in the day. It'll be a pain in the arse but necessary. 

So, I went to the repair shop in Tucson (Ricks RV Repair) and we discussed my options for a new awning. It'll depend on how much the old custom awnings replacement will cost. It is/was an electric awning with a wind sensor. What I really want to replace it with is something on the order of the type awning Entegra uses. Our side walls are very tall and the old awning came almost straight out from the coach. In this configuration there wasn't much shading because the awning was 12' off the ground. Entegra uses one that looks like this:

desired awning replacement

This configuration will provide the shade we want but I worry it won't take much wind.  Not making a decision yet so I have a bit of time. Getting your RV awing ripped off while you are driving really sucks. But it could have been much worse.

December 10 2018

We seem to be making some progress on putting together an estimate. Rick from "Ricks RV Service" called me this morning with some concerns regarding being able to get information on the awning that came with the RV.  He will be contacting Newmar for information on the old awning by using the original build sheet for the coach. So, we wait again.

December 12 2018

Ricks RV Service sent the claim to State Farm and copy to me. The total for replacement and labor is $3,469.00 for the awning hardware, awning fabric and labor. I am going to talk with Rick and find out if we can work within this budget and replace the one awning with two.  I would like the power awning on our kitchen slide which is next to the entrance door and a manual awning on the space between the kitchen and bedroom slide with this one set down lower on the RV so we can reach it to put the awning out.  I guess I will determine what we can do after State Farm reviews the estimate.

More later. 

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Getting Your Cowboy On - Tombstone Arizona

Viewing Businesses along Allen Street - Tombstone, Arizona 1879

Like most children of the 50's, I grew up with westerns. I watched every black and white television series like The Lone Ranger, Sky King, and Gunsmoke. And we lived for movies like Fort Apache, High Noon, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Winchester 73, anything with John Wayne in it and, well you get the picture.  

When I learned how close Benson, Arizona was to Tombstone I knew we had to visit.  As you might suspect, it is now a tourist trap. But the history is true, the shoot out at the ok corral was real. But there is so much more history to this town.  Is Tombstone a tourist trap?  Yes.  Is it worth going to?  If you are fan of western lore and western movies, by all means.


Viewing Allen Street - Tombstone Today

In 1877 a man by the name of Ed Schieffelin was staying at a place called Camp Huachuca, Arizona and during his stay, he decided to join a military expedition to scout for Chiricahua Apache Native American strongholds.


Ed would leave the expeditions encampments to look for rocks within the wilderness despite the fact that fellow soldiers at his camp warned him not to. The soldiers told him that he wouldn’t find stones out in the wilderness and would only eventually find his own tombstone. Fortunately, for Ed, he did not find his tombstone, but he did find something. He discovered a large exposed vein of silver in the place he eventually named Tombstone, an name which he of course took from his military friends.



Word of the silver find soon spread and the town of Tombstone grew.  If you are a fan of the wild west you have no doubt heard of Tombstone. The area around Tombstone became well known for its silver mines. And more people came to the town. Some were settlers, storekeepers and miners. But others were looking for easy money. These were gamblers and thieves who drank too much alcohol and settled their disagreements with their guns.



Big Nose Kate

By the end of 1881, the town of Tombstone had a population of more than 5,000. It also had five local newspapers, at least two theaters, a courthouse, hotels and many local drinking places. And a gunfight had already taken place that would forever include Tombstone among the famous stories told about the American Wild West.


Doc Holiday

One of those famous stories was about gunfight that took place on October 26, 1881 between the town's top lawman, or marshal, and his deputies on one side and an outlaw group called the Cowboys on the other at the now famous O.K. Corral. On the day of the famous fight, those men were gathered near the OK Corral, an enclosed area used to keep horses and other animals. They were armed, in violation of a town ban against carrying guns. They were also drinking alcohol and threatening to kill the Earp brothers.

Wyatt Earp

Morgan and Louisa Houston Earp

Virgil Earp


Doc Holiday, Wyatt Earp, Virgil Earp and Morgan Earp (not positive this is real)

Virgil Earp decided that it was his duty to disarm them. His two brothers and a friend, the gunfighter Doc Holiday, went along to help. The four walked down the street toward the corral. Virgil Earp told the cowboys to surrender their weapons. Billy Claiborne ran away. And the fight began.


Ike Clanton

Historians say 32 shots were fired in the space of about 23 seconds. No one really knows who fired first. But Tom McLaury, Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton died of gunshot wounds. Virgil Earp, Morgan Earp and Doc Holliday were wounded but survived. Only Ike Clanton and Wyatt Earp were not hurt in the gun battle.


Wyatt Earp's Wife Josephine aka: Sadie Jo

Looking At Tombstone Today

Today, Allen Street in Tombstone is the "main drag."  The sidewalks are boardwalks and the street is dirt, and everything (except the merchandise and the prices) feels like you're back in the old west.  There is a "theme park" where you can see a comedy gunfight and of course, the OK Corral, where you can see a re-enactment of the famous event.  The courthouse is now a state park, and the gallows where the guilty were hung are still in the yard behind the courthouse.  You can tour the town in a Humvee, a trolley or a horse-drawn wagon.  There are several museums, only one of which is free.  Expect to spend $5 to $15 per person on anything you do.  



Catch a Stage?




Friday, November 30, 2018

Driving West Texas (is monotonous) & Getting Ready to Explore Benson Arizona Area

West Texas

Oil and Nothingness 

Martha and I have made our way from Thanksgiving with family in the Dallas area to Benson, Arizona for a month stay before moving on to Tucson, Arizona.  There are only two words that encapsulate how I feel about West Texas "Oil" and "Nothingness." 

For hundreds of miles along I-20 in West Texas,  you only see a brown, stark and unforgiving landscape with the added bonus of plenty of wind to keep your attention while driving.  There is little there to hold the dirt in place, so when the wind blows, there is dust in the air.

The landscape, buildings and curious looking oil field structures along with a tangle of rusted tanks and pipes dominate wide open plains. They paint a bleak and stark photo in my mind reminiscent of the photos taken of the Great Depression and Dust Bowl. I imagine a woman with a child clutching her leg both with desperate looks on their faces peering at us passing from a dusty old beat up house.

Everything you see along the highway looks tired and worn looking. Sprinkled here and there are shiny, bright and gaudy looking businesses called truck stops that look weirdly out of place in the desert. West Texas is inexorably tied to big oil and gas and its inevitable that when the oil runs out most of West Texas will run out too.

Once you are on I-10 and past El Paso, you enter New Mexico and the scenery changes from everything oil related to miles of nothingness. You encounter a string of cattle feed lots, then it goes from arid to drought stricken, with frequent warnings and instructions about what to do in a dust storm. While it felt bleak and stark to me, Martha said that it felt like she was going home.

Starting Our Exploration of Benson and Surrounding Area

Today we are going to the Pima County Fairgrounds for the RV show mainly because we want something to do that we don't have to work hard at. Later in the week we are going to see "The Thing" It should be interesting. What is the thing?  I don't know but the billboards along two hundred miles of I-10 tease you into wanting to know.  We may even let you know what we see.

We made a couple of overnight stops prior to arrival in Benson. The was "Whip In RV Park" in Big Springs and then "The Desert Willow RV Park" in Van Horn, Texas

Our in Route Campground Reviews Below

(see more reviews and our blog at https://wanderingtootsies.blogspot.com)

WIFI Yes, slow during peak hours morning and evening
ATT - Yes, two bars, three bars with WeBoost
VERIZON - Yes, four bars. five bars with WeBoost
SERVICES - 20/30/50 AMPS, Sewer, Water and cable
OTA TV - Not used here
COORDINATES  32.223400, -101.481400

COST $32.00 dollars with Good Sams a little expensive but if you need full hookups this is the place. 


REVIEW - Easy off and on I-20, great overnight spot and easy back onto the highway. We were able to get a pull through site that handled our rig and toad (55') but reserve early in the day. Great staff, dog park. The park has a lot of full time oil workers living there but it was surprisingly quiet here other than the noisy highway nearby. This is a great overnight spot and if you stay here ask if site #18 is open as it is almost a straight shot out of the park from there.

Our site was #18

site #18 Big Springs Texas

Site #18

Desert Willow RV Park - Van Horn, Texas

WIFI - Yes, works but slow
ATT - Yes, two bars, three bars with WeBoost
VERIZON - Yes, four bars. five bars with WeBoost
SERVICES - 20/30/50 AMPS, Sewer, Water and cable
OTA TV - Not used here
COORDINATES  31.040250, -104.827010

COST - $25 dollars nightly $22.50 with Good Sams
DISCOUNTS - Good Sams and many others (military, etc.)

REVIEW - Mom and Pop place in the city of Van Horn. Large parking lot like appearance but we were in West Texas where all parks match this description.  The park was neat as a pin, though.  Not a thing out of place, and it was obviously well cared for, unlike much of the main street in Van Horn.

Easy off and on I-10 and into and out of the RV Park. Owner is a nice guy and very helpful. You are in walking distance of the only "fancy" restaurant in town which is at the El Capitan Hotel. We did not eat there but I was told the food was good but expensive. The park is all graveled and can be dusty when the wind blows.

Travelers hint - If you need fuel and are leaving early in the morning do yourselves a favor and avoid Loves Truck stop. It is a really hard to get on the highway there after fueling. It seems there is a second entrance to Loves directly adjacent to the I-10 on ramp. Truckers line up to get fuel by using the ramp approach. Because the are so lengthy they block the ramp access by moving as far left on the approach as they can so they can make the turn. It's truly a cluster (insert appropriate verbage here). We waited a little over one half an hour waiting on the traffic jam to clear and it only cleared because a Sheriff's Officer sorted the mess.

Click Photo to Enlarge

Van Horn Texas

Van Horn Texas

Van Horn Texas

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Ripped Our Awning Off and The Rule of Three

What's the "Rule of Three" anyway? (Part 1)

28 mph wind gust damaged our RV Pation Awning

Ah, full timing. living the good life, freedom of the open road, setting your own course, traveling at your own pace, learning how to take an RV patio awning apart in a wind and rain storm on an emergency basis with rain running down your sleeves and into your shorts, learning to use tools that aren't really meant to the job at hand to dismantle a twisted awning. Sounds perfect doesn't it?

When I was growing up my Dad always smiled when something went really wrong or when something broke and then he would say "Bad things always happen in threes, wonder what's next?"  After last weekend I truly understand that statement. 

Martha's last blog entry covered that we stayed in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi at the Silver Slipper Casino's RV Park.  We left there on Friday the 9th of November with the intent of heading toward Galveston Island State Park in Texas.

Bad Thing Number One

We were barely on the road for 20 minutes traveling north on Mississippi Highway 607 when we hit heavy rain and rather strong wind gusts coming from the east that started blasting the passenger side of the coach.

Since it was raining so heavily it became tough to drive, so I slowed to a safer speed of about 50 mph and shortly after we were hit by a really hard wind gust. As it hit us I heard a loud "pop" (think parachute popping open) and then the coach's handling got rather squirrely very quickly.  I was trying to figure out what was going on and glanced at mirror on the passenger side of the coach. What I saw was our 21' long 12' wide patio awning fully deployed and ripping itself apart.

I was already in the right lane with nobody behind me so I was able to brake hard and pull off the road onto the shoulder rather quickly.  When I got out of the coach this is what I was greeted with.

Not only was the canvas torn and shredding, the electric motor that retracts the awning was GONE!

After a full inspection of the damage and some googling by Martha on her cell phone of what others have done in this situation (we aren't the first, there's quite a bit of information out there), we came to the decision that the only thing to be done was remove the rest of the awning because the awning roller and canvas were shredded and the aluminum struts were all bent and twisted and some of them had their pivot points torn clear through the aluminum. Since we couldn't retract the awning and couldn't drive with it out, it had to come down. 

Bad Thing Number Two

When we arrived at the campground, we noticed that our tow dolly was missing a light!

There was a yellow LED marker light where this hole is now. I was pondering how this happened when I remembered the missing 12 volt awning motor. I don't know for sure, but I think that motor came off the awning and hit this light. What was really weird is that the screws that hold the light in place were also missing.  

Probable Sequence of Event - Maybe?

So, I think the events went as follows.  The wind gust broke the plastic housing and awning motor loose from the awning spool. It in turn went sailing into the tow dolly marker lite, then since the motor was gone the spool locking mechanism was also gone.  The awning's spool was effectively unlocked, allowing the spool to release under its own roll up spring and it rolled out and fully deployed.

Bad Thing Number Three

But wait, there's more. We spent the evening in an RV Park near Beaumont, Tx.  The morning we left for Galveston I had to dump grey water and much to my dismay the Rhino Flex sewer line burst when I pulled open the valve and emptied a considerable amount of the 47 gallon tank onto the already muddy ground before I could react and close the valve. What a mess.  It could have been worse. It may have been black water I had to dump. In retrospect I was lucky, I guess.

One thing is for sure, you get variety in your life when you full time.  

Monday, November 5, 2018

Enjoying Pensacola - Going Coastal


Oak Grove Campground at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida. Home of the Blue Angels

Sunset at the Naval Air Station

We're at the BEACH!

We haven't blogged in a while, so I told Chuck that I'd write one this time.  It's been a fairly quiet few weeks, as we've slowed down (yay!) and are doing a lot of just living, instead of playing tourist.  After Hurricane Michael disrupted our plans to stay at Pensacola Beach, we spent 2 1/2 weeks at Navy campgrounds in Pensacola, drove 30 miles ands spent a couple days in Alabama, drove 90 miles for a couple days in Biloxi, moving another 35 miles to the beach at Waveland, Mississippi and then are headed for another few days on the beach in Mississippi and Texas before Thanksgiving.  A month and a half by the beach isn't too bad!

Work, work, work

I am amazed at how full life can be when you aren't working full time.  I have been working quite a bit lately, as I've been fortunate to have several freelance jobs come in.  It's kind of nice to turn away work because you're too busy...although I definitely am not working 40 hour a week.  I like putting in a couple of hours a day, but it does cut into my Facebook time.  I have also been working on Chuck's family tree.  I had a breakthrough where I identified a whole branch of Ketchums that are DNA matches to Chuck, and now I have to figure out exactly how they are related...and they've now added a chromosome browser to MyHeritage's DNA section, so I can try and map gene segments to family branches.  Of course, Chuck has thousands of DNA matches, so this is a long-term project.  It's getting me familiar with the technology, though.

Disk Golf for low-cost fun

Anyway, besides work and genealogy, we have enjoyed a bit of disk golf time.  Our campground at the Blue Angel Recreation Area in Pensacola had three 18-hole golf courses and the weather was nice while we were there, so we played every day!  And Chuck also took time to wax The Beast, so we are nice and shiny again.  We also have played in a city park in Pensacola and a city park in Biloxi.  It's a great way to get out and get some fresh air and some steps in.

NAS PensacolaPlaying on one of the Disc Golf courses at NAS Pensacola

Getting some exercise

I went and invested in a new Fitbit for myself, and am working on getting those steps in!  One thing about living in an RV is if you don't go outside, you don't get much exercise.  It's a whole 20 steps from the very front to the very back!  When it rains or the heat is too much, I end up walking in place or turning on the music and dancing....which looks foolish (I can't seem to get away from the full length mirror), but hey, it's exercise.

Our tourist activities

Other things we've done:  go to a wedding on the beach, mead tasting, finding Thai restaurants, meeting online friends in person, climb a lighthouse, watch the Blue Angels practice, walk on the beach, visit the Flora-Bama, snap a few sunset pictures, and relax!

Looking from Blue Angel RV Park into Pensacola Bay
Late afternoon sky at Blue Angel Recreation Area


Trying a Mead Flight at Swan Neck Wine and Meadery


Matt and Angies Wedding
A Beautiful Wedding


At the Flora-Bama

Beach on Pensacola Bay

Beach at the Naval Station (no swimming allowed)

Naval Air Station Pensacola

Oak Grove Campground on the NAS Pesacola, the roof was chock-full of acorns after 10 days there!

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Waiting out Hurricane Michael - Fairview Riverside State Park and Bogue Chitto State Park

Fairview Riverside State Park - Madisonville, Louisiana

The Tchefuncte River near Madisonville, Louisiana

Seen from Fairview Riverside State Park, Louisiana

As you all know by now, Hurricane Michael made landfall on the Gulf Coast at Mexico Beach. We were/are on our way to my sons wedding in Pensacola, which happens next weekend.  We were planning on taking a leisurely journey, and stopping by some of our favorite places along the coast.

We knew when we left Fayetteville, Ar. that a  tropical depression was in the gulf. Having been Louisiana residents in the past we know to keep a weather eye for developments in the gulf.

Tchefuncte River

Our first stop on the coast was to Madisonville, La. where we visited our favorite park, Fairview Riverside State Park.  On our third day there the Tchefuncte River started backing up from southern winds on Lake Ponchartrain. Normally this is a docile and beautiful area to be in.

Madisonville, Louisiana

Mother Nature of course had other plans in the form of Hurricane Michael.  When we woke the third day we noticed that the park's surrounding swamps were rising.


During that day it continued rising. 


Since we had camped here many times before we weren't too concerned as the camping loop nearest the river had flooded before with us in it. We thought that the main camping loop hadn't flooded before. So, we simply went to bed not thinking about further encroachment from the river.

The next morning, we were having coffee and a ranger knocked on our door and stated that Louisiana's Lt. Governor had ordered a mandatory evacuation of all coastal State Parks. We had to be out by 11 am. Martha and I decided to move north away from the coast. We knew if we were impacted by Michael we would be on the wind side of the storm so our logical move would be to move due north. To that end Martha, checked availability at Bogue Chitto State Park near Franklinton, Louisiana and booked a site for us.

Cardinal enjoying it's reflection

Bogue Chitto State Park was a nice choice for a getaway.  The park's Upland Loop has all full hookup sites!  That's rare at a state park.  If we hadn't had a cardinal playing on our mirrors, we would have been all alone there the first two nights.  Night 3 the loop started filling up for the weekend.  The park has a disc golf course on site.  It's long and challenging, but gave us a good walk one day.  We also went into Franklinton and had some pretty good Chinese food for dinner one night and an adequate Pho at a Vietnamese restaurant for lunch one day.  The Chinese dinner was less than $20 for both of us!

We had reservations at Davis Bayou Campground near Ocean Springs, Mississippi for the 10th (the day Michael was to come ashore), and chose to let those go until the 12th, just in case the hurricane took a sharp left at the last minute.  We showed up here last night, and it looks like it wasn't touched by any winds or rain.  It's very pretty and well maintained from what we've seen.  We'll be heading out to see the town once our coffee has done its work.  

Gulf National Seashore

We were supposed to arrive at Fort Pickens in Pensacola today (the 13th) At this writing the Gulf Islands National Seashore and Fort Pickens Campground in Pensacola are still closed.  We've taken another night here at Davis Bayou and two nights at the military base campground in Pensacola, and we're hoping Fort Pickens will reopen before the wedding next weekend.  This month, so far, has been a series of changing plans.

Our most recent blog

Exploring Saguaro National Park

Exploring  Saguaro National Park was a unique experience. No where else in the world does Saguaro grow in "forests.  Even with ever inc...