Vancouver here we come …..

Well the first thing to do is to introduce our new granddaughter, Alyssa Rhianne May Jordan, born on the 6th February 2018 and weighing in at 5lb 10oz. Mother and baby did very well and Alyssa has continued to thrive since then.


We had to wait a while for the name but Ella set the precedent!!

Two sisters together.

And a week after the birth we returned to the USA on the 14th February to restart our travels. Stayed overnight at a hotel close to DFW airport and on the 15th went out to Keller Storage to pick up “Big Beast” and the “little Beast”.

Big Beast started first time and drove up to the front of the storage area with no problems at all. I have obviously still not solved the battery drain problem on little Beast (the Spark) as the battery lasted a week when we went to Jamaica,  but  2 months proved too long and it was flat. However, the reserve battery pack started it first time so we were in business.

Welcome back Big Beast
After a little coaxing here is little Beast.

After checking all the tyres we hitched up the Spark to Big Beast and set off for Shady Creek where we were welcomed back like we had never been away. First we had to de-winterise the RV water system which involved getting the water supply all hooked up and running all the taps until the purple anti-freeze disappeared. As I said it is non-toxic antifreeze but a kettle boiling purple water doesn’t look good. Took about 2hrs to complete ad we were all back up and running. Later on in the week I sanitised the fresh water tank which is only used when we on the road.

The first two days were bliss, 20C plus and then the bad weather set in. The temperatures went down (but not as low as the UK), and the rain started, and did it rain, over 6.5in in 3 days!! The reason for the wait was to get a braking system fitted to the Spark. By that I mean a way of making the Spark brake when the RV braked which is a requirement in California and Canada, two places we are due to visit in the next 10 months. When we originally bought the RV we were told that fitting a braking system to the Spark was rather silly as you had 22,000lbs of RV stopping 1,750lbs of Spark which it was more than capable of, but the law in California and Canada says we have to do it, so on the 20th March a BrakeBuddy Stealth was fitted to the Spark. After a few teething problems caused by a bad wiring job way back by Palm Beach RV (one stop light had the wires reversed) we had a working braking system, so we were ready to leave after we had stocked up the RV.

So on the 1st March we left Shady Creek RV and set off. First stop was the RV park we used on way back from Abilene before Christmas, Solid Rock RV. By now the weather had started to improve and we got another beautiful sunny welcome.

From here we moved on the next day to Bar J Hitchin’ Post RV park and the next day we arrived at Monahans Sandhills State Park. This is a Texas State Park set in the sandhills near a town call Monahans. A very interesting and beautiful park, where you toboggan on the sandhills!

Camping amongst the Dunes
Gas barbeque set up and ready to go.

Part of the reason to stay here was to also visit two historic frontier forts used by the “Buffalo Soldiers”, units of the US Army Calvary manned by coloured soldiers.

The first we visited was Fort Davis, which was by far the best and a most interesting place. Here you are 4,500ft up in the Texas hills and you come upon a huge fort nestling in a natural flat plain surrounded by mountains, that was used to protect the settlers route from El Paso to San Antonio from marauding Apache Indians.

Fort Davis drill square
Enlisted Men’s Barracks
Someone fancied the Fort Commandant’s wife’s chair.
View across the square to the Barracks.

This took a few hours to walk around but luckily we had left early, so afterwards we visited a local Deli called Stone Market and had cup of coffee and some really nice sandwiches, and then moved onto the University of Texas’s McDonald Observatory. Here we managed to get included on a tour of one of the Observatories and their newest telescope, the Hobby-Eberly Telescope which has the 3rd largest mirror in the world, all at a height of 6791ft up in the Texas mountains. Our guide was very informative, being married to one of the technicians on the Hobby-Eberly Telescope and an ex Spanish Teacher who had taught herself all about Astronomy in about a year!!

The McDonald Observatory
Quite high really.
With views to match, that is Mexico in the distance.
Now that is a telescope!! 103in mirror which puts 41st largest in the world.
Hobby-Eberly Telescope from the McDonald Observatory.
Hobby-Eberly Telescope houses a 10 metre mirror making it the 3rd largest in the world.

The next day we visited Fort Stockton which featured a driving tour round historic Fort Stockton. The tour was a bit of a let down with the most interesting bits being the Annie Riggs Memorial Museum that contained some interesting exhibits and a HUGE Roadrunner statue. The Fort was very small with some rebuilt buildings and not a patch on Fort Davis.

Road Runner

The following day we left Monahans Sandhills State Park and set of for El Paso via a very nice RV park At Van Horn where we saw a most impressive sunset.

Morning amongst the sand dunes.
Plenty of sand!!
Sunset at Van Horn’s RV Park

After a pancake breakfast in the RV parks Café we set off for El Paso, which is where I am writing this blog. We are staying here 4 nights to see the sights, and then we move on to Tucson, but more of that in my next post.

I have updated the map.  Our RV Map



A Map of travels (I will keep this up to date)

Our RV Map

It has been suggested it is difficult just reading the blog to visualise where we are and have been.

So I have started a Google Map. Google doesn’t always plot the exact roads we used but this is near enough.

Because of the way Google maps work I have had to split it up, so the first A-J shows Jupiter and most of the Florida trip. Then it is the trip to Houston and on up to Dallas, and finally our loop around Texas.

You can use the names on the left to reposition the map and get more detail or get rid of it altogether by clicking on the 3 little dots and selecting “Collapse Map Legend”.

Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018 and new adventures….

Now Christmas 2017 is over I thought it was time to update the blog on leaving the RV in Fort Worth, our Christmas and New Year in the UK, and our plans for 2018.

As I said in my previous post we had to get back from Abilene to Shady Creek to prepare to put the RV in storage. That took an overnight stop, so we booked in at Solid Rock RV Park in Eastland, Texas. Very nice site with views over Lake Leon.

Panoramic view of our pitch to lake. Looked like a Portakabin next to us although it was on wheels!!
Lake Leon
Sunset over Lake Leon
Nearly gone!
Gone! You can tell there hasn’t been much rain.

The next day we arrived at Shady Creek where we started to prepare for our journey home to the UK, packing cases, cleaning and preparing the RV to put it into storage. As the long range weather forecast for Texas was predicting sub zero temperatures (technically sub 32F!!), we decided to winterise the RV which meant buying 5 gallons of RV friendly (i.e. non-toxic antifreeze which doesn’t contain Ethylene glycol which can poison you if you put into the drinking water tank!!). It also meant reading the 6 or so pages in the manual about  winterising an RV. This would have to be done once we were at the Storage facility so I made sure I knew where all the relevant points were for sucking the antifreeze into the water system with the water pump and bypassing the water heater which just had to be drained.

The RV and the Spark also got a good clean up prior to storage, probably be all dusty when we get it back!!

All polished up ready to store!!

Got everything ready and we said goodbye to all at Shady Creek and drove down to the storage unit near Fort Worth. Parked it up and started the task of winterising it. As it was our first time doing this it took about 4 hours but eventually everything was ready and parked and we caught a Taxi to our hotel for the overnight stay. We left for DFW airport at 12 0’clock on the 14th December and left Texas at 5pm where the temperature was 21C, to arrive at Heathrow on the morning of the 15th December where it was 0C!! Ouch.

Picked up the hire car and drove round to Alan & Jakx to collect our mail and say hello, then drove home to Somerset arriving at about 2pm. As I had managed to get a Golf estate and we didn’t have to return it until the next day, we used it for getting the essentials (milk, bread, butter and a Christmas tree!!).

We then did what most people were doing getting ready for Christmas, ordering food, buying final presents (although most had been bought in the USA), and preparing the house for invasion by kids and grandkids 🙂 !!

Tree was put up and decorated.

Christmas day arrived and we entertained Rashied & Caroline (plus Zaid and Zara), Claire and Anne’s mother Marian.

Zara was asleep when the photo was taken!!

Alan, Jakx & Ella came down on the day after Boxing Day and there was more present opening!!

Ella in her new cowboy hat and boots.
Zaid playing a build your own house toy.
Zara puts in an appearance.

The more observant of you may have noticed Jakx’s bump, our 4th grandchild who is due on the February 6th.

And Zara had a brother to sell!!

Rashied and I moved Marian’s shed from her old house in Holcombe to their back garden in Bellingham on the two days before New Years Day. And that is the other news, Marian has moved from Holcombe in Somerset to Ivybridge in Devon to be closer to Julie.

As I am writing this everyone has left to go home except for Caroline, Zaid and Zara, and then Zaid caught chickenpox and Caroline is now staying for a further week.

As to our plans in 2018, we have booked our return flights and we leave on the 14th February (Valentine’s day as everyone keeps reminding me) and we will stay again at Shady Creek while we get a towing braking system fitted to the Spark (a requirement in California and Canada). Then, if everything works out, on the 1st March we set off for Vancouver via El Paso, Tucson, Phoenix and San Diego and then up the West Coast to arrive in Vancouver by 28th June. There we meet up with Tim, and Rashied and Caroline and Family who will be visiting on a two week holiday.

After that we will cross a bit of Canada to come back down the Mid West to via Las Vegas and Flagstaff to arrive in New Orleans in mid October where we will meet up with Anne Mallach and Kathy Pearson, who are going to be RVing with us for a couple of weeks.

If it all works out we will be back for Christmas on the 12th December.

Well that is all for now, the next post will be after the 14th February when we return to the USA.


Chalk and Cheese ……..

As I said at the end of the last post we were moving onto to San Angelo, but we arrived only to find most of it closed!!

On the Monday we went to visit Fort Concho on of the best preserved Frontier Forts only to find we could only see the overall site and a small museum on the Visitor Centre. To be fair they had held a large Christmas function over the weekend in which all the main buildings hosted a particular theme, and they were busy returning all the buildings to their normal function ready for the following weekend, so they were all closed.

So we abandoned that went and got a coffee and a sandwich and looked at some shops. While doing that we noticed that Miss Hattie’s Bordello had tours the next day at 2pm, so we planned to go to an Art Museum in the morning and Miss Hattie’s in the afternoon.

Well we got back into San Angelo the next morning booked on the Miss Hattie’s tour at 2pm, and went to the Art Museum, only to find that closed until December 15th!! Is anything in San Angelo open?

So we mooched around various shops etc. until 2pm and then went to our Tour. As it turned out we were the only one’s on it, but this is another tour you should not miss if you get the chance.

Miss Hattie and her husband bought a premises in San Angelo that was a two storey building which they planned to open as a Saloon. They duly opened it but Miss Hattie soon found out running a Saloon and dealing with drunks was not to her taste and the couple ended up divorcing. In the settlement the husband got the salon on the ground floor and Miss Hattie got the accommodation on the 2nd floor (we would call it the first floor). It had 12 rooms so Miss decided to run it as a Bordello (brothel to you and me), and a very up market one. It was open from 1902 to 1952 when it was closed by the Texas Rangers.

It is a very interesting place with each of the “hostesses” being named after colours or first names, as some of the relations of the “ladies” still live and work in San Angelo.

The tour doesn’t pull any punches with descriptions of what was used as contraception in the day, plus how much was charged, the most expensive was $2 ( a month’s wages for an average worker in those days).

Miss Hattie kept 50% of a hostesses “earnings”, but she fed and watered them and kept the Bordello clean and pristine.

The Front Parlour, looking out onto the street.
The Dining Room
Think this was Miss Blue’s room, notice the oil cloth at the foot of the bed to stop boots spoiling the bedding. Apparently they didn’t remove their boots!!
Miss Hattie’s ledger and booking room.
A dolls house with a twist, it is modelled on a Bordello.
Another room, but I forget which colour this was!!
A public coffin made out of the best mahogany that was re-used. You were laid out in it but buried in a plain pine box. They were much shorter then, average male height 5’7″
The gambling and drinking room. Clients waited here for their “hostess” of choice to become free.
Beautiful patchwork quilt on Miss Kittie’s bed.
And another on Miss Red’s bed.
The Parlour where clients waited for Miss Blondie (the most expensive lady) to become free. She was “entertaining” in the room through the door.


Miss Blondie’s room.

And that was it for San Angelo and the chalk, so we moved on to Abilene and the cheese!!

On the first day we decided to visit Frontier Texas which tells the story of the Texas Frontier, from Texas gaining its independence and the settlement of Texas, frontier towns, gunfighters and the eventual end of the lawlessness.

Included in this is the battles with the various Indian tribes including the Comanche’s, the slaughter of the bison herds for their hides, which caused the end of the Comanche’s and their move to the reservations. There is a section on how Pat Garrett killed Billy the Kid, and tales of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. There are some very good video theatres and leading you around the exhibits are “spirit guides” who tell you in their own words how they were affected.

It is a very, very good museum, one of the best we have seen, made all the more interesting by the holograms of the “spirit guides” telling you their story.

A huge Bison skull outside the museum.
Comanche Indians, the horse warriors.
North American Bison defending itself against wolves, but it could not defend itself against the buffalo hunters after it’s skin.
A Comanche Indian Chief hologram telling you his story.
The exploits of Sun Boy a famous Comanche Chief on a hide.
Typical Indian Tepee.
A pile of Bison skulls killed for their hides. It is estimated that 20-25 million were killed. Later their bones were sent for use in corsets, bone china, buttons etc.
A longhorn stampede on a cattle drive.
The Butterfield Stage.
Pat Garrett hologram telling how he shot Billy the Kid.

Go and see this museum if you get the chance you will not be disappointed.

On our second day we planned to visit the 12th Armoured Division Memorial Museum. But on the way we stopped into Abilene US Post Office to post a parcel, and got interviewed by FOX15 about posting Christmas mail!! It was screened that night on the 6pm and 10pm News. Fox15 Abilene does seem to have the video on their site but Anne recorded it from the TV, but the sound quality is not the best. I should also mention it had got quite cold overnight (-3C very cold for Texas) and was still cold when we were interviewed, hence the coats.

We then went onto the 12th Armoured Division Museum.  The 12th Armoured was a division formed during the Second World War that saw action in Europe and also in the Pacific War, which was then disbanded at the end of the war, but their commanding officer and many enlisted men kept a lot of memorabilia and artefacts from the Division. It is a very interesting museum that plots the divisions history from its inception and training to its its eventual end.

One area of the museum is especially poignant, as the 12th Armour liberated many of the Dachau satellite concentration camps. The exhibit about the Holocaust and the eventual liberation of the camps in the words of the men who liberated them is hard reading, but is an excellent presentation of a subject that is hard to tell. Some of the actual photographs are not for the squeamish, so be warned.

American & German vehicles used in the World War II
US Sherman Tank, the main battle tank of the 12th Division.
Half track armoured personnel carrier.
German Dachau camp flag liberated by the 12th Armoured.

After visiting this museum we tried to follow a sculpture trail setup for Christmas some years ago and extended each year since. We found one or two of the early sculptures, and finally the sculpture garden where 2016 and 2017s sculptures were displayed. The sculptures we all based on children’s stories.

Not sure what children’s story features a dinosaur and VW Beatle!!
2016 featured another Dinosaur.
Three little Kittens who lost their mittens.
Stuart Little.
“I will huff and puff and blow your house down”
Wilbur the pig.
Goldilocks fleeing from the three bears (you can just see them in the doorway).
One of the kittens lost mittens.
Overall view of the sculpture garden.

We then found a coffee shop and retired back to the RV.

We are now on our way now back to Dallas and Shady Creek RV to prepare to put the RV and Spark back into storage while we return to the UK for Christmas and New Year and the birth of 4th grandchild due on February 6th.

So my next update will be from the UK.





Two contrasting destinations.

Talk about two places that are complete contrasts. San Antonio and Fredericksburg, one a bustling city with plenty of history and the second, what the English would call a market town in the Texas hill country, also with plenty of history, but also an incredible main street with lots of interesting things to look at. Who won, I pronounce it a tie.

First San Antonio, home of that iconic place, The Alamo. I have always wanted to visit it and it did not disappoint.

The Alamo

What I didn’t realise was the mix of nationalities that died defending the Alamo, 11 of which were English, 3 from Scotland, 11 from Ireland and 1 from Wales. So of the 212 people who died 26 were from the UK and Ireland with the largest group (31) being the group from Tennessee led by David (Davey) Crockett. We walked around the many exhibits in the Long Barrack Museum which is in the Alamo grounds and learnt a lot about the history that led to the defence of the Alamo. In the grounds also were volunteers who manned the Living History Encampment who explained about the average living conditions at the time of the siege, the type of medical help you may get if wounded, and the weapons and armament used during the siege. We had to queue to enter Alamo chapel building the following day as the queue on the first day (Friday after Thanksgiving) was huge, but it was well worth the wait.

If you ever visit Texas, visit the Alamo you will not be disappointed.

San Antonio as a city is also a very interesting place to visit. Winding though the city is the San Antonio river and on its banks is a “river walk”. This consists of pathways built alongside the river, next to which are restaurants, shops, malls and almost anything you can imagine. We kicked off our tour by taking a tour of the river complex on an electric tour boat, and it had a funny and very informative guide piloting it.

It has been called the Venice of America and I can see what they mean, but it has a very American taste.

An electric tour boat – not quite a gondola!!

We have been very lucky on our trip around the US and we did it again. On the Friday after Thanksgiving San Antonio switched on the Christmas lights hung from all the trees along the river walk and there was also a parade of lit floats on the river. We watched that  on TV as the river walk seating to watch the parade was already sold out, but we came back in on the Saturday to walk around San Antonio and have a meal in a restaurant under the lights.

You can get married on a tour boat – Bride & Groom at front.
View from our restaurant table
More lights
And more…
Even the tour boats are lit up.
Tower of America’s viewing rower was also lit.

San Antonio is also famous for it’s Missions. In fact they are combined in a UNESCO World Heritage Site that looks after the five remaining missions (including the Alamo).

We visited one of them from a Hop on Hop off trolley bus that dropped us there – the Mission San Jose. The missions were originally built by the Spanish as part of their grand plan to civilise Texas and were communities in their own right. They were used as fortified villages, each containing a church, a farm and a ranch. The Franciscan friars who ran them brought in a local population, converted them to Catholicism and taught them to live as Spaniards, which helped them maintain Spanish control over Texas. All this came to halt when Mexico was given its independence, as the new state did not have the money to maintain the missions and the friars, and became even worse after the battle for Texas independence was won at San Jacinto. They fell into disrepair but have been gradually restored.

Mission San Jose was the biggest and is now run jointly by the National Parks and the Catholic Church, with the National Parks being responsible for the Missions grounds and out buildings and the church being run and looked after by the Catholic Church.

The grounds of the Mission
The Church – Bell Tower Left – Dome over the altar right.
Rose window where the Friars gave mass to people not converted.
Young couple in traditional Mexican dress.
Front façade and door of the Church.
Panels in Church over the altar.

After this we visited a Mexican Market in San Antonio called El Mercado. Lots of Mexican food and all sorts of shops selling everything from guitars to artwork.

El Mercado

We also saw some Mexican Dancing.

On our last day in San Antonio we visited the Institute of Texan Cultures. It sounds a bit dry, but it is actually a very good museum with details of all the cultures that make up Texas today, from the original Indian populations to the immigrants who came in the middle of the 19th Century when Texas was offering cheap land and freedom to practice any religion.

The Institute
Indian Tribal village
Many exhibits and the mandatory Christmas tree.
One of John Wayne’s longhorn cows, preserved as an exhibit.

From San Antonio we went to Fredericksburg, a town in the Hill country founded by German immigrants in the 1846. We were in a campground aptly named Quiet Creek RV, as it was very quiet and because it was out of town slightly, very dark at night so you could see lots of stars in that “big old Texas sky”.

I have already mentioned the main street. It is actually called Main St and what you have to imagine is a straight dual carriageway with parking on either side going through the centre of town with interesting shops and buildings for about 3-4 miles. It is apparently that wide because the founding German settlers wanted to be able to do a U-turn with an Ox wagon pulled by 4 oxen!!

It is also the birthplace of Admiral Chester W. Nimitz who was Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Fleet (CinCPac) and Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas (CinCPOA) during World War II.  Because of this association Fredericksburg is home to the National Museum of the Pacific War, which is a huge museum dedicated to telling the story of the Pacific War from Pearl Harbour to the surrender in 1945. It also details the events leading up to Japan’s rise as a military power and has several memorials to those who gave their lives. An old hotel (the Nimitz family hotel where the admiral was brought up ) is also part of the museum and contains the life story of Admiral Nimitz. Very detailed museum, with lots of exhibits, and is wide ranging as it details British and Australian involvement as well.

Worth a visit if you are in Fredericksburg but give it a day as you take at least that long to see everything.

Japanese Mini Sub used in the raid of Pearl Harbour.

And would you believe it our luck held out again as on the Friday night Fredericksburg held the Light the Night Christmas Parade where all the lights in the main park were switched on and there was a lit Christmas parade. The place was packed (we luckily parked early in the day) and the parade contained 130 LED lit floats (not quite on the scale of the Somerset carnival floats) and the local High School marching band. Below are two videos one of the marching band and the other of the lit up Marketplatz.

A wind blown wooden tower containing figures at every level.

Very interesting evening and we also spoke to many interesting people who had come from all over Texas to see the parade.

The following day we visited the Pioneer Museum which contained examples of the various houses used by the settlers in Fredericksburg.

Log Cabin
Well to do Shopkeepers house.

I will leave you to decide which is the most interesting place!! We have now moved on and are in San Angelo, more later.










Go’in to Jamaica and back………

The main reason for travelling to Jamaica was to celebrate the wedding of Nikki Pearson to Matthew (Matt) Bloom. Nikki is the daughter of a great friend of ours, Kathy Pearson, who we have known since the early days of our marriage when we lived in London.

Jamaica, what can I say??? Wow is probably the only word. Well the travel to the hotel from Dallas via American Airlines went well and we arrived to a Jamaican welcome. Everyone from the immigration guy to the customs lady, the expedia rep, and the coach driver were determined to make us welcome. Have to say the bus trip to Rui Negril not the best but the hotel is really good.

Arrived about 7.30pm after a days travelling and immediately went to the buffet to get something to eat. Hotel is huge but facilities are great and everything is ALL inclusive. Met up with Anne and Kathy while we were eating as they were at the Hen party but needed an excuse to take a rest!!

Went to bed early as it had been quite a long day and we were fairly tired, and woke up to the sunshine pouring through the windows. By the time we were making our way to breakfast at 9.30am it was already in the 80s F/ 27C. First day was spent relaxing by the pool and later by the sea.

It was Kathy’s birthday so we celebrated it with her and her family at the Italian themed restaurant.

I think “themed” needs explaining. In the hotel there was a main restaurant open for breakfast and evening meals, and 4 “themed” restaurants, offering various cuisines including Italian and Asian. There are so many bars it gets difficult to choose one, including one in the pool. Ah, the hard life!!

Friday dawned, and this was the day of  the wedding. It started bright and sunny as usual, so we went to breakfast, and then returned to our room to get changed as all the guests had to be on the beach by 1.30pm. Well we sat down at 1.30pm but the weather had changed.

We carried on and all the assembled guests sat down and the Bridegroom, the groomsmen, bridesmaids were on the beach, but luckily the bride was slightly delayed as this happened. Look closely behind the bridesmaid and you can see the rain coming across the bay.

We all quickly ran off the beach and watched rain pour down for an hour!!

After that hour it gradually stopped and wedding finally took place.

Congratulations Nikki and Matt, it was worth the wait.

We then adjourned to our rooms, slightly damp, until the reception started at 5.30pm. From there it was like any normal wedding (if a wedding in Jamaica can be called normal), with speeches, delicious food and drink, followed by dancing into the night.

I think everyone was a little bit frayed on the Saturday, so we spent most of the day by the pool and went to the Asian restaurant in the evening.

Canadian’s frying!!

On our last day we walked along the beach past the vendors and back in the glorious sunshine and made the most of an amazing place.

Monday dawned and it was time to take the plane home and say goodbye to Jamaica – Yeah Mon!! In our case to make the trip more affordable instead of the single flight from Dallas to Montego Bay, we travelled from Montego Bay to Charlotte in North Carolina, and from there to Dallas, which meant leaving the hotel at 8.30am and arriving in Dallas at 7.45pm!!

We got to the parking lot in Dallas a little bit late due to a delayed flight out of Charlotte and I was praying that I really had found the problem with the Spark’s battery drain and it would start after a six days in the lot. Success, it started first time and we got back to the RV at about 10.30pm, very tired and ready for bed.

Thank you Nikki and Matt for inviting us, we had a great time in Jamaica.

Then back to reality and we spent the rest of our stay in Shady Creek preparing for our trip around Texas and doing some Christmas shopping in Fort Worth.

On Thursday 17th we left Shady Creek RV Park (almost seems like home) and set of for Longhorn RV Resort which is about 18 miles south of the State Capital of Texas, Austin. Arrived about 4pm and watched the sun go down over our lakeside pitch as while we were in Jamaica the clocks had gone back in the USA, so it is now getting dark about 5.30pm.

We spent the first two days exploring two towns founded by German immigrants, New Braunfels and Gruene. Very opportune as they both had  Christmas markets running so you can guess what the days were spent doing!!

Today (Monday 20th) we went to Austin and toured the very impressive State Capitol and later visited the Bullock Texas State History Museum where they had a whole floor dedicated to the “Story of Texas”, including the Alamo in San Antonio where we are going next.

Austin State Capitol building
Davy Crockett
Looking up into the Capitol Dome.
Texas Senate
Painting of the Battle of the Alamo.
Looking down from the top of the Capitol Dome
Another view of the Texas Capitol building.
An evening sunset.

Now looking forward to San Antonio and the Alamo, somewhere I have always wanted to visit. But that is for the next post!!


We’re Back.

We are back in the USA after 6 weeks in the UK. Arrived back in Dallas after a 10hr flight from London Heathrow to 84F, nice to be in the heat again.

Where did the 6 weeks go? Well from Anne’s point of view it was 4 weeks helping our daughter, Caroline out after the birth of her and Rashied’s (her husband) second child Zara. I think Anne found it quite exhilarating, especially looking after that human dynamo Zaid, but I know Caroline was very pleased to have the help, especially as her mother stocked up the freezer with lots of pre-cooked meals. For me it was two days in London each week and the rest of the week in Burnham ordering extra clothes, tidying up the garden, and arranging the plans for our return to the US.

For both of us it meant returning to the USA with colds picked up from the grandchildren and I don’t think the flu jabs helped.

Zara is doing well and when we left was just over 7 weeks old, and since we have returned is now 2 months old and continuing to thrive.

2 months old


I’m asleep don’t wake me up

The other news we had while we were home is that grandchild number 4 is on the way. My son, Alan, and his wife Jacqui are expecting their 2nd child in early February (now confirmed as February 6th). So we will be busy in the early part of 2018 as well.

After the flight we stayed in Comfort Suites hotel overnight and on the 2nd November we set off to the storage unit to pick up the RV and the Spark. Having never stored an RV before I must admit I was a little bit worried that we might have done something wrong and we wouldn’t be able to get it started. So with some trepidation I opened the door, climbed aboard, opened the curtains and blinds, and then switched the batteries on. So far so good, green lights showed up, so the batteries weren’t totally flat. Right now the final test, key in the ignition, and turn……… Wow was I relieved to hear a V10 burble into life. So the coach batteries (they are the main engine batteries) survived, what about the house batteries (they run all the rest of the appliances including the generator)? Walk down to the main panel and press generator start, and in no time it was up and running as well. First part over!!

So I backed the RV out of the store and took it up to the hard standing where we could attach the Spark. Except… guess what despite a new battery, the Spark was dead in the water, no battery whatsoever, flat as pancake. So now we know something is draining the battery, so we will have to investigate that. What to do in the meantime to get it started? So walked back to the office and asked if they had some jump leads available and luckily they did, so I drove the RV back to the Spark and lined the coach battery (you know what these are now don’t you :-)) with the Spark, no mean feat as the coach batteries are in the main chassis under the second step of the door, connected up the Spark and turned the key and it burst into life. It was at this point we noticed our battery bay was in need of some maintenance as they were signs that they had leaked and there was corrosion on the battery clamps etc., so another problem to solve.

Having got the Spark started we drove it and the RV back to the hard standing (just in case you are wondering the main part of the storage area is all hard core gravel), hitched up the Spark and headed off to Shady Creek RV. Decided to get some fuel for the RV in a garage about 2 miles down the road as we only had half a tank, which was lucky we did, because as we left the garage we heard a squealing noise and a man was waving at us!! Stupid newbie RV towing mistake, we had left the Spark handbrake on and luckily as it was only a short distance we had travelled no damage had been done. It would have been a different story if we had got to the Interstate highway!!

So we then travelled up to Shady Creek RV stopping in at a local O’Rielly’s  parts shop to get a battery power booster pack as there was no way the Spark was going to start on its own and we knew we would have to disconnect the tow and drive it to our site. Arrived at Shady Creek at about 2pm with temperatures hitting 94F (bliss!!). The rest of the day went well, parked up, got our essential groceries from Krogers and settled down for a cup of tea at last.

We have now been here 4 days and temperatures have been in high 80’s and low 90’s but it is supposed to be getting cooler later in the week, but luckily we will be in Jamaica for a wedding!!

We have spent the last few days doing Christmas shopping as well as food shopping. I think I have also found what is draining the Spark’s battery. It has a Chevy help system in it called OnStar. According to all the forums etc. for Chevy’s the system draws .4 of an amp every day despite not being in use. It is only really useful during the first year of a cars life for warranty purposes. I have pulled it’s fuse, so we shall see if it survives 5 days in a long stay car park at DFW airport while we are in Jamaica, if not I will have the battery booster in the boot (sorry trunk!!).

Anne did a Wal-Mart Christmas shop today and you all know how much I like shopping, so I dropped her off and took the opportunity to clean up the battery bay. Turned out Palm Beach RV had over filled the batteries which explained the corrosion as the excess fluid had leaked. Now all sorted.

So we have tomorrow, Tuesday, to get packed and then we leave for Jamaica early Wednesday, watch this space!!



Back in Blighty……….

Well I am happy to say it all worked out and we have now been back in the UK for 5 days, but the weather !!!!!  Oh for Dallas and 90F!!

We had a lovely weekend with Tim, but picking him up was an experience. It seems Dallas wants everyone to pay for their airport so there is a toll to pay for going there which is payable when you leave. However, muggins decided to set the satnav to avoid tolls, but the problem is there is no way of doing that without going round and round in circles, with the satnav thinking it is avoiding the tolls by taking roads that are there but either closed because of road works or only open to airport vehicles. In the end I gave up and told it to use the toll road!! Will know not to do that in future!!

Anyway having picked Tim up we took him back to the RV where we showed him around and how the powered bunk worked as this is where he had decided to sleep. We then had a meal and watched the progress of Irma on the TV all the time wondering if it would delay our return to the UK.

On Saturday Anne wanted to go shopping before she returned to the UK, but Tim and I were not very interested in that, so we went to visit a Gun Show in Lewisville. Well that was quite and experience, almost every gun you could think of from a .22 revolver to a 3 inch smooth bore cannon firing steel balls!! Plus about every kind of knife under the sun, as well as bayonets, stun guns, various sprays (pepper, mace etc.). If you could think of it you could buy it there!! Took us about 3 hours to walk around all the exhibits. As we left Tim spotted another gun store that was advertising a virtual shooting gallery to use for practise. So we had a go!! Very interesting as you used a laser sighted hand gun to practise at shooting various targets.

We then went back and picked up Anne before going out for a meal for the evening.

Sunday saw us take a trip down to the Fort Worth stock yards, one of the few working stock yards left in Texas. It had some very interesting Western gear shops (everything from boots to Stetsons!!) and a live longhorn cow drive. On the day we visited there also was a vintage and custom car display.

Don’t mess with him, he is an Outlaw!!
Vintage cars
Custom car
And another
Long Horn cattle
Those horns really are long!!
Cattle drive.

Interesting place with lots to do and we will have to go back again if we can.

On the Monday we took Tim back to Dallas airport for his return to Vancouver, paying the toll this time, and then looked at the TV to see what devastation Irma had caused to Florida. Orlando airport had been closed since Saturday, but they were hoping to reopen on Tuesday, so we kept our fingers crossed and started packing.

Tuesday dawned and we completed the packing and American Airlines was still saying we were ticketed to Orlando and the flight was on time, so we put the RV and Spark into storage and stayed overnight in a hotel near to Dallas Fort Worth airport.

On Wednesday we caught the shuttle to airport and sat in the lounge waiting for our flight. At that point I was phoned by Expedia to say that our hotel in Orlando had cancelled our room due to water damage. Managed to re-arrange another room at a different hotel and kept our fingers crossed that our flight was still on.

Well it was, and we boarded it and flew into Orlando on Wednesday afternoon. I must say from the air it looked remarkably undamaged considering a hurricane had blown through only 3-4 days before, perhaps some extra water standing around. And so it proved when we landed and got the shuttle to our hotel, odd trees down and lots of leaves and branches around but not much else.

The only damage we saw at Orlando Airport
Everything looks normal!!

And then on the Thursday we began our two hop trip back to Heathrow, Orlando to JFK New York with Delta Airlines, and the JFK to Heathrow with Virgin Atlantic, arriving at Heathrow at 6am.

After getting a hire car to Burnham we quickly sorted ourselves out in order to get ourselves back up to London to see our new granddaughter on the Sunday. Anne is now staying there for 4 weeks helping our daughter Caroline.

Proud grandmother.
Granddaughter Zara

So the first part of our adventure is over, but we are due back in Dallas on the 1st November to continue our expedition, and early in 2018 we will start the journey north up the West Coast to visit Tim in Vancouver.

So my next post will not be until we return, I hope these posts have not been too boring!!

Taking stock…….

Thought it was about time I brought the blog up to date!!

I said in the last post that we would start exploring Dallas on the Monday 28th August, but it didn’t quite work out as we expected. We were still worried about our friends daughter Nikki and watched the horrendous results of Harvey hanging around for 5 days as it dumped over 52 inches of rain on Houston. Very luckily, although their street flooded, since their house is higher up they escaped any water entering their house, but had to sit it out until the water went down a bit so they could replenish their food and water supplies.

Another consequence of Harvey was that I10 (the main Interstate between Texas and Florida) was flooded at Beaumont and a lot of water had also fallen on Louisiana all the way up to Shreveport in the north, and to cap it all they were beginning to mention another hurricane called Irma that could at that point hit Florida. It was starting to sound like it was not a good idea to take the RV back to Orlando to store it especially as the roads being flooded meant we had to go a long way north to get there.

So we started to investigate alternative storage locations here in Dallas and seeing if we could re-arrange flights. So Dallas visiting took a back seat while we sorted all this out.

We, first of all, managed to extend our stay at Shady Creek until the 13th September which meant we could start planning. Shady Creek RV turns out to be a very nice Park with walks around it, and the facilities and the people in the office are first class.

Main entrance.
Pool, Rec Room, Laundry etc.
Bridge on the internal walkway.
Fire pit and barbeques and Rec Room.
Anyone know what the heck these are? About the size of an orange but obvious not edible as no one is picking them.

Then we sorted out the storage for the RV and the Spark, at a very reasonable rate per month and only about 35 miles away.

After that we had to decide how do we get to Orlando to pick up our homebound flight? So we booked a hotel close to Dallas Forth Worth and flights the next day (13th) to Orlando. and a hotel overnight in Orlando so we can catch the flight home on the 14th. Well that is the current plan but with Irma barrelling in towards Florida that might change.

Tim also decided to come and visit us in Dallas from the 8th to the 11th, and to cap it all, late Friday night (1st September) we got a telephone call from our daughter Caroline saying her waters had broken and she was on her way into hospital. This was a bit early as she was not due until the 16th September, which was the reason we had booked our return flight dates!!

Two days later our 3rd grandchild was born on the 3rd of September, a baby girl that Rashied & Caroline have called Zara.

Proud Dad, Mum and Zaid.

Now we knew all that, we could start planning our return to the USA so flights have now been booked for 1st November, plus a visit to Jamaica for a wedding, and then return again to the UK for Christmas. It’s busy when you are retired!!

What about visiting Dallas I hear you all cry!! Well we have done quite a bit of that as well.

But first just to show you that our RV is really quite small, this monster pulled into a space near us!! 45ft of diesel pusher (engine at the back), towing a Cadillac Escalade (huge 4×4), with smoked window slides and LED lights all over the place (looks like a Christmas tree at night).

A 2017 model costs (take a deep breath) $1,795,000

I guess at that price you can afford the Cadillac!!

I gave our modest RV a clean to get rid of all the accumulated mess from the Harvey exodus.

Nice and shiny.
Must get a ladder and Tim to get to the bit above the windscreen!!

And Dallas. Well we have done the Trolley Bus tour, which was quite interesting but Dallas is a bit of a concrete jungle with not many old buildings as they seem to have a penchant for ripping things down that are older than 50 years!!

We did find the Dallas Heritage Village where they have grouped together various houses, shops and farm buildings that were due to be demolished but were moved to this park to preserve them. Makes a very interesting exhibit, with everything from a Hotel, to a School, Farm and Doctor’s and Dentist surgeries.

Rail Depot
Hotel – very small and guests shared rooms!!
Doctors Surgery
What is wrong with this Flag (hint count the stars).
Mansion House
Original Dr Pepper advert

We then visited the Texas Book Repository Museum which was very good indeed and brought back all the memories of hearing about the assassination of JFK. Unfortunately they do not allow you to take photos, but you can take photos from the window on 7th floor rather than the 6th and of course the Grassy Knoll is open to everyone.

Clever photos recreated with miniature JFKs.
View from the 7th floor from the corner where Lee Harvey Oswald was on the 6th floor.
Plaque on the building
Position the car was in when bullet struck.
Memorial plaque.
Words from a speech JFK was going to make later that day.
Looking back up the road to the Repository.
Where they initially thought the shots came from, behind the fence on the Grassy Knoll. Graffiti on the fence.

The next day we visited the Old Red Museum which gives a detailed account of Dallas and how it became the city it is today.

One of the few really old buildings in Dallas.

Behind this is the main JFK memorial.

An finally we visited the rather misnamed Dallas World Aquarium, as it is rather more than an aquarium, as it has fish, but also birds, amphibians, snakes, panthers, so it more a zoo than an aquarium, but it is well worth a visit and takes quite a while to get around all the exhibits.

Anne loved this one.

Just a few examples of the animals, birds, etc. in the “Aquarium”.

So today we have picked Tim up from the airport and we have our first visitor to the RV!! Hopefully the situation with Irma will sort itself over the next few days and we can get back home to the UK next week.

So we may be updating this from the UK next time.


Well that was an interesting few days ………….

At the end of my last post I said “Tomorrow we move on again with two overnight stops and then we arrive in Houston on 24th August in time to pick up Tim at the Airport on the 25th.”.

I wish!!

It started well, the trip from New Orleans to Bayou Wilderness RV Resort was a short one and we arrived early in the afternoon. The site was interesting with pull though gravel sites and as we had decided to eat in the RV we left the Spark attached. Later in the afternoon it occurred to me that we had not checked on the Spark and I tried to start it. Nothing, not even the instrument panel lit up. Had a quick look at everything but everything seemed OK, and we had run out of time we decided to leave it attached and sort out the problem at our next campsite.

Interesting site with not much shade.

The next morning we set off for Gulf Coast RV Resort, and I left the site and turned the wrong way, and then to compound it in trying to turn around I went down a Dead End. Stupid thing to do in a 35ft RV towing a car. So we had to unhitch the car after all but with no power we had to turn it round with David & Anne power, which we did quite well. Then I went further down the road and found an open gravel road entrance to turn the RV around in and managed not to knock anybody’s post boxes or fences down. Drove back to the Spark and hitched it up and turned the right way this time. Lesson learnt don’t drive roads that say DEAD END!!

Then onto Beaumont Texas again along I10. We crossed into Texas and stopped at an interesting tourist Rest stop.

Interesting slogan.
Entrance to Tourist Center
Welcoming Sign outside Tourist Centre
Lone Star state

Then onto Beaumont and Gulf Coast Rv Resort. We arrived just after 1.00pm to find another very concrete site and also very flat.

We had decided that I would sort the car out and Anne would do the washing as they had a very cheap laundry facility. So I checked the battery with a voltage meter that I had got free when Mike Shear had taken me to Harbor Freight (his version of Home Depot). It read 3.6V which meant a totally dead battery. So I phoned our RV rescue people Coach-Net and explained the problem and said I needed a jump start for my towed car, and to give them their due nothing was too much problem and they even said if that didn’t work they would arrange a tow/lift to the local Chevy dealer. So I sat in the RV waiting for this guy who was going to be there in 15 minutes after helping Anne get the washing to the laundry.

An hour later he turned up and attached the jump start pack and I kept my fingers crossed that we wouldn’t need the tow. Our luck was in and the Spark started straight away but the battery was so bad he had to leave it attached for a few minutes or the engine just died. I asked him where I could get a new battery and he pointed the way to O’Reilly’s Auto Parts. Luckily I had two sets of keys so I could leave the car running but locked just in case and sure enough O’Reilly’s didn’t have a Spark battery in stock. Now I was worried but they pointed me in the direction of AutoZone another car parts place a block down.

Luckily AutoZone had 3 in stock and then they couldn’t find them (Spark was still running locked!!). Eventually found one where it shouldn’t be in the warehouse, and the guy who served me also fitted it for me (that is American service!!). Spark “fired up” (as he put it) first turn of the key, was I relieved!!

Back to the RV and then back again to do some shopping that Anne wanted and finally we ate after an exhausting day. It was at this point we looked at the television to discover that a supposedly dead tropical storm/hurricane called Harvey had resurrected itself and was heading towards Texas, expected to cross the coast south of Houston.

Since we had planned to meet Tim in Houston and see a daughter of a great friend of ours, and her new daughter born 4 months ago, we decided to carry onto to Katy Lake RV Resort west of Houston in a town called Katy. We expected rain so I tried to clean the windscreen and the passenger side windscreen wiper fell down, as it had come loose. Went to the storage locker where the tools were stored only to find it stuck and the handle not working!! OK so I repositioned the wiper and hoped it wouldn’t rain and luckily it didn’t.

As it was a short journey we arrived early after an interesting journey through Houston, again on I10.

The black marks on the windscreen are Love Bugs, there seemed to be swarms of them.

Katy Lakes RV park was another concrete park but we had a lake view pull in.

The first topic to address was to ask the site about Harvey and although concerned they did not seem overly so. In the meantime Nikki (our friends daughter) arrived with her daughter.

We spent an interesting couple of hours catching up with all her news and then she left to go home as her husbands office had closed until after the weekend (this is Thursday remember), because of Harvey which made us think. We then watched the news again and it was not good. Harvey was now a Category 2 hurricane expected to make landfall as a Category 3 or 4. So we rang Tim after seeing some flights into Houston had already been cancelled and asked him if he was still coming. He was very concerned that even if he got to Houston, he might not get out, so he rang American Airlines to find a travel advisory had been issued which meant he would not lose his money if he decided not to fly, which he had already decided not to do.

So we had a decision to make at about 9.30pm leave or stay. We decided to stay overnight and see what the morning brought. We slept very badly that night as we heard people packing up and leaving even though traffic was not supposed to move on site after 10pm.

The next morning dawned and I woke at 6am and we looked at the news and it was even worse. Harvey was now a Category 3 hurricane and would make landfall as a Category 4 late Friday night. So we made the decision to leave and were getting ready when Alan phoned to say all the kids in the UK were very worried and could we get out of Houston please.

First though, I had to get the windscreen wiper working without tools that were still in that jammed locker. So I made a quick trip to Home Depot and bought a new socket set and screwdrivers and was able to fix it.

The rain was already coming down so I and Anne packed everything up and attached the Spark in ponchos, not the best when the wind is blowing. Note to ourselves get some proper waterproof coats and some closed shoes, sandals don’t cut it in puddles!!

I had no real idea where to go but figured north would be best and keep away from Interstate’s as they were expected to be busy due to other people doing the same thing. Decided to go to Waco on State RD 6 and get as close to Waco (160 miles north) as possible and see what the situation was when we got there. So after about 3 hours driving we pulled into  a truck stop to get fuel about 20 miles south of Waco and figure out our next move. It was there I discovered that Waco was still in the advisory zone, big things these hurricanes!! So we decided to go onto Dallas and booked a site at Shady Creek RV Park north of Dallas and more importantly another 140 miles north (300 in total from Hurricane Harvey).

After another two and a half hours driving we arrived at 4.15pm and booked in and got on the site and decided we would go out for a meal as we were exhausted. Had a very nice Pizza just down the road at a place called Palio’s.

Got back to see the news that Harvey was about to make landfall as a Category 4 hurricane, but also more importantly was expected to be hanging around Houston for a few days deluging it with up to 30 inches (yes 30!!) of rain. Were we glad we got out of Dodge!! Especially as we received an Emergency email from Katy Lakes (we are still on their email list) saying the electricity had gone out which meant that they could not pump sewerage so don’t dump any tanks!!

We have spent a peaceful day here at Shady Creek after getting up very late, and expect to be here for at least 3 or 4 more days. I have even managed to get the stuck locker box open, and gained access to the tools.

A lovely Texas sunset at Shady Creek Dallas

Harvey has come ashore and has caused widespread damage on the coast and is now punishing Houston with rain and typhoons, so we made the right decision and are well out of the way during the coming days. We will start exploring Dallas on Monday.

That’s all folks !! 🙂