Arrived in San Francisco and set up at Tradewinds RV in Vallejo in what we in England would call the “suburbs”. I had already booked us on a trip to Alcatraz at 12pm midday the next day, so needed to discover how to get there!!
We found out that down the road about 3 miles away was the Vallejo Ferry Terminal, which had parking for $5 for the day, and the fares in and out of San Francisco were $7.50 per “senior” each way. That matched very nicely to the 25 mile drive, $10 tolls for the bridges and $25 per day parking so we decided to take the ferry as there was one at 10.00am that got in at 11.00am.
Very interesting “ferry”!! Sets off gently down the river at 8 knots and then after about 10 minutes accelerates up to 33 knots for the rest of the trip to San Francisco Ferry Terminal.
Then we walked from the Ferry Terminal to the Alcatraz Tours terminal. By the way an FYI if anyone else decides to do this. Make sure you book through the OFFICIAL Alcatraz cruise site https://www.alcatrazcruises.com/ as there are all sorts of other sites on the internet that charge you anything up to $15 extra per person to book the same trip!!.
After you land as it is a National Parks Service site your ferry is greeted by a National Parks Ranger that tells you all the rules for your visit and then “enjoy yourselves”.
I have chosen a few pictures to try and do Alcatraz justice, but if you get the chance do it yourself it is well worth it and my pictures cannot show everything we saw.
We returned to main ferry terminal and caught the 5.15pm ferry back to Vallejo.
The next day we did the same ferry trip but this time stayed on it as we hadn’t realised that it docked at the main ferry terminal and then hopped down to Pier 41, which would have saved us the walk!!
Then we did our usual thing and bought a Hop On Hop Off Bus San Francisco tour for 2 days. We did the complete 2.5 hour trip first to suss everything out.
On our second day we decided to go all the way to Golden Gate bridge and take the bus that went across the bridge and then went through the “city” of Sausalito and then back across the bridge. We also drove the Spark in as it was Saturday and the ferry only had four sailings back and forth.
And the next day was …., breathe and take a rest although we had to do the laundry, clean the RV inside and out, and check the oil (engine and generator) and all the mundane tasks that go with driving an RV!!
It is amazing how when one lives a lifestyle that you forget that other people may not know the vernacular you are using!! For instance I was asked “what is a KOA?”. Never occurred to me that people wouldn’t know. Well it stands for “Kampgrounds of America”, not quite sure why it is not COA but it could be that name was already registered!!
We left the National Parks and headed west to a place called Greenfield, which is midway between Monterey and Paso Robles on RT101. We needed to access the North and South of RT1, the Pacific Highway, but it is closed in the middle near Gorda because of a landslide that took out 1/2 mile of road.
The drive to Yanks RV Resort was very interesting indeed. I decided to use a California highway (CA198) all the way, but there were warnings that some of the bends were a bit twisty and some of the grades could be steep. As it turned out it was a lovely drive along what was classified as a Scenic Route and there were far bigger lorries than our RV using it.
Really enjoyed the drive and we arrived at Yanks RV Resort about 2.30pm and wow what a site. It is a new site with concrete pads and very nicely done landscaping.
Hearst Castle had to be booked so we booked it for the Saturday. We decided to investigate Monterey and the Big Sur on Friday.
Monterey was busy with the start of the Sea Otter Classic which is one of the largest cycling events in the US, but on the Friday wasn’t too bad and we got into Monterey early in the morning (note to self don’t go into Monterey Saturday/Sunday!!).
We found a meter close to San Carlos Beach which was close to the Coast Guard Pier. On the Pier, especially at the far end was a huge colony of Sea Lions and the noise was tremendous.
We then set off down the coast from Monterey on Route 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, to see the coastline known as the Big Sur. We didn’t quite make the bit where the road is closed but nearly did, and there were some spectacular views on the way.
Beautiful drive and lots of pull-ins so you can stop and admire the views, although be careful of drivers in convertible Mustangs and Dodge Chargers who seem to use the road as race track!! Driving back with the sun setting in your face was an interesting experience, definitely needed sunglasses!!
The on Saturday we went to Hearst Castle. Built by William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper magnate, with the help of his architect Julia Morgan it is a spectacular “castle” (more like a French chateau than a castle) perched on a hill with views out over the Pacific coastline. Took him 28 years to get it to its current state, but apparently he never finished his complete dream, as ill health stopped the building work. After his death in 1951, the family obviously thought it cost too much to maintain and gave it, plus some of the surrounding land, to the State of California which it is why it is a California State Park attraction. Mind you they kept the other 82,000 acres so I don’t think they are on the breadline yet!!
Now no amount of photos are going to do this place justice, so I am going to try to give you the essence by choosing a few from the many I took.
Sorry if I have bored you, but if you ever visit California, you just must visit Hearst “castle”, magnificent doesn’t cut it!!
We took the Sunday off and on the Monday we went back to Monterey. We drove a bit further on and visited a Mission in Carmel (Clint Eastwood country!!). By now you will know the story of the Missions in the Southern USA, established by the Spanish to convert the local people and control the area. Mission San Carlos Borroméo del río Carmelo is no different except that it is probably the best example we have visited, and it was visited by Pope John Paul II in 1987.
We then drove back up the coast to Pebble Beach.
And then back to Monterey where we had lunch at LouLou’s.
And then we returned to Yanks RV for our last night there. Lovely campground, one of the best we have been in.
Well that is the end of this post. The next day we moved on to San Francisco.
Before I start I have updated the Our RV Map. It is a bit ahead of the Blog as it includes our route beyond San Francisco and I am afraid I am a bit behind with the updates of the Blog!!
After leaving Los Angeles we headed almost directly North to a town (although as usual it is a City in the USA) called Visalia which is on the edge of the Sierra Nevada mountain range and close to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks which are home to the biggest trees in the world, the Sequoias.
The RV Park was a KOA on the edge of Visalia that was very quiet and secluded with nice gardens.
On the first day we went for a bit of an explore up to the Sequoia National Park, without going into it as we knew that would take too long. Found a very nice restaurant near the National Park and decided to have lunch there.
Later on we discovered …………. EXETER!!
A very pretty town(city!!) which was actually founded by a guy who emigrated from Exeter.
For such a small place this was a beautiful, clean little town with some absolutely marvellous murals painted around the town and the smell of orange blossom made it even better.
All the murals (and there were supposed to be more than 30 of which we saw about 20) were absolutely beautifully done and really added a lot to the town.
The next day we set off for Sequoia National Park and the home of The General Sherman, the largest tree in the world.
A very interesting drive it was too, with a twisting road up into the park from 2,000ft to 8,000ft plus. Anne will say she didn’t enjoy this bit as some of the drops off the side of the road were quite immense!!
It is at this point I have to sing the praises of the Spark. You buy a car and you hope you have made the right decision, and in this case (touch wood) we seem to have done so. It has not missed a beat since we bought it, and we have taken it up mountains, across deserts and dirt track roads and done thousands of Interstate miles in it, marvellous little car. It handled these mountain roads like they weren’t there and we passed quite a few people with overheating engines that didn’t like the climb!! Spark rules!!
Then we reached the Sequoia forest. What can I say, but marvel at the immense size of them, plus the beautiful rich red colour of their bark.
And then further on I walked down to The General Sherman. Anne decided not to join me as the walk went down a fairly steep path, which you had to walk back up, and at 8,000ft that made you puff a bit!!
The views around the park from 8,000ft plus were absolutely magnificent, but a camera shot doesn’t seem to do it justice.
We were supposed to be going to Kings Canyon on the next day but overnight a low front came through, and it snowed above 2,500ft so much they closed the roads into the park for the day. We had seen notices saying weather conditions can change quickly be prepared, but didn’t realise it could happen quite that quickly. So we looked around Visalia and found a tractor museum and a group of volunteers cleaning a decommissioned B17 Flying Fortress.
By the following day with a rapid rise in temperatures the roads into King Canyon National Park were open again and we went to see the General Grant, the second largest sequoia in the world, which is over 3,000 years old.
The General Grant tree is one of many imposing sequoias in a grove called the Grant Grove.
We then drove on to see Hume Lake, as beyond that King Canyon was still closed for the winter (funny I thought it was Spring!!).
That is the end of our visit to the Sequoia and King Canyon National Parks, the next Post will show our cross country trip to Yanks RV Resort.
We arrived at Acton / Los Angeles North KOA after what seemed a long drive in almost continuous traffic, especially around Los Angeles where yet again another US interstate is being dug up and improved. Can’t fault them for improving the Interstates (wish we would do the same to our road infrastructure in the UK!!), but we do seem to have hit our fair share of roadworks!!
The campsite turned out to be in a canyon north of Los Angeles called Soledad Canyon. The site itself was a bit open but still quite nice and the people running it were very friendly. It was bit close to a railway track, but the trains were not very frequent so no real problem. And, as it turned out, quite fortunate as it was a short (in American terms!!) drive to the local station where could catch a MetroLink train into Los Angeles for the princely sum of $7 per person for an All Day ticket, that would also allow us to use the Metro Subway and all the buses in Los Angeles!! Oh it should be so cheap in the UK!!
So we decided to try out the train on the Sunday and have a quick look at Los Angeles. Catching the train was fine, but we should have looked at the timetable more closely as we ended up eating in Los Angeles in order to kill 3 hours after we misread the timetable!!
The journey in passes quite a few famous stations.
Union Station is quite a spectacular station inside.
There was a Mexican market going on in the area just across the road from the station.
So, as our tickets covered the subway as well, we headed out to see the Hollywood Walk of Fame thinking we just had time before the train home left!!
So we returned to Union Station only to find out our mistake and our return train had just left, so we had a Mexican meal close to the market and then someone used the seating until the train was ready.
However, sitting there was an experience!! Los Angeles has a huge homeless problem (some whole streets are just lined with people sleeping rough and some of the parks look like tented villages), so the station had continuous patrols checking the people seated were catching trains, and not using the station as sleeping quarters, and we had to show our tickets numerous times, and at least twice the police were called to eject people. Got back to the RV at 10.30pm slightly later than we had planned!!
Part of the reason for being slightly North of Los Angeles was to visit Joshua Tree National Park. So the next day that is what we did.
However, although home to thousands of Joshua trees it also has some spectacular rock formations, which apparently a lot of people come to climb.
There was also a viewpoint that was at 6,500 ft up and had some spectacular views.
Very interesting place, well worth what turned out to be quite a long drive and a long day.
The next day saw us back on the train into Los Angeles to do the Hop on Hop off tour. But that turned out to be more complicated than we thought because Los Angeles is a spread out city and they have 5 tours, each of which are 2hrs plus.
So we settled on the Hollywood tour and while we waited for the bus looked at more of the Walk of Fame and the Foot and Hand prints outside the Chinese theatre.
Then we boarded the bus. Because of the traffic the 2hrs was definitely an optimistic estimate!! But we saw most of the sites we wanted to see.
After that we didn’t go back into Los Angeles as I think both of us were a bit underwhelmed by it. Wherever you went the homeless problem was very evident and around the Walk of Fame etc. the people trying to sell you something were quite aggressive. Begging was rife and the newly legalised use of cannabis was self evident wherever you walked, the “whacky-baccy” smell was everywhere including the subway.
All in all I think we were glad we had only booked a 4 days stay.
Arrived in San Diego on Saturday 24th March and checked in to Rancho Los Conches RV Park. It is an interesting place laid out in tiers down a valley side with lots of trees and nice shaded sites. We had a back-in site on the lowest tier in the valley and behind us ran a little stream.
On the Sunday we had arranged to meet up with a friend of Anne’s, Zeina Guoin, from when Anne did her degree at Aberystwyth University. We drove to Del Mar, north of San Diego to meet her there in a restaurant and after a meal we had our first proper walk along the Pacific Ocean.
We had booked a longer stay in San Diego, firstly to get the first oil service for the RV, but also because our first fault had developed. Just after we left Monahan Sands State Park the RV developed a steering squeak, which turned out to one of the main bushes on the steering arm had basically disintegrated!!
So on Monday I rang a few dealers to find someone to fix it. The local Winnebago dealer could do the oil service but was booked until August for other service requirements. They suggested another dealer and when we went there they said they didn’t do heavy Ford chassis repairs and suggested Precision Tune Auto Care in El Cajon. I spoke to them and they agreed to order the part and could also do the oil change. I got some pictures of the steering arm bush to make sure we had ordered the right part, and good to their word they got the part in for the next day. So we agreed to take the RV in on the Wednesday.
Then on the Tuesday we took a trolley bus tour of San Diego and realised there was a lot to see!!
The Wednesday arrived and we took the RV to Precision Tune Auto Care and the new steering arm was fitted. You cannot just change a bush, they come as part of huge 2ft long piece of metal that connects the steering cam to the nearside wheel and weighs about 30lbs. Basically an RV is a static caravan on a truck chassis so all the parts are truck size!!. Well after about 3hrs the new arm was in place and had been inflated with grease and the oil and filter had been changed, and the RV was “good to go” for another 5,000 miles. Thank you Manny at Precision Tune Auto Care you did a great job at short notice.
So Thursday dawned and first on the list was USS Midway CV-41 that was launched in late 1945 and commissioned just after the Japanese surrender. She was in service for 47 years and until 1955 was the largest ship in the world. Saw service in Vietnam, Korea, and finally in Desert Storm before being decommissioned in 1992.
If you are going to visit this ship give yourself a day as there is an awful lot to see, from the engine room, through the carrier decks to the flight deck and the operations island, where the captain and flight operations was based. It is also HUGE so make sure you have good walking shoes, and some of the steps between decks, especially in the island, are steep and narrow. But don’t let me put you off as it is well worth the visit.
Next we met Zeina again at Balboa Park. This is very large park in San Diego that was gradually built and extended from 1868, but really came into being as part of the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition when most of the current buildings were built. We visited the Museum of Man and then walked around a small part of the park before having lunch at Prada.
We decided we needed to come back again as there was so much to see. Zeina also kindly invited us to Dinner on Sunday 1st, my birthday!!
On my birthday we had a long Skype conversation with ALL the family who had assembled in Burnham-on-Sea.
And then we had a lovely evening at Zeina ‘s where we met her ex-husband, Terry and their son Dale. After a lovely meal I had a birthday cake!!
On the Tuesday we decided to look around Balboa Park again, including the Botanical Garden which had been shut on our previous visit as it was a public holiday. It had some absolutely stunning examples of my favourite flower, orchids.
All housed in this building, a wooden version of the Kew glass houses.
No amount of pictures are going to do it justice so I suggest if you are ever in San Diego visit Balboa Park.
After a nice lunch in the Prada restaurant Anne wanted to visit the San Diego Museum of Art and I wasn’t so keen so I visited the San Diego Air and Space Museum.
Interesting place and they even had a World War II exhibit that featured the RAF.
But we can’t leave Balboa Park without showing you the Medusa cactus!!
Then on the Wednesday we visited San Diego Old Town State Historic Park the original area which was settled and dates back to the 1820s and includes many original buildings. At the end of a long day we also visited the Mormon Battalion Museum which commemorates the march of over 2,000 miles of 500+ Mormon soldiers to fight in the Mexican–American War of 1846–1848, but by the time they got there it was all over. They also created, as part of the journey, a southern wagon route to California, that allowed more settlers to follow them to open up California.
And on the Thursday we used our last day of our Trolley Bus ticket to take us to the Maritime Museum. They have some interesting ships here including the Star of India (the world’s oldest active sailing ship), HMS Surprise (used as the set for “Master and Commander” starring Russell Crowe), a couple of submarines, one of which a Russian B-39 submarine is definitely showing its age, plus other sailing boats and steam launches.
In the afternoon we visited the beaches leading to the “island” of Coronado. I say “island” because that is what they call it although technically as it is joined to the Californian coast by a spit of sand it is a peninsular!! And then to make our tour of the San Diego area complete we visited Point Loma which has some lovely views of the San Diego bay and is also the home of Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery which is a Federal Military Cemetery like Arlington in Washington DC. It is a huge cemetery on both sides of the road for at least 2 miles.
And as Friday had to be put aside for such mundane tasks as laundry and food shopping, that was the end of our stay in San Diego, a beautiful place to visit. My next post will be from Los Angeles.
1,359 miles and 24 days later we reach San Diego, California and finish our journey West, and prepare to go North.
It seems ages ago since we left Dallas, but we have had a very interesting trip across 4 States (Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and finally California) and two time zones.
At the end of my last post we had just arrived in El Paso. We were staying in El Paso West RV Park, which as the name suggests was on the western edge of El Paso, a city that was a place of contrasts. It sits on the side of the US border with Mexico and as you pass through it you can see American affluence on one side and Mexican poverty on the other. No wonder the Mexicans are always trying to get across the border when all they can see from what looks like shanty towns is the much greener grass on the other side. We saw the first signs of the famed “wall” although this is the existing one and not the Donald Trump promised one.
Our first trip out was to the Wyler Aerial Tramway, a Swiss made cable car that whisks you over 1,000ft up in 4 minutes, along a 2,600ft cable from the bottom station to the top station sat at 5,632ft on Ranger Station.
From the top is panoramic view of El Paso, Mexico, and the huge US Army training area of Fort Bliss where all the US troops going to Afghanistan are trained and then flown out.
From here you can see the Rio Grande, the US/Mexico border crossing point and parts of the “wall”.
The following day we visited the White Sands Missile Range Museum and the White Sands National Monument.
When we showed up at the front gate of the former we thought it was closed. But it turned out that you had to have your passport and identity checked and then you could walk into the Museum which was about 200yds inside the base perimeter. I think US citizens could drive in but us Brits had to walk.
Inside was a museum that plotted the course of US Missile technology from the V2s brought from Germany in 1945 to the rockets and shuttles that took man into Space, with every other type of military rocket thrown in for good measure. If you are ever near this, do not miss it as it is well worth a visit. It also includes an area that shows how the first Nuclear bombs were built and tested here.
We then moved on to the White Sands National Memorial. This is an area of pure white gypsum sand formed by the rain washing the gypsum down from the surrounding mountains into this natural basin, and the wind forming the sand dunes from the deposited gypsum. Our pictures do not really do it justice as it had started to get cloudy and overcast, so they don’t really show how white it is.
The following day we had to do the more mundane tasks of travelling in an RV, shopping for groceries, laundry and cleaning everything. It amazing how much dust gets in and on a moving vehicle and the tow car. Then we set off for our next destination, Tucson via an overnight stop at a place called Lordsburg that can only be described by that American saying a “one horse town”. So pleased it was only an overnight stop, completely gravelled camp ground and nothing to see except a small main street and the railway tracks!!
Tucson, however was another story. Firstly we met up with Anne’s cousin Elizabeth (Liz) and her husband Tim on the night we arrived at Valley of the Sun RV Park (which by the way lived up to its name and was very sunny). Had an Italian meal and talked to them for ages about what there was to do around Tucson, which turned out to be quite a lot!!
Our first day in Tucson was spent visiting the Saguaro National Park which is at the heart of the area where Saguaros grow as they only grow around the Tucson area.
What are Saguaros I hear you ask? They are those iconic cacti you see in the Western films standing up straight and looking like pencil men with arms!!
We spent ages walking around the exhibits and hearing how the local Indian (“native Americans”!!) believe that they represent their ancestors so are treated with respect.
There was also a drive through loop which turned out to be an unpaved road more suited for a 4×4 than a Chevy Spark but I managed to avoid any major potholes and the Spark survived!!
We also walked around a fascinating nature trail that wound around the park through the Saguaros and other cacti, although the “Beware of rattlesnakes and scorpions” signs were a little bit disconcerting, but we didn’t see any!!
The next day in complete contrast we visited Tombstone the scene of the Gunfight at the OK Corral. Very interesting town making the most of its infamous history. The Main street is much as it was in those days although the shops have changed into multiple gift shops and the Saloons are now restaurants.
Further down the street we found the OK Corral site and watched a re-enactment of the gunfight.
Very interesting day, especially later in the day when the wind got up and started blowing the dust around in Main Street.
The next day we took it easy and hosted Liz and Tim for a meal at the RV as they had treated us to a meal at their house. Not sure a steak meal cooked on the Weber lived up to the Chicken Tikka Masala they served up for us, but it was an enjoyable evening and they got to see the RV.
The day after we visited two contrasting places, the Titan Missile Museum and the San Xavier Mission.
The Titan Missile Museum is the only fully intact example of an original Titan Missile Silo as all the rest were blown up and destroyed as part of the Nuclear Disarmament Treaty. If, like me, you like missiles, electronics and all the gizmos this is a great place to visit on one of the guided tours, but I am not sure Anne was as enamoured as I was. The guide was an ex Air Force technician who had worked there when the site was operational.
The San Xavier Mission is like the Missions around San Antonio, a Spanish Mission set up to integrate the local population into the Catholic Church as part of the grand plan to tame Arizona. This one, though, is in a class of its own with a magnificent church and absolutely fabulous interior decorations.
Next on our list was a visit to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, another place like the Dallas Aquarium is misnamed as it is much more then a Museum!! Zoo, Gardens, Museum, Natural Sciences and much, much more. If you get a chance to visit it do so, but make sure you have the whole day as if you don’t you will not see all of it.
And after one last meal at Liz and Tim’s house we left Tucson realising there was still lots to see. For example this fleeting shot of the Boneyard, where old planes are stored.
We then moved onto Phoenix where we met up with Pei Tao, one of the early students who worked at the SALC for Anne. We had a great evening with her husband Kevin and a Japanese student who they were hosting, at a Tapas bar in Phoenix.
On the recommendation of the person who helped me park the RV at Phoenix Metro RV Park we visited the Coconino National Forest and Sedona, more commonly known as Red Rock Country. Wow there are some big Red rocks.
Then we moved onto San Diego via Yuma where we stayed in a lovely campground called Villa Alameda RV Resort. The RVs were parked amongst multiple fruit trees and the park had lots of flower gardens, all of which on an evening with no wind smelt absolutely wonderful. You could pick any of the Oranges, Lemons and Grapefruit from the trees if you wanted fresh fruit!!
Now in San Diego where we will be while we get the RV Serviced (Oil change and Filter) and fix a steering bush, all of which will be in the next post.
Sorry this is so long but had a lot to write up. Will also update our Our RV Map
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!!
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.
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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!!
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.
Alan, Jakx & Ella came down on the day after Boxing Day and there was more present opening!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.