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Cross-Country Journal -- February 2003


Saturday, February 1 -- We walked the nature trail at Catalina SP.  Actually we did the loop twice to complete some calls home.  We got the jeep oil change and then went to Bill and Kay's to do website updates and laundry and of course to visit and gaze out at the mountains and the desert.  Tom said he could sit there forever.

Sunday, February 2 -- We packed up and after a stop at the super Wal-Mart to restock we moved to Kartchner State Park.  They have a brand new campground.  We walked over to the Discovery center to find out how to get walk up tickets for the cave tour.

Monday, February 3 -- We woke up, got our lottery number(4) and then got our cave tour tickets.  We chose to be in the first group. The caverns were discovered by two cavers who kept their discovery secret for 14 years.  They wanted the caves to remain as undisturbed as possible.  The state parks of Arizona worked to make it happen. We took the one hour tour and did appreciate the pristine state of the cavern.  We wished we could stop and spend a little more time to look around but they have 600 people a day on tours and they have to keep to a schedule.  We enjoyed the rest of the day at our campsite.

Tuesday, February 4 -- We started our trek towards the east.  We had a wonderful drive and reached Ft Stockton, Texas.  We stayed at a bargain campground.

We put just about 500 miles on today.  This is approximately 70% of a tank full of diesel fuel.  A full tank should give us approximately 800 miles.

Wednesday, February 5 -- We drove to Big Bend National Park.  My new favorite park. We were able to get in the full hook up campground and we got on our bikes and round around the Rio Grande Village area.  This included a trip to the Rio Grande!  It is very muddy and without much water in places.  It is something to think that across the river is Mexico.

The drive from Ft. Stockton to Big Bend is approximately 100 miles of empty range land.  Gentle rolling landscape with higher mountains visible in the west.  The road was very nice, although 2 lanes, and we saw very few cars, houses or anything else.  It was really quite a beautiful drive.  Big Bend National Park is off the beaten path.

Thursday, February 6 -- Today we spent the entire day exploring the western half of Big Bend.  This is a huge park so that means quite a few miles to see it.  Look for a description of what we saw in the National Park Commentary.  Got home around 6:30.  Another SeeYa parked next to us during the day.  Today was a fairly nice day, although largely overcast.  The temperature was near 70 most of the day.  The weather forecast calls for cold, rain, sleet and snow to engulf the entire southern US, including the gulf coast and southern Texas.  We might have spent only a couple days here but we have decided to stay until the cold weather moves on.  Once the southeast is warm and sunny again we will move on over towards New Orleans.  In the meantime sitting on the Rio Grande is not a bad place to be.

The park has many types of geological feature.  We walked the trail into the Santa Elena canyon.  It is up there in my favorite hikes.  A very narrow canyon with very high rock cliffs.  A group of canoes came through the canyon.  

Friday, February 7 -- The cold weather hit overnight, brought in by 20-30 mph winds.  There is no precipitation hear but there probably is in the mountains.  The temperature here today is 40 degrees.  This park is at elevations of 2000 feet along the Rio Grande.  In the center of the park, which is a large circle described by the Rio, there is a standalone mountain range with peaks up to nearly 8000 feet.  There is probably snow falling in those mountains.

We extended our stay at the campground.  We try not to pay too many days in advance so that we can keep our options open.  After watching the weather across the south we knew this was the best weather around.  We plan on keeping warm, cooking a turkey breast and hoping for clearing weather tomorrow so that we can continue exploring Big Bend.

Saturday, February 8 -- Some sleet overnight and a low of about 38 degrees.  The electric heat pumps gave up in the middle of the night so I turned on the gas furnace at 7 AM.  The heat pumps can only be effective in outside temperatures above 40 degrees.  Today is overcast and highs in the mid 40's.  The good news here is that the full hook-ups campsite is only $14.  Looking forward to clearing and warmer weather beginning tomorrow.  We should be back on the road to Florida Monday.

The sun started to try to come out so we went to the Boquillas Canyon.  Again a small canyon that separates the US from Mexico.  We walked down a path to the Rio and we told there would be Mexicans from the town across the river who would wade across the river to sell walking sticks.  The walking sticks in the campground store were $20 and the Mexicans were offering theirs for $5.  We bought two and the Mexicans were very appreciative.  The park used to allow people to cross the river and visit the town and help their economy. The times have changed and this is not allowed.  The little Mexican village has suffered.

Sunday, February 9 -- Another full day in the park.  We went to the center of the mountains, called Chisos Basin, and hiked the Lost Mine Trail to the top of one of the mountains.  The trail is 4.8 miles with an 1100 foot elevations gain.  It views were just wonderful on the way up and at the top.  One group of hikers claimed that they had seen a mountain lion.  We didn't.  However, this is bear and mountain lion country.  Later we hiked 2.2 miles in between lava hills to a balanced rock.  It was a great day in Big Bend.

Monday, February 10 -- We left Big Bend and started the drive to the east.  We drove just west of Houston.  Stayed at a campground from Passport America (half price) 

Tuesday, February 11 -- We got an early start to head towards New Orleans.  I wanted to see the French Quarter, walk on Bourbon St and have some Cajun food.  We walked around the quarter and went into one gift store.  It is quite an area and now I can say I saw it.  We had a nice dinner overlooking Bourbon St and watched the tourist walked by as we enjoyed our food.  

Wednesday, February 12 -- The final drive to Florida.  We stopped at the Welcome center and got info on Florida State campgrounds.  We had heard they were the best.  We stopped at Henderson Beach State Park and got a spot for two nights.  There is a reservation system in Florida and the weekend was booked.  We called campgrounds in the West Palm area and found out there was nothing open for the weekend so we booked at campground north of Tampa.

Thursday, February 13 -- We enjoyed the sunshine, white sand beach, gulf views and a huge campsite.  We caught up on some neglected chores and took it easy.

Friday, February 14 -- We drove to our weekend campground and were happy it was on the half price list.  We stopped in at a Wal-Mart Super center and found a KFC.  

Instead of going east from Tallahassee far enough to catch I-75, we picked up route 19 and headed down the Gulf coast.  It was a good idea because the road is a four lane divided highway and the traffic was light.  In order to make the trip from Tucson to West Palm we have spent more than the monthly budget on diesel fuel, approximately $600.  Unfortunately the price of fuel has been jumping up lately.  

Saturday, February 15 -- We looked at a few model homes to get a feel for the area.  We drove north to Homosassa Springs to visit a state wildlife area to see manatees.  This park was once a private animal park and now the state was restoring it to only animals and plants native to Florida.  We did view some manatees and saw them interact with a park volunteer who told us about them.  The park animals all are being rehabilitated or are animals which have been injured and will not be able to be returned to the wild.  We splurged on dinner at the Roadhouse Grill.  A favorite from Penfield days and we were not disappointed.  It was as good as we remembered.  

Sunday, February 16 -- We found we could not get into the KOA near Tommy nor into several other campgrounds in the area.  One campground told me, " Hadn't I looked at the weather map?  This is the only area in the country with nice weather."  We did get a spot in a different campground not too far from Tommy.  They had a pet restriction of no dog over 25 lbs but the owner let us in since we were only staying 7-10 days.  It started to pour.  We hadn't seen heavy rain since December in San Fran. 

Monday, February 17 -- We started towards West Palm.  We were pleasantly surprised with the campground.  It was very close to Tommy's and our spot in the back was private and large.  We had to set up the outside dish for DirecTV.  We hadn't had to do this since Petaluma.  We were a little rusty and had to find a spot between tree branches.  We cooked a turkey breast for dinner with Tommy and then watched Joe Millionaire.  

Tuesday, February 18 -- We went over to Tommy's.  We had a reunion with our furniture.  I made use of Tommy's washer/dryer and enjoyed some sun in his patio.  Whiskers, Tommy's cat was very affectionate.

Wednesday, February 19 -- Tommy had to work so we puttered around a little and then went to see the movie, Chicago.  We loved it.  We got the makings for dinner and cooked at Tommy's.

Thursday, February 20 -- Tommy had a day off and we took care of the last detail of getting us off Tommy's deed.  He is now a sole home owner.  His condo in Royal Palm Beach has been a good investment since the area is growing and growing.  Tommy brought Pepper back to his place.  Mr Whiskers was a little upset and found a high spot to hide out.  Another dinner.  

Friday, February 21 -- We had three small chips in the windshield repaired.  Tom is working on a small project and I went through the Big Bend pictures trying to narrow them down.  It is in the mid 80's, somewhat humid but no complaints.

I have been working on making use of the air compressor that the motorhome chassis has in it for the brakes and suspension.  Alfa provides a place to tap into it with an air hose.  With this I can run all types of air tools but I'll start with a grease gun and regular tire inflation nozzle.  I bought 50 feet of hose and today I made and mounted a hose reel on the inside of one of the compartment doors.

Saturday, February 22 -- During the stay here we have cleaned some of the outside of the motorhome.  Also planning to purchase the parts for an oil/filter change to the transmission.  Today we went to Tommy's around noon, watched golf and had dinner.  Afterwards we rented a movie.

Sunday, February 23 -- There were thunderstorms during a portion of the night.  A little cooler and less humid this morning.  Spent some time upgrading Louie's litter box.  The box is located inside of an oak end table that fits nicely into our living room.  I removed the drawer and installed the drawer front as a false front.  I cut a cat-size mouse hole in the back and put a litter box inside.  There is a door on the front to access for cleaning.  Today I replaced the plastic box with a larger one because it would fit and it gives Louie more room.  Not a tough job.  Spent the afternoon at Tommy's house.  We put most of our house furniture here in Tommy's place one year ago and it's fun to see all of it and use it while we're here.  Cooked outside tonight.

Monday, February 24 -- Well, today was all DevStream for me.  In case I never mentioned it, DevStream is the name of a consulting company that Jaimie, Mario and I are planning to start.  DevStream Consulting, LLC.  Our business involves placing skilled people as contract employees at various client companies in the computer or IT industry.  We are working on forming the company in the state of Delaware and we would be doing business first in California.  We have a prospect on our first client.  So, I spent the whole day researching on the web and calling Delaware and other places.  

Tuesday, February 25 -- We spent the afternoon over at Tommy's.  We enjoy having a little extra space around us.  We made him dinner and watched a movie.

Wednesday, February 26 -- We took our usually trip over to the Wal-Mart Super Center.  

Thursday, February 27 -- I'm not sure if it has been mentioned here before that Jaimie and Mario purchased a house in Colorado Springs.  Jaimie will continue working in Los Angeles and Mario will continue working in San Francisco. Crazy hah? 

We checked in with Jaimie and Mario and found they had stayed outside of Sacramento and were headed towards Salt Lake City or farther.  They made it just into Wyoming.  We went to the movies to enjoy some air conditioning.

Friday, February 28 -- We wanted to have something waiting for Jaimie and Mario when they arrived at their house so we had a fruit and cheese basket and a Chinese dinner delivered at about the moment they arrived.  At about 8 PM we lost elctricity.  It's pretty normal to blow the circuit breaker in the power box in these campgrounds.  Especially since we have so many appliances.  Our motorhome is meant to run on 220V, 50 AMPS but we seldom have more than 30 AMPS.  Anyway, this campground does not have breakers.  It has old fashioned fuses.  I went to Home Depot to get some.  Come to find out the fuse was not blown at all.  More than one camper lost power due to a main fuse somewhere else.  We had to go without power until Saturday morning. 

We decided to go to a spring training game.  We saw the Mets and the Cardinals.  The Mets won.  We also were keeping track of the progress of Jaimie and Mario's move.  They reached Colorado Springs late in the day.  They had a few errands and found snow in their driveway!