Livingston Texas, visiting our new “official” home

We’re in Livingston TX this week, getting our vehicles registered in Texas and getting Texas drivers licenses.  Why? you might ask.  Why Texas? you might ask.

When we decided to become “full time RVers” and rented out our house, we discovered that the federal government requires everyone to have a state they are “domiciled in”.  You can’t be a U.S. citizen without being a citizen of a state.  And, to be a citizen of a state you must have a valid address in that state.  We considered using a relative’s address in either California, Arizona, or Mississippi where we have children.  We also realized that we need to have some way to receive mail while we’re on the road.

It didn’t seem fair to ask our kids to receive, sort, package and forward mail to us on a regular basis.  We learned that there are businesses who provide an address and a mail forwarding service.  The one we choose is the Escapee’s Club based in Livingston Texas.

In addition to the mail service, the Escapee’s Club is a large organization dedicated to providing service to people who are full-time on the road.  They have member forums where questions about RVs and trailers, places to go, how to make living in a small mobile place easier, etc.  They have discounts at a lot of other RV parks, sometimes 50%!

While here at the headquarters of the Escapee’s Club we are meeting lots of great people and participating in some fun activities.  Last evening at the Activity Center they had a great “one-man band” Walter Plant, who played country-western music.  We hadn’t danced in years but enjoyed doing the 2-step, West Coast Swing and country waltz!

No pictures though – sorry! 🙂

 

 

Plano Texas to visit old friends

We made a stop in Plano (just north of Dallas) in Texas for one day to visit a friend of Jeff’s.  Jeff used to work with Keith and they’ve kept in touch over the years.  We had a great time visiting with Keith and his wife Sherry and had a great dinner together at a local sports bar and grill that specializes in BBQ chicken wings – great food, great company, wonderful time!

Now it’s on to Livingston TX to the headquarters of the Escapee’s Club, where we’ll become Texas citizens by getting Texas driver licenses and have our vehicles registered.

Our Travels – Year 2 (August 2013 through July 2014)

 

update this map with all the places we’ve visited.  Click on the map to see it enlarged.

To see our Year #1 travels (dots labeled #1 through #41) click here.

 

Carlsbad, NM – the Carlsbad Caverns

We had a lot of fun visiting the grandkids in Casa Grande, AZ, and then we moved on to Carlsbad, NM.  Rather than drive the whole way in one long day we split the drive and stopped for one night mid-way.  As we were nearing the Guadalupe Mountain range (a very short and mostly small range but still the highest point in New Mexico) Jeff was very interested in the formation at the highest end-peak and so he took a couple of pictures of it.  Also, at the bottom of the highest end-peak was a huge salt flat that apparently used to be a lake, you’ll see a picture of that as well.  It was interesting to see that most of the landscape around here is very flat, and in the middle of it is this mountain range sticking up!

We visited the Carlsbad Caverns yesterday with a self-guided tour of “The Big Room”.  Later today we’ll go back and do a ranger-guided tour of “The King’s Palace”.

It’s an amazing place!  If you haven’t been there, you need to add this to your bucket list for sure!  Hikers can go through the natural entrance and down through the bat cave to get to the caverns which are 750 ft below ground.  We chose to take the elevator and were there in less than 1 minute!  The national park service did a great job of placing walkways with good railings throughout the areas that visitors can go in, without interfering too much with the natural setting.  A lot of the time we couldn’t see the railings more than a few feet behind and in front of us.  And, because this was a self-guided tour, we went at our own pace, stopping to take pictures and look at formations.  On a Wednesday in October it wasn’t that crowded and several times we couldn’t hear any sound other than water dripping and our own footsteps.  WOW!

Below are pictures we took in “The Big Room”.  Things to note about the pictures are:

  • the natural state of the caverns is pitch black, any lighting you see is artfully placed by the national park system or caused by the flash of the camera
  • one picture is of a large stalagmite with a shape that has been name “the caveman”.  Can you find it in the pictures below?
  • In addition to a myriad of stalagmites and stalactites there were other formations.  One we dubbed “lace” because it was flat, very low formations with waves and holes in it that resembled lace.
  • There’s a lower cavern below the big room that is available for tours only for the hardy!  A couple of the pictures show an old metal and wire ladder used in 1924 when the National Geographic magazine sponsored a exploratory and surveying trip into the caverns.

I’ll post pictures of the Kings Palace in the next day or so.  Enjoy these pictures:

Casa Grande got it’s name from a “big house” built by Indians in about 1300 A.D.

The city of Casa Grande, AZ got it’s name from some Indian ruins nearby.  The ruins include low wall sections from several large compounds in a small area, dominated by a 3-story large structure known as the “big house”.  The big house is much degraded from the elements over several hundred years as well as people climbing on it and damaging it in the 1800s and early 1900s until the government declared it a national park area and worked to preserve it.

In the 1930s a large shade structure was built over the big house to keep it from sun and rain.  Most of the ruins are just low walls so visitors can walk around through some of the old rooms and see the size etc.  The “big house” cannot be entered, but there are windows and doorways that you can walk up to and see into the area.

It’s amazing to see what desert dwelling Indians with no modern tools or materials were able to make such a structure with just mud walls and native tree material for structural support and ladders!  The area was occupied from approx. 900 A.D. through the 1300s but then was abandoned.

We took Zoey, Kira and Zoey’s friend Gigi to see the Casa Grande ruins, it was a very interesting tour!  Here’s the website: Casa Grande National Park website, and here are some pictures:

 

 

Amazing Jakes – an indoor game/ride and pizza bonanza!

We’re here in Casa Grande, AZ now, where three of our grandkids live.  We’re having a lot of fun visiting with them.  We spent some time in Amazing Jakes with the family yesterday, the pictures below are of Zoey (12 years old) on a couple of the rides and Kira (5 years old) with Nana (that’s me) on a few of the rides.  Man, was I dizzy after the teacup ride – Kira spun that teacup so fast I thought I’d fly right out the back of it!

Las Vegas – Stratosphere

LOL No, we didn’t do that carnival ride at the very top of the Stratosphere casino where you’re hanging off the edge of a 107 story building while spinning around in a little bucket!  We did see some people heading to the top dressed like skydivers in a one-piece jumpsuit with straps and hooks – they make you wear that apparently so they can safely strap you in!

But we did go to the Stratosphere to eat at the buffet on the ground floor (one of the more reasonable priced buffets in town at $19.95/person).  Then, we went up to the top to see the view.

Their website indicates that it’s $16/person just to go to the top of the tower.  Good grief!  But, the waitress at the buffet told us to say we were going to the lounge up at the top and there’s no charge and a special elevator.  We got to ride in a express elevator that took only 60 seconds to go up 107 floors (our ears popped!)

Great views from the top!  We had forgotten to take the camera so these pictures are from my phone so they’re not as clear as they should have been.  One from the ground looking up shows the view from our trailer – the Stratosphere is on the left and a newer casino is next to it – and the rest of the pictures are from the top:

Devil’s Postpile

While in Lone Pine we drove to Mammoth to see the Devil’s Postpile.  I’m sure everyone has seen pictures of this strange but natural occurrence of lava that cooled and then fractured into vertical columns and now are exposed to view.

The area wasn’t as big as we thought it would be but was very awe-inspiring.  On the way back to the parking area we stopped to see a small falls area from a bridge and were surprised to see more columns, this time not quite vertical but still very strange.  There’s one picture of this formation below as well as the actual Devil’s Postpile:

I was chased down by someone who wants my recipe!

We were getting back from running errands and a lady in a nearby RV ran over to us.  “OH!” she said, “was hoping that I’d catch you.  We were at the same RV park as you a few days ago and as we walked by we could smell the most delicious dinner being cooked!  Can you share the recipe with us?”

Ok, I thought, what was I cooking a few days ago?  I hadn’t cooked too much lately as we’d been doing lengthy day trips while at Lone Pine – so it had to be spaghetti.  I told her I make spaghetti from scratch rather than dump in canned spaghetti sauce with some noodles.  I saute onions, green peppers and garlic, put in a chicken sausage to brown, then add mushrooms, olives, artichoke hearts and plenty of oregano.  I make the sauce by mixing 1 part tomato paste and 2 parts marsala wine (a cooking wine) and stir that in just enough to get it heated up.  Yum!

 

Lone Pine – site for many Westerns and portal to Mt. Whitney (highest point in cont. US)

On Saturday we drove from Lee Vining down to Lone Pine.  Lone Pine is a small town that is between Mount Whitney, the highest point in the continental US at 14,495 ft, and Death Valley with the lowest point in the continental US at -282 ft.  There’s only about 100 miles between these two extremes!

When we were at Lee Vining we were right next to Mono Lake which had been depleted due to Los Angeles having water rights and using up the lake to supply water to the city.  In the 1990s this was stopped and the lake is slowly getting back up to levels that were common before L.A. started draining it.

Here in Lone Pine we are next to Owens Lake which was completely drained by Los Angeles.  That created huge dust storms and changed the landscape of the area.  Recently Los Angeles was forced to start doing dust mitigation in the lake bed but there’s only a small fraction of the water there used to be.

We’re back in hot country!  It’s dry and dusty and hot here at Lone Pine.  While here we visited Mt. Whitney Portal, a base camp for hikers going to the top of Mt. Whitney.  We also visited fossil falls, a dry falls area (dry because it was fed by Owens Lake which is dry) in an area of lava flows, so what you see is huge black rocks shaped by water flow over a long period of time dropping over 40 ft to the bottom of the falls.  If Owens Lake was still full, there would be a large river dropping over the falls, but since it’s dry you can climb around on the rocks (we didn’t!) and see the shapes made in the lava.  The whole area is very interesting, with volcano cones and lava flows and black rocks all over the place.  There’s a red volcano cone as well, due to different chemicals in the magma that pushed through the surface from that particular volcano right next to other very black cones.

I’m a bit behind in processing the photos that we take but I’ll have some from our day trips from Lone Pine in the next day or two!