Tuesday, April 30, 2013

ZBV

(Throughout the month of April  I participated in the 2013 A to Z Blogger Challenge. This is my final post. Where did April go?! Each day my post began with successive letters of the alphabet.  My A to Z Blog Challenge topics were inspired by our recent 90-day trip on our motorhome. Click here to see links to other responses to this challenge.)

Z is for Z Backscatter Vans

As we traveled through southern New Mexico and Texas we came across a few border patrol facilities. All traffic was routed through the patrol lanes.


Mr. Dreamy and I could never decide what lane to drive in. Our choices were 'cars'... or 'trucks'. We weren't exactly either. The patrol guys didn't seem to care. They just asked if we were US citizens, looked at our non-Hispanic, obviously of European descent faces, and waved us on. How did they know that we weren't harboring large numbers of illegals in our motorhome? Just think of how many people we could hide in the bedroom, in the closet, in the bathroom, behind the couches, in the bays under the motorhome... etc. We wondered if vehicles were secretly (or maybe not so secretly for those who know about these things) being x-rayed, or viewed with heat-sensitive equipment, or somehow being screened. But then we decided it really didn't matter, because what illegal with any sense would try to hide in a vehicle that is going by way of any of the highways that have permanent border patrol stations?!
My curiosity got the best of me and I had to check it out. Apparently there are devices being used to scan vehicles at some border patrol checkpoints! The technology is similar to that used in airport screening, and the device is housed in a van or small motorhome. The device uses a low-intensity backscatter x-ray beam (whatever that is) and can see contraband and hidden compartments in vehicles... and yes, it can detect someone being smuggled someplace in a vehicle.



Big Brother is watching you!

For more information about this technology:
  • http://tucsoncitizen.com/morgue/2009/03/19/112416-new-border-patrol-device-uses-see-through-scanning/
  • http://technorati.com/technology/article/border-patrol-uses-mobile-peep-show/




Monday, April 29, 2013

Yes!

(This month I have been participating in the A to Z Blogger Challenge. Each day my posts have begun with successive letters of the alphabet. This is my 2nd to last post for the month's challenge.  Where did April go?!  My A to Z Blog Challenge topics have been inspired by our recent 90-day trip on our motorhome. Click here to see links to other responses to this challenge.)

Y is for Yes

Would I do our trip over again?

Yes!
Yes!
Yes!

We left our home on December 29. 
We traveled over 7,000 miles.
We were away 90 days.


We lived in roughly 300 square feet, 
with two active dogs
who didn't fight.
We didn't fight!


We entertained friends.
We visited museums.
We went to rallies and workshops.


We experienced snow in South Carolina.
We were buffeted by winds in Texas.
We listened to the occasional rain storm
pinging on the roof.


We have made travel plans for the summer.
We'll be heading north and west,
but we won't be gone as long.

Then, next winter?
Who knows!
Maybe we'll do this 'snow bird'
flight all over again.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Xylography

X is for Xylography



xy·log·ra·phy

 
noun
the art of engraving on wood, or of printing from such engravings.
Origin: 
1810–20;  < French xylographie.  See xylo--graphy




It began with a Christmas gift. My son saw some interesting stamp sets as he was shopping. He knows of my love for card making, which often involves stamping. He also knows of my love for mountains, forests, and farms.


The stamps traveled with us. 
Along with paper and ink pads. 
The stamps were taken out....


of the motorhome when we arrived home. They had not been used. Time to get busy! I knew what I wanted to do, I just needed to do it. So, I brought out my beginner's kit for making my own stamps and made a crude stamp of our motorhome. OK, so it isn't xylography in its truest sense... but it comes close!


Now, I can put myself in all of those pictures of the mountains, and forests and farms! I want to make some cards representing our travels that I can send to friends, especially those we saw along the way.


Maybe now that I am getting near the end of the A to Z challenge 
I'll find more time for this project.

Wanna take bets on that?!!

Friday, April 26, 2013

White Sands Missile Range

(This month I will be participating in the A to Z Blogger Challenge... and we are getting close to the end! Where did April go?! Each day my post will begin with successive letters of the alphabet.  My A to Z Blog Challenge topics are inspired by our recent 90-day trip on our motorhome. Click here to see links to other responses to this challenge.)

W is for White Sands

Just before returning home we stayed in southwest New Mexico and visited the White Sands Missile Range. They have an impressive display of US armament that have been tested on the range from the 50's until more modern times.


They had missiles that track their targets.


Missiles deployed from land and air.


And even Scud missiles used in the Gulf War.


I hate that our nation has to develop and deploy devices to defend our freedom. But the White Sands area was so sparsely populated in the 50's when they established the testing range that at least its development didn't displace too many families.

I found it interesting to read how some missiles contributed to the development of others, and how that technology evolved. Part of that research and development involved two missile detecting dogs. They were used to locate parts from exploded missiles. 

source


Components of the missiles were sprayed with squalene, a shark-liver oil that dogs can detect from quite a distance. Humans can not smell it. Dingo, a Weimaraner, and Count, a German Shorthair began seeking missile parts in 1961.

source

Evidently the dogs did a fabulous job at finding even the smallest parts of missiles. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Van Horn, Texas

(This month I will be participating in the A to Z Blogger Challenge. Each day my post will begin with successive letters of the alphabet.  My A to Z Blog Challenge topics are inspired by our recent 90-day trip on our motorhome. Click here to see links to other responses to this challenge.)


V is for Van Horn, Texas

We have stopped in Van Horn, Texas two times now. On our way east I wrote:

At the end of day 2 of travel, Dreamy, Mr. Dreamy (hereinafter referred to as "The Dreamers") and the two dogs found themselves in Van Horn, TX, looking for a grocery store. Since the RV was still winterized, and since temperatures below freezing were expected that evening... even in southern Texas,  we needed additional fresh water.  We remain puzzled as to how the 2050 residents (US Census Bureau, 2011) of Van Horn acquire food. We discovered no less than 18 hotels, 3 campgrounds, 6 gas stations, and finally, we found what seemed to be the only grocery store in town. They have a captive audience, for sure!


We stopped in Van Horn again on our way home, and stayed at the same RV park. It is convenient to the highway. The sites are flat and the interior roads are wide. Everything is clean and neat. We really do like the campground. It is under new management and they are really working hard to update the facility.  The campground has a story that I found a bit amusing... and sad at the same time.

It seems that the campground was put up for sale sometime in the recent past. One of the full-time residents in the campground told his brother that he should consider purchasing it. He explained that the campground, with 100 sites, was full just about every night. (Doing the math, at $25 per site... that's a chunk of change rolling in!) Mr. Brother went ahead and purchased the campground, figuring his full-time resident brother would manage the property. Mr. Resident did not want that much responsibility, so Mr. Brother hired some folks to manage the campground. He did an excellent job of that, as the management bends over backwards to help visitors and they are obviously working very hard at making improvements to the campground. But sadly, when ownership was transferred, the stream of overnight visitors slowed to a trickle. It seems that the previous owner/manager was not really managing the campground at all. He merely put a sign on the office door with instructions for folks to pick a campsite and drop their money in a box. With no oversight, people could simply pull in and camp, and skip the step about the money, and not even bother to honor the honor system.  Word got out, and the campground became a very popular overnight stop for the budget conscious  cheap dishonest camper! Sad, but apparently true! Those opportunistic campers no longer stop at the campground, and the paying crowd is a lot smaller than Mr. Brother was led to believe by his well meaning sibling.

So, if you find yourself in Van Horn, TX...
the western-most town in the US that is in the central time zone,
(this may be their only claim to fame) 
if you are not planning to stay at any one of the 18 hotels, 
and need a campground...
swing by the Mountain View RV Park and give them a chance!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Uh-Oh

(This month I will be participating in the A to Z Blogger Challenge. Each day my post will begin with successive letters of the alphabet.  My A to Z Blog Challenge topics are inspired by our recent 90-day trip on our motorhome. Click here to see links to other responses to this challenge.)

U is for Uh-Oh

I can't think of anything on the topic of our trip that would be especially worthy to write about that begins with the letter "U".

I thought about Ululate:
I heard coyotes howling when we stayed at Ft. Yargo State Park in Georgia. It seemed strange to hear the pack yipping in the night, as I associate coyotes with the west. 

I considered Uber:

The motor home is uber-cool. After years of tent camping, then hauling a pop-up, and then finally a small pull-behind camper, I can't believe that we have a motorhome and have this much space!

Mr. Dreamy suggested U-boat:

Since I did see a submarine go by Fort Clinch State Park in Florida, on its way to St. Mary's Naval Base. 

I could have used Ultralight:

As I saw this experimental, ultralight helicopter at the 55th Annual Cactus Fly-In in Casa Grande, AZ. 


But, I just couldn't seem to write a post about any of those.

I couldn't use Utah, since we didn't go there on this trip.
I couldn't use Uncle, since we didn't see my Uncle Don on this trip.
I couldn't use Ugly, since everything we saw was quite beautiful. 

Uh-oh.... the A to Z committee might find out about my struggles and I won't earn the honor of displaying the "I survived the A to Z Challenge" badge on my site!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tuckered Out

(This month I will be participating in the A to Z Blogger Challenge. Each day my post will begin with successive letters of the alphabet.  My A to Z Blog Challenge topics are inspired by our recent 90-day trip on our motorhome. Click here to see links to other responses to this challenge.)

T is for Tucker
... Trails
... Touring

And, Gypsy is a "T", too, because Gypsy means Traveler!

Our two 'active' dogs seem to enjoy a lot of snooze time!


When we are on the road, the dogs are allowed on the couch.
Gypsy stays on her bed from the moment she is invited up,
until we are parked and the slides are put out.


Tucker gets bored.
He likes to come up and visit, 
and check out the scenery through the windshield. 



Some of the campgrounds we visit have access to wonderful trials.
We all like that! 




Sunday, April 21, 2013

State Parks

(This month I will be participating in the A to Z Blogger Challenge. Each day my post will be inspired by successive letters of the alphabet.  My A to Z Blog Challenge topics are inspired by our recent 90-day trip on our motorhome. Click here to see links to other responses to this challenge.)


S is for State Parks

In our travels we have had the opportunity to stay at a few State Parks. On our next trip, we'd like to visit more! 

We missed out on some great camping because the State Parks are often not as convenient to the major highways, and when we are simply moving from point A to point B, driving 20 or more miles away from the Interstate, often on smaller, winding roads, isn't Mr. Dreamy's idea of fun!

In my experience the State Parks are quieter and provide more space for campers, so you aren't right on top of one another. They generally offer sites with power and electric. Some parks can not accommodate the big rigs that are over 35 feet in length - we are 36 feet long, and so far, have not had a problem.

Most states use Reserve America to manage their camp ground reservations. This Web site allows you to select the dates you would like to camp and to check availability. You can see maps of the camp grounds which also show what length camper can fit in each site. 


The State Parks have limits on how many consecutive nights you may stay, and how long you must be away before you can come back. When we stayed in Florida we could camp for 14 nights. We had to vacate the park for 7 nights before we could return. In any given month we could only stay for 21 nights, total. 

All of the State Parks we have visited have been wonderful. But, we do have a favorite! Fort Yargo State Park in Winder, GA has spacious sites that are defined by huge landscaping timbers. The parking and camping areas are crushed limestone and are virtually flat, even though the campground is on a hillside overlooking a lake. Each site has a picnic table, fire ring and grill. Each site also has a nifty pole for hanging food or garbage to keep it out of varmints' reach. The poles also make a great place to tie the dogs!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Rally Round the .... Country

(This month I will be participating in the A to Z Blogger Challenge. Each day my post will be inspired by successive letters of the alphabet.  My A to Z Blog Challenge topics are inspired by our recent 90-day trip on our motorhome. Click here to see links to other responses to this challenge.)

R is for Rally
rally 1 |ˈralē|verb ( rallies, rallying, rallied no obj. ](of troops) come together again in order to continuefighting after a defeat or dispersion: De Montfort's troops rallied and drove back the king's infantry.• with obj. ] bring together (forces) again in order to continue fighting: the king escaped to Perth to rally his own forces.• assemble in a mass meeting: up to 50,000 people rallied in the city center.
We are members of a several different camping groups. The groups often camp together for a "rally". At the rallies the participants may eat, drink and play games, or visit local sites, take in a movie or attend a seminar or two. We participated in two rallies while we were on our trip. We 'crashed' a rally in Florida. I found out that a Tiffin owner's group was meeting in Tampa when we planned to be there in January. After contacting the group's Secretary we were invited to join them.  It was fun to meet new friends. 
We also rallied with our local owner's group in Casa Grande, AZ. Several of our members stay there for several months during the winter, so we kicked off the camping season by meeting there.  We were able to stop in Arizona on our way back home and join in the fun with 9 other motorhomes. We had a fabulous time catching up with old friends.
Some rallies are small. Others, like the one we will attend this spring are not.  We are going to the 50th anniversary celebration for the Family Motor Coach Association in Gillette, WY. They tell me that they have over 1900 units signed up for the rally, and estimate that it could grow close to 2500. Wow! That's a lot of campers!





Friday, April 19, 2013

Q is for Queensland

(This month I will be participating in the A to Z Blogger Challenge. Each day my post will be inspired by successive letters of the alphabet.  My A to Z Blog Challenge topics are inspired by our recent 90-day trip on our motorhome. Click here to see links to other responses to this challenge.)

Q is for Queensland


Nope, we didn't quite make it to Queensland on our winter motorhome trip. If I coulda found the road to take, I might have directed Mr. Dreamy in that direction! Visiting Australia is on my bucket list. 

However, while we were traveling I did receive an email from the Family Motor Coach Association. They were advertising a motorhome caravan through Australia & New Zealand.



Now, doesn't that sound simply dreamy? 

Notice, they didn't include the price. I am thinking that if one has to ask, then one probably can't afford it! This dream trip will have to remain just that.... a dream!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Perfect Place

P is for the Perfect Place

Finding the perfect place to park is not an easy task. I spend hours locating campgrounds on our travels.  Mr. Dreamy once accused me of playing games the whole time he was driving. Hmmph! I was offended. For, in fact, I was researching campgrounds. There are many resources at my fingertips, both in print and online. I search with Google, check directories and look at campground reviews.

Campground Directories:



Good Sam's Club

$25/annual membership
10% discount at participating campgrounds, magazine, trip routing
Harvest Hosts
$40/annual membership
provides access to lists of wineries, farms and other businesses that will allow you to park for the night at no cost
KOA
$24/annual membership
10% discount at participating campgrounds, manual available
Passport America

$44/annual membership
half price at member campgrounds, restrictions often apply, directory available
Reserve America
Free                     
manages reservations for  many State and Federal campgrounds (including COE, BLM                        and National parks) as well as parks from other agencies.
State Publications   
Free                     
Most states have travel guides available at the Welcome Center. Some guides are specific for camping & RV Travel, others have sections dedicated to camping. Don't neglect to pick up State Park guides. 
Thousand Trails     
Begins at $525/ annual pass
Regional membership RV park. Also called Encore. Free parking within the region.
Trailer Life             
Free online access
The printed manual is now combined with Woodall's and Good Sam's
Woodall’s

Free online access, app available for iPhone or iPad
Printed directory recently combined with Trailer Life and sold under the Good Sam title. We have a free Woodall's App for the iPad that I use.


(I know there are more... do you have one that you use that I should add to my arsenal?)

I am always interested in what other travelers have to say about campgrounds. So, once I've found one or two campgrounds that look promising, I check out reviews by other campers. I also contribute my reviews of places we stay to RV Park Reviews.

Campground Rating Web sites - voluntary reporting by campers

Camped There             http://www.campedthere.com       

RV Buddy                   http://www.rvbuddy.com
                                 
RV Park Reviews       http://www.rvparkreviews.com
                             

Another invaluable resource that we have used for years is called, "The Next Exit". This is only available in print. The book lists just about everything that is available at every exit of every Interstate in the US. The list includes gas stations, restaurants, hotels, hospitals and sometimes other things, such as campgrounds. This book has saved us on more than one occasion. If you travel on the Interstates frequently, this is a must have! It is updated annually and only occasionally has the information been incorrect.



Do you camp? 
Do you have favorite resources that you use?

Oh, and did you notice my new pages on the bar on the right? One of the pages lists my favorite parks!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

O-O-Orchards

(This month I will be participating in the A to Z Blogger Challenge. Each day my post will be inspired by successive letters of the alphabet.  My A to Z Blog Challenge topics are inspired by our recent 90-day trip on our motorhome. Click here to see links to other responses to this challenge.)

O is for Orchard

I was raised in the northeast. I lived in the apple country of New York State. In the fall, the orchards would open their fruit stands. We could get baskets of apples and fresh apple cider. To this day, a glass of apple cider evokes memories of crisp, crunchy leaves, cooler days and bees buzzing around, drawn by the sweet juice form the apples. 
Later I lived in South Carolina. Georgia may be 
known as the "Peach State", but some of the best peaches I ever tasted came from the orchards of upstate, SC. We often stopped at a gas station where a farmer sold baskets of peaches. He would split one in half, using a twisting motion of his hands, and with juice dripping down his arm, he would hold out half a peach for me to sample. It worked every time - we would leave with a basket of peaches, the aroma slowly filling our car with its thick, heady scent. 
I've driven through Florida, past row after row of citrus trees. Every few miles there would be a stand selling the fruit currently in season.
Orchards dot the west coast of our country as well. Washington is known for its cherries and apples and California is known for its citrus. 

Seeing row after row of trees, while driving through the arid regions of southern Texas and New Mexico seemed incongruous. 



It turns out that Texas, New Mexico and Georgia produce 75% of the US Pecan crop. Hmmm, I learn something new every day that we travel!





Tuesday, April 16, 2013

National Park Passport

N is for National

The National Park Service has a nifty little Passport book that you can purchase at any one of the 397 National Parks. Did you know there were that many National Parks? I certainly didn't!


The book includes a map of the US showing the location of each park. The book is broken down into regions. Each National Park has a cancellation stamp that visitors may use, at no cost, to document their visit. The stamp names the park and the date. 

This is my page for our visit to Casa Grande in Arizona.

Colorful stamps with pictures and information about each park may also be purchased to add to your Passport. I think it is fun to document visits in this way... and I like to think my purchases may support our wonderful National Park system, at least a little bit!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Memorable Museums


M is for Museums
Marvelous? or Miserable?

We visited quite a few different sorts of museums on our trip. I've already written about two of them during the A to Z challenge: the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and the Tannehill Iron Works Museum, and I will post pictures from the White Sands Missile Range Museum for the letter 'W'. 

In this post I'd like to consider what makes a museum memorable. Think about it... what is it that makes you come away from a museum in awe? What makes you enthused about what you are seeing? What works for you?

Here are some key factors for me:

Showcasing something of Interest: I am certain that our individual interests play a huge role in determining whether we care for a museum, or whether it makes us yawn. (And museums do make me yawn... and when I yawn, tears come from my eyes. People must think I am very touched by what I am seeing, or very sad!)



At White Sands, Mr. Dreamy enjoyed seeing different sorts of missiles and armament, while I enjoyed reading a first person account of a woman whose family ranched the lands taken over by the missile range. 


How wonderful that this museum had enough variety to appeal to two people with very different interests. 

Presentation: Museums have lots of stories to tell. The way that the information is shared is another key to making a museum memorable, at least for me. I enjoyed the information in the Military Intelligence Museum at Fort Huachuca, AZ, but I came away bleary-eyed from reading. 

Sometimes, less is more. One or two pieces, with interesting descriptions might have far more impact than a case full of artifacts. And, personally, I prefer to learn about something using different modalities. I appreciated the New Mexico Museum of Space History for that reason. 



Displays were varied. Some required reading, others had visual displays. Some could be touched. This rocket display allowed visitors to hear the countdown and roar of different sorts of rocket engines. 

Emotional Connection: Another facet of a memorable museum, for me, is a visceral connection. Museums that suck me into a foregone time reel me in like a fish on a line. We were met at the gates of  Fort Clinch State Park in Florida by a 19th century soldier who stayed in character throughout a brief tour of the park. 



We could hear the sound of a fife wafting on the breeze. I was admonished for not having a bonnet covering my hair. I felt as if I would turn around to see soldiers occupying the fort. I felt as if I had been pulled into that life, long ago.

Action:
There is a Chinese proverb that states:
Tell me, and I'll forget.
Show me, and I'll remember.
Involve me, and I understand.

My favorite museums live by this creed. They encourage involvement... they have visitors 'do' something. Even the simple act of turning a page activates my brain - well, yeah, I am a simple sort of person ;-)    

In my opinion, good museums awaken the visitor (even though I might be seen yawning!) They should tickle an area of the brain and inspire and excite the visitor, and leave the person wanting more, or leave that person shaking her head as she comes away with an unexpected turn-around of thinking after seeing something from a different point of view. Museums enrich my life.

What about you? What makes your favorite museum memorable? What have I missed in trying to elucidate the key aspects of fabulous museums?











Saturday, April 13, 2013

L is for Louisiana

(This month I will be participating in the A to Z Blogger Challenge. Each day my post will be inspired by successive letters of  the alphabet.  My A to Z Blog Challenge topics are inspired by our recent 90-day trip on our motorhome. Click here to see links to other responses to this challenge.)

L is for Louisiana 

Isn't it cool that Louisiana looks like an L?!


We crossed through Louisiana twice, once on our way east, on I-10, and then on our return on I-20. When we entered Louisiana on our first trip through, I picked up a flyer for the Louisiana Fur and Wildlife Festival. One of the competitions is Nutria skinning... on the main stage! I don't know about you, but I have never been to a nutria skinning competition, and frankly, I'm not sure that is something I'd have much interest in watching. But, I have since become fascinated by Nutria, also called Coypu. I think they are kinda cute. They look like huge Guinea pig X beavers. They are a large, semi-aquatic rodents that are somewhat smaller than a beaver.


Nutria originated in South America and were brought to Louisiana for the fur trade in the 1930's. At that time there was a large market for fur as fur coats were the rage. The nutria escaped, or were released, into the Louisiana marshes. In the 40's they were valued as a natural control of water hyacinth and other aquatic weeds, and they were transplanted to coastal regions throughout southeast Louisiana. Populations soared, and it became apparent that the nutria were destroying marsh wetlands, rice fields and sugar cane crops. The state promoted nutria fur as a natural resource and the population declined up until the 80's, when animal rights activists came out against wearing fur. Through the 90's populations increased and more wetlands damage was incurred. The state continues to monitor and work towards balancing the Nutria population. The festival is part of that effort. It is conducted early in January every year and is advertised as one of the "oldest and coldest" festivals in Louisiana. Nutria skinning is only one of the activities at the festival. If you attended you could also enjoy a duck and goose calling competition, trap shooting, a gumbo cook-off and crowning of the fur queen.
Maybe next year we should plan on attending! Have you had the opportunity to attend a festival that is a bit different than most?

A modern nutria coat



Friday, April 12, 2013

K as in Kamping

(This month I will be participating in the A to Z Blogger Challenge. Each day my post will be inspired by successive letters of the alphabet.  My A to Z Blog Challenge topics are inspired by our recent 90-day trip on our motorhome. Click here to see links to other responses to this challenge.)

is for KOA

Even if you have never camped, you have probably seen the distinctive signs for a KOA Campground. 



There are over 475 campgrounds in the US and Canada that sport this sign, indicating that they are a member of the organization and that their campground meets certain criteria established by the company. In our experiences KOA's are convenient, clean, and safe. The staff are generally extremely helpful and kind. Most KOA's are staffed by Work Kampers. These are folks who manage different aspects of the campground for the owner in exchange for free hookup while they are there. There are no surprises when you camp at KOA, which can be a good thing! 
KOA campgrounds are usually very convenient to the highway. The downside to this is that highway noise might disturb your peaceful slumber. They tend to cost a bit more, per night, but a 10% discount is available if you purchase an annual Value Card for $24. 
KOA maintains a website that allows users to learn more about campgrounds in their system, see what amenities are available, check rates and reserve sites. The website includes pictures of each campground so one can get a feel for the place before arrival. 

Tucker & Gypsy playing at a KOA campground

It is a challenge to get a picture of two herding dogs at play.
Most of my pictures look like this:


Take A Hike

Stepping back in time a bit....  I flew into Denver to pick up my car, visit with my dad and then get a few odds and ends taken care of. Th...