Saturday, December 13, 2003

2003 Blogs

December 13-17, 2003 to Hodges Gardens, LA
Hodges Gardens is one of the places I have wanted to share with Shari for years but time has never permitted. The Christmas light display is said to be grand even amongst the winter gardens that reside there. We stayed at the park, located about 15 miles South of Many Louisiana on Hwy.171. (If you are using DeLorme map software beware, they are close but no cigar). The RV section has 9 very level, paved slots with full hookups. Green space between sites it can actually sit and talk without being in your neighbor's hookups, I guess about 40' from my patio to their hookups. Don't plan on satellite the tall pines block any hope of a connection but a real site to behold. TV and cell service are minimal which makes this one of our favorite escapes. There are cabins and a beautiful lake. The gardens are 4500 acres of rolling hills with hiking trails, paved accessible paths and overlooks offering a view of the gardens and lake that will please you for sure. Springtime is the peak growing season but we had no problem looking at roses in bloom and other samples of local plants and flowers in mid-December. The greenhouse is open to the public and offers local plants for sale along with some great stories about the gardens. Their web site can be found at

On our way home we stopped in Beaumont at the Gulf Coast RV Resort on Brooks Road and spent the afternoon and evening shopping for Christmas. It was fun to load up the toad and go back to the coach to wrap presents and have some of our Christmas Coffee. We think that this is THE way to shop for the holidays.

November 30, 2003 to Galveston, TX
Due to the fact that I had a little event at NASA early Monday morning and Shari had a doctor's appointment on Tuesday morning we took the rig to Galveston for three days and camped at the Bayou Shores RV Park on Heards Lane in Galveston. A nice park with great view of Offatt's Bayou and close to everything in Galveston. On Tuesday we came home where we plan to stay until after Christmas.....well, we may take a two or three day trip to Many, LA to visit Hodges Gardens, a very nice garden which is decorated and lighted for the holidays.

November 21, 2003 Fishing Trip to Toledo Bend Lake
This week we found the Frontier RV Park on Toledo Bend Lake. This was a two night trip just to relax. The view of the lake was fantastic and the weather was warm. There was a cold front due on Sunday so we relocated to Haven's Landing RV Resort on Hwy. 105 between Conroe and Montgomery, TX. The plan was to have our rig serviced but we postponed that due to the Thanksgiving holiday and the need to do some serious home cooking back in High Island.

November 16, 2003 Home from Our Trip
It is Sunday and we have just completed our trip. We left on Oct. 23 for Kerrville where we stayed at Buckhorn RV Resort. There we visited with Skip and Terbie and had a great time. Buckhorn is a great spot and Skip and Terbie make it even better. Next we spent one night at Mission RV in El Paso, adequate but not grand. Next we pulled into Sierra Vista AZ and encountered a full camping facility. After Arby, who was the current tenant left for Yuma, we pulled in to Heybob & Heybarb's driveway for a two night carefree stay. There we visited Tombstone and walked among the graves at "Boot Hill". While there we played with the generator and discovered that it may have a bad starter. Bob and Barbara are great and we enjoyed the stay. Next we went West on IH-10 just into California and turned our Northward trip to Las Vegas via Needles. We paid $2.09 for regular gas there. Just after dark we pulled into Sam's Town RV Park. There we spend the next few days and discovered that our furnace was not working. Since the temp was dipping in to the 20's we hit Wal-Mart for a small heater. While in Vegas, I donated at the casino and Shari took it back. All in all she left about $2000 to the good.....including my losses. Next we traveled over Hoover Dam, we did not tour but did have a great ride over the dam. If you are planning to see this wonder, don't put it off since they are building a "Hoover Dam Bypass" as fast as they can to prevent driving over the dam for security reasons. We made our way to Williams, AZ where we camped at the Railhead RV Park which was very handy to the Grand Canyon Railroad Station which we took to the South Rim of the Canyon. This was a great trip and we are glad we took the train ride. The tour at the rim was beyond description...even the photos don't reflect the feeling one gets at the rim.....we will always remember this trip. Next we stopped at Grants, NM where we toured the Bandera volcano, a brisk walk over the lava fields up to the rim of the too was a wonder to remember. We walked up the El Morro area which was fantastic too. The bottom of the mount houses a watering hole which attracted those passing the area for hundreds or thousands of years. The walls around the base holds the testament of those passing. There are ancient petroglyphs alongside signatures of explorers from the 1700's to 1800's. The prize for making it to the top is a box canyon with seventy foot tall fir trees, rock formations and a large Atsinna Indian ruins with several of the over 800 rooms excavated for viewing. We descended into a collapsed lava tube where resides a pool of ice which never melts. The cooling of the water dripping thru the lava, lack of sunlight and depth keep the temperature above 31 F at all times. After this we ventured to onward toward Boerne, TX to have the dealer there look at hour heater and generator. We passed thru Roswell but did not stop and made it to Ft. Stockton, TX at dark. One night there and on to Boerne, TX where we had an appointment to have our work done on the coach. We had checked into Buckhorn again and had another great visit with Skip & Terbie for a couple of days and then homeward to High Island, TX to the "nest" for a few days.

The plan is to leave on Thursday or Friday for a couple of days fishing at Lake Livingston...but that is another story.

October 22, 2003 Packed for Las Vegas
It is Wednesday night and we leave in the morning for our first long trip since retirement. The coach is behaving and we will see how things progress once we leave the comfort of Southeast Texas. We are not due in Las Vegas until Oct. 29th so there are several stops along the way to visit friends and see the sights. We did learn that it may have been easier not to come home between the Rusk and the Vegas trip.....a two day turn around is too short of a time to deal with the house and the coach.

October 20, 2003 The Trip to Rusk
The trip to Rust State Park was great. We arrived third and Okie & Gabby, Skip and Terbie were already settled in when we pulled in. The park is beautiful, lots of tall pines, a nice lake and the Texas Railroad Steam Train takes passengers from Rusk to Palestine and back. Shari and I did not ride since we were going to try out the multi million dollar park, Haven's Landing in Conroe. The wedding was beautiful and well attended. Brandon and Betsy looked very happy. We were joined by Mossrocker and Songbird, some of the first people we ever met from the chat room during the Alabama Rally. Also camping with us was LeoM from Fort Worth and his lovely daughter Linda and of course, Brenny and Chris were there too.....
All and all it was a good visit with some great friends.
The Haven's Landing stop was designed for two reasons, one to let our son see the coach and to be near our dealer to pick up our license plates before they expired on the 22nd just as we start our trip West.

October 14, 2003 Packing
Today we are packing for our trip to Rusk, TX on Thursday thru Monday

October 16, 2003 Out Again
Well, the next trip brought our first rainy weather campout. We have always wanted to spend the weekend at Trade Days in Winnie, TX so I made reservations for Winnie Inn RV Park, a Passport America RV Park, with concrete pads and hookups and across the street from our favorite eatery "Al-T's". The weather cleared for the weekend and we shopped at some of the merchants in the little town. The rest of the trip was failures once again. We did get to tow the GMC back to High Island...I had forgotten a hitch pin so we could not tow the truck until Sunday. It performed well and the Brake Buddy did it's job very well. All in all it was a pretty good trip.
October 11, 2003 Shakedown Time
We did not sleep in the coach the first night...I did not want to run the generator all night and had no power yet to provide shore power to the coach. Saturday we fired up the generator and loaded a few things in the coach, and headed for our first night in the new rig. We made an "on the fly" reservation at Gulf Coast RV Resort in Beaumont and they gave us a large slot on the first row. It was more exciting than we expected. Our first two days in the coach brought lots of our family to see the unit and it was a very nice weekend. The coach operated very well without a glitch. Ray, our salesman, told us to make a list of things wrong with the is a very short list. One windshield wiper blade is not fitting the glass tight and a broken mirror control knob.
October 10, 2003 -Motorhome Delivery
The day is finally here. Shari and I were escorted to Ron Hoover RV in Houston by our daughter Sara Friday late morning since our toad was not ready for towing just yet. We were met by our salesperson Ray who immediately summoned our personal technician who gave us a very detailed tour of the coach. We learned many facts and experienced many stories that will prove valuable as we begin our adventure. Ron Hoover RV is a first class operation for sure. The tour ended with a trip to the service manager's office to meet the service team and then to the parts and accessory department. We picked up a few things that we needed and headed back to the coach to take the helm of our new house on wheels.

August 29, 2003 -Retirement Day-
In the fine tradition of the University of Texas Medical Branch I was sent off with a bang. There were two very nice receptions at which I received many kind words, greetings and some nice gifts to boot. This marks a new era in our lives, one for which we have been working for many years. Our prayer is that God will grant us even a portion of the good grace that we have enjoyed in the past.

August 22, 2003
At this point it is one week until my last full time day at work. Our decision was to buy a Forest River Windsong 353 with two slides. We have our first two trips mapped out. One will be local, to find out what we forgot…..may be in the driveway. The second is to Rusk, TX for a wedding and to meet up with some of our chat room friends. The third will be Oct. 25 to Vegas via Ingram, Las Curses, NM and Flagstaff, AZ which will be our first long trip in the new motor home. I have mastered the DeLorme GPS and map program so the slogan on our web site may be true after all….”just because we are wandering….does not mean we are lost”.

July 25, 2003
As of the end of July all is on schedule except one little crimp. I have decided consider an offer to go back to the university in a slightly different role part time. This will assure a seamless transition of my unique job which I feel I owe to those who count on me each day. This should not alter our travel plans since the State of Texas allows only half time work for retirees who choose to return to a state job.

June 2003
We don’t want to give the impression that we have not enjoyed our time as employees of the State of Texas, we have. Shari worked in the emergency room of the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) for several years and finally had enough being tossed around by ungrateful patients and I got tired playing Mr. Mom. As for me, Jake, I enjoyed a great adventure at UTMB since I joined them in 1980. My claim to fame was that I led the team who built what is considered to be the world’s largest telemedicine program. That single fact landed our team with a nomination to the Computerworld Smithsonian Award Program where our case study, videos and photos will reside at the National Museum of American History…forever. Also it scored me a trip to the Antarctica, McMurdo and South Pole stations in the summer of 2002 (their summer). You can read about this adventure in the “thoughts” section on the main page.

We will retire on August 31, 2003 and if God is willing, find us a suitable motor home and toad and hit the highway, at least part of the time, in the late October, early November timeframe.

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Jake at the South Pole 2001