Posts Tagged ‘RV travel’

last sunset on the road

The rv park wasn’t all that great, but the sunset made everything perfect this last night on the road of this journey. — Photo by Pat Bean

            “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” – T.S. Eliot

Adventures with Pepper: Day 55 Continued

            Today’s plan was to drive to Memphis, stop at the Graceland RV Park, then spend a couple of days exploring the city, much like I had done in Nashville.


One of the many squirrels that delighted me and taunted Pepper during this journey. --  Photo by Pat Bean

One of the many squirrels that delighted me and taunted Pepper during this journey. — Photo by Pat Bean

         After my leisurely morning of birds, a walk with Pepper and a small pot of cream-laced African coffee, I set out on my short drive to the city Elvis called home.            As I neared Memphis, my quiet, peaceful morning turned into a cacophony of loud traffic and a tangled web of too crowded roads leading into the heart of chaos – and yet once again I changed my plans. .

            When I came to the turnoff I needed to take to carry out the plans that had been brewing in my head for the past week, I drove right on by. I knew that one big city in a week, away from Mother Nature, had been just right. An echo of that week would make me as sick as eating too much candy.

             I had decided to drive on for about another hour, and then stop at the first RV park that looked decent. I figured that wouldn’t be a problem, since for the first time in two months I was driving on an interstate and not a back-country road.

            It was over three hours later, after I had passed Little Rock, Arkansas, however before I found one. It was not very inviting but I stopped anyway because I didn’t want to continue driving after dark.

            Tomorrow would take me into Dallas, where my oldest daughter lived, and bring an end to this leg of my journeys. I’m glad you came along for the 6,000-mile, zigzagging ride from Idaho to Texas — past dinosaur bones, up and over the Rocky Mountains, sleeping among prairie dogs, winding through  the Appalachians on the Blue Ridge Parkway, through the Smoky Mountains and finally hooking up at the Grand Ole Opry.

            It was a fun trip. Where do you think we should go next?

            Book Report: Still slowly moving forward. Wish I was in a faster lane, but then I’d miss the flowers along the way. It’s hard being a writer when you always afraid you’re going to miss something.


The Wondering Wanderer's blog pick of the day.

The Wondering Wanderer’s blog pick of the day.

   Bean’s Pat: Song for Today http://tinyurl.com/bm4tz9w It’s all about Pooh and Christopher Robin and feeling young again.   

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“Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.” – Saint Augustine

Don’t Get Stuck in the Sand

Lone Rock at Lake Powell — Photo by Pat Bean

Just down the road from Lake Powell’s Wahweap Campground is Lone Rock, an undeveloped beach where RV-ers who can survive without water and electric hookups can spend the night for only $10, or half that with a Golden Age Passport.

It’s where I stayed my very first night on the road in my RV, Gypsy Lee. I remember the night well, beginning with the gatekeeper’s advice: “Don’t get stuck in the sand.”

I didn’t, but I came close. It was all part of getting acquainted with my new home on wheels.

Hard as I tried, I couldn’t find a clear path down to the water, where I saw half a dozen RVs parked by the edge. I finally gave up about halfway down, and stopped. The two RVs that had been following right behind me, as I zigged and zagged around like a sizzling snake firecracker, stopped, too.

I learned, when my canine companion, Maggie, and I went for a walk that they were two German couples who had rented RVs to tour America. Since I had Utah license plates, they assumed I had known where I was going.

Lake Powell” A blue serpentine lake that lies atop the scenic magic of Glen Canyon. — Photo by Pat Bean

We all had a laugh when I explained that this was my first day on the road in my brand new RV.

The sun went down while Maggie and I were taking our stroll. It turned Lone Rock into a golden treasure and painted an orange path across the reflective water. I drank in the wonders around me before Maggie and I trudged though the sand back to our new home.

Later that night, after Maggie and I had shared some tuna casserole, the first meal I cooked on Gypsy Lee’s three-burner propane stove, I watched the sky light up with a million stars through the vent above my overhead bed.

That night was eight years and 132,000 miles ago.

Maggie did 130,000 of those miles with me. My new companion, Pepper, is now my co-pilot. But nothing much else has changed. I still watch the stars overhead at night, and I’m still humming Dr. Seuss words: “Oh the places we’ll go and the things we’ll see …”

Bean’s Pat: http://naturepicsblog.com/I love this blog. It’s a daily bit of nature to start the day, usually just one photo so you don’t get distracted. Today’s was a single sunflower that had not yet opened. 

*This pat-on-the-back recognition is merely this wandering/wondering old broad’s way of bringing attention to a blog I enjoyed – and thought perhaps my readers might, too. June 15, patbean.wordpress.com

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 “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”–Neale Donald Walsch

Here’s How It All Began

Balcony House: Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado. Not only have my travels taken me all across the country, they have also taken me back in time. -- Photo by Pat Bean

It was a sunny day in 2004, just three weeks before I would retire from a 37-year career as a journalist, when I drove a brand new RV off an Ogden, Utah, sales lot. It felt like the butterflies in my stomach had developed thorns on their fragile wings.

Everything that had been a part of my past life was about to change. I had just blocked off all chances of remaining rooted in my small, but cozy home that sat in the shadows of the Wasatch Mountains I loved. There simply was not enough money in my future to both fulfill my lifelong dream of living and traveling on the road while maintaining fixed roots within a circle of friends that had taken over 20 years to acquire.

This day I had not only chosen the unknown road that lay ahead, but had wrapped my choice in cement. I had even traded in my Honda Odyssey as part payment for the undersized, 22-foot RV that was now my only form of transportation, and soon would be my only home.
By the time all the paper work giving me title to the 2004 Volkswagen Vista/Winnebago had been scrutinized, signed and finalized, it was early evening. I was too unsettled to take my purchase for a check-out spin. So, feeling tall and strange sitting behind the wheel with my new living, dining, sleeping, cooking and bathroom facilities behind me, I drove home. Emotional turmoil, good or bad, always sapped my energy.

When Maggie and I began our travels, her muzzle was still solid black. -- Photo by Pat Bean

On carefully pulling into my driveway, testing the wideness needed to turn my new RV, I heard frenzied barking from inside the house. It was how my dog, Maggie, reacted to the sound of strange vehicles invading her territory. She never barked when I returned home, nor did she at any of my frequent visitors. But she did not recognize this new vehicle.
When I opened the door, Maggie gave me a quizzical look of surprise. Then, realizing in a split second that something new was parked in the driveway, she dashed between my legs and ran out to explore.

I opened the RV’s side door and she eagerly hopped in. She slowly sniffed every surface she could get at, then finally hopped up onto the couch and gave me a look that I easily interpreted as: So where are we going? To explore America, the beautiful, I reply. I always answer my dog’s inquiring looks. .

And that’s how my travels with Maggie began. It’s been a journey that’s covered over 125,000 miles and heading into its eighth year.  I have nary a regret.

*This post was published today as part of Story Circle Network’s One Woman’s Day blog at: http://tinyurl.com/5tevft5  

Bean’s Pat: Birding on the Cheap: Rio Grande Valley http://tinyurl.com/riograndebirds Great birding blog with photos about a  place to escape for the winter.

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“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are. Take one step. Do one thing. Move, even if you don’t feel like it.” Katherine Misegades

Gypsy Lee parked among the cacti at Pancho Villa State Park in New Mexico

Travels With Maggie

I’m going into my eighth year of full-time living and traveling in Gypsy Lee, my 22-foot RV that I bought in 2004 when I retired and sold my home.

My rootless life has allowed me to get to better know my five grown children, who scattered far and wide when they left home, including Japan, Korea, Canada, Egypt and Hawaii. There’s no question in my mind but that they inherited my want-to-see-the-world gene.

Jobs and financial realities meant we saw little of each other before I became rootless and could visit them, although not too long at any one place so as not to wear out my welcome. I mostly spend winters in Texas, where three of my children and nine grandchildren live. Summer, however, finds me heading north to both escape the heat and for a little bit of solitude, which I’ve discovered I need as much as I need people.

Curved-bill thrashers were plentiful at the park. -- Wikipedia photo

One of the other things I’ve come to appreciate most about my rootless lifestyle the past seven years has been the changing, always scenic and educational view out my RV window. I’ve found something awesome everywhere I’ve traveled, even in a crowded, cement-landscaped RV park in El Paso that was located right next to Highway 10’s whizzing traffic roar.

This campground was the first place I stayed in which I thought there was no hope to feel nature’s presence. But then I looked out my window and saw a family of Gambel’s quail parading past. It felt like Mother Nature had turned into Santa Claus and could find me anywhere I went.

My traveling companion, Maggie, and I spent the next night 85 miles west of El Paso at New Mexico’s Pancho Villa State Park, where Mother Nature’s presence was expected. She did not disappoint either Maggie, who had lizards to chase, or me, who had birds to watch.

Quail, thrashers, red-winged blackbirds and doves twitted about the park’s historical ruins and large blooming cacti.

And before I left the next morning, I had also made a new friend, another wandering/wondering old broad like myself; had learned that the park was located where Gen. Black Jack Pershing had launched 10,000 soldiers to chase insurgent Pancho Villa back to Mexico; and had glimpsed a bobcat lurking under a picnic table.

I wonder what the sights will be out the RV window as Maggie and I continue into our eighth year of rootlessness? Wouldn’t you?

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 “Don’t threaten me with love, baby. Let’s just go walking in the rain.” – Billie Holiday

Just because there are storm clouds overhead doesn't mean one can't find beauty below. Photo of Antelope Island by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

When one sleeps with their head just a couple of feet below the roof, and that roof is only about three inches thick, rain becomes a very personal thing.

Billie Holiday at two years old in 1917. -- Wikipedia photo

That’s how it felt last night when the sky above me continuously dumped its blessings on Texas’ water-starved landscape. The ping, ping, pinging, while interrupting my sleep, still sounded delightful to my ears.

The rain was still on my mind when I set down to write this blog, and so it seemed logical to write about it. When I went searching for a quote to accompany it, the one above by Billie Holiday stopped me cold. Perhaps it was because the rain was still coming down outside and I knew I would probably be walking my canine traveling companion, Maggie, in the rain this day.

The quote, however, also led me on one of those Internet explorations that I frequently take these days in search of information. I already knew Billie Holiday was a singer who set the blues and jazz worlds on fire with her music while scandalizing the world at the same time with her behavior. But I wanted to know more.

Billie Holiday was a dog lover, too. And her dog's name was Mister. -- Wikipedia photo

I found it, and it touched me. Reading about the life of this Black woman, who was raped as a child and spit on because of her color, brought the rain to my eyes. No wonder, I thought, had “God Bless the Child,” Billie’s most popular recording, been so powerful. She had to have sung it with all the emotions of an abused child’s heart.

And yet, if we are to believe her words, she could still feel the joy of simply walking in the rain.

How can I, whose life these days feels powerfully blessed, treat a walk in the rain as anything other than a delightful treat?

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“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber


American woodcock. The one we saw at Brazos Bend had a beautiful red belly but flew away too quickly for me to get a photograph. -- Wikipedia photo


Travels With Maggie

The best option I’ve found to dump the holding tanks in my RV when I’m visiting my son in Lake Jackson is Brazos Bend State Park. The compensation for making the 80-mile round-trip drive is that the Texas park, known for its alligators, is one of my favorite places to bird.

I announced my intentions of making the drive to my son, Lewis, asking if he would like to make the trip with me. He passed the word along to his wife, Karen.

“Mom needs to take a dump at Brazos Bend,” is how he put it, which suddenly became a standing joke among us.

Saturday, the two of them, also birders, joined me for the adventure. Arriving at the park, I renewed my annual Texas State Park pass, then took care of Gypsy Lee’s business while Karen and Lewis walked Maggie and watched a flock of cedar waxwings.


But this red-eyed fellow, a black-crowned night heron, posed nicely for me. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Ten minutes after I had put on plastic gloves, hooked up a sewer hose and pulled levers, Gypsy Lee’s holding tanks were empty and I was ready to join the birding party.

We decided to hike the Hoots Hollow trail near the park entrance. It was a good choice.

One of the first birds we saw as we entered the moss-dripping forest was an American woodcock. It was cause for great joy as the bird was a lifer for all three of us. It brought my list of species seen up to 699.

But the benefits of having to drive to Brazos Bend to dump didn’t end there. Just as we were about to exit the trail, I got my 700th species, a Swainson’s thrush. It had been quite awhile since I had added any new bird species to my life list, and to get two in one day was fantastic.

Our continued birding around Forty Acre Lake was also great. We ended the day with 57 species, our final one being a black-crowned night heron that posed for my camera.

The day left me looking forward to my next “dump.”

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“Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can – there will always come a time when you will be grateful you did.” – Sarah Caldwell


Bastrop State Park is home to the endangered Houston Toad. -- Wikipedia photo

Travels With Maggie

As I suspected, yesterday’s 200-mile drive from Austin to Lake Jackson was mostly done in rain. And because I knew that. Gypsy Lee, my RV, takes her time stopping on slippery roads I drove a bit slower than normal.

I also let the rain and the slower speed that put me behind scheduled alter my plans for the day, which was to take an hour off from driving and explore Bastrop State Park. The park, located off Highway 21/71 southeast of Austin, is known as the home of the “Lost Pines” because it’s separated by about a 100 miles from the Piney Woods of East Texas.

My travel agenda almost always includes planned stops like this because they usually provide good photographic fodder for my blog and satisfy my cat’s curiosity. I have a button, saved from a journalism conference I attended when I was a city editor, that states: “I Want It All.” That’s actually true, and “I Want to See It All,” too.


The lake at Bastrop State Park -- Wikipedia photo

But I let time and rain wimp me out this day, giving my wimpy excuses encouragement because my Texas State Park Pass had expired and I would have to pay to enter the park. As I drove past the park entrance, Maggie snored softly in her co-pilot seat. She reminds me of my kids when they were young. They either slept or stuck their noses in comic books when we traveled long distances. Some of my grandkids, sad to say, do the same, except instead of reading comic books they play games on their cell phones. .

This morning, while scratching my head over a blog subject, I decided to explore online what I missed seeing personally.

What I discovered was that Bastrop State Park was closed after this past summer’s Texas wildfire damage. Only yesterday, according to the online news story I found on the park’s web page, were parts of it actually opened again to the public. For more information about what I would have missed I checked out a video of the park on You Tube, You can, too. http://tinyurl.com/3mxnywq

In addition to pine trees, peaceful lake, golf course, hiking trails and camping opportunities, Bastrop State Park is also home to the endangered Houston Toad.

Darn it! A rainy day might have been the perfect toad-watching day.

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Grotto Geyser, located on the walk to Morning Glory Pool at Yellowstone National Park. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Lewis Falls is always one of the first places I stop when I enter Yellowstone from the south entrance. -- Photo by Pat Bean

My Favorite Places

 “It’s my job to invite all of you to come to Wyoming and Yellowstone Park where we hope you get a glimpse of the grizzly. We hope you do not have an encounter with the grizzly.” – Mike Enzi

NaNoWriMo Update

My goal yesterday was to use my drive time to Dallas from Lake Jackson to think about my plot for my November novel writing experiment.

North of Houston, I stopped at a Flying J to dump my holding tank. Not only were the RV dumping spots full – I’m used to this task, which I usually do when I traveling between the two cities, taking a half hour – but when I learned that the once RV-friendly service station was charging $10 to dump, I drove on without waiting.

I might have paid $5, but certainly not $10 for my little 20-gallon holding tank. Most RVs have at least 40 gallon tanks. And no longer will I seek out Flying J’s to get gas. I felt the cost was an insult – and I’m still pissed. .

My outrage interrupted my head-plotting for the next few miles, and then I detoured off Interstate 45 – I hate driving on freeways – at Huntsville and took highways 19 and 175 the rest of the way into Dallas.

It was the first time I had gone this route so I mostly just watched the scenery go past.

The little plotting I did for the upcoming challenge involved thinking about the Gulf Coast landscape, which will be the setting for my yet as unnamed mystery.

I drove this landscape recently, between Surfside and Galveston, to get a feel for it. But my only thoughts on the book this day were that the endangered Ridley sea turtle and offshore oil spills might make good conversation fillers.

Sure hope, as past NaNo participants have said, that the characters take charge of the plot once the writing begins. Meanwhile,  I still have to find a place to dump.

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“A leaf fluttered in through the window this morning, as if supported by the rays of the sun, a bird settled on the fire escape, joy in the task of coffee, joy accompanied me as I walked.” Anais Nin

Snowy egret at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Utah. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

The landscape around the Texas Gulf Coast home of my son, Lewis, is always full of birds. It is why my binoculars are always sitting beside me when my RV, Gypsy Lee, is parked in his driveway.

Wrens, woodpeckers, warblers, hawks and ducks all visit or pass through his yard.

This morning, Carolina wrens inspected the gutters over his garage, a pair of cardinals sat on the utility wires attached to his roof and a flock of black-bellied whistling ducks flew overhead, alerting me to their presence with their high-pitched chorus as they winged past in V-formation.

Is this a photographer taking picture of birds, or a birdwatcher photographing birds? -- Photo by Pat Bean

The park directly across the street from my son’s home offers even more entertainment for this passionate birder: Logger-head shrikes hang out in the trees, mockingbirds frequently chase away a red-tailed hawk when it comes around and goldfinches hang around the feeders in the yard next to the park.

I sometimes think I might be mistaken for a peeping Tom, or in my case a Jane, because I might appear to be looking in someone’s window when I’m simply watching a ruby-throated hummingbird flitting around the flowers.

If you really want to know how crazy we avid birders are, you should go see the movie, “The Big Year.” It’s about competitive bird watching. Or you can read the book, “The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession,” written by Mark Obmascik. It’s actually a true story and I couldn’t put it down once I started reading.


Great-tailed grackles near Surfside, Texas. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Recently, when I was down at the beach – to watch birds of course – I watched another bird watcher as he tried to take a picture of some skimmers. Watching him was almost as much fun as watching the skimmers myself. I wondered if he was more photographer than birder, or more birder than photographer, like me.

We birders are actually a funny, but much blessed lot. The day I realized I had joined the craziness was the day I took a 440-mile, one-day, round-trip drive just to see nesting ospreys.

In fact, many of the 122,000 miles I’ve put on Gypsy Lee the past seven years have been in pursuit of birds – from the elegant trogons in Southeast Arizona, to the marbled murrelets on the Oregon Coast, to the Atlantic puffins in Maine, and the Florida scrub jays in the Everglades.

It’s been one great feathered adventure after feathered adventure.

Perhaps that’s why, at least for a little while, I’m content to simply watch birds from the comfort of my RV that is parked in the driveway of my son.  

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 “In this world of change, nothing which comes stays, and nothing which goes is lost.” Anne Sophie

Thousand Springs from the wrong side of the Snake River. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

I never exactly got lost yesterday, but I never got exactly where I was going. My maps didn’t help, and my 25-year-old memories were useless.

I wanted to drive the section of Highway 30, known as the Thousand Springs Byway that runs south of Interstate 84 and west of Twin Falls – and I did. But I still never got to the actual site I was trying to find.

Back in the mid-1980s, when I was regional editor at the Times-News in Twin Falls, one of my girl friends took me right up to those rivulets of crystal clear water that gush out of the sides of the steep cliff and flow into the snake river.

I climbed among the tumbled rocks between the rivulets of water, and walked a short boardwalk that had water flowing beneath it. That was the place I wanted to visit again.

Instead, I found myself on the opposite of the river with only distant views of the springs. And after spending so much time at the nearby Haggarman Fossil Beds, which I was seeing for the first time and told you about in yesterday’s blog, I was short of time to search more.

So instead of close-up views of the springs, all I got was a distant view from the wrong side of the Snake River. And so that’s all you get to see, too.

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