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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

We have had a lot of feedback on the new blog format, most of it very positive. If you go to yesterday’s post in the new blog format, you can read some of the comments at the bottom. We appreciate everybody’s input.

One reader comment was that the pictures are too small. We have made an adjustment and now when you click on a small photo (called a thumbnail) it opens in a larger format for easier viewing, but the thumbnails make loading the blog faster. For our readers with a slow internet connection, this is a big improvement.  

Some people e-mailed to ask why we are making the switch to the new format. Actually, we are doing it for several reasons. A big reason for the change is to have individual post pages. In the past, when a reader wanted to link to something in a particular blog, their only choice was to link to an entire month of the old blog and tell people to scroll through and find a particular date. With the new format, readers can link directly to any particular blog post, because each post has its own internet address, or URL, also known as a permalink. So readers with their own blogs can link to particular comments we’ve made, making everything much more accessible!

 

Another thing the new blog format will help us accomplish is making individual blog posts more accessible to internet search engines. While I love publishing the Gypsy Journal and the daily blog, it is also our business, and the income from those Google ads on the sidebar help us pay the bills. Improved internet search accessibility helps target more appropriate ads to the individual blog posts.

Allowing readers to post comments to the blog is also something we have wanted to do for a long time, and the new format allows readers to share their point of view on blog topics.

Last, but not least, with the old format, I had to use either my desktop computer, or my laptop, to make blog posts, because the software is on those computers. The new blog format uses  the Wordpress software, and I can access the blog, approve reader comments, and post updates from any computer with an internet connection.

Now, a lot of this is geek speak to me, but fortunately we have our very own geeks to explain it all much better than I ever could, with the tutorial videos Geeks on Tour produces. Check out their website and you’ll learn more about computers and how to get the most out of them than you could ever believe was possible.

Okay, enough tech talk, let’s talk about the year 2008, which we say goodbye to today. It’s been a busy and successful year for Terry and I, a year filled with lots of good times. But the year also brought a lot of sadness into our lives. In February we lost our dear friend Dave Baleria, a man whom I loved like a brother. Time has eased the rawest edges of the pain, but the hole in my heart will never be filled. Even now I find myself reaching for the phone to call Dave to bounce an idea off of him, or starting to forward him some goofy e-mail joke.        

In September we lost another dear friend, and an icon to the RV world, when Gaylord Maxwell passed on to his next great adventure. Gaylord was my boss at the Life on Wheels program, and a mentor to many of us. The world lost a great teacher when we lost Gaylord. There will never be another one like him.

With Gaylord’s passing, Life on Wheels has ended, and that is another tremendous loss to the RV industry and to the new RVers who will never have the opportunity to experience such an intense educational experience about this lifestyle.

But while we must honor the past and remember those who are no longer with us, we have to look toward to the future at the same time. Tomorrow we start a brand new year. What new adventures does it hold for us? Where will it take us? How many new friends will we make along the way? I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to the trip.

Thought For The Day – You grow up the day you have your first real laugh at yourself.

Register Now For Our Arizona Gypsy Gathering Rally

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Terry and I spent yesterday dropping off sample bundles of the Gypsy Journal at RV parks in Port Aransas and Corpus Christi, and running some errands. From Aransas Pass, there are two ways to get to Corpus Christi, by way of the Nueces Bay Causeway, or the longer route via Port Aransas to Padre Island to the south side of Corpus Christi. The longer route is more scenic, and since we were going to the south side of town, involved less driving in the city itself.

Besides, that way we got to ride the free ferry from Aransas Pass to Port Aransas on Mustang Island. The short ferry ride is fun, and we usually see dolphins as we cross to the island. This time around there was a pod of five or six swimming around the ferry landing. Depending on the time of day and the day of the week, there are usually three or four ferries operating, and the wait isn’t very long.

We really do not like Corpus Christi. Maybe we’ve just been in small towns for a while now and are not used to city traffic, but driving there is always hectic and stressful. Folks just don’t seem very courteous and we’re on edge every moment we spend there.

We’re always on the lookout for something to give us a chuckle, and at one RV park where we stopped, we spotted a fifth wheel cargo trailer that someone had made into an RV, with this funny painting on the front of it. We didn’t meet the owners, but I’ve just got to figure someone who would have this on their rig must be a hoot to get to know.

As I mentioned a while back, my kayak just does not fit me right, which reinforces what we had heard before we started our shopping - never buy a kayak until you actually paddle it. We learned that very few shops will let you do that. The place where we bought our kayaks had an indoor swimming pool, where I was able to get a feel for the boat in the water, but that is really no comparison to what to expect when you are actually out in a lake or river.

It’s a great boat, an Ocean Kayak Trident Angler model, all outfitted for fishing, but the rod storage pod in the center of the boat makes it too cramped for my chubby little legs. So I have decided to either trade it in or sell it, and replace it with something that will fit me better.

We stopped at Jerry B’s Kayak Sales in Corpus Christi, and I found a couple of boats that I thought would fit me better. The shop’s owners, Jerry and Debi Book, are a very nice couple and had a nice selection of kayaks on display. Since they do not carry the Ocean Kayak line of boats, they were not interested in trading, but Debi insisted that I try paddling the two boats I was interested in. I told her I needed to sell my present boat before I could replace it, and that we were leaving the area in a couple of days, so there was no need for them to go to all of that trouble.

“No, I want you to try the boats,” Debi said. “That way no matter where you decide to buy, you’ll know how the boat fits you and won’t make the same mistake again.” Now, how nice is that? How many businesses will go to all of that trouble for a person who is almost surely not going to make a purchase from them?

So Jerry loaded the two boats I was interested in into his pickup and we drove a few blocks to the bay, where I spent a half hour or so paddling them. Both boats were 12 foot models, a Heritage Redfish and a Wilderness Tarpon. Both handled beautifully and gave me much more leg room than my present kayak.

I really appreciate Debi and Jerry’s customer oriented attitude, and if you are anywhere in the Texas Coastal Bend and are interested in kayaks, I highly recommend them. They also have rentals available, so you can try paddling if you’re new to the sport! If you’re like us, I think you’ll be hooked 

Back at the bus, I tried to list my kayak on the local Craig’s List free online classifieds, but they require a local telephone number to sell a boat, for some reason. Anybody in the market for a like new fishing kayak?

My buddy Chris Guld from Geeks on Tour is helping me with a new design for the blog that will make it easier for readers to leave comments, and help folks find us easier with online search engines. We hope to take the new blog format live very soon, but in the meantime, here is a link to what we have come up with. I’d appreciate your input. Check out our new blog format. I am also working on some other internet projects that I’m looking forward to sharing with you soon.

Thought For The Day – The difference between greatness and mediocrity is often how an individual views a mistake.

Register Now For Our Arizona Gypsy Gathering Rally

Monday, December 29, 2008

Terry and I spent the weekend sealing all of the air leaks around our twin radiators and the door leading to our radiator air blowers. Like many old MCI buses, ours tends to run hot, even after we rebuilt the squirrel cage fans that draw air in through the radiators.

While we were at a bus rally back in October, diesel mechanic Christopher Best diagnosed a big part of the problem as the worn out rubbers seals around our radiators, as well as several places where the door over the blower compartment did not fit tightly. Like water, air follows the path of least resistance, so anywhere there is a leak in the seals or around the door, air gets sucked in that way instead of through our radiators, reducing their cooling ability.

We tore out the old worn out rubber seals and replaced them with rubber strips used for the bottoms of garage doors. Then we used closed cell foam to seal around the blower door. Then Terry sealed around everything with silicone caulk, and plugged several gaps where things did not come together as tight as they could. By the time we were finished and had everything back together, we were both convinced that we had eliminated any leaks that existed. We won’t know the end result of this project until we get back on the road, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed. Since we plan to spend the summer out west and will be driving in mountain country, we need all of the help we can get.

With all of that done and the bus put back together, we cleaned up and I checked my e-mail to find three new reservations had come in for our February Gypsy Gathering rally. I have posted a tentative schedule on the rally registration page. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for a look at the seminars and events listed so far. This is not final by any means, and I’ll be adding more information as seminars are confirmed.

Since our last rally in Casa Grande, the fairgrounds has a new manager, who has been, shall we say, less than easy to work with. Even though we had agreed on a price for the 2009 rally before this year’s rally ended in February, and paid our deposit, he wanted to raise the price for the buildings we rent during the rally by over $5,000, and the camping fee per RV by 20%. I finally convinced him to honor the agreed upon price, at least for the 2009 rally. After that, who knows?

In talking with the coordinator for the Wandering Individuals Network (WIN), which is scheduled to hold their rally at the fairgrounds soon after ours, they are having the same problem. The feeling on the part of the new fairgrounds manager is that RV rallies are small potatoes.

For our 2008 Casa Grande rally, we spent well over $17,000 just for the fairgrounds facility rental alone. That did not include the thousands of dollars more we spent in town for rally supplies, morning coffee and donuts, making copies of the rally schedule, paper plates and Styrofoam cups, door prize tickets, the over $1,000 we spent with Dominos for our pizza party, and on and on.

And that was just what Terry and I paid out. It does not include the many RVers who came to the fairgrounds a week or more early, and some that stayed on after the rally, which added up to several hundred dollars extra income for the fairgrounds in additional camping fees. We also had people who stayed at local RV parks before and after the rally, and people who did not have RVs who stayed in local hotels.

Sometimes I think people do not realize just how large an economic impact an RV rally, even a relatively small rally like ours, brings to a community. This year we brought over 500 people to Casa Grande. People who shopped in the local stores, dined in the local restaurants, and purchased fuel at the local gas stations. That is a lot of money for any community, let alone a small town like Casa Grande! If I were a merchant in that community, I’d sure want that business to return again the next year. Wouldn’t you?

If you are coming to the rally, we need your help. To help us demonstrate just how much money we contribute to the local economy, I am asking all rally attendees to save all of your receipts for anything you spend in the area. Fuel, food, groceries, RV park fees, propane, whatever you spend money on. If you can give us those receipts, or make copies (we’ll reimburse you for the cost of copying), we can go to the Casa Grande City Council and the Pinal County Board of Supervisors and show them just how much they stand to lose by allowing short term greed to overcome long term benefits to the community as a whole. Patty Coon from WIN is going to ask her people to do the same thing. Hopefully we can make these folks understand that RVers and RV rallies make a significant impact on the local economy.   

Thought For The Day – Credentials on the wall do not make you a decent human being.

Register Now For Our Arizona Gypsy Gathering Rally

Sunday, December 28, 2008

In Thursday’s blog, I mentioned that our inner children are whimsical, and our travel plans are set in jello. As Mac McClellan wrote in his Casino Travel blog on RV.Net, we have a general idea for our year’s travels, and anchor points along the way. Between those, we like to just roll with the flow and take it as it comes.

We prefer not making reservations, because then we have some place we have to be at a given time. What fun is that? What if we find a neat place along the way and want to tarry there for a while? What if we discover an interesting back road we want to explore? So, about the only time we make reservations is when we are going into a high use area during their peak times. Otherwise, we play it by ear.

We’ll be leaving the Texas Gulf Coast in a few days headed west. As of right this very minute, we plan to spend the rest of the winter and the spring in Arizona. We’ll be in Casa Grande in a couple of weeks getting things arranged for our Gypsy Gathering rally, and after the rally we plan to spend some time in Tucson and southern Arizona. Now that we have our kayaks, and with Miss Terry’s newfound interest in fishing, I would like to introduce her to bass fishing on a couple of my favorite lakes. 

From Tucson we may go up to the Thousand Trails in the Verde Valley, or maybe we’ll go hang out at the Escapees North Ranch campground near Congress, Arizona until it warms up a bit in the high country. Since we don’t have to rush back east for Life on Wheels, we want to spend a few weeks in our old hometown of Show Low, in Arizona’s White Mountains spoiling our grandkids.

We have never been to The Rally, which will be held in Albuquerque, New Mexico in April, so we may get a vendor booth there. Then I think we’ll head for the Pacific Northwest. It’s been a long time since we’ve visited the Oregon and Washington coasts, which is a very special place to me. The only time Terry has ever been up that way was just before she was diagnosed with cancer, and she would like to see it again through healthy eyes.  

Sometime toward the end of summer we’ll start making our way east to Traverse City, Michigan for Terry’s annual checkup with her oncologist, and then we’ll be in Celina, Ohio in September for our Eastern Gypsy Gathering rally.

From there, who knows? We’ve never explored the coast of Georgia and the Carolinas. I think it’s about time. We both have fallen in love with the Florida Keys. Maybe I’ll try to weasel another visit to our pals Tom Owen and Diane Rojewski’s houseboat in Key West.  

That's the general plan as of this moment. But than again…. autumn in Branson is supposed to be really pretty…. or maybe leaf peeping in New England … or?

Thought For The Day – We don't have to change friends if we understand that sometimes friends change.

Register Now For Our Arizona Gypsy Gathering Rally

Saturday, December 27, 2008

With Christmas behind us, it’s time to get serious about our Gypsy Gathering rally February 9-13 in Casa Grande, Arizona. We have more reservations coming in every day, and I have had several suggestions for seminars folks would like to see. We are trying to make all of those seminars happen, but I still need some help finishing out the seminar lineup.

My friend Cheryl Green is a consultant with Creative Memories and will be presenting seminars on digital scrapbooking, and a hands-on workshop on scrapbooking and card making. Cheryl presented her seminars at our Ohio Gypsy Gathering in September and it was a big hit, so we’re excited to have her joining us in Arizona.

We have also had several requests for a seminar on geocaching, and I have added one to the schedule. I’m not sure who will be presenting it yet, either myself, or do I have an experienced geocacher out there who is interested?

Someone also suggested a seminar on map reading. Yes, even with GPS units and computer technology, there is still a place for maps in this high tech world of ours. I’m trying to put that together now.

Several people have asked about a cooking seminar, or a seminar dedicated to convection cooking. I know we will have at least one cooking seminar, and I’m trying to find someone to cover the convection class now. And before you ask why Miss Terry doesn’t present that class, she doesn’t use a convection oven and much prefers to stick with her conventional gas range and oven.

It’s going to be a fun rally, and we look forward to seeing a lot of you there. At our first rally we had 185 RVs, and this year we had 254. Can we top that number this time around? Terry and I have to walk a fine line with our rallies; we need them to be big enough to cover the expenses and hopefully some of our effort, but we don’t want them to get too big and start losing the small, informal feeling we have worked to create for our attendees.  

We are also investigating alternate locations for future Western rallies. With the changes in management at the Pinal County Fairgrounds in Casa Grande, I’m not sure if we will be able to continue using that venue. From the very start, Terry and I have debated whether we should return to the same place every year for our rallies, both east and west, or if we should take them to new locales. We’re still not sure which way to go with that. Casa Grande is convenient to snowbird hotspots like Phoenix, Tucson, and Yuma, as well as all of the RVers who go to Quartzsite every year. But what about someplace in California, Oregon, or Washington? Maybe later in the year? What are your thoughts?

Several people have suggested that we hold our established winter Western and fall Eastern rallies in familiar locations, and then have a third floating rally that might be anywhere, during the summer. Miss Terry quickly reminded me that there are only so many weeks in a year, and that I pull her in enough different directions at once as it is, so I guess we’ll stick to two rallies a year.  

Thought For The Day – Sometimes when I'm angry, I have the right to be, but that doesn't give me the right to be cruel.

Register Now For Our Arizona Gypsy Gathering Rally

Friday, December 26, 2008

With Christmas behind us and the New Year fast approaching, Terry and I are beginning to wind down our time here on the Texas Coastal Bend, and thinking about moving on. I’m not sure the weather is going to allow us another opportunity to launch our kayaks while we’re here.

We may have to seek out some different fuel stops in our travels. This week Flying J Truck Stops filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. In a press release, the company says it intends to remain open and work toward a solution to their financial problems. I wasn't aware of it until my pal Smokey Ridgely called and told me last night, but as of yesterday, the Fuel Pricing page on Flying J's website shows several locations across the country either low or out of fuel.  

We still haven’t decided whether or not we’ll go to Mission before we leave Texas. We have several friends in that area we’d like to touch base with, and since we’ve never been there before, I’d like to pop in for a few days.  

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved maps. I remember studying road maps when I was in grade school and thinking about all of the places I wanted to see someday. Maybe that was the earliest symptom of the wanderlust that has led me to this gypsy lifestyle. I’ve been very fortunate in that I have been allowed to get to most of those faraway destinations I longed to visit as a young boy. But I still love maps, and still peruse them on an almost daily basis.

Lately I’ve been looking at options for our trip to Arizona. We like to avoid the superslab whenever we can, and we've been across Texas on Interstate 10 a dozen times. Boring! So I’ve been thinking about taking US Highway 83 north from Mission, then US 277 to Del Rio, and then US 90 north to Van Horn. This is not the fastest route, but who’s in a hurry? It’s all about the journey, right?

There are several places along the way worth visiting, including the Whitehead Memorial Museum in Del Rio, which covers the history of the region and includes a replica of Judge Roy Bean's famous Jersey Lily Saloon and courtroom. The frontier judge is buried on the museum’s grounds. I’d like to see the Marfa Lights along the way too. Since the 19th Century, hundreds of people have spotted mysterious lights in the area, but nobody has ever come up with a reasonable explanation for their origin. Hey, maybe I’ll be the one to solve the mystery!

Of course, like most fulltimers, our plans are set in jello, so who knows? As I’ve said before, our inner children are a whimsical pair, so we may go flitting off in any direction on our way west. I remember the time we left Elkhart, Indiana headed for Florida, but took a detour across Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan along the way!  

Thought For The Day – I cannot change yesterday. I can only make the most of today, and look with hope toward tomorrow.

Register Now For Our Arizona Gypsy Gathering Rally

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Wherever you are, I hope you are sharing this special day with people you love. We’d love to be with our family in Arizona, but this year Terry and I are having a quiet holiday with just the two of us, and that’s very special too.

We sure had some fun yesterday, even if I did have to drag myself out of bed much earlier than usual! Our friends Wes and Jan Chilson had invited us to go fishing with them on their boat, and since Wes is one of those guys who lives and breathes fishing, I knew we’d have a good chance to hook a couple.

When we met them at Conn Brown Harbor at 8:30 a.m., they already had the boat in the water. Even though the weatherman had promised us a warm, partly cloudy day, it was still foggy and overcast. But we hoped the fog would lift, so after I made a final pit stop, then took a picture of Terry and Jan in the boat waiting to get underway, we slowly chugged out to some gas wells where Wes has had good luck in the past, and settled in for some serious fishing.

It’s been over ten years since I caught a fish, and this was only Miss Terry’s second time fishing, so Wes gave us some pointers, we baited our hooks with live shrimp, and had at it. I don’t think Wes had his line in the water a full minute before he hooked a nice Speckled Trout, followed quickly by a Sheepshead that was just shy of the fourteen inches required to be legal.

Sheepshead are beautiful fish, but once you land one, you have to be careful handling them. They have very sharp fins and a moment’s carelessness will find you bleeding before you can release the hook from its mouth. Sheepshead get their name from their teeth, which look like the teeth of a sheep.

Suddenly my rod tip began to dip, and I set the hook and had a fish on! This was my first Sheepshead, and it gave me a good fight before I got it into the boat. The fish was below the legal limit, but I didn’t care. For me, the thrill is in the battle, and I’ve always been pretty much a catch and release fisherman anyway.

All of a sudden we were hooking one fish after another! Terry nailed a nice Sheepshead, followed quickly by a handsome trout, then I had another Sheepshead on, and Jan was landing a small Sand Trout. Poor Wes was kept busy just getting our fish off the hooks, measuring them, and releasing those too small to keep (which was most of them). But he didn’t seem to mind, because Wes is one of those nice guys who gets as much pleasure from watching and helping someone else have fun as he does catching the fish himself. But he did find the time to hook several more fish, including a seventeen inch Sheepshead that went into the live well, along with a keeper trout. By day's end we had all caught several fish, and had a great time doing so.

As soon as she brought in her first fish, I knew Terry had found a new avocation! She had a great time, and unlike a couple of women I have known, she never hesitated to bait her own hook with wriggling live shrimp. We talked about how much fun it would be to catch some of these from our kayaks, and I see a trip to Wally World for fishing rods of our own in our future! 

We fished for several hours, and the fog would clear for a while, then close in on us as thick as pea soup, and then lift again. All too soon we were out of bait, so we motored over to several bait shops along the causeway, but everybody was sold out.

So Wes took us for a ride out into the shipping channel, where several dolphins frolicked alongside us for a while. We made a pass by a lighthouse, then checked out an oil drilling rig, a tugboat pushing a long barge, and other commercial boats before the fog started rolling in and we deemed it wise to head back toward the harbor.

Since we had no luck finding more bait, Wes cut up one of the smaller Sand Trout we had caught, and we baited up with that and stopped at a couple of places hoping to coax a few more fish out of the water. There were a few nibbles, but either the fish weren’t hungry anymore, or our luck had run out for the day.

We eventually gave up and got back to the boat launch about 4:30, tired from our long day on the water, but with memories of a good day and good times with good friends that we will treasure forever. Thanks for making sure we had such a memorable experience, Wes and Jan!   

Thought For The Day – True friends can do anything, or nothing, and still have a good time.

Register Now For Our Arizona Gypsy Gathering Rally

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

“How can you live together in such a tiny space? My husband (or wife) and I could never do that. We’d kill each other!” It’s something all fulltimers hear from time to time when people learn that we live in the small confines of an RV. This doesn’t just come from non-RVers, but also from lots of weekend RVers we meet in campgrounds around the country.

It takes work, communication, and compromise to successfully live the fulltime RV lifestyle. I always tell people that you not only have to love each other, you must really like each other as well! Terry and I, and most fulltiming couples we know, truly are best friends. We enjoy visiting with other people very much, but we can’t be social butterflies fulltime. We need our time. We’re never happier than when we can get away by ourselves somewhere.

Now, that being said, there are times when we both need our own space, and when we have several days of ugly weather like we’ve had the last three days, the walls do start closing in. After two dreary, windy days, the weatherman had promised that it would clear up by yesterday. As it turns out, the weatherman is a lying dog! The nasty wind was gone, but the day was just as gray and chilly as those preceding it.

We ran to the post office a little after noon, and after dropping off our mail, Terry let it be known that there was no way she was up to going back to the bus right then. We both had a bad case of cabin fever.

With nothing planned, and the day not being conducive to doing much outside, we settled for taking advantage of the low gasoline prices and going for a long ride. We found ourselves in Portland, about ten miles from Aransas Pass, and checked out the movie theater to see if anything playing intrigued us. Nothing did, so we wound our way down a series of back roads, and eventually found ourselves at Ancient Oaks RV Park in Rockport.

When we were getting ready to launch our kayaks on Saturday, we ran into a couple of fellows who were just coming in off the water, and chatted with them for a while. As it turns out, they are RVers, one from Canada and his buddy from Michigan. We didn’t get their names, but we did learn that the gentleman from Michigan travels in an early 1950s drop deck moving trailer that he converted into an RV, and tows with a vintage White semi tractor.

He had invited us to stop by his site at Ancient Oaks and check out his rig, and since we were right in front of the place, we pulled in. As it turns out, they were off somewhere exploring, but Terry did get several nice photos of the truck and trailer. Isn’t it amazing what a little creativity can do? Someone took what most people would see as worn out antiquated equipment, maybe even junk to some, and turned it into a unique home on wheels!

Back at the bus, my buddy Wes Chilson called to invite us to go fishing with his wife Jan and him today on their boat. Again, the weather forecast promises better weather today, and we jumped at the chance to say yes. Hopefully we’ll catch something to brag about!   

Thought For The Day – Our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for who we become.

Register Now For Our Arizona Gypsy Gathering Rally

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

To be honest, I really don’t have anything to blog about today. Yesterday was a repeat of the day before – we stayed inside, grazed our way through the snacks we had on hand, and I sniveled because it was cold and ugly outside.

Rather than bore you with all of that, I thought that today I’d answer some of the questions I get from blog and Gypsy Journal readers, with the thought that maybe some others have wondered about the same things.

Janet Reese e-mailed to ask: “I’ve read your website and blog forever, and you never write about traveling in Canada or Mexico. Do you ever go to either place?

There is so much to see and do right here in the good old U.S. of A. that we have no interest in straying across either our northern or southern borders. I know a lot of RVers who enjoy traveling in Mexico, but it’s not for us. I spent many years publishing newspapers in Arizona, and I know that while you can travel in Mexico for years without any difficulty, I have also covered enough stories to know that if you do have a problem south of the border, you have a real problem! I much prefer to stay at home. While Canada has a lot to offer, and I would enjoy seeing the Maritime Provinces, they take a back seat to all that we still have left to see in our own country.

Jill Van Slater wrote to ask: “Why is it so hard for you guys to find a place to get the newspaper printed. It seems like there is an Alphagraphics or copy shop on every corner everywhere we go.”

While it is true that typical print shops are not hard to find, a newspaper press is a very different piece of equipment. A typical newspaper web press is forty or more feet long, and eight to twelve feet high. Due to the cost involved in setting up a web press operation, these days very few small newspapers have their own printing operation. Instead they farm their printing jobs out to centralized printing facilities. Locating a central web press operation that uses the same size paper we do, and then getting into their printing schedule sometimes presents challenges. That is why we have established relationships with several web press operations around the country and return to them when we need to get a new issue printed.

Mike Kuskiak asked: “A lot of RVers talk about parking for free overnight all over the country. Aside from WalMart, how do you find all of these places to spend the night?

There are many resources to help you find free overnight parking spots. Our Seven-in-One E-Book includes a guide to over 1,000 free and low cost overnight parking places, as well as fairgrounds with RV camping, casino camping opportunities and several other useful guides. Another great resource is Bob Ed’s Day’s End guide, which is available to Escapees members and lists hundreds of free campgrounds. Don Wright publishes two good guides, Free Campgrounds East and Free Campgrounds West, which are available from Cottage Publications. We also have a Free Campgrounds and Overnight Parking Places page on this website listing overnight parking options. There are a lot of good internet resources where you can find free camping. One example is FreeCampgrounds.com. There are also Yahoo groups listing free camping locations, or do a Google search for Free Campgrounds.

Bob Difley asked: “I think it may be a while before we see a turning up of the economy. Has the economic situation affected the Gypsy Journal or your rallies?

We're doing well, Bob. Our subscription numbers have dropped about 3% in the last year, which is the first time that has happened. But the flip side of that coin is that we are seeing a noticeable upturn in the sales of our books and guides on free campgrounds, casino camping, fairgrounds camping, etc. It's obvious that people are looking for ways to say money on camping costs. Our rallies are doing very well. We will have our third annual Gypsy Gathering Arizona rally in Casa Grande in February, and we had our first Eastern Rally in Ohio in September, with over 130 RVs attending.

Marybeth Keene wanted to know: “What is the one best piece of advice you would give to brand new fulltimers? 

This one is easy! SLOW DOWN! Too many newbies start out thinking they have to see it all and do it all in their first month on the road. They drive back and forth across the country in a mad dash that is exhausting and no fun at all. The sooner you understand that you will never live long enough to see it all anyway, you start to realize that you’re better off taking your time and enjoying life at a slower pace.  

Thought For The Day – No matter how good a friend is, they're going to hurt you every once in a while, and you must learn to forgive them for that.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

The weather here on the Texas Coastal Bend changes its moods faster than one of my ex-wives when she was off her meds! Saturday it was in the low 80s and we were kayaking in short sleeve shirts. We went to bed with the windows open and a ceiling vent fan running to keep it comfortable. Sometime in the wee hours of the morning the wind kicked up and the temperature plummeted.

All day yesterday was dreary, with the wind constantly rocking the bus and a few raindrops spitting on the windows. I was chilly all day and never got out of my sweat suit all day long. It was a good day for sipping hot chocolate, nibbling on some of Miss Terry’s fresh peanut butter cookies, watching TV, and working on the computer. Today the weather forecast does not promise us anything better.

Terry and I are trying to decide what we’ll do after Christmas. We need to be in Arizona by mid-January to start working on the final details for our Gypsy Gathering rally February 9-13 in Casa Grande, so we don’t have a lot of time left. We are debating staying here in Aransas Pass until the last minute, or going over to Mission for a week or so to touch base with some of our RVing friends there. We’ve never been to the Rio Grande Valley, which is a popular snowbird roost, and we keep saying we’ll get there one of these days.

If the weather was more cooperative and we could get some good paddling in, staying here would be fun. But with this on again, off again weather pattern, we’re spending more days wishing we could get on the water than we are actually doing so.

Terry has a couple of projects she’d like to finish inside the bus, but again, the unreliable weather has prevented her from getting started. Even though the finished work will be inside, the wood measuring and cutting would be outside. Terry can cut a pretty straight line, but even she might have problems if she was shivering too hard to hold a saw steady.

We also need to get a couple of things done on the bus before we leave here; re-sealing the door around our radiator fans, and the gaps where the radiators sit in their mounts. We also have an oil leak that I need to try and track down. All Detroit diesels leak oil, but this particular leak is new and seems to be more of a problem than the norm. We know a lot of RVers who post their current location on the Datastorm Users Group Map so their friends can keep track of where they are. We don’t bother with that, we figure anyone who wants to find us bad enough can just follow the trail of oil drops we leave behind.

Thought For The Day – Any connection between your reality and mine is purely coincidental.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

I guess the folks here in Aransas Pass finally got the word that Christmas is almost here. Until now we have experienced few long lines anyplace in town, but Saturday morning when I went to the post office to drop off the remainder of the new issue, the line was out the door. Who waits until five days before Christmas to do their mailing?

I always enjoy people watching and find them fascinating creatures. It’s a small post office lobby and you can hear every conversation. Yet one person after another asked the same question: “Will this get to such and such place in time for Christmas?” And over and over again, the clerks would say “The only guarantee this late is if you use Priority Mail within the state of Texas, or Express Mail outside of the state.” And yet, the very next person in line invariably asks “Will this get to such and such place in time for Christmas?”

At one point, the clerk said loudly “Attention please. The only delivery guarantee this late is if you use Priority Mail within the state of Texas, or Express Mail outside of the state.” And I’ll be darned if the very next person wanted to know if a Parcel Post package would arrive in Iowa in time for Christmas! I think I know why those heavily armed postal workers lose it occasionally!

Since the weather report for the next few days is for cold and wind, we decided to take advantage of the nice afternoon yesterday to launch our kayaks. We spent a couple of hours paddling around the mangroves in the Lighthouse Lakes Paddling Trail.

I have to be honest; I really like this area, and there are an unlimited number of places to paddle, but I enjoyed kayaking in the Florida Keys better. The water where we’ve been paddling around here is very shallow, and yesterday it was even lower than normal. In fact, at one point as we navigated around a mangrove clump, I actually got stuck! For much of our time yesterday the water level was so low that we could not actually dig our paddles into the water, but rather had to adopt a modified shallow stroke so our paddles didn’t hit the bottom. Several places where we paddled before were only three inches or so deep yesterday.

And, as we experienced before, the wind and current make paddling in a straight line a real challenge. For much of the time, I found myself paddling on just one side to counteract the current.

But any day on the water is a good day, and we had a nice time. There were lots of fish jumping all over, and a huge variety of birds in the mangroves, from Snowy Egrets to White Ibis, seagulls, pelicans, and ducks. Terry spotted this Roseate Spoonbill hunting for dinner and managed to get a photo before she had to go back to paddling to prevent the current from pushing her too close, so she wouldn’t disturb the bird.  

By the time we returned to shore, we were both pleasantly tired, with that slight ache to our arms and legs that lets us know we’ve had a good workout. Shallow water, wind, and current aside, this still beats the heck out of a gym membership, in our minds!    

Thought For The Day – Both optimist and pessimist contribute to society. The optimist invents the airplane and the pessimist invents the parachute.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Getting sick and needing to see a doctor is not fun under the best of conditions. If you are in a strange town where you don’t know anyone, it can present some real challenges.

RVers facing a medical problem while traveling have to deal with both the illness and with finding reliable medical attention in a community where they have no contacts to draw from. Who do you call?

If you have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately. Give the operator your site number in the RV park, as well as a description of your RV, and stay on the line until help arrives. If you have a panic alarm on your RV or tow vehicle, activating it will help emergency responders locate you in a large RV park. 

In non-emergency medical situations, the first place to look for guidance is the campground office. The owner or manager usually lives in the community, and should be able to refer you to a nearby medical office that takes walk-in patients.

Another option is one of the Urgent Care walk-in medical clinics that can be found in many communities around the country. Yet another alternative may be the emergency room at the local hospital. Most GPS units used for automobile navigation will show nearby hospitals in the area where you are located.

For fulltimers and snowbirds, having a copy of your medical records with you could be helpful if you have ongoing medical issues. This may be in either printed format or a digital copy of your records.

If you are on vacation or are a snowbird, and your medical problem is relatively minor, you may want to seek follow-up treatment with your hometown physician after initial consultation with a local medical professional. But what if you are a fulltimer with no home base to return to?

In our own case, when Terry was diagnosed with stage four cervical cancer eight years ago, we were in Traverse City, Michigan. Once she was stabilized and the initial crisis had passed, we considered our options. Terry was going to need an intensive radiation and chemo regime, and even though it was late in the year and winter was on its way, we decided it was in her best interests for us to remain where we were for the next two months. Terry had a good medical team in place at the Beiderman Cancer Center in Traverse City that we were completely confident with, and we felt that it was worth putting up with the cold weather to keep her where we were. That decision worked out very well, and though Terry went through weeks of pure hell, she made a full and complete recovery and is now cancer free.

By the time Terry’s chemo and radiation treatments were finished, it was bitterly cold, with a couple of feet of snow on the ground. As soon as her doctor released her, we made a beeline south in search of warmer temperatures. She would require follow-up exams every three months for the first year, then every six months for a couple of years.

We made arrangements for her first follow-up exam with an oncologist in Jacksonville, Florida, and Terry had a very bad experience with that doctor that left her an emotional wreck. Two weeks later, after she calmed down, she told me that she wanted to return to her doctor in Traverse City for future exams.

Because we have wheels under our house, and because Doctor Heimburger understood our mobile lifestyle, we were able to set up a schedule that allowed us to return for her exams when the weather was bearable, and we have continued to do so for her now-annual exams. Being able to return to Traverse City when Terry’s exams were due tethered us in the eastern half of the country for two or three years, but it was worth it to be able to have access to qualified medical care when necessary, and still enjoy traveling in between appointments.

Thought For The Day – Ideas are funny little things. They won’t work unless you do.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Miss Terry has been working long hours getting the new issue stuffed into envelopes. Yesterday afternoon we drove back to the mail service in Corpus Christi to drop off the papers that go out by Standard Rate mail, and by the end of the day today we should be able to drop the rest off at the post office and UPS. With the holiday mail crush in full force, we wanted to get them into the system as soon as possible to avoid any undue delays.

We send papers out to our subscribers by several different methods. Most go out by Standard Rate, but we also have a lot of subscribers who pay $5 a year extra to cover the cost of First Class mail. This gets their papers to them quicker, and also insures that they will be forwarded if they are traveling. The Post Office does not forward Standard Rate mail, which can present problems for folks who move around a lot.

We also have a large number of subscribers who use mail services like Alternative Resources, Escapees Mail Service, and FMCA. We have arrangements with those organizations that allow us to ship all of our subscriber members papers to them in one large UPS shipment for distribution. And let’s not forget our Canadian subscribers. They have to go through regular mail, and depending on which post office we mail them from (no two post offices ever seem to agree on the rules), we may have to fill out a customs declaration for each envelope.

But no matter how they go out, each and every paper first has to be inserted into a mailing envelope. This adds extra expense for us, and a lot of extra work, but we know that the paper will arrive at its final destination in one piece. We tried sending them without envelopes once, several years ago, and far too many were shredded in the postal system. We quickly went back to using envelopes.

Until recently, another challenge was purchasing the combination of stamps to equal the $1.34 First Class postage. Sometimes the local Post Office will not have several hundred stamps in the right face values, and we have had to run around to different small town post offices to buy enough stamps to get the job done.

Once we had enough stamps, we had to affix them to the envelopes. Depending on what the post office had available, it would be anywhere from three to five stamps per envelope. Miss Terry has it even harder than me, because she has to make sure I don’t get mixed up and put the wrong combination of stamps on.

This issue we are going to try and make life a little easier by printing a one piece label with our return address, the subscriber’s address, and postage on it using our Stamps.com account. If it works out, it will make preparing the First Class part of the job easier for us. The cost of the label and online postage adds a few cents, but the savings in time and gas running around looking for stamps and affixing all of them will be worth it.

Sometimes I have a hard time keeping track of all that’s involved in the mailing tasks, but fortunately, Terry is an expert at it and makes it all look easy.    

Thought For The Day – Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

We’ve been busy the last couple of days. Tuesday we drove 75 miles to Victoria, Texas to pick the new issue of the Gypsy Journal from the printer. We’re always a little nervous the first time we work with a new printer, until we see how the job turns out. We were very pleased, they did a great job for us. And we have added them to our list of reliable printers we use around the country.

My night vision is not very good, so Miss Terry takes the wheel if we are going to be out after dark. It was a dreary day to start with, and it was after 5 p.m. by the time we got the papers loaded, so Terry drove back to Aransas Pass. Somewhere north of the tiny community of Tivoli, we spotted a pig trotting along in the grass beside the road. Terry thought it was a javelina, but I’ve seen a lot of javelina in Arizona, and this was a pig. I’ve heard the population of feral pigs are exploding  in Texas, so I don’t know if this was a wild critter, or some farmer’s pig who decided to get out of Dodge before he became the centerpiece of someone’s Christmas dinner. But whichever he was, he seemed to know where he was going, and was making good time, so we didn’t stop to chat.

Yesterday we drove 25 miles to the commercial mail service in Corpus Christi we are using for this issue to pick up the preprinted envelopes. This was also a new company we have not worked with before, but again, they did an excellent job of getting the envelopes ready to go.

Going into Corpus Christi, we had to cross the high bridge over the Ship Channel, and I remembered why we drove north on U.S. Highway 181 to bypass this bridge when we left here last year. We’ll do the same thing when we head to Arizona in a couple of weeks.

It was a foggy day, and the historic aircraft carrier USS Lexington looked surreal as we passed it at its permanent anchorage in Corpus Christi Bay. We toured the Lexington and did a story on the famous carrier last year. Here is a photo from that excursion, when we had blue sky overhead.

Traffic in Corpus Christi was heavy even at mid-day, and once we loaded up the envelopes, we decided for the return trip we’d take the bridge to Padre Island and then drive from there to Port Aransas on Mustang Island and take the ferry back to Aransas Pass. The mileage was about the same, but there was almost no traffic, so we made good time. On the drive down the island we spotted an osprey flying past us with a fish in its talons, headed home for dinner.

Back at the bus, Terry began stuffing envelopes, and an hour or so later looked outside and noticed that the fog had really closed in. There was still some daylight left, so I grabbed a camera and drove a mile or so to Conn Brown Harbor to take a couple of pictures of the commercial fishing boats looking ghostly in the thick fog. By then visibility was down to a couple of hundred feet, and I decided to head home while I could still find it.

Thought For The Day – The world has the habit of making room for the person whose words and actions show they know where they are going.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Well, that didn’t take long! I wrote in yesterday’s blog that the OPEC oil ministers are meeting this week to discuss cutting production in the face of falling prices, and here on the Texas Gulf Coast, gasoline prices shot up 8¢ to 10¢ a gallon overnight. Are they sticking it to motorists in preparation for the busy Christmas/New Years travel, or are they sticking it to us in response to possible rising oil prices that won’t actually hit for weeks?

Sometimes I can get into trouble without even getting out of bed in the morning, and other times I have to work at it a little bit, but one way or the other, I usually manage to raise somebody’s hackles in the course of my daily routine.

Yesterday a blog reader complained that he reads the blog before he goes to bed at night, and the date is always for the next day, which confuses and upsets him. He suggested I get a calendar and refer to it before I post.

I explained that I try to post the blog about midnight local time. That means if we are back east during the summer, it actually gets online about 9 p.m. Pacific Time. Right now we are on the Texas Coastal Bend, which is in the Central Time zone. So if I post at midnight here, it would be 10 p.m. California time.

He wrote back to ask why I don’t wait and post it early in the morning. I replied that we are night owls and seldom get up very early in the morning. So if I wait to post the blog until I wake up, folks on the East coast complain because they want to read it with their morning coffee. (Yes, people really do start their day with me. I can’t understand why either.) His immediate reply was that I needed to change my schedule and “start living and sleeping like real people do.” Here’s an idea – how about I go about my business like I always have, and you wait until morning to read the blog? Then you won’t have to go to bed upset every night, and I don’t have to go to bed until I’m ready to. We both win.

A thread on the Escapees forum was discussing the proposed automakers’ bailout, and the quality of American made cars compared to foreign cars. I reported that our previous vehicle, a Toyota pickup, has over 150,000 miles on it and is still going strong with no major repair work ever required. On the other hand, my daughter bought a new Pontiac a couple of years ago that was a total lemon, and after the dealership could not fix it, she had to take GM to court to get any results. A longtime Gypsy Journal subscriber immediately e-mailed to cancel his subscription because he is a retired UAW worker and I was helping to spread the myth that American cars were inferior.

What myth? The car was a lemon, and neither the dealer nor GM could fix it. It happens sometimes. Those are simple facts. I’m amazed that someone, who is a union member because of all that unions have done to protect workers’ rights, is so quick to deny someone else their basic right to free speech. I guess some rights are more sacred than others.

I’m sorry he feels that way, because each and every subscriber is important to us. But I paid my dues to this country a long time ago, and the few dollars he pays for a subscription isn’t enough to buy my right to free expression. In the nation I fought and bled for, friends can disagree. They can even argue, but still respect each other and remain friends.

The last guy I upset would be funny if he wasn’t so pathetic. He apparently read our page on RV Unfriendly Communities and sent me a nasty letter so full of typos than I ran out of fingers and toes before I could finish counting them, warning me that I had slandered Yuma, Kingman, and Flagstaff, Arizona by reporting that those communities do not allow RVs to park overnight outside of established campgrounds.

He threatened dire consequences if I did not retract this information, because he is a full time resident of Yuma, and a personal friend of the city attorney. He assured me that I will soon be hauled before the local judge to answer for my crimes. When I responded to tell him that our information is correct, he went into another third grade tirade that I finally gave up trying to decipher. As my old man used to say, “Never try to teach a pig to sing. It’s a waste of time, and it irritates the pig.”  Some people really should wear a hat when they spend time out in the sun.

Thought For The Day – Opportunity often comes in the form of misfortune, or temporary defeat.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Well, I knew it wouldn’t last long. Yesterday the Associated Press reported that OPEC is meeting this week to discuss a substantial reduction in production, which would stop the decline in gas prices and start them moving back upward. Hopefully we will not see the obscene prices at the pump we did a few months ago, but there is no way that we can continue to enjoy the bargains we’re getting right now. 

The weatherman had promised a good day yesterday, with highs around 80 and no wind, but instead we woke up to a dreary sky, stiff wind, and temperatures in the 50s. So much for kayaking. L I really love this area of the Gulf Coast of Texas, but the all too frequent wind and unpredictable weather are no fun at all.

Yeah, I know, I shouldn’t snivel. Some of you folks reading this are stuck in frigid places where the 50s would seem like a balmy day. I talked to my cousin Berni Frees on the telephone and it was snowing and blowing at her place in Muskegon, Michigan. But the point is that I’m not in those places! I have wheels under my house, and I went to where it is supposed to be warm! So what gives?

With our kayaking plans scratched again, and it being just too darned cold and windy to spend much time outside, I spent the day working on the computer. I added a couple of pages and did some tweaking to my Motorcycle Travel Online website, reformatted our RV Bookstore page on this website, updated our mailing list for the new issue of the paper, and cleaned out some useless stuff cluttering up my computer.

That done, I uploaded a bunch of saved GPS coordinates to my new Garmin, favorite campgrounds, my parents’ gravesites, and such. I was having a problem transferring data from my Garmin MapSource mapping program to my new GPS, so I called Garmin’s tech support for advice. The first tech I talked to told me he needed to transfer me to a software specialist, and warned me that the wait would be at least 24 minutes. It actually took 34 minutes, but it was worth it because the software tech resolved the problem in just a couple of minutes and I was good to go.

In the afternoon UPS pulled up and dropped off a big box of kayaking stuff our dear friend Sandy Baleria had sent us from Oregon. Dave and Sandy used to do a lot of kayaking, but Sandy said with Dave gone she doesn’t want to go paddling alone. We really appreciate the gifts, and it made me feel just a little closer to Dave to hold things he used to get so much use out of. Thanks so much, Sandy.

This afternoon we’re scheduled to drive back to Victoria to pick up the new issue of the paper from the printer, and then we’ll begin several days of stuffing envelopes to get everything in the mail before Christmas.

Thought For The Day – All we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

After reading my blog about Christmas gift ideas for RVers, a couple of readers wrote to ask me what I wanted Santa Claus to bring me. Now, I could be noble and say I have everything I need or could ever want – a beautiful, loving wife who still takes my breath away after over eleven years together, a fantastic daughter and two adorable grandkids, good friends, reasonably good health, and the ability to make our living as we wander this wonderful country of ours. Or I could tell the truth.

I want train air horns for my bus! I’ve seen them at truck stops and online, and some of my buddies have them on their heavy duty trucks, and I want some for my bus conversion. The standard electric horn on the bus does a fine job for tooting at kids who wave from alongside the road as we drive by, or for venting my frustration when some idiot pulls out in front of me while talking on his cell phone.

But there are times when a simple beep beep won’t do the trick. Just once I want to be sitting at a red light when some youngster rolls up beside me with a stereo booming so loud that it makes my teeth hurt, and be able hit that air horn and blow him into the middle of next week! I want him to be shaking so hard that he can’t send text messages for a month! That’s all I need to make it a very merry Christmas.

Actually, Santa came to my house early, and brought me a neat new toy, a Garmin handheld GPS receiver. A few months ago we introduced our daughter Tiffany and her family to geocaching, and they were instantly hooked, so I gave her my GPS and planned to replace it. Well, you know how that goes sometimes. I never got around to replacing it, and finally Santa decided to take matters into his own hands, and now I can go geocaching again.

It has been a long time since we were out geocaching, so yesterday we decided to break in the new GPS unit. I downloaded eleven caches in the local area and we set out on our grand adventure. They ranged from one micro cache that was so tiny that I swear I had bigger zits when I was a teenager, to one 32 ounce camouflaged container. We found our last cache just as the light was fading and it was getting too dark to see anymore. 

Several caches were overlooking Conn Brown Harbor, here in Port Aransas, and Miss Terry took some nice pictures of some of the commercial fishing boats and the Fisherman’s Memorial at the harbor.

If you have not tried this fun hobby, you really need to check it out. Here’s a link I wrote a while back to an article called Geocaching, This Could Be The Perfect RV Hobby! We have found caches from the green hills of Pennsylvania to the deserts of Arizona , from northern Michigan to southern Florida, and had a great time on every outing. It’s not about the little trinkets we find in the caches, it's about the mental challenge the hobby gives us, as well as the physical exercise. I’m just too darned lazy to go for a walk, but stick a GPS in my hand and point me in the direction of a Tupperware container full of McDonald’s toys, and I’ll cover 15 miles to find it!

You can learn more about geocaching at www.geocaching.com. An offshoot of geocaching is waymarking, in which you don’t look for physical caches, but rather the search leads you to a geographic point. We have discovered some really neat historical sites, beautiful views, and interesting places while waymarking. You can learn more at www.waymarking.com. Both are fun and inexpensive hobbies for RVers, and wonderful activities to do with your kids and grandkids. Try it, I bet you’ll like it!

Thought For The Day – I used to have a handle on life, but it broke.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

After working long hours the last week getting the new issue of the paper ready to print, we played lazy and slept in yesterday morning.

We had hoped to get our kayaks back into the water, but the wind was blowing again, so that scrapped that idea. Today is supposed to be about 80 degrees, but again the wind is predicted to be blowing at 20 to 30 miles per hour. Monday looks like it might be a good day, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed.

With our kayaking plans on hold, we decided to go to Lowes in Aransas Pass and pick up some weather stripping to seal the door on the rear of our bus conversion that accesses the squirrel cage fans that pull outside air in through our twin radiators.

Like many old MCIs, our bus has run hot almost from day one, even after we had the squirrel cage fans rebuilt, the radiators checked, thermostat replaced, and several other “fixes.” When we were at my pal Howard Best’s bus rally in Georgia in late October, Howard and his son Christopher suggested that we seal the door, as well as some gaps where the radiators fit into their mounts. They said that if the fans can draw air in through those gaps instead of actually through the radiators themselves it will reduce their cooling ability. These guys know more about buses than I can ever hope to, so we’ll give it a try.

At Lowes we found some closed cell foam that is actually made for insulating water pipes, but that we think might do the job. I’ll let you know how it works out.

From Lowes we stopped at the WalMart SuperCenter, and I commented to Miss Terry that even at mid-afternoon on a Saturday twelve days before Christmas, the place wasn’t very busy at all. In fact, we only had one person in front of us at the checkout counter. We noticed this at the WalMarts in Rockport and Victoria also. Is it because we’re in small towns where there are no huge crowds to deal with, or are folks that hard pressed financially that they are not doing any Christmas shopping? Or are they all just waiting until the very last minute?

On our way home, we stopped at a seafood market and Terry picked up some fresh shrimp. One of the many great things about being here on the coast is all of the fresh seafood you can find, from shrimp and crabs to all kinds of fish.

Back at the bus, I answered several e-mails, worked on some website projects, and tweaked the schedule for our upcoming Arizona rally. My friend Jaimie Hall-Bruzenak, the author of the best book ever written on working on the road, Support Your RV Lifestyle, has presented her seminar on working on the road at previous rallies and it has always been well received. This year Jaimie’s writing partner, Alice Zyetz, will follow Jaimie’s presentation with a seminar called How To Write A Resume For Working On The Road. If you plan to do any workamping, you won’t want to miss these classes.

While I was doing that, Terry cooked dinner, absolutely delicious shrimp scampi with parmesan linguini. Yummy!

Thought For The Day – Being over the hill is much better than being under it.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Did you see that huge full moon last night? It was beautiful! We spotted it as we were driving past Cove Harbor in Rockport on our way to dinner with Wes and Jan Chilson. I’m glad Wes was driving, because I was so busy gawking that I’d have run us right into the water! I don’t think I’ve ever seen it so big.

If you want to see a great lunar photo, check out this link Wes sent me, and be sure to look at some of the photos in their archive section. http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap081212.html

Yesterday Miss Terry and I drove 75 miles to Victoria, Texas to get acquainted with a new printer we are trying out for when we are in this part of the world. Judging from the size of their operation and the samples of their work that we saw, I think they’ll do a good job for us. We’ll know Tuesday afternoon when we pick up the finished print job.

Compared to Rockport and Aransas Pass, Victoria is a big city. Well, it’s not a metropolis, about 60,000 people according to the latest census data, but still much larger than the small towns here on the coast. It had several big box stores and chain restaurants that are not available here, but I much prefer the slower pace of Aransas Pass.

In yesterday’s blog I asked if readers are taking advantage of low fuel prices to travel more, or if they are sitting still, hoping that the economy will pick back up. The overwhelming response was that people are traveling, not necessarily because of low fuel prices, but because they have made a decision that this lifestyle is too good not to be out enjoying.

“We can’t control the stock market or oil prices,” Dennis Phillips wrote, “But we can control our own lives, and we refuse to let anything get in the way of that. We had planned on going to Alaska in the summer of 2009 back when diesel was over $4 a gallon, and we’re still going no matter what it costs, high or low. We only have one life, we worked hard, and now it’s our time.”

Sandy Schieflin said “We took a big hit on our investments this year, but so what? We can stay in one place and pinch pennies, and then leave them for our kids to spend when we’re gone, or we can continue living this adventure. We choose the latter.”

My friend Bill Joyce e-mailed to say “We are doing about the same amount of traveling we had planned to do. We do wish the fuel prices were lower last spring and summer when we ended up putting on the miles, but that is life.  I know we could have used the money we spent on fuel for something else.  A couple years ago I figured that we could afford $5/gallon and keep traveling as we wished, thinking that was high.”

Diane Hitzel wrote “We decided to do this no matter what the gas prices. Life is short and it can change in an instant. We were home from late August through November and lost three friends (two in car accidents and one from pneumonia). So each day we are thankful that we can live this day and lifestyle.”

“We are sensitive to fuel price, but we don't let the price of gas stop us from going where we want to go,” wrote Keith Sheffler.

I think Carmen Solatilla summed it up best when she wrote “If I get sick and find myself laying on my death bed, do you think I’ll be thrilled that I have a lot of money in the bank? Or would I be happier to be able to look back and think about all of the fun times I had, the great places I visited, and the wonderful people I met along the way?”    

Thought For The Day – If you try to please everybody, you'll die before you ever get finished.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

So what the heck is going on with the weather? Snow in Mississippi and Louisiana? Snow in Houston? Tom Nankivell sent me pictures of RVs covered with snow at the Escapees Rainbow’s End campground in Livingston, Texas. Just for the record, I highly disapprove!

Here in Aransas Pass, Texas, it was cold the last couple of days, but not cold enough to snow. I was chained to my computer putting together the new issue of the Gypsy Journal, so I wasn’t out in it, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Whoever invented global warming is probably in Washington right now telling Congress more fairy tales to get bailout money for some financial institution or auto company.

Today we will drive to Victoria, Texas to drop off the CD with the new issue at the printer, and then we’re having dinner with our friends Wes and Jan Chilson. It has been a treat for us to get to know Wes and Jan better, they’re great people. Jan knew we were working hard on the new issue and must have figured out that I needed a sweet treat, because the other day she dropped off a plate of goodies. You just have to love someone who does that!

I’m curious as to all of your travel plans this season. Last winter many folks curtailed their travel because fuel prices were headed up. This winter fuel is lower than we have seen in many years, but a lot of people have been hit hard by the financial crisis. So are you taking advantage of low fuel prices to get some traveling in, or are you sitting still trying to conserve your funds?

Every year we seem to have something to worry about, whether it be rip offs at the fuel pump or rip offs at the retirement fund. Never worry, we always seem to have an endless line of sleaze balls waiting to stick it to us. As soon as one is exposed, another steps up to the plate for his turn at our bank account.

I’ve had several readers tell me that if the current low fuel prices continue, they are planning to make trips to Alaska next summer. This might be a good time to do so, before they invent another shortage that makes the trip too expensive.

After reading yesterday’s blog about Christmas gift ideas for RVers, several people wrote to ask why I didn’t list the Amazon Kindle and wondered if I still enjoy mine. Yes, I love it and use it all the time. But right now they are sold out, and none are expected to ship until after Christmas. That’s the only reason I did not include the Kindle in my list.

If you already have a Kindle, my pal Sharon Del Rosario has figured out how to read my daily blog on her Kindle. I haven’t tried it yet, but Sharon says it’s easy. I won’t bother everybody here with the details, but if you want to know how, send me an e-mail at editor@gypsyjournal.net and I’ll send you the instructions.

Thought For The Day – Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

So what do you want Santa Claus to bring you for Christmas?

As fulltime RVers, we don’t want or need a lot of stuff to clutter up the rig, but there are some goodies out there that make life on the road easier, safer, and more fun. Here's my Top 10 gift ideas for the RVers on your shopping list, or even to give to yourself.

RVer’s Notebook – This easy to use computer program helps you keep track of all of your RV expenses and maintenance, includes pages to record your campground stays, and even the people you meet along the way! 

Tire Pressure Monitoring System – I can’t believe that we ever got along without our PressurePro tire monitoring system. No more crawling around in the dirt or mud with a tire gauge. Now all I do is touch a button and check all of my tires on the bus and van before we hit the road, and the system monitors my tires while we’re on the go and alerts me to any problems before they turn into disasters. My pals Mike and Pat McFall have a Christmas special going on right now – buy a PressurePro system with eight or more sensors and get one sensor free. That’s a $50 savings!

Weather Radio – These inexpensive little battery powered radios can save your life! No RV should be without one! Available at Radio Shack, Camping World, and most department stores.

Alaska DVDs – My friends Joe and Vicki Kieva are two of the best known and most respected RV experts in the world. In their latest blog post, Joe reports that they have reduced the price on two Alaska RV travel DVDs just in time for Christmas. If you’re planning a trip to Alaska, or have already been on that great adventure, you won’t want to miss these!

GPS Unit – For navigating through busy city streets or out in the hinterlands, a GPS will get you there by the best route available.

Infrared Digital Thermometer  - I use mine for checking my wheel hubs to make sure nothing is getting hot, and before I had a tire monitoring system, I’d check my tires with it to be sure they were all operating in the same temperature range. Available at Camping World, Radio Shack and Sears.

Gift Cards – With the way big stores are closing these days, I hesitate to recommend these, but they are the perfect gift for RVers. A gift card to a place like Red Lobster, Texas Roadhouse, or WalMart will make any fulltimer I know happy.

Digital Weather Center – Forget the Weather Channel, now you can check the weather right from your RV, and even forecast what’s to come, and transfer data right to your computer! Available from Camping World.

RV Books – We have a great selection of RV books available at our online RV Bookstore and our Amazon storefront.

Gypsy Journal – A full year of RV stories and fun, from what I personally think is the greatest RV publication around! J

Of course, the best gift that you give is the gift of yourself. Spend some time with the people you love this holiday season, and if you can’t be there, be sure to pick up the telephone and speak from your heart when you tell them how much they mean to you. I promise you that they’ll remember that long after the excitement of unwrapping presents has been forgotten.

Thought For The Day – If at first you don't succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Texas Coastal Bend is a long way from our old home state of Arizona, not only in miles but in topography. Here we have water everywhere, from the Gulf of Mexico to the inland flats, to huge Copano Bay, and inland fresh water.  Much of Arizona is the about opposite, mostly arid.

I also find it interesting that in Arizona we get a lot of strong winds during the day, and they subside at night. Here in Texas we get very strong winds at night, but it usually eases up during the daytime.

Yesterday was in the low 80s, with a gentle breeze, so we took advantage of the nice day to put our kayaks in the water at Lighthouse Lakes Park on the causeway that leads to the ferry terminal to Port Aransas. Across a narrow boat channel from the park the Lighthouse Lakes Paddling Trails are a series of shallow water trails that wind through small islands of black mangrove.

We did not realize how strong the current was, and getting across the channel was a bit of a challenge, made worse by several power boats that sped through, creating some turbulence. We tried to time things to slip across when no boats were coming, but they come up fast and can be upon you before you know it.

Once we were across the channel, most of the water was less than two feet deep, and much of it just a few inches. There are also a lot of oyster reefs, and at one point I almost ran up on one before I spotted it and back paddled to keep from scraping up the bottom of my boat. We paddled around for a couple of hours, passing a duck blind, watching jellyfish pass by under our kayaks and small mullet jumping out of the water. I snapped a few photos, including this one of Terry paddling around one of the duck blinds, and she got one of me near one of the mangrove islands.

We love paddling, but I’m not 100% sure I have the right kayak for my needs. When we were shopping, I was all ready to purchase a Native Watercraft Manta Ray like Terry’s, but at the last minute I spotted my Ocean Kayak Prowler Angler model, which is outfitted for fishing, and decided on it instead, because I used to fish a lot and would like to get back into it.

In hindsight, I’m not sure that was a good choice. It’s a great kayak, but it has a rod pod designed to store fishing rods and equipment right in front of the seat for easy access. I’m finding that for a guy my size (dwarf portly), the rod pod takes up too much room and leaves me feeling cramped. I’ll give it a while, but I'm afraid I may have to trade it in on a different model.

The wind and current began to pick up, and we decided we’d head for shore before it got worse. Crossing the boat channel the second time was far more difficult than going out, both due to the current and because we were tired. Terry could only wait so long for me to keep up, and made shore a full two minutes before me, and I looked back in the direction we had come from and spotted a pair of dolphins playing in the channel about thirty feet away. Very cool!

Back on dry land, we ran into a problem when we managed to lock our car keys inside the van while we were getting ready to load up the boats. So there we stood in the parking lot, wondering what to do next. We use Coach-Net roadside service, and they include lockout service, but my wallet with their telephone number and our account number were inside the van, along with both of our cell phones.

I was more than a bit frustrated, but the ever resourceful Miss Terry sees things like this as an opportunity to shine. We borrowed a coat hanger from a fellow fishing from shore, and a Leatherman multi-tool from another young man who was preparing to launch his kayak and go fishing.

The coat hanger promptly broke in two, but we used the pliers on the Leatherman to twist it together, then Terry used the screwdriver on the Leatherman to remove our rear license plate light, fished the coat hanger through the hole it occupied in the door, and much to my amazement managed to snag the key ring and pull it through! Wow! Both myself and the young man who had loaned us his Leatherman were impressed.

The first order of business, once we had the boats loaded, was to go to Wally World to get a spare key to secure in one of the boats so this won't happen again. Overall it as a great day, with just enough of a speed bump to keep things interesting.    

Thought For The Day – The colder the x-ray table, the more of your body is required to be on it.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I spent the last couple of days working on the new issue of the Gypsy Journal to get it ready to send off to the printer Friday. Today the weather is supposed to be up in the high 70s with lots of sunshine, so I may sneak away for a while and see if we can finally get our kayaks wet. Typical of this area, tomorrow is supposed to be 59 degrees and windy, with showers, so I’d like to get out on the water while we can.

I guess I shouldn’t complain about the weather. I’ve heard from folks in northern states and back east that are really suffering. My buddy Smokey Ridgely from Dri Wash n Guard www.waterless-clean-n-shine.com called from Maryland the other day to tell me it was sixteen degrees! I told Smokey if he shoveled the snow away from his fifth wheel, he would discover that it had wheels under it, and to get them rolling.

Several people e-mailed to comment on the new cabinet doors Miss Terry built and installed under the couch. Now she’s planning a new work center for me. Our friend Jan Chilson sent me a link to a company called Davis Cabinets that makes custom desks and furniture for RVs, and Terry has been studying some of their designs to give herself ideas. There are also a lot of good cabinet and furniture shops in and around Elkhart and Nappanee, Indiana, where so many RV manufacturers are located. Many of these businesses are run by Amish craftsmen, and their work is really impressive.

One thing I always tell new RVers in the classes I teach at rallies is that you should make your RV fit your lifestyle. Just because some designer at an RV company decided that a coach or fifth wheel should be furnished and outfitted a certain way is no reason you should live with that design if it does not work for you.

If you have a sleeper sofa that you never use, and wish you had a desk or a couple of recliners in that space instead, yank the darned thing out and put them in! Do you hate that carpet that seems to pick up and hold everything that gets tracked inside? Pull it up and replace it with laminate flooring,

We have talked to folks who were considering trading their RV in for something else, but decided to remodel what they have instead, saving themselves a ton of money. Our friends Ron and Brenda Speidel recently refurbished their Winnebago diesel pusher and are thrilled with the results. If you have a solid RV in good mechanical condition and like the way it handles, just not the way it is laid out or decorated, there are some excellent companies out there that specialize in RV upgrades and remodeling that can do wonders. I think that with the state of the economy, we’ll see more RVers remodeling and upgrading instead of trading for something else that yet another designer created to fit the needs of the masses, not the individual.     

Thought For The Day – The sooner you fall behind, the more time you'll have to catch up.

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Monday, December 8, 2008

There is an interesting discussion on the pros and cons of towing a car four wheels down or with a tow dolly on the Escapees forum. As I stated in my post in the thread, I am not a fan of tow dollies. The disadvantages far outweigh the advantages in my eyes.

We’ve been in many campgrounds where finding a place to store a tow dolly during your stay would be difficult, if not impossible. If you are only staying for the night and a pull-thru site is not available, you have to unhook the car and back it off the dolly, then unhook the dolly from your motorhome and store it someplace, before you can get into you RV site. Then you have to reverse the process all over the next morning.

If we get into a tight spot and have to back up, we can unhook our vehicle from the bus quickly and do so. Again, with a tow dolly, the process takes much longer and is much more involved. It’s bad enough to find yourself at a dead end or not able to negotiate a tight turn and holding up traffic while you unhook a vehicle from a tow bar (yes, it does happen to all of us sooner or later). With a car on a dolly, you could really incite road rage, or a citation from the local police.

A tow dolly also brings another axle and an extra set of tires into the equation. Those are more things that can have problems. Tires to monitor, bearings to pack, and tail/stoplights to worry about. Things like this can happen with a tow dolly. Note the groove the tire gouged into the shoulder of the road when the wheel seized up? This could have ended in a tragedy. I much prefer my Blue Ox tow bar.  

While we’re all enjoying the holiday season, let us not forget that there are still a lot of folks on the Gulf Coast trying to rebuild their lives in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. These are not welfare rats from the inner city who are too lazy to lift themselves up by their bootstraps, but rather folks who had those very boots washed out from under them in the hurricane’s raging floodwaters. Volunteers are still needed to help in the rebuilding process, and I came across a good blog about what’s going on yesterday at http://www.reliefvolunteers.com/hancockdailyblog.html. We’ve spent a lot of time on the Gulf Coast, and the good folks down there are hardworking people who don’t want charity, they just need a helping hand to get their lives back together. 

Speaking of charity, this time of year the bell ringers of the Salvation Army can be found at the entrance to many stores. Like most people, I’ve thrown a dollar or two into their buckets from time to time. But after reading a story about Johnny Harsh, a Salvation Army captain who is about to lose his job with the organization because he has become engaged to a woman who does not belong to the Salvation Army, I find myself having to rethink my giving this year. This sounds like something out of a cult, not one of the oldest and most respected charities in the world. Check out Harsh’s story at http://www.620wtmj.com/news/local/35537519.html.  

Thought For The Day – Everything comes to those who hustle while they wait.

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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Before you start your day today, I hope you will pause to remember the Americans who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor 67 years ago on this date. To a lot of people this may seem like ancient history, but not for those who experienced the horrors of that terrible attack. As a nation, we may have forgiven our attackers, but we must never forget.

Yesterday Miss Terry finished hanging the new doors she made on the cabinet under our couch. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as smoothly as she had planned, and it took her several frustrating hours to get them situated just right. But it was well worth the effort, and the finished result really looks great, as these before and after pictures show.

I always feel so useless to Terry when she tackles a project like this, because when it comes to using tools, or even something as simple as measuring and cutting a piece of wood, I botch the job every time. My mind just doesn’t seem to have the ability to grasp skills that she makes look like child’s play.

Terry has several other projects in mind that she’d like to accomplish while we’re here, including building an entertainment center that will fit between the end of the couch and the back of the driver's seat, and designing a work center for me that will relocate my desk further back, which would give us more of a living room. Since it looks like the weather isn’t going to cooperate very well for kayaking and fishing, she may have time to get them done.

Several readers have said they enjoy hearing about the different restaurants we try, and they are making notes for when they visit the Coastal Bend area of Texas. After Terry worked so hard finishing up the cabinets yesterday, I didn’t think she should have to cook too. So we tried a restaurant called the Butter Churn in Aransas Pass, which is less than 1½ miles from where we’re staying.

The Butter Churn is a buffet, with lots of old style country fare like chicken fried steak that melts in your mouth, delicious chicken strips, catfish, and one of Terry’s favorite side dishes, fried okra. The selection wasn’t as large as at a chain buffet like Golden Corral or Ryan’s, but everything was fresh and delicious, and the service was fast and friendly. We’ll go back.

Another local eatery we tried a few days ago was the Bakery Café on the main street in Aransas Pass. There’s a reason this small town diner has been in business since 1929; the portions are generous, the food is delicious, and the prices are affordable. Nothing fancy here, just good down home cooking that will stick to your ribs.

With so much good eating around here, I sure hope the weather cooperates so we can get our kayaks in the water. I need the exercise!    

Thought For The Day – Waste of time is the most extravagant and costly of all expenses .

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

The same television talking heads who were predicting $5 a gallon gasoline by the first of the year have reversed direction 180 degrees and are now saying we may see prices of $1 a gallon or less in January. According to these know all, see all soothsayers, the lower prices are due to the faltering economy and the fact that so many people are cutting back on their driving.

I’m not sure what highways these “experts” are traveling on, but everywhere we’ve been, from the Midwest to the Deep South to the Texas Gulf Coast, the roads are just as busy as ever. The difference is that the robber barons on Wall Street saw their house of cards topple around them and don’t have the money to bid oil prices into the stratosphere right now. But don’t worry, with the $700 billion bailout you and I and our fellow taxpayers are giving them, as soon as they get back from celebrating at their expensive retreats and cash their bonus checks, the high rollers will get back to business as usual.

But at least there is some good news out of Washington for gun owners. The Department of the Interior issued a ruling Friday that allows a visitor who has a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon to do so in a national park or wildlife refuge, if the state where the park or refuge is located also allows loaded firearms in parks. You can read the full story by clicking the link to the New Gun Ruling. This makes life easier on RVers who visit public lands and have firearms in their rigs. You may not necessarily want to carry a firearm on your person, but the ruling also relaxes restrictions on how a gun in your vehicle must be stored on the public lands it covers.

I was disappointed that the longtime reader who sent me the link to this story seems to feel that I am anti-gun for some reason. As I wrote him, and have said many times before, I have owned and carried a gun most of my adult life. I also owned a gun shop for a couple of years. I have a gun or two, and have CCW permits from both Arizona and South Dakota. I believe 100% in any law abiding citizen's right to own and carry a weapon.

The problem I have is with ignorance. People who have a gun and will not take the time to learn to store and use it safely. People who say if they hear a noise outside their RV at night, they will stick the gun out the window and pull the trigger. (Yes, I really have heard this nonsense more than once.) People who pop rounds off in the air, which then come down into someone's house, RV, or skull. If anything, I am anti-idiot, though I realize that I’m greatly outnumbered every time I turn on the television or walk into any department store in America.

Thought For The Day – The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to burn.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

Brrr! It has turned cold here in Aransas Pass! The daytime high temperature yesterday was 62 and today the high is only supposed to be 59 degrees. Overnight it dipped down to about 41. The wind has also been blowing every night, though it settles down a bit by midmorning. Fortunately, this cold front is supposed to be gone in a few days and it will warm back up. It can’t be too soon for me.

Miss Terry spent yesterday making the doors for the cabinet under our sofa, and while she was busy with that I was pounding away on the keyboard, working on the next issue of the Gypsy Journal. We both got a lot accomplished, so it was a productive day. 

About 5 p.m. our friends Wes and Jan Chilson came by to visit, and Wes spent some time poring over the installation instructions for our SMI toad brake. He seems to think that it will be a fairly simple project. I’m glad he does, because it’s way over my head. Wes and Jan spend a lot of time fishing, and their travel blog includes some photos of their catches. We’re hoping to get out and hook a few ourselves one of these days.

If your vehicles are licensed in Arizona, here is something you may not know that could cost you money. According to a new regulation that becomes effective January 1, if you have a license plate holder or frame that obscures the state name at the top of the license plate, you are subject to a $130 fine. Check this link for more information: http://www.azdot.gov/mvd/WhatsNew/whatsnew_2009.asp#LicensePlateHolderLaw

Also out of Arizona, a new off-highway vehicle decal is required to be purchased each year for operation of any vehicle operated on unimproved roads, trails and approved use areas not suitable for conventional two-wheel-drive vehicular travel. Examples include All-Terrain Vehicles (ATV), trail motorcycles and dirt bikes. This does not apply to pickup trucks, SUVs, cars and other recreational vehicles. Here is a link to more information http://www.azgfd.gov/outdoor_recreation/off_highway.shtml. As I understand it, the decal will be required on any dirt bike or ATV operated off of regular roadways, even for vehicles used by visitors from out of state. Now I remember why I am no longer an Arizona resident.

While I don’t think I ever want to live in Arizona again, we still return every year to spend time with Terry’s parents and sisters in Apache Junction, and my daughter and her family in Show Low. Can you believe it’s only two months before our Gypsy Gathering rally in Casa Grande February 9-13? 

We’ve got about 60 RVs registered now and more reservations are coming in every week. I confirmed a couple of new seminars yesterday, and I have been working on putting together roundtable discussions on general RV topics, and also special panels for solos and women RVers. If you have not registered yet, include this fun rally in your winter travel plans. This will be our third rally in Casa Grande, and every event gets better than the one before.

Thought For The Day – It is easier to get older than it is to get wiser.

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Did I ever tell you that our Gypsy Journal and blog readers are the greatest people in the world?

A few days ago I reported that the Brake Buddy auxiliary braking system for our toad had fried itself, and I asked for recommendations for a replacement. The overwhelming response recommended two different systems, the M&G and the SMI. After talking to the tech folks at Brake Buddy, I decided that rather than spend money getting our current unit rebuilt, I was going to investigate the M&G and SMI offerings.

Both make what seem to be very impressive systems, but my decision was made for me when our longtime reader and friend John Dougherty e-mailed to say that he had an SMI Stay-In-Play system that he no longer used and offered to send it to me! What a generous offer!

Yesterday the system arrived by UPS, complete with all of the components and paperwork. Thanks John, you’re a wonderful friend and we really appreciate you. Now I need to find a place to get it installed before we head west in a few weeks.

It was too windy to go kayaking yesterday, so Miss Terry started a project she has been wanting to get finished for a while now. Last year we put a couch in our bus, and before installing it, Terry built a storage cabinet for it to sit on. She ran out of time before we headed west for the winter, and never had the opportunity to finish the front of the cabinet and put doors on it. This seemed like a good timed to do so.

My best contribution to projects like this is to just stay out of the way and let the expert do her thing. We carry a few tools in one of the bus bays for Terry’s construction projects, so after I drug out a work table, she used oak wood to make the cabinet face, and installed it. Then it was off to Lowes to get ¾ inch oak plywood and trim molding for the doors. By the time we checked out it was dark, so today she will build the doors, stain them, and attach the hardware.

Terry tells me that she has several other projects she’d like to work on while we’re here, so I guess I’d better get used to the sound of power saws and the smell of sawdust. But trust me, it’s always worth it when I see the completed project.

Thought For The Day – Nothing will ever be attained if all possible objections must first be overcome.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

We had hoped to get our kayaks into the water yesterday and do some paddling, but the wind began to blow and by the time we drove out the causeway to Lighthouse Lake Park to launch, it was just too windy to be out there.

The water is pretty shallow, except for a short width of maybe 50 or 75 feet where you cross the Aransas Channel, so there wasn’t any real danger. Once across the channel, you are into the mangrove channels, where the depth isn’t more than a foot or two. But the tide was out and we’d have had to carry our boats across thirty feet of mud just to get to the water. We decided we didn’t want to deal with that and then be blown all over the place, so we decided to take the ferry across to Mustang Island and see what the wind was doing to the beach at Port Aransas.

As it turns out, it was raising hell. In fact, I strayed a couple of feet out of the tracks of the vehicle that had gone in ahead of us and got stuck briefly in the sand that had drifted over the beach access road. Normally even big RVs can drive out onto the beach, but this day there was a good foot or so of loose sand, and as soon as I slowed down I felt the rear tires start to sink.

It wasn’t a big deal – we used our feet to scoop out the sand behind the tires, no mean feat because the wind was trying to blow it back in as fast as we scooped it out, and then I gently gave the van a little gas and backed up onto harder packed sand.

There were a few people at the beach, watching the waves rolling in. When we were there the other day, Terry and I studied the gentle surf a while and decided that we could launch our kayaks off the beach on a calm day. This definitely was not a calm day! I’m sure more experienced kayakers could have a blast paddling out and riding the waves back in, but we’re too new at this sport to attempt anything like that. We settled for holding hands and taking a stroll along the beach picking up seashells, and Terry got a photo of a big container ship headed past the jetty and out to sea.

It looks like we’ll have wind for a few more days, and a slight cooling trend. I hope we didn’t wait too long to get to the area and are going to run out of paddling weather before we get started.  

Miss Terry plans to take advantage of the next couple of days to work on a few projects inside the bus, and I’ll get some writing done. But all that is subject to change if things clear up – give us some nice weather and we’ll be out playing in a heartbeat.

Thought For The Day – You are only young once, but you can stay immature indefinitely.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

We had visitors yesterday. Gypsy Journal and blog readers Rod and Debbie Kendall drove down from their RV park in San Antonio. Debbie said that after reading my blog posts on this area, they decided to check it out and see if they could find a place to stay around here for a few weeks. It’s always nice to meet our readers, and Rod and Debbie are great folks we hope to get to know better. Check out their blog at http://debandrod.blogspot.com/.

As much as we love this area, no place is perfect, and yesterday we had our first negative experience, at the Aransas Pass post office. We use www.stamps.com to print our postage online, which saves us a lot of hassle and time standing in line at the post office when we have orders to mail out. They are a post office recommended vendor, and the postage from there is supposed to be accepted at any post office in the country. In fact, you can just affix your postage and drop your items in any mailbox. Well, yes and no.

According to postal regulations, packages weighing more than 13 ounces being mailed with only stamps as postage, must be presented to a Postal Service retail clerk. They cannot be dropped into a mail box. However, anyone using one of the online postal vendors are exempt from the rule. This is right from the U.S. Postal Service website at  http://www.usps.com/communications/newsroom/2007/pr07_058.htm. But yesterday when I started to drop a package into a lobby box, a postal employee insisted I stand in line to hand it to a retail clerk. When I told him that I was using online postage, he said it didn’t matter, go stand in line.

I’ve run into this nonsense before, but what can you do? So I stood in line for about 30 minutes, finally got to the counter, and the clerk took the package and threw it into a bin without a glance. I asked her what would have happened if I had put it in the mailbox, and she said it would have been returned to me by mail, because it could have been a bomb.

Okay, am I the only one who sees the irony here? If they have a suspect package they fear could be a bomb, and that they don’t want in the mail, what do they do with it? They send it back to me by way of the U.S. Mail! I asked for her boss, who then informed me that not only was the USPS website wrong about the 13 ounce rule, but that since I don’t have an address in Aransas Pass, I can’t use online postage at the post office either!

Excuse me? Isn’t this the United States Postal Service? Or did Aransas Pass secede and I missed that bit of news? Bureaucrats have only one bit of power, and that is to say no. And so many of them just love to exercise it, even when they are wrong.

I may get frustrated with bureaucrats, but one section of our government always gets my utmost respect, and that is the military. In their 2 Taking a 5th blog yesterday, my pal Donna Yeaw and her guy Stu had a post about the Let’s Say Thanks.com program, which you can use to send a free postcard to an American serviceman or woman stationed overseas to show our support for the great job they are doing for us.

I know what it’s like to be a long way from home serving in an unpopular war, especially at the holidays. I would have loved a message like this from someone back home. I hope you all take the time to participate. It will only take you a minute or two, and those brave men and women are out there giving up much, much more for us. Click the link and let these people know we all appreciate them. 

Thought For The Day – My wild oats have turned into prunes and all-bran.

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Well, it couldn’t happen to a nicer (or not so nice) bunch of jerks. The RV Now http://rvnow.rvtravel.com/ website reported yesterday that Fleetwood Enterprises is in deep financial trouble, has been dropped from the New York Stock Exchange, and is trying to delay payment on a $100 million debt coming due in just days.

Based on the way Fleetwood shafted us and ignored our problems when we bought our first motorhome from them, I can’t say I’m surprised or that I have any sympathy. In my opinion, the RV world would be a better place without Fleetwood in it.

Yesterday Terry and I found yet another kayak launch, at the Aransas Pass Aquatics Center. The launch leads to a small channel which provides access to the Intercoastal Waterway and miles of paddling and fishing opportunities.

Even though it was closed, the Aquatics Center is an impressive place, with a playground, picnic area, swimming pool, and this huge water slide. I keep telling my daughter that she and her family should move here, so I would have an excuse to visit more often and stay longer. I know my granddaughters would have a ball on that slide!

Port Aransas, on nearby Mustang Island, is reached by a short 1/4 mile ferry ride across Corpus Christi Channel. The Texas Department of Transportation operates the free ferry system, which runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Depending on time of year and traffic, as many as six boats carry cars and RVs between the island and the mainland. It was late in the afternoon on a Sunday and on the crossing to the island there was only our van and one pickup on the boat, but traffic coming from the island was heavier and every ferry was full.

There are only a few places in the country where you can camp overnight right on the beach, and Port Aransas is one of them. We saw several rigs settled in, and again I thought how cool that would be. But Terry is afraid our heavy bus would sink right into the sand, and that would result in one heck of a tow bill.

We parked the van and walked out on the jetty, which is about ten feet wide and flat surfaced for much of its length. We saw a lot of fishermen braving the chilly evening air, but nobody seemed to be having much luck. But like they say, the worst day fishing is still better than the best day working.

Thought For The Day – The most difficult thing in the world is to know how to do something and to watch somebody else doing it wrong, without comment.

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