Monday, December 31, 2012

The Home Stretch

Sunday, Dec 30

We got up at a decent time and made quick work to get ready to head home. We had set our clocks to Texas time, so we'd move a little faster. We didn't unhook from the truck last night, so that saved us some time. We pulled out about 8:30am Texas Time.

Eileen at Tucumcari KOA, Tucumcari, NM

When we left, the wind was picking up due to a cold front moving east, expected to bring snow and frigid temps to the area. We headed out under cloudy skies and a cold wind-chill.

When we got to Amarillo, we decided to stop at the Blue Beacon to get the Mammoth and truck washed. She really needed it!

Whole Rig Before

Truck Before

Whole Rig After

Truck After

We made pretty good time after that and made it home to about 7pm.

We unloaded some of the goods, like food and clothes, and then collapsed to watch the Cowboys play in a win or go home game for the division title. They lost. :( oh well, we had a great trip (besides me getting sick!) and were very pleased at how Mammoth performed during this winter excursion.

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Heading Home

Saturday, Dec 29

Today, we awoke early to get started with the final prep to head home. Tony check the temp, it was -6 degrees! Tony dumped tanks while I readied the inside, we got Mammoth hooked up and were on our way by 8:30am. It helps to be dressed for skiing, with heavy lined boots, ski pants, faces and heads covered, and of course ski jackets and gloves!!

Our destination would typically be Amarillo, Tx, to stop again and visit relatives. This time, due to the fact that they were fighting colds and I was too, we opted to bypass the visit. Instead, we decided to stop in Tucumcari, NM and we figured we could get there before dark.

Our trip was uneventful, and easy. We even decided to go through Albuquerque, since it was a Saturday afternoon. It wasn't too bad at all! As we got onto I-40 we really started seeing lots of RVs going West. Even one new tan-colored North Trail! Most of them were high-end 5vers and Motorcoaches. After a while, we figured they must be snowbirds headed for warmer climates.
A few pics of the scenery:

We got to the Tucumcari KOA about 5:15, just as it was beginning to get dark. They lead us to our site, and we settled in for the night. Luckily, the temps were not going to be as cold, a low of 32 was predicted. Both of us were out pretty quick! It had been a long day.

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Pizza and Packing

Friday, Dec. 28th

Today, I woke up feeling a little better. Sleeping better through the night helped. Tony made us breakfast, and then we took it easy for the morning. After getting dressed, we made our way downtown, to find a place to park and go eat at DSP, a great little pizza joint on Main Street. They sell other things as well, but single pizza slices as big as your head (I think it said from a 26" pizza) are their specialty. We each ordered slices with our preferred toppings. This was the first meal I'd had out of the trailer since Sunday! And probably the biggest! I must confess, I ate the whole thing! It was great.

DSP pizza slice

After we ate, we stopped in a few shops but ultimately, we headed back. I just didn't have enough energy yet. Tony took the scenic route, since I hadn't been out in a week. We drove up the canyon to Ft. Lewis College, which overlooks the town of Durango. Tony got out and took some pics, but here are two I took:

Overlooking Durango

Tony with snow-capped mountains

After we returned to the park, I took a few pics while Tony did some prep work to get ready for leaving tomorrow, and then I went in and took a much needed nap.

The park entrance

Some of the guests (Mammoth on the right)

Our home away from home!

Eileen at Westerly RV Park, Durango, Co

After we both rested a bit, we started doing things to get ready to leave, like packing up the Christmas Tree and storing the ski gear. For dinner, Tony ran across the street to the grocery store, and picked up a ready-to-eat meal of Chicken Cordon Bleu. He also picked up some sweet-rolls ... Not on the diet, but we are off it for the trip, anyway!

After dinner we did a little more prep for the trip, and then settled in to watch an episode of our "Ken Burn's National Parks". I decided to go to bed before it was over, and was out pretty quickly!

We hit the road for home tomorrow.

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Friday, December 28, 2012

Snow, Skiing, Sleeping

Thursday, Dec. 27

Today we woke up to a little more snowfall, so I darted out for 5 min to take some pictures.

Powdered pickup

A little fresh snow is fine!

Snow in the branches, so delicate

The sky was sunny at the moment, but snow chances ranged from 50-30% all day. Sure enough, clouds would drift in, and some flurries would fall.

Tony decided to head to the slopes again, and I stayed home, still suffering from what now seems more like a sinus infection. I mostly slept while he was gone.

Here are a few pics he took. He said the skiing was much better than when we went Sunday. It was definitely colder, and snowed on him off and on. Wish I was well enough to ski some more, but just doesn't look like its in the cards this trip. That's ok, I've enjoyed just being here!

Sun behind a cloud briefly

Tony on the slopes. Notice the freshly flocked trees behind him!

When he returned, we talked about his adventures and ate dinner. I headed back to bed again. I finally took some Mucinex DM that is supposed to help with congestion... Man did that help! I am hoping I'll start feeling better tomorrow, so I can help with packing and getting ready to head home on Saturday.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

More snow and sickness

Wednesday, Dec 26

We got a little more snow overnight, but it was the granular type. Off and on today we got snow, but not the large pretty flakes we like to see. It didn't do much accumulating, either.

Tony slipped out with his camera about 10:15am to catch some photos of the Durango & Silverton Steam Train, that runs by the RV park just on the other side of the highway from us. He got some great pics. When he gets them downloaded I'll get one posted here. Tony had started to make Chili yesterday and realized he forgot the rotel tomatoes, so he also picked some up this morning.

I again stayed in bed mostly and slept on and off. I started getting a headache today, too, and my throat was really hurting.

Tony went out again about 2:30pm to catch more pics of the train and just explore. The chili fixin's in the crock pot sure smelled good, but there's no way my tummy can handle that yet!

After chicken noodle soup for dinner I went back to bed and struggled to get comfortable. My head was still hurting. Gosh I want to start to get well soon!!

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Not a Silent Night

Tuesday, Dec 25th

The evening of the 24th, I started to feel bad, with some abdominal issues and nausea, as well as a fever. I couldn't keep anything down so I got dehydrated. The morning of Christmas, I asked Tony to take me to an urgent care facility, because I was feeling so bad. We could not find one open, so we headed to Mercy Regional Medical Center to the ER, since we knew they would be open. It was not busy at all 9:30 Christmas Day, and I was seen immediately. They gave me fluids and checked blood and ran a cat scan to check my abdomen, and ultimately said I probably had the virus that's going around. Thankfully the fluids really helped, and we headed home, picking up some pink stuff and Tylenol on the way back.

We spent most of the day just hanging around the rig. I laid in bed and slept on and off, while Tony hung out down stairs. For dinner, I had chicken soup, while Tony ate the leftover Spaghetti.

Not how I had hoped to spend Christmas, but at least we are snug as bugs in a rug, surrounded by snow. Speaking of, we heard that back home in North Texas, they had a white Christmas! That's pretty rare. All our friends and family posted great pics on Facebook. It was nice to see.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!

Monday, December 24th

Today I was starting to not feel well. I had a bit of a scratchy throat, so we decided to stay home today.

Tony went out about mid-morning to refill one of the propane tanks, since we didn't want to chance running out on Christmas Day.

About the time he got back, it had started to snow!

We enjoyed just staying home and watching the snow fall, all day and into the evening. Tony cooked Spaghetti for dinner, and we watched "Catch Me If You Can", a great movie that is always an intriguing watch. It uses Christmas Eve as a plot point as well, so it was appropriate to watch on Christmas Eve.

Since I wasn't feeling well, we decided to set up the couch/air-bed for Tony. It was a good thing, because I had a rough night, my illness got worse and my fever got high and I had some abdominal distress and nausea. Needless to say, I was not having a Merry Christmas!

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Skiing -- Oh what fun!

Sunday, Dec. 23rd

Today we loaded up our gear and headed to the slopes at Durango Mountain Resort at Purgatory. We were having a great time, and it wasn't too crowded yet.

The base area

Us on the chairlift

About 12 we decided to head to the back side and get a bite to eat. The problem was, the run we were on suddenly became closed off, and we had no choice but to head down a black (most difficult) run. That wore us out so bad, we really struggled after that. We finally found a different place to eat, and had chili-dogs. They were huge, and we made quick work of them. We didn't have much energy left, so we just worked our way back to the base area and headed home.

We had set up a roast to cook while we were skiing, and it was great smelling when we got home!

I have a problem that one my ski boots likes to cut into my left calf, and it caused a bad cramp, so Tony unloaded the ski gear while I hobbled about trying to put it away. Our clothes rack worked great!

After dinner we watched a little TV and hit the hay pretty early. We were tired!

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Exploring Durango and the area

Saturday, Dec. 22nd

Today, we had a slow start, mainly getting settled in and relaxing. The temperature was 9 degrees when we woke up, but it was a sunshiny day, so the temp rose quickly. We had the heat set a little high, and were a little toasty overnight. We'll have to adjust that. Tony made us eggs and bacon, and we enjoyed  taking it easy this morning. Tony took a few pics, and I got our tree set up and decorated. now it feels like Christmas!

our site

our tree

relaxing in front of a "fire"

We finally decided to go out to the Sky Ute Casino in Ignacio, CO, not too far from Durango. We visited the Casino a number of years ago. They had advertised a year-round RV park, and we were curious if they still had it open. Sure enough, the park was there, and a park host was staying there, with full skirting around the base of their fifth-wheel. No guests, but it looks like they are well prepared for winter RVers. This Casino has very unique architecture.

We decided to eat at their buffet, and then play a bit. At least they have a small area for non-smoking play! We didn't win big, so we headed back to Durango. We explored a new housing development out by the hospital, called Three Springs, and then drove through downtown Durango. There seemed to be lots of folks out shopping! We made a few other stops, and then returned home to have a quiet evening. 

Before we left for our trip, we removed one of the recliners, so that we could set up a clothes rack to hold our ski-gear, and keep it out of the way.

our gear

Looking forward to hitting the slopes tomorrow!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Mountain-bound Mammoth

Thursday, Dec 20th, 2012

Today we headed out for our winter trip to Durango, Colorado. The previous night we finished the loading, and final hitch-up to Mammoth in the driveway, while the temperature was a balmy 75 degrees. Once we pulled Mammoth onto the street, just a few hours later a blustery cold front came through dropping some rain, blowing winds, dust, and colder temps. Overnight we had winds around 25-30mph and gusts to 45mph. Once morning of the 20th came, the winds had somewhat subsided.

ready to roll!

We headed out about 9am, and headed through Rockwall to the George Bush Tollway. Although it is expensive, it is a much easier drive with far less traffic to get around the Dallas area. We got to Denton around 10am, and stopped in at Camping World to use a $10 gift certificate that was destined to expire soon. When we stepped out of the rig, we were caught by surprise. The wind had really picked up, and was hard to even stand against it! We couldn't tell that while driving in it, as we really hadn't experienced any gusts or difficult driving. We resumed our travel, which was directly into a headwind. Tony could tell it was pushing against us, and we had to stop for fuel a little sooner than expected. By Wichita Falls, the winds calmed to more typical speeds, and we made it to Amarillo by 6pm. We had dinner with relatives, exchanged some Christmas gifts, and enjoyed their company.

Friday, Dec 21st, 2012

We hit the road by 7am, headed west on I-40.

Sunrise leaving Amarillo, TX.

We stopped in Tucumcari, NM for fuel, and noticed a Landmark being pulled by a transport driver, fueling as well. I asked him where he was headed, he said California! What a nice Christmas present for someone! We did notice that the transporter was trying to use a Dodge 2500 to pull this Landmark... It was not being pulled very level... I am curious how he passed the weigh stations successfully?!

We learned from a previous trip that to take the exit at Clines Corners and go to Santa Fe, then cut back down I-25 to Bernalillo, is a much easier drive than going through Albuquerque. We followed this same route, and stopped in Bernadillo to eat. We started seeing snow remnants, as well, once we turned North towards Santa Fe. From Bernalillo, we traveled NM 550 to Durango, CO. This drive through the various Indian Reservations is so pretty. I would love to stop and explore this area more. The roads were mostly dry, with the shoulders being wet, or icy, as we got further north.

The terrain is changing!

Beautiful New Mexico around us.


Beautiful colors in the rock formations.


more snow near Bloomfield

Mountains in the distance!

Nearly there!

We arrived in Durango about 5pm.

Welcome to Durango!

Sun setting on the red cliffs, covered in snow.

We checked in at Westerly RV Park, got set up, ate dinner and collapsed. It was a long day, but an excellent day to travel. We are so glad to be here!

Pulled in and set up. Durango has at least 4-6 inches of snow on the ground!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Trains, Caves, and Fellowship

Friday, November 16, 2012

Actually, a week before this trip, we brought Mammoth home and positioned her into the driveway for some maintenance. She received some reinforcements on areas of her slides, and a few other things. She also had an appointment to get her wheel bearings checked and brakes adjusted. Though we were having no issues, we were told this was proper maintenance, much like getting an oil-change for a car.

Thursday, we loaded up our stuff, and Friday finished up the last of the loading and a few errands. Once Tony got home from work, we hitched up and hit the road.

On the road again!

Hot air balloons!

Pretty sunset

Our destination, Big Chief RV Resort at Lake Buchanan near Burnet, TX.

Due to the time change, it gets dark about 5:45pm. Thus, we were "in the dark" most of the trip. I-35 was not too much fun in the dark, as lots of construction is underway. However, the GPS did divert us towards Killeen and Lampasas, and then south, so we didn't have to deal with it in the later part of the evening. We stopped at a McDonald's for a quick bite near Waco. Once we were off the beaten path, we encountered rolling, curvy hills and almost pitch black with lots of trees lining the road. Due to visibility, we took it much slower and didn't get to the RV park until nearly 9PM. Our packet was waiting, and we found our spot quickly and easily pulled in and began setting up.

The temp was probably in the 50s, but it felt good. The sites all had a light on top of the hookups, so the park was somewhat illuminated. While we were setting up a deer came walking by, a doe, that didn't seem too frightened by us. She walked within 25 feet of us. Then, a buck followed, and obviously he had something else on his mind so he didn't really pay attention to us.

doe grazing

buck in hot pursuit

We stopped and watched them for a bit, then as they got father away, we finished our work. While Tony was moving the truck, I noticed one of the headlights was OUT! No wonder we had a hard time seeing!

Once we finished outside, we went inside to get set up. It was cold enough to get the furnace going, but the rig warmed up nicely, and we got to bed about 10:45PM.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Today we had to get up and get going. The temperature was cool, but not cold, and the sun was shining. It was going to be a perfect day!

Our site

Buchanan lake view

I had made reservations for tickets on the Austin & Texas Central Railroad scenic train. We had to drive to Cedar Park, TX to board the train, which would then take us to Burnet, TX... drop us off for a bit of lunch and shopping, then return. We scampered out the door about 8:30AM, and made it to Cedar Park with no problems. Tony took lots of photos around the depot area while we waited to board the train.

Walking to the depot area


Watching the train come into the depot

Our railcar, the Silver Pine

Our seats were assigned, so there was not the mad rush to board as some of the previous train rides we have been on. Our car was part of a fleet of cars that was used in service on the California Zephyr, a joint venture between the Denver Rio Grande Western, Burlington Route, and Western Pacific railroads. It was called the Silver Pine. All of the trains are pulled by a diesel engine since their steam engine is being restored. (Click here to read more about it.)

Me and the Silver Pine

The engine

The ride was interesting and unique, some through urban settings, while other through small towns and countryside. The ride was about 2 hours, and they had fruit and water available for passengers. You could also visit the concession car, which had other refreshments and souvenirs. The cars' windows we closed, but you could stand between cars and observe while the train was moving. It was great to be able to move about the train during the trip.

View from between cars

Crossing the Llano River. The large blocks in the river are huge chunks of granite, that fell from the train while being transported for the construction of the State Capital. The river has carried them downstream.

Lots of cedars on the way

Once we arrived in Burnet, we decided to take the shuttle to eat at Highlanders Restaurant. We had heard good things about it from other Heartland Owners, so we decided not to waste time looking. We had a terrific buffet meal of baked and fried chicken, veggies and salad. We got plenty! After lunch we took the shuttle back to the square, and did some shopping.

The Highlander. Heartland-Member approved.

At 1:30 we headed over to watch the staged "gunfight show". While I was waiting for it to start, Tony said he was going to take some pics of the train, and wandered over to it. After a while he returned during the show, but he had a big grin on his face. He said he got to go INSIDE the CAB of the diesel engine! Once the gunfight was over, we boarded the train and headed back to Cedar Park. All-in-all, a fun time.

The gunfight

Inside the engine cab: the engineer, the conductor, and Tony

The engineer

Tony and the conductor in the cab

Time to board and head back to Cedar Park

After the train ride, we decided to look for an auto parts store and get a new headlight. My phone said there were 4 stores nearby, so we picked one where we could see the sign, and headed there. Tony got a new bulb, and quickly had it replaced.

We headed back to the RV park, and arrived to a VERY WARM RIG. Whoops! We had left the electric fireplace running! It managed to make the entire rig very toasty, so we opened a few windows to cool it back off. After dinner we didn't do too much as we were so very tired from a busy day. I was so tired I went to be before 9PM.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Today, we took it easy and were lazy around the rig for a while. After lunch, we headed to Longhorn Cavern State Park, which was only about 12 miles from us. It was a nice, scenic drive, along the edge of Inks Lake State Park through the rolling hill country. We arrived about 30 minutes before the tour, so we took pics, shopped in the gift store and explored the buildings. There is a lot of history linked to this cave, and I am sure it is fascinating reading.

Walking to the buildings

Historic Landmark designations

Outside of the old administration building

Inside the old administration building. This was a fireplace made from stone.

At 2PM, the tour began. We had 34 on the tour, with little ones on up to older folks. One of the interesting things was that the entrance has a metal gate, which must remain locked while we are touring. They made this very clear before we started, in case anyone had issues with that. The tour was about 1.5 hours and we walked 3/4 of a mile in and 3/4 of a mile out (some was the same route).
Most of the cave is fairly level, and well lighted, but there are some inclines, and some rough terrain. It was not strenuous, like some others we've been in.  It is not ADA compliant, as it is a historical landmark, and thus, they cannot change anything about the park/cave (including the 54 steps to get to the entrance).

At the entrance, waiting to go in.

At the entrance, looking up

low clearance

The Park Guide was excellent, telling us the history and geologic formations we are seeing.

During the tour, we kept taking lots of pics, and sure enough, we were near the back of the group.

Parts of the cave were used during prohibition as a speak-easy and dance hall.

Formations carved by the underground river.

Formation called the eagle's wings

Formation caused by pressure and bubbles, called the termite room.

Lots of crystals

Tony enjoying taking many pics underground.

Not much headroom

We had a great time in the cave, and were really glad we made a point to go. After the cave tour we walked around the area some more and went up onto the observation tower, located on the property. what a view!

We climbed up about 2 stories to the top

Don't look down the stairs!

View was 360*, here's one direction looking back towards the main buildings. 
You can see the Park Host's rig, just barely, near the road.

After we headed back home, Tony cooked low carb spaghetti. It was wonderful! We also watched the first half of "The Dust Bowl", a Ken Burns film series, on PBS. We really like his series on the National Parks, so we looked forward to watching this one.

We were exhausted, but happy.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Today the weather was supposed to be partly cloudy with a chance for rain, but it looked like it was going to stay away and we were going to have another nice day. We had plans to meet up with our Heartland friends, Jay & Stella and Dan & Ruth Ann. Jay & Stella are Park Hosts at Inks Lake State Park until Jan. 1, while Dan & Ruth Ann live in nearby Austin. We all met about 11AM, and visited for a while.

Visiting friends at Inks Lake

About 12, we headed to eat at Cooper's Old Time Bar-B-Q in Llano, TX. It was really good! You picked your meat out before you even enter the building... outside at the pit, then you go in to pick your sides and drink and pay. Tony had prime rib, while I had sausage. We will definitely be back!
Cooper's Bar-B-Que

Pick your meat from the pit

Tony's prime rib

After lunch, we dropped in on the Mammoth at our site at Big Chief, and everyone visited for a while until Dan and Ruth Ann decided to head home (to beat the dark) and the rest of us headed back to Inks Lake (about 7 miles away).

Visiting in the Mammoth

Jay gave us a tour of the park while he checked the firewood stacks, (we saw many deer, as it was getting about sunset), and then we went back to their rig to visit and Stella and I talked some business. Jay got a fire going and we enjoyed being outside in the cool air with a gentle flickering campfire, good company, and great conversation.

Jay's fire

We finally decided to call it quits about 8:30ish, said our goodbyes and headed back to our Mammoth. We had leftover spaghetti and watched the second half of "The Dust Bowl". I was falling asleep at the end, and we headed off to bed shortly after.

Another great day!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

This morning we got up and started getting ready to leave. We knew we wanted to stop at Camping World on the way, so I thought since we didn't do any prep last night, we'd better get hopping to get it all done and out by 11AM. We made quick work of it and got out of the park about 10:30AM.

Getting ready to hit the road

The drive was easy and we took Hwy 281 rather than going back to I-35. The leaves were changing beautifully on lots of the trees, but I could never get a shot while we were driving that did it justice.

fall leaves in the hill country

We stopped at the Koffee Kup in Hico for lunch. They are well known for their pies and cakes, but they are also a terrific hometown diner with great food. Right as we pulled in, a Heartland Bighorn pulled in, too! I don't know if we had met them before, but we sure acted like we knew each other. They were stopping for chocolates, and were headed to San Marcos.

I had remembered the Koffee Kup had some low-carb dishes on the menu when we had been there another time. They did not disappoint!  I had a taco salad-like meal, and Tony had a chicken wrap. Both each under 7 carbs! We then went next door to Wiseman House Chocolates. Oh my. Not a good place to be on a diet!! We were good and did not sample, but managed to find some sugar-free varieties!

The Koffee Kup - Notice the sign, RV Parking in back!

RV Parking at the Koffee Kup

The Wiesman House, across the street from the Koffee Kup

We hit the road again, and made it to Camping World. As we were driving by, Tony saw some new Heartlands at ExploreUSA, right next door to Camping World. We had a few things on our list, so we didn't dawdle too much. We then decided to go by ExploreUSA and see what they had. We were glad we did, we got to see the new Bighorn 3260, and the new Landmark Sequoia. They are both brand new floor plans. We really liked certain features, but still like some of the others better. Nice work Heartland, continuing to offer new products based on customer feedback. These are nice-looking rigs.

After our Heartland fix, we hit the road again... and merged into I-35 traffic, right at rush-hour! Yuck! Well, sure enough, we encountered traffic, but also a backup due to road construction that narrowed four lanes to two. We were not confident to change lanes, because we didn't want to end up somewhere we didn't want to go. We probably sat in traffic about 45 minutes. Luckily, we had a full tank and a restroom break, as well as snacks to eat, before we got into the mess.

We got home about 7:30PM, unloaded the trailer, ate the rest of the spaghetti and collapsed. We'll take Mammoth back to storage tomorrow.

We really had a great trip... Trains, Caves, and Fellowship, OH YEAH!