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TEXAS 2005

January 10 - April 8, 2005

After visits to Blythe, San Diego, Quartzsite and Phoenix we spent about six weeks in Texas.  We drove through West Texas and down into the Rio Grande Valley.  Then we spent time on the Gulf Coast and over into the Hill Country.  We saw many wildflowers and were able to stop in Death Valley on the way home.


Adventures of Krystonia

January 25, 2005

Greetings from Quartzsite, AZ, home of 100,000 RV’s in the winter months. The diversity among RV’s is amazing. Every size and shape imaginable with gigantic solar panels and wind generators. The camping is in the desert on BLM land – no hookups; many self sufficient folks. Other than the way of life, a big attraction is the “worlds largest” flee market (winter months only).

We left Sacramento on January 10. There was much discussion about which route to take. We were headed to southern California which had just suffered the heaviest rain fall in recorded history. Final decision was to take Interstate 5 to State Highway 138 – at the top of the grapevine grade – then east through Lancaster and Palmdale. Things went well until 138. There were many places that were covered with mud and water; and two detours because of washouts and mud. We had mostly sunny weather until the second night out. We stayed just out of Palm Springs. By sundown it was raining with extremely strong winds and stronger gusts. We blocked the RV as best we could, but it still shook like an earthquake that lasted for hours. The next morning we heard that there was, in fact an earthquake just after midnight. Although it was reported as moderately strong, we were not of aware of it because we just thought it was the wind.

Our first destination was the Fair Grounds in Blythe, CA. We were there for the annual Bluegrass Festival and Quilt Show with 800 other RV’s. The bands were professional and the music was... well, Bluegrass... The band that drew the largest crowd was the U.S. Navy Bluegrass Band…a real crowd pleaser. Their style was more toward the folk music than the country side of bluegrass. We entered our wall hanging quilt in the show. It is one we worked on together to hang in Krystonia. We left with a 3rd Place ribbon. Everyone that visits the show is given a ballot to vote on their favorites. We were tickled to get a “peoples choice” ribbon.

After Blythe, we spent a week in Oceanside, CA. We were 2 miles from the ocean. Blue skies and temperature in the 80’s all week. What could be better? We had enjoyable visits with our San Diego friends. We even got to celebrate the retirement of our friend Linda after 35 years as a teacher. We also visited Mission San Luis Rey where the first Pepper Tree brought from South America was planted in 1830.

After Quartzsite, we go to Phoenix to visit family and then east to…? Hope to see the Gulf Coast and hill country of Texas before returning home.


Adventures of Krystonia

February 3, 2005

Quartzsite, “Where everyday is a weekend” according to the Quartzsite Press. It is located at the Junction of I-10 and Highway 95, 17 miles east of the Colorado River – 85 miles north of Mexico – 35 miles south of Parker – 125 miles west of Phoenix. It is in the Sonoran Desert. It was established in 1866 or 1867 by Charles Tyson, where he built Fort Tyson for protection against Indian raids. Named Quartzite because quartz was occasionally found in the area, the name evolved to Quartzsite through an error in spelling!

It is now internationally famous for its annual Rock, Gem & Mineral shows. The Quartzsite Improvement Association started it all 39 years ago. Today there are over 10 themed shows with hundreds of various vendors that attract over one million visitors each winter.

The Quartzsite Press lists 47 points of interest and historical sights. Not on their list is the Quartzsite Yacht Club – closest water is the Colorado River. For $10 they will give you a membership card for use in Yacht Clubs around the world. Good place to eat, but don’t dress up or they may not let you in.

This is our third year to visit and we are just beginning to appreciate the local color. This year we “discovered” the book store. It is hard to find words for this one. Mostly used paperback books, it is covered with plastic sheets for the roof. The main attraction is the proprietor, known for his attire and cowboy hat. As you enter there is a sign stating that he will pose for pictures – no charge. The day we visited there had been rain the night before, causing some book damage because of the leaky plastic roof. He was not is a happy mood and not posing because he was busy trying to recover what he could of his books. So I got some pictures of him working, but nothing posed. I have attached two photos. First is of Ruth at the entrance to the store. (WARNING: If there are young children in the room, you may wish them to leave before you open the second picture.) The second picture is of the proprietor. Enjoy!

We are in Mesa, AZ visiting with family. We leave Sunday morning. We have never seen the desert with so much growth. Flowers are in bloom, yellow, purple, white and blue. The hills are full of color. The desert floor which is usually sand and sagebrush is green and lush. It looks as if the sagebrush is growing out of a manicured lawn. All the rain this year in the Southwest has truly transformed the desert to something wonderful.



February 10, 2005

Two years ago we visited Kartchner Caverns State Park. We were extremely impressed with the visit. Below is a copy of what I wrote about them in 2003. At the end we stated that this is a MUST DO and that we would return when the large cavern opens. We have returned, and we did the large cavern. We continue to be impressed! Again I urge you to look at their web site because no cameras are allowed in the caverns. Go to: www.pr.state.az.us Or better plan a trip here yourself….

Last Sunday we visited the Biosphere 2. Look for comments (and a picture) on this is a future newsletter.

We are in Benson, AZ. Next is Deming, AZ for one night and then on to Texas.

Kartchner Caverns State Park – No cameras allowed in the caverns. For pictures check their web site – link from www.azstateparks.com

I never reported on our tour of Kartchner Caverns State Park. So I will do that now. They are located just south of Tucson, AZ. The story of these caverns is remarkable and heartwarming. In November 1974 two young cavers, Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts, were exploring the limestone hills at the base of the Whetstone Mountains. In the bottom of a sinkhole they found a narrow crack leading into the hillside. After several hours of crawling they entered a pristine cavern.

It wasn’t until February 1978 that Tenen and Tufts told the property owners, James and Lois Kartchner, about their amazing discovery.

During the four years of secret exploration, the discoverers realized that the cave’s extraordinary variety of colors and formations must be preserved.

The cave’s existence became public knowledge in 1988 when its purchase was approved as an Arizona State Park. Extraordinary precautions have been taken during its development to conserve the cave’s near-pristine condition. You must pass through a double air-lock going in and out. Tours are restricted and well controlled. They even clean up all the left human debris, i.e., dead skin, hair, etc each night after the last tour.

This is on our MUST DO list, if you are ever in Southern AZ. They haven’t yet opened up the large cavern to the public. When they do, we plan to come back.



February 22, 2005

West Texas… this is different “country”. We are currently in Mission, TX in the Rio Grande Valley; not far from Brownsville; not far from where the Rio Grande empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

Between El Paso and Laredo, the population is very sparse. Mostly sage brush and cactus with a few small towns. On the highway, we saw more road-kill (mostly skunks, mixed with other things) than we did other vehicles. Many of the towns were ghost or nearly ghost towns. Others could be described as pre-ghost towns, not there yet but clearly on the way. Buildings were in various stages of disrepair, from dilapidated to collapsed. My fantasy about these towns is to be able to recycle anything recyclable and then haul the rest away, allowing nature to reclaim the land.

Bits & Pieces – from along the road:

Langtry, TX features the rustic saloon, courtroom and billiard hall and the opera house of Judge Roy Bean, the colorful and controversial “Law West of the Pecos” in the 1880’s. This is the historic site where Judge Bean ruled with high-handed, but appropriate brand of homespun law, outrageous humor and six-shooter justice. Regardless of his reputation, there are no recorded accounts of him ever hanging anyone.

The Streets of Laredo do not match the image I have from Marty Robbins song of the same name. It is a large metropolitan town, with traffic, shopping malls and lots of people. We were told that it has been booming since the signing of NAFTA. In about 1840 this was the capitol of the short lived Republic of the Rio Grande. When much of the land in this area was in conflict between USA and Mexico, several neighboring communities in Texas and Mexico formed the independent republic which lasted only about six months. We noticed that there was a lot of preparation for celebrating George Washington’s birthday. This included a debutant party of the George Washington Society with customs to match the finest of colonial America. We were informed by the lady behind the desk at the Visitor and Tourist Bureau that this is the most important holiday in the area. It is celebrated on both sides of the border. She reported there was so much confusion for many years about whether they were part of Mexico, the USA or the Republic of Rio Grande. When they felt that they were going to remain part of the USA, they picked a holiday that they felt best depicted the celebration of being part of USA.

The Texas Travel Guide reports: “Since 1898, the Washington’s Birthday Celebration has honored George Washington as first Western Hemisphere leader to free a New World country from the dominion of European rule; the 16-day February fiesta celebrated on both sides of the border includes parades, fireworks, dances, and impressive Abrazo coronation ceremony on International Bridge II.”

As promised, some comments on Biosphere 2:

Biosphere 2 – Biosphere 1 is the narrow band that we live in that supports life and encircles Earth. Biosphere 2, started about 1990, was built to answer the question, “Can man live in a self supporting system that is sealed off from Biosphere 1?” As a scientific experiment, it was successful, that is the question was answered. Unfortunately the answer was no. On the first try 8 individuals lived for 2 years successfully before they ran into problems with overpopulation of bacteria which they were not able to control. A second attempt was tried but was aborted after 6 months for the safety of the individuals. A second reason for its creation was to better understand Biosphere 1 – Earth. We have learned a lot. I found it fascinating to visit. A few facts: The 25-foot ocean contains a million gallons of salt water; Biosphere 2 contains five biomes – a rainforest, desert, savanna, marsh and ocean (A biome is a self-sustaining community of living organisms.); the apparatus houses more than 3,000 species of living organisms. For more information I urge you to look at their web site: www.bio2.com.



February 27, 2005

THE BUILD --- For the past 10 years, a group staying for the winter at Canyon Lake RV in Mission, Texas, has been involved in a humanitarian project in Nuevo Progresso, Mexico. Associated with Mabel’s Free Clinic Association, a group of retirees residing at Canyon Lake RV Park build free, basic 12’ X 16’ houses for poor working families in Nuevo Progresso.

A Mexican contact selects deserving families for the house. The criteria are: 1) They must own the land, 2) They must have a job, and 3) They must have a child or be expecting one.

This year 27 houses were built, one each on Tuesdays and Thursdays through the winter months. The cost for each house is about $900, which all comes from donations. All labor and administration is donated by the “Canyon Lake Builders”. With each house the family is given a bench (sometimes their only furniture), a box of food staples, clothing, and a quilt for each one in the family. Also expectant mothers are given a baby layette. The Quilts are made by the women in the Park.

On Tuesday, February 22, I joined the building crew. While I was building, Ruth met with a group of wives in the clubhouse to sew quilts. Here is how it went:

We met in the club house early and were on the road by 6:30 AM for the one hour drive to the build site. There were about fifty of us going this day, mostly men, but some women. When we arrived we found that the cement foundation was ready and an advance crew was busy cutting wood, using the power of a portable generator. One hour and forty minutes later we were packed up and on our way home. It was obvious that this was a well rehearsed and experienced group. The hardest part for me was keeping out of the way. I was mostly involved in hammering nails. The few I bent were because I was avoiding hitting someone else and hit the nail sideways. When we finished, the only scraps of wood left were cut up in blocks for the children, and there were not many scraps left!

This was an amazing and “feel good” experience. Amazing, because of the outstanding organization and smooth operation. Feel good because seeing the young couple so pleased with their new “home”. Our recipients were an expectant married couple, just 17 years old.

Arriving back to our RV, I could not help but reflect on the differences in my life and this young couple in Mexico. These comparisons gave me pause as they might you… They have a cement foundation, we have wheels. They have less than 200 square feet; we have 230 square feet, plus slide outs. In the RV we have closets, drawers and cabinets. In the house we built, there are bare, unfinished walls. We have indoor plumbing, and hot and cold running water; they have an out house. We have a microwave, stove, and refrigerator with a separate freezer; they have a wood fire to cook over; outside! We have forced air heat and A/C; they have two windows and a door. Think about it… What do you have?



March 15, 2005

After leaving Mission, TX, we traveled up the Gulf Coast through Corpus Christi and Galveston. Then north to Livingston – home park of the Escapee’s RV Club, and on to Tyler, TX. In Tyler we had a very pleasant visit with our friends Ragnar and Toni. Now we are sorta west bound, heading home. We are now in San Antonio after a week in Austin.

TEXAS… lets see, how do you describe this large and diverse state? Snakes, Alligators, and Rednecks!! Snakes – in addition to several kinds of rattle snakes, Texas has cottonmouths and coral snakes! Many of the State Parks have signs warning you to watch for snakes. Alligators – we have been in two different parks that had signs posted asking us to beware of the alligator, either on the banks of the small lake or along the stream. Rednecks – Have you watched the TV program “King of the Hill”? I always found that it made me laugh but thought of it as an exaggeration of real life. On this trip I have met the real life characters that are characterized on this show. And it is not an exaggeration! To be fair, not all Texans fit that mold, but there are some. On a whole we have found folks here very warm, accommodating, courteous and sincere. At home I sometimes get the feeling that retail clerks are accommodating because it is in their job description to do so. Here there is a sense of sincerity that compliments a genuine feeling that I am respected as an individual.

Wal-Mart is big in the south and this part of Texas. It seems like every town, no matter how small, has a Wal-Mart. What is interesting is that “regular” Wal-Marts are now being replaced by Superstore Wal-Marts. These are bigger with more services and groceries. We saw this happening in many small towns, one with a population of only 5,000. The good news is that this provides more employment opportunities for the locals. The bad news is that these employees are probably coming from the “Main Street” stores that are closing because they could not compete. Another thing is that now there is a large empty store that they moved out of, sometimes the largest building in town before the move. There are no businesses large enough to lease or buy it, so it becomes an eyesore with faded paint and weeds growing through the cracks in the parking lot. So, I have an idea. How about passing a law that states: 1) If a large corporation moves into a larger building in the same city they must either, (a) lease or sell the old building to a tenant who will actually use and maintain the building, or (b) if (a) is not accomplished within a reasonable length of time, they must remove the building and return the property to its natural state. This natural state could be in a form of a greenbelt or park that they must maintain for ever.


Adventures of Krystonia

April 1, 2005

We are in Bullhead City, AZ, just across the river from Laughlin, NV. We leave in the morning for Pahrump, NV and then into Death Valley for three days. We left Texas on Easter Sunday after six weeks. I have some ideas for other Travel Stories about our time in Texas. I will get to them after the procrastination bug leaves. I also have some wonderful pictures of wildflowers that I will send. Hope to have even more wildflower pictures after Death Valley.

One of the things I have always said was that when I die, I hope I do it doing something I enjoy. Well an event on Easter brought this home in a real way. We were traveling west on Interstate 20 about 40 miles west of Pecos, TX. I-20 ends as it transitions into Interstate 10. We were on a single lane transition ramp, slowing down for the merge when a semi truck came around us on the left. There was not room for both of us. He scraped down the side of Krystonia and took off the driver’s side mirror on the truck. His comment was, “I was going too fast to slow down.” Fortunately we were not hurt, and there was only cosmetic damage to the truck and trailer. My friend, Dick Reed who owns the RV Driving School got us in touch with one of his instructors in Mesa, AZ who was able to lend us a strap on mirror to get home. Thanks Dick… We are fine except for a few restless nights thinking about what might have happened if the semi had been just a few inches further to the right and hit us rather that scraping us. This brings me to another thought that I have been pondering.

As we travel on the highways, we see many make shift roadside memorials to individuals who have been killed in accidents. Usually they consist of plastic flowers and a cross. Sometimes they have pictures of a person or persons and their names. I find them distracting and with all due respect, wish they were not there. My request to my friends and family is simple. If we are killed on the highway, no memorials, no crosses, no flowers. If there is a desire to do something, put your energy into education efforts to make our highways safer and our drivers better. Maybe higher standards for the privilege of getting a drivers license would be a worthy goal. Or, maybe a program to bring back courtesy and respect, in place of the “me first, get out of my way” attitude that seems to rule today. The driver of the semi that hit us was angry because I did not get out of his way!


Adventures of Krystonia

April 7, 2005

Hobbes pointed out that he hasn’t been heard from on this trip. So, this is his newsletter (with a little help from a friend).

Hi. My name is Hobbes. I am an Abyssinian cat that travels with Ruth and Arlo, or maybe I should call them Mom and Dad. Since they retired in 2002, I have been many miles with them and seen many interesting things. Let me tell you what it is like to be a traveling cat.

Usually my day starts between 6 and 6:30 AM. That is when I start getting hungry. If it has been a warm night I usually sleep on a chair or in the window on my quilt in the living area. If it is cold I like to crawl under the comforter at the foot of the bed. After I wake I get up by Dad’s head and purr loudly, sing some cat songs and lick any skin I can find exposed. After a while this gets me my breakfast consisting of Fancy Feast and some dry cat food. The rest of the day all I get is dry food, so this is a special time for me.

On travel days I notice that Mom and Dad are busy putting things away. These are not my favorite days. Then Dad goes outside and starts hooking the truck to Krystonia. This is my signal to get into my carrier for the day. It makes Mom real happy if I do this on my own without her help. I like to see her happy but I do not like getting into the carrier. When we are ready to go, Dad carries me out to the truck and puts my carrier on the platform he built between the seats. That was real nice of him. It puts me up where I can see out the front windshield and can talk to Mom and Dad. I like to sing to them for an hour or two.

Riding in the truck is an experience. My favorite is straight, level Interstates with few trucks. I do not like loud trucks or motorcycles going by. I do not like rough and bumpy roads and usually let Mom and Dad know how I feel. When we slow down for a rest stop or a small town, I become very alert. I think that maybe we are to our camp spot and I start looking for a place to park so I can get out.



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