April 2009
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View entire year's route With Google Earth 546K
View year's Camps With Google Earth 90K
View this month's route With Google Earth 96K
Wednesday, April 1 Todays route using Google Earth
Lordsburg KOA   Lordsburg, NM Locate this campground with Google Earth $34.39 per night
Not a bad KOA but a bit pricey for a desert all gravel campground. We spent the afternoon rebuilding the slide out pantry which had broken several weeks ago. We had to tear out the thin floor which was nothing more than a thin piece of cheap paneling and replace it with some plywood. Later we drove through the town of Lordsburg. Very depressed, mostly empty buildings and houses. We tried driving out of town a ways to take a back route to the campground, but the roads our map indicated were there weren't. We did see an interesting historical marker about a Camp Lordsburg.
  Locate with Google Earth   Near this spot the U.S. Army operated a camp during WW II. It opened as an internment camp for the Japanese and Japanese-American civilians from 1942-43. It later reopened as the Lordsburg Prisoner of War Camp for Germans and Italians from 1943-45. This camp is one of the few sites in the US to house Japanese, Germans and Italians during its operations.
As today progressed the wind has picked up and is blowing at a pretty steady 30 to 40 mph with expected gusts of 50. Tonight the prediction is for the temperature to drop to close to freezing. The upper midwest US is expecting temps near zero.
Thursday, April 2 Todays route using Google Earth
Fort Bliss RV Park (Famcamp) W  El Paso, TX Locate this campground with Google Earth $13.00 per night
Wonderful campground. The photo makes it look like it is empty, but they are full. That goes to show how nice it is. Wide spaces and lots of trees. We had a problem when we hooked up the power. We blew out a surge protector and apparently a printer (although that has yet to be confirmed). Apparently Frank's wireless network card is also damaged as he is unable to get a decent connection to the Internet. Tomorrow's first trip will include a visit to Best Buy to find replacements. Check out these 2 photos from the air shot by Frank's father back in 1946 while he was stationed at Fort Bliss.  

Friday, April 3
We began our day with a visit to the US Border Patrol Museum, a non-Government funded facility open to the public.   Locate with Google Earth Later we found a Best Buy to replace burned out electronics and noticed a Comp USA next door. Comp USA had much better prices so they got our business with a new laser printer, wireless network card, surge protector for the TV and Frank found a replacement keyboard which he had been looking for. Same model he has used for the last 5 years and likes very much.

Saturday, April 4
We began today with a visit to the Air Defense and Artillery Museum here on the base. Rather impressive, lots of displays, lots of information. Locate with Google Earth   We returned to the trailer for lunch and Tom dropped Frank off and went back out to get a burger. Just after he had started to drive away, a tremendous wind gust came through and Frank was sandblasted. The wind was so strong that he was forced to drop to the ground to avoid being blown away. While his eyes were shut against the bombardment of sand and gravel, he heard the bar-b-que grill crash and fly away. Parts had been blown all over, and we never found the lid. We recovered our door mat from 3 trailer rows over. The trailer had sand and leaves all over the inside where it had blown in through the cracks around the slide-outs. What a mess. After a bit of cleaning and lunch we went back out to visit a reconstruction of one of the earlier versions of Fort Bliss from around 1893. Locate with Google Earth  

Sunday, April 5 Todays route using Google Earth
Van Horn KOA   Van Horn, TX Locate this campground with Google Earth $27.00 per night
We are on the move again, now in Central time, headed for the Big Bend region of southern Texas. This morning as we were closing camp, we found the wind from the last few days had actually moved the trailer a couple of feet. This had managed to bend one of our front jacks as well as some damage to our electrical hookup. We were unable to retract the jack completely, but enough so we can continue to travel until we can find a place to have it repaired. This campground is fairly nice, great views of the desert and surrounding mountains, and very friendly office staff. Here are a couple of cute photos around the campground.  
Monday, April 6 Todays route using Google Earth
Davis Mountains State Park   Fort Davis, TX Locate this campground with Google Earth $20.00 per night
(Our Internet connection through our cellular provider in this campground is so slow that I am unable to upload any photos or prepare the Google Earth placemarks, so those will be added in a few days when we get to an area with a better connection)

We started this morning by calling a vehicle service company in town. They sent out a mechanic to look at our front jack. He was unable to do anything so we took it into his shop. Long story shortened, they couldn't fix it so we will have to contact an RV service center when we get into a larger city. Not sure if we can replace just the bent part or if the entire jack assembly will need work. We then began our day's trek southward. We picked back roads today and went through some magnificent scenery. We saw a balloon that looks like a blimp which we guessed is being used by the border patrol for surveillance. At one point we startled a group of dear and at another a group of javelinas (no photo).   In the evening we ate at a small restaurant here in the park, then drove up a scenic drive. Later Frank drove back to the scenic overlook here in the park and shot some more night photos by the light of the moon.  

Tuesday, April 7
Today started out very chilly, in fact it got down to 30 degrees last night. After getting up and going through our normal morning routine, we took a trip up the mountains to the McDonald Observatory for a marvelous tour by a very good guide.   We came back to the trailer for lunch, then drove to Fort Davis National Historic site, one of over 300 National Park sites. At this point our day went right down the drain. We went into the visitor center where Tom pulled out his Golden Age passport and we were informed that I had to pay the entrance fee. We then got into an argument. The Golden Age passport states on the back "Admits passport signee and accompanying passengers in a single, private, noncommercial vehicle, or alternatively, passport signee, spouse and children where entry is by means other than private, noncommercial vehicle." They argued that this is a per person entrance fee park. They were going to let us in anyway, but we left very upset. They were essentially telling us that even though we entered the park in a single private vehicle, this park does not honor that aspect of the Golden Age Pass, but charges for each person, and even though we have been partners for 25 years, we don't qualify as spouses. They wanted to be perfectly clear on this point. In the last 25 years, we have visited more than 250 National Park sites together, and this is the only time we have been told Tom's entrance pass was not valid for both of us. The issue was not so much the cost of admission but the way we were being treated. Needless to say, the rest of the day was pretty much destroyed for both of us.

Wednesday, April 8 Todays route using Google Earth
Lajitas Resort & Spa   Lajtas TX Locate this campground with Google Earth $39.00 per night
This is a beautiful campground with amazing vistas in all directions. After breaking camp we headed south through Marfa Texas, the site of the famous Marfa lights. W Locate with Google Earth It was daytime so we didn't see any lights. On further south we stopped along side of the road for lunch at an historic ranch site.
Milton Faver Locate with Google Earth  
The earliest large-scale cattleman to settle in the Big Bend area was Milton Faver. He prospered against seemingly impossible odds to become the first cattle baron west of the Pecos. While operating a freight hauling business on the Chihuahua trail, he moved his family to Presidio Del Norte (now called Ojinaga, Mexico) Locate with Google Earth and opened a general store about 1855. After accumulating a large herd of cattle in Mexico he moved his family and vaqueros to the mountain country north of Presido Locate with Google Earth and made his headquarters on Cibolo Creek Locate with Google Earth in 1857. He established two other ranches at nearby La Ciega and La Mortia. Springs flowed abundantly on all three ranches, providing water for livestock and agriculture. In the fertile fields surrounding the ranches, Faver devised and installed irrigation systems that supplied water for vegetables, grain and large peach orchards. El Fortin Del Cibolo, ranch headquarters, served as a supply station for the U.S. Army quartermaster division at Ft. Davis. Troops used the ranch as a point of departure for forays into Indian occupied regions to the west and north. Celebrated for his hospitality, Faver was known as a gentleman of means who lived in style. He died in December 1889 and was buried on his ranch at Cibolo.
Mural of Faver crossing the Rio Grande   R
Moving on we went through Presidio, Texas on the Mexican border, Locate with Google Earth   then turned south east and traveled along Ranch Farm Road 170 which parallels the Rio Grande with some magnificent scenery of the desert mountains.

Thursday, April 9
Today's outing took us into the grand Big Bend National Park. Our route today with Google Earth This is a marvelous desert and mountain park which everyone should visit at least once. It can get very hot in the summer with temperatures reaching 120 degrees. The winter is the most popular time to visit. Spring and fall can be nice with warm days but chilly nights.  

Friday, April 10
Today was a work day with laundry and cleaning. In the evening Frank took a two hour horseback ride at the local stable. Locate with Google Earth   Check out the town website and read about their mayor.

Saturday, April 11 Todays route using Google Earth
Monahans Sandhills State Park   Monahans, TX Locate this campground with Google Earth $10.00 per night
We awoke this morning to hazy skies. The view was terrible, you could only see about 50 miles! For those of you in the eastern US, that might sound grand but the normal visibility around here should be from 100 to 150 miles. As we went further north, the air did clear just a bit and we did see a nice view as we came over a rise.   About 1:00 pm, we stopped at a roadside picnic area for lunch where Frank shot a few photos of some Texas wildflowers.   We are now on the Llano Estacado, a large, rather level region in western Texas and eastern New Mexico. W. We continued northward to Monahans and back to the same campground we were at in February. We drove into Monahans to get fuel and shop for a few groceries. When we got back to the campground we saw some odd reddish brown clouds west of us as seen in the first photo in the following gallery. About an hour later we experienced a series of severe thunderstorms passing through with small hail. The nearby town of Odessa got golf ball size hail stones. Later in the evening Frank tried shooting some distant lightning but was not very successful.
Sunday, April 12 Todays route using Google Earth
Artesia RV Park   Artesia, NM Locate this campground with Google Earth $26.00 per night
Today we moved northward to Hobbs New Mexico then turned west. For most of the day we were traveling through the great Permian Basin W which we just touched in February. If you take a look at our daily route on Google Earth and zoom in a bit you can see the thousands of evenly spaced oil wells all through the area. Along the way we stopped at the border of New Mexico and took a look at a Texas monument. Frank remembers climbing on one of these back in the late 1960's on a trip with his family. We passed a huge cowboy sculpture and got a photo. Later we looked at the sculpture on their website. J   We stopped in the town of Hobbs to switch drivers and Frank took a shot of an empty building with a mural painted on the front.   We also moved back into Mountain time as we crossed the state line.
Monday, April 13 Todays route using Google Earth
Valley of Fires Recreation area, BLM   Carrizozo, NM Locate this campground with Google Earth $9.00 per night
A very nice drive today through some beautiful mountains. Unfortunately, Frank had the camera set for special lighting and none of our images came out so we are substituting a few webcam shots in the gallery. We are in a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) campground. We were in the same campground back in 1990 but back then it was a state park. The BLM has done a great job of fixing up the place. This is an area that had volcanic lava flows some 3,000 to 5,000 years ago. We took a short hike on a nice accessible nature trail where most of the photos in today's gallery were shot.  
Tuesday, April 14 Todays route using Google Earth
Montosa RV Park & Campground   Magdalena, NM Locate this campground with Google Earth $9.00 per night Camp Club discount
After packing up we headed west along US 60. Not too far from where we had camped we passed near Trinity Site, where on July 16, 1945 the world's first atomic bomb was detonated.   At the end of our journey we arrived in what must be one of the most beautiful settings for any private campground we have ever seen. The Montosa RV park and Campground is at 7,200 feet elevation and is on a site originally built and used for cowboy camp meetings more than 60 years ago. The campground is surrounded by a 32,000 acre working cattle ranch. The sites are scattered through nearly 100 acres of Piñon, Cedar, Juniper and Ponderosa pines. Our nearest neighbor is close to 300 feet away. The only problem is their current wi-fi hot spot is just a bit too far away from our site for us to use. But our cellular connection, which didn't work to begin with, eventually began working fine. If we didn't have a schedule to keep for the next few days we would love to stay here a week. Although, the nearest town (Magdalena) is 20 miles away and the only grocery store is a bit lacking. US 60 follows the route of the old Magdalena Livestock Driveway. Nearby is the BLM historical marker on this historic pathway.
Magdalena Livestock Driveway Locate with Google Earth
South across the road lies one of the west's historic "hoof highways", which was used annually from 1885 until 1971. Sheep and cattle were driven to and from the railroad at Magdalena, NM. The 125 mile driveway extended west to Datil, NM then forked, leading to Horse Springs, NM or to Springerville, AZ. The driveway was 5 to 10 miles wide and covered 200 square miles. The peak trailing year, 1919, saw 150,000 sheep and 21,600 cattle pass this point. In the 1930's the Civilian Conservation Corps fenced the driveway and drilled water wells every 10 miles. During the drives, cowboys and herders moved cattle about 10 miles a day and sheep about 5 miles, allowing them to graze as they went. Chuckwagons and relays of horses followed behind. Trailing gave way to trucking, and the last portion of the driveway was officially closed in November of 1971. In the Google Earth placemark above you can clearly see the path of this section of the driveway. A bit of Internet research has turned up that this was the last great cattle drive trail in the US.
an old photo of a cattle drive
After having a late lunch we drove about 5 miles west and spent several hours visiting the VLA (Very Large Array). The world's largest radio telescope. Visit their website to learn more on what they do.  
Wednesday, April 15 Todays route using Google Earth
Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area   Show Low, AZ Locate this campground with Google Earth $25.00 per night
Another fantastic campground. Concrete roadways and sites, full hookups but only 30 amp service, but we can deal with low electric. It has been extremely windy today with gusts as high as 60 mph. It is supposed to get down to the 20s tonight. We had a bit of trouble starting the truck this morning. I think it may have been the cold weather and the 7,500 foot elevation. Something happened back home in Virginia last night and the home servers are off line. That means no webcams until we can figure what the problem is.
Thursday, April 16 Todays route using Google Earth
Ironwood Park   Apache Junction, AZ Locate this campground with Google Earth $19.06 per night Camp Club USA discount
Last night the temp got down to around 24 degrees. This morning as we prepared to depart, as yesterday we were unable to get the truck started. We even had to pull out the battery charger because we began to run the truck battery down. but persistence prevailed and eventually we got it started, after about an hour. We are thinking that there is something wrong with the glow plugs in the diesel engine. Today's route was quite spectacular, as we traveled along US 60. Beautiful canyons and mountains everywhere. Then came the best part as we dropped into the Salt River Valley. Just look at the photos and I think you will agree.   We left the truck running all day, even during our lunch stop, just in case we couldn't get it started again. After dropping the trailer in the campground, we drove the truck to the Ford dealer we had set up our appointment with. They now have our truck and we have a Ford Focus rental car.

Friday, April 17
Well we now know what was wrong with the truck. The glow plug module that controls the plugs was blown out. That was an easy fix, but the service manager really wants to keep the truck until Monday to try a cold start to make sure the actual glow plugs weren't damaged. He had a good argument, so we agreed and they will pick up the entire cost of the rental car. We wish the service departments around Washington, DC were as concerned as this dealership seems to be. The other good news is there will be no charge for the service as it is covered under warranty. We spent the day doing laundry and little chores around the trailer. In the evening we went out to dinner with a good friend Brian. We also got to go see the little farm where Brian and his rodeo partner Chuck keep their horses.   Brian is the president of the International Gay Rodeo Association for which Frank is the webmaster.

Saturday, April 18
This weekend is Gay Pride weekend in Phoenix so we decided we would go to the parade this morning. We started by going to a CVS pharmacy where Frank had ordered meds a few days ago. They didn't have one of his HIV meds which had been ordered and Frank had run out this morning. We spent almost an hour at the store while they tried calling other stores in the area without success. By this time it was too late to go see the parade so we just went back to the trailer. Tom spent some time on the Internet and found a pharmacy in the gay section of Phoenix which had the meds. So we drove there which was about 45 miles one way. As it turned out this was only a few blocks from where the parade was but by the time we got there the parade was over. The rest of the day was spent in the trailer taking it easy. Frank spent some time with a new book trying to learn a new computer language, PHP, which is used in connecting web pages with databases. This is going to be a long slow learning process.

Sunday, April 19
Today was a lazy day around camp. Tom did some laundry and Frank played on the computer. We watched a bit of TV and generally used up a day. Today's camp cost twice as much. The Camp Club discount is only good for the first 3 days.

Monday, April 20 Todays route using Google Earth
AVI Casino   Laughlin, NV Locate this campground with Google Earth $20.70 per night
We are back in the same campground we were in last February. But this site is not as nice. Cramped, too close together. We have about a foot on each side. What makes it worse is the campground is less than half full. We had dinner at the casino buffet, but the food was over cooked and dry. Cost was the same as Old Country Buffet which we like.

Tuesday, April 21
Very hot today with the high at about 99, but at least it is dry. Tomorrow we are headed back to Las Vegas before turning southwest to Palm Springs.

Wednesday, April 22 Todays route using Google Earth
Sam's Town RV Park   Las Vegas, NV Locate this campground with Google Earth $36.26 per night
We began today by taking the trailer to a trailer wash station next to the casino. They washed our trailer several months ago when we were here last. Did a good job and we had them wax the front too. The casino is having a Harley Davidson Motorcycle rally this weekend and the Harley's are coming in. Next to the washing station, a custom bike maker was setting up his bikes for show and some of them were attracting quite a crowd. I like this little one they called "The Fly", everyone stopped to look at it.   We took a slightly different route to Las Vegas than we did last time. It has been very hot today, upper 90's. This evening we had dinner at the buffet in the Sam's Town Casino, then went to watch an indoor show of fountains, lasers and animated animals. Quite impressive for a small show, small for Las Vegas that is. If you are in Las Vegas I recommend this little free show, but see this one before going seeing the fountains of Bellagio else this one will seem a disappointment.

Thursday, April 23
We began today with some errands and shopping. Whole Foods, Frys electronics where we bought a small fan and a replacement antenna for our XM radio which got damaged yesterday at the wash. Later in the evening we went to see Cirque Du Soleil's KA. While the story wasn't quite as exciting as the others we have seen, the set design was worth the ticket price all by itself. The artists were fantastic, but they were just a bit overwhelmed by the set, stage and special effects. But the show is well worth seeing. If you get to Vegas, I recommend you see 3 Cirque Du Soleil shows in the following order, KA, Mystere, and O. That would put the biggest and most exciting near at the end. Otherwise you might be disappointed as you go along. We have not see the others yet so I can't place them in order. We had a nice dinner (buffet) at the campground's casino. Sam's Town is a major casino/hotel complex which had a buffet, a top-notch Steakhouse in an Aussie style; a Mexican Restaurant; TGIF Friday's; a Panda Express; a McDonald's; a Subway shop; and ancillary food places. So they are not lacking in restaurant facilities....all within a ten minute walk from our trailer.

Friday, April 24
Frank wants to apologize for the delay in posting. He is finding that staying in one place more than a few days gets boring and he has had a lot of trouble getting the motivation to do daily logs. Today Frank worked on the electronics of the trailer, such as a new antennae for the XM radio, and Tom did laundry. We loafed around the trailer before heading out to see Cirque Du Soleil's "O". We saw this show a few months earlier, but it is worth seeing again. Unfortunately, we asked for tickets so late be were in the upper, upper tiers of seats against the back wall and near the roof and our noses almost bled, but the show is spectacular from any vantage point and worth it. We got home and both of us stayed up until after 1 AM, which is most unusual...especially for Tom.

Saturday, April 25
We are two guys who form habits, so Tom did laundry again (sheets), and Frank worked on web pages. Tom also went casino hopping, which Frank finds boring. After seven days at casinos (Laughlin, NV and Las Vegas, NV, Tom walked away as a $5 winner...so you can see he is a high roller....or maybe the term is fast slot machine puller. For dinner tonight we met our friend Jody who lives in Las Vegas. Jody is always fun to visit with. We dined at the Black Angus which is an excellent restaurant.

Sunday, April 26
Again, since we are habit formers, we returned to Fry's electronics and Whole Foods. Frank bought three new web cams for reviewing...which probably brings him to hundreds by now. Then returned to the trailer and Frank worked on a power supply for the XM radio to eliminate an AC hum the original hook was causing. Tom again when casino hopping. We ate diner at the casino's buffet...not as good as the other night. The only dessert that Frank could eat was burnt so that helping got left on the table. When Tom paid the check as we walked in, the cashier handed him some paper which he placed in his pocket thinking it was a copy of the bill. Not until Monday morning did he realize the paper was a chit for two free glasses of wine or two free beers. These may have brightened up the burnt desserts...at least for Tom.

Monday, April 27 Todays route using Google Earth
Barstow Calico KOA   Calico, CA Locate this campground with Google Earth $33.75 per night
We left Sam's Town RV and Las Vegas, NV behind and headed south west to Barstow, CA. Near 90 degrees temperature and it is only April. Our highlight of the day was when we entered California. About 50 miles inside the border all traffic had to pass through an Agricultural Inspection Station.   There were six lanes of traffic and we blocked one as an inspector with an eastern European accent asked us where we where from. We said Virginia, but that we had been out west for the past four months. He had to crawl under our trailer and look for Gypsy moths and fruit flies. He passed us, and gave us a certificate. Having passed the California Fruit Inspection, we are wondering if that was good or bad, are we accepted in California as Fruits? Probably. We thought Fruits were welcome here. That is what the Governor, Arnold, said. We also saw a road today near Baker, California with a name of Zzyzx Road. Where do they get this names? Well just check out the history section of the Wikipedia article on the nearby town of Zzyzx to find out. W Locate with Google Earth.   After setting up camp, Frank regenerated the water softener, and then we drove into the nearby town of Barstow W to look around. There is a railroad museum in Barstow which is one of the few remaining buildings built by Fred Harvey W for the Santa Fe railroad. This was one of the last of the Harvey Girls establishments. W  
Tuesday, April 28 Todays route using Google Earth
Willow Oaks Estates campground   Hesperia, CA Locate this campground with Google Earth $32.00 per night
We are back in the same campground and site we were 5 weeks ago. Tonight it will be windy and the temperature is expected to drop near 40. Last night, while browsing Google Earth, Frank found a local museum called the Desert Discovery Center in Barstow. We debated on staying another day but looking at their website, we can't tell if they have anything to go see, other than a large meteor, so we decided to move on.
Wednesday, April 29 Todays route using Google Earth
Banning Stagecoach KOA   Banning, CA Locate this campground with Google Earth $35.10 per night
We are now near Palm Springs California. This coming weekend is the Hot Rodeo about a mile from this campground. Frank also has another IGRA board meeting this Friday which will be webcast.

Thursday, April 30
Today we took a drive up into the mountains on a spectacular road called the Banning Idyllwild Panoramic Highway which starts just outside the campgound. Locate with Google Earth