Albuquerque & New Mexico

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Right up front Monica and I both want to say how much we liked New Mexico.  Stunning vistas, beautiful city, excellent roads, and wonderful people.

We went to the old town and walked the quaint streets, visited a convent shop, and other shops along the colorful streets.

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We were there for Ash Wednesday and our Anniversary and had a wonderful time.  The cable car ride up to Sandia Peak was a 15 minute ride on what 1s touted as the longest single cable, cable car ride in the US.

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Amarillo By Morning

“Amarillo by morning”

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The chapel is the only remaining structure of what used to be the basic training area

50 years ago this past December 1st, I stepped out of a propeller driven airplane having made several stops on my trip cross country from New York City to begin my basic training at Amarillo AFB, Texas.   Amarillo AFB basic training had just recently opened because of an outbreak of spinal meningitis at Lackland AFB in San Antonio Texas.

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A map, painted in the 60’s, of Amarillo AFB at the Texas Air and Space museum.

The barracks, originally built in the 40s, had been closed and shuttered for several years when we were escorted off the bus to our home for the next 9 weeks.  We spent the first two weeks taking the boards off the windows and repairing and painting the old building.  The night we got the shutters off the windows a dust storm came up and for the next 2 days we were shoveling dirt out of the rooms facing the wind.  It was always windy as I remember it and our visit this time is no exception.  Winds have been howling at a steady 15 to 20 mph with gusts to 30.

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There’s something beautiful about the vastness, the emptiness of the land spreading out as far as the eye can see.  Monica and I were talking about it the other day as we were driving to Amarillo KOA, that it’s like being at sea, for those of you who have ever taken a cruise, where you look out at the ocean and the vastness and beauty are almost unfathomable—well that’s what the land in this part of Texas is like.

We’re off tomorrow to Albuquerque New Mexico tomorrow where the forecast has some snow in it for Monday; not unexpected with an altitude above 5,300 feet.  Amarillo’s stands at 3500 feet above sea level and our home base of Nashville just over 500 feet.

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Wide Open Spaces

We’ve managed to make it to just outside Quanah Texas before running into an issue with an axle on our 5th wheel.  I had noticed an increase in tire temperature on my EEZ Tire minder and began watching the tires as we sailed along Texas 287 toward our destination, Amarillo TX.  We had been talking just before this issue occurred how thankful we were that these Texas highways, not just the interstates but their secondary roads, are very well maintained.  Anyone who has driven through Louisiana then into Texas really appreciates and knows what I mean about the roads.

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Our coach is in the background on the far right

Anyway, apparently the seal on the bearing failed causing the grease to leak out and then the bearings to fail.  Actually the whole thing just sort of fell apart when I pulled over just short of a rest area.  I called Good Sam Roadside assistance and they were quick to send out a maintenance guy named Steve from Quanah ( Quanah Service Center, Quanah Texas 79252 ).

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Steve checking the serial number on the axle

The Texas Department of Transportation were at our side, three trucks, before I could get off the phone with Good Sam Roadside Assistance.  You know despite bad things happening to you, sometimes you get to meet some fabulous people and we did in Steve. Between his excellent service, the help received from Good Sam Roadside Assistance and Extended Warranties ( @thegoodsamclub ) and they were able to put us in touch with both Jayco ( @jaycorvs ) and the actual manufacturer of the axle, Lippert Systems (@lippertproducts ) and despite all the phone calls I was treated very well and their offers of assistance were gratifying.

We’re hoping that our mechanic Steve will be able to locate the parts necessary today so that we can be on our way as soon as possible.  Today’s high temperature predicted at 91 with a sustained 30 knot wind from the Southwest sounds like quite a challenge.  We’ve managed to hook up to the rest area’s power and despite only pulling about 20amps we have enough to power the living room’s a/c making living more enjoyable.  With our fresh water tank filled as we left the KOA in Burkburnett, Texas ( @Koakampgrounds ) we have plenty of water and supplies to last a few days without too much panic

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A sign you don’t see too often

Being “camped” at a Texas Rest Area (Hardeman County Rest Area ) is not for the meek, but this place is manned 24/7 and the lighting in the area is wonderful; almost like day-light during the nighttime hours.  We’ve had to delay our arrival at a few places we had planned and made reservations along the route, but most campground owners are very accommodating in changing or cancelling reservations.

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Coach again on the right – check out all the lights

The one thing I did not have (because this would never happen to me I’d tell Monica who now gives me the “I told you so” look)  are the emergency triangles to place behind the coach to warn incoming traffic.  Steve let us use his and he even placed them behind the coach for us.  He gave us his card and told us to call him anytime throughout the night if we needed anything.  Super service from this gentleman and my hat’s off to the people of Texas and their assistance.

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Relax

I’m sitting in my recliner watching the sun set over the Mississippi River with the windows open allowing the cool Mississippi air in from the side window on our fifth wheel.    Over head I can hear geese as they  track back north and there is a freight train somewhere not too far off.  I’m inclined to nap I feel so comfortable and peaceful but I’m too much into another NCIS rerun to give in.  I’ve come to accept the fact that I can truly relax and enjoy myself.  It’s a tough thing to do when you’ve worked most all your life.  Always a deadline, a project to complete, a meeting to make/schedule/organize.  For the first few years after I retired from my second career I even worked as a state consultant.  Not exactly on a tight schedule as I planned all my days and took off when I wanted to, but still I was in the game.

I remember a trip to see my folks years ago during the summer when school was out.  I’d take the three girls over summer vacation each year and we’d travel to Long Island to see relatives.  I was visiting my mom and dad early one morning.  My father made me breakfast and I was asking him his plan for the day and his answer was take a nap and then watch the Mets.  I was annoyed at the fact that I saw him as wasting away just sitting there not realizing he was really enjoying himself after years of work.  I know people who work up until the time they can no longer work because they see their life as their work and work as their life.  It is like putting your heart into working around a house and always mowing and taking care of the garden only to see it a few years after you have sold the house and all your hard work is just gone. Same thing goes with that old job you used to have.  Go back in a few years and see if anyone even remembers you, you thought you were so important: Better yet try to remember the person you replaced or a retirement party from a few years ago.  Who was that for and what did they do?

The best part of my life right now is that I share it with Monica and it is absolutely wonderful.  We sleep when we want, eat what and where we want.  In fact it was not until yesterday I planned out our next few weeks of travel.  And when we’re back at our home base we get to play with the baby without worry or concern for what day it is or what time. In fact for Christmas this year my sister Pat bought us a clock that tells you the time, date, and day of the week!  A funny at first but not so funny when you realize you really don’t pay attention anymore if you can truly relax and enjoy the ride.

Monica and I often say we have such a wonderful life and I can tell you it truly is and I hope all of you one day achieve the same.

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Vicksburg, MS

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Those of you who have ever travelled to Vicksburg, Mississippi known as the “Key to the South” and site of one of the civil war’s most decisive battles, have perhaps done so for the many casinos that populate the Mississippi River banks, and may have even driven the short distance into old Vicksburg to look at the small and large southern homes along the main streets.  However if you drive them more than a cursory tour you begin to notice the amount of abandoned properties and general run down atmosphere of the city itself.  One of the prettiest buildings in all of Vicksburg appears to be City Hall which sits just across from the church we attended Mass at this past Sunday, St Paul’s. A beautiful stately church, notice the tulip tree in the foreground.  Almost past its blooming period!

It is an enormous church and in fact one of the first things Monica and I remarked about was, how do they pay to cool this space during the summer?img_9477

 

The choir loft in the rear of the church was just beautiful and they managed to play a selection of oldies we truly enjoyed.  Our celebrant for this Mass was an older Irish priest whose lively Mass and homily kept us listening to what he had to say.  Unfortunately we noticed a general lack of Deacons and alter persons not only here but in many churches we’ve attended.  I wonder if it is a symptom of a larger issue or just growing pains.

 

We’ve been in Vicksburg for several days longer than planned.  Our truck had a radiator issue and it’s in the truck doctor’s office getting fixed.  Meanwhile I rented a “Standard” size vehicle from Enterprise and wound up with this screen-shot-2017-02-14-at-9-54-20-amItalian coffin, a Fiat 500.  Looks cute in the picture but try folding yourself into the front seat.  Yowzer.  Now I’m not exactly the slimmest guy around but even Monica has issues with the front seat.

 

 

We spent the better part of a day throwing money around inside the Ameristar Casino.

We really had a great time, won a bit lost a bit, had a great meal in the cleanest buffets I’ve ever seen.img_9499

Huh, imagine that, in for the early bird special LOL!

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Westward Bound

We we finally hit the road again, this time with the hope of heading west and see the American Southwest.  That being said however it was a really tough departure.  I don’t know why leaving our youngest daughter Jessica and her baby Meena fullsizeoutput_1a22was such a struggle.  We saw the baby every day since she was born in October, watched her while Mom and Dad worked, or went shopping or needed rest.  I don’t understand the difference with this child but it’s there.  I can emphasize now with my parents and their involvement with my sister’s child, Ryan.  It’s the time of your life, added to that it’s your last child and combine it with the feeling that accompanies realization of one’s own age.

That being said we had a great departure and first couple of days.  We stayed in an Army Corps campground and as usual with many Corps parks, it was deep in the Alabama woods with no cell service and therefore no wifi.  So a few days off the grid gave us the chance to walk this beautiful park and to visit Moundville, a state archaeological park and museum.img_0110Such an interesting place located just a few miles from Tuscaloosa Alabama.  There are a series of more than 20 mounds of varying heights thought to be the place where the Indians worshiped and where the various chiefs had their homes.  Additionally the site is home to many Indian burial grounds.  This is also where Jessica spent several weeks while working for #Americorps building pathways, handicap access places, and repairing areas that had been left unattended for a while.

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She was part of the group of Americorps youth called River Four and they stayed in a house just off the state park grounds.  Here she is with her daughter Meena visiting the part of the  deck she helped build. Shane and Jessica came down and spent a night with us at the Army Corps Campground called Burchfield Branch Campground

A very nice park with around 60 sites half of which are on the water while the rest have small streams running behind or around them.  The worst part is there is no cell phone reception and it is so far back in the woods that it takes a good 30 minutes to get out to civilization and cell phone range.

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Four Christmases

img_9168A wonderful Christmas season where we got to have Christmas four times over two days, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  We started Christmas Eve at Holy Rosary (keeping to our theme of visiting different churches everywhere we travel, even Nashville!)

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Christmas 2016

Monica and I spread our Christmas celebration over the family Christmases but had some presents under our small coach tree as well.

After Mass we went to Rebecca and Kayla’s place for their Christmas Eve dinner and presents with Braden.

We got home pretty late but we got to start Christmas Day not too early, with Shane cooking everyone breakfast and Jessica and Meena finishing the tree.

Meena got all the cool presents while the big people all got things they want and needed.

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Christmas 2016

 

Then off to Christina and Brian’s place for the fourth and final Christmas celebration with John and Christopher!

 

We’ll bring in the New Year in Nashville again this year, before heading south and west in late January.  We hope everyone’s Christmas season was blessed and the new year brings all your heart’s desire.

 

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