Thursday, May 26, 2011

Oklahoma Wind - May 24, 2011

The local forecasters had earlier predicted that Oklahoma would see an outbreak of tornadoes on Tuesday, and I woke with an uneasy feeling that morning. My mother spent the day with Susan and me; not that we have a storm shelter or safe room, but I guess she thought our house offered better protection. Suz and I moved a mattress from the bed to the hallway, which is the center of the house, in preparation for what may come, and I retrieved the motorcycle helmets from the garage. I grew up in Oklahoma and have always been aware of its association with spring tornadoes, but it seems to me that every year they have increased in number and intensity. We were fortunate; much more fortunate than others. Perhaps it's time to heed the warning and invest in an underground shelter.

For our friends and relatives not familiar with Oklahoma's wind (tornadoes), the following photographs reflect what Susan and I discovered when we went to check on the condition of our truck and 5th wheel in Newcastle, Oklahoma. We heard that the area was struck by one of the many twisters, but we had no idea of the magnitude of destruction until we viewed it first-hand.

The above pictures are the remains of RVs that took a direct hit from the storm. The following photo reflects the mangled metal cover and channel iron frame that covered our neighbors' property. The cover was pulled from its concrete footings and tossed across Highway 62. Thankfully, we've heard no reports of injuries sustained to any motorists along Highway 62 during the storm.

The following pictures are of adjacent buildings, including the RV Storage office.

Our truck and 5th wheel are parked approximately 100 yards west of the above building. The cyclonic winds, which generally blow in a counter-clockwise motion, shredded the insulation from the office building and threaded it through the fins in the truck's grill and radiator. It's difficult to depict in the photo, but the front of the 5th wheel is also littered with debris from the building.

We lost at least nine Oklahomans to tornadoes on May 24, 2011. A 3-year old boy was ripped from his mother's arms as she laid in the bathtub trying to protect her children. As of this writing, the child has not been found. These storms are violent and deadly. Warnings should be taken seriously! To our fellow RVers, I'm sure you are well aware of the danger in attempting to ride out a tornado warning in an RV. Always seek a secure shelter, preferably underground. According to meteorologists, the largest of the tornadoes occurring in Oklahoma on May 24 registered an EF-4 or EF-5, which is the largest and most violent on the scale. The Newcastle tornado, which caused the damage in the above pictures, was not that large. But note the severity of the damage it caused. RVing is a fun and healthy recreational activity, but we must put safety first.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Personal Note!

Many followers of this blog, as well as casual readers, have asked: "Why the delay in getting started with the blog this year?" Those of you who know me personally are aware I suffer from Meniere's Disease, which is a disorder of the inner ear associated with vertigo and tinnitus (dizziness & ringing in the ears). Often, flashes of light, rapid movement, and television and computer monitors trigger my attacks. Unfortunately, the attacks have recently become more frequent and severe; therefore, the delay in bringing the blog up to date in a timely manner. But, Suz and I hope to not let it interfere with our travels. Although it has had an impact on my ability to drive, Suz will be taking the wheel from time to time and the blog will continue, slowly but surely. I wish to thank all of you who have expressed your enjoyment in reading the blog and offered words of encouragement. Perhaps we'll see you on the road! Jerry

Sunday, May 15, 2011

2011 - The Year of Transition!

The "Adventure" takes a turn in 2011 as we transition into a new form of RVing. We discovered that ownership of a large diesel-powered motorhome not only requires a substantial initial investment, but continues to stress the budget after the purchase through regular ongoing maintenance. Although the "Adventure" took a detour the past few months, we're back on track now with a newer and more efficient mode of travel. Welcome our new 2011 Chevrolet 2500HD, 6.6L HD Turbo Diesel with Allison Transmission and Exhaust Brake, coupled with a 2007 Cedar Creek Silverback 5th Wheel Travel Trailer.

We purchased the 5th Wheel (coach) from Lewis RV in Oklahoma City. It was a one-owner with few miles and little use. Before taking delivery, the dealer installed electric jacks, a second air-conditioner, and a fireplace. The coach has washer/dryer connections in the bedroom closet, so the dealer transferred our washer/dryer from the motorhome into the coach.

The motorhome is for sale on consignment with Lewis RV. It can be seen at their website if you or anyone you know may be interested:

We couldn't wait to get the new rig on the road and see how it performed. Spring break came the week of March 14 this year, so Suz and I planned a short southwest trip beginning in Wichita Falls to check in on Katherine where she's stationed at Sheppard Air Force Base. But before we left, we joined the Modern Wagoneers for a weekend camp out at Twin Fountains RV Park in northeast Oklahoma City.

The weekend's outings included a trip to the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum:, and the Oklahoma City RV Show.

The above picture is my "dream machine," a 2011 Landmark built by Heartland. It's simply beautiful and luxurious! Below, Susan is seated in the Landmark next to our sales person, Kelly; and the picture at right is our good friend and fellow Wagoneer, Tim.

Since visiting the RV Show and viewing the Landmark, Suz and I have put close to 3,000 miles on the Cedar Creek 5th Wheel. The Silverback is not considered a "high-end" RV, but my experience so far is that it's high-quality, low-maintenance, and probably a "keeper." Before I purchase any other brand of 5th Wheel, I'll likely want to consider another Cedar Creek product.

Before departing OKC and heading southwest toward Wichita Falls, Suz and I paid a visit to our local casino, Remington Park, where we both won a little travel money. We then headed out, Maynard and all, and found Katherine to be doing well in her career and personal life. After a brief visit we headed further southwest toward the Midland/Odessa area. We stayed at the Midessa Oil Patch RV Park. Quite a few oil patch regulars appear to live there full time, but it's a well-kept park and we'd stay again if we're ever in the area.

We took a short, but boring, trip over to the Andrews, Texas area, where we checked on some of our retirement investments at work:

We also visited The American Air Power Museum: If you're an aviation enthusiast, I strongly encourage you to check it out. It's worth the visit and modest admission price.

Back on the road headed west toward Pecos, Texas. There, we'll turn north toward Carlsbad, New Mexico. But first, a break for lunch and siesta for Maynard.

No reason for the pic of the donkey, other than we found him to be interesting tied next to the highway.

Suz had never visited Carlsbad Caverns, so we made it a point to spend the night there and explore the park. We stayed at Carlsbad RV Park, which offered no frills, but it was clean and quiet. The ascent to the top of the park entrance would be a test for the performance of the new truck. The road was pretty steep, but the Chevy pulled the coach as if it wasn't there. The descent was even better. The coach weighs in at over 12,000 lbs., and I was sure the rig would push the Chevy down the grade. But to my surprise, the truck maintained the set speed of 45 mph with the exhaust brake engaged and I never once had to apply the service brake.

The Newmar Mountainaire Diesel Pusher averaged 7.4 mpg on most trips. That included towing our old 2001 Chevy 1500 Z71 4x4 pickup. The new rig, 2011 Chevy 2500HD Diesel Z71 4x4, with the 2007 32-foot 5th Wheel, averages 10.4 mpg. I'm told by other more experienced RVers that performance and gas mileage should improve. Now that I've completely retired, live on a limited budget, and the cost of diesel is at an all time high, I sure hope they're right!

Here's a few pics of the Carlsbad Caverns National Park and surrounding area:

We left the next morning in route to visit the aliens in Roswell, New Mexico. We called ahead and made reservations at the Red Barn RV Park. It's situated on what used to be a farm east of town. The park office is in a large red barn, i.e. the name "Red Barn RV Park." The owners are very hospitable and the park is small and quaint. Only one site was available upon our arrival. The onsite store and laundry operates on the "honor" system, and most guests live there full time.

While there, we visited the "International UFO Museum and Research Center," Here's a few pictures of what we observed:

We then headed home, via Amarillo and the Oasis RV Park and Big Texan Steak House.

Suz, Maynard, and I soon departed on another short weekend trip to Branson, Mo., where we met up with our friends, Tim and Karen Sechrist. This is the first time we have visited Branson without taking in a music show. The only pictures that would have been worthy of posting would have been of the Branson Emergency Room, where the physicians, nurses, and staff rendered professional and efficient care.

Upon our arrival in Branson, we met Tim and Karen for dinner and I soon became severely ill. Thinking it may be a stomach virus or food poisoning, Susan rushed me to the ER. After examination, I was informed I had a kidney stone and needed emergency surgery. Knowing we would be stuck in Branson (the rain was relentless), and in the RV with Maynard during my recovery, I chose to have the ER staff shoot me up with pain medication and ask Tim to drive me and our rig home. Susan and Karen followed close behind through a driving rain and hail storm, but we all made it home safely. I was admitted to Mercy Health Center that same evening and had surgery the next morning. All is well now, thanks to Tim and Karen!

By the weekend of May 6, I had recovered enough to be back on the road. Susan and I took our grandson, Trenton (aka Thumper), with us on a Modern Wagoneer trip to The Great Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge in Northwestern Oklahoma. The group repeated the trip they took last year at this time, but we were unable to attend. Thumper had been promised he could go then, so we made it up to him this time.

The primary attraction is the opportunity to dig for Selenite Crystals under the salt flats adjacent to the Great Salt Lake. Thumper spent about two hours and collected over 30 crystals to take home and share with his classmates.

The transition from the motorhome to the 5th Wheel was a good move. The 5th Wheel requires very little maintenance. We joined the Cedar Creek RV Owners' Club, where we learned on their forum that the factory installed Chinese made tires frequently blow out in the sidewalls. We've since replaced all four tires with Michelins to be on the safe side. The largest investment was the diesel pickup, but it has factory warranty and requires much less to maintain than the diesel motorhome. Suz and I are hopeful we'll get many good miles out of both vehicles.

Look for our blog next month when the Modern Wagoneers travel to Grove, Oklahoma for the American Heritage Music Festival. We have several new members and our club is growing fast. If you have an RV, or are contemplating the purchase of one, don't hesitate to contact us at for information on becoming a member.