Sunday, November 23, 2014

Year 2014 in Review . . . .

We took a break from keeping up our travel blog for the past year, but we’re back with a pictorial review of our travels through 2014. 

Susan and I began our travel season in March when we journeyed to Fredericksburg and San Antonio, Texas, with our good friends, Bob and Jan Samples. 

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Late March was a great time to visit south central Texas with its warmer climate, which afforded us an opportunity to de-winterize the RVs.

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We found a nice overnight RV park in Waco while in route to Fredericksburg.  It’s called “North Crest RV Park,” and is located at 104 Old House Loop, Waco, TX  76705. 

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The overnight price is reasonable, and the owner was friendly and helpful.  If you’re in the area and need a reservation, contact Mark at (254) 799-3963. 

We’ve stayed overnight at “I-35 RV Park,” also in the Waco area, but don’t recommend it.  Grass is scarce and Susan spent way too much time pulling grass burrs from Maynard’s hair. 

Upon our arrival in Fredericksburg, a cold front came through with strong gusts and falling temperatures.  We had made reservations for our 2-3 night stay at the Fredericksburg KOA.    

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The park is arranged nicely and had a convenient store in the lobby, but the power continuously failed and the management refused to check on the problem because of the cold temperature.  Out of desperation to ensure our heat stayed on and our plumbing didn’t freeze, I traced the electrical service back to its source and found this . . .

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An open utility box behind a rotted stockade barrier with exposed electrical connections.  I disconnected the power supply and tightened the connections leading to our electric post, which solved the problem.  Apparently, the loose connections would short when the wind blew.  I hope my complaint to the management resulted in prompt action so that no child or other unskilled RVer gets injured. 

While in Fredericksburg, we returned for a second visit to the “National Museum of the Pacific War” and the “Admiral Nimitz Museum.” 

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It warmed up as we moved further south toward San Antonio, and the San Antonio KOA is a good place to stay while visiting the area.  It’s cleaner and much better managed than the park in Fredericksburg!  

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The following photos reveal our tour of the San Antonio area (Thanks for sharing your photos, Bob & Jan). 

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We traveled to Wichita Falls, Texas, in April to visit Susan’s daughter, Katherine, and her husband, Andrew (Elwood).  Katherine, who serves our country in the U.S.A.F., was being transferred to “Joint Base Lewis-McChord,” southwest of Tacoma, Washington. 

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We also joined “The Modern Wagoneers,” our local Good Sam chapter, for a weekend campout in Checotah, Oklahoma (home of American Idol and Country Music Star, Carrie Underwood). 

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Checotah 2014 was not a good trip for me, personally.  Continuous rain, wind and hail, combined with a kidney stone attack, made Jerry an unhappy camper! 

However, after undergoing what would be the first of three kidney stone procedures in 2014, I began to feel better and we headed west with the Modern Wagoneers to Palo Duro Canyon, south of Amarillo, Texas. 

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This trip was hosted by Gary Tidball and Rose Wagner, and it was simply wonderful!  A new destination, good weather, and good friends, are the perfect ingredients for a fun trip. 

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We had the opportunity to visit the “Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Museum” in Amarillo.  It’s located at 4341 Canyon Dr., Amarillo, TX  79110.  Their telephone number is (806) 358-4891.  If you’re a serious RVer, it’s a “must see!” 

 
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The top picture is of Susan standing in the doorway of the RV used in the movie “RV,” starring Oklahoma’s own, Kristin Chenoweth. 

Susan also found several quilts on display . . .

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It seemed that most couples went different directions when leaving the campground.  A visit with my cousin, Cynthia Calderon, and her family was long overdue.  So, Susan and I traveled to Hobbs, New Mexico, and met Cynthia, Nick, and their two beautiful daughters for dinner. 

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It’s been no secret that Susan and I have missed the convenience of motorhome travel since we transitioned to a 5th wheel coach.  But the expense of maintaining our former motorhome, a 2001 Newmar Mountain Aire with 50K miles, became excessive and discouraging. 

I’d been researching various brands and models on the Internet for several months, and resolved that a new and unused diesel coach is simply outside our budget ($324K – $645K).  But RV Professional Sales, 1809 John McCain Rd, Colleyville, TX 76034, (817) 488-9542, had several late model high-end used coaches that appeared to be reasonably priced.  With Katherine relocating to Washington, cross country trips in a high-end motor coach would be far more comfortable than in a pickup.  (At least that’s the tool I used to convince Susan to make the trip to look at motorhomes in Colleyville on the way home from Hobbs!)

So, once again we transition our mode of travel!  We spent a full day comparing several models and chose a 2008 Monaco Diplomat. 

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Neal, at RV Professional Sales, was great!  He allowed us to freely look at his inventory without any sales talk.  Susan and I narrowed our decision down to two coaches; a 2008 Tiffin Bus and the 2008 Monaco, both one-owner and low mileage (the Monaco had 22,026 miles at delivery).  But the test drive of both coaches was decisive. 

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We drove the Tiffin first and the sloppy handling, combined with wind noise and rattles, was very disappointing.  We next drove the Monaco, and there was no comparison in the quality, ride, and handling.  The Monaco has a Roadmaster chassis, which was manufactured by Monaco specifically for the Diplomat. 

Where Tiffin and other manufacturers utilize one air bag per wheel, the Roadmaster installs two per wheel, providing for a much smoother ride.  The Monaco displayed no wind noise, handling was very tight and stable for a 42 foot, 36K lb. coach, and absolutely no rattles were audible.  (At the time of writing this segment, we have now driven the Monaco over 8K miles and have not yet needed repair due to manufacturer defect or part failure; whereas, in the same period of time, the Newmar had been back to the dealer for numerous repairs with high out-of-pocket expense!)

Our Monaco has a residential size refrigerator, LCD television with Blue-Ray and surround sound, fireplace, ceramic tile flooring, a 400 HP Cummins turbo diesel, new Goodyear “LHS Fuel Max” 22.5 inch, “H” rated, tires, and many other options. 

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Interestingly, the Diplomat was a mid-level coach in the Monaco lineup in 2008.  But after going through bankruptcy during the recent recession, Monaco has “returned to power,” as its advertising suggest, and now offers only its highest end, Dynasty, for 2015, but will reintroduce the Diplomat in 2016.  I’m happy to know that the Diplomat has survived! 

Anxious to get on the road with our new coach, Susan and I made a brief trip to Bartlesville, Oklahoma, the home of Frank Phillips and Phillips Petroleum Company.  We enjoyed a private tour of the “Frank Phillips Home,” which is operated by the Oklahoma Historical Society.  Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and the home is displayed as it was in the 1920s. 

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We stayed at “Riverside RV Resort,” which is at 1211 SE Adams Blvd, Bartlesville, OK  74003, (918) 336-6431.  The management was very friendly and the park was clean and quiet. 

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Although we sold our Cedar Blue RV lot later in the year, we made a few trips to the “Lake of the Arbuckles” with the new coach . . . .

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The Southern Oklahoma Good Sams chapters held their annual “Friendship Rally” at Durant, Oklahoma, in June, and I served my final year as their Assistant State Director . . . .

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Susan and I really enjoyed making many new friends through our participation with the Southern Oklahoma chapters.  We hope to continue our travels with them or see them on the road again soon! 

The Samples would be hosting the Modern Wagoneer’s upcoming August trip to South Fork, Colorado.  Although the month of July is generally too hot for RV travel, I wanted to gain as much on-the-road experience with the new coach as possible before venturing into the Colorado mountains.  As a result, Susan and I took an Ozark Mountain trip into Arkansas and Missouri . . . .

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This would be a two-destination trip, with the first stop at “Ozarks RV Resort” on beautiful Table Rock Lake.  The park is simply gorgeous!  It’s located at 1229 CR 663, Oak Grove, AR  72660, (888) 749-7396.  Be prepared for steep, winding, two-lane roads, which are not enjoyable with a forty-two foot diesel coach towing an SUV.  But it served me well in preparing for the upcoming Colorado trip! 

Many of the sites are privately owned, but the park’s management company offers the sites for overnight rental.  We stayed three nights, in spite of the 100 degree temperatures. 

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We then made the short hop over the Arkansas/Missouri line to Branson, which is one of our annual destinations.  We had reservations for a 2-night stay at the Branson KOA, where we usually stay while visiting Branson. 

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The KOA has patio sites, which we were able to utilize with the benefit of the passing cool front in the area.  But when wanting to extend our stay for an additional night, we were told there was “no room at the Inn.”  So, we ventured across the road to “Oak Grove RV Park,” 780 State Highway 165, Branson, MO.  65616, (888) 334-4781 . . . .

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The Branson KOA site was $65 per night, compared to Oak Grove’s rate of $32.  Oak Grove doesn’t offer patio sites, but all sites are paved with full service utilities, and easy access to Highway 165 and Branson attractions.  Oak Grove is certainly a more affordable park for senior RVers on a budget!

The big trip of the year was finally upon us, and the Modern Wagoneers rallied in the Walmart parking lot in El Reno, Oklahoma, to begin the trek to Colorado. 

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Bob and Jan planned a 3-day trip to our destination at South Fork.  We would stay the first night at Oasis RV Park west of Amarillo, then turn north to Capulin, NM, where we’d stay the night at “Capulin RV Park,” Highway 64/87 & 325, Capulin, NM 88414, (575) 278-2921.  It’s a nice little park, but be sure to make advance reservations as there are not many sites. 

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The park is across the highway from “Capulin Volcano National Monument,” which stands over 8K feet high. 

A few of our travelers journeyed to the top, but got caught in a hail/rain storm before getting back to camp. 

We arrived the next afternoon in South Fork.  The drive from Interstate 25 west across Colorado is beautiful! 

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The group stayed in South Fork at “Fun Valley Family Resort,” 36000 U.S. 160, South Fork, CO 81154, (817) 279-1016.  This is a family oriented RV park, and has activities for all ages. 

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Bob and Jan planned day trips to Creede and Pagosa Springs, which offered many breathtaking sites along the way . . . .

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And the prettiest picture of all . . . .

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In Creede, the girls found plenty of stores to shop . . .,

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while the guys enjoyed the comfortable climate and visiting in the park.  Afternoon temps here average in the 70s-80s, while nighttime lows fall to around the high 40s.  Sure beats Oklahoma Augusts with 100+ temps and high humidity!

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While in Creede, Susan and I found what could very well be our summer home . . . “Mountain Views at Riverside” RV park, 539 Airport Road, Creede, CO  81130, (719) 658-2710. 

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The park is restrictive to age and condition of RV, and has a 360 degree panoramic view of the surrounding mountains (note the view through the windshield of our coach).

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While walking Maynard, Susan came across the vacant lot in the following picture.  She rushed back to the coach to tell me it was available for sale, but we mutually agreed not to contact the seller for it could lead to our financial demise!

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This is one of the prettiest parks we’ve visited.  It’s adorned with bronze statuary throughout the park . . . .

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Before leaving Creede, Susan and I made the scenic trip northwest about 50 miles to Lake City, CO.

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Again, we encountered many beautiful views along the way.

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The road to Pagosa Springs took us over Wolf Creek Pass (Elevation 10,856 ft.).

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After several days, the group split up and went in different directions.  Susan and I accompanied the Samples to Durango, CO., and Junction Creek Campground.

The “Strater Hotel,” at 699 Main Avenue, Durango, CO  81301, (970) 247-4431, offers Victorian charm.  My daughter, the general manager of an Oklahoma City Holiday Inn, would appreciate the hotel’s d├ęcor . . . .

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While in Durango, Susan and I booked seats onboard the “Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad,” 479 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301, (970) 247-2733.

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According to their museum, the railroad has been in continuous operation since 1882. 

Because the Samples wanted to revisit Silverton, Susan and I purchased one-way tickets and the Samples met us at the Silverton train depot for a ride back to camp.  Here are some scenes we viewed along the way . . . .

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Silverton was established in 1874 as the center of numerous mining camps.  It still maintains its 19th Century appearance.

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The highway scenery on the drive back to Durango and Junction Creek Campground was just as spectacular.

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The Samples had camped at Junction Creek several times, but this was our first visit and we didn’t know what to expect.  Bob and Jan told us the road leading into the park was dirt/gravel, but we didn’t realize the campground was at the top of a mountain with narrow roads and no guardrails.  As depicted in the following photo, the Colorado drought took a toll on the park roads and our new coach!

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But the campground was wonderful; 100 ft. pine trees and plenty of fresh air!

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And food always tastes better in the wilderness!

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After two nights at Junction Creek, Susan and I left the Samples and started the journey home.  We drove back through Pagosa Springs and spent a couple of days at a “Class ‘A’ Motor Coach Exclusive” RV park called “Wolf Creek Run.”

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This park is what we consider “high-end,” in that it is very well maintained, beautifully landscaped, and offers numerous amenities and services.  Sites are limited (only 27), and reservations are required.  The park is located at 169 Pagosa St., Pagosa Springs, CO  81147, (970) 264-1415. 

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We left Pagosa Springs and “Wolf Creek Run” for Oklahoma City with only overnight stops along the way.  Upon our arrival at the storage facility in OKC, our Aladdin trip computer offered the following data . . . .

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We traveled over 1596 miles on our Colorado trip, and averaged 7.6 mpg.  Our Newmar coach averaged 7.5 mpg with the Cummins 350, so I guess we’re ahead achieving 7.6 mph with the more powerful Cummins 400.

We had a three day break to restock the coach before leaving again.  This time we headed south out of OKC to Fort Worth, Texas, where we joined my son, Keith, and his friend, Aaron, for the “Red Bull Air Races” at Texas Motor Speedway. 

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We stayed at “Northlake Village RV Park,” 13001 Cleveland-Gibbs Road, #79, Northlake, TX  76262, (817) 430-3303. 

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This is the closest park we found to the speedway, and it’s very well maintained. 

I’ve had many goals in life, one of which was to learn to fly, which I accomplished in 1978.

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But observing first hand the skills of the Red Bull pilots was an exhilarating experience!

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Thanks for taking the “old man” and his beautiful wife along, guys! 

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We joined our new friends, Mike & Geletta White, for a weekend at the Oklahoma City East, KOA, 6200 S. Choctaw Rd., Choctaw, Oklahoma  73020, (405) 391-5000.  This is an OKC metro area park, and it serves as a good place just to get away. 

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It just so happened to be my birthday, so the four of us celebrated at “Old Germany Restaurant,” 15920 SE 29th St., Choctaw, OK  73020, (405) 390-8647.  It was Susan’s first experience, and my second.  Much better this time than what I remember from before. 

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We also took the opportunity to visit the Town of Jones “Ole Timers’ Day,” which is an annual town festival.  Jones is Susan’s hometown!

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When we left the Choctaw Rd. KOA, Susan and I drove directly to the “Heart of Oklahoma Exposition Center” in Shawnee, Oklahoma, for the 2014 Oklahoma Samboree.  This would be our final year serving as Oklahoma Good Sam Club state staff members.  We made many good friends and hope to see them on the road soon! 

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Susan and I took a short break after the week-long Samboree, but then reloaded the coach and headed to Albuquerque, NM.  This trip would be dual-purpose; Susan would officiate a grave marking memorial service for three deceased members of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), and we would bring my mother home to OKC after her visit with family living in Albuquerque. 

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While visiting Albuquerque, we generally stay at “American RV Park,” 13500 Central Ave., SW, Albuquerque, NM  87121, (505) 831-3545.  It’s a nice, well-maintained park, and offers plenty of good grass for Maynard. 

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Along the way, we made a stop in Tucumcari, NM, and visited the “Tucumcari Historical Museum,” 416 S. Adams St., Tucumcari, NM  88401, (575) 461-4201.  We’ve intended to visit it on previous trips through the area, but never before had the opportunity. 

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If you visit Tucumcari in your RV, we highly recommend “Cactus RV Park,” 1316 E. Tucumcari Blvd, Tucumcari, NM  88401, (575) 461-2501. 

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It’s a simple, clean, quiet, and friendly park, that was an original Route 66 motel.  The management is very friendly and accommodating! 

For great New Mexican cuisine, we recommend “La Cita” restaurant, 820 S. 1st St., Tucumcari, NM  88401, (575) 461-7866.

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Also, “Del’s Restaurant,” 1202 Hwy 66, Tucumcari, NM  88401, (575) 461-1740.

Susan and I plan to spend most of the winter in Arizona.  I’ll try to do a better job of keeping the blog up to date next year! 

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  Jerry & Susan