Laundry Day

Sunday February 18th 2018

It was another foggy start to a beautiful day. After the sun came out the temperature made it to around 80 degrees. It’s a very big improvement from the cool Texas weather I experienced last week.

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A reminder of the southwest here at the campground in the southeast. 

Today’s big event was the laundry. The facility was OK, but the cost at $2 per wash load with another $2 for the dryer was one of the highest I’ve seen recently. It is still significantly less than the highest I’ve seen at $3.50 for a small load of wash. The washing part went well, but the drying was another story. Either I forgot to push the “start” button or it cut out shortly after I left the room. When I returned to check on it after thirty five minutes the machine wasn’t running and the clothes were just as wet as when I put them in. I started the machine for another thirty five plus minutes. All the heavy winter clothes weren’t dry. Rather than wast another thirty five minutes and two dollars, the damp clothes are now spread all over the inside of my RV home. With any luck they will be dry before bed time.

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This is my third stay at this RV park. It is conveniently located near Interstate 10 east of Pensacola. Most of the options west of here in Florida and Alabama are a longer drive from the Interstate. The first two times I was here, my sites were deep in the park. This time I’m at the front of the park very near the Interstate. The traffic noise is continuous. I’ve gotten used to it, but the I’ve noticed the volume on the TV is set a bit higher than normal.

Tomorrow is a travel day. I am only going fifty miles to Fort Walton Beach. The Passport America Rally at the Northwest Florida Fairgrounds will be occupying my time until Saturday. I’m not sure what to expect, but the rally was at the right place at the right time to coincide with my travel schedule.

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Nice bright sunset.

First Day back in Florida

Saturday February 17th 2018

It was a foggy morning in Western Florida today. The temperature only got down into the sixties overnight. They would peak at eight degrees this afternoon. The normal high for this time of year in the area is around sixty five. I’m not complaining. It’s nice to be in some warm temperatures after the cool temperatures I’ve experienced on my cross country trek from Nevada.

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One of the interesting views of the sky today. It was generally a very nice day, but once in a while the clouds in the sky were threatening.

It wasn’t a particularly active day. I didn’t leave the RV park. My focus was on chores and enjoying being back in the east. Little things like being in an area with tall green trees and seeing Robins foraging for food kept my attention. The southwest has its attractions as well, but there is something comforting about the familiar sights.

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I really enjoyed the last year spent west of the continental divide. Most of the time was spent in Arizona, Utah and Nevada. Idaho and Montana got about a month long visit. California and Wyoming got visited on a few day trips. I left many places, events and attractions for future visits. That might be as soon as 2019. This year will be here in the east and the middle of the country. Next winter will be here in Florida. Exactly where I go in the spring of 2019 is yet to be determined.

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A Robin looking for lunch.

Back in Florida

Friday February 16th 2018

In was a warm night. It only got down into the sixties. The humidity this morning was high. Packing up to travel was a wet activity because I was perspiring heavily even though the temperature had only gotten into the 70s. I got on the road at ten for a planned four and a half to five mile trip to Milton Florida.

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View out my front windshield in Mississippi. The road surface in Mississippi was much improved from the rough concrete in Louisiana.

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The view inside my motor home as I go down the road. The radio and GPS on the far right, the rear view camera monitor left of the GPS. The towed vehicle auxiliary brake monitor and control above the rear view monitor. My cell phone is on the top of the dash in a holder. It provides streaming radio and music via blue tooth and is the easiest clock to see. All of the displays are hard to see with sunglasses on.

I made two stops along the way. The first was in Mississippi for gas and the second was at the Alabama Welcome Center for a rest stop. The fuel stop was longer than normal. I had to wait for the motor home in front of me to fuel up. The rest stop was just a couple of minutes, but before I got out of Alabama I had a much longer stop. An accident on Interstate 10 just before the Florida line had traffic completely stopped. For almost an hour traffic was either completely stopped or moving slower than walking pace. Two flatbed tow trucks went by toward the accident site, but by the time the traffic was moving again all evidence of an accident was gone. I have no idea where it was or what happened.

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View to the front during the traffic stoppage on Interstate 10. It was next to impossible to see what was going on up the road.

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View behind me as seen in the drivers side rear view mirror.

I crossed back into Florida around 3PM and arrived at the Milton Gulf Pines KOA just before four in the after noon. So the trip took about an hour longer than I had anticipated. It was still very humid and the temperature was in the mid 80s. Getting setup was another perspiration filled experience.

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Site B-9 at the Milton Gulf Pines KOA.

A Routine Day

Thursday February 15th 2018

Today started with fog again. By ten the fog was lifting and the sun was starting to break through the clouds. Overall there was more sun today than the previous few days. The temperature got back to the low eighties. By late tomorrow a cold front will pass through this area. I’ll be a couple of hundred miles to the east so it probably won’t get there until Saturday.

Today was mostly filled with the chores of life. I spent most of the morning on the computer in research mode. In the afternoon I made a grocery run. There is a Super Walmart up the road a mile or so that had the standard assortment of groceries that I’m familiar with. It wasn’t very busy so it was a relatively relaxed shopping experience.

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Decor inside the Bass Pro Shop in Denham Springs, LA.

While I was out I stopped at the Bass Pro Shop near the interstate. I rarely buy anything in the Bass Pro Shops, but I enjoy the way they decorate the stores. Each store has an outdoor motif consistent with the area it is located in. This one was modeled after a cypress swamp. The columns that supported the roof looked like cypress trees complete with Spanish Moss. The center pool with turtles, fish and ducks surrounded an old cabin. Some of the fish were huge.

Back at the RV park this afternoon I did some routine maintenance tasks and started the preparations for travel tomorrow. I have about 250 miles to travel tomorrow. The biggest complication will be passing through Mobile Alabama complete with the tunnel under the harbor area and passing by the north side of Pensacola Florida. I also need to by gas in the morning. The stations at this exit to the Interstate highway don’t have very good access. I think I’ve got good options down the road a bit if Google Maps satellite view is any indicator. Only trying will provide the answer.

Mississippi River in Baton Rouge LA

Wednesday February 14th 2018

It was foggy and warm this morning. The temperature only got down into the sixties overnight. During the day the fog dissipated, but it was still a mostly cloudy day. It was very humid with a high temperature in the low eighties. On the few occasions that the sun broke through the clouds it was downright uncomfortable. The fog is forecast to return tonight.

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Horace Wilkinson Bridge across the Mississippi River. The thick clouds were around all day.

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Barge staging area.

After the fog lifted I made the thirteen mile drive back to the downtown Baton Rouge area. Traffic on the Interstates was terrible. I was in stop and go traffic for almost half of the trip. My destination was the levee on the east bank of the Mississippi river. A park area, a number of museums and a couple of casinos reside in the area. My primary goal was the USS Kidd World War II era destroyer and the accompanying veterans memorial and museum.

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Large tug pushing a group of barges with a smaller single barge tug coming around behind the big one. A large ocean going cargo ship is tied to the dock on the far side of the river.

With a little help from Google maps I found my way to the levee and got a parking space in an open lot beside the levee. The area is just north of the Horace Wilkinson Bridge which carries I-10 across the Mississippi river. I immediately became fascinated by the barge traffic on the river. The section of river in front of my parking location was used for forming, separating and manipulating large groups of barges. While I was there one group of barges was added to those already there. Smaller tugs immediately started breaking the string apart to reform other groups.

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Pushing the new group of barges along side the once that were already there.

Walking along the levee was a fun way to explore the river bank. The levee shields the city from flood waters up to around forty eight feet. That’s higher than any previous floods in the area, but it doesn’t help if the water gets around the levee somewhere. All of the permanently moored boats in the river like the USS Kidd and the casino riverboats are designed to rise and fall with the river level. It’s a lot of engineering.

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USS Kidd World War II era destroyer.

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Looking at the USS Kidd from in front of the bow you can see how narrow the ship is for speed and maneuverability.

I decided against visiting the USS Kidd and museum. The ship is smaller than I expected and didn’t look like it had anyone visiting today. In the hour or more that I was in the area of the ship, I didn’t see anyone go aboard. When you visit a museum on a real slow day, you often get an unwanted personal tour or an attitude from the staff. I prefer to wander, look and read placards on my own.

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Small maneuvering tug.

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Another small tugboat.

Walking on the levee in the riverfront park area was a lot of fun. I could watch the traffic in the river for a long time. Unfortunately, I wasn’t dressed for today’s weather. I had switched to a short sleeve shirt, but still had heavy denim pants. When the sun was behind the clouds it was humid, but tolerable. When the sun broke through it was warm and I didn’t have sunscreen or a hat on. Still I spent over two hours walking and sitting on the levee. Before returning to camp I also checked out both casinos. After three months in Las Vegas these riverboat casinos weren’t very impressive.

 

Is that the sun?

Tuesday February 13th 2018

The weather this morning was cloudy and cool just like the last eight days. Spending as much time as I have in the southwestern desert climate, I haven’t seen more than a day and a half stretch of cloudy weather since mid June in Montana. When you know that the sun will return the next day, it’s easy to put things off on the cloudy days. I haven’t had that luxury the last few days. Traveling the last three days in the cloudy, windy and cold weather hasn’t been fun.

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I saw my shadow for the first time in eight plus days.

I’ve managed to dodge the really heavy rains that have fallen in some of the areas I’ve been traveling through. This area of Baton Rouge got heavy rain the day before I got here and the area to the west, where I came from, got heavy rain today. The pattern of full day cloudiness was broken today. For a few minutes today the sun was out in full form. It even repeated its performance later in the day. The temperature managed to get up to seventy with a promise of better weather the next couple of days.

I spent a fairly lazy day today. Some of the setup tasks that I would normally complete on my arrival day didn’t get completed yesterday because of the cold. This morning I took the bicycle off the car and did a few other tasks associated with a multi-day camp. Most of my day was spent watching Mardi Gras parades on TV.

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Standing water in the ditch from the recent rain.

It is nice to be back in the land of trees. Each of my last three travel days have brought me into contact with more trees. Here there are lots of tall trees some without leaves yet that have attracted birds. Chirping and singing birds have entertained me throughout the day. I enjoyed the desert southwest, but I’m glad to be back in a greener wetter area.

East of the Mississippi River

Monday February 12th 2018

After 354 days my RV Home has returned to the east side of the Mississippi River. At 1:30PM today I crossed the Mississippi River eastbound at Baton Rouge Louisiana. Last February 23rd I crossed the same bridge in the opposite direction. I’m officially back in the east.

Unlike yesterday my day went pretty much according to plan. I started my short seventy five mile travel day a little before 11AM this morning. It was another cloudy, raw and windy day. The temperature never got above fifty degrees all day. My only deviation from plan occurred early on in the travel day. I couldn’t get close enough to the gas pump at my chosen station to fill the gas tank. Across the street at a more expensive station I was able to angle into the last pump in line. Given that it was the last pump it didn’t matter that I was blocking the entire parking lot aisle. The fuel fill is on the back of the RV. The rig extends 35 forward from that point and the towed car with the bicycle on the back extends close to twenty feet in the other direction.

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Sculpture garden at the Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge Welcome Center.

This section of Interstate 10 is not in the best condition. The bumps between concrete sections can really get you bouncing. When you add in the holes and patches it’s a real problem. Much of the road today was a bridge over the Atchafalaya drainage basin. Drainage basin seems to be polite speak for “swamp”. I stopped at the rest area and Welcome center for the Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge to kill some time and checkout the exhibits.

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The exhibits explain the basin and its evolution. As flood control levees were constructed life in the basin changed. Interstate 10 has crossed the area on a 20 foot high bridge over and along the canals between the levees since the early 1970s. Other exhibits and sculptures describe and pay tribute the animals that live in the basin.

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Site 46 at the Baton Rouge KOA.

I arrived at my home for the next four nights on the east side of Baton Rouge just before two. I’ll spend the days touring the area, catching up on laundry and getting restocked. On Friday I’ll move on to Milton Florida for the holiday weekend.

Bad Plans Good Outcomes

Sunday February 11th 2018

It was cold this morning. A cold front moved through the area during the night leaving behind temperatures in the high 30s and cold north winds. I resisted getting up as long as I could only getting out of bed long enough to turn up the heat. When I did get up it was hard to move slowly. A flurry of activity kept me warm.

All of my plans for the day went a little wrong. It started with my plan to leave at ten thirty or eleven. I only planned to travel about a hundred and fifty miles to Beaumont TX. When I got on the road early at 9:30am I put that plan in question. I stopped at a Texas rest area a few minutes short of Beaumont before noon to reconsider my plans. It was still very early. Traffic wasn’t bad and weather conditions had improved some. Getting a little further east was possible and would reduce the distance I had to travel on Monday. My goal was to aim for the Lake Charles Louisiana area about sixty miles east of Beaumont.

The new plan was to stop at the Louisiana Welcome Center and make a few phone calls to find a campground for the night. That plan failed when the Welcome Center was a construction zone. Without a place to stop, I can’t do research or make calls. This is one of the disadvantages of solo travel. I continued on looking for a rest area or an appropriate exit with a big parking area. Soon I was in Lake Charles without having stopped to finalize a plan.

The second new plan of the day was to stop at the KOA in Lafayette LA. It was about seventy miles east of Lake Charles on I-10. I stayed there on my way west last February. It’s a big campground so I had a high probability of success by just showing up. The alternative was to keep going to the place in Baton Rouge that I have a reservation starting Monday night, but that had a lower chance of success without calling first.

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Site 127 at the Lafayette KOA.

I arrived at the Lafayette KOA at two thirty after 280 miles and five hours of travel. There were plenty of open sites. The travel day started out with a strong north wind hitting the drivers side of the RV as I traveled. I was constantly fighting to keep the RV in the lane. Traveling through downtown Houston went without any complications. It seemed like it took forever to pass through the city. At one point I thought I was almost through when I saw a sign indicating that the city was still 17 miles away. The concrete and glass structures lining the road must go on for a hundred miles along I-10.

I’m much further east than I expected to be. I only have about seventy five miles to Baton Rouge tomorrow. I’ll be staying there for four nights. Hopefully, tomorrows plans will be more executable. I don’t want to leave here until 11 or later. There is another Louisiana rest area welcome center just before the Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge and the long highway bridge that crosses the swaps south of the refuge. I plan to stop there for an hour or so. Let’s see how well this plan goes.

East from San Antonio

Saturday February 10th 2018

It was fogged in solid again this morning. The TV weather people were talking about a quarter mile of visibility. I slow rolled my preparation for travel until ten thirty. By that time visibility was better but mist and drizzle were in the air.

I didn’t have a specific destination today. I had two options scoped out. One was in Columbus TX on the west side of Houston and the other option was on the east side of the city. Columbus was a really short run, but I wasn’t looking forward to downtown Houston on a Saturday afternoon. So my plan was to play it by ear.

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Setup at the Columbus RV Park. This picture was taken between rain episodes.

Traffic leaving San Antonio was light. The drizzle let up during the first part of my trip. It returned as a light shower shortly after I stopped for gas. As I moved east the weather got worse. Texas seems to have two types of roadside stops; Rest Areas and Picnic Areas. The rest areas have facilities while the picnic areas are just a long side road with parking. I stopped at a picnic area about thirty five miles short of Columbus TX to make the decision on my overnight stop. The weather radar showed rain in Houston and to the east. Despite the early hour, I decided to stop in Columbus TX.

I’m at the Columbus RV Park for the night. It’s a nice little park that looks like it used to be a KOA. It has been off and on drizzle since I got here. A cold front is forecast to pass through overnight. Hopefully, that will make for better traveling weather tomorrow. I can live with cold while driving. I don’t like driving in the rain.

Fifth Cloudy Day in a Row

Friday February 9th 2018

I woke this morning to another cloudy day. This is the fifth day in a row that it has been cloudy. I arrived in fog and mist last Saturday. Sunday was the only good weather day during my stay in San Antonio TX. Tomorrow as I travel east toward Houston it may be partly cloudy. I’ll believe when it happens.

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A seagull joined the birds at the RV park lake today.

Getting motivated to do anything in this weather is difficult. Eventually, I worked up the energy to make a grocery run. As is my habit I went to the nearby Super Walmart. It is so much easier to find thing on the shelves. Walmart has a few standard store layouts that you usually find. Within those layouts local stores have a few variations, but not many. This particular store was a little bigger than most. There was more room in the produce and bakery area and I think the aisles were a little wider. It wasn’t busy today. I had my grocery in short order and returned to my RV home.

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He’s coming over to say goodbye.

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She’s rushing to keep up,

Back at home I started to prepare for travel tomorrow. My bicycle has been loaded on the back of the SUV and the car is prepared to be hooked up to the Motorhome. Inside some of the things I’m finished with have been stored away. A one week long stay is right on the limit of inside mess. It isn’t quite long enough to have everything out, but more things are out of storage than I’d like.

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Goodbye ducks.

For exercise I walked around the RV park lake. I’ll miss all of my avian friends. They provide interesting viewing as they swim by and climb the banks to forage on land. Today all of the ducks and other water birds have been joined by a seagull. The Gulf of Mexico is about 135 miles away, but I’m sure there’s a dump nearby.

This evening it has started to rain lightly. Occasional showers are forecast overnight into the morning. Hopefully it will dry out before I get on the road.