Travel to Van Horn TX

Tuesday May 21st 2019

I made it to the West Texas town of Van Horn tonight. The 365 mile drive was a little over six hours. The first half was pretty scenery and the second half was hard driving.

Wildflowers in the median.

The day started with a thunderstorm around 7AM. It flushed out the humidity and left a nice day for driving. Yesterday’s wind was gone during the first part of my drive this morning. Traffic was very light and wild flowers lined the median and sides of the highway. I was maintaining a comfortable sixty five mile per hour speed letting the traffic that wanted to cruise pass me by.

I stay between 62 and 66.

About halfway to Van Horn the wind returned with a vengeance. I learned from the TV this evening that the wind was around 30mph out of the WSW with higher gusts. Most of the time the wind direction with respect to my direction of travel was manageable. It was either off the drivers corner or a dead on head wind. On occasion it hit more broadside like it was yesterday. That is the hardest wind to handle. The head wind just requires more gas to cut through it. For example, I was traveling on level ground with the cruise control on when the transmission had to down shift to maintain speed. Just adding gas couldn’t maintain the speed.

Site G-6 at the Van Horn RV Park.

I arrived at the Van Horn RV Park at 3:20. I’ve stopped at this park before and knew it would be easy to get a site so I didn’t make a reservation. There is plenty of room here tonight. Getting setting up in the wind was interesting. I didn’t extend the big slide out room because I didn’t want to listen to the slide topper awning flap in the wind. As I’m writing this blog entry the wind has calmed down to a light breeze, but will be back tomorrow.

Proof that I’m back in the desert south west,
Cactus blossom.

Tomorrow I’m only going 170 miles to the west side of El Paso. The time changes again when I enter the Mountain time zone a few miles west of Van Horn, so I don’t need to get an early start. I plan to stay there until Friday morning before moving on to Albuquerque for the weekend.

Rose blossom of the day,

Driving Through Two of America’s Biggest Cities

Monday May 20th 2019

Another day and I’m another 290 miles further west. I got started a little after 9am. The rush hour through Houston was over and although traffic was heavy it moved right along. I took Interstate 10 through the middle of the metropolis. The only real tricky part is staying out of the lanes that end in an off ramp. I try to stay in a middle lane, which means I need to keep my speed consistent with the traffic.

My least favorite view on the highway; stopped traffic.

I actually encountered more traffic in San Antonio at the tail end of the lunch hour. The last time I went west through the San Antonio area I took a loop road around to the north. This time I took Interstate 10 through the middle of everything. I didn’t have any issues, but I don’t think I’ll use that route again. It isn’t a very straight route through the city and it has a number of sections of double high roads. Instead of adding lanes side by side they added lanes above the original roadway. I’d really be happier if I could avoid Houston and San Antonio all together. The bad weather to the north makes this the best route this time around.

The only real traffic issue I had today was the back up for an accident about halfway between Houston and San Antonio. A compact car found the barrier along the side of the right lane in a construction zone to be an immovable object. It didn’t look to be very bad. Traffic was getting by very slowly until the emergency crews arrived. Two police cars, a fire truck, an ambulance and a rescue squad truck squeezed by my RV on the right side getting to the accident scene. Shortly after that traffic stopped for fifteen to twenty minutes before returning to slowly snaking by the accident scene. As I went by everybody seemed to be standing around talking. There was no wrecker on scene to remove the mangled car, so the traffic backup was probably getting worse instead of better. In the end I was probably just far enough back to not be involved in the accident, but close enough to get through without a longer delay.

My biggest problem today was the wind. A strong twenty plus mile an hour wind was blowing from the south. In the open farming and cattle areas between the two big cites the wind was hitting me broad side. It required a lot of left steering wheel pressure to keep the RV in the travel lane. Additional wind gusts added to the difficulty. Traveling north from San Antonio the wind was at my back which is probably the best direction for dealing with wind, but once I turned back to the west it was a bigger problem. In the hill country west of San Antonio the wind gets funneled and focused to be dangerous. I stopped for the night before it got really bad.

Site 30 at the Kerrville KOA Journey.

I’m at the Kerrville KOA for the night. I’ve stopped here twice before. It’s an OK stop for the night, but it isn’t very big or luxurious. The forecast calls for morning thunderstorms in this area. Hopefully I can get out before or between them and continue my journey west. The wind is only forecast to be around fifteen miles per hour tomorrow.

Travel Day to the Houston Area

Sunday May 12th 2019

It rained a little overnight, but mother nature left the worst for daylight. Around seven this morning a severe thunderstorm warning along with a tornado watch was issued by the National Weather Service for the Baton Rouge area.

I did a few outside travel preparation tasks before it started to rain and I pulled in the slide out rooms. With the slides in the wind can’t flap in the slide top awnings and the rain water can’t accumulate on them. I then retreated inside to wait for the storm front to pass by. A few other RVs packed up and left before the storm and a couple left during the worst of the storm. I’d rather be parked in the RV park than out on the road during a severe storm.

The worst of the storm went by to the north. A tornado warning was issued for an area about ten miles north of my location. The main line of storms was over by nine, but it was still raining. I finished my packing in the rain and pulled out of the RV park a couple of minutes after ten. I drove west ten to fifteen miles in a medium rain before it cleared up. During the rest of the journey I drove through a few brief showers.

A few miles of stop and go traffic.

Interstate 10 west of Baton Rouge is not in great condition. Most of the road surface is concrete. Many sections of road have been patched with uneven results. In other areas all of the expansion joints have separated and raised. The result is a very uncomfortable ride. At times I had to slow way down to keep control of the RV. Above sixty on the seventy mile an hour speed limit road I often thought the RV wanted to become airborne.

Site 6 at the Houston Leisure RV Resort in Highlands TX

After 260 miles and almost six hours including two twenty minute or more periods of stop and go traffic, I arrived at my destination for the night. I’m at the Houston Leisure RV Resort in Highlands TX just east of Houston. The park is primarily for long term residents, but they have a few sites for travelers. Tomorrow after rush hour I’ll drive through Houston then San Antonio a few hours later.

Travel Route Decision Day

Saturday May 18th 2019

I made the right decision to stay Baton Rouge for a second night. The area I was heading for today is now under a tornado watch. This area has been mostly cloudy and very humid, but has only had a few micro showers of rain. A line of thunderstorms is forecast to pass through here around day break tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll have reasonable driving conditions when I hit the road in the morning.

Unlike my last couple of stops, there are many nice flower blossoms to photograph at this park.

The day of rest also allowed me to study the hype from the Weather Channel and do some internet research on the severe weather system. I came to the conclusion that crossing northern Texas was too risky. The bulls eye of the severe weather for Monday is forecast to be right over where I was planning on stopping and I learned that the Red River in the area of another campground I was aiming for is out of its banks. The southern route through Houston, San Antonio and Texas hill country is mostly south of the severe weather.

Blossom of the day.

Tomorrow I’ll travel to the east side of Houston. On Monday I’ll cross Houston after rush hour and hopefully get through San Antonio before the next rush hour starts. Monday night I should be on the west side of San Antonio. If the area is clear of severe weather, Tuesday will be a long boring driving day through Texas Hill country and a good portion of West Texas. I planning on Van Horne TX for the night. It has been my choice the last two times in the area. On Wednesday I’ll finish the cross Texas journey with a stop west of El Paso. My reservation in Albuquerque starts on Friday, so I have one extra day to use. If all goes well I stay in the El Paso area for two nights before finishing the journey to Albuquerque. I’m going to be watching the weather forecast closely. I didn’t book all of my stops crossing the country for this very reason. Being flexible to avoid the worst of the weather is important.

I’m not in Texas yet, but here is a Yellow Rose.

I managed to get a few other things accomplished today. Chief among them was the laundry. It was a bit of a challenge finding the necessary number of quarters to make the machine work. For some reason it never occurred to me to get change at the campground office/store. Instead, I rummaged trough the console in my car to find five quarters to go with the ones I already had. In the end I had three extra quarters after using the twelve I needed. I haven’t been using enough cash lately to maintain a quarter supply. That’s an interesting down side to using plastic cash substitute.

I could have sat on this bench to wait for my laundry to finish.

Travel Day to the Baton Rouge Area

Friday May 17th 2019

Thanks to the change in time zone I was awake early this morning. I had plenty of time to get ready for the day’s travel. An early departure would mean heavy traffic around Pensacola, so I waited until 9:30AM to depart. I finished the 260 mile travel day at 3PM. The elapsed time was the same as yesterday for seventy miles less distance traveled. It took longer to buy gas today and I stopped at the Louisiana Welcome center for twenty minutes or so.

At the Welcome Center on Interstate 10.

Traffic was fairly heavy most of the way. The only place it really bogged down was at the entrance to the tunnel in Mobile. The speed slowed to around twenty miles an hour entering the tunnel, but increased back to normal highway speed by the exit to the tunnel. The good news was the price of gas. The Alabama gas price was thirty four cents a gallon cheaper than I paid Thursday in Florida. The Mississippi price was equally low. I’m not sure what the price is here in Louisiana.

Rose blossom of the day.

I’m at the Baton Rouge KOA just east of the city. I stopped here on my return to the east in February of 2017 and like it, so this is a return visit. My original plan was to spend a single night then continue my trip west, but I’m still uncertain about the weather west of here. I decided to spend an extra night here before heading into the area of the country that the news is calling home to a “major severe weather event”. Driving through the area is just a matter of selecting the route appropriate to the timing of the storms. The problem is I had planned to stay in the area for a couple of days, before reaching my reservations in the Albuquerque NM area on Friday. I’ll listen to the forecasts tomorrow and adjust accordingly.

Site 48 the Baton Rouge KOA.

Travel Day to the Pensacola Area

Thursday May 16th 2019

My plan was to get on the road west by 9AM. It is pretty hard to accomplish when you don’t wake up until 8:30AM. Working steadily I ate breakfast and finished packing. I was on track to leave at 10AM when a minor gotcha came out to byte me. The tire pressure sensor on the car showed low pressure in one of the tires. I needed to get the compressor out and add some air. By the time I got everything ready and left the state park it was 10:30AM.

A nice little Rose blossom.

The travel day was long but uneventful. I filled the gas tank about an hour into the journey. It was just driving and eating up miles from that point. Crossing northern Florida on Interstate 10 I passed through a wide stretch of miles showing damage from hurricane Michael. There were down trees everywhere. In some areas logging equipment had cleaned up the downed trees, but in other areas broken trees leaned on other trees and littered the ground. Many road signs were twisted in odd directions and others were missing. It’s been eight months and the I-10 area is fifty miles inland from the coast where the hurricane hit. The damage nearer the coast is much worse.

Bigger Rose blossom.

I arrived in at my overnight stop at the Milton Gulf Pines KOA in the Pensacola area around 3PM with the help of a convenient time zone change. I traveled 330 miles in about five and a half hours. Tomorrow’s travel is a little more reasonable at 250 miles to the Baton Rouge area. Getting through Mobile Alabama is the only real challenge to the drive. I still haven’t committed to a route west of Baton Rouge. I’m waiting until the weather forecast is a little more certain.

Site D-02 at the Milton Gulf Pines KOA.

Noisy Four Legged Neighbors

Wednesday May 15th 2019

I made an effort to get up earlier this morning. By 8AM I was enjoying my morning coffee and listening to the sounds of nature. It was a very calm morning after a cool overnight. I could hear the bird calls from every direction competing with the sounds of insects. I kept the TV off and just let the sounds creep in as I finished my breakfast.

Some of the water filled areas of Paynes Prairie.

The pleasing sounds of nature went away when my neighbors left for the morning. Their two dogs didn’t like being left inside their trailer. A steady flood of muffled dog barks broke into the serene natural sounds. I heard similar noise yesterday, but I didn’t identify its origin as the neighbors trailer. The dogs continued to bark and whine all morning. Early in the afternoon the barking noise went from muffled to full volume. Someone had let the dogs out into a fenced area in front of the trailer, but no one was home other than the dogs. After about an hour of full barking with everyone in the campground wandering by to see what was going on, a park ranger showed up to checkout the situation. With no one around all he appeared to do was leave a note on the door. I don’t know the resolution, but the people were packing up to leave when I returned from running errands in town. The site was empty by 5PM. It’s a shame because they were nice friendly dogs that were quiet when their people were present. The people need to understand the dogs issues and not leave them alone if they can’t train the behavior out of them.

More little blue wildflowers.

Today was my final day to prepare for my summer travels. I got most of my tasks complete. A couple of things can be done while traveling. Tomorrow I’m traveling about 325 miles to just east of Pensacola. Friday I’ll continue west to the Baton Rouge LA area. From there, I’m not sure. What little information I’ve heard about the weather across the country isn’t good. I saw one internet story from Accuweather that called for one of the worst severe weather events for Tornado Alley in recent years. I haven’t had Satellite TV the last couple of days so the Weather Channel and Accuweather were only available on the internet. Over the next coupe of days I need to decide if I want to take the route I planned across northern Texas or divert on a more southern route along I-10. I went west and back on I-10 in 2017/2018 and wanted to try a new route. The I-10 route is probably south of most of the potentially bad weather.

Time to for the Anhinga’s wings to dry.

Another Day of Summer Travel Preparation

Tuesday May 14th 2019

This campground is at the opposite end of the spectrum from my last stop. During my two and a half weeks at the campground in Starke FL I was surrounded by road and train noise and my RV was parked in the a field subject to the bright Florida sun. At this location I’m in a dense forest. It is very quiet and dark. The conditions were perfect for sleeping. Even though I had a lot of tasks to get done today, I didn’t even wake up until well after 9AM. Normally I wake up around 7:30 even if I decide not to get up until later.

One tiny blossom.

Today was close to perfect weather wise. It was in the mid eighties with low humidity and a light northwest breeze. The cold front that passed south last night was about 100 miles south in the Orlando area. The reports indicated that it was very wet and windy in that area.

My morning was mostly wasted by the slow start. Shortly before noon I drove down to the Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park visitors center before heading out on today’s errands. The water level on the prairie is lower than it was at the end of February and everything was much greener. I didn’t see any of the wild horses or bison, just a few loud hikers. They would have spooked any animals if they were in the area. I’ll stop in tomorrow for another quick check for the big animals.

A pair of tiny blossoms.

The city of Gainesville continues to keep me guessing on getting from point A to point B. The city is spread out and has multiple major roads crossing the city in every direction, but I think you need to know the smaller cross streets that intersect the major roads to successfully navigate the city. I found I was driving long distances to get to places that looked close together on the map.

I needed some cable ties from Walmart to neaten up a project I was working on so I did my grocery shopping for the travel days to come while I was there. My purchases for the travel period focus on simplicity of preparation. For instance, I didn’t buy meat that I would want to use the gas grill to cook. Getting the grill out and putting it away again during a one night stop is more work than I want to take on. Hamburg, pasta and marinara sauce are a multiple meal substitute.

One of thousands of squirrels that seem to rule the state park.

I was back at the RV by the supper hour with enough time to walk down to the picnic area on Lake Wauberg to check things out. Other than a few fishermen and lots of squirrels it was pretty quiet.

Dodging Thunderstorms

Monday May 13th 2019

Today was a travel day. I only had about forty miles to travel to Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park south of Gainesville Fl. Since the state park checkout time is 1PM, I didn’t want to arrive early. Waiting for someone else to vacate the site they legally posses until the checkout time could be rude and is certainly inconvenient. I stopped at a rest area on Interstate 75 for a few minutes so I arrived after 1PM.

Today was also a day filled with thunderstorms. The first one passed through around 9AM. I worked on getting the inside of the RV ready to travel while it rained outside. The sun was back out by 10AM giving me plenty of time to be ready to leave by the 11AM checkout time. On the drive south I dodged a few thunderstorms. The dark clouds passed by to the west dropping only a few random rain drops along my path. My luck changed a little after I killed time at the rest area. A storm passed across the highway in front of my path. As I got closer to my destination I caught up with the storm for a couple of minutes. It had passed by to the east by the time I got to the state park.

I setup on a very wet site in very humid conditions. It wasn’t raining and the temperature was only in the low eighties, but I was dripping with sweat from the humidity. Shortly after I was through setting up another thunderstorm arrived. It only lasted a half an hour, but everything got wet again. By late afternoon the sun was back out and the storms were gone. The cold front still hasn’t had an impact on the humidity yet, but it is dry.

Site 36 at the Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. The only problem with this site is I can’t get a satellite TV signal through the trees. I have to settle for the 13 Over the Air TV stations.

I was in this state park for almost two weeks at the end of February. This stay is only three nights, but I look forward to enjoying the park again. I don’t have time to take any of the long hikes to see the American Bison heard, but I’ll visit the observation tower a time or two. This park has the right mix of wildlife and nature to keep me happy after several weeks in structured RV parks.

Getting Ready to Move on

Sunday May 12th 2019

It was a cloudy humid day with a few passing showers. Without full sun, the temperature only got into the mid eighties. Tonight and tomorrow the rain is forecast to get more wide spread.

I tried to get a few errands accomplished today, but found more places closed then I expected. In this area many of the non chain stores are closed on Sunday. I’ve gotten used to urban and resort areas where everything seems to be open on Sundays. In the abstract I’m in favor of places closing on Sunday, but when I want something it is nice when they’re open.

I use a clear elbow on the sewer hose to know when the tank has been flushed clean.

Before things outside got to wet, I packed a lot of things away. I’m moving tomorrow so I began the travel preparation process. The gas grill is stored away and the bicycle has been loaded onto its carrier on the back of the car. I also took the time to dump and flush the holding tanks. I don’t flush the black tank every time I dump, but it’s good to do it often to prevent solids from building up in the tank. I probably not going to get another opportunity to flush the tank for another week or so.

Colorful ground cover blossoms.

Tomorrow I’m moving less than forty miles to a state park. It’s more my kind of campground and is also a bit cheaper, but is hard to get reservations on short notice. I was able to get three nights. It’s closer to Gainesville so I’ll be able to finish up some of the things I need to complete before I head out on my summer travels. As of now, I plan to start west on Thursday.