Thursday, May 24, 2018

First of all, I want to say, I'm Baaaack! 
I tried the experiment with a Facebook page and wasn't satisfied with the response, so I decided to go back to my blog page.

We attended the RVillage Rally One at the Elkhart Campground in Elkhart Indiana, a park that we have been to several times. We have hosted a couple of rallies here and generally like this park very much. We love the owners, Bob and Gita and appreciate all the hard work that they put in to keep it clean and running properly.

I was interested in attending the first rally for RVillage, a page on the Internet, that I have seen as the "Facebook page for RV'ers" and hoped it would go well. I expected some hiccups on a first timer in large rallies, but nothing like the mess that was created here. We have attended many rallies over the years with the Heartland Owners Club and now appreciate even more the skill and dedication of Jim Beletti and the team that produces the Heartland National rallies.

Since I have a background in rallies, I volunteered to work on the parking crew. I know how important it is to give people a good experience at a rally, and that experience begins with parking. Stella was asked to work in the registration booth and she was glad to help.

The main meeting tent, where the group activities were held, the opening and closing meetings and the huge potluck dinner. Although all of them were late beginning, things went off well.

As you can see, we were near the tent, which made out walk an easy one, but it put us directly in the path of people walking across our lot to get to the tent. It didn't bother me, but the dogs didn't like it one bit!

These are the metal fabricated "Fire-birds" that were a highlight to Curtis, owner of RVillage and producer of this rally. They were very interesting and beautiful when the fires were lit inside them. More pictures to follow.

Here you see a start to the mess that was made of parking people. The rally was over booked, although that was denied. How is it not overbooking when you schedule 240 rigs or so to attend a rally in an RV park that holds 200? I have never seen this many units in any RV park at one time.

More double parking. The first unit to arrive was asked to pull forward as far as possible to allow a shorter unit to park behind it, sharing the pedestal and sewer. One unit was given the 50 amp service and the second was given 30 amp and they shared the sewer. 

Some units pulled straight in behind and some were parked at right angles behind. 

Luckily, most sites are large enough to accommodate this method of cramming in more units than designed for.


It rained heavily before we arrived and a couple of times during our time here for the rally. Luckily the grassy areas were hard packed and didn't rut as I feared.

Boon-dockers! In my opinion, these are very fancy and high-priced rigs to be staying at an RV park without basic utilities. Some of these may have volunteered to do this, but Stella and I will never do so. I know that Curtis and some others moved out of their full hookup sites to free them up for others, which was a good thing. At least the weather cooperated and it wasn't very hot.

There were some different rigs on hand. This is called a Uni-Cat all terrain vehicle. 

There was also a VERY expensive New Horizons unit in attendance. These are very nice, custom-built trailers that are built very well and very heavy.

Above and below shows the turnout for the closing ceremonies. Just like everything else, the timing changed at the last minute and still had a late start.

Lighting up the Fire-birds.

Close-up views of the two Fire-birds.

The Bobby Dunne band. They were a decent band.

Is that a UFO?

No, just a private drone, that took some videos of the festivities. HERE is the video that was taken.

Another member of the parking crew, Dave and his wife Staci, lit up their site and had a party every night with their neighbors.

This is my parking crew partner Diane and her husband Steve, who also worked on the crew.

This is Bill, another "supervisor" of the parking crew. He and Dave, who was actually named as the supervisor have worked together before on other events.

To elaborate a bit more about the foul-ups at this rally, nothing went as planned, Nothing! Seminars were moved without notice, the rooms were not properly marked, confusion everywhere! We were never given an agenda, but were told to download an app for a smart phone to get one. Those of you that know Stella, know her opinion of smart phones, so she was very upset by not knowing what was going on. She said that in preparing the rally bags for distribution, they started putting an agenda into each bag, but ran out, so instead of making more, they pulled them out and threw them away! I will now stop ranting about this rally, but rest assured, this will be our last one.

On the upside, we met some nice new friends while we were here. We met Chuck and Gail Woodbury, editor of RV and a friends of theirs, Dr. Deanna Tolliver, M.S., DVM, who gave a good seminar on traveling with pets. Dr. Deanna also writes a column on RV Travels. I have already added a free subscription to RV Travels and find it helpful and interesting.

We also met Steve and Diane, whom I told you about earlier, and fellow parking crew members Dave and Staci from Washington state. We met neighbors Tom and Cheryl, who are fairly new to full timing and were first-time rally-goers. There were many more acquaintances that were here.

All in all, I made a mistake in attending this rally and own it, but it was still a good experience and I will continue to stay in touch with the friends I have made.

I am also going to welcome myself back to this blog. I'm going to keep it up better through the summer in Colorado, where we will be traveling next week.

So long.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Sunday April 1, 2018

After almost 10 years of blogging I have decided that I get too far behind and want to try using Facebook. I have set up a page there with the name Jay and Stella's adventures and will try that for awhile. 

Please bear with me while I attempt this. There should be more opportunities to post pictures as well as text to let you know where we are and what we are doing.

Thanks for all your love and support.


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Sunday March 18, 2018-Whistle Stop RV Resort

This will be another catch-up post for the remainder of the West Texas Chapter rally in Abilene.

On Friday, we paid a visit to the Dyess Air Force Base today and were disappointed to learn that no photographs are allowed on base. I understand the fact that current, on duty planes should not be photographed, but there is a large collection of retired airplanes on base that are not allowed to be photo'd. There are other air museums with these same planes on display and they can be pictured. I don't get it...

We did get to tour the inside of a C-130 large cargo plane and heard from a female Load Master and another female Pilot of these huge planes. Very interesting. I am impressed that women are allowed these roles. Guess I'm old school.

We also got to witness a B-1 bomber taking off, actually several of them, taking off for training missions. These things are LOUD! and very impressive.

The photo above is the actual museum which is located off base. It is very small but has a nice variety of items on display.

Above and below are a couple of bombs that are on display in the museum. I believe the one above is what is known as a smart bomb that can be guided in to a target. Below is a 750 pound high explosive bomb that would probably do a lot of damage.

On Saturday we visited the Frontier Museum of Abilene. This is a very interesting museum with great audio and video displays. Their IMAX type production is great and very popular.

Stella in front of an old stage coach. And no, she never actually rode on one!

This is the route of the Overland Stagecoach route. It was used to carry both passengers and cargo and mail to points in the east to the west coast of the United States.

A typical cowboy camp, found throughout the west. 

There was a large collection of guns, rifles, shotguns and handguns, on display. I'm not going to say much about the collection, but it is impressive.

Tony and Erika did an outstanding job on this rally. Everyone had a great time and there was plenty to do. This park is brand new but is well set up and easy to navigate. My only complaint is that the gravel is still very loose and hard to walk on, but in time it will be fine. We are looking forward to more rallies in the "West of the Rest" chapter.

So long.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Wednesday March 14, 2018-Whistle Stop RV Resort

We slept in this morning, until after 8! It's cool at night here and cold in the morning, but it sure is good sleeping. Dave T. came over early for a visit and he and I went for a walk around the park. The walking was pretty hard because of all the new gravel throughout the park, but we still walked almost 2 miles. There is a lady that Dave has talked to that walks her two dogs a total of 5 miles a day. Wow, I'm in awe, not so much for the distance but for the walking surface. I don't think I could do that far every day.

The weather has been good here, with cool/cold nights that warm into the 70's with clear skies. I just visited with friends and just generally took it easy. Later in the afternoon about 20 of us went to an expensive steak house in Buffalo Gap called Perini Ranch. It had received rave reviews from others that had gone there, but I was not that impressed. When our waiter took the orders for food, he used his own method for distributing the food when it came out. The problem was that other waiters helped him and everything got fouled up. As a result, most of the food sat on serving trays for a long time and the food got cold. I thought the food was grossly overpriced, with several $30-40 steaks. I chose a hamburger steak, one of the less expensive dishes, but at $19 for an 8oz. steak with green beans, it should have been better. Rant over.

We returned home and since everyone was full from supper, we all went in and retired for the night. Many more rally-goers will arrive tomorrow and the rally officially begins on Friday.

So long.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Monday March 12, 2018-Moving Day-Top o' the Hill RV Park to Whistle Stop RV Park

Wow, it got chilly in Boerne tonight. By the way, if you're not familiar with this town, it's pronounced Burnee. It was named after a German/Jewish author and publicist.
It was about 51 degrees here when I went out to take down the utilities that we used overnight, and I was glad I had blue jeans and a sweatshirt on this morning. The people in this park are very friendly and helpful and one of the men gave me suggestions for negotiating the roads to exit the park, which was appreciated.

We were soon traveling on I-10 and made quick time of the 214 miles that we had to travel today. We only made one pit stop in one of the small towns that we went through. I found a nice parking lot for a closed-down business, so we used it to stop and use the trailer facilities. 

We made it here about 1PM and in short order, I was hooked up and ready to start the party. There were several Heartlanders here when we arrived and a few more arrived after we did. Mike and Peg fixed brats and sausage with potato salad for our evening meal and everyone had a fine time visiting and chatting with old and new friends. We stayed outside until the sun started going down and the temps started dropping.

We're glad that the rally season has started. Let the parties begin!

So long.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Sunday March 11, 2018-Moving Day-Cottonwood RV Park to Top 'o the Hill RV Park, Boerne

Well, the day finally arrived and the rally season is starting. We traveled with Dave and Nancy again, well, at least we had plans to, but stuff happens! We both forgot to reset the clocks to daylight savings time. Actually, the only two items with clocks that I use are my computer and my I-phone and both of them (supposedly) update automatically. I woke about 5:20 and got up, thinking I had plenty of time to read the news and weather before having to get started packing. Stella woke and realized that the time was all wrong, so I had to go next door and tell Dave what had happened. He had done most of his work yesterday and didn't have much to do this morning. I had done much of my outside work and MY work was also almost done, however Stella was way behind! Oh well...

We had agreed to be ready to go at 9 and I assume it was a little before that when Dave and Nancy pulled out. I finished up my work and Stella worked hard on her part, and we actually pulled out at 9:01, but it was the old time, not DST. Traffic was light in the Mission/McAllen area and we made good time. We made the mandatory stop at the INS checkpoint near Falfurrias and just a few miles after that, we made our first pit stop at a rest area that we normally stop at. 

The scenery along the highway was very pretty, with gold and yellow buds in the trees and a small scattering of bluebonnets in the median and some road shoulders. The roads were pretty smooth and traffic light, and we saw very few State Troopers. I think most of them were working in the valley, judging by he number of troopers we saw.

We made our last stop at another rest area north of Three Rivers in the Whittset area. Wow, what a difference a couple of hundred miles made in the weather. It had been in the lower 80's in Mission, but here it was about 70 and by the time we arrived here at the Top 'o the Hill, it had fallen to the low 60's and quite windy. We had been dealing with the wind for awhile today, blowing the trailer round and absolutely killing my fuel mileage. Hey, that's the life of a traveling RV'er!

When we arrived here, we met an old friend that recently moved here from another park in Boerne. Ricky Cobb has been our friend for over ten years and we had lost touch with him when he moved away from Spring, and it was good to see him again. He ran some errands and came by our place to chat, and we got all caught up with him. 

It feels good to be back out on the road! the rally season opens...

So long.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Saturday March 10, 2018-Cottonwood RV Park

No, I haven't suffered a breakdown or died, but we have been steadily busy. Far too busy to keep up with this daily record of what we have done. I envy those that Do keep up with their own blogs, but I couldn't do it. We start the rally season tomorrow, so we'll be traveling again and I'll do better.

The first thing I did was finish up with my dental work. If you remember, I was supposed to have come down here back in the summer to have my final work done, but my eyes broke and I had to get them taken care of and had to change my plans. 

The work that I had done was really pretty simple. They took a new impression of my mouth and made me a complete new set of teeth. This one fits much better and will be my final set, I hope...  This procedure took about four trips over to Progresso Mx. to get completed, but it's so much less expensive there than in the states, it worth it!

We ate out a lot-probably too much, but we had fun and ate lots of the local cuisine. We also ate at some of our favorite chain restaurants, Cheddar's, Cracker Barrel and took Stella to the Salt Grass Steakhouse for her birthday on February 27th. Just for the record, she's older than me again...

We've found several local eateries that are on our list of favorites now, Gonzales Burgers, has been for awhile, a new burger place called The Ranch House; they have an amazing menu of sandwiches and Mexican food(of course), Martha's Family Tacqueria, another long-time favorite; Bubba's, a local favorite watering hole with delicious sandwiches and a pizza special one night a week, NaNa's Tacqueria in Weslaco, a small Mexican restaurant that is popular when returning from old Mexico, Stella and I ate in Mexico at Rene's Tacqueria; we found a great Mexican restaurant, the Casa Del Marisco in Weslaco that Dave and Nancy had found on their summer trip down here. They have some of the best Mexican food that we have had down here! We ate breakfast with our park resident group at Rosie's Restaurant in Mission and found another breakfast restaurant called the Diaz Diner, also in Mission. Both had excellent food with a definite Mexican attitude. As you can see, we ate a wide variety of food but mostly Mexican. We are in the Rio Grande Valley, after all and only a couple of miles from the border where we are staying.

Our friends Tommy and Susan came down for a week or so and brought some friends and acquaintances with them that we know, Les and Terri. We had a nice time with them and introduced them to the Ropas shopping experience. If I haven't told you about the Ropas, or have forgotten about them, they are a very interesting store. There are Ropas Usadas (used clothing) and Ropas Nuevo (new clothing). They are collected by various means and sold either by the piece at a very heavily discounted price or sold for 20-30 cents a pound for theused clothes. When you can buy a pile of clothes for 2-3 dollars, it's hard to beat!We know people that buy some very nice pieces there, but it's luck to find something. The stores bring huge bales of clothes out with a forklift and the "regulars", Mexican women, fly onto the new items, seeking put sizes and colors of the clothes they are seeking. Interesting but not my cup of tea, but fun to watch.

I told you about buying a Hum unit for the truck. It saved us from having a problem later on the road. We have had a check engine light on for a long time and no one could tell me what the problem was until now. The Hum revealed a second code for low fuel rail pressure, so I took it to Payne Dodge to be checked out. Our Service Advisor, Carlos, took good care of us. A technician checked on the two  CEL's and found that the low fuel pressure had reset itself, possibly trash in the fuel, or some other ailment that went away, but the other light was for a catalytic converter problem with the actual catalyst material needing to be replaced. This is part of the government-forced emissions equipment, so I had a choice to replace it at the Dodge dealer and keep it legal or take to a place called Spike Performance in nearby Pharr Tx. and have all the emissions equipment deleted and removed. This would have made the truck illegal to get rid of-no dealer would take it in that condition-and worse-yet, if stopped by the police, it could result in the truck being red-tagged until the emissions equipment was replaced and a very high fine imposed. I chose to have Payne Motors do the work and they furnished us with a very nice little Dodge Journey to drive while the truck was being repaired. There was a foul-up with the needed parts and it took a few days for the repairs to be made, but we picked it up on a Friday but didn't make it home before the CEL came back on with the same code. I called Carlos and took the truck back on Monday. We got the same Journey back to drive and they replaced a few more parts and the truck runs like a new one now, and no more check engine lights! It was expensive, but we feel more confident now that the truck will be dependable and should last us a long time (knock on wood).
We visited with old friends Mike and Linda, who just bought a mobile home that is set in a very nice park in Mercedes Tx. We met the while we all park-hosted at Inks Lake a few years ago. It was good to catch up with them and we had a nice visit.

I have been walking 2-3 miles a day here and really enjoying it. I walked over to Retama Village one day and ran into Ted and Donna and had a nice chat with them. We have been so busy, as they are too, and haven't had a chance to spend any time with them, but we'll all be back next season.

We went to a performance of the group Southern Anthem at the Green Gate Grove RV Park, near our park. This is a small family group that does country, bluegrass and gospel music and they are very talented. We went to two performances in our own park, one by Dale and Gayle that put on a pretty good show. They were a bit hokey, but it was a donation-only performance, so it was pretty good. The other performance was by Norma Gonzales, doing a Patsy Cline show. She, unfortunately, had some problems with remembering the words to the songs, seemed to be bothered by the heat (felt pretty comfortable to me, but I wasn't singing) and had a major malfunction with her wig, which came off. Actually, it just got loose and she took it off, but it was a pretty pitiful performance, another donation-only show. 

We have had a great time with our Heartland friends that are here in the valley with us. We formed a Facebook group so that we could communicate and plan get-togethers and have had a lot of fun. We will see them later in the rally season at some upcoming rallies.

It has been another good time in the valley, although the weather didn't cooperate for the first month-six weeks. It snowed on us the day we arrived and was cold and dreary for a long time. It has warmed up nicely in the past couple of weeks and actually reached 88 today!

We leave in the morning for Abilene and the West Texas chapter rally. It should be a fun time and we are looking forward to the rally season.

So long.