Viva Las Vegas!

“Viva Las Vegas with you neon flashing
And your one armed bandits crashing

All those hopes down the drain
Viva Las Vegas, turning day into nighttime
Turning night into daytime
If you see it once
You’ll never be the same again

I’m gonna keep on the run, I’m gonna have me some fun
If it costs me my very last dime
If I wind up broke, oh well, I’ll always remember
That I had a swinging time

I’m gonna give it everything I’ve got
Lady luck please let the dice stay hot
Let me shoot a seven with every shot
Viva Las Vegas
Viva Las Vegas
Viva Las Vegas
Viva, Viva Las Vegas”.
                    Elvis Presley, 1964

You’re just as likely to see Elvis Presley live in Las Vegas as you are to see Michael Jackson live. In all cases when visiting this city established by the mob, it’s important to read the fine print. Lol.

After leaving Quartzsite, Betty & I are finally heading north, back to Canada. As usual, we are not driving too fast, starting with a brief visit to Emerald Canyon Golf Club, just north of Parker, Az.

I have driven here before, but with golf balls on the driving range again, not the Smart or motorhome.
Unlike the Quartzsite course, this one is lush and green. Even the tee boxes are immaculate.
The putting greens are real grass, so I used my real putter on this one.
After our time in the desert, it is always an adjustment to experience this oasis on the banks of the Colorado River.
Our first night’s stop after leaving Quartzsite was at mile marker 195, a free BLM spot just north of Lake Havasu City.
Our home on wheels hadn’t had a wash since SPI, so I was happy to pull into a full-service wash in Kingman, Az. It’s sparkling again. Yeah!
The Interstate north had lots of ups and downs. While it was overcast, fortunately there was no rain until after we had stopped for the night.
The last pic showed one of the many downs. This one shows one of the many ups.
As we crossed from Arizona to Nevada, over the Colorado River, the Hoover Dam was just the other side of this guardrail. We didn’t stop to get a better pic… BTW, due to recent droughts ,one can see how much lower the river is from normal levels.
Entering a state Betty & I have never visited before – Nevada.
Betty was finally able to add state #46 to our sticker map. It has been over 5 months since we added a new state. Two more to go on this trip – fingers crossed.
Maybe appropriately, our first night in Nevada was spent in the parking lot of the Railroad Pass Casino. (for free.)
We are now in the Boulder Beach campground, a short drive from Hoover Dam and Las Vegas. (site 9, loop A, $20./night.)
Our site overlooks Lake Mead, and a rainbow appeared (far right) soon after we arrived. A good sign for a pot of gold at the casinos? Betty says “No”.
As we took the Smart on the Interstate into Las Vegas, the famous Strip came into view in the background.
The Luxor Hotel & Casino is the pyramid in the centre of this pic, taken from the highway. The two of us dined in their food court for $90. Ouch!
Las Vegas is one of the most popular entertainment destinations in North America. But as mentioned, Betty & I have never been here before. So much to see with a deja vu effect – given the number of movies and television shows filmed here.
Who knew that you didn’t need to go to New York to see the Statue of Liberty?
Or to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower?
Or to Egypt to see the pyramids?
All this and more can be seen just by driving down the Las Vegas Strip. BTW, we didn’t get out of the Smart on the Strip, so the pics might not be as cropped as well as they could be.
We drove past block after block of impressive hotels, including the Bellagio, with its fountains appropriately choreographed to Elvis’ “Viva Las Vegas“. The huge Caesar’s Palace is on the right.
Betty & I wondered if this driverless vehicle would have been able to keep up with our Smart in Boise, Idaho. lol
No trip down the Las Vegas Strip is complete without noting the dozens of wedding chapels. Apparently, Elvis was singing at this one.
Betty & I didn’t feel a trip to Las Vegas was complete without taking in one of the many shows. Cirque Du Soleil was too expensive for us, so we chose the Blue Man Group in the Luxor Hotel & Casino, as advertised on this sign outside the Mandalay Bay Hotel. BTW, the promotional screens up and down the Strip rival Times Square, with an increasing level of depth and clarity.
The Blue Man group was a high energy, unique, interactive performance. The percussion, using a wide range of instruments – including drain pipes – was amazing!
Bright screens and strobe lights added to the sensory overload. But it was all fun…
As we left Las Vegas we hoped to follow the warning to drive carefully. Whether we come back soon is another matter…

“I’m gonna keep on the run, I’m gonna have me some fun
If it costs me my very last dime
If I wind up broke, oh well, I’ll always remember
That I had a swinging time

Viva, Viva Las Vegas”

While Betty & I didn’t gamble while here, we hope you can take a chance to have a swinging time somewhere, without losing your last dime. lol.

Cheers!

A Peaceful Easy Feeling

I like the way your sparkling earrings lay
Against your skin so brown
And I want to sleep with you in the desert night
With a billion stars all around

‘Cause I got a peaceful easy feelin’
And I know you won’t let me down
‘Cause I’m already standin’
On the ground…”
         Eagles (1972)

For over six years now, Betty & I have been travelling the North American continent on our overlandish odyssey. As we consider – for health reasons – whether this will be our last hurrah, we recognize how blessed we have been to have experienced so much – so many great people, places, sights, smells and sounds. We will forever cherish these memories of peaceful, easy feelings!

Betty & I shared a charcuterie board and shrimp ring, al fresco, as the setting sun cast a pink glow on the mountains to the east of our desert campsite.

As mentioned in a recent post, Betty & I have been returning to some favourite spots, possibly for the last time. We are now finishing our stay in Quartzsite, Arizona, and we can well relate to the Eagles’ peaceful, easy feeling, with skin so brown from the sun, and desert nights so bright with a billion stars all around!

For evenings we had a campfire and watched the setting sun.
This pic is from the same night, catching the desert view in another direction. Yes, that’s a pizza box from Silly Al’s in Quartzsite.. Great pizza from an always busy spot!
Here the sun is a little lower over the barren mountains. Always an impressive sight!

Despite Betty needing to fight a painful bout of sciatica, we have still been able to stand on this special ground and enjoy a return to desert activities experienced during earlier visits.

It is always a joy to golf in the desert – partly because it is free, and mainly because there is no pressure to keep score. Just try not to lose your ball down a rattlesnake hole…
The course we played had markers to indicate yardage and suggested par.
Each hole is marked by a flag on the “green” (although there is no grass) so you know where to aim. The flag is circled by a rut in the dirt, so if you get the ball inside that rut – you scored! lol Here Betty takes a break on a bench at the next tee box.
Betty teed off. I told her if she hits the mountain, she went too far…
Here she gets into the swing of things, with a big cactus in the background. Don’t judge the stance. She hasn’t taken lessons like I have – but she’s likely just as good. lol
Betty turned the camera on me as we were reaching the end of our tournament. The Smart can just be seen in the background. BTW, there were no other cars in the parking lot. We were the only ones on the course after noon.
Neither of us are great golfers. But it was a peaceful, easy feeling spending time together in the warm desert sun.
Today is our last day in Quartzsite, and we moved to a full-service site (Park Place RV Park site 23- $40./night) in order to get some laundry done, and our tanks flushed. When boon docking in the desert, we tend to use very little water to wash and flush, so things can build up…. Four years ago we intended to get our tanks cleaned before leaving Quartzsite, but had to head back to Canada in a hurry when COVID 19 hit. So today we arranged for Korey from KleenTank to stop by our site and do a thorough cleaning of both black & grey tanks. Now we’re good to go!
In some ways it’s hard to leave this special spot, knowing that we may never return. But we go with peaceful, easy feelings of standing on the ground with a million stars all around.

Wherever your journey through life takes you, Betty & I hope that you also will be blessed from time to time with peaceful, easy feelings that won’t let you down. 

‘Cause I get a peaceful easy feelin’
And I know you won’t let me down
‘Cause I’m already standin’
I’m already standin’
Yes, I’m already standin’
On the ground.”
  

Cheers!

Calming Quartzsite

When one thinks of a desert, we often visualize a barren land, devoid of development. Yes, Quartzsite, Arizona is bordering the Mojavi Desert, with no snow and little rainfall each year. It gets extremely hot in summers, with average temperatures over 100f (over 40c). But Betty & I are back here in March 2024, having made a hasty retreat from this same spot exactly four years ago today, due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. The forecast is for low seventies Fahrenheit (low twenties Celsius) for the next few days, then the low eighties Fahrenheit (low thirties Celsius) later this week. Nights cool off to comfortable sleeping temperatures.

We are parked again in the desert, with barren mountains in the background. The vegetation is a little more lush this year, due to recent rains.

Betty & I find this desert setting calming for a number of reasons. The fact that it is devoid of development means that we are not faced with the hustle and bustle of urban life. There are no traffic jams, and even relatively few traffic lights. It has generally a very quiet, laid-back vibe. That might not be desirable for the long term, but for a short time it is reminiscent of some of the calming retreats we experienced in our youth.

But before I go further in describing our current experience, maybe I should provide an update from our last post:

Here is one last sunset view through the cacti at our site in Tucson’s Gilbert Ray campground.
From our campground, we returned to I10 via spectacular Saguaro National Park.
Spring flowers in yellow and purple appeared as we drove west on the interstate.
Our next stop was a one night return to a Painted Rock Petroglyph campsite (#44)
Betty was able to find shade from our motorhome, as she enjoyed the views during our short stay at Petroglyph campground.
Continuing westward, the spring-time desert is greening up from recent rains.
Our next overnight stop involved a much different change of pace. Staying at the decidedly upscale Fontana De Oro RV Resort in Yuma., we had a full-service site adjacent to a golf course and resort with pickle ball, pools, and too many amenities to list here.
The reason for our visit was to connect with Linda & Jeff, friends from our summer location in Winnipeg. They treated us to dinner and we had a great time catching up & looking forward to our summer at Town & Country RV Park.
Our pull-through site (#722) in this huge park was $75./night, and well worth it to visit our friends. While in Yuma I was also able to get an oil change and new wiper blades for our motorhome.
Our current campsite, in comparison, has no services, but lots of space in the desert sun.

Everyone we have encountered here has been extremely friendly. As mentioned in earlier posts about Quartzsite, RVers can park as close, or as far away from neighbours as they wish. There are hundreds of square miles of Bureau of Land Management land to choose from, so location is personal preference. And you don’t have to stay on BLM land. There are a number of full-service RV parks in town, with a variety of services and amenities, at very reasonable prices – if you don’t come in January. Ok, maybe I should add that January is when the Big Tent is set up, and hundreds of thousands of people descend on Quartzsite for RV rallies & shows – so maybe not so calming then. Lol.

Betty was able to get a stunning sunrise pic from our current site. I didn’t see it myself, but the pic looks great…

We have chosen to return to the same little loop in La Posa West Long-Term Visitor Area. While other areas are free, we have paid $40. for a two-week permit that allows us to access water, dump our tanks, and empty our garbage as needed.  Previously we had paid $170. for a stay up to 7 months in the same location. Given the cost of living elsewhere, cheap or free here has a significant calming effect. Lol.

Those who read posts from 2019-2020 will recognize our site from that period. It is only about 50 yards away from our current location.
Lots of sunshine and comfortable temperatures are forecast for this week.
Betty is enjoying the calming environment with a glass of margarita, under the shade of a mesquite tree.

When we were here before, there were generally 5 RVs parked in this loop, with the number temporarily increasing to 8 or 9 in January. Currently there are only 2 other RVs in our loop. One is an old “schoolie”, and the other is a type A diesel-pusher. 

Betty can often be found in her quilting centre, with her sewing machine again plugged into our abundant sunshine.
The surrounding desert may not reflect it, but the quiet calm provides a welcome break from otherwise noisy life experiences.

Quartzsite is definitely not for everyone. But for Betty & me, at this time of our lives, and at this point in our journey, it is nice to stay for a few weeks in a location with no pressure and no responsibilities, beyond occasionally picking up a few groceries and moderating the amount we spend in the sun. 

Restful, majestic sunsets are common at our current location. Here’s one from the night before last.

Hoping you can also find a calming space to escape an otherwise hectic world from time to time.

Cheers!

We Remember Well

“This is the story of how we begin to remember
This is the powerful pulsing of love in the vein
After the dream of falling and calling your name out
These are the roots of rhythm
And the roots of rhythm remain

In early memory
Mission music
Was ringing ’round my nursery door
I said take this child, Lord
From Tucson Arizona
Give her the wings to fly through harmony
And she won’t bother you no more…”  
    from Paul Simon’s song Under African Skies.

Our memories over the years have taken Betty & me back to some magical places, including Tucson, Arizona. Blog posts from March 2018 reflect our first visit here, and we are glad for the rhythmic pictures that help us remember well.

There is a beautiful rhythm to the flora and fauna that encompass our motorhome.

We are excited to be back in Gilbert Ray campground, just up the narrow, curvy road from Old Tucson, where so many spaghetti westerns were filmed. In fact, we are currently in the same campsite – A56 – we occupied at this exact same time six years ago! (currently $35. night with 50 amp electricity and picnic table.) And we were in this same site again on Dec. 13, 2019, as reflected in the post “Return To The Big Frickin Cactus.” It obviously left us something to remember!

Speaking of remembering, last night I dutifully set the clocks forward one hour in recognition of daylight savings time. However, when I got up this morning, the time on my phone had not changed. Betty checked and found that Arizona is the only state in the contiguous U.S. that doesn’t adopt daylight savings time, except the part of Arizona that is within the Navajo Nation . So for our family back in Manitoba, we now have a two hour time difference. Who knew?

Described in more detail in our March 2018 post, there are many forms of majestic cacti surrounding us again.
As we remembered, many are flowering this time of year.
Betty reminded me not to touch the prickly parts.
It becomes difficult not to overwhelm this post with amazing views from our site, including the ocotillo, or coach whip in the right foreground.
Whether day or evening, we are thankful for the rhythmic beauty that surrounds us.
Betty & I are so blessed to be able to add memories from this place, just as Betty adds new socks to her current collection. lol
Of course, we couldn’t end this post without paying homage to the “Big Fricken Cactus” that starred in posts from our earlier visits. An enlarged, framed picture of this 20′ plus monster is featured just inside our front door in Winnipeg.
Here’s another view of this gigantic specimen (cereus giganteus, to be exact). It’s hard to fathom unless you see it in person – Look but don’t touch! lol
We remember well this harmonic setting, and hope you can visualize it also.

Our hope is that you can also remember well people and places that have led to the powerful pulsing of love in your veins. May your memories give you wings to fly through harmony whatever life brings your way!

This is the story of how we begin to remember
This is the powerful pulsing of love in the vein
After the dream of falling and calling your name out
These are the roots of rhythm
And the roots of rhythm remain…”

Cheers!

Rock On New Mexico

“Hey, did you rock ‘n’ roll?
Rock on
Ooh, my soul
Hey, did you boogie too, did ya?

Hey, shout, summertime blues
Jump up (up, down) and down in my blue suede shoes
Hey, did you rock ‘n’ roll?
Rock on…” 
    David Essex

Yes, David Essex, I am boogying and jumping up and down in my blue suede shoes!

We just found a place with some other-worldly rock formations!

As mentioned in our last post, Betty & I planned to travel to City Of Rocks State Park, about 29 miles northwest of Deming, New Mexico. It wasn’t directly on our Interstate 10 route to Tucson, Arizona. But a fellow traveller had recommended it, so we thought we’d check it out. If you are at all interested in some very weird rock formations, this is the place to go. Rock on!

City Of Rocks isn’t actually near anything else on this planet, but worth a look if you’re into interstellar travel.
Our site (#8 – Centaurus) cost $10. + $4. reservation fee.
The site included a picnic table, bench & fire pit, but would have been a tight squeeze for our motorhome, so we parked in a large, adjacent turnaround.
Here is a view of our spot from the other side. We left the Smart car attached and only put one small slide out, as it was impossible to find level ground.
All the campsites are named after constellations. There could have been a sign on this one – “watch for falling rock.” lol
The large, irregular shaped campsites are all nestled next to very unusual rock formations.
Betty & I hiked around many of the rocks. Here she uses her herculean strength to hold back this boulder.
It turned out to be a very pleasant day for a little hike.
We stopped at Canis Minor, wherever that is. Were we lost in space?
We also found Taurus, but the constellation wasn’t occupied just now…
We experienced some narrow escapes on our travels.
But eventually Betty was able to see some wide open space through the rocks.
We were glad to not be lost in space, and made it through without anything falling on us.
Strange shapes all around!
Not sure what Betty was pointing to here…
But I think it’s time for a drink!

“And where do we go from here?
Which is a way that’s clear?
Still looking for that blue-jean baby-queen
Prettiest girl I’ve ever seen
See her shake on the movie screen
Jimmy Dean
(James Dean)

hey, did you rock ‘n’ roll?
Rock on
(Rock on) hey, did you rock ‘n’ roll?
Rock on
(Rock on) hey, did you rock ‘n’ roll?
Rock on.”

Where do we go from here? Which is the way that’s clear?

Stay tuned for the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen. Rock on!

Cheers!

Visiting Some Favourite Spots

This land is your land, This land is my land,
From Bonavista, to Vancouver Island
From the Arctic Circle to the Great Lakes waters,
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway;
I saw below me that golden valley
This land was made for you and me.

I roamed and I rambled and I followed my footsteps,
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
While all around me a voice was sounding,
Saying this land was made for you and me.

The sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling;
As the fog was lifting, a voice was chanting,
This land was made for you and me.”
 

 Original by Woody Guthrie. This version by The Travellers, 1955.

In over six years of full-time RVing, Betty & I have been excited to tour places we have never visited before. Of course, the North American continent is so vast that there will always be new spots we haven’t seen. But we have been doing our best. Lol.

Betty captured another sunrise, before we left Mission, Texas.

This portion of our overlandish odyssey took us, for our first time, down the banks of the Mississippi River. And we hope it will take us through Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming – three of the four contiguous states we haven’t yet toured on this trip.

But there’s something satisfying and calming to return to locations we have enjoyed in the past. Because we don’t yet know whether this will be our last hurrah, so to speak, Betty & I decided to forgo an adventure on the Blue Ridge Parkway through the Great Smokey Mountains. Instead, we are re-visiting some of our favourite spots from previous trips.

Since we left Winnipeg, we have made return visits to Buccaneer State Park in Mississippi, New Orleans, Galveston Island,  and of course South Padre Island, which comes in at the top of our favourites. No doubt the icing on the cake was a fabulous visit there from our family in February!

A bottom bracket on our awning broke shortly after the new awning was installed in Mission. Even though we thought it was secured, the awning started to come out in heavy winds through the Rio Grande Valley. We made an emergency stop on the side of the highway, at the end of Heriberto Castillo’s driveway. He came to see what we were up to, and was so excited to meet us that he gave us his contact information and asked for a picture with him. What a wonderful encounter during an otherwise unintended stop!
Betty & I spent our first night after Mission in the parking lot of the most attractive Texas Welcome Center, just north of Loredo, a location we had visited on a previous trip.
For a long stretch westbound on Interstate 10 Betty took the wheel. Despite the look on her face in this pic, she drove very well.
The road had its ups and downs, but the rock cuts levelled things out quite a bit.
Despite being an Interstate, there were still lots of interesting sights along the way.
Our next stop was Monahans Sandhill State Park, still in Texas. We stayed in the same site we occupied on our visit six years ago. It included water and electricity for $15. We didn’t have to pay an $8. entrance fee, as we have a Texas State Park pass.
The campsites at Monahans are all nestled in the sand dunes, providing a nice quiet setting.
Betty hiked to the top of one of the dunes for some peaceful meditation.
The mountains in the El Paso area were a little steeper, but the old boy still made it!
Oliver Lee State Park, just outside Alamogordo, New Mexico, is definitely one of our favourites. The sites are nestled into the side of a mountain; are well spaced apart; and all have fabulous views.
Our first night was in site 11, loop A. It includes a shelter with picnic table, and a fire ring. This unserviced site was $10. plus a $4. entrance fee – a great price for a large spot with 360 degree views.
Betty couldn’t resist a selfie showing her happiness in returning to such a beautiful location.
Yesterday we returned to site 31 in loop B, where we stayed six years ago this week. This sunset pic isn’t quite the one posted in March, 2018. Maybe I’ll duplicate it tonight!
Today we returned to the White Sands National Monument, a few miles west of Alamogordo. This national park includes 245 sq. miles, with a road through the dunes, parking areas, and hiking trails. Flying saucers can be purchased for slides down the talcum powder-like dunes.
This pic is similar to the one posted in March 2018, capturing the spectacular fine-grained gypsum sand.
As on the dunes at South Padre Island and Monahans Sandhill SP, Betty stopped to ponder life in the gorgeous location.
She can be seen on the top of one of the White Sands dunes. Btw, that white stuff is snow on the mountain in the back left of this pic.

A new campground this week will be City of Rocks State Park in New Mexico, before hopeful visits to Gilbert Ray campground in Tucson, and BLM land in Quartzsite, other favourites.

As is always the case, our journey through life is a combination of new and exciting experiences, and ideally some satisfying and calming return favourite times, people and places. Here’s hoping you get a suitable balance of both new and familiar adventures!

“This land is your land, and this land is my land
From California to the New York island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me….”
   Written by Woody Guthrie, 1940.

Cheers!

If you want to return to “the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts”, this could be a favourite spot!
UPDATE: Last night I tried to replicate the pic from March 2018, which I had enlarged and added to our living room wall in Winnipeg. The sky in this pic isn’t exactly the same, and the bird is facing the other way. But those were two aspects of the shot out of my control. lol. Otherwise, it is an evocative image from a favourite spot.

Three Weeks In The Rio Grande Valley

After a very wonderful, active week with our kids and grandkids on South Padre Island, Betty & I have moved – temporarily – to a much quieter 55 + community of mainly “winter Texans”: Canadians and folks from northern states who escape the chillier winter weather for a few months of warmth in the Rio Grande Valley.

The temperature is starting to climb into the 90s, so almost time to move on…

The Rio Grande Valley includes the cities of Brownsville, Harlingen, Weslaco, Pharr, McAllen, Edinburg, Mission, San Juan, and Rio Grande City, which are all located close to the Rio Grande River that forms the border between Texas and Mexico

Our site – 2415 Double Eagle Dr. – in Hidden Valley Ranch (yes, that’s really the name!) contains a large, flat cement parking area with water, sewer, and 50 amp power. We didn’t have access to the casita, on the same property. But the porch was nice for our bbq, and to keep our bikes out of the sun and rain. The L-shaped structure provided a shady spot to sit and chat; for Betty to sew socks; and for us to listen to audio books.

Good friends from our summer home at Town & Country – Pat and Gordie – have a winter spot in Mission, Texas, and arranged for us to stay at their park for a few weeks. We have been fortunate to also connect with a number of other folks from Town and Country to catch up on their news and compare the many RV parks in the valley. 

While here we have been able to cross into Mexico a number of times, stocking up on medications for me, and accessing cheaper, good quality dental care for Betty.

A “before” pic of one of our slide toppers which has been battered by the winds in the past few years. We already had them replaced twice, but the vinyl fabric just wasn’t up to the task.

A shop at a local flea market supplied and installed a new awning for our motorhome, replacing the one damaged by high winds as we left Magnolia Beach. They were able to re-use the acrylic fabric from our old awning to make three good quality toppers for our slide-outs.

Our new replacement toppers were made from our old acrylic awning, and are expected to last much longer. They are a colour match to our new awning.
New awning and toppers were expertly installed at our current site. It couldn’t have been more convenient!

A custom mattress manufacturer in North Carolina made a new mattress for our motorhome – to our exact specifications – and had it delivered to us in Mission within a week.

FedEx delivered the custom made mattress to our site in the park, within a week of ordering. It was shrink-wrapped to fit in this box, but expanded to full size when we opened it.
Betty checked out the new mattress as soon as it was installed. Looking forward to some restful sleeps!

We have shopped at the local Costco while here (sorry you couldn’t join us Valerie), and picked up ingredients for some great meals, pillows for our new bed, and a slow-cooker to replace the one we left at the house on South Padre Island

We couldn’t resist the bottle of “Steak and potatoes” Cabernet Sauvignon, to go with our steak and potatoes. Btw, we are big fans of the local Texas russet potatoes, I’m sure our daughter Lisa would approve. lol

Pat and Gordie have been helpful in a number of ways, including acclimatizing us to the local night life and introducing us to their friends. 

We visited Buchanans Music Hall for some local country flavour. The performers sang a song for us, requested by Pat.
Pat and Betty were joined by Pat’s friend Shirley for a fun night out.
I left my stetson at home, but Gordie came well prepared.
Gordie & Pat tore up the dance floor with some fancy two-steppin”.

Our three weeks here are almost over. As we prepare to head further west to Arizona, it has been a great time for Betty and me to get a flavour of what the Rio Grande Valley has to offer. If you have an opportunity, we highly recommend a visit to this fascinating part of the continent.

Cheers!

Joyful Relationships

“And you can tell everybody that this is your song
It may be quite simple but
Now that it’s done
I hope you don’t mind
I hope you don’t mind
That I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you’re in the world.

I hope you don’t mind
I hope you don’t mind
That I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you’re in the world.” 
Writer(s): Bernie Taupin, Elton John 

One last group pic before everyone leaves South Padre Island.

Sometimes relationships with relatives and friends can get really messy. Misunderstandings and arguments can lead to anger, bitterness, separation and loneliness.  Despite technological advances intended to improve communication and assist people in connecting more easily, many seem to be experiencing a disconnect from others these days. While pandemic isolation is hopefully in the rear-view mirror for now, maybe we could all benefit from opportunities to strengthen healthy friends and family relationships.

Nana & James enjoy a snuggle in one of Andrew’s hammocks.

Betty & I had just such an opportunity this past week. 

Betty & Lisa share a hug.

My last post spoke of the happiness that emanated from our week-long celebrations with our family. This can be considered “Part Two” – covering the final fun family frolicking before everyone but us headed back to Manitoba. BTW, I can now happily report that everyone made it home safely. Yeah!

James tries to beat his dad in a game of pool.

When I consider the pictures taken this week, they speak to me of joyful relationships. Here are but a few examples:

Valerie leads a stretching family yoga session.

The home we rented had at least eleven large, flat-screen televisions. But for the week we were together, I didn’t see one turned on – ever! In addition to all the inside and outside activities, our kids and grandkids brought games and puzzles, and days were filled laughing and chatting over “go” or “boggle” or “zombie kittens” or any number of other challenges.

Sharing meal times is always an important part of joyful relationships.
But just sitting for a cuddle with Nana is also good too…
Andrew practices putting while his dad looks on.
Of course shared walks on the beach are also a great time to connect.
And share a meeting of the minds.
Or just pose by the calming Gulf waters.
But everything wasn’t always just calming. There were some hair-raising rides as well!
Including scary ones where it was best to hold hands.
Or go with your Dad.
And it’s usually good to have a Dad or uncle with you when the world goes merrily around.
Amusement parks are always a fun shared experience.
But so is sharing a big sandcastle chair.
Or showing a pirate where to go to find the hidden treasure.
Then there’s this fearsome pirate who also seems to have found the ice cream. lol
Overall, our short time together helped strengthen some joyful relationships.

Betty & I hope that your relationships also include some wonderful, joyful, life-giving hugs with those in your world!

“I hope you don’t mind
I hope you don’t mind
That I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you’re in the world.”

Cheers!

Happy!

“It might seem crazy what I am ’bout to say
Sunshine, she’s here, you can take a break
I’m a hot air balloon that could go to space
With the air, like I don’t care, baby by the way

Huh (Because I’m happy)
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
(Because I’m happy)
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
(Because I’m happy)
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
(Because I’m happy)
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do… 
Pharrell Williams 2014

Everyone’s lives have ups and downs, good times and bad. There are times when we feel like we are moving forward, and other moments like we are stuck in reverse. Anyone reading our travel blog will recognize that Betty & I have experienced all of the above.

But this week Pharrell Williams’ song best captures our mood:  Happiness is the truth!

Over a year ago we pitched our kids and grandkids on the idea of coming to South Padre Island for a week to celebrate a late Christmas, our daughter and her husband’s tenth wedding anniversary, our other daughter and her husband’s twentieth wedding anniversary, our fiftieth wedding anniversary, numerous birthdays, and whatever anyone felt like celebrating.  It has been a most happy time!

The following are just a few of the pictures that attempt to capture our shared experience. But they don’t do justice to the exhilarating feelings of elation that have surrounded us on South Padre Island this week!

Aurora, Isabella, James & Pat join me as birthday celebrants on South Padre Island .
Adam & Lisa congratulate Graham on making it through another year.
Georgia keeps an eye on her Nana’s meatball during our festive feast.
James, Betty, Georgia, Kevin, Lisa, Adam, Valerie, Andrew, Isabella, Annie, Aurora, and I met at the South Padre Island sign for a group photo to celebrate our time together.
The 9 bedroom home we rented is a short block from the beach. It came with second and third floor decks, a basketball court, soccer pitch, and swing set, among other features.
The Gulf Of Mexico is clearly visible from our decks.
Our yard includes a putting green,
And swimming pool,
But one of the most popular features is the hot tub, with an adjustable thermostat and water fall to the pool.
The home includes a couple of parking areas, with one large enough for our motorhome and Smart car.
Andrew is rarely seen without his guitar. Here he serenades his mom and our friend Pat, as they chat over someone’s famous margaritas.
There is no shortage of shared activities at the home, including Legs Up The Wall Yoga with our very own yoga instructor.
Very talented Annie & daughter Aurora are completing some craft work on the patio.
But our time together hasn’t been limited to just the home. We also visited the plaque honouring our own Queen Isabella. lol
And stopped at the South Padre Island Sea Turtle Rescue with Kevin & Valerie.
Where James had a chance to talk turtle.
Sunday morning saw us filling a pew at our local Chapel By The Sea.
With lots of time spent finding shells on the beach,
And visiting our old puppy Charlie’s final resting place.
Hugs are regularly shared by all. Here Annie & Andrew enjoy a sunny beach day together.
Most evenings see gatherings in the hot tub, with glorious sunsets in the background.

Our week together isn’t over yet, but my camera is full, and my heart is overflowing with happiness that we can share this special time together!

Here’s one more pic at the South Padre Island sign, taken by our good friend Gordie from Town & Country, with potentially more happiness to share in another post.

Betty & I know from experience that life on this earth isn’t always easy. But we hope and pray that you can join Pharrell Williams and us in recognizing times when we are filled with joy!

Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
(Because I’m happy)
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
(Because I’m happy)
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
(Because I’m happy)
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do
.”

Cheers!

Sliding In – Sliding Out

“Slip slidin’ away
Slip slidin’ away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip slidin’ away… ” Paul Simon

Slide-outs became common in RVs starting in the 1990’s. All vehicles need to maintain a certain maximum width to drive on the highways and down narrow roads. But it’s sure nice to expand that width and accompanying living space in an RV if a campsite permits. RV manufacturers began adding one slide-out, then two, and now some add up to five. Alternatively, some are manufactured with full wall slides, almost doubling the living space with the press of one button.

There are obvious advantages and disadvantages to slides. For instance, some layouts prevent the use of bathrooms, bedrooms, or refrigerators when the slides are in – not so good for accessing features while driving down the road, or at short stops where slides are not permitted.  But boy can they add floor space when you are parked where they can be extended!

Our motorhome has 3 slides, and for some reason they operate with different mechanisms. One extends our bed, with another taking the opposite wall of closets out a couple of feet. When they are in, we have to crawl over the bed to reach items on the other side, but when out, we have lots of room to get around.  Our living/dining/kitchen space is still functional when the main slide is in, but again, Betty & my style is not cramped so much when it is out! 

Previous posts have noted that all three slides have required maintenance, but none so much as our living room slide. This is a story of our most recent experience. Usually, I like to keep our posts upbeat, with lots of evocative pictures. You’ll find none of that here, so if that’s what you’re looking for, it’s time to look elsewhere. Lol.

BTW, if this was a typical shared campfire story, I’m not sure it would beat the experience of our friends at Town & Country in Winnipeg. Their living room hydraulic slide wouldn’t retract, but couldn’t find a mobile RV tech who could come and assist. They called for a tow truck to take it to a repair shop, but no tow truck would move it with the slide-out extended, and it refused to retract. Eventually, in desperation, they drove it over 80 miles (130km) with the slide extended, to a repair shop. And we’re not sure if it’s fixed yet… So I think they one up us. lol.

While on Vancouver Island for the winter of 2021/22, an RV repair guy spent six months trying to fix our slide. He wanted to order a new motor, but couldn’t find one. He took the motor to be refurbished, but was told there was nothing wrong with it. He cleaned and lubricated all the moving parts, checked the alignment, and got me to order a new gear, which he installed.  Still didn’t work.

On the way back to Winnipeg an RV tech in Twin Falls, Idaho, told us we needed a new slide controller, which I ordered. When we got back to Manitoba a mobile RV “tech” checked our spaghetti network of wires, and disconnected the power for all three slides.  Never saw him again…

Fortunately, fellow campers Jeff & Gordie checked the wiring, got the bedroom slides working again, and confirmed that the slide controller was not needed. (If anyone needs a new one…)

At the end of the season I took our motorhome to an RV shop that said they could fix it.  They didn’t.

In July, 2023, I took our coach to Stylings RV where it has been serviced for the past decade. They said the gear that the guy in Nanaimo installed was now chewed, and encouraged me to order two new ones. The new ones cost over $400. USD, plus shipping, duty, etc.  But they got them installed, and the slide worked again.  Fingers crossed…

As noted in my Dec. 8/23 post, we were trying to leave Mustang Island State Park for South Padre Island, when our living room slide wouldn’t retract. We are so thankful for our young, strong neighbour, John, who was able to crank it in for us!

As soon as we arrived at our current campsite (C413) at Isla Blanca Park, I called Sierra RV in Port Isabel, as they had serviced our coach on previous trips. RV tech Isaiah stopped by to troubleshoot the problem. He noted that the new gears installed in July were already chewed up, and recommended I order a new set. (Another $400. USD!) Since I had all the specifications from the July order, I placed an order with the supplier in California. This is when I made a critical mistake. On their website, I thought the shipping options were UPS or FedEx, and since the first was cheaper, that’s what I went with.

The next day I received a tracking number, went to the UPS site, and it didn’t work. Looking more closely I found it was USPS, and that extra S made a big difference, since USPS does not deliver to our campground!

I contacted the supplier right away, since the USPS tracking site said they were still awaiting the parts. But the supplier said there was nothing they could do about it. I tried contacting the US Postal Service, but couldn’t get through because all options began by providing my zip code, which I don’t have.

Tried to appeal to the supplier to contact USPS, with no luck. As expected, when the gears arrived at the SPI post office, they were immediately “Returned To Sender.”  They arrived at the Fontana, California post office Dec. 18/23, to be delivered the next day to the supplier, a few blocks away. That didn’t happen. I asked the supplier if they could pick the package up. No.  After Christmas it had still not been sent back, so I contacted the supplier a few more times, encouraging them to check with the local post office.

Turns out the post office lost the package, so I would have to order the parts again. Fortunately, the supplier refunded me the cost of the first gears, minus the shipping charges, after I paid another $400. for a third small gear, and a second large gear, plus $30. to have them sent to Sierra RV via FedEx.

I faithfully watched the FedEx tracking updates as the package arrived at Harlingen, Texas, via Memphis. It then showed “Out For Delivery”. Yeah!  Except then it was returned to Harlingen for an undetermined reason. I eventually got hold of a nice FedEx (I think Canada, employee) who transferred my call to Harlingen FedEx. Angel had my package, and the easiest way to get it on a Friday afternoon, was for Betty & me to drive there and pick it up.  Which is what we did…

On return I contacted Sierra Rv, and Isaiah came back out yesterday and installed the gears at a reasonable cost. He also reinforced the face plate covering the gears at the motor, so it shouldn’t shift out of line again.

The slide is working smoother and quieter than ever. Fingers crossed we don’t ever have to go through this ordeal again. May your days be smooth and quiet, and full of enjoyment, whether you slide in or out in life!

God only knows
God makes his plan
The information’s unavailable
To the mortal man
We work our jobs
Collect our pay
Believe we’re gliding down the highway
When in fact we’re slip slidin’ away
.”

Cheers!