Back to Rocky Top (April 2 – May 9, 2019)

On Tuesday, April 2nd, we began our trek back to Tennessee. While Jan went to a 9 am doctor’s appointment, Phil got on the road by 8:30 am and completed the 360 mile trip to Livingston, TX by 3:30 pm. Although he had intended to completely miss Houston, the GPS took him over a portion of the dreaded tollway around the northwest corner of the city. Fortunately it was about 2 pm when he hit the tollway and traffic was fairly light. The tollbooths were rather narrow but Phil managed to get through them without incident. Since Phil drove around 62 mph on I-10 and Jan was able to drive closer to the 75 mph speed limit, Jan was able to arrive only about 30 minutes later than Phil despite leaving Kerrville quite a bit later. We spent the night at the Escapee’s Rainbow’s End campground, which is where our mail forwarding service is based. Phil arrived early enough to be able to pick up our mail in person.

On Wednesday morning, we headed out for our 257 mile drive to Vidalia. LA where we spent the night at the River View RV Park and Resort. The campground is on the edge of the Mississippi River, directly across the river from Natchez, MS. Our site was in the northern part of the campground and was quite nice. We were able to watch barge traffic on the river. Unfortunately, the southern portion of the campground had suffered flooding and this eliminated the use of the sewer at our site.

On Thursday, we drove 258 miles across Mississippi to Eutaw, AL where we spent two nights at the Jennings Ferry Corp of Engineers campground. Although we had stayed at numerous COE campgrounds previously, this one was unusually big rig-friendly as it had numerous long pull-through sites.

On Saturday, we drove 183 miles to Fort Payne, AL where we spent the night at Wills Creek RV Park. Although we had counted on a fairly short drive, we ran into a traffic mess in Birmingham. Although Jan’s GPS was telling her to take the Hwy 459 bypass, Phil’s GPS told him to stay on I-20 through the city. When Phil saw the electronic signs saying that through traffic should take 459, he was already in the I-20 lane and was unable to take the bypass. We soon discovered that I-20 was closed due to road construction and we were forced to exit onto downtown streets. With the GPS now useless, we drove around a while before we found a detour sign. We then got behind some semis and followed a circuitous route through the city that eventually led us back to the interstate. When we arrived at the campground, the owner met Phil and told him to drive around and pick out whatever open site he wanted. We managed to get set up before the rain started but, once it started, it rained pretty much non-stop all night.

On Sunday morning, the rain had stopped and we managed to make the 175-mile drive to Heiskell, TN with only a few drizzles. We spent two nights at the Escapee’s Raccoon Valley Campground. We always stay at this campground the night before getting service work done at our dealer’s facility. We had originally planned to only spend Sunday night there. When we then heard from the dealer that they wouldn’t be able to work on our rig until Tuesday, we extended our stay for a second night. Our son Jarrod and his fiancé, Jess, were traveling through the area and joined us for Monday night. We were all awoken rudely by the LP alarm that went off twice in the middle of the night.

We arose early on Tuesday morning and had blueberry pancakes to celebrate Jess’ birthday. After breakfast, we drove to RVs for Less for our service work. The biggest part of the work involved getting portions of the rig repainted and the dealer doesn’t have an indoor paint booth, so the length of our stay was largely dependent on how many dry days we would have.

We ended up spending six nights on the lot at RVs for Less. Fortunately the weekdays remained rain-free so the paint work was able to be completed without interruption. Since we had to answer the service techs’ occasional questions related to our other issues, we stayed close to home for most of the entire week. Friday, April 12th, was our 16th anniversary and we celebrated with dinner at the Copper Cellar restaurant in Knoxville.


The work on our rig was largely complete by Friday afternoon but, since the bill wasn’t finalized until Monday morning, we ended up staying a couple of additional nights for free. One of our service issues related to very weak water flow through our kitchen faucet. After much testing, we were advised to buy a new faucet so, on Sunday, we went to Lowes and purchased one. Unfortunately, we discovered that the hole for the sprayer was 1/8” too small. We had to wait until Monday morning to have a service tech expand the hole so Phil could finalize the installation.

Since we hadn’t known how long we would be at the dealer, we had to wait until the weekend to make reservations for our next stay. After striking out at a couple of campgrounds, we made reservations for four nights at Duvall in the Smokies in Sevierville, TN. Since it was only a 31 mile drive from the dealer, we waited to leave until almost noon on Monday.

Duvall in the Smokies is a small, but very nice, family-run campground that runs along the Little Pigeon River. We had an adequately long, paved pull-through site. The campground was very well maintained and there was bluegrass music piped through speakers planted throughout the campground. After getting set up, we made a shopping trip to the Tanger Outlet Center.

After dinner, we headed to Dairy Queen for dessert. We arrived at 7:58 pm but saw that they had a special on two medium-sized dipped cones and/or sundaes for $4 after 8 pm. We waited until after 8:00 to place our order. In addition to enjoying this bargain, we did an online survey that earned us a free dilly bar. This was such a great deal that we repeated the experience on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Then, on Thursday, we collected our three free dilly bars.

Although we had planned to visit Dollywood, we decided to save the money instead and spent the next three days hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains. On Tuesday, April 16th, we hiked the Clingmans Dome trail. Clingmans Dome is the highest mountain in the Smokies and the highest point along the 2,174-mile Appalachian Trail. It is also the third highest point in mainland Eastern North America. Although the hike was only one-half mile each way, it was quite steep. There was a concrete observation deck at the end of the trail that, after climbing a circular ramp, provided a 360-degree panorama of the surrounding terrain.  We also walked a short distance off the trail to meet up with part of the Appalachian Trail.

On Wednesday, we returned to the Clingmans Dome area and hiked the Andrews Bald Trail. The hike consisted of a moderately difficult out-and-back trail, 1.8 miles each way. We had a picnic lunch at the scenic overview at the end of the trail.

On Thursday, we drove to the Great Smoky Mountains Institute in Tremont, TN and hiked the Spruce Flats Falls Trail. This was another out-and-back hike of moderate difficulty with a round-trip distance of 2 miles that led to a beautiful waterfall. On our return, we encountered a student group that had spotted a bear climbing a tree about 40 yards from the trail. We stopped and watched the bear for quite a while.

Since the weather forecast called for rain on Thursday night and all day Friday, we went ahead and hooked up on Thursday evening. The weather forecast turned out to be correct and we left Sevierville in a steady rain. It rained most of our 225-drive to Goodlettsville, TN where we had a 7 day reservation at the Nashville North KOA. About midway through our drive we encountered an accident that kept traffic on I-40 stopped for over a half-hour.

Jason stopped over on Saturday to watch the Predators playoff game but, unfortunately, they lost. On Easter Sunday morning, April 21st, we drove to Moss-Wright Park in Goodlettsville and explored the outside of historic Mansker’s Station, a reproduction of a 1779 fort, and the Bowen Plantation House, said to be the longest standing brick structure in Middle Tennessee. Then we walked over two miles on the trail. The first mile was shaded and quite pleasant but the last mile was in the sun and quite hot.

We returned home and began preparation of a huge Easter dinner. Since we had only been able to get a 30 amp pull-through site at the KOA, we had challenges in power management. With the combination of the convection oven, induction cooktop and electric frypan in use simultaneously, we frequently tripped the circuit breaker. Jason, Jarrod and Jess arrived in the early evening and Phil joined them in some competitive games of marbles while Jan finished dinner preparation. Once the sun set, the weather cooled off and we were able to eat outside at the picnic table. No one left the table hungry.

On Monday Jan met her friends, Sheila, Michelle, Ashley and Laura, for lunch in Nashville. Since Phil needed to pick up our daughter, Lizzi, from the hospital in Smyrna, TN that afternoon, he dropped Jan off at the restaurant and drove to the hospital. Unfortunately, there was delay after delay in getting Lizzi released so, at about 3:30 pm, Phil left Smyrna and returned to Nashville to get Jan. The combination of rush hour traffic, road construction and accidents turned this into a two-hour roundtrip. However, when we returned to the hospital at 5:30, Lizzi had just finished getting released so the timing worked out OK. After dropping Lizzi off at home, we returned home and snacked on Easter dinner leftovers.

On Tuesday we drove to Hendersonville to see the movie, The Best of Enemies. The movie, dealing with the integration of the Durham, NC schools in 1971, was excellent and we had the theatre almost entirely to ourselves.  On Wednesday Phil took the truck to the Dodge dealer and had them install the new wheel cover and hubcap, at no charge.

On Thursday Jan drove to Camden, TN to pick up her niece, Katie Schlegel. Then, they drove to Jackson, TN, hoping to visit Jan’s Aunt Phyllis before she went in for open heart surgery. Unfortunately, Aunt Phyllis had already been moved into pre-op before Jan and Katie arrived. However, they were able to visit with Jan’s Uncle Charles and cousin Michael. Then, Jan returned to Goodlettsville with Katie, who spent the next three nights with us.

On Friday, April 26th, we moved 30 miles from the KOA to the Seven Points COE campground on J. Percy Priest Lake. The timing of our move was complicated by an 11 am checkout time at the KOA and a strictly-enforced 3 pm check-in time at the COE campground. Phil had found an out-of-business grocery store nearby that had a large, empty parking lot and he spent an hour practicing backing the fifth wheel into parking spots. This was especially important since our first site at Seven Points was a back-in. Phil then drove to the local Walmart parking lot and parked the rig for the next few hours. Jan and Katie picked up Phil at the Walmart and, after running several errands, we all met Jarrod at the local Cracker Barrel for lunch. After lunch, Phil returned to Walmart to do some grocery shopping while Jan and Katie hit the nearby Old Navy, easily killing off the remaining time.

During our previous stay at Seven Points, Phil had identified site 34 as being relatively easy to back into. However, when he arrived this time, it looked more challenging than he remembered. Fortunately, with Phil’s backing practice earlier in the day and guidance from Jan and Katie, Phil was able to get backed into the site without too much difficulty.

Once in place, we were very pleased with the site, which had a great view of the lake across the street.  We spent the next few days walking and riding bikes around the campground.  Despite daytime highs in the mid-80s, the breeze off the lake made it feel quite pleasant.

On Saturday afternoon, Jason and Jarrod came to visit and we spent several hours visiting and playing marbles.


On Sunday morning, we attended meditation with Jason. We then went to the condo where Jarrod and Jess are currently staying and had lunch, before driving Katie back to Camden.

On Tuesday, April 30th, Jan drove back to the hospital in Jackson, TN to visit her Aunt Phyllis and Uncle Charles. Then she joined a group of her childhood girlfriends for dinner at the Mexican restaurant in Camden.

Dinner with Jan, Sheila, Michele, Helena, Brenda and Michelle

On Wednesday we needed to move from site 34 to site 57. Checkout time was 2 pm but we could have moved as soon as the previous occupant of site 57 had vacated. Unfortunately, it appeared that they were also waiting to change sites and they didn’t leave our new site until almost 2 pm. Although site 57 is a pull-through, the driveway is quite narrow so we had to be very careful to avoid the surrounding trees. Also, the electric and water hookups were placed on the wrong side so we had to run our power cord and hose around the back of our rig.

That evening we joined Jason, Jarrod and Jess for a Nashville Sounds baseball game. The Sounds are the Triple-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers. It started to rain as we walked to the stadium and the start of the game was delayed from 6:30 pm to 7:45 pm. After the rain stopped, it was a lovely evening for sitting outside and we had first row seats up the first base line. Jan was somewhat concerned about being hit by foul balls but we didn’t have many come near us.  Unfortunately, the Sounds lost 4-2.

With the rain delay, it was nearly midnight before we returned to the Seven Points campground. We had been told that the gate to the campground was closed between 10 pm and 6 am so we weren’t surprised to discover that we were locked out. We were surprised, however, to find that there was no legal parking area where we leave the car. We ended up leaving it on the side of the entrance and walked in the dark to our campsite. Phil set his alarm for 5:45 am and was at the gate when the attendant opened it at 6 am. The attendant seemed puzzled as to why we had parked outside the gate and Phil was chagrined to learn that, although the gate was closed, it was not locked. Since we had been locked out previously at the COE campground in Georgetown, TX and had recently stayed at another COE campground that locked the gates at night, we had just assumed it was locked. We live and learn!

On Friday, May 3rd, we attended Lizzi’s pinning ceremony at Volunteer State Community College. Lizzi had received her BS in psychology from Belmont University four years earlier but, after a couple of jobs working in that field, she decided she’d rather work with sick animals than sick humans. She returned to school for two years and earned her certificate as a Veterinary Technician. Although she had previously avoided science classes, she worked hard in this program and graduated with honors. At the pinning ceremony, the 19 Vet Tech graduates were honored. They played a video showing the variety of animals Lizzi and her classmates had worked with in their clinics, including snakes, rabbits, cows and mice as well as dogs and cats.

The following morning we attended Lizzi’s graduation. With about 800 graduates, the program lasted nearly two hours and was as unexciting as most graduation ceremonies.

On Sunday, Jason, Jarrod and Jess came to our campsite and we spent the afternoon eating and playing games. Jan had purchased Giant Jenga and we enjoyed playing a couple of games. We managed 38 moves before the tower fell in the first game; 28 in the second. Phil then grilled pork chops and we had a large early dinner, followed by making s’mores over a roaring campfire. We ended the afternoon with a couple of games of marbles.

On Monday, April 6th, we drove 200 miles to Anchor Down RV Resort in Dandridge, TN where we attended the first three days of the DRV Owners Group (DOG) rally. There were over 100 attendees and 63 rigs. We were in site 132, a pull-through that provided panoramic views of Douglas Lake from our living room windows. It helped that three of the sites across the road from us remained vacant for most of our stay. The rally began with a meet-and-greet potluck dinner and, as usual, there was enough food to feed a small army.

On Tuesday, we took the Mazda into Knoxville for an oil change and made a Sam’s Club run. We returned for a BBQ dinner prepared by RVs for Less, our RV dealer. Every family received door prizes and we got a Cracker Barrel gift card. Again, there was too much food but it was delicious.

On Wednesday morning, Phil played pickleball for a couple of hours. We spent part of the afternoon at the Tanger Outlet Center, then joined the DOG Group at the Hatfields and McCoys Dinner Feud where we were served a family style meal of fried chicken, pulled pork and several sides. After dinner, we watched a farcical musical revue with dancing and comedy.

On Thursday, May 9th, we left Anchor Down and headed north toward Indiana. We have already booked six nights at Anchor Down (site 132) in October 2020 at another DOG rally.

Back to the Texas Hill Country (February 17 – April 3, 2019)

To attend her uncle’s funeral, Jan had booked a flight to Nashville on Sunday, February 17th, that departed from San Antonio (SAT) at 5:25 pm. That necessitated us dropping Jason off at the Brownsville airport at about 8:30 am for his noon flight. We returned to Palmdale, quickly finished hooking up and were on the road by 9:40 am. The trip to SAT was 270 miles so we expected to arrive by around 3 pm.

Our original plan was to drop Jan off at a hotel near the SAT airport and she would get a taxi to the airport. Unfortunately, when we were within 35 miles of the airport, there was a major crash on I-37 and it took us over 1.5 hours to cover the next 5 miles. Although we had left Palmdale earlier than expected, this delay put us in jeopardy of having Jan miss her flight. Jan called the information desk at SAT to inquire if there was sufficient clearance for us to drive our 13’ 6” fifth wheel and she was told that it would not be a problem if we used the Departure level. When we arrived at SAT and started up the Departure ramp, we saw a sign that said the clearance was only 13’ 0”. Since there was no way for us to turn around, Phil pulled to the curb and sought police assistance while Jan went inside to check in for her flight. After waiting in vain for 20 minutes for a police office to walk by, Phil called the airport and chose the option of reporting a police emergency. Since we were in danger of shearing off several items from the roof of our RV, as well as damaging the overhead pedestrian crosswalk, it certainly seemed like an emergency. After a lengthy discussion with the police officer, Phil was told that the airport built in a 6” fudge factor in their signs and, therefore, we should be OK to proceed. After struggling to pull away from the curb through double-parked traffic, Phil drove very slowly under the walkway and was very happy not to hear any crunching sound. He continued on another 62 miles to Buckhorn Lake Resort in Kerrville, TX and arrived at 6 pm. Jan’s flights went smoothly so all’s well that ends well. It was a very stressful afternoon and one that we hope never to repeat.

After attending the funeral on Monday, Jan returned to SAT on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning, Phil had a dental implant performed and this limited our activities for the next few days.

We had been without a car since April 2018, before we left for our Alaska trip, and were anxious to once again have something smaller than a one-ton truck as our day-to-day transportation. On Monday, February 25th, we began our car shopping effort by visiting six different car dealers in Boerne and San Antonio. We had decided to look at 12 models of compact SUVs made by Nissan, Toyota, Subaru, Hyundai, Honda and Mazda. After doing test drives at each of the dealerships, we narrowed the field down to four models. We spent Tuesday reading a lot of online ratings and reviews, leading us to narrow the field further to the Subaru Forester and the Mazda CX-5. On Wednesday, we chose the Mazda and used the USAA Car Buying Service to get quotes from six Mazda dealerships. On Thursday, we began to negotiate further with one of the dealers. Since it was the last day of the month, the dealer was able to make us a good offer if we could finalize the purchase that day. We quickly drove into San Antonio and completed the purchase.

Although car buying occupied most of our time during the week, we did manage to find other distractions. Phil continued to play pickleball almost every morning. On Tuesday evening, we participated in a Cinnamon Roll, Chili and Salad pot luck dinner. This seemed like a strange combination of foods but we learned that this is kind of a Nebraska tradition. On Wednesday, Jan went for an eye exam and purchased new glasses.

The next couple of weeks were uneventful. Other than a few doctor and dentist appointments, our time was largely spent with Phil playing pickleball and Jan preparing for a cruise later in the month. On Saturday, March 16th, we attended a dinner of Irish stew in the barn at Buckhorn Lake Resort that was followed by a concert by Thomas Michael Riley. The concert was very good. Thomas Michael Riley is an outstanding country entertainer and he was backed up by some very talented musicians.


On Sunday, our good friends Dave and Jo Peterson, who were met at Palmdale RV Resort, arrived in Kerrville. We joined them at their site at By the River RV Park and spent a couple of hours sitting outside in the beautiful weather.

On Monday, we drove to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. We had visited the park on a Saturday two years ago and the line to get into the park had been quite long. This time we went on a Monday, assuming we wouldn’t have any problem getting in. Although the line of cars was considerably shorter, we learned that the Texas State Parks had implemented a reservation system four weeks earlier. The man at the gate did let us in without a reservation but we did get a long lecture about the need to have reservations next time. After parking, we hiked up the Summit Trail to the top of Enchanted Rock. Rather than return back down the same trail, we wandered around at the summit and blazed our own trail to return to the parking lot. That proved to be more difficult than we had anticipated and required climbing over and between numerous boulders.

On Tuesday, we attended a Taco Tuesday pot luck dinner in the Buckhorn barn. There was a good variety of Mexican food and desserts. Jan had baked a Sundrop cake and, unfortunately, there were no leftovers to bring home after the dinner.

On Wednesday, Jan and Jo went to Fredericksburg for a girls’ day out consisting of shopping and dining. That evening, we picked up Dave and Jo Peterson and drove to Bandera where we had dinner at the 11th Street Cowboy Bar. We each brought our own meat to grill over the large pits. It had started to drizzle while Phil and Dave were grilling and Jan and Jo were getting our sides but we were all back under shelter before the heavy rains came. Fortunately, we had gotten seats under the roof because, when the rain began, it came with a vengeance. Even some of those in the shelter got soaked as the rainwater poured through many of the seams in the roof.

On Friday, we got together with Dave and Jo and went to the Wild Ass Hey Barn for a delicious fried catfish dinner and entertainment by the performers at Open Mic night.

On Saturday, Dave and Jo picked us up and we went to Luckenbach. It was drizzling for much of the day but we were able to find shelter in the barn where we watched a couple of sets by a very good country band, Small Town Habit.

On Sunday morning, Jan left for a cruise with her cousin, Lori Davis. Jan flew to Nashville where she met Lori for the flight to Fort Lauderdale. The first flight left at 7:25 am from San Antonio so we left home at 4:20 am. Fortunately Jan’s fights went well and Phil completed the early morning drive without incident.

Lori and Jan on flight to Fort Lauderdale

The itinerary of Jan’s cruise included a day in Key West and a day and a half in Cuba. Jan and Lori took advantage of their time on shore to participate in various tours.

After picking up Jan at the San Antonio airport late Saturday night, we spent the next two days getting ready to travel and completing last minute appointments with the dentist and doctors.

Enjoying the Rio Grande Valley (January 3 – February 17, 2019)

We arrived at Palmdale RV Resort at about 4 pm on January 3rd after driving nearly seven hours. After a couple of days of temperatures in the 30s in Fredericksburg, we were delighted to be greeted by sunny skies with temperatures in the upper 60s.

After registering at the office, we went to check our site. We knew that we were going to have to back into our site between a concrete pad and a mobile home. However, we had not remembered how narrow a fit that was. There was an empty site directly across from ours so we decided to pull forward into that one and then back into our site. Unfortunately there was a tree in the way that blocked our entry from the right side. Phil circled back around the park with the intention of approaching that site from the left. In the meantime, some workers who were washing nearby rigs waved to Jan, indicating that Phil should just pull through the vacant site behind ours. Phil followed this advice and managed to get into our site fairly easily. We were later told by the park maintenance man that we weren’t supposed to drive across the lots, since the water lines aren’t buried too far below the surface, but we were glad to be parked in our site.

On Friday, the temperature was in the mid-70s and the sky was sunny. This is the kind of weather for which we had come to Texas. While our clothes were in the laundry, we walked around the park. Later we sat outside and enjoyed the warm weather. Later than afternoon, we joined a large number of fellow campers at a happy hour.

The next week was largely spent relaxing and enjoying the great weather. On Thursday, January 10th, we drove to Mercedes and made our annual visit to the All Valley RV Expo. We made a few purchases from the vendors and strolled through a few of the RVs on display, although none of them were as nice as what we already have. Next we drove to the border and crossed the Rio Grande River to Nuevo Progresso. We had lunch at the Red Snapper Restaurant, then headed to the beauty salon where Phil got a haircut and Jan got a pedicure and manicure. All of these were incredibly cheap, even though we tipped generously.

On Saturday night, we attended the Welcome Back Winter Texans dinner hosted by the owners of Palmdale RV Resort. After dinner, they had Bill Chrastil perform and he was very good. His first set was mostly covering various artists from the 60s and 70s. His second set was entirely dedicated to Elvis Presley. Jan received one of his scarves during the final song.

We quickly settled into a routine. Every morning we walk 3 laps around the campground, approximately 1.5 miles in total. On Mondays, there is a pot luck dinner where everyone brings a dish. Although the turnouts have been significantly smaller than last year’s, there is still always quite a variety of foods to eat. On Fridays, we meet for happy hour.

On Wednesday, January 16th, the Progressive insurance adjuster came to inspect the damage to our rig from our incident when we backed into a semi at a truck stop in Knoxville. We also received the bill from Metropolitan Trucking for the damage to the semi.  We decided to pay it out-of-pocket rather than face an insurance premium increase for the relatively minor damage.

On Friday, the usual happy hour was replaced with a chili cookoff. Thirteen couples brought pots of chili. We all got to sample each one and vote for our favorites.


On Sunday, after a full day of watching NFL playoff games, Phil went out late at night to see the total lunar eclipse. The sky was quite clear so he was able to watch as the earth blocked the sun’s rays from reaching the moon.

On Monday, January 21st, we drove to Harlingen, TX to attend the Welcome Back Winter Texans event. The doors opened at 1 pm and they had free t-shirts for the first 2,000 attendees. We arrived several minutes early but the line was already so long that we wondered if we would even get our free t-shirt. Once inside, we did get our t-shirts and then spent the next hour or so wandering around vendor booths. We had to collect the initials from 30 vendors to qualify for the raffle. The event hall was packed with senior citizens, proving that lots of people will show up for free stuff. In addition to the booths, there were musical performers and outside there was a classic car show.

On Tuesday we drove about 50 miles to Mission, TX to have lunch at Ranch House Burgers with a Facebook group of 24 DRV Owners. We both had the brisket plate that was quite delicious and filling. We spent over 2 ½ hours visiting with the other DRV owners before returning home. The winds had picked up and the gusts were up to 40 mph, which made driving a challenge. We were glad we were not pulling our fifth wheel. That evening the winds grew even stronger, with gusts up to 50 mph, and our house was really rocking for much of the night.

Lunch with the Facebook DRV Owners Grou

On Wednesday, it was still quite windy so we went to the movies and saw The Upside. We really enjoyed it. On Thursday we went to South Padre Island. We had lunch at Laguna Bob’s and listened to music performed by a couple of the original members of The Castaways, a 60s rock group. After lunch, we walked a long distance on the beach.

Selfie on the beach at South Padre Island

On Sunday, January 27th, we drove to Donna, TX and went to the Don-Wes Flea Market. We picked up several household items. That evening we went to the ice cream social and stuck around for bingo. Phil won one of the $4 pots, which paid for our ice cream and bingo cards.

We had been looking at bicycles for most of the month but with limited success. If we found a man’s bike that looked OK, we couldn’t find a ladies’ bike we liked, and vice versa. Finally, on Tuesday, we decided put the bike rack on the truck and hit every nearby Wal-Mart until we had two bikes. We first hit the Los Fresnos store but had no success. Next, we went to the San Benito store where we found a bike Jan liked and it was on sale. However, since they had nothing for Phil, we decided to continue on to the Harlingen store before we purchased anything. We had success in finding a bike for Phil but the bike Jan had liked in San Benito was not on sale in Harlingen. Jan tried to get the Harlingen salesman to match the sale price but he would not. So, after loading Phil’s new bike on the bike rack, we returned to San Benito for Jan’s bike. The tires were flat and the seat was loose but we decided to buy it anyway. At checkout, the cashier scanned the barcode and it brought up the original price, rather than the sale price which was $19 cheaper. When we challenged the price, we learned that the sale had ended but that they had not removed the sale stickers yet. Fortunately, they honored the sale price and we bought the bike, as well as a softer seat. When we got home, Phil attempted to install the new seat on Jan’s new bike but discovered that the part required to tighten the seat was missing. This necessitated loading the bike back on the truck and returning to San Benito where Phil exchanged the bike for another of the same model. We also ordered a cover from Amazon to keep our new bikes from rusting as quickly as our old ones.

San Benito, TX, which is about 8 miles from our campground, is the hometown of the late country singer, Freddy Fender. Every time we drive through San Benito, we pass the Freddy Fender water tower which prompts Jan to sing two of Freddy’s hit songs.


On Thursday, the weather was rather overcast so we went to the movies and watched Green Book. The movie was quite good. On Friday, we drove to South Padre Island (SPI) and attended the SPI Kite Festival. Although the wind was unusually light, it didn’t affect the ability of a large number of professional kite pilots to do amazing things with their kites. We met another couple from our campground and, after watching the kite flying for over an hour, we joined them at Pier 19 for a late afternoon snack.

On Saturday, we joined four other couples from our campground for a rousing afternoon of Giant Jenga. We had both played table top Jenga before but had never heard of Giant Jinga. The game was the same, requiring each player to remove a block from the tower and replace it on top without bringing down the tower, but the blocks were much larger. We played four games of the men vs. the women and it ended up a tie of 2-2. When it started to drizzle, we all squeezed under the awning for snacks and drinks.

On Sunday, we drove 31 miles to Boca Chica beach which is where the Rio Grande River terminates at the Gulf of Mexico. The beach is a state park and, unlike SPI, is totally undeveloped. Although driving on the beach is allowable, we chose to walk and collect seashells. We stayed for 1.5 hours, then returned home to have dinner and watch the Super Bowl. We had previously bought three $2 squares on a Super Bowl board that paid out based on the last digit in the score at the end of each quarter ($50 per quarter). One of the sets of numbers we had was 3 and 3. When the game was tied 3-3 at the end of the third quarter, we won $50. When New England kicked a field goal with a minute to go in the fourth quarter, the score was 13-3 and we felt like we had won another $50. Los Angeles attempted a field goal with 8 seconds to go in the game which, if successful, would have ripped the money from our greedy clutches. Fortunately, they missed the kick and the money was ours.

Phil at Boca Chica Beach

On Wednesday, February 6th, we drove out to the middle of nowhere to visit Harley’s Beer Garden. It had been recommended by many of our friends at Palmdale and is actually listed as the #2 top thing to do in Los Fresnos, TX by TripAdvisor. The bartender, Sari, is one of the main attractions. She has a sharp wit and a great memory for the names of her customers. We went there in mid-afternoon but there was already a steady stream of customers coming and going, keeping Sari quite busy.

On Thursday, we went to Clayton’s Bar and Grill on South Padre Island and met up with our friends from Palmdale. Thursdays are especially popular with the senior Winter Texans as they offer cheap beer and 25 cent wings. Ruthi, who we had seen perform twice last year, was on stage from 1 – 5 and did a nice job keeping the place rocking.


On Tuesday, February 12th, we drove to the Brownsville airport to meet our older son, Jason, who came to visit us for five days. On Wednesday, we went to Pier 19 on South Padre Island and took the four-hour Port of Brownsville cruise with Osprey Cruises. It was a great day for the cruise, with plenty of sun for most of the trip. The crew did a nice job of explaining the activity in the area where ocean vessels, oil rigs and decommissioned US Navy ships were being scrapped. In addition to the usual attractions, we saw a lot of dolphins running alongside the boat. We had done a similar cruise in 2017 but this year was slightly different. Homeland Security now requires photos of all the passengers upon boarding the boat and prohibits taking of photographs during the portion of the cruise through the vessel scrapyard and in the port. On the return trip, the boat stopped in the commercial shrimp boat harbor and we were each served a few fresh gulf shrimp.

On Thursday, we drove to the border and walked across the Rio Grande River to Nuevo Progresso. Jason had recently gotten his passport and this was an opportunity for him to break it in. After lunch at the Red Snapper Restaurant, we did some shopping and visited the beauty salon. On the way out, Phil got his shoes shined for $3 (including a $1 tip). The line to cross back into the US was much longer than on our previous visits. That evening, Jan learned that her uncle, Walt Madden, had passed away. Although his death was expected, it was still sad news. Jan spent the next few days working on booking travel back to TN for the funeral.

On Friday, the temperature in Los Fresnos rose to 82 degrees so we decided it would be a good day to walk along the beach at South Padre Island (SPI). Before crossing the causeway, we stopped in Port Isabel and spent some time visiting a number of gift shops. Once in SPI, we parked at Clayton’s and walked northerly along the beach. After walking for about 45 minutes with the wind at our back, we started getting into some fog. The return trip was more challenging as the wind and mist made it difficult to see very far in front of us. After a small snack at Clayton’s and a brief shopping trip, we crossed the causeway back to Port Isabel and had an early dinner at Joe’s Oyster Bar. Although it was only 3:30, the restaurant was rather full. We all really enjoyed our meals of fish, shrimp, oysters and crab. The temperature was only 69 degrees when we left Port Isabel but had risen to 80 by the time we completed the 22 mile drive back to Los Fresnos.

On Saturday morning, we hosted a farewell brunch with 10 of our friends. Jan prepared two batches of cinnamon rolls and plenty of sausage links. Combined with the food and drinks brought by our friends, no one went hungry. We enjoyed the food and fellowship for a couple of hours. Although we said our goodbyes, we had already made arrangements to meet again down the road with most of the group.


Driving to Warmer Weather (December 27, 2018 – January 3, 2019)

On Thursday, December 27th, we began our southbound trip with a 270 mile drive to Forrest City, AR. We had to hook up in a light drizzle and it rained heavily most of the trip. The rain stopped about the time we reached Memphis but, when we arrived at Delta Ridge RV Park in Forrest City, the ground was extremely swampy. We had a long gravel pull-through site but it was a bit of a mess getting set up in the muck.

The following day was a 240 mile drive to Texarkana, TX where we spent the night at Shady Pines RV Park. We’ve stayed at this campground several times before. The location is good for getting our fifth wheel and truck inspected as required for our Texas registrations. The inspections are required annually but, if we’re out of state when our registration expires, we have three days upon returning to Texas to get them done.

On Saturday we drove 205 miles to Corsicana, TX where we spent the night at American RV Park. This was the route we had taken in April 2018, albeit in the opposite direction, where we had our horrible tire blowout in the truck. Fortunately our drive this time was uneventful.

On Sunday we completed our fourth consecutive day of driving with a 231 mile trip to Fredericksburg, TX where we spent four nights at The Vineyards of Fredericksburg RV Park. Although we have spent many days visiting Fredericksburg, this was the first time we actually camped there. The campground is fairly new and, although it was laid out nicely, basically looked like a huge field. There are many young trees planted throughout the campground, making it likely that this campground will be much more scenic is another 10-15 years.

We had scheduled the detour to Fredericksburg over a month in advance so that Phil could see his doctor. At the time he scheduled the appointment, he had been dealing with a painful pinched nerve in his shoulder for nearly two months. Fortunately the pain had subsided by shortly before Christmas and did not return during our four days of driving. Our reservation at the campground was totally non-refundable so, even though Phil decided to cancel the doctor appointment, we were committed to staying in Fredericksburg for four days.

The weather on Monday, December 31st, was fairly warm so we strolled along the shops in downtown. That evening, we went to Luckenback, TX for our New Year’s Eve celebration. The band Almost Patsy Cline kept us entertained from 8 pm until midnight. We sat by one edge of the large dance floor, which provided us with a good view of some very experienced country dancers. The party was held in a big barn at Luckenback and the bar was open on one side. By later in the evening, the temperature had dropped into the low 30s and, although we were sitting on the opposite side, it was cold enough to require keeping our coats on most of the time. We rang in the new year with a champagne toast before returning home.

The weather on New Year’s Day was nasty, cold, windy and rainy, so we stayed in all day. On Wednesday we both had dentist appointments and, other than that, mostly stayed indoors to avoid another day of nasty weather.

On Thursday, January 3rd, we drove 339 miles to Los Fresnos, TX where we will spend six weeks at Palmdale RV Resort.