Indiana to Key West to Texas
A very few pictures are here
We picked the bus up on Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 and spent the first night there at Nappanee. We have plans to attend Meeting of the Minds, the national Parrothead convention, in Key West this year. MOTM officially starts Thursday the 30th, but our reservation at Boyd's Campground is for Tuesday the 28th. That gives us five days to get to Key West. We didn't get underway until after noon on the 24th, so our first day was short. Driving Friday until dark, about ten hours Saturday, and about eight hours Sunday took us to Homestead, FL. Our overnight stops were at a Wal-Mart, and a Flying J truck stop. At the Wal-Mart stop, we found what looked like a nice place to park at the edge of the parking lot where we could open the slides without being intrusive. There was a large oleander hedge along the edge of the parking lot here. We went inside to make sure it was ok to overnight there, and also to buy a few things. We had quickly learned that with the carpet gone, and the new vinyl floor, the furniture that isn't bolted down, slides around when underway. So, two throw rugs were purchased to go under the dining room table and chairs, and the recliners. When we returned to the bus, we heard a voice coming from the oleander hedge. A little investigation found that a homeless guy was living in the hedge. Not wanting him to mess with the bus overnight, we decided to move out to the middle of the parking lot. The night was a typical Wal-Mart night. The second night was spent at a Flying J truck stop. Many Flying J's are very accommodating to RVers, including a few parking spaces reserved for them. We were able to get one of those spots, although you can't open slides there. We were worried about the noise of trucks coming and going, but surprisingly it got quite quiet after about 11 PM and we slept well.
Sunday the 26th, we were in Homestead, FL, one day from Key West. Since we made good time, our worries about getting to Key West on time, turned into having two days to kill before our reservation at Boyd's. So, we found The Boardwalk RV Resort where we spent two days. Monday afternoon, while we were having lunch at a place down the street, we got a text from friends Fred & Sara that they were passing through that area soon on their way to MOTM, so they stopped and had a drink with us. Tuesday we headed for Key West, but our first stop was a gas station just down the street from the RV park for fuel. Their separate diesel island had old pumps that were not pay-at-the-pump. After I pumped $321 worth of fuel, I went inside to pay, and my American Express declined. The clerk said the error message said "call American Express". So I did. I have always bragged about how good Amex's fraud detection systems were, because they are tailored to each persons spending patterns. When I got them on the line, they confirmed I was me, and that the charge was legit, and then said to process it again. And it worked. The issue apparently was that buying $321 of fuel at a truck stop would be considered normal, but doing it at a regular gas station raised a red flag. The trip on down to Key West was good. We got to Boyd's and got settled . Boyd's is a nice RV park, although it was built before RV's all had big slides, so the spaces are a little tight.
The week in Key West was a typical MOTM. There was pretty much non-stop eating, drinking, and enjoying Trop-Rock music. Two evenings we went on sunset cruises on big party catamarans with music provided by Jerry Diaz and friends. One day I donated blood in the annual MOTM blood drive. (In case you are wondering, blood/alcohol levels do not matter when donating blood.) Overall we had a great time with several thousand other Parrotheads, including lots of our friends.
After Key West, we headed up Florida's west coast with several stops to visit friends. The first stop was in Ft. Meyers Beach. Cruising friends Mike & Lynn from Seabbatical have a house there where they spend their summers while their boat is stored for hurricane season. We stayed at Indian Creek RV Resort, which is a Sun Resort. The park is 95% park models, which are permanent small manufactured homes. Over the course of the week, we visited with Mike & Lynn several times and enjoyed catching up with them.
From Ft. Meyers we moved north a little to Riverside RV Park near Punta Gorda, FL. We got settled at the RV park, and then went to The Nav-A-Gator which was just a couple miles from the RV park. The Nav-A-Gator is well known in Parrothead circles for their live music. This afternoon Jim Morris is playing there. Old friends Dave & Carolyn McBride live in Punta Gorda and are also Jim Morris fans, and they are meeting us here. Also Barb's childhood friend Elaine and her husband Jim live nearby, so they are joining us there too. We all enjoyed a few hours of music and visiting. The next day, we drove in to Punta Gorda to Dave & Carolyn's house. We went out to lunch with them and visited some more.
Our next destination was Choudrant , LA, which is in northern Louisiana near Monroe. The reason for going to Choudrant is to have the bus sealed at a place that specializes in Alfa repairs. It's two days drive to get there, so we split the trip up by stopping in Tallahassee to visit my old friend Donna and her friend Ed. We spent that night at a Wal-Mart and left very early in the morning to make Choudrant before dark. The reason the bus needs to be sealed, is that Alfa didn't do a very good job of keeping outside air from coming in the front under the dash when you are driving. Dick Albritton and his employee Ronnie have made a business of sealing Alfas, along with doing other repairs on them. Dick owns an Alfa himself. His place is out in the country where he has a nice new shop that can hold three busses. He also has hookups for eight or ten busses to be plugged in if your work requires a stay. We got there a little after 4 PM and found everybody gone already, so we backed in a spot and settled in for the night. It was pretty cold there, and we had been freezing on the drive, since with the cold air coming in, the dash heater barely helped even on full blast. In the morning, there was frost on the ground, but it warmed up quickly. We met Ronnie in the morning, and after finishing a job on another bus, he pulled ours inside mid-morning. He looked under the front hood and smiled and said "we were going to love him" after the seal job. He showed me where you could look up under the hood and see daylight between the dash and the windshield. This is one of the places air comes in underway. We left Ronnie to his work, and we drove into Monroe. Monroe is the home of Duck Dynasty and Ronnie suggested we check out their place. Not being Duck Dynasty fans, instead we had lunch at Hooters and then went to the movies where we saw Interstellar. When we got back from the movie, Ronnie had gone home and the bus was parked back outside and plugged in. In the morning we settled up with Ronnie and headed for Texas.
We plan to spend a few months in Texas. I had contacted the RV park right in Kemah, near the marina we left from, but they did not seem interested in our business, so Barb did some more research. She found the Kemah RV Resort, which is really a mile or two south of Kemah in Baycliff. The work "resort" probably doesn't really describe the place, but it was good. It was probably 75% people who either live there permanently or guys who are working contracts at local plant or construction projects. The first spot we were in was right next to one of the streets in the park. So, our choice was to either have our door open right into the street, or park "backwards" in the spot so the utility hookups were on the "wrong" side. We chose the latter, so I had to run the sewer hose, water hose, and power cable under the bus to hook them up. This left our slide hanging a few inches over the edge of the street, but the maintenance guy who was there said that was common for that space. We went and bought some white reflective tape to put on the ends of the slide in the hopes nobody would hit it. After three weeks, our neighbor left and we moved over one space where I felt better.
It was nice being back in Kemah. We still have lots of friends here and we enjoyed spending time with them. There are tons of good places to eat around the area, and we made it a mission to try and hit every place we used to love. It was good to be able to go to T-Bone Tom's several times, to not only enjoy the great food, but also to see several of our favorite live music acts. I'm proud to say that as many places as we ate out in three months, only one place was on The Boardwalk.
For the holidays, we spent Thanksgiving with Jerry & Mary Diaz and their friends and family, and we flew to NY to my brother's for a week at Christmas. Our NY trip was a planes, trains, and automobile story. We flew from Hobby in Houston to LaGuardia in NYC. From LaGuardia, we took a bus to Grand Central Station in mid-town Manhattan. At Grand Central, we boarded a train to Beacon, NY where we were picked up by my nephew for the 15 minute ride to the house. The trip home was an exact reverse, and it all actually worked! We enjoyed seeing the family, including my daughter and grandkids who came up from Long Island to see us.
In mid-January we drove (in the car) to New Orleans for Pardi Gras. Pardi Gras is an event put on by our friends Jerry & Mary Diaz, and we are part of the krewe that helps make it happen. It is a Trop-Rock music event held primarily at Margaritaville and Tropical Isle. There is an RV park just outside the French Quarter, but their rate was $100/night and we would have had to take taxis back and forth, so that's why we drove and stayed in a hotel near the action. As usual Pardi Gras was a huge success.
Our friend Pege has done lots of interior design work in the past, so while we were near her, Barb took advantage of her knowledge and good taste and picked out colors and material to redo our main living area. They spent hours at a fabric store and came up with a plan to recover the window valances and the dining room chairs. I took the valances and chairs apart and sent Barb to Pege's house with the pieces, while I masked and painted all the walls. The task had been a lot more daunting in my mind than it really turned out to be. The result in our opinion is a much more modern, colorful look than the original grandma design.
Our original plan when leaving Texas was to move slowly via Austin and San Antonio visiting friends as we went. But, my son had to have knee surgery to replace his ACL, and he was going to need some help getting to and from rehab. So, we left Kemah on Feb 6th, and headed west. On our way out of town, we stopped and fueled at Buc-ee's for $2.29/gal. That's the least we have paid for diesel to date. Our first day took us as far as Ozona, TX. Wondering where Ozona is? It's pretty much in the middle of nowhere in west Texas. I searched online for a Wal-Mart to stay at, and the nearest one was 60 miles away. We ended up at a motel that has RV parking with hookups next door. It was no-frills and tight, but we were plugged in to run the heat. We were on the road early in the morning, and made almost 600 miles to Wilcox, AZ where we stayed at the Lifestyle RV Resort, which is a small park a couple miles off the interstate. In the morning, we continued on to Superstition Sunrise RV Resort on the border of Mesa and Apache Junction, AZ. Which is a good place to break chapters.