28 April 2016

"You picked a hell of a day to forget the camera"!

"Off the Grid"

On the road between San Antonio and Fort Stockton Texas, we experienced a very strange feeling. Both of us looked at all of our up to date tech toys; phones, tablets, computer; and we noticed we were OFF THE GRID. The only thing working, thankfully, was the GPS. We all know that GPS does not depend on cell service, rather it depends on visible access to the satellites. I cannot remember the last time we were so far away from ANY cell service. We have been out of range with T-Mobile data, but not out of range for cell service. It felt weird knowing NO ONE could reach us. The CB was active, so I knew if we had any problems, we could contact a trucker for help.

"Carlsbad Caverns"

"You picked a hell of a day to forget the camera". Not sure who said it. Don't remember who forgot it. Thankfully, our phones have great cameras. 
We knew when we left the campground that the elevator down to the caverns were out of order and we would not be able to descend by foot, (3.5 mile round trip on a 20 degree grade). We still went to the National Park and checked out the visitor center to get a feeling of the park. Not the same as going to the caverns, but fun nonetheless. 
As we were getting ready to leave, we noticed a sign for a 'scenic drive'. The sign was very ominous: "Trail Not Maintained", "High Clearance Vehicles ONLY", etc. Of course the sign did not scare me and my F450. 
The trail was 9.5 miles long and started out at the top of a ridge along a valley. G'ma was a gamer, especially when I was getting close to the edge of the drop off. (Interesting side note about duallys: they are longer and wider then a Jeep). I did have to put it in four wheel drive after a short bit. With the rear tires being highway tires, there was a bit of 'slippage' on the gravel. After about 5 miles, the trail took a severe right hand switch back with a 10 degree drop as it headed down into the valley. I was off-roading and enjoying every minute of it. 
Side Note: By this point, we had noticed that National Parks come in two varieties: "Drive Thrus" and Non Drive Thrus". Some National Parks have nothing but 'trail accessible' attractions, whereas some Parks you can drive thru and see the sights you came to see. The Park Rangers are very helpful at the gate or visitor center when they see senior citizens and tell you right up front that we cannot drive to the attraction. Carlsbad Cavern was both. You have to walk to the Cavern, but you can drive the trail to enjoy the Park.

Entrance to Carlsbad Caverns

Something like 500,000 bats call Carlsbad their home. Here are just a few of them bronzed for this display

Here is one of the signs at the beginning of the trail. Please note the 'Loop'

G'ma trying to look calm

That road over there? About 100 lower than the road we are on.

How the trail looks on the GP an' S'er

Some of the other scenery at Carlsbad

 Next post will be about the Guadalupe Mountains and "El Capitan"

See ya soon




17 April 2016

"Are your Filet Mignons as good as Cracker Barrels?"

Galveston Texas

G'ma and I spent four nights in the resort town of Galveston Texas. It was one of those spots that I have had in the back of my head for years, knowing that it was a highly regarded area for retiree's. Initially, I had  spot picked on the mainland but after further research, I found a great campground, right across the road from the Gulf of Mexico.
The island of Galveston is very much indeed like Traverse City. It is the town Texans go to to vacation and see lots of water. (Texas is a freakin' huge state and not a whole lotta lakes and stuff).  
We did not have any major sight seeing plans for this stop. We did get to go to a local church. Priest was very funny with his Dale Earnhardt Jr. accent. We did go to the movies (The Boss) and a great dinner, (Landry's).
The day before we left, we took the truck down to the ocean. Just like Daytona Beach, you can drive you vehicle right down to the water side. Even though the water temp was a lot lower than I would have liked it to be, I did venture out a few feet. I should have brought my suit, but just had my shorts on instead. Since I had to drive back to the campground, I didn't go too deep. But in my own little mind, I fulfilled a bucket list item and swam in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Church in Galveston. Very Nice Place.

The temperature back home when I went swimming in the Gulf!!! Nanny Nanny Boo Boo

Driving down the access road to the beach. Public. Free. How cool is that!?!?!

The Old Man and The Sea

Damn. That truck looks good anywhere.

One of our neighbors in Galveston. We kept waiting to see if the wind was going to knock it over!

San Antonio Texas

After Galveston, we headed for San Antonio. The only real planned stop was the Alamo. We already knew that the Alamo would not take a full day, so we dug out the AAA tour book and checked it out. There we found the Mission San Juan Capistrano, and the Tower of the Americas.
First on the route was the Mission. It seems there's a whole line of about five or so Missions dating back to the 1700's. (Did not know that until we checked out this Mission). We took a little self guided tour, got to talk to a Park Ranger for a bit, and actually learned a lot of history of the area.
Second on the route was the Alamo. If you don't already know, the Alamo is actually a very small 'attraction' and is in the middle of a city much like Lansing. It was very interesting, since we grew up watching movies about this place. (Think Greenfield Village, but with the original building, in it's original place). Worth every penny. (It was free).
Last on our itinerary was the Tower of the Americas. It was built in the mid 60's for the Worlds Fair held here. It's very much indeed like the Seattle Space needle. We made dinners reservations and really had a great time here. The restaurant is 750 feet up from ground level. It has a revolving floor and it takes about an hour to complete one revolution. It must be noted that this place is one of San Antonio's best restaurants. We kinda figured that out when we got the menus. But what the hell? You only live once. That was when I almost muttered the words to the waitress: 'Are your filets as good as Cracker Barrels?'. I kept that between G'ma and I, and we had a good chuckle over it. 
The next day was a 'work day' in the rig, (shopping, cleaning, washing clothes).

First stop of the day

I was glad the well was sealed so G'ma couldn't toss me in it!

Stations of the cross in the Mission

No caption needed. Neat little alcove for meditation.

Some of the old building at the Mission

The Alamo

A scale model of the way it was before they did the restoration

The Alamo

Tower of the Americas

Damn. Truck even looks good from 750 ft up!

Yeah. They built this city. They built this city around this church.

Great place to see the city from

North Llano River RV Park

The next couple of days were just for traveling across this great big state. But we were lucky enough to come across this beautiful park that had triple wide lots, BBQ grilles, and patios at each site. It was in a small town named Junction, and we enjoyed our first BBQ of the summer.

Little piece of Heaven. Right here.

The next update will be about our adventures to New Mexico. So far, so good!

14 April 2016

Big Easy Update

New Orleans Follow Up

Culinary Tour

As stated earlier, we all went on a French Quarter culinary tour with a gift from the Joe Kapral family. Tom and I started with cocktails at the SoBou restaurant. It was cool watching these "Cocktail" type bartenders whip up the drinks for us. Captain Gumbo took us to seven different stops, for eight different samples. Po'boy, muffalato, oysters, hot sauce bar and Cafe duMonde were some of the stops. A Highly recommended event if you ever get down there.
Side Note: While at SoBou, we all noticed this huge block of ice sitting on a wooden block on the bar. Naturally, we had to ask. The bartender told us that is ice for the folks that want a top shelf alcohol 'on the rocks'. Shortly thereafter, the people next us ordered a drink that qualified. The bartender took a meat cleaver, chopped a hunk off, and commenced to carve a single 'globe' of ice. It was perfectly clear, and he smoothed the edges under water. It fit the 'rocks' glass perfectly and was really neat to see. He explained the if you use ice cubes, they melt too fast and it waters down the liquor, (the very reason I use ice cubes). A very entertaining start to the adventure we were on.
Notice the 'Ice Cube' in the glass next to the menu

Doctor Gumbo on our tour


If you don't already know, New Orleans sits about eight to ten feet BELOW sea level. This is an issue when it comes to burying people because they cannot dig a normal grave like in Michigan. Hence, the cemeteries in New Orleans are unbelievable places to visit. We learned all about the process of how they fit so many 'souls' in the crypts and how much it costs to maintain the upkeep of your plot. However, these plots can be sold or 'reprocessed' if you don't keep up your end of the deal. That's how come there can be different names on the sides of the crypt that what is on the front. We did see the crypt of Louis Prima, a bandleader from the 40's and 50's that just died recently. Great line on the front of his stone.

Please click on PIC to enlarge and read the epitaph. I want that on mine!

Found the Ark of the Covenant!

For all you Sherlock Holmes fans
  Grey Line Bus Tour

Even though we probably did this backwards, (on the last day, rather than the first), we actually enjoyed this tour a great deal. We took what was called the Isle of Orleans tour and it took us through the French Quarter, a cemetery, the Garden District to see some great homes and the Ninth Ward where some of the worst damage occurred during Katrina. Some 10-12 years later, there are still 'high water' marks on the sides of some of the houses. That was very sobering to see. (Side note: before Katrina, NOLA was a city of about 450,000 people. Right after the storm, the population dropped to about 100,000. Most of the people relocated never came back. With the price of land and housing so low, a lot of 'Millennials'  have made New Orleans their home. The rebuilt city now boasts about 400,000 people).

Oh yeah. Don't be THIS GUY!!

Wakey Wakey...Hands off Snakey  

 Till next time!

09 April 2016

Programs! Get your programs, here!

We knew it was going to happen. Just didn't know how soon. We have been calling ahead to campgrounds one day in advance. But, now that we have gotten to Texas, we find 'no room at the Inn' in Austin. Something might be going on, because all the campgrounds are booked for the days we planned to go there. No biggie. We'll just leisurely make our way to San Antonio. (Reservations are made now, all the way to Los Cruces, when we meet up with Goddaughter Kym and her family.

The View from our home in Galveston. That's the Gulf of Mexico. Right across the street.

 More on our time in New Orleans on the next post. Fantastic city.



07 April 2016

"Doctor Gumbo, I presume?'

Latest Update on the Kaczorowski World Tour

"Rainbows and Unicorns" part 1. 

 As will be expected on an adventure such as this, traffic will be encountered. That was the case on DAY ONE as we tried to get through Cincinnati. The plan for our first day on the trip was to go about 500 miles south to try and get below the 'frost' line so the pipes would not freeze in the trailer. Well, I-75 was closed to all south bound traffic just before Cincinnati, so the detour added over an hour to an already long first day. We almost rear-ended a very small Japanese car as she decided to stop dead in the second lane while I was gaining a head of steam with my 10 ton rig. Lots of horn work did not make a difference and the brakes and tires worked well and a disaster was avoided. Clue-less, she drove away as if nothing ever happened. In the end, Rainbows and Unicorns prevailed.

"Gas Mileage Triple Threat"

Lots of money was spent prior to this trip on the truck to help reliability, comfort and mileage. That being said, a truck that weighs over 6900 lbs, pulling a fully loaded Jayco fifth wheel at 14, 500 lbs up a 5% grade, with a 40 mph headwind is a fuel mileage killer. We still realized 8 mpg. Well below my 10 mpg goal, but the new engine and tune up was worth every penny.

"Rainbows and Unicorns" part 2

In contrast to Cincinnati, Birmingham AL was a dream. When we saw the 'red' line on the GPS tracker and expected 'rush hour', we were delayed five minutes. Rush hour my ass. 

"TEXT FLASH: Flood warning for the area you are in"

Not something you see at home, for sure. We were in Meridian Mississippi when we got that flash. Three inches of rain in six hours. It was raining so hard that when we decided to stay in and watch a DVD, we had the surround sound on full blast and still could not hear the TV above the noise of the rain hitting the top of the trailer. (Bonus: Time for a bigger sound system!). 
As a side note: We have hit a lot of 'weather' on the way down to New Orleans. We have been extremely lucky to catch breaks in the rain to set up or take down the site. 'Someone' is looking out for us so far.

"The House of the Rising Sun"

If you google 'House of the Rising Sun', it tells you that this building is PRESUMED to be the house of ill repute depicted in the song. That was good enough for Tom and I. (Did you know when you write down the acronym it is HORS (get it? Whores!). 
We arrived in New Orleans on Friday, April 1st, during a huge rain storm. On Saturday, we decided to take the truck down to the HORS and then check out St. Louis cathedral. (I know, right?)
No one told me about the width of the streets in the French Quarter. Tight is an understatement. We pulled unto one street and cars were all parked on one side and a moving van was parked on the other side. The term 'KY jelly and a shoe horn' came up, and we squeezed the dually between the cars. I was cool but the passengers had to learn how to breathe again. (We never took the truck back down there again BTW). 

"Doctor Gumbo, I Presume?"

  Words I never thought would never pass my lips. Thanks to a retirement gift from the Joe Kapral family, we went on a Culinary Tour of the French Quarter run by the good Doctor Gumbo. We met at a great little fancy restaurant called SoBou. (South of Bourbon Street). We started the tour there with two samples of fancy gourmet food and proceeded to spend the next three hours walking the French Quarters experiencing everything from shrimp on a stick, to Leah's Pralines, to a muffalato (the BEST), a po'boy, oysters, a hot sauce bar and Cafe duMonde. We highly recommend trying something like this if you hit this city! Thanks Micki!

Some Pictures:

"Dinosaur World" near Mammoth Cave KY
Car Guy Heaven. National Corvette Museum

My point of view. Please note GPS is white on land.

Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. Longest over the water bridge in the world.

Note GPS over water is blue. For 32 miles. Blue.

Tom Rybicki at The House Of The Rising Sun.

Bourbon St. A post unto itself.

Sitting at the bar at SoBou waiting for Doctor Gumbo.

Shrimp on a stick

The best sample of the tour; Muffalato

Cafe duMonde

Dinner with the Neighorns at the Pontchartrain Landing Campground

 Til the next time!