Benson,AZ

On Friday, January 15th we headed out of Carlsbad heading to Benson Arizona to Kartchner Cavern’s State Park. We decided to carry on north on Highway 285 to Artesia and then take Highway 82 to Alamogordo and then 70 to Las Cruces which would bring us back to Interstate 10 heading into Arizona and Benson. We thought this would be the short route back to Interstate 10. We did not realize that we would be traveling through Lincoln National Forest, which was beautiful but we would be gradually travelling up Alamo Peak with elevations of 9,260 ft. We passed through many seasons and in Cloudcroft, a lovely little town, they were skiing with lots of snow!!   We did have to take a break and Steve replaced a part on our truck on the side of the road.  One of the benefits with travelling with a mechanic!!  We knew the next 16 miles were going to be slow a we travelled downhill into Alamogordo. The engine breaks on our truck worked very well!!!! We passed White Sands National Park and saw the sand dunes and continued on Interstate 10 to Benson and Kartchner Cavern’s State Park. We stayed for one night but did not visit the living caverns at Kartchners.

We read in a blog about a one week $50.00 stay at SKG Co Op for non Escapes members in Benson and that is where we headed and stayed there for one week. It was beautiful with friendly people and an amazing surrounding area to explore.

We took Highway 80 into historic Tombstone which is a western city, that I absolutely loved. It had cowboys, the OK Coral Saloon, saloon girls and horse pulled wagon’s. You could pay extra to see a gun fight at the OK Corral and it’s museum.

From Tombstone we headed into Bisbee. A lovely town set on the side of Dragoon Mountains and rated the number one place to live in the USA. It is a free-spirited place with a thriving arts/music/hospitality scene’s with many antique and art shops. In it’s glory days it was a thriving silver and copper mining town.

We had a selection of their beer at the Old Bisbee Brewing Company which is a micro brewery on Review Alley. it was wonderful and the staff where very helpful in filling us in on the different brews. From Bisbee we went East to Highway 191 looking for these amazing rocks we had seen from Interstate 10 on our way into Bisbee. We found them near Dragoon at another reproduction of a Western Saloon which was also a camp ground.

The next day we went back to Bisbee and took the Queen’s Mine Tour outfitted in hard hat’s, miner’s headlamp and yellow slicker, the Queen’s Mine was known as the richest copper mine in history. The best part was our tour, was our guide who was 82 years old and a former employee of the mine, actually the last employee to leave the mine. He was wonderful and answered every question with first hand knowledge, it was so interesting and the bonus was the train ride into the mine.

Exploring Tuscon

On Wednesday we took a drive into Tucson and visited downtown Tuscson again sampling beer at a local Brewery called “Thunder Canyon Brewery” It was awesome and the service was great. We were able to walk out with a souvenir beer glass. We toured 4th Street down to the museum of art into the Presidio district. Were we saw some old spanish architecture. From there was travelled by the aircraft boneyard to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. It was eerily beautiful with it’s miles and miles of airplanes, but so sad that all those planes, and all the money put into these planes, looking at their final resting place. We spent hours in the Pima Air and Space Museum with A10’s flying over our heads. We met up with Peter and Patricia the next day and made plans to head to Quartsite on Friday.

IMG_5110      Pima Air and Space Museum

IMG_4974      Aircraft Boneyard

 

 

Carlsbad, NM

We left Big Bend on January 13th heading for Carlsbad, New Mexico. On our way out of Big Bend we had problems with the truck and our check engine light came on. We made our way to Marathon and stopped there to check the readings on the truck. It was reading that the “MAP” sensor was malfunctioning. We headed from Marathon to Fort Stockton, Texas to a Ford Dealer to see about a new part. Steve was able to reset the problem and we headed north of Carlsbad on Hwy. 285 to Brantley Lake State Park where we checked in for two nights at $14.00 per night. It was a lovely park overlooking Brantley Lake. Nice big sites with a cement eating area. Obviously this area had got a lot of snow in the past week or so because of it’s high elevations and El Nino as there was snow on the ground in spots. Yet the weather was lovely with readings in the low to mid teens.

Brantley Lake State Park

We were up and on our way to the Carlsbad Caverns just outside of Carlsbad in the Guadalupe Mountains by 9:30 the next morning. The entrance fee for the National Park was $20.00 for both of us. After checking their website we were aware that the elevators taking you back to the surface were broken so we would be exploring the caves by walking down and walking back up the 750 foot descent. The hidden treasure and beauty of the more than 119 caves all formed by sulphuric acid dissolving the surrounding limestone leaving behind caverns of all sizes was magnificent and a must see. It took us more than 3 hours to explore the cave, the descent was not too bad but the climb up was difficult. Lots of breaks were needed and make sure you have lots of water!!!

Carlsbad was an amazing stop on our journey!!

 

 

Big Bend NP, TX

We left Seminole Canyon State Park heading to Big Bend National Park which was named for the huge sweeping curve of the Rio Grande River. Marathon was the turning point to Big Bend National Park.  Pete and Patricia were joining us at the park and had stayed in a different park in Comstock overnight. It cost $25.00 to enter Big Bend and then cost $42.00 for the three nights we were planning on staying. It was dry camping in the Rio Grande Village as there was no hydro or water hook up. This was the first time in our trip we would use our generator. Big Bend is huge spanning 800,000 acres of Texas scenic beauty combined with the Rio Grande Rivers, the Chihuahuan Desert and a breathtaking mountain range, the Chisos, spanning it’s border. It is a majestic land with it’s vast beauty and it’s sunrises and sunsets were magical as it played with colour on the mountain ranges and painted the sky. One of our many explorations was the Rio Grande Village Nature Trail which offers some of the best bird watching in the region to watch a spectacular sunset. Pete and Patricia have a Jeep Rangler and we explored Big Bend on back roads through Old Ore Trail which took you into the heart of Big Bend and it’s mountains. The following day we took a winding back road called River Road East to the Mariscal Mine where they used to mine quick silver mercury. After exploring the mine we continued our exploration of the area taking a “not maintained” road called Black Gap and Glenn Spring Road with heart stopping windy roads, rocky trails and drop off’s that had the palms of your hand’s sweating, and your heart beating wildly as you held on tightly, hoping you were going to make it through this windy, unmaintained road. We did, but it was not for the faint of heart!!! During our stay at Big Bend, we saw deer, javelina’s, coyote’s and were told that cougars also were spotted in this park. Our last stop from our “heart pumping” back road adventure was to the hot springs trail located just before our camp ground. A natural hot spring pool located on the side of the Rio Grande River was an amazing treat after a day of four wheeling!! Perfect end to the day.

 

Seminole Canyon SP

We headed out of Galveston towards Big Bend National Park. Our mileage was 92541 and we left at 8:15 am.on Saturday, January 9th.  We were heading to Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Park which was 4 hours away from Big Bend. It is located just off Highway 90 between Comstock and the Pecos River in Texas. Pictures do not do this park justice. It is breath takingly beautiful with its vast lands of nothing but cactus and rocky landscape. The stars were incredible at night, so bright and so many!! The night sky was not interrupted by light from anything so you could gaze upon the million of stars in the sky, and we did. The cost was $20 a night plus $3 per person to stay overnight at this park. Because Highway 90 borders on Mexico we were stopped at Border Checkpoints periodically searching for illegal Mexican immigrants who may have crossed the river. They were very friendly and we just showed them our passports.

Galveston, TX

Our next stop on our journey was Galveston Island in Texas. We got back on Interstate 10 and headed to the turnoff which would take us to a free ferry ride to Galveston Island. It was fun the weather was sunny and calm. When we drove off the ferry we headed to Sandpiper RV Resort in Galveston, Texas for 5 nights. The resort was lovely, located right beside the beaches of endless sands. You could see a pier with a carnival rides a short distance away. Pete and Patricia parked their RV right beside us. The resort had laundry, a pool and was lovely. We walked the beach and rode our bikes on the hard packed sand, it was amazing!!! Galveston Island is a tourist area, a point of entry for ships and cruise ships and has everything you may ever need. Galveston’s historic district called The Strand is breathtaking with it’s historic museums and building. Many of these buildings survived the the 1900 storm which was regarded as the worst natural disaster in U.S. history. All the houses driving into Galveston are on posts situated above the ground in the event that a storm hits. It is incredible to see these homes and how they are built. After exploring Galveston we went into Houston one day to visit Costco. We did go to Pleasure Island on the Friday before we were leaving and rode the Ferris Wheel at the end of the pier. It costs $10 each to enter the park and $5.00 to ride the Ferris Wheel each. There was a lightning storm and they could not guarantee us that the park would not get closed down but they did tell us our money was non refundable. It was fun but expensive!! We had dinner at Fishtails Restaurant. I would not recommend this restaurant, the meal was not great and the food was expensive. Galveston on the other hand was beautiful and worth it!!!!  We spent 6 nights in Galveston before heading towards Big Bend National Park in Texas.

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Galveston Beach

Sandpiper RV Resort and Beach

Louisiana

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Bourbon Street, New Orleans!!!

We left Walmart at 8:15 am. to head to meet Steve’s brother and his wife who were RVing as well and staying at a RV park in downtown New Orleans, Louisianna. Our mileage when we started out was 91275. New Orleans would be a very busy place as it was New Year’s Eve and one of the top six places to go for celebrating. There was also a College Football game between Ole Miss and Oklahoma state scheduled for New Years Day as well. New Orleans was packed!! We had prebooked Pelican RV Park just outside of New Orleans. Up until this point and into New Orleans we had great driving with not too much traffic. Upon arriving at the RV Park we realized we had booked it in an unsafe area (that was why there was availability). We quickly cancelled our reservations and decided to head out of town. The problem was the park was located right off the highway in a busy area with no room to turn the 5th wheel around and with our lack of experience this was a problem. A nice gentleman seeing our predicament escorted us to the interstate so we could get out of town. We called a head to Poche Plantation RV Park in Convent, Mississippi in the middle of cajun country to see about availability. It took us awhile to get there as we had no idea where we were going but it was lovely. It was located about 45 minutes west of New Orleans and is across from the Mississippi River. We booked for three nights in this historical park which was right in the middle of Plantation Country in Mississippi. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

Poche Plantation RV Resort

After missing all the New Years Eve action in New Orleans we decided to head there for New Years Day. Our mileage today was 91585 before heading to New Orleans. New Orleans was fantastic. We hooked up with Steve’s brother Peter and his wife Patricia to explore New Orleans. They had been part of the festivities the night before and knew the best things to show us. We toured the French Quarter and checked our Bourbon Street. New Orleans doesn’t have a law against drinking in the streets and we enjoyed a nice pint of beer as we walked around. We ate lunch in a lovely restaurant and had gumbo with poor boy shrimp sandwiches and Bloody Mary’s. It was delicious at Frank’s Restaurant on Decatur Street. Pete and Patricia were staying in an RV park that was right on the end of the French Quarter called French Quarter RV Resort. They had been there for the week, because of New Years it was booked solid. We headed back to Poche Plantation later that afternoon. At 3 in the afternoon the college football game between Ole Miss and Oklahoma was to begin so the city and streets were crowded. It was amazing and I would love to go back to expore again.

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On the 2nd of January we decided to take our bikes and follow the bike path that followed the Mississippi River. The Mississippi River is a booming industry in this area and there were ships and tugboats and all sorts of activity on the river. It was interesting to watch as I hadn’t seen this kind of industry up our way. As we rode our bikes we came upon the most beautiful oak trees that wind their way around the St. James Historic parish. The trees were massive in size and height . They formed two rows which brought you to a wonderful nativity scene and then across the street is Manresa House of Retreats which is a Jesuit Retreat centre in Louisiana. It is a130 acre campus that used to belong to Jefferson College. The facility dates back to the early 19th century and as Jefferson College, it was a private school to educate the sons of plantation owners. It was later purchased in 1931 as a retreat centre for men. While we were there, a retreat was in session so they were not hosting visitors.


At noon Pete and Patricia joined us and we went to visit Oak Valley Plantation. It was across the Mississippi River almost perpendicular to Poche Plantation. Convent is right in the middle of two bridges which take you to the opposite side of the Mississippi River and is the only way to the west side of the river. Oak Alley Plantation is a historic plantation located on the West bank of the Mississippi River in the community of Vacherie, st. James parish. Oak Alley was established to grow sugar cane when it originated in 1830. Jacques Roman built the present mansion with entirely enslaved labor. The entire plantation was run by slaves and the grounds gives you the history as well as a guided tour in the main house of life for during that time in history. The cost for touring the plantation was $36.00 for the two of us.

We left Poche Plantation on the 3rd of January heading to Galveston, Texas.

Heading South

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Our plan was to head out early on the Monday, but a major storm hit southern Ontario coming up from Texas. It brought blowing snow, freezing temperatures and threats of freezing rain. We hadn’t seen weather like this up to this point in December. We left Wasaga Beach December 29th in freezing rain, slush and snow covered roads. The temperature was -1 C.   By the time we hit Hwy 401 the temperatures were above zero and it had turned to plain rain. We crossed into Detroit, Michigan over the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, Ontario with ease and no problems at the border. We took I75 through Ohio and into Kentucky picking up I71 at Cincinnati. Our first stop for the night was in Louisville, Kentucky at a Pilot gas station sleeping among the truckers. Besides our first night on the road as RVer’s, it would be our first night sleeping in our trailer or winter home!!

When we left the Pilot gas station 4C outside. Sleeping at the truck stop was loud but fun!! Took I71 to I65 going through Nashville, Tennessee. We did not stop this trip in Nashville. We are hoping to do a Nashville trip at another time in warmer weather or maybe on the way home if the weather is warmer. At Birmingham, Alabama we took I20 through Tuscaloosa, Alabama to Meridan, Mississippi. In Hattiesburg, Mississippi we stayed in a Walmart parking lot overnight. I was a little worried staying in the Walmart as there was no other RV’s staying with us. We also witnessed on the the way out of Walmart an arrest between a woman and the police. Slept well with no worries.  We left the next day heading to New Orleans.