Texas is Beautiful

We saw blankets of wildflowers on our first day as we went through Florida.  After the first day, we didn’t see as many wildflowers.  That changed when we got west of San Antonio, Texas.  The wildflowers are stunning in Texas.  I was concerned that yesterday’s drive would be very monotonous.  Interstate driving can be very boring.  Traveling the interstates is a great way to cross a long distance easily and quickly, but the trade-off is how boring it can be.  But, driving along the interstate in Texas was candy for the eyes.   Some of the cacti are starting to bloom.

Blooming cactus

We are seeing several different birds that are new to us.  Included are the Painted Bunting, Scott’s Oriole, and Vermilion Flycatcher.   There is a puddle of water close to our campsite and it attracts many birds and butterflies.  What a treat!

Painted Bunting
Scott’s Oriole
Vermilion Flycatcher

The hitchhikers are out in full force.  Dart has been bringing them back into the RV and they get embedded in the throw carpets very easily.  After playing disc with him this morning, he came back with more hitchhikers than I have ever seen.  It took a long time to remove them all.

Burs on Dart

When we arrived at our camp site yesterday, the resident peacock had to come check us out.  He circled the RV warily and peeked at us from behind it.  We stared at him and he stared at us until he decided we weren’t interesting enough for him to stick around.  I later caught him displaying his gorgeous tail for his lady friend.

I took Dart for a walk this morning.  It didn’t seem too hot to me, but it was obviously hot for Dart.  Not long into the walk, he started making eye contact indicating he was done.  This is unusual for him because he usually has way too much energy to ever be done.  I was interested in cresting this hill to see if there was a view.  The entire walk up the hill, he kept stopping and looking back the way we came.  He couldn’t have been more obvious about his desire to turn around.  I think walking in warm, sunny weather is going to be out of the  question as far as he is concerned.

Last night, when I let Dart out before we went to bed, I shined the flashlight out into the darkness.  I saw a deer looking back at me.  How cool is that!

Painted Churches

We stayed at the Schulenburg RV Park last night in Schulenburg, Texas.  The hosts were delightful.  The accommodations were very nice.  I highly recommend the park if you are in the area and need an RV site.

Oak next to the Schulenburg RV Park.

One of the family members who run the RV Park told me about the local painted churches and recommended that I see them.  I was tired from all the driving, but I disconnected the car and went to three of them.  Regis and Dart stayed behind in the RV to relax.

The paper I got at the RV Park said the churches were built by German and Czech immigrants fleeing the Austrian Empire.  The interiors were painted to look like European cathedrals “with their elaborately painted walls and opulent altars.”  They were beautiful inside.  I was fortunate to arrive at the church in High Hill right after a small bus of folks arrived as part of a tour.  I hung around the group like I was part of the tour and got the scoop.  Many of the stained glass windows came from Germany.

Painted church in Dubina, Texas.
Painted church in Ammannsville, Texas.
Painted church in High Hill, Texas.

Besides seeing the beautiful churches, it was nice to be off the interstate and driving on the back roads through Texas.  The area is very beautiful and it was nice and quiet.  On the way back to the camp site, I stopped at a German bakery for some baked goods.  I didn’t buy enough!  If I had known it was going to be that good, I would have bought more.  It was everything we could do to refrain from going back this morning before we departed on today’s journey.  I am sure there will be many more temptations on this trip, so we have to maintain some control.

Frogs and Bugs

The campground we stayed at last night had two small ponds.  When evening arrived the frogs began to vocalize.  We listened to an astonishing chorus well into the evening.  If there is this much noise in two small ponds, I can’t imagine what the bayou sounds like at night.

There was some type of refinery or chemical plant down the road from our campground and we could see the flare stack from our camp site.  Very interesting.

I managed to capture our entry into Texas!

Welcome to Texas.

The worst part of our trip today was going through Houston.  The only thing worse than going through Houston is going through Chicago.  The air was heavy with moisture, so there was a thick haze.  Below is a picture of Houston and some of the crazy ramps along the route.  I was so glad once we made it through Houston, which seemed to take forever.  The traffic congestion was unbelievable.  Moving at a good pace through so much congestion is a blessing and a curse.  It’s great to make good time and not get stuck in stop and go traffic, but it is stressful to have to keep up with the traffic at highway speeds through 6 or so lanes that come and go at almost every exit.  Argh!  Doing this makes me have the greatest appreciation for truckers!

The other thing we encountered while driving through Texas was LOTS of bugs.  Unbelievable.  If we drove for two days without cleaning the windshield, we would not be able to see through it.

Lots of bug splats in Texas.
It looks like it might be fun to follow this truck to its next destination

Louisiana Bayou

We entered Louisiana today.  It was my turn in the passenger seat when we crossed the border, so I was responsible for getting the picture of the State sign.  I was daydreaming and noticed it too late to capture the moment.  I’m sure it won’t be the only time!

We crossed the Mississippi River.  Below is a picture of it with some Riverboats in the scene.  I can’t imagine the Mississippi River without a Riverboat.

Mississippi River at Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Louisiana is very interesting.  We crossed over the Atchafalaya (say that three times or even once) National Heritage Area.  As described in a brochure Regis picked up, the area “is filled with twisting bayous, backwater lakes, vast marshes and America’s largest river swamp.”  We drove over a bridge for well over 10 miles that crossed over the area.  I saw a large alligator swimming in the water.  It was unlike anything I have seen before.  It is definitely an area worth exploring sometime if I can gather the courage to do it! It is on the Mississippi flyway and is a major wintering ground for birds, so a winter trip needs to go on our to do list.

Very long bridge over the bayou in Louisiana.
The Atchafalaya National Heritage Area.
Local signs in the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area.

While I was driving down the interstate a car pulled alongside and the driver signaled that something was wrong.  The highway was busy and the shoulder was just wide enough to pull over.  Regis checked it out and saw that our electric plug was dragging on the ground.  He needed to tuck it back inside the basement of the motor home but needed a break in traffic.  We were too close to the highway lane for comfort, so I pulled the motor home forward and a little onto the grass to make more room for Regis.  I was a nervous wreck worrying about him.  He got angry with me for pulling forward because I wound up extending the cable more and causing more of a problem.  I make no apologies for worrying more about him than the cable.  We have a backup shorter cable which we were able to use to hook up for tonight.  Regis went exploring after we set up camp and was able to purchase a new end for the plug.  He is sorry that he didn’t bring his spiffy cable cutter on the trip.

What an electric cable for a motor home looks like after it has been dragging on the interstate.
We saw lots of these areas along the interstate. It appears to be shallow water with lots of floats in it. Anyone know what they are doing?

Alabama and Mississippi

We finished making our way through Florida and drove right through Alabama to Mississippi.  It was beautiful driving through Florida and Alabama.  We mostly saw trees in Alabama except for Mobile.  Mobile is on the water, so at some point to you have to go through a tunnel.  When we reached the tunnel, the traffic stopped.  Many cars around us started to exit through this small opening in the Jersey wall.  We weren’t getting through that opening, so we were stuck at the opening to this tunnel until whatever was wrong got fixed.  When the emergency vehicles showed up, they got things moving pretty quickly.  Apparently, there was a fender bender in the tunnel.  As we entered the tunnel, the emergency vehicles had all their emergency lights flashing and it felt like we were entering a thrill ride at a theme park.  If my brother was with us he would have yelled “Party Time!”.

Emergency lights in I-10 tunnel in Mobile, Alabama.

On this adventure, we plan to spend a lot of time in Utah, so we don’t have the time to stay in these southeast states to do more exploring.  That is a future adventure.  Since our son lives in Seattle, I suggested to Regis that we visit him since we will be in Utah.  He said that Seattle was no where near Utah.  I pointed out that Utah is closer to Seattle than Florida.  The result – we are visiting Utah and Seattle.  For personal reasons, we need to be back in Florida in September.  We have a lot of ground to cover and places already on the list to explore.  Therefore, we have to breeze through some of these States and leave them for another trip.

Once we crossed into Mississippi, we saw that the interstate is not as well maintained as it was in Alabama and Florida.  There are a lot of billboard signs in Mississippi.  Although, there are some beautiful spots along the waterways with lots of turtles sitting on logs sunning themselves.

We are only here for the night.  I don’t have us scheduled for a multi-night stay until we get to Texas.  By then, Dart will leave us and look for a new home if we don’t give him a break from all this driving.  He’s getting more comfortable but he prefers when the motor home is not moving.  He appears to be enjoying all the new smells on his walks.  It’s hard to make much progress when Dart has his nose working overtime.  Since he has to endure all the driving, I give him a lot of leeway to smell on our walks.

Battleship in Mobile, Alabama.


First, I want to tell you that the package was not at the post office.  Who knows where it is and when we will get it, if ever.  I’m hoping that it eventually gets to our forwarding address and then we can get it from there.

Yesterday, I took our house trash to the transfer station.  We don’t need it festering in our garage all summer and attracting undesirable guests.  There were quite a few vultures hanging around the transfer station.  The place smelled of course, but not too bad.  The vultures would not have an easy time of getting to the trash the way the facility is designed.  I imagined the vultures hanging around, breathing in deeply, and saying to themselves “aaah that smells so good”.

After we finished loading our stuff this morning and got Dart in the motor home, I left the side door open for some air while we checked brake lights, etc.  Regis asked me to step on the brake while he checked the lights.  As soon as I stepped on the brakes (which are air brakes), Dart shot out of the side of the motor home like a bullet.  Fortunately, he hung around and didn’t head to the next county.  Dart does not like strange sounds!

Shortly after we pulled out of our neighborhood, my bum started getting very toasty.  I asked Regis if we had heated seats (yep, I didn’t know) and he said yes.  After a long search for the controls, I eventually located them on the left side of the passenger seat.  Dart lays on his bed between the two front seats.  It appears that when he moves around, he can bump the control and turn the heater on.  Let me tell you, the heater works well.  I thought I could sit my bum in a bucket of cold water and hear a “sssssssssssssss” sound.

I sprayed Adaptil all over Dart’s bed.  If it did anything to calm him down, it wasn’t obvious to me.  We think Dart appears to be getting used to it somewhat, but he has a way to go.

Today, the weather was perfect.  The ride across Florida was beautiful.  There are locations along Interstate 10 were the sides of the highway are blanketed in wildflowers.  I’m hopeful there are a lot more places like that as we make our way across country.

Wildflowers along Interstate 10 in Florida.
Wildflowers along Interstate 10 in Florida
Wildflowers along Interstate 10 in Florida.

Postal Service

We expected a package from Amazon today and we delayed our trip so that we could get it.  We spent the day with the motor home in front of the house and loading it up.  There was never a time today that someone wasn’t home.  We have been watching the tracking status online all day to see if the status changed.  It continued to say we would receive the package by 8:00 p.m. today.  But, I saw an alarming change yesterday.  The package went from UPS hands to USPS hands.  On no!!!

I was right to be concerned.  A little after 5:00 p.m. today the status updated to say delivery had been attempted but a secure place could not be found to put the package.  First, all of our mail deliveries go to central mailboxes in the community.  There are large mailboxes for when you receive packages.  They have keys.  There is no question that the items we ordered will fit in one of these locking mailboxes.  Second, someone was home all day today.

The message on Amazon says to look for the attempted delivery notice for next steps.  Surprise, surprise.  There is no attempted delivery notice.

I verified that Amazon has the correct address.  We already received one part of that order on Wednesday.  It was successfully delivered by UPS.

So, tomorrow morning we will go to the postal facility without the attempted delivery notice and see if we can get our stuff.  If not, I will contact Amazon and tell them they can have it all back.  We are not delaying our trip any longer.

Also, starting tomorrow all our mail is being forwarded.  I have learned from last year’s experience that you cannot successfully stop your mail forwarding once you have set it up.  If you return early, you can tell the post office to stop your mail forwarding, and they will tell you that they did it, but not so.

This is how I feel right now:

Departure Planned

We had planned to depart on our trip tomorrow, but we had to postpone the start date.  We ordered a couple things for the trip that won’t be arriving until Friday.  If they arrive as scheduled, we will leave on Saturday.

 I went to visit the nesting birds at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm one more time before we leave.  Following are three of the families I encountered. 

Family of Roseate Spoonbills at St. Augustine Alligator Farm.
Family of Egrets at St. Augustine Alligator Farm.
Family of Egrets at St. Augustine Alligator Farm. The two chicks were constantly jabbing each other with their long bills.

Three of the house batteries in the RV were still not working properly.  They had to be replaced before our trip begins.  Regis contacted North Trail RV and they told him he could take the RV to a Camping World that is also a Jayco dealer.  They could replace the batteries under the warranty.  Regis was not interested in another long drive to Fort Myers to pick up batteries, so he was happy to take it some place closer.  Regis told me the Camping World was located west of Jacksonville and he had an appointment at 8:00 this morning.  He left very, very early and I wondered why.  I came to find out that Regis went to the other side of the State.  When Regis said west of Jacksonville it was like saying California is west of Jacksonville. Sheesh!

Camping World ran a diagnostic on the batteries and it showed there was a problem.  It will take several days at least to determine if the battery company will honor the warranty.  Regis bought replacement batteries (because we can’t go without them) and we hope that it will be resolved and we will get reimbursed.  It was almost $600.  Ouch!  I have hope that between the battery supplier and North Trail RV, we will be made whole.  It is a brand new RV and should have had good batteries in it.

We have most of the stuff ready to load in the RV.   We are itching to get going!

Guana River Wildlife Management Area

A friend showed me how to get to a wildlife viewing tower in the nearby Guana River Wildlife Management Area.  We entered it through the Guana Tolomato Matanzas Reserve (GTM).  Regis, Dart, and I have hiked in the GTM several times, but never really ventured into the nearby Guana River Wildlife Management Area.  The WMA is very peaceful and beautiful.  There were few people there but we saw a variety of wildlife.  Although we saw a variety of birds, this is the first time I saw so many reptiles on a hike.

We saw lots of baby alligators.  We kept a watchful eye out for mom.  Where there are baby alligators, mom is likely to be nearby.  We did not want a close encounter with her.

We saw lots of snakes.  I think most of them were Florida Water Snakes.

We saw a few different kinds of crabs with two of the varieties pictured here.

An Eastern Towhee sang for us.

We saw a few kinds of butterflies.  The Palamedes Swallowtail

and the Great Southern White.

One of the last sightings was a Six Lined Racerunner.  It looks like he may have just shed since there appears to still be old skin on his tail.  I’m not sure.

While I was out enjoying Florida’s natural environment, Regis was working on projects to get us ready for our cross country trip and Dart was staying cool in the air conditioned house.  I will pull Regis away from his projects long enough to go see the snakes and baby alligators before we leave on our trip.

Jumpy Dog

Dart doesn’t like noises.  We spent all day yesterday at the RV dealer while they installed the equipment to allow us to tow the Jeep. (regis the editor here. when someone says it will take “most of the day”, be sure to ask if that is a 24,12 or 8 hour day! on the plus side it was the first time I paid for 10 hours of labor and actually got 10 hours of labor!) The coolest place to sit was where the technicians would pull off sheets of plastic to put over the seats in the incoming RV’s so they didn’t mess up the RV’s when they fixed them.  Dart DID NOT LIKE when they pulled the plastic off the role.  He hated it.  Life was good until a technician pulled off a sheet of plastic.

To make his little life worse, we came back home today with the dinghy in tow which means all of us rode in the motor home on the way home.  Dart gives a new meaning to “not a happy camper”.  Every noise bothered him.  It took him at least two hours to stop reacting to EVERY sound.  When we stopped for gas, he bolted to the door of the RV to escape.  Eventually, he was reasonably satisfied with a setup Regis put together.  Regis put his dog bed between the driver and passenger seat and he sat in the passenger seat while I drove.  Dart became reasonably settled and gave us hope that he would become accustomed to this new situation.

I plan to try using Adaptil to come him down when we start on our cross country trek.  I hope that works to reduce his anxiety until he gets acclimated to the sounds and movement of the motor home.

As far as driving the motor home with the dinghy, it wasn’t bad.  I find the motor home reacts to wind (sometimes from passing vehicles) more than the 5th wheel did.  I find it easy to tow the dinghy rather than the 5th wheel.  Although driving the motor home takes getting used to, I think the advantages of the motor home outweigh the disadvantages of the 5th wheel for our style of camping.  If we didn’t move around a lot, a 5th wheel would be better.

Here is our one picture showing we drove through orange country.  It sure makes you want a glass of orange juice as you watch these trucks drive by.  The picture is a bit blurry, but the truck is filled with oranges.

Once we got home, Regis had to run to a dental appointment.  Meanwhile, I brushed Dart and gave him a badly needed bath.  When Regis came home, he was horrified on Dart’s behalf.  He felt that Dart was tortured enough on his motor home ride and it was particularly cruel to make him undergo a brushing and a bath in the same day.

Now, we prepare for our cross country trip.  I may not post again until we get going.  We hope that will be in 1-2 weeks.  We have a list of things to accomplish before we go and it depends on how quickly it happens.  I hope soon.  I’m ready!!!!!!