Friday, February 24, 2017

Almost an Accident in Louisiana

We escaped Texas and stayed one night at the Golden Nugget Casino in Lake Charles Louisiana.  Their web site says you can park RVs overnight on the week days so long as you're out by 6pm on Friday.  We went into the casino to see about getting a permit.  We were told we didn't need one, but to be out by 6pm.

Friday morning a sign was put on our door to be out of the lot by noon.  -_-  Furthermore, the security Cadillac Escalade sat beside us with its lights flashing starting at 11pm.  Yeah.  We got it.  We're going.  Buttholes.

This is one of those places owned by Tilman Fartito (misspelling deliberate) who has that show Billionaire Buyer.  He has slot machines with his cat-who-ate-the-canary face on the reels and ads for his TV show on all the reward screens on the machines.  We thought it was cute, since we watch the show.  But then I tried to get money from an ATM and it asked for a $6 ATM fee.  He became billionaire by gouging every last penny he could out of people.  I went back to the RV and saved my money.

Traffic in Louisiana is determined to give me a nervous breakdown.  It was bumper to bumper on Highway 10 the whole 100 miles to our next stop.  I was clenching the steering wheel so tight my fingers kept going numb.  But it gets worse...

As we started our trip a white SUV peeled left off the highway down into a grass slope.  At first I thought it was a service vehicle, but then it tore back onto the highway at full speed and started fishtailing and hitting the metal barrier.  Me and the dense traffic around it had all slowed down the second we saw it fly off the road, but once it started going out of control back in the two lane highway we all stopped.  A big rig stopped in front of me too short for me to have time to stop.  Thankfully I was able to get into the breakdown lane next to it.  I stayed cool.  My mom stayed cool.  We all waited for this maniac to get control of her vehicle before taking someone out.  She did, and continued to speed away with parts falling off the back and bottom of her car.

Ohhhh God.  That was so close.  I was giving prayers of thanks that I didn't rear-end that truck the rest of the trip.   The only casualty was our trashcan, which tipped over in the mayhem.  That horrible driver should be picking my trash up for me.  >:(

My mom got on the walkie-talkie saying, "We are going to New Orleans and we're going to have a great time," to diffuse the bad karma of our near accident.  I was clenching the steering wheel too hard to answer.  Thankfully my mother is as careful a driver as I am and did not have to slam on the brakes to keep from rear-ending me.  I looked back and saw her calmly waiting for the wild SUV to either flip or get back under control.  I had an extra gray hair when we stopped.

Once again I say:  I don't like this.  This isn't fun.  I don't want to full-time RV anymore.

In the Southwest it's easy-peasy with low traffic and wide roads.  We're getting deep into the east, where populations are high.  I'm so glad we're not going all the way to Florida.

I want to return to New Mexico and move into that Intentional Community.  I want the RV to become a stationary house.  I never want to drive it east again. 

Anywho, we eventually got to Breaux Bridge park and found a narrow slab to park on.  Hopefully we'll be okay, because it doesn't look like a legal camp despite what others report.

It's beautiful, with huge trees covered in Spanish moss and large water fowl jonesing for my loaf of bread.

We had the annoyance of a crowd of cars surrounding us when the Catholic school got out, but otherwise it's looking peaceful.  Hopefully we can stay the weekend without another official deciding to kick us out.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Oh God the Humidity...

WHY IS THE KETCHUP BOTTLE DRIPPING?!  If you're used to this horror, then you have my sympathies.  I've lived in the desert since aught four and I forgot how horrible humidity could make life.

We're in an RV park at an Elks Lodge in Beaumont Texas, which is a stone's through from Louisiana.  We've already seen signs calling swamps 'bayous,' though no gators as of yet.  There isn't a cloud in the sky.  WHY IS EVERYTHING WET?  It's not that hot, but just hooking up the sewer hose made me drip so much I could have squeezed out a half-gallon from my shirt.  Don't even ask about my hair.

All kidding aside--everything hurts.  The knee where part of a bone cancer was removed feels like it's swollen up to a soccer ball.  I'm having arthritis in my ankles--I never knew I had arthritis there.  My mom can't lift her arms, which I'm sure is making her shower right now no fun at all.  My hip has popped audibly, making me jolt with shock.  What is going on?  I'm not that old people--seriously, I'm not.

My best theory is that the moisture from the air has been absorbed by our bones causing them to swell inside our flesh.  I don't care if it sounds neurotic--something is going on here.  Do you remember in the early 1900s where people used to seek the desert air for better health?  I see why now! 

Yes, this whole post is going to be me complaining about the humidity.

When I was young I lived in Texas, as I told you.  After that we moved to Miami.  We didn't even last a year there.  My brother's asthma was killing him.  I remember the humidity of southern Florida with horror.  You could write your name in the moisture clinging to the walls.  There were fog clouds in every ditch, like a mini-weather system.  I hated how a short walk would leave you drenched. 

This was when I was a perky child who had no health problems.  Now I seriously can't deal.

Give me the desert.  Give it to me for the rest of my life.  Give me scrub brush and dust.  We're going to New Orleans to fly to Puerto Rico (another humid place) and then we're going back to New Mexico to see if this commune will take me in.  It's dry and dusty there--just how I like it.

Oh, and by the way, my 22 year old cat looks half-dead right now, so his old bones are suffering too.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Sam Houston National Forest, Texas

A few days ago we noticed a pile of tires on the road leading to Iron Bridge Park, where we were camping by the 'lake'.  (Apparently part of Belton Lake).  We paid it little notice as we continued out to get some 'General Delivery' at the nearest post office.

On the way back there was a sheriff and two road worker trucks surrounding the pile of tires.  Illegal dumping--and the authorities were livid.  I've never actually seen this anywhere else in our travels, other than the odd litter.  Here in Texas, the most policed state in the union, it happens.

The sheriff and the road workers descended on the park, patrolling and hauling tires.  I finally flagged one down and asked him to put a barricade to block people from driving into the mud where I got stuck.

"Oh, we won't be needing to do that.  We're closing the whole park."

I was shocked since the park swarms with fishers and people bringing their kids to play.  I asked him why, assuming it was flooding.

"People be selling drugs here.  Y'all ain't camping here tonight are you?  I wouldn't if I were you.  You're liable to get shot."

I withheld telling him we'd been there 8 days already without a problem since I don't know what the legal camping limit is.  Yes, we'd seen some late night meetings outside the window of the RV where stuff was exchanged.  I didn't really care so long as they left us alone, and they did.  I'm not worried about the drug dealers breaking in, because they don't need the money.  The drug addicts are another story, but so far so good.  I would think there were easier targets than my RV, especially with the tent campers nearby watching us.  (We befriended the man in the largest tent by giving his car a jump start.)

That being said, there was no need to tempt fate.  We planned on leaving soon, but I told the guy the park was perfectly safe during the day and it was terrible to take it away from all the people who enjoyed it. 

"Naw, we can't be having people selling drugs here at night."

Why not?  Who cares what happens at 1am when the park is empty?  The boat ramp is in constant use.  Children are playing here during the weekends.  The banks are loaded with people fishing.  People in beat up cars need the abundant fish here to eat.  What else is there for them to do in this podunk town?  There's NOTHING here.  You're going to take away everyone's good clean fun due to the late night drug dealing?  GROW UP.  This is America.  Drugs are everywhere.  You know what keeps people off drugs?  FISHING.  Ugh...whatever. 

Two days later we planned to leave but had to pick up a package that hadn't yet arrived for my mother.  We tried to drive the direct route 8 miles into the nearest town, but the road was barricaded due to flooding.  A woman pulling her toddlers on a wagon came by and told us to just drive around the barricade.  The flooding had already gone down.

Great!  On we went, until we got to the FLOOD.  The road had turned into a lake!  Are you kidding me?!  We turned around.  For the next few hours I struggled to use my Garmin as a map to find a different route.  We used half a tank of gas to finally make it there. 

The medical supply store had sent my mom's package FedEx.  -_-  This is after I personally told them on the phone, over and over, it must be sent through the US postal service.  They assured me they would send it express mail.  They lied.

However, my mother with her usual bubbly personality, had sparked up a conversation with the post office employee the last time we were there.  She mentioned she was waiting for her blood testing supplies.  So, when the FedEx came that day the woman broke the rules and accepted it.  Because she knew my mother needed it badly.  This is a good lesson to me that it pays not to be bitchy all the time.

The water was rising and we were losing daylight.  We headed out of Iron Bridge Park to continue towards our destination.  The reason I'd actually swung upwards that way was so we could visit the area I grew up in as a child.  We never did.  And I guess we don't regret it.

Now we're heading south, between Austin and San Antonio, trying to avoid having to drive the RV in either big cities.  It's bad enough driving through cities, but in Texas the legal limit is often 80 miles per hour.  Speeds I can't dare approach in my home on wheels making people wildly pass me with only inches to spare in the dense traffic.  x_x  Two lane roads that would be 45 miles per hour any where else are 75 here.  It's insane.  I loved it when I was a speed demon eager to get from A to B, but I'm driving a house now!

We went to an RV park in College Station Texas.  Passport America.  We just needed to dump, take water, get rid of trash, shower, and do laundry.  But there's a leak in the back window of the RV that lets in rain water.  -_-  So my mom's pile of blankets and a coat got soaked.  This leak is really troubling us.  We're worried about mold growing inside the wall of the RV.  There's just nothing we can do about it now.  We can't get stuck somewhere waiting out a long repair.  I've put caulk on it for now, but I don't know what I can do about the water going between the walls.  Ugh.

Anyway, the laundry situation amped up to something extreme so we stayed two nights and did laundry in town...which I hate, but it had to be done.  While in the RV park I was reminded of why we hate them.  This place was so obnoxiously noisy, day and night, with what sounded like drag racing going on in the road beside us.  I looked and it was just one white truck who loved to rev his big engine.  -_-  On top of that there was a bus stop right beside us.  It amazes me how loud and perky children can be at the ass crack of dawn.

One good thing was the pig in the pen of the RV next to us.  (Welcome to Texas, ladies and gentlemen.)  He was so cute and friendly!  The snorts!  My God...the snorts.

We left there yesterday with our errands done.  It was a short drive to the next boondock, which was good since it was raining.  I was going to the Sam Houston Equestrian Park...which is actually just a turnout in the Sam Houston national forest.  I don't know if people on horses are usually here, but they aren't now because the trails are closed due to the rain.

I'd say we're more than officially out of the desert now.  I haven't seen any scrub brush for weeks!  People think of Texas as desert, but it gets green and humid as you head east.

We were worried about pulling in here since it's dirt and it was raining, but I took the chance.  I avoided the scary puddles and neither vehicle has gotten stuck.

For the first time in a National Park or Forest, I saw a big pile of garbage.  -_-  I guess illegal dumping is the norm here.  The ranger drove by shortly after we arrived, and I hope he didn't think we had anything to do with it.  This is such a beautiful forest.  What's wrong with people?

There is also a tent that does not seem to have people in it.  I went by pretty close a few times to retrieve my cat.  (Sultan continues to manage to allude death.)  It's packed with stuff and the owners are no where to be found.

Well, that's fine.  We're enjoying the solitude.  We'll stay here until our next dump, and then head to Louisiana. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Mud and Misery in Texas

It started with a cow in a cage getting towed behind a truck.  I saw this truck from the RV window heading down the road that led to a dirt area beside the water where we're camping.  I thought--hey, that road must go somewhere if someone is towing a cow there.  So I told my mother we should get out and explore.

So we went over the hilly beat up dirt road to even more beat up flat rutted dark dirt road, and I should have turned back, but I saw tracks and thought the road was just bumpy...not saturated with water.  Also I saw an SUV that seemed to be parked on the side of the road and I thought, if he can make it so can I.

Except he wasn't parked.  He was stuck in the mud.  And within seconds so was I.

The guys I was stuck with, posted with permission.

A black man in his 40s and a younger black man in his 20s came out of the SUV frantically to warn me not to go further.  It was too late.  The tires were spinning and I wasn't moving.

The older man says that he'd called a friend with a truck.  He has a strap and the friend will pull us both out.  I'm glad I'm not alone in this stupid situation I put me and my mother in.

At this point we're just four fellow human beings stuck in a bad situation together.  And I know I'm waxing political, but it didn't occur to me at the time that the two black people were in a much WORSE situation than I was.  I figured this was a man, someone who fished or did other manly things, and he would come to a solution, as capable men often did (and women, don't get me wrong, but I'm more likely to call for an expensive tow rather than work out a solution on my own).

The younger man said he'd gone up to some fishers who had a 350 truck that could easily pull them out, but the man he spoke to just looked at him and didn't answer.

I'm blindsided.  "What?"

"He just looked at me like this."  He made a scowl.  "And didn't answer.  So after a while I just walked away, and he left."

Still...WHAT?  "Are people really racist here?"

Both men nod.

"Holy crap."

"It's pretty bad," the older man said.  "The people around here won't help us."

I said that if his friend couldn't help us I'd call the emergency tow service on my insurance and get the tow driver to pull him out, too.  Both men became incredulous.

"They ain't going help us.  They're going to pull you out and leave us here."

I said I wasn't going to leave them stranded and would pay for them to get out if I had to, but I also said, "Maybe the tow driver will be black?"

"Maybe then.  But not if he's an Uncle Tom.  He'll say he's got regulations to follow, his job is on the line or whatever, and just drive off."

How could anyone drive off?  What?  Is he supposed to abandon his car?  What the hell does someone who can't afford a tow do in this situation?  When no one will help, and they can't pay? 

But he had his friend.  The friend came in an F150 truck.  He tried to pull me.  He tried to pull him.  Neither car budged.  He drove me to the RV.  We got my spade.  We dug and dug and stuck the blocks I use to balance the RV tires in the mud to make a track.

No luck.

So I called my emergency service.  And I stay on the phone with the nice Geico rep as he struggled to find any service on a Sunday, in East Bumfuck Texas.

Meanwhile an older white man in an ATV is approaching.  I think that's what it's called.  It was like a dune buggy but with big tread tires for mud.  Four wheels.  Open cab.

After the experience with the people in the grey truck we both think the guy is just driving past us.  So we get out of the road to let him pass.  He stops in front of me and my mother however. 

He looks at us and says, "Y'all stuck?"

I said, "Yes, we both are."

He looks at the two men and I see the face the younger man made.  I'm not surprised at this point, since I now understood about the people around here.

He says he'll try to pull me and my mom out and asks if we have a strap.  I volunteer my friend's strap.  I tell my friend if this guy can at least pull me out, maybe I can use my 4 wheel drive to get him out.

He tries to pull me but can't. 

"I'll get my truck," he says. 

"Oh really!  That would be awesome!  I'll pay you back!" I say.

"Yeah you're going to have to pay me," he said.  "And I don't know if I can get you out, or if I do, I don't know if I can get him out."

I'm like, fine, great, awesome.  Let's try.

Meanwhile  I'm still on the phone because I don't really know if this guy is coming back.  They found a tow service and I told them to send it.  Just in case.

The man returns with a dually. 

"$50 for both of you," he says.  "If I can't get him out then just $25." 

"Great.  Awesome.  Done.  No problem."

He became sheepish, like ashamed he asked for money afterwards, because he went into a long spiel justifying why he was charging after I'd already agreed to pay.  He said he wasn't going to help but he got stuck out here for three days and didn't want anyone else to go through that.  He said no tow company would come out there, and even if they did he was saving me money.  Blah blah blah.  I didn't care.  I was happy to pay. 

He attached a chain to the back of my car and POP!  I'm out!!!  HALLELUJAH!  I cancel the tow truck.  He moved his truck for me to leave, but I don't.  I wait to make sure he helped the other guy too.  He was wedged in much deeper and at an angle, but sure enough, POP!  He's free!  I cheer and clap.

The two men come to thank the man with me.  As we're all talking jovially the older man asks him how he can drink the Limearita he was holding (tall can cheap alcoholic beverage).

"You're lucky I was drinking or I wouldn't have helped you."  He said this.  I swear to you.  I don't know if he meant he's normally an asshole, or if this was more racism.

Before we part the older man squeezes me in a huge hug and said something I'll probably never forget.  "The Lord sent you to make sure I didn't stay stuck in that mud."  He felt the man would not have come to help just the two of them. 

I chose to believe God did send me to help.  It helps me to get over my anger at myself for being so stupid to get stuck.

Anyway, we're free, and I am happy to pay the $50 to the 'good Samaritan'.  I've made much costlier mistakes in my life.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Forest Fire Next to Us?

The threat of flood has gone away.  The sun is out and the water has receded.  My mom and I took a walk to enjoy the weather.  I tried to forage some greens, but I mistook whatever this is for mallow and had to toss it.

As we were walking back I noticed the smoke of a campfire over the mountain across the river.  I looked outside just now and I see far too much smoke for it to be a campfire.

I don't know if I should be concerned about this.  We smell smoke but the wind is sending it sideways to us.  (If I was slick I'd give you a cardinal direction, but such words are meaningless to me.)  There's a body of water between us and the fire.

Are we good?

Monday, February 6, 2017

Iron Bride Park, Moody Texas

I always wanted to camp near a beautiful lake or river with the RV.  When I found this place I pulled next to the water and my mom piped up on the walkie talkie:  "We're too close to the water!  Move to the other side!"

Sometimes I forget that she lost her father and brother in a flood in Puerto Rico.

Her fears are valid here.  There was a big flood last June that decimated the area, and there are still areas full of water.  We went over a bridge where there was a pile of torn up trees.

My plan was to stay here a while and dump/shower at Mother Neff State park.  I checked out state park and was told there was no dump station, despite the listing and map on the counter showing one.  When I asked about it the nice ranger said there *was* a dump station, but it's still under water.


So if we want to dump we have to rent camp site and it would be $28 all in.  Ugh.  If we want to stay here more than one dump cycle I'll have to figure something out.

I do want to stay for a while because we still have a month to make it to New Orleans and I'm running out of camping and gas money fast.  If we keep up the pace we're going I'll have to dip into savings.  Also, once we get to New Orleans even free park camping will be scarce.  I would have to pay for an RV park.  It's not in the budget.

Other than the flood danger, which we're being vigilant about, this is a perfect boondock for me.  Free.  No signs about limits or permits (there's a tent colony that looks like it's been here a while).  And Internet!!!  Yay!

Looks like there was a forest fire here, as well as a flood.  And the termites are destroying what remains of these trees!
I like this area and the peace and serenity of it.  There are enough people around to make me feel 'safe' though I'm not sure about the inhabitants of the tent colony right next to us.  I wave and make nice and have not had any problems.  This is a good camping situation for the homeless (if that's what they are) because they have a pit toilet, plenty of fire wood, fish, and a water source.  I was homeless for a harrowing year growing up.  No judgement.

Now is my time to finish that book!  Then I might splurge on a fishing license, because I've seen them jumping!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Continuing Through Texas

We ended up staying four days at that RV park in Iraan because I was just sick of traveling.  I got a lot of writing done, so I think it was worth it.  It was a depressing little town though.  My mom said she was so glad to get out of there on the walkie-talkie on our way out.

We passed through a beautiful charming town called Oxona.  I hope I remember the name right.  We got food at Sonic and ate at a park bench.  Since we’ve passed through there we’re seeing a lot more charm and scenery in the towns.  They are full of brick buildings hundreds of years old, old west store fronts, and beautifully maintained streets. 

It’s kind of like the ghost towns we saw that had gone to bust after the silver and gold boom in Nevada.  The difference here is that these aren’t ghost towns.  They look like the beautiful buildings and old west store fronts have been in constant use and repair since they were first built. 

From Oxona we went on to Junction, our next camping spot.  We were in a city park that did not appear to have a restriction on camping.  This is our BLM alternative in Texas.  It was free so I wanted to stay for a while.  We parked the RV in a dirt turn-out beside the Llano river.  It was a nice little park.  After we established the camp site other RVs turned up.  They huddled around us, despite my knowing there were other level spots.

I think they were full-timers, like me, looking for a free dry-camp in the BLM-less Texas.  They all had solar panels, which I think is a full-timer sort of investment.  I have a feeling they were like me when we first drove into the park.  It didn’t look like a legal camp site.  We didn’t see anywhere to fit the RV.  All the grass areas were roped off.  But we kept driving beneath the dangerous low branches until we found a spot and made camp.  I think other RVers spotted us and were reassured.  They gathered around us as though we knew what we were doing.  (Or, again, it’s just my egotism.)

This would have been a great place to stay except I had no Internet.  Not a drop.  I have an antenna that’s supposed to give me a smidgeon of a connection, but it didn’t work.  I pay a FORTUNE for Verizon because they’re supposed to have the best coverage (and they do).  But why they didn’t build a tower in this populous town I’ll never know. 

I got so desperate I went to the Radio Shack in town and bought an expensive Wilson booster.  This is supposed to give me a signal anywhere.  It didn’t work.  I had to return it.  Now I know that this isn’t an answer.  No signal is no signal.  It sucked!

I forced myself to stay to get more writing done.  I’m desperate to get this new book done because my income is dropping so pathetically.  I’m two days away from getting it finished, but like an idiot I can’t get into my writing groove on a travel day.  So I literally have to stay in place for two or more days to get any work done.  I did get a good chunk finished, but damn!  It was such a pain not to have Internet.

We continued after three days at the park because it was time to dump tanks. gave me a cheap option with all the amenities I need in Robinson Park Llano.  Unfortunately I didn’t notice that the price was for a tent, not an RV.  Whatever.  I did a $27 splurge for tonight.  We dumped, showered, did laundry, and filled the water tank.  

Llano is not on the path to New Orleans.  After the hectic drive through El Paso I’m making a loop northward to try and avoid San Antonio.  This puts us near Waco (as of tomorrow) and the camp site there should be good for more than a week.  I lived near there as a kid, so when I finish my book we’ll go touring the two towns where we used to live.

So, I’m spending another night not making progress on my book because I know I’ll have a chunk of time in one space coming soon to get it done.  What I don’t know is if I’ll have Verizon or not.  Wish me luck.