Travels With Dick and Judy

Follow us in our trials, triumphs and tribulations, while on the road in our motor home "The Liberty Belle". We chose to forsake the conventional lifestyle in our 3,000+ square-foot home to move into a 40-foot Winnebago Ultimate Freedom. Travel with us as we take you on the road with us in our new lifestyle.
I may grow older, but I'll never grow up!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Good news!  We just found out that the first couple we met in San Leon, TX when we started full-time RVing in mid-May will be workampers thru the winter on Waco Lake (within 30 minutes of us).  How neat is that?!  We have been following their travels since June and should see them again in the next week or two.  This is part of what we love about this lifestyle!

We also took today to re-organize our patio.  When we brought Liberty Belle home the other day we were able to park so that we had more space.  Dinner tonight: Grilled marinated pork chops, Baked Beans (our recipe) and potato salad.
One of these days we'll learn how to cook for two!
Judy must have really felt weird standing next to the grill!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

09/29/11 10:30 A.M.
WOW!~ Never realized just how inefficient the basement AC was! We slept great and the temp held true all night. Today it's supposed to go up to 101°F so we're going to find out how well it holds through the heat of the day. The plan is to set it for 68°. That's not our long-term plan, just today. Will post more later!
Our new AC look!  They feed directly into the existing duct work!

Well it's after 1 P.M. and we still have not received the "job done" call from Ken. We told him we wouldn't bug him but...

Picked Liberty Belle up this evening and got the "drive-thru" of the installation. Ken still has a few tweaks to make, but it's 10 PM now, and the front living area has never been this cool before. Tonight we are going to add a blanket and enjoy a night's sleep at 69°F. By this weekend I'll have the bay that originally held the basement AC converted into a tool bin.

Because it was so late by the time we got settled in again, we paid a second visit to The Pizza House of West. A neat little college hangout that isn't a college hangout - just a great place to eat good homemade pizza, spaghetti, fried catfish and their specialty Skunk Eggs. These are made up of three cheeses, bacon, chicken, jalapeños and only God and the cooks know what else, all battered then fried into a five-inch egg shape that is a meal unto itself (a very rich dish).

Dick took Liberty Belle in to the shop today. The new AC units look great and tie directly into the existing duct work.  Before it was all done, however, Mott's Corallary to Murphy's Law popped it's ugly head. This corallary simply states that our friend Murphy was an absolute optimist. Somewhere in all the wiring that was done, the control unit was not communicating with the "brains" of the two AC units. Bottom line is tonight we spend the night in one of the cabins at the campground so Ken can get with the manufacturer and get this cleared up first thing in the morning. Heartfelt thanks to Charles Stanley and Mindy Ray!
One of the cabins at Waco North RV Park

We got a visit from our long-time friend, Dave Haensly today, on his way home from the Houston area. It was a short but really good visit. Hopefully we can get together sooner than later again, but who knows? Dave is a commercial pilot and his schedule doesn't really lend itself to regular get togethers. He was in the mood for bar-b-que so we headed up to a local restaurant called "Up-In-Smoke". Good food, great company, so what more could anyone want?
Dave & Dick enjoying the warm breeze under our canopy since the AC was down.

Monday, September 26, 2011


Unfortunately, we have again had additional equipment failure – this time, the air conditioners.  We are waiting for 2 roof AC units to be installed, hopefully, by Tuesday.  Fortunately, we have an extended warranty on the RV, so it’s best to get all of this out of the way before next spring and summer.  Also, the weather has been cooler (especially the nights), so it has been livable!  Daytime temps are again in the mid-90s and expected to be 100 today, and we have an extreme fire danger again due to the dry weather and winds.  Time for cooler temps and some rain!  The 2 nights last weekend are just memories!!
Today we went to the Waco Mammoth Site just outside of Waco.  In 1978, two guys looking for arrowheads in a dry streambed came across a huge bone sticking out of the creek bottom near the Bosque River.  Knowing it was too large to be cattle or buffalo bone, they took it to Baylor University for evaluation.  Baylor opened up the excavation and found the remains of a full herd of the animals (bones) still in a protective circle, much like modern-day elephants form to protect their young.  Evidently, some 70,000 years ago they had been buried by mud from a flash flood which provided great preservation for their bones.  For the full story, check out this link! This site should be on everyone's "must do" list when in Waco.

We have also been sampling the area restaurants, including Wild Bill's Outlaw Steakhouse (pricy and food is OK, not great), Nors Sausage and Burger House (really good burgers) and The Czech American Restaurant (retro 1950s style daily "blue-plate special"- type meals for only $7.50).  So far, The Czech American Restaurant is by far our first pick.
Since being in this area of TX, we have been exploring and Dick is searching for areas to look for arrowheads.  We visited a ranch in Moody, TX and were escorted around by a dog, who appeared to be making sure we stayed on the road and only went where we were supposed to go.
A herd of wild burros
He stayed with us the entire time!

2,000-year old kitchen midden - hundreds, maybe a thousand years of habitation
 next to a limestone creek bed near Moody, TX

For Dick’s 66th birthday, we had his guitar restrung and tuned, and he will hopefully learn to play.  Having 4 days off (currently Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday) and only working in the store for 15 hours per week gives us lots of personal time, which is what we had hoped for.  We are meeting some awesome people along the way, too!
Mike, April & the grandkids stopped by again on the return trip Monday (Labor Day), and we had a 2-hour visit with a barbeque lunch from Up In Smoke.   A very special visit!!
We had a surprise visit from our son Mike and his family, who were heading to Fort Worth to visit friends.  The fact that it was our 44th wedding anniversary made the 30-minute visit even more special!
Met our next-door neighbors today! 5th wheelers Richard and Barbara Chapla.  Judy and Barb seem to have hit it off instantly and have started visiting back and forth.  Turns out, they are both retired corrections officers and Richard is going to TSTI for diesel mechanics and will be here for the next two years.  Also found out that she is in jewelry sales.  They have two beautiful boxers, Tyson and Hanna – magnificent animals!  They liked our lamp post so much, that Richard built one for Barb – really did a one-upman on me (lol).

We arrived at Waco North/Hillsboro KOA in West, TX yesterday afternoon, checked in, found our site for the next few months (until April 1, 2012) and set up our home.  Our first week is to be spent getting settled and training for a 15-hour per week volunteer position in the camp store.

Friday, Michelle and Logan joined us at Margarita’s in Huntsville for Mexican food to celebrate her brother’s 43rd birthday. We had an awesome weekend with our kids and grandkids before they went home and we began heading out to Waco.

We took Liberty Belle in for the repairs today.  For a change of pace, everything went smoothly. We returned to camp just as our son Mike, his wife April and our grandsons Colby and Ben arrived with their trailer for a 4-day visit.  
He doesn't do this very often!
All three grandsons having a blast playing in the mud

Saturday: Today, we drove to Pasadena, TX to see our new great niece Elena and bring Logan back to his Mom to get ready for school on Monday.  We also visited and had dinner with my sister Betti and her husband Jim.  
Our Niece, Ashley with our new Grand Niece, Elena.
More bad news! This morning we were up bright and early to make the run to Convenience RV and found the slide-out would not retract.  We can hear the solenoids engaging, but nothing happens.  Called the guys at Convenience and a crew is coming out to see what is wrong.
Why me!@!*  Turns out the pump for the hydraulics that controls the slides and jacks has gone out.  About a week for a new one.
Wow! These guys are great!  The Service Manager tells me he will get the pump motor covered under the same deductible.  God is good!
Good news! The inverter will be covered under warranty and they tell us that they can get the jackstand covered under the same deductible. It turns out the jack-stand was damaged so they replaced it when they fixed the line.  The inverter will be in tomorrow and we will have both problems fixed.
After the inverter was ordered and work completed on the jacks, we drove back to set up camp, only to have the jacks lower and then immediately retract.  We were told to bring the RV back the next morning.
Yesterday morning we went to Convenience RV to see when we could bring Liberty Belle in for diagnostics and set it up for first thing Wednesday. In the afternoon, Judy took Logan to Incredible Pizza in Conroe, and that was probably the highlight of his visit!  

Yesterday, we drove to Cagle Recreation Area in the Sam Houston National Forest near New Waverly, TX (north of Conroe) with Logan in tow for another week’s visit.  We love the campground (even better than nearby Huntsville State Park), and although our campsite is no longer on the water at Lake Conroe it does have full hookups.  Due to the drought, no outdoor fires are allowed, including charcoal or gas grills.  We bought an electric griddle and already had an electric skillet and rice cooker, so we are set for outdoor or indoor cooking.  Again, it is very hot with temperatures well over 100 degrees and no rain!!  Fortunately, Logan has his Legos and other toys, plus we play Scrabble, he uses my laptop computer for certain games (without internet – again) and occasionally rides his bike.  Another mishap! When we began to level the coach, the rear passenger hydraulic line to the jackstand ruptured and began spewing fluid all over the ground.
We were close enough to Beaumont, TX to visit my brother and his family and attend my nephew Philip’s graduation party (from Lamar State University) and visit family.  Jasper’s library (about 15 minutes from camp) was a great place to get on the computer and use their Wi-Fi, too.  We did get our Norcold refrigerator fixed due to a recall while in the area.  
Nephews Phillip and Daniel

We were on our way to the dump station when Judy began to smell smoke. At the same time, the generator died. Upon quick inspection, Dick suspected that the inverter had fried.  In order to prevent anything worse, we disconnected all electrical cords and appliances from the outlets and since we are due to leave Sunday for the Conroe area, decided to hold off on repairs until we arrived there  We used 3 heavy duty extension cords to run appliances and computers.  This meant no TV,  which was challenging for Logan, as well as Grampa and Grammy!  At this point, can’t wait until our next stop to replace the inverter.
On July 27th, we drove to Sandy Creek Park on B.A. Steinhagen Lake (a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Park near Jasper, TX).  We had a totally secluded site on a creek feeding into the lake (with alligators in the water at the back of our campsite).  We really like this park, except we have no sewer hookups – again!  The volunteers and hosts are awesome and, other than having no sewer hookups or Wi-Fi, we really enjoyed the location and our stay.  Our 10-1/2 year old grandson Logan is visiting us and went fishing with Grampa (and caught some, too).  Unfortunately, it was too hot to put the kayak out (other than 1 time).


 We even had an unexpected visitor in our pot of grease one night, who left greasy footprints everywhere (our friendly raccoon).

Unfortunately, the RV “resort” at Toledo Bend Lake on the LA side was a huge disappointment and we only stayed 3 nights – rather than 2 weeks.  All of the write ups on Southern Leisure Resort, including the brochure, were obviously many years ago. The office did not even have a computer,much less any Wi-Fi. The roads were full of ruts and deep potholes and the boat launches were totally unusable. Their advertised putter-link golf had not seen maintenance in at least the last few years and their “basketball court” consisted of a portable goal in the middle of the parking lot! Dick couldn’t even get down to the water to launch his kayak because of the trees and weeds growing in both launch areas.  This place is a disaster that is in the midst of happening.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

We are at Quiet Oaks RV Park near Fenton, LA (not far from the Coushatta Casino) for a couple days. 
We're there for Scott and Natalie Heinen's (our nephew-in-law and niece) wedding reception tonight (following their wedding in Hawaii last Saturday). Judy had a pedi and mani today in Lake Charles – compliments of our daughter Michelle for Judy's Mother's Day gift. 
We are being lazy this afternoon (with grandson Logan hanging out) while it is raining outside – before heading out for our evening with family and friends and lots of good food. Oh, and let's not forget the awesome shrimp and catfish dinners we ate last night at Fausto's in Kinder, LA!

Tomorrow, we will be on the road again to Toledo Bend Lake on the LA side, so watch for more updates in the coming weeks!

Another 3 weeks have passed – 2 of which were spent at Sam Houston Jones State Park (between Moss Bluff and Westlake and near Lake Charles, LA). All I can say is that it was hot, and the park is not nearly as well kept as we remember (partially due to hurricanes and partially due to cutbacks). In fact, when we asked if the park was looking for a camp host, we were told they were booked for at least a year. Then, when Judy called to ask where the camp host lived, she was told that they did not currently have a camp host and did not know when they would have one. We would have gladly stayed in that position through the winter if given the opportunity – close to family and friends. The park has many vacancies and even on the weekends, was never full. We would have also stayed longer than 2 weeks, but 2 weeks is the limit! We did have more shade and were able to keep the awning out and set up our personal stuff – chimes, "It's 5 o'clock somewhere" and "Got wine" signs, mat, chairs, tables, cook stove and gas grill. It felt good to feel at home for a couple weeks, although we did not have sewer hookups, even though requested. Rule #3: Always have sewer hookups, if at all possible, as it is a pain to undo everything to go to the dump station every 3-4 days! Dick took some great pictures of mushrooms, flowers, deer and raccoon.

  We also saw some 2nd and 3rd cousins who live in the area (and had dinner with them and invited them to dinner). Judy also visited with some of her 1st cousins when she visited her 90-year-old Aunt Ruby.
On Thursday of the 1st week, we met friends from Judy's high school class – Lake Charles High School (LCHS) class of 1965 – and confirmed that 1 of the girls is married to 1 of Dick's classmates from LaGrange High School. It was fun catching up with Kathy, Bob, Faye and Nathan and getting better acquainted, plus eating at Pat's of Henderson is always great, too! While we were there, Jackie, another of Judy's classmates showed up.
Faye, Judy, Bob, Kathy & Jackie

Saturday, July 10th, was Judy's LCHS all-class reunion, and she went to LCHS with her cousin Linda for the pep rally and reception and then to the ladies lunch for the class of 1965 at Fat Cats. 
Linda, Kathy, Judy, Faye
Get-together at Fat Cats

That evening, we went to the home of Charlie and Karen Woodard for a get-together of Judy's class and had a great visit with lots of her classmates and their spouses.

On Sunday, we went to our niece and nephew-in-law's home for our nephew James' surprise graduation party (following his graduation from Culinary Institute of America in upper New York a few days earlier). Great food and visit with family and friends!

Due to the heat, most of our days at the state park were spent surfing the internet and watching TV, which we hate to admit. We are ready for a cooler climate so we can get out, explore and walk for exercise!
One accomplishment was completing our on-line resume through, listing our goals, experience, skills, etc, including pictures of us with our RV and of our RV alone. Overnight, we received emails that numerous employers had viewed our resume. We accepted a volunteer position at the Waco North KOA in the town of West, TX (15 miles north of Waco and not far from Austin, Dallas and the Texas Hill Country) working a total of 15 hours per week (per couple) in the camp store – making reservations (and learning the KOA reservation system), stocking and selling supplies, greeting campers and showing them to their sites – in exchange for our site, full hookups and 20% discount on store supplies and propane. We will arrive on August 28th and stay until approximately April 1, 2012. Our kids have also promised to come visit (not too far from Houston, either), and we will be off to travel to Houston for the Christmas holidays (and possibly a few other visits). Not a bad place to "winter" and closer to West Texas and the mountains farther west and north. Hopefully, we will get another "workamper" position in a cooler climate for next spring and summer!

After leaving the state park, we traveled to Poche's Fish and RV Camp near Breaux Bridge, LA for 4 days. Dick was able to get his line in the water, although he did not catch any fish worth keeping. We spent 1 day traveling to St. Martinville, which we had not visited for about 45 years, to view the Evangeline statue and tour the church and then go to the Evangeline State Historic Site. Unfortunately, the site was a disappointment, as it has been updated and not nearly as original as we remember.

We took a side trip to Lake Fausse Point State Park, which is exactly the type park where we would like to camp!
Another day was spent in downtown Breaux Bridge at a coffee shop (Fly's and the sign says "Wi‑Fly"), so Judy could get on the internet to "take care of business". We are really missing not having a wi‑fi connection in the private campgrounds where we are currently staying. However, the price with our Passport America membership is too good to pass up. Although the day was interspersed with showers, Dick couldn't pass up sampling some of the sweetest grapes he had ever tasted...straight from the vine. That's when he started missing his wine making equipment!

We are spending our last day at Bay RV Park and, boy, did we have a shock when our final invoice for electricity was delivered yesterday.  Let's just say that it was much more than we spent in our 3,000 square foot 2-story home!  I visited with the owner this morning and she did give us a break.  Rule #1:  Find affordable RV parks with electricity paid.  We hope to never have to pay additional for electricity – especially with 100-degree weather and no trees!  As we said, the past few weeks have been a learning experience.
Well, I only thought the day was almost over!  After a leisurely afternoon, Dick and I went out to put the kayak on the Nitro and wrap up outdoor stuff when some neighbors came by to visit.  Rule #2:  Do not get interrupted once you start the shutdown procedures (words of wisdom from our camp hosts, Steve and Bonnie)!  Dick forgot he was draining the black water and, when I headed around the RV to go inside, water was flowing everywhere!  Dick went to take care of the water and I headed inside to check out what was flooded.  Fortunately, only part of the carpet in the bedroom and closet was wet with clean water.  One of our great purchases was a small shop vac, so we have been able to get up most of the water.  Water also flooded part of 2 of the bays, so our evening was spent drying out and moving stuff.  Thank goodness we'll be at our son's house for a few days to dry out, reorganize and wash towels!  I bet this is one thing we will not have happen again!!

How did almost 6 weeks go by so quickly?!  Not having to set an alarm for 5:30 a.m. has been fantastic.  Most of the time has been spent enduring the heat and adding silver foil insulation to the windows of the RV to enable the AC to cool as much as possible.  Bay RV Park has very few small trees and none near our RV, and an incessant wind (being closer to the Gulf of Mexico) – preventing us from setting up our awning.  After a few days in the park, we woke around 3:00 a.m. one night to a hail storm and about 15 minutes of heavy rain.  It was very frightening and LOUD ‑ especially when you realize there is no place to go if you need to.  Since that night, we went until this past Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with NO rain and near 100 degree temperatures.  Most of the days were spent indoors, and we would go out on the back side of the RV in the shade in the late evening.  I have read a lot in my new Kindle (and uploaded more books today), and we have spent lots of time on my laptop and Dick's computer checking email, Facebook and researching topics of interest, plus Dick has taken a few pictures with his new camera.
We have had our good friends and Dick's former co-workers, Dave and Lisa, for dinner a couple times, and our cousins, Gordon and Linda, have come to visit.  

Linda and Gordon kickin' back

Lesa, Dave & Dick chowing down

Our son Mike and his family spent a couple days last week visiting us, and we spent a day in Galveston.  Again, the heat and wind made it impossible to do much else.  Plus, our daughter Michelle and her son have visited a few times.  Both Dick and I are ready for a park with trees and not as much wind, so we can put out our awning and set up our outdoor stuff.

2nd night on the RV and still tired, but Dick made lots of progress at the house while I was at work.  There is more to clean out, thin out and clean by the end of the week, but it will get done.  We have to make more decisions on what is really important to us when we see what room is left
WOW!  Today, around 6:00 p.m., Dick pulled out from our home for the last time in our 40-foot Winnebago Ultimate Freedom RV – "Liberty Belle" – and after driving a few blocks, damaged our TV antenna by going under low hanging branches.  Once we assessed the damage, he drove to our home through June – Bay RV Park in San, Leon, TX (15 minutes south of Kemah) and arrived around 6:30 p.m.  I followed in our Dodge Nitro, which we still have to outfit to tow behind the RV (if we determine it is possible).  It is now after 11:00 p.m., and we have finally stopped for the night.  Our first meal in our new home was KFC.  We are hurting and exhausted!
This next week will be back and forth to the house to finish sorting in preparation for closing on 5/23/11 and the last 2 weeks of my job.  It will take weeks to settle in and find a place for everything – and throw away more stuff.  I am dreaming of the day I can sit outside with a cup of coffee and a book with nothing that must be done!  Time to close for now, read a bit and get some sleep.

Let's Get Started!

Judy and I decided to begin our new lifestyle on the open road in May of 2011, when Judy was "laid off" from her almost 45-year career as a legal secretary.  I personally was enthusiastic over this turn of events because it allowed us to leave Houston to begin traveling and spend time in places we had always wanted to do much more than just visit.
We had a huge adjustment to make in our lifestyles. The past several months have been spent getting used to those adjustments. Hence, we haven’t been able to start on our blog as planned.  However, we are starting now, and will bring you up-to-date as to what has transpired since selling our home back in May.
In the months to come, we plan on sharing our experiences with you as we travel and have “new adventures”.  My plan is to find "Work Camper" positions in each area we stay in to take care of our motor home site and expenses.  Judy continues to send out résumés in an effort to supplement our travel budget,  while we live in a given area.
As you follow our travels in our motor home, “Liberty Belle”, we want to share our experiences with you - both through the written word and visually through photographs and maybe even a few videos here and there.  We do hope you enjoy the experiences and drop us a line to let us know what you think and we will make every effort to answer any questions you may have for us.