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The End Of One Journey, The Start Of A New One!

This is the post excerpt.

This is the very first blog of our new journey through life.  We have just finished selling Leu Cat, our Lagoon 44 Catamaran sailboat which we spent 10 years sailing around the world, and have bought a Tiffin Allegro Bus to explore North America.  We are very excited to begin this new journey and look forward to sharing it with you.

Before we begin, we wish to share with you some very sad news.  The new owners of Leu Cat, Susan and Doug, have just emailed us to say that Leu Cat is no more.  We sold Leu Cat on August 30th and she was anchored in the lagoon at Sint Maarten.  Unfortunately, the massive hurricane called Irma swept over Sint Maarten just a few days later and destroyed much of the island and hundreds of boats, including Leu Cat.  Here is the message that we received from Susan and Doug:

“It is my sad task to tell you that Leu Cat is a total loss from Hurricane Irma. According to the last AIS transmission, she ended up against the Skipjack Restaurant on Welfare Road at the short bridge to Snoopy Island at 5:05 am on Wednesday, Sept. 6. That was almost immediately after the hurricane hit St. Maarten. With that information, Ian found her at that location today under a pile of wrecked boats with only the flags on the forward hulls visible to identify her. She is in small pieces as she was blown through the causeway bridge. We are saddened also to know that he lost his Leopard catamaran (which was a business in addition to his surveying) as well.”

We were so saddened to hear this tragic news.  Susan and Doug are such nice people and this is the last thing we would want for them.  Fortunately, they did purchase hurricane insurance so they should recoup much of their loss.  Also, we are saddened because Leu Cat was such a wonderful home, sailboat and companion to us as we sailed around the world.  If you are interested in sharing the adventure we had with her, you can go go to our blog site by Click here to go to our sailing adventure blog site

In the days to come, we will be sharing with you our new adventures as we start our exploration of North America in our new home.  We have yet to name her and are open to any suggestions that you may have.  We will post photos of her in the next few days as the dust settles from our outfitting her.  She is a beauty!

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Year 2 Days 45 to 46 Baton Rouge and New Orleans -But for the kindness of strangers

Yesterday we bundled up LeuC and headed down the road.  We had a 3.5 hour drive to arrive at the Hollywood Casino in Baton Rouge.  We had read that they had a huge parking lot with 24-hour security watching over the lot.  They welcome R/V’s such as us and they also had a great buffet.  It sounded great so we decided to spend the night to allow the Mardi Gras revelers to clear out before we arrived. In New Orleans.Hollywood Casino

The drive was a bit of a challenging due to lots of freeway construction with miles and miles of concrete K-rails yielding very narrow lanes and lots of crazy traffic.  To add insult to injury, right as we turned onto the entrance lane to the casino, a train had just stopped on the tracks in front of the casino and the guard bars were just coming down.  We were the only vehicle stopped by this long, long train.  We thought our wait would be just a few minutes, but, the train stopped and, after an hour of waiting, we were having second thoughts.  After what seemed an eternity, a security SUV drove up to us to tell us this train would most likely be there until 10 o’clock tonight and possibly even until the next morning.  Ugh!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

However, we discovered that all was not lost because the security officer shared with us a second entrance into the casino that would take us under the railroad tracks.  Soon, we had disconnected our little Fiat, backed LeuC up across the two-lane main road and then turned to find this second entrance.  In no time we were under the tracks and up and into the huge parking lot.20180215_144245

After setting up LeuC, we grabbed our lucky $100 bill and headed over to the casino.  We arrived just before the lunch buffet closed so we filled up plate after plate of goodies and sat down to stuff our faces.  The mains and sides were pretty good but Mary Margaret oh’d and ah’d over the pecan pie and triple chocolate brownie.

 

With bellies bursting, I retired to LeuC for a nap while Mary Margaret went into the casino, armed with her lucky $100 bill.  The magic worked as when she came back to LeuC an hour later, she now had $131.50.  Whoo Hoo!

 

This morning we bundled up LeuC and head off to New Orleans.  It was just 2 hours away.  The scenery was very different as we drove over long causeways that crossed over swamps, bayous, rivers and lakes.

We were very impressed by Lake Pontchartrain because we could not see its far shore.  All we could see were miles and miles of open water.  Amazing!   Lake Pontchartrain and New Orleans is situated on the lower end of the massive Mississippi River Delta and its elevation is between 6 feet below sea level to just a few feet above.  The city is protected from flooding by massive levees.  It was the failure of these levees that caused the massive flooding during hurricane Katrina.

 

We crossed the might Mississippi River and dropped down into our campground at Bayou Segnette State Park.  It is located just south of the Mississippi River from New Orleans in the middle of Bayou Sengette and abuts the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve.  It is a beautiful state park and, with its location so close to downtown New Orleans, we think it will be ideal for us.  We are planning to stay here for the next two weeks, so we should have plenty of time to explore New Orleans and its environs.

 

 

Year 2 Days 43 and 44 Yep, It Sure Rains A Lot Near Houston

Yesterday, it was cold and overcast all day. It never got out of the 40s and it seemed like it was actually in the 30s since you could see your breath. Brrrrr. Thus, it was a great day to go to the movies in Beaumont. We went and saw the third sequel to 50 Shades of Grey. It was a great show and we both enjoyed it. Plus, the theater had reclining lounge chairs. Very comfortable!

 
Today, while the temperature slowly rose, the warmer air mass also brought lots and lot of rain. It was a heavy rain that lasted all day. It was so heavy that we lost our satellite TV reception. However, we still had pretty good Internet reception so we just watched our shows using our Tablet and had its screen projected onto our large TV in the living room. Technology is great when you can get it to work!

 
We stayed cooped up in LeuC all day since it never stopped raining. Ugh!

 
The temperatures are supposed to continue to raise through the night with tomorrow’s temperatures being in the 70s. However, a few of the weather maps that we look at are still showing this area having scattered rain for a number of days. Double ugh.
When I am trapped inside, I slowly go stir crazy and this forced coop-up is no exception. It is especially hard since I know that our visit to New Orleans is just around the corner. Yea!

Year 2 Days 41 and 42 Village Creek State Park

Yesterday we bundled up LeuC and, once again, headed down the road. This time was a bit different as we weathered a foggy morning that slowly turned to drizzle and, at times, heavy rain. Things got so messy that we talked about a backup plan which included pulling over somewhere and just hunkering down for the day. Our goal was to reach the far eastern part of Texas today, where Village Creek State Park is located. We were facing a drive of over 350 miles and looking at a driving day of about 6 hours with stops for fuel and driver changes. Ugh! With the added adversity of bad weather, driving through two major metropolitan areas (San Antonio and Houston), all compounded with road construction around and throughout in each city, the thought of missing our camping reservation looked attractive.

 
The problem with stopping and hunkering down was there really was not a decent place to do it in. The only real options were the rest areas along the I-10 freeway that we were traveling down, since most of the state and local parks are closed due to last year’s hurricane Harvey damage. While, in a pinch, we certainly could spend a night at a rest stop, I am a bit nervous about that option since to be comfortable and spacious in LeuC, we like to “unbundle” her by putting out her four sliding walls. By doing this, we just about double the inside space but, by doing so, it expands her outside footprint by over 6 feet. This creates a problem when you are parked in a parking area such as those available at a rest stop. I have fears of a big rig pulling into a space next to us in the middle of the night and clipping one of LeuC’s expanded wings since the parking spaces are not designed for RV buses with slide-outs.

 
Another option, and one that we really distain, is spending the night in a commercial RV park. While there do exist some RV parks that are pretty nice. The vast majority of them that we have driven past gives us the shutters when we think about how they cram RVs in, one right next to the other. Nope, we just won’t go there…

 
Thus, we decided to continue down the road in the nasty weather, albeit a bit slower. At times, we kept our speed down to 40 to 45 MPH as we eased our way in the foggy rain through a number of construction areas that had concrete k-rails planted right on the white stripe that marks the edge of our lane. This only gave us less than a foot of clearance as cars whizzed past us in the speed lane.

 
To add to the fun, at times we heard a warning buzzer trying to tell us that something was not right. It periodically squawked for a brief second and then would stop for a while, only to briefly squawk again later. Each time it did, we rechecked all of our gauges, tire and brake air pressure monitors and looked for any dashboard warning lights. However, everything checked out fine. Hmmm? We even pulled over onto a side road and stopped to walk around LeuC, peering beneath her and inspecting each wheel-well to see if we could see anything that was array.

 
Back on the road again, and after the 8th or 9th times that the buzzer had briefly set off, we finally realized that it was our Brake-Buddy that was making the brief squawks. In towing our little Fiat, we have added a progressive air braking system to our tow package. This allows the braking system of the Fiat to be used whenever we brake LeuC. It is a sophisticated system which interlinks LeuC’s air brakes to the Fiat’s hydraulic brakes such that both vehicles brake with the same amount of force. This keeps the Fiat from pushing the rear of the bus forward when we brake LeuC.

 
The control box is housed under and to the left of LeuC’s steering wheel and is located in a place this is a bit out of the way. The brief squawks were coming from the control box and whenever it squawked, what looked like a very small “68” would flash. After pulling off the freeway, onto a side road, and inspecting the controller closely, I saw that the “68” was actually a “BA”, which tells you that the “brake away” function was intermittently coming on. When this happens, the supplemental braking system is deactivated so that our little Fiat would not brake when we would apply LeuC’s brakes. Since it had been just intermittently squawking, this simply meant that the electrical plug on the front of our little Fiat, which activates the braking system in the Fiat, was loose. With the wetness of the rain, we were losing its connecting circuit. Whew: an easy fix! I just needed to force the plug in more firmly and the problem was solved. Yea!!

 
With that mystery and problem solved, we continued down the road and by 2PM had arrived at our state park. Village Creek State Park is located near Lumberton, Texas, which is just 10 miles north of Beaumont and just shy of the Louisiana border. Only that portion of the park that is located on a slight rise is open. The rest of the park, which includes that section which is along Village Creek is closed due to the massive flooding that hit eastern Texas last August when hurricane Harvey swamped the region with a record rainfall. Over 62 inches of rain was reported in Baytown, just to the east of Houston. Village Creek flooded over its banks as a result, drowning much of the state park with up to 8 feet of water. Only that portion of the park which is on a top of a little hill is open. Fortunately, that is where a camping loop is located, so here we sit.

LEUC Tucked In Amongst The Tall Pine Trees.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


We will be staying here for 5 days as we wait for New Orleans’ Mardi Gras to be over and the massive crowds of drunken partiers to clear out. While we love a good party, we have had our fill over the years and wish to sit this one out. Plus, the thought of having New Orleans to ourselves to explore is just too inviting! Actually, we will not be there by ourselves as we will be joined by our former brother-in-law, Larry and his wife, Ruth. They are a fun couple and loooove New Orleans. In fact, back in the late 60’s when Mary Margaret was just a teenager, Larry and Mary Margaret’s sister, Gaby (Larry’s then wife), presented New Orleans to Mary Margaret. She still talks about the great time they had and all of the wonderful food they enjoyed and milk punch they guzzled. Oooooh, we are so looking forward to it!

Year 2 Days 39 and 40 Exploring San Antonio

Yesterday we hopped in our little Fiat and drove an hour south to San Antonio.  We wanted to visit the Alamo and explore the famous River Walk area.

The Alamo was very interesting and we recommend it to anyone who goes to San Antonio.  The Alamo was the former Spanish mission which was the site of the Battle of the Alamo.  This was a 13-day siege that was fought between February 23, 1836 – March 6, 1836 by Mexican forces of about 4000, under President General Santa Anna, against 180 American rebels fighting for Texan independence from Mexico. There were only a few of people who survived the bloody siege. Civilian non-combatants such as women, children and servants were spared including Susannah Dickinson, the wife of Captain Almaron Dickinson and her baby daughter Angelina. A handful of Texans were also spared. General Santa Anna sent these men to Sam Houston’s camp at San Jacinto as a warning that a similar fate awaited the rest of the Texans if they continued their rebellion against Mexico.  While the battle was won by the Mexicans it gave General Sam Houston time to build and develop his Texan Army at San Jacinto where he eventually defeated and captured Santa Ana.  As a result, the Republic of Texas came into being on April 21, 1836.

While visiting the historic site, we learned a number of interesting facts which I present below:

  1. 1718: The Alamo was originally built as a Roman Catholic Franciscan mission and later, after being abandoned, was used as a garrison for the Mexican army;
  2. The Texas Revolution began in October 1835 with the Battle of Gonzales;
  3. November 1835: Sam Houston was selected as Commander-in-Chief of the Texas Army;
  4. December 21, 1835, Sam Houston requested that James Neill, now a lieutenant colonel of an artillery company, take command of the Texian and Tejano garrison stationed at the Alamo Mission;
  5. January 17, 1836: Jim Bowie arrives at the garrison to evaluate the situation – Sam Houston had suggested he remove the artillery and blow up the Alamo. The decision is made to defend the garrison;
  6. February 3, 1836: Colonel William B. Travis arrives at the garrison;
  7. February 8, 1836: Davy Crocket arrives at the garrison with a group of Tennessee volunteers;
  8. February 11, 1836: Neill, after becoming ill, transfers command to William B. Travis, the highest-ranking regular army officer and leaves the garrison;
  9. February 12, 1836: William Travis and Jim Bowie argue over who has command of the garrison and finally agree on a joint command;
  10. February 22, 1836: Santa Anna reaches San Antonio with generals Sesma, Amador and Castrillón. He demands surrender and states that no one will be spared if this is not done.  The Texans refuse to surrender;
  11. February 23, 1836: Santa Ana begins what is to become a 13-day siege as the fort comes under artillery fire from Mexican troops;
  12. February 24, 1836: Jim Bowie becomes ill and William B. Travis assumes full command;
  13. February 24, 1836: William B. Travis writes his Victory or Death Letter and sends it to the closest town of Gonzales. He vows “I shall never surrender or retreat.” Other letters requesting help are sent to Gonzales, Goliad, San Felipe, Nacogdoches and Washington-on-the-Brazos
  14. 24, 1836: James Fannin attempts his relief march to the fort but is forced to turn back; however, 32 men of the Gonzales Ranging Company arrive at the fort on March 1 in response to the Victory or Death letter;
  15. March 2, 1836: The Texas Declaration of Independence is signed and the Republic of Texas is declared although the men fighting the Battle of the Alamo are unaware of these momentous events;
  16. March 3, 1836: James B. Bonham arrives at the garrison and tells Travis that James Fannin and his troops were not coming; William Travis tells all the troops that they are free to leave – the brave men choose to stay and fight at the Battle of the Alamo and the Mexican battalions Aldama, Toluca and Zapadores arrive in San Antonio;
  17. March 5, 1836: The Mexican artillery stop shelling the fort, the defenses have been weakened to such an extent that plans are made to assault the garrison;
  18. March 6, 1836: The final attack begins in the dark with hand-to-hand combat. The battle only lasts about 90 minutes.  All but a few defenders are either killed during the battle or are quickly put to death once the battle is over.  The bodies end up being in priers in three separate locations;
  19. Only a few survive the bloody siege of the Battle of the Alamo. These are civilian non-combatants such as women, children and servants. Over 600 Mexicans were killed during the Battle of the Alamo and countless injured.  A handful of Texans were also spared who were sent Sam Houston’s camp at San Jacinto as a warning that a similar fate awaited the rest of the Texans if they continued their rebellion against Mexico.

After a brief late lunch, we walked over to the River Walk only to discover that we would have to wait over 2.5 hours to be able to take a boat ride down the river.  Thus, we decided to just walk along the beautiful walks that lines the river.  The area is remarkable with such a beautiful setting that is hard to described.  Thus, here are the photos that tried to capture what we saw.

This coming Saturday we leave Kerrville and drive all day to get to the extreme eastern side of Texas, just north of Beaumont.  There, we will be staying at the Village River State Park for 5 days.

 

Year 2 Days 30 – 38 Austin and More

During this last week we were able to relax a bit, play a game of golf and then visit friends and explore Austin, Texas.  Whoo Hoo!

We really enjoy the city park we are in: the Kerrville – Schneider City Park.  It is quiet, scenic, has full services right at out campsite, a covered picnic table and fire ring.  It is wonderful.  It is also just a short drive to the city’s municipal golf course, a fun par 72 hilly course.  I shot a respectable 95 but was really happy with the 44 I shot on the back nine.

This past weekend we drove two hours to Austin and spent thee days with our daughter’s close friend, Sharon, her 21-month-old son, William, and her partner, Lorna.  They live in a lovely 5-bedroom two story house with plenty of room.  We had not seen Sharon in over 15 years so it was so good to get together again and catch up.Sharon Lorna WIlliam 2

While in Austin, we also had a chance to enjoy Austin and spend Saturday and Sunday exploring the LBJ Presidential Library and the Texas State Museum.  The Presidential Library was very inspirational as we learned about his life and all of the significant legislation he was responsible for.  Given the disgusting political era we are currently going through in the US, it was an awe-inspiring to learn what President Johnson accomplished during the 5 short years that he was President.  The major life changing laws he pushed for and signed into law included:  the Clean Air Act, the Civil Rights Act, the War on Poverty, Food Stamps, Medicare/Medicaid, the Department of Housing and Urban Development Housing Act, Social Security Increase, the Anti-Poverty Program, created the Arts and Humanities Foundation, Aid to Appalachia, Aid to Small Businesses, Truth in Packaging, the Teachers Corps, the Clean Rivers Act, the Scenic Rivers Act, and the Scenic Trails Act just to mention a few.  He also signed into law bills that created 18 national parks, recreational areas, seashores, and preserves.  To see the full list of over 180 pieces of landmark legislation he signed into law, go to: http://www.lbjlibrary.org/lyndon-baines-johnson/lbj-biography/landmark

The Library had a recreation of the Oval Office.20180203_120904

Of course, what he is also known for is his decision to expand the US’s involvement in the Vietnam War.  This ended up being a tragic mistake that marred his term as President.  The library did not down play this mistake but did present the issues leading up to the decision in a most interesting way.  It had a series of interactive boards that presented the historic “facts” that led to his decision and once it presented each “fact” and the background behind each “fact”, it asked you what you would do.  It then showed what President Johnson decided.  By doing this, it showed how the war escalated.  For example, it presented the “fact” the US intelligence sources reported to Washington that a US Destroyer was attacked and damaged by North Vietnamese patrol boats while in international waters.  Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara reported this to President Johnson, who ended up making the decision to strike back and ended up getting Congress to draft and approve the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which gave him authority to expand US involvement.  As it turns out, due to what is called the “fog of war”, the intelligence on the attack was incorrect and the US expansion in this conflict was based on bad information.  How tragic!

On Sunday, we returned to the downtown area of Austin and spent the day at the Texas State Museum.  Here we learned about the history of the Texas and, in the process, spent a lot of time with 4 different docents who were very informative and entertaining.   One of the docents was an actual Apollo 13 mission engineer who was in the control room during that mission.  We also learned about the conflict between the Texans and General Santa Ana in what ended up creating the Republic of Texas and eventually, the State of Texas.

We also saw the remains of 17th century ship, La Bella.  In 1684, French King Louis XIV sent explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, across the ocean with four ships and 400 people to North America. The explorer was to land at the mouth of the Mississippi River, establish a colony and trade routes, and locate Spanish silver mines. That plan was never realized. Instead, in a series of remarkable circumstances, La Salle lost ships to pirates and disaster, sailed past his destination, and was murdered by the few survivors as he led them in a desperate trek to Canada and help. In 1686, La Belle, the one remaining expedition ship, wrecked in a storm and sank to the muddy bottom of Matagorda Bay where it rested undisturbed for over 300 years.  In the late 1990’s it was discovered, removed and after 12 years of restoration and preservation was placed in this museum.20180204_124709

We ended our wonderful time in Austin by taking Sharon and Lorna out to fancy dinner at the Roaring Fork.  The food was great and complimented the companionship we shared.20180204_175501

Tomorrow, with clearing weather, we hope to drive down to San Antonio to spend a day at the Alamo and to explore its famous River Walk area.

Year 2 Day 29 Deep In The Heart Of Texas

Yesterday, we received a comment from a friend who welcomed us for arriving “deep in the heart of Texas”.  Mary and her husband, Greg, sailed with us across the South Atlantic, the most stressful ocean crossing Mary Margaret and I experienced in our circumnavigation due to the numerous equipment failures that occurred.  Despite that stressful crossing, Mary and Greg are still determined to follow their dream of buying a sailboat and living the cruiser’s life.  Her comment inspired the title of today’s blog.

Today, we continued our journey east by driving just a couple of hours before arriving in Kerrville, Texas.  It is located in the Hill Country of Texas and is where the Kerrville-Schreiner City Park is located.  We will be staying here for the next 12 days.  It will be our base to explore Austin (about 2 hours to the east) and San Antonio (about an hour to the south).  It will also allow us time to explore the local sights.

Our park is situated right along the Guadalupe River and it provides us with 50-amp electrical service, water hookup and… even a sewer hookup!  Whoo Hoo!  It is only the second site we have been to that provides site specific sewer disposal.  This is a big deal when one is spending some time at a park since every RV has limited black and grey water holding capacity.  We have 80 gallon holding tanks for both types of water.  We usually have to marshal our use of our washing machine and dish washer along with our black water generation, to prevented overflowing these holding tanks.  Thus, we can just sit tight on our site and do not have to go through the hassle of bundling up LeuC, moving her to the nearest sump dump location, discharging our dirty waters, returning to our site and resetting up LeuC.  This is a real luxury.

In addition to the services our site provides to us, the park itself is situated in a beautiful setting.  The river is right next door and is wonderful to behold.  The photos posted below show you what I mean.

 

 

Year 2 Day 28 Entering Texas Hill Country

Today, as we continued our leisurely journey to Kerrville, Texas, we entered the outskirts of what is known as Texas Hill Country. The Texas Hill Country is a special area of Texas located on the Edwards Plateau at the crossroads of West Texas, Central Texas, and South Texas. Given its location, climate, terrain, and vegetation, the Hill Country could be considered the end of the American Southwest.  Kerrville, where we will be staying for 12 days, is in the heart of Hill Country, located along the Guadalupe River.

We have always wanted to explore this beautiful area and chose Kerrville for three primary reasons. First, it is centered in the Hill Country; second, it is an easy drive to both Austin and San Antonio (two places we are anxious to explore); and third, it has a wonderful city park with full service hook ups and a beautiful river that flows by. We arrive there tomorrow and we are excited about that!

Our drive was uneventful if you consider being passed by 50-foot-long and 12-foot-wide oversized trucks going 80 MPH. Yikes! In Texas, the speed limit on back roads is 75 MPH and on freeways it is 80 MPH.  One truck, which totally filled the speed lane from shoulder to centerline, passed us as we were going 65 MPH on the I-10 freeway. To pass us, he had to pull way over onto the shoulder, throwing tons of dust and rocks up at us. I had watched him come up behind us and pull over to pass us.  I was shocked at how wide he was and moved LeuC over to our shoulder. Once he passed us we were being rained on by gravel he had thrown into the air so I quickly slowed down to avoid a rock hitting and cracking our very big and very expensive windshield.  Thankfully, we were spared.

After three or so hours of driving we pulled off the freeway and found our flat open area that is between the frontage road and I-10, about 10 miles west of Sonora. I will post photos so you can see how nice this area is, especially since we have this huge area all to ourselves.

Along the way and as we entered the edge of Hill Country, Mary Margaret took lots of photos so I will let her photos describe what we saw.