We go racing

Our excuse to head to Texas as cold weather set in was the inaugural US Grand Prix race of Formula 1 cars at the new Circuit of the Americas in Austin.

Jared flew into town, and is attending three days of practice, qualifying, and racing with me.

Here’s one example of the 978 frames I shot today:

Our interlude

We left the bayous of Louisiana Sunday morning for a long day’s run into Texas.

And we left the interstate behind because a diagonal run cross-country on a four-lane state route would save us a lot of miles getting to Austin.

We ended up in a lovely, and large, campground on a lake that was near….nothing. This is Texas, it has room for everything, with room to spare. We had a campsite that was almost the closest to the lake, but we could just barely see water because there’s so much land.

I’m describing it, because we took no pictures. Took until nearly dark to get there. And shortly after arriving, Ryan had another seizure.

We had enough signal for 911, the squad arrived within minutes, and took him to a hospital 20 miles away.

Ross and I were able to take the Lil Taxi late that night and pick up Robyn and Ryan from the hospital, so we could all spend the night at home….

We spent Monday recovering. Ryan’s fine, and so are we.

Which meant today was a great opportunity to move on and see new stuff. And be near civilization again….outside Waco, TX.

Heyyyy, I can handle civilization like this! Robyn and Ross got in a nice walk before sundown (Ryan was still sleeping…..).

And the wildlife wasn’t waiting until dark to get moving! Robyn spotted a little red fox and three bald eagles!

Our campground is called Airport Park, because it lies along the edge of a small airport. A couple jets took off this evening before dark, but that will be all.

It’s lovely! We have a 180 degree view of water from our site:

My kingdom for a cell signal!

Oh my goodness, we’ve been having such a riot but haven’t been able to share it with you!

Some people really relish the lack of technology when they go camping….because they’re on vacation. But we’re NOT….we’re doing life! These campgrounds out in the woods that we frequent are often too distant from a Verizon tower to upload photos.

The post on Nov 9 was actually uploaded from my cell phone as I walked the campground looking for enough signal. The pictures were from Friday evening as we landed there.

Couldn’t resist the nuts and seed pods still on the colorful trees outside the coach the next morning!

But look what we found on our Saturday tour!

Lake Bistineau, just south of our lake, offered some fascinating views. At first we were perplexed by the obviously low level of water. While it offered unusual views of the cypress trees and their root clusters that usually bulge at water level [knees], it seemed strange to be low in an area that appeared to be well-watered.

Indeed, we finally found an informed person at the state park who said they had intentionally dropped the water level this past August. The reason? Giant salvinia, an aquatic fern native to Brazil, that had been taking over the lake.

They hope to accomplish some major eradication while the plant is high and dry, and plan to bring the water level back in January.

Pockets of the stuff still flourish. Check out the picture of Robyn and the boys. They’re walking up the boat ramp, and the green carpet behind them is actually a deep channel for boat launching that is choked with the salvinia. It clears for some reason where the channel opens into the lake behind Robyn.

The main boat launch ramps for the lake are located in the state park….but check out the scene. Vegetation has exploded across the exposed land of the lake bottom! To us, it looked like the lake had been dry for years, not just weeks.

You can see on the pillars of the bridge to the left, the dark marks where the water level usually reaches. Still, the odd exposed tree knees make the scene most memorable!

Just one more thing, or two….

HA, forgot two photos from yesterday!

How could I forget this warning sign that greeted us immediately after signing in at the gate? We went back to the gate and said “Really?” They said “Not only yes, but Oh Yes! There are LOTS of gators!”

There went any thought of swimming….

And how could I forget this gorgeous cove scene? A lovely mix of colorful deciduous and evergreen trees, the sun illuminating down into the midst of the distant woods, the sky….

Ahhh, today. We moved completely across the state of Mississippi, and pretty well left the rolling hills of the eastern part for the mostly flat western part. Lovely drive, lovely day.

Arrived at our camp just two blocks off the interstate on the banks of the Mississippi River! Pretty dull, though. It’s a grassy lot with concrete slabs for parking. It’s operated by the casino boat that is moored on our side of the river.

We’ll probably be the only rig here tonight whose occupants don’t go to the casino!

We arrived less than an hour before sunset, and I made a quick run to catch a view of the river from the other side so I’d have the setting sun behind me to illuminate the shot with its golden hues.

Riiiiiight. You’d think I was asking for a peek inside Fort Knox. No access to the river from anywhere within 5 miles! I actually drove along the levee that runs on the Louisiana side! Finally caught these cows grazing on the side and top of the levee as the sun disappeared. Will try again tomorrow morning.

Make the most of what you have

Everything we have is within arm’s reach, and each item is crucial to our lifestyle. We actually have tossed or given away a number of things that we originally thought we’d need but eventually found we didn’t.

Still, there’s enough stuff to move and stack out of the way when we pull in the slides and tighten up to go on the road. And there are storage containers in the basement (our underneath storage) with things in them we’ve not touched in 18 months. Just waiting for time to go through them….

This new way of traveling we started a year ago still has its adjustments. You’ll recall we originally were moving about 30 miles a day, and very rarely paying to park in a campground. Take the back roads, move slowly, savor the view.

Here we are on a trip that will probably cover 3300 miles over 4 months, which isn’t more miles than before. But we’re doing 200 mile blasts down the interstate in order to get to the next campground for a couple nights, and after nearly two weeks of that, we stop for a month in Texas. We’ll do it again in December and spend 6 or 8 weeks in Florida, then shoot back up to Dayton in late February.

It’s easier on us to travel this way, and we enjoy seeing more detail when we stop. We miss alot, but that just means we’ll have to make some of these brief stopping places the destination for a future trip!

So here we are today, at Okatibbee Lake in Mississippi. Not a big lake, but nicely utilized by the citizens. We have been trying to stay in campgrounds operated by the Army Corps of Engineers, because we like the way they build and operate their campgrounds (big sites, 50amp electric, nice price), and because they’re always located at lakes. Water is good. Check out our site:

It’s interesting that we rarely encounter another major motorhome like ours in these campgrounds. Our types usually park in private campgrounds or RV “resorts” for a month or two at a time. Dreadful places with manicured lawns, no privacy, and swimming pools. We’re not complaining, because it makes more room for us at the lakes! Look at our scenery today!

So we walked the empty parking lots and drank in the full effect of this place. It’s a great way to survive!

The farther we go….

….the more things stay the same.

Today we drove south on I-65 from northern Alabama, past Birmingham. It was new territory for me, and probably longer than 35 years for Robyn.

We turned southwest onto I-20/I-59 past Tuscaloosa, and finally pulled off at Meridian, MS for Twiltley (sp!) Branch campground on Okatibbee Lake.

I was struck by the sameness: how the terrain we passed in Alabama looked so much like Ohio, Tennessee, southern Indiana, Georgia…

While it’s true the interstate highways plow across the countryside with their federal formula of pavement, interchanges, and rights-of-way, and thus create a sameness for your immediate view….still, even the city of Birmingham could have been Chattanooga or Indianapolis.

The shopping centers look the same and have the same stores we’ve shopped for years. That brings some comfort, especially if we’re looking for places to eat. But really, I’d rather eat at some truly local place. If we’re in an area for several days, we watch for local restaurants that are really busy, then come back in the middle of a weekday afternoon and eat when the place is quiet!

Still, there does seem to be a small change or two. Here, just a little way into Mississippi, it does seem there is much more water sitting around. The lake at our campground is full, drainage ditches and small ponds have water, and all the foliage looks well-watered. The landscape rolls, without any mountains in the background.

We headed this way to catch warmer weather for the winter months. Good choice so far: 60s and 70s here this week, and sunny. Ahhhh.

We pulled in only shortly before sundown, so haven’t had a chance to explore. Found this egret (?) acting photogenic, so obliged with a shot. More tomorrow!