Driving north on Hwy 59 from Victoria to Rosenberg, Texas, we saw a lot of railroad updating activity. First we saw all new ballast having been recently laid. Then we saw ribbon rail, some concrete ties, and new concrete bridges. Yet the grade crossings had only crossbucks with no gates or signals. How to make sense of this?

Then we came to a section where materials lay for a long siding with new wood ties. Further north was a section where trees and brush were being cut back. And roadbed being groomed but no track or materials yet. And a place where huge trestle timbers had been thrown aside, replaced by a row of culverts.  

We couldn’t keep from guessing what was happening here. Our best guesses were commuter rail into Houston or a freight line from Laredo to compete with the new tollway from Mexico.

Then we came to another place where the prep work had already been done and there were a bunch of wheel sets that made me think of logging disconnects holding ribbon rail in place on the roadbed. As we traveled further north the new rail along the old right-of-way became more and more finished. So, they are working from both ends and at some point there will be a golden spike type event?

When we stopped for the night, one of the first things Dave did was get onto the computer to find out what’s really happening here. This is the Kansas City Southern railroad’s new Victoria to Rosenberg Route. When all the sections are done this railroad will run from Mexico to Canada. They didn’t say to compete with that new tollway but, still, it’s nice to be right.



Catching Up

It feels like forever since I posted an entry but it has only been two days. I guess they’ve been very full days. Let’s see what my notes say we’ve been doing.

When we departed Usery Mountain it looked like it was snowing on Hwy 60 in Phoenix! It was just pieces of styrofoam blowing in the wind, though.

We stopped at REI and stocked up on freeze dried food then headed south on I-10. The next thing I know a sign was warning “Blizzard conditions ahead!” Snow after all?  No, it was an ad for DQ. 

We stopped for the night at Picacho Peak State Park still in Arizona. Cool place. $20 for an electric hookup. Spaces placed so your neighbors didn’t feel like they were in your lap. A Civil War Reenactment we didn’t see because it’s next month.  And hiking trails we didn’t hike including one that recommends wearing gloves to grip the cable that helps you climb Picacho Peak. 

It’s a nice stop right along the highway but far enough from the road for the highway traffic sounds to be white noise. We’ll come back here, I’m sure. Next time I’d like to do some trails. Not the one with the cable, though.

While in the park Dave heard a cat. Around here outdoor cats are called coyote food. If you come here, don’t bring any cats that like to escape the confines of your vehicle.

As we passed Tucson I saw a roach coach type food vendor except this one was built on a golf cart! I guess that makes sense since I saw it on a golf course.  

Along I-10 there was a sign that said, “Mowers Ahead.” My first though was, “They mow cactus?” The answer turned out to be, “Sort of.” They had some machine they placed over small trees and it chewed them up. Reminded me of the movie Fargo.

Another sign: “Diesel Deli.” It made me laugh then I realized it could actually mean what it said. What type of diesel would you like today? Farm diesel? Low sulphur? Ultra low sulphur? We have it all.

We stopped for a night at the Escapees’ Saguaro Co-op in Benson, Arizona. The sign at the entrance said they were full except for boondocking but when Dave went in to register they said they have one spot with hookups that can only take short RVs so we got full hookups.  

We knew ’08 classmates Mike & Julie were supposed to be in the park somewhere but they posted on the forum that they were going to Mexico for the day. Not knowing what happens when a call bounces outside the U.S. we decided not to try calling them on the phone. Instead we posted a message that we were in the park, too. I didn’t get their reply until the next morning just before we headed out so we missed seeing them but we did talk by phone about where we are headed and the likelihood we would meet up again along the road. I would have liked to stay another day to see them and maybe Dave K. who was headed that direction. But the weather forecast is for windstorms with rain the direction we are headed so we decided we needed to keep moving.

Leaving Benson the sign gave the mileage to the next town then the mileage to El Paso, Texas, as if New Mexico is not between the two. Hmmm. Some rivalry there maybe?

On the track beside the road was a unit hopper train with smoking coming from it about half way back from the engines. We paid close attention thinking maybe we were going to see a hotbox. What we saw was one hopper gate open a little bit spilling rocks along the way. Dave’s theory is they were replenishing ballast.

We stopped at a rest area where a vending machine started calling to me. “Linda. Come over here. We probably have something you’d like.” Now, I’ve been trying to eat more healthful food. Instead of cookies and chips we’ve started buying graham crackers and fruits and nuts. I’m enjoying eating those. But that darn machine just kept calling. So, I bought a small bag of Cheetos. I didn’t eat them, though. We were too close to one of my favorite lunches.

We saw a sign advertising a place called Phantom Fireworks. Dave asked, “Do they really exist?” Which we thought was really funny until we got to the places and it was closed. Then it was even funnier. I guess you had to be there.

We keep passing sets of signs warning of possible dust storms which could have “Zero Visibility” and warning you to not stop in traffic lanes. I guess it’s a good thing we keep moving without stopping at the sites along the way since the winds are supposed to hit here before the rains do. Mike and Julie are planing to travel this road a day behind us. I hope they don’t get into one of those wind storms.

The speed limit on this stretch of road is 75. I saw the sign and looked at Dave with a smile. He smiled, too, and said, “I’m going a dyslexic 75.” We get better mileage going just under 60 mph so that’s what we do. Unless we are going slower than that. In one construction zone the speed limit was 65 but we decided we didn’t have to go that fast there either. Which was good because it dropped to 55 shortly after that so even we had to slow down for that one.

About a half hour west of Deming, New Mexico, we passed what appears to be a railroad storage yard. One track had auto racks, one had tank cars, and one had hoppers. All just parked out there in the middle of nowhere. That could make an interesting model operation. A through train could stop and drop cars not needed elsewhere or pick up cars that are now needed. It’s seems likely to me that the drop off could be a mixed cut that needed to be sorted but the pickup would likely be all of one type.

We stopped at a rest area in New Mexico that had interesting picnic shelters.

And an interesting definition of pets.

There was a billboard that said “Follow the zipper to yardstick 102.” I thought about that one for awhile. The graphics indicated the zipper was the dotted line down the middle of this side of the divided highway. So it’s likely the yardstick is a mile marker or exit number. They could have just said that. Of course, then I wouldn’t have spent as much time thinking about it. I still don’t know what was at mile marker 102, though.

Some of the shops along here do too much advertising. These are “trading posts” with each sign advertising a set of items. One for jewelry. One for moccasins. One for products made from cactus. One for rugs. One for ponchos. One for moccasins. One for snakes. One for leather goods.  One for a free hot dog with a tank of gas. By the time I’ve read all the signs all I can think is, “Tourist trap.” So we don’t stop. Not many other people do either. That last one had two cars out front and a small U-Haul truck at the gas pumps.

In Deming, New Mexico, we spent the night at the Escapees’ Dream Catcher RV Park. This one is not a co-op; it’s just an RV park—basically a gravel parking lot with just enough trees to make you pay attention when you are trying to park. They had a nice laundry though so we have clean clothes again. They also had what was probably a nice potluck but I didn’t go in with Dave to register so I didn’t see the notice. It didn’t even occur to Dave to mention it to me. So the first I knew about it is when I saw people heading to the clubhouse carrying crock pots. I guess I’d better start going in with Dave if I want to know what’s happening.

In Las Cruces, New Mexico, we stopped at the BLM District Office to get a map of their territory. I went in without Dave this time. They charged me $4 for the map of New Mexico. I had to go back out to the RV to get money. I liked the Yuma office better; they gave Dave two maps for free. Hmmm. Maybe I’m not supposed to go in.

Billboards on opposite sides of the highway advertised different places at Exit 0. One said 9 miles and the other said 11 miles to the exit. I wonder if their surveyor is the same one who did the original survey of Dave’s Dad’s property on Lake Milacs which resulted in everyone building their boathouses on their neighbor’s property?

We pulled into Hueco Tanks State Historic Site about 3:30 this afternoon. The sign said the park was full but we were welcome to come in and put our name on the waiting list. I decided to go in anyway to see where they recommend we go and to buy an annual Texas State Park Pass which will save us money on admissions. It turns out the campground is not full. What they ran out of is permits to hike in this historically important but fragile place. So as long as we don’t go see the pictographs, we can stay here tonight. We have a nice campsite with electricity and water and a beautiful sunset.


And the reason it feels like it’s been longer than two days since I posted is that I was already two days behind then. Sorry, this one is so long. I didn’t even include everything from my notes and look how long it is. Is this a case of “The hurrier I go the behinder I get”?



Geocaching, RVing, and Model Railroading

Four members of the Escapees Class of ’08 prepared to go geocaching.

Geocaching is a fun way to get some fresh air and exercise. First, someone else hides a container anywhere in the world then posts the location to www.geocaching.com with some commentary. Then one or more persons, like Dave, Lee, Julie, and Dave, enter that location into their handheld GPS units. Then they go hunting for the cache. When (if) they find it, they sign the log inside the cache. If the cache contains goodies they can trade their own goodies for ones in the cache. When they get back to their computers, they log the results of their hunt on the website. This day this group found 3 of 4 caches they were hunting. They weren’t surprised to not find the 4th one since it had previously been reported missing. It was Julie’s first time geocaching–I think she’s hooked.

Here’s an attempt by an RV dealer in Quartzsite to hook a buyer.

We saw this at a rest area on I-10. The owner of the vehicle was walking a couple of dogs that had a few years on them. I relate to the dogs not wanting to climb the steps back into the truck although, since I got my mechanical knees, at least it no longer hurts to climb steps.

Before we sold most of our possessions, Dave and I built model railroads. Six of them over a period of twenty years. All of them were operating railroads. If you’d like to know more about them you can go to www.sandsys.org to check out our models and other model railroad related things.

While we no longer build model railroads, we still like to see them, especially when they are operating. So we went to visit a friend near Phoenix, Arizona, on a GNC Railway operating night and Dave got to run some trains.


I, of course, spent the evening visiting with old and new friends since I am physically unable to operate any more. A good time was had by all.



Day 15 Pacific Coast

“It’s raining; it’s pouring. The old man is snoring.” Nope he’d have to BE asleep instead of just pretending to be since he can’t fake snoring to save his soul.

One nice thing about not having hookups is you don’t have to go out in the rain to get ready to leave camp. Unless someone put out the door mat the night before. Oops.

Routines are important when setting up and breaking up camp. Unfortunately we don’t seem to have any. So we kept thinking we were ready to go–except for… We finally left Doheny State Beach at 11:15 a.m. Hey! At least we made the noon checkout time.

We stopped at Ralph’s to get groceries. They didn’t have everything on our list.

Then we got on I-5. Strong crosswinds here. So strong there was a semi that had been pulling two trailers now in the ditch on the other side of the freeway. Cops and tow trucks were on the scene but traffic wasn’t yet backed up very far so that call must have gone out quickly.

Then I saw a firetruck headed into a campground.

Then a hearse passed us on the freeway.

These do NOT feel like good omens to me. Maybe Dave had the right idea. Maybe today would have been a good day to stay in bed.

We decided to get fuel in Oceanside. The Chevron wanted $2.69 for diesel but we didn’t see it in time to turn in. Which turned out to be a good thing since the Moshen station wanted $2.29 for diesel. It took a little maneuvering to get into and out of that station but we’ll do a lot to save forty cents a gallon.

The city bus here is called the Breeze with the slogan, “Catch the Breeze.”

We pulled up to the curb by a beach for lunch. it sure is nice having our kitchen with us.

Then we found an Albertson’s where we were able to buy the rest of our groceries.

We stopped for the night at San Elijo State Beach. The train tracks are near. So is a grade crossing. The trains blow their whistles for the crossing. I’m hoping they are mostly commuter trains so they won’t be doing that all night.



Day 12 Pacific Coast

We spent the morning cleaning house. Dave washed the outside of the RV and I worked on inside things including cleaning out the junk drawer. It’s amazing how much junk a drawer can collect in just a few months.

Then we did a fill and dump so we can continue boondocking.

A ranger here at McGrath State Beach gave us a bunch of literature to read. We gave back most of it but one piece told me I was eligible to apply for a discount card worth 50% off California State Parks and Beaches. Just think how much money we could have saved already if we had that card. 

The directions she gave us to the Regional Office, which is closed until Monday, where I could apply took us past an In N Out Burger place. A friend from back home (Hi, George.) had recommended In N Out Burger to us so we decided we would try it. But this one was too small and too busy; we couldn’t get in. So we decided to go to Home Depot to get the things on our list there. (Yes, we remembered the other one.) When we got to the mall where Home Depot is, there was another In N Out Burger. So we went in. Good stuff. Thanks, George.

Then Dave walked across the parking lot to Home Depot and did that shopping. And then went to another part of the mall and got his hair cut. We like malls that let us park in one place and do lots of stuff. Especially at this time of year when mall parking is at a premium.We require a minimum of two spots and prefer four when we can take them without feeling greedy.

We saw a Union Pacific passenger train. When’s the last time you saw a passenger train that wasn’t painted for Amtrak or a tourist line? 

We tried to stay at Evergreen RV Park but the office was closed and the instructions for self-registering were missing the list of available sites and the fee envelopes. As we drove through on our way out we saw the park was full of mostly new RVs that mostly looked permanently parked. No empty spaces to be had anywhere.

So we drove to Faria Beach County Park where we had full hookups for $45. Ouch! It was nice to have electricity, though. We had gone seven days with no hookups except to fill with fresh water once. We did run the generator for an hour each evening to recharge the batteries. So, now we know that if we can solve our water supply problem, we can boondock for at least a week.