Back to The Valley

When we first went on the road 6 years ago, our intention was to find a place to retire to, away from the cold, snowy north. We thought maybe a year or 2 of traveling and our destination would become evident. Well, here we are, starting our 7th year as nomads and sometimes it seems we are no closer to where we want to be. To be sure, we still enjoy traveling and have no real plan to stop. However, pulling the 5th wheel gets a little tiring and it limits our flexibility to sight-see.

So we went back to the Rio Grande Valley (RGV), spending almost 6 months at La Feria RV Resort, with the thought of finding a park that we like and “settling in” as permanent residents. We had been to the RVG twice before and had a general idea of where we wanted to be. We visited dozens of parks, talked with lots of people and couldn’t really come to a decision on which one we liked. Not surprisingly, at every park we visited we talked with people who said their park was absolutely the best one in the valley and that we would love it there.

We came to the conclusion that the RGV was okay to visit but we really didn’t want to live there. We are now looking to Florida for next winter and we think we have a place picked out. Of course that could always change, but that’s the plan. More on that later.

While we were in La Feria there were several places we visited that we hadn’t seen before. The end of November we attended the opening of the Gelman Stained Glass Museum in San Juan, Texas. They have a collection of stained glass from private sources and also from churches. The exhibition is very impressive and beautiful.

In December we went to Harlingen, Texas, for the Iwo Jima Memorial and Museum at the Marine Military Academy. Everyone is familiar with the flag raising on Mt. Suribachi and it was very interesting to see the statue and tour the museum. The monument is located on the campus of the Marine Military Academy, a college prep military school.


Our plan for the future is to find a place to settle into, probably sell the 5th wheel and truck, then move into a “park model” RV, then buy a small motorhome to travel north with in the summer. That’s the plan and we will probably do it since we are getting a little weary of pulling the 5th wheel around. As I write this we are waiting for approval in New Port Richey at a real nice senior community. We should hear soon and I will have more details.

Meanwhile, we are at the entrance to Cape Cod, Massachusetts for the summer at one of the nicest campgrounds anywhere, Maple Park in East Wareham. This a true campground, as distinguished from an RV park in that they have all sites in a wooded, rustic setting, and offer sites for tents, pop-up capers, travel trailers, 5th wheels and motorhomes. They have 600 sites and they stay almost 100% booked up. This area was on our bucket list for several reasons: we wanted to visit the northeast part of the country; the presidential libraries and museums for JFK and FDR are both less than 2 hours from us; we want to take in baseball games at Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, and the Mets stadium; historically there is Plymouth Rock, the Mayflower, and the Pilgrim story; Cape Cod itself and, of course, the fresh seafood. Hopefully I can post some pictures in the next post. I also have some thoughts of going back and adding pictures to the earlier posts, but more on that later.

Summer ’21

We had an unscheduled but enjoyable summer, once again at Woodland Trails. It was great to spend some time with our good friends Wayne & Betty, and Lon & Nancy, and , of course, the Sullivans. Dawn & Dan were gracious to allow us to return at the last minute this spring.

Got back into the routine pretty easily, especially fishing. Last year the fishing wasn’t too good in the second half of the summer, but this year it was much better. Bass, sunfish, and occasional northern pike seemed to be anxious to take our bait. We were able to refill our freezer for the winter!

Then the drought set in. For about a month during July and August we received no rain. By mid-August most of the unshaded grass was light brown. The weather was hot, dry and the fish quit biting. Finally in the latter part of August the rains came and things started to green up again, but it will be some time before the grass is back to normal.

In August, Mary discovered a sore bump on her upper arm that she initially thought was an insect bite. When it didn’t get better she decided to have it looked at. Good thing she did because it was a minor carcinoma of the same type that I had on my lip. After outpatient surgery and some healing time, everything is healed and well again.

This winter we have decided to return to the Rio Grande of south Texas. We will be in La Feria near Harlingen until April. We have stepped up our search for a “permanent” place to settle down and during our trip south we hope to get a better idea of where we want to go. Stay tuned.

We left Woodland Trails on September 19th, a day early to try and beat a coming storm, spending the night at our usual stop in Summit, South Dakota. We are due in La Feria around the middle of October and will do some relaxing sight-seeing before then. More on our trip later.


Well, it has been said the way to make God laugh is to tell him your plans. We were headed for Wyoming and really looking forward to a great summer at Devils Tower Golf Club, and were only about 2 hours away from there when we received a phone call telling us the “mysterious growth” on my lip was a carcinoma. After much consideration and several phone calls, we made the decision to forego Wyoming , for at least this season, and return to Fargo and the VA to get this medical issue behind us.

Having spent 4 of the last summers in northern Minnesota, the closest VA medical facility for me was in Fargo, North Dakota, which is about an hour west of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. That is the primary reason Fargo became my clinic of record, but I have to say the care I have gotten there, combined with the medical care Mary has gotten in Detroit Lakes, made returning there a very comfortable and confident decision. Had we continued on to Wyoming, I would have had to go to Rapid City or Sturgis, both places a long drive. Plus the VA would need to authorize a “Traveling Vet Consult” which would add weeks to the next treatment. I wanted to get it done ASAP.

We also called Dawn at Woodland Trails (otherwise known as “Home”) to see if they had room for us. They did and that is where we will be for the balance of the summer, and maybe beyond.

We got back to the Fargo area and since all the RV parks in Fargo hadn’t opened yet, we instead went on to Detroit Lakes and settled in at Country Campground for about 10 days. Woodland Trails wasn’t open yet due to night-time temperatures effecting water and sewer but DL is a nice little town and we enjoyed the opportunity to relax after the long trip and the other added stresses.

The VA got me right in and a follow-up surgery was scheduled for May 17th. After the consultation with Dr. Terrell I was feeling better about everything but we still had to go through it to be completely sure. Today, May 20th, I received word that the entire malignancy is gone and there is no sign of it system-wide. Hooray!

So here we are, our plans changed dramatically. We may try to go to Wyoming next year, someplace new or maybe back here to WT. We are happy with things though. We get to see our friends at Woodland Trails, do some more fishing, and we are comfortable with the area.

Regarding our coming winter season, we don’t know for sure where we will go but our present focus is on south Texas. More on that later. For now, we are closing in on 6 years on the road, still love it, but we know we will have to “settle down” somewhere, sometime in the future. Our entire adventure has been filled with people, places and things that seem to come along at just the right time for us. I think the opportunity will be obvious when the time is right.


During 4 of the last 5 summers we were at Woodland Trails RV Resort, about 20 miles north of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. Since we were spending so much time there, as can be seen in our earlier posts, we also established our health care providers there. Tom had the VA between Fargo, North Dakota and Fergus Falls, Minnesota, while Mary had her doctors in Detroit Lakes. In addition, we had Fargo for eye care and dental. Fargo is a big, little town that has everything we want and need, with the exception of warm, sunny winters. If it wasn’t for the winters, we would happily call Fargo “home”.

That is why we chose to route our trip to Devils Tower through Fargo, to update and take care of all the little things that happen when you get a bit older, and to visit good friends we haven’t seen in awhile. The Fargo RV parks all were closed until May 1st so we stayed in Casselton, North Dakota, about 20 miles west of Fargo. We arrived at the park on April 18th to find the water to each site was shut off because they had very cold night-time temperatures. Fortunately we had a full fresh-water tank so we were okay for a couple days. They finally turned the water on after our 2nd night there, long enough to top off the tank, then shut it off again at night. We had temps as low as 19 degrees at night and our furnace never shut off at night. We were going through propane at the rate of 1 tank every 2 1/2 days, but we were always comfortable and had a warm place to come back to after our appointments.

Summary: Mary had her diabetes check-up and she is doing splendidly. Daily blood sugar is normal and her A1C is right where it should be. She has worked very hard, eating the right foods (which we generally do anyway) and getting some exercise. Tom had hearing aids adjusted, had an annual check-up and had a mysterious lip growth removed. All else seems to be in good working order for both of us.

We also got new tires for the truck in Fargo and before leaving Casselton had our trailer brakes looked at once again. Seems like we are chasing a ghost or maybe our tail. What was a definite high point for us was meeting Wayne and Betty for lunch in Fargo. They are some of our good friends and they live summers at Woodland Trails, winters in Rockport, Texas. We are looking into possibly joining them at their park in Texas but we haven’t made a final decision yet. Our goal is to find a permanent place for the 5th wheel and purchase a small class C or B RV to travel seasonally. We hope to get this done this winter. That’s the plan.

We left Casselton with some foreboding due to the brake disconnection issue. Early Tuesday morning we pulled the RV into Earl’s Auto Repair and had him take a look at our brakes one more time. Of course the controller told us we had a short circuit UNTIL we got to Earl’s, at which time it started acting normally. Earl crawled underneath to move the wires around (electric brakes) to try to make it fail. It wouldn’t so we thanked him and drove back to the RV park, reparked the RV then headed to Fargo for a final med visit with the VA. Wednesday morning we pulled out and the brakes were fine all the way to Bismarck. Maybe Earl had inadvertently fixed our problem!

About 9 miles out from Bismarck we witnessed a roll-over accident in the opposite lane of I-94. A man towing a small truck with his larger truck, lost a tire, which came across the highway just ahead of us, fortunately not putting us in any danger. The driver of the truck was not so lucky. We saw the towed truck barrel-roll and pretty much trash both vehicles, off the highway and down a slight embankment. We immediately stopped and crossed over to see if we could help but others who had been following them called 911, and he was able to crawl out of the wreckage by himself. Hopefully he is okay.

Our intention to stay in Bismarck was to visit the state capitol, which is one of our primary goals on the road – Capitols & Presidential Libraries. We got settled in at the KOA then headed for the Capitol. Because of COVID there are no guided tours so we inquired at the information desk about a map or guide book. Much to our surprise a gentleman was walking by and asked what we were looking for. We explained that we are travelers and wanted to see the Capitol. Immediately he volunteered to give us a private guided tour and only then did I notice his nametag , indicating he was a member of the North Dakota Senate, Randy Burckhard. What an honor that he would take the time to show us everything and explain some of the history. He also introduced us to several other legislators and staff members, who all treated us like special guests. We also met Representative Bob Paulson and we had an exceptional discussion about some of the things going on in North Dakota, including the projected creation of the Teddy Roosevelt Presidential Library. Talking with them and seeing the beautiful capitol and grounds has to be the high point of our trip. Tomorrow we head for Bowman, North Dakota, for a one night stay before arriving at Devils Tower Golf Club on Saturday for the summer.

On The Way

We left Port St. Joe on Wednesday morning, April 7th, headed for our first night, just west of Mobile. We found the park but as occasionally happens, it was a real dump, so we decided to press on to Florence, Mississippi. The total mileage was almost 400 which is very unusual for us since a normal day is 200-250 miles in a day. The upside for the day was the nice rain that lulled us to sleep that night.

We had originally planned to spend a day visiting the capitol in Jackson but with COVID restrictions still in place it became a day of touring antique shops in Florence. Very pleasant and relaxing. We had a minor (at the time) issue with the truck. We had a diesel smell coming out of the vent but a mechanic checked it and found no problem, so the next day we headed out.

We went on to Memphis and stayed along the Mississippi watching the barges going up and down the river. We had stayed here before and it really is a pleasant spot. The following day we went into downtown Memphis. After parking we took the trolley to Beale street, walked around a bit, and visited the Rock & Soul Museum, which was pretty interesting. Overall however, we realized the city has seen better days. What we saw was dirty, run-down and over-priced. We didn’t bother with Graceland due to many friends who have gone there and were underwhelmed. We have other friends who love Memphis; for us, not so much.

Continuing on our trip, we stopped for the night in Altus, Arkansas, at a little RV park in wine country. We stayed here last fall on our way south and it’s a good quiet place to spend the night. We didn’t visit the wineries this time, just stayed in and relaxed.

The next day we traveled to Nevada, Missouri, and once again had truck issues.. We were losing power on the steep hills and the check engine light was on. When we got to the campground, we had gone through more than a half tank of fuel in only 80 miles. There was diesel fuel all over the back of the truck and the RV. We took it to a RAM dealer who had a mechanic that found the leak – a high-pressure fuel sensor that had been installed improperly and was leaking badly. They got the replacement and installed it the next day. That seems to have fixed the engine light issue. We still have the problem of the trailer brake disconnecting once in awhile but we will deal with that later.

The next night we spent at another favorite RV park in Nebraska City. Surprisingly, with all we hear about campground crowding, there were very few RVs there. Nice park, we went to town for Chinese, then back to the RV. First night of really cold weather for us, a portent of things to come.

The next leg was another long one of about 360 miles, stopping at another favorite park in Summit, South Dakota. We have stayed there a couple times before and it’s always nice to see Larry & Gilda. Also, Cal’s Auto Repair is there and we wanted Cal to check our trailer brake issue. He came out and checked our brakes, finding nothing wrong with them. A real mystery. So, after a trip to Watertown for the day, we headed for Fargo and our 10-day stay to update medical, dental, and see friends.

Re Mi Do Do So

What, you might ask, does the above have to do with our RV travel blog? I will explain in a moment. Hint: these are musical notes.

I realize it has been more than 4 months since our last post and for that I apologize. This post will serve as a fill-in and hopefully I can get back on track to more frequent postings. Ideally 1 every couple weeks, but we will see.

As you may remember, Mexico Beach was ground zero for one of the most violent category 5 hurricanes in U.S. history. On October 18, 2018, hurricane Michael came ashore at Mexico Beach with sustained winds of about 160 mph, practically erasing the small resort town, and Tyndall Air Force Base just to the west. This was not the first hurricane to hit the area but it was the first Cat 5 and it forever changed the face of the “forgotten coast”.

When we arrived in October, we passed miles of broken or bent trees, and empty foundations where homes and businesses once stood. On the positive side, many homes have been rebuilt, hopefully stronger than before, and a number of eateries and businesses have reopened and morale is high.

Old Salt RV park was only a year old and was pretty much wiped out, leaving only power pedestals and the shower house/laundry which was built strong to double as a shelter. Shrubs and trees were replaced, new gravel brought in, and life moved on. The owner, Andrea, put in many hours getting her park ship-shape and back to being the premier park in the area. She has a husband and 2 teen daughters and decided to bring us in for the winter so she could have more time with them. This worked well for us: we wanted to come to Florida and the area Covid rate was super low.

We were able to explore the area from Panama City to the west, Apalachicola and Carrabelle to the east, and Blountstown and Tallahassee to the north. As you would expect we have been treated to fantastic fresh seafood at area restaurants. It has also been a treat to see the Gulf of Mexico on a daily basis and to be able to get our Vitamin D at the beach, which is only about 1,000 feet from the park.

Like all good things, our Florida winter comes to an end tomorrow (April 7th) and we head for our summer digs. This is where the musical notes mentioned at the beginning come in. We will be at the Devils Tower Golf Club this summer in Wyoming. Devils Tower is the national monument featured in the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, and the five notes played an integral role in the story. For you musicians, the second “Do” is down 1 octave. Click here to here the notes.

So we will be there for the summer, working a little, traveling around and sightseeing a little, and probably playing a lot of golf!

Dodging Greeks

We left Woodland Trails on 9/28, heading for the Florida panhandle and our first actual camp host positions at Old Salt RV park in Port St. Joe. Our route took us through some familiar territory, back to Summit, South Dakota, then on to Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, and ultimately Florida. We had no problem finding RV parks along the way, though we have heard a lot of stories about full campgrounds due to a lot of new RVers trying to escape COVID.

We were able to visit state capitols in Lincoln, Nebraska, and Little Rock, Arkansas, but had to pass on a couple others due to a couple storms named Delta ant Eta. For awhile each of them threatened our projected winter home, however they stayed pretty far west of PSJ. The storms did have a projected track right across where we were going to travel, so we changed our route and schedule enough to get to Old Salt ahead of most of the rain and wind.

I think our favorite stop was along the river in Little Rock, where we were adjacent to the huge walking bridge across the Arkansas River, which leads directly to the Bill Clinton Presidential Library and the well-done walking trails to downtown and the capitol. We had visited the library a couple years ago so we focused on the capitol, which was quite beautiful. It never fails to amaze us at the care and pride each state exhibits with their state capitols. Very few are plain, but each one emphasizes their states history and we have been warmly greeted by guides and some state officials at every stop.

We arrived at Old Salt on October 8th with no problems with the new-to-us truck. In fact it rides so well that Mary drove about half the time. We found the truck in Detroit Lakes before we left Minnesota since the old truck was getting to be too much trouble.

The sites and grounds at Old Salt are some of the best we have seen in 5 years on the road. They are all gravel, wider and deeper than most. The park is quiet but less than a 5 minute walk to the white-sand gulf beaches. Andrea, the park owner, is super nice and we feel very much at home here. A fun fact: the highway the park is located on, is the dividing line between Mexico Beach and Port St. Joe; is the county line between Gulf and Bay counties; and is the dividing line between the Eastern and Central time zones. Right across the street, it’s an hour earlier than here. We are constantly having to do time conversions when we go to Mexico Beach or Panama City!

Searching for Normal

Well, to say that 2020 has been disappointing would be a gross understatement. We missed a lot because of “the Virus”. Like many people, our plans were drastically changed, causing us to put almost a year of our lives on hold, but it looks like we are finally starting to see the light at the end of this tunnel.

We made the trip from west Texas, up through Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota. Our original plan was to spend some time in the Houston area visiting kids and grands, check out a 2nd RV, then proceed to the Dallas area to visit relatives. Our trip was to take 4-5 weeks and include leisurely travel along the way to our summer stop in Minnesota. Since those areas were so “hot” from COVID, we were forced to change everything. We made the trip north in less than 2 weeks and that includes a week in Summit, South Dakota.

It can be noted that even though most everything was shut down, with the exception of gas stations and RV parks, the state of South Dakota did have places open. The governor refused to shut down the state’s economy, allowing people to make their own decisions about their safety, treating them like adults. This has turned out to be a much more reasonable approach than some of the states, in my opinion.

Arriving at Woodland Trails in Minnesota was a lot like “coming home” since we have chosen to summer there 4 of the 5 years we have been traveling. Minnesota, in May, was pretty much closed for business but the county we were in had zero cases of COVID so we felt pretty safe. Plus we were happy to see Dawn & Dan Sullivan, the owners or Woodland Trails, and the many friends that we have made there over the years. It’s really a lovely place to spend the summer months.

When we first started this journey, our #1 rule was “no snow” and we were able to keep that until this May. We got to Woodland Trails earlier than normal and Dawn let us set up on May 7th. The park water wasn’t turned on yet, fearing a late freeze but we had on-board fresh water so we were okay, The morning of the 9th we awoke to white stuff all over the ground. SNOW!

Strawberry Lake – May 9, 2020

Fortunately it didn’t last long and our RV is set up for colder weather so we were snug and warm. We ran out of fresh water and since the park wasn’t going to open for a few days, we decided to spend a night in Detroit Lakes at the Holiday Inn. Curiously, it was open for lodging and room service but the restaurant and lounge were closed. It would seem to be easier to “sanitize” a restaurant than a hotel room, but that was just another of the incongruities in the COVID rules.

Once we got back to Woodland Trails we were able to fall back into familiar routines almost as though we had never left. I would mow every Thursday, Mary would watch the lodge on weekends, and we would fish as much as possible. Our extra-curricular travel was pretty much curtailed except for the occasional trip to Fargo since most everything was closed. Toward the end of the season we made a trip to Grand Rapids (Minnesota) and stopped by the childhood home of Judy Garland and adjacent museum. Restaurants were starting to open, with masks and every-other-table seating, but at least it was a change of scenery.

All in all it was good to be at Woodland Trails for the summer. We resumed our friendships with several couples who live there in the summer, and the Sullivans are good people to work for. We probably won’t go back in the future because there is still a lot of this country we haven’t seen yet, but our memories of Woodland Trails will always be good ones.

We stayed on longer than usual while Dawn addressed some health issues, leaving Woodland Trails on the 28th of September, headed for South Dakota and ultimately the Florida panhandle for the winter. Things are gradually returning to “normal”, whatever that might look like from now on. We are more fortunate than many in that we are healthy and able to safely travel. Sure, things are different, but we feel that at some point most of this will be behind us and we can maybe find the old normal.

Enough already

Well it seems our decision to “hunker down” in Fort Stockton was mostly the right decision for us. Hardly anyone in the park but us and no real reason to interact with other people other than those in the office and the few people we see at carryout restaurants. Since Pecos county has very few instances of COVID-19, we have felt pretty safe.

The unfortunate news reflects what lots of people are experiencing – boredom. We can only watch just so much tv with inane sitcoms, movies we have seen many times, and the endless parade of celebrities telling us “we are all in this together”. We are able to break it up a bit by going for walks (to get our exercise & vitamin D), plus we can sit outside and read, that is if the wind isn’t blowing too hard!

Last week we decided to go for a ride to Marathon, Sanderson, and back, a trip of about 175 miles. After being cooped up for 3 weeks, it was almost like a mini-vacation. On the road from Fort Stockton to Marathon we saw fences and gates belonging to the La Escalera ranch, on both sides of the highway, for about 35 or 40 miles. We learned the La Escalera was one of the biggest ranches in Texas at about 320,000 acres however they are now owned by a company in Seymour, Texas.

We went where buffalo roam

antelope were playing

and to top it all off, the skies were not cloudy all day. We were way out on the range and it really felt like home. Almost made us want to sing but we couldn’t decide on the song!

Fortunately, we only have another week of this isolation, then it’s the dash to Minnesota. We are ready!


They say the way to make God laugh is to tell him your plans.

Well our plans, like millions of others, have changed dramatically in the last month or so. I originally planned to describe our experiences on the trip west but instead I want to explain where we are and what our plan is for the next 5 weeks.

Our stint in southern California was to be until April 1st but circumstances there changed drastically around the middle of March. A high percentage of residents and golfers at Rio Bend come from Canada. With all the shut-downs, most of them left early for their homes, leaving play at the golf course almost non-existent. Couple that with the park closing play to all but current residents and things were pretty quiet. We felt that sticking around for an extra week made no sense, so we left on the 24th.

Originally our plans included stops in Houston to visit the kids and grands, but Houston is pretty much a hot-spot so we have to pass on this year. We also were going to make a stop north of Fort Worth to visit Deanna, Mary’s niece, and her husband Peter. That plan is also out the window.

So here we are in southwestern Texas in a quiet park for the next month. We may take a few side trips but there isn’t really anywhere to go. We are very fortunate that we don’t need to go to work each day for income. We venture out occasionally to go to Walmart or Costco, carrying our sanitizer and trying to maintain “social distance”, then back to the rv. We have TV, Internet, plenty to eat, and our health is excellent; our park is located in a county that has yet to have their 1st diagnosed case of COVID-19. So, all in all we are very fortunate. Mary says the phrase “man without a country” or “all dressed up and nowhere to go” both come to mind.

I mentioned Peter, Deanna’s husband, near Dallas. His business is Red Kitchen Foods, located in Keller, and he makes the best sauces, spice mixes and rubs for meat that you will find anywhere. Chef Peter teaches gourmet cooking classes in his studio, while supplying hotel and restaurant chains with his unique products. Everything is made completely without preservatives or MSG, and are as natural as possible.

Take a look at what he has to offer. If you like to barbecue, Red Kitchen Gourmet should be automatic. And he can ship what you need right to your door.

That is all for now. We are just going to stay hunkered down until things change. We would love to here from you with any comments you might have. Stay safe.