Gladlee of Guernsey

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America 2010 - January to May  

29th December 2009 - 29th January 2010. Saddle Mountain RV Park, Tonopah, Arizona.

Ron on a walk in typical Arizona country Sunset from our RV

The weather has proved to be great. A bit chilly at night with the temperatures dropping to the low 40's (F) or 5 deg C but during the daytime it is a very comfortable 70 deg F or 20 deg C. As you can see from the weather maps below we have selected just about the warmest place in the whole of the USA - a deliberate move we would add.

High temps (F) in the USA - 5th Jan 2010 Night time low temps

We were enjoying our stay at Saddle Mountain RV Park, playing pool and table tennis, watching dvd's and films on a Saturday night etc. until Ron developed a really bad hip/back ache. This got worse and worse and in the end Julie had to call 911 to get some help from the emergency services. We ended up at a hospital about 35 miles away and Ron was pumped full with pain killers and the diagnosis was a muscular problem though it seemed more like a trapped nerve to us. Anyway we got discharged at about 6.00 am and got a taxi back to the RV. Ron then rested for the few days before we had to move on.

29th - 30th January. Salton Sea State Park - HQ/Visitor Centre, California.

Two Night Herons Three Black-necked Stilts and an Avocet

We are heading back towards SE California where we will rent a car and drive to Los Angeles airport to pick up Linda and Seamus, our guests for the next five week. En route we just have to stop off at the Salton Sea again to see what has changed. Apart from one of the campsites being closed due to damage from the rains - no change.

31st January - 2nd February. La Cahuilla Lake County Park.

Our Guests, Linda and Seamus

We have gone back to Lake Cahuilla in La Quinta where we have rented our car and collected Linda and Seamus. The weather is kind for their arrival and we have blue sky's and it is nice and warm. We stay over for a day to let them adjust to the eight hours time difference and then start to "show them the ropes". One great advantage is that they are both "twitchers" like Julie so we are heading to all the best bird-watching sites. Bill, Gary and Gerry come for dinner and Julie cooks a large chicken curry for all, and they bring a cherry pie for dessert.

3rd - 4th February. Salton Sea HQ Campsite.

And so - here we are back at the Salton Sea - not for the last time I would add. Luckily the migrations have left lots to see and everyone is happy - except of course Ron who still has difficulty walking after the problem in Saddle Mountain.

5th February  Red Hill Marina, Sonny Bono Wildlife Reserve.

Great Horned Owl at Red Hill Marina, Sonny Bono Wildlife Reserve Brown Pelicans with Grebes in the background

We move just a few miles down the coast of the Salton Sea to the SE corner. The bird gods are continuing to be kind to the extent that Linda is beside herself having spotted a Great Horned Owl. After much "who whoing" Julie, Seamus and Linda ventured out in the dark armed with torch and cameras and of course - Linda was the one to spot the beastie.

6th February - Oxbow, Cibola NWR, Colorado River.

Ron in Harvey coming to pick up the bird-watchers Sandhill Cranes at Cibola NWR

Another of our favourite places on the banks of the Colorado River, the Cibola National Wildlife Reserve offers up hundreds of Sandhill Cranes this time along with lots of geese and other usual suspects.

7th February - Saddle Mountain, Tonopah, Arizona.

A quick stop over back at Saddle Mountain on our way through as today is "Superbowl" day - the cup final for American Football (NFL). New Orleans and Indianapolis are the protagonists this year so we have no axe to grind for either team. After a terrible first quarter New Orleans come back for a superb win - their first ever.

8th - 10th February. Lost Dutchman State Park.

Superstition Mountain Sunset at Lost Dutchman State Park

We are all on new territory now, Ron and Julie not having done this far in Arizona. On the way through however Julie insists on another call in to the hospital as Ron is not doing very well. A different doctor this time is still insistent that the problem is muscular and advises some exercises to do. Anyway, onwards the same day to the Lost Dutchman State Park, named after the nearby Gold Mine - yes "there's gold in them there hills". The only gold we find is the beautiful sunset pictured above.

11th - 12th February. Tonto National Forest.

The RV in the middle of nowhere Anna's hummingbirds courting (Seamus's picture)

We had planned to drive through the back-roads to Roosevelt Lake but the back-roads turn into a miserable gravel road for about 35 miles. After one mile we realise we cannot do this without shaking Harvey to bits so turn around and find a hillside with parking room in the middle of nowhere. Real wilderness camping. Unfortunately while doing the B-B-Qing that night a slight twist puts Ron back into serious pain.

13th February - Apache Walmart.

After popping as many painkillers as possible during the night we (Julie driving) have to make an emergency dash to the nearest hospital first thing in the morning. Ron being unable to walk at this point and in unbelievable pain, Linda uses the forceful approach to obtain the reluctant help of two male nurses to get him out of the RV and into a wheelchair. After two hours laying on a "gurney" before being seen by the doctor, at last some super strength pain killers are administered - bliss. A CT scan follows which discovers not one, not two but three slipped discs with one of them so far out it has pressed onto the nerve root - the cause of all the pain down the right leg. The advice is now total bed rest and not the exercises previously advised. Julie is now the nominated driver for the next few weeks.

14th - 15th February. Cholla Recreation Site, Tonto NF, Roosevelt Lake.

The Gilded Flicker - a good sighting for us Snowy mountains show that it is still winter

16th February - Windy Hill Campsite, Tonto NF, Roosevelt Lake.

Western Grebes displaying for us and back...

17th February - Schoolhouse Rec. Site, Tonto NF, Roosevelt Lake.

Typical campground on Lake Roosevelt The lesser Goldfinch

All the above pictures were taken at Roosevelt Lake at either of the three campgrounds along the shores of the lake. This is basically a reservoir created by the construction of the Roosevelt Dam in the 1930's. A bird watchers paradise so at least we have three happy campers - and one in bed at the back.

18th February - Casa Malpais RV Park, Springerville.

We have moved further up to the northwest part of Arizona and spend one night in a private campground so that things like laundry and e-mails can be caught up with. We have also gained quite a bit of elevation and we are at 7,000 feet at this site. Nothing special here so we move on.

19th - 20th February. Lyman Lake State Park.

Harvey at Lyman Lake Seamus taking photos of the petroglyphs

This is one of many of the Arizona State Parks that are dotted all over the state. Unfortunately due to the current economic climate many of these parks are due for closure. In fact we are the very last campers to enter Lyman Lake State Park as it is due for closure on the day we leave. Such a shame but the remoteness of these places mean that maintenance and upkeep is quite expensive.

Our plan when we do leave is to go south to another of the State parks but as happens...... plans do not always go according to plan. We leave Lyman Lake and head to a small town called Alpine. It is not called Alpine for nothing. It is at 8,500 feet and it is winter!!! The road we want to go on suddenly has a big sign on it - road closed. We find an alternative route which will take us through New Mexico (only about five miles away) and start to head that way. Before we have gone a couple of miles the snow is coming down so fast that we all just know that we are not going to make it this way. The photograph below shows a sign that says "191". That is the number of the road that we wanted to take. So, we head back the way we came and finish up at Roosevelt Lake again for a couple of days before eventually getting to our destination, Roper Lake State Park.

21st February - Schoolhouse Rec. Site, Tonto NF, Roosevelt Lake.

Snow at Alpine - no way through House Wren at Schoolhouse Campground
(Both photos are Seamus's)  

22nd February - Windy Hill Campsite, Tonto NF, Roosevelt Lake.

Another couple of days here and everyone is happy again - except Ron who is still laid out in the back of the RV!!!

23rd - 24th February. Roper Lake State Park.

Roper Lake Campsite Redwinged Blackbird

Yellow-Headed Blackbird Great Horned Owl on the island

Eventually we get to Roper Lake State Park and find ourselves one of the best sites in the campground - right on the shore of the lake. As can be seen from the photo's this is a stunning location. The birdwatchers among us are very happy having seen another two Great Horned Owls and hundreds of yellow headed blackbirds (Julie has been trying to get a photo of this bird for months and suddenly there are hundreds of them). There is also a hot spring here and the park has a Hot Tub. Ron is up and about for the first time and makes it to the tub for a half hour dip.

25th - 26th February. Kartchner Caverns State Park.

Cactus coming into flower Cactus Wren

This is our attempt at a bit of tourism!!  Kartchner Caverns are fairly famous in the state and are supposed to be well worth the visit. Our three mobile campers go off and do the caverns while our one immobile camper remains horizontal in the RV. A little on the pricey side for the visit but as this is our only attempt at real tourism no one complains (too much).

27th - 28th February. Organ Pipe Cactus National Park.

View at Organ Pipe Cactus National Park The Organ Pipe Cactus

The Ocotillo Cactus in flower The Cholla Cactus

We have moved on to another of the National  Parks - this one only about five miles from the Mexican border. In fact the park itself goes to the border. Lots of Border Patrol vehicles about and we see one poor Mexican sitting in handcuffs at the side of the road, policeman guarding him until the BP arrive. The park is really very beautiful and the cactus have just started to put flowers out. We would have been better to be about two weeks later but that just wasn't an option.

1st March - Salt Creek, Salton Sea, California.

Seamus in the 'Bat Cave' A friendly lizard

After a fairly long journey through SW Arizona and SE California we arrive back at the Salton Sea. We have driven through the city of Yuma to get here - the warmest place in the US during the winter months, and the place is like RV city - thousands of them everywhere. We also manage a stop at Denny's for the "Grand Slam" breakfast we have been promising ourselves.

Our three intrepid hikers head off for the Bat Cave during our stop here but pretty much find them full of wasps nests and Guano. No sign of Batman or Robin.

2nd March - Salton Sea HQ.

Julie and Linda out bird-watching White Pelican

Another night over at the Park Headquarters so that we can again catch up with e-mails etc and the birdwatchers can see what has changed in the last month. The pelicans are still here (or as Linda managed to work out - the Macedonian Penguins - don't ask!!!!). The lump on the pelicans bill is apparently formed as they come into their annual breeding season. I suppose they need the lump to hump??

3rd March - Ryan Campground, Joshua Tree NP.

Joshua Trees beginning to flower Linda and Seamus among the Joshua Trees

Our last park before Linda and Seamus head back to the UK. We (Ron and Julie) have been before but it quite special and we have no problem visiting again.

4th - 5th March. Cottonwood Campground, Joshua Tree NP.

Cinnamon Teal - another good sighting Linda, Ron and Julie star-watching

Hummingbird on nest A Bobcat enjoying the sunshine

A drive to Barker Dam is well worthwhile. When we were last there it was totally dry. This time there is a large lake and about fifteen foot of water at the dam itself. The above photo of the Cinnamon Teal was taken there. Note that the photo of three of us "star-watching" obviously shows that Ron is still on the drugs and feeling very happy with himself!!!! This place does though give us the best spotting of the trip so far. A very rare sighting of a Bobcat, spotted by Linda and only about fifteen feet away. This cat is going on three feet long so is nothing like a domestic cat and could obviously be very dangerous. This one seems to be soaking up the sunshine and doesn't show much interest in people.

6th - 9th March. La Cahuilla County Park.

La Cahuilla Lake County Park after the rain

We drive down back through Box Canyon, the road having reopened after damage from a previous storm, to La Quinta and do some shopping and look round Best Buy. We then go round to the County Park and camp in the 'primitive' camping area as we have not booked a site with facilities until the Sunday. The weather turns wet on Sunday which is a shame for the people competing in a triathlon at the Park. We head back into town and have a lovely lunch at an Italian restaurant courtesy of our guests and then back to our site with hookup and bunker down for the afternoon.

Monday morning Ron and Julie go and pick up a hire car while Linda and Seamus finish their packing and we head off to the airport at Los Angeles for them to catch their flight later in the day. Tuesday, weather very very windy.

10th March - Wista Unit, Salton Sea, California

Our journey back east begins. Firstly though we have to find a garage that can help us with a problem with a valve extension on one of our tyres, it had been dragging on the road and was damaged. It turned out that the inside tyre was flat and when air was put into it, it blew!!! A two foot slit along the wall finished that tyre off so we had to wait awhile for a replacement. Salt Creek campground was closed so we went down to Wista Unit in the Sonny Bono wildlife refuge and stayed there the night.

11th March - Gilbert Ray, Pima County, Tuscon Mountain Park, Arizona

Decided to put on some miles as we have done most of this area before. After stopping to do the laundry again in Calipatria, we get onto the Interstate 8 and head east. The Walmart just before Tuscon didn't allow overnight RV parking so we found a campsite near the Saguaro National Park and just found a campsite before dark. A long day but worth it, 344 miles today.

12th March - LoW-Hi Ranch, Deming, New Mexico

The Greater Roadrunner

It's Friday, it must be New Mexico. Another 230 miles today puts us into the "Loners on Wheels Headquarters International" campsite. Originally designed for single RV'ers to meet other singles but they now accept visiting RV's. Nothing special except that Julie managed to get some good shots of the local Roadrunner - note that Wiley Coyote got squished by the ACME truck so not a pretty picture???

13th March - Balmorhea State Park, Texas

It's Saturday, it must be Texas. Another 287 miles today puts us well into Texas and about one third of our way back to Virginia. We find out that it is "Spring Break" and the campsite is full but a very friendly ranger allows to "overflow" park in the main car park for the night. This is actually a very small State Park but is here because it has a natural warm spring (72 deg F or 22 deg C) and in the 1930's they turned the pond into a swimming area by walling the sides. In the morning we speak to the ranger again who is also an avid birdwatcher and he lets us go into his private garden on the site where there are thousands of feeding birds - including a Pyrrhuloxia - similar to the Northern Cardinal but not as red.

14th - 16th March - Reagan County Park, Big Lake, Texas

Harvey at Big Lake Vermillion Flycatcher

We have now decided we have made enough miles and have come off the main Interstate (Motorway) onto the back roads and finish up in the town of Big Lake. This is Texas oil country and the smell of crude oil is occasionally in the air. Big Lake provides a "City Park" for RV'ers and we are not sure if it will be full or not - it is a cheap place! We arrive, eventually find it and it is totally empty. There are spaces for about a hundred RV's. We stay here for three days with free electricity and water. The place is due to fill up in the next day or so for a Bluegrass Festival but we cannot stay even though invited to do so.

17th -18th March - Brady Lake, Texas

Harvey at Brady Lake primitive campground The Golden-Fronted Woodpecker

This is what they call "primitive" camping meaning no facilities. Apart from a family tent camping we are the only ones here and have a couple of days peace and quiet by the lake, coldish at night but beautiful during the day.

19th - 21st March - Westcliff Park, Belton Lake, Texas

Northern Mockingbird - Texas State bird Ron and Harvey at Belton Lake CG

A stop here for a few days as the weather is due to be horrible - this turned out to be correct!! Very wet then windy and the temperature dropping to zero at night. On Sunday we had clear skies but lots of wind, only thirty miles north though, they had snow so we were in the best place. Moving on Monday.

 22nd March. Craney Lakes Recreation Area, Minden, Louisiana.

Another day, another State. A flying visit to Louisiana finds us near Minden in a beautiful National Forest site on Upper Craney Lake. The campground is really very good, electric and water provided and well spaced out sites. Oh yes!! and half price because of our National Parks Annual Pass.

23rd March. Jeff Busby Park Campground, Natchez Trace Parkway, Mississippi.


Jeff Busby Campsite, Natchez Trace Parkway Is spring on the way?

Another day, another State. This time Mississippi. We join the Natchez Trace Parkway near Jackson and head north. The parkway is a historical route taken by Indians, hunters and the northern farmers returning home from selling their goods in New Orleans. The farmers would raft their goods down the Mississippi river and sell everything including the raft. Then they would walk or ride home on the Old Trace. This is a similar sort of road to the Blue Ridge Parkway in that no commercial traffic is allowed on it at all so it is a very quiet and peaceful drive.

24th - 25th March. Davis Lake, Natchez Trace Parkway, Mississippi.

Just another 50 miles up the parkway and we find the Davis Lake Recreation Area. Sites have electricity and water and we settle in for a couple of days bad weather again. Rain, thunderstorms and possible tornado's are forecast but the worst passes just to the south of us and we just get the rain and wind. A really nice spot though with good hiking trails. Ron has managed his first real hiking here for a couple of months doing two shortish hikes, one in the morning before leaving Jeff Busby and one here in the afternoon. Things are improving. Tomorrow will see us moving on again trying to make the east coast by the end of the month. We have yet to go to Beaufort in North Carolina to pick up a sail we have had made and also to Richmond in Virginia to firstly query the Customs and Border Patrol guys about importing Gladlee for sale and then to check out a storage company for the RV. Time is pressing.

26th March - Villa Rica, Georgia.

Managed 273 miles today, driving straight through Alabama to Georgia. Overnighted at Villa Rica's Walmart in Georgia.

27th March - Petersburg CG, J. Strom Thurmond Lake, Georgia

Another 180 miles today straight through Atlanta on Interstate 20. Stopped at Waffle House for our 6th wedding anniversary brunch. Lovely Corps of Engineers campsite, lots of room, showers and laundry facilities - so a busy afternoon.

28th March - Wilmington Walmart, North Carolina

Drove through South Carolina to North Carolina and stopped at a Walmart overnight. Did 300 miles leaving less than 100 to go to Beaufort. Rain forecast for a couple of days.

29th March - Town Creek Marina, Beaufort, North Carolina.

Steve, the owner has allowed us to stay in the marina car park overnight so we have a freebie with power. We have come here so that we can pick up a new sail we had ordered to replace the one we split in the Bahamas last year. Fairly quiet here but it is still very early in the season.

30th March - Schroeder's Yard, Deltaville, Virginia.

The round trip is completed. 10,248 miles and 21 different States. It is a strange feeling.

On the way back we stopped off at Richmond Airport to see the Customs and Border Protection people. We are now going to put Gladlee up for sale and we needed to check up on importing the boat so that she can be sold here. Twenty minutes later and the deal is done with the help of some very nice CBP personnel. Much easier and cheaper than we thought it was going to be. So, all that remains is to get Gladlee "tarted" up ready for an unsuspecting public to offer us lots of money. That's plan "A" anyway.

The other thing is that "Harvey" was starting to suffer a little and needs to get some TLC before going into storage in Richmond in May. Hopefully we can find a place locally that can handle it.

Harvey and Gladlee at Schroeder's Sundowners on the dock

7th April - one week on. Lots of work done on Gladlee involving an enormous amount of throwing 'stuff' away. The evening ceremony consists of taking the wheel-barrow full of rubbish to the skip followed by sundowners on the dock. Beautiful weather so far though due to get a bit colder (over 90F today).

15th - 17th April - Chickahominy Wildlife Management Area

Most of the hard work has now been done and we have decided to take another venture out. We have called by Newport News and had a tyre fixed which has stopped our vibration and finished the day back at Chickahominy Wildlife Management Area. We actually came here first last year for a couple of days free camping. The place is still as nice though this time Julie managed NOT to find any snakes.

18th - 19th April - Oregon Inlet Campsite

We have gone down to the "Outer Banks" - that strip of land/islands that keeps the Pamlico Sound safe from the Atlantic. It is a great place and we are very early in the season so not too many people about. The campsites are quiet, the beaches are deserted and Ron is managing to get some walking done again. The Oregon inlet is the most northerly of the passages from the ocean to the Sound but it not for the faint hearted. Strong currents and shifting sandbanks make this a place for those with "local knowledge".

Julie at Oregon Inlet

A Rough Oregon Inlet

20th April - Frisco, Cape Hatteras

We have moved down to the central island of the chain by means of the bridge over the Oregon Inlet. A quick visit to the Hatteras Lighthouse en-route to our campground gives us our daily dose of tourism. This is the highest brick built lighthouse in the world by the way and was recently moved, intact, some 2,900 feet inland to keep it away from the beach erosion. Or for the cynic to protect it for more tourists to visit and spend money there.

Harvey at Frisco

Hatteras Lighthouse

21st - 23rd April - Ocracoke Campsite

From Hatteras island we have taken a free ferry to Ocracoke Island. This is Harvey's first ever ferry ride and it is a somewhat odd feeling sitting inside having coffee while we are at sea.  The North Carolina Ferry Service is brilliant. Many free ferries and some that have to be paid for but are subsidised.

Harvey at Ocracoke

Harvey at Sea

24th April - Pettigrew State Park

So, to get off Ocracoke Island we of course had to take another ferry. This time a fairly long trip of nearly three hours for which we paid the grand total of US$30. We have landed back on the "mainland" at Swanquarter which is a fairly quaint old village. We drive on for about two hours to Pettigrew State Park, an out of the way, small place with only a few campsites. We luck out and get the last available one in which we could fit. Julie is in heaven. We have only been in the site for 20 minutes when she spots what turns out to be a Screech Owl in the bushes about 15 feet away from us. These are not common despite the name and it is a "good spot". Other spots include two baby doves cuddling up to mum to keep warm and a tiny green Tree Frog.

Our campsite at Pettigrew State Park, NC Pileated Woodpecker

Common Screech Owl The Cemetery where General Pettigrew is buried

25th April - Elizabeth City Harbour Docks

We have driven up to Elizabeth City so that we can visit out favourite pub in the area. Very quiet though so only a "bakers couple" of pints and a snack before an early night. We have parked in the city car park next to where the free boat dock is located and are not sure if we are going to be turfed out in the middle of the night. We'll see.

26th April - Schroeder's Boatyard, Deltaville

Well, we got a full nights sleep with no late knock on the door and head back to Deltaville to finish off the few jobs we have left to do with both Gladlee and Harvey.

27th April to 7th May

We continued to do some jobs on the boat and RV. We cleaned off the roof of the RV and put a couple of coats of paint on in now very hot conditions. A few people came to look at the boat but no offers were forthcoming. We had a rather boozy return evening with Chris and Liz from the catamaran "Zulia" and some gatecrashers from a neighbouring boat. Ron went off to Houston to meet Fauz at the OTC on Monday 3rd May while Julie takes the RV for an oil change and to Rainbow Acres Campground to finish off packing and cleaning the RV ready for storage. Ron joins her there and then the next day we take the RV to Cheek and Shockley in Richmond and spend about an hour turning everything off and putting a cover on before heading up to Washington in an hire car for our flight back to the UK.



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