Monday, December 26, 2011

Texas in December

December in Texas has been different than either one of us expected.  It has been grey and rainy, with temperatures ranging from mid 50s to all of a sudden a day in the high 60s-70 degrees. This week is just one of those weeks, with 70 during the day and 35-40 at night.
Poinsettias are gone and primroses are now out for sale!!!  The trees have just lost their leaves, mainly due to rain and winds that have been coming through this month.  At the same time, because it has been rainy, the fields are GREEN, really very green and lawnmowers are now going.  It is so weird to understand that this is December even though I am sometimes in short sleeves and hot in the sun.

Our activities this month have been pretty minimalist.  I think we have both been feeling the need to just stay close to home, the Roulotte, and have quiet times.  We both had a tough time dealing with the sudden death of Claudelle's husband earlier this month.  Fred and I had both known him for 30+years.  His death was so unexpected and sudden, that it brought back too many thoughts of what we had just endured in France.  Thankfully, Claudelle and the girls are holding their own during this time.  We all just need time to heal now.

We did take 4 days to go see South Padre Island, along the Gulf coast, southwest corner of Texas.  This is right next to the Mexican border.  A tropical paradise, with temperatures running about 8-10 degrees warmer than here!  We both loved it there and enjoyed some really good food on the island.  We are just beginning to  think about next Christmas and talk about possibly spending December there next year.  Yes, we need to think about that since we need to plan when and where we will be when we return from France next fall.

We took a day trip back to Fredricksburg in the hill country.  Was quite wonderful since everything was decorated for Christmas.  The town was started by German settlers, so there was an option for some good German food for lunch also!  By now you know that we are all about the good food as part of this adventure.

never know what you might see out here.....

Christmas tree and armadillo

stuck going down chimney on top of RV

Christmas day we took another long walk along the banks of the San Antonio river.  There is just a small portion of this walk that is the tourist area, the rest is just homes and quiet spaces.  It is our favorite area in San Antonio.  If I were to live here, it would have to be some where along the river.  It is, however, prime real estate, so just a fantasy.  There were lots of Great White Herons and Cormorants along the banks of the river as we walked along.  It was a cold and windy day, but there were some other folks out there with us enjoying the walk.  Our favorite way to start our walk is to park in the King William district and walk a block to the river.  This is an area of large old houses that the original German settler built in the 1800s.  Beautiful houses on streets with large old cypress and pecan trees.  just beautiful!

notice the Tower of the Americas (Space Needle) in the center back

house in King William district, along the river

Dec 29  8pm
We are just back from a visit to the LBJ ranch, which is located in Stonewall, Tx, northwest of San Antonio.  We had been there early this summer and really enjoyed driving on the ranch and seeing where LBJ worked while at the ranch.  He was the first president to have an active working White House in a location other than DC.  Today it was still beautifully decorated for Christmas and really had a feeling of waiting for the family to return home.  When we had been there in June, work was being done in the kitchen and neither LBJ nor Lady Birds bedrooms were open to visit.  All three areas have now been restored to their look in 1968.  After the tour of the house we started talking with one of the guides.  He gave us a bit more of a tour and information about a little guest house that is next door to the main house.  Seems that daughter Luci still comes often to the ranch.  She says in the guest house when she is there, but also lets it get rented out to guests.  You just need to not disturb her clothes which are in the closet, but you can use her spices in the kitchen.  There was a family there today, so we did not get to go inside, but it is something we will keep in mind.  The guest house was where LBJ and family lived while the main house was being renovated.
It was also used as a guest house when visitors came to the Texas White House to see LBJ.
house on the ranch where LBJ was born; a "dog-trot" style house

the official Texas White House

along walkway going up to the house; supposedly written by LBJ

And that will take care of this month and this year.  New years eve we are going to a small, 8 tables, "kind of" french restaurant which we found in Castroville.  We had a great dinner there mid-December and decided that was our evening spurgle for the end of 2011.

Happy New Year to all our friends reading this blog!
Michelle and Fred
Traveling the country so you don't have to!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Just traveling & some more

Our good times in Cottonwood came to an end almost a week ago.  Hard to believe that Thanksgiving was over a week ago already.  We really had a great time together doing some day trips, turkey feast and signing Christmas carols in the dark while traveling back from the Grand Canyon.
This is round two of this same blog.  Was writing the original earlier today and was at the last few lines, when suddenly the "dog ate my homework" (Fred is convinced that is what happened), everything but the title disappeared.  I have it set to save about every 2 mins when I am writing, so no idea where it went.  Briefly, very briefly saw the original, in an earlier uncompleted version, but even that disappeared into the "dark cloud".  As Fred says, "should not take me as long to write it again".  LOL

So, we left Cottonwood on Nov 28, 2011 with our final destination being San Antonio.  When traveling, we have the car attached behind us the whole time.  We do not unhook during travel days since it is a bit of work getting it on and off ramp, connecting battery each time and just too much work after a day of driving the Roulotte.  With the car attached, the 35ft Roulotte now becomes a 55ft colossus.  This is not something you drive off the highway to go check out what may be some interesting site.  So, we learn about some of the areas we drive past by reading the links that I attach here in the blog.  Since we stay attached, dinners are pretty simple while traveling.  Often when the weather was hot, we ate sandwiches, so as not to heat up the Roulotte cooking.  This trip we experimented with some frozen dinners, actually some Zatharaines (sp?) (Cajun / new Orleans style dinners) which turned out fine.  We also had a night of left over turkey-yum!

Our first stop was Benson, AZ.  A desert community with a great RV park that we spent the night in.  Was very warm and sunny, so no sooner did we arrive, but out came the chairs and we enjoyed the evening.  The place was pretty empty since most folks were arriving on or about Dec 1st.  Seemed to have a full social calendar of events for these folks during the winter.  It was a very nice spot to spend some time and we may do so on another trip since there are lots of things to see and do in the area.

Next saw us on the road bright and early, about 8:45 by the time we had some breakfast and got the Roulotte ready to roll.  We went thru New Mexico, but there wasn't much to see from the highway.  Did spot an interesting billboard advertising the duck races in Deming New Mexico.  You say what???

Go to YOUTube to see what they are doing in Deming.
At a rest stop just above Las Cruces,NM we saw a giant Roadrunner.

No information about this guy and no one to ask.  He was about 16-18ft high, standing on hill just to the side of the rest area, looking down on the city of Las Cruces.  1% for art????
We stopped for the night in our least favorite city, so far, El Paso.  Hey you gotta do what you gotta do.
The RV park is at just the right distance for the day, we try to only do about 300 miles a day.  At 60-65 mph, that is quite enough for Fred in one day and we had made it to Texas already.  This was a spot we had stayed at before, so it was easy to find and we had time to get out the chairs before the sun set.

Day three found us driving, driving, driving to our next spot for the night-Ft. Stockton.  This is way out there, in the middle of nowhere and is the big city for the area.  If folks want a  special night out, they go up to Midlands/Odessa, where Barbara Bush grew up.  The Bush's may still have a house in that area, not sure.

Hey, check out the bird in the Ft. Stockton link above.  We'll wattayknow..... Worlds largest?  I don't think so....oh well, must have been at the time y'all.
We will be back to this area while we are down here, since we plan to go explore a bit in Big Bend National Park.  Any way, we got there in time to enjoy taking our chairs out and sitting a while....gotta do what you gotta do

me and my kindle!

Day four, our last travel day was sunny and windy, the kind of day that RVers dread.  The wind was only blowing 20-30 mph, but with something as big as we are its like hitting a brick wall.  Fred did a great job of keeping us going straight down the highway, but I do confess that I was sitting in my seat a bit white knuckled at times.  We had some incredible gusts that felt like they were picking us up.  I kid you not.  Fred admitted later that if it had been just a bit more windy, gusty, we would have found someplace to wait it out, instead of trying to make it to San Antonio this day.
The wind finally eased up about 3/4 of the way there, so we did make it as planned.  We were very happy to find our RV park and see that they had reserved the same space we had been in before.  We are right next to a beautiful mesquite tree.
So, what did we do upon guessed it, took out the chairs and relaxed.  Enjoyed the last of our turkey that night.

We are now settling in to our "winter Texans" life here.  Yesterday we went for a 3 mile hike along the Medina River.  Today we are being homebodies since the weather is bad here-rain, wind, cold.  Though I can not complain, since we had worse Decembers in our recent pasts!

Well enough for now since the Internet is VERY slow here now, maybe due to the wind etc.
Till next time,
Michelle and Fred
Traveling the country so you don't have to!

Monday, November 21, 2011

out and about in Arizona

Arizona is a truly beautiful state, with lots of variety in climate and scenery, mountains and forests in the north, desert and rocky mesas in the lower half of the state.
We took a day trip up to the Grand Canyon, trip # 5 for me and # 2 for Fred.  No matter how many times you go to the Grand Canyon it is unique.  The light, the reflections on rocks, the air are always different.  It is incredible and not something to miss.  We started our visit at the Watchtower.

art work inside the WatchTower

effect of winds on tree

big guy we saw near ranger residence. what is he doing on the lawn? anything he wants!
Next day it was snowing in the canyon.

Some other sight seeing in the local area where we are - Tuzigoot National Monument.  This is a site just 15 mins away, consisting of stone rooms built on top of a hill.  The location gave the families living here great views of the surrounding area.  There was lots of hunting, gathering and water from the Verde River near by.  You can walk around the dwellings and get an idea of what it was like to live here. The museum has lots of artifacts found in this compound.  When you see this location on Google map, it says it is next to Pecks Lake.  It is now just a dry expanse next to the ruins.

view of Pecks Lake

Another local site we visited, which is well worth seeing is Montezumas Castle.  This is cliff dwellings.  Until the late 1950s, visitors were allowed to climb up into the dwellings.  That was stopped due to the highway being built and bringing too many wanting to climb up to see what they could see.  It is a fascinating site to visit.

It was now time to get in a bit more baseball and some warmer weather.  So, we went down to Phoenix, which is about 1.5hrs from here and saw another Fall League game. Was about 77degrees for most of the game and sunny-just what the doctor ordered!  We spent 2 days in the Phoenix area.

Day 2 we went for what I thought was going to be  nice hike in Phoenix, Squaw Peak.  Who came up with this idea anyway, oh me.... Was a 4+mile hike up, over, around, up and over other side and then down again.  It is listed as moderate/difficult.  It was the hardest hike we have done in many a year.  It was a lot of STEEP rock climbing both up and down.  Idiots that we were, we thought oh, about 2 hr hike, so did not even take water with us.  I had gum.  oh great you say, well it was enough to keep moisture going in my mouth.  It did end up being about 80degrees and took us 3.75hrs to do the hike.  The end was a steep rock covered descent, which was like a freeway, full of people going up and down the summit trail, which is what our big loop trail ends on.
I was grateful that no one pushed me down or out of their way as I carefully negotiated my way down.
I ended up by throwing water on myself in the ladies room at the end to bring life back into my exhausted body.  We were able to get enough water into ourselves to replenish what we had lost in sweat.  We can now cross this one off our "bucket lists", not that this was really on there, but its definitely off it now!!!!
So how did we celebrate this incredible feat....went to Starbucks to get 2 mocha frapachinos (sp?) and ice water.  Wonderful!

We then went to visit friends, Keith and Gladys in Florence, AZ.  spent 1.5 days with them and their dog Louie.  Was a really great visit and we will be happy to see them again in Seattle area next spring.  They are snow birds and have a house in Florence where they winter.  We spent a really fun time visiting the local museum, which was run by a docent who we swear was an old school teacher.  She kept saying that we missed such and such an item, when we had not even gotten to it, in such a stern voice.  She also made us each take a copy of the information sheet and kept saying we had not read what was needed on the sheets......she really was something!!!  We were sure there was going to be a test and we needed to answer the questions right to be able to get out again!!! It was a blast.

Well we are now back in Cottonwood and getting ready for Thanksgiving.  Jenn and Jeff arrive on Wednesday and it will be really good to see them again.  Fred is planning our meal and there will be many hands willing to help if he lets us...he is kind of a one man show.  As I said to Jessica, there will be more meal options that we can all pull together.
We will be leaving the area on Monday 11/28 and heading east.  We will be "winter Texans" for Dec and Jan.  Staying in the rv park that we know just south of San Antonio.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our friends!
Michelle and Fred
Traveling the country so you don't have to!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Travels from Gilroy, CA to Cottonwood, AZ

We are now in Arizona visiting our daughter Claudelle and granddaughters Jessica and Tabitha.  I feel as though we have come full circle since we began our travels in Cottonwood.  We have seen so many things since then and so much has changed in during this time.  Daughter Jenn and her husband Jeff will also be joining us here for Thanksgiving.  I am really looking forward to this family gathering!

The really big news is that our son, Andy and his girlfriend Amanda have just announced their engagement!!!! We are so happy for them!  Sounds as though the wedding may be in early May? They are a great couple and complement each other well.

So back to our travels....well it turned out the road into Joshua Tree National Park was washed out and the campground was closed.

So, we quickly regrouped and found another campground 70 miles further along in Blythe, CA.  Blythe is right at the border with Arizona.  The campground was right on the Colorado river, which was very pretty.

We thought we would only stay for 2 nights, but ended up staying for 4 days.  It was almost like being in the desert, except that as Fred says " it had sun, heat, grass, electric hookup and both kinds of music-country & western".  We really only heard a little music Friday night, when more folks arrived with their boats to do river stuff.
It was mostly a very quiet campground.  The big excitement was that we were on the direct flight path for jets going to Edwards Air Force base.  They came over very, very low, you could clearly see the pilots and almost touch them, as they were preparing for landing.  Pilots enjoyed having campers wave and would even give a wing salute!
The local area is some citrus, cotton and hay growing.  Blythe itself is not much, but we did manage to find a really great dinner in local Mexican restaurant. Blythe is half way between LA and Phoenix so amazingly  has 4-5 hotels,a new Starbucks, a Denny's and maybe 2-3 other type eateries.  The movie house is currently for sale.  Not much going on in Blythe that we could see, but when you look at the link below it seems that there must have been something hidden from our view......,_California

After Blythe, we had an uneventful trip to Cottonwood.  Since here, we already did an overnight in Phoenix and went to a Fall League baseball game.  This is a group of teams made up of prospects for the big league teams.  See explanation in this link

It was the oddest game we had ever been to see.  The crowd was mainly scouts viewing the players and some "normal" folks like us, 75-100 people total.  There was no noise from this crowd and only three times did they clap for some play that was made.  Very weird!  We will probably go back for another game to see if it is the same each time.

Yesterday we went to visit Tuzigoot, which is located just a few miles from Cottonwood.   This is an ancient pueblo site that you can visit and walk around various rooms.  Was a beautiful, warm, sunny day so it was a comfortable walk up to the ruins.

We have a list of a half dozen other things to do while in this area and at the same time spend lots of girl time while we are here.  I also have lots of document scanning to do, official paperwork concerning our house in France.  So, we will be quite busy this month.
Stay tuned.
Michelle and Fred
Traveling the country so you don't have to!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Almost back to travel in the Roulotte

Yes, it is finally time for me to get back to writing about our travels again.  Since we returned from France, we then quickly traveled to Seattle to visit with our kids and friends.  We arrived in Seattle with rain, which just helped to confirm that we made the right decision to leave the area for sunnier climates.  We were, however, greeted with a wonderfully sunny and warm week the whole time we were there.

The day we left Seattle was again rainy and cool!

Fred and I then spent 5 days traveling around northern California, driving highways 1 and 101 until we reached the Roulotte in Gilroy.  We both agreed that we felt a great need to have this road trip so that we could start to feel better after all we had been thru the past weeks.  I still have the feeling that had been going thru some bad dream and would wake up to find my mother again in Le Cannet.
Within a few days of our return to Gilroy, Claudelle and her daughters arrived for a visit to see Quillan and his parents.  While they were here, we did a variety of tourist activities-Monterey aquarium and in San Francisco-Coit Tower, Embarcadero, walking the Golden Gate bridge among out sites.  Great visit by all!

After Claudelle and the girls left to go back to Cottonwood AZ, Fred and I did some car touring of our own between Gilroy and LA. We left the Roulotte at Camping World in what we hope is the final resolution to our tire problems which began way back in April.  Our first night out was spent in San Luis Obispo at the Madonna Inn.  This is a theme room Inn.  We spent the night in the Swiss Rock room. Rock on the walls, floors and bathroom.  Shower was rock enclosure with a waterfall shower.  Quite fun!
Another night was in Santa Maria in a historic inn
Included in our travels was a visit to Mission San Miguel, a well preserved mission which is still used by Franciscans for seminars and training.
We have now spent a last few days in the Redwood City/San Mateo area.  We repeated our previous fun activities, mini gulf, walking by the salt water flats and going to the movies.  We saw Moneyball, which was okay buy not a great movie.
Late this afternoon we were able to visit with Quillan and his parents.  We went to dinner in San Mateo at the food trucks that were set up in an area of downtown San Mateo.  It was a warm evening to eat outside and see so many people enjoying the food and the friendly atmosphere.
Next we move on to Joshua Tree National Park for about a week of camping there.  This will be our first time dry camping in the Roulotte, so stay tuned for how this turns out.
Bye to all,
Fred and Michelle
Traveling the country so you don't have to!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Travel sans (without) the Roulotte

This one is difficult to write.  We are in France, in Le Cannet, at what was my mother's house.  My mother died suddenly on Aug 18, 2011. My brother and I are now owners of the house.
Our cousins and aunt were all at the airport to meet us when the 3 of us, Jerry, Fred and I arrived on Saturday 8/20.  It was an incredible show of support for us, which  we will never forget!

The first week passed in a blur for me.   In addition to all the funeral preparations that we needed to do, Jerry and I also had to set up initial paperwork to handle inheritance matters before he left at the end of the week.
This past week I am learning more about how to handle french paperwork.  I feel like I am drowning in papers and never seem to quite get a handle on it all.  First I have to find all the various documents that my mother had and then try to understand what they all mean.  I never had any schooling in reading french legal documents, so the words now need more definition for me.   I am continually being saved by Carole, my cousins wife. 
I will never be able to thank her and my cousin Philippe enough.  Fred and I can only hope to be there for them whenever they need anything!
Enough for now.  We will be returning to the US on Sept 22nd.
love to all,
Michelle and Fred

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

So the big day arrived!

Grandson, Quillan Edward Foster was born on Aug 4, 2011.  We got to visit him and his parents in the hospital that evening.  Amazing to finally see this little guy that we have all been waiting for.
Quill and his parents are learning their routines and all seem happy.  We hope to see him a few more times before we move on again.

In hospital about

In the meantime, we continue to amuse ourselves by playing miniature golf and going to movies.  We saw Rise of the Planet of the Apes-its another good summer movie.  Oh and we went to visit the Walt Disney Museum which is located on the Presidio grounds in San Francisco.  That was all about the life of Walt and the start of Disney.  It was a lot of material to see, but well worth it.  If you go, plan on at least 3 hours.

On Sunday Aug 21 we leave to drive up to Seattle in the Passat.  We will be leaving the Roulotte in a campground south of San Jose, near Gilroy, the garlic capital of California.
We will be spending a week there visiting family and friends.  Looking forward to see them all again.  On the way back to California we will visit Karen and Stuart Foster in Medford.  We just saw them here when Quillan was born, but it will be nice to visit again.  No knowing when we will see them again once we begin our travels.

We are currently working on our trip in late September/ October to New York City and then Cannes.  Our cousin Maurice and his partner Gus are letting us barge in on them and use their guest room.  We will be taking a red-eye out to NYC to maximize our time there.  This will be the first time for Fred in NYC.  He says he hopes he doesn't break his neck looking up at all the tall buildings!
Air France offered some really nice ticket prices, so we decided that since memere did not want to come to the US, that we would go to her.  Fred says that it is also time for our 1/2yearly visit to fill the gas tank in her VW Bug-don't want it sitting with stall gas too long!

Well enough for now.  More as we move north.
Michelle and Fred
Traveling the country so you don't have to!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

San Francisco Bay area

Well we have been in the Bay area awaiting the birth of our first grandson.  We are camped in Redwood City, which is just south of the City.  Mornings start off very cloudy and cool, then it clears up mid morning and is sunny in high 70s.  The evenings have been VERY chilly, especially since we are on the water (see Bayfront Park below).  We have been doing some tourist stuff and just some fun things during this waiting game.

We walked the Golden Gate Bridge on what was actually a warm and not too windy day.  Went from land on one side to land on the other side.  It was difficult going because it was packed with others walking and bicycles, but it was great to finally do this.  Was my first time and the second time for Fred. He had done this with Maeva when they came to San Francisco.

Saw a Picasso exhibit at the deYoung Museum in San Francisco.  Its a perspective of works from beginning to end of his life.  Was quite interesting and had many works that I had never seen before.  What really amazed us was to see some landscape work that he had done, which we both really, really liked.

Many mornings we go for mochas and croissants from a place called Pamplemousse which we found in Redwood City.  Then we play miniature golf at a place that is less than 1/2mile from where we are camped.They offer an early bird special, just $3.50 for each of us if we start playing between 10 - 11am.   We have just had a heck of a lot of fun doing 2 rounds of 18 holes!

We also have a great walk at Bedwell Bayfront Park, which is less than a mile from us.  Its an area of tidal basins with a walk that is 1.2 miles around.  Gets lots of the locals out each evening doing the walk. It is usually pretty windy, but a great walk to do.

The Gilroy Garlic Festival was a high point at the end of last week.  It's about 50miles south of us and so an easy trip to make.  We have of course stopped in Gilroy many times over the past years to buy various garlic items, but never been to their 3 day festival.  Wow, the air just smells of garlic even before you actually get to the site.  It is full of food, with lots of garlic of course and crafts.  Quite the event.  We watched a food demonstration and of course also had something to eat.  Fred had a pesto pasta and garlic sausage wit peppers/onions.  Yummy!  I had a chicken stir fry, scampi in garlic, mushrooms in garlic and small garlic sausage.  Yummy!  But I woke up that night still feeling over-garlicked!  We both reeked for a good 24hrs (or bad if you got too close and don't like garlic). LOL!

cooking scampi and calmari - don't try this at home!

We have also found a great new movie house in Redwood City and already been to 2 movies.  We saw Captain America last week and today Cowboys and Aliens.  Both were much better than the reviews indicated.

Yesterday we took a trip out to Half Moon Bay and then down highway 1 to Santa Cruz.  Was a beautiful day out at the coast.  Enjoyable drive to get there thru a redwood forest.  Fred says its a great motorcycle road, with tight turns and ups and downs.  I drove one section and he drove most of it, which made me happy.  I could just enjoy the views!

 we are still waiting for the arrival of the new family member.  Christa went in to hospital last evening and they were starting to induce labor slowly.  By mid-day today, not much new to report.  Increasing drugs as day goes Christa says "he's as happy as a clam in there".  oh well, we'll see him soon I'm sure.
That's it for now.
Michelle and Fred
Traveling the country so you don't have to!