Travels With Oso con Migo

Odyssey In America

OAE Off The Road Again -- Winter Solstice GreetingsNude Sunbathers Ahead

Gentle Readers:

Twenty-first Day: "Eat Chocolate - Loose Weight"

Any similarity between this Voyage of Discovery and anything resembling a Vacation is purely coincidental. Sometimes there are no friends or relatives when I feel the need to visit, museums and parks are alternative choices.

ajo and wheels from when the paint was freshI lost track, back there between doing the lube in a car park and climbing a tower to fix a hurricane damaged antenna for one of Roger's ham radio neighbors, lost track of which day was which date. Now it is monday and I am in Tallahassee on the return leg. Fuel prices have come down if you can believe the news. Still over two dollars a gallon for diesel here but then FLorida has had the highest prices outside of AridZona.  . . o O (...and better roads too. I wonder if there is some correlation there... Well, except for Gainsville.)

Last night's sleep was in a rest area someplace, Elaville comes to mind however I cannot find it on the map now. Next morning, this morning, I spent some time helping the guy in the next slot north fix a broken fuel line on an Isuzu diesel in a bait hauler. Learnt a lot about the "keepers" between the pump and the injectors on the fuel lines. Also learnt about how much pressure is in those lines. Blew a hole in the hose we used for the first fix. I went back to The Cat Drag'd Inn and checked my keepers and found more than two loose.

Picked up Gary along the Way after spending most of the afternoon at the FLorida Museum of Natural History. As much as I dislike roadside billboards the big word "Chocolate" caught my eye on one a few miles south of Gainesville. "Chocolate - The Exhibition", with support from the National Science Foundation. Have to take advantage of your tax dollars at work. This is a travelling show so you might get to see it yourself. It will be at Gainsville until after the first of the year. "This exciting new exhibition from The Field Museum, Chicago explores the legends, history, science, economics and enduring allure of this delectable wonder, which has been used to express love, flaunt wealth, pay debts and honor the gods." Just as at the Hershey tour, there is a chocolate shop you have to exit through however this experience is missing "the smell" which Hershey employs to simply drive you crazy with desire. Nonetheless it was a good thing I left my "plastic" under guard with the watch-cat and brought only a few dollars in my pocket.

Gary was hitching back to Las Vegas. He'd hitched east to visit an estranged wife and his "bible thumping hypocrite kids". I left him off at the truck stop and took on 88.2 gallons of DF#2 at 2$05/gal. (Another year of school for that boy in Erode.)

217 miles today, 24.9 of which were used up going around the block in Gainesville several times trying to find the museum. My out of date charts and the poorly signed roads were not helped any by the fact that the museum is not on Museum Road. The contents were moved to a new building four years ago. At least after spending six dollars on fuel to find the place there was no admission fee. I'll be thankful for that.

22nd, 23rd, 24th: Off The Road for The Holiday

Shower in the darkNothing like sitting still in a quiet place whilst all those in a hurry to go elsewhere are on the roads. With Kira and Mike and Ezra in the rain north of Tallahassee. Ezra is cutting teeth and learning to walk. We watched a Harry Potter movie last night that he had seen before and he kept up a running commentary not only on the plot but also on the special effects.

Plenty of opportunity to write and fix things here. In the yard a couple of donkeys cavort with a llama, several cats and a dog keep Sara(h) La Gata hovering at the end of her tether, and a hammock nap in the sun lasts all of fifteen minutes before the next rain comes. Mike takes me shopping at a construction site where we find some nice Pyrex items.

Twenty-fifth Day: Thanksgiving with Rosen

It is often at the tables of stranger's that I feel most welcome. And all that followed on: meeting "Mom", playing Cat's Cradle, tying knots, watching baskets weave, all give reason to why I was not with any of my cousins. Nothing by chance.

There must have been sixteen or ei8hteen people around the table spread with the traditional repast typical of a Jewish-English-Floridian ethnic group. The conversation was lively and the food was also, especially with Ezra eating with his hands whilst creating a new style of cranberry-pumpkin cammo on Mike's white shorts. The friend of Mike's brother, sitting next to me, had been in the navy and we had in common our Shellback and Bluenose initiations. After dinner Barbara showed me how to weave baskets from long pine needles and I showed Mike how to weave zipper fobs. Truely a grand family and a great dinner. Thanks you-all.

Well! Now that Thanks have been given and the Thanksgiving Turkey has been gobbled it is time to turn about. Westward Ho!

Black Friday, The Day After, On the Road the 26th Day

Television coverage does not begin to do justice to the hurricane damage along the National Seashore Beach between Fort Walton and Pensacola. The news tends to dwell upon the most tragic or the most spectacular but it fails to bring out the depth and breadth of the devastation caused by these recent storms. Mile after mile of roadside piled with broken trees, broken toys and furniture, broken houses. Parks and playgrounds closed to the usual activities of parking and playing cos they are taken up with row upon row of temporary housing. Trailers mostly, white mostly, with FEMA stencilled boldly on the side.

Boy in Tree by Mike Tedder with additional foliage by ajoThe beach is closed along there and in Navarre it looks like a scene from a New England greeting card. White drifts against buildings and along streets. Trucks and loaders working to carry the white stuff away. But the white stuff is beach sand and the roads are narrowed with it. Restaurants without roofs. Poles without wires.

But still it seems as though a lot of people are standing around not cleaning up and not rebuilding. Are they still in shock? Waiting for FEMA loans? Or don't have contractor license? Lots of hasty signage, black type on yellow card, tell you that doing contractor work without a contractor license is a felony in FLorida. Maybe that's why. Is one required to have a license to clean up such a mess? I missed a lot of photo ops: Artsy compositions of sand drifted around stop signs. Kids at a playground using a downed section of chain-link fence for a trampoline. Rows of identical trailers set between the white lines of parking lots and connected with umbilicals of power-water-sewer all wrapped neatly like a holiday gift in chain-link fence .

Tonight I'm in Alabama. 225 miles west of where I started.

Twenty-seventh Day: Orange TeXas, Long Day Driving. 481 miles.

Started out nice enough with Saturday Breky by the SKP Rainbow Plantation. Two-fifty for a plate of biscuits and gravy, orange juice and coffee. Then it was raining by the time I dropped shore power and wheeled out towards the Fort Morgan Ferry which would take me across the mouth of Mobile Bay. At the last turn before the 21 mile drive out past Gasque to Fort Morgan a sign said the ferry was open but when I got there the gate keeper said the ferry was closed. Storm damage again. The loading ramp for the ferry is gone. Needless to say I was upset that the sign 21 miles back was wrong but this gatekeeper was not the one to take it out on. Another case of too many layers of irresponsibility. The ferry is a private company licensed by the feds, regulated by the Coast Guard, operating in a State Park, and nobody cares if you drive 21 miles to find out it is not really there; you'll just drive 21 miles back, have lunch in a fast food joint and buy more fuel. And of course the phone number of the fery company goes unanswered. Turn about and retrace upwind.

The rain is getting worse and going north along s.r.59 through Foley there are traffic lights out of service. The rain is sheeting, a tornado warning interrupts "Car Talk", I consider returning to Rainbow Plantation and actually get to the point of driving past the road into the camp when a glint of blue and sunlight breaks through the cloud and the sky lightens so I drive on, taking the "HC" route around Mobile, across Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana. Long day.

The clouds dissipate. I pick up a rider somewhere and carry him across three states through the afternoon and evening. Driving through Crowley, Fred answers my call and we chat on the radio about everything and nothing until the bridge to TeXas looms out of the dark and his signal fades.

Twenty-ei8hth Day: SKP HQ Livingston TeXas, 86 miles.

Short drive with a nice little walkabout near the end. I've been to the Big Sandy before. Great place for return engagements. This time I worked for a couple of hours clearing the trail of blow-down and flood debris and collecting a bag of roadside trash. There is standing water on parts of the trail; you can see from what it left behind that the water was two to three feet deeper not too long ago. That's a lot of water. This day started out nice and sunny but now it is cloudy and cool; the heat is on at The...Inn, Sara(h) is napping by the fire.

29th Day: Happy Social Hour v.s. Social Happy Hour

Just came back from "Social Hour" nee "Happy Hour" at the Activity Center of Rainbow's End. I was not able to determine if one is no longer welcome to be "happy" at Social Hour or why the name of the event was changed. Seems to be another of those Politically Correct matters. Perhaps people were not being social enough at happy hours.

Earlier in the day I did a laundry and met with the web guru of my email host. Learned a few things and have clean sheets for a change.

Day Thirty: A Month On The Road

Pouring rain this morning at Rainbow's End when I did the mail one more time and checked out. Misgivings about that, the checking out part. I considered staying, reading, napping, baking, but other urges gained the upper hand. In the end it was a good day driving.

The road south to Col.Bubbie's led me past another antique shop but it took about three miles of exit ramp and service road to get to their front door. The attraction was another of those red-yellow-green traffic lights. Two hundred and ei8hty dollars they wanted. What I'm looking for is a proper pot in which to keep honey; this place at least had a tacky molded thing "made in China" (and that don't mean China Maine) that looked like a bee hive with a bear for a handle. Too tacky even tho it is the first thing I have seen in all this search that even comes close. Instead I found something else more interesting. And useful. Two red hats! The rain was pretty much over and the temperature was dropping.

At "Galveston-Oh-Galveston" there is an establishment known as "The Free World's Only Surviving Genuine Government Surplus Store". Col.Bubbies Strand Surplus Senter reminds me a little of what Hilton's Tent City near North Station in Boston used to be. Rows and columns of bins and shelves, tubs and boxes, stuff. Hanging from the ceiling, hanging on the walls. Stuff. Everywhere. Some of this surplus never goes out of style. Thick wool blankets. Nice sweaters. Warm hats. Rest Area on U.S.59, south of Inez, for the night. 290 miles today.

Thirty-one Daze, 1st December, Fulton TeXas, visiting Bes and Leon

Short day drive, only 78 miles, took four hours. I stopped in two rest areas just for effect and went off course a little to find a NAPA store for a new air filter.

Bes and Leon have a smooth wrap-around drive with two full hook-ups for visitors. I visited them a few years ago. This is a good place to stop for a day or so and do odd maintenance projects. Now if it will only warm up a little. 40f this morning, too cold for laying about on the concrete under the bus.

Day 32, Still here, No miles, 55f this morning, overcast

Another day not for the beach. So I watered the house battery and equalised the cells. Six hours of high charge. Puttered some other projects today including another gander at the OXTON Family Tree Book. Been so long since I've had that file opened some of the pictures have faded.

Day 33, Junction TeXas

At the Junction of i10 and us83, County Seat of Kimble, 291 northwest miles from last night. Overcast day from sun up to sun down. No sun. Some shopping along the way. Mostly driving.

South Emily Drive, Beeville TeXas3001 S. Emily Drive Beeville TeXas is the home of another two of my pen-friends. They must be richer cos this place is bigger, and further off the road, with a longer drive. It is hard to tell, between the grey overcast and the grey buildings and the wet grass, about a third of the way in from the edge of the image you might discern them waving.

Under the pavilion, near the bar-b cooker, in the northeast corner of Schrier Park, lives a fine young calico cat. No!, Virtual Travellers, not Sara(h) La Gata conMigo. I would like to believe at least she has the good sense to be aboard The Cat Drag'd Inn. No, this Schrier Calico is of a different sort. Smaller cat, more of a smaller pattern, a tortoiseshell perhaps. I left a pile of Sara(h)'s kibbles at the opening of her burrow. Junction! you need to go find this cat and give her a good warm home.

34th Day, Pecos TeXas, TraPark SKP camp

Driving and driving today. A couple of too short walks. In one restarea near where the Butterfield Stage Route crosses i10 I collected enough trash to fill one garbage bag including, but not in the bag, one fairly new R193 truck tyre with two nasty punctures in the tread. Two-hundred fifty-seven miles today. Now within a thousand miles of "home".

Day 35, The Drive to El Paso, 257 miles

The day dawned windy and cold with a forecast of dangerous high winds in the pass at Guadalupe. Not to mention snow. I decided it was not worth the mileage to go to Guadalupe and not be able to play in the mountains and so headed west to balance out my frustration with some soul food and a movie.

The situation was not all that much better at El Paso. I could not find the theater I remembered from the last time and I could not find any other theater after twice going around the block of main street from one end of the strip to the other. Onwards. Westward. Almost at the end of TeXas I finally found a theater. The menu for my supper consisted of Popcorn and "National Treasure". A good combination that was followed by a nice sleep in their car park tucked in next to a Wide Load.

Day 36, All The Way to Phoenix, 430 miles

Another cold raw windy morning. Awake at Oh-Dark-Thirty and on the road after coffee just for want of something better to do. I figured if I was going to run the engine for the heat I may as well make some miles.

At the TeXas Mile 0 fuel stop I picked up a rider looking to get to Salem Oregon. Ernie was headed to Salem to clear up a DUI charge that had caught up to him in FLorida when he applied for a CDL. He had lots of storeys to tell and the miles went by quickly. Somewhere between Las Cruces and Deming the car ahead of me hit a box in the "Granny Lane". Cardboard all over the place and these black "cushions" were sliding across the road as I braked hard and pulled into the breakdown lane. Now we could see that the cushions were really jackets and Ernie was out of the bus in his bare feet to gather them up before the trucks following us could run them over. Ten black nylon jackets. "Good-Ole-Boy" stuff, with "red necks" and designs embroidered on the back that made them something I would not wear nor gift to any friend of mine. Ernie thought we could sell them at the next truck stop.

At Deming when I pulled off at the SKP DreamCatcher camp to have a look at their newly completed clubhouse--and leave off a couple of books for their library--Ernie sold two of the jackets at the Eat-Here-and-Get-Gas place across the street. Wow! My share of that sale would put ten gallons of diesel in the tank.

Having a rider aboard tended move me along. I would have taken two days and a few walks to get from El Paso to Phoenix but after leaving Ernie and jackets at a truck stop in Eloy I went on to have dinner with Ian's family.

Pearl Harbour Day, Shopping for Shoes, 62 miles around Phoenix

The best I can say about this day is that it only reinforced my desire not to live in a city.

38th Day, Last Leg Runs Short, Stuck in PHX

Started out Ok but quickly went to hell. The problem with the air system recured--air compressor short cycling, constantly. Fixing that--had to replace the air dryer--took most of the day and twice the money as the shoe shopping of the day before. Got a lot dirtier as well. Oh Well. Nice shower at the truck stop. This was the only serious problem of the entire trip not counting the endemic and chronic oil leak. I suppose I could retitle this day as the Penultimate Last Day but I think I'll leave it alone and just go on to:

The Last Day Over Again, 39th Day, 2004dec9

Last shopping, last miles, adding up the numbers, doing the laundry.

Doing the numbers. For those of us interested in statistics:
Days: 39, 1st november thru 9th december.
Observed: License plates from 32 states including Vermont.
Miles: 5,780. That amounts to 148 miles per day. I really drove about twice that on half as many days.
Fuel: 601 gallons of Diesel#2 and maybe ten gallons of propane. 5780/601=9.6 mpg but there seem to be some extenuating circumspections. Doing this calculation for each fill-up results in an average 8.7 mpg.
Cost of Diesel fuel: US$1304. Cost per mile $0.225; cost per gallon $2.169.
Other vehicle expense included one regular service--a day out back of a Wal-Mart and a shower in the bushes after--and the air drier problem noted above amounted to some $400 and three days of not doing other things. For everything else there's MasterCard...

I had a lot of fun and even learnt more than a few things. Met some really neat Humans. I'm only sorry I had nobody along to share the adventure.

Love, ajo

I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me. --Sir Isaac Newton

Back to Oso
Back to ajo
Copyright © 2004, A.J.Oxton, The Cat Drag'd Inn , Center Conway NH 03813-0144.