Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Years, A Year Ago


The fireworks went off right in front of this tower.

A year ago today I spent New Years Eve in warm San Antonio, Texas.   Oh how i wish it was as warm here now, in West Virginia (currently 10 degrees).  There isn't much to do for new years in west virginia unless you are in the 2 or 3 major cities in the state, so I typically don't celebrate it or care.   

But since I could choose to go somewhere and celebrate it on the road, I broke my normal rule of avoiding urban areas and took a trip to San Antonio for their fireworks show.   It wasn't disappointing.  It is a beautiful city at night downtown.  


This is a mural i liked along a canal that winds through downtown.
The only problem is, the city had probably the most confusing grid of streets I have ever experienced.   Man, what a nightmare to navigate, and I lived in washington dc before.  In this city, during 'events', the parking lots are allowed to charge 4 times the amount for parking they normally do.   I stopped at one, and then bust out in laughter when i found out the price was 20$ per hour.  Really?   How many hours did i need to look around the city and catch the fireworks?!

I moved on and noticed signs for municipal parking was normal rates, about $6 dollars.   There was a garage ahead, the entrance around the next left with its own lane on the street so i pulled in.   Well what they dont tell you, and you cant see from that street before being locked in, is that the entrance to the garage was like 6'2.  So my van did not fit.   So here I am, locked into this lane blocking the entrance, unable to move forward or back. 

Luckily the supervisor for the place was behind me, and she got out, stopped traffic on the street, backed all the cars up and let me out.   What a pain, that they could have avoided by putting a sign on the street you actually use to get in line.  

I eventually debated whether to just give up and head to a nearby walmart for the night, or park in the outskirts (read: ghetto) and walk two miles in. 

I looked online for rules about parking the city on the street, and luckily discovered an interesting fact.   Meters downtown are not enforced after 8pm.  Sweet.   I ended up parking near a hospital about a mile or two away and walking in after 8pm.

Some lovely churches and buildings in San Antonio

Just walking to downtown was difficult.   Google GPS was woefully failing me in the city, even the mighty google was confused by this place.    I did manage to find a canal that scenically takes you through the city, and that helped a bit.   It still took a while to get near to where the fireworks show was happening.

I finally arrived at the park, and was shocked to see so much fanfare.   They had news casters setup like they do on Rockin New Year.   There was a concert area (tho just playing dance music, no live singers till later).  There were food stands and people shuffling about, much like a little carnival.   There was also a separate concert area, that was absolutely packed to the gills with hispanic partiers, and there was a latin band playing.   This spot was a lot different from the other area, it really seemed festive and fun, everyone was actually dancing and having a good time.  I hung around there a while, out of place as ever with my giant white butt, but no one seemed unwelcoming.  

Eventually i decided to find a place to sit and watch the fireworks, places to sit were at a premium.   If you wanted to make some really nice coin on new years, go to this place and rent out little folding chairs.   You'd make a killing.    I eventually found a free spot on a bench next to what looked like a homeless man.   No problem for me !  I sat and watched the fireworks with him and a family who didnt speak english settled in next to us.  I eventually gave up my seat to one of them.

The fireworks show itself was amazing once it finally came.   It lasted way, way longer than any other one i went to, even the one in baltimore.  I enjoyed it immensely, though i was pretty happy to get back to the van after so long.

This year I am back here, its too cold to do anything but sit in my sister's kitchen, and watch the year expire.   A friend I met at the RTR is stopping by, maybe for the night, but I feel kinda bad for him.   Its awfully boring here in the countryside on NYE, but I am glad to see a friend from the road as he sets out back west.    Wish I was going too.

Here is a video I made last New Years, if you want a better idea of what it was like.


Saturday, December 30, 2017

Where have I gone?!



It's like where's waldo, but a lot less exciting!  I can't believe it has been sooooo long since i stopped posting to this blog.   What can I say?  I'm entirely at fault.  As an apology, I will spam random earth porn of my travels throughout this post :)

My Home While Camphosting
I wanted to make a post or two about the RTR, but once I was there I had so much fun socializing and experiencing everything, the blog just fell to the wayside.   After that I felt awkward posting about ..basically doing nothing for 3 months in the desert while i waited for my camphosting job.   Then after that i was too busy working, and so on and so forth. 

Island Lake, as seen from Grouse Ridge Lookout
Well enough with the excuses yada yada.   I do have some thoughts about the rest of that trip, and I will begin posting recollections of it in a more timely, but casual matter.   Not a linear one..I want to post what I feel like posting about currently, and too much time has passed to be bound by such frivolities as time :)

Did i just reach Enlightenment?   haha

Carr Lake in the Sierra Mountains
 I do have lots of photos and some footage from my time traveling across the country though, so I will be sprinkling it in.  I also want to post about my experience as a camphost, how to get the job and what it did, and could, entail.  And what I am currently up to right now. 

Winslow Arizona, such a fine sight to see.
Anyway, for anyone who is reading this, thanks for joining my blog as I move forward.   I hope it helps you, or entertains you. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Winnie City Park, Winnie TX ... and self imposed cop knock?

Winnie City Park, Winnie Texas
335 Park St.
Winnie, Texas
GPS: 29.812117, -94.380234

Youtube Review

Freecampsites.net



As I had discovered in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, some small towns try to attract travelers by offering up their City parks for a few nights of free camping (or parking in some cases).  This brings in valuable tourist dollars that would be spent on campsites for most travelers anyway (unless they are like me) so it is a win-win.  While being out in the wild wilderness camping for free is enjoyable, its also nice sometimes to be near shops and internet.

Winnie Texas is one such example.   Unlike Breaux Bridge however, you do have to register at the sheriffs/clerks office first.  As you head toward the park, you want to stop there first by making a left at the Exxon station onto Broadway, the light before the park.   The process is pretty painless, you just hand over your license to the very nice clerk, she makes a copy and then gives you a permit for 3 days.


The park, like the others I come to find in Texas, is immense.   I guess Texas earns its 'Bigger' reputation in this regard.   The park has a large, elaborate playground, several sport areas, a rodeo/horse track, and what I am assuming are festival event areas with stands.   Multiple covered picnic areas, some with giant BBQ grills/smokers.


Any size rig can easily fit here, more sites and parking than can likely be filled if they try.   My guess is they were preparing for Rodeo shows with this space.   There are water and electric hookups all over the park.   I do not know if they are included for your free stay, I would ask the clerk first.   She didn't forbid it, and since I didn't need them, I didn't ask.  Both the electric and water did work though.


The park has bathrooms, though they are rather spartan in my opinion.   Its rare to find open public bathrooms with absolutely no stall doors or even curtains in them.  According to reviews, the ladies aren't spared this either.   I thought metal urinals were strange too, though since then I have seen they are a common thing in the southwest.  Trash cans are sparse but around.

The park is beautiful, many of the trees scattered throughout were adorned with lights for Christmas (tho it was over already).   Something about manicured grass that makes me want to lay down on it and nap, tho it was still a little on the chilly side for that.


There is a Dollar General about a quarter mile from the park if you take the road at the rear of the park out, and across the highway from that is a local supermarket.   The little town has anything you need, restaurants, gas, even tire repair, though I don't think there is much in the way of entertainment.



After filming several of the areas for my youtube, I decided to settle in under a cute tree at the end furthest from the empty playground after filming it (it is a pretty amazing little castle playground).


It didn't help much because before it even got dark I had a cop knock from a sheriff's deputy.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Status update

Due to several factors, prime of which has been my lack of motivation, i haven't updated in a while.  I decided to give a heads up on my current doings, and upcoming plans.  

Since Quartsite,AZ in January, I spent my time in Ehrenberg, AZ, which is a pretty uninteresting place to look at, as its mostly all rocky desert, but it is the perfect place to long term camp in the winter.  No time limit or fees, a pit toilet i can dump in for free, all the services nearby i need, including free water (tap).  

My main reason for going to Quartzsite this year was to secure a camp hosting job, which i did.  It will be at Fuller Lake in northern California, in the sierras near Nevada City.  I was planning to meander up that way throughout April, and get there in time to start in may.

However, due to some unfortunate circumstances, a friend i met in Ehrenberg needed a ride to San Fran, California right away.  She proposed that since I needed to head that way soon, she would hire me to shuttle herself and her adorable cat Hunter up there. Since it would help me out financially and help her get where she needed to go, it was a win win for everyone (except my back ;])

So a day later I am in the Bay area, about to visit a landmark.  Its a little early for the normal camping season, so finding a place to camp for the next few weeks might be a challenge, but that is what an adventure is all about.  Walmarts here are no go as well.  

My tentative plan is to head up to Mendocino NF and look for some open campgrounds, or if i have to do so, disperse camp.  Then hoof it east to my host job.

Before I get too remote for internet, I will hopefully continue logging my travels and campsites in Texas, a more thorough RTR post, and my Ehrenberg experience so look forward to that.

Thanks for reading!

Checking out the USS Alabama, tanks, planes and memorials at Battleship Memorial Park.


Although I hadn't planned to spend much time in Alabama, I didn't want to completely blaze through the state.   So even though I wasn't camping, I decided to take a small detour and check out the USS Alabama battleship at the Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile, AL back in december.

If you've been following me on this blog or youtube, you might have surmised I am more clenchfisted than scrooge, so this stop was actually pretty nice for me.  You can pay to take the tour (15 bucks I think) of the ship, but it only costs 2 bucks to enter the park and roam around looking.

Ceremonial Gun outside visitor center.
In the visitor center, you can find bathrooms, and there is a whole area just ahead of the battleship with picnic tables, pavillions and grills.   You almost forget that it is an actual park.  If you have a furry friend, he isn't allowed on the tours, but they do provide kennels and water for your pets.

Kennels, there is a water hose.
 It was crazy humid here, and I went in the winter, I can't imagine what Alabama must be like in the grips of summer.  I felt like I was breathing through a sock like a bellows and I'm from a pretty wet area myself. 
The ship is so huge, this is all i could fit in the shot!
It would definitely be better to actually go on the ship as it is a self guided tour, but I didnt mind.   If you never seen a battleship in person, it is impressive just to look upon.  And massive.  It astounds me no end just how massive ships can be on the water, it almost seems limitless.   Its like someone took a skyscraper and knocked it over on its side.  I can't even conceive how the massive guns must sound when they fire.  I wonder if they ever fire off blanks or something.  I might break open the wallet a little further for that experience.

Its fun to see some of the nick names given to the vehicles.


The battle ship itself is not all there is to see in this park either.   For your $2, you can walk around and check out tons and tons of tanks, artillery guns, and an actual bomber, an MRBM, fighter planes (that have seen better days mind), helicopters, you name it.

Look at the tiny door :D


The aircraft were in pretty bad shape, not sure if just disrepair or war damage?
This plane looked to be in the best shape, I think it could still even operate.  Check out the artwork.
There is also a submarine that is propped up on the ground.   Its a part of the battle ship but you can check out the outside pretty close up from the park.    There is also a giant aircraft hanger, but access from outside the tour area is a no go, which was disappointing to me because it appeared you could go in at first, but the doors are all blocked off.


I'm not a military expert of fanatic, i must admit, but i still get a lot of enjoyment from looking at the marvels mankind can make when driven to destruction (or protection, given your viewpoint).  


I thought this little tank looked awesome with 2 barrels up front.
Since I dont know much about these machines, I don't have much to say about each one, or hell even name them, but hope you enjoy the pictures and video I took of my visit there.  Maybe you can tell me more about them in the comments or identify them for me (some had plaques, but not all did).

Neat up close look at the cockpit.

I will say that my favorite things to see were the MRBM (Medium Range Ballistic Missle)  and the bomber.  You can actually stick your head up inside the missile as the engine has been removed (its there underneath if you want to check it out too).  You can see the gears and chains that I assume actuate the fins that guide it to its target.


The bomber was interesting to me.   It clearly had some work done to it for appearance sake.   The skin of the thing was painted black and it almost looked like it was made of black tinfoil, I don't know if thats how they actually were constructed originally.   The bomber had decals (or painted on) bombs near the cockpit, representing bombs it dropped on the enemy.  There was a lot of them.


Almost in a strange sorta contrast to all the firepower and killing machines, the place has several beautifully made memorials dedicated to the Vietnam, Korean war, and the middle eastern wars (on terror).   I was also pleasantly surprised to see sculptures and plaques dedicated to dogs who fought and died in service.


The Vietnam memorial was especially lovely, yet saddening at the same time.  Even the very large noisy family that walked up behind me quieted here, it had that kind of impact.  There is a statue of a soldier standing between 2 marble slabs atop bamboo.

There is a particularly potent quote from a Vietnam vet across from the names of those local men who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the war.  I'll type it out just to make it easier to see than the picture.   I highly recommend spending a day at this park, and check out my youtube video to get a better look at everything.

I think this is a good point to end on.
"Vietnam - War/Pain/Sorrow/Mystery/Jungle/Swamp/Mountains/Hot.
Vietnam means something - different but the same - to all of us.
Vietnam has a lasting effect of one sort or another on all Americans.
Vietnam can only be understood by those of us who where there --
--And we don't understand it."

Sunday, February 12, 2017

City Park, Breaux Bridge, LA

City Park
Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

GPS: 30.275892, -91.899345
Youtube Video
FreeCampsites.net




 
This small town is a short trip from I-10, and well worth the detour.   I've run across a couple of these small towns who try to revitalize themselves through enticing tourists to the area with free camping.  It is a marvelous idea, and apparently effective because I otherwise would have never known about the place.

The city park is located after you cross the bridge that gives the town its name.   There is a sharp right entrance here but I do not recommend you take it unless you are in a vehicle that will not drag, as it is a steep incline.   Take the street to the light, and make a right, and once you past the cemetary you turn into a much better and wider entrance to the park.   

Its a nice park, and it was pretty much empty save for one or two stragglers and boaters.  Lots of parking, though I did not see any RV specific spots I think you can find places to park.   There is a large field that you may be tempted to park an RV on, but signs indicate that this is no longer something they appreciate.

I believe you can stay two nights, but there is no limit specifically posted.   I stayed one without a problem.  There were a couple of looky loos cruising through and looking at the van, but no police disturbances.


The bathrooms here are excellent, there are pavilions with stone benches (with informative carvings on them), but I did not see picnic tables or grills.   There is non-potable water and electrical outlets at the bathrooms, the electric is on the back side and includes usb ports, regular sockets and a little ledge to put smaller devices on.  These outlets stayed powered all night.   


Im not sure about the womens restroom, but oddly the lights in the mens room did not work at night though they were left unlocked and you could use the facilities.   It might have been a broken motion sensor.

There is a canoe rental place in the park, it almost looks like someones home.  I'm not positive on how that all works, but there is a boat launch and a floating dock.

Be sure to check out the sculptures/plaques and stone benches, there is some really cool local lore.  Like the  Native American legend of how the Bayou Teche was created.   

 

The landscape is lovely.  There is an old cemetery and catholic (i believe) school that shares the parking lot with the park.  I parked right in front of the cemetery, and there were some interesting little religious shrines along that side on the sidewalk.  I don't know their purpose, but they all depicted Jesus in some way.  


 

Ducks and geese are wandering around, and you can find plenty of relaxing shady spots to chill out and 
decompress.


Apparently there is a large crayfish festival here every year, and you see posters in several shops.   It seems to me the town is based heavily on antiquing, with the majority of the shops selling them for quite a bit of money.  I absolutely love the southern art and architecture, and you can find it represented well here.


Be sure to check some stores out, but be aware of some that are little more than thrift store/junk stores trying to ride the pricing of their more upscale neighbors (the 'flea market' in town is actually one of these junk stores, not a flea market at all, just a junk store selling like its carrying fancy antiques).  


The food is a little pricey but not unexpected.   I went to the burger joint in town, and the food was ok even though i felt the service was subpar.   I was never given a refill, and when I asked if I could get one as im leaving she replied 'sure you can', suggesting I go get it myself.   Was I supposed to do this all along?  I've been in places like that, but it would have been nice to know that up front.  

Sorry, a bit of a rant there.   There is a classier looking restaurant serving french and Louisiana cuisine nearby, maybe a better option.

But you can't beat the price of free when camping, especially when you don't have to worry about bbeing disturbed.   If you have the chance, walk down to the bridge and take a look inside the control room.   Its kind of interesting seeing the old control system for raising the bridge.    

Check out my youtube video to see the best way to enter the park, and a short tour.



Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Escribano Point WMA - Pensicola FL

Escribano Point WMA (Bayside)
Grassy Point Road
Milton, Florida

GPS: 30.513937, -86.948858 (turn-in to clay road, follow this road till it ends, no deviations!)
Youtube Video
Free Campsite.net Link



Welcome friends to probably my favorite campsite since I left in my travels (up to this date of course).   This campsite is a little tricky to get to if you try to find it with a normal car GPS, but it is well worth it.   This site is located very close to Pensacola Florida (Navarre), so if you want to explore this area, this is a terrific home base to do so from, for free.

Google navigation will take you the whole way, but car gps will repeatedly try to make you take small sandy roads that you WILL get stuck on without 4x4.   You want to take the paved roads until you get to a wide, well packed, bright red clay road just to the right before you enter the air force base proper.   





Follow this road till it ends.  This road is a looong curving road first one way then the other, with many little jeep trails that cut across from it in one point to connect it at another.   Your GPS hates you, and will want to get you stuck in these places because it thinks you want to get there faster at the risk of getting stuck.  Ignore it both going in and out.