October 2001 to January 2002

A Mouse and Other Tales

On Halloween Eve, 2001, we got on our motorcycle and ran away from home.  

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On a motorcycle?  This was nothing new for us; we had taken many a long vacation on the bike before – but this time was for real.  We had sold our property management company 6 weeks earlier, and after spending 30 days transitioning to the new owners, we started preparing to leave.  Easier said than done.  We held garage sales and listed items for sale in the paper and on line; we stored furniture and clothing underneath the house and prepared it for use as a rental; we scrambled to close out accounts, bring closure to various business and personal issues, and made arrangements for a mail forwarding service.

We left our house in Paso Robles, California, just before dark.  Rick had only been able to start packing the trailer about 3:00; very quickly it became apparent that not everything would fit.  So he stuffed and stuffed and stuffed, and we finally got the lid closed -- and split.  We got 50 miles away, pulled into a motel in Kettleman City, and crashed.  The next day Rick pulled everything out and started packing all over again, in the parking lot.  We knew we would be back in the area in about 10 days and could make some shifts.  For now we’d make do.

So off we went.  We wanted to get some miles under our belts as a practice run, and then come back to retrieve what we’d forgotten and get organized to leave the area for the next several years at least.  We were off to see the world!

We started out with several days in Yosemite, where beautiful fall colors were everywhere, but it was awfully cold at night (down to 35 degrees) and no sunshine in the campground.  When we went up to Glacier Point it was wonderfully warm, however, and we were able to take pictures from the same spots we had visited on our first trip together 10 years ago.  That was cool.  Yosemite continues to fight with the bears, and we complied, putting all our edibles and stuff that smelled like people (including our dish soap) in the bear-proof boxes.  But we didn’t reckon with the raccoons.  A mother and two babies decided they wanted a carton of eggs that was sitting on top of the bear box while we prepared to fix dinner, and made off with them regardless of our feelings to the contrary.   Smart Rick said, “Let her have them,” and we watched as the three of them had a real feast.

Coming back down to a lower elevation, we spent a night up on Mt. Diablo, in the East Bay.  I wanted to stay at a nice, flat campground out in the Delta, but Rick wanted to press on.  So we ended up climbing this incredibly windy, tight road to the top of nowhere.  The camping was delightful, however, and we had a good time, with me worrying all night how we were going to get off that mountain.  We had a second raccoon episode however; they got all our edibles, including the raisins, and chewed up my riding gloves.  Hmm.  Lessons to be learned still.  When we got off the mountain (gasp) we made a stop in Fremont.  When we came out of the store and got back to the bike, Rick suddenly spotted a tiny little mouse on the dash, who promptly ran under cover.  But Rick grabbed him by the tail and we turned him loose.  Seems he was the culprit that had chewed my gloves.  We hope he survived the transition from the top of a mountain to a parking lot in Fremont!

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After a few days back in the San Luis Obispo area, mostly spent shifting and trading clothes and gear, we beat feet for Las Vegas.  We wandered the casinos, enjoying the bright colors and the spectacle.  Since we’re riding the bike, we are weather-sensitive, of course, but Las Vegas was very good to us.  Our luck continued as we moved on towards Arizona, starting with a visit to Hoover Dam.  We had our first taste of increased post 9/11 security when we arrived at the dam, as no tours were being held, and the trailer was searched before they would let us get anywhere near the dam.  Actually, there was a sign saying no cars with trailers, but we took a chance and they let us through. 

Crossing the dam we entered Arizona, looking for warm weather and new adventures.  Our next destination?  Sunny Tucson, to set up camping for a week or so, bask in the lovely weather and work on our camping skills. Well, at least it was a good idea.  We did get set up, in a groovy RV park with hot showers, a jacuzzi, great laundry facilities, etc.; no fools us!  Our nifty Bunkhouse trailer tent even came equipped with a den, and we set it up for the first time.  We were quite a sight, among all those huge RV homes.  We had everyone in the neighborhood stopping by to ask, “How in heaven’s name did you get all that stuff out of that little trailer?”  There were lots of admiring glances (mostly from the men) and “That’s okay for you, but not for me” looks from other folks. 

We had some heavy rain, and tremendous winds.  One morning we woke with the soggy den collapsed around us.  Enough, already.  We beat a retreat to a nearby motel and waited out the wet.  It finally cleared, leaving snow in the mountains, and we moved on to Las Cruces, New Mexico.  It was a cool (both literally and figuratively) trip.  We went through that “snow in the mountains” at about 36 degrees and cloudy, but beautiful.  Sorry to say, it was too cold to stop and take pictures, but at one point we did pause long enough to thaw out over a cup of coffee. 

Pressing on, we reached our goal of the moment – the hilly country near San Antonio and Austin.  And a nice change it was.  Pleasant rolling hills with lots of trees.  We stayed in Kerrville for a couple of days, outlasting a storm, with the Guadaloupe River running through our state park campsite.

This is the nicest area of Texas so far.  The countryside is similar to Paso Robles, but with some cactus to remind you of all the desert you’ve passed through.  We continue to provide fodder for the raccoons whenever we forget to bring something in at night, and have added an armadillo to our camp sightings.  We’ve been able to do a lot of riding in this area, poking around the little towns.  There are several enclaves developed by German immigrants, and the towns are neat and tidy.  The clay in this area is light yellow, so many of the buildings are a very pretty flagstone.  Hard to describe: probably less than a coffee “high yellow”, but certainly not white. 

The roads are good, but Texans drive very fast.  They think speed limit signs are only guideposts; and they pass over a double yellow line all the time.  They assume you will move onto the shoulder and let them by, and they are already going faster than the too-fast speed limits that are posted.  The chosen can do no wrong!  So I’m sure they think we’re really poky on our Gold Wing pulling this adorable trailer.

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While we were in Austin we visited a big new building called The Story of Texas, and found the information on Texas' history to be very intriguing, particularly the era of the fight for independence from Mexico.  Well told, with great details; it was quite a time in their history, and Texas has every right to be proud.  We also went to the state capitol, biggest in the nation, but a lovely spot.  I stood in the middle of the rotunda and (the devil made me do it!) shouted out "Go Niners!"  A non-serious discussion followed with the state trooper nearby; he laughingly threatened me with mace if I made such a terrible comment again!  San Francisco was getting ready to play Dallas the next weekend, and tensions were high.

We spent quite a bit of time in the San Antonio area; we arrived on Christmas Day, which had been our plan.  San Antonio shines during the holidays and I can assure you that the Riverwalk and The Alamo are every bit as cool and neat as you may have heard!  If you visit, be sure to find a German restaurant on Commerce Street called Schilo's.  Have the cheesecake.

We very happily camped for almost a week on the outskirts of San Antonio, then very cold weather set in, so we moved inside just in time for the coldest New Year's in San Antonio's recent history - down to 32 at night and up to 37 during the day (it's usually about 50).  We were very happy to get into a motel!

After a few days we moved on to Nacogdoches (try spelling that 3 times), in east Texas.  This is also nice country; the town is between two large, forested areas full of pine trees (not dying, either, I'm pleased to say). It's ranching country in between the trees, and very pretty.  We’re here because Nacogdoches is the home of Foretravel Motorhomes, and we’ve started thinking perhaps enough already of this motorbiking silliness – do we need to buy an RV?   Rick was quite interested in browsing the Foretravel factory and looking at the coaches on the lot – but we didn’t buy anything.

And oh my -- we have discovered the joys of Texas pecans, particularly when disguised as pralines.  Yummy!! 

Waving good-by to ‘Doches (as the locals call it), we crossed the border into Louisiana, heading to Natchitoches, the oldest community in the Louisiana Purchase (established 1714) – and, in case you’d noticed the similarities, sister city to Nacogdoches, which happens to be the oldest town in Texas.  A place to settle down and get comfortable.  We were on a mission to get to Florida, and look at more RVs, so didn’t stay long, but it has lots to recommend it.  All along the river the old buildings have been renovated, and the morning we wandered around seeing the sights they were already hanging baskets of pansies on the bridges; it was only January, but spring was already on its way. 

If you can picture Louisiana as a comfortable armchair, we went down the back and then across the seat.  As you get further down towards the Gulf Coast (and all across the “bottom ends” of Mississippi and Alabama as well), the country is very similar:  high water table so the bottoms of trees are wet and there are bayous every little ways, Spanish moss hanging as you get further east, junky forests, and most interesting to me, tons and tons of low fan palms as underbrush alongside the roads. Oh, yes, and roadside stands selling boiled peanuts (the signs all said “p-nuts”) -- either plain or Cajun style.  And even though we didn’t stop in New Orleans, there was lots of Cajun music on the radio as we rode along.

Something that sets me daydreaming when we’re on the road is to have highway signs come up all of a sudden that are for major roads that go off to cities in whole other states, way far away.  I-10 takes you along the southern end of several states.  We were close to Baton Rouge and there was a turnoff for Jackson, Mississippi; that sure made me want to take a left and see where that road went!  The wanderlust was firmly in place!

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The Louisiana folks are lousy drivers (surprised?), showing little regard for us; but the people we have talked to have been delightful and kind.  Maybe the ones we talk to don’t drive.  This has been true everywhere, by the way.  People find out what we’re doing, and how we’re getting around, and they are endlessly helpful.  They think we’re cool.  Some will comment that they were in California once (one, a waiter, had been in the National Guard at Fort Irwin out in the desert – in July; he did not have happy recollections of his experiences); most think we’ve come from Mars, as we stop in these little towns. 

Well, cooler heads and frozen toes have now prevailed.  From Louisiana we scuttled straight for Florida, and we’re now the proud owners of a motorhome.  After spending approximately 30 of the last 40 nights in a variety of motels, and eating out almost constantly, we decided to throw in the towel.  Between cold and rain and wind, there are simply too many ways for the weather to interfere with the enjoyable use of a tent or tent trailer.   We had hoped to be able to survive the winter, and then enjoy spring and summer on the bike.  But it was not to be. 

In Florida we found the perfect motorhome, a ’99 Safari Trek, and have moved into it.  It’s 26 feet long and has an electric drop down bed, a diesel engine and a Chevy chassis.  His nickname is ‘Arvey, he’s cute and cuddly – and warm - and we’re delighted.   Now it’s time to go figure out what all this “RV-ing” is all about.

Rick & Kathy, beginning our life on the road


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© Rick & Kathy Howe 2001-2018