Monday, August 28, 2017

HOW WE FIND THE INTERESTING FRUGAL PLACES TO VISIT


I recently had someone contact me wanting to know how we found so many free or near free places to visit.  It was suggested it would be a good blog post for the new and not so new travelers who would prefer to visit this type of attraction. The same could go for some of the campgrounds we visit.

The campgrounds are located basically by research.  We want clean, inexpensive and preferably with some utilities, all though we do boondock (camp without utilities) some.

For us boondocking is usually done in parking lots with the manager’s permission or truck stops for a single night stay.  Although we have, due to breakdowns spent several nights in one Wal-Mart parking lot while our truck was being repaired.  We did this with permission from the store. 

Although we do plan on staying on some Bureau of Land Management sites in the future.
Boondocking is of course the cheapest of camping because it is generally free, although I am told some BLM land may have a small fee.

Our preferred campgrounds are Corps of Engineer (COE) or National Parks.  With our Senior Pass  we can camp at those for half price.  So generally around $9-$14 per night. 

Even if you aren’t a senior you can purchase an annual pass for around $80 that will get you the same benefits.  There is also a free annual Military Pass.  

The Senior Pass is a lifetime one and it cost us $10.  There are other benefits to the passes, like free entry into the parks that make it well worth the investment if you are going to be doing much camping in COE or National Parks.

COE and National Park campgrounds are generally water and electric with an onsite dump station.  However, we have ran into a few with no dump station.
 
We find these parks mainly by visiting the National Parks website.    Although Gary does use RV Parky anytime he is looking for our next campground, because it generally has most of the types of campgrounds we are looking at.

At one COE we stayed at we were given a cd that contained a state by state breakdown of the campgrounds for all the COE in the US.  Quite handy in its own right because RV Parky doesn’t list all the campgrounds.

Truthfully I never knew many cities maintain campgrounds until we started traveling full time last year.  These campgrounds are generally inexpensive, have water and electric with either a dump station or sewer hook-ups.  A few we have stayed at this last year have even had free wi-fi.  These campgrounds usually run in the $20 per night range.  Again we use RV Parky and the town’s website to locate them.

State campgrounds are similar to all the previously mentioned, but generally run just slightly higher.  Generally $20-$25 at the ones we have stayed at. Often times a state ran campground will have a list of all that states campgrounds.  Every state also seems to have their own website with a list of them as well.  Although some state websites are easier to navigate than others. 

State road maps also generally have campground icons on them to help you locate them.

Sometimes it pays to buy a state annual pass if you are going to be in the state much because many states also have a daily park use fee PER PERSON and those fees are waived if you have the state pass.

We currently own one for Texas and one for Minnesota for that very reason.  The savings on our first Texas State Park stay paid for the pass. It actually came with four free nights of camping after you used it for a certain number of nights and at different parks.  We have used it several times over the last year and our savings has been great. 

Our Minnesota one paid off quickly because we have gone to see many things in Minnesota parks that have a per carload entry fee that is waived if you have the state park pass.

Then of course there are the privately owned campgrounds those can be small and nice with frugal prices of around $25-$30 all the way up to $100.  Yes, we have paid $99 a night for one week, just to be on site at Walt Disney World, but no longer. We have found a much less expensive campground nearby that actually allows us to get into the parks faster.  Blog post on Stage Stop Campground follows shortly.

We find out about all these campgrounds by the means I have already mentioned, plus word of mouth, doing google searches for the area we want to be in with the word campgrounds in our search, Woodalls (picked up at a AAA office for free as part of our membership) and at tourist information centers.

We always ask if there are discounts including, but not limited to: AAA, Senior, Veteran, Good Sam’s, Sam’s Club, Weekly/Monthly stays, our auto insurance company, and internet specials.  You can also get discounts through AARP, KOA and many camping membership clubs, if you are a member, we are not.  You should always ask about a discount, not only in camping, but whenever visiting an attraction.  All they can say is “no” and you just might be surprised at how many discounts they are out there.

Especially if you are staying 5-6 days in one place be sure to ask about weekly discounts.  A prime example of this was a conversation I overheard at a campground we frequent often.  The man in line ahead of me did not have a Good Sam’s card or other item to receive the discount at the campground.  The woman at the counter said “so you want the weekly discount” he replied no they were only wanting to stay 5 nights. 

She went on to explain to him.  “Sir the nightly rate is $35 so five nights will cost you $175.  The weekly rate is $150 and you do not have to stay the full week if you don’t want to.”  He took the weekly rate and kept $25 in his pocket.  I on the other hand paid the monthly rate of $350 and saved even more because I knew we would be there the full month. Always ask.

Another discount to check out is one for annual passes for any park, museum or other attraction you may own.  When we have a Silver Dollar City annual pass it includes discounts for certain campgrounds and motels in the area.  Same for Dollywood and sometimes Disney World

Now for the fun stuff.

Finding unique places to visit for free or near free. 

1.       Tourist information centers.  Grab every pamphlet, book or piece of paper you can at these free locations that looks the least bit interesting to you.  Then when you have time look through them, google for more information if you need to. What you don’t use leave in a campground laundry room for someone else.  What doesn’t interest you may interest them.

N  I am not just talking about the ones as you cross the border into a new state.  Seek out the Chamber of Commerce of any town you are visiting, even the very small ones, because often this is where the really good brochures on free or near free locations hide.  Sometimes there won’t be an actual brochure, but a knowledgeable clerk behind the counter.

No Chamber of Commerce?  Check the local grocery store.  Yep the grocery store.  In the tiny town of Lindsborg, KS I found a free standing display, like highway maps are often displayed in, that had all sorts of local information.  If you read my posts on our stay at the campground near there you know we found much to do and can truthfully say it was one of our most interesting visits to an area.

2.    Word of mouth is still one of the best methods of learning about unique places.  We talk to campground hosts, other campers and friends that have previously been to an area.  We also speak to the volunteers at various establishments and express interest in finding similar places in the area.  If you have places you think would be of interest to us we’d love to hear from you. 

The Lindsborg, KS area was suggested to us by a friend, Cliff Chism, and we thank him greatly for sending us that direction.

Blogs and vlogs are a good source as well.  Hopefully, you have already found some different places that you had previously never heard of before you started reading my blog posts.

Road Atlas often have points of interest listed before or after the maps  Along with little snippets of history for the area.

Historical markers can lead you to do more investigating.  An example of this is part of our visit to Chanute, KS.  At a historical marker just before you enter town in a rest area we learned about the "Bloody Benders".  This story prompted us to do more research.


3.    Books, movies, history and genealogy.  Ever read about something, saw a movie or wonder about the area your ancestors came from.  Go to the area and see what there is to see.  Even if it is not a frugal place per say, books can lead to a better enjoyment of the area.
   
     We are huge Disney fans, as you probably already know.  We have been to Disneyworld more times than we can remember, traveling from Oklahoma to do so.  However, the last few visits have been different for us because of a series of young adult books by Ridley Pearson called Kingdom Keepers. I have reviewed a couple of these books on my “Outside a Dog” blog.
   
      Mixed into these sci-fi books are behind the scenes glimpses of all the parks, cruise lines, night time spectaculars and more.  Hidden doorways, how the tigers in the Animal Kingdom are safely fed, bits of park history and much more.  Now we look for the things mentioned in the books to see if they are true or just used to add to the book.  We have found many of the hidden doorways and other items as a result. These searches add to our enjoyment of the parks.
   
     Traipsing through old cemeteries can be far more interesting than you might realize.  While we do genealogy research we often find beautiful old cemeteries that we know none of our family is buried there, but we stop anyway, because of the history and beauty of the place.
   
      As I type this, June 23, 2017, I think of the cemetery we drove through yesterday.  Mt. Vernon, Cemetery near Atchinson, KS.  A large beautiful cemetery with many old headstones, large tombstones and monuments on a hill with a great view.
 
     You can learn a lot about the history of a town by reading dates.  Things like whole families dying within days of each other in the 1800s generally meant an epidemic like typhoid.  Mothers and babies dying close to each other generally meant a bad birthing.

     Military, Masonic, Woodsman symbols as well as crosses and stars tell you about the person.  Graveyards can be very interesting.
 
    Don’t forget, even the famous generally get buried somewhere.  Mt. Moriah Cemetery near Deadwood, SD is a prime example of that.

    Did you know there is a circus performer cemetery in southern Oklahoma with unique tombstones.  It is on our list to visit on one of our trips back home.

    Or how about the pyramid shaped monument for the camel driver from the Calvary in the cemetery near Quartzite, AZ.  Until visiting that cemetery just because we stumbled across it in our travels neither of us had given much thought to the camels and what happened to them, or even really thought about that part of our US history at all.  That turned out to be quite educational. We have found many unique monuments in cemeteries across the nation.

    We did historical re-enactments of the Fur Trade Era, pre 1840, for many years.  So going to a Hudson Trade company historical site many years ago was great to us, and cheap.

      In 2017 we have already visited both Jamestown and Historic Jamestowne, Yorktown and Newport News.  All are blog posts waiting to be written and will be soon.

4.       Road signs, even small faded ones.  Keep your eyes open. The first time we went to the Little House on the Prairie home site of Laura Ingalls Wilder near Chanute, KS (yet another post in the queue to be written, did I mention I am very far behind on posts) we only learned about it because of a small road sign that pointed the direction.

While generally we won’t take off down a road on a lark like that pulling the fifth wheel, we did that time and had to go way out of our way to get turned around. We learned our lesson, now if the point of interest is in an area we are planning on parking for more than one night we will unhitch the trailer and go check it out. If not we will make a note of it to visit on another trip through the area.

An example of this was the Windmill Museum in Shattuck, OK.


This month we have been loosely following the Lewis and Clark trail following the road signs showing us the trail.  In Virginia we followed a Civil War Trail, again based on signs. 

Libraries. I know the Tulsa City County library has a monthly newsletter they hand out that list all sorts of free classes, travelogs, book signings, and activities for children.

Our visit to Chanute, KS included a wonderful travelog and small museum right in the library.



5.       Penny Hikes, as we call them.  Camped in an area, with seemingly nothing to see.  Take a Penny Hike.  Come to an intersection, flip a coin heads one direction, tails another.  You never know what interesting old buildings, ghost towns or small museums you might stumble across doing this.  Of course, make sure your gps is working well so you can get back to your lodgings for the night, just in case…

6.       Free Factory Tours is a website we frequent because we like to see how things are manufactured.  Although any more most of the “factory tours” are actually a hospitality building with displays, videos, and sometimes free samples, they are still interesting and educational.  So far we have visited two such places, Bush Beans and Florida Natural Juices (blog coming soon). But will visit more as we travel.


The website Only in Your State has many interesting sites to visit on its pages. Campgrounds too.

7.       Television programs can prompt you as well.  Ever hear of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives?”  Did you know there is a list on the web for all the places Guy has televised.  So far we have only located one, by actually looking for it.  We ended up not eating there because the line was around the block.

     We did eat at Ree Drummond’s, aka: Pioneer Woman, Mercantile.  Delicious!  The day we visited we saw her husband Ladd and were given a free ticket to go tour the lodge where most of her programs are filmed.  That post will be in the near future as well.
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     Then of course there is always travelogs either on tv or dvd.  Basically if it looks interesting we check it out.

I know it sounds like we spend a lot of time researching locations, but then as the quote goes “Planning is half the fun of the trip.” 

If you have other suggestions on how to find unique places to visit please leave a comment below.





Thursday, August 24, 2017

MAGIC KINGDOM FALL AND CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS



I really can’t decide which of these holidays I love the most at the parks.  Fall is my favorite time of the year and who doesn’t love the Christmas holiday season?

When we arrived in October the Fall/Halloween decorations were out in full force.  Then on November first  it was magically Christmas! The Christmas decorations grew and grew more every night, right up until we left.

The Magic Kingdom is the theme park most associated with Walt Disney World. Our touring of this main theme park was at our pace.  Which is the pace of a seasoned annual pass holder who has been to the park enough times they have lost track of how many times it has actually been.

Over the years we have experienced “rope drop”, the opening of the park each day.  Even doing the early morning and late evening “Extra Magic Hours” that are reserved for on-site guests and enjoyed them, but not enough these days to make it worth it to us to get up early, eat a hurried breakfast and fight the crowds to get on the transportation system. We do still on occasion stay during the late hours.

Instead we now prefer a leisurely breakfast at the camper, thus avoiding paying for a high dollar one in the park.  Then strolling to the appropriate transportation hub and riding near empty conveyances to the park of choice. 

We also prefer to leave the park before the main crowds do in the evenings.  While we love the fireworks show we generally only remain around for them one night, if that, each visit.  We have found great viewing areas outside the Magic Kingdom to see the actual fireworks, just not what is projected on the castle and of course you can’t hear the background music and story. 

Our planned trip for fall 2017 will include a night to see the new Happily Ever After fireworks show that is replacing Wishes in the spring of 2017. 

Once at the park the main bottleneck of people rushing to get into the park is gone.  By combining our policy of carrying no bags and entering at the annual pass gate it is almost a straight walk in for us rather than the long lines to get in had we gone earlier in the day. I recently read they have instituted an annual pass bag check as well, which will speed up things for folks who do take in bags of all sorts.

On the subject of bags.  When we were first visiting WDW as much younger people we all wore belt bags, carried camera bags or backpacks.  These you either rent a locker for or are constantly having to take them  off to store them in the required bins on rides then dig them out of the bins and put them back on.

Instead I carry my ticket, id and debit card in a well covered pocket with my cell phone in another one. Gary wears cargo pants into which he puts spare camera batteries, battery packs for the cell phones, keys etc.

Periodically we will be asked to empty our pockets and go through a metal detector (maybe it has something to do with Gary’s long hair and beard but it isn’t a problem because we carry so little. 
The freedom of no bags is great.  We feel it is worth paying for a meal or snack to split rather than putting up with the hassle.  It doesn’t work for everyone, but it works extremely well for us.

One request please, if you truly feel you MUST carry a backpack or a purse, watch where you swing that thing.  I cannot tell you how often I have received major hits from people paying no attention to who they conk with those things.  Same goes for scooters and strollers.  People we are in the USA, we drive on the right side of the road here.----rant over


By eating at the camper before we go we then have the luxury of eating a late lunch (which is generally cheaper than supper prices) or early supper, which allows us to once again avoid a crowded line.

More importantly, it also allows us to stop and truly see things along the way.  While we do still take photos and videos of parades such as the Festival of Fantasy Parade.

rides



We get to enjoy the ambiance and take photos of things many people often over look.  There have been volumes of books written about Hidden Mickey’s, the names on the main street windows and such, but it takes slowing down to look for these things as well as at the detail the behind the scenes artists have put into every inch of the parks.

We love this slower pace and have discovered so many “hidden treasures” as we tour the parks now it is almost like visiting the parks for the very first time.




interesting dressed non-cast members


Not to mention all the various little pop up shows that aren’t in any buildings, but are viewed from the street.

One such show is in Liberty Square near the Hall of Presidents.  There a few different versions of the show.  This is just one of the Muppets "Great Moments in History".  Click the hyperlink for the complete show.

One hidden Mickey that many people will most likely never see can only be seen from the air.  As my post “Kudos to Mickey Mouse”, which is yet another Disney World post mentions Disney does a lot toward conserving our environment.  This hidden Mickey is huge, very huge.  It is a solar panel farm that helps provide some of the energy for Walt Disney World and is located just outside the main gates leading to the Transportation Ticket Center parking.

Disney to harness solar power with help of Duke Energy - Story | WTTG

We try to visit the Magic Kingdom on traditionally less busy days.  In the past Mondays and any day that the Magic Kingdom has “extra magic hours”  or a special party like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party,”  Or “Mickey’s VeryMagical Christmas Party” are the busy days.  So we check the online calendar for these events and try to go on days that such events are not happening.

We plan ahead of time on what rides we do want to ride in each park and if they are a popular ride, like Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, we try to get fast passes for them before we ever leave the camper.  Sometimes even days ahead.  Although we will skip rides or add rides as the mood hits us, we are still go with the flow type travelers and have no qualms about cancelling a fast pass if we decide not to use one.

We also try to make reservations for any specialty meals like supper at “Be Our Guest” as far ahead of time as we know we will be going to that park that day. 

Both of these cut our wait time down considerably. 

The rest of the time we do stand-by lines if the line is less than 20 minutes.  We do not do long lines, there really is no need to.  If you pay attention you will find many lines in all the parks have peak times and then times where the stand by line is 10 minutes or less.

Want to ride Space Mountain without a fast pass?  Go during a parade or even better during the fireworks.  Lines virtually disappear then.  Also consider single rider lanes.  While riding with your buddy is fun, if you want on certain rides quickly go with the single rider line.

Over the years we have also learned to stay off the main thoroughfares of the parks and look for the path less traveled.  Often that path is only a few feet from the main one, but because it curves away from what the maps show as the main pathways many people do not take them.  Sometimes these paths are a little longer, but due to the lighter foot traffic you will actually get there faster, or find a bench to set down and rest, or a table to eat your meal at.

A prime example of such a path in the Magic Kingdom is the one going off Main Street toward Tomorrowland where you turn by the ice cream shop.  If you turn directly right at the ice cream shop you will be dealing with the people all trying to find a spot at the provided tables to eat their ice cream.  However if you go back one street down a dead end there are tables there as well that are often empty.


To get to Tomorrowland you can also take the main pathway across the bridge near the castle.  That is generally very congested.  However, between the ice cream shop and the bridge streets there is another path going near the gardens.  It is only a few steps away from the one at the ice cream shop and comes out at exactly the same place, near the restrooms at a restaurant that is only open during peak times.  This path is usually not busy at all.

In fact if you go up through the restaurant walkway and through the seating area you will come out at the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor and miss most of the traffic going to Tomorrowland.  

Every park has several less traveled areas that can save you a lot of time and steps.  So study your maps. 

Another time saving hint.  It is the nature of most people to go to their right when entering a park.  If you are getting there with the main crowd, go to your left.  You will find that the crowds are less and therefore the lines are shorter.

We of course have certain rides we really enjoy riding each time, although the herky jerky ones are quickly falling out of favor with us. While others we just don’t feel like our visit is complete unless we ride certain rides.

In the Magic Kingdom the must rides would be Pirates of the Caribbean, People Mover, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin(how is it I always manage to get the one with the non-operative gun?), Haunted Mansion and a few others.
video

The People Mover (Transit Authority) and Carousel of Progress are our favorites on hot days when we are tired.  Both provide a long cool ride and in the Carousel of Progress it is dark and you can even catch a quick cat nap if you need one.

Then of course there are certain shows we like to see if time allows, as well as the Festival of Fantasy Parade.

For a video of the Festival of Fantasy parade you can view it here.

Unless you arrive late enough in the day that you are near the train station when the 3:00pm parade comes by, at approximately 3:30pm, I recommend that you try to be at the beginning of it near Frontier Land.  The crowds are generally smaller and your wait is much shorter to see the parade.
Not much had changed since our visit in 2014, so we tended to spend more time enjoying the fall decorations.









And then in November the Christmas decorations









Not to mention taking advantage of the new annual pass perk of free photos taken by the Disney photographers.

video

No matter how many times we go, there is always something new to see and enjoy.  Some of the rides and areas had undergone refurbishments since our last trip. We spent a lot of time pointing out the changes to each other.

Even more had been done by the time we were there in the spring and when we go back in the fall of 2017 Pandora the World of Avatar will be open in the Animal Kingdom.  So that will be a whole new area to explore.

Because I started my review blog, Outside a Dog after I had already read the "Kingdom Keepers: Disney after Dark", book 1 of the series written by Ridley Pearson I haven't yet created a blog post review on it.  You can, however get a brief description of it in the second book review.

Monday, August 14, 2017

FLORIDA’S NATURAL GROWERS VISITOR CENTER, LAKE WALES FL



Learning how things are grown, manufactured and delivered is interesting to us.  When we learned that the Florida’s Natural Juice Company had a visitor center that covered these topics we were more than ready to go see this free exhibit.

From Winter Garden it was a little bit of a drive, but not too bad.  It let us see an area of Florida we hadn’t really visited before and gave us an outing.

The brochure had said we could see a citrus grove and learn various things.  There were of course free samples as well.

So when we pulled up and saw that the “grove” was just a few trees near the citrus center with big signs telling us to leave the fruit for the workers to harvest we were a little disappointed.  Not to mention the fruit didn’t look all that good that was on them.  Definitely not what you purchased in the grocery and definitely not what they show as the “grove” on their television commercials. But then “home grown” produce is never that pretty anyway.

The tour starts in the gift shop with the free samples of their juices to drink.  From there you go through a doorway where there are several exhibits, videos and narratives to view.  It was interesting to us, but a much smaller set up than the similar one we had seen on Bush Beans.  The movie that was shown in a small separate theater was interesting.  Seeing how commercial citrus growers planted and cared for their trees was educational.


One of the things I learned is citrus does not continue to ripen once it has left the tree.  It simple gets old.  The flavor does not get better or sweeter like it does on so many fruits.

I also learned it takes over a year to produce a single crop of citrus fruit from pollination to ripe.  That might explain part of the cost of citrus fruit.  It definitely explains why one really bad frost or freeze can ruin crops for more than a year.

There were displays on canning and equipment that make you realize how far we have came in food preservation and samples of War World II rations that included Donald Duck orange juice.

All in all the drive was well worth the effort.


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GALVESTON ISLAND STATE PARK, GALVESTON, TX-Camp 33


After all that had gone on while we were in Gonzales, TX and since then we were very content to just sit and relax through the weekend.  We didn’t even go walking on the beach.

We did research on where we could get a tire for the fifth wheel and Gary took apart the landing gear on the camper to determine what was wrong with it.  Luckily appeared to be just the leg, but it would have to be ordered. 

We checked, via telephone and online with rv dealerships and soon found it was far less expensive to order it from amazon.com and have it shipped to us.  Only we had to be out of our campsite by Monday due to reservations.

After much discussion we decided to head straight for Stage Stop Campground back in Winter Garden, Florida and not chance any disconnection from the trailer, for fear the leg would fail completely, until we got there and got the part. 

But we still needed a tire for the trailer.  I refuse to travel any distance on a spare, especially one as old as the four tires that had already gone bad on us.

We made arrangements with Wal-Mart to have the right size tire there on Monday and went straight there when we left the campground.

By the time they got it on and the proper air in it.  Luckily Gary checked the air when setting the tire minder despite the fact it was raining, they hadn't put near enough air in it.  

By the time we got to the Point Bolivar Ferry, with the trailer in tow it was raining so hard we had trouble even seeing to get on the ferry.  The rain continued with extreme low visibility  for several miles after we got off the ferry.

So much for relaxing, our nerves were super tight again.  We drove short distances each day and boondocked every night all the way back to what we felt would be a good place to lick our wounds.

We made it safe and sound back to Florida, where we stayed for two months relaxing and celebrating the fact that Murphy had apparently given up. 

We enjoy our new truck, but not the payments.  We had gotten very use to being debt free and are now working fast and furious to be debt free again.  We hate debt.

But as always we see the silver lining.  There should be no break downs with this truck, or if there are they will be covered by warranty.  The trailer has all new tires on it, we are budgeting for a brand new spare too, I really don't want to trust the one we have. 

Another bright spot is Gary and I are learning to do the mechanical repairs on the fiver  ourselves. 

Our health is good and we are still free to travel.


Up next, more on Florida.

PALMETTO STATE PARK, GONZALES, TEXAS-Camp 32



My brag rag from this campground is a glow in the dark Swamp Thing t-shirt.  I fell in love with the thing when I first saw the campground, with its low hanging Spanish Moth, walking trails and beautiful laid back atmosphere.  It is a good thing we liked the campground, because we ended up staying there much longer than planned because Murphy called in recruits for his next bit of mischief.  More on this in a bit.


Our first day there we popped into the truck and headed to the Alamo 55 miles away in San Antonio, Texas.  If we had known how the day would turn out, we would have never gone.  As it was we will always “remember the Alamo” for certain.

We had found a city parking lot on the web within a decent walking distance of the Alamo and River Walk, our plans for the day, and at a reasonable parking price.  When we arrived there it was a clean, well lit parking lot under an underpass with a self pay box.

Something about the place didn’t feel quite right to me and we should have listened to my instincts, but hey, it was a city lot right?  I mentioned to Gary a pickup and white car whose occupants were watching us as we left, saying they made me uneasy.

At the last minute he took our camper keys out of the truck and stuck them in his pocket jokingly saying “Just in case the truck gets stolen”.

We had been to the Alamo once nearly 30 years earlier, but we both wanted to see it again.  The story of the Alamo is still very moving and the historic spot reminds us of how our ancestors fought so hard to gain freedom in all areas.






We wandered the grounds for about an hour then went over to the River Walk, ate a good meal at Waxy O'Connors then rode the boat through the river before going back to the truck.











It had been a very pleasant day, but it was starting to get dark and we wanted out of town and back to the campground as early as possible.

Only there was no truck.  Our feelings had been right, we should have listened to them.  But it was a good clean well lit parking lot.  Besides who would take a 12 year old truck with nearly 250,000 miles on it?

According to the officer dispatched to help us all it had to be was a diesel dually, or simply even a dually.  We had been gone less than three hours and were told it was probably already in Mexico (In fact that is where it was found 4 months later, in a river). 

I am certain Murphy was having a pain in his side from laughing so hard at us at this point.  It was now full blown dark, we were 55 miles from our camper in a strange city, with no transportation and to say I was not amused would be an understatement and neither was Gary.

I called both AAA and our insurance agent immediately.   While we have AAA RV that supposedly has trip continuance insurance on it a rental car was not included.  Remind me to discuss this contradiction of terms on trip continuance insurance if a rental isn’t included with my local office.

Nor did our truck insurance have rental car insurance on it, we both thought it did under our complete coverage umbrella, but noooooo.

This meant we needed to pay for a rental, only how to get a rental.  The wonderful police officer volunteered to take us to the airport where all the rental car companies were.  Bless him.

No where on my bucket list did it ever list “ride in the back of a police car”, but there I was scrunched up in the back of one as Gary rode up front with the officer.  Trust me they do NOT make it comfortable for “passengers” in the back of police vehicles.  I am only 5’1” tall and the leg room was too short for me.  Having the “cage” around me was also a bit unnerving.

Luckily it wasn’t that far to the airport.  The officer walked us in told the clerk behind the desk what we needed and why then left.  

Murphy started laughing right away.

You see we don’t use credit cards, haven’t for years.  National Car rental will not accept debit cards.  So now we were further away from the campground, still no transportation.  One of the clerks suggested we take their shuttle to the main airport and try Dollar Car Rental.  Bless them.

As we approached the Dollar desk the first thing we saw was a big sign that both them and Hertz take debit cards!  Take that Murphy!

The clerk was very helpful and apologized for what the thieves of San Antonio had done to us.  She upgraded us from the cheapest car possible to a full size for free and sent us on our way.  We finally got back to the campground about midnight.

We stayed up until nearly dawn searching for used trucks on the web, as well as dealerships for used ones.  We had to be out of the campground by Friday and this was Wednesday, I swear I heard Murphy snicker.

We soon found there were ZERO trucks within a 200 mile radius of where we were at that could handle the fifth wheel to be purchased for used.  One place even joked they had all been stolen.

In fact EVERYONE we talked with were some body, or knew somebody that had their truck stolen in San Antonio.  The bigger the truck, the faster it disappeared and they all went straight across the border.

We finally found a single one ton dually truck in Luling, TX at the GMC dealership and it was brand new with far more whistles and bells than we ever wanted in a truck.  We ended up buying that truck and I have to say the Luling Chevy and GMC dealership went above and beyond the call of duty working with us and our insurance company to get us back on the road.  After all we not only needed a truck, we needed a hitch. 

Then there was the matter of registration, insurance and on and on.  Every roadblock Murphy through up we climbed over.  Some were harder than others, but all were surmounted. The dealership even had us return our rental car early and gave us a brand new loaner for free for the 10 days it took to get all the details worked out.

The folks at Palmetto State Park came to our rescue.  When our time was up at the campground the first time the volunteers moved our fifth wheel from the state campground to the Elks campground nearby and then back on Monday for us. 

The rangers honored our state park pass free nights not once, but twice so of the ten nights we were there two of them were free instead of just one, even though the free nights were suppose to be at different parks.  They said it was the least they could do to help make up for the theft.

When we finally got our truck, paperwork, and hitch all taken care of on that final Friday it was well past check out time.  The camp host told us they had a cancellation and we would not have to move back to the Elks campground but could stay that final night.  It was such a relief.

The next morning we paid our fee and then discovered that Murphy was not waving the white flag yet.  One of our landing gear legs on the fifth wheel would not retract.

Gary, finally hammered it into submission and we pulled out around noon.

We headed back toward Galveston because we had both lost the desire to travel the southern border anywhere near Mexico.  We were headed back to Florida.

Murphy went out with a bang, just as we crossed the Galveston bridge AGAIN—I was beginning to hate that bridge.  This time it was our final trailer tire and this time there was no warning.  The tire minder went off at the same time the tire did.

By the time we found a parking lot to pull off into safely the tire pieces had fully wedged themselves in the brakes and done minor damage to the trailer fender.

As Gary worked to change the tire himself an angel of mercy and his son appeared.  The gentleman took over changing the tire, sawed and tugged with more strength than Gary and I would have had together to get the jammed pieces loose.  Checked the brakes for us and absolutely refused to let us pay him anything.  All he ask was that we would pray for him.  And we did. 

Once we were back to the Bay campground at the state park there at Galveston we were seriously in need of some down time.  We had the spare on the trailer and knew we needed a new tire.  We couldn’t disconnect because of the landing gear being broken and the tornado sirens were going off.


We walked over to the shower house and waited to see if Murphy would take the brand spanking new truck and limping fifth wheel.  Luckily Murphy was done for. To be continued on the Galveston post for campground #32