4gslivingthedream

Adventures of Steve, Patti, Sami and Ozzie


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Tampa and Fort Desoto, FL

We pulled into the Tampa area and found a place to stay.  The resort was just 6 miles East of Tampa, appropriately enough named Tampa East RV Resort.  Anywhere south of here was pretty much booked for the winter so we decided this was good as any place to stay for the winter or longer.

The park was huge, it had 3 pools which came in handy as October, November and December were very warm and humid.

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Florida’s weather was a bit of an adjustment.  The humidity and dew point often were about the 80% range, which made it hard to be outside for any length of time.  Fortunately we had a nice shaded lot and were under huge trees on each side.  It was even nicer once all the acorns finally dropped and the constant pounding of them falling on the roof at all hours of the day was over! Gecko’s and tree frogs were everywhere.  They seemed to love hiding in the compartment doors of the motor home and jump out every time we opened them. The bug issue wasn’t bad, at dusk the mosquitoes came out and everyone seemed to stay indoors.

We had a little friend who came by each day around noon.  I think someone spoiled him long before we arrived and he learned that if he stood up on the picnic table and stared at us long enough, we’d give in and feed him. It worked!!

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Around Christmas the park started to get festive as people decorated their rigs. They even had a Christmas parade with Golf carts and they tossed out candy.

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Venturing out in this area takes careful planning and timing.  The traffic is just plain crazy.  Shopping trips can take over a half hour just to drive 8 miles.  If it’s a Friday after 3pm, it could take you an hour.  We came to rely on our traffic app to avoid the more congested areas.

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Airstream Ranch, right around the corner and off of I-4.  You don’t see something like this everyday..

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We decided to take a little side trip for the weekend and check out Fort Desoto just south of St. Petersburg, FL.

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The park has gorgeous white sand beaches, one is even designated as a dog park where they can run off leash and swim in the Gulf of Mexico.  Sami and Ozzie love the water , we were hesitant to let them off leash with the worry they loved it so much, they would just keep running or worse yet, swim to far out.  When it was time to go they didn’t want to leave.

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Next to the beach they have huge gated dog runs with doggie showers.  You can rinse of the sand and let them run until they dry off.  I know of two very spoiled dogs who were going to sleep very well tonight!

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The north beach was by far the nicest of all them.

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Wasn’t sure what to make out of this, but there were quite a few washed up on the beach.  Apparently, it’s a Horseshoe Crab.

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We walked the beaches until the clouds rolled in and then checked out the rest of the park.

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Back at the campground, the dogs were out like a light.

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The sites were tight, lots of vegetation and it was very tropical.

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It was hard to leave and wish we could have come back here again, but like usual, our plans change….we had to break the news to the kids…

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We’re moving to California!!

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To Mrytle Beach, SC

We’ve traveled to a lot of different places these past few years, the mountains, the deserts and everything in between.  However, there is just something about the ocean.  It doesn’t matter if it’s the Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico or where we are now, the Atlantic.  There is just something about the soft sand, salt air and soft winds that keeps drawing us in.  Wish we never had to leave.  Maybe this time we won’t!?

Before getting here we spent a good amount of time this summer in Wisconsin.  We stayed at some familiar places and some we’ve never been to before.  La Crosse, WI is very scenic and there is a lot to see and do.  Although the sun wasn’t cooperating, we took a drive up to Grandad’s Bluff, 590 ft about the surrounding land and 1183 above sea level.  The views were amazing, I can only imagine how beautiful it would be in the fall.

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The La Crosse Queen padlewheeler on the Mississippi River.

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Mississippi River Bridge connecting La Crosse, WI and La Cresent, MN.

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From there we headed north and spent sometime at a little county park in Warrens, WI.  It was called McMullen Memorial Park.  Our site was the largest site we have ever had.  We took a picture from the front and the back of our pull through site from the road.  Easily could have fit another 3 motor homes on our site.

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From there of course, we spent some time in Green Bay.  Steve got to check out the Packers training camp and oh yeah, we got a new windshield!  What started out as a tiny crack from a stone, didn’t take to long to grow into a nice size crack across the glass.  Green Bay has to have the most roundabouts we have ever seen in one city, but they could use to invest a bit on the regular roads. Who would have thought glass could be so expensive!!

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We were able to spend a few nights in Fond du Lac and spend time with family before heading down to Indiana for some repairs.  Seems we always are heading somewhere for repairs, but when you travel as many miles as we do and live in your RV, things come loose, wear down or need replacing often.  But finally we were all set now and ready to hit the road again.

We traveled south through Kentucky into Tennessee.  The drive was beautiful but that shiny new windshield filled up fast with bugs and many of our pictures looked more like a crime scene than scenery!

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Smoky Mountains up ahead.

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Driving through the mountains.

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We drove through North Carolina briefly and then South Carolina.  On the side of the highway were all these dilapidated shacks.  Some open for business, others empty. Not sure where one could pull over even if they wanted to purchase what they were selling, which was mostly sweet grass baskets. Honestly, I have never heard of them but after doing some research, I wish we would have stopped to buy one.

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Once we hit Columbia, SC we did what I loved the most.  We changed our mind on a dime and headed east.  Myrtle Beach, here we come!

We stayed at a state park that was covered with huge Oaks and moss.  The walk was a few hundred yards to the beach, but the weather was beautiful, hot and humid, but beautiful.

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The airport was really close and the planes would fly really low over the beach area.

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White sands and warm water! Lots of dogs on the beach!

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We definitely need to invest in a good beach umbrella and beach chairs.  Check out the little guy in the shade.  He had a blast in the water.

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We have never seen a dog worn as a wrap before!

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To much fun, he was all pooped out!

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We would have loved to stay longer but…..

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Next stop, the oldest settlement in the United States, St. Augustine, FL.  Ozzie’s getting rested up!

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“Who can sleep, i’m too excited!”

 

 


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Where does the time go?

It’s been six months since we returned to Texas and back to the exciting life of gate guarding. Figuring that the summers here are around 120 degrees, we thought it would be a great place to spend our winter and stay warm. But I honestly can say I don’t know why snowbirds come down here for the winter. Florida, California or Arizona, that’s the place to be. Southern Texas….it just gets darn right cold down here!!  Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating some….there were some nice days in there.

We’ve been on 5 different gates since we returned and celebrated most major holidays working – Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and even Valentines day.

There is no time off in the oilfields! The guys out here are very nice and bring us treats every now and then.

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We have had some nice breaks in between gates, most recently at Lake Casa Blanca International State Park. This was a  pleasant surprise to find in the Laredo area. Most RV parks cater to the oilfield workers and aren’t much more than a dirt lot.


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This park actually had grass and a nice lake. It was George Washington’s birthday celebration in Laredo while we were there. It’s a big deal here, they have their carnival, parade and a huge fireworks show. We could see the fireworks show right from our site!  Bigger show than a lot of the 4th of July fireworks we’ve seen.

As I said before, winters here can be on the cool side.  Highs during the day can linger in the lower 40’s and dip below freezing in the very early morning hours. It also foggy most mornings and it rains/drizzles a lot! The rain makes things worse as most of the oil lease roads are made of caliche, which is made of lime stone. It’s a nice hard surface when it’s dry, but turns almost to a clay type mud when wet. We worked on one gate where we had to wait a week for the road to dry out and be re-graded before we could even leave. Poor dogs – we had to carry them into the shower every time we took them out to clean up their paws.

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Even with all the rain and mud, it dries up really quickly and the amazing sunrises and sunsets make up for it all.

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Now the weather is warming up nicely. But along with that, so is the illegal immigrant traffic. We see Border Patrol often, have even called them a few times ourselves. The last gate we were at, 4 young men came up to the gate most likely looking for food and water. It’s a difficult situation to be in when you’re in the middle of no where and you would love nothing more than to help someone in need, but you also do not know what their intentions are. We’ve been advised that if any illegals approach us, to not engage them if they are carrying backpacks or are in large groups, as they more likely part of drug or human trafficking.

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I don’t know how the Border Patrol Agents know when illegals are in the area, but out of the blue the helicopters and horses arrive. They track them by their foot prints in the dirt. We’ve heard some of the illegals actually wear carpet on the bottom of their shoes to throw Border Patrol agents off their trail. These agents are really brave though, they will go off searching on their own, not knowing what they could run into.  But I guess if I was armed like they are, I’d feel pretty safe too.

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Seen some new birds as the weather is getting nicer – Pyrrhuloxia, Mocking birds, Green Jays and Vermilion Flycatchers.

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At the last ranch we were at had these friendly guys come around to say hello.

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At this gate we have Jack Rabbits everywhere! Coyotes, javalinas, deer and even a wolf hang out down the road. A year ago that would have totally freaked us out, not so much anymore. But soon we will be back into tarantula and snake season…that we’ll never get used to. There is a Road Runner that has been hanging out here so that’s good. He eats both of those!

This gate will probably be coming to an end soon and we find our selves wondering what’s next. The oil industry is not doing as well as it was last year, a lot of companies are laying off and shutting down gates. So if we don’t get another gate right away, we’ll probably hit the road again.

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Until next time…here’s Ozzie and his buddy sending you a big hug!


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Wisconsin to Texas…back again!

After spending for the most part, the last two years in desert country and this past spring in southern Texas, it felt strange to see so much green all around us. We don’t recall Wisconsin ever looking so lush. In fact not much had really changed in Fond du Lac, but all the trees looked greener, bigger and fuller. There wasn’t an August drought this year and can imagine that they are having a beautiful fall right about now. Just glad we no longer have to worry about raking up all those leaves after they fall!!

It was in an odd way, strange to be back in our old home town. It’s hard to explain, but we are so used to traveling to new places and not knowing where things are, that to be in a place we were familiar with, was oddly unfamiliar to us.

However, being somewhere familiar did have it’s advantages, and for those of you who know us well, you know the first thing we did when we got here (well after we let our family know we were here, of course). Yes, we ordered Pizza! We had been craving pizza, GOOD pizza from not just one place but 3 places here in town, and they didn’t disappoint. Joe’s Fox Hut, Bob’s Pizza and Eatons….we won’t tell you exactly how many times we ordered them during our stay, but lets just say, we helped out the local economy plenty!

It was great being able to see the family again, it had been a long time. We were able to celebrate my Dad’s 75th Birthday with my family and spend time with Steve’s family as well. Steve even managed to catch a Packer’s practice when we stayed up in Green Bay for a few days.  I will take the blame for the lack of pictures from our visit home.  I am usually so good about packing the camera every time we leave the motor home, but for some reason, I really dropped the ball this time!

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Sadly, time was flying by quickly and soon it was time to go and say our goodbye’s once again. Never an easy thing to do, but we needed to head out to Indiana. We had some issues that we had been trying to get fixed on the Motorhome since we were in Vegas and no one seemed to want to touch it, so we decided to head to the one place we knew could take care of it, the manufacturer -Fleetwood, in Decatur, IN. The main issue was the overhead cabinet which holds our TV over the dash was coming loose from the ceiling. Every time we hit a bump or traveled a bad road, we prayed it would stay put and not become any looser or for that matter fall on our heads as we were driving!  OK, it wasn’t really that bad, but it needed to be fixed!

After spending, I’m sorry – wasting is a better word, almost 30$ in tolls to travel from WI to IN, we found our way to Decatur and parked ourselves in Fleetwoods waiting lot (electric hookups provided for free -NICE!). Not having an appointment, we had to arrive at the office early Monday morning to get a number for a “walk in” appointment, on Thursday we were finally called in. Service was good and they were able to get us fixed up with all our issues, well almost. But for the most part we were good to go and we hit the road on Friday for Texas, time to try to fill up the piggy bank again and time for another gate guarding gig.

This is just one of the service buildings at the Fleetwood Service Center.  Not sure if it’s a good or a bad thing that they were so busy.  But for the most part everyone who came here that we talked with were happy with the service they received.  Boy were there some nice coaches here!!!!

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The trip from Indiana to eastern Texas looked a lot like Wisconsin. Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas…we traveled through these states at a pretty quick pace and there wasn’t much to see from the highway. There was the occasional tree turning colors or river we crossed over, but most of the highways took us around the major cities such as Louisville, Nashville, Memphis and Little Rock. Someday it would be nice to come back and explore more.

Our last stop on the way down, we ended up pulling into a Wal-Mart for the night in Round Rock, TX, just north of Austin. It was a nice area and a pretty swanky Wal-Mart, nothing like we’ve seen before. After getting permission to park for the night and doing some shopping, we were all set to get some sleep and get on the road early. Well, it didn’t go down that way exactly.  The sun had set and all was quiet. We were on the side parking lot with no one was around us.  Then the cars started pouring in and before we knew it, we were surrounded by hundreds of cars and teenagers!!  They all were trying to get into Whataburger (a hamburger place) and those who couldn’t, were just hanging around the parking lot. Then the megaphones started…the cops arrived! We got ourselves caught in the football after party for a local high school!  We’ve never been in a flash mob, but I imagine this is what it would feel like.  It took the cops over 2 hours to clear out that parking lot, but finally it was all quite again and we were able to catch, well a little sleep…did I mention the train whistles around here, they really like to use them A LOT!

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Finally, we made it to our destination, Pearsall, TX. Here we would wait until a gate became available for us. The RV park was nice, had a pool, full hook ups and there was grocery store and Wal-Mart in town, so we could get stocked up with what we need and be ready to go.  and SUPRISE, there was also a rail road track across the road….once again…blaring it’s whistle at least 5 times every HALF HOUR it went through!

According to this, Pearsall is home to the worlds largest Peanut!

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Getting a gate took a little longer that we thought. They had gates available, however many of them are down long and very rough roads. The first one would have been a 9 mile drive down one of these roads, the second about two miles. Now we aren’t difficult people and we really wanted to get to work, however we just spend all that time and money-getting our cabinets re-secured to the motorhome, going down roads like those would have surely defeated that whole purpose. So we declined those two, waited a few more days and finally…we got our new gate.

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This gate is close to the major highway in Encinal and there are two major gas stations, a Pizza place, Mexican restaurant, Post Office and yes it’s also next to…wait for it….A %#$%#%# Rail Road track!  I kid you not! We are pretty used it now though.  This time around they have us hooked up with some serious power, check out the size of our generator!!  It’s very quite compared to the smaller units.

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Shopping is just 35 minutes away in Laredo, not to far. It’s different from the other gate we had, this one we have to keep the gate closed in between trucks but the traffic is much slower. The rig moved out last weekend and now there is little to no traffic at all. We still have to man it 24/7, but we switch off leaving each other time to sleep, eat and do whatever.  People here are nice and we’ve only saw one runner (illegal) cross into the property so far.  We are very visible to the main road and there is a lot of traffic around so they most likely won’t be coming to us looking for food or water, plus border patrol is constantly driving by.

There is more dust here than the other gate. Dusting is a daily event, if not twice a day on windy days. Even with everything closed up, it still gets in. There are horses across the way, stray dogs that come around but they don’t bother us. Being dog people, it’s hard for us not to try to care for them, but after  watching them for a while, we can see they are some of the happiest dogs we’ve seen. They run, play and look like they are getting plenty to eat. They just aren’t sociable to people. We have Roadrunners and Vultures too. No snakes (yet) and very few spiders here! The nights are getting cooler so we will have to be extra careful with mice and rats now.

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Speaking of weather, it’s been nice. It was humid and hot when we arrived, but the humidity has gone away for now. It’s been in the 90’s during the day but should start averaging in the 80’s here soon. No rain other than a sprinkle yet and the sunrises and sunsets are awesome!

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Even got to catch the lunar eclipse last week.

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Some one told me at our last gate that so many of the Ranchers here in Texas have gotten so wealthy from the oil industry that they don’t know what to do with all that money so they buy one of these!  Some folks pull 4 wheelers, some horses and some, well..they have their own personal helicopters!

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Not sure how long we will be here, in the oil patch, things change all the time. If all goes well, we are hoping to at least be here through the holidays.  Ozzie is good with that, he’s pretty comfy here.

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Until next time..

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM & HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE!

 


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Heading back to Wisconsin

It was August and it was starting to get pretty hot in Texas.  It was time to head north to cooler temps and a visit back to Wisconsin, our first since we started full timing over 2 years ago.  We would miss the sunrises and critters that hung around our motor home….

Back 2 WI 013Oddly enough, these scorpions look like gummy bears.  They are nocturnal and were hanging out in this chair we had folded under the motor home.  There were about 5 of them, made us really glad we worked day shift, who knows how many of them are wondering around at night.

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As we drove north through Texas, the landscape changed from dry and dusty to green and lush, and eventually civilization…

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We had a pretty ambitious schedule and wanted to make it to WI in 4 days, so there wasn’t a lot of time for sight-seeing.  We came up through Oklahoma to Missouri which is home of the largest gift store and largest candy store, according to the billboards on the side of the road.  But one thing we can guarantee they have beat most states at hands down, are the worst highways ever!!  We did stop over for a night at the Lake of the Ozarks, this is one place we would like to come back and explore more.  This is the view we had at the campground we were at…a far cry from the oil fields of Texas.

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Only one more state to go through before we’d get into WI, Iowa.  I have to admit, I really never thought that there was anything special about Iowa, wasn’t it pretty much like WI?  No, not really.  Yes there are farms and crop fields, but it’s so green and manicured.  There weren’t weeds growing in the cracks of the roads or trash on the side of the highway..it was sort of like a painting with all the green rolling hills and corn as tall as either of us have ever seen.

Just one place we had to stop on the way…

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The movie set for the Field of Dreams is located just north of Dyersville, IA and in the middle of farm country.

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There were a lot of people here with their kids playing ball in the field and taking pictures of walking out of the corn, of course we had to do that touristy thing too!

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See the corn really is BIG!

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We haven’t managed to master this whole “SELFIE” thing.  For some reason every time we hold the camera up, we both think that we have to move our head back in some weird twisted way.  Something to work on but we couldn’t pass up this photo-op!

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So we left the Field of Dreams and crossed the Mississippi…Back 2 WI 123

…and we were back.  Hello Wisconsin!

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Next stop…Fond du Lac, WI.

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Carlsbad Caverns, NM

It was just a little over two weeks ago that we visited Carlsbad Caverns.  It truly is an amazing place and I can honestly say we’ve never seen anything like it before.  We took a lot of pictures and unfortunately many didn’t turn out because it was so dark, but we did manage to get a few good ones.

The Caverns are located in New Mexico in the Guadalupe Mountains. There are two ways you can enter the caverns, first is a 1.5 mile walk down (equal to 79 stories) to the natural entrance of the cave and the other is an elevator ride down 850 feet.  We had hoped to do the walk down but arrived too late in the day.  Once we got to the end of the elevator ride, we entered a whole new world.  This world was dark, damp and very cool.  The temperature of the caverns is roughly 56 degrees year round.  The self guided tour is about 1.4 miles of pathways through the caverns and takes about 2 hours.

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The great thing about this National Park is that they have a pet day care so we were able to leave Ozzie and Sami in an air conditioned area while we toured the caverns. It’s been a long time since either has been in a kennel but they did pretty good.

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This is the Great Room, it’s huge!

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There were Stalagmites and  Stalactites, as well as formations named Columns, Draperies, Soda Straws and Popcorn.

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This place was just massive, it’s so hard to explain it.  If interested, click on the link for more professional photos –  http://www.nps.gov/cave/photosmultimedia/index.htm

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It’s really important that you stay on the path while in the cavern.   If you stray off the guided walk and try to explore on your own, you risk the rangers not seeing you on their last walk through, and if they don’t see you by closing, you stay there until the nextmorning, in the dark and all alone!!  And although they say that the bats no longer inhabit that area of the caves, we heard them flying around in there and no thank you!  That is the stuff nightmares are made of!!!

We left the caverns and headed south…Hello Texas, here we come!

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White Sands and Little Green Men!

New Mexico – Someone told me once this was a beautiful state and while we only had the opportunity to see a small portion of the southern part of NM, they were right.  It definitely has some “must see” and “bucket list” places.

We stayed a few nights in Las Cruces, NM before heading off to visit the White Sands National Monument which was about an hour northeast of Las Cruces.

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As we drove closer to the monument, we weren’t really sure what to expect. We had found out that in the general area was the Trinity Site which is where the world’s first Atomic bomb was detonated on July 15, 1945.  Its exact location is 60 miles north of the White Sands Monument and is only open to the public twice a year, the first Saturday in April and October.

The area surrounding the monument is also a missile range where they do testing.  This can cause closures to the monument as well as Hwy 70 in which we were traveling on, however we lucked out…no missiles being tested and we were able to check it out.

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Entering the National Monument, we went through border patrol, but were not searched; others were not so lucky and were asked to pull aside to be inspected.  So far we were really not impressed but as we drove into the area further it changed just like that!  It was truly amazing.

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Most of the pictures did not turn out well even though it was a beautiful sunny day.  The sun reflecting off the massive amounts of white sand was almost blinding and made the sky appear very dark.  And it appears we have a shadow in our camera, sorry for the dark fuzzy spots on the left hand side.

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So what is all this in the middle of the desert?  The dunes are waves of Gypsum, a soft white mineral consisting of hydrated calcium sulfate covering 275 square miles.  It is known to be used as fertilizer and also used to make Plaster of Paris.  But not the Gypsum from this area, it’s considered illegal to take any samples out of the park area (other than what stuck to your tires!)

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I almost wished we would have gotten a picture of Sami and Ozzie on the dunes…all you’d see is their black nose and eyes as they blended into the sands.

Just as it appeared, the dunes disappeared and we were back to the desert.  We traveled west to visit somewhere you just have to go when in New Mexico…Roswell.  We only had the night to visit so we knew we would be limited to driving around just to check out what it was all about.  The drive there took us through Lincoln National Forest and the Land of the Mescalero Apache Tribe.  They must be very religious people as we saw more churches on this stretch of road than we ever seen before.

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Roswell is really a nice little town, with a population of 48,477.  Lot’s of little green men, a UFO museum, a McDonalds shaped like a UFO and a good portion of the stores and billboards use the “alien theme” but that’s really about it.  It’s more of a touristy place to go.  I am sure that the museum and all that other stuff would have been fun just to check out, but we just didn’t have much time to explore.

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We made it through the evening with no abductions or sightings of anything strange in the sky, so we headed on  south to Carlsbad, NM.  We were looking forward to checking out the Caverns and it was worth it…..WOW!