Milestones and Memories

Sunday, December 28, 2014

We left Oklahoma refreshed and optimistic. Sure I did not win my millions at the Casino like I had wanted but there would be other chances in our future. Besides, you do not need to be a millionaire to enjoy the warm weather out west.

It was Christmas eve and we had hopped that we would be settled somewhere warm by now. I had accepted the fact that Santa would not know were to find us. If we couldn't be at Mamaw's house it didn't matter to us that we didn't celebrate. We just wanted to be sitting somewhere safe after hearing so many horror stories about Christmas travel.

You really would not have known it was Christmas eve though. We did not turn on the radio the entire day, every where we stopped was open, we did not see many decorations, and we got very few phone calls.

This photo was taken from the campground we were in.
We did not get far before we were ready to stop though. I wanted to check in some place early so we would not run into any trouble. I know people want to go home early on Christmas eve. Just outside the Texas border we pulled off the interstate to a little RV park with a big sign in a tiny border town known as Texola.

It was just a gravel circle with no-frills lots down the middle set up in front of one of the oldest gas stations we had ever seen. The place only took cash and it is good we got checked in when we did because this place did not have a night check in and they were about to close.

They did not have much else either. Water, power, and a place to dump your tank. Two other campers were parked there but it looked as if they had lived there for a while. A long while. They did have restrooms with showers and laundry. I really wanted a shower but I was never able to find one.

We were told they were behind the restaurant that sat on the side of the campground facing the interstate. It did not look like that place had served a meal in a long time. The back side was much worse than the front side and that is were the bathrooms were. The first door I went to was the laundry. The lid was off the washer and someones wash was still in it. The room looked like it had a lot of the outside environment inside. I feel like I would have had to wash my clothes a second time if I would have put them in that dryer.

The next door I came to was a supply room that looked like a scene in resident evil. The last door was at the other end of a broken walkway sandwiched between a dilapidated shack and the restaurant. It looked like nature was trying to reclaim the place and I would let her have it.

So we spent another night cuddled up in front of Eastenders, which really is a good way to spend the night. After we settled in though we got a few phone calls and made a few phone calls and said our Happy Christmases. We did not stay up late that night and before too long we both had visions of sugar plumbs dancing in our head. 

I was up early and ready to go before our neighbors had time to open their presents. It was Christmas day and we had a lot of ground to cover. The trip was rather uneventful and that was very nice. The roads were not so deserted that we felt alone or so crowded that the traffic was unbearable.

We turned on the radio to look for carol's but mostly just listened to classic rock that we could sing along with. Texas was flat and easy driving . You could see Americas largest free standing cross from miles away and as much as I wanted to stop I thought it would likely be over crowded with pilgrims.

I loved the scenery through the pan handle, which was mostly nothing dotted by billboards. It seemed like every other one was for a truck stop in New Mexico. The scenery seemed to change to more of what we think of when we think about the wild west after we left the sprawling city of Amarillo.  Before we realized it we were out of Texas and in New Mexico.

We stopped at the first gas station we came up on in New Mexico. We had both heard that you do not want to pass up a chance to get gas in New Mexico. The first place we came to was a full out convenience center. Complete with a route 66 museum and an arcade room.  On our way out of the store I noticed we lost the service vent cover to our refrigerator. We must have lost it somewhere in the panhandle, but we were not going back for it.

We were not far from where we had planed to stop for the night. We were headed for Tucumcari. From what we found on the internet we would have a chance to stay at an inexpensive, clean place with full amenities. We were wrong.

This route 66 ghost town was not at all as it seemed on the internet. After the 3rd RV park we decided it would best to continue on. We prefer to find our spot for the night as early as possible, good friends told us before three in the afternoon was best... but we were not staying in this town.
This photo was not taken in Tucumcari, it was taken in NM.

After we got out of Oklahoma we started seeing billboards for a truck stop in New Mexico. We saw more and more after we left Amarillo. By the time we made it to NM it seamed as if every other sign was for this place. They would have everything; Souvenirs, cheap gas, food, and free WiFi. When we finally got to the place I just had to stop. It was closed. We still had free WiFi so we looked for a place to stop for the night. We called RV parks until we found one that answered; it was Christmas day after all.
Making sure we filled up at the rustic little gas station on I-40

We knew we did not have far to go but I told you earlier in this post how we felt about making sure we stopped for gas. So we pulled off one more time before we got to Tijeras.This was a rustic place with an awesome view. A plateau was not far off in the distance and train tracks ran at its base. I imagined painted warriors lining the rim with bows in hand, or cowboys in bandanas with rifles drawn. The rest of our trip out west often inspires such daydreams.

It was nice to stop for gas at a place and not have to prepay to fill up. You had to go inside though these pumps could not read a card. I would not have wanted to pay at the pump here and miss the chance to talk with the friendly locals. The place felt like a southwestern Corner Gas.

We arrived at RT 66 RV Park a little later then I like to, so I was kind of cranky when we got there. After we played a few rounds of musical parking spot we made it to the top of the hill in the back of the park.

This place was in the mountains and it had one hell of a view. I spent a long time in the palatial shower enjoying the warmth. This was a nice place to stay for the night. The night couldn't have been better, and then it started to snow. I was dreaming of a white Christmas after all.

As I said we were in a mountain in the back of the park on a hill. We went to sleep that night as a gentle blanket of snow covered the Defiant hoping we would be able to drive out in the morning.
When we got up it was still snowing. It stopped about ten with a total of around six inches of snow and we thought we would brave the snowy roads and head on our westward way. The roads were fine and the trip was an easy one. I was in a hurry to get to warm weather and our friend out west. We had planned one last stop before we got to Bullhead City at a nice little RV park.

It was clean and had all the things you want in a RV park. We had a chance to wash laundry and clean up the camper some. It was a quiet place and I think we could have had a a few restful days there. Still it was hard to relax so close to where we really wanted to be. We stayed at OK RV Park only long enough to rest and get ready to be back on the road.

Arizona was beautiful. The drive through this state was one of the times I wished I was sitting in the passenger seat. We got to see more than just the interstate though as my famous sense of direction led us on a long ride through a small town. We even passed by a school house that looked like on old red barn near Flagstaff.

The closer we got to Bullhead City the harder it was to sit still. When we started to see signs I felt my spirits rising and when we made it to the infamous mountain pass we had to go through to get to Bullhead I felt like I could get out and push us up that hill faster then our engine could pull us.

After that long slow assent up the mountain it was a fast twisting ride on the way down, at a 6% downgrade that was twelve miles long, and then we were there. The traffic was thick but not hard to navigate. This place had the feel of a tourist trap and I loved it. Lots of lights, lots of people, and I was excited to explore.

Not today though. Today we just wanted to settle in at the RV park. I was worn out. When we left home we said we had no real destination for our journey but we did. Way back in the summer while enjoying sandwiches in the gazebo with our friend Anna we decided we wanted to go to the Silverview RV Resort. A goal of ours was accomplished this day, we had driven across the country.

When I started this post I had intended to mention that this is our 100th post*. That is kind of a milestone for us. When we started this blog it was going to be about our homestead in North Carolina. Now we are way out west and not a chicken in sight. Funny how things change.

We knew we wanted to get here to Bullhead City and we had our trip all planed out. Not one mile went the way we had planed. Life seems to go like that sometimes. I do not know if you read our first post but I'm sure glad you read this one. I plan to write a lot more for you. This city is full of inspiration for writing.

*This is the 100th post we have published on the blog, however some of our posts are hidden from public view because of recent affiliate-ships we took on.

Free Casino Parking and Beginners Luck

Thursday, December 25, 2014

I assume you all know by now we ran in to a little engine trouble. We had planed to head out west to warmer weather. We have a friend  we missed very much and who we were in a hurry to see. To top it all off by the time we completed our assignment with Amazon we had saved up enough cash to do some repairs, get new tires, and take some time off.

After our detour at Wade's though our schedule was a week off and our budget was a lot less. We still had a friend to visit with and the weather is warmer out west. At least we would not see snow right?

I could not make up time so we decided that we were going to have to skip our tour of Oklahoma. We had not seen a sunny day the whole time we were there so I was okay with that. We headed west from Wade's.

I was so looking forward to this trip out west but as the last week passed I deleted activities from my to do list with the passing of every hour. It was hard for me to watch my beach trip go down the drain. Then Quartzite, and RV world. I think it was on the trip back to the mechanic when the fuel pump broke that we decided to take Vegas off the list. That one hurt a little bit more then the others.

Dear Wifey though, always the improviser, set the GPS for a casino in Oklahoma. Some new friends in Kansas recommended some places. Some of them even have free RV parking and hookups. We have been pretty lucky thus far and the sign by the interstate said millions were won there every day.

I decided I wanted one of those millions. What you think about you bring about, right? We are the creators of our reality. I decided I was going to win it big.

When I said GPS it was kind of metaphorically speaking; we had a map and signs on the high way to guide us. We had no address for the casino and no service on the cell phone. We felt as if we were living as true pioneers.

We took a wrong turn as we like to do. That gave us the chance to see a cute old route 66 town. The kind of place with a 20 MPH speed limit. We only drove in circles for a little while before we made it back on track.

I kind of expected a lot of flashy lights and a real glitzy place with a parking lot filled with limos. It was kind of plain and kind of dark and the shuttle bus looked like it might have played bumper cars in the parking lot. I just hoped this place had enough cash on hand to handle my winnings.

The spots were level and we had our pick. There was only one other camper there. There were full hook-ups (water, power, and sewer) with a sign that read free 24 hour camping, please see security. The only amenity we didn't find anywhere near the place was WiFi. We were alright with an internet free night though. We were also given $10.00 per person to use in the casino!

We fought the wind as we ran inside. I had imagined it would look like the Luxor but when I got there it looked like the place from Raindeer Games. As soon as we got inside though it felt like I was in Vegas.

The place had tall ceilings flashy lights and row after row of video slots. The air was filled with smoke and the buzzing of the machines. The center of the main room was full with game tables. People from all walks of life mingled and I felt we could have spent a lot of time just people watching.      

But I was here to make my millions so we went to the far wall to walk the place and feel out the luck jackpot. We tried our luck with a Sex in the City machine. The game was not at all like the last slot I played. The thing had a lot of light up buttons and a high-def flat screen. I hit max bet the first time and half the money I put in the game was gone with a flash of light and electronic cheer.

At this rate we would be broke in no time. So we both lowered our bets and and watched those digital dimwitted women slowly take our money. This was not the right game for us. As I said before I am lucky with the slots so we went walking looking for a better game.

As this was her first time in a casino Kayla thought the place reminded her of an arcade. Row after row of all sorts of games with more themes then you could think of. There was fruit, fishing, show girls, celebrities, pirates, and mermaids even. I got a lucky feeling from a 3D fruit machine that just happened to have a duplicate machine right next to it.

We sat down at our machines and went about winning a million dollars. The game was cool with 3D images that interacted with each other as we spun small win after small win. We did not sit there long before I had almost doubled my money and Kayla had almost lost hers. We cashed out when my hot streak had cooled off. We wondered around the large place stopping when I felt lucky and moving on when it went away.

We played for over an hour and I was still far from my million dollar mark. Kayla was getting thirsty and they had a video poker game at the bar. She got her drink and I thought this is were I needed to play. Slots are all luck but poker requires a bit of skill.

It did not take long before I was up. Before she could finish her drink I was up big. By the time she was done, so was I. I had spent my whole budget. It was exciting how the game itself would sing as you won and changed to a sad tune as it mocked you when you lost. We liked the fancy games but I still lamented not playing a spin on an old fashion one armed bandit. On our way out the door we spotted one.

I gave DW a look that plainly read that is this one I have been looking for. She gave me the change from her drink at the bar and I knew this was it. I fed the money into the machine and went to pull down on the handle only to realize it was just decoration. It still seemed simple enough though. Just line up three bars and win the jackpot. It buzzed as it whirled and as each wheel stopped the bells rung louder. One bar, two bar, then three.

This was not the million dollar machine so I am not a rich man but it did pay out all we had gambled away and payed for our drinks. I always wanted that TV moment when coins fall from the slot like rain but I was still happy with a print out slip that had my winnings on it. We quickly cashed out and left before that place got it's money back.

We needed a fun night out ofter the stress of the last week. We didn't win our millions but I did have a free nights stay and a little more money then we started the night with.

That night in the RV we cuddled up from the cold and watched Eastenders. Just FYI we love Eastenders. Then when the excitement of the day finally over took us the wind rocked us to sleep, off to sweet dreams of new adventures. Content in a feeling of how lucky we are.

*The photo at the top of the post was a picture of the view we had from the west side of the parking lot looking out over the city below the casino.

RV Repairs: The good and the bad.

Monday, December 22, 2014

When your home is sitting on top of a vehicle your home will require maintenance. Our motor-home is an old one and we knew we would have some repairs in the future. What we didn't realize was that we would end up spending more on repairs than we did on the entire motor-home...
Somewhere in Tennessee our temperature gauge quit working. Then one night in Kansas during our weekly runs to the grocery store in the RV we noticed The Defiant leaking a huge puddle of coolant onto the parking lot. 

Luckily one of the friends we made while working for Amazon was a skilled mechanic and he was able to take a look under our hood for us. He was ever so helpful, wanting to ensure we were safe to drive before we left Coffeyville. We started the repairs by changing the thermostat itself, while doing the repairs our friend noticed the water pump was leaking. This was not good news.

Since our job with the rainforest was over and we had reservations to meet in Arizona we headed to Tulsa which was the nearest big city. We stayed at Mingo RV park for two nights while we made phone calls and did our research.

We found an RV dealership with a full repair shop just south of Tulsa. We were able to schedule the water pump repairs for the next day which was great because Christmas was fast approaching and most mechanics were fully booked.

We had white smoke pouring out of the RV as we turned into Wade's RV Clinic and left The Defiant in the hands of their mechanics while we waited for the repairs to be completed in the comfy waiting room.
The waiting room at Wade's complete with fireplace.

Within the first thirty minutes the mechanics had pressurized our coolant system and found out that we had a cracked intake manifold. I knew from my research that the part itself was an expensive one, but I didn't know that Ford quit making the part ten years ago.

We agreed with the mechanics that we had to replace this part before we tried the seventeen hour drive to Arizona. They immediately began searching high and low for a 1988 intake manifold that matched the make of our RV. Luckily they had a friend an hour away who found one. This was the only intake manifold for our RV that they could find anywhere close to Tulsa. It took them the rest of that first day to locate the part, drive it to the RV Clinic, and make sure it was the right part for our RV. The guys in the office set us up with power, water, WiFi and we spent the night parked next to the shop.

The next morning we awoke to the sound of garage doors opening and RV's moving; it took us a minute to realize where we were. So far in our travels this night was the quietest nights sleep we had had.
Our view during the day.

As I said earlier, our RV is old, so as the mechanics took the dog house out and started pulling apart the engine so they could get to the intake manifold more problems surfaced.

After more than fifty man hours they had replaced part of the fuel rail, the timing chain cover, intake manifold, water pump, fuel pump, and per our request they gave The Defiant a full tune up which included replacing the serpentine belt, spark plugs, oil, and filters. Which was a good call because the spark plugs turned out to be original. Most of the bolts holding our engine together had become welded/ rusted together and many hours were spent trying to break the bolts free without damaging the housing they were in.

We spent six nights at Wade's and while we were stressing about the big bill each night was racking up for us, we slept soundly and were very comfortable at the Clinic. The staff were so helpful and personable. We became really close with Jay, one of the managers and spent time discussing philosophy with him while the mechanics were working after hours.

They had a full kitchen which gave Robert a chance to bake four dozen of his famous cookies. They also had a shower in the women's bathroom, I just so happened to be the first person to ever use it and I was so glad it was available.They had a sweet guard cat that liked to snuggle on the rustic front porch with me, pet therapy is not a part of the usual mechanic experience.

Sweetie the cat cuddling up on Robert.
Several meals were bought for us and the staff were always asking if we needed a ride to the store or anything in general. We have never felt this comfortable at a mechanics shop; the staff and the state of the art establishment made this stressful time a little easier to swallow for us.

The owner, Wade, was out of town for the holidays with his family. I hate that we didn't get to meet him and thank him for the hospitality. While we were parked next to the million dollar mobile mansions this business is used to working on we were never made to feel less than, and we really appreciated that.

If we are ever in the area again we will for sure stop by, bake some cookies, and have a tune up done. We hope to buy a brand new RV from Wade's in the future as well.

When you live in an RV the community you meet on the road becomes your family, even the folks at the repair shop!

If you are on Facebook give Wade's a like for us, and if you are ever near Tulsa stop on by their shop and tell them WinterStead sent ya!

The life of a Nomad

Friday, December 5, 2014

The term Nomad is defined in many ways, the definition will change from person to person. Basically a Nomad is someone who lives without a fixed address. We are Nomads.

This blog post will be bitter sweet.

As Nomads who have the ability to pack up and leave when we need/ want to we are granted a certain type of freedom. This freedom does have a price, we have to pay very close attention to our budget for starters. We cannot force our friends and loved ones to become Nomads and travel with us. When we meet new friends who are already Nomads we eventually have to say "goodbye" and leave them. We must also learn new towns and faces more often than the average person.

However, all of these inconveniences lead to new experiences and we have a lust for new experiences that only fellow Nomads could understand.

We left North Carolina to fulfill our dreams while living the nomadic lifestyle. Our first priority was to save some money with our job at rainforest so we could continue on our way and explore more of our great country.

The job with rainforest was a tough one, we worked many hours and needed our days off to recuperate. We are also full time students, so on our days off we ended up doing a ton of chores, errands, and school work. We did manage to squeeze in a little bit of time to hang out with new friends, but this was essential for our mental and emotional well being. I am happy to say these new friends will more than likely be life-long friends and we are glad that we devoted what little bit of spare time we did find to these new friends because well... they rock! (True Story: At one point we had six adults in our RV hanging out, yes it was a tight squeeze but we had a lot of fun).

This post is a bitter sweet one because we are sad to leave rainforest but excited to have more time. Time to write blog posts, time to explore the places we find ourselves in, time to finish our last few classes without loosing our minds, and mainly time to experience all of this together.

We feel very strongly that time is the only thing we posses that is of real value.

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