2016-Secret-Caravan-NM-TX-Trip Research Archives

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Friday-Sun Sept. 23-25: The Secret “Stong” Caravan

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Yours truly taking a selfie at the Snake River completely oblivious to the fact that minutes earlier (just as we were crossing the Snake River Bridge), Eddie Braun was completing Evil Knievel’s jump across the river. We couldn’t have been more oblivious to it.

Beginning on Friday September 23rd, a small caravan of Ann’s cousins traveled to New Mexico to surprise Ann’s uncle, who recently retired. I couldn’t report on our trip, because this was all a top secret surprise and sometimes Ann’s aunt sometimes reads eWillys to follow our trips. Besides, we mostly just drove during the day and RVed at Walmarts at night. That’s why emails have been delayed and posts limited. On Tuesday regular updates will resume.


Left on Friday morning. Spent Friday night in Brigham City, then Saturday night in Farmington. Arrived in Tularosa on Sunday.

The only hiccup was a blown tire on one of the trucks. Then, we couldn’t find the socket to unlock the spare. We persevered and eventually loosed the spare, canalized some lug nuts from another truck, and got back on the road.flat-tire-repair2 flat-tire-repair

The Brigham City, Utah, Walmart is a nice place to stay (and free) with a great view of the mountains.




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Tentative Schedule For the Trip Home

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Below is a tentative schedule for our trip home. We’ve decided to begin by heading east so 1) we can see a little of Fort Worth, which we missed on our last trip, and 2) take my niece out to dinner (She’s in her freshman year at SMU … a long way from home). As usual, we have some museums, jeep stuff, and other things lined up to see. If the route is close to you and you’d like to meet us, just drop me an email and I’ll see what we can do. Just understand that since we are traveling in the motorhome with my mother-in-law, we don’t have quite the flexibility we normally do. Our tightest day might be Friday, as I’m trying to arrange several book-related meetings, but none are confirmed as yet. We begin our journey early Saturday morning with a trip to see the metal sculptures in Tatum, New Mexico.


On Saturday the 24th, we head east from Tualrosa. for Lubbock, where we will visit the Silent Wings Museum, among other attractions.


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Saturday Sep. 24th: Silent Wings & Camel Burgers

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Yes, I’m carrying my mother-in-law’s purse while I photograph a jeep. It’s not a business-as-usual trip for us!

We (Ann, I, and her mother Rosemary) began yesterday’s trip from Tularosa, New Mexico to Lubbock, Texas, by saying our goodbyes to Ann’s aunt and uncle. They were good sports about the “Secret Caravan” descending upon them. With that successful venture behind us, we hit the road for Abilene, though we didn’t quite make it that far. A Going Out of Business sale at Hastings was partly responsible for that, but more on that later.


Yesterday’s trip from NM to TX.

Our first stop was the local Lowes grocery store in Tularosa. We HAD to buy some frozen green chiles to bring back to Washington State with us. I can’t wait to make Chile Verde with them.

Soon, we were back in the motorhome. It was a beautiful drive up to Ruidoso (7000ft), then down to the “alien” town of Roswell, where Ann had one final McDonalds’ biscuit sandwich with chiles. She can’t eat the english muffins, but I can :-).


A McDonald’s billboard on the way into Roswell. Much better than the “I’m Lovin’ It” marketing campaign.

Next it was on to aging town of Tatum, where Roadside America assured us were some metal sculptures. This pair of jeeps were the first two “metal sculptures” we saw:


Two Jeep trucks at the western edge of Tatum.

The sculptures weren’t quite as impressive as those in California’s Borrego Springs, but they were still pretty cool, especially the cacti. Made out of 3/8″ steel plates, they were sturdy, but so were the prices!



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Sunday Sep. 26th: Goodbye West Texas, Hello Wet Texas

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Today we drove from Lubbock to Dallas, leaving behind the dry west Texas for nearly continuous rain. (See Saturday’s Trip from New Mexico | See Monday’s Trip in Forth Worth & Dallas)


Our path from Lubbock, to Abilene, to Dallas (rented a car for two days), and then to Roanoke for the night.

We left our Walmart “camp site”, which proved to be quiet and restful for the four hours I slept, at the break of dawn. I wanted to push us a bit, because I felt Abilene would take a few hours to see and we also had to rent a car and locate an RV park for the next two night. I’ll just say it right now: traveling in our jeep and using motels is SOOOOO much easier than dealing with this big motorhome for multiple reasons. Sure, we can save money a few nights staying at Walmarts (or state parks, some of which allow free camping due to Ann’s disability status). However, eventually we have to shower, especially in all this humid weather. I sweat just thinking about getting out of bed!

Anyhow, I digress. As we left the Walmart parking lot we quickly ran across this oddly named place: Bone Daddys. We weren’t sure whether it was a BBQ restaurant or some kind of sex shop. It sure was colorful on the outside!


Almost immediately after Lubbock we hit rain, light in some cases, heavier in others, that trailed us into Abilene.


Fortunately, the rain stopped just long enough to let us look around the Storybook garden area of downtown Abilene where we took these photos. We had the whole place to ourselves (Abilene is dead on Sunday mornings, which is great for parking the motorhome!



Me, Ann, and Zollie (named for the drug Zoloft). Zollie is her PTSD dog, though he’s so skittish she spends more time calming him than he her. He’s quite smart, but more cat than dog.

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Monday, Sep. 26th: Water, Reining & More Raining

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My niece Holly showing us around SMU’s stables and arena.

On Monday we hung around the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Today we are heading for Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (See Monday’s post here: http://www.ewillys.com/2016/09/26/goodbye-west-texas-hello-wet-texas/)


First we went south to Fort Worth. My mid afternoon we were back at the motorhome. Then, we left for Dallas for a few hours.

On Monday I had a carefully orchestrated plan, had being the operative word. Things went awry early in the morning. First, was learning that the Cowgirl museum and Bowling museums in Fort Worth were closed on Mondays. Drats! Then, someone who she remained unnamed announced she didn’t want to go to any more museums. Oh, the joys of travel companions! But, then we discovered that the Fort Worth Bureau of Engraving and Printing was open on weekdays. Everyone was fine with that, so we were off (two hours later than planned).


As we were getting in the car, we realized that our shirts were appropriate for Texas.

Before visiting the mint, we decided to head downtown Fort Worth while traffic was light to see the Fort Worth Water Gardens. They turned out to be really cool!


One of the park entrances.

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Tuesday Sep. 27th: … Then I Lost My Wedding Ring

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On Tuesday we drove from Dallas to Denham Springs, Louisiana. The drive itself was uneventful, but not without its challenges:


Our drive from Dallas to Denham Springs, LA.


Uh oh … this is a tight squeeze!!

1) When returning the rental car we had for two days, I was driving the motorhome and missed the turn for car rental returns. Instead, I headed straight towards Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport…….. There were no other options. I had to drive very slowly going through the concrete barriers to get my entry ticket. I fit, but barely. I estimate that I had two inches on either side of the motorhome. Ann was behind me and took a photo. Well, I did have to sacrifice a little bit of the generator tailpipe, which apparently stuck out the side a little too far.


Hmm … something’s not quite right, but it will work.

2) I turned over the driving to Ann after we left Dallas so I could get some eWillys done. I took off my wedding ring to type (which I always do) and set it in front of me on a sweater. That sweater got upended at some point and the ring rolled somewhere in the motorhome. Sigh.
3) When we arrived at the KOA trailer park about 9pm (reserved and paid for a site), we discovered the staff had left NO check-in info, so we took the LAST available site even though earlier in the day the reservations gal said only a back-in sit was available.
4) It seems this park includes much of Baton Rouge. We’re guessing a good number of these folks are recent flood victims  🙁
5) Our trailer neighbors just got done partying, but left a friend passed out on the bench 5 feet from our door. The scene is complete with bottles scattered everywhere. Oh well. Maybe they are finally watching the toddlers that were running in front of our rig as I tried to park it.
6) On the opposite side of us was a couple from New York who asked for help getting their cable to work.  We were never able to make that work.
8) Our trailer was invaded by some local bug life as we searched for my ring.

Yet, we are still having fun. It’s all part of the adventure!! Once we get done with our visit, we have to decide how to proceed home. We are unsure of which route to take.



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A Sneak Peak

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UPDATE: It is 5:30am. Our plan to see the Bureau of Printin and Engraving later today has been tossed. Rosemary fell ill and is doing a little tossing of her own. We are now a mobile hospital. Never a dull moment!

It’s 2:30am Thursday morning as I write this and we are just about back to the Grapevine area of Texas. We had a great time on Wednesday and I will tell you all about it later today (I’m waiting for a little more bit of information before I can complete the post). Until then, here’s a sneak peak at one part of a passionate jeep lover’s collection: his “bone yards”. There are mostly M-38s and M-38A1s, but also some CJs and one part’s jeep CJ-V35U.

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Wed Sept. 28th: Cajun Jeeps and Mint Juleps

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Mike is to the left, I am behind the jeep, and Mark is to the right. We are looking over a jeep that they believe was one of MacArthur’s from the Philippines.

As I mentioned in an earlier post late Monday evening, Mike Ragsdale emailed me about a friend of his, Calvin Ishmael, who died this past June. Calvin had amassed an extensive collection of jeeps and parts. He’d been afflicted all his life with the dreaded Willys sickness, the poor guy. With his passing, his family was organizing and then selling what he’d been gathering for more that a half century (fifty-one years by Calvin’s own count). Mike thought that, since we were so close to Baton Rouge, we might want to come down and see Calvin’s place before it was sold.

Ann and her mother were excited for an adventure into Louisiana, so on Tuesday we left around noon and drove late into the evening. On Wednesday morning we met with Mike and feasted on a Cajun speciality, the Beignet, a sweet fried pastry tossed in powered sugar.


Somehow we didn’t get a photo of the beignets, so this one is from the internet.

Inside a café that had been around quite a few years, Mike explained that he’d been an avid reader of eWillys for sometime and had bought several jeeps off the site. At some point Mike needed some parts. Hearing that Calvin was a local with parts, Mike contacted him. One thing led to another and a close friendship blossomed. Mike explained that Calvin came from a large family, but no one else had the passion for jeeps that Calvin did, so with his death they were hoping to sell some of his jeeps and his extensive parts collection.

With our Beignets consumed, Mike explained that he’d lead the way to Calvin’s warehouse near Baton Rouge where we’d meet Calvin’s youngest brother Mark, the man who would lead our tour.


When we arrived, it wasn’t difficult to spot which warehouse was Calvins; rusty jeeps marked the spot.


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Wed. Sept. 28th: We Made It Home Safely

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The Stong Secret Caravan is in the books… What a trip! After driving 4,781 miles we’ve returned home. Half our trip was completed in the last three days … three long days (see maps below). Rosemary, who was feeling better for a while on Friday, relapsed in the afternoon after eating some food. She was once again convinced she was dying. I’m sure she’ll be her old, ornery self soon enough.

Nothing much to report from today’s final leg of the trip. Now that I’m back, I’ll rest a day or two, and then it’s time to begin work on Rusty. I also need to hunt down a scatter shield for Biscuit and begin marketing SLAG in ernest.

The trip down started September 16th and lasted until the afternoon of September 28th:


The trip back lasted from the afternoon of September 28th to midnight of September 30th. Not bad speed for traveling in a motorhome (not a whole lot of fun either):