Friday, January 31, 2014

Blowing Through Houston,TX With 60mph

Had a great traveling day. We were leaving Covington, LA before 7:30a and were making good speed on I-10 west. Crossing miles and miles of swamp lands between Baton Rouge and Lafayette where they have put about 25 miles of the I-10 on pilings. There are stretches of the Interstate down there with pavement probably originating from the sixties, but nothing broke on the trailer. We have seen lots of oil refineries in Louisiana and later in Texas. gas is cheap down here, lowest price we’ve seen was $2.97/gal.
Our drive from Freeport,FL

Crossing from the east into Texas always marks the entry into a totally different part of the country. And as the road climbs up into the more hilly country around San Antonio my mood barometer is rising.
But we still had Houston, a 50-mile stretch, ahead of us. Should we go straight through or take the I-610 around the city? There was plenty traffic when approaching the fork, but most of it left onto the 610, which made us run straight towards downtown.  I maintained around 55-60mph all the way through and Bea had an eye out for keeping us in the right lane.
The “Spaghetti Highways” around the city are phenomenal and one place they were just about to lay the finishing touch on an entire new “Spaghetti Intersection”. This city appears to be growing out of seams and bounds.

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Leaving Houston behind us our next goal is San Antonio. We would have reached it without a problem if we hadn’t lost 3hrs yesterday. But it doesn’t really matter.  The temperature is about 70F and we have been throwing off winter clothes all day. We found an I-10 rest area about 2 hrs from the city and will enjoy a relaxing evening.
Mississippi River w. moored paddle wheeler

See you in San Antonio!


Thursday, January 30, 2014

We Got Out On The Road, But Florida Had Closed The I-10

We were leaving our spot at 8:30am taking Highway 20 west for so to take the short Hwy 293 W. to Hwy 85 finally connecting to the I-10. Hwy 85 had still long patches and bridges covered in sheer ice and vehicles were crawling along. Was it a mistake to take off today? It seemed like it was. When reaching Crestview on the I-10 we discovered that the ramp onto the Interstate was closed – due to icy conditions and the closure of the Escambia Bay Bridge. The only possible detour was Hwy 90 which runs a few miles farther north parallel to the I-10. Hwy 90 was mostly clear, but had an incredible amount of traffic on it, all due to all vehicles that came off the I-10. We made 9-10mph and didn’t reach Pensacola before 4 1/2hr later, a 3hr. delay. There were hundreds of trucks in the oncoming traffic, all re-directed from the I-10.
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Icy bridges - some sanded some not. You can tell where exactly the bridge begins by looking at the ice.
Trees…seemingly out of glass
Battleship USS Alabama as seen from the highway

We followed Hwy 90 until where it connects with the I-10 in Alabama. From that point the I-10 was open and we picked up speed. BUT what was going on in the oncoming traffic?. The line-up of trucks and cars wasn’t even moving anymore. They were parked along the Interstate with truck drivers having meetings on the pavement. It is our guess that the line was somewhere between 15-20 miles long. And more trucks were coming by the minute. Every bit of Interstate traffic coming out of Alabama got stopped then re-routed.
The main reason for Florida closing the I-10 was the 3mile long bridge/causeway across the Escambia Bay. The bridge was solidly frozen and Florida authorities deemed traffic across that bridge for too dangerous. We could see the long bridge from Hwy 90 and there was not a single vehicle on it.

It was the worst lineup I have ever seen. But now we made good speed towards Mississippi finally reaching Louisiana. But due to our slow start, we stopped driving at around 4:30 and parked at the Covington, LA Wally World. Just south of us we have Lake Ponchartrain and New Orleans. I-12 leads north along the lake, bypassing the big city.
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Huge wetlands - a paradise for birds in Louisiana

Just now we learned that the Florida I-10 was re-opened around 3pm. People waiting at the bridge were furious against the police guarding the bridge.
Temperature here is gonna stay around 42F – a lot warmer than in Freeport where it will go down to 37F tonight.

Texas tomorrow!

Thanks for coming by!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

It’s A No Go!

Something was amiss this morning. Was it Sunday? Or did President Obama use his executive power to proclaim a new holiday? There was no traffic noise. In fact it was eerily quiet.

None whatsoever.

A bird from time to time – that was it.

Well, the weather gods have played a trick on us and sent freezing rain all along the Gulf Coast. Everything outside including all leaves, trees, yes our entire rig is encased in a shell of ice. There is extremely little traffic on this otherwise super busy highway. But those few daredevils who are out there are doing 60mph. I just don’t understand it.
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No traffic today                                                        A thick layer of ice on the van 
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crusty Magnolia leaves                                       …and a frozen birdbath
There is no way that we will be joining those lunatics out there before any significant rise in temperature. And there is very little chance for just that as daytime highs are 31F. (-0.5C) I-10 may be OK but we have to get there first and that’s a pretty unpredictable endeavor. All schools are closed and I assume the garbage truck won’t show up today either.

I did get our propane yesterday and wouldn’t you know it price gouging had already taken a hold. For our 30lb-tank the price had gone up with another 6 Bucks. It’s time that energy companies are coming under federal regulation. They are no better than Wall Street and the banks.

There isn’t really any more to say.

Have a great warm day!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Plop Plop Plop Plop……..

Raindrops keep falling on my roof…….It’s a sound that every RVer can recognize. We are “enjoying” a very cold rainfall and yet we must consider us lucky as rain is falling just west of us about to glaze the highways with a thin layer of ice. North of the I-10 snow has fallen and turned Dixie into a Winter-Wonder-Land.

The big unknown right now is whether the situation will improve until tomorrow or still impact traffic conditions along the Gulf coast. We are westward-bound and are just hoping the best. We won’t be heading out too early, maybe around 10am we might be ready to hit the road.

An email came in from Southern California stating that a few people are getting excited about our coming out west. I expect nothing less than a marching band standing ready to celebrate our arrival. Let the Trumpets sound – I say. :-) The news has already made the round along the “main drag” of the Holtville LTVA. Yet, we never told anyone that we’ll go there.

But we’ll take our sweet time. Have to stop in San Antone to see a few folks, stop at places where good memories were deposited quite a few years back. Have to turn a few rocks to see them still being there.

Though some times it happens that we are bit by the “arrival bugs” (can’t wait to be there) and then we don’t know that the rig has brakes to stop. Well, Molly needs to get out some times and that’ll be our alarm clock.

Got no pictures today. And I guess you jest don’t wanna know about the snow. Am I right?

I am.

Good night!

Monday, January 27, 2014

We May Get Hung Up Here For Another Day

That this is an extraordinary winter you have probably heard of. In fact, in the deep South they speak of the worst winter for an entire generation. And ANOTHER cold snap is threatening the deep south. We will see a plunge from 50F last night to 21F the coming night and daytime temps along the panhandle will stay just above freezing. And the cold will last into Wednesday, which is the day we intended to leave. It dawns on me that we shoulda left here 2 weeks earlier. In a strange way it seems to be a repeat performance of the situation we had before we left home – with the difference that we were smart enough to leave when it was possible. Getting weather-stuck here in Florida has never occurred to me. But things like this just happen when you travel a lot.
Take today f.ex.: It was nice and warm in the morning and the forecast talked about getting about 67F. The situation changed dramatically when a thunder storm moved in from the south-west. After that we haven’t seen the sun, but had quite a bit of rain. And the temps barely reached the high 50s.

I went out to get a refill of propane but the company had run out of propane on Saturday. I must go back tomorrow morning and hope the best.

It seems like this year everything can happen.

Can’t wait until I see the wide open spaces of the west.
Thanks for being a reader! 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Haven’t Seen The Man In 35 Years And Today Is Australia Day

We were buddies way back in the late seventies, attending technical college in Northern Germany. Our jobs took us to totally different places on the globe. While I was going north, Hermann went south - way south I should ad and to the other side of the globe.  Hermann and his wife Renate went to Australia. After that I haven’t seen the man in 35 years. 
DSC_0125But with today’s amazing technology we could arrange a meeting. Most recently they got an account with SKYPE and we had arranged a time to meet. It was late afternoon here in Florida, but Hermann and Renate were sitting on their covered porch enjoying a wonderful breakfast looking out to their tropical garden. Yes, in Darwin,Australia it was just about 31C (88F). We chatted over 2hrs, it was just like a personal visit – without ever leaving home.

image They also told us that they are having Australia Day today.  Australia Day is the official national day of Australia. Celebrated annually on 26 January, it marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British Ships at Sydney Cove, New South Wales, and raising of the Flag of Great Britain at that site by Governor Arthur Phillip. In contemporary Australia, celebrations reflect the diverse society and landscape of the nation, and are marked by community and family events, reflections on Australian history, official community awards, and citizenship ceremonies welcoming new immigrants into the Australian community.
The celebrations remind me a lot of how Canada is celebrating Canada Day. We are wishing all Australians a HAPPY AUSTRALIA DAY!

Sitting outside on one of four warm days we’ve had over the last month.

Over here, nothing has changed. It is still cold and come Tuesday it’s going to be downright frigid. But then we are about ready to leave the next morning. We have called ahead to Texas and have received a positive confirmation from another “Boondockers Welcome” member to park a couple of nights with them. From there we will drive the 30 miles into San Antonio to meet with distant relatives of mine. San Antonio is a very beautiful and historic city (Remember the ALAMO..) and we have been there a couple of times earlier.
DSC_0122         Watching TV or are there SQUIRRELS outside?
After the weekend we proceed via El Paso, Lac Cruces and over to Arizona. Hopefully, by then we will see a lot of sun and warmer weather. Don’t know yet whether we will make it all the way to Yuma but it is possible.

Thanks for dropping by!

Friday, January 24, 2014

“The Lost Floridians” (freely in Span: Los Floridanos :-)

I guess Florida was lost on us or we lost Florida, whatever… we have made our plans to take our leave. We just wait until the next cold snap which will hit right after the weekend is over. And our destination is: ARIZONA
Come Wednesday we will be on the road unless it snows.
Speaking of snow: When I dropped in at an auto parts store this morning snow was the topic. Same thing happened when I picked up a bag of potatoes at the local grocer. It has happened before and snow is coming down in Louisiana as we speak.

For the life of me I can’t understand why snowbirds would be staying here on the Florida panhandle. It might be nice in march, but hey- that’s still 5 weeks down the road.
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While being “cooped up” in the rig I occasionally flip on the TV. We don’t have a TV in our house and it is mostly because the quality of programs are so bad that I feel somebody is thinking us to be totally stupid. Stupid enough to watch silly soap operas and silly enough to enjoy the dumber than dumb commercials.

Now, whatever we see here is really not much better, but local and national news casts can contain some worthy information.  There is also a “Bonanza” channel. They have the old Bonanza episodes and that’s why I call it “Bonanza” channel. There is other stuff from the seventies like “Dragnet” or”Emergency” or “The Rifleman” …..stuff like that. And what kinda intrigues me to watch that is the fact that 40 years have passed and that our world looks quite different today. See Mr.Friday from “Dragnet” didn’t have a computer on his desk or a cell phone at his ear. All they had was a (Rotary) Phone. Kids today don’t know what a Rotary Phone was. If they try to punch some numbers on the round dial – nothing happens and they would probably go mad and throw that thing against the wall.
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But the worst on TV are really the commercials. 80% seem to be drug-companies running their ads for all kind of wonder drugs they have invented and which will give you a sea of side effects much worse than whatever health problems you might have. These ads are usually followed up by lawyer commercials telling you to sue the very same drug companies. Oh…I need to mention insurance company ads which will sell you life-term insurance in case you die of these drugs. And when you die, you better have an insurance policy paying for the funeral or else….

Fast-food ads from Mc.Burger and Co seem to have declined in numbers from a few years ago. What really has gone up are the “smart gadget” ads mostly trying to sell you stuff you have never missed before, but will make your life a dream. They always have a double offer so their products come in pairs. One for the home and one for the car. One for the wife and one for your mistress.  Oh sorry, guess I over stepped this a bit.

You get the gist. I’m done. Thank God.

See ya, folks!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Break-Away Blues

It has happened to me twice – back in Europe – that my trailer came off the hitch of my tow vehicle. Over there they have different trailer brakes – mechanical all together. In North America small trailers have electrical brakes. And when a trailer comes off the hitch ball, the trailer’s brakes are activated by something called a break-away switch. Every trailer equipped with brakes has it. It’s a little thingy, usually found somewhere on the tongue of a travel trailer or behind the king pin of a 5th-wheel. The little box has a pin which is connected to a brake cable hooked onto the tow vehicle. When the trailer gets loose, both safety chains have broken (which is very rare) and the distance between tow vehicle and trailer gets too big the cable will pull the pin out of the switch box which is closing an electrical connection and thus activates the trailer brakes. DSC_0047
While our trailer has been parked we noticed a strange odour coming from around the propane tanks. We could not figure out what it was. It smelled like some melting plastic but I just couldn’t find anything wrong. That is until today, when I crawled underneath and looked up against the tongue. There was our break-away switch, halfway molten into a crooked appearance. Last time I had pulled out the pin I had noticed that it was really hard to get out and when I looked at it I realized a part of it was broken and obviously still hiding inside the switch box.
So I needed to replace everything. We don’t have any RV-dealer nearby so I went to a hardware store which advertised trailer parts. They didn’t have it in stock and neither had their suppliers. So off I went to find it elsewhere. I stopped at AUTO ZONE and then at ADVANCED AUTO PARTS but neither could help me. Next stop was 20 miles farther down the road at a boat dealer. They had trailers with million-dollar boats parked in their yard and surly they would have parts there. But NOPE, they just sold the boats. (Poor buyers..)
On I went for another 10 miles to the next boat dealer. But no, they had no such part.
In pure desperation I went farther down the road, scanning both sides for other stores, and just before I hit the bay shore in Ft.Walton Beach I saw a smaller CARQUEST on the right side. Pulled in there and immediately felt that I could be in luck. An older sales clerk just nodded when I had told my story and went straight to the aisle where such brake-away thingy was waiting to be picked up by me.  It was only 12 Bucks which was considerably less than what the first store had quoted me before they found out they didn’t even had it in stock.

I left CARQUEST with a smile and drove all those miles back home. Mission accomplished!

Now, look at our weather forecast. And in a couple of days it’s even gonna get colder. If you don’t believe it, just come on over!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Trees Throw Off Leaves

A bit of a strange header today, I know, but it’s standing for what we did yesterday. RAKING LEAVES! Many places Florida is like a jungle. And right here, all we need is screamin’ monkeys jumping in the trees. The trees, water oaks, hickory trees, magnolias are huge. Unlike in the north, Florida does not have a real fall season with much fall colours. Most trees are staying green but throwing off a few leaves here and there, replacing them with new ones. That is an ongoing process through all 12 months. And since Florida is flat like a pancake, there are no variations due to elevation.
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So we took a good hold on our rakes and cleaned walkways, and lawn of leaves.
Bea made use of an old tarp and we dragged the whole heap over to a large bin which by now is full to the brim.

It gave us a work-out and it was fun to be out in the warm sun.

Speaking of which: We have a very bright sunny day today again, but contrary to yesterday morning temps were below the freeze mark. Brrr….

We also went shopping, filled up on propane, checked the air pressure on our van tires and ordered a new break-away cable for the trailer.

DSC_0044You have probably seen or tried those automated air-vac columns at gas stations. Yup, you drop 4 quarters into it and a compressor starts running. Then you have to hurry up as you got about 4 minutes to do what you need to do. That makes a Dollar every 4 minutes. That would be all fine and dandy if those things would work. The first we tried, had a faulty valve at the end of the air hose. The next one we tried stopped after 2 tires and would not start again with all the money in the world. The third one had a valve which needed to be pressed so hard to the tire’s stem valve that my hand was hurting after less than a minute. My advice: go to a tire place and let them do it, or get yourself a portable compressor. 

We are still waiting to get a final confirmation on volunteering in Arizona, but we seem to be in the loop of things there.

Thanks for popping by!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Didn’t Feel To Write Anything

If you have been on the look-out for some new posting from us over the last day and couldn’t find any the reason is that I haven’t been writing anything as there really hasn’t been anything to put up. In fact I have been in a quagmire of doubts about the decision to go to Florida for this year’s journey. And of course, the reason has simply been the weather and the lack of possibilities for any activities. Yet we have been very fortunate for our hosts Sherri and Pete to let us park on their property for an extended time. As far as I know they are currently the only private hosts at “Boondockers Welcome” on the panhandle.

But it’s been colder than cold here, even though the sun has been bright the last coupla days. We love to go exploring the area, but the panhandle of Florida is not the place to indulge in such. That is unless you love to hang out in artificial parks, cafes and restaurants, all of which we don’t like. So we’ve been cooped up in our trailer and I was about to suffer a serious attack of cabin fever. 
Example-wise we wanted to walk along a quiet forest trail yesterday. (and this is the only one around here) We were dressed for wintry temps when we got into the van to drive a mile down the road from where the trail starts. We parked the van well off the highway and out-of the way to a closed-off military-owned forest road. The trailhead was just opposite from the military road so we had to cross the highway on foot. It was indeed a nice walk, but when we got back to our vehicle we had a red tag on the windshield. At first, I thought it was a ticket, but when I read it, it proved to be a WARNING that our vehicle would be towed after 24hrs. as it was parked in violation with some stupid Florida law, prohibiting any vehicle parked on public property.  What kind of BS is that??? There was no sign prohibiting parking and we weren’t even close to the highway. It depressed me all evening to know that this country is far from being free. In fact, in CANADA we are a lot more free than down here. I still remember the American journalist which was interviewed about how he liked Norway. His answer (or advice) was that it would be easier for the Norwegian government to post signs about what was allowed than posting signs telling what was prohibited, as just about everything seemed to be forbidden.  His answer caused quite some outrage in Norway.
I wonder where that man came from. Certainly not Florida.

Anyway, enough of such adversities. Today we did another visit to the Rocky Bayou State Park to get our holding tanks flushed. We have to do that early on Sundays as the traffic on this highway is way worse than most Interstates. And the exit from that State Park onto the highway is extremely dangerous in tight traffic.

                                                   Rocky Bayou State Park Dumping Station
Even though we had a thunderstorm going through the area between 4-5am it all cleared up and developed into a real nice sunny day. And for a change the temps climbed to about 63F. We sat in the bright sun, reading, simply enjoying a peaceful Sunday. For the first time this winter we had lunch and coffee outside and Molly was busy watching birdies and squirrels in the trees.

We also rolled out our awning to get it dried out. Mold had already settled on the inside and Bea washed it off.

We are looking forward to another warm day tomorrow, but after that, temps are in for a another plunge below freezing.

Thanks for stopping by here.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Not Too Often We Get To Meet Fellow Bloggers

But Today We Did!
We have been following their blog for a while and I guess they followed ours. And we found out that Chuck and Anneke (Goldenshoe RV Trip) live only some 20 miles away from where we are camped. So contact was made and we arranged a meet-up for lunch at Mc.Guires Irish Pub in Destin.
We took the mid-bay toll bridge (Hwy293) and it took us just 30 minutes to get to the west end of Destin. Right down from the bridge over to Okaloosa Island the pub is located on the north side of the road. When I researched the place on the internet I found over 150 mostly very positive reviews, all raving about the great food. But there is something peculiar about Mc.Guires and that is the millions of Dollar bills hanging from walls and the ceiling. And it must be millions as they hang there like the Spanish moss does from the mighty oak trees. It seems like just about every customer has left one for decoration.
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Man-oh-man look at all that money

Mc.Guires runs another pub in Pensacola, with similar amounts of Dollar bills. Hopefully they have good security on their buildings. If there is anything negative to report then it is the lack of light inside. Stepping inside on a bright sunny day one can’t see nothing. After a while when the eyes have adjusted to the dark it gets a bit better, but I had to give up reading the menu. Just barely made out the headlines. Chuck pulled out a flashlight and I wish we’d had ours with us. While waiting for the food our conversation flowed like we had known these folks for ever. And it shows again what wonderful thing it is to be a blogger and RVer. Chuck and Anneke have traveled extensively all over the States, seen parts of Canada and quite a few places in Europe. 2 years ago they have been in Maine visiting the Acadia National Park which is only an hours drive from Campobello Island. They plan to one day see the Maritime Provinces and we sure hope they will stay with us.
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Huge pseudo-historic apartment building          Mid-Bay Bridge to Destin

We were all full of a great meal and waived the dessert. Take Care Chuck and Anneke, hope we’ll see you guys again.

Thanks for dropping by folks!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Hallelujah…..A Sunny Day

Wow…we woke up to a sunny day!  While Bea was airing out accumulated humidity from the trailer I lounged down at the bay, book on my knees and Molly by my side. What a gorgeous morning! 

Yes Dad, I hear you!
DSC_0168 Then it hit me like a lightning, we should do something nice for the afternoon. At 11am we had an early lunch and were heading out to Panama City Beach. Bea had read that they had a dog friendly beach policy in a certain area and we were bound to find that. Highway 98 is stretching all along the outer barrier peninsulas interconnecting them via causeways with the mainland. We were passing many beaches and so far, every one of them had “No Pets” or “No Dogs” signs. But then at beach access # 56 – 57 we found what we were looking for. The beach was of that typical fine sugar-like snow-white sand and we saw several happy dogs running around. We carried our camp chairs over and settled with coffee for us and water for Molly smack in the sun. The surf had tempted several young guys and gals to try their surf-boards and provide us with entertainment. Whenever they had reached the beach zone they swam back to where the waves towered high, diving through the waves on their way out.
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Bea tried the water with her feet but thought it too cold to do anything more. And the surfers were wearing their wetsuits.
Maybe a word or two about the area beyond the surf and the beach. I had the impression I had arrived at an El Cheapo beach resort for the broad masses. Extremely ugly high rises are destroying an otherwise beautiful area. I can’t fathom that anyone would buy or rent a condo in these ugly giants. The shopping areas on the opposite side of the main drag were all full of glaring colors hustling for visitors attention. It was looking more like the entrance to a State Fair Ground with carousels and cheap entertainment. A tourist trap of the worst possible making.
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Anyway, we had a good time on the nice beach and around 2:30pm it was time to get going. We found a huge Wally World where we replenished our supplies, and were home again just before sunset.
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After supper I found that I had received an email from a NWR-supervisor in Arizona. They are looking for volunteers and we might just be interested to do that.
I will get back to that as soon as we have a decision. All I can say so far is that this is in an extremely remote area of the state and it would be a real adventure.
DSC_0249 Arrgh…Beaches are boring!
So stay tuned for that!

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Rolling Thunder Drives Molly To Hide Under The Table

I really feel sorry for her. Molly is scared of any sound resembling thunder or shooting. And while the military checked out whether their bombs are able to explode and thunder clouds darkened this afternoon, Molly had a hell of a time.
And YES, we are back to normal north Florida weather. It’s the all-too-well-known pitter patter on the roof.
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Blue skies….just a memory of yesterday

The early morning wasn’t too bad though. It just didn’t last too long. Thunder was prevailing all afternoon and it got so bad that I disconnected from our shore power and rather started our HONDA instead.
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So the day was mostly spent cooped up inside. Reading a novel, watching TV and some computing was all we did. Bea even got around to a little healthy nap.
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What I didn’t mention in yesterday’s post was that we stopped by the Armament Museum. It displays a full range of all kind of military airplanes and helicopters.
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Oh-Oh a spy…what’s she seeing…?                         …an armored vehicle…oh dear!

The museum itself was closed as it was Sunday but the outdoor planes can be viewed at all times. I can imagine that it must be quite fascinating for someone being interested in military history. Unfortunately I am not that guy. But I have to admit that the sheer size of the exhibited planes are stunning.
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Give me some old historical buildings and you’d see a happy guy. I remember that we visited a number of the old mission forts in Texas and Arizona. Those are great places. I also like the ancient ruins of the indigenous American tribes or the Ghost towns of the old west.

While I’m at it I’m wondering whether you had a good time yesterday. What? You didn’t notice that yesterday was International No-Pants-Day???
Hey, rest assured, I didn’t know either. That is until Bea dug it up from the internet.
It made me think that our world is going completely bonkers. What the hell is going on in the heads of those who part with their pants on the subways?

Here’s about the “history” of “No-Pants-Day”:
No Pants Day is an event celebrated on two different occasions per year, one held in January, the other on first Friday of May each year. The origin goes back to 10 January 1986, when a New York City resident forgot accidentally to wear his pants and boarded a New York subway pantless. He was embarrassed, but at the same time was thrilled with the grins and giggles wherever he went. The following year, he was joined by tens of other pantless friends and this has snowballed into an international event held on January and May of each year.
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Nothing more to report from here, folks.

See ya!