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Monday, January 7, 2013

Looking for a White Christmas

There is snow in California's Sierra Range and to a lesser extent the San Gabriel's of Southern California.  But that is not the Christmas Lynda and I were looking for (one with trees and lights and horse drawn sleighs).  So we decided to head east and then north in search of the perfect place to experience Christmas:  Branson, MO.

From Palm Springs it is 1413 miles to our designated resting place in Gordonville, Texas (Thousand Trails – Lake Texoma).  There are few Thousand Trails, Coast To Coast or other membership parks along the way, so we made this trip without too many extended stays.  Nevertheless, we tried, when possible to stick with our general rule of around 200 miles in a day of driving, a bit more if it is all freeways.

Our first stop was Colorado River Adventures’ Yuma Lakes RV Park.  This time of the year (late November), the park serves its famous meals and is a pleasant place to stop.  The people are friendly and we are familiar with the park (it still gets around a 7 out of 10 on our 10 point scale).  The park is not particularly convenient to Yuma, nor was it terribly quiet this time … the park is in a flight path for teaching touch and go’s … at all hours of the day and night.  We stayed two days here so we could visit Los Algodones, Mexico, where we stocked up on antibiotics and enjoy a margarita at Paraiso, an expat favorite.

We enjoy a margarita

A dancer entertains us

The tropical ambiance

From Yuma we ran over to Casa Grande and stayed at the Escapees co-op – Rover’s Roost.  This is a very nice park with exceptionally nice people.  It is a bit out of town, but is fairly quiet (railroad in the distance) and easy to get into and out of… It comes with a large site and 50-amp service.  (We give this park a solid 8).  It is very inexpensive for Escapee members ($16.15).  On the downside, you are staying in someone’s purchased site, so they don’t take reservations but will put you up if there is room available … they can usually tell if you call the day of your arrival …  of course, if they don’t have room they do have overflow parking for one night at $5 per night.

Casa Grande was a one-night stay and we were off to Benson.  We stayed at Valley Vista RV Park (Coast to Coast).  This is an Encore park and looks it … dated and run down with small sites.  We paid an extra $2 per night for 50-amp and a $3 per night “resort” fee.  This brought our total with the $10 C2C fee to $15 per night.  There was unrelenting train noise complete with whistles and horns.  While we were there we visited the Escapees Co-op park.  It is a really beautiful park and we wished we had stayed there (we didn’t because, like all of the Escapees, they don’t take reservations …  if any of you are Escapees, please encourage these parks to begin to take reservations … even if it is only a week in advance).  We stayed in Benson for two days so we could visit Tombstone, Az.

Tombstone is an unorganized historical town where tourist shops try to make a living by providing a look at life during the time of the Earp brothers and the “Shootout at the OK Corral.”  Of course the shootout wasn’t at the Ok Corral, the Earp boys were not great examples of virtue, honesty, or goodness, and the lesson learned was that before you shoot someone make sure you can quickly become a US Marshall.  Nevertheless, it was a nice day.  We took the stagecoach on a quick tour around town and ate at Big Nose Kates (pretty good hamburger and a nice draft beer).

Gunslinger and stage driver

The OK Corral

We took a stage coach ride ... very bumpy!

Figures represent the players in the shootout ... not at the OK Corral ... but close

Inside Big Nose Kates

Actual graves of those killed at OK Corral Shootout

Close-up of a couple of the graves.

From Benson the accommodations and attractions become thin indeed!  We stopped for a night at an Escapees Rainbow Park – Dream Catchers RV – in Deming , NM.  This park is extremely clean, has very friendly staff,  and excellent Wifi and TV reception.  The problem is … there is not much going on in Deming.  We have stayed in this park before and always enjoy our stay ($14 + electric).  We highly recommend the park and would rate it as an 8 or 9 (not many amenities, just a really clean nice park close to the highway).

Another single day trip brought us to Van Horn, Texas – Mountain View RV Park ($30 with the Good Sam Discount).  This is a very nice open park with new ownership.  We had a nice pull-through site.  It is close to the highway, so expect some highway noise (when trucks run too far to the side and go over the highway ribbing on the shoulder) but we would stay again.  Even the proprietor admitted that there wasn’t much to see or do in Van Horn … so we were off again the next morning.

We pulled into Big Spring, Texas around 3 p.m. in the afternoon.  When you get off the highway, the exit speed is 15 mph and is very short.  Slow down to at least that or less if possible … the exit ends in a deep curve that makes you feel like you will roll your rig … we didn’t … thankfully … but the heart definitely pumped a few extra times.  The Park we stayed in was The Whip In RV Park.  The people are very nice and friendly.  The park is a bit dated, but it is obvious that the new proprietor has worked hard to make improvements.  He led us to a nice pull-through with 50-amp service and recommended we eat at the Cowboy Steak House.  It turned out to be an excellent recommendation.  We had the sirloins and had plenty to take home.  Nothing fancy, just good old fashioned food for a decent price.  We had been having some problems with one of our jacks retracting each morning, so decided to get out early and retract, then reset, then retract again (recommended in our service book).  While the jack worked … we were so thrilled that we ran off without gathering up our jack pads (darn … another expense down the road).

One more day of driving brought us to beautiful downtown Mingus, Texas (Cactus Rose RV Park).  This is a very friendly park run by a family.  The park has maybe 10 sites, but we had a nice pull through right by the exit.  There is not much to do in Mingus so we turned in early.

A final day of driving brought us to Thousand Trails – Lake Texoma in Gordonville, Texas.  This north Texas park is off the beaten path, and is very quiet this time of year.  We lucked into a nice 50-amp site (the majority are 30-amp).  We had excellent satellitle reception and good Verizon Wifi.  We like this park, although the management is selling way too many annual sites.  This park is on the cusp.  With a continued policy of overselling annual sites, this park will soon lose its charm and become a really bad trailer park!

We caught our breath at Lake Texoma, staying for ten days before starting north in mid December and arrived in Grove, Oklahoma at Bears Den RV Park.  This is a really nice park, but was all but deserted by mid December.  The weather is beginning to get cold at night (high twenties and low thirties) so we bought an electric heated fresh water hose.  The hose works great and keeps itself at 45 degrees even in the most extreme temperatures ... of course the problem is that you are now obligated to wrap and keep the park's connection from freezing as well, if you don't want to constantly hook and unhook your hose.  We developed a big insulated sock that when placed over the park's faucet will keep it from freezing down to the mid teens.  Also purchased a ceramic heater for the compartments that will keep them around 45 degrees ...  hopefully we are ready for the jump to Branson.

One final hop takes us into Branson.   We drove over to Springfield and then down the thirty miles to Branson.  The weather is crisp, but dry ... it is December 20th.  On the way to Branson are a series of long up and down hills that are made to challenge your proficiency as a driver.  I crest one hill and am starting down another when the "Stop Engine!" warning light comes on.  I pull over to the side of the highway and before I can turn the engine off, the warning light goes out.  This happens several more times before finally arriving in Branson.  We post the problem on iRV2 and find out that on our 2007 Winnebago Tour that if the coolant level gets even slightly low the Stop Engine warning will come on.  Before leaving Branson we have Branson Motor Coach add coolant and tighten all the hose clamps that caused the coolant to leak.  They do a nice job for a reasonable price.

We are now ready to concentrate on Christmas.  We put a wreath and garland on the front of the coach and decorate our Christmas tree!  Lynda gets on line to make a few reservations for shows to get us in the Christmas spirit.  Our oldest son (spending Christmas in Saltzburg, Austria) sends us tickets to the Dixie Jamboree Christmas show which we thoroughly enjoy (Thanks Jen and Jason!).  We are surprised to find out that we need to see what we want before December 30.  On that day, Branson rolls up the sidewalks and closes until mid March (there are no shows in January!).  We manage to book a murder mystery theater on December 26th (we don't recommend this one) and the Red Neck Tenors on the 29th (these guys are really great ... all opera singers with excellent voices and a great sense of humor).  The highlight of our trip is a visit to Silver Dollar City.  They go all out for Christmas and we visit on the 23rd.  They have over a million lights, and everything is decorated beautifully.   Here are a few pictures.

Little Bears made by Kim's Mom sit at the Front of the Coach

The Coach in its Christmas Finery

Our Stockings hung with care!

St. Nicholas apparently was here!

Beautiful Belgium at Dixie Stampede

Jason & Jen went all out ... our event even included the boot cups

Wreath in the lobby of the Dixie Stampede ... pictures were not allowed inside

The costume looked magnificent under blacklight during show

One of the shops at Silver Dollar City

Reindeer and Sleigh

Silver Dollar City Parade

Some of the million lights at Silver Dollar City

All of these trees are lighted ... my flash washed out their lights.

On Christmas Eve it snows ... just like in the movies!  It is great.  Terrific lights at Silver Dollar City, and snow on Christmas Eve!.  Of course with a bit of snow also comes continued cold.  The day time temperatures hover in the low thirties and drops to as low as 14 degrees at night.  The  cold begins to dampen our spirits and by January 3 we are more than ready to head south.  We are lucky and leave on a day with dry roads.  We were originally planning on going south through Arkansas, but the weather there is much worse than in Branson (Little Rock got 14 inches of snow and the power was out in some places for as long as a week).  We head north to Springfield (stopping at Lamberts for lunch and some of their 'throwed rolls') and then down to Muskogee for the night before slipping back into Texas the following day.

Outside of our Coach

The car gets a nice dusting

We are looking forward to a great 2013 and wish you and yours a Happy New Year!

Until next time … keep doing what you love!