Friday, June 5, 2015

2015–New Mexico to Florida trip.


Finally left Arizona to make a trip to Florida to see family members for the last time.  Though it was the state of my birth and a place I lived for about six months when my oldest son was born, I never lived there and feel no particular affection for the state or it’s weather.  I am making one last trip there and then moving on with my life.

I stopped to see things on the way.  Lordsburg, NM… an interesting little town that was once a busy railroad town.  My favorite thing there was an old gas station that had been converted to a home.


So, it is official, I’m on the way.



I had always wanted to see White Sands so I set that as my goal after leaving Artesia, NM

New Mexico roads from Artesia to TX are terrible.  These are the oil fields.  There are dozens of oil tankers going at high speeds up and down the roads.  The road were not built for those weights and speeds.


First I met a cyber friend, Pam and a friend of her’s.  We had a very nice visit.

White Sands Military Base and then the White Sands Dunes.  Worth the drive.







It was very interesting to me to see the adaptations of animal life in the Dunes.


I liked how they built a boardwalk at White Sands Dunes to protect the dunes, but some people walk on into the white sand in spite of the signs.

Leaving the Dunes, I did find some nice wildflowers on side of road… had to pull off a number of times due to my PTSD from the rear ending and totaling of my last van.  I enjoyed the breaks.


5/9-10/2015 - Texas… roads in west Texas were also very bad.  Lots of truck traffic.  Lots of wind and rain.   Are you kidding me?  I live in the desert seven months of the year and am lucky to see 3” of rain during that time… and Houston got more than that overnight.  I got to get out of here.

OMG, I hate Houston. It's a trap, you can't get out of it. I plotted it all out which roads I was taking to get out. I end up on a toll road and first toll I came to was $1.75. Next one that comes up, there is a sign that says... LAST FREE EXIT only people with the Toll pass can keep going. So I had to get off... now don't know where to go next??? I hate this place. Never coming back, that is if I ever escape.

Worst road signage I have ever seen. One sign will say #5 next right. You get a stop light there, and look up past the light and see the turn lane is actually on the left and you have to get across two lanes to make the turn. WTF? And it's not like it just happened once... it happens over and over again. When you thing you know right move to make, reverse it and do the opposite. Never coming back here. Hated it the first two times I was here.  Hated it this time too, except I did get to visit family.

The best part of the visit for me was my great niece and nephew checking out my van.  William must have said WOW a hundred times.



Both were fascinated with the vent fan. And my microwave, and my RoadPro Stove, and my food storage shelves.  And finding my cook stove and pulling it out.


Maria checking out my bunk in the back  and William had to check out every gadget.



Both were fascinated by my screensaver photos that popped up… and had to watch all the slides of places I have kayaked.  Then they decided there were staying with me and were kicking their Mom out of the van… pushed her head out and then stuck the magnets of screens together.  They were so funny.


It was very hard saying goodbye to them.  Robyn is a really good Mom and Orlando is an attentive Dad.  The kids are a pure joy… and I sure wish I could spend more time with them.  Maybe I’ll send them little surprises from along the road.

Then just kind of had a panic  attack and needed to leave and get out of town.  Wow… that is the biggest challenge I have had in a couple years.  First I stopped in a store for a few supplies and things to eat while I was driving.  Observed a couple of cars spinning in circles… on purpose.  They probably have terminology for this but I don’t know it.   One would wait while the other spun in a tight circle.  I think that is done by accelerating and braking at the same time… then first guy pulls to side and second one goes.  The kept doing this.  Shocking was the fact they were not off in some corner somewhere, but right in with other vehicles in rows… parked.  And I have never in my life in travel to 50 states ever seen such bad road signage.  I was misdirected dozens of times just trying to get out of Dodge, errrrr Houston. 

Finally, I came to the border of Houston and then I just wanted to keep driving to get as far away as possible.  It was nice to be away where I could see wildflowers again.

And then more oil fields and more trucks.


5/11/15 – Louisiana – Suddenly the road signage was very good.  I guess I got a little too comfortable because after awhile, I hit an armadillo.  Poor thing.  Lighting was bad, everything was the same color, the road, the night, the critter.  Oh well, got to keep going.


Rained like crazy.  I very loud thunder banged right over my head and my heart nearly jumped out of my chest.  It really hurt.  Not too long after that I realized there was no charge going from starter battery to house batteries.  My solenoid had gotten fried by that lightening bolt.  Left is the old one I got through Steve Spence.  I replaced it with the one on right and it only worked once and it stopped working.  So, I returned it the next day and got one a little bit better.  By now I can install these in my sleep or blindfolded.  The new one, the FOURTH one I’ve had on the van, is working very well…. but than any of the others.


Saw this tiny Pansies and a little green lizard at a fast food drive through.


First peace and quiet I have had for awhile. Got off I-10 east of Lafayette, LA and stopped first at a Waffle House and had a good breakfast. I had been driving since 1:00am. Still dark. Studied my atlas and notes of people to see and places to go. Then, in spite of one Mocha drink, and two cups of coffee, I fell sleep. Really from the time I stopped last night about 5pm until 1am, I got very little sleep due to noise, wind shaking the van, high humidity and the fact that I could hardly breath and could not get cooled off. So I pulled into Wal-Mart across the street. It's a large parking lot which had a couple other campers in it, but also had those height barriers to prevent trucks from entering. I picked a spot that doesn't seem to get much traffic flow and far enough away from doors, cars coming and going don't bother me. After I dozed off... and napped a couple hours, I could not tell where I was from my bed. Had to get up and look. Today it is less humid and overcast, so van isn't heating up. I am in no rush now to do anything. Just rest, research a couple State Parks coming up soon and decide where and if I will kayak here. 1) is Fairview-Riverside State Park near Madisonville, and 2) Fontainebleau State Park near Lacombe. But right now, I am just enjoying the peace, and a strange sound... a lawn mower running. Haven't heard that in a long time, being the old desert rat crone that I've become.



Then met another new Facebook friend,  Susan Louviere Hubbard and her hubby for lunch… and decided I had to try Cajun food.  Learned it’s not ALL hot.  Also met the owner, Deanna, who I guess is going to be on a reality food show in the near future.  She was interesting.  Google “Swamp Girls Gone Crazy.”


We had a good meal and a good visit… and I was invited to return.  Thank you Susan.




I said goodbye to my new friends and headed on to paddle at Fairview-Riverside State Park.  I’ll write the paddle up separately as this has already gotten too long.  And I had a good paddle there too.

Later in Florida, I got to meet Carol Travels, another Facebook friend and her Mom.  They caught up with me right after I finished kayaking 5.5 miles on the Weeki Wachee River.  Great people and it’s a pleasure to count them among my new friends.  Thank you, Carol.

I tried to see two of my aunts and a cousin but could not connect with them.  I did however get to catch up with a couple other vandwellers  (had hoped to kayak with both of them, but skeeters had me half sick and I decided it would not be fun for me.  I got over 35 bites in 15 min at the home of one of them) I also got meet an old Yahoo vandweller friend from years back, who I had not yet met in person.  Also I did get to kayak in the Everglades at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.  It was rather tame for my tastes, but good to stretch and work out my upper body.

Also this last month, I lost my wonderful mother-in-law.  She was 93.  A couple of years ago she decided that if I could kayak, she could too… so she did.  She was amazing.


Margaret L. Bailey 2/11/1922 - 5/8/2015
Loving mother and wife and all around beautiful person. Rest in Peace, Mom.
You are loved and will be missed.

(She passed on my son’s birthday.)

The rest of my visit in Florida will be brief… tomorrow (6/6/15) I am going to the Wellborn Blueberry Festival, hope my sister will go with me.  Then I need to work on my budget and find a way to replace two tires so I can go on down the road safely.  Right now, I don’t have the money for them, so I may be grounded in FL until payday 6/15.  It will be what it will be.  A good friend of mine has given me money for one tire, but to be safe I need two.  Then I will be off to GA, maybe across the border to a family reunion in TN, and then to AR to look for diamonds, and then on to New Mexico to explore the mountainous areas until the desert cools off a little more, in October or November.  And I will begin serious training to hike the Arizona National Scenic Trail.  Serious Training.  My goal… get as fit as I can get.


  1. Hi Swankie, Well, you have succeeded in convincing me that I am allowing life to pass me by. We appear to have a lot of things in common. We are the same age and I also had bi-lateral knee replacement, Grandchildren, kayaking (although not anywhere near your level). However, I haven't pushed myself out of my comfort level. Maybe now that I have read some of your story I will begin making my own story. I hope you will accept my friend request on Facebook. Maybe some day we will meet too.

  2. BTW, I also paint in acrylics and make jewelry. Mary M


Who is Swankie?

My photo
Anywhere, USA, Full-Time USA traveler, United States
In 2006, I was shopping for a wheelchair. By 2007, I had new knees, better health and by 2008 a kayak. In Aug 2013, I kayaked my 49th state, Alaska, at the Holgate Glacier and in May 2014, I kayaked Hawaii, my 50th state, to celebrate my 70th Birthday and the finale to the wonderful adventure of Kayaking America? Next up... Solo Hiking the Arizona Trail, 820 miles? Maybe. Still healing from shoulder and trying to decide.