I am sure someday I will lose my interest in traveling. For now, I want to travel as much as I can. I have a lot of time, a little savings, no obligations, and a physical and mental capable body. My goal is to do road/car camping trip for the next six months. My car (aka “Tank”, a 2003 Mercury Grand Marquis) carries my food, clothes, tent/sleeping bag, and even some tools. The huge back seat is enough for me to sleep comfortably when necessary. I am self-contained. Car-camping trip is easier than sailing as it is on land not on the ocean. I have been sailing for the last four years so that gave me courage. The only things missing are company and mechanical knowledge if the car breaks down. Both didn’t stop me doing it though. I will say “Hello” to people and I will find a mechanic when necessary.
Easy start! My first stop was at my friend’s house in Summerfield Florida, about 18 miles south from Ocala and 5 miles north of “The Village” (aka Disney World for the Retirees). Tim and I used to teach in the evenings/weekends in the same school after working full-time during the day. Retired in South Florida, he and his wife bought a house with 3.5 acres land in Summerfield. Debbie is into gardening. She introduced me to her plants and butterfly garden. Each of her plants has a beautiful fragrance. Tim worked like my personal tour guide in town. Thanks Tim! Debbie, I am hoping the “Stimwave Stimulator Device” eases your back pain.
Next stop was Prosper, North of Dallas to see my Korean friend. Chongja moved here from Florida because her son suggested she needed support in taking care of her ailing husband with Parkinson’s disease. He is in Hospice at this moment. Bob remembered me and smiled at me while asking “how are you doing” silently moving his mouth. No tears but smiles! I tried to have a good time with him even on such a short visit. Chongja likes to feed me well like most Koreans do. She prepared lots of my favorite Korean food and took me to some Korean and many other restaurants in town. She even packed some Korean food for my trip. Chongja, you are a sweetheart!
I have not used my tent yet. I woke up this morning in an Extended Stay Hotel in El Paso. Why El Paso? Ever since watching the movie “Kill Bill”, I wanted to visit El Paso. Staying for a week, cost is relatively low. This gave me an opportunity to take care of my personal matters and plan for my next trips. Having a 15 years old car, I wasn’t sure until now. My car worked well all the way from Florida to El Paso. This is a huge relief. This hotel is very clean which is very important to me. It provides only “soap (no shampoo though), two towels, and toilet paper”. There is a stove, a microwave, a sink, and Wi-Fi. I carry a camping pots and kitchen stuff including dish wash soap and sponge. It works well for me. Comfortable sleeping and recovering from the long drive. I had freshly cooked brown rice with Chongja’s side dishes for breakfast. Later today, I will make time to visit Downtown El Paso.
Memorable Moments and Stories:
Just before leaving home while loading my stuff in my car, my fatherly-hearted neighbor shared a story of his friend’s camping experience. “Someone ripped their tent and tried to grab his wife at night. So this guy used a knife to protect himself. The intruder ran away but blood was all over”.
Tim showed me “The Village” in Central Florida. This community is an “Old Young Happy Life Back” kind of community. Many events and fun activities. I think this town might have the most golf-carts in the world.
Tim took me his friend’s cattle ranch in Oxford, Florida. His friend, Darryl raises 120 cows on 300 acres land. One of the cows “Moosh” loves people. He came over and rubbed his drooling nose/mouth on me. It is his way of saying “Hello, I am here and love me.” Darryl’s cows looked super relaxed with Zen-minded life. Later, he picked sweet tangerines and gave me as much as I wanted. He said it is out of season. They were very sweet.
Karen (Tim and Debbie’s Friend) and her husband breed horses. They have a horse race training facility on their land. Her husband just came back from Kentucky after delivering a horse. Karen explained to me that all horses are the same age as they are born in between January 1st and December 31. Pregnancy is about 11 to 12 months. Therefore, breeding season in the South is from January to April. Anything born earlier in the year is generally more mature for that same age group which is an advantage when racing. I told her, in Korea, we count our age same way. For example, my sister was born on December 29th. On January first, she was already 2 years old despite it being only 3 days after her birth.
In limited time, Tim took me Lake Weir, Eaton’s Beach, Duck’s Dam Diner, Moss Bluff Lock and Dam near Ocala National Forest. There is a historical house by Lake Weir, “the site of the 1935 FBI shootout with the Barker Gang in Ocklawaha, near Ocala”. The Moss Bluff Dam has a lock, similar to Panama Canal. This let a boat come all the way to Ocala from Jacksonville Florida.
On the way to Dallas, I stopped by Morrison Spring County Park in Walton County, Florida. Very tranquil location with fresh spring water. I would love to camp for a night but I didn’t have a gut to be sleeping in a sole tent in the park. Passing Alabama and enjoying the houses on prairie, I decided to sleep in a Mississippi Welcome Center rest area. Before my trip, I visited a website iOverLander (http://ioverlander.com/). This site shows where to stay overnight in the world. I chose this rest area from iOverLander site. This welcome center is in the town called “Toomsuba”, Lauderdale County in Mississippi. Its population was 773 people as of 2010 census. I spoke to a security guard, parked my car near by his office, and slept overnight. I prefer my own bedding to a motel, if it is safe location.
In Dallas, I took my car to Walmart for oil change. It was a little overdue but I drove last 1400 miles to Dallas passing Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. Walmart has been my favorite store while traveling. It has 2500 Auto Service Locations in the country.
From Dallas to a small town called Pecos in Texas, there are many oil drilling wells. I also saw a refinery in the city of Big Spring, Texas. “There were a total of 135 operable petroleum refineries in the United States as of January 1, 2018. The newest refinery in the United States is the Magellan Midstream Partners LP 42,500 barrels per calendar day (b/cd) condensate splitter in Corpus Christi, Texas…” (https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=29&t=6)
Sleeping in my car second time, I dreamt of visiting North Korea. I didn’t meet Kim Jung-Un though. Don’t know where this dream came from but I sort of liked it. It looked most people drive American made big trucks in Texas. When I woke up, I saw an old Lincoln Continental was parked in front of me. I felt immediate bond. My car looks similar to Old Lincoln. Somehow, I started liking big old America made car very much.
Scenic driving from Van Horn (close to El Paso, Texas) to Guadalupe National Park was peaceful, I was the only driver most of the time. A bird flew from left to right in front my car and hit front bumper. I am sorry. I wish I stopped my car completely when I saw it was passing in front of me. I was driving 20 miles less than speed limit though. West part of I-20 in Texas, speed limit is 80 miles. Most rural areas, the speed limit is often 75 miles. I prefer to drive between 60 to 65 miles as my car is old.
After leaving Dallas and driving 650 miles, not wanting to miss the Guadalupe National Park, I stopped this park before arriving El Paso about 9am. This park was not on my list but it is on my way. The park volunteer suggested me to hike on “Devil’s Hall Trail”. Being tired, I felt 4.2 miles round trip was forever. I didn’t reach to the destination this time. It was a good decision though. The air on the trail was so fresh it cleared my nose which has been an issue since in Texas.
There are three types of gas available in the western part of Texas: Octane 86, 88, and 93. There is no 87 which I usually use. Without knowing it, I filled up with 86 one day. Next time, I filled up with 88 to neutralize the previous 86. After Googling, I found that “At higher elevations it is common to have lower octane ratings since the engine operates as efficiently due to the lower air pressure.” El Paso is at 3200 feet above sea level. Not sure if I will use Octane 86 from now on even though there is a price gap between it and the next higher.
I bought a bottle of “Pure Peppermint” in order to prevent my car from attracting rats and squirrels. When I visited Tim’s house, he said he didn’t like squirrels near his barn. They chew the electrical wires which costly. My friend’s house in Texas was built in an area which used to be a corn field. With all of the big housing developments, rats are losing their homes. Chongja found many small white rats after moving to her house. An exterminator took care of the issue. She also put some moth balls in her garden to try and get rid of them. Researching YouTube, I saw that rats don’t like the smell of Peppermint. I pour some on cotton pads and leave them under the front hood, under the dashboard, and in the trunk, just in case. I don’t want to have my car engine broken or by electrical system destroyed by wire chewing rodents while staying in remote locations!
“Movie ‘Kill Bill: Vol. 2. 2004’: The ‘Massacre at Two Pines’, supposedly in ‘El Paso, Texas’, was filmed in the Mojave Desert, outside Lancaster, north of Los Angeles.”