Diary for Harry and Judy's RV Trip


AND WE'RE OFF!

2011-04-17

You have probably heard Harry and me talk about how we'd like to RV across the country but there was always a reason (excuse?) why we couldn't.  No more.  Our kids have all been on their own for a long time now and they probably worry about us more than we worry about them, we have no pets since Beasley went to cat heaven, we are both unemployed (thanks, Joe!) and we have wonderful friends and neighbors (you all know who you are) who will watch our home. Gas (or in our case, diesel) is not getting cheaper and we're not getting younger.

So, on Sunday, April 17th we hooked up our 35' fifth wheel RV to our Ford F350 truck with 125,000 miles on it, loaded up our IPOD nano with 1284 songs and 5 books on tape (thanks, John, Lindsay, Martin and Heather) and headed west.  Last fall we did a 4200 mile, 5-week, 9 states trip around the southeast and we plan on going longer and farther this trip.

The only destination we have locked in is a condo resort week-long stay in Sedona, AZ from June 11-18.  We have almost 2 months to get there and after that, who knows?

The "plan" is to go west to San Diego then up the Pacific Coast Highway to Seattle, then wind our way down to Salt Lake City and eventually Sedona and the Grand Canyon, stopping every few hundred miles whenever and wherever.

Please wish us safe and drama-free travels.  We may get to see some of you along the way but if we don't please know we miss you and love you all.

 


Day 1-Homosassa to Chipley, FL

2011-04-17

The first few days we're going to just drive a few hundred miles and stop for the night along the way until we get to San Antonio, where we'll stay a few days.

Got on the road at 10:00 as planned and drove 268 miles to Falling Water State Park in Chipley, FL, north of Panama City.  Traffic through Tallahassee was a nightmare and we're going to recheck the GPS from now on to make sure we go around big cities, not right through them. Got to the camp about 4PM,  We've been here before, it's a great campground ($9.00 a night) with a 73' waterfall and lots of ancient sink holes.  Very surprised to find out we crossed over to Central time about 40 miles back.


Day 2-To Breaux Bridge, LA

2011-04-18

Went to bed really early last night and got up early this morning (7AM, I know, Jon & Ralph, that's not early).  Drove through 4 states, FL, AL, MS and LA to Poche's Fish 'n' Camp in Breaux Bridge, LA, west of Baton Rouge, cajun country. Again, lots of traffic through Baton Rouge.  Long day, lots of stops, took us 8-1/2 hours to go 420 miles.  Beautiful campground, 5 lakes, more turtles than I've ever seen in one spot, lots of birds, frogs, fish and pretty little pink wild flowers.

Note to LA DOT-Please fix your roads!


Day 3-To Columbus, TX

2011-04-19

Left Poche's at 9AM.  Very windy, had to follow big trucks to have them block the head wind.  Casinos, casinos, casinos along the way.  Good thing we're not gamblers, we'd be broke by now.  Texas border is 805 miles from Homosassa, I know, who cares. 

Note to LA DOT-You've won the award for the worst roads in the country for a very good reason!

Once again we drove right through a big city, Houston, at least it wasn't rush hour, but I spent a good portion of it with my eyes closed.  Very windy and dusty, lots of gravel and stone crusher factories outside of Houston.

Got into a great little campground about 3PM.  They have 12 cats and 6 dogs (I may never leave, Harry's getting nervous).  It's about 100 degrees now, the pool looks better and better.


Day 4-Columbus to San Antonio. TX

2011-04-20

Weds., April 20th-Got up early again, must be the time change.  Did I mention the owner of the campground has 28 chickens in addition to the cats and dogs?  She gave us some fresh eggs for breakfast from her Araucana and Americana chickens-they lay green eggs.  They made the yellowest scrambled eggs I've ever seen.  Janice, do you have this kind of chicken?

Hooked up and said goodbye to the cats, especially a 6-toed Hemingway named, what else, Ernie, and a little black 5 month old kitten that reminded me of Beasley, very fuzzy.

Texas from Houston to San Antonio is very flat with lots of wide open space, ranches with mostly black cows and horses, lots of babies this time of year, and wheat fields with some corn fields. Only 136 miles driving today, 2-1/2 hours.

There's lots of hurricane evacuation signs which surprised me and flashing highway emergency signs saying "Extreme Wild Fire Danger".  They haven't had rain for a long time and everything is dry and dusty.  The campfire ban has been extended so probably no fire tonight.  It looks like it might rain today but then the sun keeps popping out. It's about 85 degrees and a bit humid.

We met a couple at the campground in Louisiana and told them we were coming here and we met up with them again today.  Supposed to do something with them tonight and maybe continue on with them.  We spoke about going to Big Bend National Park and the Mexico problem but we also spoke to a man who's 86 and goes back and forth all the time (he even lives in Mexico part of the year) and says there's no problem, so we might go that way.  But, like John says, it's not a problem 'til it's a problem.  I'll keep you posted.  It's about 600 miles south of here and really out of the way but supposedly really beautiful.

Going on a tour of San Antonio tomorrow, to the Alamo, the Riverwalk and down the river on a boat.

Thanks for all your comments, I really like reading them.


Day 5-San Antonio

2011-04-21

Got picked up at the campsite by Alamo Tours at 8AM!!! We're with him for the day.  First went to the Riverboat rides and took a ride around San Antonio on the river.  Riverwalk runs all along the river under the street level...it's really cool.  Then went to the Japanese Sunken Gardens outside of town, gorgeous limestone, plants and fish.  Back to town to the Buckhorn Saloon and Museum, neat stuff inside, all kinds of stuffed animals from all over the world, a 125 foot bar, recreated western town, Bonnie & Clyde's car (with bullet holes). Texas Rangers museum and all kinds of furniture and stuff made with buckhorns.  Then we got dropped off at the Alamo, which is in the middle of town and we did our own thing for a couple of hours. Everybody told me the Alamo was small so I was surprised it was as big as it was.  Compared to the other missions we saw later in the day it was really small and not much character but lots of history.  Went to 2 other missions, San Jose and Conception. Had lunch on the river at Casa Rio's, oldest restaurant in San Antonio and got serenaded by a mariachi band and some ducks looking for a handout.  Beautiful big mesquite trees all around.  Went to Menger hotel, old, supposedly haunted hotel and got a tour, then the last stop was Market St., lots of Mexican shops in a mall like setting.  Got back to the campsite about 5 and met a new couple who were just setting up in the site next to ours, Jim and Bonnie.  Sat and talked with them and David and Marlene, who we met in Lousiana and the campground owner, Teri, for a while.  Still dusty but otherwise nice, about 85. Heard the wildfires are bad toward Big Bend so we're goin to stick to Plan A and go to Fort Stockton tomorrow.  Almost hate to leave here, we met some great people and really had a wonderful stay, but the west beckons us.


Day 6-San Antonio to Fort Stockton

2011-04-22

Got up early, said goodbye to Jim & Bonnie and David & Marlene, maybe we'll catch up with them later.  Jim & Bonnie have a place about 45 minutes from us in FL, small world.  Decided to drive up to Fredericksburg,TX, a german village in the hill country.  So glad we did, the town was really nice, lots of wine, wine, wine and german food. Biggest flower seed farm in the country here and, did I mention vineyards?  Had to sample some, of course. 

From there got back on I-10, we were about 60 miles out of the way, and drove through the hill country for hours.  Hundreds of miles of limestone hills and the foliage changed from trees and wildflowers to cactus and scrub oaks.  The temperature changed from about 80 in Fredericksburg to 105 in Fort Stockton.  Dry and dusty and windy. The hills were spectacular, never saw landscape like this, miles and miles of nothing.  As we approached Fort Stockton we saw a huge windmill farm for miles and lots of working oil rigs.  Saw a dead mountain lion on the side of I-10 (just like you said, Frank C.).  Got to camp about 6:30.  Long day 350 miles, 9 hours, not many rest stops to stretch.  Not much here, the fort, of course, a 20 foot long, 11 foot high, 860 lb. statue of Paisano Pete, the world's largest roadrunner (I have no idea why), and, from what we were told at check-in, tomorrow time trials for some road race on the road right outside the campground starting at 8am.  Guess we'll be up early again.  Tomorrow we leave Texas and go on the Carlsbad Cavern, NM, where we'll stay for at least 2 days, maybe longer.  It's a short drive, only 120 miles, should get there early and relax.  'Til then, love ya all.


Day 7-Fort Stockton, TX to Carlsbad,NM

2011-04-23

This was both a long trip and a short trip.  It was only 190 miles but it was on the flatest, straightest road I've ever been on. 

We went for miles and miles and saw nothing but a few oil rigs sprinkled here and there.  In some places you could actually smell the oil.  The road was really empty, too, very few cars, a few tractor trailers here and there.

Stopped at Monahans Sandhills State Park which is 4000 acres of sand dunes.  It's white, beautiful, hard packed sand that's really easy to climb.  The kids use snow saucers to slide down them on. And, of course, I had to collect some. 

As soon as we crossed over to New Mexico we started to see some farms, although it's so dry and dusty here I don't know how they can grow anything.  A few cows here and there, otherwise nothing.

We got to the campground about 3:30.  Very windy!  We're back in civilization, though, there's a Wal-Mart right down the road which is good because we're out of some staples.


Day 8-Carlsbad, NM

2011-04-24

HAPPY EASTER, EVERYBODY,  YES, ELAINE, I DO MISS THE LAMB!!!

Got up really early today, about 7, must be either the mountain air or the time change.  We're in Mountain Time now. Very windy and cold last night, about 55, but supposed to go up to 90 today.  Did some stuff around camp, Harry changed the air filter in the truck, and then we packed a lunch went to Carlsbad Caverns. You drive up 9 miles in the Chihauhau mountains.  You keep going up and up.  After being so flat yesterday we're really going in the mountains today. The caverns are very different from Luray in Va. or Howe in NY.  They're bigger, but I think Luray is prettier. The drive up and down is definitely better here, though.  I attached some pictures but they don't even begin to show how pretty the mountain and the caverns are.  Or how huge.

Stopped on the way down and had lunch with a wonderful view.

On the way back we noticed some smoke and when we got back to the camp the manager said they had just spoken with the Sheriff who said the fire was on the other side of the mountain and had already burned over 100 acres.  He said the only thing between us and the fire was cactus and rocks so we were safe.  The smoke smell is so bad we have to stay in the RV tonight.  And we'll make sure to check outside every now and then.

Tomorrow off to Roswell to see the aliens and then to Las Cruces, if we get that far.


Day 9-Carlsbad to Alamogordo, NM

2011-04-25

Got up early again, smoke is gone, very windy, almost like pre-hurricane wind in CT.  Started driving up route 285 and all we saw was flat sagebrush, then only dried grasses, absolutely nothing around for miles.  Saw a mini tornado amidst all the dirt blowing all over.  As we got closer to Roswell we started seeing some small farms, some alfalpha growing although with the dry dusty weather I don't know how they grow anything.

Spent about 2 hours in Roswell at the Int'l. UFO Museum an Research Center-it mainly focuses on the events in 1947 when a farmer found metal on his farm and the gov't. tried to cover it up, but it's got lots of other stuff too.

From there we headed west and south again and the mountains started to appear on the horizon.  First we saw Capitan mountain and then were in the middle of the Lincoln National Forest.  It was gorgeous.  Drove down the Billy the Kid Scenic Byway through Ruidoso Downs, where they have quarterhorse and thoroughbred races, saw the Hubbard Museum of the American West and drove through the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation.  This is also where the original Smokey the Bear started. I think this is the Sacramento Mountain Range, up and down, through barren brush mountains and then up into pine and fir forests.  Really beautiful, again the pictures don't do it justice.

Didn't get as far as we had originally planned but, oh well.  Stopped about 3:30 at a great campground, almost empty, we have the place to ourselves.  Across the street is a winery and pistachio and pecan grower with a statue of the biggest pistachio in the world.  We walked across the streee to taste the nuts and wine and I left my ID in the camp.  Would you believe the lady not only wouldn't let me have a taste, she wouldn't let me taste Harry's.  They must have some tough laws here and I must look like an inspector.  They must have had about 25 different kinds of flavored pecans and pistachios and pistachio wine which she said was a Zinfandel flavored with pistachios but, again, I couldn't taste it.

Great cat at the campground, Shadow, who lets everybody pet him.  Did some laundry, and watched a magnificent sunset.  The mountains are all around us.  Supposed to go down in the 40s tonight.

So, we went from harsh, barren, dusty, dry desolate New Mexico to mountainous, green, woodsy, still windy New Mexico.  The aliens didn't abduct us, the apaches didn't scalp us and I'm now gonna go star gaze.


Day 10-Who Knew?

2011-04-26

This is the day of "Who Knew".  When we left Alamogordo we thought it would be an easy 218 miles to Lordsburg, NM with not many stops and not much to see.  We should know better.  For example:

Who knew Alamogordo was the beginning of the New Mexico Wine Trail?  Of course we had to stop and sample (this time I brought my ID and we got some Pistachio wine for Weds. winos)

Who knew 20 miles down the road was the White Sands National Monument-300 square miles of white sand made from gypsum that blows off the mountains?  They actually have to plow it off the road that goes through it.  The kids use snow saucers here too, but this place is much bigger.  It's so white all over-I attached a video of Harry trying to get up one of the dunes under "My videos". It's hard packed down the bottom but not so much as you go up. Some are 60 feet high.  It's one of the natural wonders of the world.  We spent about 2 hours here and had lunch in the parking lot.

Who knew this was where the first atomic bomb went off in 1945 and the gov't. still has a missile base here?

Who knew this is where the space shuttle lands when it can't land in Florida?

Who knew we'd see border patrol places all over I-10?

Who knew we'd go through more incredible mountains (these seem to be only rock, no trees)?

Who knew we'd then go through miles and miles of nothing but desert surrounded by these gorgeous mountains in the distance?

Who knew we'd drive alongside a railroad that had train after train full of cargo cars, most over 100 cars long?

Who knew we'd get in the middle of horrible sand storms where you couldn't see your hand in front of your face let alone the cars in front of you? This went on for over 2 hours driving time.  It was like a white out only it was a red out from the sand.  The wind is so bad I couldn't get the car door open. Yesterday's pre-hurricane winds were nothing like today.  I don't know how Harry kept it on the road without swaying we were getting buffeted so badly.  Thanks, Babe!  They say it's supposed to last most of the night and then ebb off.  The RV is taking a beating but we're pretty stable.

Who knew we'd actually see tumbleweed tumble?

Who knew we'd cross the Continental Divide and we probably should have paid better attention in school so we'd know what that meant?

Who knew we'd think we were getting a bargain when we paid $3.95 a gallon for diesel?  This is the lowest we've paid on the trip.  The average around here is $4.19 but we saw it for $4.69 today.

Who knew human skin could get so dried out?

I made great liver, bacon and onions for dinner tonight.  Who knew Heather (and probably a lot of other people) just said "EEWWW!!!"?

Who knew it would take up over 7 hours to go 218 miles?  Actually, we kinda did.  We're stopping to smell the roses and there sure are a lot out here to smell.  Seeing things I never thought I'd see and some I didn't even know existed.

Heading to Arizona tomorrow.  Maybe stopping off in Tombstone to see the OK Corral.


Day 11-Tombstone, AZ

2011-04-27

Thank God the wind stopped last night before we went to bed! But it got cold, went down to 50 last night-we needed the space heaters.  Met a man on a bicycle at the AZ rest stop who biked through the wind yesterday.  He started in Seattle and is biking to Dallas and then to Minn. by mid-June.  Good luck to him!

We crossed into AZ early, we were only about 20 miles from the border last night, and saw more desert, freight trains and mountains, but these mountains were different again.  Seems every day we're surrounded by mountains but every day they're different.  These are bigger rocks, more like boulders. Saw a fire starting on the side of the road, called 911 but they already knew about, they actually said there were 4 or 5 of them.

Lots of ghost towns out here, this is the real wild west. We travelled to Tombstone and found out that somewhere we crossed another time zone, we're now in Pacific time. Town is the way it was in 1882, same shops and all, lots of costumed players around town.  Stopped at Longhorn Saloon for lunch and had a "tombstone", a cheese chili burger. Saw the big gun fight re-enactment at the OK Corral, complete with Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, etal, walked around town.  A bit of a tourist trap, but interesting. Drove out to Boot Hill Cemetary where lots of townies are buried.  I really wanted to see this (I like cemetaries) and made Harry pull into the parking lot which was way too small for the RV to turn around in.  He probably had to make a 10-point turn but he did it. Thought I might end up in Boot Hill myself after that. 

Had to stop outside of Tombstone for the border patrol but they let us go right through.  They have all kinds of radar that, I guess, can tell if you have anybody in the car.  They had a Mexican couple out of the car and were talking to them. Tombstone is only about 25 miles from Mexico.

Headed west again and stopped in Tucson for the night.  Sign on the office door warns that rattlesnakes are out at night here so bring a flashlight if you go for a walk.  I won't be going for a walk.

Glad you're all enjoying this, it makes me want to keep it up.  As long as we have Wifi in the campground and I have the time I'll keep doing it.


Day 12-The Saguaros

2011-04-28

Remembered last night that AZ doesn't change to Daylight Savings time, they stay on Mountain Time all the time, so we're not in Pacific time.

I promised myself this morning when we started that I wouldn't take a lot of pictures of mountains today.....but that was before we turned the corner and saw that these mountains are covered in Saguaro cactus. Drove about a half hour to the AZ Sonora Desert Museum (thanks to a tip from Jon & Karla).  IT WAS WONDERFUL! It's not really a museum but just exhibits and wildlife in the desert. The cacti are gorgeous and they had baby prairie dogs that just came out of the burrow 2 days ago.  Harry had to drag me out of the hummingbird aviary.  We were bombarded as soon as we walked into it (I had on orange and Harry had on yellow). They swooped down around us and flew around us and had no fear at all of us.  There's also about 7 different kinds (including a bright purple one), not just the ruby throated ones we have in FL. Had lunch in the parking lot and then drove to Saguaro National Park and saw some more giant ones.  They only grow in southern AZ, in Calif. along the Colorado River and in Sonora, Mexico. 

Left there and travelled on to Gila Bend, AZ for the night. Went through lots more desert, the mountains seemed to be further away from us but they're all around us still.  Route 10 has been our main road since FL but we finally turned off and got on Interstate 8 towards San Diego.  We should be able to make it there by tomorrow (about 300 miles) but it'll be a long day.  We only drove 155 miles today. but stopped and saw a lot.  Don't think we'll be stopping much tomorrow.  Got the RV and the truck weighed today-total of 20,680 pounds.  That was Harry's idea, must be a man thing. Was hot today (96) and dry.

We should be in San Diego for 3 nights, maybe 4, planning on going to Baboa Park and the zoo.  Anybody have any suggestions for anything else?

Heather, have fun tomorrow.  Please give Will and Kate our regrets but we had this planned first.

Schuyler-COOL BRACES!

 


Day 13-Ups and Downs and God pulls another fast one

2011-04-29

Another amazing day, got up at 6, yes AM. Drove 6-1/2 hours, 285 miles to LaMesa, CA, outside of San Diego.

Drove through Barry Goldwater Air Force Range which they say is "In the Middle of Nowhere" and it is, 100 miles of nothing but desert and mountains that look like they're just dirt and rocks, nothing worth taking pictures of.  Drove through Yuma Proving Grounds and the Jacumba Wilderness which is just that, ho hum.

Right outside of Yuma we came to huge sand dunes so of course I had to get a sample.  Must have picked up some prickers or something while there 'cause I started itching and when we stopped for lunch I had to change clothes and take a mini shower in the sink.  Had lunch in the RV in a parking lot in El Centro. Lunch was minus the tangerines and apples that the Calif. Agriculture lady confiscated from us at the checkpoint.  Seems they don't want FL citrus in Calif.

Beautiful oleanders in the dividers in the highway in Calif., red, white and pink.

Lots of border patrols, seem whenever a road leads to Mexico, there's a border patrol.  They even have big dogs and big guns and big helicopters.  They stop us, look in and wave us on.  Mexico is really close now.

And just when I thought it was gonna be a boring next 150 miles, God said 'HA!"

We started going up and mountain and it got steeper and steeper and then signs-"High Winds", "Turn off AC to avoid overheating", "Radiator water ahead", "Rock Slide Area", and then HUGE BOULDERS-BILLIONS OF THEM!!! Up the mountain, down the mountain, 4200 feet elevation and STILL THE HUGE BOULDERS, UNCOUNTABLE AND UNDESCRIBABLE.

 


Day 14-San Diego

2011-04-30

The trolley stop into San Diego stops right outside the campground (and reminds me of the trains in London). Met two students from SanDiego State University on the trolley, one from Saudi Arabia and the other from China who said they both love San Diego and gave us some ideas as to what to do. The trolley took us into Old Town where we picked up a hop on and off tour bus.

San Diego has a lot of diverse neighborhoods and we got off at just about every one.  The first stop was San Diego Harbor where The USS Midway and the Star of India are docked. Lots of shops and restaurants (we sampled the chowder) and big Navy and Marine presence here.  Lots of locals out for the beautiful weather, too.  We saw a unicyclist and a man who was walking his pet chocolate lab named Diesel and his pet goat name Fawn (go figure).

From there we walked to the Seaport area (reminded me of Mystic with all the shops) and then back on the bus to the Gaslamp Quarter where we sampled fish 'n' chips, saw the convention center and Petco Stadium, where the Padres play.  You can walk right into the park (which we did) and watched a game, not a Padres game, they're not in town, but a local game. Also passed Qualcomm Stadium where the Chargers play football.

Back on the tour bus and over the Coronado Bay Bridge to Coronado where we had a beer at McP's, where the Navy Seals hang out (they train here) and then wakled to the beach and for the first time saw the Pacific Ocean (which resembles the Atlantic Ocean).  Saw a marine wedding on the beach about to take place and yes, I did get some sand.

The tour then went to Balboa Park-beautiful grounds, lots of people out doing outdoor things, 15 museums, lots of architecture and history.  We will go back. Right next  door is the San Diego Zoo, where we plan on going Monday. From there we drove through Little Italy and then back to the transit station in Old Town where we planned to get the trolley back to the campground. 

But wait! What's this! Old Town is the Mexican neighborhood of San Diego and THERE'S A CINCO DE MAYO FESTIVAL GOING ON!  Lots of music, dancing in the street, food, drinks, exhibits, vendors and entertainment.  Streets and streets filled with Mexican fun.  They really know how to do Cinco de Mayo here, we're only about 10 miles from Mexico.  Our cell phones picked up a tower in Mexico because it was closer than any in the US.

Stayed and partied for a few hours and then wearily made our way back to the trolley and the campground. 

Everybody here talks about how wonderful the weather is lately, because they say they had a really wet spring even though they usually only get 10-12" of rain a year. The weather reminds me of FL in March-sunny, 80's,but  it's less humid here and the nights are chillier. It's definitely spring here, all the flowers are blooming and they are beautiful. There's some jasmine right outside the campground office and the smell is wonderful!


Day 15-And On Day 15 We Rested-Sort of

2011-05-01

Decided to rest up today and catch up on some errands.  Had to get some prescriptions refilled (called ahead, how easy is that). Got the truck washed, filled up on fuel ($4.55 a gallon, cash only, thank you).  I saw regular gas for $5.05 yesterday in town-YIKES!

Went to a 2-floor Wal-Mart where they have an escalator with a separate ramp for your cart in between the up and down ramps. Doesn't take much to impress me, I thought this was great.  From there went to the grocery store, the local ones are called Von's, to stock up on food for the next few days.  There's lots of malls and business within a mile or two of the campground, so we didn't have to go far.

Everybody is so nice here and they're always smiling and very friendly.  Until they get behind the wheel of a car and then watch out!  They turn beastly!  Don't try to change lanes, they'll never let you over.  They're agressive and rude drivers.

Back to the campground for laundry.  The laundry in the campground  is only a row over from our campsite and there's lots of washers and dryers so it wasn't too bad.  I made a pot roast that came out really great considering I didn't have a pot big enough for it and had to improvise.

I checked the map for the hundredth time and I think we're going to try to get to Santa Barbara or Ventura when we leave here on Tues.  Called a few campgrounds but didn't settle on anything.  We'll probably wing it and find something when we get close.  None of them sounded like they were full so we shouldn't have much trouble finding something.

After dinner we thought about going in the pool, the spa, or playing pool in the rec room but decided to sit around and read, catch up on e-mails and surf the web.  This is camping?

Tomorrow-The San Diego Zoo-Pandas, Koalas and Polar bears, Oh My!


Day 16-San Diego Zoo

2011-05-02

Went to the San Diego Zoo today.  Very hot and sunny, over 90, breaking records lately. Zoo is really clean and well-maintained.  We took a double decker bus tour first to get an overall view of the zoo-100 acres! They have bus stops that go between different areas but we walked the whole thing.  Very hilly terrain, at the monkeys that actually have an escalator in the middle of a jungle setting that goes up two tiers, don't know what they do if it rains. Lots of endangered animals and ones we're not used to seeing at zoos.  The pandas are great-they have 3 and one might be pregnant-they're like big stuffed animals.  The polar bears are great but I wouldn't want to meet one in the wild, they're huge.  They had three in the exhibit where you could see them above water and underwater.  The koalas were cute but all they did was sleep.  They have quite a few of them.  Lions ang tigers and bears, of course,  A pair of lions that were only about 2" away from us on the other side of glass.  And a huge orangatan that was intimidated by 2 little black monkeys that just came up and gave the orang the evil eye and he just got up and moved away from the food.

Long, hot day, when we got back to camp I went in the pool and Harry changed the air filter in the truck.  Don't feel sorry for him, he'd rather change the filter than go in the pool. Leaving tomorrow to maybe go to Ventura but first a stop in Van Nuys to pick up an air filter kit.


Day 17-San Diego to Ventura

2011-05-03

Drove 203 miles in 5-3/4 hours today. Left campground about 9:30 and drove through beautiful mountains again.  When we drove through Camp Pendleton Marine Corps. they were doing some maneuvers in the hills with jeeps.  Had to go to Van Nuys to get an air filter kit part at an auto parts store. Had to drive through LA and sometimes it pays to have a driver who's as crazy as everybody else around you.  Harry did great-sometimes there was seven lanes going each way. Lots of Prius cars and electric car charging stations everywhere.

From there we drove through the Santa Monica Mts. and saw lots of strawberry fields with pickers and lemon groves that looked almost ready. Stopped at a roadside stand and got some avocados.

We're staying at McGrath State Park in Ventura on the Pacific. There's not many campers here but lots of wildlife.  It's adjacent to an estuary so there's lots of endangered animals, hundreds of rabbits everywhere, wierd squirrels that dig huge holes in the ground, funky looking birds and as we were walking to the beach a (Heather, don't read this) SNAKE. I don't know who jumped more, Harry or the the snake.  I was behind him so I missed the initial meeting.  We both carried big sticks after that.

We have no hook-ups here but we have propane for the stove, hot water heater and fridge and water stored in the tank. Some lights work by battery but not enough to read by.
Got the french press for coffee, all's well.

Looked at some maps and planned tomorrow, then went outside, stars are amazing. Different sounds, ocean smells and sounds all around.


Day 18-Ventura to Morro Bay, CA

2011-05-04

Drove 161 miles in 6-1/4 hours today. Was cold last night-about 55 at 7am. Another beautiful today. Woke up to rabbits and squirrels all around us, we kept looking out the windows at them, they came right up to the RV.  Left about 8:30 and stopped at 9:30 in Santa Barbara.  Walked the beach for a while and then drove to the waterfront.  There was a parking place (not an entirely legal one) in front of Sambo's, a nice restaurant right on the beach so we stopped for breakfast. Best coffee I ever had. 

From there drove on 101 North to Lompoc and stopped for gas, a real bargain at 4.59, then continued through the Sierra Madre Mts. on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other.  Lots of vineyards, strawberry pickers and, we found out broccoli and cauliflower being planted. Lots of orchid farms, too. Stopped in two wineries for tastes in Santa Maria.  Met a couple who said this weather is unusual, the average here is 62.  It's 90 today, but they say by the week-end it should be cooler.  We love it, so do they. This part of CA is great, lush green mountains and hills, gorgeous flora, the ocean, nice and clean too.

Lots of little sea villages that remind me of a mix between Cape Cod and Maine.  We decided to stop at one, Morro Bay, and as soon as we pulled in we knew we wanted to stay two nights. It's a quaint fishing village with a huge rock as it's claim to fame.  It's acutally an inactive 578' volcano that's one of seven around here. You can drive right to it, from our campground we walk across the street to the dunes to the ocean with the rock in the middle.  There's lots of seagulls nesting there, with the bay on one side and the ocean on the other.

We saw sea otters in the bay, it's crystal clear too. Had dinner at Dockside in the village right where the fishing boats come in. As we were eating I saw a seal swimming in the bay-walked outside and the fishermen were unloading nets and had thrown him an eel so he stuck around.

Got some ideas from the fishermen about some wineries for tomorrow and maybe a trip up the Pacific Coast Highway.  We can't go all the way up because it's still closed from a collapse from the Tsunami. We can only drive up about 45 minutes to the Hearst Castle.


Day 19-Water to Wine

2011-05-05

Cool last night, we needed the heat but it got up to 92 today.  Everybody is talking about the "heat wave" and how it should break by Sun. and go down to the 70's.  Nobody has air conditioning here and they're not used to it, but it's not humid and doesn't even feel that hot to us.

Started with the water today and ended with wine.

Drove up Route 1 (the Pacific Coast Highway) and stopped in a couple of little seaside villages to look at the views.  Stopped in Harmony, Cambria and Moonstone, they all had cuted little cottages with gorgeous flower gardens.  Stopped at San Simeon State Park and saw a lot of sea otters feeding on the kelp beds.  Supposedly there's humpback whales from March to May there too but you need better eyes than we have to spot them.  We tried with binoculars but no luck. One of those pesky squirrels ran over my foot when I wasn't looking, scared the you-know-what out of me.  And then he looks at me like "What are you doing in my way?"

Drove up to Hearst Castle and that's about where the road stops.  The highway collapsed from the tsunami and they still haven't fixed it.  That made up our minds about whether or not we're gonna drive all the way up to San Francisco on it.  Guess we go with plan B, route 101.

Backtracked a few miles and took route 46 east to Paso Robles, what a road. Beautiful hills covered with every shade of green you can imagine and then some.  Breathtaking! And the smell! They told us it's potato vines and it smells like jasmine and honeysuckle and lilac and roses and hay-all mixed together.  I wish I could capture that smell.  Horse and cattle ranches all over and then we got into wine country.  There are over 300 wine tasting places in Paso Robles and that doesn't include the invitation only ones. Miles and miles of vineyards.  We stopped at a few and tasted some wines that were very different from what we're used to.  Then we drove into town and there were more tasting rooms.  The more I tasted the more I liked wine. Good thing Harry was driving.

Drove back a different way through more green hills and avocado farms this time.  This is the way we're going north tomorrow.

Came back to camp and I walked across the street to the beach again, its' still enchanting.  And the rock looks different at different times of the day, sometimes you can see the seagull nests and sometimes you can see greenery on it and sometimes it looks like just stone.

As much as I like it here, we're ready to move on tomorrow.  We're gonna try to get to San Francisco.  I'd like to stop at Monterey and Pebble Beach and the 17 mile drive, but I may have to forgo it, but that's OK, San Francisco looks like tons of fun!


Day 20-Greens to Greens

2011-05-06

Today we went from greens you eat to greens you play on.

I thought I'd be disappointed that we couldn't go north on Route 1 because the road was closed but soon after we got on Route 101 (or, as they call it here, THE 101) things started to look up.  We start driving through farm after farm after farm, pimentos, avocados, lettuce, broccoli, tomotoes, beans, spinach, artichokes! We're in Salinas, which is the "Salad Bowl of the World". There's pickers everywhere and fields upon fields being plowed for spring planting.  Have you even seen bright green iceberg lettuce planted next to blue-green broccoli planted next to deep purple arugula?  It's sensory overload here.  The smells are wonderful, too! The earthy, healthy smell of rich dirt and clean air. We're in a valley with mountains all around us and I swear I can see the Jolly Green Giant himself when, all of a sudden there he is on the side of a building. We're in Salinas, where the big veggie packers are, Dole, Green Giant, DelMonte, Taylor Farms.  On some farms they have huge, larger than life cut outs of people farming and even a few with dogs.  They keep you occupied as you drive.  One of these towns is actually called Greenfield.  We also drove through Castroville, "The Artichoke Center of the World"-WOW!

The other green we saw were golf greens. We took a side trip to Pebble Beach and Monterey.  We weren't sure we could maneuver the RV through 17-Mile Drive, but I'm now convinced Harry can maneuver that thing anywhere.  I did have to promise no more side trips like that, though.  It was pretty harrowing, but the sights were magnificent.  It's 17 miles of a road that winds through beautiful estates, a lot of golf courses and my favorite, the Pacific Ocean. There's stops along the way where you can pull in (we had lunch at one of them) and there's a few mile stretch where they fenced the ocean off because the seals are pupping.  There's a rock with hundreds of birds on it and the ocean itself is that beautiful bright blue/green and the waves are grand.  I loved it here.  I can't see how you could play golf across the street form this and pay attention to the ball.  There was even a little deer on the side of the road right in front of the golf course and another along the drive itself.  Beautiful homes here too. 

On the way back up north again we saw more farms, this time cherries, apricots, garlic, olives, very verdant, very idyllic, very peaceful.  But of course we're running later than we expected now because of Pebble Beach and of course it's Friday afternoon and of course we hit traffic 20 miles south of Oakland and we have that traffic all the way up to Petaluma where our campground is.

Very nice here, we're starting to see some redwoods and a lot of cedar trees, too. Everybody stopped complaining about the heat wave and now they're complaining about how cold it is. It was warmer when we left this morning but in Pebble Beach it was only 53 and it was 52 when we got here tonight.  Supposed to stay cold for a few days (in the 60's) and then get warmer again. We're here for a few days, going into San Francisco, probably Sausalito and let's not forget we're in the Napa/Sonoma Valley-CAN YOU SAY VINEYARDS!


Day 21-Napa/Sonoma Valley

2011-05-07

Temperature went from 50 this morning up to 74-very nice today.

Started out looking to buy a new camera because Harry can't stand the "S" in the middle of the one we have.  Went to a place called Shutterbug in downtown Petaluma and then a Wal-Mart in Santa Rosa (which are far and few between here) but couldn't find one we really liked better than what we have.  So we have to deal with the "S" til we find one.

Drove over to St. Helena which is the start of the Napa/Sonoma Valley Wine Country on a windy road with no shoulders and a big drop.  Lots of roads around here like that.  Stopped at a roadside stand and bought some cherries. When we got into St. Helena we found a little park with picnic benches, a gazebo and lots of flowers so we stopped and had lunch we had packed.  Nice little town and from there we drove into Napa, then Sonoma.  Lots of Bed & Breakfasts, cottages, food places from burgers to fancy smancy places. And Wineries. We stopped at a couple, they're all different, some have free tastings, some are free if you buy something, others free if you buy food (cheese or tapas, for example).  Some are small, family owned and some are the big names.  Every kind of wine you can think of, from $3 a bottle to who knows how much.  Big castle-like tasting rooms and small farm houses. Some only have one label and some have many.  They all have big beautiful rose bushes outside in every color, pink, red, yellow, orange, white, purple with large blooms.  They are gorgeous and I'm not a rose person. Lots of red-winged blackbirds around and big hawks. There's also a lot of limos and tour buses out and about. Lots of people do tours (the campground we're at even has one) that go to a few wineries for tastings.  It's a good idea because when they pour a taste it's almost 1/2 a glass and a few of those and you can't drive.  There's "Report Drunk Drivers" signs all over. Very busy day at the wineries, lots of people out sampling.

Inter-Process people-remember Marie Callendar?  There's a lot of the restaurants out here, we started seeing them in San Diego and must have seen about 6 so far. If I remember correctly, this is where they started.

On the way home we stopped at a grocery store (again, far and few between) to stock up for the next few days. 

Campground's busy but not full and not noisy.  Lots of stuff for kids, a petting zoo, a big bouncy pillow ,hayrides and lots of planned activities in a big field.  They seem to be having a great time.  Lots in the pool, too, it's heated, but too cold for me.

Tomorrow we're taking the tour from the campground into San Francisco.


Day 22-San Francisco

2011-05-08

Had a wonderful mother's day. Even though we're in three different time zones I know they're all thinking of me and I know our hearts are in the same place.  Talked to John and Heather (Heather-sorry I couldn't hear you well because of the wind, let's try to Skype soon).  I tried to take your advice and take more pictures with me and Harry in them.  I also got a really wonderful e-card from Janice, Tim and the kids. Thank you all for your calls and love. I love all of you and miss you.

We started out early from the campground on their own tour bus which turned out to be the best tour I've ever taken.  The guide really knew her stuff, really loved her city and showed us everything.  We stopped at Golden Gate Park, Pier 39 where we saw the sea lions and had lunch at Boudin's (the best chowder in a sourdough bread bowl and caesar salad and chicken salad).  Walked around there for a while, really windy, lots of people, Went to Golden Gate Park and took the elevator up in the deYoung Museum for a great view of SF.

Drove through Nob Hill, saw the beautiful victorian houses painted in all kinds of colors, drove through Haigh/Ashbury where there really still are hippies. Drove through North Beach, the Italian section, Fisherman's Wharf, the financial district (quiet on a Sunday), South Beach, a real beach but nobody swims because of the currents and the temperatures, Telegraph Hill,  there's a Russian section, Ghiradelli Square where they used to make chocolate, looked at all the beautiful, different architecture, saw a cable car exhibit and learned how they work. Drove through Pacific Heights and saw how the other half lives.  The streets there are really steep, I couldn't take a picture that showed how steep they were. Houses are huge, views are great but $30-40 mil? Saw Alcatraz, San Quenton the Presidio, and stopped in Chinatown where we again looked for a camera.  There's a park with men and women playing chess, checkers, majoong and who knows what else.  They're really engrossed in their games. Last stop was at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge at Fort Point.  Beautiful views, great waves. Relaxing trip back to camp listening to, what else, Tony Bennett.

They say the only thing we missed on the tour was the fog and I didn't miss it at all.  It was a really great day, but tiring.  We left at 9 this morning and got back to camp about 6.  Very windy and chilly, about 62 today.

Doing laundry tonight, thinking about making something for dinner and getting ready to leave tomorrow to go up north to the giant redwoods.  Or maybe east to Yosemite, we have to talk. Won't have wifi for the next few days, hope you miss me.


Day 23-To the Redwoods

2011-05-09

Decided to go up north to see the Redwoods, about 200 miles. Started out seeing more vineyards and hills although the hills are starting to turn the golden color they get in summer instead of lush spring green. After about an hour and ½ we started seeing more firs and pine trees and the hills and mountains got rockier. Lots of rock slides as we drove through Mendocino Forest. US 101 is called the Redwood Highway and they call it a freeway when it’s two lanes each way and then it goes down to one lane each way in little hamlets like Hopland, Willets, Leggett, Benbow, Garberville and Myers Flats. We saw a herd of elk grazing in a valley near Laytonville. Also turkeys, quail and deer. Some farms, horses, cows, llamas, goats but mostly forest with bright orange and yellow wildflowers on the side of the road. Up and down mountains again too but now they’re covered in trees. Some logging trucks, too, even saw Paul Bunyan.
We didn’t know if we were seeing redwoods or not until we saw one-BAM, BIG TREE, RED WOOD-and then there was no mistaking them once you’ve seem one. Beautiful scenery with the blue-green Eel River below in the valley. Passed a log house made out of one tree, a tree you can drive through and all kinds of redwood touristy stuff.
Once again Harry got us out of a tight bind. The GPS took us down a bumpy, ½ lane dirt road to the campground. We had gone about a mile when we realized we were never gonna go around the next bend. Had to turn around-another 8+point turn. When we finally got to the campground we realized it wasn’t the one we wanted so we went back to the campground books and found the right one about 20 miles north. This one’s 1/3 the price and much nicer. It’s small and quiet, I think we might be the only ones here. There’s lot of fat robins in the field and three cats that don’t want to have anything to do with me. Cool here, about 60, going down in the 40’s tonight.
Tomorrow we’re going to explore the Redwood forest. This is also a great salmon fishing place but I don’t know when the season is. Also found out we’re in the middle of Bigfoot territory-YIKES!


Day 24-The REDWOODS

2011-05-10

Spent the day in the Humboldt State Forest among giant redwood trees. The Avenue of the Giants is a 32 mile long two lane road that encompasses 53,000 acres of Redwoods-the largest stand of redwoods in the world. Took us over 6 hours to go the 32 miles because we kept stopping on pull overs and exploring the trees on trails and just on the side of the road. The ones that have fallen are sometimes more interesting that the standing ones. There’s one that’s 370 feet tall, 53 feet around and they estimate it to be 2500 years old. There’s and “immortal tree”, that survived axes, floods, fire and lightning. There’s a house built into a tree, trees you can drive your car through, trees you can drive on, these trees have their own personalities.
There’s a state campground I almost booked us in and when we drove through it there were so many tight turns because of the trees that Harry said if I had booked it he would have planted me in one of the stumps and they would have found me 1000 years from now. Good thing California campgrounds are more expensive than private ones, I guess. That’s what changed my mind.
The whole road parallels the Eel River and when we pulled over to take a picture of the river once there was an eagle that flew right in front of us. And then a hawk that was chasing the eagle. The hawk took off but the eagle landed on a branch on the other side of the river. After we got our breath we watched him for about a half hour hoping he would take off again but he was happy on his branch swaying in the breeze. What a sight!
Stopped in a little town along the way called Miranda and talked with a woodworker who had lots of clocks, table tops, bears, etc. made from the redwood and also made from burls (the rounded parts of the trees). He had tons of wood all over his yard, big pieces, little pieces, any size and shape. He also had a great cat named Simba, who was nineteen and was really affectionate. Stayed in town for dinner and then came back to camp on Route 101. Sunny but cool all day, high about 65, down to 55 at 6pm. There are some more people in the campground tonight. The whole area’s very quiet, the locals say when the kids get out of school it gets busy.


Day 25-Goodbye California-Hello Oregon

2011-05-11

Left camp about 9:30 and headed north to Oregon. We passed lots of lumber yards and mills and still more redwoods and farms. The mountains were foggy on top and really eerie looking. Saw a herd of elk and lots of elk warning signs, seems we’re in Elk Valley. Stopped at a beach called Dry Lagoon where they have black sand. And now so do I. We followed the coast up to Crescent City where the Tsumani hit last month. There’s all kinds of debris on the beach, but the town itself looks pretty well cleaned up, but the fog horn blows constantly. We saw tsunami warning signs all along the road for many miles and we’re still seeing them. Lots of rivers and streams for salmon fishing (salmon jerky is a big thing here). Still haven’t found out when salmon season is.
We stopped on the beach in Crescent City for lunch and had to make a decision which way to go. Plan A was to head east to Crater Lake in Oregon but I called a few campgrounds there last night and they said because of the unusual amount of snowfall this year they couldn’t open until maybe the end of May. We thought about just driving there and taking our chances but in the end opted for Plan B, which is to stay on the Oregon coast for a while, maybe up to Seattle and then hope on the way back down the campgrounds will be open and the roads will be OK. There’s plenty to see without going where the weather is really bad.
So after 12 nights and 13 days and 1541 miles in California we crossed the border into Oregon, where it immediately started to really rain and looks like it will rain at least all night. Chilly, too, only about 45-50 today. After 24 days this is our first rainy day, hard to believe. We stopped at the Oregon Welcome Center where the ladies told us to watch out for Marijuana cultivation sites, they’ll shoot us as soon as look at us. They also pointed us to a state campground right up the road on a bluff overlooking the ocean. It’s Harris Beach State Park in Brookings, where 75% of the Easter lilies in the US are grown. There’s a big rock where supposedly the rare tufted puffin has breeding nests. And a neighbor said he saw whales the other day. But today you can’t see anything because of the rain and fog, maybe tomorrow. No, I have not found the marijuana cultivation sites.


Day 26-Oregon Coastline

2011-05-12

We’re getting very laid back, only drove 135 miles but it took us 5 hours to do it. It’s beautiful out today, lots of sun but never made it to 60 degrees. Left camp about 10 this morning, drove up and down more hills but this time with the Pacific Ocean on our left. Beautiful scenery, the ocean with big black mountains of rocks in it, big rolling waves and lots of pretty yellow wildflowers. Lots of state parks along route 101, seems every little town has a state park in it. Drove through some little towns, Gold Beach, Port Orford, Langlois, Bandon where we stopped and got some groceries, Coos Bay. They all are pretty quiet this time of year, looks like they’re beach towns and probably get busy in the summer. There are actual beaches here, not like Maine that just has rocky coastline, Oregon has rocky coastline and beaches. There’s even the Oregon Dunes National Seashore which is where we’re camping tonight. There’s huge, high sand dunes that are covering over big pine trees. Gorgeous lakes and rivers too, and lots of logging. Saw many logging trucks and sawmills and even a huge pile of wood shavings, not chips, but shavings. Don’t know what they do with them. There were a few boats on the rivers loading logs, too.
Also stopped to get fuel and in Oregon they pump the gas for you just like in New Jersey.
Everybody’s talking about the weather again, this time about how nice it is, guess it’s been a wet, soggy spring. They say enjoy today because the rest of the week is supposed to be rainy and nasty. We’re about 200 miles south of Portland, maybe we can make it there by tomorrow but, if not, oh, well.


Day 27-To Portland, Goodbye Pacific Ocean

2011-05-13

184 miles, 4 hours, not bad for us!

Left camp about 9:30 and got on Rte. 38 east right away. What a difference in scenery.  There's no more ocean but a beautiful green river, the Umpqua River.  There's elk viewing stations along the road and herds of 50 and more elk.  At first I thought they were laying down because I couldn't see their legs, but then I noticed they were moving.  The grass was so high, up to their armpits (if elk have armpits).  It looked like a sea of elk, really cool.  This is a sportman's paradise, the fishing, boating, camping, very rustic and serene.  A place to really get away from it all, but I wonder how many people really want to get away from here. It's one of those places that's great to visit but....

They don't believe in shoulders on the road here in Oregon, just big drops off the side into the river or the woods.  Gotta be careful on those turns.  Lots of loose, wet gravel on the sides, too.

Still in the mountains, now we're following the Elk river, this is a pretty green, too.  Lots of cabins with smoke coming from the chimneys, it's sunny but a bit chilly this morning.  Finally got to I-5, we haven't been on an interstate since San Diego and I forgot how boring they can be.  Lots of sheep farms, cows, horses, not much else, but it's easier to drive, not up and down mountains.  Mountains are still around just in the distance more and these are snow covered. Mount Hood is just east of us.

From Eugene to Salem the traffic started to build and after Salem it got much heavier.  We decided to stay about 10 miles south of Portland so we wouldn't have to go through Friday night rush hour traffic.  Stopped early, about 2, but it's a beautiful day, turned out to be about 65 so we can relax at the campground. 

Decided to go to the local Mexican restaurant, El Sol de Mexico, and WOW, it's really Mexican. All the staff looked and sounded like they just arrived.  I'm new to Mexican food, never really tried it 'til San Antonio and decided we liked it but I still don't know the difference between an enchilada, burrito, taco, fajita, tostada, tamale and what ever else so I was asking the waiter, who finally asked me "Where are you from?" I really felt like a Mexican food virgin.  I should have said "Mars". So we ended up with enchiladas, beans and rice and it was wonderful.

Tomorrow we'll try to navigate Portland.


Day 28-Portland, Oregon

2011-05-14

Decided to do our own auto tour of Portland today so we read up in the tour books, got some maps, spoke to some local people and set out. Just like most major cities, Portland is divided into districts, each with its own flavor. Our first stop was the Pittock Mansion in Washington Park , which is 1000 feet up a hill overlooking the city. The owners were the founders of the Oregonia Newspaper. Beautiful grounds and a magnificent view of Portland.
Then went to the International Rose Test Gardens where they have over 8000 rose bushes. We were a few weeks early and Spring was a bit late so no roses were in bloom but the rhododendrons and azaleas were out and the landscaping is beautiful.
From there we went to the Portland Saturday Market in Old Town which was packed. Seems this is the first nice weather week-end here so everybody’s out and about. It’s cloudy and about 60 but generally nice. Huge market with artists, vendors, lots of jewelry, pottery, food, music, beer and street entertainers, good and bad. Very busy, young, moving, “weird,” as they like to be called, people. A happening place, we spent quite a bit of time here and we were glad we came here on Saturday to see this.
Walked from there to Chinatown, smaller than SanFrancisco’s but still nice, then drove to the Park District where Portland State Univ. is. Very pretty and green parks, although small. Then the Cultural District with gorgeous architecture in buildings and churches.
At the market we spoke to a local who suggested Bridgeport Brewery for microbrews and pub food so we went there to sample the beer they made right there. Reminded me of the Brewhouse in Norwalk with its brick interior and open two floors with exposed beams and beer vats. We sampled 8 of their beers, Harry liked the seasonal Scottish ale and I liked the dark, espresso tasting one. They even make a tiramisu with that one (which we didn’t try). Harry had a burger and I had the Shepherd’s pie, good but so different from what you get in England.
Back to camp to pack up and get ready to leave tomorrow. Heading for Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Ranier in Washington state.


Day 29-Mt. St. Helens

2011-05-15

Long day today-250 miles 8-1/2 hours but what sights we saw!
It rained all day, but this is the Pacific Northwest after all. We left Portland about 10 am and went up I-5, crossing into Washington state in about ½ hour. Stopped at a welcome center which was a good idea because we found out the road we had planned to take to Mt. St. Helens was closed ‘til July and there was only one road in and out. It’s a 52 mile road one way up and down mountains with beautiful scenery, the Toutle River following for a while and then below you as you climb up 4200 feet to Mt. St. Helens. The mist is gorgeous and because it’s a cloudy, rainy day it’s probably prettier than if the sun was shining. It gives the mountains a whole different look. We left the RV at the visitor center at the bottom of the mountain and just took the truck up. It’s all forest, some old, some new since the volcano erupted on May 18, 1980. Millions of trees have been replanted and Weyerhauser has a visitor center and education center on the way up with a lot of info on how they have restored the forests.
At about 3500 feet elevation we started to see white stuff that reminded us of stuff we moved to Florida to escape. Oh yes, SNOW, and lots of it, way over Harry’s head. It got deeper and deeper and the rain turned to snow. The temp at the top at Johnston Ridge Observatory was 35. This is the closest you can get to the mountain (about 5 miles). Listened to a ranger speak about what happened when the volcano erupted in May 1980 and also how it’s changed since then and is still active. Then we saw a movie about the whole day and at the end they open the curtain and there’s a big window with Mt. St. Helens staring at you. Except it’s so cloudy today all we see is white. But we knew it was gonna be like this today. Same thing happened to us years ago at Mt. Washington in NH. Same weather here today except Mt. Washington is much windier. We stayed there about 2 hours and then headed back the 52 miles to rehook the trailer and get on our way. Drove up I-5 again to Route 12 and then another 5 miles to the campground. Lots of farms on the way and a beautiful tulip farm with every color imaginable in full bloom. After the black and white and gray day we had today the tulip’s colors were really outstanding.
Got to the campground after they were closed, couldn’t find a good site although they were empty. It’s very wet here, the whole state is almost flooded. Finally picked a site, Harry went to hook up and the water isn’t turned on, probably because it still might freeze. So we’ll use the water in the storage tanks.
Tomorrow’s plan was to go to Mt. Ranier but we decided that today’s mountain was enough. The road we planned on taking there is closed and we’d have to backtrack. And we decided not to go back to Seattle or Olympic Nat’l. Park and Forks and LaPush. (Sorry, Edward and Bella, we’re done with the Pacific Northwest). Could be the rain, snow, cold, whatever it is, we’ll have great memories of this but we’re heading east to Spokane tomorrow.


Day 30-To Spokane

2011-05-16

299 Miles today, 7 hours, from Randle, WA to Spokane, WA
Really cold last night, I had on 3 pairs of socks. It’s still too cloudy to see Mt. Ranier so we’re glad we decided to avert it. Very wet, rainy, damp, 40 degrees at 9am. Left campground and right away met another mountain to go up on Route 12, the White Pass Scenic Byway. White Pass is the only one of three passes that’s open to go over this mountain in the Cascade Range. The other two are still snow covered. At the summit, 4500 feet it was snowing and there was a mudslide they were pushing off the other side of the road from all the rain this week-end. Beautiful waterfalls because of the snow melt and the rain. Again, lots of black and white, a dream for Ansel Adams. There’s a raging river that’s following us all the way down the mountain, another 50+ miles. I can’t describe how spectacular the scenery is and the pictures don’t do it justice, either. Every time we turn a curve it’s more breathtaking than before. It’s stark wilderness in this forest, just gorgeous.
At the bottom is a little town called Natchez, cute little place, with lots of flowering trees and bushes, tons of lilacs and dogwoods. We then went through greener, smaller mountains with the snow covered peaks in the background. Natchez River is really swollen here, overflowing it’s banks and some of the homes on the river have flooded yards. Orchards here, apples, huckleberries, cherries, peaches.
From Natchez, we went to Yakima and then up to Ellensburg where we picked up Interstate 90 to Spokane. 200 miles of gently rolling hills with miles and miles of farms, potatoes (we’re close to Idaho), wheat, alfalfa, corn, hay, they have signs on the fences to tell you what they’re growing. I thought that was really considerate of them, seeing as how you never know what you’re seeing. We went through a little town called, get this, George, Washington!
Dark rain clouds all around us that finally caught up to us at a rest stop about an hour west of Spokane. Nice ladies at the rest stop with free coffee and cookies. It was 43 degrees, raining, windy raw and just like CT in Feb.
Hit traffic right outside of Spokane. Of course, it’s rush hour and they have the interstate down to one lane. Great campground, it’s a KOA, which are always nice. Still drizzling off and on and chilly, about 40 now. They say this is the wettest, coldest spring they’ve ever had. A lady at the visitor center yesterday said we missed their summer, it was the 2 nice days they had last week. The campground owner wanted to know if we brought it with us from Florida…NOT! But tomorrow’s supposed to be warmer (about 63) and sunny (we’ll see if North Washington sunny is the same as Florida’s sunny). We’re gonna stay here for at least 2 nights to relax. We’re only about 7 miles from Idaho.
And on our way in to Spokane we saw the snow covered Rocky Mountains looming in the east, which we’ll have to go over on our next leg.


Days 31-32-33-Not Much Going On

2011-05-17 to 2011-05-19

Day 31-WOW-The sun is out and it got to 63 today! The sun is warm but dry and once it goes down it gets cold again.
Did laundry this morning, got to Skype with Heather. Evie was in bed (there’s an 8 hour time difference) and Martin wasn’t home yet so we got to talk the two of us which was nice.
Harry fixed the caulking on the front door of the RV-it had gotten old and dried out. Now we don’t have any air leaking.
Went into Spokane Valley, the little town we’re in east of Spokane and got haircuts at Clip Shots (a franchise out here). We really needed them. Then found a Super-Walmart and stocked up on food for another few days. Had to buy another portable electric heater, ours gave up last night. Good thing it happened before we went to bed. It just sparked and then blew a fuse but the cord was old and worn. Got the propane tanks filled at a gas station down the road from there. Everything we need is close here, it’s a busy little place.
After dinner had our first campfire of this trip. I can’t believe we’ve been on the road for over 4 weeks and this is our first fire. We’ve always been either too busy or too tired or it’s been too hot or too cold.
Decided to stay here another day.

Day 32-Beautiful day, sunny, warmer-up . to 69 Did another load of laundry, then read for a while. Went into town, actually the town is called Greenacres, to Best Buy and finally found a camera we liked, a Nikon. Then decided to go to a movie, not much playing, so we saw Thor, mythology gods and all that. It was entertaining as long as you knew what you were in for. Looked at a map and checked temps along our way. Decided if we continue the way we’re going we’d head right into the Rocky Mountains and colder weather and snow, down to 30 at night. So when we leave tomorrow we decided to go back southwest to Oregon again, right over the WA border to Pendleton, OR.


Day 33-Left camp about 10AM. Drove 200 miles to Hermiston, OR , arrived about 2PM. Gorgeous day, 75, sunny, warm! Backtracked through WA on I-90 to 395 South. A lot of this is the Lewis and Clark Trail and I-84 is the Oregon Nat’l Trail. We feel like explorers, especially when we look at a USA map and see how far west we still are. Much nicer here, lower elevation, no mountains, no snow. After setting up looked at a map and decided to go to Boise next leg, probably Sat. and then to Craters of the Moon, Idaho. Might stay in Boise a few days, we heard the prison there is interesting so we might go see it. Then the plan is Yellowstone and Grand Teton but only part of the road is open in Yellowstone and the campgrounds don’t open ‘til tomorrow. I called one and they said the temps are in the 20s and 30s and there’s still snow on the ground. Didn’t come all this way to NOT see Yellowstone, though.


Day 34-McNary Lock & Dam

2011-05-20

Day 34-Gorgeous day again-75 and hot. 75 seems hotter here than even in FL. Sun is really strong. Gets colder at night, down in the 40s.
Drove through Hermiston, OR, a pretty little town, lots of cattle and horse farms, but businesses, too. A few miles north we went to McNary Locks and Dam on the Columbia River that separates WA from OR. The Corps of Engineers has a nice visitor center and viewing room for when the Salmon are swimming upstream. They divert them so they don’t get stuck in the turbines and they have an interesting educational center that explains the whole thing. The viewing room has 4 panels looking into the river where you can watch the fish and a counter that lets them know how many went through. They tag some of them, weigh them and study them here too. There’s a fish hatchery and a spawning area, too. Of course, we’re about 3 weeks early so we saw a few swimming but they say the end of June there’s about 30,000 a day. Ate lunch we had packed on their grounds, which are really pretty, picnic tables, rest rooms, and shelters all in a pretty park above the dam so you get a great view. Then drove down to the beach on the Columbia River, again nice picnic areas.
Back to camp about 5PM and read and caught up on e-mails.


Day 35-Saturday in Hermiston, OR

2011-05-21

Very windy this morning and then rainy.  Went out to breakfast at Shari's, a family owned kinda diner.  The one here is the original one and I guess they're now all over the Northwest.  Good food, good people, good prices. We're in potato country so they don't just say hash browns on the menu, they say Yukon Gold hash browns.  Lots of farms, potatoes, onions, apples, and a HUGE Wal-Mart distribution plant with probably close to, if not more than, 1000 trucks in the lot. There's a Lays potato chip plant out the other way from the campground.  Now we know why it's so busy around here.

From there went to Berlinge


Day 36-To Idaho

2011-05-22

Drove 240 Miles in 5 hours.  Crossed back into Mountain time zone and lost an hour  .We took I-84 SE all the way to Nampa, ID.  What views!  We followed the Old Historic Oregon Trail the whole way and gained a newfound respect for the pioneers who traveled this trail.  Up mountains, down into valleys, over rivers, WOW!  We went from flat farmlands up more snow covered mountains into a forest with more pine and fir trees, back down to grassy mountains that looked like bright green carpet to the Mahogany Mts., which are truly a beautiful mahogany brown. We crossed the 45th Parallel, the half way point between the equator and the North Pole.  Who knew?  Also saw the Oreida potato factory at the Oregon & Idaho border and realized Oreida stands for Oregon & Idaho.  I know, everybody knew but me, right?  The railroad was always with us, too and there is a big Chinese history from when the railroad was built.  We had snow capped mountains all around us up close and then it was 70 degrees and very warm but one mountain with snow on top followed us all the way to Idaho although it's really in the distance to the north. 

Idaho-who would think it was this beautiful? The weather is great, 70 and sunny, the scenery is still gorgeous and the campground is almost right in the middle of town but still quiet and peaceful.  We're in Nampa, about 20 miles west of Boise, the second largest city in Idaho after Boise.  Supposedly the Snake River National Bird of Prey Area nearby, which we'll probably check out.  Of course, as early as we've been for everything else, the Bird of Prey Festival was May 13-15th, so we're too late for that.  Also the Snake River Wineries are closeby. I think we'll be here for at least 2-3 nights.

Another great day!

 


Day 37-Snake River Birds of Prey, Hot Springs and Wine

2011-05-23

We’re in the western area of Mountain Time Zone so it stays light late….the sun doesn’t start to go down ‘til almost 9PM, seems really weird to be that light so late. Beautiful sunsets here in Idaho, too.
Went to the Snake River Birds of Prey Conservation Area-the largest concentration of nesting raptors in No. America and maybe the world. It’s a 50 mile drive on the Western Heritage Historic Byway that starts in what they call the desert but looks like prairie to us. We stopped at Dedication Point where you get an overlook of the Snake River and the Canyon from above. Very windy but what a view. Then drove down a windy, steep road to the Swan Falls dam and hydroelectric plant. There’s boat ramps, picnic areas and grassy areas. We then drove alongside the Snake River on a dirt road, getting out to ogle every now and then. There were lots of small birds hovering just above the river, we never figured out what they were after. A family of Canadian geese popped out of the reeds near the river a few times, we think they were teaching the four babies how to navigate the rapids, they kept going back on shore and then in the water again. Saw lots of holes in the ground, they say ground owls, prairies dogs (which we saw a few of), jackrabbits and marmots and badgers. Also heard of bunch of coyotes on the other side of the river. There’s a high population of coyotes in the canyon. We had lunch in the truck by the side of the river, so peaceful, didn’t want to leave. We lost all sense of size, it’s so big down there, and we were the only ones down there. Saw a flock of some sort of seagull and lots of ravens and hawks. There was a nest on top of a pole in the middle of the river and you could see a bird and some babies in it so I went to see it closer. The adult bird didn’t like that and started circling above me and screaming. I think it was a Swainson’s hawk (we had a brochure and that’s what it looked like) but I didn’t stick around too long to find out. As I was running away from it all I could think of was how sharp the talons would feel on my head.
Back up the mountain and as we pulled over to take a picture of a town in the valley two Golden Eagles (yes, Golden Eagles!) flew in front of us. Harry had the camera and tried to get a shot but they’re fast. And big. One of them had something in it’s grip and we saw a prairie dog running right after that so it could have been one of the family that got caught. The birds were awesome. We’re almost, sorta, kinda used to seeing Bald Eagles, but never a Golden Eagle, they’re a golden brown, AND HUGE!!!!
Caught our breath and decided we now needed to find a winery. So we found a road with 21 wineries on it in the Idaho Wine Trail. I think every state has a sand dune area and a wine trail. Lots of orchards and wineries together, apricots, pears, apples, cherries and peaches. And wine grapes. We stopped at Ste. Chapelle, a winery that the campground owner suggested. Up on a hill in the mountains, very pretty, as they all are.
On the way we also stopped at Givens Hot Springs, a recreation area that has an indoor pool that is fed by natural hot springs. Today it was 97 degrees. In 1879 the owners built a town around it that served the silver and gold miners from Silver City with soaking tubs so they could “take the cure” from arthritis and whatever else ailed them. Today it’s a modern pool.
Not too warm today, cloudy and a high of only 65, but we heard Boise had hail so I’m glad we didn’t go there today. We’re still here for two more nights, lots to do here, very surprised at how much we like Idaho and how scenic it is.


Day 38-Boise, ID

2011-05-24

Took a trolley tour in Boise today.  Started out cool and cloudy but by the afternoon it squeaked up to 70 and was really sunny.  Sun is very warm here, it feels warmer than 70.

The tour went through both the center of town and also the outskirts and we learned about the history of Boise, most of which centers on the gold and silver rush and mining.  Lots of beautiful architecture of different styles, most of which I know nothing about but it's interesting to hear about them and they're all nice in their own way. Lots of money was made by architects around 1890-1920 . There's a neighborhood called Warm Springs (on Warm Springs Ave.) that's named that because the 200 houses are heated by the hot springs in the earth.  They have hot springs pools, too, like what we saw yesterday. Trees are beautiful here, lots of dogwoods and lilacs in bloom.

Boise, like other cities, has different sections but Boise also has a big Basque population, Basque being between Spain and France from what I understand. Lots of people on bikes here in town, busy, busy little city.

After the tour we drove back to the Old Idaho State Penitentiary and took the self-guided tour.  I think not only does every big city have a wine trail and sand dunes but also an old prison. It was a pretty interesting tour, the prison was open from 1873-1973 and has a lot of history and stories to tell.  Pretty gardens on the grounds, too, roses are starting to bud.  Jackson & Perkins has a test garden on the premises now. Up the mountain in back of the prison is the Old Oregon Trail again and, of course, we had to walk some of it and feel like pioneers.  Once again I'm glad I didn't live back then, a pioneer I'm not.

Drove past the first residence in Boise, an 1863 log house, 200 sq. feet, still standing on the outskirts of a busy town. We then went to the Assay office, built in 1871.  They estimate 75 million dollars of gold and silver passed through the doors during the rush.

Stopped at a grocery store for a few odds and ends, then back to camp and did some laundry. Washers here are nice and cheap and we never know when we'll find a laundry again so we do a load or two when we can.

Headed towards Yellowstone tomorrow although we heard they expect snow and in the 20's this week-end.  Wish us luck (and warmth).

 


Day 39-Craters of the Moon, ID

2011-05-25

Drove I-84 East to Mt. Home-all desert with mountains in the distance.  At Mt. Home we went NE on Rte 20 and immediately started to go up in altitude and see more mountains. The Sawtooth Mts. were on our left (very aptly named) and cow and horse farms all around us once we reached a plateau at about 5000 feet. Very sparse homesteads, must be really big ranches.

All of a sudden we start to see black lava beds all around us and then the Craters of the Moon Nat'l. Park.  After visiting the visitor's center and seeing the intro movie and exhibits we drove the 7 mile loop through lava beds, spatter cones, and volcanoes which started over 15,000 years ago from the "Great Rift", volcanic fissures across the Snake River that cover over 750,000 acres and 62 miles. They erupt every 2000 years or so and add more layers. It is really awesome and I guess what the moon surface looks like.  The white snow on some of the black mountains is really breathtaking. There's caves to explore and hiking trails but we only did about 1/2 mile walk up one of the spatter cones (the cinders at the top were almost orange) and around the campground.

Our original plan was to see the park and then continue driving about 20 more miles to a private campground but we decided to stay in the park's federal campground.  There's no hook-ups but it's only supposed to go down in the 40s tonight, we have propane for heat and cooking and hot water. The campground is immaculate, the picnic tables and grills look new, and there's "bear boxes" to store open food for tenters. How often will we ever get to sleep in the middle of a lava bed and the sites are situated right in the middle of everything.

Sat outside and watched chipmunks run around in and out of the lava and talked to a man we met from NC who's doing much the same as we are.  Very few campers here, it's still early.  Started to get windy and cold after the sun went down so inside we go.

 

 


Day 40-SNOW!!!

2011-05-26

Got up and left camp early-couldn't wait to get in the warm car.  Last night it rained and the wind was so bad Harry had to pull the slides in so they wouldn't rip.  Luckily that only involved pushing a switch and we can still get to everything with them closed.

And not only did it rain-IT SNOWED!  Just a dusting and it's really beautiful, especially against the black lava, but it's still snow.  We drove into the little town of Arco and stopped for breakfast at Pickles.  Great local place, big breakfast...we had to bring some home. It's only 38 degrees and cold.  Kept driving NE on route 20 and saw more farms with mountains in the background, more desert, more plains and big, big sky with big white poufy clouds.  Really pretty.

As we got closer to Yellowstone and higher in altitude it started to snow and then sleet and then we couldn't see very far in front of our faces.  When we finally pulled in to the campground, Grizzly RV in W. Yellowstone, MT, we were in the middle of what I call a blizzard.  We can't hook up the water because it's supposed to go into the 202 tonight and the hose would freeze but we have plenty in the tanks.  We have electric for more heat (along with the propane) so we should be OK.  It's been snowing since we got here, big blustery flakes, and there's about 2" already but it's not sticking to the roads-yet.  We booked a bus tour through the upper loop of Yellowstone tomorrow. The tour people know where the animals are (supposedly there's lots of animals this time of year, all having babies, so it should be interesting), they know the roads and it will give Harry a break from driving and he can see stuff better.


Day 41-Yellowstone National Park Lower Loop

2011-05-27

Woke up this morning to about 3” of snow and sleet with plenty of sunshine and bright blue skies -it’s beautiful, but it’s still snow. And cold-only 28 when we got up and only went up to about 40. Picked our way carefully over the snow and ice to the campground office to meet the tour bus for our tour of Yellowstone’s upper loop just as the driver called to say the roads had been closed in the upper loop so we decided to do the lower loop. Part of this loop is the way we’re driving when we leave here so we weren’t going to drive it before we left, but if we do it today we won’t have to stop to see things when we leave and can get to our next stop sooner.
Beautiful trees and mountains covered in new fallen snow and then we saw a herd of buffalo in the river with a few calves just munching on grass. More buffalo on the side of the road and even in the middle of the road. Saw some elk also grazing in the river but there’s supposed to be a lot more wildlife on the upper loop.
Stopped at a geyser area and saw some impressive geysers and then on the Old Faithful where we stopped for lunch at the Old Faithful Inn and then watched Old Faithful erupt. Very short but pretty cool anyway. Then on the see Yellowstone Lake and some waterfalls. Saw a grizzly bear and a cub in the far distance and more elk and buffalo.
Really cold and windy and then it started to snow again. We’re really high-about 9000’ and I’m having trouble breathing and walking. Harry’s fine, I’m just out of breath easily.
It was a whole day tour, we started this morning at 8 and got back to camp about 6. It’s sunny at the campground, all the snow is melted but the roads are wet, still cold, only 28, but we decided to go into town for dinner. Went to Wild Bill’s Pizza and then drove around town. It’s really small, just one main road with about 6 side streets only a block long on each side. It’s a real tourist town filled with motels, hotels, cabins, restaurants (all overpriced) lots of outdoor sports outfitting stores (fly fishing, snowmobiling, cross country skiing, hiking are big), souvenir shops. And lots of ice cream stores in one little place-Harry actually passed up ice cream, he must be cold. The garbage cans on the side of the roads are the bear proof kind. There’s a lot of people here, too. I can’t imagine what it must be like in the summer if it’s so busy now.
We got back to camp just as it started hailing again and it’s been hailing ever since and accumulating. We are going to try to drive the upper loop tomorrow in the truck and hopefully they won’t close the road again.


Day 42-Yellowstone National Park Upper Loop

2011-05-28

Woke up to a dusting of sleet and drizzle but we’ve learned that this burns away and it turns out to be a nice day ‘til the afternoon when it starts all over again.
Went to the campground office to see if the upper loop was open and found out that there was a rock slide to the east of Mammoth Hot Springs and that section was closed but it might be cleared by the time we got up there. A pass in the lower loop was closed last night because of the snow and sleet that we went through yesterday. Also heard there was an elk in the campground last night wandering around.
The entrance is only four blocks from the campground and there was a long line to get in. There’s four open booths and they were all about 25 cars deep. I don’t know what they do in the summer. Because we have the Golden Pass we don’t pay (it’s $25 if you don ‘t have one) and there was an express lane with nobody in it so we went right through.
So we started out and there was no buffalo or elk where they were yesterday but a lot more geysers and hot spots which are really interesting and pretty. It’s so cold out (only got to 42 today) and yet these geysers are boiling away. Signs all over to stay away from them or you could really get burned.
We saw an occasional elk and a few buffalo lazing in the woods but nothing great. About half way up to where we’re going all of a sudden traffic stopped. We could see people looking at something and we asked some people going the other way. Seems there was a grizzly bear right off the side of the road. Harry got out to walk down there and investigate, I drove (or crawled). I finally got down to where the bear was and parked. The bear was no more than 40 feet from all the people, just munching on grass. Mind you they tell you all the time to stay 100 yards away from wolves and bears. Right! Some people are nuts, including my husband (you won’t believe the movie he took).
So we continue on, stop at a nice rest stop for a picnic lunch we brought and see bear tracks in the snow which could have been the same bear. Lots of geysers up to Mammoth Hot Springs,which is exactly what it says it is, Mammoth Hot Springs. There’s ramps built up to the top so you can look into them (a big hike up) and there’s elk roaming around in town like squirrels. The town is pretty big with hotels and restaurants and gift shops. Lots of waterfalls and beautiful scenery on this route and the snow on trees really does improve them. We went to the visitor center in Mammoth and found out that the road is still closed so we turned around and started back. There’s only a one lane each way road that does a loop but when a pass is closed you have to go back the same way you came. Oh, and no shoulders on this road, just some pull off spots.
A little further north from where the bear was traffic is stopped again. This time a black bear is in a clump of trees and a little further down there’s a buffalo who won’t get out of the middle of the road. This time they have park rangers directing traffic, oh boy. We finally get around the buffalo (who looked really insulted that we passed him) and there’s another traffic jam. A grizzly is in the woods in a valley, this one a little bigger than the first one. Another park ranger, oh boy. Get passed them and an elk runs across the road in front of the car in front of us. The traffic jams are so bad when somebody spots wildlife I can’t imagine what it’s like here in the summer.
No action for about a half hour and then a herd of buffalo crossing the river and a little farther down some elk. Not too many elk out now, they’re getting ready to have their calves next week. They have them all at once so the wolves can’t get a few a week, they get some and then move on. The buffalo don’t much care about wolves, they have their babies over a 3 month period. There’s lots of them now and they’re really cute, little red things with wobbly legs. See how much I’ve learned here?
Another elk jumps out from our right, but this one has the good sense not to run in front of us and turns around. Then there’s a beaver right on the side of the road near the river.
It’s nice here now, still sunny, although it did snow during the day and still downright cold. Got back to camp, had dinner and then the ice cream places got the best of Harry so we went into town (which is only two blocks away). Town is a friendly little place, every body seems to know everybody. There’s a few people who own a lot here, for example, the 87 year old lady who owns the campground also owns the biggest mercantile (gift shop) in town and “a few other places”. The tour bus driver also does snow mobile tours and guides hiking expeditions in the winter and does some construction. The woman who works the front desk of one of the hotels also does the books for a snowmobiling outfit and waits tables at a restaurant. The owner of the tour bus company also owns a hotel, restaurant and gift shop. People do what they have to in the off season. It seems a harsh existence to me but they seem to love to be here.
We certainly got the Yellowstone experience today. Lots of people come here and don’t see as much as we did today. Leaving tomorrow for Jackson, WY, driving through the Tetons.


Day 43-It's always good to have a Plan B

2011-05-29

Started to snow this morning just as we were getting ready to leave but it didn’t seem to be sticking to the ground. When we got to the gate at Yellowstone the ranger told us a pass was closed on the route we needed to take to Jackson and we would have to go around (which was 30 miles out of our way) and the road we needed to take south of that would probably be closed by the time we got there. In the time it took her to tell us that the snow started to mount up and you could hardly see your hand in front of your face. We also heard there’s a 10% downgrade mountain through the Tetons. So, not being stupid all of the time, we initiated Plan B and turned around and started back the way we came to Route 20 thinking we would take that south, then go east to Jackson and avoid the Tetons. We forgot that Route 20 is the Targhee Pass and the same road we hit snow on coming in. Found out they also close this pass when it gets bad, glad we got out when we did. So, Harry drove over an hour through blizzard conditions down the mountain. Once we got to Idaho Falls it got better and warmer (up to 42 from 33) and the snow turned to rain.
At this point we totally rethought Grand Teton National Park and decided to continue to southern Idaho but, having trouble finding a campground we pushed on to Salt Lake City, Utah where we found a great campground that we were planning on staying in two days from now. We’re here for two nights, maybe more, depending on what we want to see here, if they can find room for more nights (they’re really busy) and whether or not it’s warm enough here. It only got to 48 today, they say that’s really unusual, but there’s a big black cloud that’s been following us. They had to close the interstate last week because of a storm. I can’t believe 48 degrees feels warm to me but it does. Traveled 320 miles today in 7 hours, didn’t stop too much and got here about 5PM. Went through four states today, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Utah.
They have an outdoor heated pool here, that’s up to 95 degrees. Hmmmm…..


Day 44-The Great Salt Lake and Antelope Island

2011-05-30

Happy Memorial Day!

Little bit of sleet last night and the mountains have more snow on them but it warmed up to 58 today and we had beautiful sun and bright blue skies not the rain they predicted.

We drove up to Antelope Island which is right on The Great Salt Lake, You drive over a seven mile causeway and then you're on the island which had a great visitor center, beach, picnic areas, wildlife.  The Lake itself is 1750 acres and it's 6-8 times saltier then the ocean.  There's buffalo, pronghorn antelope and all kinds of wildlife.  At the visitor center there were little swallows that had built nests right under the eaves of the building.  Dozens of them flying around, chirping away and tending to their nests.  The lake itself is almost a carribean blue/green and huge.  The manager at the campground wanted me to throw Harry in and see if he floated because he said that nobody sinks because of the salt content and I told him Harry sinks everywhere.  We were gonna test the theory but the water was only 62 degrees and I needed a ride back to camp.We stopped at the visitor center and then walked down to the water at the beach.  It's quite a hike, seems the lake sunk and that's how it became so salty.  But now the lake is way below the street level. 

We then stopped for lunch at a picnic area high on top of a mountain looking down at the lake, great views.  There's a campground on the lake with great views, too.  We didn't know about it when we checked into where we're staying.  The mountains remind me of lumpy chocolate cake with powdered sugar.  Driving through town I'd get into an accident looking at them so much, it's hard to NOT look a them.

Then we drove 12 miles to the end of the island where there's the Fielding Garr Ranch, a working ranch since 1848.  And this weekend they're having a Cowboy Music and Poetry Festival, Yahoo!  Very different, cowboys singing, reciting poetry, showing people how to rope cattle, horseback rides, exhibits of cowboy stuff, there's vendors with cowboy stuff and all this in front of the beautiful mountains. Stayed there about 2 hours and then drove the 12 miles back and over the causeway.

Had to stop and get some groceries and then we moved sites at the campground.  We want to stay another 2 nights and the site we're in was promised to somebody else.  So we moved a few sites over. There's a pond (almost a lake) at the campground that they say usually isn't here, it's run-off from mountain snow.  Everything is really wet and the grass is lush and green.

Tomorrow we think we're going to Salt Lake City and see the temples and tabernacles.  They also say the flowers in Temple Square are so beautiful they have a little more help.  And they don't mean from fertilizer.

 


Day 45-Salt Lake City

2011-05-31

Did we have a great day today! You Betcha!!!!
Gorgeous day today, got up to 78 and sunny. Drove into Salt Lake City which was only 10 minutes from the campground. Parked right across the street from Temple Square and started at one of the two visitor centers. This one had beautiful artwork of sculpture of Jesus’ life. Had a small scale model of Jerusalem and lots of church history. Salt Lake was founded in 1847 by Brigham Young as a place for his Mormon religion to flourish and today that’s what Salt Lake City is all about, the Mormon faith. Plenty of missionaries around everywhere to help, usually young girls from all over the world, they’re here for 18 months and then they return to their home. They’ll give you a tour all around the city if you want.
There were quite a few weddings taking place for a Tues., but we found out that it’s really quite common to have a wedding on a week-day, especially in the Temple, which is closed on Sunday. You can only go into the temple if you’re a member of the church but there’s a great model of it, inside and out, in the second visitor center. A reception was being held in the old Utah Hotel but we decided not to crash it. Got a great view of the city from the 10th floor of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.
We went into the Mormon Tabernacle for an organ recital. The 150 yr. old organ has 11,623 pipes ranging from 32’ to ¾” over a five tier keyboard. Before the recital the organist gave a demonstration of the acoustics, which are the best in the world. He turned off the mike and dropped three straight pins, a nail, and ripped a piece of paper in half, all of which were heard quite well from 170’.
He then played a few pieces to demonstrate the range and it was wonderful. They had colored lighting in the background which accentuated everything. Quite an experience. This is where the360 member Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs, they have open rehearsals on Thurs. nights and a live radio performance on Sunday mornings (both of which we missed). Later in the day we went to the Convention Center which has a bigger auditorium (it seats 21,000) but the organ is smaller and the acoustics are not as good. There’s a garden on the roof of the Convention center and more sculpture. The place is huge, lots of history. There’s no dirt in these gardens, they use ground slate so there’s no weeds or pests (plus it’s on the roof and dirt is heavy). There’s also recycled water throughout the city which originates in this building and fountains all over the place.

Had lunch at Lionshead, which is in one of the original houses of Brigham Young, the founder, and then we toured his house which had some original pieces in it. From there went to the Geneology Building where you can research ancestry. Again, lots of helpful people, this time geneologists, usually older men. They were very helpful and we were able to get on websites that generally cost to log on to. I was amazed to find my grandfather’s last name spelled Prestori. I saw the original paperwork from the 1910 census and I can see how they thought it was spelled like that, maybe that’s even the original spelling. I knew it was changed but I never saw it spelled like that.
The flowers in the city are unbelievable. There are hundreds of volunteers (usually young girls) planting annuals all over town (Harry wondered if maybe this was some kind of penance, to me it would be heaven). There’s tulips in every color, lots of columbine, irises, pansies, petunias and all kinds of spring flowers and gardens and waterfalls and fountains. The aroma is wonderful from all of the flowers. Lots of construction going on in the city, too.
We spent pretty much all day there and on the way home drove up a mountain that is across the street from the campground and has houses on top. We never figured out how to get to the houses on the top but the hills were incredible. Don’t know how they get up (or down) in the winter. Came back to camp and did laundry. Heading to Bryce Canyon National Park tomorrow.


Day 46-To Bryce Canyon National Park

2011-06-01

Got an early start today-left at 9AM (OK, early for us) and drove 287 miles in 6-3/4 hours. Yes, we stop a lot.
Hit traffic on I-15 south at first through Provo and Orem, lots of construction, too. Then the traffic thinned as we got out of the cities and back to farmland. Saw a huge lavender farm, I bet it smells great when they bloom.
At one of our stops we were higher than a field and a hawk was circling us almost at eye level. He had something in his sight on the ground but we had to leave him and move on. The speed limit in some parts here is 80 again, like in Texas.
Passed lots of cattle and sheep farms and then turned east on Rte. 20 at Beaver, Utah, where the mountains started again. At first nothing grand and then when we turned on Rte. 89 they were really outstanding again. We found out yesterday in Salt Lake City that this is the called the “black hills” because the little trees, which are a dark green, make the hills look black. After about 50 miles we turned onto Rte. 12, which is a Utah Scenic Highway and then we started to see red rock mountains and we’re in Red Rock Canyon. They come up on you so fast it’s breathtaking. Drove through this for a while and then the rocks turned beige with red stripes and green splotches and red again and, Oh My!!!
Very windy here but the campground owners, the nicest people ever, said it will die down soon. We already laid a fire and plan on staying here at least 3 nights, maybe more. We need to chill and this seems like a great place to do it. We’ve got a great sight with a great view of the rocks and the weather in wonderful-78 and sunny today. Tomorrow we’ll go see Bryce Canyon, only about 10 minutes from camp, then maybe drive up Route 12, which they say has some great views and stop offs. That might be a whole day trip, though. We need to find out more about Zion Nat’l. Park. We had planned on driving through there on the way to Las Vegas but found out there’s a tunnel that we’d need an escort for and it’s a treacherous road. Might have to rethink that and go around a different way, which would be out of our way and a lot of backtracking, forget Zion and go on our way, or a few other options. Options are great. But we’re not gonna think about that for a few days, we’re just gonna relax. There’s a heated pool here, too.
We’re in the sticks here (or should I say the rocks), we have wifi but no cell service and the closest Wal-Mart and grocery store is 90 miles away, glad we stocked up yesterday. Harry’s sitting outside with a beer and a magazine and I’m about to join him.


Day 47-Bryce Canyon National Park

2011-06-02

Spent all day in Bryce Canyon National Park-it’s an 18 mile road in and the same road out with 14 stops along the way with magnificent views, each one different from the rest. We spent almost seven hours going the 36 mile route. Beautiful sunshine, 55 degrees at the top, 67 at the bottom.
We first went to a place called Mossy Cave, a ½ mile hike up a mountain to a cave that was very disappointing once we got there but it was a nice hike and we saw a great waterfall along the way. We then stopped at the visitor center and the rangers had a telescope that you could safely see the sun through, pretty cool, a big red ball and we could even see the eruptions around it. Tonight they’re having a star show at 10PM and they say you can see Saturn’s rings. They have some of the darkest skies in the US here. Don’t know if we’ll come back for that.
Of course every place we stopped had it’s own beauty and characteristics, there was the Fairyland Canyon which was pretty pinks, Sunset Point, Sunrise Point with formations called Hoodoos, Natural Bridge, an ampitheatre down in the bottom of the canyon. Different shapes and colors, each better than the one before. Took over 400 pictures so I’m having a hard time picking which ones to post. And they don’t even begin to give you an idea of how enormous these formations are. Great stops with restrooms, picnic areas and some even have concessions where you can get something to eat, places where hikers can take a shower, horse riding trails, all sorts of things to do.
Stopped at Old Bryce Canyon City on the way back, just outside the park, a big tourist trap, but some fun stuff in it. An grocery in the back with lots of camping gear and hiking supplies, lots of backpackers here. There’s trails all over the place, easy ones, hard ones, in the middle ones and you can actually hike around the entire rim. I’m surprised there aren’t more accidents, there’s no rails and the trails are slippery in some spots. Warnings about loose stones, dangerous cliffs all over the place.
Came back to camp and had dinner, then waited ‘til it got dark….not ‘til after 10 here and went out, found a dark spot behind the playground and watched some stars.


Day 48-Kodachrome Basin & Grand Staircase, Escalante. UT

2011-06-03

Another gorgeous day-72 and sunny. Drove to Kodachrome Basin State Park, named for Kodak in 1949 by an National Geographic photographer. Beautiful monolithic spires in different colors and shapes. It’s a 3 mile drive with lots to see.
Got back on scenic route 12 east which goes through the Escalante Grand Staircase, a two million acre mountain range that goes 150 miles between the Grand Canyon and here. It spans five different life zones from high desert to coniferous forests, with five different colored layers from the top, pink, gray, white, vermillion and chocolate. You can’t see the whole thing and get the whole picture from here but they say in AZ there’s a spot where you can see all five together. We might see that from the Grand Canyon area when we go. The 50 miles we drove on this road had many different mountains along the way and each one was spectacular.
Found a neat place for lunch, the Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, there was a campground there and a reservoir with picnic tables, just what we wanted. From there we stopped at the visitor center and the ranger told us about a place where you could get a 360 degree view of the mountains. We found a turn that went up to a little utility building, had to climb up a bit but what a view. We don’t think this was the place they mentioned because it didn’t look too public but it was fantastic.
That was so beautiful we didn’t think we could top it so we turned around and came back to camp. I later read that right after that there was a 14% downgrade so we’re glad we turned around, although there was a 12% downgrade coming back and it wasn’t too bad. Harry got the truck ready to go tomorrow and I scavenged some fire wood from dead trees in the back of the camp for a fire tonight, then read a bit.
We decided to suck it up and go through Zion National Park tomorrow. We’ll need an escort to go through the 1.1 mile tunnel and there’s 9 switchbacks with no guard rail and a 2000 foot drop but everybody we talk to says we should be OK. Staying at Utah Sand Hollow State Park in Hurricane, UT Sat. & Sun. then probably on to Las Vegas.


Day 49-Zion Canyon National Park

2011-06-04

Headed to Zion Canyon National Park via Route 12 to 89 to 9, which is the road I’m apprehensive about. Big sign at the entrance to the road warning about the road and big rigs but it’s much shorter and how bad could it be, really?
So we get to the entrance to the park and the ranger says normally they would tell us to turn around because the length limit is 50’ and that’s about what we are, but OK, go ahead, just wait for the escort when we get to the tunnel.
And then the views start. First, right in front of us is a MASSIVE rock they call the checkerboard because it kind of looks like a checkerboard (see the picture). Then we’re in the middle of slickrock which looks like somebody dropped warm putty and it just oozed into layers (oh, never mind, I can’t describe it).
All the while we’re going down into canyons, up into mountains always with huge rock formations of all different colors, shapes and sizes around us. And the twists and turns! This is one of the best places on earth.
Now we get to the tunnel. I thought we’d have to wait a while for the escort but we’re the second vehicle in line and we only waited maybe 10 minutes. Then the escort at the other end stops traffic and we go through. It’s a 1.1 mile tunnel with a few windows carved out of the rock every now and then. We have to drive down the middle ‘cause we won’t fit height wise. Not bad at all.
But wait, we haven’t gotten to the switchbacks yet. Now they start, there’s nine hairpin turns with no guardrails, one right after the other, round and round bends that you can’t see around with rocks jutting out of the walls, oncoming cars that you can’t see, and all this on a 6% downgrade. Harry drives, I take pictures. In retrospect I’m glad all nine came one after the other, it was over quicker. But it was wonderful, one of the best experiences of this trip.
At the end is Zion Canyon National Park, which is really busy today, being Saturday. There’s two campgrounds that are first come, first served and they’re full but we made reservations a bit down the road anyway. They started using a free shuttle into the canyon in 2000 to lessen the traffic and it works well. There’s 8 stops along the 6 mile road to get off and on and a canned narrative on the way up canyon that tells you what you’re looking at, which trail to take to go where, lots of historical info and safety warnings. Every one ends with “Your safety is your responsibility, there have been fatalities in the canyon”. There’s the Virgin River that runs alongside and it famous for flash floods. Last summer a flash flood closed the road and the guests at the only hotel in the canyon were stuck for a while. Some trails are closed ‘til July because there’s still runoff from the snow. There’s lots of biking and hiking but mostly rock climbing, these rocks are sheer cliffs, mostly sandstone, deep red, brown and black. Lots of cottonwood trees losing their seeds and it’s almost like it’s snowing. But as beautiful as this was, we both agreed it didn’t come close to the road we were just on.
Stayed there about three hours and then continued to our campground in Hurricane, UT, about ½ further south. It went from 60 degrees this morning when we left to 93 now. Signs all over the shuttles saying “Got water? Drink it, you’re in the desert now”.
Arrived at Sand Hollow State Park and Campground about 5. There’s a manmade reservoir in the middle of a “sand hollow”. Sandstone all around us, there’s an ATV track near here, so lots of ATV campers, boaters for the reservoir and the sites are great. We’re on a hill overlooking the reservoir with a nice breeze. Cooled down at night and we sat out and watched the stars come out. Amazing what you can see when it’s dark.


Day 50-Sand Hollow State Park

2011-06-05

A DAY OF REST! Made blueberry, banana pancakes for breakfast and spent the morning reading and just enjoying the peace and quiet. We can see the reservoir from our campsite and it looks like it’s going to be a quiet day there too. Not too many boaters and lots of campers are leaving to go home for the week-end.
Wind picked up in the afternoon and the sun is not for the timid (or Martin or Evie). Even in the morning I started to turn red after only a few minutes. It got up to 97 degrees today. We drove down to the water and a few people were on a sandstone island in the middle having a fun day. Not much sand on this beach, mostly sandstone rocks and the contrast of the teal water and the terra cotta sandstone is beautiful. They said the water was 65 but it didn’t seem that cold, I only waded in a bit. Drove around the other side and there’s ATV trails and sand dunes on one side of the road and better beaches made of pure sandstone, not rocks on the other. More people here enjoying the beautiful weather. Some boaters, some dune buggies, some sun bathers but not crowded. Nice boat ramp that is very wide, can probably fit five or more boats at a time.
I have never gotten along with the new camera and today it finally did me in, it wouldn’t open all the way and kept saying “lens error”. So I went back to the old camera, of course the blip is still in the middle but now there’s a big black splotch at the top. Eventually it went away, never found out what it was. When we find a Best Buy (maybe in LasVegas) we’ll try to get the new one replaced.
Harry’s a bit worried about the truck transmission. After we came down the switchbacks yesterday when he tried to back up he felt it slipping so he’s checking to see if it needs fluid (doesn’t) and a few other things. I’m glad he’s up on all this stuff ‘cause I have a tendency to turn the radio up and pray. If we need to we’ll find a place in LasVegas to get it checked. Hopefully we can get to LasVegas with no drama, it’s only about 130 miles but it’s through desert.


Day 51-To Las Vegas

2011-06-06

Really windy last night, had to close the slides so the awnings wouldn’t rip. Died down to a breeze by the time we left, nice day, sunny about 80. Very quiet and peaceful here today, nobody on the water.
Very uneventful travel day, short too. We left about 10 and got to the campground at 12:30, but we gained an hour traveling back into Pacific Time in Nevada. Thought we’d be going through all desert but we went through huge mountain passes for a short time when we went into Arizona again and then, bam! Nothing but flat desert into Las Vegas.
Campground is right in back of Circus Circus on the Strip. After we set up we did some errands. Called a Ford dealer for service, the truck still shutters when it backs up. Bringing it in tomorrow early. Found a Best Buy and returned the new camera which never worked right. We got a new camera but the 3-yr. service contract we bought for it in Spokane is not valid anymore (after 3 weeks) because they say they fulfilled it by giving us a new one instead of sending it out for service for maybe 2-3 weeks. I can’t wait to call corporate tomorrow.
Walked over to the strip from the campground and had dinner at Circus Circus and watched some circus acts….they have a different act every 30 minutes in the midway and all the ones we saw were great, we kept coming back to see more.. Place is huge, easy to get lost in. We plunked down a few bets but we’re not gamblers. I was surprised that you can still smoke in just about every place except restaurants, but they must have a really good exhaust system because there wasn’t a great smoke haze throughout.
Walked a bit down the strip (it’s a 4-mile stretch) but then decided to come back and get the car and drive, glad we did. We drove up the strip and then back down again and OH MY, WHAT SIGHTS WE SAW! The hotels and casinos are amazing, the lights, the sounds, the enormity of it all. Caesar’s Palace goes on for blocks, New York New York has bridges made of lights, the Statue of Liberty, the skyline, Paris has the Eiffel Tower, Bellagio has the fountains, each one more fascinating than the last. I can’t describe it all. And the people, hordes of people walking, some taking the outdoor escalators, mobs of people. The traffic is stop and go but that’s good because we get to see more that way. Very surprised at the amount of people on a Monday night.
Very hot during the day, around 97 but as soon as the blazing sun goes down it cools off and gets really nice.


Day 52-Stuck in Las Vegas

2011-06-07

Brought the truck into Ford for service, nice people, big dealership. We rented a little Nissan Versa at the rental place right inside the dealership. Called Best Buy’s corporate office and after about an hour with a service rep who “totally understood my frustration” finally got kind of what I wanted (for them to pay for a 3-yr. service contract on the new camera). We then took off for Hoover Dam about 30 miles south.
Stopped in Boulder City for lunch at a nice little place called Southwest Diner, great chili. Then on to Hoover Dam, really impressive. Crossed back over into Arizona as we drove over the dam. Stopped for a while there, then drove back to Lake Mead Nat’l. Recreation area. Found a little marina on Lake Mead where the big fish are like pets. They follow you as you walk on the pier looking for handouts. I guess people feed them popcorn from the concessions. There’s a sign that says “Don’t harass the fish”, it’s more like they harass the people. Drove down to the beach for a while and then checked out the campground inside the park, which was really away from it all, a place to come if you’re a boater or just to relax.
Went back into historic Boulder City, “The City That Built The Hoover Dam”, quaint little place, lots of history about the dam, and stopped at Boulder City Brewery, a microbrewery where they brew their own beers. Harry had “Grandma Daisy’s Cough Medicine”, a chocolate stout and I had “Hell’s Hole Hefenweizen”, a really refreshing wheat beer, got the dust right out of my throat.
During all this Ford called to say that they have to rebuild the reverse gear in the truck and they might be done by Monday. Harry told them we need to be in Sedona by Sat. and they said they’d do their best. The only time constraint we had during this trip was to be in Sedona by June 11th and now we might not make it. Oh, boy! Also stopped by Best Buy again because the video on the camera was too low and they showed us how to fix it (I think). Still not happy with the new camera. Again, they “totally understood my frustration”. Uh, Huh!
Came back to camp for a while, then went back to Circus Circus and ate at the buffet. Great food but way too much of it. Las Vegas is quite a large city, very spread out, lots of burbs with malls and the usual stores. Lots of places to shop, eat, etc. but all the action is on “The Strip”, Las Vegas Blvd. You can park in the back of all the casinos for free but by the time you walk all the way to and through the casinos, your feet are screaming, they’re all so big! They also have a Deuce Bus that goes the length of the strip for $7 for 24 hours, we might try that at a later time. We went to Caesar’s Palace, quite an experience. Celine Dion was performing there so there was quite a crowd and quite an array of people. Walked around there for a while, asked an employee how to get outside and she asked where we were going because they had about 100 exits. We decided then and there if we ever wanted to see the car again (which we parked on the 4th floor of the 2nd garage, but that really didn’t narrow it down, and we now have a generic black Nissan sedan that’s undistinguishable from every other rental car in Vegas) we should go back and get it now. Oh, first we plunked down some more money in the slots.
Got back in the car and drove up and down the strip again, still amazed at the sights, sounds and number of people. I thought maybe Mon. was busy because people were there for a long week-end but Tues. is just as busy. Back to camp late but had a great day.
Tomorrow’s Harry’s birthday, he never thought he’d be spending a birthday in Las Vegas.


Day 53-Harry's Birthday and Fremont St. Experience

2011-06-08

What a beautiful day again, hot but dry during the day, OK as long as you're not trekking through town and once the sun goes down, wonderful!

Stuck around the campground all day reading (found a nice shady spot), catching up on e-mails and some house(?) straightening up.  Didn't leave the campground 'til after 8PM and then went to Circus Circus for Harry's birthday cake.  Went to Rock and Rita's and ordered the chocolate cake dessert thingy for 2.  Turned out to be more like for 4 with 3 scoops of ice cream, so we brought over half of it home.  Dropped some coins in the slots and Harry was a winner tonight-collectively we're up thirty cents since we got here.  Saw another circus act and then moved on to Fremont St. We actually know how to get around Circus Circus without getting lost now, guess if you spend enough time in any casino you get to know it.

Drove to Fremont St. Experience which is only about 2 miles away. Fremont St. is where the builders of the Hoover Dam came to spend their money on gambling and prostitutes so this part of Vegas is a bit gaudier and baudier than the Strip and maybe even more glitzier.  It's nicknamed Glitty Gulch.  It's a 4 block street with an overhead electric canopy that has over 12.5 million lights.  The theme this summer is 80's music and there were at least 4 bands throughout playing music, vendors, big casinos and restaurants, souvenir shops, street entertainers (we saw a guy playing pots and pans like drums who was really good), costumed characters, Elvis, Zorro, Brett Michaels, Michael Jackson, Mr. T., Obama, Jack Sparrow, some gladiators, some undefinables, some showgirls, some buxom babes and my all time favorites, Batman & Robin, to name a few. Old casinos here, Binions, The Golden Nugget, Four Queens and they have original 40's, 50's and 60's signs, and lots of booths. There's a zip line that goes from one end of the canopy to the other above the streets and the venue (we passed on that).  For 6 minutes every hour they turn the lights off and the canopy has a computer generated graphics show, the one we saw was a tribute to KISS. Quite a cool experience, had a great time.

Got back to the campground late, but hey, this is Vegas, Baby!  Their motto is "sleep when you get back home".


Day 54-Silverton's Casino

2011-06-09

We're getting the hang of this gambling thing now, we're up $2.36 mostly 'cause Harry was the big winner so you can imagine what that makes me.

We started out going south on The Strip to the famous "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign which has been there since 1959 and went on the National Registry of Historic Places in 2009 after 50 years.  Had our picture taken there as does everybody else.  Then we continued south to Silverton's Casino, the newest casino in LV.  It's a bit quieter, not right in the middle of all the hubbub, not so smoky.  Saw the buffet lunch advertised for $5 so how could we say no.  Seems you need to join the players club so we did, we each got $5 in chips free, which I actually played with for about an hour and turned into over $22 before losing it all, and a free dinner each.  Guess we'll go back tomorrow night for dinner if we can move after the lunch we had today.

Drove back through the strip again, what a difference from night time, all the hotels and casinos look so boring compared to how they're lit up and flashy at night. Still mobbed with people, they're everywhere. 

Went to a gift shop near the campground advertised as the biggest gift shop in the world.  It is big, filled with lots of useless stuff that tourists buy. (think fridge magnets and salt and pepper shakers).

Got back to camp about 8, registered for another night here tomorrow night. Hopefully the truck will be ready tomorrow and we can pick it up and be on our way on Sat.  They're still saying they'll do their best.  Read outside 'til it got too dark and now I sense a game of Rummikubs coming on, maybe I'll be luckier at that.  There will be no dinner tonight, we can hardly breathe from lunch.

Beautiful day again today, hot and dry, 92, down to about 72 tonight. 


Day 55-The truck's fixed, Hooray!!!

2011-06-10

It's pretty sad when you're in Las Vegas and the thing you're most excited about is having your truck fixed. But that's how we feel. 

We went back to Silverton's Casino today and lost some more money.  Enjoyed doing it, though, it's a fun place.  Spent a couple hours there, then went to the free buffet again (but had no breakfast first). We then drove to Nellis Air Force Base in No. Las Vegas.  Somebody told us they do flyovers with new fangled jets.  We saw some jets but none were flying because they were having graduation today. We knew the base was near the Ford dealer that was fixing the truck (one of the reasons we went there) so it wasn't a far ride when they called to say it was done. 

We had some time to kill so we stopped in at the Cannery Casino and gave them one last shot at giving us our money back. This time I won about $10, all in all it cost us less to gamble in Las Vegas for 5 days then it would have cost for us to go to the movies once. And we got free meals and free entertainment to boot. Can't complain.

Ford didn't call us 'til after 5PM, so we drove over, returned the rental which was right next door and picked up the truck.  We both felt really great that we can now get on with our trip. Vegas was better than we both thought, if we hadn't stayed as long as we did we would have missed seeing quite a bit, but we don't like staying in one place too long and five days in Vegas was too long.  We got to know our way around and even learned some short cuts. Hope we don't get this antsy in Sedona, we're supposed to be there for 7 nights.

It was a beautiful day again but I think a bit hotter than it's been.  Tonight the crowds are larger, probably because it's the week-end.

So, we left our money in Las Vegas but not at the Casinos, at the Ford dealer.


Day 56-Leaving Las Vegas

2011-06-11

Drove 312 miles in 7 hours. Sunny, hot again but cooler as we got nearer Sedona, AZ. Started out at 92 degrees in Las Vegas at 9AM and was 87 in Sedona at 5PM.
We went through desert, mountains, rocks, desert, mountains, rocks, repeat, repeat, repeat.
Saw lots of signs along the way:
Watch Out For Sheep
Watch Out For Elk
Watch Out For Ice
Watch Out For Trucks
Watch Out For Deer
Watch Out For Rocks
Steep Grade Ahead
Check Brakes
Runaway Truck Ramp Ahead
Elk Country, Stay Alert
I got really tired of watching out for things. We were on part of Historic Route 66 for a while, maybe we’ll do more of that later. Took longer to get here because the GPS had us going all sorts of screwy ways. Mapquest took us one way, the GPS went another way and the people at the resort told us a third way. We ended up going through little towns with roundabouts (we must have gone through 6 roundabouts) and finally found the resort after going up and down Thunder Mountain Rd. at 15 MPH for about 5 miles and ending up on the road we started on (courtesy of the GPS). Beautiful red rocks again with names like Coffeepot, Bell Mountain, Chimney Rock and Snoopy’s Rock. Had to leave the RV on the side of the road (had to wait for somebody to move their car first) then unpacked the clothes, fridge and moved it to the condo. What a process! Finally got settled about 8PM and went to dinner at Angel’s Mexican. We seem to be hooked on Mexican food since San Antonio. Angel himself (a young boy whose mom owns the place) gave us a quick rundown on Mexican food and the difference between red sauce and green sauce. Every time we eat Mexican we learn a little bit more about it. Anyway, it was really good. Got back and relaxed outside for a while, great stars here. Finally finished off Harry’s birthday cake. The condo is nice, we have a king size bed, big living room, kitchen, dining area, back porch, big bathroom, 2 flat panel TVs and everything we could ask for. It looks like an adobe built into the hillside, lots of sandstone here, too. On the first floor so it’s easy to bring stuff in and out. Sedona supposedly has more vortexes than anywhere else on earth so there’s lots of energy here. Maybe we’ll get revitalized. Very comfortable place.


Day 57-Sedona & Jerome, AZ

2011-06-12

Had a great night’s sleep then had breakfast and did some laundry. The laundry room is right next to the pool, spa, exercise room, and game room. Played some billiards while we waited for the laundry (I still suck at billiards), read a bit and made some phone calls. Oh, and there’s 3 little kittens and a bigger one living in a drain pipe on the way to the pool. Harry keeps dragging me away, but by the time we leave I’m gonna make friends with them. Beautiful weather, warm, sunny, dry.
Had an appointment for a tour of the place and get the spiel about the time share so we went over to the sales office but they were backed up so they offered us an additional dinner certificate at one of the swanky restaurants if we rebooked, so we did for Thursday. They’re also giving us a $50 Visa gift card and a free week-end at one of their properties. One is in Orlando, we might do that for a few days.
From there went to the concierge and booked a bus tour to the Grand Canyon tomorrow. Came back to the condo for lunch and then took off for Jerome, an old copper mining town about half an hour away. It turned into a ghost town when the mine closed in 1953 and it’s now become an eclectic arty town, lots of pottery, jewelry, paintings, restaurants, “hippie” stuff. Had to go up in the mountains again, the town is built in the side of a cliff and when we left we took a wrong turn (again, thanks to the GPS) and continued on historic route 89A which at this point turns into a red rock mountain with 158 curves in 12 miles. That was fine for the motorcyclists on the road but it’s a bit much with the truck. So Harry maneuvered a U-Turn at a pull over and we only did about 10 curves. The trip down the mountain was a bit scary but we made it. Came back to the condo for dinner.


Day 58-Grand Canyon

2011-06-13

Long day today-14 hour tour of the Grand Canyon. Left at 7AM, back at 9PM
We were picked up at the resort by Red Rock Tours and along with 9 other people started the tour to the Grand Canyon via scenic route 180 to Valle, AZ. We drove through the largest stand of Ponderosa pine trees in the world then, as we got higher in elevations we went through white trunked aspens. Over a dozen Lamborghinis in all colors passed us on the road (Harry stopped counting after 12, but he thinks maybe 2 dozen). They must have been in some sort of rally. We never did catch them.
About three hours and over 100 miles later we stopped at the National Geographic Visitor Center and saw the IMAX movie about the Grand Canyon, then drove on the Grand Canyon Village on the south rim of the canyon where we had lunch at the El Tovar Hotel, a log, 100 room hotel built in 1905 for the Sante Fe Railroad workers. Harry had sea bass with a great mango/olive/onion salsa (which I hope to replicate when we get home) and I had pork loin with prickly pear BBQ sauce. Very elegant and great views of the canyon. We sat next to the fireplace which felt good. Across the parking lot is a Hopi house we visited and outside Navajos dancers were demonstrating. Beautiful weather, 78 at the rim of the canyon, they say 100 at the base.
Back on the bus we passed the mules that are used to go to the bottom of the canyon to Phantom Ranch via Bright Angel Trail (we passed on that but the mules were interesting, bigger than I thought they’d be). Made a few stops at viewpoints, Yavapai Outlook, Moran Point, Lipan Point where we saw boaters on the Colorado River below that looked like pinheads from where we were. A tour guide had a really powerful telescope and we could see them go over the rapids, looked like they were really having fun. Lots of Junipers and Pinyon pines at this elevation. Stopped at Desert View Outlook where there’s a tower to climb and a view of the Painted Desert to the east. They’re doing construction here and one of the workers was removing a rattlesnake from the base of a tree, lots of excitement around that.
Back on the road to route 64 which goes through the Navajo Nation (25,000 sq. miles of desert) and stopped at Cameron and a Navajo craft area. Saw a woman weaving rugs (it takes her up to a year to make a 9x12), lots of pottery and jewelry, handmade by the Navajo. It’s the only road back to Sedona from here and, of course there’s construction which put us off schedule, but who has a schedule out here?
We then stopped at Wupatki Ruins Nat’l. Monument and saw ruins from over 900 years ago, what was once a 100 room house (they had no doors, they used ladders), an amphitheatre that was used for ceremonies and some sort of a ball court. There was also a blowhole which was probably a cavern in the earth but the Indians thought it was Mother Earth and the way it blew told them something. Never got the story straight on that. All this was in the middle of lava ash beds from Sunset Crater Volcano which was our last stop on the tour.
On the hour plus ride home we watched beautiful sunsets over the mountains, saw some mule deer on the side of the road and the driver put in the movie “Broken Arrow” with Jimmy Stewart that was filmed in Sedona. Pretty interesting to see the same mountain formations in the movie as we see from our condo. Got back after 9 and we were really tired but had a great day and we were both glad we did the tour instead of driving ourselves, we learned and saw a lot more.
Oh, I almost forgot to describe the Grand Canyon. Sorry, it’s indescribable so I won’t even try. They say the human brain can’t comprehend the scope and enormity of it and neither words nor pictures can do it justice. It is however, GRAND!


Day 59-Down Time

2011-06-14

Downtime today. Stayed in the resort all morning and did laundry, set up a train ride to Verde Canyon on Friday through the concierge, checked out the RV and made sure everything was OK inside (it’s still parked on the side of the road but right in front of the check-in office). After lunch went into town and we both got a mani/pedi (first time for Harry) and Harry got a hair cut. After the hair cut I got in Spokane I probably won’t need one for months. Checked out some of town, there’s a Beall’s here and it’s got everything the ones in Florida do except for the Floridian stuff.
Beautiful day again, 91, sunny, dry and once the sun goes down it gets really nice, warm and comfortable, in the 70’s. Beautiful clear, dark blue skies at night, full moon tonight so it’s hard to see the stars, but the moon makes up for it. I can see why people come here and even decide to live here, but we need to be closer to water. Just heard Las Vegas if 107 today and Phoenix (2 hrs. south of us) is 108-YIKES!!! Lots of resorts and condos, time-shares, etc. here, very nice and they’re all a bit different. Some have cabins, some are really upscale. They all seem to have something constantly going on in the lobby. Ours has a “moving gently” class every morning (at 7AM, I’ll never attend that), a woman who brings in “creatures” (spiders, snakes, etc.) and talks about them, a class on vortices and spiritual healing, Cowboy Bob who gives a comedy spiel about life on a ranch, Indian musicians and a Native American jewelry and pottery sale. Tomorrow there’s a barbeque happening in the lobby. In the morning they call and leave a message telling you what’s going on.
Went to dinner at Dahl and DiLuca tonight, a really elegant Italian restaurant. Met the owner/chef, Lisa Dahl, originally from Indiana, a really nice lady with a great sense of humor. Best! Tiramisu!Ever!


Days 60-61-Sedona

2011-06-15 to 2011-06-16

Wednesday-This is the day that we would ordinarily leave to go to the next stop but we have this condo for a week so here we stay. We went to the car wash this morning to get some of the grime off the truck, then took a ride south heading toward Montezuma’s castle which is built in the side of a mountain. Stopped at Chapel of the Holy Cross first, a Catholic chapel built in the side of a mountain. Lots of stuff built into mountain sides here. Passed through the Village of Oak Creek which is a smaller version of Sedona but it’s more residential than resorts. We drove through some of the developments and the homes are mostly Pueblo style with flat roofs, painted tans, browns and reds to blend into the sandstone mountains, very pretty. The yards are mostly stone, no grass and very little upkeep, nice looking too. Might look into this in FL if the grass keeps presenting problems. Continuing on our way to Montezuma’s the temperature reached 100 and we decided we didn’t want to climb another mountain in 100 degrees so we turned around and came back to Sedona, where it is a bit cooler, although it really isn’t that uncomfortable with no humidity, I think the humidity was 11% today. Stopped by Angel’s Mexican for a late lunch (we should be speaking Mexican by the time we get home) and then went back to the condo and sat by the pool and read for a while. Beautiful at night here, the moon is huge and full, the stars are all out and it’s breezy, dry and cooler, probably only about 70.
Thursday-Did our tour of the resort today and they tried to sell us into ownership-never did understand the terms but we went in knowing we weren’t buying anything. There really was no pressure but from looking at the salesreps we realized there’s a lot of people who can’t afford living here and had to get another job after retirement. We spoke to one man who was interviewing for a job (Harry later saw him and he got the job) who must have been at least 75 who said he couldn’t afford his mortgage and one of the salespeople we spoke to was 80 if she was a day. There’s a lot to be said for living within your means. They gave us a $50 gift card, a 3 day, 2 night stay at one of their properties anywhere we want to be done later and $50 toward a restaurant, plus it killed an hour and a half and we saw more of the resort.
Harry changed the air filter on the truck and I did some laundry-we found out there’s a washer/dryer right in our condo behind a door we didn’t open at first, thinking it was a closet. Nixed the dryer,just hung stuff outside on the patio and in 10 minutes-Poof, dry!!!
Going now to run some errands, take some stuff back to the RV to make it easier on Sat., maybe take in a movie, then back to the condo for dinner. Hot today, 93, but I heard it was 111 in Phoenix yesterday. Like I said, it’s comfortable here. We’re more than ready to leave here, it’s pretty but I’m almost getting tired of the pretty red rocks, time to move on.


Day 62-Verde Valley Train Ride

2011-06-17

We went to the movies yesterday, saw “Super 8”, really good movie, make sure you stay for the credits. We then drove to Uptown Sedona on the other side of town. This is where most of the tourist shops are, lots of galleries, restaurants, touring companies, stores, souvenir shops and all kinds of “buy me” places. Lots of western statues all over town, very nice. Where we are staying, called West Sedona, there are more resorts and businesses. In between there’s about 2 miles of nothing. Again, the weather at night is wonderful, it’s breezy and goes down in the 60’s.
This morning we got up too early to go to the train station for our tour so we went to the Coffee Pot Restaurant for breakfast first. They boast “101 omelets” and they all looked good. It’s called that because right behind it is a rock formation that looks just like a percolator.
From there we went the 25 miles to Clarkdale where the Verde Valley Train leaves from. First we stopped at Tuzigoot National Monument where there’s indian ruins and then we stopped at a housing development in Cottonwood just to be nosy and waste time. The lots were $100,000 and the houses about $279,000. Similar to FL houses, but the lots were small, and the houses were close. We thought they were expensive for what you got. Gave the real estate lady somebody to talk to for a few minutes though and killed some time for us.
The Verde Valley Train started in the 1950’s as a way to get ore (mostly copper) from Clarkdale to Perkinsville. Clarkdale is now still a town because of the railroad and Perkinsville is a ghost ranch with a population of between 3 and 11, depending on who you ask. The train has 10 enclosed air conditioned cars and 6 open air ones and goes 38 miles at a leisurely pace from Clarkdale to Perkinsville, then the 2 locomotives move to the caboose, trade off as they call it and it pulls us back to Clarkdale. It goes through the Verde Valley, which follows the Verde River in the canyon and also goes through a 680’ man made tunnel that goes completely dark because it turns in the middle. The ride takes 2 hours up and 2 hours back. There’s food and drinks on board and a guide talking the whole way, pointing out Sinagua Indian ruins, cliff dwellings, wildlife (we saw hawks, a bald eagle and beaver dams) and rock formations that look like everything from the Budweiser frogs to a Mack truck to a guardian angel, etc. Locals have way too much time on their hands to come sit out here and name rocks. Nice soothing music the whole time too. The way back was quiet and between the setting sun, the breeze and the clickity clack of the train it was almost too hard to stay awake.
Too tired to cook, we went to the Red Planet Diner which, to our surprise, had an alien theme. Everything in the place was alien related, it was really a fun place. They had a seat at the counter that read “the person in this seat is in the alien mafia” and another that said “we can’t take checks from earthlings”. From there we went back to Uptown Sedona and walked around. Beautiful night again and on the way back we saw the most incredible sunset ever. We stopped at the trailer and put the fridge on so tomorrow we can load our food and it’ll be cold. Can’t wait to get on the road again.


Day 63-On the Road Again!

2011-06-18

Drove 267 miles in 7-1/2 hours. Lost an hour when we crossed into New Mexico and went from AZ time to Mountain Time.
After stopping at the local supermarket to stock up on food we left the red rocks behind for the flat desert again going on I-40 east, part of the way the Historic Route 66, where we stopped in Holbrook for lunch in the trailer. Drove through Winslow, AZ (did not stand on a corner, but we’re such a fine sight to see). We then went to the Petrified Forest National Park which goes through the Painted Desert. The petrified forest isn’t really a forest but petrified stumps on the ground from pre-historic times. The Painted Desert is beautiful, very different from the desert we’ve seen before, although I think this desert is more desolate than any we’ve been in yet. It truly is in the middle of nowhere. Very hot, 94, and windy here too, I think that’s why there’s so many fires out this way, the big one is about 100 miles south of us. The 28 mile road that goes through the desert and the forest brought us right back on I-40 and from there we stopped at a Navajo gift shop and talked to the owner for a bit. I-40 goes right through Navajo Territory (Apache Terr. too but we didn’t stop there).
The campground is in Gallup, NM, a USA RV Park, used to be a KOA, right off I-40. Very patriotic, the pool has a flag the length of the pool on the bottom and USA stuff all over, got a discount ‘cause Harry’s a vet. They have a country western singer from Tombstone here every night and he’s pretty good, nice deep voice. They had a BBQ dinner special but we’ve been eating out so much I actually wanted to cook tonight but we did go to the ice cream social later and listened to the music. Started to play a game of chess (they have a chess board near the pool that has chessmen about 2-ft tall) but gave up after a while. Came back to the RV and here I sit writing. Gonna beat Harry’s you-know-what at Rummikubs in a few minutes. Only staying here tonight then moving on toward Colorado although we probably have one more stop first.

It feels great to be in the RV again, like we're in our second home.


Day 64-Happy Father's Day

2011-06-19

First of all-Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. Hope you all had a great day.
We had a long day-lots of driving. Took us 8-1/2 hrs. to go 278 miles, didn’t get to the campground in Taos until almost 7PM.
Started out with 2 prairie dogs running in front of us on Route 66, I swear they had a death wish. And then 2 more on I-40 tried the same thing. Cute little things, but dumb.
We passed the Continental Divide again in NM, and I had this explained to me by two people who both said if you took a leak on the Continental Divide, half would end up in the Pacific Ocean and half in the Atlantic. Now I know.
We drove through desert, lava beds and more desert. At a rest stop I noticed a leak underneath the truck coming from the fuel tank so we called a mechanic (who actually met us on a Sunday) who figured out it was coming from a faulty filler hose. Because the tank has to be dropped and we just filled it he suggested we use the fuel and get the tank down low and then have it repaired to save money from not having to have it emptied. So we’re gonna wait ‘til we get home to get it fixed. While we were there the wind really kicked up and the dust storms started. The mechanic said they have only had ½ of rain this year and 5” is normal. Even the gift shops are hurting from the drought because they can’t sell fireworks. Spent an hour there but it could have been much worse. Got back on I-40 toward Albuquerque and the dust storms were really bad, could hardly see where we were going. Everything is gritty inside and outside the truck. Drove through lots of Indian reservations, Navajo and tribes we’ve never heard of, Lacuna, Santa Ana, Isleta, Acoma, Zia, Zuni to name a few. Casinos everywhere. Stopped at a Camping World in Santa Fe to get some parts and then headed north on I-25. We were going to stop around here for the night but the dust was so bad we decided to keep going ‘til it stopped. It died down as we went north but then we saw a big fire in the distance. Seems it started a few days ago in a canyon but the locals aren’t worried about it, they say it’s normal.
When we got off I-25 onto 285/84/68 we started going through stop and go traffic for about 80 miles into Taos. The last 30 miles the scenery got better, the Rio Grande gorge on the left and beautiful mountains on the right. In the distance is the Sangre de Cristo mountain range with snow on top, very pretty but we’re SO DONE with mountains. Quaint little shops along the way (one shop had about 100 old, rusty gas pumps), white-water rafters down in the gorge, at least 8 wineries which was surprising, Mexican junque, little farms and homesteads here and there. Found a campground right on the outskirts of Taos, hooked up and drove into town for dinner. Guess what we had? We ate at the Guadalajara Grille if that gives you any help. I learned that the difference between red sauce and green sauce is when the chilies are picked and if you want both you ask for “Christmas”. I also learned to ask for it on the side because sometimes it’s HOT! We then drove through Taos, lots of artsy places, southwestern pottery, jewelry, etc. but there’s more fine art and sculpture here. The town square is built around a big statue of Taos, and the town spreads out from there. There’s a pueblo house you can tour and Kit Carson’s homestead and a lot of history. Of course, we were too late for any of it but at least we know what Taos is like.
Oh, and the new camera broke again. Same problem, lens error. (I know, Bob B., it’s not the camera, it’s the user). This time I called Nikon direct and got nowhere. After speaking to a supervisor who was worthless I threatened to write a letter to corporate, we all know where that’ll get me. So I’m using the old one again, with the spot that comes and goes. When we get settled someplace we’ll decide what to do.


Day 65-To Canon City, CO

2011-06-20

Drove 255 Miles in 6-3/4 hours.
Started our cloudy this morning and it was cold last night, 52 when we woke up but turned out nice and sunny by afternoon and reached 75. We decided to get back on I-25 via route 64-The Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, a road that comes back full circle to Taos but we only did the lower part and then connected to the interstate. I couldn’t talk Harry into going to the Great Sand Dunes Nat’l. Park because he thought 64 would be a better road and we’re both tired of blowing sand.
The road we took was one lane each way, very curvy, steep and scenic. Ponderosa pines and a creek that seemed to follow us most of the way, rushing down the mountain. Fishermen, campers, log cabins, ski resorts, elk crossing signs, walls of rock. We went through the Sange de Cristo and San Juan Mts., through the Rio Grande Valley, up and down through the Carson Nat’l. Forest. And some of it on the old Santé Fe Trail. Feel like explorers again, I don’t know how they did it. We went up over 9200’ and then plunged back down again into a valley, lots of state parks along the way, very woodsy. We passed through Angel Fire Ski Resort, then Eagle Nest to Cimarron, NM advertised as “Where the Rockies Meet the Plains”.

And that’s what happened. All of a sudden wide open space on either side, golden grasses and now we start to see elk, antelope and mule deer (and the occasional kamikaze prairie dog). The plains are so vast the animals look really small. We still see mountains in the distance, some are snow capped, and as we turn west we head right into them, again different from the other mountains, these have almost a purple haze to them.
Got to the campsite about 5:30, it’s across the street from Royal Gorge which I’m sure we’ll visit. Our site is at the top of a hill and we overlook plains all around and we can see the snow capped mts. In the distance. Not very busy here, the gas crunch is hurting travellers (and in NM the fires and winds), but it’s good for us because we’re getting “gas discounts” at campgrounds, usually 20% off.
We’re in Canon City, CO, where my sister, Sharon, lives. I haven’t seen her since we were here 16 years ago and before that it was 25 years. She came over tonight and we talked forever. She’s coming back tomorrow evening and I’m sure we’ll continue.
Oh, and the camera works again. I was gonna call Nikon tech support so we put the battery back in and ,POOF!, it closed and seems to be working. But I’m sticking with the old one, I’m getting used to the spot in the middle.


Day 66-Canon City, CO

2011-06-21

Cool again last night but beautiful and sunny today, cooler here, got up to 85.
A part on the hitch broke, the pin lock, and instead of finding a welder Harry called the manufacturer and they’re sending a new part, free of charge, to be delivered to the campground Thurs. by 11PM, so we’ll be here for a few days.
Stayed around the campground in the morning, Sharon stopped in again for about an hour and made an appointment for me with her chiropractor for tomorrow, I’m having trouble with my leg. We then went downtown to the Chamber of Commerce and found some good info about Canon City. After that we went to Holy Cross Winery about a mile down the road and did a tasting. They had a great wine made from 30 local grapes that tasted like concord grape juice with a kick. From there we did some grocery shopping for tonight (Sharon and a friend are coming to dinner) and then drove through Old Historic Canon City, we’ll probably do more of that later in the week. Lots of shops and restaurants.
Back to the campground we looked at maps and got a general idea of where we’re going next, looks like Dodge City, Kansas and then Tulsa, OK, but we won’t know for sure ‘til we get there. I just like to check mileage between places to make sure it’s doable and see if there’s anything we want to see while we’re there. Also like to make sure there’s campgrounds around places we’re planning on stopping. Nothing looks interesting in either Dodge City (maybe Boot Hill) or Tulsa but nothing looked interesting in Idaho either and we had a great time there.
Dinner was great, we had planned on eating outside but the wind kicked up in the late afternoon and although it was gorgeous out it was too windy to eat out. We all had a good time and laughed quite a bit. Beautiful night out, cooler, we’ll probably need the heat again tonight.


Day 67-Royal Gorge

2011-06-22

Beautiful day again, got up to 87 and sunny, cooler when the sun goes down.
Stayed at the campground in the morning, skyped with Martin, Heather and Evie who learned to say “Bon Jour “ on their recent trip to Belgium. Went to the chiropractor early afternoon but my leg is still bothersome. Maybe it’ll kick in overnight. Got the truck washed, most of the sand and grit came off.
Got to Royal Gorge about 4PM and drove over the bridge, one of the highest suspension bridges in the world at 1053’ over the Arkansas River. It’s only ¼ mile long over wooden planks that make a racket as you go over them. On the other side there is a petting zoo for kids, a wildlife park with bison (including 2 white bison), an elk herd and Bighorn sheep, a theatre that shows a movie of how the bridge was built, some entertainment including a magic act, a skycoaster that’s like a big rubber band that shoots you (not us) out over the gorge and some other exhibits. After we saw that side we drove back over to the other side and took the aerial skytram over and then back again, then went down the incline railway, at 45 degrees the world’s steepest incline railway, it goes 3MPH down 1550 feet to the canyon floor at the narrowest part (50’) of the river, stays there for about 15 minutes and then comes back up. Then we went on a little railroad around the park with funny sights such as “yellow rock” (a rock painted yellow), Boot Hill, (a bunch of boots buried on a hill), little silly things like that. Probably made for kids but there were only adults on it.
Met Sharon in town at Pizza Madness for dinner, another restaurant with the alien theme. I’m getting kind of worried that maybe they’re following us since Roswell. Across the street is a storefront that says “Colorado Cannabis” and below it “For Medical Purposes Only”. Maybe I should try here for relief from my leg.
Sharon then brought us five minutes down the road to the beautiful raging Arkansas River. There’s a park with a fountain, lots of geese, a play area for kids, picnic tables, tennis and basketball courts and lots of green, green grass right on the river. They have stone steps built down so you can go in the river and it was a lot warmer than I thought it would be. There were some kids practicing white water rafting in the man made rapids and a few people fishing. Really beautiful park.
Hoping to get the part for the hitch early tomorrow so Harry can fix it and we can get on with our day.


Day 68-Sharon's cabin

2011-06-23

My leg is much better….not wonderful but better enough to clean the bathroom and kitchen in the RV, sorted through all the maps, tour books and brochures and tossed what we won’t need anymore, straightened out the rest of the RV, cleaned out the truck of stuff we don’t need anymore and found a missing sock. Did some laundry and Harry found there’s much bigger dryers in the clubhouse than in the regular laundry room so it went pretty quickly. Hot today, 99 at noon, but when the wind picks up after sunset it gets cooler. Lots of stuff at the campground for kids, a big jumping pillow, an area with sprinklers to run through, a big playground, tether ball, a heated pool and spa and other things. Hiking, rafting, offroad biking, mining, fishing, hunting and ziplining here too.
The part for the hitch came about 1PM. Harry had it in by 2:30 and then we drove to Sharon’s ranch, only about 20 minutes away but way out in the mountains. After you go through a locked gate her driveway is a 2-1/2 mile dirt and gravel road up and down hills to a log cabin in the middle of a beautiful meadow. As far as you can see is meadow and mountains and her property goes beyond the tree line and is bordered by the Bureau of Land Mgmt. on all sides. You can see Pike’s Peak from the front porch (with a little rivulet of snow remaining) and all around rolling mountains with sparse vegetation and grasses and then beyond that big pine trees. We were greeted by the twitter of maybe a dozen hummingbirds all vying for a spot at one of the feeders on the porch. Through another window is a bird feeder that had three really bright yellow gold type finches on it. Rabbits, chipmunks and ground squirrels were running around the yard and there was a deer sitting in the meadow who really looked annoyed when we got too close and she had to take off. So quiet and peaceful, the air is so clean I hated to leave and could have stayed there all day watching the wildlife. She says there’s a mountain lion in the hills and she’s had trouble with bears getting in the house before, especially one pesky one last year that didn’t want to leave. The windows and doors have been reinforced to keep them out.
We all drove back into town for Chinese food and then we gassed up for our trip tomorrow, going east into Kansas.


Day 69-Hot in Dodge City, KS

2011-06-24

Really hot today, got to 108 and was still 107 at 8:30PM. We drove 323 miles in 7-1/2 hours but we lost an hour when we crossed into Central Time in Kendall, KS.
Drove the entire way on state route 50, going through small towns down to 35 MPH. Passed cattle farms (never saw , or smelled, so many cows in one place), grasslands, ranches, wheat, corn, hay, alfalfa, oil rigs, huge grain storage “co-ops”, the entire road a flat, straight road, actually very easy driving for Harry after the mountains and twists and turns we’ve done lately.
Got to campground about 6PM, had dinner (leftover chili from the other night, what an easy meal that was!) then drove into Dodge City for the gunfight (I think the same gunslingers were killed in this gunfight as in Tombstone) and walked through town, a replica of the old Dodge City from 1872. They have a museum and can-can dancer show but we were late for that and it was too touristy anyway. Interesting history, though, it was really a lawless town for a while, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Doc Holliday all came here to clean it up, and the number of longhorn cattle that passed through here was awesome.
Stopped in Dodge City Ice Cream to cool off where there was a big neon sign across the street screaming “107 Degrees”, then filled up with gas, came back to the campground and decided to leave tomorrow for Wichita and beyond.


Day 70-Getting the ____out of Dodge

2011-06-25

Left Dodge City about 9:30 this morning and drove 199 miles in 4-1/4 hours today to South Haven, KS, south of Wichita and four miles north of the OK border.  Travelled a bit on the Kansas Parkway which is the first toll road we've gone on this trip.  Very hot again, 102 at 2PM when we stopped.  Air conditioner is acting funny and Harry's getting worried.  I tend to put my head in the sand and hope for the best, the best being there's nothing wrong with it, it's just too darn hot to keep up and it'll get cooler soon.

Campgrounds in Kansas and Oklahoma are few and far between so we stopped early instead of going through Tulsa to our next stop in Arkansas (an additional 300 miles), which is really too far to do in one day.  There's no campgrounds between here and there.

We took route 400 through Kansas and the wheat and corn fields were joined by a few farms and ranches and alfalfa farms but mostly just grasslands. Some oil rigs and a few wind generators, but not as many as I thought would be here with all the wind. Passed though little towns (one called Pretty Prairie, such a nice name), each with a sign for a storm shelter, some homes with earth build up on the sides, I guess for tornado shelters.  The cattle carriers on the road were replaced by hay trucks and the cattle "feeder" farms were replaced with cattle grazing (much nicer).

HOT! HOT! HOT! here, and VERY windy.  The RV is rattling with the wind but it feels good even though it's a hot wind. We've got the door and windows open in the RV, tonight we'll try the AC again after it cools down a bit.  Haven't seen Dorothy, Toto or Auntie Em but I know how the wicked witch felt when she melted. No shade here either but, then again, it's the Kansas plains.

UPDATE-It's 9:30PM and life is better.  The sun went down although we just came in from outside and it was light enough to read, but it got cooler and the wind died down a bit. I actually watched the thermometer outside go from 110 at 7PM to 94 now.  And the AC works.  We tried it again so we could eat dinner (it was 100 inside the RV) and now everything is nice and cool.  Hopefully it was just too hot for the AC to keep up today. And we saw a deer in the field and a beautiful sunset.

Going to take yet another cold shower now and go to sleep early so we can leave early tomorrow, we have a long way to go before we hit another campground in Arkansas.


Day 71-Kansas to Oklahoma to Arkansas

2011-06-26

AC worked fine last night, it was nice and cool all night and we slept well. Got up early and left about 8:30-it was already 90 degrees and oppressive out. Took the Cimarron Parkway to Tulsa (which is bigger than I thought) and at first we went through more flat corn fields and farms but as we got closer to Tulsa we started seeing trees and hills which lasted through all 4-1/2 hours of Oklahoma and into Arkansas. The only interesting thing we saw was just as we got on I-40 going over a bridge on the Arkansas River right near the Sequoyah Nat’l. Wildlife Refuge and big bald eagle flew right over the river and us. Other than that the trip was non-eventful. We continued to listen to a book on tape, James Patterson’s “Judge and Jury”. It’s pretty good, and quite long, this is our third day on the same book.
Stopped at a Cracker Barrel for lunch because it was 102 and too hot to eat in the trailer. Harry needed a break from driving too, it’s a long day. We decided to keep driving because it’s too hot to stop and see anything. Not that there’s anything to see here anyway, so we might as well keep driving to get back to Florida sooner where it’s cooler. Anybody who thinks Florida is hot in the summer should try Kansas, OK and AR, it’s really hot here. Ended up driving 358 miles in 8 hours, like I said, a long day. When we stopped at the campground about 50 miles west of Little Rock at 5Pm it was 105. At least the wind isn’t as bad here as in Kansas, it’s a nice breeze, but still hot.
Made pork chops for dinner which was nuts because it just heated the RV up more. Should have had salad or ice cubes or something cold. Sitting outside now, the sun is down and it’s bearable. We haven’t been able to have camp fires because of the drought. In Colorado, there’s a $1000 fine and jail time for any open fire. Too hot anyway.
Heading toward Tennessee tomorrow, staying on I-40 to make better time, the goal is to stop a little west of Nashville, then make it a short drive day to Nashville on Tues.


Day 72-To Tennessee

2011-06-27

Couldn’t leave Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas fast enough, the plains just weren’t for us. This is the first time since we passed through New Orleans over ten weeks ago that we were on a road we’ve been on before, I-40 east of Memphis. Everything else was new territory, and everything from here to home will be familiar.
Drove 356 miles in 7 hours today. Tried to make it to Nashville but about 50 miles west decided to stop for the night in Dickson, TN. Campground is great, little place run by Richard and his little dog, Harley (I think Harley’s the boss). It’s right off I-40 but ¼ one way and then ¼ mile another way and you’d never know you’re near a highway, really quiet, lush green grass. They just had a lot of rain and they’re complaining that they can’t keep up mowing it. Most of the places we’ve just been would kill for rain right now. Lots of robins here, too. Got here early, about 4:30, set up and read and relaxed for a while. Cooler here, only 89 when we stopped and there’s a nice cool breeze, not a blast from a furnace. Nice big trees and shade, too, haven’t seen that for a while, just like the green grass.
The trip on I-40 was really boring, we went through towns like Toad Suck, ARK and Bucksnort, TN. Went into TN when we crossed over the Mississippi River in Memphis and turned 10,000 miles on this trip just about the same time. We didn’t stop in Memphis but it brought back memories of last year when we stayed here for a few days and saw the Peabody Hotel ducks, Elvis and had BBQ ribs, beer and music on Beale St. P.S.-Cody’s ribs are better. There’s signs all the way on I-40 between Memphis and Nashville proclaiming this stretch as the Music Highway. Lots of music history here. After dinner went outside and watched stars for a while. At 8:15 it’s starting to get dark, unlike where we’ve been for the past few days when at 10PM it’s still got some light in the sky.
We’ve got a campsite reserved for the next two nights in Nashville, liked it so much last year we’re going back. And we have tickets for the Grand Ole Opry for tomorrow night. Should be an easy driving day, only about an hour away.


Day 73-Grand Ole Opry in Nashville

2011-06-28

Nice today, low 80’s a bit overcast but cooler. Only took a little over an hour to get to Nashville. We were set up by noon and did some grocery shopping.
The van picked us up about 5:30 for the 20 minute ride to the Grand Ole Opry House for the 7PM show, which gave us time to walk around and see the building. It’s much bigger than the Ryman Auditorium which is where the Grand Ole Opry (GOO) originated 86 years ago and where we saw the show last year because this new building was under 4’ of water due to the floods. They have restored it and it’s beautiful and much bigger (hold 4400 vs. 1300 at the Ryman) but lacks the character of the original. The GOO is the longest running on air radio show in the world, starting in 1925. It’s a live radio broadcast complete with commercials every 20 minutes when the stage gets crazy as they get set up for the next act. Different performers each show, ranging from newcomers (we saw Danny Gokey and Justin Moore) to 80’s bands (Restless Heart) to the old timers like Jimmy C. Newman, Bill Anderson and Jimmy Dickens, who’s 90 years old, about 4’ tall, dresses in black and glittery rhinestones,a huge cowboy hat and can deliver a great punchline. He had us rolling in the aisles. Lots of historical stuff around but much more in the old building. A piece of flooring from the old building at the Ryman, an unbroken circle (think Johnny Cash) is on the stage right where the performers stand. Good entertainment, even the commercials are entertaining. Show lasts 2-1/2 hours and then we got back in the van and got home about 10PM.


Day 74-I LOVE NASHVILLE!!!

2011-06-29

Nice day again today-low 80’s and sunny. Did some laundry in AM, then read and relaxed most of the afternoon.
Drove into town, started at Demo’s restaurant, a family owned steak and spaghetti restaurant, but they have lots of other stuff, all good, all reasonably priced. The honky-tonk bar area is about a seven x ten block area with Broadway between 4th and 5th Ave. being the main street with bars on either side of the street offering bands all day and all night long for nothing but tips and the chance to play in Nashville. Each bar has a different theme, some western, some hillbilly, some rock, some bluegrass, some honky-tonk, some XXX (Coyote Ugly), even a Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville bar, all decorated differently but all really cool to see. All good bands tonight, we must have heard 20 or more, some we remembered from last year. Tootsie’s bar on Legend’s corner is the probably the most famous where lots of singers started out and then hung out at intermission time during their performance at the Grand Ole Opry across the street (the old one, the Ryman). Each one has a long bar where you can get a drink but none of them require it. You can just sit, listen to the band and then move on to the next one. Music pours out onto the street from all over, this is my favorite part of Nashville. Lots of restaurants, gift shops, boot stores, Ernest Tubbs music store where you can get any music you’re into, old and new. This is also where the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Convention Center and Bridgewater Arena are located. Last year we took a horse and carriage ride from here, they’re all lined up in front of Mike’s Ice Cream Store. The General Jackson Showboat is also moored here, right down the street on the Cumberland River. Lots of partying, music, street performers waiting to get discovered, neon lights, two-steppin’, fiddle playin' on the bar, boot stompin’ action and noise in this part of Nashville. Even saw Elvis on his cell phone. Classy, elegant, cheesy, glitzy, rowdy and refinded all at the same time. I love this part of Nashville, it’s friendly, care-free, laid back and just a happy place, everybody’s smiling and singing. There are other areas, The Gulch, Printer’s Alley, SoBro, the District with other bars and entertainment but we tend to stick to “Honky Tonk Highway".


Day 75-Crossville, TN

2011-06-30

Drove 125 miles in 3-1/2 hours to Crossville, TN, arrived a little after 2Pm and set up, then read and relaxed.
Great campground, quiet, nice lake, pool, lots of seasonal campers and even some full time residents. Very woodsy, lots of wildlife, something resembling a gray fox ran in front of us when we pulled in.
Went to visit our ex-neighbors and still friends Janice and Roger from Florida who just built a beautiful house in TN. Their house is really nice, they’re still fine-tuning it but it’s basically done. They’re having trouble with the resident deer eating their roses and irises. They just had lots of rain so everything is very lush and green .
Went out to dinner with them at one of the restaurants in their village (yes, Mexican again), then sat in the atrium of the little mall where the restaurant was until they turned the lights out of us.
Very nice visit, thank you Roger and Janice, hope to see you again soon.


Day 76-To Concord, NC

2011-07-01

Drove 317 miles in 6-3/4 hours to Concord, NC. Saw 2 deer in someone’s front yard as we left the campground-they were so pretty I thought at first they were fake, ‘til they took off.
Lost an hour in Eastern TN when we switched to Eastern time and hit some traffic in Knoxville and again the last 3 miles of the trip in Charlotte, but being the Friday before a holiday at 5PM it could have been much worse. Drove through the Cherokee Nat’l. Forest, Blue Ridge Mountains (which are always gorgeous) and the Smoky Mountains, where the highest peak at about 6,000 feet looked like only a large hill after seeing the Rockies, which were over 14,000 feet at times.
We’re camping at Charlotte Motor Speedway, no big NASCAR race this week-end so it’s just about empty. Harry’s daughter, Janice, Tim and their children live about 20 minutes away and we’re visiting for the week-end. Went for pizza at Dino’s (they have the best white pizza with spinach and bacon) and then to the fireworks. It’s hot here, about 97 when we set up, and humid, but that’s Charlotte in the summer.


Days 77, 78 & 79-Concord, NC

2011-07-02 to 2011-07-04

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!!!!!

Day 77-Woke up and decided I needed a haircut-NOW!!! So, after Cracker Barrel for breakfast (I can’t believe Bob Evans closed, we used to go there whenever we came here and it was always packed!) we found a hair salon and I got a really nice haircut.
Then went to Janice’s and tried to figure out how to do some magic tricks that we bought for the kids. Some were easy, some not so much. Each of the kids mastered one or two of the tricks. We then played some Phase 10 with the kids, then brought in some Chinese food while Janice & Tim went to a party. They also have two new black and white kittens, Alice and Henry. I tried to get Harry to bond with them but it worked about as well as when I try to get him to bond with Paisley or Kingsley, the two little dogs they have. He likes Samson better, their bit Rottweiller.

Day 78-Met the Rowes for brunch at a diner then came back and had the ultimate Phase 10 tournament finale. We played teams of two because there were eight of us. The Double Gs (Georgia and Grandma) won. Had breakfast for dinner (made with fresh eggs from the chickens in the back yard) because the diner we went to for brunch had finished serving breakfast and Janice and I really wanted breakfast . Ate on the back porch after the sun went down and it was really nice out, then had a fire and s’mores. Learned how to play trash and I got trashed by Schuyler and Gideon.


Day 79-Drove to the back of the Speedway after breakfast, we’ve never actually seen the track, there’s also a dirt track and and dragstrip. There’s a race later today and people were signing up for pit passes even though it’s really early. I guess practice starts soon because all the cars were getting ready too. I had to climb a big hill to get a peek at the track, it’s really big, lots of stands and a big screen to watch the races on. Campground is filling up too, all the race fans and drivers stay here for the races. Went to the Rowes early afternoon, played some cards then had a great Fourth of July party with some of their friends. Of course as soon as the guys went to grill outside it started to pour but it just delayed eating a little while and it produced a gorgeous double rainbow and cooled it down a bit. Came back to the campground to see the fireworks at the speedway, they didn’t start until about 10:30 because the race had a rain delay but we could see the fireworks right from our campsite. Really tired all day today, all the travel is probably catching up with us now that we’ve stopped doing so much. Looking forward to starting for home tomorrow.


Day 80-The Road Home! Part I

2011-07-05

Sorry to leave Concord and Janice, Tim, Evan, Schuyler, Georgia, Grayson, Kierstyn and Gideon.  We had a wonderful time (as usual) and we were glad we got there over a holiday, lots of fun things going on.  But we're anxious to get home now and they promised to come see us in Florida soon. 

Got an early start today, good thing-we went 412 miles in 8-1/2 hours. Lots of traffic and fog in Charlotte but when we got on Route 77 it got better. Went a different way, our friends Janice and Roger told us to try 77 to 20 to 129 to Macon to I-75 instead of going all the way to 95 and then doubling back. I think it’s about 90 miles longer but we’ve never been this way and we’re in no great rush. Gave us a chance to get off the interstates and we found some local peaches and jams and jellies.
Really hot and humid again today, got up to 98 when we stopped about 5PM. We always know we’re in the Carolinas when we start to see kudzu, crepe myrtles (gorgeous this time of year), red clay for dirt and it gets hot and humid and this part of Georgia is the same. We usually take 95 near the coast and it’s different there, more palm trees and beaches.
The terrain here is unremarkable although we think maybe it’s because after going through the western mountains and the mid-west plains that were so different from what we’re used to seeing that the rolling green hills of the southeast are normal to us and seem like home.
Only about 220 miles from home should be there by tomorrow.


Day 81-The Road Home-Part II

2011-07-06

Left at 9:30 this morning, drove 225 miles in 4-1/2 hours and got HOME at 2:15.  Very uneventful trip home, which is the way we like it.  It's hot here, but 93 here isn't as hot as 93 in other places we've been.  AND THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME!!!

The house was so nice and clean and welcoming when we walked in and now it's got "stuff" all over the place.  It'll be a while 'til it's back the way it was.  And the mountain of mail!!!.  Thank you, Jackie, for putting it all in order for us and taking care of it while we were away, it made it much easier to sort.

The RV is still in the driveway 'til we finish cleaning it out, although most of the stuff has been transferred into the house.  The weeds are unbelievable, but all the plants look nice and healthy, too.  And the grass is even green.

Really funny how fast you forget things, like which drawer has the silverware, where's the big pot and where did I put my car keys.  Comedy of errors trying to make dinner, but it worked out well. 

AND THANK YOU TO WHOEVER PUT THE BIG "WELCOME HOME JUDY AND HARRY" SIGN ON THE GARAGE-IT MADE OUR DAY AND TRULY WAS GREAT TO COME HOME TO.

 


Around The Country In 81 Days

2011-07-06

Some Stats:

Days Away: 81
Miles: 11,665 (I drove about 500 feet, Harry drove the rest)
States: 23
Hottest Temperature: 111
Coldest Temperature: 19
Time Zones: 5 (Arizona stays on Mountain Standard)
Rummikub games: 66 (I won 35, Harry, 31)
Books on tape listened to: 4
Campgrounds: 40
Condos: 1

And WOW! What sights we saw!!!
Giant Redwood Forests
Cowboys
Grizzly Bears
Soaring Eagles (Bald & Golden)
Amber waves of grain
Indians
Saguaro Cacti
Pacific Ocean
Lava Beds
Dust storms
Giant pandas
Caverns
Tumbling tumbleweeds
Elvis
Sand dunes
Spawning salmon
Mt. St. Helens (almost)
Grand Canyon
Navy Seals
San Francisco Seals
Bigfoot
Circus acts
Snow storms
Salt lake
Golden Gate Bridge
Deserts
Pirates
Rain forests
Rock slides
Bright lights of Las Vegas
Way too many enchiladas
Mountains (purple, gold, green, blue, pink, brown, red, black, white)
Aliens
The Alamo
Vineyards
Hoover Dam

And the list could go on and on, but what we enjoyed the most was the people we saw and met along the way. Whether they were friends, relatives, people we dealt with or just strangers on the street, everybody was friendly to us no matter where we were. Probably the best thing we brought back was the feeling that all around the country (no, make that the world, because we met people traveling from abroad) there are really good people, some struggling to get by, some doing exceptionally well, but underneath it all they’re just nice, helpful, honest and honorable people.  No matter how different we are we're all the same where it counts.  The sights we saw were a great backdrop for meeting and interacting with all the wonderful people we encountered.  If we visited with you on this trip thanks for all your hospitality, it was wonderful.

I don't think Harry nor I had many expectations about this trip, we just planned on taking it as it came and seeing what was out there, but I was sure blown away by the whole experience.

Thanks for following us on this trip, wish we could have taken you along (just kidding, the RV sleeps 2). Thanks for all your comments, words of encouragement and suggestions. We tried to get to all the places you suggested but some of them will have to wait for another trip.


My trip to England and Paris

2011-09-18 to 2011-10-02

I flew to England for two weeks to visit with Martin, Heather and Evie for Evie's second birthday.  Harry didn't join me this trip and I really missed him but I had a wonderful trip.  Evie had a party in a park with her friends and their parents, we went into London a few days and saw huge dinosaurs at the museum.  We picked pumpkins at the farm and then painted them.  Did a lot of walking around town, too.  I also saw the house Martin and Heather are thinking of buying, which is very nice.  Went to Evie's gymnastics class with her, sunned at West Withering Beach (yes, it's sunny and 80 degrees!) and went to Hever Castle, where Ann Bolyn was raised.

For a special treat for Heather's upcoming birthday Martin gave her (and me) a trip to Paris for two days and one night.  We went on the Eurostar through the chunnel, which only takes 2-1/2 hours) and then the Metro right to our hotel in the middle of Paris.  Saw a few sights the first day and walked around and ate crepes that night.  The next day we took a bus tour which took us all around the city where we could stop and get off and on whenever we wanted.  Had a wonderful day.  Left about 5PM for the trip back to London and got back about 9.  Heather had parked her car at Ithaca so it was only one stop on the tube and then the drive back to her house.  Great trip!!!


Our trip to Maui, Hawaii

2012-03-10 to 2012-03-18

Harry and I flew to Phoenix, AZ and from there to Maui, Hawaii as our resort week with All Points travel this year. 

The weather was great, although not better than home and everyone we met who found out we were from Florida wanted to know why we were in Hawaii.  Most of these people were from Alaska or the midwest and really needed some nice weather. 

Our resort was the Maui Banyan right across the street from a wonderful beach where we snorkeled for the first time in our lives.  It was really nice but you had to go to the beach early or the waves would knock you down because of the afternoon trade winds.

We went to a luau which was great fun, met some really nice people at our table, the food and drinks and entertainment were really wonderful.  I thought it would be too cheesy and, although it was, we had a great time.

Drove up to the Iao Needle, another really pretty area.

Took a ride up to the volcano Haleakala (didn't make it for sunrise for it was a great trip anyway).  Wonderful scenery on the way up and we stopped for great pizza on the way back down.

Went to Lanai and took a whale watching trip and saw lots of humpback whales, even the tour guides said they had never seen so many whales on a two hour trip.

Took a tour bus on the road to Hana, an all-day excursion on a one lane windy road.  We made lots of stops at waterfalls taro fields, bamboo forests and the O'heo pools, then had a nice catered lunch at a flower farm where we bought some plumeria plants (the plants leis are made from), we'll try to grow them at home.

Another day we went to the only sugar cane farm still working on the island and learned a lot about the history of sugar cane in Hawaii and still another day we drove north to where the BIG waves are and watched the wind surfers and board surfers waiting for the perfect wave.

By the time we left we had gone all around the entire island and seen all the major sights.  Really got a good idea of Hawaiin life.  Beautiful beaches, tropical forests, flowers, weather and people but we still like Florida better.


Here we go again

2012-06-19

We had so much fun on our trip last year that we decided to do it again this year, only we're starting out a bit later so when we get up north we (hopefully) won't run into any of that cold wet white stuff that will remain un-named. 

At the beginning of the trip we have a few stops planned but after the first 10 days or so we're just going to wing it and go where the RV is pointed.

We'll keep you posted along the way and hope you enjoy reading about our trip.


Days 1-5 Atlanta, GA, Concord, NC and Crossville, TN

2012-06-23

We started out on our trip not knowing where we are going to end up but we know a few places we are planning to go. After planning and researching for the past couple of months we decided to change the first day of the trip and go up I-75 towards Atlanta instead of I-95 towards Savannah. It turned out to be a nice trip, avoiding lots of little towns (and speed traps) and the campground we stayed in south of Atlanta (Forsyth, GA) was on a little lake and very nice. The next morning we set out for Charlotte to see Harry’s daughter, her husband and our grandchildren. This route was about 2 hours longer than I-95 but we broke it up into two days instead of driving straight through so it was fine.
Most of the time we listened to an audiobook, Killing Lincoln, which was interesting even though we know how it ends. The scenery in Georgia and the Carolinas can get boring but all along the interstates are beautiful yellow day lilies and even the kudzu is pretty and makes the hillsides look like topiary trees.

On Wednesday we pulled into the NASCAR speedway campground in Concord, NC where we’ve stayed many times before ‘cause it’s the closest one to Janice. We met most of the family (Evan and Kierstyn weren’t feeling well) after dinner for frozen yogurt for Georgia’s 11th birthday. The next day we all went blackberry picking and then back to the house where the Phase 10 card game got under way. Stayed for dinner and then back to the campground. On Friday we did some shopping , continued the Phase 10 game (still don’t know if we finished it). The boys (I went, too) went out to dinner and then to a ballgame while the girls stayed home for Georgia’s birthday party sleepover. We had a great time watching the home team Kannapolis Intimidators smash the other team.


Forgot to mention the weather. Can you believe 98 and no air. That’s Charlotte.
When we started out we thought maybe we’d try to avoid the Rockies this year but we totally forgot about the Smoky Mountains which are every bit as crazy as the Rockies, a lot more twists and turns but they’re pretty. Had a few arguments with the new GPS but we came to an understanding and should be OK from now on. Our next stop is Crossville, TN to see some former neighbors in Florida who moved to TN. We met them for dinner and had a nice visit. The campground we’re at is more a resort with a lot of seasonal homes on a lake, very pretty, woodsy, lots of wildlife. We ate breakfast and watched a robin feed its young in a nest that couldn’t have been more than ten feet from us. She kept leaving and returning with mouthfuls of something. This part of TN is much cooler than NC, the high today was 84 and that’s the warmest it’s been all year. It felt good, but the dip in the pool still felt great.

Easy travel day tomorrow to Nashville, which is only 120 miles away. We should get there early and be able to relax.


Days 6-7 Nashville, TN

2012-06-25

And I thought the past few days were hot-today it’s still 101 at 7PM in Nashville!! But from what I hear from our neighbors in Florida they had over 15 inches of rain today from Tropical Storm Debby with two more inches to come tomorrow. We need the rain but not all at once!
Easy drive-no traffic and only 2-1/2 hours. Two Rivers campground is great, we’ve been here before. It’s almost across the street from the Opryland Hotel & Resort. Set up the camper, so easy with the new one I keep thinking we’re forgetting to do something. Relaxed for a while then went to the grocery store to stock up on a few things. Had dinner in the camper then read outside for a while. Couldn’t decide whether to go to the Opryland Hotel and walk around or downtown to hear some music at the bars. About 8PM we were so hot we decided to go to the pool instead of walking around anywhere. Oh, but that felt good! I feel alive again.
Monday, June 25th-Another hot one-101 again. Went to Camping World to pick up a few things for the camper, then to Opryland Hotel & Resort and walked through the atrium. It’s absolutely gorgeous. They say there’s over 10,000 different species of plants and I believe it. Lots of waterfalls and beautiful flowers, trees and plants. From there we went to Bass Pro Shop (still looking for some stuff, with no luck) then back to camp for lunch. Drove out to the Parthenon, which is an exact replica of the one in Greece, complete with a 42’ sculpture of Athena inside. Too bad it’s closed on Monday. Who knew? But the outside was nice. It’s in Centennial Park which has beautiful grounds. Didn’t realize we were so close to “downtown”-where all the action is, but there’s no action during the day so we went back to camp and in the pool. Got picked up at 6PM at the campground by Johnny, the van driver who goes back and forth between the hotels and campgrounds and “downtown” all night long. We’ve used him before and it’s great. He picks you up at your campsite, drops you off wherever you want to go on the strip, then picks you up at a specific bar every half hour so you never have to wait long for him. This way we don’t worry about parking or drinking a wee bit too much. As it turned out I didn’t have to worry about drinking too much beer, I had to worry about some guy sitting next to me spilling a whole bottle in my lap at one of the bars. Smelled like a brewery the whole night, but so did everybody else so it was OK.
Our first stop was Demos’ where we split a dinner, that’s how big the portions are. Walked around a bit in and out of venues listening to music, then ice cream at Mike’s and continued to drift in and out of bars for music. Even for a Monday night the street was crowded (not like the week-end) but still busy. The music is good, some bands better than others but it’s a fun free night. We skipped the mechanical bull riding, the nude karaoke and the dancing on bars this visit, maybe next time.


Tomorrow we travel to Illinois.


Day 8-North to Illinois

2012-06-26

Much cooler this morning-actually very nice out. Drove 335 miles to Lake Shelbyville, IL via I-24 W and I-57 N. through Tennessee, Kentucky and into Illinois. Had a few minor spats with the new GPS but I’ve learned how to override it. Nice road, rolling hills with very little traffic but a lot of road kill, deer, armadillos, turkeys, lots of raccoons and little black and gray furry unidentifiables which could be baby sasquatches. Once into Illinois the landscape became flat and covered with corn and soybean fields. Our campground was 40 miles off the interstate through more fields to Lake Shelbyville, IL. The camp is a US Army Corps of Engineers and we’ve found that they’re always nice and near water as is this one. They’re government owned so they’re also very reasonably priced and we get half off for being seniors. This one is really busy because of the lake so there weren’t too many spots left but we found a really nice one. Set up, had dinner (outside, that’s how nice it is-only got up to 85 today but they said it should be 102 by Thursday), and took a ride to downtown Sullivan (don’t blink). All the fields look very dry here-guess they need water here too. Last I heard back home we had 18” of rain so far from Debby and that was yesterday and I think it’s still raining there today. Hope everybody back home is OK. Tried to call today but there’s no cell service anywhere around here. Sleeping with the windows open tonight instead of the AC-it’s 69 at 9:30.


Day 9-The Illinois Amish

2012-06-27

It got cooler last night all right. At 3:30AM we had to get up to close the windows and find another blanket. But it managed to climb right back up to 94 during the day today.
We started out going to Arthur, IL, where the biggest Amish community is in Illinois-about 6,000. We drove through more sweet corn planted in neat rows and the hap-hazard soybean fields, also some wheat fields and a lot of farms and gardens. The Amish here are a bit friendlier than in Lancaster and other communities we’ve been too. They don’t seem to speak with the German Amish dialect but more “English”. There were lots of buggies, both covered and open driven by both men and women, usually with a lot of kids in them but the women and children seem to ride bikes more that drive buggies. The people wave no matter if they’re in buggies, passing you on the street or if they’re in their fields when we drive by. The Amish we’ve seen before don’t like their picture taken so I try not to. But one man actually waved to me as I took a picture of a parked buggy he was in. I thought it was empty ‘til I saw him. Lots of horses and cows and quite a few baby foals and calves. The town of Arthur itself is only about 6 blocks long with shops on either side of the main street but we drove through the outskirts where there’s also lots of woodworking shops, bakeries, meat markets, farmer markets, honey farms, egg and chicken farms and everything else you can imagine they would need. Lots of quilt shops and fabric stores.
From Arthur we drove east to Arcola, another small town which is where Raggedy Ann and Andy were born and have their own museum. The whole town, not much bigger than Arthur, was decorated with deep purple and white buntings, banners, flowers, etc. We found out that the “Walldogs” were in town this past week-end to paint about 14 murals around town so there was a big celebration and the high school colors are purple and white. Very pretty and the murals were gorgeous. Lots of town pride in Arcola. Stopped in a few shops and talked to the people, again very nice. One Amish man told me he had been in Sarasota, FL for a funeral once (there’s an Amish community there) and it was way too hot for him. I’ll take Florida any day, Arthur, IL is way too hot for me.
Drove around some more just admiring the farms and gardens and animals and ended up back in Arthur for dinner at Yoder’s Kitchen. Seems there’s a Yoder’s kitchen at all the Amish places we’ve been and they all have great comfort food (lots of calories and fat). We shared a piece of coconut cream pie and when the waitress brought it we thought she misunderstood ‘cause she had two big pieces but, no, it was only one piece cut in half. Oh, my, it was good.
I always feel “at peace” in an Amish town. Don’t know if it’s the people, the pace, the way of life (which I wouldn’t want for myself) or a combination of a lot of things but it’s always enjoyable and relaxing.
Took another look at Lake Shelbyville on the way home. The campground is on the lake we can’t see it from our site. It’s really quite a big lake. Not many boats on it but on the week-end it gets really busy.
Sat outside read and talked to a neighbor for a while. Really nice out after the sun goes down, beautiful breeze and it gets cooler. Doesn’t get dark ‘til almost 10 so we have to wait to see all the stars. Turned the AC off again tonight.


Day 10-To Bloomington, IL

2012-06-28 to 2012-07-28

Last night we had to get up in the middle of the night to put the AC on and by the time we left at 10AM the temp had already risen to 93 and by the end of the day we saw 103.
It was an easy ride through Decatur to Bloomington, IL. Still in prairie country where it’s so flat you can see for miles. Lots of wind farms and seed production plants. Miles and miles of corn and soybeans again. The campground we stopped at for the night was a good choice, lots of shade and a nice pool. Every site has a huge tree and it’s very breezy but 103 is 103. Got here early (12:30), set up and had lunch. Very quiet here, not many people when we first pulled in but it’s getting busier as the day goes on, mostly local people from only a few hours away. Caught up on e-mails and the web-site then read for a while and went in the pool which felt really great.
After dinner I sat outside for a while, it got a bit cooler after the sun went down. Saw lots of robins flitting about and a few rabbits eating the clover. We might watch a DVD later.
Tomorrow off to Crystal Lake to see Harry’s brother, Jim and his family.


Days 11-13-Crystal Lake, IL

2012-06-29 to 2012-07-01

Late night last night. It was so nice out I didn’t come in ‘til late and then we decided to watch a movie. By the time we figured out how to work the DVD player it was after 10. We probably should have asked the 3 year old camped next to us. And the same 3 year old (and her 1 yr. old sister) did NOT make any noise this morning to wake us up so we slept in. And it’s all their fault. Got a late start but it wasn’t a long trip, only 150 miles which took us three hours.
Different road kill here. Now we see skunks and badgers and a lot of live red-winged blackbirds in the corn fields. Got to the campground early and after we set up we jumped in the pool. It’s not as hot as it’s been and we did drive through a bit of rain that cooled it down but it’s still hot. Met up with Jim, Jackie and Kristen for dinner and then played Phase 10 (Harry won, of course!).
Saturday the heat wave came back again so we chilled in the house and played more cards. Started with Spades, which we hadn’t played in years. We played teams and Jim and Harry stomped the you-know-what out of me and Jackie so we switched to Phase 10 (Jim won, of course!). We stopped in the middle of the game to eat the wonderful ribs Jim cooked up for us with his special recipe and then again to go rejuvenate ourselves at the ice cream parlor.
Sunday was the last day of the annual Crystal Lake Lakeside Festival so we went there for some food, entertainment, courtesy of a great band called Modern Romeos (they were really good) and really good fireworks over the lake. Back to the campground to see a silvery full moon shining over the RV.
Was really good to see Jim, Jackie and Kristen, we don’t get to see them very often.


Days 14 & 15-Iowa & Nebraska

2012-07-02 to 2012-07-03

Days 14-15 Iowa & Nebraska
July 2-We now have absolutely no itinery, nobody to see, no time frame and no place to be. It’s like the beginning of our trip and we’re heading toward new territory.
Left campground and drove 340 miles to Adel, IA (West Des Moines) in 7 hours. Got to the campground and hit the pool within a half hour of getting here. Harry said I looked like I was really withering and I felt the same way, the heat and humidity is oppressive. We finally ventured out of the RV at 11PM and it was gorgeous, a nice breeze and full moon. Second day (Tues.) drove 350 miles in 7-1/2 hours to Mitchell, SD.
This is how I see Iowa. Over 200 miles of corn, 99 degrees, soybeans, corn, corn, soybeans, bugs on the windshield, corn, Des Moines, corn, soybeans, the Bridges of Madison County, corn. Stopped for the night. Then over 100 more miles of corn, soybeans, you get the picture, I’m sure. I kept thinking of acronyms for Iowa:
I Only Want A way out
If Only We’d Airlifted through here
I’ve Often Wondered Aloud why we’re here
In Other Words Awfully boring
That’s Iowa in a corn husk.
Now, let’s talk about Nebraska. Corn, soybeans, the same old, same old. Lots of trucks on I-80, pretty pink and purple clover and some yellow wildflowers on the side of the road. Just east of Omaha we got off the interstate and took back roads into Nebraska. The back roads are better, more to see. Small farms and ranches, each with their own tornado shelter, usually a mound of dirt with a steel door near the house. You can imagine a tornado coming over the prairie as you watch all the corn fields go by. There are some rolling hills but for the most part it’s all flat. Some horses and cows now, a few gold finches flew in front of the car and lots of robins. We drove part of the Lewis and Clark Trail through Missouri Valley, IA, the north through the Omaha Indian Reservation and the bigger Winnebago Indian Reservation. Lots of casinos here, too. We found fuel at a really low price, probably because it was on the reservation and there weren’t so many taxes.
Drove north through Sioux Falls and then Sioux City, both big cities with lots of construction, then west to Mitchell, SD where we stopped for the night (or two or three). Great campground, it’s a Passport America member so it’s half price. We asked for a shady spot near the pool and that’s exactly what we got. It was 101 degrees when we stopped at 5PM so we unhooked and hit the pool. We’re getting really good at un-hooking, setting up and getting dinner just about ready to go on the table in about a half hour. The heat is supposed to last a few more days (104 tomorrow) so we might stay here and relax. We need to do laundry, figure our next stop and restock some groceries and Mitchell looks like a good place to do it. Plus it’s the home of the only “Corn Palace”, which we’re going to see tomorrow. Don’t know if there will be any fireworks, the fire danger is really high and there are fires to the south of us.
Nebraska and South Dakota are two states we haven’t been in before so we get to put two new state stickers on the side of the RV. They are numbers 46 and 47, only three more to go.
We started our third book on tape, a thriller set on Lake Waramaug in Danbury, CT. It mentions places like Litchfield, Washington, Kent, Oxford and local places around there that are familiar to us so it’s interesting. We only listen to it on long stretches of interstates so it’ll be a few days before we continue it.


Day 16-Mitchell, SD

2012-07-04

Day 16-July 4. 2012-Mitchell, SD
HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!!!
Saw some fireworks in the distance last night and another beautiful full moon. Got really windy after the sun went down but cooler, too. Supposed to have Wi-Fi here but neither one of us can connect.
Did I really think we would relax??? Got up early and did a ton of laundry. Should have just skipped the dryer part and hung stuff out to dry, that’s how windy and hot it was. By the time we got done we needed a dip in the pool.
Went out and our first stop was the visitor’s center where we got some good info about local stuff and also the Black Hills area. We went to the Dakota Discovery Museum where there was an ice cream social going on, complete with some good ole music, ice cream sundaes, lemonade, watermelon and a favorite today, ice water. Lots of old buildings we could tour from the 1800’s. Also right in town in the George McGovern Library which is part of the Dakota College in town. By now it’s 102 and we’re melting.
Next stop was the Corn Palace. What a surprise! This is a building with a stage inside where anybody who’s anybody has played that’s also used for basketball games. This is the third one, each one being built bigger than the previous. The original reason was to show people that you could make a living off corn in S. Dakota. Every year it’s decorated with corn and has a different theme. Thirteen different colors are all grown by one farmer who plants the different colors in a separate field to keep the colors pure. Artists map out the scenes and local people cut the corn and staple it to the side of the building. They liken it to corn by numbers. Very original. And air conditioned.
Took a ride out to Lake Mitchell thinking it would be cooler…NOT!! It’s still like a sauna. Saw where they’re setting up for some fireworks tonight. Pretty lake, quite large with all kinds of houses around, from the summer rentals to the big mansions.
Fueled up for our trip tomorrow and went to the grocery store, Coborn’s is the local one here. They were a bit expensive but we think it will be more expensive once we get to Mt. Rushmore.
Came back to camp for dinner, looked at some maps to plan tomorrow, then took a walk around the campground. It’s small but quiet and nice. Funny to see a snowplow in the parking lot but they tell us they get bad winters here.
Drove back to see the Corn Palace lit up at night and decided to drive out to Lake Mitchell again to see the fireworks. We had been told the traffic would be really bad but we kept driving with no traffic around until we were just about on top of where they were set off. Got a great parking spot right on the lake and they were really great. No traffic on the way out either. We were back to the campground within 20 minutes from when we left the lake. Sure not like Calf Pasture where we used to sit and wait for two hours.


Day 17-To the Black Hills

2012-07-05

Day 17-July 5, 2012-To the Black Hills
When we left camp it was only 81 and a bit cloudy but by the time we stopped it was back up to 95 and sunny. Did feel a bit cooler, thank you very much.
We’re still in prairie country but now we’re seeing more black cows, horses, wheat and rolled hay bales instead of corn. Also lots of beehives. Crossed the Missouri River and got some small rolling hills but then back to prairie. Crossed over to Mountain Time just after noon and I had a hard time all day knowing what time it really is. We’ve now gone over 3000 miles on this trip.
We stopped at a visitor’s center and they told us there was a fire in Custer (where we’re going) but it’s now contained but it still might be smoky. We’re seeing signs on the highway “Extreme Fire Danger..don’t throw cigarettes out the window”.
Stopped at Buffalo Gap National Grasslands for a rest, 591,000 acres of grassland, vast and empty. Saw some prairie dog mounds and more cattle. Passed through DeSmet, where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived and wrote about in the “Little House on the Prairie” series. The house is still there.
For the past 200 or so miles we’ve been seeing signs for Wall Drug Store, a store started in 1931 by a couple who figured people travelling out here would need a rest so they started advertising “free ice water” with signs on the roads. From there it’s grown into a block long sight-seers paradise with every kind of store, food, attraction you can think of inside, outside or around it. It gets 20,000 visitors a day and I think they were all there when we were. Ice water is still free, coffee is still 5 cents (free with a donut to vets so Harry’s was on the house). They even have an animated T-Rex. The place is indescribable, you have to see it to believe it. We spent a good two hours there.
Wall is named because there’s a nine mile long jagged wall-like ridge that is on the Badlands north rim. This is the “window to the west” and from now on we start to see more hills and trees. We stopped about 5:30 (or is it 4:30) at a campground in Piedmont, a little west of Rapid City. Saw the funniest sight in Rapid City, between the interstate and a car dealership a herd of cattle grazing. Imagine a herd of cows in the median on I-95!
Just as we pulled in it started to thunder and rain and it’s been on and off all night. A lot cooler, we’re in a valley surrounded by big trees. Went to plug in the electric and there was a bee’s nest in the electric box. Harry, my hero, said he’d do it and he did it all right, got stung on the finger. We’ll have to remember to do away with it before we leave.
Set up a tour of the Badlands tomorrow. Glad we set it up on the road, there’s no cell service here, but at least we have internet. They’ll pick us up early and it’s about a 9-10 hour day. Should be fun and give Harry a chance to not have to drive and get to see all the sights.


Day 18-Mt. Rushmore & Crazy Horse

2012-07-06

Day 18-July 6, 2012-Black Hills Tour
Rained and thunder all night but it’s only cloudy this morning, and cooler, only got up to 78 all day.
We set up a tour with Discovery Tours and they picked us up at the campground at 8AM and returned us at 5:30PM. Long day but a great time. There was only one other couple on the tour and our guide, Susan, who’s lived here forever.
The Black Hills cover 100 x 60 miles or 2.2 million acres and 80% of it is National Forest. The #1 product here is tourism in the summer and we found out today they usually expect a blizzard by Halloween and they’ve had 3 feet of snow on Mother’s Day in May so it’s a really short tourism season. The #2 product is logging the Ponderosa Pine and that’s in trouble because the pine beetle is killing the trees. They’ve started exporting the dead wood to China.
We started the trip with a drive through Keystone, a cute little mining town with lots of shops and the 1880 railroad. Very busy, even this early. We then drove up Iron Mountain Rd., aka the Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway, a one-lane road that solved the problem of going up by using pigtail bridges similar to hairpin turns but they curl around like a pig’s tail. They are also tunnels (wide enough for only one car) and every tunnel has a view of Mt. Rushmore when you come out on the other side. They even trim all the trees so it’s visible.
Mt. Rushmore was very interesting and awe inspiring when we listened to the movie about how it was sculpted, with dynamite and small drills and tools. Glad we came all this way to see it. We were early enough so there weren’t too many people there yet. We noticed yesterday that the flags were all at half-mast and found out it’s because four firemen were killed in a plane crash as they were coming here to fight the fire in Edgemont, about 50 miles south. We didn’t see much smoke but some people we met at dinner said a few days ago there was ash falling from the sky here and the town was smoky. It’s still going south of us so we’re going to keep going north.
From Mt. Rushmore we drove through Custer State Park looking for animals but there were none so we went to lunch early at the Game Lodge, the summer white house for Coolidge in 1927. Had a great buffet that included buffalo stew and some of the best fish I’ve ever had. Doubled back after lunch through the park and stumbled on a pronghorn antelope with twins (they say that’s rare and probably because they had an easy winter). They were really cute and came right up to the road. Then we saw what they call “beggar burros” because they come up to the cars to beg for food. They are descendants of burros that were used to transport people through the park years ago. The driver gave him an apple. Going further we ran into a herd of buffalo (about 200 in this herd, there are 2000 in the park, the largest state owned buffalo herd), with huge males and little babies. We had to stop and let them cross the road and we stayed there about a half hour.
Then the drive to Crazy Horse Monument, another sculpture in rock, this one much larger than Mt. Rushmore. The four heads of Mt. Rushmore would fit into just the head and headdress of Crazy Horse with room to spare. It’s the world’s largest sculpture, the head being 87-1/2’ high, the outstretched arm 263’. This was commissioned in 1948 by a Lakota Indian leader to show that the Indians had heroes too. It’s still a work in progress, with only the (after 63 years). The sculptor died and his wife and 7 of his 10 children are continuing the project. This is dedicated to all the tribes and is really very impressive. It’s all being done by one family.  Harry spotted a mountain goat on the monument when he was looking through the telescope.
On the way back we drove through Custer City, another old mining town, now mostly for tourists and then up Needles Highway, another one lane road with tunnels, some only 8 feet wide. We really got to see the damage done by the pine beetle on this trip, lots of dead trees, but beautiful mountain peaks that are thin and tall and resemble needles (sort of). We saw some people climbing the rocks and stopped at a scenic area that was overrun with chipmunks that would come up and take peanuts out of your hand. Also drove around Sylvan Lake, still in the National Forest, one of the most photographed lakes in the country, where a wedding was taking place.
Down the mountain again to our last stop at Prairie Berry Winery for a taste testing. Their signature wine was Red Ass (as in donkey) Rhubarb. They were all too sweet for us so we passed on buying anything. Drove through Hill City on the way back, a nice little town again mostly for tourists.
After we got back we went back out to Sturgis to see if there was a place for dinner. We figured with the motorcycle rally there every year there should be something good, but we didn’t find anything so we went to Elk Creek Restaurant right down the street from the campground. Nice place, they had elk and buffalo on the menu but I was still full from lunch and opted for a salad.
Came back to camp about 8:30 and tried to plan our next leg but had very slow Wi-Fi and gave up. Got an idea from maps and camp books but we’ll have to check mileage and available campgrounds when we get some cell service and internet service. What did we ever do before electronics?
And get this, it was only 64 out and we had to turn the heat on to take the chill out.


Day 19-Deadwood & Spearfish Canyon

2012-07-07

Day 19-July 7, 2012-Deadwood & Spearfish Canyon, SD
Got up early, packed a lunch and got on the road. It was on 60 degrees when we left but managed to climb up to 75 by the end of the day.
Started the day with a disagreement with T-Mobile, they changed their roaming rules because they can so we weren’t getting any messages or calls. Bye, bye, T-Mobile.
Drove up I-90 to Sturgis and then took Route 14A, what they call the Northern Black Hills National Forest Loop through Boulder Canyon, where we stopped to taste some wine, (still too sweet) Deadwood, Ice Box Canyon, Cheyenne Crossing to Spearfish and then back to camp.
Deadwood is known for its bars, brothels and gaming back in the Wild West during the 1876 gold rush and it’s the same today. No more gold but there’s still gaming places all up and down the one main street. We tried our luck and cashed in when we were 51 cents ahead. They have re-enactments of how Wild Bill Hickok was shot and we drove up (way up, what a steep hill) to Boot Hill where he’s buried along with Calamity Jane, Poker Alice, Potato Creek Johnny among others. For a Saturday it was kind of quiet although it probably gets busier later in the day. After the tourists leave in the fall they have concerts and lots of festivals. (Helen, Herman’s Hermits in Oct.) At the foot of Boot Hill we found a nice little park and stopped for lunch. Tried another winery but they’re still too sweet.
Deadwood is in Deadwood Gulch and from there it’s all uphill so we drove up to Lead, a gold mining town where you can still go into the mines and take a tour. Lots of info about mining, too.
We then drove down a 3-mile 7% grade twisty, curvy road to the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway, a 22 mile up and down, round and round ride with rugged cliffs, a beautiful clear flowing river, 3 waterfalls and gorgeous log homes buried in between the cliffs and huge pine trees. Lots of fly fishing going on. This was definitely the high point of the day, a really enjoyable drive.
This road took us to Spearfish where we stopped for a car wash and then continued on to the D.C. Booth Historic Fish Hatchery. Looked easy enough to find ‘til we put it into the GPS, which was on vacation today. Took us down three dead-ends, past one house with a cute little deer wandering around the front yard. We finally saw a man in his yard laughing and we knew he was used to people getting lost. He directed us (it was right down the street) adjacent to a park where there was a wedding going on at one end and a bean bag tournament at the other. After all this we didn’t stay long at the hatchery, which was mostly trout, but headed back to camp. On the way back we again changed our minds about where to go next and decided to head north to North Dakota and see Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Had to call for reservations from the road because there’s no cell service at the campground (or anywhere around it) and had a hard time finding a place. Finally found a place right in Medora, ND who assured me we wouldn’t have any trouble with the oil people up there and that it really wasn’t all that busy because of them but because of the tourists.
Got back to camp about 5PM, relaxed with a book and a vodka tonic with limes from our plant back home. Ah, the good life. Heard a party going on at the Lodge in the campground so we took a walk up and there was a family reunion going on. They invited us to stay for chili but we had already eaten. Back to camp for some Rummikubes.


Day 20-To North Dakota

2012-07-08

Day 20-July 8, 2012-To Medora, ND
Drove 245 miles today in 5-1/2 hours, pulled into the campground at 2:30, which is really nice. Gives us the rest of the day to do whatever. Wonderful weather, started at 68 and got up to 91, sunny and breezy.
Stopped in Belle Fourche, SD, which is the geographical center of the US. Visitor center was closed ‘til noon on Sunday so we didn’t go inside but saw the monument.
After that was NOTHING for 150 miles. A one lane road, route 85, nothing along the way except open ranges, some grazing cattle, some up near the road, others looked like small dots on the range. Big sky country, very pretty but desolate. Saw some beautiful big hawks swooping over the prairie. After 150 miles we drove through the ONLY town, Buffalo, SD, population 380. About 4 businesses. Then more nothing.
After we crossed over to North Dakota we started to see some corn fields, soybeans, wheat and some oil wells. It started to get more populated, every now and then we’d see a ranch house, a buffalo herd, a cattle herd.
Drove through the National Grasslands north of Bowman, ND and then to Interstate 94 W to Medora. The campground is right across the street from the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, which we’ll go to tomorrow. We already drove through some painted canyons on the road here that were beautiful. Don’t know what else is here, we drove through the usual tourist town strip mall on the way in. Campground is great, we’re in the back near the woods, but we have internet, cable TV and cell phones-YEA!!!! I remember when we’d go camping to get away from ringing phones.


Day 21-Theodore Roosevelt National Park-ND Badlands

2012-07-09

Day21-July 9, 2012
Hot today-99 degrees and 15% humidity.
Today we drove the 32 mile scenic road through Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the N.D. badlands. The park entrance is right across the street from the campground so we didn’t have far to go. It took us over five hours in the park because we stopped quite a bit. The park is over 70,000 acres of beautiful buttes, grasslands, prairie, sagebrush, cottonwood trees, wildflowers and lots of wildlife. We saw a lot of buffalo poop but no buffalo. Wherever there’s an open prairie there’s a prairie dog “town” and it’s just like the wak-a-mole game, whenever one pops out of a hole another one pops down. They’re really cute, scampering all over the place.
We also met a herd of wild horses as we came up a hill, they were just standing and romping on the side of the road and seemed a lot happier than the horses we met later on that were in a corral. We pulled over to the side of the road and ate lunch as we watched them.
Quiet and serene in the park, all you hear is the twittering of the birds and the chirping of the prairie dogs if you get too close. Gorgeous white clouds that seem to hang right over your head. Guess that’s why Roosevelt loved it so much.
Met a couple from Port Jefferson, Long Island who were in a campground in Southwest Illinois when we were in Northwest Illinois last week. There was a tornado that went through their campground and a hundred year old tree fell on a motorhome, crushing it and sending the people in it to the hospital. Glad we missed that.
Not much else to do here in ND-we skipped the Cowboy Hall of Fame and the steak pitchfork fondue. We came back to the campground and made reservations for the next few days, we’re headed through Montana to Glacier National Park. After dinner we took a ride through “town”-the one street with tourist stuff, but everything was closed except the Peanut Bar-we skipped that too. Saw a herd of elk and a few deer on the way back. There’s karaoke every night at the campground and you wouldn’t believe the sounds that come out of some people.
All in all, I’m glad we decided to visit N. Dakota. The park was great and the people in both Dakotas are wonderful, very laid back, happy to see tourists before they settle down for a long, hard winter not long from now. We learned that Dakota means friend in Sioux and that’s how they treated us-as friends.


Day 22-To Montana

2012-07-10

Day 22-July 10, 2012
And so we start week four. Travelled 284 miles in 6-1/2 hours today. Didn’t realize we were only a half hour from Montana ‘til we got to the “Welcome to Montana” sign. Weather is crazy, we went from 92 at 10 am to 103 at noon, down to 73 for 10 minutes during a storm and then back up to 104 by the time we stopped for the night in Malta, MT. One woman told me they have 9 months of blizzards and 3 months of blistering heat.
We followed Route 2 West which is only forty miles south of Saskatchewan, Canada in some places. Stopped for groceries in Wolf Point, MT at an Alberson’s which made me want to kiss the Stop ‘n’ Shop and Publix (and Sainsbury, Heather) people. This store not only had no selection but most of the shelves were empty. And it was the only grocery store we saw for over 250 miles, glad we stopped when we did. Got enough staples to last a while, though.
Ran into a big storm west of Glasgow, MT, lots of thunder, lightning and rain but we were through it in about 10 minutes. Got to the campground and heard there’s more storms coming with hail and we’re starting to get some wind and rain. Campground is in the rear of an inn (seems to be a lot of that here) right next to the Milk River. We walked down to the river and saw three baby black furry somethings that we think are beavers because they were around a beaver’s nest. They were really cute playing and jumping in the river. We’re surrounded by lots of trees, the only ones I can identify are the aspens with their silvery leaves. It’s nice to be among trees again after driving through 280 miles of flat, open ranges and big sky. Tomorrow we continue through Montana to Glacier National Park.


Day 23-To Glacier National Park

2012-07-11

Day 23-July 11, 2012-To Glacier National Park-The Boring Half
Never got any more rain last night but we did find a mother cat and 4 kittens in the back of the campground near the river. We watched them play for a while but when we got too close they ran into the woods and just watched us.
Drove 324 miles in 8 hours today through more of northern Montana on Route 2, coming as close as 20 miles to Alberta, Canada. Still hot, reached 94 again today but it’s cooler at night. The Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railroad is constantly on our right side and is a very active railroad. Very sparse out here, a town maybe every 60 miles and then only a gas station, casino, auto repair shop and a few other businesses. Usually a big granary, lots of wheat here. Drove through about three different Indian reservations, the Black Feet the most prominent here. Very impoverished towns. Found a Super Wal-Mart in Havre and stocked up on food. Once you’re inside a Wal-Mart it’s hard to tell one in Montana from one anywhere else, they’re all the same. This is the first Wal-Mart we’ve seen in three days and we didn’t see any other food stores the whole day today. Don’t know what these people do for food and supplies.
When we got to Cut Bank (which is touted as being “the coldest spot in the Nation”) in the far west of the state we started to see mountains in the distance and knew the Rockies were ahead of us. Now the fun begins. See Day 23 below-The mountains and the moose.

Day 23-July 11, 2012-The mountains and the moose
After driving for two days through the entire state of Montana in the flat northern part we now start to see the Rockies ahead of us. As we get closer we realize there’s still snow on them. Oh My! After three hours we’re right in the middle of them and THEY ARE MAGNIFICENT! Billions of huge pine trees, gorgeous crystal clear turquoise lakes, rivers, streams and waterfalls. Every turn has a different view, each one better than the last. And just as we get to the top of Maria’s Pass, the highest part of Route 2 and go over the Continental Divide, Harry spots something on the side of the road. At first I thought it was a buffalo (I’m still thinking Custer State Park, I guess), then I’m thinking elk, then I see the antlers and realize it’s a moose. But it can’t be real, it must be one of those tourist “Hey, stop here and see the moose” things and then I see him move as he gets ready to step into the road. I got a quick shot of him with the camera and then he ran into the woods. From what they tell us at the campground most people come here to see moose but very few do, so we feel really lucky.
The sensory overload here is unbelievable. The smell of the pine trees reminds me of going to pick out a Christmas tree, all you smell is pine. Even in our campground the smell is wonderful. I think I’m in a bit of shock it’s so beautiful. Plus I saw a moose!
There’s a gift store next to the campground and the people who own it wintered in Homosassa last year-small world. They have a great dog, Buddy Bear, a big old yellow thing who’s now my best bud. Walked around the camp and met some people from Oregon who gave us some info on a bus tour up the mountain in the Park. Going to relax and read now.


Day 24-Coram and Hungry Horse, MT

2012-07-12

Day 24-July 12, 2012-Coram, MT
Got up at 1:30AM and went outside to look at the stars and it was worth it. There are more stars than I’ve ever seen up there. It’s cold out too, it went down to 55 last night. I got up again at 4:30 and saw the brilliant moon but it was too bright to see the stars as well as before.
Chore day, did a bunch of laundry and registered to stay here another day. Made reservations for the Red Bus tour tomorrow. After lunch we drove into “town” to get a propane tank filled and passed a whiskey bar on the way. They make their own right on the premises so we had to stop. I’m not a whiskey drinker but Harry found something he liked. There was a hair salon right in the same area as the propane so we both got haircuts. Believe it or not, I’m happy with it.
Saw a sign for “Hungry Horse Dam” so we checked it out. Nice lake, very rocky bottom, but warmer than I thought it would be. Lots of people there, it’s 92 out today, but lots of black flies too. There’s a lot of hazy smoke in the valleys and we found out there’s a big fire near Helena (SE of us) and also in the Bitterroot Mts. (South of Us). The smoke dissipates toward the top of the mountains but gets stuck in the valleys. Between the smoke and the pine trees it smells like Christmas Eve with a fireplace going.
Drove north to West Glacier and the entrance to the Park. Stopped at Apgar Visitor center and McDonald Lake to see about renting a kayak or canoe another day. Might be fun if we have the time. Drove up the road in the park a bit past fire damage that had been done in 2003. Lots of trees burned, but it’s starting to come back. Stopped at a meadow overlook and saw just the back of an animal grazing. The grass was so high it was up to its shoulders and it was far away. Even with binoculars we could only see antlers when it looked up and stopped feeding but couldn’t figure out if it was a deer, an elk or a moose.
Lots of tourist shops in West Glacier, all overpriced, of course, but fun to browse through.
Back to camp for dinner. Met a couple across the way from us from Oregon and another from Bayport, Long Island. The wife’s boss just bought a house in Homosassa. Like I said, it’s a small world. Talked with them for quite a while then went in and read a bit. Early day tomorrow on the bus tour.


Day 25-Glacier National Park

2012-07-13

Day 25-July 13, 2012-Glacier National Park
WOW!!! One of the best places on earth and one of the best ways to see it. We took the Red Bus, managed by the National Park Service and it was great. The road isn’t really treacherous like some we’ve been on (although there are some white-knuckled parts) but this way Harry can see the sights instead of concentrating on the road. Our bus was a 1937 (they have been running since 1935) and have been refurbished but have most of the original parts. The top rolls back and off so you get a view from everywhere, similar to a convertible. The drivers are called “jammers” because they could be heard jamming the gears on the mountain. They now run on either gasoline or propane to be green. They seat 17 plus the driver who narrates with lots of history and info all the way. The trip was 8-1/2 hours of beautiful scenery and the ever-present pine tree aroma.
The park is officially the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and lies in northwestern Montana and southern British Columbia, Canada. The closest we got to Canada was 12 miles south of the border. The American part covers over 1.1 million acres of pine and cedar trees, snow covered mountains, crystal clear lakes, wildlife, waterfalls and wildflowers in every color imaginable. Oh, and glaciers. There are twenty five glaciers and 762 lakes in the park and they are slowly disappearing over time. The main road through the park is called “Going to the Sun Road” and that’s what we mostly stayed on today. It’s over 50 miles of two lane road twisting and turning through the mountains, usually at a 6% grade. We started in West Glacier at Lake McDonald, a ten mile glacial lake with lots of boating. We climbed up to the summit at Logan Pass (elevation 6646’) and the Continental Divide. There’s a visitor’s center here and you can walk out onto one of the glaciers. It was blustery way up here, although on the way back later this afternoon it was sunny and warmer. Hit a high of 94 today but comfortable.
As we started back down the east side a little black bear walked across the street in front of us, climbed up on a rock ledge, turned around and seemed to pose for pictures before mooning us and leaving. We had already been told not to expect bears because there are only about 600 in the 1.1 million acres so what are the chances? Very nice surprise!
More views of the glaciers and then we drove out of the park, up to Babb, MT, through the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, back into the park at St. Mary and through Swiftcurrent (aptly named) Valley to the Many Glacier Hotel for lunch. The hotel was built in 1915 and was really grand, right on St. Mary Lake, the big glacial lake on the east side of the mountain. We ate lunch in the Ptarmigan Dining Lodge, had some great “game sausage” stew, had the best table overlooking the lake, and then walked around. Learned the lakes are the beautiful blue-green color because of the effect of the glaciers grinding on each other over eons and creating “glacial flour”, microscopic particles which, when reflected by the sun, create this color. The closer to an active glacier the greener the water. It’s pretty to look at but not so good for the fish.
Back up the east side for the return trip on the same road. Saw two deer and cows grazing near the lake. At one point spotted two mountain goats on a snowy mountain. Saw the destruction made from an avalanche and the numerous fires in the past. It’s now afternoon and the same views look different because of the shadows cast by the sun. Under some waterfalls for well appreciated cool splashes, some more photo op stops and on to the rough white waters of McDonald creek, more like a raging river, then back to Lake McDonald at the end of the tour. This was surely one of the most spectacular places I’ve ever been, a feast for the senses, the feel of the cool air, the sun on your face, the waterfalls (and snow, I guess), the smell of the pine forests, the taste of “game” stew and the crisp water at the top, and the sound of the birds, waterfalls, rushing water and wind. But for me it was mostly a feast for the eyes with sights that were indescribable and truly magnificent.
Stopped for dinner at a small mom and pop restaurant down the road from the campground, not much else around here but it was fine. Bought some local cherries (huckleberries aren’t in season quite yet, but soon) and some local “Moose Drool” ale that we tried at the hotel’s lunch today and really liked. Back to camp and compared stories with the neighbors who also went to the park today, then read a bit and crashed after a long day.


Day 26-Relaxation

2012-07-14

Day 26-July 14, 2012-Time to relax
Rained off and on all night but mostly just cloudy and misty today, sunny every now and then. Caught up on some phone calls, e-mails, Skyped with Heather, Martin & Evie (Skype is great, 7000 miles away and it’s like they’re next door, except for hugs and kisses, that is), read some and generally did not much of anything in the morning.
Looked again at all the maps, tour books and campground books that are strewn all over the rv and decided to head southwest a bit, not really sure where, guess we’ll decide while we’re on the road tomorrow.
Read a bit and then had dinner after which we took a ride up the “Going to the Sun” road again but didn’t see any wildlife, not too many people either. It was really foggy and misty toward the summit. We only went about 20 miles up. Back to camp to pack up and get ready to leave tomorrow.


Day 27-28-Idaho

2012-07-15 to 2012-07-16

Day 27-July 15, 2012
Left camp about 9 and drove 216 miles in 5-3/4 hours to LaClede, ID about 50 miles NE of Spokane, WA. It was a good day to travel because it rained (and poured sometimes) all morning. Glad we did our sight seeing the last two days because with the mist and low clouds we can’t even see the mountains.
Instead of the Interstate we decided to follow Route 2 and even though it was probably a bit longer we were told it was easier to go over the Rockies this way and it was a great trip. It was a two-lane road through a few small towns always following a beautiful river or lake in the pine forest. Lots of fishing and hunting through here and we saw quite a few deer, some right up near the road, others just specks in the distance. Speed limit was 70 in some places. Stopped for lunch at a parking lot in Libby, MT and heated up some soup which hit the spot on a day like today. We’re really close to Canada again (about 12 miles) in Bonner’s Ferry, ID, the biggest city we went through.
When we crossed into Idaho we went to Pacific Time, so it might get dark at a decent hour instead of 11PM like the past few days. This helped us when we stopped early (2PM Pacific Time) to get a campsite. We’re at a Corps of Engineers camp in the Riley Creek Rec Area on the Pend Oreille River (aka Priest River) in LaClede, a big river with lots of boating, fishing, etc. There’s a nice beach with a picnic area with people swimming at one end. An amphitheater where a “ranger” gives talks, a boat ramp, hiking and cross country skiing trails, too. Corps of Engineers camps are always great, usually on water, cheap (we also get ½ price with the Federal Golden Pass) and always woodsy, big, clean, quiet and pretty. You have to reserve three days in advance (which we usually never do) after that it’s first come, first served. The office doesn’t open ‘til 2 and we were the first ones here but it really got busy after that. And they said they were filled ‘til Oct. except for the 1st come, 1st served sites. And the weather got beautiful as soon as we pulled in. The sun came out, it’s only about 70. We had a fire tonight, our first one this trip, it’s either been too hot to have one or too dry and there’s been a ban. Decided to stay two nights instead just one as we originally planned because it’s beautiful, Harry has a good book he wants to finish (I can’t get into the one I started, so I’m being a pain-maybe I’ll start another one) and wherever we’re going next can wait for another day.

Day 28-July 16, 2012
Monday morning we got on our fold-up bikes and rode down to the pay phone seeing that we have no cell service and we want to reserve a campground for the next couple of days but the phone was out of order. We unhitched the truck and went into town (we had our choice, 12 miles one way or 13 the other) but the only place we had service was in the middle of a bridge. We’re in a valley in the Rocky Mountains so I guess we have to expect it. Got some info about campgrounds in Washington and stopped at a Mitchell’s Grocery Store for a few things.
This is logging country and there’s a big lumber yard down the street where they have thousands of logs and they make ply-wood and planks. Passed a big sawmill too. Lots of logging trucks on the road and there’s a big “TimberFest” the end of this month. The town of Priest River calls itself a “Progressive Timber Community.”
Back at camp we went for a longer bike ride. The little bikes are OK for a short trip but after a while everything you own starts to hurt and pinch. Harry’s really into his book and I started a new one so we read for quite a while, then had dinner and another fire. Warmer today, about 83, they say it’s more humid than usual here but I like it.
It’s really quiet during the day here. There aren’t too many campers left from the week-end and the ones that remain are probably out on the water. The trees are majestic, we found out they’re cedars but the leaves look like ferns. They’re tall and stately and smell great. Not much wildlife, lots of crows, butterflies, a few squirrels, bird sounds we’ve never heard before and very few mosquitos considering we’re in the woods.


Day 29-To Washington Wine Country

2012-07-17

Day 29-July 17, 2012-The drive to Washington Wine Country
Started out rainy this morning but by 10AM the sun was out and the temp got up to 89 by afternoon. Stayed on Route 2 to 395 through Spokane, WA. Stopped at a Walmart in Spokane for a hose (ours sprang a leak) and an ancient saleswoman informed us that this was the smallest Walmart in Spokane (a lot bigger than most) and that out of 4000 worldwide stores their’s was named #1 and the manager was manager of the year. She then walked us around the store to where we wanted to go. Talk about service.
Drove a total of 224 miles in 5 hours and stopped at Kiona Winery in Benton City, WA, the east end of the Washington Wine Trail. We belong to “Harvest Hosts” which lets us stay at participating vineyards, farms and ranches throughout the US for free for one night. There aren’t any hook-ups but we are self-contained and don’t need any for a couple of nights. As long as I have a French press for coffee, I’m fine. We have propane gas to cook with and heat water, a battery for some lights and a water tank for showers. There are quite a few vineyards in this area that participate but we chose the one at the far east end so we can work our way westward. It’s Kiona Winery in Benton City, near the tri-state area of Kennewick, Richland and Pasco. We did a wine tasting (they have some nice dry ones) then continued to read. My new book is better. The owner of the vineyard stopped by and gave us a lesson on the soil of the Red Mountain area (it’s calcium carbonate that came down from the glaciers and it’s like chalk). This area boasts red mountains, white earth and blue skies. They had a dinner and wine tasting for about 20 Russian scientists and a few of the visitors to the winery came over to talk to us. Had a nice turkey chili for dinner and enjoyed the stars. We’re up on a hill in the vineyard and the view is wonderful.


Day 30-Our first winery visits

2012-07-18

Day 30-July 18, 2012-Our First Winery Visits
Was quiet last night except for the tree branch that kept swishing on the bedroom window. Heard a few coyotes and got up about 3AM to do some star gazing. Left early this morning and stopped at Terra Blanca (“white earth”, again) Winery, the next vineyard over from where we slept. A lot of the people we spoke to yesterday said it was really beautiful to see. We figured it would be closed but we could look at it anyway but, lo and behold, they’re open so we find ourselves doing a wine tasting at 9AM. I’m not even over my coffee phase yet. And this lady keeps pouring different kinds, we must have tasted ten different wines, whites, reds and roses. We stay and talk to a few of the employees for a while (hey, they have nothing better to do, it’s too early for visitors) before we decide to move on to the next winery.
Instead of going straight to a campground we go to Columbia Crest Winery which we didn’t realize until too late that it’s 21 miles through “Horse Heaven Hill”, an area they call the “breadbasket of Washington” with huge farms growing onions, potatoes, peas, carrots, beans, corn, but mostly dry wheat, wheat that doesn’t need irrigation. Good thing, we’re in the desert between the Cascade Range and the Rockies. They only get 6” of rain a year here and are complaining about the humidity. It’s a beautiful ride but a bit out of our way. But we like Columbia Crest Wine and planned on going here. It’s right on the Columbia River and a gorgeous building and pretty flowers and grounds. Every time we mention another kind of wine this lady opens another bottle and she’s got a really heavy pouring hand. By the time we leave I’ve tasted enough wine to last a while.
Off to the campground, a nice place right in the middle of Wine Country Rd. in Prosser, WA. Only drove 72 miles today but it took almost 5 hours to do it with all the stopping. It’s 2PM, 92 degrees and no trees. But what’s that I spy….a POOL!!!!! AAAHHH!!!!
After dinner, sat around and read a bit. Met a woman who farms wheat, barley and oats about 35 miles from here. What a different lifestyle from anything I know, interesting to list


Day 31-Prosser Wine Tasting

2012-07-19

Day 31-July 19, 2012-Prosser Wine Tasting
Laundry in the am, staying here another two days. Made reservations for the next leg.
After lunch went down the street 2 blocks to Vintner’s Village, two streets of 35 tasting rooms, Oh my!
After a couple of tastings we started doing one tasting between the two of us and eventually I got down to doing little sips and glasses of water. These ladies sure do pour heavy handed. Drove into town, got a bite to eat, then did a brewery. Harry found a nice dark ale he liked, I found a nice cold glass of water I liked. There are about 100 more tasting rooms in town on streets like Merlot Dr. (where our campground is), Chardonnay Blvd., Cabernet Court, Wine Country Rd., Port Ave., you get the picture, I’m sure.
But I like to see the vineyards not just the tasting rooms so we went to the visitor’s center and they sent us 4 miles out of town to Vine Hart. Now, this is more like it. We drove through vineyards and apple orchards and cherry trees to the top of the hill where the little tasting room was in the middle of the vineyard. We were welcomed by a friendly dog and went in to find the owner’s wife pouring the wine. Had a great conversation with her and the wines were great. We asked her about the cherry and apple trees and she told us the cherries were finished. Finished???, but there’s tons of cherries on the trees. She said it was more expensive to have them picked and shipped so they leave them to rot and we were welcome to any we wanted. WOW! We picked quite a few black cherries and then saw the yellow/orange Rainier cherries and picked some of them. The trees were loaded! I can’t believe we picked so many. I’m freezing some but will probably give a lot away, our freezer in the RV isn’t that big.
Hot and humid today, 92, so I visited the pool again, felt just as good as yesterday


Day 32-Zillah & Toppenish, WA

2012-07-20

Day 32-July 20, 2012-Drive to Zillah & Toppenish
Our first stop today was to the Chukar Cherry Factory in Prosser, they make everything on site and they have every king of cherry product you can think of, from salsa, dessert toppings, dried berries and chocolate covered cherries to cherry almond caramel corn and jellies, cherry fudge and truffles, bbq sauce, the list goes on and on. And we had to sample everything.
From there we drove west on the Yakima Valley Highway through Granger, known for their 29 dinosaur life size sculptures because there have been teeth and tusks found here, on to Zillah where we first stopped at the Teapot Dome Service Station National Landmark, a house shaped like a teapot with gas pumps (27.9 cents a gallon) out front. Eventually it will be a visitor center, it’s vacant now. We then did a few wineries in Zillah which is in the Rattlesnake Hills AVA. An AVA (American Viticultural Area) is designated by different climate, soil, etc. and there are nine of them in the Yakima Valley. This is the third one we’ve visited, the other two being Red Mountain and Horse Heaven Hills. Each one has a different kind of grape and therefore a different wine.
We drove through more orchards, apple, nectarine, pear (this is, of course, Washington, home of apples and cherries). So of course more cherries, this time Bing cherries so we had to stop and pick some more. Don’t know how we’ll fit them all in the freezer.
On the way back we stopped at Toppenish, an American Indian (Yamaka Nation) town with 73 gorgeous murals painted on the sides of buildings each one depicting an event or person that made a contribution to the area. Each one was beautiful and every year the first week of June they have a few artists come and paint another one. Sometimes they carried from the side of the building over to the front. Driving down the main street you didn’t know whether to look to the right, left or side. It was beautiful.
Decided to go to the Whitstran’s Pub for dinner, the place where Harry liked the ale yesterday. I made the mistake of getting a flight of the seven they had on tap. Back to camp about 7 and got the cherries ready for the freezer. It’s hot again, but better today, the humidity went down during the day and it’s only about 84 now. Going to get ready to leave tomorrow for Seattle and jump in the pool.


Day 33-To Seattle

2012-07-21

Day 33-July 21, 2012-To Seattle
Drove 201 miles in a little under 5-1/2 hours. Yes, we did stop quite a bit.
As we headed west on Route 82 we noticed we could see a snow covered mountain and then, oh my, two snow covered mountains. We think they were Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier and we could see them both together for just a little while.
We stopped in Ellensburg at a truck/rv wash and wax and these two men did a great job with big brushes and big hoses. The RV never looked this good, the truck looked great too. Stopped a little further west in Cle Elum for lunch, we pulled over near a local park and heated up the chili from the other night.
We then drove through the Cascade Range up and down the mountains through Snoqualmie Pass in the Wenatchee National Forest, beautiful scenery. Hit traffic outside of Redmond, WA, about a half hour from our campground. Seems a car was on fire and it backed up traffic for about 20 minutes but it wasn’t that bad. Got in to the campground (a nice KOA) about 3PM.
Set up, took a walk around and read for a while. It’s cooler here, only a high of 75 today, but it’s sunny and beautiful. We booked a tour to Mt. Rainier for tomorrow, wanted to do it Monday but the company only runs on the week-ends. Maybe it’s better this way, tomorrow’s supposed to be nice and sunny again and they say that’s unusual, it’s usually cloudy and rainy. Heated pool here, maybe?????


Day 34-July 22, 2012-Mt. Rainier, WA

2012-07-22

Day 34-July 22, 2012-Mt. Rainier Tour
It was a great idea not to stop at Mt. Rainier yesterday on our way to Seattle but to drive straight here on the Interstate and then take a tour from the campground. Not only would it have been a long day, not too many roads go through the mountain and they’re all mountain roads (and we would have had the RV) but Harry wouldn’t haven’t gotten to see much being the driver, plus the tour guide was excellent and took us places we never would have known about.
This was a 12 hour, 257 mile round trip tour. We were the last ones picked up in a 17 passenger van from the campground (which also meant we were the first ones dropped off at the end) so there weren’t too many seats together but the co-pilot front seat and the one behind it were so we jumped at those and they were the best seats in the house, especially mine up front.
It took over an hour to get to the Park but we travelled through some cute little towns and saw some local sites on the way. Sort of cloudy and misty in the morning but we’re hoping it’ll burn off so we can see the mountain. Walked the .7 mile Trail of the Shadows in the rain forest section of the park and saw lots of beaver dams and felled trees. Also saw a wood ant hill about 4 feet high that gave us the willies with them all scurrying around. Stopped at lots of waterfalls and canyons and avalanche sites and overlooks (this guide really is into his stuff) and then made it up to Paradise where we had a great buffet lunch at Paradise Inn. This is the hub of the mountain and lots of people were getting ready to hike up. About 5 trails start here to go up different ways. Visitor’s center, ranger station, interpretive movies and exhibits and weather info. It’s still cloudy and it doesn’t look like we’ll see the mountain today. They have a beautiful alpine garden with all kinds and colors of flowers here, pretty snow-capped mountains in the distance and it’s windy and quite chilly-about 55.
After lunch we started back down a different route, still looking for any sign of animals but all we saw were a couple of deer and a sleepy marmot who just wanted to be left alone. More waterfalls and canyons. At one view point you can see Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier all from the same stop. And just when the guide said there wasn’t much to see for a few miles we see a view spot with a lot of people pulled in and, lo and behold, the mountain has decided to come out. What a magnificent mountain! It’s an active volcano, steaming every now and then (not now), 14,411’ high, snowy and majestic. Just enough clouds around it to make it look spectacular with a bright blue sky background. Nobody wanted to stop taking pictures, but we have a long way to go.
Continued back down the mountain and stopped at Grove of the Patriarch Trail for a 1-1/2 mile hike through huge cedar trees that are over 900 years old. This trail followed the Ohanapecosh River, crystal clear in some spots and milky from the glacier flour in others. Had to cross a rickety suspension bridge both in and out and this had more hills than the last trail but it wasn’t a bad hike at all.
Back home through the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and the Muckleshoot Indian Reservation, quite a large and pretty prosperous tribe. And, it’s Seattle so it started to mist with the sun out, much cooler tonight too. Really tired and we have to get ready to go on another tour to Seattle tomorrow.


Day 35-July 23, 2012-Seattle, WA

2012-07-23

Day 35-July 23, 2012-Seattle, WA
Started the day at the KOA rec room where they have a pancake breakfast every morning, but it’s not only pancakes, they have eggs, omelets, bacon, sausage, toast, etc. Had a good breakfast before we started on our tour of Seattle, about 20 minutes north of the campground
We went with the same tour company we used yesterday for this five hour trip through most of Seattle. Started in Pioneer Square which burned to the ground in 1889 but you can still take an underground tour and see some of the remnants of what was left during the gold rush hey-day. Went into the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Museum and saw the equivalent of a ton of gold in bullion and they had a scale that figured out how much you are worth in gold, Harry was worth almost $5 million.
Drove through some the other neighborhoods of Seattle, Chinatown, the Waterfront where we got off to see the locks and the salmon ladder, the artsy Freemont area, Queen Anne, Belltown, Ballard and, of course, the ritzy Magnolia. Steep hills all over the city which has a very big influence from Bill Gates and Paul Allen, they have buildings all over the place. And coffee stores, there seems to be at least three Starbucks, which originated here, for every one of every other company. Also on the waterfront were ice busters, huge ships used to break up ice in the north in the winter and cruise ships about to depart for Alaska. Also saw a lakefront community that had 450 houseboats on it, all close together but really nice looking, some only 350 square feet and others that were 3 floors, had 3 bedrooms, a wine cellar, glass garage doors in the living room that opened up on the lake and lots of extras. The “lot” goes for $1.4 million and then you put your house on it. I really liked this neighborhood. Lots of poverty and homeless here too like any big city. Construction everywhere you looked. There’s an electric bus system here too and from what everybody says it’s easy to get around via bus or train. Pretty hanging baskets of petunias and other flowers on most of the buildings and gardens everywhere. Very pretty and smelled nice, too. Lots of artwork and sculpture all over town, some nice, some really weird like a 4000 lb. cement troll under a bridge with a life sized VW Beetle squished in his hand and some neon blue trees in a city square.
Drove up to Kerry Park and had a great view of the Space Needle, a 605’ structure built for the 1962 World’ Fair. They’re celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and the top is painted the original color. Our final stop was at Pike Place Market, covering nine acres it’s the oldest continuous operating market in the US, it’s over 100 years old and had 157 permanent stores, including the original Starbucks and various booths that can be rented daily by vendors. All kinds of merchandise and food here but they say the best bargains are the flower bouquets, and there are lots of vendors selling them. The place is crammed with people.
All in all, the way I see it, if you take New York City, San Francisco, Portland, OR and Boston and shake them up and pour them out you get Seattle. It has a little of all of these cities and yet has its own flavor. I’m glad we got to visit here but I don’t think we’d ever come back. (Except maybe on the way to Alaska).
Got back to the campground around 2PM, headed out again to gas up for tomorrow and to stock up on some groceries. Don’t know if where we’re going there will be many grocery stores. The weather has been “Seattley” all day, menacing dark clouds, damp and chilly-it didn’t even make it to 70 today. Back at camp there was an ice cream social so we had to attend that, of course, and then we talked to our new neighbors who pulled in from Montana for a few days.
Leaving tomorrow, not really sure which way we’re heading, we’ve talked about a lot of different places and different directions. Guess we’ll talk again some more before we get in the truck tomorrow.


Day 36-July 24, 2012-Sequim, Port Angeles and Olympic Nat'l. Park-Part 1

2012-07-24

Day 36-July 24, 2012-Sequim, Port Angeles and Olympic National Park-Part 1
Short drive today of only 119 miles in 2-1/2 hours down I-5 to Tacoma and then up Rte. 16 and over a bridge over the Puget Sound to The Olympic Peninsula and the Pacific Coast Scenic Highway (101) to Port Angeles, WA.
I expected Port Angeles to be a little don’t blink kind of town but I was really surprised at the size and activity here. The first surprise was that this area is known for its lavender and we just missed the lavender farm festival. It’s mainly in Sequim (pronounced Skwim-forget the e) and the entire town of Sequim smells of lavender. We only went to one, The Purple Haze lavender farm, because of time but it was wonderful. This lavender farm is another place to stay through Harvest Hosts, through which we can stay free for one night. There are no hookups but the aroma of lavender makes it worth forgetting the closed windows and air conditioning. This area is in the “blue hole” of Washington, and because of the rain shadow effects of the Olympic Mountains their temps range between 40 and 70 and they only get 25” of rain a year compared with 140” on the other side (which we’ll see tomorrow). If it’s cloudy in Sequim the Chamber of Commerce will give you a coupon good for one sunny day when you return, that’s how sure they are of their sunny days. Quaint little town, everything’s purple. This is also Dungeness crab country, although we never got to try any.
After Sequim we drove to the Olympic Mt. National Park, a short drive from the campground but seventeen miles up to the top (over a mile high). As we climbed at first you can see Vancouver in the distance past the Strait of Juan de Fuca and then only snow covered mountains. This part of the park is the mountainous part and the top is called Hurricane Ridge, a variety of snowcapped mountains in the distance, even some snow still on the ground in places even though it was 60 degrees and the sun was really warm. At the visitor center we were greeted by a deer in the parking lot and as the afternoon went on more and more deer appeared, just meandering through the parking lot and the meadow. Oh, the meadow!!! What great wildflowers, mostly purple lupine. The smell in the meadow was great, not pine this time, but flowers. Took a walk on a short trail and found a mound of snow and the truth is Harry threw the first snowball, not me. Driving down the mountain we saw another deer and a rabbit, chipmunk and marmot who all had death wishes.
Drove into Port Angeles just to see the town and was really surprised at how busy it is. A very active waterfront, a big logging company (Nippon Paper), nice marina, lots of shops and restaurants, murals and sculptures all over town, nice beach area and the ferry that will take you 18 miles north over the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Victoria, BC, Canada.
Leaving tomorrow to circle the Peninsula and go to the other side and the two other areas of Olympic National Park, one the rain forest and one the hot springs.


Day 37-Sol Duc Hot Springs at Olympic National Park & LaPush,WA

2012-07-25

Day 37-July 25, 2012-Olympic National Park Part 2 & LaPush, WA
Drove 103 miles today in 4-1/2 hours but that included a 25 mile round trip to Sol Duc Hot Springs, the second part of the Olympic National Park.
We first drove by Lake Crescent, a glacial lake that’s 12 miles long and 624’ deep. It’s so clear you can see forever although it looks like it gets deep really quickly. Very deep blue too. From there we went 12-1/2 miles up the National Park road to Sol Duc Hot Springs, a natural mineral spring that’s starts at 128 degrees and ends up in three pools that are between 99 and 104 degrees. A resort, lots of cabins and even a couple of campgrounds (that we can’t fit into) on the premises. People come to go in the springs to cure what ails them. On the way back down we pulled over for some lunch at the salmon cascades, part of the Sol Duc River that salmon spawn in. They say there’s salmon here every season but they’ve been over fished so they’re hard to spot now. Very pretty blue cascades. There was another area called Ancient Groves which was large old trees that we drove through, Sitka Spruce, Red Cedar, Fir and Hemlocks. The wildflowers are beautiful here but different from other areas, here they’re white daisies, tall yellow dandelions and pink foxglove.
It was about another hour to our campground, still travelling of 101, the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway ‘til we got to Forks and then we turned on 110 for 15 miles of nothing ‘til we reached LaPush. Most of the peninsula is either the Olympic National Park, Olympic National Forest (I don’t know the difference), Indian Reservation, the Makah, Quileute, Quinault, Ozette and Hoh, or a combination of the above. Our campground is in the National Park but it’s on Quileute land. Go figure. It’s called Quileute Oceanside Resort and there’s a lot of cabins, family suites, a restaurant, convenience store, marina and the campground. Somehow I think the Quileute Indian tribe got snookered out of this property. Anyway, it’s right on the Pacific Ocean and as soon as we got about a half mile from the campground we saw what we thought was smoke but turned out to be mist from the ocean and the temperature dropped about 10 degrees. It was sunny and beautiful and then BAM!, cold, damp, misty. But still pretty. The campsite is right behind the dunes leading to the ocean, which has tons of driftwood on it. We took a walk on the beach after we set up, there’s lots of people, some surfing, some sitting by a fire, some swimming (we figure they’re either from Canada or Michigan and the water feels warm to them). A lot of seagulls and funny looking pelicans, too.
Back at camp we threw in a load of laundry and then I went back to the beach and collected some driftwood for campfires. We’re gonna chill out, read and relax for the rest of the day. We’re here for two nights so tomorrow we’ll do some more sight seeing.


Day 38-Hoh Rainforest at Olympic National Park & The Twilight Saga

2012-07-26

Day 38-July 26, 2012-Hoh Rain Forest-Olympic National Park Part 111 and Twilight
It got really foggy last night but it seems a bit clearer this morning. We took a ride through the Quileute reservation which is about a mile this way and that, just a few streets really. Lots of junk yard dogs and junk yard yards, very run down, but the people are all very nice. A few restaurants, Crazy Chris’ fireworks, some bait shops, that’s about it. Didn’t see a casino. We’re constantly reminded that we’re on the reservation with signs like “No Fishing Unless You Have a Permit From The Chief”, “Monthly Tribal Circle Meets Here”, “No Fireworks Within 150 Feet of Tribal Land”.
Drove 12 miles south through Forks (more about that later) and then on to the Hoh Forest in the Olympic National Park. It was cloudy and 55 until we turned into the Park and then the sun came out and it got up to 72. The locals were commenting that they only get nice weather like this about 3 days a year. The 17 mile road follows the Hoh River where people drive cars onto the riverbed to go fishing. This part of Washington, called the West End, gets an average of 140-170 inches of rain a year and the rain forest is one of the best examples of a temperate rain forest in the world. The mossy trees are everywhere and the ferns are waist high. It’s like being in Jurassic Park. I’ve never seen so many shades of green. There’s a big Sitka Spruce tree (marked only as “Big Tree”) that’s 300’ tall, 12-1/2’ in diameter and about 550 years old. We took a nice hike, only about an hour, through the Hall of Mosses, giant trees draped with moss. The campground is nice and convenient to the trails and visitor center but we could never fit our RV in it with all the trees around. Back down the 17 miles, which took over 45 minutes with all the twists and turns, stopped in Forks for a few groceries and a look around and back to the campground. Took another walk on the beach, not as many people out today as yesterday. The sun wasn’t out here but it wasn’t as bad as yesterday. As the evening went on the fog started to roll in until about 8PM you can barely see outside. The sunsets would probably be gorgeous but I don’t think LaPush ever sees the sun.
Getting ready to leave tomorrow. Guess we’re on our way home. We’re as far away from home as we can get now and whichever way we go from here is closer to home. Mapquest says we’re 3260 miles from home but we’ve travelled 5600 to get here. Read on if you’re a Twilight fan, if not, you probably want to end here.
Twilight-WOW! I knew we would be in Forks and LaPush but I never thought we would be twilighted to death. As we got halfway down the 15 mile road from the main route 101 toward LaPush we saw a sign saying “No Vampires Beyond This Point”. This was the treaty line. Oh, boy. While in LaPush we see lots of twilight tour buses with names like Dazzled By Twilight and Team Forks that will take you to a lot of the places in the books. We didn’t realize that the beach we’re camped on, First Beach, is a big player in the books. When I went into the Chamber of Commerce in Forks, the first thing the lady said to me was “Team Edward or Team Jacob?” Oh, boy. The place is one tiny room and it’s filled with posters, pictures and books about Twilight, even the ceiling is plastered with posters. She asked me if I wanted my picture taken with life-sized cardboard cutouts of the Cullen Clan or the Werewolf Clan. Oh, boy. I asked her what Forks was before the books and she said a logging town and the town was named Forks because it’s where three rivers meet in a fork. That’s all I got then she started talking about Twilight again. They used to have about 6000 visitors a year, last year they had 72,000 and so far this year over 45,000. She then handed me a map to over 150 places in the book that you could drive to and then another map with places in LaPush and Port Angeles. And a trivia sheet with questions for each of the books that you can fill in, fax back and get the answers. Oh, boy. There were people in the little tiny place from Spain and Germany there to see Twilight stuff and the map where you put the pins in showing where you’re from was filled to the point of not being able to even see the map. The map of the world, not just the US. In the local outfitter store (the one Bella worked in, by the way), along with the usual t-shirts, hats, etc. you can buy werewolf slippers or love at first bite rain boots. There’s Twilight stuff all over the place. In the visitor center parking lot are the two trucks Bella drove in the movie. The sign outside says “Forks-Population 3175, Vampires-8-1/2”. Oh, boy. There’s a Jacob Black Vacation Rental place, Bella’s First Aid Station, “Edward’s song ”-a play going on, Bella’s Suite at one local motel and a sign stating “Edward Cullen didn’t sleep here” at another and signs everywhere saying “You’re now in the Twilight Zone”. We even saw a “Parking for Werewolves only” sign on a front yard in the reservation. Oh, boy.
I’m sure Port Angeles, LaPush and Forks were on the map before the Twilight books but they’re all on the map in bold type now.


Day 39-To Portland, OR

2012-07-27

Day 39-July 27, 2012-To Portland, OR
Drove 272 miles in 7-1/2 hours today. Continued south on 101 through more National Park, National Forest and Indian turf, stopping at a few view points for our last look at the Pacific for a while. The beaches at Kalaloch and Queets had great views and Harry even spotted a dolphin way out. Saw signs for a tsunami gathering center atop a hill. Scary to think the ocean could rise so high. Stopped in Humptulips, WA where a man gave me the whole story about the town name as he knew it. The whole story is that it’s some kind of Indian name. He volunteered this great piece of info, I didn’t even ask for it. Went over a draw bridge at Gray’s Harbor and then entered civilization again in Aberdeen, a real city with a Wal-Mart, shopping centers, gas stations, people. One of the houses had a palm tree in front. I thought that was really odd but it never gets really cold here so I guess it’s not so odd after all.
At Aberdeen, a really nice place, by the way, we turned on route 12 to I-5 where we were reminded that civilization not only means cell phone service and wi-fi but traffic. The sun finally came out about 3PM and the temp got up to 72 by the time we got to Fairview, OR, a suburb of Portland. So, after eleven days in Washington we’re now in Oregon.
We didn’t plan on stopping here but the RV brakes are squealing and Harry wants to get them looked at before we start going over the Rockies again. There’s a Camping World a mile from the campground and we have an appointment for Monday morning. But all is not lost, Portland is 10 miles east of us and the Columbia River Gorge (and another wine trail) is 10 miles north. I see a great week-end ahead.


Day 40-Portland, OR

2012-07-28

Day 40-July 28, 2012-Portland, OR
Started the day with a Skype call to Heather, Martin & Evie and I find it hard to believe that we’re 7000 miles away and still had a decent conversation and could see them all. Technology is great. The day just kept getting better from then.
We drove into Portland (the city of roses) to Washington Park. The park has a children’s park, the Oregon Zoo and other things but I was interested in the International Test Rose Garden. I remember we were here last year but it was too early and there weren’t even buds on the bushes. This year everything was in bloom. It’s on a hill overlooking Portland and tiered so the visitor center is on top, the gardens lower. You can see Portland in the distance and beyond that Mt. Hood. Almost missed that view, the mountain blends into the clouds. The garden was started in 1917 and some plants go back that far. There are over 7000 plantings on 4-1/2 acres, 550 varieties and little gardens (like the Shakespeare Garden with palm trees) nestled among the big garden. There are different tiers and arches to the gardens and they’re all immaculately kept. There was a big photo shoot going on and we at first thought it was a wedding but found out it was a Quincenaera (Mexican coming-out party for 15-yr. old girls.) There were actually two of them in the park, they arrived in Pepto-Bismol pink limos with an entire entourage, almost more elaborate than a wedding. I took way too many pictures of the gardens and have about 60 pictures of individual blooms in every color under and above the sun. They were all so beautiful and the aroma was wonderful. This place is amazing, I could stay here all day.   And I don’t even like roses that much.
From there we went to the Portland Saturday Market and that was crazy nuts. It was also the last day of the Oregon Brewers Festival (with 85 types of beer and entertainment) and a gorgeous day (78 and sunny) which brought all the crazies out. Walked around there for a while and then decided to go for dinner in the Pearl Section of Portland to Bridgeport Brew and Pub. We were there last year and enjoyed tasting their beers. Harry likes the dark ale so he gets a glass of that and leaves the tasting to me. I got a flight of 8/5oz. and should know better. Harry helped me with the dark ones. Their beer is really good, though. Had a great view of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams all the way back to camp.
Lots of bike riders in Portland. They have a good electric streetcar system too. We had no trouble finding parking spaces but most people don’t drive in to town. But the bike riders are crazy and ride up and down the hills really fast. The “Keep Portland Weird” sign is still up and it’s still working. But it’s a fun place to visit.


Day 41-Columbia River Gorge

2012-07-29

Day 41-July 29, 2012-Columbia River Gorge
Yesterday we went west to Portland, today we went east to the Columbia River Gorge. It was cloudy in the morning but turned out to be another beautiful sunny day with temperatures around 80.
We started on I-84 which parallels the Columbia River on the Oregon side and you see across to Washington State. We got off for a while and drove on the Historical Columbia River Scenic Byway, past Bridal Veil Falls and then on to the 620’ Multnomah Falls where we stopped for a while. Back on the road we passed gorges, dams, the Horsetail Falls, Cascade locks and a salmon fish hatchery. We stopped at Mitchell outlook where we watched wind-surfers and got blown all over the mountain.
Went about 50 miles east to Hood River, OR (yes, it’s a city name too) where we drove part of the Hood River Fruit Loop, a 35-mile loop that has over 30 fruit stands, orchards, flower farms, lavender farms, vineyards, nut and berry farms and alpacas. We had a view of Mt. Hood (the tallest mountain in OR at 11,235) in the front window and Mt. Adams (12,276, but it’s in WA) in the rear. Found out they call these mountains "stand alone" mountains because there are no other peaks or mountains near them and they really are impressive on the skyline.  They are both no only snow capped but covered in snow as far down as you can see.  Stopped at a few vineyards and at one we ate the lunch we packed on their patio and they brought the tastings out to us. Great time!
Drove into the town of Hood River to “the event site” where there were a lot of wind-surfers, kite flyers, swimmers and people having a good time. You can rent a kayak, surfboard or wind-surfer thingy, take lessons or join a group right there. Very windy!!!!! There was a town up on the hill with all kinds of shops. Enjoyed the trip back with different views of the river because of the sun.
Stopped for some groceries and gas for the trip tomorrow. We have a 10AM appointment to get the brakes checked and then we’re off to someplace, probably south. How far we get will probably depend on what time we leave here. Did some laundry while we have the chance. Ate dinner while the dryers were working. Nice big laundry at this campground so we got it done quickly. It’s like a resort here, lots of activities, a heated pool, spa, clubhouse, two laundry rooms. Quite a few people are here for months, most of them from Texas, a few from Florida.  I can see why, the weather, scenery and area is beautiful (this time of year, anyway).  Even though we didn't plan on coming here this year it turned out to be one of my favorite places so far.

Really busy week-end, we're both tired.  Maybe watch some Olympics, maybe just hit the sack.


Day 42-To LaPine, OR

2012-07-30

Day 42-July 30, 2012-To LaPine, OR
Even when we think we’re going to have a boring driving day, we get surprised. Started out boring, we dropped the RV off for the brake squeal, (they found nothing but a bit of dirt, they still squeal) and we went to do some errands. I had to have blood drawn to make sure the thyroid meds are OK. Had to go back over the Columbia River to Vancouver, WA about 20 minutes, for a Quest Lab. Then we found a AAA and got some maps and tour books for the southwest.
Left Camping World about 1:30 and instead of going straight down I-5 to Crater Lake we took Route 26 to 97. It started out as an OK road, a bit busy in town but when we got out of town we started going up in elevation and started seeing signs for Mt. Hood. We then realized we had just gone around Mt. Hood all week-end-now we were getting closer and, all of a sudden, we go around a curve and BAM! there it is, closer than we’ve ever been. It’s so isolated and it was so warm (87) and sunny that to see a snow covered mountain was surreal. We went through towns with crazy names like Zig Zag, Rhodadendron, Snow Bunny and Government Camp at 4000’ where you can downhill ski all year and where the US Olympic Ski Team practices. There were lots of chair lifts and snow activities although you had to go up the mountain to get to them.
We drove through all kinds of terrain, too from the mountains down to the Warm Springs Indian Reservation which is all plains to the Crooked River National Grasslands, through buttes, the Deschutes National Forest on the Oregon Trail, through the Mt. Hood Scenic Byway, past green farms with snow covered Mt. Jefferson in the background, cattle ranches and wheat farms in Redmond, traffic in Bend and then through the Lava Lands volcano and lava beds to our campground in LaPine State Park in Lapine, OR, which was recommended by a camper we met in Glacier National Park. It’s a great campground on the Deschutes River about an hour north of Crater Lake. There’s lots of resident chipmunks the size of squirrels (we’re camped right over a hole) and he keeps popping up. Very quiet here, pine tree all over and we had a nice campfire. Drove 178 miles in 4-3/4 hours today. Going to Crater Lake tomorrow, should be an easy drive, maybe just an hour.


Day 43-Volcanoes & Diamond Lake

2012-07-31

Day 43-July 31, 2012-Volcanoes & Diamond Lake, OR
Only drove 115 miles today in 3-1/4 hours but we took a side trip.
On our way to Crater Lake we saw a sign “Newberry National Volcano Monument”. Now, how can you not go there? So we turn in and drive and drive and drive ‘til we see a snow covered volcano in the distance. Then a view point with some info. It’s called Lava Butte and it seems this is all volcano territory, the size of Rhode Island, over 1200 sq. miles There’s also two lakes here, Lake Paulina and East Lake and in between there’s the Big Obsidian Flow, formed when the volcano last erupted 1300 years ago. There’s lots of cross country ski and ski mobile trails, campgrounds and lake activity. The drive up was 18 miles to an elevation of 6500’ and then we had to drive back down again.
The rest of the trip was uneventful, we’re still on route 97 until we get to the turn off for Crater Lake on what they call “Volcanic Legacy Byway”. Lots of byways out here, also lots of National Forests, today we were in the Deschutes, Winema and Umpqua National Forests and we also had a National Monument. Our campground is on Diamond Lake, about 4 miles from the north entrance to Crater Lake. The people who manage the campground used to live in Crystal River, FL (small world) so we talked to them for a while, then set up, had lunch and took a ride around the lake. A deer ran in front of us right outside the campground and I’m sure there’s lots more in all the woods here. Big pine trees around the beautiful lake at the food of a snow covered volcano. Lots of dead wood so we did some fire wood collecting while we were riding. Back at camp we talked to our neighbors who gave us some great info about where to go next.
The wildlife in the campground is wonderful. The chipmunks and ground squirrels come right up to you, there’s a crazy purple/black bird with a headdress that makes a funky sound and the hummingbirds at the feeder across the way dive bomb you when they come in for a landing. There’s about six of them, competing for the feeder at once. They’re just as territorial as the Florida ones.
Had a nice campfire again, saw lots of stars even though there’s a huge brilliant full moon out. It gets cooler here at night. We needed the heat last night. This part of Oregon reminds me of Crossville, Tennessee. The hills and trees are similar and there’s bright blue skies, it’s sunny and warm (around 80 today), with low humidity but at night it gets chilly.


Day 44-Crater Lake National Park

2012-08-01

Day 44-August 1, 2012-A Day at Crater Lake
Another great day at another National Park. The star of this park is Crater Lake, the deepest in the US at 1943’ It’s 6 miles at its widest and 4-1/2 miles at its narrowest. It was created 7700 years ago when Mt. Mazama erupted and imploded on itself created a hole in the earth (known as a caldera). It was discovered in 1853. All the water in the crater comes from snow melt or rain. The only boat allowed on it is one tour boat. There is only one access to it and you have to climb down a steep cliff to get to it. The deep blue color has something to do with the spectrum and the way the human eye sees color and it is gorgeous. It was a cloudless sunny day, too which made it even nicer. There are two islands in it, Wizard Island and Phantom Ship which is over 400,000 years old. They are both the tops of other smaller volcanoes. The highest point we drove to was over 8000’ feet at and that point the temp plummets to below freezing every night even though it was 68 when we were there. That explains why there was still snow in many places, that and the fact that last year they got over 51 feet of snow and the road we took in didn’t open this year until July 19th when the snow plows could get in. We only saw one small waterfall and another big one, Vidae Falls, which splashed when it cascaded on the rocks.
To get into the park you first drive through what they call a pumice forest, miles of miles of pumice that was caused when the volcano blew up and the lava mixed with air. It’s as light as air and ranged in size from a quarter to a good sized rock.
There is a 33-mile road which goes around the lake with thirty viewpoints and every one is different. There are also trails leading to different views but we only did one to see the Phantom Ship better. It was a steep climb up and when we got there the place where you could see it was roped off. We found out through other people up there that workers were building a rock wall and if we walked past them we could get a better view and they were right, it was worth the climb up. Going down was a snap, but really dusty. Some of the places on this drive have no shoulder on either side and a times it was a white-knuckled experience. There’s a sign that says “Danger-Falling May Cause Death-Stay Away From
Cliffs”. OK.
We stopped for lunch at the Lodge. There’s always a lodge at the National parks, they always have a fire going in the fireplace, a great view of whatever you’re there to see, (we’ve learned to ask for a table near the window), great, reasonably priced food and wonderful service by interns from all over the world. They always have great history behind them too and most of them were built around 1915. Wildlife is friendly here too, especially chipmunks, they’re used to getting handouts. I found out that beautiful blue bird with the head feathers is called a Steller Jay. Oh, and I took way too many pictures.
Headed back to camp about 6PM and went to the local (and only) pizza place on Diamond Lake, but decided on a salad and the broasted chicken which was a great choice. The pizza probably would have been good, too. The owners at the campground told us the (one and only) store on the lake next to the pizza place had good Umpqua Ice Cream so, of course, we had to try it. Harry asked the lady how many scoops were in the bowl she was filling and she said “One”. There were probably five scoops in it and she kept going. She then said we could split our “1” scoop between more than one flavor. So we got “1” scoop of 2 different flavors, would you believe huckleberry cheesecake? There’s enough left for two more nights, at least. And it was $2.75 for “1” scoop. She also gave us a great tip on a campground for tomorrow night. Went back to to camp and looked at maps, heading through California to Reno, NV (are thereabouts) tomorrow.


Day 45 and 46-To Reno, NV

2012-08-02

Day 45-August 2, 2012-To Alturas, CA
Got a really late start today, 11:20 but only drove 182 miles in 4-3/4 hours to Alturas, CA. Drove down Route 97 seeing nothing on the way (except a snow covered Mt. Shasta in the far distance-we figured over 100 miles away but at over 14000’ we could still see it) ‘til we got to Klamath Falls, quite a large city. Filled up on fuel because we’re only 20 miles from California and we know the gas is crazy expensive there (although Harry just looked on line and found out CT is higher than CA). Stopped for some groceries but didn’t buy any produce. There’s an inspection station into CA and you can’t bring in any produce. Last year they confiscated all our fruit. So we packed away what fruit we had in a safe place. Turns out the inspection station was closed anyway so we needn’t have worried.
Started seeing more cattle, sheep and horse ranches in California and a few potato and hay farms. This part of the country is in a valley with sagebrush and scrub oak leading up to buttes all around. We can see some mountains in the far distance but nowhere near us. We listened to the book on tape we started but we haven’t listened in so long it took a while to get back into what was going on.
Stopped in Alturas, CA at High Desert RV. They have only five sites across the street from the police station and the other four have permanent residents in them. We didn’t want to drive as far as Reno and this is the only place between here and there. Glad the ice cream lady in Diamond Lake told us about it, we never would have found it if we didn’t know it was here and glad I called for reservations this morning, which was no easy feat seeing that we have little to no cell phone service. We’re definitely not in the Pacific Northwest anymore, it was 91 degrees today and hot. We’ll see what tonight brings, last night we needed the heat, but we were at 7000’ altitude, we’re much lower now.
Day 46-August 3, 2012-To Reno
Well, so much for needing the heat, the temp reached 102 today by the time we got over the Sierra Nevada range and into Reno. It took us 3-1/4 hours to go 170 miles through the mountains, always in a valley with plains and desert for miles and mountains all around in the distance. Could barely see at one point because of the smoke and we later found out there was a fire in northern California and the smoke just settles in the valley. But the wind came up and blew it away by evening. Very dry here, they didn’t have much snow this winter and have had less than 2” of rain so far this year. Everything is really arid. Got into the campground early, by 1:30 and set up. We’re right behind the Grand Sierra Resort & Casino, which is a city in itself. Along with the casino it has a shopping mall on one floor, a 50-lane bowling alley that’s open 24/7, a 4-movie first run theatre for $3, wedding chapel, 15 restaurants, an outside driving range where you shoot balls into little decorated islands in a lake, an inside golf course, mini golf, a work-out room and spa, a huge pool on a manmade sand beach with outside bar, inside Mustangs Saloon and Dance Hall at one end and WET Ultra Lounge with a live dj at the other, three or four other bars in between, an 1800 seat arena with a Cirque show currently playing, Ultra Rush Thrill Park, convention and meeting rooms where they just had a cake icing contest where the winner was a 6’ sculpture that took 6 months to create, karaoke in another, and a family fun center with a bungie jumping thing, a go-kart track and other kid friendly activities. Reno had lots more children than Las Vegas, even in the casinos. They aren’t allowed on the betting floors but they can go everywhere else. I’m sure there’s lots of other stuff there that we haven’t seen yet. We can call security and they’ll shuttle us back and forth between the casino and the campsite but it’s an easy walk. We filled up on gas (about 55 cents cheaper in NV than CA) and then drove to downtown Reno, about 5 minutes from our campground. Lots of everything there, a riverwalk on the Truckee River with shops and art galleries, the University of Nevada, lots more tourist stuff and casinos, museums and parks, all stuffed into a few blocks. Reno prides itself on being “The Biggest Little City In The World”. We took a wrong turn and ended up on the freeway so we decided stop in town another time and instead went back to the Grand Sierra Casino to try our luck.


Day 46-Grand Sierra Resort and Casino

2012-08-03

Day 46-August 3, 2012-The Grand Sierra Resort & Casino
Staying in the RV resort right next to the casino was a great idea, we easily walked to the casino. It was late so we decided to try the buffet before the slot machines. There was quite a line but we figured it must be worth it. We knew from Las Vegas that if you get one of the cards from the casino you usually get a break on the buffet so Harry went up to get a card and I stayed in line. We started talking to people around us and they said the buffet was $5 with the card. But they didn’t know you had to be local to get that deal. But by the time Harry got back we had moved up some so we stayed. Usually we don’t wait in lines but talking to other people and watching people at the slot machines made the time go by. After about an hour, give or take, we got up to the front of the line where they gave us one of those blinky things and said it would be another two hours. Oh, no it won’t! So we left and went 2 doors down to Johnny Rocket’s for a burger.
We got a table in Johnny Rocket’s adjacent to a local radio station booth that seemed to be signing up people for something and they were all dressed in funky costumes. I asked one of the radio people what was going on and they told me they were giving away tickets to “the burning man” and also giving money to the best costume. What’s the burning man, you ask? I did and I got an earful. Seems one week around every Labor Day about 60,000 people travel 2 hours into the Nevada desert to dry camp in the Black Rock area, dress in everything from neon fur with lights to pajamas, drive “art cars” and build up to 10-story structures to light them on fire after a week of revelry. There’s no rhyme or reason to the costumes or cars, just whatever is artsy. People come from all over the world for this, the tickets cost about $450.00 and it’s a lottery draw. Why, you ask? I did, but never really got an answer. But it didn’t really matter, these were fun-loving, friendly people, most of them professional, most not youngsters either. Very dedicated, one man told us this would be his 17th year. They brought us outside to show us their “art cars”, everything from a head that lit up, a car in the shape of a sardine can with fur seats that reverberated to a boom box built on a land rover body, one that resembled a diner and had seats outside and some indescribable ones, too. These took money, devotion and talent. I took their advice and went to www.burningman.com and I’m still confused. If nothing else, the “burning man” can be described as a fun-loving, care-free, artsy, nature friendly week long fair.
So, we’ve been in the casino for about four hours now and haven’t played a single cent. We’ve gone to the bars and watched some bands and djs, we’ve marveled at the crystal chandeliers and the faucets in the bathroom where the water splashes onto black marble (no sinks) and disappears, and we’ve watched a lot of people. Now it’s time to win some serious money. Yeah, right! Harry did win gas money, I lost lunch money, but we had a wonderful time. There’s a small area that’s non-smoking but most of it isn’t, but they do have a good ventilation system and it doesn’t smell too bad. Walked back to the campsite in the beautiful balmy air. It’s much cooler when the sun goes down and the wind picks up.


Day 47-Lake Tahoe and downtown Reno

2012-08-04

Day 47-August 4, 2012-Lake Tahoe & Downtown Reno
Drove down to Lake Tahoe today. Up and down the Sierra Nevada range on a beautifully scenic road. The problem was everybody else had the same idea, traffic was terrible. We got up to Mt. Rose, at 8900’ elevation, the highest pass in the Sierra Nevada range that’s open all year. Then down to where the road goes east to Incline Village in Nevada and South Tahoe or west to King’s Beach in California and the North Tahoe. We opted for the west side because they’re having “Hot August Nights” in South Tahoe, a car show that ties up traffic for miles. There’s only one road around the lake and people told us the west side was prettier. “Hot August Nights” moves up to Reno on Monday so we’re outta here then. We did see lots of old cars in the area already.
King’s Beach and all the other beach areas we ran into around the lake were your typical summer resort spots, lots of traffic, water activities and people crossing the street in front of you. It was another terrific day, 100 and sunny, but dry. There are plenty of condos around the lake, some permanent homes, mostly log types, some very elaborate, some mere shacks. The lake is 22 miles long and 12 miles wide, 1/3 of it in Nevada and 2/3 in California. It’s supposed to be 97% pure, almost distilled water. It is very blue and extremely clean, even at the boat ramps we went to. We found a cute little park for lunch, took a walk on the beach and then turned around and drove back to Nevada, through Incline Village (more tourists, lots of tourists!) and over to Carson City, the state capitol. The drive was wonderful, the mountains and plains truly magnificent. Every turn is another scenic view. Carson City is named for Kit Carson and it is surrounded by the rugged mountains and must be gorgeous in the winter. It’s very clean and almost quaint for a state capitol and not what I expected. Very western and frontier-like.
Came back to Reno and decided to give downtown another try. We knew the Eldorado, Silver Legacy and Circus-Circus were all connected so we opted for those. You walk out of one casino and into another one, each with its own theme. Got a parking place right behind the Eldorado and started there at their buffet, no line at this one. And it was great, way too much food, though! It was seafood night and the crab legs, shrimp, clams, mussels, lobster bisque (OK, I’ll stop there) were wonderful. Dropped down some money, I won this time, and then went to Silver Legacy, where they have a monster mining machine in the middle. From there we went to Circus-Circus but didn’t stay long. Some had no-smoking areas but most didn’t and I still can’t get over the number of kids that are here, even infants. I think we’re up a few dollars but there’s always tomorrow. We plan on relaxing tomorrow.


Day 48-Last Day in Reno

2012-08-05

Day 48-August 5, 2012-Last Day in Reno
Very windy last night, the RV was buffeted all night, some thunder, lightning and rain, too. It must have cleared everything out because we woke up to a deep blue sky with gorgeous poufy white clouds.
Threw some laundry in and then walked over to the casino to get tickets for the Cirque show tonight. We swiped our casino cards while we were there and I won $5.00 free play. I was feeling lucky so I played some slots but my luck must have been winning the $5.00 ‘cause I lost it faster than I won it.
Finished the laundry, did some housecleaning and then relaxed for a while. Filled up with gas (we’re off to California tomorrow where gas is gold) and got some groceries (still no produce, there’s an inspection station right over the line).
Went to the buffet at Grand Sierra which wasn’t busy tonight and then lost some more money in the casino. I think we broke just about even for the three days we were here. The show didn’t start ‘til 9 so we relaxed in the WET Lounge for a little while then watched some TV at the Race Book where they had about 10 different stations on, mostly sports that you could bet on.
The show, Cirque 84 was great. It was a troupe of 19 or 20 people doing all kinds of things, juggling, balancing, the motorbikes in the cage (three at a time), pole climbing, trapeze flying, hula hooping, gaucho ball dancing, acrobatics, all kinds of entertainment. At the end they all were outside like a receiving line. I’ve never seen that in a show before. On the way out we stopped by WET Lounge again and had half a dance. That was all we’re up to, it’s been a busy three days in Reno and we’re both tired.
Off to Yosemite tomorrow.


Day 49-To Yosemite

2012-08-06

Day 49-August 6, 2012-To Yosemite (Lee Vining, CA)
Drove 140 miles in 4-3/4 hours to Lee Vining, CA on the east side of Yosemite, staying on route 395 the entire trip.
As soon as we entered California there was an agricultural inspection station and, of course, they had to come into the RV and check out the refrigerator. He also looked in the bed of the truck and asked if the firewood was from Florida. Also asked if we had any fruit. They don’t like stuff coming in from Florida for some reason. Anyway, he didn’t find anything and we were on our way. As a side note, there was no place to buy food between the inspection station and our campground, and no place near the campground either.
We’re now in what they call the “Eastern Sierra Scenic Highway” and we drove through Topaz Lake in the Antelope Valley and stopped at Walker Community Park for lunch, nice little park with trees and picnic benches. Even in a valley we’re at 7000’ elevation. Entered Toiyabe National Forest and followed a pretty rocky creek for quite a while with gorgeous mountains on either side, some with snow in the distance. Passed a US Marine Mountain Warfare Training facility in the mountains and then started to see some cattle ranches among the wilderness. The scenery is breath-taking, each turn is a different mountain view and they’re all fantastic.
Reached Conway Summit at 8143’, turned a corner and saw a beautiful lake in front of us way down in the valley. This was Mono Lake, a dead salt lake that is right across the street from our campground, Mono Vista RV Park. I’m glad I called because they’re really busy, we could only get a water/electric site, but that’s OK, for two nights. It’s a nice campground, some trees, beautiful view. After we set up we read for a while then had dinner and drove to the town of Lee Vining, all 3 blocks of it, right down the road. It was named for a prospector that used to live here. There’s a few restaurants, a couple of motels, all filled, a few gift shops, gas station ($4.69 for diesel, $4.99 regular, $5.19 for premium) and that’s it. From our campground the entrance to Yosemite is ¼ mile down the road.
We then went to Mono Lake which was not what I expected. There are “tufas” in it, limestone peaks that form from an underground spring when it bubbles up through the alkaline lake. But the most interesting part was all the alkali flies and fly pupae around the edges of the lake, it makes it actually look black. We only noticed they were flies when we got close and they scattered. There are millions of them. The Indians used to dry them and trade them as food for nuts and berries. There are brine shrimp in the lake that eat them and lots of waterfowl to eat the shrimp and the Canadian geese, ducks and seagulls (yes, seagulls in the desert) come back every year to nest. As its own little ecosystem it’s great. Really interesting but really yucky, too. Lots of goose poop all over the place. I even passed on getting a sand sample, that’s how gross it was.
Went back to camp and watched some Olympics in the rec room of the RV office ‘til they closed. It got really windy out and after a high of about 90 today, it’s really cool out now. Lots of European people here, some German, some Swedish (I’m guessing from the accent), French and Asian. Going to Yosemite tomorrow. The ranger at the visitor center we went to on the way in says we can’t sleep in ‘cause there’s a lot to see.


Day 50-Yosemite National Park

2012-08-07

Day 50-August 7, 2012-Yosemite National Park
Spent the day in Yosemite today. As soon as we turned to go on the Tioga Pass (aka National Forest Scenic Byway) we saw beautiful canyons, rocks, mountains (with some snow and the moon still above them) and waterfalls. The pass is 12 miles long and goes to the east entrance of Yosemite. The road can be treacherous and is closed in the winter. We drove up and up ‘til we got to the entrance at 9945’ and 65 degrees. And then we start to decline. The first thing we go through is Tuolumne Meadows, lots of streams and lakes around the meadow and it’s surrounded by huge rocks and “domes”-mountains that are rounded on top. The mountains are all different colors, shapes and sizes (lots of rock slides happened recently too.) We’re still going down and at about 8000’ we come to Tenaya Lake, a beautifully clean lake with lots of swimmers and sun bathers. And sand. And that’s when I dropped the camera in the lake. After about 40 minutes of trying to dry it out we gave up and just enjoyed the scenery. So no pictures after Tenaya Lake today. We’ll have to find a Best Buy (yeah, right, in the wilderness) and see just how good the warranty we bought with the camera is. There were climbers on the mountain right across from the lake and they were making me dizzy just watching, they were so small (or the mountain was so big) that they looked like ants. Down, down, down we go where at one point we’re stopped by a ranger because they’re doing some road work. At this point we had smelled smoke for a while and he said there was a fire caused by a lightning strike a few weeks ago and they were controlling it but letting it burn some dead stuff away.
We passed sequoia and mariposa pine forests (the smell was great), flat rocks, three tunnels, more meadows and streams and finally got to Yosemite Valley (after 76 miles) where we stopped and ate our lunch on an old log. Very few wildflowers, just a few pink ones along the road. Yosemite Valley is at 4500’ and it was 98 degrees, but dry. It’s a valley in between 3000’ sheer cliff walls on all sides and it is magnificent. We then got the shuttle to Yosemite Village and decided to take it all the way around the parts we didn’t see. It took about an hour and gave Harry a rest from driving for a while. Very busy in Yosemite Village. Lots of people, hikers, bikers, campers, horseback riders, climbers and tourists. Really touristy and the busiest National Park we’ve seen to date, maybe ‘cause it’s close to the populated areas of California and people do a day trip here. Again, lots of people from all over, we felt like the minority. But not many British, I think they stayed home for the Olympics. There was so much traffic that there were traffic monitors at the intersections on the way out. Saw a few deer and a couple of scampering little things but not much wildlife.
The trip down was much easier, still had to go up to 9950’ where it was 65 degrees again, then back down again to 6600’ where our campground is but we didn’t stop so much, it only took about 2-1/4 hours to go the 76 miles. The views again were spectacular though different with the sun light on different areas.
Each National Park is unique in its own way, Crater Lake has the crater, The Grand Canyon has the canyon, Yellowstone has the wildlife, Mt. Rushmore has the carvings, Glacier has the glaciers, Olympic has the rain forest but Yosemite has a little bit of everything. Maybe that’s what makes it different from the rest, it has lots of beautiful scenery.
Got back to camp, very windy again, everything’s blowing, this lasts ‘til about 8:30 and then it’s dead calm again like last night. Made dinner, looked at some maps for tomorrow (I think we’re going to wing it and see how far we get) and then went to the rec room and watched the American women beat the Chinese in volleyball. Oh, and when I opened the refrigerator to make dinner I found an orange buried in the back that the inspector missed.


Day 51-To Inyokern, CA (Heading home!)

2012-08-08

Day 51-August 8, 2012
Drove 200 miles in 5-3/4 hours today but we stopped a lot.
Our first stop was in Mammoth Lakes where there was supposed to be a camera shop but it was closed so we continued on to Bishop, CA, down a 6% grade for 8 miles to 4000’ where there was a K-Mart, the biggest store we’ve seen for days. Bought a new camera, we’ll have to deal with Best Buy’s warranty either when we get home or see a Best Buy. Went to a grocery store (Von’s is the local one) and stocked up on produce. California does have nice fruit and veggies but they cost more here, too.
Diesel was $4.99 in Mammoth Lakes and we were trying to get to Arizona before buying it but we saw it for $3.76 in Bishop on a Paiute Indian Reservation so we filled up and are set for a while now. This is the first we’ve seen diesel less than regular in a long time, and it was that way the whole time we were on the reservation.
We’ve now crossed over the Sierra Nevada Range and we’re in the Eastern Sierras which are just as beautiful as the Western Sierras. On one side of the road we have rugged rocky mountains (sometimes lava all around, too) as high as Mt. Whitney, the highest in the Sierras at 14,494’ and on the other we have sandy looking rounded mountains, tan, dark brown and sometimes a garnet red. At one point we had a few miles of cacti that had bristles on the tops, but only for a few miles and then they disappeared. On both sides of the road we have miles of sage flats, sand and sage brush leading up to the mountains. Passed the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Center but couldn’t see much.
We’re camping in Inyokern, CA, a little off Route 395. Los Angeles is about 150 to our west and Death Valley is about 100 miles to our east. The campground is small but we have a tree that actually gives us some shade. Outside our rear window is more sage brush filled with jackrabbits (there was even one lying in the sand right outside our door) and other little scurrying things. It’s right in the middle of the desert and we’re in a heat wave now, it was 110 degees at 4PM when we stopped. After we set up I tried to take a cold shower but we had no cold water. Had a great dinner with Pacific cod I got in Reno, we rarely get cod in Florida and this was really tasty. The skyline is beautiful at sunset, we’re surrounded by sand and the black mountains against the pink sky is wonderful. Windy here too after sunset but it’s more like a blast furnace. Stayed in the AC all night, fiddled with the new camera, read and caught up on e-mails.


Day 52-Cal Nev Ari

2012-08-09


Day 53-Laughlin, NV

2012-08-10

Day 53-August 10, 2012
HOT again today-122 degrees. And now instead of saying “but it's a dry heat” the locals are saying “it’s usually not this humid”-even they’re admitting it’s horrible. One man told us between here and Lake Havasu City a few miles south is the hottest place in the world. I can believe it.
We started today at the car wash to get the sand out of the truck. Got it washed and waxed and they did a really good job and no wind storm tonight so maybe it’ll stay clean. Found a Wal-Mart in nearby Bullhead City, AZ and picked up my prescription. Couldn't believe how easy that went, had blood work done in Washington state, it was faxed to the doctor in Florida who then called in a prescription to Arizona.  Then drove back over the Colorado River to Nevada again and went to the town of Laughlin, a really cute little town that wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for legalized gambling in Nevada. We went to Harrah’s Casino and signed up for the player’s card and guess what we earned-two free dinners at the all you can eat seafood buffet!!!! Good thing we’ve sort of learned to be selective at buffets-this one was really good.
Back over the river to Bullhead, AZ again where they’re starting to stage the floats for the annual regatta on the river. Over 40,000 floats (rubber rafts, some holding up to 6 people) start at the Chamber of Commerce and float down the river to about where our campground is-this all starts tomorrow and I hope when we leave we go the other way so we don’t get involved in all the traffic. Back over the river again to Nevada and our campground. Starting to get dizzy going back and forth across the river.  Stopped at a store to buy sneakers, both of us wore ours out with all the trekking we've been doing, they were just about in tatters, then we went back to the Avi Casino where we’re staying because Harry had some credits left over from last night that he needed to either cash in or play. Needless to say, we played them and lost them but, all in all, I think we lost about $20 total. We're such high rollers.  Going to try to finish my book tonight but I doubt it.
Heading east on I-40 tomorrow, probably getting about as far as Sun Valley, AZ. We heard it’s just as hot there and this won’t break ‘til next Thursday. Spoke to my sister tonight in Colorado Springs and she said it’s about 75 there and they had snow on the mountain peaks this morning. Maybe we should go north again?


Day 54-AHHHHHHH, RELIEF!!!!!!

2012-08-11

Day 54-To Flagstaff, AZ
Drove 198 miles in 3-3/4 hours today and what a difference a day (and more than a mile high) makes. We were going to drive another 100 miles to Sun Valley but I remembered when we were in AZ last year they told us Flagstaff was usually a lot cooler because it’s at a higher elevation. So I started calling campgrounds and, sure enough, most of them were busy because everybody was coming here to get cool. We found a really nice one, Black Bart’s RV & Steakhouse in Flagstaff, very reasonable price, pine trees and much cooler. Rained as soon as we got here but it’s really nice out now. Finished my book, Catching Fire, the second of the Hunger Games and it left me hanging so now I want to start the last one…good thing I brought it. Took a walk after dinner, stopped in at Black Bart’s Steakhouse, they have sort of a revue with the staff like a karaoke thing with a theme but we didn’t stay. Nice to go outside of AC and not come back dripping. At 7:30 it was quite dark already.
Watched some Olympics and then the weather with said there was a “haboob” (an intense sand storm with high winds) through the valley where we were originally going today. The pictures looked like a huge sand cloud. They said because of the storm you had to wash your cars again (this must be a normal thing here) and it was hard on pools. Harry and I were wondering why there aren’t any pools here, now we know, I wouldn’t want to have to clean sand out of a pool. Supposed to be like this ‘til Tuesday and then return to the norm of 103!!!! Staying here for at least two nights and then I’ll be checking the elevation of places we’re going and try to stay somewhat high in elevation until it gets cooler.

Some stats for today:

Left Laughlin, NV 10AM 118 deg.           Arr. Flagstaff, AZ 2PM 63 degrees
Sand, sagebrush, mountains                Dirt, pine trees, mountains
Elevation-550’                                           Elevation-7000’
Temperament-HOT                                 Temperament-COOL


Day 55-Flagstaff, AZ

2012-08-12

Day 55-August 12, 2012-Flagstaff, AZ
Great weather-we feel alive again. Hovered between 68 and 81 all day, sometimes cloudy and a few sprinkles, sometimes sunny, always breezy.
Spoke to one of the other campers who lives in Phoenix and comes up here to get cool. He said Phoenix used to be very dry but because there are so many swimming pools now it’s getting more humid. Don’t know how much of that I believe but I guess it could be. He also told us how to get to downtown Historic Flagstaff which turned out to be a very nice trip. It’s very busy, lots of tourist stuff, gift stores, outdoor supply stores, western and Indian artifacts and crafts, little pubs and taverns and lots of historic things to see. Historic Route 66 runs right through Flagstaff and it’s big out here, we’ve been following it for a while now and will continue to follow it for a few more days. Lots of people downtown seeing the sights.
Spent a while there then got gas and groceries so we’re all set to leave tomorrow. Got gas out by I-89 which leads up to the Grand Canyon (about 80 miles north). I remember being on this road last year on our way up to the Canyon, but we came in a different way. The way we went today had all kinds of shopping and restaurants.
Thought the crows around here were awfully big ‘til we realized they’re ravens….we’re up high and that’s where ravens live. Good to see wildflowers again after nothing but desert.
Came back to camp, cleaned up a bit, trying to get most of the sand cleared out ‘til the next bout. Everything was gritty and dusty, better now. Then we just chilled for a while, then had dinner and looked at maps again. We’re definitely headed home but there’s a lot of ways to do it. Going to try to get to Albuquerque tomorrow, it’s about 330 miles and we lose an hour with the time change. Don’t know how long we’ll stay there, last year there was a big sand storm there so we just drove right through to Taos so maybe we’ll spend a day or two there this year and see what there is to see. We’re both having a bit of trouble breathing with the altitude so there won’t be anything too strenuous involved. We might even just hang around the campground, we haven’t done that much this trip.
Weather is really wonderful here, even at night there’s a cool breeze. This campground has a lot of people who come up here for months and I can see why.
Watched a little of the closing ceremonies for the Olympics, then packed up some stuff to get ready to leave tomorrow and played some Rummikubes.


Day 56-To Albuquerque, NM

2012-08-13

Day 56-August 13, 2012-To Albuquerque, NM
Drove 316 miles in 6 hours today which was an easy ride because it was all on I-40. We lost an hour when we crossed into New Mexico and Mountain Time but we still got to the campground by 4:30.
Went through lots of different landscape in those six hours from flat plateau and sand through the beautiful Painted Desert and Petrified Forest, both of which have flat pinkish mountains, passed the Red Rock area of Arizona into New Mexico and the sandstone cliffs where Navajo Indians still live and boulders look like they’re about to topple on you, through more lava in Grants, NM, known for having the biggest uranium reserve in the world that was mined in the 50’s, and then into Albuquerque (aka ABQ) where we have miles of flat plateau and sand again (but with more vegetation this time, now we have junipers, sagebrush, some cottonwood trees and Ponderosa Pines on the mountain tops) with the Sandia Mountains in the distance. Sandia in Spanish means “watermelon” and they say at sunset these mountains look like watermelon because the sunset turns them pink with the junipers the seeds and the pines on top the rind. Some imagination involved, I’m sure.
We also went through a lot of different weather. It was warm when we started, went up to 91, then plummeted to 56 during a hail and lightning storm in Gallup, NM, then back up to 90 when we stopped.
While we were setting up a wind/sand storm came up and we had to run into the RV to avoid getting pelted with sand, which hurts by the way. The ladies in the RV office say it’s “free dermabrasion” and , they’re right, I won’t have to shave my legs for a while after getting hit with all that sand. The RV was rocking and everything that’s not tied down is blowing all over. A little too late we realized the windows in the truck were down an inch (again) so the inside is a beach again. This lasted about an hour, just wind and sand, no rain or hail, then just blustery all night. Watched some birds clinging for dear life to the branches in the wind, even hummingbirds, lots of them here. Didn’t know what they ate since there’s not one flower or petal around (just desert again) but we saw a few feeders hanging from permanent RVs and the office building when we took a walk around after dinner and they were buzzing with birds.
This campground is right on Route 66 and they have a lot of old RVs from the 50’s, cars too. They’ve refurbished them with vintage furnishings and they rent them out like a hotel room, it’s pretty interesting, the whole campground has a 50’s theme, even the laundry room has a vintage wringer washer and mangle iron and the rec room has a vintage TV, chairs and furnishings. Kind of creepy, too, I remember some of this stuff.
Harry vacuumed the truck and got most of the sand out. We made a mistake by starting laundry too late….it closed at 10PM and we still had damp clothes. Had to hang everything in the RV. Better than hanging them outside and getting them all sandy. With the AC on, they should be dry by morning. After 11 now, beddy bye. But wait, it’s really only 10, why are we tired? Oh, no dreaded jet lag.


Day 57-Albuquerque, NM

2012-08-14

Day 57-August 14, 2012
We really slept in this morning, I think we’re still on Pacific Time. Went to Camping World right next door to the campground and they replaced a strut that had broken under the bed. It was still under warranty and they had it in stock. Had some errands to run, got gas, went to the PO, had to find a T-Mobile store to find somebody who spoke English so we could pay the bill, we’ve been going back and forth for over a month with them, hope it’s straightened out for good.
Drove in to Albuquerque (ABQ from now on) and found a little winery/bistro, St. Clair, on the outskirts of town and did a tasting. We then went across town to another one, Casa Rodena and did another tasting. Now I need food. So we went to ABQ Old Town which is mostly Mexican with a lot of Indian (mostly Navajo). We ate at Casa de Fiesta, which someone told us made “old” Mexican food the way the old ladies used to and it was really good, a bit spicier than we usually eat but not bad. The meal came with sopapillas for dessert, described as “a pillow of dough” that you drizzled with honey. Very good. We then walked around town and saw a lot of Navajo people selling handmade jewelry on the street. Started to rain some of the stores were closed but it was quite interesting to walk around and most of the gift shops were open. Big church in the middle, San Fillepe, very pretty. Lots of history here but we never got the whole story.
Right around the corner from Old Town we found lots of museums that looked interesting but were all closed. Lots of beautiful sculpture and artwork at most of them. Pretty parks and playgrounds around this part of town, too.
From there we drove to downtown ABQ and I was surprised at how tall the buildings were, very modern. Lots of financial buildings, law offices, old churches right in the middle of town. Apartment buildings right outside of town, then pretty quaint little neighborhoods with pueblo style houses then smaller, older run-down houses with lots of kids playing in yards and in the street. Just about like any city, I guess. We felt very safe in all the neighborhoods.
Came back to camp and sat outside for a while and watched the sun go down. We got a glimpse of the Sandia Mountains and why they look like watermelon (they really are bright red, but it only lasted a little while when the sun was in the right place). The sky changed too from bright pink to hazy blue to gray. We watched a storm in the distance. The campground is high up and we get a good view of everything from up here it’s really flat with the mountains far off. Saw a little rabbit in the campground hopping around, I hope he likes to eat rocks, dirt and sand, that’s all he’ll find here. Started to get very windy again, felt good at first but then it starts to blow everything around so we came in and read for while.
I really enjoyed ABQ and had a really nice time here. This might be a come-back-to.


Day 58-Amarillo

2012-08-15

Day 58-August 15, 2012-Amarillo, TX
Drove 304 miles in 6 hours today, all of it on I-40 East. Seems like we’ve been on this road forever. This interstate replaced Route 66, the main road between Chicago and Los Angeles but they both run together for quite a while. Lots of funky 50’s stuff still on Route 66 like the campground yesterday and Cadillac Ranch, a row of Cadillacs buried halfway in the earth west of Amarillo. That was the only sight that broke up the boring ride today, and if you didn’t know it was coming you missed it. I only got a glimpse and I think Harry missed it altogether. Very flat the whole trip, some gusty side winds, too. We gave up on the Jason Bourne book on tape, it was too deep and too hard to concentrate so we started a James Patterson one, this one’s much better.
We started out at an altitude of 6000’ and went down to 4000’ in Amarillo but it’s hot here, 98 today, although a nice breeze and it cooled down at night. We also lost an hour when we entered Texas and Central Time but it also meant that at 9PM we still had enough light outside to read.
We’re definitely in wide open space country, the sites at the campground are really spread out and nice and level. Free coffee and donuts in the morning, too. We didn’t unhook because we plan on leaving first thing tomorrow morning. We’re also finding that our Passport America 50% off membership is being honored at campgrounds here because this is the off season in the south-it’s too hot. The campgrounds we stayed at out west and north didn’t give us 50% in July or August, the ones in the south don’t give it off starting in Oct. So we’re getting campgrounds for half price now.
We’re on the east side of Amarillo so we drove through the city on our way to the campground and it’s a really big city, spread out for quite a few exits on the interstate. They seem to have every store imaginable in town.
They have a restaurant in town (which is only about 2 exits from the campground), The Big Texan Steak House, that we’ve seen advertised for about fifty miles. If you can eat their 72oz. steak in an hour, it’s free. They don’t tell you how much if you can’t. They have a free limo from the campground that will take you there and back but we opted to have fridge clean out night and eat our leftovers. Only a few people have eaten the steak but they say just about every night somebody tries it and it’s fun to watch. Went for a dip in the indoor pool first, very refreshing, although swimming at 4000’ takes your breath away a lot quicker than at sea level.
We’re sitting outside now waiting for the stars to come out. It’s really comfortable weather wise, a nice warm breeze, but not hot. Hopefully with the time change our internal clocks will let us get to sleep at a reasonable hour so we can get up and on the road again tomorrow, heading southeast (off of I-40 finally) toward Dallas, although I don’t think we’ll get that far.


Day 59-Sunset, Texas

2012-08-16

Day 59-August 16, 2012- Sunset, TX
Drove 280 miles in 6-1/2 hours today on Route 287 to Sunset, TX south of Bowie. Nice road, much more interesting than the interstate. We went through little towns like Claude, Bowie, (as in Jim Bowie), Goodnight, Fruitland (where there were peach orchards and fruit stands selling all sorts of fruits and veggies) and historical Clarendon. Stopped at a rest area with lots of “Watch out for rattlesnakes” signs. We stopped at a Super Wal-Mart to stock up on groceries, stores are far and few between here.
Open range cattle and sheep ranches here. Not as many oil wells as I expected, in fact none ‘til we got south of Wichita Falls. Wichita Falls was named in 1882 for a 5’ waterfall, which was very unusual for such flat terrain. It was washed away by a flood four years later and in 1987 they built a 54’ tiered cascade downstream of the original and it’s right in the middle of town. It does look funny with nothing but flat plains around it.
All day we kept seeing flatbeds going the other way, each one carrying one blade of a wind generator, must have seen at least 20, but it would take a lot more than that to make a wind farm. We’ve never seen them except when they’re on a hill working and they were surprisingly big up close.
The heat finally broke today like everybody said it would and it’s been wonderful all day, never getting above 84.
We’re at a nice little campground, even has a free laundry, too bad we just did it a few days ago. Only staying one night then heading toward home. The closer we get to home the more anxious we are to get there.


Day 60-Texas to Louisiana

2012-08-17

Day 60-August 17, 2012
Drove 299 miles in 6-1/2 hours today to Minden, Louisiana, just over the border a bit east of Shreveport, where we bypassed all the casinos.
We decided to try to avoid Friday morning traffic through Dallas/Fort Worth by going east on Route 380 to Greenville, then south on 69 to Tyler and then east on Interstate 20 to Louisiana. The first third of our trip was spent in big town stop and go traffic (think Route 1 in Milford, CT or Route 19 in New Port Richie, FL). Lots of construction, too. The second third was spent in small town stop and go traffic where you go 55 mph for a few miles, then down to 35 through teeny towns. We found a nice little rest stop with a picnic area for lunch, though, which was a nice little break. The next 75 miles in Texas on the interstate was great, and the truck turned 150,000 miles here, still running like a champ, but as soon as we crossed the Red River into Louisiana we had to deal with the state with the worst roads in the country-Louisiana.
We’re starting to see more Florida license plates here going east, haven’t seen them for quite a while now. Makes us want to get home, I think.
It’s hot again today, 95, and more humid. Lots of thunder but but just a few sprinkles so far, hopefully it'll rain and cool it off a bit.. The campground,Cinnamon Creek RV Park, is nice, small, quiet, right off the interstate but you can’t see it or hear it from here. We’re trying to finish our books before we get home, Harry will probably finish his tonight, me-maybe.
Getting back on the interstate tomorrow through LA, (the fillings in our teeth will probably be loose by the time we get over the washboard roads), then down route 49 and hopefully to Hattiesburg, MS. That’s the plan, anyway.


Day 61-The Mississippi Mini Tornado

2012-08-18

Day 61-August 18, 2012-To Hattiesburg, MS
Drove 271 miles in 5-1/2 hours to on I-20 to Jackson, MS, then route 49 south to Okatoma River Resort in Hattiesburg, MS.
I take it back, the roads in Louisiana are not the worst in the country, they are tied for the worst with Mississippi. Everything in the RV was on the floor when we finally stopped. We just got on the road when we saw a storm up ahead and in no time we were in the middle of a thunder, lightning and rain storm for over an hour. Could hardly see the traffic in front of us. Off and on rain the rest of the day until we got to about 45 miles from the campground and then it poured again, more thunder and lightning. We took the road the GPS told us to, not the one down the road a mile like the campground owner told us because we could barely see. This road was a tree lined, one lane, almost dirt path, and the wind picked up blowing the trees all around, the rain picked up and the thunder and lightning picked up. The owner of the campground talked us into the park by telephone, we could barely see. We just found a spot and parked ‘til it let up a bit (not a lot) then the owner came out and showed up where the site was. It was flooded, as was the whole campground. We sat in the car for another 45 minutes until it looked safe to get out. No sooner was Harry out of the truck (I was still in it) when the owner and the fire chief drove up to tell us that a tree had fallen on the road and taken out the power. The same road we were supposed to go on. A mini tornado had whipped through a 1,000 acre soybean field that was on both sides of the road and taken out a big oak tree. For once I was glad we listened to the GPS, or else we could have been in the middle of the tornado. At least it’s cooler so we don’t need the AC. If we stay another night, they’re going to comp us tickets to the fiddlin’ champ from Branson, MO who’s going to play here tomorrow night. It’s a really nice “resort”, a couple of lakes, a pool, clubhouse, cabins and a lot to do. The ducks seem to like all the puddles and the lakes. They come right up to the RV too, very friendly. I finished my book while we still had some daylight and then ate and took a walk around the campground, really nice from what we could see, a big rec hall with tables and chairs set up for the “concert” tomorrow night.
Power was supposed to be on by 8, (yeah, right) but at 10:30 we went to bed and at 11PM it came back on.


Day 62-To Sunny (?) Florida

2012-08-19

Day 62-August 19, 2012
Drove 325 miles in 6-3/4 hours to Chattahoochee, FL, west of Tallahassee.
The rain had stopped by morning but it still was cloudy so we decided to pass on the offer to stay for the fiddle champ and get on our way. The campground was just about the quietest we’ve been in so far, nobody was around, although there were RVs parked there and cars and trucks near the cabins. Maybe the locals came there to be by the lake but they left because of no power last night, I don’t know but we didn’t see anybody all morning. Had to be careful leaving ‘cause both sides of the driveway were washed out from the rain. We drove down the road where the tree came down last night and could see the damage it caused. Glad we came in the other way yesterday.
Of course the rain started again and stayed with us all day again. We drove through Hattiesburg, a college town with Southern Miss and William Carey Univ. Looks like a busy town, but on Sunday morning, not too much traffic.
Again our electronics worked out well for us, yesterday the GPS helped us out, today the GasBuddy app found a gas station where the price was at least 20 cents less than anything else around and it was right on our way.
Got on route 98 SE, a nice four lane road ‘til we got to Alabama where it turned into a two lane road with every other building either a ramshackle shack or a church. The churches were mostly Baptist of every denomination I’ve heard of and then some and ran the gamut of really big and elegant to one of the above mentioned ramshackle shacks. We must have passed over 50 churches in about 30 miles and each and every one of them had cars in the lots. We then drove through Semmes, AL which morphed into Mobile at I-10, where we finally saw the Gulf of Mexico again. A nice sight, we’re almost home. The rain followed us again all day to Chattahootchee, FL where we’re at a nice KOA, really empty, nobody camps in FL in August, it’s too hot. Back in Eastern Time Zone again, too. Lots of cats at the campground, I met two at the office and one (a little black one) came up to me at the site and won’t leave, kind of took over my chair.   Lots of love bugs here, too.
Had dinner, read some more, Harry finished his book, sat outside for a while, weather’s great, funny how we had to come back to Florida for the weather to get cooler, then got ready for one more day on the road.


Day 63-We're Baaaaack!

2012-08-20

Day 63-August 20, 2012-We’re Baaaaack!!!!!

We got home after 225 miles and 5 hours of some of the worst weather we’ve had since we left nine weeks ago. It was pouring when we left the campground, pouring most of the way home and pouring when we got here. And it has poured off and on all day and night.

Came home route 27, 98/19 which is a nice road but a lot of it was like driving in a lake and there was 0 visibility in some spots. Stopped at a rest stop in Cross City for lunch, got weighed at the inspection station (yikes 18,120 pounds!) and got waved through the agricultural inspection station in Fanning Springs, FL. Guess Florida isn’t as picky as to what fruit and veggies come into the state as California is.

Our time away was wonderful but it is always great to be home! Yes, Florida is a lot more humid than anyplace else we’ve been but if it gets too bad we can just jump in the pool. Of all the places we’ve been, this is where we want to be.

We were gone 63 days, Harry drove 10056 miles, through 23 states, from the southeast to the northwest and points in between.  We were in the deserts, in the rain forests, in corn fields, soy bean fields, in lava beds, on top of mountains and in deep valleys. Felt what 122 degrees feels like and hope I never feel it again. Drove through 5 time zones and got a bit jet lagged at times, we never really knew what time it was. Could never get used to living at high altitudes, guess we’re too used to sea level. And the people we met were wonderful. We met people from all walks of life, some very foreign from what we know, but they were friendly, helpful and more than willing to share their experiences with us. We got some great ideas about where to go (and where NOT to go), what to see, what to do and how to get there from people just about everywhere we went. If we were able to spend some time with you this trip, thank you for your hospitality. If we missed you this time, maybe we’ll see you next time.

Thank you for all your comments and suggestions along the way. It was really nice to hear from everybody while we were on the road. Oh, and thank you everybody for the tip about the rice to dry out the camera. I can’t believe how many people told me about that. But it didn’t work, maybe I waited too long to buy rice. Hope to talk to you all soon.


Day 1-4-June 6-9, 2013-Homosassa, FL to Branson, MO

2013-06-06 to 2013-06-09

Day 1-4 June 6-9, 2013-Homosassa, FL to Branson, MO
Took us four days to drive 1058 miles but we took our time and stopped a lot.
Left Thurs. morning, drove an hour and realized the brakes on the RV were very hot so we pulled over in Chiefland, FL at a repair shop to have them looked at. Had to wait about an hour and a half for somebody to check it out and by then they cooled off and were fine. Haven’t given us any more trouble since then (knock on wood). By the time we got back on the road Tropical Storm Andrea was in full bloom and it was really raining hard all the way to Tallahassee but after that we went northwest and Andrea went northeast so it got better. Stopped for the night in Dothan, Al right after we crossed into Central Time Zone. Nice campground right on the main road so we can get an early start tomorrow.
Friday morning found us with another glitch, the struts on the bed broke last night…no jokes, please! Thankfully there’s a Camping World right in Dothan, which is quite a big city known for its peanut farming, and the part is under warranty so it only put us back about an hour. We took Route 231 to Montgomery where we pulled over and had lunch at a pretty sketchy parking lot so we didn’t stay too long then continued up Route 82 to Tuscaloosa. Route 82 is 125 miles of 2-lane road with nothing but run down shacks and abandoned small businesses to Centerville, then another 125 miles of 4-lane road and more nothingness. But we did stop at a roadside stand and got some great peaches and plums. We like stopping at local places and getting a glimpse of different places and people, one of the reasons we’re trying to stay off interstates and use the roads less traveled. Last night was cool but during the day it got up to 85 and humid. Stopped for the night in Fulton, MS, east of Tupelo at a Whitten Park, a US Army Corps. Of Engineers Campground in Tombigbee State Park. Beautiful campground on a 234 mile waterway, three fishing piers and lots of boaters there for the week-end. Beautiful big sites (ours was 98’ long) and nice and wooded. Federal campgrounds are always beautiful and usually around $10 a night. Again, we didn’t unhook the RV so we could get an early start. Long day today, 350 miles, 9-1/2 hours.
Saturday morning we decided to rearrange the bikes on the back of the RV. The rack looks like it’s starting to bend so we put one bike on the ladder on the back and left one on the rack. Hopefully it will work, in the past we’ve had lots of trouble with bringing bikes. Decided to go the I-78 which involved driving straight through south Memphis and getting every red light there was but after Memphis we took Route 63 to Jonesboro, AR and the traffic got lighter and we started to see some small corn and wheat farms. A few small planes were buzzing overhead and we couldn’t figure out if they were crop dusting or just out for a Saturday ride. Jonesboro is a college town (U of AR) but not much else going on. Again stopped at a campground off the main road and didn’t unhook.
It’s Harry’s birthday and I hope he had a good day. It was a day of technological troubles, though. For some reason his e-mail kept bouncing messages saying he was over his quota, so if you sent him a birthday greeting on e-mail he might not have gotten it. We made many calls to the cell-phone company and the e-mail provider who were of no help at all. And we had to pull over at a McDonald’s in order to get wifi to check it out. After one last phone call to no avail he started to play with the parameters himself and seems like he fixed it.
After dinner we decided to watch a DVD we brought. Turned on the tv and nothing! Tried this, that, the other thing until Harry finally realized the power had gone out at the campground. We still had lights, although we had remarked that they were a bit dim. Plugged into a different outlet outside and now we have tv but no picture from the DVD. Found the manual, read it umpteen times, almost gave up and read it one more time and finally saw the line that said “Input Select-DVD” button. Wrote down that one line where we’re bound to see it the next time we want to watch a DVD. Of course now it’s almost 11 PM so we never finished the movie. We watch the tv so rarely we never remember how it works. (I can see Martin laughing at the old people screwing up the electronics again).
Sunday started rainy and all day it sprinkled here and there. We took route 63 and 62 through small towns, some tourist paradises with antique shops and memorabilia stores like Hardy, AR buzzing with shoppers along narrow, crowded streets, others just had two or three store fronts, most closed for Sunday. Drove through Salem, AR then stopped at Lake Norfork Marina east of Mt. Home, AR. Pulled over in the marina for lunch and watched some Canada geese and some boaters out for a Sunday ride. Back on the road and it’s getting winding and hilly now, then mountainous-we’re entering the Ozark Mountains, up and down, round and round. WE HAVE NOW VISITED 49 OF THE 50 STATES, Missouri being #49-Alaska still remains. Got to Branson and stopped at the Tourism Center to pick up vouchers for the shows we booked during the week. Got some info and travel perks and headed to the condo we have for the week-it’s called Cabins at Green Mountain and they’re gorgeous. The whole complex is nestled among trees which at first gave us a start-how do we navigate the narrow roads, tree-lined paths with the big RV, but they have an overflow parking lot where we parked it for the week. Had to unpack all the food and clothes and “stuff” we’ll need for the week, but it’s close enough where we can go back and forth to it if need be.
The condo itself is wonderful. It’s all done in light knotty pine, ceiling, walls and floors, all the same. The whole condo is rustic, woodsy log cabin motif, from the moose print sofa to the antlers on the chandeliers. The first floor has a living room with a vaulted ceiling, fireplace, pull out sofa-bed. Full kitchen, washer/dryer, dining room, king size bed, bath that goes through from the bedroom to the dining room. Screened-in porch in the back the whole length of the condo with picnic table and rockers at tree-top height, so the bird action is great. Upstairs is another king size bedroom and bathroom bigger than downstairs. Very homey and comfortable-we should really relax here during the week. Uncorked a bottle of wine, had some dinner and started to plan for our upcoming week here.


Day 5-June 10, 2013-Branson

2013-06-10

Day 5-June 10, 2013-Branson, MO day 1
Hot today, 94 degrees, unusual for here, humid too.
Branson used to be called the “country music capital of the universe” but now it’s much more. There are over 50 venues with over 100 shows during the week, lots of tribute shows for every kind of music you can imagine, but also comedy acts, animal acts, Chinese acrobats, etc. Also a zoo, butterfly museum, Ripley’s, wax museum, Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, showboats, a water park, an amusement park, zip-lines, a scenic railway, etc. There’s a half scale replica of the Titanic where you can get an actual feel of what happened- (we’re gonna skip that). And of course a duck tour that ends in the lake.
8 Million tourists come here every year, mostly from Oct. to Dec. when the famous entertainment returns. We’re going to see some Branson staples but most of the big name acts are not here in the summer-go figure!
The main “strip” aka “Country Music Blvd.” is 5 miles of route 76 where most of the action is-hotels, restaurants, theatres, mini-golf, etc. Lots of traffic but there’s a free trolley that moves through town and three color coded roads around the “strip” to help you get other places traffic free.
After breakfast on the porch with the birds we drove to Wyndham Resorts where, despite having sworn to each other not to do a time-share pitch we did a time share pitch. We signed up for this yesterday at the Tourism Center and got some nice perks for it. The woman who was our sales person asked us why we were there, we told her for the perks and we spent the next hour talking about our families, where to eat, what to see, and had a great conversation with her. Not once did she mention the time share. She gave us some great info, like going to the theaters to get our tickets for shows before the shows so we could save time so that’s what we did when we left her. From there we went to Wal-Mart to stock up on some food. Lots of places to eat in Branson but no grocery stores.
Came back to the condo and read a bit, then had dinner and headed out to our first show, caled JEERK, named for the surname initials of the founding members. There are only four members now, all Swedish. I couldn’t recall what kind of act they were probably because they do a little of everything, they say they are tap-dancers, a rock band, a percussion band that incorporates bottles, trash cans, hockey sticks, carpet mats, tin barrels, huge wire spools and they even did a spot at the end with walkers like they were old and rickety men and a comedy act with a four crazy Swedes in red plaid trousers. They do their own choreography, music, lighting, etc. and they are extremely entertaining. Music ranged from hard rock to almost classical, really talented guys. Our seats were front row center stage and the stage is only two feet high so we had a great view. After the show we went for ice cream at an arcade/game type area with a go-kart track that went up four stories and a lot of other crazy rides. We ate ice cream, didn’t do the rides.
Had another run in with a DVD today, got the tv to work, but not the DVD.


Day 6-June 11, 2013-Branson

2013-06-11

Day 6-June 11, 2013-Branson


Another hot one today, 99 and humid.
After breakfast on the porch (I love being tree top level with the squirrels and birds) we went to the condo lounge to look through their day trip books. Decided to go north about 40 miles to Ozark, MO. We heard about a restaurant there called Lambert’s Café from at least three people so we have to check it out. It seats 700 and always has a line. It has a little bit of every kind of food, mostly down home fried chicken, catfish, etc. some of it served in big metal skillets but they’re known for their “throwed” rolls. Somebody comes around with pans full of home made rolls and actually throws them across the restaurant to brave souls who catch them. They also come around with huge pots of black-eyed peas, fried potatoes and onion, macaroni and tomato sauce, fried okra and sorghum molasses for the rolls. I was warned that the chef salad was big so I didn't have it but saw that it was bigger than a basketball.   We brought home more food than we ate. Met a couple from Tampa who are traveling in a camper and staying here for a few days. We might get together with them for a show later in the week.
Stopped at the local winery, Stone Hill, when we got back in Branson, for a wine tour and tasting. Their vineyards are in northeast Missouri and there a lot of other vineyards up that way. Might have to go there when we leave here. Browsed in a few shops along the strip then came back to the condo to get ready for the next show tonight.
Had the service man in to look at the DVD. Ashamed to say we had the TV on the wrong channel…..we know this stuff, but I think our brains go into “no electronics mode” when we’re RVing!
This show is in the same theater we went to last night, called RFD TV, The Theatre. It has something to do with Roy Rogers because Roy Rogers, Jr. plays there too and there’s lots of Roy Rogers/Dale Evans memorabilia all around the place and something I find rather creepy is that they have the horses, Trigger, Buttermilk and the dog, Bullet stuffed in the lobby. Not just replicas, the real animals! Stuffed!
The act we saw tonight was The Haygoods, a family of six brothers and one sister, aged 21 to 35. They sing and also play lots of instruments, the harp, sax, guitar, drums, piano, mandolin, banjo, acoustic guitar and harmonica. The violins, guitars and harp all have lights with changing colors. Very interactive with the audience, they float huge beach balls back and forth over our heads and get right down in the audience. Big on pyrotechnics, lots of flames on the stage. Lots of sibling bantering, too. They have their own TV show on the local cable channel. Mom works backstage, Dad sells souvenirs and the kids play and sing. Oh, and the boys tap dance, too. They’ve been playing together musically since they were kids and their music runs from rock and roll to country to bluegrass. They know how to end with a standing ovation by singing the “Star Spangled Banner” last. Great show! Great seats again, fourth row.
Went to a place called McFarlains for a late, light dinner (I had spinach salad with hot bacon dressing to rival Cracker’s) and Harry had a meatloaf sandwich and fries then back to the condo.


Day 7-June 12, 2013-Branson

2013-06-12

Day 7-June 12, 2013-Branson
Busy day today, seemed we were going from 8AM to almost midnight.
Getting used to eating on the porch with the wildlife-I love it. You’d never know we’re 1 block off the main strip, it’s like we’re in the middle of the woods! Hot again today but not as humid and much breezier.
Went to the south side of Branson today to Branson Landing where there is lots of shopping, mostly stores like you’d find in any mall but they’re outside. They have a dancing waters fountain designed by the same people who did Bellagio in Vegas and it’s just as pretty but not as big. They play Whitney Houston’s National Anthem every hour on the hour and the fountain dances with the music, some fire blasts, too. One of our perks for doing the time share was a paddle boat cruise on the Queen of the Lake up and down LakeTaneycomo which meets Table Rock Lake and then becomes part of the White River. Nice ride, but it’s hot-even on the top of the covered boat.
Got off the boat and had 19 minutes to drive to the theatre to see Joseph Hall’s Tribute to Elvis, a show we got tickets for $5 because we saw the Haygoods last night. Seems the Haygood Production Corp. owns both theatres so we got cheap tickets to this show. We had seen lots of ads for his show and I had said to Harry during the day that Joseph Hall has zero sex appeal and an Elvis he’s not and now we have tickets to see him. We could have skipped it but the theatre was air conditioned, we had cheap tickets and nothing to do ‘til later so why not? We made it to the show in 19 minutes just as they were closing the doors and although I thought we’d probably leave half-way through it turned out to be very entertaining. Joseph Hall knew he was and would never be even close to Elvis which was part of his charm. He did a pretty good impersonation, was very humble with a good sense of humor, had a great voice and knew how to woo the audience, especially the 70 year old and up ladies who were Elvis freaks. Watching them was almost as entertaining as watching the show. Good music, good time. Third row seats this time. Again, this was a family venture, his Dad was the emcee and a woman who could have been his grandmother (he’s 26) was following him around as he was passing out sweaty scarves. Yes, he actually did that! He also said his 20 month old son and wife were in the audience. I liked this guy but probably would have liked him better had he been himself.
Hadn’t eaten since breakfast and there is a little Mexican restaurant right down the street (again on the strip-there’s everything you want within that 5-mile strip). The woman from the time share had recommended this place and she was right-it was terrific. Owned and run by 3 sisters and 2 brothers who did everything from seat you, cook, bus tables and run the register. They made us promise to come back tomorrow night for fajita night-we’ll see. We then went back down to Historic Branson, another shopping area with the main store being Dick’s 5 & 10-like the 5 & 10’s from way back when, if you want it-they have it. Hills are steep all over town but in this side of town they’re really steep-probably as steep as San Francisco just not as long.
The show tonight is at the Mickey Gilley Theatre and it’s called Six. I thought this was six singers singing a-capella but that was only the tip of the iceberg. They are six brothers (there’s 10 brothers in the family but only the oldest six are in this group). They’re older than I expected ranging from probably early 40’s to early 50’s. They each have a “signature” color of the rainbow which is on everything from wristbands to teddy bears to their individually custom painted Cameros parked outside the theatre. An announcement on the screen said the sounds you hear from now on are made by only SIX. HUMAN. VOICES. The billboards say"Six Voices/Zero Instruments/All Music" and call it an "Orchestra of Human Voices".  I expected a-capella singing but these guys not only sang but they were the band. One brother was the guitar, one the sax, one the cymbals, etc., and they demonstrated this at the beginning. I must not have been paying attention because the whole first half I was thinking they had drums and a bass but I found out at intermission one of the middle brothers, Jak, was the bass. They did a little bit of everything, Frankie Valli, The Beach Boys, Michael Jackson, Justin Bieber, The Temptations, Four Tops, Satchmo, Sinatra, I could go on and on. And funny!!!!!! This was a comedy show too! Some impersonations, too. They got the audience up on their feet, rolling in the aisles and enjoying a great show. At one point they did a segment with car chases and chariot races on the screen and they did the sound effects from the Dolby Surround Sound to the final splash in the water. Had one couple up on the stage dancing and involved the whole audience in intermission. The second half was more gospel music, pure a-capella, without the instrument sounds, just voices. They performed a song they wrote for their mother, who died a while back with a backdrop of slides from their past, introduced Dad who was in the audience and one of the wives was selling their CDs and memorabilia. Did a tribute to the military, past and present and finished with some more great gospel music. Best show we’ve seen yet. I was exhausted just watching them, they really worked the stage.
Had to go back to Andy’s Custard for some late night energy, of course. That seems to be one of the places people go after the shows, it’s always crowded.


Day 8-June 13, 2013-Branson

2013-06-13

Day 8-June 13, 2013-Branson
Hot again, in the 90’s, but it got cooler toward evening.
Spent the morning on the porch updating the blog and watching the birds. I feel like I’m in my own private tree house, the birds fly right up to the branches outside the screen. I don’t think they can me through it.
Did some laundry and caught up on e-mails and phone calls. This is the first day we haven’t had anything planned ‘til later tonight. We looked at the maps and decided (for now, anyway) that we’re going to go northwest toward Kansas City, MO?/KS?, which is a little over 200 miles from here.
Went to see The Twelve Irish Tenors tonight at King’s Castle Theatre on the strip. Most of the theatres are on the strip so the traffic gets crazy right before and after the shows, which is almost all day. The shows are usually at 10am, 2pm and 7:30 or 8pm. It takes 20 minutes to go a mile sometimes-that’s why they have the red, blue and yellow route around “the strip” but if you’re going to a show there’s really no easy way to go so you just leave early enough.
I expected Twelve Irish tenors singing Irish ballads and they didn’t disappoint by starting out with “Danny Boy” and did everything else I expected and they were really good-their harmonies were great and I liked that they kept the costumes simple-black pants and vests with green shirts the first half and the same pants with white shirts and suspenders the second half-they looked classy. Even the backdrops were simple. They did a lot of stuff unexpectedly like Barry Manilow, some opera arias, Simon & Garfunkel, Lionel Ritchie and even some Bette Midler and Queen that was really good. Three songs from Les Mis were unbelievable, a couple of them had fantastic voices but when they did “Twist & Shout”, “Sherry, Baby” and “Hey, Jude”, they lost me. They sounded great but their voices were so much more suited for harmony. When they tried some dance routines and choreography it was kind of cheesy, although one of them was an Irish dance champion and when he did Irish dancing he was good. The comedy they tried simply did not work, don’t know if it was the cultural difference or just bad jokes but nobody was laughing. Guess they had to try different stuff to keep the act fresh and maybe it would have been boring listening to Irish tenor music all night but I think they should have kept to what they were great at. Or maybe I’m just “showed” out and it’s time to move on. The seats were great, 8th row center aisle. We skipped Andy’s Custard tonight and went to Cakes-n-Creams Dessert Parlor instead. It’s just what the name implies-a 50’s type soda fountain shop with great coconut cream pie.


Day 9-June 14, 2013-Branson

2013-06-14

Day 9-June 14, 2013-Branson
Cooler this morning, but 95 in the afternoon.
Started the morning at the Tourism Center to get tickets for one last show tomorrow night. Both Harry and I have had enough singing and dancing acts and it was between a ventriloquist with a talking dog or the Acrobats of China. We heard the talking dogs got old after 20 minutes but the acrobats were wonderful. These seats are 7th row center aisle. The tourism center buys up blocks of seats so not only are they cheaper but they have the best seats. We’ve had great seats for every show.
Drove to Table Rock Lake State Park which is about twenty minutes south-a beautiful man-made lake that was formed in the 20’s when they built a dam system to help with flooding from the White River. Lots of boating going on today-it’s a beautiful day for it. We had packed a lunch and found a picnic area right on the lake. From there drove to the dam and walked around the visitor center for a while-quite interesting.
Stopped in a crafts “mall” and watched a man blowing glass and making tiny birds from glass. Then stopped in the other winery in town-no tour with this one but we did a tasting and they had a better selection of wines-more to our taste than the one we did the other day.
The hills here are really steep. When you park in certain parking lots you have to be careful your brake is on hard or you could roll. And if you park perpendicular it’s hard to get out one door and hard to close the other and you feel like you could tip sideways. And some parking lots are in the back of stores so you drive down a steep hill and then have to walk up. Or in the case today at the winery you have to be careful you don’t taste too much wine or you’ll roll back down to the car. Of course that would never happen to one of us.
Back to the condo and did a bit more laundry, then looked at more campground books to make sure we know where we’re going when we leave here. We booked a state campground for two nights west of Kansas City in Lawrence, Kansas. My sister called last night to tell us about the fires in Colorado Springs, where we thought we might be headed. Hopefully they’ll be contained by the time we get there.
Had dinner in the condo then drove back down to Historic Branson and looked around. Stopped again at Wal-Mart for some last minute groceries.


Day 10-June 15, 2013-Last day in Branson

2013-06-15

Day 10-June 15, 2013-Last Day In Branson
Cloudy, rainy all day, cooler, 75 degrees. Almost chilly at night.
This is our last full day in Branson, we travel to Kansas tomorrow and it was another busy day. In the morning Harry went to the RV and fixed the bed. One of the struts that holds the mattress up so we can store stuff underneath broke but, you know Harry, the way he fixed it will last forever. I did some more laundry, the washer’s convenient but small, hard-boiled some eggs for the trip and did some packing up. Went upstairs to the second bedroom for only the second time since we’ve been here. It’s more spacious than the one downstairs, has a king size bed and a jacuzzi tub encircled by stone walls, more closet space, a TV and would be very comfortable for a second couple.
Packed a lunch and headed 50 miles south to Eureka Springs, AR. We bought a building lot in a place there called Holiday Island about seven years and haven’t been there since. We drove the only road that goes there from Branson, up and down and round and round the Ozark Mountains, very mountainous but not a bad ride, a 2-lane road with not much traffic and no lights. There’s a campground at the development and we stopped there for lunch and met the campground manager. It’s kept really well, as is most of the development, but not many homes have been built, more up near the golf course than we’re we are but they all look nice. Our lot is on Wild Turkey Dr., it’s really wooded and goes up the mountain a bit but is buildable. Not that we’ll be building there. Ever. Very peaceful, quiet with lots of singing birds. There was a big thunder, lightning and rain storm just after lunch but it didn’t last long. Drove down to the marina on the property where there were a lot of boaters mostly coming in after the storm.
From there we drove to Eureka Springs, about 15 minutes down another windy road. This place was hopping on a Saturday evening. There was some kind of biker rally going on at one of the restaurants and the place was packed. This is a tourist haven. It’s known for its medicinal spas and has become an artistic (dare I say, hippy) village, with lots of sculpture, pottery, artwork, blown glass and beautiful victorian homes, many of which are on the historic registry of buildings. There’s also a railroad and museum right outside of town. Trolleys were busy bringing people around. Although it’s small, it’s a cool place to walk around and see the sights.
Drove back to Branson (on the same road through the Ozarks) and had just enough time to have dinner in the condo and get to our show at the New Shanghai Theatre, the Acrobats of China. This show was totally different from the other shows we’ve seen, but it was great. The acrobats come from Shanghai every March and stay ‘til December. There were about 20 performers in the show we saw but there’s more here and they rotate doing shows. They tumbled, twirled, did balancing acts, contortion acts, magic, did stunts on stacked chairs (8 high), flew through the air on silks, hula hooped, did hoop diving (4 high) and mask changing. They did stunts with a diabolo (like a yoyo) and more. There was a segment with two women roller skating on a platform only 6’ in diameter and they were spinning each other around. Another ballet stunt where after the dance the woman climbed on the man and proceeded to stand on one tip toe on his head. Couldn’t get over the strength, agility and grace they had.
We weren’t allowed to take pictures during the show but the came out to the lobby after the show for pictures. After the show we went to Jackie B. Goode’s Uptown Café (a 50’s type soda joint) for a malt, the went to the RV to turn the fridge on so it’s cold when we leave tomorrow.
Although we are both ready to move on we agree we would come back again. The people here have been more than helpful, courteous and friendly. The town is very much into “God and Country”. Every show we’ve gone to and even the boat ride has made it a point to honor and thank veterans in special ways, usually at the beginning of the show. Special benefits for vets here too, there’s Veteran’s Visitor Center and even the billboards acknowledge their service. Churches of different denominations all over, even right next to theatres. After every show the entertainers have done a “meet and greet” in the lobby where they talk to the people, sign autographs, etc. They are proud of their town and are not ashamed to tell you about it, some of them have come from the Ozark Mountains and wouldn’t move anywhere else. And I’ve mentioned before they are all into family-this is a family place. There is no gambling, no bars (although you can get a drink in any restaurant), no “gentlemen’s clubs”, etc. and they roll up the streets every night between 11PM and midnight, just enough time to get your ice cream after the last show. Every show and amusement is family friendly, the kids at the shows we saw had a great time and everything is reasonably priced. The streets are clean, well-kept and safe. On the minus side there is no grocery store-only one Wal-Mart on the far side of town that sells limited groceries. Either everybody in the town (pop. 10,520) eats out or the locals are hiding their best markets from the tourists.
But there’s so much more out there to see!


Day 11-June 16, 2013-Going to Kansas City

2013-06-16

Day 11-June 16, 2013-Going to Kansas City
Happy Fathers Day to all the dads and dads to be!
Cloudy again but no rain and pretty nice-in the low 80’s
We’re back towing the RV again and drove 250 miles to Lawrence, KS, just west of Kansas City, KS.
Took us over a half hour to go 4 miles through Branson to get to the highway, the traffic on the main road is always crazy. We could have gone one of the “colored” express routes around town but we wanted one last look at Branson.
Took I-65 north then SR 13 & 7 to Harrisonville, MO, then I-71 and I-435 around Kansas City, then route 10 to Lawrence. Nice ride, no traffic ‘til we got close to Kansas City and then through Lawrence, which is home to the University of Kansas. Started listening to a book on tape, “Moscow Rules” by Daniel Silva, a Russian spy novel. It hooked us on the first chapter. Lots of clover and Queen Anne’s Lace by the side of the road. More dead armadillos than I care to talk about and a couple of dead deer. Amish and Mennonite communities around Osceola and Lowry, but we didn’t stop.
The campground is state run and is really nice. It’s in Clinton State Park, there’s 2 campgrounds, 204 sights and they all look nice. Got here about 3:30, got set up quickly and made vodka tonics even quicker. There’s lots of trees which I didn’t expect to find in Kansas. It’s on a big lake which I’m sure we’ll check out tomorrow. Right behind our site is cement steps (I think I read somewhere there’s 125 of them) through the woods leading down to the lake. We won’t be going that way. The place is alive with black and white butterflies. Nice breeze in the late afternoon. Took a nice bike ride around the campground, then had dinner and a great fire, the first one on our trip. The rummikubes tournament continued as usual. I'm ahead so far.


Day 12-June 17, 2013-Cinton State Park, Lawrence, KS

2013-06-17

Day 12-June 17, 2013-Lawrence, KS and Clinton State Park
Poured last night, lightning and thunder, too. Cloudy ‘til about 2, then sunny and warm. Gets windy and cool at night.
We took a ride around the campground, which is mostly empty, only a few campers, and the state park, which is almost 2000 acres of mostly open meadows. Found out the butterflies are Hackberry Emporers and there are hundreds of thousands of them. They suddenly appeared about a week ago and I read that they defoliate the trees so they’re not really wanted here. They are everywhere, sometimes in groups of 50 or more on the roads. They land on you, fly in to car whenever you open a door and are generally a pain in the butt. But it could be worse, they could be mosquitos. Quite a few red squirrels, lots of birds and bluebird houses in all the meadows. We saw a deer on the road close to town (this one was alive). There’s a marina on Lake Clinton on the campground property run by the Corps. Of Engineers but only one or two boaters were out-it’s Monday morning. Lake is pretty, very calm, a flock of Canada geese paddling on by. Went into town to check it out, pretty fair size like most college towns.
Got back to the RV, had lunch and relaxed and read a bit, but the steps behind the campsite leading into to the woods were calling me to go down and see what was down there. So we went down 65 steps and then trekked about for about 25 minutes into the woods through a narrow muddy trail, over roots and rocks, the path zig zagging so it wasn’t such a steep descent. Then we had to climb down and over an outcropping of rocks to get down to Clinton Lake, a beautifully clean lake with only one canoe on it. So peaceful!
Back to the campsite for dinner, then a nice bike ride, put the bikes back on the RV and hooked it up to the truck so we can get an easy start tomorrow morning. Had another nice fire although it doesn’t get dark here ‘til after 9:30.
Called the campground we were planning on going to tomorrow but they’re closed. Seems they’ve had a lot of rain there, a lot more is expected and the campground is having a mud problem. Glad I called, we had a backup campground in mind and they said they have no problem. It was very wet here in town with big puddles in most of the parking lots.


Day 13-June 18, 2013-To Russell, KS

2013-06-18

Day 13-June 18, 2013-to Russell, KS
Sunny and warm all day-almost 90, then rain at night.
While hooking up and getting ready to leave we found three scorpions and were reminded that we’re in the west now and have to be on the lookout for critters we aren’t used to seeing. These aren’t Florida scorpions that just sting, these are the real mean guys.
Didn’t get on the road ‘til 11:00 but we’re not in a rush, our next campground is only 205 miles away in Russell, KS and it ended up taking us 4-1/4 hours, we pulled in about 3:15.
Drove I-70 all the way. We had taken back roads through Kansas last year and it wasn’t pleasant so we decided to stick to the interstate through Kansas this year. It was a very pretty ride through tall grass prairies, flint rock hills, wheat fields and cottonwood tree stands. The flint is actually called “chert” and is a limestone rock that was used by early settlers to make posts because there were no trees on the prairies. The limestone gets harder as it’s exposed to air and there are numerous posts all along I-70 and in town many homes, buildings and yard ornaments are made from it.
I-70 runs through all kinds of farms, wheat, sorghum, corn and even wind generator farms. 90% of Kansas terrain is agricultural and 1/5 of the US wheat comes from here so it’s known as the Breadbasket State. We drove through Topeka, Fort Riley in Junction City the home of the 1st Infantry Division with over 100,000 acres and nearly 12,000 personnel. Then on to Abilene where the Eisenhower Museum and Library is and finally to Russell who’s main claim to fame is that it’s the home of Sen.Bob Dole. He was one of the lucky ones that got out. The campground we’re staying at has two reindeer that run around the mini-golf course. I think you can understand why nobody plays mini-golf. We found a nice little winery run by a very friendly couple who name their wine after something that means something to them, either their dog’s name, his middle name or something else in their lives. They’ve made a nice little tasting room out of their garage that’s just as nice as any tasting room we’ve seen. Their wines were very different and we found a couple that we really liked. Drove through town (don’t blink) and then back to camp just in time before the sky got black, the Kansas wind really started whipping and the rains came down.


Day 14-June 19, 2013-We're not in Kansas anymore!

2013-06-19

Day 14-June 19, 2013-We’re not in Kansas anymore!
Day started cloudy but the sun came out about 1PM, about 80-83, very windy!
We drove 235 miles in 5-1/4 hours to Seibert, CO just over the CO border. Stayed on I-70 the entire trip so we made good time plus we gained an hour going into Mountain Time so we stopped early-about 2:30. Scenery was mostly wheat fields with a few corn fields here and there but most of the corn fields looked abandoned and some had oil drilling equipment in the middle of them-guess there’s more money in oil than corn. Went through a few small towns, Hays, WaKeeney, Oakley, Colby, all with the same chain hotels, stores, fast food places, gas stations, we could be in Anywhere, USA. Started to notice we’re going up in elevation and by the time we stopped we’re at almost 5000’. Stopped at the CO Visitor Center and got some info about what to see and do in Colorado. We’re at a small campground in Seibert, CO just for the night heading to Canon City, CO tomorrow to see my sister. It’s extremely windy here, I went outside to read and got buffeted all over. I came in after about 20 minutes. Really cooled down at night.
One of the fires in Colorado was at Royal Gorge in Canon City last week and Sharon said it’s still smoky there but the fires have been put out. Also said they think an arsonist set the fires. I called the campgrounds to see if they’re open and they all said they are open but it’s like a ghost town. Sharon said 48 of the 52 buildings at Royal Gorge burned, the bridge lost 29 slats, the incline railway is gone as is the carousel. I’m glad we got to see it two years ago when we were there.


Day 15-June 20, 2013-Canon City,CO

2013-06-20

Day 15-June 20, 2013-Canon City, CO
Wind died down during the night. Breezy and warm-95 (but dry) in Canon City. Smoky. Wind picked up at night again.
Drove 175 miles in 5 hours on I-70 to Limon, CO then south on 24 to Colorado Springs then 115 and 50 to Canon City. I-70 was flat grasslands with huge ranches where the cattle could graze forever on nice green grass. This area is called the high plains and it’s flat as a pancake for as far as you can see.
When we got to Falcon a little north of Colorado Springs we started to see smoke from Black Forest where the fire is still only 85% contained. This is also where we started to get our first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains looming in the background. What a majestic sight that is! Really takes your breath away.
Got into Canon City about 2:30 and set up at the Starlite Classic Campground, where they have all kinds of retro cars and RVs on the property for rent. The owner restores old cars and he’s got a 1958 Chevy, a 1959 Rambler and a 1960 Dodge all hooked up to old RVs. Not to mention the 69 Beetle and vintage Airstreams. He’s also got a lot with a sign that says “Boneyard” with old cars he hasn’t gotten to yet. The owners told us he restored a bunch of cars and RVs for his brother in Albuquerque for a campground and come to find out we stayed in that campground last year-it’s a small world. The smoke has settled in town-seems there are still fires around and the smoke drifts in during the day with the wind, settles in the valley (town) and then blows out again at night. The campground is high on a mountain so it’s not as smoky here but you can still smell it. The campground and part of the town was evacuated last week and they’re just starting to get back to normal.
Sharon came to the campground and we talked for a bit, then drove back into town to see her office and had dinner at Pizza Madness, a place we remembered from the last time we were here two years ago. Went to a couple of craft shops, then back to the campground. Gorgeous red sunset! Looked at the maps and decided where to go from here.


Day 16-June 21, 2013-Canon City, CO

2013-06-21

Day 16-June 21, 2013-Canon City, CO
Hot-96 and smoky!
In the morning we went to the campground office and talked to the owners, Larry & Sylvia Hill-what nice people. I showed them the pictures of the restored RVs we saw in Albuquerque last year at the campground on Route 66. He had restored most of them and showed us a video that was made and sold with the DVD for the movie “Cars”- all about Route 66 and the restoration of the cars and RVs. Each one has a theme and one of the ones at this campground is “flamingo pink” inside-it even has a pink rotary dial phone and pink dice. Has an old toaster and pink flamingos all over. Pink bedspread, sofa, lava lamp- pretty disgusting really, but it sure is retro. All of them are even decorated inside with retro furnishings
Met up with Sharon for lunch at El Caporal-great Mexican food, then went to a winery outside of town which was only open on the week-ends so we went back in to town to the Holy Cross Abbey & Winery. We were there two years ago and liked their wine and still do. There’s a Whitewater Festival in town this week-end so there are a lot of rafters and kayakers around. Gassed up in town then went up the mountain again to relax at the campground. Around 5PM the wind picked up and the smoke started to get really thick-worse than last night. Sylvia came by on her Segway and talked for a while, then Sharon left and we started to pack up to leave tomorrow. Never thought we’d be hungry again after the Mexican lunch but we wanted something small so we went across the street a bit to White Water Bar & Grille and ordered just a beer and a baked potato with brisket. The potato was about the size of a Nerf football, piled high with BBQ Brisket-we’ll be eating that for a few days! Really nice place-inside was a band (way too loud!) so we went out back where there’s a volleyball net, horseshoes, tether ball and all kinds of games for kids and adults. Sharon called and said on her way home she saw two fires by the side of road near her ranch, she called the fire department, they came and put them out and everything is OK.


Day 17-June 22, 2013-Salida, CO

2013-06-22

Day 17-June 22, 2013-Salida, CO
Sunny, warm-85-not as smoky!
Harry was woken up early by the horses at the riding stable across the street-I didn’t hear a thing.
Short drive day-only 45 miles in an hour and a half. Drove west on route 50 to Salida, CO, all the way with the Arkansas River on our right. It’s Saturday and the White Water Festival is on so there were rafts full of people coming down the river. I waved to most of them as we drove by and they looked like they were all having fun-the ones that had just come over some big rapids looked a bit thankful to still be alive. They say the river is swollen from the melting snow on the mountains in mid-June and there are a lot of kayak and raft races during this time. What a gorgeous drive, through Bighorn Sheep Canyon (we didn’t see any), then back up the mountain, down into another canyon, round and round the twisty, curvy road, every now and then a pull out to set your boat in the water or a rafting place where you can rent rafts. At one point we started seeing mountains with snow still on the sides where the sun doesn’t shine.
We’re at Four Seasons RV Resort right on the Arkansas River. After we set up we drove two miles into Historic Downtown Salida-hard to find a parking spot but we found one right on the river where there were people coming down the river in rafts, a place where you could practice your rafting moves, a calmer lagoon just to cool off (even the dogs liked that) and lots of people. The town has an abundance of art galleries, studios, pottery stores, consignment and antique stores, and very unique arts and crafts. There were a few people on stilts and some little girls playing the violin on the side of the road. There was an art walk going on today, Shakespeare in the park later and an ice cream parlor we had to stop at where we met a woman from Brooklyn and another from West Hartford. Left historic downtown and got back on route 50 and visited a couple of wineries. At one there was a man, Mo, playing a Chapman Stick, a weird sort of wooden stick with strings but he didn’t strum it, he just touched the strings and made sounds. It was similar to a guitar but very unique. We then went to Wal-Mart on the stretch of town that is one of those Anytown, USA places. Stocked up on some groceries and came back to camp and read. We’re under some beautiful aspen trees and it’s nice and shady-not as hot here either-we’re getting a nice breeze from the river.
The fires are still the topic of conversation with everybody you talk to. Some people think they’re from carelessly thrown cigarettes, others say just a piece of glass (like a broken bottle) on the side of the road ignites the dry grass when the sun hits it. However they start they’re really a threat here-9 fires are still burning nearby and route 50 south is closed to South Fork. The smoke isn’t as bad here tonight so we’re trying to air the RV out-it smells smoky. Found a lilac bush at one of the wineries and picked some to put in the RV and make it smell nice.
Took a walk after dinner and saw the beautiful “super” full moon and lots of stars. Met a 7-month old pygmy pot belly pig named “Oliver” who was running away from his owner because he was mad that he was cooped up all day.


Day 18-June 23, 2013-Salida,CO Campground

2013-06-23

Day 18-June 23, 2013-Salida Campground
Cool last night, needed an extra blanket, probably in the 50’s, warmed up to maybe 80, then windy and chilly at night.
Stayed at the campground all day, did some chores, laundry, straightening up, etc. A lot of campers are going home after the week-end so it’s really quiet here all day. Saw some pretty birds-found out they’re Western Tanagers-red head, yellow body, black and white wings. Other birds too, some mad when you walk under their trees, they’ve just had babies and are protecting their brood. Arguing hummingbirds, too, they’re never satisfied with how much food they have. Trees are pretty here too. Some Russian Olives, very silvery leaves, poplars, cottonwoods and some that I haven’t found out about yet, one very tall and upright, another almost like a willow. Dozens of lilac bushes on the property but they’re all past their bloom-it must have smelled great here a month ago.
Watched some more rafters and a flock of Canada geese on the river. Not too many people today, the week-end’s winding down.
It was clear in the morning, then got smoky about noon. Cleared out again and then about 5PM the wind picked up and we could see the smoke coming over the mountain. Someone said there was a new fire on the other side of the mountain.
Looked at maps again, cemented where we’re going for the next few days and I finished my book. Beautiful cherry red sunset again (maybe because of all the smoke?) and full moon. Watched a DVD we brought.


Day 19-June 24, 2013-To Central City, CO

2013-06-24

Day 19-June 24, 2013-To Central City, CO
Drove 151 miles in 6-1/2 hours. No smoke all day! Much cooler.
Today was all about the journey, not the destination. Grab a large cup of coffee (especially you, Betty) ‘cause this is gonna be a long one.
Drove a few miles to Poncha Springs, CO (“Crossroads of the Rockies”), then veered north on Route 285, 24 and 91, otherwise known as “Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway”, which is exactly that. We drove on top of the Rockies all day. This is probably the most scenic road I’ve ever been on. We were surrounded by mountains on all sides all day, starting with the snow capped Sangre de Cristo mountains in the distance and huge ranches in the foreground, still with the Arkansas River on our right. Some kamikaze prairie dogs darted across the road almost daring us to bring it on. We passed the highest point in Colorado, Mt. Elbert at 14,433’, then went down into the town of Leadville at 10,200’, which is the highest incorporated city in the country. Somebody told me about this town but I forgot who but, whomever you are, thank you, this was a great stop. This is an old mining and railroad town that, while mining for gold, they found heavy black sand that is carbonate of lead and was loaded with silver, so they not only mined gold here but silver, too. We came across an old deserted mine right in the middle of all that black SAND! Took me a while to figure out how to get over the stream to get a sample of that sand but rest assured I did. The town of Leadville was bustling with tourists and very interesting. We took a wrong turn and ended up in a residential section that had teeny houses that must have been for miners or railroad workers. Some were redone in bright colors and some just looked rundown. A wonderful mixture of the old and the new in this town. The lilacs are just blooming way up here in the mountains and they’re beautiful. The Mining Hall of Fame is in Leadville too but we skipped that and continued on our way.
We then went through Freemont Pass at 11,320’, where it was only 55 degrees, and then started down the mountain. We knew there was a tunnel somewhere up ahead but weren’t sure we could go through it with propane so we stopped at a visitor center in the town of Frisco, between Vail and Breckenridge. Another bustling town, this one more modern and more upscale, its main attraction the skiing and shopping. Ate lunch in the RV in the parking lot and continued to Silver Plume, where we pulled over just in time to see the scenic train going by at the foot of the mountain.
At the next exit in Georgetown we saw a sign “Bighorn Sheep Viewing”-could we pass this up? No way! But it seems it was too hot for the sheep at the lake so they were probably all back up the mountain. But wait-is that a Wine Tasting Room ahead? Could we pass this up? No way!
Up and down, up and down, all day up to over 11,000’ then back down to 8,000, now only seeing pine and fir trees. The tunnel was the Eisenhower Memorial Tunnel and right smack dab in the middle of it was the Continental Divide, also a sign warning about wildlife in the road. There’s now a raging river on our right with rafters and zip lines and fishermen and waterfalls. We’ve got about 15 miles to our exit and-BAM-dead stop. We had been seeing signs saying traffic was stopped ahead but there was no other route so we had to go this way. Sure enough, we sat in traffic for over an hour to go 9 miles. But we had great entertainment with the rafters and zip liners right off the road. Stopped in Idaho Springs, “Where the Gold Rush Began” for gas then continued to the exit. This is mining country, some gold mines are still in operation and there are mines dotting the landscape here and there all through the mountains. The Central City Parkway is 8 miles of switchbacks and steep climbs up rock lined mountains. We had been warned by the campground not to follow the GPS because it took people on “Oh My Gawd Rd.” a steep, narrow, windy dirt road. I kept saying “Oh my Gawd” on the main road (from now on called the road from Hell) which was bad enough. In Central City there was a hairpin turn that I can’t believe Harry made with the RV, then up, up, up to the campground which is at 9200’. By the time we got out of the truck I felt dizzy from the altitude. It’s been hard to breathe for a few days, too. Drink, they say. OK, I can do that.
Didn’t get to the campground ‘til almost 6:00 so we just had dinner, took a walk around, and read for a while. There’s a shuttle that goes from the campground down to Central City (on the road from Hell) every hour and we thought about taking it tomorrow instead of driving ourselves. We’ll see what happens. We’re here for three nights so we have time to see what’s around. Right now I have “Sensory Overload” and just need to sit and ponder all the spectacular sights we saw today.


Day 20-June 25, 2013-Coors Factory, Golden CO & Black Hawk

2013-06-25

Day 20-June 25, 2013-Golden, CO & Black Hawk
85 and sunny today-Happy Half Christmas!
Everything we did today was free of cost-and really fun!!!
Golden, CO is only 20 miles away but it took us over 45 minutes to get there via Rte. 119, up and down mountains again, through the Clear Creek Canyon, always with the raging Clear Creek running alongside us. Gorgeous canyons, gulches and mountains. Went by a couple of gold panning places and marijuana merchants but other than that no commerce.
Went to the Coors factory (the largest in the world, they’ll have you know) for their tour. The only way to get in is to get their shuttle bus (where they have misters at the terminal-they must think it’s hot here). The shuttle takes you through Old Historic Golden first and then to the factory for the tour.
The tour is free-and informational-I smelled hops for the first time and realized that’s where beer gets its smell. Also didn’t know it’s now Miller Coors and that they brew Killians and other beers. Just having read a book about prohibition it was interesting to learn that Coors was one of only 750 breweries out of 1568 that lasted, mostly by going into other businesses such as malted milk and CoorsTek which is alive and well in Golden today. Half way through the tour they give you a little 5-oz. glass of either Coors or Coors Light but at the end you go to their lounge and can sample up to three regular size glasses of what they’re pouring that day. We tried Batch 19-the original before prohibition blend, which was OK but I liked the Blue Moon Belgian White. Very friendly lounge, we met some people from Texas and talked for a while and some college students (at the Colorado School of Mines-an engineering school in Golden) who gave us some tips as to what to see. The altitude is still a problem for me and even though I’m drinking like everybody says to do after leaving here if anything I’m dizzier. Don’t understand that. Thought about going to a Colorado Rockies baseball game at Coor’s Field which is close by, but they’re out of town for the next few days (getting beat by Boston).
We had brought lunch and ate it in the parking lot which was a good idea ‘cause from here we went on the Lariat Loop “40 Miles of Western Adventure”-also known as Lookout Mountain Rd.,for good reason. We only did about 5 miles of it which took a half hour of more gorgeous scenery, hair pin turns and the city of Golden far below. We stopped at Buffalo Bill’s grave and museum way atop the mountain. Had enough mountain driving for one day and we knew we had to go back up Route 119 to get back to the campground, so we went back the same way we came up.
Stopped in Black Hawk on the way home. This town was described to us as a mini Las Vegas but from what we saw it was only casinos and hotels. A huge sculpture of a black hawk with its wings spread welcomes you to the town and the smell of the hanging petunia baskets is everywhere. At the Isle Casino if you join their Player’s Club (which at any casino is always free and always worth it) you get $5.00 to play with and a free buffet meal. I played the penny slots with their $5 for an hour, going as high as $18.00 (WOW!) at one point before I lost it all. Harry put in another $20 but got it back again-so it cost us nothing. We then ate at the buffet which was really one of the best we’ve been to. Casino buffets are a lot different from Golden Corrals. Back to camp late and exhausted. Stars are beautiful, it’s like we’re on top of the world.


Day 21-June 26, 2013-The Casinos and the big winner!

2013-06-26

Day 21-June 26, 2013-Central City and Black Hawk, CO Casinos
Sunny and warm, 85, cool at night.
Spent the day at the campground until about 3PM, then we headed out to the casinos. Our first stop was at Century Casino in Central City. Central City has lots of little shops, an opera house, museums and is known as “The Richest Square Mile on Earth” because of all the gold they found there. They advertise as “Where History Lives and Luck Happens”. Well, not for us. We played a few slot machines but we didn’t have much luck. Their perk for signing up with the club was half off at the restaurant and Wednesday was Seniors half off day anyway but we weren’t hungry and we knew we could get a better deal somewhere else so we headed down the hill a mile to Black Hawk. Black Hawk doesn’t fool around with stores and such, they just have casinos and hotels.
We figured the big hotels and casinos would give us more for our money than the smaller casinos so we went to the biggest (tallest) one we could see-the Ameristar. Very pretty inside, reminds me of Mohegan Sun with all the pine trees and wood accents. Their club perk was play ‘til you reached 25 points and you get a free buffet. We had planned on playing anyway so we had nothing to lose. We both put in $20 and after about an hour I was doing great and was up to $78 and had 18 points, Harry had $3 and 15 points. We figured we could pay for the buffet with my winnings so I was going to play down $75 and Harry figured he might as well play all of his $3. That’s when he started to win, and win and win. And then I started to win more, too. In the end we came out really nicely ahead, Harry won the mega jackpot and I won the maxi jackpot. We enjoyed the buffet , then came back and started to get ready to move on tomorrow.


Day 22-June 27, 2013-Rocky Mt. Nat'l. Park & Estes Park

2013-06-27

Day -June 28-2013-Rocky Mountain National Park and Estes Park
Sunny and warm today, not as hot as yesterday. Cool at night.
Packed lots of different things into today. First made an appointment for Monday at a truck repair shop about 100 miles away to check the brakes on both the RV and truck. They recommended a campground about a mile away from them and we’re all set to stay there. From there we plotted where we could be on the 4th and made sure there are campgrounds available.
We then drove a few miles to the Stanley Hotel, a magnificent 140 room hotel that was built partly by the man who invented the Stanley Steamer and also the inspiration for Steven King’s “The Shining”. The TV series was filmed there and it was also The Danbury Hotel in “Dumb and Dumber”. Supposedly very haunted, I didn’t go in…..but it’s very eerie sitting on top of a mountain looking down on Estes Park. The management runs the movie “The Shining” on a loop in all the guest rooms….way too spooky for me to ever even go in.
Drove back down the mountain to the town of Estes Park and walked around. Typical tourist town, lots of souvenir shops, ice cream and salt water taffy stores, jewelry, crafts, clothes and an abundance of outdoor wear and equipment stores. Hiking is big here. There’s a nice riverwalk on the Big Thompson River and a free shuttle that goes from one end of town to the other. We had a great Reuben and Greek salad for lunch and then drove to the Beaver Meadow Visitor Center of the Rocky Mt. Nat’l. Park to pick up the free shuttle to Bear Lake. Good thing we took the shuttle, most of the ten mile road is under construction and is only dirt. Very bumpy, dusty and if we took the truck we would have turned around after the first mile. Bear Lake is gorgeous, we took the walking path around it, a nice easy jaunt. We’re still having a hard time breathing and we’re now at 9475’. There’s a place in town called “The Oxygen Sanctuary”-Refresh, Acclimate & Rejuvenate and it sounds better and better. Found a little mound of snow that refuses to melt up there. Saw a few elk at another visitor center but not much wildlife besides that.
Came back to the RV for dinner, then went back to town for ice cream and a grocery store to stock up. On the way back we saw a beautiful lightning show in the distant mountains, but it didn’t last long and we didn’t get any rain out of it.


Day 23-June 28, 2013-Rocky Mountain National Park

2013-06-28

Day 24-June 29, 2013-Rocky Mountain National Park
Cool last night, needed an extra blanket.
We decided to drive up the 22 miles on Trail Ridge Rd. to the Alpine Visitors Center at RMNP and first stopped at the Ranger’s station where they warned us of lightning because it looked kind of black at the top of the mountains and it had started to rain. We got as far as Many Parks Curve and got out to take pictures. We were parked about as far away from the car as you can get when we simultaneously heard a clap of thunder, saw lightning and it started to rain. RUN! Of course we got soaked and then it started to hail so we sat in the car ‘til it let up. We couldn’t have been in a better place for this (we could have been on the road where there’s no railings or places to pull over). The road closes here in the winter (Oct. to Memorial Day) because of snow. Our next stop was at Rainbow Curve where one view was clear blue skies and when you turned the other way there was that ominous black cloud. We brought lunch and this was a great place to eat it. Still drizzling as we ascended to Forest Canyon, gorgeous views of black snow covered mountains with green valleys and lakes below. It was only 50 degrees here and we saw a couple of marmots sunning themselves on rocks. Drove through Iceberg Pass with snow on all sides of us to Lava Cliffs, the highest point on the road at 12,183’. That black cloud ahead is getting bigger and blacker and we’re starting to hear thunder again so we started back down. It took us over two hours to get up and about 45 minutes to get back down. Went to Sheep Lake where we saw the herd of elk the other evening but they weren’t there today. This is a big horn sheep area too and the ranger said there was an ewe and her baby earlier but nothing lately. By now the sun is back out but it’s still cool.
We came back to camp and checked out the campground. It has quite a history. Some scenes for the TV series “Bonanza” were filmed on this property in 1967. The office used to be a brothel in Central City before it was moved here. The mahogany bar in the lodge was built in 1879 and used to be in the Windsor Hotel in Denver. It used to be studded with 3,000 silver dollars. They say the bullet holes in the bar are from Calamity Jane when she found out the bar didn’t serve women. Over the bar is a portrait of a woman with six toes. Supposedly the owner commissioned the portrait of his wife and when he saw it was a nude he refused to pay for it. The painter was so mad he gave her an extra toe. The lodge now not only has the bar but tables for dinners, another room for breakfast buffets, free coffee for campers all day long, a reading room, game room and other rooms I never went into to.
We then filled up the propane tanks, came back to the RV, read a bit, had dinner and drove back into town for a last look.  On the way out of the campground we saw a herd of elk in the lot where they store the RVs.  Beautiul site!  The campground is called Elk Meadow because it used to be an elk meadow and I guess they still come back.

Packed up to leave tomorrow.


Day 24-June 29, 2013-Rocky Mountain National Park

2013-06-29

Day 24-June 29, 2013-Rocky Mountain National Park
Cool last night, needed an extra blanket.
We decided to drive up the 22 miles on Trail Ridge Rd. to the Alpine Visitors Center at RMNP and first stopped at the Ranger’s station where they warned us of lightning because it looked kind of black at the top of the mountains and it had started to rain. We got as far as Many Parks Curve and got out to take pictures. We were parked about as far away from the car as you can get when we simultaneously heard a clap of thunder, saw lightning and it started to rain. RUN! Of course we got soaked and then it started to hail so we sat in the car ‘til it let up. We couldn’t have been in a better place for this (we could have been on the road where there’s no railings or places to pull over). The road closes here in the winter (Oct. to Memorial Day) because of snow. Our next stop was at Rainbow Curve where one view was clear blue skies and when you turned the other way there was that ominous black cloud. We brought lunch and this was a great place to eat it. Still drizzling as we ascended to Forest Canyon, gorgeous views of black snow covered mountains with green valleys and lakes below. It was only 50 degrees here and we saw a couple of marmots sunning themselves on rocks. Drove through Iceberg Pass with snow on all sides of us to Lava Cliffs, the highest point on the road at 12,183’. That black cloud ahead is getting bigger and blacker and we’re starting to hear thunder again so we started back down. It took us over two hours to get up and about 45 minutes to get back down. Went to Sheep Lake where we saw the herd of elk the other evening but they weren’t there today. This is a big horn sheep area too and the ranger said there was an ewe and her baby earlier but nothing lately. By now the sun is back out but it’s still cool.
We came back to camp and checked out the campground. It has quite a history. Some scenes for the TV series “Bonanza” were filmed on this property in 1967. The office used to be a brothel in Central City before it was moved here. The mahogany bar in the lodge was built in 1879 and used to be in the Windsor Hotel in Denver. It used to be studded with 3,000 silver dollars. They say the bullet holes in the bar are from Calamity Jane when she found out the bar didn’t serve women. Over the bar is a portrait of a woman with six toes. Supposedly the owner commissioned the portrait of his wife and when he saw it was a nude he refused to pay for it. The painter was so mad he gave her an extra toe. The lodge now not only has the bar but tables for dinners, another room for breakfast buffets, free coffee for campers all day long, a reading room, game room and other rooms I never went into to.
We then filled up the propane tanks, came back to the RV, read a bit, had dinner and packed up to leave tomorrow.


Day 25-June 30, 2013-To Cheyenne, WY

2013-06-30

Day 25-June 30, 2013-Leaving Colorado
This weather is gorgeous! 78, sunny and dry, which is great considering most of the country is suffering with over 100 degrees.
After enjoying Colorado for over ten days we’re leaving to go elsewhere. Looking at a map I realize we haven’t seen a whole lot of the state and very little of the Rockies but there’s so much more out there to see. We drove east on Route 34 through Roosevelt National Forest through deep canyons with huge mountains on either side and the Little Thompson River always right next to us. It’s Sunday and fly fisherman are everywhere. This river is catch and release only but we learned that it’s because there are so many tourists in this area they don’t want the tourists taking all the fish but there are other rivers where you can keep the fish. Little cottages and log cabins all along the river, this is a fisherman’s paradise. This is also big horn sheep country but we didn’t see any. After forty miles of twisting, turning hairpin turns always going down in elevation we get to I-25 in Loveland and, all of a sudden, you’d think we were in a different part of the country. We’re back in civilization with stores everywhere, from the little Mom & Pop grocery to the big box stores, every chain imaginable, theatres, outlets, a Wal-Mart and K-Mart across the street from each other. And the terrain has changed. BAM! We’re back in the plains again, everything is flat with the Rockies in the far distance to our left. Big Budweiser plant here and a Budweiser Events Center, too. Loveland, CO and Fort Collins, CO are beautiful. I’ve heard they were both up and coming cities but they are really nice, clean, lots of parks, a big lake and great weather. Elevation is better too-we’re at 6100’ instead of 8200’ which is what Estes Park was. Much easier to breathe.
We then turned north on I-25 into Wyoming where we stopped at the Welcome Center for lunch and to get some maps and brochures. Our campground is only 20 minutes away in Cheyenne but we’re early seeing that we only came 100 miles today. Got gas, which was 44 cents less here than in Colorado-glad we waited (and the Gas Buddy app is saving us a lot of money).
Got set up at camp-what a nice place. It was recommended by the man that’s going to look at the truck and RV brakes tomorrow. There are a lot of big moths here and a lot of fat robins dining on them. The robins come right up to you, one even flew into the truck when we opened the door. Decided to do some laundry while we had the chance-the camp laundry is only a few steps away from our site and it’s not that expensive. Problem is that there’s a Bar-B-Que restaurant right in the campground close to the laundry and you can smell BBQ. It’s owned by the same man who owns the campground-smart move, a lot of people just pull in here for the night and they’re hungry and don’t want to drive in to town for food. And they deliver right to your camp site. But we decided to eat in the restaurant, small place, maybe 5 tables. The ribs were the best, we have enough for tomorrow. A fire truck pulled in as we were eating and they said one time they had so many fire and police cars here at once that people stopped to see if everything was OK-it was, they were just eating. We talked to the owner’s step-son (who checked us in when we arrived) while we ate. And then the owner stopped by and talked for a while. Seems everybody does everything here. Took a walk around the camp and met a family from Kansas City who are tenting on their way to Yellowstone. They were playing a game called Ladder Gate and invited us to join them. Fun game, Harry and Trenton won, Yana and I lost. Came back to the site and read for a while. We hear a lot of fireworks even though there’s a fire ban-big fireworks, we don’t know if they’re private or from the city. Getting really cool out-supposed to go down to the low 50’s tonight.


Day 26-July 1, 2013-Cheyenne, WY

2013-07-01

Day 26-July 1, 2013-Cheyenne, WY
It was really cool last night-was only 59 at 10:00 this morning. Got up to 78, really sunny and great weather. We must be in a pocket of nice weather, the whole country is either really hot (Vegas is 117), or wet, like Florida. And then there’s the horrible fires in AZ that killed 19 firefighters.
We took the RV and truck in to Graber’s Diesel and they adjusted the RV brakes and checked out the truck, which needs an alignment but can wait ‘til we get home. Nice mechanic, Brian, recommended a lot of places to see in downtown Cheyenne so after we brought the RV back to the campground and had some lunch we drove into town-only a 10 minute ride.
Cheyenne is the capitol of WY, surprising because it’s not near the middle of the state and sort of small with only 59,000 people. It started with the Union Pacific RR and mushroomed from there. Seems it started as a rather wild place with cowboys, gamblers, speculators and ladies of the evening until the railroad men settled down and the politicians came into town. All the people I spoke with said it’s nice here from May (maybe) to Sept. (or Oct.) but then watch out-not much snow but lots of cold, cold winds. They all said it’s especially calm now and you can tell it’s usually a lot windier here because of all the leaves and branches on the ground. The whole town is gearing up for the 117th year of “Frontier Days”-a ten day celebration starting in two weeks of their Wild West heritage with parades, livestock auctions, entertainment, horse races and the world’s largest outdoor rodeo “the daddy of ‘em all”-we saw the arena-it’s huge! There’s a pancake breakfast every day in town where they serve 33,000 pancakes every morning and they use a cement mixer to mix the batter. Everybody we talked to said we have to stay around for it (or come back-it’s the in July every year) but they also said all the hotels and campgrounds are reserved a year in advance.
At the visitor’s center there’s a free horse and buggy ride around town but we opted for the trolley that goes to the outskirts of town and to more of the sights we wanted to see. Had buy one/get one free tickets in a booklet they gave us at the visitor center. The driver/narrator was great-she knew a lot of history, showed us the Botanic Gardens, Governors’ Mansion, State Capitol and a lot of museums. Historical houses and pretty green parks all through the tour, which is surprising seeing that Cheyenne is in the middle of the plains and all the trees and flowers had to be imported. The last place was Holliday Park where there was the Big Boy, a steam locomotive, one of only eight left. It’s one of the world’s largest at 1.2 million pounds. Got a burger at Shadow’s Pub and Grille (also had a buy one entrée/get one free coupon) which is also a micro-brewery so we had to sample some of their beers. Met and talked to “Indiana Bones” and his wife, an entertainer on tour who tells stories at libraries, schools, etc. about folklore, myths and legends, mostly to kids 6-15. Stopped and got some groceries on the way back while we had a grocery store nearby, they’re far and few between out here.
Cheyenne was a really nice place, we had some great experiences here and met some nice people, but we’re off again tomorrow.


Day 27-July 2, 2013-To Casper, WY

2013-07-02

Day 27-July 2, 2013-To Casper, WY
Gorgeous weather again-85 and sunny.
Drove 188 miles in 4 hours all on I-25.
Didn’t leave ‘til after 11 but we didn’t have that far to go and it was all interstate driving. We drove through Wheatland which grows a lot of……wheat. All flat plains here. Then through Chugwater where there were rock outcroppings caused by wind and weather. The wind picked up here a little bit here but it didn’t last long. The terrain started to get greener and we started to see more ranches and farms. A few large ranches with grazing cattle and big trees near the homesteads. Better irrigation here, we’re near the Laramie River and later the North Platte River. Big cottonwood “forests” lining the banks of the rivers and more pastures than plains. This is called the high plains.
Drove past Douglas, WY, the original home of the jackalope, a taxidermist’s trick combining a jackrabbit and an antelope. More open ranges where we did see antelope playing (no deer, though). More gently rolling hills here too.
Casper is bigger than I thought, it’s the second largest city in WY and it’s the “hub” of the Oregon, California, Mormon and Pony Express trails. They all had a stake here because there is a pass over the Rockies that isn’t too difficult nearby. There are wagon train ruts and some footprints in the sandstone that have been preserved for over 100 years in a museum in town. We’re at Fort Caspar Campground and there actually is a fort here. The spelling of Casper changed because the a and e are so close that somebody made a mistake when telegraphing something back east. We met a nice woman, Cheryl, from West Palm Beach who is traveling with her chow dog, Badger and is camped next to us. Spent the afternoon exchanging stories and routes. She’s headed back home after seeing a lot of the Federal Parks.
Dinner was leftover ribs and burgers….just as good the second time around. Stays light out late, 9:30 and still some light in the sky, we must be far west in the time zone.


Day 28-July 3, 2013-To DuBois, WY

2013-07-03

Day 28-July 3, 2013-Oy Vey, Change of plans, a shredded tire and DuBois, WY
WHAT A DAY! Beautiful weather again, 85 and sunny! Drove 201 miles in 7 hours.
When we got in the truck this morning we had reservations all set for the next few days, first going up to Hardin, MT for a couple of days then west to Gardiner, MT (North Yellowstone). But everybody says the Grand Tetons are so beautiful and we’re so close to where we are now but totally in a different direction from where we intended to go. We’d never come back that way this trip so I made some more phone calls, found a campground in Victor, ID, southwest of the Tetons. But there’s a 10% grade for 7-10 miles and it would take us too long to get there in one day so I kept calling until I found a campground about half way in DuBois, WY. OK, so now I have to cancel the original reservations. Not a problem, except the cell service here is spotty at best, but it gets done. By the way, Harry hates when I do this, he wants to just set a course and stick to it. I keep second guessing it.
Not much to see on route 20/26, just a lot of prairie and sagebrush, very flat and empty with quite a big head wind, so we were just settling in to start the book on tape we’ve been listening to while driving through “somewhere”, WY and we hear a “pop”. Oh, no, what’s that? Why, a tire has shredded. The tread just peeled right off of it. You know, one of the brand new tires we bought right before we left home to replace the tire that had the bubble in it. Or was it the one we bought to replace the one where the steel belt was separating? Anyway, we call 24/7 roadside assistance who finds us via the GPS but, like I said, we’re in “somewhere, WY”, it’s the day before a holiday week-end and the closest place is in Casper, where we just left 60 miles ago. So they’ll be here in about two hours. Meanwhile I spied some antelope on a ridge near us and watched them for a while. But, you know us, we’re impatient, so Harry starts to change the tire himself. Luckily, the lug nuts weren’t on as tight as the last time so he was having some degree of luck when a nice fellow (Jared) pulled up with his 4-year old daughter (Cailyn) and insisted on changing the tire. I struck up a conversation with Cailyn who was so excited that Daddy just bought “big” fireworks and she had stars and stripes glasses and a big pinwheel for the festivities. I told her Daddy was a hero and to be sure and tell Mommy that. He followed us into “town” which was about 25 miles away to make sure we were OK. And did I mention the damage to the RV? Called the insurance company and filed a claim but it’s a holiday week-end so we’ll see. Also called the tire store where we bought the tires to prepare them for when we get home with the shredded tire. Got on the road but with no spare so I called around and found a tire store about 50 miles in Riverton, kind of in the direction we were going. Stopped there, (it poured as soon as we got there for about 3 minutes, then dried right up), they mounted two new tires and within an hour and a half we were all set again. They checked out the other tires, gave us some info on what to see in DuBois and wished us a happy holiday and safe trip. Such nice people all around this country! This could have been a disaster.
Continued through the Wind River Indian Reservation and started to see sandstone formations and then magnificent mountains. At Union Pass up the road the Columbia, Mississippi and Colorado Rivers all converge and then go their separate ways.
Our campground is wonderful, right on the Wind River. We were met by a deer in the campground when we pulled in, there’s a stable with 4 horses right behind our sight, a big indoor pool and spa, game room, and the town of DuBois is a block away. They pronounce it “DuBoyz”-the man at the visitor center told me they Americanized it when it was settled. The town is like a little old western town-it still has wooden sidewalks, saloons, art galleries with cowboys doing the artwork and sculptures-beautiful! Also a piano player right on the sidewalk who also owns and runs the jewelry store. A few restaurants but nothing fancy and a big old mine in the middle of town where every Thursday they have a hoedown. Really friendly, cute little place-all about the cowboys. And they’re having a parade down Main St. tomorrow and I heard some people saying “everybody” will be at the parade. If I knew it was this nice here I would have made reservations for a couple of more nights. I almost thought about changing our itinerary again but that didn’t work out too well this morning so we’ll just stick with Plan A. Or B. Or whatever.


Day 29-July 4, 2013-Grand Teton National Park

2013-07-04

Day 29-July 4, 2013-Grand Tetons National Park
HAPPY 4TH OF JULY!!!!! Great weather again, 83 and sunny.
Traveled 173 miles in 7-1/2 hours-lots of stops in the Tetons!
We stayed on route 20/26 through the beautiful Togwotee Pass and the Continental Divide at over 9500 through beautiful meadows with wildflowers, horse farms, dude ranches, tackle stores, tanneries, taxidermists, riding stables and farms and huge ranches. “Open Range, Loose Stock” and “Be Bear Aware” signs quite often. We saw lots of horse riders out today and later on the Snake River in the Tetons rafting seemed to be the sport of the day down the crystal clear river with the mountains on both sides of the canyon.
We stopped at Snake River overlook in the Tetons and also at Moose Junction visitor center where a ranger was giving a talk about beavers and moose. Mt. Moran at 12,805 almost looks dwarfed by Grand Teton Mt. right next to it at 13, 772’. Both are still snow covered and they say even this time of year you could get a snow storm through here. Drove through miles of Kelly green meadows and the National Elk Refuge and then the towns of Jackson and Jackson Hole, so busy on 4th of July. Shopping and tourists everywhere and I think there was a parade through here this morning. Instead of going the short way to Idaho, Route 22 with the 10% grade that everybody we spoke to said don’t even try it with a trailer, at Moran Junction we opted to go south to Hoback Junction, following the Snake River and rafters all the way, then back up north at Alpine via route 31, the Teton Scenic Byway, which was scenic but a horrible road, all chopped up with 6% grades. It was probably 50 miles and an hour longer but people at the campground still said we’d be nuts to go the other way with the RV.
Campground’s great, they treated us like welcomed company when we pulled in. Very friendly owners and campers. Read, relaxed, ate, took a bike ride and a walk around the campground. Doesn’t get dark here ‘til almost 10. Lots of kids and the campground is full. They warned us about the sudden winds here and about 7 the wind really picked up and then died as fast as it started. Watched some fireworks but they were pretty far off.


Day 30-July 5, 2013-Victor, ID

2013-07-05

Day 30-July 5, 2013-Victor, ID
Gorgeous day again, 82 and sunny!
We pretty much wasted away the morning then drove into town (less than ½ mile away) to see if the bike trail they told us about was nice enough to risk our lives getting to on the main road-it wasn’t. But this being a tourist town, (we’re still only 25 miles from Jackson Hole and we can see the mountains from our campsite) there was a Teton Valley Hot Air Balloon Festival going on this week-end. The hot air balloons come in later but they had a nice craft fair going on so we walked through that. They’ll have bands and other stuff at night. Town is cute, only about 3 blocks long, so we walked along the main street and ended up having lunch at The Station-great food. I also spoke to the insurance agent about the RV damage and it looks like we’ll be all set to get it fixed whenever we want-either on the road or when we get home.
The closest big town is Driggs, 8 miles north so we took a ride there and stocked up on some groceries for the next few days. Came back to camp and Harry washed the truck. Water here is free, they use the run-off from the mountains. Crazy concept to us Floridians where water is like gold. I checked on some campgrounds for the next couple of days and it looks like the mad-rush of 4th of July is over and all the campgrounds have room again so we shouldn’t run into any problems getting a site.


Day 31-July 6, 2013-Jackson Hole, WY

2013-07-06

Day 31-July 6, 2013-Jackson Hole, WY
Cool last night, needed the heat. Beautiful day, only got up to 72 and down to 53 after the rain storm in the afternoon. Great hail storm at the summit of Teton Pass!
You knew we were going to go over the Teton Pass and the 10% grade, right? It wasn’t as bad as we’d heard and we have been over much scarier roads. We went back into Wyoming from Idaho right before the top. One of the billboards says “Teton Valley, the best of both states”. Only took about a half hour to get to Jackson Hole from the campground this way and somehow we got a parking spot right in the middle of town on the main road. Walked around a bit, found a wonderful store, sort of tucked in a back alley, that sold all kinds of spices, grappas, liquors, Wyoming whiskey, cognacs, infused oils, wines, vinegars and other treasures that you could sample before you bought. Got some great oils, a local wine and, of course, Harry got some Wyoming whiskey. Beautiful elk arches on all four entrances to the town park, gotten from the elk refuge right out of town. They’ve been there for over 50 years. Lots of really upscale galleries, usual and unusual souvenir stores, restaurants, clothes stores, home furnishing stores, and a hat store to rival the boot store we saw in Cheyenne, hats, hats, hats! Hotels and resorts right on the outskirts of town. Brought lunch so we went back to the truck, ate it, then went to Moos for, what else, homemade ice cream.
On the way back we saw a sign on the road that goes into Teton Village that said “3 Moose Killed-1 Mile Ahead” but we figured we’d rather see live moose than dead moose so didn’t check it out. It was drizzling when we started up the pass and right when we got to the summit we had a full-fledged hail storm, all the way down the windy 10% grade. Big hail stones, splat, splat, splat! Sure gave us a ride for our money. Of course, as soon as we got to the bottom it stopped raining, just some distant thunder for a few minutes then sunny again for a while. But as the night went on it got cloudy and windy, still cold, people are walking around the campground with winter coats on….we still have shorts on but we’re cold. Went to the Knotty Pine Supper Club for dinner-great ribs and BBQ but enough for a few nights. Hooked up the RV-we’re leaving tomorrow for the Idaho wine trails.


Day 32-July 7, 2013-To Buhl, ID

2013-07-07

Day 32-July 7, 2013-To Buhl, ID
Yes, it’s gorgeous again, although warmer, up to 91 today but a nice breeze.
Drove 246 miles in 5-3/4 hours on.
Started the day on route 31 which is the Targhee Forest with huge pine trees and mountains, then routes 26 and 20 which are mostly big open range ranches and then farms, mostly wheat, gently swaying in the breeze and then corn and potatoes. The Snake River is always with us, every now and then a deep canyon with the river below. At Blackfoot, ID we see lava beds covered with what they call a “sagebrush sea” for as far as you can see, then back to farms again, still crops but now also cattle and sheep farms. At Twin Falls, ID we get off the interstate onto route 30 the “Thousand Springs Scenic Byway” and we see a lot of springs around. We finished the book on tape we were listening to “Moscow Rules” by Daniel Silva, a Russian/Israeli spy novel and all is well again with the world.
We got to Snyder Winery in Buhl, ID, 20 miles west of Twin Falls about 3:30. We’re staying here tonight through Harvest Hosts which is a group of wineries, ranches and farms across the country that will let us stay overnight for free. There’s no hook-ups but we’re parked under an immense shade tree and the breeze is wonderful. We can hear horses and cows close by and the birds in the vineyard and neighboring farms and one loud rooster. Buhl is an agricultural area and is known as the rainbow trout capital of the US because of all the hatcheries in the area not only for trout but also for catfish, salmon and tilapia. And potatoes, this is after all, Idaho. We did a wine tasting, bought some reds and read for a while. The winery closed at 5:00 so it got really quiet. The owners, Claudia and Russ Snyder invited us to make the winery our home for the night, walk around the gardens and enjoy the peace which we certainly did. The gardens were beautiful with the trickling sound of waterfalls, there was a huge fire pit, the vineyard was close by and we could see a cow farm in the distance. They had tables and chairs set up for events and an outdoor kitchen. We were sitting outside the campsite when the wind really picked up and it cooled down nicely. Two donkeys wandered near us from a neighboring farm and looked at us for quite a while, I don’t think they’re used to seeing people there. Saw lots of stars in the middle of the night, they didn’t come out well until then because it’s so light here even at 10PM.


Day 33-July 8, 2013-To Marsing, ID (Idaho Wine Trails)

2013-07-08

Day 33-July 8, 2013-To Marsing, ID
Hot today, 94, sunny, humid.
We caught up with the hot weather today, although they said it was 110 last week. Everybody here is really tired of being hot. They said it’s usually 80 here, they only get 1-2 weeks of hot weather and this is it.
We traveled 155 miles in 5-3/4 hours (yes, we do stop a lot!) Took “Thousand Springs Scenic Byway”. There are steep waterfalls (one they call the wall of water), hot springs where you can take a hot bath and the Snake River is always near us, deep canyon, fertile farms that are irrigated either by the Snake River or the Boise River. This is considered the desert even though it is an agricultural hot spot. Wheat, barley, corn, potatoes, sugar beets, even mint grow here. The smell as you drive by the mint fields is wonderful. There’s both a state and a national fish hatchery along the route. I-84 to Nampa wasn’t as interesting but from Nampa to the campground there were more farms and vineyards. Marsing is considered the “Valley of Fruit and Harvest”. This is the beginning of the Idaho Wine Trail and we started seeing “fruit ranches” with cherry, apricot and pear trees. It was really hot setting up so we cranked the AC on high and drank, drank, drank (water!)
The owner told us this was a great place for bird watching and lately there have been a lot of nighthawks. As we’re eating dinner we see dozens of them swooping right in front of our sight on the grass between us and the river. Some little robins were on the ground too but the nighthawks dominated the sky for about two hours and then, all of a sudden, they were gone. At 10:30 PM there’s still a glint of light in the sky-we are very far west in the Mountain Time Zone.


Day 34-July 9, 2013-Haircuts and Wine

2013-07-09

Day 34-July 9, 2013-Haircuts and wine
Hot 96! And sunny!
Today we both decided we really need haircuts so we drove through Marsing and Caldwell looking for a place but ended up in Nampa where we pulled into a salon but the door was locked so I went next door and asked at a real estate agency where to get a haircut. The man walked me to the back of the strip mall, went into a shop where there was only one woman cutting hair. She was too busy but called her partner who came in within 10 minutes and gave us both great haircuts.
On this road is Lizard Butte, a huge rock formation with a big white cross on the top. I couldn’t understand why it got this name until I viewed it from a certain angle and then, WOW, it does look just like a lizard.
We killed enough time and by now it was early afternoon so we found a winery, Huston Winery. They had some nice tables set up under a big apricot tree so we had the lunch we had brought before going in for a tasting. We were met (and joined for lunch) by Huston, a big ole black dog who sat diligently between us while we ate. Huston Winery is run by Gregg Alger, who taught us quite a bit about wines in this region, known as the Sunnyslope Wine Trail. The winery is on Chicken Dinner Rd. and their “house” wine is called Chicken Dinner Red or Chicken Dinner White. (which was one of the best whites I’ve ever had). When he heard about our wine travels, Gregg suggested we start our own rating system, sort of like Wine Spectator magazine and Harry is thinking about it. By the way, their Chicken Dinner White would rate a 92 on their scale.
From there we went down the road to Fujishin Family Cellars and Lost West Winery where we tasted some more nice wines, but the best part of this visit was definitely Helena, the wine pourer. She is in her late 20’s, had left the Amish Community when she was 15 and was the Bishop’s daughter which made it more difficult for her to leave. She doesn’t speak to her eight siblings or parents and they have funerals for member who leave. She is going to Boise State University and studying Quantam Physics with an emphasis on alternate energy, specifically from water. What a difference from leaving school at the 8th grade to raise a family which is what she would have to look forward to in the Amish culture. I could have talked with her for hours but it was closing time . There are so many amazing stories from people as we travel around this country.
Talking to local people gives us many new ideas about places to visit on our trip, places we’ve never heard of but would love to see. So maybe instead of going left at the next turn, we’ll go right and see what’s there.
Back to camp to watch the birds again. The little robins come out on the grass after the nighthawks leave, and there’s quite a lot of them, too. After dinner we sat outside and talked to Gracie, a 10-year old old-soul that lives here at the campground. It stayed light enough out to read ‘til almost 9:45, then we took a walk around the campground. It’s a bit cooler tonight than it was last night.


Day 35-July 10, 2013-Laundry and Wine

2013-07-10

Day 35-July 10, 2013-Laundry and Wine
Hot again today-100. The locals feel the heat more than we do, although by afternoon we were also starting to melt. They say it was 108 here last week. We also have to remember we’re in the high desert and need to drink more water, we’ve both had some issues with not drinking enough.
First order of business-do laundry while we have the opportunity. This campground is worth staying another night, it’s only $11.25 a night, the laundry has a lot of machines so we can get it done fast and there are 32 wineries in a 32 mile radius around here so we have a lot of exploring to do, so we’re staying another night here. There’s no way we can do all of them but we did manage to go to three-Williamson Orchards and Vineyards, Bitner Vineyards (where we bought some Menopause Merlot, would you believe) and Ste. Chapelle, which we’ve been to before, love their wine and tasted and bought some Almond Roca Cream, which tastes just like butterscotch greatness. Also stopped at an orchard and got some apricots. The cherries are gone already and the peaches, pears and apples aren’t in season yet. There are a lot of orchards here on roads named Pear Lane, Peach Place, Plum Drive and Apricot Rd. For those of you (Heather) who are worried that we drink and drive, don’t be. I don’t drive and after tasting at three wineries Harry has the equivalent of maybe one glass over a period of three to four hours. We usually share a tasting which is a lot less than that.
Back at camp to read, I finished my book (“You’ve Been Warned” by James Patterson, loved the book, not so much the ending), relax, have dinner and get ready to head out tomorrow.


Day 36-July 11, 2013-To Wild Horse Casino, Pendleton, OR

2013-07-11

Day 36-July 11, 2013-Off to Oregon
Drove 221 miles in 5 hrs. on I-84 and what a difference 200 miles makes.
We went from arid desert to sagebrush covered mountains (with lots of mine entrances from the gold rush days over 100 years ago) with an antelope grazing here and there to lush green farms in Baker City, OR to rocky mountains covered with huge pine trees in LaGrande, OR back to meadows, green grass and wheat farms in Pendleton, OR. The whole trip just about followed the Oregon Trail and there were Historic Interpretive Centers and information about the trail at stops along the way. Many of the stops have quotes from pioneers who crossed the trail and kept a diary, sort of like mine. Crossed over to Pacific Time about noon. Weather started out cloudy but cool, only 72 when we left camp but climbed back up to a beautiful 85 when we stopped in Pendleton.
We’re camping at Wild Horse Casino Resort & RV Park in Pendleton, OR. The campground is a short walk from the casino but there’s a shuttle bus that picks you up at your campsite and takes you to the casino or into town so we didn’t even un-hook. The campground has a tipi village with eight tipis for rent, a heated pool and spa and we can use all the amenities at the resort including the indoor pool, spa, fitness room, golf course, pro shop, clubhouse grill, a 3-picture theatre (don’t know what’s playing) and other things we’ll never use. The casino is run by three local Native American Tribes. After we set up I tried some of the homemade huckleberry vodka I bought a few days ago (great with tonic and lime) and then we took the shuttle to the casino for, what else, the buffet. It didn’t have as much variety as some other buffets but it was seafood night and I’ve never had meatier, juicier crab legs. Although they were messy they were easy to crack and get the meat out. Must be because we’re close to the Pacific? Tried our luck at the slots but there was no luck tonight so we didn’t stay long. When you’re not hot, you’re not hot. Walked back to camp (it’s a gorgeous night!) and just sat outside and watched the beautiful sunset, which was a lot earlier than the last few nights because of the time zone change. Had to come in early, it got quite chilly, a welcome relief after the last few days.


Day 37-July 12, 2013-Downtown Pendleton, OR

2013-07-12

Day 37-July 12, 2013-Downtown Pendleton, OR
Beautiful weather again, 85, sunny.
Looked at maps again this morning and formed a plan for the next few days. Called some campgrounds to make sure there was room for us.
Took the shuttle into town and on the way it picked up Chief William of the Yakima Nation Tribe who told us about the Farmer’s Market every Friday in town. We were let off at the Underground Tour, a tour that takes you back 100 years and you walk around the Chinese quarters, the saloons and the brothels but we were kind of put off by all the stairs involved (my hip was really put off by that) so we saw a movie theatre across the street and went to see “The Lone Ranger”. We were the only ones in the theatre but it was a great movie. Johnny Depp doesn’t even have to say a word to be great and the William Tell Overture toward the end was wonderful. Part of what I liked was even though it’s supposed to be in Texas it was shot in Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada and we’ve been to places that looked just like what was in the movie so I could relate to it and almost visualize it happening. Really a good movie. Lots of action.
When we got out the Farmer’s Market had just opened and we walked around and bought some wonderful vinegars to go with the oils I bought in Estes Park. Lots of fresh fruit stands and the one that had blackberries and raspberries had a line the whole length of the market. By the time we came back the other way a few hours later they had sold out of everything except strawberries. The bus driver told us about a brewery “The Prodigal Son” so we went there and I had a sampler flight and Harry had a “Bruce Lee Porter”. The building it’s in is really old and has a lot of history to it. We struck up a conversation with a local who worked for the forest service in the biology dept. Interesting man. Walked back via the Riverwalk near town and then back to Main St. where there were a few bands and live entertainment at the restaurants and Farmer’s Market. The shuttle brought us back to the campsite for dinner and then we walked back over to the Casino. Zero luck again tonight. The wind was really blowing and it had gotten chilly when we came out of the casino, it was all we could do to walk upright on the way back to camp to read and get ready to head out tomorrow.


Day 38-July 13, 2013-Columbia River Gorge-Oregon/Washington

2013-07-13

Day 38-July 13, 2013-The Columbia River Gorge-Oregon & Washington
Drove 101 miles in 2 hours on I-84 to Rufus, OR on the Columbia River Gorge.
Weather is wonderful again, 85 and sunny.
After we set up in the campground we drove over the Columbia River to the Washington side and scenic route 14. Our first stop was Stonehenge, an exact replica of the one in England that was built by Sam Hill (of “where the Sam Hill are we” fame) who planned to build a hotel on the spot but it burned down before it opened so in 1917 he built this to honor the men and women who died in WW1. It overlooks the Columbia River, many vineyards and in the distance you can see Mt. Hood, which dominates the skyline to the east. We then went to Maryhill Museum, again built by Sam Hill (the whole town is named Maryhill). I never got the whole story, but supposedly he built this mansion for his Romanian wife (?) or Queen Maria of Romania (?) so she would stay and live here. The only part of the story that everybody agreed on was that it didn’t work and she didn’t stay. The mansion is now a museum and has Russian artifacts among other things.
This area is part of the Columbia River Gorge Wine Trail “A World of Wine in 40 Miles”, so from there we went to Maryhill Winery, a winery I have been hearing about for the past three years from people we meet. It is really pretty, sits high on a cliff, has a huge amphitheater where Hall and Oates and Willy Nelson are scheduled for concerts this summer, a bocce court that anybody can use, and a nice patio and tasting room. Lots of people had brought lunch and were enjoying a gorgeous day, a good folk trio for entertainment and good wine. It was a final contender for “Winery with the best view” in 2012 and the view was spectacular but the whole place almost seemed kind of “uppity” for us. I hope we’re not turning into the opposite of wine snobs.
So we moved on to Jacob Williams, another winery down the road, this one tiny compared to the first but the wine was just as good. It wasn’t on a cliff but the view was still magnificent, the Columbia River Gorge is wonderful. Our next stop was Cascade Cliffs Winery, and we spent a lot of time here talking to Jared, originally from New York. We also met some people from PA and New Jersey. Very friendly bunch. Still driving on Route 14 we spotted a herd of deer all huddled in the shade of a copse of trees and stopped to take some pictures.
But our last stop was the best of all. We drove over another bridge back into Oregon to The Dalles. The winery was The Historic Sunshine Mill Winery. It’s a huge flour mill which was used by Nabisco from 1908-1978. When we first pulled up the parking lot was empty and it looked like an abandoned old factory. We parked and walked around to the front where there were tiers of seating and flower beds. When you enter the first thing you see is a huge gold colored motor and big gears and equipment. Through another set of doors was the tasting room, still with gears (the original ones we were told) all over the ceiling. The building was very unique and had lots of history to it. Really an interesting place. Drove through the town of The Dalles where there was a Jammin’ July Festival going on, a pre-cursor to their round-up in a few months. Never hurts to get started early. We didn’t stay after hearing it was a bunch of rock bands but came back to the campground for dinner and to sit and watch the beautiful scenery. The campground is right on the gorge and it’s a great view.


Day 39-July 14, 2013-Turning the corner

2013-07-14

Day 39-July 14, 2013-Turning the Corner
Sunny and warm, 85. Drove 216 miles in 4-1/2 hours to Eugene, OR
For a week or so now we have been discussing which way to head home, the northern route or the southern route. They both have their pros and cons, the biggest con for the northern route is that we did it last year, saw just about everything we wanted to see that way and, although the scenery is great, it’s pretty barren through the Dakotas. The biggest con for going the southern route is the heat. But it will be the end of July and the beginning of August and it will be hot everywhere!
When we left in the morning we headed west toward Portland, OR, a great place that always reminds me of Boston. We drove on the OR side of the Columbia River Gorge and saw the vineyards where we stopped yesterday from the other side of the river. Mt. Hood, of course, always looming right in front of us. We didn’t know how far we’d get or even which way we would go ‘til we got to Portland and at that point we either had to turn right and go the northern route or left and go the southern route. We turned……..left, toward California. For some reason I feel that we have reached the half way mark and are headed home, although that might not be the case.
We took “the” I-5 south through Portland where there was lots of traffic, seemed like everybody was leaving Portland at the same time, to Eugene, OR and stopped about 3:00. Two years ago we drove route 101 up the coast of California and last year we drove route 97 through the Cascades so this year we’re going I-5 right down the middle of the other two. So far I-5 is boring, the best thing we saw was Millersburg, OR, “The Grass Seed Capital of the World”-WOO-HOO!!!!! Only stopping here one night, we didn’t even un-hook, will be leaving in the morning for more parts unknown


Day 40-41-July 15,16, 2013-Canyonville, OR

2013-07-15 to 2013-07-16

Day 40-41-July 15, 16, 2013-Canyonville, OR
Sunny, 90, hot during day, cool at night
Drove 115 miles in 6 hours down I-5.
Yes, we did have more tire trouble! At the last campground we noticed a tack in one of the tires on the truck. Pull it out? Leave it in? We left it in. Took it into a Les Schwab Tire Center in Eugene, OR and it was a good thing we left it in. As soon as they pulled it out-WHOOSH!!! Out came the air. So they fixed it, checked all the other tires and brakes-all this-GRATIS-what nice people, and, two hours later, sent us on our way.
Our way took us into Canyonville, OR, where we stopped into Seven Feathers Casino Resort and RV Park, a sister casino to Wild Horse in Pendleton. Nice campground, well kept, quiet, again with the shuttle 24/7 into the casino. Didn’t do much until after dinner when we went into the casino and won/lost/won/lost all night. They gave each of us $5 in free play for joining the player’s club and an additional $10 each for camping with them. We also get 10% off the campground and 3 cents off the gas (which of course is higher than anything else around). So we played with their money and a little of ours and had a good time. There was karaoke going on in one of the lounges and some people were good and some were horrible. There’s a heated indoor pool and spa at the campground and at the resort (which has a huge eagle sculpture out front and baskets and baskets of aromatic purple petunias all around), meeting rooms, arenas, convention center (with a big fight scheduled and some big entertainers, too), fitness center, arcade, ice cream parlor, restaurants and even a (gasp!) buffet. Golf courses nearby. We deliberately ate in the RV to avoid the buffet but we’re staying another night so we’ll see what happens with that.
Tuesday we checked out the facilities, the pool, spa, reading room, bbqs, firepits, etc. We then drove to the Wildlife Safari Park about 20 minutes up the road. It’s a 5-mile drive through loop with animals from Asia, Africa and the Americas. They also have a village that’s more like a zoo with other animals and things to do. Very clean and well kept. The animals look happy too. Lots of babies this time of year.
From there we found a winery a couple of miles away, Spangler, and went for a tasting…nice dry reds. Then back to camp for a few minutes and then off to the casino and buffet. Played a penny slot that was hot so I stayed at it for the next two hours and came out a bit ahead and quit. Ya gotta know when to fold ‘em (unlike last night when I kept going ‘til I lost it). All in all we came out even this trip. It was comedy night in the lounge so we listened to a few jokes, then came back to camp and there was a big fire roaring in one of the fire pits so we sat by it for a while.


Day 42-July 17, 2013-To California

2013-07-17

Day 42-July 17, 2013-California, here we come!
Drove 271 miles in 6 hours to Corning, CA, all on I-5 which went from boring to beautiful.
Hot today 100 but it goes down to mid-50’s at night, really weird!
Harry said driving today was “challenging” with all the twists and turns, ups and downs and all the semis on the road. We expected to have all our produce confiscated at the inspection station when we got into California like the past two years so we hadn’t gone shopping in a while. But when we got to the station they just waved us through. It was about 1PM and probably lunch time.
Snow capped Mt. Shasta (14,162’) was in front of us for a while and then east of us for quite a while. About an hour later we drove over Lake Shasta, which is the run off from the mountain, beautiful blue-green water and reddish sand. Lots of boating on the lake today.
As we got farther south the landscape changed again, now we’re seeing golden colored hills, pretty rolling hills covered in swaying grasses. We stopped in Corning, CA at a nice RV Park near Olive crops, another casino, and almond groves. We might be here a few days, it’s very relaxing and inexpensive. It’s right on Historic Route 99 which runs from Mexico to Canada and was replaced by I-5 in 1964. But there’s still lots of interesting things on this road and we might take it a bit south when we leave here to see some more Americana. It’s also called Golden State Highway and Main Street of California. The saying is “When you’re done getting your kicks on route 66 Wine and Dine on route 99” (someday I might use all this trivia stuff that I’m learning). Even though it’s 100+ during the day but 8:45 the sun sets, by 9:30 there’s almost a chill in the air and it gets down to the 50’s during the night. Nice weather! Campground owners, Mike & Julie are great, they told us all the best places to go. Seems everybody at this campground has 2 or more little dogs (except us).


Day 43-July 18, 2013-"Olive City", California

2013-07-18

Day 43-July 18, 2013-It’s all about the olive.
Hot again-100.
First order of business-grocery store-we were really running on empty.
Second order of business-OLIVES!!!! Never knew places like this existed. We heard about Corning from a man on the shuttle bus in Canyonville, checked it out and decided it looked like a nice place to stop. What an understatement! This place is great. Olive groves, almond and walnut groves abound here, it’s “America’s Olive City”-they say they produce half of all the olive products in the US. The Olive Pit, a restaurant for lack of a better description is a block away from the campground. They have “everything olive”, starting with an olive tasting bar where you can taste whatever they have, olives stuffed with everything imaginable, tampenades, oils, vinegars, ice cream shakes with flavored vinegars in them, nuts, cheeses, soaps, etc. We tasted a lot of olives and oils and ice cream with chocolate balsamic and peach balsamic, then ordered a muffelata and ate it at the beer/wine tasting bar where there was a couple of vendors with wines that weren’t even for sale yet. I tried a flight of beers and wines and then the bar and the vendors let us taste a few more of what they were offering. A great time was had by all and we spent quite a bit of time there.
We then went to Corning Olive Oil Co., a mom and pop company run by Carol and Ray, what great people. We tried their oils and vinegars, too and one was better than the other. What a great operation, they told us about how they press the olives and make the oil, they only do first cold pressed-quite interesting. They want to retire and RV in the next year so we’re going to keep in touch.
From there we drove to Vina through olive and almond and walnut groves to the Abbey of Newclairveaux for a wine tasting, a winery run by the Cistercian order of monks. What great history of the building and of the vineyard! Back to the campground to rest for a bit, then off to the Rolling Hills Resort and Casino-it’s half off the buffet tonight. They have a campground at the casino but we like where we are better. There’s a golf course, rec center and other amenities for the hotel and lodge, too. Casinos are big out here, I think they do a lot of business with the truckers. They gave us each $10 in free play which we promptly lost but, all in all, came out about even and spent almost three hours having fun doing it. Really cooled off by the time we came out of the casino.


Day 44-July 19, 2013-Lazy Day

2013-07-19

Day 44-July 19, 2013-Lazy Day
Hot again, 100+.
Laundry, laundry, laundry. This campground is a good place to stay and catch up-it’s inexpensive, quiet, most of the campers are in at night and out by morning so it’s empty during the day and they have a nice laundromat. Need to swap some paperbacks from the book exchange too, I’m running low. I know, I know, get a kindle. But I still like to turn pages. Cleaned up the RV a bit, too. Called Heather and although there’s 8 time zones and 6,000 miles between us it sounded like she was next door. I wish. Well, maybe not right next door, but closer. The rest of the afternoon we just read, relaxed, called a few campgrounds that we might stay at in the upcoming week or so, researched a few places to stop and things to do (we have great internet service here) and wasted the day away, which we haven’t done in a while. Really hot out but there’s a breeze. I was even too lazy to go to the pool which is probably 100’ away. It just felt too good to do n-o-t-h-i-n-g. One of those lazy summer days. Didn’t even make dinner even though we have lots to choose from seeing that we went shopping yesterday. The campground owners recommended an authentic Mexican place across the street and it was great, an extensive menu but I always end up getting enchiladas, although I did try their crema sauce and it was very good. Back to camp and whether it’s because it’s hot, we’re road weary after over six weeks on the road or just lazy we did nothing all night to match the almost nothing we did all day. Leaving here tomorrow to move on.


Day 45-July 20, 2013-To Sacramento, CA

2013-07-20

Day 45- July 20, 2013-To Sacramento
Well over 100 again today.
Drove 125 in 3-1/2 on Historic 99 to Sacramento.
Decided to get to Sacramento via Route 99 instead of I-5 because it’s not that far away, 99 goes through small towns and the Gas Buddy App says there’s cheaper gas in Chico.
And all of the above is true. Chico is a college town, California State Univ. It’s also the “city of trees” as was evidenced as Harry navigated through narrow streets with low branches all to save 20 cents on a gallon of gas. From there we went through Live Oak with a big Diamond Walnut plant right in the middle of town, then into Yuba City and Sacramento. The mixture of trees here is very unique. The sides of the road are lined with red, pink and white oleander, behind those are walnut, almond and olive trees, behind those are huge majestic palms interspersed with tall pine trees, stately and neat Italian cypresses and live oaks. Just the pines and palms together should contradict each other but it all seems to work together and looks almost elegant.
The campground is packed, seems the California State Fair is in town and we have the last open site. Most of the sites here are permanents with some people living here for over 20 years. After lunch we took a walk around the campground but at 105 degrees it’s time for the nice big pool which is two sites away. AAH!!! Refreshing. It really cools down here at night, I love it. At 8:00 it’s much cooler, nice breeze and the full moon is rising. It gets dark earlier here-by 8:45 it’s really dark. Goes down to about 60 at night.


Day 46-July 21, 2013-California State Fair

2013-07-21

Day 46-July 21, 2013-California State Fair
Nice in AM, 107 by 3PM, cool breezy at 9PM-Go figure
We didn’t know the State Fair was held in Sacramento, let alone that it was during this time, until we tried to get a campsite. We got the last site around for miles, the CalExpo, where the fair is happens to be about 2 miles away, so it’s only fitting that we go to the fair.
Sacramento is called “America’s Farm to Fork Capital” and the California Breadbasket so this is a hugely agricultural fair. There’s plenty of exhibits, even a neat 3D experience, animals, wine pavilion, craft beer arena, horse races, car races, midway with lots of rides and games, a tram that went all over the fair and we saw a few things we would have missed without it. Inside the fairgrounds is a water park with over 25 slides, water rides and a wave pool. Entertainment venues run throughout the fair, we saw a few dance studios strutting their stuff-mainly Mexican dancing, but some jazz, too. Great mariachi band, too. The US Forestry Dept. even got Harry and me up on a stage to participate in a demonstration about how important trees are. A very nice tribute to 9/11 also. And food, food, food! Even fried twinkies. I thought twinkies were a thing of the past, but not here. There’s a Wonder Bread and Hostess Cake plant in town that looks like it’s still operating. The weather was pleasant in the morning, seemed like it was a lot cooler than yesterday but by 4PM we were wilted and ready to drop.
So, instead of being smart and going back to the AC and pool, we went into Old Sacramento, an eight block district with over 100 cafes, museums and souvenir and oddball shops. It still has wooden sidewalks, cobblestone streets and a railroad depot where you can take a train ride. Horse and buggy rides, too and supposedly the best train museum in the US. Maybe we’ll get there later. We had some great Sacramento pizza and ice cold beer then drove through downtown Sacramento, this being Sunday we figured we’d avoid traffic and we did, it was quiet. This is the state capitol and the big, white capitol building is in the center of grassy, shady parks. There’s a big Wells Fargo museum building in town that looks interesting, too. So many things to see, so little time!


Day 47-July 22, 2013-A Few Minor Blips and Minor League Baseball

2013-07-22

Day 47-July 22, 2013-Anybody know a good welder? And Root, Root, Root for the home team!
Hot again, 105, but breezy at night.
Ended the day with a great minor league baseball game at Raley Field, just across the beautiful Tower Bridge in Sacramento-the Sacramento River Cats vs. Colorado Springs Sky Sox. The Sacramento River Cats are a triple A affiliate of the Oakland A’s and are #1 right now and The Sky Sox are affiliates of the Colorado Rockies. It was Throwback Monday which means the players all wore the Sacramento Solon team uniforms from 1937, the ushers all wore uniforms from that year, the peanuts and popcorn was fifty cents, coffee was a dollar, the music was from that era and they played movie clips from old baseball movies, including Abbot and Costello’s “Who’s on First” which is still funny all these years later.  We had great seats, 5th row right on the first base.  It was a beautiful breezy night, the sunset was gorgeous and the home team won 10-2. We got free coupons for food and merchandise all over town but since we’re leaving we gave them to a resident at the campground.
But first we needed to deal with some blips in life. We had already taken some weight off the bike rack by moving one bike to the ladder on the RV but with all the bouncing over mountains the bumper hitch needed to be welded. Called a mobile welder who fixed us up and we can now carry both bikes on it.

Also had a little OOPS with one of the tail-lights so Harry went to Ford to get a new lens cap but didn’t have time to fix it before the game.
Sacramento is an easy city to navigate, everything was near to what we wanted, the fair was only 2-1/2 miles away, Raley Field only 10 miles, Old Sacramento about 6 miles and downtown a mere 3 miles. All the stores and services we needed were right near the campground. Very friendly city, we had a wonderful time. And did I mention the beautiful breezes at night?


Day 48-July 23, 2013-Almonds

2013-07-23

Day 48-July 23, 2013-Almonds
Not as hot today, only about 95.
Drove 139 miles to Chowchilla, CA on Rte. 99 in 4-1/2 hours.
We stopped at the Blue Diamond Almond Growers plant in Modesto and learned everything we always wanted to know about almonds and then some. They produce over 100 million pounds of almonds from this area a year and ship to ninety countries. Each Feb. when the trees blossom they import honey bees to fertilize the blooms and every August they use machines with two huge arms that surround the tree trunk and shake it to get the almonds on the ground. Then they sweep them into a pile and pick them up with another machine. It’s like it’s raining almonds and must be fun to see. We then tasted about twenty-five different flavors of almonds, some good (dark chocolate, coconut, some not so much-lime chili, jalapeno).
Continued on our way to a campground in Chowchilla through farms and more almond orchards with beautiful oleander in the median. They’re all in bloom now and are really pretty. Only staying overnight at this campground then heading to Sequoia National Park to see the giant trees.


Day 49-July 24, 2013-To Sequoia NP, CA

2013-07-24

Day 49-July 24, 2013-To Sequoia National Park, CA
Drove 119 miles in 4-1/4 hours to Three Rivers, CA
HOT, HOT, HOT-100 and dry-we’re in the desert again.
More tire trouble, this time with my bike. A few days ago we noticed the front wheel axle lost a part and the wheel was ready to fall off so our first stop was in Madera, CA to get a part at a bike shop. It was pretty close to the highway so we didn’t lose too much time and we knew we had a short drive day today.
Drove on Route 99, which is a freeway at this point, through Fresno and Selma (the raisin capital of the world), with orchards on both sides of the road. Peaches, nectarines, cherries, even oranges all looked ready to pick. When we got to Visalia we started to see the Sierra mountains and stopped in Exeter, a tiny town with pretty murals on the sides of buildings depicting the history and crop growers of the area. More farms along the road now, blackberries, boysenberries, alfalfa, and still orchards. Past beautiful Lake Kaweah in the foothills of the sierras to our campground in Three Rivers, which is right on the river. After we set up we saw a flock (???) of quail-about 30 of them, foraging in the grasses behind us, then later they were toddling through the campground and chattering to each other, they remind me of a bunch of old ladies out for a stroll. Got here about 2:30 so we have plenty of time to just relax. The campground is right on the river and although everybody we talked to said it was nice and warm we didn’t go in. Took a ride back to the river we passed on the way in-it’s really low.


Day 50-July 25, 2013-Sequoia National Park

2013-07-25

Day 50-July 25, 2013-Sequoia National Park
Hot again, 96 at the campground at 800’, down to 74 at 7000’ in the Park.
Drove 30 miles into the park, most of it at 10-15 MPH on Generals Highway around switchbacks up and around the beautiful Sierra mountains, through Giant Forest where most of the sequoias in the park are to be found. They are magnificent to see and all look quite healthy. Supposedly they have a chemical in the wood and bark that’s resistant to insects and fungi and the thick bark insulates them from most fires. Most of them die from toppling, they have a shallow root system and no taproot. The red bark color makes them stand out from the other millions of fir and pine trees in the forest. The General Sherman tree is said to be the biggest living thing on the planet by volume. It’s 311’ tall and 3200 years old and its largest branch is almost 7’ in diameter. WOW! We stopped at the Wuksachi Lodge and Peaks Restaurant for lunch where we had a great salmon burger, fish and chips and sampled the lavender and honey ice cream that’s made right down the street from our campground in a little candy store. The food was great but the flies were awful-there’s no air conditioning so they leave the windows open. There are free shuttles that go back and forth between the visitor’s centers and the attractions but we opted to drive the truck and go at our own pace. It was much cooler in the park but harder to breathe at that altitude.
The only way in is the only way out so we drove the 30 miles back down the 8% grade, switchback after switchback. They do have places to pull out so you can let the crazy California drivers go by. They’re worse than New Yorkers!


Day 51-July 26, 2013-Through the Mojave Desert

2013-07-26

Day 51-July 26, 2013-Through the Mojave Desert
Hot, dry-100
Drove 261 miles in 6-1/4 hours.
I stand corrected….the crazy drivers in California are New Yorkers who are visiting California and have rental cars. Of course, I heard this from a Californian.
We left the gigantic sequoias and peach, orange and even pomegranate orchards in the morning and by mid-day we were in the hot, dry, barren desert with nothing but sand and sagebrush and an occasional cactus. But it’s pretty in its own way. There are mountains and valleys in the distance and every now and then we go over a river but it’s usually dried out and the riverbeds are now used for 4-wheelers who must have a great time with all the sand dunes to drive over.
We took route 99 to Bakersfield, where we stopped at an In N Out Burger for lunch. We had never had one and lots of people I talked to said while we’re I California we need to try one, and it was good, I guess it’s California’s answer to White Castle. There must have been 20 workers behind the counter, each with their own job, one woman just pushed tomatoes through a slicer. We then turned east (yes, homeward bound, sort of) on route 58 through Barstow to a little town called Newberry Springs on historic route 66 about half way between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. They have a pistachio festival every year so there is some agriculture here but not much except for the cows we see every now and then and a few local farms, mostly growing alfalfa. They look so out of place with all the sand around them and then, BAM, a burst of green. They also have pretty Athol trees that almost look like soft pines, they’re very feathery. The campground manager said they’re hated out here because they wrap their roots around pipes in the ground and clog them. The campground is advertised as “an oasis in the desert” and it does have two bright green ponds, which are fed from the well. It also has a wonderful pool which was very refreshing after a day in the desert. There are a couple of RVs here that look like they’re staying here for a while but other than that, just us. We didn’t unhook, hoping to get an early start tomorrow. Beautiful stars out and an almost orange moon.


Day 52-July 27, 2013-Laughlin, NV-Day 1

2013-07-27

Day 52-July 27, 2013-Laughlin, NV
Did I say hot-it’s 110 today.
Drove 130 miles in 2-3/4 hours to Laughlin, NV
Drove through more desert on Historic Route 66 which was the first completely paved national highway in the country and goes from Chicago to LA. Was officially declared a US highway in 1926 but wasn’t completely paved until 1938. The part we drove on must have been the original blacktop because it was like a washboard and we didn’t stay on it for long. We got on to I-40 as soon as we could. It was mostly desert but toward the end there were lava beds on both sides of the road and then pretty cacti all in bloom. Got off at Needles, CA and took the Needles Highway, another washboard of a road into Laughlin. There are flash flood signs all over and a lot of the road is eroded and you can see where flash floods have torn through it.
After we set up we went across the river to BullHead City, Arizona to buy fuel, it’s .70 a gallon cheaper over there, and groceries. We’re in a place called Cal-Nev-Ari because California, Nevada and Arizona all come together here and they all have very different rules and prices. The food (and everything else) in AZ is a lot cheaper than it was in California. And there’s casinos in Nevada but not California or Arizona.
The campground is a KOA on the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation and it’s owned by the Avi Casino and Resort which is across the street. We stayed here last year but I had forgotten how inexpensive it was. Because it’s owned by Avi, they make it affordable so you’ll come and gamble here instead of going across the river into Laughlin where there are a lot more casinos. The cost was $18 a night and I had a coupon for “stay 2 nights, get 1 free” so for $36 we’re staying 3 nights. Our site backs up to the golf course and big willow trees so there’s some shade. We get all the amenities of the resort, which is right on the Colorado River and has lots of boating, a big sandy beach for swimming and ski-doo activity. Nice tiki umbrellas for shade. A big (but crowded) pool with an adult only section, 5 restaurants (.99 ham & eggs all day, and ½ off the buffet tonight, guess where we ate) and 8 theatres. There’s a resort shuttle, actually a golf cart that willpick us up and bring us back to the campground but we drove. We could walk it’s so close, but nothing’s that close when it’s 110 degrees out. Spent a couple of hours in the casino, Harry broke even, I was up about $30. This is a family oriented resort, lots of children around the river and pool and I even saw a few babes in arms on the casino floor, which is usually not allowed.
Last year we made the mistake of leaving the car windows open an inch when we went inside the casino-it’s over 100 degrees here, last year it was 122-and a sand storm came and covered the inside of the car. This year we closed the windows and, wouldn’t you know, a sand storm came, blew over everything and you could barely see, and the car was sandy when we went back out but only on the outside. They say every afternoon a sand storm comes through. We’ll have to remember that. Gets dark by 8 PM here, or 9PM, depending on what side of the river you’re on, that’s where the time zone changes along with the state. Had some great fireworks over the river that we could see from out campsite.


Day 53-July 28, 2013-Laughlin, NV Day 2

2013-07-28

Day 53-July 28, 2013-Laughlin, NV day 2
Hotter today, 110, but drier, it doesn’t feel as bad as yesterday.
We started the day in the casino at Feathers Restaurant for the 99 cent breakfast, even though after last night’s buffet I swore I wasn’t going to eat again for two days. It was a nice breakfast, 2 eggs, big ham slice, toast and potatoes, Harry got free coffee because he’s a veteran. Of course on the way out we had to drop some money in the slot machines and I won $25 in the same machine I won in last night.
Drove to Casino Drive in Laughlin which is where most of the casino action is. It’s like a mini Las Vegas but I think a lot friendlier and not as glitzy. We found movie theatres and went to see “Superman, Man of Steel”, which was pretty good but after watching Henry Cavill as one of Henry VIII’s trusted buddies in “The Tudors” it was difficult for me to see him as Superman. I kept waiting for him to speak with a British accent and to call Lois Lane “milady”.
Most of the casinos here are on the Colorado River with more boating and swimming going on and a couple of water taxis in case it’s too hot to walk up and down the riverwalk. We decided to try our luck at one of the casinos here, The Colorado Belle, a 600’ fake Mississippi paddlewheel decorated inside with maroon and gold carpets, wall paper and great paintings and crystal chandeliers. Big hotel attached to it too. It’s got a working microbrewery inside and a few other restaurants. We signed up for their player’s club and got $5 for play money and a discount at guess what? The buffet. So, even though we swore we wouldn’t go to another buffet, we went to another buffet. But we did limit ourselves and we might be getting the knack of eating sort of sensibly at buffets. It took us a couple of hours but we managed to lose the free $5 plus the money we won this morning. But we’re still here tomorrow, another day to win it all back again. Right!
It was a bit cooler when we got back to the campground. Let me re-phrase that…it wasn’t as hot….cooler just doesn’t describe the weather here. We heard some more fireworks near the river so we took a walk but they were just about over by then. Listened to a country band in Moonshadow Lounge in the casino for a few minutes. There was a nice breeze so the walk felt good.


Day 54-July 29, 2013-Laughlin, NV Day 3

2013-07-29

Day 54-July 29, 2013-Laughlin, NV day 3
HOT! HOT! HOT!-110 again today.
Got the valet to pick us up this morning and take us to the casino for the 99 cent breakfast again, can’t resist that. Plus, we had $1.63 credit on our player’s club cards so with Harry’s free coffee it cost us $2.32. And on the way out (through the casino, of course) my favorite penny slot called me and I won $30. Took most of the winnings in quarters for the laundry which is what we did next. While we waited for the laundry we looked at maps and campgrounds again and got a pretty good idea of where we’re going next. Harry wants to go home and stay on I-40 most of the way, so that’s what we’ll do.
The valet picked us up again for the casino in the evening and told us it was “cooler than usual” today-usual being 120. Also mentioned how dry it was. Right. Had dinner at the buffet and we are learning how to eat there. Minimally. Tried the slots again and after loosing at about 6 machines I went to “my machine” and got my $20 down to 4 cents until it finally woke up and starting paying. Left when it got to $90. All in all we did very well at this casino. Walked back to the campsite in the nice, breezy “dry” night, it really isn’t that hot at night and got ready to leave tomorrow.


Day 55-July 30, 2013-Williams, AZ

2013-07-30

Day 55-July 30, 2013-Williams, AZ
Drove 161 miles in 3-1/4 hours.
Went from 102 degrees at 9:15AM in Laughlin, NV to 81 degrees at 3PM in Williams, AZ to 72 degrees at 8PM in Williams, AZ
Hooked up and left the campground but parked in the casino lot for breakfast. With our points and credits breakfast cost 35 cents this morning. Stopped at “my machine”, threw in $5 but only broke even after 10 minutes, whereas Harry made $25 in 10 minutes. Hate to leave this place, it was very profitable for us. But leave we must.
Drove through the desert again but after a while we started seeing more shrubs instead of just sagebrush, more mountains and real dirt instead of sand. We’re at a higher elevation, too, so it’s much cooler and a lot more comfortable. They say we missed all the rain, up until today it’s been raining here (and in Laughlin) for two months straight and a lot of the roads are washed out. They call the rainstorms here monsoons so they must be bad. We haven’t seen a drop of rain the whole time we’ve been on the road. We must just be missing it. AZ is always in Mountain Time, they don’t change to daylight saving time and it was really dark by 8PM. And there was a chill in the air that felt great after Laughlin’s heat. Harry changed the air filter in the truck which needed it badly.

The biggest draw to Williams, AZ is probably the Grand Canyon Railway that has a 1950’s steam locomotive that goes up to the Grand Canyon every morning, leaves you up there for 3-1/2 hours and then returns every evening and is a great alternative to driving up. It’s at a 1910 depot that is the only working log depot in the country.
Another big tourist draw is that Williams is on historic route 66 which is the only main street going through six blocks in town. But what they fit into those six blocks is wonderful. Lots of Route 66 memorabilia, 50’s and 60’s music piped in through the streets and stores in town, although a lot of restaurants have live music outside too. There’s a zipline that goes back and forth over the Grand Canyon Railroad and you sit in a 1957 Chevy. Vintage 50’s and 60’s cars are parked along the street and in parking lots. We did a wine tasting and then walked down the street to watch the cheesiest gunfight I’ve ever seen but it was entertaining. They blocked off the street for the gunfight with two horse and buggies and you could get a ride through town on them if you wanted. The Wild West has a big presence here too, lots of cowboy and Native American Indian gifts and souvenirs. We then walked back up Route 66 to Cruiser’s Café that has a huge smoker out front and we split a chicken dinner and there was enough to bring some home. Grand Canyon Brewery is in back of the restaurant and I did a flight of their beers. The raspberry wheat was definitely my favorite. Harry got the pumpkin porter, the darkest they had but he wasn’t crazy about it. He likes a dark ale but not a flavored one. He even tried every one of my flight and didn’t really like any of them that much either.


Day 56-July 31, 2013-The Grand Canyon on a Whim

2013-07-31

Day 56-July 31, 2013-The Grand Canyon On a Whim
Beautiful weather again-in the 80’s went down in the 50’s last night, we needed to turn the heat on.
The Grand Canyon is 59 miles from Williams, straight up route 64. We hadn’t planned on going there but, it’s the Grand Canyon and we’re so close, how can we not go. I can’t believe we’re actually going to the Grand Canyon as basically a side trip. We were there two years ago and I couldn’t believe we were seeing it then and now a second time is surreal. As soon as we got inside the park there were two elk just strolling along among the pine trees on the side of the road. We got out to take some pictures and they must be used to people, they hardly knew we were there, but they did mosey along after that.
Stopped at a visitor’s center and on the way out there was another elk in a very small patch of pine trees. Nobody seemed to see her, we were the only car stopped and I could have reached out and touched her from the car window. She was busy nibbling on some grasses and tried the pine needles on the tree but didn’t seem to like them too much.
Stopped at one of the view points and oohed and aahed at the sight of the canyon. I can’t describe it so I won’t even try….you have to see it to get the full “pow to the senses”. And you can tell when it’s somebody’s first view, they say something like “OMG” or “WOW”. Not many words, I think the sight leaves you kind of speechless for a few seconds until all your senses get together and you really look at what you’re looking at. It is, in a word “Grand” and different from all the view points.
We drove around some more, stopped and ate the lunch we brought at the Market Place where there were tables and then checked out the Mule stables where all the mules were just chilling. At the depot the steam train was waiting to take passengers back to Williams.
We went back into Williams to a little Mexican restaurant that was only so-so. Trip Advisor said it was great but it was more like a take out place. Walked through town again, saw the Wild West actors milling around town and found out it was a different show tonight. Better, still not great. Back to campground and read and got ready to take off again tomorrow. Glad we camped in Williams instead of Flagstaff which was our first choice, I liked it better here and the campground was only 5 minutes from town and an hour to the Grand Canyon.


Day 57-August 1, 2013-To Grants, NM

2013-08-01

Day 57-August 1, 2013-To Grants, NM
Drove 282 miles in 6-1/4 hours
Great weather, 85. Finally had some rain, but very little.
The entire trip today was on I-40 through the Petrified Forest with its beautiful pink, purple and mauve mountains, lots of billboards advertising dinosaur museums, meteor craters, Native American jewelry, blankets, pottery and sand art. We stopped in Flagstaff for diesel, it was $4.35 in Williams and $3.61 in Flagstaff, only 20 miles down the road. Thank you again, Gas Buddy App. Then into New Mexico which has gorgeous huge sandstone mountains with cliffs and caves where some Native Americans still live. Mostly Navajo nation here but other smaller tribes too. We lost an hour as we got into New Mexico and another time zone. Stopped for the night in the outskirts of Grants, a little town called Milan. This area is mostly known for its uranium deposits, one of the largest in the world. They stopped mining it in the 80’s but you can still take a tour through a mine. It’s also called the “land of fire and ice” because they have ice caves right next to Baldera Volcano and instead of dirt here it’s mostly black lava. Mt. Taylor is down the road from us, it’s supposedly an active volcano.
After we unhooked we drove into town and ran into a little Mexican restaurant, El Cafecito. It was either that or left overs and Harry went for the Mexican. We haven’t eaten in the RV for so long that the left overs are getting tossed tonight.
We’re still at over 6000’ elevation and we’re both having a little bit of trouble breathing but it’s not bad. I think it’s easier to breathe at this altitude than it is at 110 degrees at a lower altitude.


Day 58-August 2, 2013-Oil Change, Casino, Albuquerque

2013-08-02

Day 58-August 2, 2013-Oil change, casino, Albuquerque, NM
Great weather-85-some rain.
Drove 72 miles in 6 hours but stopped at a casino for a while
Went to Ed Corley Ford in Grants for an oil change on the truck-it was way overdue. We had called yesterday for an appointment and we were in and out. It was only 5 minutes from the campground so we left the RV there and just took the truck in. Came back, hooked up and drove 20 miles to Sky City, NM. Sky City is home to over 300 adobe buildings built in 1639 and owned by Native American Acoma tribe women who are known for their pottery. It’s built on a cliff that’s 370’ high and you can go for a tour if you want. And there’s also a great casino. Heather says the theme of our trip this year is casinos and buffets so, not to let her down, we ate lunch at the buffet….couldn’t refuse the player’s club price plus it covers dinner too ‘cause we ate late. Got $15 each in free play for signing up and managed to play that for about three hours. But we’re not really addicted to casinos, we passed by three more in the next 50 miles.
Drove 50 more miles through beautiful sandstone boulders which really looked pretty with the pink Sandia mountains covered with junipers, yuccas, ponderosa pines and sagebrush in the background to Albuquerque (from now on called ABQ) to Enchanted Trails RV Park on route 66. This is the “sister” campground to the one we stayed in at Canon City, CO. They both have restored RVs from the 50’s that you can rent. The owner of the campground in Canon City restored the ones here too. This one also has a retro laundry room and TV room with vintage equipment in both. We stayed here last year and really enjoyed it. As soon as we hooked up it started to GASP! rain but it only lasted a few minutes. They get about 9” of rain a year here so I’m not worried about getting flooded out even though there’s black sky and lightning all around us. Went storm chasing looking for a downpour to wash the truck because we can’t find a car wash big enough to fit the truck, no rain, no luck. The Ford dealer included a free wash with the oil change but they couldn’t fit it in the car wash bay, either. Got back to the campground and it started to rain and lots of lightning for about 10 minutes, then nothing but wind, wind, wind.


Day 59-August 3, 2013-Albuquerque, NM

2013-08-03

Day 59-August 3, 2013-Albuquerque
Hot, sunny, 90.
We were busy all day today doing different things. Started out at the campground office showing the manager pictures we had taken in Canon City of the vintage RVs at that campground. The same man who restored those restored the ones here.
ABQ is a big city spread out over lots of miles and I felt like we were going back and forth all day from one end of town to the other, through lots of traffic, Saturday and everybody’s out doing errands. First we went to Camping World to get some supplies for the RV. We both needed haircuts and were told about a place where we both got nice haircuts. Then we needed to get some supplies so we did some shopping. Had to find a Sam’s Club to return a book on tape that wouldn’t play in the car. Every store you can imagine is in ABQ, all little strip malls here and there, the usual stores in Anytown, USA plus a few local ones thrown in. Finally found a car wash big enough for the truck.
We brought lunch and ate it in the lot at Gruet Winery where we sampled some of their wines, but they had mostly sparkling wines, not our favorite. Few more errands in between, bought some new books, and then we went to Casa Rodena, a winery we had been to last year. We did a tasting there, but their wines were a bit pricey. Saw a gas station that had relatively inexpensive fuel (3.65 vs. 3.99-real cheap, right?) and filled up. We knew we liked the wines at St. Clair which has a tasting room and a bistro right on the edge of Old Town so we went there last.
By now it was almost 7 so we went to Old Town for dinner at La Hacienda, a restaurant right in the middle of the town plaza. A bit spicy but good food. Old Town is really nice. It has both a Mexican and Native American flavor. The center of town is the Plaza, with a gazebo in a park. On one side is St. Felipe de Neri Church, a beautiful sandstone building which has been there since 1706. All around the other sides are restaurants, shops, mostly owned by Native Americans, an open-air market under a patio where locals sell their hand made jewelry, basket shops, B&Bs, cafes and galleries. Pedicabs will take you around town if you want. A block over is another nice area with a fountain, sculptures and more shops, etc. By the time we were finished eating it was getting dark and the gazebo was lit, kids playing in and around it, the cicadas were clicking away in the trees in the park, the ghost tours were starting, the dog walkers were out, people were out for a stroll or to get an ice cream cone. It was a really nice night, a nice breeze but still warm. There’s a lot more we didn’t see around Old Town, a Rattlesnake Museum, Natural History Museum, Botanical Gardens, Aquarium, more gardens and sculptures.
Another side of ABQ is the financial area, tall buildings and lots of businesses, mostly banking, which was really quiet on Saturday night.
The people here seem to be proud of their city. The overpasses are decorated very nicely, some were even lit at night. We feel comfortable and safe here, even though it’s a big city and there are some neighborhoods that are kind of run down.


Day 60-August 4, 2013-To Tucumcari, NM

2013-08-04

Day 60-August 4, 2013-To Tucumcari, NM
Hot-95.
Drove 187 miles in 4 hours on I-40.
I really feel like we’re on our way home now. We stayed on the interstate, which is the quickest way and the scenery, although pretty, is unremarkable. Mostly junipers and sage brush, lots of sand again, every now and then an outcropping of rocks and sandstone but mostly just nothingness.
We’re staying at a campground right off the highway in Tucumcari, NM and not unhooking so we can get a quick start tomorrow.
Tucumcari is a town that used to be. It’s right on Historic Route 66 and has a few murals that are really nice. But just about every hotel, gas station, grocery store, convenience store and every business is closed and boarded up. Very nice woman managing the campground which I think used to have cottages and an inn attached. They all look rotted and boarded run down but the campground is OK for what we need it for. It’s a Passport America campground too so it’s half price for us. Tried to catch up on some e-mails, etc. but the wi-fi keeps bumping us off so it’s not worth the aggravation. I use the internet for mapquest and to find campgrounds too but that’ll have to wait or I’ll have to go back to the old fashioned way…using maps, which is fine by me, just takes more time.


Day 61-August 5, 2013-And Another Tire Bites the Dust!

2013-08-05

Day 61-August 5, 2013-And Another Tire Bites the Dust-And Cadillac Ranch in Texas
Drove 222 miles in 8 hours….quite a day.
Reached 101 in Amarillo, hot but warm and breezy at night.
Drove on I-40 all day from New Mexico through Texas to Oklahoma, pretty boring scenery.
It was supposed to be an easy drive to Texola, OK and we had hoped to get there early. Didn’t happen. Just as we entered Texas and Central Time zone and started listening to our book on tape, just like last time, we heard a pop and immediately knew what it was. This time it was the back tire on the driver’s side of the RV that was shredded. Pulled over to the side of the highway but there really wasn’t any shoulder so we limped off the exit about 2 miles away in Adrian, TX. Called roadside assistance who said they would get somebody out within 85 minutes. OK, we’re patient people. We had lunch, I finished reading my book and 90 minutes later the repair man calls and says he’ll be another 55 minutes. In the meantime, some people had stopped and asked us if we needed help but we said we’d wait. So 2-3/4 hours later the guy comes and in eleven minutes he’s done. Harry says we’re bringing a better jack next time so he can change it himself. So now we have two tires (both were new when we left Florida) to haul back with us. We stopped at a Discount Tire in Amarillo and had them mount the extra spare so we still have a spare.
While we were in Amarillo we stopped at Cadillac Ranch, a field with 10 vintage Cadillacs buried nose down halfway in the middle of a cow pasture and people spray paint them. We only had magic markers but we borrowed gold, blue and neon pink spray paint and added to the graffiti. Why is this fun? I don’t know but it was. We both had white shorts on and between the street dirt, tire dirt and spray paint they’re not white anymore.
Continued another two hours on I-40 to Texola, OK, right on the Texas border where we’re staying tonight and then heading to Oklahoma City, OK. Met a nice couple from Davenport, FL who are heading to California and talked with them most of the night. Stars were beautiful tonight.
And I won $12 in the New Mexico Powerball which payed for the campground tonight.


Day 62-August 6, 2013- AND ANOTHER TIRE BITES THE DUST!!!!

2013-08-06

Day 62-August 6, 2013-And Yet Another Tire Bites the Dust (And Baseball)
I’ve never been this hot-101 and humid!
Drove 160 miles in 5-3/4 hours.
Plan A-Nice easy three hour drive to OK City, set up early, dinner at Cattleman’s Steakhouse, ballgame in Bricktown.
Plan B-ANOTHER SHREDDED TIRE!!!!!!!!!
It’s been a 3-strike day. Third tire shredded and baseball game.
Started out a great day-stopped at the OK Welcome Center and talked to a nice woman who makes jewelry-Harry and she are going to stay in touch. Got some great info on what to do in Oklahoma City (from now on OKC). Got to mile marker 97 and heard another POP! Imagine the words that came out of our mouths as we realized another tire had shredded. This is #3 of the 4 new tires we bought before we left FL. Called roadside assistance, of course we’re in the middle of nowhere again so it’ll take 80 minutes. Where they come up with these times is beyond me. Just say an hour and a half. Anyway, Harry decides to change it himself. On the side of I-40 with trucks whizzing by. In 101 degree sun. With a Mickey Mouse jack. But, Harry the Hero gets it done. I called to cancel the service and about 10 minutes down the road the service guy calls to ask where we are, Good Sam had never cancelled the call. And did we learn our lesson about white shorts?-NO! We both had on white shorts again.
We stopped in Yukon, OK (home of Garth Brooks, everything is on Garth Brooks Blvd.) and bought two new tires-different brand. The people at Discount Tire are great-they got us on the road again in no-time. Even helped us figure out how to carry three shredded tires home again so we can get reimbursed.

Got to the campground in OKC at 5PM, had tickets for the game at 7-the stadium is less than 15 minutes from the campground. Quick cold showers, dinner and off to the game at Chickasaw Bricktown Ball Park in the Bricktown area of OKC, the OKC Redhawks vs. Colorado Springs Sky Sox. We saw Sacramento beat Colorado Springs when we were in Sacramento and tonight we saw them get beat by OKC 6-3. It’s nice when the home team wins. Redhawks is a AAA affiliate of the Houston Astros. The minor league games are more fun than major league-they get the crowd more involved, although I don’t know how the mascot, Ruby the Redhawk, could breathe in the costume in the heat- at 10:30PM it was still 98 degrees. Not many fans here tonight-too hot. Back to the campground and another cold shower-did I mention I’ve never been this hot!
So, all in all, the day ended great too!


Day 63-August 7, 2013-OKC Day 2

2013-08-07

Day 63-August 7, 2013-Oklahoma City, OK
Hot again, over 100!!!!
First thing I did was call the insurance company and file two additional claims for the rv damage done by the tires. The first claim is still open until we get home to have the damage appraised. We finally have some decent internet service so we caught up on e-mails, etc.
Two Fountains Campground/Resort is very nice, has grass and trees, not like the sand we encountered in the desert. In addition to the usual amenities it has mini golf, a pool/spa, game room, shuffleboard, bike rentals, reading room, café with breakfast and pizza/wings/snacks, gift shop, fitness center and a storm shelter for those pesky tornadoes. They have a shuttle van and limo that will take you to attractions, too. Stopped in and decided to stay another night so we’ll be here ‘til Thursday. Found a Northern Tool and bought a heavier jack just in case. Hopefully we’ll never need to use it.
OKC is the capital of OK and is broken down into distinctive districts. We saw Bricktown yesterday at the Ball Park. There’s also Film Row, where Warner Bros., MGM and other film companies were housed during the silent film era, Automobile Alley or A-Alley, where there are still a lot of car dealerships, the Boathouse district on the Oklahoma River, Arts-Botanical Garden, Museum of Art, National Memorial among others, Frontier Town, Deep Deuce with a nod to its jazz heritage and Stockyard City, where cowboys, horses and cows are symbolized. The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum is here and the area has an old western flavor. There are other districts and points of interest all over the city, National Fire Firefighter Museum, Ninety-nine Women Pilots Museum, Crystal Bridge, which lights up at night and changes colors, etc. We ate at Cattlemen’s Steakhouse where they’ve been serving cowboys, ranchers and cattle haulers (and George Bush) since 1910. The steak was great and the waiter wonderful. One side is the original café which looks just like a diner and the other side was added on as they got more popular.
We then went to the Adventure District which has the American Softball Hall of Fame, the Science Museum, the Zoo and Remington Park, a thoroughbred race track and….wait for it....Casino! Played the penny slots for a couple of hours and came out about $15 ahead.
The only grocery stores we’ve seen are in Walmarts so we stopped there on our way back to camp to stock up, it’s been a while since we’ve seen any food stores. Still hot even at night, not a whisper of a breeze anywhere but rumbling thunder in the distance.


Day 64-August 8, 2013-National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum & OKC Day 3

2013-08-08

Day 64-August 8, 2013-OKC Day 3
Rained last night, much more comfortable today, high of 90 and a slight breeze.  They say this is the normal weather, the heat was unusual.
Lazed around this morning and didn’t get out of the campground ‘til late morning. Went to the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum which was less than five minutes away. What a place! Everything you wanted to know about the cowboy and then some. Huge building where we were greeted by a guide who told us what there was to see and explained some of the exhibits. We started by watching a video of the museum which highlighted the best things to do and see. The first thing we saw was “The End of the Trail” sculpture, 18’ tall and over 4 tons, Indian on a horse at the end of the “Trail of Tears”. Even the horse looks forlorn. “Canyon Princess” is an 18’, 16000 pound white cougar sculpture made of marble that is magnificent. Also a large than life sculpture of Abraham Lincoln.
Then there was gallery upon gallery of artwork, rooms and rooms of paintings, mostly oils and sculptures, bronze, marble, etc. Exhibits of cowboy hats, boots, firearms, saddles, barb wire (who knew there were so many kinds of barb wire) over 8000 on display. A whole rodeo gallery with life size bucking broncos and riders, bulls, roping, etc. names and history of all the champions. Prosperity Junction is a 1900’s Western cattle town set at twilight with authentic pieces and full size structures. Then a film and a gallery of all the Western films made from over 100 years ago to the present. A few rooms and exhibits dedicated to the American Indians and the Military. There’s an events center with five panoramic murals, each over 18’ x 46’ that was set up for over 600 for dinner tonight. There’s a hands on “cowboy corral” for kids, outdoor gardens with more statures and ponds and probably lots of stuff we didn’t even see. It’s all very open-air and spacious even though there is so much inside. We spent a few hours in there and still missed a lot, I’m sure.
Harry then dropped me off at a nail spa and he went to Wal-Mart to get a box for the new jack. We then went to see a movie, “The Heat”, which was pretty good. I’ve never been to a movie where you had to climb stairs once you were inside the theatre. They also sold real food that you could bring in, pizza, hot dogs, ice cream, etc.
By now it was after 7PM so we came back to camp for dinner, then went back to the casino but only for a little over an hour, there was a band playing, it was really loud and busy and lady luck was not that good to us, Harry won about $10 but but I came out a loser.

Watched some great lightning just as we were going to bed.  Not strikes, just constant flashes, really pretty.  Hope it stays far away, though, it looks menacing.
The campground was within 15 minutes of everywhere we went today, it really is a nice place. Leaving OKC tomorrow and continuing to head home. I’m glad we gave OK another chance, the first time we only drove through and it was windy and dusty. We both had a really good time here.


Day 65-August 9, 2013-To Arkansas

2013-08-09

Day 65-August 9, 2013-To Arkansas
Hot again, 92, humid. Huge storm last night, sunny during the day, storms again at night.
Drove 205 miles in 6-1/2 hours.
Remember how I said the lightning last night was pretty but menacing? Well, by midnight it was a full blown Oklahoma storm. The rain came down in buckets, the wind was bringing down branches and sweeping the rain, which was now flash flooding, all over the campground, the lightning was still flashing only closer now and the thunder was constant and sounded like a freight train. And every time I hear someone describe a tornado they say it sounded like a freight train. So what does Harry say to me? I’m going to sleep now, don’t wake me up. Hello!!! This is Oklahoma and we’re in the middle of a storm!!!! It lasted until about 1:30 and then just as I thought it was going away…BAM! A clap of thunder like I’ve never heard before. There were two more of them before it finally left. In the morning there was sand and leaves all over the campground and everything was water logged. We saw a lot of flooding on the way out of town and we heard a 60 year old man was killed when he tried to help his family in a flood.
The weather all day was good, although hot and humid. We passed by about six casinos before we stopped at the last exit in Oklahoma at Cherokee Casino, but I think we’re now done with casinos. There are so many Indian Reservations in OK and they all seem to have a casino but now that we’re in Arkansas I think we’re done.
Talked with the insurance adjuster for the original claim today and he tried to get all three claims transferred to him but because he’s not licensed in Texas or OK, where two of tires went, I have to deal with two other adjusters. But once we get home it should be easier. We’ll just need to get appraisals and go from there. I hope.
The campground we’re at tonight, Crabtree RV Park, is right off I-40. When we got off to get gas there was about 7 miles on the main road that was filled with flea markets. It was more like everybody selling their excess “stuff” but we must have passed almost 100 tents on both sides of the road. It looked like this was something that happens every Friday. When we walked into the campground office, the manager was holding a kitten and said “You get one of these free with every night you stay”. The cutest kitten I’ve even seen, and she had a sister, too. The mother was a stray and is now the campground cat. We played with them for a while and they were really cute and playful but we resisted. Just like we resisted the cute little black puppy in Texas. That was even hard for Harry. And these kittens were trying, they were rubbing up against his legs and being extra cute. But they have a good home here and we’re sure the owners will take good care of them.
The campground is right in back of a Cracker Barrel, so how could I cook dinner? We walked over and it poured as soon as we got there but stopped by the time we left.
Didn’t unhook so we can get an early start tomorrow. We’re anxious to get home now.


Day 66-August 10, 2013-AND YET ANOTHER TIRE (#4) BITES THE DUST!!!!!!

2013-08-10

Day 66-August 10, 2013-AND YET ANOTHER TIRE (#4) BITES THE DUST!
Hot, 92.
Drove 220 miles in 7-1/4 hours, most of it on I-40 East fixing another tire.
Plan A-Drive to Brinkley, AR for the night. Not too many campgrounds around here so we have to make sure there’s one near where we want to stop.
Plan B-Drive to West Memphis, AR for the night. There’s another campground there and it’s 65 miles further east.
Plan C-ANOTHER TIRE BURSTS!!!!!
Yes, you are reading it right-tire #4 has bit the dust. We hadn’t gone more than 175 miles when we heard another “POP”! This one didn’t shred, it looked more like it exploded. This was not one of the tires we bought at home but one we bought in Wyoming. Called Good Sam Roadside Assistance. After 90 minutes he said he found someone who could be there in 90 minutes. By now Harry’s changed it. The truckers on I-40 in Arkansas are nuts-they didn’t even move over and every time one went by it shook the RV. The police were no help either, they said they were an hour away. Funny that we saw one up the road a bit later with somebody pulled over. I called around looking for a place to get a spare (seeing that we now are using ours) and, of course, it’s Saturday and everybody’s closed. One man, Zean from Carlisle Auto Repair said he was over an hour away and just as we were about to pull out and get on our way he showed up, led up to his shop about 5 miles away, opened it for us and got us a spare tire. Nice man, but he liked to talk, talk, talk and we just wanted to be on our way. Found out he had the Good Sam contract until last year when he wanted a hike (after 10 years) and they told him no way. But they called him right after I called for assistance, he told them it would take him 20 minutes to get to us but he wanted too much money. I can’t wait to find a number for a supervisor at Good Sam. He came because he knew he was the only one around and they would leave us hanging. Of course we have to bring all these tires back to get reimbursed (and the insurance company wants them so they can go after the tire company) so we’re lugging two on the rack behind the RV and two are in the kitchen.
After three hours we were finally back on the road and we reverted to Plan A to stop for the night. The campground is behind the Motel 6 right off the highway. Not much to it, although we can use everything the motel has to offer. All we want is a nice cold drink and a shower. Didn’t unhook again tonight, we really can’t wait to get home. Then had dinner and read, relaxed and zoned out. We’re both exhausted.


Day 67-August 11, 2013-Driving through four states

2013-08-11

Day 67-August 11, 2013-Closer to home!
Drove 330 miles in 7 hours.
Not as hot today, only got to 90 most of the day, but lots of rain.
NO TIRE DRAMA TODAY!!!! Actually was a pretty boring trip except for the thunder, lightning and downpours in Memphis and then again in Tupelo. But at this point we like boring. Drove I-40 through Memphis, then US 78 through Tupelo into Birmingham, then I-65 to Pelham (South Birmingham). The traffic in Birmingham was crazy on Sunday afternoon so I’m glad we drove through today instead of Monday morning when it would probably be worse. A lot fewer trucks today too.
We went through four states today, Arkansas (so glad to get out of there), Tennessee for about 10 minutes, Mississippi and Alabama. All of them are water logged and all the fields are flooded, they must have gotten a lot of rain recently and all day today it rained off and on. We thought the rain and the cooler weather would be better for the tires so we went a little farther today than we had planned. It also got us closer to home and maybe even cut off another day’s drive so we’ll get home a day earlier. We’ve heard of a lot of RVers having tire trouble this year. The managers at this campground told us there’s another camper here who blew out two tires today. And a lot of the people we talk to have had the same problem this year. They all think the tires are just not made like they used to be.
Got into the campground about 4:30 so we had time to sit outside and relax, read and enjoy it. And the Rummikub tournament continues…….


Day 68-August 12, 2013-Getting closer to home

2013-08-12

Day 68-August 12, 2013-To Florida but not home yet!

Hot again-97 today.

Drove 310 miles in 8-1/4 hours.

We’re retracing our steps now, going home the same way we started, just stopping at different places. Drove I-65 to Montgomery, AL, then 231 through Dothan  to I-10 in Florida.  We stopped in Tallahassee at a Discount Tire to exchange one of our blow-outs for a new one.  We bought a replacement warranty in OK for four tires (two of which we didn’t buy from them) for $18.50 a tire and it paid for itself the next day when we blew the last (hopefully) of the four tires.  We again asked someone who should know what he thinks might be our problem and, after checking out the tires said we’re “probably just having a streak of bad luck”.  Let’s hope that streak has ended.

We can see that Florida got a lot of rain while we were gone.  Ponds used to be puddles, lakes used to be ponds and low areas now have standing trees (and some cows) in the middle of water.  The manager at the campground said we’re up 9” this year.  We’re now back in Eastern Time Zone and it feels like home. 

About four days ago Harry and I decided we were ready to go back home.  Problem is, being the patient person that I am (NOT!), I don’t want to “go” home, I want to “BE” home, not spend four days driving through interstates in Arkansas and Mississippi and Alabama to get there.  We’re at A Stone’s Throw Campground in Lamont, FL, right off I-10 on route 19 about 20 miles east of Tallahassee.  The last night of our trip is always bittersweet.  We are eager to get home but also a bit sad that’s it’s over.  And I’m not looking forward to emptying all the stuff out of the RV and cleaning it….it’s a mess!  But I did win the Rummikub tournament 21-17.

 


Day 69-August 13, 2013-WE'RE BAAAAACK!!!!!!

2013-08-13

Day 69-August 13, 2013-WE’RE BAAAAACK!!!!!!

Hot again, 91, but it’s Florida.

Drove 165 miles in 3-1/2 hours to HOME!!!!

Had another uneventful drive home on route 19 all the way.  Got in early afternoon and got quite a bit of the RV emptied out and put away.  Then jumped in the pool and plan on doing nothing the rest of the day except maybe figure out what that big black thing on the wall in the great room is.  I think it’s called a TV, something we haven’t looked at in ten weeks.

Ten weeks, 8707 miles, 19 states.

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME!

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME!

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME!

 


Days 1-2-May 30, 31, 2014-NORTH TO ALASKA!

2014-05-30 to 2014-05-31

Days 1-2, May 30-31, 2014-North to Alaska

Alaska will be the 50th state we’ve visited, so after this trip we will have seen them all.

Our plane on Friday night from Tampa to Minneapolis left on time at 6:20PM, arriving about 8:40 but the final leg was delayed about an hour making us arrive in Anchorage about 1:35AM on Saturday.  Alaska has its own time zone, which is four hours behind Florida so we gained four hours.  Thankfully there was a shuttle at the airport waiting for us and the hotel was close by.  There was a woman on the shuttle whose grandmother lives in Homosassa, the same town we’re in.  It’s a small world.  Seeing that we weren’t supposed to check in until 3:00 that afternoon it made us early.  They let us check in early and we immediately went to sleep for about three hours. 

Breakfast was in the hotel lobby and as soon as we were done the power went off.  There has been lots of rain and wind and it seems a tree fell down and a few blocks of the city were without power for most of the morning and early afternoon. Because we weren’t supposed to come in until tonight, nothing was planned for us today so it’s an easy day for us.  By looking at the itinerary the travel agent scheduled for us we’ll be busy the rest of the trip.  The hotel isn’t far from the city so we strolled into town, looking at the sights, lots of souvenir stores, where we bought hats because it was so cold, rainy and wet. There are also restaurants, a visitor’s center, Oomingmak Musk Ox store, where women knitted musk ox fur into scarves, hats, etc. that were very soft and very expensive and the Fifth Avenue Mall, which resembled every mall I’ve ever been in.  Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska with almost 299,000 people, 40% of the total population of  710,000.  The power was restored about noon and we heard about a good restaurant, Glacial Brewhouse, but it hadn’t opened yet because of the power failure so we waited about a half hour while they got ready to open.  It was worth the wait, the salmon and halibut were great, as was the beer.  I got a flight and they were all good, especially the raspberry wheat ale.  As we were waiting a man came in wearing a Sasquatch costume.  I assume it was a man although when I approached him and said I always knew there were real sasquatches he didn’t disagree with me, he just hugged me, let me take his picture and kept on going.

We walked back to the hotel through a small residential area and the lilacs were all out and smelled great.  I picked a few to put in our room.  Lots of cherry blossoms blooming too.  We rested a bit, got ready to go on our train trip to Seward early tomorrow.  Had to pack an overnight bag, we’ll be back at this hotel in a couple of days.  On the plane one of the locals told me about a place called the City Diner and we took a cab there for dinner.  It was OK, not great, they’re big on comfort food. We are starting to realize how much we rely on having cars.  We can walk to certain places here but anywhere over a mile and we have to take a cab, which we’re not used to doing. Still cold rainy and wet, it’s about 52 but the wind makes it feel colder. Got a cab back and crashed about 8PM. 


Day 3-June 1, 2014-Seward, Alaska

2014-06-01

Day 3-June 1, 2014-Seward

We’re off and running.  Turned out to be a very busy day.  Got up at 4:30AM to get the shuttle from the hotel to the train to Seward.  We had packed breakfast to eat on the train and overnight bags yesterday so we just had to leave our luggage at the front desk and go. 

We rode Gold Star Class on the Alaska Railroad, which is the upper car of the glass domed train.  Met a couple from Clermont, about 45 minutes from home at the train station.  It’s a small world.  The journey was 125 miles and it took us about 4-1/2 hours. The view of the black mountains of the Alaska Range covered with snow is spectacular.  There was a commentator explaining everything we were seeing, two dining cars downstairs, an open air viewing deck, which was nasty in the rain, and a bar in the back of our car.  We met 2 couples traveling together, one from Flagstaff and the other from Spearfish, SD and had some fun with them.  Saw a few Dall sheep on the mountains and eagles on the beach.  Great experience except that the train went so slow that we were late for the “Real Alaska Tour”.  However, the train had kept in contact with the tour bus so they waited for us.

From the train we immediately got on the “Real Alaska Tour” bus, which had only eight passengers, including us.  Joe, the guide and driver, took us to Seavey’s Iditarod Tours, owned by Mitch Seavey, the 2013 winner where we got on an Iditarod “dog sled”-except this sled was on wheels and looked like a modified golf cart.  We were in the middle of the dog “yard”-about 200 barrels that resembled 50 gal. plastic drums turned on their side-l for each dog.  The dogs are not only huskies but any and all breeds that can be trained to run the race.  Last year they went to the local animal shelter and brought home fourteen dogs to train. The Iditarod is run every year in early March and they say it is 1049 miles because it’s over 1000 miles and Alaska is the 49th state.  It goes from Anchorage to Nome and usually lasts 9-15 days.  You start with 16 dogs and have to end with at least 6 to win.  The Seavey family has won numerous times and really knew and loved their stuff.  Even the grand-daughter, 9 year old Alex, was into it.  As we turned a corner she was there taking pictures, although she later told me she would rather race horses. 

We got on the “sled” and two men, both of whom have won the race, (one with a PhD in Physics who decided he’d rather do this, and the other, Danny Seavey, Mitch’s son and Alex’s dad, the youngest man to ever win) hooked up the dogs, one by one, eight rows of 2.  The dogs go wild, you can almost hear them barking “PICK ME, PICK ME!”-it’s a frenzy of 200 dogs barking and jumping.  And the sixteen that are hooked up are chomping at the bit.  There’s a brake on the sleds so they can’t go yet but the second they hear the word to go, they go.  AND WE’RE OFF!  They have all kinds of words to go left, right, etc. but none to stop because they never want the dogs to want to stop running.  So they use a signal to let them know to slow down and then just use the brake to stop.  We took about a 2-mile run and then got a demo of the real sleds and the real race.  At the end we got to hold seven 3-week old puppies (but they counted them at the end so we couldn’t take one home).  Very interesting, you can tell they love this life. 

Back to Resurrection Roadhouse, which is next door to our hotel for lunch then to Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park for a hike in the woods.  It’s pouring and cold-in the 40’s so we decided to do the 1-mile walk instead of one of the other two intense hikes.  From there to a salmon ladder where we got to pull salmon out of a net that has captured the salmon swimming upstream.  They’re each counted and sexed then put right back in the water to continue going upstream to spawn.  There was another area where they counted the fry traveling downstream.  This was harder because they swam in schools and there were quite a few in the nets.

The tour bus let us off in town where we went to dinner at Thorn’s Showcase Lounge which advertised “The Best Butt in Town”, butt being halibut.  Not very hungry after the lunch we had so we ordered a bucket of butt and a beer.  Right down the street was the Alaska Sea Life Center which we had planned on doing tomorrow but since we were right there (and still able to move) we went in.  One of the first exhibits we saw was Alaskan sea birds, a separate outdoor “room” with plenty of room to fly and swim.  There was a gorgeous bird sitting on one of the rocks and we both thought it was fake until it moved-it was a King Eider duck, the most beautiful duck I’ve ever seen.  Also had great sea lions and other mammals. 

Took the shuttle from town back to our hotel, the Seward Windsong Lodge, and like magic our bags were there.  Don’t think we’re jet lagged, just tired, cold and still a little wet, so we got to sleep about 9:00PM. 


Day 4-June 2, 2014-Kenai Fjord National Park Cruise & Holgate Glacier

2014-06-02

Day 4-June 2, 2014-Kenai Fjord National Park Cruise & Holgate Glacier

Up early again to catch the shuttle to the cruise catamaran, the Glacial Express.  We had breakfast at Resurrection Roadhouse and again ran into Kay & Greg and Kris and Bill.  They were going someplace different from us today.  It’s warmer today, about 55 and sunny, bright blue skies.

The cruise is 120 miles roundtrip and about 6 hours long.  We were seated with Jackie and Liam from Dyer, TN for lunch but could walk around inside, outside, up and down, all over the boat.  Again, a great commentator from the National Park Services explained everything and had exhibits, i.e., an otter pelt and whale baleen. I spent a lot of time outside taking pictures of puffins, Dall sheep, sea otters, Stellar sea lion colony, bird rookeries, dolphins, humpback and blue whales and the beautiful mountains.  The sea is calmer today, we heard lots of seasickness yesterday, glad it’s better today.  We went past Bear Glacier, the largest glacier in the park, into Aialik Bay and up to Holgate Glacier where we spent quite a bit of time viewing its gorgeous blue ice.  It would calve every now and then (chunks would fall into the water).  The crew picked up some of this glacial ice, chopped it up and made special drinks with it, called Puffin on the Rocks.  Made with vodka and who knows what else.  Great lunch while we were stopped here.  On the way back we went through the Chiswell Island National Refuge in the Gulf of Alaska where lots of birds nest, then back to port. Talked quite a bit with one of the crewmembers, Ashley, who was from Michigan and gave me her phone number and e-mail to contact her if we go on an RV trip there.

Got off the boat about 5:45 and walked to the train station to catch the 6:00 ride back to Anchorage, the only time it returns.  Again we ran into Kay & Greg & Kris & Bill who got off in Girdwood for their next trip.  We continued on to Anchorage through the Chugatch Forest, filled with black spruce trees, aspens, hemlocks and willows. Much nicer on the open air decks this trip.  Not too hungry again so we just had some salmon bisque.  Saw some moose and buffalo in the distance and a little bear on the tracks in front of the train who scampered away before we got to him.  Before we took off I was going through the pictures I had taken, went to delete a fuzzy one and deleted all of them instead.  Glad Harry took some.  Nice relaxing trip back to Anchorage station where the shuttle back to the hotel was waiting for us.  Collected our overnight bags at the station, our luggage at the hotel front desk and checked for two more nights in Anchorage.  Early and busy day again tomorrow. 

                                                           


Day 5-June 3, 2014-Floatplane to Redoubt Bay

2014-06-03

Day 5-June3, 2014-Floatplane to Redoubt Bay

Oh Boy, up at 4:30 again!  We were picked up by Rust’s Flying Service and taken to the largest floatplane harbor in Alaska, where we were greeted by Charlie, the resident dog who was totally bored with it all. We know floatplanes as seaplanes, small planes (this one a 6-seater) with pontoons or floats which makes them buoyant so they can land on water.  Planes are not a luxury in Alaska, but like pick up trucks because there aren’t many roads to get you anyplace.  The capital, Juneau, is only accessible by plane or boat.  One in every 60 Alaskans is a licensed pilot and one in every 78 Alaskans own his own plane, many of them parked behind their homes.

Peter, our pilot, flew us from Lake Hood over Cook Inlet and the Kenai Peninsula in the Pacific Ocean telling us there was about 150 mile visibility, the best in months and we were very lucky to see Mt. McKinley and nesting trumpeter swans below.  After about an hour in the air we landed at a lodge in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, accessible only by plane.  We walked up a ramp to the encampment consisting of three cabins, three outhouses and a hand hewn lodge for meals.  Only 10 employees who do a little bit of everything.  Jim was our guide in the morning and after lunch he helped unload a weekly supply boat.  His wife served lunch.  They have their own herb garden and are quite self sufficient.  After cookies and coffee we took two pontoon boats out on the lake for a 3-hour tour of the lake which is known to have the most concentrated and viewable   population of black and brown bears in Alaska because of the salmon swimming upstream in it.  There were only 4 people in our boat and about 10 in the other.  We were about a week too early so there weren’t too many salmon and therefore not many bears and everybody but me saw a black bear.  There were plenty of bald eagles and a great waterfall, though, and the whole trip was wonderful.  Back to the lodge for a great lunch of potato soup, salmon, salad and cookies.  Pete picked us up for the return floatplane trip to Anchorage and the shuttle back to the hotel.  On the way we saw a lone moose standing in the water.  Quite a sight to see from the air.  The whole trip was about 7 hours and was certainly a highlight of our trip and even if we weren’t expecting to see bears it was a great experience. 

Back in the hotel Harry took a nap while I confirmed reservations for tomorrow.  We walked back into town for dinner at McGinley’s Pub.  There’s a 5K run through town every Tuesday ending at this pub for a raffle.  We got there just in time to be seated before the place became a mad house.  There were two girls looking for a spot to sit, we had 2 extra seats at our table so we invited them to sit with us and we had a nice chat with them.  They really wanted to win the running shoes (or anything, for that matter) but their numbers didn’t come up.  Picked some lilacs on the way back.  Weather is much nicer now and we changed our winter coats for fleece jackets.  Early to bed again, another early day tomorrow.


Day 6-June 4, 2014-Denali National Park

2014-06-04

Day 6-June 4, 2014-Denali National Park

Another long day that started at 4:30 AM with a bit of a glitch.  Our itinerary said the Anchorage Denali Express would pick us up at the hotel.  Last night when I called to confirm they said they didn’t pick up and we would have to take a cab or get a shuttle from the hotel.  The front desk said their shuttle didn’t go to the Egan Center where the motorcoach departed from and we’d have to take a cab.  So we took a cab.  When we got to the Egan Center we found out that the company we booked with had either not started up yet or gone out of business over the winter and the new one didn’t pick up at the hotels.  OK for us, we straightened it out in time, not so fortunate for one couple that didn’t show up and were probably waiting to be picked up at their hotel.

The 5-1/2 hour, 150 mile motorcoach ride goes north through Eagle River, Wasilla, Willow, Talkeetna and a few smaller towns to the Denali National Park Entrance and our cabins at Denali Cabins.  It was a beautiful sunny day, about 60 with unlimited visibility.  We had magnificent views of Mt. McKinley (also called Denali or “the high one”) with an elevation of 20,320’ the highest mountain in North America and the Alaska Range the entire way.  Only 1/3 of visitors get to see McKinley because of the crazy weather up there so we felt really lucky to see it. 

Once at Denali Cabins about 12:30 we went next door to the only place to eat for miles, the Prey Restaurant, where we again ran into Jackie and Liam from Seward and joked that Alaska must be a small state because we keep running into people we know.  They were on their way via shuttle to Backcountry Lodge.  We were the first bus run at the lodge so they didn’t have their act together yet-either at the lodge or the restaurant.  The people on the shuttle were late because they were waiting for box lunches, our room wasn’t ready yet and we had to wait for quite a while to get the luggage delivered to the room.  But it’s early in the season, they’re working the bugs out and did get it right eventually.

The cabins are individual units, all resembling log cabins inside and out.  Nothing luxurious about them but really all we need.  There’s a Lounge & Learn building with two TVs, a computer, books, comfy couches and other amenities.  Very comfortable place.  Patrick, the general manager, Olivia and Alden in the reservations office and Will (from Tarpon Springs, about an hour from us) and Melissa, both shuttle drivers all went way out of their way to make this stay special. 

We were picked up at 2:30 by the ATV company, driven to their loading area and given a few pointers about riding ATVs.  We rode along trails that abut the National Park, through rocky creek beds and up and down hills on a very dusty road.  We were glad we had a double ATV with a windshield.  The guides were very knowledgeable and we stopped a few times so they could explain where we were and we could take pictures. One time we stopped at a huge sand mountain, actually some sort of silt leftover from the glacier, and I would have loved some for my sand collection but, alas, nobody had a water bottle to collect it in.  Harry and I took turns driving and we got back to the cabins about 6:00 for dinner at, you guessed it, Prey Restaurant, where the lunch menu is the same as the dinner menu and consists of mostly sandwiches and fries.  Great sandwiches, but I’m starting to think the only vegetable in Alaska is fries.   Back to the room-early to bed, early to rise!


Day 7-June 5, 2014-Denali National Park Backcountry Adventure

2014-06-05

Day 7-June 5, 2014-Denali National Park Backcountry Adventure

Up at 4:00AM, breakfast at 5:15 at, where else, the Prey Restaurant.  Their breakfast in wonderful, everything from yogurt and fruit to eggs, sausage, bacon, oatmeal, cold cereal and all the pastries you could ask for.  All fresh and appetizing, even at this early hour.

The motorcoach left the cabins at 6:00AM and took us 95 miles into Denali Park on a gravel road that only allows their tour buses.  There were only two today.  There are several rest stops, where they provide snacks (our driver, Dave, said he got up at 2AM to make chocolate chip cookies and they were wonderful).  He had other snacks plus coffee, tea, hot chocolate, cold drinks, etc.  He was great at spotting wildlife and we saw caribou, golden eagles (there are no bald eagles here) Dall sheep and moose with calves but no bears, only tracks and scat.  At one point he pulled over and right on the side of the road there were three Dall sheep and two lambs that were only about a week old but already they were scampering and head butting each other.  We stayed and watched quite a while, they didn’t seem to mind us at all. 

At the end of the road in Kantishna is the Denali Backcountry Lodge where we had a great lunch and ran into Jackie & Liam again.  Then we spotted Kay & Greg & Kris & Bill again.  This is a very small state!  After lunch we opted to pan for gold in Moose Creek right outside the lodge but had no luck.  A trained guide gave us a good idea of the time and trouble it took to pan for gold and we walked over a suspension bridge to view a restored tent site that a miner would use.  Lots of people told us that the mosquitoes would be terrible here but there weren’t that many and they’re big, slow and noisy which makes them easy to swat before they get you.  The guide said one of the reasons the caribou go north in the summer is because the mosquitoes attack their tender noses and they could lose a pint of blood a day from them.  Also, their noses can get so swollen they suffocate.  Started to rain and get cloudy again and on the 95 mile ride back we didn’t see Mt. McKinley, just some wildlife off in the distant mountains.  We never got above 3980’ in elevation but the roads were windy and narrow.  Didn’t make as many rest stops on the way back but did have another snack break.  Of all the National Parks we’ve visited this one is definitely “wilderness”.  There are very few services available in the park even at the visitors center and the 6.2 million acres are primitive, untouched and all about the wildlife. 

We got back too late for the last shuttle to town so we ate dinner at, you got it, Prey Restaurant.  Different sandwich, same fries.  We’re really feeling the loss of a car right now, but we’re probably too tired to drive anywhere anyway.  Bed early again.


Day 8-June 6, 2014-Denali Jeep Excursion Tour

2014-06-06

Day 8-June 6, 2014-Denali Jeep Excursion Tour

Got to stay in bed ‘til 7:00AM-WOOHOO!!!  Again a sunny, warm day in the 60s. By now you know where we had breakfast, right?  Denali Jeep Excursions picked us up at 9:15 for a 135 mile trip on a rough gravel highway road for a five hour trip into the Denali Wilderness.  There were three Jeeps in our group, the guide, Rupert, in the lead one.  We communicated by CB radio.  At one point we saw a porcupine scurry into the bushes and we asked the guide to go grab him, drag him down into the road so we could take his picture.  He declined.  We stopped along the way for rests and snacks and to talk.  Rupert was the driver of the shuttle for the ATV tour we took the other day.  Seems a lot of people do several jobs here during the summer tourist season.  Even at Denali Cabins there are a few people who do many jobs. 

We got back to Denali Cabins about 3:00PM and actually had down time.  The rest of the day was ours with nothing planned.  We went into the rec room at the cabins, called the “Learn and Lounge” room and read for an hour then caught the shuttle into “town”, aka “Glitter Gulch”.  This is where there are a lot of hotels used by the cruise ships, lots of souvenir shops, adventure companies where you could rent a kayak, sign up for a hike, go rafting, hire a plane, jet boat, helicopter or other activities and a few restaurants. 

Our driver, Will noticed a mother moose and two calves right on the side of the road.  After taking all these tours looking for wildlife here it is right in front of us.  He stopped and took lots of pictures for us.  It was really quite a sight. 

We chose to have dinner at The Salmon Bake, a tradition in Denali, the building built on permafrost and leaning a little more every year.  The table we sat at seemed to be leaning forward into the next table a bit.  We ordered the salmon, which was great and came with actual vegetables, not fries, but the Cobb Salad looked amazing, crammed with huge shrimp and chunks of crab meat. 

We got back to the cabins about 8:00 PM, went to read a bit more in the lounge and then off to bed.  The entire staff at Denali cabins was amazing, friendly, helpful and thoughtful.  Although Denali is all about the animals we will have great, happy memories of this leg of our adventure because of the people also.  But time to move on.


Day 9-June 7, 2014-Train to Denali

2014-06-07

Day 9-June 7, 2014-Train to Fairbanks

Got to sleep til 7:00AM again.  Sunny and warmer today about 70.

Breakfast again at Prey Restaurant.  Packed our bags and left them at the office to be boarded on the train. Shuttle to the train doesn’t leave til 3:00 so we have some free time and decided to get the shuttle into Glitter Gulch again and finish seeing the stores.  On the way back we saw a moose just about where we saw her yesterday but no calves with her.  The shuttle driver said a pilot flying over last night saw a bear dragging a calf across the street and chances are if he got one he got them both.  They say it’s rare that twins of any kind survive more than a week.  Wow, this sure is survival of the fittest out here.

Got back to the cabins and read some more, than took the shuttle to the train station.  We’re again Gold Star class and this ride was even better than the first two.  It’s 123 miles to Fairbanks, took a little under four hours and every minute was interesting.  Janet, the commentator knew so many facts about the area it was enlightening to listen to her.  She was very personable and loved to talk.  The “conductor” came around and mingled too.  Saw quite a few moose on the way.  As we pulled into the train yard there were idle trains with seagull nests atop them.  The trains move every now and then and I guess the nests stay put (at least I hope they do).  The train was almost empty, the Gold Star section was about ¼ full and the rest of the train was probably less.  Had dinner in the dining car, chef’s special pot roast, then pulled into the station where the shuttle was waiting for us to Rivers Edge Resort, a group of individual cottages, all nicely decorated with huge baskets of petunias and a patio in front.  The smell was wonderful.  They say with all the daylight, in a few weeks the baskets will have grown so much they’ll be touching the ground.  The sun “sets” at 12:20AM and “rises” at 3:15AM.  It never gets dark, and at 2:00AM you probably could read by the light outside.  The moon and the sun in the sky are very close to each other which is really eerie. On the Summer Solstice, June 22nd, the longest day of the year, the sun won’t even set and there’s all kinds of events, a gold tourney that tees off at midnight, a baseball game that starts at 10:00PM, and other things all with no artificial light.  Then it starts to get darker by seven minutes every day ‘til Dec. 22nd when there’s no light for six months.  No thanks!


Day 10-June 8, 2014-Gold, Pipeline Riverboat & Harry's Birthday

2014-06-08

Day 10-June 8, 2014-Pipeline, Gold, Riverboat and Harry’s birthday

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HARRY!!!

Another beautiful day, warm and sunny.

Up at 6:30 and had breakfast at one of the resort’s restaurants with a couple from Oklahoma who we had previously met.

And then we made a mistake.  We were scheduled for gold panning and a sternwheeler cruise.  Our travel agent told me quite a few times “Don’t take the shuttle to the sternwheeler, get a cab to the Westmark hotel”.  But the shuttle goes right to the sternwheeler, maybe they changed the route-so we took the shuttle.  Half way there something clicks to Harry and he realizes we’re on the afternoon sternwheeler cruise, not the morning one.  So when we get to the sternwheeler we call a cab to take us to the Westmark hotel, where the motorcoach for the gold panning starts and then they take us to the sternwheeler.  Worked out fine in the end.  Next time we’ll listen to Barbara.

The motorcoach took us to the Trans Alaskan Pipeline, something I never thought I’d be interested in but changed my mind once I saw it.  It’s 800 miles long, from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, and was build in only 2 years, from 1975-77.  The oil flows at 5-1/2 mph and takes 6 days to go the entire length.  49% is above ground and there are all kinds of safety measures to protect it against things like permafrost, earthquakes, etc.  They even mapped out routes that caribou usually take and put it underground there because the caribou and moose didn’t like to go under it.  More interesting than I ever thought it would be.  Every Alaskan gets a share of the profits from it.

From there we got a small open air train that went through gold country where we learned about gold mining life.  The train went to Dredge #8, a huge contraption built in 1928 in Pennsylvania, then to San Francisco and finally Fairbanks, disassembled and reassembled all the way.  It picked up gravel, spit out the dirt, called tailings, and separated the gold.  Yukon Yonda, a woman who mined the dredge for decades gave a little introductory welcome and then we panned for gold in water troughs.  Everybody was given a bag of “paydirt” that you put in your pan, filled with water, swirled it around and around, dumped the top rocks and dirt out, repeated the process until only the heavy gold flakes remained in the bottom of the pan.  Of course everybody got some gold, and then you could put the flakes in a little piece of jewelry.  Harry got about $6.00 worth and I got about $16.00. We decided to take the flakes home and put them in our own jar.  Spoke with Yukon Yonda for a while, she was really quite a character. Lots of free cookies, hot chocolate and coffee and you could go aboard the dredge.  Harry went, I spent the time collecting some tailings for my sand collection.  Yes, I did ask first!

Back on the train to the bus which took us to the sternwheeler, The River Boat Discovery III, where we had a nice family style lunch of miner’s stew, apple and cheese salad, roasted veggies (yes, real veggies for a change) and a fudge brownie.  Boarded the sternwheeler, three levels, for a three hour narrated tour of the Chena and Nenana rivers (and free donuts and salmon spread).  Watched a bush pilot take off and land a float plane, stopped at the home of a four-time Iditarod champion and saw a dog sled demo, much the same as we did in Seward.  “Mushing” is the state sport and we found it everywhere we went.  The boat then stopped at a replication of an Athabascan Indian village where we learned about native Alaskan village life.  Back about 6:00PM and took the shuttle back to the hotel. 

Had a nice birthday dinner for Harry at the hotel’s main restaurant, Chena’s Restaurant.  Niether one of us was too hungry so we split the seafood alfredo, then strolled along the Chena River Walk back to our cottage. 


Days 11-12-June 9 , 10, 2014-Fairbanks, North Pole & HOME!!

2014-06-09 to 2014-06-10

Days 11-12-June 9-10, 2014-Fairbanks, North Pole and HOME

Up at 6:00AM again, breakfast in the resort’s breakfast room, then checked out.  They’ll hold our luggage in a locked room while we’re on the tour.  Cool and cloudy, about 50 in the morning, but then sunny and warmer in the afternoon.

Fairbanks is in the middle of the state, the second largest city with a population of about 30,000.  It’s only 300’ above sea level (rising to 1200’ at the pipeline) and is considered an arctic desert.  It’s very dry-doesn’t get much snow and it’s very powdery-no good for snowballs or snowmen.

The bus for the Historical Fairbanks Tour picked us up at the hotel for a four hour tour of the city.  Drove through Pioneer Park, lots of things for kids to do, then the red light district, nothing for kids to do here.  Made a stop at the Golden Hearth Plaza where there is a beautiful statue depicting the first families in Alaska.  Big clock tower with chimes can be seen from here.  You can hear it all over town when it chimes music.  Passed by the only Wal-Mart for 350 miles, then stopped at the Cultural Center Visitor’s Center for a few minutes.  Drove by Carlisle Trucking, home of Ice Road Truckers, then stopped at another site of the pipeline, again very interesting.  The last, longest and best stop was at the University of Alaska’s Museum of the North.  Big museum, lots of exhibits, galleries and rooms to explore.  We spent about an hour there and then back to the hotel.

It’s only 1:30, our plane doesn’t leave ‘til 9:35 and the airport’s only five minutes down the road so we decided to get a shuttle to North Pole, AK, about twenty minutes away.  Not “the” North Pole, just North Pole.  But this is where letters addressed to Santa, North Pole are delivered, we’re close, so why not check it out?  We’re greeted by a 42’, 900 pound statue of Santa. There’s an adjacent campground, right up our alley, that has red and green picnic tables and each site is named for an elf or a reindeer.  Of course, it’s Monday, Santa’s day off.  But there are some baby reindeer, big reindeer, and a big Santa Clause house decorated with murals on the outside and tons of Christmas doo-dads and souvenirs on the inside.  The shuttle waited for us for 45 minutes, which was plenty of time.  We got off the shuttle at Fred Meyer’s, a great, better than Wal-Mart everything store to get some medicine for Harry’s cold?/allergy?/sinus infection? and then walked back to the hotel to wait.

And wait, and wait. After not having a minute to ourselves for the past ten days we now are antsy to get home.  We sat in the hotel lobby, finished our books, read the local paper, did a crossword puzzle, surfed the web in the office and bothered the staff until it was dinner time and we went next door to Chena’s Restaurant again.  Had the best salmon we’ve had on this trip.  Took another walk on the Chena River Walk that begins right outside the restaurant, then went back and bothered the staff some more ‘til it was time to go to the airport. 

Nothing interesting about the flights home, just the way we like it.  Fairbanks to Minneapolis-about a 5 hour flight, got in at 5:30AM, breakfast at some fast food place we never heard of, a 4-1/2 hour layover, Minneapolis to Tampa-another 5 hour flight, in about 2:30, home about 4:00, no sleep for the past thirty hours (I don’t know too many people who can actually sleep on a plane).  Crashed for a couple of hours and waited for jet lag to set in.  We had a great time in Alaska but it’s wonderful to be HOME!!!!

Although we only saw a small part of Alaska, all four areas we visited were different.  Anchorage, the “big city”, Seward, the “port”, Denali, the “wilderness” and Fairbanks, the “gold rush low land”.  After the first couple of rainy days the weather was great.  Temperatures vary here from a record low of -62 to a record high of 99. We enjoyed every place we went and everything we did thanks to our travel agent, Barbara, who really planned a great trip for us.


Day 1-July 6, 2014-We're off again

2014-07-06

Day 1-July 6, 2014-To Bonifay, FL

Drove 276 miles in 5-1/4 hours-we stop A LOT!  And we got every red light on route 19.  Hot today, 96, although it doesn’t seem as hot here as last week in Homosassa with the 96 degree record.  Maybe it’s not as humid.

This is the first long trip with the new truck and we’re anxious to see how it goes.  We stopped at a campground right off I-10 between Tallahassee and Pensacola.  Got here about 3:30 and didn’t unhook from the truck or set up anything other than electric-we’re only here overnight on our way. Nice little campground with a pond and a little beach, pretty mimosa and pine trees and very quiet for the 4th of July week-end and almost empty.  Fine with us.  We read for a while and watched a couple of woodpeckers with brilliant white bellies have a territorial dispute over a tree with a squirrel. 

Got to be 8:00 really quickly so we had dinner and then realized that we must have crossed a time zone because our phones were an hour behind Harry’s watch so we gained an hour.  Again, fine with us. 

Went outside and people (and woodpecker) watched for a while, it’s really not as hot as it was back home, saw a pretty pink sunset then commenced the opening games of the fourth annual Rummikub tournament.


Day 2-July 7, 2014-To New Orleans (and a tire problem)

2014-07-07

Day 2-July 7, 2014-To New Orleans, LA

Drove 295 miles in 8-1/2 hours.  Hot again, 94.

Started out on I-10 west, got 80 miles in 1-1/2 hours and got a blowout!  Waited two hours for Good Sam service, then went to a Discount Tire in Pensacola (as luck would have it, only 10 minutes from where we were) and got a new tire.  Last year we bought a protection plan for four tires (at $17.50 a tire) and this is the second time we’ve used it.  It’s paid for itself already.  So, after a four hour delay we got back on the road to New Orleans.

Ponchartrain Landing RV Resort and Marina is gorgeous-it’s the “newest (built about 2 years after Katrina) and largest RV resort in New Orleans”-a hundred times better than where we stayed a few years ago.  It’s right on a navigational canal, with big oleanders and palms at every site-big sites too. It’s immaculately kept up with a pool, boat launch, rec room, restaurants, stores and I don’t know what else because we haven’t checked anything out yet.  They even have rental floating villas.  Nice breeze here too.  There’s a Trinity Yacht manufacturer down the street and all kinds of boating equipment places. Good security, the gates are closed at night which is good because the area outside the campground is really sketchy, as is most of New Orleans. They have an all-night security guard who drives around in a golf cart making sure everything is as it should be.  They have a shuttle that goes to the French Quarter and tomorrow we’re planning on spending the day there.   

After we hooked up and had dinner (and a well deserved drink) we went out again to get gas and rode around a bit.  Most of where we were was down-trodden with the streets still under construction and run down, burned down and torn down buildings all over town. Sadly, I don’t think it will every recover from Hurricane Katrina.  I hope the tourist area has recovered better.


Day 3-July 8, 2014-New Orleans, LA

2014-07-08

Day 3-July 8, 2014-New Orleans, LA

Started out hot and humid but after a thunderstorm cooled down to about 85.

The campground shuttle will drop you off right in to the French Quarter but we decided to get off at the visitor’s center and take the Hop On and Off bus around town.  It’s a double decker bus and we sat on the top which had a canvas cover but once it started to thunder, lightning and rain sideways we got a bit soaked.  They gave out ponchos which were too little, too late.  So we got off and went into Harrah’s Casino to dry off for a while.

New Orleans, aka NOLA, is like no other city I’ve been to.  It’s a little French, a little Spanish, a lot bawdy and the food, music, and architecture set it apart from anywhere else.  The city is separated by districts, such as the Central Business District (CBD). The French Quarter, The Garden District, with beautiful gardens because the Mississippi dumped rich silt on the area, The Warehouse and Arts District, and Treme, with Armstrong Park built to honor Louis Armstrong.  It’s a really old city, mostly run down after Katrina, but you can tell they’re trying to build it back up.  The devastation done by Katrina is still evident just about everywhere.  In one of the parks there is a sculpture made from debris from Katrina depicting a destroyed house on top of a tree.  There were a lot of tourists, especially in the French Quarter, and the little gift shops, restaurants and businesses seemed to be doing a good business.  Didn’t see any street entertainers like we did last time we were here but maybe the weather kept them at home.  I especially like the cemeteries, built above ground because NOLA is below sea level, they’re old and eerie, and most of them have a flavor of voodoo or some other sort of supernatural aura about them.  I find them fascinating.  The Mardi Gras building has tours where you can learn everything you ever wanted to know about Mardi Gras and see the floats and how they’re built, there’a World War II Museum and the French Market where you can name you own price for stuff. 

After way too much walking we got the shuttle back to the campground and relaxed for a while.  Off tomorrow to another adventure.


Day 4-July 9, 2014-Vidalia, LA & Natchez, MS

2014-07-09

Day 4-July 9, 2014-To Vidalia, LA

Drove 175 miles in 3-1/2 hours.  Mostly cloudy, some sprinkles, about 85-90.

Had to pump up the tires before we left, they were a bit low.  Drove on I-10 to Baton Rouge, then route 61, “The Blues Highway”, past Antebellum Homes and plantations, some still growing cotton, to Natchez, MS, then over the Mississippi River to Vidalia, LA. We got to the campground early, about 1:30, so we had the rest of the day free.

 After lunch we read for a while and Harry realized the book he’d been reading is the same book we are going to listen to on tape this trip so he started another one.  Thankfully he’d only read a few chapters.  I had a bit of trouble making reservations for Friday night in Arkansas, there’s still a lot of campgrounds full because of the 4th of July but I finally found one in North Little Rock, AR.

This campground is right on the Mississippi River.  Our site has the riverwalk in front which goes into the town of Vidalia about a mile down river.  We went down to the river in Vidalia and walked right under the bridge connecting Mississippi And Louisiana.  They call this area Miss-Lou.  There are huge levees on either side of the river, the towns being built on top of the levees.  The only buildings on the river are two casinos in Natches, MS.,right across the bridge.  All the hotels, restaurants, shops, etc. are higher up.  You have to drive down a STEEP hill to get to the casinos.  Which of course we did.  It was seniors day, Yea! So we got free buffets, and between us $45.00 in free play.  So we played with their money for about three hours and then came back to the campground about 11PM.  The bridge is really pretty at night, all lit up.


Day 5-July 10, 2014-Rural Louisiana and Natchez, MS

2014-07-10

Day 5-July 10, 2014-Rural Louisiana and Natchez, MS

Warm and sunny today, about 90 but not too humid, very comfortable.

Spent a lazy morning watching barges go up and down the Mississippi, one of them unloading something but even with binoculars we couldn’t figure out what it was.

Somebody told us that Monterey and Eva, LA were nice places so we set out to see for ourselves.  Passed lots of farms and fields of corn, soybeans and some crop I’ve never seen before.  I put a picture of it in the picture section of the blog and, if you know what it is please let me know. Went through Deer Park where a sign proclaimed Population: Lots of good folks helping one another”.  Saw a herd of pure white cows resting under a big tree.  Don’t know what kind of cows they were.

Got to Monterey but there wasn’t much there, a pretty lake was about it.  After making a wrong turn and going a few miles down a road to nowhere with nothing on it we turned around and started from square one again.   Finally got to Eva, on the other side of the lake.  Again, not much there, but we found a big shade tree which was perfect for us to eat the lunch we packed.

Found our way back over the bridge to Natchez and the Old South Winery and tasted some samples.  The wine was made from muscadine grapes, the same as in Florida and was a bit too sweet for us.  From there we took a tour of downtown Natchez and some old pre-civil war mansions, some dating back to the late 1700’s but most built in the mid 1800’s when cotton made everybody rich.  That all came to an end when the Civil War broke out.  Many homes were left unbuilt because of lack of man power, resources or money.  Beautiful homes and the crape myrtle trees were out in full bloom.  Some of the houses you could go into but that is not Harry’s thing.  I’m surprised I got him to drive past as many as he did. 

We then found ourselves turning down the street to go to the Isle of Capri Casino.  This casino is a restored riverboat on the river. There's a parking lot about half way down the hill and then a shuttle takes you to the boat.  Both this casino and the one we were at last night has a shuttle from our campground but we were on this side of the river already. Only stayed a little while and broke out even. 

I think we’ve both had enough of the old historical south and it’s time to head north a bit. 


Day 6-July 11, 2014-To Arkansas

2014-07-11

Day 6-July 11, 2014-To Arkansas

Drove 259 miles in 5-3/4 hours.  Temp about 85-90 but not humid.

Made a small mistake in following the GPS and not looking at the map.  We went north on route 425 “The Colonial Trails Scenic By-way” a two lane road most of the way when we should have taken route 65, a four lane highway.   I didn’t realize this until we pulled over for lunch right over the Arkansas border when we had already gone three hours.  It probably would have been longer but shorter seeing that we went through a lot of small towns where we had to slow down to 35.  But we probably saw a lot more of rural Louisiana on this route and it was quite nice.  We drove past lots of sweet potato and corn fields, on roads that were as rough as a washboard (LA has some of the worst roads in the country).  There were big sprawled out homes, some with columns, neatly manicured on the outskirts of towns but in the middle of towns the homes were no more than hovels.  Some of the smaller towns had most of the stores boarded up or abandoned and looked deserted.  Each town had at least one Baptist church and some had several.  This part of Louisiana had more than their share of rehabs, too.  Substance abuse must be a big problem here.

It seemed as soon as we crossed over into Arkansas the terrain got different.  There were more pine trees, some hills and more commerce-farm equipment stores, more gas stations, bigger towns and a Dollar General in every one of them.  All of a sudden we’re not in the deep south anymore.  Thought we’d hit Friday night traffic in Little Rock but we sailed through.

Our campground is in No. Little Rock, a city started in 1903 when a man who lost the mayoral election in Little Rock petitioned to have the area north of the Arkansas River declared another city, and he then became the first mayor of North Little Rock.  Talk about a sore loser.  Anyway, it’s a good campground for overnight - we don’t have to unhook and it’s right near the road we need to take tomorrow.  It’s city owned and is in the North Shore River Park right on the Arkansas River and just about under the Clinton Pedestrian Bridge, at 4226’ long and 65’ high over the river the longest pedestrian-only bridge in the country.  It leads to the Clinton Presidential Library.  We have a great view of the river, the Little Rock skyline and the library. 

After hooking up we read for a while then took a walk to the river, where it’s nice and cool under the trees.  After dinner we sat outside and the bridge lit up blue, then all of a sudden the lights started blinking slowly, then more rapidly, then they changed to pink, red and white and back to blue again.  All this under a full moon. Really pretty.  Mosquitos started to bother us so we came inside where the Rummikub tournament continued.

Oh, and I found out what the mystery crop is - it’s sorghum grain (also called Milo) used for molasses.  I remember last year we had sorghum molasses at a restaurant in Missouri.


Day 7-July 12, 2014-To Branson, MO

2014-07-12

Day 7-July 12, 2014-To Branson, MO

Drove 178 miles in 4-1/2 hours.  Hit 99 degrees today and sunny.

It’s Saturday and as we leave No. Little Rock city park it’s full and cyclists and boaters ready for a fun day on the river.  We stopped for gas and met Otis Ussery at the pumps who gave us a detailed description of all the places in Arkansas we should probably visit.  He was very friendly and informative but we’ve got an itinerary so maybe next time we’ll check out his suggestions.

We took I-40 for about 30 miles and then traveled the rest of the day on US-65, aka, the Arkansas Skyline Drive.  It started out going through small towns such as Pickles Gap, Bee Branch and Twin Groves, then a few larger towns, Clinton and Choctaw.   I’ve never seen so many flea markets!  And antique shops.  After about an hour we started going through the Ozark Mountains and towns got fewer and farther apart.  About half way to Branson was Buffalo National River, lots of kayaking, canoeing, hiking, horse riding, rafting.  The parking lot was overflowing with cars, guess lots of people had the same idea today-a beautiful day for a trip down the river.  The road was winding now, up and down the gently rolling mountains.  Took us over two hours to get to the next group of towns, the largest, Harrison-population 12,963 is where we pulled over in a parking lot for lunch.  North Arkansas College is here and it’s a typical college town, lots of fast food places and just about any store you could want.  But my favorite town was Pindall-population 95!  It only had two buildings-one with a sign saying “Goat Gap” that looked deserted, and a fire department. This trip was very relaxing and pleasant, most of the time the speed limit was 45.  It’s really the only way from Little Rock to Branson.

We got to Branson about 2:00 and checked into the Condo where we’ll stay the next week, the Grand Crowne.  It took us about an hour to get settled-we had to take all the food out of the RV and enough clothes for a week, then park the RV (right where we can see it from our room) and get it ready to sit for a week.  The condo is nice, king size bed, living room, dinette, full kitchen, washer/dryer, a nice little porch off the bedroom and two bathrooms.  We’ll be very comfortable here, I’m sure.

We then drove to the Tourism Center to pick up the tickets for shows that we ordered about a month ago.  We planned what shows and attractions we wanted to see so for the next week we don’t have to make decisions about what to do or where to go. The only problem with this is that the condo has so many things going on (ice-cream social, buffet dinner w/Branson show sampler, wine tasting, etc.) that we might want to do.  We did leave some time free so I’m sure we can fit a few things in. After the Tourism Center we went across the street to Wal-Mart, (the only grocery store in town) and stocked up on some food.  Back to the condo for dinner, then read and sat out on the porch for a while .


Day 8-July 13, 2014-Branson, Day 1

2014-07-13

Day 8, July 13, 2014-Branson Day 1

Reached 100 degrees today and, I hate to say it, but it was a dry heat so it wasn’t so bad

Branson=God, Country, Entertainment…and mini-golf…and regular golf…and the Titanic…and Duck tours…and theme parks….and water parks…and riverboat rides and resort condos, etc. 

God-there are eleven churches on the main strip.  Today being Sunday, they were all filled.  And there are shuttles to get you there.

Country-The Veteran’s Visitor Center, The Veteran’s Memorial Museum, The Veteran’s Butterfly Gardens.  And every show includes a patriotic theme section with a salute to veterans.  And let’s not forget the veterans discount on all entertainment.

Entertainment-there are over fifty theaters, mostly on the main US-76 strip.  Over 100 shows a day.  Big names and not so big names.  Country music, Dixie Stampede, Chinese Acrobats, magicians, animal acts, tribute bands by the score, comedy, a Price is Right taping, etc., etc., etc.

What you won’t find in Branson are casinos, bars, although there are two kid friendly wineries that serve grape juice to kids during the tasting, off color shows, red light districts, etc.  US-76, the main street, is where most of the theaters and attractions are and it’s usually backed up with traffic, especially when people are going to shows or getting out.  There are three roads that go around this main road, the red route, the yellow route and the blue route.  They are all great when you’re not going to a show and don’t want to sit in traffic. Lots of steep hills here, it is in the middle of the Ozark Mountains.

Went to a car wash this morning and then went to our first show-The 3 Redneck Tenors at Andy Williams Moon River Theater.  They’re really two tenors and a baritone, all classically trained, one even trained at Julliard, who sang at the Met in NY for ten years.  The first half was a bit “schticky”-they were playing rednecks and had a whole skit about how they got where they are.  The singing was great, the schtick not so much.  The second half was terrific-they had their black tuxes on and sang a lot of classical and show songs.  They sang New York State of Mind that could put Billy Joel to shame.  And Memories and Impossible Dream and Beethoven’s Fifth, and Ave Maria and Dixie which they sang together and Pavarotti and I could go on and on.  Really great harmonizing.  Like every show here, they come out in the lobby and meet everybody after the show.

Went to the owner’s lodge at our condo for an ice cream social, then back to the condo to read for a while.

Our second show today was the Comedy Hypnosis Dinner Show at Branson Central Theater. After dinner and a warm up show the hypnotist, Jecobie Roberts, explained how hypnosis worked, then did a few little games to let the audience find out if they would be a good candidate to be hypnotized (Harry and I wouldn’t-seems we’re both control freaks-who would have ever guessed that????).  She got nine volunteers and about five of them went under and put on a good show.  At one point she had a 14 year old girl convinced Harry was Zac Efron.  She kept looking at him with goo-goo eyes and saying “He’s so hot!”  I was under the table I was laughing so hard.  It’s fun to see other people make fools of themselves, but it was all clean fun. Came back to the condo after the show.  All the shows here end about 10-10:30 and the streets roll up about 11:00-when the ice cream parlors close.


Day 9-July 14, 2014-Branson, Day 2

2014-07-14

Day 9-July 14, 2014-Branson, Day 2

Nice day, reached 90 but nice breeze and no humidity.  Got cooler and breezier as the day went on.

I spent over an hour on the phone with T-Mobile trying to get my e-mail to work but the woman was from Minnesota and gave me some ideas of where to go when we got there.  She had worked at a casino and had lots of info for me.  And she got my e-mail to work.  Did a few loads of laundry and caught up on some phone calls and e-mail.

After lunch we went to Linwedel Winery, about 20 miles out of town, a nice little winery on a bluff with a great view.  We then went through Branson West, quite a large town with a lot of single homes and gated community where we’ve heard a lot of the performers live.  Went past a lot of campgrounds, Silver Dollar City, a waterpark and zipline to Road Y, a curvy road with a top speed of 30 to Lewsi  Winery  in the middle of a peninsula of the Table Rock Lake in Galena.  Patty & Ken Lewis own the winery and do everything themselves, right down to the labels and corks.  The name Lewsi came about because they made a typo on their logo.  Nice people, we spent about 2 hours chatting with them before we headed the 45 minutes back to the condo.  Read for about an hour, we both have good books, then had dinner and went to our 7:15 show.

"The Baldknobbers" was the first live show in Branson and started in 1959 by the Mabe brothers who used to entertain the fishermen coming in on Taney Como Lake.  The original washboard, plaid shirt, etc. are now in the Smithsonian.  Some of the performers we saw tonight are second and third generation. They try to keep the show similar to the original show 55 years ago.

It’s a comedy and musical show, seven performers, seven piece band (great band!) and two hillbilly comedians, one of which is the producer and son of one of the original brothers, and husband to one of the singers and emcee.  The emcee, by the way, is their son and lead singer.  And he has two cousins who sing in the show also.  Told you this was a family place.  Confused yet?  It was a long night, starting at 7:15 with a pre-show that was really funny.  Then the show, a nice mix of new and old country music, interrupted quite often by the two hillbillies, Hargus and Droopy Drawers, Jr., who were really, really funny.  I enjoyed their bantering with each other and the emcee more than the singing.  The whole cast had a great patriotic salute, all decked out in red, white and blue sequin costumes, singing songs of the five branches of the armed forces, asking members of that branch to stand as they sang their song.  And at the end the national anthem.  Then a break where they sat on the edge of the stage and talked to people, autographed pictures, etc.  The second half was more of the same ending with a thunderous gospel segment.  I told you God and country, right?  After the show they went out front to meet and greet but we went to DQ for an ice cream instead and by the time we got out the streets were dark and Branson had closed for the night.


Day 10-July 15, 2014-Dublin's Irish Tenors and Le Grand Cirque and HARRY BREAKS INTO SHOW BIZ

2014-07-15

Day 10-July 15, 2014-Branson, Day 3

Beautiful day, high of 78 and sunny, but went down to 65 by 10PM

Started off the day checking the charge card accounts and found one of our cards was used by someone other than us.  What a great way to start the day.  But the charge card company was great and we should have another card delivered to us tomorrow at the resort reservation office so we won’t have to hang around and wait for it.  Of course, we have lots of automatic payments made through this card so we’ll have to change all those.

Our first show at King’s Castle Theater was at 2PM-Dublin’s Irish Tenors and Celtic Ladies-5 men, 4 ladies.  Great show.  Beautiful lighting, costumes, arrangements and music.  We had great seats, second row center, as we usually do when we get the tickets through the visitor’s center.   This one started with a tribute to the armed forces, again playing the songs and having the vets stand.  They sang many different styles from Irish standards, Italian opera, Elton John, Tom Jones, Adele, Freddie Mercury, The Andrews Sisters, Hallelujah and lots more.  They closed with I Believe and Never Walk Alone.  Great voices, great harmony!  One of the best shows we’ve seen.  Because we saw this show we could get discount tickets to another show in this theater.  Our choices were New Jersey Nights, Dancing Queen Tribute to ABBA or Le Grand Cirque.  Le Grand Cirque was the one performing tonight which is the only night we have free.  We could have gotten the same seats but we opted for fourth row center aisle.   Went back to the condo but we didn’t have much time before we had to leave for the next show at 7:30.

Le Grand Cirque-No Words throughout the whole show…but everybody was mesmerized throughout the whole show.  A non-scary clown mime opened the show by leading a conga line with four people in the audience right out the back door.  They had no idea where they were going.  And it only got better! This “clown” was like the ring master. He had the entire audience involved in lots of funny skits and even got Harry up on stage to shake his booty.  A lot of kids at this show, even little ones and everybody was engaged in this clown and his games. Lots of action, hula hoops, wheel of death, aerial and chiffon acts, chair balancing and juggling (by a 10-yr. old).  This was by far the most amazing, entertaining, daring show we’ve seen.  And,let me repeat, not one word was said.  I thought maybe they didn’t speak English until we met them and found out they’re from Florida and of the 12 performers there’s a mom, dad, daughter and three sons, including 10 year old Élan.  GREAT SHOW-I would go back again and again.  What a great way to end the day!

After the show we went to Andy’s Frozen Custard because all that booty shaking got Harry hungry.


Day 11-July 16, 2014-Grand Country Comedy Jubilee and The Duttons

2014-07-16

Day 11-July 16, 2014-Branson, Day 4

Weather was nice again-high of 78, back down to 65 by 11

Technical problems part 2-We put our cable services on seasonal hold when we go away but cable is bundled with phone and internet so we make sure we tell them to leave the phone on so we can get our messages.  I called today to pick up our messages but I got a message saying it couldn’t connect, call back later.  My first thought was there was a storm in Florida.  My second thought was that somebody at Bright House Networks screwed up.  My second thought was right.  Somebody punched in the wrong code.  I was on the phone over an hour with them.  Of course they wanted me to reboot the modem until I told them I was in Missouri.  Then we had a nice chat about Branson and somehow got onto Texas and sand dunes.  So I learned a few nice places to go in Texas if we ever go there.  And the phone service was reconnected.

We did some errands in the morning-yes, we have errands when we’re away.  Harry had a prescription filled at Wal-Mart, we had to go to the Post Office and we went to the Resort office to pick up our new credit cards.  We found a nice spot and had the lunch we brought.

Our first show was at Grand Country Music Hall, which is set back from the road a bit so, even though we’ve passed it many times, I never saw the full scope of this area.  In one building there’s the theater, a huge buffet restaurant, gift shop, clothes store, mercantile shop, fudge store, candy store, and a whole wall devoted to the armed forces with patches and memorabilia from all five branches.  In another building, the Fun Spot there’s an arcade, mini bowling, laser tag and ice cream shop.  In a third building is a 36 hole indoor mini-golf.  There’s also an outdoor mini-golf.  Next door to these building is a hotel, another restaurant and a waterpark.  Lots of kids having lots of fun.

The show was the Comedy Jubilee which was six performers (3 singers/dancers and 1 emcee who also sang, and 2 comedians) and a five-piece band, including a great fiddle player and Tracy Heaston who is known to have the fastest piano hands around and is also the musical director.  The band was great, the singers and dancers so-so.  The comedians would get people from the audience and put them on stage with skits that were a bit too tacky/corny for my taste but they were good at it, the jokes flowed smoothly.  Of course, at the end, a salute to vets.  Back to the condo for dinner.

Our second show, The Duttons, was wonderful!  This was Harry’s favorite show.  The Dutton family consists of Mom, Dad, 7 biological children, 7 adopted children and 26 grandchildren.  Of that, Mom, Dad, five children and 17 grandchildren performed tonight.  They also served as ushers to seat us and they worked the store and cash registers during intermission.  Everybody plays at least a fiddle and the older children play a lot more than that.  They had a segment where they played each other’s fiddle and with the fiddles behind their backs.  The little kids not only came on stage and looked cute but they could really play and some sang.  One of the brothers has an alter ego, Cousin Julio from Spain who has a green jumpsuit with about 12 horns (like bicycle horns) that he actually plays songs with.  He jumps to get some to toot and some are behind his knees so he has to kick backward for them.  And then he used a hairbrush, rake, hair dryer and I can’t remember what else to create a percussion song.  This family was really entertaining and talented.  Oh, and the got the award for “Best Patriotic Tribute” among other “best” awards.  There’s a Dutton Inn in back of the theater and a gift shop inside with their special fudge.  Next door one of the sisters opened a bigger gift shop and ice cream parlor.  This is another one I’d come back to.


Day 12-July 17, 2014-Wine, Moonshine, Beer and Baseball

2014-07-17

Day 12-July 17, 2014-Wine, Moonshine, Beer, Baseball

Cloudy most of the day, 75 down to 65 at 10PM

We drove about half an hour north to Walnut Shade, MO to Bear Creek Winery in the hills of the Ozark Mts. Drove down a gravel driveway and expected a small little winery but what we got was three cabins in the woods, a big two story lodge, a wedding reception room to seat about 150 (they do 250 wedding here a year) a beautiful outdoor setting for a wedding, koi ponds and streams and a small little winery.  The wine we liked was called Bear’s Breath.  Really inviting, cozy little place with the friendliest Manx cat I’ve ever met.

And about a half mile up the road is the Copper Run Distillery.  We tried a sampling of their 120 percent Ozark Mountain Moonshine, their Spirit Whiskey and their White Rum.  Which tasted like turpentine, rocket fuel and monkey piss.  I’ve never tasted any of these but this is what I imagine they would taste like.   We probably should have tried their infusions, like apple pie, limoncello, orange maple or vanilla bean, but we just wanted to get rid of the taste.  Nice view of the mountains from here, though.

From there we drove a few more miles north to Ozark, MO and Lambert’s Café, home of the throwed rolls.  We were here last year and loved it.  They throw you the rolls and are really accurate.  When you catch ‘em they’re hot though.  Then they follow up with sorghum molasses to put on them.  With dinner you get two sides plus they walk around with fried okra, potatoes and onions, macaroni and tomatoes and black eyed peas.  And enough food for the next couple of nights.  We brought home more than we ate.

A few more miles north was Springfield, MO where we went to Oovvda Winery (Overboes (the owner’s name) Own Viking Vintner Distinctive Alcohol).  It’s also a Scandanavian word that is used like an interjection, (Uh Oh, Oh  My, Drats, or my favorite, Crap).  Beautiful vineyard, lots of fruit, raspberries, blackberries, cherries, blueberries that they made wine with and a dog to greet us named Ashley.  Beautiful setting, but we weren’t crazy about the wines.

So now we’ve done moonshine and wine, let’s try some beer.  I saw a six-pack of Three Blind Mice Ale at one of the wineries from Mother’s Brewery right in Springfield.  I thought it would be a tavern, restaurant or pub but it was a big craft brewery and, lo and behold, it’s Craft Beer Week in Springfield.  Brian, the brewer makes all kinds of beer but we liked the Chocolate Thunder Porter, made from Askinosie chocolate-a chocolate bean locally grown in Springfield, and Sexual Healin’-vanilla and coffee stout.  After trying those, the wheat ales I usually like tasted like water. We met a great couple there who told us that they sometimes have yoga after the beer tasting and sometimes bocce and as we were leaving they were setting up a bocce court on the lawn outside and people were starting to congregate. 

They also told us we should visit Bass Pro Shops because it was the original one.  It was the biggest one I’ve seen but similar to all the others.

Time for the ballgame-the Springfield Cardinals (minor league team of the Springfield Cardinals) vs. the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (minor league team of the Kansas City Royals).  The rain never came, it was a good game, lots of action and the home team won in the last few innings 6-4.  But the best part was that we each got a Louie bobblehead picture frame.

Got back to condo about 11PM thoroughly tired!


Day 13-July 18, 2014-Illusionist Rick Thomas/Last Day in Branson

2014-07-18

Day 13-July 18, 2014-Rick Thomas Illusionist

Mix of clouds and sun all day about 75.

We’re leaving here tomorrow so we spent the morning doing laundry and packing up things to go back in the RV.

Our last show was at the Andy Williams Moon River Theater and it was Illusionist Rick Thomas. Some of our thoughts: there was no way he did that, that was impossible, did you see that? that couldn’t have happened, that was incredible.   We sat in the second row right smack in the middle and still couldn’t see how he did his magic.  Really good show.  Another “go back to”.  He said he gave his tigers to a preserve in Arizona called SOS “save our space” but he’s coming back next year with two Great Pyrenees dogs.  Should be a good show.

Came back to the condo to finish the leftovers from Lambert’s last night, packed up some more things and brought them to the trailer and took a ride down to Historic Branson Landing.  The traffic was horrible.  We walked through Dick’s 5 & 10, a really neat store with everything and then some.  Rode down to Lake Taneycomo on Branson Landing and the parking lots were overflowing with cars.  Thought it was because it’s Friday night and lots of people are coming here for the week-end but then we found out that American Idol is here and auditioning tomorrow at 9AM at the Landing.  We’ve been seeing “Welcome American Idol” signs for the past few days but I figured we’d get out before the madness erupted.  Guess not.  Back to the condo and read for a while. And with that we say goodbye to Branson.


Day 14-July 19, 2014-Columbia, MO & the "Show Me State" baseball games

2014-07-19

Day 14-July 19, 2014-To Columbia, MO and the “Show-Me-State Games”

Drove 208 miles in 4 hours.

Beautiful weather-sunny, 75-80. All the locals say it’s unusually cool for this time of year.

We transferred most of our things to the RV last night so it was quick getting out of the condo today. We drove NE on I-44 to Rte. 5 to US 54 until we got to Lebanon then north on US 63 to Columbia. Nice roads, gentle rolling hills, 2 lanes each way, separated by a wide grass median.  Pretty little yellow flowers on the side of the road, almost like buttercups. We passed through small towns and farms, some horse farms, sod farms and some crop we couldn’t identify.  Went through Osage Beach on Lake of the Ozarks and lots of boaters are out on the lake.  The roads are all names with letters A, Z, F, etc. and then they start all over again with GG, OO, YY, VV, etc.  Seems like whoever named the roads had no imagination.  Drove through the capital city of Jefferson City and then to Columbia.  We’re at Cottonwoods RV Park, named for all the cottonwood trees.  The campground is beautifully manicured with cement pads and flowers all over.  We had to pick another site because the original one they wanted to give us had about ten sand hornet’s nests in the ground right where I got out of the truck and they were buzzing all around.  We took another site and they immediately came and sprayed.  We sat outside after setting up and met a couple from Englewood, FL, Dave and Ann on their way to Colorado but maybe stopping in Branson.  We talked for a while about what’s in Branson. 

Went to Wal-Mart to get some groceries then back to the RV for dinner.  The Boone County Fairgrounds is right in back of the campground and we saw some horses and riders practicing for the fair which starts on Tuesday. We’ll be gone by then.  And less than a half mile from the campground is a big baseball complex where the “Show Me State Games” baseball games are being held.  The games are an Olympic-style competition for amateur athletes in Missouri held for three week-ends every summer in Columbia to promote sportsmanship, physical fitness, a healthy lifestyle and family fun.  Any team can play, they don’t have to win anything to enter.  We watched a couple of 13-yr.old teams play and one 20 and over team.  Another team looked about 11.  The complex has three fields and there were lots of teams playing or waiting to play.  We left about 10PM and teams were just arriving.  I guess they play ‘til late at night.  There’s basketball and a golf tournament at other parks in Columbia.  Needless to say, the campground is filled with kids and their parents.  It feels great to be back in the RV even though the condo was really nice.


Day 15-July 20, 2014-Rocheport, MO & Budweiser Clydesdales

2014-07-20

Day 15-July 20, 2014-Rocheport, MO

Sunny and warmer today- about 88 and more humid

The horses are back at the fairgrounds right behind the campground so we had to check it out.  Seems they’re judging the horses before the fair opens Tuesday.  We met Hunter and her horse, Amos, who were competing.  We didn’t go into the barn to see the judging because we wanted to be on our way to Rocheport.

A friend, Debbie, told me about Rocheport and the Les Bourgeois Winery so that’s why we’re here.  She used to live here and asked me to say hello for her.  Rocheport is about 15 miles west of Columbia right on the Missouri River and the winery is at the top of the bluff.  We did a wine tasting and met a cat named Valvin, named after a grape that grows locally.  He didn’t even stir when I pet him, he just wanted to sleep. Of course I had to wake him, I’m a sucker for black and white cats.  Down the hill we visited the A-Frame which has a wonderful view of the river and is a great place to get a glass of wine but we opted to go to the Les Bourgeois Bistro right on the bluffs of the river for brunch.  The view was great as was the food.  Quite a hike down the hill, though.

I still hadn’t found anyone who knew Debbie so we went into the historic section of the town with antique stores, Bed & Breakfasts, restaurants and Granny’s Mercantile where I finally found Dianne, who has known Debbie since forever.  She has a wonderful little shop and told us about the Katy Trail, a 225 mile rails to trails bike and hiking trail right down the road.  It’s the longest rails to trails (goes almost the entire distance between St. Louis and Kansas City) in the country and the only tunnel on the trail was right there.  Lots of bikers on it today.

Dianne also told us about Warm Springs Park in Boonville about ten minutes down the highway.  It’s the World Headquarters for the Budweiser Clydesdale breeding operation.  It has over 300 acres and over 100 Clydesdales.  We were too late for a tour but the horses were out in the pasture and they were just about as nosy about me as I was about them so they came over to the fence to say hello.  Gorgeous horses.  Thanks Debbie and Dianne for some great suggestions for today.  We had  a wonderful day.

Got back to the RV about 6:30 and have to sit down and look at maps.  We’re almost in the middle of the country and don’t have any plans as to where to go next.  Maybe we’ll blindfold ourselves and pick a spot on the map.


Day 16-July 21, 2014-To Tama, Iowa

2014-07-21

Day 16-July 21, 2014-To Tama, Iowa

Drove 241 miles in 5-3/4 hours most of the time on US-63 North.

Hot, about 91, humid and WINDY!

North, South, East or West????  We decided to go North, for the time being, anyway.

US-63 is a very nice road to travel on.  It’s only two lanes most of the time but not much traffic and passing lanes every now and then just when you think the slow poke in front of you will never speed up.  It goes through a few small towns, Macon-“The City of Maples”, Kirksville, where osteopathic medicine was founded and there’s still a big osteopathic teaching center, and Queen City, population 598-“Don’t Blink or You’ll Miss Us.  There must be an Amish community here because we saw laundry hanging on lines and it’s Monday.  Plus the “Share the Road with Buggies” signs, not to mention the horse poop on the road.  We started our first book on tape-thanks Karla and Jon, it’s really good.

Scenery is okay, rolling hills in some places and really flat in others.  Farms, corn fields, black angus cow ranches and some unidentifiable crops.  Big, old houses all along the way.

Got into Iowa around noon and stopped in Bloomfield at the visitor center-really small with not much info and at a Wal-Mart in Oskaloosa to have lunch and fill up the gas tank.  The GPS took us down really small, narrow residential streets when we were 3-1/2 miles away from the campground and just as we both were saying there must be a better way, the road was closed because of flooding.  So we turned around and found the way we probably should have gone to begin with.  

We’re at Meskwaki Casino, Hotel and RV Park in Tama, Iowa. The RV Park is in the rear of the casino. Casino campgrounds are always cheap because they think you’ll go in the casino-oh, how right they are!  Between the two of us we came out even after playing for a couple of hours.  Campground is clean, secure, roomy and level with a cement pad and picnic table next to the sight.  There’s a shuttle that takes you right to the front door of the casino, but we drove over.  This one has a 400 room hotel, big two-level parking garage, 1500 slot machines, spa, indoor pool, convention center and bingo room.  And, of course, a buffet. There’s a sign on the RV office door that says “RV Guests-Please go to the Convention Center Hallway during Tornado or Severe Weather Warnings”.  I’m glad the wind died down a bit during the evening.


Day 17-July 22, 2014-Tama, Iowa

2014-07-22

Day 17-July 22, 2014-Tama, Iowa

Dark, heavy clouds, humid in the morning.  Sun came out and the wind picked up about 4PM.  Hot, about 95.

Read and caught up on some phone calls and e-mails in the morning. 

The campground has a big black-topped area with a lot of metal bleachers on all four sides which we found out they use for concerts.  The Tribe also has a large organic garden to the side of the campground where they grow sweet corn, tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, beans and other veggies for use by the Tribe.

Drove through the town of Tama, past a livestock auction and a big John Deere dealer.  Some roads are paved and some are gravel and we think the gravel ones are on the reservation and not owned or maintained by the county.  On the outskirts of town are corn and soybean fields.  The GPS sent us on a wild goose chase down about 12 miles of dusty gravel roads to get to John Ernest Vineyard & Winery in Tama, which is right on US 30, a nice paved road.  The view was great from the winery, it sits on top of a bluff.  We could see lightning in the distance and had a few sprinkles.

Came back to the campground and did some laundry.  Nice Laundromat here and it’s close to our site so we might as well do it while it’s convenient.  Read for a while-I started a book on my kindle app but I’m afraid I’m still a page turning person and would rather have a “book”.  One of the shuttle drivers told us about a car wash in Toledo about ten minutes away and after the dusty roads today we sure need it.  Took a ride through Toledo, a small old town with big, beautiful old homes, some needing lots of TLC on streets lined with huge maple trees.

After dinner we went back to the casino and after an hour left $210.00 richer.  Good night for us.


Day 18-July 23, 2014-Decorah, Iowa-Wine, Eagles and Beer

2014-07-23

Day 18-July 23, 2014-Decorah, Iowa

Drove 135 miles in 3 hours.  Weather is beautiful, sunny, 78, low humidity.

In August 2013 Forbes Magazine named Decorah “One of America’s Prettiest Towns” and as some of you know, I’ve been following a family of bald eagles on a web-cam in Decorah, Iowa since February when they had three eggs.  As luck would have it, we were only three hours south of Decorah so we decided to go there and see if we could find the nest.

We had breakfast at the casino to cash in our points and comps so breakfast was $7 for both of us. We drove north on US-63 through small towns and large farms, mostly corn, corn, corn. On the roadside all the way was pretty pink clover, a sea of Queen Anne’s lace and those little bright yellow flowers.  The birds here are nuts, flying right in front of the truck to get to the other side of the road.  I thought for sure we hit a few.

For the next two nights we are at Winneshiek Wildberry Winery, a member of Harvest Hosts where we can stay overnight for free.  There are usually no hook-ups but this one has electricity and water.  They are also letting us stay for two nights.  I’m glad it got cooler because we won’t have enough electricity for air conditioning.  This is a beautiful winery, it used to be a farm and five years ago they redid the dairy barn to be a wine tasting room and planted some grapes.  They still grow corn and have some fruit trees.  The owners (third generation) live in a house on site and we’re kind of in their back yard, parked on grass under a big tree right next to the tasting room.  We did a tasting as soon as we got here then unhooked and went out again to see the sights.

I knew the eagle’s nest was probably empty because the eaglets had fledged about a month ago but they were still in the area.  There is a state trout hatchery along Upper Iowa River and their nest was supposedly right across the street.  Makes it easy to feed the brood, just go across the street and snag a trout from the holding tanks.  We walked around the hatchery, lots of trout, all sizes, some ready to be released in the lakes and rivers, some just fingerlings.  Didn’t see any eagle’s nest though.  We were about to give up and leave when I asked a woman who just pulled up if she was local and if she knew where the nest was.  She did!  Actually there are two nests, neither of which we would have found without her help.  We found the first one and were walking toward the second one which was behind a house.  The man next door was weeding so we stopped to talk to him.  He said the nest was pretty cool but, turn around, there’s an eagle in the tree behind you.  And there it was, magnificently perched on the top of the tree.  He said they’re there every morning and sometimes during the day, too.  We watched for a while ‘til he flew away.  Breathtaking sight! We found out this eagle family has millions of followers on the web-cam worldwide and they even have their own Facebook page.

We had also heard about a micro-brewery in town, Topping Goliath,  and got directions.  I had a flight and Harry had a pint (or two).  Hadn’t eaten since breakfast so we ordered a burger from a place next door and had it delivered to the brewery.  Decorah is a Norwegian town and this week-end they’re having a big Nordic Fest.  Lots of flags flying downtown and little kiosks for the vendors are set up already.  Luther College is here so there’s a lot of diversity in age, it’s a nice little town with a lot of river walks and parks. 

Got back to the RV about 8 and read for a while, we both have good books again.


Day 19-July 24, 2014-Harmony, Minnesota Amish & Decorah Nordic Fest

2014-07-24

Day 19-July 24, 2014-Harmony, Minnesota and Decorah Nordic Fest

Another beautiful day, 80, sunny low humidity

Stopped in the winery in the morning to say hello and a local farmer was there with syrup he had made from the bergamot plant that’s found in the ditches on the side of the road.  We didn’t taste it but the people who did didn’t look like they enjoyed it much.

We went about 20 miles north to Harmony, Minnesota, where there is an Old Order Amish community.  At the visitor center we rented a CD which took us down dusty gravel roads to nine homesteads, each selling a variety of woven baskets, honey, canned and fresh product, baked goods, small wood items and large wood furniture, quilts, eggs and custom made goods.  Beautiful countryside with neat corn rows, pretty horses and cows and the always present buggy with locals waving at us.  The farms are all about 80-100 acres.  The CD took us past Amish schools and cemeteries and told about their customs and practices.  A lot of the homeowner’s were painting so either it was a great day to paint or Thursday is paint day.  Just about all the kids and women were barefoot and it must have been a cold winter because most of the women were pregnant.  The kids are all cute and very curious about the “English”.  At one farm a little boy and his sister were riding a pony in a field until we pulled into their driveway.  The immediately found a reason to come home.  The Amish here were friendlier and more talkative than those in Lancaster, PA.  At one farm we found it hard to leave because the  father kept talking. 

We had to go to the car wash after we left because all the roads are gravel and dirt, they’re not paved and why should they be-there’s no need for a good road when only horses use it.  But the truck was covered in dust.

Back to campsite for dinner, then went to downtown Decorah and the Nordic Fest.  Decorah is mostly Norwegian and their businesses reflect it-Norwegian Museum, Viking St. Bank, Norseland Travel and Norwegian Mutual Insurance.  This was opening night for the week-end long fest and it was crowded with party goers, polka bands, Swedish food and people dressed in Nordic costumes.  Young and old alike got into the mood and for a few hours even Harry and I were Swedish.  Had a good time.  On the way back to camp we saw about six deer in a field across from the college and the lightning bugs are out in droves.


Day 20-July 25, 2014-To Crystal Lake, IL

2014-07-25

Day 20-July 25, 2014-To Crystal Lake, IL

Drove 254 miles in 6-1/2 hours.

Rained all last night….cloudy and cooler (65) all day.

Talked with Ken, the vintner, at the winery before we left.  They were getting ready for a wedding that’s taking place there tomorrow and the tent company and bridal couple were setting up a lot of decorations.  Yvonne was busy with them and also with customer who came for an early tasting.

Had to stop at Pulpit Rock Campground in Decorah to empty our water tanks and then to True Value Hardware to fill our propane so it took us about an hour to get on the road.

Drove mostly on Rte. 52 southeast all the way to the Mississippi River in Dubuque where Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois come together.  The bridge over the Mississippi to Illinois was closed due to construction and there didn’t seem to be another bridge nearby.  I felt like Iowa didn’t want us to leave.  We stopped at a hardware store parking lot for lunch and asked the owner how to get to Chicago from there and he directed us to another bridge back north the way we came.  This put us in Wisconsin on County route W for about 50 miles.  Very scenic route, hardly any traffic, just a passing car every now and then.  Along with the birds darting in front of us we now had a rabbit, turkey and deer on the side of the road.  Even a couple of horses on the side of the road that looked like they were loose. Lots of red winged blackbirds.   A little less corn but a lot more dairy cow farms and evergreen trees.  Beautiful countryside.  In Warren, Wisconsin we turned south on Route 20 to Rockford and then eventually to Crystal Lake where Harry’s brother, Jim, lives.  We’ll be staying in our RV on his driveway for the next few days.  We had dinner with Jackie and Kristen and then went back to the house and talked for a while.


Days 21 & 22-July 26 & 27, 2014-Crystal Lake, IL

2014-07-26 to 2014-07-27

Day 21-July 26, 2014-Crystal Lake, IL

Sunny and warmer today, about 85.

It’s very nice “camping” on the driveway.  Usually there are a few rabbits hopping around the grassy back yard, lots of birds singing and it’s nice and shady.  The weather’s been great too, cooler for sleeping.

Had a nice morning relaxing and catching up with Jim.  Harry and Jim did the man thing looking over the truck and Jim’s motorcycle.  Played a game of Phase 10, Jim being the winner.

Went out to dinner at Vicky’s, a very nice place right on the Fox River.  Beautiful night to sit outside on their patio and watch the boats coming and going.  Went to a little local bar afterwards that had a few slot machines, but it wasn’t anybody’s lucky night. 

Day 22-July 27, 2014-Crystal Lake, IL

Again sunny and about 85, very breezy which feels great.

We could get used to casual mornings like this, just sitting and yakking.  After breakfast we plotted a course for the near future (after much debate!).  Harry and Jim tried to get some more grit out of the truck from the Amish roads.  Did some grocery shopping and laundry then went to the Chinese Buffet with Jim, Jackie and Kristen. Then back to the house for some more yakking and good-byes.  It was great to see them all and we’ll miss them ‘til the next time.


Day 23-July 28, 2014-To Two Rivers, Wisconsin

2014-07-28

Day 23-July 28, 2014-To Two Rivers, Wisconsin

Drove 208 miles in 6 hours.  Sunny but chilly, high of 65.

Needed an extra blanket last night, our Floridian bodies aren’t used to this Midwest weather. Took us over an hour and a half to get to the Interstate, what with traffic and stopping for gas.  Went through Milwaukee, which is a lot larger than I expected but we didn’t hit any traffic.  In Sheboygan, WI we passed the “Tallest Symbol of Freedom”, a 400’ flagpole that was erected this spring by Acuity, an insurance company.  It has a diameter of eleven feet and can be seen from quite far away, although it is right on Int. 43.  It’s the tallest American flagpole in North America and was quite impressive.  We also stopped at an RV parts store in Sheboygan to get another heavy duty extension card for 30amp service and while we were there we pulled over and ate lunch.

We then went 45 minutes out of our way before we realized the GPS had us going the wrong way.  We entered the campground in by coordinates and they must have been wrong in the camp guide because it put us in the middle of a cow field in Morrison, about 45 minutes west of where we wanted to be.  And, of course, we had no cell service to call and get directions.  But we eventually got back on track and to the campground at about 4:30.  It’s Stop N Dock Marina and campground, a mom and pop place with only 18 sites on Twin River which flows into Lake Michigan.  Nice, small campground right at the foot of Door County in Wisconsin, a peninsula that we plan to explore during the next couple of days.  There are two other couples here from Florida, one from Tampa and one from Mt. Dora, both close to our home.  It’s a small world.

Had to put the heat on about 9PM, it got too cold for us.  Did some checking on campgrounds for the next week or so and found there’s not much available in the UP on Lake Superior, a few more places on Lake Michigan but not many.   Will do some checking tomorrow, but we may have to re-think our plans. Harry says we could stay here ‘til something became available.  This is a Passport America campground so it’s half price ($15 a night), it’s nice, there’s plenty to do but, I know us, we can’t stay in one place for too long.


Day 24-July 29, 2014-Door County Peninsula and the Fish Boil

2014-07-29

Day 24-July 29, 2014-Door County Peninsula, Wisconsin and the Fish Boil

Sunny today but not much warmer, high of 70.

At breakfast I started looking at my notes again and found a campground in the Upper Peninsula, MI that I hadn’t called yet.  As luck would have it, they have plenty of sites for the next week so it looks like we will be going up there.  We decided to stay another two nights here because it’s so nice and there’s lots to do. 

We had only planned on staying here one night and then moving on but by chance, not by design, we find ourselves at the foot of the Door County Peninsula, a tourist haven.   On the east side of the peninsula is Lake Michigan and on the west side is Green Bay.  Villages such as Egg Harbor, Fish Creek, Sturgeon Bay and Ephraim that have a winter population of about 250 are now crowded with summer tourists. Cherry picking, water sports, beaches, summer theaters, wineries, breweries, restaurants, fishing, orchards, state parks, golf courses, etc. bring people from all over.  In between the villages are dairy farms, bed and breakfasts, cottages and marinas on the lake and bay.

We started out on route 42, part of the Lake Michigan Circle Tour, and stopped in Kewaunee to see the Tug Ludington, a tugboat built in Oyster Bay, NY in 1943, participated in D-Day and was sent to Kewaunee in 1947.  Stopped to pick some cherries but it was too late for sweet cherries, all they had was tart cherries for pies.  As we got further north on the peninsula we started the Door Peninsula Wine Trail at Von Stiehl Winery in Algoma, a really busy little town with a beautiful beach right on Lake Michigan and lots of parks and outdoor activities.  Had one of the biggest tasting rooms I’ve ever seen and is an historic building.

Our next stop was at Red Oak Winery in Sturgeon Bay, where we brought in the lunch we packed and ate it with our wine.  We met some nice people at this tasting and one of the men was just as involved with the Decorah eagles as I was.  He and his wife have gone to the Upper Peninsula many times and he gave me some great ideas of things to do while we’re up there.  Another couple we kept bumping into the rest of the day.  We had seven tastings at this winery and the pourer had a really heavy hand.  Harry was fine when we left but that was it for me.  So we then went to Door Peninsula Winery which was really big, had lots of pourers and the people were three deep at the bar.  I had a couple of sips and then went into their vinegar tasting room where I got some nice blueberry vinegar.  At the other end of the building they had a distillery where they made gin, vodka and cherry vodka but I had to pass.  While we were at one of the tastings some people started talking about a fish boil, a Door Peninsula tradition.  They said we can’t leave the peninsula without trying one.  By now we were 80 miles from our campground and hungry.  Every one we spoke to said The Old Post Office had the best fish boil so we called for reservations.  They said to get there early to see the whole process. Process, what process? What do we know?  So we got there early and in the back of the old Post Office was a huge fire with Earl, The Boil Master working the crowd.  He gave a whole dissertation on the fish, the fire and the tradition.  He boils and salts the water, puts in the red potatoes, then a few minutes later, the onions.  He shows everybody the Lake Michigan whitefish that was just caught today before he puts that in the water.  He then puts kerosene on the fire to create the "boil" and make it boil over.  Tells some fish jokes, some funny, some really lame, then everybody goes inside and it gets served out of big pots along with cole slaw and four kinds of delicious breads.  After you’re seated your waiter comes along and debones the fish for you.  Oh, and homemade cherry pie and ice cream for dessert.  Great fun time.  Took a different way back to the campground past more dairy farms and small villages.  Quite a few deer out.  The whole peninsula reminded me of New England, the weather, the farms, the little seaside villages, the landscape and the fish boil reminded me of a New England lobster bake.

Got back to the campground about 9PM, and it’s getting chilly again, probably down to about 55. Another double blanket night.


Day 25-July 30, 2014-Two Rivers, Wisconsin, the birthplace of the ice cream sundae

2014-07-30

Day 25-July 30, 2014-Two Rivers, Wisconsin, birth place of the ice cream sundae

Sunny and about 70.  Cooler at night, into the 50’s.

Two Rivers is called the “Coolest Spot in Wisconsin”.  Because of the way it juts into Lake Michigan it never gets above 70 and in the summer is usually in the 60’s or high 50’s.

Spent the morning checking some possible future places to go, catching up on phone calls and e-mails, some paperwork, housecleaning and re-arranging a bit.

After lunch we went to Lisa’s Laundromat in town to wash a load and found a Piggly Wiggly to stock up on some groceries.

Did I mention that Two Rivers, WI was the birthplace of the ice cream sundae in 1881?  If I didn’t know better I’d think Harry knew this and that’s why we ended up here. So after dinner we stopped into the historical Washington House which was originally a three story inn but is now a museum and ice cream parlor.  Great flavors of ice cream but the house also has ten rooms on two floors devoted to memorabilia dating back to the late 1800’s.  You walk into an 1890’s saloon and ball room which now serves as the visitor’s center.  Volunteers are on hand to answer any questions.

Came back to camp and got ready to leave tomorrow.  We enjoyed this area and it sure had more to offer than we originally expected and turned into a three night stay instead of just an overnight.

As much as Chuck (the owner and “pop” in this mom and pop campground) keeps asking us to stay for a month there are too many places to go to stay any longer.


Day 26-July 31, 2014-To the Upper Peninsula (UP) Michigan and another casino win

2014-07-31

Day 26-July 31, 2014-To The Upper Peninsula Michigan and another casino win.

Drove 203 miles in 6 hours.  Sunny, 70.

Started out with a problem with the water pump in the RV but Harry got it fixed. Stopped at Seguins Cheese Shop and got some Wisconsin cheese before we crossed the bridge in Mariette, WI into Menominee, Michigan.  Took US-35 which had Cedar River, an arm of Lake Michigan to our right and was very scenic.  At Escanaba (a big, busy city) we continued north on Rte. 41 to Marquette.  The GPS took us the last fifteen miles over some pretty narrow roads, some just gravel to Ojibwa Casino RV Park.  They have 12 sites, electric only, and are first come, first served.  We took the last one, then went into the casino to register.  I was directed to the customer relations window where the woman took my license, gave me a player’s card and a voucher for a free drink.  She then gave me two $5 vouchers for Black Jack and another free drink voucher because it’s ladies night.  When I asked if I pay her for the campsite she said they pay us to camp there and she gave me a voucher for $5 cash.  So we set up camp and had dinner.  When Harry came in to get his player’s card he got the same thing, less the free drink for ladies night (Wednesday is mens night). Oh, and we also got pens and four decks of cards.

At the Black Jack tables we got a nice young dealer who helped us poor old folk decide what to do with our cards.  I left after a while to go to the penny slots and Harry stayed and won $47. After winning and losing their money for a while I got on a machine with free spins and when they were all done spinning I came out ahead $120.  I don’t know how they work and don’t care, but I know when it’s time to cash in and leave.  So we came back to the RV and played Rummikubs.

The campsite is really nice, big pine trees all around, very woodsy.  There’s not much else here, just the casino across the parking lot, but it’s right where we want to be to go see the sights in the western part of the Upper Peninsula tomorrow.  We’re back in the Eastern Time Zone again so we lost an hour.


Day 27-August 1, 2014-Lake Superior and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

2014-08-01

Day 27-August 1, 2014-Lake Superior and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Beautiful day, a bit chilly, never got above 65.

Got a late start because we forgot to change the clocks back to Eastern Time so we were always an hour behind.

Took a day trip on Scenic Route 28 between Marquette, MI and Munising, MI and the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, most of it with Lake Superior to our left.  We stopped at the ferry that goes over to  Grand Island National Recreation Area, a 5 x 10 mile island off the coast.  Drove through Hiawatha National Forest to Christmas, WI, complete with Santa, a snowman and a Christmas gift shop.

Ate lunch at a picnic table at an overlook for Miner’s Castle, a sandstone formation in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and then continued to Miner’s Beach, Munising Waterfall and Sand Beach.  Lots of little pebbles on Miner’s Beach but Sand Beach was rockless.  Both beaches had very soft sand and crystal clear water.  Some people were in the water although it must have been really cold.  From Munising you can get a boat tour that goes past the Castle and another that goes to three shipwrecks but we didn’t do either one.  This was part of the Lake Superior Circle Tour and was the south side of the lake.  We came back through the Au Train Lake area with lots of summer resorts, cabins and watersports, especially kayaking. By the time we got back we had gone over 100 miles.

Harry put some air in the tires in preparation for leaving tomorrow, had dinner and straightened up our mess a bit.

Went to the casino office to tell them we’re staying another night and we got the same package as last night-between the two of us for tonight we got $20 in Black Jack vouchers, $10 for camping here and two free drink vouchers.  Seems for every night you stay here you get the package.  I wanted to play the same machine I won on last night but it was broken so I tried another one of the same kind.  Put my money in, spun it once and got 20 free spins at triple the win and then another 20 free spins and then another 20 free spins, which I didn’t get because there’s a 50 free spin maximum but in the end I won $200.  But we’ve been here all of five minutes and I’m done….I want to cash out and go gome.  So I gave Harry my Black Jack vouchers which he used along with his and watched him play for a while.  He did OK too.  I don’t like Black Jack….two cards and you could lose a minimum of $5, not my idea of a fun time.  And we got an official Ojibwa ceramic coffee mug and official Ojibwa wallet with our points-WOO-HOO!  Maybe we should just stay here for a while and become professional gamblers.  NOT!!  Moving on tomorrow.


Day 28-August 2, 2014-To Manistique, Michigan

2014-08-02

Day 28-August 2, 2014-Manistique, Michigan

Drove 87 miles in 1-3/4 hours.  This weather is wonderful-77 and sunny, not a cloud in the sky.

We had planned on taking route 41 south but turned the wrong way out of the campground and ended up going the same way we went yesterday east to Munising on route 28.  At Shingleton we turned onto route 94 to Manistique.  It was a nice drive, and probably the best way to go.

Got into Gerametto’s Resort about noon.  Ted and Sally Gerametto are the owners and their son, Brad, helps out.  Jon and Karla Carrico rent a cottage here every summer and they recommended it.  It’s right on Indian Lake and Ted put us right on the lake so we have a great view. Lots of summer cottages but where we are it’s not busy at all.  We walked out on the boat dock and the water is crystal clear, lots of little fish swimming around.  We both read for a while and then headed into “town” to find Wi-fi because we haven’t gotten e-mail in three days.  Tried the casino thinking there would be wi-fi there but there wasn’t.  There was, however, slot machines and they gave us each $10 in free play which we lost within an hour.  So we went to a local motel that advertised wi-fi, parked in their lot and caught up on e-mails and phone calls.  Went to Jack’s grocery store for some supplies, (actually some ice cream that Jon said was the best in the world) but they were out.  Back to the camp site for dinner then had the first real campfire of our trip.  When we checked the time we were surprised to find out it was about 9:30 because it was still light out.  Didn’t get dark ‘til after 10.  I got up around 2AM and peeked outside to see lots of stars. 


Day 29-August 3, 2014-Seney National Wildlife Refuge

2014-08-03

Day 29-August 3, 2014-Seney National Wildlife Refuge

A beautiful day again, high of 77, sunny except for some rain in the afternoon, which didn’t last long.

The water on the lake is like glass in the morning.

Drove up route 2 to a beach on Lake Michigan which had a great view of a lighthouse but the water had some gunk on it that looked like sludge.  One of the local people said it wasn’t like that any other place and they didn’t know what it was.

We then went north on 77 to Germfask and the Seney National Wildlife Refuge.  Stopped first in the visitor center to see what there was to see and got an overview of the refuge.  We drove the 7 mile Marshland Wildlife Drive, a narrow gravel road which took almost 2 hours, although we stopped along the way for lunch at a great lookout.  Saw lots of trumpeter swans, which do sound like trumpets, some loons, chipmunks, butterflies, an eagle’s nest, Canada geese, turtles sunning themselves on logs and one huge blue heron that scared us almost as much as we scared it as it flew away when we came around a curve.  Pretty ferns and cattails around the ponds amid big hardwood and pine trees.  Beautiful lily pads all in bloom in the crystal clear water.

As we were eating lunch Heather called from England and I found it hard to believe that we had cell service in the refuge and that she sounded like she was next door.  Especially since we have spotty cell service at the resort.

After we left the refuge we turned north again to check out the town of Seney which, even though it’s at the crossroads of two major highways, route 77 and route 28, many of the buildings were boarded up or for sale.  It looked like the town that time forgot.

On the way back to the resort we had some thunder, lightning and rain which helped to get some of the dust off the truck.  It had stopped by the time we got back.  After dinner John & Carol, who live here and are friends of Jon & Karla stopped by to say hi and give us some blueberry muffins for breakfast.  The Rummikub tournament continued but we had to pause in the middle to teach some nasty mosquitoes a lesson with our new fly zapper.  They haven’t bothered us until tonight, maybe the rain woke them up.


Day 30-August 4, 2014-To St. Ignace, Michigan

2014-08-04

Day 30-August 4, 2014-To St. Ignace, Michigan

Beautiful again, high about 75 and sunny.

Drove 97 miles in 2-1/4 hours on route 2 to St. Ignace, MI most of the drive with Lake Michigan on our right.  This is the northern part of Lake Michigan and it’s beautiful, very clean.  Drove through some dunes at Brevort and Gros Cap. 

Beautiful campground, very level, clean and quiet.  Right up the hill from town and the ferries to Mackinac Island.  Little birds hop up and down the tree about 2’ away from the RV.  We can see Lake Michigan from the campsite.  It’s a Passport America Campground so we pay half price.

We have great wi-fi and cell service at this campground so after lunch we caught up on a lot of phone calls, e-mails, and checking credit cards, etc.  Also made some reservations for the week-end.

St.Ignace is a port city, the last town in the Upper Peninsula before going over the Macinaw Bridge which connects the lower and upper peninsulas.  Drove down the hill to “town”.  Lots of hotels, restaurants, and touristy stuff.  About four companies have ferries to take you to Macinac  Island.  Only one street, State St. has any commerce on it but it’s bustling with business.  Beautiful boardwalk to watch ships and boats and ferries come and go and look at the lighthouse.  Gorgeous flowers are planted all over town, wherever there’s an open spot.  Nice park dedicated to Father Marquette, who founded this town, which they say is the third oldest in the country.   Ojibwa Indian tribe and the Sault tribe of the Chippewa Indians both have history here and have museums in town.  Small town, only a few blocks by a few blocks but very pretty and inviting.

Came back to campsite for dinner, then checked out the casino.  We came out $30 ahead, no thanks to me.  Harry was the winner tonight.  Chilly by the time we got back to campsite, only about 55.


Day 31-August 5, 2014-Mackinac Island, Michigan

2014-08-05

Day 31-August 5, 2014-Mackinac Island

Weather is wonderful again, sunny and 75.

We were picked up at the campground by Shepler’s Ferry to bring us down the hill to the ferry to Mackinac Island.  It’s usually a 16 minute trip but the early ferries go under the Mackinac Bridge, a 5 mile suspension bridge which connects the Lower and Upper Peninsulas of Michigan and also separates Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, so it took a bit longer.  It goes under the bridge, immediately turns around and goes back under the other way to Mackinac Island. 

This is a relatively small island, 3 miles long by 2 miles wide and the only transportation allowed on the island is bicycles or horse drawn-carriages.  It’s a madhouse when you first get off the ferry, everybody is in a rush to get somewhere, rent a bike, get a carriage tour, rent a kayak or just walk around.  We walked about a block down the street to Mackinac Island Carriage Tours where we had booked a tour last night.  We took a 2-horse carriage through town, the historic district,  past the Grand Hotel, 380 rooms at $800 a night, up to Surrey Hills, where there is a gift shop, a butterfly conservatory, some restaurants and the horse stables. Walked around there for a while, then got on a 3-horse carriage and took a leisurely ride through Mackinac Island State Park, stopped at an overlook to see Arch Rock and Lake Huron below, Fort Mackinac, old cemeteries and then back to Surrey Hills.  We got back on a 2-horse carriage which went back into town.  The tour lasted about 2-1/2 hours.  Had some lunch on Main St., then went to the visitor’s center, then the harbor with the summer mansions across the street in the quieter end of town.  Walked back through Main St., stopping in almost every fudge store there was for a sample.  Main St. is filled with hotels, restaurants, rental bike and kayak stores, gift shops, did I mention fudge stores? where they stand outside and hand you a sample. Or you can go inside and watch them make it and get a different sample. You can rent your own horse-drawn carriage and they'll give you a 15-minute how to lesson. Giddyup, gee, haw, whoa, what else do you need to know?  And eventually the horse will go back when it gets hungry.  Hundreds of bikes on the road, in some places parked 2 or 3 deep on the side, horse-drawn carriages up and down the road and tourists, tourists, tourists everywhere.  Gorgeous flowers are everywhere you look, fertilized by the every present horse manure.  They even export it to the mainland.

Got back to the ferry depot just in time to catch a ferry back, although they leave about every half hour.  Got a ride back to the campground and did a load of laundry and read for a while.  Tried to find another campground between here and our next stop on Thursday but decided to stay here another night instead. Went to the Village Inn,a pub in town for a light dinner, lunch was filling.  Found ourselves in the casino again for about an hour and I was the winner tonight, we came out ahead $160.00.  Long day today, we're both tired. Planning on sleeping in tomorrow.


Day 32-August 6, 2014-Still in St. Ignace

2014-08-06

Write Diary

Day 32-August 6, 2014-Still in St. Ignace, Michigan

Watched the lake go from silver this morning when it was a bit overcast to watching a gleaming white sailboat on an azure blue lake while eating dinner at the campsite.

Didn’t have to rush to get anywhere today.  Harry got a haircut, we went to the car wash and got the truck washed.  Took a nice drive along Lake Huron, went into Straights State Park, right on Lake Huron-really nice campsites and a great view of the bridge. Found the only grocery store around and did some stocking up.  Back to the campground for lunch and read outside for a while.  It’s really quiet at our site, nobody around us. I got a new book The Attack at Michilmackinac, about the travels and capture by Indians of Alexander Henry in 1760, supposed to have history about this area-sounded interesting when I bought it but I haven’t started it yet.  We looked at maps and have a general idea of where we’re going in the near future, but it’s always negotiable.

Then there’s the casino down the road.  The campground owners told us nobody ever wins there but this afternoon was Harry’s hurrah-we came out ahead by $225 in less than an hour.  And it was American Wednesday.  If you’re American on Wednesdays you get a free hot dog, double points all day and $10 in free play after you’ve gotten 100 points.  So we got a hot dog and paid for a drink with our points and walked around and watched other people.  Spent some time watching Roulette, trying to understand it but I don’t think I could ever get it.  I don’t even really know how the slots work.  Went back to the campsite and looked at some campground books, had dinner, then a nice fire. Leaving tomorrow.  St. Ignace was a great stop.  We really enjoyed this leg of our jouney.


Day 33-August 7, 2014-To Traverse City and the Traverse City Beach Bums Baseball

2014-08-07

Day 33-August 7, 2014-To Traverse City, MI and the Traverse City Beach Bums Baseball

Drove 125 miles in 3-1/4 hour.

You  betcha, 79 and sunny.

Drove over the 5-mile long Mackinac Bridge.  Lake Michigan was emerald green and crystal clear even where it was deep.  I could see the rocks at the bottom from atop the bridge.  Lots of construction and traffic on route 31 to Petosky, a really nice resort city with a harbor on one side of the road and big Victorian style homes on the other, then better on route 131 to Traverse City.  Stopped to get some black cherries on the side of the road and they were really sweet.  Mr. Lucky drove past three casinos and only asked me once if I wanted to go in.  I passed.  Drove over the 45th Parallel of Latitude, the half-way point between the equator and the North Pole,  at exactly noon (that must mean something, maybe our yin and yang are in sync).

As we drove by the Grand Traverse Bay Golf Club somebody hit a ball that landed right in front of us on the road, that’s how close we were to the course.  Hope he didn’t expect to get that one back.  Grand Traverse Bay is a crowded beach resort, complete with hotels, restaurants,  gift shops, beach rental stuff, a beautiful beach and lots of traffic.  Our campground is about ten minutes south of that.  It’s a co-op campground, 217 sites owned by 125 people, most of them Airstream owners, it’s a Michigan Airstreamers Campground.  Don’t ask.  It has a nice sandy beach on beautiful, clear Silver Lake, rental canoes and big, level, shaded, gravel sites that are landscaped.  A lot of rvs are parked here permanently and the owners come every week-end to enjoy the lake.  After we hooked up I went to the local salon and got a haircut, we went and got some rv parts (I broke the door holder last week).  Back to the campground to get ready for the big game tonight.

The Traverse City Beach Bums vs. The Frontier Greys (a traveling team, they have no home base) at Wuerfel Stadium about a mile and a half from the campground.  We usually root for the home team but seeing that we sat right at the visitor’s dugout we felt we had to root for them.  I rooted for both teams.  Seats were right between home plate and first base and we had a great view. “The Bums” have two mascots, both bears, one tan named Suntan and the other red, named Sunburn.  Not many fans but the ones that are here are loyal to their team.  Harry caught a promotional ball that was thrown and gave it to a little boy next to him who was really happy but I don’t think he could understand why someone would give it away.  Great night for a game, about 70, a chill in the air but no wind.  The home team won 5-4, really nice when the home team wins

e C


Day 34-August 8, 2014-Old Mission Peninsula and more baseball

2014-08-08

Day 34-August 8, 2014-Old Mission Peninsula and More Baseball

The weather never changes, still 79 and sunny.

We rode around Silver Lake, the lake our campground is one.  It’s quite a large lake with big, summer cottages all around it.

Drove to Old Mission Peninsula which is 18 miles long and between a half mile wide at the narrowest and two miles wide at the widest.  It has cherry, blueberry and peach orchards, vineyards and eight wineries spread out over the peninsula.  The climate here is perfect for growing grapes, it’s protected from frost in the winter and the summers are warm.  We criss-crossed it,  going from Peninsula Dr., with its large homes right on the bay to route 37 which consists of mostly farms and some businesses.  We managed to go to all eight wineries, each one with a different theme and aura but with a lot of the same types of wine, mostly dry red which is what we like.  Lots of people out on this beautiful day and a few tour vans that go from winery from winery.  Each winery had at least a patio with a great view of the bay and most of them had picnic benches too.  We ate our lunch at one that had gorgeous gardens all around.   We shared tastings at all of them except the last one which, surprisingly didn’t have any wine we thought we’d like.

At the tip of the peninsula is the Old Mission and lighthouse, built in 1870.  It’s where the east and west arm of the Grand Traverse Bay converge.  What a beautiful, serene spot.  People have built balanced rock sculptures in the shallow, calm water.  Very unique.  The 45th parallel is about 300’ into the bay from here. 

As we were leaving the Old Mission we decided if we hot-footed it back to Traverse City we could catch another baseball game but traffic in Traverse City was crazy.  We thought it was just Friday night traffic but as we got closer to town we realized the main street was closed for “Friday Night Live”-a little towny thing with jazz bands, barber shop quartets and vendors.  Hmm, baseball game?/Friday Night Live? 
Baseball won out and we got there in plenty of time.  More people tonight than last night and these fans were more zealous than last night, too.  The Traverse City Beach Bums again romped the Frontier Greys, this time 7-0.  Every Friday night they have fireworks after the game and they were some of the best fireworks I’ve seen. 

Got home thoroughly exhausted after a long day.  Going to explore the bigger peninsula tomorrow.


Day 35-August 9, 2014-Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore, Leelanau Peninsula and Leelanau Sands Casino

2014-08-09

Day 35-August 9, 2014-Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Leelanau Peninsula and Leelanau Sands Casino

Can’t believe it, it doesn’t move from 79 and sunny.

Leelanau Peninsula is much larger than Old Mission Peninsula so we got an earlier start this morning.  Our first stop was Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore visitor center which is on the west coast of the peninsula.  From there we took the 7.5 mile Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive which has twelve stops and overlooks.  Sugar maples, American Beech and pine trees are in the forest and they are great to see but the star of the drive is the Lake Michigan Overlook which is at the top of a sand dune over 500’ tall and very steep.  Signs warn you not to go down because of erosion, danger and rescue fees but not everyone heeds that warning and people were climbing up and down.  They say it takes about two hours to climb back up.  We stopped at a picnic area for lunch at another lookout and by the time we left the drive we had been on it for over two hours.  There’s a bike trail in the park that was quite busy today.

Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore goes all the way around the western and northern ends of the peninsula and we drove with it and Lake Michigan to our left through Glen Arbor, two blocks of crazy tourists, Port Oneida, where there was a some kind of fair going on, Lake Leelanau, a pretty little lake, to Sutton’s Bay, where we stopped at Northern Latitudes Distillery, where Harry sampled some kind of gut-rut.  Not my thing.  Dave, the pourer, winters in Citrus Hills and was asking us for info on what to do in Homosassa.  A family of raccoons scurried across the road right in front of us at one point.

There are 29 wineries on Leelanau Peninsula-we tasted at only one-45 North (again, that 45th Parallel thing).  This is a Harvest Hosts Winery where we can camp free and the owner showed us where we could stay-it seemed very nice, but we decided to stay where we are.  And this is where my camera stopped working.  It keeps saying, “turn if off and on again”.  I’ll have to see what happens next.

Also in Sutton’s Bay is Leelanau Sands Casino, where we stopped for about an hour and came out about $2.00 ahead. 

The drive back to the campground was very picturesque.  Sailboats on beautiful, blue Lake Michigan, gentle waves and people everywhere enjoying the glorious weather.  Everybody is talking about how they had a long winter and, finally, it’s nice. Traverse City has lots of clean little accessible parks, most on the water, most with a playground for kids and all busy.  We even saw a few dog parks, just for dogs.  Parking doesn’t seem to be a problem.  Boardman River goes right through town and there are a lot of restaurants that look out on the river where there are kayakers and canoers. 

I read in a travel brochure that the dunes in Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore is the Most Beautiful Place in America and Traverse City is the Cherry Capital of The World (although I would argue in favor of Washington State) and was voted one of:

  Top 10 Summer Trips

  Top 5 Foodie Towns in America

  Top 10 Places to Enjoy Local Wine

  6 Best Cities for a Bike Vacation

  Top 3 Emerging Beer Towns in USA  (We didn’t do any of the 14 breweries)

  Top 10 Charming Small Towns

  Top 10 Beach Towns

I have to agree! 

We both agree we had a great time here and we sure were busy.

Although I’m sure we haven’t even scratched the surface of what Traverse City has to offer (we haven’t visited the Old Town, the historic district, the warehouse district, any of the wonderful beaches on Grand Traverse Bay, any of the restaurants, brew-pubs, etc.)  it’s time for us to move on tomorrow.  Maybe we’ll rest up at the next stop.


Day 36-August 10, 2014-To Indiana

2014-08-10

Day 36-August 10, 2014-To Indiana

85, sunny, more humid.  We need the air conditioner tonight.

Drove 222 miles in 5-1/4 hours. 

Stopped in Cadillac, MI for gas and for the first time in a long time diesel was less expensive than regular gas.  Maybe somebody made a mistake but we found diesel for $3.52 a gallon where gas was $3.69.  Funny thing was,  every other station around there had diesel for $3.79.  Oh, well.  Glad we found the one we did.

We were going to stop in Grand Rapids but the road was good and it was early so we kept going.  Hit a little traffic and construction in Grand Rapids but it wasn’t bad.  Went through a little town called Schoolcraft just north of Kalamazoo that looked interesting but we didn’t stop.  Started a new book on tape that has us hooked after the first chapter.

We continued on to Middlebury, IN, just two miles over the Michigan/Indiana border.  Stopped at a KOA for at least two nights, maybe longer.  KOAs are always more expensive than other campgrounds but they’re usually better and have more amenities which is good if you’re staying a while.  We had $50.00 in points from previous stays so we used that to pay.  Hope, the owner has three dogs-2 corgis and a fluffy corgi.  They are two princes and one princess who was dressed in a red satin dress (Hope says she has a hat to match) and the males had bowties on.  They drive around in a bright yellow KOA convertible they all like to drive.  Nick, Hope’s son, thinks she’s nuts, I think she’s about as sane as I am.  It’s strange to see all the robins here, I’m not used to seeing them anymore.

As we were checking in a man came in and said “Hi, Judy from Citrus County!”  I’ve learned that we have our names and county on our license plate so I wasn’t that taken aback.  He said he has a Judy from Citrus County, too.  Seems he’s from Crystal River, his (I assume) wife is Judy and they own a campground in Chiefland.  Don’t know how they could travel in the summer if they own a campground but I’ll probably find out during our stay here.

Settled in, read for a while, had a nice dinner and campfire.  Campground is filling up fast, lots of big motorhomes are pulling in tonight. 


Day 37-August 11, 2014-Shipshewana, IN

2014-08-11

Day 37-August 11, 2014-Shipshewana, IN

Rained all night and most of the morning, then got warm and humid, about 80.

Spent a while on the phone with T-Mobile because we’re not getting our e-mails and I can’t text pictures.  They basically told me I’m in nowhere land and wait ‘til I get to civilization again.  Then called about the warranty on my camera.  I left the paperwork home but was pleasantly surprised to find I could replace it without the paperwork.  But only at K-Mart and, of course, they don’t have anything like what I want and don’t even carry Sony anymore.  I was surprised there was a K-Mart in Elkhart to begin with.  So we got a cheap-o replacement ‘til we get home and can research it better.  Harry says I can use his and he’ll use the new one.  At least we got our e-mails while we were in Elkhart.

Enough electronics problems here in Amish country where the simple life sounds great at this point.  We came back through Middlebury to Shipshewana and found a grocery store and stocked up then went to Guggisberg Cheese Factory and watched them make cheese and tasted everything.  Drove around the Amish countryside and was amazed at how big some of the homes are.  One farm had a wheelbarrow full of cucumbers with a “Free” sign on it.  The man told me to take all of them, he must have been sick of cucumbers but they were so big I took two.  This is one of the biggest Amish communities in the country and very widespread.  We see horses and buggies going by the campground and they’re everywhere in the towns.  Went into Yoder’s Department Store, Yoder’s Hardware, Yoder’s Red Barn shops, but not Yoder’s Restaurant.  There’s even a Yoders Funeral Home.  Came back to the campground and registered for three more nights but we had to move to a different site.  Good thing we’re good at this, it only took us about a half hour to disconnect, move and re-connect everything again. 

Had dinner and then I had the bright idea to go on line for Sony help.  Got as far as I have to put the camera back to factory reset, checked out all the manuals on line, couldn’t find how to do it (it seems I have to reset it but I can’t find the reset button, if there even is one on this model.) Found an on line chat with Sony, the agent told me I had to reset it (uh-huh) and he was about to tell me how when we lost the connection.  I can see that he’s been trying to reconnect with me for the last half hour and can’t.  Don’t know if it’s his connection or my being in nowhere land.  It must be time to go outside and start a fire or stay in and read a book.  Harry’s busy trying to set up the new camera.  I’m tired of electronics for one day.  The campground owner said when they bought the campground twelve years ago the first question was “Do you have a pool?” and now it’s “Do you have Wi-Fi”.  How things change.

So, an hour later, the agent is still trying to get me back on line.  I found a number and called Sony help.  Which should be called Sony no-help.  He kept telling me to go to “Settings”, I kept telling him I couldn’t get that far.  Then he tells me to go on line to the same web site I’ve been at all night.  He walks me through the menu to part that tells me to go to settings which I told him I can’t get to.  Harry tried it and he got to the settings but, after setting the whole thing up again, he got the same message.  Good night!


Day 38-August 12, 2014-Keystone RV Factory Tour

2014-08-12

Day 38-August 12, 2014-Keystone RV factory tour

Well, I hate a rainy day….but that’s what we’ve been dealt.  Rained all night and all day, chilly too, never got above 65…can summer be over?

Perfect day for what we did.  In the morning we looked at maps and campground books and got a general idea of what to do for the next few days.  Of course, later in the day, we got other ideas and decided on something else.  Should be interesting to see where we go next.

We had a Keystone Factory tour set up for 2PM.  Keystone is the manufacturer of our RV.  This whole area is known as the RV capital of the world.  And most band instruments are made here, too (Hi, Betty, that made me think of you).  Elkhart, Middlebury, Goshen, Shipshewana, etc. have factories that give tours in the afternoon.  Most of the work is done by Amish men who start at 4AM so by 1PM they’re done and back on their farms doing those chores, so that’s why the tours start at 2PM, when the building is empty.  Most of the Amish men have learned a trade, mostly carpentry, so the labor pool here is great and they’re very conscientious about their work.  Along with the RV manufacturing comes everything that goes into the RVs so there is quite a bit of manufacturing and employment in these towns.  The tours are set up so you can see the RV being built from start to finish.  There were maybe 10 RVs set up next to each other, each in a different stage of completion so you can see how the finished product comes about.  There was only one other couple on our tour and they were interested in buying a travel trailer and that’s what was being assembled, but we also saw a fifth wheel that was almost completed.  A wholesale salesman (he only sells to dealers) gave the tour and he was well schooled in his product but what he didn’t know he made a note of to find out about.  There’s no sales here so no pressure.  We had done one of these tours years ago but I can’t remember the manufacturer.  The tour lasted about 2 hours and then I went in the office and used their Wi-Fi to download pictures and videos.  The Wi-Fi at the campground is so slow we could barely get our e-mails.  So I caught up on that.   Nice leisurely ride home through big Amish homes and farms and a lot of clothes hung outside getting wet.

Back to the campground we had a nice dinner of steak with onion cheese we got at the cheese factory yesterday and a nice glaze made from a Door County Wisconsin Syrah wine.  That’s when we got our new ideas about where to go next and spent the rest of the day as we started it, looking at maps and campground books. 


Day 39-August 13, 2014-Shipshewana Flea Market & Heritage Trail

2014-08-13

Day 39-August 13, 2014-Shipshewana Flea Market & Heritage Trail

Sun’s back!!!! And it’s another gorgeous day-got up to 80.

Started out on the Heritage Trail, a 92 mile trail through Amish towns, following the CD we got from the Visitor Center.  We started at the campground in Middlebury and followed it to the Shipshewana Flea Market, where we were headed anyway. 

The Flea Market is only open Tuesday and Wednesday and is one of the highlights of this area.  It’s over 50 acres of flea market “stuff”, over 1000 booths, plus an auction of horses and cattle.  There’s an auction building with two rooms, probably 20-25 “auctioneers” in each room, each standing on a step stool and conducting an auction of indescribable “stuff”.  I’ve never seen so much “stuff” in my life (even in our garage), stuff even Harry would throw out.  I guess if you collect things or you’re an antique person you would love it.  The noise in the building because of all the shouting was unbelievable.  Every auctioneer had a microphone.  There are two barns, one for horses and one for cows to be auctioned off.  As we were leaving we ran into the couple who toured the Keystone factory with us yesterday.  They are leaving to go back to Ontario tomorrow. 

When we left we followed the CD again, which led us onto county back roads past the farms and big white houses of the Amish.  There are over 20,000 Amish in this area, the third largest, after Lancaster, PA and Arthur, IL.  They seem to be more “successful” than other communities we’ve visited, the houses are bigger and nicer, the barns are in good repair and the people seem to interact with the “English”-Us better.  The Amish in Minnesota where we were a few days ago seemed shyer toward us, these people are friendlier.  We stopped on the side of the road and ate lunch in a parking lot and watched the buggies go by.

We continued going north to Elkhart, a large city, where there weren’t many buggies but plenty of traffic.  We stopped in an RV dealer to see the new models, but he didn’t have many.  The CD then took us through Elkhart on a quieter road with the St. Joseph River on our left through Bristol, with large, beautiful homes into Bonneville Mill Park and the Bonneville Grist Mill.  It was closed by the time we got there but we peeked in and enjoyed the flower gardens (the biggest dahlias I’ve ever seen) and the park.

From there back down to Middlebury and the Krider World’s Fair Gardens, which is gardens replicating the gardens entered in the 1933-34 Chicago World’s Fair.  Krider developed the first thornless rose and the gardens were beautiful.  Some of the plants were brought back from the fair and are over 80 years old.  There was a giant mushroom sculpture, waterfalls, benches, ponds and fountains all surrounded by gardens.  It was probably 5-10 degrees cooler in the gardens.  All along the way there are quilt gardens, gardens planted to resemble different quilts and quilt murals painted on the sides of buildings, over twenty of each, each one different and beautiful.

This brought us back to the campground where they were having an ice cream social.  Not ones to be anti-social we went but brought our ice cream back for after dinner.  We had a great fire and then packed up a bit in order to leave tomorrow.


Day 40-August 14, 2014-To Sandusky, OHIO

2014-08-14

Day 40-August 14, 2014-To Sandusky, Ohio

Drove 177 miles in 4-1/2 hours.

Sunny, breezy, cool, never made it above 68.

Instead of taking Interstate 80/90 we decided to go on the local road US 20 through more Amish farms in LaGrange, IN, then into Ohio at Columbia.  Nice road, 55 mph and not many towns to go through but as we neared Toledo we figured we should get on the interstate instead of trying to get through Toledo on local roads.  Stopped at a rest area for lunch on the Ohio Turnpike (80/90) and there were electric hook-ups and a dump for RVs to stay overnight.  I’ve never seen this at a rest stop-great idea-much better than a Wal-Mart.

They advertise our campground, Camp Sandusky, as “the cabin capital of Ohio”-they have 104 cabins, 120 RV sites and 52 tent sites.  There’s a bunny farm, two pools-one heated (that was the one with people in it today), soccer field, volleyball court, basketball court, playground with Fort Sandusky for the kids, pavilion and pancake house.  Big sites, not wooded but with big trees.  Lots of kids here, it’s a busy campground. It’s also a Passport America Campground so we get it for half price.  Good thing, the closer you get to the east coast, the more expensive campgrounds get.

After we settled in we found a super Wal-Mart and stocked up on some groceries, filled up with some cheap, did I say cheap?, how about less expensive, fuel at Murphy then back for dinner, a nice fire and more Rummikubs.


Day 41-August 15, 2014-Marblehead Peninsula Lighthouse & Winery

2014-08-15

Day 41-August 15, 2014-Marblehead Peninsula, Ohio

Sunny, dry, high 60’s finally made it to 70 in the afternoon.

Spent the morning making reservations for the next few days. Then we took off for the Marblehead Peninsula about 15 minutes away from the campground.  The peninsula, part of Lake Erie Coastal Ohio Trail, starts in Port Clinton and continues east to Marblehead and north to Catawba and has a motley assortment of residences, old shabby shacks and new modern mansions.  Lots of marinas, a few restaurants, most advertising they have the best perch and walleye, summer cottages and condos and year round homes.  Lots of picnic areas, most right on Lake Erie with a great view.  At one end in Marblehead is the lighthouse built in 1822 right on Lake Erie.  Nice picnic area around the lighthouse and an informative keeper’s house and museum.  You can get the ferry to Kelleys Island at this end.  Continued on the peninsula to Catawba, another “finger” of the peninsula farther east onto Church Rd., where there was a church, Cemetery Rd., where there was a cemetery, Schoolhouse Rd., where there was a schoolhouse and then we came upon Wine Cellar Rd.  Hmmm….guess what was there?  Mon Ami 1872 Historic Winery and Restaurant.  This was not on any brochure we’ve seen, not even in the wine trail brochure.  Wasn’t in the GPS or the tour books but it was packed with people, both having lunch in the restaurant or tasting wine.  We finally got to the wine bar and did a tasting.  They had really good wines and the people were great.  From there we went to the tip of Catawba, where you can get the car ferry over to Put-In-Bay.  Busy place, with lots of cars and even an RV waiting to board the ferry. This side of Catawba is more affluent with private developments, larger homes and man made beaches on the lake.  We drove through one where people were sunning themselves on the beach.  It’s 70 degrees….that’s winter for us!  No sand samples from Lake Erie-the shores are all rock ledges.

Back down to Sandusky we went to Fireland Winery, the one that was in the brochures and tour books.  Nice winery where we ran into Lisa and Didi, from Columbus, OH, whom I had met in the campground office this morning and also Ron and Arrow, from Cleveland, all out for a Friday afternoon wine tasting.  I think they wanted us to stay on and party or go to another winery nor far away that we had all heard about but we left while the leaving was good. 

Sandusky has  more waterparks, indoor and outdoor than anyplace I’ve been, even some of the hotels have indoor waterparks.  There’s a Ghostly Manor Thrill House and Cedar Point, not far away, is a big amusement/theme park, resort waterpark.  The campground is filling up with lots of families who no doubt are going to these places over the week-end. For all the people here the campground is really quiet.

We got the truck washed and then back to the campground for dinner, took a walk, had another nice fire and some more Rummikub matches.  We’re leaving Sandusky tomorrow morning.  Sandusky, Ohio…another one of those places I never thought we’d enjoy as much as we did.


Day 42-August 16, 2014-To Columbus, OH and another tire incident

2014-08-16

Day 42-August 16, 2014-To Columbus, OH and another tire incident

Sunny, almost 80 ‘til about 4PM, then sprinkles and cooler

Drove 90 miles in 2-1/4 hour.

Drove on route 4 most of the way through farmlands outside of small towns like Attica, Chatfield and Bucyrus where there was a street fair going on and we got detoured a bit.

Pulled into Alum Creek State Park too early to check in so we went to the park office and ate lunch in the RV.  A couple pulled up alongside us and said they had been following us and there was a bubble in a tire.  We looked, couldn’t see anything but there was a Discount Tire 10 miles away, we were still too early to check in and better safe than sorry.  Discount Tire checked it out, said it was distorted and replaced it.  Glad we bought the tire protection last year.  We’ve already gotten three new tires for free to replace blown ones.

Got back to the campground, checked in, drove to our site and found somebody in it.  Didn’t look like they were leaving soon, either, they had a food shelter erected and a clothesline full of clothes.  At a time like this I’m really glad we have cell service.  I called the check in office, they told me what sites were available and we picked another one not far from the first one.  They said their records showed the original one empty and they’d have an officer check it out.  That should be a real show, hope we’re around to see it.

Campground is in Delaware, OH, a suburb of Columbus.  Very woodsy and secluded, but it’s really full.  It’s on a lake, has a marina, boat storage, sandy beach, hiking trails and activities.  The sites only have electric, I thought it had electric and water when I reserved but we should be OK with the water we have  in the tanks.  There’s showers not far away if we run out and need them.  Sprinkling quite a bit by the time we settled in so we decided to read.  I’ve got two books going at once and one we’re listening to on tape in the truck so I’ve got an assortment of characters to try and keep straight.

I’ve been enjoying reading signs in front of churches along the way.  A sample of today:

  Had a tough week?  We’re open Sunday.

  Swallowing pride never gives indigestion.

 Coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous.

 This church is prayer conditioned.


Day 43-August 17, 2014-Chores & downtown Columbus

2014-08-17

Day 43-August 17, 2014- Chores and downtown Columbus

Sunny, warmer and more humid, got up to 85.

Laundry, laundry, laundry.  There’s no laundry room at a state campground so we found a coin laundry in town.  Spent most of the morning there.

After lunch we rode around the State Park, most of the week-enders are packing up and leaving today.  It’s a nice park with a sandy beach and boat ramp. The homes in Delaware and surrounding areas are big, pretty and have super large lawns.  The grass in nice and green and some of them remind me of golf courses.

Took a ride into Columbus, which is the state capital and quite spread out and big.    We stopped at Seventh Son Brewery and sampled some of their beers.  The brewery looks like it’s in an old car repair shop that had big bays that had been removed.  The front of the building was open, lots of picnic tables inside and out and a bar along the back wall.  We just missed “beer fest” so they were out of some but I had a flight of 6 and they were all good.  Harry likes the dark ales but I like to sample whatever their specialties are. They had vodkas and whiskeys from Oyo Distillery a few blocks over and we drove there later but they had closed.  

 Rode through different sections, Germantown, with its narrow cobblestone streets, Short North Arts District with boutiques and antique stores, and busy High Street, which has restaurants, shops, taverns, art galleries, etc.  There are overhead lights and arches going from one side of High St. to the other and they must be something to see when it gets dark.  On one end of  High Street is the business district, quite quiet on a Sunday evening, the middle or “main part” with all the restaurants and sidewalk bistros filled with people out for dinner and the other end, Ohio State University with many students coming and going.  The University seems to spread out over a lot of Columbus, we heard there are as many as 60,000 students when school has fully started, probably less now that it’s mid-August.

Back to the quiet campground, which is just about empty, had a nice fire and played Rummikubs.


Day 44-August 18, 2014-More Chores, Casino and Baseball

2014-08-18

Day 44-August 18, 2014-More chores, casino and baseball

Nice again, 88 and sunny

Needed to find a AAA to get some more maps.  My “library” in the back seat of the truck was missing a few state maps and tour books of places we may end up.  Then had to get some diesel exhaust fluid for the truck and stock up on some more groceries.

Back to the RV to unload and eat lunch then back out to Hollywood Casino in Columbus.  This is probably the nicest casino we’ve been in, it has a Hollywood theme, huge movie screens all over showing clips of old and new movies, brightly lit, clean carpets, gorgeous chandeliers and best of all it’s NON-SMOKING.  We usually take a deep last breath before going into a casino but this one surprised us when we entered.  We did see a “Smoking Room” sign, usually it’s the other way around, but we didn’t look in. They had a lot of slot machines (we like to play the penny slots) and quite a few tables for Black Jack, Roulette, etc. Four restaurants on sight, a buffet (of course), burger joint, diner type food and elegant steak house.  And although it was a really nice place we came out $15 lighter than when we went in. 

We then went about 15 minutes away to a minor league baseball game at Huntington Park, the baseball stadium for the Columbus Clippers, the AAA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians who were playing The Toledo Mud Hens, the AAA affiliate of the Detroit Tigers.  Really nice, big stadium with a bouncy castle for the kids, free give-aways (Harry got an insulated cooler, I got a nice backpack) plus other little things.  Plenty of food concession stands and tonight was Dime-A-Dog night, only ten cents for a hot dog.  Of course the beer was $8 and the water was $4.  These teams are fierce rivals and the fans showed it.  The stands were pretty full, especially for a Monday night and when the home team went ahead 8-0 in the first inning the crowd went nuts.  In the end, the Clippers won 11-6 which made the home crowd happy.

We could stay in Columbus a few more days and still keep busy but we don’t want any moss to grow on us so tomorrow we’re out of here.


Day 45-August 19, 2014-To Bluegrass, Kentucky

2014-08-19

Day 45-August 19, 2014-To Kentucky

Drove 193 miles in 3-1/4 hours.

Beautiful day again, warmer (87) when we left Columbus, cooled off as we got to the Kentucky hills (83).

Drove through big, busy Columbus on I-71 where the drivers are crazier than in New York.  But the sides of the road were filled with thousands of sunflowers.  All along the highway we saw the bright, happy sunflowers, all facing in one direction.  This took us to I-75 in Cincinnati (crazy drivers here, too), with its many bridges over the Ohio River, all painted pretty colors, through the tunnel and Voila! we’re in Kentucky.  We finished the book on tape we had been listening to for the past week.  It was so good every time we got in the truck we’d turn it on even for a few minutes.

We’re at Whispering Hills RV Park in Georgetown, just north of Lexington. Our site is on a small lake with green hills behind it.  Had lunch and decided to just chill and catch our breath for a while. 

A while lasted about an hour before I started looking for what there is in the area to do.  And there is quite a bit.  Made some reservations, went up to the office to pick their brains (the locals always have the best info and suggestions), got an armload of brochures and went back to the RV to form a plan.  Had dinner then went out and filled up the gas tank.  We found Wal-Mart’s Murphy’s is the least expensive so we always try to find one of those.  As soon as we pulled out of the campground a deer was up ahead in the middle of the road.  Knowing where there’s one there’s usually two we looked where it had come from and, sure enough, there was a fawn.  They both ran in the woods but they were in the field across the street when we came back.

Then we returned to the campground and chilled.


Day 46-August 20, 2014-Bluegrass, Beasts, Bourbon, Baseball & Wine

2014-08-20

Day 46-August 20, 2014-Bluegrass, Beasts, Bourbon, Baseball and Wine

At about 2:00AM it poured with thunder and lightning for about 20 minutes, then nothing. All day sunny and warm, about 88, until the baseball game, then another storm.

Started the day looking out the back window and watching two groups of Canada geese, one from the left and one on the pond looking like a battle would ensue.  The pond group, with quite a few more than the left flank strutted up to meet the intruders.  There was a bit of it’s mine, no, it’s mine then a few flew away and the rest meandered back to the pond. No drama in the goose world today.

Most of the rest of the day was spent driving through narrow country lanes in beautiful bluegrass country (courtesy of the GPS that took us the scenic route).  In the spring the grass has little blue flowers that make the pastures look blue.  Most of them were mowed or cultivated now but some that were left wild had a red hue to them probably because that’s their autumn color.

Drove about a half hour to Lawrenceburg to Wild Turkey Bourbon Distillery for a tour and a tasting.  The tour was interesting but the tour guide spoke so fast it was difficult to comprehend everything he said.  I must have soaked up some info though because I won the trivia contest on the van on the way back to the visitors center.  And yes, we tried bourbon before lunch.  I liked the honey bourbon they had chilled but I’m not a bourbon lover.  There’s a Kentucky Bourbon Trail with about 8 distilleries.  We visited two and Kentucky law will only let you taste two at each distillery, which I think is smart considering some people do all eight and then drive. The next distillery was Woodford in Versailles. It’s the smallest and the oldest (1797) in Kentucky.  We didn’t do a tour here or sample any but we brought our lunch and ate it on their back porch. We then drove to Midway to Equus Run Vineyards, which was situated between two thoroughbred horse farms. Met a couple from Westchester County, NY here visiting his brother.  Neither one of us really liked their wine.

Back to Lexington on route 1681 through horse farms with their beautiful plank fences, mostly black but some white.  Lush green pastures, some tobacco and corn fields, big elegant stables, some resembling huge estates with cupolas and spires, some brightly colored.  Some of the gates to the farms have intricate iron gates, some with gold embossed initials and designs.  You can’t tell where one farm stops and the next starts.  And the horses. Thoroughbreds, Saddlebreds and Standardbreds, they’re all stately and beautiful, grazing and cavorting in the pastures.  Every time we came over a hill the view was better and better. Over 50,000 foals are born every year in this area and they say there are more horses here than people.

Then on to baseball at Whitaker Bank Ballpark, the Lexington Legends, the AAA affiliate of the Kansas City Royals vs. The Delmarva (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia) Shorebirds, the AAA affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.  It was grandparent’s night so the on-site restaurant, The Kentucky AleTap Room, had a special chicken dinner before the game.  It poured as we ate and whether or not they would play was iffy but the game was only delayed 15 minutes and we had a great sunset because of the clouds.  The woman in front of us knew our home town, her mother used to live on Miss Maggie Dr. in Homosassa and her brother lives in Crystal River, it’s a small world.  Best of all the home team won 14-6.


Day 47-August 21, 2014-Toyota, Old Nags, Bourbon & Beer

2014-08-21

Day 47-August 21, 2014-Toyota, Old Nags, Bourbon and Beer

Mostly sunny, one mid-day downpour, then sunny and 88 again.

The internet and cell service is spotty at best here so, after getting disconnected from both a few times, I finally was able to make reservations for the next few days.

TMMK, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky is ten minutes from the campground and we went there for a 2 hour tour of their plant.  It’s huge, the largest in North America and second in the world only to Japan. Opened in 1988, it has over 7.5 million square feet (156 football fields) under roof, 1300 sq. miles altogether, 7000 employees.  It was the first plant in the US and still has a lot of Japanese influence. They manufacture Camry, Camry Hybrid, Avalon, Avalon Hybrid and Venza and next year will start production of Lexus ES 350.  They create a car in 20 hours and make 2000 a day.  Every employee has 54 seconds on the line to do their job.  We were in a tram that went around the plant showing us how they made a car, starting with huge steel rolls that were then stamped for the frame, etc. (they make their own dies there), through assembly, etc., etc., etc. all the way to the test track.  There were more robots than humans, even robotic carts delivering parts.  Two levels of car parts moving constantly this way and that to the next station, enough to make you dizzy.  They also produce parts for the last ten years of Toyotas.  Place was a mad house, assembly lines on steroids.  The guide made a big deal about what a happy little family their company was, then said that group leaders had a beige stripe on their hard hats and team leaders had a blue one so you knew who your bosses were.  I’d prefer to know their names and faces.  Most of the humans had a robotic look to them and none of them looked really happy to be part of the little family. Sounded like typical big corporate propaganda to me.

When we got out it was pouring but we continued to Old Friends in Georgetown, a permanent retirement farm for thoroughbreds whose racing and breeding careers have ended.  They are a non-profit organization that now houses over 100 horses that have won 115 different stakes and have earned over $78 million. They had two cats in the office, had three but one disappeared last week.  One of them, Lucy, was the biggest cat I’ve ever seen.  She looks like she’s been sucking on an air hose, she’s absolutely round.

Still raining, so we have to stay inside, so we drove to Frankfort, the state capitol, to Buffalo Trace Bourbon Distillery, another on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.  This tour was fantastic.  Shelly, the tour guide brought us into the warehouse where the barrels are stored for up to 23 years and the building where they were filling the bottles.  This assembly line was so different from Toyota, these people enjoyed their jobs.  Maybe a dozen people sitting on both sides of a long table, doing everything from making sure the bottles were sterile, filling them, putting seals on them, to sealing them with wax.  I learned more about bourbon than I needed to know but it was really interesting. Harry and I split four tastings so we could try all they had to offer, plus a cream bourbon, like Baileys.  I’m still not a bourbon person.  Buffalo Trace is the oldest continuous distillery in Kentucky, they remained open during prohibition selling bourbon for “medicinal” purposes with the government’s approval along with only three others that have since bit the dust. The distillery was like a little city, with old buildings, some on the national registry, many warehouses, storage facilities and even a homestead.  Supposedly it’s the most haunted building in Kentucky. Shelly, the tour guide, used to live in Clearwater and asked if Monkey Island was still in Homosassa.  It’s a really small world.

Back to Lexington, again on route 1681 through the horse farms.  We pulled over to let somebody in a rush pass us and right on the side of the road was a deer munching on some grass and a few feet ahead were two more, just as interested in us as we were in them.  Went to Sixth St. Brewery, a place that was recommended by the manager of the restaurant at the ballfield last night.  It’s an old bread factory made into a micro-brewery on one side (again with the open air bistro feel) and Smithtown Fish Market, a fish and chips restaurant, on the other side, with no door separating them.  Two separate enterprises that share the building. You order the food, then the beer, grab a table (inside or out) and they bring you the food.   Busy place, lots of young people meeting here for some down time.  Good food, good beer, good times.  Back to the RV to get ready to move on tomorrow.


Day 48-August 22, 2014-Nashville at night

2014-08-22

Day 48-August 22, 2014-Nashville, TN at night

Drove 234 miles in 4 hours

We’re back in the southeast for sure, hot 92!

Once again the GPS tried to do us in, directing us to a road that had a low bridge, only 10’6” and the RV is 12’3”.  Good thing Harry’s good at maneuvering.

Drove south on the Bluegrass Parkway to I-65 where we stopped in Bowling Green at the GM assembly plant for corvettes.  They weren’t doing tours but we ate lunch in the parking lot and then continued a few miles before there was an accident with a travel trailer on its side and the truck up in the air.  Kind of gave us the willies….that could be us.

Started a new book on tape and gained an hour when we passed into the Central Time Zone.  Arrived at Two Rivers Campground, across the street from the Grand Ole Opry about 2PM.  We’ve stayed here before and like this campground.  They were supposed to have entertainment here tonight but it got cancelled because of the heat. I don’t think it’s that hot but if I had to entertain outside tonight I’d cancel too.

After dinner we took the shuttle from the campground into the center of the action in Nashville, Broadway. The shuttle from the campground used to be just a small van when “Jerry” started but he’s grown it and now has a few 25 passenger vans. Problem was, the one he picked us up in had broken air conditioning and just pumped out heat, which we didn’t need in 91 degrees. We didn’t get there ‘til about 9PM and the place was hopping by then.  More than forty bars on this street with entertainment in every one, some good, some not so good, but every one crowded to the max on Friday night.  You can stop in, get a beer or a drink if you want if not, just sit (or stand on a busy Friday night) and listen to the band.  After every set they pass the hat, which is the only way they get paid.  Both sides of the street were really crowded, elbow to elbow most of the time, but everybody was pleasant, even those that had a little too much to drink. There were lines to get in to some but for some reason the bouncers let us in with no wait.  We probably reminded them of their parents (or, dare I say, grandparents).  No trip to Broadway in Nashville is complete without a stop at Mike’s Ice Cream so that’s where we ended up and watched people through the window for a while.  Sometimes that’s more interesting that the entertainment. The shuttle drive back was quiet compared to the noise level in the bars.  And cooler, they took the one with broken AC out of commission ‘til it’s fixed.  As soon as you get off Broadway the city is just about dead.  What a difference a block makes.  Nashville is one of our favorite cities-you can enjoy the “craziness” of  downtown for a few hours and when you’re done just grab the shuttle back to peace and quiet.


Day 49-Nashville Sounds Baseball

2014-08-23

Day 49-August 23, 2014-Nashville Baseball

Hot-up to 97, overcast, then sunny, then rain shower, then sunny again, then rain.

Started the day looking at maps, charting a course for the next few days and making reservations.  Did some laundry at the same time.  Then grocery store, gas.  There’s a lot of things to do in Nashville besides music but we’ve seen some and done some and it’s too hot to do too much so we came back to the campground to read.  I’ve started a new book (thanks, Doreen, for picking this book, I’m really enjoying it).

Had an early dinner to get to the game which starts at 6:35. It was raining when we left the campground and we thought maybe it would deter the fans but the traffic we hit trying to get into the stadium proved us wrong.   We went to Herschel Greer Stadium to watch the Nashville Sounds, AAA affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers vs. Fresno Grizzlies, the AAA affiliate of the San Francisco Giants.  Rained a bit during the game but we saw a beautiful rainbow.  And nobody left because of the rain which stopped shortly after it started.  Home team won 6-4!  We got back to the campground just in time before thunder, lightning and more rain.

Off again tomorrow for more adventures.


Day 50-August 24, 2014-Pigeon Forge, TN

2014-08-24

Day 50-August 24, 2014-Pigeon Forge, TN

Drove 213 miles in 4-1/2

HOT again, 95! And more humid but it cooled down after the sun set.

Rained all last night and still sprinkling and foggy as we left Nashville.  Spent most of the time on I-40 E listening to the book on tape and watching all the kudzu that looked like topiary giants on the side of the road.  Not much to write about except we’re now back in Eastern Time Zone and there was quite a bit of traffic for a Sunday, especially in Knoxville. 

From I-40 we turned south on 66 to 441 through Sevierville, the gateway to the Smokies, to Pigeon Forge and our campground, Walden Creek Campground “the sweetest lil’ campground in the smokies.”  It’s right on Walden Creek, run by Christie and her 53 ducks, all of which think she’s their mother.  They follow her all around the campground and tend to just lie down in the middle of the driveway.  One of them is injured because an eagle picked it up but dropped it and its foot isn’t webbed anymore.  Saw a black and white cat with no tail too, but I can’t get close-yet.  It’s a Passport America campground-half price, love it.

The campground is very quiet compared to all the chaos on the main road, Great Smokey Mountain Parkway. This road reminds me of Branson, although there are only nine theatres featuring a magic show, a Lumberjack Feud, an Opry, Hatfields and McCoys show, Country Jamboree, Comedy Barn and a few others.  But what it lacks in theatres it makes up for with everything else. The same tourist attractions are here, Titanic, Hollywood Wax Museum, go-karts, golf (mini and regular), condos, etc. but there’s also helicopter tours, zip lines, hot air balloon rides, an aquarium, a zoo, antiques, flea markets, caverns, rafting, water parks, Ripley’s, about five outlet malls, a huge Christmas store, the Dixie Stampede and let’s not forget what started it all, Dolly Parton’s theme park, Dollywood.  And every chain store you can imagine, restaurants, fast food and not so fast food, Walmart, Target, K-Mart, CVS, etc., etc., etc., even Mel’s Diner (Hi, Mary& Bob, I know you love Mel’s).  Some wineries but we’re not going there because all they have is sweet wine.  And all this with the Smokey Mountains in the distance.  This place must be a madhouse in the summer because Christie told us it’s been dead the past two weeks and it’s crazy now.  The trolley to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg stops right at the entrance to the campground and makes a big loop, don’t know if we’ll take it or not.

Took a walk down to the creek, really nice and serene, picnic benches set up with fire rings, the ducks just sitting in the creek and frogs croaking.  Then went out again and got some gas and washed the truck.  Traffic has calmed down a bit.  Drove into “Historic Sevierville” which is just like any other small town in America, drug store, hardware store, etc. 

Back to the RV for dinner, looked at some brochures and decided we didn’t want to do any of it.  Maybe tomorrow we’ll feel more like doing the tourist thing but tonight we just sat outside, watched a couple of bats flying low, then watched the stars.  We heard ducks quacking around us but didn’t figure out where they were ‘til we went inside the RV and looked out the window on the other side.  They were all settled down right outside our window.


Day 51-August 25, 2014-Gatlinburg, TN

2014-08-25

Day 51-August 25, 2014-Gatlinburg, TN

Nice day, 88 but cooler than yesterday

The tourists have left Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, the streets are almost empty compared to yesterday.  We drove into Pigeon Forge again today to make sure we didn’t miss anything, then took the back way into Gatlinburg.  There’s an eight mile craft loop with over 100 crafters displaying their goods, some in stand alone buildings, some in little groups of stores.  They’re all on a windy, one lane road into the mountains.  Very scenic.  Crafts include pottery, woodworking, jewelry, fudge, galleries, candle, soaps, stained glass, broom shops, etc.  We stopped at Fox & Parrot British Pub for lunch and enjoyed Brian, the bartender and his 85 beers (33 on tap).  We only enjoyed one beer, however.  Met a couple from New Jersey at the bar and talked with them for a while.  Stopped at another group of stores where there was “The Only Salt & Pepper Museum in the World” with over 20,000 salt & pepper shakers.  They were closed but the owner said we could go in anyway.  But he wanted to charge us to look at them.  I can go home and look at my collection for nothing so we passed. Of course, I don’t have 20,000 sets.  Harry would beg to differ.  In the same group of stores was Stony Mountain Winery so we stopped in to see if they had any dry wine.  They only had two but they were pretty good.

Back to the campground on Great Smoky Mountain Parkway, the main tourist road and was amazed at the lack of traffic.  It’s like the town folded up and went to sleep, all the tourist attractions, hotels and stores are empty.  I went down to the creek to watch the ducks for a while, then read and watched the ducks march across the street under our RV to go to sleep for the night.  They just about walked over the sleeping cat in another site who never even looked up at all the quacking.  He must be used to them.  Moving on again tomorrow.


Day 52-August 26, 2014-Great Smokie Mountain National Park

2014-08-26

Day 52-August 26, 2014-Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Drove 49 miles in 3-3/4 hours. 

Sunny, high of 82, except at the top of the mountain where it went down to 64.

Forty miles of our 49 mile drive today was on the Newfound Gap Rd. which goes from Gatlinburg, TN to Cherokee, NC through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  Twists, turns, s-curves, up and down the mountain with beautiful scenery on both sides. Seems there was always a shallow rocky river or a stream right by the side of the road.   Lots of scenic pull-overs (and some construction, too).  Speed limit is 35 most of the way, but some turns are so sharp they’re 15 MPH.  Three tunnels, but they’re nice and high, even on the sides, so we didn’t have to drive in the middle.  A few waterfalls, too. 

We stopped at both visitors centers, Sugarlands Visitors Center at the beginning in TN and Oconaluftee in NC at the end.  There’s a herd of elk at the last one but not in the middle of the day, we’d have to go back at dusk to see them. 

Our campground, Flaming Arrow, is close to the Cherokee Indian Reservation and right off the highway.  It’s nice, lots of hills but our site is level.  Has a pool, rec center, playground and all the amenities we need, even cable TV although we haven’t watched TV in almost two months.  Set up and went into relax mode, we both started new books.  After dinner we drove the 2 miles to Harrah’s Casino but I think we left lady luck back in Michigan.  Casino is huge, the biggest we’ve been in. Two levels and a nice non-smoking area.  Slot machines galore and table games for black jack, poker, roulette, etc. and some games I’ve never seen before.  And all of them busy, usually the tables aren’t busy, especially on a Tuesday night, but all these had players.  It has a buffet and four other restaurants, a hotel and convention center attached and a multi-level indoor parking lot.  When we went in they gave us a map of the casino and there are computerized interactive maps scattered throughout for people like me who threw the paper map out.  Took us a while (and asking somebody) to find the way out. 

Back at the campground we talked to our neighbors (also from Florida) for a while.  Lots of stars here but I wish there weren’t so many lights so we could see them better.


Day 53-August 27, 2014-Cherokee, NC

2014-08-27

Day 53-August 27, 2014-Cherokee, NC

Sunny, 82, cooler at night, fall is in the air

Got a text message from Nancy Colombo yesterday saying she and John were going to be in Ashville, NC today on their way up to Connecticut.  John and Harry have been friends since they were about eight years old.  John and Nancy moved to Homosassa about two years ago, about 5 miles from us.  After a few texts we realized they would be in Cherokee this afternoon, so we met up at the campground.  Sat and talked for a while then went to lunch.  They wanted to go to the casino so we went to Brio for lunch, right in the casino.  It was such a coincidence that they were here at the same time we were.  I’m glad we got together, we had a good time as we always do.

After lunch went downstairs to try our luck at the slots.  Nancy had all the luck today, nobody else won anything.  They left to continue their trip up north and Harry and I went to downtown Cherokee to the Qualla Arts and Crafts building and then up the street to the Cherokee gift shops, mostly cheap souvenirs.  Bought an ice cream at Two Crowes Ice Cream shop and got to talking to the owner, Jim Crowe about his family and the Cherokee Nation.  Nice man, I could have talked to him for a while longer but lots of customers were coming in.

Back at the campground we had a nice fire.  It’s very quiet and peaceful at the campsite, the noise of the cicadas all we hear.


Day 54-August 28, 2014-Waterfalls

2014-08-28

Day 54-August 28, 2014-Waterfalls

Sunny, warmer 88, and humid but cooler at night.

Spent the day driving over 100 miles in a big loop through the mountains in search of waterfalls.

The road to From Cherokee to Cashiers, route 107, was a two lane windy road that took us through Cullowhee where we passed Western Carolina University.  Right after that there were beautiful orange and white flowers on the side of the road that resembled zinnias, then on the other side of the road thousands of pink flowers, all different shades.  Kudzu on both sides of the road, it even tried to cross the street in some places.  It’s pretty but devastating to other plants.  In Cashiers, which is only 5 miles from the Georgia border,  we stopped on the roadside for the lunch we brought and watched people. It’s a summer resort and was quite busy today.  Route 64 between Cashiers and Highlands was just as windy and hilly but a bit more populated and we started to see more resort communities on both sides of the road.  Highlands seemed a bit more upscale, it has a playhouse, lots of shopping and restaurants.  Again, very busy today.  From there we headed toward Franklin in the Nantahala National Forest and now the curves got serious.  At one point there was a sign that said “Road Narrows Next 10 Miles, 20 MPH”.  Is it possible that the twists and turns get worse and the road narrows?  Oh, yes, it is!  But then we saw Bridal Falls, so high we almost missed it.  You can drive under these falls and not get wet, and we did.  Less than a mile up the road is Dry Falls, with a steep walkway down where you can again walk under the falls.  We missed the next two falls because we had to pull over on the opposite side of the road to view them and, like I said, the road was narrow and you couldn’t see a car coming from the other direction.  There was somebody already parked at the first one and there was only room for one car.  The second one was just too dangerous to try to pull over to the other side.  But we were happy just seeing the two we saw.  There were quite a few school buses on the way back which reminded us that summer is just about over.  It was a long day, though, and a lot of challenging driving for one of us.  The other one is in charge of pictures. 

Got back to Cherokee and did some grocery shopping, then went back to downtown Cherokee and visited some more Indian souvenir shops, then went back to the casino for one last hurrah at Harrah’s.  We gave them another chance to give us our money back.  They declined.  Back to the campground for dinner and another great fire, listening to the cicadas again.  Off again tomorrow.


Day 55-August 29, 2014-To Concord, NC and the Grandchildren

2014-08-29

Day 55-August 29, 2014-To Concord, NC and the grandchildren

Drove 187 miles in 4-3/4 hours.

Hot, humid, 88

Listened to the book on tape we’ve been involved with for the past few days.  It’s an unabridged version, 13 hours long and it’s really starting to drag.

Hit Charlotte, NC traffic on I-85 about 3PM on Friday afternoon before a holiday week-end.  Everybody’s in a rush to get somewhere.  Got to Charlotte Motor Speedway Campground and set up.  All the sites are on gravel but they’re big and level and they suit our purpose.  We’re here to visit with Harry’s daughter, Janice, her husband Tim and eleven of their twelve children, Schuyler, Gideon, Leo, Bronwyn, Kierstyn, Georgia, Grayson, Charlotte and Atticus.  And to meet Elijah and Oscar, the newest additions to the househeld.  Oldest son Evan is away at college in Tampa.  We’ll catch up with him when we get home.

Got over to their house about 5PM and visited for a while ‘til Tim got home from work, then we all piled into their van and went to Dino’s for pizza.  Harry and I like to go there whenever we come here, we really like their white pizza with spinach and bacon.  And they have great salads. 

Went back to the house and played Uno with a few of the kids for a while.  Harry and I both had forgotten how to play but it was like riding a bike, once we played a hand we remembered.  Of course, we didn’t win.


Day 56-August 30, 2014-More with the Grandchildren

2014-08-30

Day 56-August 30, 2014-More with the Grandchildren

Hot, humid, 92

The campground is right across the street from an RV dealer so of course we had to go look at new models.  They had the same model we have but three years newer and there are a lot of upgrades but also some things we didn’t like as much as the one we have.    

We then went and had a nice breakfast at Harrisburg Family Restaurant.  Hard to believe but this is the only time we’ve gone out to breakfast during our whole trip.  We then went over to Janice’s house again and played more board games with the kids and talked to Janice.  Tim was out on his motorcycle for a charity ride but got home in time to go to Gideon’s soccer game at 6.   At 17 he’s in an adult league now and was one of the youngest on the team.  But also one of the fastest.  They won 3-0.  All the other kids are on soccer teams too but they haven’t really started the season yet.  Then back to the house for dinner and more games.  Got back to the RV late, it’s hard to leave not knowing when we’ll see them again.  Off again tomorrow.


Day 57-August 31, 2014-Heading home

2014-08-31

Day 57-August 31, 2014-Heading home

Drove 441 miles in 8 hours. 

HOT! HOT! HOT! 95 at 9AM, up to 96 by noon.

By far this was the most boring day of our trip.  We spent 8 hours on interstates listening to a book on tape that we wish would end.  It goes on and on and I’ll never get an unabridged version again.  We drove from North Carolina through South Carolina where we stopped at a rest area for lunch, then Georgia and finally entered Florida.  Thankfully there was little or no traffic.

We stopped in Starke, home of the famous “speed trap”, which is only about 100 miles from home.  As soon as we got to the campground it started to rain cats and dogs but by the time we registered it stopped.  We didn’t even really hook-up, just plugged in the electric.  This way we can get an easy start tomorrow.  Now that we’re this close we want to get home.  Had dinner and then relaxed, caught up on e-mails (we finally have good wi-fi) and read.  Told you it was boring!


Day 58-September 1, 2014-Labor Day-SPLAT!

2014-09-01

Day 58-September 1, 2014-Labor Day-SPLAT!

Drove 102 miles in 2-1/2 hours.

HOT! HUMID! FLORIDA!

It was a good idea to stop when we did last night.  It’s a short trip home, we won’t be on any highways with people coming home from the long week-end and we’ll get home with energy left over to start unpacking everything.

Only two more discs to listen to on the audio book, forever after known as the book that doesn’t end, it just went on and on and on.  We did finish it, though, but by then we didn’t care what happened to any of the characters.

Only 60 more miles to go in Williston, FL, when I hear Harry say, Uh! Oh! And then I saw what looked like a huge bowling ball made of feathers hit the rear view mirror on my side and I heard a big SPLAT!  Seems there were three wild turkeys on the side of the road and one decided to take off just as we passed.  Turkey hits truck, truck wins.  We pulled over to access the damage, the rear view mirror is trashed, there’s a dent in the door and glass in the groove of the passenger window and scratches and turkey splat all over the window frame.  Can’t wait to hear what the insurance agent says this year.  But it could have been a lot worse. 

So, after 58 days, 17 states and almost 7,000 miles we continued home to see a big “House For Rent-Cheap” sign on our garage door and a nicer “Welcome Home” sign inside.  Thanks, John and Jackie.  We left the RV hooked up and parked in the driveway.  Now we get to do all that unpacking I mentioned.

IT’S REALLY GREAT TO BE HOME!!!


Texas Hill Country-Bandera & San Antonio

2015-04-18 to 2015-04-25

Saturday, April 18, 2015-Getting there

We flew Delta from Tampa to Atlanta, an hour layover, then on to San Antonio.  Both flights were smooth, although the pilot apologized for the bumpy ride into San Antonio.  We had heard there were tornadoes looming in Texas this time of year but the whole week was overcast, some sunshine, around 75-85 during the day, cooler at night and more humid than they are used to. 

We stopped at the local grocery story, H.E.B., to stock up for the week.  We’re staying in a condo and while we’ll eat out a few times we like to have breakfast in and usually pack a lunch to take with us.

By the time we got to the condo the office was closed but they left the keys for us in a lockbox and had a welcoming committee of about 50 deer to meet us on the road leading in.  Deer to the right and left of us in people’s yards, munching on grass and low trees, deer in the middle of the road just standing around.  We’re not in the woods but this is Texas and there’s lots of wildlife here.

Unpacked and went into town for dinner.  The town is Bandera, TX, “The Cowboy Capital of the World”.  We ate a nice Tex-Mex dinner at Old Spanish Trail Café, where they had a counter but instead of stools there were saddles to sit on.  We opted for a table but I tried out a saddle and figured I’d do OK until the horse started to move.  Sitting at one of the tables was a “cowboy” with his six-shooters on both hips.  We learned he was the constable and ate there almost every night.  After dinner we walked around town enjoying some of the local bars and their music.  It’s Sat. night and bars like the Chicken Coop, Wild Horse Saloon and Blue Gene’s Dance Hall are swinging with bands and dancing.

Sunday, April 19, 2015-Medina, Kerrville and Ingram

Neither one of us slept well last night, there was a scratching in the wall like an animal was scurrying.  They offered to move us to another unit but we decided to tough it out.

The condo is really nice, four units to a building, six buildings in all, spaced out over a large grassy area, Jacuzzi, fireplace, nice porch off the back overlooking the Medina River.  Quiet area, not many people here, two pools, spa, game room, reading room, tennis courts, volleyball.  And in the back of our unit we saw three orange tabby cats who looked well fed, clean and happy.  Found out from Elvira, the manager, that they had been around for a while, there are actually four adults and two kittens.  My mission-to find the kittens.

We took a ride west to Medina, the apple capital of Texas, then north to Kerrville where we stopped for lunch at a park overlooking the Guadalupe River.  A little further west to Ingram and then came back through Camp Verde, a little town known for its camels.  Seems in 1856 the military brought over 100 camels from Egypt to replace mules and horses because the camels could carry heavier loads and travel longer distances.  It worked until the war ended and funds were needed for reconstruction.  There was no mention of what happened to the camels after that but the whole town is built around the camel experiment.  Lots of goat farms along the way and a bison farm.  Not much cattle.

Back to Bandera, we stopped in The 11th Street Cowboy Bar to see the local action. Yep, there were cowboys two-steppin’ to a nice band out in the back.  We had a drink and joined in for a while, then went back for a badly needed nap that never happened.  But I saw the two kittens playing in the back. And the other adults, too.  All six of them were in the back.  I refuse to feed them but the people upstairs from us left them some food and Elvira bought them some special kibbles and a few toys for the babies. 

Monday, April 20, 2015-San Antonio & Baseball

No much sleep again last night-still scurrying in the walls.

We went to the Bandera Visitor Center and got some info from Cindy who was really helpful and gave us some good ideas. Drove into San Antonio not realizing it was “Fiesta” and it would be crazy busy.

Fiesta in San Antonio goes back to 1890 and is celebrated every year around April 21st, the day Santa Anna, the baddie of the Alamo, was defeated.  There are over 100 events, parades, commemorations, parties, carnivals, balls and dinners during the 17 days of the festival.

We found a parking spot right near the Alamo and visited that first.  We had been here before but it’s always interesting.  Listened a bit to a speaker who re-enacted the battle which was 257 men, women and children defending the Alamo against Santa Anna’s army of over 3000.  The whole slaughter lasted less than a half hour.  There is a model of the battle in the Alamo that makes you realize just how out numbered they were. 

Went to find lunch on the Riverwalk, a walkway around the river on a level right below street level, only to find out the Riverwalk was closing in a half hour because they were decorating for the boat parade, one of the biggest events, later that day.  So we ate on the street level at Rio! Rio!, a great Mexican place with a wonderful view of the Riverwalk below where we watched all the restaurants and stores decorate with piñatas, colorful balloons, banners, tablecloths, flowers, etc. for the festivities later. They told us you had to have made reservations over a year ago for dinner there tonight.

As we walked back to the car past the Alamo they were having a solemn commemoration of the defenders of the Alamo.  There was a silent procession from town into the Alamo by historic, civic, patriotic, military and school groups, all in uniform and costume.  As the names of all the people known to have died at the Alamo were read, including Davy Crockett and James Bowie, these groups would place flowers on a wreath at the entrance.  There was then a memorial service. This was something the see. The costumes were so colorful, especially “King Antonio” and his court, with their gold costumes and crown.  So glad we decided to come into town today and got to see this.

We then drove to Market Square, a huge Mexican market, but the parking was filling up with people arriving for the night and the traffic was crazy so we moved on.

We had tickets for the San Antonio Missions Minor League baseball game so we drove about fifteen minutes to Wolff Stadium and waited for the game to start.  They played the St. Louis Cardinals, a team we had seen last summer in Missouri.  Nice stadium, great seats right at first base, nice night, a bit chilly, glad we had our fleece jackets.  Bottom of the 9th, bases loaded, tie score 3-3.  New pitcher throws the ball right into the dirt at home plate, the catcher can’t get it, runner at 3rd scores to win the game for the Missions 4-3. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015-Route 209 Texas Wine Trail

We needed the heat last night, it was really chilly.  But there was no scurrying noises. We went north to Fredericksburg, a quaint German town that we had visited before but really liked.  Along the way we passed donkey farms, an armadillo farm (go figure), lots of goat farms, peach orchards, long horned cattle, jack rabbits (or hares)-long ears, long legs, really quick!  Beautiful hill country.  We stopped at Chisholm Trail Winery, way off the beaten path but on the original Chisholm Trail.  Two miniature donkeys grazed in the front yard.  From there we stopped at Fredericksburg Winery in the middle of town.  They trade bottles of wine from other areas and we saw some from wineries we had visited in other states.  They trade two bottles at a time, they keep one for their collection and drink the other on the 4th of July when the have a big party.  We walked around town, popped into a few shops, then continued on Route 209 to Grape Church Winery and then 4.0 Vineyards.  They all had nice dry red wines that we liked but we’re flying so we couldn’t buy any.  Passed Wild Seed Farms, the largest working wildflower farm in the country, over 200 acres of gorgeous flowers, all in bloom, blue, yellow, red, pink, white and purple.  Back home through some back roads where a couple of deer leaped in front of us-Oh boy!  The deer in the neighborhood of our condo greet us whenever we leave or come home, we’re getting used to them.  Oh, and the cats and kittens are still in the back of the condo.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Slept well-no noises in the walls.

Decided to stay fairly local today.  Stayed on the porch of the condo and watched the kittens play and read for a while, then went into Bandera.  Lots of little shops here, the Cowboy Store, Bandera General Store, where the biggest concern of the day was that they came and took away all the Blue Bell ice cream that had been recalled.  They sold about $300 a day of ice cream and now what were they to do???  Little stores with friendly owners trying to make a living off the tourists who came to see the cowboys.  And the cowboys are all around town, too.  Horses are tied in front of some of the watering holes.  We ate lunch down by the Medina River at a swimming hole complete with a rope swing used to jump into the river. All the rivers are the color of coffee, light with cream, maybe because of all the rain they’ve had lately. And deer all around.  Drove into Boerne (pronounced Burnee) and tried some wine at Boerne Winery and cigar bar.  Very different way to taste wine.  You bought a card, then used the money on the card to purchase one of three sizes of wine, 1-1/2oz, 3-1/2oz. or 5oz.  The wines were behind a glass dispenser, all different kinds and prices.  You slide the card in, put your glass under the spigot, push the button for the size and selection you want and it fills your glass.  I guess a nice idea, a bit too impersonal for me, although Pedro would check on us every now and then and make sure were OK.  A nice patio outside to enjoy a glass. 

Back to Bandera for The 11th Street Cowboy Bar bring your own meat dinner.  THIS IS THE THING TO DO IN BANDERA on Wednesday nights.  You bring your own meat, (this is Texas so most people brought steak), they supply the seasonings and utensils and you grill it yourself on three huge grills, about 4’ in diameter.  Lots of fun and conversation around the grills and around the bar and seating areas.  They supply huge baked potatoes and salad.  There’s a great band, sawdust on the crowded outdoor dance floor and cowboys and cowgirls all decked out in their finery.  A wonderful time, although one of us had a bit too much two-steppin’ and wine.

Thursday, April 23, 2015-Wild Flowers, Luckenback, Bourbon & LBJ

The noise in the wall has been replaced by the dead animal smell.  We’re going out for the day and won’t be back ‘til late so Elvira said they’d spray something to get rid of the odor and they’d leave the door to another unit open for us in case we wanted to move or just sleep in another unit that night.

We drove to Luckenbach, TX, basically a ghost town with a population of 3.  It consists a building with a post office, general store and beer joint.  The zip code has been retired, so the post office is only open because of tourists.  The general store has too many items to mention, all covered in layers of dust and in back there’s a bar/beer joint with a Willie Nelson wanna be strumming in the corner.  The only other building is a huge dance hall where entertainers still perform.  There were a few shows scheduled for this coming week-end.  A big parking lot because these shows are well attended.  We were the only ones there except for a rooster in the distance who wouldn’t shut up.  Quite an experience.

Cindy, at the Bandera Visitor Center told us about the Willow City Loop, north just a bit.  I had wanted to come to the Texas Hill Country in the spring to see the bluebonnets in bloom but this was incredible.  It’s a 28-mile drive through some windy, narrow roads through farms and cattle ranches, over creeks, some flowing, some dried up with antelope in the fields, long horn cattle, jack rabbits, quail, turkeys, goats, up hills, down ravines all the while with magnificent wild flowers all around us.  Blue, purple, yellow, red, orange, while, gold, I couldn’t get enough.  And just when you thought this view was the best, you’d round a corner to something better.  The road went through cattle farms so we went over a lot of cattle guards and saw cattle on the side of the road.  Lots of creek beds, both dry and running, also.  The sun came out and it was a wonderful drive. 

We then drove a bit east to Hye and the Garrison Brothers Distillery for a bourbon tour.  If you arrive on horseback the tour is free.  We got there too late for the tour but sipped some bourbon outside in a beautiful setting.  This didn’t compare to the bourbon trail in KY but it was interesting.

We found ourselves going past Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park in Stonewall, so why not visit that?  It was a self guided drive through his boyhood home, school, birth place, homestead, through the still working cattle ranch with beautiful Hereford cattle, to the Texas White House Complex and plane hangar and museum.

Back to the condo late, the smell wasn’t too bad, we only have two more nights so we decided to tough it out in the same unit.

Friday, April 24, 2015-Our Last Day

OK, we’re not that tough…we’re moving to another unit!  Didn’t take long to move and we had to start packing up to go home anyway.  This unit’s just as nice as the last one but no smell.  Went to Medina, where we stopped in at the Apple Store.  They sell everything apples, including trees.  They were in the middle of baking pies with golden delicious apples and I’ve never seen pies piled so high.  I would never think of using golden delicious for pies thinking they would be too sweet but they said they were quite tart.  Back to Bandera to Mulberry’s Wine Bar for a drink then to Busbees’s BBQ, which was featured on the History Channel, for some TX BBQ.  We had brisket slow cooked for 16 hours and it was great. 

Back to the condo to try one last time to try to pet the kittens but no luck. Watched a movie we had brought

Saturday, April 25, 2015-Back Home

Elvira said they have to close our previous room for a few weeks and maybe break into the wall to find the problem.  She tried to get me to take the kittens back home, although I know she would miss them. 

Our flight doesn’t leave ‘til 2:40.  We thought about trying to go back to San Antonio Market Square but there’s another parade this morning and traffic is crazy.  Went to another H.E.B. Plus store just to waste some time, then brought the rental car back and got to the airport about an hour before take off.  Both flights were good, layover in Atlanta was just long enough for us to get a nice dinner and then board the last leg.  Love Tampa Airport, our luggage was on the carousel when we got to it, just picked up our suitcases, got on the shuttle to long term parking and we were home by 11:30.  There’s no place like home!!!!


Days 1 & 2-June 1-2, 2015-to Chattanooga, TN

2015-06-01 to 2015-06-02

Days 1-2-June 1-2, 2015-To Chattanooga, TN-Sunny hi 80’s

Day 1-Drove 285 miles in a little over 5 hours.  Stopped in Cordele, GA, south of Atlanta for the night in a little old campground right off I-75.  Not very nice but suited us just fine, we just stayed overnight and then got on the road the next morning.

Day 2-Drove 255 miles in 4-3/4 hours.  Temp is in low 80’s. Traffic in Atlanta is a nightmare, lanes are narrow and drivers are crazy.  Very white knuckled ride.  Campground in Chattanooga has been voted one of the best 50 in the country and is really nice.  It’s built on a Civil War battlefield and has monuments throughout the campground honoring battalions and soldiers that fought here.  After we set up we drove a few miles to a gas station we found on gasbuddy.com that sells diesel for 40 cents less than all the other stations.  We had enough fuel for about 50 more miles so we were really low and it paid to go there.  Back to camp for dinner and then went to a AAA minor league baseball game-The Chattanooga Lookouts vs. The Tennessee Smokies.  The Smokies smoked the hometown Lookouts 9-3 but it’s always fun.


Day 3-June 3, 2015-Chattanooga, TN

2015-06-03

Day 3-June 3, 2015-Chattanooga, TN. Sunny 80.   Turned cool last night, could have used an extra blanket at 4AM but it was buried in the storage under the bed.

Went to the Tenn. Valley Railroad Museum for a train ride from Grand Junction to East Chattanooga on a vintage (1920s) steam train.  Six miles, over three bridges and through a Civil War tunnel to a shop where they restore old engines.  Watched the locomotive disconnect, then turn around on a lazy susan turntable, go to the front and connect for the return trip.  The train yard had a lot of old trains in various stages of being refurbished.

Back into town for lunch at Big City Grille in the Riverfront section of town.  There seems to be seven sections, the Riverfront has the aquarium, IMAX, huge climbing wall, discovery museum and the AT&T field where we were last night.  We then through Southside which has the Choo Choo Hotel which has a lot more than just a hotel, free electric shuttle and some businesses.  Most businesses are in the City Center.  There’s Northside and UTC/MLK also.  We then went to the Bluff View section which is just that-a great view of the Tennessee River and its bridges from a high bluff.  It’s really arty-lots of funky sculptures, I especially liked Icarus leaping off a cliff into the Tennessee River.  I’d love to go back and explore more of this area.  Chattanooga is on the Trail of Tears and also has a zoo, riverboat ride, amusement park and lots of walking/biking trails on the riverwalk.  And lots of Civil War history.

On to the Incline Railway-the steepest in the world at 72.7 degrees.  It takes you to the top of Lookout Mountain, 2126’ high, where the “Battle Above the Clouds” took place in Nov. 1863.  We walked a few blocks past big beautiful homes to Point Park which has magnificent views of the river and city below.  Some canons from the war remain and there are a few statues and monuments around the park.  Also a Battlefield Museum where you can see the battle re-enacted.  Back down the mountain only to drive back up-on a windy, narrow S-curved road that somehow took us back into Georgia for a while, past Ruby Falls and Rock City-too late to see today but maybe on another trip.

We enjoyed Chattanooga- a clean, friendly, safe, easy to walk around town. And nice attractions, historical and otherwise, close by.  Riverbend Festival 2015 starts Friday night down near the waterfront-a 10 day mostly music festival.  We hear the area gets crazy-which might be fun for a while but we leave tomorrow for Nashville.


Day 4-June 4, 2015-To Nashville and more baseball

2015-06-04

Day 4-June 4, 2015-To Nashville and more baseball

Drove 145 miles in 2-3/4 hours. Sunny and 80. Cool again last night, we got the extra blanket from under the bed and it came in handy.

 Entered Central Time Zone so we gained an hour and got into the campground at noon.  We’ve stayed here a few times before-it’s right across the street from the Grand Ole Opry and the Opryland Hotel.  We’re a week too early for the CMA Music Festival but from being here before we know there’s always music in Nashville.  There’s even entertainment at the campground from 7-9PM.  Set up, had lunch and Harry tried to tighten the bikes up (the bikes always give us a hard time). I went in the pool for a while which was much colder than what we’re used to.  Harry lasted about 5 minutes, but once you got used to frozen body parts it was refreshing.

Baseball game tonight was Nashville Sounds and they beat the Salt Lake Bees 4-2.  They have a new stadium, First Tennessee Park, which only opened last month.  It’s built on the same site as the original Sulphur Dell where the Nashville Volunteers played until it was closed in 1963.  To celebrate the return of baseball to the Sulphur Dell the team was in the Volunteers uniform and beer prices returned to what they were in 1963.  The game was packed-over 10,600 (vs. 2100 at the Chattanooga game).  This was the largest attendance since they opened last month.  The parking was horrible-even though it was free because of 1963 prices and we got there over an hour early the closest lot was filled and we had to park over a half hour walk from the field.  They’re building a new 10,000 car underground garage set to open in Oct.  Tell that to my hip.


Day 5-June 5, 2015-Nashville at night

2015-06-05

Day 5-June 5, 2015-Nashville

Stayed in this morning, did some laundry since we have a nice laundry room close to our site.  Looked at maps and campground books and got a handle on where to go next then some food shopping.  Warm today about 88.

The campground is close to the Grand Ole Opry but not near downtown Nashville where all the music is.  We’ve used Jerry’s Shuttle every time we come here.  He picks up at our campground every hour on the hour and picks up at Legends Corner in Nashville every hour on the half hour for the return trip.  Great way to get back and forth.  Downtown (Broadway) was crazy tonight.  Lots of people are here for the CMA Music Festival which starts on Thursday.  Bands are really good tonight.  Some we’ve seen before and some are new to us.  Bars are crowded but you can usually find a barstool or at least a place to stand.  We did some dancing, some drinking and then washed it all down at Mike’s Ice Cream where there’s always a line but it moves fast.  We know it’s time to go home when the crowds are so drunk they start falling into us.  But everybody’s happy and no problems.  The bouncers make sure of that.  We didn't plan on stopping in Nashville this year but we seem to always come back.  It's one of those cities that we really enjoy.


Day 6-June 6, 2015-To Louisville and more GO BATS!!!

2015-06-06

Day 6-June 6, 2015-To Louisville, KY

Drove 178 miles in 3-1/2 hours north on I-65.  Warm again, about 85.  It was really hard finding a campground in Louisville, a big city, but I found a KOA in Clarksville, IN, right over the bridge over the Ohio River separating Louisville and IN.  Lots of construction in this area and it took us a while to find the campground which is right in the middle of an industrial area and you’d miss it if you weren’t looking for it.  Seems it’s the only campground within 45 minutes of Louisville-this one is 15 minutes to Churchchill Downs and 10 minutes to the ball game, perfect for us.  It’s just on gravel but it fits our needs-we’ll probably be away most of the day anyway.  We keep switching from Eastern Time to Central Time (we’re back in Eastern time now but over the bridge is Central) so it’s hard to know what time it is.  Which wouldn’t matter except we have a baseball game tonight and instead of starting at 7:05 like all the other teams this one starts at 6:05, which makes for more confusion.  But we got there OK.  It’s at Louisville Slugger Field, one of the top ten minor league fields in the US and it’s really nice.  The home team Louisville Bats lost to the Buffalo Bisons 11-6.  It really was quite a slaughter.  But fun to watch.  The mascot, Buddy the bat, was very entertaining.  Sun was in our faces the entire game on the first base line but seats were great.  Second row over the dugout.

Game got out early (because it started an hour early) so we drove through downtown Louisville with crazy construction and traffic and then went to Jeffersonville, IN right near our campground.  Nice little town right on the Ohio River where they were showing a movie (Maleficent) on the Riverstage for the kids.  They blocked the street off and also had some vendors under the bridge which was lit and really pretty.  Looks like a nice place to live.


Day 7-June 7, 2015-Churchill Downs

2015-06-07

Day 7-June 7, 2015-Churchill Downs

Hot today, 91, but a nice breeze at the Racetrack.  Yesterday American Pharaoh was the first horse in 37 years to win the Triple Crown.  Today he came home to Churchill Downs and we got to see his name plaque put up next to the other horses who have won.  He won’t be paraded at the racetrack ‘til Sat. so we didn’t get to see him.  But there were 10 races and we won something in all of them.  At the end of the day we lost $3.30, not bad for two people who had never gone to a racetrack before.  We both really enjoyed the races and were surprised at how easily we got in and out, how easy it was to place a bet and get around the grounds.  We thought it would be a massive, confusing venue but it was very friendly and easy to navigate. It was a very pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon. There’s a Kentucky Derby Museum next door but we enjoyed the races too much to leave. Maybe on another trip.  Went back to Jeffersonville for a pizza and found Louisville pizza a lot bigger than we’re used to.  We ordered a medium and gave half of it away to people sitting behind us-it was just too big. Jeffersonville has a nice view of the river, lots of green parks and a nice walking bridge over the river.  Another nice place for families on a Sunday afternoon.


Day 8-June 8, 2015-Harry's Birthday, Casino and Bourbon

2015-06-08

Day 8-June 8, 2015-Harry’s Birthday, Casino and the Urban Bourbon Trail

Rained all last night but turned out to be a nice day-overcast but warm-about 77. There’s a train track right behind the campground and the trains run ‘til about 11:30-thankfully they stop after that.

IT’S HARRY’S 70TH BIRTHDAY TODAY.

We got a late start this morning and drove through historic Clarksville, IN past mansions on the river-some have been kept up, some not.  Got to Horseshoe Southern Indiana Casino in Elizabeth, IN about noon.  It’s owned by Caesar’s Palace and is a riverboat on the Ohio River-4 levels of gambling, restaurants, Envy Lounge and shops. Very elegant place, much more than I expected.  Lots of walking to get onto the boat, up escalators, down escalators, then up again. The slots were fun, over 1800 of them and we won some and lost some, ending up about $13 ahead when we left.  One of the crew sang and danced for Harry singing “Happy Birthday from the Horseshoe Crew”-really friendly bunch of employees.

We’re still a bit confused about what time zone we’re in-Harry’s watch and cell phone are an hour different but it really doesn’t matter because we don’t have to be anywhere at a specific time.

Drove back into Louisville to go on some of the Urban Bourbon Trail-about twenty bars and lounges in downtown Louisville with bourbon tastings.  There’s an area right in the middle of town called “Fourth St. Live” on, what else, 4th St.,  that is closed to traffic and has lots of restaurants, bars, some shops and live entertainment on given nights.  We ended up at Maker’s Mark Bourbon House and Lounge.  Had a flight at the bar-there were 90 bourbons to pick from.  Some traditional, some high rye, low rye, wheat, oh my!  You didn’t just say “I’d like a bourbon”.  And lots of specialty mixed drinks made with bourbon.  I couldn’t decide so I had wine.  If it was your birthday month you were entitled to a free entrée so we stayed for dinner.  Harry had a great rib eye and I had salmon.  If you know Harry you know he’d rather have ice cream than birthday cake so we walked down the street to the Fudgery-a place that had homemade fudge and ice cream.  Their 2 scoops was more like a pint. Back to the RV to pack up-we’re leaving tomorrow. The GPS still gets us lost on the way back to the campground, we find ourselves on closed roads and have to find an alternate way back.

We both enjoyed Louisville more than we thought.  There are still a lot of places we’d like to see here but maybe another time.


Day 9-June 9, 2015-To St. Louis, MO

2015-06-09

Drove 273 miles in 5-3/4 hrs.  Hot-got up to 91.

We got up not knowing if we were going to go north up I-65 toward Chicago or west on I-64 to St. Louis.  St. Louis won at the last minute.  Nice drive through southern Indiana and Illinois-some traffic but not bad.  We wanted to get off the interstate for a while and travel a local road but as soon as we got off there was a sign saying the road was closed in four miles.  So we backed up, drove on a local road for about a mile and got right back on the interstate.  Passed corn and wheat fields, many of them flooded, probably from heavy rains or the murky, muddy rivers.

The KOA campground is actually in Granite City, IL, about 10 miles from downtown St. Louis.  It's on Historic Route 66 and much nicer than the previous KOA even though it's near a big city.  Hard to find campgrounds near cities but I knew that from living near New York.  We're in the shade, nice site, near the office and the pool. Great, quick wifi-the movies I've been trying to load for days loaded in a matter of seconds.  And we're sure we're in Central Time Zone.

There are two casinos in St. Louis but there was another advertised in the campground brochure that was in Illinois about 15 minutes away so we decided to try our luck there instead of going into St. Louis.  It was Argosy Casino in Alton, IL,  a riverboat on the Mississippi, which is really yucky.  The river that is.  And it's at flood level, very high!  The casino was nice, non-smoking, had new slot machines and a few gaming tables.  I think there were more decks but we only stayed on the one we came in on.  After playing for about 2 hours Harry came away $23.00 ahead and I won 22 cents.  And we had a good time.


Day 10-June 10, 2015-St. Louis, MO

2015-06-10

HOT!!! Hit 100 by 11:00.  Glad we live in Florida where it's cooler.

We decided to take a trolley tour of the city which departed from Lumiere Hotel and Casino in town.  It was only a 15 minute ride from the campground to the hotel.  The trolley took us through the city and then the outskirts-lots to see in St. Louis. There's a zoo (the second best in the country), a botanical garden, Chuck Berry statue, Science Center, Planetarium, Union Station, Anheuser Busch plant, St. Louis University, museums, theaters, art galleries, churches and so much more.  And most of it is free-even the parking in town is free.  A free shuttle takes you to some of the attractions. The city prides itself on having so many free attractions. We drove up to Forest Park where the 1904 Worlds Fair took place.  Lots of parks up here, a magnificent statue of St. Louis overlooking a lake, a stainless steel tree named "Placebo", museums and outdoor arenas.  They were setting up for a music festival this weekend.  Again we miss it by a few days.  We saw the Rams football field and Cardinals Stadium-there have been three stadiums for the Cardinals over the years.  They're not playing in town 'til the weekend but this is definitely a baseball town-Cardinals are present all over and every TV has the game televised. And, of course, the Gateway Arch, the tallest man-made monument in the US, which symbolizes the westward expansion of the US.  It stands 630' and is visible wherever you go in the city and for miles in every direction. Stopped for lunch at Pappy's Smokehouse, famous for ribs.  And they were delicious. We then went to The Hill, an Italian neighborhood where even the fire hydrants are painted in the colors of the Italian flag.  Italian restaurants and pastry shops are all over (good thing we're full from Pappy's ribs).  Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola grew up in this neighborhood and there is park named for Yogi.

We had planned on going to a River City Rascals baseball game but it was still over 100 degrees and too hot.  It was too late to go on the Anheuser-Busch Plant tour.  But, oh my, there's the Lumiere Casino which gave us free money to play with.  We quickly lost that and our $20.  Missouri laws state that casinos have to be on water.  The original riverboat casino on the Mississippi River was destroyed. So they built the Lumiere in the same area and pump water from the river under the casino which now sits in 1/8" deep water.  Drove through Lacledes Landing, the only original area of St. Louis from Lewis and Clark times. The cobblestone streets nearly jolted the fillings from our teeth.
Then back to the campground where there's a nice breeze.  I went in the pool which was GREAT and Harry read.


Day 11-June 11,2015-Hannibal, MO

2015-06-11

Day 11-June 11, 2015-Hannibal, MO

Drove 188 miles in 6-3/4 hours.  Cloudy, 85-92, humid, down to 65 by 9PM

We decided we’ve had enough of big cities and interstates for a few days. After we got out of St. Louis on I-70 we headed north on highway 61. Highway 61 is a nice, 4 lane road with no stop lights, 65 mph speed limit and pretty yellow and pink wildflowers in the median. The road is smoother than the interstate, less trucks and traffic and more scenic.  We drove through farms and little towns like Troy and Bowling Green to Hannibal, Mo on the Mississippi River.

Hannibal is where Sam Clemens, aka Mark Twain grew up and the town that inspired Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.  We parked at the Mark Twain Riverboat and walked a few blocks through town to the historic section where there is the Clemens home, the famous white picket fence, Becky Thatcher’s home, a Mark Twain museum and other historic landmarks.  At the foot of Lover’s Leap is a life size sculpture of Tom & Huck, dated 1926 and the first public American sculpture depicting fictional characters.  A woman took our picture at the statue and talked us into having lunch at Finn’s, her restaurant.  We had toasted ravioli, which we learned about in St. Louis.  Seems the chef made a mistake and toasted the ravioli instead of boiling it.  Or so the story goes.  Had a shrimp po boy, too big to eat the whole thing, and Harry had a catfish sandwich.

Back on the road, this time west on highway 36, which we found out goes 3564 miles across the country from New York to San Francisco and is known as the Pike’s Peak Ocean to Ocean Highway or the Appian Way of the US.  Nice road, similar to 61, much easier to drive than the interstates.  Stopped for the night in Bevier, MO.  As soon as we pulled in the site-thunder, lightning and a downpour for about 5 minutes, than the sun came out.  After dinner we walked down to the small restaurant on the property, more like a bar with some food.  We got talking to the owner and during the hour or so we were there the temperature dropped about 25 degrees and it got windy.  They said a big storm was coming and we were under a tornado warning.  They said if things got bad to come back down because the safest place was in their walk-in cooler and there was so much beer in there we wouldn’t care what happened.


Day 12-June 12, 2015-Where to next???

2015-06-12

Day 12-June 12, 2015-Where to go next???

Drove 192 miles in 3-3/4 hours.  Cloudy all day, rain off and on, never got above 65.

The storm last night didn’t amount to much-thunder, lightning, rain for about 20 minutes.

Well, the original plan was to go to Omaha, NE today.  The World Series of College Baseball is starting there tomorrow and we thought we could get to see a game or two. But there’s not a campsite to be had anywhere near Omaha because of these games.  So we again have to change our itinerary.  We’re just about smack dab in the middle of the US so we can go in any direction.  We like highway 36 so we decided to keep going west for a while.

Highway 36 in Missouri has its own share of Americana.  The motto here is “Missouri Highway 36-The Way of American Genius”.  Macon is the home of dial telephone, Marceline is the boyhood home of Walt & Roy Disney.  A few miles west in Laclede, Gen. John J. Pershing lived, in 1928 in Chillicothe sliced bread was invented, Hamilton is the home of J. C. Penney (and the largest selection of pre-cut quilt fabrics in the world). And St. Joseph, the farthest west city in Missouri, is the home of Walter Cronkite, Jessie James and the Pony Express.  And there’s a museum for each one of them.

And then there’s Kansas.  Most of the drive today was through Kansas, where Highway 36 is called The Pony Express Highway and goes down to one lane each way.  Still 65 MPH and still a nice road, not much to see except farms and ranches.  The streams are muddy and swollen and the fields are flooded.  We found out that most farmers have not planted their crops yet because of the rain.  It’s been raining all year and in May alone it rained 27 of the 31 days.  The sky is black and heavy and angry looking.

The one and only campground on this route for miles is in Seneca, KS.  We got here very early-1:30, because the next campground is over 200 miles away.  Took advantage of getting in early and found a Ford dealer for an oil change.   We have no cell phone service here so while we were at the Ford dealer I used their phone to call ahead to the next campground for tomorrow night.  It’s the only one on this road up ahead and there was one site left so I reserved it.

The campground we’re in tonight is in back of a hotel but it’s on a nice little pond that has a 4’ grass carp swimming around in it.  Fishing is allowed but the people I spoke to told me this fish was too big for their lines and no good to eat anyway so he just swims around and around.  They have a rec hall, laundry, meeting room and storm shelter.  I peeked in to see what it was like and hope I never see one again.


Day 13-June 13, 2015-Kansas

2015-06-13

Day 13-June 13, 2015-Kansas Day 1

Drove 218 miles in 5 hours to Norton, KS.  Temperature inched its way to 80, overcast til the sun came out at noon.

We’re still on Highway 36 only now it’s gone down to one lane each way.  Still a nice road.  We passed towns like Home, KS (Motto-“There’s No Place Like Home”), Marysville, “The Black Squirrel City” and Cuba. Fields are more like black mud puddles, nice rich black soil but flooded.  Some corn fields but mostly wheat. Very little traffic, it’s Saturday so no trucks.  Sometimes we’re the only ones on the road.

Took a short detour through Lebanon, KS, “The Geographic Center of the Lower 48 States”.  Nice stone carved monument, small chapel, a picnic table and a great view of the plains. Grass was just mown and it smells great.

Arrived at Prairie Dog State Park about 3:30.  Wonderful Park.  It’s a Wildlife Park, 6500 land acres, 2100 acre reservoir for boating, fishing, a beach, hunting, cabins, an archery range, adobe home, 19th century one room schoolhouse and abundant wildlife.  Sites are big and grassy with a nice covered shelter and picnic table.  We have a good view of the lake and open fields.  Only six sites in our area so we have lots of space.  There are other campgrounds with sites closer together but they look like they’re for seasonal campers.  Harry read for a while, I watched clouds change shape, listened to and watched the birds, orange tanagers, bluebirds, fat robins, wrens, meadowlarks, woodpeckers, etc. and listened to the trees rustling in the breeze.  AAHHH!!!

After dinner we took a ride to the lake and saw mule deer, turkeys, quail and rabbits, rabbits everywhere.  Prairie Dog State Park is named for, what else, the prairie dog town on the campgrounds.  We watched them from a covered picnic area in the middle of their town and had to be careful we didn’t step in one of their holes.  They popped up and down, barking and chirping at us and at each other.  The sun sets late here and at 10:00 PM there was still some light in the sky, but later we gazed at what seemed like millions of stars, some brighter than I’ve ever seen.


Day 14-June 14, 2015-Kansas Day 2

2015-06-14

Day 14-June 14, 2015-Kansas Day 2

Started the day with two Kansas rangers knocking on our door telling us we didn’t pay some kind of fee to enter the park.  Turns out when we checked in they forgot to charge us the daily fee.  So we paid it and talked with them for a while.  They said they spotted two bald eagles down by the water this morning and told us how to find the black widow spiders in the prairie dog holes.  Also told us to be careful of the rattlesnakes that live there.  Guess we’ve seen enough of the prairie dogs close up.

Not a busy day today. We looked at the maps and campground books again and changed our minds a few times about where to go next.  We made a plan for the next couple of days. Harry secured the bikes again and I made some reservations.  We haven’t had cell phone service for a few days and it’s still spotty but I managed to make a few phone calls.
We went for a short bike ride around the park listening to the birds sitting on the wires and in the meadows serenading us.  I think the meadowlarks are the ones with the beautiful songs. We managed to get back just as the wind picked up, the sky turned black with heavy clouds and the thunder started to rumble.  The temperature really dropped fast and then the pouring rain came down for a few hours.  After one thunderous clap it all stopped and the sky started to clear.  The birds started singing again and all was well.  And then we had the most incredible double rainbow where we could see both sides.  I felt like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” and almost broke out into “Over the Rainbow”…almost.


Day 15-June 15, 2015-Nebraska

2015-06-15

Day 15-June 15, 2015-Nebraska

Drove 197 miles in 5 hours.  Gained an hour when we got into Mountain Time Zone in Nebraska.

It poured again last night and was really cool in the morning but warmed up to about 75 when the sun came out.  I played mosquito slayer most of the trip, we had some in the truck who refused to leave peacefully-they’re dead now!

We continued on Highway 36 to Oberlin, KS where we went north on 83 to I-80 in North Platte, NE. Cattle and horse ranches, some corn fields and surprisingly hilly terrain for the Plains.  The smell from the cattle farms is horrible. I guess you’d get used to it if you lived here.  North Platte is home to Buffalo Bill and it’s now a built up city with every store you can imagine and a Buffalo Bill Cody home tour and museum.  We opted to go to Walmart to do some stocking up on groceries, ate lunch in their parking lot and then continued west to Big Springs, NE.  We heard there was a bird flu scare at some farms in NE and a million chickens were infected and chicken and egg prices were going to rise drastically.  As soon as we turned west the land got flat and wet.  I think it’s wetter here than Missouri or Kansas.  Trees along the road were in standing water.  The owner of the campground told us it’s been raining since April, they just got their last crop of corn in last week, which was really late, and of their 2800 acres, 600 acres were in a lagoon and couldn’t be planted.  He said both the S. Platte River and the N. Platte River were at flood level and it got worse when they merged with the Platte River.

We got to the campground at 2:30-early because of the time change.  It has a cattle farm behind it and some chickens, I don’t know if it’s theirs or not.  We’re about 2 miles north of the Colorado border.  Got settled, didn’t unhook-we’re only here one night-Harry checked the tire pressure and we put some laundry in.  Caught up on some e-mails and researched some more places to go-we haven’t had wi-fi or cell phone service for a few days and can’t rely on having it again for a while so I’m taking advantage of it while I can.  Had a hard time getting on line and Harry still can’t connect.  I remember the days when we went camping to get away from the cell phone and now it’s hard to manage without it.  Ah, technology. At 8:30 it's almost dark, we're only 70 miles into Mountain Time.


Day 16-June 16, 2015-To Cheyenne, WY

2015-06-16

Day 16-June 16, 2015-To Cheyenne, WY

Drove 169 miles in 4-1/2 hours.  Temp went from a high of 75 down to 52 at 9PM.  Crazy windy when we left the campground and then again at night.  There were signs on the interstate about buffeting winds.

We drove through three states today.  Started in Nebraska, drove over the S. Platte River and couldn’t believe how flooded and high it was.  Took one of those OOPS! turns and ended up in historic Julesburg, Colorado for about 10 minutes ‘til we figured out how to get back on I-80.  Passed through Sidney, NE where they’re building Cabela’s World Headquarters and the hugest Cabelas I’ve ever seen. Stopped at the Wyoming Welcome Center and got some info and maps and got into the campground about 3PM.  Got finished setting up just before the thunder, lightning and pouring rain started.  We decided to look at maps again and changed our whole itinerary for the next week or so.  Had to call campgrounds and redo reservations but we’re pretty sure we’ll stay with this plan.

We’re early for a lot of events in Cheyenne-there’s a brewfest this week-end and the Cheyenne Frontier Days festival doesn’t start ‘til mid-July.  We were here a couple of years ago so we kind of know what’s around and I’m sure we’ll find things to do.

There’s lightning and rain all around us-I’m sure we’ll get more tonight.  It’s so wet here they had to change their horse trail route to go along a construction road because the trail roads were underwater.  Our site is pretty dry compared to other ones that are sitting in puddles.  The big sky is beautiful, you can see forever.  After dinner we got some gas and drove into town which was almost dead-surprising for a capitol city.  Back to camp to find rabbits running all around.  And the wind blowing.  And it’s only 52 degrees.


Day 17-June 17, 2015-Cheyenne, WY-Bison, Botany and Beer

2015-06-17

Day 17-June 17, 2015-Cheyenne, WY-Buffalo, Botany and Beer

Cold last night, we needed the heat on, but it got up to 80 and the sun is strong.

We’re staying at Terry Bison Ranch Resort.  It’s a working ranch with the second largest bison herd in the US (the largest is Ted Turner’s in Montana) with over 5000 head of bison, camels and emus.  They have cabins, Senator’s Restaurant, Tombstone Cafe, Brass Buffalo Saloon, guided horseback rides, gift shop, banquet facilities, ATV tours, fishing, train rides and lots of things for kids.  The ranch is 28,000 acres, 43 sq. miles and employs lots of people.

We opted for the Bison tour in the morning.  We went down the hill from the campground to another part of the ranch which has a bunkhouse, catwalk above all sorts of animals, a breakfast restaurant, barns and stables.  The bison tour is on a custom built train. One of the owners built the train and other trains on the property-he’s over 80 and over the years he’s built lots of sculptures and climb on equipment for the kids.  The train went out into the ranch and at one point went into Colorado for about 3 minutes before turning back into Wyoming.  We stopped at a herd of about 40 bison and fed them some kind of pellets the ranch provided.  These buffalo weren’t part of the herd that’s raised for meat.  Don’t know how they lucked out.  There was one huge one and you could tell he was the boss man.  There were eleven calves born this year.  We could see our campground in the background and in back of that got a glimpse of the Rocky Mts. which are about 35 miles away.  Back to the ranch we took a walk on the catwalk and saw goats, pigs, horses, llamas, donkeys, ostriches, camels and bunnies.  Great view of the catwalk (also built by the same man).  A lot of the ranch hands are living at the campground, one man I met has been here for 20 years with his family.  There’s a resident squirrel, Toasty, who eats almonds out of your hand.  And a cat, Killer, named because she’s a good birder.  She followed me all around the ranch and wanted lots of loving.  I found out she belonged to one of the ranch hands and stayed in his RV for about five years and then discovered the barns and ever since then decided she liked the barns better than the RV.  Lots of scampering things in the barn to chase.

Packed a lunch, left the campground and found a do-it-yourself car wash before we went to Lion’s Park.  There we found a lake with people fishing, ducks, geese, mini golf, regular golf, an amphitheater and picnic benches where we ate lunch.  Across the street from the lake was the entrance to the Botanic Gardens.  Here were beautiful gardens, roses, herbs, bonsai, orchids, perennials, trees, statues, a peace garden, community gardens, a solar heated and powered conservatory, water gardens and flowers we grew and loved in Connecticut-the lilacs were just blooming, as were the peonies, but the irises and daffodils were gone.

Drove through the historic section of Cheyenne, past the rodeo stadiums, the capitol building with its beautiful gold dome and statues all around it.  Back in town we got on the free carriage ride through town with Belgium Draft horses Beaux and Pete and the drivers Steve and Jared.  We went through town and learned about the early Wild West days of Cheyenne and how it got to be the capitol.  Interesting fact-Cheyenne is the most populous city in Wyoming with 62,000 and Wyoming is the least populous of all the states-600,000 in the entire state.  10% of the population of Wyoming lives in Cheyenne.  Walked through town, found the Freedom Edge Brewery and stopped in for a drink. They’re getting ready for the Brew Fest this week-end.  There was going to be a gunslinger gun fight in town tonight but we decided not to wait-we knew how it ended anyway by looking at the grave markers in the town’s Boot Hill, part of the make believe town where the gunfight took place.

Got back to the campground and tried to make some more reservations for the days ahead.  I must have called over a dozen places with no vacancies.  One campground wanted $143.00 for one night-they must be nuts!!!!  Finally settled on a place we’ve been before-not exactly where we wanted to go but it’s a nice place.  Went to dinner at Senator’s Steak House on the ranch property.  We had to have a bison burger while we’re here.  We danced a bit to the two cowboys providing entertainment tonight and then back to the RV, where somebody was giving us a fireworks show.  Lots of lightning in the sky and it rained for a bit.  Getting cooler again, too.


Day 18-June 18, 2015-Casper, WY

2015-06-18

Day 18-June 18, 2015-To Casper, WY

Drove 191 miles in 3-1/2 hours. Sunny, 85.

Wide. Open. Spaces. Wyoming!  I-25 North is a nice road to travel, not much travel, nice scenery.  Mostly plains scattered with black cows, every now and then a ranch with some brown cows and horses.  Saw a few antelope grazing on the plains.  Speed limit is 80 which wasn’t fast enough for one car that flew past us only to be stopped by a state cop up the road.  And an idiot guy on a motorcycle tried to get between us and a motor home and nearly cut us both off.  But, other than that, a nice ride.  Pretty, fragrant wildflowers on the side of the road and every now and then a huge silhouette on a hill overlooking the interstate-sometimes a cowboy, a jackalope, a dinosaur.  And coal trains, going north, south, east and west.  Some of them have over 100 cars loaded with coal.

As we turned west at Chugwater the landscape started to change and we saw outcroppings of rock and more sagebrush and some trees.  We’re now in the foothills of the mountains and following the North Platte River, which doesn’t seem as flooded as its sister the South Platte River was.  We followed the river all the way to Casper, known historically for where the Oregon, Mormon, Pony Express and California Trails all converged.  Now it’s a big oil producer and we noticed lots of oil wells along the roads, along with cattle farms.  We’re staying at the Fort Caspar Campground, (the original spelling with the a instead of the e).  We stayed here a few years ago and went to see the 5-6’ ruts made by the wagon wheels going west in the 1880’s.  This year we drove through the town and the outlying suburbs.  The town seems spread out with little neighborhoods all over.  We noticed a lot of dead shrubs and trees in front yards and were told it was probably from a dry spell or the extremely cold winters.  Almost every yard had dead bushes.  Drove into town and found the Wonder Bar Brewery, making craft beer in the basement.  Stopped in for a taste, then back to camp and cleaned the kitchen and bathroom.  They look a little better now.  Read for a while before dinner, then took a walk around the campground after dinner.  We’re on the road again tomorrow.


Day 19-June 19, 2015-Thermopolis, WY-Casino and Hot Springs

2015-06-19

Day 19-June 19, 2015-To Thermopolis, WY-Casino and Hot Springs

Drove 178 miles in 6-3/4 hours.  Yes, we did stop.  Needed an extra blanket last night but it got up to 97 during the day.

Long day today, started at 5:15 with dogs barking and a lady yelling at them to be quiet.  Then people started leaving the campground, slamming doors, talking, etc. We took route 20/26 which went through not much except snow fences to keep blowing snow off the highway and lots of pronghorn antelope munching on sage brush.  At a rest stop they had a sign saying Wyoming had 2/3 of the world’s population of these antelope.  I think we saw more antelope than we did people on this stretch of road.  At Shoshoni we took a side trip about 25 miles out of our way to the Wind River Casino in Riverton, WY run by the Arapaho tribe.  For being new players we each got $5 in free play, $5 for the black jack table and $5 at the deli/snack bar.  Because it was Harry’s “birthday month” he got an extra $5 free play and $20 in the restaurant.  We played for a while, had a nice, almost free, lunch then played some more and won enough to pay for the campground tonight.  Stopped at the deli and got some cookies for dessert.

Drove back 25 miles to route 20/26 which turned into Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway, a 10 mile windy, down hill road which followed the Wind River with 2500’ rock walls on either side.  Most of this road went through the Indian Reservation.  There were three tunnels, one right after the other, and in the last one we passed a semi going the other way-a bit scary.

Our campground is at the bottom of the canyon and the Wind River has now joined the Bighorn River in the “Wedding of the Waters” and become even faster flowing.  We’re in Thermopolis, WY, which has the world’s largest mineral hot springs, a dinosaur museum, a bison herd, a bar that the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid frequented and one stop light.

We were checked into the campground by “Dude”-yes, his mother really did name him that.  After we set up we drove about 10 minutes to the Hot Springs State Park-a big park with mineral hot springs pools, a hot tub, a teepee pool (an indoor pool that has a ceiling like a teepee and a slide that comes from outside through the roof and dumps you in the pool), lots of community buildings, a swinging bridge for great views, a bison herd up a huge mountain and all of this is free. The pools are 100% mineral water, (mostley gypsum, but 27 other minerals have been indentified) and people seemed to be enjoying them.  The sulfur smell permeates the entire area. The water comes in at 135 degrees but they keep it at between 94 and 106.  Supposed to be healing, but we didn’t have time to try them.  A lot of roads are underwater in the park and they said they’ve had too much rain too.  Drove up the mountain past gorgeous rock formations, saw a llama farm, a cattle ranch and finally found the buffalo just sitting by the side of the road.  Only a few of them but we saw them up close and personal.  On the way down the mountain we saw a deer that didn’t seem to be at all afraid of us. And the weirdest thing-on the side of a mountain three huge piles of rusted out cars that looked like they had been tossed over the mountain.  There was a private road up above where they could have been tossed from.  Back to camp for a late dinner.  Off again tomorrow.


Day 20-June 20, 2015-To Cody, WY-Whiskey, Dinner, Cowboy Show and a Rodeo

2015-06-20

Day 20-June 20, 2015-To Cody, WY-Wyoming Whiskey, Dinner, Show and a Rodeo

Drove 116 miles in 4-1/2 hrs.  Temperature is only 80 but the sun is strong and it’s hot. Went down to 60 by the time we got home tonight.

Started out by driving about 15 miles out of our way to a little town called Kirby, WY, (population 92) for a tour of Wyoming Whiskey.  It’s a small distillery with only ten employees, five in production and five in the office and sales.  They produce about 40 barrels a week.  Most of the production is done manually and although they were not operating because it’s Saturday we got a really good idea of how the bourbon is distilled from the water and grains all the way to how it’s distributed thanks to our wonderful tour guide, Char, who is originally from Boston and a Red Sox fan.  But we won’t hold that against her.  She gave us a very detailed tour and answered all our questions and really knew her stuff.  The process is very interesting.

We continued on our way via Route 431 for thirty miles, a road with a few cattle ranches and horses but mostly sagebrush for as far as the eye can see.  Then, all of a sudden, we came on beautiful buttes, red and green, and deep canyons.   I can’t describe how beautiful and magnificent it is to see this. Didn’t see much wildlife (except a dead fox) until we got close to a town called Meeteetse and then we saw abundant antelope again and a ranch with beautiful white cattle grazing.  Continued onto route 120 to Cody, WY where we’re spending a few nights. Got in about 4PM and set up.

I wanted to go to the rodeo and we found a deal called the trifecta with dinner and a show at the Cody Cattle Co. which included dinner, a cowboy show at the restaurant and tickets to the rodeo.  The restaurant was a couple of blocks from the camp.  Dinner was all you can eat chuckwagon food-chicken, beef, beans, etc., etc., etc.  Long picnic tables set up family style.  The waiters turned out to also be the entertainment-The Triple C Cowboy Band-very good entertainment.  They finished at 7:30, just enough time to get to the rodeo a couple of blocks down the road which started at 8:00.  It’s called Cody Nite Rodeo and is held every night in the summer.  It wasn’t just an entertainment rodeo, it was for real money and real standings.  The entrants change with the circuit and tonight was all Indian cowboys, men and women, even an under 12 years old category, trying for a spot at the Las Vegas Rodeo in a few weeks. There was bareback riding, calf roping, steerwrestling, saddlebronc riding, steer riding, calf scramble for the kids, team roping, barrel racing and bull riding. And of course, clowns. We sat right over the gates and had a great view.  It was an exciting adventure and I was OK with most of the events but found myself hoping the cows and bulls would outrun the cowboys.  Was chilly at the rodeo and we needed the heat when we got back to the RV.


Day 21-June 21, 2015-Cody, WY-Buffalo Bill and a Powwow

2015-06-21

Day 21-June 21, 2015-Buffalo Bill Cody and the Powwow

Great weather again today-up to 92.

HAPPY FATHERS DAY TO ALL THE DADS!!!!!

We got up early for us and were out of the RV by 9:30.  We went to Buffalo Bill Center of the West Museum which is really six museums-Buffalo Bill-the life and the legend, Whitney Western Art Museum, the Plains Indians Museum, Cody Firearms Museum (over 4000 firearms with a huge exhibit on loan from the Smithsonian), McCracken Research Library and Draper Natural History Museum.  They all have three floors worth of displays and information.  The ticket is good for two days and if we were here tomorrow we’d probably go back.  There’s so much to see and learn.  On the grounds is Wm. Cody’s boyhood home and some other buildings and sculptures.  They have live raptor shows and different tours and shows during the day.  We had lunch there which wasn’t just junk food-I actually got a really good salad.  Right across the street there was a Powwow going on.  It was part of the Plains Indians Museum exhibit and was the 34th annual Powwow held here.  225 dancers from 42 tribes, all in magnificent native costumes participated and each age group was judged separately from the “Golden Agers” to the under 12 group.  The colors, bells, beads, feathers, singing, dancing and drum beating was a feast for the senses.  The drummers sat in the shade under tents erected all around the perimeter of the grass arena and when their tribe danced they would beat the drums and sing in their native tongue.  It was something to see and hear.  Native American vendors were on the outside of the competition circle selling mostly jewelry.

After that we drove through town, just a couple of blocks of souvenir shops, restaurants, etc.  There are sculptures of buffalo decorated all around town and a beautiful “Field of Honor” in front of the visitors center-over 1000 flags in the ground-each one bought for a loved one who served or is serving.  Got gas and stopped in at the local Wal-Mart for groceries.  All this, the Museum, Rodeo, town, Wal-Mart and our campground are on the same road all in about 3 miles of each other.  There’s another Wild West Show in town tonight but we know how it turns out and we both need a little rest so we just went back to the RV.  Made Harry a nice Father’s Day dinner.  About 8:30 a stiff wind came in and the temp dropped to 62.  We’re off again tomorrow.


Day 22-June 22, 2015-Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks

2015-06-22

Day 22-June 22, 2015-Yellowstone & Grant Teton National Parks

Drove 203 miles in 8-1/4 hours.  Cool, about 65 all day

WILDERNESS ALL DAY!!!!

Cody is 75 miles from Yellowstone and all of those 75 miles were scenic wonders.  As soon as we left the campground we started going through mountain passes, through Buffalo Bill Dam, State Park and Reservoir.  We went through 2 short tunnels and then a third long one.  Entered Yellowstone National Park through the east entrance at 10:30 and drove past Sylvan Lake, then into a forest devastated by fire, around hairpin turns, waterfalls, up and down the mountains.  Lots of rockslides, they must have had a bad winter.  Wildflowers are gorgeous and smell great. We stopped at Lake Butte Overlook on the Yellowstone River and saw hydrothermal vents, steaming like the water was boiling.  Lots of traffic and people at Fishing Bridge Visitors Center.  Right past the visitors center we saw an elk in the woods just grazing.  We took Grand Loop Rd. around Yellowstone Lake, a big lake that had whitecaps today because of the wind.  Every turn had another magnificent view in store for us.

At West Thumb Junction we got on John D. Rockefeller Jr. Parkway and pulled over at an overlook for lunch.  We then crossed the Continental Divide at Lewis Lake-7500’ elevation.  The falls were beautiful.

We continued out the south entrance of Yellowstone and then entered Teton National Park.  Passed Jackson Lake, then followed the Snake River.  We stopped at Coulter Bay Campground-there’s a private one (full, of course), and a Federal one that had sites available, no hook-ups, just pull ins.  We knew about this campground but didn’t want to take a chance they would be full so we’ve made reservations elsewhere.  Saw a big buffalo herd on Willow Flats and then continued past Teton Glacier and then out of the park.  The National Elk Refuge is here but none were out grazing.  Also passed National Museum of Wildlife Art which has beautiful statues posed on top of a hill.

Stopped at Jackson Hole and visited Vom Fass Olive Oil Co. and got some vinegars.  They also carried the Wyoming Whiskey we visited in Kirby and made their own whiskies.  Not as many people here as I would have expected, guess they all stayed up in Yellowstone today.  Drove over Teton Pass, very hairy pass, hairpin turns, 10% grade with lots of traffic.  We did this a few years ago during a hail storm so this year it was almost uneventful.  Got into our campground in Victor, ID in the Teton Valley about 5:30.  It’s about 2 minutes after coming down from the mountain so I couldn’t hear a thing but the people who checked us in were used to it so they were patient.

Must be the longest day of the year-it didn’t get dark ‘til almost 10PM.  But it sure got chilly, too.


Day 23-June 23, 2015-Victor, ID

2015-06-23

Day 23-June 23, 2015-Victor, ID

Temperature about 85 but it gets COLD at night.  We needed three blankets and the heat on last night.  But the stars were wonderful.

We stayed here a few years ago and know there’s not a whole lot to do here.  But we didn’t want to do a whole lot for a few days.  Quiet campground even though it’s full, nice little town, nestled in the valley with views of the Tetons all around.  Everybody seems to know everybody.  They have great wifi and it’s nice and quiet.  So we caught up on some e-mails and phone calls.  Great to have technology back again.

Had no idea which way we were going tomorrow so we checked maps and made a few decisions for the next couple of days.  It’s getting hot as we go south (although we hear North Carolina is 107 and FL is in the 90’s and hot.)  Had a bit of a problem getting RV sites and had to go with Plan B but we finally formed a plan.

After lunch we drove to a little liquor store in town where I got some huckleberry vodka in 2013 and it’s lasted me two years.  The owner, Lesli (no e), remembered us.  She used to live on the east coast of FL and remembered conversations we had two years ago.  We bought another bottle and promised to come back in another two years.  Back to the campground and read.  Almost went in the pool ‘til I found out it’s 79 degrees, a bit too cool for me. Weather is too cool also.  Beautiful blue sky, no clouds, about 80 ‘til late afternoon, then the wind comes in and it starts to get cold.  Cooked steaks over a fire, read some more and started the Rummikub tournament.  Can’t believe this is our fourth week and we haven’t played one game.


Day 24-June 24, 2015-To Ogden, UT

2015-06-24

Day 24-June 24, 2015-To Utah

Drove 248 miles in 7 hours.  Temperature got up to 98.

We’re trying to avoid interstates so we traveled on routes 26 and then 89 all day.  Up and down steep grades, zig-zagging around bends at 15MPH, past guest ranches for hunting, fishing, skiing, horseback riding, following the Snake River to where it meets beautiful Palisades Reservoir where we could hear the birds singing and watched the ospreys in their nests watching us. Through valleys and small towns like Swan Valley (pop. 204), Alpine (pop. 164), Smoot (pop.195) and larger ones such as Afton (pop. 1911).  We came to Montpelier where three states come together (Wyoming, Idaho and Utah) and continued south through Paris, ID and came upon a turquoise lake-Bear Lake-20 miles long, 8 miles wide and over 200’ deep.  Drove parallel to this through Garden City, a real touristy lakeside area, and then climbed a steep mountain and viewed it from above-spectacular. They say limestone and calcium deposits give it its color.

Through the Cache National Forest, again up, down, around dizzying curves, gorgeous yellow wildflowers like carpets at the base of the mountains to Logan, UT where we stopped for gas.  The biggest town we’ve seen today.  A big, beautiful Mormon Temple overlooks the city, supposedly one of the oldest temples in Utah.  Back on the road through Brigham City where another temple looms over the city.  We’re camping in Ogden, UT (pop. 82,800), at a nice campground right near the historic 25th St. area downtown.  Took a ride downtown where there are painted horse sculptures on every corner.  We must have seen twenty or more of them on 25th St. alone.  25th St. is lined with antique shoppes, restaurants, boutiques and specialty stores.  The Mormon Temple here had something going on with little girls in frilly white dresses and they all had colored balloons.  Also in town is Weber State University, museums,  a big convention center, parks, bicycle trails and an amphitheater with a concert going on.  We could hear the theme from “Mission Impossible” being played on flutes which sounded very pretty.


Day 25-June 25, 2015-Great Salt Lake and Baseball

2015-06-25

Day 25-June 25, 2015-Great Salt Lake and Baseball

Hot again today-up to 98.

Drove to Antelope Island State Park which is surrounded by the Great Salt Lake which is 75 miles long, 30 miles wide but only 28’ deep at its deepest. The largest natural lake west of the Mississippi, it’s at least six times saltier than the ocean because of all the minerals in the lakes that flow into it and it has no outlet.  The water evaporates and the salt is harvested and sold during the year.  It’s too salty for fish but great for brine flies, mosquitoes and brine shrimp which attract various waterfowl.  The sand is unique to the lake, called Oolitic sand formed by the minerals and brine shrimp decay. There’s one road in and out and the scenery is stunning.  The lake seemed to change color, from blue to white to yellow depending on which way we turned.  Very hazy day, too.  We saw a five antelope in the salt flats and a herd of buffalo near the water’s edge.  Each year they have a buffalo roundup where they count them and sell some. Stopped for lunch at one of the pullovers.  But the best thing for me was at the visitor center.  In the eaves of the building are dozens of bird nests and they all seemed to have babies ready, willing and eager to be fed.  Mama would swoop down and three or four little mouths would pop open.  I got a great video of them being fed.  We only saw three or four other cars on the road on the island.  Off the island was a totally different story, there was a lot of traffic, this is a busy place.  Hill Air Force Base and Museum is near the campground and sometimes we hear jets overhead but never in time to see them.  Back to camp for dinner and then off to the ball game.

Lindquist Field is the home of The Ogden Raptors and less than three miles from our campground.  A small field with fierce fans, they’re the Triple A affiliate of the LA Dodgers.  Tonight they played the Idaho Falls Chukkers and beat them 11-8 in an exciting game.  We usually get seats on the 1st base line but we knew the sun would be on us all night so we sat almost behind home plate, a bit to the left and there was shade.  Good seats, two rows back, but I don’t like the net in my face.  I don’t like to get hit with balls either, though.  The view was great, to left field was the scoreboard with the mountains in the background and the Mormon Temple to the right.  As it got darker the temple lit up.  We drove by it after the game and it was beautiful.  I noticed gorgeous gardens on all sides of it that I didn’t notice in the daylight.  Back to camp to get ready to go again tomorrow.


Day 26-June 26, 2015-Lazy Day To Wellington, UTAH

2015-06-26

Day 26-June 26, 2015-Lazy Day to Wellington, UT

Drove 160 miles in 3 hours.  Really hot today, almost 100.

Took I-15 from Ogden, through Provo.  Busy, busy road.  Lots of trucks, cars and construction vehicles.  Buildings going up everywhere.  The mountains are being removed, relocated and re-arranged to accommodate people, stores and developments.  Lots of shopping centers, outlets and new housing creating new mini-cities.

Got off I-15 at Spanish Fork onto route 6-more our style.  Again up the mountain, down into the canyons, around the bends.  No snow on the mountains in the distance, people told us it was a mild winter, they had very little snow, it all went to Boston and New York.  They suffered because the skiing was no good.  The railroad was with us all the way along with a nice little river.  The mountains are getting rockier and redder and the boulders bigger.  Saw sheep grazing along the side of the road but not many horses or cows.  Pretty little pink flowers all along the side of the road and a few windmill generators.  Biggest towns we passed were Helper, an old mining town and Price, where we tried to get a campsite but they were having a huge Mormon Miracle Pageant for the next two weeks.  We ended up in Wellington on Route 6.  There are a few RV sites behind a hotel.  We pulled in early, about 1PM and only hooked up the electric, no water or sewer, we’re only here overnight.  We had lunch, looked at maps and made some more reservations.  We’re having a hard time finding places now because of the Fourth of July holiday but I think we’re all set now.  We have use of all of the amenities of the hotel and we took advantage of the nice indoor pool which is heated to about 89.  We had it all to ourselves.  It felt nice going in but could have been a bit more refreshing if it was a couple of degrees cooler.  I know, I’m picky..too cold...too warm.  There’s a restaurant attached, “The Outlaw” but we ate in the RV.  It’s hot and we’re parked right in the sun. But the humidity is 12% compared to 78% at home.  Supposed to go down to 65 tonight.  We can’t wait for the sun to go down, but our swim suits dried in about 10 minutes.


Day 27-June 27, 2015-Canyonlands National Park

2015-06-27

Day 27-June 27, 2015-Canyonlands National Park, Moab, UT

Drove 114 miles in 2-1/2 hours to get to the campground.

Temperature was 100 at 10AM and stayed at 100 all day.

Continued on Route 6 through Green River to Crescent Junction then turned south on route 191, flat desert with cliffs in the distance and the ever present railroad loaded with coal on either side of us.  As we neared Moab we started to see red sandstone rocks which got bigger as we got closer to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.  We drove through Moab, a very touristy, busy town to our campground about five miles out of town.  Got in early, before 1PM, so we had lunch and then went to see the sights.  We went to the Moab Visitor Center and got some info about the parks and the town.  Then drove 45 miles back up Route 191 to Canyonlands National Park and drove a total of 113 more miles today.

I now have a new favorite National Park-Canyonlands.  It is amazing.  They describe it as a Wilderness of Rocks.  We stopped at Island of the Sky Visitor Center and saw a short film about how the canyons were formed. Mostly sandstone, some are rounded, some pointed, arches, spires and unusual formations.  Some rocks look like if you sneezed on them they’d start a rockslide. Other places had rockslides that may have happened eons ago. Some had rocks balanced precariously on top of a mountain of other rocks.  There are four sections of Canyonlands, Island of the Sky, the most accessible by car, the Maze, Needles and Horseshoe Canyon.  They’re separated by either the Green River on one side or the Colorado River on the other.  We drove through Island of the Sky.  There’s only one road in and out that goes 17 miles one way and ends at Grand View Point Overlook.  The elevation at this point is over 6000’.  You then turn around and go back the same way.  There’s a five mile offshoot road that goes to a different view.  There are turnouts and overlooks on both sides at different interesting viewpoints and each one is different and astounding. Very dry, they only get 9” of rain a year, usually in a heavy thunderstorm which causes flash flooding and there are quite a few washouts.  In the distant east we could see the snowcapped La Sal mountain range.

We stopped at Moab Micro Brewery for dinner.  The cold beer really hit the spot after being in 100 degrees all day.  I had salmon and Harry had ribs which he said rivaled (or were better) than Cody’s


Day 28-June 28, 2015-Arches National Park

2015-06-28

Day 28-June 28, 2015-Arches National Park

Temp started at 113 and went down to 108 about 5:30.  It’s brutal.

Yesterday we looked down into canyons, today we looked up into arches.  A rock with at least a 3’ hole in it is considered an arch and there are over 2000 of them in Arches NP.  To see most of them you have to hike up the trails but some have viewpoints and overlooks and you don’t have to walk far to see them.  The rocks are Entrada sandstone, created over 3 million years ago but, of course, they change constantly with the weather.

Once we entered the park we stopped at the Visitor Center and saw a short film about the arches.  These films give us an idea of what to look for.  Then we drove up, up, up the curvy road to sandstone formations like Park Avenue, Sheep Rock, the Three Gossips, Tower of Babel, Courthouse Towers and Balanced Rock.  On one side of the road there are huge rocks called The Great Wall and on the other side are petrified sand dunes.  There are also other formations they call fins, bridges, spires, towers, hoodoos and cross bedding.  The arches we saw were Double Arch, Landscape Arch, North Window, South Window, Pothole Arch, Delicate Arch-the arch on the Utah license plate and the arch most widely recognized, Skyline Arch and Sand Dune Arch.  The road is 18 miles long, one way in and out with a couple of offshoot roads to overlooks and trail heads.  At the end of the road is Devils Garden Campground, a nice campground, no hook-ups and full.  Great views.  The greenery is mostly sage brush and some juniper scrub.  Some great views of the Cache Valley and Salt Valley, where we stopped for lunch.  Huge rounded sandstone rocks at Salt Valley. Like Canyonlands NP, every time we turned a corner we had magnificent view.

When we left the Park we drove Scenic Byway 128, which parallels the Colorado River.  There’s a nice bike trail here too and a few campgrounds right on the river.  And some sandy beaches where a few people were wading.  We were in a deep canyon with fallen rocks on both sides of the road, really awe inspiring.  The river was mostly calm and some rafters and boaters were out.  The water wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be and although it looked dirty it was just the red sand that had washed down from the mountains and sat on the bottom that made it look muddy.  About 15 miles down the road we found Castle Creek Winery and stopped in for a tasting.  They had a couple of nice reds and we were tempted to get a glass and sit on their patio overlooking the river but even on the river it’s 108 degrees.  We put 100 miles on the truck today.

Back to the campground and air conditioning.  I watched some Western Tanagers and robins playing in the sprinkler at the site next to us.  And some big hummingbirds going in and out of a big pine tree in back of our site.  I think they have a nest there.  I might have to investigate further.  Everything (including us) is covered with a fine layer of red dust.  Oh, and Harry shaved for the first time in over a week!  I think he was getting used to the mountain man thing.


Day 29-June 29, 2015-Last Day in Moab, UT

2015-06-29

Day 29-June 29, 2015-Last day in Moab

Not so hot today-only 103!!!

Our campground is also a boarding stable and horse farm so there are horses adjacent to the campground but on the other side of where we’re staying.  We’re in an end site and there’s a field in back of us full of birds, all chattering away all day long. We have a great view of the mountains but it’s hard not to have a great view of the mountains anywhere here, they’re all around us.

The city of Moab is only a few blocks long on highway 191 and it’s filled with the usual tourist stuff: T-shirts, souvenirs, ice cream, hotels, campgrounds, restaurants, cafes, etc .  Moab also has a zip-line, river canoe and kayak trips, rock climbing, ATV tours, Jeep and Hummer rentals, lots of mountain bike stuff, sandstone art, helicopter and plane rides, horseback rides, sky diving, rafting, fossil hunting, Indian jewelry, rock shops, etc. And then there’s the regular shops-grocery stores, real estate offices, car washes (lots of car washes because of the dust), banks and offices.  Nice busy town.  We heard they have a long tourist season-from March to November.  There’s also a free shuttle from one end of town to the other.

Today is our last day in Moab so we had some chores to do.  First-laundry, and lots of it.  The laundry at the campground was busy so we went into town.  Much better idea-we needed six machines and managed to get out of there in an hour and a half.  It would have taken us half a day at the campground because they only had three machines.  Came back to camp, unloaded the clothes, made the bed and drove back into town.  Good thing it’s only ten minutes away.  Went to a do-it-yourself car wash and got most of the dust off the truck.  Then on to The Village Grocery Store.  We should know better than to go into a grocery store with the word “Village” in it.  It usually means no selection and high prices, which was the case here.  Bought the necessities and back to camp to unload and have lunch.

There’s another little winery about two miles from the campground so we did a tasting.  Nothing great but the owners were nice people. We took a ride up the mountain from our campground and saw some of the homes there.  There was a nice housing development with villas and some pretty sandstone homes, very upscale looking, mostly rocks for lawns but a few brave homeowners had grass and plants-some even had flowers.  A rock mini-golf but also a nice green golf course and a country club.  And all with a spectacular view.

Back to camp to straighten things out, clean up a bit and read.  Read outside for a while but it’s bloody hot!

Off again tomorrow.


Day 30-June 30, 2015-Four Corners and Ute Mountain Casino

2015-06-30

Day 30-Ute Mountain Casino and The Four Corners

Drove 122 miles in 2-3/4 hours.  Temp went from 82 in the AM to 100 by 5PM

Continued south on Route 191.  Passed the Hole in the Rock-a 14 room house built in a huge rock in the 1940s by a couple who then lived in it.  They now have tours going through it (supposedly it’s just like it was in the 40s).  There’s also a petting zoo and of course gift shop.  Saw another arch, Wilson Arch, right on the highway and then the entrance to the Needles section of Canyonlands.  Continued to Monticello and then turned onto route 491 and into Colorado through towns such as Dove Creek, Cahone, Pleasant Valley and Yellow Jacket.  Flat farm land has now replaced scrub sage and mountains.  Beans and wheat seem to be the big crops here, they proclaim “Home of the Anasazi Beans”.  A lot of the farms look unplanted but maybe they’re getting ready to plant a second crop.  Through Cortez, CO, then on to Towaoc, CO, and the Ute Mt. Casino and Hotel.  We’re staying at Sleeping Ute Campground, adjacent to the casino, owned and run by the Navajo tribe.  Nice big campground, heated pool and sauna.  We got in early, checked in and then got the shuttle to the casino, even though it is quite walkable.  They gave us each $15 in free play, $10 for staying at the campground, $10 each toward dinner in their restaurant and a nice water bottle.  We played for almost two hours and were still ahead when we left.

We then drove 20 miles through nothing to get to The Four Corners, the only place in the US where four states come together-Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico.  There’s a monument, flags of all the states flying overhead and Navajos selling jewelry and souvenirs all around the perimeter.  Really cheesy, but where else but the US can you find stuff like this?  Tourists from all over standing in line in the hot sun (100 degrees) to have their pictures taken while standing in four states at the same time.  I love it!  There were umbrellas at the site to use to shield you from the sun and we just kept passing them around.

Back the 20 miles (still nothing there) to the casino for dinner.  Nice restaurant, good food, spicy enchiladas!  And almost free.  Played the slots for about an hour and came out exactly even. The casino got really busy at night.  Filled up with gas, it’s 25 cents a gallon less than the regular gas stations because we’re on the reservation.


Day 31-July 1, 2015-Mesa Verde National Park

2015-07-01

Day 31-July 1, 2015-Mesa Verde National Park

Hot again…92 at 8500’ altitude.  Very windy last night.

Started the day with breakfast at the hotel restaurant.

Drove about 20 miles to the entrance of Mesa Verde National Park.  From there it’s another 28 miles up a windy road with spectacular views and overlooks and one tunnel to get to where all the interesting things are.  Mesa Verde was established in 2008 as the only National Park to preserve the works of people.  The people are the Ancestral Puebloans who built cliffs in the side of sandstone mountains from 1150 to 1300 AD. They farmed on the mesa above and lived in the cliff dwellings they build below.  The highest point if 8572’ at Park Point Overlook where there’s a fire tower.  There’s a lodge and restaurant and amphitheater on the way up too.

The route we took was Chapin Mesa Loop-a driveable loop that had overlooks at some of the dwellings built into the cliffs.  We were on top of the mesa so you had to climb down steep metal steps to get to the dwellings.  Usually a ranger had to go with you on a guided tour.  There were overlooks from above which we opted to go for instead of the strenuous climb.  The first stop was Cliff Palace-150 rooms built under a mesa overhang that probably housed about 100 people.  It was discovered in 1888 by farmers looking for lost cattle.  The rooms are made of sandstone that they shaped into bricks.  The rooms were quite intricate and efficient. The House of Many Windows was viewed from across the canyon-all you could see was four “windows” in the side of the cliff, but they said there are rooms behind those windows.  Balcony House can only be viewed by climbing down and it’s quite a hike.  Spruce Tree House is the most well preserved.  It can be viewed at the same area as where the wonderful museum is.  A video explained most of what there was to see, where these people came from, how they lived, etc., etc.  The museum had five rooms of artifacts, dioramas, tools, baskets, pottery, knives, etc. to give you a feeling of the every day life of these cliff dwellers. They believe that a 24 year drought made these farmers abandon the dwellings and they went down south to Arizona and New Mexico to join other tribes.  This is still an active archaeological dig and they’re finding new dwellings all the time.  They feel there are about 4000 of them and that more people lived in this area in the 1200s than live here now.  We had lunch at one of the pull overs and then drove back down the hill.

We had planned on going to Guy Drew Winery in Cortez but it was too late by the time we got finished at the Park.  But there was a pottery shop that had a wine tasting bar from this winery and it turned out the owner and vintner, Guy Drew, did the tasting.  Nice man, originally from Tampa.

Back to the campground, the heat, altitude, walking and wine finally did me in.  Took a 20 minute break, then went to the hotel restaurant for a light dinner.  I felt better after the soup and salad bar, Harry had the fish and chips.  Tried our luck at the casino and came out $35.00 ahead.  Very windy again when we got back to the RV, but cooler.  Moving on again tomorrow.


Day 32-July 2, 2015-To the Rockies

2015-07-02

Day 32-July 2, 2015-To The Rockies

Drove 177 miles in 5-1/2 hours.  Temp started at 85 and went down to 53 at the top of the pass.

The truck idiot light that says “Check Coolant Additive” has been on for a few days so we first stopped at Keesee Ford in Cortez and Miguel checked it and reset it.   Seems when you get to a certain mileage they think you should check it.  And we did.

Continued on Route 160 east through Cortez, Mancos, the Hesperus ski area, and over the Animas River into Durango-a quite large city-but we only saw the outskirts, through the San Juan National Forest, past horse farms, little towns nestled in the valleys and Chimney Rock-another home to hundreds of cliff dwellings.  Stopped at a nice pine tree parking lot in Pagosa Springs for lunch.  Pagosa Springs, at an altitude of 7000’, has the world’s deepest hot springs and lots of attractions and things to do centered around the springs and the river that runs through it.  It’s quite a quaint little town, one we’d probably like to come back to sometime.  They were setting up for a 4th of July carnival and the town was really bustling with tourists.

Still on Route 160, but now the road has deteriorated and it’s quite a bumpy ride.  And a storm is coming, we can see the black clouds and lightning ahead.  And we’re about to climb the Wolf Creek Pass-10,859’, over the Continental Divide, on a road that’s twisty and curvy and steep.  And we can barely see in front of us.  And it’s pouring.  And there’s a new rockslide on the side of the road that’s spilled into our lane.  And there’s beautiful pine trees all around us that smell wonderful.  And there’s snow on the mountain in the distance.  And everything is lush and green compared to the stark desert we’ve been in for days.  And there’s the raging river always by our side.  And the temperature is down to 53.  And the rain has caused beautiful waterfalls coming down the sides of the cliffs on the side of the road.  And now we’re at the top and it’s wonderful!  And it’s stopped raining, at least for a little while.  There were two tunnels, the first that said “Tight Curve” and it certainly was.  We’re now in the Rio Grande National Forest on the Rio Grande River.  Our campground is in Del Norte, (pronounced Del Nort, forget the e on the end).  It’s high-over 7500’ in altitude.  Nice little campground right on the Rio Grande River.  Only 26 sites.  Cotton from the cottonwood trees is blowing all around like snow until we get another blast of the storm that wets it all down.  Just about got finished setting up and the wind and rain and thunder and lightning started again but only lasted about a half hour.  Cooled everything down to about 55-the fresh air feels wonderful.


Day 33-July 3, 2015-Great Sand Dunes National Park

2015-07-03

Day 33-July 3, 2015-Great Sand Dunes National Park

Drove 195 miles in 5-1/2 hours.

Chilly last night, we needed the heat and an extra blanket.

Temp started at 52 and went up to 76.

We had visitors at our camp site first thing this morning, a couple in the camp site across the road from us. They saw our “Sugarmill Woods” license plate and it seems they live two streets over from us in Florida.  It’s a small, small world.  I could almost understand it if we were at a vacation destination but we’re at a campground that only has 26 sites in a town virtually unheard of.  Talked for a while and promised to keep in touch.

It started to rain as soon as we got on the road.  We drove through agricultural farms and some horse farms on route 17 to a bumpy road called Lane 6 to Great Sand Dunes National Park.  We could see the sand dunes as we approached with the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range in the background.  The dunes are formed when the sand that gets blown from the San Luis Mountains about 65 miles west of here (where we came from a few days ago) is too heavy to get over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and falls in the valley.  The dunes are about 750’ high and constantly changing. They cover about 33 square miles and are the largest dunes in North America. The only way to get to them is to cross the Medano Creek, which looked really shallow.  This is a holiday week-end and the park was filled with people in the creek wading and playing in the water.  A lot of people were climbing the dunes on the other side of the creek.  There’s an amphitheater, visitor center and nature trails but mostly people are here for fun in the water and on the dunes. We ate lunch and got on our way.

The same mountain range that keeps the sand from getting over kept us from going over.  There is no road over the mountains so we had to go around them.  Up Route 17 to Salida, a quaint little town we stayed at two years ago.  We went into Walmart for a few groceries and it was crazy with people stocking up for the 4th of July tomorrow.

The 50 miles from Salida to Canon City is one of the most beautiful drives we’ve been on.  It’s in a canyon with the Arkansas River constantly on the left and the rocky cliffs on the right.  Tight curves, mostly downhill, some rockslides and beautiful scenery.  The river was swollen, muddy and raging with all the rain they’ve had this year and the whitewater rafting companies were keeping busy.  Three people have died rafting this year because the waters are so rough.  There are a lot of little state parks on the river with fishing, camping, rafting, boating and hiking.  Black clouds and lightning threatened us but we only got a little rain the whole drive.

Got to the campground about 5PM and my sister, Sharon, was waiting for us in the office.  We talked for a while, then had dinner and the delicious watermelon she brought.  Getting chilly again.


Day 34-THE FOURTH OF JULY, 2015

2015-07-04

Day 34-THE FOURTH OF JULY, 2015-Canon City, CO

Chilly last night-but fresh air feels great.

Spent the morning at Sharon's office-There's great internet there and we can catch up on planning, etc.  Figured out where we're going for the next few days.


Day 34-THE FOURTH OF JULY!!! HOORAY!!!

2015-07-04

Day 34-THE FOURTH OF JULY, 2015-Canon City, CO

Temp got up to 80.  Some rain, sun and clouds.

Spent some time in the morning looking at maps and campground books and devising a plan for the next few days.

We’re at the top of “8 Mile Hill” right near Royal Gorge.  We drove down the 8 miles to Sharon’s office where there is real wifi, you know, the kind that works.  I updated the blog, checked e-mails and then we all went to IHOP for lunch, about the only place open today.  Lunch was great, though.  Sat there ‘til the rain let up then we all came back up the hill to the campground and chilled out. Sun came out and it turned out to be a beautiful day.  It’s the first day we actually just lazed around and talked.  Felt good to do nothing for a change.  No fireworks nearby, just the little ones from some campers.

Check out the pictures I’ve posted for today to see just how patriotic this country is.  And I only posted a few of the examples.

Off again tomorrow.


Day 35-To Black Hawk, CO

2015-07-05

Day 35-July 5, 2015-To Black Hawk, CO-What were we thinking???

Drove 155 miles in 6-1/2 hours.

Day started sunny and 70, went downhill from there.  Rainy and 55 most of the afternoon.

Sharon stopped by the campground to say good bye and we got on the road fairly early, about 9:30.

We took the road less traveled again which happened to be Highway 9, a beautiful, easy drive through valleys, up rolling hills, down again into canyons.  We went through Hartsel into Fairplay and South Park City, another place we’d like to come back to.  Little historic town, more than 20 original log cabins built in the 1800s still occupied today.  Through Mosquito Gulch (we won’t be going back there) to Alma, the highest incorporated town in the US.  Up Hoosier Pass, through snow covered mountains to the summit at 11,857’ and over the Continental Divide.  Back down was quite a ride-hairpin turns at 8% grades into Breckenridge, one of the most popular ski resorts in the winter and summer activity resorts in the summer.  Sunday afternoon on a long holiday week-end and it was abuzz with people.  The cafes and restaurants were filled, people and bicycles weaving in and out of traffic-glad to get out of there.  But then we went through Frisco, about the same as Breckenridge, maybe not as popular but it was Founders Day in Frisco and lots of people were out finding things to do.

Got to Dillon and passed Lake Dillon, busy with sailboats, kayakers and fishermen.  Had to get on I-70 for the last fifty or so miles, it’s about the only way from Dillon to Idaho Springs and we immediately came to a halt.  It was stop and go ‘til we got to the Eisenhower Tunnel, a 1-1/2 mile tunnel through Mt. Trelease, and the traffic started to flow through the tunnel.  Til we got out of the tunnel and traffic stopped again.  It took us three hours to go 30 miles.  Tried to get off once and go local roads but we just ended up backtracking a few miles and having to get back on the interstate anyway.  We did find cheaper gas though so it was worth our while.  And we got to wave to the people on the Silver Plume train.  Fast running river to our right with rafters going down and a few zip lines going over the river.  We should have realized it was the last day of a long holiday week-end in one of the most popular vacation spots around here and people would be going home.  Had we thought about it we probably would have spent another day in Canon City.

Once off I-70 we started the climb up “Central City Casino Parkway” 15 miles up a steep, windy road that leads through Central City and Black Hawk to our campground.  Didn’t get there ‘til 4PM and they tried to put us in a short site.  They almost lost a couple of their beautiful aspen trees.  So they moved us to a nice pull-through.

Set up, had dinner, and drove back down to Black Hawk.  Instead of the Parkway we took a shortcut they told us about at the office, 3 miles down a dirt road that leads right to Ameristar Casino’s parking lot.  This is the casino that Harry and I won big at a few years ago.  It was really busy, filled with people but it’s a non-smoking casino which was really nice.  We couldn’t find the same machines but tried our luck at others. I won about $80 at the first slot I tried and managed to lose all but my original $20 by the time we left.  And we didn’t win the Harley-Davidson they gave away.  But there’s always tomorrow.


Day 36-July 6, 2015-Black Hawk, CO

2015-07-06

Day 36-July 6, 2015-Black Hawk and Central City, CO

Rainy, wet, foggy cold day. Never reached more than 47 degrees.

The campground is Base Camp at Golden Gate Canyon about an hour northwest of Denver.  It’s over 9000’ in altitude and I’m having a hard time breathing, etc.  They say to slow down, drink water and take it easy.  I haven’t perfected the slowing down, taking it easy part yet.

After breakfast we went down to the office and laundry room, put in some laundry (they charge double what most campgrounds charge) and I borrowed the office land line phone to make a few calls.  We also had wifi in the laundry room so we caught up on some e-mails.  Back in the RV we read for a while, then had a late lunch and ventured into Black Hawk again.

Black Hawk is a tiny town, has innumerable casinos, big and small, some with restaurants but most just have slots and tables.  No businesses other than casinos, numerous parking lots and they’re building an huge parking garage right outside of town and thousands of slot machines.  There’s a free shuttle that takes you from casino to casino in Black Hawk and Central City, a mile away.  It’s originally a gold mining town and there are still some active mines in the nearby mountains.  In Central City, there are pretty Victorian houses up on the hills, an active opera house totally renovated back to 1878 and Main St. is preserved as it was in the 1870s. It’s a National Historical District. Central City is 1 mile square (and advertised on a big sign as “The Richest Square Mile on Earth” and Black Hawk is smaller.

We went to Reserve Casino-“The Loosest Slots in Black Hawk”-well, not for us it wasn’t.  Left there and went to Central City to find dinner.  Hard to find-some of the casinos that had a restaurant only had food on week-ends. And both towns were very empty-seems everybody was here over the long week-end and now they were in a lull.  We went to a Dostal Alley Brew Pub, had a beer and heard about Johnny Z Casino’s restaurant.  If you join their Player’s Club (of course we did) you get either a prime rib dinner or rib dinner for $7.77.  Food was really good and we got a free ice cream cone at the adjoining Starbucks.  Harry redeemed himself on the slots but not me.  I went home a loser.

It was so foggy on the way back up the mountain we almost missed seeing the deer on the side of the road.  And cold, and wet and rainy.


Day 37-July 7, 2015-Goodbye to the Rockies

2015-07-07

Day 37-July 7, 2015-Leaving the Rockies

Drove 173 miles in 2-3/4 hours.  Warmer, got to 72 but still overcast.

Needed two extra blankets last night and the heat on in the RV, along with a space heater.  It was 47 when we got up, don’t know how cold it got last night.

We’re heading east on Route 119, through Pickle Gulch and Lump Gulch, down the mountains around the bends to Nederland where we met up with Boulder Creek, a fast running beautiful creek that we followed all the way into Boulder.  This is where we should have thrown the GPS out the window and followed the map we had planned, but one wrong turn in a busy city trying to maneuver an RV was all it took to make us change direction.  We ended up on Northwest Parkway to Denver, a toll road which took us out of our way about 25 miles, then north on I-76, one of the bumpiest roads we’ve been on.  Finally got off and found a local road into Sterling, where we’re spending the night.  As soon as we left Boulder the terrain got different, no more mountains, not even any hills, just wheat and corn fields and cattle ranches.  And wind. We’re still at 4500’ in the high plains but that’s almost a mile lower than where we started this morning, so I can breathe better. But I’m kind of sad about leaving the beautiful rugged Rocky Mts.

Had to look at maps and campground books again and plot a different course.  There aren’t many campgrounds in Nebraska the way we wanted to go and the ones that are there are either too small to fit us or full.  But we’ve got another plan.

We’re not unhooking tonight, just spending one night and moving on tomorrow.


Day 38-July 8, 2015-Nebraska

2015-07-08

Days 38-July 8, 2015-Nebraska

Day 38-Drove 224 miles in 5-1/4 hours, most on I-76 which, after about 50 miles, became I-80 in Nebraska.  Rainy and cloudy all day, got up to 73.  We wanted to go on a different road but there were no campgrounds for 400 miles so we decided to take the easy way through Nebraska.

We had the local paper delivered to our campsite, just like in a hotel.  First time that ever happened.

Lost an hour when we entered Central Time Zone.  Not much else happens in Nebraska, corn and wheat continues to grow, cows get fat, the Plains get flatter.  Got off the interstate about 30 miles from our campground to try a local road, Route 30, Lincoln Scenic Highway.  Not too scenic, but we found a Super Wal-Mart in Lexington and stocked up on food for a few days.

Perfect drive to start a book on tape, so we listened to a David Silva novel for a while.  Campground is just an over-nighter, pull in, pull out, right off the highway.  Got in about 3:30, rather early considering we lost an hour with the time change, but the next campground is about 100 miles ahead and we don’t want to go that far today.  Had elk and lamb burritos for dinner that Sharon gave us.  Took a walk around the campground, not much to see just a big corn field in the back.  Read for a while, I’m still trying to get into a book.  Continuing on tomorrow.


Day 39-July 9, 2015-Council Bluffs, IA and Omaha baseball

2015-07-09

Day 39-July 9, 2015-Council Bluffs, IA and Baseball

Drove 210 miles in 4-3/4 hrs.  Temp got to a perfect 85 degrees.

Started on Highway 30, the not-so-scenic scenic road through small towns like Kearney, Gibbon, Shelton and Alda, always with corn fields on our left and the Union Pacific trains on our right.  When we got to Grand Island we picked up I-80 into Lincoln, the capitol and larger city where we stopped to get gas and eat lunch.  Drove north into Omaha (lots of constructions and traffic), over the funkiest bridge I’ve ever seen other than in a sci-fi movie to Council Bluffs, IA.

Both Omaha and Council Bluffs are big cities and therefore no campgrounds except Bluffs Run RV Park which happens to be behind Horseshoe Casino.  So we’re forced to stay there.  We set up, got back in the truck and went to Camping World to get a part for the RV then drove back to Omaha (stopping at Cracker Barrel for dinner) and Werner Park for some baseball.

The Omaha Stormchasers are the AAA affiliate of the KC Royals.  They’re back to back 2013/2014 National Champs and are in second place this year.  Big stadium, crowded with avid fans, mostly because they’re playing the Iowa Cubs, one of their biggest rivals.  They have 6 mascots, among them Votex (a gray tornado), Stormy (with a lightning rod on its head), Casey (a blue lion type thing), Cappy (a bottle cap-who knows why), and Sizzle (a T-Bone Omaha steak).  Iowa State and Iowa College were both represented by their mascots, too.  The announcer always kept the fans engaged and it was a really fun night.  And the home team won 7-4.  Back through the traffic, they had I-80 closed, and we got lost for a while but managed to get back.


Day 40-July 10, 2015 Iowa Casinos and Wineries

2015-07-10

Day 40-July 10, 2015-Iowa Casinos and Wineries

A bit overcast but in the high 70’s.  Nice day.

Started the day at the Horseshoe Casino.  It’s owned by Harrahs and also has a greyhound track.  We signed up, played a few slots and then left to go wine hunting.  We heard of a few wineries but they were all at least a half hour away.  But it was too early for wine anyway so we decided to take a ride through rural Iowa.  And rural it was.  Corn, corn, corn.  Miles and miles in the middle of nowhere on gravel roads with nothing but corn fields.  Our first stop was Kings Crossing Winery which was closed and for sale.  The next stop was a half hour away down more gravel roads.  Just when we were thinking we were lost we saw a small sign for the Prairie Hawk Winery.  We learned that Iowa has mostly sweet wines, which we don’t like.  But they had one dry red that was OK.  The owner told us about another vineyard, Prairie Crossing, in Treynor, again about a half hour away. Again on a gravel road where just as we thought the directions he gave us were bogus we saw a sign.  Again, mostly sweet wines, but a pleasant view and nice people.  Here we got a brochure for the Loess Hills District Wine Trail and info about a new vineyard, Bodega Victoriana, in Glenwood.  Yes, a half hour away.  This winery is the largest in Western Iowa and was only opened four weeks ago.  They only had two dry reds, but the Bull’s Blood was great.  Drove back to the RV, miraculously only a half hour away.  We’re getting used to the new traffic and construction patterns.

After dinner we decided to try our luck at another casino, Ameristar, which is a riverboat on the Missouri River.  There are three floors and all of them were noisy, crowded, smoky and unlucky.  There’s one more casino in town, Harrah’s, right across the street from Ameristar but we know when to call it a night.

Off tomorrow.


Day 41-July 11, 2015-On the road again

2015-07-11

Day 41-July 11, 2015-On The Road Again

Drove 217 miles in 5 hours.

Hot, humid, got up to 93.

We almost finished the book on tape we’ve been listening to.  We only listen when the road gets “boring”.

Quiet day on the road, it’s Saturday and not much traffic at all on I-29 south ‘til we got to Kansas City, then it picked up a bit.  Got on Route 71 and stopped at the only campground we could find.  It’s in Peculiar, MO.  Funny name, but a nice campground.  Great wifi-we haven’t had that for a while.  Made some reservations for the coming days and enjoyed some peace and quiet after the rowdiness of the casinos.  We’re only here overnight.


Day 42-July 12, 2015-Branson and Million Dollar Quartet

2015-07-12

Day 42-July 12, 2015-Branson, MO Day 1-Million Dollar Quartet

Drove 189 miles in 4-1/2 hours.  Hot again-96 today.

Easy drive to Branson on I-49 and then Highway 13.  We stopped in Osceola at the Osceola Cheese Co., home of over 250 varieties of cheese and tasted a lot of them and called it lunch.  Drove through Lowry City-“Where the Ozarks meet the Plains” and the terrain got very hilly again.  We’re in the Ozarks and Branson has some really steep hills and slopes.  We finished the book on tape and started another but as we got closer to Branson we started reading all the billboards and couldn’t concentrate on the book.  Got to the campground about 2:30 and set up-really nice site-shaded and in the woods but walking distance to the pool.  It’s a Passport America campground so we pay half price and it’s really reasonable.

Had an early dinner, remember lunch was only cheese samples, then booked a few shows for the coming few days.  The campground office gave us the name of “Terry’s Tickets”-he’s cheaper than the visitor center where we’ve gotten tickets before and he delivers them right to our campsite.  Tonight’s tickets he had waiting for us at the box office.  First we went to the car wash and got the truck semi-clean-it’s got so much crud on it it’ll take a few more washings to get it really clean.

The show we picked tonight was “Million Dollar Quartet” at the Welk Theatre less than a mile from the campground.  It’s a TONY winning show about one night-Dec. 4, 1956, when Sam Phillips, owner of Sun Records had a “jam session” with Elvis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis-the only night the four of them were together.  It was in the early days of their careers, before they made it big.  Nice story, great singing.  I enjoyed the end when they just sang rather than the acting part, although they did sing then too.  It was like a tribute to the four singers.  Not a lot of overhead for this production, no set changes, just the recording studio that used to be a garage.  No fancy costumes and no costume changes.  No glitzy lighting, I think they tried to make it look like it would have looked at the time.  No intermission either, which is unusual.


Day 43-July 13, 2015-Branson-Pierce Arrow and SIX

2015-07-13

Day 43-July 13, 2015-Branson, Day 2-Pierce Arrow & SIX

Hot again, 100, but everyone says we’re lucky we weren’t here last week when they had torrential rain all week.

We found a nice place that cut mens and womens hair and did nails all in the same shop so we both got a badly needed haircut and I got a pedicure.  Right across the street was a Price Chopper grocery store so we stocked up on some food.  There aren’t too many everyday services in Branson, it’s geared toward the tourist.

Back to the campground, unloaded groceries, had lunch and picked up tickets for our shows today.  First show was at 3:00, Pierce Arrow at the Pierce Arrow Theater, about 10 minutes away.  Pierce Arrow is a quartet, nice voices, they sang everything from country and gospel to pop, patriotic and Broadway tunes.  I recognized the tenor as one of the “Twelve Tenors” we saw a couple of years ago.  Guess the entertainers go from job to job.  One’s a former preacher and the basso and owner held the Guinness record for 18 years for holding the lowest note the longest.  Don’t know who replaced him.  They also had a woman, Shonna Bonds, singing who was really good and a comedian, James Sibley, who had me in stitches every time he came on stage.  A very nice show.  They have a different evening show that we can see at half price because we came to this one but we probably won’t have time. Great seats, second row, dead center.

Didn’t get out of the show ‘til after 5 and the next one is at 7:30 so we decided not to go back to camp for dinner but instead went to McFarlain’s, they have a family restaurant with good comfort food, IMAX Theater, gift shops and entertainment venues.  Then off to Mickey Gilley’s Theater to see SIX.

We’ve seen this group before, a group of six brothers who not only sing but make the sounds of the band too.  They advertise as “Six Voices. Zero Instruments. All Music”. They’re not young, the oldest is probably mid-50s, but really energetic.  For a joke, after a strenuous number, they bring out an oxygen tank for him.  The “drummer” is great, you’d swear there were drums and cymbals somewhere in the theater but it’s just him.  They put on a really good show, always fast paced, some comedy, some sibling bantering and lots of music.  They sang songs from the 50s through today.  They even did instrumentals like “Tequila” and “Wipe Out”.  With their voices.  And, of course, some religious and some patriotic songs, too.  This is Branson, after all.  They each have a signature color and dress in that color through most of the show.  And they each have a custom Camaro tricked out in their color parked outside.  Great seats again, center, not far back.


Day 44-July 14, 2015-Rick Thomas, Illusionist & Shoji Tabuchi

2015-07-14

Day 44-July 14, 2015-Branson, MO Day 3-Rick Thomas & Shoji Tabuchi

And they say Florida’s hot and humid!  Branson’s got it beat! Not as bad as yesterday, though, only about 90.   Threatened to rain most of the day.

Did some laundry and some housekeeping in the morning.

Two shows again today-First Rick Thomas-Illusionist at the Andy Williams Moon River Theater.  We saw him last year and were amazed and this year was no different.  Some of the illusions were the same as last year but a lot of new ones.  Don’t know how he does them which I guess is the point.  He gets the audience involved and has a good personality. He’s got one really good assistant and six men and six women dancers to entertain throughout too.  Harry got up on stage once to confirm that a trick was real and couldn’t figure out how it was done.  I really can’t understand the bird tricks, where do they all come from?  He’s retired his Bengal tigers to a preserve in NEand replaced them with two Pyrenees dogs, Thunder and Lightning, who were just puppies last year when we saw them. They’re now 170 pounds and gorgeous.  They’re still in training but were in a couple of the illusions. Center seats again, nice.

Back to the RV for dinner then off to the Shoji Tabuchi theatre.  Shoji Tabuchi is a 71 year old violin player who was trained in classical violin.  He met Roy Acuff in Osaka and really got into country music, came here with $500 in the 60s and has since played at the Grand Ole Opry and around the world.  He plays country, patriotic, polka, rap, zydeco and rock music, including Michael Jackson, Def Leppard and Justin Bieber.  And, of course Orange Blossom Special, complete with a miniature steam train that runs around the stage. He built the theater, a very elaborate, 2000 seat arena. The restrooms have been featured on 60 Minutes and Good Morning America and are world famous.  The mens room has a pool table in it and Harry said you pee on ice in the urinals.  The ladies room is a maze of elaborately carved wood doors, chandeliers, sinks, etc.  They say they change the décor every season and at Christmas there are six Christmas trees in the loo.

And the costumes!  Every number has a different, sequined and sparkly jacket.  His jackets make Liberace look like he was wearing rags.  After every song three people come out and help him into a different jacket, each one more elaborate than the last and each one more fitting for what he’s playing.  He’s accompanied by a seven piece band, and four male singers and dancers and two women, one of which is his step-daughter, Christina, who shares billing with him.  She’s really into country music and looks and sounds a bit like Carrie Underwood.  They do all kinds of numbers, one with a 2500 pound Taiku drum, especially made for his show.  He did a few Christmas tunes, complete with penguins, soldiers, little drummers and fake snow.  He became a US citizen in the 70s and I haven’t seen a more patriotic show than his here.  Don’t know what we expected this show to be but it sure was different and entertaining.  And, again great seats, fifth row back, smack center.


Day 45-July 15, 2015-Branson-The Duttons & IT

2015-07-15

Day 45-July 15, 2015-Branson-Day 4-The Duttons & IT

Hot again, 95. And Humid!

After breakfast Harry climbed up on the roof and fixed one of the vent covers that was coming loose and I went back to the maps and books.

Our first show was at 2PM-The Duttons, a family of entertainers that we’ve seen here before. Mom, Dad, 5 brothers and sisters (there are others), assorted spouses and 28 grandchildren of every age performing.  Been in Branson for 27 years and even the little ones have a part.  They can play anything with strings and have been voted best fiddler, best instrumentalist, best patriotic tribute, etc., etc., etc.  They have their own theater, hotel, restaurant and big gift shop right on the premises and make their own fudge.  At intermission all of the family members are at the concession selling soda, popcorn, etc.  And the brothers help park cars.  One of the brothers has an alter ego, Julio, supposedly a cousin they’d rather disown.  He does a skit with another brother where he plays horns attached to his jumpsuit while the other brother plays the fiddle.  And he provides comedy throughout the show.  And I think the best part is at the end when the each play a fiddle that somebody else is holding.  Great entertainment.  They all seem to be having a really good time up on the stage and it’s infectious. Our seats were fifth row, dead center again.  I’m getting used to the view from these seats.

Back to the campground I went in the pool, then dinner and on to our next show.

For our last show in Branson we went to “IT-Starring the Hughes Brothers-Little Word-Big Show”. Five brothers, their wives, four adopted sisters, and 37 nieces, nephews, all ages and sizes.  Dad died last year but Mom still produces the show.  This show is the “World’s Largest Family of Entertainers”, they all  sing and dance.  IT’s been in Branson for 20 years and IT was awarded Best Show and Entertainers of the Year.  Don’t think I agree.  IT was OK, the brothers sang well and some of the other family.  The kids, even the littlest ones, had to learn lots of dance moves and songs and they did it well.  And the little ones were really cute.  One of the little boys, probably about 3 years old, let out a big yawn during a song.  They all had a part to play, they didn’t just stand there and smile.  But I liked the quality of the Duttons and SIX better.  But they sure did fill up the stage, even though some of them were missing, a lot of the boys were off to Boy Scout camp for the week.  And one wife just had another baby-their ninth. The family works in the concession and some of them were ushers before the show.  We sat closer tonight, center, row 2 on the aisle.

The theater is right next door to Andy’s Frozen Custard so walked over and got a treat.  Nice night, almost a cool breeze.


Day 46-July 16, 2015-Branson-NO SHOWS TODAY!

2015-07-16

Day 46-July 16, 2015-Branson

Yes, hot again-98.

Seven shows in 3 days is a little much for us so we took it easy today.  There’s so much to do here, the Titanic, Ripley’s, Hollywood Museum and a lot more attractions.  Then there’s Silver Dollar City, a theme park about the wild west. Table Rock Lake has all kinds of water amusements and there’s shopping, shopping, shopping.  We went to Branson Landing on the far end of the “strip” to Historic Branson.  Lots of little shops tucked into a few blocks, all centered around the main attraction, Dick’s 5 & Dime, an old fashioned 5 & 10 cent store.  You can find anything in Dick’s, new stuff along with nostalgic toys and odds and ends.  I bought another wind chime ‘cause you never have enough wind chimes.  One end of town is being redone and the merchants are mad because it’s taking longer to finish than they expected….and they expected 6 years.  This is year two and they’ve run into problems so it’ll be a long time before it’s back to normal.  We saw Jak Knudsen, one of the SIX brothers going into Bob Evans Restaurant and heard that the magician, Rick Thomas, married Tara, his assistant last week.  Must be a small town when we start hearing gossip.

Heard about a wine, whiskey and cigar bar at “Top of the World Golf Resort” but when we got there found out they didn’t open ‘til 5 and it was only 3.  So we went to the sure thing, Lindwedel Winery, on the other side of town.  We were here last year and liked their wines, especially the Norton.  On the way there we pulled off a side road and found ourselves a nice little lagoon to have lunch by.  Table Rock Lake is very high because of all the rain they’ve had and this little spot was created by the overflow.  Some locals were rafting and kayaking and just cooling off in it.  This lake is controlled by dams so it’s not as flooded as the other lakes around but it was still high.

On the way back we stopped into another campground we were looking into here and were glad we didn’t end up there….way too many tree to navigate around and it’s far from the action.  Found a Walmart and stocked up again and then back to camp.  I went in the pool for a while, the water’s gotten even warmer, probably hi 90s but it’s quite refreshing anyway.  Late dinner and packing up to leave tomorrow.  We thought about staying another day (which is unusual for us, we’re usually ready to leave after two nights) but decided to keep some things to do for next time.


Day 47-July 17, 2015-To Arkansas

2015-07-17

Day 47-July 17, 2015-To Arkansas

Drove 48 miles in 1-1/2 hours.  Hot again, 95.

Within 10 minutes of leaving the campground we saw six Duck Tour vehicles.  We’ve been seeing at least one of them every day that we’ve been here but never six in ten minutes.  Must be a thriving business too, they always look filled.  Maybe next time we’ll do one of their tours.

Short drive day, over the dam, up, down and around the rolling mountains like a rollercoaster, the engineers made no attempt at leveling out these mountains, they just went with the terrain.  There are no steep grades like in the Rockies, just a nice gentle roll and a few 30 MPH curves.

Got to the campground right after noon and set up.  We were met by a deer crossing the street right before the campground entrance.  It’s in Holiday Island, a development where we own a piece of property, in Eureka Springs, AR.  We can camp here really inexpensively and it’s a nice campground.  Only about 30 sites, very few are occupied, quiet except for the incessant cicadas.  We can use the two pools, two golf courses, marina, club house, etc. but we probably won’t.  It’s right on Table Rock Lake, at the other end from Branson and a beautiful area. It’s just over the MO line in AR, so close that the GPS shows our campsite right on the state line.

We had lunch and then did nothing the rest of the day.  I’m still trying to get involved in a book that’s not holding my attention.  Harry seems to be enjoying his. When we first decided to Branson we thought we would just chill out there, but that didn’t happen.  Maybe this will be our relax and do nothing stop.


Day 48-July 18, 2015-Eureka Springs, AR

2015-07-18

Day 48-July 18, 2015-Eureka Springs, AR

Got up to 92 but a wonderful breeze all day.  Not very humid.

We started the day trying to find our little piece of property and think we found it but we’ll check with the office on Monday and make sure.  We stopped at the café at the country club and had a nice lunch on their patio overlooking the golf course.

Eureka Springs is only 15 minutes from Holiday Island and has a lot to offer.  It’s the only town in American where the entire downtown is on the National Register of Historic Places.  There are 63 springs within the city limits, has over 230 streets that wind up and down, around and around hills.  There are over 250 painted Victorian lady houses, most now are B&Bs and historic hotels.  Lots of restaurants and 400 local artisans selling sculpture, jewelry, pottery, paintings, fountains, etc. in dozens of shops up and down the hilly streets.

We started at Christ of the Ozarks, up Magnetic Mountain around a twisty road with no shoulders to the top where they perform “The Great Passion Play”.  There’s also a Bible Museum, Jerusalem Chapel, Sacred Arts Museum, Church in the Grove, Potter’s Theater and my favorite, a 10’ x 10’ section of the original Berlin Wall, sent here as one of only a few pieces to come to the US.  I couldn’t believe I actually touched the Berlin Wall, quite an experience.

The Christ of the Ozarks statue is 67’ high, the largest statue of Christ in North America.  It was built in 1966, every inch built by hand-not poured, the face is 15’high, it weighs over two million pounds, the arm spread from fingertip to fingertip is 65’. It sits high on the mountain overlooking the Victorian Village of Eureka Springs.

At the foot of the mountain is Magnetic Springs, the only spring we stopped at although we passed by many others.  There was a water fountain in a beautiful garden and, up above in a grotto, the actual spring.  The water was ice cold and very refreshing but I only soaked my arms in it.  On to Thorncrown Chapel, a glass and wood chapel built in the woods.  Gorgeous architecture in a beautiful setting.  There was no wedding today but it must be beautiful when there is one.

Keel’s Creek Winery was on the way back down the mountain into town so we stopped and sampled a few of the local wines.  We found out the owner and one of the servers lives in Holiday Island so we talked to them for quite a while about local things.  Drove up to Crescent Hotel, supposedly haunted but we didn’t go in.  The historic loop took us on narrow, steep, windy streets all through the village.

Found a car wash that could handle the truck so we tried to get it clean-I think it’ll take a few more washes before it looks clean again.  Round and round the mountains again and we found one of the restaurants we heard about, Ermilio’s.  Nice little Italian family restaurant with old family pictures on the walls.  Some of the pictures looked like the same people I have pictures of from my grandparents’ time and, in talking to the owner, found out his family is from Sicily, they moved to New York for a while and lived in Brewster, NY and Danbury, CT.  We reminisced about the snow for a while and we were both glad we now live where there isn’t a lot.

Back to Holiday Island we checked out the Rec Center-2 pools, tennis courts, basketball court, pickleball court, ping pong, fitness center, golf, etc. etc. The bigger pool is solar heated but it’s been so hot they turned off the heat and have to empty some of the water and fill it with cold every day.  We didn’t ask about the smaller one, I guess it’s warm too.  Drove by the marina-lots of boats on the lake today and then back to the RV, had a nice fire and listened to a whippoorwill in a tree above our heads join in with the cicadas.


Day 49-July 19, 2015-Bentonville & Springdale, AR

2015-07-19

Day 49-July 19, 2015-Bentonville and Springdale, AR

Hot-99, not too humid.

We took the shortcut to Bentonville, over a rickety one lane wood bridge over Beaver Lake to Beaver, AR.  The water was almost up to the bridge level.  Round and round the mountains, up and down again into Bentonville, AR, the town that Sam Walton built around Wal-Mart.  The original Walton’s 5 & 10 houses an ice cream parlor, some vintage products for sale and a big Wal-Mart museum, everything you ever wanted to know about Wal-Mart and then some.  There’s a big square in the middle of town surrounded on four sides by shops and restaurants and that’s about it for downtown Bentonville.  The outskirts have mushroomed into a big city and wherever you look you see Wal-Mart this or that.

We stopped for lunch at Orchard Park, a big parks and rec area with lots of sports fields and then went down the road to Crystal Bridge Museum of American Art, with room upon room of American art dating from Colonial times to the present.  The rooms were divided by periods of time-Early Nineteenth Century, Later Nineteenth Century, etc.  Some of the more famous artwork includes Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter and Warhol’s Dolly Parton.  As we got closer and closer to present day the artwork got more and more, shall we say “eclectic”, or shall we say “weird”.  There’s 3-1/2 miles of walking trails outside with more artwork and sculpture but it’s too hot for that.

Drove through Rogers and Springdale to Tontitown and the Tontitown Winery for a tasting.  Nice, young couple owns it and live in the back.  The family works at Wal-Mart during the day and makes wine in the evening and week-ends.  Enjoyed a glass on their front porch and relaxed for a while.  Went a few more miles to Sassafras Winery in Springdale, nice place for a gathering, their wine was good but expensive.

Drove home a different way, not so many twists and turns, still a two-lane curvy road.  Took us an hour and a half to drive about 45 miles.  A few cattle ranches and some big homes but mostly mountains and woods.  The crape myrtle trees are beautiful this time of year, reds, pinks, purples, whites. Saw a few deer on the way back and two running out of the campground when we got back on the island.  We heard that they bed down right down the street from the campground in the evening.  Danny, the camp host, only comes here on week-ends so we said good-bye to him and he told us we could stay as long as we want and if it’s only a day or so, there’s no charge.  We might take him up on it.


Day 50-July 20, 2015-Holiday Island

2015-07-20

Day 50-July 20, 2015-Holiday Island

Not as hot today, only 94.  Always a nice breeze.

Did some chores in the morning-vacuum, clean the kitchen and bathroom.  Then read most of the morning.  Watched people leave the campground.  There are 31 sites, 5 RVs are left here and the people just come on the week-ends and then there’s us.  We’re the only ones here today.  Kind of nice.

After lunch we drove over to the Holiday Island municipal office to find out exactly where our lot is.  It’s #15 Wild Turkey Dr., just where we thought it was.  People in the office are very nice, one doesn’t live too far from our lot.  We drove around the development a bit, couldn’t believe how they built some of the houses on steep cliffs.  They have a great view out the back and some have beautiful patios and decks that look out over the mountains.  There’s a local strip mall with a small grocery store, hardware store, glorified dollar store with a pharmacy, laundromat, etc., etc., etc.  Did some stocking up on food, then came back to the RV to put it away.  We had thought about going to a ball game in Springdale tonight but when we thought about the hour plus drive home in the dark over the mountain we decided to pass.  Then we thought about going into Eureka Springs again but it was getting late.  So we decided to read some more, have a relaxing dinner and a nice fire.  But the fire will have to wait, we had a downpour with lots of wind, thunder and lightning.  After that passed it was very quiet here with just us and the cicadas.


Day 51-July 21, 2015-Back to Eureka Springs

2015-07-21

Day 51-July 21, 2015-Back to Eureka Springs, AR

Nice day, only 82. Rained last night, a bit cloudy today.

We drove to the strip mall and did some laundry after breakfast, then back to the RV for lunch.

Went into Eureka Springs and walked around the town.  Quiet compared to the week-end.  Lots of galleries, jewelry shops, gem and stone shops, restaurants, souvenir stores, hotels, bath houses, etc. cafes all set in historic buildings dating from the 1880s.  Beautiful buildings, gorgeous gardens and springs set in from the street where you’d miss them if you didn’t know where to look.  The streets are all up and down the mountain and walking on the stone sidewalks can be a bit scary.  You have to look up to see the great architecture but you have to look down so as not to break an ankle.  And all on steep hills.  We stopped at Sweet Springs and then Harding Springs where we had to walk down a few steps but it was so nice and cool at the bottom where the spring was.  Decided to go back to Keel’s Creek Winery and the GPS had us going up one steep hill, then down another.  But it was a great short-cut.  We saw three deer on the way just munching away in someone’s yard.  Hard to go anywhere here and not see deer or woodchucks or some other animal.  Harry saw a pileated woodpecker in the tree across from the campsite this morning.  Had a glass of wine and the owner told us there was a lot of construction and a big detour on the road we were planning on taking tomorrow.  We called AAA buy they didn’t know of any detour so we’re going to take our chances.  Stopped at Magnetic Spring again on the way back and we filled up some more water bottles then I soaked in the spring for a while.  It’s ice cold, but really refreshing and supposed to be one of the most healing springs here.

We’re still the only ones at the campground, very quiet.  We had a good time in AR, never thought we’d like it here so much.  Moving on tomorrow.


Day 52-July 22, 2015-North Little Rock, AR

2015-07-22

Day 52-July 22, 2015-To North Little Rock, AR

Drove 189 miles in 5-1/4 hours.  Rained in AM, then cleared a bit.  Got up to 92.

Rained a lot last night and everything was wet in the morning but we managed to get out of the campground before it started raining again.  Rained most of the morning as we drove through the Ozarks again on US 65 for four hours through small towns like Pindall (pop. 95) and bigger cities, like Harrison that had  Wal-Marts, McDonalds and a lot of Sonic Drive Ins. We drove over the Buffalo River into Marshall, a big canoeing, kayaking, water sport area and ate lunch in the RV.  Continued to Conway, where we got on I-40 into Little Rock, then N. Little Rock.  We’re out of the Ozarks and in Ouachita Mountain Range now, which doesn’t seem to be as “mountainous”.

We stayed at this campground last year, it’s a Passport America and right on the Arkansas River that divides Little Rock and N. Little Rock.  There are three bridges that span the river here and the bridge we’re under is the Clinton Presidential Walking Bridge and goes right into the Clinton Library. We’re just here for overnight, didn’t unhook or attach anything but the electric.  Took a walk around the campground after dinner.  It’s downtown, small, just gravel sites, secured by a cement wall and metal gates (we must be in a sketchy neighborhood).  The bridges lit up are gorgeous, they change from red to white to blue to red, white and blue.  Really pretty.

Finally got some decent wifi and cell service so we were attached to cords most of the night.  Checked on some campgrounds and mileage and things to do for the next few days.  I like to know what our options are, even if we change our minds at the last minute.  It’s only cost us $50.16 for campgrounds for the past 7 nights.  Wish we could get prices like that all the time.


Day 53-July 23, 2015-Hot Springs, AR

2015-07-23

Day 53-July 23, 2015-Hot Springs, AR

Drove 53 miles in 1-1/4 hours on I-30 and then US 70. Hot-96, humid-70%.

We got to Hot Springs around noon and went to Gulpha Gorge Campground right in the National Park.  Sometimes National Park campgrounds don’t have any hook-ups, are hard to maneuver around or are filled up by the time we get there.  I called the visitor center to get info on this one because the campground books aren’t always accurate, especially for state or federal campgrounds.  The books I have said this one didn’t have hook-ups but in a brochure I read it said they do.  Seems they only have a few,  and they don’t take reservations, it’s first come, first served.  But seeing that we’re early we got right in, found a beautiful, big, shady site right on a little stream and set up.  With our Senior Pass it’s half price, $15 a night.

We spent the afternoon reading and I finally finished the book.  Hopefully I’ll like the next one better.  Found my way down into the stream in back.  The water looks really cold and refreshing but I was surprised to find it’s a bit warm.  Big, beautiful butterflies like it.  So do brown wren type birds and dozens of gorgeous cardinals.  It’s hot, but there’s a nice breeze every now and then.

Waited around the campground and made a few phone calls.  Thanks to one of our neighbors, we learned that our pool filter motor malfunctioned.  We are so fortunate to have wonderful friends and neighbors to look after our home while we’re away.  Thanks especially to Ralph for finding the problem and meeting with the repairman not only once, but twice. Thanks also to John and Jen for helping us resolve the problem.  Without great neighbors we either wouldn’t be able to go away or come home to a green pool and who knows what else.

After dinner we drove about ten minutes into historic Hot Springs but most of the shops were closed.  Passed a few steam jets coming from underground (we’ll have to check those out tomorrow).  Past Bath House Row, eight historic bath houses (have to check those out too), stopped in a winery where we got a taste of their only dry red, and then found ourselves ten minutes on the other end of town at Oaklawn Racing and Gaming.  The horse racing is finished for the season, but the slot machines were ka-chinging like crazy.  Very busy casino, just about every machine and table was occupied. We managed to lose the $10 free play they gave us.


Day 54-July 24, 2015-Hot Springs is COOL!

2015-07-24

Day 54-July 24, 2015-Hot Springs, AR is Cool!

Hot and humid-101.

Hot Springs is all about water.  Hot water.  We watched a video at the visitor center and I think this is how it works.  It rains, the water seeps into the ground, down, down, down, getting hotter as it goes through the earth.  When it gets about 8000’ down it rapidly rises so it doesn’t lose much heat. It then seeps up through fissures and comes out at 143 degrees.  They figure that it takes 4400 years to do this so the water we’re drinking now was rain 4400 years ago.  They constantly test it to make sure it’s safe to drink.  Fascinating!

There are eight bath houses left, all in a row on “Bath House Row”.  One is a museum, one a brewery, two are still active bathhouses and one, the Fordyce, is the Visitor Center for the National Park.  It has 23 rooms, all furnished the way they were in their heyday when they were frequented by the rich, the famous and the notorious.  Al Capone and Bugsy Siegel and "friends" came here often.  There’s the Mens Bath, huge and ornate, the Womens Bath, not so huge or ornate, tub rooms, pack rooms, steam rooms and cabinets, cooling rooms, gathering room, gardens on the roof, dressing rooms, whirlpool rooms, massage rooms, staterooms, full gymnasium on the third floor, pool room, beauty parlor, etc., etc.  In the basement is equipment used to cool the water because it’s too hot when it comes in and you can see the spring which is surrounded by quartz.  Hot Springs Creek goes through a tunnel under all of the bath houses.  There are 47 springs in Hot Springs, most covered by big green metal square “lids” to keep them free from contamination.  But there are a few in back of the bath houses where you can sample the water and see it come up through the mountains.  It’s HOT!, too hot to even put your hand in.  There are “jug fountains” around town where you can fill up jugs and we bought a few gallon jugs and filled them.  Water, water, everywhere….and it’s free.  The city of Hot Springs National Park is kind of in a “bowl” with the visitor center and bath houses in the valley and mountains all around.  This valley has been called the “valley of vapors” because of the vapor coming up from all the springs.  It’s too hot now to see the vapor but in the winter it must be a sight to see.  One side of the street is “Bath House Row” and the other side is all shops and restaurants, a wax museum, gangster museum, duck tours, etc.  A huge building sits up on a hill. It used to be an Army/Navy hospital after the civil war but now it’s a rehab and retraining building facility.  One the other end of town is the Arlington Hotel, looming above the city. Other historic hotels and buildings are all through town. We brought lunch but split a panini and a beer (made with hot spring water) at the Brewery that was the Superior Bath House and then walked around town.

We drove up a windy one-way road to the Mountain Observation Tower, went up an elevator 216’ for a great view of the city below.  This too is in the National Park and there are many trails through the woods, one leading to the other side of the stream (I found out it’s the Gulpha Creek) in the campground.

Back down the mountain, we went to the other winery in town but they also only had sweet wines.  Went back to the casino to try our luck again, but luck was not ours today.  Back to the RV for dinner and a quiet night.


Day 55-July 25, 2015-Last Day in Hot Springs

2015-07-25

Day 55-July 25, 2015-Last Day in Hot Springs

Temp reached 100 by 11AM, but the wind picked up, clouds came in and it went down to 86 by 4PM.  Much more comfortable, but threatening to rain.

Downtown was really crowded today, probably because it’s Saturday.  People everywhere.  There’s a little park in the middle of town with a stage and every time we go past it there’s a different person playing a guitar. It must be some sort of public entertainment area.  Oh, and did I mention this is Bill Clinton’s home town.  Bill Clinton stuff all over town.  We went to Happy Hollow Spring Jug Fountain, a cold water fountain where the water comes down from the Zigzag Mountains instead of up through the ground.  There are two cold water fountains in Hot Springs.  People were filling up jugs of every size and dimension at this one and also at the hot water fountains.  Saturday must be fill up your jugs day.  Every spigot had a line.  We only filled up a couple of water bottles, the back seat of the truck is filled with the jugs we got yesterday.

Went to a farmer’s market on the edge of town but it had just closed.  Once you get out of the historic section of town on either side the buildings are a bit run down or closed and the areas are past their prime.  But there are new sections on the outskirts of town with all the stores and conveniences of any city.  We found a car wash big enough for the truck then went to Wal-Mart to stock up again.  I can’t believe they sell bottled water here.  There’s water, water, everywhere!  Why would people pay for it?

There was a lady in Wal-Mart giving out samples.  Our conversation:

Her:  Are you from Hot Springs Village?

Me: No, I’m from Florida

Her: What part?

Me:  The West Coast, north of Tampa

Her: Oh, my sister used to live in a little town called Homosassa

Me: (Dumbstruck) Let me guess, in Sugarmill Woods?

Her: Yes, she moved to Tennesse and hates it.  Wished she never left.

Very small world we live in!

Back to the RV to read and watch the birds and one psycho squirrel.  Campground is busy, too.  There’s a big picnic area as you first drive in for day use and then a tenting area.  They were both crowded.  Lots of people on the trails too.

After dinner we went back into town.  Busy place at night.  We got an ice cream cone and sat on a bench next to a statue of Al Capone in front of the Ohio Club, open since 1905, a club he used to frequent.  Walked a bit further and heard and saw some action at the Arlington Hotel.  They had a band in the lobby so we stopped in for a few spins around the dance floor.  On the way back there was a “parade” of trucks and motorcycles with Confederate flags making a hoopla and then a quieter “march” of flags in a little park in town.

Back to pack up for tomorrow…on the move again.


Day 56-July 26, 2015-RV Trouble

2015-07-26

Day 56-July 26, 2015-RV Trouble

Drove 211 miles in 7-1/4 hours.  Hot-101 and humid!!!

Started out to be a boring drive on route 9 south, a one lane road with not much but trees, trees, trees, mostly pine trees.  A few houses every now and then, mostly run down shacks, and lots of churches of every denomination imaginable. Stopped at one that had a huge parking lot and ate lunch.  They call this area the “timberlands” and it’s on the Civil War Trail, a lot of history was made in this part of the country.  Continued to listen to our book on tape, continued on route 79 to Camden, then route 7 to El Dorado and then 167 also called Smackover Highway because of the Smackover River.  Saw some deer on the way.  We were glad we carry our bathroom behind us.  Wondered what people do who don’t, there’s no place to stop along the way.  Got on I-20 for a few miles, then got off about 3 miles from our campground to get gas.  Big mistake.

We never got back on I-20, the GPS had us go back roads over railroad crossings and into sketchy neighborhoods in Monroe, Louisiana.  Got to a T-junction where the GPS said to go right and our campground was on the left.  We could see it was a dead end.  Ditto if we went left.  Straight ahead was I-20 and we could see the campground on the other side but couldn’t get across.

 So we did a three-point turn and heard a nasty clunk.  Drove a few miles and Harry saw in the mirror the wheel was wobbling.  Pulled into Delta Community College parking lot and called AAA.  They were going to send a tow truck to tow us to the campground, then called back and said they needed a “low-boy” to tow a fifth-wheel and couldn’t find one.  Called Good Sam Roadside Assistance and asked if they knew anybody who could come out and fix it on site.  They gave us three numbers.  On a Sunday afternoon in the Bible belt.  Sure, somebody will be right out. NOT!!! I think we’ve learned not to travel on Sundays, nobody’s available for help.  So we sat there for about two hours, got nowhere and decided to try to hobble to the campground.  I called the local police to find out how to get across I-20, they gave me directions, which turned out to be wrong.  But we saw signs for the campground and managed to get there.  What a relief!  We wouldn’t have to spend the night in the college parking lot in 100 degrees.  Got the name of a RV repairman who comes to the campground, called him, and he’ll be here at 8AM tomorrow morning.  YEA!!!!!

By the way, beautiful campground, right on a lake, nice big shady sites.  Instead of only one night here, it’s gonna be at least two.  And I learned some French, Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler (Let the good times roll).  Now I just have to learn how to pronounce it.


Day 57-July 27, 2015-RV Repair

2015-07-27

Day 57-July 27, 2015-RV Repair

Late July, Louisiana, of course it’s hot and humid.  Over 100 today.

Well, Charlie the RV repairman came and fixed the RV.  He was here at 8AM, found out the problem was the outer wheel bearing was in pieces.  He had to go get a part, came back and installed it.  He was a real talker, would stop working to chew Harry’s ear off about his ministry and what a religious man he was, then charged us for all the time he talked too.  Felt a bit taken advantage of but, oh well, we were at his mercy.  The pool repairman in Florida came and replaced the motor today too.  Thanks again, Ralph, for taking care of this for us.

We just read most of the rest of the day, it’s too bloody hot to do anything else.  I went over to the water to see what keeps bobbing its head up and down but couldn’t figure out what it was.  It’s a Louisiana bayou so I didn’t want to get too close to the wildlife. We can’t stay outside too long, if the heat doesn’t get you the teeny red ants will.

We’re in the town where the Robertson family of Duck Dynasty make their fortune.  That might be what put W. Monroe, LA on the map, there’s not much else going on here.


Day 58-July 28, 2015-Louisiana, Mississippi, Louisiana

2015-07-28

Day 58-July 28, 2015-Louisiana, Mississippi, Louisiana

Drove 214 miles in 7 hours.  Temp started at 93 at 9AM and got to 104. It’s not just humid, it’s dripping!

Louisiana has the worst roads in the country, even the interstates are like washboards.  We’re convinced the reason the bearings broke in the wheel was because of the horrible roads.  Things in the RV that never moved even going over the Rockies end up on the floor from after traveling on these roads.

Got on I-20 for a few miles, then to US 425 south to Vidalia, LA where we went over the Mississippi River into Natchez, MS for about an hour then went back into Louisiana.  Stopped at a Walmart parking lot for lunch then continued south on US61, past quite a few Antebellum plantations to Baton Rouge, where we picked up I-12.  Continued listening to the book on tape, it’s getting good now. We wanted to stop at a tire repair store and get the other bearings looked at on the RV but traffic was nuts and we couldn’t find a place.  Stopped at a Pep Boys, they sent us back the way we came to another place.  I called and they were just about to close.  So we continued to the campground, a KOA in Denham Springs.  They wanted to charge over $61.00 even with our discount so we left, drove 12 miles east to Livingston, LA where we found a great little campground less than a mile off the interstate on a lake with big, level pull through sites-$17.50, big difference!  I almost went to the pool but it’s too hot go outside.

We were going to go into Baton Rouge tomorrow and see what’s there (we know there’s three casinos) but they’re in the middle of the city, it’s way too hot to go into the city and we’re in “get home" mode.


Day 59-July 29, 2015-Louisiana, Mississippe, Alabama, Florida

2015-07-29

Day 59-July 29, 2015-Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida

Drove 327 miles in 6-1/4 hours.  Temp started at 98 at 9AM, up to 100.

Every year we get to a point on our trip.  I think we started to get there Sunday, yesterday it got stronger and by this morning we both just wanted to be home. It’s not that we’re tired of traveling or being in the RV, I think it’s more that we get to an area where there’s not much we’re interested in, we’re close to home so why not just go home.  We love it at home!  And we both get that feeling at the same time.

We left early for us, about 9AM and drove all the way through Louisiana to Mississippi, then Alabama and finally Florida, where we were still 7 hours from home but it felt good and the welcome center was really a welcome sight.  East of Pensacola the wind picked up, then one of those good old mid afternoon Florida Thunderstorms where you can’t see where you’re going came down for about ten minutes.  As long as Harry was OK driving we were OK to keep going.  Finished the book on tape we were listening to.

Ended up at a little RV park in Bonifay, FL, Florida Springs RV Park, “Home of the Mustang Grill”.  We camped here last year on the first night of our trip so it’s fitting that we camp here on the last night of this trip.  Got set up just before something similar to a monsoon came down.  Thunder, lightning, torrential rain, couldn’t even see into the next site-the whole shebang!  We turned the AC off and opened the windows but the wind blew the rain in.  It only lasted the requisite 30 minutes then the sun came out again.  Cooled things off a bit for a while anyway.

Of course we had to try the Mustang Grill.  It’s attached to the office, nothing special, very small only 8 tables, good menu, reasonable prices, friendly people and great service. Some locals were eating there who are not staying at the campground.  There are only three campers here that are travelers and about ten trailers with people who live at the campground.


Day 60-July 30, 2015-WE'RE HOME!

2015-07-30

Day 60-July 30, 2015-HOME!!!!

Drove 276 miles in 5-3/4 hours.  Temp got to 91, not as humid as Louisiana.

We made it home with no drama or problems.  The most exciting thing that happened was we entered Eastern Time Zone.

Went through Tallahassee on I-10, then 170 miles on US 19 only stopping in Cross City to eat lunch and at the weigh station to see if the RV was within weight limits-and it’s fine.  This part of Florida is the Nature Coast, small towns, nice hard wood trees and horses.  Ran into one big rain storm but it only lasted a few minutes.

We had a wonderful trip but it’s always great to be home!


Day 1-May 26, 2016-Heading out

2016-05-26

Day 1-May 26, 2016-Starting out

This is the seventh year in a row we've decided to take a trip across the USA.  There are still a lot of places we haven't seen and a few we'd really like to return to.  So, here we go.  Please wish us a safe and happy trip.  Hope you enjoy reading about our travels.

Drove 270 miles in 5-1/4 hours.  Temp is up to 91 but low humidity and very comfortable. Took route 19/27, through small towns such as Perry, where we pulled over for lunch.  Pretty patches of wild flowers, red and yellow on the side of the road and in the medians.  Not much traffic but a lot of logging trucks with pine tree trunks on them and we passed a lot of clear cut acreage.  Looks like a lot of pine forests have been eliminated.  Got on to I-10 and stopped in Chipley at Falling Waters State Park campground, a small, quiet campground in the woods.  Read for a while, had dinner and then a nice campfire.  We entered Central Time zone so we gained an hour.


Day 2-May 27, 2016-To Biloxi, MS

2016-05-27

Day 2-May 27, 2016-To Biloxi, MS

Drove 222.2 miles in 3-3/4 hours. Only got to 85 today, a bit of a cloud cover and more humid near the beaches.  Got an early start because of the time zone change.  Took 2 more hours to get out of Florida into Alabama.  Not much traffic for the day before a holiday week-end until we got to Pensacola and then again as we went through the Mobile tunnel.  We’re staying at Boomtown Casino RV Park for three nights.  We realized we would have a hard time getting into some campgrounds for the holiday week-end so we took this for three nights.  There’s plenty here to keep us occupied, the Biloxi Shuckers, a minor league baseball team, nine casinos and lots of beaches.  Got in early (12:30), settled in the site, had lunch then drove to the ball field to get tickets for Sunday night.  The stadium is only 2 miles from the campground, across the street from Casino Row (Beach Blvd.)  Found somewhat cheap diesel ($1.91) and filled up.  The price went up to $2.09 before we pulled out.  Drove along the miles and miles of beautiful beaches.  Very windy today, there’s sand all over the street, and the gulf has a lot of white caps.  Back to camp, had dinner, then went across the street to the Boomtown Casino, not too big, not too small, we even came out ahead.


Day 3-May 28, 2016-Gulfport, MS

2016-05-28

Day 3-May 28, 2016-Gulfport, MS

Nice day-85, some cloud cover.

Spent the morning looking at maps and campground books and making reservations for the next few days.  Packed a lunch and headed west on Beach Blvd. to Gulfport.  Stopped at the Island View Casino, much bigger than Boomtown, and won and lost a few bucks, ending up ahead by about $24.  Along with $25 free play we each got a free buffet so we walked around the hotel and sat on their veranda for a while until we got hungry.  Beautiful view of the beach and a lot going on.  Nice pools and rec area, too.  Headed back to Biloxi again on Beach Blvd., now getting a bit busier with people picnicking on the beach, playing volleyball, ski-dooing, swimming, even a couple of weddings on the beach.  The white sandy beaches are accessible and free to everybody with plenty of parking right on the side of the road. They’re not crowded, even on a Saturday night before Memorial Day.  There’s plenty of beach for everybody.  We went back to the campground for a while, then decided to take a walk,  Beautiful night out.  We ended up back at Boomtown Casino.  We discovered they have a second floor which is supposed to be “smoke free”.  Guess they don’t realize smoke goes up.  They had a great band playing and the place was packed.  We proceeded to lose what we won this afternoon.


Day 4-May 29, 2016-Ocean Springs, MS, Beau Rivage Casino and baseball

2016-05-29

Day 4-May 29, 2016-Ocean Springs, MS, Beau Rivage Casino & Baseball

Another beautiful day-85 degrees and sunny, a bit warmer than the last few days.  Started out going about 20 minutes east to a little town called Ocean Springs, a friendly little town with gift shops, where the owners offered us coffee, lemonade or punch every time we went into a store.  Nice little parks and shady, tree lined streets.  We walked around for a bit then drove down to the harbor where people were getting ready to spend the day on the beaches and in the gulf.  Sail boats, ski-doos, water skiers were already in the water and grills were being fired up on porches and on the beach.  We drove back to Biloxi and went to the Beau Rivage Hotel and Casino to try our luck.  We both won and lost and won and lost and in the end came out about $20 ahead.  We had a lot of fun doing it.  Across the street from the hotel is American Star Field at MGM Park, home of the Biloxi Shuckers Minor League Baseball team.  We got there early and watched them warm up.  It was family fun day and also Military Appreciation Day and we enjoyed a wonderful pre game military show that ended in the National Anthem like I’ve never seen or heard it before.  A military group presented the flags with a 3-gun salute followed by taps.  You could hear a pin drop in the stadium it was so quiet.  Very moving.  Short game, only 2-1/2 hours but a good game.  Lots of fly balls came our way and once a bat came flying over the net into the section next to us and smacked a lady in the arm.  They wouldn’t let her keep the bat.  After being booed, they came and gave her a ball and had EMS look at her arm.  The home team, the Biloxi Shuckers beat the Mobile BayBears 7-3, it’s always nice when the home team wins.  We had a great time in Biloxi but we’re moving on tomorrow, heading west.  We’ll have to keep an eye on the weather, Texas seems to still be having troubles.


Day 5-May 30, 2016-To Louisiana

2016-05-30

Day 5-May 30, 2016-To Louisiana

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY!!!!

We drove 230 miles in 4-1/4 hours.  Hotter and more humid today about 93. We stayed on I-10 the whole day except where I-10 goes south to New Orleans.  I-12 continues west until it merges with I-10 again in Baton Rouge.  Traffic was heavy but OK, a bit of a snag in Baton Rouge.  But the road west of Baton Rouge is like a washboard.  Got to Egan, LA east of Lake Charles about 2:00 and set up.  Small campground, mostly people who live here in RVs.  The owner, Mark, kept thanking us for staying and apologizing because there’s no shade.  It’s right off the interstate and we didn’t unhook because we’re only staying one night and continuing on tomorrow.  Had lunch and pulled out maps and campground directories.  Looks like our original plan to stay in Houston for a few days and then Austin for a few days may be revised because of the weather.  We hear a big storm with lightning, baseball size hail and flooding rain is stalled over most of Texas.  All of Texas.  If we go north to Dallas, south to Corpus Cristi or west to Houston it’s all the same for the next week or so.  Even west Texas which will take us quite a few days to get to.  So we’re still undecided.  I think we’ll go to Houston tomorrow and then take it one day at a time.  I’ll call the campground in Houston tomorrow morning and see if they’re flooded.  When I spoke to them a few days ago they said they had rain that day like they had never seen before.  One thing is for sure, we’re not turning around. The rest of the day we just relaxed, read and watched the cows out the back window.  I’ve posted some old flag pictures because it’s Memorial Day and I’m a “flag waver”. Enjoy.


Day 6-May 31, 2016-Houston, Fire Museum, Baseball and we're intervied by ESPN

2016-05-31

Day 6-May 31, 2016-Houston, Fire Museum & We’re interviewed by ESPN

Traveled 203 miles in 4-1/4.  91 degrees, a bit more humid.  Light rain started about 9PM.

Louisiana roads are horrible!  Once we got into Texas they got better.  We stopped at the Texas welcome center to check on the weather but didn’t find out much more than what we already knew. Met some people from Austin who gave us some ideas as to what to do.  I-10 inTexas starts at mile marker 880-that’s 880 miles to the western border of Texas-BIG STATE!!! We stopped in Beaumont at the Texas Fire Museum to see the 24’ hydrant.  And the museum was interesting too.  Got to campground, set up, and decided to get tickets for the baseball game tonight at Constellation Field in Sugar Land about 30 minutes from the campground.  The weather looks OK for now but tomorrow may be a downpour. There’s a lot of new construction in Houston, both residential and commercial.  We had to make a few detours because roads were washed out.  Hopefully we won’t get any of that flooding while we’re here.  Picked up the tickets (they even gave us a pass for VIP parking), and found out that the Sugar Land Skeeters are playing the New Britain (yes, New Britain,Connecticut) Bees.  They are calling this the “Battle of the Buzz”.  Got some food at the concession stands, one of the best stadiums for food that we’ve found, they even had some healthy choices, that’s a first.  The seats were wonderful, front row, aisle, right over the home team dugout at first base.  Great pre-game, players really friendly.  The mascot is, would you believe, Swatson, a mosquito! Stared to rain the beginning of the seventh inning, but we have ponchos so we’re dry.  Good game, the Skeeters rallied at the end and won 10-7. The pitchers last name was Outman, maybe that helped. We got interviewed by Jessica at ESPN in the middle of the 8th inning.  You can watch our interview at http://espn.go.com/watchespn/player/_/id/2811638/.  I have to warn you this is the entire game.  Our interview is at about 2hrs., 42 minutes in.  I’m trying to get just the clip of our interview and will post it when I get it.  Fun night, we might do it again tomorrow. On the way back to the campground we passed a reservoir and a lot of croaking frog noises.  They sure like the floods.


Day 7-June 1, 2016-Houston, more baseball and meeting Deacon Jones

2016-06-01

Day 7-June 1, 2016-Houston, More Baseball & Deacon Jones

Hot again, 86. Cloudy all day, rained about 4PM for ½ hour.

Houston is enormous!  We drove into downtown Houston onto Memorial Dr., pretty drive with oleander and crape myrtle trees along the side of the road.  Some interesting homes along the way, some very contemporary, a lot of condos.  Beautiful architechture.  Went through the theater district, the historic district and my favorite, the skline with its beautiful, shiny skyscrapers on every side of you making you feel very small.  Very imposing.

From there we went to Sugar Land to Flying Saucer Brewhouse right in the town center.  They have saucers on all the walls and ceilings and their theme is UFOs.  They have 84 beers on tap which they change every day and a 3 page menu of bottled beers.  Good burgers, too.  It’s only a 10 minute drive from there to the baseball game.

We got free insulated bags at the game, we use them a lot for lunch.  Cooler tonight, a nice breeze, great seats (we opted for the same section a few rows back so we could see better) and no rain. Hardly anybody at the game, the rain probably scared the fans away.  About halfway through the game an older man came in who seemed to know everybody.  He stopped and talked to groups of people and finally sat down in front of us.  He had two huge rings on and I asked him about them.  He took them off and handed them to me.  One said “Championship” and the other said “Deacon Jones”.  They were gorgeous, one had a ruby background and a silver baseball with diamonds for the stitches.  They were both really heavy.  I didn’t have my glasses on and it was dark so I couldn’t read anything else on them. He said he had a lot of rings like them at home.  When I asked him what they were for he just said he had been in baseball for over 50 years, he was instrumental in getting this ball park up and running and he was 82.  Said his name was Deacon and he was from White Plains and went to Ithaca College, which got him talking to Harry.  We must have talked for almost an hour, people coming up and saying hello to him now and then.  He offered us free tickets for tomorrow night but we’ll be gone.  The whole time I’m thinking Deacon Jones was a football player, not baseball. But after he left a staff member came over and told us he was a first baseman and pinch hitter with the Chicago White Sox in the 60’s, coach for the Houston Astros in the 70’s and the San Diego Padres in the 80’s.  He’s now “special assistant” to the president of the Skeeters.  It was really nice talking to him even though he said I was nosier than his wife because I asked him about his rings.

The Skeeters went on the lose the game 3-2.  Not much fun for the fans.  They had another mascot, the Trash Monster, a big brown hairy thing that eats your trash.  The kids line up to put garbage in its mouth.  Guess it’s one way to keep the fans from putting trash under the seats.  On the way out everybody got free tickets to any other game this season because it was “Winning Wednesday”.  We gave ours to a family who really appreciated them.  Back at the campground it was really wet so it must have rained a lot.  Also a lot of lightning in the sky but not close.


Day 8-June 2, 2016-Austin and Round Rock, TX

2016-06-02

Day 8-June 2, 2016-Austin and Round Rock, TX

Drove 160 miles in 3-3/4 hours.

Rain in AM, beautiful by 3PM.  Sunny and 82.

Drove up Route 290, a nice four lane road through small, one stoplight towns that look like they’ve been abandoned.  Passed a lot of iron sculptures for sale and antique stores.  Some big ranches and pretty yellow wildflowers along the roadsides.  The sky was filled with heavy black clouds with a bit of blue sky peeking out from behind.  We stopped in Austin to go to our nieces childhood home and take some pictures for her.

Arrived at the campground early because it’s a first come, first served campground run by the Old Settlers Association.  To belong to this association you have to have had a relative who lived in the county prior to 1871.  In addition to the campground it has a lake, two churches, a meeting hall,playground, baseball diamonds and other sports facilities.  I called yesterday and there were only 5 sites left so we wanted to make sure we got one, there’s no other campgrounds around here and it’s right across the street from Dell Diamond, home to minor league team Round Rock Express.  After we set up and had lunch we went to the box office and got tickets for Sat. night, the first night they’re back in town.  Good seats.  Supposedly they are a good team and have had the highest attendance rates for the past 15 years so I’m glad we got seats early.  From there we went to find the “round rock”, the town’s namesake, a rock in the middle of a creek on the Chisholm Trail which was a marker for settlers going west.  The historical sign said it was a marker for a low water crossing and you can still see wagon wheel tracks in the rocky stream.  But not with all the flooding they’ve had recently.  The water was rushing all around and there were “road closed” signs in place ready to go up again.  Back in the real world, we stopped at a grocery store for some things and got gas.  After dinner stayed in and were lazy.


Day 9-June 3, 2016-GREAT NEIGHBORS, Wine, Honky Tonk, Bats and rain

2016-06-03

Day 9-June 3, 2016-Great Neighbors!,Wine, Austin, Bats and RAIN!!!

Beautiful day, 82, sunny, gorgeous white clouds.  Til The RAIN

We got a phone call in the morning from one of our neighbors in Florida who was in our house with the Sheriff.  Seems the security patrol in our neighborhood was checking our doors, one of which was unlocked and he set off the alarm.  From there it went to the Alarm Co., then the Sheriff who called our contact.  Still not sure what happened, guess we left a door unlocked.  The sheriff assured me nothing looked disturbed and the house was clean.  Maybe someone came in and cleaned it.  We have terrific neighbors who took care of things for us.  We feel so secure and confident when we travel because we know we can depend on great friends.  THANK YOU!!!

The first thing we needed to do was go to the office to pay and register.  Randy, the grounds manager, gave us some info about the area and we talked for quite a while with him.

We drove northwest about 20 miles to Kicking Mule Winery in Liberty Spring, TX.  We were greeted by Sassay, the cat, one of the friendliest cats I’ve ever met.  The winery is set in the side of a cliff and we were told it’s a great place to be during a tornado.  Very reassuring. We ate the lunch we packed on their patio.  Sassy was not interested in food, she just wanted loving.

We continued west to Pilot Knob Winery in Bertram, TX on county roads lined with pretty yellow wildflowers, goats, horses and donkeys.  At the end of a long dirt road was the winery.  The owner was from East Granby, CT.  She and her husband (they’re both young) have great plans to make this winery bigger and better, even though it is quite nice now.  She knew we like dry red wine so she sent us to another winery, Perissos Winery.

Now this winery was really hard to find even though we had Mapquest directions.  It was in Burnet, TX.  We had to drive on more county roads, through a state park, past a mansion out in the middle of nowhere.  We later learned that it was owned by a man who made his fortune in kitty litter.  Turned around once, almost gave up, but turned around again and finally found it.  Good wine but way too expensive.

We’re done with wine so on to Austin for some dinner and night life.  Oh no, we’re now about 70 miles from Austin.  How did we get this far out of the way???  Lots of people told us to go to the Broken Spoke for dinner and dancing so that’s where we ended up.  It’s the oldest and most famous honky tonk joint still in Austin.  It’s owned by James White, a legend in Austin, who sang while we were eating.  They had great BBQ and steak and an old time guitar player who was really good.  The ladies room is plastered with George Straight articles, seems the owner’s wife (who tends the bar) has a soft spot for him, he sang here in the late 70’s and still comes back every now and then.  Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Bob Wills, Kenny Rogers, Johnny Cash and other music legends have also played here.  In the back room there’s a dance floor with a band.  They have TX dance lessons (given by their daughter) later on in the night.  But we have to go see the bats.

The congress street bats are 1-1/2 million free-tailed Mexican bats that live under the Ann W. Richards Bridge during the day and come out at night to feed along Lady Bird Lake.  We found a wonderful spot to sit and wait for them at a little park right under the bridge.  We got there just in time, about 20 minutes before they were supposed to emerge.  AND THEN THE RAIN CAME!!!  It didn’t just start to drizzle, the sky opened up.  Thunder and lightning that was far away 5 minutes ago is now right over us.  We have an umbrella (useless) so we ran under the bridge with hundreds of other people.  Even the bridge shelter is useless.  We heard the bats don’t come out in the rain (they must be smarter than us) so just about everybody gives up and runs to the parking lot which is now ankle deep in water.  And the highway is getting flooded.  We drove back to the campground thoroughly drenched!  The storm followed us and continued to rage most of the night, the thunder rattling the RV and the lightning matching that in Florida.  We didn’t get to downtown Austin and the music scene tonight but might try again another day.


Day 10-June 4, 2016-Lazy Day and baseball

2016-06-04

Day 10-June 4, 2016-Lazy day and Baseball

Cloudy, sunny, rain, sunny, rain, sunny-One of those days-Got up to 83.

Spent the morning catching up on phone calls, e-mails, etc.  Went to Home Depot for an outdoor mat for the RV.  We can’t find the one we had, must have left it at another campground.  It poured on the way back but people are already parking and going into the ballpark, even in the rain.  We had dinner and it finally stopped raining so we walked over to the ballpark right across the street.

Dell Diamond is home to the Round Rock Express, Triple A affiliate of the Texas Rangers.  Tonight they’re playing the Oklahoma City Dodgers. We have great seats, over the home team dugout at third base, four rows up.  Great view, beautiful night, nice cool breeze.  It’s 90’s night so tonight their jerseys say “Bayside” Express on the front and all the players are named Slater, a bow to “Saved by the Bell”.  All the music is 90’s, the games are based on 90’s games, and all the video clips are from 90’s movies and TV shows.  The mascot is Spike, a dog, don’t know why.  Beautiful rainbow appeared and we could see both sides, but not the pot of gold.  Got through the first 3 innings with no rain but then the sky opened again so for the next ½ hour we found seats under cover in one of the back rows. Grounds crew quickly got the field dry again but the Express lost 7-0.  There was a concert on the field after the game (90’s music).  We walked home and could still hear the music from our site.


Day 11-June 5, 2016-Downtown Austin and a batty end to the day

2016-06-05

Day 11-June 5, 2016-Lazy AM (again), downtown Austin and a batty end to the day

Windy and sunny-warmer-90.

Spent the morning lazing around the RV.  Drove into downtown Austin to the Capitol building.  Gorgeous building with four floors of offices, a nice library inside and bright green sprawling lawns with statues and cannons outside. Lots of people out and about this nice day.  From there we drove to 6th St., the “rowdier” side of Austin.  They pride themselves on being the “Live Music Capital of the World”, although not many bands were playing on a Sunday afternoon.  We heard at night they close the street down and it gets really busy.  The slogan here is “Keep Austin Weird” and they try really hard.  Lots of souvenir shops, bars, tattoo parlors and more homeless people than I’ve seen in most other inner cities.  We went into Maggie Mae’s, one of the more well-known bars.  It had a beautiful mural behind the bar and a lot of nostalgic posters and pictures. Most of the bars smelled like vomit, beer and pee.  Been there, done that.  A few blocks down we went into the Driskill Hotel, built in 1886.  Very upscale.  There’s also an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, combination movie theater and restaurant.  Drove south a bit to Rainey St. where we heard there were a lot of craft beer houses and it was a bit more “sedate”.  Rainey St. has a lot of small restaurants and shops, most of which are redone bungalows.  The place was really crowded and parking was impossible so we remembered that we had some nice craft beer, big shade trees and comfy lawn chairs back at the RV.  Harry and I both agree we like Nashville better than Austin for music.  We had heard that there was another bat colony right here in Round Rock so after dinner we packed up our chairs and drove down to the I-35 underpass where there were only about 15 people sitting waiting for the bats.  About 8:45 they started to stir and five minutes later there was a swarm of almost 2 million bats streaming from under the bridge.  They kept coming and coming for over a half hour.  So glad we got to see that.  Back at the campground we got to hear and see the fireworks after the ballgame.  Don’t know who won, though.  Off tomorrow, but we had a great time in Austin.


Day 12-June 6, 2016-To Sonora, TX

2016-06-06

Day 12-June 6, 2016-To Sonora, TX

Got up to 90 today, sunny, not a cloud in the sky.

Drove 232 miles in 5-1/2 hrs.

Started out going west on 290 through Dripping Springs, “Gateway to the Hill Country”, then Johnson City ”Home of Lyndon B. Johnson”, on to Stonewall, home of the Wildseed Farm.  We were here in April 2015 and the fields were blooming with every color imaginable and now the fields are empty.  I remember them telling us they cut the blooms off the flowers when they were perfect to get the seeds to be stronger.  Guess we’re a few weeks too late.  This is the Hill Country with beautiful wildflowers on the side of the road and more wineries than we could possibly visit.  But we’ve been here a few times before and are driving so no tastings for us today.  We saw lots of deer on the side of the road and small farms with goats, sheep and some horses.  Beautiful countryside.  Stopped at the visitor center in Fredericksburg, a small quaint German town and ate lunch in the RV.  We’ve been here before and really like it.  Not too many tourists today.  Continuing west to I-10 where the speed limit is now 80, although we’re not doing that. Went through Junction, where the terrain turned a bit more rugged, more mountains, some wildflowers but mostly cactus and small shrubs on the roadside.  No towns for the next 70 miles to Sonora.  We stopped at Caverns of Sonora, 7 miles off I-10 but the only campground for about 100 miles.  We got gas at the last exit, about 10 miles back.  There’s no services for quite a distance.   The campground is right at the caverns with only 48 sites.  Only 2 other campers here, one going to San Diego from Florida, the other going from Texas to Florida.  We didn’t unhook the truck and only plugged in the electric so we can make a quick getaway in the morning.  It’s very quiet here except for the birds.  There is a bird “tree”, a pole with a lot of houses that look like gourds, not far from our site and it’s quite active with birds coming and going.  We found out they’re purple martins.  I could watch them all day.   We heard the caverns are beautiful but there are 155 steps down, then an almost 2 mile walk and 155 steps back up.  We both have good books so we’re all set for the night.  Went outside when it got really dark and the stars were amazing.  Got surprised by two raccoons rummaging in the garbage cans and there’s a peacock somewhere close who squawks every now and then.


Day 13-June 7, 2016-The Western Half of Texas

2016-06-07

Day 13-June 7, 2016-The Western Half of Texas

Drove 258 miles in 4-3/4 hours to Van Horn, TX.

Got up to 91, sunny and clear.

We were the last to leave the campground this morning and we thought 9:30 was early (for us).  We’re now halfway through Texas and this is the half with the wide open spaces, the exits on I-10 are 20-30 miles apart and there’s nothing at the exits anyway.  We’ve left “Hill Country” for the “Texas Mountain Trail”.  Saw signs like “Watch For Water On Road”, “Road May Flood”, “Strong Cross Winds”, Watch For Blowing Dust”.  More mountainous, and sometimes the mountain was cut through for I-10.  Not much else on the road, very dry and dusty.  Rocky terrain with cactus and more scrub.  No animals, except for the nearly 2-pound roach that Harry saw on the ceiling of the truck.  Had to pull over and shoo him out.  We started a book on tape, a James Patterson, so far, so good.  The only big town we drove through was Fort Stockton, then stopped at a roadside scenic pull out for lunch.  Stopped in Van Horn for the night.  One main road, all the gas stations have closed up, no grocery store, just a few Mom and Pop places.  Campground has a big cur of a dog named Taz, who just wants to laze around in front of the fan.  Teddi, the woman who owns the place, told us she has a lot of “pipeliners” living here.  There’s a natural gas pipeline being installed from Pecos to Mexico City and the companies send the men here in droves so housing is hard to find.  She turned two men away while we were talking.  She put them on a waiting list and has more 20 sites almost finished and ready to use, just waiting for the electric.  In the meantime, all these men have generators in the rear of their trucks because they have to find someplace to stay every night.  Not enough hotels or campsites around. But it’s got everything we need including Wifi.  All the years we’ve been doing this I’ve never used an oven until today.  Usually only use the stove top and microwave.  I made some egg frittatas with leftover broccoli, bacon and cheese and the oven worked great.  We’re only going to stay overnight and then off tomorrow to finally get out of Texas.


Day 14-June 8, 2016-Into NM and Harry's birthday

2016-06-08

Day-14-June 8, 2016-Into New Mexico and Harry’s Birthday

Drove 221 miles in 4-1/4 hours.

Got up to 100 degrees, but it’s a dry heat.  It’s actually not that uncomfortable.

We gained an hour five minutes after we left the camp when we entered Mountain Time.  Although the area looks dry and colorless, when we stopped at a roadside stop there were trees and shrubs blooming with pink, orange, yellow, blue, purple and white.  Drove west to Esperanza, where we could see Mexico on the other side of the river.  We got a message on our cell phones saying “T-Mobile Welcomes You to Mexico”.  Out in the West Texas Town of El Paso…we stopped for gas.  Busy city but traffic wasn’t too bad.  The overpasses are decorated very nicely.  Lots of residential areas nestled in the foothills of the mountains.  Drove through Las Cruces, elevation 39,000’ and were waved through Border Patrol right before our exit.  We’re staying at Little Vineyard RV Park for two nights.  Nice campground, big, very empty.  Indoor pool and spa, etc.  There are a lot of campgrounds here, three more right next to this one and even more in town.  Set up, then went to St. Clair Winery.  They have more wineries in NM and we’ve been to the one in Albuquerque a couple of times.  Small tasting room, nice people.  From there we went to dinner for Harry’s birthday.  We had asked for a nice place to go and people told us the best place was The Adobe Deli.  We said we wanted something better than a deli and they said, “Oh, no, this isn’t your usual deli”.  And it wasn’t.  Almost impossible to find from the outside if you don’t have good directions.  It is an old schoolhouse that was put up for auction in 1978.  A man from Long Island, Van Jacobsen, who vacationed here put a bid in and won.  He had no idea what to do with it but his family had delis in NY so he decided to make this a restaurant.  But what a restaurant!  He didn’t change the layout of the school, some old books still remain in one of the rooms that used to be the library.  The main dining room is the auditorium/cafeteria.  Full bar, every type of liquor you could want, they even make their own wine and have a wine room where the owner, Van, had us sign the door.  I tried to sign next to the place where Henry Cavill, aka, Superman signed, but couldn’t find it.  Van took us on a grand tour of the place, stopped in the room where they roasted their own coffee beans and ground us a bag of coffee on the 1952 grinder.  In one room he had a carpet that four presidents had walked on.  It was originally in a hotel. More antiques, etc., etc. in other rooms.  We sat at the bar first, then the dining room which is lined with taxidermied wildlife and trophies of all sorts, even a huge alligator in a glass case.  There’s a cinema size video screen that was running a sports clip when we were there.  But the food!!!!  At lunch they have deli sandwiches (I forgot to mention the deli counter up front), but at night it’s all about the steak and ribs.  We were warned so we only got one order of ribs and brought half home.  It came with homemade onion soup, baked potato (half of that came home, too) corn on the cob, soup, salad, and a warm wet towel for sticky fingers.  The ribs were delivered on an upright skewer and were the best we’ve ever had.  Drove through a housing development on the way back.  I love the adobe type homes with stones instead of grass for lawns.  We finished the night off with a beautiful New Mexico sunset and a birthday cupcake back at the RV.  Great time in Deming, NM.


Day 15-June 9, 2016-Deming, NM

2016-06-09

Day 15-June 9, 2016-More Deming, NM

Got up to about 98 but the rain storm in the early afternoon cooled it down to 80.  Spent the morning catching up on phone calls, e-mail, etc. and looking at campground books to find a place for the next few days.  Rain storm and thunder in early afternoon caused lots of puddles.  Went into town for groceries at Wal-Mart and noticed there was a lot of standing water on the sides of the road-too much for the amount of rain.  Then we realized there is no drainage or gutters on the roads.  It must be so dry here they don’t worry about it.  After Wal-Mart we went to Rossa Luna Winery about 2 miles from town.  Nice winery, mostly dry Italian reds.  They have 30 acres here and another 300 upstate a bit.  Told us how wine in the US started in San Antonia, NM, not far from here.  They ship a lot of grapes all over the world from here.  We like some of their wines better than any we’ve tasted.  Back to camp for dinner (leftover ribs).  Another beautiful sunset.  Off again tomorrow.


Day 16-June 10, 2016-To Tucson, AZ

2016-06-10

Day 16-June 10, 2016-To Tucson, AZ

Drove 214 miles in 4-1/4 hours.

Got up to 94 today. 

We’re still on I-10 westbound going through flat land now with the Union Pacific Railroad on our right the whole time.  They have hundreds of cars hauling who knows what, mostly going east.  Tall mountain peaks in the far distance.  We stopped at the Continental Divide at a unique gift store, nice owners, lots of “stuff”.  Passed a lot of signs warning of dust storms and zero visibility but it’s just a bit hazy.  Entering Arizona we gained an hour.  Even though Arizona is on Mountain Time they don’t observe Daylight Savings Time (except on the Navajo Reservation).  We passed through Bowie, with pecan and pistachio groves and some vineyards.  And then we passed through the Texas Canyon, a few miles of giant boulders that I later found out are made of granite.  They are quite impressive.  As we got closer to Tucson we started seeing some saguaro cactus.  We continued listening to our book on tape.  We’re staying at Mission View RV Resort in Tucson.  It’s a 55+ campground that’s a winter haven for snowbirds but virtually empty now.  They put us in a camp host spot, near the indoor pool and spa.  No shade but there’s not much shade in AZ.  Spent the afternoon looking at tour books, there’s a lot to do here.   We just have to keep remembering to drink, drink, drink.  It’s really dry here although the campground host said the humidity is high today-it’s 18.  They’re used to 8 and last week it was 1.  Back home in Florida it’s 88 today.  They get about 6-12” of rain a year.  Last week, we had 7-1/2” in one day in Florida.  Later we went to the Desert Diamond Casino, about a mile away to try our luck-we had none.  We each got $10 in free play and $10 each off the buffet, which was OK but not the best casino buffet food we’ve had.  We got a severe weather alert on our phones while we were in the casino and the street was wet when we came out so we must have missed it.  Microsoft bullied me into downloading Windows 10 tonight so tomorrow should be an interesting computer day.


Day 17-June 11, 2016-Saguaro National Park and Baseball

2016-06-11

Day 17-June 11, 2016-Saguaro National Park and Baseball

Got up to 97 today.  The locals say it’s not hot, tomorrow will be 100.  They also say it’s humid.

Went to Saguaro National Park (the east side) in the Sonoran Desert today.  Drove by the Davis-Monthan Aircraft Boneyard, the largest military boneyard for excess aircraft in the world.  No idea how many planes are here but it’s huge.  I’m going to try to learn more, maybe we can get a tour.  Stopped in the park’s visitor center and got some maps, then drove the 8 mile one-way road through the park.  Beautiful saguaro cactus and other plants that we learned about in the visitor center.  Palo Verde (green stick), which is the state tree and is really green, mesquite with its black bark (that’s used in BBQ wood), and creosote which smells like “desert rain” when you rub it, or a campfire if it’s dry out.  The saguaro grows slowly and it doesn’t bloom ‘til it’s 35 years old and doesn’t get “arms” ‘til it’s 60-70 years old.  We must have seen some really old ones today.  They estimate some are over 150 years old.  The cicadas were chirping and the birds, mostly white winged doves, flitted around the saguaro blossoms (the state flower).  The birds nest in holes in the trees and in the fall they eat the seeds from the flowers.  There’s an area called the “cactus forest”, wide open desert and a group of large boulders where the javelinas live.  We took a walk on a nice trail that just opened today.  It also had a nice picnic area.  Back at the visitor center there was a video and talk called “Flash (lightning), Whoosh (wind) and Gush (rain)” about monsoon season which lasts from June 15-Sept. 30th although they said it’s a bit early this year and what we had last night was a little monsoon.  But we were in the casino at the time.  The monsoons last between 20-40 minutes and can dump 2-4” of rain and the temperature can drop 20-30 degrees in 30 minutes.  The dips in the roads, called washes, fill up quickly and are dangerous to drive through.  They’re looking forward to monsoon season because this area has been in a drought for the past 20 years and their water table has dropped 150’ killing some trees.  In 1962 a freeze killed a lot of the saguaros and it’s taking a while for them to come back but we saw a lot of little ones.  Anita, the volunteer who gave the talk was so interesting I wanted to take her with us and learn more.  Took another way back to camp and passed Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.  After dinner we went to Kino Sports Complex about 15 minutes away to watch the Tucson Saguaros baseball.  They’re in the Pecos League (I don’t understand all the different divisions-I just like the game).  Old, worn out stadium, hardly any fans, but they’re all loyal, avid fans.  And they have two mascots, Sticky, a saguaro cactus and, my favorite, Sylvester the cat.  The Saguaros played the Sante Fe Fuego and the home team trailed until the eighth inning when they beat the Fuego 10-7.  Good game!


Day 18-June 12, 2016-Laundry, pool and a nice cold beer

2016-06-12

Day 18-June 12, 2016-LAUNDRY DAY!!!! Then pool and a nice cold beer

Temperature was 104 at 5:00 PM and it had cooled down a bit by then.

After 18 days we have a lot of laundry.  The campground has 3 washers and 3 driers so it didn’t take too long to finish it.  Checked out the clubhouse while we were there.  It has an indoor pool, spa, fitness equipment, billiards room, craft room, activity room, dining hall, full kitchen, library, dart board, bingo room, etc., etc.,  etc.  These snowbirds have a lot of fun here in season.  Outside there’s pickleball, volleyball, tennis, shuffleboard, etc.  Most of the people are gone now, a few more left this morning.  After the laundry was done we dove into the pool to cool off.  It’s an indoor pool, maybe heated.  We were the only ones there and it was quite nice.  There’s a nice breeze and it’s cooler in the shade but 104 degrees is 104 degrees.  So a nice cold beer sounds good.  We drove into downtown Tucson, not busy on a Sunday night.  Stopped in Thunder Canyon Brewery.  Harry got a stout and I got a flight of 4, all with crazy names, Blackout Stout, Doble Diablo, Quad Impaler and Scarface.  They were all quite refreshing.  Thought about staying there for dinner but we have some nice rib eye steaks at the RV so we decided to go back to the campground and we saw an wonderful sunset on the way back.


Day 19-June 13, 2016-Mt. Lemmon, Sky Island Scenic Highway and Sky Center

2016-06-13

Day 19-June 13, 2016-Mt. Lemmon, Sky Island Scenic Highway and Sky Center

100 at campground, went down to 68 at top of Mt. Lemmon

Started the day by registering for a few more days here.  Eileen at the campground office is a little mini visitor center.  She gave us some ideas and a ½ off coupon book for attractions. She was also very excited about the 1/2 “ of rain they got the other night. 
We drove to the Catalina Scenic Highway, otherwise known as Sky Island Scenic Highway, Hitchcock Scenic Highway or Mt. Lemmon Scenic Highway.  It’s a 28 mile road with twists and turns, you can never go more than 35 mph and most turns are 20 or 30mph.  The elevation goes from 3000’ to over 9000’ and the temperature went from 100 to 68 in the hour and a half it took us to drive it.  We stopped at the ranger center and learned that this road goes through more biotic or life zones quicker than anyplace else on the planet.  We went through the Lower Sonoran Life Zone with saguaros (probably more than we saw at the National Park the other day), scrub cactus, mesquite and Palo Verde trees.  Then through the Upper Sonoran with grasses.  Then the Oak-Pine Woodland-oak trees, junipers, bear grass, yuccas.  The Transition Zone has pines, oaks and junipers.  At the top is the Canadian Life Zone, mostly a fir forest of Douglas fir, white fir, white pine and beautiful aspens.  The smell of pine trees was wonderful.  All along the road there are many scenic pull-offs, hiking trails, campgrounds, biking and horse backing riding.  We stopped at a scenic stop and had the lunch we packed.  At the top is the Mt. Lemmon Sky Center with chair lifts going up the mountain, a ski school and ski patrol.  By the time we got there they were closing but they let us go up on the chairlifts when we whined that it was our last day here and we were trying to overcome our fear of heights.  Magnificent view!  The temperature at the bottom was 68 and it got colder as we went up.  It just went up, turned around and came back down but it was great.  On the way back we saw quite a few houses nestled in the mountain and there is a small town, Summerhaven, with a general store, post office and a pizza joint.  Other than that, nothing else is up there.  Back down the same way we went up, only now the sun is setting and the views are quite different.  Definitely another wonderful day.  Back in civilization on a four-lane busy road we saw a family of doves, two adults and about 5 babies, scurrying across the road and a few miles down we spotted three coyotes on the side of the road.  The nights here are very nice and comfortable, temp is probably in the high 70’s.  Lots of stars.


Day 20-June 14, 2016-PIMA Air and Space Museum, Aircraft Boneyard, groceries and Casino

2016-06-14

Day 20-June 14, 2016-PIMA Air and Space Museum, Aircraft Boneyard, Groceries and Casino

Got up to 101 today, but it doesn’t feel hot.  Nice breeze and it’s actually quite comfortable.

We first went to the Aircraft Boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.  The AFB is 5200 acres and half of that is devoted to the boneyard, 4400 planes, helicopters and other assorted aircraft in various stages of storage, regeneration or disposal.  Some are used for parts, some are waiting to be recommissioned and some are waiting to become a heap of scrap metal.  There are scrap metal shops all through town with pieces of aircraft in their lots, it’s a big business here.  We boarded an air conditioned Grayline bus for the hour and a half narrated tour through the base.  Some had signs telling us what they were but the narrator was really interesting and quite fact driven.  She knew a lot about what we were looking at.  This is the largest military excess air storage facility in the world.  We’ve been passing it for days on our way through Tucson, it’s hard not to see aircraft anywhere in this city, they are all over, a lot of private hangars, the International Airport, and there are always jets in the sky.  There are a lot of administrative buildings on the base, too.  She said there’s a lot of paperwork to be done regarding these planes.  After the tour we went in the PIMA Air and Space Museum, only saw a small part of it, but what we saw was great.  All kinds of aircraft, etc., even a couple of nuclear bombs.  Old ones, new ones, they have two rooms devoted to WWII aircraft.  We had lunch on one of the picnic tables outside then went to T-Mobile because I’ve been having trouble with my phone.  Hopefully the problem’s fixed.  Did some grocery shopping at the local store, Fry’s, owned by Krugers.  Back to the campground for dinner then went to Casino del Sol, not as close as the one we went to the other night but a lot newer, nicer, cleaner, bigger and “winninger” than Desert Diamond. It’s run by the Pascua Yaquin Tribe.  The ceiling is made to look like the sky and the rooms are set up to give you the feeling you’re walking down an open air market and it’s really pretty.  They have restaurants, big name entertainment and a resort hotel attached.  Got $10 in free play and we won, lost, won, lost, etc.  Another gorgeous night out, warm and breezy.


Day 21-June 15, 2016-Saguaro NP, Old Town Artisans, Borderlands Brewery, San Xavier Mission and pool

2016-06-15

Day 21-June 15, 2016-Saguaro National Park, Old Town Artisans, Borderlands Brewery, San Xavier Mission Del Bac and the pool

Temp is up to 102 today.  Hot but nice.

When we went to the Nat’l. Park the other day Anita, the volunteer who gave the presentation about monsoons, told us she was doing a presentation on cacti today so we went to hear about them.  When we left we knew so much about the 20 varieties of cacti in the Nat’l. Park that our heads were spinning. They’re all unique, one even only blooms one day a year for 5 hours.  And all of the ones of this variety bloom the same evening from about 5-10PM, no matter where they are.  Anita is on call because they’re supposed to bloom very soon and she doesn’t want to miss it. But the star of the presentation (and the Park) is the Saguaro.  It only lives in the Sonora Desert, so only in this part of Arizona and some parts of Mexico.  Very interesting plant and very interesting presentation.  We drove into the historic section of town to Old Town Artisans, a group of 35 crafters making beautiful jewelry, pottery, clothing, etc.  Not far from there was Borderlands Brewery, which we heard about from the salespeople at T-Mobile yesterday.  Seemed like a great place to eat lunch. They don’t sell food so they had no problem with our bringing our packed lunch in. There are picnic tables all around, lots of people must do what we do.The beer was great, we got their special Noche Dulce or, as they call it, Black S—t.  It was really refreshing. Colorful murals are painted on many of the buildings in town and a lot of the bridges have paintings or sculptures on them.  Tucson has a lot of solar arrays, large fields of solar cells and 38% of the energy used at the Air Force Base comes from solar energy.  Some buildings have their entire roof covered in solar panels.  Back to the other side of town, we went to San Xavier Mission del Bac, a gorgeous church built in 1783 by a Franciscan priest with sand, lime, clay, rock and wood.  After 14 years the money ran out and it was never completed.  It was restored in 1978 and it is beautiful inside and out and is considered the finest example of Mexican Baroque architecture in the US.  When we first walked in our jaws dropped it was so gorgeous and as we got closer it got even grander.  I’ve been in Notre Dame in Paris and St. Patrick’s in Dublin and this is just as awe inspiring as they are.  The Patronato San Xavier, a group of citizens, now protect church and the adjacent school both of which are still functioning.  In the parking lot local people sell crafts and flat bread.  Back at the campground before dinner I went in the pool and Harry read for a while and then shot a game of pool.  Another wonderful night, warm, not hot and breezy.  Lots of stars again.


Day 22-June 16, 2016-Titan II Missile, Car Wash, Haircut and Baseball

2016-06-16

Day 21-June 16, 2016-Titan II Missile Museum, Car Wash, Haircut, Baseball

Got up to 104 today

Drove about 15 miles south to the Titan II Missile Museum.  During the 60’s to the 80’s, the “Cold War”, the US had 54 ICBM sites, 17 in Wichita Falls, KS, 17 in Little Rock, AR and 17 in Tucson.  The idea was “Peace through Deterrence”. You (USSR) shouldn’t bomb us with your bombs in Cuba because we’ll bomb you right back.  In 1982 a treaty was signed between US/USSR to destroy them.  This one was allowed to remain as a museum.  The W53 nuclear warhead with a 9 ton yield has been removed, the silo can only open half way preventing launch and a hole has been cut in the nosecone making it inert.  A couple of movies have been made using the missile site, including Star Trek: First Contact. There was a lot of info,memorabilia and exhibits in the museum and then the tour started with a video followed by a tour down 35’ to view the launch control room.  The tour guide volunteered me to be launch commander and promoted me to Major.  I sat at the actual control panel.  He then spent the next half hour explaining all the directions, rules, regulations, protocols, checklists, instructions, safety features, etc., etc. etc.  Red lights meant one thing, green another and white something else.  And once you’ve checked everything, go back and check it again.  He was really informative and detailed.  It was an extremely complex procedure and it must have taken years of training to not only remember the details but to get your head on straight enough to follow through.  There were three targets, although only one could be destroyed.  Nobody on site knew what the three targets were. It was then time to simulate the launch and we turned the key together and got the “launch activated” light.  No turning back now, Target 2 was obliterated.  Turning that key gave me chills, it definitely was a hot seat.  We then went to see the actual missile.  103’ tall, 10” round, more stats, too many to remember, but quite an experience.  Back on the surface we could see the missile through the half open silo and see all the radio antennas for safety and communications.  Had lunch on one of their picnic tables, then drove into town and got the truck washed and I got a badly needed haircut.  Gassed up for the trip tomorrow, then came back to the RV for a quick dinner then off to the Saguaros ballgame.  Tonight they played White Sands (NM) Pupfish.  I can’t make these names up.  $6.00 tickets and it’s beer for $1.00 night.  The Saguaros won 16-1, another good game, beautiful night and a great way to end our stay in Tucson.  We’ve been here a week, still haven’t seen everything we’d like to and would come back again.  We felt very comfortable and safe at the RV park we stayed in.  It’s more a mobile home members only (but they can rent them out) community. They call it Mission View Club Estates.  Most are empty now, the snowbirds are only here in the winter.  Nice mobile homes on quiet streets with a whole section for RVs in the back.  We’re in the front where there is another section for RVs near the mobile homes.  $19.00 a night, can’t beat it. 


Day 23-June 17, 2016-To Yuma, AZ

2016-06-17

Day 23-June 17, 2016-To Yuma, AZ

Drove 239 miles in 4-1/4 hours.

Got up to 108 today.  It’s getting hot now.

Drove west on I-8 through more desert.  We’re leaving the high desert now (elevations over 2000’) for the low desert.  Tucson is 2400’, Yuma is at 100’.  Drove through Gila Bend where there were some crops and farms, although we couldn’t figure out what they were growing, maybe corn.  Also some cattle farms.  The saguaros are getting sparser and the ones here seem to be taller but with fewer arms.  Finished the book on tape.  I won’t comment ‘cause some people I know might want to read it.  A lot of solar arrays on this road, the sun here is fierce so they might as well use it for good.  Harry read somewhere that Yuma is the sunniest place in the US.  We got into Yuma at 3:10 which made me think of the movie, The 3:10 to Yuma.  It’s on the Colorado River really close to California, Baja California and Mexico.  My phone thinks we’re in Mexico again.  We drove through a beautiful outcropping of rocks right before entering the city which lies in the canyon at the bottom.  Bigger city than I thought but we won’t be exploring it this trip.  We need to get to Palm Springs tomorrow to start our week in a condo.  The RV park is 55+ (there are a lot of them out this way), again sort of a members only park.  Again just about nobody here, the snowbirds have all flown up north.  We spent the afternoon packing up what we think we’ll need in the condo.  Hopefully we’ll remember everything so we won’t have to go back and forth between the RV and the condo.  Very pleasant evening once the sun went down.


Day 24- June 18, 2016-To Palms Springs, CA

2016-06-18

Day 24-June 18, 2016-To Palm Springs, CA

Temp was 111 today, but they say it’ll be hotter tomorrow!  We got messages on our phones “Excessive Heat Warning” and “Extreme Heat”.

We got into California about 5 minutes after we left, that’s how close we were to the border.  We had to go through the agricultural inspection station but they only asked if we had pets or plants.  Then up the road a bit we went through a border patrol inspection station.  Drove through miles and miles of sand dunes.

When we were planning this trip we had two choices after Tucson. 1.  Get on I-8 to Yuma and go to southern California (Ramona, Escondido) for a few days or 2.  Stay on I-10, go to Palm Springs first and then southern CA.  We opted for #1 but we stayed too long in Tucson and don’t have any days to spare before going to Palm Springs.  But we didn’t realize that yesterday when we went to Yuma so today we had to change course and go north on route 111 from El Centro to Palm Springs.  But it worked out well.  It’s the first time this trip we’ve stayed off interstates and now we know why.  We’ve been in the middle of the desert for days now and all of a sudden everything was lush and green.  Route 111 goes through Imperial Valley, one of the richest farm areas in the world.  They grow a lot of winter vegetables, melons, lettuce, tomatoes, cotton and hay, hay, hay.  A lot of the area is below sea level and they irrigate from the Colorado River.  We stopped in Westmoreland for a date shake (we’d heard about date ice cream from people we met in Austin).  This was a small shop with everything “dates” under the sun.  A truck carrying two trailers of white onions passed us on the road and we smelled onions for a few miles.  And then the date palm trees came into view.  Miles and miles of them, all with dates hanging on them.  Some of the date clusters were wrapped with white mesh, don’t know why, but I’ll try to find out.  Maybe so they don’t fall on the ground or maybe to help them ripen?  Passed by the Salton Sea, which looked like a large lake in the middle of the desert.  Next big city we passed was Coachella, we’ll probably see more of that during our week here.  Go to the condo early, had to wait about half an hour to get the key and unpack the RV.  There’s no room to park the RV on the premises so we parked it around the corner.  Came back, jumped in the pool which is right behind our unit.  Had dinner and settled in.  Condo is a 2-bedroom, 2-bath, plus a Murphy bed.  Two bikes in the garage we can use.  Washer/dryer, Weber grill, nice patio and all the comforts of home.  We should be very comfortable here for the next week.  Harry noticed a big nail in one of the truck tires so we’ll have to find a tire store to fix it on Monday.


Day 25-June 19, 2016-Father's Day movie, dinner and baseball

2016-06-19

Day 25-June 19, 2016-Father’s Day in Palm Springs, CA.  Movie, Dinner, Baseball

Temperature got up to 121 today.  It’s hot but not really that uncomfortable unless you’re in the sun in which case it feels like you’re under a broiler.

Well, you know we forgot a few things from the RV so we had to go there first.  Then we figured we should get the tire with the nail in it fixed before we did too much more driving and luckily there was a Discount Tire in the next town, Cathedral City, that was open on Sunday.  It was only a short screw so no damage was done to the tire.  We found a nice air conditioned movie theater, The Mary Pickford Theater, and went to see X-Men: Apocalypse.  This is a nice area, a lot of sculptures and park areas.  Not many people, we heard this is almost a ghost town now because of the heat, everyone’ gone.  Found a great little Italian restaurant, BackStreet Bistro, a family owned place that usually has a line going out the door but today we were the only ones.  It was early, though, and another couple came in as we were leaving.  The waiter, Jonathan, was really nice, gave us a complimentary glass of wine and some good ideas as to what to do here.  He said most of the restaurants here close in July and August because there’s nobody here.  Then we went to see The Palm Springs Power play the Arroyo Seco Sentinels at Palms Springs Baseball Stadium.  Yes, it was still 118 degrees at 7PM and if it wasn’t for all the misters in the stands people might have passed out.  Don’t know how Rocky the Ram, the mascot, could run around in a big furry costume or how the players could play.  The field was in the hot sun.  But after the sun went down the temp dropped (it was only 100 when we left the game) but, like I said, it’s the sun that’ll do you in here.  Once it goes down it’s bearable.  It was free cap night and we had a coupon for a free ticket so we only paid $6.  They designate one batter to be the “beer batter”.  If he strikes out beer is $1 for the next 10 minutes.  I never heard the crowd cheer for a strike out more than when he got up to bat. Kind of a slow game ‘til the end when The Power got themselves into a pickle, which is always fun to watch.  And one of the players stole home to end the game 3-0.  Beautiful full moon tonight.  The stadium is only 3 miles from the condo, an easy ride home.


Day 26-June 20-Laundry, Mt. San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness area and Casino

2016-06-20

Day 26-June 20, 2016-Laundry, Mt. San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness Area, casino

Longest day of the year and the hottest…up to 126!!!

Yes, we forgot some other things so another trip to the RV, good thing it’s close.  Caught up on some phone calls, e-mails, etc. in the morning.  Did a couple of loads of laundry, it’s great having the washer/dryer right here.  Because it’s so hot we went to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway today.  The world’s largest revolving cable car, it took us up 8516’ to Ponderosa pines to the cooler temps (it was 71 when we got on the tram to return and still 118 at the bottom) of the arctic/alpine forest of the San Jacinto Mountains.  We had to drive 3-1/2 miles up the beautiful Chino Mountains to the Valley Station where the tram leaves about every half hour.  It only takes about 15 minutes to get to the Mountain Station at the top but the tram revolves twice during that time giving everybody wonderful views of the mountains below and it changes because it goes through 5 ecosystems on the way up from the Sonora Desert to the alpine forest.  There are only three revolving trams in the world, one in Switzerland and the other in So. Africa but this is the largest at 18’ in diameter and 8’ high.  The mountain station has two theaters where we saw films about how the tram was made and about the trails and wildlife here.  Another floor has a restaurant and another a visitor center and gift store.  This is the Mt. San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness Area. Outside there are terraces to take in the views, trails, and breathtaking scenery.  And it’s so cool up here.  In the winter you can rent snow shoes, skies and other gear for winter activities.  We spent quite a bit of time walking around although I get loopy at high elevations and was a bit disoriented.  On the way back the “conductor” told us the haze we’ve been seeing the past few days is smoke from the fires in the Los Angeles Forest about 93 miles west and we could really see and smell the smoke on the way down.  He also said the airport is closed because the planes can’t keep up with the heat.  Came back to the condo for dinner and, because we don’t know when to quit, we went to the Spa Resort Casino in downtown glitzy, ritzy Palm Springs.  I had some luck, Harry not so much but between the two of us we came out a bit ahead.  And we saw a beautiful strawberry full moon on the way home.


Day 27-June 21, 2016-Shields Date Garden, lunch, casino and brewery

2016-06-21

Day 27-June 21, 2016-Shields Date Garden, lunch, casino, brewery

Not as hot today, only got up to 111.

We’ve been concerned about the upcoming 4th of July holiday, knowing that it’s hard to find a campground that’s not full so we spent the morning looking at maps and campground books and making reservations for the next few days.  Some places were full and some had fire and smoke problems so we had to call quite a few places to chart a course.  But we are set for the next two weeks so we don’t have to think about that for a while.  Of course we needed to make a trip to the RV for stuff we forgot again.  We decided to go out to lunch to Shields Date Garden.  We drove about a half hour away through the Coachella Valley to Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells and LaQuinta, finally to Indio, the “date capital of the nation” and Shields Date Garden.  Had a wonderful lunch in their café and a date shake that was much better than the one we had the other day, then walked their gardens.  There’s a brick walk with larger than life statues depicting scenes from the bible.  Some of the trees are labeled so we knew what we were looking at.  A lot of lemon trees.   And many, many date trees with ladders leaning up against them to be climbed to pick the dates.  We watched a couple of roadrunners flirting with each other, they’re funny looking birds can move really fast.  In front of the garden is a great gift store with every sort of date and date product available for sampling.  We knew it was 111 degrees after we got finished walking the walk.  Drove a few more miles to Fantasy Springs Resort and Casino, a beautiful resort hotel, where we each got $40 in free play and we both managed to win a bit.  Back to LaQuinta we stopped at LaQuinta Brewery for a sampling of their beers.  Back to the condo for dinner and in for the night.


Day 28-June 22, 2016-Joshua Tree National Park

2016-06-22

Day 28-June 22, 2016-Joshua Tree National Park

Not as hot today-111 in Palm Springs, 99 in the Park

Drove 40 miles to Joshua Tree National Park. Went through an area with high winds and hundreds of wind generators, then over the San Andreas Fault and up rugged rocky mountains spotted with sagebrush through the Morongo Valley to the high desert again.  Stopped at Joshua Tree NP Visitor Center and saw a film about the trees and boulders.  These trees, which are really yuccas,  are very picky about where they grow, they need just enough rain, snow, frost and air conditions and only one insect, the yucca moth, pollenates them so they only grow in the Mojave Desert.  They had already bloomed in the spring so we didn’t get to see many flowers but the trees themselves were very different, each one unique, some tall and curly, some short, straight, bent, all different shapes and sizes.  The trunks of some of them almost looked hairy and we couldn’t figure out if it was the dead spikes and just the way the bark formed.  The park contains two deserts, the Mojave to the west with higher elevations and the Colorado Desert to the east, which has lower elevations and no Joshua trees.  The rangers said it’s unusually hot here this year, no kidding.  The boulders were more fascinating to me than the trees.  They looked like a pile of huge rocks, some with fissures, some rounded, some delicately balanced on others.  Some looked like they had been sliced with a knife and they said it had something to do with how they were formed millions of years ago underwater.  The granite cooled and crystalized leaving cracks.  That’s my geological viewpoint, anyway.  I’m sure it’s much more involved than that.  About half way we went to Keys View which at 5185’ had a magnificent view of the valley, mountains and San Andreas Fault below.   You could also see the smog and pollution from the LA area.  They said sometimes even the air in the park is polluted.  Drove into Jumbo Rocks campground and ate our lunch.  Beautiful campsites among the giant rocks, but only for tents or pop-ups.  It’s so hot that there was only one tenter there today but in the winter it’s probably full.  We drove over 50 miles in the park from the west entrance at Joshua Tree to the east/north entrance which brought us out to the town of 29 Palms, known for its murals.  We got a car wash which was probably a mistake.  We had to drive 60 miles back to Palm Springs again through the San Andreas Fault and the wind generators in Desert Hot Springs.  There’s a reason the generators are where they are, the wind is fierce and blows the sand all over the road (and the truck).  Back at the condo, I went in the pool, we had dinner and Harry went to the RV to try and fix the dining table which is wobbly.


Day 29-June 23, 2016-Groceries, casino, pizza, pool, Village Fest

2016-06-23

Day 29-June 23, 2016-Groceries, casino, pizza, pool, Village Fest

Got up to 112 today, another hot one.

Had to do some grocery shopping, we haven’t been in a while and are running low on some staples.  The local store here is Von’s, part of Safeway.  It’s about a half mile down Palm Canyon Dr.  Came back to condo to put groceries away then went to Cathedral City to Aqua Caliente Resort and Casino, the sister casino to the one in Palm Springs.  Harry had no luck, but I managed to win a bit.  We’re still up and we know when to quit.  We had gotten a coupon for pizza from the ball game the other night so we went to Upper Crust Pizza to get a pizza which was really good.  Came back to the condo, jumped in the pool to cool off.  I watched a couple of hummingbirds flitting back and forth from the trees to the fountain to get a drink.  Met a couple from Bozeman, Montana who told us about a few things to do there.  He is originally from Darien, CT, the next town over from where we used to live.  Small world.  Thursday night is Village Fest night in Palm Springs.  It’s held downtown and they close off three blocks of Palm Canyon Dr. for a few hours each Thursday for music, food, crafts and most of the stores stay open.  I spun the wheel at the Palm Springs Power (baseball team) booth and won free tickets so I guess we’ll be going back there tomorrow night, our last night here.  We had fun when we went to the game the other night so it should be fun again.  There’s a short film festival going on in town now and we heard there are some directors here.  One of the shop owners said they didn’t expect many people tonight because of the heat (just us tourists) but it was really busy.  Not really knowing where it was when we got there we didn’t park too close and then we walked from one end to the other, then all the way back again. 
Stopped for some ice cream but even that didn’t cool us off.  Back to the air conditioned condo and a nice cool shower, that did the trick.


Day 30-June 24, 2016-Last Day in Coachella Valley

2016-06-24

Day 30-June 24, 2016-Last Full Day in Coachella Valley

Hot again, up to 112.

This is our last full day in the condo in Palm Springs, we leave tomorrow to get back on the road.  It’s been a nice place to visit, although very hot, and we found a lot of things to keep us busy. I enjoyed seeing how the homes were built here, some at the foot of the mountains, some on the side and some at the top.  I guess it’s all in what view you want from your house.  We tried to go up to the top of a development we had seen which looked really nice but there were no trespassing signs on the way up.  Not just regular no trespassing signs, these said we’d be photographed and prosecuted. We know when we’re not wanted so we turned around. This used to be a low key hideaway for Frank Sinatra, Clark Gable, Dinah Shore, Liberace, etc. and some streets are names for them.  Gene Autry not only has a street named for him but also a bridge (as does Dinah Shore) and shopping plaza.  He must have spent a lot of time here.  Statues of movies stars are all over the area.  There’s a Palm Springs Walk of Stars, 380 stars in the sidewalks on both sides of the street on Palm Canyon Dr., (my favorite, Cheetah, the chimp), and tours to the homes of stars, not our thing.  The surrounding towns of Desert Hot Springs, Indio, Indian Wells, Cathedral City, Coachella, LaQuinta, Palm Desert, and Rancho Mirage were all nice to visit, well-kept and trendy.  Golf and tennis courses have been abandoned for the summer, but all the resorts and country clubs look busy.  The drought here over the last few years has made everything dry, sandy and dusty.  We’re done with the desert and hopefully will be out of it in a day or so.  Today we spent the day getting ready to leave tomorrow.  We made a few trips to the RV to bring things we won’t be needing anymore in the condo.  We both are eager to get back in the RV and go.  Did a few loads of laundry, made sure all the cabinets, closets and drawers were empty.  Went in the pool for a while after lunch, this time to one of the other pools on the property, almost as close and just as nice. I think there’s six of them here.  Read a bit and just relaxed.  Went to the ball game at night with the tickets I won yesterday and watched the Palm Springs Power lose to the SoCal Bombers.  They have open seating here, you can sit wherever you want so we sat behind home plate in somebody’s box.  Seats were more comfy than the other night, the misters worked better because there was a slight breeze.  Once the scorching sun goes does it’s quite nice, almost comfortable.  Because somebody hit a “triple” we all got $10 gift certificates to “Treo” Restaurant in town.  We gave ours to the staff at the resort since we’re leaving tomorrow. 


Day 31-June 25, 2016-To Temecula Wine Valley

2016-06-25

Day 31-June 25, 2016-To Temecula Wine Valley

Drove 70 miles in 1-3/4 hours.

Temp went from 109 when we left Palm Springs at 10:00 AM to 73 at 9:00 PM in Temecula.

This is more like it.  We actually watched the temperature go down as we were driving west on I-10 to Route 79 through San Jacinto and Hemet to Winchester, CA.  We passed some farms and produce trucks with onions and watermelons and saw real grass. We passed two pretty vineyards right before the entrance to the park. The campground is in the Lake Skinner Recreational Area, operated by Riverside County.  After entering the park we drove through 3 miles of nothing but gorgeous mountains and grasses and what looked like dried flowers on the side of the road.  I found out they’re California Buckwheat and are used to help with soil erosion.  They said they’re usually white and pink but are dried out because of the drought.  We got here before noon, set up, had lunch and went exploring.  Seems there are 44 vineyards in this area, all of them busy today with weddings, entertainment, limo tours and people out for a good time.  There are more vineyards in the making with “Open Soon” signs.  We stopped at Doffo Winery where they were setting up for a wedding.  Huge slabs of ribs were being BBQ’d outside in a makeshift smoker.  This winery prides itself on its collection of antique motorcycles, some of which were hanging on the walls.  We looked at their tasting menu, decided we’d never spend as much on a bottle of wine as what they wanted so why bother to taste it and left.  From there we went to Wilson Creek Vineyards.  The parking lot is so big they have a shuttle take you to the tasting room.  Lots of people milling about outside, lots of seating areas if you want to have a glass of wine, beautiful fountains and flowers and nice walkways for a stroll through seventy acres of vineyards.  Inside was crazy busy and noisy even though they said it was slow.  We saw at least 3 tasting bars and found a spot at one.  We split a tasting of five but I think Julie, the pourer liked us because she ended up giving us tastes of 13 and at the end even gave us another glass so we didn’t have to split it.  Needless to say, that was our last winery for the day.  Every winery we passed after that looked just as busy.  We found out later that The Bacon Bros. were playing this afternoon at one of the wineries and there were at least three weddings. We drove about 20 minutes to Old Town Temecula, a funky western town with wood plank sidewalks, old buildings, restaurants, nice olive oil and vinegar shops, street performers and, of course, gift shops.  Very windy, it felt great!  We walked around for a while and poked in the shops then decided to drive another 20 minutes to Pechanga Resort and Casino, the largest casino in the Western US.  This place is huge.  It has eleven restaurants and over 3500 slot machines. Terry Fator was here tonight so again the crowds were outrageous.  The campground at this casino was our first choice for this area but they said they had no room Sat. night so we booked Lake Skinner.  They later called and said they had a cancellation but I’m glad we stayed at Lake Skinner.  It’s quieter, closer to the vineyards and much prettier.  There are even some shade trees. We played and lost our $20 then got lost trying to get out.  The place is huge!  And they’re adding on.  Came back to the RV for dinner, sat outside at a campfire (yes, it’s cool enough for a campfire) with our neighbors, John and Lynn.  The stars here are amazing, we’re far enough away from the city lights to really see them.


Day 32-June 26, 2016-Lake Skinner and more vineyards

2016-06-26

Day 32-June 26, 2016-Lake Skinner and more vineyards

High of 96 today, but it goes down quickly when the sun sets.

Spent the morning doing some chores and reading.  A lot of campers are packing up and leaving.  After lunch we drove around the park and found the lake.  It’s actually a man-made 1400 acre reservoir created in 1973 when they built a dam. We haven’t seen a body of water in about two weeks, no rivers, lakes, streams, not even a puddle, so we enjoyed seeing this. It’s fed by the Colorado River.  You can’t swim in it but you can fish and boat.  It’s stocked with catfish and trout and fishing is the big sport here.  They have two boat docks and boat rentals and a fishing pier.  There are three campgrounds with over 300 sites, including handicapped, and equestrian camping, a primitive camping area, an old schoolhouse now used for nature studies, big picnic areas, open fields where the hot air balloons are set off in late May, a marina, bike rentals, hiking trails, a splash pad, ampitheater and playground for the kids, group camping area and a campstore that stocks all kinds of camping and fishing needs. All this set in the middle of hundreds of acres of “Multi-Species Reserve” land.  They say there are mountain lions here.  We’ve seen squirrels, rabbits and skunks.  Our neighbors said they saw a rattlesnake on a trail when they took a bike ride today.  We see and hear lots of birds and the wild howl of coyotes at night. Different trees here, there are trees that look like willows with red berries, trees that have little green bell shaped flowers that are dropping like mad, don’t know if it’s from the heat or drought.  We then went to some more wineries.  The ones on the main roads still looked busy so we found a few off the beaten path.  Beautiful scenery along the way, even some orange groves.  The first only had one other couple at it and the owner was doing the tastings.  Nice wines, too expensive.  She said they just found out they lost 50% of their crops because it’s been so hot. The second we didn’t even taste at, the bottles ranged from $68 and up.  The third was Longshadow Ranch, a working ranch with two rescue Belgian horses in a corral.  Big sign right near them saying don’t touch.  One of the girls from a bus tour decided to get on one of the horses and ride it, it bucked and threw her off and she got very indignant along with all the other people on the bus.  The ranch had a security man and a few locals who set them straight and they went on their merry way.  Some drama for a Sunday afternoon.  Their wines were too expensive also but we did buy a white merlot that was $22. Stopped at a roadside fruit stand and bought some avocados at a better price than the $1.69 each in the grocery store, these were fifty cents each.  Went back to the casino to check out the campground, very nice but I like where we are better.  Found a Sam’s Club and filled up the gas tank for $2.29 a gallon vs. the $2.79 at other stations.  Back to the campground for dinner and enjoyed another campfire and gorgeous stars.


Day 33-June 27, 2016-DePortola Rd. Wine Trail

2016-06-27 to 2016-07-27

Day 33-June 27, 2016-DePortola Rd. Wine Trail

Only 97 today, a lot more comfortable

Most campers have left, only about three left in our section.

We’re planning on going to Bakersfield for a few days tomorrow but we’ve heard the wildfires are bad there so we called the campground to make sure we’d be OK.  They assured us the fires are so far away we won’t be bothered.  Asked about the weather and he said they’re hot but 20 degrees cooler than the 126 we had in Palm Springs.  Oh, goody, only 106. Thought about going a different way, maybe up the coast, but we’ve been there, done that so we’re sticking with Plan A. Drove to De Portola Rd. Wine Trail after lunch.  About 15 vineyards, very different from the ones we’ve been to here.  Most of these grow grapes from Italy and we liked these wines better.  The scenery is quite different also, a lot of horse ranches and donkeys, llamas, goats, and we even saw an emu.  Wonderful sculpture of a horse and rider jumping over a fence on the side of the road.  More citrus orchards too, we stopped and picked a couple of grapefruit.  We stopped at Cougar Vineyards first, met some nice people who live up the road.  Good wine, not as expensive as some of the others we’ve been to.  Then on to Frangipani Estates Vineyard, probably my favorite, great wines, great owner/manager, Nick, great cat, Barrel and a great dog, Franny.  He told us most of the vineyards in the area have lost 70% of their grapes because of the heat.  He said one day they looked fine and the next they weren’t even raisins, they were just withered.  A lot of the trees in the area are dropping their leaves also, it’s really hot and dry.  We couldn’t decide which wine we liked the best, they were all nice.  But that was it for me, I had to go back to the RV and rest my weary head. 


Day 34-June 28, 2016-To Bakersfield, CA

2016-06-28 to 2016-07-28

Day 34-June 28, 2016-To Bakersfield, CA

Drove 212 miles in 4-3/4 hrs.

109 in Bakersfield.

First we stopped at the campstore to fill up on propane and I noticed bird’s nests under the eaves of the store.  Lots of bird’s nests.  Quite a sight to see them (and hear them) flitting in and out but when I walked over to take a picture they went away.  We wanted to avoid LA traffic as best we could so we took I-215 or, as they say here, the 215 through Riverside and San Bernadino, 6 lanes of traffic each way, a bit crazy but not as bad as LA.  At Hesperia we got on Route 395 for 42 miles, a one lane road with a lot of trucks but not bad traffic.  A lot of double onion trucks on this road and when they got in front of us we got onions skins blowing on the windshield.  A lot of dips in this road, too, don’t know why.  We see a lot of Joshua trees again so we know we’re back in the desert and then we start going up and down in elevation through the San Bernadino Mountain Range.  Stopped for lunch at a parking lot for a pottery store in Kramer Junction and ended up buying a “rooster fish” ornament, about 3’ x 2’.  It will be fun trying to find a place to put it for the rest of the trip.  From there turned west to Route 58, past Edwards Air Force Base and then through the beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains.  I think this mountain range is one of the prettiest in the country with its gentle rolling hills that remind me of pillows covered in golden grasses dotted with dark green trees and rock outcrops.  Up to over 4000’ elevation and then as we came down the mountain a splash of bright green which is the farms of Bakersfield.  Campground is really nice, pool, spa, laundry, etc., etc.  It’s a Passport America campground so it’s $15 a night, can’t beat that.  Set up, found a place for the fish and read a bit.  Took a walk around the campground, all the sites are nice, then back for dinner.  It doesn’t cool down here with sundown, just stays HOT!!


Day 35-June 29, 2016-CA Fruit Depot and Buck Owens' Crystal Palace

2016-06-29

Day 35-June 29, 2016-CA Fruit Depot and Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace

Temp up to 112.  Still HOT!

Went a few miles up the road to the California Fruit Depot where their motto is “We’re half nuts”.  They had over 20 varieties of almonds, including Onion Garlic, Coconut Macaroon, Butter Toffee and Orange Honey.  The same with pistachios, walnuts, cashews and pecans.  And dried fruits, apricots, kiwi, figs, chili pineapple, mango and cantaloupe and more.  Chocolate covered fruits and nuts, candies, pickled items (hawg balls and frog balls a specialty), olive oils, vinegars, sauces, jams and jellies.  And then fresh fruits and date shakes.  They’re very proud of their oranges and the groves are just outside the building.  And they encouraged us to try everything so this was lunch.  Stopped at a Wal-Mart and stocked up again then went to the pool for a while.  Took a ride to downtown Bakersfield and looked at some of the artwork and landmarks around town.  A 1939 Woolworth’s that still has counter service, the famous Bakersfield sign, Guthrie’s Alley Cat Sign, a 75 year old neon sign over a bar in an alley that the truck just squeaked through and a shoe repair shop inside a 30’ x 20’ shoe.  Nice murals all over town and even some cool graffiti.

For dinner we went to Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace. We heard Bakersfield is the “Nashville of the West Coast” and that this is the place to go.  When we first  opened the front doors we were greeted by huge bronze statues of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, George Jones, Johnny Cash, etc.  Then go inside and walk the boardwalk around the restaurant with its storefront windows filled with memorabilia from country music stars.  More bronze statues, Elvis, George Strait, I think there are 10 in all, all larger than life.  The fifty foot bar has a Pontiac convertible behind it on the wall (which I thought was a Cadillac).  Buck Owens supposedly won it from Elvis in a poker game.  The food was great, Harry had Buck’s special chicken fried steak and I had halibut.  The entertainment for the night was Carter Winter, an up and coming (or going, he wasn’t that great) country singer.  All in all a really nice evening.


Day 36-June 30, 2016-Chores Day

2016-06-30

Day 36-June 30, 2016-Chores day

Up to 110 again.

This was kind of a catch up day.  Did some laundry, the machines are nice here and it’s relatively inexpensive.  There’s a couple next to us who live in Davenport, FL and bought their RV the same place we did, it’s a small world.  Talked to them for a while.  After lunch we went into town and Harry got a haircut and I got a pedicure, then back to the RV.  I did a bit of cleaning, sinks, shower, microwave, etc., not much to clean.  Met a nice couple, Steve and Lynn from Las Vegas who were interested in buying an RV like ours so we showed it to them.  Hopefully we’ll get to see them again.  Dinner was easy, last night’s leftovers. 


Day 37-July 1, 2016-To Delhi, CA

2016-07-01

Day 37-July 1, 2016-To Delhi, CA

Only got up to 102 today, must be a cold front.

Drove 188 miles in 4 hours, staying on CA 99 the entire trip. 

Beautiful scenery, red, pink and white oleanders in the median of the 2-lane each way highway, vineyards and olive and nut trees in the farms and orchards along with the ever present railroad.  We’re in the San Joaquin Valley, an agricultural area, peaches, corn, tobacco and dairy farms on both sides of the road.  The slogan is “Something you ate today came from Bakersfield”.  Lots of water conservation signs and posters about meetings relating to irrigation issues, the drought seems to have everybody here concerned.  Stopped at Bravo Farms in Traver, CA, a roadside tourist store where they make their own cheese, and sell wine, beer, cheese, nuts, olives, antiques, fruit, gifts, jams, candles, etc., etc., etc.  Drove through Selma, “The Raisin Capital of the World”, where they grow 90% of the world’s raisins.  Then north through Fresno to Delhi.  On the way to the campground we passed a peach orchard with peaches just begging to be picked so we did. We’re staying at the Merced River RV Resort, right on the Merced River, now more like the Merced stream.  Nice campground, big pool, large clubhouse with a library, big screen TV, fireplace, pool table and game and meeting room.  The clubhouse was up a big hill.  Most people drive up there but we didn’t unhitch because we’re only staying one night so the walk up the hill in 102 degrees was HOT!  But we got a few more books that look interesting from the library.    We finally have some decent Wi-Fi so I caught up on the blog, then read and relaxed.  There’s a wonderful breeze in the big trees on the other side of the river, it almost looks like there’s something in them moving.  Went for a walk after dinner, the campground is full for the 4th of July week-end.  Met another woman who, with her husband, has just sold their house and decided to full time RV.  We’re meeting a lot of people who are doing that.


Day 38-July 2, 2016-To Corning, CA

2016-07-02

Day 38-July 2, 2016-To Corning, CA

Drove 210 miles in 4 hours.

Got up to 100 in Corning.

We saw a coyote or fox near the river when we pulled out this morning, couldn’t see it that well but at first glance I thought, coyote.  This is definitely northern California with its big trees and green farms.  No more desert!  Nice day, cooler, only inched up to 86 until we got around Corning when it went up to 100.  They say it’s because we had the Delta Breeze south of Sacramento.  The ride was pretty, we still have the beautiful red, pink and white oleanders on the side of the road and in the median, until we got to Sacramento, then we started seeing farms and orchards, later learning they were olive orchards, a new type of olive used for olive oil.  They get more bang for their buck with this crop than the almonds that used to grow here.  Lots of traffic going into Sacramento and lots of police cars on CA 99, then we got on I-5 and the traffic was better and we started to see the mountains in the distant west.  We’re listening to a book on tape that we listened to before but Harry doesn’t remember it.  It’s a David Baldacci book that he started to read and then realized we have it on tape. I don’t remember what happened so I’m OK with listening to it again, it makes the time and miles pass.  We stopped at a rest area for lunch then got into Corning about 2PM.  We’ve stayed at this campground before in 2013.  It’s surprisingly not filled.  They’re complaining about the heat here, said they’ve had a heat wave the last two weeks, no kidding.  The trees are dry and the leaves are falling. But they said it’s supposed to go down to 65 tonight.  We read for a while, then went in the pool, which we had all to ourselves.  Met one of the managers here who used to live in Eureka and gave us some advice on the best way to get there.  Doesn’t seem to be an easy way.  Came back, read a bit more, we both have good books. It did cool off a bit at night but not a lot. 


Day 39-July 3, 2016-Wine and Olives

2016-07-03

Day 39-July 3, 2016-Wine and Olives

Temp up to 102 today but, believe it or not, quite comfortable.

There’s one bird who stays up all night and chirps right outside our window, he sounds lonely.

One of the hardest places to find and one of the best places we’ve been is The Abbey of New Clairvaux Vineyards.  Operated by the Catholic Benedictine Trappist Cistercian Monks (The Order of the Strict Observance).  They dedicate their lives to communal prayer and manual labor.  The directions say “go left over the railroad tracks and look for the cross”, and that’s exactly where it is, just don’t blink.  First we drove through miles and miles of nut and olive orchards, past the big “olive with the toothpick in it” that was in much better shape last time we were here, it looked a bit weather beaten.  The wine is really good, made by the 25 monks who live here.  We didn’t see any on this visit but have seen them in here the past.  Prices are much better here, too, a nice bottle is about $12-14.  They hold retreats here,  have an abbey and church on the grounds which are surrounded by acres and acres of beautiful trees.  Very peaceful place.  Moved on to Lucerno Olive Oil Co. and tried their oils and vinegars but we know we liked The Olive Pit’s better.  So on we went.  The Olive Pit has an olive tasting bar, about 20 different varieties on tap, a vinegar tasting bar, a sandwich and ice cream luncheonette (they put peach and chocolate vinegar in their ice cream), olives, nuts, oils, vinegars, cheeses, sauces, syrups, etc., etc., etc.  In the back there’s a wine and craft beer tasting bar and we tried a little of each.  Again, good wine and good prices.  Very busy on this Sunday/Holiday week-end.  We’re finding out a lot about the culture in this area.  Learned it’s olive and nut orchards, not groves, almonds are pronounced aa-minds (the a like in cat, silent l), rice is grown and shipped from here to Japan, and the drought is making life miserable for the farmers.  It’s so interesting to speak to the locals and learn things I never even thought about.  Back to the campground.  I went in the pool, still really refreshing, just the right temp, not too warm, not too cool.  Sat outside after dinner, it’s really comfortable especially when the sun goes down.


Day 40-July 4, 2016-HAPPY 4TH OF JULY, chores, plans & casino

2016-07-04

Day 40-July 4, 2016-HAPPY 4TH OF JULY, chores, plans and casino

Again up to about 98 but gorgeous and comfortable.

Did some laundry and a few chores.  We decided to stay another night here and not drive the day after a holiday, we’ve learned the traffic is horrendous, but the office is closed so we’ll have to wait ‘til tomorrow to register.  Looked at maps, campground books, etc. to chart a course for the next few days.  Make some reservations.  After lunch went to the local Safeway to get a few things then to Rolling Hills Casino 5 miles down the road.  Came out about an hour later winners, not big winner, but not losers.  Back to campground for dinner with a bottle of 4th of July wine, then sat outside and read.  It’s so quiet here, even on the 4th of July.  No fireworks, it’s so dry they don’t take a chance.


Day 41-July 5, 2016-Corning Olive Oil Co., Chico, CA-Sierra Nevada Brewery and The Chico Heat

2016-07-05

Day 41-July 5, 2016-Corning Olive Oil Co., Chico, CA-Sierra Nevada Brewery and The Chico Heat

Up to 93 but very comfortable.

When we were here three years ago we met Ray and Kathy Rogers, owners of Corning Olive Oil Co. and their manager, Jodie.  Ray and Kathy were thinking of buying an RV and retiring so we went to see them to see what they were up to.  They have bought an RV but Ray is not ready to retire, although he’s close to 70.  Kathy would retire tomorrow but they don’t know what to do with the business.  They are originally from the California coast and they gave us all sorts of ideas of what to do in the next few days, looked stuff up on the internet for us, gave us directions and said to call them if we needed more advice. They gave us so many ideas our heads were spinning when we left.

We found out that Chico, about 40 minutes away has a collegiate baseball team, The Heat.  I got tickets yesterday so we drove to Chico to spend the day there.  First stop, Bidwell Mansion California State Park on the campus of California State University where we had the lunch we packed.  The university is spread out all over town and is a big part of Chico.  The mansion was built in 1868 by John Bidwell who came to California in 1848 and found gold.  He was a state representative in 1865 and 66, died in 1900 and left the property to the church, later bought by a school and used as a dormitory and finally sold to the state in 1964.  Beautiful rare trees on the property, a monkey puzzle tree, huge magnolia, Ginkgo biloba and a tulip tree which was in full bloom.  We then moved on to Sierra Nevada Brewery and did a walk through tour of their facility, then went next door to their taproom for a wonderful burger with something called torpedo cheese, a nice cheese made with cream cheese and beer and some beer. We were early for the game so we drove through Chico, lots of construction going on at the university, some streets closed for maintenance.  A typical college town with all the chain stores you can think of but also a little of the old town flavor mixed in.  Beautiful crepe myrtles, mostly a brilliant red, in bloom everywhere.  The Chico Heat is a collegiate baseball summer league that plays at Nettleton Stadium on the campus grounds.  Their mascot is Heater, a weird looking dragon.  They played the Medford Rogues and it was kind of a slow game with The Heat in the lead 7-0 until the 7th inning when Medford scored 7 runs to tie it.  The Heat came back in the 8th with another run and finally won 8-7. 


Day 42-July 6, 2016-To Eureka, CA, Samoa Cookhouse and cloudy sunset

2016-07-06

Day 42-July 6, 2016-To Eureka, CA, Samoa Cookhouse and cloudy sunset

Drove 198 miles in 5-1/2 hours.

Started at 92 in Corning, when we arrived in Eureka at 3:30 it was 60.

We took I-5 up to Redding, CA where we got a quick glimpse of snow covered Mt. Shasta, then turned west on CA-299 for the next 150 miles.  There are two ways to get over the mountains from here, route 36, which everybody told us to avoid at all, costs and CA-299.  We were warned of the construction on this road so we were ready for long waits where the one lane each way road went down to only one lane both ways.  But, although there were multiple lane closes for “Curve Improvement”, “Highway Alignment”, “Slide Repair”, the longest we ever had to wait was 20 minutes.  A scenic road with S-shaped curves, steep grades, up and down mountains we drove through Shasta, an old mining town, Whiskeytown, on Trinity Lake with big sailboats, then down the mountain to Weaversville, a nice little summer vacation village on beautiful green Trinity River with hiking, camping, rafting, boating and fishing.  We continued to follow the Trinity River to Willow Creek, “The Bigfoot Capital of the World”, known for the most Bigfoot sightings but also the town where the most famous Bigfoot photo was taken in 1967, which later turned out to be a hoax.  In Willow Creek there is a Bigfoot Motel, Bigfoot Rafting Co., Bigfoot Hair Salon, Bigfoot Burgers among other Bigfoot businesses.  We passed dozens of logging trucks going east, even though we’ve heard they’ve curtailed logging to preserve the forests.  They’re probably going to a saw mill we passed on the way.  Stopped for lunch at an overlook and started to smell the pine trees.  Got into Redwood Acres RV Park about 3:30, stepped outside and wished we had jackets on.  Deidra, the campground host, came to our site to register us, maps and info brochures in hand and told us a few more things we need to do while we’re here.  We should be really busy for the next few days.  She also said 60 is a bit warm for them this time of year.  We had every intention of staying in for the rest of the day but decided we should be tourists and do what tourists do.  So we drove over the Woodley Island Bridge to Samoa and the Samoa Cookhouse, the last lumber camp cookhouse in North America.  Built in 1893 they have served breakfast, lunch and dinner continuously since then, exclusively to lumberjacks and millworkers until it was opened to the public in 1964.  They serve meals family style on long tables with red and white checked tablecloths, fixed meal, what they have tonight is what you get.  Tonight it was chicken and rice soup, salad, green bean salad, fried chicken, bbq ribs, corn, red potatoes, homemade bread and pineapple cake and coffee.  All you can eat.  Great service and great food.  They have a room with memorabilia, equipment and pictures from the early logging days in the late 1800’s.  They have another building that’s a lumber museum.  After dinner we drove about five minutes down the road to the Pacific Ocean just in time to climb over the dunes and see a cloudy sunset.  The sun only peeked out from the clouds before it set.  Back to the RV to set up the heaters.  It’s down to 50 already.


Day 43-July 7, 2016-Victorian Homes, Brewery, Graveyard, Casino

2016-07-07

Day 43-July 7, 2016-Victorian Homes, Brewery, Graveyard, Casino

Got all the way up to 61 today.  We heard right now this is the coldest city in the US.  A little over three weeks ago we were in the hottest city in the US in Palm Springs at 126.

We drove into the old historical town of Eureka this morning and saw a lot of beautiful old Victorian homes, especially the Pink Lady and the Ingomar Club (otherwise known as Carson Mansion), with its different hues of green.  Looked at all the boats in the marina in Humboldt Bay, many getting ready to go out sailing or fishing.  Drove into town to the Lost Coast Brewery, where we tasted some good beer, talked to Shelly, the waitress and a few of the locals about what else to do here.  Everybody is very friendly and helpful.  We also heard they didn’t have fireworks here, they call them “fogworks” because they can never see them because there’s always fog.  As there was today, heavy black clouds that look like it’s going to rain any minute but it doesn’t.  The Victorian homes in Eureka and also Ferndale, a quaint Victorian Village about 15 minutes south are all different but elaborate.  Some are in disrepair and some, like the Gingerbread House in Ferndale, which is now a B&B are gorgeous and well kept.  Most of them have pretty flower gardens in the yards with roses and hydrangeas of all colors from deep blue to pale pink, purple, reds, maroons, sometimes all these colors in one bush.  We took “the” 101, aka, “Redwood Highway” and “the Freeway” to Ferndale which is a dairy town known for its butter.  We drove over the Ferndale Bridge, built in 1911 and kept our fingers crossed the whole way into town.  The Victorian homes here are called “Butterfat cottages” named for the Danish and Norwegian dairymen who settled here.  The town is surrounded by cattle farms.  And a magnificent cemetery built on a steep hill that we’d never be able to get the truck up.  But the walk was worth it.  It was wonderful.  The view of the town from the top was great.  Some of the film Salem’s Lot and Majestic was filmed here and parts of Outbreak and Salem’s Lot was filmed in town.  A few miles north in Loleta we visited the Loleta Cheese Factory with great cheese and beautiful gardens in the back.  The factory wasn’t open because they’re renovating.  So we went to Bear River Casino, a native American casino, quite new, nice machines and not much smoke.  They gave us each $10 in free play and we came out $75 ahead.  That pays for four nights in campgrounds. Back to the RV for dinner and pack up to leave tomorrow. 


Day 44-July 8, 2016-California Redwoods, Oregon Coast

2016-07-08

Day 44-July 8, 2016-California Redwoods, Oregon Coast

Drove 139 miles in 5-3/4 hours.  Yes, we stopped a lot.

When we got up temp was 57 and it never changed all day.  Cloudy, damp, rainy all day.

We continued north on Route 101, the Redwood Highway, now a one lane road, through mist and fog and clouds to Orick, where we stopped at the Redwood National Park Visitor Center.  The smell of the ocean is wonderful.  Got some info, which changed our minds about what to do, and then stopped at Elk Meadows where there were no elk.  But when we got on the Newton Bishop Drury Scenic Highway we saw a herd of five in a meadow, just walking around looking at the tourists looking at them.  The Newton B. Drury Highway is a 10-mile highway that goes right through the Redwood Forest.   It has some places where you can pull over and get a good look at the giant redwoods that can get up to 380’ tall.  The mosses and ferns are almost as awe inspiring as the trees themselves.  There are trails and viewpoints along the way, the woods very deep.  Some of the movie Jurassic Park was filmed here.  Both Harry and I think the redwoods are more fascinating than the sequoias.  Back on 101 through Klamath, which was our original stopping point for tonight.  We stopped at an ocean overview for lunch with magnificent views but it was raining.  Klamath is the home of the Yurok tribe and a lot of their history is present in this town.  It was early in the day so we decided to continue north, through more forest, up mountains where the fog was so thick we could barely see and then back down steep grades to Crescent City, known for its tsunami history.  We finally got some cell phone service and called ahead for reservations at a campground in Gold Beach, OR.  We knew we were in Oregon when we saw a billboard that said “Need Weed?”  We continued on 101, which is now called “Pacific Coast Scenic Byway”, through Brookings where we stopped at another viewpoint of the ocean and the gigantic rocks and waves and then to Gold Beach and Indian Creek RV Park which had a nice, cozy fire in the large greeting room.  Nice campground, across the street from the ocean and not far from town.


Day 45-July 9, 2016-Plans, Gold Beach, OR, Ocean, Brewery

2016-07-09

Day 45-July 9, 2016-Plans, Gold Beach, Brewery

Stayed at 65 degrees and sunny all day.

We are at the end of all the plans we’ve made so we have to look at maps and campground books and decide which direction to go in next.  Took us a few hours in the morning but we’ve got the next few days reserved and know which way we’re going.  We drove down the road to a beautiful bridge we passed on the way in and learned it’s the Rogue River Bridge aka the Isaac Patterson Bridge built in 1932.  It has cliff swallows and sometimes harbor seals underneath it.  No seals today but lots of swallows and boaters out for a nice Saturday.  I wanted to see the swallows better so we drove down a road that went underneath it.  It had a walkway that went under the bridge and a lot of blackberry bushes on the way.  We’re having blackberries for dessert tonight.  The smell of pine and ocean is really refreshing.  We stopped for lunch at a marina parking lot and found the remains of the Mary B. Hume, a freighter built in Gold Beach in 1880, now a wreck in the harbor.  In its heyday it was a steam schooner, tugboat, cannery tender and whaling vessel.  It is now on the National Register of Historic Places.  You can see the bridge from the marina, quite a sight.  Driving down 101 we went into the Myrtlewood Factory store.  Myrtlewood only grows in southern Oregon, northern California and the Holy Lands.  It has beautiful swirls in it and every piece is different.  There are a few trees in the campground.  From there we went to the beach-black sand, huge roaring waves and a sign that warns that if you get sucked in by a sneaker wave “survival is unlikely”.  Heard about a brewery in town so we headed to Hunter Creek Loop and the Arch Rock Brewing Co.  Very small, they only make three beers, only one we liked, but very nice people.  Back to campground for dinner and to read a bit.  We met two women who live in California and were very excited to meet people from Florida because they own Brandt Orchards and ship their fruit to Publix.  They wanted to make sure every time I saw a piece of fruit from Brandt Orchards in Publix I would remember them. 


Day 46-July 10, 2016-The Oregon coast

2016-07-10

Day 46-July 10, 2016-The Oregon Coast

Drove 210 miles in 6 hours.

Started rainy, cloudy 55, got sunny in the afternoon and up to 64.

We drove from Gold Beach, OR to Lincoln City, OR all on Route 101, aka “The Pacific Coast Scenic Byway”, “Trans Pacific Highway” and “Oregon Coast Bike Route”.  Pacific Ocean was on our left all the way to Port Orford, large rocks in the water with white water crashing down on them, simply amazing.  The road then turned inland through misty forests, huge trees rough roads, rough rocks, slides and white mist. Some sheep farms, blueberry orchards and cranberry bogs.  Larger cities in this area of Oregon, especially when we got to Coos Bay, with piles of wood chips and lumber waiting to be made into wood chips.  Passed through over 40 miles of sand dunes (some over 300’ tall) in the Oregon Dunes.  Drove into Horsfall Recreation Area and watched some ATVs riding over the dunes. Stopped for lunch at a scenic overlook but the fog and mist made it difficult to see anything.  Once we got to Reedsport the sun started to come out and the ocean was in view again.  The ocean is really rough here, giant rocks, huge waves, beaches but nobody on them.  Also saw a few lighthouses and went over a lot of beautiful bridges.  And a lot of rivers, lakes and lagoons on the eastern side of the highway.  The Oregon coast reminds me a lot of the Maine coast but Oregon seems more raw and rough.  Saw what I thought was driftwood on a sand bar near Seal Rock but it was really seals sun bathing.  Another large town, Newport, had a lot of people out on a Sunday afternoon.  The beaches here had people on them, a few even in the water but only ankle deep. Next town was Depoe Bay, “World’s Smallest Harbor”.  This town is known for whale watching too and looked like a fun place.  There was no place to park the big RV, it’s getting late and the town was crowded so we kept going north, finally to Lincoln City where we’re staying for the next two nights.  A nice KOA, and we have enough points with them to get $25 off.  KOAs are always nice. There’s a mix of tenters, RVers and about 10 cabins. Sat outside and read for a while, but it’s a bit chilly.  As we’re eating dinner and little deer walked right past our campsite and up the hill to the entrance of the park.


Day 47-July 11, 2016-Blueberries, Depoe Bay, Casino

2016-07-11

Day 47-July 11, 2016-Depoe Bay, OR, blueberries, casino

Sunny and 65 again today,  the sun makes a big difference.

The ocean takes center stage here but the lakes and rivers are beautiful too.  Our campground is near Devils Lake, a big clear lake surrounded by summer cottages.  And the Siletz River is near here also, lots of boaters and fishermen on that.  We drove south on 101 today and stopped at a scenic pull-out which happened to have a lot of wild blueberry bushes.  So far on this trip I’ve picked grapefruit which was wonderful, peaches, which have just ripened in the last day or two, blackberries which we had on ice cream, in yogurt and in pancakes this morning.  We’ll be having blueberries tomorrow.  We drove down to Depoe Bay which was much too crowded yesterday.  Today it was great.  It’s a little town with a lot in it.  We started walking a bit north of the town, where the ocean has carved out big holes in the seawall.  More toward town we saw about four whales in the cove.  They said they stay here all year.  Don’t know what kind they were but they were fascinating to watch-we waited for the spout, then the whale, then the tail disappearing.  Walked down a bit more to where the “spouting horns” are, rock formations that make the sea spray come up, sometimes over the road, but that mostly happens in the winter.  On the other side of the street we found the usual gift shops and some unusual gift shops too.  You can buy any kind of weed here but it’s not in your face as much as it is in Amsterdam.  Got some chowder and ice cream for lunch, then stopped in the wine store but they didn’t have anything we liked.  It was a tiny store with dollar bills hanging from every inch of the ceiling and walls and the back wall behind the bar was covered with foreign bills.  The Lincoln City Outlets are right down the street from the campground and we stopped in and Harry got a waterproof jacket for the times he has to set up in the rain.  We stopped at Lincoln City Beach, seven miles of nice sandy beach and calm waters.  People were flying kites and sunning, some even were in the water, the brave ones.  Each year from Oct. to May the town hides glass floats on the beach, blown glass orbs by local artisans.  They put out 2015 of them in 2015 and 2016 in 2016, etc.  They’re signed and numbered and the idea is to promote tourism to come and to find them. Then on to the Chinook Winds Casino where we had a couple of hours of fun and came out $10 ahead.  We didn’t realize they had two floors ‘til we were ready to leave.  But we didn’t dare go back in, we left as winners.  Saw a sign just about where our campground is saying we’re at the 45th parallel, halfway between the equator and the North Pole.  Back to the campground, read for a while, had dinner and got ready to leave tomorrow.


Day 48-July 12, 2016-Oregon Cheese Factories and to Washington State

2016-07-12

Day 48-July 12, 2016-Oregon Cheese Factories and to Washington State

Drove 172 miles in 6-1/4 hours.

Cloudy, drizzly 65 degrees.

Drove about 40 miles on route 101 north to Tillamook, OR through dairy farms and forests.   The road has no shoulders and big drops into ditches and it has a lot of curves and hills so we can’t go fast.  We stopped at Blue Heron French Cheese Factory where they had samples of their cheeses (they specialize in brie, a lot of different flavors), jams, jellies, wines, dips, sauces and a big gift shop.  They have a petting farm and old farm equipment and a cheese museum.  We sampled some cheeses but decided to go on to Tillamook Cheese Factory a few miles up the road where they make the cheddars we like.  It was really crowded, probably over 50 people in line to sample cheeses and ice cream.  They have a restaurant which was packed and also a museum and tour of the factory.  We skipped all of the above, went to their store and bought some cheese.  Even the checkouts had lines.  People who come often were saying they’ve never seen it this busy.  We probably could have gotten the same cheeses in the grocery store quicker and cheaper.  But it was an experience.  We then drove around Tillamook Bay through Garibaldi, a quaint little town with beautiful flowers in front of homes, especially the deep blue hydrangeas and some yellow and orange flowers that were gorgeous.  A lot of lumber trucks going both ways here.  In Rockaway Beach, a summer vacation town with lots of cottages and condos we saw the ocean again for a while, then back to forests to the city of Seaside, the largest city we’ve seen in a long time.  We pulled into a Cosco parking lot for lunch then continued north over the Columbia River and into Washington.  There’s more logging here, as soon as we got into WA we saw forests clear cut, some replanted with smaller trees.  On to Raymond on the Willapa River, where route 101 is the Wildlife Heritage Sculpture Corridor with miles and miles of cast iron replicas of local wildlife on both sides of the road and a big lumber mill.  A few miles up the road is our campground for the night, Artic RV in Cosmopolis, WA.  In the middle of the forest but right off the road we drove to the office which had a sign saying “Ring Bell”.  A huge bell with a pull rope.  Out came Roy and Ann Pearmain, the owners. I had called a few days ago and they saved us a nice site.  They gave us some info and told us about a trail that leads to a huge tree and the Artic Smokehouse & Pub next door which has some good food and beer.  We didn’t have to set up much, we’re just staying one night, so it was quick and then we went on the trail.  As soon as we entered a cat joined us (later we found out her name is Lilly and she’s the owner’s cat).  She led us the whole way through a narrow path, up and down stone steps, over bridges, she knew just which way to go when we got to a fork in the road.  Lots of mosses and ferns here, they get 100” of rain a year.  We found the tree, a big Sitka Spruce, about 11’ in diameter and then the path got wider and easier.  We saw two elk in the tree but they were gone in a flash.  We checked out the rec room, laundry room, etc. and then went to the Pub for dinner.  Local place, everybody knew everybody.  We had dinner (it was Taco Tuesday), and they were good,  Harry had a brisket sandwich.  I went out on the deck and got to talking to some of the people there.  Seems Roy, the campground owner, is a partner in making wine with one of the men on the deck.  He told me they make the best “Black & Blue” wine, a mixture from blackberries and blueberries and I should go down to their house and taste it.  The locals also gave us some ideas of what to do around here and the Washington peninsula.  So we went back down to the house and “rang the bell” again.  They invited us in, were having dinner with some neighbors, asked us to join them.  They didn’t have any Black and Blue wine but “Cascade Wine”, a wine made with leftover berries, loganberries, blackberries, marionberries, whatever they had leftover.  It was good but a bit sweet for us.  We sat there for almost two hours, exchanging stories, watching the hummingbirds outside their window and enjoying each other’s company.  What a nice night.


Day 49-July 13, 2016-Olympic National Rainforest, WA and LaPush sunset

2016-07-13

Day 49-July 13, 2016-Olympic National Rainforest, WA and LaPush sunset

Drove 135 miles in 5-3/4 hours

Sunny, temp almost squeaked up to 70, almost.

Still driving north on Route 101 we got to the Quinault Rain Forest in the Olympic National Park.  This area is managed by the Quinault Tribal Nation.  Took one of the easier trails up a narrow path, then down the narrow path, always surrounded by giant trees, mosses and ferns.  This is called the Valley of Rainforest Giants because it has six of the world’s largest trees in it, the Western Red Cedar, 63’5” circumference, 19’5” diameter, 174’ tall, the Sitka Spruce, 55’7” circum., 17’7” diam. 191’ tall, the Douglas Fir, 40’10” circum., 13’ diam., 302’ tall, the Yellow Cedar, 37’7” circum., 11’9” diam., 129’ tall, Western Hemlock, 27’11” circum., 8’9” diam. 172’ tall and the Mountain Hemlock 6+’ diam., 152’ tall.  And thousands of other trees just as amazing.  They have an average of 12 feet of rain a year which is why the trees are so huge.  We walked up to one of the waterfalls, then came back a different path.  Went into the museum and mercantile store then ate lunch in the RV behind the ranger station.  We met a few of the rangers back from a hike and they apologized for the sun.  They said if you’re in Quinault and it’s not raining you should be disappointed.  We weren’t.  Back on the road past the beautiful, big Lake Quinault to Forks, home of the “Twilight” vampires where we stopped in a True Value hardware store and bought a mop for the RV floor which desperately needs cleaning.  About 15 miles further and west we got to the Pacific Ocean again in LaPush, home of the “Twilight” werewolves.  We’re staying at the Quileute Oceanside Resort and RV Park.  We’ve been here before, it’s on the Quileute Reservation.  It’s right on the ocean, even fiercer this far north, lots of driftwood on the rocky beach.  We set up, walked down to the beach and watched the waves for a while.  One lone surfer was out there and he looked so small in the huge ocean. After dinner we went to the beach again to wait for the sunset.  We met two men from Tacoma who were here on vacation with their families and in-laws.  Talked with them for quite a while.  Clouds had moved in and we thought we might ruin the sunset but it came out again and gave us a glorious sunset. But it didn’t set until 9:30, and it wasn’t really even dark at 10PM.  Came back to site and had a nice fire.


Day 50-July 14, 2016-LaPush, WA

2016-07-14

Day 50-July 14, 2016-LaPush, WA

Rained last night, foggy and misty in the morning, sunny by mid afternoon but never got above 58 degrees.

Had to drive back to Forks for groceries.  The road off route 101 into LaPush is 15 miles long, one way in, one way out.  Forks is about 20 miles southeast of LaPush but the only game in town for just about everything.  And then it’s really sparse.  One grocery, one gas station, one of everything.  So the prices are outrageous.  We just got some essentials.  Forks is still capitalizing on the “Twilight” series of books and movies which supposedly took place here.  There’s Jacob and Edward wraps in the deli (of course Bella used to work in the grocery store), Twilight cabins, memorabilia in the visitor center, signs marking the DMZ between the vampires and the werewolves.  If you haven’t read the books you have no idea what I’m talking about.  We came back to LaPush and drove around the area a bit.  The whole Washington Peninsula is either Olympic National Park or Tribal lands. LaPush is Quileute Tribal land.  There’s a marina, where we pulled over and saw two bald eagles trying to snatch a snack from the seagulls.  One restaurant, a police dept., homes that need repair desperately, a tribal cemetery, natural resource center and a few tribal buildings. The resort where we’re staying has a lot of cabins and a hotel along with two RV parks.  One “grocery” store, more a rip you off deli, and a post office.  There’s no cell phone service or wifi anywhere, even in Forks.  But the ocean here is breathtaking. And peaceful. A lot of people are coming to replace the people who left this morning.  Came back to our site, did some chores, had dinner, took a walk around the campground (big place) then a nice fire and watched another beautiful sunset.  No seal tonight but more surfers.  We’re leaving here tomorrow, I guess you could say we’re heading home because this is the farthest west we’ll be going.  Every place we go from now on will be heading east. Or north.  Or south.


Day 51--July 15, 2016-To Port Angeles, WA

2016-07-15

Day 51-July 15, 2016-To Port Angeles, WA

Drove 76 miles in 2 hours.

Warmer, sunny 72.

We’re still driving on Route 101, heading north and east.  I feel like we’re on our way home because everywhere we have gone as far west as we can, every place we go now brings us east.  Of course we’re still in the Olympic National Forest.  We see more logging trucks now that we’re inland a bit.  Came upon a crystal clear Lake Crescent, a glacier carved 12 mile, 625’ deep lake that’s smooth as glass in some places and choppy in others.  Sometimes it’s aqua and other times it’s deep blue.  Surrounded by big pine mountains, the tallest Mount Storm King at 4534’.  Got into the campground about 12:30, set up, had lunch and drove to the local Ford dealer for an oil change.  They got us in and out in no time, then to Wal-Mart to stock up on things they didn’t have in Forks (or wanted too much money for).  Olympic Cellars Winery is across the street from the campground so we went in for a tasting.  Nice wine, some grapes they grow there and some are imported from the Columbia Valley. Back to campsite to get ready to meet Mickie, Jennifer and Gretchen’s sister.  She kindly invited us for dinner.  And what a dinner it was.  As we pulled up to her home we were greeted by three deer grazing on the lawn.  Mickie welcomed us into her home and showed us around.  She is surrounded by happy memories in the pictures and momentos, very comforting and reassuring. The wonderful dinner consisted of Dungeness crab and shrimp, accompanied by delicious side dishes.  And fresh picked blackberries for dessert. We ate outside and watched hummingbirds flitting around Mickie’s feeders and beautiful flowers while a Douglas squirrel sat in a Vermont maple tree near the patio. And the deer moved to the backyard so we saw them again.  But better than the dinner was the company.  We had never met Mickie but felt like we knew her forever.  We reminisced about Jennifer and Gretchen (yes, Gretchen, we talked about you, were your ears burning?).  But only nice things, nobody can say bad things about Gretchen.  Well, maybe Mickie can, but she didn’t.   


Day 52-July 16, 2016-Sequim, WA Lavender Festival, Casino

2016-07-16

Day 52-July 16, 2016-Sequim Lavender Festival, casino

Perfect weather, 66, sunny.

Drove into Sequim about 10 miles east to the Lavender Festival that’s going on this week-end.  And the farmers market was also open about 2 blocks away.  The weather is wonderful and the festival is crowded with locals and a lot of out of towners just here for the goings on.  A few blocks long, the festival has the usual merchandise and arts and crafts and food court plus a lot of lavender products, sachets, soaps, lotions, lavender ice cream, lavender sausages, etc.  Nice little friendly town with specialty shops, a nice civic center where they encourage you to pick up a piece of chalk and draw something on the sidewalk and crocheted life size ladies hugging the lamp posts.  Walked through the festival then drove to 7 Cedars casino where we had lunch at their buffet and won about $20.  On the outskirts of town we drove to a couple of the lavender farms that are also celebrating the festival week-end.  There’s a shuttle to take you to these farms but we decided to drive there in the truck.  In the newspaper about the festival I counted 17 farms participating in the festival but we only went to two.  Most of them are having music, work shops, music, food, arts and crafts projects and pick your own lavender.  The first is Purple Haze, which was jam-packed with people.  We’ve been to this one before and it’s one of the farms that we can stay in free through Harvest Hosts.  But not this week-end.  We continued on to Victor’s, the one that Mickie suggested. We walked through the fields here and into the drying barn with bouquets of lavender in every stage of drying.  There was a trio playing in the fields, nice music.  The aroma in the whole town and outlying fields is wonderful.  And the purple fields are gorgeous.  Really enjoyed the experience.  Back to campground-no dinner tonight, we’re still full from the buffet.


Day 53-July 17, 2016-Olympic National Park-Hurricane Ridge

2016-07-17

Day 53-July 17, 2016-Olympic National Park-Hurricane Ridge

66 in Port Angeles, 55 at the top of Hurricane Ridge

We drove the 17 miles up to Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park.  After the entrance booth we started the 7% grade ascent through miles of white daisies on the side of the road and majestic evergreens on the mountains, through three short tunnels, then bright yellow flowers on both sides of the road to the top at 5242’.  There’s not as much snow on the ridge as there was when we were here a few years ago and the fragrant purple wildflowers have gone (thanks to an early warm Spring, they say).  But the mountains on the ridge are just as beautiful, maybe more so with the mist and fog.  And the deer are just as plentiful.  They are so used to people they walk right up to you in the parking lot.  We forgot to pack a lunch so we had some chowder and fish and chips in the café, and both were really good.  We looked at a video and some exhibits in the visitor center then went outside to a wonderful view of the Olympic range of mountains. Mount Olympus is in the distance but it was too foggy to see it today.  A doe and twin fawns were in the meadow for quite a while just posing for pictures.  It’s only 55 degrees but the sun is warm and the weather wonderful.  We decided to walk the Cirque Rim Trail, a paved road through some of the forest.  Most of the roads here are paved so you stay off of the meadow flowers, some of which grow only here.  The pine smell is terrific.  Not as much snow on the trail as last time we were here, just one bowl of it on the side of a cliff and a few patches here and there.  Ran into a buck on the trail who decided to relieve himself in front of us-no shame, him!  Drove past the visitor center to the end of the windy, narrow, rocky road, then turned around, there’s one way in and one way out.  Back down the mountain we saw quite a few more deer, some in the middle of the road.  The yellow flowers and then the white whizzed by in reverse order on the way down.  Back in Port Angeles we went to West Side Pizza for a quick dinner, then back to the RV.  Mickie came by with Bogie, the cute little white ball of fluff she’s dogsitting, to see the RV and say good-bye.  We talked to Mike, the campground owner for a while and then just relaxed.  It’s nice to do nothing for a change.


Day 54-July 18, 2016-O Canada-Victoria, to be exact

2016-07-18

Day 54-O Canada-Victoria, to be exact

65 again, sunny and beautiful

We took the 8:15 Coho Black Ball Ferry from Port Angeles, WA to Victoria, Vancouver,British Columbia, Canada. Parking was right across the street.  The ferry carries both cars and pedestrians and there were a lot of RVs and trucks on the ferry this morning.  The 90 minute trip across the Strait of Juan de Fuca was very enjoyable, not much to see because it was very foggy and they kept tooting the fog horns.  They say there is an abundance of whales in the Strait this year, humpback, grey whales and occasionally an orca but we didn’t see any.  They make the trip very easy on, easy off and it’s amazing how they line up the walkway to the dock within an inch of where it has to be. We bought tickets on the ferry to Butchart Gardens and the Hop On/Hop Off double decker bus.

The Gray Line shuttle bus picked us up right outside the ferry terminal and we went straight to the Gardens.  The 40 minute ride went through town and then the outskirts with the bus driver giving some info as we went.  Inside the gardens we first stopped for lunch.  There are 3 restaurants in the gardens, one just a café, the cafeteria style Blue Peony and another upscale dining option.  We opted for the Blue Peony and had a very nice lunch.  Then we toured the gardens. The gardens were planted by Jennie Butchart in the 1920s on 55 acres in a limestone quarry owned by her husband’s company.  There are different gardens, the Sunken Garden being the biggest.  There’s the Italian, the Rose, the Mediterranean, Japanese, and Bog Garden, all different flowers, trees and planting.  Beautiful fountains one, the Ross Fountain with dancing waters, a carousel and childrens area, moss animals throughout, a concert stage, a fireworks area (supposedly great fireworks on Sat. nights), boat tours from the cove, ponds, totem poles and green, grassy areas all around. We stopped for some gelato in the Italian Garden then got the bus back to town.  We were let off at the Empress Hotel, a huge hotel that has just been remodeled.  It was gorgeous but the tour guide said it looked better before they removed all the ivy from the bricks.  Supposedly the ivy was damaging the bricks.  We then got on the double decker hop on/hop off.  We didn’t get off anywhere, just enjoyed touring the city and an outer loop, listening to the history and the present and future of the city.  Drove through Fishermans Wharf, Beacon Hill Park with its peacocks and petting zoo, huge totem pole and 0 mile marker for the 5000 mile Trans-Canada Highway, Oak Bay Village (some really swanky homes) and a total of 14 stops.  The ride around the ocean was pretty chilly and windy. Even though they don’t get much rain the lawns and greenery was all very lush.  Some old churches and castles right in the middle of town.  There are over 1200 hanging baskets in town, one prettier than the next with different flowers.  Back in the center of town we saw the Government Building, the Royal BC Museum, Thunderbird Park with its many totem poles and the very busy port.  Sea planes, water taxis, whale watching boats and yachts going in and coming out.  Watched an adult and two baby sea otters playing in the water.  We had a couple of hours to kill so we went to the Belleville, sat outside right on the street and enjoyed some wine and dinner and watched the horse and buggies, bike taxis, street vendors, joggers, bikers and street entertainers, the Hippo Tour bus and all the people.  We took the last ferry back at 7:30.  It had less people on board, all of them tired, and the sunset was really pretty.  But cold and windy. 


Day 55-July 19, 2016-To Olympia, WA

2016-07-19

Day 55-July 19, 2016-To Olympia, WA

Drove 116 miles in 2-3/4 hours.

65 again, sunny.

It’s time to leave the Dungeness Valley and head on.  We had to change our route because we couldn’t find any open campgrounds where we were originally headed.  So we decided to go to Olympia, WA, the capital of Washington.  We continued on scenic route 101 (we’ve been on 101 since Eureka, CA almost two weeks ago) through tiny towns like Quilene, Brinnon, Lilliwaup and then the larger Hoodsport and Shelton.  Olympic National Forest on the right, bays, inlets, canals and coves on the left. Very pretty drive.  Route 101 has now ended.  The last 5 miles were on I-5.  We got to the campground really early, set up and washed and dried six loads of laundry.  Wonderful campground (and the only one that had any room, but only for 2 nights, we have to get out after that).  All the sites are surrounded by big pine trees, blue berries that I’ve learned are salal berries, not poisonous but very bitter, quiet and peaceful. Sparkling pool.  I asked what the temperature was and the owner said it’s quite warm-up to 75 degrees.  Thanks, but I won’t be going in.  While we did laundry we looked at maps and campground books and made plans for the next few days.  I’m surprised at how many campgrounds are full.  We’ve had to change our direction a few times. But there are so many places to go!


Day 56-July 20, 2016-Olympia, WA

2016-07-20

Day 56-July 20, 2016-Olympia, WA

Got up to 82 today, sunny and warm

Spent the morning making some phone calls and catching up on e-mails.  Toured the campground and found it’s quite large.  There’s a farm in the back with a goat, ram, chickens, baby chicks, ducks and geese.  A big tent area, volleyball net, fields, a cabin and shelters.  Went to Wal-Mart for a few essentials, gassed up then drove into downtown Olympia, fondly referred to as “Olie” by locals.  Stopped on scenic DeSchutes Parkway when we saw some blackberries growing along the banks of Capitol Lake and picked some.  These are sweeter than the last ones, also had bigger and sharper thorns.  I froze them for another time.  Went to the capital building, not as impressive as some we’ve seen and definitely in need of some repair.  Down to the Farmers Market, closed today but we walked on the boardwalk and went to The Oyster House, a restaurant that just about everybody we asked has recommended to us.  We sat outside on the Puget Sound and watched the boats come and go.  Nobody was sitting inside, seems they were all taking advantage of the wonderful weather.  The Dungeness crab chowder was great.  We split that and some oysters and cod.  Brought about half of it home.  We heard that moon jellies, jellyfish that are quite abundant in the Puget this time of year were under a bridge near the restaurant so we walked over it and there they were.  Drove through town a bit, a small town for a capital city, then back to the campground for a nice fire.  As we’re enjoying the fire a woman came over from across the street and asked if we had any ice.  Turns out when we were kids we Iived about a mile away from each other in Stamford, CT.  We’re three years apart so I never met her back then. Small world.  Moving on tomorrow.


Day 57-July 21, 2016-Mt. Rainier & to Yakima, WA

2016-07-21

Day 57-July 21, 2016-Mt. Rainier and to Yakima, WA

Drove 161 miles in 4-1/4 hours.

Cool in Olympia, 70 at top of Mt. Rainier, 91 in Yakima

We decided to take the road less traveled to get over the mountains to Yakima.  We’ve taken the two main roads before so we went a bit north to get to route 410 which is closed in the winter.  It was rough and bumpy, probably from winter damage.  There was still patches of snow on the side of the road in some places and some rock slides still had not been cleared up well. We drove through small towns like Puyallup, Buckley and Enumclaw and Greenwater where we started to follow the White River which is actually white because of pulverized rock from Emmons Glacier on Mt. Rainier.  The rock particles fall into the runoff and downstream to the river.  Stopped at Skookum Falls viewpoint, pretty but the falls were small.  Then we started to climb the mountains in Mt. Rainier National Park to Chinook Pass, 5440’, and eventually got breathtaking views of the mountain.  The tippy top was cloud covered but we could still see the blue/ice top.  What a view!! Mt. Rainier is 14,410’ at the summit, nothing else near it comes close so it stands out.  Seems we drove around the mountain because we had a lot of different views.  Then down into the valley around some nasty switchbacks.  Stopped for lunch on the side of the road in the Wenatchee National Forest and the pine smell was wonderful.  We’re now following the American River, rocky and fast, all the way into the Yakima Valley where we are starting to see orchards and fruit stands.  Got to the campground about 3, it’s really nice, has its own golf course right next to us.  Set up and relaxed for a while. Oh, and put the heater away and turned the air conditioner on.   After dinner took a ride into Yakima, just a big city.  We’ll explore more tomorrow.  Sat outside for a while but it’s very windy out and getting quite chilly.  Supposed to go down to the low 60’s tonight.  Maybe I should get the heater back out.


Day 58-July 22, 2016-Yakima Valley Wine Trail

2016-07-22

Day 58-July 22, 2016-Yakima Valley Wine Trail

Gorgeous sunny day, 84.

Had to get some chores out of the way in the morning, I got a haircut then we got the truck washed. Drove a few miles to Natches to Wilridge/Natches Heights Winery, up a beautiful mountain with apple orchards on either side and lavender on the road up to the winery which is in an old house.  Had the lunch we packed overlooking the pretty mountains.  On the way down the mountain I picked some apples, I think golden delicious and gala.  There aren’t any little stickers on them to tell what they are when you pick them off the trees.  The apple trees are small here, not like the big trees in New England.  They’ve probably found a way to get more apples per acreage this way.  And they don’t need a ladder to pick them.  There were also some dark purple berries and bright red berries that looked kind of sketchy…I didn’t pick them.  Then we went downtown to a couple of tasting rooms, first to Kana Cellars where we promised we would be back for their music later tonight.  Probably not.  Then down the road to Gilbert Cellars where we met a couple from Seattle who gave us some ideas of things to do.  This was just a tasting room as was AntoLin, right across the street where we met up again with the couple from Seattle.  They were continuing on to a winery in Wapato, 15 minutes south and we decided to join them but when we got there the winery only had sparkling wines which we don’t like.  But right up the hill was Owen Roe Winery which had some nice reds.  They were almost closed but let us in.  On the way down the hill I picked some pears and nectarines.  On the drive back to the campground the sun was shining just right to almost illuminate the golden grasses on the hills. This is a very pretty part of Washington.  Nice weather, now anyway, warm during the day, cooler at night, nice and breezy all the time, lots of lakes and rivers and the orchards and flowers are all in bloom.  There are a lot of people at the campground who are here for a long time and the people next to us have a mailbox in front and lots of petunia pots around.  The smell is wonderful.  The wind picks up here about 6:00 and rattles the RV, then dies down about an hour later and the temperature has dropped into the 60’s. 


Day 59-July 23, 2016-Prosser, WA More Yakima Valley Wine Trail

2016-07-23

Day 59-July 23, 2016-Prosser, WA-More Yakima Valley Wine Trail

Drove 54 miles in 58 minutes.

Up to 87 today, sunny, nice.

Drove the short distance from Yakima to Prosser on I-82 (where we got one last look at Mt. Rainier looming in the distance, its crystal blue ice cap totally visible) past Zillah, the home of the Teapot Dome service station and Toppenish, the headquarters of the Yakama Nation Tribe whose land covers over 1 million acres.  Toppenish has over 76 murals on sides of building depicting pioneer life and every June they add another one.  We had been to these places before so we drove by and continued to Prosser to Wine Country RV on Merlot Rd.  We were also here before but there’s so much to do we returned.  The campground is right in the middle of the wine country and close to town.  There are over 100 wineries represented here, some in the downtown tasting rooms and some in the countryside with gorgeous vineyards which are the ones we like to visit.  The views are always so nice and we never get the feeling we’re just sitting in a bar.  So we started at Vine Hart Winery, where we picked a lot of cherries a few years ago.  But the trees were all bare, harvest was over.  The wine was just as good, though.  From there we went down the road to Pontin Del Roza Winery, which had a beautiful malamute dog named Koda and a bocce court outside.  Again, a gorgeous view of the vineyards.  And we learned that the “V” shaped crops are hops, which is the big thing here lately.  The Yakima Valley produces over 80% of the worlds hops and they’ve even torn out grapes to plant hops.  Budweiser bought a lot of acreage here to plant hops, the demand is great and the profits are high.  Continued to Barrel Springs Winery.  They had a “Benji” dog named “Benji”.  Eventually he’ll have a wine named after him like his predecessor, Handsome Howard does.  The owners told us they will be at our campground for a wine tasting later tonight and told us about another winery, Daven Lore, across the railroad tracks.  And up a bit, dusty, gravel road in the middle of golden grass covered hills.  Beautiful drive and a great view of Prosser down below.  There was a busload of people and it was closing so we didn’t spend much time there.  Back in town we stopped at Chukar Cherries and sampled just about one of everything.  They have cherry popcorn, chocolate covered cherries, nuts, sauces, jellies, truffles, cherry salsa, pie fillings, biscotti, etc., etc., etc.  Back to the campground just in time for the wine tasting with cheese, crackers, pretzels and dips.  Maybe no dinner tonight. 


Day 60-July 24, 2016-Prosser, WA Day 2

2016-07-24

Day 60-July 24, 2016-Prosser, WA day 2

Sunny and 91 today.

We’re right across the street from the laundry so we did a couple of loads while it’s convenient.  Looked at maps and campground books ‘til we were weary and made reservations for the next few days.  We’re having a surprisingly hard time finding available campgrounds, everybody says they’re just really busy this year.  So we had to rethink a few things, but we’ve gotten good at Plan Bs.  A lot of people are leaving the campground today and the wineries and streets are a lot less crowded.  This is the only campground here and it seems people use it as a hub to do wine tastings and get togethers, there seems to be groups of people who know each other here.  We first went to Hinzinger Wineries but they only had sweet wines and ports, not for us.  On to Desert Wind Winery.  We heard about this from a woman in Yakima who used to work here.  Nice wines and we met people from Illinois who gave us some ideas for the future. We’ve noticed that a lot of wineries have dogs and we found a book here about the winery dogs in Washington.  We’ve met a few of these dogs.  On to 14 Hands, a sister winery of Columbia Crest.  They had a beautiful mural of their logo painted on the side of the building and a nice seating area outside.  We buy these wines all the time in the grocery store.  They tried to get us to try their more expensive wines but we knew we wouldn’t buy them so didn’t try them.  They did have one that was different from what we could buy in the stores for a reasonable price.  Last place was Kestrel Vintners.  All three of these were more tasting rooms than vineyards.  I think the wineries have found if they have a tasting room in town they’re more likely to get people in rather than drive out to the vineyards.  One of the wineries we were at last time has now moved to town.  They had such a quaint little vineyard out of town amid all the grapevines and now it’s just a building.  So we drove out to the suburbs to look at the orchards again.  Apples, pears, nectarines, almost ready to be harvested.  Very pretty.  Back to the campground to get ready to leave tomorrow.


Day 61-July 25, 2016-Tri-Cities, WA Wine and Baseball

2016-07-25

Day 61-July 25, 2016-Tri-Cities, WA, Wine and Baseball

Drove 31 miles in 35 minutes to a new campground.  At this rate we might be home by Christmas.

Hot today, got up to 100.

We wanted to go to a baseball game in Pasco but didn’t want to drive 35 miles to get there and then back again so we drove the 35 miles to a closer campground in the tri-cities of Pasco, Kennewick and Richland, only 4 miles from the stadium.  This from people who drove over an hour and a half to see the Yankees in NY or Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg.  But first we wen