Bill and Kit’s 2013 Excellent Adventure-Journal #15

Bill and Kit's Camping Rig

Home is where the heart is, and my heart is wherever I am at the moment

Lily Leung

Saturday, May 4, 2013-Springfield, Pennsylvania:  Woke from a restful sleep, made coffee and headed into the house to visit with Mary Kate, Alora, Jack and Jim.  As a very pleasant surprise my cousin Joe, who owns a renowned pizza shop in Bryn Mawr, showed up with a large Breakfast Pizza.  As we were digging into breakfast, my mom’s brother, Uncle Don arrived.  We had a great time reminiscing, eating and planning the day.

 Cousin Joe and niece Alora have thoughtfully offered to show us about some of the more offbeat and unique Philadelphia attractions, a particularly interesting prospect for me.  After all, how many times do you need to see Independence Hall and The Liberty Bell when there is weird stuff to explore?

Our first stop of the day was at Eastern States Penitentiary.

Eastern States Pen Photo #3

This historic correctional facility is now open to the public in mostly an unrestored state so the visiting experience is raw and as authentic as possible.  An electronic tour guide device is supplied and the narrative is accessed through headsets which describe the areas and features of the grounds and personal stories about the prisoner’s daily life.  In addition, there were other audio options that one could select for more detailed information.  It’s a real nice user friendly way to tour a place such as this at your own pace.

Eastern States was opened in 1829 as the world’s first penitentiary dedicated to reform by penitence rather than simple incarceration. This nationally recognized historic structure has been kept in what is known as a “Preserved Ruin” state.  Consequently it was a bit unsettling in some of the more isolated interior spaces.  In addition to furnishings, there were even some prisoner belongings that were left by inmates when released long ago.  Most areas had deteriorated pretty badly before being stabilized and everything was covered with a layer of dust.  Even the air we breathed had the scent of decay!

Eastern States Pen Photo #7 

It is rumored that the penitentiary is haunted and that apparitions frequently show up in visitors photos.  Note the two white orbs that hover in front of my dark shirt in the photo above.  There was nothing on the lens and nothing floating in the air…..weird and kinda spooky!

Keeping with the theme of penitence, the Gothic hallways have a cathedral look and feel.

Eastern States Pen Photo #4

And the doors to the individual cells are purposely low as shown in the below photo of a restored space.  This requires the inmates to bow down for access in deference to the Lord.

Eastern States Pen Photo #1

Once inside the sparsely furnished cell, the only light that comes from above is through a small window called “God’s Eye”.

Eastern States Pen Photo #8

Some notorious characters were housed here such as Willy Sutton and Al Capone…..the later enjoying a bit more posh digs in his small cell do to a bit of bribery.

Eastern States Pen Photo #9

Following the closing of Eastern States Penitentiary, an historic survey was conducted complete with sonar documentation.  It was during this time that 30 partially completed tunnels were discovered.  Apparently the many years it took to secretly dig a tunnel from ones cell past the outer wall was too daunting for most or they were legitimately released before the tunnel could be completed.  There was only one documented prisoner escape by tunnel when in 1945 twelve prisoners, including Willie Sutton, escaped through an inmate dug 97 foot tunnel.

The terms of sentence were pretty much the same as most prisons or jails of the time.  However as a true penitentiary, the release date was predicated upon the demonstrated penitence and “rehabilitation” of the prisoner.  It was not uncommon for a remorseful murderer to be released before a recalcitrant train robber.

Great tour but it is time for lunch and since Alora attends school in the area she knew the best place to go.  The New Deck Tavern is a traditional Irish bar in the historic college district of the city.

The New Deck Tavern #1

Since I usually try and enjoy authentic local cuisine during my travels, I just knew I had to order a meal featuring Philadelphia Cream Cheese.  After the laughter and ridicule had subsided I settled for a Cheese Steak Wit.

The New Deck Tavern

Kit and Alora were done putting up with two chuckleheads for the day and since they came down in a separate car, the girls escaped and headed elsewhere.  Un-chaperoned, Joe and I decided to head down to the Schuylkill River and poke around Boathouse Row.

Boathouse Row Pix #1

This area of the city is where the local high school and university rowing clubs keep their racing shells and practice on the placid waters of the meandering river.  Across from this vantage point there is an incredible view of the Philadelphia skyline.

Boathouse Row Pix #4

Also in the area is the Philadelphia Museum of Art that non-native son Rocky Balboa made quite famous.  As if drawn by a powerful force, I bounded to the top of the iconic steps and stood in the actual footsteps of this famous American.

Philly Museum of Art

Yep, you guessed it!  Elated and out of breath I held my arms aloft in that celebratory dance pose and gazed down Ben Franklin Parkway towards Philadelphia City Hall.

Philly Museum of Art #3

I had heard that there were additional items of interest inside the Art Museum but did not notice many of the hundreds that were wandering about actually going through the doors.  Most folks were content to dance about the top of the steps with me…..of course most of the other clowns were foreign tourists.  I often wonder of the skewed impression that foreigner’s get of American culture from television and the movies.  They must now think that we all have beards and live in the swamps while making duck calls.

Walking the few blocks back to where the car was parked we passed an inviting neighborhood tavern and stopped for a tasty beverage…..the perfect end to a perfect day in one of our nation’s great cities!

Sunday, May 5, 2013-Springfield, Pennsylvania:  Woke to a beautiful, but cool day.  Mary Kate and the rest of the family have planned a picnic for this afternoon.  The Philly family is a very close Irish Catholic bunch numbering some 30 folks.  It never ceases to amaze us that they readily and willingly gather for a family function with very little notice.  The sheer size and diversity of this family always provides a rollicking good time with fun, food, music and laughter…..as mentioned, it is always one of the highlights of our trip!

Folks started arriving shortly after noon and after exchanging pleasantries, we got down to some serious eating…..

Mary Kate's Pix #1

…..and drinking…..

Mary Kate's Pix #3

…..and visiting.

Mary Kate's Pix #7

The family has a musical legacy passed down from our grandfather who played the banjo and our grandmother who accompanied him on the piano.  I have fond memories of visits to Philadelphia back in the 1950’s and gathering for similar family parties where music was always featured.  Each one of us kids were issued a kazoo and encouraged to play along which added a festive chaos to the party.  A very similar experience occurs when this generation gathers.  Check out a video I captured of their jam session.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HWPmPEPNcQg&feature=youtu.be

One of the main reasons to celebrate today was my Cousin Matthew’s 37th birthday.

Mary Kate's Pix #6

Everyone had a great time singing Happy Birthday and enjoying not one, but two delicious cakes followed by the opening of gifts.

I really tried hard to capture everyone in attendance on film, or more accurately on ones and zeros. However with such a large and enthusiastic crowd I didn’t quite make it…..so my apologies for anyone I missed.

My Aunt Joan’s side of the family was ably represented by my Cousin Jane and her husband Larry.  Their daughter Janelle and friend Charlie were also in attendance.

Mary Kate's Pix #8

And from My Uncle Don’s family there was Cousin Mark and his wife Ruth and children Katie and Stephen.

Mary Kate's Pix #9

Steve was the young fellow that allowed us to take Marvelous Monkey about the country for his school geography project last year. 

And Cousin Joe, his wife Dolores, Veronica and boyfriend, Mike.

Mary Kate's Pix #10

And Cousin John, his wife Denise and their children Erin Marie, Owen and Neil.

Mary Kate's Pix #11

Cousin Don, his wife Pat and their daughter Sarah.

Mary Kate's Pix #12

And Cousin Anne, with her daughter Ali Rose.  Anne’s son Tim, an accomplished musician, was seen in the video and her husband Buck escaped before I could snap a photo.

Mary Kate's Pix #13

The cousin that couldn’t be there due to distance was Bill and family that live down in North Carolina.  It was absolutely fantastic being around such a large and caring family.  The diversity in occupations and pastimes provided much to talk about.  We only wish we were a bit closer and could see them all more frequently.  Especially the offspring as they are a very talented and fun loving bunch…..many perform in regional theater and often put on performances during these family gatherings.

Monday, May 6, 2013-Springfield, Pennsylvania:  Today, we have set aside to spend with my Uncle Don and Cousin Matthew.  Don picked us up mid-morning then following a stop at the local flower shop we visited my Aunt Mary’s gravesite.

Aunt Mary

You may remember she had passed back in January and her absence, and spiritual presence, is evident all around.  What a wonderful and caring lady who left a legacy of decency evident in her children and grandchildren.

No outing would be complete without a visit to one of my Uncle’s favorite dives.  Hymie’s Jewish Delicatessen is in a non-descript building in an area known as The Main Line.

Hymie's Deli #1

A local landmark for close to 80 years, Hymie’s is world renowned for their Pastrami and for their Pickle Bar.  In addition to their incredible coffee, I enjoyed a signature meal…..Corned Beef Latka!

Hymie's Deli #2

And was it ever good!!!!!!

Don, Kit and I spent the rest of the afternoon visiting and driving about the neighborhood.  My Uncle lives on the street where the movie “Silver Linings Playbook” was filmed and he had some interesting stories to share.  He was impressed that the production crew was very accommodating to the neighbors and actually used some of them in the film as extras.  Some neighborhood homes were rented for the movie and others were used to store film equipment…..my uncle allowed use of his driveway and garage for that purpose.  One of the neighbors Mrs. Cappelletti, whose son is a former professional football player, was an extra in the film and reportedly gave Robert DeNiro a hard time about not coming to her home for an Italian dinner with the rest of the cast.  Even though the neighborhood had to be cleared during the actual filming, most residents sat inside and watched the production unfold.  It was an exciting couple of weeks for a sleepy little Pennsylvania neighborhood.

Later in the day we went to pick up Matthew at his home and drive him to his weekly music class.  The instructor was very talented and took a lot of time with the students.  We even got involved by banging out a rhythm on conga drums.

Following class we stopped by a local restaurant.  Kit and I were way too full from lunch so just had desert, however Mathew devoured his hamburger.

Matthew

Spent a few hours over coffee and continued to visit with Uncle Don, who always has the most interesting stories about growing up in 1940’s Philadelphia with his sister, my mom.

Uncle Don

Take another look at the photo above…..is that a mirrored divider behind my Uncle?  Or is this a favorite senior hang out place?

 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013:  I’m up early and joined Alora for the morning run to the Wa-Wa.  Nope, not what you think…..Wa-Wa is a local chain of convenience stores that cater to the person on the go.  We walked in, ordered breakfast sandwiches from the deli, poured four cups of coffee and left in less than 5 minutes!

Well, all good things must come to an end and we must be moving on.  Thanks to Mary Kate for allowing us to dooryard surf in her very accommodating driveway and for being an incredible host.  Jack and Jim were off to school, however as we were about to pull out my Uncle Don arrived to join Mary Kate and Alora and see us off.

Mary Kate's Pix #16

Thanks Philly Family for showing us such a great time, and remember we are only a day’s drive to the north…..so please come visit!

We were on the road at 1035 and discussing where to head next.  After a number of day’s dooryard surfing, we need to dump tanks and restock a few items.  Not wanting to pull the trailer toward Philadelphia or go anywhere near New York City, we headed west.  Since we did not get to see all we wanted in Lancaster County, we decided to return to Beacon Hill Campground, a short distance away.

As we neared Intercourse, we found the same great parking spot of a few days ago…..as Kit continued her retail therapy, I walked about and snapped photos.

As mentioned the Amish live by a very strict code.  Farming must be done by animal power.

Amish Country #3

If the farm does use gasoline powered equipment, such as a tractor with an implement, the rubber wheels have to be replaced by steel and only moved about the farm by horse or mule.

As noted earlier, transportation must be accomplished by horse and buggy.

Amish Country #7

And if driven by an unmarried couple, the buggy must be open.

Amish Country #8

In addition unmarried men have to be clean shaven and married men have to sport beards so there is no confusion.  Maybe that is why the Amish ladies didn’t pay any attention to me, you know with my beard and all.

 The only other acceptable mode of self-transportation is the ubiquitous “push scooter”.

Amish Country #9

As a certified bicycle nut, I found these contraptions pretty cool.  They are sold in a number of stores in the town and I was very tempted to buy one.  Would have made quite the spectacle back home in Maine!

Also it is very common for Amish folks to walk along the road to and from wherever.

Amish Country 2a

The Amish can actually own and ride in automobiles…..they just have to hire a non-Amish to actually drive them.  We witnessed a few instances of this, usually it was a pickup laden with farm products going to market.

Meeting back up with Kit we took in the Quilt Museum, and really enjoyed the colors and artistry of the handmade quilts.  Most were traditional in design, such as this example.

Quilt #2

But some featured unusual geometric designs and vibrant colors.

Quilt #4

Or more traditional colors but with unusual patterns that mimic movement such as this example.

Quilt #6

Kit thoroughly enjoyed the museum, and I did as well…..much to my surprise!

After another full and enjoyable day in Amish Country, we treated ourselves to an early dinner at The Kitchen Kettle.  Continuing our desire to sample regional cuisine, we enjoyed Lancaster Sausage and Shoe Fly Pie.  Then it was off to the campground.

Beacon Hill Campsite Try Two

Foul weather is predicted for tomorrow so after taking care of the tanks, I disconnected everything but the power cable and buttoned up everything else to help ensure a relatively dry departure in the morning.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013:  Up to dark, cloudy and drizzly weather.  After a nice breakfast and a bit of computer time, we were once again on the road heading to the northeast.  But not before Kit could peruse the offerings of a gift shop next door and make a donation to the local economy by purchasing a couple of very nice wall quilts

Underway at 1130, we rolled through the back roads of Amish Country where we passed a one room schoolhouse with children at recess during a lull in the rain.

Amish Country 4a

They appeared to be playing baseball with a homemade ball and a stick…..and having the time of their lives!

This area is so picturesque that one could fill a book of photographs depicting a much simpler and relaxed way to live.

Amish Country 5a

Decided to head more northerly and parallel the Pennsylvania-New Jersey border through the Delaware Water Gap.  We came this way three years ago when returning from our 2010 Excellent Adventure.  Normally this National Recreation Area would require a lot of exploration and picture taking, however it is raining pretty hard and there is an outside chance we could make it home tonight…..so we decided not to tarry and just keep trucking along.

On PA-222 we head in the general direction of Allentown.  The rain is heavy and unrelenting reducing our speed even more than normal…..at this rate of advance we are only averaging about 35 miles per hour.  Still on the back roads we piece together PA-100, US-22 and US-33N heading toward Stroudsburg, PA.  From here we jump on US209 and head for the Water Gap and New York State.

The Delaware Water Gap is a long gash through the Appalachian Mountain Range created by erosion from the Delaware River.  As a National Recreation Area, it is a very popular wilderness destination for the millions of folks that live in the large cities to the east.  However, mid-week and this early in the season combined with the terrible weather makes the drive through this beautiful oasis of mountains, forests and rivers pretty desolate.

Punching out of the Water Gap at around 1530, and comfortable we are far enough to the north to avoid the NYC effect, we merge onto I-84 heading east.  Within a few minutes we were crossing the Hudson River into New York on the Hamilton Fish Newburg-Beacon Bridge.  Yep, look it up…..ah, the wonders of naming a bridge by committee.

Keeping to I-84 we rolled through Connecticut and crossed the Massachusetts border at 1930.  Since it was increasingly obvious we would not make it home at a reasonable hour and not wanting to drive at after dark in foul weather we started looking for a place to hunker down for the night.  It was about this time that we remembered our old “Port in a Storm” (pun intended) on the Massachusetts Turnpike…..the Charlton Travel Plaza, a layover spot we have used in the past.

History has taught us to avoid the truck parking area as it is not level and most truckers use this rest stop for…..well, a rest stop so the noise level can be quite high.  We pulled into a well-lit area at the back of the automobile side of the plaza and positioned the rig so it was tilting up but relatively level from side to side.  Since it was almost 2100 and we were pretty beat, we just cleaned up and crawled into bed.

Thursday, May 9, 2013:  Up early following a very restful and relaxing evening.  As I made my way inside for a couple of Starbucks I noticed it was still quite cool but the rain had abated.  However, thick clouds forecasted more unsettled weather to come.

We decided to have breakfast at the travel plaza Mickey Dee’s before hitting the road.  We are only about 200 miles from our dooryard and will certainly make it home tonight so we sent a text to the Maine family to alert (warn) them.

On the road at 0945 we stuck to the interstates as we made our way northeasterly.  A funny thing happened as we left the Mass Pike.  The toll taker at first asked for $1.45 for the relatively short distance we had been on the toll way…..however when he scanned our ticket it came up as $5.05!  Asking if we had stayed overnight at some point along the route we had to admit that yes, we had.  No problem, he said…..we are now charging for that service.  So for all you RV’ers out there it now cost $3.60 to camp on the Mass Pike…..still a pretty good deal!

Soon we were on I-495 around looping around Boston.  We then connected to I-95 which dumped us into New Hampshire at 1140 and ten minutes later we viewed this welcoming sight!

Maine!

Wow…..nothing better than coming home to Vacationland after four months on vacation!  To celebrate our homecoming and to get a little walking around time in, we decided to visit one of our favorite Maine stores, Kittery Trading Post.

KTP

This is their 75th anniversary year and lots of doings are planned so check out their website.  If you are an outdoor enthusiast and if Kittery Trading Post doesn’t have that you’re looking for, then you just plain don’t need it!

After a couple hours of retail calisthenics, we were getting hungry.  It has been over four months since we have enjoyed fresh authentic Maine seafood, and what do you know…..The Weathervane Restaurant is right across the street!

Maine Seafood

Had to dig into some fresh Haddock and Maine Clams…..fried of course!  And enjoy a refreshing Shipyard barley-pop……the official nectar of Maine.

Haddock and Clams

After a great meal, we needed to walk it off a bit, so……back across the street to Kittery Trading Post once again.  This routine could develop into perpetual motion and we may never get home.

At 1445, we poured ourselves into the truck and headed north toward Brunswick.  Arriving a little over an hour later in pouring rain we took a tour of Maine Street. (Yep, our main street is spelled Maine Street…..pretty clever, huh?)  Not much has changed, however in a town of 22,000 folks not much usually changes…..a fact we really like.  There is a new Police Palace being erected out on US-1 and a new home being built on a lot a short distance from us, but everything else remains the same.

It is kind of a surreal feeling walking into a home you have owned for 28 years after being absent for a while.  Everything looks familiar but a little unfamiliar as well.  The most startling realization is how big this place is.  Going from 176 square foot living to 1,750 square foot living is a pretty dramatic change!

During the last few miles on I-95, we did a quick wrap up of the past four months.  This is the fifth consecutive Excellent Adventure RV trip so we talked a lot about the future.  We currently have 61,918 miles on the trailer, are looking at buying our third set of tires, and have spent 613 days living in the rig.  Basically the trailer has received a lot of use and is nearing the end of its on road service life.  Besides…..Kit sez we “need” a bigger one (sound familiar, Vince?).  So some of the options are:

  1. Sell truck and trailer and travel more conventionally.
  2. Take a year off and enjoy a full winter in Maine (not likely!).
  3. Buy a new truck and trailer and fully commit to many more winter RV trips.
  4. Bite the big bullet and go to a monster mega-bus motorhome (not likely, as well!).

Time will tell!

To amplify the above, I received a forwarded cartoon a few weeks ago that pretty much sums up the average Americans association with wheels.

The Wheels of Life-Edited

Yep, chronologically we are on the last line and every so slowly moving to the right…..gotta cram as much active living as possible in before we hit the end of the cartoon!

One more photo before I close for 2013.  Not even sure where this was taken, but I liked the composition and cloud formations.  However I never could work it into the narrative of the journal so I’m just gonna plunk it in right here.  I think it perfectly represents what the open road means and the unlimited possibilities for exploring our great country by RV…..hope you do as well!

Rest Stop

So, until 2014’s Excellent Adventure…..goodbye and have a great summer!  Love you all!!

Boring Statistics:

Length of Trip:  124 Days

Total Distance:  10,097 Miles

Total Fuel Used:  1,019 Gallons

Average Fuel Economy:  9.9 MPG

Highest Gas Cost:  $4.69 in San Diego, CA

Lowest Gas Cost:  $2.94 in Dragoon, AZ

Highest Full Hook-up Camping Cost:  $50.00 in Del Mar Beach, CA

Lowest Full Hook-up Camping Cost:  $17.00 in San Antonio, TX

Freebie Camping:  26 Nights, “THANK’S FOLKS!”

Kit’s Corner:  As always, we had a lovely time in York and Philadelphia with the Byrnes Family.  They are always so hospitable and happy to see us; we look forward to our visits with them.  We missed Aunt Mary but her spirit is with us all.  It’s great to be home!  We’re enjoying seeing our family again and getting reacquainted with our friends.  We’re also reassessing our travel plans for the future.  This little trailer has been nice but, I figure, if we have to get a new truck then we may as well get a new trailer or some other shelter to tag along…. Stay tuned….

PS…..Do you notice how she always gets the last word? Wait, no she didn’t, I did, Yea-Bill

PSS…..No you didn’t-Kit

 


Bill and Kit’s 2013 Excellent Adventure-Journal 14

Bill and Kit's Camping Rig

I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list

Susan Sontag

 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013:  Woke this morning in Graceland RV Park to cloudy skies with temperatures in the mid 40’s…..however with a strong northerly breeze it felt a lot colder.  Pretty good day to travel and make some mileage.  We are beginning to get a bit homesick and are missing our Maine family.  In addition we recently received word that our grandson Joe’s girlfriend is preparing to set sail with her father for an extended transatlantic voyage and we would like to see them before their departure next month.

During my own pre underway preparations, I noticed that a propane tank had emptied overnight and the regulator had automatically shifted the propane load to its twin.  Noticing there was a propane fill station near the office, I asked about getting the depleted tank refilled.  The park maintenance man jumped in his four-wheeler came to our site and removed the empty tank.  As I was continuing to hook up the truck to trailer, he returned the filled tank and reinstalled it…..the only charge was for the propane!  Now that’s service!!  As he drove away I mustered my best Elvis impersonation and yelled:  “Thank You, Thank You Very Much!”

At 1030 we were on I-240 heading east until we cleared Memphis where we merged with I-40.

TN Road #2

It was a beautiful drive but we noticed increasing volume of traffic, especially long haul truckers.  We had thought of going to Nashville for a few days but decided to leave that for a future trip.  In addition we discussed visiting a cousin on my mom’s side that lives in eastern North Carolina.  Bill and Joanna and their two children have been very hospitable about inviting us to dooryard surf with them.  However on this trip that would cause a few days detour and we are getting real anxious to get back home.  Sorry, guys please don’t pull the welcome mat just yet.  We will make it on a future trip…..promise!

Today was devoted to making miles so we stayed on I-40 and soon were crossing into the Eastern Time zone losing an hour.  It had been a smooth travel day, but since it was a bit gloomy dusk seemed to come early.  Just west of Knoxville, Tennessee we noticed a Flying J/Pilot Truck Plaza ahead where we decided to pull in for the night.

 

Thursday, April 25, 2013:  We were awakened around 0630 by the gentle rumble of truckers starting their days drive.  It was a restful night at a rather austere campsite with a great price…..free!

Flying J-TN

Flying J, and its sister company Pilot are nationwide truck stops that also cater to the RV’ing public.  Most feature separate RV fuel lanes with fresh water to fill tanks and sewer connections to dump the grey and black tanks…..all while filling the gas tank, washing the windows and getting some of the best coffee on the road.  Most also allow overnight parking and provide long and well lit parking spaces right in front of the 24 hour store.  In addition, if you have one of their affinity cards (free for the asking) you can score discounts on fuel, food and services….a great deal overall!!

This particular Flying J was attached to a Denny’s Restaurant and since we were tiring of our own cooking and since we wanted to patronize a business that does so much for the traveling RV’er, we decided treat ourselves to breakfast.  To sweeten the deal (pun intended), it was Bacon Month!

Flying Breakfast #2

This special menu contained many common entrees spiced up by adding bacon.  I chose the french-toast containing thick maple frosting and smothered in bacon enhanced caramel syrup piece of art shown below.

Flying Breakfast

I also had two eggs and hash browns and to ensure I at least had one healthy item I ate the entire orange wedge garnish thingie!

We rolled out of the restaurant an hour later and stumbled outside in a complete food coma.  After a few walking laps about the parking lot we were sufficiently recovered to attempt to motor on.

Finally underway at 1040…..it is a bright sunny day and the temperatures are in the mid-50’s.  Our goal for today is to encounter the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) just north of Ashville, NC.  On I-40, we skirted Knoxville and continued easterly.  In a little over an hour we encountered our old friend I-81 and turned to the north.

NC Road

From I-81 we took US 11E to US-19E entering North Carolina at 1427 and soon joined the BRP near Mount Pisgah.

Blue Ridge Parkway Photo #1

This 469 mile National Scenic Parkway runs along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains and is managed by the National Park Service.  Work on the BRP began during the great depression as a WPA project and was built to link Smokey Mountain National Park in the south to Shenandoah National Park to the north.  It took over 52 years to complete using a combination of government and private construction teams.  The CCC was heavily involved until WWII when they were drafted and replaced by conscientious objectors assigned to the Civilian Public Works program.

As a throughway there is no fee to enter and it is open year round, weather permitting.  However the facilities are seasonal and most everything was closed this early in the year…..including the campgrounds, much to our chagrin.

As the premier US scenic highway there is no more beautiful way to travel in the eastern US.  The BRP features many pull-outs and scenic view parking opportunities.

Blue Ridge Parkway Photo #2

On a clear day, the views are incredible.  One is compelled to stop at each and every opportunity as the scenery is so dramatic and constantly changing.  Some overlooks feature short hiking trails that lead to even more awe inspiring views.  There is no reason to hurry when traveling in these majestic mountains.

Blue Ridge Parkway #1

Well, it’s getting late and we need to find a spot off the parkway to stay the night.  Fortunately we discovered Raccoon Holler RV Park a mere ¼ mile away!  Since tomorrow is Tucker’s birthday we really needed cell phone connectivity to sing him our rendition of “Happy Birthday”.  After many miles of no cell service, we received a signal as we entered the campground!  True “road magic” once again!!

Racoon Hollow Campsite

 

Friday, April 26, 2013:  Up early but lounged about the campground waiting for a decent hour to call our grandson Tucker to wish him a happy sixth birthday.  In addition the campground was a great opportunity to walk about a bit and log some miles on the old Fitbit’s.

Driving back up the short access road we encountered the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) at 1105, it is a sunny and warm morning…..perfect for a drive in the Appalachian Mountains.

A lot of the BRP is exposed on both sides and affords majestic views to the horizon.  However some parts meander through alpine meadows and farmlands which are just as scenic.

Blue Ridge Parkway #3

One could blow through the entire length of this incredible National Parkway in a day, however to fully appreciate the natural beauty you need to slow down, stop occasionally and walk away from the pavement where you will be rewarded with views such as this.

Blue Ridge Parkway #5

The bright green spring foliage, newly blossomed wildflowers, verdant valleys and distant hazy mountains create one of nature’s most breathtaking views…..it is a true spiritual experience and brings to mind one of my favorite quotes attributed to John Muir:

“I’d rather be in the mountains thinking about God,

than in a church thinking about the mountains”

As mentioned, none of the National Park visitor’s centers were open but a few concessionaires were and we stopped at them all.  One of which was the historic Moses Cone manor that contained regional arts and crafts for sale.

Blue Ridge Parkway Photo #6

Moses, who made his fortune in the textile industry by supplying an improved denim material to Levi Strauss, built the 13,000 square foot mansion in 1901.  While Kit shopped, I sat on the grand colonial revival porch and enjoyed the view.

Blue Ridge Parkway Photo #5

In addition to making and spending gobs of money (Moses, not Kit) one of his “hobbies” was road building.  Old Moses personally graded and landscaped the 25 miles of carriage trails that wind about his 3,500 acre estate.  Today many of these trails are open to hikers, bikers and equestrians.

Back on the road we continued north and rolled into the great state of Virginia around 1330.  Fortunately at this time of the year there was little traffic and since there were plenty of spots to pull over our “RV conga line” of following vehicles were minimized.  We pulled into most overlooks that were roomy enough to safely park and fortunately there were many of those.

Blue Ridge Parkway #9

There was one couple from…..OK, I’ll say it, New Jersey…..that would blow by us on the narrow twisty parkway in their Lexus only to pull into the next scenic overview, roll slowly by to see the sights and exit right behind us to repeat the crazy move once again.  After a few miles, we lost sight of the Jersey couple as I assume they were well on their way back to their Garden State.

Traveling as we do, we meet some of the most interesting people.  At one stop we hit a goldmine of international travelers.  First were a couple of guys from the Netherlands.

Netherlands Biker's

They shipped their bikes overseas and have been spending the past few months touring the east coast.  Spent quite a while sharing travel stories and getting their impressions of the US.  At another stop we met a honeymooning couple from Israel.  Their perception of the US and world events was quite interesting.  They both thanked us for the friendship America shows to Israel and planned to come back and explore America more thoroughly.

Usually in late afternoon we start discussing where to land for the evening.  Kit noticed what looked to be a nice Virginia State Park off the BRP to the east.  I vetoed the suggestion as it was 9 miles off route and I was sure we would find a suitable spot alongside the Parkway as we did last night…..so on we rolled.  Around 1830 I started to research a place to stay the night.  Noticing on the internet what looked to be a nice campground a short distance to the west we called and secured assurance they had plenty of room.  However as we exited the Parkway and came to a “T” in the road, the route to the west had a sign that read “Not Recommended for Large Trucks or Recreational Vehicles”.  So the only option was to turn to the east.  That particular route plunged down a very steep road, twisting and turning about the mountainside.  In what seemed like forever, but in reality was only about 15 minutes, we finally leveled out as we popped out in a small rural Virginia farming community.  Fortunately we still had internet connectivity and discovered a campground about 9 miles to the south…..yep, backtracking the same direction and distance we would have been had I listened to Kit two hours ago!  Think that little mistake of mine will be mentioned again?  (Good possibility-Kit)

Camp Karma (honest, I did not make that up!) turned out to be a nice place established a few years ago by a couple of aging Hippies.

Camp Karma Campsite

As we were settling in for the night and checked computers for the news of the day, we received the sad news that our friends, and fellow RV’rs, Vince and Candy had lost their beautiful dog Buster.

Vince, Candy and Buster

The above photo was from happier times just a few weeks earlier.  He was the most well behaved and gentle dog we have ever known and a constant companion to Vince and Candy…..RIP Buster.

 

Saturday, April 27, 2013:  Up to cool sunny weather and after a walk about this real nice rustic campground we were on the road by 1130.  In a half hour we were back on the BRP at an access point we passed yesterday so about 6 miles of this morning’s drive was a repeat of yesterday……yep, Kit made sure to mention that fact.

One spot we were looking forward to visiting was Peaks of Otter Lodge.  Our friends David and Betty had enjoyed this facility many times and raved about it.  We had planned on partaking of lunch at the restaurant and to explore the area.  However, we found it closed as well……the parking lot was even blocked off!  Not because of the early season but due to the previous operators decision to not renew the lease with the National Park Service.  Hope someone steps forward to take over the operation as it looked to be a very nice place to stay.

Spent the afternoon poking about at roadside overlooks and enjoying the countryside and pleasant spring weather in the Appalachian Mountains.  The trees and flowers were at their peak spring hue and the native birds were very active.

Blue Ridge Parkway #7

We thought of pushing the “No Camping in the Overlooks” policy and just set up for the night at one of the more remote parking areas but thought better of it when talking to a fellow RV’er that said they tried, and got caught.  Many NPS rules make sense……this one does not, especially when the established National Park campgrounds are closed.  Short overnight parking in a fully self-contained RV would not hurt a thing.

One of the stops we made featured an old homestead that had been stabilized and protected by the National Park Service.

Blue Ridge Parkway #11

 It was fun to poke around the old log structures and envision how the mountain people survived in this area a few hundred years ago.

As we were pulling into another scenic view overlook a motorcycle came up and the rider mentioned he had seen our military stickers on the trailer and just wanted to thank us for our service……nice.

On one of our last stops, we noticed that threatening clouds had moved in and the views were beginning to be affected by the deteriorating conditions.

Blue Ridge Parkway #8

We were nearing the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway and had planned to continue north on Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park.  Since it was getting late, and we were running short of vittles, we exited the Parkway at Waynesboro, Virginia and let Lucy guide us to a local grocery store.  As Kit shopped, I researched campgrounds in the area and settled on one a short distance away.

Since it was a weekend and at the beginning of the camping season the North 340 RV Park was pretty crowded with locals getting out for the first time since last summer. We were able to nestle in besides a family from Virginia Beach and a motorhome full of middle aged women out for a girl’s getaway…..both groups interesting to visit with.

340 North Campsite

 

Sunday, April 28, 2013:  Woke to really nasty weather…..cold, fog, wind and drizzle.  Visibility was only a few hundred feet, not really a great day to travel Skyline Drive so we went to plan “B”……move over to I-81 and head for Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  As you can see, the weather was pretty bad.

Blue Ridge Parkway #12

Rolled through part of West Virginia and Maryland before crossing into Pennsylvania at 1520. We moved to PA-76E passing by pastoral farms and arrived at Gettysburg RV Park an hour later.  Even though it is the 150th anniversary year of the Battle of Gettysburg, the campground was near empty due to a combination of the weather and the early season.  Because of this, we were able to score a nice private site on the river.

Gettysburg RV Campsite

The rain had slowed and the sun was trying to break through but the long range forecast was for more of the same.  So we took the opportunity to walk about the park for a bit and enjoyed the river burbling right behind our camper.

Gettysburg RV Pix #3

  This is a great facility for the history buff as all the Gettysburg sites are a short drive away.  We decided to stay two nights so we could tour the area and enjoy a much needed down day.

 

Monday, April 29, 2013:  Gettysburg, Pennsylvania:  Following a relaxing breakfast in the camper, Kit and I made our way to Gettysburg National Military Park stopping at the brand new visitor’s center and museum.

Gettysburg Pix#2

We had last visited this area in 1975 with our three young children.  At the time the visitor’s center was relatively small and basically housed the famous “cyclorama” and a few battlefield artifacts.  Today the facility is massive, many of the historical artifacts that the national Park Service had in storage can now be displayed.  The cyclorama has been refreshed and greatly enhanced being housed in its own separate rotunda.

Gettysburg Pix #1

The cyclorama, created in 1883 by a French artist Paul Philippoteaux depicts the battle of Gettysburg in a 360 degree painting displayed in a way to put the viewer in the center of the action.  Realism is enhanced by the strategic placing of actual pieces from the NPS collection placed in the foreground.  Look closely…..the cannon in the foreground is real, the ones in the background are in the painting.  Now add lights, sounds, dialog and an informative narrative and the realism is incredible!

Normally, we can make it through most National Park visitor’s center in about an hour……we were in this facility for over four hours, and still did not see it all!  If you are ever in the area, this place is definitely worth a visit.  In fact we spent so much time in the museum that we passed on the self-guided auto tour of the actual battlefield.  We have vowed to return and spend much more time in this historic area.

Returning to the campground tired and pleased we had made time to visit Gettysburg, we enjoyed a nice meal and sat outside next to the river until time for bed.

 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013:  One of the main reasons we returned from our winter RV trip through Pennsylvania was family.  My mom was raised in Philadelphia and most of her people still reside in the area.  We are always warmly welcomed by our Philly family and returning for a periodic visit is a highlight of our trips.

Our first family visit was to be Don and Pat in York, Pennsylvania which is a short drive to the east.  However since they both work we took advantage of the campgrounds liberal departure policy and lounged around until 1400 when we pulled out and made the 35 mile trip to their home.

Don, an engineer and Pat, a school principal have raised their family in York which is about 100 miles to the east of Philadelphia.

Don and Pat's Photo #3

They graciously invited us to dooryard surf in their driveway which we readily accepted.

Don and Pat's Photo #2

Since Pat was taking graduate courses at a nearby university, Don, Kit and I decided to go out to dinner at one of his favorite restaurants.

Don and Pat's Photo #1

It turned out to be a Mexican-Peruvian place and the mix of cultural cuisine was incredible, and the local brews were quite tasty as well.  After bringing each other up to date on our lives, Don shared a bit of news about his latest project at work.  As a Materials Engineer, he is a member of a team that designed, built and tested the martian rover, Curiosity.  His expertise was in the area of powering the rover which uses a thermoelectric generator featuring Plutonium as its heat source.  As an added bonus, his daughter Sarah, while an intern out of Drexel University worked on the rover as well.  It was amazing to actually talk to an individual that worked on a machine that is currently crawling about the surface of Mars gathering and analyzing samples from the environment.

After dinner we returned to their home and enjoyed some of Don’s home brewed beer.  Soon, Pat arrived and we continued our visiting until it was time to retire.

 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013:  Originally, we had intended to pull out this morning and head into the Amish country of Lancaster County.  However, Don informed us that Lancaster County started on the other side of the Susquehanna River which was just a short drive away.  He then invited us to leave the trailer in his driveway explore the nearby sights and stay an additional night with them, which we gladly agreed to.

Being mid-week, Don and Pat had to work.  However, one attraction they recommended was The National Watch and Clock Museum in Columbia, Pennsylvania.

National Watch and Clock Museum #1

I’ll have to admit, I was wondering how interesting could a museum devoted to timepieces be?  Boy, was I wrong…..both Kit and I thoroughly enjoyed the displays of the earliest methods to mark time to the latest high tech devices.  The most interesting, however was the displays from the “golden age” of clock making such as these magnificent grandfathers clocks.

National Watch and Clock Museum #7

Or these more “common” mantle and wall clocks.

National Watch and Clock Museum #6

The craftsmanship in the casework and movements were incredible for their time (no pun intended).

A particularly interesting piece of timekeeping art was this eleven foot tall animated clock made by Stephen Engle.

National Watch and Clock Museum #2

Completed over a twenty year period, this “Monumental Clock” was finished in 1878 then taken on tour about the US.  Folks spent good money to sit in a tent and wait patiently for the individual figures to become active at different preset times.  A complete animated cycle took two hours and many folks would get their money’s worth by waiting the entire time to see all 48 figures in action.  Fortunately we only had to wait about ten minutes for the clock to cycle through as the docent manually moved the hands.  The craftsmanship and technical complexity of this ancient clock was amazing to observe.

In the museum, there was also a replica of a late 1800’s manufacturing facility and retail shop.

National Watch and Clock Museum #4 

Since it was near lunch time, we got a lead from the receptionist at the museum for a family style Amish restaurant so off we went.  The home cooked food and desserts were incredible and the Amish wait staff was very friendly and accommodating.

Needing to walk off some of the meal, we decided to take a tour of an authentic Amish farm just down the road.

Amish Farm Photo #1

Keeping with Amish religious teachings, the home had no supplied electricity or public water.  The stoves were wood fired or propane, the lighting was kerosene and if electricity was needed it was in the form of batteries that could be charged by generators.  Domestic water was hand pumped into the kitchen and waste water was shunted into the garden…..nothing was wasted.  If the family could afford a telephone, it had to be located outside.  In another words, nothing could be connected to the family’s home.

The barn housed a new mom busy nursing her offspring and paying little attention to the nosey tourist snapping her photo.

Amish Farm Photo #5

That was until I got a little too close, the 500 pound mom raised her head and loudly snorted…..the dust flew, and so did I.

In a far safer part of the barn there was a craftsman whittling items from tree branches.

Amish Farm Photo #3

Chris is a world renowned whittler and a published author.  Everything he makes comes from found wood and worked with a standard old pen knife…..his art is truly remarkable.  Since it was a slow day, and since stuff like this fascinates me, I spent an hour visiting with him as he worked.  Soon paying customers arrived and I moved on but not before purchasing a piece of his work.

Returning to Don and Pat’s for the night we continued our visit then off to bed in our cozy little camper in their driveway.

 

Thursday, May 2, 2013:  Up, breakfast, hitched up and on the road by 1030.  We decided to take US-30 back across the Susquehanna River and into Amish country for the trip east.  Since we had a day to explore before arriving at our next family stop we decided to amble about the countryside to see what we could find in the rest of Lancaster County.  Within the hour we were rolling through Bird in Hand and Kit spotted some nifty shopping opportunities.  As she took off on her mission I stayed behind to research a place to stay tonight and check various components on the truck and trailer…..a task I accomplish every day or so while on the road.  It was then that I noticed a severely worn tire on the aft starboard side of the camper.  Figuring it would be prudent to change over to the spare and minimize any inconvenient blowouts, I jacked her up and changed it out.  The wear was very strange, much like something was rubbing on the tire as it rotated but there was plenty of clearance around the tire.

Tire Photo #1

However, the part that alarmed me the most was that the tread had begun to delaminate from the carcass!  Had that let go at speed the resulting damage to the side of the trailer could have been substantial…..not to mention the sudden increased load on the remaining tire could have detonated it as well.  Not a pleasant thought!

As I was changing the tire three fellas stopped to see if I needed any help.  One an Amish gentleman named Mel offered to take the damaged tire to a local garage if I needed.  Gotta love small town America!

When Kit returned, we made our way to Intercourse, Pennsylvania and the Beacon Hill RV Park, a place we had enjoyed staying in the past.  The campground is right next to an Amish farm and all the sights, sounds and smells of organic farming are there to enjoy.

Beacon Hill Campsite

After dinner we sat out on the lawn as the Amish folks clip clopped their way down the road in their wagons.

Amish Country #4

The sound of the simple life is mesmerizing.  I was able to capture a short video as one of the many carriages trundled by…..check it out at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vle68YDErRY&feature=youtu.be

 

Friday, May 3, 2013:  Woke to a rooster crowing next door and the pungent aroma of manure beginning to warm in the morning sun.  Enjoyed a nice breakfast of bacon and eggs with fresh Apple Fritters that we had purchased yesterday.

Broke camp and were on the road at 1030 under clear warm skies.  Kit wanted to get in some more shopping and since it was a short drive to our next destination we found a great spot to park the truck and trailer that overlooked a bucolic farm.

Amish Country #5

After a couple of hours of browsing through the shops, we had lunch and headed to Springfield, PA to visit with our Philly family for the weekend.    

Around 1830 we pulled up to my cousin Mary Kate’s driveway and settled in for what promises to be a great weekend of visiting family and exploring the area.  I decided to pull in frontwards so the door would be facing the house.

Mary Kate's Dooryard Campsite

Backing out may be an issue but I suspect not…..time will tell.  Looking forward to a fun weekend!!!!

 

Kit’s Corner:  This being our fifth winter of traveling, I’ve begun to notice some patterns in the way things break out.  The last couple of years, we’ve traveled northeast and stopped in Minnesota to visit family.  This year, we kind of hustled across the southern US as we were anxious to get home.  We were surprised to find none of the camping areas open on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  We lost quite a bit of time in searching out private campgrounds, which was frustrating.  We’ve learned that we need to be a bit more proactive in researching campgrounds in the off season.

 

 

Bill and Kit’s 2013 Excellent Adventure-Journal #13

 Bill and Kit's Camping Rig

The perfect journey is never finished; the goal is always just across the next river, round the shoulder of the next mountain.

There is always one more track to follow, one more mirage to explore.

Rosita Forbes

 

Thursday, April 18, 2013:  We find our intrepid (or is that pronounced “inept”?) travelers on I-40 heading east smack dab into Tornado Alley.  YIKES!…..gonna have to watch the weather real close like!

It is near freezing with strong winds from the west and pretty much just miserable weather.  All morning we have made tracks across the Top Hat of Texas and then rolled into Oklahoma around 1330.  Stopping at the Interstate visitor’s center we picked up info on the OK State Park system and visited with a nice couple from Chicago.  They were motor travelers on the road for the past month with a Flat Stanley in honor of their granddaughter.  Interesting to share road stories with non RV folks for a change.

The terrain in this sparsely populated portion of Oklahoma was considerably different from the high plains of northern Texas.  We encountered farmlands, gently rolling hills and lots of green…..even this early in spring.

Lake Thunderbird State Park Pix #1

So, let’s see.  It is tornado season…..and we are in the middle of the most historically active tornado area in the nation…..so let’s spend the night in Norman, Oklahoma, the home of the Severe Weather Center!  Oh, and to add punctuation to our decision…..there were warning sirens on tall poles every mile or so.

So we pulled into a nice little state park on Lake Thunderbird where we scored a primo campsite!

Lake Thunderbird State Park Pix #3

And after dinner we retired to the lakefront patio to enjoy the sun setting on another day of life on the road.

Lake Thunderbird State Park Pix #4

Friday, April 19, 2013-Happy 50th Anniversary to our dear friends David and Betty!

David and Betty

Love you guys!!

In honor of their anniversary we enjoyed a leisurely morning breakfast before pulling stakes and moving out around 1100.  After an hour or so of back roads we jumped onto I-40 once again to make better time as we rolled along toward the east.

I find Oklahoma history very interesting.  Before it was a state, most of the region was designated by the government as Indian Territories.  To the authorities it appeared the areas mix of the dry arid west and the warm humid east was unsuitable for Anglo settlement.  The Indian Resettlement Act of 1830 allowed the military to forcibly relocate all Indian Tribes that refused the “offer” of new lands in “The Territories” in exchange for their ancestral native lands.  This forced migration became known as The Trail of Tears.  “Boots”, our camp host who is from the Choctaw Tribe, was understandably proud of her heritage and told some of the native stories passed to her.

Lake Thunderbird State Park Pix #2

The state of Oklahoma has endured much over the years starting with the relocation of the five Indian nations, the civil war, land grabs by Anglo settlers known as Sooners, many regional conflicts, the great depression, and the Dust Bowl tragedy.  However the once thought worthless land turned out to contain great soil for farming and underneath lay large oil and gas deposits.

In addition since its Tribal Lands, the Native Americans have certain freedoms such as fishing and hunting without a license, ability to make a lot of money from the casinos that are patronized primarily by non-native folks, and the freedom of ignoring ridiculous laws like the federal Ethanol additive requirement.

Indian Land=!00% Gas

On the road again we motored down a variety of back roads that were more or less heading to the east.

Eufaula Lake State Park Photo #5

Very few towns or villages were encountered so we had to stop frequently for fuel in order to ensure we didn’t run out of gas.

Around 1500, we pulled into a nice Oklahoma State Park on Lake Eufaula.  After checking in at the ranger’s station we made our way through the vast park as we searched for a suitable campsite.   Soon we came to a road that veered off toward the lake which was posted with a rather ominous caution sign.

Eufaula Lake State Park Photo #6

Now that’s one traffic sign you don’t want to ignore!

Eventually we found the campground and set up on a primo site overlooking the lake.

Eufaula Lake State Park Photo #1

One nice thing about traveling the country in the “off season” is the ability to choose the best campsites from the many available.

We took a walk about the grounds which featured a number of bird nesting boxes.

Nesting box

Where we noticed that many contained newly deposited Robins eggs.

Nesting box-inside

During our walk we met a very nice retired couple from Pennsylvania and spent the better part of an hour visiting and sharing stories of our individual RV adventures.

Eufaula Lake State Park Photo #8

Pete and Dee travel in a motorhome and may make a trip to New England this summer so of course we invited them to drop in for a visit.

Back at the campsite, we relaxed with an evening cocktail as we enjoyed the sights and sounds of this beautiful area.

Eufaula Lake State Park Photo #7

Saturday, April 20, 2013:  Woke to a sunny, cool morning with a slight breeze.  Took a walk about Lake Eufaula State Park and discovered a rather unique fishing spot.

Eufaula Lake State Park Photo #3

It is an indoor, climate controlled fishing barge featuring four large openings to the water.

Eufaula Lake State Park Photo #4

The folks we spoke to were catching a “mess O crappie” and their overflowing buckets verified that fact.  There were lights suspended inches above the water to both attract the fish to the opening and allow the fisherman to see deep into the murky water.  Seemed like fishing in a giant aquarium to me…..but hey, each his own.

On the road at 0930 continuing east on various back roads until we decided to move up to I-40.  Two hours later we rolled into Arkansas and since we were near Hot Springs National Park we decided to get off the interstate, hop on US-270 and head in that direction.  The Arkansas highways are very scenic and the hilly terrain reminded us of parts of northern New England.

Arkansas Road #3

As it turns out, Hot Springs National Park is actually in the middle of a quaint but rather congested city.  To make matters worse it was Saturday…..there were car and motorcycle clubs that had flooded into the narrow streets, a number of school proms seemed to be taking place, and the streets were narrow and difficult to maneuver a trailer through.  At one point we ended up on a road with only one way out and that was up a steep, windy path that led to a mountaintop observation tower.  So up we went, taking both lanes to maneuver safely around the hairpin turns and getting startled looks from the more sane motorists that arrived by automobile.

So what is the story behind this unusual National Park?  Well, back in the early 1800 word started circulating that the natural thermal springs in the area contained therapeutic minerals that “cured” any and all afflictions.  Pilgrims flooded the little valley and speculators started buying up land and charging for access to the spring water.  The government, worried that this magic source of healing would soon be restricted to the wealthy designated the entire valley as a National Reservation, the first such action in the history of the young country.  Shortly after, the War Department commissioned the building of a military hospital on the grounds so sick and injured soldiers could reap the curative benefits of the warm waters and therapeutic vapors.  Today, it is basically a tourist attraction replete with numerous gift shops, bath houses, hotels and restaurants.  Might be fun to explore…..someday.

Getting late and somewhat frustrated, we meandered through the countryside toward Lake Catherine State Park.  Pulling in we were confronted by a large sign the read “Campground Full”…..Arrrrrg!  To make matters worse, the office was closed and it was beginning to get dark.  Just as we decided to stay right there in the parking lot I spotted a park ranger drive by and flagged him down.  Taking pity on our plight, he led us to a very nice part of the park that wasn’t technically a camp spot and allowed us to hook up to a nearby power source.  Road magic comes to our rescue once again!

Sunday, April 21, 2013:  Up and after a walk about the campground we resumed out travels under sunny skies with temperature in the lower 60’s.  Lake Catherine State Park turned out to be a very nice campground and one that if we find ourselves in the area again we will strongly consider.

Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas

We did decide that it would be nice to explore Hot Springs National Park some day, urban as it is……however we will choose a weekday and leave the trailer at a campground!

We wound our way through some beautiful countryside and quaint towns.  Spring has definitely arrived…..every tree is leafing out and every flowering bush is in bloom!

Spring in Arkansas

The eastern part of Arkansas is a major rice producing area.  In fact 45% of the US supply of rice comes from this relatively small area.

Around 1500 we decided to call it a day and pulled into West Memphis, Arkansas and headed for a uniquely named campground “Tom Sawyer RV Park”…..which no surprise, is located on the banks of the Mississippi River.

Tom Sawyer Campsite

Thought it odd there were few campers in this very nice park right on the river until the owner came around and handed us this notice from the National Weather Service:

River flood advisory in effect until 2 pm CDT Wednesday.

The flood advisory is extended for the Mississippi river at Memphis until Wednesday may 01.  

At 10 am Sunday the stage was 23.9 feet.  Flood stage is 34.0 feet.  

Forecast the river will rise to near 32.5 feet by Wednesday may 01.  

Settlement at blue lake is flooded.  Most all secondary roads east of the Arkansas levee are covered.

Since we were planning to pull out in the morning we felt safe staying overnight but did keep a wary eye on the rising water levels.

This park has been inundated during past spring floods.  The office building is on wheels and the stationary buildings are on stilts, such as the clubhouse nestled in the woods (pun intended).

Tom Sawyed RV Park Pix #2

Yep, that’s a giant fishing lure suspended from the trees!

The brand new and free laundry was also located above grade in this building.

Tom Sawyed RV Park Pix #1

Notice the high water mark from two years ago and then notice the RV in the background…..Yikes!

The owner did assure us that we were perfectly safe and that all previous floods had occurred very slowly…..unless a levee upstream broke, then all bets were off.  Since he lived in an RV nearby I figured if he sped up and over the levee…..I was gonna be in hot pursuit.

We spent the remainder of the day enjoying the river traffic roll by.  There were small barges that with the increased river current were moving by quickly.

Mississippi River Traffic Photo #1

There were large barges laboring upriver and barely moving under full power.

Mississippi River Traffic Photo #2

Most barges appeared to be hauling grain of some sort.  However there was a few that contained large long tanks, likely for petroleum products.

Mississippi River Traffic Photo #3

I never get tired of watching commercial shipping moving by and wonder how it would be to captain such a large, ungainly vessel in the shifting currents of the Mississippi.

Since there was plenty of room at the campground and since the winds were strong and consistent, I also spent some enjoyable hours flying a few different kites.  Think I might have the “side slide” figured out there Dewey…..however I’m only successful about half the time.

Bill and Kite Pix 1

Great time in a very nice park…..hope it escapes the high water on Wednesday!

Monday, April 22, 2013:  Enjoyed a leisurely morning breakfast and lounged around until the checkout time of noon……more kite flying was to be done!

This is to be a very short travel day across the river to Memphis, Tennessee.  We found I-55, crossed the Mississippi, and arrived at Graceland RV Resort within thirty minutes.  This place has been on Kit’s “Bucket List” for a while now and her wish is about to be fulfilled!

The park was a bit crowded with narrowly spaced sites stacked up four roads…..we were on “Don’t be Cruel Lane”.  However it was within walking distance of Graceland and right behind Heartbreak Hotel……hollowed grounds for the Elvis faithful.

Graceland RV Park

This place is a virtually Disneyland for folks lost in the 50’s!  Since it was early in the day, we quickly connected to the full hook up site and made our way to the main attraction.

Elvis 1

Kit decided that the Premium Package was the best so we purchased tickets for an afternoon tour of 6 sites, some guided and others not.  Since it was a while until the tour started we decided to grab lunch at the Rockabilly’s Diner.

Elvis 3

Kit was in her glory, surrounded by Elvis photos, music and memorabilia.  Being a bit more gastronomically adventurous, I went for the Elvis special…..peanut butter and banana dipped in lard and grilled to a golden perfection.

Elvis 2

Kit enjoyed a hamburger and fries.

Graceland is the third most visited home in America with more than 700,000 US and foreign fans making pilgrimages to the site annually.  It is a relatively modest mansion that Elvis purchased when only 22 years old.

Elvis 11

The name was inherited from the former owner Grace Toof.  Elvis liked the Gospel connotations of the name and decided to keep it.

I should mention that the King of Rock and Roll is immortalized at every opportunity.  There are dozens of large screen televisions that feature many of his performances.  The following link is a YouTube example of the vintage footage that runs on monitors through the property:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUWMSVDPdGQ

The home tour winds through an elaborately decorated living room where many anecdotal stories of The King are told.

Elvis 4

Also featured on the tour are some of the many guest bedrooms, the kitchen, his recording studio, the media room featuring three side by side television sets and the famous Jungle Room with its indoor waterfall and tribal decorations.

Elvis 8

Elvis died in the home and the place of death, known as the Throne Room, is not open to the public. However he is laying in eternal repose out in The Meditation Garden and that is featured on the tour.

Elvis 10

Lots of flowers and personal shrines are left at The Kings grave, many by the adoring foreign tourists that trek here from all over the world.  The offerings are picked up throughout the day, cataloged and donated to charity when appropriate.

We also toured Elvis’s trophy room where are all the Grammies, gold records and stage costumes that he owned are on display.  A personally interesting artifact was his gold record for the single “Hound Dog”, which was the first Rock and Roll record I remember hearing on the old Philco Superheterodyne back in 1956 when only 9 years old.

Elvis 9

Also on the property are the two jet aircraft and many fancy automobiles that Elvis owned, including his famous pink Cadillac.

Elvis 12

While touring Graceland, we learned something about Elvis that received very little press.  Back in 1961, he performed a benefit concert in Hawaii for the USS Arizona Memorial building fund.  The history is that in mid-1950’s as the stricken vessel sat in the mud of Pearl Harbor with over a thousand brave souls still onboard there was some disagreement on what to do with the ship.  President Eisenhower eventually decreed that the Arizona would remain as is and that a fitting memorial was to be built using a mix of public and private funds…..however contributions were slow to materialize.  Elvis, having just been released from his tour of duty in the Army wanted to assist the fundraising effort.  His concert raised over $60,000 dollars, which would be close to a half million today, all of which went to the Arizona Memorial fund.  More importantly the concert raised worldwide awareness of the memorial and many associated donations followed as a direct result of Elvis’s involvement.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013-Memphis, Tennessee:  Woke to another sunny day with mild temperatures predicted.  We decided to unhook the truck from the trailer and drive into downtown to enjoy some of the sights in this legendary city.  The first stop, which was recommended by our daughter Suzie, was the Peabody Hotel.  The old posh hotel was constructed in 1925 but became internationally famous due to a prank by the general manager back in the 1930’s.  He and a hunting companion returned from a duck hunt a bit liquored up with their live Call Duck decoys.  They thought it would be humorous to place the animals in the ornate fountain that graced the lobby.  The hotel patrons thought it was wonderful and a tradition was born.  Every morning the resident Duckmaster in full royal attire, shepherds the ducks from their rooftop quarters, into an elevator and down to the lobby.

Peabody Hotel #1

Then across a red carpet, up a few steps and into the fountain while the strains of a Sousa march plays in the background.

Peabody Hotel #2

The Peabody Ducks happily paddle about while being fed and fawned over by their adoring fans.

Peabody Hotel #3

Our next stop was the world famous Beale Street just a few blocks away.

Beale Street #4

Since it was now past noon, we decided to enjoy some authentic Memphis Barbeque by dining al fresco at the famous “Pig on Beale”.  We enjoyed a great meal while watching the street performers, locals and tourists stroll by.

Beale Street #1

After lunch we wandered the length of Beale Street and listened to a few talented musicians playing the blues, Memphis style.

Beale Street #3

Later, much to my very pleasant surprise, a number of custom cars and street rods started lining up on the street for a weekly rally.

Beale Street #7

While Kit shopped I spent the rest of the afternoon looking at the 50 some odd collector cars in attendance.

Beale Street #10

Meeting back up, we walked about for a while longer and as we were deciding what to do next, two young women approached us and offered a free book.

Tina Fey

Apparently today was National World Book Night.  Anxious to read this book as we are both Tina Fey fans!

Still full from lunch, but not ready to return to the campground, we enjoyed some more Memphis Blues while downing a few Barley-pop’s.

Beale Street #9

A great stay in this historic southern city, but tomorrow we must continue easterly…..stay tuned, as this year’s Excellent Adventure is drawing to a close.

Kit’s Corner:  As we continue eastward toward home, I have mixed emotions.  On the one hand, I’m anxious to get home, see family and friends and on the other hand, I’m really enjoying all the crazy things we do while on the road and hate for it to end.  Never in a million years would I have expected to be watching ducks come out of an elevator in a super fancy hotel!  Nor, did I ever expect to be touring the authentic Beale Street in Memphis!  Also, I’m SO GLAD Bill is writing all this down so I can refresh my memory in my “old age” while I’m in my rocker.  J  Stay tuned…..

Bill and Kit’s 2013 Excellent Adventure-Journal #12

Bill and Kit's Camping Rig

A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles

Tim Cahill

Monday, April 8, 2013:  Up early and check the weather…..Severe winds predicted from the west, and we are headed due south…..the worst possible situation for towing a trailer!  According to the forecast, the winds are to increase through the morning to 40 MPH, gusting to 60 MPH by early afternoon.  So…..the choices are to remain in Flagstaff another day, a not too unpleasant situation, or to head out immediately and try to beat the worst of the weather.   We leave in about 15 minutes and jump on I-75 heading south.

I-17 South Pix #2

Experiencing some wind buffeting of the trailer so I pull over and took another turn on the sway control, which seems to minimize the effect of the strong westerly wind.  Within two and a half hours we have descended from 7000 feet to 1000 feet and watched the temperature rise from 44 to 73 degrees.  Also, more importantly, as we entered the outskirts of Phoenix the apparent winds started to diminish.

Still being early in the day and since we skipped breakfast we decided to treat ourselves to a nice meal at a Cracker Barrel.  Now fortunately, most Cracker Barrel’s cater to the RV’ing public and feature large, long parking spots in the rear of the restaurants.  However, if you miss the driveway and have to make a steep, off camber u-turn then stuff tends to fall off.

Oh-Oh

The radical turn combined with the extreme angle had un-weighted the Port WD bar to the point that it just simply fell out of its socket.  There is a keeper that is supposed to prevent this from happening but it had not been seated properly by someone last time someone hooked up the truck to the trailer!  Fortunately we were moving along at about 1 MPH at this point and the resulting noise brought us to an abrupt stop.  Oh, well…..no harm, no foul!  And another item to add to the old pre-underway check sheet!

So, why are we in Phoenix?  Well to begin with tomorrow is Kit’s birthday and she wanted to spend it in her favorite campground…..Paradise RV Resort, or as I call it “Tiny Town”, which is located in Sun City just west of Phoenix.

Tiny Town

Tiny Town is like a mini city made up of tiny homes and tiny vehicles driven by a very diverse and eclectic population.  We were assigned a spot in the overnight section but had full access to all the amenities of the park, which are many.

Tiny Town Campsite

We have mentioned this facility in past journals so won’t detail all there is to do, just suffice it to say the active senior will not be bored!  In addition to being in a nice RV park, a couple of our favorite people live a few miles away and we wanted to pay them a visit.  Marti and her husband Tommy as well as Marti’s father Mr. “O” all have retired from California to Sun City.  They are family to my best friend from childhood, Rod who we visited in San Diego a few months ago.  Tommy has been battling some health issues but we were able to enjoy a visit with him at his very nice rehabilitation facility.

Pulling up in front of Marti’s home, which borders a golf course and is easily identifiable by the manicured Carob Tree in the yard, I noticed a rather unique apparatus out by the curb that required my investigation.

Underground Trash Can

Looked a lot like an Olangapo Bomb Site but was actually an underground trash can, and quite a large one at that.  Apparently one just has to take their trash to the curb, step on the lid to open and…..”bombs away”!  Pretty slick!  As we were knocking on Marti’s door and discussing this modern contraption, a total stranger answered the knock.  Um, apparently there are many homes on the golf course, with manicured Carob trees and underground trash bins.  Marti’s home was a few doors away…..we did have a very nice visit with Carol, however!

Since Marti has treated us to many home cooked meals over the years, we offered to take her and Mr. “O” out for a meal.  So the four of us retired to the local Applebee’s and had a great time reconnecting and telling childhood stories.

Phoenix Gang

Mr. “O” is 96 years young and still lives independently, drives and plays golf…..a true inspiration for living life well and choosing only the finest Whiskey to consume!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013 through Wednesday, April 10, 2013-Tiny Town, Sun City, Arizona:  Happy Birthday Kit!  The weather was perfect for our stay, clear, sunny, warm and a gentle breeze.  We spent one day oz’ing about town and enjoying a delicious Italian meal.

Spent the rest of our stay just veg’ing out, walking about Tiny Town and trying to figure out why we owe so much in Federal Taxes!  Also, as Kit relaxed by the pool with her book, I was able to wash the truck and trailer of the accumulated road grime and take care of some badly needed maintenance.  A rather persistent water leak developed up in Flagstaff…..after thoroughly investigating all the common causes I spent a few hours taking various panels off trying to identify the source of the leak.  Suddenly it stopped as abruptly as it started so I just decided to wait and see what developed down the road (pun intended).

While seeking out a mailbox to send out the tax forms, I noticed the Southern California affliction of trying to disguise ubiquitous cell towers as native vegetation existed in Tiny Town as well.  At least these folks used palm trees…..see the tower is totally unrecognizable from the actual nearby tree!

Cell Palm Tree

Thursday, April 11, 2013:  Up and away by 0950 under sunny skies and temperatures rising into the upper 60’s.

Jumped on US-87 heading north through the Tonto National Forest toward Payson, Arizona.  As we passed 2000 feet elevation the signature Saguaro Cactus started appearing.

Road to the Rim #1

And as we passed 5000 feet the uncharacteristic for Arizona snow started appearing….SNOW!!!  YIKES!!!!

Road to the Rim #3

Near the town of Payson, Arizona we moved over to AZ-260 heading east toward Show Low.  As we popped over the Mogollon Rim at 7000 feet, there was no snow and the weather was pleasantly sunny and cool.

The Mogollon Rim defines the southwest edge of the Colorado Plateau, an immense area that encompasses part of Nevada, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico, and called “The Four Corners”.  On the Mogollon Rim trees, plants and animals associated with the Rocky Mountains flourish.  Off the rim, down in the lowlands, one finds the typical terrain and environment of the Sonoran Desert.  A pretty dramatic contrast in a relatively few short miles.

As we neared the mountain town of Show Low we decided to stop for the night at Fool Hollow Lake State Park.  This alpine lake situated in the Sitgreaves National Forest has a very nice campground and is a place we have enjoyed on past trips through the area.  Pulling into the sparsely populated campground we set up on a nice remote campsite for the next couple of days.

Fool Hollow Campsite-2

Where we enjoyed cocktails while watching the sun set over the lake placid lake.

Fool Hollow Lake Sunset

Friday, April 12, 2013-Fool Hollow State Park:  Today is a down day to do what we wish.  Kit wishes some quiet time to read and reflect so that means Bill wishes to disappear.  And Disappear I did…..rolled my kayak the 200 yards to the lakefront and took off to paddle about.

Fool Hollow Lake Kayaking #5

As I paddled north the lake narrowed to a shallow stream.  As I was about to turn about I had the weird sensation that some jackass was staring at me.

Fool Hollow Lake Kayaking #4

I bet he was thinking the exact same thing!  Not sure where that fellow came from as there was no sign of human activity for a number of miles about.  We warily watched each other until I rounded a bend in the lake.  Just another of a series of chance encounters that seem to present themselves.

On the return paddle to the campground I heard a loud rumbling sound and as I looked toward the source, I spotted this immense propeller driven aircraft.

Fool Hollow Lake Kayaking #6

According to Tommy, my ace number one plane spotter, this aircraft is a WWII vintage B-17 Bomber!  Of the thousands that were built only about 20 remain airworthy so I’m guessing this guy must have been going to an air show somewhere out west.  Sure was a thrill to see and hear that historic bomber fly over this remote part of Arizona.

Speaking of birds, as I was about 10 feet from shore and getting ready head back to camp, I came upon these three making a big ruckus.

Cruising for Chicks

The two males were pestering the female and at one point they started fighting each other, presumably for her attention.  All this took place within a few feet as I tried to paddle the kayak out of their way.  They paid no attention to my presence however and continued their courting ritual.  After a few minutes, the female took wing and the two males followed in hot (pun intended) pursuit!

What a great day on the water in a beautiful area!  Just a few quick notes on maneuvering a kayak off the truck and down to the water.  Normally sliding the boat off the rear of the truck is the easiest; however with the truck attached to a trailer this is far more difficult.  There are bar extenders that one can purchase that simplify removing the boat from the side of the truck.  However, they are about $200.00 and I’m basically pretty cheap.  For about $25.00 in galvanized water pipe and fittings you can make your own.

Kayak Loader

The pipes, once stuck inside the hollow rack bars, allow me to maneuver the boat out of the kayak saddles and slide it clear of the truck where I can more easily lower it to the ground.  Wish I could say that was my idea……however I got the tip off the internet.

Now once the boat is off the truck, how to get it some distance to the water.  Well, LL Bean sells a Portage Cart that handles this chore quiet well.

Kayak Kart

This is the second set of these I’ve owned…..the first pair lasted about 15 years and endured a lot of punishment during the many river trips in northern Maine over the years.  In fact, even though not in very good shape they are still in service out at camp transporting kayaks to the river and back.  Just thought all this might be of use to fellow kayakers.

That evening, we were able to Facetime with good friends, and fellow RV’rs, Vince and Candy.  They were spending a few weeks in Key West, Florida before heading to Arizona for some family business.  The sunsets they shared with us pretty much made up our mind that we need to get back down to the Florida Keys in the near future.  Great talking to and seeing you folks…..safe travels!

Saturday, April 13, 2013:  Woke early to a clear cool morning.  After breakfast, we broke camp and were on the road by 0830.  Decided on US-60 heading east and then moved over to Highway 108 which rolled through the little Indian village of Concho.  There were some newer houses but a lot of older adobe dwellings as well…..some still occupied.

Roadside Adobe Hut

US-180 heads north through some pretty desolate countryside.

AZ Pointy Road

Soon we came to the southern entrance to Petrified Forest National Park.

Petrified Forest National Park Photo #1

The fossils that are protected by the park are actually trees over 225,000,000 years old that had been buried by river sediment and volcanic ash.  Groundwater carried silica from this mixture into the cells of the trees where it replaced the organic structure and hardened into stone.

Petrified Forest National Park Photo #2

Various minerals in the water caused some of the fossils to display a rainbow of colors.

Petrified Forest National Park Photo #5

At the northern end of the park lies The Painted Desert National Park.

Painted Desert National Park Photo #1

The stratified sandstone layers are colored by various minerals that give it the rainbow hue.

Painted Desert National Park Photo #2

Much of this area lies within the Navajo Nation and is not easily assessable; however the portion protected by the National Park Service is easily visited.

Within the park is an old Fred Harvey lodge that was built to accommodate tourist arriving by rail back in the early 1900’s.

Fred Harvey House Pix #3

The lodge is now a museum but would be a really neat place to stay for a few days!

Fred Harvey House Pix #2

There is a diner attached to the visitor’s center that is still run by the Fred Harvey Company.  Since it was way past lunch we decided to enjoy a meal.

Fred Harvey House Pix #4

Afterward, we needed some walking around time and Kit needed some retail therapy so to the gift shop we went.  Since it was slow, I was able to visit with Lu, a Navajo tribe member that worked there.

Petrified Forest National Park Photo #8

Lu was born on the reservation and much to her disappointment is the last member of her family that can still speak Navajo.  It was obvious she was very proud of her heritage, especially the Navajo Code Talkers of World War Two fame.

It was getting late, and we had no clue where we were heading or where we were going to camp tonight, so we once again chose I-40 to head east.

I-40 East

At 1645 we crossed into New Mexico and lost an hour to the Mountain Time Zone.  An additional hour later we noticed there was a camping opportunity about 10 miles south called Blue Water State Park.  When Kit called she got a recording that whey were busy and would return our call, so we guessed the place was open.  However, after traversing some “interesting” back roads, one of which turned to dirt and featured a sign that read “Dead end 5 Miles”…..we were hopelessly lost.  As it was beginning to get dark, we finally found the State Park entrance road with a locked gate!  Finding our way back to I-40 tired and somewhat frustrated we motored on.  Around 2000 we happened onto an Indian Casino in the Pueblo of Acoma…..pulling in we found a rather austere campground but with full hookups and a very nice Indian Maiden that helped us set up.  Long day, but all’s well that ends well!

Sunday, April 14, 2013:  Sometime during the night the wind picked up in velocity.  Strong enough that our little camper was rocking on its stabilizers.  Checking the weather forecast showed high winds all day, however since the winds were coming from the west and we were heading east we decided to make a break for it.

Pulled out of the casino campground at 1045 under cool sunny skies with winds approaching 30 MPH.  Back on I-40 we were fortunately not experiencing much effect from the winds so decided to continue the few hours to Albuquerque, NM.

After a few minutes on the Interstate, we noticed a lot of heavy black smoke up ahead.  Following the truckers that were merging over to the right lane, we tucked in behind an 18 wheeler and slowed considerably.  Coming upon the source of the smoke our hearts sunk when we saw a motorhome fully engulfed!  The heat was so intense that it had started a rather large grass fire which was being spread rapidly by the high winds.  A couple of good samaritans were on the scene but no emergency personnel had arrived yet.  Sure pray that no one was in that conflagration!  As usual, I had my camera at the ready and was able to squeeze off a few shots of the horrific scene.  However common decency prevents me from posting them in this journal.

About 1400 we pulled into Albuquerque, and after a quick stop at Wal*Mart we decided to make it a short day and headed for Kirtland Air Force Base, just a bit southeast of town.

Monday, April 15, 2013-Kirtland AFB, NM Campground:  After the past few days, we need a down day to take care of a few domestic chores and just veg for a while.  The campground has recently expanded and we were in the newer section.

Kirtland Campsite

It was a nice day, so I decided to work on the “rescue bike” that I received from Kevin back in Vegas.  New tubes, tires, rim strips, saddle and brake pads in addition to some cleaning, lubrication and adjustment got the old girl back in riding shape.  However the brakes need some additional work which will have to wait until my return home.  Not wanting to wait any longer, I took the bike out on its inaugural ride about the base, which is huge!

Kirtland Bike Ride #2

Everything was going well until I came to this rather disturbing sign.

Kirtland Bike Ride #1

Apparently, in addition to narrow shoulders, sand and debris on the road, railroad tracks and inattentive drivers, there is a new concern for cyclists in this neck of the woods.  I slowed down quite a bit but never encountered any Kamikaze Owls…..I did come across this fellow however lurking about the far reaches of the base.

Lunchtime Pix #1

Then I spotted these little fellows scurrying about.

Lunchtime Pix #2

See if you can figure out what happened next?

Lunchtime Pix #3

Yep…..lunchtime!

Great ride…..unfortunately I “double flatted”, yep two flats due to these little suckers!

NM Goathead

There called “Goatheads”, are hard as rocks and are murder on tires without thorn proof tubes and tires…..who knew?

Since my bike riding was over for the day, and since there was a nice breeze, and since there was a nice large vacant lot next to the campground, I spent a few hours flying kites.  A pretty nice day all in all.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013:  Up and on the road early….it is still a bit windy but the temperatures are in the 70’s and the sky is clear…..perfect traveling weather!

Didn’t get too far, however as we came across this must see attraction.

Nuclear Museum Pix #1

The National Museum of Nuclear Science and History is an interesting collection of all things Atomic.  Regardless of how one views the history of nuclear evolution, this is one interesting museum!  Arranged in a chronological sequence of events, and without any political spin, the artifacts and displays leave one to feel comfortable at arriving to their own conclusions.

After chronicling the discovery of radiation and its early use as a medical aid such as this uranium laced water jug.

Nuclear Museum Pix #8

 There was a section on the Atomic Bomb’s, Big Boy and Fat Man which were used on Nagasaki and Hiroshima during World War Two and finally convinced Japan to surrender.

Nuclear Museum Pix #3

I find it kind of interesting that a war that was brought to America by the Japanese air attack on Pearl Harbor was brought to a close by a decisive air attack against Imperial Japan.

There was also a B-29 similar to the one that carried and delivered the first, and possibly the last, Atomic Bombs.

Nuclear Museum Pix #2

And a child’s tricycle discovered amongst thebris after Hiroshima was destroyed.

Nuclear Museum Pix #5

Notice the paper cranes to the right of the burned tricycle.

Sobering images all….however there have been many nonmilitary uses for Nuclear Science as well, such as in the world of medicine.

Nuclear Museum Pix #7

And in consumer products, such as Coleman Lantern Mantels, Kitty Litter and Fiesta Ware!

Nuclear Museum Pix #11

After a thoroughly educational tour of the National Nuclear Museum, one that Kit liked as well, we did indeed hit the road for parts easterly.

Back on I-40 we rolled into Texas about 1533 and once again lost an hour…..this time (pun intended) to the Central Time Zone.  Within a few hours, we started to see less desert and more cattle ranches and agricultural fields as we neared Amarillo.

I-40 Easterly #3

 Not seeing any place to camp nearby and getting kinda late we decided to pull into a Flying J truck Stop and nestled in amongst the big rigs for the night.

Flying J Amarillo

Wednesday, April 17, 2013:  Up and as usual we check the weather before pulling out.  Severe thunderstorms, damaging hail and tornados predicted dead ahead in Oklahoma!  Yikes!!  So we reassess and prudently decided to halt our easterly migration and lay low for a day or two.  Now when I say low, I mean below the surrounding countryside.  We headed south toward Palo Duro State Park, which features camping at the bottom of America’s second largest canyon.

Palo Duro State Park Pix #8

Checking in we settle for a nice remote campsite at the end of the park.

Palo Duro State Park Pix #2

It was cold but the winds were calm and the day was young, so I decided to take care of some truck and trailer maintenance and see if I can locate that intermittent and frustrating water leak we noticed last week.  After some contortionist moves I finally could feel the location where the leak was coming from.  Couldn’t see it but it felt like the coupling supplying water to the commode had been cross threaded…..funny it didn’t leak right after we had the commode changed out last month in Tucson.  In order to fix it correctly would require a major dismantling of components and interior walls, a task I didn’t want to attempt on the road.  So I carefully took about a quarter turn on the fitting and the leak seemed to stop.  It’s a watchful waiting situation for now with the hope the union doesn’t break free.

Thursday, April 18, 2013:  I was awakened shortly after sunrise by an unusual sound coming from outside.  As I cautiously opened the door and peeked out I witnessed this turkey messing with my truck!

Palo Duro State Park Pix #3

Silly Tom was all puffed up and pecking at his reflection in the trucks bumper.  He went at it for a few minutes until I guess his head hurt enough that he just gave up and left the perceived interloper alone.  Funny sight to wake up to in the middle of nowhere!

No cell service, so do not have a clue what the Oklahoma weather forecast is, but we decide to break camp and pull out anyway.  Heading up canyon and down some back roads we make our way to I-40 once again.  It looks like the weather has improved so, following a quick truck stop breakfast we once again resume our journey.  Oklahoma, here we come!

Kit’s Corner:  We always enjoy our time with Martha, Tommy and Mr. “O” in Sun City.  And, I love staying at Tiny Town, too!  Such a nice facility, the weather is perfect and all the people there are really nice.  Time to head east, this time, we plan to finally see Oklahoma.  We’ve been north, south, east and west of it but NEVER have set foot in it.  It’s one of just 3 (4 for me) states we’ve never been to.  The others we are missing are Kentucky and North Dakota and, for me, Alaska.