Bill and Kit’s 2015 Excellent Adventure, Journal #19

Bill and Kit's Woody and Airstream-2015

50th Logo

It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of nature I was ever permitted to enter.

John Muir


Tuesday, May 5 and Wednesday, May 6, 2015:  Groveland, California:  Today and tomorrow, we are going to explore one of the finest National Parks in America…..Yosemite!

This is exciting as Kit and I have been trying to get here for the past few years!  Even though Yosemite is open year round, many roads are impassable at this altitude during the winter months…..and, when the road is safe, we are usually heading back home.  On a few occasions when the weather had moderated and we were within striking distance of the park, fate found us to the east of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.  Then the only way up and over those lofty peaks was by way of the CA-120W over the 9,945 foot Tioga Pass……however that route to Yosemite’s east entrance is treacherous while towing an RV due to lingering snow and ice!

This is the year!  With the trailer safely parked at Yosemite Lakes Campground, Kit and I make our way into the park by way of CA-120 East.

2015-05-05, Photo #1

Shortly after passing through the Big Oak Flat entrance gate we stopped to take the obligatory “we’re finally here” photo.

2015-05-05, Photo #0

Then threading our way down the steep twisty road and entering the valley, our first stop was at Bridal Veil Falls.  A short walk took us near this amazing 620 foot waterfall plunging into the valley.

2015-05-05, Photo #2a

Continuing on the Park Road, Kit and I decided that Yosemite Valley was better observed on foot.  So we located parking in Yosemite Village which will give us access to many of the natural sights as well as the museums, shops, galleries, and the NPS visitor’s center…..which is where we headed first.

2015-05-05, Photo #4

Kit and I arrived just in time to view a great film about Yosemite, most of which was taken from Ken Burns documentary: “The National Parks; Americas Best Idea”…..a PBS special that if you haven’t enjoyed, I strongly urge you to do so!  Leaving the theater, Kit walked to the gift shop and I headed to the rangers desk to get maps and information……and that’s when I spotted this fellow.

2015-05-05, Photo #5

His name is Shelton Johnson and he has been a National Park Ranger for 28 years.  Shelton was profiled in the short film we just viewed as well as the 12 hour Ken Burns documentary which premiered on Public Broadcasting Station’s in September of 2009.

Ken, Shelton and Duncan

Ranger Johnson spent quite a while visiting with me, talking about his time with the park service, and his instant notoriety after the documentary was aired.  He had a number of interesting stories about working with the film crew as well as Ken Burns.  I had mentioned that I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Burns at a book signing back in December of 2009 just as Kit and I were about to embark on our second Excellent Adventure journey.

Ken Burns, Book Signing

I also found him friendly and engaging.  Upon hearing of our travels, I was surprised that Ken spent a considerable amount of time giving me information on his favorite National Parks……one of which was Yosemite!

Before leaving the visitors center, I learned that Ranger Johnson had never visited Acadia National Park but wanted to in the near future.  I handed him one of our cards and invited him to stay with us if he should ever make it to Maine…..hope he takes us up on it!

Stepping outside, Kit and I went our separate ways…..she to look through the many shops in the village, and I to walk a trail that led to another of the many waterfalls that pour snowmelt into the valley……Yosemite Falls.

2015-05-05, Photo #7

The roar of the falling water coupled with the cool mist made for an exhilarating and refreshing pause on this warm morning.

2015-05-05, Photo #7a

Heading back down, I looped about the valley floor while enjoying the sun filled meadow.

2015-05-05, Photo #8

Ringed by huge blocks of solid granite.

2015-05-05, Photo #10

Including El Capitan, a world class sport climbing venue.

2015-05-05, Photo #3

After a few hours, I meandered back to the visitor’s center, where I met Kit for a picnic lunch.  We ate while sitting on a park bench enjoying more of the incredible views Yosemite has to offer.

2015-05-05, Photo #6

After lunch, we retrieved the truck and made our way back down the valley, stopping for a walk along the Merced River……

2015-05-07a, Photo #10

…..while enjoying more of the incredible granite temples that surround Yosemite Valley.

2015-05-07a, Photo #11

It was an absolutely fantastic day in an utterly fantastic natural wonder.  Yosemite is now firmly entrenched in my personal list of top five National Parks!  And that’s considering that, to date, we have enjoyed 23 out of the 59 parks in the system!

On day two, Kit and I left our campsite and once again headed toward Yosemite.  This time to explore other, seldom visited areas of the park.

Turning onto Evergreen Road, we made our way through the Poopenaut (no comment) Valley towards Yosemite’s lost sister, Hetch Hetchy……another of naturalists John Muir’s favorite wild places.

2015-05-07a, Photo #1

Driving along the mountain path, we were greeted by acres of blooming Lupines.

2015-05-07a, Photo #2

And the residual scars from the 2013 Rim Fire that burned 257,314 acres and also threatened the National Park before being brought under control.

2015-05-07a, Photo #9

Foresters now know that wildfires are good for the environment in that they clear thick underbrush and create perfect conditions for tree seed to germinate and grow.  In addition, Mother Nature can quickly begin to heal the affect from forest fires.

2015-05-07a, Photo #8a

At the small mountain enclave of Mather, we turned off on Hetch Hetchy Road and made our way through the entrance gate.

2015-05-07a, Photo #0

After winding through Pine and Sequoia woodlands, the beautiful Hetch Hetchy Valley came into view.

2015-05-07a, Photo #5

Yep, it’s somewhere under all that water…..still beautiful in its own way, however!

So, how did this pristine valley within our National Park become submerged?  Well, by the hand of man of course!

2015-05-07a, Photo #3

An extremely controversial water project resulted in the building of the O’Shaughnessy dam (or as John Muir spelled it “damn”) and the resultant impounding of the Tuolumne River.  The driving force behind this project was the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906.  Following that disaster, there was a demonstrated need for a more reliable water source for the city.  After years of political finagling, the US Department of the Interior gave the city of San Francisco water rights to the Tuolumne…..much to the displeasure of The National Park Service, environmentalists, and towns nearby that felt they should have rights to this natural resource.  The need for the project has been debated ever since and there is a real push by The Sierra Club to remove the O’Shaughnessy Dam and allow nature to restore Hetch Hetchy Valley to its natural state.  Time will tell if that ever happens!

The Tuolumne River still flows however, albeit a trickle of its former self.

2015-05-07a, Photo #4

The Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, impounded in 1938, provides pure mountain water to 2.4 million San Francisco folks over 160 miles to the west, and this is done entirely by gravity.  In addition, it generates hydroelectric power to municipalities in the area including Sequoia National Park.

At the north end of the dam, there is a tunnel bored through the granite that allows access to a system of trails.

2015-05-07a, Photo #5.5

The tunnel, originally built as a railroad pass is wet, dark, dank and spooky!

2015-05-07a, Photo #6

It was at this point that Kit decided she had seen enough and headed back to the truck.  Exiting the tunnel brought a different visual perspective of the reservoir.

2015-05-07a, Photo #6.5

But the real treat is to see what remains of Hetch Hetchy Valley with its steeply sloped granite plunging into the water.

2015-05-07a, Photo #6.6

I stood for a while and tried to visualize what this valley might have looked like before being drowned…..I bet it was every bit as incredible as Yosemite!

Up until the early 1900, Americans viewed wilderness as something to conquer and that natural resources were infinite.  Shortly after the dam was built, citizens started to appreciate our wild lands and began to lobby politicians for their protection.  That is Hetch Hetchy’s legacy, as well as John Muir’s…..he may have lost the battle, but he eventually started winning the war!  This one relatively small valley in the mountains of California may be the best example of the difficulty of balancing what is best for man versus what is best for mankind.

Back on the road, Kit and I decided to spend the afternoon driving the long slow steep winding road up to Glacier Point.

2015-05-07a, Photo #7

Notice the squiggly line on the map below and Glacier Point in the upper right-hand corner.


Now imagine that squiggly line gaining altitude rapidly by way of extreme hairpin turns and little protection in the way of guard rails.  Fortunately, there are plenty of turn outs to pull over and safely enjoy the views of the emerging valley.

2015-05-07a, Photo #12a

When it isn’t possible to go around the mountain, the road engineers just bored through it.

2015-05-07a, Photo #12

Glacier Point summit is 3,214 feet above the valley floor, and provides the best view of the entire valley of Yosemite that one can enjoy without being a bird.

2015-05-07a, Photo #13a

It seems as if everyone knows of Half Dome as it is featured in many Yosemite photos as well as NPS brochures.

2015-05-07a, Photo #16a

However most folks do not know that Half Dome isn’t half of anything…’s just a geological optical illusion.  The opposite side from where people in the valley view Half Dome is nearly as steep.  It is actually a thin ridge of rock known as an arête.

From this vantage point, one can also view many of the waterfalls that plunge into the valley, such as Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls.

2015-05-07a, Photo #14

As well as Nevada and Vernal Falls along with many other natural wonders that makes this place so special.

I would have liked to stay atop Glacier Point until after sunset, but the thought of negotiating that road after dark concerned me….and Kit.  So, as we slowly drove back down the long slow steep winding road,  Kit had a white knuckle grip on anything within her reach……fortunately I kept my neck out of that reach!

As a thank you for enduring the trip to the heavens, I took Kit to a local institution for dinner…..The Buck Meadows Lodge.

2015-05-07a, Photo #18

A couple of local brews and some Bison Burgers with bacon and avocado helped make amends.

2015-05-07a, Photo #17

A great two days exploring one of our nation’s premier National Parks.  Kit and I were mesmerized and will return to further explore this magnificent valley!  In closing, I offer a quote that speaks to the nature of Yosemite:

 Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.

Ansel Adams


Thursday, May 7, 2015:  Dawn broke cool and cloudy with the threat of rain.  As I prepped the rig for departure, I noticed some snagged foliage hanging off the roof rack.  Climbing the ladder to remove the stowaway, I noticed this tear in the EPDM.


Remember that picturesque Live Oak Tree in Cathay Valley we parked under for a picnic a few days ago?  Well, apparently it had a dark side and reached down to snag my roof as I pulled away.

I was a bit bummed…..after all; this camper is only four months old.  My last rig made it past the first year before I was able to cause this level of damage!  I comforted myself by the thought that if we just sat all winter in an RV park, then the camper would be isolated from the rigors of travel…..however, we don’t, and it ain’t!  Oh well, such is life on the road!

EPDM is a rubberized roof material used on most RV’s today.  It is light, impervious to moisture, and relatively easy to apply and repair.  I thought of waiting till our next stop to make repairs but with the threat of rain, I broke out the famous Yankee Tool Product…..Duct Tape!


Kit’s Bit’s: Yosemite NP was so incredibly beautiful!  I was so glad to finally see it and explore most of it.  It always seemed a little weird to me when people asked if we’d been there after learning we were from California and I said “no, we haven’t been there yet”.  It’s been so nice to finally explore these places we’ve always wondered about.  Our self-proclaimed “home state” (neither of us was born there), has so many magnificent places to visit and so much beauty; it’s wonderful to finally have the opportunity to see a lot of it.

Bill and Kit’s 2015 Excellent Adventure, Journal #18

Bill and Kit's Woody and Airstream-2015

50th Logo

Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty.  It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language.

Aldo Leopold


Friday, May 1 through Sunday, May 3, 2015-Lemoore NAS, California:  Well, we are about an hour west of the twin National Parks, Sequoia and Kings Canyon.  Both parks have campground sites that would fit an RV, but being that it’s a weekend and that some folks actually plan ahead, there was no room for us!  So, the Naval Air Station in Lemoore, California is our home base.

2015-05-02a, Photo #16

We registered for four nights which will give us three full days.  We plan on spending an entire day at each one of the National Parks with a down day in between.

Early on day one, Kit and I headed to Sequoia National Park by way of CA-198.

2015-05-02b, Photo #1a

This took us through Three Rivers, California……the self-described Gateway to Sequoia.  Kit and I flashed or Senior Passes as we rolled through the gate, then pulled over to snap a photo of the iconic sign.

2015-05-02b, Photo #2a

The park’s entrance sign was carved in 1931 by a CCC enrollee using a 10 foot by 4 foot slab off a fallen Sequoia.  The inspiration and design for the American Indian face was copied from a Buffalo Nickel he had in his pocket at the time.

Buffalo Nickel Obverse

Back underway, we quickly gained altitude as the terrain and vegetation began to change.

2015-05-02b, Photo #3

Frequently the park road divided and wound around the huge Sequoia trees.  It was during these times that we were glad there was no trailer astern as it was a fairly tight squeeze.

2015-05-02b, Photo #6

On both trees in the above photo there were scars from folks going either too fast or not paying attention.  It amazes me that people come to a beautiful park such as Sequoia and then speed through it!?!?  In addition, they miss beautiful sights such as this!

2015-05-02b, Photo #4b

The Yucca were blooming with the whitest flowers we have ever seen…..pretty striking especially against the deep blue sky!!

2015-05-02b, Photo #4a

Arriving at the visitor’s center, we discovered that Giant Sequoias are, well…..giant!

2015-05-02b, Photo #7

The example above is described as an “average” Sequoia.  At 275 feet tall and a width of 28 feet, it would dwarf most trees.  But in the Sierra’s, there are specimens far larger!  To verify that fact, our next stop was at the Giant Forest Museum and Interpretive Center.

2015-05-02b, Photo #5

After touring the displays and talking to the rangers, Kit and I decided to walk the nearby Crescent Meadow Trail.

2015-05-02b, Photo #9

The two mile path circled a meadow that was too wet for Sequoias to grow, however ringing the meadow were hundreds of these magnificent trees.

2015-05-02b, Photo #10

Back in the truck, we next made the tourist pilgrimage to the tunnel tree.

2015-05-02b, Photo #13a

This giant fell across the park road in 1937 and the National park suits were debating on what to do.  It was then that a young man working for the CCC suggested that a tunnel be cut through the 21 foot diameter monster.  Tunnel Tree became wildly popular and a must stop for photo opportunities in the park.  Of course had the tree fallen more recently, it would be left to decay in place and the park road would have been relocated……such is the modern environmental ethos!

The granddaddy of all Sequoias is the General Sherman… big that capturing a photo of the immense tree with a standard camera is near impossible.

2015-05-02b, Photo #12

The General Sherman lays claim to the title of the biggest tree on earth!  There are taller trees, and wider trees, but none with the volume of wood that The General possesses (snicker).  At 52,500 cubic feet this tree is certified as the biggest…..the top has died but it’s still growing in girth!  That being said, rumor has it that in the most remote part of this 865,964 acre park is a tree that has not been public acknowledged.  Listed as “Unknown Tree” on some registers, the 311 foot tall giant is 1000 years older than General Sherman!  As the story goes, its exact location is a closely guarded secret to protect the tree.

As fantastic as these trees are, it’s hard to get a perspective on the Sierra Nevada Mountains unless one climbs above the tree tops.  Fortunately, a trail was built by the National Park Service and the CCC during the 1930’s to gain access to the summit of Morro Rock.

2015-05-02b, Photo #23

This path cut into the stone is not for the faint of heart…..which begs the question, what the heck was I doing on it?

2015-05-02b, Photo #20

Well, because of views like this!

2015-05-02b, Photo #16

The peaks of the High Sierras hold onto snow late into the summer, and Mount Whitney the highest peak in the lower 48, has snow every month except August and September!

The way back down off the 6,725 foot rock isn’t any easier.

2015-05-02b, Photo #22

But the climb up and back down was the price to pay for enjoying the spectacular views!

2015-05-02b, Photo #15

Note that thin ribbon of blacktop in the photo above…..that’s the park road!

It was getting late so Kit and I made our way down from the high country squeezing between many giant Sequoias along the way.

2015-05-02b, Photo #27

As a thank you for indulging my desire to experience this beautiful park, I treated Kit to a nice meal.  We dined at the Gateway Lodge nestled alongside the Kaweah River just outside the parks southern entrance.

2015-05-02b, Photo #30

Kit ordered Salmon, and I ordered shrimp pasta.

Gateway #1

Both were excellent and a great way to finish off a great day at another of Americas great National Park’s!

On our second day in the area, Kit and I honored a self-imposed down day.  We relaxed around camp, walked about the base, visited the commissary and exchange to re-provision and otherwise goofed off.  With some spare time, I worked on this journal and further researched the twin National parks of Sequoia and Kings Canyon on the internet.

The two parks were separately run until WWII.  Than as an austerity move, and also because many park rangers had gone off to war, the National Park Service combined them into a 1,353 square mile park which is how it remains to this day.


Established in 1890 Sequoia National Park, which is actually a species of Redwood, was obviously named after the gigantic tree it hosts.   Kings Canyon, established in 1940, derived its name from biblical sources which is why it isn’t spelled with an apostrophe.

The third day at NAS Lemoore, Kit and I headed out to Kings Canyon National Park.  In order to see different countryside, we choose CA-63 and then CA-180 which led us to the park’s western entrance.

2015-05-04, Photo #2a

At one of the many turnouts on the steep drive back into the mountains, we stopped to take in the incredible views.

2015-05-04, Photo #3

And in about an hour, we were rolling through the entrance gate to Kings Canyon National Park.

2015-05-04, Photo #4

Where we continued to climb into the Sierra Nevada Mountains before dropping into the canyon itself.

2015-05-04, Photo #7

Approaching the canyon floor, Kit and I encountered the South Fork of the Kings River which was rushing full of High Sierra snowmelt.

2015-05-04, Photo #8

Since we were getting hungry, this seemed like a perfect spot to enjoy the picnic lunch that Kit had made earlier in the morning.

2015-05-04, Photo #9

There are no other cars around, but we had company anyway.

2015-05-04, Photo #10

That guy is a Stellar Jay, and kept eyeing my sandwich.  But being a good steward of native wildlife, I didn’t succumb to the urge and feed him…..much to his irritation.

After lunch, we took a walk around the canyon floor and enjoyed yet another incredible meadow ringed with magnificent trees.

2015-05-04, Photo #15

A few hours of relaxation in this incredibly beautiful valley and Kit and I were ready to head home.  Winding our way up and over the mountains we retraced our route back to the camper.

2015-05-04, Photo #2


Monday, May 4, 2015:  We are up and on the road by 1030 for points north.  Hopping on CA-41, Kit and I made tracks for Fresno as we enjoyed the roadside Oleander in full bloom!

2015-05-04, Photo #1

Within the hour, we moved over to CA-41, then CA-99 toward Merced, where we headed east on CA-140.

2015-05-04, Photo #5

At about 1330 we stopped for lunch at a nice community park in Catheys Valley.

2015-05-04, Photo #4

Notice that nice Live Oak tree in the foreground?  That lovely tree will have a bit more significance later in the trip!

Back on the road, we rolled through the quaint little town of Mariposa.

2015-05-04, Photo #7

And headed north on CA-49, traveling through many small towns that had sprung up a hundred years ago along the life supporting railroad lines.

2015-05-04, Photo #2

As we made our way northeast we began to climb into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range crossing the Merced River.

2015-05-04, Photo #6

Intersecting CA-120, Kit and I meandered through the backroads toward the village of Groveland, California and our stop for the day.

2015-05-04, Photo #8

Registering at Yosemite Lakes RV Park, we decided to stay three nights in order for us to explore another National Park in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range.

2015-05-05, Photo #9

Can you guess which one?  Stay tuned!


Kit’s Bit’s: All of these neat parks we’ve heard of for years, since we were kids.  And, it’s taken this many years for us to finally see them!  The parks are so beautiful!  Sometimes, as we’re coming down around the mountains though, I have to admit, I have to keep my eyes closed.  It’s a bit hairy looking down a bazillion feet on the side of a mountain, especially where there are no guardrails.  Fortunately, Bill handles all these hairpin turns and winding roads very well.  Me, it takes a little time to “unwind” at the bottom of the hill.  I still enjoy the adventure, though!

Bill and Kit’s 2015 Excellent Adventure, Journal #17

Bill and Kit's Woody and Airstream-2015

50th Logo

 My ambition is not to leave behind me a pile of money for my heirs to quarrel about, but to find out what there is of interest in this world before I cross the border and begin to explore the other world.

George H. Hepworth


Tuesday, April 7th through Monday, April 27, 2015-Desert Eagle RV Park, Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, Nevada…..Chapter #2:  Kit and I are still in Vegas, for a number of reasons.  One is that we have things to do and the other is because of these fellows.

2015-04-05, Photo #19

We primarily extended our stay in order for Kit to complete her six week follow-up with a Retina Specialist, and as mentioned previously, everything looked great (no pun intended).  However, as an added bonus we spent more quality time with Jack and Tucker and we took advantage of other enjoyable opportunities as well.

One of my Bucket List items had been to see a major National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) event.  So as Kit enjoyed a relaxing day reading and puttering about the camper I took off early one morning to attend the NHRA Summit Nationals at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

NHRA 2015, Photo #2

The NHRA was formed over sixty years ago to bring organization to the burgeoning sport of drag racing.  Their first sanctioned event was held in 1955 and a few years later I witnessed my first “legal” drag race at the now defunct Sand Diego Raceway.

Ramona Dragstrip 1960's

Man, have times changed!

NHRA 2015, Photo #17

Well, except for the tire smoke!  The thrill of watching two purpose built vehicles race side by side for dominance of a quarter mile racetrack is the same.  However, the sophistication as well as the overwhelming performance of the drag cars has changed dramatically.

The photo above is of a Top Fuel Dragster piloted by the eight time champion Tony Schumacher.  His team is sponsored by the US Army as a “publicity and recruiting vehicle” (pun intended).

NHRA 2015, Photo #0

Tony’s 10,000 horsepower nitromethane fueled car can exceed 330 MPH at the end of a 1,000 foot dragstrip…..and all this takes place in just over three seconds!  I was surprised however to learn that the racetrack length for the most powerful cars had been shortened recently from the traditional quarter mile to 1,000 feet.  This was ordered by NHRA in an attempt to limit the ever increasing speeds following some horrific crashes.

One of the things I like about NHRA Drag Racing, in addition to the engineering and performance of the cars, is the accessibility of the drivers by the average race fan.

NHRA 2015, Photo #12

Unlike other sporting events, even drivers who are at the top of their game spend time in the pits working on their cars and talking to folks that stroll by.

Another legendary superstar in drag racing is John Force.

NHRA 2015, Photo #9

Equally as affable and accessible, John is a sixteen time National Champion in the Funny Car division.

NHRA 2015, Photo #13

These cars feature front mounted engines on a shortened chassis and covered with a full body shell that roughly resembles a production automobile.  As with the Top Fuel class, the configuration of the engine is tightly controlled by the NHRA but basically is a highly modified version of a typical passenger car engine.

NHRA 2015, Photo #15

John Force Racing is a family business.  His son-in-law Robert Hight races and his three daughters’ are involved in the sport as well…..including 26 year old Courtney Force shown below posing with a young fan.

NHRA 2015, Photo #21

Young Courtney successfully campaigns her own 10,000 horsepower Funny Car!

NHRA 2015, Photo #16

There are more women involved in NHRA racing than most any other form of motorsports and the fan base has changed because of it…..back in the day, women rarely raced and few of them where in the stands.

There are many other classes of cars at an NHRA event…..even the average Joe weekend racer can get involved at the Sportsman Level.

NHRA 2015, Photo #1a

In addition to unlimited public access to the pit’s, there is an area set aside for venders to sell race souvenirs and a few custom rides to enjoy as well… this unusual creation.

NHRA 2015, Photo #10

Yep, that’s two engines with four blowers powering that T-bucket hot rod.  Being owned by a Las Vegas resident, I’m pretty sure the thing is street legal, however I have no clue how the driver can see over all that machinery up front!?!

Also at most drag races, there are the novelty acts… this case, a showdown between the only two jet engine dragsters on the circuit.

NHRA 2015, Photo #20

As the cars were put away and the sun set over the pit area, I made my way back to the truck for the short ride to the campground.

NHRA 2015, Photo #23

All in all, a great day at the track!

Another unexpected treat thoughtfully provided by an old friend of Suzie’s was a pair of comp tickets to the recently premiered Duck Commander Musical.

2015-04-29a, Photo #6

This live action theater presentation was modeled after the life story of the Robertson family of TV’s Duck Dynasty fame.  The music, as well as the performance and story line were very good!  The attitude, speech and mannerisms of southern folk were spot on and the actors accurately portrayed this interesting entrepreneurial family.  The plan next is to take the show on tour throughout the US and possibly overseas.

Keeping with the theme, Kit and I enjoyed great meal at the Rio Casino’s All American Bar and Grill.  The catfish dinner I ordered was the best I have experienced since leaving Mississippi!

2015-04-29a, Photo #5

A trip to Las Vegas would not be complete without a few photos of the bizarre sights we came across during this year’s stay.

First was the East Side Riders Bicycle Club….we caught them cruising down the strip to loud music with a heavy bass beat emanating from an old time boom-box.

2015-04-18, Photo #4

Then we stumbled upon the Wienermobile in front of the Nellis AFB Commissary.

2015-04-29a, Photo #15

And bumped into the Incredible Hulk at a local shopping center!


You know…..there’s an obvious joke about The Incredible Hulk and the Wienermobile, but it was vetoed by the editor in chief.  She claims I have the sense of humor of a 12 year old…..that’s insulting, my humor level is clearly in a lower age bracket!

And, last but not least, this character!

2015-04-18, Photo #7

And this one!

2015-04-29a, Photo #2

We’re gonna miss those little guys…..Oh, and their parents as well!

2015-04-29a, Photo #11

As the sun set on our final day in town, Kit and I agreed that we are truly blessed to be able to visit and enjoy our Las Vegas family as much as we do.

2015-04-18, Photo #6

Tomorrow we hit the road toward California.  You may be asking yourself, “when are those crazy kids gonna start heading home”!  Well, wish we had an answer for you, but we don’t know ourselves.  Life on the road can be intoxicating and it is hard to bring the adventure to a close.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015:  Up, broke camp and hit the road by 1000.  This had been one of the longest stays at any one place in the seven years we have been winter RV’ing.  Kit and I had a fantastic visit…..we thoroughly enjoyed time with family and friends, were able to accomplish a number of modifications to personalize the new camper (to be chronicled later in a separate issue), and enjoyed more of the sights and sounds of Las Vegas.  However, it feels great to be rolling down the highway once again!

Jumped on I-15 heading south and soon the Vegas skyline disappeared in our rear view mirror as we rolled through the Mojave Desert.

2015-04-29b, Photo #4

An hour later we crossed the California border and passed the strikingly unusual Ivanpah Solar Power Generating Station.

2015-04-29b, Photo #1

Nearing the town of Barstow, we decided to take a shortcut to the north of the town on Old California Highway 58.  Nice drive along the outskirts of Barstow with many old dilapidated buildings housing fringe business such as junkyards.  At one of the latter I was surprised by the following sight that I immediately recognized.

2015-04-29b, Photo #3

It’s a QA-50 Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter (DASH) used by smaller US Navy warships as a torpedo and depth charge delivery vehicle.

In the mid 1960’s I was a crew member on an old beat up World War II era tin can (destroyer) and we had two of these contraptions on board.  The 13 foot co-axial helicopter had a 70 mile flight range and cruised at 50 knots……it also fell out of the sky on a regular basis.  The drone was launched from a small flight deck by a controller standing at a nearby console.  Once clear of the ship, control was transferred to another pilot sitting in front of a radar screen in and interior space called the Combat Information Center (CIC).  Generally, that was where the mishaps would occur.  It wasn’t unusual for the CIC controller to lose situational awareness and “pilot” the DASH bird right into the ocean, but more often the primitive radio controls would malfunction and the drone would just hum along over the horizon and eventually disappear from radar.  On my first ship, the USS Hamner (DD-718), we had one of our DASH birds configured for optical surveillance by adding a TV camera.  In this configuration it was known as a “Snoopy Bird” and featured a figure of the cartoon character Snoopy on each side of the fuel tank.  We crashed that one as well a few miles north of the DMZ in Vietnam…..the onboard recorded video was pretty entertaining.  I found it amusingly ironic that the DASH we spotted in a Barstow, California junkyard was sitting on top of a small building that resembled a doghouse…..long live Snoopy!

After the trip down memory lane, we pulled out of the junkyard parking lot and continued on.  From Barstow, we headed north on CA-58 through Tehachapi before coming to Murray Farms on the outskirts of Bakersfield, California.

2015-04-29b, Photo #6

Since it was a good place to stop for a break, and the parking lot accommodated RV’s, we did!  After selecting some healthy fresh fruit and some not so healthy snacks, Kit and I hit the trail once again for the short drive into Bakersfield.

2015-05-02a, Photo #8

We came through this area last year on our search for the holy grail of RV’s and Kit noticed that Bakersfield was the adopted hometown of the country music star Buck Owens… a return trip went on her bucket list!

We choose the River Run RV Park and registered for two nights in a nice site along the dried up Kern River.

2015-04-29b, Photo #8

Two nights stay will give us a full day to relax and explore the area.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015-Bakersfield, California:  After securing reservations for dinner at Buck Owens restaurant and dance hall known as the Crystal Palace, we set out to investigate the area.  A variety of back roads took us to the small town of Weedpatch and an interesting museum chronicling the life and times of Oklahoma dust bowl refugees.

2015-05-02a, Photo #1

Unfortunately, the museum was only open on the weekends.  However fortunately, as I was snapping photos over the fence, a big old farm truck made a U-turn in the middle of the road and pulled up behind our truck.  Then a little old lady hopped out and asked if we wanted to see the museum!  Turns out, Faye is the daughter of a dust bowl family and was raised here picking crops along with her entire family.

2015-05-02a, Photo #2

She now owns a large ranch in the foothills and is one of the docents at the Weedpatch Poor Farm museum.  Kit and I spent about an hour visiting with Faye And hearing her stories of growing up dirt poor.  Before leaving we gave the association a donation and thanked her very much for taking time out of her day to spend with us…..what a great lady!

Making our way on backroads toward the campground we drove through miles and miles of productive farmland.

2015-05-02a, Photo #5

And, vast acres growing my absolutely most favorite fruit!

2015-05-02a, Photo #14

If you haven’t enjoyed California Mandarins, you do not know what you’re missing!

There were even farms that sprouted oil wells!

2015-05-02a, Photo #7

Or, actually…..I bet they were pumping orange juice!?

Back in the camper, we cleaned up a bit and headed for The Crystal Palace.

2015-05-02a, Photo #9

Buck Owens built the Crystal Palace as a music and dance hall in 1996 in order to give the young country music performer a nice place to play, unlike his early days of playing in old rough honky-tonks.  The Palace, as it’s called locally, also features a saloon/restaurant and around the perimeter of the hall, a museum of Buck Owens memorabilia.

Walking in, Kit and I were surprised and pleased to witness the annual pageant to select the queen for the local Stampede Days Rodeo.  We enjoyed watching the finalist in each age category do their thing.

2015-05-02a, Photo #11

An order of appetizers and an adult beverage was enjoyed while observing the young ladies answer the judge’s questions and speak of their goals for the future.  It struck me that the California I grew up in and knew was worlds away from the California in the center of the state…..and that’s a good thing!

As the pageant was coming to a close and the country band was tuning up, our meal arrived.

2015-05-02a, Photo #10

Fried Catfish for me and baked salmon for Kit.  Mine was pretty good, but Kit reported that her salmon was the best she had ever tasted.  So if ever dining at the Crystal Palace…..order the salmon!

As we ate the band played, and the dancers did their two-step thing.  Kit and I decided if it weren’t for the California license plates on all the pickup trucks in the parking lot, we would swear we were in Texas!

2015-05-02a, Photo #13

Also, I think we blended in pretty well…..don’t you?

2015-05-02a, Photo #12

A great stay in Bakersfield, but tomorrow we head north to explore more of our former home state.


Thursday, April 30, 2015:  Left late in the morning because this portends to be a short travel day.  We jumped on CA-99N and traveled the ninety miles to our next destination, Lemoore, California.

This will be our staging area for exploring Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park’s…..stay tuned!


Kit’s Bit’s: What a delightful time seeing more of California!  Considering we have called this our “home state” for many years, we really only knew a small area of it.  Many people think California is all about fires and earthquakes.  Not so!  There are so many lush farm fields, beautiful mountains and streams, never mind the ocean.  And, so many interesting little towns along the way and lots of people eager to share with us their experiences and lives in good old California!  Such a beautiful and diverse state!  Who knew!  I have absolutely loved this tour of our “home state”!

Bill and Kit’s 2015 Excellent Adventure, Journal #16

Bill and Kit's Woody and Airstream-2015

50th Logo

Living on Earth is expensive, but it does include a free trip around the sun every year.



Saturday, March 29, 2015:  Up to clear sunny skies and warming temperatures.  It has been a great couple of days at Grand Canyon National Park but it is time to move on.

2015-04-05, Photo #1

By 1030 Kit and I wind our way through the park, depart by the south entrance and take AZ-64 toward Williams, Arizona.

2015-04-05, Photo #2

Within the hour we intersect I-40 and head west.  Huh…..west?!?!  Shouldn’t Kit and I be heading home about now, and if so, isn’t this the wrong way?  Yes we should, and yes it is!

Nearing the town of Kingman, we start looking for a place to get fuel.  With this truck needing diesel, and with the extra height of the new fifth wheel trailer, finding an accommodating service station is a bit more problematic.  Generally we use truck stops and preferably the RV friendly Flying J chain.  Fortunately the GPS showed a Flying J just ahead…..unfortunately it was jam packed.  Fortunately, there was an RV lane with only one motorhome getting fuel……unfortunately, he also needed to dump his tanks, take on fresh water, and have his propane tank refilled, an evolution that would take about a half an hour.  Fortunately, I noticed a gas station across the way that had diesel……unfortunately, the canopy over the pump had a low clearance.  Fortunately, I was able to barely squeeze in and fill my tank.

2015-04-05, Photo #3

Unfortunately, I then needed to back out into traffic.  Fortunately, my spotter was able to safely guide me.  All’s well that ends well!

From Kingman, Arizona we hopped on US-93 and headed north and Kit noticed that the wildflowers were in full bloom along the roadside.

2015-04-05, Photo #1a

Around mid-afternoon, we stopped for a break at a wide spot in the road on the desolate highway.

2015-04-05, Photo #0

Kit made up some sandwiches which we enjoyed in the camper.  Afterward, we took a walk about to stretch our legs and noticed a number of cacti blooming about the desert floor.

2015-04-05, Photo #5a

A half hour later we were back on the road.  About 1600, we crossed the Colorado River by way of the Pat Tillman Bridge and entered the state of Nevada, and the Pacific Time Zone.

As Kit and I rolled through Boulder City we decided there was still time to drop by the kid’s home in South Las Vegas for a surprise visit.  Kevin, Suzie, Jack and Tucker knew we were inbound…..however didn’t expect us until tomorrow.  So parking the rig on a side street, we walked up and rang the doorbell.

2015-04-18, Photo #1

Had a nice reunion and everyone trooped out to see the new camper.  We only stayed an hour before finding our way to Nellis AFB and Desert Eagle RV Park.

2015-04-05, Photo #8

We kept the truck tethered to the camper as we move to an RV resort in the morning that is closer to the family and has more kid friendly amenities.  After a nice meal and a few laps around the campground Kit and I settled in for the night.


Sunday, March 30, 2015:  This morning, we were treated to an aerial demonstration by the USAF Thunderbirds…..right over the campground.

2015-04-05, Photo #7

Later, we would learn that this is the beginning of their show season and they would be absent from their home base for the rest of the time we were in Las Vegas.


Monday, March 30th through Sunday, April 5th 2015-Oasis RV Park, Las Vegas, Nevada:  Up and on the road mid-morning for the 20 mile trip to Oasis RV Resort, a place we have stayed a number of times in the past.  Our two youngest grand’s are starting their week long spring break from school so Kit and I look forward to having them with us for an extended stay…..and their parents look forward to escaping to enjoy a cruise down the Mexican Coast!

The RV Park is a bit more crowded this time through but there are still many nice spots available.  We choose a pull-through site near by the pool and recreation area.

2015-04-09, Photo #1

Speaking of pools, there are two…..and the kids took advantage of them daily!

2015-04-05, Photo #13

While lounging about the pool, I discovered a poor dog that looked to be abandoned.

2015-04-05, Photo #14

I thought about giving him a forever home and naming him Sandy.  However Kit and I decided that our life is too nomadic and unpredictable to care for a pet.

Also within the park is a small 18-hole golf course that received a fair amount of abuse from us.

2015-04-05, Photo #18

In addition, we spent time at the South Point Casino participating in the sport of bowling… times with great skill and success.

2015-04-05, Photo #22

And, at times not so much.

2015-04-05, Photo #24

We also did a fair amount of shopping in various toy stores.  You know how some youngsters like to go on those storefront amusement rides…..not our boys!

2015-04-18, Photo #5

They love the coin operated massage chairs, over and over again!

Since we spent the Easter holiday with the grand’s during this stay, Kit spent time helping them with the traditional coloring of the eggs… outdoor activity for sure!

2015-04-05, Photo #21

Even with their parents out of town, somehow the Easter bunny made it to their home in the wee hours of the morning.  Then when we stopped in later to feed the dogs, the kiddles had an Easter surprise!

Once each visit, we like to take the Jack and Tucker to a movie at their all-time favorite theater.  The Galaxy Deluxe Plus features comfortable reclining seats and state of the art projection equipment.

2015-04-29a, Photo #1

Their choice for the film this stop was Paul Blart: Mall Cop2.
Paul Blart Mall Cop 2 Poster

The boys loved the film.  Kit and I thought that it was so inane and void of any entertainment value that it was actually hilarious in a campy sort of way.


Monday, April 6th 2015:  With the kiddles back in school, we relocated the camper back to Desert Eagle RV Park on Nellis AFB.

2015-04-09, Photo #2

This is actually a campground more our style and a whole lot less expensive.  It is a half hour drive to where Suzie, Kevin, Jack and Tucker live…..however with the parents at work and the kids in school, we usually end up seeing them only on the weekends anyway.


Tuesday, April 7th through Monday, April 28 2015-Desert Eagle RV Park, Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, Nevada:  For the three weeks we were here, Kit and I took advantage of the lull in our hectic travel to attend to a number of items.

There was a six week follow-up on Kit’s eye issue, and I’m happy to report that everything appears normal……well, except we still don’t see eye-to-eye on most things, but that too is normal!

I was able to take care of some truck and trailer maintenance and even spent a day giving the truck its first complete waxing.

2015-04-29a, Photo #7

One of the highlights during this time was reconnecting with an old friend and his family.

2015-04-09, Photo #12

Allen and I worked together on the Navy’s shipbuilding program in Maine for many years and have stayed in touch since my retirement.  He currently is a Radar System Engineer and travels all over the world in support of the US Navy’s Aegis Combat System program.  Allen and his wife, Claudine are the proud parents of six week old twins, Adam and Andrew!

2015-04-09, Photo #7

Kit was in heaven around those little ones… just happened to be her birthday and, according to her, holding those boys was the best birthday gift ever!  I even got in the act!

2015-04-09, Photo #11

It’s been many years since I had the joy of holding a new young life!

Allen and Claudine put on an incredible lunch for us, and we had a blast visiting and enjoying their hospitality…..Thanks folks!

A few days later we spent the day at various shopping areas and enjoyed a nice meal out.  Since Kit and my birthdays are only 5 days apart, we traditionally celebrate them together by going out to dinner.  This year we went to a local tavern…..BJ’s Brewhouse.  I had one of their signature microbrews, and Kit enjoyed a Strawberry Daiquiri.

2015-04-09, Photo #3

We both ordered the waiters recommendation of Parmesan Crusted Chicken.

2015-04-09, Photo #4

The meal, as well as the day, was incredible!

On another day, our son-in-law was able to get us tickets to the Cirque du Solei show Love, which is in its 10th season at the Mirage.

2015-04-18, Photo #11

This is the second time we have enjoyed this great show.  The Beatles music mastered from the original Abby Road recordings combined with a high octane acrobatic performance is one of the best Cirque shows ever!  As a bonus, and for the first time during all the live productions we have enjoyed over the years, the management allowed flash-less photography during the show.

2015-04-18, Photo #13

As you can see, the specially built theater is in the round.  The 2,013 seats feature three speakers each, including a pair in the headrest, for an incredible audio and visual experience!

Amped up after the spectacular show, Kit and I wandered about enjoying the nice warm evening and not wanting the day to come to a close.

2015-04-18, Photo #15

The month of April is heavy with family birthdays.  In addition to Kit and mine, our youngest daughter celebrated her 29th (and holding) and our youngest grandchild celebrated his 8th (and accelerating) birthday.  Our extended stay this year allowed us to participate in Suzie’s at one of her favorite eating establishments and Tucker’s by tagging along as he pretty much called the shots.  His day started with a visit to New York New York for some fun in the arcade and an attempt to ride the famous roller coaster…..unfortunately he was just a few inches short of the height restriction.  Tucker then lead us all to the Fly Zone, a multi-facetted indoor play complex consistently primarily of trampolines and jump pits.

2015-04-29a, Photo #12

Then, following a birthday meal at Steak and Shake, we returned to his home for presents and cake.

2015-04-29a, Photo #14

Or, in this case, hamburger themed cupcakes artfully created by his mom.

2015-04-29a, Photo #9

It was nice to be in town for everyone’s birthday!

Another family dining opportunity we participated in was a trip to the Samurai Steakhouse.

2015-04-18, Photo #9

The tableside grill work was outstanding and the antics of the chef kept us all entertained.  The boys came in for particular attention by the chef and we had a blast watching their reaction of flying food and big fire from the grill.

2015-04-18, Photo #8a

Well, this ends chapter #1 of our extended stay in Las Vegas…..please look for chapter #2 arriving soon at an Inbox near you.


Kit’s Bit’s: We’re having a very enjoyable stay in Las Vegas this time.  With this very hectic “life style” we have these days, it’s nice to take a break now and then to kick back and relax.  The weather was good so we were able to do a lot of walking during our down time.  Also, we were able to do some home maintenance things we’d been putting off.  All the while, we were able to spend time with Jack and Tucker on the weekends.

Bill and Kit’s 2015 Excellent Adventure, Journal #15

Bill and Kit's Woody and Airstream-2015 50th Logo

The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison.  Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. You cannot improve on it: but what you can do is to keep it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.

Theodore Roosevelt


Thursday, March 26, 2015:  Kit and I left our campsite at the Fort Tuthill Recreation Facility in Flagstaff, Arizona shortly before 1100.  The sky is bright with a temperature of 53 degrees and at long last we are on the way to Grand Canyon National Park.

Our trip to the Grand Canyon has been twice delayed over the past three years!  One of the problems in being a snowbird, is that the prime time to be in the places you want to experience, is also the prime time to be in your northern home state!  So getting to the more northerly or higher elevation destinations in winter is a crap shoot!  However, this year the stars aligned, the weather gods cooperated and there was a small window of opportunity for success.  And, we were able to score reservations at the premier campground in the NPS inventory… is good!

Taking I-17 north until it intersects with I-40 where we head easterly.  There are two gates to access Grand Canyon National Park…..we decided to enter through the east gate and depart in a few days by the south gate.  This allows us to enjoy different countryside and drive the length of the park.

We are on the interstate for only 15 minutes before we exit at US-89 and meander northerly.

2015-03-27, Photo #2

As Kit and I leave the pine forest prevalent at 7000 feet, the terrain changes as the elevation drops and by 5000 feet the vegetation has changed to more of a sparse high desert variety.

2015-03-27, Photo #3

Pulling off on AZ-64, we head west on the Navahopi Road as the elevation steadily climbs back toward 7000 feet.  Within the hour we reach the east entrance to Grand Canyon national Park,

2015-03-27, Photo #5

As we flash our NPS Senior Passes and roll through the gate we connect to the East Rim Trail.  In a few miles, we catch our first glimpses of the famous canyon.

2015-03-27, Photo #13

The road is heavily wooded and sightlines are limited, so I’m driving slower than the speed limit……not an inconvenience to any fellow motorist on this lightly traveled road.

2015-03-27, Photo #6

Suddenly, I notice movement reflected in the side mirror and simultaneously hear a loud thump.  We unfortunately got in the way of a young mule deer trying to sprint across the road.  The poor thing smashed into the left side of the trailer and tumbled off alongside the road.  I had to travel another couple hundred feet before finding a safe place to pull over.

2015-03-27, Photo #8

Running back up the road as I was calling the rangers on my cell phone, it was obvious the poor thing was hurt pretty badly.  One NPS Rangers arrived and took my statement as the other went to attend to the deer.

2015-03-27, Photo #7

Both rangers were extremely professional and were great at calming Kit and I down.  We were feeling pretty bad, but apparently these wildlife strikes are common…..still doesn’t make it easy to deal with however.

As we found our way to Grand Canyon Village and Mather Campground we set up and relaxed for the rest of the day.

2015-03-27, Photo #10

As Kit and I were sitting outside, enjoying the beautiful area a couple of young elk wandered by the campsite.

2015-03-27, Photo #17

I like to think that it was their way of letting us know that, regardless of the earlier mishap, we were welcome in their environment.


Friday, March 27 and Saturday, March 28, 2015-Grand Canyon National Park:  Up early, breakfast and out the door for a day of exploring!  First stop was the very nice visitor’s center where we viewed a movie, picked up a few maps and talked to the ranger about what to see and do.

As most folks know, the one mile deep Grand Canyon was, and still is, being carved by the relentless flow of the Colorado River.  Over two billion years of erosion has exposed some of the oldest layers of the earth.

2015-03-27, Photo #20

The National Park Service manages and protects over 1,904 square miles of the most beautiful terrain in the country.  Grand Canyon was designated a National Park in 1919, just two years after the establishment of The National Park Service.  It has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World.

2015-03-27, Photo #14

Over the two days we were in the park, Kit and I were able to see and enjoy many of its most iconic sights.

2015-03-27, Photo #21

At the parks eastern boundary there resides an ancient looking structure known as The Desert View Watchtower.

2015-03-27, Photo #19

These towers are common amongst the Ancestral Pueblo People of the area for personal storage and physical security. The seventy foot tall Desert View Watchtower was designed by architect Mary Colter and was created to look like an old ruin.  It was built in 1932 by the Fred Harvey Company and constructed using native materials; however the underlying framework is all modern.  Steel girders support the tower…..the distressed adobe brickwork and Pueblo style windows and doors are a facade.

Access to the upper floors and the observation deck is by a spiral stairway winding about the perimeter of the tower.

2015-03-27, Photo #23a

To further enhance the illusion, Ms. Colter ordered that native pictographs be replicated on the interior walls.

2015-03-27, Photo #22

The illusion works…..the tower is a fascinating structure that looks at place on the rim of the Grand Canyon.  On the upper observation deck, one can enjoy incredible views of the countryside.

2015-03-27, Photo #25

A few miles down the road from the Desert View Watchtower, are the remains of an 800 year old Anasazi Village.

2015-03-27, Photo #27

The ruins have been stabilized, but no attempt has been made to rebuild the village…..what the visitor sees is as it was when first discovered eighty-five years ago.

Near the ruins, there was a great picnic area in the trees where Kit and I relaxed and enjoyed our camper-made lunch.

2015-03-27, Photo #28

During our stay we also explored historic Grand Canyon Village and walked the Rim Trail for a few miles.

2015-03-28, Photo #10

This trail provides access to most features in the village and, as the name suggests, allows an easy and safe walk along the rim to enjoy different perspectives of the canyon below.

2015-03-28, Photo #1

The Rim Trail passes the historic El Tovar Hotel.

2015-03-28, Photo #19

Built as a railroad destination resort in the early 1900’s by the Fred Harvey Company the El Tovar sits just feet from the canyons rim and provided the well healed tourist of a hundred years ago a rustic retreat with lavish accommodations.

2015-03-28, Photo #9

We tend to see the influence of Fred Harvey a lot in the southwest.  So who is this guy that few have heard about?  In the later part of the 19th century, Fred was working as a Freight Agent for the great Burlington Northern Railroad when he realized that rail travelers of the day had few dining options.  To their loss, his railroad had no interest in the concept of providing food service either on the train or at its many stops.  However, competing railroad the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe did!  Over the ensuing years, The Fred Harvey Company built and managed 84 dining facilities for the railroad…..and some destination hotels served by the railroad such as at the Grand Canyon.  Ironically, his former employer that turned down his proposal and the one that liked the plan eventually merged and became BNSF.

The El Tovar is nice, but a bit too fancy (read pricey)… we walked down the trail to the more reasonable Bright Angel Lodge.  As with the Desert View Watchtower, this too was designed by architect Mary Colter.

Bright Angel Lodge

Kit and I picked a table in the Arizona Room with a nice view of the canyon and enjoyed a fantastic lunch.

2015-03-28, Photo #12

I ordered a delicious Barbeque Plate with chicken, ribs and pulled pork.

2015-03-28, Photo #13

Following lunch, we visited The Hopi House…..also designed by Ms. Colter and built by the Fred Harvey Company in 1905.

2015-03-28, Photo #2

The Hopi House was meant to house concessioners that sold Native American crafts and art work which it still does to this day.  Kit had a great time exploring the multi-story shop full of locally made items.

2015-03-28, Photo #3

She liked everything but was particularly entranced by these clay figurines.

2015-03-28, Photo #4

One cabinet in The Hopi House is, for the time being, devoted to the sale of Pawn Jewelry.

2015-03-28, Photo #18

These items, many handcrafted of silver and turquoise, were made by Native Peoples for their own adornment.  Most have historic, symbolic or spiritual significance well beyond the intrinsic value of the materials.  Quite often, Native Americans would use these personal possessions as collateral at a trading post…..then when able to repay the loan they would retrieve their jewelry.  However, if not reclaimed in time, or if the owner passed, the item became known as Dead Pawn Jewelry and the proprietor would sell these native artifacts to tourists visiting the Grand Canyon.  This practice within the National Park System is coming to an end, as it should.  However, a simple Google search will bring up many businesses still focused on the sale of Pawn Jewelry.

A place I’ve read about for years and finally got to enjoy was Kolb Studio.  Situated on the canyon rim is the film and photography studio of brothers Emery and Ellsworth Kolb.

2015-03-28, Photo #16

Arriving at the south rim in 1903, the Kolb’s captured some of the very first quality photos of the Grand Canyon.  They used creative contraptions to film from unique angles requiring daring work with primitive materials.

Kolb Brothers, GCNP

Photo Credit-Kolb Brothers from the website Wikipedia


In 1911 the brothers retraced John Wesley Powell’s historic descent of the Colorado River through the canyon.  Using a large movie camera they produced the first motion pictures of running the treacherous river.  Thirteen years later, Ellsworth left the business and Emory kept on until his death in 1976.

Grand Canyon is known throughout the world and is a prime destination for offshore visitors.  The NPS Service can predict with some accuracy when and from what country a surge of foreign tourist will descend on them.  If a particular park is featured on a television show in South Korea, then within weeks an onslaught of South Koreans will visit.

One of the most popular National Parks in the system, a staggering five million folks visit Grand Canyon National Park each year.  This sometimes creates a Disneyland type experience with everyone crowded shoulder to shoulder and having a great time taking pictures of each other.

2015-03-27, Photo #30

And, you can’t blame them with views like these.

2015-03-28, Photo #11

It might get a bit crazier as there is a proposal by Navajo leadership to develop their land adjacent to Grand Canyon National Park.  The facility, if approved, is to be called Grand Canyon Escalade and will be constructed on the eastern portion of the canyon.  The facility is reported to include a cultural center, shopping district, hotels, restaurants, an IMAX theater, and most controversial of all, an aerial tramway to the bottom of the canyon.

GC Tramway Drawing

Grand Canyon Escalade Tramway

The National Park Service and many in the Navaho Nation have joined with Hopi and Zuni tribal members in opposing the development.  However, proponents point to the significant financial benefit to one of the most impoverished areas of Arizona.  The final decision is to be made soon…..let’s just hope it is the best one for all Americans.

Fortunately, there are two parts of Grand Canyon National Park.  The less commercialized North Rim is more difficult to get to and at a higher elevation which makes it inaccessible during part of the year.  Next time through, the North Rim is where we would like to camp and explore!

The sun hung low in the western sky and the crowds of tourists returned to their hotel rooms, or boarded the final train to Williams, Arizona.  Kit and I stood at the rim and watched the waning sunlight bathe the brilliant canyon walls…..this has been a great couple of days in a beautiful park!

2015-03-27, Photo #16


Kit’s Bit’s: This is actually our second visit to The Grand Canyon.  Our first visit was during the summer of 1974 with our kids.  They were 9, 7 and 3 at the time.  Little did we know, we had to make reservations for a camp site, so, we wound up camping on the side of the road with no facilities.  The campgrounds are even more popular now so we were incredibly fortunate to score a site.  This time around, we were able to see much more of the park in its entire splendor!  Our visit in ’74 remains a complete blur to me except for the camping on the side of the road!  No doubt, I was totally occupied keeping the kids close by so they didn’t disappear!  This time, I thoroughly enjoyed our visit!  I’m hoping that each of our kids and grandkids can someday come back here to fully enjoy the park!  It is definitely spectacular!  Everyone should see it at least once in their life!