Bill and Kit’s 2017 Excellent Adventure, Journal #19

Our Nature lies in movement; complete calm is death.

Blaise Pascal

 

Friday, April 21 and Saturday, April 22, 2017-Aurora, Colorado:  Woke to clear and sunny skies with temperatures in the mid 50’s.  Looking to the west we spied evidence of the storm that passed through last night…fresh snow in the Rockies!

Kit and I are camped for a few days on Buckley Air Force Base…home of the US Air Force Space Command.

Bristling with domed antennas and other passive listening, and space surveillance equipment, this facility is responsible for the early detection of incoming ballistic missiles and other space shenanigans.

Aurora, Colorado is also the home of folks from our own military past…the daughter, and her family, of good Navy friends from eons ago.

We first knew Laura when she was a two year old in Lemon Grove, CA, then, a bit older while running the streets of Virginia Beach with our children.  Laura, a veteran of the US Army along with her husband Gary who retired from the Navy, are raising two delightful children, William and Sara.  Laura is the daughter of Larry, a Chief Petty Officer onboard one of my earlier ships, the USS Hamner (DD-718), way back in the mid 1970’s.  They kindly invited us to their beautiful home for an excellent meal of smoked pork and beef, fried catfish, and some incredible side dishes.

Kit and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with them and chatting about days gone by while sitting around their backyard fire ring…thanks for the hospitality folks!

This area is also home to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Arsenal, a decommissioned US Army chemical weapons manufacturing facility.

The visitors center features maps and guides to the wildlife refuge as well as a small museum detailing the history of once top secret chemical and biological munitions factories.

The site has undergone extensive remediation efforts and driving through the peaceful grounds belies its former military use.

Replacing the chemical weapons bunkers are American Bison.

And, deer romp on the grasslands that once contained huge Biological and Chemical laboratories.

And no, I did not see any unusual animal deformations…well this fellow was a bit suspect.

Until I realized that he was just using that convenient electrical transmission tower to help rub off his winter coat.

On the drive back to the campground, I stopped to top off the fuel tank…an easier process without the 30-foot camper astern.  Then, made a stop at the local bank where I noticed this unusual sight, at least for an urban setting.

Inside, I asked the teller about their neighbor and was told she has returned to the same spot to create life every spring for the past few years.  Thinking it may be the proverbial Goose that Laid the Golden Egg, I set up surveillance.

However, even though these eggs were precious they were not made of gold.  It was amazing that mom was oblivious to the traffic and many customers that walked by, many who didn’t even realize she was there.  Fortunately, the kind bank employees have provided food and water, while watching out for her welfare.

Returning to the campground, I noticed some more weather is moving in from the west.

Since we plan on departing tomorrow, I hooked up and prepared the camper for an early morning departure in the hopes of staying in front of the looming storm.

 

Sunday, April 23, 2017:  Underway from Buckley AFB and heading north on I-76 under cloudy and threatening skies.

A bit of rain and wind, but otherwise an uneventful travel day as we motored along toward the right coast.

Historically, the main goal at this juncture of our Excellent Adventure trips, is to make steady progress toward the northeast in order to arrive in Maine by June 1st, while stopping for any bucket list opportunities that may arise.  However, this year our son Joe will celebrate an important milestone birthday and his son, Chris is in the midst of a competitive high school lacrosse season…both of which we want to participate in.  In addition, our granddaughter Katie is home for a few short weeks before beginning her internship in New York City and grandson Joe is preparing for another summer of white water raft guiding in Northern Maine…in other words, lots of very good reasons to cut our trip short and enjoy family time.

Crossed into Nebraska at 1352 hours and moved over to Interstate-80 continuing east before encountering the Central Time Zone.  Other than stops for fuel, rest, and the necessities, we trundled along.  When our self-imposed daily travel mileage loomed into view, Kit started looking on All Stays for a suitable overnight venue, which she found at a 24 hour Wal*Mart in North Platte, Nebraska.

Following some walk about time in the store and inquiring at the service desk if it was OK to remain overnight, we settled in next to some truckers as evening crept across the tarmac.

Scored yet another overnight freebie in a RV friendly community…thanks Wal*Mart!

 

Monday, April 24, 20127:  Up and on the road at 0745!  We seem to be able to get an earlier start when “Blacktop Boondocking” then when we stay in a paid campground.  Our usual MO for a “travel day” after dry-camping in a parking lot is to leave early, pile on some miles, stop for a meal and repeat until hitting the self-imposed 300-mile daily limit.  Today however we encountered an interesting sight, and pulled in for a look.

Spanning Interstate-80 near the town of Kearny, Nebraska.

The Great Platte River Road Archway was constructed in the late 1990’s as a monument to the intrepid travelers of yesteryear who converged on this point during their trek toward the western promised lands.

Walking across the arch on two levels takes the visitor on an audio-visual tour of early trips westward starting with the Conestoga Wagons era.

Progressing to rail travel and finishing with the depiction of early automobile camping trips along the famed Lincoln Highway.

Kit and I were glad we pulled in…it was an interesting stop and a nice interlude to the day of travel.

We continued east throughout the afternoon until arriving in Omaha where Kit started looking for a place to stay.  Since Warren Buffett’s home wasn’t available for a dooryard surfing opportunity, we headed to Offutt Air Force Base and set up in their very nice lakeside recreation facility.

Following a nice meal and with a glass of wine in hand, we watched as the sun bid farewell to the day as it sank into the pond behind our camper.

Goodnight!

 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017:  Offutt AFB, Omaha, Nebraska:  After two travel days, where we stopped both nights to blacktop boondock at Wal*Mart’s, we were in need of a down day.  And even though the weather was crummy, it was a nice relaxing and productive 24-hour layover as there was much that needed to be accomplished.  Kit did laundry while I performed some routine maintenance on the truck and trailer.  It was also a great opportunity to catch up on correspondence and journal writing.

 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017:  On the road again at 1035 hours found us winding our way through the corn fields of Nebraska.

We are certainly in agriculture country as there are as many farm implements on the roads as there are automobiles!

Within 15 minutes, we were motoring over the Missouri River.

And crossed into the state of Iowa, the home turf of Larry and Janice mentioned earlier.  They had moved back to the family farm following their retirement from the Navy and since Kit and I haven’t visited in a few years, we were pleased that they could spend some time with us.  We diverted north on State Highway 59, stopped for a quick roadside lunch, then continued to the community of Cherokee.  Pulling off the highway found us driving down a dirt roads bordered by farm fields.

Then at 1400 hours I pulled the rig into Larry’s farmstead.

After setting up the camper, Kit and I spent the remainder of the day, visiting and getting reacquainted with Larry.

Cold and rain kept us close to the farm for the afternoon and a long day of driving convinced us to call for an early evening.

 

Thursday, April 27 and Friday, April 28, 2017-Cherokee, Iowa:  Woke to much better weather and was able to snap a photo of the rig parked next to one of the outbuildings.

Larry’s former spouse Janice lives in town, and invited Kit, I and Larry over for a visit and dinner.

We had a great time reminiscing about our times in San Diego, and later while living in Virginia Beach, over an excellent meal of pork, potatoes, and carrots followed by strawberry shortcake.

On day two of our stay, since our truck was still attached to the trailer, Larry was kind enough to take Kit over to Janice’s place for a visit.  Then Larry and I spent the day at his farm…being a city kid, I’m always fascinated by the farm life.  In past years, Larry has allowed me to “help” with the animals and some of the many chores that come from running a 240-acre farming operation.  Larry is now leasing a big chunk of his land to a neighbor, and has reduced his animal population to a few mules.

Which he still uses for hunting trips and muzzleloader rendezvous outings.  Then there is trusty companion, Hank.

Even though he doesn’t farm as much nowadays, Larry still has the required machinery such as this skid-steer loader.

Which he allowed me to operate following a brief but detailed instruction session.

My main task for the afternoon was to run laps about the field trying to follow my own tracks so as to minimize the abstract art effect.

The skid-steer was very maneuverable, able to spin around in its own wheelbase, and a blast to drive!

Later that evening, Larry and I joined Kit and Janice in town for some great pizza and visiting, before returning to our camper for the evening.

 

Friday, April 28, 2017:  Up to cloudy skies and a temperature of 38 degrees.  Following breakfast, Kit and I made preparations to leave the farm then walked up to the house to thank Larry for the hospitality.

Knowing my love of antiques, Larry frequently will gift me an item from the farm that has been lying about the barn…however, this year, his gift was far more valuable and sentimental.

Since I wish to not expose the item to the WebCrawler’s on the internet, I’m withholding a photo.  However, if interested please reply via e-mail and I’ll send a brief discerption.  Thanks Larry, we really enjoyed the midwestern hospitality, your friendship, and the very thoughtful gift!

Underway at 0912 under the same threatening skies that have been plaguing our homeward progress.

It seems that we have been imbedded in the continuing line of spring storms that have been marching across the country.

Even if we stop for a down day, we either catch up to the storm that just passed or get caught by the next one coming from the west!

Headed back south until we came to US-20 before turning toward the east as the rain picked up in intensity.  The weather didn’t dampen our spirits (pun intended) nor did it persuade us from veering off course to enjoy attractions of significant historical value…such as the world’s largest popcorn ball!

A 9,370 pound ball of candied popcorn housed in its own climate controlled enclosure.  Why?  Well, why not, the 2,220 citizens of Sac City, Iowa respond!?

Back on Highway US-20, we were passed by this vehicle towing a trailer.

Kit was ecstatic…she loves the concept of Little Free Libraries!

The tiny neighborhood libraries have become a worldwide phenomenon that began in 2009.  Mr. Todd Bol installed the first library on his front lawn in Kit’s mom’s hometown of Hudson, Wisconsin as a tribute to his book loving mother.  The Little Free Library organization lists over 50,000 units and growing.  Check it out at:  https://littlefreelibrary.org/

Shortly after noon, we moved over to Interstate-35 and headed South around Des Moines and to US-34 which we took east.  At 1600, as we were nearing the town of Ottumwa, Kit began looking for a place to overnight…finding a suitable town owned campground we made that our destination for the evening.  Being very sparsely populated this time of the year, we were able to score a nice spot without a problem.

Weary from the days’ travel, we ate a quick meal and settled in for the evening as the relentless rain pelted the side of the camper.

 

Saturday, April 29, 2017:  Woke to a lot more of the same…cold, rainy, windblown weather.  Over coffee in our cozy camper, Kit and I decided to wait out the storm here in the hopes for a better travel day tomorrow.

About mid-morning, a lot of commotion began around a large picnic pavilion across the road from our site.

Donning rain slickers followed by a quick dash to the enclosure resulted in our being in the middle of the annual Ottumwa Polar Plunge for Special Olympics!

After a quick interview by a DJ from KRKN Radio, we were introduced as Maine visitors to polite applause and many town folks greeting us throughout the afternoon.  Being invited to participate caused me to divulge my heart condition…which is; my heart just wasn’t into diving in a pool of ice cold water.

We did however make a donation by participating in the silent auction and were invited to the pork tenderloin barbeque.

A regional favorite, and very delicious…however the carrots looked a bit odd.

 

Sunday, April 30, 2017:  Rolled out of camp at 1057 under, you guessed it, clouds and rain!  One reason for a later than usual start was our next bucket list destination was only 30 miles away…a  short drive to the east brought us to this famous house.

Recognize it?

How about now?

Yep, it’s the famed background home in the Grant Wood painting, American Gothic.  As the story goes, Mr. Wood, already an accomplished painter of midwestern life, was attending a showing of his work in the town of Eldon, Iowa when he spied this home.  He loved the ornate church window adorning such a plain farmhouse so drew a quick sketch on an envelope.  Then, when back at his studio, Grant Wood produced his most famous work ever.

The models were his sister, Nan Wood and his dentist, Dr. Byron McKeeby.

Nan was overjoyed with the instant notoriety, but the good doctor was appalled and their professional relationship never recovered.

The iconic image has played a humorous roll in our lives over the years.  Back in the late 1960’s I cut out a parody of this famous painting from a gentleman’s magazine, inscribed it; To Bill, Love Mom and Dad, then placed the picture in my wallet…well, once Kit noticed the humorous photo it would pop up in the most unusual, and embarrassing, locations.  The photo is still around somewhere.

Over the years, many other parodies of the painting have been produced by amateurs and professionals alike, including this Navy inspired one.

The swab is a nice touch, as well as the mop he is holding!

Completed the tour of the American Gothic museum shortly before 1500 and headed out on US-34 crossing the Mississippi River before entering the state of Illinois ninety minutes later, then within the hour we merged with I-74 and continued East.

The overcast skies and relentless rain makes for an early dusk, so once again, Kit finds a nice quick overnight stop at a Wal*Mart to the east of the Illinois River in Peoria, Illinois.

With that ending, I will close this addition of Bill and Kit’s 2017 Excellent Adventure…stay tuned for the final addition coming soon!

Kit’s Bit’s:  This was a slightly different route home, this year.  I love traveling through the Midwest, it seems like the most direct route home for us.  However, being plagued with cold and rainy weather for most of the trip slowed us down a bit.  It was great seeing Lora and family in Colorado and her folks in Iowa.  Both stops made for nice “warm and cozy” stops as we trundled through rain, sleet, snow and very cold temps!  Brrrrr!

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Bill and Kit’s 2017 Excellent Adventure, Journal #18

Camping without beer is just sleeping in a box.

Wilber

 

Monday, April 17, 2017:  Final morning at Oasis RV Park in Las Vegas for this year, as today Kit and I continue our eastward trek toward home.

Broke camp and pulled out at 0917 under partly cloudy skies and a temperature of 75 degrees.  While winding our way through this vast RV Park, a woman waved excitedly and pointed at the side of our camper…taking a glance in the driver’s side rearview mirror I saw the bedroom slide was still extended!?!?  First time that’s happened!  Even though we have many years’ experience, and use a detailed check sheet before departure, mistakes can still occur.  Fortunately, that slide only extends 16 inches and we hadn’t left the campground premises, so no harm.  Kit or I have alerted many other campers of similar situations concerning their rigs over the years, so blunders of that nature are more common than one would think…fortunately, RV’rs tend to look out for each other.

Driving on Interstate 15 heading north, we soon left the congestion of Vegas traffic and eased into the vast desert.

Snipping the extreme Northwest corner of Arizona, we then crossed into Utah at 1123 and promptly lost an hour because of transitioning to the Mountain Time Zone.

As a benefit, this loss of an hour gained us access to the famed Red Rock area of Southern Utah.

After nine extended winter RV trips during which Kit and I have visited every state in the lower 48, our favorite southern states to explore are…California, Arizona and Utah.  And, in our opinion, the latter has some of the most beautiful landscapes around!

These vast areas are sparsely populated and mainly inhabited by hardy creatures, such as the iconic Southwestern Lizard.

Who seem to be scampering about at every stop, darting from their protective cover of rocks or bushes to see who was intruding upon their domain.

After a refreshing lunch break in one of the nicest highway rest areas of this trip, we continued north until intersecting Interstate-70 where we turned the rig the east.  A few hours later it was time for another stop, so into a rest area we drove and sidled up to our camper’s twin!

The owners of the identical Arctic Fox 27-5L were a nice couple from Montana.  Kit and I spent about 30 minutes talking about our respective rigs, how we had modified them, and the places we’ve traveled…another in a continuing series of forging serendipity friendship’s.

Back underway and continuing east, Kit began looking for our next overnight camping opportunity.

Over the years, we have extensively explored Southern Utah and its many famous National Parks…so this trip the decision was made to skip these in favor of making more progress toward the east.  Kit found an RV friendly shopping center using the All Stays App, where we stopped for an evening of “Blacktop Boondocking” at the Wal*Mart in Richfield, Utah.

Following some shopping and walking around time, we ordered some Subway sandwiches for dinner, then spent the evening on our computers while watching the coming and goings of cars, trucks and other RV’rs as the sun set over our urban campground.

Goodnight!

 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017:  Woke to a temperature of 48 degrees…at an elevation of 7,000 feet of elevation, the weather is a whole lot different than yesterday’s desert environment!  This is the first morning in months we’ve had to use the heater.

One of my routines before departure is to check the rig for anything amiss and part of that is to check all eight tires for proper pressures and look for any unusual wear patterns.  This morning, I noticed the left rear trailer tire was exhibiting some tread separation, so since a tire shop was just down the road that was where we headed first.

The offending tire was the last of the OEM tires and at close to 30,000 rugged miles was due for replacement soon anyway.  The shop made quick work of changing out the tire and we were rolling out of town by 0830 hours.

Back on Interstate-70, we continued to roll toward the East as the sun was slowly rising.

Crossing over the Colorado border shortly before 1300, the imposing Rocky Mountains began to come into view.

Thinking it would be prudent to make the trek over the Rocky’s in the morning, Kit and I decided to stay the night at a nice riverside state park located near the town of Fruita, Colorado.

In fact, it was so nice that we made the decision to stay two nights!

Walking about the campground along the Colorado River, reaffirmed our opinion that the various state and municipal state parks are far superior to most commercial campgrounds.

Enjoyed a camper cooked meal, a few glasses of wine, and a dramatic sunset over the river.

Goodnight!

 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017-Fruita, Colorado:  The town of Fruita is the gateway to a little-known unit of the US National Park System…so on this bonus day off the road we decided to explore this interesting park.

The 32-square mile monument located on the Colorado Plateau is defined by spectacular canyons cut deep into the sandstone revealing many layers of geologic history.  Designated as a National Monument by President Taft in 1911, the park was accessible to only the most intrepid visitor.  Then in the 1930’s, the depression era Public Works Administration (PWA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) constructed Rim Rock Drive which opened up the monument to more folks.

The 32-mile serpentine road covers only eight linear miles and was built using manual labor by a crew of approximately 800 men.

In addition to slicing through sandstone, there were three tunnels bored through the rock.

Which creates a unique sensation as one drives from utter darkness into the brilliant Colorado sunshine.

A bit disconcerting what with no guardrails and a 300-foot drop!?!?

Once at elevation, Rim Rock Drive meanders along one of the largest flat top mesas in the world where incredible views can be enjoyed.

On this beautiful clear day, we could see the town of Fruita, and further in the distance the city of Grand Junction with the foothills of the Rocky Mountains on the horizon.

There are a number of Turnouts to pull off allowing for walking about and gazing at some of the more unique rock formations, such as the 450-foot-tall Independence Monument…a prime desert tower rock climbing venue.

Protected by a solid capstone, Independence provides a challenging scramble to the summit for experienced climbers.

At one of the Turnouts, we came across this fellow.

Lizards are all over the Southwest, and are relatively easy to photograph with my weenie camera…unlike the many winged critters that fly about.

Along the drive there are areas that feature picnic shelters, one of the nicest is this place where we stopped to enjoy our lunch.

Nestled into the sandstone cliffs, the shelter features covered as well as open tables.  I was intrigued by the sun shining through the open weave design of the picnic tables which cast an unusual shadow pattern on the ground and the table legs.

Not sure why unusual geometric designs like that impress me, but they do!

Heading back to the campground, we made a stop in downtown Fruita.

This village of 12,640 folks bordering the Colorado River started life as a fruit grove, hence the name.  Today it is a regionally popular outdoor recreation venue and one corner of the famed Dinosaur Diamond Byway, a 512-mile circuit that connects several prehistoric fossil sites.  Throughout the town there are reminders of these two obsessions.

Another claim to fame of Fruita is Mike the Headless Chicken.

Who is honored and memorialized annually during Mike the Headless Chicken Day…read all about this unusual barnyard animal at:

http://www.miketheheadlesschicken.org/mike/page/history.

Interesting read…throughout my life, I have encountered some people that act like Mike!

Back at the state park, Kit and I relaxed about the ground’s taking in the beautiful weather and enjoying the scenery.

Also, our final sunset while West of the Rockies.

Tomorrow it is up and over the Big Hill on our quest toward home!

 

Thursday, April 20, 2017:  Woke to news of a pending storm bearing in from the west that is slated to bring snow and sleet to higher elevations.  Wanting to move east, without being stuck in the Rockies, Kit and I departed the campground at 0750 hours and headed for the hills.

Continuing Interstate-70 we paralleled the narrow Colorado River valley…so narrow, that the highway heading west is stacked over the one heading east.

Gaining altitude brought us views of lofty snowcapped peaks.

At 10,662 foot Vail Pass it was time to pull over for breakfast and the obligatory “camper in the Snow” photo shoot.

Since it looked a bit ominous to the west, we didn’t dally long but continued eastward climbing into the upper reaches of the Rockies.  I generally take such long and steep climbs a bit slower than I need to with this diesel truck, but concerned with the looming storm I drove a bit faster.  Apparently, the truck didn’t like the thin air coupled with the heavy engine load, and I received a warning on the console to slow down due to turbo overheating.  Tucking in amongst the long-haul truckers crawling up the grade, the turbo cooled and the truck returned to normal…lesson learned!

Topping out at 11,158 feet we punched through the mountain via the Eisenhower Tunnel.

Bored in the 1970’s in order to bring this portion of I-70 into compliance with the Interstate Highway system.  The Eisenhower Tunnel’s altitude and length make it one of the most unusual highway structures in the world.

The tunnel features a unique traffic control system…it monitors a vehicles height, width and weight, then sets the speed limit for the safety of the largest vehicle entering, in our case 40 MPH.

Exiting the Eisenhower Tunnel, we began the long steep decent down the Eastern Slope of the Rockies, through the city of Denver and toward the town of Aurora, Colorado.  Nearby, we found Buckley Air Force Base and stopped for the evening at their very nice lakeside Recreation Facility.

Following dinner, Kit and I enjoyed the sunset while toasting our successful crossing of the mighty Rocky Mountain’s.

Goodnight!  Stay tuned for another addition/edition/eposide/chapter of Bill and Kit’s Excellent Adventure…coming soon!

Kit’s Bit’s:  After a few months of easy travel and many stops, we had to adjust to a more arduous schedule.  Plus, the weather was becoming a factor.  We had to dig out our winter duds and stow the summer clothes.  Wind, snow and rain were becoming factors to consider.  Fortunately, we had enough time to get home that we could stop after two or three days of driving, to rest up.  We also had a couple of nice days; cold, but sunny, which made the harsh weather a bit more bearable.  And, for me, seeing nice green trees was a huge treat!

Bill and Kit’s 2017 Excellent Adventure, Journal #17

Presents

Jack and Tucker’s Most Excellent Spring Break Camping Adventure

 That’s why I love road trips, dude. It’s like doing something without actually doing anything.

John Greene

 

Monday, April 10, 2017:  Leaving Oasis RV Park in Las Vegas with these two chuckleheads in tow.

The morning is sunny and clear with temperatures near 70 degrees which makes it a great day for a road trip.  Heading south, we passed through Boulder City and down into the valley of the Colorado River and its impoundment, Lake Mead.

Due to the recent rains, the lake is much higher than in the past, and the snows in the mountains haven’t begun to melt yet!

A successful road trip requires entertainment along the way, and plenty of rest stops for food, drink, and exercise.

Where the boys can release some energy by running amuck in the vast desert.

The reason for the barbed wire is to keep pre-teen boys away from the free-range cattle.

This is a surprise road trip so neither Jack of Tucker know where we are headed.  However, Jack took that as a challenge.  Paying attention to our direction and asking a few questions he deduced that we were heading to Arizona…and he was correct!

Doesn’t look like Arizona? Well, that’s because this is one of the most ecologically diverse states in the union and we are in high desert country heading toward the mountains!  An hour to the east brought us to our first destination…Williams, Arizona.

Where we set up camp at the Grand Canyon Railway RV Park.

Tomorrow, the train to The Grand Canyon and the boys are some excited!

 

Tuesday, April 11 and Wednesday, April 12, 2017-Williams, Arizona:  Up early to catch the train to the South Rim…but first we enjoyed an introduction to western culture.

Where we interrupted an “encounter” between some outlaws.

And the law.

And, as the song goes…the law won!

Next it was time to board the train to Grand Canyon National Park.

The trainway was developed from an old ore mining track by The Santa Fe Railroad in the early 1900’s.  It was the primary vehicle (no pun intended) to bring folks to the railroads hotels and tourist camps at the new Grand Canyon National Monument, recently protected under the Antiquities Act by President Theodore Roosevelt.

An agreement was worked out by the boys as to who would sit with whom during the trip.  Tucker has a window seat with Gumbo.

And Jack got stuck with me.

Then on the return trip, the boys agreed to swap…pretty diplomatic as well as a great compromise.

During the two-hour trip, there were a series of musicians that came through the coach to entertain the passengers.

While the high desert countryside rolled by.

Many trips to the diner car, resulted in the boys discovering they could straddle the coupling between cars and feel the sensation of the two coaches moving over the rails independently.

Arriving at Grand Canyon National Park train station, we made our way up the hill toward the rim.  Allowing Jack and Tucker to lead the way was strategic, as we knew the “oh wow” factor of seeing the canyon for the first time.

And…as if on que, upon initially viewing the grandeur, both boys gasped and emitted the waited for “oh wow”!

They both divulged that this was their first National Park, but it wouldn’t be the last!  Glad we could be a part of it!!

We walked the rim trail toward the west and stopped for lunch at Bright Angel Lodge.  Then it was back east along the trail where some Navajo Indians were holding court.

Then some more gawking at the magnificent Grand Canyon!

What a great day!

Walking to the train station, we spotted this unique camper.

Kit and I have seen a number of bus conversions on the road…but never a Woodie!

Back on the train, Jack who usually has his head buried in his iPad, was lost in quiet reverie as the train rolled along.

We firmly believe that exposing children to Americas natural wonders in the various units of the National Park System will create lifelong conservationists, and adults that will protect funding for these beautiful places.

The trip back to Williams had musical entertainment as well.

And those dastardly outlaws reappeared!

This time to hold up the passengers!

It should be noted that these outlaws have a warm heart as all their ill-gotten booty went to charity.

A great day was had by all at one of America’s great National Parks!

Thanks Jack and Tucker for sharing the day with us!

We also spent some time touring the frontier town of Williams, which being on Historic Route 66, had its fair share of gift shops.

This particular place features many sculptures and other items made from castoff junk and expended brass.

As we walked down the street, music from the early years of rock was heard emitting from Cruisers Café.

Which lured us in for some great barbeque.

While John kept us entertained with many classic tunes.

Tomorrow we are off to the next stop on Jack and Tuckers Spring Break Adventure!

 

Thursday, April 13, 2017:  Woke to sunny skies and temperatures in the low 60’s.  Broke camp then headed east on Route 66, until we came to I-40 which we traveled on toward the town of Flagstaff.

That’s 12,633-foot Mount Humphries in the photo above…it usually has snow until late spring, and sometimes even longer.  Heading south a short distance from town found us at Fort Tuthill, a US Military Recreation Facility located in the foothills of the San Francisco Mountains.

Unlike campgrounds found on most military installations, these recreation facilities are for the troops and their families to get away for, well…recreation.  In this case, 140 miles away from its sponsoring installation of Luke Air Force Base outside Phoenix.

In addition to a nice wilderness campground, Fort Tuthill also features a lodge, cabins and yurt’s. on elevated platforms

Located in the Coconino Forest, the area contains the largest stand of Ponderosa Pine in the world, so the boys found plenty of room to explore.

On one of their hikes, Jack and Tucker discovered a “debris hut” that someone had meticulously created.

Evidence showed that this rather large structure made of branches, twigs and pine boughs had a substantial roof and was relatively weathertight.  Unfortunately, the ravages of the severe winters and/or human vandalism has caused the hut to deteriorate.  Nowadays, the only inhabitants are forest creatures such as this fellow scurrying about the branches and twigs.

That folks, is a Horned Toad similar to the species I used to capture for pets as a youngster…and chase the neighborhood girls with.

So, what do two city boys do when in the forest?  Why dig in the dirt of course!

They both fashioned primitive tools and used basic physics to try and unearth a rather large boulder.  A great effort, but that was one huge boulder!

Back at the camper, and following dinner, it was time for a game called “Pile on Gumbo!

Goodnight…tomorrow more adventures await!

 

Friday, April 14, 2017-Flagstaff, Arizona:  Woke early to sunny but cool weather with temperatures in the 50’s.

“While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping”… Yep, while lying in bed enjoying the cloud formations viewed through the skylight and waiting for the boys to begin stirring about, this visitor appeared.

Being an inventive soul I decided to name him/her, Nevermore!  Which was appropriate as he/she never appeared again during our stay.  If it hadn’t been for my iPhone nearby I would not have photographic evidence and the family would think I’m crazier than I actually am.

There are many reasons Kit and I decided to bring the boys to this part of Northern Arizona…cool crisp mountain air in a pine forest surrounded by lofty peaks, and one of the premier Ropes Courses in the country!

Within walking distance of the campground lies a tree-top adventure course known as Flag-X which features a series of challenging sections one must negotiate to move along the course.  Able to proceed independently at your own speed, and having the opportunity to descend to ground level when desired, makes this course suitable for most every ability.

After signing the waiver forms, the next step is to harness up with two opposing safety lines then test out the safety gear on a low-level rope…actually, a steel cable.

Then it’s off to the first course which consists of logs,

Plank Bridges,

And Zip Lines.

Both boys aced the first course, then it was off to the next one.

A bit higher, and more challenging, Jack made short work of this course as well…doing the route three times, and with each lap he gained more confidence.  Tucker, however had a bit of difficulty with this more difficult course.  A Flag-X staff person climbed up into the trees and spent a great deal of time working with him which gained his success in a few more of the sections.

But at the swinging log bridge, he couldn’t quite make it across…maybe next year!  Jack on the other hand was all smiles as he zipped the final section.

Both boys were happy and tired at the end of the day and agreed a return trip to Flag-X was in their future!

 

Saturday, April 15, 2017: Today we head back into the city of Las Vegas.  Deciding to take a different route home, we headed for Laughlin, Nevada and then northerly on US-95 paralleling the west shore of the Colorado River.  And, no surprise, windflowers were carpeting the desert here as well!

Along the way, the boys discovered our antique music playlist on my iPad and started rocking out to classics from The Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, Fleetwood Mac, The Beatles, Beach Boys, and others.  Kit and I enjoyed the tunes and the boys received an education in great music…a win-win!

Back in town, we backed the camper into the kid’s driveway to unload gear.  Since it was Easter eve, and the nonbelieving boys were sure they would wake to plastic eggs full of money, both Jack and Tucker wanted to stay in their home this evening.  So, Kit and I headed over to Oasis RV, enjoyed a nice meal and a few cocktails before dropping off to sleep.

 

Sunday, April 16, 2017-Las Vegas, Nevada:  Woke to really nice spring weather.  Suzie has invited us over for a traditional Easter backyard barbeque this afternoon, so we spent the morning relaxing about the RV park.

Our contribution to the meal was goodies from Freed’s Bakery…a Vegas institution, where we stopped on the way over.

This place is consistently packed with drooling patrons.

We selected four large pieces of cake…Chocolate Parisian, Lemon Chiffon, and Carrot Cake.

Hey, don’t be judgmental…the chocolate deliciousness is balanced out by the fruit and vegetable offering!

We also enjoyed grilled meat, broccoli salad, and deviled eggs made from the boys Easter handiwork.

After the meal, there were a few rounds of full contact ping-pong which provided a lot of entertainment.

New rules were developed that allowed caroming off the side of the house, and multiple do-overs of the serve.

Saying our goodbyes and getting prolonged grandkid hugs, Kit and I headed back to the RV park for the evening.  Tomorrow we continue east toward home…stay tuned!

Gumbo’s Brief’s:  We thoroughly enjoyed our Spring Break Adventure with Jack and Tucker!  The train ride to The Grand Canyon was fun.  We were able to see a lot of the countryside without having to worry about driving.  A rare treat for us!  The boys had so much fun, both at the Grand Canyon and Fort Tuthill.  Much of my enjoyment comes from the fact that Pop is “reliving his childhood” with the kids.  Watching the three of them “playing” is a hoot, as you can imagine!  He never misses an opportunity to be a kid again.  😉

Bill and Kit’s 2017 Excellent Adventure, Journal #16

 Travel makes one modest.  You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.

Arthur R Olson

 

Sunday, April 2 through Wednesday, April 5, 2017-Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, Nevada: This RV park in North Vegas is our go-to facility when we want to be near our daughter and her family but not too close as to interfere with their weekday routines.  Desert Eagle, as it is called, has always been one of the top rated military RV Park’s in the system and is consistently at near full capacity.

Since Kit and I rarely make advanced reservations, we usually are relegated to an older partial hook-up site, as we were during this stay…or to the no hook-up area of overflow, which is basically a large dirt parking lot.  Fortunately, Desert Eagle is undergoing a major expansion this year that will nearly double their campsites, so on future trips we may be able to score a full hook up spot!

Kit and I spent most of our down time while at Desert Eagle doing chores…cleaning the road grime and suicidal bugs off the RV, vacuuming up the dust from our wind storm experience, attending to some administrative issues and shopping for kid friendly food for the upcoming Jack and Tucker Spring Break Adventure. We also relaxed bit enjoying the reprieve from the road and the spectacular sunsets.

On April 4th, which happened to be someone’s 70th birthday, said someone wanted to go down to the Vegas Strip and ride a Ferris Wheel…but not just any old wimpy Ferris Wheel…nope, the largest Ferris Wheel in the world!

The High Roller is a 550-foot-tall giant that towers over the Las Vegas strip.  Built in 2014 by the Caesar’s Palace folks to anchor their new destination shopping, gambling, and dining plaza called LINQ, the High Roller features 28 “Passenger Capsules”.  Each 22-foot diameter capsule is capable of carrying up to 40 folks while it makes a thirty-minute round (no pun intended) trip rotating on a vertical axis to keep the floor of the capsule horizontal to the horizon.

And as expected, the views are spectacular!

And a bit unnerving!

Full size automobiles look like little toy Matchbook cars!

However, the ride is mesmerizing, and as smooth as glass…speaking of which much of the Passenger Capsule is glass!

What a thrill!  If your travels ever find you in Las Vegas, check out The High Roller, it’s an unforgettable experience!

Next on the agenda for the milestone birthday boy was a walk about a nearby car dealership, The Auto Collection.

Located on the fifth floor of the Imperial Palace Hotel, this 125,000-square foot auto dealership contains over 250 classic automobiles, most of which are for sale!  MSRP’s range from $30,000.00 to several million for the rarest examples on the lot.  Some of my favorites were the 1969 Camaro SS/L78 at only $85,000.00.

And a rare 1967 Shelby Mustang GT500.

This is the famed “Eleanor” from the film “Gone in Sixty Seconds” …a steal (pun intended) at only $1,300,000.00!

A sentimental favorite of mine was this classic family car…a 1955 Ford Station Wagon.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t for sale!?!?  Must be a sentimental favorite of the dealership as well!  Spent a lot of time riding in that buggy going on motor trips to the mountains or hauling the neighborhood kids to the beach.

Also, I drooled over this 1933 Ford 3-Window Coupe!

A classic design, the resto-rod has been updated with modern drive train…and this creampuff can be yours for only $85,000.00!

Also, there was this plain looking sedan.

A 1965 Dodge Coronet two-door sedan, this rather pedestrian looking (no pun intended) automobile is a real “sleeper” with its original 383 CID engine modified to produce over 500 horsepower!  And with an asking price of $32,500.00 relatively affordable as well!

While I was enjoying the many cars in the collection, Kit was enjoying some much needed “Retail Therapy”.  Eventually we reconnected on the LINQ Plaza and wandered into a nice brewpub called The Yard House.

Where we enjoyed a late afternoon lunch and a few of the tavern’s barley pop’s!

Kit enjoyed the Salmon.

While I indulged in the shrimp, crab and lobster noodles.

Which paired well with a vintage Porter.

The food and drink were fantastic!

Relaxing over coffee, we discussed what to do next.  Since it was getting near dusk we (I…the birthday boy) decided to ride The High Roller again.

Kit and I were able to time it just right to view the sun setting over the western mountains as the lights of Las Vegas came to life!

It is a whole different experience riding through the Nevada night sky.

But just as awe-inspiring and enjoyable as the first time!

What a great way to spend my 70th birthday…thanks Kit, for accommodating my wishes!

 

Thursday, April 6, 2017:  Departed Desert Eagle RV Park on Nellis Air Force Base at 1120.  Hopped on Interstate 15 for the short 21-mile trip south toward our next camping opportunity…Oasis RV Park, a spot we have enjoyed many times in the past.

We asked for, and received a deluxe site in order to be close to the clubhouse and pool area.  In addition, the space is larger than the standard site and features real grass…a unique commodity in the arid desert!

The main reason we relocated just a short distance away and to an RV Park that costs three times as much, is location, amenities, and location.  Oasis RV Park is a mere five minutes from the kids’ house and it has a nice swimming pool!

Which the boy’s enjoyed frolicking about in until late in the evening.

Also, since spring break for Jack and Tucker begins tomorrow, we wanted to start the adventure early while their parents enjoyed some time off as well.  To this end, Kit and I volunteered to take Tucker to his electric guitar lesson at the School of Rock.

Where we got to sit in on a jam session and enjoy him performing classic rock songs on his Fender.

We also hung around the neighborhood and met some of his schoolmates.

Faith is one of Tucker’s best friends, and they seem to hit it off very well!

On Sunday, which was Kit’s birthday, the whole family gathered at the Silverton to enjoy a fabulous brunch.

The food and the company was very enjoyable!

And as a special birthday treat for Kit, I was able to snap a few photos of daughter Suzie, son-in-law, Kevin and the boy’s…Jack, age 12 and Tucker age, 9 and 9/10ths.

Since this is the final evening before we take the kids on a weeklong camping adventure, they wanted to sleep in their own beds.  So, Kit and I returned to the RV Park, and readied for an early morning departure.  We also walked about the park a bit where we noticed this interesting RV and matching trailer.

That’s about a million dollars of motorhome and car-hauler trailer there folks, taking up two expensive RV sites.  Rumor has it that the trailer contains two exotic supercars, one of with is reported to be a Lamborghini!  No sign of the owners was detected during the time we were there…must be nice to have the big bucks!?!?

Stopping by the pool, we sat and reflected (pun intended) on the day.

And discussed the upcoming grandkid camping trip while indulging in a birthday treat.

As night fell on the entertainment capital of the world, we bid you a pleasant goodnight.

Stay tuned for “Jack and Tucker’s Excellent Spring Break Adventure” coming soon to a website near you.

Gumbo’s Briefs (pun intended):  Well, suddenly, I’m Gumbo!  When our two youngest Grand Boys were small, they came up with this name for me.  Since my original name is Guma, from our oldest Grand Boy, Joe, when the younger two are in Maine, all five Grands call me Guma.  In Las Vegas, they call me Gumbo.  We thoroughly enjoyed Bill’s 70th Birthday, and riding the big Ferris wheel.  I wasn’t too keen on it at first but, it was so smooth and provided the most awesome view of Las Vegas!  It was also fun to ride it at night, too.  Even more spectacular!  Only thing I can’t quite get used to is, 70?  How did this come so quickly????