Bill and Kit’s 2018 Excellent Adventure, Journal #15

“This Year Marks Our 10th Winter RV Trip”

The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.

― Christopher McCandless

 

Saturday, April 28, 2018: Leaving Whittier, NC and continuing our travels East. It’s a nice Spring day in the south, and we should be able to make some good miles today!

At our first rest stop, two hours into the days trek, I was conducting my usual safety check of tires, wheel bearings, and suspension components on the camper…a task that is even more important due to the tire blowout of a few days ago. I’ve been told that when a tire lets go like that one did, all the weight of the camper comes down on the sole remaining tire on that side, and can lead to tire, wheel, or suspension problems later, down the road…kinda like this!

Um, that spring eye is supposed to be connected at the frame plates by a ½ inch shackle bolt. Fortunately, the way Dexter Axle engineers their spring and axle sets, if there is a bolt failure the camper drops and captures the spring eye between the mounting plates. Unfortunately, it’s only secure enough to limp to a safe spot and pull over, which of course I had already accomplished.

So, I called roadside assistance, and fortunately they dispatched Jeff to the rescue.

Unfortunately, being a Saturday, there were no trailer parts dealers open. But fortunately, Jeff used some Rebel Ingenuity and picked up a ½ inch carriage bolt at Home Depot, which got us back on the road! Unfortunately, as we pulled out, Jeff exclaimed; “that’s only good for about 200 miles or so”! But fortunately, we only had 65 miles to go to make it to Cary, NC…the home of my cousin Bill’s place!

All’s well that ends well!

 

April 29, and April 30, 2018-Cary, NC: Great time in Cary with Bill, Joanna, Jillian, Aivan, and Rudy!

These folks are part of the Philadelphia contingent of our extended family…Bill is the son of my Uncle Don, my mother’s brother. While in town, we enjoyed visiting with the family and seeing some local sights. And, since it was baseball season, and since Aivan plays ball on two different teams…

… Kit and I were able to enjoy a game as well!

An accomplished ball player for his age, Aivan hits very well and can play various positions, including pitcher! Had a great time watching these youngsters play ball while being coached by volunteers and encouraged by parents in the bleachers…a typical Norman Rockwell type experience.

On one beautiful spring morning during our stay, Joanna, Jillian, Kit and I made a trip into Durham to enjoy the Sarah P. Duke Gardens on the campus of Duke University.

These gardens are a memorial to Sarah Duke, the wife of a North Carolina tobacco magnate and a major benefactor of the university. Originally, the low-lying plot of ground within the campus property was slated to be a lake…however funds grew short so a modest donation from the Duke family was used as seed money (pun intended) for a small memorial flower garden. Today, this world class arboretum lies on 55 acres and features over 5 miles of walking trails that provide access to several distinct flower garden areas…

…and fish ponds in the vast botanical garden complex…

…including an Asiatic Garden with a stand of bamboo alongside a flowing river…

…with a majestic Japanese Moon Bridge spanning the river banks.

Being spring in these parts, everything was greening up and bursting with blooms.

The group enjoyed a great morning walking amongst the beautiful gardens.

But the day was not over…bordering the gardens to the west is the towering University Chapel.

The multidenominational church, dedicated in 1935, is located in the center of the university complex, and was the first building that the schools founder, James Buchanan Duke, ordered to be built. It took legions of stone masons two years to carve the locally quarried stone and erect the chapel which is anchored by a 210-foot bell tower.

The interior features almost 80 stained glass windows, some as large as 38 feet by 17 feet!

Many historic figures of the old south are depicted in stone within the chapel…including Robert E. Lee. However, the sculptors made an error (or was it?) while creating Lee’s statue when they carved the letters US on the Confederate Generals belt buckle. Recently General Lee’s statue has been removed following the nationwide call for uniting the south and healing old wounds.

Leaving the chapel, we meandered about the campus while finding our way back to the car. It struck me as interesting how the original Gothic Architecture of 93 years ago was in juxtaposition with modern styles built in this decade.

Departing the Duke University complex near dinner time, Joanna recommended a highly rated pizza shop in town.

A quirky little place with a comfortable downtown vibe, the brick oven Pizzas were incredible!

Speaking of food, Bill and Joanna jointly cooked us some incredible home prepared meals…including these delicious blueberry pancakes one morning!

We really enjoyed staying and reconnecting with these great folks, but tomorrow we must be moving on…thanks for the hospitality!

 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018: Reluctantly leaving Cary, North Carolina. The skies are clear, and the temperatures are rising into the 70’s as we made our way toward the Northeast by way of a variety of local and state roads.

Oh, forgot to mention…while in town, we had the trailer fixed properly at a truck and trailer shop a few miles away, all is good now!

After a few hours travel, we stopped at a rest area alongside the Great Dismal Swamp and Canal.

Following a quick lunch, Kit and I decided to walk over to the associated state park for some exercise.

The Great Dismal Swamp came by its name due to a mispronounced French word for swamp, and stuck because it was historically a place inhospitable to humans…so much so that an attempt was made to drain the swamp (yep, and you thought that was a modern political term!) to create fertile farmland.

However, as with most attempts to fool with Mother Nature, the project was a dismal (pun intended) failure. However, the dug canal did allow access to valuable stands of timber and provided a method to transport the logs to sawmills.

The Great Dismal Swamp played a role in the era of slavery as well…escaped slaves found shelter in the swamp and created Maroon Colonies by partnering with other disenfranchised Americans, the Native Indians of the region.

A nice visitors center explained the history of the area and offered paddle craft for rent…I’ll have to return and paddle the Dismal Swamp someday!

Back underway, we crossed over the Virginia state line at 1537 hours and headed east toward Virginia Beach.

Within an hour we were pulling into Oceana Naval Air Station to camp for a few days where we were greeted by this little fellow sunbathing!

Goodnight!

 

Wednesday, May 2, through Sunday, May 6, 2018-Virginia Beach, Virginia: Historically, while staying in this region we choose one of four available military campgrounds for the duration…however camping has been growing in popularity and the weather hereabouts is getting very nice, so we had to piece together time at two campgrounds…which resulted in two days at Oceana.

And three days on the Little Creek Amphibious Base, a few miles to the north.

While in town, Kit wanted to see an old friend from our military days stationed in the area.

Bess, and her Navy husband Jack, were our friends back in the late 1970’s. Jack passed some years ago…but Bess, at 84 years old, is still living in the family home! Had a great visit and was able to get caught up on each other’s lives.

While in the old neighborhood, we did a drive by of the first house we purchased.

Kit and I bought the starter home in 1976, and with Kim, Joe and Suzie, lived in it until being transferred to Vermont in 1980…except for a year over 1977-1978 when we rented the house out due to my ship going to Bath, Maine for a baseline overhaul. It was that one-year assignment at Bath Iron Works that sold us on Southern Maine as a place we wanted to eventually settle down.

Even though we lived in Virginia Beach for those years, we still did not see everything the region had to offer…such as the Cape Henry Lighthouse, the navigation aid marking the southern entrance to Chesapeake Bay.

Actually, as you can see, there are two lights…the one to the right is the historic structure built in 1792 and is the first lighthouse in the nation authorized by the U.S. government. This was replaced by the more “modern” one in 1881 because the shifting coastal sand was causing the original lighthouse to develop cracks and the experts of the time determined it would soon fall over…guess they were proven wrong!

To access the historic Cape Henry light, one must climb some steep stairs.

Which leads to the base of the lighthouse.

Which leads to a spiral stairway up the tower…

…which leads to the light platform…

…where panoramic views of the coastline can be enjoyed…

…including the “new” lighthouse complex…

…which is still manned by the US Coast Guard. The lightkeeper and his/her family live in the red roofed homes nearby.

Well, that ends volume # 15 of our journal. Tomorrow we head north across the Chesapeake Bay…stay tuned!

Kit’s Bit’s: We had a wonderful visit with Bill, Joanna, Jillian & Aivan in Cary, NC. Both kids have grown so much since we last saw them! It’s always nice to catch up on their activities and visit with them. It was also nice visiting with my friend Bess, whom I haven’t seen since the 70’s. Virginia Beach, like most cities has grown tremendously. We finally made a short trip to the Lynnhaven Mall, which was being built when we left the area in June of 1980. The mall is a “stone’s throw” from our house. Strawberries were one of the main crops on this land and, the kids and I used to go over and pick many pounds of the berries during the late spring. Of course, the traffic in the area is much worse now with the mall.

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Bill and Kit’s 2018 Excellent Adventure, Journal #14

“This Year Marks Our 10th Winter RV Trip”

Old roads, old dogs, old folks and old ways still have a lot to offer in this sped up world.
Unknown

Monday, April 23, 2018-Tenkiller State Park, Vian, OK: The unusual name of this park is derived from the original inhabitants…a Cherokee family called Tenkiller. Couldn’t find any information as to the genesis of the family’s name, but I bet it had something to do with making sure folks atoned for the infamous Cherokee Trail of Tears. Either way, it features an incredible campground!

As most state park campgrounds are, Tenkiller is on the rustic side…just the way we like it! The sites are large and most existing vegetation was left in place. Also, in keeping with the style, the bathhouses are built with native stone.

Kit and I spent the day walking about and exploring the park via their fantastic trail network.

While following a path through the woods…

…we rejoiced in all the new spring growth.

And to accent the vibrant green were many colorful wildflowers.

Reaching the parks namesake lake, Kit and I sat on a bench while enjoying the sun and gentle breezes.

Tenkiller Lake is made by impounding the Illinois River and at 13,000 acres, is a major recreation facility and hydropower station which can generate up to 40 Megawatts of electrical power.

Returning to the campsite, Kit wanted to sit in the shade of an Oak tree and do some reading, and I wanted to explore some more…this time by bike.

Stopping near an old shed I was overcome by the sense that I was being watched.

Yea, kind of a strange sensation…and the guy staring at me seemed a bit squirrely!

A great day in a beautiful park…as usual we could justify staying here another few days but need to continue east if we hope to get home before summer is over!

 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018: Up to partly sunny skies and a temperature of 49 degrees, pulled out and made our way to I-40 to continue our eastward trek.

An hour later found us crossing into the state of Arkansas and stopping at a nice rest area for breakfast. Kit whipped up some cheesy scrambled eggs with sausage crumbles, with grilled bread in the skillet…what a great breakfast!

Within the hour, we were back underway and merrily rolling down the interstate when a fellow traveler pulled up along side of us motioning that something was amiss with the trailer. So, I eased the rig onto the breakdown lane…

…and discovered this!

Yikes…and I didn’t feel a thing!?!? This is the first tire blowout we have experienced in over 130,000 miles of RV’ing and from the experiences of others I’ve learned that modern trailers are engineered to sustain such an event and carry the entire load on the single remaining tire on that side…for a little while. Not having a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) for the camper, there was no way to know that we were travelling on three wheels…thanks go to the good Samaritan that notified us! Thinking a TPMS is now in our future.

As I was contemplating whether to call roadside assistance, and wait, or just replace the tire myself…this young man pulled his truck over and offered to help.

Alberto was on his way to work but had time to assist us…so between he and I, we had the tire changed out in about ten minutes!

What a nice young man…makes one feel good about the sort of people us old folks are turning the world over too! He refused payment, but I persuaded him to take it as a token of our thanks!

Back on the road, we stopped at a Goodyear store in Russellville, AR to replace the damaged tire…this is what an 80PSI tire looks like after suffering a detonation!

I’m meticulous about checking truck and trailer tires at most every place we stop…even monitoring tire and bearing temperatures with an infrared sensor…so, what went wrong? Well, a postmortem by the experts concluded that the tire suffered a tread separation. As you can tell, there was plenty of tread remaining…however this tire, original to the camper, has over 30,000 miles of rough use so I guess it was inevitable. Fortunately, that was the last remaining original as the other three, when they appeared suspect, had been proactively changed out!

Back underway, we made our way to West Memphis, Arkansas and found the Tom Sawyer RV Park nestled along the shores of the Mississippi River.


A nice meal accompanied by a glass of wine, followed by a walk along the river, completed our day.

 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018: Woke early to brilliant sunshine bouncing off the surface of the Mississippi!

This RV Park is on the river side of a tall levee and everything is built up on stilts, or in the case of the office, built on wheels so it can be hauled out of harms way in case of flooding. The spring snowmelt and rains have brought the Mississippi to a few inches below the riverbank, and all the campers realize that when the word is given it’s time to bugout!

So how high can the Mighty Mississippi get at flood stage? Well, the sign on the second-floor laundry building tells the story!

No concern to us, we had planned to leave today anyway! And so, Kit and I hit the road at 0821 hours and headed back to I-40, crossing the Mississippi River into Tennessee.

Nearing 1000 hours, and not having breakfast yet, Kit and I were getting a bit hungry as a billboard appeared advertising a Cracker Barrell Restaurant at the next exit…so exit we did and enjoyed a nice fulfilling meal!

Back underway we motored through Tennessee until about 1700 when Kit found a TVA campsite near the town of Lenoir. Being prime camping season in these parts the campground was packed…in fact, we scored the last available campsite, but it was a bit tight. However, at only 30 feet long, we were able to squeeze our camper in by jackknifing the rig. Could have disconnected and parked the truck alongside the camper, but since we were leaving in the morning, didn’t want to go to the trouble.

No dinner, just snacks…we were still stuffed from this morning’s breakfast. But did take a walk about this nice riverfront campground run by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Goodnight!

 

Thursday, April 26,2018: Departing Milton Hill Dam campground on the Clinch River at 1100 and made our way back to I-40 East, then at 1315 crossed the border of North Carolina. This part of the highway skirts the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and is steep and winding with numerous tunnels…and to add a bit of interest, it started to rain!

Taking it slow, we made it to our destination of Whittier, NC and pulled into the Tuckasegee RV park.

And set up for a two day stay with the Tuckaseegee River roaring outside our rear window.

 

Friday, April 27, 2018-Whittier, NC: So, what are we doing in this North Carolina town of 4,863 folks? Well, to visit with these friends from our Navy days.

Ted and Debbie, originally from upstate New York, were stationed in Saint Johnsbury, Vermont while we were in the town of Barre, a bit further south. We were Navy Recruiters, and at that time of the 1980’s, there were less than a dozen Navy folks in the entire state, so we pretty much connected and socialized when possible…fast forward some forty years, and we are back at it!

Following a great meal at one of their favorite local spots, Ted and Debbie invited Kit and I back to their beautiful mountainside home for coffee and cake, and more great conversation. Really nice seeing you folks after all these years…now, come see us!

Lulu’s, the place we met Ted and Debbie for dinner is in Sylva, a pretty little mountain town nestled in a valley alongside the Tuckaseegee River.

This sleepy little hamlet of 2,644 souls was thrust into the public eye when Hollywood descended on them in 2017 to film the movie, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri!

Neither Kit nor I had seen the film, an oversight quickly solved when Ted purchased the DVD and presented it to us along with a tour of the spots in town that played a prominent part in the filming…such as the Ebbing Police Station.

Photo from the Web

Which was transformed from a consignment shop called Sassy Frass and was the location were Frances McDormand’s character Mildred Hayes threw the Molotov Cocktails…the resulting fire was real, however, what was burning was a façade the production company had built over the existing building. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri is an intense movie and it was fun seeing the town where much of it was filmed. Oh, and as a side note…several other movies were filmed in Sylva, including the 1972 epic Deliverance.

An added bonus to being in this part of North Carolina, is its close proximity to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Kit wasn’t much interested, so the second morning in town, I took a ride into the park.

A major North/South highway, US-44, bisects the park and allows for quickly getting to the interior. I stopped at most pullouts and overlooks along the way….at 5,046-foot Newfound Gap, there were panoramic views of the Great Smoky Mountain terrain.

The Smokies, as they are called in these parts, are in the Appalachian Mountain chain and came by their name due to the fog that is created by vegetation releasing moisture into the atmosphere. This National Park, established in 1934 boasts over 11,000,000 visitors a year, primarily due to its proximity to large metropolitan areas and US Highway 441.

There are many historic structures preserved in the park, including this water powered grist mill.

Still functional, the mill ground primarily corn for the many farmers that lived in the lower regions of the area.

The small square box under the handwheel at lower right holds 1/8 bushel of grain and is the millers pay for each bushel ground…he could save it for personal consumption, or sell it for cash, as he saw fit.

A nice morning in the Smokies however I needed to head back as Kit wants to explore more of downtown Sylva.

After lunch, we headed for the local library…an imposing structure converted from the old Jackson County Courthouse.

Sitting prominently on a hillside at the south end of main street, it allows folks a bird’s eye view of downtown.

The library is one of the nicest we’ve seen, especially for a relatively small community! The views out the windows are impressive…

…as are the vast views from the western facing balcony!

Of particular note is the young people’s area.

Decorated to simulate a diner!

Kit is a big fan of the public library system. As a young teen, it was the neighborhood library where she escaped to find solace from her large family and immerse herself in the pages of a book.

Leaving the hillside library, we drove around the backstreets and neighborhoods of Sylva before parking on Main Street to walk about a bit. This is where we split up…Kit likes to poke around in different shops than I do, so we came to an understanding years ago that it’s best if we go our separate ways. Generally, I like to just walk the streets, take photos, and watch the towns folks go about their day…but spying this store lured me inside.

Where I spotted the proprietor wearing a US Navy cap.

Surrounded by an incredible array of old stuff.

Well, this is the place for me! Marion Jones asked me to sit a spell, and the next hour was filled with swapping of Sea Stories and learning about how his hobby of collecting old and interesting items got out of control which resulted in a business. It was then that Kit texted it was time for lunch, so I bid my goodbyes to Marion and located her a few steps away, patiently waiting.

Thought about eating in town but decided instead to return to the camper for dinner, and to prepare for our departure tomorrow morning.

Well, Kit and I had a wonderful time visiting with Ted and Debbie. We also enjoyed exploring this tiny corner of North Carolina. Tomorrow we pull chocks and continue East…stay tuned!

 

Kit’s Bit’s: We really enjoyed our time with Ted and Debbi! It was nice to reminisce about old times and share the news of our families and lives. It was also a nice respite after the tire blowout! We are so thankful, first for the man who noticed it and told us, as we were both going 60 MPH on the highway and second, for the young man, Alberto, who stopped to help Bill change the tire! He was so kind and helpful, and, at 19 years old, has a bright future ahead of him. Also, he was born in San Diego! He was shocked when we told him SD is our home town. Many thanks, Alberto!

Bill and Kit’s 2018 Excellent Adventure, Journal #13

“This Year Marks Our 10th Winter RV Trip”

Traveling tends to magnify all human emotions.
Peter Hoeg

Wednesday, April 11, 2018-Santee, California: Good morning…today marks the official day we start heading home!! But first a report on an event I attended last week, that I did not have enough room to include in Journal #12.

While Kit was spending time with JoAnne, her best friend from high school, I took the opportunity to attend the annual the Goodguys Car Show a few miles away in Del Mar, California.

This show, featuring over 2,500 hot rod and custom cars from all over the Southwest. It is an annual event sponsored by the Goodguys Rod and Custom Association…which at 70,000 enthusiasts strong, is the largest group in the world devoted to modified cars. The Del Mar show is a national event, and in addition to the incredible cars and trucks, there are vintage drag racing and autocross competitions as well.

So, what about that name? Well, in the 1950’s when returning WWII service men and women were reentering society, there was a fringe group of folks that modified their cars for more speed and performance and they were labeled by their neighbors as outlaws. So, to show that hotrodders could be good guys as well, an association was born.

The Del Mar show, being in the car crazy state of California, is reported to showcase the finest custom automobiles in the nation, and I couldn’t agree more!

There were traditional hot rods…

… and lead sleds…

…street rods…

…low riders…

…full customs…

…including this unbelievable vehicle built from a 1961 Ford F-150 pick-up truck!

The event also served as the annual meeting of the San Diego Woodie Club…showcasing a favorite automobile body style of mine.

Where I met one of the club officers from the National Woodie Club.

Who, coincidently, is originally from New England and mentioned the club was planning a national event in Maine for 2019! George, the national club secretary, convinced me to join the National Woodie Club of America, which I have. He also introduced me to a young man on vacation from New Hampshire who is working on his own Woodie, so we exchanged contact information as well.

The Woodie is the iconic surfers wagon, and ever since I missed out on buying one back in 1963, I’ve longed to acquire a vintage woodie…well, dreams do come true!

In addition to the traditional wood bodied station wagons on display, there was this very unique, full custom Studebaker.

A steel body car but clad in Maple and Mahogany…the woodwork was absolutely stunning!

And…it possesses a Mercedes 603HP DOHC engine to motivate this piece of fine art down the highway!

An amazing car!!

Another unique car was this movie prop from Grease.

The infamous 1949 Mercury, with the can-opener wheel discs still attached, and the signature of Olivia Newton-John affixed to the dash, was purchased from Paramount Studios by the current owner.

Fun to see that movie car up close!

Then there was this 1939 Ford COE truck, with a blown 455 CID engine sitting in the bed!

The weight transfer of the engine placement likely makes this vintage truck lift its front wheels off the pavement upon acceleration!

Also, a feature of the show is the Car Corral, where hundreds of cars were offered for sale…such as this fine looking 1959 Corvette.

And at $59,000.00…a pretty good deal!

As mentioned earlier, there are various activities taking place in conjunction with the rod and custom show…such as an Autocross for vintage race cars.

A timed event around a road course made up of traffic cones…the winner receives a trophy and bragging rights. As much fun as it is to see vintage cars race, the real draw is the number of high value original sports cars that compete…such as this AC Cobra!

Rare to see an example of this iconic seven figure Carroll Shelby built car outside a museum…

…but this guy was throwing it around the race course much to the delight of the crowd.

Another feature of most Goodguys events is a cruise road that travels the length of the show grounds. The public can then see and hear these beautiful cars under their own power cruising the boulevard.

What a great day at the Goodguys Rod and Custom show!

Well, it’s time to consider heading home…this morning (Wednesday, April 11th) we hit the road for the right coast, turn left, and meander up the Eastern Seaboard.

Underway from Santee Lakes Regional Park at 0857 hours under sunny skies and a temperature of 69 degrees. Kit navigated us through the countryside until intersecting I-8 which we took toward the eastern San Diego Counties Mountains.

Topped out at the 4,140-foot elevation at the Tecate Divide before dropping into the Sonoran Desert where the temperature is nudging up against 90 degrees. Kit and I made our way to the campground at Naval Air Facility, El Centro which, at -42 feet, is entirely below sea level.

Due to the rising temperatures, the campground is sparsely populated as most of the Northwest Snowbirds have flown home.

Thursday, April 12, 2018-NAF El Centro, CA:  Had intended to just stay overnight, but woke to high winds from the west…not very good traveling weather, so spent the day doing laundry, catching up on administrative items, and reading. Due to the surrounding agricultural fields of this Imperial Valley region, we did enjoy a nice dust enhanced sunset however.

Goodnight!

Friday, April 13, 2018: Yep, Friday the 13th, and we are hitting the road, and its still a bit gusty…but not as bad as yesterday when the winds averaged 44 MPH and gusted at over 60 MPH!

Underway at 0811 hours and continued east on I-8. After a pleasant drive, which included a stop for breakfast, we crossed into Arizona at 1149, and encountered our first Border Patrol checkpoint of the return trip.

Then found US-85 heading north and drove it to the tiny desert outpost of Gila Bend.

Decided to seek shelter at the Luke AFB Auxiliary Field as the winds started to rise again, so pulled in at 1440 and set up in their sparse and inexpensive campground.

As in El Centro, most folks have abandoned this spot as well to head home for the summer, and just as spring was budding out!

Saturday, April 14, 2018-Luke AFB Aux Field, Gila Bend, AZ: Well, that was an interesting night…the winds increased, and the trailer was rocking on its springs!

Spent the day, waiting for the winds to subside and then performed some truck and trailer maintenance. Also got a bit of kite flying in…no sense wasting those winds!

Sunday, April 15, 2018: Fortunately, the winds died down overnight and the morning dawned bright and sunny. Broke camp and hit the road by 0830 traveling north on US-85 before intersecting I-10 and heading east before moving over to I-17 which we took heading north once again. A few hours later, needing a break, we pulled into a convenient Wal-Mart parking lot where Kit participated in some retail therapy and picked up a late breakfast for us from their deli.

As you can see by the blooming Palo Verde tree…it is indeed spring time in the high desert!

Back on the road we continued north and started climbing into the mountains of the Coconino National Forest. As we gained altitude, the vegetation quickly transformed from desert to evergreens. Topping 6,000 feet, and nearing the town of Flagstaff, we pulled off the interstate, and found our way to the USAF Recreation Complex, Fort Tuthill.

Where we set up for a few days stay at a nice wooded campsite.

As much as we like the winter warmth of the American Southwest, it is nice to be in the cooler mountains surrounded by pine trees once again…reminds us of home!

Monday, April16 and Tuesday, April 17, 2018-Flaggstaff, Arizona: We have explored this area extensively over the past ten years, so decided to stick around this very nice campground and prepare, mentally and physically, for our upcoming transcontinental trek across the US.

Adjacent to the campground, Fort Tuthill features a nice lodge with a very comfortable lounge where one can sit in comfort and enjoy the mountain views out large windows that frame a giant stone fireplace…and that was Kit’s favorite spot!

There are also dozens of miles of hiking paths that allow easy access into the back country…which was my favorite feature. Walking through the Ponderosa Pines on a beautiful spring day brought about a pleasant assault on the senses!

The sight, smells, and sounds were mesmerizing…I stopped many times to just sit on an old log and take it all in! Continuing my climb brought me to an elevation of 6,695 feet and a large meadow with vast views of the Kachina Peaks, and 12,633-foot Mount Humphries looming over them.

Part of the hiking trail ran along the edge of this meadow and intersected a Rails to Trails (R2T) path that was built on top of an old logging railroad bed of the defunct Arizona Lumber and Timber Company.

Ambling along this R2T pathway, I could visualize an old steam locomotive barreling through the trees, pulling cars laden with freshly sawn timber heading toward the sawmills of Flagstaff. In previous years, I was able to find a few rail spikes and tie markers that had been cast aside…however, it appears other scavengers have picked through most of them, and many others were probably now hidden below the accumulating forest duff.

On the final day of our stay, a camper similar to ours pulled in to a site nearby. Jeff and Shannon are snow birding from Seattle and we had a lot in common, so a lot to talk about! They are planning a trip to New England later this year, so we invited them to dooryard surf in our driveway for a few days…hope they take us up on the offer!

A very relaxing two days camping in the woods of the Coconino National Forest, but tomorrow it’s back to work.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018: Up and on the road by 0730 hours under a sunny sky with a temperature of 34 degrees…for the first time in many years I had to clear a bit of frost from the windshield!

Found our way to Interstate 40 and headed east across the high plains of Arizona and on into New Mexico. I-40 is the second longest interstate in the country and for much of its East/West path lies on top of historic Route 66. Just past the town of Gallup, we tipped over the Continental Divide at 7,142 feet and began a slow descent into the South-Central Plains.

After a few rest, food and fuel stops, we rolled through the city of Albuquerque and made our way to Kirtland Air Force Base and our stop for the evening.

Thursday, April 19, and Friday, April 20, 2018-Albuquerque, NM: Had intended to only stay one evening, but the weather forecast until Saturday was for high winds from the north, so we just laid low, did some laundry and shopping, and goofed off. The campground is bare bones, but inexpensive and as the say… “Any Port in a Storm”!

This trip has been plagued by winds! Each year there are a few days Kit and I are delayed by unsafe travel conditions. However, this year there have been 8 days we were pinned down by high winds…oh, well, that’s life on the road!

Saturday, April 21, 2018: Woke to calm conditions, sunny skies, and temperatures in the mid 40-degree range. Broke camp and hit the trail by 0740 hours continuing east on Interstate 40.

Four hours later, we crossed into Texas and the Central Time Zone, and by 1548 made the border of Oklahoma…Yep, Texas isn’t so big this far north!

Stopped in at the Oklahoma Welcome Center to take a break and pick up information about the state park system. There was a nice lakeside park another hour east, but its been a long day and at 416 travel miles, we’ve already exceeded our self-imposed daily limit by over 100 miles…so we just spent the night right here!

Sunday, April 22, 2018: Kit and I enjoyed a very restful night and by morning, we discovered dozens of our traveling brethren had joined us overnight.

You may have noticed in the photo above, that we only extended the smaller of our two slides. One of the features we like about this camper is the ability to stay in it with the slides retracted…pays dividends when blacktop camping at a roadside rest or truck stop.

On one side we had a long-haul trucker, and the other a Campervan with this cute couple peeking out at us.

Hit the road at 0834 hours and continued our trek easterly on I-40.

There are many great things about traveling with a trusted companion…one of which is that they are on constant alert and help immensely in spotting roadside attractions, or hazards, while the driver concentrates on, well…driving!

Um…never mind.

After 300 miles, on the dot, Kit awoke to assist in discovering a lakeside Oklahoma State Park near the town of Vian and we pulled in for a two-night stay…which, is where we will pick up in Episode #14 of Bill and Kit’s 2018 Excellent Adventure. Stay tuned!

Kit’s Bit’s: Looks like I needed a bit of a snooze! The trip east has been fraught with wind warnings. We will have to pick up our pace to make it to the east coast. High winds have been our constant companion this spring. Climate change? Who knows… These long-distance days can be exhausting but, fortunately, we leave early and stop early for the night. There was a time when we wouldn’t stop until after dark which caused all sorts of problems. Looking forward to getting home.