Bill and Kit’s 2016 Excellent Adventure, Journal #21

 Bill and Kit's Woody and Airstream-2015It is a strange thing to come home. While yet on the journey, you cannot at all realize how strange it will be.

Selma Lagerlof

 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016:  Since today was to be a short travel day, Kit and I enjoyed a leisurely morning of catching up on correspondence and walking about the grounds of Rocky Mountain State Park just outside Cumberland, Maryland.

Underway shortly before noon, we wound our way through the Northern Maryland countryside.

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Within an hour, we located I-68 which then merged with I-70 near the town of Hancock.  At 1300 we crossed into the state of Pennsylvania and made our way to I-76 which we rode east toward the town of York, PA.

Once again using All Stays, Kit found a highly rated campground just a short distance from my cousin’s home so I set the GPS to guide us there.  That’s when things began to get interesting!  Not only was it commuter rush-hour and therefore a bit congested, but there was a detour to contend with as well.  No problem, we just hit the detour button on the GPS and were rerouted…to a road that featured a bridge with a 12-foot 3-inch clearance!  Yikes…our rig stands at 12-feet 6-inches!!  Fortunately, Kit noticed the warning signs before we hit (pun intended) the bridge…whew!  So another push of the detour button and the GPS wanted to reroute us right back to where we started from!?!?  Time to go for Plan B!  Selecting another campground a few miles further and also highly rated, we made our way north to the small farming community of Dover, Pennsylvania and pulled into the Cedar Lake RV Park.

A very nice family owned campground which was built by the grandparents of the current owner, Cedar Lake features a manmade lake, well more like a duck pond…and some beautiful landscaping.

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There are a variety of waterfowl in and around the park…even some that formed a committee to welcome us to our site!

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Turns out, they were all pets of one of the owners who cares for and feeds them daily.

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In talking to the fella, I discovered he knew the species and gender of every bird in his flock and even named the majority of them.

According to the current owners, their great-grandfather tired of the difficult farming life and one day took an old bulldozer to the fields, carved out the valley where a stream already lay and created an earthen dam to form a rustic camp ground.  Each succeeding generation has enlarged and improved the facility to what it is today.

Just up from the campground on a high hill was a bucolic scene that featured the old family farm still in operation but today more devoted to horses than crops.

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The majority of the RV park was devoted to seasonal folks that set their rigs up permanently with decks, fences, plants and lawn ornaments.  However, there is a small section of the park set aside for travelers such as us.

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What our stark campsite lacked in landscaping was more than made up by the friendly owners and pleasant grounds.

The main reason we stopped in York was to visit with my cousin, a materials engineer who works for a company that builds components for NASA.  At this very moment there is a vehicle wandering around the surface of Mars that he had a hand in developing…pretty cool, huh?!  Since cousin Don is working on some more Jules Verne like gadgets, he wasn’t available until later in the day, but he did suggest some local points of interest we might like to checkout.  One of which was the Harley-Davidson factory.

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I didn’t think Kit would be too enthused about touring a motorcycle factory, but I was wrong…she loved it!

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Especially the trike…primarily because it is capable of carrying all her essentials.  As for me, I keep most of my necessities in my pocket so the V-Rod suited me just fine!

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Wonder if we should sell the truck and trailer and acquire a couple of these bad boys for touring the US al fresco?

Since we arrived at the factory fairly late in the day, actually just in time for the final tour, we were the only ones that our guide had in his group.  As an enthusiastic Harley owner, our tour guide took far more time with us than usual and explained each step in the process thoroughly.  As per corporate policy photography was not allowed on the factory floor, however suffice it to say we were really impressed by the level of robotics and automation used!  Very little of these bikes are outsourced, all engines, frames, fenders gas tanks, etc. are produced in house.  A sense of the manufacturing process is on display in the visitor center lobby. There you can see a representation of the various components coming together to make the completed bike.

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The quality assurance department was particularly interesting.  Each completed machine is placed on a wheel dyno and run up through the gears to test its operation.  Additionally, some bikes are randomly selected for detailed inspection…they are torn down, all specifications and tolerances measured and reassembled.  The bike is then subjected to real world testing on the streets in and around the city of York!

Harley Davidson Motorcycle Company began life in 1903 as a manufacturer of motor driven bicycles.  Their first model featured a tiny 7 cubic inch engine and was so anemic that it couldn’t climb hills.  By 1920, Harley Davidson was the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world and were building numerous models with various engine displacements.  The company survived the depression which saw many other manufacturers folding.  Harley Davidson spent the war years building bikes for the military and then in 1945 reverted to civilian bike production with some very innovative designs.  However, the company almost ceased to exist after being bought out by the AMF Corporation, a manufacturer of bowling and golf equipment…quality suffered greatly and sales dropped correspondingly.  Then in 1981 a group of investors led by Willie G. Davidson, the grandson of one of the founders, bought the company and turned it around to become the institution it is today.

The factory tour was enjoyable and a very informative look at a true American original being manufactured in an American factory by American workers!

When cousin Don got off work, we all met at a very nice tavern called The First Post.

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Where we enjoyed a few micro beers, good food, and great conversation.

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I selected the Shrimp Scampi and it was some of the best I’ve ever enjoyed!  Don’s wife Pat, a school principal, couldn’t join us as she was busy with end of the year tasks and responsibilities.

A nice stay in York, Pennsylvania but tomorrow we must be moving on.

 

Friday, May 13, 2016:  Up early and following a leisurely walk about the campground Kit and I hit the road at 1048 hours.  Winding our way through the Pennsylvania countryside we headed east on a variety of country roads.

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After a lunch stop at the Tangier Outlet, Kit wanted to engage in some “retail therapy” and found a pair of diminutive coveralls for young Silas, our new neighbor back home.

At 1500 we pulled into the quaint town of Springfield which is just to the west of Philadelphia and set up the camper in the driveway of another cousin, Mary Kate.

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This is a spot we’ve stayed at in the past and a perfect driveway for dooryard surfing!  Kit and I enjoy staying here and look forward to a few days of visiting with my mother’s kinfolk!

No sooner than we settled in a number of family members started showing up to visit, then some pizza was ordered, beer and wine was acquired, and a real party broke out!  Such is the case whenever we are in town, or whenever the mood strikes this large close knit family…which is pretty often.

 

Saturday, May 14th and Sunday, May 15th, 2016-Springfield, Pennsylvania:  My uncle Don and my Aunt Mary have raised a large, loving and wonderful family and they are all proud of their Irish Catholic roots as my mom was.

Aunt Mary passed a few years ago, the loss of a beautiful soul.  As the oldest living relative, Uncle Don is the family patriarch and as his generation is wont to do, came calling at our camper with food in the form of some incredible pastries.

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Apparently, as evident by a blank spot in the box, the bakeries Quality Assurance Department is required to sample the box of rolls to determine they were of the highest quality!

Kit and I spent the day relaxing with Mary Kate, Alora, Jimmy, and the newest member of the family, Gidget.

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The older son Jack, a talented and aspiring actor, was off to rehearsal for an upcoming performance.

Yet another party was planned for Sunday by another of my Philly cousins, Anne whose home is a short distance away.

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She was assisted by her daughter and able assistant Alli who, by the way, is an actress in her own right having performed in a number of local productions…this is one talented group!

Most of the family still lives in the Philly area except for cousin Don who we visited in York, PA a few days ago and cousin Bill who lives with his family in North Carolina.

Amongst those that attended the party included John, Denise and their sons Owen and Neil…their daughter Erin Marie is away at college in New York.

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Also Mark and Ruth with Katie and Steven.

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Representing my Aunt Joan were cousin Barbara and her husband Jason.

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There was plenty of good food, drink and wonderful conversation including stories about my mom, her sister Aunt Joan, her sister-in-law Aunt Mary and others that have passed.  Fortunately, although threating, the weather cooperated so we could enjoy the nice backyard to relax and visit.

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As mentioned earlier this family has a lot of talent!  There are always a few folks that bring guitars and singing voices to entertain…such as Timmy, Anne’s son on the right and Jack, Mary Kates son.

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Tim, an upcoming graduate from Drexel fronts a trio called Glengesh that specializes in Irish music.  They were recently honored to sing the National Anthem at a Philadelphia Phillies baseball game.

Tim at Phillies Game

Kit and I thoroughly enjoyed visiting with my mother’s side of the family…they are always generous with their time and we enjoy seeing them whenever we trundle through the Philadelphia area.

 

Monday, May 16, 2016:  This morning we had intended to pull out early and head north towards home.  However, my Uncle Don invited us to breakfast at a local café, and fortunately cousin Joe, who we hadn’t seen yet, was able to join us.

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A very good meal and some great conversation was followed by a nice ride through the countryside as we returned to the camper.

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Saying our goodbyes to everyone, Kit and I were on the road at 1315 hours following the Westchester Pike until we reached I-476.  An uneventful transit to the north led us to New Jersey by 1450 and to the New York state line at 1633.  Realizing that we wouldn’t get home until late in the evening, we decided to stay overnight at Round Pond, a Military Recreation Facility just outside the town of West Point, NY.

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Selecting a nice secluded campsite, we left the rig hooked up and spent the evening relaxing.

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And enjoying the sunset through the trees.

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While excitedly discussing tomorrows destination…home!

 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016:  Woke to a neighbor scurrying about outside the window.

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Likely from the nearby pond, he was a busy little fellow scampering about our campsite looking for who knows what!?

On the road by 0945 hours and winding our way through the rest of Round Pond Recreation Facility as we headed east.

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Today’s destination, Maine!

Driving toward the town of Cornwall on a small country road, we encountered a railroad underpass that had a height restriction of 12’10”.  Our rig has a height of 12’6”…hope everyone did their measurements correctly!  With only 4” to spare and nowhere to turn around, I slowed to a crawl and watched/listened for any contact.  Fortunately, we made it through…whew!

It was a beautiful spring day in New England as we motored over the Hudson River at Newburg, New York and selected a variety of roads and highways to wind our way toward the northeast.

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At 1117 hours we crossed the Connecticut border and by 1327 we were rolling into Massachusetts on I-84.  Finding our way to the Mass Pike we headed east until encountering I-495 which we took toward the north eventually merging with I-95.  At 1540 we crossed into New Hampshire and 16 minutes later into the great state of Maine!

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Always a great feeling to return to our place of departure, but a bit disconcerting as well.  Six months is a long time to be on the road living in a small plastic box on wheels!  And, we have lived very nicely with the items that we could fit in our truck or trailer…didn’t seem to miss the ton of “stuff” we left behind in the house.  Do we really need all that stuff?  After all, there are folks that pack their worldly possessions in a backpack and hike the Appalachian Trail for six months!  However, whenever Kit and I undertake the task of downsizing to make our Maine home a bit more serene, we find that we cannot part with very much!?!?  Our “stuff” doesn’t define us, but it does give us pleasure…so for now nothing will change!

A tradition when we return from these trips via the southern route is to stop at the Maine border town of Kittery and pull into the Kittery Trading Post.

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Not only is the parking lot very RV friendly, but the large store allows for some great walking around time while browsing at all the outdoor products that make life in Maine a bit more enjoyable.  In addition, it is our first opportunity to enjoy a fresh Maine seafood meal at one of the restaurants within walking distance of the place.

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Back on the road for the final leg of our trip, we follow the only interstate in Maine to exit 28 and thread our way through the town of Brunswick arriving at our “Sticks and Bricks” home at precisely 2000 hours!

This year’s Excellent Adventure has been as enjoyable as the previous seven!  Even though our journeys take us to the Southwest, we try and use different routes and explore new areas.  However, every year a strange phenomenon occurs…just as we cross off an item on our bucket lists, we seem to add a few new ones, or we just leave the explored location on the list as we vow to return and enjoy the destination again.  At this rate we will have to live forever to accommodate all that we want to see!

Before closing, a few additional random items that didn’t fit the narrative of this, our final journal.

First off, shortly after returning home we received a nice message from the folks that did our 50th Wedding Anniversary photo last year, Pierce Studio.  As you may remember, they wanted to use the photo in their annual advertising in this year’s Maine State Music Theater programs.  Well as a thank you the kind folks at Pierce Studio offered Kit and I two tickets to the production of Mama Mia being performed later this year.

Another interesting item that occurred was when I received an e-mail awhile back asking permission to use one of my photos of the Coronado Bridge rising above the marina at San Diego’s Fiddlers Cove.

Sunset on Fiddler's Cove-Edited

Apparently an event coordinator had stumbled upon the snapshot lurking in the Google Images archives. She thought it would be the perfect backdrop for a Power Point presentation they were developing to support a major conference in San Diego this summer attended by an international group of research scientists. Of course, I humbly gave my permission to use the photo.

Also a note about travel expenses this year. The single most expensive item we have to pay for is fuel. With the average cost of diesel at historically low levels, we saved over $700.00 in fuel costs this year compared to last! But, yea we know, we shouldn’t get used to that continuing!

And finally, during this “Quadrennial Silly Season”, some random thoughts about the upcoming general election. OK, the jokes getting old and it isn’t funny anymore…where are the actual candidates for president? Since there doesn’t seem to be any viable contenders, I offer the following: For president the former US congressman Anthony Weiner and for VP, the former Attorney General Eric Holder! Now their qualifications and suitability for the highest political office in the land may be lacking, however the campaign bumper sticker would be hilarious! (From Kit-Bill has acquired his mother’s sense of humor!)

Well, that’s all for this year folks. Hope to have you along for the ride during Bill and Kit’s 2017 Excellent Adventure when we will be as surprised as you are where we go and what we will experience. Until then, have a great summer!

Kit’s Bit’s:  It’s always great coming home!  We miss our Maine Family and are always eager to hear what they’ve been up to during the last six months.  Joe and Abby have been very busy restoring their 185-year-old home and are mostly moved in to it.  They have done an awesome job so far and still have more to do.  However, it is livable.  It usually takes us a few weeks to settle in to our home after being on the road for a while.  The first few days, we wind up running out to the trailer to get stuff.  After a couple of weeks, we have most everything we need, in the house.  Then, we have to clean the trailer and get it ready to be stored for a few months.  Once it’s stored, we can relax and enjoy the beautiful summer and fall here in New England!  Most beautiful place to live in the US!

Here are the statistics for our 2016 Excellent Adventure:

Length of Trip:  170 Days

Total Distance:  12,327 Miles

Total Fuel Used:  1,134.8 Gallons

Average Fuel Economy:  10.9 MPG

Highest Diesel Fuel Cost:  $3.00 in California

Lowest Diesel Fuel Cost:  $1.90 in Arizona and Mississippi

Highest Camping Cost with Hook-up’s:  $55.44 in Las Vegas, Nevada

Lowest Camping Cost with Hook-up’s:  $10.00 in Gila Bend, Arizona

Average Camping Cost:  $24.67 per Night

Freebie Camping:  17 Nights, “THANK’S FOLKS!”

Bill and Kit’s 2016 Excellent Adventure, Journal #20

Bill and Kit's Woody and Airstream-2015Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.

Gustave Flaubert

 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016:  Woke to the songs of birds and the rustle of the wind in the trees while we remain nestled in our camper on the banks of Kentucky Lake.

This morning, Kit and I were delighted to learn that we have a new neighbor back home.  Young Silas was born a few days ago to Katie and Nick, a very nice young couple who live next door to our sticks-and-bricks home up in Maine.  And since Kit loves babies as much as knitting, she has really enjoyed spending the past few months creating a baby blanket for the new little guy.

Kit the Knitwit

Welcome to a wonderful world and to our great neighborhood Master Silas!

Well, today is a travel day…so we pull chocks and roll out of the Corps of Engineers park that has been our home for the past two days.

Jumping on I-24 heading east until we intersect I-69 which takes us to the north.

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It is a beautiful day to be on the road and we are really looking forward to our next destination, another of our nations national parks.

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Mammoth Cave marks the fifth US National Park we have enjoyed this trip during the park service’s 100th Anniversary Celebration.

Scoring a nice campsite in the sparsely populated campground, Kit and I set up for a few days stay in one of the few National Parks located in the eastern half of the US.

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After getting settled, Kit and I enjoy a stroll to the visitor’s center to secure some brochures and information.  Returning to our camper, we relax under the trees until the sun began to set into the west horizon.  Since our site was heavily wooded the following photo is the best I could do in capturing the sunset.

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Goodnight!

 

Wednesday May 4th and Thursday May 5th 2016-Mammoth Cave National Park:  This park features the longest known cave system in the world.  To date, explorers have discovered over 400 miles of tunnels and caverns which is estimated to be only half of the massive underground labyrinth…and the cave system is still growing thanks to the relentless forces of hydraulic erosion!

Access to most of the public areas of this mammoth cave system (no pun intended) is only available during a ranger guided tour.  However, there is one self-guided route through the original Natural Opening into a small part of the cave but there is some much needed infrastructure work going on so unfortunately it was closed.  Since the pathway down to the Natural Opening was still accessible I decided to go down and take a look.  The access trail was a pleasant walk along a heavily wooded path which led to steps that descended to the opening itself.

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Not seeing any signs restricting access, I made my way down the steps, under the waterfall, and entered the cave.

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Within about 50 feet I came to a locked gate.  Since there was no artificial illumination, all I viewed was the inky blackness of a deep cave…it was a nice little hike however!

I did sign up for a couple of guided cave tours which were very enjoyable.  Both required boarding a bus to access the cave opening which was a few miles from the visitor’s center.  Then there were many steps to be negotiated to take you down into a sink hole where the entrance was.

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Once entering the cave, there were more steps that led through the steeply angled access tunnel.

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Everything was covered with water and the steps were a bit slippery, but watching your foot placement and utilizing the robust handrails made for a safe descent.

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Mammoth Cave has been, and continues to be, sculpted by centuries of ground water seeping through cracks in the harder surface capstone to find and dissolve the underlying softer limestone.  The water then formed underground streams and rivers that flowed horizontally until it reached the Green River valley.  The erosion process continues to this day…there is a river flowing hundreds of feet below where we were touring and at times you could hear the rush of water, and at certain points you could look down an illuminated shaft and see the underground river flowing along!

I have explored many cave systems over the years.  My two favorites are Kartchner Caverns State Park in Southern Arizona and Jewel Cave National Monument in South Dakota…both of which feature gorgeous formations.  Due to the way Mammoth Cave was formed, it does not have any of the majestic and colorful dripstone formations of those caves, however what is lacks in pure beauty is more than made up by its massive size.

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In the photo above, one can visualize the flow of water eons ago carving out the huge oblong tunnel.

There are a few places in the cave where surface water has percolated through slowly enough to create stalactite and stalagmite formations.

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Explorers of Mammoth Cave have discovered evidence of American Indian presence within the cave.  In addition to pottery, grass sandals, and cane torches, there are many areas that contain mummified human remains leading scientists to the conclusion that Mammoth Cave was a ceremonial and spiritual place to the native population.  Many of these mummies still lie where they were found and are protected by federal law.  These places of eternal rest are not illuminated or marked for the publics information so we were likely very close to some of them as we walked upon the designated pathways!

I thoroughly enjoyed the tours of Mammoth Cave…Kit being a bit claustrophobic decided to wait above ground and enjoy the many displays in the visitor’s center.

However, Kit did enjoy a drive to the nearby “gateway” community of Cave City.  A small town with a nicely defined downtown area that appeared to cater to the many tourists that visit Mammoth Cave National Park.  In addition to the antique and craft/gift shops, there were a few nice restaurants.  Since it was May 5th, we decided to check out the Kentucky version of Mexican food at El Mazatlán.  Not bad, not as good as in the southwest, but acceptable…and they were serving two dollar Margaritas!

One day following a morning cave tour, Kit and I drove south to Bowling Green, Kentucky to visit the National Corvette Museum.

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Inside was an incredible collection of historic automobiles spanning the years from the very first model in 1953.

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Which might have been the last year produced as well!  Since the car featured a rather anemic six-cylinder engine with a two speed automatic transmission the performance did not match the sexy looks of the new sports car.  The slow performance was matched by slow sales and the Corvette model limped along in the Chevrolet lineup until a V-8 engine and four speed transmission were introduced in 1955.  Then two years later an optional fuel injection system raised the power of the 283 cubic inch displacement engine to a whopping 283 horsepower.  That car was the first mass produced automobile to attain one horsepower for one cubic inch!

The museum also features some of the famous race cars through history, such as this 1963 model.

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In addition, there were a few concept cars on display.  These one-off creations were made by Chevrolet to generate buzz for the marque at the various annual “Autorama” shows of the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Sometimes, between presentations, the cars were repainted a different color so the automobile magazine spreads didn’t all look the same.

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Many of the Corvettes are placed within a display representing the era of the cars manufacture, such as the service station exhibit below.

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Much of the collection belongs to the National Corvette Museum or are on loan from the Chevrolet Motor Division of General Motors.  However, a fair number belong to private citizens who place their car on display at the museum…one of these recently loaned cars belonged to a gentleman who was in to see how the staff presented his car.

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Being a 1973 vintage Corvette, it is not particularly noteworthy or collectible as this was at the height of the national gas crises and the engines were tuned more for economy than performance.  However, this particular car is a fully optioned and very well cared for survivor with only 56,400 miles on the odometer during its 43-year life.

While chatting with the fella, he asked me to take a photo with his iPhone which I gladly accommodated.  In further conversation I learned that his name was Jeffery Taylor and that he is not only a Corvette collector but a Kentucky State Representative as well!  Another example of a serendipity meeting of an interesting person!

A few years ago, tragedy struck the National Corvette Museum!  Upon arriving for work on the morning of February 12, 2014 this unbelievable sight greeted staff members.

national-corvette-museum-sinkhole

A large sinkhole had collapsed the concrete floor in the Skydome and took 8 rare Corvettes to their demise.  The ground underneath the National Corvette Museum is composed of the same geologic strata as Mammoth Cave and the same erosion forces that created the National Park created this natural disaster.  Even though the loss totaled in the millions of dollars, the good news was that there was no one in the museum at the time and that all eight cars devoured were owned by either Chevrolet or by the museum itself…no private cars on loan were damaged!  In a classic “Lemon-Lemonade” move, the cars were exhumed, the floor repaired and the damaged Corvettes were pretty much left in the condition they were when pulled from the wreckage.  They are once again on display in their original orientation on the Skydome floor.

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The sight of all these beautiful and rare Corvettes all mangled and twisted makes a gearhead like me cringe.

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But at the same time, it’s a fascinating sight…I spent more time in this display area of the museum than any other!  Apparently I’m not alone, the membership and attendance at the National Corvette Museum has increased dramatically following the disaster.

Both Kit and I agreed that the National Corvette Museum was well worth the time to explore, so if you ever find yourself in Bowling Green, Kentucky make sure you stop by for a visit.

After a quick dinner at a nearby Cracker Barrel we headed back to the campground as the sun shone through a distant rain shower.

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Goodnight!

 

Friday, May 6, 2016:  This morning, while taking my morning walk about the campground, I spied this unusual tree formation.

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I guess that explains the age old question as to if a bear does his business in the woods!

Kit and I were on the road at 1100 hours under sunny skies and a temperature of 65 degrees.  As we wound our way through the national park we couldn’t help noticing all the songbirds that were giving us a farewell serenade.

After finding our way to I-70 and heading east we rolled into the Eastern Time Zone and lost yet another hour of the day!?!?  However, this puts us in the same zone as Maine and marks another milestone toward getting home.

At 1330 Kit and I arrived in Fort Knox, Kentucky and headed for the US Army Recreation facility known as Camp Carlson.

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The campground was pretty full with active duty service members and their families.  In addition, there was as a number of retired folks that appeared to be camping here for an extended period of time…however, we were able to bag a nice spot for a few days.

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Notice the awning out, the chairs set up, and the barbeque on the picnic table…this is to be relaxation stay!

 

Saturday May 7th and Sunday May 8th 2016-Fort Knox, Kentucky:  Camp Carlson is a full service military recreation park with numerous walking paths along a nice creek.

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Also, in addition to the very nice and well-kept campground there is a stocked fishing lake bordered by picnic pavilions and a large community center.

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Where we enjoyed sitting on the veranda and enjoying the beautiful weather.

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For most of this two day stay, Kit and I just goofed off.  However we did take one trip onto the Army base to resupply at the large and well stocked Post Exchange and Commisary.  Also while on base we took a peek at the General George Patton Museum.

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An interesting display depicting the career of the famed WWII General as well as other US Army leaders throughout history.  A particularily poignant historical artifact was the 1939 Cadillac staff car that patton was riding in when a “Duece and a Half” military cargo truck turned in front of the Generals automobilie.

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The resulting crash fatally wounded Patton and a few days later he succumbed to his injuries.  A rather tragic ending for a soldier that survived many combat engagements during his storied career.  General George Partton lies at rest in the American Cemetary in Luxenburg as per his final wishes to be buried with his fellow soldiers who perished during World War Two.

 

Monday, May 9th 2016:  On the road at 1030 heading east on US-60.

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It’s a cloudy and rather cool day as Kit and I motored along until reaching I-64 where we continued traveling toward the east.

By late afternoon we crossed the border into West Virginia and started looking for a place to remain overnight.  The All Stays App showed us an RV friendly Walmart just ahead in the town of Barboursville so that became our destination.

2016-05-11, KY-WV-PA, Photo #14

After securing permission from the store manager and doing some shopping, I walked next door to a Chick-fil-A to rustle up some dinner which we enjoyed in our asphalt campsite as the sun set over our benefactor.

2016-05-11, KY-WV-PA, Photo #15

Goodnight!

 

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016:  Woke from a very peaceful and restful sleep, which is not always possible when parking lot camping!  There was only one other RV nearby and they pulled out  sometime during the evening or early morning.

As is traditional with us when dry camping, we left our campspot rather early and got some miles under our belt before stopping at a local diner for breakfast…a regional chain called “Butter it Up!”  They featured many interesting breakfast entrees that were fortified with localy produced and very delicious butter!

2016-05-11, KY-WV-PA, Photo #16

Even the freshly pressed coffee was laced with butter!  Probably not the healthiest food choice, but boy was it ever good!

Back on I-64 we continued east through the rolling hills of West Virginia.

2016-05-11, KY-WV-PA, Photo #17

Nearing the town of Charleston, we moved onto I-79 and headed north for a few hours before intersecting I-68 which led us toward the east once again.

At 1420 hours we crossed the border into Maryland and an hour later crossed the Eastern Continental Divide at an elevation of a mere 2,880 feet.  Soon, Kit began looking for a place to camp for the night…the All Stays App showed us a number of promising spots but she chose a Maryland State Park known as Rocky Gap.

2016-05-11, KY-WV-PA, Photo #18

Securing a nice campsite, we left the truck and trailer connected and didn’t even deploy the leveling jacks as this was to be only an overnight stay.

Everything was brilliant green on this damp and overcast spring afternoon.  There were a number of hiking paths and walking trails passing the campsite and led into the back country.

2016-05-11, KY-WV-PA, Photo #19

Where they occasionally popped out along the shoreline of Habeeb Lake.

2016-05-11, KY-WV-PA, Photo #20

Before calling it a night I called my cousin who lives a few hours away in York, Pennsylvania to see if he would be available for a visit.  Fortunately he was, so we now have a destination for tomorrow!  But that visit, as well as the rest of the trip adventures will have to wait for the next, and hopefully final, installment of Bill and Kit’s 2016 Excellent Adventure…stay tuned!

Kit’s Bit’s:  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being back in the greener part of the US!  Love the desert, especially when the flowers are blooming but my very favorite places are green.  Maybe, due to being born and partly raised in Minnesota.  I passed on the cave tours due to being claustrophobic.  However, I used the time to get in lots of walking around the park and checking out the budding trees and flowers and listening to the birds.  I was also able to complete the baby blanket I’d been working on for a few months.  Very anxious to meet our new little neighbor, Silas!  Having a new baby in the neighborhood is about the most exciting news we’ve had!

Bill and Kit’s 2016 Excellent Adventure, Journal #19

Bill and Kit's Woody and Airstream-2015

Because he had no place he could stay in without getting tired of it and because there was nowhere to go but everywhere, keep rolling under the stars.

Jack Kerouac

 

Sunday, April 24, 2016:  Before Kit and I head out of Durango, Colorado a few more comments about this interesting southwestern mountain town.

In addition to the very enjoyable ride on the Durango and Silverton Railway, we spent considerable time walking about the very pedestrian friendly downtown area.  It contains the usual mix of restaurants, taverns, gift shops and outdoor equipment outfitters that most Southern Colorado towns feature.

2016-04-22, Durango, Photo #1

The anchor of downtown Durango is the Strater Hotel.

2016-04-22, Durango, Photo #2

Built in 1887 by Henry Strater, with financial help from his wealthy parents, the Strater was designed to house the inrush of investors and prospectors during the silver and gold mining boom.  Upon completion, Henry decided to lease the hotel to an attorney from back east in order to better concentrate on his pharmacy business.  Unfortunately, Henry failed to exclude a portion of the prime ground floor retail space for his shop and the new manager priced the rent so high that Henry couldn’t afford to run his business out of his own building!

A frequent guest of note at the Strater was the author Louis L’Amour who wrote many of his western novels while staying at the hotel. In addition, a number of movie stars and production folks would stay at the Strater during filming of the many movies that were set in the area.

So, today Kit and I hit the road!  Getting underway at 0950 we headed east on US-60 under cool and sunny skies as we climbed into the Southern Rocky Mountains.

2016-04-30, Photo #2

Topping out at 10,782 feet we threaded our way through the famed Wolf Creek Pass before starting to lose altitude.

2016-04-30, Photo #1

By 1530 we intersected I-25 which took us south toward the town of Trinidad, Colorado and our stop for the evening…Camp Walmart.

2016-04-30, Photo #3

As Kit set about to restock our larder, I secured permission from the very accommodating manager to remain in the parking lot overnight then did some shopping of my own for truck related items.

Most Walmart’s are pretty well standardized as to product mix and product placement…this one was rather unique however.  Near the front of the store was a rather robust variety of snack foods!  I wondered why until I walked back to the camper and glanced across the road.

2016-04-30, Photo #4

Yep right next door was a rather large recreational marijuana joint (pun intended).  For the sake of educational enlightenment, I decided to walk in the establishment and take a look around.  There were signs everywhere prohibiting photography, so I’ll try to describe the interior as best I can. The place looked like a mix between a tobacco shop and a bakery with an interesting variety of products priced in accordance with their quality.  The shoppers browsing about all looked like average folks, some even dressed in professional business attire.  I thought it amusing that the shop offered senior citizen and military discounts however.  All in all, it looked completely normal (no pun intended) …but the place made me feel kind of uncomfortable.  Must have been all those years of holding a high level security clearance and undergoing all those random drug tests!

Kit and I met in our camper and while discussing what to have for dinner, I noticed a long line of cars queued up in the drive through at the Chick-fil-A just down the hill…so since we had never experienced food from that chain, I walked down to fetch dinner.  The meal was actually very good!

Being that we were dry camping…when the sunset, so did we!  Goodnight!

 

Monday, April 25, 2016:  On the road at 0730 after a very quiet and peaceful night for a Walmart, we jumped back on I-25 until intersecting US-160 which we took toward the east.

We realized this was prairie country as we passed a sign informing us we were entering the Comanche National Grasslands.

2016-04-30, Photo #5

The country’s National Grassland’s are under management of the USDA Forest Service…there are twenty designated units located primarily in the central part of the United States.  Established as a reaction to the devastation of the 1930’s Dust Bowl (note the spelling, Chris T.) when early farmers drove off the Bison and began using unsustainable practices causing the thin strip of fertile soil to blow away which rendered the land barren.  Once the grasslands had recovered, the US Forest Service allowed for controlled grazing to replicate the environmental balance once maintained by the Bison.

Since we left so early this morning Kit and I were getting a bit hungry.  So at around 1000 we decided to stop in the small Colorado town of Pritchett, population 140.

2016-04-30, Photo #6

A rather forlorn looking place, the only thing still in business was the US Post Office so we made breakfast in the camper and ate as we watched the tumbleweeds tumble down the main drag.

Back underway, the miles rolled by as we continued east through America’s Heartland making considerable progress toward the right coast.

At 1130, we crossed the Kansas border and entered the Central Time Zone which actually makes it 1230…it’s a bit frustrating losing an hour of our travel day when we are trying to make tracks toward home!?!?

The prairielands gave way to agricultural areas with the occasional oil well sprouting about.  At 1530, we were getting tired so Kit brought up the All Stays App and found us a nice lakeside campground within a Kansas State Park near the town of Meade.

2016-04-30, Photo #7

After setting up camp and enjoying a great meal, Kit and I relaxed lakeside with some mature beverages and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the local critters flitting about as the sun set on another wonderful day.

2016-04-30, Photo #8

Goodnight!

 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016-Meade State Park:  Well, Kit and I decided over breakfast this morning to stay at this beautiful state park for another evening.  So, not wanting to disconnect the truck to make the two mile trip back to the ranger’s station, I un-racked my bike.

It was a nice ride along a paved road that led most of the way around this manmade lake.

2016-04-30, Photo #7a

In talking to the ranger, I learned that the lake was sustained by a small spring for many years until the spring dried up.  So the state really only had two choices: let nature control the lake level and deal with fishing piers, beaches and campsites that are far from the water, or, augment the natural rainfall with a dug well…they chose the latter.  And so far, it has proven to be the correct choice!

Kit and I enjoyed a thoroughly relaxing time here, but if we are ever going to get back home to Maine we need to keep moving along, so tomorrow we once again hit the road.

 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016:  Well, last night was interesting…a spring storm came rolling in from the west with rain, hail, thunder, highlighting and wind!

KS Storm Map

Fortunately, no damage but one crazy thrill ride in a camper without the levelers deployed sitting along an exposed lakefront!

Underway at 0854 we wound our way through a bunch of backroads until intersecting US-160 where we turned toward the east.

2016-04-30, Photo #9

The view out the front window this morning looks very similar to the view yesterday morning…it is however, a different photo taken a few hundred miles to the east!

The day was spent racking up miles, with brief stops for fuel, food, comfort or to stretch our legs…one benefit of traveling in an RV, is that we can stop most anywhere for a break!  No looking for a restaurant or rest area.  Our only requirement is for fuel for the 36-gallon tank, which typically occurs every day and a half during a session where we are transiting cross country.

Just outside Wichita, Kansas Kit found another interesting camping opportunity on the All Stays App which took us through the Kansas countryside and down a few dirt farm roads.

2016-04-30, Photo #9a

Then around 1600 Kit and I enjoyed seeing this dam site!

2016-04-30, Photo #11

Yep, another nice Corps of Engineers (COE) campground with very few campers about, in fact there weren’t any ranger’s or host evident either.

2016-04-30, Photo #10

So Kit and I picked a nice site and self-registered by placing our $10.00 in a registration envelope and sliding it into the Iron Ranger.  So, what’s an Iron Ranger you ask?  Well, it looks kinda like this!

Iron Ranger

More and more government managed campgrounds are using these low cost options.  However, if needed a human ranger is just a phone call away!

As you can imagine most COE Campgrounds are located on a river and close to a flood control or hydro dam…Damsite was no exception.

2016-04-30, Photo #12

It not only provided excellent camping opportunities, but boating, fishing and other related outdoor activities as well.

Following dinner and as night fell, I walked up the side of the earthen dam to view the lake and snap a few photos of the sunset.

2016-04-30, Photo #13

Could stay here a few days, but we must continue our journey toward the coast, so after taking care of a few pre-underway items we settled in for the evening listening to the rush of water from the spillways just a few hundred feet away.

 

Thursday, April 28, 2016:  Up, breakfast and on the road by 1000 under sunny skies and a temperature of 55 degrees.

Drove back down to US-160 and turned toward the east.  By noon we crossed into the state of Missouri and jumped on US-171 which would bring us to Interstate 44.

2016-04-30, Photo #14

Continuing east, Kit was getting excited to finally reach a destination that was on her personal Bucket List…Branson!

Arriving in town at 1400, we found our way to a nice commercial campground that had come highly recommended, the appropriately named “America’s Best Campground”!  Paying for a three-night stay, Kit and I set up on one of their nice level full hookup sites for the duration.

2016-04-30, Photo 23

We spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening walking about the campground, doing some laundry, researching things to do in nearby Branson and otherwise just goofing off.

 

Friday, April 29th and Sunday, April 30th, 2016-Branson, Missouri: Kit and I were pretty well armed with information pertaining to sights to see in Branson, however before we left the campground, we walked up to the office to grab some brochures and ask about any inside information on the best way to get the maximum enjoyment during our two day stay in town.

Encountering a nice young man who had grown up in the area, we peppered him with a number of questions and received a lot of great advice.  Since it was raining and it was slow in the office, we hung around and schmoozed a bit learning a great deal about Matthew and his upbringing.  As we said our goodbyes, he asked which music show we were planning on seeing while in town, and before I could even consider the options Kit blurted out “anything with an Osmond performing in it”!  Matt then thumbed through a small folder and presented us with two comp tickets to see Jimmy Osmond!

2016-04-30, Photo #15

Kit was ecstatic!  Since a few years ago, she enjoyed Donnie and Marie in Vegas, at this rate she may end up seeing all the Osmond family perform…one at a time!

Since Matt said that this time of year the reserved seating is assigned “first come-first served”, we made a beeline for the Andy Williams Theater to obtain our tickets.

2016-04-30, Photo #18a

Good Karma continued to shine down upon us as we were able to grab two seats in row five-center for tomorrow afternoon!

With tomorrow all set, we decided to investigate the town of Branson that we have heard so much about over the years.

branson_map

As you can see from the map above, this whole place is devoted to live music…the blue stars on the map denote theaters for live performances.  As the story goes, some early Country and Western singers were tired of being on the road and decided to build venues in Branson and let the public come to them.  Well, the concept was a hit and the town quickly grew into the live music capital of the world.

Along the shores of Lake Taneycomo lies a mega shopping complex called “Branson Landing”.  It contains every major retail establishment know to woman along with specialty shops, restaurants and taverns.

2016-04-30, Photo #16a

Of all the areas in Branson that one could spend time, Kit and I liked the old historic downtown the best.  True it lacks the glitz of the music strip or Branson Landing, but the collection of old antique and craft shops, alongside hardware and variety stores was the perfect mix for us.  And as we were to find out, it also had the best restaurants.  Canvasing the locals, we were advised to have lunch at the Farmhouse where the special of the day was an “all you can eat” catfish dinner!

2016-04-30, Photo #17

Now, I have worked and lived in the south and have enjoyed a ton of fried catfish, but it was an unusually large filet dipped in batter and fried.  This meal consisted of fish that looked similar to brook trout!  However, it was definitely catfish and tasted very good!

After some more poking around Historic Branson, we made our way back to the campground.

The second full day in town Kit and I lazed around the camper and then headed into town for our show.  Jimmy Osmond was to perform in the Moon River Theater that he had acquired from Mister Andy Williams.

2016-04-30, Photo #18

In the lobby, we enjoyed the many photos and artifacts pertaining to the career of Andy and his relationship with the Osmond family.  There was a photo of young Jimmy appearing on The Andy Williams showing the mid 1950’s.

Osmonds and Andy-Edited

And here he is today in the middle of what turned out to be a fantastic performance and a heartfelt tribute to his mentor and friend, Andy Williams.

Jimmy on Stage

Following the show, Jimmy came out to greet the fans and pose for photos…a thoughtful but unusual gesture in this era of isolated public figures.

2016-04-30, Photo #19

After a twenty-minute ride into the countryside we came to a small town and found Danna’s, a Barbeque place we had heard about yesterday.

2016-04-30, Photo #20

The effort was well worth it as we both enjoyed some excellent barbeque on their open air deck.

2016-04-30, Photo #21

After which we made our way back to the camper to relax and prepare for our departure in the morning.

 

Sunday, May 1, 2016: Up and on the road at 1000 hours under clear and sunny skies.  Making our way north to intersect with US-60 which we rode toward the east.

2016-05-04, Photo #2

A nice day rolling through the Missouri countryside with occasional stops for food, fuel or just to stretch our legs a bit.  By 1615 we came to a bridge spanning the mighty Mississippi River.

2016-05-04, Photo #3

Two minutes later Kit and I were crossing the Ohio River and entering into the state of Kentucky.

2016-05-04, Photo #4

Now this has some special significance to Kit and I as it marks the 48th state we have RV’d in over the past 50 years!

Two hours later we were crossing the Tennessee River and decided to stop for the evening at another nice COE facility called Canal Campground.

2016-05-04, Photo #6

After a great meal and some walking about time, Kit and I settled in for the evening.

 

Monday, May 2, 2016-Grand Rapids, Kentucky:  Well, as so often happens when we find a nice campground while transiting an area, we decided to extend our stay an additional night.

While talking to the ranger I discovered this area was built and established under the auspices of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), a public works project during the great depression to assist farmers and other folks that had been severely impacted by the economic downturn.  Its main focus was flood control, developing sustainable farming practices, creating recreational opportunities, and providing public works jobs for the chronically unemployed of the region.

Kit and I spent most of the day just cleaning up the trailer and truck, goofing off around camp and enjoying the many nature trails in the park.  As the sun set into the western sky, we sat outside and discussed plans for the next few days’ travel as the sun set into the western sky.

2016-05-04, Photo #5

So, where will we end up tomorrow?  Not sure yet, guess we will find out together…stay tuned!

 

A quick personal note, last summer Kit arraigned for a professional portrait taken of our family to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary.  Well, the studio that did the work has asked permission to use our photo in an advertisement in the Maine State Music Theaters (MSMT) programs this season.

Tucker Family in MSTM Program

What an honor, of course we said yes!  Not only do we want to promote a great local family business but the MSMT is a wonderful cultural institution in our small town.

 

Kit’s Bit’s:  As we roll along the highways, heading east, all the beautiful green trees and budding trees, bushes and flowers are so pretty!  While I love touring out west and seeing family and friends, being a Minnesota girl, I truly love the greener parts of the country.  Loved seeing the Jimmy Osmond show!  And, loved Branson, although, I was surprised it was so hilly.  Not the easiest place to walk for hours on end.  Very glad I was able to finally see it, though.  We missed Silver Dollar City, maybe we’ll make that next time through.

Bill and Kit’s 2016 Excellent Adventure, Journal #18

Bill and Kit's Woody and Airstream-2015

When something good happens, travel to celebrate.  If something bad happens, travel to forget.  If nothing happens, travel to make something happen!

Unknown

 

Monday, April 18, 2016:  Departing Moab, Utah at 1015 hours under mostly sunny skies and a temperature of 55 degrees.

Well, so this morning Kit and I decided to hop on US-191 and head south because what more inefficient way to head to our home in New England than by driving south!?!?

2016-04-17, Moab and Canyonlands, Photo #3

An hour later, we pulled off for fuel in Monticello, Utah.  Back underway and with a destination in mind, we headed east on US-491 and crossed into the state of Colorado in the early afternoon.  Then, in an hour or so we arrived in the town of Cortez where we located a nice campground just east of town.

2016-04-19, Cortez #1, Photo #4

It’s hard to tell, but in the background of the photo above there is a truck and trailer to the right that is identical to our rig…kind of a camper photobomb!  Upon pulling into our site, we exchanged waves and had intentions to walk over and visit at some point.  But alas, during our stay either they were gone or we were gone and the Arctic Fox reunion never happened!?!?

So, why only travel a few hours, and why stop in Cortez, Colorado?  Well, two reasons, an old shipmate of mine is reported to be living in these parts, and secondly Cortez is the location of Mesa Verde National Park!

Larry and I served on a US Navy Frigate out of Norfolk, Virginia that was overhauled at Maine’s Bath Iron Works in the mid 1970’s.  He left the Navy when his enlistment was up then headed home to Colorado and we haven’t seen each other in forty years!  A quick internet search turned up his name and a spontaneous phone call surprised the heck out of him!  Fortunately, he and his wife Vikki were available to meet us for dinner that evening, so we convened the reunion at La Casita Cortez, a nice Mexican restaurant.

2016-04-19, Cortez #1, Photo #3

Kit and I had a wonderful time visiting with them and catching up on the past forty years.  Larry and Vikki invited us to their home in a few days, an offer we readily accepted.

 

Tuesday, April 19 and Wednesday, April 20, 2016-Cortez, Colorado:  As mentioned, Mesa Verde National Park is a short distance away from our campground and Kit and I spent most of two days exploring this unique park.

2016-04-19, Cortez #1, Photo #0

As usual, we stopped at the visitor’s center, in this case a brand new facility with state of the art systems and interpretative displays, videos, and ranger led discussions.

2016-04-19, Cortez #1, Photo #8

This is one of the nicer National Park visitors centers we’ve come across, of course it helps that it is new and has been very well thought out and staffed.  There is a large climate controlled storage room containing thousands of artifacts found in the region.

2016-04-21, Cortez #2, Photo #17

These items are made available to scholars and researchers, however there are viewing windows available so the public can see some of the collection and observe what is going on inside the vault.

Picking up brochures and maps, then scheduling a few guided tours into the ruins, Kit and I headed up the access road to enjoy the sights.  The higher we climbed, the colder it got, and we soon started noticing snow clinging to the north facing slopes.

2016-04-19, Cortez #1, Photo #9

At one of the pull outs, we stopped to play.  The altitude was 7,323 feet and the temperature is 45 degrees, so the winters snow will hang around for a while longer.

2016-04-19, Cortez #1, Photo #10

Mesa Verde National Park was established by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906.  The park is also classified as a World Heritage Site…of the 1,031 designated sites in the world, only 23 are in the United States.  This honor bestowed by the United Nations is in recognition of the significant cultural value within Mesa Verde.

2016-04-19, Cortez #1, Photo #16

The park features over 4,300 archeological sites including 600 cliff dwellings.  Early native peoples inhabited the Mesa Verde (Green Table) as early as 1,500 BC and were primarily hunter/gatherers and subsistence farmers.  The lush mesa tops were ideally suited for agriculture as the terrain sloped gently to the south providing ample sunshine and water by way of rainfall, further augmented by snow melt from the nearby La Sal Mountains.

2016-04-21, Cortez #2, Photo #18

As you might expect, there are many examples of native presence on the mesa.  Currently known as Ancestral Puebloans, most lived in large pueblos built by the earliest inhabitants on the mesa.

2016-04-21, Cortez #2, Photo #11

As many as dozens of multi-generational families lived in these pueblos which contained separate rooms, communal cooking and worshiping areas, and grain storage bins.

2016-04-21, Cortez #2, Photo #14

Building these structures was tedious and time consuming so many family rooms were built in a grid with doorways in alignment to allow the family in back to access their room by walking through the family’s home in front.

2016-04-21, Cortez #2, Photo #12

This elimination of hallways saved a lot of time and effort during construction…you wonder however how it worked if there was conflict within the tribe?

Essential water for the tribe’s use and for irrigating crops was collected in large hand dug catchments with stairs and ramps built into the rock wall for easier access to the water.

2016-04-21, Cortez #2, Photo #9

Within, or nearby, the pueblo are underground rooms called Kiva’s which are used for spiritual ceremonies and sometimes as a social gathering place for the tribe.

2016-04-21, Cortez #2, Photo #10

Most Native American peoples utilized Kiva’s but the Ancestral Puebloans were unique in that their Kiva’s were keyhole shaped…why, no one knows. Missing from the Kiva above is the roof which would have been made from wooden beams and thatch.  The hole in the floor is called a Spirit Hole and is how the living would communicate with their ancestors.  They must’ve expected where their fore bearers would reside in the afterlife otherwise the spirit hole would have been in the ceiling!

A quick note about the name “Ancestral Puebloans”.  As a youngster growing up in the San Diego City School System, we knew this tribe as the Anasazi.  However, that name came from the Navajo Indians as a derogatory term which meant “Ancient Enemies”.  The Native Peoples who currently call the Colorado Plateau their ancestral land prefers to be called Ancestral Puebloans.

In the twelfth century, the Ancestral Puebloans that inhabited this region suffered from climate change which affected their food supply and therefore their viability. This brought about regional instability and caused outside tribes to move into more fertile lands such as Mesa Verde.  The influx of these alien tribes caused strife amongst the Ancestral Puebloans and the resultant conflict forced them to abandon their mesa top pueblos and relocate into cliff-side alcoves and rock overhangs.

2016-04-19, Cortez #1, Photo #13

Even though they still cultivated fields on the Mesa, during times of strife the tribe would hunker down in their easily defended cliff side abodes.  The food situation became so severe that there is evidence that some newly arrived native people resorted to anthropophagy.  (Google it, I had to!)

The park service leads visitors on various tours of the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde.  One that I enjoyed was a climb down into a ruin known as The Balcony House.

2016-04-21, Cortez #2, Photo #3

Balcony House is set on a high ledge facing east and just a short vertical climb to the mesa farmlands.  Remnants of the Balcony Houses 45 rooms and 2 Kivas are very well preserved and the ranger spent quite a bit of time explaining the life of the people that resided here 700 years ago.

2016-04-21, Cortez #2, Photo #3a

Of course the same difficulty of access that the native residents used for protection, causes todays tourist a challenge as well.  To begin with, there is a steep descent down stairs to reach the rock face alcove.

2016-04-21, Cortez #2, Photo #1

Then to climb into the dwelling itself, one has to scramble up a traditionally built 32-foot ladder.

2016-04-21, Cortez #2, Photo #2

Once inside the dwelling, it is amazing to see how the native builders adapted each room to the contours of the existing rock alcove.

2016-04-21, Cortez #2, Photo #5

One can really appreciate how the folks that resided here felt secure…and the views are not too bad either.

2016-04-21, Cortez #2, Photo #5a

The modern tourist has to contend with the way the Ancestral Puebloans designed their fortified homes.  Moving from area to area requires a scramble along narrow unprotected ledges or crawling through very tight stone tunnels.

2016-04-21, Cortez #2, Photo #6

And if that wasn’t enough of a challenge, the route back onto the mesa required utilizing the original footholds in the almost vertical rock face.

2016-04-21, Cortez #2, Photo #7a

Fortunately, as you can see, the park service has provided a bit of protection in the form of chains and catch-nets.  The path wasn’t as long or treacherous as the scramble up to Angels Landing in Zion National Park, but it was a bit unnerving nonetheless.

Safely back on level ground, everyone agreed it was a great tour and highly worth the effort…I would highly recommend any of the tours into the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde on your next visit!

Whenever Kit and I spend the day in one of our nations National Parks, we usually treat ourselves to a nice meal in their historic hotels or dining facilities.   Since it was early in the season at Mesa Verde, these facilities were closed.  So we stopped at the nice snack bar located near the parks southern visitors complex at the far end of the park road.  These modern buildings were designed in the style of the pueblos and blended in more effectively with the surrounding terrain.

2016-04-21, Cortez #2, Photo #8

As I was trying to decide what to order, I knocked over the menu board and received some good natured ribbing from the lady at the counter.  Kit and I got our drinks and found a nice table to await our food.  Soon the loudspeaker bellowed “Bull, your order is ready!

2016-04-19, Cortez #1, Photo #12

There were chuckles throughout the cafeteria, and the cashier was laughing hysterically!  Then later, when I stopped by the place to grab a cup of coffee, I was greeted enthusiastically by the cafeteria crew by my new nickname!

Now a quick comment about the last time we visited Mesa Verde National Park.

Mesa Verde-1974, Kim-9, Joe-7, Suzie-3-Photo #1

It was forty-two years ago during a three week camping trip throughout the Western United States…Kimber was nine, Joe was seven, and Suzie three.  Back then visitors to the National Parks were encouraged to walk about the ruins and really experience life as our forefathers, and foremothers, did.  Today, rightfully so, there are signs everywhere forbidding the touching or climbing on any part of the historic structures.

Also in 1974, accommodations were a bit more rustic than Kit and I enjoy today.

Camping in 1974

Over the years we have tried to expose Kimber, Joe and Suzie to the joys of traveling to America’s fantastic natural places.  There were times when the kids were asked at the beginning of the school year what they did on their summer vacation.  After describing all the places, they had traveled to and the things they had experienced, their classmates thought they were fibbing!?!?

Tomorrow we pull out of Cortez, Colorado…but once again our “Bucket List” does not shrink as we intend to return to this area and explore some more on future Excellent Adventure trips.

 

Thursday, April 21, 2016:  On the road again under clear sunny skies.  The temperatures are in the 70’s as we continue east on US-160 through the Mancos Valley of Colorado.

Road to Durango

Within a very short time, Kit and I arrived in Durango and decided to stop for a few days…at this rate, we may never reach the East Coast!?!?

Driving a few miles north of town by following the Animas River Valley we arrived at the small berg of Trimble Springs where was a nice little campground.

2016-04-23, Silverton, Photo #0

After setting up the rig, Kit and I enjoyed a nice camper cooked meal and made plans for our stay in the area before retiring for the evening.

 

Friday, April 22 and Saturday, April 23, 2016-Durango, Colorado:  The town of Durango sits at 6,512 feet of elevation and was established in 1881 as a railroad stop by the Denver and Rio Grande Railway.  With a year-round population of just under 17,000 folks, it has become an outdoor recreation mecca for hiking, biking, kayaking, fishing, rock climbing, and various winter sports as well.

However, the crown jewel of the area is the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway. Currently an excursion train which finds its pedigree in the railroad that serviced Durango in the late 1880’s, the historic line has been in continuous operation since 1881…amongst the longest serving rail lines in the United States.

2016-04-22, Durango and Silverton RR, Photo #1

The term “narrow gauge” refers to the width of the rails, and of course the track of the wheels.  At three feet in width the narrow gauge system is less expensive to build and allows for tighter radius turns in rugged terrain.  Legend has it that the dimensions of three feet were chosen as that was the standard track width of Roman Chariots…hopefully Jeff will let us know if that is true?

Making reservations for a Friday excursion, Kit and I arrived at the terminal an hour before our scheduled departure time on a beautiful bright spring day.  While Kit browsed the gift shop, I set out to watch our train come together.

2016-04-22, Durango and Silverton RR, Photo #3

The steam engine selected to pull our train was built in 1923 and is one of four restored locomotives used on the line.  Each night the engine is decoupled from the rest of the train and put into a roundhouse for a thorough inspection and maintenance by the night crew.  Half the spacious roundhouse is devoted to a complete machine shop where craftsman and craftswomen manufacture the parts needed to keep these old beauties running…after all, they can’t order parts from Amazon!

A true steam fired locomotive, it takes tons of coal to stoke the boilers firebox and create the steam to power the pistons that turn the wheels.

2016-04-22, Durango and Silverton RR, Photo #4

During the hours long trip, all this coal is shoveled by hand by one man…and a burly fellow he was!

Soon the call “All Aboard” was heard and we found our way to the passenger car seats we had reserved online the night before.

2016-04-22, Durango and Silverton RR, Photo #5a

Most of the rolling stock on today’s train is vintage equipment with period furnishings. But in a nod to the modern passenger’s expectations, a few cars were newer and built for comfort and visibility of the countryside like the Silver Star…the car we choose to experience our ride on.  In addition to the glass ceiling, our car was equipped with comfortable seats repurposed from an airliner, complete with tray tables!

Soon we were rolling away from the station at a slow pace as the long train maneuvered through the streets of downtown Durango.

2016-04-22, Durango and Silverton RR, Photo #2a

Leaving the town limits, the train picked up speed as it paralleled the Animas River and began to steadily climb into the San Juan Mountains.

2016-04-22, Durango and Silverton RR, Photo #6

When the grade became particularly steep, the Firemen poured on the coal as the Engineer pushed the throttle forward and the mighty steam engine responded with a roar of belching smoke.

2016-04-22, Durango and Silverton RR, Photo #6a

It is easy to be taken back to the golden age of rail travel with the chugging of the engine, the shrill of the whistle, the clickety-click of the rails and the creaking of the vintage cars…truly an awesome experience!

Even though the passenger car we were riding in was toward the rear, photos of the front part of the train are possible due to the many curves and switchbacks that were needed to negotiate the steep terrain.

2016-04-22, Durango and Silverton RR, Photo #7

This narrow gauge track was laid out in the 1870’s and the work necessary to cut into the hillside and lay the rails must have been substantial.  For the entire journey, we were in sight of the Animas River because if water can flow down the valley, then it stood to reason by the designers of the railroad that a train should be able to follow the same contours and make tracks up the valley.

2016-04-22, Durango and Silverton RR, Photo #8

During the summer months, this excursion goes all the way to the mountain town of Silverton.  However, at this time of year, the tracks up canyon are still covered in snow and avalanche danger is a concern.  So today, our tour destination was a clearing called Cascade Meadow where the train had to turn around.  So how does one accomplish that in a relatively narrow valley?  Actually the how is a why…make that a Rail Wye!!

Wye Diagram

Kind of a three-point U-turn for trains.  Below you see the brakeman who stepped off the slowly moving train to throw the switch that will allow the train to back up on the spur rail.

2016-04-22, Durango and Silverton RR, Photo #9

After the train was maneuvered 180 degrees and in position to head back down the valley, we enjoyed an hour layover for some walking around time.

2016-04-22, Durango and Silverton RR, Photo #10

And exploring the river up close that we had been following over the past two hours.

2016-04-22, Durango and Silverton RR, Photo #10a

Lunch was a boxed affair from a place called The Yellow Carrot and was very tasty!

2016-04-22, Durango and Silverton RR, Photo #11

Back on board and underway, we retraced our path…but due to our designated seating, and the 180-degree turnaround, were able to see a different view of the countryside.

2016-04-22, Durango and Silverton RR, Photo #13

Great ride on a very historic steam train…one Kit and I would highly recommend!

Back at camp, it was another quiet evening as we dropped off to a sound sleep listening to the nearby Animas River burbling along.

 

On Saturday, Kit and I decided to drive up to Silverton since the train couldn’t take us that far.  As we topped out at 10,500 feet we quickly understood why.

2016-04-23, Silverton, Photo #10

Not evident in the photo above, but it was snowing…at times pretty hard!

There are 655 hardy folks that live year-round in the 9,308-foot elevation town of Silverton… amongst the highest year around inhabited villages in the US.

2016-04-23, Silverton, Photo #5

Being off season, many places were closed or on a winter schedule.  However, Kit and I were able to browse around some very interesting shops full of antiques from Silverton’s golden, and silverton (pun intended), past.  You see, the town was established around a large gold and silver strike in the 1800’s, which is why a train track was proposed up into this mountainous terrain.

Asking around town about a great place to eat, we were unanimously referred to Mattie and Maud’s Café.

2016-04-23, Silverton, Photo #6

Even though they were near closing time, the owners graciously invited us in and served us an excellent meal…as they did a few other travelers that came in later.

2016-04-23, Silverton, Photo #8

The quesadilla was some of the best I’ve enjoyed!  And the owners Spike and Lori visited with us for quite a spell, even though they had been at their restaurant since 5:30AM!

2016-04-23, Silverton, Photo #7

Just before we left, the sheriff popped in for a snack and let us know that the roads back to Durango were wet from the snowfall but passable.  Gotta love small town America!

The trip back to our campsite was challenging, but fortunately uneventful.

2016-04-23, Silverton, Photo #9

Safely in our camper and with full bellies from the excellent meal in Silverton, Kit and I enjoyed a few snacks and an evening cocktail before calling it a night.  Tomorrow is another day, and another adventure…so please stay tuned!

Kit’s Bit’s:  This has been a neat part of our trip!  First, we “retraced” steps from our earlier trip, back in 1974 with the kids.  Second, we were finally able to meet up with Larry and meet his wife, Vikki.  And, third, during our time in Cortez and Durango, we had such a wide range of temperatures.  Nice and warm, up to 80 degrees down to snow and 30 degrees.  Good thing we have a few clothes for each season!  We had to use our down jackets, scarves and gloves for a while.  I opted out of the two tours Bill took in Mesa Verde NP because I knew I would be too scared.  Instead, I used the time to walk about the area and do a few household chores.  All in all, we enjoyed our time in this area.

Bill and Kit’s 2016 Excellent Adventure, Journal #17

Bill and Kit's Woody and Airstream-2015Adventure is a path.  Real adventure…self-determined, self-motivated, often risky…forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world.

Mark Jenkins

 

Saturday, April 9, 2016:  Up early, and slowly prepared the camper for exiting one of the most beautiful places on earth.

2016-04-13, Richfield, Utah-Photo #2

A quick walk to the visitor’s center for some last minute souvenir’s and a few more moments gazing at the magnificent sandstone formations that envelope the valley of Zion National Park.

2016-04-13, Richfield, Utah-Photo #5

Kit and I have camped at and enjoyed many of the 411 units in the National Park System.  This year marks the park service’s 100th Anniversary and it is a special time to get out and enjoy the parks!

USNPS 100th

Of the 411 units in the National Park system 59 are designated as National Parks, such as Zion.  The rest are National Monuments (82), National Historical Parks (50), National Preserves (19), National Historic Sites (78), National Battlefields (11), National Rivers (15), National Recreation Areas (18), National Seashores (10), and a smattering of Lakeshores, Parkways, and Trails.  After a National Monument was established in the state of Delaware in 2013, there is now a National Park unit present in every state of the union and most US Territories.

As a lover of Americas National Park System, I am a firm believer in the “Leave No Trace” ethos…Take Nothing but Pictures, Leave Nothing but Footprints!  However, I must confess…at Zion National Park I took home a souvenir, and I left quite a mark that I had passed through!

27-5L Damage (3)

Yea, it looks bad, but it isn’t as bad as it looks!  The damage is cosmetic, meaning that the camper is 100% operational.

So, what happened?  I figured someone would ask!  Well, the morning we left the campground, I was maneuvering the rig in a rather tight space and Kit asked: “Want me to get out and spot you”?  To which I replied, “Nope, I got this”!  And……wait for it…..crunch!?!?

Now, during the half of the year that we don’t travel, I can screw up and very few people learn of it…but when we committed to journal our travels on the World Wide Web, well, lots of folks learn of my SNAFU’s.

The frustrating thing is not so much the damage, that’s repairable, it’s that I know better…in fact one of the acronyms I use to remind myself to maintain situational awareness is G.O.A.L. which stands for…Get Out And Look.  Oh well, looks like I’ll have to take advantage of that insurance I’ve been paying premiums on for years.

With tail firmly between my legs, and many fellow campers offering words of sympathy, we sauntered on down the highway heading east.

2016-04-13, Richfield, Utah-Photo #15

A few miles down the road, I started feeling better and even made a few wisecracks as we steadily climbed onto the high plateau of Eastern Utah where we spotted snow in the mountains ahead.

2016-04-13, Richfield, Utah-Photo 17

Nearing the small Utah town of Richfield, the Engine Monitor detected a looming problem so I took the next exit off the interstate.  Calling Chevrolet Customer Assistance, I was informed that there was a Chevrolet dealer in town!  Great news, except they were closed until Monday!?!?  Man, I can’t get a break today!!!

Not wanting to chance engine issues higher up in the mountains, Kit used the All Stay’s App and found a nice campground that could accommodate us.  So off we headed to the Richfield KOA and registered for a couple of nights stay.

2016-04-13, Richfield, Utah-Photo #8a

Owned by a very pleasant couple, who had semi-retired from their high pressure jobs, the campground was neat and well cared for.  Not the kind of place we normally seek out for our overnight stays, but considering the potential truck issues, a great alternative.  The campground was sparsely populated but come the warmer months, the place is prime camping for Off Road Vehicle (ORV) enthusiasts as the property abuts many major ORV trails that honeycomb the surrounding hillsides.

Following a nice meal, Kit and I settled down in our new home base for the duration and did some research on things to see and do in the area before calling it an evening.

 

Sunday, April 10 through Tuesday, April 11, 2016-Richfield, Utah:  Well, if one has to be stuck in a town, this is the one to be stuck in!  Richfield is a small 7,550 population municipality that sits at 5,350 feet of elevation and as such, features four distinct seasons.  It is considered a rural oasis as the next sizable town is over 100 miles away, so most surrounding folks use the town of Richfield as their major shopping, entertainment and cultural hub.

2016-04-13, Richfield, Utah-Photo #9

We spent a full day walking about town and visiting with the very friendly locals.  One of the places that Kit made a beeline for was the town library.

2016-04-13, Richfield, Utah-Photo #10

This particular place is unique as it is a “Carnegie Library”, one of 1,650 such facilities built by the millionaire/philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.  Constructed in 1914, it is one of the few Carnegie Libraries that was built in the Craftsman style.  Professor Google tells us that Mr. Carnegie offered to build libraries throughout the United States providing the town donated the land and hired the library staff.  By 1919 more than half the 3,500 libraries that existed in the US were as a result of his generosity.  During segregation, many Carnegie Libraries were built near the cities White Only Libraries to give access to knowledge for black folks.

While walking about looking for a great angle to photograph the library building, this gentleman walked up and asked if I needed anything.

2016-04-13, Richfield, Utah-Photo #11

Come to find out, he is the Mayor of Richfield.  Dave hates to stay cooped up in his mayoral office so he walks about town and visits with folks…gotta love small town America!  He and I had a nice chat while Kit visited with the librarian and browsed the shelves of books.

By Tuesday, the truck was ready with a newly installed EGT sensor and we were ready to get back on the road.  Even though this had been a forced layover, Kit and I both agreed it was a thoroughly enjoyable one!

 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016:  On the road by midmorning and heading east on I-70.  The weather is clear with temperatures in the 70’s.  Soon the terrain morphed from high prairie to the more common red rock formations that Southern Utah is famous for.

2016-04-13, Richfield, Utah-Photo #16

Nearing the town of Green River, a spot that Kit and I have explored in past Excellent Adventure trips and one we highly recommend visiting, we pulled off on US-191 and headed south toward the town of Moab.

2016-04-13, Richfield, Utah-Photo #14

Upon arriving, we chose a truly unique campground just to the south of the village which made for a nice central location to explore the area.

2016-04-17, Moab and Canyonlands, Photo #1

ACT Campground is a very unusual camping facility.  Built, owned and operated by two semi-retired college professors (one of which taught in the University of Maine system) the campground was designed by folks that wanted to inject engineering, learning and science into their facility.  The tight, uneven sites proved that their first priority was not RV accommodations, but with our relatively small rig we fit just fine.

The campground has a large communal kitchen and dining /lecture facility available to guests.  In addition, they encourage RV’ing educators to stop, get a break on their site fee, and hold seminars and talks in their area of expertise.  While Kit and I were there, a geologist gave an interesting lecture about the environment of the area.

In addition to RV sites, the campground features a hostel and tent sites as well. The latter spawned the name of the campground…it’s an acronym that stands for Air Cooled Tents!  The designer, an Environmental Engineer figured out a way to tap into the local geothermal resource and use a heat pump apparatus of his own design that cools the tent site pads!

As for us, we were content to stay in our self-contained camper on the periphery of the campground.

2016-04-13, Richfield, Utah-Photo 18

Where we could watch the setting sun play on the adjacent mountains.

2016-04-13, Richfield, Utah-Photo 19

Goodnight form Southwestern Utah!

 

Thursday, April 14 through Sunday, April 17, 2016-Moab, Utah:  We made very good use of the three days in this remarkable area…on the first day Kit and I explored Arches National Park.

2016-04-14, Arches-Photo #0

Established in 1929 as a National Monument and later upgraded to National Park status, Arches is home to over 2,000 known arch formations, and many more unique Fins and Windows, which are basically Arches that have yet to be revealed.

The creation of an arch starts with the uplifting and erosion of Sandstone into Fins.

2016-04-14, Arches-Photo #1

Then, continued erosion removes the less durable lower layers which creates formations called Windows.

2016-04-14, Arches-Photo #11

Then, as time and Mother Nature continue their work, the arch begins to emerge.

2016-04-14, Arches-Photo #2

Some of these iconic formations can be observed from the park road as shown above, then there are others such as the famous Landscape Arch that one has to work at to see.

2016-04-14, Arches-Photo #7

The two-mile trail is mostly flat and winds through many of the sandstone formations that litter this park.

2016-04-14, Arches-Photo #3

On this weekday, we had the trail to ourselves, well except for this little fellow.

2016-04-14, Arches-Photo #4

And this even littler fellow!

2016-04-14, Arches-Photo #5

However, they had little interest in the geology of the place, they were too busy foraging for food or avoiding getting stepped on.

Soon, we were as close as one can get to Landscape Arch, an iconic formation that is pictured in many photos and paintings of the American Southwest.

2016-04-14, Arches-Photo #6

Size in this immense land is deceiving…that arch is close to 300 feet long!  The thinnest portion of the arch is a mere six feet in width and, as most all formations in this area of the country, is continually evolving.  In the past twenty-five years, three huge sections have calved from this one arch which prompted the National Park Service to reroute the access trail further away as the original path led under the arch itself.  Landscape Arch may cease to exist in a very short time, or it may last another dozen years, only Mother Nature knows for sure!

As in Bryce Canyon, Arches National Park features its own unique set of Spires, also known as Goblins or Hoodoo’s!  Some of these possess a circus like ability to defy gravity by balancing huge boulders.

2016-04-14, Arches-Photo #12a

Again, perspective can be deceiving…that rock precariously balanced on that pointed base is 55 feet tall!

It should be noted by those of us who are fans of Edward Abby, that he served a stint as a ranger near Balanced Rock in the mid 1950’s.

Edward Abby

His experience living in a small camp in the desert resulted in one of the great books on the American Southwest titled, appropriately enough, Desert Solitaire!

On the way out of the park, we stopped to see one more attraction.  Broken Arch Rock is located down a short hike, in soft sand, which leads through some very narrow formations.

2016-04-14, Arches-Photo #8

Being more difficult to get to, the area around the arch is void of most other folks.

2016-04-14, Arches-Photo #9

A great day in another of America’s great natural places…What will tomorrow bring?

 

Day two broke with thunder, lightening and torrential rain…a great day to visit the Moab Museum where a nice collection of local history and artifacts was enjoyed.  There was even another rain refugee there playing his violin in exchange for admittance…a nice bartering outcome as he got in free, and the folks in the museum were able to enjoy his music!

The rest of the day was spent ducking into dry shops and browsing about.  Then by midafternoon Kit and I headed to The Moab Brewery for lunch and drink.

moab-brewery

After which we called it a day and returned to our rain soaked campsite.

 

Day three dawned kinda gloomy, but at least it wasn’t raining, so Kit and I hit the road heading south to explore Canyonlands National Park.

2016-04-17, Moab and Canyonlands, Photo #0

Shortly after entering the park, the skies began to clear and some of the iconic buttes and mesa’s began to appear through our windshield.

2016-04-17, Moab and Canyonlands, Photo #49

This park is huge, covering 527 square miles divided into three sections.  The very popular Island in The Sky District attracts more than half the daily visitor’s due to its close proximity to Interstate 70, then the much more remote and seldom visited Maze District that is only accessible by boat via the parks two major waterways, the Green River and the Colorado which converge within the parks boundaries just above the famed Cataract Canyon.  And finally the portion we visited, the Needles District.

2016-04-17, Moab and Canyonlands, Photo #11a

As you can see, much of this sections roads are dirt, and some are suitable only for high clearance vehicles which keeps a number of folks from visiting.  However, the effort is well worth it as there is natural beauty alongside scenic sandstone formations like few other places on earth.

2016-04-17, Moab and Canyonlands, Photo #8a

The park features many hiking trails, some which take the intrepid visitor into areas that once sheltered early ranchers tending their vast herds.

2016-04-17, Moab and Canyonlands, Photo #14

Other hiking trails lead to the tops of butte’s and mesa’s by way of switchbacks or long ladders.

2016-04-17, Moab and Canyonlands, Photo #15

Where you can get an up close glimpse of the handywork of Mother Nature.

2016-04-17, Moab and Canyonlands, Photo #16

Or walk under a shelf over an eroded subway made by a stream that had rush through these parts centries ago.

2016-04-17, Moab and Canyonlands, Photo #17

Unlike needles or pinnacles…buttes, mesas and hoodoos are formed by stencil erosion.  The photo below is an excellent example of how these formations evolved.

2016-04-17, Moab and Canyonlands, Photo #12

The much harder and less porous cap rock protects the underlying softer sandstone from erosion…this process creates almost all the thousands of uniquely shaped formations in Southern Utah.

Earlier humans, now known as Ancestral Puebloans, lived in this wonderland of sandstone formations and left plenty of evidence of their occupancy.

2016-04-17, Moab and Canyonlands, Photo #4

This large varnish covered section of sandstone has hundreds of pictographs and is appropriately called, Newspaper Rock.  We have viewed many such etchings in our travels throughout the American Southwest, and I often wonder how old graffiti has to be for it to be considered an historical artifact?  If some of the art work on bridge abutments in Southeast San Diego were left to be discovered in a hundred years, would it get the same devotion that these examples get?

2016-04-17, Moab and Canyonlands, Photo #5

Yea, that’s the way my mind works…scary, huh?

As we have seen many times over the years, ravens tend to hang around the parking areas of Western National Parks.

2016-04-17, Moab and Canyonlands, Photo #9

Being adapt posers, they prance about letting you get real close in the hopes of receiving a handout.  Ignore them, as I did, and they indignantly fly off to panhandle near other more gullible visitors.

Since it was getting late in the day, we made our way back to pavement and headed north on the park road.

2016-04-17, Moab and Canyonlands, Photo #6

Well, tomorrow we continue East, but as we spend our final evening in Moab, Kit and I walked about the campground and marveled at the interesting terrain we’ve enjoyed and agreed the views from our campsite are almost as impressive.

2016-04-17, Moab and Canyonlands, Photo #50

Oh, one last thing…in case you were wondering, the patient is doing fine and taking its wound in stride.  We continue to put the old girl through more stress than many RV’s would be able to tolerate.

Boo-Boo Bandaid

Parts for a complete transplant have been ordered which should make her as good as new, however she never complains and continues to wear her current battle scares with honor!

Goodnight from Southeastern Utah and please stay tuned for further episodes of Bill and Kit’s Excellent Adventure!

 

Kit’s Bit’s:  Well, other than Bill’s “boo-boo” on the rig, it’s been a pretty good week.  Oh, and needing maintenance on his beloved truck slowed him down a bit, too.  However, since I’m the one who likes to stay places longer, I’ve enjoyed the extra couple of days in the small town of Richfield.  I took the opportunity to walk around town some and also enjoyed the library and chatting with a few of the shop owners about the area.  I’ve discovered that local folks are always eager to share some of their favorite things about their town which I find thoroughly delightful.  People always ask about Maine too, since most have never been there.  We love to share a bit of our favorite place with them.  So, now we have yet another repair project to attend to this summer, while at home…J

Bill and Kit’s 2016 Excellent Adventure, Journal #16

Bill and Kit's Woody and Airstream-2015

2016-04-08, Zion NP, Photo #0a

 

Thursday, April 7 and Friday, April 8, 2016-Zion National Park:  The above homemade plaque featuring a Henry David Thoreau quote was spotted in the gateway town of Springdale, Utah.  It is a departure from our usual quote style but I liked the message and the spontaneous method in which it was displayed.

Kit and I each have our list of favorite places to experience and Zion National Park in Southwestern Utah is near the top of those list.  Springdale, the little town that borders Zion, is a favorite as well…with a year round population of 500 folks, the town started life in 1862 as a Mormon farming community.  Today its main occupation is catering to the thousands of tourist that flock to the area each year.  Shortly after arriving at Zion, Kit and I took the park shuttle into Springdale to mosey around a bit.  We walked the main drag, browsed in some of the shops, and visited the newly constructed library.

2016-04-08, Zion NP, Photo #19

Kit really loves spending time at libraries, and I needed to use the computers and printers to print out my Tax Deadline Extension so it was a mutually beneficial stop.

After some additional meandering about town, it was getting time for lunch so we decided to check out a place that had been recommended to us…The Whiptail Grill.

2016-04-08, Zion NP, Photo #21

We each enjoyed Tacos…Carne Asada for me and Chicken for Kit.

2016-04-08, Zion NP, Photo #20

Both were excellent, and as you may have noticed, I indulged in a Polygamy Porter as well!  Not only is it a great tasting local brew, but I like the funny slogan: “Take Some Home to Your Wives”!

You may have noticed in the background of our photos, this whole area has an abundance of dramatic and stunning landscapes.  It’s no wonder that the tiny town of Springdale is consistently rated near the top of many “best of lists” as The Prettiest Town in America!

The incredible natural beauty only gets better as one travels up canyon, and a convenient way to do that is  by way of the park’s propane powered shuttle buses.  A round trip with ranger narrative takes about ninety minutes, a tour that Kit and I have enjoyed many times in the past.

Back at our campsite we enjoyed a lite dinner, and later were asked over by our neighbors who had started a nice campfire and invited us to sit a spell and visit.  The Boyd’s are from Ontario, Canada and have recently retired to travel North America in their motorhome.  It was nice meeting and visiting with them, and since they live just north of the border, we exchanged contact information in order to remain in touch.

The following morning, Kit mentioned she wanted some quiet time to read and knit, which was the cue for me to go off exploring.  The parks shuttle bus has a rack on front for bicycles, so I loaded mine in the rack and headed up canyon in order to ride back at my leisure.

2016-04-08, Zion NP, Photo #9

The shuttle makes its final stop as the canyon walls close in at a place appropriately called The Narrows.  It is here that the more intrepid visitor can advance further up the canyon by hiking in the cold water of the Virgin River.  Unfortunately, at this time of the year, the trek up into the slot canyon is blocked by the park service due to the rapidly rushing water that cascades down from the northern snowcapped peaks.

Zion National Park is the most inspirational park that I have visited…the more I spend in this unbelievably scenic place the more I believe that if God was going to preach on earth, he would select Zion National Park as his Cathedral…yes, it is that gorgeous!  And, the best way to experience it is by hiking one of the many classic trails, which I’ve done in the past.  However, this year I was nursing a sore foot so stuck to riding my bike…another great way to truly experience the majesty.  I hope the following photo gives you an idea of just what I’ve been gushing about.

Spring in Zion National Park

This photo is one of my favorites from this year’s trip…I really liked the flowering cactus framed by the soaring sandstone monoliths.  In order to get the desired perspective, I had to lay on my side, a sight that drew more than a few curious stares from passersby.

Since Kit and I have extensively explored and journaled Zion National Park during our previous Excellent Adventure trips, I have run out of superlatives to describe this incredible place.  So rather than bore you with the same old details as to its origin and history, I’ve decided instead to let its scenic beauty tell the story.  If it is true that one picture is worth a thousand words, then please enjoy the following 14,000-word essay on Zion National Park!

2016-04-08, Zion NP, Photo #11

2016-04-08, Zion NP, Photo #7

2016-04-08, Zion NP, Photo #6a

2016-04-08, Zion NP, Photo #8

2016-04-08, Zion NP, Photo #10

2016-04-08, Zion NP, Photo #13a

2016-04-08, Zion NP, Photo #12

2016-04-08, Zion NP, Photo #5

2016-04-08, Zion NP, Photo #13b

2016-04-08, Zion NP, Photo #14

2016-04-08, Zion NP, Photo #16

2016-04-08, Zion NP, Photo #25

2016-04-08, Zion NP, Photo #23

2016-04-08, Zion NP, Photo #24

 

Kit’s Bit’s:  And here is my 1,000-word rebuttal!

2016-04-08, Zion NP, Photo #18

What can I say!  I’m looking like my mom in this picture!  Usually, I look like my dad.  Hmmm???  This is an incredibly beautiful park; I always enjoy it.

Bill and Kit’s 2016 Excellent Adventure, Journal #15

Bill and Kit's Woody and Airstream-2015Bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God

Kurt Vonnegut

 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016:  Over the last couple of days, Del Mar Beach RV Resort in Oceanside, California has morphed into a nearly deserted campground.

2016-04-04, Seabreeze, Photo #0-2

Spring break in Southern California is over and all the poor souls that need to return to work and/or school have done so.

Overnight, the wind picked up off the ocean and the shifting sands has eroded the support used by the camper’s jack pad’s and chocks.

2016-04-04, Seabreeze, Photo #0-1

The camper bounced about a bit, however, as far as I can tell, didn’t move from its position.  All four tires, and all the leveling jack pads suffered severe erosion…so much so that there was just a small contact patch remaining!?!?

Following a lazy morning of re-leveling the camper, downloading photos, catching up on correspondence, and working on the journal, Kit and I departed our oceanfront campsite at 1115 and headed North.

2016-04-04, Seabreeze, Photo #0-3

We didn’t travel far before reaching our next destination…one we haven’t spent much time in over the years, the Seal Beach/Long Beach area just south of Los Angeles.  At 1310, we pulled into the Naval Weapons Station at Seal Beach and set up in their very nice campground.

2016-04-04, Seabreeze, Photo #24

One administrative note that I should mention, we just purchased a new laptop and installed Windows 360 so if the blog looks different that is the reason.  Our six-year-old laptops were still functionally working, however following the conversion to Windows 10, and the application updates that resulted, the processor which wasn’t very fast to begin with, slowed down dramatically.  In addition, the power supply’s cooling fan was starting to make noises like I do first thing in the morning…not good!

After a nice light meal followed by a session in the camping chairs with cocktails in hand while we enjoyed the warm spring evening it was off to bed.

 

Thursday, March 31 through Sunday, April 3, 2016-Seal Beach, California:  Kit and I spent the three days in Seal Beach exploring and enjoying some of the sights.  One day, while driving through neighboring Long Beach, we came to this interesting modification to a city street.

2016-04-04, Seabreeze, Photo #2

Yep, those are race car tires stacked to our left.  Knowing that Long Beach was renowned for one of the venues of the Grand Prix race circuit, I thought they may be setting up for that…but it seemed a bit early in the season.  Then, a short distance further down, the street converted to a race track, we came across this unusual looking vehicle.

2016-04-04, Seabreeze, Photo #3

That folks, is an all-electric race car that competes in Formula E.  This relatively new form of auto racing precedes the Long Beach Grand Prix by a week and features high performance racing machines that run solely on electric motors. Pit stops in Formula E are unique as instead of taking on fuel, changing tires and making suspension adjustments, the drivers simply step out of the battery depleted car, and right into a fresh one!  The zero to sixty mile per hour times are around 3 seconds, and the cars top out at 140 MPH.  Formula E folks race on the same track built on the host cities streets as the Grand Prix folks do.

2016-04-04, Seabreeze, Photo #5

As I continued down the main drag (pun intended) of Long Beach I had an uncontrollable urge to let our one-ton diesel rip!

Long Beach used to be the home of a Naval Shipyard where my San Diego based tin-can underwent a baseline overhaul before being deployed to the Far East.   The shipyard is gone…it has been turned into a huge containership port and is also the current home of this grand old British lady.

2016-04-04, Seabreeze, Photo #6

The Queen Mary sailed the Atlantic primarily between Southampton, England and New York City for close to thirty years, and for over half that time she was the fastest ocean liner afloat.

2016-04-04, Seabreeze, Photo #18

Originally, the Queen Mary was to be named Victoria after an earlier monarch…however during construction, and following a depression era government bailout, the name was changed at the urging of the King George V to honor his wife, the current Queen of England.

Along with her sister ship, the Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mary served during World War II as an allied troop transport.  Being painted haze grey, and faster than the German U-boats, she became known as “The Grey Ghost”.  Although built to carry 2,800 passengers and crew during peacetime, the Queen Mary in 1942 ferried 16,028 American servicemen to the European Theater…a record for personnel transport by ocean that stands to this day.  Following the war, these two British ships were the most popular vessels for transoceanic travel until the jet age when both were retired.

The Port of Long Beach outbid a Japanese scrap merchant and acquired the Queen Mary for $1,200,000.00 after which she steamed to California where she was converted into her current state as a floating hotel, restaurant and museum complex.

Currently, there is a special exhibit featured onboard which Kit and I thoroughly enjoyed.

2016-04-04, Seabreeze, Photo #8

In addition to a very nice tribute to Diana, including a number of her personal items being on display, there was a chronological history of the British Monarchy which was interesting as well.

As in many modern tours, a portable audio device is available that provides for self-guided tours where one hears, by using the supplied headset, information about the various areas of the ship such as the bridge.

2016-04-04, Seabreeze, Photo #12

This space, also known as a pilot house, contains the helm where the ship is steered and the lee-helm where engine orders are issued to control ships speed.

The tour also takes folks to the engineering spaces, where the steam turbines, reduction gear and shaft are visible.

2016-04-04, Seabreeze, Photo #15

There is also one of the massive twenty foot propellers available for viewing…preserved in a unique fresh water filled enclosure welded to the side of the ship!

2016-04-04, Seabreeze, Photo #16

The tour also leads through the passageways housing the passenger compartments which are available for overnight stays.

2016-04-04, Seabreeze, Photo #14

In the stern, is a 4D theater shows various films with visual, audio, sensory and physical effects that are timed to enhance the film…and you get to wear some really hip looking eyewear to boot!

2016-04-04, Seabreeze, Photo #17

For a late lunch, Kit and I decided to dine onboard and selected the Chelsea Chowder House on the main deck.

2016-04-04, Seabreeze, Photo #10

While I enjoyed a steak burger, Kit chose the Salmon Salad, which she thoroughly enjoyed.

2016-04-04, Seabreeze, Photo #11

From our table, we had an excellent view of the Long Beach waterfront.

2016-04-04, Seabreeze, Photo #7

Boy, has the Port of Long Beach changed since I was here last!

Following a great day, Kit and I returned to the campsite and enjoyed snacks under the awning while watching the sun drop into the western horizon.

2016-04-04, Seabreeze, Photo #21

Tomorrow we officially start heading home as we will finally point our rig into the rising sun!

 

Monday, April 4, 2016:  Up and on the road by mid-morning.  Kit and I wound our way through the city streets of Seal Beach while contending with LA influenced traffic until we merge onto I-15N as the traffic moderated.

2016-04-06, Las Vegas #2, Photo #2

Our return path from these winter escapes have taken many different forms.  Sometimes we stay far south and travel either I-10 or US-90 until we hit the Atlantic Ocean where we head up the coast toward home.  In other years we choose I-40 and travel through the Midwest, then meander up the Blue Ridge Parkway. Then there are times where I-70 through the Rocky Mountains and the Kansas plains toward points east is our route.  Or, sometimes we select I-80 out of Salt Lake City, drive through the upper Midwest, then move into Canada for the return trip.  And if we find ourselves in the Pacific Northwest, we will hop on I-90/I-94 and sail through Montana, the Dakota’s and head into Canada from there.

However, last night we had a discussion and decided we wanted to spend time in Southern Utah, an area we haven’t been in for a few years.  So, I-15 through Las Vegas toward Springdale, Utah is our current path…and guess who lives in Vegas baby?  Yep, grandkids!!

As the day wore on, we bisected the Mojave Desert and the temperature rose correspondingly.  Passing through Barstow, Kit noticed a reading of 91 degrees on the huge roadside thermometer the town is so proud of.

2016-04-06, Las Vegas #2, Photo #3

Well, as the saying goes: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of Barstow”!  So we did.

We crossed the border into Nevada at 1520 and just outside of the city of Las Vegas, we spotted this delivery truck.

2016-04-08, Zion NP, Photo #1

Yep, another truckload of Bimbo’s heading for the glitzy Vegas strip!

A half hour later found us pulling into Oasis RV Resort…a place we have camped many times before.  Unhitching the camper, we headed to our daughter’s house with pizza’s in hand for a spontaneous drop-in visit…. boy were Jack and Tucker surprised!

Since it was a warm evening, we enjoyed the meal on their patio.

2016-04-06, Las Vegas #2, Photo #6

Followed by birthday cupcakes which were good, but got a bit messy!

2016-04-06, Las Vegas #2, Photo #7

Since it was a school night, we left early and arranged to host the boys at the campground tomorrow afternoon.

 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016-Las Vegas, Nevada:  Kit and I spent the morning just relaxing around the park and the afternoon doing some shopping.  At 1500 Kevin arrived (on his way to work) with the boy’s and a few minutes later we were in the pool!

2016-04-06, Las Vegas #2, Photo #9

Kit prepared an excellent kid friendly dinner after which it was right back to the pool.  Well, until the sun dropped and the wrinkles began to set in!

2016-04-06, Las Vegas #2, Photo #10

At 2030, Suzie stopped (on her way home from work) to pick up the boys, so we reluctantly said our goodbyes.

This had been an unplanned but very pleasant layover but tomorrow Kit and I must continue heading east as we are anxious to see our three Maine grandchildren which include Joe, age 23 and his longtime girlfriend Abby, age 22.

Abby and Joe-2015

Also Katie, age 20 and her brother Chris, age 16.

Katie and CJ-2015

As much as Kit and I love traveling about the country for six months straight, we sure do miss family back home.  Can’t wait to see you guys…love you!

 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016:  Up fairly early and on the road toward the east.

2016-04-08, Zion NP, Photo #2

We clipped a corner of Arizona before crossing the Utah border at 1120 and entering the Mountain Time Zone…Yikes, we just lost an hour!?!?  This could be an issue as we want to camp at Zion National Park for a few days, and the campground is first come first served, so the earlier we arrive the better chance we have of bagging a campsite.  We thought we were making pretty good time and the GPS had us at the park’s entrance at 1200…then came the change to Standard Mountain Time, and the loss of that advantage, rut-ro!

Veering off I-15 onto UT-9 we headed into the mountains and started noticing the iconic red rock formations of Southern Utah.

2016-04-08, Zion NP, Photo #3

Driving through the gateway town of Springdale, Kit and I waited patiently in line to enter the park.

2016-04-08, Zion NP, Photo #17a

Flashing our old folks cards, we headed to the campground where Kit spotted a sign that read “Campground Full”!  However, a small piece of paper attached to the sign said that site #9 and #28 may be available soon.  Without even stopping, we drove in and found site #28 empty.  As we were backing in, another camper stopped to check it out…we had just barely made it in time!  Road magic strikes once again!!

2016-04-08, Zion NP, Photo #15

Today marks the third time we have checked Zion off our bucket list…can you tell it’s one of our favorite National Parks?  Can you also tell why?

2016-04-08, Zion NP, Photo #4

Please look for the next episode of Bill and Kit’s Excellent Adventure…Camping in Paradise.  But first, a few additional items to fill out the rest of this chapter.

As mentioned in the past, Kit keeps a pretty detailed record of our travels in a spiral notebook.  Then, when the mood strikes me, I’ll take those notes and write the Journal.  We use a new notebook every year as it fills up fast…there are lots of detailed notes about various campgrounds, points of interest, shopping lists, random thoughts, etc. etc. contained on the pages.  Below is this year’s notebook.

2016-04-06

This is my favorite notebook so far!  For one, I like all things bicycling, and for another, I love the sentiment in the quote!

Well, since I still have a little space remaining in my self-imposed journal length, here is some information on a new truck gadget we acquired a while back.

Edge CTS2

It’s an in-cab monitor that displays various engine parameters.  The device plugs into the OBDII port and features customizable screens and display options.  Most modern engines constantly run diagnostic checks as we merrily drive along.  Then if something is out of specifications, or fails, a warning light will illuminate on the dash.  With this monitor, the driver receives a constant readout of the engines health.  I like that…I’m funny that way!  Well, actually, I’m funny in a lot of ways!!

That last paragraph hit the twenty page mark according to MS Word, so that we will brings this episode to a close.  Kit and I are really looking forward to the next few days in one of our favorite National Parks…stay tuned!

Kit’s Bit’s:  Well yes, he IS funny in a LOT of ways!  What can I say?  Being “bound at the hip” for six months straight, you learn a lot about your spouse that you never knew, even after 50 years!  Such as being so tuned in to the workings of an engine!  Now, if he spent 1% of that effort being tuned in to “me” we might avoid our (now) occasional blow ups.  Fortunately, now that I’m older and have less energy, we have a lot fewer blow ups than we had in the early years.  However, I’ve never quite understood how he can be so tuned in to an engine and can’t even hear the change in my tone of voice.  J  PS I really enjoyed touring the Queen Mary, it’s been on my bucket list for many years.  Best thing though was surprising Jack and Tucker for one more short visit.  Also, anxious to get back to our Maine family.  Stay tuned for next journal, exiting things coming…