Visit to Fruita, CO

Fruita, CO

We left Torrey, UT last Sunday and drove west through Capitol Reef NP on UT-24.  Our plan was to stop at the little crossroads town of Hanksville for a visit to Goblin Valley State Park.  But the forecast was for rain the next couple days so we decided to move on to Fruita, a small community west of Grand Junction, CO.  If you have to spend a day or two in the rain, it is certainly better to be in an area with some stores nearby.

We were able to secure a reservation in Monument RV Park.  We would have preferred a spot in James Robb State Park, just across the street, but no sites were available.  Monument RV Park is nice, but it is typical of most  commercial parks, with narrow sites.

The sun did shine one afternoon during our stay, so we headed a bit west for a hike in the Kokopelli Loops section of the nearby McInnis Canyon National Conservation Area.  To get there we drove one exit west on I-70 (exit 15) and followed the signs to the Kokopelli Loops.  After turning on to a nicely maintained dirt road near the Port of Entry, we drove three miles for our hike.  At that point we turned left and went just a short way up a side road to the trailhead for Mack’s Ridge.  If you don’t have high clearance you may want to park at the open area and walk up the side road (about a tenth of a mile) as it is a bit “bumpy.”

We read about this hike on the Lowes RV Adventures blog.  Steve and MonaLiza visited a couple weeks ago and must have left quite an impression with the locals.  Apparently the locals were so impressed with Steve’s hiking prowess that they re-named a couple of trails in recognition of his skills!  After all, the trail signs appeared to be very new, a sure indication of a name change.

What an honor!

Parking area with a view (and no people)

We began the hike on a section of Mary’s Loop (apparently no one recognized MonaLiza’s skills).

After about a half mile we came to the marker for Steve’s Loop.  We stayed to the right at the first “Y” as we read that it is best to hike the loop in a counter-clockwise direction.

As we hiked around a deep canyon we could see the return section of the loop trail down below us.

 

As we rounded the loop, we enjoyed some great views of the Colorado River below us.

Looking west

Looking east

The trail was fairly flat and smooth, but it did get a bit more interesting as we moved deep into a couple of canyons.

Lunch with a view

The next morning we experienced some heavy rain, but the skies cleared a bit in the afternoon so we headed up into the Colorado Monument.  There was still a chance of some rain so we limited our hike to a two mile round trip on the Canyon Rim Trail, which begins behind the visitor center.

As the trail name suggests, we hiked along the edge of a steep cliff along Wedding Canyon.

Looking north we could see Window Rock with the town of Fruita in the distance.  The “window” is just below the railing in the center of the photo below.

We continued out to that viewing area and took a close-up photo of the window.

Looking back to the south we could see some of the named rock formations in the distance.  In the photo below Praying Hands is the near pinnacle.   The Pipe Organ is behind and to the right of the Praying Hands, while Independence Monument is farther behind it and to the left.

From Grand Junction we intended to move south to Delta and Ridgway, but the weather forecast has rain most of next week.  So we will bypass that section of Colorado and schedule it for a return visit in the future.  We’ll now circle back into Utah, go through Moab, and head to Cortez, CO.  Steve and MonaLiza are also in the area so we’ll be meeting them for dinner.  Perhaps they will share the secret of how to get a trail named for you!

More on that later . . .

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Back on the Road- Southern Utah

Torrey, UT

It has been quite a length of time since our last post.  We returned from our trip east with the intent of staying in Boulder City for a week or so while we unloaded all the items we retrieved from our storage unit in Pennsylvania.  But a short stay turned into a long stay, as we found ourselves enjoying the warm water of our pool.  Our son Kevin seems to also like the pool, as he spent considerable time in it when he came out from Atlanta for a visit.

The boys playing games with the pool toys

Friends Terry and LuAnn also stopped by for a few days.  We enjoyed showing them around the area and catching up on recent travels.

Terry and LuAnn at Willow Beach along the Colorado River

While we really enjoyed hanging around Boulder City, the urge to travel (and enjoy some cooler temperatures) soon got the best of us.  So we packed up the motorhome and headed north into Utah, beginning our trip with a visit to one of our favorite national parks, Capitol Reef.

The scenery along I-15 north of Las Vegas is interesting: rolling desert with mountains in the distance.  But as you head into the corner of Arizona, the highway winds through the Virgin River Gorge and the scenery becomes spectacular.

Heading into the gorge

Wide vista at the north section of the gorge

Once out of the gorge we entered Utah and headed for Sand Hollow State Park for a one night stay.

Sand Hollow Reservoir on the right

The next morning we continued our journey into central Utah for a stay in Torrey, just west of Capitol Reef National Park.  Our site at Thousand Lakes RV Park has a great view of the red cliffs below Thousand Lakes Mountain.

After setting up at our site we headed into the national park to pick some apples.  The views approaching the park reminded us of why we love this area.

The area near the park visitor center is called Fruita, named by Mormon pioneers who settled there in the 1880s.  Orchards they planted are maintained by the park service and the public is permitted to pick the fruit.  We picked two bags of apples, so some fresh applesauce is in our future.

The view heading back to Torrey

The next day we headed back into the park for our first hike, the Fremont Gorge Overlook Trail (4.5 mi. round trip).

The trail begins in the blacksmith shop parking area, following a maintenance road up a hill for a quarter mile.  At the top of the hill the trail turns off the road and heads steeply up a hill for another quarter mile before heading across a fairly flat meadow for a mile or so.

Heading across the meadow

After crossing the meadow the trail finishes with a long climb up to the white mesa in the center of the photo below.

Enjoying the views behind us

Made it to the top!

Lunch with a view

Friends Annette and Larry live just outside of Torrey, and we always enjoy time with them while visiting the area.  They joined us for dinner one evening at Hell’s Backbone Grill in the tiny community of Boulder.  From Torrey Boulder is a 36 mile drive up and over Boulder Mountain with a peak elevation of over 9,000 feet.  With the changing of the season the Aspens provided us with a colorful drive.

Located in the little crossroads community (pop. 226) of Boulder, Hell’s Backbone Grill is a gourmet farm to table restaurant.  No visit to the area is complete without a visit to the Grill.

John, Pam, Annette, and Larry

Color on Boulder Mountain

For another adventure we decided to repeat a hike we completed a few years ago.  The trail to Spring Canyon begins as part of the trail to Chimney Rock.

After about two miles on the Chimney Rock trail the route to Lower Spring Canyon splits off to the north.

The trail then weaves its way down into the canyon.

Once in the canyon we enjoyed the many unique rock formations and the soaring colorful cliffs surrounding us.

The view to the west as we return to the trailhead

For our last hike of this visit to Torrey, we joined Annette and Larry for a hike to a couple of mountain lakes near the top of Boulder Mountain.  We followed them up a narrow, dusty road through colorful Aspens to the trailhead.

Heading up – Larry’s truck is just over the hill

Our first stop was at Blind Lake, one of the many lakes on Boulder Mountain.

We continued past Blind Lake for a visit to Pear Lake.

Pear Lake

The falling Aspen leaves lit up the trail

On our final day here we took a drive through Capitol Reef NP on Scenic Drive.  Below are a few of the many photos we took driving through this beautiful area.

Capitol Reef may just be our favorite national park.  The park is filled with great hiking trails, but if hiking is not your thing there are many spectacular sights accessible by car.

Next up for us is a visit to Grand Junction, CO.  More on that later . . .

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Heading West – A Country Lawyer and A Pioneer Woman

Pawhuska, OK

After enjoying a wonderful week with Dave and Sue (and Lewis) along Conesus Lake, we finally pointed the motorhome west with our home in Boulder City, NV the ultimate destination.  Driving between 225 and 300 miles a day, we made our way through Pennsylvania into southern Ohio.  Rain held us up a couple of days just north of Cincinnati before we headed through Kentucky and southern Indiana into Illinois.

An early start allowed for an easy drive through Cincinnati

At a rest stop in Ohio we found that our starter batteries were providing inadequate power to start the engine.  But an electronic (called a BIRD, for bi-directional) switch on the motorhome allows you to add the power of the house batteries to the starter batteries, so we were easily able to get started.  The two starter batteries are over eight years old so we had anticipated their demise in the near future.  While north of Cincinnati we stopped at a large Freightliner dealer but they did not have the batteries we wanted.  We called a Freightliner dealer at our next destination, Mt. Vernon, IL, and found they had two in stock.

After arriving in Mt. Vernon early in the afternoon (we had left Cincinnati very early to beat the traffic and also changed time zones), John picked up the new batteries (not easy as they are very heavy) and installed them.  That left us with time to visit one of the local attractions, the Fifth District Appellate Court House.

Built in 1854, this building is the last courthouse to hold a trial where Abraham Lincoln served as an attorney (1859).

A statue of Lincoln stands near the main entrance along with a plaque commemorating the event.

The courthouse is still functioning today, holding a couple hundred trials each year.  While court was not in session during our visit, a security guard gave us a nice tour of the building.

Attorney A. Lincoln stood here in 1859

After a short stay in Mt. Vernon to get our batteries charged (literally) and visit with Abe, we continued our trip west, crossing the Mississippi at St. Louis.

Below is a picture of Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals.  I-64 runs right past the stadium.  Unfortunately for us, the nice view of the stadium means we missed the turn on to I-44 south, which was located just before the stadium.  Fortunately, we were able to turn on to Grand Ave. in just a few miles and drive a mile south to the correct highway.

Our next stop was near Springfield, MO where we took a walk around the campus of Missouri State University and made a visit to the Nathanael Green/Close Memorial Gardens.

MSU has a decent campus, but the heavy use of light colored concrete and stone gave many of the buildings a very institutional look.

The Bear’s football stadium on campus

We do not often visit parks with botanical gardens (one of us has less than a little interest in plants), but we needed some exercise and the paths were mainly shaded by the numerous trees, an important feature on a very hot afternoon.

Someone offered to stay in the Jeep and “attend” our valuables.  It didn’t work!

A photo to verify he was there

We continued our trip west for a visit to Pawhuska, OK.  We realize most of our readers have already spent time in Pawhuska, but, believe it or not, this is our first visit.  And what brings us to a tiny town in the middle of the Osage Nation?  It is home to the Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, of Food Network fame.  Ree records her show in a beautiful lodge located in the middle of the huge cattle farm owned and operated by her husband, Ladd,  his brother, Tim, and their father.  Two years ago Ree and Ladd completed renovations of the old mercantile building they purchased in the heart of the town.  The building is now home to a restaurant and mercantile store on the main floor and a coffee shop and bakery on the second floor.  Next door they have completed a boutique hotel called the Boarding House with eighth themed rooms available to the public.

The Pioneer Woman Mercantile

An un-named tourist visits the Mercantile

The retail store

Second floor coffee shop

The pastries are delicious

Flatiron building across from the Mercantile (under renovation as a hotel)

The Drumonds recently opened P-Town Pizza across the street.  More on that later.

At the Mercantile we asked for directions to the ranch where the Pioneer Woman program is recorded.  The directions also serve as a ticket to get into that building.  To get there we drove west on US 60 for about 12 miles and turned north on to Foraker, a well-maintained dirt road.  About six miles up that road we turned east on another dirt road for about a mile to the small parking area at what they call the Drummond Lodge.

The Lodge

Since there was no recording activity during our visit, the building was open for the public to walk through.

A new, young pioneer woman at her stove

Main area where Ree does her cooking on the show

While in the Lodge we were able to get the Drummond family to sit down for a photograph.

Ranches are great places for dogs, and the Drummond Cattle Ranch is no exception.  These two guys are very comfortable around strangers.  In fact, they didn’t even budge when the treat lady (minus a pocket of treats) showed up.

 

The Lodge is also a guest house, with five or six bedrooms.  Ree and her family live in a farmhouse complex about a mile and a half to the south.

The home of Ree and Ladd Drummond

Instead of returning back to Pawhuska we continued on a series of dirt roads for a drive through the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve.  The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is owned and managed by a non-profit group called The Nature Conservancy.  It is protected as the largest tract of remaining tallgrass prairie in the world. The preserve contains 39,000 acres owned by the Conservancy and another 6,000 acres leased.  It is a small part of what was the original tallgrass region of the Great Plains that stretched from Texas to Manitoba.  The preserve is home to a herd of over 2,500 bison.  The day of our visit was very hot, so most of the bison were taking shelter in the trees.  But we were able to spot a group of about 25 grazing in the open.

We returned to Pawhuska for dinner at the P-Town Pizza Shop.  There is a take-out store at street level and a dining room on the second floor.

 

The beer menu was a bit limited, but the nimble hiker enjoyed a tasty bottle of Not Your Father’s Root Beer.

Many online reviews recommended an appetizer called Not-Knots.  We tried a basket and found them to be pretty tasty.

We shared an Italian Chopped Salad and a small Fig and Prosciutto Pizza.  Both were delicious!

After what turned out to be a very interesting visit, we are now continuing our journey west as we head for our house in Boulder City.  We’re still a long way from home so there may be a few more adventures along the way.

More on that later . . .

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Heading East – Part 4 (the final one)

Geneseo, NY

The final stop on our eastern summer tour was a visit to Clayton, NY.  Clayton is a small village on the St. Lawrence River in the beautiful Thousand Islands region.  It is also the home of Pam’s mother, Fran.  We go to Clayton each summer to visit with Fran, complete some chores around her house, and spend some quiet time along the river.

Rotary Park Docks

Along Riverside Drive, the main street in the village, is Rotary Park Docks, a great spot to enjoy a beautiful view of the river.  At street level  two rows of benches overlook the small, grassy park area and the docks for small boats.  We enjoyed many evening hours eating ice cream and watching the boats while checking out some great sunsets.

Daughter and mother

The view from the end of a dock

Pam’s sister also lives in the village.  One day niece Daniela came over with her buddy Buster to give us our dog fix for the visit.  Buster is full of energy and enjoys cleaning out the food dish of the resident cat.

Clayton is a sleepy little village for most of the year.  But during the summer it comes alive with visitors, many brought here to attend the numerous weekend activities.  The highlight of our visit was the 1000 Islands Charity Poker Run, with over 75 power boats (sometimes called Cigarette Boats) participating.  For two days the village streets were filled with power boats on trailers pulled by fancy trucks.

Clayton is located on a U-shaped peninsula with water on three sides.  Most of the boats were put into the water at a public boat ramp on one side of the village.

The Mary Street Ramp

Once in the water they went around to the other side of the village to the Municipal Marina, a new facility adjacent to the new 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel.  The normally quiet dock area was filled with people checking out the boats.

These boats are very powerful (and expensive).  The red boat below had an open engine cover, allowing visitors to check out the engines.

Two supercharged V-8 engines!

One of the many activities for the weekend was an evening street fair, where a couple of the large boats were on display.

Four 400 hp engines!

This is not a sport for the financially challenged.  The boats are very expensive, as are the trailers that transport them and the trucks that pull them.  Below is one of the odder looking trucks parked in the hotel lot.  Its license plate revealed it to be from the state of Washington.

Saturday morning all the participating boats pulled out of the marina and assembled in the main channel of the river in front of the village.

At the appointed hour they all raced up the river at the same time.  Their planned route would take them around Grindstone Island, then south for about 15 miles to Cape Vincent.  They would return to Clayton for lunch before heading up river for a long voyage of about 45 miles to Ogdensburg and back.

Right after the boats headed out that morning we said our good-byes to Fran and drove back south to Dave and Sue’s spot along Conesus Lake near Geneseo.  We spent almost a week there enjoying some golf and doing a couple of minor maintenance tasks on the two motorhomes while dodging some rain.  Toward the end of our week the skies cleared a bit so we were able to enjoy a cruise on a nice pontoon boat belonging to one of Dave’s former business partners.

The captain and first mate (ignore the feet)

Lewis “tolerates” boat rides

He loves being with Gramma Pamma

Toward the end of our stay the four of us traveled north of the lake to the village of Honeoye Falls for dinner.  Before eating we stopped at the nearby falls from which the village gets its name.

Sue in her classic pose

A few blocks north of the falls is the restored Lower Mill Building.  The Rabbit Room is an upscale restaurant located on the first floor.  It is only open on Thursday evenings and Saturday for lunch.  The menu is a bit pricey, but the food is excellent!

Can you spot three patrons behind the door?

How about now?

At the end of the week it was time to say good-by to Dave, Sue, and Lewis and begin our journey back to Nevada.

Final moon rise over the lake

Leaving the Bank RV Resort and Health Spa

Where are they going?

Our plan is to drive back to Boulder City, NV to unload the items we retrieved from a storage unit we rented in York, PA.  We’ll stay there for a week or two before heading north to explore some locations in Idaho and Montana.  But plans have not been completed at this point.

So . . .

More on that later . . .

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Heading East – Part 3

Geneseo, New York

Time sure flies by!  Hard to believe it has been a month since our last post.  We left you in Gaffney, SC where we waited to have the motorhome serviced.  Since we didn’t have an appointment, we knew we would have to wait a couple of days before they could fit us into their schedule.  But after waiting a day and a half they took the motorhome into the shop and began their work just after lunch.  After changing all necessary fluids and replacing two rear airbags the work was completed the next day, and we were back on the road heading north.

We stopped for one night at the Mayberry Campground in Mount Airy, NC.  Most people know the name Mayberry from the Andy Griffith Show of the ’60s.  Mount Airy is the hometown of Andy Griffith, and the fictional town of Mayberry is based on his memory of growing up.  It’s a nice little town with many shops and sights, many related to the TV show as the locals have cashed in on the Mayberry theme.  We’ve visited Mount Airy before and have seen all the Mayberry sights so we didn’t go into town.  Our main reason for this stopt was so we could visit our son Kevin’s alma mater, Wake Forest University, located about 30 miles south of here outside Winston-Salem.

Wait Chapel on the main quad

The Demon Deacon mascot outside the football stadium

Storms were predicted for the next afternoon so we were up early and drove about 50 miles further north to Ft. Chiswell, VA, where we stayed at the Ft. Chiswell RV Park for two nights.  This allowed us time to visit one of our favorite spots in this area, the Blue Ridge Parkway Music Center.

Every afternoon there is live music in a small covered area between two of the buildings.  On previous visits we listened to an impromptu jam session with a variety of people joining in.  This time we were treated to a nice “concert” by a local musician named Ron Ireland, who plays there the last Saturday of every month.

Concert in the breezeway

Ron Ireland

Later, as we drove through the nearby town of Wytheville, we got a laugh out of the sign outside a local elementary school.

School’s out!

We then continued our trek north to our former hometown of York, PA.  Our daughter, Jessica, still lives there with her husband, Dan.  We spent quite a bit of time with them during a two week visit.

One evening we enjoyed an adult beverage and meal with them at Collusion, a new brewery in York.  We were surprised to find this pub in business since a high ranking governmental official has repeatedly told us there is No Collusion.

John’s nephew, Jamie, lives outside of Philadelphia and when he found out we were in York he invited us for a visit.  The event quickly became a family reunion as John’s two sisters and brother joined the party, along with four nieces and nephews and their children.

The Wright siblings: John, Rachel, Patty, and Chuck

Despite the extreme heat and oppressive humidity, a splendid time was had by all participants!

John, Pam, Jessica, and Dan

After a great visit to York we continued north, taking US 15 along the Susquehanna River.  About half way to our destination we stopped in Lewisburg, PA for a lunch break.  On the north side of the town we found the ideal spot to park a motorhome in a large, mostly empty parking lot behind a small strip mall.

Can you see the signs on the strip mall in the distance?

The strip mall had two stores that are high on our list:  A Jersey Mike’s sub shop and one of those small chain coffee houses from Seattle.  Break time Nirvana!

After lunch we continued our journey through the beautiful scenery of northern Pennsylvania and southern New York.  We exited I-390 at the small town of Dansville, NY  where we met friends Dave and Sue (Beluga’s Excellent Adventure), who guided us through the town on NY 256 north to their cottage on the west side of Conesus Lake.  We stayed here for a month four years ago when they still lived in a farm house a few  miles to the west.  At that time there was no structure on the lake property, as it was set up to park their motorhome there for the summer.  Since then they have constructed a small cottage, while maintaining the motorhome utilities and parking.  Our motorhome is backed up very closely, end to end, with theirs.

Tailgating to the extreme!

The view out our front door

Deep intellectual discussion on the deck

While we enjoy spending time with Dave and Sue, our real purpose for staying here is to visit with Lewis.

Lewis loves the treat lady!

He thinks he is a lap dog

Lewis is very un-trained – he required detailed instructions to help make the bed!

A bit of golf was high on the schedule

Pam’s mother lives in Clayton, NY, a small town on the banks of the St. Lawrence River.  After a few days on the lake we left the motorhome parked at Dave and Sue’s and headed north in the Jeep for a visit with her.

More on that in our next post . . .

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Heading East – Part 2

Gaffney, SC

In our last post we described our trip east from Nevada to Amarillo, TX.  After a two night stay there we continued east, taking US 287 to Wichita Falls, TX.   When we arrived we decided to visit the falls we assumed to be in the city.  Unfortunately, a flood in 1886 destroyed the original falls on the Wichita River for which the city was named.  After nearly 100 years of visitors wanting to visit the nonexistent falls, the city built an artificial waterfall beside the river in Lucy Park.  The recreated falls are 54 feet high and recirculate at 3,500 gallons per minute. They are visible to south-bound traffic on Interstate 44.

We stayed the night just north of the falls in a little city park called Wichita Bend RV Park  where we had water and electric for $17 a night.  We intended to spend an afternoon touring the city and hiking in nearby Lucy Park, but high temperatures and oppressive humidity cancelled both activities.  It turns out that Wichita Falls has a humid subtropical climate with some of the highest summer daily maximum temperatures in the entire country outside of the desert southwest.

Wichita Bend RV Park

The next day we continued east on US 82 to Texarkana, a small town that straddles the state line between Texas and Arkansas, and spend the night at a nice little park called Shady Pines RV.  The following morning we headed south on I-49, skirted around Shreveport, LA, and got on I-20.  After crossing the Mississippi we stopped at the Ameristar RV Park on the south side of Vicksburg, MS.

We stayed there for two nights to allow for a tour of the Vicksburg National Military Park.

Entrance to the military park

Vicksburg sits high on a bluff that at one time overlooked the Mississippi River, making it a key spot in the control of river traffic.  A flood in 1876 changed the course of the river to the west, leaving the main part of the city sitting on the much smaller Yazoo River.  But at the time of the Civil War whoever controlled Vicksburg controlled traffic on the river.  By late spring of 1863 the city was the last section of the Mississippi under the control of the Confederacy.  Union General Grant moved his army down the river and surrounded the city.  He tried repeatedly to take Vicksburg by force without success.  So he changed strategy and set up a siege, intending to starve the city into surrender.  After holding out for more than forty days, with their reinforcement and supplies nearly gone, the Confederate garrison finally surrendered on July 4th, the same day Robert E. Lee began retreating from Gettysburg in Pennsylvania.

Illinois Monument

Below is a photo of what’s known as the surrender interview site, where Union General Grant and Confederate General Pemberton sat on the afternoon of July 3, 1863 to negotiate terms of a surrender.

Surrender Interview Site

At the north end of the military park sits the remains of the ironclad gunboat USS Cairo.  On December 12, 1862, while clearing mines from the Yazoo River north of Vicksburg, the Cairo struck a naval mine detonated by volunteers hidden behind the river bank and sank in 12 minutes. There were no casualties.

Over the years the gunboat was forgotten and was slowly covered by silt and sand.  Researchers from the military park found the remains in 1956.  In 1960 many artifacts were recovered from the ship including the pilothouse and an 8-inch cannon, both preserved by the Yazoo River mud.

The ship was raised out of the river in the mid 1960 and towed to a shipyard on the coast.  In 1977 it was moved to its present location and a small museum was constructed to display the many items found in it during recovery.

While structural integrity required the use of new lumber in some areas, much of the wood is original.

Model of the Cairo in the museum

Bottles found in the wreckage

Vicksburg National Cemetery, located next to the Cairo Museum,  holds the remains of 17,000 Civil War Union soldiers.  Confederate dead from the Vicksburg campaign originally buried behind Confederate lines, have now been re-interred in the Vicksburg City Cemetery.

After touring the military park we drove downtown to the waterfront along the Yazoo River.  There a flood wall built on top of a levee has been decorated by a series of murals that highlight the history of Vicksburg.

After two nights in Vicksburg our journey continued on I-20 east across Mississippi into Alabama.

We stayed two nights in Sunset RV Park, just east of the city of Tuscaloosa.  We stayed there under a black cloud, literally!  A number of times while there, a storm would bubble up right over us and it would rain hard for a short time.  Drive a mile or so in any direction and the roads were completely dry.  With the extreme heat and humidity there we experience something we haven’t seen in a while (since we have been out west), steam rising from the park roads.

A steamy day

The next day we drove about 15 miles south of Tuscaloosa to visit the Moundville Archaeological Site on the Black Warrior River.  Extensive archaeological investigation has shown that the site was the political and ceremonial center of a regionally organized Mississippian culture chiefdom between the 11th and 16th centuries.  The archaeological park portion of the site is administered by the University of Alabama Museums.  It encompasses 185 acres with platform mounds around a rectangular plaza.  At its height, the population is estimated to have been around 1000 people within the walls, with 10,000 additional people in the surrounding countryside.

Mound B, the highest at 58 feet

The Jones Archaeological Museum, located within the site, houses an extensive collection of pottery and artifacts from the early inhabitants.

Jones Archaeological Museum

Bird/Serpent Effigy Bowl

The main attraction in Tuscaloosa is the campus of the University of Alabama.  Normally when we visit a university like this we ride our bikes through the campus.  But we left the bikes back in Boulder City as we need the space to bring back the contents of a storage unit we have in Pennsylvania.  And since it was much too warm to walk, we had to be content with a drive through the campus.  We were quite impressed with the beautiful campus (although it was difficult to get a good photo from inside the Jeep).

Bryant-Denny Stadium

Tuscaloosa River Walk

Next we continued on I-20 east to Atlanta to spend a few day with our son, Kevin.

Approaching Atlanta

One of the fun activities we did during our stay in Atlanta was to go to Top Golf.  Top Golf is a high tech driving range with locations in major cities across the country.  The way it works is you pay an hourly fee ($35-$45) for a table with multiple seats and a golf tee area similar to a traditional driving range.  Each ball has a computer chip in it that gives you feedback if you hit it into one of the many green sized circles located at various distances in front of the tees.  An interactive screen allows you to choose from a variety of games and keeps your score.  They have a full menu and bar so your group can enjoy drinks and a meal while you play.  We had a great time and plan to check out the Top Golf location in Las Vegas when we get back west.

Related image

Kevin took a few golf lessons years back when he was a lawyer but has never played on a course.  We were impressed with his good form and he hit the ball very well.

Great form for a non-golfer!

This guy has played before

We have now moved north to Gaffney, SC to have the motorhome’s annual service completed.  Gaffney is the home of Freightliner, the manufacturer of the chassis on most motorhomes, and is known as the best place in the east coast to have work completed.

Beautiful Freightliner RV Resort and Spa

We called for an appointment months ago but they are so popular that nothing was available.  But they do allow for non-appointment walk-ins, so that is what we are going to do.  Since they will fit us in as time allows. our stay here may be short or it may be long.  We’ll just have to be patient and see what happens.

More on that later . . .

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Heading East

Amarillo, TX

As much as we were enjoying spending time in our home in Boulder City the past two months, it was soon time to head east in the motorhome.   We headed out on the first of June taking US 93 south to Kingman, AZ where we picked up I-40 east.  We completed two long travel days (about 350 miles each) with stops overnight in Holbrook, AZ and Santa Rosa, NM.   Those drives were too long so we cut down our drive on the third day to 150 miles and settled in at the Oasis RV Park, just outside Amarillo, TX.  We took a site for two nights to give us a chance to rest a bit and check out an interesting state park nearby.

Oasis RV Park near Amarillo, TX

The first thing you see when you enter this RV park is a motorhome buried nose-first in the ground.

That’s because just a couple of miles from the park, along the south side of I-40, is a weird roadside attraction called Cadillac Ranch.

Cadillac Ranch was invented and built in 1974 by a group of art-hippies from San Francisco.  They called themselves The Ant Farm, and their silent partner was Amarillo billionaire Stanley Marsh.  He wanted a piece of public art that would baffle the locals, and the hippies came up with a tribute to the evolution of the Cadillac tail fin.  Ten Caddies were driven into one of Stanley Marsh’s fields, then half-buried, nose-down, in the dirt (supposedly at the same angle as the Great Pyramid of Giza). They faced west in a line, from the 1949 Club Sedan to the 1963 Sedan de Ville, their tail fins held high.

The Cadillacs have now been in the ground as art longer than they were on the road as cars. They are stripped to their battered frames, splattered in day-glo paint, barely recognizable as automobiles.  We found the site to be less than interesting (the cars are unrecognizable and the place is covered with old spray paint cans since the public is invited to paint the cars) but other visitors seemed to be quite impressed.

Sue and Dave (Beluga’s Excellent Adventure) have stayed in this area before and told us about an interesting little state park just south of the city.  We drove about 20 miles south of Amarillo over flat, open prairie before arriving at a deep canyon called Palo Duro.

Palo Duro Canyon (from the Spanish meaning “hard wood”) has been called  the “Grand Canyon of Texas” both for its size and for its dramatic geological features, including the multicolored layers of rock and steep mesa walls similar to those in the Grand Canyon.  It’s the second-largest canyon in the United States and is roughly 120 miles long and has an average width of six miles. The average depth is around 820 feet, but in some locations it increases to 1,000 feet.

The canyon is now a Texas state park that contains campgrounds, hiking trails, a visitor center, and a beautiful amphitheater.  A ranger at the visitor center gave us information on a nice two mile round trip hike that would give us a great view of the canyon.

We drove about a mile from the visitor center and parked along the side of the rode at a trailhead for the CCC Trail (The Great Depression era CCC built the visitor center and many of the park’s trails).

The winding park road below the trail

Small trail guide (he tried to sell us some insurance)

Canyon walls are quite colorful

End of the trail

The Pioneer Amphitheater below us

The park has a performance called “Texas” that is put on in the amphitheater Tuesdays through Sundays in the summer.  The program features the stories, struggles and triumphs of early settlers. It is described as a family-friendly show that has singing, dancing, fireworks and lots of Texas humor!

Returning to the Jeep we drove the four mile loop road through the bottom of the canyon, enjoying the beautiful features along the canyon walls.

Large opening of a shallow cave

We returned to Amarillo and stopped at the Jack Sisemore Traveland RV Museum.  The museum is located as part of the Jack Sisemore Traveland RV dealership.  Housed in a building behind the dealership showroom, this free museum has an impressive collection of vintage RVs.

For our Airstream friends…The World’s Oldest Airstream

One of the displays was a Starcraft pop-up camper similar to the one we owned in the mid-1980s.

After a long day of touring we needed a good meal, so we stopped at the Big Texas Steak Ranch for dinner.

The Big Texas Steak House is known for the 72 Oz. Steak Challenge.  Take the challenge and you pay $72 for a 72 oz. steak, shrimp cocktail, baked potato, salad, with roll and butter.  Finish your meal completely within one hour and your money will be refunded.  Contestants sit at a raised table with a digital clock behind them.  During our visit one young man began the challenge.  We didn’t hang around long enough to see if he survived.

The next day we continued our journey eastward with stops in Wichita Falls and Texarkana in Texas.  We’re now in Vicksburg, MS to tour the site of a famous battle and siege during the Civil War.

More on that later (if the heat and humidity doesn’t get to us first!) . . .

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