Complete Travel Log

February 25, 2000 through December 31, 2010

Use your browser's search function to locate key words or phrases
eg. "Travis AFB" "Bay of Fundy" or "(Biloxi"

 

 

 

2000

2/25/00

2/26/00

2/27/00

2/28/00

2/29/00

3/1/00

3/2/00

3/3/00

3/4/00

3/5/00

3/6/00

3/7/00

3/8/00

3/9/00

3/10/00

3/11/00

3/13/00 & 3/14/00

3/18/00

8/29/00

This morning we traveled south on US-101 along the coast for about 25 miles until we picked up California Route-299 heading east. We had not gone too far from the coast (sealevel) whenwe came to a sign "Elevation 2630 feet." Route-299 is a curving, mostly 2 lane road that goes up, down, and around the mountains. All of our travel on 299 was either up hill or down hill; 6% grade or 7% grade; in second gear or in third gear. Ford's V-10 Vortec engine does fine pulling us up the hills, but a diesel with compression braking would be appreciated on the downside. A long downgrade (say ten miles or so) on an 8% grade or better would be tough. I assume that we'll discover such downgrades, and I assume Ford engineers put that capacity into the braking system. Anyway, we are now in Del Loma RV Park and Camp on the Trinity River in Big Bar, CA. [Picture of Trinity River about 20 miles west of campground. We just passed over the section of roadway shown above the river.] We're only 50 miles from the coast (as the condor flies), and we have gone from daytime highs in the 60's to daytime highs in the 90's. I'm glad this campground has 50 amp service because we're running both AC's. For the last month we've been using heat at night. Right now Sharyn is at the laundry room doing wash. We are reconsidering a washer-dryer for the motorhome. While as a practical matter you need full hookups to use it, the last time she did laundry she used three machines and it took $8 worth of quarters.

Miles for day = 96.

 

8/30/00

It was a beautiful sunny morning as I took my coffee and sat on the bench at the edge of the river bank (the river is about 75 feet below the bank), enjoying the sound of the river and watching the sun on the mountain tops on the other side of the river. The bench is next to the white rail fence, but hidden by the motorhome, in the photo. It was peaceful, crisp, and clear. I looked over the slopes across the river to see if I could spot anything moving around. I didn't, but I suspect that it would be very difficult for any animals to climb or remain on those slopes as they are probably more than 60 degrees. Later on Sharyn scoured the slopes with binoculars, but she didn't see anything either. We have seen numerous bear and mountain lion warnings, but have yet to see any. The other day I cut short my blackberry picking because we were in the southern Oregon coastal area where the Oregon Fish & Wildlife "Cougar Density" map showed solid black, indicating the greatest density. It was that, plus the fact the the newspaper had an article about about a woman who had two mountain lions run across the road in front of her car. One made it, but she hit the second one, a 110 pound male that had to be shot by the Highway Patrol when they arrived on the scene. Besides, I had enough blackberries. Anyway, this morning we left not too much before noon and continued for about another 75 miles along Rt-299 to Redding, OR. This part of Rt-299 did not seem to have slopes as bad as what we traveled yesterday, but many more curves. Also, since we were now running along the side of the river it was quite a drop to the river (there are basically no shoulders) and Sharyn didn't like it at all. We had one place with a three mile 8% climb followed by a three mile 8% downgrade. Sharyn was much relieved to get to Redding where we were out of the mountains, picked up I-5, and started down the Sacramento Valley. We are at the Sacramento River Campground about 5 miles south of Redding. We are only about 90 miles from Oroville and should get to Sandy's, Sharyn's sister's, tomorrow.

Miles for day = 84.

 

8/31/00

We left Redding and got to Kelly's house in Oroville early afternoon. Using Microsoft's "USA Streets and Destinations" on CD we were able to pinpoint her house by the street address and drove right to the front.. The only error would be that the map showed her house to be in the middle of the block when, in fact, she is the second house from the corner. There was no place to park at her house so we went to a campground that sounded nice from the description in Woodall's, but in reality wasn't nice at all - almost all permanent residents and no RVers. After we got a site we went driving around with the car and found a nice campground that is brand new and not yet in Woodalls. We moved to the new campground. To backtrack a bit, after leaving Kelly's work we went back to her house as she was about to go home for lunch. Shortly after getting there her 9 year old daughter, Ashley, got home from school. When Kelly went back to work we took Ashley with us in the motorhome, so she was with us when we went to both campgrounds. She didn't like the first one either and told us "it's not a very nice place." She liked the second one , River Reflections RV Park, much better. We paid the weekly rate and will probably be here for a number of weeks. As an aside, before leaving Redding since the RV park apparently allowed the washing of vehicles, I washed the Honda. It had only been washed once since we we left Long Island. Ten miles out of Redding it started to rain - the first rain we've seen in a month.

Miles for day = 108.

 

9/1/00

This is our first of a number of days in Oroville CA. We visited with Kelly and her family and Scott. We went to Shakey's for pizza. If my father was still alive he'd be 98 years old today!

Miles for day = 0.

 

9/2/00

Hung out and continued our visiting. I told Ashley that she and Katlin should be pen pals; then I sent Kalin an email telling her about Ashley and my pen pal idea. Sandy got home from Florida so we got to visit with her also.

Miles for day = 0.

 

9/3/00

This morning we bought The Sacramento Bee. The page one story was entitled "Battle of the Beach" and was about the cotoversy in Orick CA where, on August 28, we spent the night on the beach just off of US-101. It seems that while people have been camping their for free for the last 50 years, the land is part of the Redwood National Park and the National Park Service is about to prohibit the camping saying that all those RVs spoil the view for others. The Orick community depends on those RVs for a good portion of its rather meger business activity and it seems as if civil war is about to break out. Threats have been made against the lives of some of the Park Rangers, pipe bombs have been discoverd within the park grounds, and the Feds recently brought in a SWAT team - officials called it "a special events team." Wow, and we thought is was a quiet, peaceful scene!

Miles for day = 0.

 

9/4/00 & 9/5/00

When we are staying in one place, like we are now, there isn't too much to write about. It's like to can't write a travel log if you're not traveling. Bottom line is not too much is new. Today Sharyn did laundry/visited at Kelly's house while I did a basic website for River Reflections RV Park and Campground, the campground we're staying in. In exchange for the website we are getting a free week - that's a good deal for everyone. Early this evening Kelly and Sandy drove us up to the Oroville dam. By the time we got there the sun was just disappearing behind the hills. Anyway, we walked across the dam and back while Ashley, on roller blades, got pulled across by Zoe.

 

9/11/00

This morning, as we were having our daily "coffee and conversation" Sharyn noticed that there was a spider web on the steering wheel - a sure sign that we've been in one place too long. That's probably okay because we're leaving in the morning anyway and heading south towards Sacramento. Sharyn has some relatives in that area that she hasn't seen in 40 years. From there we'll head east towards Denver via Lake Tahoe. Yesterday, for the second time this week (and the second time in this lifetime) we went panning for gold. In terms of the number of tiny flakes, or "specks" we got, you could say we got quite a bit. However, in real terms I estimate we probably made somewhere between 50 and 75 cents per hour (combined) for our effort. In addition, my back now hurts and it takes a few minutes for me to get to be standing up straight. Maybe I'll use my gold to pay for a chiropractor. Two days ago I washed the rubber roof on the motorhome. Yesterday Sharyn opened the refrigerator door and it fell off. The bottom hinge (pin) screw had come out and that allowed the bottom of the door to move away from the hinge base which otherwise supports the weight. The top hinge held the top of the door frame, but the door (with the weight of everything stored on the inside of the door) pulled out of the top frame. It's been put back together but there really isn't anything to hold the door to the top frame. We'll have to do a better temporary fix to hold it until we get back to the Allegro factory. We have several things that need to be attended to under warranty, and we should get to the factory in Red Bay, Alabama late October or early November.

 

9/12/00

We've moved! Kelly and Sandy came by this morning to share in our "coffee and conversation." They arrived a little after 9:am while I was having my coffee and listening to Morning Edition on Public Radio. They both had some coffee and it soon became apparent that Sharyn, who was still sleeping, was sleeping too soundly to know that we had company. Anyway, we woke her up and then we all sat around talking, drinking two pots of coffee, and I had breakfast. A little before noon I began getting the rig ready to go - dumped the holding tanks, disconnected the water line, put up the awnings, and even brought in the bedroom slideout. At 12:45 we finally pulled out of the campground and went to a gas station just down the road. Gas was $199.9 per gallon so I only bought ten gallons, the most I ever paid for gas in my life, and just enough to get us to the Sacramento area where hopefully gas will be cheaper. When we got to Oroville on August 31 gas at the Beacon station in town was $1.71. Three days and three price increases later it was $1.79. As of this morning the cheapest gas in Oroville was $1.95. Had I filled the tank when we left today we would have taken on about 70 gallons. We didn't know what a bargain that $1.71 would turn out to be! We are now at the FamCamp at Travis AFB between Sacramento and San Francisco. Ten dollars for the first night and, with our FamCamp coupons, our second night is free (with full hookups).

Miles for day = 117.

 

9/13/00 to 9/16/00

One day we visited Sharyn's Aunt Thelma and Uncle Harley. She hadn't seen them since she was a high school student at Mt Diablo High School over 40 years ago. It was an enjoyable visit, lots of reminiscing, the culminated with Uncle Harley announcing that he was taking the four of us to lunch at a local place he's been eating at for half a century. I went with his recommendation of calamari steak with the soup of the day. He and I were the only two that had the soup. We each received a soup bowl and a large stainless steel salad bowl of soup was put on the table with a soup ladle for an "all you want" soup appetizer with unlimited hot bread and butter. Lunch was terrific and at only $6 a head.

Another day we went to Camping World and engaged in $45 worth of impulse buying. We also scheduled a service appointment for next Friday to have the refrigerator door and the rear air conditioner repaired under warranty. We only got that appointment due to a cancellation. Otherwise their next available appointment was not until October 14!

On Saturday, the day before we left, we went to San Francisco and Fisherman's Wharf.. It certainly has changed since we were there with the trailer in 1970. At that time we drove the Travelall along the wharf right at the waters edge. While we weren't the only people there, it certainly wasn't crowded. Today that area is a pedestrian walk crowded with people and off limits to vehicles. (In 1970 I took a picture of Alcatraz Island after setting up the camera tripod on the roof of the Travelall. By the time time camera said I was up to exposure #41 I realized that the film had not threaded onto the spool - we had no pictures of the week preceding San Francisco or of San Francisco itself. This time I at least took a replacement picture of Alcatraz.) We had lunch on the second floor at Fisherman's Grotto overlooking the boats below, with the condos on Nob Hill above and beyond the waterfront. After lunch we wandered around the waterfront and the shops along the main drag. As we were approaching the Oakland Bay Bridge (on the way to downtown SF) the merging highways resulted in 17 lanes of traffic going through the toll booths and then merging into 5 lanes crossing the bridge. A giant bottleneck with each of the 17 lanes having its own traffic light that gives a one second green before reverting back to red; each lane getting the flash of green in rotating sequence. Sharyn thought it was cool - I thought it caused more delay the an uncontrolled merge would have (perhaps they should speed up the rotating green sequence).

 

9/17/00

Check out time at the FamCamp was 10:am, but we didn't get out until 10:30 - all things considered that's not bad.

Being Escapees ourselves, the other night we visited with another couple who told us about an Escapees Park near Fresno that he says is the Crown Jewel of the Escapees park system. We decided to check it out. It is actually just off of Highway 41 about 30 miles south of Yosemite and we got here late afternoon. We were met with a very pleasant fellow on a golf cart who set us up on a really nice site and told us we could register tomorrow (the office closes early on Sundays). After getting everything set up we drove down to the clubhouse to see what was there. We met Frank Lieberman who was relaxing with a magazine while his wife was in the laundry room. They've been full-time since April (the first people we've met who have been full-time for a shorter time than we have) and have two kayaks on the top of their truck. He's going to introduce me to kayaking tomorrow. We've been running across information the might indicate kayaks do better than canoes for what we have in mind, but don't know anything about kayaks - yet!

Miles for day = 190.

 

9/18/00

This morning we went to the clubhouse where Sharyn did the laundry. While she was doing that I used the computer station to put my computer online to download my e-mail and to update this travel log. The clubhouse is very large and very nice. This afternoon one of the club members gave us a complete tour of the 161 acres comprising "Park of the Sierra" Escapee Park. The origin of this park is quite a story. In 1984 a group of members of the Golden Gate Chapter of Escapees decided to create a cooperative RV park in this area. In 1987 the purchased the 161 acre parcel and commenced construction - doing everything themselves - clearing underbrush (leaving trees), leveling sites, trenching utilities, constructing a "municipal" water system, building roads, buildings, etc. (they paid to have the cement slab poured for the clubhouse and to have the main support timbers lifted into place). Suppliers delivering materials were astounded to see what was being accomplished by "all these old people with picks and shovels." They also bought old construction equipment as needed and then sold most of it as that phase of the job was completed. One of the pieces they bought was an old water truck (known as the "Watermelon") that had been used by Gen. Patton's army in Europe during WWII - that water truck is still here. The only other thing that was contracted out was when the stone and oil roads they had constructed throughout the park (over four miles) proved unsatisfactory they had the roads redone with asphalt. This would be an impressive facility if it had been done by Donald Trump - never mind that it was done by the members themselves!

 

9/19/00

Our plan for today was to drive up to Yosemite National Park, but we started the day, as always, with coffee and conversation. The campsite we are in is particularly nice in that there is not another one in front of us so when we sit outside we have a large private area. We also enjoy the quail that scoot all around the place, the squirrels that have tails almost as big as foxtails, and innumerable woodpeckers. There are also warnings about mountain lions, bears, rattlesnakes, scorpions, and tarantulas, but we have yet to see any of them. The notice from the Department of Forestry describes how to make a mountain lion run away from you, but then says if you are attacked anyway "fight back."

Anyway we eventually headed up Route 41 towards Yosemite 30 miles north of the campground. We didn't realize it when we started out but it's another 35 miles from the South Entrance to the Park to Yosemite Village area which was our actual destination. The drive up is quite beautiful. Route 41 is a two lane winding road that works its way up, over, through, and around various peaks and valleys, climbing from 1800' at the campground to over 6,000 in several places. I think it's quite impressive that the Honda CRV, a 4-wheel drive vehicle, takes those curves and hills better than the finest sports car of the 50's or 60's could ever have done (less power of course, but beautiful handling).

We tried to find the spot where we had camped on the river below Half Dome in 1970. It was there that 15 month old Philip III first learned that he could "travel" on his own, and the only place he wanted to travel "to" was the river some 30 feet behind the trailer. The campground is layed out all differently than it was in 1970 and we couldn't be certain exactly where our campsite had been, but it was pretty close to the spot where Sharyn is standing!

We were supposed to join a group of Escapees (SKP's) for dinner at the Old Kettle Restaurant in Oakhurst, about 7 miles down the road, at 5:pm, but because of our late start and need to get back to let the dog out, we didn't make it in time. That was too bad because we had been looking forward to that get together.

It turned out that the day was enhanced considerably when Frank Lieberman came by at 8:am to bring me a bottle of Robaxacet to relieve my back pain, and to see if Sharyn and I wanted to go to Yosemite with them. Sharyn was still sleeping so I declined that part, but the Robaxacet (Rx needed in U.S. but over-the-counter in Canada) was magic. An hour after taking it I told Sharyn that the pain - that I'd been dealing with for about a month - was going away. It was basically pain-free day and I walked in an upright position! Anyone with recurring back pain should look into this medication. The active ingredient is methocarbamol, a muscle relaxant.

 

9/20/00

Today must have been Sharyn's day. Getting ready to do this entry I asked, "what did we do today?" She replied: "I did ironing, washed the floor; cleaned the bathroom; put stuff away; cleaned out the closets; polished; dusted; scrubbed (on my hands and knees); . . .", etc. Actually she rattled it off faster than I could get it down. The fact of the matter is she did do all that stuff, but this does not represent a typical day.

I cut the dog's claws and uploaded the latest entries to this website. It didn't take me nearly as long as it took Sharyn.

I beg to differ, this is even more of a typical day, do not believe that this is all fun and games. (Sharyn)

 

9/21/00

We went to the "potato bake" at the clubhouse for $2/head. We also bought a Trivial Pursuit game from a "pay whatever it's worth to you" table in the back of the clubhouse. I thought it was worth $5 but Sharyn said "no way," that it would only be a dollar at a yard sale. I don't think we paid enough but Sharyn had the money. This is the same version we had originally. When we lost it we bought what we thought was the same version, but it wasn't. The questions were a lot harder so we didn't play it anymore. Now we're back in business.

Before it got dark I hooked up the Honda, put down all the awnings, drained the holdings tanks, disconnected the water line, and put away the barbecue, chairs, etc. to help us get a quick and quiet start early tomorrow morning.

 

9/22/00

Our planning worked! We both got right out of bed at 6:am and while Sharyn made the coffee* (coffee and a preheated cup is always ready for Sharyn when she gets up) I fed and walked the dog and disconnected the electric line. We then had coffee and brief conversation, put away what needed to be put away, (Sharyn never fails to make the bed) brought in the slides, and pulled out of the site at 6:50am. To fully appreciate the accomplishment this represents you have to realize that our usual departure time from a campsite is around 11:am.

We had to be at Camping World in Cordelia CA (200 miles back north by Travis AFB) for a 1:pm appointment to have the rear air conditioner and the refrigerator door repaired under warranty. Taking our time on the road, we got to CW an hour early. I don't think the AC repair is going to work. The factory told the technician to remove the freeze sensor, that that should not have been installed in a unit with a heat pump. My question is then how come the front unit has been working fine with the freeze sensor? he technician wrote on the repair report that if the problem (AC suddenly going into heat mode) reoccurred that both units would have to have the newer circuit boards installs together with the upgraded control unit that contains the front thermostat and operates both units.

While I was a Camping World Sharyn went ahead to Travis to get the back pain medicine that Greg had sent next day air - we were afraid the base post office would be closed by the time we got there and that it might not be open on Saturday (the post office at Wright-Patterson was closed on Saturday). Not only did she get the medicine, but she also signed us up for the last campsite. When I got to the base several hours later there was another motorhome that pulled in just ahead of me - he would have gotten that last spot!

*

At this point in time making the coffee starts with putting four scoops of Starbucks coffee beans into the coffee grinder, dumping the resulting grinds into the bottom of the French press, boiling the water, etc . . .

Miles for day = 205.

 

9/23/00

Today, for the most part, we just hung out and relaxed around the motorhome. At one point Sharyn went to the commissary for some groceries while I brought this travelog up to date. This afternoon I rigged up the telescoping flagpole we bought at the RV show in Gillette. It is unquestionably the coolest flagpole in the campground. It's not mounted to the motorhome, as I would like it to be, but this system may work - with some slight improvement for easy put-up and take-down.

 

9/24/00

This morning, Sunday, I drove all over the base trying to find a "real" newspaper -- Washington Post or NY Times type of paper -- figuring I would at least be able to get a major San Francisco paper. No such paper was to be had. The only thing available was the Sunday edition of the local town paper for $1.25. I didn't buy it. I did, however, discover a bakery near the BX where I bought some fresh donuts and a big blueberry muffin.

We had planned to go back to San Francisco today to visit the Japanese Tea Garden and to ride the trolley car. However, Sharyn didn't think it was worth going back just for that, and I wasn't too excited about it either, so we stayed at the campground until early afternoon when we decided to go to a mall about 7 miles from here just off of I-80. It turned out to be a rather large mall with two levels and a nice selection of stores. It is interesting to see how different a cross section of the local population looks in different parts of the country. Probably 50% of the people in the mall were of Hispanic ancestry.

There being no newspapers at the mall, on the way back to the base Sharyn suggested we try to get a paper at a 7-11 type store just outside the main gate. That proved a good idea as that store did have a selection of papers -- we bought the San Francisco Chronicle.

 

9/25/00

We left Travis by 9:30 this morning -- a half hour before checkout time. We took I-80 east to Sacramento where we picked up US-50 to South Lake Tahoe. Where US-50 begins, at the point where it branches off from I-80, there was a regular highway department sign that read;

US-50
OCEAN CITY MD
3037 MILES

Ocean City, Md is the easterly terminous of US-50 at the Atlantic Ocean. I didn't think there was any official humor in California!

South Lake Tahoe is a small tourist town on the south end of Lake Tahoe and the state line runs right through the center of town. Right at the point where Nevada begins Harrah's has a big casino with a sign much bigger than the one that tells you that you have entered Nevada.

Anyway, as we came out of town we took a right onto Rt-207 that would cut across to US-365 where, pursuant to a change of plans, we were heading for a casino RV park about 40 miles beyond Lake Tahoe. Almost immediately the road became 2 lanes and began to climb. It was quite steep and curvy and we ended up doing a good part of the climb in first gear -- the transmission had never before dropped back to first. We climbed that hill at 2500 rpm and 15 mph! When we got to the crest several miles later ( 7300' elevation) we began our descent on the other side. The warning sign said we were beginning an 8 mile descent with a 9% grade. We tried it in second but within less than 1/4 mile had to brake it way down and drop into first. In first we were able to keep it at about 25 mph with moderately hard intermittent braking to keep from exceeding 4,000 rpm.

We have a book that lists all significant mountain grades in the west and after we had stopped for the day I checked those grades on Rt-207. It turns out that the hill we we had to climb in first gear was also 9%. Based on today I'd say we could readily handle 10 or 11% climbing, but not do too well descending such a slope -- particularly if it was very long. By the way, the idea behind the book of mountain grades is that you check you planned route before traveling it. Not look later to see how steep that grade was. I'll try to do better with that in the future!

We didn't take any pictures while going down the 9% grade, but this is what it looked like as we approached Lake Tahoe from the west -- again descending from over 7,000' (that we first had to climb) while still about ten miles from the lake. You can see that lake at the foot of the mountains in the distance.

We are now at Topaz Lodge and RV Park in Gardnerville, Nevada.

Miles for day = 184

 

9/26/00

We didn't get out until 12:15 today but that's okay. We had lots of coffee and conversation, and besides that we only figured on doing 75 miles today. Along the way (heading south on US-395) we were parallel to a river for a considerable distance. From the looks of the rivers edge and the nature of the slopes on the other side of the river we decided that this was a good candidate for gold panning -- so we pulled off and gave it an hour. Not too much in the form of results, but we liked it anyway. Besides it looked like a river that Gabby Hayes and his burro would have thought worthwhile.

Shortly after our gold panning attempt we passed the turn-off for State Route-108 to Sonora Pass (elevation 9626'). Sharyn said the sign indicated there was a 26% grade on that road. I told her that couldn't be, that a 26% grade would not be climeable. Well she looked in the mountain grade book, and sure enough, the sign was right. A 26% grade means that when you've gone 100' horozontally, you will also have travelled 26' vertically!!

We are now at Mono Vista RV Park at Lee Vining, California, just east of the Tiogo Pass entrance to Yosemite.

Miles for day = 69.

 

9/27/00

Today we went to the abandoned "Ghost Town" of Bodie. It was a booming gold rush town from the 1860's until the early 1880's, and in 1880, boasting a population of 10,000, it was the second largest city in California, second only to San Francisco! Today, only about 5% of the buildings remain, but they are substantially as they were when they were left behind. In 1921 only 30 people remained and many of the buildings were being torn down by local ranchers for their lumber. Some limited gold mining did continue in Bodie, somewhat off and on, until a fire in 1947 brought even that to an end. In 1962 the town became a California State Historic Park and is now being maintained in a state of "arrested decay." We took a number of photographs which, together with the "Introduction to Bodie" from the self guiding tour guide is a separate web page.

We left the RV park, via Honda, about 10:30am and did not get back until 4:pm. We would have been back sooner except that we took a shortcut back to the RV park. It was shorter, 26 miles instead of 31 miles, but the washboard surface limited us to 10-15 mph.

Another "first" that we experienced today was when we put $10 worth of gas in the Honda and it cost us $18. Regular gas, at the discount station, was $2.299/gal.

 

9/28/00
(Lone Pine CA)

We left Lee Vining and drove south on US-395 to Bishop CA where we pulled into the parking lot for a small shopping center to get milk and a newspaper, have lunch, and leave again. We then continued on to Lone Pine CA where we pulled into Boulder Creek RV Park. This place is pretty nice so we think we may stay another day and check out the area.

Miles for day = 126.

 

9/29/00
(Lone Pine CA)

This morning, after coffee and fresh baked muffins in the clubhouse, we went to the Manzanar War Relocation Camp where over 10,000 Japanese, most of them American Citizens, were relocated from their homes along the West Coast. Only three buildings remain on the 550 acre detention area which was enclosed by barbed wire fences and secured by guard towers (the entire facility was 6,000 acres); two stone guard houses and an auditorium. There are also the remains of several of the seven major Japanese rock gardens which, as part of the planned long range preservation and interpretive reconstruction program, will be restored to their original condition. The two largest emotional impacts came from the barrenness of the location and from the cemetery. People are continuous leaving small items at the large monument and and on a number of individual graves. There are also the the weathered remains of floral wreaths where the heart shaped wire frame is of barbed wire.

After the Manzanar we came back to town (lone Pine) where we ate at a place that offered ostrich, buffalo, and venison burgers. I had the ostrich burger (to expand my "repertoire of experience"). I told Sharyn that she missed her opportunity when she had a regular beef burger, but the truth is that with the lettuce, cooked onions, tomato, etc., I can't say that the ostrich tasted any different than beef would have.

After lunch we "did" main street, up one side and down the other, checking out antique shops and other places. Since town is only about five blocks long this didn't take too long. Since we still want to drive up towards Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the US outside of Alaska, and still have to do laundry and general housekeeping, we've decided to stay here for another day.

 

9/30/00
(Lone Pine CA)

After coffee and muffins at the clubhouse we drove up towards Mt Whitney for a distance of 13 miles to where the road ends at 8,300' elevation. ( This picture was taken from a point ten miles from, and some 10,000' below the sumit -- the sumit is almost two miles above the camera). There is a small National Park and campground there from which you can begin the hiking trail to the summit at 14,450' elevation, the highest point in the US, outside of Alaska. In spite of the rather cool temperature (as I recall temperature decreases 4 degrees F for every 1,000' of altitude), we walked around the area for a short period and than began our descent back down the road. Just before getting to the bottom we took a left that led us into an area where hundreds of old movies had been filmed, including High Sierra, Maverick, Rawhide, Charge of the Light Brigade, etc. There is an entire area where Roy Rogers and Gene Autry made dozens of old cowboy movies. All the bars and restaurants in town have the walls covered with autographed photos from all these movie stars.

We then went about 20 miles north to Independence for a 2:pm lecture at the American Legion Hall about the history of Manzanar. At the lecture we learned that the County Museum, about four blocks away, had a Manzanar display so we went there to check it out.

By the time we got back to the motorhome it was later in the day than we had expected and we once again decided to stay another day to relax, do laundry, housecleaning, etc.

 

10/1/00
(Lone Pine CA)

Today we finally got to do the "housekeeping" chores. We started out by not setting the alarm clock last night, so this morning we slept until 8:15 instead of 7:am. Of course that meant we missed coffee and muffins at the clubhouse, so we reverted to our usual "coffee and conversation" to begin the day. While Sharyn did the laundry I cleaned and vacuumed the motorhome. Those are not all day activities so we had a good bit of time to sit around, relax, read, talk, and visit with some of our neighbors.

We have enjoyed our stay here and may well come back at some time in the future. The 10th annual film festival begins this weekend and Sharyn says she'd like to come back for next years festival if we're in the area.

 

10/2/00
(Death Valley NV)

When we left the campground this morning (after coffee and muffins at the clubhouse) we put 20 gallons of gas in the motorhome @ $2.199/gal before heading east on Rt-135 towards Death Valley. We had plenty of gas already and suspect it'll be fifty cents cheaper in Las Vegas, but that only means we paid ten dollars too much for that 20 gallons -- peace of mind and insurance do not always come that cheap.

For several days Sharyn has been interviewing people who have brought their RV's through Death Valley via Rt-135. What they had to say, plus the curves and grades described in our mountain grade book, left Sharyn thinking that there had to be a better way. Well several hours and 85 miles after turning onto Rt-135 we arrived in Stovepipe Wells CA. Sharyn said "that wasn't so bad, we've been on worse roads than that." There was about a ten mile climb at 7-9%, then a 13 mile descent at 6-8%, with the final descent into Stovepipe Wells dropping 5,000 feet. When we got here neither of us could hear.

It was only 12:45 we we got into town (it's hardly a town) but we checked into the only business establishment* there is and got a campsite for one night. (*This establishment consists of a motel, campground, restaurant, general store and gift shop -- there are no other businesses.) We then took the Honda for a 40 mile drive up Death Valley to see "Scotty's Castle." This is an elaborate residential mansion built by Death Valley Scotty in the late 1920's and 1930's. It appears that Scotty never had a dime, but was a great con man who got people to invest in his "gold mine." There never was a gold mine but he spent the invested money in such a flamboyant and public manner (including building his Castle) while saying all the money was coming from this now famous gold mine, that more investors were always anxious to buy into the deal. It's like Mark Twain said; "A gold mine is a hole in the ground with a liar at the top."

Anyway, by 3 o'clock we had both seen enough of Death Valley and were good and ready to leave tomorrow morning. We put a thermometer outside in the shadow of the motorhome and it immediately went to 103 degrees -- yesterday they said it was officially 107.

Here's our view. Death Valley is magnificent to see; it's a very memorable and impressive place, but it's not beautiful in the way that the Grand Canyon or Yosemite Valley are beautiful. It's quite inhospitable. Almost no one lives here. We think that if toxic waste disposal and storage of spent uranium rods from nuclear power plants are the problem that we are told they are, then not only would Death Valley be a good place to dispose of such items, but we can't think of a better, more beneficial, use for this place.

As I finish up this entry Sharyn is outside looking at the stars with the coyotes.

 

10/3/00
(Pahrump NV)

We left Stovepipe Wells heading towards Pahrump NV and the Escapees park located there. We had only gone a few miles when Sharyn said that she would drive. I've been after her for a long time to drive once a week, even if only for ten miles. She drove fifteen miles or so to the edge of Furnace Creek. She did terrific!

It was an otherwise uneventful trip to Pahrump where we checked into the Escapees Co-op Park for two days. After getting all setup we went back into town with the Honda to get some groceries -- we went to Jones' Supermarket. The lobby of the supermarket was lined with slot machines. That's okay, but a big sign says that there is no smoking allowed in the building, except fot those playing the slot machines! I guess that's an indication of who has the political clout in Nevada.

Miles for day = 90.

 

10/4/00
(Pahrump NV)

About the only thing we did today was to take the dog to the vet. I also put a 4" lip on the compartment that holds the electric cord so that it would be easier to coil it into the compartment.

Miles for day = 0.

 

10/5/00
(Las Vegas)

We left Pahrump this morning heading for Nellis AFB at Las Vegas. I Vegas we filled the motorhome with gas at $1.719 per gallon. It took 58.2 gallons but could have taken as much as 5 gallons more. When you run your credit (debit) card through the pump the card is not approved for an unlimited amount of gas. The pump will shut off after $50, $75, or $100 dollars worth, whatever amount the system is set for. This pump was set for $50, so I got 29.087 gallons before it shut off. I then hung up the hose and repeated the entire process, getting another 29.087 gallons. Because I wanted to check the mileage I wanted to top off the tank, but when I tried to do the card a third time the message read; " Use another card or pay inside." Since I wasn't going to take but a few more gallons, and I was blocking an entire row of pumps with cars backed up at all fuel islands, I decided not to bother and we left. In Lone Pine, on 10/2/00, we only bought 20 gallons to insure we'd have enough gas to get to Vegas, figuring we could save maybe 50 cents per gallon in Vegas. Well we saved 48 cents per gallon -- on 58 gallons it's a worthwhile savings.

When we checked in at the FamCamp at the air base we were told they were full and we'd have to stay in the overflow area. That means no hookups, which means no air conditioning (although it's only $4). We did run the generator for almost 2 hours so we could watch the Vice-presidential debates, and during that time we ran the a/c's full blast and cooled of the motorhome for the evening -- by daylight it's plain cold.

Miles for day = 73.

 

10/6/00
(Las Vegas)

Correction from yesterdays entry. It was not cold by daylight, and in fact it was uncomfortably warm all during the night. One must understand, however, that we sleep with the thermostat at 69 degrees, whether that requires heating or air conditioning.

In any event, first thing this morning I checked with the office and we had lucked out. A space was available with full hookups, including 50 amp service. Once we were set up in the new space, with both air conditioners running I felt much better -- like we weren't "camping." Living in this motorhome certainly isn't "camping," unless we don't have air conditioning -- I guess no air conditioning is my definition of "camping." Anyway, after getting set up we continued with our coffee and conversation -- "coffee and conversation" may very well be my favorite time/activity of the day. It is very relaxed and pleasant.

After a while we went to check out the BX, and then to the commissary to buy groceries. Actually we spent several hours doing that stuff so that when we returned to the motorhome we pretty much just hung out for the rest of the day. We were both kind of tired and were in bed shortly after ten.

One thing I like about this base is that it must be home to one or more fighter squadrons as there are super cool fighter aircraft taking off and landing all the time. I believe some are F-15's. The others look like black, dart shaped arrow heads. The takeoffs at night, with the planes heading away from us, look like blow torches in the night sky. The ground rumbles and I get goose bumps -- I could live on the end of the runway. Forty-two years ago I worked on F-86's. The difference is that between a 1948 Studebaker and full blown Ferrari! Maybe you had to have been there.

 

10/7/00
(Las Vegas)

This morning we were both well rested and out of bed at 7:30. We definitely sleep better when it's cooler.

After coffee and conversation I hooked up our water and sewer lines and dumped the holding tanks before showering. The laundry room is in the FamCamp office building only 100' from the motorhome so Sharyn did the laundry. There was even a copy of today's Las Vegas paper that had been left there.

Early this afternoon we drove into Las Vegas by driving south on Las Vegas Blvd right from the main gate of the base. The Las Vegas "Strip" is the downtown portion of Las Vegas Blvd so it was pretty convenient. We drove the "Strip" in a southerly direction, then made a U-turn and came back up on the other side. We stopped at a few gift shop type places and then we went to Caesar's Palace where I put a quarter in a slot machine and lost. Sharyn was more optimistic but did not do any better -- only lost more money ($10). While at Caesar's Palace we also walked around and watched what other people were doing at the roulette wheels and card tables. At the 5 and 25 cent slot machines people looked like they were just having some none-serious fun. At the bigger number slots, and at the tables, they had a "this is serious business" look about them. All the slots will take $100 bills! Before we left Caesar's we each had a Ruben and a diet Coke.

On the way back to the motorhome I mentioned to Sharyn that Nellis AFB must be a pretty good duty station for 20-30 year old guys.

 

10/8/00
(Kingman AZ)

We were on the road by 10:am and on our way towards the Grand Canyon. At the Nevada/Arizona line US-93 crosses the Hoover Dam which holds back the Colorado River resulting in the formation of Lake Mead. (Sharyn's grandfather, an Australian immigrant and an engineer, worked on the Hoover Dam as well as the Panama Canal while those projects were under construction). As we approached the area of the dam the surrounding terrain was extremely rough, tough, and uninviting.

By 2:pm we were in the KOA in Kingman AZ. When I inquired about a phone jack where I could plug in to download my e-mail I was told that the phone jack was part of the KOA computer kiosk and that it would cost me a dollar for five minutes use of that line (plus I have to pay the phone company for my on-line time). When I told the lady that I thought they would get a lot of negative feedback from that kind of extortion (I didn't say extortion) she told me that all KOA were going to have that system. They got my dollar, but they've lost our business. Most RV places will allow you to plug in to their own phone line if they don't have a separate line for those seeking to download e-mail.

We also discovered that the refrigerator was no longer working. Both the refrigerator and freezer were in a state of advanced defrost.

Miles for day = 115.

 

10/9/00
(Flagstaff AZ)

First thing we did this morning was to call Jack's RV Service in Flagstaff AZ. He was the closest factory authorized repair facility for warranty work, plus Flagstaff was only about 30 miles out of our way on the way to the Grand Canyon. Jack said he thought he knew what the problem was and that Norcold had a lot of problems with the new refrigerators. We arrived at Jacks a little after noon. Within two minutes he had removed an inspection plate on the cooling unit and showed us where all the ammonia had leaked out of the system. He called Norcold who will overnight a replacement cooling unit. He also told us how to get to Black Bart's RV Park, Saloon, Restaurant, and Antique Shop.

We drove the mile or so to Black Bart's where we checked in for two days. We then went to Sam's and bought two styrofoam coolers. Bart's sold us two bags of ice for the food in the coolers and told us we could put our freezer stuff in the store freezer. Bart's is a nice place, although we have yet to check out the saloon or restaurant.

Driving from Kingman to Flagstaff it seemed that we were going uphill all the way. We basically were, as Flagstaff is over 7,000 in elevation and considerably cooler then were we've been in recent days - it's downright comfortable. On the way to Flagstaff we could see the changing scenery as we went from pure desert to scattered shrubs , grasses, and eventually real trees. We also saw a creek that actually had water in it (as opposed to a dried up creekbed).

Miles for day = 151.

 

10/10/00
(Flagstaff AZ)

Today was a rather inactive day as basically we're just waiting for the refrigerator repair. Jack called us late this morning to tell us that FedEx had arrived with the new cooling unit and he could install it (a four hour process) first thing tomorrow morning.

It was quite cool this morning with the temperature only in the 40's. Sharyn made a big breakfast with eggs, potatoes, onions, steak, English muffins, etc. With the heat turned on, plus the smell of all that good food cooking, when I came back in from walking the dog I told Sharyn that it sure was "homey" feeling in the motorhome.

Later in the day we took a ride through the "historic" part of the old town of Flagstaff along US-66 where I bought a US-66 T-shirt.

 

10/11/00
(Flagstaff AZ)

This morning we were at Jack's RV Repair before 9:am. The "cooling unit" that he replaced consisted of the entire working mechanism that is removed from the back of the refrigerator as a complete assembly (after the refrigerator has been pulled out of the wall) and replaced with with the new one from the factory. While loosing our refrigerator was a pain in the neck, we were fortunate that Jack was only a day away and only 30 miles off of our planned route. We ended the day watching the 2nd Bush-Gore debate and we were both pleased and relieved that Bush did is well as he did and the Gore came across so poorly -- hopefully the rest of the Country saw it the same way we did.

 

10/12/00
(Grand Canyon AZ)

We woke up this morning when the guy next to us with the big diesel rig started it up at 7:am and just let it run. It was only 30 degrees outside but it was 68 in the motorhome. That's pretty impressive since we had only one heat pump running with the thermostat set on 70. Heat pumps are not supposed to work when the temperature goes below 40.

By the time the temperature had climbed to 35 we left Flagstaff and headed for the Grand Canyon. The weather was terrific; sunny, bright, and cool. We arrived at Grand Canyon National Park early in the afternoon, got a campsite with full hookups. After spending some time looking over the information and brochures we we had picked up when we registered at the campground we took a ride to the little "village" down the road, checked out the store, and returned to the motorhome. The campground is crawling with deer. Tomorrow we'll check out the canyon.

 

10/13/00
(Grand Canyon AZ)

The Grand Canyon is just as awe inspiring today as it was in 1970. While the campground is no longer right at the rim of the canyon, the foot trail that follows the edge of the rim is a better plan. We started at the Visitors Center (where of course we bought a few books) and then we walked along the rim trail in a westerly direction for 1.6 miles to some gift and souvenir shops. After perusing these shops we walked back along the trail to where we had left the car at the visitors center parking lot. We were delayed a few minutes while I waited for Sharyn to climb down out of her tree. Then she took one of me. Obviously we took a number a photographs along the way, but the photos don't begin to do to you what standing there and looking across the canyon does. The scale is beyond comprehension -- note that we are on the south rim of the canyon, the north rim across the canyon is ten miles away -- the Colorado River is more than a mile below the rim. Photo #1 Photo #2 Photo #3

 

10/14/00
(Mesa Verde, CO)

This morning we headed for Mesa Verde (cliff dwellings) in Colorado. Driving easterly along the Grand Canyon we came upon two views that we had to photograph (in spite of the numerous photos taken yesterday). Photo #1 Photo #2.

We had planned to drive only as far as Tuba City AZ, check out the Trading Post there, and spend the afternoon and night at the RV Park there. However, Sharyn is getting concerned about our running late for Thanksgiving at Jordan's, so we decided to drive through to Mesa Verde even though we don't usually drive that far in one day. We did stop at the Trading Post in Tuba City but found that while the stuff they had was really nice, their prices were disproportionately so. We did get Jordan a pair of silver "dreamcatcher" earrings. A Navajo rug that we both like we decided to pass up based on the $11,000 price tag.

We enjoyed the drive to Mesa Verde; particularly from the Painted Desert to Four Corners, it is much prettier country than that which we were seeing between Death Valley and Flagstaff. Somewhat east of this area, but in keeping with the beauty we saw, was Chimney Rock.

It was getting late enough in the day that I had turned on the lights. A few miles later we stopped to let the dog out and I walked around back to verify that the tail lights on the Honda were also on. Well, we had no tail lights or running lights at all -- not on the Honda or the motorhome. Several weeks ago I realized that the panel lights were out, but since we never drive at night I made a note to check the fuse, but never followed through. Now I suspect that all these lights are on the same fuse which I will check tomorrow.

We arrived at A&A Mesa Verde RV Park shortly after dark. Miles for day = 268.

 

10/15/00
(Mesa Verde, CO)

At 11:am, after coffee and coffee and conversation, we set out for Mesa Verde National Park. The entrance is just across the highway from the campground, but the dwellings and other points of interest are 20 miles beyond the entrance. We did the ranger guided tour of the Cliff Palace which is one of the larger sites. Before we started the ranger told us that they have a different saying; "Everything that goes down must come up." Some of the people did not go down, and some that did had trouble coming back up. To give a better idea as to the exit route, the guy circled in this photo is just completing his climb out. Sharyn thought she would have trouble but she always underestimates herself -- she had no trouble at all. We talked about going to the Spruce Tree House, another cliff dwelling, but by the time we got there we had already done the first one, seen an introductory film, done the museum and gift store, and we were pretty tired -- actually I thought a nap was in order (which is what I did when we got back to the motorhome.

 

10/16/00
(Gallup NM)

We were on the road by 10:am and headed for Gallup NM and/or the Zuni Indian Reservation 30 miles south of Gallup. When we stooped for lunch we were joined by a couple of starving mongrel dogs. At first Sharyn said we wouldn't even go out of the motorhome. After we ate, however, she went out and gave them each a can of dogfood.

Since it appears that there are no campgrounds on the reservation, when we got to Gallup we decide to stay at Red Rock State Park.

Miles for day = 154.

 

10/17/00
(Gallup NM)

Today we went to Zuni, the "Town Center" on the Zuni Reservation. After stopping at the Visitor Center/Museum we had lunch at the Route 53 Cafe. From there we checked out a number of the many trading posts for the silver and turquoise necklace that Sharyn's been looking for. While she found it at the first place we went to, we continued looking in other places to look at other necklaces and to compare value. What we found was that there was not a comparable set to be had anywhere, and we could have paid more for lesser necklaces. Also, while she had wanted Zuni, and we looked at lots of Zuni, the beautiful set (necklace, bracelet, earrings) she bought was Navajo.

 

10/18/00
(Albuquerque NM)

After coffee and conversation we took of for Albuquerque NM where we checked into the FamCamp at Kirkland AFB. We picked up some milk and dog food at the commissary before dinner. After dinner we did laundry -- the laundry room is just across the road from our campsite.

Miles for day = 139.

 

10/19/00
(Albuquerque NM)

More laundry and more groceries. Not too much else.

 

10/20/00
(Fort Sumner NM)

This morning , after dumping the holding tanks and filling up with water, we headed for Texas. We did the first hundred + miles eastbound on I-40. At exit 277 we took US-84 which heads in a generally southeasterly direction into Texas. We are headed for Livingston, Texas to visit and check out Escapees headquarters. We've enjoyed a number of escapee parks but have yet to see Livingston. While we are there we will change our mailing address to Livingston and just let our year run out with our mail forwarding service in Oregon.

We are moving much more rapidly then we would like to in order to get to our daughters on Long Island for Thanksgiving. We ended up in Ft. Sumner NM at Valley View RV Park. It's $15 for full hookups with 50 amp service, but the reason we selected to stay here is that the campsites are 45 feet wide. That's quite nice.

Miles for day = 159.

 

10/21/00
(Post TX)

It was drizzling rain this morning as we got an early start. As the morning progressed it developed that we were driving in the rain most of the time -- on several occasions the rain was so hard that we had to slow down due to limited visibility. This is the first rain we have seen in months.

We passed a large Ford dealer just a few miles before the Texas border and made a U-turn and went back to see if we could get him to address some of our electrical problems (no running/tail lights; windshield washer will blow wiper fuse; wire harness rubbing against front left shock). Since it was Saturday (we were unaware) the shop was closed. A number of technicians were there, however, doing work on the used car inventory. They did take enough time to get our tail/running lights operational.

We then continued on our way to our destination that we had decided would be Post Valley View RV Park in Post, Texas. The park read very nicely in Woodall's, but the reality didn't meet our expectations. These RV parks and the descriptions in Woodall's, as well as the other campground directories, frequently don't fit too well with what we find on the ground. Sometimes we find them to be much nicer than what we expected, but probably more often it is as it was today.

Miles for day = 198
Odometer reading = 13,193

 

10/22/00
(Coleman TX)

This was a pretty uneventful day. We are trying to get to visit our granddaughter in Magnolia, Texas, then go on to spend a few days at Escapees headquarters in Livingston, Texas, and then try to catch other grandchildren appearing in school plays in Earlysville, Virginia, and Southold, NY -- all before Thanksgiving. The result of all of this is that we are pushing further and faster than we would like to, but sometimes you just have to do this stuff. Next year we'll go slower, stop earlier, and stay places longer.

We were going to continue on to Brownwood TX but it started to rain as we approached Coleman so we decided to cut it a little shorter than planned. We are at a Corps of Engineers campground that cost $7 with water and 30 amps ($14 if you don't have a Golden Access Pass). We have found that the Corps of Engineers (COE) campgrounds do not have too many amenities, but are almost always some of the nicer campgrounds in easy to enjoy natural surroundings. In these pictures, having frightened this great blue heron from his resting place, Sharyn and Sabrina return to the motorhome where Sharyn takes a nap.

Miles for day = 186
Odometer reading = 13,379

 

10/23/00
(Elgin TX)

It's been raining most of the day and it's still raining tonight. As we came through Austin TX we stopped and bought gas at $1.399 per gallon. That's the cheapest price we've seen on gas since Myrtle Beach SC in April. It's also one dollar a gallon cheaper than the $2.399 we saw in Lee Vinning CA a month ago.

One thing that we took note of as we drive through Texas is the large number of American flags that we see flying -- most of them are accompanied by the Texas state flag as well. We think that's pretty neat.

Miles for day = 202
Odometer reading = 13,582

 

10/24/00
( Livingston TX)

It was still overcast today, but no more rain. We got to Magnolia TX where we visited with Tammey and Mary. There is no question but that Mary has Shane's eyes (Photo #2, Photo #3).After a short but pleasant visit we headed on to Livingston, and Escapees main base of operations. We didn't arrive until after dark -- this may be the first time we've been on the road after dark since we got the Allegro. Since we got in so late we were directed to a dry camping area in a grove of large trees with 3 or four other late arrivals. Hopefully they'll have sites available for all of us tomorrow.

Miles for day = 233
Odometer reading = 13,815

 

10/25/00
(Livingston TX)

We lucked out in that by mid afternoon they had a site (with full hookups) open up and we moved into it. We were #22 on the list and only 24 sites opened up.

During the first part of the day we went to DMV, actually in Texas it's the County Tax Commissioner, to see about getting plates for Jordan's car. There were some minor complications, but hopefully we'll be able to get the plates before we leave here.

We also got a new mailing address through Escapees here in Livingston which we will make our permanent address. We'll just let our Oregon address run out which I think will happen in January.

 

10/26/00
(Livingston TX)

Sharyn describes the day as she did the laundry while I read the newspapers. This afternoon we went to the "social hour" at the activity center where we and other new arrivals introduced ourselves to everyone else.

I can't access the Internet (or e-mail) as the phone line does not seem to recognize a toll free "888" number -- keeps saying "please check the number and try again."

 

10/27/00
(Livingston TX)

I checked with DMV and was told that Jordan's plates were mailed earlier in the day so we've decided not to leave in the morning, but to wait for the afternoon mail.

I washed the car about two hours before it rained.

 

10/28/00
(Livingston TX)

Sharyn helped decorate the activity center for the Halloween party coming up next week.

Jordan's license plates came in the mail -- we'll leave here tomorrow.

 

10/29/00
(Rhinehart LA)

With the end of daylight savings time we didn't get on the road until just after noon. We had planned to go only as far as Louisiana, but,partly because we missed several campgrounds, we drove most of the way through Louisiana to within about 40 miles of the Mississippi line.

While in Livingston we joined Passport America for $39. That supposed to get us 50% off at about 1000 campgrounds. So far so good, tonight we stopped at Old River Campground, a Passport America member, and paid $7.50 for a $15 campsite. This could work out pretty well for full-time, RV'ers.

Miles for day = 207
Odometer reading = 14,022

 

10/30/00
(Tupelo MS)

We started out this morning planning to drive straight through to Red Bay AL (Tiffin's Allegro manufacturing plant) which we estimated to be 350 miles. However, with our usual late start we didn't make it.

When we hit Mississippi at Natchez we picked up the Natchez-Trace Parkway heading north. Several weeks ago we were planning to go straight to Long Island via Charlottesville VA, but a few days ago when we realized that when traveling the Natchez-Trace we would pass within 14 miles of Red Bay we decided it didn't make sense not to stop (since we were going to go to Red Bay in January to have the factory attend to some things we wanted done).

About 50 miles from Tupelo (having traveled about 250 miles, some of which was driven by Sharyn) we looked in the Passport America guide book and decided to stop at Natchez Trace Campground in Tupelo MS. (Another Passport America savings -- we paid $8 instead of $16). It was dark when we arrived at the campground at 5:30pm. Now that Sharyn has driven again her comfort level is vastly improved -- if need be, in an emergency, she could get us to where we had to go .

The Natchez-Trace Parkway is a two lane roadway that basically follows the original Natchez trace, or Indian trail, that goes back to the 1730's and winds its way for almost 450 miles from Natchez MS to just south of Nashville TN. A beautiful drive and, we think, another tribute to the National Park Service!

Miles for day = 303
Odometer reading = 14,325

 

10/31/00
(Red Bay AL)

Since we didn't have that far to go, we arrived at the Allegro Campground in Red Bay just before lunch. When we were here in March this campground was under construction. While it is probably two miles two miles from the plant, it is a major improvement over the holding area along the railroad siding in the parking lot.

Anyway, when we checked in at the campground we were also put on the waiting list to have work performed on the motorhome. We were told that the current wait was approximately 7-10 days.

After getting set up we checked out the Camper's Choice store which is now located next to the office in the campground. They have a desk set up for plugging in your laptop to a phone line so for the first time in almost a week we were able to get e-mail, download from the bank, update this Travelog, etc.

Miles for day = 61
Odometer reading = 14,386

 

11/1/00
(Huntsville AL)

Talking to other people in the campground we discovered several who had been there 13 and 14 days and have yet to have have units worked on. We didn't think we were willing to wait a week and two weeks would preclude us from meeting our timeframes so we decided we'd come back in January (as we had originally planned).

We drove as far as the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville AL where we checked in at the military campground located on post by the Tennessee River. No discounts here -- we paid the full $5 fee for water and 50 amp service. After getting set up we took the Honda and drove to the commissary for some groceries. This is some big facility, from the campground to the commissary was 12 miles.

Miles for day = 108
Odometer reading = 14,494

 

11/2/00
(Knoxville TN)

We started off this morning with the aim of driving to Knoxville and staying at the Escapees Racoon Valley Campground where we stayed for two nights back in February. As we approched Knoxville it was 4:pm so we thought we had beaten the 5 0'clock traffic. Unfortunately we forgot that we had crossed into the Eastern Time Zone and it was really 5:pm -- something that was borne out by the traffic.

Anyway, we arrived at Racoon Valley, checked in, and had barbequed steak and fresh brocolli for dinner.

It's only 7:pm but I'm doing this early so that I can get it uploaded, check my e-mail, etc., then come back to the motorhome, take a shower and read the newspaper.

Miles for day = 235
Odometer reading = 14,729

 

11/3/00
(Salem VA)

From Knoxville to Charlottesville is all direct route via Interstate so we've decided to do it in two days. Accordingly we got to Salem VA tonight, getting in just before dark.

Miles for day = 252
Odometer reading = 14,981

 

11/4/00
(Charlottesville VA)

We arrived at Phil and Kim's shortly after noon. Katlin and Phil IV certainly have grown since the last time we saw them.

Miles for day = 137
Odometer reading = 15,118

 

11/5/00 to 11/11/00
(Charlottesville VA)

We spent the week with Phil, Kim, Katlin, and Philip (parked in their driveway). The closing on their new house is scheduled for November 30, but in the interum they have access to the house for painting, moving in furnature, etc. We helped a little bit, but youth certainly moves faster than we do.

 

11/12/00
(Boonton NJ)

Having left Phil and Kim's early this morning we arrived at Harry and Irene's this afternoon. As always we enjoy them, their company, and their sons. The highlight of the trip was the dump station at the Maryland rest stop where we dumped eight days worth of black water. We now know that we can count on at least a weeks black water holding capacity. At Phil's we had left the gray water valve open and ran a 50' garden hose into the woods.

Miles for day = 360
Odometer reading = 15,478

 

11/13/00
(Boonton NJ)

Spent the day with Irene and Harry (whom I've known for almost 50 years), and their three boys.

Brian, their middle son, is a sign painter and commercial artist, and as a special request he put lettering on the back of the motorhome. Sharyn was afraid it would look "tacky," but Brian assured her that it didn't have to.

 

11/14/00
(Southold NY)

We arrived at Jordan's house mid-afternoon and called her at work to let her know we had arrived. Since Greg only lives a mile away we called and then went over to see him.

It's kind of strange that Sharyn had been wanting split pea soup and had just bought some to make for dinner - Greg had just finished making a big pot of split pea soup with the left over ham bone from the night before, so we all had big bowls of fresh made soup.

Mechanically it was not a good day. It sounds as if we have a bad wheel bearing, but at 15,000 miles that doesn't seem too likely. In the last thousand miles or so the sound has come and gone on a few occasions but it never persisted and was never as loud as it was for the last several miles. Next, as I got out of the motorhome at Jordan's I saw that the basement storage compartments under the slideout were cantered out at the bottom. The two bolts that the rear of the basement unit hangs from were both broken. Finally, we don't get any TV satellite signal. We didn't get any signal at Harry's either, but the dish was not too far above a nearby tree line so I had attributed the lack of signal to the trees.

Since we'll be here through Thanksgiving there will not be daily entries to this travelog during our stay.

Miles for day = 127
Odometer reading = 15,605

 

12/5/00
(Southold NY)

It was three weeks ago yesterday that we arrived here and we plan to leave the day after tomorrow. With respect to the mechanical problems described on 11/14/00 we have done or determined the following:

The wheel bearing noise was checked out by Otis Ford in Quogue NY who was unable to duplicate the noise or find anything wrong with the bearings. The technician told me, however, that they are aware of several instances of such noises having been trace to the full wheel covers working against the wheel rim as the wheel flexes ever so slightly as the wheel rotates. That could be the source of the noise - it sounded too "dry" for a bearing with only 15,000 miles on it. In addition, while I can't be certain that it always was, on at least occassions when the noise appeared it was or had been raining, perhaps providing the necessary degree of "lubbrication" to enable the wheel cover to "work" against the steel rim. The next time the noise appears I'll pop the cover and see if that stops the noise.

As to the broken bolts from which the basement compartments are suspended, the broken end on one was rusted indicating that it was broken for some time. The other bolt was clean at the break and probably broke as a result of carrying the entire load. Also, traveling through New York City and the Cross Bronx Expressway, I suspect, pushes everything to the limit. In any event, North Fork Welding, a local welding shop did a fine repair for a very reasonable $38. I'm sure that Allegro (Tiffin Manufacturing) will reimburse us for the $38.

As for the lack of a satellite signal, we have not been able to address that problem but we have an 8:am appointment at Camping World in Manassas, Virginia, this Friday. They are an authorized warranty repair facility for Winegard.

Lack of a satellite signal has not been a problem since while we have been here (at our daughter's house) I have run a 50 amp service line, telephone, and cable lines from her house to where we park the motorhome. She only has 100 amp service coming into the house through an old and very limited fise box installed in the wall of her bedroom. In order to do the job properly (if not by code?) I put a sub-panel in the crawl space beneath the house from which I took off lines to both her dryer and the motorhome. I kind of messed up with the outside connection as I had intended to have all connections in the same box. When I had to mount a seperate box for the telephone and cable I didn't have enough room on the post to mount it as high off the ground as I would have liked. Coupled with the sewer line we had put in last spring we are now in pretty good shape when we come here.

Miles since 11/14/00 = 65
Odometer reading = 15,670

 

12/10/00
(Manassas VA)

This morning we were up at 6:30am and on the road at 8:05. That's not too terribly quick, but after 25 days in your daughter's back yard there is a degree of "intermingling" of stuff, which needs to be straightened out.

The problem I've always had with traveling to or from Eastern Long Island is that you must go through New York City to get to or from the North American continent -- it's a royal pain in the butt. On top of that our tolls, leaving NY, came to $43 not counting the Baltimore tunnel which was another $3.

The trip was uneventful except that between Baltimore and Washington we ran for perhaps ten miles in fairly serious snowfall. Luckily the temperature must have been on our side and there was no accumulation. If you don't know Sharyn you can't appreciate the significance snow when we're driving.

Right now we're plugged into 30 amp service in Camping World's parking lot waiting for tomorrow morning and our 8:am appointment to have them find out why we aren't receiving any signal from our satellite dish.

Miles for day = 352
Odometer reading = 16,022

 

12/11/00 to 12/29/00
(Earlysville VA)

During this time we were set up in Phil and Kim's backyard, originally with a long extension cord running to the house, but we subsequently installed an underground 50 amp service to the motorhome that we (Phil and I) continued out to Phil's workshed located 200' behind the house. Phil's access to a backhoe made this installation possible.

We got to enjoy Phil's family and see them in their new home (they bought this house only a few weeks before we arrived). We also got to have Christmas with them. Jordan flew down from Long Island for a few days at Christmas, and since Shane also lives in the Charlottesville area, we saw three of our four kids this Christmas. We also helped celebrate Phil IV's first birthday on December 21.

The weather sure was cold! For the first time ever we had our water lines freeze up and it took until mid-afternoon to get the lines thawed out. That day it was 12 degrees by mid-morning. Whenever the temperature went below 25 degrees the heat pumps switched over to auxiliary (LP gas) heat. Since this happened every night I was having to take the motorhome into town every 8-10 days to get the LP gas refilled.

"Miles for day" and "Odometer reading" upon our arrival in Earlysville on December 11 were not timely noted and will never be known.

 

12/30/00
(South of the Border, SC)

With the entire Northeast and much of the East Coast awaiting a major snow storm, we were not sure that we'd be able to leave this morning, but we awoke to a cloudy day with no snow so we took off, headed south. Sharyn's mother isn't doing well so we are headed for Fort Myers, Florida. During the day we experienced some sunshine and some moderately heavy snow fall, but never any accumulation.

After being in one place for almost three weeks it felt great to be back on the road again. I told Sharyn today that if I could have any multi-million dollar house of my choice but would have to give up our motorhome and present lifestyle in exchange, I would decline the offer. She said she'd take the house.

Miles for day = 340
Odometer reading = 16,509

 

12/31/00
(Santee SC)

We didn't get out of the campground until almost 10:30am. We had talked to Aunt Virginia, in Columbia, last night and had arranged to meet her in the Woodhill Shopping Center parking lot in Columbia around 11:am. Since we got a late start we didn't arrive until shortly after noon, but she arrived a few minutes after we called. We had planned to have a brief lunch for the three of us in the motorhome and then be on our way within an hour -- we wanted to get to Florida today.

However, when Aunt Virginia arrived she told us she had lunch all prepared at her house and we left our rig in the parking lot while she drove us to her house. While it clearly set us back in our planned mileage for the day, it was a very enjoyable visit and well worth the delay. We have always said that Aunt Virginia is the epitome of "a fine Southern lady" and we thoroughly her company.

After being driven back to the motorhome we took I-26 in a southeasterly direction back towards I-95 to continue our trek towards Ft Myers. We stopped at Santee State Park right on Lake Marion. We stopped here once before and I thought we thought it was very nice. I found out tonight, however, that Sharyn thinks it's a little "scary" after dark. When she goes out for her cigarette (I know, but she's just about ready to quit) she's back inside in less than two minutes. The campsite is right at the edge of the lake, set back among the pine trees and bare oaks with Spanish Moss waving in the cold winds that are coming from across the dark water. There are only a handful of RVs here so everyone is quite spread out, and it is very dark. I'm glad I don't smoke!

Miles for day = 180
Odometer reading = 16,690

 

 

2001

1/1/01
(Starke FL)

We like to be all setup for the night while it's still daylight, but this time of year that requires us to be off the road by 4 - 4:30pm. When we don't get started until late, like we did yesterday, it makes for a short travel time. Usually that's not a problem because we don't try to cover any large distance, or go too far in any single day. Right now, however, we are just trying to get from Point A to Point B.

All because of which we decided that we would get an early start this morning. Accordingly, I got up at 5:30, made the coffee and then at 6:am called Sharyn. We would have been on the road at 7:30 except that yesterday afternoon after I had filled the water tank I hosed down the car and the tow bar (the car was not hooked up at the time). When we hooked up the car this morning, as the tow bar arms extended the locking pins that hold the arms in the extended position would not snap into place -- it was 24 degrees and they were frozen! I tried a butane barbecue starter that that apparently didn't make enough heat. A teapot of boiling water poured slowly over the lock pins freed the up and the towbar was locked in the extended position at 8:am, at which time we left Santee State Park.

We continued south on I-95 until just south of the Florida border where we exited to pick up US-301 as the best way way to cross to the west coast while still moving in a southerly direction. We stopped at about 3 o'clock at a Florida National Guard facility near Starke that has a small but very nice campground right on a lake. After we were set up Sharyn walked down to check out the water and discover that the lake has a beautiful white sandy beach that runs out into the water.

Later on Sharyn read her book while I read the paper. A very relaxing afternoon for both of us.

One thing of interest that I almost forgot about; while we were still in Georgia we were shopping for the best gasoline price we could find because we were going to need a lot. Unfortunately we had to stop looking because we were very low and we paid $1.359/gallon for 81.6 gallons. We only have a "75 gallon" tank! Then to top it off, at the last exit in Georgia gas was $1.049 -- a full 31 cents less that what we had paid 40 miles earlier (a difference worth about $25).

Miles for day = 305
Odometer reading = 16,995

 

1/2/01
(Starke FL)

We decided to stay here for the day, just relax and enjoy the sunny weather and peaceful surrounding. We also did a thorough house cleaning since that's something we haven't focused on for quite a while. I even washed the motorhome for the first time since I can't even remember when.

Miles for day = 0
Odometer reading = 16,995

 

1/3/01
(Palm Bay FL)

This morning we got back on the road, only we headed back to the East Coast to visit Sharyn's sister, Carol, in Palm Bay (this is a good example of why we never make campground reservations -- our plans are never firm until after the event).

We parked in their driveway and hooked to 30 amp service. Roger (Carol's husband) is a retired electrician and said that next time we come by there''ll be a 50 amp service at the driveway. After several hours of visiting we walked to a local restaurant where Carol and Roger treated us to a fine dinner.

Miles for day = 193
Odometer reading = 17,189

 

1/4/01
(Palm Bay FL)

Sharyn and Carol don't get to see each other too often so we decided to spend the day here. They spent the day wandering around the shopping center. Sharyn also had her hair done and I got a $7 haircut. We stayed up talking until it was pretty late.

Miles for day = 0
Odometer reading = 17,189

 

1/5/01
(West Palm Beach FL)

After stopping by TJ Max so Sharyn could return something she bought yesterday, we were once again heading south to stop by and visit with Linda and Bill in (near) Stuart. I've known Linda since about 1943. I only know this from photographs; my present recollection only goes back to teenage years.

We visited with them for several hours and then moved on to West Palm Beach to visit with Sharyn's cousin(s) Diana and Carl. We were already set up in our campsite when Carl, having gotten home and finding our message on his answering machine, called us back. Being as it was Friday night and they were going to a local yacht club party, Carl said he'd call Diana at work and have her pick us up on her way home from work -- which she did.

After the party we all went back to the motorhome, together with their daughter, Jennifer, and her husband, Steve. We ate ice cream and drank wine until the wee hours of the morning.

Miles for day = 121
Odometer reading = 17,309

 

1/6/01
(Ft. Myers FL)

From West Palm Beach it was a relatively short drive across Florida to Ft. Myers on the West Coast. We started late and arrived at Sharyn's mother's mid-afternoon. We stayed for a few minutes and then went to North Ft. Myers and got a campsite at Swift RV park. With our Passport America membership (which has paid for itself several times over) we paid $10 for a $20 campsite. We then returned to Sharyn's mother's to visit and have dinner.

By the way, today was the first day that we ran the air conditioner instead of the heat. It was a welcome change!

Miles for day = 128
Odometer reading = 17,438

 

1/7/01 to 1/14/01
(Ft. Myers FL)

Basically we've been here for a week. We've stayed longer than originally planned because Sharyn's mother isn't doing too well and when we leave here we won't be back on the East Coast until December 2001.

While there isn't too much to write about, this is the first time we've been in Florida that it isn't either hot, humid, and oppressive or cold and rainy. With daytime highs in the low 70's and nighttime lows in the high 50's or low 60's this is very easy to take -- especially with most of the nation suffering in the bowels of winter!

Our campsite is quite satisfactory, although it's just across the road from a small shopping center, Winn-Dixie, and the North Ft. Myers Post Office.

Driving back and forth to Sharyn's mother's (22 miles each way) we pass an interesting sign. What exactly does this sign mean?

SHOOT OUT AT SWIFT'S RV PARK. Around midnight, it was only a few minutes after I wrote the above, ". . . there isn't too much to write about, . ." that from the back of the RV park we heard 3 or 4 gunshots in rapid fire mode, followed by several seconds of silence and the 3 more rounds of rapid fire. Due to the lateness of the hour, there had been no sounds prior to the shooting, and there was silence again when the shooting stopped. We called 911 and I was talking to the dispatcher when more shooting came from the back. The dispatcher said she also heard the "pops."

A few minutes later three sheriff's cars pulled into the campground and went to the rear. I went out and spoke with 3-4 other people who had gathered in the road. No one really knew anything except the the owner's son pointed to a lighted window visible through the woods and said that the shooting had come from there, and that he had been hearing a lot of yelling prior to the shots. Ten minutes later one of the sheriff's cars came out on the next road over, followed a few minutes later by the other two. I guess we'll have to buy a local paper to find out what it was all about.

After it was all over Sharyn went outside to have a cigarette. It was only a few seconds later that she jumped back into the motorhome and slammed the door behind her. She said a pickup truck had come down the road and she was afraid it may have been the shooter!

Odometer reading = 17,438

 

1/18/01
(Ft. Myers FL)

Greg flew down for a visit and he's staying with us in the motorhome. Today we drove down to Sanibel Island where we checked out the area and in the process took a walk along the beach, checking out sand pipers and abandoned sand castles.

Odometer reading = 17,438

 

1/19/01
(Ft. Myers FL)

After seeing the full page ads for Pelican Lake Motorcoach Resort http://www.pelicanlake.com over the last year or so, we decided to drive down and check the place out. It's located on Route 951, about nine miles south of Naples, FL., or about 50 miles south of Ft. Myers.

At $75 for one night on a lakefront site, or something in excess of $200,000 to purchase such a site, some might consider it a little steep, although it is undeniably quite nice.

Odometer reading = 17,438

 

1/20/01
(Ft. Myers FL)

A great day for America!
After having been a shame, disgrace, and embarrassment to this Country for eight years, Clinton is finally gone!

 

1/22/01
( Venice FL)

We got all set to leave this morning and then went by to say good-bye to Sharyn's mother, brother, and sister (who had flown in from California). It was 2:pm before we got on the road and headed north on I-75. I had planned to get north of Tampa before looking for a place to stop, but we were both completely washed out and at 4:pm we pulled in to Venice Campground in Venice FL.

We had pulled off the Interstate based on a campground sign and Sharyn was still trying to locate the place in the campground guide when we pulled into the entrance a half mile down the road. When the guy said the cost was $30 for the night I declined, but Sharyn, noting that neither one of us wanted to continue on, said we should stay anyway. This now becomes the most expensive campground we've ever stayed in, and while it's nice, it certainly doesn't warrant the highest campground fee we've ever paid!

Miles for day = 88
Odometer reading = 17,525

 

1/23/01
(Tampa FL)

We're staying the night at the FamCamp at MacDill AFB, right on Tampa Bay. While the facilities here are really nice, all of the 250 RV sites with full hookups are taken, and we're in the dry camping overflow area. If it was swimming weather we'd certainly be using the wide, white sandy beach adjacent to the campground mariner, but it was only about 60 degrees today, and very windy.

Instead of swimming we went to the commissary and restocked on groceries. With no 120 volt electric line we listened to the news on PBS radio (rather than TV), did some reading, took a shower, and will go to bed early.

You can make reservations here up to a year in advance and then can stay for as long as 180 days at $13 per day. Sharyn thinks we should consider spending an extended time here next year. Perhaps next winter when/if we go to Key West. There is a Naval Air Station there with RV facilities that has sufficient overflow capacity that they've never had to turn anyone away.

Miles for day = 89
Odometer reading = 17,614

 

1/24/01
(Crystal River FL)

While Sharyn took her shower I went and got a haircut for $6.50. In order to get from the campground at the southern tip of the base (the base is on a peninsula that sticks out into Tampa Bay) to the main part of the base you have to go through the golf course area. It was clear that something was going on as the road we had come in on was blocked off, and airmen were directing traffic at all the intersections. On the way back from the barber shop I had to stop several times to explain that I was on my way back to the FamCamp.

Later, as we were leaving with the motorhome, we were directed out along the road that parallels the flightline. There were thousands of cars parked on the flightline with shuttle buses picking up the people. Later on in the day, as we traveled north on US-41, we heard on the radio that there were over 100 NFL players (and Rush Limbaugh) participating in a golf tournament at MacDill AFB to raise money for charity. The people parking on the flightline were paying $16 each to watch!

Since the Super Bowl takes place in Tampa this weekend I guess the tournament is part of the week long celebration. People looking for hotel/motel accommodations are being sent to Clearwater as there are no rooms left in Tampa. That might be part of the reason we could not get a site with hookups.

Anyway, we were out by 11:30 and heading up US-41 through downtown Tampa. In the first hour we covered 20 miles. We stopped a little after 3:pm at Lake Rousseau RV Park in Crystal River FL. The park is kind of crowded, but nice. It's also a Passport America campground so we paid $10 instead of $20. The park located under very large live oaks (very much like willow oaks) with lots of Spanish moss hanging from the branches. We thought that we would be able to get out satellite signal through an overhead opening, but unfortunately the satellite is not in line with that opening.

Miles for day = 107
Odometer reading = 17,721

 

1/25/01
(Tallahassee FL)

Today we traveled further than we have in recent days and arrived at the north edge of Tallahassee shortly after 4:pm. Sharyn thought that due to the hour, and the fact that it was 30 miles to the next campground (Bainbridge GA), and that campground had only 14 sites, we should stop at Big Oak RV Park, which we did. It's good we did because after we checked in and got a prime spot, there was a steady flow of RVs into the park -- mostly pretty new, big-dollar units.

This is nice campground and would be a good place to stay if you were going to spend several days in the Tallahassee area. A clear pattern that continues to repeat itself is that campgrounds that are owner operated are neater, cleaner, and just nicer places to stay.

While heading north on US-19 this afternoon, several miles south of Chiefland FL, we passeed the spot where in November, 1999, our 1985 Travel Master motorhome threw a piston and destroyed the engine block. This time the passage was uneventful -- and less expensive!

Miles for day = 175
Odometer reading = 17,896

 

1/26/01
(Montgomery AL)

Since we made the bedroom window lightproof we have been sleeping much later in the mornings. If we also close the bedroom door we don't even know if it's daylight. Because of all this we have been getting started even later than we used to, so last night we decided to set the alarm for 7:30 am, which we did. We were on the road just after 9:am (as opposed to "around noon").

We headed for Montgomery AL and the FamCamp at Maxwell AFB, arriving somewhere around 4:pm. After getting setup we went to the commissary for milk, then checked out the BX and returned to the motorhome.

Miles for day = 203
Odometer reading = 18,099

 

1/27/01
(Montgomery AL)

We had planned to visit the "Confederate White House" where Jefferson Davis initially setup the Confederate Capital before it was moved to Richmond, but it turned out it is closed on weekends.

That kind of messed up our plans, so instead Sharyn did laundry and I changed the cartridges in the water filters that we installed last July. Right after we installed the filters Sharyn stopped drinking bottle water, saying that our filtered water tasted even better than the bottled stuff.. In the last several weeks she said the water hasn't been as good as it had been so hopefully the new cartridges will bring it back to the way it was.

This morning we took a walk down the road beyond the FamCamp. We are on the opposite side of the flightline from the main base facilities. On this side are the FamCamp, fishing lakes, picnic areas, and other recreation facilities. Really nice.

This afternoon we sat outside enjoying the sunny breeze, relaxed and did some reading.

Queary: Would the Civil War have turned out differently it the Confederacy had not moved its capital to Richmond? I think it's quite likely! The South could not have beaten the industrial strength of the North, but the North could not have overcome the logistical difficulties of launching and sustaining the necessary thrust so deep into the South. Meaningful Northern victories would have been difficult to achieve, the war would have droned on, and the Northern People would have grown tired and withdrawn their support of the war effort.

What would have happened? I believe the South would have managed a negotiated peace by 1863 or 1864 (effectively winning the war) and we would be be two separate countries today.

Odometer reading = 18,099

 

1/28/01 and 1/29/01
(Montgomery AL)

We had planned to leave for Red Bay yesterday (the 28th), but yesterday morning we decided to stay over until the 30th so we could go to the original Confederate White House today, Monday the 29th.

Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day and we spent most of it lounging around and reading the Sunday papers.

Today we went into town and visited both the White House and the Alabama State Archives next door. A few years ago we visited the Confederate White House in Richmond, Virginia and, while that is a much larger house, Sharyn says she'd have no trouble living in either.

Odometer reading = 18,099

 

1/30/01
(Red Bay AL)

Following our morning coffee and conversation, we got all set to move out, and then went by the commissary for a supply of groceries (they were closed yesterday). It was almost noon when we pulled out of the base.

It was a non-eventful trip to the Allegro factory (http://www.tiffinmotorhomes.com) in Red Bay, Alabama, where we arrived shortly 5:pm. When we came by here in November there was a two week wait before they could get to our unit -- that's why we didn't wait last November. This time, as we approached Red Bay, we were talking about how long we might have to wait this time and hoped that it would not exceed four days. Upon arrival here they told us if they didn't get to us tomorrow they definitely would the next day.

For now we're all set up in Allegro's campground with 50 amp service and, since we're here for warranty work, there is no charge for the campground stay.

Miles for day = 213
Odometer reading = 18,312

 

1/31/01 to 2/5/01
(Red Bay AL)

They started working on our list (27 items -- most of which I'd have done myself if they were not warranty items) on Thursday, Feb 1, but were not able to complete all the items until Monday, Feb 5.

The way they treat you at this plant makes it very difficult to ever buy anything but another Allegro. These people have truly rewritten the book on customer service. Our warranty covers 12 months or 12,000 miles. We got here after 13 months and 18,000 miles and the excess time and mileage were non-factors (we had called from the West Coast last summer to request a verbal extension on the mileage). Some time back we had a broken hanger that had to be welded and a short circuit in the wiper system. Each of these items we had fixed locally at the time. When we told the factory people about these items they reimbursed us 100% for the $115 we had spent -- and we didn't even have a receipt for the welding repair!

There is absolutely nothing to do in Red Bay during the week, and on the weekends it's even worse. There aren't even any real newspapers.

By the way, this is a 6:30 am view of some of the Allegros in the factory campground waiting for 7:am so they can move back to the service bays.

Odometer reading = 18,325

 

2/6/01
(Shiloh MS)

We pulled out of Red Bay sometime midmorning heading for the National Battlefield Park at Shiloh, Mississippi. We thought there was a campground at the park, but that was not the case. The ranger told us of several nearby campgrounds, including one described as "primitive" that was only two miles down the road.

After getting set up in the campground (there was no one around to check in with) we returned to the battlefield where we spent several hours walking the area of the Hornet's Nest and the Peach Orchard.

Tomorrow we'll return and do the entire battlefield more thoroughly. In the meanwhile, we returned to the primitive campground for the evening.

Miles for day = 69
Odometer reading = 18,393

 

2/7/01
(Shiloh MS)

We had a busy day today. After breakfast we drove the Honda to Savannah, about 12 miles north or here, to visit the Tennessee River Museum. They had a good number of Civil War items on display, plus a small number of items and displays reflecting the history of steam powered riverboats on the Tennessee and Mississippi Rivers. There were other displays showing the history of Indians in the river area.

From the museum we drove through Savannah and then back to Shiloh. We had heard about "Shiloh's Civil War Relics" (901-689-4114) as a place that buys and sells, among other things, Civil War cannons Our friend Al has been looking for such a non-replica cannon so we decided to check out this place. They are dealers in Civil War relics and have a very impressive place. It costs a dollar to go in, but they give your dollar back if you buy anything.

Over the years we've been to a number of museums and other retail places that deal in Civil War relics and memorabilia. None of the retail establishments even came close to having what "Shiloh's Civil Relics" has -- they have some replicas, but most of what they have is authentic. They have two cannons on display (photo #1 photo #2 photo #3), one of which has been sold for $80,000, as well as an ammunition carrier. They also have metal detectors from $179 to well over $1,000. If you are a serious collector or Civil War buff, this place is for you, but if you just want to get a couple of souvenirs then go some place else.

From "Shiloh's Civil War Relics" we went to the Battlefield Park and picked up where we left off yesterday. Today we walked the line where the Confederates, after repeated unsuccessful attempts to break the Union line at the Hornet's Nest, brought up 62 cannon. At the time it was the largest battlefield artillery assembly ever brought together in North America. Under cover of this artillery the Confederates managed to outflank the Union troops at the Hornet's Nest and captured over 2,200 Union soldiers. This is the view of the Hornet's Nest, the woodline at the far side of the field, as seen by members of Ruggle's Battery. By the time we finished looking at all we wanted to see it was after dark and we returned to the motorhome.

Odometer reading = 18,393

 

2/8/01
(West Memphis AR)

We had planned to leave Shiloh this morning and head south down US-45 working our way to the Gulf Coast and the FamCamp at Keesler AFB in Biloxi MS. However, as stated a number of weeks back, our plans are never firm until after the fact. Last night we decided that instead of heading south, since we were only 100 miles from Memphis, we'd head west and spend several days in Memphis.

We are now at Tom Sawyer RV Park in West Memphis AR. We are right on the Mississippi River, between the levee and the river (50 feet from the river), about three miles south of Memphis. Actually we are on the outside bank of a wide curve in the river such that as we look out the front windshield we are looking up the river right at the lights of Memphis. In the hour between when we got there and when it got dark we had three strings of barges being pushed upstream by tugs.

I find the Mississippi a very exciting, living body of water! If you don't, read "Rising Tide, The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How it Changed America," by John M. Barry.

Odometer reading = 18,540
Miles for day = 146

 

2/9/01
(West Memphis AR)

Last night and for a good portion of the day the wind and rain beat upon the motorhome like crazy. During the night it shook so much it felt as if I hadn't put the jacks down. By early afternoon it had let up a little and we took the Honda into Memphis where we visited Elvis Presley's Graceland. I suspect that a real diehard Elvis fan would find this place to be Heaven -- so would an entrepanauer!

The barge traffic on the river is quite heavy with several passing by every hour. The length of the string of barges is quite impressive, as is the width. This one must be over 1,000' long! This is how wide it is! This is the tug up close.

Odometer reading = 18,540
Miles for day = 0

 

2/10/01
(West Memphis AR)

This morning, thinking we were leaving, I drained the holding tanks, topped off the water tank, and hooked up the car. It turned out that while I was doing all the, Sharyn was getting all the laundry sorted -- this is the only place we've ever been that has a free Laundromat. Ultimately we hung out, did lots of laundry (including blankets and my jacket), and watched the river.

Odometer reading = 18,540
Miles for day = 0

 

2/11/01
(Rosedale MS)

Today was probably our latest start ever; we pulled out of the campground at 1:pm in the cold rain and sleet. We crossed back into Memphis and then headed south on US-61 in Tennessee and Mississippi, then switching to MS Route-1 along the river. After stopping at Kroger's in Clarksdale for some groceries we decided that since it was a rather dark day, and still raining, we wanted to be sure and be off the road before dark so we headed for Great River Road State Park in Rosedale -- about 35 miles further south.

The sign at the campground said to take a site and the ranger would be around later to collect the fee. Since there were no pull-through sites we had to unhook the car in the pouring down rain in order to back in. We also had to be sure we had a site, in this heavily wooded campground, that would give our satellite dish a clear view so that Sharyn would not miss Nikita.

It's now 9:pm, still raining, and we've yet to see a park ranger.

Odometer reading = 18,667
Miles for day = 126

 

2/12/01
(Vicksburg MS)

Last night it poured down rain all night without letup. With almost no one else in the campground, and the pounding rain on the roof, it was a great night for sleeping. I didn't wake up until 10:15, by which time Sharyn was already up and working on her third cup of coffee (I was reading until 2:am so there was some excuse for sleeping so late).

Anyway we were out by noon and heading south towards Vicksburg in the pouring rain. After several days of steady rain this part of Mississippi looks more like a rice paddy than a cotton field.

We are now at the Isle of Capri Casino RV Park in Vicksburg. This is the only RV park we've ever been in that has a live telephone line at each campsite. Since the motorhome is wired for telephone all we had to do was plug in our phone line and we have telephone service, plus the ability to be on line and update this website (which hasn't been done for about a week). For the next several days we can be reached at 601-636-5700 ext 4518.

By the way, it's still raining, and the ranger did show up last night.

Odometer reading = 18,797
Miles for day = 130

 

2/13/01
(Vicksburg MS)

Early today we checked out the Gray and Blue Naval Museum. Skip it, it's just the back room of a souvenir shop. From there we went to the National Battlefield to revisit the CSS Cairo that was torpedoed up the Yazoo in 1862 and spent over 100 years buried in the mud at the bottom of the river. Actually it was the first ship ever to be sunk by a remote controlled mine (at that time what we call mines were called torpedoes). It was wired to a trigger device held by Federal troops hidden on the river bank who detonated it as the Cairo approached. When the ship was raised in the early 1960's it was a treasure trove of artifacts, all of which, the Cairo and its artifacts, are now on display at the Cairo Museum adjacent to the Vicksburg National Cemetery.

When we were here last year I didn't take any photos of the cannon and the original carriages that were brought up from the bottom of the Yazoo River. This year I took a good number of photos, some of which are here.

From the Cairo we went to the Ameristar Casino where, after Sharyn finished with the slot machines, we had a "Senior Citizen" half price buffet special.

A year and a half ago when we were here, and several months ago in Los Vegas, Sharyn limited her slot machine involvement to the nickel machines. Tonight she played the quarter machines. That trend makes me nervous! (Actually, she started with 3 quarters which she lost; then she borrowed a quarter from me and won 5 dollars. Those 20 quarters lasted for the rest of the evening).

This photo is out of context here, but it's a great statue of U.S. Grant over looking what had been his headquarters during the Siege of Vicksburg.

Odometer reading = 18,797
Mile for day = 0

 

2/14/01
(Vicksburg MS)

We were going to leave here today, but last night we decided to stay another day so that we (I) could check out "Grant's Canal," the remnants of the canal that the Union army dug in an attempt to redirect the Mississippi so that Union ships could bypass Vicksburg and the Confederate artillery that overlooked the river. While the canal project was unsuccessful, about ten years after the end of the war the river cut itself a new channel about a mile north of Grant's canal, so that the Mississippi no longer flows past Vicksburg.

Anyway, we did visit "Grant's Canal," on the Louisiana side of the river, but I'd like to talk to a local historian about the authenticity of that "canal." Somewhere it seems to me I read something about it being a "replica."

Having stayed here an extra day, and then having crossed over the river into Louisiana to see this "canal" site, I had to acknowledge to Sharyn that "I owed her one." So we came back to Vicksburg and went shopping -- now we're even again!

After shopping Sharyn bought me some Baskin Robins ice cream for Valentines Day. Then we came back to the motorhome and had filet mingeon for diner.

Odometer reading = 18,797
Miles for day = 0

 

2/15/01 to 2/19/01
(Biloxi MS)

It gets difficult to remember when I let this many days go by without making any entries, but I'll see how much I can reconstruct.

We left Vicksburg on the morning of the 15th, heading for Keesler AFB here in Biloxi. The FamCamp is adjacent to some off-base housing about four miles from base. When we arrived the camp was full and we were #4 in line for a spot. We spent the night drycamped behind three other RVs in the area just outside the FamCamp. We lucked out in that the next morning (Friday) four sites opened up and we got the 4th site.

Since the FamCamp is only about a mile from Beauvoir, the estate where Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, lived from 1877 until his death in 1890, that was the first place we checked out. Beauvoir contains a large number of historical displays, a re-creation of the cell at Fortress Monroe where Davis was imprisoned after his capture following the end of the war, and the standard gift and book shop.

Since we've been here we've visited several casinos where total losses came to less than $10, ate once at McDonald's, bought groceries at the commissary, and checked out the BX. We also got a "retired military" windshield sticker for the car which will enable us to drive onto any military base without having to stop and show ID and/or get a visitors pass.

Since we've not gotten our mail for several months, we've had it all forwarded here, but because of the three day weekend, since nothing arrived on Saturday, we'll have to stay here at least until Tuesday and hope the mail (both from Oregon and Texas) arrives by then. We canceled our Oregon based mail service as of 1/1/01 and are now using Escapees in Texas.

Today we spent an hour or so on the beach before going to Gulfport where Sharyn had spotted a shopping center the day we went through there. She dropped me off at Barnes & Noble while she went shopping so it worked out well for both of us.

About two years ago we came through this area on US-90 which runs right along the Gulf beach for perhaps a hundred miles. At that time, as we came through Biloxi, Sharyn says that she could live here. She is saying it again. In fact, between Biloxi and Gulfport there is a beautiful antebellum house on US-90 that is for sale for $640,000. Sharyn says she doesn't understand why it's so cheap (gulp) and that she could live in that house very easily. I certainly can't dispute the beauty of the house!

Odometer reading = 19,008
Miles for day (2/15/01) = 211

 

2/20/01
(Biloxi MS)

This afternoon we returned to Barnes & Noble to buy a book explaining the history of Carnival and Mardi Gras. It's the middle of the season and all along the Gulf Coast Carnival and Mardi Gras are what's going on. It was clear that there's more to this stuff than we know about, so we decided to learn more about the history. I also bought two more Civil War books and Time magazine.

When we got back to the FamCamp we had our mail, both from Texas and Oregon. That gives us two months worth of RV magazines for reading.

The host at the camp told me where I can get online to get my e-mail and update this site. Tomorrow morning I'll try to do just that.

Odometer reading = 19,008
Miles for day = 0

 

2/21/01
(Biloxi MS)

We got an early start this morning when we woke up to the whizz of the weedwacker crew trimming up from yesterdays mower crew. In spite of our early start we didn't accomplish too much, but then that's never our goal.

While Sharyn was doing a giant pile of laundry I came back to the motorhome and dealt with all the mail stuff. This time I really organized it properly; started files for bank statements, telephone bills, etc.We now need a larger file box, but that's a cheap price to pay for once again being organized.

We also got a "retired military" sticker for the motorhome windshield.

Odometer reading = 19,008
Miles for day = 0

 

2/22/01
(Summerdale AL)

We left Biloxi this morning figuring we'd go to one of the several military campgrounds in the Pensacola area. We traveled US-90 right along the coast until we got near Mobile AL when we got onto I-10 to get through Mobile. Along I-10 we saw a number of signs telling us that we were approaching Battleship Park where the USS Alabama is on display. I like battleships so Sharyn said we could stop, which we did.

The park was pretty nice. In addition to the USS Alabama they also have a collection of tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery pieces, planes, helicopters, and a submarine. We started out doing a thorough job of the battleship tour, but after an hour or so we realized that we'd have to go a lot faster or we'd never get to the submarine. We hurried as best we could, but how could I pass up the chance to climb into one of the big gun turrets, or going up all those ladders to get to the bridge which must be 20 stories above the water? The answer is I couldn't, so it still took a long time to see the battleship, even when you go fast.

From the battleship we went to the submarine that is moored just behind the battleship. You enter the submarine through what used to be the deck hatch for loading torpedoes into the forward torpedo room. That hatch has been modified so people can enter into the forward torpedo room, then work there way back to the rear torpedo room, from which you again climb out onto the deck. It takes much less time to see the submarine, and it is all one-way traffic as you walk through. From whatever compartment it was, I did climb up into the conning tower to look through the periscope. The submarine, unlike the battleship, is extremely compact, and there is no space that is not being used with 150% efficiency. Everything is covered with gauges, valves, levers, and controls. I'd like to go on a day trip on a sub, but the idea of four to six months makes it clear to me that it takes a truly special kind of person to go to sea as a submariner.

Upon exiting the submarine we went to the aircraft display hangar. After visiting the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio, any visit to a military aircraft display is going to be second rate by comparison, but that can't be helped. One of the planes they had was an old F-86, the same plane that I worked on at Steward AFB in Newburg NY in 1957-58. Today it's difficult to imagine, but in those years the F-86's at Steward AFB were part of BADS, the Boston Air Defense Sector.

Anyway, not leaving the park until after 5:pm meant we were going to be short on daylight very quickly. Earlier in the day we had decided to stay at Rainbow Plantation, an Escapee park in Summerdale AL, which is about 30 miles from Mobile. As it was, it was dark when we backed into our site. The office was closed, so we'll register in the morning.

Odometer reading = 19,114
Miles for day = 106

 

2/23/01 and 2/24/01
(Summerdale AL)

This a nice park. The lots are large, covered with grass, and the entire place is very clean and neat.

There was a "do it yourself" Mardi Gras parade through the park (including this cool truck) and we got lots of beads and moon pies that were thrown to the bystanders. There was also some kind of a medieval comedy skit that was performed in the clubhouse, followed with games, prizes, and food. We played and ate, but didn't win anything!

There is an RV barn as part of the facility where you can change your oil. When I took the motorhome to the barn to change the oil I was gone for about an hour. Sharyn stayed at the site reading her book under the shade of a tree. During that hour she had three different people stop by to inquire what had happened to her RV, was she okay, did she need anything, etc.

By the way, you do not need a a big RV to hit the road -- check this rig!

We also went into Foley, a small town about ten miles from here, where we bought some groceries and even found a New York Times!

Odometer reading = 19,121
Miles for day = 7

 

2/25/01
(Panama City FL)

We left Rainbow Plantation midmorning and picked up US-98 heading east. We made several stops trying to find a Washington Post or New York Times type newspaper. Eventually we found an Atlanta Constitution and settled for that.

Mid-afternoon we pulled off the road and had lunch next to the beach. The afternoon was no more eventful than the morning. It was heavy overcast with intermittent drizzle pretty much all day. We stopped at some kind of Naval facility with a military campground in Panama City FL. The sites were very small and all the RVs were pretty crowded. This is the first military campground we've seen that we'd rate as poor.

It was one year ago today that we closed on the house and drove out of the driveway to begin our full-time RVing.

Odometer reading = 19,262
Miles for day = 141

 

2/26/01
(Perry FL)

Today, for the first time in probably a week we had a beautiful sunny day. We stopped at one place where the road ran along a wide white beach. We took our folding beach chairs and spent about a half hour on the beach before hitting the road again. It wasn't too much further down the road that we stopped at the same beach we stopped at on 3/13/00,only this time we didn't walk the beach, we just had lunch and continued on our way.

We're now at Westgate Motel & Campground on US-27 in Perry FL, another Passport America member campground, so we paid $10 instead of $20. As an added attraction, as we were getting ready to eat we had a visitor stop by our campsite. He wanted something to eat, but we didn't share our buffalo burgers so he went to the neighbors instead.

Odometer reading = 19,441
Miles for day = 179

 

2/27/01
(Tampa FL)

Well we're back at the FamCamp at MacDill AFB in Tampa. Since we've now driven three days straight we had planned to spend a day here on the beach. The only problem is that the FamCamp is full and we're in an overflow area with no electric. Whether we'll spend tomorrow here or not probably depends on how we sleep tonight with no AC. At this point we're only about 125 miles to Sharyn's mother's so I don't know what we'll decide tomorrow.

This afternoon we stopped for lunch in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Chiefland FL. There were 13 other RVs there with us; it was like a convention. Wal-Mart is very friendly to RVers, allowing overnight stays in their parking lots, etc. In return RVers, almost without exception, make a special effort to patronize their stores and pay back for what Wal-Mart does for "us."

Odometer reading = 19,638
Miles for day = 197

 

2/28/01
(Tampa FL)

It may be that my definition of "camping" is going without air conditioning. Last night we "camped" in the overflow area, but today we were assigned to a full hookup site so we're going to stay here until Friday.

This afternoon we spent some time on the beach that boarders the FamCamp. Since I can't just "sit on the beach" I brought a radio with us and I listened to Rush Limbaugh while Sharyn read her book. (I want to say, parenthetically, that the Rush Limbaugh show is always better when he's not there. Michael Medved, Tony Snow, Shawn Hannity, and Walter Williams all are more interesting and do a much better job). Anyway, after somewhat more than an hour we returned to the motorhome and took showers.

Later Sharyn sat outside and read more of her book while I caught up on the news. Then we went to the Marina Bay Cafe on the beach for an "all you can eat spaghetti dinner."

Tomorrow is another day.

Odometer reading = 19,638
Miles for day = 0

 

3/1/01
(Tampa FL)

Today we checked out the BX, bought groceries at the commissary, walked around the campground, did (Sharyn did) the laundry, and made reservations to come here next winter from 1/5/02 through 2/4/02. That pretty much sums up the day; we leave in the morning.

Odometer reading = 19,638
Miles for day = 0

 

3/2/01
(Ft Myers FL)

We were on the road by 10:am, which is pretty good for us, and did a somewhat leisurely drive down I-75 to Ft. Myers. We got checked in and set up at Shady Acres RV Park before driving over to Sharyn's mother's place. In spite of all the short term medical prognosis we've been hearing about Sharyn's mother, she doesn't seem any different than she's been for quite some time and Sharyn thinks she looks even better than she did last time we were here.

We spent the afternoon at Sharyn's mother's house with her and Sharyn's sister, brother Alan, and sister-in-law. It was Alan's birthday so we had birthday cake, presents, etc.

We even found a New York Times in Publix.

Odometer reading = 19,795
Miles for day = 157

 

3/3/01 through 3/9/01
(Ft. Myers FL)

We've been here for just over a week during which time Sharyn got to spend a good amount of time with her mother, sister, and brother.

The water pump in the motorhome had been getting noisier and vibrating excessively. It was a Shurflo pump with a two year warranty and when I called Shurflo and told them of the problem they told me that Camping World would give me a new one in exchange. When I replaced the pump the new one was considerably quieter and, as an unexpected extra, our water pressure increased substantially.

Two interesting things: Single leaves twenty feet long, and these signs by the Ft. Myers airport.

Tomorrow morning we head south towards Key West.

Odometer reading = 19,795
Miles for week = 0

 

3/10/01
(Everglades FL)

Actually we are in Islea Gold RV Park in Naranja FL, maybe 25 miles south of Homestead. While this place is listed in the campground directories, the office is closed Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday. How are we supposed to get a campsite when we get here at 3:pm on Saturday (today)? A French speaking lady on a bicycle led us to a vacant site, but then several more people gathered around, speaking French, trying to figure out where we could park for the night. It turned out that some one is coming into the first site. They finally showed us a space under a large tree near a light pole that had electrical outlets on the pole.

All of these people are from Quebec, too young to be retired, very friendly and extremely helpful to us. It's kind of like being in a French village. People walk by, or ride by on a bicycle, with a friendly "Bon jour." On the other side of the campground we could hear an accordion with people singing. It's really quite neat.

After we ate we walked over to where the music was -- there was a dance going on with all the singing in French. There were signs and posters outside the dance place but they were all in French also so we don't know what it was all about. As we walked back towards the motorhome we passed a series of bocce courts where perhaps two dozen people were playing. It looked like bocce, but they were playing with steel balls. The games were ending up, but a lady invited us to come play any night at 7:pm.

Getting here, from Naples, we came across the state on US-41 which basically runs right through the Everglades. A canal runs all along the north side of US-41 adjacent to the highway. It's the dry season here so the water level is down in most of the Everglades. As a result, alligators seeking water have gathered in rather large numbers in this canal. When we stopped at the visitors center they had a fence between the canal and the parking area to keep the alligators out. Of course when you view the alligators from the road there's nothing between you and them.

We saw a good number of areas that were begging to be explored by canoe or kayak, but Sharyn and, truthfully, me too, are somewhat conscious of these alligators

Odometer reading = 19,930
Miles for day = 135

 

3/11/01
(Key West FL)

Here we are a hundred and something miles out at sea, connected to the North American continent by a 24 foot wide strip on concrete called US-1. That's no cause for concern unless, of course, everyone wanted to get back to North America at the same time; like, for instance, if there was a hurricane coming. Since it's not hurricane season there probably won't be a problem.

Actually, we're at Sigsbee RV Park on the Key West Naval Air Station. Since all the sites with hookups are full (they always are) we're dry camping in the overflow area. There could be a hundred rigs here, some of whom have been here for a good part of the winter and aren't even looking to get hookups. We're not sure why anyone would prefer dry camping, but then we've never gone for more than one night without electric. In my mind, electric is the biggie, but that's primarily because of air conditioning. As I've said before, "camping" means going without air conditioning. Anyway, we're only 50 yards from the Gulf (the guy in front of us is on the Gulf), so while it was kind of warm this afternoon, there was quite a breeze, and now that it's dark, the breeze continues and it's quite comfortable. In fact it's very pleasant.

I spoke to another guy here who has a pair of kayaks on the roof of his car. He and his wife have used a canoe, a 2-person kayak, and now have separate 1-person kayaks, and would go no other way. There is a kayak rental place near here and he said that if Sharyn and I want to rent a couple of kayaks he and his wife would go with us. He was describing some really neat mangrove areas that they had kayaked through the other day and said we could all go there. Maybe we'll do that tomorrow.

Originally we had been talking about getting a canoe, but but as we meet and talk to people with kayaks I've begun to think that kayaks might be the way to go.

Before we drove off of North America we stopped at Albertson's supermarket in Homestead FL to pick up some milk and groceries. I took this picture because we thought that the range of services shown on their outside sign was interesting.

Odometer reading = 20,065
Miles for day = 135

 

3/12/01
(Key West FL)

I didn't sleep very well last night as it was too hot. At 5:40 this morning I got up and made the coffee. Later in the morning we drove into "Town" to check it out and get ourselves oriented as to what there is to see and do. We also looked for a sandy beach since, while the water is clean and clear, most of the shoreline is rocky and too rough for walking or sitting. Basically it's all chunks and pieces of coral. Even the sand, where there is sand, is coral sand.

The first thing we discovered is that this is Spring Break week and there are what seem like tens of thousands of milk white college students everywhere. We found several miles of beautiful ocean beach but it was saturated with these students. As the end of the week approaches and they turn from milk white to candy apple red I suspect that they'll be fewer of them on the beach. Unfortunately we won't be here. While we had planned to stay here for as long as a week, the weather has suddenly gotten too hot. Today must have been near ninety degrees, and while USA Today shows a cold front coming through tonight, the radio says that tomorrow will be hotter than today. We'll play it by ear, but even though we're paid through tomorrow night we may leave tomorrow.

We did walk all around the dock area where all the boats are; charter boats, fishing boats, sightseeing boats, private boats, they're all there. We also checked out a few waterfront shops, but had to get back to the car as our meter was running out.

This afternoon we checked out the campground area were they have full hookups and that is very nice. If we had one of those sites we'd stay for a week.

We never did get over to the kayak guy, so that didn't happen

Odometer reading = 20,065
Miles for day = 0

 

3/13/01
(Key West FL)

Today is Phil III's birthday -- happy birthday Phil!

This morning I asked around to see if there were any nice beaches on base. It turned out that there is a very nice beach and marina at Boca Chica Naval Air Station about four miles north of here on US-1. Having received that information we decided to go there for the day. It was so nice that we've decided to extend our stay here so we can go back some more. Sharyn describes it as a little oasis, or private beach club. They also rent kayaks by the hour and we decided that we'd rent two kayaks tomorrow. Based on the amount of sun we received today, however, we may not even be able to go back tomorrow (although we could stay under one of the thatch roofed gazebos).

On the way to the beach we passed what appears to be some low cost housing. Some is a little lower; some is a little less low.

Since we've decided to extend our stay here, we've put out name on the waiting list for a site with full hookups. Officially the wait is two weeks, but we understand from other campers that the last couple to move had been on the list for eleven days, and that the wait is getting shorter every day as the season is winding down. Another advantage of being on the waiting list is that you wait here. Before we went on the list we had been put here. When we get our hookups we'll be here.

Odometer reading = 20,069
Miles for day = 4

 

3/14/01
(Key West FL)

We didn't do too much today, sunburn being a limiting factor to any "in the sun" (meaning outside) activity.

This is a local, and possibly lethal, coconut palm tree behind our motorhome. We are all familiar with the song:

"Don't sit under the apple tree . . .
with anyone else but me . . with anyone else but me . . . "

A local version might go:

"Don't sit under the coconut tree . . .
especially with me . . . especially with me . . . "

(This is what happens on a slow day).

Odometer reading = 20,069
Miles for day = 0

 

3/15/01
(Key West FL)

We started off the day with our regular coffee and conversation while enjoying a rather cool and pleasant breeze under the awning.

Since we didn't go to the beach yesterday we decided to go back to Boca Chica today to check out the kayaks and use the Laundromat at the mariner while Sharyn got more sun on the beach and I read the paper under one of the thatch roofed gazebos. We rented two kayaks and we both (Sharyn and me) paddled the perimeter of the little bay area and explored some mangroves where we got to see some of the water birds of the Florida Keys. It's interesting that much of what we were calling the little "bay area" is less than two feet deep with a concrete-hard coral sand bottom. As you paddle along you can see that the white bottom comes to an end where the water turns to a turquoise blue. At that point the coral bottom ends at what amounts to the edge of an underwater cliff and there is a vertical drop to a depth where you cannot see the bottom from above. I can't tell how deep it gets, but it gets way over your head in one step. It would not be a good place to be coming into by boat in the dark.

This beach is on the Atlantic Ocean side of the keys (as divided by US-41). I tried to get Sharyn to go with me, via kayaks, under the highway bridge to the Gulf side, but she wasn't interested and said she was going back to the beach, which she did. I crossed under the bridge to the Gulf side and paddled several hundred yards north alongside US-41 before doubling back and returning to Boca Chica.

Later on in the afternoon, as we were waiting for the laundry to finish drying perhaps as many as a dozen Navy jets came in over the water to land at the Naval Air Station. When we were there the other day the wind was from the opposite direction and they were taking off out over the water. I find it amazing that a hundred-forty years ago in the Civil War, Union and Confederate soldiers went into battle armed with a muzzle loading rifle, and today a man (or woman) going into battle with one of these aircraft could be carrying more firepower than was expended in the Civil War and all the wars that preceded the Civil War, combined!!

Odometer reading = 20,069
Miles for day = 0

 

3/16/01
(Lake Worth FL)

We gave up waiting for a spot with hookups. We checked last night and were told it would be Monday at the earliest that we'd get such a site so we decided to leave Key West. While Sharyn was getting stuff ready to leave I went over to the other side of the island, at the end of Whitehead Street in downtown Key West, to take a picture of the car at the most southerly point of the continental United States.

After stopping at the office to upload this travelog, we were heading north on US-1 by 10:am. We checked two Florida State campgrounds that we passed but both were filled. One had no vacancies until May. That clearly wouldn't work for us so we continued on to Lake Worth and John Prince Park Campground, a Palm Beach County Park.

Approaching Miami on US-1, and the I-95 through Miami was the worse driving situation we've encountered in 20,000 miles. Too many people driving at excessively high speeds for the crowded conditions, excessive, unsafe lane changes, etc. Plus that section of US-1 has traffic lanes that are no more than ten feet wide; too narrow for wide bodied motorhomes and trucks. In addition it was impossible to leave a safe distance between us and the vehicle in front of us since every time there was enough room for someone to squeeze in, someone did.

The worse piece of roadway for driving is probably the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in New York City, but I have to say that while the New York City drivers are more pushy and aggressive that those in Miami, there is something less reckless about their driving.

We were on the road for 7 1/2 hours today. That's much too long.

Odometer reading = 20,290
Miles for day = 222

 

3/17/01
(Lake Worth FL)

Today we visited a couple who were friends of my parents since 1944 or 45 and whom I have known since I was a little kid. He is 92 and she is 94, yet they continue to do pretty much all the things they've always done. This spring they are driving to New York to see their grandson graduate. I learned from them that a friend of mine from forty years ago was now retired and living nearby. I called him on the phone and when I told him where we were he came right over. I hadn't seen "Junior" in well over 25 years. Sharyn enjoyed hearing some of the stories of events that I had forgotten about.

Today was a great day of conversation and memories.

Odometer reading = 20,290
Miles for day = 0

 

3/18/01
(Lake Worth FL)

We had planned to leave today but the weather report called for 20% chance of showers and Sharyn said she didn't want to drive in the rain, so we stayed here.

It was a very relaxed day spent reading the Sunday paper, plus lots of Coffee and conversation. There is a 12 foot alligator that hangs out near the boat ramp just down the road from our campsite so we walked down there to get a look at him, but he wasn't around. He's not going to live here much longer because the park has a policy of relocating alligators that are much larger than that. They recently relocated a 14 footer. I think that's a good policy because in my mind alligators reach a size that makes them incompatible with campers. My daughter, Jordan, doesn't like the policy. She says the alligator was here first and if there's an incompatibility problem he stays and someone else can leave.

Later in the afternoon we walked along Allegro Road, the campground road that goes along the lake and the campground perimeter. We were scouting for campsites on the water that we would like to make advance reservation for if we return here next winter. Most of the waterfront sites are quite nice. Actually this entire campground is nice. The site we're on now is at the junction of five roads so when we sit outside there's all kinds of goings on. While there are a good number of old (retired) people here, there are lots of families also, with kids all over the place. I frequently read about how many older campers prefer campground that don't allow kids. It seems to me that watching the kids doing all their stuff brings many more smiles than watching older people do their stuff.

Anyway, we enjoy our campsite and all the activity that goes on around us.

Odometer reading = 20,290
Miles for day = 0

 

3/19/01
(Palm Bay FL)

We didn't leave Lake Worth yesterday because there was a "possibility" of showers. So today as it was pouring rain with occasional claps of thunder as we were getting ready to leave. By the time we had the car hooked up and were ready to pull out of the campground I was soaking wet and had to change my clothes, underwear and all.

The trip was, as anticipated, uneventful, but Sharyn's dot was black on black anyway.

We arrived at Sharyn's sister's by early afternoon and spent most of the remainder of the day talking. I also spent some time on Carol's computer (no 800 charges) trying to see what I could find out about different types of kayaks. After I upload this I'll probably do some more research on which type would be best for our purpose.

Odometer reading = 20,410
Miles for day = 120

 

3/20/01 to 3/26/01
(Palm Bay FL)

We spent over a week at Sharyn's sister and brother-in-law's house, during which time their other sister, Sandy came to join in the get-together. It was the first time they have had any real time together since they were kids and the three of them thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Roger and I enjoyed seeing them have their fun.

We also checked out a number of kayaks at a place called Extreme Sports at Indian Harbour Beach, FL (http://www.extremesportsfl.com). It is a father/son operation and we went there to look at a Perception "America." They showed us that kayak but then, after talking with us for quite some time, told us we'd be much happier with other, smaller and less expensive, models. We narrowed it down to two different kayaks and they arranged to have us try both of them that Saturday in a nearby river. Sharyn was sure she wanted the Old Town "Loon 111" and I was leaning towards that one also. Both George and Scott (father and son) preferred the Wilderness Systems "Pungo" and thought we'd like it better also after we tried it. They were right; after trying both boats we both preferred the Pungo. We decided to buy two of them, but while we preferred yellow, they only had them in red or blue.

Later that day when we called some other dealers to make sure we weren't paying too much (we weren't), we found a dealer about thirty miles away who had two yellow ones. When we told George that we'd take the red ones from him even though we'd prefer the other dealers yellow ones, he called the other dealer and then told us that if we'd wait until Monday morning he'd get us the yellow ones. In our estimation Extreme Sports gave us super treatment both with regard to advice and service; plus they directed us away from the more expensive kayaks that we initially sought to purchase when they thought that those boats would not suit us as well. We now travel with two yellow bananas on top of the Honda.

We haven't gotten the chance to use them yet because as a result of the paddling we did trying out these boats Sharyn pulled something in her shoulder and it's been hurting her quite a bit. Also, there is the question of alligators! The general consensus seems to be that alligators are nothing to be unduly concerned about, except at this time of year! It seems that right now they are breeding, and the females are nesting. The females really don't like it when you approach their nest, and the fact that you didn't know it was there leaves them rather unimpressed. In a few days we'll be traveling along US-98 on the Gulf Coast with lots of salt water bays and estuaries and by that time Sharyn's shoulder should be better. I'll put up some on-the-water pictures at that time.

Odometer reading = 20,410
Miles for week = 0

 

3/27/01
(LaBelle FL)

For a number of reasons beyond our control we didn't leave Carol and Roger's until 3:30 pm. We got to LaBelle Woods Campground just after dark. In this picture it was clear that we're not going to arrive before sundown. After getting all set up we drove (with the Honda) Sandy to their mother's home in Leheigh. After a short visit Sharyn and I returned to the motorhome for a good nights sleep.

Odometer reading = 20,557
Miles for day = 147

 

3/28/01
(LaBelle FL)

Sharyn went to visit her mother and sister while I stayed at the campground and did the laundry (dark stuff only) and cleaned up the motorhome. After that I read the paper, watched some TV, and just hung out until Sharyn returned.

Odometer reading = 20,557
Miles for day = 0

 

3/29/01
(Umatilla FL)

Late this morning we headed north to Umatilla FL to visit Ron and Peg, friends from our sailing days from the 70's. For a good part of the trip there was pouring rain, thunder and lightening, and buffeting wind. Not our first choice for driving weather but sometimes you have to take it the way it comes. Actually, part way here we said that if we hadn't called Peg last night and told here we'd be here today we'd have stopped at one of the many RV parks along US-27. It turns out that a little further north in Ocala the storm system spawned several tornados that did rather extensive damage to some residential areas.

Peg made dinner for all of us, including their son (Ron Jr) and daughter (Sharon) and their respective families (all of whom live in the immediate area). I took note of the fact that when we were all sailing the waters between Long Island and Nantucket we were younger than our kids are today. I guess you'd describe that time period as having been a "lifetime" ago. Those were good times then and these are good times now; you can't ask for better than that!

Odometer reading = 20,732
Miles for day = 175

 

3/30/01 and 4/1/01
(Perry FL)

This was a nice visit with Ron and Peg and their kids, grandkids, etc. It was a good weekend for Sharon also as she sold her prime colt, two year old Legs (I messed up by not having a picture to post here). Ron Jar and I got some shooting in, and later on Ron, Matt (Ron Jr's son), and I shot some skeet. I think we all had a good time.

As we left this morning Peg and her horse Julie were on their way to a horse and carriage parade that was being sponsored as a prelude to a polo match.

Mid-afternoon had us back at Westgate Motel and Campground in Perry FL.

Odometer reading = 20,906
Miles for day = 174

 

4/2/01
(Panama City FL)

We were on the road by 9:am this morning, which is quite early for us, but allowed us to arrive at Tyndall AFB FamCamp in Panama City by 1:pm. At $13 per day Tyndall is fairly expensive for a FamCamp, but that is with 50 amps, full hookups and a whole pile of cable channels (even though we use our satellite anyway). Also, Tyndall is on the Gulf and has almost five miles of white sandy beach with very few people using it. We went to the beach today but it was quite windy on the beach and we didn't stay long.

From the beach we went to the base mariner looking for a more protected location to put our kayaks in. The mariner, which includes a sandy beach with picnic facilities, is located on the north side of the base on the Intercoastal Waterway, and at the mouth of a lagoon that comes up behind the FamCamp. Tomorrow we'll put our kayaks in either at the mariner beach or behind the FamCamp. First we have to go to Wal-Mart in Panama City to get some life jackets.

Odometer reading = 21,063
Miles for day = 157

 

4/3/01
(Panama City FL)

After sleeping a little late, we had our coffee and conversation and eventually went to Wal-Marts where we bought two life jackets. We then went to try out our kayaks. We went in the area described yesterday, but since it was quite windy again we went on the upwind side of the land spit so that wind would be blowing us towards the beach rather than away from it. We probably messed around for about an hour paddling around in the small bayou, just off the Intercoastal Waterway, where the Air Force keeps it's crash/fireboats.

Sharyn got to do enough paddling around to develop some level of comfort with the idea of totally in control of her own boat as opposed to being the wife in a canoe with her husband. She tells me there's a big difference between the two.

A close-up of Sharyn returning to the beach. This is what Sharyn was afraid of!

We finished up the daylight hours when we went to a "potluck" dinner at the campground community center.

Odometer reading = 21,063
Miles for day = 0

 

4/4/01
(Panama City FL)

Today was overcast with occasional light showers so, after coffee and conversation, we decided to drive around and check out Panama City. We also checked out several antique stores, a large kayak/canoe store, and we were going to eat here except that they weren't open yet. Instead we ate at Po' Folks, but we won't eat at one again.

Our campsite is set back in the woods, and because of this Sharyn may have to stop smoking after dark. Every time she goes out to smoke in the dark a local raccoon ambles out of the woods to talk with her. Every time he does this she runs back into the motorhome. I'd like to get this raccoon to travel with us!

Odometer reading = 21,063
Miles for day = 0

 

4/5/01
(Panama City FL)

Today was beautiful, sunny, and 75 degrees. After finishing a pot of coffee, checking e-mail, and updating this website, we went kayaking again. When we returned to the FamCamp we did laundry and, as Sharyn just told me, we didn't play Bingo. It sounds as if she really wanted to.

We also called the kayak store that we visited yesterday and the owner is going to give us a two hour private kayaking lesson on Tuesday. Sharyn says if we're going to do this she wants to know what she's doing. That's probably a good idea for both of us.

Odometer reading = 21,063
Miles for day = 0

 

4/6/01
(Panama City FL)

We checked out the auto hobby shop on base, mostly to see where it was so that I can change the oil and filter in the Honda while we're still here. From there we went to Wal-Mart to pick up a few things of no consequence.

Back at the motorhome I took out the book on Photoshop and even did a little with the CD Tutorial that came with Photoshop. By the way, the picture of Sharyn on 4/3/01 with the alligator is really a product of Photoshop. That alligator (as regular readers will recall) was actually photographed in the Everglades on 3/10/01 and was depicted here on that day.

After dinner we walked around the campground and ended up at the clubhouse where I beat Sharyn in a game of pool. We then worked out on the exercises machines for a few minutes before challenging another couple who were playing shuffleboard (a 30 foot board like you find in a bar). They accepted our challenge and beat us 21 to 12.

When we got back to the motorhome Sharyn sat outside reading. After a while a cat came by to visit her, and a little later she heard it behind her chair, only to find out that it wasn't the cat, but that her raccoon from several nights ago was back. Now she's reading inside.

Odometer reading = 21,063
Miles for day = 0

 

4/7/01
(Panama City FL)

This morning I didn't know what was taking Sharyn so long to get dressed. It turned out she was cleaning her closet

Anyway, by mid-afternoon we went back to the beach area where we've been kayaking. Being Saturday there were a lot more people than earlier in the week so we used a grassy spot rather than the sand. This is part of what is called "Bonita Bay Outdoor Recreation Complex," and we've been enjoying it all week. We did some more kayaking and then spent an hour or so reading on the beach.

After returning to the motorhome we showered and discussed a mutual problem. Tomorrow is our 34th wedding anniversary and neither of us has been able to get away alone to buy a card, so we decided we'd go together and we could each buy a card for the other. On our way to K-Mart I told Sharyn about a couple that used to go to the card store on their anniversary, each select a card for the other, and then after reading their cards they'd put them back on the rack and leave. We didn't exactly do that, but since we both ended up selecting the same card we decided that there was no need to buy two so we bought one for the both of us, from each of us. Since we had already read it we considered putting it back on the shelf, but decided to buy it anyway. We then bought ourselves a bathroom scale as a mutual anniversary present.

From K-Mart we went to Blockbusters to get a video on kayaking, but they didn't have one so we got The Patriot instead. From there we went to McDonald's for dinner.

Odometer reading = 21,063
Miles for day = 0

 

4/8/01
(Panama City FL)

Around midday we went down to the seafood festival along the waterfront looking for the kayak guy. We didn't see him anywhere, but I had an alligator shish-kA-bob. It was really very good, but with the seasoning on it I still don't know what alligator tastes like. Sharyn refused to even taste it, so her experience remains somewhat limited.

Odometer reading = 21,063
Miles for day = 0

 

4/9/01
(Panama City FL)

I went kayaking by myself today. Sharyn wasn't sure if she wanted to go or not. I told her she didn't have to go just because I was going to go, so she opted to stay home and do some ironing. I still went to the Bonita Bay beach only this time I went all the way up the waterway that runs along the back of the FamCamp, and then back out and into the Intercoastal Waterway.

One thing I was unaware of when we were trying to decide canoe or kayak is that you really can't go kayaking without getting wet. If nothing else, you have to step into the water to get off the beach (in a canoe you can leave one end on the beach and then get in and move to the other end -- that will cause the beached end to float off), and then you get the drips from the paddles.

I went into my toolbox today and found that the box and almost everything in it was wet with condensation. The box is in one of the basement compartments and somehow or other water had gotten into that compartment. There was almost a quarter inch of water standing in the bottom of the compartment. I drilled several drain holes in the bottom and all the water drained out. That's okay as a temporary fix and may even be an acceptable solution. I'll have to keep an eye on it after we travel in the rain and see how it's working.

Odometer reading = 21,063
Miles for day = 0

 

4/10/01
(Panama City FL)

Today we had our previously scheduled kayak lessons from Pat, the owner of The Canoe Shop in Panama City, and that requires that I tell a story. It's a nice story.

Pat had told us to meet him at the store at 9:am, although the store doesn't open until 10:am. We were there a few minutes before 9:00, but Pat didn't show up until 10:00. I think that he was embarrassed, and he was certainly apologetic. He said he'd make it up to us. Anyway, he had completely forgotten about the lesson, and as a result his wife, who watches the store while he teaches, was still at home. He had to call her, and then we had to wait a bit until she could get there. The result was that our two hour lesson was about two hours late getting started.

The store is less than 100 yards from the bay where the lesson took place. Pat is an excellent instructor with a good feel for tailoring the lesson to best fit the individual student. At the conclusion of the lesson, and when we had no more questions to be answered, Pat refused to take the $50 that was to have been the cost of this private two hour session. That was his way to make up for being late, and he would not relent from that position in spite of the fact that we argued that was too great of an adjustment.

Since we couldn't pay him, we bought a spray skirt for $50 (the thing that fits around your waist and covers the open cockpit area to help keep the kayaker dry).

Clearly you can't go wrong if you're in Northern Florida and have a need or interest in a canoe, kayak, or any related equipment, or canoe or kayak lessons, to call The Canoe Shop at 850-763-2311, or visit their website at http://www.paddlenorthflorida.com. Pat and/or his brother have another store in Tallahassee so they pretty much cover the Florida Panhandle.

This is Sharyn and Pat (who started kayaking when he was four years old when it was his father's store) discussing some of the finer points covered today.

Not to change the subject, but since this is our last day here, this is a photo of the northerly portion of the Bonita Bay Outdoor Recreation Complex as seen from the bridge where US-98 crosses the Intercoastal Waterway. It was from the far side of this point that we did our kayaking this week, traveling up the waterway, visible between the trees, that goes off the left side of the picture.

Odometer reading = 21,063
Miles for day = 0

 

4/11/01
(Panama City FL)

We didn't leave here today as planned because there are nice laundry facilities here (with an ironing board), plus Sharyn feels very comfortable here.

After Sharyn had finished the laundry and done the ironing we shot some pool and played a game of shuffleboard (again, that's a shuffleboard table like you find in a bar). So no one should misunderstand, I frequently offer to do the laundry but Sharyn says "I don't like the way you do it." That's because a few times some of the stuff was still a tiny bit damp when I brought it back without going another 75 cents in the dryer.

Odometer reading = 21,063
Miles for day = 0

 

4/12/01
(Pensacola FL)

We were on the road at 10:30 heading for the Blue Angel Naval Recreation Area just west of Pensacola. We arrived mid-afternoon.

The campground is right on the bay that separates Florida and Alabama where they touch the Gulf of Mexico. This was a seaplane base during, and possibly before, WWII and the the large concrete "parking area" is still here. The ramps that the seaplanes used to get from the water on to the concrete parking area are still here (used by campers as boat ramps) and are in as good a condition as they were 60 or more years ago. I told Sharyn that those ramps are proof that it pays to do it right the first time! How many municipal boat ramps begin to deteriorate and crumble within 10 years.?

While the campground is okay, it was the description of the bay and the beach that brought us to Blue Angel rather than the FamCamp at Pensacola Naval Air Station. While the bay and the beach are not unlike the way they are described in the FamCamp directory, they are unlike the way we envisioned them.

Odometer reading = 21,190
Miles for day = 128

 

4/13/01
(Pensacola FL)

This morning, after coffee and conversation (we have coffee and conversation every morning) we went for a walk around the campground, along the edge of the concrete seaplane parking area, and then along the narrow sandy beach area.

We're not crazy about this facility and since I had to go buy some screws and fasteners to rehang the clothes pole in the closet, we decided that we'd also checkout the FamCamp at the Pensacola NAS about ten miles from here. We did, and we liked that FamCamp much better than the Blue Angel campground. They have no sites available today, but the lady said that six people were scheduled to leave tomorrow, and that while some of them may extend, it's not likely that all of them will. We plan to move over there in the morning.

We also visited the Navy Shopping Mall which Sharyn liked. It's a pretty nice facility to have available.

Odometer reading = 21,190
Miles for day = 0

 

4/14/01
(Pensacola FL)

This morning we moved over to Oak Grove FamCamp at the Pensacola Naval Air Station. We got here a little before noon and there were four available sites; we got one of them. After we got setup we walked around the campground and down to the beach. Most of the afternoon we spent sitting outside and reading.

This is much nicer here. We're glad we changed campgrounds.

Odometer reading = 21,206
Miles for day = 16

 

4/15/01
(Pensacola FL)

It's Easter Sunday and when we got up there was a "Happy Easter" telephone message from our eight year old granddaughter, Katlin, who clearly started her day earlier than we started ours.

The young couple on the next campsite had told us of a bayou on the north side of the base where they had gone kayaking yesterday, so we decided to go there today. There is a family picnic area there with a boat ramp, beach, etc. We only kayaked for about a half hour as the wind had created some chop on the service, plus the power boats and jet skis made it somewhat rough. The combination was enough to make Sharyn not feel at ease so we came back in. There was a water hose on the dock so we hosed down the kayaks both inside and out. This was the first time the insides were washed out because after prior uses we'd hose them down after we got back to the campsite when they were on the roof of the car.

Sharyn made a small leg of lamb for Easter dinner, complete with broccoli, roasted red potatoes, and gravy. It was very good!

Odometer reading = 21,206
Miles for day = 0

 

4/16/01
(Biloxi MS)

We left this morning and headed for Keesler AFB in Biloxi Mississippi. The trip was uneventful and we arrived at Keesler FamCamp mid-afternoon. We got the last available campsite which was under the trees where we couldn't use our satellite. Initially we were disappointed as we were looking forward to watching Fox News to see what was going on in the world, not having had TV for the last two days. It turned out that there was cable at the site with 60+ channels. All that with full hookups with 50 amps isn't bad for $12.

Odometer reading = 21,341
Miles for day = 135

 

4/17/01
(Baton Rouge LA)

What a beautiful day; sunny and brisk with a forecast high of 70 degrees. We'd have liked to stay and spend at least a good part of the day on the beach, but we have to get to San Antonio to pick up our daughter, Jordan, who is going to spend a week traveling with us. We thought we'd go on to LaFayette, but a 12 mile construction project on I-10 took us an hour to negotiate so we stopped at Cajun Country Campground in Port Allen, Louisiana, a tiny place just west of Baton Rouge.

On the way here we saw a number of great places for kayaking but decided that as perfect as they were they were even better suited as alligator habitat.

For dinner tonight Sharyn prepared a pair of stuffed Cornish game hens.

Odometer reading = 21,506
Miles for day = 165

 

4/18/01
(Wallisville TX)

We wanted to make it to Texas today and we did. Wallisville is just off of I-10 at exit 810, about 78 miles west of the Louisiana-Texas line.

My back began hurting today, perhaps as a result of driving for three days without a layover. We've both been very tired and totally without any energy whatsoever for a number of days.. We've decided that this may be the result of the diet we've been on for several weeks. It's no particular diet, but we've haven't eaten any "good stuff" (ice cream, cookies, etc). Weight loss is fine, but if we can't stay awake we need another approach. Accordingly, after getting set up here at Turtle Bayou RV Park, we went to the store and bought ice cream, cookies, and a frozen pizza for dinner. We'll see if all that stuff works.

Initially, we had to go to town to get some cash. Turtle Bayou RV Park does not take checks, debit, or credit cards. Since it's a Passport America member we only had to pay $12 instead of $24, but we didn't have $12 between us. Anyway, now we do.

The bayou is only about 50 feet from the motorhome, and it's a great place for kayaking (they do canoe rentals here). We didn't go today because neither if us are up to it physically. The owner says there is only one alligator who is seen from time to time but has never been a problem. That may get to be a problem if we otherwise feel like going tomorrow (we are considering staying here tomorrow to relax and recoup).

Incidentally, after taking the picture of the bayou, I turned 90 degrees to the right and took this picture of our campsite.

Odometer reading = 21,732
Miles for day = 226

 

4/19/01
(Wallisville TX)

Last night was not a good night. I don't know whether or not I was running a fever, but I was cold, lightheaded, and feeling pretty bad. By this morning I had come back 85%, but it was tonight before I felt well again. The significance of this is that we've spent two days on this great bayou and didn't even take the kayaks off the car. What a waste!

On the way here from Baton Rouge we traveled I-10, about 50 miles of which was pretty rough and caused the clothes pole in the closet to self destruct when the center bracket pulled out of the wall and the pole took on a pronounced "U" shape. Today we found a Lowes where we bought a piece of 1" pipe. Now we've got a clothes pole that can support 300 pounds and should give us no further trouble.

Odometer reading = 21,732
Miles for day = 0

 

4/20/01
(San Antonio TX)

Well here we are at the FamCamp at Lackland AFB waiting for our daughter who won't get here until Tuesday -- if she doesn't miss her flight!

We left Turtle Bayou RV Park before 10:am and we were here at 5:pm. It was an easy drive along I-10 although during the last 100 miles Sharyn kept suggesting that we stop and spend the night wherever we were at that moment. It was kind of windy and she said I might lose control of the rig. While the wind was sometimes moving the motorhome a little, it was a very long way from becoming a safety factor. The last time we filled the gas tank was on March 27 in Okeechobee, Florida, because I was waiting to get out of Florida where gas would be cheaper. After we got out of Florida I was still waiting for gas to get cheaper and was buying 20 gallons at a time. Just east of San Antonio I finally filled up at $1.439, with one exception, the cheapest gas we have seen in months.

Anyway, when we got to Lackland the FamCamp office was closed and all the sites were occupied. We parked in the overflow area (we're the only ones here) which is just as nice as the regular sites except that there are no hookups. I spoke to a guy with hookups and he said we'd get a site tomorrow. There is a two week maximum stay, but you can remain after two weeks on a day-to-day basis as long as no one else wants a site. As soon as someone else comes in, the guy who has been here the longest (over two weeks) has six hours to leave. I guess the manager will give that guy 6 hours notice in the morning and we'll have a site by tomorrow afternoon..

In the meanwhile we checked out the BX and the commissary (notice how we always seem to do that). They are both somewhat larger and nicer than the norm and I suspect that's because Lackland is a larger facility and probably somewhat of a showplace for the Air Force since all it's basic training is done here. I came here December 27, 1956; that's 45 years ago. Today I don't see any of the two-story WWII wooden barracks that I stayed in. It's considerably nicer!

As I'm doing this, Sharyn is in the laundry doing the wash in the coinless (free) washers and dryers. The phone line for getting online is there also, so I'll be joining her in about two minutes. That same building, which is only 100 feet away, also houses the FamCamp office and rest rooms and showers.

Odometer reading = 21,986
Miles for day = 256

 

4/21/01
(San Antonio TX)

This morning we got our new campsite with full hookups and paid up through next Wednesday.

We didn't do anything all day. Sharyn read her book and I watched some TV. Late this afternoon we went to the commissary to get milk and hot dogs. Then we returned to the FamCamp and waited for the hot dogs to finish on the barbecue.

Odometer reading = 21,986
Miles for day = 0

 

4/22/01
(San Antonio TX)

Today we went into downtown San Antonio to see the Alamo. It's not very big for what went on there in March-April 1836, but then again there weren't that many men in there. It's like a lot of other places we go, we decide we need to know a great deal more about it while we are there but, of course, by then it's too late to learn until after we've left. Accordingly we bought a book, A Time To Stand; the Epic of the Alamo, by Walter Lord, which is supposed to be an excellent rendition of what transpired at the Alamo.. Of course by the time I finish the book we'll be a thousand miles away (I'm still reading Undaunted Courage, the story of the Lewis and Clark exploration of Louisiana). What I have learned since we got back to the FamCamp is that most of the Alamo that existed in 1836 no longer exists today, and most of what exists today was constructed since the 1920's. That is very significant because I now know that of the pictures I took today, none of them include any of the remaining original Alamo.

While this is not part of the original Alamo, it certainly is beautiful. Also, this is a very impressive tree. Finally, this is Sharyn emerging from a twentieth century add-on. Next time I'll be be more careful what I photograph.

Odometer reading = 21,986
Miles for day = 0

 

4/23/01
(San Antonio TX)

Today can pretty well be summed up with I ran a fever and Sharyn went to the commissary for milk.

Odometer reading = 21,986
Miles for day = 0

 

4/24/01
(San Antonio TX)

This morning I paid the telephone bills via the telephone in the laundry room. While I was doing that I also did some laundry.

The big event of the day was when we picked up our daughter, Jordan, at the airport. She is going to live and travel with us for the next week.

Odometer reading = 21,986
Miles for day = 0

 

4/25/01
(San Antonio TX)

This was a very enjoyable day. Jordan had spoken with a lady at the FamCamp who told her not to miss the "Riverwalk" in downtown San Antonio. We didn't exactly know what that was, but since Jordan also wanted to find a sports store to get her nephew, Scott, a rapid Spurs fan, some kind of something representing the Spurs, we decided to go downtown again. On the map of the downtown area we saw that the Riverwalk was only a few blocks from the Alamo, so we knew exactly how to get there.

Well even I have to say that the Riverwalk was very nice. A portion of the San Antonio river that runs through Town has been diverted through a loop encompassing a number of downtown city blocks, with walkways along both sides of the river, etc. In turn, the walkway is lined with little shops, eateries, and other nice places to visit or browse.

We ate lunch at one of these waterside restaurants which Sharyn, in particular, enjoyed very much. She thanked Jordan for joining us, saying that we hadn't done anything so nice since we left "home" until she joined us. While we were eating an obviously male pigeon with a high testosterone level was messing with a female next to Sharyn's chair. She swatted him away telling him (much to Jordan's chagrin) "you don't do that in public."

Anyway, when we got back to the car "I had a ticket" for an overtime meter. The ticket was written only ten minutes before we got there, and since I had been saying that we had to get back before the meter ran out, while others continued to poke along (and stop at Starbucks for coffee), it seems that it should be "she" got a ticket ( with "she" being either or both of them).

Earlier in the day a security police car, driven by a female staff sargent drove through the FamCamp and, seeing the kayaks, asked if we had found enough water to use them. I took this opportunity to introduce Jordan to this sargent security officer and to tell her that I was telling Jordan that she should join the Air Force. Jordan and I both proceeded to question her for the the next 20 minutes about an Air Force career. I strongly think that Jordan should do this and the several female airmen that I have talked to about it make me even more sure of it.

In any event, Sharyn and Jordan (and me) had a very enjoyable day!

Odometer reading = 21,986
Miles for day = 0

 

4/26/01
(Austin TX)

This morning Jordan and I went looking for the Air Force recruiting office that some people told us was on base (other people told us there was no recruiter on base). If there was one we couldn't find it, but we did see a number of brand new recruits, still in civies, being "drilled."

Jordan than spoke to the guy in the next campsite. He's a retired Navy pilot with 25 years in, who is now, as a civilian contractor, overseeing Jr NROTC programs at high schools in half a dozen states from Texas to Colorado. They spoke for about a half hour about the pros and cons of Jordan joining the military.

After that we left San Antonio and took off for Austin which is #1 on Jordan's "must see" list of Texas cities. Based on its proximity (3 minutes) from downtown Austin, we decided to stay at Pecan Grove RV Park, just south of the river. After dinner we decided to take a ride through downtown so we could familiarize ourselves with it without the workday traffic. From there we went westerly along the south bank of the river to Zilker Park, a riverside park just down the road from the RV park. They rent canoes and kayaks and also have a public dock for launching of private, non-motorized, craft. We'll have to kayak the river while we're here, both for our own enjoyment, and so that Jordan can add kayaking to her repertoire of experience.

Asked what she thinks about this RV lifestyle she replied; "This is so much not me," although she conceded that it was nice to be able to go anywhere you felt like.

Odometer reading = 22,079
Miles for day = 90

 

4/27/01
(Austin TX)

Today was a very enjoyable day! There were basically three things that Jordan wanted to do while in Austin; check out the area around 6th Street, go to the 3-story Barnes & Noble (Jordan is a B&N freak), and go to the Oasis Restaurant overlooking Lake Travis. She had a map of Austin with these three locations circled. Today we started out by going to Barnes & Noble, even though it turned out to have only two floors. We spent a number of hours there both browsing the shelves and reading magazines. I use B&N much like a library. Sharyn and Jordan also enjoyed several $4 coffee drinks. By the time Jordan and I left the store Sharyn was waiting for us outside.

From there we drove to the circle on the map which marked the Oasis Restaurant and found it to be right there in the circle. As we drove into the parking lot Sharyn remarked that it wasn't exactly what she thought it was going to be. I said that I had the same reaction and that I was relieved. The thing about this restaurant is that it has 32 multi-level decks that overlook the lake for an admittedly impressive outdoor eating environment. This was the view from our original table.

Open sandwich lunches for three (although the were very good) cost us $50 rather than the $100 that I had feared. After eating we spent a half hour or so looking through the gift and antique shops.

A bit of serendipity that came with Jordan is that since she's been with us Sharyn has really been up a number of notches.

Odometer reading = 22,079
Miles for day = 0

 

4/28/01
(Hempstead TX)

We checked out of the RV park and drove to an employee parking lot behind the State Capital Building. Being it was Saturday the lot was empty so we parked the motorhome there and took the car to the grand opening of the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. There was a big festival going on in front of and across the street from the museum celebrating the opening. Sharyn and Jordan mingled with the festival crowd for most of the morning.

Yesterday President Bush was in Austin for a Presidential pre-opening tour of the museum so many of the streets in the downtown area were closed by the Secret Service. That's why we avoided this area yesterday and went to Barnes & Noble and the Oasis instead. They are north of the downtown area.

Anyway, from the museum we went to "6th Street," which Jordan had been told was had lots of cute shops and "boutiquey" things. Jordan found it to be more scary than interesting. After driving the length of 6th Street we went back to the parking lot where we hooked the car the motorhome and took off towards Houston.

We stopped at Yogi Bear's Jellystone Campground in Hempstead, Texas.

Odometer reading = 22,203
Miles for day = 124

 

4/29/01
(Hempstead TX)

This morning we didn't get up until after ten. Most amazing is the fact that Jordan was the first one up. After coffee and conversation (tea for Jordan) we went to Magnolia to see our granddaughter Mary Burnett. When we returned to the campground we sat around outside and had wine and cheese and more conversation.

We also walked back to the fishing lake behind our campsite where we took a few family pictures. After dinner we went to the game room and shot some pool. After that Sharyn and Jordan went to play tennis and I read the newspaper.

Odometer reading = 22,203
Miles for day = 0

 

4/30/01
(Houston TX)

Jordan flies back to New York from Houston tomorrow, so this morning we headed for Houston. As we got close to Houston it began to rain and Jordan picked an RV Park from Woodall's Campground Directory. As we headed to USA RV Park we realized that we should have selected a place sooner as we had overshot what would have been the best route. Anyway, we got there with no difficulty, thanks to Jordan navigating us through to the opposite side of Town.

This USA RV Park is not what we'd call one of the better places we've stayed at, but I have to exonerate Jordan from liability since this was not her first choice. I kind of vetoed her first choice based on its price. This place was only $17 and is listed as having a good number of seasonal rentals. We know from past experience that campgrounds with "seasonal rentals" translates into "lost cost housing." There have been a few exceptions but this isn't one of them.

Full hookups with 50 amps for $16.50 at the edge of a big city is a good price -- even if it's not where you'd want to live!

Odometer reading = 22,264
Miles for day = 61

 

5/1/01
(Houston TX)

Today we took Jordan to Hobby Airport in Houston so that she could return home to New York. It was a great week the three of us had together.

Odometer reading = 22,264
Miles for day = 0

 

5/2/01
(Livingston TX)

Today we moved on to Escapee's Rainbow's End RV park in Livingston, Texas, which is about 70 miles northeast of Houston. We started out this morning about 30 miles southwest of Houston, anticipating considerable traffic as we worked our way into, and through, the center of town. We were pleasantly surprised when we had no delay or heavy traffic at all.

It was nice to be back at Rainbow's End. We were here last October but were under pressure to leave to get to Long Island for our Grandson's school play. This time we are under no pressure to leave so it should be a relaxed stay until such time as we decide to move on.

Sharyn hasn't been feeling well today and I'm concerned that she may be getting whatever I had two weeks ago.

An interesting observation: we did not receive any phone calls during the week Jordan was with us; yesterday she flew back home; today we had a number of phone calls. Could there be any kind of correlation here?

Odometer reading = 22,370
Miles for day = 106

 

5/3/01
(Livingston TX)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY SHARYN!

While today is Sharyn's birthday we actually celebrated it two days ago while Jordan was with us. Jordan and I gave her what could be described as a "low key surprise birthday party" -- the three of us, complete with birthday cake, presents and flowers. When living together in a motorhome it is nearly impossible to pull off any kind of surprise anything.

We went into Livingston and bought a good supply of "healthy" groceries -- mostly fruit and vegetables. When we arrived at Rainbow's End we picked up our mail for the first time in three months. One of the items was the lab report from the work that Dr. Falco in Southold NY had ordered. According to the report my LDL reading is almost at the point where my likelihood of a heart attack is twice what it should be so I'm going to have to seriously address the situation -- starting with no red meat or ice cream.

Odometer reading = 22,370
Miles for day = 0

 

5/4/01
(Livingston TX)

Today was cleaning day. While I scrubbed the rubber roof of the motorhome and washed the exterior Sharyn did some very serious cleaning of the interior including all cabinet doors, walls, places behind the couch, forward of the dashboard, behind the head of the bed, etc. We spent 4 - 5 hours doing all this stuff, after which we sat outside, drank ice tea (V8 for me), relaxed, caught our breath, and talked. Sort of like coffee and conversation.

Odometer reading = 22,370
Miles for day = 0

 

5/5/01
(Livingston TX)

We didn't do much today. This is relaxed and easy place to stay so we are enjoying it.

For dinner Sharyn prepared two plates of steamed fresh vegetables which were both healthy and delicious -- I had previously come to the mistaken conclusion that these two attributes were mutually exclusive.

After dinner we went to town and bought some more fruit and vegetables. Good food costs more than junk food. For example, this tomato (non-organic) costs $1.25.

Odometer reading = 22,370
Miles for day = 0

 

5/6/01
(Livingston TX)

Today I changed the oil and filter in the motorhome. Other than that we sat around, talked, and read some of the several months worth of RV magazines that had accumulated with our mail.

For dinner we had fresh steamed vegetables with sliced roast turkey breast. It was delicious and, while I didn't take a picture, it looked as good as it tasted. By the way, several hours after we have dinner we have a bowl of cut up fresh fruit.

Odometer reading = 22,370
Miles for day = 0

 

5/7/01 to 5/9/01
(Livingston TX)

During these three days we didn't engage in a great deal of activity worth writing about. Sharyn did some wash and ironing; we went to the Health Care Center and had complete blood workups ("comprehensive metabolic profiles with lipid panels") done for only $15 each. One evening we went to the social hour.

Odometer reading = 22,370
Miles for day(s) = 0

 

5/10/01
(Marshall TX)

This morning we got up at 7:am so that Sharyn could go line dancing at the clubhouse at 8:am. She came back at 9:am and said that it was non-stop dancing for the entire hour and that she needed a shower. She had a good time and was invited to participate in an upcoming show later this week. Unfortunately, we left later in the day so she had to decline.

We left Livingston and headed north on US-59 towards Branson MO. We'll take several days to get there.

At 3:30 we stopped for the evening at Country Pines RV Park in Marshall TX. This will be the first time I've been able to get on line and update this site in almost a week.

Odometer reading = 22,530
Mils for day = 160

 

5/11/01
(Mena AR)

We had an uneventful drive to Mountain Shadow RV Park in Mena, Arkansas. As the name implies, we are in a low spot surrounded by higher ground which means no cell phone, no radio, and since we're under the trees, no satellite TV reception either. Actually, without any of that electronic intrusion, it has been a quiet and enjoyable evening with just each other for entertainment. I found it quite nice. After another healthy, but delicious, dinner we read some of the many RV magazines that we picked up when we got our three months worth of mail at Rainbow's End in Livingston.

Definitely worth mentioning, but probably not appreciated by many, this afternoon as we were climbing a rather steep grade in the "slower traffic use right lane" lane we overtook, pulled out, and passed a diesel pusher motorhome groaning his way up the incline!

Odometer reading = 22,680
Miles for day = 150

 

5/12/01
(Fort Smith AR)

It was only a short drive to Fort Smith where we are visiting with Bill and Cheryl who we met at the Great North American RV Rally in Gillette Wyoming last July (we were "next door neighbors"). Our directions were to park in the parking lot of the Lighthouse Church that we'd see as soon as we came into Witcherville (just south of Ft Smith) and they'd come and get us. When we called from our cell phone we got a recording from Southwest Bell (we have AT&T) that we couldn't call their phone number from our phone, to "please try another number." That's an interesting message!

Anyway, the man who lives next door to the church let me use his phone and Bill drove up five minutes later.

Bill and Cheryl live on a farm and as soon as we turned into their driveway I said to Sharyn, "this makes me miss the farm." It's been almost four years since we sold Lost Valley Tree Farm and Nursery, but sitting on their porch watching the horses, or looking out across the fields, brings back nostalgic memories. Maybe instead of a "cabin on a lake" we need a "farm in the country."

One difference between a farm in Arkansas and a farm in Virginia is that in Virginia you don't need a storm shelter, or as they say here in Arkansas, a "fraidy ho.'" Since they get all the tornadoes out of Oklahoma Bill and Cheryl put in this "fraidy ho'" that Cheryl is showing Sharyn.

Anyway, after we had all had several glasses of wine, Cheryl made a giant platter of fried crappies (that Bill had caught), hush puppies, cole slaw, and old fashioned (not frozen) French fries for dinner. For the first time in well over a week, I ate until I was full. For dessert we had angel cake covered with fresh strawberries from the neighbors garden , and whipped cream. It was all a welcomed break from the diet that Sharyn and I have been on for a good number of days.

Before, during, and after dinner we engaged in what was pretty much nonstop conversation. At about 10:30 Sharyn and I decided that we should "go home" so as not to be keeping them up too late. Bill and Cheryl have a gravel parking site next to the barn with a 30amp outlet where they keep their motorhome. When we got her they had moved their motorhome so that we could use that space. When we "went home," we walked 40 feet to the barn and our motorhome.

All in all, a very enjoyable day.

Odometer reading = 22,749
Miles for day = 69

 

5/13/01
(Fort Smith AR)

This morning the four of us sat around for quite a while having coffee and conversation while watching the horses playing in the pasture. After awhile Bill drove us all into Fort Smith to check out some things around town. We first went to the site of the original Army Fort for which the City is named. At that time Fort Smith marked the western boundary between the Arkansas Territory and Indian Country to the west (later to become Oklahoma Territory and then the State of Oklahoma).

The site also contains a replication of the courtroom of Hanging Judge Parker and the gallows from which the condemned were hanged. In spite of his reputation he only hanged 79 men (and women). This is a view of the underneath of the platform that dropped down from under the condemned men. The gallows could, and occasionally did, hang as many as six at a time.

Sharyn and Cheryl sitting in the park look out at Oklahoma on the opposite shore of the Arkansas River. Since we do not have Oklahoma filled in on our map Sharyn wanted to go there so she can put Oklahoma on the map, so Bill drove us across the river and Sharyn got out and stood on Oklahoma ground. I'm glad that she got to Oklahoma, but the motorhome didn't so she still can't fill in the map -- at least not yet.

After returning from Oklahoma we had lunch at a local restaurant and checked out a Core of Engineers campground on the river.

We also stopped at a railroad yard where I got a close-up photograph of the train whistle I want for the motorhome.

Odometer reading = 22,749
Miles for day = 0

 

5/14/01
(Branson MO)

We were up at 6:20 this morning so we could see Cheryl before she left for work. As it worked out she had a number of things to deal with today so she didn't go in after all. Anyway, we had breakfast with Bill and Cheryl, talked a bit, said good-bye, and still were on the road before 9:am. Getting up early has some advantages that we may have to consider.

The drive from Fort Smith to Branson is very pretty and did not conform to what we would have thought Arkansas looked like (of course that's only northwest Arkansas). Also, it was the first time in a long time that we probably spent as much time in 2nd and 3rd gear as we did in 4th; lots of steep grades, both up and down. Along the way we stopped once for gas and once for a cup of coffee.

We are now at Treasure Lake RV Resort in Branson. Bill and Cheryl are members/owners here and we are looking forward to them joining us here later in the week.

Odometer reading = 22,942
Miles for day = 193

 

5/15/01
(Branson MO)

Today we drove around Branson and some of the surrounding area. You could spend two months in this town going to a different show and restaurant every night.

We also checked out the Escapees Turkey Creek RV Park which has a boat ramp for access to Turkey Creek and Lake Taneycomo. It was quite nice, but admittedly, the water access for our kayaks is a big factor.

Odometer reading = 22,942
Miles for day = 0

 

5/16/01
(Branson MO)

We left Treasure Lake RV Park as we had been there as prospective members with a two night complimentary stay. We moved over to Escapees Turkey Creek RV Park which we had checked out yesterday and found to be quite satisfactory. Unfortunately, there were no 50 amps sites available. While we prefer 50 amps, 30 amps will work and is usually not a problem unless we want to run both roof top units (heating or cooling) at the same time. Since it has been in the 90's, and we're in full sun, 50 amps would be much better. We are the second unit on a list to move when a 50 amp site opens up.

By the way, with respect to campgrounds, our priority choices, when we have have such choices, as are follows: (1) Escapee parks, (2) military campgrounds, (3) Passport America places -- we get 1/2 price, (4) other RV parks.

This afternoon we went into the "Old Town" section of Branson and walked around through all the shops. After not much more than an hour Sharyn said that, "it is too hot even to do this." Those who know Sharyn know that means it was really hot. The lady in one of the shops said that the heat should break tomorrow -- that's fine by us!

Odometer reading = 22,950
Miles for day = 8

 

5/17/01
(Branson MO)

First thing we did this this morning was move to a 50 amp site. While I was getting re-setup, Sharyn did the laundry. Because Escapee parks are not profit oriented the washers and dryers always cost less to use.

Bill has a four day dental convention to attend in Springfield (40 miles north of Branson) which starts tomorrow. He is going to stay in his motorhome at Treasure Lake while attending. He called us when he was a half hour from Branson and we arranged to meet for dinner. We had dinner at B.T. Bones Steak House and from there Bill drove us around Branson showing Sharyn where all the shopping/discount/factory malls were. We then went to McFarlands to have some of their famous fruit cobbler for dessert.

At McFarlands there is a "trick" table in the dinning room that, during the course of your meal, will very slowly, imperceptibly, raise higher and higher. We sat next to that table but unfortunately it was close to closing time and no one sat there while we were there. Apparently it is a source of entertainment as the unsuspecting people at the table begin to realize that something strange is going on.

Odometer reading = 22,950
Miles for day = 0

 

5/18/01
(Branson MO)

The rain that started lasted last night continued for most of today.

We went to a Wal-Mart Supercenter in West Branson to replenish our supply of fresh vegetables. One of the people working in the produce department commented that we "eat healthy." That's what we're trying to do, but we've been eating out too much.

This evening we met Bill at the I-Max theater where we saw a film on Alaska. What an incredible place! Also, while I am not a big fan special effects in movies or video, I have to say that viewing "Alaska" in the I-Max theater was quite an experience. This is primarily because the super large screen occupies your entire field of view. When the screen is depicting the view of a race car driver, or the pilot of an airplane flying over Alaskan landscape, the view is not just on a rectangular screen surrounded by the fixed interior of the movie theater which provides you with fixed reference outside of the movie screen. Rather, the interior of the movie theater is outside of your peripheral vision so there is no "fixed" reference. As the airplane banks to the right and begins to dive your stomach comes up into your chest. I suspect a roller coaster ride would make me throw up.

Anyway, after the show the three of us went out to dinner. The plan had been for Cheryl to join us yesterday but, unfortunately, she has been unable to find someone to feed the horses so she's unable to get away from the farm.

Odometer reading = 22,950
Miles for day = 0

 

5/19/01
(Branson MO)

This afternoon I got to try out a sea kayak, a 17' Dagger Atlantis. Our neighbors, Ed and Jolene, have two sea kayaks that they pack with camping gear and go wilderness camping for a week or better. Recently they did this in British Columbia.

Anyway, there kayaks are closer to what we thought we wanted when we bought our Wilderness Systems Pungos. I went a couple of miles up Lake Tangycomo with Jolene using Ed's Atlantis, and I really liked it a lot. (This photo is Jolene and I heading down Turtle Creek from the campground towards the lake). Jolene said she'd take Sharyn tomorrow if Sharyn wanted to go, and I hope she will. They are a totally different animal from the Pungos and I'd like for Sharyn to experience it (again, "increase her repertoire of experience").

Bill came by after his seminar and joined us for dinner in the motorhome. After dinner we went to see the Shoji Tabuchi show. He is a Japanese fiddler who began studying classical violin in Japan when he was seven years old. Years later when Roy Acuff was on tour in Japan, Shoji went to see him "out of curiosity." As he describes it, he became hooked on American country music. An incredible violinist, he plays everything from country to swing to classical to Cajun; from Glenn Miller's In The Mood to Orange Blossom Special; and everything in between. A remarkable performance.

Odometer reading = 22,950
Miles for day = 0

 

5/20/01
(Branson MO)

Except for a few short breaks it rained most of the day. In spite of the rain the temperatures were mild so that sitting outside under the awning with the rain coming down was kind of nice.

Ed and Jolene, our neighbors with the sea kayaks, came over for some wine and cheese and visited for an hour or so. Ed hurt his back about three weeks ago and they've been staying here waiting for him to recover. The hundred feet he had to walk to get to our motorhome was the furthest he's been able to walk since they got here. I had thought that lack of exercise could have been part of the reason I have had my intermittent back problems, but since Ed and Jolene routinely hike 8, 10, or 12 miles it would seem that exercise may not be the answer.

This evening we went with Bill to see the Ozark Mountain Jubilee. I have sometimes listened to the show on Public Radio and was anxious to see it first hand. I enjoyed it a lot -- it reminds me of the sound of country music when I was a kid. Bill's seminar finishes up tomorrow and he'll be heading back to Fort Smith.

As the evening wore on and we were getting ready for bed the TV was reporting tornadoes throughout western Oklahoma, northern Arkansas (particularly the Fort Smith area), and southern Missouri. Pretty much where we are. As of one point there had been twenty-seven tornadoes reported. A man came to the motorhome to advise us that the basement door to the clubhouse had been unlocked and would remain so to provide a refuge in case of a tornado here. So far, so good!

Odometer reading = 22,950
Miles for day = 0

 

5/21/01
(Branson MO)

The plan for today was that we were going to head for Springfield MO, visit the Bass Pro Shop Headquarters facility and then, depending on the time, either head east or spend the night in Springfield. First we wanted to go into town to get a Shoji Tabuchi CD and visit the St. Louis Bread Factory to get some pumpernickle-raisin bread. Some how or other we didn't leave for town until almost one o'clock and then we didn't get back until 5:pm. Needless to say, we didn't get off to Springfield today. It's just a reaffirmation of, "our plans are never firm until after the event."

Also, after all the tornado activity last night we decided we should probably have a weather radio that would turn on and sound a warning whenever that kind of weather activity was expected in our area. We bought it at Wal-Mart because there we have 90 days to return it if we don't like it. We want that option because it may turn out that programing our location into the radio every time we relocate may be such that the system isn't practical for our application. We'll see how it goes and if we do return it I'll mention it here.

Anyway, as I'm doing this update Sharyn is doing some laundry. Tomorrow we'll try again for Springfield and the Bass Pro Shop.

Odometer reading = 22,950
Miles for day = 0

 

5/22/01
(Springfield MO)

Well we made it out of Branson and into Springfield, and the Bass Pro Shop's Outdoor World (http://www.outdoor-world.com). After parking in their RV parking lot, as we went inside we asked the security guy if we could stay in the parking lot overnight. He said we could stay as many nights as we liked..

It was just after noon when we arrived here and if we could not have stayed we would have had to be back on the road by mid-afternoon. Since we could spend the night time didn't matter and we didn't even come back outside until six o'clock. Even at that it wasn't too long until Sharyn went back to check out their outlet store.

While you can certainly buy things at the Bass Pro Shop, it also must rank as a rather nice attraction just to visit. We went through the Fish & Wildlife Museum (at $5 per person it's one of only two things that you have to pay for -- the other is the indoor shooting range) which has hundreds of animals on display, mostly in dioramas showing them in their natural habitat. Most of these specimens came from three separate museum collections while others came from private collectors.

While I was particularly impress with the size of the Alaskan Brown Bear, other exhibits were really nice. Sharyn liked, among other things, the Great White Shark taken off of Montauk Point, Long Island. Weighing xxxxx pounds and measuring xxxxx feet, it is the largest fish ever caught with a rod and reel.

Actually, the wildlife museum is a very small part of the overall Outdoor World. There are tens of thousands of items to be looked at, examined, tried out (or tried on) that relate to fishing, hunting, boating, camping, or almost any other kind of outdoor activity. It is clearly worth a visit by anyone. Kids will also love it.

Odometer reading = 22,994
Miles for day = 44

 

5/23/01
(Van Buren MO)

First thing this morning Sharyn went back to both the outlet store and Pro Bass. While it had rained all night, this morning was sunny and nice and 52 degrees. We both prefer the cooler weather to the hot temperatures.

When we pulled out of the parking lot we headed east which will be our primary direction until we arrive at Charlottesville, Virginia. After several non-eventful hours of driving (plus a half hour for lunch) we stopped at Deer Run Campground (http:/www.deerruncampground.com). The campground is on the Current River, part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. They do canoe rentals here as well as portage to put in or take out points along the river. We hope to have them drop us off upstream tomorrow.

Odometer reading = 23,141
Miles for day = 147

 

5/24/01
(Van Buren MO)

The first thing we noticed this morning was that a shoe thief had stolen one of Sharyn's sandals that had been left outside on our door mat. When we discovered the thief's identity, it turned out that he had already destroyed (chewed up) the evidence.

After our coffee and conversation we drove to a put-in point on the river (see yesterdays entry). about five miles above the campground, where we put the kayaks in the river and paddled back down to the campground. It's a beautiful river with water that is crystal clear. It's all Class I with a few spots that might be Class II. Just before entering one of these spots we stopped for a few minutes. On one hand I wanted to take Sharyn's picture as she went through this section, but on the other hand I wanted to be right behind her as she did. I stayed with her I forewent the picture. While I did get some nice photos, we were once again up against the reality that there are some visual experiences just just cannot be captured with a photo. One final photo shows the take-out point at the campground.

By the way, after we returned to the campground, the campground people drove us back to pick up our car. When I inquired as to what I owed for this service I was told the cost was one shoe.

Odometer reading = 23,141
Miles for day = 0

 

5/25/01
(Van Buren MO)

Today was another day on the river. This time we dropped our car off at Big Spring, the 15 mile mark on the Current River. The campground people then transported us and our kayaks back up to Waymeyer at mile 27. For the next several hours we paddled downstream, past the campground, and on through some very pretty country. After a few hours we stopped on the side of the river and ate the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that Sharyn had prepared for lunch.

Look at that attire; does she not look like an ad for LL Bean?

After lunch we continued on down the river towards Big Spring, but not without any excitement. As we approached the bridge for US-60 there were a number of large rocks and tree trunks in the river. Also at that point the river had narrowed significantly so that the current was quite swift. Sharyn came much closer to a large rock than she had intended and the current pushed her up on the rock. Luckily she was able to hold on and the kayak did not flip over. It sure scared me.

A few miles further on Sharyn had another incident when the river became divided by a giant uprooted tree in the middle of the current. She attempted to go to the left of the tree but the current swept her into the left side of the root mass. A large horizontal root several feet above the water allowed the kayak to pass under but caught Sharyn and her paddle. At that point I went past her and the tree on the right side. By the time I got out of the current and could turn around to see what was happening she was 100 feet past the tree. She really lucked out in getting herself disentangled without getting pulled out of the kayak or capsizing.

From there on the river was smooth. We got Big Spring a short time later. It was just in time as after two days of paddling we had gone just about as far as we could. We will not be on the river tomorrow.

Odometer reading = 23,141
Miles for day = 0

 

5/26/01
(Eddyville KY)

This morning we were up early, thanked some of the campground people for what we thought was a very pleasant stay, and were on the road by 9:30am. We were east bound on US-60 for most of the day, and the days travel reconfirms our view that one should not travel the Interstate if you want to see America.

Woodall's campground directory showed several campgrounds in Eddyville, Kentucky, so we decided that would be a good place to stop for the day. The first campground we tried was full for Memorial Day weekend, but the man called another campground two miles away who said they had a spot. We then went to Lake Barkley RV Resort and they were waiting for us.

For dinner tonight we had a stir fry that Sharyn made from scratch with fresh vegetables and cut up chicken flavored with honey mustard dressing. Stir fry is one of our favorites, but in the past we have bought the frozen packages. After tonight I would vote that we not use those anymore.

Odometer reading = 23,340
Miles for day = 199

 

5/27/01
(Fort Campbell KY)

We left this morning headed for Nashville but before we had gone very far we came to a sign that said it was 25 miles to Fort Campbell. Simultaneously we both said, "maybe they have a FamCamp," and they did. Since we had been concerned about the availability of a campsite on this Memorial Day weekend we figured that a military base would be the answer.

We checked out the BX and Commissary where I got a haircut for $5.35 and Sharyn bought a small table lamp for the motorhome

Odometer reading = 23,393
Miles for day = 53

 

5/28/01
(Fort Campbell KY)

It turned out that we are only about 40 miles from Fort Donelson; the site of the 1862 Civil War Union victory that brought an obscure General, Ulysses S. Grant, to public acclaim. It goes without saying that we had to visit the site.

Actually, within a period of just over a week Grant captured Fort Henry on the Tennessee River and then, 12 miles to the east, Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River. Upon the surrender of Fort Donelson Grant acquired approximately 13,000 prisoners (the largest number of prisoners ever taken in a single battle until WW II).

My View: I think that had Grant not had this exciting victory (this was the Union's first major victory of the war) he may well have remained obscure. Had that been the case he would never have been given command of the Union army. In that case the war would probably have continued on as a war of attrition, which is pretty much what it had become by 1864 when Lincoln appointed Grant as commander of the Union army, until ended with a negotiated settlement in which the North would have basically bailed out, leaving the South with all of it's social and economic structures in place.

Incidentally this is the view the confederate artillerymen looking down the Cumberland River as they waited for the Union's ironclad gunboats come come into view from around the bend in the river. The gunboats were badly clobbered and had to retreat back down the river with substantial damage and numerous injuries.

Odometer reading = 23,393
Miles for day = 0

 

5/29/01
(Nashville TN)

To be at Camping World in Nashville for an 8 o'clock appointment we were out of bed at 6:am and left our campsite at 6:40. We think that's pretty good! We figured 50 miles to Nashville and that we'd be there on time. We did not figure on losing US-41A somewhere in the middle of Clarksville, so we ended up being late. Oh well. They didn't care, so I guess we don't either.

The roof mounted heat pump in the bedroom, when it's in cooling mode will occasionally switch over to heat mode and just keep pumping heat until it's shut off. After a minute or so you can turn it back on and it will work fine for a number of weeks until it repeats the process. This is a factory warranty repair that has been worked on a number of times. This time the factory, Dometic, is overnighting two upgraded circuit boards (one for each heat pump) and a new type thermostat that controls both units, all of which they say will fix the problem once and for all.

We are staying in Two Rivers RV Park which is right next door to Camping World. It's costing us $31.45 to stay here for just one night which I believe makes it the most expensive campsite we've ever had. It's nice, but we've had just as nice for $20. None of the campgrounds in Nashville have a price listed in Woodall's Campground Directory and I think that's because the prices are so high. We called several and it appears that they run from approximately $25 to $35. On average we probably pay a little over $15.

Another thing we took notice of is that the Grand Old Oprey shows are only on weekends. We were spoiled in Branson where there are dozens of shows all over town every night, and where campgrounds are much more reasonable in what they charge. We'll definitely revisit Branson; with respect to Nashville we're not sure.

The other day Sharyn didn't think she could walk the perimeter of the remains of Fort Donelson's 15 acres. Tonight we went to to the Oprey Mill Mall and walked what seemed like 5,000 acres. I had to find a place to sit down, but Sharyn never slowed down.

Odometer reading = 23,455
Miles for day = 62

 

5/30/01
(Nashville TN)

We spent the entire day in the parking lot at Camping World. Our parts never came in, and by mid-afternoon it was determined that they had been missent somewhere else. They immediately sent another set to Nashville with assurances that they were on the way while even as the phone call was going on. It's now time to go to bed and we're still in the Camping World parking lot where we're spending the night.

We did go out to dinner tonight. We went to the Cracker Barrel right down the road. I had chicken dumplings with baked apple dumpling covered with pecan glaze and ice cream for dessert. I couldn't finish dessert as I'm no longer used to eating.

Odometer reading = 23,455
Miles for day = 1/4

 

5/31/01
(Knoxville TN)

Camping World did not get the parts for our air conditioning units until 11:am, and then they didn't have anyone available to do the work until two o'clock. The bottom line is that we didn't get out of there until a quarter to five (that's the latest we ever left anywhere). We very much wanted to get to Knoxville so that we could get to Phil's in Charlottesville by tomorrow evening. We also didn't want to drive after dark.

Well, we got to the Escapees Raccoon Valley RV Park at 8:pm, just as the last of the light faded. It was dark as we entered the park. It also was 9:pm local (EDT). We were very tired and glad to be off the road. In spite of the hour Sharyn still made a fine dinner. As I write this it's now 12:15 am tomorrow and Sharyn has gone to bed.

Odometer reading = 23,646
Miles for day = 191

 

6/1/01
(Charlottesville VA)

It was raining most of the night and was still raining when we got up this morning. We didn't get on the road until 11:am and it was raining when we left. It pretty much rained all day, but it never came down very hard.

We only stopped twice during the day; once to get some skim milk (when we also had some fat free cream cheese and blueberry jam on fat free saltines), and again to buy gas. Actually we stopped a third time because Sharyn needed a cup of coffee.

We finally arrived at Phil & Kim's a little after seven. Both Katlin and Philip IV have grown a great deal since we saw them last, even though it was only six months ago.

Odometer reading = 24.,035
Miles for day = 389

 

6/2/01
(Charlottesville VA)

Today Phil and I went to check out the Rivanna River to see about locations to put in and take out. Sharyn and Katlin went shopping, while Kim took Philip IV shopping in Richmond.

The river looked good and by late afternoon when we had all returned to the house we talked about floating the river tomorrow.

Odometer reading = 24,035
Miles for day = 0

 

6/3/01
(Charlottesville VA)

The six of us went down the Rivanna River for a distance of about 10 miles. Sharyn and I were in our kayaks while Phil, Kim, Katlin, and Phil IV went in their canoe. Great picture opportunities presented themselves but I had forgotten to take the camera. For the first several miles Phil fly fished more than he paddled and he caught (and released) several small mouth bass.

In and along the river we saw several gar fish, osprey, river otter, several snakes, many ducks and geese, and a deer fording the river ahead of us. There was also a butterfly that accompanied Sharyn the entire trip, from time to time sitting on her shoulder, finger, hair, or deck of her kayak.

We were about five hours on the river and I think we were all happy to see our take out point finally appear from around a bend.

Odometer reading = 24,035
Miles for day = 0

 

6/4/01
(Charlottesville VA)

Kim had to go to work and Katlin had school while Sharyn, Phil, and I spent a good bit of the day just sitting around talking. Later in the day Sharyn went to the grocery store and shortly after she left our third son, Shane, stopped by. He stayed for awhile and then he had to go back to work.

Phil had taken off today and tomorrow. After Shane left we went to Southern States to pick up eight bales of straw to finish spreading over the area that Phil had just seeded with lawn seed. After Kim got home from work we sat around enjoying the conversation and the weather while the kids played "kayak."

Odometer reading = 24,035
Miles for day = 0

 

6/5/01
(Charlottesville VA)

The main event today was Phil's and my trip down the Shenandoah River over in the Valley. We took the kayaks and it was a great trip. There was more water than had been on the Rivanna and it was moving faster. Also there were more rocks and other "good spots." Nothing more than Class II, but a really fun trip. I couldn't get any pictures of the "good spots" because I didn't want to get the camera wet. It's the only thing that was kept dry. We saw a family of minks right at the edge of the water.

Driving back to Charlottesville we took note that there was something about a river that makes one want to take a nap! Where we put in. Where we stopped for lunch. Kayaker Phil.

While we were doing the river Sharyn went to Katlin's school and joined her for lunch in the cafeteria. Sharyn gets an A+ for being a super grandma!


Odometer reading = 24,035
Miles for day = 0

 

6/6/01
(Boonton NJ)

We got up at 6:am to say good-bye to everyone before they went off to work/school/baby-sitter, which we did. We were then on the road by 8:15. After what seemed like many hours, three or four stops, several cups of coffee, and a number of tolls, we arrived at Harry and Irene's.

We enjoyed them as we always do, having wine and cheese, talking with Irene's animals, etc. Irene is the original Mrs. Livingston talking to her animals. She does volunteer work at a wildlife facility. When injured animals are brought to the facility they are treated and then released back into the wild, usually at Harry and Irene's place. This is one of her favorites.

After dinner we spent some "quality" time (his terminology) with their son Neil so that he would not have to prune the Christmas trees.

Odometer reading = 24,394
Miles for day = 359

 

6/7/01
(Southold NY)

This morning we spent several hours with Irene and Harry before getting on the road to Long Island. We left a little before noon and headed east via I-80 and the George Washington Bridge.. Tolls certainly seem to have been recently and substantially increased. The total tolls we paid from the tunnel in Baltimore to the Throgs Neck Bridge to Long Island , including $24 for the George Washington Bridge, exceeded $60. I have a real problem with these kind of numbers. When I commented to the toll collector at the GW Bridge his reply was, "What can I say, they're a bunch of crooks." Coupled with 87 octane gas on Long Island selling for $1.90/gal (we paid $1.43 in Virginia) it may be that unless an RVer has kids to visit in the northeastern US he should consider traveling elsewhere.

We pulled into Jordan's yard mid-afternoon and got all hooked up. Later on Sharyn went to Scott and Patrick's baseball game while I waited for Jordan to get home. After she got home we went to Greg's house where everyone had gone after the game.

Odometer reading = 24,521
Miles for day = 127

 

6/8/01 to 6/12/01
(Southold NY)

Sharyn left here last Sunday to visit her mother in Florida. She'll return this Sunday, but we'll be remaining in Southold through the end of the month. Since that will not give rise to very much to write about, this may be the last entry until such time as we are either back on the road, or until there is something else worth posting.

Odometer reading = 24,521
Miles for day(s) = 0

 

6/18/01
(Southold NY)

This afternoon I picked Sharyn up at the airport as she returned from her mother's in Florida. After having been away for eight days her return is an event of major proportion, probably only fully appreciated by other full time RVers.

Odometer reading = 24,521
Miles for day = 0

 

6/30/01
(Southold NY)

At 6:am this morning Sharyn boarded a plane to return to her mother's in Florida. The prognosis there is not good.

Odometer reading = 24,521

Miles for day = 0

 

7/1/01 to 7/12/01
(Southold NY)

Sharyn remains with her mother in Florida where her mother continues to hold on tenuously.

Jordan and I went to visit the Shannon's in New Jersey for two days. They have been friends for almost 50 years. We just returned to Long Island last night. While we were there Jordan went shopping with Irene who, after "oh so many years" of waiting, is about to become a grandmother. It's amazing how much baby stuff such a grandmother-to-be needs to buy in preparation for such an event.

While they were shopping, Harry and I kayaked down the Rockaway River (a Class I river) a distance of about four miles, taking out in his son, Danny's, back yard. It was a perfect day for such an excursion which made it even better for Harry who had never kayaked before.

Odometer reading = 24,521
Miles for day (motorhome) = 0

 

7/19/01
(Southold NY)

Sharyn returned home today. It's great to have her back and it's clear to me that I was not meant to live without her.

Her mother remains basically unchanged.

Odometer reading = 24,521
Miles for day = 0

 

7/26/01
(West Point NY)

After spending 49 nights in Southold we're finally on the road again!

This morning was not exactly a good beginning for the day. Jordan had no water in her house this morning so she used our bathroom to get ready for work. The plumber at first thought that the well point was no good which would have meant a new well. Later, when he got to the house, he found a much cheaper problem and got the water back on.

In the meanwhile, the sky had opened up with a deluge of rain made made getting set to leave a rather wet ordeal. The rain also caused standing water all around the motorhome that made things even messier, plus softened the ground so that we made ruts in the grass as we pulled out.

Due to road repairs going on on Long Island and in the Bronx, the first 100 miles took us three and a half hours, most of it bumper to bumper. As we crossed over the Hudson River at the Tappan Zee Bridge and headed north towards West Point the entire landscape evolved from congestion and construction into mountains, greenery, and pretty scenery.

We arrived at the FamCamp at West Point and called it a day.

Odometer reading = 24,674
Miles for day = 153

 

7/27/01
(West Point NY)

We have no cellular service here so this morning I walked to the office to call Jordan and make sure she had water -- she did.

We then finished off the coffee pot and drove to West Point Military Academy. The FamCamp is on Federal property, but about three miles down the road from the Academy. We started with the Visitors Center and then walked to the West Point Museum. They have some really neat items on display there. From Napoleon's sword that Charles DeGaulle presented to General Eisenhower at the end of the Second World War, to captured Iraq equipment from Desert Storm, to Sitting Bull's tomahawk. As I'm typing this I can see that this attempted description is not working. There are displays from all the wars the US has ever been involved in and all of these displays have numerous items. There are also many displays that have to do with West Point itself, and other displays that have to do with other major events in history.

In any event, some of the weapons displays on the lower level were not open today because of a shortage of manpower. They will be open tomorrow and we intend to return to see them.

We also checked out the PX and the Commissary. At the Commissary we bought about $175 worth of groceries for $120.37.

Odometer reading = 24,674
Miles for day = 0

 

7/28/01
(West Point NY)

Today we returned to the West Point Museum where we checked out the large and small weapons displays.

Small weapons basically went from knives and spears to hundreds of different hand held firearms. Some of them, including these blunderbuss', were probably equally dangerous at both ends. The lower one has a 1.2" bore.

Another interesting small weapons display item was this single shot .45 cal handgun. The Federal government bought several million of them during WWII at a cost of $1.71 each, plus 38 cents for packaging. They were distributed throughout parts of occupied Europe and Japanese controlled areas of the Pacific. Each gun had 10 rounds stored in the grip and the idea was that with 10 rounds you should be able to kill an enemy soldier and thereby acquire his weapon.

There was not a great deal on display in the large weapons area, but we did look at the full size replica of "The Fat Man," the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki in August 1945. I did not know that "The Fat Man" was different from bomb dropped on Hiroshima three days earlier. I had thought that both bombs were the same -- they were not.

From the museum we drove through "town," (Highlands) and then down along the Hudson River and some of the West Point parkland. On the way back to the FamCamp we checked out the cemetery and the gravesites of General Winfield Scott and George Armstrong Custer (not one of my favorites). There was also a large monument that said "Fort Sumter 1861." That turned out to be the gravesite of General Robert Anderson. In 1861 when the Confederate artillery opened fire on Fort Sumter they were under the command of Pierre G.T. Beauregard. It was then Captain Robert Anderson who was in command of Fort Sumter. The irony was that Beauregard, as a cadet at West Point, had studied artillery tactics in the class taught by Anderson.

Did anyone notice the beautiful Weeping American Beach behind Winfield Scott's grave?

Odometer reading = 24,674
Miles for day = 0

 

7/29/01
(Rhinebeck NY)

This morning we had a rather routine departure from the West Point FamCamp, although by the time we gassed up at the on-base gas station and actually got onto Route-9W heading north it was just past noon. At Newburg NY we crossed over to the east side of the Hudson River where the highway (Route-9) is less hilly. On Route 9-W we were always either climbing a hill in 2nd gear or going down a hill in second gear trying to keep the motorhome from running away.

Anyway, as we got to Rhinebeck it was 1:45 PM and there was a sign advertising an air show at the Old Rhinebeck Airdrome at 2 o'clock on Saturdays and Sundays (today is Sunday). We followed the signs and went to the show, arriving just at 2 o'clock. What is kind of neat is that 25 years ago, when I had a Piper Cherokee 140, I flew Phil and Shane, two of my sons, and their cousin, Ricky, up here to see this very show.

The show is basically WWI aircraft. Some of them are originals that have been restored, while others are replicas. There is also a "theme" that provides a kid oriented background to the events that occur. This theme is how the bad guy, the German Black Baron, is trying to abduct "Trudy Trueheart" on her wedding day, and how the good guys finally prevail. Some of this involves a German tank, aircraft bombing runs, and dog fights in the sky.

While the show starts with a guy parachuting onto the field, the main attraction is, of course, the vintage planes. Since I took many photos, but I can't remember which plane is which, just look as as many or a few, as you like (I do remember that there is a Sopwith Camel, a Folkker, and some others I forgot). Each letter links to a different photo: A B C D E.

The final flight event of the show is when the Black Baron comes in and lands his tri-plane which had been involved in a dog fight with two other planes. For most of the show the wind had been rather light and right down the runway. During the last 10-15 minutes the wind had been picking up a bit and was gusting across the runway. Just as the Black Baron touched down, but before he came to a stop, a side wind gust caught him and he nosed over and ended up upside down. The way the announcer handled it made you think it was part of the show. However, the way some of the guys ran to the overturned plane, the Baron's lack of his usual wise guy behavior after they got him out, and the fact that this didn't look like the kind of thing you could do on a routine basis and still have an airplane left, made us think this was not part of the show. It turned out it was not, and while the damage to the plane was not major, it was more than minor.

This is the plane where it came to rest. This is the plane as they are in the process of getting it back to rightside up. As the show ended and people were leaving, the announce asked if anyone had videoed or photographed the event they'd really like to get a copy of the tape or photo. My picture of the touchdown is about 10 seconds before the plane rolled over. This photo shows some of the damage; note the bent struts and the broken prop. That's the Baron on the left.

The situation in the parking lot was such that we figured we'd let everyone else get out and then we'd leave last. By then, however, it was 5 o'clock so we asked if we could just spend the night in the lot. We were told we could, so while it cost us $20 to see the show, there is an RV park in Rhinebeck that gets $30 per night. Works out pretty well; we saved $10 and got to see the show for free!

Odometer reading = 24,739
Miles for day = 65

 

7/30/01
(New Boston NH)

Last night, in the parking lot, we did not have any hookups, and, since we did not run the generator, we had no TV. As a result we went to bed unusually early, did our normal reading, and I was up at 5:30 AM -- Sharyn was up just past 6:AM. We ran the generator long enough to make coffee, get set to leave, and we were on the road by 7:30 which is about four hours earlier than our normal departure time.

Anyway, with the early start, by 3 o'clock we had passed through the northwest corner of Massachusetts and arrived at New Boston NH. Our destination was the FamCamp at the New Boston Air Force installation where we are now set up and getting ready for bed. The FamCamp office was closed so we just picked a site. We'll register tomorrow.

Odometer reading = 24,946
Miles for day = 207

 

7/31/01
(New Boston NH)

We took the car and went to visit my sister, Bess, in Portsmouth NH where we spent the day. We had an extensive and enjoyable visit. While we were there Sharyn used her washer and dryer to get all our laundry up to date as we talked the afternoon away.

Later on Bess took us out for dinner for Sharyn's birthday where Sharyn, who loves lobster, had a broiled lobster/seafood combo dinner which she enjoyed immensely. From the restaurant we went to the Cafe' Broice, a very nice sidewalk cafe'/coffee shop in the middle of what is a lovely downtown Portsmouth. From there we went back to Bess' apartment where we continued talking until after 11 o' clock. It was past midnight when we got back to the FamCamp in New Boston.

Upon our return we discovered that we had been invaded by either a mouse or a chipmunk as a three pound can of salted peanuts that had been on the couch had a hole gnawed through the plastic cover. There were also telltale droppings in the area.

Odometer reading = 24,946
Miles for day = 0

 

8/1/01
(New Boston NH)

Today was sort of a hang around and get it all together day. I cleaned and vacuumed inside, washed the floor, and then washed the exterior of the unit. Everything looks and feels clean.

Odometer reading = 24,946
Miles day = 0

 

8/2/01
(Gardiner ME)

It was our intention to travel to Augusta ME via US-1 which stays rather close to the coast, is picturesque, and makes for an enjoyable drive, even if you can't make very good time. However, we had arranged to stop and visit my cousin Myra who works in Augusta. After several hours of travel it was apparent that we would not get there during work hours so we cut over to I-95 and were in Augusta by 3:pm. Myra met us in a shopping center parking lot where Sharyn made lunch for all of us.

It turned out that Myra was playing in a community band tonight so we followed her home and setup the motorhome in her driveway. We then rode with her to Boothbay where this band has been playing for over 50 years -- two of the original members are still playing! It was quite a performance with the band playing everything from Rock Around the Clock to Stars and Stripes Forever. One of the unique features to this weekly performance is that any kid that would like to try it is given the opportunity to "lead" the band. One band member who was particularly engrossed in the music and thoroughly enjoyed the evening, both playing and listening to the music, was this lady in pink.

Myra, jokingly, says that this whole band thing is quite Norman Rockwell. I think it is the epitome of Norman Rockwell, and that's nice!

Incidentally, Myra is one of my more interesting and accomplished relatives. When she was in high school she wanted to be an engineer but was told by her guidance councilor that "girls cannot become engineers." She originally graduated with a Bachelor's degree in nursing; at forty something she got her law degree; she retired as a full colonel from the Air Force reserve with a combined 30 years of active and reserve time; and she's now the Executive Director of the Maine State Board of Nursing. Along the way she also got her Master's degree in Nursing, a private pilot's license, gave live in "social training" to dogs who were to be trained a seeing eye dogs, and during her years in Europe was active as a ski patrol and rescue person -- all that and she's younger than I am!

Odometer reading = 25,127
Miles for day = 181

 

8/3/01
(Buckport ME)

Myra left for work at 7:30 this morning and we left shortly after she did. Since we are not in any hurry we cut back to the coast and picked up again on our northeasterly trek along US-1. At about 11 o'clock we pulled into Moose Point State Park. We had been looking for a place to pull off the road for lunch, but we also wanted an ocean view to go with lunch.

Every hotel, motel, cabin rental, etc. that we passed had a "no vacancy" sign hanging out, so we were a little concerned about about not finding a campsite. We figured if we stopped early enough we should find a spot, so a little after noon we pulled into this place (Shady Oaks). We figured if we didn't like what we saw we'd continue on to a FamCamp in Winter Harbor, about 60 miles further down the road. This is a nice place; very clean and meticulously maintained by the husband/wife owners, who are also very outgoing and friendly.

Odometer reading = 25,217
Miles for day = 90

 

8/4/01
(Birch Harbor ME)

From Buckport it was an easy and relaxed drive along US-1. At this point it has become a two lane road winding up and down and around the hills of Coastal Maine, in an area relatively unpopulated except when passing through small towns. It did not take too long for us to get to the Naval facility at Winter Harbor where we were told that there were no campsites available. The girl directed us to Ocean Wood Campground several miles away which we found with no difficulty.

Turning off the paved public road at the sign for the campground, we followed a winding dirt road that led way back into the woods until we came to a post with a sign on it that said "Stop here for instructions." Attached to the post was a box containing a map with printed instructions. Basically, you were to select a site to your liking. Someone will come by and see you later. As the instructions say, the camp is operated, ". . . for campers with a deep respect for nature." The best rule may be that no noise or sounds that may disturb another camper may leave your campsite. That means the sound of your radio may not be heard outside of your RV. If it is you will be asked to leave.

Ocean Wood is not listed in any campground directory and the owner told us he does not want any such listing. He has 63 campsites, 16 of which are tent sites accessible only by footpath, and he turns away a thousand people a year. Word of mouth, and people that come back time and time again, are his mainstay.

While we do not have an oceanside site (none were vacant) this is the view from the footpath along the ocean that leads into some of the tent sites. As we stood on this rocky coast, I said to Sharyn that Florida will be gone for a million years, but the coast of Maine will still be here.

Sharyn likes it a lot and says that if we could get the campsite across the road from us we'd stay here for a month.

Odometer reading = 25,271
Miles for day = 54

 

8/5/01
(Machias ME)

It was our plan to go straight through Machias and go directly to the FamCamp at the Naval Station at Cutler. After checking in and getting all set up we would then return by car to Machias. The problem was that when we got to Cutler we learned that the FamCamp was no longer at the facility, and had been closed out several years ago.

Myra had told us to be sure that when we were in Machias we stopped at Joyce's Lobster House and had both the fish chowder and the blueberry pie. Since there are no campgrounds in the Machias area we decided we'd eat at Joyce's, and while there we'd inquire if there was any place around town where we could park for the night. While having our fish chowder and blueberry pie we asked if we could stay in their parking lot. The waitress said she'd check, and a few minutes later the owner came out and said that would be okay. He even said he'd talk to his wife, but he thought we could stay for two nights if we wanted to.

Leaving the motorhome in Joyce's parking lot we drove to the little fishing village of Cutler, which is actually several miles beyond the Naval Station. We had lunch in Cutler about five years ago and thought it was a serene and beautiful place. The place where we had eaten is now a private residence, but Cutler is still a picture postcard village. Just look at the pictures: from the dock -- lobster boats on a Sunday afternoon -- another lobster boat at rest. I don't know that I have ever seen a place more beautiful than the coast of Maine. I first thought that when I sailed from Long Island up to Corea, a coastal village just east of Acadia National Park, in the mid-70's, and I've never changed my mind.

Anyway, after driving around most of the afternoon, looking at the scenery and the photographs in the window of the real estate office, we returned to the motorhome. Since we had what amounted to a free campsite, we decided to spend the money we saved on dinner at Joyce's. We both had shrimp and scallop Vermicelli, plus I had another blueberry pie desert. It may well be that everything at Joyce's is worth having. It was all delicious.!

Odometer reading = 25,433
Miles for day = 72

 

8/6/01
(Pocologan NB)

We crossed into Canada from Calais ME around noontime. At Canadian customs, after routine questioning at the customs booth, we were directed to the side where a young agent went through the motorhome with his flashlight, looking into all the cabinets, drawers, refrigerator, under-the-bed storage, etc. It was about a ten minute process; not the 2-3 hour process we have heard stories about. He said that he was searching mostly for alcohol and tobacco products. It appeared to us that it was our Oregon registration that got us selected, but he said it wasn't. He said that "locals" get selected all the time, and that several weeks ago he was selected himself even though he was in uniform at the time. He said that he felt a little professional courtesy would have been appropriate.

Anyway, after getting through customs, we proceeded north on Canadian Route 1. We didn't go too far until we stopped at Ocean View Campground at Pocologan. It was about $23 Canadian, but was only $16US. This was sort of ocean view when we got here, but now the fog has rolled in and we can't see very much at all.

The first thing I did after getting all set up was change the oil and filter. Up until this point I've been using Castrol sometimes, and Mobil-1 sometimes. This time I used Mobil-1 and from now on that's all I'm going to use. Even at just under $5 per quart the additional cost will be less than $100 per year. I think that's $100 well spent.

We filled up with gas just before the border, taking on 71 gallons @ $1.399. Gas here seems to run about 69 cents (Canadian) per liter. In round numbers, in my head, that's in the neighborhood of $2/gal (US). That's pretty high, but it's less than we paid in California last summer.

Odometer reading = 25,439
Miles for day = 96

 

8/7/01
(St. John NB)

When we got up this morning the fog was very thick. We could hear vehicles going by on the highway but wondered how they could see where they were going. By ten o'clock the fog had lifted, but the sky was dark and we could hear thunder in the distance. I hurried to finish the outside things that needed to be done before the rain arrived. As we pulled out onto the highway the sky opened up and the thunder and lightening let loose. Sharyn remarked, "this is hairy and scary and I don't like it."

We were heading for what we believed would be a very nice campground in St. John. As we got to St. John we were looking for either the road number or a sign pointing to the campground, but we saw neither. When we came to an exit with a generic "camping" sign, we got off the highway and followed the "camping" signs through what seemed like downtown St. John. We ended up at Rockwood Park Campground, owned and operated by the St. John Horticultural Society. While the campground is like a giant parking lot, it's clean, neat, and has full hookups. Also, it's located within Rockwood Park which makes up almost a third of the City, and is adjacent to historic, downtown St. John. While it has rained pretty much all day, the lady next door, who is heading south, gave us a great deal of literature and maps from the Maritime Providence's (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island [also Newfoundland, but that's rather out in the Atlantic] ) where they have traveled for the last month. We looked over this stuff as the afternoon rained on.

This is a comfortable campground.

Odometer reading = 25,472
Miles for day = 33

 

8/8/01
(St. John NB)

We woke up this morning to a beautiful sunny day. While a giant part of the US was experiencing temperatures in the 90's and 100's, we topped out today somewhere in the sunny 70's.

After coffee and conversation we drove in to St. John where we first stopped at an ATM machine to get some Canadian cash. We withdrew $100 Canadian, and according to the bank person, something in the neighborhood of $60 US will be deducted from my account. We then checked out the City Market/Farmer's Market building where we bought some fresh fruit, but passed on the fresh octopus. This market opened in 1876 and since then has operated continuously in the same building.

We then went to Brunswick Square which is an inside, multilevel shopping mall. While Sharyn was finishing up in there I walked across the street to a photo supply store where I checked out an Olympus digital camera. While the new digital cameras sure are impressive, for web work my old Sony FD-81 can't be beat.

After a few minutes of driving around St. John (it's really quite small) we returned to the campground and Sharyn did laundry.

Odometer reading = 25,472
Miles for day = 0

 

8/9/01
(St. Martins NB)

This morning, after completing my on-line activities (update website, get e-mail, send e-mail, bank activities) we left St. John and headed in a northeasterly direction, picking up Route 111 and the "Fundy Coastal Drive" as we went.

At St. Martins we stopped at Cave View Family Restaurant where the signs were advertising their "World Famous Seafood Chowder." The chowder was really good. Also, the beach in front of the restaurant abuts up against red stone cliffs that contain giant caves eroded out of the cliff by the sea. At low tide we walked into one of the caves. At high tide the cave fills with water. After checking out the cave Sharyn became engrossed in all the various rocks. For awhile I thought she was going to get caught up against the cliff with the incoming tide as she would not stop with the rocks. She finally came away with only three.

The Bay of Fundy is basically the body of water between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Open to the sea at the southern end, the length of the Bay is such that the resonant frequency of the raise and ebb of the tide exactly coincides with the length of the bay. That may not be very well described, but it's as if you had a large, but shallow, pan of water, and lifted up one end with your finger. As soon as the water gets to the far end of the pan you lower your end. Then as soon as the water runs back to your end, you lift up again. If you keep that rhythm going, you'll have the water sloshing back and forth pretty violently even though you may only be lifting a half inch. Because the frequency of the incoming and outgoing tide (the lifting of the pan with the finger) matches the time it takes for the tide to slosh up to the head of the bay and back out again, you have the same result as in the shallow pan. The raise and fall of the tide in the Bay of Fundy ranges from 12 feet to over 40 feet at the head! In St. Martins the raise and fall is in the range of 25-30 feet. No other place in the world has such extreme tides.

After leaving the restaurant we continued on only to come to where the road dead ended at a park. I had not noticed that the Fundy Trail signs we were following was not the same as the Fundy Coastal Drive signs we had been following earlier. By the time we backtracked to St. Martins we decided to stop at Century Farm Family Campground which we had passed earlier. Again Sharyn was out on the beach picking up rocks.

Other pictures from today: fishing boats at dock at low tide; Sharyn approaching entrance to cave; covered bridge that takes Fundy Trail over the Irish River; at low tide you can walk from the point to the island.

Odometer reading = 25,519
Miles for day = 47

 

8/10/01
(Alma NB)

We left St. Martin this morning heading for Fundy National Park and one of the campgrounds within the Park. We took Route 111 to Sussex, and then Route 114 to Fundy. Both of these roads are part of the Fundy Coastal Drive, and both are narrow, twisting roads with steep grades. A number of the grades could be in the 12 -15% range. Several of them we had to climb in first gear. While the grades are steep, they are not very long -- most of them last for less than half a mile -- unlike some of the grades in the American West that went for ten miles or better (but not in the 12-15% range). As we left St.Martins we came to a sign that said it was 51 miles to Sussex, and since Sussex was only half way to Fundy I was set back by the distance to be traveled, which I had estimated to be 50-60 miles total. When we got to Sussex 30 miles later I remembered that the mileage signs were in kilometers, not miles. I don't know why I have that problem with mileage signs, but not the speed limit signs. Who knows?

Anyway, the drive was easy and enjoyable. Even the grades didn't detract from the pleasantness of the trip. Other than the extremely slow climbs in first gear, the rest of the drive was in the 30 -50 mph range. It's probably the slow and easy pace that makes it relaxed.

Route 114 goes straight through Fundy National Park and if you're just driving through you don't have to stop at the toll gate. We stopped anyway to ask about the location of the campgrounds. It turned out that since we were going to stop and use some of the park's facilities we had to pay a Park User Fee ($5.50 Canadian for both of us). The toll guy, however, radioed the campground to see if they had a site left that could accommodate our unit. The girl said there was one left and that she would save it for us, which she did. Twenty minutes later when we arrived at the campground they had a "no vacancy" sign at the gate, but we went in and she did have our spot for us. There are no hookups at the site, but we take what we can get.

After getting set up we drove into Alma and checked it out. Alma's only about three blocks long. I've been trying to get a haircut, but none of these small towns have barbers. Upon asking around we found out that there is a lady at the eastern edge of town who cuts hair. We walked to her house but she wasn't home. Yesterday we asked around in St. Martin and found out there was a lady at the end of Park Street, near the gravel pit, that cut hair. We drove down there but were not sure what house it was. I'll try the lady in Alma again tomorrow.

Odometer reading = 25,586
Miles for day = 67

 

8/11/01
(Alma NB)

First thing this morning, after coffee and conversation, we changed sites to get one with full hookups (water, sewer, electric). After getting moved, we drove about eight miles back into the park where we went kayaking at Bennett Lake. At one point while I was messing with the camera Sharyn shot past me, but not before I got her picture.

After kayaking we drove from the lake back to Alma where we bought two lobsters that we had for dinner. This is a picture of Alma from the edge of the campground. Like most of the villages we have seen in New Brunswick, it is quite small, but clean and neat. Zooming back and swinging the camera more to the right you begin to see some of the exposed bottom at relatively low tide. Finally, swinging further to the right you can see that the water's edge is about a half mile from the town docks. The average raise and fall of the tide in Alma is 39 feet As the tide comes in the water raises at almost one and a half inches per minute. On some sections of the flats shown in the previous photo the water's edge moves toward land at 7 - 9 feet per minute!

This is me and Sharyn sitting on the bench at the overlook where the previous photos were taken from. A hundred yards to the right of this position is a set of 119 stairs leading down to the highway that then goes into town. After eating the lobster we walked down the stairs and into town to, "walk off the lobster." When we got to town Sharyn said I could buy her an ice cream as she had "walked enough." We ate our ice cream as we walked back up to the campground.

Odometer reading = 25,586
Miles for day = 0

 

8/12/01
(Alma NB)

The first thing that happened today is that we woke up freezing. Last night, rather than use heating or air conditioning, Sharyn said, "let's just open all the windows." We did, and this morning it was 62 degrees inside. We did not have 62 degrees worth of blankets on the bed!

Anyway, after coffee and conversation, we drove five miles back towards Sussex, figuring that at the top of the big hill we'd have cellular phone service and could call Jordan and Sharyn's mother. It didn't work; there was no service anywhere. We then came back down the hill, continued past the campground, and drove about 30 miles in the opposite direction to view the Hopewell Rocks.

These might be considered the marine version of Monument Valley out west. At low tide you can walk along the dry seabed and view these giant sized sculptures of nature. Over eons of time the tides have eroded away much of the softer material leaving random shaped stone pedestals, and carving out caves and natural arches from the stone bluffs. We then stayed around and waited for the tide to come in so we could return to the site with our kayaks. This is Sharyn passing under the arch that I was standing under in one of the previous photos. We like this picture also. Some of the experiences that I write about in this travelog cannot adequately be described, and kayaking among these ancient giants is certainly one of them.

We had not been back at the campground too long when Sharyn heard an animal up in the engine area of the motorhome. It turned out that a red squirrel had gotten up into the insulation of the engine box that extends up into the motorhome between the two front seats. When we removed the box, the squirrel was gone, but the insulation is kind of messed up.

The machines in the laundry room here take 50 cents Canadian -- that's only 33 cents US, so we did some laundry before going to bed.

Odometer reading = 25,586
Miles for day = 0

 

8/13/01
(Springhill NS)

This morning, as we left Alma and Fundy National Park, we stopped at the fish store,on the dock, in Alma. That's where Sharyn had bought the lobsters the other day. As she was looking at two salmon steaks in the case the man told her that if she could wait a half hour there would be new fresh steaks available. When she said she couldn't wait because we were on our way out, her asked if she could wait ten minutes. She said she could, and while she watched he scaled, cleaned and sliced a fresh salmon from which she got the steaks. She also got some halibut which we had for dinner. The salmon is for tomorrow.

As we threaded our way through the City of Moncton I caught a vertical clearance sign that read "3.5 meters." I saw the railroad bridge and I know we need about 11' 6". In my head it was too close to call and I took a quick turn into a large parking lot. Two women walking through the parking lot gave me directions to get around the bridge. They also said that trucks hit the bridge all the time. On the calculator it turns out the 3.5 meters is about 11' 4". We would not have made it!

Passing through the town of Sackville NB we passed a barber shop. We parked around the corner and I got a haircut for $6.50 ($4.29US) while Sharyn went to the Salvation Army Thrift Shop.

We did not travel too far into Nova Scotia until we stopped at a new, 10-site, family owned campground in Springhill. The campground is in their yard. Also, here for the first time in quite a while we have both cellular phone service and a satellite TV signal! The difficulty with the satellite is that this far north the satellite is extremely low on the horizon and frequently obstructed.

Odometer reading = 25,704
Miles for day = 117

 

8/14/01
(Stewiacke NS)

We decided that we'd do as we do in the US and basically follow the "2 lane roads," rather than the Interstate type highways. We had only gone about about 30 miles when we came to the village of Parrsboro. It was a picturesque community and we thought that we'd just park and walk around, which is what we did. We walked the entire village (about three blocks long), looked in some shops, and had coffee at John's Coffee House. After checking out the village bakery, that had it's aroma drifting across the sidewalk, we returned to the motorhome and continued on our way.

Later we stopped at a country store in Great Village where we got some milk, Sharyn bought a lottery ticket, and I bought a large cup of serve yourself, soft ice cream.

I'm surprised at the number of Baptist Churches that seem to be all throughout the Canadian Maritime Providence's. There are more Baptist Churches than any other denomination. My mother, who was a good South Carolina Baptist, would be pleased.

Anyway, we eventually came to Wild Nature Campground in Stewiacke where we decided to stop for the evening. It was $17 Canadian, but "cash only," and it didn't look as if we had it. We finally did make it with a $5 bill (Canadian), two $1 bills US (worth $3), and a pile of Canadian coins. I told the owner we were lucky it wasn't $17.50.

By the way, in the US they want to get rid of $1 bills and use $1 coins instead. I was not crazy about the idea, but having used Canadian $1 and $2 coins for a little over a week I've changed my mind. I now favor the replacement of $1 bills with $1 and $2 coins (I don't think that $2 coins are part of the US Government's idea, but they should be).

Odometer reading = 25,816
Miles for day = 112

 

8/15/01
(Lunenburg NS)

When we started out this morning, after our coffee and conversation, we backtracked about three miles to pick up Route 102. The "100 series" highways (numbers like 100, 102 ,104, etc.) are sort of the Canadian equivalent to the US Interstate highways, and we decided that we'd had enough of the rough roads cutting through the middle of Nova Scotia. Besides we wanted a short driving-time day.

By 1:30 we had arrived at the visitor's center in Lunenburg. It is right next to the historic waterfront section of town, and there are a number of RV sites as part of the visitor's center. It rained part of the way here, and it's still kind of foggy. Lunenburg is set on a peninsula and the Visitor's center is high on a hill at the far end of town. From the motorhome we can see the fog-obscured harbors on both sides of town. (Same view without the fog).

After getting all set up, we drove out about seven miles to find Leon, a friend from once a lifetime ago. He wasn't home, but we made telephone contact later on and got together with him and his daughter Sarah for dinner at the Magnolia Grill which is one block off of the waterfront, and within walking distance of the RV park. Since we arrived first we waited outside until they got there. During dinner we decided that it was at least 20 years since we had seen each other. It was a very enjoyable dinner. As I always tell Sharyn, dinner is a social event; the fact that you eat is only incidental to the occasion.

Right now we are okay to remain in this park for two nights, but there is the Annual Fishermen's Picnic and Reunion scheduled for this weekend and there are a number of weekend reservations for this park. We'll find out tomorrow if we can retain this site (or any site) through the weekend.

Odometer reading = 25,920
Miles for day = 104

 

8/16/01
(Lunenburg NS)

We were still in bed at 8:30 this morning when we heard a light knocking at the door. It was Leon. He came in and I told him coffee would be ready in 10 minutes. The three of us enjoyed coffee and conversation with the croissants that Leon had brought with him. It wasn't too long after Leon left that he called and asked if we wanted to join him and the dog to go check out his favorite beach. We said we would be there within the hour.

When we got to the house Leon showed us the his property and gardens. It was all very nice, but while we were doing this the dog got a burr in his foot so he didn't accompany us to the beach and guided tour of the Lunenburg area. We probably spent over an hour driving around the various points of shoreline and secluded coves. It's all very picturesque and beautiful. There were a number of places that we could really be interested in if they were not so far away from where we "live" (whatever that means). Certainly the prices are right, and the current exchange rate makes it all that much better.

Later on, Sharyn and I returned to town and bought some groceries. After that we returned to Leon's for fish dinner with Leon and Sarah. While we were there this afternoon I also got to upload over a week's worth of travelog and photos to stringbean.com for the enjoyment of the thousands of you who follow this story on a daily basis!

Odometer reading = 25,920
Miles for day = 0

 

8/17/01
(Ludenburg NS)

This morning's coffee and conversation went on for so long that we had to make a second pot of coffee. The coffee went particularly well, since yesterday we bought a locally baked blueberry pie made from wild blueberries. We were talking about how comfortable Ludenburg and the surrounding area is. How well it fits. The conversation even went to the pros and cons of buying something here.

About that time Leon called about going sailing and we said we'd be there in 30 minutes. Leon is now sailing a 22' Stonehorse, a classic design fiberglass sloop that we've admired for three decades. I was sorry to learn that they are no longer being manufactured. Anyway, we sailed the LaHave River for several hours, thoroughly enjoying it. After returning to Leon's house we had cheese and crackers before Sharyn and I returned to town.

In town we went to a real estate office that has color brochures on all it's listings. Leon had told Sharyn to pick up the brochures on properties she liked and that tomorrow we'd ride around and look at them.

Tonight we again had dinner with Leon and Sarah at their house. Leon called and said he had intended to take two steaks out of the freezer for their dinner, but had mistakenly thawed out some beef stew. He said it was too much for the two of them so we should come over and help them eat it. The stew was good and we enjoyed the dinner and the company.

Odometer reading = 25,920
Miles for day = 0

 

8/18/01
(Ludenburg NS)

Basically, the bulk of the day today was spend with Leon driving us around some of the coves, peninsulas, and small islands along the coast. We've concluded that this could be the prettiest area we've seen since we started full-timing a year and a half ago. That's even allowing for the "enthusiasm of the moment." To the extent that we've talked about maybe someday having a "home base" if we ever found the perfect place (that elusive "cabin on the river"), this might well be it if it were not so far out on the end of the continent.

We later returned to Leon's house where we sat out on the back porch drinking wine and talking. After several hours we adjourned to a downtown pub for a dinner of fish chowder, shrimp, and steamed mussels.

Bearing in mind that it was a rather overcast day, here are some of the photos from today (each letter links to a different photo): A B C D E

Odometer reading = 25,920
Miles for day = 0

 

8/19/01
(Ludenburg NS)

It had been our plan to leave here this morning, but during our coffee and conversation I suggested that perhaps we should stay another day. We had not really explored Ludenburg itself and, besides, this seemed like a good day to just hang out and read the Sunday paper. The visitors center has complimentary copies of The Globe and Mail, a national newspaper, and the best paper we've seen in Canada. Unfortunately, it turns out there is no Sunday edition. Oh well.

Anyway, we out and got some milk and another blueberry pie, together with another Sunday paper. We spent a good while reading the paper, and then while Sharyn was reading her book , I cleaned and vacuumed the motorhome, including the tub and shower. After that we went to the fisherman's dinner at the wharf. From there we drove around to the other side of the harbor where we could look back at the Lunenburg waterfront (a scrollable composite).We then drove South to the end of the road on the peninsula that Lunenburg is located on. The area is called the Blue Rocks, and it's a truly beautiful place. (Photo A B C )

When we got got back to the motorhome there was a message from Leon who wanted to know what time we had left this morning, how far we had traveled, and where we were. When we called back and told him we were still in town, he said we should come over for some more wine and conversation on his porch. We went over, but after about an hour the mosquitoes drove us inside and then we left and returned to the motorhome.

Odometer reading = 25,920
Miles for day = 0

 

8/20/01
(Indian Harbor NS)

As we left Ludenburg we followed the "Lighthouse Route" which is the marked scenic route along the coast as we head towards Halifax. We didn't travel too long or go too far. We stopped at King Neptune Campground here in Indian Harbor, right on the edge of the water. This is a picture of Sharyn having her tea while she enjoys the view from the motorhome.

Following the advice of the couple in the next campsite, we followed the footpath through the woods for about 50 yards to where it comes out next to the harborside fish market. We bought several pounds of fresh haddock filet and a pound of scallops for about $13.25 US.

We are very impressed with the beauty of this area. There's no question but that if someone is going to have a summer home and a winter home, the south shore of Nova Scotia is where the summer home should be!

Odometer reading = 25,983
Miles for day = 63

 

8/21/01
(Upper Lakeville NS)

This morning the seagulls had me up at 6:15, which is rather early. Fifteen minutes later as I was pouring my first cup of coffee, Sharyn got up. It was a foggy morning with drizzling rain that set the scene for such a prolonged session of coffee and conversation that we again needed to make a second pot. This was the view we had looking down through our rain streaked windshield. The smaller RVs were able to go around the owners house and right at the waters edge.

We eventually got started on our easterly travel along the south coast of Nova Scotia. We had only gone about two miles when we came to "Peggy's Cove," another remarkably beautiful place where rock and shoreline meet the Atlantic. Because of the weather and the lack of any place to park the motorhome/car combination we just drove through the cove and then continued on our way.

As a result of a number of errors and missed signs we got lost in Halifax several times. We finally made our way through and picked up what they call "Marine Drive." It is the shoreline scenic route that is the counterpart to the "Lighthouse Route" on the other side of Halifax. So far they don't compare and we're not sure we're going to continue on it tomorrow. There really wasn't too much to see once we got on this side of Halifax.

This campground we're in is kind of nice, and it's quite different for a wooded campground. This may be the first wooded campground we've been in that has grass covering all the unpaved areas. Usually wooded means dirt ground, maybe partially covered with leaves, twigs, etc.

Both last night and this morning I tried, but was unable to get online. I figured that it was a problem with the phone line at the campground, but this afternoon I am still unable to get online from this campground as well. I've reconfigured my dial-up connection, twice. I've also talked with the tech guy at ESI back in Charlottesville VA (my ISP) who can't find any problem on his end. He was also able to connect from an outside phone line using my user name and password. I have no idea what the problem is (I still hope it's the phone line) but if this is being read by anyone, then I must have worked it out somehow! Right now I can't even post a "temporarily out of service" sign on the website. Banking transactions and e-mail are also at standstill.

It's been raining and drizzling all day, and at 10:30pm it's still raining. I'm going to take a shower and go to bed.

Odometer reading = 26,065
Miles for day = 82

 

8/22/01
(Trenton NS)

As we continued along "Marine Drive" towards Cape Breton we decided to cut short our original Nova Scotia plans as Sharyn would like to start heading south sooner than planned. We may drive to Florida, or she may fly from Bangor, or some other intermediate place, to her mother's, and I'll continue to drive there. We'll make that decision as we leave Prince Edward Island. Anyway, in accordance with our revised plans we cut across Nova Scotia and headed for the Caribou area, where the ferry departs to Prince Edward Island. Tonight we are at the Trenton Municipal Park, which is probably within 20 miles of the ferry.

During our travel time today we were again talking about how nice the people here are. Everyone is very friendly, anxious to be helpful, and no one seems to be rushed. The people we meet, in stores, on the street, or anywhere else, all seem to be the kind of people you'd like to know socially and have as friends. It's strange to realize that we are traveling in a "foreign country" when we feel a greater affinity to the people here than we do to many of the people we meet while traveling in the US. The fact that everyone is clean, neat, and well-groomed is another plus. Most anyplace you go, some of the people will be like that, but there are not too many places where everyone is like that!

Odometer reading = 26,164
Miles for day = 99

 

8/23/01
(Wood Islands PEI)

Last night we decided on a new policy; every night we will set the alarm for 7:30am. This will probably cause us to go to bed earlier, but even if it doesn't, it will give us more daylight hours.

This morning it probably took us a half hour to get to the ferry that crosses the Northumberland Strait from Nova Scotia to Prince Edward Island. We saw the 10 o'clock ferry leaving the dock as we arrived at the holding area. The next ferry wasn't until 11:30 so I read the newspaper while Sharyn checked out the gift shop. It was around 10:45 that I took this picture of the ferry line. The actual crossing is an hour and fifteen minutes. Since you cannot remain in your vehicle during the crossing, we were on the top deck for most of the trip. This is Sharyn getting back into the motorhome as we prepared to drive off the ferry.

Prince Edward Island (PEI) is about 180 miles from end to end, compared with Nova Scotia which is 500 miles. We are in the Woods Island Provincial Campground, which is on the coast, two miles east of where the ferry comes in. We were undecided whether to stay here or to go the other 40 miles to Charlottetown, of Anne of Green Gables fame. We decided to stay here for the night, but now Sharyn says maybe we should stay here and just drive the car to Charlottetown because, "we won't find another campground as nice as this and on the water."

After Sharyn did a pile of laundry we drove down the road to Crabby's Seafood shack where Sharyn had a lobster roll and I had a lobster sandwich. A camper in Alma NB told us to be sure we stopped at Crabby's for some of the best lobster anywhere in the Atlantic Provinces. She was right.

Odometer reading = 26,183
Miles for day = 19

 

8/24/01
(Wood Islands PEI)

It was raining when we got up this morning, and basically it didn't let up all day. By the time the coffee pot was empty we had decided that it was a good day to sit around and catch up on all the newspapers we hadn't finished reading. Looking out at the water through the rain, or sitting out under the awning with the rain falling all around, both presented soothing and peaceful environments.

By mid-afternoon we decided to find and drive into the nearest town. Checking with the lady in the campground office we found that the nearest town was Montague, 25 kilometers (about 16 miles) north of the campground. We drove there, put some gas in the car, bought a few groceries, today's newspaper, and got some mini-cartridges for the grease gun.

Several hours later, as Sharyn was preparing dinner the sky cleared and the sun came out. After we had eaten and cleaned up Sharyn went outside and immediately called me to come out. There was a young fox wandering nervously around the campground. He went almost right up to a young boy standing nearby and I was concerned that he may have been rabid. He then came over to us and circled around us at a distance of no more than 8 feet. At that distance it was clear that he was nervous and super alert -- not the behavior of a rabid animal. He was clearly not too frightened of campers, and perhaps was looking for handouts of food. It was not the same kind of fox we had in Virginia. He was dark in color, and his tail was at least as long as his body, perhaps a little longer. The tail was extremely full and dense, with a diameter of 6-7," and this diameter continued for the entire length of the tail. Unfortunately by the time we got the camera he had disappeared.

Odometer reading = 26.183
Miles for day = 0

 

8/25/01
(Dundas PEI)

This morning, as we were preparing to leave we met and talked with our "next door neighbors, who are year round residents of Prince Edward Island. They enjoy it immensely and, although they have friends who winter in Florida, they stay on the Island and do not find the winters to be all that people imagine them to be.

We had originally planned to go to Charlottetown, but we heard about the three day PEI Plowing Match and Agricultural Fair going on in Dundas this weekend and decided to go. We arrived at the fair around noon, and for $5 each (Canadian) we get admission to the fair plus free overnight camping. Some of the activities at the fair include plowing contests for both men and women, using both horses and tractors, draft horse show, pig scramble, step dancing, etc.

These are not small men, it's just that that's a big horse. These are two of the younger farmers.

There was also an antique engine display with all of the engines actually running. After the fair had closed for the evening we returned to the motorhome for a glass of wine. Across the way from us was a group of people with tents and trailers who were sitting around playing music and who invited us to bring our chairs over and join them, which we did. They were the family with the antique engines. They all live in or near Charlottetown, and were playing guitars and a fiddle. They were playing and singing good old American country and western, as well as Scotch (or Irish?) ballads, Canadian seafaring songs, and a number of other songs that don't exactly fit any of these categories. We thoroughly enjoyed them and their music.

Odometer reading = 26,216
Miles for day = 33

 

8/26/01
(Charlottetown PEI)

This morning we were up at 6:15 and had instant coffee because we had no hookups and didn't want to run the generator at that hour of the morning. Last night we closed the bedroom door and only ran the rear furnace. When we got up this morning it was 56 degrees in the front part of the motorhome, and only 48 degrees outside. The bedroom was 68 degrees as per the thermostat setting. Summer wraps it up rather early up here.

We checked in to Southport RV Park, on the river overlooking Charlottetown, before 10:am. That's pretty good for people who usually don't get on the road until elevenish. After getting set up we relaxed and read the paper for awhile. We also made some real coffee.

Later on we drove up to Cavendish to visit Ann's House of Green Gables. We also saw the gardens and Sharyn took a break. From there we drove back to Charlottetown where we drove around for awhile and, on several occasions got out and walked around. One street had a bunch of sidewalk cafe's where we checked the menus, but didn't get anything. While I didn't take a picture of it, a really great used book store is The Bookman at 177 Queen Street.

The major event of the day was when I managed to connect to my Internet service provider for the first time in a week to upload to this website, get e-mail, etc. (You have to watch those protocols).

Odometer reading = 26,259
Miles for day = 43

 

8/27/01
(Charlottetown PEI)

As another example of why we say that our plans are never firm until after the event, we had planned leaving here this morning to head back through New Brunswick. As we were having our coffee and conversation we decided, for no particular reason, to stay here until tomorrow. That having been decided, we finished the pot of coffee while finishing yesterdays newspaper.

Actually, that leads to a recurring question; living the life style we do, how come I never have time to read the newspaper? It's now five minutes until midnight and I haven't even finished the first section of the paper (and I've just begun to do today's entry in the travelog). Every time I ask Sharyn how come I didn't have time to read the paper, she tells me what went on that particular day that made it so I had no time to read it. My question is more along the lines of how come I never have time to read the paper? I don't know the answer to that question.

Anyway, around noontime Sharyn decided she was going to take a nap. While she did that I went across the street to the library where I could have free access to their online computers (as opposed to paying 25 cents per minute -- my telephone connect cost from Canada when using my own computer). When I got back Sharyn was in the shower. When she finished we drove back into town where she wanted to check out the Confederation Mall. (By the way, Sharyn got mad at me last night when, in her dream, I told her she had "a mini-mall mentality." Whatever that is -- neither of us knows.)

From the mall, which was limited to one hour because of the parking meter, we came back to this side of the river and went to Sobey's, a super market chain store. This particular Sobey's was very impressive with its variety of unusual and gourmet type items. We spent two hours in the store and $150 Canadian on all that stuff that we couldn't just pass by. I was particularly impressed by the way the fresh salmon filet was wrapped. Sharyn selected the pieces she wanted and they were then place in foil packages that were then hermetically sealed.

As we began putting the groceries away our next door neighbors, Rachel and Ralph, from Ottawa invited us to come over for wine and cheese which we gladly accepted. They just recently got their motorhome and this is their biggest trip with it so far. We enjoyed visiting with them for quite a while. We each got a tour of the others motorhome, and at about 10:30 we all returned to our respective homes for a late dinner (we had some excellent Habitant (a Canadian brand) Pea Soup with Smoked Ham). As I wind up today's entry it's 12:37AM and I've yet to read the paper. I'm going to bed.

Odometer reading = 26,259
Miles for day = 0

 

8/28/01
(Sussex NB)

When I woke up this morning Sharyn had already been up for two hours, had coffee made, and had everything cleaned up and ready to go. We talked with Ralph and Rachel for awhile before heading for New Brunswick and back to the US.

Having gotten onto Prince Edward Island via the ferry, we left via the Confederation Bridge. Those are the only two link to get you on and off the Island. There is no toll going on, but we paid $42.25 ($27.45US) to leave via the bridge (it would have been $74 ($48 US) to leave via the ferry.

We are spending the night at Pine Cone Campground just outside of Sussex.

Odometer reading = 26,415
Miles for day = 156

 

8/29/01
(Oak Bay NB)

According to Sharyn, we got up this morning, lollygagged, and left. Oak Bay is about 5 miles east of St. Steven and the US border. We decided to stop on the Canadian side because campground fees basically double when we cross the border into the New England States. As I wrote several weeks ago, campground fees in the New York and New England area are the highest we've seen anywhere.

Odometer reading = 26,528
Miles for day = 113

 

8/30/01
(Appleton ME)

Coming back into the United States, the custom official asked what we had bought while in Canada. I told him "mostly blueberry pies, but we ate them all." He said okay, and waved us on. Quite different from when we went into Canada and the Canadian official searched through all our closets, drawers, and cabinets with a flashlight.

When we got back into the US I filled the gas tank for the first time since we left. We bought gas several times in Canada, but never filled it up. While traveling 1170 miles we used 157.35 gallons. That's 7.44 miles per gallon and right in the 7.5 mpg range which seems to be pretty constant.

Not too far into Maine there was a moose on the other side of the road that was looking to cross. Luckily, at that moment, there was traffic in both directions so he turned and trotted back into the woods. I say luckily because he was in the shadow of the trees and I didn't see him until he started to turn around. Had he come across, and not been hit by oncoming traffic, we would have hit him dead on. Several years ago I hit a white tail deer that probably weighed 120 pounds; the impact did $3500 damage to the car. I can't imagine what an 1800 pound moose would do to the motorhome!

We stopped by Rec-Tec in Brewster ME to talk to the Dometic Service Tech who is supposed to fix our troublesome air conditioner next Thursday. We then spent 20 minutes trying to find Route-1A westbound out of downtown Bangor (across the river from Brewster). Route-1A into downtown is clearly marked, but in the center of downtown the signs just disappear. Finally, the third time around we just took a wide westbound street. Several blocks later the sign told us we were on 1A.

We are at Sennebec Lake Campground which is a Passport America Campground so we paid $15 instead of $25. Passport America is supposed to pay half price, but I'm happy for $15.

Odometer reading = 26,696
Miles for day = 168

 

8/31/01
(Gardiner ME)

This morning, during coffee and conversation,we talked about why some campgrounds "feel" so much better than others. We're not sure, but Sennebec Lake, which seems to have everything that should make it a "good one," somehow misses the boat. My best guess is that many, if not most, of the sites there seem to be set up for the season. They're not really being used by RVers (we were there on a Thursday and most were not occupied at all, even though they all had some kind of RV or camping unit on them) but rather are being used as summer "vacation houses." Actually kind of reminiscent of when we (my parents, sister,and I) camped for the summer in Wildwood State Park in Wading River NY during the 40's.

Anyway, we left there and drove to Gardiner where we parked in my cousin Myra's driveway. When we called her at work we discovered that she was in Chicago, but would probably be back sometime tomorrow. We're not exactly sure what we are going to do over the next several days as this is Labor Day weekend and most campgrounds are booked solid with reservations. We'll probably move from here to Portsmouth NH to visit my sister for a day or so. We will be staying in the area since Sharyn has a flight out of Boston on Tuesday morning when she's flying to Florida to be with her mother who continues to deteriorate.

Odometer reading = 26,734
Miles for day = 37

 

9/1/01
(Gardiner ME)

After our morning coffee and conversation we left a note for Myra and drove through downtown Gardiner (takes about 60-90 seconds). From there we decided to go to Augusta where we knew there was a Barnes & Noble. We probably spent an hour in B&N, during which time I bought another book about Nathan Bedford Forrest, the greatest cavalry leader of the Civil War, and the only soldier in either army to go from private to Lieutenant General during the course of the conflict. Joining the Confederate Army as a 40 year old private, his brilliant tactics and unbridled successes against the Union Army were such that General William Tecumseh Sherman stated that "that devil Forrest" had to be hunted down and killed "if it costs 10,000 lives and bankrupts the Federal treasury". Forrest was wounded numerous times, personally killed 30 union soldiers in hand to hand combat, and had 29 horses shot out from under him. He was a phenomenal warrior. One of his descendants, a fellow named Bill Slater, maintains a Nathan Bedford Forrest website at http://www.nbforrest.com.

Anyway, within two minutes after we returned to the motorhome Myra called. Her plane back from Chicago had landed at Portland shortly after noon, and from there she was driving to Jersey to spend the weekend with two of her aunts. On her way she had stopped to see my sister in Portsmouth and was told that we were parked in her driveway. Oh well, we'll see her another time.

Odometer reading = 26,734
Miles for day = 0

 

9/2/01
(Portsmouth NH)

We arrived in Portsmouth NH around midday and pulled into Wal-Mart's parking lot where we had intended to stay while we were here. Wal-Mart is only several hundred yards down the road from my sister's condo complex, but there were signs in the parking lot that said overnight parking by RV was prohibited. Since Wal-Mart makes a point of being RV friendly, and almost without exception makes their parking lots available for RVers to park overnight, the signs caught us by surprise. Inquiring of the assistant manager we were told that it was not Wal-Mart, but the City ordinance that prohibited the overnight parking by RVs (but not by cars or trucks).

Anyway, we left the motorhome in the parking lot and went to my sister's. The three of us went out to lunch and drove around town for a short while. My sister loves Portsmouth and never passes up the chance to drive someone around and show them what a great place it is. We've had this tour several times. We then returned to her apartment where we did a lot of "visiting." I spent time enjoying her cable Internet connection.

When the day was over we moved the motorhome to the Comfort Inn parking lot where we spent the night.

Odometer reading = 26,847
Miles for day = 114

 

9/3/01
(Portsmouth NH)

After we got up this morning we took the motorhome back to Wal-Mart's parking lot. I think it's a better security situation there than at the Comfort Inn.

After another day of visiting, during which Sharyn also got all our laundry done, we then, with the motorhome, followed my sister to the overflow parking lot at the bus terminal. We are going to sleep here tonight, and then Sharyn is taking the 6:am bus to the Boston airport where she has an 8:am flight direct to Fort Meyers FL to spend time with her mother. I'll probably go back to St. John NB and spend some time there while I wait for her to return.

Odometer reading = 26,853
Miles for day = 6

 

9/4/01
(Gardiner ME)

It was 12:30 this morning before Sharyn had all her stuff packed. Four hours later, at 4:am, we got up, dressed, etc, and traveled the several hundred yards to the bus terminal where Sharyn got the 6 o'clock bus that took her right to the Delta terminal at Logan International Airport. By 6:30 I was on my way back north where I arrived at Myra's several hours later. With only fours sleep last night I was kind of tired and took several naps during the course of the day. I also went to the grocery store and the post office to mail our granddaughter Mary's birthday present. Sharyn had asked me please not to forget and I thought I was being real good. The only problem was that when I got to the post office I realized that the package had not been addressed and I didn't know the address.

This evening Myra joined me in the motorhome for a bring your own dinner. She had cereal and I had leftover steamed vegetables.

Odometer reading = 26,956
Miles for day = 103

 

9/5/01
(Brewer ME)

This morning, after instant coffee and . . . (no conversation) . . . I got all set to leave and took off for Brewer, and RecTech RV Service. Since I had less than a 100 miles to travel and all day to get there I decided to take Route-202 pretty much from Augusta to Brewer. It's a beautiful drive along a two lane roadway that weaves it way through rolling countryside, small farms, and a few forgotten hamlets. The weather was clear and brisk with gusty fall winds. A few of the leaves are starting to turn color, and with last nights rain the fields and woods looked particularly clean and crisp.

I pulled into a campground conveniently located right next door to RecTech. The sign at the entrance reads, "All sites $18 including tax. Pick a site, I'll see you later." As I was setting up I saw that the outside rear right tire was flat. Flat in that it had broken loose from the rim, although it was still on the rim. Those two tires, while hotter than the two on the other side were not as hot as they would have been if I had traveled any great distance like that -- to say nothing of the fact that the tire would have come off the rim completely in a very short distance. I can't imagine that I could have gone any distance at all without feeling the loss of that tire.

Anyway, I called the road service number I have for the Family Motor Coach Association and they had someone come out who changed the wheel and put on the spare. If I was going to have a flat tire I would be hard pressed to pick a more convenient place or set of circumstances.

I called Sharyn in Florida (twice) and she's doing fine. Her mother also seems to be doing better than she has been on the last two occasions that Sharyn has flown down there.

Odometer reading = 27,040
Miles for day = 84

 

9/6/01
(Brewer ME)

This morning I made a real pot of coffee and shortly thereafter I moved the motorhome next door to RecTech to have the rear A/C repaired. After that was done I went to a local tire dealer to see about getting a replacement tire for the one that went bad. It had sustained a large cut in the sidewall that I thought would warrant a new tire based on a road hazard warranty (prorated on thread wear) but was told that the motorhome tires had no such warranty. He would of course sell me a new tire for $275. I have to check further on this bit about no road hazard warranty.

****** NOTE ******

Since Sharyn is away and I'm just going to be, for the most part, "hanging out," the daily entries I make will be rather short, if I make one at all. On days that I change location I will write to say where I have moved to. On days that I just read the paper, read my books, and/or watch the news and/or the History channel, I probably won't write at all. While I sometimes do it, I try not to make a habit of writing too many words about nothing.

Odometer reading = 27,045
Miles for day = 5

 

9/7/01
(St. John NB)

I had decided several days ago that St. John, where we spent several days a few weeks back, would be the place I'd return to while waiting for Sharyn to return. While the campground is somewhat sterile, I find it comfortable. The satellite works from here, I can get Maine Public Radio, there is a modem connection, and a laundry room. Also, St. John, the City itself is less than five minutes away and it's an interesting place. Very old.

The last time we came into Canada they searched out motorhome. This time the guy me if I had a gun, to which I replied "no." He said "guaranteed?", and I responded "guaranteed, I left it at my sister's." He then told me to go ahead and have a nice time.

Odometer reading = 27,218
Miles for day = 173

 

9/8/01
(St. John NB)

Went to town and bought milk and a few groceries.

Odometer reading = 27,218
Miles for day = 0

 

9/9/01
(St. John NB)

Today I began waxing the motorhome, starting at the rear edge of the driver's door and going as far as the front passenger side corner (the portion below the windshield). My plan is that if I do a little every day I should have it completed by the time Sharyn gets home.

Odometer reading = 27,218
Miles for day = 0

 

9/10/01
(St. John NB)

Today was cold and foggy. I drove into town and bought a bunch of fresh vegetables.

Odometer reading = 27,218
Miles for day = 0

 

9/11/01
(St. John NB)

Like many Americans, I spent the day in front of the television as the horrific results of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington unfolded.

I had not put up our flag when we arrived here because I thought it might be a little bit "in your face" to fly a large American flag while in Canada. Midday today I reversed that decision and did put up the flag. Also, Jordan called and said that she had bought a 3' x 5' flag and hung it on the front of her house. Good for her!

Odometer reading = 27,218
Miles for day = 0

 

9/12/01
(St. John NB)

This morning I saw that the flags flying on the bluff overlooking the City of St. John were flying at half mast, as are all the flags throughout the City.

Odometer reading = 27,218
Miles for day = 0

 

9/13/01 through 9/25/01
(St. John NB)

Not much happening.

Odometer reading = 27,218
Miles for day = 0

 

9/26/01
(Portsmouth NH)

Today was a good day. I got up at 5:23am, filled my mug with instant coffee, and at 5:55 I was on my way (with the car, not the motorhome) to Portsmouth NH from St. John NB. Ten hours and 360 miles later I picked Sharyn up at the Portsmouth bus terminal as she arrived back from Florida. She had flown out of, and today flew back into, Logan Airport in Boston; the point of departure for the two planes that flew into the World Trade Center.

Actually, the drive to Portsmouth only took seven hours. I went to my sister's house and waited for Sharyn to call.

We will spend the night at my sister's, and tomorrow we'll drive back to St. John and the motorhome. Now that Sharyn is back it's a whole new world. I tell her she is very much appreciated and doesn't have to go away for three weeks for me to realize it!

I am not totally satisfied with the dateline for today's entry being "Portsmouth NH." The dateline has always been where we and the motorhome are that day. This is the first time since we left Virginia in February 2000 that we are not sleeping in the motorhome. Therefor the dilemma was should the dateline reflect where we are or where the motorhome is? Probably where the motorhome is since that is, at least for that day, where we live. So why did I do it this way? I don't know.

Also, the odometer reading and miles for the day refer to the motorhome, not the car.

Odometer reading = 27,218
Miles for day = 0

 

9/27/01
(St. John NB)

This morning, Sharyn and I left my sister's home in Portsmouth and drove back to the motorhome in St. John NB. It took us 45 minutes to get through Canadian customs, 43 minutes just waiting in line. Entry was no problem.

By the time we arrived at the motorhome we both had very sore backsides. The seats in our Honda CRV are much like wooden chairs -- they leave a lot of room for improvement.

Anyway, now that we're both back at the motorhome we can get on with our lives.

Odometer reading = 27,218
Miles for day = 0

 

9/28/01
(St. John NB)

This morning, once again, we started off with coffee and conversation -- the conversation outlasted the coffee!

Later on we went to town to get some much needed groceries. Sharyn's comment, followed by a slight laugh, when she first looked in the refrigerator was, "Mother Hubbard's cupboard." While we were out I also showed Sharyn the shopping mall that I had discovered. We went to Wal-Mart and checked out Canadian Tire, the major Canadian retailer that is always mentioned as the one that is successfully competing against the American retail chains that some say are taking over the Canadian markets.

Other than that is was just sit around, read, and let Sharyn have some R&R recovery time.

Odometer reading = 27,218
Miles for day = 0

 

9/29/01
(St. John NB)

The main event today was that I finished waxing the motorhome! When I began on 9/9/01 I had planned to make it a two week project. It took 20 days -- oh well -- that's the way things go. It looks good.

While I was finishing the motorhome Sharyn did the laundry. When we had both finished, we spent the rest of the day reading.

Once again, the weather has cleared up from several days of cloudy and rain, and returned to sunny, windy, cool, and beautiful. It is really very nice!

Odometer reading = 27,218
Miles for day = 0

 

9/30/01
(Brewer ME)

After our coffee and conversation we did all the things necessary to move on to the next place. It probably took us an hour and a half to get to the US/Canadian border crossing at St. Steven's NB. There is no place for the US bound traffic to wait in line, other than by being backed up all the way down the main street in St. Steven's. Since it was Sunday most businesses were closed, but I suspect that on a regular business workday the merchants must be pretty unhappy about the traffic situation. Main Street is only a two lane road and it stands still. Anyway, it only took us 35 minutes to the customs check point and probably another 5 or 6 minutes to get cleared through. They checked both our ID's, and while one agent walked through the motorhome several others opened all the basement compartments and looked though the Honda. They were very friendly and polite and doing their job as they should. One thing we remarked about was that no one seems to be impatient or anything besides understanding and cooperative. I hope that as the weeks and months go by this positive public attitude does not change.

We are spending the night in the same campground that I stayed in several weeks ago, right next door to RecTech, the RV place that did the warranty work on the rear heat pump.

There is a Broadway family reunion (my mother was a Broadway) taking place in Florence SC on October 13. We have rearranged what had been some loosely shaped plans and, unless we change or plans again, we're heading to South Carolina.

Odometer reading = 27,389
Miles for day = 171

 

10/1/01
(Portsmouth NH)

We slept kind of late this morning and didn't get on the road until a few minutes before noon. When we got to Portsmouth we left the motorhome in Wal-Mart's parking lot and took the car to my sister's apartment. Since she works four-10 hour days she won't get home until around 7:30. In the meanwhile I've been playing on her computer -- with high speed cable access -- while Sharyn is reading.

I suspect that nothing else will happen today that will warrant my adding to, or amending, today's entry.

Odometer reading = 27,577
Miles for day = 189

 

10/2/01
(Boonton NJ)

Last night we spent the night in Wal-Mart's parking lot. Wal-Mart is very good with RVers and, in fact, has a company policy of inviting RVers to spend the night in one of their parking lots. RVers respond well to this accommodation, and in exchange for this privilege they make it a point to patronize Wal-Mart whenever possible. For most full-timers Wal-Mart is the supply store of choice for most items, frequently including groceries at a Wal-Mart Super Center.

Anyway, after our usual coffee and conversation, and some purchases at Wal-Mart, we were on on way, again heading south. We had figured that we would stop and visit with Irene and Harry in Boonton NJ, but that we would take two days to get there. Well it turns out that there are not a great number of campgrounds enroute so, by default, we drove straight through to Boonton, even though that caused us to break out "not more than 200 miles per day" rule.

I have known Irene and Harry since high school, and Sharyn has known them for as long as she has known me, which while that does not go back to high school, it does go back for more than a third of a century.

Odometer reading = 27,866
Miles for day = 289

 

10/3/01
(Boonton NJ)

It was a very pleasant day as we pretty much did nothing in particular but sit around and talk. As the day progress we had some wine and cheese on the patio bordering the pond.

At one point during the day Harry, Irene, and Sharyn had gone into town while I stayed at the house. When I took the newspaper out to the patio one of Irene's deer was was standing right by the lounge I had been sitting in. I said "Hi guy" as I went to and sat in the lounge and began reading the paper. The deer just looked at me as I walked toward her and the lounge, and as I sat down she returned to grazing not more than four feet from where I sat. Between the tame deer, the ducks, and the geese, we have referred to this place as Irene's petting zoo.

Harry and Irene are finally going to be grandparents and to say that they are excited would be an understatement -- particularly with respect to Irene. Tomorrow is Karen's official "due date" and it does seem that the time is near.

Odometer reading = 27,866
Miles for day = 0

 

10/4/01
(Stateline PA)

This morning we woke up to the sound of voices outside of the motorhome. It was Irene and Karen and they were wondering why they had not yet seen us -- it was past 10 o'clock and we had still been sound asleep. We had not seen Karen since we got here and I had expected her to really look tired and distressed. She looked great; clearly pregnant, but not anything but happy and cheery. It may be that Karen is handling it better than Irene.

Anyway, we were on the road by noontime, heading for Charlottesville, Virginia where we have two sons, a daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren. We plan to spend several days there before moving on to the Broadway family reunion in Sumter SC on October 13. We almost always travel the New Jersey Turnpike, I-95, and I-495 around Washington DC when traveling from Jersey to Charlottesville, but Sharyn's stomach begins to knot up as we begin that trip. For some reason the trucks and traffic on that section of I-95 and on I-495 get her extremely upset. Accordingly, this time we took I-287, I-78, and I-81 down through western Jersey, Pennsylvania, and tomorrow on through western Maryland, etc. This way is a little bit longer, both with respect to time and distance, but I had to admit to Sharyn that it is quite a bit nicer.

We had not traveled very far today when we saw gasoline for $1.279 per gallon. I can't recall when we last saw gas that cheap. Even though we still had over half a tank, we didn't want to pass up a price like that. We topped off with 31 gallons for $39. Let's keep that trend going!

Odometer reading = 28,089
Miles for day = 223

 

10/5/01
(Charlottesville VA)

We had a relaxed and easy drive to Phil and Kim's house in Charlottesville, Virginia. We arrived in the early afternoon and were all set up in their back yard (complete with 50 amp service) by the time they got home from work..

Katlin and Philip have both gotten bigger since we last saw them -- they're well on their way to becoming grown up people.

We talked later into the night then was probably good for Phil and Kim since Katlin and Philip won't sleep late even though it'll be Saturday morning.

Odometer reading = 28,281
Miles for day = 192

 

10/6/01 to 10/9/01
(Charlottesville VA)

We spent lots of time with Phil, Kim, Katlin, and Philip, having dinner with them each night. One day Sharyn picked Katlin up at school and they spent the afternoon doing "girl stuff" in and around Charlottesville (she's a good grandma).

This afternoon Phil and I went down to the Rivanna Rifle and Pistol Club range and did some handgun shooting. Phil's friend Dave was also there and shot with us. Talk about looking bad -- Phil and Dave both shoot competitively and usually finish in the top 10%. I told them I feel better about myself when I shoot with Sharyn.

We also shot Phil's AR-15 so I could see how it shot. He is selling this one to buy (thanks Babe) a "cooler" one that will be much better than this one. Apparently since the terrorist attacks on September 11, the demand for AR-15's has increased so dramatically that he can sell this one for what he paid for it.

Odometer reading = 28,281
Miles for day = 0

 

10/10/01
(Greensboro NC)

We got up at 6:10 this morning so we could have coffee with Phil before he left for work at 6:45. It wasn't too long after Phil left that Katlin came out to the motorhome to see us and say good-bye. A bit later Kim and Philip joined us also so it was a rather nice morning with lots of long good-byes.

We were actually on the road before 9 o'clock (a substantial departure from our usual 11 o'clockish).

We stopped before 3 o'clock in Greensboro NC which is probably a little short of the halfway point to Shaw AFB in Sumter SC. Whatever the remaining distance, we'll complete that tomorrow.

Gas in Charlottesville could be had from a number of stations for $1.17 to $1.19. When we got into the Lynchburg area gas was frequently less than $1.10. In the summer of 2000 we paid more than twice that much, $2.29 in California. I told Sharyn today that it looks as if we'll soon see gas for less than a dollar. For full-time RVers these sure are welcome prices.

As we travel we frequently talk about the "best" places we've seen, the "prettiest" places, the place we'd most like to live (we haven't found that one yet), etc. Scenes like this (ignore the dirty windshield) on US-29 south of Charlottesville precipitate such discussion.

Odometer reading = 28,471
Miles for day = 190

 

10/11/01
(Sumter SC)

The first thing we did this morning after leaving the campground was get lost while trying retrace the mile and a half back to I-85. Upon exiting the campground the conversation went something like. "I think we are supposed to turn left." "No we have to turn right." I don't remember who said which, or what way we turned, but it was the first step to getting lost and having to get directions.

Anyway, after that everything went smoothly and eventually we got to Shaw AFB in Sumter SC. We had been concerned that with the current threat level we might not have been allowed to enter the base, but we had called yesterday and were told that while security at the gates was very high we would be allowed entry after appropriate procedures had been followed. We both feel very good about the level of security surrounding the base. Actually, it's great to be an American!

We're all set up with 50 amp service, the dish can see the satellite, and the cell phone has a full strength signal. All that for $13/day. How much more could we ask for. In addition, the Broadway reunion is at the Grace Baptist Church in Sumter which is, according to my figuring, only ten miles from here.

For now we're both going to go to bed early -- we're both tired.

Odometer reading = 28,688
Miles for day = 217

 

10/12/01
(Sumter SC)

Today we drove to Grace Baptist Church in Sumter so we would know where it was was and be able to get there tomorrow without getting lost. As we were heading back to the base we passed North Purdy Street. When I was a little kid my grandparents lived on North Purdy so we drove down the street and actually found the house. The front porch is not the same as it used to be, and it's be re-sided with vinyl. Other than that the outside looks the same as it did 50 years ago. There was a super giant (oak?) tree in the center of the back yard. I told Sharyn I wanted to go back tomorrow when someone might be home. I'd like to see the backyard and the inside of the house.

When we got back to the base we went to the BX and the commissary,plus I got a haircut.

Odometer reading = 28,688
Miles for day = 0

 

10/13/01
(Sumter SC)

We went to the Broadway Family Reunion at the Grace Baptist Church in Sumter. There were only two people there when we arrived, but eventually there were about 25 of us. The only person I knew was a cousin Bobby Thigpen whom I had met several years ago. It was his e-mail that alerted us to this get together.

While we were not all of the same generation, we are all descendants of Lewis Broadway (1798-1857) and his wife Elizabeth Weeks Broadway (1802-1860). They were my great-great-grandparents on my grandfather's side, while they were my great-great-great-grandparents on my grandmother's side. (That is not a misstatement.)

From the reunion we went to the Broadway-Galloway Cemetery near Home Branch. I had never been to this cemetery where Lewis and Elizabeth Broadway are buried. This is Sharyn and Thomas Broadway, a great-grandson of Lewis and Elizabeth looking at some of the damage that has done to the grave stones in this small family cemetery. The stones laying flat on the ground in front of, and to the left of, Sharyn are the broken off headstones of Lewis and Elizabeth.

From there we drove several miles to the Home Branch Cemetery where my grandparents, great-grandparents, and numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins are buried.

I guess it's time I get back to getting all my family info in order.

Odometer reading = 28,688
Miles for day = 0

 

10/14/01
(Sumter SC)

While sitting outside having our morning coffee and conversation we decided to extend our stay here for another week. We decided that a lot of the things that we never get around to doing (sorting and throwing away the magazines we've read, setting up a sample campground website to use as a tool to sell such sites, work on the Broadway family tree stuff, etc.) is because we each always feel that we either have to get moving on down the road or get ready to get moving. We've been here several days and now we're going to stay another week. It's sort of an experiment -- we're still working out a system -- or perhaps more accurately stated, working out some system parameters.

Later we decided to go to Wal-Mart to get some milk and stuff I need to replace and improve the water hose that connects the filter system to the the fresh water inlet connection. It turned out that none of the Wal-Mart type stores open until 1:30. Since that was more than an hour away we decided to go back to Home Branch Cemetery so I could verify some dates in my file by comparing the dates on headstones. When we got back from the cemetery we went to Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Lowe's, and Piggly Wiggly, before returning to the base.

Since our return I've redone the water line (I like the way it came out), defrosted the refrigerator, and we've had our dinner.

Odometer reading = 28,688
Miles for day = 0

 

10/15/01
(Sumter SC)

Yesterday I told Sharyn that I was disappointed that there weren't any aircraft flying from this base. Well this morning a group of F-16s took off and woke us up. I listened to them go and then, figuring that it was time to get up, I opened my eyes -- it was still pitch black outside. It was 6:03am. It took awhile to get back to sleep as several more groups took off. Sharyn rolled over and said, "you said you wanted to hear the planes take off." Actually I like being right at the end of the runway when they take off right in front of you. The ground, the air, the whole world around you vibrates with the overwhelming roar of the engines and in less than 30 seconds they have traveled so far you can no longer see them. And then you think, "that's my team!" I find it the greatest thrill.

Anyway, we obviously did go back to sleep because the next time I woke up Sharyn had the coffee going and it was 9:30.

Sharyn did the laundry while I finally made the phone calls and put together and mailed the stuff necessary to take care of a number of things that I've been meaning to do for several months. Otherwise we just sat outside on our "patio" and enjoyed the sunshine and pleasant weather.

Odometer reading = 28,688
Miles for day = 0

 

10/16/01
(Sumter SC)

Slow day today.

Went to the local (not too good) shopping mall. Did a thorough vacuuming and semi-thorough cleaning. Hung out. Worked on Broadway stuff.

Odometer reading = 28,688
Miles for day = 0

 

10/17/01
(Sumter SC)

This morning we had extensive coffee and conversation, first in the motorhome, then sitting outside in the cool air and bright sunshine. After lunch I went to the Sumter County Genealogical Research Center while Sharyn stayed at the campground cleaning and reading her book. We each had a good day.

Odometer reading = 28,688
Miles for day = 0

 

10/18/01
(Sumter SC)

 

Odometer reading = 28,688
Miles for day = 0

 

10/19/01
(Sumter SC)

This afternoon we drove into Columbia SC which is about 40 miles west of Sumter. We bought a genealogical software package, Family Tree Maker, by Broderbund. So far I've messed with it for several hours and I've concluded that I've wasted a lot of time typing information into Word documents. I'm in the process of copying all that stuff into Family Tree Maker. The way it handles and manipulates all that information is very impressive.

While we were in Columbia we also went to Fort Jackson to check out their FamCamp (the Army doesn't call them FamCamps) as we had considered moving to Columbia early next week to have a more convenient base to check out all that's there. Having seen their FamCamp we'll stay where we are and just drive the car to Columbia.

Anyway, it was a good day. It's now 1:35am and Sharyn been asleep for quite awhile. I'm going to bed too.

Odometer reading = 28,688
Miles for day = 0

 

10/20/01
(Sumter SC)

Today we went to Florence SC to see Myrtle, a childhood (and life long) friend of my mother. Myrtle is 91 years old and maybe gets around better than I do. When we had been calling her for three days with no one ever answering the telephone we got worried and called her cousin in Florence to say that Myrtle's phone had gone unanswered for three days. He said that he'd noticed she wasn't in church on Sunday and that he'd check it out. He called us back the next day to tell us that Myrtle had decided to "go to the mountains" for a week to enjoy the fall foliage.

Anyway, when we did get to see her she had been amused that her absence from church had been noticed and that people had been checking up on her whereabouts. She had thoroughly enjoyed her trip which had included Ashville NC and numerous points in-between. As she told us, she does all her own house cleaning, shopping, etc., and even washes her car -- a 1986 Oldsmobile that she bought new and only has 20,000 miles on it.

After coffee and cake, and several hours of conversation we said good-bye and drove back to Sumter. This is Myrtle and Sharyn as we were leaving.

On the way back we drove past a number of cotton fields. Having, in the past, given some of our grandkids branches off of a cotton plant to show them where cotton came from -- they had a problem with the concept that "cotton grows on plants" -- we though we should take a few pictures so they could see what kind of a place we got those branches from. Take note guys, here's grandma standing in one of those "old cotton fields back home." Here's a close up view of a cotton plant. See, I told you so!

Odometer reading = 28,688
Miles for day = 0

 

10/21/01
(Sumter SC)

This was a quiet Sunday at home. Basically I entered data into Family Tree Maker most of the day. I'm not quite finished entering all that I have, but I'm getting close. The program will print out the information you feed into it in any number of different types of reports or charts. When I quit for the day I printed out a diagram of my grandfather's branch of the tree going back as far as his great grandfather, and coming current as far as our (and my first cousin's) grandchildren. The chart printed out on nine pages that then had to be taped together. When I'm finished putting all the information into the program I'll print a chart showing what will probably work out to be my grandfather's great-great grandparents and all of their descendants. As far as I can tell, no one has been able to find any reliable information going back further than that -- but that goes back to the American Revolution. Far enough back for most purposes.

The only thing I don't like about Family Tree Maker is that it doesn't appear as if there is any way I can copy, or cut and paste, so as to be able to send any of the reports via e-mail. That's a real drawback because I'd like to send certain family group reports to people who may have some personal knowledge or better information than I do. i.e.: check my work for errors or omissions.

While I was doing that stuff, Sharyn was sitting out in the sun (except when it started to rain) reading her book.

After eating dinner we took the daily walk that we haven't taken for probably the last four months. We'll have to do better.

Odometer reading = 28,688
Miles for day = 0

 

10/22/01
(Sumter SC)

Today the plan was that we'd go to Columbia SC (about 40 miles from here) and I'd stay at the SC State Archives while Sharyn would take the car and go check out some of the nearby shopping malls. It turned out that the Archives are closed on Mondays, so we both went to a couple of malls, but we didn't stay nearly as long, or do them in the degree of thoroughness, as Sharyn would have if she had been alone.

At one mall I stayed at Barnes and Noble while she checked out the second Dillard's for the day.

Odometer reading = 28,688
Miles for day = 0

 

10/23/01 and 10/24/01
(Sumter SC)

For two day I've been entering data into Family Tree Maker and Sharyn has been reading. Since Phil introduced her to Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six she has become a fan of his. Having finished Rainbow Six she then read Sum of All Fears. Now she's reading Debt of Honor. I believe this is the last one has, and in a perfect world she will turn the last page just as I enter the last name.

The only deviation from the above activities was this afternoon when Sharyn did the laundry.

Odometer reading = 28,688
Miles for day = 0

 

10/25/01
(Sumter SC)

We started out around noon (after coffee and conversation) and drove to Paxville SC where we were going to find the house where my mother and her siblings grew up. We were also going to check out the Paxville Cemetery where lots of Broadways and relations are buried. With the help of a "very old timer" who we met while making a U-turn at a recycling place, we first found the old farm house that had belonged to my grandfather's brother, Lewis Broadway. We stopped there where we met and talked with Ernest Broadway (we're some kind of cousins) and his mother, Tedo. They gave us some of the local history of the farm and the family.

Ernest then led us down to my grandfather's house which we had driven past because the last time I saw it (30 years ago) it was standing on wood posts, had old weathered wood siding that looked as if it had never been painted, and was quite neglected (my grandfather had lost the farm during the depression and it was no longer in the family). Today, it has been enclosed around the bottom, recovered with vinyl siding, and the yard has been planted with grass and cleaned up. It looked nothing like that photo when my mother lived there. Until she went away to Winthrop University (then called "Winthrop -- The South Carolina State College for Women") she had never lived in a place that had "indoor plumbing".

It's nice that these two houses, once owned by two Broadway brothers, and lost during the depression (together with over 300 acres), today are back in the hands of two more Broadway brothers.

Ernest then led us on down the road to the Paxville Cemetery that is off of a dirt road behind a stand of woods. He showed us some of his family graves and we talked for awhile. After he left, Sharyn and I continued walking around checking out the many headstones and filling in some blank spaces in our information from what we could get from the grave markers.

Another interesting thing were personal resemblance's that both Sharyn and Ernest saw. Sharyn said that she sees a similarity between my mother's sister Frances and Ernest. She also saw two of our kids, Phil and Jordan, in Ernest's son. Ernest sees a similarity between me and his father (whom I never met). All in all it was a very interesting day.

We then decided that since we were only about 20 miles from Santee where my cousin Tom (we've known each other since we were little kids) and his wife lived we'd stop by and see them for a brief visit. We did that and then came back to the base to have soup for dinner at 9:30.

Odometer reading = 28,688
Miles for day = 0

 

10/26/01
(Sumter SC)

About the only thing we did today was get Sharyn's ticket to fly to her mother's 80th birthday party. Other than that I was putting data into Family Tree Maker and Sharyn went across the base to the commissary to get milk and a few groceries.

We had planned to go to Columbia today, but during coffee and conversation we decided to stay here until November 15 when Sharyn returns from Florida. She flies out of Charleston on November 10 but I'm going to stay here until she gets back. Since that means we're going to be here for a number of weeks we'll have plenty of opportunity to go to Columbia another time. Besides, after we finished our coffee and conversation and got Sharyn's tickets (on line) it was almost 3 o'clock.

It was a beautiful day.

Odometer reading = 28,688
Miles for day = 0

 

10/27/01
(Sumter SC)

Today was pretty much data entry day. In addition to the Broadway family, we started putting in Sharyn's ancestors as best we can. Several years ago her father's cousin Irene Murphy gave Sharyn a bunch of stuff that she had gathered over the years. We've got a good part, but not all, of it entered.

Odometer reading = 28,688
Miles for day = 0

 

10/28/01
(Sumter SC)

We were going to go to Columbia today, but by the time Sharyn started to get ready it was after 2 o'clock so we both decided it was too late to go.

We finished entering all the data we had for both Sharyn's family and my mother's family, Broadway.

All these daily entries read very boringly, but we are relaxed and enjoying our rather easy living.

Odometer reading = 28,688
Miles for day = 0

 

10/29/01
(Sumter SC)

Today I went to the Probate Court in Sumter to check up on some loose ends of the estate of one of my mother's sisters. I then found Sumter Cemetery where a number of ancestors, including this aunt are buried. I also attended to what might be described as a number of "business" matters, most of which I was able to do online or via e-mail.

Odometer reading = 28,688
Miles for day = 0

 

10/30/01
(Sumter SC)

Today we finally made it to Columbia. I dropped Sharyn off at one of the malls while I went to the State Archives (should be a photo here).

Later we met at Barnes and Noble at the mall where Sharyn bought another Tom Clancy book. We read for awhile, then went to the Golden Corral for dinner. Then Sam's and then back to the base.

Odometer reading = 28,688
Miles for day = 0

 

10/31/01
(Sumter SC)

Ordered a printer cartridge and bought groceries.

Also, Sharyn worked on her "blue dot."

Odometer reading = 28,688
Miles for day = 0

 

11/1/01 to 11/4/01
(Sumter SC)

Obviously I'm typing this on the fourth (Sunday) and I can't remember the first or the second -- probably because nothing that would have made interesting reading happened on those days. Don't misunderstand, enjoyable days don't necessarily make interesting reading..

Anyway, yesterday we took a tour of Fort Sumter in Charleston. The package included round trip bus (bigger than a van but smaller than a regular bus) transportation from Shaw AFB and a two and a half hour boat tour of Charleston Harbor that included one hour on Fort Sumter. It sounded like a good trip and we were looking forward to it. Unfortunately, if we had it to do again, we wouldn't.

In Sumter the bus turned onto US-15 heading north. This didn't make any sense to me and I told Sharyn that I thought the driver was going the wrong way, that we should be heading south on US-15. However, I'm pretty much a tourist who has been in town for less than a month, while the other guy is the tour bus driver. I should have said something. Sumter is 100 miles from Charleston. Florence SC is 130 miles from Charleston, and almost 40 miles north of Sumter. He drove us to Florence where he got onto I-95 and then headed back south to I-26 and Charleston. Before we started back I spoke to him about a much more direct route and we came back to Sumter in accordance with my suggestion.

There was TV and VCR on the bus and we had round trip, nonstop, video movies with the volume quite loud. I equate that to someone entering a rather small public place with a big boom box playing loud noises which he proclaims to enjoy. Everyone in the area is subjected to whatever noise he chooses to fill the area with. That's the way it was on the bus -- and it was a long ride!

As we started to head back to Sumter the driver said we were going to have a vote. I was encouraged because I thought we were going to vote on whether to have the TV on again. I was wrong. The vote was whether to drive straight back or stop somewhere at a fast food place for dinner. He first asked who wanted to go straight home. I immediately raised my hand. One lady looked around and saw my hand up and raised hers also. Ours were the only two that went up. I think one kid voted to stop, but we didn't. I think the driver thought I was a grinch, but that's okay. By that time I just wanted to get home.

The seats on this bus were small and hard -- very uncomfortable. I thought that the seats in our Honda were better. Sharyn thought they were both about the same. Anyway we got home with two sore butts.

Fort Sumter and the boat tour were good except that one hour at Fort Sumter is not nearly enough. If we did not have the need to catch the boat I suspect that we would have spent three or four hours walking around, checking out the museum, and talking with the Park Service Rangers, who are usually quite knowledgeable about the history of the place where they work. Admittedly, most people do not do these places as thoroughly as we do.

I suspect that while Sharyn is in Florida I'll return to Fort Sumter. (We've decided that we'll take the motorhome to Charleston on Thursday, November 8, and I'll stay there while Sharyn is in Florida).

At the beginning of the Civil War the walls of Fort Sumter were three stories high with heavy gun emplacements on the first two levels. (When the war began Fort Sumter was only about 90% completed and had only 60 of its planned 135 guns in place, and most of these were not the large coastal artillery guns that had been intended for the fort). By the end of the war the top two levels had basically been blown away and reduced to ruble by an estimated seven million pounds of Federal artillery shells that had been fired at the fort during the four years of the war (another imbedded artillery shell). By the end of the war the ruble of the two upper levels pretty nearly had buried the lower level in crumbled and powdered brick and debris.

By the way, for those who might be interested, and for those who read this anyway, when Confederate Forces opened fire on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, they were under the command of General Pierre G. T. Beauregard. Fort Sumter's garrison was commanded by Union Army Major Robert Anderson. When Beauregard was a cadet at West Point his favorite instructor had been his artillery professor, Captain Robert Anderson. On April 15, 1865, six days after Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox, Anderson returned to Fort Sumter to raise the same flag he had lowered in surrender four years and a day earlier.

Today I met the wife of the family that now own the house where my grandparents lived after all their kids were grown. It's the house that we used to visit when I was a small boy. Except for the kitchen and bathroom the inside was just about as I remembered it. Except for the aluminum siding, and the fact that the porch no longer wraps around the corner of the house by the driveway, the outside is just as it was 50 years ago. Also, as I told Sharyn and the lady that lives there now, it is difficult to imagine that the house numbers are the same ones that were there in the 1940's, but their location, the way they slope down to the right, and the many coats of paint that cover them all convince me that they are the same ones that were there when I was a kid. I always had taken special note of these numbers because I was proud of the fact that I recognized the pattern as being almost 1-2-3. While we were looking for the house several weeks ago I told Sharyn that the address was either 124 or 235. Now I have to see if I can find an old photograph of the house with the numbers visible.

Odometer reading = 28,688
Miles for day = 0

 

11/5/01 to 11/7/01
(Sumter SC)

We continued with our daily coffee and conversation which is something that routinely occurs everyday. For the last several weeks we have been following up our coffee and conversation with our morning walk. We started off by walking a mile every morning, but within a week that had been extended to a two mile walk that takes 34 minutes. We walk a measured mile that takes 17 minutes, then turn around and walk back, taking the total time when we finish to insure that we haven't slacked off on the return. We're quite consistent in our time. The first mile is always 17 minutes +/- less than 30 seconds. Total time is always 34 minutes +/- 1 minute. Upon our return Sharyn's pulse is in the 80's and mine is in the 60's. Maybe after awhile we'll increase our distance to 4 miles so we'll be walking for an hour.

This is Sharyn approaching the FamCamp entrance on the walk back. The motorhome is about 1,000 feet from the entrance.

Today, Wednesday, the 7th, Dell Computer sent a repair man out from Columbia to replace the LCD display on my laptop. When I bought this computer I paid an extra $99 to have an extended three year on-site warranty. The display has been messing up intermittently for about a year and a half. Yesterday I called Dell and told them what was happening. I also told him that I had posted a photo of the problem at http://www.stringbean.com/dell.jpg and that he should look at the picture rather than have me describe it. He did, and he said he'd ship a new display to their service man in Columbia and that the service guy would call me. He called at 9:am today and we met at a diner down the road from the base where, over a cup of coffee, he replaced the display and the entire hinged cover on the computer. All of that happened in less than 24 hours after I called Dell. I think that's pretty impressive (of course there was no charge for anything).

One more thing. Phil sent me a picture that I think should be shared.

Odometer reading = 28,688
Miles for day = 0

 

11/8/01
(Charleston SC)

After spending four weeks at Shaw AFB it was time to move on. This was one of the nicest FamCamps we've ever stayed at, and one we will return to again. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Sumter.

As we were leaving Sumter we filled the motorhome with gas because, while we still had a third of a tank, gas was only $1 per gallon. On the way to Charleston we passed a number of gas stations that were selling gas at less than a dollar! It's probably been three years since we've seen gas that cheap.

We're now at the FamCamp at Charleston AFB. This base is right next door to Charleston Airport from which Sharyn flies to Florida Saturday morning to help her mother celebrate her 80th birthday. Tomorrow we'll check out the base and some of the surrounding area.

Odometer reading = 28,796
Miles for day = 108

 

11/9/01
(Charleston SC)

After our coffee and conversation we went for our two mile, 34 minute, walk. A short distance down the road we cut out along the golf cart path through the golf course. It was very pleasant until some golfer told us that we were not allowed to use the golf course as an exercise trail. I don't know whether or not that's true, but we went back out to the roadway and continued on our way.

Later in the day we made a dry run to the airport terminal so that we would not have any trouble finding it at 5:30 tomorrow morning. There was a police roadblock on the airport entrance road and they asked us to open the rear window so they could check the space behind the rear seat.

We then went and checked out a nearby Sam's Club that is at least twice as large as any Sam's we've ever seen. We bought some groceries and looked at scanners. From there we went to the commissary where Sharyn did more grocery shopping while I checked out a book sale taking place in a large tent set up in the parking lot. I almost bought a book on the battle at the Little Bighorn, but since I've got several books already lined up on the shelf to read I decided I didn't need that one. However, it was only $9 so I think if it's still there tomorrow I may buy it anyway.

Sharyn's got her one bag (a carry on) packed and ready to go. As soon as she gets out of the shower we'll both go to bed since we've set the alarm clock for 5:am.

One other thing we did today was call and get tickets to see the Hunley, the confederate submarine that sank the USS Housatonic off of Charleston Harbor in 1864. After the Housatonic exploded (becoming the first ship to be sunk by an enemy submarine), the Hunley signaled the Confederates on shore, via a prearranged light signal, that the mission was a success. The Hunley never returned and her disappearance remained a mystery until she was found and raised from the bottom of the Atlantic about two years ago. The crew's remains were still aboard along with many items of personal property belonging to the crew members.. More details of the Hunley will be included on Friday, November 16 when we get to see it. The excavation of the interior of the sub is still going on so it is something I'm really looking forward to seeing.

Odometer reading = 28,796
Miles for day = 0

 

11/10/01
(Charleston SC)

We got up this morning (last night) at 4:30am. Coffee was ready at 4:40, I was ready at 4:45, and Sharyn was ready at 5:15. Since she had a 6:20 flight it was good we had gotten up a half hour earlier than originally planned. Anyway, we left here at 5:15 and I dropped her off in front of the USAir terminal (you can't leave your car for a minute) and drove back to the motorhome. I was back in bed at 5:40.

Since the motorhome is next to a giant live oak, the tree blocks our satellite signal so TV is limited to local channels -- although there are about five of them we can receive. However, there is no PBS, Fox News, MSNBC, C-Span, History or Discovery Channels. That pretty much means there's no TV. I keep watching for a site with a clear shot at the satellite to open up. If and when it does I'll move the motorhome. I don't care too much for TV, but when Sharyn's not here I need all the help I can get. After almost 35 years she has become a big-time habit.

I spoke to her tonight and she sounds good. She said her mother's birthday party was very nice and that her mother thoroughly enjoyed it -- and held up well through it.

Tomorrow I'll buy a Sunday paper and see if I can find Sharyn's cousin Phil who is a sea captain whose ship is supposed to be in Charleston right now -- she just found this out tonight.

Odometer reading = 28,796
Miles for day = 0

 

11/11/01
(Charleston SC)

Not too much going on today. I did my two mile, 34 minute walk.

I also got hold of Phil, who's ship was still in Baltimore, but was leaving today and should be in Charleston by tomorrow night. He'll call me when they get in.

Talked to Sharyn. Talked to Jordan.

Odometer reading = 28,796
Miles for day = 0

 

11/12/01
(Charleston SC)

This morning I walked around to see if any spaces with a good "satellite view" had opened. One motorhome had pulled out and I maved to the site he had been occupying, got the motorhome all set up again, set up the satellite, etc. A half hour later the guy next to me left. He had the best spot because he was on the end and overlooked the wooded picknic area. Also, being on the end, you can actually extend out of your area since there is no one next to you on that side. I decided it was worth moving again. Not much else for the day. I watched a lot of TV.

Odometer reading = 28,796
Miles for day = 0

 

11/13/01
(Charleston SC)

I had set the alarm for 7:30 this morning because I was supposed to meet Phil on his ship Tellus around 9 o'clock. I found the ship without any problem, primarily because there are not a lot of big orange ships at any given dock at any given point in time.

We probably spent two hours talking, drinking coffee and being shown around the ship. This is Phil showing me the bridge. I thought it was really neat and I enjoyed my tour. Basically the ship carries cars, trucks, tractors, construction equipment, and stuff of that nature, all of which is driven onto 13 different levels of steel decks. If I remember right each deck is 110' x 620', and all the decks are connected by ramps and giant elevators. One particular neat feature is that several of the decks can be raised or lowered depending on what you are loading on that deck. BMW's don't need more than 6' of vertical space, while a large tractor or earth mover may need three times that height.

I was surprised that it is diesel powered; it has a six cylinder diesel engine. That doesn't sound like much, but the cylinders have a 30" bore and a stroke that the engineer estimated to be about 8'. He said that when the piston is at the bottom and he stands on it, he can't reach the top of the cylinder (he's a good 6' tall). Also, if one or more cylinders become inoperable for any reason they can be taken off line and the engine can still be run on as few as three cylinders. Phil has run it on four. Very dumb on my part -- I failed to take a picture of the engine or engine room. This is the rudder post (use the 5 gallon can to get an idea as to the size of the post)!

These are some of the tractors and equipment yet to be loaded. Those white things to the left of center in the distance are BMW's under individual car covers. Another interesting thing -- those busses have just been brought to America from Europe (I think Phil said Germany). Anyway, as they came into this country they were less than 50% completed. That means that when they are finally completed in this country they will be marketed and sold as "Made in America." That I knew; what I didn't know is that because they were brought into this country on an American ship, the American manufacturer gets an extra 5% credit towards his 51% requirement to be able to say "Made in America."

View from the bridge wing looking towards the stern. Those large container shaped structures contain powerful ventilating fans that pull the carbon monoxide up from the decks below. Two final photographs (1) (2).

After returning to the motorhome and doing some miscellaneous stuff, including emptying the holding tanks (no sewer hookups at this FamCamp), I made up some vegetables for dinner. This time instead of steaming them I kind of fried them with olive oil, basil, garlic, and salt. Since no one was eating it but me I used an excessive amount of mushrooms. Does that look good or what? Actually, in the covered frying pan they probably steamed anyway, but the oil improved both the texture and flavor over regular steaming.

Odometer reading = 28,796
Miles for day = 0

 

11/14/01
(Charleston SC)

The only thing I can remember doing today is that I did my walk. I should have cleaned things up because Sharyn gets back tomorrow!

Odometer reading = 28,796
Miles for day = 0

 

11/15/01
(Charleston SC)

The day started of with a trip to the airport to get Sharyn. With all the concrete barricades and traffic cones I couldn't find how to get to the short term parking lot. There was a police checkpoint on the road leading into the airport where the police look into the back seats and car trunks. They also gave me a yellow flyer warning that any unaccompanied car that was not in a parking lot would be towed away immediately. A tow truck was parked before the terminal building with the driver observing all cars moving past the terminal. I tried circling slowly, hoping that Sharyn would come out front, but every time I circled I came back onto the entrance road outside of the security checkpoint. After going through the checkpoint for the third time I thought that such activity might appear suspicious so I decided I'd try waiting in front of the terminal, but staying in the car. I was only there for about two minutes when a police officer came over and talked to me. He said I couldn't stop there, but he did tell me how to get into the short term parking. The number of visible police officers, plus the number of police and emergency vehicles all over the terminal area, may the entire scene appear like a disaster scene.

Anyway, I got Sharyn and we returned to the FamCamp where I spent the rest of the day enjoying her company and conversation. It's definitely good to have her back!

Odometer reading = 28,796
Miles for day = 0

 

11/16/01
(Charleston SC)

Today we got to see the Hunley, the Confederate submarine that sank the USS Housatonic off of Charleston Harbor in February 1864. The Hunley was the first submarine ever to sink an enemy ship in wartime, but it never returned from the mission. In 1995 it was discovered on the bottom of the Atlantic, four miles off the coast, and was eventually raised.

The story of the Hunley, from it's conception and construction in Mobile Alabama, to the sinking of the Housatonic, to its discovery and recovery, to its present site where the remains of the crew and their personal effects have been, and still are, being excavate from the silt that has filled the interior of the submarine for 130 years, is a truly incredible saga.

I was somewhat disappointed at what we were able to see. The excavation of the interior is being conducted Monday through Thursday, and then the public can view it Friday through Sunday. To prevent the rapid deterioration that would occur if the Hunley were exposed to air, it is being kept in a large, specially made water tank. When the public gets to view it, the viewing is from a platform above the tank. The lighting is not as good as it could be plus, when we were there the water had just been pumped back into the tank the night before (when they stopped work for the weekend), and the filters had not yet removed all of the cloudiness from the water.

We did get to see the submarine, even if we did not get to see it as well, and in as much detail, as I would have liked. The fact of the matter is that at this point in time the emphasis is on completion of removal of the remains of the crew and recovery and inventory of all items being excavated from the interior. Allowing the public access to the Hunley at this point in time, even if the access is limited, is really an accommodation to the public. The fact is that the Hunley is not yet ready for public display. I should not complain.

Photographs were not allowed, so while I had planned to put photos on this site, that's not going to be the case. However, the Hunley has a very good website at http://www.hunley.org/html/frame.htm complete with the history, photographs, and a constantly updated account of current progress.

Odometer reading = 28,796
Miles for day = 0

 

11/17/01 and 11/18/01
(Charleston SC)

Yesterday, Saturday the 17th, we decided that we wanted a day off, so we just hung around the motorhome, relaxed and read. Today we basically did more of the same, except that this afternoon I washed the car and the motorhome and Sharyn did the laundry.

Odometer reading = 28,796
Miles for day = 0

 

11/19/01
(Aiken SC)

Our plan was to go to Savannah from Charleston, and then begin heading north to spend Christmas with our daughter Jordan in Southold, NY. However, this past weekend we solicited an invitation for Thanksgiving Dinner with our friends, the Hartges, in Greenville SC. That required that Savannah be dropped from our itinerary. Since Clemson was our next planned stop after Savannah, we left Charleston at noon today heading towards Clemson.

It was an easy drive heading in a northwesterly direction along US-78, a 2-lane roadway that works its way through numerous small, and somewhat forgotten, southern towns that have basically stood still for decades. Periodically, along the route we pass a large white ante-bellum house with a wide porch and tall columns that Sharyn loves. Some of these houses are really magnificent; very beautiful, and definitely from a bygone era. Some of them are in places where, while not poverty struck, economic opportunity would be severely limited. Also, since these places (many of them) offer no draw or attraction to bring in outsiders, who lives in and maintains these houses? While some are not, most of them appear to be well maintained and cared for. We enjoyed the drive.

As we approached Aiken we stopped at the campground at Aiken State Park/Natural Area. We're the only people here. As we entered the campground area we could tell that it was a rather low key facility. Sharyn had coffee while I had wine.

Odometer reading = 28,910
Miles for day = 114

 

11/20/01
(Greenville SC)

We were aware of Paris Mountain State Park in Greenville, but we still preferred the Corps of Engineers (COE) campground on Hartwell Lake in Clemson. Not that we'd even been there, but the COE campgrounds that we've stayed at have all been very nice, almost always situated on a scenic waterway or lake and, because they are not profit oriented, their fees are quite low. In addition, our Golden Access Passport gets us a 50% discount. However, when we looked at the location of Paris Mountain State Park we saw that it was only 3 miles from the Hartges. With a location that convenient we decided to alter our course and go there instead.

After getting set up we called the Hartges (cell phone reception here rots) and told them where we were. A few hours later that came by to visit and, as we hadn't seen them in two years, we stayed up until nearly 2:am talking about all kinds of stuff -- as years ago we did almost routinely. This is Hartge copying date from a recent coronary risk profile I had done. He can't understand how I can have such elevated LDLs with my low intake of saturated fats. He's going to pursuit it.

Odometer reading = 29,062
Miles for day = 152

 

11/21/01
(Greenville SC)

We had an extended period of coffee and conversation, after/during which I made myself a real mushroom omelet using a pound of mushrooms and three eggs. That's just enough egg to kind of hold the mushrooms together. Some onion would have been good, but we were fresh out. I offered to share, but Sharyn said that was too much mushroom for her taste.

By the time we left the motorhome it was probably close to 2:pm. We went to Hartge's to use their phone line to update the website and check our e-mail (and to talk some more). From there we went to Barnes and Noble for an hour or so, then on to T. J. Maxx where I sat in the car reading The Glucose Revolution while Sharyn shopped/browsed. By that time it was dark and we got lost trying to find our way back to the motorhome.

When we got back Sharyn made salmon salad (for me) and fat free hot dogs (for her) for dinner.

Odometer reading = 29,062
Miles for day = 152

 

11/22/01
Thanksgiving Day
(Greenville SC)

We spent most of the day hanging out in the motorhome until it was time to get ready to go to the Hartge's for dinner. We took these pictures as we were getting into the car to go (Sharyn and me).

It was a very pleasant afternoon and evening. In addition to us and the Hartges, there was their oldest son Scott with his wife, Elizabeth, and their two children, plus Elizabeth's parents. Me and Elizabeth's parents are missing from this picture. They had all moved away and left the three of us at the dinning room table.

It must be pretty close to 20 years since we've seen Scott. Their youngest is 15 month old Robert who, in my estimation, looks just like our Grandson Philip IV. Which one is this?

After lots of food and desert, followed by some extensive discussion about government conspiracies (Keith is a regular subscriber to conspiracy theories), the evening eventually wound up and everyone went home.

Odometer reading = 29,062
Miles for day = 152

 

11/23/01
(Hendersonville NC)

We pulled out of the campground around noon and, leaving the motorhome in the supermarket parking lot down the road from the Hartges, drove the car to their house for a final visit before we left Greenville.

Leaving town we missed our turn because there was no sign at the intersection where we should have turned. A problem we continually come across is that cities and/or large towns are not adequately depicted on regular street maps. Contributing to the problem is that most roads have both names and numbers, but frequently don't have both on the street signs. Also, particularly in cities and towns, the maps don't always show both names and numbers. Usually, it seems, if the map shows numbers the signs show names. Of course none of this is a problem where there are no signs at all. Anyway, knowing that US-25 was to the west and that US-25 (business) was to the east, we took a wide road heading north knowing that at some point ahead we would have to come out onto one of the US-25's. US-25 north is what we wanted.

It seems to me that there is a book that contains street maps of thousands of cities and large towns in the US. We're going to look for it.

Heading north we stopped at a gas station where we filled up the motorhome for 96 cents per gallon. It's been a long time since I saw the gallons go up faster than the dollars!

Although it was only a little after 4 o'clock, it was raining and beginning to get dark as we pulled into Lazy Boy Travel Park in Hendersonville. After we got all set up it began to pour down rain and, now several hours later, it has not let up. While we plan to go to the Biltmore Estate in Ashville tomorrow, if it continues to rain this hard we may just sit it out.

Odometer reading = 29,116
Miles for day = 54

 

11/24/01
(Hendersonville NC)

Today was cold, dark, and gloomy, with misting rain all day long. The trees are bare, and it's winter time. We were talking this morning about the difference between here and Charleston less than a week ago where the temperatures were so much milder and the trees still had their fall foliage.

Anyway, we went to the Biltmore Estate in Ashville, 25 miles north of here, only to find traffic backed up all the way from the building where you purchase the tickets, a half mile back out to the highway, and then further on down the road. When we finally got to park the car at the ticket place we were told that it was a three hour wait to get into the mansion. As we were on line for tickets they announced that the wait was 3 hours and 45 minutes. Shortly after that they stopped selling tickets for today's admission. After speaking to a lady who works there we bought tickets for tomorrow ($34 each!) and plan to be there tomorrow at 8:30am, which is a half hour before the self guided tours begin.

On the way back to the motorhome we stopped and bought some groceries. I thought the prices in this supermarket were pretty high, but Sharyn said they were not, but that I had gotten somewhat familiar with the prices at the base commissaries and that those prices are considerably cheaper than regular supermarkets. Boy, I guess so!

When we got back to the motorhome it was still cold, wet, and crummy, so Sharyn made some bean soup for dinner.

Odometer reading = 29,116
Miles for day = 54

 

11/25/01
(Statesville NC)

This morning we hooked up in the rain and were on the road at 8:15am. We arrived at the Biltmore Estate before 9 o'clock and there were no crowds or lines whatsoever.

The overall scale the the entire property almost denies comprehension. Major portions of the original property, which was 125,000 acres at one point (to put that into perspective, that's approximately 195 square miles), were sold off between 1915 and 1930. Today the property consists of 8,000 acres. The main house, built over a six year period and completed in 1895, consists of 250 rooms (43 bath rooms) on four floors, has four acres of floor space (over 160,000 square feet), and with it's enormous ceilings, encloses 2.4 million cubic feet.

The entire package was conceived and built by George Vanderbilt whose descendants still own and run the property. No photographs are allowed inside the the house, but the family maintains a website for the house and property at http://www.biltmore.com. It was and still is the largest private residence in America.

This vine that Sharyn is standing next to is a trumpet flower, generally thought of as not being this large. Several of these trumpet flowers cover this arbor at the southerly end of the house.

It was this view that made George Vanderbilt decide to build on this particular site. The balcony, or loggia, that this picture was taken from runs to the right for perhaps 60 or 70 feet. One more picture; standing to the left of the main entrance and looking up.

We pulled out of the parking lot at 12:45, but it took us 15 minutes just to get to the public road. Anyway, we continued on, heading towards Charlottesville, but stopped at a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Statesville where we bought some groceries and did some Christmas shopping for the grandchildren. By that time it was dark and we're going to spend the night in the parking lot.

Odometer reading = 29,254
Miles for day = 138

 

11/26/01
(Charlottesville VA)

It was kind of cold when we woke up this morning, but we started the generator both for the coffee pot and for the heat pumps. In 10 minutes we had coffee, and in 15 minutes we had warmth and comfort as well.

We had called Phil last night to let him know we'd be at his house this afternoon. It was his suggestion that we take I-77 from where we were in Statesville, rather than continuing east on I-40 to US-29 in Greensboro as we had planned. We followed his suggestion and it worked well.

Without any problems we arrived at Phil and Kim's shortly after 4 o'clock. It was good to see them, Katlin, and Philip IV.

Odometer reading = 29,526
Miles for day = 272

 

11/27/01 to 12/1/01
(Charlottesville VA)

For several days we've been here at Phil and Kim's. During the day when they're at work I've done a little shopping -- Sharyn has done lots of shopping! In the evening we visit with the entire family. There's an occasional game between Grandma and Philip IV. Also, Shane stopped by this morning and we had a motorhome full of people, with an extended coffee and conversation that included everyone and went on for hours, using two full pots of coffee.

Today, Saturday the 1st, Phil and I went to the Rivanna Rifle and Pistol Club range (http://www.rrpc.org) where we did some shooting, including his newest AR-15. Since it's been almost two years since I've done any practicing I was surprised at the results when I shot against the clock -- my time and accuracy were both better than I thought they would have been (This 15 second video clip will take approximately 90 seconds to download with a 55K modem). To see how it's really done, watch Phil draw, fire 2 rounds at each of three targets, reload from slide-lock, and then fire two more rounds at each target, a total of 12 rounds plus a reload (the same thing I did), all in 5.82 seconds!

That's the kind of shooting that enabled Phil to take second place in Expert Class at the Virginia IDPA State Match (http://www.idpa.com) in October 2001. He missed first place by 8/10's of a second.

Odometer reading = 29,526
Miles for day = 0

 

12/2/01
(Charlottesville VA)

This morning's extended coffee and conversation turned into a semi pajama party as grandma put Katlin's hair up in curlers (with some help from Philip IV).

From midday on Sharyn pretty much wrapped Christmas presents to be left under the local Christmas Tree, plus another pile for Philip's birthday on the 21st.

This afternoon the Christmas tree was cut down at a local Christmas Tree farm, put up in the living room and decorated -- all before dinner.

Kim prepared dinner for everyone, and after dinner we had an early birthday cake for Philip so we could share his birthday and watch him open the presents from Grandma and Grandpa.

Our plan is to be out of here by 5:am so we can get to Jordan's before dark tomorrow. If we don't make it out on time I may just delete this sentence before uploading to the server.

Odometer reading = 29,526
Miles for day = 0

 

12/3/01
(Southold NY)

We were up at 4:30 this morning, coffee was ready at 4:40, and at 5:15 we pulled out of Phil's driveway.

We pulled into Jordan's driveway at 10 minutes to 5:pm. That's almost 12 hours, and even allowing for the fact that we stopped several times for coffee or a sandwich, that much too long of a day. Particularly in view of our rule, "no more than 200 miles in any one day." Besides we started out early so that we could get here before dark. We didn't quite make it as it was dark when we pulled into Jordan's driveway. As I told Sharyn after we arrived, I used to drive Charlottesville to Southold (in a car) in 8 hours, and now I can't imagine how!

Anyway, it was nice to get here. Jordan got home from work a little after 7:pm and it's now 12:15am tomorrow and we're still sitting around talking.

Odometer reading = 29,959
Miles for day = 433

 

12/4/01
(Southold NY)

Once again we're at a fixed place (Jordan's back yard) where we'll be staying for awhile. Because this doesn't lend itself to much interesting material to write about, I may not update this site on a daily basis while we're here.

Last night the three of us, Sharyn, Jordan, and myself, stayed up very late just sitting in the motorhome talking. At 2:35am I said I was going to bed, and I did.

Notice the textured background that is now on all these travelog pages. I stole it from Phil's http://www.rrpc.org, and he tells me he stole it from somewhere else.

Odometer reading = 29,959
Miles for day = 433

 

12/5/01 to 12/16/01
(Southold NY)

It's probably time to update this site, based on the passage of time if not on what I have to say.

Sharyn's been finishing up her Christmas shopping while I've been hanging out and/or puttering around.

Jordan's been going to work and beginning to pack up her stuff. She's talked with the Air Force recruiter several times and has decided to join (she decided this several months ago). She's going to travel with us for several months before she signs up. That will be an interesting experience for all of us! I've asked her to do a "From Jordan's Perspective" page on this site and she has given me a firm "maybe."

We put an ad in the paper to rent her house and probably received 25 phone calls. We've got it rented as of January 1 which is very nice to say the least. We've rented a storage shed about two miles from here. We'll have from the day after Christmas until New Year's eve to move everything out of the house. Then we'll head south, traveling through Charlottesville VA, Sumter SC, Savannah GA, and then on down to Sharyn's mother in Ft Myers Fl; maybe taking as long as a month to get there. From Florida we plan to follow the Gulf Coast towards Alabama and points west -- perhaps to New Mexico and Arizona, before turning north to Alaska where we plan to spend the Summer. But then again, as I've said before, no part of these plans are firm until after the event!

Odometer reading = 30,049
Miles for day = 0

 

12/17/01 to 12/25/01
(Southold NY)

In the last week we've managed to get some of Jordan's stuff packed into boxes. Those boxes, together with a few pieces of furniture, have been moved to the storage facility. Basically, we did not want to totally disrupt her house until after Christmas, but beginning tomorrow we'll get serious about getting her stuff out so the tenant can move in on the first.

Yesterday was Jordan's last day at work, plus someone bought her car. Now with no job, no car, and no place to live after this week, I guess you could say she's burned some bridges behind her. Actually I think that that's not a bad way to do it.

This morning I got up at 6 o'clock because I was cold. As I went to turn up the thermostat I saw that the door was wide open, so I closed the door and got back in bed to wait for it to warm up. At 6:30 I got up and plugged in the coffee pot. We were all up by a little after 8 o'clock when we started opening our Christmas presents in Jordan's living room. We then got dressed and went over to Greg and Paulette's for "brunch," more exchange of presents, and coffee and conversation (with some games thrown in) for most of the day.

When we returned home tonight Sharyn made roast turkey breast with stuffing, gravy, and green beans for dinner.

By the way, Sharyn gave me a scanner for Christmas so while she and Jordan were "sorting" Jordan's jewelry, and dinner was in the oven, I was playing with the scanner. This site may begin to have some scanned images that would enhance the travelog but could not be obtained with a digital camera (which is the source of all the photos that have appeared here. An example of where a scanned image would be good would be this picture of the Confederate submarine Hunley which we visited and wrote about on 11/16/01. The picture is a painting by Conrad Wise Chapman, Courtesy of the Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia.

Odometer reading = 30,049
Miles for day = 0

 

12/26/01 to 12/31/01
(Southold NY)

This block of days was filled with packing and moving Jordan's stuff out of her house. The process was slow, tedious, and somewhat tiring, but could have moved along more rapidly if Jordan did not have to read every note, card, letter, and piece of paper she came across, "so I know what I want to do with it."

Anyway, like all things good and bad, the job was finally completed and, with about two hours remaining until the end of the year, the house was empty and ready for Suzie, our new tenant.

Several days after Christmas we had dinner with Gregory and Paulette and had the chance to enjoy their Christmas decorations. Each year Gregory sets up hundreds of pieces of Dickens Village on numerous shelves, with lighting to all the little buildings. It's a beautiful and impressive array!

On that same evening Scott was having trouble installing the software that would enable him to download the pictures he took with the digital spy camera he got from Grandma and Grandpa. One of the necessary files could not be installed from the CD. After several wasted calls to the tech help line Jordan went back to the motorhome and got my Photoshop CD which we then loaded into Scott's computer. The camera then worked beautifully and Scott was thrilled. The only problem I can foresee is that his mother told him he can't take it to school. Mom, give a kid a break!

In the meanwhile Grandma and Patrick were playing a skateboarding game on the Nintendo. While Patrick scored something in the half million range, grandma's top score was something just over 500. Oh well, she's still a cool grandma!

Odometer reading = 30,049
Miles for day =0

 

2002

 

1/1/02
(Quakertown PA)

We started out this morning, as I described it, "island hopping along the Atlantic Ocean," 104 miles to the Verizzano Bridge to Staten Island, then just a short distance to the Outer Bridge Crossing that took us to New Jersey and the North American Continent. Passing through the New York City area is really tough on the motorhome. This time the holes, bumps, and vibrations broke a brace that helps support the battery rack. We pulled off the highway 4 or 5 times before we could find the source of the heavy metal thud that kept coming from under the front end.

Sharyn was concerned that some of her cups and/or glasses would also break as they were rattling around in the cabinets in a rather noisy manner. Luckily there was no such breakage. We passed through New York City in December 2000 and that time a bolt supporting the slide assembly snapped.!

As we left Southold this morning Jordan was sitting in the co-pilot's chair, while Sharyn was on the couch. When a black cat ran across our path we decided not to tell Sharyn (from the couch she couldn't see the road ahead of us). While Sharyn is the only one who believes in that "black cat" stuff I have to admit that that cat set the tone for the day. Later on in the day we stopped for some groceries, and while Sharyn and Jordan were in the grocery store I tied the broken brace to the chassis so it would stop banging back and forth.

Since we had started off rather tired, and the day wasn't going too well, we decided to stop early and call it a day. Unfortunately, the campground we chose was the pits. As we pulled in it was more like a low-cost housing project than a campground or RV park. The interior "roads" in the campground were too narrow and had low branches and encroaching shrubs everywhere -- with no way or place to turn around. In the process of trying to get out, a leaning tree got up against the awning over the bedroom slideout and bent the mounting hardware. By running out the dinning room slide on the opposite side we got the motorhome to lean away from the tree just enough that Sharyn was able to direct me out. We left that place with a damaged slide awning and, probably, numerous small scratches on the side of the motorhome.

The next campground we tried we called to confirm that they were open all year. They were, and the man gave Sharyn detailed directions how to get there. About ten miles later when we got to where you turn off the main road the man was there with his car to guide us the last several miles. That was quite an accommodation.

Unfortunately, the bent mount on the bedroom slide awning prevents us from running that slide out tonight. Oh well, tomorrow may be a better day.

Odometer reading = 30,258
Miles for day = 209

 

1/2/02
(Charlottesville VA)

Last night when the owner led us to our campsite he said, "You can pay me in the morning," so when I went to the office to pay we spent an hour or so talking (a Pennsylvania campground office in January is not too busy). Anyway, we didn't get on the road until noontime. That pretty much put a crimp in our plan to get to Phil and Kim's in one day and to arrive before dark. We kept going back and forth about whether or not to make it a two day trip, but since there was a major snow storm moving into the southeastern part of the Country, we weren't sure what the situation would be in Charlottesville tomorrow. When we hit the Virginia State line we decided to go for it -- which we did.

Odometer reading = 30,604
Miles for day = 346

 

1/3/02
(Charlottesville VA)

Not too much activity today, although the one thing on my agenda was to do something with the mounting bracket on the bedroom slide so we could put the slide out. By loosening the end of the bracket we were able to put the slide out, but we are going to need several replacement parts to accomplish a proper repair.

Odometer reading = 30,604
Miles for day = 0

 

1/4/02
(Charlottesville VA)

I don't know what happened this morning, but Jordan was up and had the coffee going before anyone else was awake. WOW!

Later on Sharyn and Jordan went shopping and did not return until past dinner time. After Katlin had been home from school for several hours waiting anxiously for Grandma and Aunt Jordan to return she asked me why, if they are trying to get rid of stuff in the motorhome to make more space, they went shopping to buy more stuff. I told her that was a great question and that she should ask them when they returned. She did ask, but I didn't hear any answer!

Anyway, it's past midnight and I just finished watching Charlie Rose and his guest Lawrence Lessig, author of The Future of Ideas -- The Fate of the Commons in a Digital World. I've read several reviews of the book, and Charlie Rose was the second interview I've seen (heard) with Lawrence Lessig. Buy the book -- I intend to!

By the way, neither Grandma nor Aunt Jordan are home tonight (means they're not in the motorhome). They and Katlin are camping out in the TV/play room in the basement, watching videos, sleeping on the floor, and having a "girl's night out." I'm sorry I wasn't invited.

Odometer reading = 30,604
Miles for day = 0

 

1/5/02
(Charlottesville VA)

This afternoon Jordan, Katlin, Phil, and I went to the range at the Rivanna Rifle and Pistol Club where Phil is pretty active. We did a few rounds at the plinking range with Phil's AR-15; We also did a few rounds with Phil's Glock 34 and my Sig 229, but there was another couple using that range which precluded us from doing the IDPA, closer range, timed rapid fire stuff we wanted to do so we moved to the PPC range which we had to ourselves.

I didn't even know that Katlin shot, much less that she does pretty well for an almost 9 year old. Since the first time Jordan fired Phil's Glock 34 (his latest handgun acquisition) she has had no interest in shooting any other handgun. Since he got the 34 I don't think Phil has used anything else in competition -- of course he bought it strictly for match shooting. I prefer my Sig 229, but then I'm not too good.

This is a video clip of Jordan firing 10 rounds with Phil's Glock 34 (download time with a 56K modem is almost 2 minutes).

Odometer reading = 30,604
Miles for day = 0

 

1/6/02
(Charlottesville VA)

The forecast for today was 4 - 6" of snow, with another 1 - 2" to fall tonight. Well happily we only got about half an inch and it doesn't appear that there's any more to come tonight. That's good, because we're out of here in the morning; hopefully headed for warmer places.

As for RVers who linger too long in the higher latitudes, they will understand why everyone else is further south. Our motorhome is heated (and cooled) by two roof-mounted heat pumps and we like them a lot. However, when the outside temperature gets to about 30 degrees the heat pumps shut down and the system switches over to LP furnaces, which also do a fine job of keeping comfortable temperatures inside, even when it's subfreezing outside. The problem comes from the combination of being too far north at the wrong time of year and having a limited LP storage capacity. We have a 20 gallon tank that we generally lasts us about six months. However, when the temperatures stay as cold as they've been and the furnaces replace the heat pumps as our primary source of heat we run through a tank of LP in a week. The point is that we used the last of our LP gas last night and, it's now almost 10:pm and the heat pumps are still running. We all sincerely hope that the outside temperature, which is just at freezing, does not get any colder tonight (no LP gas, no heat below 30 degrees). We do have a portable 1500 watt electric heater, but that will hardly do the job. Tomorrow, as we head south we plan to take US-29 down through Lovingston, Lynchburg, Danville, etc., which should take us past a number of LP distributors.

This afternoon we drove out to Louisa to visit with our son Shane and his friend Michelle. We've never been to their place before and found it quite cozy, set on 13 acres back in the woods and fields a quarter mile back from the road. It was a pleasant visit but we didn't stay too long because with the continuing threat of heavy snow (it snowed lightly all day) I wanted to be sure we'd be back before dark.

Odometer reading = 30,604
Miles for day = 0

 

1/7/02
(Fayetteville NC)

We had set the alarm for 6:am so we could see everyone before they left for work/school/baby-sitter. We lucked out last night because the heat pumps maintained a comfortable temperature all night.

It was a little before ten o'clock when we pulled out of the driveway. Because of snow west and south of Charlottesville we headed east on I-64 to Richmond, then south on I-95. We wanted to put some distance between us and the incoming snow.

We still had to deal with an empty LP tank that needed filling. At one point where I-95 was running parallel to US-301 we saw an LP facility on 301 so we exited at the next exit and came back on US-301 to the LP place. It turned out that they built and serviced LP delivery trucks, but didn't sell LP. So we lost some time. Next attempt was when we again got onto US-301 and stopped at a campground that was open all winter and sold LP gas, or so it said in the campground directory. The problem was there was no one around to pump the LP. We decided to stay on 301 for awhile and see what else we might find. Eventually Sharyn spotted a gas station with an LP service tank in the back. We made a U-turn and took on 17 gallons of LP for $44.

We then got back on I-95 and decided to head to the FamCamp (the Army calls them Travel Camps) at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville NC. We arrived at 5:pm and the camp office was closed. The sign said take a spot and sign in tomorrow. The campground roads are gravel, but the the sites have new concrete pads, 50 amps, water and sewer. We might stay for two nights so we can check out the commissary, buy some groceries, and get all our stuff better organized in the motorhome.

Odometer reading = 30,903
Miles for day = 299

 

1/8/02
(Fayetteville NC)

Today was a relaxed and easy, yet productive, day. Sharyn and I went to the commissary where we bought lots of dried beans for soup, a wide selection of fresh vegetables for stir frying, and other assorted stuff. We also went to the PX where I found a soft bristled brush on a telescoping pole for washing the motorhome. The one I have, and all the others I've seen have bristles that are not as soft as I want. When we got back to the motorhome Jordan was up, showered and dressed, and had done some picking up and further condensing of all of her stuff.

The car was totally covered in grime from the trip from Charlottesville so I decided that I'd wash it using the new brush thing. It worked very well and the temperature climbed sufficiently while I was doing the car that I decided to do the motorhome as well. This was the first time the motorhome's been washed since last summer when, over a three week period in New Brunswick, I waxed it. The reason it hadn't washed it sooner was that I didn't want brush marks in the waxed surface.

While I was washing, Sharyn and Jordan were continuing to make Jordan's stuff fit into the motorhome so it wouldn't have to stay on the kitchen table, couch, piled on the floor, etc. Actually, at this point they have the motorhome 95% back to regular. It looks and feels good.

As I write this I realize that it doesn't sound like we would have enjoyed the day, but the fact is we did. We are considering extending for another day.

By the way, some of the places we've stayed at have mosquitos, some have other flying/crawling insects; this place has swarms of helicopters -- kind of neat!

Odometer reading = 30,903
Miles for day = 0

 

1/9/02
(Myrtle Beach SC)

Several years ago Greg looked at a 32' Blackfin fishing boat in or around Norfolk VA. The boat was in beautiful condition, and the engines had only 15 hours on them. He didn't buy it and I've always felt bad that he didn't. Anyway, he's been looking at Black Fins again, and has focused on a 32' in Southport NC (just east of Wilmington). He called us last night and asked if we could take a look at it, and perhaps confirm that it's the same boat he passed up the last time and, if it is, to confirm that it still looks clean. Well we did that today and it is the same boat and it still looks good. The only thing is that one of the engines was missing. The broker, who met us at the boat, was surprised at that, and I suspect somewhat unhappy with the owner for putting him in the position of showing a boat with a missing engine without any information or explanation as to how come. Anyway, the broker said he'd get hold of the owner and then call Greg.

From Southport we headed to Myrtle Beach, about 75 miles down the coast, where we tried to get to Camping World before closing time. They were locking the doors as we drove in. Oh well, we're spending the night in the parking lot so we'll be here when they open. We need some replacement parts for the slide awning which will probably have to be ordered out of Atlanta. If so, we should still be able to have them on Friday, before the weekend, so we can head on to Sumter. We also want them to check the wiring to the tail lights on the Honda that do not come on with the motorhome lights when the Honda is in tow. The tow bar and tail/brake light harness were installed by Camping World in Manassas Va. One thing we like about Camping World is that an installation they perform is guaranteed for as long as you own the unit. It may be that the tail light problem is not related to the installation, but there is voltage going into the connector at the front of the Honda, and the tail lights do work if the Honda lights are turned on. We'll see in the morning.

Odometer reading = 31,094
Miles for day = 191

 

1/10/02
(Sumter SC)

I woke up at 6:am and, since there were several other motorhomes in the parking lot, I didn't want to start the generator. That precluded the electric coffee pot, and the French Press didn't seem to be worth it, so I boiled water for some Taster's Choice instant coffee. Sharyn was up only a few minutes later and we woke Jordan at seven. Anyway, we had breakfast, etc., and when Camping World opened at 8 o'clock we were there!

Before noon they had fixed all our problems and we were on our way to Sumter and Shaw AFB.

It feels good to be back here again. The fact that it's sunny, breezy, and 72 degrees, with the scent of pine trees in the air doesn't hurt. We got all set up before having cheese, wine, and crackers ouutside at our picnic table. After some wine, cheese, and conversation, Jordan and I went to the FamCamp office to upload to this site and check our e-mails.

Odometer reading = 31,197
Miles for day = 103

 

1/11/02
(Sumter SC)

Sharyn and Jordan did several loads of wash, plus Sharyn did a bunch of ironing that she's had for awhile. Yesterday I made myself a list of things that I've been wanting to get done for some time, and today I knocked off six of the ten items on the list. The one that's been bothering me the most was the cycling on and off of the water pump when no one was using water. Several weeks ago I had called Shurflo, the pumps manufacturer, and they sent me two new replacement check valves which I installed today. Tomorrow I should finish off my list.

This afternoon, as I was still working on my list, Sharyn and Jordan went to the commissary for milk and a few other things, plus they checked out the BX.

That doesn't sound like much, but it was a low key, yet constructive, day for everyone.

Odometer reading = 31,197
Miles for day = 0

 

1/12/02
(Sumter SC)

Today began with no particular plan but soon developed into a very major clean up and reorganization. I started with the remainder of my list from yesterday while Sharyn began unloading all the basement compartments, redoing the bedroom closet and some other cabinets as well. Some stuff got unloaded from the car (our portable shed), while other things were relocated to the car. This photo does not really give a good feel for the extent of the project, but this photo does a good job of conveying the seriousness with which the job was pursued. We were probably about 20 minutes from finishing up when it started to rain. That wasn't bad because at that point we were able to get the remaining stuff under cover inside of a minute. Had the rain come several hours earlier it would have been a totally different matter. It was a very productive day

I tried to update this website this morning (and check our e-mail) but the office is closed for the weekend. Don't know when you'll ever get to see this!

Odometer reading = 31,197
Miles for day = 0

 

1/13/02
(Sumter SC)

The original plan, if you want to call it that, was to leave here today. However, we didn't wake up until after 9 o'clock. After some coffee and conversation we sort of came to "we really don't have to leave here today," so we didn't. We went for our first "walk," but only did a mile (out of consideration for one of the participants). We haven't been able to do our daily walks here because some sort of "exercise" has been going on and walkers, runners, and/or joggers have not been allowed on the roadway.

We didn't do very much, but soon it was time for dinner. After that Jordan wanted to know how to play Canasta so she and Sharyn played several hands. I then said that I'd join in which I did. It's now midnight and we're getting set for bed. The plan now is that tomorrow we'll be up at six and on the road by eight. I think that'll work.

Odometer reading = 31,197
Miles for day = 0

 

1/14/02
(Screven GA)

Last night, while setting the alarm for 6:am we realized that that was only 5 1/2 hours away. We set the alarm 7 o'clock instead.

I went to the FamCamp office and uploaded the website, checked e-mail and bank statements, and we were on the road just before 10:am. Travel was uneventful; we took US-15 south to I-95 which we stayed on until just south of Savannah where we exited onto US-17 (basically) to US-84 west.

When we left this morning, Savannah was our targeted destination as we've never been there and understand that it's a beautiful place to see. However, when we stopped for lunch a half hour or so before Savannah, it was raining (as it did most of the day) and quite unpleasant. We decided that neither the weather nor the time of year lent itself to a touristy visit to this ante-bellum city, plus campground rates in and around Savannah are kind of high. Better we do Savannah under better circumstances -- probably when we head south from the Canadian Maritime Provinces in the fall of 2003.

In the meanwhile we continued on to "Happy Acres Resort" in Screven GA. Located eight miles north of US-84, a narrow 2-lane highway that pretty much comes and goes from nowhere, I expected a run down, rather dumpy kind of place. What a surprise! It's neat and clean, and nicely maintained. We checked in at the rather dusty old country store across the road where a very friendly and helpful lady, of about the same vintage as the store, gave us an update on the local weather -- "supposed to dry out tonight, but no guarantee" -- and then drew us a map of the best way to get back out of here. The campsites themselves, while on the grass, are as clean and neat as any we've ever been in.

Odometer reading = 31,435
Miles for day = 238

 

1/15/02
(Okefenokee Swamp GA)

This morning was sunny and bright and we took off for Stephen C. Foster State Park which is located within, and is a part of, Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. We arrived shortly after noon and, given our choice of campsites, selected this one. This is Sharyn and Jordan walking back to the campsite.

After getting set up we walked one of the elevated nature trails that wandered through a minuscule portion of the 396,000 acre wildlife preserve.

In the Okefenokee Refuge (wildlife preserve) there are 110 miles of waterways well suited for canoeing or kayaking. There are three of us, but we only have two kayaks. If tomorrow is another sunny day we will rent a canoe and paddle at least a couple of these 110 miles of wilderness waterways.

Odometer reading = 31,546
Miles for day = 111

 

1/16/02
(Okefenokee Swamp GA)

It was a beautiful warm and sunny day today and, as planned, we rented a canoe that the three of us could go out in together. Adjacent to the campground/park office there is a boat basin with docks for small boat rentals, the Park Rangers' boats, and a launch area for kayaks, canoes, and other private boats. From this basin there is a canal that runs out about a half mile to "Billy's Lake." This "lake" is a body of water about 4 miles long and perhaps 100 yards wide. The east end of the lake is where the East Fork of the Suwannee River enters into it. Just west of that point the Middle Fork of the Suwannee River enters the lake from the north. At the western end of the lake the combined flow of these two branches exit the lake and continue for about another four miles where they are joined by the North Branch of the Suwannee River. The Suwannee River, having been spawned in the Okefenokee swamp, now being complete, begins is southwesterly trek into and across the State of Florida where it eventually flows out into the Gulf of Mexico.

Now that you've got the description of this portion of the river I'll continue with what we did today. The three of us took canoe #12 and paddled out to Billy's Lake through the 12-15' wide canal that connects the boat basin to the lake. When we entered the lake we turned to the right and headed east, following the northerly shoreline. We hadn't gone too far until we came upon a 4-5' alligator sunning himself on the bank. As I was taking the picture I remarked that either alligators don't have eyelids, or he was watching me. Jordan suggested he was watching me! Sharyn was uncomfortable with, I believe, the entire scenario; alligators in close proximity, a canoe that seemed less stable than our kayaks, the black water and dense shoreline of the Okefenokee swamp, etc. She said she'd like to go back and for Jordan and I to go without her. She had never been too enthused about going out into the river/swamp to start with, but was pretty game to try it anyway.

We did bring Sharyn back to the boat basin where Jordan and I switched the rental canoe for the kayaks. As we proceeded back out the canal it was only two or three strokes with the paddle before I took note at how much less effort was required to move the kayak through the water compared with the canoe. We again headed east on Billy's Lake. Progress was rather slow as Jordan was intent on not missing any sight or sound along the shoreline. I was anxious to get to the Middle Fork of the river because I like the narrow, more constricted, waterways where you are close to both shorelines and can examine everything in much greater detail. For everything that's happening on the more open water there are a thousand things happening where the water meets the shoreline.

When I got to the Middle Fork, Jordan was far behind me, still way down the lake and out of sight. I didn't want us to get onto different tracks through the swamp so I came back down to the mouth of the Middle Fork to wait for her. We she caught up we started up the Middle Fork. What a beautiful experience. At this point the current running against us, which was not discernible on the lake, became somewhat of a factor. Also, Jordan wanted to be sure she had enough arm strength to get back, plus there is an "off the water" time of 5:pm. If anyone has not returned and gotten "off the water" by that time, the search and rescue boats will go looking for them.

We were back well before that time, and as we came into the basin Sharyn was there to meet us.

The next time we're in this area we'll have to do some much more extensive kayaking in these waterways. Sharyn says so long as it isn't "bad alligator" season she'd go with me. She was surprised that she didn't like the canoe. She says she feels much more secure in her kayak.

PS: Stephen Foster never saw the Suwannee River!

Odometer reading = 31,546
Miles for day = 0

 

1/17/02
(Old Town FL)

As we started out the 17 mile driveway from the park to the highway I commented that it was on this 17 mile drive that Sharyn had first driven our 27' Travel Master. We asked Jordan if she'd like to drive the motorhome out to the highway and she said she would. It was a groundbreaking morning; Jordan drove the motorhome for the first time, and Sharyn, for the first time, hooked the Honda up to the motorhome.

Except for stopping at Winn-Dixie in Lake City, and my missing a couple of turns, it was an uneventful trip to Old Town. We were heading to a campground in this area where we stayed several years ago. As we turned into this campground we realized that it was the wrong place, but we stayed here anyway. This place is okay, but the other place was right on the Suwannee River and I was looking forward to kayaking on the river.

Odometer reading = 31,669
Miles for day = 123

 

1/18/02
(Lehigh Acres FL)

Today was another day where the plans changed as the day progressed. We didn't pull out of the campground until thirteen minutes past noon, but that was okay. I've concluded that you can hurry, be unrelaxed, and maybe leave earlier. Or, you can not worry about it, go with the flow, be relaxed and leave whenever it happens. As far as I can tell there's no reason not to proceed with the latter system.

We proceeded in a southeasterly direction until we picked up I-75 at Ocala. Just as we had the Interstate in sight we came to a supermarket where we pulled in to get some groceries and, while in the parking lot, have lunch. While Sharyn and Jordan were in the store I called the FamCamp at MacDill AFB to see if they had any available spaces left. They still had a few but the lady said she was signing people in as we spoke. It sounded unlikely that there'd be anything left by the time we'd get there. We were probably about 225 miles from Sharyn's mother's house (our destination) so I said we'd might as well go for it, which we did.

For people who have decided not to travel over 200 miles in any one day, and who don't drive at night, we seem to be doing a fair number of 200+ mile days, and frequently not arriving until after dark -- such as today. We may have to get our life's priorities back on track!

Anyway, we're now at Sharyn's mother's, or more properly stated, we are parked on the shoulder of the road across the street. Having visited for an several hours, I left Sharyn and Jordan in the house talking while I came back out to the motorhome to take my shower. Having done that, and feeling very good as a result, I am doing this page. I'll then walk across the street in my pajamas and upload this to the server.

Tomorrow we'll check into a campground somewhere in the vicinity.

Odometer reading = 31,956
Miles for day = 287

 

1/19/02
(LaBelle FL)

The day started very very early. I was lying in bed awake, wondering what time it was. It was still dark. Finally I pushed the button on my watch to illuminate the dial (I hate to do that because I figure the amount of battery power it takes to light the dial for one second would probably run the watch for a month). It was 4:10am, much too early to get up. As I was wondering "what to do now?" I realized the Sharyn also was awake. I asked her if she wanted a cup of coffee, to which she laughed and replied, "no." A long time later, I was even more wide awake and it was clear that my sleep for the night was over. As I started to get out of bed Sharyn, who also was still awake, asked me what I was doing. I said, "getting up." It was 5:15 and we were soon having our "coffee and conversation." We had gone to bed at 12:30am, so at least I had about 3 1/2 hours sleep. Sharyn said she never got to sleep because she kept getting up to check on noises she heard outside the motorhome, and to see who was trying to steal the kayaks off of the Honda. It's now 7:30pm and I'm having trouble staying awake.

Sharyn's sister Sandy, who has been living with and taking care of her mother for over a year, left this morning to go fishing for the weekend. Around midmorning I took the motorhome to LaBelle Woods RV Resort, about 25 miles away, where we had stayed this past spring. It's a nice campground but this time of year it's pretty crowded. While I was there and getting all set up, Sharyn called to ask me to bring her a change of clothes, etc., as it had become apparent that Sharyn was going to be spending the night with her mother, who cannot be left alone.

Anyway, to shorten the story, I went back with some stuff for Sharyn; visited a while, then returned to the motorhome with Jordan. We'll be back to Sharyn's mother's first thing in the morning.

When we left Charlottesville on January 7 we figured to take a month to get to Sharyn's mother's. There was no need to hurry (once we got south of the snow threat) so we were going to poke along and stop and see anything that struck our fancy -- spend more time in Sumter for instance -- visit Savannah, for instance -- and we definitely would have spent more time paddling the Okefenokee Swamp. However, somewhere enroute we got a phone call that Sandy's son Michael was getting married on Saturday, January 19. We picked up our pace considerably to get here for the wedding. Today's the day, but no one has seen or heard from Michael, or the "bride," for a number of days. Everyone's best guess is that they went back to California. Oh well, wait until next time.

Odometer reading = 31,980
Miles for day = 24

 

1/20/02
(LaBelle FL)

We (Jordan and I) got up and went to Sharyn's mother's. Sharyn had cleaned and scrubbed everything and had the place well under control. Her brother Alan had stopped over, so while he was there to watch his mother Sharyn and Jordan took about 75 pounds of laundry to the Laundromat in the nearby shopping center. I said I'd stay at the house, but when an hour and a half passed and they still weren't back I decided to walk down to where they were. It turned out that it had taken them six machine loads to wash all the stuff. Anyway, from the Laundromat we went next door to Publix to pick up something for dinner.

As we got back to the house Aunt June and her 93 year old boy friend were just getting out of their car. I had heard of him, but never had met him. He looks and moves as though he were in his early 70's. In a conversation you'd think he was 60. I hope I'm that good ten years from now, never mind in another 31 years when I get to be his age. Pretty impressive -- and a very nice man besides!

After they left Sharyn made dinner for all of us, including Susan, Alan's wife, who stopped by to visit. After dinner Alan and Susan left and the three of us just talked as we would if we had been back at the motorhome. Sharyn's mother basically can no longer get out of bed, and she sleeps pretty much all the time, so while it's her house it's almost as if she wasn't there.

Still no word from Sandy but Sharyn's pretty sure she'll be back tomorrow.

Odometer reading = 31,980
Miles for day = 0

 

1/21/02
(LaBelle FL)

The big event of the day was when Sandy showed up this afternoon. Tonight Sharyn came back to the motorhome with me and Jordan. It's super much better with her here.

Odometer reading = 31,980
Miles for day = 0

 

1/22/02 and 1/23/02
(LaBelle FL)

I opted to stay at the motorhome while Sharyn and Jordan went to Sharyn's mother's. Not much happened at either place.

Odometer reading = 31,980
Miles for day = 0

 

1/24/02 to 1/28/02
(LaBelle FL)

Basically Sharyn has been visiting at her mother's house every day, sometimes with Jordan and/or me. It looks as if we are going to leave here on Wednesday, January 30.

Odometer reading = 31,980
Miles for day = 0

 

1/29/02
(LaBelle FL)

Since we are leaving here tomorrow we all went to Sharyn's mother's for the day.

Odometer reading = 31,980
Miles for day = 0

 

1/30/02
(Zolfo Springs FL)

Well, we're finally back on the road again. We didn't plan on going too far today, only to the Escapee park at Zolfo Springs -- it's an Escapee park we've never been to before. We arrived just after noon. The place is quite nice. I don't know what I expected, but it is nicer than I was surprised at how nice it is.

We didn't do anything for the rest of the day but relax, read, and generally recuperate. Jordan and I did go to Wal-Mart to get a third fold-up chair for sitting outside.

Today would probably be described as the first leg of our trip to Alaska.

Odometer reading = 32,059
Miles for day = 79

 

1/31/02
(Zolfo Springs FL)

Sharyn did lots of laundry in the laundry room located in the rear room of the clubhouse. I washed the car and did some reading in the library which is located in the room on the left in the clubhouse.

We also met and talked with Bill & Carol Williams, our neighbors across the way who told us they make jewelry that they sell at crafts shows. That's technically true, but when we saw his work it did not conform to my expectation. It would be more accurate to say that they manufacturer very fine, high quality, one-of-a-kind pieces. For example, two of my favorites (just from the few he showed us), are this pin and this cross. Their business is called Precious Treasures and they can be reached at misnowbd@hotmail.com.

Odometer reading = 32,059
Miles for day = 0

 

2/1/02 and 2/2/02
(Zolfo Springs FL)

We didn't do anything yesterday (as far as I can remember), but today we had had planned to go to an RV show in Ocala. However, when it was time to get up and get ready to go, the one who yesterday most wanted to go, was less enthused. I had had questions about whether it would be worth the 125 mile trip to Ocala so it was fine with me not to go.

Instead, I did some work on the water system in the motorhome. Three problems we've had for awhile have been; (1) the water pump keeps cycling on every several minutes, (2) when the water runs there's a vibration from the water pipes running under the floor, and (3) when we're hooked up to city water pressure, over a period of a day or so, our water tank overflows. Numbers (1) and (3) I think were related -- water pressure leaks back through the water pump (probably the check valve). The only problem is that several weeks ago I replaced the check valve and it didn't seem to make any difference. However, it's been several hours since I replaced it again this afternoon, and I think that cycling on problem may be fixed. It will take awhile to see if the check valve fixed problem (1) also. By the way, while I was in there I also relocated the water pump from the floor of the compartment to the side. That freed up a substantial area for storing water hose, extension cord, etc.

I also removed the rear panel of the compartment and used electrical tape to fasten the water lines in such a manner that the vibration has been substantially reduced. Not a bad day.

Odometer reading = 32,059
Miles for day = 0

 

2/3/02
(Zolfo Springs FL)

Sharyn and I went to the kielbasa cook at the clubhouse where kielbasa on a roll with onion, etc was only a dollar. Almost as good a deal as 10-10-220!

Jordan complained that she couldn't watch the Super Bowl because I watched the news, and then she missed half time because, "Mom had to see the dance scene in The American President which she's already seen ten times."

By the way, before we leave here, here's a picture of our site.

Odometer reading = 32,059
Miles for day = 0

 

2/4/02
(Bushnell FL)

We checked out of Zolfo Springs this morning. We paid $50.02 for five days camping, plus $11.94 for 124 kWh of electricity, for a total of $61.96. That's pretty reasonable. It's also only the second time we've paid for metered electricity on a short time stay.

When we stopped for lunch I took note of Jordan's hair which I thought looked exceptionally good, so I took her picture.

In November 2001 Escapees purchased Sumter Oaks RV Park, an existing RV park near Bushnell FL, to convert to another Escapee (SKP) park. Since we don't know when we'll be back in this area again we decided to go there and check it out. It's probably less than 100 miles from Zolfo Springs, but it took us 131 miles to get here. When we were planning to go to the RV show in Ocala this past weekend I had studied the map to see just how to get to the fairgrounds in Ocala where the show was to take place. We didn't go to the RV show, but when we left this morning for Sumter Oaks, which is about 40 miles south of Ocala, I started driving north to the Ocala fairgrounds. We had gone about 100 miles when Sharyn asked me, "how much further to this place?" As I began to answer I realized what I had done. Luckily we had not yet gone past Sumter Oaks, but we were in the process of doing so; and we were 30 miles to the east of where we would have been had I been going to the right place. I guess it's like the bumper sticker says, "Dumbness Happens."

Anyway we did get to Sumter Oaks, and while it's pretty nice now, it's potential is terrific. I'm sure that after Escapees has had it for a year or two it will be one of their nicest parks. We like it -- mostly because we like the large Live Oaks that spread over the entire campground. Jordan likes it better than Zolfo Springs because she says the people here are much friendlier here. Tonight they had a spaghetti dinner at the clubhouse and we went.

Periodically we come across a sign that I think has some particular humor or interest. I'm going to start photographing such signs and post them on this site. When I've accumulated several I'll start a separate page, perhaps called "Interesting Signs." In the meanwhile, here's the first sign.

Odometer reading = 32,189
Miles for day = 131

 

2/5/02
(Bushnell FL)

The first thing that happened this morning, after coffee and conversation, was that Sharyn and Jordan went to the club house for a line dancing lesson (not too many people showed up). They were gone for considerably longer than that because apparently all the women sat around and talked about their RV'ing experiences and the pros and cons of full-timing.

While they were line dancing I changed the water filters on the motorhome. We use two filters in series with the first a half micron sediment cartridge and the second a half micron carbon block The carbon filter is referred to as a "polishing" filter as it also removes chlorine, odors, and most other disagreeable characteristics, "polishing" the drinking water -- and, because of where it's installed, all the water coming into the motorhome. The water passing through these filters, according to Sharyn, is better than any of the bottled spring waters that she used to buy before we installed this filter system.

We also put our name on the waiting list to purchase a long term lease for one of the lots in this park. There are a total of 125 lots, 25 of which are leased to Escapee members. The remaining lots are available for Escapee members who are looking for short term campsites for a few days or weeks. We don't know if we wish to purchase one of these leases or not, but for $20 we become #71 on the waiting list. We'll think about it as we wait for our name to work it's way up the list. Probably somewhere around a two-year process.

Later this afternoon Jordan and I went to Winn-Dixie to get some fresh vegetables to make for dinner. We passed over the yellow peppers at $1.99 each.

We're probably going to stay here through the weekend.. Sharyn likes it here, and if she's happy I'm usually happy too!

Odometer reading = 32,189
Miles for day = 0

 

2/5/02 through 2/10/02
(Bushnell FL)

We've been here for awhile and we're all ready to move on to visit with Ron and Peg in Umatilla. Unfortunately several days ago we called Texas to have our mail sent to us here. The accumulated mail filled two mailers, one of which arrived yesterday (Saturday). Therefore we are now waiting for the second mailer which should be here tomorrow. We have decided, however, that if it doesn't come we'll leave anyway and someone will come back with the car to get it.

Anyway, for some pictures! During a good part our coffee and conversation time I sit in the drivers seat, which by then has been swiveled around to face the living room area. Also, during coffee and conversation, Sharyn will at some point go outside to have her cigarette. This is my usual view of Sharyn at that point. If you look carefully in the lower mirror you will see some guy standing there. He is camped diagonally behind us and has been there for several days. The other day when I was talking to him he was rather reserved and not overly friendly. Well this morning he sure was friendly with Sharyn, asking her if she was a "single." I guess he thought I was the hired driver.

Later this morning (after the guy went back to his own RV) Jordan and I walked the perimeter of this campground, twice. That's just over 1.1 miles and I had trouble keeping up with Jordan. It's not clear to me how she walks so fast. She was 30 seconds ahead of me when we completed our second lap. However, my pulse rate was 76, Jordan's was 124. She didn't look like she was suffering.

Finally, this is the camp store, office, and laundry room as seen from our campsite. I took this picture because I like the building, particularly the roof line. I thought that they should get rid of all the dryer vents that destroy the esthetics of an otherwise attractive building, so I applied a little Photoshop and got rid of the vents, the electric pole, "no parking" sign, and the bulk LP gas tank. Sure makes the place look better. Unfortunately, the change in pitch (which is what I like) where the roof comes out over the porch is visually lost in the reworked photo.

Odometer reading = 32,189
Miles for day = 0

 

2/11/02
(Umatilla FL)

This morning we checked out of Sumter Oaks and were on the road by 11:30. Actually we were only on the road for about three miles until we stopped at a welding shop where the guy fixed the bracket that had broken on New Years Day as we bounced and jostled our way across the "highways" of New York City. For $10 you almost wish you had two broken brackets so you could get two such bargains!

Anyway, from Bushnell we took US-301 north to Routes 42 and then 450 to Umatilla and our friends Ron and Peg where, as we usually do here, we parked by the horse barn. Once upon a time, a lifetime ago, the four of us used to sail the waters between Long Island and Nantucket. Then we had fun sailing; now we have fun talking about what we used to do. Is there some kind of a message there?

We stayed up talking until midnight when we finally called it a day.

Odometer reading = 32,244
Miles for day = 55

 

2/12/02 and 2/13/02
(Umatilla FL)

As of this writing we've been here for three relaxed days (actually I guess that's not too amazing since we have few days that are not relaxed).

One of the things that we've been working on is going through the mail. We had our mail forwarded from Texas to General Delivery at Bushnell FL and it didn't arrive there until Monday morning. We picked up the mail on our way out of town. Sharyn is now in the process of going through it.

Yesterday Jordan went driving with Peggy and Julie. Actually Peggy and Julie have been doing very well in the formal competitions they have entered. Later in the day Sharyn, Jordan, and Peggy relaxed and talked about . . .?

This morning Sharyn, Jordan, and Peg went to a mall somewhere not too far away. I guess they had a good time because malls seem to do that to them.

Ron came home from work early and we shot some skeet out in the field by the lake (I forgot to take pictures). Tonight we again ate with them, and again we ate a little excessively -- especially the bread, pie, and ice cream. We plan to leave in the morning and we told Ron and Peg that next time they should come and visit us!

Odometer reading = 32,244
Miles for day = 0

 

2/14/02
(Perry FL)

This morning, being Valentine's Day, began with Sharyn giving me an wonderfully appropriate Valentine's Card. Is that a cool card, or what?

After coffee and conversation we said good-bye to Peggy, Sharon, and D'Ayn (Peggy's daughter and granddaughter), and pulled out of the driveway heading north for Perry FL. Four hours and 150 miles later we pulled into the Westgate Motel and RV Park. We've stopped here twice before and it works out well as a stopping point between mid-Florida and the Panhandle. Besides it's a Passport America campground with 50 amp hookups and only costs us $11.

About a half hour before we arrived, Sharyn was saying that she thought it was too bad we hadn't bought an Allegro Bus, a diesel pusher, instead of the unit we bought. When we arrived at the campground we were parked next to an Allegro Bus -- it sure looked nice. The bus had Alaska license plates on it and I asked the owner how long they had lived in Alaska. He's probably in his late 60's and he said that when he and his wife got married they went to Alaska for their honeymoon and stayed there. Now they're retired and travel full-time.

That bus was on our right, and on the other side of the bus was a Winnebago that had been next to us at the Escapees Park in Bushnell FL. They are on their to Alaska. On our left was another motorhome with a retired Air Force man and his wife; they are also on their way to Alaska. We may well meet any or all of these people in Alaska this summer. Actually we all plan to cross into Canada between the middle of May and the first of June!

Odometer reading = 32,395
Miles for day = 151

 

2/15/02
(Panama City FL)

Of the three motorhomes heading for Alaska that were parked together last night, we were the next to last to pull out this morning. The Air Force guy was gone when we woke up.

As we drove west on US-98 along the Gulf Coast we crossed the bridge over the Ochlockonee Bay. Several years ago we found a small area down on the water at the end of the bridge where we had pulled in with our 27' Travel Master. It was a very pretty place to stop for lunch so we decided to do it again. We weren't sure we'd be able to turn this rig around without unhitching the Honda, but we'd find out. It turned out there was no problem swinging a wide left turn and parking under the trees. We briefly checked out the shoreline of the bay before returning to the motorhome for lunch. Here's another picture of us parked under the trees.

From there we continued on to Panama City and the FamCamp at Tyndall AFB. I suggested stopping for our "two o'clock coffee" but Jordan vehemently vetoed the idea saying that, "we've just had lunch." I acquiesced and we continued on to Tyndall.

There were no available spaces in the FamCamp so we are in the overflow area. We are #3 for a site so that's not too bad -- particularly when the overflow sites have water and electric!

Odometer reading = 32,551
Miles for day = 156

 

2/16/02
(Panama City FL)

Before noon today we had a regular campsite and we moved out of the overflow area. However we have a site with no sewer connection, although we have water, electric (30 amps) and cable. We are now #4 on the list for a full hookup site which will include sewer and 50 amp electric.

After moving into our site Sharyn and I drove down to Bonita Bay Outdoor Recreation Complex which is the name of the water recreation area on base about a half mile west of the FamCamp. This is the northerly point of the facility as seen from the US-98 highway bridge. The Gulf of Mexico is to the right, just beyond the trees. The FamCamp is in the woods to the left and across the water from Bonita Bay Point. After checking it out (it hasn't changed since we were here in April of last year) we went to the commissary where we bought $191 worth of groceries -- Mother Hubbard's cupboard was truly bare. While we were there I stopped in at the base barber shop and got a very much needed $5 haircut.

Odometer reading = 32,551
Miles for day = 0

 

2/17/02 through 2/22/02
(Panama City FL)

During this past week we haven't done any "big" thing, but we've been moderately active with miscellaneous stuff. We've shot some pool, done daily walks (with some short sprints), driven around town, explored a secluded, sandy white beach hidden behind the drone launch area, gone shopping, did laundry (Sharyn and Jordan did), read our books and magazines, etc. On two occasions I went kayaking by myself when I couldn't interest anyone else in going with me (maybe I need a dog).

Over the last several days the hose that we use to connect to the water hookup had developed a number of leaks to the point that it sprays water all over the place and we can't leave the pressure on. While the pressure here is probably in the 125 pound range, we've been hooked up to higher pressure in the past with no problem (we have a pressure reducer where the water goes into the motorhome to protect the motorhome plumbing). Anyway, this afternoon Jordan and I went to went to buy a new hose. While we were out I tracked down a Sony 707, a Zeiss lens equipped digital camera which I've been reading about, but have never seen or handled. We finally found one, in Sears of all places. In Sears or anywhere else that's a very impressive camera! If you're really interested in an extensive review of this camera, click here, but take note that you must "click" your way through the entire 13 page article.

When we got back to the FamCamp and I rolled up the old hose I looked more closely at the leaks. The campground is alive with squirrels which pay no attention whatsoever to the presence of people; even at a distance of two or three feet they totally ignore you. The holes in the hose are like deep, narrow, chisel cuts. The squirrels did it!

Tomorrow we move on to the Naval Air Station at Pensacola and the FamCamp on the Gulf of Mexico.

Odometer reading = 32,551
Miles for day = 0

 

2/23/02
(Pensacola FL)

We pulled out of Tyndall AFB FamCamp around 11:am and headed west towards Pensacola. Everytime we drive along the Gulf Coast we comment how much we like this stretch of Florida. It takes a while to get past all the commercial congestion in and around Panama City , starting just west of the air base, but after that the scenery changes back and forth from undeveloped rural, to small water oriented communities, to a few larger, upscale communities, most noticeably Fort Walton Beach.

It took longer to get here than I had anticipated, primarily because my time estimate was based on the distance, while I had forgotten how much of that distance would be in covered at 30 or 40 mph due to the numerous communities we would be passing through. By the time we arrived at the FamCamp at the Naval Air Station it was 3:pm and I was starving. I had repeatedly suggested that we stop and have lunch, but Sharyn and Jordan, neither of whom ever seem to get hungry, kept saying "we can eat when we get there." That was okay when it was expected to be slightly more than a two hour drive, but when it became clear that it was going to be a lot longer than that I really got hungry.

Anyway, we finally arrived to a nicely improved campground. Since we were here a year ago they have installed new full hookups at each campsite (last year there was only 30 amp service service and no sewer), poured new concrete slabs, and seeded the entire facility. I suspect the grass was part of the necessary reclamation after all the digging and construction that led to these improvements. The final result are first class campsites under the spreading live oaks.

Odometer reading = 32,679
Miles for day = 128

 

2/24/02 and 2/25/02
(Pensacola FL)

This is much more pleasant than the site we had at Tyndall, and the difference it makes is somewhat striking. Last year we had a much better site at Tyndall than the one we had this year. Also, our site here is much nicer that the site we had here last year. Last year we liked Tyndall better than here; this year it's reversed. We may have to reevaluate our ideas about different places we've stayed. It may be that the campsite we stay in unduly taints our overall appraisal of the place itself. In any event, we're enjoying ourselves.

There are a number of military facilities in the Pensacola area and there is a "Navy Exchange Mall" that is not part of any facility, but seems to be for the use of all the facilities. Unsurprisingly, we went there to check it out, buy some groceries, a birthday present for our granddaughter, etc.

We haven't done any kayaking for several reasons; one, it's been kind of cool, only around 60 degrees, and second, it was here that last year a young boy had his arm bitten of by a shark. A week later a man was bitten about 5 miles further down the beach. Between the sharks in the salt water and the alligators in the fresh water I suspect that warmer weather would make no difference.

Today I finally got around to sending all of our Canadian campground receipts back to the Canadian tax authorities. We will be getting back over $60 US that we paid in sales tax at Canadian campgrounds this past summer.

On the way back from the post office I stopped at the National Museum of Naval Aviation which is about a mile down the road from the FamCamp. I had just stopped by to see what was there and if we should all go there tomorrow. It's similar to the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio, only much smaller. I was walking around looking at stuff when I got close to a guide who was leading a tour group and got caught up with what he was saying. The tour and the guide were terrific and I stayed with them for about a half hour. We definitely have to go back tomorrow, but on the way out I checked to confirm that this particular guide would be there tomorrow -- unfortunately, he only does one tour a week, and today was it! Oh well, we'll go back tomorrow and have a different guide, and wander around some on our own; it's still a great museum.

Odometer reading = 32,679
Miles for day = 0

 

2/26/02
(Pensacola FL)

We all went to the National Museum of Naval Aviation, but unfortunately we didn't get there until almost one o'clock. It was unfortunate because we had to leave at 5 o'clock when they closed up, even though we still hadn't seen everything. We did take one of the guided tours, and while he told us some interesting stuff, the guide I heard yesterday was much better on the historical significance of what we were looking at. Today's guide emphasized the historical evolution of military aircraft rather than the great history of some of these individual planes.

After the tour ended we continued to walk around and tried to see it all, but we ran out of time. We did get to check out a number of fighter cockpits, including this one being flown by Sharyn and Jordan. Sharyn also checked out a retired plane of the Blue Angels. So did Jordan!

I should have mentioned that The Blue Angels, the Navy's precision flying team, are stationed here at the Air Station.

One of the planes on display with an interesting history is this Stearman trainer that was flown on two occasions by Ensign George H. W. Bush when he was a student pilot here at the Pensacola Naval Air Station. When Bush got his wings at 18 he became the Navy's then youngest pilot.

There is way too much in the museum to describe here, but if you're ever in the Pensacola area it's a definite place to visit -- and get there early.

Odometer reading = 32,679
Miles for day = 0

 

2/27/02
(Foley AL)

Because we were leaving Pensacola this morning Jordan got out earlier than usual for her morning walk/jog. An eight mile exercise trail runs right past the FamCamp so it's very convenient, and it's a beautiful trail besides. At one point I stood on the trail with the camera waiting for her to come by. Here she comes -- and there she goes!

We pulled out of the FamCamp shortly before noon and headed for Alabama and the Escapee Park just outside of Foley, about 25 miles south of Mobile. Last year as we were passing through Mobile we saw the battleship Alabama docked just off of US-98 and we stopped to see it. Jordan said she'd like to see it also, so we'll spend a couple of days here and just take the car to Mobile tomorrow as a day trip.

This morning I wished Sharyn a "Happy Anniversary," as, I thought that today was the first day of our third year of full-timing. It turned out, however, that we started on February 25, 2000, so I was two days late on the anniversary bit. Anyway, I went back through Quicken and put together some numbers:

Distance covered: In two years (2/25/00 to 2/24/02) we drove 31,029 miles; 17,612 the first year, and 13,417 the second year.

Cost of fuel: In two years we spent a total of $5,703 on gasoline for the motorhome. In the last 12 months our fuel cost was $2,195 or $183 per month ($6 per day). Over the last 5,000 miles we have averaged 7.45 mpg.

Cost of campgrounds: In two years we spent $6,390 on campgrounds (which includes water, sewer, and electric). In the last 12 months we spent $2,960 or $247 per month ($8.11 per day).

Odometer reading = 32,717
Miles for day = 38

 

2/28/02
(Foley AL)

This morning, for whatever reason, Jordan didn't want to get out of bed. By the time she finally got up, showered, and dressed, we had a rather late start to Mobile to see the battleship Alabama. Sharyn decided that since she'd already seen it last year she'd stay home to clean and maybe do some laundry.

Anyway Jordan and I took off for the Alabama. The ship is divided into three separate self guided tours and we did all of them. This is Jordan below one of the main gun turrets. Those are 2700 pound projectiles that were fired 21 miles by six 90 pound bags of powder.

This ship, and I suspect all battleships, are very impressive. A powerful war machine and self contained city of 2,500 fighting men that helped the America win the Second World War. Today it's a museum, but I think it would be more appropriate to call it a war memorial.

After we finished the battleship we checked out the hangar with the aircraft display. Unfortunately, the hangar had been partially cleared out to make room for a big fishing tournament that was going on. (Fox News, ESPN, etc.,were all on the scene. The Fox News camera man filmed Jordan as she walked around.) From the hangar we then went to the book store/gift shop only to find out it was past closing time. Oh well!

Odometer reading = 32,717
Miles for day = 0

 

3/1/02 and 3/2/02
(Foley AL)

We didn't do too much these two days except for laundry and a trip to Wal-Mart for groceries.

Except for today, when it was in the 70's, daytime temperatures have been in the 40's or low 50's, with nighttime temperatures in the low to mid 20's. It was like that in Pensacola also; much , much colder than normal. One night while in Pensacola the temperature set an all time low for the day. These kind of temperatures don't encourage a great deal of outdoor activity.

Odometer reading = 32,717
Miles for day = 0

 

3/3/02
(Biloxi MS)

This morning we left the Escapee Park in Alabama and headed for the Keesler AFB FamCamp in Biloxi, Mississippi. This is the third time we've been here. Sharyn likes the Casinos (she basically plays the nickel slot machines), the beaches, and the large ante-bellum houses overlooking the Gulf.

We traveled US-98 and US-90 all the way to Biloxi. It would have been quicker to take I-10, but we prefer the "two lane roads," and opt for them whenever feasible. It was cloudy and cold, but we enjoyed the drive -- including lunch on the side of the road just short of the Alabama-Mississippi border.

Once again the temperatures are in the mid 20's (at 9:pm), but the campground host says the cold weather is supposed to break tomorrow. We're ready for that!

Odometer reading = 32,823
Miles for day = 106

 

3/4/02
(Biloxi MS)

The largest part of the day was spent by Sharyn and Jordan checking out all the stores and malls in Gulfport, Mississippi, about 15 miles west of the Biloxi. They had previously, at my suggestion, dropped me off at Barnes & Noble where I found some a few books and a comfortable overstuffed chair. By the time they came back to get me I had selected what appears to be an excellent book on JavaScript I bought the book with the idea that I may make some changes with respect to the links on stringbean's home page.

By the time we got back to the motorhome it was almost 8:pm so we ended up having beans and turkey hot dogs for dinner.

Because we are in the overflow area, 30 amps but no sewer connection, we've been trying to avoid filling our "gray water" tank which holds the waste water from the sinks and shower. The largest source of gray water, by far, is the shower. We are only 30 feet from the shower room so I took my shower there. That's the first time in well over a year that I've showered other than in the motorhome. It was quite pleasurable; a large shower stall with probably 100 pounds of water pressure and unlimited hot water. I told Sharyn that for as long as we're here I'm going to use that shower.

Odometer reading = 32,823
Miles for day = 0

 

3/5/02
(Biloxi MS)

Today's plan was "hit the casino's." Believe it or not Sharyn had a zip lock sandwich bag full of nickels that she save from the last time we were here and she was ready to get back to the nickel slot machines.

We went to the first casino and probably were not the ten minutes when Sharyn won about a half gallon of nickels which then financed her and Jordan for the rest of the day. After an hour or two we left and went to another casino, taking the first casino's nickels with us. When we left the second casino it was past dinner time, and that casino now has most of the nickels that came from the first one. Sharyn still has her zip lock bag of nickels, and it's even a little fatter than it was this morning, but the half gallon of nickels was left behind.

It looks to me as if almost all the slot machine players are grandparents and great-grandparents. I looks like some of them play the same machine nonstop for hours because they're not mobile enough to move to another machine. When an elderly woman next to Sharyn won $1,027, she said that at least she was getting back "some of the money she had lost." We wondered how much money this woman had lost prior to this win, and at what point she would have quit!

Well, it's now 12:45am tomorrow and I've been told I should turn off the lights -- goodnight!

Odometer reading = 32,823
Miles for day = 0

 

3/6/02
(Biloxi MS)

This morning Sharyn and I were still sleeping when we awoke to hear Jordan talking to someone. The campground host had come over to tell us that there was a site for us and could move out of the overflow area. It didn't take much to just pull in the slideouts and move to our site in the new section of the campground; we didn't even unplug the coffee pot. Jordan drove the car over in her pajamas.

This is a nice site with full, all new, hookups and we've decided that we'll stay in Biloxi until at least two of us are ready to leave.

For recreation, different people engage in different activities. Some fish, some play golf, some do chess, while others pursue NASCAR. Sharyn and Jordan engage in shopping. This afternoon we all took a recreational jaunt to a nearby mall here in Biloxi. From the mall we then went back to the base where we hit the PX and the commissary. Unfortunately, I don't "do" shopping and I think I'll stay home on their next mall visit.

By the way, we may finally be out of the frigid winter weather and we are thoroughly enjoying the change.

Odometer reading = 32,823
Miles for day = 0

 

3/7/02
(Biloxi MS)

Coffee and conversation went on for several today as we sat outside and enjoyed the warmth and sunshine. We actually had to put out the awning to allow us to get out of the sun that by noon was getting too hot.

We returned again to Gulfport and the malls and discount stores located there. This time I got out at Barnes and Noble and told Sharyn and Jordan they could shop to their heart's content and just pick me up on their way home. They didn't return for me until after six o'clock. Sharyn said she was shopped out and exhausted! Can you imagine?

I told Sharyn that if we ever settle down someplace there has to be a Barnes and Noble in the area. That, plus broadband Internet access.

Odometer reading = 32,823
Miles for day = 0

 

3/8/02
(Biloxi MS)

The other day the fellow next to us was cleaning and polishing his four-year-old motorhome that looked as if it was still in the showroom. He uses Meguiar's Gold Class that he buys at Wal-Mart, and he polishes his unit twice a year. Today I washed the car and the motorhome and Sharyn bought some Meguiar's Gold Class. I polished a small portion of the front of the motorhome and it seems to do a nice job, and does it fairly easily. I guess I'll start doing the entire unit. I waxed it for the first time last August-September (it was a three week process). Since there is a six month old coat of wax on the motorhome, this application should be easier than the first one.

The other thing that I finally accomplished today was I finished reading Lone Star -- A History of Texas and the Texans by T.R. Fehrenbach. This 700+ page book is a dynamite history of Texas from the days humans first walked its land over 40,000 years ago, through the Spanish and French invasions, the golden age of cotton, cattle, farmers, cowboys, and oil empires. This is a great book, but since I only read after going to bed (I read the last ten pages this afternoon), it probably took me three months to finish reading it. Anyone who has any interest in the history of Texas or the history of the Southwest should read it (it may be out of print). ISBN 0-02-032170-8

Odometer reading = 32,823
Miles for day = 0

 

3/9/02 and 3/10/02
(Biloxi MS)

On the 9th Sharyn did four loads of wash. It seems that for just three people we make a lot of dirty clothes. That evening we discussed whether or not to leave the following day, the 10th. Sharyn and I were willing to leave but we didn't feel very strong about it either way. Jordan seemed to want to stay so we decided not to leave.

The following day Sharyn and Jordan went back to the base (the FamCamp is located off base) to do some grocery shopping in the commissary. We seem to save about 30%, a sizable savings, when we do our grocery shopping in a commissary. As they were leaving Jordan asked if they were going to go to the BX also -- I knew the answer to that one! This time I was even smarter; I said, "I'll stay home."

Odometer reading = 32,823
Miles for day = 0

 

3/11/02
(New Orleans LA)

This morning we were up at 7 o'clock and on the road shortly after ten. I love the days we move, particularly if we have been in that same place for several days. It's always a great morning, with the expectation for a new day, new roads, new things, and somewhat of a new adventure. Like I said, I love it! Some people that do this spend six months in the south and then move north for six months in the summer; they never move except for twice a year. I can't relate to that at all. I usually begin to get itchy after 2-3 days. I can't explain to myself how we stayed at Shaw AFB in Sumter for a month last fall, and I would have been content to remain even longer. Sharyn feels the same and she's not sure why either.

Anyway, we are at a Bayou Segnette State Park on the west bank of the Mississippi, about 15 minutes from downtown New Orleans and the French Quarter. This could be our third time passing through this area and we've never stopped to check it out. This time we will.

Actually, we already started. As we approached New Orleans from the east on US-90 we crossed over a very narrow bridge (I'm glad nothing was coming the other way) and saw an old fort off to the left. Fort Pike was built after the War of 1812 (when the British attacked New Orleans and sailed up the Potomac and burned Washington DC) as part of a defense system to insure that no foreign nation could ever again invade the United States. The fort overlooks the Rigolets, a narrow body of water that connects the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Pontchartrain, a 40 mile wide lake located just behind New Orleans, thus protecting New Orleans from an attack from the rear.

Here Sharyn and Jordan peer out from one of the gun casements on the lower level. Here they explore what remains of the gun emplacements on the upper level.

Odometer reading = 32,920
Miles for day = 97

 

3/12/02
(New Orleans LA)

There is a fair amount of water in and around this park that lends itself to kayaking. The park area also provides some very good alligator habitat. As a matter-of-fact, in 1996 they "removed" a 13 foot alligator from the campground area. Unfortunately, Sharyn saw his head which is now on display in the office and has informed me that she's not going kayaking around here, and "don't even try to change my mind." Actually I felt better seeing the head of a 13 foot alligator. I had envisioned a much longer snout and jaws.

Since kayaking was not on today's menu, went drove into the French Quarter where we drove around for awhile, including driving the length of Bourbon Street. That's quite a street. Sharyn commented that New Orleans would be a better Spring Break destination than Panama City (which filled up with college kids the week after we left). After driving around for awhile we parked the car and spent the rest of the afternoon walking. Some of the jazz musicians playing in the street are really good. I found the mimes, while interesting, less impressive (some prefer vanilla, others prefer chocolate).

Anyway, after several hours we stopped off in a corner cafe for some lunch. Here Sharyn and Jordan try to decide what to order. Not too much later we came back to the campground, but as of now (9:pm) we plan to return to the "Big Easy" tomorrow.

Odometer reading = 32,920
Miles for day = 0

 

3/13/02
(New Orleans LA)

Today Sharyn and I returned to the French Quarter in downtown New Orleans. Jordan didn't like New Orleans at all and chose to get dropped off at Barnes and Noble about four miles from the campground.

Sharyn and I walked the length of Bourbon Street and a good portion of Royal Street, one block over and famous for its antiques shops.

At one point we stopped at a coffee house for a hot cup of coffee. It was a both a good and an interesting stop. Good, because for $2 we each got a cup of coffee to warm us up (it was cool outside and we didn't have jackets), got to use the bathroom, and got to sit down and rest our feet. This is Sharyn waiting for the ladies room. Notice that all the people in the picture are pretty ordinary looking people. Well, what made the visit interesting was that about ten minutes after this picture was taken there had been a change of customers. I told Sharyn it looked like the bar scene from Star Wars. I had no trouble taking the picture of the regular looking customers, but did not feel comfortable photographing the Star Wars scene. It would have been a much more interesting picture.

We visited a good number of antique shops, almost all of which have very high quality, expensive items. Beautiful stuff.

Later in the afternoon we stopped for something to eat. Sharyn had a blackened "Nu Orleans" hamburger while I had jambalaya, a crawfish pie, and a file gumbo (just like the song). It was all good, but I liked the crawfish pie best.

During the course of the day I took many photos. I have put small versions of 22 of these photos on a separate page which totals 238K and should take approximately 66 seconds to download with a 56K modem. To go to that page click here.

Also, today is our son Phil's birthday. Okay Phil, here is our birthday message to you.

Odometer reading = 32,920
Miles for day = 0

 

3/14/02
(Lafayette LA)

For a number of days the plan has been that when we leave New Orleans we'll drive north along Louisiana Route 18 to Baton Rouge. Route 18 follows the west bank of the Mississippi River and passes by a number of old antebellum plantation homes, including this one. Those 28 live oak trees are estimated to be more than 250 years old, and it was specifically to see these trees that we took this route. We also looked forward to driving almost 100 miles along the bank of the river. Unfortunately, the levee runs between the road and the river for the entire distance so it was more like we drove along the base of the levee for 100 miles. We didn't get to see the river except on two occasions when we stopped and climbed up onto the levee to look.

Anyway, for any tree oriented people, here is another view of some of those great trees.

The RV park we stopped at just west of Baton Rouge was full so we headed west on US-190 to Lafayette where we stopped in a $27 per night campground. If it wasn't that it was late and I was tired driving we would not have stayed for that price. It's a fine, high quality, RV park with all the amenities (swimming pool, sauna, rec room, games, fishing lake, etc) and someone has to pay for all that, but we only wanted an electric outlet and a place to park for the night. By way of comparison we paid $6 per day at the State Park in New Orleans -- admittedly, quite a bargain. There really is no answer to this issue for the campground owner. Letters to the editor in all the RV magazines present both my point of view as well as those who want even more amenities and say they're willing to pay more for them.

Odometer reading = 33,088
Miles for day =168

 

3/15/02
(Longville LA)

We started out this morning with the plan to just drive west on US-190 until we felt like stopping. US-190 goes right through Livingston, Texas, which is our immediate destination. If we got there today that would be fine; if not that would be okay too. We stopped several times as we traveled; once for groceries, once for our "2 o'clock coffee" (which we are supposed to stop for every day, but frequently do not), and Jordan wanted to know how we'd ever get anywhere if we kept stopping. Also, Louisiana's washboard highways tend to make one keep the speed in the 50 mph range.

Again, the first place we stopped was booked solid for the weekend so we continued on to this campground which is basically empty. While I didn't take a picture of last nights $27 campground, there were 120 campsites with 12-15 feet between RVs. This campsite cost us $13.

.Odometer reading = 33,225
Miles for day =137

 

3/16/02
(Livingston TX)

Last night it poured down rain and Sharyn was concerned that the lake would raise up and surround the motorhome, or the ground would get so soggy that we'd be mired in the mud and not be able to get out. Luckily neither of those scenarios came about and we left the campground shortly after 11:am.

It was a relaxed and uneventful ride to Livingston, during which we did make one consolidated stop for lunch and our 2 o'clock coffee, even though it was not yet 1 o'clock.

We arrived at the Escapees Rainbow's End RV Park here in Livingston, Texas, which is also it's corporate headquarters, and it felt good to be back here again. Many RVers are under the impression that Escapees is just another membership campground association like Coast to Coast or Thousand Trails that one joins to save money on campground fees. That's not what it is at all. Escapees is actually a membership/support organization that does a lot of good things for RVers, members and otherwise. The fact that Escapees also has campgrounds is a very nice perk, but not the whole story. As one Escapee said, "I'm a member of several camping clubs, but I am an Escapee." If interested see http://www.escapees.com.

By the way, I made dinner tonight, stir fried/sautéed vegetables -- not exactly, but something like that. We all share the cooking, cleaning, dishwashing, shopping, etc., but tonight during dinner I raised the point that we don't share the driving. I suggested that on the days we travel and I drive three or four hours or more I should not be part of the dinner preparation/cleanup for that day. I suggested that an alternative plan would be that we share the driving. There was no overwhelming enthusiasm for either plan, but I suspect the first one has to fly.

Odometer reading = 33,350
Miles for day = 125

 

3/17/02
(Livingston TX)

This morning, after an extended coffee and conversation, Sharyn surprised me with a breakfast of bacon, eggs, and grits; my favorite breakfast.

Later in the day we went into town to buy some milk and groceries at Wal-Mart's Supercenter.

This evening we went to the "ice cream social" at the club house where we met and talked at some length with a couple who have been full-timing for six years. She is very much like Sharyn in that she enjoys what she's doing, but at the same time she sometimes just "wants to go home."

Odometer reading = 33,350
Miles for day = 0

 

3/18/02 and 3/19/02
(Livingston TX)

Yesterday I went to DMV (actually the Polk County Tax Office) to see about getting Texas plates for the car and the motorhome. Both vehicles had to have Texas inspection stickers before they could be registered in Texas, so I took the Honda and had it inspected. Today I took the motorhome into town and had it inspected also. Then I went back to the tax office where I registered both vehicles and got Texas plates. Since we've been using Escapees here in Texas as our mailing address for almost two years, have our vehicles registered here, and tomorrow will be registering to vote here, I guess that we can say we're Texans. What's a "Texan?" Or a "Virginian?" Or most anything else? It's hard to say.

When I returned from town, I also changed the oil and filter in the motorhome while the engine was hot.

Odometer reading = 33,364
Miles for day = 15

 

3/20/02
(Livingston TX)

It was rainy, misty, and dreary most of the day. One thing we did get done was go through all the accumulated magazines, papers, pamphlets, and assorted junk that had gradually begun to permeate the entire interior of the motorhome. This was something we've been going to do for several weeks but somehow never got to it.

On the bulletin board in the clubhouse there was a sign from "Tony lot 219" who had a 100Mg Zip drive with ten 100Mg Zip disks, all for $60. I want to buy the disks but I can't find Tony. There is no Lot 219 since the 911 address system came in, and the lot that used to be 219 is not Tony. After an hour of searching I gave up looking.

As evening approached, Sharyn went to the laundry room and did a whole pile of ironing.

Odometer reading = 33,364
Miles for day = 0

 

3/21/02
(Brenham TX)

We left Livingston this morning, still heading for Alaska, but with the LBJ Ranch and historical park our immediate destination. As we were heading in a general southwesterly direction along narrow two lane roads through the country, we found ourselves passing through the tiny hamlet of Magnolia where our daughter-in-law and granddaughter used to live. What are the odds of that -- too bad they don't live there anymore. By the way, a short time time later we drove through the town of Cut and Shoot, Texas.

When we pulled into Artesian Park Campground just west of Brenham, Texas, I said to Sharyn, "this must be Allegro country." Probably 25% of the units here are Allegros. As we were setting up a number of people came over to introduce themselves and talk to us. They are part of the Regional Allegro Club for (I think) Louisiana and East Texas.

The campground office was locked (with the keys left in the door) but we followed the directions on the door and put a check in the box. Later on I went to the owners home, next to the office, and tried to sell her a website. I didn't know they already had one. As I'm writing this I have yet seen the site linked to above. I'll see it when I get online and upload this page.

 

Odometer reading = 33,499
Miles for day = 135

 

3/22/02
(Johnson City TX)

I had a strange knot, or catching, that started in my left side last evening and worsened during the night. I don't know what it is, but when it happens, it "grabs" and it hurts. As long as I hold my torso vertical it's okay, but when the muscle is called upon to hold up, or straighten up, the torso it grabs, not unlike a "Charlie horse." Standing or walking without it grabbing is difficult.

Anyway, this morning, since I was somewhat incapacitated, it was Sharyn who dumped the holding tanks, disconnected the water and electric, etc. As she was doing this several of the guys from the Allegro Club came by and we were all standing around at the back of the motorhome talking and telling stories. By the time we all finished talking it was past noon and we got underway.. If we spent any time at all in this part of the Country we'd join this group. They're really a nice bunch and they seem to have a lot of fun.

The drive to Johnson City where we plan to visit the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park was without incident.

From here we might go to Lackland AFB in San Antonio, about 85 miles south of here, and I'll see if they can find out what's wrong with my side. The medical facilities at Lackland, I believe, are the largest medical facilities the Air Force has in the Continental US.

Odometer reading = 33,630
Miles for day = 131

 

3/23/02
(San Antonio TX)

This morning it turned out that none of us were particularly interested in going to the LBJ National Park. The literature we picked up at the campground office seemed to indicate that it wasn't what we had expected it to be, so we headed south for San Antonio.

Perhaps unfortunately, by the time I went to bed last night the thing in my side had subsided considerably, and by this morning was probably 85% improved. I say "unfortunately," because I did go to the hospital at Lackland, but the doctor could not find anything. He said he was sorry that he had not been able to examine me when it was bad. He did have chest x-rays and a urine analysis done to preclude any lung or kidney involvement.

After sitting with me for several hours in the emergency room, I finally convinced Sharyn that I'd probably be another number of hours and that she should go to the commissary without me and that I'd walk back to the FamCamp and the motorhome. As it turned out I got back to the motorhome before she did.

A unique feature of the laundry room at this FamCamp is that the machines do not require coins -- they are free. As soon as I finish typing this, we're both going over to the laundry room where Sharyn will do what laundry we have accumulated while I update this site. The telephone line for Internet access is also in the laundry room.

Odometer reading = 33,702
Miles for day = 72

 

3/24/02
(San Antonio TX)

Yesterday I forgot to mention that we were in the overflow area with no hookups. That really wasn't a problem since we had no need for either heating or air conditioning and just about everything else runs off the 12 volt batteries. In addition, the particular overflow site we were in is probably the nicest site in the entire campground (actually they're all quite nice).

Anyway, this morning we did start up the generator to make coffee. That's only because last night we set up the wrong coffee pot. Shortly after that the girl came over and told us we could move into site #12, a full hookup site that had just been vacated.

After moving over to the new site we went to the BX and commissary for some shopping, browsing, and groceries (I don't shop, I drive). When we returned to the motorhome we sat around for awhile reading the Sunday papers, after which Sharyn began to make dinner and I washed the windshield and front end of the motorhome, both of which were quite buggy.

Tomorrow, if we stick with our plan, we'll go to Del Rio, a small border town about 150 miles west of here. It happens that there is an Air Force base there with a FamCamp.

Odometer reading = 33,702
Miles for day = 0

 

3/25/02
(Del Rio TX)

We left Lackland this morning, as planned, and had gone less than five miles when it started to rain. We were pleased by the fact that within another ten miles the rain ceased, and shortly thereafter the sun came out and the world was beautiful.

Back on February 4, 2002 I posted a picture of a sign that I felt was interesting or unusual, and I said I might begin a separate page of such pictures if I can accumulate enough of them. Well here's another, (we had to turn around and go back to get this picture) and here's the new page, even if there are only two pictures on it at this time.

We arrived here at Laughlin AFB just outside of Del Rio and checked into the FamCamp which is only 200 yards from the BX. We walked over to check it out but found it to be quite small. This is a small base with only a limited number of personnel that probably couldn't support a larger BX.

By the way, there is an Escapee campground in Hondo, about a mile of off US-90, so we decided to drive by and check it out as we passed through the area. We did so, and there's no reason to check it out again. Like the Escapee place in Pahrump NV, we didn't like it at all. Probably due to the desert-like environment in both places.

Odometer reading = 33,846
Miles for day = 144

 

3/26/02
(Del Rio TX)

It was probably around noon time before we left the base and headed for Del Rio and the bridge to Ciudad Acuna in Mexico. Since our auto insurance does not extend to Mexico we parked the car at the US end of the bridge and walked across. We only spent about an hour in Ciudad Acuna, walking up one street and then down the other. None of us liked the place. Unfortunately, while I had the camera over my shoulder, I totally forgot about taking any pictures in Mexico.

After getting back to the US we returned to the FamCamp just in time for me to watch the news with Britt Hume. While I watched the news Sharyn and Jordan sat outside doing their own thing (s).

Odometer reading = 33,846
Miles for day = 0

 

3/27/02
(Del Rio TX)

This is a rather relaxed base and we all find it "comfortable" here. Jordan says it's her favorite of all the places, bases and campgrounds, that we've been to. It's a small base and there isn't a great deal here, although the base commander's policy is that all FamCamp occupants are welcome to use any and all base facilities. That's kind of nice.

I went to the library because I was told that I could connect my laptop to a phone line there. I turns out that the computer facilities at the library are the nicest I've seen anywhere. They have a large, well lit, separate room with thirteen Internet connected terminals, all equipped with new Dell computers, 19" monitors, and networked printers.

There is a 2.5 mile walking/running trail that Jordan has been using on a daily basis. We have not gone back to town because there wasn't much there, and what was there we didn't care for. The entire area, and pretty much everything between here and San Antonio, is impoverished.

Odometer reading = 33,846
Miles for day = 0

 

3/28/02 through 3/30/02
(Del Rio TX)

We still haven't been back to town, or even off base, for that matter.

The weather here has been quite enjoyable; daytime highs around 80 degrees, humidity in the 30% range, and a nonstop breeze out of the west. Yesterday afternoon security came around warning everyone of a storm system approaching with 70 mph winds, hailstones in excess of a inch, and possible associated tornados. We took down our flagpole, put away all our outside stuff, and waited for it to happen -- it never did.

Today the wind blew at 30 mph, gusting to 40, all day. Fine sand and gritty dust permeated the motorhome and the car (I had left the car windows open!). Even the keyboard and the area where you slide your finger to control the cursor got coated with grit (but cleaned with a damp cloth). The accumulation on the counters and the table are obvious and easily wiped clean. Carpeting and upholstered services are just as dirty, if not a obvious or as easy to clean. A slow and tedious cleanup will be in order.

The other day Sharyn and I had our lipid profiles done at the clinic, largely due to the extreme helpfulness of clinic personnel who expedited the normal time-frame to accommodate our leaving here the day after Easter. After a year of extremely low fat (<40grams/day?) dieting, my numbers have changed very little, and to the extent that my cholesterol goes down a little, proportionally, my HDL's go down more. As I understand it there 's not too much that can be done to raise your HDL's. My Cholesterol/HDL ratio is 7.36 -- borderline deadly! Sharyn says her numbers "are not for public disclosure."

Odometer reading = 33,846
Miles for day = 0

 

3/31/02 (Easter Sunday)
(Del Rio TX)

Sharyn had wanted that we'd all get up early this morning and go to Sunrise Service at the base Chapel. That was the plan until we stayed up until 1:am last night. Anyway, we did get up at a somewhat reasonable time, had our coffee and conversation (Sharyn and I -- Jordan was still in bed), and eventually I left to do my two mile walk, which I'm now back to doing. When I returned, at five minutes to eleven, Sharyn was all ready to go to the 11:15 service at the Chapel, and Jordan was only a few minutes from being ready. I couldn't get showered and ready in time, but told them I'd be dressed and ready to go to the Easter Sunday breakfast/luncheon buffet when they returned.

I was ready and we did go to the buffet that was at the "XL Club," which is the on base officers club. Not only was the physical facility very nice, but the food was was pretty much unlimited both in selection and in quantity. Sharyn and Jordan both went for the breakfast selections; warm Belgium waffles, fluffy french toast with maple syrup, cooked to order omelet bar with Chef Ralph on the grill, homemade flapjacks with butter, scrambled farm-fresh eggs, home fried potatoes, crispy bacon and pork sausage, assorted petite pastries and fruity muffins. While they didn't have all of that, Sharyn certainly had her fair share. Actually she had missed the "omelets to order" bar and had finished eating when I mentioned it. She then went back to get herself a custom omelet Jordan was very good and was not glutinous in any way.

While they went for the breakfast stuff, I preferred the luncheon selections which included; slow cooked roast beef with au jus, oven-browned turkey, Virginia ham with sun cured raison sauce, southern fried chicken, broiled red snapper filet, peel-and-eat shrimp, whipped potatoes with gravy, baked yams topped with melted marshmallows, Juan's famous broccoli and cheese soufflé, baby carrots, green peas with miniature onions, chilled cranberry sauce and rolls.

There was also a long dessert bar with Maricela's fresh baked pies, assorted gourmet cakes, and an ice cream bar with six or eight different toppings.

I, like Sharyn, also ate too much. Neither of our bodies are any longer use to eating food in such volume and when we got back to the motorhome Sharyn immediately laid down on the bed and fell asleep. Shortly thereafter I did the same thing on the couch. Jordan reminded us both that gluttony was one of the seven deadly sins.

Later in the day, after we recovered from the excessive eating I watched some of the news casts and Sunday talk shows to see what were the latest developments in the Mideast, while Sharyn and Jordan relaxed outside with their reading material.

As an unrelated aside, I have a problem with Photoshop 4.0 and I need help. If you know anything about Photoshop, please read this.

Odometer reading = 33,846
Miles for day = 0

 

4/1/02
(Fort Stockton TX)

We left Laughlin AFB this morning and, heading west on US-90 through Del Rio, somehow we missed our turn and ended up back at the Mexican border. We did a U-turn in front of the border checkpoint and got back on track, heading in a northwesterly direction towards Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico -- our next destination. Jordan wonders how her mother and father have managed traveling around North America for two years by themselves.

As we passed by Langtry TX, where Judge Roy Bean, known as "the law west of the Pecos" used to hang out, we stopped to check out his courthouse, which turns out to have been a combination saloon, courthouse, and dancehall. It was a lot smaller than I would have thought. The sign behind the bar tells the story while Sharyn stands at the bar waiting for service.

After spending about an hour in Langtry we again got back on the road, all parts of which look pretty much the same, and continued on to Fort Stockton (a town, not a military base) which was our target for today. This campground will never make anyone's list of favorites, but then it appears that perhaps nothing green exists in this part of Texas.

Odometer reading = 34,043
Miles for day = 196

 

4/2/02
(White's City NM)

We started out shortly before noon and continued north towards New Mexico and Carlsbad Caverns. As we were going down the highway I told Sharyn and Jordan that if there was anything else we were going to need for the next several days we 'd have to get it in Pecos as that would be last real town we'd come to before we got to El Paso near the end of the week. They said we didn't need anything, and it was just as well since it turned out that Pecos was not the town I thought it would be. On the map it's a pretty big dot; in reality it's not much more!

We eventually stopped for our 2 o'clock coffee at a roadside "picnic area." Literally, a wide spot in the pavement. While we were there a truck loaded with hay pulled in to check his load and I asked the driver where the hay had come from since we hadn't seen anything green in 500 miles. He was hauling it down from New Mexico.

Anyway we soon after got to White's City at the entrance to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. After getting set up in the RV Park, apparently run by Best Western, Jordan and I drove to the Park's visitor's center to check things out. The visitor's center is five miles into the park and the views and terrain are quite spectacular. Unfortunately, I had left my camera in the motorhome. Check back tomorrow when I should have some real pictures posted.

Odometer reading = 34,187
Miles for day = 144

 

4/3/02
(White's City NM)

Today, the three of us drove down the five mile entrance road to Carlsbad Caverns National Park and the visitors center. The entrance to the caverns themselves is a cave opening at the surface (where all the bats fly in and out), but the tours, self guided and otherwise, begin at a point 750 feet below the surface. Obviously, the natural way to enter the caverns is through the cave opening at the surface which then leads to a 20% downward sloping trail through the cave to the vast open areas below. The way is steep and often slippery. The "unnatural" way to get down inside is to take the elevator from inside the visitors center. There was no support for taking the natural entrance.

Anyway, having arrived down in the cavern we decided to follow a mile and a half trail that led us through some of the narrower subterranean openings as well as some of the large chambers. While I did get a few pictures, for the most part they were way out of focus as there was not enough light for the camera to "see" anything to focus on. Jordan thinks that bats are super cool, but unfortunately they winter in Mexico and will not return here until later in the month. Accordingly will missed the opportunity of seeing a prolonged cloud of a half million bats emerging from the cave at dusk.

One thing I though very interesting is that while there were signs of ancient Indians being in and about the cave entrance, there's no indication that they ever ventured down inside to any real depth, although I can well imagine that the half million bats that make the cave their summer home, and fly in and out at dawn and dusk every day, could have contributed to a reluctance to explore the inner depths in a pre flashlight era.

I guess I'm not a rock hound or a cave enthusiast as I was more impressed with the surrounding countryside and the roadway leading into and out of the National Park.

The campground at White's City is not particularly nice, but it's functional, and it's right at the entrance to the National Park..

Odometer reading = 34,187
Miles for day = 0

 

4/4/02
(El Paso TX)

This morning we are off and on the road back to Texas. This time we're heading for El Paso at the westernmost tip of the state. We had not gone too far when I stopped just to take this picture with the Guadalupe Mountains in the background. As we continued along the mountains and the highway got closer together. We thought it interesting how all of a sudden the mountains just pop up from the flat desert floor, almost like a stone wall, with no intervening area of rolling foothills gradually becoming steeper and eventually becoming mountains. By the way, the tall peak in the distance is Guadalupe Peak, and at 8,749 feet it's the highest point in Texas.

Later on in the afternoon we stopped for lunch at a roadside rest area. Two interesting things about this place were this sign, which made it to our "Interesting Signs" page, and these steps. We're not sure what the steps are for, but all these rest areas have them. You can see there's a foot path leading from the other side of the sign out into the desert, so I followed this footpath to see what was at the other end. Well, it just goes out into the desert as it originally appeared to do. As I followed it I noticed that the further I went the less traveled it appeared to be and, also, that there were lots of pieces of toilet paper out there. We concluded that since these rest areas don't have any "facilities," it's a bring your own toilet paper and "do your thing." We may be wrong, but I don't think so.

A few comments and/or observations:

(1) All through western Texas we've passed over numerous bridges that, according to the signs, were passing over various "rivers," "canyons," "draws," and "sloughs." One notable thing that they all have in common is that they are all bone dry.

(2) We've seen three roadrunners. They look just like roadrunners. We've not seen any coyotes.

(3) We pass numerous entranceways, or driveways, to ranches. In many cases the driveway (never paved) goes over the distant horizon with nothing in sight. Some of them have a small sign on a post saying "six miles," "10 miles," or whatever. The concept of distance and space certainly varies in different parts of the Country. In Texas you may have a driveway ten miles long! On Eastern Long Island ten miles will take you through half a dozen towns.

(4) You can drive through the desert all day and you don't get any bugs on your windshield.

Odometer reading = 34,332
Miles for day = 145

 

4/5/02
(El Paso TX)

I forgot to mention it yesterday, but we're at the Fort Bliss Army FamCamp, pretty much in downtown El Paso. In the FamCamp directory there is a half page ad for this place that says it's the newest and most modern FamCamp in the system. That's part of why we're here, and it certainly is a very nice campground.

This morning Sharyn and I went to the "Family Building" where the laundromat, computer room, exercise machines, etc. are located (second building). Sharyn did the laundry while I went online in the next room.

Later in the day Jordan and I went to Barnes and Noble on the other side of town.

Our left rear leveling jack leaks down and leaks fluid. We're going to have to find someone who rebuilds hydraulic cylinders. Of course it's Friday night and the weekend starts tomorror. All our problems seem to occur on a Friday or Saturday.

Odometer reading = 34,332
Miles for day = 0

 

4/6/02
(El Paso TX)

It was a bummer of a day for Jordan today as she didn't feel well at all. Sharyn and I went back to the BX but the only thing we bought was a marked down T-shirt for $7. Jordan couldn't believe that was all we had bought.

Actually, we also bought a newspaper which I read when we got back to the motorhome. Other than that it was pretty much coffee and conversation all morning, then conversation without coffee most of the afternoon and evening.

It all kind of points out the #1 requirement for a couple considering full-time RVing -- you need not love your spouse, but you sure better be best friends. Actually, it's more like love is nice, but you better be best friends as well. While I haven't cleared it with Sharyn, I think we pretty much make it on both points.

Tomorrow morning we're off to White Sands National Monument in New Mexico.

Odometer reading = 34,332
Miles for day = 0

 

4/7/02
(Alamogordo NM)

As nice as the Fort Bliss FamCamp was, we didn't care foe El Paso at all. It felt good to be on the road again, heading north to Alamogordo, Holloman AFB, and White Sands National Monument.

It took less than two hours for the drive up US-54 to Alamogordo, then six miles west on US-70 to the FamCamp at Holloman AFB, which in turn is only six miles east of White Sands. I was surprised to find out that Holloman AFB had a FamCamp, since it is where the F-117 stealth fighter was was developed, and is still a primary base for the F-117 which is still probably close to the cutting edge of stealth technology. I thought that security would preclude having a FamCamp on base. We have been told of tight security here and been warned not to have a camera in the car if we drive anywhere near the flight line. I've never seen an F-117 although I saw a TV documentary on the development of the technology and the original testing of the prototypes at Holloman. If I recall correctly the plane had been flying for six years (night time flights only) before the existence of the plane was even acknowledged by the Air Force.

Anyway, we're now set up at the Holloman AFB FamCamp and we've paid $70 for a week long stay. We almost never stay that long anywhere, but this area and base "feel" comfortable and the daily rate was $14 so if even if we only stay for five days we'll break even.

Odometer reading = 34,417
Miles for day = 85

 

4/8/02
(Alamogordo NM)

Today Sharyn celebrates 35 years of marriage to a guy who loves her very much!

Happy Anniversary, Sweetheart!

Odometer reading = 34,417
Miles for day = 0

 

4/9/02
(Alamogordo NM)

Today, as on most days, we had an early start on coffee and conversation and a late start on anything else we do. Our late start today had to do with our visit, six miles down the road, to White Sands National Monument.*

The "sand" is really powdered gypsum. Rain and snow in the San Andres and Sacramento Mountains, that ring the Tularosa Basin, dissolve the gypsum contained in the rocks that were pushed up from an ancient seabed when the Rocky Mountains were formed some 70 million years ago. Normally such dissolved minerals are carried to the sea by the rivers flowing down from the mountains. In the case of the Tularosa Basin, however, there is no outlet to the sea, so the water flows into a dry lake bed called Lake Lucero where it either soaks into the ground or evaporates, leaving even more gypsum on the dry lake bed. The unrelenting winds then blow the gypsum across the land and the dunes are formed.

Anyway, so much for the details. I took a number of photographs, but in the bright sun, and with the brightness reflecting off of the white sand, I could see absolutely nothing on the camera's LCD display. It was literally a "point and shoot," and hope you're pointing at the subject (also hope you've zoomed in or out an appropriate amount). With that explanation, here is a picture of Sharyn and Jordan part way up a dune. Here is another picture of both of them, but because of the distance between them it gives a better idea as to the scale. This might have been my favorite picture if I had "pointed" a little better. I kind of missed the dune. Finally, Sharyn contemplates her world.

I frequently have difficulty deciding whether or not I'm putting up too many pictures. For viewers with broadband access, more pictures are a non-issue. For those with 56K modems it can get kind of onerous. I try to work it down the middle.

* The difference between a National Park and a National Monument is frequently a matter of money. National Parks are sites that are deemed more significant, often are physically larger, and always get more money. The National Parks and Monuments in this Country are an incredible "perk" available to the American People. It is one area where we both think that the Federal Government is really doing a great job!

Odometer reading = 34,417
Miles for day = 0

 

4/10/02
(Alamogordo NM)

Today we went into Alamogordo and visited the Chamber of Commerce to get some local maps and to find out if there was anything in particular that we should see while in this area..

From town we drove the car up to the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation where we checked out Casino Apache at the Inn of the Mountain Gods. I had two nickels in my pocket, and on the first nickel in the slot machine I won 35 cents. It was all downhill from there and I ended up losing $3.10 of my own money, plus a handful of nickels that Sharyn gave me out of her plastic bag (leftovers from the casinos in Biloxi). Jordan lost a couple of dollars and Sharyn's bag is empty. The reservation is high up in the Sacramento Mountains at an elevation of 7,900 feet, or some 2/3 of a mile higher than Alamogordo, and it's pretty country. It does not have the extreme poverty look that so many of the reservations seem to have.

Two attractive buildings on the reservation were the Catholic Mission and another church, probably of Protestant denomination.

On the way back through Alamogordo we stopped at Wal-Mart and then Golden Corral for dinner. At the Golden Corral we all lapsed back into our former eating habits, but then we knew that was going to happen.

All told, today we put over a hundred miles on the car, not getting back to the FamCamp until after dark.

By the way, a short distance north of Alamogordo we saw Osama hanging from a pole.

Odometer reading = 34,417
Miles for day = 0

 

4/11/02
(Alamogordo NM)

Today was a particularly good day. After almost two years of setting up our flag pole in a workable, but very inconvenient, manner, that has been addressed once and for all. Check this out. Now all I have to do is insert the base assembly into the receiver tube and then put the pole into the base assembly. If you're not familiar with our old system you can't appreciate how cool this is! Yesterday when I spoke to the welder and described what I wanted, he estimated the cost for labor and materials at $50 to $75. Today, when the job was done the total bill was $48.

While I was at the welding shop Sharyn and Jordan went up the mountain to Cloudcroft, a small, but unique shopping village. That worked out very well all around. They got to shop all day at their leisure, hit all the stores, and not be under pressure by having me along and knowing that I wasn't "having fun." I was good for me because I wasn't there. When I got back to the FamCamp I washed the motorhome and painted the flagpole mount assembly.

Tonight we called our grandson Patrick to wish him a happy eleventh birthday. Having gotten a dirt bike he is a very happy birthday boy. If he gets his helmet tomorrow so he's allowed to ride it, he'll be even happier.

Odometer reading = 34,451
Miles for day = 34

 

4/12/02
(Alamogordo NM)

Today I got Photoshop 5.5 and I've been playing and experimenting with it all day. For images intended for a website it's a super, major improvement over 4.0 because it does not cause an image file to grow larger just from having been through Photoshop, plus, of course, you can "Save For Web" and reduce the file size as much as you want (with accompanying loss of quality). If you're interested, see http://www.stringbean.com/photoshopfiles.htm for what the "Save For Web" option can do.

While I was playing with Photoshop, Sharyn and Jordan spent 20 minutes driving around the base looking for the post office. After that, since we are only 75 feet from the laundry room, and the machines only cost 50 cents, they decided that this was the time and place to do laundry.

This afternoon, for the first time since we we've been here, the wind stopped blowing and we turned on the air conditioning (remember there's no shade here).

Odometer reading = 34,451
Miles for day = 0

 

4/13/02
(Alamogordo NM)

In response to my inquiry, "what did we do today?" Sharyn replied, "You played with your computer, Jordan and I went grocery shopping, and Jordan cleaned and sorted her stuff."

She forgot that I also went to the base library this morning and took out a couple of books that I've been reading.

Also, Jordan made tonight's dinner (tonight was her night) and for the first time in a long time we ate outside. Just like they're no bugs on the windshield here, there are also no bugs when you eat outside.

Odometer reading = 34,451
Miles for day = 0

 

4/14/02
(Alamogordo NM)

We were sitting outside enjoying the sunshine, cool breeze, and dry air, having our coffee and conversation, when we heard the people across the way (who we had met previously) talking about their metal detector. Since we had looked at metal detectors some time back, I was interested in their conversation and walked over to their site. A short time later Sharyn came over also. It wasn't too long until there were five couples, all of whom happened to be Escapees, discussing and talking about all kinds of RVing experiences, pros and cons, places to go, etc.

After an hour or so that began to break up and Sharyn and I went back to our motorhome. Since we're leaving here tomorrow we decided to go to the commissary and do some grocery shopping while we could get the benefit of commissary prices.

Odometer reading = 34,451
Miles for day = 0

 

4/15/02
(Santa Fe NM)

We were up early, but didn't leave the FamCamp until shortly after ten o'clock when we headed north through Alamogordo on US-54.

Sharyn's been wanting to see Sante Fe since we passed close-by almost two years ago. Late this afternoon, after traveling a little over 200 miles we finally pulled into town. The drive was quite enjoyable as the nature of the landscape seemed to change every 50 miles or so. This picture was taken through the windshield when we were approximately 50-60 miles from Sante Fe.

Tomorrow we'll start checking out Sante Fe.

Odometer reading = 34,682
Miles for day = 231

 

4/16/02
(Santa Fe NM)

It was 64 degrees in the motorhome when we woke up this morning; kind of cold. We pretty much set the thermostat for 68 degrees when we go to bed at night. We find that a comfortable sleeping temperature, but we're never sure whether we need to set the thermostat for heat to 68 degrees, or cool to 68 degrees. Since we've been in Alamogordo and Santa Fe it seems that there's about a 30 degree temperature swing from daytime to nighttime.

Anyway, around midday we left the campground and headed for the old "downtown" section of Santa Fe, about four miles down the road. We spent almost four hours walking around, and even with all that time we didn't get very far. I'm not a shopper, but I have to say that the shops sure have some beautiful stuff. Sharyn and I both like the "Southwest" look, in architecture, as well as home furnishings, clothing, pottery, jewelry, etc. Basically everything they sell in these stores.

The only things we bought were a silver bracelet for Sharyn, made by a Zuni lady, and a turquoise and silver necklace for Jordan, made by a Pueblo lady. Both of these pieces were bought from Indian artist/vendors who had their stuff laid out on blankets in front of the Palace of the Governors on the Plaza at the center of downtown Santa Fe. The Palace of the Governors was built approximately 1610 by the Spanish Government of the day and is now the oldest government building in the United States.

Tomorrow we'll return to the downtown area and walk and look some more. It's very nice, and there's a lot we've yet to see. For instance Sharyn been saying for almost a year that she wanted to visit the Georgia O'Keefe Museum. We were within several blocks of it today, but didn't make it.

Odometer reading = 34,682
Miles for day = 0

 

4/17/02
(Santa Fe NM)

In order to be sure we'd finish downtown Santa Fe today, we got up and left early. Our first stop was the Georgia O'Keefe Museum because we wanted to be sure that if we ran out of time at least we'd have seen that. Today's Wednesday and the museum is closed on Wednesdays. What a bummer.

Having already parked the car we walked the several blocks to the old downtown area and pretty much picked up where we left off yesterday. Once again I have to say that even I'm impressed by all the really magnificent stuff that's in these shops -- much of it quite expensive, but really magnificent! After four hours of walking around and visiting these shops, with two coffee shop stops for me to rest, I requested that one of them should drive me back to the motorhome as I could walk no more. That idea was countered with why don't I just leave and come back to pick them up in front of the Palace of the Governors at 5 o'clock.

On my way back to the car I walked past a place that had such nice stuff on display in the window that I had to go in and look. They had some very nice Indian artifacts, including a well worn, and somewhat torn, "Apache war shirt." It was very old and fragile, made of white (but dirty) leather, with fringed sleeves, and some beadwork on the shoulders. The price was $35,000. They also had several, what looked like deep quivers, but were actually fringed leather, sleeve like, rifle cases. They were in the $6,000 range. Amazing stuff, but certainly not for the casual shopper.

On the way back to the motorhome I passed the block where we had seen Borders Books, so I went there instead. Basically all I needed was a comfortable place to sit down and I figured an overstuffed chair at Borders would work. Besides I could see about a book on Photoshop 5.5. To my surprise they had several and I bought one of them. I was surprised they had any because Barnes & Noble in El Paso did not have anything for 5.5. Anyway, when it got close to 5 o'clock I returned to the Governors Palace and picked up Sharyn and Jordan. Sharyn looked totally exhausted and said that Jordan could outwalk her and that she was truly dragging. Having dropped out three hours earlier, I could relate to that.

When we got back to the motorhome we all just sat and watched the news until Jordan, whose turn it was to make dinner, got up and started dinner preparation. We're all worn out.

Odometer reading = 34,682
Miles for day = 0

 

4/18/02
(Albuquerque NM)

This morning we were up at 6:30 so that we could be to a Ford Warranty Service place that does motorhomes for an 8:am appointment. Sometimes the factory AC/heating doesn't work when we start the engine. It usually comes on after we've traveled a mile or so, but we wanted to have it fixed while we still have some warranty left. It was our plan to get to Gallop NM today, but we didn't get out of the repair place until after 2 o'clock so we only came as far as Albuquerque, where we are now at the Kirkland AFB FamCamp.

Odometer reading = 34,748
Miles for day = 66

 

4/19/02
(Gallup NM)

We left Albuquerque midmorning, heading west on I-40 until we were about halfway to Gallup, at which time we got off the Interstate and onto Historic US-66 that took us to within a half mile of Red Rock State Park where we last stayed in October, 2000. We again checked into the park and took the same site we had last time.

We plan to stay here for several days and use this place as a base while we visit the Zuni Reservation (about 35 miles southeast), the Navajo Reservation at Window Rock, Arizona (about 25 miles northwest), and of course Gallup, claimed to be, " . . . truly the international source for authentic [Native American] jewelry, pottery, and world-famous Navajo rugs."

Odometer reading = 34,889
Miles for day = 141

 

4/20/02
(Gallup NM)

This morning as we had our coffee and conversation the sun was cresting over the red sandstone rock cliffs behind the motorhome. As the sun rose higher behind us, we watched the sunlight flood the red rock that encloses the western edge of Red Rock State Park, starting at the top and working its way down the face of the cliff. These sandstone cliffs encircle the campground on three sides creating an area perhaps 1,000 feet in diameter. The Outlaw Trading Post, built in 1888, now serves as a camp office and general store. The new addition on the right side is the post office for Church Rock NM (which I guess is where we really are). To complete the photo presentation, this is a view of the cliff behind (to the east) of the motorhome, taken late in the day as the sun was getting lower in the west.

Sometime around midday we drove to Zini, the town that serves as the center of the Zuni Reservation. Once again we checked out a number of places that sell jewelry, pottery, and other Indian crafts and items of art. Again, very nice stuff, but you can't buy everything that's nice. We stopped at the Route-53 Cafe, a tiny little place in the middle of Zuni, Indian owned and operated. I intended to use the picture I took in October 2000 to put here, but for reasons I can't explain, the picture isn't where it's supposed to be.

When we returned from Zuni we stopped in Gallup, which is loaded with trading posts, Indian pawns, etc., but it was almost 6 o'clock and everything was either closed or closing. There's enough in Gallup that we've decided to stay over until Monday when these places open again.

Odometer reading = 34,889
Miles for day = 0

 

4/21/02
(Gallup NM)

Last night the heat pumps went off and the system switched to the gas furnaces. We found out that last night's temperature went down to 22 degrees! I thought we were finished with those kinds of temperatures.

Jordan and I had decided to hike up to Church Rock, two miles north of the campground. We left at noon for a hike that the campground brochure says takes an hour and a half. Suffice it to say we didn't get back until 4:30, and we were dragging. Part of the problem was that the brochure shows a simple map depicting four trails. The reality is that there are hundreds of trails, including goat trails, crisscrossing all over the place. Many of them dead end, either at the base of a rock wall, or at the edge of a precipice. Anyway, the map showed that the easiest assent was to circle around to the right (east) and come up from the rear. That's what we ultimately did, backtracking numerous times from dead ends.

At one point when we were probably about a half mile east of the rock we met a herd of goats coming the other way along the trail. As we got closer to each other the goats left the trail, but were soon followed by a pack of six to eight dogs that encircled me in barking, not too friendly, manner. When I first saw them coming I was concerned that it might be a pack of wild dogs, but by the time they had encircled me I could tell that they weren't wild, but not exactly looking to play either. Jordan was about 75 feet behind me and I yelled at her to pick up a stick. So far the dogs had ignored her but I wanted her to have something in her hand in case they moved on towards her. At that point I could not pick up anything because to try to do so would have put my face right into the face of a dog. Had it not been for one chow-looking dog that seemed intent on getting to me, the others, except for their number, were not too threatening. Happily, following along some distance behind the dogs was an elderly Indian woman, with her walking stick, following along behind her goats and her dogs. As she passed on by the dogs went with her, but as Jordan said, she could have called the dogs off when she first approached.

Earlier in our walk, thinking of mountain lions, I thought that I should have brought along a handgun. Looking at chow dog spraying saliva 18 inches from my leg, I knew I should have. Also, I forgot to take pictures of the dogs.

As the goats with the lady and the dogs disappeared we once again took up on the best way to get to Church Rock. Eventually we were successful and called Sharyn on the radio telling her get the binoculars and see if she could see us. She was able to see us and said she didn't realize that we were actually going to climb up to where we were and that she didn't like us up there. In this picture, taken later in our descent, you can see where we stood when we called Sharyn -- and waved our arms wildly so she could spot us. This was what the campground looked like from Church Rock.

Having gone up from the eastern side we decided to descend along the western side, both because we had already seen the eastern side, plus we thought that maybe it would be easier since we could see what looked like a pretty good trail below us. We were wrong again! After getting to the trail we had seen from above, that trail ultimately dead ended overlooking a deep gorge with a dry riverbed way below. After backtracking several more times, always climbing up or down, there was very little that was level, we spotted a guy below us and yelled down if he was going up or down -- he was coming up, and a short time later he emerged not far from where we were resting (even the campground is at a 6600 feet elevation). He suggested that the easiest way for us would be to go back around Church Rock and descend on the other side. Neither one of us was inclined to try that, and I don't think either one of us thought we could make it that far.. This guy said it was quite difficult the way he had come up, that he had had to work his way up a 30 foot "chimney" by pressing his back against one wall and his feet against the other.

We proceeded in that direction deciding we'd deal with the chimney when we got there. We didn't like that trail at all. In some places it was barely discernible. Also, up until this point the trails had been such that if you fell you could get up and continue. Now, however, if you fell you'd keep going. After going not too far we came to a point where we could see a much better trail below us and we were talking about how or if we could get down to it. About that time two ladies with a white lab came by on the trail below and sat down to rest. The dog spotted us and I told Jordan that dog was going to try to get up to where we were, and that if he was successful, we would then go down the way he got up. That's what he did, and that's how we got down. Amen for white labs!

From that point on it was a piece of cake. We passed dozens of people. Prior to that we had only seen the guy who climbed the chimney and the goat lady. We had, unknowingly, come very close to biting off more than we could chew.

Odometer reading = 34,889
Miles for day = 0

 

4/22/02
(Gallup NM)

First of all, on the way into town on US-66, we took note of this view of Church Rock from the highway (but this really belongs in yesterday's entry).

As for today, it began with Sharyn and Jordan going back to Zuni while I stayed home and worked on yesterday's entry, which was only typed today. When they returned to the campground, Jordan stayed at the motorhome while Sharyn and I went into Gallup. We walked up and down the main street (Route 66) which is loaded with all kinds of Indian Pawn, trading posts, and other Indian items for sale. I think that Indian stuff must be the basis of Gallup's economy. Sharyn and I both like all this Indian and Southwest stuff. I told her we couldn't live here because we'd both be buying everything.

The weather, at least in April, could not be nicer. Sunny, dry, and beautiful; what might be described as "perfect." Maybe a little too windy.

Odometer reading = 34,889
Miles for day = 0

 

4/23/02
(Towaoc CO)

We left this morning heading north for Colorado and Mesa Verde National Park with its "cliff dwellings." About twenty miles north of Gallup, however, we made a left turn and took a detour to Window Rock, AZ, the Headquarters, or Capital, of the Navajo Indian Nation. We didn't know exactly what we'd find there, but it didn't make sense to pass within 20 miles and not check it out.

As we pulled into Window Rock there was what appeared to be a large flea market going on in big parking lot. Of course we found a place to park the motorhome and walked over, but it wasn't as big as it appeared. Also, while some of the Indians were selling beautiful jewelry or other items that they had made, others were selling discount CD's, old car parts, or used clothing.

Window Rock proved to have been an excellent stop, however. While I like all this Indian stuff, I don't wear jewelry, and don't have a house. I've been trying to find something to buy that I could use or wear. Yesterday I found a leather and silver belt in a Gallup Indian Pawn that I liked, but it was marginally too small. In Window Rock we went into a large Navajo Arts and Craft store, owned and operated by the Navajo Nation, and found almost the exact belt. At $259 it was a lot more than I would have spent and I said to Sharyn, "Do you think you can negotiate the price in this place?" Neither of us thought so, but when I asked the lady, "Can this be negotiated?" she said, "No, but you can get a 50% discount for cash." I told her I'd go find an ATM machine, but when it was all set to go I asked how much with a credit card and she said she'd give me the cash price. Neither Sharyn or I can understand the philosophy behind such a pricing system, but I really like the belt a lot.

Anyway, we left Window Rock and got back on track for Mesa Verde. We were at Mesa Verde in October, 2000, and stayed at a campground just opposite the entrance to the National Park. That's about 10 miles east of Cortez. Due to our usual late start, plus our sidetrip to Window Rock, it was past the time by which we usually stop, plus we were all tired, so we stopped at The Ute Mountain Casino and RV Park, an Indian run facility 10 miles south of Cortez. Tomorrow we'll take the car the 20 miles to Mesa Verde.

Odometer reading = 35,057
Miles for day = 168

 

4/24/02 - - -
(Albuquerque NM etc.)

Around midnight on April 23 we received a phone call that Sharyn's mother had had a massive stroke. We were in Towaoc, Colorado, about ten miles south of Cortez. After calling several airlines it became apparent that there was no viable way to fly from Cortez to Fort Myers, Florida. We made plane reservations for Sharyn and Jordan to fly from Albuquerque the following day, April 25.

We drove back to Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque and they got their flight as scheduled. Unfortunately Sharyn's mother died a half hour before they got there. The following day I also flew to Fort Myers.

There won't be any more entries to this site until we return to the motorhome at Kirtland AFB.

Odometer reading = 35,324
Miles for day = 268

 

5/3/02
(Albuquerque NM)

We flew back to Albuquerque yesterday afternoon and found everything just as we had left it. We'll stay here for several days until Sharyn says she's ready to go. Today is her birthday.

Once again, they'll be no further entries here until we're back on the road.

Odometer reading = 35,324
Miles for day = 0

 

5/5/02
(Towaoc CO)

This morning we left Kirtland AFB and Albuquerque NM heading back towards Mesa Verde in southwestern Colorado. This time instead of going through Gallup we headed in a northwesterly direction along US-550, a route we have not traveled before. As we approached Shiprock NM, we pulled off the road and took this picture from Farmington, a full 30 miles from the Shiprock itself. It's a good depiction of both size and distance.

We are now back at the Ute Mountain Casino and RV Park where we received the phone call about Sharyn's mother twelve days ago. Tomorrow we'll take the car to Mesa Verde National Park, about 30 miles from here, and the next day we should be heading for the Grand Canyon.

The following four photos never got incorporated into the text:

(a) Jordan had been looking for one of these necklaces for a long time. She never found one because, as we have learned, it's something from the "plains Indians," more likely to be found in Oklahoma, not in the southwest. When Sharyn and I found this one in a trading post in Gallup we grabbed it. Jordan was thrilled.

(b) We were impressed by the color and design of the Interstate overpasses where I-25 intersects with I-40 in Albuquerque, designed to fit in with the color and architecture of the area.

(c) US-550 somewhere between Albuquerque and Shiprock.

(d) Sharyn reading her book yesterday morning at the Kirtland AFB FamCamp.

Odometer reading = 35,571
Miles for day = 247

 

5/6/02
(Towaoc CO)

To be sure that we would not sleep too late we set the clock (actually the cell phone) for 8:30 am. As I was pouring my coffee and thinking that I really hadn't felt like getting up I realized that it was only 6:40 -- when we were in Florida I had reset the time East Coast time, two hours earlier than Colorado.

Anyway, we took the Honda to Mesa Verde National Park where we went down into the "Cliff Palace," the largest of approximately 600 "cliff dwellings" located throughout the park and surrounding areas. While the Cliff Palace had 217 rooms and was home to perhaps 200 - 250 people, a more typical cliff dwelling had only 1 - 5 rooms and housed a small family group.

Anyway, we spent the afternoon at the park. As we were leaving I took this picture looking back from the entrance road.

After returning to the campground we had dinner and then Jordan went to the pool where she swam some laps before moving into the sauna. Later in the evening Sharyn and I went to the casino where we soon lost six dollars in the nickel slots.

We liked the concept of Indian casinos, seeing them as a way for the Indians to improve their financial situation and help raise them out of what seems to be endemic poverty. Tonight, 90% of the people in the casino were Indians. That's not helping. This casino, however, is located in the middle of nowhere which may make it non-typical insofar as the make up of it's customer base is concerned.

Odometer reading = 35,571
Miles for day = 0

 

5/7/02
(Monument Valley UT)

Leaving Towaoc, on our way to Grand Canyon National Park, we first went by Four Corners where Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico all come together. In this photo Sharyn has on foot in Utah and one foot in Arizona, while Jordan has one foot in Colorado and one foot in New Mexico. Four Corners is located on the Navajo Reservation and the Corners marker is surrounded by many Navajo vendors selling all kinds of Navajo Crafts. Sharyn and Jordan each got a necklace.

From Four Corners we headed into Utah and through Monument Valley, a rather awe inspiring place. This is a closer view, taken as we drove by, of one of the "monuments" in the previous photo. We passed through Monument Valley in 1970, with a 6 year old and two babies in diapers, pulling a 19' travel trailer behind an International Travelall. Monument Valley having evolved into what is is today over a period of several hundred million years, it doesn't seem to have changed much over the last 32 years.

Just north of the Arizona border we stopped at Goulding's Monument Valley Campground. Situated in a rock canyon the campground is picturesque and well done, but at $30 for the night it's too expensive for my taste, particularly when all we want is basically a parking space and an electrical outlet.

The major event of the day was when Sharyn got to put the "Utah" sticker on our travel map. Until today the motorhome had never been to Utah and that blank space on the map really bothered Sharyn.

Odometer reading = 35,697
Miles for day = 126

 

5/8/02
(Grand Canyon AZ)

As we pulled out of the campground we went less than a mile before crossing the line into Arizona. A half hour later we came into Kayenta, a small Indian town with a population of 5800 where we did find a "supermarket" that had skim milk (we all drink skim milk), which is not too easy to find in sparsely populated areas.

Continuing on we came across several areas where the wind blown sand and dust reduced visibility substantially, but fortunately these conditions were short lived. We did notice when we stopped for lunch, however, that the table was covered with a very visible swirled pattern of dust and grit. Of course while the table top is easily wiped clean, all other surfaces are equally covered, even if not as visible or as easily cleaned. I told Sharyn that when we get out of all this desert country I'm going to change the air filter in the motorhome. We'll also go through a super vacuuming and perhaps beat all the cushions with a rug beater!

When we got to the main campground at Grand Canyon National Park they were full. The other campground, run by the National Park Service, has no hookups, but only cost us $7.50. No hookups, or dry camping, really isn't a problem for one or two nights so long as we don't need air conditioning (which we don't). Basically, except for the microwave, TV, and heat pumps, everything else runs on 12 volts. We may go for an inverter which would take care of the microwave and TV (plus Jordan's blender).

Before dinner we went over to the edge of the canyon because I was anxious for Jordan to see it.

Odometer reading = 35,876
Miles for day = 179

 

5/9/02
(Grand Canyon AZ)

Our plan for the day was rather simple. First we would visit the new information center and bookstore, then we'd take the shuttle bus to Hopi Point out on the western rim road, from which we'd then walk along the unimproved foot trail that follows the edge of the canyon and go as far as Mohave Point, a distance of just under a mile.

I took about 40 pictures during the course of the day, but once again this is a place where photographs just can't convey what's here. You really have to experience it for yourself.

As for the walk along the edge, the area we walked yesterday was on a paved portion of the trail that for the most part is not at the very edge. The portion we did today was a small piece of the unimproved trail which is actually just a narrow foot trail, the result of other people have gone that way. For the most part it's probably two feet wide, and in some places there is no space at all between the trail and the edge of the canyon. There were many places that Sharyn didn't like at all, and most of those places I wasn't crazy about either. Jordan didn't appear as concerned as we were, but there were places she wouldn't go either. One thing we all agreed on was you either walk, or you look around -- you don't do both at the same time.

Since I had trouble selecting 4 or 5 photos to put on this page I made a separate page with 12 reduced size pictures. The entire page is only 146K and should download with a 56K modem in about 20 seconds.

Odometer reading = 35,876
Miles for day = 0

 

5/10/02
(Kingman AZ)

After we dumped our holding tanks and topped off the water tank we were on our way towards Las Vegas. As we were traveling west on I-40 we were so buffeted by wind that Sharyn thought we should stop and wait for the wind to stop. The weather forecast for Grand Canyon was for winds out of the southwest at 20-30 mph gusting to 50 and that's probably what we experienced. Of course there was a major headwind component -- we never have a tailwind!

We stopped at one of several campgrounds in Kingman, Arizona. Tomorrow we plan to go on to Nellis AFB in Las Vegas.

Odometer reading = 36,047
Miles for day = 170

 

5/11/02
(Las Vegas NV)

As we approached Kingman yesterday afternoon, and as we were leaving this morning, there were numerous signs warning that trucks and RV's were prohibited from driving across the Hoover Dam. This was as a result of the attacks of September 11 and the resulting security concerns regarding the dam and the billions (maybe trillions) of gallons of water the dam is holding back. To understand the significance of such a restriction you have to know that the road from Kingman to Las Vegas goes across the Hoover Dam.

Anyway, I had read that the RV restrictions had been lifted some time ago, but was reassured when the campground owner confirmed it. About two miles from the dam all traffic was diverted off of the road for a security check. We were further diverted into a side area where we were asked to submit to search of the motorhome, which we did. The search wasn't too thorough, but I'm sure "profiling" was part of the process (as it should be). It should be know that everyone at the checkpoint was soft spoken and polite, but there was also at least one guy standing there with an AR-15 in his hands.

After passing through the checkpoint we continued on across the dam, and then another 30 miles into Las Vegas and the Nellis AFB FamCamp.

My upgrade to Photoshop 6.0 was waiting for me at the FamCamp office so the first thing I did was load it and start playing. It's going to take awhile -- it's much different than 4.0 or even 5.5.

After an hour or so we went to the commissary to get some milk, bread, etc.

Odometer reading = 36,170
Miles for day = 123

 

5/12/02 to 5/17/02
(Las Vegas NV)

It's been a while since I updated this page, but we're still in Las Vegas, and we've had lots of distractions. Because they're going to be a fair number of photographs in his entry, I have to preface it all by saying that in addition to getting Photoshop 6.0, I finally reconciled myself to the fact that I wasn't going to be able to buy the camera I wanted, a Sony 707, for the price I wanted to pay, so I paid the best price I could find (mail order) and my camera was delivered to the FamCamp several days ago. Now I have two new toys and I'm enjoying them thoroughly!

Several nights ago we went to the Las Vegas Hilton where we saw Wynonna Judd (with respect to photo quality, bear in mind that I have reduced the file size of this photo from 60.2k to 20.0k with some minimal loss in picture quality). After the show we stopped at TCBY in the hotel lobby for a "cool one." Coming out of the hotel I took this picture, plus this one of the car in the parking lot.

Driving the "Strip" (Las Vegas Boulevard) one night, we had this limo in front of us at a stop light.

Another evening we took some pictures in the motorhome, including this one of Jordan. One afternoon I took this one of Sharyn. This afternoon, right in our campsite I took these pictures of doves and a quail. The quail were kind of skittish of me and Sharyn sitting there and sort of stayed behind the shrubs. While waiting for one of them to come out from behind a shrub, a road runner strutted right in front of us about ten feet away. I was caught unawares and didn't get his picture. As an aside, it was only a few months ago that I found out that road runners were real birds, not just cartoon characters.

In addition to taking pictures, we also went to several malls, Barnes & Noble to buy a book on Photoshop 6.0, Camping World to have some repairs done on the motorhome, commissary, BX, did laundry, and cleaned the motorhome. We probably did other things as well, but it's late, I'm tired, and I can't remember anything else anyway. By the way, we all agree that we like Las Vegas. The weather is quite hot with the daytime temperatures running in the mid-90's, but the humidity is only in the 20% range, plus there is always a breeze. Jordan says she like to be stationed here at Nellis AFB.

PS: If you'd like to know more about this super cool camera, check out this review at http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/F707/F7P.HTM.

Odometer reading = 36,236
Miles for day = 65 (trip to Camping World)

 

5/18/02
(Las Vegas NV)

Yesterday, for whatever reason, I thought we were leaving here today. It was Sharyn's understanding that we were staying here today to do final laundry and generally get ready to leave tomorrow morning. That was fine with me anyway, so today Sharyn did laundry, I messed with my camera and computer, and basically we had a non-formatted day.

Odometer reading = 36,236
Miles for day = 0

 

5/19/02
(Lone Pine CA)

We were up and on the road by 10:am which is really pretty good for us. We had talked about only going as far as Pahrump NV and staying at the Escapees place there, but we stopped there once before and didn't care for it at all. It's the only Escapee place we've been to that we felt way about. Instead we decided we go as far as Stovepipe Wells in Death Valley, but a road that showed in our atlas, but did not exist on the ground, caused us to have to go through Pahrump anyway because there was no right turn off of the road we were on. As we approached Pahrump we reconsidered staying there, but the wind was blowing sand and dust everywhere. It was so thick that visibility was less than a mile so we rejected the idea of staying, having just reclaimed the motorhome from the previous dust storms we'd experienced.

We did fill the gas tank in Pahrump, figuring it would be the last chance before California where we anticipate seeing gas costing another 50 cents per gallon. We paid $1.379 per gallon, and the next gas station we came to was at Furnace Creek in Death Valley. It was $2.69 per gallon; almost twice what we had paid 75 miles earlier. By the way, we took note of the Tumbleweed Tavern next door to the gas station in Pahrump.

As we were approaching Stovepipe Wells we saw that it also was engulfed in windblown sand and dust so we decided to go on through to Lone Pine, which we did. (In September 2000 we went from Lone Pine to Las Vegas and took three days for the trip -- today we did it backwards in one day).

Anyway, climbing out of Death Valley heading west we climbed 4,000 feet in 14 miles and soon after began six mile 9% descent, only to begin climbing again not too much further down the road. Brakes and transmissions sure would last longer on the East Coast. By the time it all began to level out a bit (relatively speaking) I stopped to take this picture. Sharyn didn't like the road out and says she's had enough of Death Valley and that she sees no need to go back again. I might agree with her. Two years ago I wrote here that we thought Death Valley might well be used as a nuclear waste disposal site and we stand by that today.

Eventually we got to Lone Pine and checked in at Boulder Creek RV Park. The wind is blowing here as hard as it has been everywhere else, but there is sufficient ground cover immediately upwind of the campground that the sand and dust that was everywhere else doesn't seem to be a problem here -- at least it won't accumulate so quickly!

This is the same place we stayed last time we were here. That time we planned to stay for one night and ended up staying six days. Sharyn really enjoyed the pool, the spa, the coffee and muffins served in the clubhouse every morning, and pretty much everything about the place. We'll stay here until she's ready to leave.

Odometer reading = 36,494
Miles for day = 258

 

5/20/02
(Lone Pine CA)

On our first morning here I was the only one to get up to the clubhouse for the morning's coffee and fresh baked muffins. The sign said, "There are two muffins for each of our customers -- please share." Since the guy in the site next to us pulled out at 6:45 this morning, I figured I could have his muffins and there'd still be enough for everyone else.

Eventually Sharyn and Jordan were up and dressed and we decided to go to "town" and check things out. We parked the car in front of a newspaper vending machine, bought the Los Angeles Times, and then walked up one side of the street to the north end of town, then crossed over and came back down the other side -- checking out 8 or 10 stores as we went. As we got back to where we had left the car Sharyn declared that she was starving so we went into nearby PJ's Restaurant for something to eat. Since we've all changed our eating habits for the better, none of us could finish the food on our plates.

Odometer reading = 36,494
Miles for day = 0

 

5/21/02
(Lone Pine CA)

The day began with confirmation that Rt-120 through Yosemite National Park, about 125 miles north of here, and our planned route west to San Francisco, is closed to all but 4-wheel drive vehicles, or those with snow chains. There is also snow and ice at Lake Tahoe, about 215 miles north of here, and the next westbound crossing through the mountains. Accordingly we've decided to head south to Bakersfield, about 150 miles, and go around the southerly end of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It's a pretty rough stretch of mountains and there aren't too many places to cross.

This is a panoramic view of the Sierra Nevada, looking west from the campground (scroll horizontally to see it all).

This afternoon while I was at a local truck tire place to have tire valve extensions installed on the rear of the motorhome, Sharyn and Jordan went to the post office to mail some stuff. It appears that there was a beauty parlor next door to the post office, and now they both have appointments to have their hair done tomorrow. Plus, the tire valve extensions didn't work.

Odometer reading = 36,504
Miles for day = 10

 

5/22/02
(Lone Pine CA)

This morning while Sharyn and Jordan were at the beauty parlor I went back behind the town and took the pictures that make up this panorama (don't forget to scroll horizontally) which is another view of the Sierra Nevada Range, about five miles north of yesterday's view. The view is to the west, with the base of the mountains about 5-7 miles in the distance. The Alabama Hills (the brown hills) are less than half that distance. Lone Pine is just beyond the trees. This is Lone Pine as seen from the south end of town looking north. PJ's restaurant where we ate yesterday afternoon is the first building on the right.

Jordan thinks that we should buy a place here! When I asked her why, she said, "because it's nice." It may be nice, but it's also the ultimate "Podunk, USA." Besides we've kind of decided that if we settle someplace it should have a military installation nearby (commissary and PX), plus a Barnes & Noble.

When I picked Sharyn and Jordan up at the beauty parlor the lady let me use her phone line to update this site for the first time since we've been in Lone Pine. It also enabled us to get our e-mail and do our banking.

Tomorrow we're headed south for the FamCamp at Edward's AFB, about 40 miles northeast of Los Angeles. Since Memorial Day weekend is coming up we're going to try to get there early to reduce the chance of there being no campsite left for us. We may stay there through the weekend because on these big holiday weekends available campsites can be hard to find so it's good to stay put. When we do leave there we'll be basically heading up the coast to Seattle and on to Alaska, with diversions to the Concord/Walnut Creek area east of San Francisco, where Sharyn lived as a kid, and to Oroville where she has a sister and a niece.

Odometer reading = 36,504
Miles for day = 0

 

5/23/02
(Rosamond CA)

Because of our concern about filled up campgrounds this Memorial Day weekend, we decided to get an early start so we'd get here early. We pulled out of Lone Pine at 8:30 and got to the Edward's AFB FamCamp just after eleven. The place was practically empty with a "pick your spot and put the check in the slot" sign-in arrangement. Even now when it's dark the place is less than 30% full.

Anyway, after getting set up Sharyn and I went to the BX to check out photo quality printers so I can print some of the pictures taken with my cool camera. They had several, but since I haven't subscribed to any computer magazines for over two years I don't know what to buy. We then went to the base library where they have a number of online computers so that I could read recent reviews of such printers. Having spent all my money on the camera I don't want to spend much on the printer ($100 - $150 would be good). I almost bought an Epson C-80, but I'm not sure it'll give me the quality print I'm looking for. Part of the idea of this camera (Sony 707) was that I'd be able to retire my Nikon film camera (which I haven't used in over two years), but could still take a picture with enough definition to print a high quality, film-like, print if I wanted to. If anyone reading this has any suggestions I'd like to hear them.

It turned out that we didn't have everything we needed for one of our vegetable dinners so Jordan and I went to the commissary to get onions, broccoli, and some low sugar, fat free, ice cream. When we got back to the motorhome I made the dinner and Jordan cleaned up afterwards. This is all done on something of a rotating basis.

We had originally planned to stay here until the weekend passed, but we may leave here before that. Some bases/FamCamps are more inviting than others. Worse case scenario, we can spend a night in a Wal-Mart parking lot. That's still up in the air for now.

Odometer reading = 36,643
Miles for day = 139

 

5/24/02
(Rosamond CA)

This is the first place we've been in well over a month that allows washing of RVs at the campsite so I washed the motorhome, the awnings, and the car.

Later on Jordan and I went to base lounge where I was able to update the website and she used one of their online computers.

We called the FamCamp at Vandenberg AFB and they said we'd have no problem getting a site tomorrow. We heading there, about 100 miles north of Los Angeles, tomorrow.

Odometer reading = 36,643
Miles for day = 0

 

5/25/02
(Lompoc CA)

We got a fairly start this morning heading towards Los Angeles where we turned and finally headed north along the Pacific Coast towards the FamCamp at Vandenberg AFB. It was beautiful -- after several months in the high desert country of the southwest we found ourselves surrounded by hills and mountains covered with real trees and lots of green stuff. Out of the desert at last! It was a welcome change.

When we arrived at Vandenberg the temperature was about 60 degrees -- a full 30 degrees cooler than what we've been experiencing.

We are wondering about our plans for spending the winter in the southwest, as neither one of us are in love with the desert country we've been traveling through.

Odometer reading = 36,868
Miles for day = 225

 

5/26/02
(Lompoc CA)

When we woke up this morning it was almost ten o'clock. It was cold, dark, and dreary -- looked like it was going to rain, but it never did. I guess we had forgotten about dark and dreary days.

Sharyn and I went to the commissary to get some groceries, after which she did laundry while I fooled around with my camera and Photoshop.

There are some interesting trees growing next to the FamCamp, but I don't have any idea what they are. Check out that cool bark! After these photos I went down the road to photograph this tree.

On the way to photograph that last tree I met a coyote crossing the road. He wanted nothing to do with me and stayed far away. On the way back I stopped to photograph these guys, (ground squirrels, prairie dogs, or whatever they are, they're thousands of them around here). As I was taking their pictures they were preoccupied with watching me. The coyote thought that was a a good time to approach them from behind and he came closer than he had allowed me to get. Unfortunately for him, all those little guys either heard or saw him, because suddenly there was no one left on the scene but me and the coyote.

Odometer reading = 36,868
Miles for day = 0

 

5/27/02
(Monterey CA)

We left Vandenberg and headed north on California Route #1, the "Pacific Coast Highway." We had not traveled too far when we passed through the community of Pismo Beach. While we had never heard of it, we assume they have a lot of beer drinkers there.

From there, and for most of the distance, the road is sort of "cut in" to the side of the mountain on one side, while overlooking the ocean on the other side. Of course the scenery is beautiful and I took lots of pictures along the way. This one would have been better if the fog had not knocked out the background. Sharyn got this one as we traversed a series of "S" turns. The bridge where the highway crosses over a deep gorge, and (finally) the motorhome parked for coffee.

For tonight we're at the Monterey Pines RV Park on a Navy golf course.

Odometer reading = 37,058
Miles for day = 190

 

5/28/02
(Oakley CA)

Today we traveled from Monterey to Concord, where Sharyn grew up through her Jr. high and early high school years. We drove the motorhome around downtown Concord (which once upon a time was all of Concord) and Sharyn was amazed at how it had changed. Actually the only two things that were recognizable were the park where she used to go to eat her lunch and the church her oldest sister was married in.

From Concord we continued on through Pittsburg and Antioch to Oakley to visit with Aunt Thelma and her son, and Uncle Harley and his wife; Sharyn's father's sister and brother. We had a thoroughly enjoyable visit that was further enhanced by the fact that when they all came out to see the motorhome Sharyn served various flavors of iced tea with cookies and snacks, and later, with help from Jordan, prepared dinner for everyone, complete with cake and ice cream. Doing all of that for seven people in a motorhome is more impressive than regular "house dwellers" might appreciate. Anyway, we all sat around talking, telling stories, and looking at photographs until late in the evening.

We spent the afternoon and night parked next to Aunt Thelma's home in what must be the neatest, best kept, mobil home park we've ever seen. Like I said, it was all very pleasant.

Odometer reading = 37,200
Miles for day = 142

 

5/29/02
(Vacaville CA)

This morning we spent a little more time with Aunt Thelma before saying good-bye and heading for Travis AFB, about 40 miles east of San Francisco. It was a relatively short and uneventful drive, except for the toll bridge where the car would have cost $2 and the motorhome would have cost $2, but the combination cost $6.25. The tollkeeper said he never understands the decisions that are made in Sacramento (the California State Capital). This is the second time this has happened to us (the first time as the George Washington Bridge in New York City -- a $27 toll). The next time I may, as a protest, unhook the car at the toll booth.

Anyway, we arrived at Travis to find that the FamCamp was full which resulted in our being put into a dry camp overflow area. With the temperature in the 90's, and under the full sun, it got pretty uncomfortable. Just as the sun was dropping behind the horizon the host came over and told us he had a 30 amp spot for us -- we took it!

We'll be here for several days at least as Jordan wants to see San Francisco and Sharyn want to have tea in the Japanese Tea Garden -- also in San Francisco. Beside Sharyn has always liked it here and says it's "very comfortable."

Odometer reading = 37,240
Miles for day = 40

 

5/30/02
(Vacaville CA)

Today we didn't do much of anything. Jordan and I went to the ITT (Information, Tickets, and Travel) Office to get some information on what to see and/or do in San Francisco. While we were there we also got some publications on places in Washington and Oregon, as well as the Oregon Coast, plus British Columbia. We also got a detailed map of downtown San Francisco which will be very helpful. It even shows Sharyn's Japanese Tea Garden.

I had kind of focused on a Canon S-820 printer that should produce excellent, Kodak quality, prints from the .tiff pictures I take with my camera. Since my birthday and father's day are coming up in a few weeks I told Sharyn she could get me that printer as a combined present for both of those days. Well, this afternoon when she and Jordan went to the commissary and BX to do some shopping, they came back with the printer they had bought at the BX as an early birthday/father's day present.

Tomorrow we're going to San Francisco for the day, but the next day, Saturday, I'll get the printer up and running and do some prints. My new "top of the list" project is to build a printer/scanner cabinet that will hold the new printer, plus my old NEC laser (black and white) printer, as well as my scanner. I want an arrangement whereby these will all be plugged in and ready to go merely by opening the front of the cabinet and connecting the necessary cable(s) to my laptop. There is a small drop leaf table behind the passenger's chair. There's a small decorative cabinet under the table now that can be put somewhere else to make room for my equipment cabinet.

Odometer reading = 37,240
Miles for day = 0

 

5/31/02
(Vacaville CA)

The game plan for today was San Francisco, and that's what we did. We had planned to leave at 8:30, but some of us are poky and we didn't get out of here until about ten o'clock.

It's 50 miles to Fisherman's Wharf which is where we parked the car. We walked around that general area (sort of like San Francisco's Times Square) for awhile, checking out some shops, etc., before taking a tour boat ride that went out under the Golden Gate Bridge, then back and around the far side of Alcatraz and back to the dock. It's a one hour ride with running (taped) commentary the entire time.

After the boat ride we drove to the other end of the downtown area and went to the Japanese Tea Room located in Golden Gate Park. Many years ago Sharyn's class from Concord High School went there on a school trip. We tried to find it when we were here two years ago, but that time we were not successful. In spite of the fact that it was cold, overcast, and windy, the gardens were really beautiful.

From the Park, we started our return trip to Travis getting on the highway heading for the Oakland Bay Bridge at ten minutes to five. Not perfect timing, but we made it back anyway. It was a long day.

Odometer reading = 37,240
Miles for day = 0

 

6/1/02
(Vacaville CA)

Yesterday, on the way back from San Francisco, we passed a TJ Maxx about ten miles from the base. Today Sharyn and Jordan went back to the TJ Maxx to return something Sharyn had bought in Los Vegas, and to check out some other stores as well.

While they were gone I set up and played with my new printer, a Canon S-820. The first two pictures I printed out were .jpg's (640x480) and while they had great color and would pass as good "snapshots" (actually they were the first two pictures in yesterday's entry; "area" and "etc."), they were not the results I was looking for. I then set up the tripod and took this picture as a .tiff at a 2560x1920 (a 14Mg file) and then printed it on Canon's best photo paper. (Don't worry, this version is only a 36.9 K .jpg). It was beautiful; clear and sharp, looked as if it came from a professional photo lab, and I'm happy. Also, since the print I made was only 4x6 inches I took one fourth of the image and printed that on a 4x6 inch sheet -- producing the equivalent results as if I had printed the entire picture as an 8x10. I'm still happy, but there's no way to show the results on a website!

Later this evening Jordan and I went to Barnes & Noble, about six miles from the base.

Odometer reading = 37,240
Miles for day = 0

 

6/2/02
(Oroville CA)

Shortly before 10 o'clock check out we were up and on our way to visit Sharyn's sister Sandy in Oroville. On the way we passed through Sacramento where I wanted to get a picture of a sign that I saw two years ago when we passed through Sacramento on our way to Lake Tahoe via US-50. Route 50 runs for about 3,000 miles from Sacramento, California to Ocean City, Maryland. The sign I was looking for, that we never did find, said:

US-50
OCEAN CITY MD
3037 MILES

It was kind of a neat sign that I wanted to add to our Interesting Signs page. I originally mentioned this sign on this site on September 25,2000, but being somewhat superfluous, it may be that California decided to take it down. Anyway, we went some 10-15 miles out of our way to photograph this sign that we never did find.

After turning around and getting back on track to Oroville it didn't take us too long to get there. We stopped at the same campground on the Feather River where we stayed some two years ago. After some lunch we drove the car over to Sandy's house where we stayed the entire afternoon and evening, had dinner and then further conversation with everyone until we eventually left so they could all go to bed.

After we got back to the motorhome, Sharyn was outside smoking her cigarette when the sprinkler system came on and got her drenched. Jordan and I knew what had happened because soon after we heard the system come on we heard Sharyn starting to laugh. Now, as she just came in. she's soaking wet.

Odometer reading = 37,373
Miles for day = 133

 

6/3/02 to 6/6/02
(Oroville CA)

There's not a great deal to write about. We're still at River Reflections Campground on the Feather River. While we had hoped to be kayaking on the river, the temperature has been over 100 degrees every day since we got here so I prefer to seek air conditioned shelter.

Sharyn and Jordan have been doing lots of visiting and family socializing. Jordan particularly enjoys it because there are a number of young people for her to go and do things with. From traveling with us she was beginning to think that the world was made up of social security recipients.

In the meanwhile I've been addressing the issue of finding to find a qualified transmission place to replace the transmission fluid with synthetic fluid. Also, two of our leveling jacks have been leaking and I've had little success finding someone willing and able to rebuild them.

Like I said, there's not too much happening, but at least with this entry you'll know that we haven't driven over the side of a mountain -- we're still out here doing our thing!

Odometer reading = 37,443
Miles for day = 59

 

6/7/02 to 6/8/02
(Oroville CA)

These two days have been productive in addressing the transmission and jack problems.

With respect to the transmission, we installed a larger Hayden transmission oil cooler and changed the fluid, but not with synthetic. Transmatic, in Chico, is a large, "top of the line" repair and rebuild facility and we took the owner's advice in going for the larger cooler rather than changing to synthetic fluid. The owner is an elderly, semi retired, fellow who I thought was a customer waiting for his car. When I realized he was the owner (who started that business 42 years ago) his credibility factor went up considerably. The cooler actually cost us less than the switch to synthetic fluid would have.

Thomas Hydraulics, also in Chico, is a large hydraulic and machine shop facility that seems to focus mostly on commercial and industrial type repairs, but rebuilt our jacks in less than a day. They had no idea why other shops had told us they couldn't rebuild these cylinders.

Tomorrow is Sunday and we plan to be back on the road again come Monday morning.

Odometer reading = 37,534
Miles for day = 47

 

6/9/02 and 6/10/02
(Oroville CA)

We were supposed to leave here this morning, but over the course of our stay in Oroville Jordan has decided to stay here and live with Sharyn's sister Sandy and her family. We saw this coming, and several days ago I asked Jordan about it. We extended our time for another day so as to allow more time for Jordan to gather her stuff and make for a more orderly transition. Besides, Sharyn and I needed a little time to adjust to this change, although the more we think and talk about it, the better the choice seems to be.

Odometer reading = 37,534
Miles for day = 0

 

6/11/02
(Weaversville CA)

This morning Jordan, who has been sleeping at Sandy's most of the time we've been here, came by so that we could have one more kiss good-bye. After several hours we were once again heading north.

At Reading we turned west and headed for the Pacific Coast some 150 miles away on the other side of the Trinity Mountains. From Reading (elevation 550') it wasn't too long until we crested the first summit at just over 3,000'. A big chunk of that distance was in second gear, and I told Sharyn that if she listened very carefully she could just make out the transmission saying, " . . . thanks for that cooler, guys, it sure helps me feel better . . . and keep my cool . . . ."

Weaversville was our destination for the day. We passed through here two years ago, going the other way, and I remember Weaversville being a really nice looking town -- sort of a leftover from the 1800's. We didn't stop but drove right on through, and later I remember thinking that when we come to a place like that we should stop and enjoy it. It looks as if we'll stay here tomorrow and do just that.

By the way, this is our view from the motorhome.

Odometer reading = 37,677
Miles for day = 143

 

6/12/02
(Weaversville CA)

This morning Sharyn did some reorganizing in cabinets and closets. After that we drove into town where we parked the car and began walking. We visited an antique shop with an ice cream and sandwich counter, the Memorial Museum and History Center (where we spent almost two hours), numerous small stores and shops (most of which are in the original structures from the 1800's), and the Joss House, the oldest continuously used Chinese Temple in California.

We also checked several other things in what is called the "Museum Complex," including this original "ditcher's cabin" (check out this construction detail).

Later in the afternoon, before returning to the motorhome we went to the local supermarket to get some groceries. As I've said before, you can tell the socio-economic level of a community by what you find (or don't find) in the local supermarket. This community is more upscale than you'd know from a walk down the main street. Somewhere between 25-35% of the space in the supermarket is stocked with gourmet or specialty items -- a bigger proportion than we've seen anywhere else in a non-specialty store.

After dinner Sharyn started the laundry while I did the dishes. Then while the laundry was going we sat on the porch of the laundry room talking and reading the RV magazines that had been left there

Odometer reading = 37,677
Miles for day = 0

 

6/13/02
(McKinleyville CA)

This morning we again headed west along California Route 299. Two years ago we thought that this highway through the Trinity Mountains was one of the most beautiful we'd ever traveled. Today reconfirmed that original conclusion. The road winds back and forth as it follows the Trinity River. At one point we pulled of the road and took several pictures. Some time later we stopped and had lunch while looking out over the river.

After lunch we continued west to US-101 at Arcata where we once again turned and headed north as far as McKinleyville.

From here our plan, always subject to change, is to continue north on US-101, around the Olympic Mountains in northwest Washington, and then down the west side of the Puget Sound across from Seattle.

Odometer reading = 37,773
Miles for day = 96

 

6/14/02
(Port Orford OR)

Last nights campground was functional, plain vanilla. We were up early and on the road shortly after nine o'clock.

Once again we had to take note of the beauty of the Pacific Coastal Highway (US 101 at this point). As we drove through a portion of Redwood National Park Sharyn commented that that section might be her favorite.

We stopped rather early at Humbug Mountain State Park, just south of Port Orford. The cost was $18 which is marginally high for a state park, but it is very pretty, with the campground itself nestled between Humbug and some other mountain. It's like being in a tree lined bowl, enclosed all around except for the opening that provides access to the ocean for the creek and the foot trail, both of which pass under US-101. We took at site at the far end of the campground because that's where the trail to the beach is. After getting set up and having lunch (and changing to long pants, sweat shirt, and jacket) we walked down to the beach. Exploring the beach and the creek bed that runs through the campground and out into the ocean, Sharyn accumulated about eight or ten rocks (about 20 pounds worth)!

Since I took over 30 pictures this afternoon, I've included the following as optional (without comment):

Waves
Driftwood close-up
Log + Sharyn on beach

Odometer reading = 37,919
Miles for day = 146

 

6/15/02
(Port Orford CA)

After finishing one pot of coffee we drove the six miles into Port Orford. This was our first view of the town from several miles away. It's a tiny little seaside village with what appears to be a pretty active commercial dock, but not much else. It was Saturday, so even the dock was not showing any activity although there was a lot of equipment there. We concluded that the jail had not been used for a long time, but realized later that we had never checked to see if there was any long forgotten bad guy locked inside.

As we've said repeatedly, the Pacific coast is spectacularly beautiful. This is US-101 looking south, just before we turn into the campground.

After lunch we spent most of the day reading the paper, talking, and just relaxing in the sunshine (this is the only time I've used the delayed exposure on the camera - - which was on the tripod).

Odometer reading = 37,919
Miles for day = 0

 

6/16/02
(Newport OR)

Once again we headed north along US-101 and had a rather pleasant, if uneventful, trip to Newport where we stopped at the Port Of Newport RV Park and Marina. A good part of today's travel was slightly inland so we were not looking out over the ocean as we have been in recent days. That did not detract from the beauty of the area, however, and Sharyn commented that this may be the most beautiful part of the Country that we've seen. I think that I might give that honor to US-101 north of Tillamook, Oregon, perhaps 100 miles north of where we are now -- but then that would be splitting hairs!

Odometer reading = 38,074
Miles for day = 155

 

6/17/02
(Warrenton OR)

It was rainy and drizzling all day from the time we got up until the time we went to bed. The rain never came down hard, but the yellow highway signs with the outline of a car and the swigglely lines depicting a slippery roadway had Sharyn rather intimidated and we negotiated the coastal hills and curves. In fact we weren't going very fast and we had no problem at all from the weather. We stopped at the FamCamp at Camp Rilea, a small installation on the Pacific, just south of the Columbia River.

About a year ago I read Stephen Ambrose's Undaunted Courage, the story of Lewis and Clark's exploratory expedition across unexplored territory westward to the Pacific Ocean. It's a great story and a great book! They spent the cold and wet winter (all winters on this part of the Pacific coast are cold and wet) of 1805-06 at Fort Clatsop before beginning their long trek back east that spring. The site of the original Fort Clatsop is only about five miles from the FamCamp, so as soon as we were set up in the campground we drove over to what is now Fort Clatsop National Monument. We spent several hours at the visitor's center and the now reconstructed fort. Down by the river they had this dugout canoe like the ones used by the expedition.

Look at these two magnificent Sitka spruce trees adjacent to the fort -- the one on the left is about 4' in diameter at shoulder level. The spruce forest is full of such trees, many of them much bigger, but you can't get far enough away from them to get a good photograph.

After returning to the motorhome we had hot soup for dinner, read for awhile, and then went to bed.

Odometer reading = 38,203
Miles for day = 129

 

6/18/02
(Pacific Beach WA)

It rained most of the night and was still cloudy and drizzly when we started out this morning, but was sunny and beautiful by early afternoon. The very pleasant lady in the FamCamp office let me use a phone line to get online to update this website and download our latest cleared banking transactions. It was the first time in four days that I had access to a phone line.

It wasn't more than five minutes after we left Camp Rilea that we were on the bridge crossing over the Columbia River into the State of Washington. Once again we were following the coastline north. The coast is no longer as rough as it was in 50 or 100 miles south of the Columbia River. Now the road frequently runs along the edge of marsh or low water mud flats only a few feet above sea level. Also, while the terrain is hilly, it's no longer the steep and rugged mountains that we had been driving through until yesterday. We stopped by the river just outside the village of South Bend to have lunch.

Later in the day, as we approached a place called Pacific Beach Sharyn began to look for a place to stay. Surprising to both of us, we were less than ten miles from a U.S. Navy Beach Resort and Conference Center with a FamCamp overlooking the Pacific. That really worked out well!

After getting set up we drove the half mile back to "town" as Sharyn wanted to get some ice cream for my birthday. She was not too happy that she was unable to accomplish this without my knowing about it, but some things are compromised when two people live together (24 hours a day?) in a space measuring little more than 8' x 36'. Because of the unexpected nature of the facilities connected with this FamCamp Sharyn decided to take me to dinner at the restaurant in the conference center. She thought it was interesting that I ordered salmon as she had defrosted salmon steaks for dinner. Now she says I'm going to have salmon two days in a row, which is fine by me!

By the way, while we were back in town I told Sharyn that Pacific Beach might be the smallest town I've ever been in; three small stores, an inn, and a bar.

Odometer reading = 38,365
Miles for day = 161

 

6/19/02
(Chimacum WA)

This morning was cloudy and dark, but not raining. Once again we headed up the Olympian Peninsula to the Strait of Juan de Fuca that separates Washington and the United States from Vancouver and Canada. This is a section of US-101 northbound through the Olympic National Forest as seen through Sharyn's windshield. We stopped in Port Angeles and had lunch parked at the end of a series of docks with Vancouver and the City of Victoria visible across the water. We then continued on to an Escapee Park in Chimacum, about eight miles south of Port Townsend.

Our plan, as I type this, is to leave here in the morning, take the ferry from Port Townsend to Whidbey Island and then drive on up to Bellingham where we are told there is a Wal-Mart Super Center where we can get what ever we need, spend the night in their parking lot, and then hit the Canadian border (20 miles beyond Bellingham) early Friday morning.

Odometer reading = 38,567
Miles for day = 201

 

6/20/02
(Chimacum WA)

Well our plans changed. We stayed here today. Sharyn did the laundry while I changed some of the grease fittings on the motorhome. I could not get the grease gun on some of them because of inadequate clearance, so I replaced those with either 45 or 90 degree fittings, as the situation required.

Later we went looking for a store to get some milk and bread. While Sharyn was cooking dinner I took the car to the car wash area and got it clean.

Tomorrow morning we leave. Really!

Odometer reading = 38,567
Miles for day = 0

 

6/21/02
(Hope, British Columbia)

We were up and out fairly early this morning. We drove the ten miles to the ferry that would take us from Port Townsend to Wigby Island, from which we could pick up I-5 to the Canadian border. While the ferry cost us $43.75, it saved us some 150 miles of driving. If we had not taken the ferry we would have had to drive all the down the west side of the Puget Sound to Tacoma, then back up the east side, through Seattle, etc. The ferry was a good deal.

Besides, while waiting for the ferry in Port Townsend we got to walk around the waterfront area and enjoy the beautiful weather, coastal scenery, etc. The ferry ride was only about 30 minutes, during which time Sharyn got to relax, enjoy the sun and the breeze, and look for interesting real estate offerings.

Leaving the ferry we continued on as far as Bellingham (taking in more scenery as we went) where we did some grocery shopping. Before continuing on to the border crossing we topped off the gas tank at $1.37 per gallon (much cheaper than we'd ever find in Canada). At the border, customs took away the apples that Sharyn had just bought because they had not been inspected for importation into Canada. From the border we continued on for about another 50 miles to Hope BC. We were going to stay at a campground in Hope, but just south of town we pulled into a park-like rest area for a brief stop. There were several other RVs already there that looked as if they were going to stay for the night. After speaking to the couple in front of us (he's an ex-gun dealer from Vancouver and they were spending the night) we decided we'd spend the night also.

Since we never seem to eat until dark, and it doesn't get dark until almost ten o'clock, we never get to bed much before midnight. I asked Sharyn what kind of time frame are we going to operate in when we get to Alaska and it stays daylight all night long?

If full-time RVing is an adventure, which it is, then RVing to Alaska is an adventure within an adventure, and today was our first day of that experience.

Odometer reading = 38,718
Miles for day = 151

 

6/22/02
(Lac La Hache BC)

When I got up at 7:15 the couple in front of us had already left, although there were still several RVs and a tractor trailer rig still there. We had coffee made in the French press (no electric coffee pot this morning) and soon were on our way.

For a large portion of the day the road ran through the Frasier River Canyon, as did the railroad tracks and, of course, the river. There is lots of train traffic up and down the canyon (tracks run on both sides of the river).

We eventually stopped at a campground on a lake in Lac La Hache, and for the first time in a long time one of the kayaks went into the water.

By the way, just so you should know, from where we entered Canada, north of Seattle, to the Alaskan border is just over 2,000 miles. Distances in this part of North America are vast!

Odometer reading = 38,941
Miles for day = 223

 

6/23/02
(Prince George BC)

This morning I didn't wake up until 9 o'clock, and when I did I found Sharyn sitting in the living room drinking her coffee. That's a major turnaround from the way it normally starts in the morning.

It was a beautiful morning so we moved outside to our chairs for coffee and conversation as we looked out towards the lake. However, Sharyn disapproves. She says it's "sterile" and "not real." This was Sharyn's view.

Anyway, we finally got started. We stopped once for "breakfast," which we do every day after traveling for one or two hours, and a second time for lunch, which we also do every day. Some days we also stop for our 2 o'clock coffee which can happen most anytime. Our third stop today was at a Wal-Mart where bought the some Mobil-1 oil to change the motorhome oil (and filter), a halogen reading lamp to put behind the couch, a small table lamp to put on the dashboard when we're stopped, and a few miscellaneous grocery items.

We're now at a campground just south of Prince George where we intend to spend two nights. Tomorrow we have to find a place to ship Jordan's birthday present (her 25th), and also to see about a tire problem on the front left. I'm hoping that it's just way out of balance, although there has been substantial wear in the last 1,000 miles or so.

Odometer reading = 39,116
Miles for day = 175

 

6/24/02
(McLeod Lake BC)

For the last week or so we've been detecting a shimmy in the front end, and yesterday it became quite pronounced. The campground owners where we stopped last night recommended Hewlett's Tire Centre in Prince George so that's where we went this morning. It turned out that while the alignment was not too bad, it had in fact worsened in the last 1,000 miles. Rotating the front tires to the inside rear on both sides, plus a front end check and alignment, delayed our departure until 3 o'clock this afternoon. The difference is dramatic. Whereas our speed used to tend to "settle in" at 55-60 mph, it now seems to settle in at just over 65 mph. I suspect that comfort level and fatigue factors will be improved as well.

Anyway, we're now only 70 miles from Prince George at a wide rest area on the Crooked River. As we approached the rest area we saw two 5th wheels parked with their slides out and I suggested to Sharyn that it looked as if they were going to spend the night there. We pulled in and asked them if they were. They're traveling together from Tyler, Texas to Alaska and said that they were spending the night and they too believed "there is safety in numbers." It now looks as if there's still another RV here.

We have taken note of the numerous signs warning of moose on the roadway, and several dead moose along the roadside. The thought of hitting a moose (1800 pounds?) at 60 mph is somewhat disconcerting.

By the way, our neighbors last night were a couple from Kamloops BC, about 300 miles from Prince George. They had just left home yesterday morning on their way to Alaska. The went to Alaska in 1993 and loved it so much that they have returned every year since. This is their tenth trip there. They are originally from Germany and have traveled all over the world including China, Egypt, Africa, etc., (he says they've been everywhere except Australia) and that they've never seen anything that can compare to Alaska.

Odometer reading = 39,192
Miles for day = 76

 

6/25/02
(Fort St. John BC)

I was up at 5:30 this morning and figured that I'd just leave Sharyn sleeping while I got us moving down the road, but she woke up before I got started. In any event we were on the road by 7 o'clock!

Twenty-six miles down the road we stopped for gas, taking on 274.47 liters (72.51 gal) for $202.83 Canadian (approx $131.84 US). That's $1.822 per gallon. Since we only have a 75 gallon tank, and had just under a quarter tank when we pulled in, I'm not sure about that meter. There was no government "certification" sticker on the pump.

Of course as we continued on we had to stop and take a picture. This was the view from the side of the road where we stopped for lunch.

This was about two miles before we entered Dawson Creek, where we ate at the Hotel Alaska Cafe, walked around town, and bought some groceries. The Alaska Highway (once called the Alcan Highway) begins in Dawson Creek at the "0" mile marker and then goes on to end at mile marker 1422 at Delta Junction, Alaska, 98 miles short of Fairbanks.

Leaving Dawson Creek we did not go too far until we diverted to a section of the "old" Alaska, or Alcan, Highway to drive over the historic Kiskatinaw River Bridge. This 531 foot, curved wooden bridge is the only original timber bridge built along the Alaska Highway that is still in use today. Approaching the bridge a sign warns only one truck or RV to be on the bridge at one time.

At one point a moose ran across the road a few cars in front of us. Sharyn got this quick picture through the window.

Eventually we pulled off for the evening at Sourdough Pete's RV Park in Fort St. John.

Odometer reading = 39,419
Miles for day = 227

 

6/26/02
(Alaska Highway at 349.3 km Milepost)

Again we had considered staying in one place for a day, but decided that we'd go on anyway, but not travel as far as we otherwise would. We both feel that we are on some kind of a marathon and that we have to change that.

Shortly after stopping for lunch we came to a point where the road had just been reoiled and a layer of gravel put down. The signs warned to go slow and keep your headlights on due to "extreme dust." This went on for about 30 miles (at 20-30 mph) and I began feeling bad for the new air filter I put in about 1,000 miles ago. By the way, that photograph reminds me that I was once told that the biggest migration in Alaska is the summer migration of RVs to the state. Right now, most of the traffic on the Alaska Highway consists of RVs heading north -- it's almost an endless caravan

Meanwhile, in The Milepost (the Alaska Highway traveler's bible) Sharyn found an old Provincial Campground that was no longer in official use, but that was sort of open for anyone who cared to stop there. The directions said to turn west at milemarker 349.3 (you have to estimate the .3) and take the gravel road for half a mile, crossing an old airstrip that had had been an emergency landing field during the Alcan Highway construction during WW II.

Following those directions we found the old campground and parked the motorhome. Sharyn looked around and was clearly uncomfortable. We were really out in the wilderness, with nothing or no one anywhere near. To try to put it into context, this whole area is part of the Muskwa-Kechika Wilderness Area, at 10.9 million acres it is one of the largest undeveloped wilderness areas south of the 60th parallel, and one of North America's most significant "large mammal predator-prey systems." On top of that, on the way in there was an old sign warning of bears. With respect to the "predator-prey" part, Sharyn knows she's not one of the predators.

Anyway, I told Sharyn that if no one else came in within the next hour or so we'd leave (actually it's too isolated and remote for me too). Well, within ten minutes two more units pulled in (I think we were all glad to see each other). There're either six or seven units here now, plus two guys sleeping in a tent!

With respect to that milemarker number, that means we're 349.3 km (272.2 miles) from Dawson Creek, and 1887.4 km (1172.8 miles) from Delta Junction, the official end of the Alaska Highway.

Odometer reading = 39,591
Miles for day = 172

 

6/27/02
(Muncho Lake BC)

Not only is it not dark until after 10 o'clock, but I got up to go to the bathroom at 3:55 this morning and it was broad daylight.

That having been said, we were on the road at 8:30 this morning and had only gone 13 miles when Sharyn saw a light colored bear, not unlike the color of a golden retriever. It had a dark snout and a "pretty face." As we traveled on we saw two more bears, both of which were black, and not as large or "bulky" as the first one. While black bears can be brown in color, I don't think they are as light as what Sharyn saw. It may have been a grizzly. They are in the area, but we are told there are about 25 black bears for each grizzly.

There are signs everywhere to watch out for elk, caribou, moose, and goats. We did come across a bunch of "stone goats" grazing at the edge of the road and they did not seem to be overly concerned about passing traffic. Later this afternoon we passed a Rocky Mountain Bighorn ram standing between the pavement and the vertical stone wall behind him. I wished we had a picture of him. Each of his curved horns was larger than his head and, unlike the ugly stone goats, this animal was standing with his head held high, like a monarch, looking straight at us as we approached. This was a magnificent animal, and he looked like he knew it!

Sharyn also saw a big brown owl with a white face sitting in a tree next to the road. She sees a lot more than I do. I must spend too much time looking at the road.

With respect to the road, the Alaska Highway sure has changed in the last 200 or so miles. It has gone from a 2, 3, or 4 lane highway with wide shoulders and excellent surface, to a narrow, winding, country road, frequented with gravel patches, and crumbling edges with no shoulders. This transition seems to have occurred as we've entered the "Northern Rockies." If the road has declined, the scenery certainly has not.

Late this afternoon we pulled into Strawberry Flats, a Provincial campground on Muncho Lake. While there are no hookups, our campsite is right on the edge of the water with the mountains on the other side of the lake.

Odometer reading = 39,810
Miles for day = 219

 

6/28/02
(Alaska Highway at Mile 626.2 [1023 km] )

First things first -- Happy 25th Birthday to Jordan! We miss her!

This morning we had our coffee and conversation sitting at the edge of Lake Moncho, enjoying (in addition to coffee, conversation, and each other) the morning sunshine, cool breeze, and the mountains across the lake. It was probably 11 o'clock before we finally decided that we should get started to leave.

About 5 miles down the road we stopped at a lakeside inn to call Jordan and wish her a happy, if long distance, birthday. In this part of the world we have found that there is no cellular phone signal, no AM radio, no FM radio, and the Dish Network TV satellite is always below the horizon.

We actually did not go too far before we stopped to eat. Partially because I was hungry (Sharyn never is) and partly because the pull-off by the river was too inviting to pass it by. When we got back on the road we soon became part of the North to Alaska RV migration.

.

We soon came across a very accommodating black bear who continued eating his dandelions and clover while we stopped and took pictures. By the way, we have talked to several people about the light colored bear we described several days ago and, based on Sharyn's description, they all seem to confirm that it was a grizzly.

We also came upon another section of highway under repair/construction that went in a well spaced out single lane for about 13 miles. This is what it was like waiting for the "pilot car" to lead us.

Eventually we got to Watson Lake where we stopped and walked through the famous "sign forest." As of September 2001 there were are over 42,000 signs. The first sign was put up in 1942 by a soldier of the 341 Engineers from Danville Illinois. Visitors are invited to put up their own sign, and obviously many do.

We are now about 14 miles past Watson Lake in the dirt parking lot at Junction 37, a complex of several businesses, including a restaurant with "home cooking" where we each had a hamburger for dinner. We asked the waitress if we could spend the night in the lot and she said we could. Sharyn felt better when two Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman (RCMP) assured her that it was safe to do so. The campground ranger lady (an attractive and friendly redhead) also told Sharyn that it was safe to spend nights in the pull-offs or rest areas along the highway. That she'd have more concern about the animals than about other people.

Odometer reading = 39,996
Miles for day = 186

 

6/29/02
(Whitehorse, Yukon Territory)
Milepost 891.1

When we woke up this morning we ran the generator to run the heat pump and the coffee pot. It incidentally gave us hot water. This is perhaps only the second time we've run the generator for heat, and the first time for coffee. We usually will use the LP furnace for heat and make coffee in the French press (assuming we are not connected to 120 volts).

One of the police officers that Sharyn spoke with last night told her about a pull-off about 100kms up the road that overlooked a small lake and usually had a couple of moose in it. We pulled off at the location and sure enough there were two moose down below, wading in the wooded pond, apparently eating aquatic plants. There were a good number of RVs and RVers there also. Sharyn indicated the location of the moose to several late arrivals. Instead of looking down at the moose, if you looked straight ahead, this is what you'd see!

As we drove on further we were going down a steep hill in second gear when a baby bear ran across the road in front of us. Lucky for him he was not too close, plus he ran pretty fast. He appeared to be about half grown and was probably last years cub.

As we were proceeding we decided to stop at Mukluk Annie's Salmon Bake and RV Park which offered free camping, RV wash, and other good stuff with the baked salmon. We pulled into her place, checked it out (it sure smelled good), but decided to continue on to Whitehorse in the Yukon.

Later in the afternoon we stopped at Johnson's Crossing for coffee. It turned out that they are also known as the "home of world famous cinnamon buns" (to go with coffee, of course). From the rear porch we could watch the vehicles heading to Alaska as they crossed over the Teslin River bridge.

At one point during the day (I can't put it in proper sequence) Sharyn saw a black fox on the slopped side of the highway. We've never heard of a black fox before, but this one was black.

We are now in Whitehorse, the capital of Yukon Territory. We plan to stay here tomorrow and check out the town. The next day we plan to drive down to Skagway, Alaska, about 110 miles south of here. We're debating whether to take the motorhome or just make it a day trip. We were told to make it a day trip, but it seems to me that if we take the motorhome we preserve all our options.

By the way, I keep forgetting to mention that neither of us has ever been anywhere that had mosquitoes as thick and numerous as we are finding in British Columbia and the Yukon. I suspect Alaska will be the same. I would estimate about five pounds of mosquitoes for every person.

Odometer reading = 40,260
Miles for day = 264

 

6/30/02
(Whitehorse, Yukon Territory)
Milepost 891.1

We got up this morning to find that our electric had gone out during the night. Since the coffee pot had been set up last night and it was nine o'clock when we got up, I figured it was late enough to start the generator, which I did. While the coffee was perking I got dressed and went and found the campground circuit breaker box and reset our breaker. Twenty amp service is pretty wimpy; and totally inadequate.

Anyway, after coffee and conversation we took the car into downtown Whitehorse to see what it was all about. For the largest city in Yukon Territory, and the Yukon capital, it's not very big. Downtown is about five blocks wide and perhaps a mile long. We checked out a number of stores on Main Street, including a bookstore, a camping and outdoor equipment store, and a jewelry store that primarily sells handcrafted gold jewelry, including lots of gold nugget stuff.

We talked with the lady in the store about the 200 mile, eight day, canoe or (in our case) kayak trip from Whitehorse, down the Yukon River, to Carmacks (or continue on to Dawson City, 460 miles for 16 days). The shorter trip sounds like a great adventure , but Sharyn is not interested in becoming some bear's dinner, and truthfully, it's too adventurist for me too. The lady said that bears were a real concern as the river really runs through untamed, uninhabited, wilderness. We both thought maybe if we were 30 years old, and in 30 year old type condition . . . !

We then went to a cafe in the hotel building where we had coffee and Black Forest cake (we shared one piece) and talked with the waitress about driving the 110 miles to Skagway -- should we make it a day trip with the car, or should we take the motorhome? Since Skagway, which is in Alaska, is at the end of a 110 mile dead end road, we have to come back through Whitehorse anyway.

From there we went to Wal-Mart (which has more RVs staying in the parking lot than does the campground) where our big purchase was a plain old percolator so we can make good old fashioned coffee by perking it on the stove (no electric needed). Besides, the aroma from a perking coffee pot is a beautiful way to start any day!

From Wal-Mart we went to a building supply store, like a farm country building supply, where we bought some hardware cloth to make some kind of protection devices for the headlight lenses on both the motorhome and the car, as well as a radiator/cooler protector for the motorhome. It won't be as effective as the protection stuff you can buy, but the total cost of materials was about $10 US, plus we won't have to worry about what do we do with it when we get back to the lower 48. I did the car head lights, but then it started raining as I was starting on the motorhome. I'll do that tomorrow.

Odometer reading = 40,260
Miles for day = 0

 

7/1/02
(Skagway AK)

First thing this morning I finished doing the headlight protectors, and then we were on the road headed to Skagway, Alaska. As we were leaving Whitehorse we passed a DC-3 mounted on a pivot in front of the airport. They call it "the world's largest weather vane" but I have my doubts as to whether a 10 mph wind will cause it to turn.

Anyway, we were about half way to Skagway when we pulled into a small village market/diner for a cup of coffee. Today is Canada Day, a national holiday, and while we were there the local Canada Day parade came down the highway, complete with police car escort. From beginning to end it must have stretched out for all of 200 yards. This was the opening contingent.

From there (after the parade went home) we continued on in a southerly direction towards Skagway. Again, the scenery is impressive. Here we are only a few miles from the US/Canadian border.

When stopped at an RV park a half dozen blocks from the main part of town. The "main part" is that section that is within walking distance form the docks where the cruise ships and ferries come in (you can't see the mountain because of the cloud). As I told Sharyn, everyone on the street is a tourist. It's like no one lives here. Even the waitress where we had lunch (I had a musk ox burger) was just here for the summer. She lives in Minneapolis. I'm not being negative. That's just the way it is. It is, however, a neat and interesting place.

Odometer reading = 40,374
Miles for day = 113

 

7/2/02
(Whitehorse, Yukon)

It started raining last night and continued raining the entire rest of the time we were in Skagway. We checked out of the campground late morning and left the motorhome parked on the street while we took the car into the main part of town (several blocks away) where we went to the the Nation Park Service Visitor Center to watch the 30 minute film about Skagway's part in the Klondike gold rush of 1897-98. After that we went to the post office to mail some post cards and had lunch at the Sweet Tooth Saloon.

We then drove the 10 miles, most of it dirt road, to where the town of Dyea once stood [See NOTE]. The town is no longer there, and what 100 years ago was open grass land is now a temperate rain forest. The land, once having been glaciated, has been rising steadily since the glacier melted, and what was low lying land in 1897-98 has risen eight feet (raising about 3/4" per year) and supports this spruce forest. We walked through the area where Dyea had stood and could see numerous remnants of the past; rusted iron braces, part of an old wagon, the remains of a 50x100' warehouse, etc. It is also bear country so we didn't go too far or stay too long -- besides it was raining.

Leaving Dyea we drove back along the now slick dirt road to Skagway where hooked up to the motorhome and headed back up the mountain to the same lakes where those gold seekers built their boats and began their trip down the Yukon River. As we were climbing up on one side of the canyon, on the other side we saw the narrow gauge White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad heading towards Skagway. It was this railroad built between 1898 and 1900 connecting Skagway with Whitehorse that that speeded abandonment of the two trails -- but by then then rush was over. As the road continued to climb higher (20 mph in second gear) the clouds that had hid the top of the mountain now hid everything. We had climbed into the clouds and didn't emerge for some 20 miles or so.

When we got back to Whitehorse we stayed in the Wal-Mart parking lot with what must have been over 75 RVs! There is probably no corporate business in America that supports RVers more than Wal-Mart does. Their company policy is that RVers are welcome to spend the night in their parking lots. RVers do, and reciprocate by being good and loyal customers.

[NOTE} To get from Skagway (where the ships came in) to the gold fields near Dawson, men had to first get across the coastal mountains to the interior lakes that are the headwaters for the Yukon River that then flows (sometimes violently) 550 miles to Dawson and the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon Rivers (and the gold fields). There were basically two ways to get across the mountains; either the 33 mile Chilkoot Trail from Dyea (that at one point climbs 1,000 within a quarter of a mile) or the White Pass route, ten miles longer but less steep, and with a summit 600 feet lower than the Chilkoot Trail. The White Pass became know as the Dead Horse Trail during the winter of 1897-98 when 3,000 horses died trying to get their packs to the summit.

Odometer reading = 40,485
Miles for day = 111

 

7/3/02
(Alaska Highway Milepost 1118.8)

Well once again we're in the middle of the woods, many miles from anywhere. Out here Mileposts make a lot of sense. Actually we're about 50 miles southeast of Beaver Creek, Yukon (population 112). Since we left Whitehorse this morning the only town we've been through that's bigger than Beaver Creel was Haines Junction and that was 130 miles ago.

Also, soon after passing through Haines Junction, the quality of the roadbed in the Alaska Highway changed dramatically. There is two-way traffic on this section. Today we've probably traveled over 75 miles of unpaved and/or gravel roadway. For the most part it appears that these "gravel roads" are actually oil and stone, where the "gravel" is put down over the fresh oil. Cars, trucks, and RVs, passing in either direction throw up pieces of this gravel that then get your windshield or headlights (not to mention the dust that cuts your vision to near zero). Today we got three of those star shaped dings in the car windshield, but since we've already got a crack running from one side to the other those additional dings really don't matter. Actually they may have been caused by gravel thrown up by our motorhome (even though we have one of those big rubber flaps on the back of motorhome), except that they're all on the left side. The side where the passing and oncoming traffic would most likely get it. So far no headlight damage to either vehicle.

Most of these "under construction" stretches are where the roadbed is either being widened or relocated, so the in the long run it's all for the good. Maintenance and repair are ongoing forever. Most of these area are so remote that the government sets up work camps off the side of the road that provide temporary housing for the highway workers. One thing we've noticed that's different from what we've seen in the States is that in the States, when you come to a section of the roadway that's under construction or repair, the person holding the "stop" or "slow" sign may very well be a girl, but it's men you'll see operating the heavy equipment (and making the big bucks). Here, I'd estimate that 25% of the heavy construction equipment is being operated by women -- and they're mostly young and attractive.

The campground we are in is a Yukon Provincial campground, no hookups, but very nice and well maintained. After we got all set up and had dinner, the mosquitoes and I changed the oil and filter. (It's environmentally okay. I have a system that works well and I rarely ever get a drop on the ground). This is our campsite at 10:40 pm. The sun is still shinning!

By the way, there's a new addition to Interesting or Unusual Signs We've Seen.

Odometer reading = 40,713
Miles for day = 228

 

7/4/02
(Tok, Alaska)

It began raining last night and continued for most of today's travel. It was still raining and muddy when we stopped at Buckshot Betty's in Beaver Creek for a cup of coffee (having already finished a pot full before we got on the road). Unfortunately, Buckshot Betty also had cinnamon rolls big enough to be called cinnamon cakes anywhere else. We shared one, so it was only half as bad as it could have been. In the last several weeks since we've been stopping for coffee (and whatever), instead of making our 2 o'clock coffee in the motorhome, and doing some "eating out," I've gained three pounds. That could be the beginning of a bad trend.

Anyway, by the time we got to Tok it was no longer raining. We drove the length of town, about a mile, and then doubled back to Gateway Salmon Bake. It's a salmon bake eating place with a RV park in the back. If you have the salmon bake you get free camping. Since we passed up a salmon bake several days back, we decided to go for this one. Basically it's a piece of salmon cooked on a big outdoor wood pit and served on paper plates with salad, beans, and dessert. Maybe everyone who comes to Alaska should experience it, but I think it got kind of dried out in the cooking process. Sharyn opted for halibut instead of the salmon and hers was very dry. Anyway, the camping (no hookups) is free.

After getting setup in the campground we took the car to a do-it-yourself high pressure car wash (car wash is free if you fill up the gas tank) where we cleaned off the bulk of the sand, dirt, and gravel that had accumulated all over the car. We need better protection for the paint on all the forward facing surfaces on the car. The gravel is ruining the paint.

Two couples that we met several weeks back (June 26) in an old provincial campground, we ran into again this afternoon when they pulled into this place. There are a number of people that we have met and keep running into from time to time. It's really quite interesting.

This time we're traveling through Tok from east to west, heading to Fairbanks. We'll be back through here again in several weeks heading from south to north as we again pass through Tok on our way from Valdez to Dawson City. Again, that's sort of an anticipated plan, subject to change.

By the way, Sharyn has been unhappy with her hair getting in her face all the time, so last night she took all that hair and "cut it off." It really looks good.

Odometer reading = 40,875
Miles for day = 162

 

7/5/02
(North Pole, Alaska)

When we woke up this morning we had an 80% flat tire on the Honda. It looked as if it might be able to be driven a mile or so to a tire repair place, so while I was dumping the holding tanks, Sharyn started slowly down the road with the car. It turned out that we had a small nail in the tire. The guy fixed it and charged us $24 -- kind of steep!

We then hooked up the car and drove out of Tok, heading for Fairbanks. Twenty miles out of Tok the inside rear tire came apart. The thread totally separated from the side walls, leaving the side walls on the rim, while the thread remained in one complete circular piece, except for a two inch strip that wrapped itself around the axle and brake line. It probably took us over an hour to get it changed, but we back on the road at the end of that time, once again heading west towards Fairbanks.

At Delta Junction we came to Milepost 1422 and the official end of the Alaska Highway. It was ten days ago on June 26 that we passed through Dawson Creek and Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway. From Delta Junction we picked up the Richardson Highway (basically a continuation of the Alaska Highway) which continues on to Fairbanks. We stopped, however, at Eielson AFB FamCamp, just outside of North Pole, and about 25 miles from Fairbanks.

This was ten minutes ago as I diligently work on these creative pages.

Odometer reading = 41,058
Miles for day = 183

 

7/6/02
(North Pole, Alaska)

When I got up I discovered that it was almost 9:30. I had been sleeping lightly for some time and was aware that it was getting near time to get up. The problem is that since it's always daylight, the degree of brightness is no clue as to whether or not it's time to get up -- or for that matter, time to go to bed. Several days ago Sharyn woke up, feeling well rested after a good night sleep, and came out to put the coffee on, only to discover that the clock said it was 12:30 am. She had only slept for a little more than an hour. Because of this we are not too quick to jump out of bed as soon as our eyes open. It may be the middle of the night.

In an attempt to make the bedroom dark, over a year ago we lined one of the windows with a padded aluminum foil material. You don't see this from inside because we put it behind the blind. The other bedroom window has a mirror slide that slides across the window at night assuring both privacy and darkness. Now, with never ending daylight, we also close the bedroom door at night. All of this, however, does not render the bedroom totally dark, but it does make it sleepable.

Query: How do nocturnal animals deal with this "it never gets dark" stuff?

Today we checked out the BX and commissary and Sharyn did a giant pile of laundry -- pretty much everything we have. Except for the laundry it was pretty much of a do nothing day. The first such day we've had in quite a while.

Tomorrow we plan on going to North Pole and Fairbanks to check them both out. We'll probably move the motorhome to an Army FamCamp right in Fairbanks but we want to see what it's like first. Our experience has been the the army campgrounds are pretty rough compared with the Air Force. We even found that to be true at West Point, which really surprised us. Since we want to spend some time in Fairbanks the army location would be super convenient.

Odometer reading = 41,058
Miles for day = 0

 

7/7/02
(North Pole, Alaska)

This morning while I was having my coffee I saw a moose walk past the back of the motorhome. I went outside to get a better look but he had gone into the woods. While I didn't see him again, I sure could hear him walking through the woods. Actually, since I did not see his head it could possibly be an elk or a caribou, but moose seems more likely.

After Sharyn got up and we had our coffee and conversation we drove to North Pole to check out Santa Clause and all his stuff. His place is pretty nice. I took this picture of Sharyn standing in front of one of his buildings. We were kind of disappointed with the appearance of his reindeer who are presently shedding their winter coats and look kind of mangy. As we were getting ready to leave we saw Santa who had apparently stopped by on his day off. It's the first time I ever saw Santa without his red suit. We spoke with him briefly -- he certainly is a nice man.

From North Pole we drove into Fairbanks where we first checked out the FamCamp at Fort Wainwright. We paid for two days starting tomorrow. From there we'll play it by ear.

Going out the main gate of the fort puts you right at the eastern edge of town, which is pretty convenient. We drove around Fairbanks locating three supermarkets, Sam's Club, the Museum of Natural History at the University of Alaska, Alaskaland, and several other place that we will check out over the next several days. The girl at the Army FamCamp also recommended a big discount tire warehouse for us to check on a new tire for the motorhome.

Odometer reading = 41,058
Miles for day = 0

 

7/8/02
(Fairbanks, AK)

This morning we woke up to a beautiful sunny day. Before moving over to the FamCamp at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks we washed the motorhome and the car. Since it wasn't raining today, and we'll be staying in Fairbanks for several days, it made particular sense to wash the motorhome that had 2.000 miles worth of accumulated dirt, crud, and dust.

The campsite we have here at Ft. Wainwright may well be the nicest site we've ever had anywhere. It's a paved site, big enough for three motorhomes, and has nice location (which has a lot to do with why we picked it yesterday and paid in advance to reserve it). Strangely, it does not have a sewer connection, but it has 50 amps, water, cable, and telephone. They even gave us a telephone to use while we're here! We like it so much, and because we plan to see a number of things in and around Fairbanks, we paid for another three days on top of the two we paid for yesterday.

We're about 200 miles from the Arctic Circle and if tomorrow is as nice as today was we plan to drive up with the car.

There are four kids with their bikes and a dog in the site behind us. That even adds to the overall enjoyment of this place.

Odometer reading = 41,083
Miles for day = 25

 

7/9/02
(Fairbanks AK)

Today we first went to see about getting a new tire for the motorhome. Then we walked around the old Downtown Fairbanks before going to Alaskaland, a theme park with authentic stuff including the Pullman railroad car that President McKinley rode in on his trip to Alaska to put the gold spike in the tracks celebrating the completion of the railroad to Fairbanks, a large stern wheeler riverboat, a narrow gauge train the takes you around the perimeter of the park, a museum, etc. One of the things at Alaskaland is an array of old buildings and cabins that have been removed from their original sites and relocated to create an old gold town look. Each building has a sign on the front describing its history and original location. They are now operated as small shops that I would think cannot be making any money -- there are no customers!

By the way, this was Sharyn reading her book and getting a suntan at 11:30 last night.

Odometer reading = 41,083
Miles for day = 0

 

7/10/02
(Fairbanks AK)

Mid-morning we took off with the car for the Arctic Circle some 200 miles north of Fairbanks via the Elliott and Dalton Highways.. Only about 50 of the 200 miles are paved. Our first stop was about 60 miles north of Fairbanks at the Arctic Circle Trading Post in Joy, Alaska. Joy is populated by one family, the Carlsons, who, with their 24 kids (18 of whom are adopted) own and run the trading post. They usually have free coffee for travelers, but when we got there the pot (a big pot) was empty. We did, however, use the facilities which consisted of several outhouses. The sign on the front of one of them read "Imagine this when it's 40 below zero." I can't believe that I didn't take a picture of that for our Interesting Signs page.

The Dalton Highway provides access to the oil fields at Prudoe Bay and was used to haul men, equipment, and materials during the construction of the Alaskan pipe line that now runs 800 miles from Prudoe Bay to Valdez (the overhead "bridge" is to prevent any vehicle that would hit the pipe from getting that far -- this is a private oil line maintenance/security road) . By and large the pipeline parallels the highway.

Our next stop was the Hotspot Cafe where we bought gas on the way up ("the cheapest gas on the Highway") foe $2.50 per gallon, and coffee and ice cream and the way back.

Here Sharyn checks out a rock on the arctic tundra. These black spruce are about 100 years old. They are growing in a shallow layer of organic, peat-like material that lays on top of the permafrost. There is no drainage through the permafrost (soil that remains frozen 365 days a year) so in the summer the surface is soft and boggy. Tree growth is incredibly slow.

The Arctic Circle is actually the N 66 degrees 33 minutes latitude line. North of this line, the sun does not set on the summer solstice (usually June 21), and it not not rise on the winter solstice (usually December 21). Approximately 1/3 of Alaska lies within, or above, the Arctic Circle. Anyway, we got there!

Along the way we saw a wolf a few miles from the Hotspot Cafe. When we stopped there we mentioned the wolf to the owner. She had four little Yorkshire Terriers running around the place and said that last year she had lost one to a wolf. We also saw a porcupine and a arctic ground squirrel, who may have been a professional panhandler. We also cam upon a moose and her calf on the edge of the highway. They each went to the opposite sides of the car and we got this picture of the mother crossing behind the car to get back with her calf.

On all of these highways up here there are these big trucks that fly by sending windshield cracking gravel in all directions. Depending on the conditions at the time and place he passes you, the resulting dust leaves you driving blind for perhaps as much as 10-15 seconds. In this picture I had pulled off the road as I saw his dust coming so that I could get this picture. Notice the amount of roadway he's left for us!

On our way back to Fairbanks, at 10:35 pm, we took this picture of a field of wildflowers, almost iridescent in the sunshine.

Finally, we arrived back at the motorhome in Fairbanks at 2 o'clock in the morning, some 15 hours (and 400 miles) after we had left. It was worth it!

Odometer reading = 41,083
Miles for day = 0

 

7/11/02
(Fairbanks AK)

We didn't get up until after 10 o'clock. Had our coffee and conversation, went to the BX and commissary. I picked up the motorhome tire that we'd had mounted on our wheel, took the motorhome across the road to the dump station and dumped our holding tanks, and I got a haircut. Sharyn thinks it's too short and too "army."

Odometer reading = 41,083
Miles for day = 1/2

 

7/12/02
(Fairbanks AK)

Today was not too active, but to the extent we did anything, Sharyn cleaned the inside of the motorhome and I changed the oil and filter in the Honda. I also washed it to remove all the calcium chloride and mud from the drive up the Dalton Highway to the arctic circle. They apply calcium chloride to the road surface in an ttempt to keep down the dust, but it's very corrosive to the car.

Odometer reading = 41,083
Miles for day =
0

 

7/13/02
(Fairbanks AK)

We spent the morning in coffee and conversation, then went to the museum at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks this afternoon. We had read a great deal about the museum, and what a great place it was. When we got there we were surprised that it wasn't a larger building and half way expected to be disappointed with what we'd find inside. That certainly wasn't the case. It's amazing how much they have in such a relatively small area without being at all crowded. An expansion project is underway that will double the size. The opening of the new wing is scheduled for 2005.

Alaska's largest gold display is the centerpiece of the Fairbank's gold rush display. Some of the larger nuggets are rather flat in shape, about the size and texture of large homemade oatmeal cookies (pushing 4" across). There is a great deal of archeological and native artifacts on display, as well as mounted specimens of native mammals, fish, and birds.

One display that I found particularly interesting was Blue Babe, a 36,000 year old mummified steppe bison uncovered during a gold mining operation. It's pretty impressive what they can tell about this animal after all this time. It was a 6-8 year old male that was killed and partially eaten by an American lion (an african lion sized cat that is now extinct) in the fall or early winter. The name "Blue Babe" was given to him because of the blue color of his skin, the result of the chemical reaction between the skin and the mineral content of the soil which entombed the corpse.

Then of course there was this 425 pound quartz crystal (note the relative size of Sharyn's hand). Also several sets of skulls and tusks of ancient mastodons and woolly mammoths.

After we left the museum we stopped by the local farmer's market. From there we returned to the motorhome where I'm doing this web site while Sharyn is doing the laundry.

Odometer reading = 41,083
Miles for day = 0

 

7/14/02
(15 miles south of Denali National Park)

This morning we were up and on the road, heading south towards Anchorage. As we approached Mt. McKinnley and Denali National Park we were hoping to be able to see Mt. McKinnley but we couldn't. We turned into the entrance and went to the visitor's center at the park where we picked up some literature and watched a 20 minute film about Denali. All of the park's campgrounds were filled for the next three days so we got back on the road heading south. We'd gone about 15 miles when we spotted several RVs parked along the Nenana River in a paved pullout. Figuring that they were probably there for the night, we pulled in and joined them. The two units in front of us were traveling together and were on their way from Anchorage to Fairbanks, the opposite of our direction of travel. We talked with them for awhile, together with a fourth couple that stopped by, until it got kind of cool and we all all returned to our RVs for dinner, etc.

For free camping it was really a prime site. This was our view through the windshield, while this was looking back up the river. Sharyn spent some time sitting outside looking across the river hoping to see a bear or a moose (telling me to open the door quick if a bear came) but we had no visitors.

Odometer reading = 41,228
Miles for day = 145

 

7/15/02
(Anchorage AK)

Since when we dry camp (no hookups) we set the temperature for the bedroom at about 67 degrees with the LP furnace as the heat source (as opposed to the heat pump when we have electric) and keep the bedroom door closed (which we do here in Alaska anyway to keep the light out). Since we do not turn any heat on up front, when we get up in the morning the front of the motorhome can be rather cool -- as it was this morning. Nighttime temperatures have been running in the 50's or high 40's. Anyway, while waiting for the coffee to perk I turned on the generator to run the heat pumps for a rapid warm up.

Heading south again, we were still following the Nenana River for a short while. We stopped once for lunch, and once for coffee, before arriving at Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage where we are staying at the FamCamp. We made a quick trip to the commissary for milk, bread, and a few other things we were short on before returning to the motorhome to have dinner and read some of the literature we've picked up on Anchorage and the surrounding area. Tomorrow we'll start checking it all out.

Some of you may remember (I'm sure you all do) the entry I made here on February 14, 2002 when I mentioned the retired Air Force couple camped next to us in Perry FL who were also on they way to Alaska. I said then, "We may well meet any or all of these people in Alaska this summer." Well, while we were in the commissary, Sharyn, who never, ever forgot a person she'd ever met, recognized them and we talked for a brief time about where we've been and what we've done since February -- including their brief encounter with a grizzly bear in Denali back in May.

On another track, the size and geographic location of Alaska is something I can't help but take note of. For instance, sitting here in Anchorage we are closer to Honolulu than we are to Chicago. We are closer to Tokyo than we are to Washington DC!

Odometer reading = 41,447
Miles for day = 219

 

7/16/02
(Anchorage AK)

Between sleeping late (we stay up late) and an extended coffee and conversation, we didn't leave the motorhome until almost noon. We went to the "downtown" section of Anchorage where we spend considerable time at the Federal Building which seems to function as a visitor's center and Alaska museum combination. We had reindeer sausage for lunch which we ate on the bench in front of the Federal Building.

After lunch we walked around the downtown area, eventually finding Cyrano's Book Store & Cafe. It's a tiny shop that one of the "patrons" (who turned out to be one of the directors of the theater group) we shared a table with described as unable to decide whether it wants to be a book store, a restaurant, or a theater. They are also home to a local theater group that puts on a different play each month. The atmosphere was distinctly different, but relaxed and quite pleasant. Sharyn told the lady there that if we lived here she'd like to be part of their group -- which she would.

Around the corner from Cyrano's is this sculpture marking the start of the Iditarod, the annual 1,000 mile dog sled race to Nome, and the Fur Rendezvous World Championship.

During the course of the day we picked up new literature about Anchorage and its surroundings. We have to do better on absorbing more of what's in all the literature we do pick up so we can get more organized in our "seeing what's here."

Odometer reading = 41,447
Miles for day = 0

 

7/17/02
(Anchorage AK)

Not too much activity today. We left the FamCamp on base and moved to the parking lot at Sam's Club. Obviously the parking lot is open, airy, and sunny. The campground was kind of "rough cut" into a wooded area on base and did not have any neatness or niceness about it. They are working there getting it cleaned up, etc. Hopefully next time we come to Alaska it'll be a nicer campground.

I've been unable to find any place to get on line with my computer. There are online computers on base that I can use, but that doesn't enable me to upload to this website. I even went back to Cyrano's to see if I could plug into their phone for "six to eight minutes" but they told me they only had the one business line and they could not accommodate me.

Odometer reading = 41,455
Miles for day = 8

 

7/18/02
(Portage AK)

When we woke up this morning it was raining, as it had been for most of the night. It seems that there should be a great deal to see and do in a city as large as Anchorage (pop 250,000) but we don't find that to be the case. Lots of shopping -- great shopping, if you're into shopping -- but not too much for us. We seem to enjoy "No-where's-ville" better than the larger cities. Anyway, we decided to leave Anchorage and head south for Seward on the east coast of the Kenai Peninsula.

The 127 mile long Seward Highway is recognized as one of the most scenic highways in the country. It was designated a National Forest Scenic Byway in 1998, and an All-American Road in 2000, one of only 15 roads in the United States recognized for outstanding scenic, natural, historic, cultural, archaeological, and recreational qualities. I don't think we'd take issue with any of that!

We stopped at Bird Point Scenic Overlook at milepost 96.5 where Sharyn spotted a bald eagle just over the two spruce trees at the edge of the water.

Later on we got off of the highway to go check out the Crow Creek Mine, an old gold mine that is presently run as a tourist attraction. We followed this road for about 5 miles to get here. Now for the dumb part. Whatever we were expecting, this wasn't it. Out of sight in this picture are a number of somewhat unsavory looking camping facilities, so we left. That was dumb! We may stop there again on our way back (we have to travel back up the Seward Highway to get off the Kenai Peninsula).

Continuing along the highway we made another stop (we make lots of stops). Sharyn was trying to decide if the movement at the base of the Kenai Mountains on the other shore was a bear. The water that the highway is following in this section is the Turnagain Arm, a narrow body of water that runs off of Cook Inlet between the Kenai and what I guess would be called the Alaskan mainland. When the tide is out extensive mud flats become exposed in many areas. There are warnings not to walk out on these flats because a little water covering the wet glacial silt can create quicksand and trap the unwary; plus the tide comes in with what is said to be a six foot tidal bore (a 6' wall of water), although I get the impression that a bore of that height only occurs when conditions for it are perfect -- that typically it's much less.

We're spending the night at a gravel area between the highway and the railroad track at the old Alaska Railroad Whittier vehicle shuttle loading area (before completion of the road to Whittier in 2000, the only means of transportation for people and vehicles was the railroad). Once again we met up with the two couples from Tyler, Texas who we originally met at a rest area back in British Columbia and who are also spending the night here. This is about the fourth time our paths have crossed.

We are only a few hundred yards from where the hamlet of Portage (pop 72) once stood. As a result of the earthquake on Good Friday, 1964, five residents were killed, and the ground under Portage dropped 6-12 feet. The high tides now came in and the land become a semi-tidal marsh. The buildings have all collapsed and/or sunken into the soft ground. The dead spruce trees in the background died because they now stand in a salt marsh. Thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of such dead trees still stand on this sunken land.

Odometer reading = 41,519
Miles for day = 64

 

7/19/02
(Seward AK)

This morning we woke up early, happy to see that the sun was shinning and it was a beautiful day. We talked a little with, and then said good-bye to, our friends from Tyler, Texas. They are working their way back to the lower 48 states.

We had a rather non-eventful trip to Seward, except for the scenery which continued to be absolutely outstanding. As I've said in the past, photographs just don't convey the experience. I've even told Sharyn that I'm not going to photograph scenic vistas anymore since when I look at them later I ask, "why did I take this picture?" It's like being totally emerged in a wonderland and then taking a picture of that wonderland through a keyhole. It just doesn't work. All that having been said, and in spite of what I told Sharyn, here's another failed attempt.

We are in a Seward City Campground. No hookups, but almost all sites allow you to pull the front of your unit right up to the edge of Resurrection Bay, the body of water that Seward is located on. Resurrection Bay runs into the Gulf of Alaska, basically the Pacific Ocean. The sunshine from this morning did not last. It's cold and rainy and has been since we got here. This picture, taken through the windshield from our campsite, is one of the Kenai Fjords tour boats returning from one of the tours of glaciers and marine wildlife in Kenai National Park. We plan to take one of these 7 hours tours while we're here. Hopefully it won't rain on our parade.

One more picture. Last night after I had completed yesterday's entry, an Alaska Railroad train went past our "campsite."

Odometer reading = 41,598
Miles for day = 79

 

7/20/02
(Seward AK)

Today we decided to go to see the Exit Glacier, part of the Kenai Fjords National Park. It's about 12 miles from here and it's a glacier that you can walk up to. As we were following the paved walkway that takes you part way to the glacier there were two small bear cubs climbing some birch trees just off of the path. I got a picture of one of them, and as I was trying to get a picture of the other one there was a snort behind me and I rapidly moved away to let the mother bear cross the walkway to her cubs. (This bear is not very big and there was some speculation that it was a yearling, or last year's cub. This is not too likely, in my opinion, since female bears do not breed again until her cubs are gone -- usually during their second summer. Comments from a "bear expert" would be appreciated). The cubs were paying no attention whatsoever to the people on the walkway, and the mother did not seem to be too upset either. An hour or two later we could see a mother and two cubs climbing way up high on the mountain and assumed it was them.

After the bears we continued on up the trail to the edge of the glacier. The water, which looks like a river, is the runoff from the ice melting from the bottom of the glacier. The water is a cloudy gray color, attributed to the "rock flour," or ground rock suspended in the water as a result of the glacier sliding across the ground and grinding up everything beneath it. You can't tell from the picture, but the leading edge of the ice is probably somewhere between 50 and 100 feet thick. Sharyn took this picture of me standing at the side of the glacier. Check the blue color of the ice!

By the way, near the glacier we saw this guy eating berries. He's about the size of a small beaver but don't have any idea what he is.

Back at the campground Sharyn walked the beach looking for more rocks.

Odometer reading = 41,598
Miles for day = 0

 

7/21/02 and 7/22/02
(Seward AK)

These two days have basically been spent replacing the hard drive in my computer (a Dell Inspiron 7500) and trying to save and/or recover all or most of my stuff. There is also the question of getting everything back to the way you had it (mostly preferences that you forgot how you had them, but you know you liked it that way). Surprisingly, here in Seward, Alaska there is a small computer place, Grant Electronics, that was very helpful and knowledgeable -- particularly Bryan, the young tech.

The bummer is that in this process you get all the aggravation and disruption that you get when you have to move all your stuff to a new computer (that's a more organized process), but when it's all over, not only are you not back where you started, but you didn't even get a new computer out of it.

The whole deal stinks!

Odometer reading = 41,598
Miles for day = 0

 

7/23/02
(Seward AK)

This morning I finally got my computer to where I can get on line through my own ISP in Charlottesville, Virginia, got Quicken to connect to our bank, and am probably 90% back to where I was before this hard drive situation arose. There are a thousand little things that, over time, I had tweaked to do things exactly as I wanted, and of course it's no longer like that. Also, I'm back to Photoshop 5.5, but life should not be perfect or we'd all be spoiled!

Anyway, enough of that stuff. Today is overcast, cold (mid-50's), and rainy. We have to run the generator for an hour or so several times a day, both to run the heat pumps and to recharge the batteries so they can run the furnace fans during the night. I don't believe we've seen the sun since we've been in Seward. It was also like this when we went to Skagway which leads us to believe that the southern coastal towns may (almost) never get put from under the clouds that form there. You'll remember that from Skagway we drove to Dyea, a town that no longer exists, but was a thriving "jumping off place" during the gold rush days, and now it's a beautiful, quiet, and peaceful temperate rain forest. Both Skagway and Dyea are on the southern coast. I also saw a sign here about a temperate rain forest somewhere in this vicinity.

In any event we've signed up for a 110 mile, six hour boat tour through Kenai Fjords National Park. We had decided not to do this tour, but to do one in Valdez instead, until our next door neighbor went yesterday and convinced us that we should do too.

The weather forecast is not good, but maybe they're wrong.

Odometer reading = 41,598
Miles for day =0

 

7/24/02
(Lower Summit Lake)

Lower Summit Lake is just a lake -- not a town, or even a hamlet.

This morning it was raining, just as it had been for most of the night As we were having our coffee and conversation we had three harbor seals slowly swim right past the front of our motorhome, no more than 25 feet from the beach. Having initially grabbed the binoculars to identify what was in the water, I stayed with the binoculars and forgot to take any pictures. With the binoculars you could count their whiskers!

Having already paid for the boat tour yesterday we got dressed in multi layers of clothing and went down to the dock for Kenai Fjords Tours. It was cold and rainy all day, with perhaps a few short interludes. In spite of the weather the tour was worth it.

Just pick and choose from the following:

A sea otter lounges lazily on his back (still in the harbor).

A five photo composite of Aialik Glacier (Scroll the picture horozontally!). It's difficult to appreciate the scale of some things from a picture, but the vertical height of this glacier at the forward edge is between 700-800 feet (that's more than half the height of the World Trade Center). Further back up the mountain the glacier is over 3,000 feet thick! This view from several miles away may help to appreciate its immensity. As impressive as its size may be, the noise is awesome. As the glacier slowly slides down the mountainside towards the water the giant ice mass cracks/compresses as its shape changes to match the contour of the mountain's surface. It sounds as if there was an artillery battle battle going on before your eyes (you wonder why you can't see the cannons); commingled with sounds like strings of loud thunderclaps -- you can feel the thunderous cracks and booms moving through the air. If you want to feel that, in nature's scheme of things, you don't much matter, get close, and listen to the sounds of the glacier! We watched chunks of ice break off and fall hundreds of feet to the water. While the biggest piece we saw fall was probably the size of a small house, sometimes they are apartment house size. Because of the wave this can create we remained a quarter mile from the face of the ice.

Harbor Seals on ice floes in front of the glacier.

In this picture I just caught the plume of the exhaled breath of a Northern Pacific Humpback Whale as it dove. The flukes are visible to the right of the plume. This was actually a mother and calf, but I can't remember which one I got in this shot. We also saw a 60 foot fin whale, first spotted by Sharyn, but the pictures aren't any good.

Steller Sea Lions basking on a rock. There are probably three times as many just over the crest of the rock, and I've got better close-ups of the sea lions, but this is a prettier picture of the island. (Here's a close-up anyway).

The sun and clouds over the mountains as we return to Seward.

Since we had now done everything we planned to do in Seward, and since it was still raining and our particular campsite was low and gathered runoff from a rather large area, we decided to start back up the Seward Highway towards Anchorage (getting off the Kenai Peninsula requires going back up through Anchorage). Since it was already getting late we didn't go too far before deciding to spend the night in this pull off. We'd had a full day!

Odometer reading = 41,645
Miles for day = 47

 

7/25/02
(Portage AK)

The conversation, in coffee and conversation, centered around whether or not we should divert to Hope for some gold panning. Hope is a small place with a population of less than 50 people at the end of a narrow 17 mile dead end road. We decided to go.

Arriving at the end of the paved road we came to this sign, which pointed here.

Sharyn gets instruction on how to do it properly. For $7 this guy gives you a bucket of dirt and shows you how to pan it to separate out the gold particles. Two years ago we bought two pans for $6 each and have yet to recover our $12. We figured that some formal instruction might be a worthwhile additional investment. Besides, look at this fellow; does he know gold panning, or what?

We each got about four pans of dirt from our buckets. This was Sharyn's "take" from one pan, or approximately one fourth of the gold she got from her bucket. It's worth somewhere between five and ten cents. I did just about as well as Sharyn did. Now we'll have to put our newly improved skills to use.

On the way out of Hope I took this picture the Hope Civic Center.

From Hope we went to Chugach National Forest visitor's center at Portage Glacier Lake, and then to the same railroad siding where we stayed a week or so ago on our way down here. It's still raining.

Odometer reading = 41,730
Miles for day =85

 

7/26/02
(Anchorage AK)

Once again it was raining when we got up. As we were having our coffee and conversation we talked about all the mountains surrounding the Portage area, and the dark clouds that partially encompassed the snow swept mountain tops. Looking up and across at the hostile environment that must exist up among those peaks made us think that it was almost as if we were witness to some small part of what it must have been like at the time the earth was forming. We think about that a lot up here. Nature and the earth itself are the predominant elements in Alaska. Not just nature like songbirds, cottontails, and falling leaves, but major, sometimes catastrophic, happenings like where the 1964 earthquake caused an entire town and its surrounding area to drop below sea-level and turn the whole area into a marsh land; like listening to sheets of ice more than a half mile thick carving the shape of the earth's surface; a high profile nature of a magnitude that overwhelms everything else. You thread carefully, for this is like no other place you've ever been. Neither of us would like to live here, but we both agree that everyone should experience Alaska.

Anyway, the time did come when we got back on the road heading towards Anchorage. Perhaps ten miles south of Anchorage Sharyn spotted a bull moose as we passed by a low lying pasture area.

It turned out that across the highway from where the moose was there was a small visitor's center based in an old railroad car. In front of the railroad car was a rail mounted snow blower that had been used to clear the tracks of snow up until 1985. This blower, which was pushed along by two or three locomotives, could clear the tracks of snow 15 feet deep, and would throw the snow 300 feet. There was a film that showed the blower in operation. It's quite a machine! The "pitch" of the blades was adjustable and in the picture the blades are flat, not the way they would be positioned when the blower was in operation. The blower turned out to be a freebie that came with the moose.

We're now back in Anchorage, staying at the FamCamp at Fort Richardson. This is a much nicer FamCamp than the one at the air base. That's a change from what we've found in the past where the Air Force FamCamps have been better, cleaner, and neater than the Army's. That's definitely not the case here.

Odometer reading = 41,790
Miles for day = 60

 

7/27/02
(Anchorage AK)

When we came in yesterday there were no sites left with hookups so we were assigned to a dry camp site (which only cost $5). This morning the host came over and told us he had a full hook up site available. We were glad to get it because we've been dry camped for over a week.

We didn't do too much today, except for a trip to the commissary and a big load of laundry that Sharyn did. The laundry here is free, which is a nice extra that we've only run into 3 or 4 times, and only at FamCamps.

While Sharyn was doing the laundry I backed up most all of the data on my computer to zip disks. I think the only thing I did not back up were several thousand photographs that are not being used on the website. It would take 4 more zip disks to hold them, but Grant Electronics in Seward has those photos, plus most of my other data on his server. I'm going to have all that stuff put on a CD for $12 and have him send me the CD. I'll still have to get more zip disks, but that should take care of the immediate need for backup. This computer is still not right but I'm not sure what to do about it. I'd like to find a Dell place to look at it since I'm still on warranty until December.

While I was sitting at the table doing my back up stuff something caught my eye out the window. It was a big cow moose trotting around the motorhome with two calves following here. I thought it was a good thing Sharyn was not sitting outside reading, as she frequently is, because I suspect her heart rate would have tripled. Even a cow moose is considerably larger than a horse, and they're much taller due to their very long legs. I suspect Sharyn would have been intimidated. There is a well worn path where they came out of the woods, and that well worn path continues on the other side of the motorhome. We may very well get to see them again.

We have no particular plans for the next several days, but may just spend some relaxed time at this FamCamp. When we do leave here we'll be on our way to Valdez.

Odometer reading = 41,790
Miles for day = 0

 

7/28/02 to 7/30/02
(Anchorage AK)

I thought I had not made an entry here for two days, but I see it's been three. We really haven't done much. I was finally able to get on line with my own computer so I was able to update this site. We dropped the old hard drive off at Airborne Express with Dell's return shipping label. We got Sharyn a rock hammer so she wouldn't have to use my short handled sledge hammer to break open her rocks. I washed the car and the motorhome. That's about all I can remember that we've done. It's been quite relaxing for these several days -- not that we're living stressful lives.

By the way, it was sunny and beautiful today with the temperature in the mid-70's. It's been a long time since we've seen this kind of weather! It was probably more than six weeks ago that we arrived at the Canadian border all suntanned from having spent the winter in the south and southwestern United States. Now we're in the middle of the summer and have no remaining vestiges of any tan. Oh well, winter will return again!

Tomorrow we were going to start heading for Valdez, but Sharyn wants to return to Hope to do some gold panning in Resurrection Creek so tomorrow we're going to go back down there with the car and see what we can find.

Odometer reading = 41,790
Miles for day = 0

 

7/31/02
(Anchorage AK)

Shortly after ten o'clock we were in the car and on our way back to Hope. Somewhere along the Seward Highway we pulled over and took this picture looking east along Turnagain Arm. The Kenai Peninsula (and Hope) is on the other side of the water. About 60 miles out of Anchorage along the Seward Highway you'll come to Portage and the end of Turnagain Arm. At that point the road makes a sweeping U-turn to the right and you're on the Kenai Peninsula

While our purpose and destination is to do some gold panning at Resurrection Creek about three miles upstream from Hope, we first stopped at Canyon Creek as Sharyn thought is looked like a promising spot.

We didn't know how to get to the upstream spot on Resurrection Creek so we went into the town to get directions. This is the what the mouth of the creek looked like with the pink salmon running. The creek runs into Turnagain Arm and, while not visible in the photo, the Seward Highway is right at the edge of the water on the far side, and at that point is only about 25 miles from Anchorage. I had suggested to Sharyn (in a non-serious manner) that we should have put the kayaks in the water at that point and paddled across to Hope rather than drive the 100 miles around the end of the Arm.

When we got to where we wanted to be on Resurrection Creek we found this fellow already there so we moved a short way downstream and tried our luck. We didn't do to well, and looking closer didn't help.

We're now driving east, back along the south shore of Turnagain Arm towards the Seward Highway so that we can get to and cut around the end of the Arm. This is another picture showing some of the land around Portage that ended up below sea-level when the 1964 earthquake hit Alaska. Again, those dead trees are the remnants of a spruce forest that died when the root systems became permanently inundated with salt water. Also, this picture was taken on the south side of the Arm, across from where Portage used to stand. The entire sunken area, just judging from the spruce trees, seems to be in the neighbor of 30 square miles!

Just before we left the Peninsula we stopped at a small river and watched several families fishing for salmon with fairly good results. I think we're going to have to buy a couple of cheap fishing poles while we're in the middle of all this salmon activity.

As we rounded the end of the Arm we tried panning in the Placer River but that also failed to produce anything.. The only thing we got all day was one tiny piece (a speck) of gold that Sharyn got at Canyon Creek. We do have a bucket of creek bottom that we brought back from there which may yield some results.

In this final picture we were back on the north side of the Arm and heading west towards Anchorage when we came upon the group of sheep grazing on the side of the mountain. You can't tell from the picture, but they're up on the mountain, high above the highway.

Total car miles for the day were just over 200.

Odometer reading = 41,790
Miles for day = 0

 

8/1/02
(Anchorage AK)

In preparation for leaving here tomorrow Sharyn did washing and ironing while I went to the base library, returning a book on bears that I borrowed the other day, and played with their computers. Later on I rewaxed the front of the motorhome so that bugs would be easier to remove.

Our plan, until an hour ago, was to leave here in the morning and head for Valdez, probably taking 2 or 3 days to get there. However, there is a four day bluegrass festival that started today in Talkeetna, about 100 miles north of here. There is a $30 admission fee for the entire four days, which includes dry camping, but "seniors and children under 12 are free."

So, tomorrow morning we're off to Talkeetna. We still want to be in Valdez August 7-11 for Gold Rush Days, an annual celebration featuring cancan girls, parades, a town fish fry, game night, and other good stuff.

Odometer reading = 41,790
Miles for day = 0

 

8/2/02
(Talkeetna AK)

While I took the motorhome to fill the gas and propane tanks here on base, Sharyn took the car to the commissary to get whatever we needed in the form of groceries. I then met her in the commissary parking lot where we hooked up the car and headed for the blue grass festival at Talkeetna. Although it was only a hundred miles away, we probably took three hours to get there. Because we were both over 55 we both got in for free -- this was the first time Sharyn ever received a "Senior" discount.

The big disappointment is that it wasn't bluegrass at all. It was loud music, and lots of it (until 2:am), but while it was not bluegrass, some of it was rock and roll that was familiar to us -- we did enjoy the music. We also walked around looking at the wide assortment of people who were there, and checking out the stuff that was being sold in the different booths. If you were a smoker, of almost any substance, there was an amazing assortment of stuff for you to buy. Most jurisdictions would label it "drug paraphernalia" but perhaps Alaska is somewhat looser in that regard; although the State Police did circle the area with their helicopters on a somewhat regular basis. While we would say there were strange people and strange smells, the fact is that we were the misfits. There were clean cut looking girls who looked too young to be there, 65 year old leftover hippies, and everything in between. It was interesting for both of us, but particularly for Sharyn who is a real "people watcher."

On the way to Talkeetna we were heading back up the Parks Highway towards Denali (Mt. McKinley) which had been ensconced in clouds when we were there several weeks ago. We had never seen it! Today, as we drove north, there was Denali, well over a hundred miles away, but very beautiful. Since I had not been able to take any pictures the last time, after our initial checking out of what was going on, I told Sharyn that I was going to go back out to the highway and take some photos. Well, in looking for the best view from the highway I kept driving north for over 30 miles until I got some shots that I thought were not bad. I was still 100 miles from the mountain! While it's not too clear in this reduced file size format (24K rather than 542K) you can still see the snow being blown off the mountain top at the peak by the high winds.

After dinner we walked back up the hill to the festival where Sharyn took this picture of Blue Shadow performing as we listened to the music and watched the people for an hour or so before returning to the motorhome.

Odometer reading = 41,896
Miles for day = 106

 

8/3/02
(Anchorage AK)

This morning I took a walk around the area to see what was happening. Most of the people it seems were either still sleeping or just getting up, although a few were beginning to enter the gate. Anyway, we decided that this wasn't what we had thought it was going to be so we left.

Last nigh we spoke with Jordan on the telephone and it looks as if she's going to rejoin us here in Alaska. Since flying into Alaska pretty much means flying into either Anchorage or Fairbanks, we headed back to the Fort Richardson/Elmendorf AFB complex, and the army FamCamp.

The music festival was just past the turnoff to the town of Talkeetna, so as we came past the turnoff we decided to go check out the town itself. It's a tiny town that describes itself as having a population of "about 450 people and half as many dogs." This is Main Street. We spent about an hour there, checking out every store and shop and buying two large ice creams.

We then continued on back to Anchorage where we are again at the Black Spruce campground at Fort Richardson. We found this to be a very comfortable place to stay.

Odometer reading = 42,024
Miles for day = 127

 

8/4/02
(Anchorage AK)

Today we got up late, bought the Sunday paper and sat outside enjoying the sunshine while we read the paper.

Odometer reading = 42,024
Miles for day = 0

 

8/5/02
(Anchorage AK)

Jordan will be flying into Anchorage on Tuesday the 13th. Until that time we won't be doing any traveling, except perhaps for some daytrips, so there won't be much to write about. Until such time as I come up with something interesting to say, or until we start to travel again, there probably won't be any new entry on this page. See you next week!

Odometer reading = 42,024
Miles for day = 0

 

8/12/02
(Anchorage AK)

It's been a week since I last wrote anything here, and as expected not much has happened in that time. It's rained just about every day. Daytime temperatures are in the low to mid 60's while at night the temperature drops down around 50. I think Sharyn and I will remember 2002 as the year we missed summer. The near constant rain is probably to be expected since August is Alaska's rainiest month. Also, it seems that anytime we are on or near the coast is has been rainy, even in July. I suspect that when we leave Valdez and head north to Tok and Dawson City, and away from the coast, that we will find less rain, even in August.

Yesterday's (Sunday's) The Anchorage Times contained the following somewhat interesting story:

"A man in the fertilized egg business had several hundred young layers, called pullets, and eight or ten roosters whose job it was to fertilize the eggs. He kept records and any rooster or pullet that didn't perform went into the pot and was replaced. This took an awful lot of time. So he got a set of tiny bells and attached them to his roosters. He could then sit on his porch and fill out an efficiency report by listening to the bells. His favorite rooster was old Brewster. A fine specimen he was, but his bell had not rung all morning. The man went to investigate. Several roosters were chasing pullets, bells aringing. Brewster had his bell in his mouth so it wouldn't ring. This way he'd sneak up on a pullet, do his job and go on to the next one. The man was so proud of Brewster he entered him in the county fair. Brewster was an overnight sensation. The judges not only awarded him the No Bell Prize, but also the Pullet Surprise."

Odometer reading = 42,024
Miles for day = 0

 

8/13/02 to 8/16/02
(Glen Highway, 119 miles east of Anchorage)

Jordan arrived at the Anchorage Airport just after midnight on the 14th. We stayed up talking until the wee hours of the morning, slept late, and didn't do too much all day. On the 15th we went into town where Jordan got to see downtown Anchorage. We then spent several hours at Barnes & Noble (Jordan's favorite place in any town) before returning to the motorhome.

Finally, this morning, we were back on the road again. As we drove north towards Palmer and then east towards Glennallen, Sharyn noted that the trees are already beginning to develop their fall color. This road is known as the Glenn Highway and has some marvelous scenery (in spite of the haze from forest fires burning some 300 miles to the northwest). This old log cabin on the side of a river was not the only one we saw, but it was probably the most picturesque.

When we came to a pull-off with a particularly nice view overlooking a wide valley and the mountains on the other side, we decided to spend the night, even though it was still a bit early. We hadn't been there five minutes until Sharyn had gone into the bedroom saying she was going to take a "nap," Jordan was asleep on the couch, and I was sleeping in the chair! Eventually we all got back up, had dinner and, around midnight, went back to bed. This was the view to the southeast shortly after 10:pm.

Odometer reading = 42,143
Miles for day = 119

 

8/17/02
(Valdez AK)

In spite of the fact that we slept on the side of the road last night, we still didn't get started today until just before noon. I guess some people are better starters than others. We're in the slow group!

We continued on in an easterly direction as far as Glennallen where we turned and headed south towards Valdez. We stopped for lunch at a roadside pull-off with quite a nice view. As we got to within about 50 miles of Valdez and the coast of Prince William Sound, we began to see some rather dramatic cloud effects that further enhanced the scenery. Here's another.

About ten miles north of Valdez we stopped here to take a picture of this waterfall.

Earlier in the day we took a picture of this guy. He's about the size of a woodchuck. What is it?

Five miles outside of Valdez we came to a place where four other RVs were camped on the side of the road. Since it was getting late, we decided that instead of paying $25 for a campsite when it was time to have dinner and go to bed, we'd spend the night with these people and then go to a campground in the morning. It turned out that they were where they were because all the campgrounds in town were full.

After getting set up, Sharyn and I took the car into town to check it out. It looks as if 25% of Valdez consists of RV parks and right now they are all fish camps. We may just stay where we are.

Odometer reading = 42,324
Miles for day = 181

 

8/18/02
(Valdez AK)

This morning's coffee and conversation went on for hours and it was very enjoyable. This included a lengthy telephone conversation with our son Phil and granddaughter Katlin.

It was well after noon when we drove into town where we checked out several stores including The Prospector, "Alaska's finest outfitters." They have some very nice stuff, including a lot of special purpose clothing and other things to help keep you warm that you would not find in the lower 48. While we were there I looked at a DMT diamond whetstone knife sharpening set for $42 that I really liked. I'd been looking for such a set for several months but hadn't found one. Actually I found a number of sales people who didn't have any idea as to what I was talking about. Shortly after we left the store Sharyn suggested that I go back and get it as a Christmas present to myself, so I did. (She's a neat wife!) It's actually a nicer set than I was thinking about since I had never given any thought to diamond stones. (By the way, whenever I mention a place, business, etc., that has a website I will frequently provide a link to the site. Usually, as in this case, I haven't seen the site -- I hope that they are worth the link.)

Anyway, from there we went to a place that advertises itself as "Valdez's largest gift store" (a little bit like a kid bragging that he's the smartest one in the "dumb row"). Definitely not worth a link!

We then went to the Valdez Museum which was small but nice. They had a good number of displays about Valdez in the early 1900's, it's Native Culture, the Valdez Exxon oil spill, and of course the 1964 earthquake. The Valdez that existed prior to the earthquake no longer exists. Today's Valdez is the one that was rebuilt after the quake, about four miles from the site of the original. This American Bald Eagle is in the museum lobby.

We then went to the only grocery store in town for some milk and bread before returning to the motorhome. As we left the grocery store and walked across the parking lot Jordan commented that the mountains surrounding Valdez make it seem like we're in Peru or some other distant rain forest like wilderness.

Several weeks ago we had our mail forwarded from Texas to the Valdez post office so tomorrow we'll go pick up several months worth of mail. We may also take a tour boat cruise of Prince William Sound.

As I'm writing this, Sharyn is sitting at the table and Jordan is preparing dinner (with some very sharp knives).

(fade out) . . . (fade in)

It's now after dinner and as I was getting ready to wash the dishes Jordan was outside in the rain taking pictures of the cloud encompassed mountains that surround Valdez.

By the way, that unknown animal from yesterday was a Hoary Marmot.

Odometer reading = 42,324
Miles for day = 0

 

8/19/02
(Gakona AK)

Last night was our third consecutive night of dry camping, and with nighttime temperatures near 50 degrees the furnace has been running quite a bit. While the furnace is LP gas, the circulating fan runs on DC, and last our batteries went down so low that the refrigerator started beeping a warning that there was no 12 volt current to the circuit board. The beeping woke me up, and eventually I got up at 5:15, having decided that I wasn't going to be able to get back to sleep. I sat and drank my coffee while listening to Morning Edition on Public Radio, waiting for 7:am, at which time I felt it was okay to start the generator to both start charging the batteries and run the heat pumps.

Eventually we were all up, dressed, and warm. Outside it was cold and raining and forecasted to continue at least until Thursday (today is Monday). We had planned to take the glacier cruise on Prince William Sound, but in view of the weather we decided not go. Instead we took the motorhome into town, filled our water tanks at one of the campgrounds, used their phone line to get on line and update this site for the first time in a week, and took off heading north towards Dawson City in the Yukon. Today we got just a little past Glennallen and we're now parked on the side of the road about 100 miles from Tok (where we had our two flat tires on July 5th).

Odometer reading = 42,484
Miles for day = 160

 

8/20/02
(Chicken AK)

It was raining when we went to bed last night, raining when we got up this morning, and it's still raining now. Like they say, August is the rainiest month here in Alaska.

Anyway, this morning we pulled out onto the highway shortly before 11 o'clock heading for Tok. When we got there we pulled into the visitor's center parking lot to eat lunch and decide upon a plan. After Jordan and I checked out the visitor's center we all went across the street to a rather large gift store that turned out to have pretty nice stuff. I told Sharyn and Jordan that Tok kind of strikes me as the jumping off spot to the wilderness; the edge of the frontier so to speak. And this holds true whether you're just coming into Alaska from Canada or leaving Alaska for Canada.

Since it was still raining we decided to continue on to Chicken, about another 77 miles. The road to Chicken is a good but narrow road that winds its way through the hills and is closed in the winter. The pavement ends a mile or so before Chicken.

Chicken is somewhat of a novelty stop for people taking the Taylor and Top of the World Highways to Dawson City. Actually it was suppossed to be called Ptarmigan but no one knew how to spell it so they decided to just call it Chicken instead. It's smaller than probably any other place anywhere. This is all there is of downtown Chicken which has no telephones, no electric (each business has its own electric generator), and recieves no radio stations or TV channels. . A hundred yards beyond Chicken is a small, family owned and operated gold mine where the owners have just opened an adjacent campground and gift shop. We're at the campground right next to the gold mining operation. Tomorrow we'll check out Chicken in greater detail.

There is a sign on the front of one of the stores that answers most of the questions people have about Chicken. It reads . . .

Odometer reading = 42,661
Miles for day = 177

 

8/21/02
(Chicken AK)

It was still raining this morning, but not so hard that we couldn't try our luck at panning some of the dirt from the gold mine operation. It didn't take too long until Jordan got the fever. After several hours Jordan and I were cold enough and wet enough that we quit. Sharyn continued panning all day. At the end of the day our combined efforts resulted in this!

Odometer reading = 42,661
Miles for day = 0

 

8/22/02
((Dawson City, Yukon)

This morning we started out for Dawson City in the Yukon Territory via the "Top of the World Highway." This is a narrow, winding, mostly unpaved road that runs through the unsettled wilderness between Chicken and Dawson City. We stopped just short of the US-Canadian border where the elevation is over 4,000 feet. From our vantage point we looked down on the mountains to the north and the clouds that partially covered them. This panoramic view will scroll horizontally.

This was the scene as we approached Dawson City from about ten miles out. This is looking down on parts of Dawson City before we began our descent to the Yukon River and the free ferry that would take us across.

Just so you should know, I use less than 10% of the pictures that we take. Sharyn has just looked at all the pictures from the last several days and says that I should put up all the pictures and forget about all the stuff I write.

Odometer reading = 42,772
Miles for day = 111

 

8/23/02
(Dawson City, Yukon)

Dawson City is neat -- the streets are still unpaved and you walk on wooden sidewalks. If you took away the cars and trucks the town would not be too different from the way it looked 100 years ago (except that there were a lot more people then).

Sharyn and Jordan checked out a number of stores, and while I went with them, I preferred different stores.

Today was the first day in several weeks that we saw sunshine for several hours. The lady in one store said they've been marking the days on the calendar and that it's rained for the last 19 days!

Anyway, we came across Klondike Kate's eating establishment around lunchtime so we decided to eat there. Sharyn and Jordan cross the street to go in. The really nice thing about Dawson City is that unlike Mystic Seaport or Williamsburg, Virginia, this is not a restoration. It's just that it hasn't really changed. Klondike Kate's has always been right where it is today.

We took note of the contrast between the very old on the right and the very new on the left.

Later this afternoon it started to rain again, but by that time we had pretty much finished. We returned to the motorhome where I did this web page, Sharyn took all the stuff to the laundry room, and Jordan made curried tuna salad with apples for dinner.

This is an add-on paragraph since when Sharyn came back from the laundry room she wanted to go to Diamond Tooth Gerties, Gambling Hall & Can Can Show. We got there just as the floor show was beginning. It was pretty good, and while I'm sure it was less rowdy than it was when the original Diamond Tooth Gertie was there, it was probably otherwise pretty much the same, right down to the honky tonk piano music. It's too bad I hadn't brought my camera because they do allow noncommercial, still picture, photography. Oh well, the show was good and Sharyn lost at the slot machines.

Odometer reading = 42,772
Miles for day = 0

 

8/24/02
(Dawson City, Yukon)

This afternoon I washed the motorhome to remove all the accumulated mud. Sharyn and I drove to town (approx 2 miles) and bought some needed groceries. Prices are quite high, but I guess that's understandably so.

Sharyn also put a hammer to some of her recently colleected rocks to see what the insides might reveal. While she was doing that I peeled the bark from the diamond willow sapling I had cut down to make a walking stick. They sell these walking sticks in many of the stores, but I decided to cut and do my own. I'm not sure why, since I don't use a walking anyway -- it's just something you have to carry.

Odometer reading = 42,772
Miles for day = 0

 

8/25/02
(Whitehorse, Yukon)

Since we stayed up watching a late movie on TV last night, we didn't wake up until 10:30. We had our coffee and conversation and got ready to leave. When we pulled out of the campground it was one o'clock -- a late start even for us!

At this point, leaving Dawson City, we are (the tendency is to say) working our way home. The plan was to drive the Klondike Loop towards Whitehorse, approximately 300 miles, but probably stop at Carmack which was only about 200 miles.

Leaving Dawson City on the south end of town you drive through an area not far from Bonanza Creek where the original Klondike gold was discovered. It wasn't too many years later that mining companies had big dredges working the land in their quest for gold. The results of this unregulated surface mining can still be seen along the highway.

After traveling for awhile we came to a point from which you could look out over what is the largest geological fault line in North America. The Tintina Trench extends for hundreds of miles across Alaska and The Yukon. Over millions of years the two plates slid over 300 miles so that two people standing facing each other across the trench back then would now find the other guy some 300 miles off to his left. Of course the "trench" (the valley-like depression) itself resulted from this movement.

It was probably 200 miles later when we came upon what remains of the Montague Roadhouse, a typical early-day roadhouse which offered lodging and meals on the stagecoach route between Dawson City and Whitehorse. In the January 16, 1901 edition of the Whitehorse Star, the Montague Roadhouse was listed as being at Mile 99, and one of 52 places offering overnight accommodations along the Whitehorse-Dawson Overland Trail. Meals were served on the first floor and the bedrooms were on the second floor.

This is the view from in front of the roadhouse looking towards Whitehorse. This is what we saw as we got closer to Whitehorse and the sun was starting to set over on of the lakes.

Anyway, having driven a lot further than originally planned, we're now in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Whitehorse.

Odometer reading = 43,100
Miles for day = 328

 

8/26/02
(Whitehorse, Yukon)

Since we are staying in Wal-Mart's parking lot, after coffee and conversation we went into the store to buy some groceries. We always patronize Wal-Mart, particularly when staying in their parking lot. Their corporate policy is to welcome RVers to spent the night in their parking lots. This Wal-Mart, however, is not a "Supercenter" and only had a limited amount of groceries.

We then drove into the old downtown area where we walked around a bit, had lunch, and walked around a little more. On the way back to the motorhome we stopped at a small mall where Jordan, who has been looking for a nice camera bag since January finally found one.

We then returned to the motorhome, and while I read the newspaper Sharyn went back to a supermarket a short distance down the road.

Later in the evening (it still doesn't get dark until somewhere around ten o'clock) we talked to a number of other RVers in the parking lot about where we've all bee,' what we've seen, and where we're going (and why we're going there). Sharyn talked with the people in the two units behind us and when she came back they had convinced her that we should return via the Cassiar Highway which we had decided not to do. They were very emphatic that we should take that route and be sure to stop at Steward BC and Hyder AK. Reading about that area we've decided to go there.

We have been doing quite a bit of boondocking, or dry camping, and find that we could use greater battery storage capacity and probably some solar panels to keep the battery bank charged. We'll probably look into such equipment at Quartzite in January. From what we understand, Quartzite (the world's largest flea market) has lots of vendors selling solar equipment in a very competitive environment.

Odometer reading = 43,100
Miles for day = 328

 

8/27/02
(Teslin YK)

We got a late start this morning when the ABS warning light came on on the dash. We were on our way out of town but turned around and went back to the Ford dealer, figuring if we were going to have to deal with a problem it would be better to do so in a real town rather than 100 miles into the wilderness. The two compartment brake fluid reservoir took an entire can of fluid, but it seems that low fluid had nothing to do with the ABS warning light. What happened to the low fluid warning? Who knows. Ford could not look at our problem for three days, but they did give me a piece of thin rubber tubing that I attached to a large 60cc syringe so that I could get the fluid into the reservoir which has less than 2" vertical clearance over the caps.

We left Whitehorse with the ABS system presumably not working, although after stopping for lunch, I released the parking brake to start moving again and the ABS light went out. Later it came back on again.

Anyway, we're now camped at Mukluk Annie's Salmon Bake and RV Park. Mukluk Annie offers free dry camping, water, and RV dump. If you want hookups you have to pay. If you have the salmon bake ($18.95 Canadian) you also can use the RV and car wash stations. Since it's raining (what else?) the wash has no appeal, but we did the salmon bake anyway. While we were eating the electric went out so there were no lights, Jordan's BLT was not on toast, etc. Of course when we came back to the motorhome we were unaffected by the "external" power outage.

Odometer reading = 43,206
Miles for day = 106

 

8/28/02
(Watson Lake YK)

Surprisingly we woke up this morning to a beautiful, sunny day. A very pleasant experience.

After coffee and conversation, and morning (vs evening ) showers, we were on our way. As I started doing this entry I asked, "so what did we do today?" Jordan's immediate answer was, "drive, drive, drive," which is pretty accurate. When we got to the intersection of the Cassiar Highway with the Alaska Highway we pulled into Junction 37, the same place we pulled into on June 28, exactly two months ago, while heading towards Alaska.

We unhooked the car and drove the 13 miles into Watson Lake to get a few groceries (I found a wild blueberry pie) and let Jordan see the sign forest. Upon our return to the motorhome we went to the same cafe we ate in last time, and, after eating, again asked if we could spend the night in their parking area.

By the way, this was Jordan on the way to the cafe.

Odometer reading = 43,361
Miles for day = 155

 

8/29/02
(Dease River Crossing BC -- on Cassiar Highway 104.5 miles south of Alaska Highway)

We did well this morning, being on the road by 8:30. Our first stop was a wide spot in the road where Sharyn checked out some neighborhood rocks and I took this picture of the road ahead, the Cassiar Highway heading south. Eventually we got to Jade City, the home of two competing businesses that deal in jade. As one of them says, you can buy it by the ounce or by the ton. Here's a smaller but nicer piece in front of his competitor's store.

Once again we headed south until we came down a long hill and saw this campground off to our left. We pulled off the road to decide if we wanted to spend the day at this campground even though it was only two o'clock and we had figured on another 100 miles or so. The setting was just too nice to pass by. After we got set up and got Sharyn's fire started it started raining and it wasn't too long until the fire had to be abandoned. Some time later the sun came out and the entire world lit up. How nice can it get?

This is what our campsite looked like from the kayak, in the middle of the lake.

Anyway, we're talking to the owners about doing a website for them. If we do it we'll be staying here another day. If not we'll be on our way once again to Steward and Hyder.

Odometer reading = 43,465
Miles for day = 104

 

8/30/02
(Iskut BC)

We're not going to do a web site for Dease River Crossing. It turns out that today is the last day for them to change their ad in Woodall's Campground Directory (to include their URL) and to do so they'd have to drive to Dease, about 45 miles south of here to get to a telephone. We didn't realize that, with few exceptions, the small communities or businesses along the Cassiar Highway do not have electricity or telephone service. Everyone that has power has his own generator. We knew that was the case in Chicken, Alaska, but it's not as unique as we thought. The exceptions seem to be Indian Villages that, as "First Nation" communities have electric generating facilities provided by the government.

As we were getting ready to leave I noticed that one of the hangers that support the dinning room slide had broken again. The campground owner, a retired dairy farmer from Wisconsin, did a professional welding repair for us. Not only did we get a beautiful lakeside campsite for $10, but we also got a welding repair worth more than twice that. Dease River Crossing RV Park will always be a "must stop" place for us. The owners are good, hardworking, super nice people.

Eventually we were on our way and had an uneventful trip to Iskut. We're all in agreement that this trip, Alaska, and Canada's western provinces are all great and worthwhile experiences, but we are also ready to get back to the non-wilderness and paved highways of the Lower 48.

We checked in to Willow Ridge Campground here in Iskut, looking forward to the full hookups; 30 amps, water and sewer. The campground generates its own electric, but doesn't get much over 100 volts -- somewhat limiting with respect to what we can use. Either the heat pump and nothing else, or no heat pump but whatever else we want.

Odometer reading = 43,591
Miles for day = 126

 

8/31/02
(Steward BC)

It rained all night, all day, and it's still raining now. In spite of the rain we got to Steward without any problems, even though Sharyn was a nervous wreck about the Cassiar Highway. The owner at Dease River told us about an 18 wheeler that pulled over last week to make room for an oncoming vehicle and had his wheels sink into the rain soaked shoulder flipping him over. I appreciated the information, but Sharyn certainly didn't have to hear the story.

From the point where you turn off of the Cassiar Highway it's about 40 miles to Steward. The drive in, and the mountains surrounding Steward, are super impressive. We'll take pictures tomorrow when hopefully it won't be raining so hard. For now I'm going to the office where I'll be able to get on line for the first time in quite a while.

Odometer reading = 43,750
Miles for day = 159

 

9/1/02
(Steward BC)

As I typed today's date I realized that today would be my father's 100th birthday. Happy Birthday Pop!

We started the day today by driving across the border into Hyder, Alaska and along the Salmon River to the bear viewing area. On the way there we stopped along the river and watched the salmon working their way up the river to spawn. The river was loaded with them. We must have been looking out over several hundred pounds of salmon filet.

After a short while we continued on to the bear viewing area (actually Sharyn and I went there last night but didn't get out of the car because it was pouring down rain) to see what we'd see. We only stayed there for about 30 minutes, but we saw one bear that made a half-hearted attempt to pick up a fish and didn't seem to care when he missed. Before we left the area Sharyn searched for bald eagles.

On the way back towards Hyder we again stopped at the same spot in the river to grab some of that filet (which no one thought I could do). Unfortunately, after I got two a guy came by and said that by the time they got that far upstream they were no good to eat, that the flesh was turning white and getting soft. He may have been right, but even if he was wrong I no longer was interested in those filet.

A little further along the river bank we came to a spot where some bears had been spotted fishing on the other side. A number of rather serious, but hobby oriented, photographers were attracted to the site -- much as the bears were attracted to the river.

I find it interesting that the United States doesn't feel that a customs station is warranted at the border crossing between Steward BC and Hyder AK, but the Canadian authorities have one. Since the road into Hyder is pretty much a dead end road it doesn't seem to me that a border checkpoint is necessary on either side. People in Hyder came through Canada to get there. The Canadian Customs Inspector said that someone could get into Hyder by boat or airplane and they would not have gone through Canada. I guess he's right, but I'm still not sure it's warranted. The inspector asks us a lot more questions here than at other Canadian check points. We asked him how come. He said, "Because we've got lots of time here."

Anyway, after passing back through Canadian customs we stopped at the ice cream store in Steward.

By the time we got back to the motorhome it was past seven o'clock. Sharyn and Jordan stayed home while I drove part way back down the road that comes in to Steward from the Cassiar Highway to take some pictures. While I was taking these pictures (#1 #2 #3) a 65-70 year old lady drove up in her SUV. She had taken a wrong turn off of the Cassiar Highway and was lost. She was on her way to Calgary, from where she was returning home to San Antonio Texas; camping as she went. She said that this was the most beautiful wrong turn she had ever made!

Odometer reading = 43,750
Miles for day = 0

 

9/2/01
(Smithers BC)

Within an hour after we got up this morning the sun was shinning and it was beautiful. I thought, "what a bummer, now that we're leaving it's going to be bright and sunny and I could really get some nice pictures." Well, no reason to feel bad. By the time we were five miles up the road it was raining again. It rained all the way to Smithers, and as we sit here in the Safeway parking lot, it's still raining.

We got to the end of the Cassiar Highway without incident, and as I told Sharyn, for the rest of her life she will be able to say that she survived the entire length of the highway. We all felt good to now be be traveling the Yellowhead Highway which runs from Prince Rubert on the Pacific, all the way to Edmonton. What's nice about it is that we're in the land of paved roads, electricity, telephones, and all those other amenities that we always assumed were everywhere in the US and Canada. Also, we are now driving through farmland. Green pastures, hay fields, round bales, barns, neatly kept farmhouses, etc. Familiar kind of stuff!

Here in Smithers all the businesses and shopping places that have large parking facilities have signs welcoming RVs to park overnight. We took Safeway up on their offer, and in exchange we bought $194 (CA) worth of groceries. Tomorrow we may just go ten miles to a campground that seems like it might be a good place to spend a day. It offers laundry facilities, on line access, and free high pressure RV wash, as well as full hookups with 30 amps, all of which we need and/or want at this time.

Odometer reading = 43,953
Miles for day = 203

 

9/3/02
(Telkwa BC)

When we woke up this morning we found our corner of the parking lot to be quite crowded with RVs. In fact, there was one couple with a 5th wheel who were trying, but unable, to get out. They were kind of blocked in. We probably spent an hour or so with coffee and conversation before pulling into the gas station next door and filling the tank. The price of gas dropped about 30 cents after we go off the Cassiar Highway. We then searched out a place to buy The Globe and Mail, a Canadian newspaper somewhat like USA Today. We then stopped at Canadian Tire (a place I describe it as a cross between Southern States and Wal-Mart) to buy a small butane soldering torch that was on sale for $6 US. Since the motorhome is due for an oil change I also bought seven quarts of Mobil-1 and an oil filter.

We then drove to Telkwa where we checked into Ft. Telkwa RV Park. On the way to our campsite we used the high pressure RV and car wash machine to remove the bulk of the mud and dirt. While Sharyn did a giant amount of accumulated laundry I emptied two of the basement compartments. When we stopped we saw that one of the compartments had over an inch of water in the bottom. This was the second time in the last several weeks. It turned out that there was a small opening at the top rear of the second compartment where the water being thrown forward off the top of the rear tires entered the storage area. Once the source of the leak was found the repair was simple.

In spite of the nature of today's activities, and the fact that it rained off and on all day, we all found it a enjoyable day and have decided to remain here another day.

Odometer reading = 43,965
Miles for day = 12

 

9/4/02
(Telkwa BC)

We did some general house cleaning and another load of wash. Discovered the source of the leak that was getting the carpet wet on Sharyn's side of the bed and made a duct tape repair that should take care of the problem ubtil we get back to the factory in Alabama, probably some time in March. Other than that we just sort of relaxed and took it easy.

Odometer reading = 43,965
Miles for day =
0

 

9/5/02
(Prince George BC)

I didn't write this on 9/5 and the only thing we can remember is that we passed a black wolf that was trying to cross the road, and after we passed, completed his crossing behind us. He appeared rather thin and was trotting with a moderately severe limp. We wondered if a wolf with that degree of disability could survive the winter and suspect that he probably could not.

Odometer reading = 44,189
Miles for day = 224

 

9/6/02
(Jasper AB)

While disconnecting the water and electric lines this morning in preparation for leaving, I realized how nice it was, and some of what made it nice. The motorhome was parked on a clean gravel pad surrounded by grass. I was standing on the grass and the hose and electric line were also on the grass. Not mud, not dirt, not talcum-like dust. The sun was shinning. The air was cool, but not cold. It was a nice day.

Anyway, we were soon on our way, again heading east on the Yellowhead Highway, also known as Trans-Canada Highway Route 16. This section of Route 16 travels through some beautiful country. I know it gets repetitious, but there's no other way to say it. Some of the mountain views are awesome.

I think that there is probably as much wilderness land today in Northwestern Canada and Alaska as there was in the lower 48 states during that area's great western migration of the 1800's. Not only that, but much of it is probably more hospitable to human habitation than the dry desert country of America's southwest. Unquestionably cold in the winter, but otherwise quite suitable, and very beautiful, for wilderness living. But not for wimps!

At Jasper we turned and headed south on Route 93 into Jasper National Park. We only went about 20 miles from Jasper when we pulled off onto a scenic overlook area to spend the night. Sharyn was preparing dinner when she noticed a lady taking pictures of something right next to the motorhome This was the quick picture I got through the side window. This giant bull elk slowly moved along the edge of the wood, grazing as he went. When another car pulled off the highway he raised his head and gave me the opportunity for this picture. If Sharyn hadn't seen that lady taking pictures we never would have know this elk was there.

Odometer reading = 44,446
Miles for day = 257

 

9/7/02
(Calgary AB)

We woke up this morning to find it 30 degrees outside. It looks as if winter might be moving south faster than we are. We were on the road by 8 o'clock, and as the morning progressed the sun rose from behind the mountains and it was a bright and sunny morning.

As the day progressed the sun became less pronounced and by lunch time the sky had pretty much clouded over. We stopped for lunch at an off the road spot where a small creek ran into a large lake. The surroundings were so pretty that we decided to have lunch outside, even if we got cold. Sharyn has the gold fever and was speculating as to whether or not there would be any gold in the creek. (Just as an aside, this weed was growing nearby).

When we were back on the road again, a mountain peak off to our right began to get lost in dense black clouds. It looked like some kind of a paranormal happening. Sharyn said that it looked as if the Greek Gods of War were all gathered together up there getting ready to release their wrath on the enemy below. Within ten minutes it started to snow! At that point we were approaching Bow Pass at an elevation of 6,785 feet. As we went down the other side of the summit the snow turned back to rain which we eventually outran and got back into the sunshine. The rest of the trip to Calgary was uneventful, but the traffic after we got there was terrible. Calgary has a population of just over 750,000 and all of the were on the road, and in a hurry.

Anyway, we're at a campground just south of town, on Route 2. Tomorrow we plan to do the final 150 miles to the Montana border.

Odometer reading = 44,699
Miles for day = 253

 

9/8/02
(St. Mary MT)

It was a beautifully sunny day and we enjoyed every bit of it, starting when we stepped out of the motorhome this morning. We were on the road by midmorning, and after an hour or so of driving south on the flat and level four lane highway I said to Sharyn that it was a pretty uneventful drive. She said that it was and that she was enjoying it very much.

As we were driving along after lunch the wind caught the awning and it started to unroll. We immediately pulled over and got it put back together. The lever that controls the ratchet assembly no longer "clicks" into position so, so it was able to move from the "roll up" to the "roll down" position, at which point it began to do just that. The prairie wind blowing out of the west (broadside to the motorhome) made getting it all rolled back up again somewhat difficult -- it took the three of us to finally get it done. Several applications of duct tape should keep it all intact until we can get the ratchet assembly repaired or replaced.

We were all pleased to arrive back at the US border. It's nice to be back in America after 11 weeks traveling in Canada and Alaska (I know, Alaska's part of America). From the time we entered Canada on June 21 until we crossed back into the US today we covered 6,289 miles. Hopefully within the next week or so I'll post a map of Western Canada and Alaska showing the route we traveled.

We're now in Chewing on Black Bone Campground, about 20 miles south of the Canadian border. The sign said "open" so we pulled in, but the no one was around and the office was locked. Anyway, we picked a campsite near the lake and figured that someone would show up. The lady who runs it eventually did come by and we paid her. We were still the only people here until quite a bit later when another couple came in with a 5th wheel.

For now the plan is that tomorrow we'll go to Browning, about 30-40 miles from here where I want to visit the Museum of the American Plains Indian.

Odometer reading = 44,856
Miles for day = 157

 

9/9/02
(Browning MT)

The drive to Browning was very easy and relaxed for several reasons. We knew we didn't have far to go so we were not at all hurried. Also, a big portion of the distance was either up or down steep grades with extensive curves so 2nd and 3rd gears were in use quite a bit. At 20 and 30 miles per hour, with no big hurry to arrive, we enjoyed the scenery and the sunshine.

As we approached Browning we could see it from several miles out and it was quite a small place. We were concerned that the museum might not be what we expected. We've been to a few "museums" that were not much more than an old wood frame building would some old stuff on display. An attempt, usually by some small out of the way place, to have a tourist attraction. That 's not the case in Browning. While the displays are not extensive, they are top quality and done very nicely.

For the most part the displays are of clothes, weapons, pipes, household items, children's toys, and items of personal adornment, shown behind glass partitions, well lighted, and with full explanation and descriptions of all the items. There are no reproductions although some of the items are in such "like new" condition that they appear to be of contemporary vintage. These lady's boots for instance. There are a number of displays such as this showing different types of clothing worn for different occasions, with a complete description of each item . I liked these two necklaces. The one on the left is made from grizzly bear claws, while the one on the right is made of grizzly bear teeth.

Anyway, after going through the museum we left their parking lot and went down the road a half mile to Sleeping Wolf Campground where we're spending the night.

Odometer reading = 44,895
Miles for day = 39

 

9/10/02
(Great Falls MT)

On the way out of Browning this morning we stopped by the museum one more time. One of the items on display was this scalp that I failed to photograph yesterday. It is believed to be a Sioux scalp.

Anyway, after taking the picture and talking with two of the Indians there about the operation of the reservation with respect to property ownership, law enforcement, etc., we were on our way to Great Falls. Several hours later we arrived at the Malmstrom AFB FamCamp in Great Falls. The daytime temperatures here are running in the high 70's and we plan to remain here for several days.

This evening I called Dish Network to have our satellite TV, which we had suspended while too far north to see the satellite, turned back on. They said our service could not be restored because of FCC regulations. We had never filed for an RV waiver to make us eligible, etc., etc. To make a long story short I handed the phone to Sharyn who demanded to speak to a supervisor. A half hour later, and ten minutes after she got off the phone with the supervisor, our system was up and running. I told Sharyn that from now on she's in charge of all problems -- I'm retired! Besides, she gets better results!

Odometer reading = 45,028
Miles for day = 133

 

9/11/02 to 9/13/02
(Great Falls MT)

These several days have been rather low key, "enjoy the weather" kind of days. Maybe even a "fall asleep in a chair" kind of day. We've also done the usual things like the BX, commissary, and Barnes and Noble. Yesterday the FamCamp had a barbecue with hot dogs, giant hamburgers, soft drinks, peach and apple cobbler, and ice cream -- all in unlimited quantities, and all courtesy of the FamCamp.

Today we went to Charles M. Russell Museum which contains the largest collection of his paintings, including this one of Sitting Bull, and other works of art. I had the feeling that Jordan may have been ready to leave the museum before I was. His home and studio are adjacent to the museum. I particularly liked his studio which he had constructed out of used telephone poles.

Odometer reading = 45,028
Miles for day = 0

 

9/14/02 to 9/16/02
(Great Falls MT)

We've just been hanging out and enjoying the nice weather and relaxed atmosphere of the FamCamp and Great Falls itself. We had originally planned to stay here for four days, but since that time have been extending on a day-to-day basis. I guess we like it here. Anyway, tomorrow we leave for real. Sharyn is afraid the winter snows are going to catch up to us.

The other day as we were riding around we saw these two guys in Kayaks trying to paddle up this section of the Missouri River. Although they got flipped over and washed back downstream numerous times, they never got past this point. It looks as if they were just practicing and playing.

And how is this view of the late afternoon sky as seen from our campsite?

Odometer reading = 45,028
Miles for day = 0

 

9/17/02
(Billings MT)

Well we finally left Great Falls. The timing was good because last night it started raining and it's still raining now. To my mind, rainy days are good for travel days because your activities (sitting and/or driving in the motorhome) are pretty much unaffected by the fact that it's wet and rainy outside.

Anyway, it was a pretty, but uneventful, drive that further confirmed our feeling that we like Montana. We felt the same way when we drove through several years ago. Too bad the winters are so severe.

The FamCamp at Malmstrom AFB is just outside the main gate. We needed both gasoline and propane, so before leaving this morning we took the motorhome on base to fill up those tanks. While I was tending to that Sharyn and Jordan made a quick visit to the commissary for more milk, etc. As a result of these last minute activities we didn't actually get on the road until noon. By four o'clock we had already stopped for lunch, but now a cup of coffee seemed like a good idea. We pulled off the road at a small complex of retail service establishments in the middle of no place (actually it was a cross road called Roundup, Montana, which is exactly no place) to make a pot of coffee. What do you think was in the middle of the dirt parking area? Would you believe an Espresso hut? Sharyn and I split a large Cowboy Power Coffee while Jordan had a Spiced Walnut Latte. I asked the very nice lady how many customers she has in a day; she said not too many. Even without too many customers she was a very nice lady with a pretty extensive coffee menu. She even gave us a card that she stamped twice: eight more stamps and we get a free coffee!

From there we continued on as far as Billings, which was further than we intended to go, where we now sit in a Wal-Mart parking lot, digesting our dinner as we watch the rain come down on all the glistening cars and black asphalt. Actually it's me looking out the window as I type. Sharyn is reading and Jordan is doing her nails.

Odometer reading = 45,254
Miles for day = 226

 

9/18/02
(Broadus MT)

The first thing we did this morning was go into Wal-Mart and pick up a few grocery items and a new door mat to replace the one we left at Mukluk Annie's in Alaska. We then drove the 40 or so miles to Hardin MT where we picked up our mail that we'd had forwarded c/o General Delivery. Hardin is only about 10 miles from the Little Bighorn Battlefield that I had wanted to return to. This is a view of a small portion of the 10-15 square mile actual battlefield site (most of which is outside the National Battlefield Property) taken from the hilltop where Custer and 200+ men of his immediate command were killed, looking to the south towards where approximately 10,000 Indians had been camped on the banks of the Little Bighorn River. The markers show the location of where the soldiers died and were originally buried. The black faced monument is Custer's. All of the bodies were subsequently exhumed and reburied in a mass grave at the top of the hill. Custer was eventually buried at West Point as the result of great efforts by his wife.

We then headed east on US-212 which will take us out the southeast corner of Montana, through the northeast corner of Wyoming, and get us pretty close to Rapid City SD which is our next general destination. There's not much on US-212. In fact we had trouble even finding a wide spot on the shoulder to pull off for lunch. Anyway we went as far as Broadus where we are now the only ones in a small campground that costs $12 for full hookups.

Odometer reading = 45,427
Miles for day = 173

 

9/19/02
(Rapid City SD)

We woke up this morning to see a number of antelope in the field across the road. Yesterday we must have seen between 50 and 100 grazing along the side of the roadway. As Jordan reminded us, this is the land where the deer and the antelope play.

Anyway, we got underway and had gone about 60 miles when passing near a place called Alzata, Montana, we passed the Stoneville Saloon. Since we had to turn around and go back to get the picture I suggested that we have lunch there, but Sharyn and Jordan both declined. Incidentally, the saloon's highway sign has been added to our "Interesting or Unusual Signs" page.

Since no one wanted to eat at the Stoneville Saloon (probably had to do with the "lousy food" warning) we continued on over the state line into Wyoming where we had lunch on the side of the road with quite a nice view at no extra charge (horizontal scroll).

We eventually ended up at the FamCamp at Ellsworth AFB just outside of Rapid City SD. We plan to stay here for a week as this is a good operating base from which to take day trips to Mt. Rushmore, the Crazy Horse memorial, and other places in the Black Hills. Besides, both Sharyn and Jordan like this base/FamCamp a lot.

Odometer reading = 45,587
Miles for day = 160

 

9/20/02
(Rapid City SD)

For our first full day here Sharyn and Jordan wanted to go to the mall we passed about 10 miles back on I-90. For reasons not too clear to me, they wanted me to go with them. I brought the newspaper with me, and while they were doing the mall I sat and read my paper. They didn't buy much of anything, but Sharyn got her hair cut (no picture allowed -- she said).

For dinner Sharyn and I went to the mess hall. Dinner for the two of us cost $4.20 until we went back for dessert. Our desserts were an additional 25 cents each. When we retire-retire maybe we should live near a base and eat in the mess hall. We can't have two dinners at home for $4.

Odometer reading = 45,587
Miles for day = 0

 

9/21/02 to 9/23/02
(Rapid City SD)

Until today we haven't been doing too much, but today we went to Mt. Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial.

Even though Sharyn and I were there in 1970 and again in 2000, Mt. Rushmore is still pretty impressive. We probably spent about an hour there before leaving and driving the 17 miles to the Crazy Horse Memorial.

Crazy Horse is a work in progress and we lucked out in that while we were there they announced that in 15 minutes they were going to detonate a charge that would remove 770 tons of rock. To put it all in perspective, his unfinished arm is almost 200 feet long.

One thing that Crazy Horse has which is very nice is a large display hall which is a combination museum and artifact display area. There are also a number of areas where Indians have booths set up to sell their artwork.

One of the photographs on display was taken at the Pine Ridge Reservation on December 25, 1890. The writing on the photograph, which was written at the time the photo was taken, says the Indians are doing a "War Dance." That's wrong, and is now known to have been wrong. It was that mistaken belief, that the Indians were getting all worked up and would soon raise up against the white people, that lead to the Wounded Knee Massacre four days after the picture was taken, when the army slaughtered almost 300 Indians with rifle and cannon fire as the Indians stood surrounded in the snow (having surrendered to the army the day before). The Indians in the photograph were engaged in the Ghost Dance that was then catching on with most of the plains Indians and had the government so concerned that "trouble was brewing." Sitting Bull had been assassinated on December 15, only ten days before this picture was taken, because it was believed that he was fermenting the unrest as demonstrated by these dances.

In fact, the Ghost Dance was a religious dance, associated with the Indians belief that their messiah was coming, and that upon his arrival all the Indians that had died or been killed would return, as would all the buffalo and other game. Also, all the white people would disappear from the Indian's land and it would be as it had been before the white man came. It was believed that the harder they danced the sooner the messiah would come. Far from being a prelude to battle, the dance was more of a celebration of their impending freedom from the white man's oppression (it was believed that the coming of the messiah, and all the events that would accompany him, would happen by the coming spring). It is thought by some that the only reason the Indians didn't take up arms when Sitting Bull was killed was because of their belief that he and all the other dead Indians were about to return with the messiah.

Anyway, on the way back out of the Black Hills we saw a mountain goat grazing at the side of the roadway. When we approached on foot to get some pictures he was totally unconcerned and not too interested.

Odometer reading = 45,587
Miles for day = 0

 

9/24/02 and 9/25/02
(Rapid City SD)

Didn't do very much, but tomorrow we're going to head for Wounded Knee and Pine Ridge.

Odometer reading = 45,587
Miles for day = 0

 

9/26/02
(Chadron, Nebraska)

After picking up some last minute groceries at the commissary we were on our way to Wounded Knee. On the way there we passed through a place called Scenic, SD which is pretty much a ghost town. I felt compelled to stop in town and take a picture of this section of the "business district." I did not photograph the dead cat in the roadway that Sharyn told me to watch out for.

There isn't very much at Wounded Knee except for a sign, put up and maintained by the Sioux Nation, at the spot where the Indians were killed (see 9/23/02). On a hilltop several hundred yards away there is a mass grave where many of the Indians were subsequently buried. It is the same hilltop from which the army fired cannon into the massed Indians. This photo was taken from the hilltop, looking east. The Indians were killed at the bottom of the hill in the area of the motorhome. Some managed to escape to the creek behind and to the right of the field.

While there certainly wasn't a crowd, I was pleased to see a steady stream of people stopping and walking the area. It seems that the Federal Government should construct a facility at Wounded Knee comparable to what it did at Little Big Horn.

Anyway, from Wounded Knee we drove through Pine Ridge and then south into Nebraska. We're now at a campground in Chadron. As we were setting up the guy across the road came over. We met them this past winter at the Sumter Oaks Escapee Park in Bushnell FL and then again in Perry FL where there were three motorhomes all next to each other, and all on our way to Alaska for the summer. We also ran into the other couple when we were in Anchorage.

By the way, we now get to put Nebraska on our stick-on map of the US.

Odometer reading = 45,753
Miles for day = 166

 

9/27/02
(Paxton, Nebraska)

Since we are on our way to a Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) rally that starts 10/1/02 in Hutchinson KS, about 40 miles northwest of Wichita, we are moving more rapidly then we otherwise would. Today we traveled through more than 200 miles of Nebraska countryside, stopping several times for gas, lunch, or coffee.

When we wanted to stop for lunch we could not find any place to pull off the road until we came to a small town on a narrow road came in from the left. I made the left turn and saw a place to pull over in front of an empty building on the other side of the street. Since it was too narrow to make a U-turn right there I figured I'd turn around further down. Well, there were only 4-5 buildings before the road turned, and beyond the turn we were back out in the country on a road so narrow I don't think I could have gotten the motorhome turned around even if we had unhooked the car. With fenced pasture on both sides of the road, we continued on for several miles until, luckily, we came to a opening in the fence that had a cattle grate instead of a gate. We drove the motorhome out into the pasture, made a wide U-turn, and headed back for main highway. We really lucked out since we could have had to follow that road for 20-30 miles!

By the way, the freight trains in this part of the country seemed to be quite long. At one point today we passed on that was stopped on the tracks (the tracks were running parallel to the road for miles) and we measured its length with the odometer. From one end to the other that train was 1.2 miles long, and only had two locomotives. We've seen trains with as many as five locomotives.

Tonight we're in a small campground on the edge of a pretty pond, all of which is part of the Days Inn motel on the other side of the campground.

Odometer reading = 45,967
Miles for day = 214

 

9/28/02
(Hayes KS)

We would have covered a good number of miles today if we hadn't been distracted as much as we were. As we were heading east on I-80 we came to a sign saying that there was an old pony express station at the next exit, so we got off to check it out. I didn't know that the pony express only lasted for about 18 months, put out of business by advanced technology -- the telegraph. Also, while only one pony express rider was killed, a good number of station personnel was killed by raiding Indians. The Indian ponies were no match for the much faster, pony express horses, who also had much greater stamina. You can draw conclusions about the rider's working conditions by this poster that was used for recruitment.

As we left the pony express station and headed back towards the Interstate we came upon a replica of an old sod house. Next to the sod house was an Indian on a pony, and a buffalo, both made from barbed wire fencing. If I remember correctly the buffalo took four miles of wire.

Perhaps 50 or so miles later we came upon the Prairie Museum which we also stopped to check out. It wasn't a neat as we thought it would be, but I kind of liked this 1915 steam tractor that produced 35 horsepower and was bought new for $2400. To give a better idea of size, the rear drive wheels are 72" in diameter.

Tonight we spent the night in the Wal-Mart parking lot. Also, Sharyn got to add the Kansas sticker to our map!

Odometer reading = 46,208
Miles for day = 241

 

9/29/02 and 9/30/02
(Hutchinson KS)

We arrived in Hutchinson mid-afternoon on Sunday, the 29th, for the FMCA's 68th Premier International Motorhome Extravaganza, taking place at the Kansas State Fairgrounds October 1 through 3. This town is braced for the influx of some 10,000 people and 3,000 motorhomes. Because these things begin booking a year in advance, and we only decided to be here a few weeks ago, as we expected there are no available campsites anywhere with any kind of hookups, never mind anything at the fairgrounds (where they were prepared to provide electrical hookups for over 2,000 motorhomes). We are dry camped at Melody Acres, a very friendly campground, about three miles from the fairgrounds. Everyone here, mostly vendors, are here for FMCA, and they all have hookups. Lack of hookups would not be any problem at all if we were not having a series of hot 95 degree days. With the non-stop wind, and the shade of all the trees, it's not at all uncomfortable during the day. Sleeping, however, is kind of rough. While the temperature drops down to around 70 degrees by morning, the night time increase in the humidity more than off sets the lower temperatures.

Anyway, we've been enjoying the daytime weather, did a little driving around town, checked out the location of the fairgrounds, etc. Other than that we've been reading and relaxing.

Odometer reading = 46,338
Miles for day = 130

 

10/1/02
(Hutchinson KS)

Today was the first day of the FMCA show and getting into the fairgrounds was a bit of a challenge. Because we were not pre-registered we had no prior information about just where to go, where to park, etc. Eventually, after going to some wrong places, partially because of wrong information we received yesterday, we drove several miles out to the mall at the edge of town where we parked and were picked up by a shuttle bus running back and forth from the mall parking lot to the fairgrounds.

Sharyn wanted to look at the motorhome displays so that's where we started. Sharyn and Jordan looked at lots and lots of motorhomes, while I probably accompanied them to half of what they looked at. Sharyn and I both wanted to look at the Allegro Bus, a line of diesel pushers. We looked at a 38' Allegro Bus with triple slideouts. It is only the second motorhome I've seen that I like better than what we've got (the other one was a Mountain Air we looked at in Gillette, Wyoming in July of 2000), but we're very happy with what we have. The cost of trading up cannot be justified by what we'd gain. Actually, we probably made a mistake by not buying a diesel to start with. If we had a diesel we would not even be looking at other units. I have to acknowledge that Sharyn wanted to buy a diesel when we bought this one. As time goes on it's clear that she is making a habit of being right about more and more things.

One of the units we looked into (stuck our heads into) was a Prevost, probably about 45' in length, that was just a shell with an unfinished plywood floor. That's because when you get up into the million dollar range they ask you how you'd like it, and that's how they do it. They didn't ask us. I guess they didn't think we were serious.

Anyway, from the motorhome displays we went to the inside display booths where anything you've ever seen, read about, or heard about, that's related to RV's will be on display with pretty knowledgeable people to answer any question, and if push comes to shove, they'll even sell you one. I like trade shows. Catalogs and magazine articles are fine, but you can't beat picking up, feeling, and questioning the manufacturer's rep.

As they began closing down the displays at the end of the day we had not even finished two of the five buildings containing the display booths. All we bought was an oil filter and a fuel filter for the generator.

Odometer reading = 46,338
Miles for day = 0

 

10/2/02
(Tonkawa OK)

This morning it was pouring down rain as we were getting ready to leave. Our first stop was at the mall parking lot where I took the shuttle bus back to the fairgrounds to quickly run through the displays I didn't get to see yesterday. When I returned to the motorhome several hours later I found Sharyn and Jordan patiently reading their books and sipping their tea.

From the parking lot we headed east, on our way to Fort Smith, Arkansas to visit Bill and Cheryl, a couple we met and had fun with at the first Great North American RV Rally in Gillette, Wyoming several years ago. We plan to take three days to get there.

South of Wichita, as we approached the Kansas/Oklahoma border, our weather radio started beeping every ten minutes warning of severe thunderstorms, 60 mph winds, and hailstones the size of "nickels," all heading our way from the west. We had seen the system coming before the radio started popping and we didn't go too much further before stopping for the night, even though it was not yet 3 o'clock. There's some pretty exciting weather moving through the area, although, except for some pretty heavy rain and brief power outages, we haven't had any bad consequences.

Odometer reading = 46,479
Miles for day = 141

 

10/3/02
(Broken Arrow OK)

Later last night, the electric went out again and stayed out for several hours. We and other customers in the campground, in our self contained RVs, were basically unaffected by the outage. On the other hand, the campground owners, in their house, sat in the dark.

Anyway, it rained all night and was still raining when we got up this morning. We were in no hurry to get going, but eventually we were on the road again.

We ended up at Bluff Landing, a COE (Army Corps of Engineers) campground east of Tulsa. It's been awhile since we've stayed at a COE campground, but this one, like most of the ones we've stayed in, is very nice, and great value for the money. Because COE campgrounds are usually related to dam projects, lakes, rivers, or other water oriented places, most of the campgrounds are on some kind of water -- this one is no exception. While we're only here for one night, this would be a nice place to spend several days. This is part of our campsite as seen from the motorhome.

Odometer reading = 46,620
Miles for day = 141

 

10/4/02 through 10/6/02
(Witcherville AR)

We arrived here at Bill and Cheryl's the afternoon of the 4th and have just been hanging out, talking, eating out, and enjoying their company since our arrival. They have a gravel pad next to their house with water and electric hookups where they keep their motorhome. Since they knew we were coming they had moved it so we could put our motorhome there, which we did. Yesterday, Bill and I upgraded the 30 amp service to 50 amps. I told him if it gets any better we may never leave. We're about 20 miles south of Fort Smith and the area is quite nice (as is eastern Oklahoma, across the river).

We'll be here for several more days, but I may not make any more entries until we move on.

By the way, about 50-60 miles back into Oklahoma I stopped and took a picture of another sign to add to our "Unusual Signs" page. Jordan could not believe why I had stopped the motorhome and was walking back down the highway.

Odometer reading = 46,764
Miles for day = 144

 

10/7/02 through 10/9/02
(Witcherville AR)

Our visit with Bill and Cheryl is coming to an end as we're leaving here in the morning. Sharyn, Cheryl, and Jordan left here this morning and spent the entire day shopping in Fort Smith and surrounding communities. They certainly seem to have had a good time.

Bill and I had been checking out the local gun dealers looking for the best deal on a SIG-229 in .40S&W. He bought one the other day and we shot today, comparing the .40 with the .357 Sig.

The other night Sharyn woke me up because she thought something was after the horses. I heard nothing and immediately went back to sleep. It turned out that a pack of coyotes had been on the other side of the house and had awakened Bill and Cheryl as well as Sharyn. The next night (last night) we were in bed reading and this time I heard the coyotes yipping as they came through the property. Bill says they live in the woods down behind the barn. Several months ago Cheryl was out after dark doing something with the horses in the open barn when a pack of coyotes began moving in towards her. She was afraid to leave the lighted area of the barn to get back to the house. She managed to get Bill's attention at the house and he came out with a gun and started shooting at the pack which then ran away. While there have not been any local incidents of coyotes attacking people it does seem that they are getting bolder and people have been warned to be cautious about being out away from buildings alone after dark.

As an add on, one night last fall they heard a coyote pack feeding. The next morning the investigated the location and found the skeleton of a fresh killed ten point buck that had been totally stripped of all soft tissue. The ten point rack is now on the front of the barn.

Odometer reading = 46,764
Miles for day = 0

 

10/10/02 to 10/14/02
(Broken Arrow OK)

Having planned to spend 2 or 3 days with Bill and Cheryl we ended up staying with them for an entire week. We all enjoyed the company and plan to get together down on the Gulf coast when we head back east next spring.

On the morning of the 10th we headed west, back into Oklahoma, on our way to Sacramento, from which we'll then go south to Yuma for the early winter. We again stopped at the Corps of Engineers (COE) campground just outside of Broken Arrow. It's a very nice campground and it only costs us $7.50 per day ($15 without a Golden Age or Golden Access Passport). Being right on the river, it's a great place for kids and/or fishermen.

Upon our arrival we went to dump our holding tank, only to learn that the dump station (hookups here only consist of 30 amp electric + water) had not been working for several days because it needed to be pumped out and "the money was not available." It's kind of scary that the US government and the Army Corps of Engineers don't have $100. The nearest dump station was at another COE campground 23 miles away, so while Sharyn and Jordan did whatever they did, I went and dumped the tanks.

While in Broken Arrow Jordan flew out of Tulsa International, 25 miles from the campground, and went to visit Phil and Kim in Virginia while we stayed on here for another day or so.

Odometer reading = 46,937
Miles for day = 173

 

10/15/02 and 10/16/02
(Canton OK)

Having left Broken Arrow we came as far as another COE campground at Canton Lake, which actually has three COE campgrounds at various points along the lake front. There are a good number of campers here, most all of them fisherman, but the campsites are large and spread out so there's no crowding at all. Also, the fact that the campground has lots of big trees, but is not wooded, allows for a clean and neat appearence with lots of well maintained grassy areas. We like it!

Actually it was because it's so nice here that we decided to stay the second day, even though our main project on day #2 was to visit the laundromat in town.

Odometer reading = 47,120
Miles for day = 183

 

10/17/02 and 10/18/02
(Fort Supply OK)

As we left Canton we stopped at a used car place and asked if there was a phone line that I could plug my computer into. The only two people on the premises, a man and a young girl, shooting pool, showed me a phone jack that I could use. When I had finished the man and I talked for awhile about RVs. He and his wife are looking to buy a 5th wheel and had just come back from an RV show this past weekend. They're going to another one in Tulsa this weekend.

By the time we actually started moving down the highway it was 1:30pm. That's a late start even for us. Bill and Cheryl thought it was funny that the day we arrived at their house, having only traveled 140 miles, we didn't arrive until almost 5 o'clock. That's easy to explain; we start late, drive slow, and stop frequently. Some people, they for instance, will cover 300-500 miles in a single day almost as a matter of routine. Maybe that's why we're full-time -- it takes us that long to get somewhere!

Anyway, we're now at another Corps of Engineers (COE) campground at Fort Supply Lake. This time the motorhome is backed up right to the edge of the water, and again the grounds are very pretty and well maintained. As real estate goes, these COE parks get the prime locations. I don't recall ever being at one that was not on the water.

Last night Sharyn had gone outside for a cigarette. It was quite dark outside and she came back in less than two minutes. It seems that some unidentified animal was down by the water (as was Sharyn). Also, there was the thing about some leaves by the picnic table rustling in the wind when she realized that there were no leaves. A rattlesnake seemed more likely.

We had hoped for a bright and sunny day today, but unfortunately it was a gray and overcast repeat of yesterday.

Tonight it seems that it was my turn to make dinner, so we had sautéed/stir fried vegetables. "It tastes good and it's good for you too." (For those who can't place that quote, it's from Little Orphan Annie and a 1940's advertisement for Ovaltine).

Odometer reading = 47,194
Miles for day = 73

 

10/19/02
(Dodge City KS)

Query: How does one set out on an 80 mile trip from point A to point B, travel 70 miles, and then still have 110 miles to go?

Answer: Look at the map two days before trip and then start out for point B thinking you still remember how to get there.

DUMB! DUMB! DUMB!

Anyway, we finally got to point B a/k/a Dodge City, Kansas.

Dodge City has an interesting history. It was originally established in 1872 on the Santa Fe Trail, just west of Fort Dodge. Within a few years a long row of wooden store front buildings appeared. The town burned down in 1885, and was rebuilt with brick buildings, including the Long Branch Saloon, the Lone Star Saloon, and about 17 other drinking establishments. The streets were patrolled by such as Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp. The history that those old brick buildings witnessed . . . !

Then, in 1969, as part of an urban renewal project, Dodge City knocked down the five blocks of its original history and replaced them with these empty lots. The picture was taken from the bottom of boot hill, which is now home to these "replica" facades.

My thought is that Dodge City, as a historic place, is a fraud.

Odometer reading = 47,405
Miles for day = 211

 

10/20/02
(Hasty CO)

As we were traveling west on US-50 through western Kansas we came upon a "Scenic Overlook" sign that indicated an area that seemed to overlook a cattle feed lot. We thought that was a funny place to put a scenic overlook. Later we came upon another such sign and pull off area that also overlooked a feed lot. We don't know if it's a joke or if people really want to look out over such a facility. Perhaps the olfactory experience is exciting to some people -- it is quite an experience!

Since I was going to mention these overlooks on this site, I thought an accompanying photograph was necessary and decided to stop at the next "Scenic Overlook" to get the picture. The only problem was there were no other such overlooks, just feeding lots like this one. You can't tell from the picture but this lot is probably over a mile long and and a quarter mile deep. Cattle extending to the horizon.

This is what we see from the front of the motorhome as the sun went down behind the woods.

Odometer reading = 47,580
Miles for day = 175

 

10/21/02
(Pueblo CO)

On our way out of Hasty this morning we passed a house on the side of the road where the owner apparently used to have problems with trespassers. His sign has been added to our Interesting Signs page.

We've decided that, at least with respect to the eastern part of the state, Colorado is the land of cattle and flies!

Odometer reading = 47,714
Miles for day = 134

 

10/22/02
(Montrose CO)

Sharyn said that last night the coyotes were just outside of the motorhome yipping and yelping like crazy. I never heard anything.

In spite of the coyotes, we got an early start as we're trying to get over the continental divide and back down to a lower elevation before a weather system headed this way from the west meets up with us.

We stopped for lunch along the Arkansas River at a point about 80 miles from the headwaters. It seems that we've been following the Arkansas River ever since we left Fort Smith. We must have crossed and recrossed the river a dozen times since then. At this end the river is narrow and clear. By the time it gets to Fort Smith it's wide and muddy.

The summit is at an elevation of 11,312 feet, more than two miles above sea level. We were still 20 miles from the summit when we were reduced to second gear, except for the final six miles which we did in first gear at 15 mph. The density of air at that elevation is 35% less than it is at sea level and it sure shows in the reduced pulling power of our engine. Later, going down the other side of the divide we discovered that the braking power of the engine was reduced just as much as its pulling power.

While at the summit I did a small amount of walking around to take some pictures of signs and the motorhome. When I got back into the motorhome I was breathing moderately heavy -- and I hadn't done anything.

Anyway, we made it to Montrose with only a small amount of rain for the last few miles, and no snow at all.

Odometer reading = 47,940
Miles for day = 226

 

10/23/02
(Green River UT)

It was a pretty morning and we poked around for quite awhile before actually getting on the road at noontime. At Grand Junction, Colorado, US-50 merged into I-70, so for the last 100 miles we've been on the Interstate. This is pretty desolate territory, sometimes dramatic, but mostly sparse and not too interesting. We'll continue following I-70 for about another 100 miles to where US-50 again goes off on its own.

For now we're at a small campground in a place called Green River. It's nothing outstanding, but it's one of those that just feels comfortable. The brilliant yellow foliage and the late afternoon sunshine probably contribute to the overall niceness.

We picked this campground because it's a Passport America member which means we get 50% off.

Odometer reading = 48,102
Miles for day = 162

 

10/24/02
(Green River UT)

It was a beautiful morning, and since we have no need to be anywhere at any particular time, we decided to stay here for another day. We didn't do anything worth writing about (laundry, house cleaning, walk to post office, etc.) but it was a nice day, even if our activities don't appear to support that.

Odometer reading = 48,102
Miles for day = 0

 

10/25/02
(Delta UT)

Leaving Green River, we again headed west on I-70. In some places the scenery is really worth photographing, including the rest area where we stopped for lunch.

After a little over a hundred miles where I-70 took on a southerly direction we exited to continue on US-50 which we will continue on all the way to its western terminus at Sacramento.

Odometer reading = 48,287
Miles for day = 185

 

10/26/02
(Ely NV)

This morning, for reasons we can't figure out, the Honda had a dead battery and wouldn't turn over. Since we have to run the transmission through all its gears before towing, we had to unhook the Honda and push it up towards the front of the motorhome where our jumper cables would reach from the motorhome battery to the Honda battery. It started immediately, so we hooked it up again and got back on the road.

US-50 is a more interesting drive than I-70, if for no other reason than that on a narrow two lane road you're closer to all that you see. When I stopped to take this picture Sharyn used the opportunity to look for more rocks.

After 150 miles of travel we came to Ely, the first town since Delta, where we had planned to stay at the Prospector RV Park. It turns out that this is part of the Prospector Casino where the first night is free (full hookups with 50 amps), plus for two dollars they give Sharyn three dollars worth of nickels. All in all, not a bad place to stay.

Odometer reading = 48,438
Miles for day = 151

 

 

10/27/02 to 10/29/02
(Fallon NV)

We considered spending another day at the Prospector Casino but Sharyn still has concerned about getting caught in the snow so we decided to move on to the FamCamp at the Fallon Naval Air Station, even though that entails traveling further than we usually do in one day.

US-50, particularly through Nevada, is referred to as "the loneliest road in America," with distances of 50 to 100 miles with absolutely nothing not being uncommon. While some sections go through mountainous areas, others cross rather featureless tracts of desert. While this photo is typical of much of the desert area, between Ely and Fallon we crossed over nine mountain passes at elevations ranging up to 7600 feet (lots of 25 mph climbs). The desert floor itself is frequently at 4,000 - 5,000 feet.

Anyway we finally got to the FamCamp at Fallon NAS. This was the sunset as viewed from the motorhome on our second day.

Odometer reading = 48,712
Miles for day = 274

 

10/30/02
(Sacramento CA)

This morning we again headed west on US-50 towards Sacramento and the western end of that great highway. As the highway worked its way down and around the southern end of Lake Tahoe we managed to get this picture through the tree tops.

The roller assembly of our awning has not been working properly for quite some time, but we have wanted to have it fixed at a Camping World so if there was a subsequent problem with the repair we could have recourse at any Camping World (rather than having to backtrack 1000 miles to Joe's RV Repair). Since we'd be passing through Sacramento we figured we'd stop at the Camping World there and set up an appointment before continuing on towards Sharyn's sister in Oroville, about 70 miles north of Sacramento. Much to our surprise they said they could fix the awning tomorrow -- we had expected sometime next week.

We spent the night in their parking lot. It's the first Camping World we've spent the night at that didn't have electric outlets in the parking lot for overnighting customers, but while electricity is very convenient, it's not at all necessary for a single night. We ran the generator for a few hours so we could watch the news and Sharyn would not miss West Wing.

Odometer reading = 48,911
Miles for day = 198

 

10/31/02
(Marysville CA)

By lunch time today our awning was fixed and we were on our way to the FamCamp at Beale AFB halfway between Sacramento and Oroville.

The FamCamp is quite nice with full hookups (50 amps), campground lounge, laundry room, and of course all the amenities that always come with a military facility. One thing that we usually find with FamCamps is that space is usually not a problem which lends itself to an open and uncrowded surrounding. For what might be the first time ever, we paid for a week in advance ($84).

Odometer reading = 48,948
Miles for day = 38

 

11/1/02 through 11/4/02
(Marysville CA)

Yesterday we drove up to Oroville to visit Sharyn's sister. During our stay here I'm sure we'll be making additional visits to Oroville, probably drive down to Sacramento, and engage in sundry other activities, all of which would make for rather uninteresting reading. Accordingly, unless there is something worth writing about I'll make no further entries until we move on from Beale AFB.

Odometer reading = 48,948
Miles for day = 0

 

11/5/02 through 11/10/02
(Marysville CA)

In addition to serving as a website for anyone who may be interested, this travelog also serves as a journal or history of our travels so that we can go back and see just when we were at a particular place, how long we stayed where, etc. Therefore while I often will not make any entries for several days, there has to be an entry every day we move, otherwise the dates and places may not coincide. Since we're leaving here tomorrow, this entry documents 11/10/02 as our last day at Beale AFB in Marysville.

While the sun has been out for the last two days, prior to that we had 4-5 days of wind and rain and not very nice weather. Marysville being in the Sacramento Valley at an elevation of approximately 50 feet, the temperatures have pretty much stayed in the 50's and 60's. At the higher surrounding elevations they have had snow and blizzard-like conditions. Sharyn's very glad we left Fallon when we did!

We're all familiar with the non-events that make headlines on a slow news day. Well along the same lines, we've had a toaster that would intermittently not work too well. The other day it wouldn't work at all so we threw it away. Several days later we realized that the kitchen outlet that it had been plugged into was dead because the GFI in the bathroom outlet (to which the kitchen outlet is wired) had opened the circuit. Oh well, it was a crummy toaster anyway.

We would have left here several days ago except that I had ordered more memory (256MB) for my computer from Dell and it did not come until this afternoon.

Odometer reading = 48,948
Miles for day = 0

 

11/12/02
(Oroville CA)

Midday today we moved the motorhome to Sandy's yard, where after some maneuvering we got it through the gate and into position. The prior owner had installed an electrical outlet on a post where he had kept his RV. We're plugged into the outlet -- 20amps? -- and so far it's working fine. Sharyn will enjoy being able to just walk out the door and visit with her sister. It's good for both of them.

Odometer reading = 48,989
Miles for day = 40

 

11/13/02 to 11/19/02
(Oroville CA)

Having been here in Sandy's yard for a week it's time to move on. It was a good opportunity for Sharyn and Sandy to have extended time with each other.

Today, our last day here, Sharyn went rock hunting with Sandy, Kelly, and Ashley (Kelly is the ultimate rockhound). These are just two of the pieces they found.

Odometer reading = 48,989
Miles for day = 0

 

11/20/02
(Marysville CA)

This morning we left Sandy's and came back to Beale AFB where we'll stay for a few days while we buy some groceries, get a haircut, do some minor maintenance on the motorhome, etc.

In the meanwhile Sharyn relaxes with a cup of tea as we watch the six o'clock Fox News at 3 o'clock in the afternoon (with our East Coast satellite feed).

When we got here last week I thought the planes flying out of here looked like U-2s that I thought had been out of service for many years. Well they are U-2s, just like this one on display. Remember Gary Francis Powers who was shot down over Russia during the Eisenhower administration? He was flying one of these.

Note: It's public and published information that U-2s are flying out of Beale AFB.

Odometer reading = 49,038
Miles for day = 49

 

11/21/02 to 11/24/02
(Marysville CA)

Well I got my haircut and did a few minor things that needed doing on the motorhome. One day we drove the car down towards Sacramento and the big mall complex not too far from Camping World. We did a lot of walking around and a little bit of Christmas shopping. After a while Sharyn dropped me off at Barnes and Noble where I could just sit and read while she continued on her quest to conquer the entire mall. It turned out that it was too big to conquer.

One thing I did take note of was that all the stores were full of very nice looking, well groomed, well dressed, shoppers. I think that reflects well on the area.

On the road between the base and town there was a sign that caught my attention and got posted to our Interesting Signs page.

Odometer reading = 49,038
Miles for day = 0

 

11/25/02
(Sacramento CA)

We left Beale AFB this morning and returned to Camping World to have a glitch in the awning repair they did several weeks ago straightened out. We then left the motorhome in their parking lot while we drove back to the shopping mall so that Sharyn could return some stuff. This time I only walked with her for a short time before asking her to drop me at Barnes and Noble again.

Several hours later she came back and got me and we headed back to the motorhome. On the way we stopped at Subway and had dinner for two for six dollars!

We're now back at the motorhome, and while it's only 6:30 it's pitch black dark (except for the lights in the parking lot of course). In a few minutes we'll start the generator so we can watch CSI on TV. Then I suspect we'll go to bed early, read for a bit, and then get an earlier than usual start in the morning.

Odometer reading = 49,087
Miles for day = 49

 

11/26/02
(Fresno CA)

We're on our way to the FamCamp at Edwards AFB about 90 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

During the last several weeks we'd had three occasions when it was difficult to get the motorhome to start in the morning. It has to do with the computerized system that starts the cold engine with a richer fuel mixture and a high idle speed. Intermittently, that stuff just doesn't happen. It's like trying to start a cold carbureted engine with no choke. The main Ford warranty is 3 years or 36,000 miles. Since we're pushing 50,000 miles that warranty is long gone, but there is another 5 year or 50,000 mile warranty on emissions control aspects of the engine and fuel system. I think this problem comes under that category so we're trying to get it taken care of pretty much right now before we hit the 50,000 mile mark.

About a hundred miles back up the road in Modesto we spotted a Ford dealer so we stopped there. He only serviced cars at that facility so he sent us to his truck service facility several miles away. They didn't do motorhomes, so they sent us to the motorhome facility of the truck facility of the Ford dealer! They said they could look at us after lunch which they did. However, when I said that part of the immediacy of the problem was that I was running out of time on the warranty, they seemed to be somewhat less interested in doing anything about it. We had to wait in the "lounge," so we couldn't see what they did, but he came back in a little while and said he couldn't read any codes on his computer, but maybe his machine was broken. I asked him for some kind of a service report to show that I had been there with this problem with under 50,000 miles. He said without having done the job he couldn't do that. He did give me a short note on a business card. Big deal!

Anyway, we're now parked at the end of a dead end street in an industrial area of Fresno in front of another Ford truck dealership/service facility. They say they can "look at us" in the morning, but we can't stay on their lot because it's fenced and locked and "in an emergency" we would not be able to get out. We won't mention warranty until they've done whatever it is that they think needs doing.

In the meanwhile Sharyn doesn't like it where we are one little bit. I just found that out when she said she's going to sleep in her clothes. Actually from a security point of view (her concern) it really isn't bad at all.

At this point our only requirement is that we get to Edwards by tomorrow night so that we're not traveling on Thanksgiving.

Odometer reading = 49,284
Miles for day = 198

 

11/27/02
(Rosamond CA)

It worked out really well at the Ford dealer. When they told us to bring the motorhome into the shop it didn't want to start. That was perhaps a stroke of good luck because the technician (they're no longer mechanics) brought his hand held computer out to the motorhome and got an immediate code reading that told him precisely what the problem was and what part was defective.

While traveling in Alaska this past summer the ABS warning light on the dash came on. A Ford dealer there said that probably a sensor unit at the rear wheels had been been damaged by flying gravel but that he did not have time to look at it (he also said it did not affect the operation of the brakes, just the anti-skid function). This technician saw the ABS light was on and said "let me see what the problem is while I'm hooked up." Again he got an immediate readout that the rear wheel sensor was bad. To make a long story shorter, the cold start problem was fixed on warranty and the ABS unit was replaced for $58.

All of that and we were on the road by 9:30 am; earlier than usual. Also, in spite of Sharyn's concerns last night, she did sleep in her pajamas, and slept soundly through the night -- as did I.

As we climbed out of what I guess was the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley approaching Mojave, the ridge line ahead of us was topped with electricity generating windmills. There must have been a thousand of them stretched out for several miles along the mountain ridge. Those windmills represent a multi-million dollar capital investment by someone, and they must be producing a substantial amount of electricity (there are high wind warning signs along that section of the highway). In light of the amount of money spent there, I think that whoever did it is missing the boat by not having some kind of exhibit or information place where people could stop and find out about the project. I say "missing the boat" because it certainly is a pro renewable energy project/experiment, and probably a great advertisement for that environmental agenda. A large audience drives by every day, but no one is taking advantage that opportunity.

Anyway, soon thereafter we arrived at the FamCamp at Edwards AFB. We've had our mail sent to us here so we will be here until it arrives.

Odometer reading = 49,557
Miles for day = 272

 

11/28/02 (Thanksgiving)
(Rosamond CA)

We woke up this morning to Jordan's "Happy Thanksgiving" phone call.

Sharyn then made a cheese omelet for breakfast which we enjoyed on this beautiful sunny morning. As the day progressed Sharyn cleaned up the motorhome while I updated this webpage (through yesterday). Later on we sat outside reading and enjoying the beautiful day until the sky began to cloud over and the temperature drop.

Late afternoon we went to the Joshua Tree Inn (the "mess hall") for Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey, sweet potatoes, and the whole deal, with pecan pie and ice cream for dessert for both of us came to almost seven dollars. Here Sharyn is finishing up her final coffee at our table in the "mess hall."

Approaching the main gate of Edwards AFB is a series of signs that we thought merited posting to our Interesting Signs page.

Odometer reading = 49,557
Miles for day = 0

 

11/29/02 through 12/3/02
(Rosamond CA)

Here at Edwards we've managed to pretty much finish our Christmas shopping and ship a small truck load of packages through the UPS pickup station here on base. Several days ago I told Sharyn that we couldn't leave here until we shipped all the stuff because it was taking up so much room in the motorhome that we couldn't bring in the slide. Now the place is pretty much back to looking normal again (except for rolls of Christmas wrapping paper on the dashboard).

For the last several days the weather has been quite nice, at least during the day, with temperatures in the low 70's. At nighttime the temperature drops down into the low 40's or 30's. There's no mistaking the change when the sun goes down.

We plan on leaving here tomorrow and heading south to the Escapees park at Aguanga, California, about 180 miles from here. We had planned on leaving today, but we were told that having spent six days here the seventh day was free. Since leaving today was an arbitrary departure date tomorrow works just as well.

Odometer reading = 49,557
Miles for day = 0

 

12/4/02
(Aguanga CA)

This morning we left Edwards AFB and came on down to Jojoba Hills RV Resort, the Escapee park about 18 miles west of Temecula. Several weeks ago one of our neighbors at Beale AFB told us what a great place Jojoba Hills was and that if we were heading this way we should stop here.

This is a very nice place and we look forward to spending the next week here. This is the view of the clubhouse as seen from our campsite. The heated pool at the clubhouse, and the view from the pool, are not what we would have anticipated. In addition to tennis and Bocce, there are also saunas and a spa. We will check out some of these amenities during our stay.

Also, I should mention that this is the first time we've been in T-shirt and shorts weather in quite some time!

Odometer reading = 49,711
Miles for day = 154

 

12/5/02 to 12/10/02
(Aguanga CA)

We've been here almost a week and it's been a pleasant and relaxing time. The weather could not be any nicer with sunny daytime temperatures in the 70's, dropping into the 40's at night, and almost no humidity.

At the clubhouse we've been to a trim-the-tree party, a pot luck dinner, two ice cream socials, and Sharyn goes to line dancing Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. We've also taken both books and videos out of the library and used the laundry facilities.

They are looking for a couple of workampers for January and February and we were going to do it. This morning, however, we were told that as workampers we'd have to move the motorhome down by the office at the park entrance. That would sort of remove us from the "community" which is a big part of the appeal that this place has for us. We'd still be able to use all the facilities and attend all the functions, but somehow it wouldn't be the same. That's kind of too bad because we were looking forward to being here for the New Years Eve party, etc. As it now stands we're paid up through December 26 and will be leaving on the 27th.

There are several shopping malls in Temecula that we have been to a number of times. According to Sharyn they have some very good stores there. More often than not, when I do go with Sharyn, I stay at Barnes and Noble and use it as a comfortable library.

Several months back, while in Alaska, I was having some problem with my computer and the tech guy at Dell (via telephone) told me I needed a new hard drive, which Dell sent to me. After going through the truly crummy experience of swapping hard drives, re-installing all my applications and data files (and loosing some stuff that was scattered around in various folders and overlooked at the time), it turned out that the replacement drive they sent me was mechanically defective (it had a loud bearing noise), plus there was nothing wrong with the original drive.

Anyway, several weeks ago Dell sent me another drive to replace the defective one they had sent me, and finally, several days ago I decided that the time had come to install this second replacement. I used eight Zip disks to back up all (I hope) my data. When I was finished, the first time I tried to get on line I couldn't connect with my ISP. The second time I tried I could not receive e-mail messages or connect to my bank with Quicken. At this point, two days later, I still can't download my e-mail messages, but I access them at the server and read them on-line. I'll work on that tomorrow.

One major improvement, computer wise, is that we found out today that we can plug the motorhome into a phone line that is part of the park's internal phone system. While we can't receive incoming calls and can only call out to 800 numbers, that does allow me to get on-line without going down to the office, plus we can use our calling card for outgoing calls. Out here in the hills our cell phone doesn't work.

Odometer reading = 49,711
Miles for day = 0

 

12/11/01 and 12/12/02
(Aguanga CA)

Everything seems to be back to working normal on the computer, so I guess the installation of the replacement drive is complete. Amen for that.

Yesterday and today I pretty much just played around with the camera, starting by taking close-ups of some flowers lining the roadside where I walk in the morning. Just as I snapped this one the bee that was supposed to be part of the picture decided to leave the scene, but it worked out even better than I had planned as I caught him in mid air with his shadow being projected on the face of the flower. I thought this was another neat and interesting flower.

This was just to see how good of a close-up I could get of this penny. I took note that with all the pennies I've ever seen I had never really noticed the shape of the numbers showing the date.

I also put up a linked photo of the line dancing on the 12/10/02 entry (above).

Odometer reading = 49,711
Miles for day = 0

 

12/13/02 to 12/20/02
(Aguanga CA)

Having finished our Christmas shopping and gotten everything shipped back east to kids and grandchildren, this past week we've been engaged in doing pretty much routine things.

The other day Sharyn came back from wherever she'd been and said the car was making a funny noise. When I didn't show the level of interest she thought was appropriate she took the situation into her own hands.

The weather we had been so much enjoying has changed rather dramatically. While we've not had the 80 mph winds or heavy snow fall that has engulfed much of northern and central California, we've had plenty of wind and rain the the daytime highs have been running about 20 degrees cooler than a week ago. As crummy as it has been, judging from what we see on TV, most of the country is having it a lot worse than we are. Actually, this afternoon the sun came back out again and the temperature moved back up into the 60s.

Unless something occurs that would make more interesting reading I probably won't make another entry here until after Christmas.

In the meanwhile, have a super Merry Christmas!

Odometer reading = 49,711
Miles for day = 0

 

12/21/02 to 12/25/02
(Aguanga CA)

The weather has turned back to the pleasant sunny days that we had been having upon our initial arrival here. The temperatures are a little cooler with 60's during the day and down into the 30's at night, but the bright sunny days make it all just fine.

As we got into Christmas week the scheduled activities at the clubhouse changed somewhat as preparations were going on getting ready for the Christmas and New Years celebration events. The only change to effect us was that Sharyn's line dancing was not taking place.

Yesterday afternoon, Christmas Eve Day, we had a gift exchange and party. Today we had Christmas dinner where someone volunteered to host each table of 10-12 people. The host couple provided the table decorations and the entrée. Everyone else at the table then brought the dish that they had indicated on the sign-up sheet for that particular table. We thoroughly enjoyed the dinner, our hosts, and everyone else at the table. This is certainly a friendly and happy community of (mostly) full-time RVers.

We began our Christmas morning by opening our presents (what else)! As has been the case for many years, neither of us really needs anything, yet we continue to get a lot. We certainly have much to be thankful for.

We'll stay here tomorrow and leave the morning of the 27th. Tentatively (very tentatively) our plans are that from here we'll go to "Slab City" perhaps a hundred miles from here. That's a place out in the desert where the navy built an air station during WWII. Subsequently everything was torn down so that all that's left are the concrete slabs that the buildings had been on. During the winter months there are as many as 500 RVers who spend anywhere from from several days to several months there. These are all "boonedockers" or dry campers as there are no hookups, water, electric, etc. Sharyn's not so excited about going there, but I want to see it, and see how these rigs are set up to provide the ability to dry camp for such extended periods of time. We'll only be there for one or possibly two nights.

From there we'll go south about 35 miles to El Centro, just north of the Mexican border, where there is a Naval Air Station FamCamp. We'll stay there for a few days before moving on (eastward) to Yuma and another FamCamp. From Yuma we'll go to Gila Bend in Arizona where there is to be a 4 day gathering of RVers who access the Internet via satellite. Satellite could certainly be the answer for our getting reliable Internet access without having to hunt done a phone jack to plug the laptop into. The only problem is the high cost of the initial hardware, plus, I was just reading about some concerns that since the failure of the merger between Hughes Electronics (the parent company of DirectWay) and Echostar that Hughes wants out of the satellite Internet business where it says it's loosing money.

Anyway, from Gila Bend we'll continue easterly through Arizona and New Mexico, then down through the Texas Big Bend country and the Gulf coast. Somehow we'd like to hit both central Florida and northern Alabama (the Allegro factory and a granddaughter) before arriving in Virginia in sometime in May. From Virginia we plan to be at the Great North American RV Rally in Lexington, Kentucky in mid-June. If that's our plan for the next six months, we'll start off by seeing what we do tomorrow.

Odometer reading = 49,711
Miles for day = 0

 

12/26/02
(Aguanga CA)

Today we tied up all our loose ends; returned/exchanged some Christmas gifts, had some warranty work done on the Honda, did the laundry and some grocery shopping, and we're ready to pull out of here in the morning.

We've both been kind of itchy for the last week or so -- we'll be happy to be back on the road!

Odometer reading = 49,711
Miles for day = 0

 

12/27/02
(Salton Sea CA)

On the way out of Jojoba Hills this morning we stopped to say good-bye to several really nice people that we met during our time there. We then started out for Slab City. The first 25-30 miles was all climbing a narrow, winding, two lane road where we were a constant obstruction to all the traffic that invariably pilled up behind us.

Eventually we came to a point where we began descending into the city of Psalm Desert via a series of switch backs that when viewed from the top looked like a Matchbox Car racetrack. Psalm Desert is a beautiful city -- an island of green -- with flowering gardens, manicured lawns, tennis courts and golf courses surrounded by what is basically dry desert. With the looming critical water shortage in the western states, particularly Southern California, the people of Psalm Desert will be hard pressed to justify their, per capita, daily water consumption. It certainly makes for beautiful landscaping, but I suspect that landscaping will soon have to give way to water uses of higher priority.

Anyway, by the time we got to within about 25 miles of Slab City we thought a cup of coffee would hit the spot so we began looking for a place to pull off the road a make a pot. We came to a state park (actually the Salton Sea State Recreation Area at North Shore CA) that we thought would work well, but when we pulled into the entrance we saw that it was a "fee area." We told the girl at the gate why we had pulled in, but that seeing it was a fee area we'd just turn around and leave. She told us that we could go to the parking lot and spend an hour at the visitor's center, have our coffee, take a walk on the beach and leave with no charge. That sounded pretty good so we decided to go for it.

While at the beach we saw that there were about a dozen RV sites with full hookups. We had our coffee at this picnic table on the beach (from which I took this picture), checked out the visitors center, and decided this was a nice place to stay.

The Salton Sea is an inland salt water lake that's 228 feet below sea level, 35 miles long and 15 miles across with twice the surface area of Lake Tahoe.

Here's another picture that helps show why we decided to stay (because it's a really nice place).

Odometer reading = 49,795
Miles for day = 84

 

12/28/02
(Slab City CA)

We started this morning with coffee on the beach, watching this white pelican slowly swim by. After a while we went back to the motorhome for more coffee, after which I went to the visitors center to see the video about the Salton Sea.

By noon we were back on the road once again heading for Slab City, which turned out to be pretty much what we understood it to be. Lots of RVs, most with multiple solar panels on the roof, randomly spread out through a square mile of desert brush (aerial photo by AP).

The most prominent feature at Slab City is the three story high Salvation Mountain, which is also the first thing you'll see as you approach what used to be Camp Dunlop, a World War II marine training camp, now know as Slab City." Some time ago Leonard Knight, a retired worker from Vermont, was passing through. He decided that while he was there he'd build a monument to God. He envisioned it to be eight feet high and planned on taking a week to do it. That was eighteen years ago and he's still building. He uses adobe mud mixed with straw for the structure itself, then paints everything with words and prayers to God. As he described the ongoing project to me, I'd say he's less than half way finished, but he doesn't see himself ever doing anything but continuing to enlarge and build upon "Salvation Mountain." The section now being worked on consists of a large museum chamber, plus a number of meditation rooms such as this one.

Another interesting fellow was Mike Gohl, a social worker from Oregon, who got fed up with budgetary cutbacks in the mid-80's, bought a surplus bus from the City of Eugene and took off. Thus far he's logged over 500,000 miles on that bus. Today he's the primary source of all the solar equipment seen on the RVs at Slab City. When I spoke to him about his installations he told me he's "closed" on Sundays and Mondays, and this week being New Years he's also closed Tuesday and Wednesday. His website, if I remember correctly, is http://www.thesunworks.com.

Another interesting resident, one whom I did not meet, is Linda Barnette, a retired x-ray technician whose been at Slab City for over ten years. She runs the local "radio station" whereby at 6:pm Monday through Friday she broadcasts the local news and events over CB channel 23.

For those who either don't have a shower in their RV, or just prefer an alternate facility, there is a warm water spring that runs into a 5x5 concrete cistern which has been set up with a ladder for easy ingress and egress. The procedure is that you go there with at least one other person so one can "stand guard" to warn other would-be bathers that there's a naked person in the cistern so that they don't inadvertently interrupt and/or embarrass the bather. When I got there to check it out and take my pictures I had to wait for a mother and her two kids whose husband was "standing guard." These tire steps lead to the shower (which is about eight feet deep).

Getting back to us, we had our place in the desert where we could not help but take notice at how quiet it was. No one was making noise. There were no loud radios, TVs, or yelling. Even as it got dark and lights were turned on, no one was running a generator. Everyone was using the electric power stored in their batteries by their solar panels during the day. All in all, Slab City is a place that all RVers should get to check out at some point in time. Even if you think you don't like chocolate you should try it at least once.

Odometer reading = 49,832
Miles for day = 38

 

12/29/02 to 12/31/02
(El Centro CA)

From Slab City to the FamCamp at El Centro Naval Air Facility was only an hours drive so we arrived at the FamCamp around noon. We paid for a week and got settled into our site.

Since that time we've checked out the Exchange (Navy's version of BX), commissary, and the library. This is a very small installation so the the facilities are also on a small scale. While there are a number of computer terminals at the library, there does not appear to be any place on base where I can plug the computer into a phone line to update this site.

We each took a book out of the library on our first visit there. Sharyn finished hers in one day, but I'm still reading mine.

The satellite TV box won't come on so we basically have no TV. Dish Network is shipping us a new one which should get here on Thursday, the 2nd. Most of the channels we get with the antenna are either Spanish speaking from the US, or they're from Mexico (still Spanish speaking). Most of the radio stations are also broadcasting in Spanish, and we cannot get Public Radio which means that we can't listen to Morning Edition or All Things Considered. It seems that our only line to the outside world is the San Diego News-Tribune.

Today, the 31st, we went into El Centro to go to Wal-Mart to see about a tire for the Honda. It's probably the worst Wal-Mart we've ever been in. Most of the registered were closed, while the lines were backed up so far that the people on line were blocking access for other customers trying to move around that part of the store. If the home office ever checked this store they'd either put in new management or close it down. We still need a tire.

Odometer reading = 49,881
Miles for day = 49

 

2003

 

 

1/1/03 through 1/4/03
(El Centro CA)

There's a great deal going on around here. The weather here is text book perfect with the daytime temps in the mid-70s, sunny and bright with no humidity, followed by cool nights (we turn the heat on). As perfect as the weather is neither of us sees this as a place to spend a great deal of time, certainly not the entire winter, as many of the people here are doing. Tomorrow we're leaving here and going to Yuma, about 60 miles to the east. We could begin to have trouble finding vacant campsites in this part of the country as many places remain full during January and February. We'll see how it goes.

The new satellite box from DishNetwork never arrived. When we called yesterday to inquire about it their records showed that it was supposed to have been sent to us at the FamCamp, but also indicated that it never was. They said that if we call them Monday with our new location they'll have a new unit to us by Wednesday. In the meanwhile we basically are still without TV, radio, Internet access, or reliable cell phone service.

Again, when we're not traveling there's not much to write about.

Odometer reading = 49,881
Miles for day = 0

 

1/5/03
(Yuma AZ)

As we traveled along I-8 from El Centro to Yuma, which is pretty much all desert, we passed numerous places where clusters of RVs were gathered out in the desert, either camping, playing with their dune buggies, or both. Dune buggying seems to be a very big weekend family activity in this desert country.

When we exited the Interstate at Yuma, rather than going south in the City of Yuma, we turned north for the FamCamp at the US Army Proving Grounds where we figured to spend the better part of the week. When we arrived there it turned out that it was $18/day, not the $55/week indicated in the book. We left the Proving Grounds and continued north for another dozen miles to a Marine Corps FamCamp on a small peninsula that extends out into Lake Martinez. Camping for $7/day while surrounded with water is not too bad. We'll even get to use our kayaks which haven't been in the water for quite some time.

This gun on display at the main entrance to the Yuma Proving Grounds weighs 47 tons and fires an 11" projectile weighing 600 pounds a distance of 18 miles. The projectile leaves the barrel traveling at 2500 feet per second. I suspect that today it's obsolete.

Between the proving grounds and the FamCamp at Lake Martinez there are two signs that made it to our Interesting Signs page.

Again we find ourselves in a place where, we are told, there is no place for us to plug the computer into a phone line. That being the case it's hard to tell when this will get uploaded to the server. Before that happens, however, I'll be sure to get some pictures to enhance this page.

Odometer reading = 49,999
Miles for day = 118

 

1/6/03 through 1/8/03
(Yuma AZ)

We've driven into Yuma twice since we've been here (85 miles round trip) and decided that we like Yuma and this area a lot more than we liked El Centro. On one trip we had to stop to let a tank cross the highway in front of us. There was a "crossing guard" type person who stopped traffic (just us) as the tank approached and crossed the highway at 30-35 mph. I didn't see any ones head sticking out of the tank so I suspect the driver's field of view was probably pretty limited. We'd have given him the right of way even without the crossing guard.!

While there we visited the old Yuma Territorial Prison built during the mid-1800's. Probably not a good place to have spent time. One of the displays there lists the causes of death of the 100+ prisoners who died there, including two from "paralysis of the brain," and one who was "dead when he arrived." This is one of the cell blocks.

Also in the old section of downtown there is a really great tree, even though I don't know what it is.

Yesterday morning, this was the view looking across the lake from the campground.

Today we kayaked to the village of Lake Martinez on the other side of the lake. From there Sharyn paddled back to the campground while I paddled out to the Colorado River and managed to go upstream for a mile or so before drifting back down to the village of Lake Martinez where I got back onto the lake and returned to the campground. I have an attraction to the major rivers of the United States, the courses the travel, the history they've seen, etc. Being on the Colorado made me feel a small part of all of that. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Odometer reading = 49,999
Miles for day = 0

 

1/9/03
(Quartzsite AZ)

We had planned to leave Lake Martinez this morning and drive up to Quartzite, but the new satellite box from Dish Network did not arrive yesterday as promised. We decided we'd stay another day and hope the new box arrived, but unfortunately there were no available sites at the FamCamp so we could not extend our stay. We moved up on top of a hill that is used as an overflow area and figured that if the box arrived (via UPS) by 4:pm we could still get to Quartzsite by dark.

It was actually quite nice up on the hill overlooking the lake and the village of Lake Martinez on the other side. If we had adequate solar panels to keep up our batteries up we would opt for the dry camping on the hill rather than the hookups in the regular campground.

Anyway, shortly before 4:pm we had the new satellite box and headed for Quartzsite, arriving just at dusk. We, along with hundreds of other RVs, are parked in the desert on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land where you can dry camp for free for 14 days. After setting up -- a four minute process when dry camping -- I suggested that we take the car and go "check out" town. Sharyn suggested that we'd never be able to find our way back to the motorhome in the desert in the dark. Going outside into the dark and looking around in the black I thought we might not even find our way back to the road. We decided to wait until tomorrow. Since we're operating with somewhat limited battery capacity (and did not want to run the generator) we got into bed early, read for a short while, and went to sleep.

Odometer reading = 50,072
Miles for day = 73

 

1/10/03
(Quartzsite AZ)

Having gone to bed so early I woke up early and got up at 5:am. It was kind of cold in the motorhome as we only had the rear (bedroom) furnace on 60 degrees. As I was drinking my coffee and waiting for the sun to come up I was thinking "only another half hour" until the warm morning sun comes through the front windshield (I had parked facing east just to catch the early morning sun). In El Centro the sun came over the horizon at just about 7:am and I was expecting the same in Quartzsite. I had forgotten that we had moved into mountain time. The warmth of the sun did not arrive until 8:am. By that time Sharyn was up and we were enjoying our coffee and conversation.

After I took my morning walk (2 miles/30 minutes) we went to go into town to check it out. It seems as if there may not really be a "town." If all the tents were taken down and everything on wheels was driven or towed away I don't think there would be anything much left of Quartzsite. Anyway, we did check out a number of rock and mineral vendors with all kinds of stuff about which I know nothing, but that Sharyn is really drawn to. We then went to several of the RV displays including one dealer (Mesa RV) with Allegros on display. We again looked at the triple slide Allegro Bus, the same one we looked at in Wichita several months ago (interior view). This time we took it for a drive. It was the first time I drove a diesel and it is quite different from gas, although the difference is not as black and white as some people have told me.

We eventually worked our way back to our motorhome at our spot in the desert where we relaxed, had dinner, read for a while and went to bed (not as early as last night).

Odometer reading = 50,072
Miles for day = 0

 

1/11/03
(Lizard Gulch AZ)

This morning, before leaving Quartzsite for Lizard Gulch, we went to Bill's Solar to see what he had to offer. He had a fairly good selection of solar equipment and batteries, but like a surprising number of vendors, he was engaged in shooting the bull with another guy and had no apparent interest in a potential customer looking for information. Also, there was no manufacturers name on any of his solar panels and his big sign told of "10 year warranty." Since most solar panel manufacturers offer 20 or 25 year warranties I was unimpressed with Bill and left to go find Sharyn.

We also revisited the Allegro Bus and checked out a few details that we thought about since yesterday before returning to the motorhome, hooking up the car and heading for Lizard Gulch where we met up with an RV rally of 30-40 RVs parked in the desert.

Odometer reading = 50,202
Miles for day = 130

 

1/12/03 through 1/17/03
(Lizard Gulch AZ)

This has been an enjoyable week with what eventually turned out to be about 70-75 RVs gathered for computer/Internet related discussions, informal seminars, and general exchange of ideas. The background, knowledge, and technical know-how of this group was extraordinary..

The night before last we had a pot luck dinner which turned out to be more of a gourmet buffet, even with the "bring your own plate and utensils." I suggested that while this had sort of been the men's week (although many of the women had the same level of expertise), that the women outdid them with the dinner. I further suggested that the reason that the food was so outstanding and unusually good was that an extraordinary group of men would not be expected to have married an ordinary group of women.

This picture is from one of our social hours that we had every afternoon.

Anyway, most of the group left yesterday and we'll probably leave tomorrow. A good number of those who were here are Escapees who, when they left here, went to the Escapees "Boomer" gathering in Quartzsite. We're going to join them, but we may first spend a night or two at a nearby Air Force FamCamp. We've been dry camped for about two weeks now and we'd like to try some water and electric hookups for a few days.

Part of the problem is that we're not at all set up for dry camping for more than a day or so. When we get to Quartzsite we're going to see about quadrupling our battery storage capacity, adding an inverter (to give us 120 volt AC from the batteries), and possibly solar panels to keep those batteries charged without running the generator.


Odometer reading = 50,202
Miles for day = 0

 

1/18/03 through 1/20/03
(Lizard Gulch AZ)

Well, not surprisingly, we didn't leave here several days ago when we thought we would. We also didn't leave this morning when we woke up late to a cold (60 degrees) and rainy day even though our plan last night was to leave this morning. Of course the fact that one of the TV channels was having an Old Cowboy Movie weekend marathon that kept us us until almost 2:am didn't help. As the day progressed the sun came out and it got quite nice, but by then it was too late to leave. Instead I played on the Internet most of the day while Sharyn read Airframe by Michael Crichton.

By the way, we've added a new feature to our homepage; a link that will take you to a site that will give you a readout of your present Internet connection speed. I ran several tests that ranged from 514 kilobytes to a high of 1.1 megabytes per second.

Odometer reading = 50,202
Miles for day = 0

 

1/21/03
(Quartzsite AZ)

We finally pulled out of Lizard Gulch by mid-afternoon and arrived back here in Quartzsite about two hours before dark. We joined up with the Escapee "Boomer" group -- supposed to be the "baby boomers," however one chooses to define that term -- parked in the desert about four miles east of town.

We got here too late to really check out who's here or what's going on, but we'll do better tomorrow and fill in the blanks later.

Odometer reading = 50,339
Miles for day = 137

 

1/22/03
(Quartzsite AZ)

We drove the five miles into Quartzsite where we checked prices on some heavy duty golf cart and fork lift batteries and inverters. We also walked many miles of RV show booths, flea market shows, rock and mineral shows, etc. After about five hours we decided that to cover everything going on could take the better part of a week -- if we can maintain the pace for that long.

Odometer reading = 50,339
Miles for day = 0

 

1/23/03 through 1/25/03
(Quartzsite AZ)

Our time here in Quartzsite is the first time we've ever participated in any kind of Escapee gathering outside of an Escapee park and we thoroughly enjoyed the entire time. The exchange of ideas, information, and experiences with lots of couples doing the same thing that you're doing is a pleasant and rewarding experience. This shows our group, about 80 RVs, in the foreground with many more in the distance.

One day six couples went kayaking at a wildlife preserve upstream from Parker Dam, about 60 miles north of Quartzsite. We had ten kayaks, one canoe, and a great time.

Of course we did more of the flea market stuff, most, but not all of which, was either RV or rock/gem oriented. These entrepreneurs live upstairs and conduct their business on the first floor!

It didn't take too long before we ran out of cash and we had trouble getting more. The nearest bank (we were told) was 55 miles away, and all the ATM machines were empty. After two days we found one machine that had been refilled so we could get some more money. One of the things we needed cash for was that I desperately needed a haircut and had not been able to find a barber. While in Lizard Gulch we were told that there was a lady that cut hair at her house but no one seemed to know where she lived. Finally, in Quartzsite I had found a barber!

We decided to better equip the motorhome for dry camping and have arranged for the purchase and installation of two 120 watt solar panels and a 2000 watt Heart inverter. We're also going to install four six volt golf cart batteries and have a welder lined up to do the minor fabrication necessary to fit the batteries. This work has all been scheduled for Thursday and Friday.

By the way, this is an aerial photo of some of the RVs in and around Quartzsite. The picture, taken this week, is looking south down US-95 with I-10 running across the middle. RVs extend out 8 to 10 miles from the center of town. Within a five mile radius the desert is pretty much carpeted with them.

Odometer reading = 50,339
Miles for day = 0

 

1/26/03 through 1/28/03
(Gila Bend AZ)

Having been dry camped for several weeks we had had enough of living with no electricity other than our generator and limited battery capacity. Accordingly, we decided to go to the FamCamp at Gila Bend AFB (full hookups for $7/day) to wait until it's time for our installations at Quartzsite. While this is a tiny base, the laundry room is free, as is the coffee and hot drink machine located in the same building as the laundry and exercise rooms. Of course the weather, as it seems to be in this part of the country in January, is text book perfect. Low humidity, sunny, and in the 70's during the day; probably the 50's at night.

Odometer reading = 50,478
Miles for day = 139

 

1/29/03
(Quartzsite AZ)

Since we have to be at the welder's at 9:am tomorrow here in Quartzsite, we left Gila Bend at midday today, and upon our arrival in Quartzsite took up residency again in the desert. This time, however, we stayed closer in towards town since we'll be taking the motorhome back and forth to the welder and Discount Solar.

Odometer reading = 50,617
Miles for day = 139

 

1/30/03 and 1/31/03
(Quartzsite AZ)

We're now much better prepared for the boondocking (dry camping) that we seem to have been doing more of since Alaska this past summer. While the welder only took a little over 2-1/2 hours to fabricate the battery mounts, Discount Solar started on our job at 9:am and with three men on the job didn't finish until about 6:30. They did a very professional installation and we now have two 120 watt Kyocera solar panels, a 2,000 watt Heart inverter with a 3-stage 100 amp battery charger, the appropriate controllers, and four 225 amp/hour, 6-volt Trojan T-105 golf cart batteries. Starting tonight we'll find out how well all this stuff is going to work for us.

Odometer reading = 50,632
Miles for (2) days = 15

 

2/1/03
(Tucson AZ)

We left Quartzsite this morning, heading east, undecided whether we'd stop at Gila Bend, the Escapee Park in Casa Grande, or continue all the way to the FamCamp at Davis-Monthan AFB. We opted to stay at Casa Grande, figuring that there'd be no hookup sites, but that with our newly acquired electrical (semi-)independence, we be just as happy to dry camp in the overflow area. As it turned out there were no sites of any kind available. Since we were already past Gila Bend, we continued on to the FamCamp at Tucson. We're now in the overflow area at the edge of the flightline, but we did put ourselves on the list for a full hookup site. The wait is about four days. Whether or not we take such a site when it becomes available depends on how we feel at the time.

As it is now, we can watch TV, get on line with the computer, run the microwave, etc., all without running the generator. There is a limitation, of course, as to how long you can run all this stuff without over depleting the batteries. Also, if we don't travel the next day, depending on how far down we ran the batteries (don't want to go below 50%) and how much sunshine we have the next day, the solar panels may not fully replace the amp/hours used the night before (especially now while the days are so short). If necessary we can run the generator for 30 minutes or an hour and replace 50-100 amp/hours through the inverter/charger. We'll see how it all works and develop a system as we proceed.

While the following is out of chronological order, it's here anyway. Several days ago we encountered a big truck moving some very big thing along the Interstate. The overall length must have been about 200 feet (that's not an exaggeration) and it was a full two lanes wide. With 10 highway patrol cars acting as escort, the driver(s) pulled to the edge of a 12' wide paved shoulder to allow other vehicles to pass (they were doing about 55 mph. The truck in front was pulling the rig in the conventional manner, while they had two additional truck rigged up in the rear to push -- much like a multi-locomotive freight train.

As we got our opportunity to pass, Sharyn took some pictures. This shows the two "pusher" trucks (both of which had drivers), while this shows the front one-third of the load. We have no idea what it was they were moving, but it was the biggest thing we've ever seen on the road!

Odometer reading = 50,905
Miles for day = 273

 

2/2/03 through 2/5/03
(Tucson AZ)

It's been somewhat overcast the last couple of days and somewhat cooler than I'd like it to be. Only in the lower 60's and going down into the 30's at night. We're definitely not in Florida

Anyway, we're still in the overflow area even though we could have moved to full hookups this morning (we were #1 on the list this morning). Right now we're only paying $3 per day, plus we're probably leaving in the morning.

We like Tucson. Actually, I like it a lot. For such a big city (population 850,000) most of the parts we've been through are quite nice. I particularly like the way the streets are laid out. With wide, six lane, streets that run north and south or east and west forming a grid pattern pattern with one mile squares, travel is very easy. Within each one mile square there are smaller streets that do not follow any particular pattern, but traveling north-south or east-west is very quick and easy. It's also easy for strangers like us to find our way to anywhere we want to go.

We haven't done much to write about, but we're content and our "dots" are blue.

Odometer reading = 50,905
Miles for day = 0

 

2/6/03
(Cochise Stronghold AZ)

It was only in the mid-30's when we got up this morning (as it has been for the last several mornings). The first thing I do in the morning, after turning on the coffee, is to turn on the furnace. This morning it was 42 degrees in the motorhome. I hate to use a furnaces because the fan draws about 7 amps of 12 volt current. That quite a draw on the batteries for something that by its nature may run for an hour, as opposed to the water pump (for instance) that draws almost as much current, but typically runs several seconds, or intermittently for several minutes if we are taking a shower. For heating up the place in the morning I much prefer the heat pumps, but to operate them (when we're dry camped) I have to run the generator and I won't turn that on before 8:am out of consideration for our neighbors. At 8:am pretty much everyone's generator comes on.

For next winter we'll have a catalytic heater that puts out something in the neighborhood of 8,000 BTUs with an LP flame the size of a pilot light. Since it uses no electricity and such a minute amount of LP gas, the catalytic heater is the ideal source for heat in an RV when electrical consumption is a factor. They do NOT produce carbon monoxide, and all the good ones have automatic low oxygen shut downs.

Anyway, last night I saw something on the map called "Cochise Stronghold" about 25 miles off of I-10 where we would be passing by today. I checked it out on-line and found that it was where Cochise and about a thousand of his people lived and held out against the US Army for a number of years. Since there is now a National Park there we decided to make Cochise Stronghold our destination for tonight. The campground only has ten sites, and it's all dry camping, but we paid for two nights and will hike the area tomorrow. Since we're surrounded by the Dragoon Mountains, and under a heavy tree cover, we have no cell phone service, no radio, and can't "see" out for our satellite access.

Odometer reading = 51,010
Miles for day = 105

 

2/7/03
(Cochise Stronghold AZ)

Shortly after coffee and conversation we dressed warmly and started off on a three mile hike up the Cochise Trail, a footpath that leads to the crest of eastern edge of the Dragoon Mountains and overlooks the desert to the east. At the base of the mountain beyond the crest are the remains of the old Butterfield Stage Coach stop. Unfortunately, we didn't get to the crest. After 2 hours and 20 minutes we had not quite yet reached the 1-1/2 mile marker and I figured that wherever we turn back would be the half way mark of our round trip. At that point I felt that I was half used up and suggested that we start back down; which we did.

Cochise Stronghold certainly is a beautiful place (panoramic view -- scroll image horizontally). It's a large canyon area, actually it seems to be several canyons, filled with creeks and streams, scrub forests, and some brushland. I suspect that when they were not at war with the army or the white settlers, Cochise and his Chiricahua Apaches lived a rather pleasant and tranquil life in these mountains.

After getting back to the campsite, eating, and recouping for an hour or so we decided to drive around to the old stage stop. The drive around the mountain was 25 miles each way, but I had told Sharyn that I was surprised that any of the "ruins" of the stage stop were left and wanted to see them. Well, we finally got to what we thought was the location, saw the sign, but couldn't find anything else. When we got back to the campground the host told us that back beyond the sign there was the stone footing outlining the perimeter of the building and the division of rooms within in. He said there were also the graves of four soldiers. We had found none of that. I was disappointed that there was nothing there, but then I was doubly disappointed to learn how much was there and that we had seen none of it.

It should be stated that the relatively short time the stage depot was in use (1858-1862) probably has something to do with the fact that in the last 12 month period the Apaches killed 16 stage drivers.

On the drive to the stage depot we came upon two things that warranted being photographed: this blooming cactus, and "the oldest homestead house in southeast Arizona."

Odometer reading = 51,010
Miles for day = 0

 

2/8/03
(Deming NM)

This morning we woke up to the sound of rain on the roof. That's probably not bad as I tell Sharyn I'd rather it rain on a "travel" day, as rain while we traveling has no effect on what we do or how we do it. Since we were dry camped at Cochise Stronghold, getting ready to leave pretty much means bringing in the slides, hooking up the car, and driving away.

As we were driving east on I-10, we were not to far into New Mexico when Sharyn said that it was snowing. Of course I disagreed, saying we were in the middle of the desert and it doesn't snow in the desert (it's not suppose to rain either). Within about 15 minutes it was snowing like crazy, visibility was reduced to several hundred yards, and the windshield wipers were so encrusted with snow that they were no longer in contact with the windshield. So much for an easterner's idea of what does, or does not, happen in the desert!

The maximum snowfall was occurring in the vicinity of the Continental Divide, and as we moved further down the road the accumulated snow on the windshield and the wiper blades began to melt and things started looking better.

It wasn't too long after that that we arrived at Dream Catcher RV Park, the Escapee Park in Deming, NM. Since it was cold and rainy we decided to take a site with full hookups. It's been several weeks since we've had hookups and we thought we'd treat ourselves. We had not been set up for more than 20 minutes when all the power in the area went out. Our systems stayed on as the inverter immediately cut in to pick up the load, but we thought it funny that the first time we hook up to commercial power, the power goes out. In any event it was back on in a short time and all was well.

We went to the daily 4:pm social hour at the clubhouse, introduced ourselves, talked with some people, had a cup of coffee, and eventually returned to the motorhome. Since the forecast is for more rain and snow tonight and tomorrow we'll probably stay here until Monday.

Odometer reading = 51,182
Miles for day = 172

 

2/9/03 and 2/10/03
(Deming NM)

Yesterday while Sharyn was doing the laundry I washed both the car and the motorhome. I can't remember the last time we were able to wash them. Actually, as encrusted as they had been, the drive to Deming through the rain and snow had already removed a substantial amount.

It had been our intention to leave here today, but instead we decided to stay another day and visit nearby Rock Hound State Park. There is a $4 per vehicle day use fee, but you are invited to take up to 20 pounds of rocks per person. The problem was not so much deciding what rocks to take, but rather what rocks to leave behind. I suspect that we really got our money's worth.

Somewhere out here in the desert country I came across something that said prickly pear cactus was edible, so today I tried a piece. While it wasn't bad, I could pass on a big serving. Later when we went to the visitor's center at the park there was a display there about edible desert plants. It said that the flower of the prickly pear was edible. Oh well, the other part wasn't too bad.

I don't know what kind of cactus this is, but this picture was taken to show the scale of the next picture. This is a close-up of the flowers on the top. Check out those fishhook like barbs. They're sharp and rigid, and they don't pull out -- if you get hooked you'd have trouble getting away.

We spent most of the day at Rock Hound State Park. For the most part, while Sharyn collected rocks, I took pictures. This one is a big file (61K). This one's only half the size.

In any event, by the time we got back to the motorhome we were both tired and hungry and called it a day.

Odometer reading = 51,182
Miles for day = 0

 

2/11/03
(El Paso TX)

Late this morning as we were checking out of the Dream Catcher RV Park the lady said that if Sharyn took some of her rocks to the Senior Center in town that they had a lapidary room and that they'd cut some of the rocks for her. We thought that would be good to see the equipment they had, how it worked, etc. Getting the stones cut would be good also. The problem was that we got there around noon and all the lapidary guys had already left. We did see all the equipment they had set up in the room. It was a pretty impressive facility for a senior center.

Anyway, we then left Deming and got onto I-10, again heading east. We stopped to eat at a rest area in Los Cruces where this roadrunner overlooks the Interstate.

Leaving the rest area we continued on to the FamCamp at Fort Bliss in El Paso where we stayed some time ago when Jordan was traveling with us. We paid for two nights and we'll see what happens.

Odometer reading = 51,290
Miles for day = 108

 

2/12/03
(El Paso TX)

We didn't do too much today. Went to the PX and the commissary where we did some pretty serious grocery shopping as we were low on lots of stuff. When we buy so much the problem always becomes where do you put it -- it's not exactly as if we had a walk-in pantry.

Odometer reading = 51,290
Miles for day = 0

 

2/13/03
(Alpine TX)

The weather was quite nice this morning and we enjoyed the process of getting ready to leave at a leisurely pace. We picked up I-10 at the southern end of El Paso and once again headed east. Our next planned destination being Laughlin AFB at Del Rio, about 450 miles away, we figured it would probably take us three days, although two was a possibility.

We have basically been eastbound on either I-8 or I-10 since we left El Centro on January 5. That's probably more Interstate miles than we've done in the last year. We much prefer the winding two lane roads, so when we came to the exit for US-90 we got off the Interstate and continued east on US-90.

A little after 5:pm we got to the small town of Alpine, one of the few towns along this stretch of US-90, and looking for a place to boondock, we parked in the unpaved portion of the parking lot of the town civic center. It seemed like a good place that would be safe and secure. Right on main street in the middle of town, it was a very public place where the police could not help but take note of our presence, and presumably would be passing by numerous times during the night.

With our new battery bank and inverter we were able to watch several hours of TV before going to bed and reading for some time before shutting off the lights and going to sleep. It started raining shortly after we arrived and continued through most of the night.

Odometer reading = 51,522
Miles for day = 231

 

2/14/03
(Del Rio TX)

As is frequently the case, I was up before daylight and got the coffee started (Sharyn sets up the pot at night) while Sharyn was still sleeping. After she had gotten up and had her coffee I gave her her Godiva chocolates for Valentine's Day.

We almost never eat breakfast, so it wasn't too long before we were on the road again. After an hour or so we stopped so I could make a sandwich and take this picture of the road ahead. The day's travel was not too eventful, but we did stop at the Pecos River to take see the view an take a few pictures. This is looking south with the Rio Grande River and Mexico where the Pecos enters into the Rio Grande. This is looking north past the US-90 highway bridge. The boat heading upstream is the Border Patrol. Take note how low the river is. Texas, like much of the Country is deep in drought.

It was only a few miles west of the river that Sharyn, Jordan, and I visited the "Judge Roy Bean Courthouse" on April 1, 2002. Remember that he was "The Law West of the Pecos." The following is from our Travelog entry that day:

As we passed by Langtry TX, where Judge Roy Bean, known as "the law west of the Pecos" used to hang out, we stopped to check out his courthouse, which turns out to have been a combination saloon, courthouse, and dancehall. It was a lot smaller than I would have thought. The sign behind the bar tells the story while Sharyn stands at the bar waiting for service.

Anyway, we arrived at the FamCamp at Laughlin AFB and were relegated to drycamping in the overflow area as the campground was full. We paid for one night ($3) but will probably stay here tomorrow as well.

By violating our (loose) rule about not driving more than 200 miles in any one day we got here from El Paso in two days instead of three. As a miscellaneous aside, from where I-10 crosses the state line from New Mexico into Texas, to where I-10 leaves Texas and enters Louisiana, is 880 miles. Texas is a *big* place!

Odometer reading = 51,734
Miles for day = 212

 

2/15/03
(Del Rio TX)

As I try to write this, I'm actually writing about what we did yesterday (I'm writing this on the 16th) and I can't remember. I know that Sharyn did laundry at the free laundry facilities on base. She says all I did was play with my computer, so I guess that's it.

Odometer reading = 51,734
Miles for day = 0

 

2/16/03
(Freer TX)

We left Laughlin AFB this morning, headed for Escondito Ranch, a military RV park and recreation area owned and maintained by the Navy. It's eight miles west of here on Texas Route 44, then 13 miles north on county route 401. It reads pretty nice in the military campground directory, used as a hunting camp during season, it says it's open year round, offering full hookups with 50 amps for $5 per day. That's pretty hard to beat

We had not expected route 401 to be a dirt road, but we've had that before so it wasn't any big deal. The problem began to manifest itself as we drove further and further down 401. At one point, perhaps half way in, we stopped and evaluated the deteriorating road; the part we had traveled, and the part that still lie ahead. While it wasn't too reassuring, there was no difficulty in making any decision -- there was no decision to be made. We couldn't turn around and we couldn't back out, so we got back in the motorhome and kept going. As I told Sharyn, in the worst case scenario, if we got stuck in the mud, we eat dinner, take a shower, and go to bed, just as we would anywhere else.

Well, we didn't get stuck, but route 401 ended at a padlocked gate, the entrance to Escondito Ranch. The place was closed up tight with no one anywhere in sight. Even when I climbed the fence and went looking, there was no one.

It had taken us about 45 minutes to do the 13 miles into the place. Luckily there was room to turn around in front of the gate. By this time, however, it was beginning to get dark. In order to beat the darkness we came out of 401 a lot faster than we went in, but it was still dark as we got back out to the highway.

We drove the remaining eight miles to Freer where we're now parked next to some trucks behind a Citgo gas station where we'll spend the night. Since we had planned to spend several days at Escondito Ranch I guess we've now picked up several days on our journey east.

Odometer reading = 51,966
Miles for day = 232

 

2/17/03
(Padre Island National Seashore TX)

We arrived at Padre Island National Seashore, just over the bridge from Corpus Christi, by mid-afternoon. We checked out Malaquite Campground but didn't care for it. It was quite crowded, plus it was behind the dunes from the beach. We inquired at the visitor's center about driving on the beach and we were assured that we could drive the motorhome on the beach without getting stuck. The beach (and the National Seashore) extends south along the Gulf of Mexico for sixty miles. The entire sixty mile stretch is available for free camping, but only the first five miles is accessible without four wheel drive. With some reservations about driving our twelve tons out onto the beach we drove to where the road ends at the beach. It proved to be no problem, just as the lady at the visitor's center had said.

It worked out very nicely in that in order to have our solar panels facing south we placed the back of the motorhome against the dunes, while the front faced the Gulf. It would be difficult to beat this setup even at a $50 per day campground -- and this is free camping!

It's sunny and 70 degrees with a steady breeze coming in off of the Gulf. The only sound is the roar of the surf. It must be said that life is good!

Odometer reading = 52,078
Miles for day = 111

 

2/18/03
(Padre Island National Seashore TX)

This was our view from the front of the motorhome as the sun came up over the Gulf this morning. A slightly broader view includes our neighbor, a lady from Ontario, an early starter, who loves to fish but really isn't interested in catching any. This was what we looked like from the water's edge.

Anyway, we spent the day on the beach, doing nothing in particular.

Incidentally, this was last night's moon rise.

Odometer reading = 52,078
Miles for day = 0

 

2/19/03 and 2/20/03
(Corpus Christi TX)

Yesterday morning it clouded up and was getting ready to rain so we decided to leave the beach and come over to the FamCamp at the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station. It was the first time in a long time that base security forces came in and went through the motorhome, but as we told the security guys, whatever it takes is what has to happen.

After getting set up in our campsite we went to the commissary to get some milk and bread before it closed. Today we went back and did our real grocery shopping. Other than that we mostly relaxed and did some reading.

The weather has changed considerably. While the temperatures are still in the 70's, the humidity is in the 90's. Plus the sky is dark and the wind is blowing mist -- probably part rain and part water from the bay. Rain and thunderstorms are predicted for the next several days all along the Gulf Coast from here to Mississippi. We'll probably leave here in the morning and head that way. As I told Sharyn, we need about about 100 miles of driving in the pouring rain to get all the mud and dirt from the muddy road washed out from the undercarriage.

Odometer reading = 52,107
Miles for day = 29

 

2/21/03
(Bay City TX)

It was somewhat dark and cloudy this morning, plus their were tornado warnings in effect for the entire area, so Sharyn did not want to travel. We decided that we'd stay at the FamCamp for another day, but shortly after 11:am the lady came to our site to tell us that it had been reserved by someone else and that they had arrived. We apologized for the oversight and told her we'd be out within 20-30 minutes.

Not having planned to leave today, we found ourselves heading out of Corpus Christi without quite knowing where we were going or how to get there. We eventually opted to stay closer to the Gulf Coast as we headed east and at the end of the day we were in Wal-Mart's parking lot here in Bay City TX.

Odometer reading = 52,262
Miles for day = 155

 

2/22/03
(Galveston TX)

Leaving Bay City this morning we had to back track a mile or so to pickup the road that would take us towards Galveston Island, the barrier island where we planned to stay at Galveston Island State Park. Crossing over a bridge at the southern end of the island we paid a $2 toll and continued on our way.

After getting set up in the campground we were in the process of tuning in the TV satellite when the splines in the directional dial sheared off. At the local hardware store I bought a piece of 1/2" conduit (because 1/2" PVC isn't 1/2" outside diameter) and some epoxy. Since the directional dial is not something you can pick up at your local RV dealer I'm hoping I can make a suitable repair.

Odometer reading = 52,340
Miles for day = 78

 

2/23/03
(Lake Charles LA)

We left Galveston Island State Park and continued easterly through the town of Galveston and on to the eastern end of Galveston Island where we took a ferry to the mainland. We thought it was unusual that it cost $2 to cross a small bridge to get onto the island at one end, but the 15 minute ferry ride to get off the island at the other end is free. Eventually the road turned north and took us to I-10 where we headed east towards Louisiana.

There were a number of signs along the Interstate advertising the Isle of Capri Casino in Lake Charles so we decided it sounded like a good destination. Not only does Sharyn enjoy the slots, but most casinos offer great security and welcome RVers to spend the night in their parking lot. After loosing a dozen dollars in the slots we returned to the motorhome in the casino parking lot where we had dinner and Sharyn watched a movie on TV while I did the web page.

Odometer reading = 52,487
Miles for day = 147

 

2/24/03
(Baton Rouge LA)

We had a pretty uneventful day as we traveled from Lake Charles to Baton Rouge. As we were entering Baton Rouge we exited the Interstate to get gas. It turned out that the gas station wasn't there, but then we could not get back onto I-10. That interchange had no eastbound entrance so we kind of wandered around the neighborhood streets trying to stay close to the Interstate while looking for another entrance. At one point we were driving down a street that must have had a recent Mardi Gras parade because all the lower tree branches were entangled with multicolored Mardi Gras beads.

Eventually we got back onto the Interstate but didn't go too far before we got off near a Wal-Mart Supercenter where we spent the night in the parking lot.

Odometer reading = 52,689
Miles for day = 202

 

2/25/03
(Biloxi MS)

The FamCamp at Keesler AFB was our destination here in Biloxi. This is at least the third time we've stayed here, and Biloxi is one of Sharyn's favorite places. It's kind of dark and overcast right now so the place is not at its best.

The FamCamp is full so we are in an overflow site (electric only) until tomorrow morning. We're #1 on the list for a full service site so we should have one tomorrow.

One advantage of an overflow site here is that the laundry room (a nice laundry room) is only 20 feet from the motorhome, and we have laundry to be done.

Odometer reading = 52,767
Miles for day = 78

 

2/25/03 to 2/28/03
(Biloxi MS)

We're still here and we're still in the overflow area. A full hookup site was available the day after we got her, but since we were already set up we decided to just stay where we are. If and when we run out of water or holding tank space we may move.

In addition to being right next to the laundry room, the showers and bathrooms are right behind the motorhome. I would say that we "never" use the bathroom or shower facilities at a campground, pretty much for no other reason than we prefer to use our own. The only exception I can recall was here several years ago. It was another time that we were in the overflow area, and in order to conserve water/holding tank space, I used the shower in the building. It was a great shower -- unlimited, high pressure hot water! Perhaps you have to live in a motorhome to fully appreciate what that means -- particularly the "unlimited" part. Anyway, recalling those great showers, we have again taken to using the showers provided here. I guess I had forgotten that the showers here also had soft water as it's like liquid silk. Quite nice!

The weather continues to be cool, dark, cloudy, and frequently rainy. Sharyn reads and visits a lot, while I spend a lot of time on the computer. It's all pretty relaxed and our dots are blue. At least mine is. Sharyn says hers is purple.

We're waiting for our mail and until it arrives we're renewing on a one day at a time basis.

This morning I received the following e-mail attachment -- a great picture of our granddaughter Mary. Feel free to look!

Odometer reading = 52,767
Miles for day = 0

 

3/1/03
(Biloxi MS)

It was another overcast day with intermittent rain and drizzle (we haven't seen the sun since we drove off the beach down by Corpus Christi).

I've been wanting to stuff myself with fried chicken for upwards to a year and threatening to go to a Kentucky Fried Chicken and do it. Since I'm cheap, I have to have an "all you eat" buffet type arrangement and apparently KFC doesn't do these anymore. Anyway, this evening we went to Cajun's Fried Chicken (a chain we see thorough this area) where for <$7 you get all can eat -- chicken and/or fish, vegetables, dessert, and beverage. We really got our money's worth. Sharyn ate more than I did -- particularly the ice cream and dessert -- eventually topping it off with a giant root beer float. As we left she said she was ready to throw up.

From there we took our stuffed bodies to one of the casinos. We'll probably leave here tomorrow and Sharyn says we can't leave here without visiting any of the casinos. We went to the pirate ship place where we lost several dollars before returning to the motorhome.

We took two more of those unlimited hot water showers and went to bed.

Odometer reading = 52,767
Miles for day = 0

 

3/2/03
(Summerdale AL)

After five days in Biloxi with an "electric only" hookup, this morning we dumped our holding tanks and topped off with fresh water before leaving for Rainbow Plantation, the Escapee park about 25 miles south of Mobile, Alabama.

We arrived here, as expected, without incident and pulled into the boondock area. All Escapee parks have a boondock (dry camp) area that members can use one night for free, with additional nights costing $2.50 each. Now that we're more appropriately equipped for dry camping we do it much more frequently. As the daylight hours increase to provide more hours of solar charging we should be able to boondock for as long as our water lasts.

Later on we went to the clubhouse for ice cream and some do-it-yourself Mardi Gras entertainment.

Odometer reading = 52,877
Miles for day = 110

 

3/3/03
(Summerdale AL)

We had planned to leave here this morning but the sun was shinning and the guy across the way was washing his motorhome. We decided to move to a full hookup site, stay here for another day, and wash the motorhome (that still has mud on it from that infamous muddy road to the closed campground).

We must have been here the same time last year because as soon as we started to move the Mardi Gras parade came down the road. We were here for last year's Mardi Gras also.

Unfortunately we had not been set up in our new site for very long before it started to rain -- and it's been raining ever since. However, we find this to be one of the more "comfortable" parks to stay at so we might even stay over for another day.

Odometer reading = 52,877
Miles for day = 0

 

3/4/03 and 3/5/03
(Summerdale AL)

It's been two more days and nothing much is happening other than rain several times a day. Now that we are out of the "west" we are able to use our awning without worry about it getting blown away. The dry area that the awning provides is much appreciated in this relatively non-stop rainy weather. Yesterday afternoon the the weather radio "siren" went off and told us we were under a tornado watch until 10:pm. Nothing happend which is just as well since we don't see or know of any place within running distance to seek protection from a tornado. The clubhouse has masonry walls, but a large span metal roof which would probably blow away faster than the motorhome.

Odometer reading = 52,877
Miles for day = 0

 

3/6/03
(Fort Walton Beach FL)

We left the Rainbow Plantation Escapee park heading for Pensacola. It had been our plan to stay at the FamCamp at the Naval Air Station there, but we since decided that we wanted to go further than that. Traveling along US-98, which pretty much hugs the gulf coast along the Florida peninsula, we came to the Navy Exchange Complex in Pensacola where we stopped and got some groceries and bought a few things in the Exchange. It's a pretty nice facility that we've been to in the past. There are several navy installations in the Pensacola area and this Exchange complex serves all the military facilities in the area.

Anyway, we then continued on towards Panama City and the FamCamp at Tyndall AFB, our new destination. However, we had spend considerable time at the Exchange complex, it was getting late in the afternoon and I was kind of tired. When we passed by Hurlburt AFB Sharyn looked it up in the directory and saw that it had a FamCamp, so we made a U-turn and went back. It turned out that the FamCamp was full and there was no campground host present to get any information from so we pulled into a large parking lot that seemed to serve a club dining facility, a bar, and a couple of marina type things. None of these facilities were open and the parking lot was empty except for one or two cars. It seemed like a convenient and secure place to spend the night.

After having dinner, watching some TV, and doing some reading in bed we shut off the lights and went to sleep. Some time later Sharyn wake me up to tell me that someone was knocking on the door. It was base security to inquire (I guess) who we were, and to tell us that we couldn't spend the night there. After ascertaining from the security guy that it was "a little after twelve," I explained that the FamCamp was full, and that while the book said there was a overflow area, we couldn't find it. He contacted security headquarters but no one there knew where the overflow was either. Anyway, since we were leaving in the morning anyway they got permission for us to remain there for the night. Having had just enough sleep to take the edge off, it took quite a while for both of us to get back to sleep.

Odometer reading = 52,959
Miles for day = 82

 

3/7/03
(Panama City FL)

It rained most of the night last night and continued raining during most of the morning as we drove here from Fort Walton Beach. Of course the FamCamp here at Tyndall was full, as was the overflow area! While the FamCamp is off base, we were relegated to the parking lot by the beach, which is on base and quite convenient to the commissary and the BX, as well as the beach. There are only two other RVs in the parking lot, which is pretty big, so we opted to stay in the parking lot rather than be put on the list for an opening in the overflow area.

Odometer reading = 53,041
Miles for day = 81

 

3/8/03
(Panama City FL)

This morning, after coffee and conversation, I took my daily walk. This time along the beach. As I was returning to the path back back to the motorhome Sharyn was coming down so we walked along the beach together searching the recent high water mark for any good shells or "sand dollars." While Sharyn got a number of shells she liked and one small sand dollar, we saw a number of broken sand dollars that if unbroken would have been 5 to 6 inches in diameter. I didn't know that sand dollars ever got much more than half that size.

We also spent some time visiting with our neighbors who also had opted to remain in the parking lot rather than go to the overflow area. The only problem we're having is that it's been so dark and overcast that our solar panels are not able to replace what we estimate to be about 150 amp/hours of electricity that we use each evening with lights, TV (the biggest user), and computer. This morning we ran the generator for over an hour to help recharge the batteries, but also made use of the surplus 120 volt output to run one of the heat pumps.

Odometer reading = 53,041
Miles for day = 0

 

3/9/03
(Perry FL)

Last night the rain, thunder, and lightening were pretty much none stop. The rain came down in torrents. At 4:30 am the weather radio went off to warn of heavy thunderstorms moving through the area at 40 mph. I shut it off and went back to bed.

At about eight o'clock, while we were having our coffee and conversation, it went off again. This time there was a tornado running through the countryside and they were describing its anticipated route and time of arrival at various communities. We didn't know where those places were, but they didn't say "Panama Beach." Anyway, several hours later there was a break in the rain and, the forecast being for an unrelenting crummy day, we decided to pack it up and leave -- which we did.

Traveling east along US-98, a narrow two-lane highway, we saw that there was substantial flooding most everywhere. The combination of the land being quite flat, plus the fact that the ground has probably been saturated for weeks, offered no where for the water to go. Luckily, the highway being several feet higher than the ground on either side kept the highway from being flooded. Even though the culverts that ran under the highway at frequent intervals were under the surface of the water, their location, on the south side of the highway, was clearly marked by the turbulence in the water as the higher water on the north rushed through the culverts as (I guess) it made its way southward towards the Gulf of Mexico. In any event, for many miles on both sides of the road, woods, fields, buildings, or whatever were flooded. I suspect the alligators were quite happy with all their new found swamp.

Eventually we arrived at the Westgate Motel and Campground in Perry where we seem to stay with some degree of regularity. Located at the "angle" where eastbound traffic along the coast of the panhandle can turn right and head south down the Florida peninsula, it is also a member of the Passport America group, which means that we pay half price. It costs us $11.45 for a full hookup site. For a private campground that's about as cheap as it gets.

Odometer reading = 53,197
Miles for day = 156

 

3/10/03
(Perry FL)

We could not believe what we saw when we woke up this morning -- the sun was shinning bright! In no particular hurry, we eventually began to get ready to leave, but then decided to just stay here for the day.

Having chlorinated our water tanks several days ago, I now used the time to change the water filters (which I mark with the date and change every 6 months).

It's late afternoon so the day's not yet over, but while I'm doing this Sharyn's outside soaking up the sun and reading her book. After I upload this I'm going to print out some business cards that I did on Photoshop last night. Sharyn doesn't too much like them so we'll do something different, but in the meantime I just keep playing. (Most full-timers have cards - almost always of their own creation - that they exchange with others that they might want to meet up with again - or simply to exchange e-mail addresses). We've never remembered to buy card stock so our cards are printed on plain paper. Oh well!

Odometer reading = 53,197
Miles for day = 0

 

3/11/03
(Umatilla FL)

It was another beautiful day as we pulled out onto the highway heading to Umatilla and our friends of 30 years, Ron & Peg. When we come tis way it has become a custom that we stop and visit with them. We park the motorhome by the horse barn which provides electric service and puts us in the middle of the action.

On the way here we stopped for gas at $1.749 per gallon. That's more than we've paid in a very long time, and certainly more than we'd like to be paying. Not having a home on a foundation, however, we're unaffected by rising electric and natural gas prices so higher gasoline prices, standing alone, are not so bad.

Incidently, Sharyn didn't care too much for the cards I printed out yesterday so she came up with a design that she likes much better. The background photo was taken one afternoon by the Salton Sea in California when we stopped to make a pot of coffee

Odometer reading = 53,360
Miles for day = 163

 

3/12/03 through 3/14/03
(Umatilla FL)

During this period we did not do too much that warrants covering in any great detail. One day Peggy and Sharyn went to a financial planning workshop/seminar/luncheon. I don't know what they learned, but they enjoyed their afternoon out.

Mostly what we enjoyed was the opportunity to visit and talk with old friends, particularly around the dinner table where conversation went late into the evening.

Odometer reading = 53,360
Miles for day = 0

 

3/15/03
(Patrick AFB FL)

This morning we said good-bye and started out the driveway, only to stop and talk some more, eventually staying for lunch. After lunch we really did get started on the road to Patrick AFB, about 20 miles north of Palm Bay and Sharyn's sister Carol. As we expected there were no available sites in the FamCamp except in the overflow (drycamp) area. The host thinks we should be able to get a site in 2 or 3 days.

We went to the commissary to get some milk, but it had already closed. We'll go back tomorrow.

Odometer reading = 53,475
Miles for day = 115

 

3/16/03 through 3/20/03
(Patrick AFB FL)

We ended up spending 3 days (nights) in the boondock area and the 3 days with water and electric hookups. I think that at some point it rained every day, including a severe thunderstorm that came through one night. We had no damage but some people that had their awnings out were not as lucky. The day after the thunderstorm they said they would have evacuated the campground if they had had more lead time.

The first full day we were here we went to visit Sharyn's sister and her husband. Sharyn went back on two other occasions; once they went shopping and the other time Sharyn had her hair done and then they went shopping again. They both enjoyed the opportunity to spend time together.

Odometer Reading = 53,47
Miles for day = 0

 

3/21/03
(Brunswick GA)

Last night it poured down rain and I was really glad that (in anticipation of more rain) I had put away all the outside stuff and it was al ready to go. Stopping at the dump station on the way out, we left Patrick AFB and headed for the mainland where we turned north, heading for Virginia.

Just over the Georgia line we stopped and bought gas for $1.479, the cheapest we seen gas since we can't remember when. We have found that on I-95 the cheapest gas is going to be just north of the Florida/Georgia state line. This time we saved about 30 cents/gallon over Florida prices, and 20 cents/gallon over Georgia prices.

A short distance later we pulled into a Flying J for propane and to spend the night. Flying J is extremely RV friendly, providing separate pump islands, water fill-up and dump station facilities, and free overnight parking. I felt guilty that we had just filled our gas tank a short distance down the road.

Anyway, as the evening went on the RV parking area began to get somewhat crowded. That part was fine. The problem was that almost of of the RVers were from Quebec and speaking French. Right now the French are not my favorite people and I told Sharyn I was going to move over with the truckers. She said we were there first and she didn't want to move. So we just put up our flag so everyone would know we were Americans and not with all those other people. As I see it, the French see the world as made up of two kinds of people; those that are French, and those that are inferior! Neither I nor this site make any attempt to be politically correct. If the shoe fits . . . .

Odometer Reading = 53,710
Miles for day = 235

 

3/22/03
(Sumter SC)

Last night we really had a great night's sleep. Dry camped, we had the windows open and the cool fresh air really felt good.

Nothing like Florida. When we were dry camped at Patrick AFB we also, of necessity, slept with the windows open, but the air was saturated with moisture and in the morning the couch and chair felt wet to the touch.

We were probably on the road by 9:am, and stopped to eat before 11 o'clock. An hour later we stopped for a cup of coffee. By mid-afternoon we arrived back at the FamCamp at Shaw AFB in Sumter SC. There were only two other RVs here when we pulled in so we got our usual (and favorite) site.

We wonder if there's something wrong with us. Over the last three years we've stayed over 50 military campgrounds including 35 Air Force FamCamps, and while this one at Shaw AFB is our favorite, we never find many people here. It's too bad more people don't get to enjoy this facility, but I guess that's how we are able to almost always get Site #7 (photo from 11/1/01).

Odometer Reading = 53,937
Miles for day = 227

 

3/23/03
(Sumter SC)

We drove around the Sumter and Clarendon County area for several hours and did a small amount of grocery shopping before returning to the FamCamp to just relax and enjoy the quiet of the pine scented woods. We look forward to spending several days here.

Odometer Reading = 53,937
Miles for day = 0

 

3/24/03
(Earlysville VA)

As we were engaged in coffee and conversation our son Phil called us to say that Jordan was in the hospital where they were going to remove her gall bladder. It was probably within an hour that we were on the road, heading for Virginia.

We arrived in Charlottesville shortly after 7:pm and went straight to the hospital where we actually parked the motorhome and attached car right in front of the building. Jordan was doing okay. The surgery is scheduled for Wednesday.

After visiting for a while we went to Phil's house where we set up in his driveway.

Odometer Reading = 54,361
Miles for day = 424

 

3/25/03 to 3/28/03
(Earlysville VA)

Jordan's surgery went well and she should now be free of the episodes of abdominal pain she has experienced for the last year or so. She's now staying with us at Phil and Kim's for several days.

While we plan to be here for Easter and for Sharyn's birthday on May 3rd, we'll probably do some side trips in the meanwhile.

While we're here, and until such time as there's something to write about I probably won't make any (many) entries in this travelog.

Odometer Reading = 54,937
Miles for day = 0

 

3/29/03
(Earlysville VA)

Jordan's recovery is doing well and we're super happy about that.

This morning we went to Katlin's soccer game where she played goalie for the first part of the game. Unfortunately, from the picture taking point of view, her team was doing so well that the ball stayed down at the other end of the field. Dad and Grandma watched intently from the side lines. Here's where the final goal of the game is being set up.

After winning a 2-1 victory (undefeated for the season) we returned to the house where we were treated to a trampoline exhibition.

By this time, Philip, who by now had had enough of his sister, said "Grandpa, take my picture."

Odometer Reading = 54,937
Miles for day = 0

 

3/30/03
(Earlysville VA)

This is just to show how the weather can catch us by surprise. Remember that yesterday, and pretty much most of the week, has been shorts and T-shirts. This is what we woke up to this morning. Phil's shed just makes a nice picture.

Odometer Reading = 54,937
Miles for day = 0

 

3/31/03 to 4/4/03
(Earlysville VA)

Jordan's doing fine and the doctor has cleared her to go back to work.

The real purpose of this entry is to document the new odometer reading. This afternoon I took the motorhome to the Rivanna Water Treatment Facility in Charlottesville to dump the black water (we continually drain the gray water into the woods via garden hose). It's been 12 days since we dumped when we left South Carolina, so that's pretty good, particularly when you consider that three of us have been living in the motorhome since Jordan's discharge from the hospital, plus every time Philip IV comes out to visit grandma he has to "go potty."

Odometer Reading = 54,393
Miles for day = 32

 

4/5/03 to 4/12/03
(Earlysville VA)

Today, the 12th, Sharyn and I went to a "We support our troops, President Bush, and the war in Iraq" rally. An anti-anti-war gathering. It seemed to us that the turnout of perhaps 500 people was rather disappointing, but then Charlottesville, the site of the rally, is a left-wing enclave in a rather conservative state. Many of the marchers were ex-servicemen, or parents of young men and women presently serving in Iraq. I suspect that like me and Sharyn, and unlike the people who routinely speak out and demonstrate against the war (and seemingly most anything American), most of the people who marched today have probably never demonstrated before but felt that at some point it's necessary to show that the country is not made up entirely of high profile, non-thinking, peaceniks running around with syphilis of the mouth.

The parade itself ended up in the Sam's Club parking lot where the program culminated with a heartfelt speech by Lawrence Eagleburger, Secretary of State under the first President Bush. Age may be taking its toll on his body, but his mind is as quick and sharp as ever.

Odometer Reading = 54,393
Miles for day = 0

 

4/13/03 to 5/7/03
(Earlysville VA)

It's been a while since I've made any entry here, but as I wrote on March 28, I didn't anticipate much happening that would be of any interest to followers of this site. While family visits are nice I suspect that the details are of little interest to outsiders.

Be that as it may, Sharyn had her 60th birthday on May 3rd and we had a surprise birthday party for her. Her children, grandchildren, friends and relatives came fro as far away as New York, New Jersey, and Florida to surprise her, and she certainly was surprised. In large part because, as she said, she didn't think we could pull off something like that without her catching on.

The last time she had a surprise birthday party was probably 25 years ago when I invited bunches of people. Sharyn was washing the kitchen floor as people began showing up. That was a real surprise party!

At this party I overheard part of a conversation that really put time in perspective. Harry and Tom, two members of our wedding party from 36 years ago who had not seen each other since then were talking when the question was asked, "Are you working or are you retired?" The last time they met the question might well have been, "Are you working or do you go to school?" I guess that was about a lifetime ago!

Anyway, we'll be back on the road in the next day or so and updates will again be more frequent.

Odometer Reading = 54,483

 

5/8/03 and 5/9/03
(Aylett VA)

Yesterday (the 8th) we came to see Sharyn's niece (actually a cousin) and husband at their home near Richmond. Having had a new baby just days before Sharyn's birthday they were unable to come to her birthday party -- so Sharyn said we'd go to them. We did, and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay with them, particularly the two little girls, aged two weeks and 15 months. I had forgotten how tiny new born babies are.

Odometer reading = 54,590
Miles for day = 107

 

5/10/03 and 5/11/03
(Earlysville VA)

Here we are back at Phil and Kim's house. Our plans had been to go back to Shaw AFB in South Carolina from Richmond (Aylett), but decided to come back here for Mother's Day instead.

Tomorrow we'll head back to South Carolina.

Odometer reading = 54,694
Miles for day = 104

 

5/12/03
(Clarksville VA)

At 6:45am this morning we said good-bye to Phil & Kim, Katlin, and Philip as they all left the house for work, school, etc. Having "graduated" from nursery school it's also Philip's first day of pre-school.

After Jordan left for work we hooked up the car and headed back to South Carolina (since Jordan lives out in the country, 36 miles from Phil and Kim, she stayed with us in the motorhome while we were in their backyard -- otherwise we'd have had little time to see her).

Not being in any particular hurry, and preferring the "two lane highways" to the Interstate System, we had decided to drive east to Richmond and then pick up US-301 south. On the way to Richmond, however, as we crossed US-15 at Zion's Crossroads we realized that US-15 went right through Sumter SC. We turned around and headed south on US-15.

About four years ago, before we were full-timing, and when we had our other motorhome (a 1985 27' Travel Master) we stayed at Rudd Creek, a Corps of Engineers campground on the 50,000 acre John H. Kerr reservoir on the North Carolina/Virginia state line. This time we stayed at Longwood, another Corps of Engineer campground on the reservoir. Both campgrounds are really nice, wooded sites either on or within 100 yards of the water. On both occasions we were probably the only campers who were not also fishermen. If you are a fisherman you should visit there. I believe there are a total of six such campgrounds around the reservoir.

Odometer reading = 54,852
Miles for day = 158

 

5/13/03
(Sumter SC)

Well, we're back at our favorite campground; Falcon's Nest FamCamp at Shaw AFB. We are looking forward to several weeks of not doing very much in a relaxed and easy atmosphere.

While at Phil and Kim's I replaced the front brake pads on the motorhome because we could hear the beginning of the metal against metal scraping sound that occurs when the pads are worn down to nothing. When I changed the pads I was a little surprised that the old pads, while extremely thin, were not quite worn to nothing. Now I know why. The inside pad on the right rear wheel has scraped up that rotor. I've never heard of rear pads going before the front pads so I suspect that the caliper is not slideing laterally as the brakes are applied, causing extreme wear on the one pad. Within the next several days I'll pull that wheel and see what's happened.

Also, while at Phil and Kim's I started compounding and waxing the motorhome but probably only did about 20% of the job. I'll do some more of that as well. The last time I did that was in the fall of 2001 and it took three weeks to complete!

Odometer reading = 55,097
Miles for day = 245

 

5/14/03 to 5/16/03
(Sumter SC)

As per our plan, we haven't done too much since we got here. Bought some groceries, did some laundry, and spent most of one day looking at real estate.

We may be getting close to the time when we buy something to use as a "base." We've been without a fixed home for a little over three years and Sharyn would like to have a place where she could "see her stuff" that's been in storage since February 2000. The difficulty is in finding where, or deciding where, we'd like to be. It's much easier to decide where we don't want to be, but that still leaves a lot of places on the table.

Odometer reading = 55,097
Miles for day = 0

 

5/17/03 to 5/18/03
(Sumter SC)

Once again we are just staying in one place for a period of time and engaged (to the extent that we are engaged) in activities of no particular interest to our readers. Accordingly, it could be a week or so before I make any further entries on this site (unless something really exciting happens in the meantime).

Take note of the "search" feature (not very sophisticated) we now have available. I've used this locally for probably the last year and it has served me well. My most common use is to find the entry from a particular place. To read about our stay in Rapid City, for instance, I use my browser's search (or "find") feature to search for "(Rapid City SD)" which immediately takes me to September 19, 1902 when we first arrived in Rapid City. I don't know how often this feature will be used by readers, but we actually did have a request for a "search feature" (from our son Phil).

By the way, yesterday we did replace the rear brake pads, which were pretty much worn down to nothing, so now we've got new brakes all around.

Odometer reading = 55,097
Miles for day = 0

 

5/19/03 to 5/31/03
(Sumter SC)

Since we're leaving here in the morning I figure it must be time to update this site.

We would have left here a week ago except that we were waiting for: 1) Sharyn's birthday present sent to her by my sister, and 2) a certified copy of Sharyn's birth certificate. When both got to be substantially overdue I went looking for them. It turned out that the birthday present was in the base post office where the FamCamp people (who pick up the FamCamp mail every day) had somehow been missing it for ten days. The birth certificate had been sitting at the FedEx office in Sumter for almost a week. They said the address was "not valid" and that they didn't know how to contact us (in spite of the fact that our phone number was part of the FedEx shipping label printed out by their computer.

We had some "excitement" several days ago when Sharyn had to call 911 to get me some medical assistance. We had returned from our morning walk (two miles in 30 minutes) and were sitting on the patio talking. When I got up to go inside I got kind of dizzy and everything was kind of swaying back and forth. I got inside and sat down for perhaps ten minutes when I decided that it was almost gone so I'd go and take my shower. On the way to the bathroom everything was swaying and spinning such that I had to hold onto the walls to keep from falling. Instead of showering I laid down on the bed where the ceiling kept swaying back and forth overhead.

After a half hour, during which the swaying did not stop, I began to feel nauseous and called to Sharyn (who was in the living room and was unaware that anything was going on) and told her that something was not right and was not getting any better. We attempted to have me get to the car, but the room was swirling around so much that I couldn't stand, let alone get to the car, and Sharyn said that if I fell down she would not be able to get me up again. At that point she called base security and emergency medical personnel showed up within minutes.

Shaw AFB being a small base has limited medical facilities so I was transported to the hospital in town. In the ambulance my pulse rate dropped below 40 and my pressure went down to 100 over 40. With all that I was experiencing those numbers were not encouraging.

To wrap up this story, I was discharged from the emergency room some four hours later after having been diagnosed as dehydrated, and infused with fluids and anti-nausea medication via an IV. I wasn't convinced with this diagnosis so as soon as we got back to the motorhome I got online and started searching "dehydration," "vertigo," "Meclizine" (the prescription they gave me), etc. It turns out the doctor was right on. All of my symptoms were textbook examples of what happens when you become dehydrated -- vertigo, low blood pressure, low pulse rate, weak pulse, dark urine, etc.

So now I drink 2-3 twenty ounce bottles of water a day (about half of what Sharyn has been drinking for years) in addition to the milk, ice tea, orange juice, and coffee that I drink anyway.

One other thing that I learned was that "dizzy" is not a word that's helpful for a medical diagnosis. You are not dizzy; you are either light headed (feeling you are going to lose consciousness) or you are experiencing vertigo (either you are okay and the room is spinning, or the room is stable and you swaying -- each of these forms of vertigo has it's own name, but they're both vertigo).

Anyway, tomorrow we're leaving Shaw AFB and Sumter.

Odometer reading = 55,097
Miles for day = 0

 

6/1/03
(Greenville SC)

As we pulled out this morning we had to stop and put gas in the motorhome. We took on 73 gallons at $1.239/gallon. Last week it was selling at $1.179. Oh well, I'm very happy and content to be able to buy gas at $1.24, although I pointed out to Sharyn that the $1.17 price is exactly half of the $2.35 we had to pay in California several years ago.

We're staying at Paris Mountain State Park in (or just outside of) Greenville. We stayed here once before when we came here to spend Thanksgiving with Nancy and Keith, our old friends from Southold, Long Island. It's much more "family camper" oriented than many of the RV parks we stay at that have a larger percentage of older retired people and fewer young families with kids. I prefer the campgrounds with the young families with the kids running and playing and riding their bikes.

Yesterday, as a young girl rode her bike past our campsite I said to Sharyn that I'd really enjoy photographing young children at play; that the opportunities for great photographs would be many. But that, unfortunately, people would think that I was some kind of pervert or child molester and perhaps even "report" me to the police. The worse part is that such a fear of strangers around children is not totally unfounded and that's a pretty sad commentary.

Anyway, that all having been said, lets get back to our visit with Nancy and Keith. After a while we drove over to their house (which while it's nearby we still got lost looking for it) where we spend several hours in discussion before moving the conversation to California Dreaming, a restaurant in town. After dinner we again moved the conversation, this time to our campsite in the park. The conversation (discussion) that had begun at their house in mid-afternoon was called to a halt (not necessarily ended) at 1:30AM when some fatigue overtook some of the participants.

Interestingly enough, while these (most people called them) debates have gone on, mostly with me and Keith, for 30 years, I now prefer to sit and listen and let Sharyn take care of it. She handles him much better than I did

Odometer reading = 55,258
Miles for day = 161

 

6/2/03 and 6/3/03
(Greenville SC)

As we approach the end of our third day visiting with Nancy and Keith I'm all talked out, even if Sharyn and Keith are still at it. Last night we didn't get back to the motorhome until 3:AM -- that's getting kind of extreme, even for us!

Tomorrow we're heading north, working our way to Louisville and the Fourth Annual Great North American RV Rally. We were at the first one in Gillette Wyoming in July 2000 but haven't been to another one since. We plan on meeting up with Bill and Cheryl who we met back in Gillette when we were parked next to each other for the five day rally. Since then we've become good friends, visiting them at their home in Fort Smith Arkansas on two occasions and traveling with them to Branson Missouri on another. Several months ago we got an e-mail from them suggesting that we get together again in Louisville. That's where we're heading!

Odometer reading = 55,258
Miles for day = 0

 

6/4/03
(Knoxville TN)

Actually we're in a place called Heiskell, Tennessee, about ten miles north of Knoxville, but as is often the case, we reference the major place, not the tiny town or hamlet where the campground happens to be. For now we'll say we're in Knoxville.

Today's travel took us through Ashville and parts of western North Carolina and into Eastern Tennessee and reconfirmed something I've been saying for several years. At this point in our travels we've been to probably 43 or 44 of the 50 states and it's my belief that the area comprised of western Virginia, West Virginia, western North Carolina, and eastern Tennessee is perhaps the most beautiful area in the Country. Certainly there are other beautiful places; the Oregon coast, parts of Alaska, the coast of Maine (has to be seen from the water), some areas of the southwest (we don't care too much for the desert), etc., but for an "area" as opposed to a "place," I don't think I've seen an area as nice as that described.

Anyway, today we crossed over a rather picturesque river running through the mountains that, I guess, was to have been named after some French woman. Apparently whoever was in charge of naming the river forgot her name because he just called it the French Broad.

Odometer reading = 55,435
Miles for day = 177

 

6/5/03
(Knoxville TN)

We've stayed here at Racoon Valley Escapee Park several times in the past because the location frequently works out well. As a campground, however, we don't particularly care for it -- the sites are small and crowded. It's not like any other Escapee park we've ever been to.

During the day today I played with my camera and computer. Sharyn did the laundry (when it was done I went to get the stuff out of the dryer).

After dinner we went up to the clubhouse where they had a local informal group playing two hours of blue grass. We really enjoyed them. In fact, if they were going to be back tomorrow night I'd be for staying here another day.

Odometer reading = 55,435
Miles for day = 0

 

6/6/03
(Danville KY)

As is our custom, we got a late start this morning and were on the road by 11:AM, heading north on I-75. Not caring too much for the Interstate we got off about 60 miles into Kentucky and headed west on US-150, a narrow two lane highway that cuts through the picturesque Kentucky countryside at a rather leisurely pace. We're actually heading to the FamCamp at Fort Knox where we are scheduled to meet Bill and Cheryl next Wednesday (today's Friday). From there the four of us will go together to the RV rally that starts in Louisville next Saturday.

At one point we passed by an old church on a hillside that I thought would make a nice picture, but by the time I had debated with myself whether or not it was worth stopping for it was too late to stop anyway. About a mile later I changed my mind but couldn't turn the motorhome around on the 2-lane highway for another mile or so after that. Anyway, this is one of the several pictures I took.

While the Sony 707 that I bought over a year ago is a 5 megapixel camera, capable of taking great pictures in .tiff format up to 2560 x 1920 pixels (a 14M file), I've pretty much been using it to take medium quality .jpg's at 640 x 480 which make files about 60K in size. Those pictures are good for viewing on the computer or putting on the web (I try to reduce them to 15-25K before using them on this website). It shows, however, when I print them larger than 4 x 6. I decided that taking pictures at that file size is a waste of the camera so, attempting to strike a balance between picture quality and storage space (as of now I have 4,863 digital photos from our traveling), I've started doing high quality .jpg's at 2048 x 1536. These run about 1400K or 25 times larger than the medium 640 x 480. The church is such a file (although the picture on this page has been reduced to 21K).

Anyway, while I was taking the pictures a lady passing by stopped her car to ask if I had once been a member of the church. I told her my interest in the church was as a photo subject. Nevertheless she proceeded to tell me that the church was 107 years old but has only been its present location for a year. On the other side of the hill is a lake that resulted from a new dam and the church used to be where the lake is now. It's a Methodist church with a very small congregation. When the Methodist Church (not the local congregation) got the money from the condemnation proceeding they decided that the local congregation was too small to get all that money. The congregation, however, did acquire the right to the building if they would remove it. They got the Methodist Church to give them the $125,000 it took to move the building from its original location to the five acre parcel, donated by a local resident, where it now sits. It's a nice story.

For now we're at the Pioneer Playhouse Dinner Theater and Campground. Unfortunately, the dinner theater part doesn't start until June 14. Also for now (11:57PM), it's pouring down rain and has been since before dark.

Odometer reading = 55,580
Miles for day = 145

 

6/7/03
(Fort Knox KY)

Happily, when we woke up this morning it had stopped raining. We had our usual coffee and conversation before getting out on the road on our final leg to Fort Knox. We were still traveling the narrow winding roads of rural Kentucky and were struck by the crisp cleanliness of all the small communities we passed through. It was as if every house had just been freshly painted and every lawn freshly mowed and edged. We also took note of the large number of American flags and "We Support President Bush" signs. As conservative Republicans we liked seeing that.

The drive was very enjoyable and the countryside was serene and beautiful.

As we got within perhaps 50 or 60 miles of Louisville we did notice that some less-well-kept properties began to appear. Not in particularly large numbers, but at the same level that such properties exist in almost all rural (and urban) communities. It seemed that perhaps we had previously been passing through those mythical towns of "Perfect" depicted in the TV commercials.

We arrived at the FamCamp at Fort Knox by early afternoon and got what may well be the nicest site in the campground. In order to allow our roof mounted TV satellite dish to "see around" the big tree next to the site we pulled into the site forward instead of backing in as intended. A nice byproduct of this was that, instead of having our "front yard" be the area between the motorhome and the road, our front yard is the large expanse of grass, and that big tree, that would otherwise have been behind the motorhome.

All in all this is a very attractive campground and we anticipate enjoying our stay here. More about Fort Knox and the surrounding area at a later date.

Odometer reading = 55,675
Miles for day = 95

 

6/8/03 through 6/13/03
(Fort Knox KY)

The name of the game appears to be "RAIN." Over the last several months we have been from Florida to Virginia, back to South Carolina, and now in Kentucky. It's been raining everywhere. It's rained everyday that we've been here (some days it didn't rain all day) and it's still raining now. I asked Sharyn how much longer she thought it could rain. She responded, "40 days and 40 nights." I told her we've had that already.

Tomorrow we leave here and go to the Kentucky State Fairgrounds for the Fourth Annual Great North American RV Rally. We found out that they're having a major problem there. They are expecting somewhere in the neighborhood of 6,000 RV's, most of whom made their reservations many months ago. Many of the planned sites are in grass fields at the fairground which, because of weeks of non-stop rain, are now too soft to use. They are therefore short what may be several thousand RV sites. This FamCamp where we are is 37 miles miles from the Rally site and the Rally officials came here yesterday and asked if this campground could take 200 of the RVs that they can't put up at the fairgrounds. Apparently they are buying up all the campsites and parking lot space within a 40 mile radius of Louisville.

Depending on the type of admission pass you have, the entry dates to the rally are Saturday, Sunday, or Monday. Our admission time is 7:AM on Saturday which is the very first time slot. We drove the car to the fairground yesterday to find out just what the story was (we didn't want to leave the hookup site we have and then find out there was nothing for us at the rally) and were told that the 7:AM Saturday people would not have any problem. I sure hope they're right. In any event there are going to be some pretty irate people showing up in Louisville over the next several days.

One of the things we had planned on doing while we were here was to visit the gold storage facility (you know, "all the gold in Fort Knox"). Well there is no such thing as getting anywhere near the place. The other day on our way to the commissary there was a pickup truck with a flat tire near the barricaded entrance (within the boundaries of Fort Knox) to the "building" (this photo is somewhat "compressed" because of the long lens -- the building is at least a 1/4 mile back behind the fence). The MP's were there, which could be expected as a traffic control thing, but there were also "Mint Police" on the scene. We had never seen or heard of Mint Police before.

We did go to the Patton Museum where, among other things, Cheryl looked at an Iraqi tank left over from the 1991 Gulf War.

Yesterday Sharyn and Cheryl spent the day shopping while Bill and I went to Louisville. Last night we all went to the Golden Coral for "all you can eat," which we did. We were still there as they were closing down and as each section of the service area started to close they first came over to our table to see if we wanted anything else from that section before they removed the food. They even came and asked if it was okay to shut down the soft ice cream machine!

Between last night and all the wine and cheese from prior nights, our "we try to watch what we eat" approach to healthy eating has been somewhat compromised. Next week doesn't look too promising either.

I almost forgot, but the other day Sharyn and I drove into Louisville and on the way back we stopped at what is, to us, an old fashioned White Castle. The little hamburgers are just like they were 40 years ago, even if they now cost more than the 12 cents we used to pay.

Odometer reading = 55,675
Miles for day =
0

 

6/14/03 through 6/19/03
(Louisville KY)

Well the Fourth Annual Great North American RV Rally concluded today and a good time was had by all.

Because of the expected shortage of RV sites at the rally we, along with Bill and Cheryl, were on line at the Kentucky State Fairgrounds at 6:30 Saturday morning -- a full half hour before the gates opened. We were lucky in that, while it took three hours for us to be put into a spot, we did get a spot at the fairgrounds with electric service. Bill and Cheryl, who were a number of RVs behind us on the entry line, were brought into the fairgrounds but, then for reasons none of us can understand, were subsequently led off the grounds to a big parking lot several miles from the fairgrounds.

Anyway, during the course of the show we must have walked a hundred miles to and through all the exhibits; both RVs and exhibitors booths selling any kind of RV related item imaginable. We did very well in showing restraint. Figuring that after 55,000 miles there wasn't anything left of our original shocks, we bought (and had installed) four Bilstein shocks. The noise from our water pump has always bothered Sharyn -- so much so that she'd not let me take a shower late at night because the noise from the pump "will wake up the campground." Within the last year or so they have come out with a new type of pump that, rather than cycle on and off, uses micro processors to run the pump slower or faster depending on how much flow is being called for. While these pumps are not "silent" (as largely advertised) the one we bought is about 90% quieter than the one we had. We were going to buy six new tires because Sharyn said we needed them. Two days into the show the dealer with the Goodyear and Michelin displays was out of tires. I think the factory reps at those booths were pretty ticked off with the dealers poor planning.

Sharyn continues to look at new motorhomes at any show we ever go to. She got me looking also and we came dangerously close to buying a 2004 38' Allegro Bus -- the same unit we looked at in Wichita last fall and drove in Quartzite in January. For what we offered on the 2004 model the dealer wanted us to take the 2003 model he had on display that actually had many more options and extras than we were looking for and had a substantially higher sticker price. Luckily the $5,000 that separated us killed the deal. The problem with seriously considering the purchase of a motorhome (or a boat or any other major purchase) at a show is that you are carried away with the "passion of the moment" and you've lost your perspective.

Aside from the issue of affordability, the problem we have is that we are so pleased with what we have. We have never seen an interior finish or a floorplan that we like as much as what we have (this is the floorplan of the 38' Bus). If we had a diesel we'd not even consider getting anything else. The diesel is a big factor (with 55,000 miles we are "using up" the expected life of this unit) and the full body paint on the new units makes them so beautiful. Anyway, once again we regained our senses in time.

Yesterday I had my 65th birthday and Sharyn gave me an 80 Gig external hard drive by Western Digital. I am very happy to have that because I have over 5,000 digital photographs of our travels since we started full timing in February of 2000. They are all on my Dell laptop and I haven't had an adequate backup system. I've been using 100Kb Zip disks for backup but that is somewhat limited in capacity. For my birthday Bill and Cheryl took us out for dinner and we all had a good time (and a good dinner).

The sites (or more accurately described as "parking spots") at the rally included a 30 amp electric hookup provided by large trailer mounted generators located throughout the parking areas. While they seemed to put out sufficient voltage and current, it must have been somewhat less than 60 cycle because the clock on the microwave lost about a hour a day. There were no water or sewer hookups but we did fine with what we had. Of course we came into the rally with full fresh water (75 gallons) and empty holding tanks. To conserve holding tank capacity we used paper plates and showered at the public showers provided at the fairgrounds (one shower facility was only 100 yards from the motorhome).

Our site was at the outside end of our row so the trams that carried people back and forth passed right in front of us. In the evenings we'd be sitting out under the awning having our wine and cheese (usually with Bill and Cheryl) and the tram drivers (some of them) and all the people on the trams would wave to us as they went by. One particular tram driver stopped and shut down the tram to tell us that he was an NRA member and really liked the bumper sticker on the Honda -- "Gun Control Means Using Two Hands." We had an entire conversation while the tram load of people sat and listened. Another time he came by with no passengers, shut off his tram and came over to talk with us. Last year he drove his motorcycle to Alaska and the year before before he took it to southern Mexico!

Odometer reading = 55,716
Miles for day = 41

 

6/20/03
(Fort Knox KY)

This morning we pulled out of the Kentucky State Fairgrounds and, instead of heading for the Allegro factory at Red Bay, Alabama, which was our plan at one point yesterday afternoon, we came back to the FamCamp at Fort Knox. Bill and Cheryl went somewhere to have their transmission looked at and came in several hours later.

Cheryl made dinner (actually it was probably Cheryl, Bill, and Sharyn since they all contributed something) and we ate at their place. After dinner we played Bocce until dark which, today being June 20, was almost ten o'clock. We had planned to leave here tomorrow but now think we'll stay longer.

Odometer reading = 55,752
Miles for day = 36

 

6/21/03 and 6/22/03
(Fort Knox KY)

Well we're still at Fort Knox but time is running out. It looks as if we're all leaving tomorrow morning. Bill and Cheryl are heading back to Arkansas (there not full-time) via Nashville where they are going to stop at Bankston RV and look at the 37' Allegro Bay that he likes a lot. When the question was, "What's the #1 reason you should not buy it?" he replied, "There really is none." The consensus is that he should go for it.

We know we want to see Michigan's northern peninsula so we'll be heading north. Our route has yet to b determined.

We've all enjoyed each other's company and our stay here. We've had three beautiful days of sunshine and can't remember the last time we had three consecutive rain free days. Sharyn and Cheryl shopped while Bill took care of some things on their motorhome (a 40' London Air). I installed our new "silent" water pump and washed the motorhome for the first time in over a month. Sharyn is particularly pleased with the quiet operation of the water pump. Now, I suspect, she'll let me take showers late at night since waking the neighbors will no longer be a concern.

Saturday night we sat around the fire talking, cooking marshmallows, and drinking wine. The entire time at the rally and the subsequent days here at Fort Knox have been very enjoyable.

Odometer reading = 55,752
Miles for day = 0

 

6/23/03
(Huntington WV)

About two hours before we headed for Michigan and points north, a change in plans brought us on an easterly course heading for Virginia. Saturday is Jordan's birthday and Sharyn thought we should be there. While we don't generally travel the Interstate, since I-64 goes from Louisville KY to Charlottesville VA and that's where we're going, it's I-64 by default. This is our campsite at Beach Fork State Park just outside of Huntington.

Odometer reading = 55,986
Miles for day = 234

 

6/24/03
(Earlysville VA)

We arrived in Charlottesville mid-afternoon and dropped in to surprise Jordan at work -- she was surprised. After a short visit we drove out to Phil and Kim's where we assumed our usual spot in their backyard. Kim was already home with little Philip as we pulled into the drive. They were also surprised to see us, as was Phil when he got home a short while later.

Anyway, today's Tuesday and we'll be here through the weekend. Come Monday morning we plan (as of now) to once again be on our way to Michigan and, while we're in the neighborhood, I'd like to see the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Minnesota.

Odometer reading = 56,306
Miles for day = 320

 

6/25/03 through 6/30/03
(Earlysville VA)

We've now been here for a week, and while we've thoroughly enjoyed our time here, there's not too much to write about that would be interest to non-family members. The two big events would probably be Jordan's birthday and her collision with a big buck on her way to work several days before her birthday.

For her birthday we went to the Outback (her choice) for dinner with Phil and Kim.

The deer event was really a bummer because she only got this car about two weeks ago. The deer wiped out her grill and right headlight assembly, with some damage to the hood. A junkyard headlight assembly was not available, and a new one from Oldsmobile was $310, so (for $30) we bought two black rubber tractor lights and mounted them where the headlight assembly used to be. It looks pretty good -- I suggested that we should remove the other headlight assembly and the remainder of the grill for a really cool look.

Several years ago we installed a 240 volt 50 amp RV hookup at the corner of Phil's driveway where we park the motorhome. He thought it would be convenient if he could sometimes use his welder or air compressor on the driveway, not just in his shed where he has the electric outlets to power them. Since the only electric outlet near his driveway is the 50 amp RV connection, we made an "extension cord" that plugs into the 50 amp service, but then gives him a 50 amp 240 volt outlet for his welder, a 20 amp 240 volt outlet for the compressor, and a standard 120 volt 20 amp outlet for any 120 volt stuff he might want to use.

Anyway, tonight was our last night here so Phil, Jordan, and I went down to the range to do some shooting. Jordan has joined the Rivanna Rifle and Pistol Club (http://www.rrpc.org) and Phil is lending her a SIG-228 until such time as she gets her own gun. In the meanwhile Phil is getting to be really good. At the IDPA (http://www.idpa.com) match in Richmond this past weekend he took first place with 51 other shooters. Several weeks ago at the IDPA Virginia State Match, with approximately 120 shooters, (in my view) he took 2nd place . Officially he was #4 because one 6 round stage that would take less than 5 seconds to shoot was recorded as taking 30 seconds.

This about rounds up our stay here. Tomorrow we'll be heading west, back towards the Michigan and Minnesota area; maybe to the headwaters of the Mississippi River.

Odometer reading = 56,306
Miles for day = 0

 

7/1/03 and 7/2/03
(Durbin WV)

It was one 'o'clock before we were actually on the road heading out of town.

We had decided to travel US-250, a narrow winding country road, from Charlottesville at least as far as Central Ohio. Our next scheduled "appointment" is Sharyn's family reunion somewhere in the Finger Lakes region of New York in late August. Between now and then we are free to wander at will with no need to cover any particular distance in any particular timeframe. Anything else would probably preclude using US-250. As it was, I had underestimated the effect the terrain would have on our rate of travel. We arrived in Durbin WV shortly before seven o'clock, having taken almost six hours to travel 120 miles. More often than not, once we passed through Churchville VA, we were either climbing a grade at 15 miles per hour in 2nd gear or descending at 30 mph in 2nd gear trying to keep the engine from exceeding 4,000 rpm. While climbing several grades (some topping out at near 4,000') the motorhome actually dropped back into 1st gear -- I'm not sure it's ever done that before.

While the pace is slow, the mountainous countryside is beautiful. This is the hamlet of Headwaters, Virginia, as we approached from the east. It's too bad it was an overcast and cloudy day as photographs would have been much more vibrant had the sun been shinning. Without selling the other sections short, the stretch between Churchville and Monterey is particularly beautiful.

Anyway, as I said earlier, we got to Durbin somewhat late in the day, but after passing through Staunton, the next campground you come to is East Fork River Campground in Durbin, nestled in a 2700 foot high narrow river valley, surrounded by West Virginia mountains.

We woke up this morning to the sound of light rain on the roof. The remnants of Hurricane Bob are moving in a northeasterly direction passing east of here, but we're just on the edge of the rain -- no wind -- just a rather peaceful rain. We decide to spend the day.

As an aside, I took this picture this morning of Jordan's roses on the dashboard with Sharyn's cat.

Odometer reading = 56,426
Miles for day = 120

 

7/3/03
(Fairmont WV)

We were back on the road this morning still heading west along US-250. After we got past Valley Bend the mountains got much much less severe -- they didn't go away, but now we use 3rd gear more than 2nd gear. All improvement is relative!

As we approached Grafton we decided to stay at Tygart Lake State Park, about 12 miles off of our intended route. When we arrived at the office they gave us the last site. It turned out that someone was already in that spot so they gave us back our money and we left. With the 4th of July weekend coming up we anticipated this kind of problem. We're spending tonight in Wal-Mart's parking lot and may not find a space in a campground until Sunday. When we just stop for the night Wal-Mart works fine (the only thing we can't run without electric is the air conditioning), but right now if we had a place in a nice campground near a community that offered some things of interest we'd stay there for several days. That was sort of our plan at Tygart Lake State Park.

Odometer reading = 56,540
Miles for day = 114

 

7/4/03
(New Philadelphia OH)

It was quiet and peaceful in the parking lot this morning as we had an extended coffee and conversation before getting started.

After passing into Ohio we stopped at Tappan Lake State Park and realized we had been there before -- in the summer of 2000 when we were on our way to the Great North American RV Rally in Gillette Wyoming. At that time we were traveling southwest on US-22 to pick up I-70 (unfortunately that was during the five month period when I wasn't keeping up this travelog).

Anyway, to get back to today, Tappon Lake Campground was full so once again, not totally surprised, we found ourselves back on the road after we had planned to be stopped for the day. We're now in another Wal-Mart's parking lot on US-250 where it intersects with I-77. Last night I wrote, " . . . if we had a place in a nice campground near a community that offered some things of interest we'd stay there for several days." Right now I think any place in any campground would suffice.

By the way, to day we added a new picture to our Unusual Signs page.

Odometer reading = 56,699
Miles for day = 159

 

7/5/03
(Upper Sandusky OH)

About an hour after getting started this morning we arrived at the home of Larry and Dee, friends of ours in Wooster Ohio. Prior e-mail communication had made it known that they were going to be away the first two weeks in July, but not having been able to get into a campground the last two nights I told Sharyn we'd go by their house anyway in the hope that they'd have an RV electric hookup in their driveway. As it turned out tree branches precluded us from getting into the driveway so we still don't know if there is such a hookup.

Also at Wooster we changed highways -- we've now abandoned US-250 and are traveling US-30. Happily at Upper Sandusky Tee Pee Campground had several empty sites and now they have one less. We'll be here for a least nights so I set up my Internet satellite and we're online for the first time since we left Phil and Kim's. I've downloaded all my e-mail (including a bunch of spam) and updated this site with all that's gone on prior to today. In a few minutes I'll upload this as well.

By the way, Sharyn reminded me that in the movie Touch of Mink, Doris Day came from Upper Sandusky. Somehow or other I had actually forgotten that!

Odometer reading = 56,814
Miles for day = 115

 


7/6/03
(Upper Sandusky OH)

Last night the campground owner put on a fireworks display that ran for a good hour. Not only did we have prime seats, since the show was on top of the hill right across from our motorhome, but we also had a good number of other observers who moved onto our site to get a better view.

This is very much a "family campground." With 200 campsites, we are the only "RVers" (as opposed to campers) here. There must be 3 or 4 kids per site, all of whom have bicycles, and had an enthusiastically great weekend while Sharyn and I thoroughly enjoyed watching and listening to all that was going on. It reminded us of the early 70's when we were camping in our 19' Kountry Air travel trailer with three dirty little boys. Back then we were one of "them." They were great times!

Now that the 4th of July weekend is over we should not have any more trouble getting campsites. The first clue comes from the difference in these two pictures. This one shows our motorhome at 8 o'clock this morning (Sunday), while this one shows it at 8 o'clock this evening.

Right now we are right on the leading edge of a line of violent thunderstorms. The wind is picking up and it's started to rain, but the best part is that the temperature has dropped dramatically.

As of right now the plan is to continue east on US-30 tomorrow morning.

By the way, this afternoon we drove around Upper Sandusky, including some of the residential areas. Upper Sandusky is very nice -- it looks like Doris Day!

Odometer reading = 56,814
Miles for day = 0

 

7/7/03
(Fort Wayne IN)

It was a beautiful morning as we left Upper Sandusky heading west on US-30. As the day progressed the sky became very ominous looking and our weather radio (which has been going off numerous times per day) came on to warn of severe thunderstorms and flooding, both affecting the area we were driving through. At one point it started raining so hard we wanted to pull off the road but there was no place to do so.

Since we were heading west and the weather system was heading east it wasn't too long until we had brighter skies ahead and soon came out of the wind and rain. We did take note, however, that the rivers flowing under the highway bridges were less than two feet below the bridges.. This part of the country has been suffering from unrelenting thunderstorm activity for a number of weeks.

We arrived in Fort Wayne where we stopped at Johnny Appleseed Campground, a city owned facility right in the middle of town. After getting set up we drove around a bit, stopping at a very large shopping mall, that had a lot of upper scale stores. I was looking for Barnes and Noble to buy a book I had looked at on several occasions. After spending an hour or so in B&N we returned to the campground, stopping along the way to get some groceries.

Odometer reading = 56,922
Miles for day = 108

 

7/8/03
(Fort Wayne IN)

I'm writing this mid-day today because, while this is a nice campground and we've paid for two days, we may pull out of here and go to a nearby shopping center parking lot. About 1 o'clock this morning a violent thunderstorm came through here moving at 55 miles per hour with winds "up to 69 miles per hour." It took the top half out of a large oak tree which came down missing our motorhome by about ten feet. It came even closer than that to wiping out my satellite system.

This campground is heavily wooded (which is part of what makes it so nice) and we're now under a warning for more severe thunderstorms through 11 o'clock tonight with winds "up to 80 miles per hour" accompanied by one inch hail. That's pretty strong stuff and I don't think we want to be among all these big trees if that kind of storm hits here. Also, the ground is saturated so I could see some really big trees just blowing over, pulling the root systems right out of the ground.

According to the city workers who removed the downed tree this morning, parts of Fort Wayne are under water and the rivers are still rising. This entire area has really been getting clobbered for several weeks.

Odometer reading = 56,922
Miles for day = 0

 

7/9/03
(Hamlet IN)

Yesterday and last night we did remain at Johnny Appleseed Campground. While it rained most of the night we did not get the severe storms that had been predicted. We did take note, however, that the playground across the road was under water when we got up. That's not just standing water, it's the river being where it's not supposed to be.

It's kind of strange the way things are going on here in Fort Wayne. Some parts of the city are under water an have been evacuated. Other areas are being sandbagged in an attempt to hold back rising waters (on the radio they are seeking volunteers to help fill sandbags), while other parts of town, such as where we are, people are going about their business as usual. We didn't go to help fill sandbags and since we really had nothing else to do I feel that we shirked our duty. Maybe that's because we did.

Anyway, we eventually got started and found ourselves back out on US-30 heading west. Of course we ran into plenty of rain, but not the 2" hail (2" hail?) that was to accompany a major line of thunderstorms that, if they had happened as scheduled, would have met us head on in early afternoon. Around 5 o'clock when the rain got heavier we pulled into a Wal-Mart parking lot where we're now going to stay.

Odometer reading = 57,031
Miles for day = 109

 

7/10/03
(Great Lakes IL)

We were stopped at a traffic light on US-41 not too far north of Chicago when I saw a sign to the Great Lakes Naval Training Facility. Recalling that there was a FamCamp at that location (which Sharyn quickly verified in the book before the light turned green) we made the right turn and went to the Naval Station. The FamCamp, which is undergoing a total reconstruction, is right on the edge of Lake Michigan. It will be great when the renovation is completed, but right now it's more like a construction site. Anyway, we're staying here for the night and will continue north (we finally turned north) tomorrow.

Coming through Chicago earlier today I gave thought to the fact that it took us ten days to get from Virginia to Chicago; recognizing of course that we were not in any hurry. I wondered about a similar trip long ago (my first camping trip) when I was a passenger in a Model A Ford traveling from New York to Chicago. I was traveling with my parents to visit the 1939 Chicago World's Fair. Their "RV" (of course the term was unheard of) was a trailer that my father had built out of five sheets of plywood mounted on an axle and wheels. I wondered how long it took to make that trip. I don't remember -- in fact I don't remember the trip at all. I only remember what my father told me over the years that followed.

My father bought the axle and wheels at a junk yard for which, together with whatever other odds and ends he got there, the junkyard charged him two dollars. I don't know about the construction of the "box" that went on the axle except that it measured 4' high by 4' wide by 8' long, and, as my mother used to say, I was the only on that could stand up in it. There were numerous other trips after Chicago; Acadia National Park, Pennsylvania, upstate New York, and probably other places that I don't know about. I heard stories about these trips but recall none of them.

My favorite story has to do with their first trip -- the one to Chicago. Entering New Jersey from, I believe it was the Holland Tunnel, my father asked a police officer "which way to Chicago?" The officer looked at my father and his young wife holding their one year old baby, stepped back and looked at the Model A Ford and the "trailer" behind it, and told my father to pull over to the side. When my father did so, the officer then walked over and began to tell my father about a nice campground just a few miles down the road, suggesting that with his young wife and baby that might be a better idea than Chicago. They went to Chicago and, except for a broken hitch somewhere along the way, had a great time.

This is a picture of me and my parents sitting in front of the trailer on another trip to somewhere, apparently years later -- I don't know where or when. The box I'm sitting on doubled as both a tool box and as a step for my mother to use to step up into the trailer -- my sister now has that box. By the way, sitting in an attic in Southold NY there is a picture of the trailer hooked up to the Model A. When I can get there, I'll get it out and put it online.

Years later the "box" ended up as my playhouse in the backyard. That I remember!

Odometer reading = 57,131
Miles for day = 100

 

7/11/03
(Delafield WI)

Leaving the FamCamp this morning we decided to hook up the car after we got past the construction area. As Sharyn followed behind in the car she noticed that the rear left wheels on the motorhome seemed to wobble. At that point we used the leveling jacks to lift those wheels off the ground but I could not cause them to move with my hands. We were sort of blocking the road so we hooked up the car and drove on for a better place for a more thorough check. Several miles later when we removed the wheel cover four broken studs with the lug nuts still attached fell out! I tightened up the remaining four lugs that unfortunately were all adjacent to each other. The "lugs" on the simulated wheel covers held the broken studs and lug nuts preventing them from banging around inside the covers so there was no noise alert us to the problem. We were extremely lucky.

We spent most of the day driving slowly from one repair place to another trying to find someone who could replace the studs. After about 60 miles of zigzagging back and forth we finally ended up at Badger Ford Truck Repair in Milwaukee who replaced the eight studs and had us back on the road in less than an hour. By that time it was mid-afternoon and, not having eaten anything, we were hungry and beat -- it had not been a relaxed day of driving. After getting out of the city we pulled into a Wal-Mart to have some lunch and read the paper. After eating and relaxing for awhile we decided to spend the night here. We watched the news and then went into Wal-Mart where we bought two small electric fans to use on warm nights when we don't have any electric hookup to run the air conditioning. These fans only draw .26 amps each so running them all night on the inverter will not create a problem.

Anyway, tomorrow will be a better day.

Odometer reading = 57,241
Miles for day = 110

 

7/12/03
(Lodi WI)

We got up early, as we usually do when we're parked at Wal-Mart's, and were on the road by 8:30. It was a really beautiful day, bright and sunny with comfortable temperature and humidity. We decided that it was too nice of a day to spend it on the road, particularly since we haven't had too many such days recently. Looking in the campground directory we found what sounded like a nice place in Lodi, maybe 60 miles ahead, and decided that we'd stop there and spend the day sitting outside enjoying the weather.

We pulled into Smoky Hollow Campground shortly after 10 o'clock -- we usually don't even get started that early. This is a nice campground. Unlike most, the campsites here are spread out and largely undefined. It makes for a much more open feeling when you're not all on top of each other. This is our view when sitting in front of the motorhome (scroll horizontally). Compare with the more compacted environment 4th of July weekend in Upper Sandusky, Ohio. I've never understood why, in rural areas where land is plentiful and not so expensive, so many campgrounds allow only 20' or so per site. This place certainly shows the improvement that can be had by not putting the sites on top of each other.

Anyway, as planned, we're just hanging out under our awning, enjoying the entire package.

Odometer reading = 57,313
Miles for day = 72

 

7/13/03
(Spring Valley WI)

Basically we traveled I-94 all day to Highland Ridge Campground, part of the Eau Galle Recreation Area operated by the Army Corps of Engineers. We tend to like these COE campgrounds as they are always located on some kind of water -- basically lakes or rivers created, controlled, or maintained as part of a Corps of Engineers project. They are typically more remote and frequently have fewer services, but we like them.

We've decided that we like Wisconsin. It's clean, green, pretty, and feels comfortable. It was a nice day to travel but, unfortunately, having been on the crowded Interstate there were several occasions when we were unable to stop in time to take pictures that I would like to have had. The area we traveled today was pretty much through nowhere so we don't understand why there was so much traffic, but there were basically two lanes of steady traffic constantly moving in both directions.

Arriving at the campground I was somewhat disappointed in that it was not what I had expected. The campsites are not by or near the water and I had anticipated putting our kayaks in the water right from the campsite. Anyway, Sharyn likes it, and as she says it's really not bad at all.

Odometer reading = 57,513
Miles for day = 200

 

7/14/03
(Spring Valley WI)

It was a pretty rainy day today. We had extended coffee and conversation in the low light of dense woods on a rainy day (we did turn on a few lights). Later in the day we went for a ride into "town." Spring Valley is quite small (pop 1051) but clean and neat: kind of like a model railroad town. Most of the people you see are kind of old -- it looks as if the young people have left town, or at least gone away for the summer.

On the way back from town we checked out the "Day Use Area" of Eau Galle Lake, which is on the opposite side of the lake from the campground. One of the good things about checking out popular places on rainy days is that they're not crowded. There was no one on the beach or in the parking lot but us, and we didn't stay long.

Since late afternoon the weather radio has been going off every 15 minutes with "watches" and "warnings" for both severe thunderstorms and tornados. Most of the worst of it seems to be on a path slightly north of us. The county to our north has been mentioned frequently, but there's not too much we can do. We brought in the awning and moved the car up next to the motorhome so it would not be directly under big trees -- not that 30 feet would make much difference. I had thought that we were far enough north that this kind of weather activity would be south of us. I guess that's just not the case. Right now the rain is coming down in torrents.

Anyway, several photos that we took today include this mailbox and this farm several miles past the mailbox. Sharyn also likes this one as you come into town.

By the way, prior to 9/11 we used to be able to find the post office when passing through a small town by looking for the flag. That no longer works because now flags are flying everywhere!

Odometer reading = 57,513
Miles for day = 0

 

7/15/03
(Little Falls MN)

It was a beautiful morning as we headed west along I-94 towards the Minnesota state line. Someone had undertaken quite a project; they had stenciled all the overpasses along the Interstate.

While we liked the stenciling, we had had enough of the Interstate so just north of Minneapolis we got off on US-10. As we approached Little Falls we decided to stay at Lindbergh State Park on the Mississippi River. It turned out that the park was not on the river but across the road. The real problem, however, was the mosquitos. It's hard to describe why that was a problem. To say there were lots of them does not convey the situation. There were probably 6-10 per cubic foot of space! You literally couldn't inhale without getting mosquitos into your nose or mouth. There were only one or two occupied campsites and It seemed to us that the campground was uninhabitable. We didn't get out of the motorhome, but just circled through and left in amazement as clouds of mosquitos clung to the outside of the windows.

We ended up at Wal-Marts on the other side of town. In the parking lot, away from the woods, there were no mosquitos. We walked across the parking lot to Kentucky Fried Chicken for their "all you can eat" buffet. It turned out that the buffet had ended ten minutes before we got there. Anyway, we watched some TV, read a little, and went to bed.

Odometer reading = 57,688
Miles for day = 175

 

7/16/03
(Detroit Lake MN)

I woke up early and a little after 5:AM I was sitting on the couch, drinking my coffee, and looking out the window. In a few minutes I was joined by a mouse who apparently had been living with us for the better part of a week. Sharyn had noticed small pieces of foam on the carpet under her seat and we thought it looked as if a mouse had been there but we discounted that as not very likely. Sharyn got up a short while later and asked about the open door. I explained that was to let the mouse out. We closed the door because it was getting cold. We soon saw that the mouse was still with us.

As we got ready to leave the car battery was dead. Before we can tow the car we have to run the engine for three minutes (as per Honda) and allow it to idle a short time in each gear. We've had this dead battery situation three or four times over the last several weeks so this morning I walked across the parking lot a bought a new battery from Wal-Mart. A silly little battery that looks more like a lantern battery than a car battery costs $39.

Passing through the small town of Staples we passed a large country hardware store. As we circled back I told Sharyn that they would have a Hav-A-Hart mouse size trap. I would like to live in Staples just to be able to go to that hardware store -- what a great store -- they have all kinds of good stuff! They also had the trap.

Because we were on the road by 7:30 we had traveled a reasonable distance by mid-morning and decided we'd stop at a place that we could relax and enjoy the sunshine. In Detroit Lake we pulled into a lakeside campground that sounded pretty good in the book. It was nothing like its description so we circled through and left. We went to a second campground several miles further down the road that was part of a golf course and health spa. It was much nicer.

We spent the day relaxing, playing on the computer, sitting outside, reading, talking, etc. Later in the afternoon we drove through town, checked out a really nice food store, and had our Kentucky Fried Chicken buffet.

Before going to bed we set the mouse trap in front of Sharyn's chair -- Sharyn thinks he's gone.

Odometer reading = 57,798
Miles for day = 110

 

7/17/03
(Grand Forks AFB ND)

Before we got up we knew we had the mouse because we could hear him in the trap last night. After he posed for some pictures we let him out on the golf course. Tonight we'll set the trap again in case he (she) was one part of a married couple.

We left Detroit Lake heading for the FamCamp at Grand Falls AFB. This is the final "outward" leg of our trip as from Grand Falls we're heading back east by way of the Mississippi headwaters at Itasca State Park in Northern Minnesota, then across Michigan's northern peninsula and on to Sharyn's family reunion near Seneca Lake NY in late August.

We arrived here around lunchtime and were pleased with what we saw. We had hoped to be able to spend a number of days at a nice campground to do some general cleaning up and attend to some things that should be addressed with respect to postponed maintenance. This is a nice campground and, coupled with the fact that we like the FamCamp "packages," this will be a nice place to stay for awhile. Also, it seems as if there are a number of things to do and see in Grand Falls.

Odometer reading = 57,935
Miles for day = 137

 

7/18/03 to 7/24/03
(Grand Forks AFB ND)

We've been here about a week living a pretty easy, low key, kind of lifestyle. The weather has been absolutely perfect -- sunny and breezy with temperatures in the low to mid 70's.

Our primary activities have been the compounding and waxing of the exterior of the motorhome (me) and the cleaning, vacuuming, and reorganizing of everything inside the motorhome (Sharyn). She has made the inside look brand new while I still have the back and the left side of the motorhome to do. After 4-5 days of cleaning and waxing I'm only half done.

While there are a lot of mosquitos in the area, the constant breeze keeps them from being a problem. The campground (and perhaps the entire base) seems to be overrun with ground squirrels -- kind of a cross between a chipmunk and a gopher. Sharyn says that with the exposure to these ground squirrels and monkey pox, the mosquitos and West Nile Virus, and Saars across the Canadian border, we should go get some hamburgers and see about some Mad Cow Disease. Oh well, life does not come with guarantees! Of course she's not serious. We're really enjoying this place. By the way, this FamCamp also recognizes Golden Access and Golden Age Passes so that with the resulting 50% discount we're only paying six dollars a day for full hookups. That's quite a bargain!

We've been so busy that we've only been into Grand Forks twice. We went to Cabela's store in East Grand Forks (across the Red River in Minnesota) and we ate at the Panda Buffet on Columbia Street in Grand Forks. The Panda Buffet is a Chinese restaurant that offers an all you can eat buffet in either of two ways. We did the conventional buffet that contained so many choices that, limiting myself to those things that looked most inviting, I had a full plate by the time I was half way down the line (I went back later). The other side of the service area offers a Mongolian Barbecue, all kinds of raw meats, fish, and vegetables for you to pick from. At the end of the line the chef takes all that you have and cooks it for you, seasoned in any way that you request. Next time we'll do the Mongolian Barbecue

One thing that gets us messed up time wise is that it doesn't get dark until ten o'clock. I guess that's because we're so far north, but we're kind of surprised to see daylight last so late at night. We never get to bed before midnight.

Also, we've added another sign to our Interesting or Unusual Signs page.

Odometer reading = 57,935
Miles for day = 0

 

7/25/03 to 7/29/03
(Grand Forks AFB ND)

We've been here almost two weeks and it's time to leave. Within the last week the mosquitos have become a problem. While the breeze continues to blow pretty much all day, the mosquitos are doing a much better job of making their presence known. Perhaps we got here early in the mosquito season before it was the problem that it seems to be becoming. Another reason to leave.

Since my last entry here we've only been back to town one more time. We revisited the Panda Buffet and this time I did both the regular buffet as well as the Mongolian Barbecue. Both were good but, with such an extensive choice of so many really good things, I ultimately reverted to the buffet.

I still haven't finished compounding and waxing the motorhome but I'm pretty close. I only have the rear cap and about half of the driver's side. The position of the motorhome is such that the rear and the left side are in the sun and I have to do the job when the surface is in the shade. I wanted to change campsites so we'd be facing the other way but Sharyn didn't want to move. Hopefully at the next place we stop we'll be oriented differently.

Tomorrow morning we'll be on our way to Lake Itasca, the origin of the Mississippi River, at Itasca State Park in Minnesota.

Odometer reading = 57,935
Miles for day = 0

 

7/30/03
(Lake Itasca MN)

When we exited Grand Forks AFB we were eastbound on US-2 and remained on US-2 all the way to Shivley, Minnesota, where we turned south onto County Road 2 that took us to Itasca State Park. After getting set up in our campsite we put the kayaks in the water (Lake Itasca) and paddled about a mile to the northern end of the lake where we pulled the kayaks onto a small beach. Here is where the Mississippi River begins -- where the lake flows over a small stone "dam" and becomes the headwaters of the Mighty Mississippi. Of course, like everyone else, we waded back and forth across the Mississippi several times. Sharyn even collected some rocks from the river bottom.

It's really amazing to realize that this is the same river we camped on near Memphis and watched the tugs pushing their long lines of barges up and down the river.

Later in the day we drove around looking for a place or places where we could put the kayaks into the river and then pull them out again somewhere further downstream. We're still working on some kind of a plan for that tomorrow.

Odometer reading = 58,080
Miles for day = 145

 

7/31/03
(Cass Lake MN)

We abandoned the idea of kayaking the first several miles of the Mississippi. The water level is kind of low and the initial part of the river, once it gets out of the park (less than a thousand feet) is pretty swampy. That, coupled with the low water, made us decide not to go (didn't want to get stuck in the swamp and have to get out of the kayak).

We had coffee and conversation most of the day -- two whole pots full!

Check out time was 4:PM, but we were on the road by 3 o'clock. We hadn't gone too far when we came to The Palace, a casino on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation, part of the Chippewa tribe. Most casinos offer overnight parking for RVers and some, including this one, even offer hookups. We've only got 20 amps, but it's fenced, secure, well lit, and free. They figure that the amount of money you'll spend more than offsets whatever it costs to provide the service. In Sharyn's case, at least tonight, it didn't work that way. She went in with a roll of nickels and hit a 763 coin jackpot. It's the first time I was sorry she wasn't playing quarter machines.

Odometer reading = 58,137
Miles for day = 57


8/1/03
(Grand Rapids MN)

We pulled out of the casino parking lot and had only gone about a mile when we came to a flea market set up at a corner gas station. Of coursewe stopped and walked the length of the booths -- only spend $3 which doesn't say much for what was there.

We were soon back on the road and it wasn't too long until we pulled into Grand Rapids where we located and went to the Army Corps of Engineers (COE) campground. As I've said before, we like these COE campgrounds and to some extent we seek them out. They're almost always on a lake or river as some part of Corps water project. Unlike most COE campgrounds, which are usually somewhat rustic, this one is trim and manicured, looking more like a city park. Sitting right on the Mississippi River, on a Friday afternoon, it's not surprising that there were no empty sites. The ranger said that there were a number of people leaving on Sunday so we decided to go to Wal-Mart's parking lot for tonight and see what happens in the park tomorrow.

After parking the motorhome at Wal-Mart's we took the car an drove around Grand Rapids checking things out. We also went back to the COE park and spoke to the guy in the site that we'd most like to have. He said he's leaving Sunday morning so we told him we'd be there when he pulled out (it's not a reservable site). We then went back into town and stopped at a small coffee house for coffee and a bagel.

After that we went back to the motorhome where we had dinner, sat around for awhile and went to bed.

Odometer reading = 58,205
Miles for day = 68

 

8/2/03 and 8/3/03
(Grand Rapids MN)

We woke up yesterday morning to find that a farmers market was being set up all around us in the parking lot. We moved the motorhome to another area of the parking lot and later walked over to the market to see all that was being sold. The only thing we bought were four muffins to have with coffee.

The annual Tall Timber Days Festival was going on (sort of a street fair) so we went to that. There were some beautiful things to be bought, but when you live in a motorhome you can't buy much because you really don't need it, plus you have no place to put it. I did buy a T-shirt. There was a lumberjack demonstration (sponsored by Stihl chainsaws) that included ax throwing and speed contests for handsawing logs, chain sawing, and tree climbing. The tree climbing was quite impressive. The guy that won came in 6th place in last years World Championship Competition. He climbed the 90 foot pole faster that I can run up an equivalent flight of stairs.

When they did the one man hand sawing, I though that they cut through 14" log about as fast a chain saw could have done it. That was only until the chain sawing demonstration. After explaining that these were re-worked saws that ran at extremely high speed, and warning the crowd to cover their kids ears, they literally cut through the same logs in about two seconds.

After we left the festival we went back to the motorhome and took it from Wal-Mart's to the COE park. While we knew there would still not be any sites available we asked the ranger about spending the night in the parking lot so we'd be there when the people in #13 (the site we preferred) pulled out. We paid $5 for a dry camp tent site and stayed in the parking lot.

This morning several people began pulling out, but new people were also pulling in and getting the spots as they became available. We discussed if we should take another site because if after all the other sites were taken and then the guy in #13 decided to extend his stay we'd be up the creek. We waited and we did get that site -- the nicest one in the park (although they're all very nice -- half of them on the river). As these pictures show, it was worth waiting for. This is what we see from sitting in our chairs in front of the motorhome.

For dinner we cooked pork chops over the fire ring, using some of the unlimited firewood that is provided to anyone (campers) who wants it. We're paid up for three days and we'll see what we do after that.

Odometer reading = 58,209
Miles for day = 4

 

8/4/03
(Grand Rapids MN)

We didn't do too much today besides coffee and conversation and other sitting around enjoying the sunshine and the water.

This afternoon I left Sharyn to take her shower and wash her hair while I took one of the kayaks out on the river. Paddling along the bank on the other side I frightened a deer at the edge of the water. A short distance later I came across this guy who didn't see me coming until the kayak almost hit him in the head.

Well, I finally got to paddle in the Mississippi River! For awhile, as I paddled, I was singing I'm Goin' to New Orleans, but I only went a mile or so before turning around. Maybe some other day?

Since there's not much to write about, I'll use pictures instead. This is our campsite as seen from the kayak. This is the kayak parked "dockside" at our campsite.

Odometer reading = 58,209
Miles for day = 0

 

8/5/03 through 8/9/03
(Grand Rapids MN)

We've come to the conclusion that this is the nicest campsite we've ever been in. If it wasn't that we're beginning to come up against the time frame for getting to Sharyn's family reunion in the Seneca Lake region of New York we would stay here for the two week maximum time allowed. As it stands we'll be leaving here in the morning.

This morning as we were sitting outside, looking out over the Mississippi River enjoying our coffee and conversation, we were again joined by our chipmunk friend. He tends to join us every morning as if he was part of the family. We have a radio sitting on a small table between our two chairs and yesterday he got up on top of the radio as we talked over his head. It was either yesterday or the day before that he jumped up onto Sharyn's foot. We keep hoping that he'll take our mouse away with him.

It was perhaps a month ago that we had a mouse in the motorhome. After we caught that mouse we discovered that h wasn't the only one. After we got the second one it seemed that there were no more but, within the last week or ten days it's become clear that there's at least one more. We see him fairly often and signs of him are everywhere. We have to keep our bread in the microwave. Since our Hav-A-Heart trap hasn't caught him we bought four old fashioned traps and have set them up throughout the motorhome. With five traps you'd think we could catch him. We've baited the traps with peanut butter (crunchy), bread, cheese, and cold cuts but all to no avail. With the limited number of square feet we have you'd think he'd be unable to avoid them all. Maybe it's a radio controlled toy mouse and Sharyn's just putting me on!

By the way, another conclusion we've come to is that Minnesota and Wisconsin are two states that are largely overlooked. We like both of them a lot. The people who live here must like them also. Most places we go the license plates on the RVs come from all over the place. Here in Minnesota almost all the RVs have Minnesota plates. It's the same in the Minnesota campgrounds -- everyone's from Minnesota!

With respect to the Mississippi River that begins at Lake Itasca, one of more than 12,000 lakes in Minnesota, I was amazed to learn that from Lake Itasca the river flows for some 650 miles before it ever leaves the state of Minnesota. The total length of the river to the Gulf of Mexico is some 2,552 miles. The ranger here says that they have perhaps a dozen people a year that come through here (canoes or kayaks) saying they're going all the way to the Gulf. He says that, of course, he has no idea how many of them actually complete the trip. A display at the visitor's center at Lake Itasca says that a drop of water leaving Lake Itasca takes 90 days to get to the Gulf of Mexico. The ranger here says that may be true when the river is really high and flowing fast, but that based on the time it takes the water to get here from the next Corps of Engineers dam upstream it would seem that 4-5 months would be more typical.

Also, there's another picture that been added to our Interesting or Unusual Signs page. I actually took the picture several weeks ago in Grand Forks ND, but then forgot about it until today.

Odometer reading = 58,209
Miles for day = 0

 

8/10/03
(Grand Rapids MN)

Well we're still here. This morning, prior to getting ready to leave, we were sitting outside having our coffee, enjoying the sunshine and the river, and neither of us wanted to leave. So we stayed. We'll probably leave tomorrow, but I guess we can't be sure.

These five mouse traps still haven't caught the mouse, but yesterday we bought and put out some poison baits. This morning it looked as if he (they?) had indulged so we'll see how long he continues to live with us.

Odometer reading = 58,209
Miles for day = 0

 

8/11/03
(Port Wing WI)

This morning we actually left Pokegama Dam Campground, but if we're ever back in Grand Rapids, Minnesota (not to be confused with Grand Rapids, Michigan) again that's where we'll stay.

At Duluth we stopped at a visitor's center high on a hill overlooking the harbor at the southeasterly end of Lake Superior. We stayed there only long enough to eat and take some pictures (scroll horizontally). Not too far past Duluth we left US-2 and headed in a northerly direction to basically follow the coast along the southerly shoreline of the lake. While this is the "scenic" route, the only "scenic" part to speak of are the few small villages that you pass through. Most of the route is through the woods, which are okay, but nothing out of the ordinary. For the most part, the only time you are in sight of the water is when passing through the villages. One exception was a rest stop that overlooked the lake where we pulled in just to see what we could see.

Eventually we came to the tiny hamlet of Port Wing. There is very little in the form of facilities along this route (definitely no Wal-Marts) so as we approached the town's country store we pulled off the road to see if there was some place we could park for the night. It turned out that the there was an eight site campground right next to the store so we pulled in. There was no office, and there were no empty sites either, so we pulled off onto the grass figuring we'd just spend the night there. After getting set up (lowering the jacks, putting out the slides, etc.) we walked over to the store to get some milk and found out that the store and the campground were the same business. The girl said we could pay a tent fee ($9) and stay where we were. We had dinner, watched the news, and after reading for awhile, went to sleep.

Odometer reading = 58,340
Miles for day = 131

 

8/12/03
(Lake Gogebic MI)

When I got up at 6:30 this morning the outside temperature was 46 degrees. It was only ten degrees warmer in the motorhome. We have been extremely lucky for the last several weeks. While the east coast has been constantly drenched with nonstop rain, and the west and southwest sweltered in the heat, we and the entire Great Lakes area have enjoyed mostly sunny days with daytime temperatures in the 70s with cool nights in the 50s.

Anyway, after coffee and conversation, some of it outside in the warm morning sunshine, we were on our way. The scenic route was basically a northerly loop that eventually took us back down to US-2 which then took us into Michigan where we soon left US-2 again, this time heading in a northeasterly direction towards Marquette, which is supposed to be a pretty fishing village on the shores of Lake Superior. Traveling along through the small towns and villages we passed a Dairy Queen with lots of parking space. I pulled over telling Sharyn that some ice cream would really hit the spot.

It turned out that we had parked right in front of the biggest Lombardy Poplar I'd ever seen. According to the sign it was a state record -- I suspect it's even more than that. As an ex-tree farmer/nurseryman I had to take pictures of this tree that's more dead than alive. Any Lombardy Poplar that more than ten years old is either dead or dying back anyway, so this tree is a miracle.

I did enjoy my ice cream.

Some miles further down the road there was a sign pointing to an "overview." We were not too close to the water and we were not up particularly high so I didn't understand the "overlook" part, but we pulled in anyway. It wasn't much of an overlook, but it was right next to a cemetery that we walked over to. The first two graves were two Wisconsin infantry soldiers killed during the Civil War. Two of the over 600,000 killed. I doubt if there was any place more remote from that war than Wisconsin.

Just a few hundred yards from the cemetery I took this picture.

It was probably three or four o'clock when we pulled into Ontonagon County Park. Michigan is the last state that we had to fill in on our map of the United States to have them all completed. However, the sticker for Michigan comes in two parts -- the upper and lower peninsulas. Sharyn only put on the upper sticker since she says we haven't gotten to the lower part yet.

Odometer reading = 58,467
Miles for day = 127

 

8/13/03
(Marquette MI)

We left Ontonagon County Park rather early this morning and we were in Marquette by noontime. On the way here we went through several areas of highway construction where we added a new picture to our Interesting Signs page. We whole heartily support the idea behindthe sign.

Upon our arrival in town we first went to the City Campground only to find out that their sites were $18-20. Since we really only needed a place to park we paid $2 to dump our holding tanks and then went to Wal-Mart's parking lot. Leaving the motorhome at Wal-Mart's we took the car and drove into the old downtown area of Marquette. So much for the concept of a quaint little fishing village. While the downtown area is old, and probably historical, Marquette has a population of over 30,000 people and is a pretty contemporary place (for where it is). We did take pictures of the town harbor area and the old lighthouse by the Coast Guard Station.

When we were in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, we talked to a fellow who told us about the Brownstone Inn, a great restaurant "about 20 miles east of Marquette," where they had fresh whitefish from Lake Superior. He said that the whitefish from Lake Superior was better than those from Lake Michigan because Superior was deeper and colder and that made the fish taste better. At the time we were not even going to be in Marquette so I hadn't paid too much attention to where this place was. Now, however, we decided to go to this place and have this wonderful dinner that he had described. There are two roads heading east out of Marquette and we didn't know which one to take. To shorten the story, we decided to take the one that followed the coast. Not finding anything we stopped and made inquiries, only to be told that we had another fifteen miles to go, but that the food was excellent and that we wouldn't be disappointed.

It turned out it was 35 miles to the Brownstone Inn, but the whitefish dinner was delicious. With respect to appetizers and dessert we didn't even pay attention to fat content!

After getting back to the motorhome we watched the news and then went into Wal-Mart where we did our grocery shopping.

We've decided that, as Sharyn says, the reason people from this part of the Country (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan's upper peninsular) don't travel to other areas for vacation is that they really have it all here. Fishing, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, boating, water-skiing, hunting, camping, snowmobiling, or whatever. If you do it outdoors, this is a great place to do it!

Odometer reading = 58,592
Miles for day = 124

 

8/14/03
(Fayette MI)

We did not get started that early this morning, but then we hadn't planned to go too far today. It was shortly after lunchtime that we pulled into Fayette State Park on the shore of Lake Michigan (we crossed from the north shore of the Upper Peninsula to the southern shore).

From our campsite it's only a short walk to the beach so we took our beach chairs and walked down. We didn't stay too long, but Sharyn got some sun before we returned to the motorhome where she took a shower and made dinner.

She's now sitting outside while I'm doing this travelog.

Odometer reading =