Saturday, October 16, 2021

Oklahoma to Utah

 From Picher we headed across Oklahoma into Texas.  

We planned on Dinner at the legendary Big Tex Steak House - home of the free 72oz steak, if you can eat it all - in Amarillo, but the parking situation at Big Texs parking lot(a 37foot motorhome and toad are hard to park) frustrated that.  We settled for overnighting in the Amarillo Wal Mart.

We had made an appointment on the web to get the Motorhome serviced in Albuquerque at Rich Ford.  So we drove like maniacs to get there from Amarillo and made arrangements to stay two nights in Albuquerque. 

Left rear axle stabilizer bar

 However when we got to Rich Ford, they refused to honor the appointment, saying instead we could come back in the morning and get the oil changed.  The other service they could schedule 6 months out.

Like hell.

So we touristed in Albuquerque for 2 days.  We hit the Nation Nuclear Museum.  We discovered that it was dedicated to nuclear weaponary (makes sense since Sandia isright there).  And while it was interesting to see replicas of the "The Gadget", "Fatman" and "Little Boy" plus all the varied delivery mechanisms, we really were interested in the peaceful uses of nuclear technology.

The Rattlesnake Museum and Giftshop was a horse of another color.  They even let Ginger in and gave her a special K9 certificate for being brave enough (I think ignorant) to go into the live snake display area.

Rattlesnake Museum Albuquerque New Mexico

The next day we set sail for Cortez Colorado and the Mesa Verde National park.

Mesa Verde was a surprise.  This has a large number of native American pueblo buildings dating from around the 1200s.  The buildings are remarkable well preserved. It was unfortunate that the tours of the buildings are only offered from Memorial day to Labor day.  The rest of the time you can observe them from the outside.  We marked this place for a return visit during the summer high months.

Part of the reason for the tour limitations is the weather.  It actually started to snow on us pretty good. which made driving in the Smart Car in a twisty mountain road an adventure.  We had the RV parked in nearby Cortez, Colorado where the 27 degree air temperature gave the propane heater a work out.

Snow Storm at Mesa Verde

From Cortez it was quite a reasonable drive to Moab Utah where we stayed just outside of town in a small RV park with spectactular view of the red-rock mountains.  But then again
everything in Moab has a spectacular view of the red-rock mountains,

Downtown Moab

We set off to explore the area and discovered we were in the "High Season" for Moab.  Arches National Park was full as was Canyon Lands National Park and there were only allowing one car when a car exited the park.

National Parks are not dog friendly anyway, so we set off for a nearby state park that was dog friendly, Dead Horse Point.  The state park had the same issue as the national parks, but the line was a lot shorter and decided to tough it out.

Are we glad we did.

The view from Dead Horse Point State Park

This was a spectacular park on top of the Canyon Lands and incredible views.  We took a 4.5 mile hike with the dog on one the dog-friendly trails and enjoyed every bit of it.

When we finally left the State park, we drove back up to Canyon Lands Island in the Sky road.  It was late enough that the Rangers had closed down so we got in for free.  Islands in the Sky is primarily the top of Canyon Lands and has some pretty impressive geological formations.  

We don't have time on this trip, but next time we are in the area, we are going to take one of the Jeep trips offered in Moab.

The next day was Arches National Park.

We learned our lesson yesterday and got up very early and drove to park.  It was still about 10 minutes of being in line at the entrance station.

There is only one paved road in Arches and our strategy was to  drive to the end and work our way back.   While we were there we learned a important lesson - Don't take your dog in Arches.  

Other than the general majesty of Arches, you need to walk on the trails to see the real neat stuff.  Dogs aren't allowed on the trails - they have to stay in the car.  Fortunately it was cool enough Ginger could be in the car, but the summer would be a different story.

Arches was fantastic.  We will be back.

From Utah we head back to Castro Valley, where we will be "in port" until perhaps January when we go to Quartzsite and March when we head to the Yukon and Alaska.

Its been a hell of a trip

Only a few states left to go

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Picher Oklahoma

 Picher Oklahoma is a sad story.

Once a bustling town of close to 20,000 people, Picher was the center of  lead and zinc production in the United States.  As the mines began to close, less reputable mining companies took over the hard rock mines and removed many of the underground supports.  This cause surface subsidence that badly undermined the town.  Most of the town had to be bulldozed.

Then it was discovered that the large piles of  waste rock from mines - called "chat piles" were releasing lead dust to the atmosphere and the lead dust caused the children of Picher to have high levels in lead in their bodies.

Attempts were made at remediation, the federal government paved the streets of Picher to no avail.  The lead dust remained high and contaminated the local water.

Eventually the EPA and the State of Oklahoma bought out most of the residents of Picher and E-4 Tornado chased out the rest.

Picher became a ghost town.  It is now known as the most toxic place in America

My family owned Carlin Hardware on Connell Street in Picher.

Carlin Hardware approximately 2005- The middle brown building

The Picher Gorilla - It used to be in front of the High School

A Gorilla in front of one of the only occupied houses.  

My Families Hardware Store

The other part of it

What once was
A sad end to the town.  

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Westward Ho

 After Washington DC, we turned our nose west and headed out with any real destination in mind.  We had a vague idea of stopping in Branson Mo for a show and Picher Oklahoma where we have family history.

A storm our first night inspired us to stop and overnight at a Walmart in Virginia, right at the border into Tennessee.

We then crossed into Kentucky and while meandering along decided to visit Mammoth Cave National Park.  There was a Thousand Trails nearby that had room, so we updated the GPS and changed course.

We were at the Thousand Trails only for two nights.  We went up to the National Park the morning of the second day and unfortunately found that all the tours of the cavern were sold out.

Oh well.  But the grounds of the National Park were quite nice and Ginger got a good workout on a nice long walk.

After Mammoth, we got back on the road and again headed west.  We then made a wrong turn and ended up on the road to St. Louis.

We hadn't planned on going to St. Louis, but figured what the heck.

We got into a Casino RV Park just across the river from the Arch.  The Casino was undergoing renovation with most of the features you'd expect in a Casino closed - Just one bar and a corner Deli for food.  We decided the Casino wasn't really for us, so we took the Metro across the river to the Arch. 

The Arch was quite fascinating and you can ride to the top in little pods and experience one of the best views we have ever seen.  

We highly recommend it.

We have had a couple of mechanical issues.  

First, our steps broke.  A rivetted part came un rivetted.  We discovered this when we were preparing to overnight in the Walmart we mentioned above.  We got some nuts and bolts from the hardware section in the Walmart and proceeded to "bush fix" the steps.  The bush fix will probably hold until we get home.

The other major thing was that passenger side mirror glass fell out of the mirror while running down the highway.  The heater wires kept it from hitting the asphalt and we managed a probable permanent fix while in St Louis.  Just in case though there is a bit of duct taped helping hold the glass in for a while.

Duct tape makes it all better

Just  as we were getting ready to leave St.. Louis, the dog decided to puke on the bed.   While we have laundry equipment on board, the stuff that needed washing was too big.  That necessitated a 1.5 hour stop at a roadside laundromat.

We eventually made it to the Oklahoma border and decided to spend two days in a Casino RV park in Quapaw just outside of Joplin.  Other than the fact that the Downstream Casino is a very fine Casino/Hotel resort with an excellent (no sewer) RV park, the reason we stopped here was to explore the town of Picher Oklahoma where we have family roots

October 9. 2021

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Thousand Trails Diamond Caverns.

 Name:  Thousand Trails Diamond Caverns Ky.

Location:  1978 Mammoth Cave Parkway, Park City KY  42160
Sewer:  All (maybe 2 without)
Water:  Yes
Power:  30A or 50A
Cable:  No
WIFI:  In the clubhouse only.  Pay Wifi available
Cellular:  T-Mobile:   Not very good. 
Comments:  Very nice RV resort.
October 2021

This is another hidden gem in the Thousand Trails system.  This beautiful little RV resort is within the boundaries of the Mammoth Cave National Park.

The sites are a little small, but each site has sewer with water and either 30 or 50 amp power.  There is a wonderful pool - unfortunately being winterized while we there.

The staff was very friendly and accommodating. 

The grounds and building were in excellent repair.

As with a lot of TTs these days there were a number of "annuals" but not so much to exclude travelers.  We got in the day we made the reservations.

This park gets a star and promise of a return visit.

And still more history...

 After leaving Hershey, we traveled to Williamsburg Virginia and stayed at the Thousand Trails just out side of Williamsburg.  Williamsburg is also known as the Pancake House capital of the world - for good reason.

We went there for primary reason of visiting Colonial Williamsburg, but first we got distracted by Jamestown.

There is not a lot left of the original settlement, which was moved from Jamestown to Williamsburg after Jamestown was brunt in the Bacon Rebellion.  The only surviving structure is a partial church tower.  However a number of structures have been recreated along with a very fine archeological museum.  

The museum has the skull of a approximately 15 year old English girl that was cannabalized by the original settlers during a period known as the "starving time".

I observed that there was a lot of said for killing and eating teenagers....

There is an adjoining "Historical Jamestown" that has more complete re-creations, plus  number of recreated sailing ships built to the same specifications as the ships that brought the initial settlers .   The ships were much smaller than we would have imagined.

Recreated House in Historic Jamestown

We also went to Yorktown - site of the British Surrender to the French/American revolutionaries that effectively ended the War for Independence.  We were suffering from Battlefield overload having just experienced 10 days at Gettysburg and chose to walk the waterfront in the nearby town of Yorktown rather than tour the battlefield

We spent the far majority of our time in Colonial Williamsburg.

 You don't pay admission to Colonial Williamsburg - you simply park and walk around.  If you want to go into any of the shops, houses or see any of the demonstrations, a ticket is required, but to simply walk around, nothing is required.

Our first day we did not have a ticket, we simply walked Ginger around.  We did buy tickets for other days we spent in Williamsburg.

We greatly enjoyed our time at Colonial Williamsburg and highly recommend spending a at leat a few days there

When we left Williamsburg, we had no other firm plans.  Talking it ower, we decided to go north to Washington DC and see what the capital had to offer.  I also had a long standing desire to see the Tomb of the Unknown Solder.

So we made reservations in a very expensive RV resort that was near DC and got to know the Washington Metro System.

Our first stop was Arlington  where we had the honor of seeing the changing of guard at the Tomb.

We also took a guided tour that went into DC in the evening.  Unfortunately some of the destination were having power issues.

We don't recommend evening tours.

Other than waling the  Capitol Mall, we decided to focus on the Smithsonians.   

There are many Smitsonians and one could spend a lifetime goring through them.  We went first the Air and Space Museum.

Gemini Capsule

 We also went the Museum of Natural History.  It was quite interesting, but it seemed to to directed to the younger set.  

We also went into the Museum of Fine Art.  They had the Hope Diamond on display,  They also had a daVinci on display.  We had never seen one before.  We marveled at the intricacy of the painting -  there was mastery there that we had never seen before.

We spent entirely too short a time in Washington DC.  There is so much more to experience and to see.  

We will be back

After Washington DC, we turned our nose westward.... 

Sunday, October 3, 2021

A sweet stop

 After leaving Gettysburg, we journeyed south the Hershey Pennsylvania, home to - you guessed it - Hershey chocolate.  We stayed in a Thousand Trails outside of town that is earmarked for a return visit - utterly beautiful and well maintained with full hookups - a premium at a lot of Thousand Trails.

We went into Hershey with the intention of a) visiting an Amish community and b) attending the Hershey RV show.  But first we went into Hershey Park

When Milton Hershey started Hershey, he wanted a place his workers could relax, so he set aside a large parcel of land for relaxation.  This land is still operated by Hershey, but has morphed into a  stadium, an amusement park, a convention center, a candy store and corporate promotion.  .

I can tell you that Disney has nothing on the the good folks at Hershey.

You drive in, park for free and then enter the worlds largest candy store.  In the back of the candy store is an entry to the "Hershey Story".  This is a ride through a animatronic representation of the chocolate manufacturing process.

You exit the ride once again through the worlds largest candy shop, where you can (and we did) spend significant amount of money on Hershey's wares.

Of course there is a picture you can buy

The more we looked at Hershey and Milton Hershey, the more we were impressed with him.  In addition to the town, the factory, the park, the hotel etc, Milton Hershey started and endowed the Milton Hershey School, as a boarding school for disadvantaged children.  

I don't think Henry Ford ever did that.

Hershey is fairly close to Lancaster PA.  which has a large Amish population.  We took a drive over there and toured a "Amish Farmhouse" that had been opened to the public.  It was right next to a Target store that had a number of Amish scooters (they use them for short distances) parked outside.  The guide said Costco has barn for parking the Amish buggys.

We then took a bus tour through the Amish countryside, seeing Amish schools (the kids walking home waved to us) people working the fields behind the horse drawn equipment.  There were an number of "retail opportunities" on the bus tour and we took advantage of some Amish baking and preserves.

One of the more interesting stops was an Amish dairy farm.  It unfortunately had stopped diary production due to the milk glut (we have a milk glut?) because the Amish with the older method of feed production can't really compete with the large commercial dairy farms.   They were trying to repurpose the farm into a handicraft gift store until perhaps the milk glut gets unglutted.

I was surprised at the practicality of the Amish people.  They do have electricity - generated by onsite propane generators, propane powered forklifts on the farm.

The Amish don't like their pictures taken, so we honored their wished and kept the camera in the pocket.

We also attended the Hershey RV show at Hershey Park and met some friends from nearby Maryland and lusted after some high end (hello Newmar) Motorhomes.  I don't think we are in market yet, unless we hit lottery big.

Friday, October 1, 2021

History, more history, still more history and a lot of history

 After leaving Niagara Falls, we journeyed south to Gettysburg, PA, site of the famous dust-up between the north and the south.  We stayed in RoundTop campground that sadly was not on either of the more famous Roundtops.

This Stop Sign has been there a while

We found an area that literally drips in history.  

The Gettysburg battlefield has been mostly preserved as a national memorial site (not by NPS?) and everywhere you look there are memorials to what happened in June-July of 1863 there.  There are houses there where the homeowners mow their lawns around the stone memorials and cannons in their front yards. 

Kinda of sparse on pictures - I was having camera issues.

The town of Gettysburg itself has identified all the building that were standing during the time of the great battle with small bronze plaques.  Houses that played that played a significant role in the battle had signs describing what happened that day

There is a large museum there operated by the Gettysburg Foundation that along with the inevitable gift shop and snack bar has a number of interesting exhibits - including a lot of artifacts from the battle itself.  There is a movie that describes the various actions and the highlight is a restore diorama painted after the war, but early enough to have the participants vouch for it's accuracy.

The museum also offers a bus tour around the battle ground with a guide who provides a detailed description and color to the historical events.

The battle was fought essentially between two ridges - Seminary Ridge for the south and Cemetery Ridge for the north.    This can be driven, but is also easily walked - much to Gingers utter joy.  There are spectacular monuments on both sides that thoroughly document the battle.

We spent 10 days in Gettysburg.  In retrospect probably 5 days would have been sufficient.

We weren't sure what this one was about - I always thought the Indians were too smart to get wrapped up in the Civil War.