Our Trip August to November 2012 (October 25-31)

Wednesday  October 31

Swarmed By Octogenerians

We had an easy drive here to Desert Hot Springs, arriving in early afternoon. It is very hot here, so we hit the pool almost immediately. We spent a couple of pleasant hours swimming and reading, until, on the dot of 3:30, we were swarmed by a group of about 20 octogenerians, who immediately put up a net and started playing volleyball in the pool. There were no notices anywhere that this event was planned, and not one of them said so much as hello to us, let alone ask if we wanted to play. They all know each other, and so there seems to be a certain sense of entitlement about the use of  the pool. We concluded that we a) were not old enough and b) didn’t own a big enough RV to merit their attention, so we headed into Desert Springs, where Jeannine bought a new bathing suit. We then drove to Palm Desert to get something to eat, and returned to the campsite about 8:30. We are going to try and get on a tour of Palm Springs tomorrow.

Tuesday  October 30

If Scabs The Clown Asks If You Want To See Mr. Wiggles, Just Say No

Not much to report today. We spent the morning reading at our campsite and talking with our neighbours, who gave us a tour of their motorcoach. Very nice people. We spent the afternoon at the pool, reading and sunning ourselves. The pool was cool (they’ll begin heating it early in November, when the main flock of snowbirds arrive), but I exhibited uncharacteristic bravery and went in anyway. We met Dinah Shore’s housekeepers, an older Hungarian couple, who are retired and beginning the RV life. They live in Lancaster California.

When our neighbours returned from their day trip, we invited them over for a cocktail. He came over in his Halloween-themed pyjama bottoms (which should have given us a clue), to inform us that his wife was  cooking dinner, but they would be happy to join us later. He then felt it necessary to inform us that he had tried to go swimming in the river, but it was cool enough that he only went in up to his weenie (way too much information.). They did come over after dinner, and we introduced them to Green Apple Martinis, which proved highly popular, and led to some rather interesting conversation, including the fact that they belong to a Naturist Club (the PC term for nudist), and a description of a chili cook-off gathering on acreage they own in Arizona. I leave the mental images to you.

We are headed for the Desert Pools Resort in Desert Springs California for two nights. It is only 2 hours away, so it should be  a leisurely day.

Monday  October 29

Shuttle Tourism

Seen on a banner on a church in Lake Havasu City: “Welcome back, snowsheep”.

We spent a couple of hours touring the city and its neighbourhoods on small shuttle buses, which run everywhere and cost us $1.25 each, which allowed us to get transfers to get onto a different bus on a different route. We ended up in the Main Street District, “home to cozy and unique boutique shops and restaurants”. While Lake Havasu City has a beautiful setting, and is very pretty in places, we found Main Street full of bars, gun shops, tacky tourist stores, pharmacies, and vacant storefronts. It appears to be slowly dying, and certainly didn’t come close to Sedona. It just doesn’t seem to have any unique character of its own. To give you some idea of the air of desperation in the downtown core, we saw a “For Lease” sign on a building that offered free rent for a year (the building must be taken “as is”), and the rent after the first year will be 50 cents per square foot.

In mid-afternoon, we headed back to Ehrenburg. Part of the drive follows the Colorado River, and the following pictures were taken south of Lake Havasu and just north of the Parker Dam:

Colorado River

Colorado River

We have no real plans for tomorrow. The weather continues hot and sunny, and we are certainly keeping in our thoughts those of you affected by Tropical Storm Sandy.

Sunday  October 28

“London Bridge Is Falling Down…”, “It’s A Small World After All…”

We made an impulsive decision to drive up to Lake Havasu City, about 1 1/2 hours north, and spend the night there. Lake Havasu City is located on, you guessed it, Lake Havasu. It was established in 1964 by Robert McCulloch, who coincidentally bought the original London Bridge for just over 2 million dollars. The City of London sold it because, since it was built in 1831, it had been gradually sinking under the weight of traffic it was never designed to handle. McCulloch had all the original exterior granite blocks painstakingly numbered and brought to Arizona, where they were re-attached to a concrete structure duplicating the original bridge:

London Bridge, with some guy in the foreground

We tried to book ourselves on a sunset cruise (cost about $38.00 each), but were unsuccessful. Someone told us about a ferry that runs across the lake to the Casino on the California side (the Arizona/California border runs down the middle of Lake Havasu). The ferry runs every hour and returns on the half-hour, and costs $2.00 each) for a return trip.

“Dreamcatcher”, the Casino ferry

We had a lovely 15 minute trip across the flat calm lake. We stayed on the top deck, and met two other couples, one from Victoria and one from Qualicum (what are the chances?). When we landed, we went into the small casino. We lost $5.00 on a penny slot machine, then went into the restaurant for dinner. As we returned home, we reflected on the fact that we had just enjoyed a trip across the lake, lost $5.00 in the Casino, and had dinner and cocktails, for less than what just one ticket on a regular cruise boat would have cost us, and we are staying in a lovely little Travelodge for $72.00, including tax! Ralph would be so proud of us.

Lake Havasu moonrise

We plan to see more of Lake Havasu City tomorrow before returning to our campsite in Ehrenburg.

Saturday  October 27

The Horny Toad Is Extinct, and a Mitch Miller Mass

We spent the morning relaxing by the river:

Readin’ by the river

Colorado River Oasis Resort – Priscilla is left of centre, behind the big rig towing the red car in the foreground

In late afternoon, we decided to head across the border into Blythe to find the Horny Toad Saloon, then go to Mass. The good news is that we found the Horny Toad:

The Horny Toad Saloon

The bad news is that it is closed and up for sale.

We attended a rather interesting Mass. There was a Youth Choir who did a pretty good job on the Moldy Oldies, although the drummer was a tad over-enthusiastic. The celebrant was an older Polish priest (quelle surprise), who almost raced all over the altar and rocked back and forth from one foot to the other during the songs, which was a little distracting. Although it was a not an overly-large church, everything (and I mean everything: song lyrics, readings, the Ordinary Parts of the Mass, and the Mass itself) was broadcast on a large projector screen. At the same time, it was being shown on a huge flatscreen monitor facing the altar, so it was interesting watching the priest and altar servers watching the monitor.  (For those of you old enough to remember, it reminded us of Mitch Miller (“follow the bouncing ball”).The priest was certainly enthusiastic and related well to people, but for a Saturday night Mass, it was sparsely attended.

Afterwards, we had something to eat at the Casita Dos Mexican restaurant, where we toasted Lock, then returned to our campsite. Not sure yet what the plans are for tomorrow.

Friday  October 26

The Colorado River (from the bottom this time)

We arrived at the Colorado River Oasis Resort in mid-afternoon, and wound up with a beautiful campsite backing onto the Colorado River, which we last saw from a mile up at the Grand Canyon. It’s a lot narrower and slower down here! We spent the rest of the afternoon at the pool, then took our chairs down to the river for Happy Hour. We plan on hanging around the resort tomorrow, and I will try to post a couple of pictures next time.

Thursday  October 25

Around the World In 3 Hours

We spent a fascinating day visiting Biosphere 2, “the world’s largest living science center dedicated to exploring the environment, the environment, the future, and our planet.” The picture below gives a general idea:

Big Science

It was created “to better understand how natural environments create habitable conditions for human sustainability. It is a unique facility that can be used to understand the role of life on Earth and the effects of climate change. Biosphere 2 contains recreations of five of Earth’s biomes, plus a human habitat and a large ecological experiment facility.”

Ocean Biome

There are two huge “lungs”, which are neoprene membranes sealed to concrete walls, with a 1600 ton concrete disc in the middle. These actually “breathe” huge volumes of air in and out of the Biosphere buildings, and to watch one of them in operation as doors are open and closed is an amazing feeling.

South Lung

We took a guided tour through most of the biomes and through subterranean tunnels containing all of the air and water-handling machinery. It was a wonderful educational experience, particularly learning the history of the complex, including the two early experiments in the early 1990’s, which involved sealing two separate teams of scientists into the biosphere for up to two years. They had to be totally self-sufficient, and maintained all of the functioins of the complex, along with doing a large number of experiments. The focus has now shifted to research. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit, ad would recommend it to anyone with an interest in this kind of science.

For more details, go to:  B2science.org

When we got back, we put a simple dinner together and took it down to the pond, where we fed the ducks and watched the sun go down. We are headed for Colorado River Resort, near the California border, where we plan to spend the next 5 nights.

Our Trip August to November 2012 (October 19-24)

Wednesday  October 24

Checked out in Tubac

We drove to Tubac, an arts and crafts town about an hour and a half away, and spent a couple of hours wandering the shops in this unique community. It really is a very pretty place:

Tubac

This one’s for you Mickie!

On the way home, we passed through our second border patrol check in two days. They really take it seriously, and at one of the checkpoints, we saw a compound full of dozens of border patrol vehicles, which they must use after dark. We stopped to get some gas and do some grocery shopping, then returned to the campsite as darkness fell. We plan to visit Biosphere 2 tomorrow, just north of Tucson.

Tuesday  October 23

An O.K. Day

We drove to Tombstone, about half an hour south of here, and spent the day exploring the historic part of the city. Our activities included walking the main street:

Historic Tombstone Main Street

checking out the locals:

A few of the locals

The Kid With No Name

and watching a reenactment of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral:

O.K. Corral reenactment

We also visited the original courthouse, the Bird Cage Theatre with its original grand piano, had lunch at Big Nose Kate’s Saloon, and watched an interesting diorama/film presentation about the history of Tombstone. Just before leaving town, we paid a visit to Boot Hill (yes, there is a real Boot Hill), which contains the graves of those killed at the O.K.Corral, among others:

I’m not sure George would appreciate the humour

It was a great place to visit, and we learned a lot.

Monday  October 22

A Little Something For The Ducks

We spent the morning hanging around the pool, and the afternoon hanging around the lake, feeding the ducks and geese:

“Mine, mine…”

“Give me a quacker and put it on my bill.”

We had an interesting conversation with an older couple from New Jersey, who have been full-time RV’ing for the last 10 years, then returned to Priscilla to watch the final Presidential debate. We plan on heading to Tombstone for the day tomorrow.

Sunday October 21

On a Southerly Heading

We left Kip and Cindy’s in late morning and headed south toward Tucson, making a slight detour into Casa Grande for some cheap gas. We arrived in St. David, about an hour south of Tucson, and got settled into a full-service campsite in mid-afternoon. It is quite nice here; there is a clubhouse/activity area, pool (heated) and hot tub, two small lakes, and we have a cable hookup. We spent the afternoon at the pool, then packed up our reading material and chairs and went down to the lakeshore to read, watch the ducks and geese, and enjoy a wonderful sunset. The weather is very warm and sunny, and expected to remain that way for the rest of the week. We will be staying here until Thursday morning. We plan to kick back by the pool tomorrow, then start making a couple of day trips, including Tombstone, which is south and east of us. The internet connection here is slow and flaky, but I will try and include a couple of pictures in the next post.

Saturday October 20

Landing On Our Feet

After a completely lazy morning hanging out in the backyard,

Cindy and Coco

Cindy took us to a store called “Roadrunner”, which specializes in creating custom insoles to help fix foot, back and hip problems. They take a bunch of measurements, then put you on a treadmill and film your feet and lower legs as you walk. This is then analyzed and 3D images are produced which show pressure points. Insoles are then heated and formed to your foot to adjust for the pressure points. (Of course, insoles need to go inside something, shoes for example. So you can guess how the story ends.) In all seriousness, they apparently produce great results, so we’ll see if the foot and hip problems get better.

We then headed down to Old Scottsdale, which, as its name implies, is the original, very western part of town. Quite a neat place to wander around, with lots of shops (particularly jewellery), and we completed the afternoon with a beer at one of the local watering holes.

We are headed south tomorrow to a place near Tucson called St. David. We will be there for 4 nights, and plan to do some day trips, including one to Tombstone.

Friday October 19

Wasting Away Again in Margaritaville

So here we are at the Kip and Cindy Scottsdale Resort, the best one we have been at yet. It was a short drive, and we dropped into a Costco before continuing to Scottsdale. The weather is very warm and the sky remains cloudless. Kip went out to a John Fogarty concert, so Cindy and Jeannine settled out by the pool with a a pitcher full of Margaritas, while I slaved away updating the blog and uploading pictures to Fotki. Not sure what the plans are for tomorrow, but whatever they turn out to be, we are very happy to be here.

Our Trip August to November 2012 (October 13-18)

Thursday  October 18

You’ve Got to Know When to Hold ’em…

After an unhurried morning, we headed for the Camp Verde Campground, just south of Sedona, actually wishing we could have stayed at least one more day at the Grand Canyon. We plan to come back again,as there are a few things we would still like to do. We came into Sedona via the Oak Creek Canyon scenic route, which was absolutely lovely, reminiscent of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We decided to stop in Sedona first before carrying on to the campground. We finally found a place to park, as there were far more tourists than we had imagined. The weather continued to be almost perfect, with a cloudless sky and balmy temperatures. We wandered the shops, bought a few things, and had a meal at a Mexican Cantina. We arrived at the campground in late afternoon, and headed for the pool and hot tub. We both went in the hot tub, and 1 1/2 of us went into the (unheated) pool. We spent the rest of the afternoon there, then returned to the clubhouse for a rousing hour of Playing Card Bingo. It was simple enough for even me to understand it, and I understood it well enough to walk off with the final prize of (wait for it)..$12.00! The only downside was that the wifi was awful, so I couldn’t update the blog as planned. We are headed for Scottsdale tomorrow to stay with Kip and Cindy for a couple of nights, so will be able to update then.

Wednesday  October 17

Happy Trails To You…

As planned, we took the shuttle  bus to the Visitor Centre and watched the same movie we watched yesterday (about 20 minutes long, and beautifully done). Having spent yesterday seeing a lot of the Canyon, we got a lot more out of the movie the second time around. We liked it so much that we went over to the Bookstore and bought the full DVD. Before leaving the Centre, we watched an 8 minute presentation projected from inside a sphere. I have no idea how it is done, but here is whatr it looks like:

Very cool…

We then caught the shuttle bus going east along the rim, and got some other perspectives. Once again, the weater was perfect. One of the stops was the Kaibab Trailhead. The trail actually goes all the way down to the Colorado River a mile below, but we settled for going down partway, just to be able to say that we did some kind of hiking!

Part of the Kaibab Trail

An Alber Squirrel

Another viewpoint, another squirrel, this one having a scratch

The vistas were different from yesterday, but just as stunning. We had a bite to eat at the Market Plaza, where we were engaged in conversation by an older lady, who noticed Jeannine’s Balloon Fiesta t-shirt. Turns out that her now-deceased husband worked as some kind of missile engineer at Cape Canaveral, and she watches all the launches from her beach condo. She travels extensively and has 5 world cruises under her belt. Needless to say, she is a Tea Party Republican. She was quite nice, but we found it hard to relate to her experience. We returned to the camp site, and later tonight will be going to a Ranger presentation on the geology of the Grand Canyon, which should be interesting. Off to Sedona tomorrow.

Tuesday October 16

A Really Big Hole in the Ground, Full of Really Old Rocks

After a lazy morning, we took advantage of the great shuttle bus service and spent the afternoon on a route that goes west along the South Rim of the canyon, and stops at nine viewpoints, each one as spectacular as the others. The buses run every 15 minutes, so you simply get off where you want, spend as much time as you want, then hop the next bus and continue on. The weather is absolutely perfect and expected to continue, with a cloudless blue sky, warm temperatures, and enough of a breeze to keep things comfortable. I won’t try to describe the views; here are a few pictures: (all of the photos will be on Fotki in a few days)

The Grand Canyon

 

“Just take one more step back…”

Granite Rapids (the river is the length of a football field wide at this point: this was taken with a telephoto lens)

Optical Illusion: Mather Point Sunset

We returned to Priscilla after dark and had supper. We will probably take the shuttle and do the shorter route going east tomorrow.

Just a piece of advice: if anyone is considering a trip to Germany, now is a good time to go. The whole country appears to be here; we went half an hour and didn’t hear a word of English!

Monday  October 15

“I’m Ready for My Close-up, Mr. DeMille”

As mentioned yesterday,we stayed in Gallup, New Mexico  last night, , in the historic El Rancho Hotel, located on Historic Route 66, which served as home base to a significant number of movie stars in the 1930’s and 1940’s, as many movies were shot in the vicinity. The corridor walls are covered in dozens of autographed pictures of such stars as Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, John Wayne, Glenn Ford, Henry and Jane Fonda, Lee Remick and Jane Russell, to name a few. Each room is named after a movie star, and it seemed only fitting that we would wind up in the Robert Taylor Room (not to mention the fact that I had purchased some “David Taylor” jeans at Sears a few days previous.)

El Rancho Hotel

El Rancho lobby

Speaking of Route 66, we had to divert into Winslow Arizona and stand on the corner:

No explanation needed

We arrived in the Grand Canyon National Park Campground in mid-afternoon, and hadn’t been there an hour when we met the local Elk’s Club:

Chapter President (the guy with the biggest rack)

We pulled out our chairs and had a perfectly wonderful evening with a couple of Green Apple Martinis.

Sunday October 14

Up, Up and Away (God is good!)

When we arrived at the Park this morning, Jeannine suggested that we check with the balloon ride company, just to see if there were any cancellations (we were already re-scheduled for tomorrow), but I was not optimistic. We added our name to a wait list already 10 or 12 names long, then waited for 25 minutes as the list was whittled down. Lo and behold, we got the last two spaces! This meant that not only would tomorrow be less stressful, as we already had a 6 1/2 hour drive, but more importantly, we would be going up with the mass ascension. Here are a few pictures:

How it begins

The happy couple

The view from up here

Another view from up here

The ride lasted for an hour, and is almost impossible to describe in words. We felt like birds flying freely with no sound but for the occasional burning of the propane burners keeping us aloft.  We were surrounded by other balloons who could wave at us as we went by.  The colours were amazing and the size of the balloons varied from enormous to gigantic.  Again so hard to describe. We flew with 8 other people who all were in awe as we were. To be part of the approx. 500 other balloons was truly a gift. The sky was cloudless and while it was a little chilly the burners gave off some warmth from time to time.  The chill really didn’t matter though;  we were so grateful to be up.  When we landed (a perfect landing I might add)  we were treated to some history of ballooning and a traditional champagne toast, souvenir pin and flight certificate.  Jeannine got very emotional, she was so overwhelmed with the experience.

Here is the lovely poem printed on our Flight Certificate:

The winds have welcomed you with softness.

The sun has blessed you with his warm hands.

You have flown so high and so well that

God has joined us together in laughter and set us

gently back into tyhe loving arms of Mother Earth.

– Irish Balloonist’s Prayer

I will post all of the photos and video clips on Fotki:

http://public.fotki.com/TwoDwarves/priscillas-maiden-v/

The photos will begin on p.25 . It may take a couple of days to post them all. We will be heading for Gallup New Mexico tonight, rather than waiting until tomorrow, which will make for a shorter drive to Grand Canyon tomorrow. I will not have internet access until Thursday, so will update then.

Saturday October 13

Lowes, Glowdeos and DWI

We slept in this morning after a long day yesterday; we just couldn’t drag ourselves out of bed to go to the morning balloon ascension. We decided to try the Tram ride again, but when we got up there, we found that there was a 2-hour wait in a line-up just to buy tickets, and our feet weren’t up to it. I needed some hardware, so we found a Lowes Bulding Supply and picked up a few things. From there, we went to a huge Mall, where we decided to grab a meal at Fuddruckers (try saying that 3 times fast), which is a very popular fast-food chain here, famous for its hamburgers. The reputation is deserved, but let’s back up a second. When we ordered our food, we found that you could also order a beer, which we did. The cashier asked us for ID, which has nothing to do with us appearing underage (we wish!), but instead is a legal requirement in case we had a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) on our record. I didn’t bother pointing out the obvious, which is that since we were Canadian, they weren’t going to come up with anything, unless it was DWC (Driving While Canadian). I had my ID, but Jeannine unfortunately did not.

This evening, we went to the Glowdeo (described in an earlier post). Here are a couple of pictures:

Glowdeo

Glowdeo

One of the many concessions, apparently in an attempt to differentiate himself from similar establishments, advertised the sale of “Soveniors”, where everyone else was selling “Souvenirs”. We caught the shuttle back to Priscilla and went to bed early, as we plan to catch the final mass ascension of 500 balloons tomorrow morning.

Our Trip August to November 2012 (October 8-12)

Friday October 12

We Seem To Be On a No-Fly List

Big disappointment this morning. After rising at 3:45 am (yes, you read that right),we caught the first shuttle to the field at 5:00 and reported to the Rainbow Ryders (our balloon ride company) tent to check in. We were assigned a balloon number, and told to come back at 6:15 to meet the pilot. The weather was beginning to worsen, and eventually the rain began. In the interest of safety, we were cancelled, as was the pre-dawn mass ascension of 100 or more other balloons. People were offered refunds, or the opportunity to re-book for Monday (Saturday and Sunday were already booked solid). We are scheduled to leave on Monday for Grand Canyon National Park campground, but decided to book the ride anyway.

We decided to hang around the park and maybe grab a coffee from one of the concessions (they stretch for about a kilometre in the park), but the oncoming storm cell decided to open up right above us with torrential rain, thunder and some impressive lightning (we were all taking shelter under metal pavilions; no-one seemed to appreciate the irony).

Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head

Since there was nowhere dry to sit, we decided to take the shuttle back to Priscilla to re-group. We headed to a Denny’s for breakfast, and then head for the famous Tramway (Gondola), which goes to the top of Mt. Sandia, some 10,000 plus feet in elevation, with a spectacular view of Albuquerque, a view we can only imagine, as the tram was shut down due to high winds.

On to Plan C. We decided to head for Santa Fe, about an hour’s drive away. The trip was a bit of a nail-biter because of having to fight heavy crosswinds. We stopped at a Visitors Centre and picked up a map and some advice about what to see. We spent  a few hours wandering the streets of this charming city, which is very much an arts and culture centre, with a heavy emphasis on restoring and preserving its history.

San Miguel Church, the oldest church structure in the U.S.A. The original adobe walls were built by Tlaxcalan Indians from Mexico around 1610.

The “Miraculous Stairway” of the Loreto Chapel. Google this; it is quite a story!

You’ll have to turn the computer or your head.

A view of the Santa Fe Plaza

We returned to the campsite and decided to call it a day, as the weather continues to be rainy and windy, so it is unlikely that any balloon activity will be taking place tonight.

Thursday October 11

“There Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens..”

So here we are at the  Roaring Springs Ranch Resort: (Was it something we said?)

“Lonely, I’m Mr. Lonely.

Our only neighbour; we lodged a noise complaint..

We did manage to scrape together enough dead wood to have a lovely little fire for a couple of hours.

We got an early start, heading for Albuquerque, and were very glad to leave the West Texas Panhandle behind. Generally speaking, the highway took us through some of the most depressing poverty we have seen to date. While the economic crash can partially account for the fact that every tiny town we went through had 2/3 of its businesses boarded up, burned out, or otherwise closed down, much of the rest pre-dates the crash; whole stretches of roadside acting as mini-dumps, littered with everything from old tires to metal and dead machinery of every description to construction waste. It did have its moments however; one such town  sports the following sign at its border: “Welcome to Earth –  Population 1056”. (I wasn’t aware I had left.) Another had a large billboard which proclaimed in huge garish letters: “50,000 babies murdered by the Democrats and godless leftists”. Not a lot of grey area there.

Once in New Mexico (a much more uplifting state), we had a relatively easy drive to Albuquerque, and checked into the campsite in late afternoon. Rather than hooking up Priscilla right away, we decided to head for the Park n’ Ride and catch the bus down to the Balloon Fiesta Park. The evening event was supposed to be a “Special Shapes Glowdeo”, which translates to many of the balloons which are in the shape of almost anything you can imagine, other than the standard hot air balloon you are familiar with, ascending in the evening darkness, lit from within by their propane burners. This was to be followed by a fireworks show. The weather, however, conspired against the Glowdeo by starting to look like this:

Not good, Norman..

The wind was also beginning to pick up, and eventually the decision was made that conditions were too dangerous for a lift-off. This was disappointing, but we did have a spectacular sunset:

Sandia sunset

The fireworks show was started earlier than planned and was very well done, probably lasting a good half hour:

Firework

Firework

Fireworks

We then caught the shuttle bus back and picked up Priscilla. An early start to the day tomorrow, as we are scheduled for our balloon ride at 7:00 am.

Wednesday October 10

Fog n’ Hogs

We managed to connect with Matt and Nichol on Skype last night, and talked to Holly on the phone, after talking to David earlier. It was nice to touch base with home.

We left at 7:30 this morning, and within an hour, we were in the thick of morning rush-hour traffic in Dallas/Ft. Worth, just one more example of our lack of planning. The morning weather was t-shirt warm and humid, and the tall buildings in Dallas were shrouded in fog at their upper levels. Added to this was a a veritable plethora of freeway and road construction work zones, which made it an interesting journey through the two cities. I couldn’t help but think that the money might be better spent on building a highway that bypassed the cities.

Once we cleared the urban areas, our Garmin took us on a drive of several hours through rural East Texas and into the Panhandle. No pictures this time, as there really isn’t much to see, other than the carcasses of several wild hogs on the side of the road, which had evidently tried to play “Hogger”, with little success. We arrived in Roaring Springs around 2:00 pm, where I am sitting in the office kitchen of the Roaring Springs Ranch Club posting this. Not exactly over-crowded; there are only two other campers here. Off to Albuquerque first thing tomorrow.

Tuesday October 9

“I Drink Coffee For Your Protection”

This was the sign that greeted us when we entered a coffee shop in Canton, Texas. Sounded like my kind of place, so we had lunch there, served by the twin of Holly’s ex-neighbour Dot. We are in the nicest resort yet:

The Grand Lodge

View from the pool/hot tub (pardon me; spa) area

The weather, while cloudy, is actually t-shirt warm, so we took advantage of the pool and spa (well, one of us went in the pool, and it wasn’t me.) This being Texas, the music is all country, all the time, but I was struck by the following lyric:

“Everybody wants to go to Heaven, but no-one wants to go now”.

(Country music does have a way of getting to the heart of things)

We did go into downtown Canton and poked around, but it is a pretty small place, so all we really did was fill the propane tanks, which proved to be ridiculously cheap, compared to back home. We are going to spend the rest of the day lounging around the pool and lodge, then see what is on cable TV tonight, since this is one of only two plkaces that have offered this as part of their hookups. Off to Roaring Springs, Texas tomorrow, about a 5 hour drive.

Monday October 8

Check your Glocks and Alligators at the Border

We awoke to a beautiful day today, cool in the morning, but sunny and warmer during the day. We had a leisurely breakfast, then put in a load of laundry. We took our chairs and reading  material down to the lake and spent a pleasant hour or so reading in the sun while the laundry was doing its thing. We then decided to head into downtown Ashdown (3 minutes from end to end), but we did stop at McDonald’s for lunch, mostly because it had free wifi (the wifi at the resort seems to be non-functional), so I could post yesterday’s blog entry. On the way back, we stopped in at the local Walmart to do some grocery shopping. Before returning to the campsite, we drove to the Millwood Lake dam and visited a beautiful little park at Beard’s Lake, below the dam:

Canadian tourist missing; last seen walking along Beard’s Lake

We spent a lovely hour or so reading beside the lake in a swing chair.

When we got back to the campsite, we got out our chairs and settled in to do some reading in the sunshine. After a while, our neighbour across the way came over to say hello:

“You-all from Minnesota? Ah told ma wife that if all they’s wearin’ is T-shirts, they must be from Minnesota.”

We corrected his impression, then had an interesting conversation, which revealed that he was a retired jeweller from Oklahoma, who had these pearls to offer:

“The Jews own all the diamonds in the world.” (DeBeers is apparently a company owned by Jews)

” We was in Seattle, and we was goin’ to visit Canada, but they wanted me to check my Glock at the gate, so I decided it wasn’t worth it.”

I guess now we know the real reason for the decline in American tourism.

Anyway, we are off to Canton, Texas tomorrow, a short 2 1/2 hour drive, so hopefully I’ll be able to post this when we get there.

Our trip August to November 2012 (October 1-7)

Sunday October 7

A Happy Thanksgiving To All

We are spending ours in Ashdown, Arkansas, at the Millwood Landing RV Resort, chowing down on AYCE (All You Can Eat) tacos in the Clubhouse.

At least we won’t be having the leftovers for a week!

We had an uneventful freeway drive from Memphis to here, crossing over the Mississippi into Arkansas around 10:00 am, and arriving in Ashdown around 2:00 pm. The weather is cloudy and on the cool side, but the resort is nice:

In almost every campground, we feel like the baby of the family

But there is a very nice little lake a stone’s throw from our site

We wandered over to the Clubhouse and had an order of fries and a Dos Equis. (Having a conversation with anyone here is like talking to Larry The Cable Guy). In all seriousness, everyone is wonderfully friendly, and we love the accent. A couple of interesting observations:

We passed by a couple of signs for liquor outlets, pointing out that “The next 5 counties are dry”.

Health regulations governing animals in eating areas appear to be somewhat lax, considering we were sitting next to the resort manager’s wife, who was holding a 14 week old kitten named Precious. (And she was, being a tabby/calico cross). She apparently got her from a lady who insisted she was a cat-lover, but couldn’t stand the sound of the kitten’s purring; go figure; what did she expect it to do, bark? As another example of health regulations, or lack thereof, Memphis apparently allows smoking anywhere; people were smoking inside the restaurant we were in last night, and apparently this is perfectly OK. Hopefully the smokers are not among those bashing Obamacare, as they are likely to need it someday.

The guy next to us is in a 34 ft. motorcoach, and they are into their 4th full time year on the road, having sold their home in Washington State right before the crash.

Saturday October 6

From Gunshots to a Good Heart, or “Other Than That Mrs. Lincoln, How Did You Enjoy the Play?”

Forgot to mention yesterday that early in the evening, we could hear a series of gunshots coming from the woods surrounding the resort, which made us a little nervous, but did solve the mystery of why there were trailers scattered around, but no cars/trucks or people in evidence. This was confirmed by the return later that night of a number of trucks, some of which contained ATV’s. Most of the people here are hunters, who leave early in the morning and return at night, using their trailers as a base of operations. Fortunately we didn’t see any carcasses, although we did discover a skinning shed (euphemistically called a “deer preparation area”) on thje property.

The weather had turned quite cold and very windy when we woke up, so we decided not to spend another day and night here, but to push on to Memphis instead. By the time we had settled into a Best Western, it had begun to rain. We had booked tickets for a play called “Hot l Baltimore” before we left the campsite, and had the desk clerk call us a cab, We had him drop us at a pub close to the theatre, where we had a good dinner. We then walked to the theatre, a beautiful, newly-completed facility called “The Playhouse on the Square”. The play, put on by a professional resident company of actors, was very good. The cab driver had assured us that we would have little trouble getting a cab back. Not so. The Front of House Manager tried for 3/4 of an hour to get us one, but apparently in Memphis, you can get there from here, but you can’t get back. She eventually felt so badly for us, that she drove us back to the hotel herself, and would not accept any payment. She said that having the chance to talk to other “theatre people” was payment enough. There are good hearts everywhere, it seems. We are heading for Ashdown Arkansas tomorrow for two nights. The weather is supposed to be getting better over the next few days.

Friday October 5

No Big Bucks in Big Buck

Great weather again today, sunny and about 25 degrees Celsius. We had an uneventful 7 hour drive past Knoxville and Nashville, arriving at the Big Buck Resort at about 4:00 pm Central Time. Because of the length of the drive, it was actually nice to gain an hour back today. It doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence to arrive at a resort, to be greeted by a large sign informing all and sundry that the entire place is up for auction. There are relatively few people here, and the place is showing signs of neglect. The setting is quite pretty however, and since we are here for two nights, we may just kick back and relax tomorrow. The weather is very humid, and apparently there may be a thunderstorm tonight, with cooler temperatures tomorrow.

Thursday October 4

Turn, Turn, Turn,  A River Runs Through It

Under brilliant sunshine all day, we completed the second half of The Blue Ridge Parkway. In all, the Parkway is almost 800 kilometres long, with not a single stretch of straight road longer than 100 metres. Hence, you “turn, turn, turn” constantly. It takes a lot of concentration, so we divided up the driving to keep us both fresh. The maximum speed is 65 km/hr, with every corner marked at 40 km/hr, and they mean every word of it! That said, the two days we spent completing the drive was one of the absolute highlights of our trip thus far. The trees are a mix of conifers and deciduous, and the colours, while not at their absolute peak, are quite something. You come across long stretches of road where the trees arch over the road, forming a tunnel of yellow and red leaves spiralling down in clouds. Every turn reveals a scene that could be a calendar picture, and provides quite a sense of peace as you pass through.

At one of the lookouts, we met up with two extremely friendly and curious couples from South Carolina, and we had some interesting discussions about Canadian and American politics and health care. They were also interested in Priscilla, so we showed them around. Here are a few scenes from the second half of the Parkway:

Highest elevation on the Parkaw – 6053 ft. (about 9000 metres)

Another view from the same lookout

Waterrock Knob – 5820 ft.

In late afternoon, we finally reached Elkmont Campground in the Tennessee part of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. We had one of the nicest sites we have had yet:

Elkmont Campground – note the river right behind our site

Down by the Riverside…

We had a wonderful night’s sleep with the windows open, listening to the river.

In the morning, a somewhat domesticated group of wild turkeys showed up to scavenge; nobody paid the slightest attention, except for one fool Canadian sneaking around with a telephoto lens:

A Thanksgiving Selection

Pick Me, Pick Me!

We didn’t. There wasn’t enough meat on the whole group to make a decent turkey sandwich. Off to Big Buck Resort in the southwest corner of Tennessee, an hour and a half from Memphis.

Wednesday October 3

Mississippi Motorcycle Mamas and Wild Turkeys

We began our journey down the Blue Ridge Parkway this morning, and soon stopped at one of the many lookouts offering spectacular views over the peaks and valleys of the Appalachian Mountains. There were two motorcycles already there, each carrying a couple from Mississippi, who were not only very friendly, but had accents you could cut with a knife. They asked where we were from, and then asked “British Columbia, is that part of Canada?” They had us in stitches. The Parkway is indescribably beautiful, the road wandering along the ridges and valleys of Virginia and North Carolina, with the changing colours of the trees and the emerald green farmlands alternating along the way. We had to constantly be watchful for roving bands of wild turkeys (the birds, not the bourbon) crossing the road. There are whole stretches of road bordered by huge rhododendron bushes. It must be a spectacular sight in the spring and early summer. It is easy to understand why this is classed as one of the most scenic drives in North America. We were also fortunate that the weather turned warm and partly sunny for the first half of the drive.

I say the” first half” because it became evident that we (actually, I) had badly misjudged the length of time it takes to drive from one end of the Parkway to the other, a distance of over 600 kilometres. Accordingly, we have notified the Elkmont Campground that we will not be there until tomorrow and have stopped at a lovely Best Western in Jefferson for tonight. Will update again hopefully on Friday. Here are a few pictures from today:

Otter Lake

Otter Creek

Clouds in the valley

Blue Ridge Parkway

Rocky Knob Picnic Area

How the “Blue Ridge” got its name

Tuesday October 2

Paddle Faster, I Hear Banjo Music

Tonight finds us in the wilds of Virginia, at the northern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway, after passing briefly through Maryland and West Virginia. The weather remains cloudy and showery, but actually warmer than we expected. We had breakfast in the Country Kitchen restaurant on the main street of Taneytown (pronounced “Tonytown”) Maryland, among a group of very friendly locals. We had a breakfast big enough to choke a horse for $7.99, and since it was Tuesday, the coffee was free. It reminded me of Mayberry (in a nice way); I half expected Goober to come through the door.

We arrived at the campsite after a very scenic drive through the countryside and checked in, then decided to drive about an hour south to see what some people advertise as one of the Modern Wonders of the World; the Natural Bridge. When we bought our tickets, the lady asked us for our zip code (a common practice, we have found). When I told her it was a postal code, she asked what part of Canada we were from. When I told her, she looked something up on a piece of paper, then tapped away at her keyboard. With a triumphant smile, she announced “I’ve made one up for you-all!”. I could have told her the right information, but couldn’t bring myself to spoil her sense of accomplishment. Here’s the Bridge and a description: (as always, click on a picture for a larger image)

Natural Bridge description

Natural Bridge

From the other side

Cedar Creek

The Bridge and surrounding 137 acres was originally purchased by Thomas Jefferson for the equivalent of $2.40 in today’s money, and has changed hands several times over the years. It remains the property of a private company today, rather than winding up in the hands of the Parks Service, which one might have expected. It is certainly impressive. To give you some perspective, there is a sound and light show every night (which we were unable to stay for), called “The Story of Creation”, in which the Bridge is lit from below, and the Genesis creation story is told from speakers high above, interspersed wih appropriate musical selections. When we talked to one of the employees, and remarked on the fact that the site was in private hands, he was quite insistent that we take some literature about the show, and made the point that if the site was in “government” hands, the show would not be permitted because of its religious content. It’s all about the separation of Church and State, which is enshrined in the Constitution.

We will be following the Parkway south tomorrow,  through Virginia and North Carolina, into the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Halfway through the park, we cross into Tennessee, and will be spending two nights (depending on the weather) in the Elkmont campground within the park itself. It has no wifi service, so it may be a couple of days before I can update again, hopefully from the next campground in Tennessee. The weather is supposed to be a little better for the next couple of days; fingers crossed!

Monday October 1

Stepping into the Past

The Washington trip did not pan out, so we spent 6 hours doing a self-guided car tour of the Gettysburg Battlefield Military Park, which took us chronologically through the battle of Gettysburg, which resulted in a Union victory, and truned the tide of the Civil War. The war would continue for another two years, but the Confederacy never advanced again into any northern state. athe park is incredibly well-organized, and leads you easily from place to place. Fortunately, we had a beautiful day to do this, as we did a fair amount of walking. (unfortunately, the good weather does not look as if it is going to stick around). The pictures below are just afew views of the park and some of the significant monuments and places. If any of this piques your interest in learning more about Gettysburg and the Civil War in general, I urge you to Google some of the items below.

McPherson Ridge and McPherson Barn, where the Battle of Gettysburg began at 8 am, July 1, 1863

Eternal Light Peace Memorial (see picture below)

Eternal Light Peace Memorial info

Partial view of the battlefield from the Peace Memorial

Looking across part of the battlefield from the Confederate side

View from Little Round Top, from the Union side

Virginia Memorial – every soldier from Virginia is listed here

Looking out over the site of Pickett’s Charge – it was turned back at a cost of thousands of lives. Lee began his retreat the next day

The Soldiers’ National Cemetery – many soldiers, almost all Union, both known and unknown, are buried here.

National Soldiers’ Cemetery Memorial – stands on the spot where Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address

We have spent a wonderful two days in Gettysburg, and will be turning south to Greenville, Virginia and the start of the Blue Ridge Parkway tomorrow.